A Tom Cruise Bun Is Baking…

…Which is why I am ordering a copy of Barbara Thiering’s less than seminal piece of New Testament research called Jesus The Man. It is just crazy enough to pass an E-Meter test and so make it on to that short NOT-GAY Scientologist’s bookcase. It can be a congratulation gift for impregnating the birthing tank. I mean, having a baby with Katie Holmes.

With trailers for the Da Vinci Code movie being released this week and the ongoing and slightly depressing success of Dan Brown’s “historical” novels and other such exposés on “the real truth” behind Christianity, I thought I’d write a little about this Australian writer’s thesis. You see, by investigating the hidden secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Thiering has produced what is packaged as the definitive truth on Christianity’s origins. This isn’t an attack, but a sober reassessment.

All of the exposés on the history of Christianity seem to rest either on the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi texts. The really ambitious efforts draw on both! Both of these texts are freely available to anyone who cares to pay the price of a standard paperback. This website will even give you the Nag Hammadi texts for free. The Pope isn’t hiding these scrolls in an underground vault somewhere outside of Rome. There is no secret. There is no hidden truth. Read them for yourself and you’ll find they are mostly deathly boring Gnostic texts that are far more at home with a Kabala worshipper than in a Christian church.

Books like the Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail and Jesus The Man get their mileage and their lucrative pay-offs from a massive general ignorance among the population at large about life 2000 years ago on the east coast of the Mediterranean. The Dead Sea Scrolls sounds like an exotic Indiana Jones-worthy treasure and pretending that they are is just what Dan Brown has done to sell all those books. In reality, you can buy a lovely copy in your local Waterstones for €12.

If I was to write a page-turning, gripping airport novel that claimed to unpack the secret truth behind subatomic physics and the efforts by the Copenhagen School to cover up the profound, earth-shattering implications of the early 1900’s, any one reading this entry could go and find someone proficient in physics or maths who would carefully and clearly explain how I was talking complete bollocks. You’d happily believe them too because physicists are ten a penny. You can go find another one if the first one seems a little bit too protective and zealous of his precious “Special Relativity“. They could probably point you to the key texts and papers online or available from your local bookshop if you wanted to check up the sources my spurious novel used and see that they are completely false. You would then content yourself with the enjoyment you got on the beach over the summer with my pulp paperback and put the fantasy away, hoping no one ever brought up the embarrassing time you got carried away with it.

But when Dan Brown writes about early Christianity, there isn’t really anyone you can go to. Most people don’t have a relationship with their local clergy anymore (did they ever?) and even if they did, most priests, especially older ones haven’t studied these issues in depth. It would be very unusual for someone to know a Biblical scholar or a Classicist or someone in the know about the Roman Empire or 2nd Temple Judaism or any of the other specialities that would detect the Brown bullshit.

As it turns out, the Dead Sea scrolls are the communal texts of an isolationist and separatist sect called the Essenes who believed they and they alone were the true heirs of the Promise to Abraham. In other words, they were the real Judaism and everyone else were traitors to God. They were discovered by a child shepherd (as in a sheperd who was a boy, not a shepherd who tended a flock of kids) in caves near Jerusalem in 1947. An age desperately in search of truth and largely ignored by a church who is quite happy to cater to itself and continue doing largely irrelevant good-deeds here and there as it suits them has latched on to these scrolls as the sensational key to the reality behind Christianity. They are fascinating documents and one of the most valuable discoveries from the ancient era of all time. They provide huge amounts of information about the Essenes who existed from about 150BC to 70AD. But they do not mention Christianity anywhere.

Let me write that again. Nowhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls is Christianity mentioned.

They do offer a glimpse of how surprisingly accurate the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament are and they give us lots of sociological insight into Palestine around the time of Jesus. But they don’t support Brown’s claims and neither do they support Theiring’s.

What does she say? Well, according to this esteemed expert, Jesus and John the Baptist were the 2 leaders of the Essenes. The Dead Sea Scrolls, contrary to the unanimous opinion of Christian, Jewish and agnostic scholars, are all about Christianity. Jesus, she has discovered, was married to Mary Magdalene. Unlike Brown, who claims they fled to France and other theories that have them dying in India as devoted Buddhist monks, Thiering argues they lived in Qumran with the rest of the community. They had 3 kids too. A daughter and 2 sons. Life wasn’t so sweet down at the old Christ household though because Mary and Yeshua divorced and Jesus married again.

John the Baptist is the “Teacher of Righteousness” who is mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jesus was the “Wicked Priest” who opposed him and founded a new sect, separatist from the first separatists. Monty Python were so close to the truth with the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea, it seems. In the Gospels that we hold as Canon today, stories of healings and miracles are actually Essene code for promotion through the strict hierarchy of the community at Qumran which was strictly ordered like a monastery. Jesus did die, but not on a cross at the hands of Pilate like the New Testament and all existing non-Christian historical material (which forms the largest body of evidence for any event in the ancient world) in Jerusalem, but poisoned in Qumran and left in a cave. The 2 thieves of the Gospel story are in reality Judas Iscariot and Simon Magus who most of you don’t know but features in the Acts of the Apostles, which is like the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Those guys had their legs broken by angry John the Baptist followers but they didn’t die and somehow in the cave they gathered an antidote for Jesus the Wicked Priest and resuscitated him. I know you can all probably guess what happens next. Of course, Jesus, accompanied by his followers who included Peter and Paul, set out on many voyages all around the Mediterranean. In Acts 10, Peter receives a vision and Thiering is able to definitely state that was a metaphor for Jesus actually being on the roof and talking to Peter. It is not certain whether the animals from heaven are a miraculous metaphor for a cow getting promoted in the sect or whether Jesus actually prepared the beast-covered cloth in advance saying “Here’s something I prepared earlier!”.

How does Thiering see through 2,000 years of orthodoxy to discover the reality behind Christianity? Through a method called “pesher”. The Essenes believed that God would restore his people and bring them back from exile. They also believed that this hadn’t happened yet even though they had returned from the Babylonian exile. Finally they believed that when this happened, it would be completely in accordance with the Scriptures. They separated out from mainstream society because they thought this deliverance was beginning with them. To assert that the Prophets really were talking about them they reinterpreted them to apply to characters and events happening in Qumran. This process was called Pesher and every text that was peshered could be distinguished because it had writing underneath the lines and they were all labelled PESHER. The Essenes were ultra-orthodox Jews. They were not about to reinterpret the Scriptures without clearly stating what they were doing. To quote the Anglican Bishop of Durham and my favourite theologian, N.T. Wright:

Pesher was a way of saying, “we are the people spoken of by the prophets”, not “we are the people who can set new crossword puzzles for others to solve”.

Most everyone sees through scientology for the sham that it is, a fabrication whose purpose is to generate profits. It isn’t so easy to distinguish the crap that sits on most bookshop shelves under Christianity or more leadingly, “Spirituality” from the stuff that legitimately challenges the accepted story of Christianity’s origins. Thiering’s version of events might read like something from the peculiar sci-fi mind of L. Ron Hubbard but many seem to have bought into it in the 13 years since publication. (It is billed as an academically rigouros work by a respected scholar but you won’t be surprised to hear that it has not been referenced by any paper in the interceding years.) Brown’s version has had more success but they all rest on the utterly false assertion that orthodox Christianity is purposely obscuring the truth. Orthodox Christianity holds the Bible to be its authority and in its very pages the much maligned St. Paul writes:

If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot.

The church needs to be the first to know if all this Jesus stuff is a pile of lies. We would be wasting our time if it was. Unlike the scientologists and unlike the picture that the conspiracy theorists paint, Christians are fully engaged on all levels of the quest for the historical Jesus. The aforementioned N.T. Wright is leading the way with his outstanding books. He will be speaking in Maynooth on Wednesday October 19th at 8pm in the Callan Hall on the St. Patrick’s campus and I would strongly advise you to make your way out to hear him speak. He will be addressing Paul and the ideas of salvation in his writing but as always with Wright, it will be clear, exhilarating and relevant to anyone with the slightest interest. Comment or email me if you would like to go but feel like you’d need the support of a friendly face.

Postscript: Scientology just gets weirder and weirder.
Your Correspondent, Well his nose keeps on bleeding ‘cos it’s rita he’s needing

One Response to “A Tom Cruise Bun Is Baking…”

  1. […] I have written about the Da Vinci Code alot on Zoomtard because I had to deliver talks in colleges about it a year or 18 months ago. But the phenomenon has surely reached such saturation point that no one holds out hope that the story of Jesus is as bland as Brown makes it out to be. Everyone by now sees it as a work of fiction. All these Jesus histories trade, in a way, on the failure of the churches to do anything but communicate Christianity by osmosis. We teach it so badly and live it even worse that people pick up caricatures of what Jesus must have been like. When the authentic messengers caricature him, it is only logical that people will have difficulty discerning between it and other, more apparently exciting caricatures. The church I am a part of do intend to hold an open forum in Maynooth some time in June on the book and I will be interested to see the people who turn up. Will it be the Christians seeking reassurance from on high that what they have believed in has substance or will it be cynics waiting to bait the clerics with their twisty questions or will it just be a few homeless guys who are looking forward to a slice of cake? Who knows? Probably Mary Magdalene. […]