The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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Not one but many

May 28th, 2008 · No Comments · christianity, history, media

I’m beginning to accumulate an unwieldy quantity of historical Jesuses. Less useful in that I’ve moved to a primary narrative that leaves Jesus out altogether. Even so, in the absence of an actual, historical Jesus, we may still create a number of literary Jesuses, each distinct and beloved, and required for generational continuity of the Church.

At some point, it may be an interesting project to scope out the various messiahs so identified, because I suspect that each may point to a distinct source community. In the meantime, I find research in this field continually enjoyable in the way my genealogy hobby is continually interesting: there’s always someone new to learn about. Only in this case, it’s very often the same figures I thought I already knew.

Even though the author of my current reading has chosen a different path of study from my own, I recognize his sources and much of his material. I readily admit my own excesses in gematria, so I gladly excuse his dependencies on exegesis in a similar light. I appreciate his openness, and willingness to expose his minority — even heretical — opinions so that the reader might better understand the material. Even where I disagree with some of his points, I find others of interest and can even appreciate the author’s contribution to a particular construction of Christ.

In Vining’s construction, Essenes1 favored celibacy, and so were required to proselytize young children to provide continuity to the order. While I have not yet verified this connection, it seems reasonable and even suggestive. The tale of young Jesus lost in a Jerusalem temple takes on a new meaning if one presumes that the 12-year-old in question had actually been proselytized by local Essenes. Suddenly, we glimpse that his “lost years” were actually spent in the training of Essenes in Jerusalem. And thus his general bias toward Essene philosophy.

Even from my gadfly minimalist perspective, this is a salient connection. My view is that the Apostles came first — these were each representatives of the various Hellenized Jewish Schools of Philosophy that developed around the Med, starting in the late Persian era. Since the root form of Judaism common to many (if not all) of these was Essene, it was natural that the character created to unify their various schools would also had to have been an Essene. The importance of having lots of convincing written material probably wasn’t lost on a politically elite group of scholars. Thus, we have a story about the boy lost in the temple to demonstrate the Essene pedigree.2

I’m afraid the term “Essene” is starting to build up many unsettling contradictions. Were they violent or peaceful? Conspirators or collaborators? Mystical isolationists or cultural leaders? In addition to other connections of seen (most of questionable etymological value) connecting terms “Sadducee” to “Zadokite” to “Nazarean”, to throw “Essene” into the mix is to muddy the waters almost beyond comprehension. It’s very confusing when the supposed characteristics of one group or another is used to define how Jesus thought… except for these other parts where he totally departs from their main theology, which just shows what a breakaway guy he really was. Hey!

Another great thing about this little hobby is it gives me lots of opportunities to expose my own biases by comparing them to others. When I was a kid, I would think of Jesus as a human being with magical powers and a flair for the dramatic. I don’t think there was any conspiracy to poison my mind with Arian heresy from an early age: perhaps I was just overexposed to the “Jesus Loves Me” school hippy Jesus. I never made the connection that the guy was literally God. God was God. I would pray to “Our Father”, not Jesus. Perhaps if the Trinitarian anti-logic had been better drilled into me, I would have gotten more out of the whole system than I did.

    nota bene

  1. That Essenes existed during the anticipated life of Christ is unquestioned, as it is witnessed by the two accounts we have. In a previous post, I considered the issue regarding Essene origin, of which we know little.
  2. Rhetoric is a tool of the devil, for sure.

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