This is my review of Philip Jenkins "Jesus Wars." So, there's things like how I accidently stumbled upon the idea of sungods and analogies to Jesus Christ at a Madden videogame messageboards!
Around ten years ago, I could care less about anyones religion. But, then in a great bookstore no longer in existence(it was a bookstore inside of a railway station; the railway tracks still worked), I saw a book, The Bible Unearthed, in the archaeology section. The Bible Unearthed only considers the Old Testament, and only the Torah mostly. Soon, in another curious twist, I found out that something could be said about the New Testament. I learned about sungods from someone at a free for all topic messageboard at a now defunct Madden video game messageboards website. Anyways, I soon got into things like Robert Eisenman's "James Brother of Jesus"(nowadays, Robert Eisenman has those books rewritten in a new more comprehensive format). I also read "The Golden Bough." Anyways, All that reading never could figure out who did what; who wrote the Gospels is still a question. Yes, there's a passage in Iraneous "Against Heretics" that gives names ot three of the four gospels, for Mark, he simply says "the independents wrote it." Who are they? Nobody knows!
Anyways, I saw this book in amazon suggestions a few years ago. I certainly thought it was probably a pretty good book covering a period that I haven't explored yet; but, I was tired of religion and mythology. I felt that I had more of less seen what modern day scientific view could say about religion, at most history periods(see E.T. Bell's "Magic of Numbers" for Pythagorean number mysticism). About a month ago, I saw this book again, checked out some reviews, and noted something curious. It was mentioned that Christianity had two main centers claiming traditions of 'origin of christianity' - Alexandria and Antioch. As I learned while finally getting around to reading it, Alexandria was intimately tied up with Rome. Also, when Christians held councils, Roman emperors and whomever Priests were organizing the event would have to declare under whose authority gives this council the right to make any kind of decision; again, they'd have to announce Alexandria or Antioch as holding ancient Christian origins. Well, that's about it as far as clues to who did what in making up Christianity. The book focuses more on three hundred on, when the Roman empire was crumbling away due to various forces. The book has a great quote from a Nestorius(a more or less main character of the story) that of barbarians, plagues, and Christian in house fighting of whom, Alexandria or Antioch, were to be the viewpoint of Christianity.
I'm into Jacob Bronowski's philosophy of mathematics and how this understanding gives a holistic view of all human intellectual endeavor(poetry mostly). I don't want to get into it too much, but in his "Ascent of Man" book/video series(and I consider his Science and Human Values, and his 'Origin of Knowledge and Imagination' to be his best works, not Ascent of Man), he notes how the Phlogiston theory of flames is a vague concept. The vague concept has contradictions; the question becomes, is flame a form of matter; if you believe that, then you have to give it all sorts of contradictory properties. That flames are lighter than nothing. Flame wasn't understood till the discovery of oxygen. Science defines concepts like that instead of holding on to old works like Phlogiston. Mythology holds on to their vague concepts like god, and the topic of this book, Jesus Christ - was Jesus Christ a man or a god? Every which way you go leads to problems. The problem here is why is there a problem at all?
I don't want to get into all the early Christian apologists from Ignatius, Marcion and on. Philip Jenkins does mention these figures. Alexandria is focuses on Jesus as pure god, Antioch was focused on Jesus as a historical human figure. Mr Jenkins mentions this, and that was the case of the time period he mostly focuses in on - 300 A.D. on to almost 700 really. But, Antioch was not so focused on Jesus as a pure human at first; Philip more or less notes this when he at least notes that Marcion was an important early Christian there. He was a Gnostic, and certainly didn't view Jesus Christ as a real human historical figure. How Antioch changed so radically over the centuries after Marcion(who formed a proto-New Testament first before anyone else; he had a gospel of Luke, a primitive one, and a few Pauline epistles) he doesn't know, and I've never heard of anything about this. But, I want to mention one of my favorite quotes; what I consider one of the best smoking guns that Jesus Christ was made up. It's a kind of mystical logic from a Barnabas in his Epistle,
-"then he clearly manifested himself to be the son of god. For had he not come in the flesh, how should men have been able looked upon him, that they might be saved?"
This is in the Epistle of Barnabas chapter 4:13-14."
This is in the Epistle of Barnabas chapter 4:13-14."
Barnabas is mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts. This quote of his shows that there is a logic to historicizing the sungods. If you read the epistle around and after this quote, you'll see mention of the sun.
So, we have sungods traditions, mostly centered in Alexandria where Philo did his midrashing of the old testament to combine with Platonic philosophy. And, you have Antioch which evolved remarkably for Jesus as a real human being. And, you had churches who had the responsibility of feeding whoever decided to come their church for protections and food! As Philip Jenkins shows throughout his book here, this proved too lethal a combination. The Romans were willing to go to one council after another, even with Germanic and other 'barbarians'(basically hunter gatherers groups/remnants from that pre-agricultural period) baring down on them!
As James Burke notes in his Connections chapter/episode four, the Romans had aqueducts feeding/powering tremendous wheat hammers. I mean we're talking about sport stadium sized industrial waterwheels! They also had Heron of Alexandria who hit on steam power. As Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke had noted, if they had just hit on the idea of powering their hammers, and saws from steam power, and keeping these hugh aqueduct waterwheel powered hammers and saws going, they would have no problems dealing with the Germanic and Asian barbarians. But no, due to a Germanic defeat of Roman legion around 260, Romans literally, and this is in the book, literally thought this meant the pagan gods and science/technology really was not the way! Christianity had to be the way.
Phlip Jenkins mostly shows some of how it was in late Roman empire and early dark ages. One major component of what it was like were the mob scenes at the church councils. Meetings, like the Nicene meeting held by Emperor Constantine - the first Roman emperor to make Christianity the official religion of the roman empire. After him, another Roman emperor tried to go back to Pagan ways, but because of a Roman legion defeat by Germanic barbarians, the general Roman citizen and apparently roman emperor feeling was that Christianity should be the way; the Roman empire never turned back after that. I've already mentioned the date of the Roman legion defeat - 260. These Christian meetings to determine what Christianity was and was not reflects the multitude of Christianity before Christianity became the official religion of the roman empire. The meetings were certainly gangster like, but not nearly as bloody as Philip initially implies. One guy, a Favius got beat to death. But, for the most part, everyone matched each other sword for sword. That's was scarier than you might initially think. I mean hundreds of Bishops from hundreds of churchs the roman empire wide would come, but to protect themselves, they'd bring all their armed guard with them as well. Some had to appeal to the Roman emperor for Roman soldier protections. Most of the Bishops had to sign on with whomever was most powerfull to not get killed.
Another major societal feature highlighted by Mr Jenkins was a kind of thinking started by what are called the Capadocian fathers - Basil of Caesaria, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa. They came up with ousia, physia, hypostasis, and prosopon; these are the Greek versions of words of features of the Christ. I found this interesting, because a book I found while a youth/high school time, was "The Ancient Engineers." In the chapter about Byzantines, he mentions Gregory of Nyssa actually complaining,
"People swarm everywhere, talking of incomprehensible matters, in hovels, streets and squares, marketplaces and crossroads. When I ask how many oboloi to pay, they answer with hairsplitting arguments about the born and the unborn. If I inquire the price of bread, I am told that the father is greater than the son. I call a servant to tell me whether my bath is ready; he rejoins that the son was created out of nothing."
Well, I thought the quotes Mr Jenkins comes up were some more. Well, he does have another quote to the affect of such weird talk. He also indicates that if you want more, look up the references in the notes.
Overall, the end of the Roman empire, and the first half of the Dark ages, at least(it's pretty well known that there's a first and second half of the Darks defined by the translations of ancient Greek knowledge in Arab spain around 1000 A.D.) was Christian in house fighting(to the point of calling whole councils to determine someone was heretic) to forcibly converting pagans to Christianity. This happened up to around 700A.D. when the Vikings came. The Vikings(not noted in Philip Jenkins book) were a pagan reaction to the Christians forcibly converting everyone. They were eventually converted to christianity. The Vikings also were not able to conquer the Byzantine walls, much less the Islam Arab southern spain.
One interesting character that I wonder if Philip Jenkins got the whole story right about was a Saint John Chrysostom. He just states that he was banished as a heretic by the Christian Alexandrian Cyril and Aelia Eucoxia, wife of Theodosius the 2nd. Curiously, Cyril was responsible for the death of Hypatia(Philip Jenkins shows her death may have come indirectly because of her association with some Roman official Cyril killed). The burning of the books of Alexandria came shortly after the death of Hypatia, for which Saint John Chrysostom has been quoted,
"Every trace of the old philosophy and literature of the ancient world has vanished from the face of the earth."
Well, Saint Cyril did the dirty work, and then went and banished Saint John Chrysostom later; that christiantiy for you I guess!
The above picture is of the Tomb of Galla Placidia who ruled the western Roman empire for three decades and moved the capital of the empire to Ravenna where here tomb is. Check out John Romer's "Testament" I think it's the second to last episode where he starts out in Galla's tomb; the ceiling and everything in there is quite . . . beautiful.
- 28Jan2014 edit,
Found yet another Roman conspiracy to invent Christianity video; this one is focused a bit on Emperor Constantine. They end with possible connections to the Flavians.