Bijna exact tien jaar geleden viel mijn oog op een boek met een intrigerende titel: De man die in 70 het kruis overleefde. De inhoud bleek even spannend als de titel suggereerde en was vrij overtuigend.
Toen ik ontdekte dat de auteur een bewerkte versie gepubliceerd heeft als e-book, weliswaar in het Engels, was mijn nieuwsgierigheid uiteraard gewekt. Ik wilde weleens weten of mijn toenmalige bezwaren, nl. de falsificatie van de stellingen, nog actueel zijn. En ik was aangenaam verrast!
VERMEIREN, F (aut.), MACKIE, I & VAN LEEMPUT J. (transl.), A Chronological Revision of the Origins of Christianity. Amazon, e-book, 2015, 266 pp.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead under the rule of Pontius Pilate. His disciples then recognized him as the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God, and went to preach the Gospel throughout the then known world. That’s how Christianity was born.
However, this story raises important issues that were never resolved. Why did the disciples of Jesus wait for 40 years to write down these startling events? And how do we explain that Paul, the main propagandist for Christianity, doesn’t speak about the life and final days of Jesus in his letters? Could it be possible that the events of the Gospels are placed in the wrong historical context?
While reading the report on the Jewish-Roman war by the Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Frans Vermeiren found remarkable similarities between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus from Josephus, whom the historian saved from the cross, are the same person. In an over three decades of research he read the Bible from cover to cover. He studied the early Christian texts apart from the Gospels as well as the work of important Roman historians and he immersed himself in contemporary research on the historical Jesus and the first century CE. So arises an intriguing but historically much more plausible version on the origins of Christianity.
Jesus was an important Essene priest who was crucified by the Romans during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. He was still alive when he was taken from the cross through the intercession of Flavius Josephus and he recovered from his injuries. The Essenes, who had long been expecting a Messiah, regarded these events as the realization of their dreams, by which the defeat of the Jews against the Romans could be bent into a victory, albeit not on earth but in the afterlife. Christianity is the exponent and continuation of the Essene movement in Judaism.
This theory might sound rather controversial, but the author can justify his claim with very solid arguments. At first he presents the most important arguments in favor. Aside from the historical reports of Josephus, there are a lot of further clues that the traditional chronology of the origin of Christianity was antedated and that Jesus survived his execution. Moreover, there is a striking link between the belligerent messiah concept in the Jewish Essene texts and the description of Jesus as messiah in the New Testament.
In the second part of the book it becomes clear that there are good reasons to reject the principal objections against his theory. After critical review the epistles of Paul can be reconstructed as pre-Christian messianistic texts. There is also sound evidence that fragments outside the Bible are interpolations from a later date.
To portray Jesus as no more nor less than a historical human being certainly will hurt people who wholeheartedly believe in the teachings of traditional Christianity. A historical correction, however, does not destroy the spiritual message of Christianity. Moreover, this study shows that there are absolutely no grounds for Christian anti-Semitism since it was not the Jewish establishment or the Jews as a people that were responsible for Jesus’ execution.
There might remain some details to explain, but the arguments in favour of this daring and controversial claim are supported by varied and expert sources and provide the theory with a high degree of probability. Moreover, the theory exposed in this book is far more realistic than the supernatural assumptions claimed by traditional Christian belief and therefore is much more credible. Finally, the text is very well written and accessible to all readers. This fascinating book is highly recommended to everyone interested in religion and history.