The answer is that we really don’t know.

When I studied theology some years ago (at Union Theological Seminary in NYC and Mansfield College, Oxford), I was startled to discover that the Gospels written several generations after the lynching of Jesus as a suspected terrorist by a brutal Roman governor simply did not accord with each other on even the most basic details.  Matthew was obviously directed to Jewish readers with a slant in that direction, Mark was the most pristine and probably trustworthy, Luke set up an elaborate parallel with the events in the life of Moses and offered (uniquely) probably what was an invented birth narrative which was linked by fourth century Christians with its current date as a substitute for the worship then in Rome of the sun god reborn each year with the lengthening of days in the Northern hemisphere.  The Gospel of John was shaped by Hellenic themes and probably was the most suspect of all.  The only contemporary external reference to Jesus was a brief note on the execution of a rebel in Israel by the Jewish historian, Josephus: http://www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm#what

The letters of Saint Paul were written earlier and have tended to dominate subsequent interpretations of Jesus and what he stood for.   IMHO he got it entirely wrong and injected into Christianity some vicious hate elements — anti-Semitism, homophobia, denigration of women and synchophancy towards even the most corrupt political authorities — all of which are manifest in his Letter to the Romans — read it!  He was more proud Roman citizen that follower of a man whom he had never met!

Many during the twentieth century tried to reconstruct the real Jesus from the remnant debris — both the authorized texts and others that were rejected by authorities who variously sanctioned or rejected particular scriptures later on.

Personally I came to see Jesus as probably one of our caring empathetic human geniuses who spoke out on behalf of the poor and the rejected ones and called for assistance towards the former and tolerance of the latter, whatever their wrong doings may have been.  I leave it to others to cull their own versions from the Gospels — which most Christians have never read through, I venture.  We had to protest the way the New Testament was being taught to us by a professor at UTS who, unlike our powerful Old Testament scholar, did not ask us to read the originals but only interpretations after the fact.  Certainly Jesus was not the sponsor of the numerous wars that have been launched over the millennia by Christians in his name — including the current fiascoes in the Middle East!

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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