Jesus, was a revolutionary figure, important both during his times as well as ours. What we know about this remarkable person comes mostly from a literal interpretation of the Hebrew Bible.
This was changed with the monumental discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are a collection of 981 different texts discovered (1946 to 1956) in eleven caves in the immediate vicinity of the ancient settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. These caves are located 2 kilometres from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea from which they derive their name.
A theological historian specializing in the early Christian Church, Dr. Barbara Thiering, was the first to discover a technique called ”pesher” (pronounced “paysher”), described in the Qumran Scrolls. By the application of the “pesher” according to strict and consistent rules, it is possible to uncover the hidden meaning of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation. The pesher code, known for the first time from the theory found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, gives an exact account of what actually happened, down to the smallest detail of time and place.
From this we learn that Jesus was the leader of a radical faction of Essene priests. He was not of virgin birth. He [was crucified but] did not die on the Cross. He married Mary Magdalene, fathered a family, and later divorced. He died in AD 72.
To begin at the beginning:
Christianity began in the movement called Essene, one of the major world-views among Jews in the 1st centuries BC and AD. They had been very much influenced by the Greeks who thought that sexual activity was debasing. Therefore, the Essenes believed that the holiest kind of life was one that renounced sex and marriage altogether, practiced by monastics and hermits. But in order to preserve the great dynasties of the Zadokite priests and the Davids (who had once ruled the Jerusalem temple but had now lost power), they solved the problem by instituting a second order, one that allowed sex only for the sake of having sons.
The dynasts lived normally in monasteries, but when they reached their late thirties they left temporarily for a marriage. A first wedding permitted them to live together for a trial marriage, then when the girl was three months pregnant, there was a second wedding from which there could be no divorce. The man returned to the monastery after the birth, to come back to his wife only after intervals of years for further conceptions. The girl lived in a female community, continuing as a nun.
The Church before Christianity:
It will be shocking to many to know that Jesus (nor Paul nee Saul) did not found the institution that later came to be known as the Christian Church. This was well in place centuries before Jesus’ birth. It had begun as a program for converting Gentiles to Judaism. Then, when their Jewish teachers would not give them full equality, Gentiles who could only accept the more spiritual aspects broke away, under the leadership of Jesus, giving themselves a new name, Christian. They renounced Jewish identity and went their separate way, finally establishing their new centre of operation in Rome.
While in the diaspora, the Essenes established schools on the model of Pythagorean communities. This together with Pharisees and Sadducees, while living as ascetics and teaching the advanced knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy which they had learned from the Greeks. The homeland Essenes at Qumran had also established such a school.
Jesus, the Politician:
The Sadducee pro-Roman element, turning to the west, now included Jesus, who had lived in monastic seclusion since his recovery from the crucifixion. His teaching of peace with Rome and full equality of Gentiles was freely expressed in Antioch, in the north outside the country. He would not again be accepted in the homeland. On January 1, AD 44, his party of Gentiles adopted the new name, Christian. Some would retain some loyalty to Jerusalem, others would renounce Jewish identity altogether. A man named Simon, with the title “the Rock”, Peter, a member of the village Essenes, was one who retained some loyalty to Jerusalem, but agreed with Jesus on the full equality of Gentiles.
The Sons of David:
Joseph had become the David successor on the death of Jacob-Heli in 16-17 AD. He was a carpenter by profession with his eldest son Jesus taking after him as a carpenter. During the limited periods when the dynasts lived outside the monastery in marriage, in order to produce an heir, they lived among the village Essenes, usually in Galilee. All members of the secret ascetic society formed by Essenes, who hoped that one day the Kingdom would come and they would be restored to power in the temple, lived outwardly as ordinary men earning their living in trade.
Joseph remained a hero in the traditions of the ascetic community, one who had fought for their independence from Rome. His son Jesus, who had spent periods in Rome with his family, developed a more co-operative attitude, not wanting a Kingdom gained by force of arms. But he respected his father, and that was one of the reasons why he subsequently joined Simon Magus, the enemy of Agrippa, even though they were opposed on the issue of war. Jesus carried on the dynastic line, as the Davids were obliged to do. But the mystical messianism that had become particularly effective in mission to Gentiles was responsible for removing from the surface record all trace of the previous history of the “seed of David”.
“There will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three” (Luke 12:52).
Those words came from Jesus’ personal experience. Of the five sons of Joseph and Mary, three – Jesus, Joses-Barnabas, and Simon-Silas – turned to Roman culture, and two – James and Jude – remained attached to Jerusalem and its traditions. The family was politically divided, sometimes bitterly.
Jesus, the eldest, was intellectually brilliant, creative and innovative, and in his youth accused of arrogance. Joses-Barnabas was in sympathy with him, especially on his valuing celibacy. The youngest, Simon-Silas, became a close associate of Paul in his renunciation of Judaism. All were affected by the intense political climate of their day, when Judaism was in the process of becoming so hellenised that it was on the verge of losing its Jewish identity.
While the royal status of the Davids was preserved within the community of exiled Essenes, all the five sons had positions by right of birth. Their grandfather Jacob-Heli had been appointed under Herod the Great patriarch of the west, including authority over all Gentiles, and his grandsons were made superiors of different kinds of Gentiles. The main divisions of Gentiles were into proselytes, who adopted all aspects of Jewish identity including circumcision, and the uncircumcised, who retained their own ethnic identity.
To conclude, in Dr Thiering’s words, ”Jesus was …. a noble reformer, standing out against oppressive and destructive religion in his own day. He was a part only of a great institution that preceded him and followed him. The choices he made, within his own circumstances, were those that the finest of human beings make, responding to that within us that we have always thought of as divine.”