Who was Jesus anyway?
With all the propaganda filling our minds from day one it’s very tough to get a clear idea. What is certain is that he was a Jew born a few years before the year 0 in the land of Palestine. He observed Jewish rites and customs and was a celebrated leader of the Jews, so much so that the authorities had him executed.
That much we know. From there on you’re free to come to your own conclusion. An interesting idea developed by the anthropologist Marvin Harris in his book “Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches”, is that Jesus and his disciples were most probably armed to the teeth. They could never have survived the bandit-infested wilderness otherwise, he argues.
It’s a good point and anyone who’s been to the Middle East must ask themselves how the average money trader would have let some meek hippy walk in and overturn their tables. He would have been lynched if not backed up by some impressive characters. The Bible tells us that two of his disciples once proposed destroying a village by themselves because it refused to feed them.
“I come not to bring peace but a sword.”
Jesus certainly fitted the part of the military messiah hoped for by the Jews to free them from the Roman occupation. So where did all that meek stuff about turing the other cheek come from? Harris suggests that once the Romans began to persecute the Jews in 130 A. D it occurred to the Christians that they had better rewrite their man as a dovsh peace and love type.
Jesus has since acquired a hundred faces, often losing his dusky Middle Easter complexion on the way. He often sports a white face with rosy cheeks that would surely have burnt to a crisp in half an hour of the Judean sun.
To mystics like John Donne and Thomas Merton Jesus has become a symbol for union with God. In many senses he has become as much an idol as any Hindu God and has been interpreted around the world according to culture and taste.
Was Jesus a teacher, a radical socialist or a bedraggled hippy? We’ll never know as the only records of his life were written at least 70 years after his death by people who never met him. Feel free to join up the dots for yourself.