Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This Is Not My Beautiful God…

One need only be measurably literate and mildly curious to know that Yahwehism is beset with such a slew of legitimacy problems that it’s honestly difficult to imagine it surviving (in any coherent form) within educated populations through the second-half of this century. The patriarchs (Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and Moses) never existed, the Exodus never happened, there was no conquest of the Land of Israel, and there was never a 10th Century United Kingdom. Penned by Judean copywriters between the 7th and 5th Centuries BCE (nearly a millenium after its alleged origin) the Pentateuch is recognised today by even conservative Jewish rabbis to be nothing but a geopolitical work of fiction commissioned to justify a northern land grab after the fall of Mamlekhet Yisra’el (Kingdom of Israel) in 722 BCE.

“There is no archaeological evidence for any of it. This is something unexampled in history. They [Judah] wanted to seize control of the territories of the kingdom of Israel and annex them, because, they said, `These territories are actually ours and if you have a minute, we´ll tell you how that´s so.’ The goal was to create a myth saying that Judah is the center of the world, of the Israelite way of life, against the background of the reality of the later kingdom.” (Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology, Tel Aviv University)

Those are the facts, they’ve been in the public domain for over thirty years, but as Prof. Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University observed: “we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in that all this is simply ignored by the public.” For now that’s not too surprising, cowards often evade awkward things, and for Yahwehists it’s hard to fathom anything more uncomfortable than admitting there was no supernatural revelation (to anyone, at any time), and that Jesus (if he ever existed, which is doubtful) and Muhammad (who, regrettably, did exist) were both talking through their (un)inspired hats. If this were not the case both characters would have blithely let their audiences in on the little 6th Century secret and straightened out the historical farce once and for all. Neither, of course, did. Both, in fact, named the patriarchs on multiple occasions and by doing so revealed their own bumbling ignorance of basic regional history… a history one would naturally expect god-men to actually know.

Uncomfortable, sure, but there lurks in the archaeological record an even more
distressing reality check awaiting the idolaters of this particular Middle Eastern god and it’s a date with reality that will not be easily reconciled. Simply put, Yahweh is a renovated do-it-upper bungalow of a god; a one-time lowly character inhabiting the 1st millennium Canaanite pantheon who with the help of a new publicity team, ghost writers, and a level of plagiarism that would make even a Chinese businessman blush pulled off a reasonably successful supernal makeover that saw him jump from the D-list of godly celebrities right into the VIP section. Before the facelift, though, he was a member of the Divine Family; just one of seventy children fathered by El (whose name, not Yahweh’s, is given to Israel: Yisra’el) and his wife, the mother goddess, Asherah. Worshiped as a patron in his portion of the “seventy nations” (possibly Edom in the south) Yahweh’s restyling began in the 7th Century with a shift toward monolatry where he started to be identified with the father, El: el dū yahwī ṣaba’ôt. Ambition then led this otherworldly mover and shaker to do something quite unexpected. At the behest of his human handlers this celestial yuppie in a tunic married his mother; a fact revealed at two 7th Century sites (Kuntilet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Kom) where Hebrew inscriptions were found that read ‘YHWH and his Asherah’, ‘YHWH Shomron and his Asherah’, and, ‘YHWH Teman and his Asherah.’ Alone, these sites are proof-positive Yahweh was a pantheon deity; a menial one no less, who was slowly redecorated by a people undergoing a refurbishment of their own. Oedipal complexes to one side, in the post-Exilic period (after exposure to monotheistic Zoroastrianism in Babylon) monolatry gave way to Judaic monotheism where the Canaanite pantheon was thrown out and the “sons of God” were called upon to worship Yahweh as the Divine King (Psalm 29:2).

Sorry Yahwehists, you can have your own beliefs, but you can’t have your own facts. Monotheism emerged amongst the Israelites 1,000 years later than alleged, and YHWH was nothing but a side character in an off-off Broadway divine play whose role was re-written by men looking to add a little supernatural spice to their geopolitical ambitions.

Now it sounds odd to our post-Enlightenment ears but shuffling the deck of the Divine Family was a manoeuvre as old, in fact, as the pantheons themselves. The first Sumerian gods who brought order from chaos, An and Ki, gave birth to Enlil who would dominate (until his own expulsion) the veritable smorgasbord of gods who’d come to inhabit the first pantheon dreamed up by men; their lives unfolding like an ever-expanding family drama complete with labour strikes as experienced when the 6th generation of gods literally refused to work. Love, hate, envy, lust, sex, rape, incest, political intrigue, alcoholism, and wars; the Sumerian pantheon had it all, and it was flexible, too. As one city state rose and assumed dominion over the proto-empire their particular patron god also rose in order of authority which in-turn forced a re-arranging of the family deck as a whole. In time, micromanaging the family of gods took on an entirely new dimension as city states merged and became fully fledged empires whose fate ebbed and flowed like everything else. As the power of Sumer bled into the Akkadian Empire which then dulled and that of Babylon rose some serious adjustments needed to be made to the heavenly order to better reflect the new earthly reality. The solution the Babylonians found was brazen, if not perfectly straightforward: they simply wrote the Enuma Elish which catapulted their cities patron god, Marduk, way up the order in the existing creation story and had him slaughter the pre-time chaos embodied in the demon Tiâmat. Without care or concern for script continuity they made him a son of the Sumerian Lord Enki who, according to the new version of events, ceded power leaving the one-time fairly lowly Babylonian god to rule all of mankind.


Complete and utter fantasy, but easy just the same, and given the size, complexity and authority of Babylon it was a cultural feat unimaginably more difficult (and impressive) than the one performed by a handful of Canaanite hill tribes fifty generations later. As Professor Finkelstein noted: “I don’t think there is any other place in the world where there was a city with such a wretched material infrastructure but which succeeded in creating such a sweeping movement in its favour as Jerusalem, which even in its time of greatness was a joke in comparison to the cities of Assyria, Babylon or Egypt. It was a typical mountain village.” A village, one might add, sporting a remodelled god who by hook or by crook had not only taken over his dads business but also his wife…. Before, of course, ditching her (and everyone else in his family) after a Babylonian holiday two-hundred years later.

Excuse me, but which Jesus are you talking about?

There’s an elegant, albeit scrupulously self-serving reason why an awful lot (82%) of the canonical writings pertaining to Jesus were left on the cutting-room floor in the Christian bibles 300+ year editing process. While charlatans, liars and counterfeiters of the highest order, the nameless proof readers and editors ultimately in-charge of fashioning the orthodox Christian product weren’t entirely insane. From the creepily coercive homosexual Jesus who surfaces in James 2nd Apocalypse and the Secret Gospel of Mark (Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth came to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God) to the gnostic gospel of Thomas (which miraculously forgets to mention the crucifixion) there are in fact over seventy so-named Apocryphal books that were evidently considered either too outlandish or simply too contradictory by early Christian publicists to make the final grade. Alone, this is
a remarkable statement as it means Mathew’s post-crucifixion Zombie Apocalypse (which, extraordinarily, no one in all of Judea seemed to have noticed) was deemed at some point by these same men to be perfectly credible. Credible, that is to say, when perhaps compared to the mob of hideous, fire breathing, winged dragons a two-year-old, nappy wearing Jesus battles (and bests) on his way to Egypt.

That particular story is found in the 18th Chapter of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew; one of the nine so-called Infancy Gospels which detail the early life of a thoroughly odd, utterly ghastly little boy named, Jesus; a boy you seriously, absolutely, positively wouldn’t want as a neighbour.

Three years after the dragon incident, now aged five and back in Nazareth (which incidentally wouldn’t actually exist as a town until at least five generations later), Jesus was playing on the muddy banks of a creek with some other kids. Being Jesus he fashions some birds out of clay, whispers life into the statues, and they happily fly away (Infancy Gospel of Thomas 3:2-3). Another boy saw this and for reasons he’d soon regret meandered up to Jesus’ pool of miracle-mud and started poking at it with a stick. Puddles, evidently, meant a lot to Jesus because he goes balls-in-the-air ballistic and murders the kid right there on the spot. “O evil, ungodly, and foolish one, what hurt did the pools and the waters do thee? Behold, now also thou shalt be withered like a tree, and shalt not bear leaves, neither root, nor fruit.” And straightway that lad withered up wholly. (Pseudo-Matthew 27-28)

A little later on that same day Jesus is walking through the streets of Nazareth (streets which, of course, wouldn’t be laid until at least the middle of the 2nd century) whereupon a happy-go-lucky boy carelessly, but accidently, bumps up against him. Without rhyme or reason Jesus goes berserk and in a frenzied fit of rage promptly murders that kid as well. Jesus was provoked and said unto him, “Thou shalt not finish thy course.” And immediately he fell down and died. (Infancy Gospel of Thomas 4:1)

With the homicidal butchering of two kids under his belt before even lunchtime the
five-year-old then goes completely off the rails and in an eruption of egomaniacal hellfire orders that the terrified children of Nazareth (which didn’t exist) worship him as a king. Panic-stricken they obey and mobilise into Jesus’ personal sycophant army who proceed to terrorise the town, forcing all passers-by to pay their respects to him like Kurtz enthroned in the middle of the deepest, darkest jungle. Soon after some men dash through town carrying a child and when confronted by Jesus’ thugs they refuse to divert from their path and pay homage. When he gets wind of this Jesus tracks the men down and demands an explanation. “The child has been bitten by a snake and we desperately need a cure,” they tell him. Jesus calls the snake out from the woods, commands it to suck the poison back out from the boy, and then for no reason whatsoever blows the poor reptile to smithereens. So the serpent crept to the boy, and took away all its poison again. Then the Lord Jesus cursed the serpent so that it immediately burst asunder, and died. (First Gospel of Infancy 18:13-16)

After this incident the townsfolk of Nazareth (a town as yet settled by anyone) confront Jesus’ father, Joseph, and insist he rein the boy in. Under threat of expulsion (from a place not yet founded) Joseph delivers his cease and desist ultimatum to the boy. Jesus hears the words, ponders his father’s insolence, momentarily thinks about killing him, but then chooses instead to just blind all the adults in town. “They shall bear their punishment.” And straightway they that accused him were smitten with blindness (Infancy Gospel of Thomas 5:1).

At this Joseph goes nuts, but Jesus simply dismisses him. He mocks and threatens everyone, says he knows the day of their death, makes a teacher named Zacchaeus cry, then bursts into deranged maniacal laughter and restores everyone’s sight. After that, “nobody dared to make him angry because they did not want to be cursed or crippled.” (Infancy Gospel of Thomas 8:4).

A few days later though Jesus is playing on the roof of a house with another boy and when the lads parents return they, predictably, find their son dead on the ground (Infancy Gospel of Thomas 9:1-3). When asked Jesus says he didn’t do it, rather the kid just spontaneously threw himself off the roof. To make amends Jesus resurrects the boy who’s clearly so petrified of this egotistical little psychopath that he parrots the story and tells everyone that he, in fact, hurled himself off the roof, voluntarily…. Not Jesus, oh no, never.

Now, this is just one snippet (a few days copied across three canonical documents) in
the life of what is essentially fifty entirely different (albeit mostly incomplete) Jesus’; a 1st Century Judean gnostic character who in even the church sanctioned editions exhibits different personality traits doing completely different things at entirely different times depending on which account you read. It is a character to whom not a single physical description is given and who floats in a suggested window of time, yet no date for his birth, deeds or death is offered anywhere. Since his invention in 1939, Batman has also exhibited over fifty entirely unique versions of himself depending on which account you read. In the original 1939 version Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, but in DC Comics Azrael’s version it’s the computer science graduate student, Jean-Paul Valley, who assumes the role of masked crusader. In Batman Earth Two Bruce Wayne is born in 1910, but in Gotham by Gaslight Batman starts his crime fighting career in 1889. In The Batman of Arkham Bruce Wayne is a psychiatrist who runs the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, while in Castle of the Bat, Bruce Wayne is a geneticist who brings to life a patchwork corpse containing bat DNA and the brain of his father.

Like Batman, Jesus is a character literally impossible to pin down, and if there is any semblance of mild uniformity in the pseudepigraphical synoptic gospels then it’s only because Mathew and Luke were copied directly from Mark; itself an embellished document which originally didn’t even mention a resurrection event (Mark 16). Although divergent the edited and re-edited synoptic gospels are, however, the aberration. In the Gospel of Peter it is Herod Antipas, not Pontius Pilate, who orders Jesus’ death, and in the Gospel of Truth he is nailed to a tree, not a Roman cross. Perhaps even more unfamiliar to our ears is the Jesus found in the Gospel of the Egyptians who not only demands total abstinence but preaches for the outright separation of the sexes, stating that sorrow and error will remain with man “As long as women bear children.”

What is however perfectly clear to anyone curious enough to look is that 1,650 years ago some mindful, temperately script-savvy church publicists figured a murderous, bloodthirsty, psychopathic baby Jesus probably wasn’t the type of character they wanted to sell as their frontline product. A similar decision seems to have been made by the studio executives at DC Comics when in 1994 they passed on commissioning a second instalment to The Tyrant; a freakishly bizarre story where a corrupt Batman takes control of Gotham City, drugs the city’s water supply and turns it into a police state before he is brought down by the villains he once terrorised and then burnt alive inside Wayne Manor by the good citizens of Gotham.