The Birth of Christianity, by John Dominic Crossan
The Jesus Puzzle, by Earl Doherty
These 'Christ Cults' had no connection with or knowledge of any historical Jesus in Palestine.
By the time Jesus of Nazareth came along, 'Christianity' may have already been a wide spread religion.
The Anti-Christ, the beast and his mark, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, the thousand year reign of peace; these future figures and events derived from the Bible are very real to many Christians today even though they have not occurred yet.
In the same way, it is argued, the first century Jews developed detailed scenarios about the future Chirst.
And belief in these scenarios was just as intense.
John the Baptist's followers also believed in a future messiah.
"...[John the Baptist] said, 'After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.'" Mark 1:7-8
So why wouldn't Jews living out in the Roman world develop similiar beliefs about a coming Christ?
There is a great deal in the Epistles and Revelation about the spiritual Christ and what he accomplishes on the spiritual plane but almost nothing about the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
It explains why Paul, who knew Christ only through revelation, could have been originally opposed to Jesus and still be such an important person in early Chirstianity. (I assume Galatians was written much later and only attributed to Paul yet reflects the earlier conflict between the Christ Cult and the Jesus Cult).
"Now I [Paul] want to make it quite clear to you, brothers, about the gospel that was preached by me, that it was no human message. It was not from any human being that I received it, and I was not taught it, but it came to me through a revelation of ... Christ. You have surely heard how I lived in the past, within Judaism, and how there was simply no limit to the way I persecuted the Church of God in my attempts to destroy it; and how, in Judaism, I outstripped most of my Jewish contemporaries in my limitless enthusiasm for the traditions of my ancestors." Galatians 1:11-15
In his book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart D. Ehrman tells us that to counter second centruy heresies trying to separate the "physical" Jesus from the "spiritual" Christ, many passages were altered from just "Jesus" or just "Christ" to "Jesus Christ".
As an experiment, try reading "Christ" instead of "Jesus" in the Epistles and Revelation and see that it usually works just as well.
It tells us a great deal about the Christ, all of it from the Old Testament, but virtually nothing about the historical Jesus.
Return to "Origins of Christianity"
(c) 2006 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.