Uncommon Sense

November 26, 2022

Creating Christ

The above title is a book title (didn’t read) and a documentary title (saw a couple of nights ago on Prime).

In this documentary, the evidence that Christianity was a Roman construction was presented, again. When I taught I used the rule of thumb that to really teach something you needed to address it three different times and, preferably, three different ways. This time, a great many aspects of this conjecture really clicked. The conjecture being, of course, that the Romans shaped Christianity to be a Rome-favorable choice of a religion for rowdy Jews.

I didn’t see a great many new pieces of evidence, just the same things presented as a coherent whole. And, things in my knowledge clicked into place as the doc proceeded. I was not impressed by the quality of the visual presentations as they would use the name of one Roman emperor while showing a statue of another, that kind of thing (the visuals were eye candy way too often, something I dislike). But the arguments were dispassionate and well structured.

A clear distinction was made between the Jews who were the insurrectionists and the Jews who were the cooperative sort (they were all Jews, whether subscribing to the Christian cult or not as far as the Romans thought). The insurrectionists were mercilessly suppressed. The claimed martyrdom of the early Christians is a propaganda tool, Christians per se were not suppressed, but the trouble making Jews were, and it was to the advantage of the Christians of the time to claim they were persecuted for their beliefs. They were not, insurrectionist Jews were punished for their actions.

One thing that had always bothered me is the Romans, taking the lead of Alexander the Great, developed a highly successful approach to pacifying conquered peoples. Part of that process was folding in the local gods with the Roman pantheon. Every school child has noticed the one to one correspondence between the Greek and Roman gods, e.g. Zeus = Jupiter, etc. Well, that approach was made general and performed over and over. The Romans had an “Office of Cults” that kept track of these things and checked to make sure that all of the peoples of the empire worshiped “the gods.” They didn’t particularly care which gods. The Jews of the time, however, were very stiff necked about the Imperial Cult in which emperors were worshipped and refused to do so. At one point the pragmatic Romans, trying to keep the lid on the volatile Middle East region, absolved the Jews from that requirement! Ah, such persecutions!

So, in contrast to that keystone of Roman empire administration, in the fourth century CE, Christianity became “an” official religion of Rome (and so was favored, rather than ignored/disfavored) and then a few decades later became “the” sole official religion of Rome. Rome ditched its very successful approach to governing conquered peoples to become monotheistic rather than polytheistic.

This cannot be considered a whim on the part of an emperor. The Romans were far too pragmatic for that, there had to be something in it for them, and that something had to be big, really big. The argument is that Christianity was shaped into a religion that was as pro Roman as a religion could be, and actively so, not just passively accepting as the various mystery religions of the time were. So, this religion was created to be a unifying support for the Empire and it got to be that over time.

Many things are explained by this. For one, why the gospels and Acts of the Apostles were written in Greek, rather than Hebrew, the Jewish language. Why slavery was accepted by an all-powerful entity who could have looked at it as a government usurping the slave’s free will. Why taxes were promoted as well as governments (aka rulers, even pagan rulers) as instruments of “God’s will.”

There is no group of people portrayed more favorably in the New Testament than the Romans. Even the cruel and vicious Pontius Pilate is portrayed favorably.

The Romans took actions to wipe out the insurrectionists/rebellious (John the Baptizer and Jesus were two such) and later attempted to convert the others to a pro Roman religion.

Many people point out that Paul, more than any other, was the creator of Christianity. Who was Paul? Paul claimed to be a Roman citizen and he played that card often and well. He must have had some sort of proof of that citizenship since otherwise, just a casual claim to citizenship would have been made by every miscreant. The Romans saved his life, protected him, treated him well, and for his part, Paul claimed o have many friends in Rome, including in the Emperor’s palace. The Book of Acts leaves Paul’s story when he was in “custody” in Rome, a very comfortable custody, as it is described. So, Paul, he wouldn’t have, would he? I mean he was a persecutor of Christians and claimed to have seen the light, no? He couldn’t have been serving the Romans, could he?

So, fast forward to the present time and we see Christianity is a formidable aspect of the current power structure in the U.S. supporting the status quo, keeping the same people (stand-ins for the rich and powerful) in power. In other words, still supporting the “empire.” The message is still “keep your head down, don’t complain, do your job, your reward will come after you die.” And people still swallow this clearly false message.

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2 Comments »

  1. I sometimes wonder where the world would be without the New Testament: Jesus told his followers, ‘Go tell John.. go tell the world what you’ve seen and heard.’

    Christianity’s out to sea unless there’s direct, immediate connection with the person of Christ. That’s why I adhere to him over beliefs and morals.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Arnold — November 27, 2022 @ 5:28 am | Reply

    • Arnold, that’s a very good thing to wonder about. And even more to the question … where would we be if the Nicene Council had never happened? It’s one thing for a group of followers to share their thoughts about Jesus among themselves and an entirely different thing for those thoughts and ideas to become a “religion” based on the say-so of a covey of bishops led by a Roman Emperor.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Nan — November 27, 2022 @ 10:37 am | Reply


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