Rome in transition

The Dead Sea Scrolls​

Good overview:

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The collection of writing recovered in the Qumran environs has restored to us a voluminous corpus of Jewish documents dating from the third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E., demonstrating the rich literary activity of Second Temple-period Jewry. The collection comprises documents of a varied nature, most of them of a distinct religious bent. The chief categories represented are biblical, apocryphal or pseudepigraphical, and sectarian writings. The study of this original library has demonstrated that the boundaries between these categories is far from clear-cut.
The biblical manuscripts include what are probably the earliest copies of these texts to have come down to us. Most of the books of the Bible are represented in the collection. Some books are extant in large number of copies; others are represented only fragmentarily on mere scraps of parchment. The biblical texts display considerable similarity to the standard Masoretic (received) text. This, however, is not always the rule, and many texts diverge from the Masoretic. For example, some of the texts of Samuel from Cave 4 follow the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Bible translated in the third to second centuries B.C.E. Indeed. Qumran has yielded copies of the Septuagint in Greek.
The biblical scrolls in general have provided many new readings that facilitate the reconstruction of the textual history of the Old Testament. It is also significant that several manuscripts of the Bible, including the Leviticus Scroll are inscribed not in the Jewish script dominant at the time but rather in the ancient paleo-Hebrew script.
A considerable number of apocryphal and pseudepigraphic texts are preserved at Qumran, where original Hebrew and Aramaic versions of these Jewish compositions of the Second Temple period were first encountered. These writings, which arc not included in the canonical Jewish scriptures, were preserved by different Christian churches and were transmitted in Greek, Ethiopic, Syriac, Armenian, and other translations.
Some of these are narrative texts closely related to biblical compositions, such as the Book of Jubilees and Enoch, whereas others arc independent works-for example, Tobit and Ben Sira. Apparently some of these compositions were treated by the Qumran community as canonical and were studied by them.
The most original and unique group of writings from Qumran are the sectarian Ones, which were practically unknown until their discovery in 1947. An exception is the Damascus Document (or Damascus Covenant), which lacked a definite identification before the discoveries of the Dead Sea area. This widely varied literature reveals the beliefs and customs of a pietistic commune, probably centered at Qumran, and includes rules and ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and liturgical works, generally attributed to the last quarter of the second century B.C.E. and onward.
This seems to be a decent online resource for the DSS texts (translations):
On-Line Texts Related to Biblical Study: Dead Sea Scrolls
From what I can determine there is nothing of note to reference Jesus, John the Baptist or anything to do with Christianity because the bulk of the Dead Sea manuscripts were composed quite a while before the birth of Jesus. Some scrolls are dated as far back as the Maccabbean period, with the most recent date given for a scroll at 68 CE / AD which would be right at the Roman onslaught.
Some of the communal texts include:
War Rule (4Q285 (SM) frg.5) exerpt:
English Translation of The War Rule (Serekh ha-Milhamah)
4Q285 (SM)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (12)
1. ]Isaiah the prophet: [The thickets of the forest] will be cut [down
2. with an axe and Lebanon by a majestic one will f]all. And there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse [
3. ] the Branch of David and they will enter into judgement with [
4. ] and the Prince of the Congregation, the Bran[ch of David] will kill him [
5. by stroke]s and by wounds. And a Priest [of renown (?)] will command [
6. the s]lai[n] of the Kitti[m]
Transcription and translation by G. Vermes
Dead Sea Scrolls -- War Rule

Community Rule (4QSd) exerpt:
English Translation of The Community Rule
And according to his insight he shall admit him. In this way both his love and his hatred. No man shall argue or quarrel with the men of perdition. He shall keep his council in secrecy in the midst of the men of deceit and admonish with knowledge, truth and righteous commandment those of chosen conduct, each according to his spiritual quality and according to the norm of time. He shall guide them with knowledge and instruct them in the mysteries of wonder and truth in the midst of the members of the community, so that they shall behave decently with one another in all that has been revealed to them. That is the time for studying the Torah (lit. clearing the way) in the wilderness. He shall instruct them to do all that is required at that time, and to separate from all those who have not turned aside from all deceit.
These are the norms of conduct for the Master in those times with respect to his loving and to his everlasting hating of the men of perdition in a spirit of secrecy. He shall leave to them property and wealth and earnings like a slave to his lord, (showing) humility before the one who rules over him. He shall be zealous concerning the Law and be prepared for the Day of Revenge.
He shall perform the will [of God] in all his deeds and in all strength as He has commanded. He shall freely delight in all that befalls him, and shall desire nothing except God's will...
Transcription and translation by E. Qimron.
Dead Sea Scrolls -- Community Rule

The Damascus Document (4Q271(Df)) exerpt:
English Translation of Damascus Document (Brit Damesek)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (1)
1. ...with money...
2. ...[his means did not] suffice to [return it to him] and the year [for redemption approaches?]...
3. ...and may God release him? from his sins. Let not [ ] in one, for
4. it is an abomination....And concerning what he said (Lev. 25:14), ["When you sell
5. anything to or buy anything from] your neighbor, you shall not defraud one another," this is the expli[cation...
6. ...] everything that he knows that is found...
7. ...and he knows that he is wronging him, whether it concerns man or beast. And if
8. [a man gives his daughter to another ma]n, let him disclose all her blemishes to him, lest he bring upon himself the judgement
9. [of the curse which is said (Deut. 27:18)] (of the one) that "makes the blind to wander out of the way." Moreover, he should not give her to one unfit for her, for
10. [that is Kila'yim, (plowing with) o]x and ass and wearing wool and linen together. Let no man bring
11. [a woman into the holy] who has had sexual experience, whether she had such experience
12. [in the home] of her father or as a widow who had intercourse after she was widowed. And any woman
13. [upon whom] there is a bad name in her maidenhood in her father's home, let no man take her, except
14. [upon examination] by reliable [women] who have clear knowledge, by command of the Supervisor over
15. [the Many. After]ward he may take her, and when he takes her he shall act in accordance with the law ...and he shall not tell...
16. [ ] L [ ]
Transcription and translation by J. Baumgarten
Dead Sea Scrolls -- Damascus

Tongues of Fire (1Q29, 4Q376):
Tongues of Fire
1Q29, 4Q376
1Q29 F.1
(...) (...) the stone, just as the LORD commanded ....) and your Urim. And it (the cloud?) shall come forth with him, with the tongues of fire. The left-hand stone which is on its left side shall be uncovered before the whole congregation until the priest finishes speaking and after the cloud has been lifted ... And you shall keep (...) the prophet has spoken to you (...) (...) who counsels rebellion (...) (...) the LORD your God (...)
(...) (... the) right-hand stone when the priest comes out (...) three tongues of fire from the right-hand stone (...) (from ...) (...) and after he goes up he shall draw near to the people(...)
(...) (...the LORD) your God (...) (...Blessed is the God of Israel) (...) (...) among them all. Your name (...) (...and an) abundance of strenght, honored (and awesome...) (...)
(...) these words, according to all (...) (... and then) the priests shall interpret His will , all (...) (...) the congregation (...) (... O Children of Israel, keep all of these words) (...) (... to do) all (...) the number of commandments (...) (...) their (...)
F.1 Col.1
(...) the anointed priest upon whose head has been poured the anointing oil ... and he shall offer a bull of the herd and a ram(...) for the Urim.
and your Urim. And it (the cloud?) shall come forth with him, with tongues of fire. The left-hand stone which is upon its left side shall be uncovered before the whole congregation until the priests finishes speaking. And after the cloud has been lifted (...) And you shall keep (...) and the prophet has spoken to you.
according to this entire commandment. And if the Leader of the whole nation is in the camp or (if ...) his enemy and Israel with him, or if they march on a city to throw up a siege against it, or in respect to any matter which (...) to the Leader (...) the field is far (...)
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Tongues of Fire
4Qhalakhic Letter (4Q394 [4QMMTa])​
After the Sabbath, there are three days added and then the year is complete, three hundred and sixty-four days. There are some rules concerning God, which are part of the works we are looking at and they all relate to the purity laws. When wheat is offered, Gentiles cannot touch it. No one should accept wheat from the Gentiles. No wheat touched by the Gentiles will be allowed in the temple.
The flesh of the scarifies should be cooked in bronze canisters. Both the meat and the broth of the sacrifices should be taken outside into the courtyard. The sacrifice is of the Gentiles, what we think is a sacrifice is an offering of thanks, which is postponed from one day to the next. Concerning this sacrifice, it should be a man of stature who has a woman with him.
The cereal should be eaten with the fats and the meat on the day of sacrifice. Sons of priests shall oversee this meal so that the sons of Aaron do not lead the people to sin or bother them with it. The priests shall oversee the purity of the red calf, so that all purity laws are followed. Whoever slaughters, burns, collects and sprinkles the ash does so by the purity rituals. This should all be completed by sunset, so that those who have sinned can be forgiven for their sins. This shall be done for the sons.[6]
Antosy: Observances: 4Q327, 4Q394
The Coming of Melchizedek
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Coming of Melchizedek
This is a lengthy passage, but it may provide some insight…
This looks like it may be another viable resource for DSS:
Dead Sea Scrolls & Qumran - Index
War Scroll:
Col. 1
For the In[structor, the Rule of] the War. The first attack of the
Sons of Light shall be undertaken against the forces of the Sons of Darkness, the army of Belial: the troops of Edom, Moab, the sons of Ammon, the [Amalekitesl, Philistia, and the troops of the Kittim of Asshur. Supporting them are those who have violated the covenant. The sons of Levi, the sons of Judah, and the sons of Benjamin, those exiled to the wilderness, shall fight against them with [ . . . ] against all their troops, when the exiles of the Sons of Light return from the Wilderness of the Peoples to camp in the Wilderness of Jerusalem. Then after the battle they shall go up from that place a[nd the king of] the Kittim [shall enter] into Egypt. In his time he shall go forth with great wrath to do battle against the kings of the north and in his anger he shall set out to destroy and eliminate the strength of I[srael. Then there shall be a time of salvation for the People of God, and a time of dominion for all the men of His forces, and eternal annihilation for all the forces of Belial.
There shall be g[reat] panic [among] the sons of Japheth. Assyria shall fall with no one to come to his aid, and the supremacy of the Kittim shall cease, that wickedness be overcome without a remnant. There shall be no survivors of [all the Sons of] Darkness.
Then [the Sons of Rig]hteousness shall shine to all ends of the world, continuing to shine forth until end of the appointed seasons of darkness. Then at the time appointed by God, His great excellence shall shine for all the times of e[ternity;] for peace and blessing, glory and joy, and long life for all Sons of Light. On the day when the Kittim fall there shall be a battle and horrible carnage before the God of Israel, for it is a day appointed by Him from ancient times as a battle of annihilation for the Sons of Darkness. On that day the congregation of the gods and the congregation of men shall engage one another, resulting in great carnage. The Sons of Light and the forces of Darkness shall fight together to show the strength of God with the roar of a great multitude and the shout of gods and men: a day of disaster. It is a time of distress fo[r al]l the people who are redeemed by God. In all their afflictions none exists that is like it, hastening to its completion as an eternal redemption. On the day of their batlle against the Kittim, they shall g[o forth for] carnage in battle. In three lots the Sons of Light shall stand firm so as to strike a blow at wickedness, and in three the army of Belial shall strengthen themselves so as to force the retreat of the forces [of Light. And when the] banners of the infantry cause their hearts to melt. then the strength of God will strengthen the he[arts of the Sons of Light.] In the seventh lot the great hand of God shall overcome [Belial and al]1 the angels of his dominion, and all the men of [his forces shall be destroyed forever].
from jesus to christ: a portrait of jesus' world: dead sea scrolls: the war scroll
Another source for DSS translations:
Dead Sea scrolls - Wikisource
From what I can tell at this point without deeper consideration, the Essenes appear to have been ascetic Jews, yet still Jews. They did seem to hold some rather strong (even by "typical" Jewish standards) separatist views, and seemed to be preoccupied with strict piety. Otherwise they held Torah and Hallakah (sp?) as judged by the frequency of OT texts found among the scrolls, and numerous commentaries and communal discipline manuals.

I see no direct association between Jesus or John Baptist and the Essenes, which is not to say there wasn't any incidental contact at all, but from what I can tell going by the research of others, it seems very unlikely that Jesus or John practiced Essenic asceticism or were members of that sect.

Even so, we may be able to get some feel for at least a portion of the mindset of the population in Judea during the lifetime of Jesus and the birth of Christianity.

The Zealots were a Jewish political movement in the 1st century which sought to incite the people of Iudaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the country by force of arms during the Great Jewish Revolt (CE 66-70). When the Romans introduced the imperial cult, the Jews unsuccessfully rebelled. The Zealots continued to oppose the Romans due to Rome's intolerance of their culture and on the grounds that Israel belonged only to a Jewish king descended from King David.
Josephus's Jewish Antiquities[3] states that there were three main Jewish sects at this time, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Zealots were a "fourth sect", founded by Judas of Galilee (also called Judas of Gamala) and Zadok the Pharisee in the year 6 against Quirinius' tax reform, shortly after the Roman state declared what had most recently been the territory of the tribe of Judah a Roman Province, and that they "agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord." (18.1.6)

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Zealots[4]:

Following Josephus ("B. J." ii. 8, § 1; "Ant." xviii. 1, §§ 1, 6), most writers consider that the Zealots were a so-called fourth party founded by Judas the Galilean (see Grätz, "Gesch." iii. 252, 259; Schürer, "Gesch." 1st ed., i. 3, 486). This view is contradicted, however, by the fact that Hezekiah, the father of Judas the Galilean, had an organized band of so-called "robbers" which made war against the Idumean Herod ("B. J." i. 10, § 5; "Ant." xiv. 9, § 2), and also during the reign of Herod, if not long before by the fact that the system of religious and political murders practised by the Zealots was in existence during the reign of Herod, if not long before...


One particularly extreme group of Zealots was also known in Latin as sicarii, meaning "daggermen" (sing. sicarius, possibly a morphological reanalysis), because of their policy of killing Jews opposed to their call for war against Rome. Probably many Zealots were sicarii simultaneously, and they may be the biryonim of the Talmud that were feared even by the Jewish sages of the Mishnah.
The main differences between the Sicarii and the Zealots were: (1) the Jerusalem Zealots never attached themselves to one particular family and never proclaimed any of their leaders king; (2) the Sicarii had their original base in Galilee, while the Zealots were concentrated in Jerusalem; and (3) the Galilean Sicarii were fighting for a social revolution, while the Jerusalem Zealots placed less stress on the social aspect.[7]

Zealotry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Origin and Meaning of the Name. (Zealot)​
Following Josephus ("B. J." ii. 8, § 1; "Ant." xviii. 1, §§ 1, 6), most writers consider that the Zealots were a so-called fourth party founded by Judas the Galilean (see Grätz, "Gesch." iii. 252, 259; Schürer, "Gesch." 1st ed., i. 3, 486). This view is contradicted, however, by the fact that Hezekiah, the father of Judas the Galilean, had an organized band of so-called "robbers" which made war against the Idumean Herod ("B. J." i. 10, § 5; "Ant." xiv. 9, § 2), and also by the fact that the system of organized assassination practised by the Zealots was in existence during the reign of Herod, if not long before (see below). The name "Ḳanna'im" ( ; not "Kenaim" as given in Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Encyc." 1886, s.v. "Zẹloten") occurs twice in the Talmud: in Sanh. ix. 11 and in Ab. R. N. vi. (where the other version has ["Sicarii"]; see Schechter's edition, pp. 31 and 32). The former passage contains a statute, evidently of the Maccabean time, declaring that "Whosoever steals the libation cup [Num. iv. 7 or curses one with the aid of the Holy Name [Lev. xxiv. 16, Sifra] or has sexual intercourse with a Syrian [heathen] woman shall be felled by the Ḳanna'im or Zealots." This is explained in the Talmud (Sanh. 82a, b; Yer. Sanh. ix. 27b) to mean that, while the acts mentioned are not causes for criminal procedure, they fall into the same category as did the crime of Zimri the son of Salu, whom Phinehas, because "he was zealous for his God," slew flagrante delicto (Num. xxv. 11-14). Phinehas is set up as a pattern, being called "Ḳanna'i ben Ḳanna'i" (a Zealot, the son of a Zealot), inasmuch as he followed the example of Levi, the son of Jacob, who avenged the crime perpetrated upon Dinah by killing the men of Shechem (Sifre, Num. 131; Sanh. 82b; comp. Book of Jubilees, xxx. 18, 23, where Levi is said to have been chosen for the priesthood because he was zealous in executing vengeance upon the enemies of Israel, and Judith ix. 2-4, where Simeon as ancestor of Judith is praised for his zealous act).

The Sicarii.​
It was for the sake of punishing the crimes of idolatry and bloodshed committed by Herod that the Zealots of Jerusalem first appeared with daggers ("sicæ") hidden underneath their cloaks, bent upon slaying the Idumean despot. Josephus relates ("Ant." xv. 8, §§ 1-4) that it was the introduction of Roman institutions entirely antagonistic to the spirit of Judaism, such as the gymnasium, the arena, and, above all, the trophies (that is, images to which homage was to be paid), which provoked the indignation of the people. Ten citizens of Jerusalem swore vengeance against Herod as an enemy of the nation, and, with concealed daggers, went into the theater, where Herod was supposed to be, in order to slay him there. Owing, however, to his system of espionage, Herod was informed of the conspiracy in time, and so escaped, while the conspirators suffered death with great torture, but gloried in their martyrdom. The people sympathized with them, and in their wrath tore to pieces the spy who had discovered the plot. Another outburst of indignation on the part of the Zealots occurred when Herod, toward the end of his life, placed a large golden eagle over the great gate of the Temple. Two masters of the Law, Judah ben Sarifai and Mattathias ben Margalot, exhorted their disciples to sacrifice their lives rather than allow this violation of the Mosaic law, which forbids as idolatry the use of such images; and forty young men with these two teachers at their head pulled down the golden eagle, for which act the entire company suffered the cruel penalty of death by fire inflicted by order of Herod ("B. J." i. 33, § 2; "Ant." xvii. 6, §§ 2-4). - ZEALOTS


Another mindset of another portion of the population.
OK, so we've looked at briefs (sorry you had to see my briefs, :p , nyuk nyuk nyuk) regarding the Romans, and various sects of the Jews in and around Palestine, and got a feel for the secular and religious world in the region about the time of Jesus and shortly after. We have the Bible, which we are trying to validate, and we have Josephus and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Other texts (such as Nag Hamadi or the Gospel of Thomas) don't really shed any further light in the direction we are looking.

Outside of Palestine, the world was ruled by the Romans and heavily overlain with Greek philosophical thought. Roman religion, besides being Pagan tended towards the superstitious. Roman philosophy tended to borrow heavily from the Greek.

Inside of Palestine, the governmental rule was Roman, with a strong undercurrent of Judeo-religous law. A hyper-patriotic segment of the population desired to throw off the Roman governorship and return to rule not unlike that of the Hasmonean dynasty. The ultra-extremists among these were trained and willing to assassinate.

Those Jews willing to live with the Roman rulership tended towards the status quo, presumably in an attempt to try to preserve what remained of the Temple tradition. This created something of a rift between the two rivalling factions of the Jewish people. The existence of the Septuigint Greek translation of the Old Testament hints to the influence of Greek thought in Palestine for about two hundred years prior to Jesus.

A third branch of the Jews went out into the desert ostensibly to "get away from it all" and try to establish an ascetic compound from which to wait it all out...a tactic which proved to backfire on them. An alternate possibility is that this ascetic commune might have been fostering and encouraging the seditious undertow among the disenfranchised, which might explain why the Romans obliterated them quite quickly and thoroughly once the war that destroyed the Temple began in earnest. But the war was still future when Jesus walked the earth.

The various Pagan subjects of the Roman world held a number of myths that venerated hero-gods who by differing means transcended human form into that of a god-being. Some of these wrought miracles, vanquished evil, healed the sick, raised the dead and even ascended into heaven. Some even had a "queen of heaven" goddess for a mother.

No doubt these beliefs served functionally to teach moral lessons. It does raise questions as to how we today can readily dismiss as superstition in Paganism what is clinged to and cherished in Christianity. A number of arguments have been but forth by Christians, all of which do not address the facts of the matter and only play to the emotional desire to hold and elevate the man we know as Jesus to the status of a god. Historically, when all else fails, burn any who raise such questions at the stake for daring to seek the truth of the matter.

Jesus was a Jew. He was born to observant Jewish parents, in a Jewish household, raised in the Jewish Temple religion through the Jewish Bible (Old Testament *only*), in turn he taught his followers from the Jewish Bible (Old Testament *only*). For some reason he was Tortured and executed in a Roman manner, ostensibly for some gross insult to the Jewish Temple priests. These things can reasonably be ascertained from what can be gathered.

The rest seems to me questionable at best, and this does strain credibility. What is known historically is that there were competing views of what and who Jesus really was, and what it was he taught. Besides the fact that the tolerance extended to Christianity was variable and dependent on the whims of the Roman Emperor. Because of such insecurity, Christians developed a secretive way about them at times that only further fuelled suspicions. After about 250 years of this, their Pagan benefactor Constantine legalized the Christian faith, and a subsequent Emperor some 50 years or so later outlawed Paganism in the Empire. "Overnight" historically speaking, Christianity usurped the throne Paganism held for over a thousand years before. Constantine early on called for an assembly to consolidate and unite the various factions of Christianity, an effort that was only marginally successful, echoes of the disagreements are with us still well over 1500 years later. But it did establish the political primacy of two main churches (that had started as one church), and the political weight has been thrown around through the years in an effort to dismiss any challengers. The attitude seems to be that "might equals right." If we can't convert 'em, we'll just bulldoze 'em. And they did, all the way up until the Protestant Reformation, the only serious challenge they were unable to overcome was that of their Eastern sister.

It is impossible with the evidence at hand to say exactly what the earliest Christians were taught by Jesus to believe. It would have logically been an extension of Judaism in some form. It was the Apostle Paul who was instrumental in carrying the new interpretation of Judaism to the Gentile converts, effectively opening the door to the world. It was by his efforts that one no longer needed to be a Jew first in order to be a Christian. This creates its own backlash, in that we have no valid way I am aware of to distinguish between the Jewish origins that had to comprise the fledgling Christianity, and the Pagan trappings that became intermingled with Christianity. Some are plainly evident: the adoption of Roman and Pagan holidays in lieu of Jewish Holy Days, substitution of Sunday for the Jewish Sabbath, and the rewriting of the Ten Commandments. The evidence of Pagan influence on Christianity is encompassing and thorough, so much so as to make it very difficult to distinguish just what is, and what isn't "genuine" Christianity as taught by Jesus and his closest disciples.
[edit] The census in the New Testament
The Gospel of Luke also mentions Quirinius in the infancy narrative of Jesus:
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1-7—NRSV)
This passage has long been considered problematic by Biblical scholars, since it appears to place the birth of Jesus around the time of the census in 6 A.D, whereas the Gospel of Matthew indicates a birth during or just after the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 B.C., ten years earlier.[13] In addition, no other sources mention a world-wide (or Roman-wide) census which would cover the population as a whole; those of Augustus covered Roman citizens only;[14] and although people could be asked to return to their homes to be registered,[15] it was not the practice in Roman censuses to require people to return to their ancestral homes.[16]
Most modern scholars explain the disparity as an error on the part of the author of the Gospel, concluding that he created a literary fiction, placing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in order to present the birth as fulfilment of prophecy, and that the author was unaware of, or indifferent to,[17] the chronological difficulty. Many also suggest that the Gospel of Matthew account is invented.[18] However, it has been noted that Luke makes no mention of any Messianic prophecies in relation to the census or Bethlehem [19][20].
Others, especially in the past when Biblical inerrancy was more or less taken for granted by scholars, have attempted to reconcile the accounts. For the most part this has involved the suggestion of an earlier census carried out, or begun, during the reign of King Herod. It may have been in response to this problem that Tertullian, writing around 200 AD, stated that the census had been taken by Gaius Sentius Saturninus (legate of Syria, 9-6 BC) rather than Quirinius.[21]
Census of Quirinius - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flight into Egypt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria ti.eklyseya en.remenkimi en.orthodoxos ente alexandrias, literally: the Egyptian Orthodox Church of Alexandria) is the official name for the largest Christian church in Egypt. The Church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which has been a distinct church body since the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, when it took a different position over Christological theology from that of the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches, then still in union. The precise differences in theology that caused the split are still disputed, highly technical and mainly concerned with the Nature of Christ. The foundational roots of the Church are based in Egypt but it has a worldwide following.
According to tradition the Coptic Orthodox Church is the Church of Alexandria which was established by Saint Mark the apostle and evangelist in the middle of the 1st century (approximately 42 AD). The head of the church and the See of Alexandria is the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy See of Saint Mark, currently His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. More than 95% of Egypt's Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, though other churches also claim Patriarchates and Patriarchs of Alexandria;
emphasis mine, -jt3
Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
*a new wrinkle, :D *

The Massacre of the Innocents is not mentioned in the other gospels nor in the early apocrypha except for the Protoevangelium of James 22:
"And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them."[4]
Currently there exists no historical or archaeological evidence of this event having actually happened aside from the account by Matthew. The Jewish historian Josephus (c. 37–c.100) who wrote about the period, makes no mention of this event, but does record Herod's cruelty in other incidents.
Massacre of the Innocents - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

According to the synoptics, Jesus targeted specifically the money changers and the dove sellers and justifies his actions by quoting from the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah:
My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.—Isaiah 56:7
But you have made it a den of thieves—Jeremiah 7:11
The quote from Isaiah comes from a section which instructs that all who obey God's will, whether Jewish or not, are to be allowed into the Temple so that they can pray, and therefore converse with God. The loud market-like atmosphere of money changers and livestock often seems to modern readers to be at odds with the Temple being a place of quiet prayer; however, this interpretation may reflect anachronistic perceptions of ancient worship -- which often involved the sacrificial slaughter of animals -- and the manner in which pre-Christian ritualistic practices intersect with modern notions of contemplative worship. Further, from a Judaic cultural perspective, Jews would have certainly utilized money changers, yet the currency exchange would have been primarily accessed by non-Hebrew travelers changing foreign coins.
The area in question was almost certainly the Court of the Gentiles, a location in the massive Temple complex setup specifically for the purpose of purchasing sacrificial animals and—out of necessity—a place where Jewish pilgrims could exchange their foreign coinage for the appropriate local currency.
The reference to den of thieves may be a reference to inflated pricing or more sinister forms of using a religious cult to exploit the poor. Or, simply to exagerate the lecherousness of the traders. In Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 Jesus again accuses the Temple authorities of thieving and this time names poor widows as their victims going on to provide evidence of this in Mark 12:42 and Luke 21:2. Dove sellers were selling doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices and specifically by women. It could also be translated den of bandits, and it may refer to the rebels against Rome who took refuge in the Temple in the war against Rome that ended with the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 A.D.
emphasis mine, -jt3
Jesus and the money changers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fascinating read!

Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
More good reading.

OK, that’s enough for tonight.
Paul the Apostle

Fourteen epistles in the New Testament are traditionally attributed to Paul, though in some cases the authorship is disputed. Paul had often employed an amanuensis, only occasionally writing himself.[7][8] As a sign of authenticity, the writers of these epistles[9] sometimes employ a passage presented as being in Paul's own handwriting. These epistles were circulated within the Christian community. They were prominent in the first New Testament canon ever proposed (by Marcion), and they were eventually included in the orthodox Christian canon. They are believed to be the earliest-written books of the New Testament.

Paul's influence on Christian thinking arguably has been more significant than any other New Testament author.[10] His influence on the main strands of Christian thought has been demonstrable: from St. Augustine of Hippo to the controversies between Gottschalk and Hincmar of Reims; between Thomism and Molinism; Martin Luther, John Calvin and the Arminians; to Jansenism and the Jesuit theologians, and even to the German church of the twentieth century through the writings of the scholar Karl Barth, whose commentary on the Letter to the Romans had a political as well as theological impact.

Little can be deduced about the historical life of Jesus from Paul's letters. He mentions specifically the Last Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23ff), his death by crucifixion (1 Corinthians 2:2; Philippians 2:8), and his resurrection (Philippians 2:9). In addition, Paul states that Jesus was a Jew of the line of David (Romans 1:3) who was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:12). Paul concentrates instead on the nature of Christians' relationship with Christ and, in particular, on Christ's saving work. In Mark's gospel, Jesus is recorded as saying that he was to "give up his life as a ransom for many."[50] Paul's account of this idea of a saving act is more fully articulated in various places in his letters, most notably in his letter to the Romans.

What Christ has achieved for those who believe in him is variously described: as sinners under the law, they are "justified by his grace as a gift"; they are "redeemed" by Jesus who was put forward by God as expiation; they are "reconciled" by his death; his death was a propitiatory or expiatory sacrifice or a ransom paid. The gift (grace) is to be received in faith (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:9).

Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton and an authority on Gnosticism, argues that Paul was a Gnostic[76] and that the anti-Gnostic Pastoral Epistles were "pseudo-Pauline" forgeries written to rebut this. Pagels maintains that the majority of the Christian churches in the second century went with the majority of the middle class in opposing the trend toward equality for women. By the year 200, the majority of Christian communities endorsed as canonical the "pseudo-Pauline" letter to Timothy. That letter, according to Pagels, stresses and exaggerates the antifeminist element in Paul's views: "Let a woman learn in silence in all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent." She believes the letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians, which order women to "be subject in everything to their husbands," do not express what she says were Paul's very favorable attitudes toward women, but also were "pseudo-Pauline" forgeries...

Talmudic scholar Hyam Maccoby contends that the Paul as described in the Book of Acts and the view of Paul gleaned from his own writings are very different people. Some difficulties have been noted in the account of his life. Additionally, the speeches of Paul, as recorded in Acts, have been argued to show a different turn of mind. Paul as described in the Book of Acts is much more interested in factual history, less in theology; ideas such as justification by faith are absent as are references to the Spirit.

On the other hand, according to Maccoby, there are no references to John the Baptist in the Pauline Epistles, but Paul mentions him several times in the Book of Acts. F.C.Baur (1792–1860), professor of theology at Tübingen in Germany and founder of the so-called Tübingen School of theology, argued that Paul, as the apostle to the Gentiles, was in violent opposition to the older disciples. Baur considers the Acts of the Apostles were late and unreliable. This debate has continued ever since, with Adolf Deissmann (1866–1937) and Richard Reitzenstein (1861–1931) emphasising Paul's Greek inheritance and Albert Schweitzer stressing his dependence on Judaism.

Maccoby theorizes that Paul synthesized Judaism, Gnosticism, and mysticism to create Christianity as a cosmic savior religion. According to Maccoby, Paul's Pharisaism was his own invention, though actually he was probably associated with the Sadducees. Maccoby attributes the origins of Christian anti-Semitism to Paul and claims that Paul's view of women, though inconsistent, reflects his Gnosticism in its misogynist aspects.[79]

Among the critics of Paul the Apostle was Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that Paul was the "first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus". [80]

Paul the Apostle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Maccoby theorizes that Paul synthesized Judaism, Gnosticism, and mysticism to create Christianity as a cosmic savior religion.
Paul the Apostle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Manichees were followers of the third century AD Babylonian sage Mani. He consciously blended aspects of Gnostic Christianity, Persian Zoroastrianism and Buddhism to create a new religion which might be acceptable in both the east and west.

The fact that Manichee beliefs included Christian elements was particularly vexing for the church, and also explains why some notable Christians began their religious journey in the Manichee sect.
Augustine, a North African pagan who experienced a number of conversions until he finally and dramatically embraced Christianity, was briefly entranced by Manicheism during his youth.
BBC - History - Lost and Hidden Christianity

Did anybody else happen to catch the similarity here? It seems that even scholars such as Maccoby and Pagals might be overlooking or discounting the impact of Augustine and Mani. Or vice versa…which helps illustrate the difficulty in trying to unravel this puzzle. The one thing it seems is agreed is the impact and infiltration of Pagan and other source materials into the fledgling Christianity.
A quick look at the brief above about the Coptic church reveals a couple of things:

First, there are 3 primary Christian churches that have survived into modern times, not just one. The Roman Catholic church holds primacy *only* by virtue of political force, it is joined in longevity by the Eastern Orthodox (Byzantine) and the Egyptian Coptic churches.

Second, among these three there are long standing disputes that have lasted as much as nearly 1600 years. Some of these "differences of opinion" are technical and interpretational (such as the Schism between East and West over the use of icons and graven images). But a crucial point that seems to be glossed over frequently is that some of these politically motivated spats are about *the nature of Christ.* Meaning; was he or wasn't he "the son of G-d?," and what precisely that meant.

While it is true the Catholic church was frequently able to harass and subdue those who disagreed (the Albigensian Crusade presented earlier as but one example, the Christianizing of Europe under the sword of Charlemagne being another example), there were also those who managed to side step the rising Catholic tide. Most likely the rise of Islam across North Africa played a big role in preserving the Coptic church, and the vast expanses of the Byzantine empire on into the Russian hinterland no doubt assisted in preserving the Eastern Orthodox church. There is little left to mark those who met the Roman Catholic surge headlong other than occasional footnotes in the history books. The Catholic "Army of G-d" of Dominican and Jesuit friars were not above using force up to and including torturous death to convert or destroy those who stood in the path of Rome. They were extremely efficient at what they did, when and where they did it.

Might does not equal "right." That is a gross fallacy of logic. Because the bully on the block insists something is true, and that you must agree, does not make it so. Perhaps the 800 pound gorilla does indeed get to sleep where he desires, but it is fallacious to think the gorilla can rewrite history and call it "truth."

Jesus was a remarkable human being. I have no doubt he taught in a very profound and loving manner sacred truths that are apparent to anyone who but seeks in a proper state of mind. The period of time that Jesus lived and for a while after was tumultuous, and the end result was the wrath of the legions of Rome falling upon Judea. Was Jesus an instrumental character in this epic drama, or an incidental player who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or right place I suppose, depending on how one chooses to spin the story...

I want to believe. Formost I want to believe the truth. The truth is hard to ascertain for this place and time. We have myths and allegations, we have hints and suspicions, we have lies and forgeries, we have tantalizing echoes and gossip, we have rituals and superstitions that long predate the era to which they are now attached. All is ephemeral, all is wind. It seems as though nothing can be taken for granted or accepted at face value. Otherwise, the so-called "Christian tradition" is little more than a rewrap of the same old Pagan hero-god drama. Hate to say it, but that is where the evidence leads to....

So where do we go from here?
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Juan, I am so in agreement.

As an aside....... from an overall view can't help but feel the four hundred pound gorilla you mention may also go by the name of Robert Mugabe as we are witness to the final play out transition in Zimbabwe.

- c -
Thank you Ciel, it is good to know I am not the only person treading this path.

As for Mugabe, I feel for his people. I think he made some serious errors of judgement in the last several years that have created a greater burden for his people than ever solved. Sad, really.

While foreign farmers tended the fields, his people were fed and employment was to be had. Take the fields away and chase the foreigners out of the country and give the land to the soldiers as war spoils...and the economy disintegrates. Which shows me that for all of the ills of western capitalism, without it the world would be in an even worse condition.

But this is off topic and probably should be elsewhere. Thanks just the same. It means a lot from you, you tend to say so little.
Glad to be of service. Sometimes it is easier to let others speak for themselves, especially on a subject as complex and divisive as this. I put my summaries to show the conclusions I arrived doubt others will draw their own conclusions. I have long thought the life and times of Jesus should be placed into an historic context in order to better understand and interpret what was actually meant. There is a great deal of Church history I glossed over, while related it is not directly of concern regarding the political turmoil during the Roman transition from Pagan to Christian.


There is one more caveat: translational issues from Hebrew, Greek and Chaldee into Elizabethan English (King James Version) or some other English translation. But that too is aside from the purpose of this thread.
With my thanks to Dream for providing an interesting new direction to pursue;

Antilegomena - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Antilegomena (from Greek ἀντιλεγομένα, contradicted or disputed, literally spoken against[1]), an epithet used by the Church Fathers to denote those books of the New Testament which, although sometimes publicly read in the churches, were not for a considerable amount of time considered to be genuine, or received into the canon of Scripture. They were thus contrasted with the Homologoumena (from Greek ὁμολογουμένα), or universally acknowledged writings.
The term is sometimes applied also to certain books in the Hebrew Bible.[2] There are records in the Mishna of controversy in some Jewish circles during the second century C.E. relative to the canonicity of the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. Some doubts were expressed about Proverbs during this period as well. The Gemara notes that the book of Ezekiel had also been questioned about its authority until objections to it were settled in 66 C.E. Also, in the first century B.C.E. the disciples of Shammai contested the canonicity of Ecclesiastes because of its pessimism, whereas the school of Hillel just as vigorously upheld it. At the school of Jamnia (circa 90 C.E.) there was further discussion, see Development of the Jewish Bible canon for details.
The first church historian, Eusebius[3], circa 303-325 AD, applied the term Antilegomena to the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, the Apocalypse of John, and the Gospel according to the Hebrews:

Codex Sinaiticus, a fourth century text, includes the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas.
The original Peshitta excluded 2-3 John, 2 Peter, Jude and Revelation. Some modern editions, such as the Lee Peshitta of 1823, include them.

Development of the Christian Biblical canon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The writings attributed to the apostles circulated amongst the earliest Christian communities. The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected form by the end of the first century AD. Justin Martyr, in the early second century, mentions the "memoirs of the apostles," which Christians called "gospels" and which were regarded as on par with the Old Testament.[2] A four gospel canon (the Tetramorph) was in place by the time of Irenaeus, c. 160, who refers to it directly.[3] He also quotes and cites 21 books that would end up as part of the New Testament, the excluded ones being Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 3 John and Jude.[citation needed] By the early 200's, Origen may have been using the same 27 books as in the modern New Testament, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, and Revelation[4], see also Antilegomena. Likewise by 200 the Muratorian fragment shows that there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to what is now the New Testament, which included four gospels and argued against objections to them.[5] Thus, while there was a good measure of debate in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the major writings were accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the second century.[6]
In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books as what would become the New Testament canon,[7] and he used the word "canonized" (kanonizomena) in regards to them.[8] The African Synod of Hippo, in 393, approved the New Testament, as it stands today, together with the Septuagint books, a decision that was confirmed by Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. These councils were under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed.[9] Pope Damasus I's Council of Rome in 382, if the Decretum Gelasianum is correctly associated with it, issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above,[10] or if not the list is at least a sixth century compilation.[11] Likewise, Damasus's commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, circa 383, was instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West.[12] In 405, Pope Innocent I sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse. When these bishops and councils spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new, but instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the Church."[13]
Thus, from the fourth century, there existed unanimity in the West concerning the New Testament canon (as it is today),[14] and by the fifth century the Eastern Church, with a few exceptions, had come to accept the Book of Revelation and thus had come into harmony on the matter of the canon.[15] However, the official finalization of the canon was not made until the Council of Trent of 1546 for Roman Catholicism,[16] the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 for Calvinism, and the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 for the Greek Orthodox.

Biblical canon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This link includes the same quote and expands on the subject a bit.

Biblical apocrypha - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Surviving manuscripts of the whole Christian Bible include at least some of the Apocrypha as well as disputed books. After the Protestant and Catholic canons were defined by Luther and Trent respectively, early Protestant and Catholic editions of the Bible did not omit these books, but placed them in a separate Apocrypha section apart from the Old and New Testaments to indicate their status.

A sidenote of interest I did not see mentioned, is that the original 1611 edition of the King James Bible included the apocrypha, or more precisely the intertestamental apocrypha, from around the time of the Hasmonean rule in Palestine, right around 100 BC. 1 and 2 Maccabees, the Wisdom of Solomon, Bell and the Dragon, Song of Susanna, and several more were translated and included in a very Protestant translation. At some point not too long after, these were dropped for some reason I haven’t been able to determine. I accept that inclusion does not expressly indicate canon, but it does suggest at least some acknowledged value. Considering the nature of the texts, I would think that value to be spiritual and / or moral, even if not deemed expressly “Divine.” For those to whom “the King James is the *only* Bible for me,” these books are an original part of that collection.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is that there were quite a few books circulating early in the Christian era, many of which books were acknowledged and read even after the canon was formalized. The Catholic Bible contains a few different books the Protestant Bible does not, such as Siruch. The Gospel of Thomas is often trotted out as evidence of Gnostic scriptures that date back to at least the first couple of hundred years of Christianity. Certain other Bibles also include various books that are not expressly canonical. A large assortment of extra-Biblical books that were available to the earliest Christians are still around and available simply for the seeking on the internet. Brian hosts a wonderful collection of apocrypal works from the New Testament era here at this site.
Some more interesting info to consider:

Textual criticism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The New Testament has been preserved in over 5,300 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Ethiopic and Armenian. The sheer number of witnesses presents unique difficulties, chiefly in that it makes stemmatics impractical. Consequently, New Testament textual critics have adopted eclecticism after sorting the witnesses into three major groups, called text-types. The most common division today is as follows:
The Alexandrian text-type constitutes a group of early and well-regarded texts, including Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
The Western text-type is also very early, but its witnesses are seen to be more prone to paraphrase and other corruptions.
The Byzantine text-type is a group of around 95% of all manuscripts, the majority of which are comparatively very late in the tradition.
The New Testament portion of the English translation known as the King James or Authorized Version was based on the Textus Receptus, a Greek text prepared by Erasmus based on a small number of late medieval Greek manuscripts. For some books of the Bible, Erasmus used just single manuscripts, and for small sections made his own translations into Greek from the Vulgate.[26]
In attempting to determine the original text of the New Testament books, modern textual critics have identified several significant sections as probably not original. In modern translations of the Bible, the results of textual criticism have led to certain verses being left out or marked as not original. Previously, translations of the New Testament had mostly been based on Erasmus's redaction of the New Testament in Greek, the Textus Receptus from the 1500s.
These possible later additions include the following:[29]
the ending of Mark, see Mark 16.
Jesus sweating blood in Luke (Luke 22:43-44).
the story in John of the woman taken in adultery, the Pericope Adulterae.
Jesus referred to as "unique Son," rather than "unique God," in John 1:18.
the ending of John, see John 21.
an explicit reference to the Trinity in 1 John, the Comma Johanneum.

Other disputed NT Passages
1 Corinthians 14:33-35. Some scholars regard the instruction for women to be silent in churches as a later, non-Pauline addition to the Letter, more in keeping with the viewpoint of the Pastoral Epistles (see 1 Tim 2.11-12; Titus 2.5) than of the certainly Pauline Epistles. Some manuscripts place these verses after 40[30]
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. These passages have often been regarded as a post-Pauline interpolation. The following arguments have been based on the content: (1) the contradiction between Romans 9-11 and 1 Thess. 2.14-16. (2) The references to what has happened to Jews as a model for a Gentile Christian church. (3) There were no extensive persecutions of Christians by Jews in Palestine prior to the first Jewish war. (4) The use of the concept of imitation in 1 Thessalonians 2.14 is singular. (5) The aorist eftasen (has overtaken) refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is also sometimes suggested that 5:1-11 is "a post-Pauline insertion that has many features of Lucan language and theology that serves as an apologetic correction to the Pauline expectation of the parousia and thus already reflects the problem of the delay of the parousia[31]
Thank you Greymare.

I suspect my view will meet with little fanfare because it rocks too many boats.

I decided long ago that it was more important to me to pursue the truth as the truth is...rather than accept a pre-canned truth that was evidently not quite fully true.

I am torn on the issue of whether Jesus was a supernatural G-d/man. I want him to be. I really do. But I just don't see it. Even more, I don't see where it matters to salvation whether he is or not. If the goal and purpose of Judaism- and by extension Christianity- was to deliberately put distance between themselves and Pagan influences, then it troubles me to see just how Pagan modern Christianity really is. When I point these things out to the "average" Christian I tend to get all kinds of excuses in an attempt to justify this or that, or the strange looks as if I'm some kind of kook.

Yet the muslim and the atheist detractors get it...except that I undermine their ulterior motives. They tend to point to the same things generally that I do, but with the intent to discredit Christianity. So it kinda pisses them off too that I get where they are coming from, I just don't agree with their conclusions. The JW's don't know what to make of me because I can show where they are only half right, picking and choosing just like all the other denominations.

I struggle with this stuff daily. I struggle daily for years now. I don't make extravagent claims for the sheer notoriety or ego trip- hell, I'm scared $hitle$$ that I might be barking up some tree that's gonna get me spanked for eternity. I pray constantly for the head honcho upstairs to set me on the straight and narrow.

One thing I am no longer afraid of, is what any earthly "authority" can do to this body. They can burn me, filet me, break my bones, but they'll not break my spirit. For that I praise G-d Most High! I thank Him daily for a mind to think with, eyes to see with and ears to hear with. :)

because the christINsanity (rome in transition) you see, is not what the Christ is at all & you discovered it on your own.

That is why the JW & RCC hate each other so much, they are two peas in a pod picking & choosing, editing, adding, deleting- except for the JWs dont pull out guns & swords.

You can rock the boat instead of rowing it, just keep your life jacket on for when they throw you out or your jump out on your own:D

the muslims, jews & atheists DO get it, but I also reject any ulterior motives.
as for the various pagan god man(s) & the adopted jesus one, you can pick any one you want and slap any name on it just to agree, but there will be bloody daggers & fangs when you don't agree and/or get out from it. You can call Ceaser god as that is what they believed, until the people wised up. I am glad I took myths & legends in school, that really was a great class that went through all of this stuff thoroughly, only from a different approach as in art & literature, but you still figure the adopted hoax/myth part out. but I am of course not suggesting that all of the christ story is myth, just the adopted parts of paganism.

I do not struggle with any of it. One thing I am not afraid of is to shut the car door on peoples fingers, I mean the religions, and just say "ooops":D. *snickers*

When I went to vote in the primary it was at the greek orthodox church. after voting I went down to the first pew to pray & meditate, wondering why there are never any good honest leaders to choose from, & that was ok i guess, then as I looked around the building & saw all the statues, paintings, bloody crucifix it gave me the creeps & the glitter with candles was like a death wish to me. Then over heard two people fighting like dogs behind the altar, (they must not have known they had a visitor) I realized that I did not need to be in such a terrifying place. It reminded me of a fun/horror house with dress up dolls & clowns, kind of like Chuckie or Puppetmaster.

How some can adopt so much (if you can't beat em join em i.e. rome in transition) then condemn & kill others for believing the same exact stuff, attempting to destroy the same stuff they adopt...there are BIG probelms with that. *shakes head*

I would not let it bother you too much as the entire globe is figuring it out, slowly but surely. You can have the Christ without the religion. After all, it was Christ who rebuked the religions of his day:), or so that is how the story goes.
Thanks for the honorable mention. I'm not caught up in this thread, yet; but I'm working may way back through it. Don't the threads just seem to explode? Did you notice the Santa thread?