AOH :: LESSON3A.TXT|
Wicca 101 Lesson 3A
INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD RELIGION
D. Prominent features of a Mystery Religion
1. A Mystery Religion was a religion of symbolism
a. Through the use of myth and allegory, iconic representations,
blazing lights and dense darkness, liturgies and sacramental acts, as
well as suggestion, the intuitions of the heart of the initiate were
quickened until s/he was provoked into a mystical experience.
(1) This experience led to a feeling of regeneration, which
was the object of every initiation.
2. A Mystery Religion was a religion of Redemption.
a. It professed to remove the estrangement between man and God,
to procure forgiveness of sins, and to furnish mediation.
(1) Means of purification and the formulae of access to the
God, and acclamations of confidence and victory were part of the
apparatus of every Mystery.
3. The Mystery Religions were systems of Gnosis.
a. The Mysteries brought men into contact with that God "who
wishes to be known and is known to his own."
(1) They offered an esoteric equipment by which the initiate
might ward off the attacks of demons, thwart the menace of Fate, and
after death reach the abodes of the blessed mysteries.
(a) There was something, whether doctrine, symbol, or
divine drama, which could not be imparted except by initiation to
those duly qualified to receive it, a supernatural revelation which
gave the recipient a new outlook on life, the world and the deity, and
security that was denied to the uninitiated.
(b) The 'mystery' consisted of an objective presentation of
the history of the cult Deity, in his or her struggles, sorrows, and
triumphs, repeated subjectively by the initiate in sacramental acts,
together with prayers and liturgic formulae.
4. A Mystery Religion was a Sacramental Drama.
a. The Sacramental Drama appealing primarily to the emotions,
aimed at producing psychic and mystic effects. Thus the neophyte
experienced the exaltation of a new life.
5. The mysteries were eschatological religions, having to do with
the interests and issues of life and death.
a. For the multitudes, it was the mysteries which illuminated
6. A mystery religion was a personal religion, to which membership
was open, not by accident of birth into any particular class, but by a
7. A mystery religion, as a personal religion, presents another
side, which is the necessary compliment of an individualistic
religion; that is, it takes on the character of a cosmic religion.
a. The ancients lived in a world in which the primitive
association of man's life with the earth and plant and animal life was
axiomatic, in which the Universe itself was a rational living being,
in which man by his good deeds might be elevated on the path of the
II. A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE MAJOR MYSTERY RELIGIONS
A. Fundamental Force Behind Development
1. Once, there was no purely 'native' or 'hermetic' tradition;
only a universal response by the Firstborn to the Earth-lore and the
Star-magic of their shamanic priests.
a. Later, as the single religious impulse of the Foretime split
into separate cults, these two approaches, which we may think of as
earthly (or chthonic) and stellar, grew further apart, until the
beginnings of the Hermetic traditions were seeded in Egypt and the
Hellenic world, while in Europe the Native traditions remained more or
less grounded in the magic of the earth.
(1) This is not to say that Greece and Egypt did not have
their own native traditions, or that development of religion and magic
in the Celtic West was so primitive and slow that it required cross-
fertilization with other sources to pull it into subtle realms of
B. The Major Mystery Religions.
1. It has often been said the the Egyptian mysteries are the true
foundation upon which the Western Hermetic systems are built.
a. This is due in part to the early identification of the
Egyptian God Thoth, scribe and guardian of mysteries, with Hermes
Trimegistos, the supposed founder of Western occult practice.
(1) Egypt had many mysteries, none more important that those
(a) Her name is said to mean 'throne', 'wisdom', or
'savior', though she possessed many other titles which testify to the
universality of her cult.
(2) The deepest mysteries of Isis, and her consort- brother
Osiris, the God of the Sun, revolve around his death at the hands of
his brother Set, who cut Osiris' body into 14 parts and scattered them
through the world.
(a) Isis undertook a terrible journey, suffering great
hardship, seeking out the broken body of her lord and reassembling the
 She found and reassembled all but one part, the
phallus, which was thrown into the Nile and consumed by a fish.
b. Despite this, such was the creative power of Isis that she
was able to conceive by means of an artificial phallus, and bore the
child Horus who avenged his father by killing Set.
(1) This is an archetypical mystery-telling, introducing
themes found later in the teachings of the Hellenistic schools and in
the work of modern esoteric orders.
(a) It prefigures the death and rising of many gods and
show forth the power of the Creative Principle.
(b) It also establishes Isis as Queen of Heaven, more
powerful in the eyes of many than even the great god Ra himself, whose
representative upon earth was the Pharaoh.
3. In Mithraism, which descended from the Persian Mysteries,
Mithra stands as a mediator between light and dark, a position adopted
by his followers.
a. In humanity, the battle for the soul is fought out in the
territory of the flesh. Mithra, entering there, keeps all in balance.
(1) Mithraism was the Freemasonry of the Roman world.
(a) Like the other cults of Oriental origin, it moved with
the vast commerce in human beings that was such a notable feature of
the ancient world.
(b) The cult of Mithra is one that traveled well, from
Syria to Scotland.
(c) The Mithraic community was all men: women gravitated
to the parallel cult of Cybele or the exclusively female one of Bona
(d) The congregations were small; no surviving Mithraeum
could house more than a hundred, but of course bigger lodges may have
formed, and dissolved, at army camps, because Mithraism was extremely
popular among the Roman Legions.
(e) There were no social barriers, so that slaves and
privates could become high initiates. The ceremonies were solemnly
enacted and the initiations were quite awe-inspiring.
b. Mithra was born on the 25th of December, called the "Birthday
of the Unconquered Sun."
(1) This date was not taken over by the Christians for the
birth of their Savior until the 4th century BCE.
c. Some said that Mithra sprang from the union of sun god and
his own mother.
(1) Some claimed his mother to be a mortal virgin.
(a) Others said Mithra had no mother, but was miraculously
born of a female Rock, the petra genetrix, fertilized by the Heavenly
Father's phallic lightning.
2. In the many histories of the ancient world, only one figure is
described as being of greater importance than Hermes. This is the
Persian mage Zoroaster, who may actually have lived around 1000 BCE.,
or even earlier, but who clearly did not predate the foundation of the
Egyptian mysteries from which he drew heavily for his own system.
a. It is from the Persian mysteries that we derive the dualistic
spectre which has haunted esoteric philosophy and teaching ever since.
(1) In the Zoroastrian pantheon these opposing forces are
Ormuzd and Ahriman, who derive ultimately from Ahura Mazda, the divine
(a) Known as the Holy Immortals, or Amesha Spentas, they
correspond to the levels of creation, clearly foreshadowing the
teaching of later mystery schools such as those of Orpheus and Mithra.
(b) Against the Spentas are arrayed the Devas, the
companions of the Evil One, who are seen as ruling over the earth.
 The position of Persian dualism is confused by a
Zoroastrian heresy called Zurvanism, which is often mistaken for
[a] In Zoroastrianism proper, Ahura Mazda is supremely
god: his Spentas are not on the same footing.
[b] In Zurvanism, however, Ahura Mazda is made into a
lesser creator or demiurge, hence the cosmic struggle of good against
evil which takes place in the world of matter.
(2) In Zoroastrian teaching, a savior or saoshyant was to be
born, who would combat evil and bring the struggle to an end once and
for all, thus betokening the Frasokereti, the making perfect at the
end of time.
(a) In this we see an echo of the Egyptian mysteries, and a
prefiguring of the gnostic position, as well as the appearance of a
third figure which becomes a requirement of all dualistic thinking
sooner or later. This third figure who will balance out the struggle
is a Messiah.
(b) Mithra's birth was witnessed by shepherd and Magi, who
brought gifts to his sacred birth-cave of the Rock.
d. Mithra performed the usual assortment of miracles - raising
the dead, healing the sick, making the blind to see and the lame to
walk, casting out devils.
(1) As a 'Peter', son of petra, he carried the keys of the
kingdom of heaven.
e. His triumph and ascension to heaven were celebrated at the
spring equinox, when the sun rises toward its apogee.
(1) Before returning to heaven, Mithra celebrated a Last
Supper with his 12 disciples, who represented the signs of the zodiac.
(a) In memory of this, his worshippers partook of a
sacramental bread marked with a cross.
 This was one of the seven Mithraic sacraments. It
was called mizd, in latin-missa, in english- mass.
(2) Mithra's image was buried in a rock tomb, the same sacred
cave that represented his Mothers' womb.
(a) His image was later withdrawn from the cave and was
said to live again.
f. What began in water would end in fire, according to Mithraic
(1) The great battle between the forces of light and darkness
in the Last Days would destroy the earth with its upheavals and
(a) Virtuous ones who followed the teachings of the
Mithraic priesthood would join the spirits of light and be saved.
(b) Sinful ones who followed other teachings would be cast
into hell with Ahriman and the fallen angels.
g. Mithra's cave-temple on the Vatican Hill was seized by the
Christians in 376 CE.
(1) Christian Bishops of Rome pre-empted the Mithraic high
priest's title of Pater Patrum, which became Papa, or Pope.
4. While the Mithraic mysteries succeeded those of Zoroaster, they
followed those of Dionysus, through which the core of Hellenic mystery
teaching found its way into the Western Mystery Tradition.
a. Two streams of consciousness are discerable within the
Classical mysteries, which might be called Dionysian and Apollonian.
(1) The Apollonian mysteries related to reason, to the heavens
and to order; this is in contradistinction to the chaotic mysteries of
(a) The priests of Apollo were more interested in wresting
the political power away from the earlier Goddess worshipping peoples
who held sway as the Oracle at Delphi, and so their mysteries were not
so widely spread because they were tied to a specific location and
(2) The Mysteries of Dionysus were those of the sacrificial
king: they pertain to the underworld side of things, the chthonic and
ecstatic cult of maenads and bacchantes.
(a) Of all the mystery Gods, it is Dionysus whose character
has become most firmly fixed in the collective imagination. His
worship spells orgies and drunkenness; he personifies the irrational
and uncontrolable urges of mankind and beasts; he drives to frenzy
the maenads and the poets.
 The myth of Dionysus' origins tells that he was
first born from the union of Zeus with Persephone.
[a] Zeus designated this 'Zagreus' as his heir, but
the jealous Titans lured him away while he was yet a child, killed,
dismembered him and devoured all the pieces except for the heart,
which Athena rescued and preserved.
[b] Zeus, in anger, reduced the Titans to ashes, from
which the new race of humanity was fashioned. Thus each person
contains a fragment of Dionysus within their 'Titanic' earthly body.
[c] From the heart of the god was brewed a love-
potion, which was given to Semele, a mortal, who then forced her
lover -Zeus again- into revealing himself to her in his primal form.
This unveiling was so overwhelming as to annihilate her, but the child
she was carrying was saved by Zeus enclosing it in his loins until
the time came for its birth as the second Dionysus.
 The young god grew up in Thrace, suckled by goats and
raised by satyrs and sileni. When he reached maturity, he descended
through the Alcyonian Lake to rescue the shade of his mother Semele
from Hades and then raised her to Olympus.
[a] Afterward, accompanied by a motley train of semi-
human beings, maenads and panthers, he set off on wanderings
throughout the world, from Libya to Arabia to India and thus back to
 Everywhere he went he brought humanity knowledge of
agriculture, arts and crafts, and most especially the cultivation of
the vine and wine-making.
[a] On the Isle of Naxos he discovered the Cretan
Princess Ariadne, abandoned there by Theseus, and joined with her as
her husband. Together they ascended to the heavens, whence he offers a
similar blissful reward to his devotees, temporarily in this life and
permanently after death.
5. There had been an initiatic institution in Greece at Eleusis at
least since the 8th century BCE, with both Greater and Lesser
a. The function of all lesser mysteries, and equally of the
lower grades of initiation was to impart information on the nature of
(1) The Eleusinian symbolism of corn, pomegranites and poppies
refers to the unseen forces which affect humanity via the vegetable
kingdom, building the body and informing the mind.
(a) The intuitive grasp of this relationship, in all its
wonder and complexity, was summarized in the famous climax od the
Mystery, so disappointing to non-initiates, the displaying of an ear
(2) Certain information was also given at Eleusis by word of
mouth, including the 'password to the Paradise of Demeter' to be used
(a) In the Lesser Mysteries of other gods, it is suggested
that the fact of heliocentricity was revealed.
 Jewish esotericism includes the teaching of
[a] So Lesser Mysteries give the initiates theoretical
knowledge which changes their whole view of humanity and the cosmos,
and stands them in better stead when they have to leave this world for
b. The Mysteries of Demeter were celebrated every five years at
(1) The candidate of the Lesser Mysteries underwent a symbolic
journey in which the quest of Demeter for her lost daughter Persephone
in Hades was reenacted with the would-be candidate in the role of
(a) The journey within was that of the darkened soul: the
candidate passed through a door into total darkness: if they survived
the experiences met within they passed through a second door into
brilliant light - symbolizing rebirth into the heavenly sphere. Here
they actually meet the gods, experiencing Demeter's journey as their
own recovery of lost enlightenment.
c. The function of the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis was to bring
about direct contact with the beings who inhabit the higher worlds.
(1) The higher grades of initiation were conducted
individually rather than collectively as in the Lesser Mysteries.
(a) The Initiation of Isis were given to those selected by
the Goddess through having had significant dreams, whether they were
laity, priests or priestesses.
(b) In the inner truth of the Eleusinian mysteries, the
birth of the soul into matter is seen as death; only through
participation in the mysteries can the initiate rise to a timeless
reality where he is utterly free and alive.
 The soul sleeps in the body for most of the time,
awakening only when it has been transformed by ritual and the use of
an initiatory drink.
[a] To die without this experience is to sleep
forever or to wander houseless in the caverns of Hades.
(2) The primary objective in these initiations was to take
the candidate through the gates of death.
(a) As in shamanic, Masonic, and other later initiations,
the candidate was placed in a trance, the consciousness taken out of
the body, and in this state to experience higher states of being and
meet some of the denizens of the invisible worlds.
 Through direct experience the candidates would
learn that they could live freely without their physical bodies, and
that the gods they worshipped were perfectly real.
[a] Then they would return to earth fully convinced
of their own immortality and prepared to meet death fearlessly,
knowing it is the gate to freedom and the soul's true home.
6. As a descendant of Dionysus, Orpheus is the intellectual image
of a demi-god, raised to deity by his sufferings in the underworld: a
perfect symbol for all who follow the paths of the mysteries.
a. The movement from the cult of Dionysus and Apollo to Orphism,
marks a change from a more primitive religious response towards an
ethically-based philosophy and mysticism which included belief in the
transmigration of souls, reincarnation and the final assumption into
(1) Orpheus has the lyre and the gift of music from Apollo,
yet ends like Dionysus, torn apart by Thracian bacchantes.
(a) The shamanic practices of the Native Tradition
overlapping the priestly function of the mystery school.
 The suffering of Orpheus, who loses Euridice
(through fear, the first pitfall of all mystery knowledge) and is then
dismembered by the Maenads, is a paradigm of the suffering and rebirth
of the sleeping soul.
b. The Orphic mysteries are complex in the extreme.
(1) The most important aspect of the Orphic Mysteries was that
humanity and the gods are related.
(a) At a most subtle and sensitive level a blurring of the
edges occurs, an overlapping of human consciousness and divine
 "Everything that lives is Holy" becomes a reality in
the interaction of the divine and the mundane.
(2) The hierarchy of spiritual creation is supremely complex,
but the gods are like a ladder, a system of related possibilities, the
potentiality of which is seeded within the whole of creation.
(a) We are all related, not just in a familial sense but
also to everything else: earth and water, sky and stone; not only
because all of creation is made up of different combinations of
molecules, but because we are all a part of the divine hierarchy.
 This is the true meaning of the mystery teaching
concerning the divine spark; the god like potential of humanity is far
better expressed by this means.
[a] The divine fragment is that part of us which is
always seeking reunion, a reassembly of separated parts into the whole
from which they were created; a return to the paradisial state.
c. The Orphic school was, above all, syncretic.
(1) Orpheus is credited with the dissemination of the
mysteries, with passing on rather than inventing much that became the
basis of subsequent Greco-Roman theosophy.
(a) Pythagoras followed many of the Orphic teachings and
made Orpheus the central deity of his own esoteric system,
establishing a canon of Orphic Hyms.
(2) Between the Orphic mysteries and their partial revival in
the Rennaisance, there is a long gap not only in time but in
III CHRISTIANITY VIEWED AS A MYSTERY RELIGION
A. The Foundation of Christianity
1. Most people think of Christianity as if it were a single
specific thing, a coherent, homogeneous, and unified entity.
a. Christianity is nothing of the sort.
(1) There are numerous forms of Christianity
(a) Roman Catholic
(b) Russian Orthodox
(c) Greek Orthodox
(d) Church of England (Anglican), formed by King Henry the VIII
(e) Various other forms of Protestantism
 From the original Lutheranism and Calvinism of the
16th century to such relatively recent developments as Unitarianism.
(f) There are multitudinous "fringe" or "evangelical"
 Such as the Seventh Day Adventists, the Jehovah's
Witnesses and the Assembly of God.
(g) And there are assorted contemporary sects and cults.
 Like the Children of God and the Unification Church
of Reverend Moon.
b. If one surveys this bewildering spectrum of beliefs - from
the rigidly dogmatic and conservative to the radical and ecstatic- it
is difficult to determine what exactly constitutes Christianity.
2. If there is a single factor that does permit one to speak of
Christianity, a single factor that does link the otherwise diverse and
divergent Christian creeds, it is the New Testament and more
particularly the unique status ascribed by the New Testament to Jesus,
his Crucifixion and Resurrection.
a. Even if one does not subscribe to the literal or historical
truth of those events, acceptance of their symbolic significance
generally suffices for one to be considered a christian.
3. If there is any unity then, in the diffuse phenomenon called
Christianity, it resides in the New Testament - and more specifically,
in the accounts of Jesus known as the four Gospels.
a. These accounts are popularly regarded as the most
authoritative on record.
(1) And for many Christians they are assumed to be both
coherent and unimpeachable.
b. From childhood one is led to believe that the story of Jesus,
as it is preserved in the Four Gospels, is if not God-inspired, at
(1) The Four Evangelists, supposed authors of the Gospels, are
deemed to be unimpeachable witnesses who consistantly reinforce and
confirm each other's testimony.
c. Of the people who today call themselves Christians,
relatively few are aware of the fact that the four Gospels not only
contradict each other in more than one way, but at times they
B. The Origin and Birth of Jesus
1. So far as popular tradition is concerned, the origin and birth
of Jesus are well enough known.
a. In reality, the Gospels, on which that tradition is based,
are considerably more vague on the matter.
(1) Only two of the Gospels - Matthew and Luke - say anything
at all about Jesus' origins and birth; and they are flagrantly at odds
with each other.
(a) According to Matthew, Jesus was an aristocrat, if not a
rightful and legitimate king - descended from David via Solomon.
(b) According to Luke, on the other hand, Jesus' family,
though descended from the house of David, was of somewhat less exalted
(c) And it is on the basis of Mark's account that the
legend of the "poor carpenter" came into being.
(2) In short, the two genealogies are so strikingly discordant
that they might well be referring to quite different individuals.
2. The discrepencies between the Gospels are not confined to the
question of Jesus' ancestry and genealogy.
a. According to Luke, Jesus, on his birth, was visited by
(1) But according to Matthew, he was visited by kings, the
b. According to Luke, Jesus' family lived in Nazareth.
(1) From here they are said to have journeyed, for a census
(that history suggests never in fact occurred) to Bethlehem, where
Jesus was born in the poverty of a manger.
c. But according to Matthew, his family had been fairly well to
do residents of Bethlehem all along, and Jesus himself was born in a
(1) In Matthew's version Herod's persecution of the innocents
prompts the family to flee into Egypt, and only on their return do
they make their home in Nazareth.
3. The information in each of these accounts is quite specific and
- assuming the census did occur - perfectly plausible.
a. And yet, the information itself simply does not agree. The
contradiction cannot be rationalized.
(1) There is no possible means whereby the two conflicting
narratives can both be correct, and there is no means whereby they can
(a) Whether one cares to admit it or not, the fact must be
recognized that one or both of the Gospels are wrong.
 In the face of so glaring and inevitable a
conclusion, the Gospels cannot be regarded as unimpunable.
[a] How can they be unimpunable- when they are
inconsistent with each other?
4. The more one studies the Gospels, the more the contradictions
between them become apparent.
a. They can not even agree on which day the Crucifixion took
(1) According to John, the Crucifixion occurred on the day
before the Passover.
(a) Whereas, Mark, Luke, and Matthew insist that it
occurred on the day after.
b. Nor are the Gospels in accord on the personality and
character of Jesus.
(1) Each depicts a figure who is patently at odds with the
figure depicted by the others.
(a) A meek, lamblike Savior in Luke.
(b) A powerful and majestic sovereign in Matthew who comes
"not to bring peace but a sword."
c. There is further disagreement about Jesus' last words on the
(1) In Matthew and Mark the words are, "My God, my God, why
hast thou forsaken me?"
(2) In Luke, the words are-"Father, into they hands I commend
(3) And in John they are simply "It is finished."
5. With these discrepancies, they can only be accepted as highly
questionable, and certainly not as definitive.
a. They do not represent the perfect word of ANY God; or if they
do, God's words have been VERY liberally edited, censored, revised,
glossed and rewritten by human hands.
C. Jesus and the Essenes
1. As we have seen, the Judaic religion was still a tribal
religion offering little chance for individual salvation during a time
when people were looking for some assurance that they mattered beyond
which tribe, or city or province they came from.
a. Mystery religions were well established in the east and
making inroads into Rome herself.
(1) In addition to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were vying
for control of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' life, there was a sect
of ascetics known as the Essenes.
(a) It has been said that the Essenes were the founders of
a Mystery religion based along the lines of the sun worshipping
Persian anchorites, who in turn evolved their system from Jain yogis
professing to work miracles by living apart from the world and
practicing extreme self denial.
 From historians and chroniclers writing at the time,
it is known that the Essenes maintained communities throughout the
[a] A large colony of Essenes occupied the Qumran
community from 110 BCE to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, with a
significant period of vacancy during the reign of Herod, 31 BCE - 4
2. Jesus, John the Baptist, and Simon Magus are said to have been
trained in Essenic communities.
a. Jesus' parents, Joseph and Mary, are also said to belong to
the Essenic movement and Jesus may have received his rabbinical
training in their schools.
(1) John the Baptist is thought by some to have been an
'advance man' to prepare the way for Jesus to fulfill the old
prophecies of being the Messiah.
(a) But there is abundant evidence that Jesus not only knew
what the prophecies were concerning the Messiah, but went to great
lengths to plan for and carry out the prophecies.
3. The Essenic hierarchy included a chief priest called the
Christos (Annointed One), "head of the entire Congre- gation of
a. There were ordinary priests called the "sons of Aaron", and
another functionary known as the Messiah of Israel.
(1) The Messiah of Israel was also called Teacher of
(a) He suffered physical abuse in atonement for the sins of
the entire community, enduring "vindictive sentences of scourging and
the terrors of painful sicknesses, and vengeance on his fleshly body."
D. A Radical View
1. The following is a scenario of what the historical Jesus might
have been all about based on looking at the Gospels without the
trappings added after Christianity was transported to Rome and changed
to bring it into alignment with competing religions.
EDITORS NOTE: THESE ARE CONJECTURE BY THE AUTHOR, NOT A
STATEMENT OF KNOWN FACT BUT BASED ON THE FACTS KNOWN AND THE HISTORY
OF THE TIMES AND OTHER RELIGIONS.
a. Included in this scenario, but of little importance to our
discussion, is that Jesus may have been married and have living
descendants to this day. Remember that Rabbis had always been allowed
(1) Jesus was a priest-king, an aristocrat and legitimate
claimant to the throne of Palestine, who embarked on an attempt to
regain his rightful heritage.
(a) He was believed to be a native of Galilee, which was a
traditional hotbed of opposition to the Romans.
(2) He had numerous noble, rich and influential supporters
throughout Palestine, including the capital city of Jerusalem.
(a) One of these supporters, a powerful member of the
Sanhedrin, may also have been his kin.
(3) In the Jerusalem suburb of Bethany was possibly the home
of either his wife or his wife's family; and here on the eve of his
triumphal entry into the capital, the aspiring priest-king resided.
(a) Here he established the center for his mystery cult.
(b) Here he augmented his following by performing ritual
initiations, including that of his brother-in-law.
 A mystery initiation being the meaning behind the
'miracle' of raising Lazarus from the dead.
(4) Such an aspiring priest-king would have generated powerful
opposition in certain quarters.
(a) Amongst the Roman administration,
(b) And perhaps amongst the entrenched Judaic interests
represented by the Sadducees.
 One or both of these interests apparently contrived
to thwart his bid for the throne.
[a] But in their attempt to exterminate him they were
not as successful as they had hoped to be.
(5) The priest-king had friends in high places.
(a) These friends, working in collusion with a corrupt,
easily bribed Roman procurator, appear to have engineered a mock
crucifixion, on private grounds, and thus inaccessible to all but a
 With the general populace kept at a convenient
distance, an execution was then staged.
[a] In which a substitute took the priest-king's
place on the cross or in which the priest-king did not actually die.
 Toward dusk, further impeded visibility, the 'body'
was removed to an opportunely adjacent tomb.
[a] From which, a day or two later, it 'miraculously'
2. If Jesus was a legitimate claimant to the throne, it is
probable that he was supported, at least initially, by a relatively
small percentage of the populace.
a. His immediate family from Galilee, certain members of his own
aristocratic social class, and a few strategically placed
representatives in Judaea and the capital city of Jerusalem.
(1) Such a following, albeit distinguished, would hardly have
been sufficient to ensure the realization of his objectives or the
success of his bid for the throne.
(a) In consequence, he would have to recruit a more
substantial following from other classes.
 Jesus promulgated a message that attempted to do
[a] A message to offer hope to the downtrodden, the
afflicted, the disenfranchised, the oppressed.
[b] It was a message with a promise.
 There is no evidence that he promulgated this
message with cynicism, for he truly acted as though he took his role
as priest to the people of Israel as seriously as he did his role as
 His message was ethical and political.
[a] It was directed toward a particular segment of
the population in accordance with political considerations.
b. Jesus' message, as it appears in the Gospels, is neither new
nor wholly unique.
(1) But if the message, as such, was not entirely original,
the means of transmitting it probably was.
(a) Jesus himself was undoubtedly an immensely charismatic
 He may well have had an aptitude for healing and
other such 'miracles.'
[a] He most certainly possessed a gift for
communicating his ideas by means of evocative and vivid parables.
[b] Which did not require any sophisticated training
for his audience, and made them accessible, in some sense, to the
populace at large.
c. Moreover, unlike his Essene teachers, Jesus was not obliged
to confine himself to forecasting the advent of a Messiah.
(1) He could claim to be that Messiah.
(a) And this, quite naturally, imparted greater authority
and credibility to his words.
3. It is clear that by the time of his triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, Jesus had recruited a following.
a. But this following seems to have been composed of two quite
distinct elements; whose interests were not precisely the same.
(1) On the one hand, there seemed to be a small nucleus of
"initiates" - immediate family, other members of the nobility, wealthy
and influential supporters.
(a) Whose primary objective was to see their candidate
installed on the throne.
(2) On the other hand, there seems to have been a much larger
entourage of 'common people' - the rank and file.
(a) Whose primary objective was to see this message, and
the promise it contained, fulfilled.
b. It is important to recognize the distinction between these
(1) Their political objective - to establish Jesus on the
throne - would have been the same.
(a) But their motivations were very different.
E. Christianity after Jesus
1. When the bid to put Jesus on the throne of Palestine failed,
the uneasy alliance between the two factions fell apart.
a. The strength of the message that Jesus had used to gain his
following had captured the hearts and minds of the followers who were
not "insiders" and they fought to keep the hope alive.
(1) Little is said of the followers who backed Jesus in the
hopes of garnering power from having helped their friend to the throne
but it may well be imagined that they continued to fight for
independence from Rome and many may well have perished at Masada.
(a) The first major crisis for the early christians was
whether they could afford to be associated with the Jewish peoples,
who were becoming increasingly rebellious toward Rome.
 It was clear that Rome would have to take action
against the rebels.
[a] Against this backdrop the early christians needed
to decide whether it was necessary to first be a Jew before becoming a
<1> Saint Paul, always adept at reading the
writing on the wall, decided it was not. It was also Paul who decided
that the best place to take the new religion was the heart of the
empire where there were many oppressed and downtrodden gentiles who,
very possibly would be receptive to the message of hope.
2. The new religion was oriented primarily toward a Roman or
a. Thus the role of Rome in Jesus' death was of course
whitewashed, and guilt was transferred to the Jews.
(1) But this was not the only liberty taken with events to
render them palatable to the Roman world.
(a) For the Roman world was accustomed to deifying its
rulers, and Caesar had already been officially instated as a god.
 In order to compete, Jesus, whom nobody had
previously deemed divine, had to be deified as well.
[a] In Paul's hands, he was.
3. Before the message could be successfully disseminated from
Palestine to Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, Rome and western
Europe, the new religion had to be made acceptable to the people of
a. And it had to be capable of holding its own against already
b. The new god needed to be comparable in power, majesty, and in
his repertoire of miracles, to those he was intending to displace.
(1) If Jesus were to gain a foothold in the Romanized world of
his time, he had to become a full-fledged god.
(a) Not a Messiah in the old sense of the term, not a
priest-king, but God Incarnate.
 Who, like his Syrian, Phoenician, Egyptian, and
classical counterparts, passed through the underworld and the
harrowing of Hell, and emerged rejuvenated, with the spring.
[a] It was at this point that the idea of the
Resurrection first assumed such critical importance, and for a fairly
obvious reason, to place Jesus on a par with Tammuz, Adonis, Attis,
Osiris, and all the other dying and resurrected gods who populated
both the world and the consciousness of their time.
(b) For precisely this reason the doctrine of the virgin
birth was promulgated.
(c) And the Easter festival, the festival of death and
resurrection, was made to coincide with the spring rites of other
contemporary cults and mystery schools.
4. Given the need to disseminate a god myth, the actual corporeal
family of the 'god' and the political and dynastic elements in his
history would become superfluous.
a. Fettered as they were to a specific time and place, they
would have detracted from his claim to universality.
(1) Thus, to further the claim of universality all political
and dynastic elements were rigorously excised from Jesus' biography.
(a) Also all references to Zealots, for example, and
Essenes, were also discreetly removed.
b. Such references would have been embarrassing.
(1) It would not have appeared seemly for a god to be involved
in a political and dynastic conspiracy. Especially one that failed.
5. In the end nothing was left but what was contained in the
a. An account of mythic simplicity, occurring only incidentally
in the Roman occupied Palestine of the first century, and primarily in
the eternal present of all myth.
END OF LESSON 3
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