Cover-up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs

Cover-up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs

by Lawrence Goudge


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ISBN-13: 9781469787282
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/29/2012
Pages: 398
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.82(d)

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How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs
By Lawrence Goudge

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Lawrence Goudge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4697-8728-2

Chapter One

The First Last Supper

Seeing the Eucharist through the Smoke

"Bad instruction ... vain boasting and other such like evils have filled the whole house of this world, like some enormous smoke ... preventing those who dwell in it from seeing its Founder aright ... What, then, is fitting for those who are within, excepting with a cry brought forth from their inmost hearts to invoke His aid, who alone is not shut up in the smoke-filled house, that He would ... open the door ... so that the smoke may be dissipated ... and the light of the sun ... may be admitted." Clementine Recognitions 1.15.

This is the apostle, Peter, talking to his new disciple, Clement of Rome. In the debate that follows, Peter charges St. Paul with being the source of these errors, claiming that Paul's visions have deluded him. This debate is fiction, of course. The Recognitions is a "romance" written in the late second or early third century when the Clementine community was fighting bitterly against a now dominant Gentile Christianity. Through Peter, we hear their voices as they struggle to shine a light into the smoke-filled house.

The smoke has not cleared. Despite being portrayed as buffoons by the evangelists, Jesus's original disciples surely had the clearest understanding of his mission. Yet the church has thrown a smoke screen over their direct heirs, the Ebionites (from the Hebrew Ebyon, meaning "the Poor") and the Nazarenes, for almost two millennia. In fact, Christianity has been involved in a very real conspiracy (unlike the one concocted in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which is fiction). It is time to open the door to see what is there when the smoke dissipates. What, indeed, is under the soot that smudges the face of the Poor?

An epic struggle between James, the brother of Jesus, and Paul, the self-appointed apostle to the Gentiles, was the spark that kindled the fires of this smoke screen. The word "epic" is not hype: the outcome determined the future course of Christianity, although both men died long before the dust settled. The winning Pauline faction has heavily reworked the surviving records. Nevertheless, the struggle can be teased out of them. Translators today still fudge passages that don't suit them—as I will show. Knowingly or not, they are abetting the great conspiracy.

God versus Man

In this chapter, we will focus on one aspect of the church's cover-up by solving the mystery of the Last Supper, a rite the Ebionites repudiated. Before we start, however, we must point out two matters. Firstly, Jesus's Jewish followers never thought of him as "God," whereas Gentile Christians did. Paul certainly thinks of him in that way, saying that Jesus, "subsisting in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being made in human likeness ..." This describes the incarnation of a divine being, which is and always would have been totally unacceptable to any Jew, incidentally casting doubt on whether Paul really was the Jew he claimed to be.

Secondly, a note on terminology: Jesus's followers in Judea never called themselves, or thought of themselves as, Christians. In New Testament times, they were either "Followers of the Way" or Nazarenes. They were devout, sometimes even fanatical, Jews. Consequently, I will use the term "Jesus's Jewish followers" or "Followers of the Way," until the revolt in 70 CE. Afterward, the Ebionites and the Nazarenes were the two most prominent groups, but I am going to invent a blanket name, Yeshuites, to cover all of Jesus's Jewish followers. "Christians" will be reserved for the splinter group that believed in Paul's radically revised view of Jesus's mission. I will use "Jewish Christian" in direct quotations only—and under protest, since it implies Jews who believe that Christ died for their sins. For instance: one Sunday morning in the nineteenth century, the Hart clan, my grandmother's family, startled the city of Halifax when they descended on Brunswick Street Methodist Church, converted to Christianity en masse, and were thenceforth the pillars of that congregation. Now, they were Jewish Christians.

Love Better than Sacrifice

Since the Last Supper is a sacrificial rite, we must examine Jesus's attitude toward sacrifice. His two most important commandments reveal his priorities:

"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mk 12:29–32, NRSV).

The scribe who asked Jesus's opinion on the most important commandment replies that these overshadow burnt offerings and sacrifices. Jesus approves, telling the scribe that he is close to the kingdom of God. Why, then, holding these views, would Jesus sacrifice himself as an atonement to God? Both Matthew and Luke saw the problem, deleting all reference to sacrifice in that story. After all, it made Jesus's death on the cross irrelevant. Luke, like Paul, saw Jesus's sacrificial death as the be-all and end-all of his new religion. In fact, Luke's two-part account, his Gospel and the book of Acts, portrays the benighted disciples, Peter in particular, only gradually realizing that they have a new religion on their hands. But why would the Son of God pick such dim disciples?

There is more: both Matthew and Luke removed the direct quote from the Torah, "Hear, O Israel, etc." , because it flatly proclaims Jesus's Jewishness. Luke's Jesus is tending toward a religion in which the Jewish God breaks his promises to his people and turns to the Gentiles.

It wasn't just words: Jesus's actions showed that offering himself as a sacrifice was alien to all he stood for. Consider this passage: "In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers ... Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle." It wasn't just the handsome profit the traders made. Jesus was attacking temple sacrifice, which would have ground to a halt without the traders. We see this antipathy in the Clementine Recognitions, which also harps on the evils of sacrifice while neglecting justice and mercy. At one point, Peter tells the temple establishment that their sacrifices anger God because the time for sacrifices is past. The author wrote this after the destruction of Jerusalem when the time was indeed past.

What about human sacrifice? Judaism had repudiated it centuries earlier. If God prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son, would he not spare his own?

The whole focus of Jesus's program was repent; live simply and justly. That was how the Kingdom of God would come. Only once does he tell someone to make the requisite sacrifices, when he heals a leper, but the leper had to do that to reenter society.

If Jesus rejected sacrifice, why did he predict his death, the reader may object. Here Mark put his own view of the mission in Jesus's mouth, a routine practice for ancient writers. Never once, however, does Mark's Jesus even hint of a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

Jesus was focused on this world. He had a clear idea of what was going to happen—and that shortly. These are his words a couple of days before that fateful last supper:

But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in clouds" with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven ... Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place (Mk 13:24–27, 30, NRSV).

Mark did not make this up. That generation had already passed away when he wrote that around 70 CE. They are Jesus's words, and an embarrassment to the developing church.

Whose Last Supper?

The reader may go on to object that the night before his crucifixion, Jesus consecrated the bread with these words: "Take; this is my body;" and the wine: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." It is highly dubious that Jesus ever said that. Luke's text sheds some light on the matter:

When the hour came, he ... said to them: "I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you that I will by no means eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup and, after having given thanks he said: "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to them saying, "This is my body, which is given for you ..." (Lk 22:14–19a, NRSV, italics mine).

If Jesus won't eat until the kingdom comes, it's coming here on earth, since God already reigns in heaven. Luke's text is far different from Mark's. Mark and Luke and Matthew (which is again different) all amended their source for their last suppers.

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) notes that the italicized phrase, "which is given for you" is missing from "other ancient authorities." Ehrman points out that Luke "never, anywhere else, indicates that the death itself is what brings salvation from sin." Thus later redactors tampered with Luke to turn his account into the institution of the Christian Eucharist.

And what about John? Astoundingly, his Last Supper is simply a mystical discourse. He is totally ignorant of the institution of the central mystery of Christianity. He does know the concept, however: at one point, his Jesus says that he is the bread of life and that those who come to him will never be hungry (Jn 6:35). Fine. That's acceptable as a metaphor. Then it gets less acceptable: "[Jesus] ... said to them, '... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you'".

There's something wrong here. That's fine in a pagan mystery religion, but no Jew would ever have said that. Including Jesus.

Let's examine the blood of the covenant. In Leviticus, God threatens anyone who eats blood—even foreigners. He will set his face against that person and "cut him off from among his people." He then repeats himself to make sure there is no mistake. No ambiguity there. The law absolutely forbade ingesting any blood, not to mention human blood—or a god's blood. Thus, even aside from his distaste for sacrifice, Jesus could never have said what John reports. Small wonder then that, shortly thereafter, the evangelist notes: "Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and walked no longer with him."

I'll say. Every single one of them would have left him. In fact, this originally referred to Paul, not Jesus, as I will show in chapter 8. But how embarrassing. How could John omit the most central act of Jesus, the institution of the Lord's Supper?

One clue is to be found in the Didache, an early manual of instruction for Jesus's followers. Its text of the Eucharist, which incidentally means "thanksgiving," is instructive. Instead of the familiar words, this rite reads:

Begin with the chalice: "We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy vine of your servant David, which you made known to us through your servant Jesus." Then over the particles of bread: "We give thinks to you, our Father for the life and knowledge you have made known to us through your servant Jesus."

There is no body broken for you; there is no blood of the new covenant, yet it clearly states that this is the Eucharist. Note also that it calls Jesus God's servant, not his son. This would remain the basic pattern for Yeshuites and those who derived their rites from them. Some of the latter still exist.

Irenaeus illuminates this. After disparaging the Ebionites for denying Jesus's supernatural birth, he comments that they reject "the heavenly wine," believing it to be the water of the world and therefore "not receiving God so as to have union with Him." These Ebionites were the direct heirs of Jesus's disciples who were practicing Jews. They drank no blood (even symbolically), nor did their spiritual descendants.

The Church and Paul's Visions

Next we must turn to Paul's visions for more light on the matter. In some passages, one must examine the Greek to get the true picture of what happened, for instance, in Paul's account of his first known visionary experience:

For you have heard of my previous life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and wasted it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries and was an extreme zealot for the ancestral traditions. But when the One, having separated me from my mother's womb and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me that I might preach Him among the nations, right off I did not confer with flesh and blood, neither did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who had been apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and later returned to Damascus (Gal 1:13–17; my translation).

I translated it myself since most other versions whitewash their saint. By Paul's own admission, he "wasted" the followers of Jesus. But the New International Version renders this "how intensely I persecuted the church and tried to destroy it." "Tried to destroy" masks the real meaning. Of the versions I consulted, only the archaic King James and the Catholic Bible gave honest translations.

Paul "wasting" Jesus's followers is graphically recounted in a much-neglected source for the origins of Christianity, the Clementine Recognitions (CR), which we will often consult in this work. The Clementine literature contains valuable material, the earliest layers of which may be as close to the events they describe as the Gospels, although Christian hands tampered with it right up until the infamous Rufinus (of whom more anon) rendered it into Latin. When possible, I use the less tampered Syriac version.

The Clementine authors insisted that their traditions originated with Peter and James. Is it because Peter alleges that Paul's doctrines derived from his false visions that so many scholars ignore these valuable documents?

Now we are getting closer to an understanding of what is going on. I will show that Paul, the man who said that the law was dead, instituted the Last Supper with its new covenant. Compare these two passages. First Paul: "In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.'" Then Exodus 24:7–8 (KJV): after Moses read the book of the covenant to the Children of Israel, they promised to obey all that the Lord said. "And Moses took the blood [of the sacrificed oxen] and sprinkled it on the people, and said, 'Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.'"

Clearly, Paul's rite in First Corinthians is replacing the old law. Jesus would never have done that. Like many Pharisees of his time, he said that the law should be interpreted with justice and mercy. Thus if need arose he both healed and plucked grain on the Sabbath, but Paul's travesty of his mission would have appalled Jesus, as it did his brother, James, when he finally realized the full import of Paul's activities. When the opportunity arose, James forced Paul to recant and take a purification vow in the temple. I quote James: "Then everybody will know that there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law." (Italics mine.) An eyewitness friendly to Paul reported this.

Did Paul defy James? Why should he? He had already boasted to the Corinthians how he handled such situations:

"To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to gain Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law—though not myself under the law—so that I might gain those under the law. To those without the law [non-Jews] I became as one without the law so that I might win those without the law." [He sums his method:] "I have become all things to all men."

In plain words, he was a liar. That made Saint Jerome squirm:

"Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them, entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until an offering should be offered for every one of them." Paul, here again let me question thee: Why didst thou shave thy head, why didst thou walk barefoot according to Jewish ceremonial law, why didst thou offer sacrifices, why were victims slain for thee according to the law? Thou wilt answer, doubtless, "To avoid giving offence to those of the Jews who had believed." To gain the Jews, thou didst pretend to be a Jew; and James and all the other elders taught thee this dissimulation. (Italics mine.)

That's an old political trick; smear the opposition. If Paul lied or, in Jerome's politically correct language, dissimulated, it was all James's fault.


Excerpted from Cover-Up by Lawrence Goudge Copyright © 2012 by Lawrence Goudge. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Preface: All Fowl of Every Wing....................ix
Chapter 1. The First Last Supper....................1
Chapter 2. Fighters from the Cradle....................11
Chapter 3. Yahya Proclaims in the Nights, Yohana on the Night's Evenings....................23
Chapter 4. In the Silences of Josephus....................49
Chapter 5. The Barefoot Heralds....................75
Chapter 6. Mount of Olives, Please Split!....................103
Chapter 7. Without the Shedding of Blood....................131
Chapter 8. A Cuckoo in the Nest....................153
Chapter 9. The Two Ways: When the Church Was Jewish....................183
Chapter 10. The Smoke-Filled House....................209
Chapter 11. With Garments Soft....................257
Chapter 12. In the Fires of the Mountain Devil....................275
Appendix: Women of Power among the Nazarenes and Beyond....................293
Afterword: How I Was Drawn to This Work....................303
About the Author....................307

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