Filmmaker and medical doctor Lena Einhorn uses all her scientific skills to elucidate the true story about the historical Jesus, changing, perhaps irrevocably, the study of New Testament history and the way we see the relationship between Jesus and the apostle Paul.
About the Author
Many of Lena Einhorn’s films have dealt with ancient historical mysteriesthe origins of the Finnish language, the origin of the Indo-Europeans, and the story of the Exodus out of Egypt and the origins of the Israelites. She is best known in North America for her film Nina's Journey, about her mother's life in the Warsaw ghetto and time spent in hiding during World War II, which won top prizes in Sweden and Israel.
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The Jesus MysteryAstonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul
By Einhorn, Lena
The Lyons PressCopyright © 2007 Einhorn, Lena
All right reserved.
There were always historians who said it could not be done because of historical problems. There were always theologians who said it should not be done because of theological objections. And there were always scholars who said the former when they meant the latter
John Dominic Crossan: The Historical Jesus, 1991[i]
This story, if such it can be called, has been within me for many years, to be more precise for twenty-five years. Yet I have not written it earlier, or in any other way attempted to give it form. One can well ask why, as it lies close to what I have previously worked with.
Some years ago my colleague Bengt Berg and I made a series of documentary films that we called From the Shadows of the Past. The series, which consisted of three parts, dealt with some historical mysteries that researchers – with varying success – have devoted themselves to solving. We looked at the origins of the Finnish language and the Finnish myths, we looked at research on the origin of the Indo-Europeans, and we looked at the story of the Exodus out of Egypt and the origins of the Israelites. Specially the last programme has great parallels with the issues raised in this book: they both concern central religious figures whose personal lives, despite theirmonumental role in three world religions, to a great degree were ignored by contemporary history. Who actually was the new born boy that Pharaoh’s daughter is said to have found in the rushes (and that, as one myth has it, she is said to have come across after having first lived in isolation for nine months)? Is there any equivalent to the Exodus, the migration of the Israelites out of Egypt, in the otherwise fairly well documented Egyptian history? Is there any description at all of a people that could correspond to the Israelites? And is there, in Egyptian history, any equivalent to the person called Moses?
I am irresistibly attracted to the mysterious, or rather to the reality behind the mysterious. And above all I am tempted by that which has been hidden by time, by that which lies partly hidden in the obscurity of the past, but which lets some clues through to the present. I try, in as much as I have the opportunity, to unravel the past with all the means at my disposal: the actual existing, scientifically verifiable, historical knowledge we have of the time and the setting; the parallel tales or legends that are available, and which can shed light upon each other; the psychological inducements that may have formed the basis for the actions of the actors. In short: the eternal – and sometimes dangerous – cliché that there is often a grain of truth in that which is indistinct, is what spurs me on in my curiosity. The question being, what is that grain?
And it is just such a fascination that I have long felt for Jesus of Nazareth. I have been fascinated by the reality behind the text, the historical person behind the stories and the religious concepts. I have long been astonished by certain circumstances which make the story of Jesus, or rather the search for the historical truth behind the story, so incredibly tempting. But despite that, I have never written anything down. Despite that, I didn’t include the story of Jesus of Nazareth in the series From the Shadows of the Past. Why not? Because it felt like a taboo.
Jesus arouses feelings, in a way that Moses never has done – although both are religious personalities. Perhaps it is because Jesus, according to Christianity, is the son of God, and in accordance with the doctrine of the Trinity himself God, while Moses despite his prominent position in the Old Testament has never been anything but a human being. Perhaps it is on account of the two-thousand-year old religious tensions that have their origins in faith, or the rejection of faith, in Jesus as the Messiah. Perhaps it is simply on account of Jesus’ fundamental importance to the Christian believer; the close relationship between faith in him – as the son of God, resurrected from the dead – and the religious experience.
Nevertheless, the search for the historical Jesus is neither a new nor an unknown phenomenon. The first academic who seriously applied himself to the question was the German theologist and orientalist Hermann Samuel Reimarus, in Hamburg in the mid-eighteenth century. Reimarus, who avoided publishing his radical hypotheses about Christianity during his lifetime, had parts of his work Apologie oder Schutzschrift für die vernünftigen Verehrer Gottes [Apology or defence for the rational worshippers of God] published posthumously, 1774–78, the most important of which is considered to be the fragment entitled ‘The object of Jesus and his disciples’. Reimarus, who was influenced by the rationalism of the Enlightenment, sought – as did, for example, his successor David Freidrich Strauss – to describe a Jesus “free from religious dogma”. According to Reimarus, and many others in this first wave of research into the historical Jesus, Jesus was primarily a Jewish revolutionary who tried to seize power in Jerusalem, but failed in this attempt and was executed, and it was not until after his death that his disciples created the myth of the resurrection and the picture of Jesus that forms the foundation for Christianity. Reimarus was not an atheist, however, but rather he considered that human beings could – with the help of their intelligence – achieve a religious faith that is more true than one that has its foundations in miracles and revelations.
This first major quest for the historical Jesus comes to an end in 1906 when Albert Schweitzer publishes his monumental work about the history of the research about Jesus, The Quest of the Historical Jesus. And Schweitzer soberly points out the following: Reimarus and his followers were not driven by a “purely historical interest”, but their express purpose was to promote rationalism, and they used “the Jesus of history as an ally in the struggle against the tyranny of dogma”[ii]. Perhaps the problem (or fascination) with the quest for the historical Jesus had always been precisely this: the quest was characterized by the wishes and needs of those who put forward the hypotheses. The quest was never ‘free’. As Schweitzer writes: “Thus each successive epoch of theology found its own thoughts in Jesus; that was, indeed, the only way in which it could make Him live.”[iii]
Such projection still goes on in our day. The dilemma for all those who continue to search for the historical Jesus, and they are many (the current stage is usually called “The Third Quest”), is that there is so little to go on. In effect, they only have one major source: the New Testament. As the American theologian Craig Blomberg writes: “Two somewhat opposite problems confront historians. On the one hand, they discover much less independent testimony to the life of Jesus than they might have expected concerning one who gave rise to such a major world religion. On the other hand, when they look just at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it seems as though there is too much testimony.”[iv]
Yet the situation is typical, and in that respect the story of Jesus does not differ from that of Moses: they are both religious leader figures of gigantic proportions, persons who according to the canonic sources have had an enormous influence on their surroundings – and yet they are persons who to a great extent seem to have slipped past the pens of contemporary historians. That is mysterious, but nevertheless typical. Because out of this comes the mixture of truth and myth that makes legend, that makes something that allows our imagination to act. But which, all the same, is created from something real. The question is, what does this ‘real’ consist of?
As I have indicated above, I have had my own thoughts about the real person, the historical figure, Jesus, for many years past. I do not claim to compete with the many theologians and historians who for more than two centuries have devoted themselves to finding the person Jesus behind the biblical stories. Just like Albert Schweitzer pointed out, they are many, and the way they speculate is to a considerable degree coloured not only by their motives, but also by their will to confront and overthrow. Most Christian theologists stay more-or-less ‘within the fold’ when they regard and analyse Jesus the person. Others have, in some instances, presented spectacular theories. This is an exciting field, and if one starts to attempt to penetrate behind the tempting curtain that history had laid out, one is simply pulled all the further in. Jesus lived only two thousand years ago, thus in historical time, and in a geographic area which at the time was occupied by one of the most powerful empires in the history of the world, the Roman Empire. In addition, he was active at precisely the time when the culture and society of this area, Jewish Judea and Galilee, were approaching their fall, one of the major catastrophes in Jewish history. There are threads to pull, there is written history, there are parallel stories, there are descriptions of contemporary religious and social upheavals. The question is how they are connected. The question is who this Jesus of Nazareth really was.
A necessary condition if one is to examine the historical figure of Jesus is that one ignores – at least temporarily – religious faith, and possibly too the idea of Jesus as divine. Reimarus was aware of this when he wrote, and that is perhaps the reason his thoughts remained unpublished during his lifetime (while Strauss who published his book ‘The Life of Jesus’ within his lifetime, would later comment: “...it has made my life a lonely one.”[v]) Nevertheless, this is necessary if one wants to have a chance to find the historical person. Respect for what Jesus achieved, and for the religious experience associated with a belief in him, ought thus not become less. It didn’t for Reimarus. And nor does it for all those theologists who nowadays devote themselves to studies of the historical person.
Most of the hypotheses I have, and will present, are not mine alone. It is evident that when you start to allow yourself to look at Jesus with ‘historical eyes’, you will discover that many of those who have sought after answers have come to similar conclusions. But in some respects I will allow myself to be rather provocative in my conclusions, and in at least one respect I will present a hypothesis that I have never previously seen in print. It is with religious figures as with innovations: in approaching them you are so caught up in an established frame of mind that – even though you consider yourself to be thinking freely – you sometimes nevertheless don’t dare pursue a thought to its conclusion. It is too much of a break with that which we have always learnt.
[i] John Dominic Crossan: The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, HarperSanFrancisco, 1991, p. xxvii
[ii].Albert Schweitzer: The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede (John Bowden), Adam and Charles Black, London, 1906/10, p. 4
[iii].Schweitzer, p. 4
[iv].Craig L.Blomberg: The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Inter-Varsity Press, 1987, p. xv
[v].David Friedrich Strauss: Ulrich von Hutten (Preface), quoted by Schweitzer p. 5
Excerpted from The Jesus Mystery by Einhorn, Lena Copyright © 2007 by Einhorn, Lena. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Did Jesus Ever Exist? 7
Birth and Childhood 51
Encounter with John the Baptist 77
The Preacher Jesus 95
Entering Jerusalem 115
The Trial 129
On Whether Jesus Died on the Cross 149
What Happened on the Road to Damascus? 173
A Hypothesis 225
In The Jesus Mystery, award-winning author and filmmaker Lena Einhorn presents an astonishing new hypothesis about the relationship between Jesus and the apostle Paul. With page-turning suspense, she details a new first-century chronology that resolves many persistent mysteries about the historical Jesus and makes her conclusion impossible to ignore.
Intrigued for most of her life by the mysteries surrounding the historical Jesus, Einhorn uses all her scientific skills to bring together New Testament writings as well as texts from contemporary Jewish and Roman historians, legends that survived within and outside Christianity during the first centuries after Jesus’ death, and, not least, psychology. The story starts from the beginning, with the basic question of whether Jesus really ever existed. From there it takes us to Jesus’ birth and childhood, ending with the crucifixion and the question of what happened afterward.
In the process of writing this book, Einhorn came to realize that a number of incidents or people mentioned in the New Testament very closely resemble incidents or people recorded in the works of Flavius Josephus (Jewish Antiquities and The Jewish War)—but fifteen to twenty years later.
The New Testament started to look like a roman-`a-clef, where real historical events from the 50s ce seemed to have been transferred to the 30s.
And then there is her most astonishing hypothesis, involving the true identities of Jesus and Paul.