[Marxism] Happy Ancient Communist Day

Alex Briscoe obeynow20001 at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 25 08:45:31 MST 2005

  Funny New Testament story: I was discussing the history of Christianity and language with an Assyrian intellectual friend and he told me:   
  The saying of "It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" is actually a mistranslation.
  When the ancient Greeks were translating the orginal Aramaic accounts of the New Testament, they thought the word "ghamle" was "camel".  Actually, the word for camel in Aramaic is "gamel".  "Ghamle" is a rope used to tie up a boat.  So, if the saying is correctly translated, it goes: "It's easier for a barge rope to pass through the eye of a needle..."
  Alex Briscoe
        Karl Kautsky  Foundations of Christianity  Book Four: The Beginnings of Christianity  
    I. The Primitive Christian Community  The Proletarian Character of the Community  WE HAVE SEEN that the purely national democratic movement of the Zealots did not satisfy many proletarian elements of Jerusalem. However, escape from the city to the country, as the Essenes did, was not to everyone’s taste either. At that time, as today, escape from the country was very easy, escape from the city very difficult. The proletarian, accustomed to urban life, was not at home in the country. The rich man might well see his country villa as an agreeable change from the turmoil of the city; for the proletarian, return to the land meant hard work in the fields, work that he did not understand and was not fitted for.
  The mass of proletarians must therefore have preferred to stay in the cities, in Jerusalem as elsewhere. Essenianism did not give them what they needed, least of all those who were mere lumpenproletarians and had got into the habit of living as parasites on society.
  A third proletarian tendency therefore necessarily arose, along with the Zealots and Essenes, and in fact combining the two. This found expression in the Messianic community.

    Communism  In view of the strong proletarian imprint on the community, it was likely that it should strive toward a communistic form of organization. This is testified to expressly. The Acts of the Apostles says:
  “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship [communism, koinonia], and in breaking of bread, and in prayers ... And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (2, verses 42f.). “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common ... Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (4, verse 32f.).

  Jesus As Rebel
    Jesus calls for swords, as though the hour of action had come; his faithful followers go out armed with swords – and when they meet the enemy and draw their swords, Jesus suddenly declares that he is against any use of force, on principle – naturally, most sharply in Matthew:
  “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled ...?” (26, verses 52f.)
  Now if Jesus had been against all violence altogether, why should he have called for swords? Why did he direct his friends to go along with him carrying arms?
  This contradiction becomes intelligible only if we assume that the Christian tradition originally told of a planned coup de main in the course of which Jesus was taken prisoner, a bold stroke for which the time seemed to be ripe after the driving of the moneychangers from the temple had been successful. The later editors did not dare simply to do away with this story, whose roots went deep; instead, they blunted its point, reducing the use of force to an act attempted by the apostles against Jesus’ will.
  It may not be without significance that the clash took place on the Mount of Olives. That was the best place from which to make an attempt on Jerusalem.
  We may remember the account of Josephus about the plot of an Egyptian Jew under the procurator Felix (52 to 60 A.D.).
  This man came out of the desert with a force of 30,000 and went up the Mount of Olives in order to fall on the city of Jerusalem, expel the Roman garrison and become ruler. Felix engaged the Egyptian in battle and dispersed his followers. The leader himself succeeded in escaping.
  The history of Josephus is full of similar occurrences. They show the state of mind of the Jewish population at the time of Christ. An attempted putsch by the Galilean prophet Jesus would be fully in accord with it.
  If we think of his undertaking as such an attempt, the treason of Judas becomes understandable as well, intertwined as it is with this questionable account.
  In the version that has come down to us, Judas betrays Jesus by his kiss, which points him out to the police as the man to arrest. Now that is a senseless way to act. According to the Gospels, Jesus was well known in Jerusalem; he preached in public day in and day out, and was received by the masses with jubilation; and now he is to have been so unknown that he had to be pointed out by Judas to be distinguished from the crowd of his supporters! That would be a good deal like having the Berlin police pay an informer to indicate the person called Bebel. [8]
  It would be an entirely different matter if it was a question of a plotted coup d’etat. In that case there would be something to betray, a secret worth paying for. If the plot and the coup d’etat were eliminated from the story, the account of Judas’ treason would be to no purpose. Since the betrayal was obviously too well known among the comrades and the bitterness against the traitor too strong, it would not do for the evangelist to pass over this circumstance. He had to construct a new betrayal out of his imagination, however, and did not succeed very well.
  The capture of Jesus is just as unhappy an invention as the present version of the betrayal by Judas. The man who is arrested is precisely the one who preaches the peaceful way, while the apostles, who drew their swords and smote, are not molested in the least. Indeed Peter, who cut off the ear of Malchus, follows the constables and calmly sits down among them in the courtyard of the high priest and chats with them. Imagine a man who resists the arrest of a comrade with force, fires a revolver and wounds a policeman and then peacefully accompanies the forces of the law to the station-house to get warm and drink a glass of beer with them!
  It would be hard to invent anything more absurd. But it is this absurdity that shows there was something here to be covered up at any cost, and so a likely and easily understandable action, an encounter that ended in defeat and the capture of its leader, through the treason of Judas, became an incomprehensible and senseless event that takes place only in order that “the scriptures be fulfilled.”
  The execution of Jesus, which is easy to understand if he was a rebel, is an unintelligible act of sheer malice, which gets its way even against the will of the Roman governor, who wants to release Jesus. That is an accumulation of inconsistencies that can only be explained by the need of the later revisers not to let the actual events be known.
  That was a period in which even the peaceful Essenes, who were against any struggle, were carried away by the general patriotism. We find Essenes among the Jewish generals in the last great war against the Romans. Thus for example Josephus tells of the beginning of the war:
  “The Jews had chosen three mighty generals, who were not only gifted with bodily strength and courage, but also endowed with understanding and wisdom, Niger from Peraea, Sylas from Babylon and John the Essene.” [9]
  The conjecture that the execution of Jesus was brought about by his rebellion is therefore not merely the only assumption that makes the allusions in the Gospels intelligible, but it is also completely in accordance with the nature of the time and the place. From the time in which the death of Jesus is set down to the destruction of Jerusalem, disorders never ceased there. Street fighting was something quite usual, and so was the execution of individual insurgents. Such a street fight on the part of a small group of proletarians, and the consequent crucifixion of their ringleader, who came from eternally rebellious Galilee, could very well have made a deep impression on the survivors who had taken part in it, without obliging historians to take notice of such an everyday occurrence.
  Given the mutinous excitement that was sweeping throughout all Jewry in that era, the sect that arose out of this attempted revolt would gain a propaganda advantage by emphasizing it, so that it would become fixed in tradition and in the process particularly exaggerate and ornament the person of Jesus, its hero....



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