[Marxism] What was Jesus?

wytheholt at cox.net wytheholt at cox.net
Wed Dec 23 06:16:13 MST 2015

This post ignores the tremendous recent spate of scholarly historical (and even archaeological) research and writing about the historical Jesus, for which one should turn to the several books published in the last quarter century by American scholars and academics Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, and especially Richard A. Horsley, a Marxist.  They agree that Jesus was no Christian, nor was he divine either; they see him as a Jewish revolutionary, but cast in the mould of the Hebrew prophets, attempting to restore the primitive egalitarianism that can be read into the various covenants (supposedly between god and his "chosen" people, but probably worked out by the Hebrews themselves) which established the land of the Jews as a peasant agricultural state wherein each peasant family was guaranteed a workable plot of farmland despite, and in the teeth, of moneylenders and the wealthy Jews who backed the moneylenders in an increasingly unegalitarian Jewish community in Israel.  

Note, for example, that neither Jesus nor his father Joseph is depicted in the Bible as owning or farming land, nor even as being fishermen like several of Jesus's comrades, even though, historically speaking, the overwhelming number of Jewish peasants engaged in farming (and in fishing).  Joseph is said to be a carpenter, which was among the most lowly and looked-down-upon categories of landless Jews at the time, much lower than farmers, and he probably got work participating in the construction of new Roman cities such as Tiberias which went up in Israel during the years of the first two Roman emperors, Augustus and Tiberias.  Like many Jews who toiled away on these showy, expensive, nonJewish Roman towns near Galilee, they had lost their lands to debt and were in many senses enslaved and extremely poor; Jesus saw himself as a prophet, bringing back and enforcing the democratic and redistributive covenants (as required by the concept of jubilee) and restoring an economic basis for independence for poor Jewish peasant farmers -- like his own family.  Of course he opposed the wealthy Jews of his time, who were economically allied with the conquering Romans (and had been allied with the previously conquering Greeks of Alexander's time).  But his goal -- as he repeatedly said -- was to restore the covenants.

The three historians I have cited use excellent, widely-accepted techniques of historical criticism, which find much that is in the New Testament to have been added on later by the True Believers, the followers of Jesus and others who wanted to claim Jesus as divine, as some part of god (unlike what Jesus actually said of himself).  They find much of the New Testament to be quite suspicious, and in varying ways they interpret many passages as not reflecting much of the truth of Jesus's life and prophetic career.  They discard these from the canon, and arrive at a very different image of Jesus than is given in the post below.  They are certainly worth reading, more (in my view) than the two authors cited in the post below.

Wythe Holt

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> At Xmas time, an interesting piece:
> Jesus wasn't a Christian; he was a Jewish revolutionary:
> https://rdln.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/jesus-wasnt-a-christian-he-was-a-jewish-revolutionary/
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