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How Jesus Became Christian Paperback – October 13, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Of the making of Jesus books there appears to be no end. Although Wilson, professor of religious studies at Toronto's York University, treads familiar ground already covered by Geza Vermes in Jesus the Jew and Amy-Jill Levine in The Misunderstood Jew, he provokes new thoughts about Jesus' identity. Taking up where Robert Eisenman left off in James, the Brother of Jesus, Wilson calls his argument the Jesus Cover-Up Thesis and claims that the religion of Paul displaced the teachings of Jesus so that Paul's preaching about a divine gentile Christ covered up the human Jewish Jesus. Wilson helpfully surveys the political, social and religious contexts of ancient Palestine, demonstrating that the religion of James, the brother of Jesus, was much closer to the religious practice of Jesus himself, but that the followers of Paul suppressed Jesus' teachings in favor of their own leader. Wilson challenges the veracity of the book of Acts, arguing that the followers of Paul created these tales to support the heroic character of their founder in his quest to establish a new religion. Wilson's instructive book introduces important questions about early Christianity for those unfamiliar with the debates about the historical Jesus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Wilson's How Jesus Became Christian represents a much-needed sea change in our understanding of how one moves from the historical Jesus to the religion called Christianity. It is beyond doubt one of the most significant works on early Christianity to appear in decades. It is bound to stir controversy, but Wilson's sober and carefully documented assessment of the evidence is as challenging as it is compelling. Wilson writes with an engaging style, accessible to the nonspecialist while thoroughly academic in quality. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and secularists will all find much of fascination and value in this provocative and important work.” ―James D. Tabor, chair of the department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of The Jesus Dynasty
“Barrie Wilson has produced a significant and sensational work of scholarship. And it is truly religious dynamite.” ―Canada's Globe and Mail
“Wilson's learned foray into the great debate over Christian origins is to be heartily welcomed. Agree or disagree, the eager reader will be gripped---and at times possibly shocked---by the author's bold investigation of one of the greatest mysteries of all time: How did the Christianity of the earliest Church become the orthodox "churchianity" of the mid-fourth and all succeeding centuries?” ―Tom Harpur, author of The Pagan Christ
“Wilson, in an immensely readable and and informative book, has put the pieces together in a compeling way to reveal a startling conspiracy. This conspiracy is soundly developed out of real historical evidence...the suppression of Jesus' real message and his real Jewishness in favor of Paul's message about a Christ for the Roman world, the remarkaby successful cover-up story provided by the Book of Acts, and the roots of the anti-Semitism endemic to the new religion of Christianity....A groundbreaking and highly controversial work that is sure to provoke considerable attention.” ―Patrick Gray, professor at York University and Toronto School of Theology
“Provokes new thoughts about Jesus' identity. Wilson helpfully surveys the political, social and religious contexts of ancient Palestine, demonstrating that the religion of James, the brother of Jesus, was much closer to the religious practice of Jesus himself, but that the followers of Paul suppressed Jesus' teachings in favor of their own leader. Wilson's instructive book introduces important questions about early Christianity for those unfamiliar with the debates about the historical Jesus.” ―Publishers Weekly
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Wilson's contentions are:
1. That Paul's religion was not the religion of Jesus.
2. There was a cover up.
3. The New Testamment is not a neutral collection of early church writings.
4. The Book of Acts presents us with a fictional history of early Christianity.
5. Anti-Semitism is rooted within the NT writings and is the result of the cover up.
Originating in Persia, was the secret mystery religions of Mithris. Mithris, like Dionysus and Isis, had a strange divine human with a virgin birth at its core. It offered salvation to its worshippers who became caught up in esctatic rituals. He was the savior God-human, the super-hero who conquors the forces of cosmic evil.
The apostle Paul never knew nor had ever seen the real Jesus, but based all of his theology upon his "visions" that he had seen while on the road to Damascus. He was not interested in the real Jesus when he began to preach. Many features of his "new religion" began to appear similar to the cult of Mithris, ie. the virgin birth and divine-human. And the promise of an after life.
In Judaism, there had been no mention of an after life in the Books of the Law and belief in an after life came much later on in the mid second century B.C. Even then belief in an after life was not thought of as an imortal soul moving from one plane of existance to another. The real Jesus would have followed those teachings. Paul, however, began to draw from the mystery religions to create his new religion. Paul developed a Hellenized faith. He envisioned a religion that was devoid of Torah.
Paul taught to the polytheistic Romans who had accepted many gods. The religion of Jesus which followed rabbinic law was strange to them. They did not like circumcision, believing it was mutalation and the idea of Koser foods was strange and unnessary also. Paul made it easy by tossing out the Torah and circumcision as well.
James, the brother of Jesus, took control of the Jerusalem movement shortly after the death of Jesus. Paul journeyed to Jerusalem at least twice during that time to confer with James and some of the apostles. They did not see eye to eye on theology and Paul left after a mob tried to stone him. It is here that the author claims Acts creates the fiction by saying that Paul and James came to an "agreement" when it was obvious they did not.
The author believes that the Ebionite sect followed most closely to the teachings and beliefs of Jesus. They were later deemed heretics by the proto-orthodox Christian church. The Ebionites believed that Paul was a false teacher.
The author believes that the reasons why the Christianity of Paul was so successful was the backing of the Romans, especially Emeperors Constantine and Theodosius who made it an official religion of the Roman Empire. The Romans were organized and knew how to get things done. Meanwhile, the Jesus Movement suffered heavy losses during the rebellion and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. by the Romans. Followers of James were either killed outright, enslaved or scattered to the four winds.
The Big Switch occurred early in the second century A.D. when the writer of Acts succeeded in fusing together two seperate religions. Something that in reality had never been. Jesus became the Christ and the totally human Jesus was lost, replaced by a divine God-like being with a different message for humanity. He became a Gentile Christ and a Cosmic Redeemer.
The final part in the cover up relates to the hatred of the Jews. The author states that the Jews were well aware of the cover up and could not be as easily silenced as creating the fictions in the Bible had been, however, it was a subconscious hatred that has been purpetuated thru the centuries. The Jews knew what had been done and why and they stared Christianity in the face with this knowledge.
I enjoyed reading this book and it brought to light many revelations and secrets I had long suspected as being true. It certainly is not the orthodox view of Christianity but deserves a long look. The authors beliefs parallel those of James Tabor and Bart D. Ehrman. He quotes them often. Theologians throughout history have had their own agendas and their own means of reporting the truth as they saw it. This book is another slant on Jesus and Christian history.
The movement led by Jesus naturally had strong Jewish leanings, whereas Paul, a gentile rejected adherence to the Torah and preaching of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Having never met Jesus the man, Paul's ministry is focused on Christ as savior, whom he met, as described, in a vision on the road to Damascus. Paul conceived of Christ as a savior, not the political Messiah, heir to David's throne. Wilson relates that the movements, one led by Christ and the other by Paul had little in common, leading to two separate religions. Wilson relates how it happened in the year 325 that the Christ Movement headed by Paul ultimately became the Christian Church.
The reader will be fascinated as I was by the story revealing these most unlikely happenings. This book is recommended without reservation to the inquiring reader.
Ernest G. Barr