Chatterton (1856). Henry Wallis.
We must not only consider whether Jesus Christ was a Christian – we must consider if he even existed. Whether he did or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is the question why Christianity arose, developed and changed. All religions in the historical and social contexts are distorted, or inverted, interpretations in a philosophical sense of reality. No true assessment of religion is possible without recognising its social but not divine origins.
Jesus Christ was the sum total of the Messianic tradition of Judean religion – a crystallisation (e.g., Robin Hood, King Arthur) of the liberation hopes of the Palestinian peoples against Roman occupation. A process chanelled through individuals (Christ was only one of a number) that were real or mythical, who represented the aspirations (heaven on earth) of the dissident population.
In this context, to satisfy dissenting factions, a last final sacrifice would (or could) be made to achieve unity. Unity of those wishing to retain sacrificial ritual and those opposed. Instead of animals – a man – the Lamb of God? Illuminating is the retained Communion ritual, a vestige of the cannibalisation of the vanquished to absorb some of his ‘spirit’. The symbolic bread and wine, or flesh and blood, no matter how acceptable or palatable, is a barbaric left-over of a primitive ritual. However, this does not explain the political implications of the Christian movement in Judea.
It seems that the genuine liberation movement were the Zealots or revolutionary wing of the Pharisees – the left wing – and more likely that Judas Iscariot and Jesus Barabbas were historically greater, clearer thinking men than Jesus Christ. We can accept that some individual assumed to be the Messiah did exist, but not as commonly believed today. Christ the man is a possibility, but Christ the God a myth. Christ was the reformist, the waverer, the Fabian of his day. He was closer to the middle strata of the time – fishermen, carpenters, builders, and others of substance. The disciples were not from the oppressed and suppressed general populace. Iscariot and Barabbas represented popular militancy whereas Christ and the Disciples were resurrectionist rather than insurrectionist.
After the crucifixion the doctrine was diluted, shorn of its militancy (heaven on earth), and accommodated to the Roman status quo by the reformers and revisionists, Peter, Paul and John (the right wing?). Hence the non-Christian doctrine (but religious) of heaven after death, immortality and redemption. But, can we assume that Christ died on the cross? No executions were permitted on that day. Taken (alive?) to an accessible and ventilated tomb and later removed after the furore had died down? A resurrection or rescue? Ascension may mean later death from wounds, flight to the mountains – Masada? A conspiracy by the Paulines, Petrines and Johanines to justify their capitulation to the status quo and develop the divine doctrine? Jesus Christ sacrificing the common people for political expediency? Or a Zealot/Essene conspiracy to liberate Barabbas and retreat from Jerusalem?
The Bible, which contains so many contradictions, was a later development, an edifice not of popular origin but elitist in essence, aimed at lulling a believing following into a false sense of security. A following relying on faith rather than knowledge, on a ‘pie in the sky’, rather than on building “Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.”, or any other land. Contradictions are clear: official (state) religion versus popular belief; churchianity versus Christianity. The essence of Christianity’s development is the aim of inculcating submission as a means of exercising political control. Very subtle – a far cry from the revolutionary origins in Roman Palestine.
Important then are not just the origins of Christianity but also its function, its role, its purpose. Subtler than the ‘iron heel’, pervasive and soul destroying. Consider colonial tactics – the first man to step ashore carried a gun, the second a bible. The first Christians fought against oppression and thereby unwittingly have birth to a means to enslave.