Christmas is a pagan holiday redirected. For all its “holiness”, all its fanciful storytelling about Wise Men from the East and stars that shine above spots on a planet light years away from them, Christmas still celebrates something; it’s a happy holiday. Easter, on the other hand, is about Christianity’s core message: “Jesus died (but then rose from the dead – as YOU can, in essence, IF you agree to accept the story we’re pitching you as ‘gospel’ truth.”
Jesus being born and having a life is all well and good. He can preach all he likes. But it’s dying that gives the Jesus character purpose. If Jesus never dies the way he dies (if, say, the NT celebrated his living a long life, dying in his bed surrounded by loved ones), there’s no Christianity. It doesn’t happen. But it wasn’t Jesus who told his own story. Most of what we call “The New Testament” was written by Paul. 13 of the canonical texts are ascribed to Paul though only 8 can really be ascribed to him.
In 1985, the bible scholar Robert Funk created a group of 150 similar scholars. The Jesus Seminar wanted to coax a historical Jesus from the NT texts. They discerned a Jew whose core message (they found a dozen-and-a-half sayings that Jesus could have said — that weren’t clearly PUT IN HIS MOUTH BY OTHERS (like, say, PAUL). What they also saw clearly — “According to the Seminar, Jesus was a mortal man born of two human parents, who did not perform nature miracles nor die as a substitute for sinners nor rise bodily from the dead. Sightings of a risen Jesus represented the visionary experiences of some of his disciples rather than physical encounters.”
The historian A N Wilson wrote a biography of Paul that I highly recommend — if only to create the proper context in which to understand Christianity’s creation. The bottom line is simply this: Jesus did not “invent” Christianity. Paul did.
Paul took the notion of Jesus as a messiah — threw out Jesus’ core “Do Unto Others” message and focused his proselytizing instead on making Jesus The Messiah the basis for a whole new religion that he sold to non-Jews for whom Jewish tradition was meaningless. But, to prove, HIS invention’s “truthfulness” (maybe “truthiness” is more warranted), Paul based his mythology on Jewish mythology. Paul needed Jesus being prophesied as part of his branding. To make the “prophecy” part of Jesus’ story stand up, Paul had invent a story for Jesus because Jesus’ actual story just didn’t fit.
Paul didn’t worry himself with his story’s lack of authenticity. He wasn’t selling real. He was selling magic.
But part of Paul’s mythology involved making Jesus’ death important — more important than his life, really. Jesus needs to rise from the dead to garner the star power needed to front Paul’s new religion. To rise from the dead, Jesus needs to die spectacularly — even more spectacularly than mere crucifixion. And, because Paul was now committed to selling his story to non-Jews, it mattered nothing to him if Jews became the villain in the STORY he was inventing.
The early church fathers who bought & then themselves began selling Paul’s story loved having a villain.
As a member of the “villain” tribe — I have issues with this.
Jesus preached a simple message. Even a humble atheist can easily (and happily) “Do Unto Others”. Most do, actually because, humans are social creatures. We recognize that behaving one way versus the other makes your life better. There’s no reason to muck that message up. It doesn’t cry out for explanation.
It requires no magic.
It stands — resolutely — without any need for Ooga-Booga to justify it.
So here’s the deal. Believe whatever you like, Christians — it’s your “god-given right”. But what you do with that faith — how you manifest its teachings out here beyond the walls of your church — it matters. When your pervert “Do Unto Others” into “Kill The Jews” — you’re doing it wrong.