The Legend of the Red Sea Scrolls
Copyright 2014, John Manimas Medeiros
The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls is known throughout the world. Old scriptures were found in clay jars in a cave near the dead sea in the 1940's, at the same period that humans were being more violent and cruel than most people thought possible. The Dead Sea Scrolls have since been studied and shared, but we do not know if all of the information has been shared. Those in possession of the scrolls may have some political self interest in controlling the release of information, to avoid having people learn how wrong is the history they have been taught.
There is more to be revealed. During the 1990's, archaeologists looking for evidence of Biblical events in the Sinai Desert, discovered a cache of sixteen scrolls that described an entirely different version of who Jesus was, what he did, and the substance of his teaching. Here, I wish to share that information with you, to enhance your understanding of the Christian religion, and what it means to you, and to all of us. But first, I wish to explain my concern with the way in which the traditional Christian Church has distracted those seeking to be good from the teaching of Jesus. Christian pastors harass and threaten those who hunger and thirst and direct them away from Jesus' teaching toward myths and social and political compliance. In other words, the traditional teachers of Christianity do not teach what Christ taught. Instead, they teach that theological myths are of the greatest importance, far more important than what Jesus taught. It is as though the real mission of the Church is to distract everyone from what Jesus taught and employ scare tactics to get the people to focus on mythological theology.
What is religion?
I have devoted a great deal of time to finding a scientific answer to this question. I have written about it in my book, The Primacy of Stewardship (2009), in "Chapter Twelve: Learning About Religion." The Seven Pillars of Religion are central to my view of what religion is. Every religion can be better understood by separating out and studying each of these "pillars" or elements of a real religion:
The Seven Pillars of Religion:
People, Calendar, Ritual, History, Teleology, Ethics, Institutions.
1) People: the people who first practiced a religion, geography and demography, regions of dominance or influence, holy places, cultural and political life intertwined with religion. The peoples who later adopted the religion.
2) Calendar: marking of natural cycles and important historical events, solemn holy days, festive days and customs which involve symbols of religious ideas or religious history. The calendar can be of immense importance in any religion.
3) Ritual: marking important community events, seasons, special events; the points of change in the life of an individual: birth, adolescence, marriage, divorce, special achievements, death, symbols associated with each ritual or which may be the signs which announce or denote the ritual. Customs, practices or organized events described as "traditions" or holidays or holy days or traditional celebrations.
4) History: the birth and development of the religion, its founder or founders, the set of beliefs which define the religion, reformers, growth and change in the religion and its persistence over time; divisions, debates, disputes, the evolution of ethical ideas and religious doctrines through the process of history; the religious responses to changes in human technology and science; traditional beliefs and reformed beliefs adapted or changed because of new knowledge developed by modern science.
5) Teleology: cosmology, philosophy, ideology, concepts included in one of the five major areas of explanation of the human identity:
A. The identity, description and care of holy scripture;
B. The identity or description of a God, gods or Creator God;
C. The origin of life and the physical universe;
D. The meaning of life, or the identity of the human species and its purpose or destiny;
E. The meaning of death.
6) Ethics: social and sexual rules, regulations and customs; descriptions of good and bad behavior, or of moral versus immoral behavior; suggested or prescribed rewards or punishments, shame, guilt, retribution, atonement, forgiveness or mercy; social justice; being a just person; offenses against other individuals, against society, or against God or God's will.
7) Institutions: brotherhoods, sisterhoods, holy orders, church buildings and church organizations, temples, schools, monasteries, retreats, charitable or community service organizations; church hierarchies; councils or synods to establish doctrines or beliefs, seminaries or training schools, colleges and universities that provide for religious scholarship.
Any reasonable person who studies the historical conflicts among religions, or the conflict between religion and science, will find that six of the seven pillars are not likely to cause any problem. The element of religions that is the source of conflict is Teleology, the proposed answers to the teleological questions. The other six pillars are cultural and ethnic products of history, the traditions and social practices of a society. They do not evoke questions of right and wrong, or of sin and salvation. Rituals and ethics arise out of the geographic and economic conditions of a people, along with their historical development. The six pillars (People, Calendar, Ritual, History, Ethics and Institutions), describe a culture as much as a religion, but differences in cultural practices do not cause the intense conflict that can and has arisen out of differences in teleology, who is God and what does God do and what does God want.
What is taught?
Let me shine a bright light on what is taught by stating three simple questions:
1) What did Jesus teach us?
2) What happens if you don't believe that Jesus is God?
3) What must people do in order to be saved from eternal punishment for sins?
To me, it is immediately obvious that there is an important difference between the first question and the next two. The first question directs an individual to learn what Jesus taught, which is what one must do in order to develop a meaningful answer to the question. But the second and third questions are very different. The second and third questions address questions about theological myths, or about teleology. The answers are not necessarily taught by Jesus or implied in the teaching that Jesus addressed to us as a guide to how we should live. The second and third questions direct an individual to learn what an institution teaches, directs the individual to focus on mythical theology or theological myths. By theological myths, which is essentially the content of religious teleology, I mean beliefs that cannot be proven right or wrong by the scientific method.
The distraction and early childhood indoctrination:
The parents and clergy who have taught the basics of what it means to be a Christian have generally favored drama and emotional stimulation while forgetting or minimizing, or even ignoring or discarding the content of Christ's teaching. The initial concept emphasized from infancy, and reinforced throughout life, is that the parables are secret moral messages, metaphors that are understood only by priests but which they can explain to ordinary people. The main explanation is that Jesus is God the Son of God and the redeemer of humankind. We humans had or have some kind of "original" sinfulness in our character and by becoming a human being (being "incarnated") and suffering on Earth, Jesus paid expiation for our offenses and made it possible for us to be admitted into heaven, if we are good throughout our lives. This is deemed to be the specific belief that distinguishes Christians from others – the belief that Jesus is God and He died for our sins. All of the parables therefore, are interpreted as repetition of the theological myths propagated by the Church. Every farmer, craftsperson, fisherman or householder is just a symbol of any person who has a crisis of faith, and if they believe that Jesus is God, and that Christianity is the one and only true religion, they will be saved. If you are good, the meaning of good being almost exclusively restricted to being loyal to the Church, you will go to heaven. If you are bad, which means not believing what you are told, you will go to hell. What Jesus actually taught, by his parables and his example, is glossed over or minimized as secondary metaphorical references to the afterlife, to heaven and hell, not really of great importance to how we live on Earth. In brief, the core teaching of the Christian Church is "salvation by membership," meaning you are saved from eternal hell because you have joined the organization and become an official member. Without that membership, you are baked, boiled, broiled and fried. None of this is what Jesus taught.
The argument that Jesus was the Son of God and he redeemed us from our sin looks a lot like pardon for a crime. It is like we had naturally committed some form of criminal offense, and the Great Judge gave us a pardon. For that we can be grateful, but we can also conceive of the question as to why we are naturally criminal when we were created by God, who is deemed to be totally benevolent and devoid of any moral or technical defects. The traditional teaching of the Church, instilled in children throughout the world in many somewhat different cultures, makes the matter of one's personal faith a social and political issue. Your spiritual identity is designated according to your acquisition of or agreement with specified theological myths. But this is not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught that our behavior toward our fellows, other men and women, is the measure of our behavior toward God or the sacred, because the Holy Spirit is in every human being. What we believe about the definition of God or of heaven and hell is not the core content of Jesus' teaching. The core content of Jesus' teaching is focused on social justice and the importance of good stewardship of people, and of useful property, meaning stewardship of the life-supporting environment.
We are worthy according to our fairness and justice in our relationships with people, air, water, land, plants, animals and sky. The ongoing problem is that according to the dominant teaching model of the Church, one can be a liar, thief, violent, unjust, oppressive, destructive person and be forgiven and saved, because you say that you believe in Jesus. It is like saying that anti-social or criminal behavior is of minor importance, and your words and thoughts, even though entirely divorced from your actions, are the source of your salvation.
Think about how this relates to democracy. In a democracy, there are no thought crimes. No one can be adjudicated of a criminal offense for having bad thoughts. But in a theocracy one can be convicted of a criminal offense and severely punished, even tortured or executed by deliberately painful means, for an allegation that you are supporting evil by having a wrong belief. In some theocratic societies, the fact of punishment and destruction is supposedly concealed within acts of social and economic exclusion, shunning and destitution rather than the more overt acts of physical harm or death for the belief offender. We have to acknowledge that even in societies that claim to be democratic, or want to be, negative human impulses and fears motivate some to impose social and economic consequences upon those who do not conform. We are a conforming, ant-like species, where everyone is expected to play a role that others assign to them. Those who rebel are displeasing to the workers who comply.
Here are some of the theological myths in the Christian drama. Please note that by labelling these beliefs as "theological myths" I am not claiming that they are true or false, but that each one falls into that category that cannot be proven true or false by scientific method:
1) Mary the mother of Jesus was a virgin, never had sex with a man.
2) Joseph was a good but passive old man, and not the father of Jesus.
3) The Christmas story, Jesus' birth in a manger, shepherds attending, angels singing, three wise men or kings or Buddhist monks or Persian magicians visiting.
Miracles, acts that oppose the natural laws of physics, or defy the laws of nature, are identified as signs of Jesus' divine identity, portray magical control over matter:
4) Walking on water.
5) Healing severe illness by touching the patient, even recovering from physical death.
6) Multiplying food or creating food out of nothing.
7) Turning water into fermented grape juice.
8) Dying and recovering from death, as though it were only a temporary condition.
The New Red Sea Scrolls:
How does the following affect the meaning of Jesus' life and teaching for you, as described in the New Testament Gospel? Or, what is your reaction when new scriptures are discovered and certified as genuine and valid holy writing, but revise the information you have now?
The content of each scroll can be taken separately or combined with others:
A) Mary had a loving boyfriend and they had sexual relations;
B) Joseph was just a family friend who concealed the behavior of Mary and pretended to be the husband of Mary and father of Jesus;
C) The stories of the miraculous acts were added fifty years after Jesus disappeared;
D) Jesus did claim to be the new King of Judea and an armed uprising in his name succeeded temporarily, and some of his political enemies were captured and he had them executed;
E) Jesus taught that the Jews should unite in a well-coordinated uprising against the Roman occupation and kill all the Roman authorities while also making an effort to have Roman soldiers or centurions take the side of the Jews and become part of the Jewish army;
F) Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife and therefore queen of Judea. She continued the fight to liberate Judea after Jesus died, but she failed and her body was never found;
G) After Jesus disappeared, the apostles were either executed or also disappeared, and none of them were able to provide the kind of charismatic leadership that Jesus did, and generally the apostles discarded or discredited the alleged gospel of love, forgiveness and social justice for the poor, favoring the prevailing belief that only armed might and the will to fight could save Israel, like the will of the Jews following World War II.
So, the question for discussion that is intended to clarify your faith for you, is how does this new information change the meaning of what Jesus taught in his parables? Of course, to develop a meaningful response, you would have to study the parables, which would probably create a long interruption in your snacking and texting. What the Biblical Scholars have to say about this does not really matter. They are just big readers. They don't know any more about God than you do. And maybe you doubt that these so called "Red Sea Scrolls" could be real. Why?
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