"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

by R’ Yosef Barzillai

On a part one, I refered to “the first appearance of the christian cult in the early fourth century”. That passim remark might have raised some eyebrows, because it differs markedly from what you have almost certainly always believed to be the case. All the history books say that the first christians were first century Hebrews, don’t they? Well they would say that, though: this is what the churches want everyone to think. And never forget, the churches controlled all publishing and printing for centuries: even into the early 20th century in some countries. But, like so much else about christianity, it just ain’t true.

Let me enlighten you about the real origins of the cult. To understand how, when, and why the new “religion” was created, a little knowledge of Roman history is needed. In the year 306CE, the emperor Constantius I(“Constantius Chlorus”) was on campaign in Britain, but he fell ill and died at Eboracum (modern York). His son, Constantine I, was proclaimed emperor by the army, but there were many other contenders competing for the Throne and it was a long time before he was established as sole ruler. The link just given describes the political situation in some detail and, although it embraces the usual christian myths about how Constantine was “converted to christianity”, the historical details are reasonably accurate.

In brief, what happened is this. From 306 until about 313, there was a period of great confusion during which all but one of the other contenders were eliminated, until only a chap called Licinius remained. He was too powerful and had too much support for Constantine to be able to overcome him, and a kind of uneasy accommodation was reached in which the two men divided the empire between them, with Constantine ruling the west half and Licinius ruling the east. But this compromise didn’t last very long and in 314 civil war broke out between the two halves of the divided empire. The civil war raged, on and off, for ten years, until Constantine finally defeated and captured Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis in September 324; the unfortunate Licinius was imprisoned, and eventually executed. This left Constantine, finally, in full control.

But having succeeded in removing all opposition and consolidating his position as emperor, Constantine found that he had inherited something of a poisoned chalice. For almost twenty years there had been no proper government throughout the empire. All the machinery of government had been severely disrupted during the long period of confusion and, most critical of all, the military had been unavailable to exercise proper control because the troops had been distracted into fighting each other. “Home rule” or “self-determination” are not modern ideas and, during the two decades of the civil war, all the satellite states of the empire had been taking advantage of the disruption to agitate, to a greater or lesser degree, for independence from imperial Rome. Constantine’s empire was quite literally tearing itself apart, just as the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian empires had before it and many others have done since – most recently, in our own time, the Soviet and Yugoslav unions.

Constantine was determined that this should not happen. But his military was too stretched to put down by force all the uprisings and rebellions that were now occurring in all parts of his empire. Furthermore, after nearly twenty years of civil war, this was not a time for more fighting, more killing, more destruction. No: it was a time for reconciliation, for rebuilding; he needed to unite and control his empire, but he needed to find a peaceful way to do it. Constantine must have passed many sleepless nights worrying at this problem: and then he hit on a brilliant strategy: he would create a new religion – one ostensibly of “peace and love”, but with plenty of fear in it, to provide the control element he so desperately needed.

Until that time, there was no single religion in the Roman empire. The temples of the mythlogical Roman gods still stood in Rome and their priests still practised their ceremonials there, but in other parts of the empire all the local cults still operated and, despite the official Roman opposition to them, in practice even the Roman soldiers stationed in different parts of the empire (many of whom were locally-recruited mercenaries anyway) had their own Romanised versions of the local cults. Surprising as it may seem (especially to christians), the Hebrew religious tradition was only one widespread, established “religion” that existed at that time. There were Hebrews everywhere, a result of the two major deportations we suffered in the course of our history – first at the hands of the Babylonians in 587BCE, and then at the hands of the Romans themselves, in 69CE. But the Hebrew tradition was totally unsuited to Constantine’s purpose, because it has no fear elements whatever, just One kind, merciful and loving God.

The Hebrew culture did, however, provide Constantine with a useful basis for his new religion. People everywhere knew that the Hebrews existed and had a collection of ancient Books, written in their own language, which were believed to contain God’s Own Message to humanity, received directly from God Himself – but since nobody else could actually read or understand the Hebrews’ language, and because the Hebrews generally kept very much to themselves, nobody else knew very much if anything about what those Books were about. Constantine gleefully took advantage of this. He assembled a committee of Byzantine theological scholars and ordered them to make a translation of the Hebrews’ Scriptures into Greek (the language of scholarship at that time), which – together with some new, supplementary writings that the committee were to compose themselves – were to form the basis of the new religion. To give his new Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures greater authority, Constantine passed it off as the legendary “Septuagint” translation, which I shall speak about at greater length on another page.

The christian churches have always claimed that the “gospels” are eyewitness accounts of actual events, written by men who were there at the time and saw it all happen – and that three of the four (Matthew, Mark, and John) were Hebrews. This has never been questioned by christians, but it simply isn’t true. It cannot be. There is massive evidence within the writings themselves that not one of them could possibly have been written by a Hebrew. I will deal with this at greater length, explaining exactly why this is so, on a later page. Equally false is the claim that these documents were originally written in Aramaic (the common vernacular throughout the Middle East in the first century CE) and only later translated into Greek, the original Aramaic source-texts then somehow being “lost”. This last assertion is utterly preposterous: quite apart from the internal evidence that the writers didn’t even speak Aramaic, if the earliest christians were simultaneously practising Hebrews, as is claimed, would they really first have translated the source-documents of their new “faith” into the hated pagan Greek language, and then allowed the original texts in their own language to be “lost”? This was never done with any of the Books of the Hebrew Scriptures – why then would it have been done with the “new testament” documents? We Hebrews are (and have always been) fanatical about our Holy Books: this claim simply does not hold water. Furthermore, no trace has ever been found of any copies of the “gospels” in Aramaic, and the earliest copies in Greek that have ever been unearthed date from no earlier than Constantine’s time. All the evidence points to their having been composed, in Greek, around 325CE.

To be effective as a tool for control, the new religion needed substantial “fear” elements. Constantine’s committee adopted the pagan Graeco-Roman concept of “Hades” or the “Underworld” (which were previously conceived as the resting-place of the souls of the departed) and turned them into a place of torment were “unbelievers” were condemned to spend the rest of eternity enduring unspeakable suffering; this was to be presided over by the most fearsome of all demons, who was given the title of the “Prosecuting Angel” of God’s Divine Court, the “satan”, which is mentioned in the Scriptures in only two places: once in the writings of Z’charyah (Zechariah) in the “Book of the Twelve Prophets”, and again in the Parable of Iyyov (Job). Ridiculous stories were invented about “Satan” (the title now having been turned into a personal name), based on a totally deceitful misrepresentation of Isaiah 14:12, claiming that “he” had originally been an Angel but had “rebelled” against God and had been “cast out” from Heaven, creating a new domain for himself called “hell” to be the “place of torment” I mentioned before, with which God apparently colludes by sending “unbelievers” there.

The deception was almost complete, but there was just one element missing – the good guy, the only one who could “save” you from unspeakable eternal suffering in “hell” at the hands of “Satan”. Who else but God’s own begotten son! Once again, Constantine’s team took advantage of the little about Hebrew culture and beliefs that was generally known by the common people, while playing on the general ignorance of what it was all really about. Everyone knew that the Hebrews had been promised in the Scriptures that one day God would send them a “messiah” who would re-establish the ancient Monarchy and reign over them as their King. But nobody knew what the word “messiah” really meant. The term “messiah” (which derives from the Hebrew mashi’ah), together with its literal Greek translation cristoV (christos), were incorporated into the new religion with a newly-invented “meaning” assigned to them: they now became the title (and the Greek form, written capitalised, eventually came to be seen as the surname) of “God’s son”. Involved and totally implausible stories – the “gospels” – were composed about this character, backed up every step of the way by “proof-texts” quoted from the “old testament”, showing how God’s Own Prophets had prophesied every detail of “his” life. But there is just one small problem: every one of these “proof-texts” is a phoney, artificially manufactured deception accomplished by a combination of false translation, often using just part of what the Prophet had said, and taking the statement totally out of context. I shall be giving several examples of this on a later page.

Having created his new religion, Constantine was now ready to foist the deception upon his unsuspecting subjects. But he still had one problem to overcome. There were Hebrews everywhere all over his empire, and they were not likely to take kindly to his new religion, which relied so heavily on the distortion and wholesale falsification of everything they held Holy. Constantine was a pragmatic man and knew he could not possibly exterminate them all (it had been tried several times before, but miraculously they always seemed to survive) and, in truth, he didn’t want to anyway. The Hebrews were useful people: they tended to be artisans, craftsmen and professionals, and they were in the main honest, law-abiding, inoffensive and peaceful people. But he foresaw that they were going to be a big problem when he tried to launch his new religion; they could not be silenced, but they could be discredited. To achieve this, the stories in the “gospels” were written in such a way as to depict the Hebrews as thoroughly disreputable people: crude, uncultured, cruel, turning on their own “king” and baying for his blood, and with wicked and corrupt leaders. That did the trick: after all, who was going to listen to the very people whose hands were covered with God’s own blood? It’s a sad fact that the roots of all modern antisemitism (or hatred of Hebrews) can be traced directly back to the “gospels” themselves.



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