A Revolutionary Radical: Jesus In The Gospels Essay, Research Paper
A Revolutionary Radical: Jesus in the Gospels Libenter homines id quod volunt credunt. – CAESAR Jesus might have existed as a mortal, but it is unlikely that he existed as the Holy Son of God. Since most of the writings about him were written decades after his death it is more likely that his legend was used as political propaganda. This leaves us today with many difficult if not impossible to answer questions. If Jesus died because he was a radical revolutionary and not because he was the Son of God, why do so many believe in the latter? Why are there four distinctly different views of the Christ figure presented in the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John? Why is there not one all inclusive Gospel? It is my contention that those questions can be tied together in order to be answered. There is not one omnipotent Gospel because each of the individual Gospels are meant to draw in a different type of sheep to the fold. By looking at each of the Gospels separately as articles of political propaganda we can discern why so many people were convinced of the existence of the Holy Christ figure. The man Jesus lived in a time of social turmoil. Within this social climate the poor, impoverished and disposed Jews created a radical faction that aimed to break away from the Jewish mainstream. This group of zealots were seen as radical revolutionaries and terrorists. The character Jesus was not only a card carrying member but a leader. So after his death and the Christians had established themselves they, like the early Hebrews, needed a heroic figure for their history. This serves various cultural needs, but does not need to be historically accurate. Thus the legend of Jesus was born. Much like the historical figure of George Washington has been embellished by fictional tales as America grew and needed a historical icon. Like the creation of God, man created Jesus in his own image. Thus the character of Jesus has many of the imperfections and faults of mortal humans. This provides a more believable Jesus and with the four different versions of Jesus it can be seen why this character became so popular. The image of Christ in the Gospel of Mark is clearly intended for a non-Jewish audience. Moreover, it is intended for poor, down trodden city dwellers. This work is to sweep the uneducated masses into the tide of revolution. The story has parallels to Greek and Roman mythology, so as to allow the audience to draw parallels to stories that they already know, thus giving a better understanding to the listener and making the story more powerful and personable. The simple style in which Mark is written is very reminiscent of today s romance novels. This gospel was meant to be read to those who couldn t for themselves or to be read by those who have rudimentary reading abilities. The story has almost non-stop action, so as to gain attention and keep the audiences interest. The swine story is one such passage. It may also have served as a comic interlude, giving the audience a chance to laugh and be drawn in to the story even more. Some may argue that such comedic scene has no place in holy scripture. However, when one looks at the writing as a work of political propaganda, the use of comedy for this target audience makes perfect sense. These were people that were used to seeing street shows and occasionally attending tragedies and comedies at the local amphitheater. This type of story is what they want. If one is to gain the support of a specific audience, one must give the people what they want. A parallel to Greek and Roman mythology is given with the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan, much like the story of Achilles, who was given special powers because of his pseudo-baptism in the river Stix. Much of the setting is familiar to the lives of the audience members as well. When Jesus is shown having to move amongst a mass of people, the audience has experienced this. They have been to the markets of the city and are therefore sympathetic to the trials of having to move about in a horde of people. The author of Mark s Gospel continues to reach into the lives of his audience with his depiction of the character Jesus. A very human Jesus is painted for the people. They see the anger of Jesus, he sighs, he needs time alone, he is passionate and perhaps a little weak. On the cross he asks God, his supposed father, why he has been forsaken. The people in the audience are not overly interested in the philosophy of Christ. They want a doer, a mover. Most importantly, they need to be presented a Jesus that is human, and thus believable. They would have nothing to do with the self-important Jesus of John. These are people that know what it is like to want to be alone, to be able to breath air, and not be jostled about in the market place. These are a people that like to see anger in Jesus. They are themselves an angry people, the poor the downtrodden. Thus making them ripe for the picking for the radical revolution. But how does one get the people to follow? Show them a Jesus as presidential candidate. They are given a Jesus that speaks with authority. He helps the needy. These people are needy. They can picture Jesus holding a baby in his arms, He is challenged by opponents. Much like the presidential candidates of today. How do you get the support of the common man? You reach out and go to him. Tell the people that you know what you are talking about, and sound like you believe in yourself and the people will believe in you. To gain sympathy and trust from the masses go to the needy, the sick. Visit those who are detested by the government you wish to overthrow. Hold babies, shake hands. Tell them I feel you re pain. Debate with those that denounce you, it gives more credence to people having faith in you. Mark creates a Jesus that fulfills all of these criteria beautifully. Mark also creates a powerful Jesus. He is a powerful teacher, he has the power to cure, to face death and to rise again. Not only does he have the power to do these things himself, but he delegates these responsibilities upon his disciples as well. Potential revolutionaries will not join in a revolution where the leader is weak. However, the concept of gods coming down from Heaven onto the terrestrial plane is not new to this audience. The stories of Roman gods are full of tales of the gods coming down to Earth. The audience also needs to see a powerful leader because they want to feel that they are going to be protected. Revolution is a messy business, and the foot soldiers (for that is what they are being recruited for) do not want to be left out in the cold when push comes to shove. What more powerful can a leader be than one who goes to the grave and then rises up from it? The Gospel of Mark is a piece of political propaganda that succeeds in drawing in its target audience. The simple style and use of using pieces of the audiences lives gives them a believable Jesus. These are a people ready to join the Christian faction and are given a believable mythological hero as their leader. Like Hercules he is a demi-god. He is part of the audience and so much more. The people will have faith, they will come, and they will follow. The author of the Gospel of Mathew takes the Gospel of Mark and creates a more ornate picture that speaks to a different audience. The intended audience for Mathew are those people that have read the Old Testament, but are not Jewish. Mathew is also stylistically different from Mark, as it is intended for a different audience. Whereas Mark was written to be read to an illiterate audience, Mathew is meant to be read. The flow of this Gospel is slower, as the action does not happen as quickly, with more teachings of Jesus between the action sequences. These teachings include allusions to Old Testament stories and fulfillment of prophecies contained therein. This allows the Gospel to apply to those readers that are border line Jews that need something more than what is contained in the Old Testament. This Gospel could almost be attached to the end of the Old Testament as an addition, instead of being separated from the Old and put in the New Testament. This Gospel is also much more ornate than Mark. Mathew takes Mark and makes Jesus more impressive. There are two demons in the swine story. There are two blind men.
The picture of Jesus is that of a more powerful man. The uniqueness from Mark s Jesus and to Jesus himself is given with the introduction of the divine birth story. Being born of a virgin mother, being given an ancestry that traces back to King David and the vision that John has whilst baptizing Jesus all give the reader the image of a very powerful man. This is an effort by the author to give the readers the type of figure that they are accustomed to reading about. The Old Testament has figures such as Moses and David. The Roman mythologies have tales of heroes such as the Aneas. The author creates a larger than life hero that has divine ancestry like Hercules. Jesus is powerful in everything that he does, he teaches with the power of authority, and gives multiple teachings. This Jesus is much more of a teacher than that of Mark. Jesus dies powerfully. He then has enough power to rise from the grave. Whereas Mark has inclusions that show a Jesus with limitations, this Jesus is the Son of God. The allusions to limits have been excluded. As the leader of a radical revolutionary group, it is necessary for Jesus to be powerful if he is to accomplish what he intends. He calls for the veritable destruction of the current government and religion so as new ones can rise from the ashes of the old. This fits in with the feelings of the readers. They have become fed up with the Roman government, the religion thereof and others are dissatisfied with Judaism. The new leader of the new religion and government would naturally be the most powerful of the radical revolutionary leaders, Jesus Christ. Unfortunately for him, he was caught by the Romans and crucified for this actions against the Roman government. The Gospel of Luke was obviously written by a professional writer. He presents his material in an orderly fashion with the flavor of a historian and humanitarian. Luke gives the reader the Divine mortal. The diviness of Jesus is given with his ancestry as seen in Mark and Mathew and through the amount which Jesus is seen praying in this Gospel. The mortality of Jesus is given through the portrait of the Christmas Jesus and how he acts. This Gospel is aimed at again, the poor and downtrodden, but more importantly, those who previously thought that they had no chance of gaining entrance into Heaven. Thus this Gospel is not so much for Jews, but for non-Jews who are missing a religion in their lives that meets their needs. Luke offers them one. The Jesus of Luke s Gospel is very tactile and social. This is a very accessible Jesus. The intended audience can identify with the babe in a manger story. They are poor. Their children, and they themselves were born under similar circumstances. Jesus is kind to those who are seen as unthankful and evil. He extends his love to even the Sumeritans, the enemies of the Roman state. Thus giving Jesus a more universal appeal. This is done to draw supporters from the most logical group. Those who have an enemy in common with your growing radical group. The savior figure Jesus is much more patient and tender in this Gospel than in those which proceed it. The Jesus of Luke accuses his disciples of having no faith, Jesus asks where it is. Thus showing more patience and understanding. This Jesus prays constantly, so as to serve as an example to his followers. He prays at his baptism, with Moses and Eldjah, and most importantly he prays for his executioners whilst he is dying upon the cross. By praying for his executioners at his death, Jesus reaches into the hearts and minds of the reader. If Jesus can forgive those who are mercilessly killing him, then those who do not have a Judeo-Christian background will definitely be allowed to enter into the kingdom of God. Luke also reaches out to women in his Gospel. They had previously been show in a negative light. The babe in the manger story is intended to appeal to the motherly instincts within the mothers of the audience. This, again, increases the universality of Jesus. So as to increase the numbers within the revolutionary fold. One man does not a revolution make. But a man leading thousands is a force to be reckoned with. The readers of the Gospel of John find a very different Jesus than that which is contained within the other three Gospels. This Gospel is aimed at the intellectuals of this early Judeo-Christian world. In this work, the deeds and actions of Jesus are unimportant. What is important is the philosophy of Jesus. Unlike the Jesus that is dependent upon Divine aid this Jesus is divine. The intended audience for this Gospel are those who are used to listening to discussions and then debates spawned thereof. This Gospel is written in the style that these intellectuals are used to, but instead of intending to spawn debates, this Gospel is meant to answer and put debates to rest. This Jesus could be seen as a contemporary of the readers, if it were not for the idea that he is divine. The philosophies contained within the monologues of Jesus are meant to gain the support of those that have political standing and lobbying power. The rich and intellectually minded would find the poor baby Jesus and the stories of lepers repulsive. Hence the lack of miracles within the Gospel. Jesus himself has his own divine agenda and seems at best hesitant to do the job that he is so eager and willing to do in the previous Gospels. The revolutionaries have decided to elicit help within the government which they mean to overthrow and displace. Doing this they can attack the Roman government on multiple fronts. By gaining support of important intellectuals, their message will be spread father through the writings and debates. What would be perceived as arrogance to the common man of the time, the upper-class to whom this Gospel is aimed at would view it as confidence and authority. These are not people who would listen to one who did not have unquestioning faith and knowledge in what he was lecturing. Jesus is not merely the Son of God, he has been with God since the beginning. He is one with God, period. This attempts to put to rest the argument that Jesus was an impostor. The birth story contained in earlier Gospels leaves that option open for consideration. A man excellent at oration, with a talent for getting people to follow him could easily claim that he was of Divine origin. But one who looks down at those at his feet and says with arrogance and supreme confidence that he has been since the beginning of time with God is more difficult to refute. Thus the reader is given an omniscient Jesus. Impatient and arrogant, he is created to be accepted by those in the upper class of the Judeo-Christian and Roman world. The philosophical arguments given in his monologues are acceptable to those who are used to debaters and the writings of the Greek and Roman philosophers. Thus rounding out the recruitment strategy of the Gospels. By using the four Gospels separately, the editors of the Bible enable the work as a whole to be acceptable to as broad of an audience as possible. As works of radical political propaganda, they are highly effective. Each level of the social body has been played to. The poor and the downtrodden illiterates are targeted in Mark. Mathew reaches out to those that have some education of the Old testament and would be considered middle class. Luke speaks to those who are non-Jewish and seen as enemies of the Judeo-Roman state, as well as women. Finally, John attempts to coerce those who have place within the intellectual and political world of the Romans. The author of each Gospel illustrates professional writing capabilities and a talent at writing successful propaganda. They give the people what the people want to hear.