Who Was Jesus?: Conspiracy in Jerusalem, by Kamal Salibi

You will encounter in this book the view that Paul sees in himself succession of King Saul, hence, the ambiguous and confusing “original” name. An inescapable fact to today’s Christians is that their religion is Pauline and not Jesus-related as the Church of Jerusalem were; this probably explains why “The first Christian author we have is the Apostle Paul ”, Bart Ehrman.

The author demonstrates how the lineage of Jesus stems NOT from David; he also incorporates the Koranic story into his thesis to establish the historicity of the biblical accounts in Arabia.

Author says: “There were not two, but no less than three Jesuses whose identities are confused and conflated in the Gospels.”

The author assigns Christianity, Arabian origins: “An ancient Semitic term for ‘God’ which survives in Arabic usage is ‘gad’, in its original sense of ‘special favour, grace’. In this respect alone, apart from others, Christianity is clearly a latter-day form of a Semitic tradition of immemorial antiquity.”

Author refers to Paul’s hallucination and unscientific approach to the sources: “I did not receive it from any man … nor did anyone teach it to me” (Galatians 1:11-12); his position is clearly not historically attested in any sense, Paul even goes further daring to curse the Jerusalem Church in (Galatians 1:8-9) “condemned to hell”; he also attacks the apostles as being deceitful and false apostles in (2 Corinthians 11:13) and his views are reflected in Timothy and Titus where they describe the gospel preached in Jerusalem as being a myth/legend (1 Timothy 1:4;4:7, Titus 1:14).

That was most probably the reason behind the fact that: “we hear almost nothing about ‘the Twelve’,” as Bart Ehrman states in his book, [How Jesus became god].

Some Highlights of the Book:
1- “Paul never met Jesus personally.”
2- “The message Paul preached throughout the Roman world was an interpretation of the Jesus cult which differed from the one preached in Jerusalem by the original apostles.”
3- “For the duration of Paul’s life, his preaching clashed with that of the Jerusalem apostles, and the religious issue between the two sides remained unsettled.”
4- “Followers of Paul called themselves ‘Christians’ … followers of Jesus in Jerusalem used to be called ‘Nazarenes’.”
5- “The earliest known writings speaking of the early career of Jesus were not those of the original apostles of Jerusalem, but Paul’s epistles.”
6- “Most modern scholars do not regard Paul’s epistles to Timothy and to Titus as authentic.”
7- “The Gospels, unlike Paul, nowhere specify that Jesus was orignally rich.”
8- “There are at least two different narrative components in Acts.”
9- “It is far from certain that Paul was originally called Saul.”
10- “The authenticity of James epistle was strongly doubted at one time, but is less so today.”
11- “Jesus’ preaching career, as depicted in the gospels, can be compressed into three weeks.”
12- “The book of Acts is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke.”

A very obscure event took place in the bible:
13- “Why did Paul, having experienced his revelations of Jesus as the Son of God, decide to go at once to Arabia instead of Jerusalem?”
14- “why did the book of Acts omit all reference to Paul’s Arabian visit, although Paul himself appears to have regarded it as highly important, since he decided to go immediately after his conversion?”
15- “why does Paul nowehere explain exactly why he went to Arabia?”
16- “Paul did go to Arabia, and not to Jerusalem, immediately following his conversion.”

17- “Most scholars today agree that the Gospels cannot be regarded strictly as history; not as many may be prepared to admit how little history they actually contain.”
18- “Scholars today commonly concede that the Gospels were written to prove that the historical Jesus was in fact the expected Israelite Messiah … It is for this reason that they are replete with references to prophecies from the Old Testament.”
19- “According to John 7:41-42, many people in Jerusalem did not accept Jesus as the Messiah because he came from Galilee, whereas the Messiah was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. So, according to one tradition, Jesus was not born in Bethlehem.”
20- “It is not certain that the mother of the historical Jesus was called Mary .. The mother of Jesus could not have been called Mary is she really did have a sister by the same name .. Christian tradition has assumed that the two women were half sisters.”
21- “The story, as related by Eusebius, cinfirms that Jesus did have at least one brother other than James who was in fact called Judas. It further suggests that the career of Jesus could have had a political as well as a religious dimension.”
22- “The first-hand information Paul needed about Jesus either as a man, or as the promised Jewish Messiah was to be found in Arabia rather than in Jerusalem. This means the historical Jesus had some connection with Arabia .. Paul’s visit to Arabia is a historical fact.”
23- “Jesus had disciples whose names are cited in the Gospels, though not always with consistency .. Luke refers to a tax collector called Levi (5:27-9). Mark identifies the same man as Levi the son of Alphaeus (2:13-14). In Matthew, the tax collector is called Matthew (9:9, 10:3), a name which is given by Mark (3:18) and Luke (6:15) to another disciple. Matthew (16:17) and John (1:42) identify Simon as Bar-Jona, or ‘the son of Jona’, when they relate how Simon came to be surnamed Cephas, or Peter; however John (21:15) calls the disciple ‘Simon Jona’, as if Jona was his surname.”
24- “Witing his geographical dictionary, a North african Arab originally from the Yemen, expanded on the history of pre-Islamic Christianity in the region of Najran, on the north-eastern peripheries of the Yemen, remarking unequivocally that ‘the origins of this religion was in Najran’.”
25- “I remain personally convinced that the history of the Biblical Israelites ran its full course in Western Arabia, and that the original monotheism of Moses as well as the Judaism that evolved from it have their roots there, and not in Palestine.”
26- “Despite continuous archaeological efforts, not the least shred of evidence has been discovered to indicate that the Biblical temple of King Solomon had earlier stood on the same site (in Palestine).”
27- “There was a Christianity in Arabia -that of the Nasara, or ‘Nazarenes’- which was several centuries older than the one which relates to the historical Jesus of the Gospels: a primordial Christianity which survived on its original home ground certainly until the coming of Islam.”
28- “Christianity was already known in its older, Nazarene, form before the arrival of the missionaries. The new preaching was successful only to the extent that it could secure adequate political and material backing from Byzantium. Even where success was achieved, it appears that the older faith was overpowered but not immediately and entirely eradicated. There is actually evidence to this effect from certain Israelite practices which were maintained by the Ethiopian Christians.”
29- “These Nazarenes must have been overcome with despondency as they saw their old faith overwhelmed by the new Christian preaching. But they must have taken heart again when Islam emerged on the scene to reaffirm the veracity of their Gospel, recognizing their Issa as the one and only true Jesus.”
30- “Rather than being a text of later authorship than the four canonical Gospels, the Gospel of the Arabian and Ethiopian Nazarenes, originally written in Aramaic, must have been a much older one.”
31- “Issa descended -certainly through his mother- from the priestly house of Aaron, not from the royal house of David.”
32- “The Jesus of the canonical Gospels -certainly in Luke and John- is not one person, but a fusion of two historical figures: one of them the Jeshu claiming descent from David; the other Issa, an Israelite religious figure who was probably active in Arabia not long after the time of Ezra.”
33- “After the death of Paul, there was obviously an urgent need to restore unity in the Christian ranks; and this, it appears, was what the authors of the four canonical Gospels intended to do.”
34- “John spoke of the two men as one person, he never mentioned the name of the mother, although he made no less than four references to her in his Gospel.”
35- “The confused geography of the Greek Gospels has long been admitted by New Testament scholars, and given the unprovable explanation that some of the Gospel authors had never been to Palestine, while others did not know the country very well.”
36- “It is striking that while Luke and John speak of the first followers of Jesus as numbering four, Mark and Matthew record five – exactly the number assigned for the disciples of Jeshu by the Jewish Talmud.”
37- “Jesus was an Israelite of the tribe of Juda. It does not follow that he was a Jew, and indeed there is evidence to suggest that he actually belonged to another Israelite religious sect, the Nazarenes.”
38- “Surprisingly, the only kings of historical times who did claim descent from David were Christians, not Jews.”
39- “The priestly class of the Sadducees quarreled endlessly with the rabbis of the Pharisee sect. The Sadduccees strictly upheld the original Israelite monotheism of Moses; the Pharisees, in the tradition of Ezra, gave this same monotheism a broader interpretation which took into account the scriptual contributions of all the Biblical prophets, as well as the so-called ‘Oral Torah’, which was subsequently to provide the basic material for the Talmud.”
40- “Jesus himself did not baptize anyone; only his disciples did; This statement, which interrupts the narrative of the Gospel of John at one point (4:2), suggests that Jesus was not much concerned with making religious conversions. His own political preaching .. offers himself as the promised Messiah.”
41- “Jesus was, if anything, far more useful than dangerous to the Romans.”
42- “Whatever the faith upheld by James and the apostles of the Nazarene Way may have been, it was not the Christianity we know .. So, ultimately, it was the Christianity of Paul that survived.”
42- “The Gospel of Matthew has a misquoting from the prophet Zechariah (11:12-13), which he wrongly attributes to Jeremiah.”
43- “The resemblances between Christianity and the numerous fertility cults of the ancient Near East have long been recognized.”

Errata:
1- Missing information from page 4 where the author dismisses the Aramaic portions of the Bible: Esr 7,12-26; Jer 10,11; Gen 31,47 (two words) and only includes Dan 2,4-7,28; Esra 4,8-6,18.
2- Falsely cited Islamic Hadith on page 94; the correct numbers are: 71 for Jews, 72 for “Christ”ians and 73 for Muslims.

Useful references/sources in relation to this book
1- On pages 180 and 181 the author elaborates with great details on a biblical word without mentioning any references to ancient discovered inscriptions; but John Courtenay James wrote about it in his book, the language of Palestine, on pages 175 and 176.
2- On page 187 of the book The Language of Palestine, John Courtenay we find in reference to Ezra the following: “The theory of a sudden change of script in the time of Ezra is very old. It is definitely asserted in the apocryphal Ezra, where the skilled scribes are said to write in a character which they did not understand. The reference is to the transition from the Phoenician (=old Hebrew) script to the so-called ‘square writing’ which is attributed to Ezra. This old Jewish theory has no foundation to stand upon, and is contradicted by all available evidence. There never was a distinct time when the character of the Semitic writing in Palestine was deliberately changed. The script did change, but the transition was very gradual, extending from the Exile down to a period subsequent to the Christian era.” One also finds on page 264 the statement: “Judaean Aramaic is essentially the same as that of Ezra and Daniel; that this type of Aramaic is best exhibited in the Yemen MSS of Onkelos.”

The Book’s English and Arabic Editions:
There are many differences between the English and Arabic Editions of this book ranging from the title itself to the contents and chapter names. The size is almost the same though: Arabic Edition has 193 pages while English Edition has 200 pages.

Some remarks on the Arabic edition:
1- The Author borrows terminologies from Islamic context such as the word, ‘Batini’, to assign it to the Greek word, ‘apokruphos’, without mentioning that this is actually his own effort in interpretation and drawing parallels between the two different platforms; something that the Muslim scholars themselves, who came up with this word and which is not attested anywhere else outside their own theses, did not draw in the first place!

Conclusion of this thesis:
Kamal Salibi states clearly at the end of the book that despite all what he’s discovered not to be true in his religion of Christianity, such facts should still not invalidate the faith in the unhistorical figure of Jesus: “Our purpose was not to shed doubt on the validity of Christianity as faith, but simply to determine the facts of the case to the degree that this was possible.”

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