On Truth and History
It is a maxim of historical interpretation that the victors author what becomes known as popular history but that when more objective investigators analyze it, it all too frequently falls completely apart, although related revelations rarely make it into the public’s perceptions. Thus, we study propaganda disguised as history in much the same way we claim our geopolitical “adversaries” indoctrinate their own populations. The authors of history during the period when purported journalism has come of age seem to rely on reports by the media at the time: E.g., pamphleteers, gazettes, and tiny local newspapers during our Revolutionary War; the “yellow journalists” Hearst and Pulitzer during the transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century; and, todays giant monolithic television and newspaper conglomerates, supplemented recently by smaller boutique enterprises disseminated through the Internet and social media. History is now written before our eyes and while the distortions are blatant we seem cognitively uninterested in sorting truth from fiction, preferring emotionally satisfactory beliefs that support our personal interests. Thus “lie to us, please” seems to be that for which we clamor.
Some of us who are predisposed to avoidance of conflict if possible and to peaceful resolution when it is not, to an equitable and just balance between collective and individual interests and to attainment of common welfare are watching the evolution of today’s history not only amazed but disgusted. Thus, our mental health might be served by stepping back and examining a bit of ancient history whose ripples prove that myths have always had much more impact than mere truth. I offer the following speculations as a distraction from our now quotidian despair:
Posit: Jesus may never really have existed, and anyway, it was the Roman’s, not the Hebrews who killed him although who had him killed and why should be but probably isn’t open for debate.
Someone existed on whom the Jesus legends are based and they were pretty well established if never well settled but with very high impact relatively quickly and very, very permanently (relatively speaking). The use of the term legends is not disparaging but rather merely recognizing that due to internal and external contradictions, all of the currently firmly held beliefs cannot be true. However, it is instructive to consider some of the widely rejected sources that might well have become what we consider sacred truths today, but were firmly written out of what consolidated as purported history.
The brilliant Robert Graves, in his epic, King Jesus posited that Jesus was a lineal descendant of Herod the (purportedly) Great through his son, Antipater II, who was executed days before Herod’s death, interestingly, in a sense, closing a loop in a chain of frequently loopy historical legends. The family of Antipater II were Edomites, purported descendants of the biblical Esau, the older twin brother of Jacob, both sons Isaac (Jacob, you may recall, cheated Esau of his birthright by deceiving their father). The Jacobean ancestors (the Hebrews) considered the Edomites their enemies. That Edomites became the Kings of the Jews might well have made Esau smile but neither today’s Christians nor today’s Jews find much favor in such speculation. The book, however, is fascinating and worth reading as a source of mythic deconstruction.
A very different perspective is reflected in “The Jewish records of the Rabbis”. They reflect the fact that “[a] common appellation for Jesus in the Talmud was Yeshu’a ben Panthera, an allusion to the widespread Jewish belief during the earliest centuries of the Christian era that Jesus was the result of an illegitimate union between his mother and a Roman soldier named Tiberius Julius Abdes Panthera” (Tony Bushby, “Just Who Were the Parents of Jesus”, The Bible Fraud. The Pacific Blue Group Inc., see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberius_Julius_Abdes_Pantera). A grave attributed by some to that possibly infamous legionnaire was found in Germany, with indicia that he served in Palestine at a time that would have lent some credence to such speculation. As one might suspect, both of these hypotheses are rejected by mainstream scholars and little known outside of expert academic circles.
Still, reliance on only the Gospels as historical sources is also very suspect. An example involves Herod the Great’s purported “slaughter of the innocents” in the context of Jewish history. Bethlehem had a population of only between 300 and a 1000 people at the purported time and actuarially that would have probably involved not more than between seven and twenty male children two and under. So, even if the alleged atrocity were true, it would not have involved tens of thousands of children, or thousands, or hundreds, or tens, although even one would have been unpardonably wicked, but then again, repeated acts we would classify as morally wicked were not unusual to that particular Hebrew leader.
So, just speculating in an effort to ignore for a while my disgust with today’s mainstream media and wondering if today’s truths will ever see the light of day in any popular sources, or whether humanity’s demise resulting from the newly re-popularized game of Russian roulette will make all speculation meaningless, I trust my more religious friends will not find the foregoing too offensive. It was not meant as such.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved