Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Jesus Conspiracy

Did Princess Diana fake her own death to escape the public eye? Or was she killed by a rogue element of the British secret service?

If you agree with one of these theories, there's a good chance you'll subscribe to both even though one suggests Princess Diana is alive, the other dead, a new study indicates.

It's known that people who believe one conspiracy theory are inclined to endorse others as well. But new research shows that conspiracy theorists aren't put off by contradictory theories and offers a reason why.
"They're explained by the overarching theory that there is some kind of cover-up, that authorities are withholding information from us," said Karen Douglas, a study researcher and reader in the school of psychology sciences at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. "It's not that people are gullible or silly by having those beliefs. … It all fits into the same picture."
- Excerpt from Is This Article Part of a Conspiracy?
My question is, what are the implications for having multiple theories about Jesus? Could it be possible to believe multiple truths about him?

Did Jesus die on the cross and rise again three days later? Or did he fake his death and live a secret life?

Dan Brown's book ignited a conspiracal revolution surrounding the life of Jesus. Suddenly, it wasn't clear what was fact or fiction; Gnostic Gospels were surfacing, giving a notion that we had all been duped. The greatest fear for the entire future of Christianity was being realized. It was obvious what the implications were for believing he lived a secret life. But the question everybody had was, what are the implications if Jesus didn't actually die to begin with? And if so, did he give up his life willingly? To Christians, this is more important than his dying at all. So what are the implications? According to the Bible, he would be a fraud, and would never develop a following from anyone claiming the Bible as truth–certainly not to the extent of martyrdom as many experienced.

Was Jesus' death and resurrection a conspiracy theory?
A conspiracy theory is defined as a proposed plot by powerful people or organizations working together in secret to accomplish some (usually sinister) goal (Coady, 2006; Douglas & Sutton, 2008; Goertzel, 1994).
Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories
The obvious question based on this definition is whether or not Jesus was powerful, and if his goal was sinister. The following is an excerpt from Flavius Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian, and his account of Jesus' crucifixion.
Flavius Josephus

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.
- Jewish Antiquities by Flavius Josephus, Book 18, Ch.3, Par.3
The account seems to suggest that Jesus was wise and influential, and the principal men suggested that he deserved death by crucifixion. Assuming this account is true, the only ones to see him alive on the third day were those that loved him at first. He also mentions the tribe of Christians not being extinct. Early Christians believed that he said he would rise from the dead as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things.

Being that the Bible is arguably biased at best, I'm trying to go as far as I can to rationalize this without using it as a source (other than for Jewish/Christian tenet reference). It obviously corroborates everything Josephus said, even if parts of his account have been tampered with (another conspiracy theory).
Jesus Tried By Pilate

Let's go back to the principal men. Why did they suggest to Pilate that Jesus deserved death? Were they considered powerful? Could their goal have been sinister? Josephus seems to paint a pleasant picture of Jesus in that first sentence. What would he have done to deserve death? Could he have been a threat to the principal men?

Jesus was a Jewish teacher, this meant that he taught in the synagogues of Jerusalem. The principal men, or members of the Sanhedrin, legislated all aspects of Jewish religious and political life.

Josephus said that Jesus drew many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles to himself. It is a known fact that Jews had a low estimate of a Gentile's character. Conversely, they were admitted into synagogues if they kept all the rules (Isaiah 56:6-7).

I believe this is as far as I can go to draw any reasonable conclusions without a motive.

What would be the motive for Jesus and his followers?

What would be the motive for the Sanhedrin?

Who is more likely to need a cover-up?

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