Barbara Thiering's Christ in Qumran and Revelation.

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Jesus The Man.

Joshua or Jesus, the best known of the Christs or Annointed Ones, continues to inspire the devotion of much of the human race. Quiet scholars are no exception. In recent years, alone, traditional Christianity has been challenged by several 'Copernican' revolutions in understanding or conception of its founder.

Ideas that were suppressed as heresies have returned like lost sheep. Whether they ever belonged to the Good Shepherd is another matter. It has not been settled properly whether the Turin shroud was his. The old rumor that Jesus survived the crucifixion has been revived, even if he wasnt. Eastern traditions of Jesus' travels and teaching have been researched by a Muslim professor, Fida Hassnain, believing 'Jesus belongs to the world', and saddened by Christians desirous of suppressing such evidence.

New attention has been drawn to hidden meanings in the New Testament, most strikingly in the Book of Revelation, that could draw back the veil over Christ's mission in its first century. Such interpretations, using the Dead Sea Scrolls as a touch-stone for a New Testament sub-text, seem much too ambitious. But a scholarly consensus on some new insights, from this approach, may yet be achieved.

John Davidson's The Gospel of Jesus make him a latter-day gnostic. Barbara Thiering might be likened to a modern pharisee. That is to say, she has a rigorous sense of ritual conservatism combined with popular sentiments. The latter show in her view of Jesus as a hero, who breaks down Judaic exclusiveness, by admitting married men, gentiles, women and the crippled, on equal terms, into the religion of the one god.

It is in these terms of Jesus the universalist, that Thiering finds symbolic meaning in the miracles. Her primary source of inspiration is not Nag Hammadi gnosticism but Dead Sea Scrolls ritualism. They show two steps of initiation into the community, usually assumed to be the Essenes and supposed residing at the Qumran site, near the caves where most scrolls were found in 1947.

This consensus has been vigorously challenged by Norman Golb, in Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? What we are looking at, here, he says, is a miscellany more likely to have come from the evacuated Jerusalem library.

Barbara Thiering attacks the consensus from the opposite point of view. Qumran is not by-passed for Jerusalem, rather, Jerusalem is by-passed for Qumran. Gospel incidents there and elsewhere are 'de-coded' as happening at Qumran.

For example, the raising of Lazarus is held to mean that an excommunication was lifted. Up to the middle ages, the church treated a man, decreed spiritually dead to their community, as physically dead. That is, he was put in a burial cave, complete with grave-clothes. And where better than near Qumran, which is full of secure caves?
As a hint for this location, Thiering examines the parable of the rich man and Lazarus ( Luke 16: 19-31 ).

Two years after an initial baptism, wine, the drink of the community ( from Qumran or where-ever ) was taken only by celibates, entering a full monastic life. Thiering sees the 'miracle', of turning water into wine, as Jesus allowing all to take communion, because all are equal in the sight of God.

This may not be so far-fetched, having considered how John the Baptist had by-passed the Temple priests. Jesus also did this, Thiering suggests, from a symbolic reading of his 'miracle' of the loaves, as giving ordinary men the priestly tribe of Levi's prerogative of distributing the communion bread.

'Walking on water' is deemed a jocular reference to the garment-laden priest using a pier to reach and bless a boat's 'catch' by the fishers of men, the Gentiles who were thus ritually 'saved'. Thiering says the 'miracle' was that Jesus took over the exclusive role of the Levites, making the Jewish priesthood unnecessary.

Jesus was allegedly of the line of King David. The Jewish leading roles were the prophets, priests and kings. Thiering claims Jesus stepped out of his proper role to wear the holiest vestments of the high priest, privileged to enter the Holy of Holies. His garments 'became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could whiten them.' ( Mark 9:2 ) The fuller whitened the high priest's robes with frankinsense.

In this passage of the gospels, there is also that authentic-sounding put-down remark against Jesus: The scriptures say prophets never come from Galilee. In other words, they didnt believe him.

The Christians were those who accepted Jesus as 'the high priest of our confession.' They were typically not of the holy land and not of the highest status in the monotheistic religion of the Jews, that Christ's supposed priestly usurpation asserted for them.

Jesus Of The Apocalypse

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Following from work such as Jesus The Man, Thiering's Jesus Of The Apocalypse proposes 'The life of Jesus after the crucifixion.'

Her basic method is the same. She works from ancient Jewish beliefs that history repeated itself. It was thought that if one could measure the cycles of time, one would be able to predict when previous situations re-occured. Such as, when was the right time for the Jews to successfully rebel from their current oppressors, in keeping with past insurrections.

From this, came an obsession with keeping time, which got translated into rigid ritual observances, typified in the Dead Sea Scrolls. There were similarities and differences between these and Christian writers.
Also, Thiering claims the Christian writers gave a new twist to this historicism. Instead of the past being a code for the future, the necessarily secret doings of the Christians were secretly codified as a sub-text to their writings. A precise religious calendar supposedly offered a precise context for interpretation.

One of Thiering's most plausible reconstructions is her shrewd commentary on the Clementine books, thought to be mere romances, popular at the time. She argues that they were Christian propaganda containing real history, with inconvenient details glossed over, of how a distinguished Roman family was converted to their religion.
But this insight depended on her native wit, not on breaking a formal code.

She links this story to the authorship of Revelation. Everything is linked in Thiering's scholarship, which led a web reviewer to compare her to a novelist of a Tolkein-like world.

Nevertheless, one cant help feeling her guesses are sometimes good. There is the famous number of the beast, in Revelation:

Here is wisdom. He who has understanding let him count the number of the beast, for it is a number of a man.

An abbreviated version of Thiering here pertains to the gnostic eastern monastic system. from which the zealots arose. Their head would be the man in question. They regarded the Christians as heretics disloyal to the nationalist cause. As in a modern school system, letters ( in this case Hebrew ) were used as numbers for grades. In this connection, Thiering explains how the 666 emerged, in counting the stages to the long years of oppressive study, with militaristic designs.
The Christians contemptuously rejected this as 'the 666' -- the number of the beast.

The church father, Irenaeus associated the four gospels, of the evangelists, with the four living creatures of Ezekiel and Revelation. The association persisted in imagery and architecture. They drew Ezekiel's chariot of God, leaving the Jerusalem temple, to comfort the exiles that they need no longer 'sit down by the waters of Babylon and weep.'

A new comfort was needed, the four living creatures were to be the four gospels, like the four divisions of The Old Testament, drawing God to the Christian exiles.
According to Thiering, the canonical gospels were not the four books that happened to be selected late on, but were an early plan to emulate the Old with a New Testament.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse were the priestly teachers of the gospels to the Diaspora. Their banners represented the color of the season they taught for: white for summer, red for autumn, black for winter, green for spring.
The latter priest's name was Death because of his power of excommunication.
I wont repeat any more details.


What are we to make of Thiering's enormously creative, sometimes shrewd, if often credulous, out-pouring of hypotheses about that elusive character 'the real' Jesus?
One of her colleagues perhaps sums up professional opinion about her: She's a nice lady but she's wrong.

It's easy to see why some of her claims are dismissed out of hand. Not only is Jesus' crucifixion re-located to Qumran but he is supposed to have ritually re-enacted the event in later years.
Jesus, a chronic ritualist?

Jesus, having survived the crucifixion ( and marrying ), is not a thesis peculiar to Thiering. It is part of fringe scholarship. And if Jesus Lived In India frequenting the old spice road from China to Rome, this might fit with Thiering's claim, that the living Jesus, not a 'vision', was asked, by Peter, 'Quo Vadis?'

'Where are you going?' is a question that would be asked of a man, unless we are to assume 'the vision' was a vulnerable 'reincarnation' of Jesus the man. But then why call him a vision?
The savior appears to have made a habit of these visionary appearances. Along with other writers, Thiering has a surviving Jesus meeting with Paul, tho this gets re-located into a rigid time-table of ritual observances, she believes prevailed.

That example is part of Thiering's relentless removal of fairy tales, for the babes in Christ. Its replacement by a sort of sub-text conspiracy that reads like clock-work, once youve turned the key, is surely another sort of fairy tale. History is not well regulated.

Also the main characters in the canonical plot are allowed to take on the identities of minor characters. It coheres into a story of sorts, but there is little outside evidence to keep the runaway imagination in check. So little is known about first century Christianity.

The scholarship of the lady is not in doubt. Even if every guess she makes is wrong, one can still get a new insight into ancient Jewish history. I have the greatest admiration for her dedication.
Thiering's reply to the rebuff she received was: He's a nice man but he hasnt looked at the evidence.
But how to sift what is valuable in her results and to assess how valuable is her approach, in different parts of the New Testament?

Richard Lung

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