By December 25, 2013 9 Comments Read More →

Way Beyond “The Da Vinci Code”

jesusThe whole world knows – or should know – about Dan Brown’s 2003 mega-bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code but in case any of you reading this were either too young to remember it or have been living under a rock, the novel is a potboiler thriller which explores the alleged relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene and the child they were supposed to have had together. The theory goes that Magdalene bore Jesus’s daughter, who was named Sarah, and after the crucifixion, Mary escaped to what is now southern France, where Sarah grew up, eventually marrying into a long line of French kings, the implication being, that there are, somewhere on earth, living descendants of Jesus alive and well to this very day. So controversial the theory – which isn’t new, only adopted for the purposes of this novel –  that for years following its release, the Catholic Church bent over backwards, inside and out in order to declare its illegitimacy.

Considerable controversy and debate followed, as well as a myriad of study in order to prove or disprove the theory, which of course can’t be proved or disproved one way or the other. True or not, there would be no way to know for certain since there isn’t any DNA from Jesus around to compare to anyone alive today. What you have here, essentially, is just another alternative history and it’s up to the individual as to whether or not one wants to believe it. If it is to be believed, it must be taken on faith, much like the stories in the Bible. Since the release of this book a decade ago, there have been many scholarly books and articles, theological tracts, and television programs to try to debunk the theory thereby feeding into the “conspiracy theory” that the Church is merely trying to cover up the truth. This old theory made Dan Brown a very rich man but all Dan Brown was essentially doing was creating a twenty-first century version of the medieval “Grail Romance”, a very old tradition in English literature.

But there is another, much older story out there, one that has been around since the first century C.E. and this story would make Dan Brown’s contention absolutely quaint in comparison. This much older story was the subject of much rumor and gossip at the time and there were even accounts written down in non-Christian sources over the centuries which claim to tell another “truth” about the life of Jesus. This particular story never really caught on in contemporary society because its premise is so controversial that either many dismiss it out of hand or no one wants to touch it due to the ramifications it would have. That story is that Jesus was not the product of a virgin birth but a product of a rape.

The story goes that Mary (called Miriam) was raped by a Roman soldier named Tiberius Julius Adbes Pantera (22 B.C.E – 40 C.E.) during a Jewish uprising in Galilee. Mary (or Miriam) became pregnant as a result. According to the account, Mary (or Miriam) was shunned by the community and forced out because of this “shame”. Another account says a man named Joseph decided to become her husband in order to cover up this “shame”. That child was born Yeshu, or Yeshua, or better known to the modern world as Jesus. One account had Mary (or Miriam) leaving her community and going to Egypt, raising her son there before coming back to Judea. The other account has Joseph raising the child as his own, “stepping up” in a way, in order to dispel any rumor that his son was a product of an “immoral union”.

Throughout the first century C.E., this story was the source of whisper and gossip among many people in Judea and even continued during the reign of Claudius (37-41 C.E.). Many non-Christian accounts at the time also refer to this rumor. One in particular was written by a man named Celsus. The authenticity of this document can never be proven since, conveniently, an original document does not exist but is had been written down by others. In it, it states: “Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out of doors by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a soldier named Pantera]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard. Jesus, on the account of his poverty, was hired to go about Egypt. While there, he acquired certain (magical) powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god.”

This account was also recalled in what is known as the Babylonian Talmud which was compiled from earlier Jewish traditions around 200 – 500 C.E. In it, Jesus is referred to as “Yeshu ben Pantera” (or Jesus son of Pantera). There are also other references to this story in Christian sources, most of which are now considered apocryphal. In one source, the Gospel of Nicodermus, a crowd is heard to say to Jesus while he was preaching to them, “We are not born of immorality”, implying that even during Jesus’s time, this rumor was the subject of gossip. Another non-proven source was a document known as The Acts of Pilate which claims to be the account of Jesus’s trial by Pontius Pilate himself. In it, the crowd before him also make the claim that Jesus was a product of an “immoral union”.

Sometime in the early 2000s, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven wrote a book, Jesus of Nazareth, which puts forth this theory. It never made any headway in the United States but the book had been debated by scholars and theologians throughout Europe. It was mainly dismissed by most since many of these stories had been around for centuries and none of it could ever be proven. But it is a theory and some are giving it serious study. The detractors dismiss these stories as a product of the rift between Judaism and Christianity at the end of the first century C.E as a way to discredit this offshoot of their “true” religion.

Personally, I don’t believe a word of it but it is an intriguing theory nonetheless. If true, it would make Dan Brown’s book look positively benign. If Dan Brown’s novel caused so much controversy, imagine the storm that would erupt around this idea if it ever reached a mass audience as much as The Da Vinci Code had. Maybe it’s only a matter of time before it finally does. With the growing interest in Alternative History it may not be long before someone writes a book or a novel based on these centuries old ideas, one that will reach the general reader and not just biblical scholars and theologians. There have been many Alternative Histories written about the life of Jesus, everything from the Gnostic accounts to differing perspectives found in the Quran to the contention that during Jesus’s “lost years” he had traveled to India and learned from the Brahmin. All of this just shows one thing: that one peasant from a small part of the world had made such an impact on mankind that over two thousand years later we are still talking about him and discussing his life. What one man had this much of an effect on the whole of mankind?

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About the Author:

Born and raised in New York City. I am a musician/writer/painter who has poems and short stories published in about 40 magazines and journals throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and also has 12 books under his belt:
"Standing On Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion" (Alpha Beat Press, 1996), "The Terror of Your Cunt is The Beauty of Your Face" (Black Spring Press, 1999), "Street Gospel Mystical Intellectual Survival Codes" (Budget Press, 2000), "Scrape That Violin More Darkly Then Hover Like Smoke In The Air" (Black Spring Press, 2001), "Existential Labyrinths" (Black Spring Press, 2003), "Window Shopping For A New Crown of Thorns" (Lulu Press, 2007), "November Rust" (Lulu Press, 2007), "My Arrival Is Marked By Illuminating Stains" (Lulu Press 2007), "A Symphony of Olives" (Propaganda Press, 2009) and "Divertimiento" (Propaganda Press, 2009). His second novel "Naderia" was released in January 2011 and his third, "Be Still and Know That I Am" (Beat Corrida) was released in September 2011. He is also currently playing guitar and bass for NYC singer/songwriter Linda La Porte. View My Profile

9 Comments on "Way Beyond “The Da Vinci Code”"

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  1. avatar Larry Conley says:

    Julian,,

    The Greedy Obtuse Pricks still cannot deal with rape in any sensible way. Looks like they have a venerable tradition to back them up!

    Larry

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  2. Fascinating article, Julian! Some of this I had not heard before but your last line sums it up beautifully. For me it is all about faith, nothing more. The mysteries are intriguing and the Bible itself is filled with them. This is truly a thought-provoking piece.

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  3. avatar Dani Heart says:

    Great article Julian. :)

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  4. avatar Katy Kern says:

    What an amazing story, Julian. Thanks for sharing this.
    I recall “The Last Temptation of Christ” and the huge uproar that followed when that was out in the theatres.

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  5. avatar Julian Gallo says:

    Thank you, everyone. Glad you enjoyed this. I have to say when I first stumbled upon this theory, my immediate reaction was that it was all BS. I still don’t believe it but the more I looked into it, the more I realized that this was a centuries old belief and that it wasn’t just some modern conspiracy theory one usually finds all over the internet. I’d love to read Verhoeven’s book but it’s not easy to find. Regardless as to whether there’s any truth to this story, IF someone decided to write a popular fictional novel with this as it’s central theme, it would cause a shit storm for sure. Like Katy said, the “The Last Temptation of Christ” caused near riots (even though the novel had been around for years before the film was made) and look at the reaction surrounding “The Da Vinci Code” (not to mention “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”, of which most of “Code” drew from). It’s not that well known a story but it’s been out there. Something like this would be VERY controversial to say the least.

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  6. avatar Miriam Tyler says:

    Thank you for yet another take on bringing to light the birth of Jesus, Julian! Intriguing! I would say that personally, there is no doubt on my heart that much of what is written is true. I believe that there are beings who come and speak on behalf of the consciousness of divinity to remind us all that we are part of the big picture, that we are all capable of the immoral life and that as humans, we are energy, and energy can never cease, it can however transform. That no matter if by rape, drugs, alcohol, any ideas that society deem as a ‘less than’, from the space of transformation rises the immortal. Who are we to say what is less than? We are all here on the journey together. No one better or worse than another.
    I enjoy seeing the reflection of the God state cast upon us all with more and more possibilities as to how pure the mother or lover or wife were, how, incredibly, human! From the vessel that carried him, to the women that reflected him through his life. I think that once we as a civilization see that, no matter how we arrived here to the conscious state of being…there is still a benevolent bounty of grace for each and every creature upon this very sacred earth. The more people research and ask questions, the more human and while at the same time Godlike we all become. Humbling humanity and raising the light.

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  7. avatar Julian Gallo says:

    Thank you, Miriam. I find the theory fascinating, and definitely plausible, although I really don’t believe it to be true. I have nothing to back that belief, of course, but then again, I also don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus either, nor any of the more “supernatural” parts of The Bible. My own personal belief is that Jesus was a man who offered a radically different way of viewing life and the world and went about trying to teach it to others. He was one of many “messianic” figures who roamed the ancient world in those days. As to his origins, I think the Bible points to some interesting things, like where he was born, and his circumstances, however there are “hints” there, between the lines, as to how others viewed him; and when I came upon this theory I thought it very interesting. The main story behind the story of Jesus is exactly the same as many other tales attributed to Gods and other holy figures dating back centuries before their time. It’s as if the writers of the Gospels (whoever they were -- remember all of them are ‘according to’) were taking part of a very long literary and storytelling tradition which predated them by millennia in some cases -- and other stories from the Bible have their roots in ancient stories from cultures which had existed long before that of Judea. I think these were originally oral tales that were passed down for generations and were still being told when the era came when the Sumerians eventually invented writing and actually wrote them down to preserve them, changed, altered by time, of course. These stories were meant to teach something, like fables, or morality tales, and they were molded to fit their particular culture and time.

    I find these theories and these new ways and explorations into the life of Jesus to be of that same tradition -- they, in a way, reflect our own understanding of our time and place (even though this particular story is very very old as well). With that said, even though I’m not a believer, I still think these stories have something to offer our current generation, so long as we don’t take it as dogma or take them too literally. The ancients were just as smart and insightful as we are (though many don’t give them credit for that), so even their age old stories still have something to offer humanity, which goes back to what you’re saying. They can touch upon our “divine” nature, meaning, the good within us and what we are actually capable of, that is, if we choose to acknowledge it.

    Thanks for commenting and for reading. Greatly appreciated. Have a very Happy New Year!

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  8. I’ve seen the Da Vinci Code but didn’t read the book. I am fascinated by the life of Magdalene because for me she is a strong woman who was able to defy social norms and follow the beat of her drum. People can always put their interpretation and make something positive out of it. Your writing has once again revived my interest. It’s amazing.

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    • avatar Julian Gallo says:

      Thank you Baxter! The film and the book weren’t that much different from one another as far as the “dramatic” aspect is concerned (the novel is your basic “thriller”) but the book does a much better job revealing little by little the “mythology” surrounding the Jesus-Magdalene story and the whole Holy Grail myth as well. Many other things too. Dan Brown mined the book “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” for much of the material and he used a lot of other conspiracy theory related sources and sort of mashed it all together to make one giant conspiracy theory of his own. Despite the book claiming “truth” to many things, he heavily fictionalized some historical accounts and outright changed some others, so some of the material isn’t actually historically accurate -- which is okay, since it is a novel, after all, and not a history book. He tweaked a lot of things for the sake of the narrative, much like films do.

      The story of Mary Magdalene is a very interesting one to say the least. For centuries she was often portrayed as the “prostitute” that Jesus saves from stoning but theologists now make the claim that it wasn’t the same Mary and it was a later Pope, many many centuries later, who made this connection and it stuck for many years. Most Christian theologists are moving away from that idea now and are trying -- however they can -- to place her in her proper historical perspective. It has been said that the reason this was done was because the Church wanted to play down women’s role in the Church -- and that’s a “conspiracy theory” I can believe due to the nature of the times. There are some apocryphal gospels that I think anyone interested in the history of Christianity should read. I have a book that includes many of them (I think it’s called “The Lost Books of The Bible”) and within it contains “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene”. It is said to have been written well over a hundred years after the events so it’s been dismissed as inauthentic, still it’s an interesting read.

      Another book I would HIGHLY recommend is called “The Existential Jesus”. What it does is reexamine The Gospel of Mark from an existentialist perspective and you wind up looking at Mark in a whole new way. Thought about that one for weeks after reading it. I recommend that highly if this subject interests you.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope you have a very Happy New Year! Thanks again!

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