The Historical Jesus: Tradition and Metapolitics

Eternity, the original Jesus Movement, the foundation for Christianity, is arguably the most effective metapolitical movement in the history of the world. What might Traditionalists seek to defeat modernity and restore sanity, through the practice of metapolitics, learn from it? The following essay is my feeble attempt at doing just that, through a study of the historical Jesus; but first some necessary preliminaries.

Veracity, the historical Jesus is not the same as the Jesus of the past or the real Jesus. Theologians, historians and popular audiences often make that elementary mistake. The historical Jesus is a construct produced by adhering to the canons of historical criticism. History, like science, is more of a process than an abstract object; it’s a discipline the historian adheres to rather than a body of knowledge to be passively absorbed.

Order, when historians talk about the historical Jesus, they are talking about the reconstruction of human life that Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Marxists and Pagans can study and discuss, while ideally, eschewing the metaphysical implications of that life. As in the Jefferson Bible, the historical Jesus is “Jesus minus the miracles”. Why would anyone be interested in studying this? First, regardless of what you think about Jesus of Nazareth, he is the most crucial personality in world history, at least in the West. Our calendar hinges on His birth. The world needs to talk about Him, his life and teachings; so if playing the historical Jesus game is what it takes then so be it.

Love, for believing Christians, like me, searching for the historical Jesus takes seriously the fact that as God incarnate, Jesus was a flesh and blood human being, who slept, dreamt, cried, defecated, burped, slurped and had morning breath. If Jesus is God, the Son of God, and also a man, the son of Mary, then like every other man that ever walked the earth, He was a product of his time and place. To deny this is to deny the humanity of Jesus and lapse into something resembling Docetism(1).

Antiquity, for believing Christians, studying the historical Jesus is useful, just as long as we remember that we are using one of several possible perspectives and not fool ourselves into thinking that the tools of scholarship are the functional equivalent of a time machine or divine revelation.

For Christians, the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history should be seen as two sides of the same coin, or as the twin rods of a train track, a Christian can’t have one without the other and still be faithful to the real Jesus.

Now for a further note of caution. One of the criticisms lobbied at the quest for the historical Jesus is that each version of reconstruction of the historical Jesus looks just like the scholar who produced it, or at least coincides with the politics, theology or metaphysics of that scholar. A Jewish scholar might paint a portrait of Jesus as a Hasid who didn’t see himself as the Messiah, didn’t resist the Romans, didn’t particularly care for Gentiles, never expected to be crucified and was disconnected with later Christian teachings attributed to him(2).

A Muslim scholar might paint the portrait of a mini-Muhammad, married and potentially violent(3). A champion of the LGBT community, in their reconstruction of the historical Jesus, might even try to argue that Jesus might have been gay(4).

The various reconstructions which propose a maybe gay Jesus, jihadi Jesus, hasid Jesus, feminist Jesus or even Buddha Jesus go a long way in showing how reconstructions of the historical Jesus are as varied as the people who make them, making the man from Galilee the ultimate Rorschach test and, God forbid, in some cases, a “spiritual Mr Potato Head”. As John Dominic Crossan explains, on page 28 of his book, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant:

That stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment. It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that historical Jesus research is a very safe place to do theology and call it history, to do autobiography and call it a biography.

And yet, despite the apparent impossibility of the task, we have to attempt it, for reasons outlined earlier. I myself am not immune from a potential projection of my own values, onto the historical Jesus, so please take my own reconstruction with a grain of salt. In my own reconstruction, I lean heavily on the work of John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg; I recommend their work to anyone interested in the topic, even if I disagree with them on High Christology. Think for yourself.

When studying the historical Jesus, I start with the criterion of multiple independent attestations. Meaning that when a claim about Jesus is found in various sources, which were produced early and independently of each other, then that datum is best explained as originating from a common cause, which temporally precedes the existence of the attested sources.

Now this criterion has limitations, but it’s infinitely more objective than some of the other approach, in that it’s’s mathematical. We simply have to count the independent sources of a given saying. But before we get into Jesus sayings, let’s start with the most well-attested historical datum of all: Jesus died by crucifixion, at the hands of the Romans(5).

From the following small sample of “trouble makers” we can draw some important observations regarding the context and meaning of Jesus’s’s crucifixion, as understood by his enemies:

Judas of Galilee(6), at around 4 BC, led an armed revolt against the Romans. He insisted that Jews in Roman Judea not pay Roman taxes. No one knows how Judas of Galilee died, but his failed rebellion resulted in the crucifixion of 2,000 Jews. Now, the Virgin Mary was alive during this time, so one wonders what she thought of, or possibly taught Jesus about, this man. Did she see him as a hero or a fool, freedom fighter or bandit?

Spartacus(7), movies and a television series have been made about this man; Spartacus led a slave revolt, primarily made up of gladiators, which failed and led to the crucifixion of 11,000 rebels.

Theudas(8), between 44 – 46 BC, led a group of people to the banks of the Jordan River and claimed he would part the waters, like Moses. Theudas was captured and decapitated, but his followers were simply scattered.

John the Baptist(9), John baptized in the Jordan River for the forgiveness of sins; and said One was coming who would baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit; he criticized the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias. He was arrested, beheaded but, like Theudas, his followers were left alone.

From these four examples, we might be able to draw the following conclusions, which Crossan has come to, in various publications, and with which I agree:

1)Crucifixion was used against enemies of the state, those openly engaged in rebellion. Spartacus and Judas of Galilee openly and violently fought against the Romans, so they and/or their men were crucified.

2) When the rebels were violent, the Romans killed as many as they could. When the insurgents were non-violent, the Romans went specifically for the leader. The extreme followers of Judas of Galilee and Spartacus were crucified; the non-violent followers of John the Baptist and Theudas were left alone.

So let’s look at the execution of Jesus of Nazareth; Jesus was crucified, but his disciples weren’t. Therefore:

1) Jesus was seen, by Pilate, as being in open rebellion against Rome.

2) Jesus was seen, by Pilate, as being non-violent.

Otherwise, his followers would have been crucified too. So from the unspoken testimony of his enemies, Jesus of Nazareth was engaged in non-violent resistance against the Romans(10). That’s our first significant datum and an important one.

The Romans didn’t crucify philosophers; for example, Emperor Domitian cast philosophers out of the capital city, but he didn’t kill them(11) thus Jesus was not merely some apolitical Jewish philosopher or guru. Jesus was dangerous; hence the crucifixion. The cross was a form of public humiliation and torture, and it was Rome’s’s way of saying: this is what happens when you fight against Rome; do you want to end up like this?

Now, for the teachings of the historical Jesus; in the interest of saving time and space, I will apply a usually unacceptably stringent version of the “multiple independent attestation” criterion.

My sources are going to be the Gospel of Mark(the oldest Jesus biography), the hypothetical Q source and the Gospel of Thomas. Seeking a triple agreement between these three early sources, here are the twelve, historically best attested, sayings of the historical Jesus, per my criterion(12):

A) Into the Desert(Gos. Thom. 78; Q 7:24–27; Mark 1:2–3),

B) Mission and Message( Gos. Thom. 14:4; Q 10:4–11, 10, 12–14; Mark 6:7–13),

C) Ask, Seek, Knock( Gos. Thom. 2; Gos. Thom. 94; Q 11:9–10, Mark 11:24),

D) Strong Ones’ House(Gos. Thom. 35; Q 11:21–22, Mark 3:27),

E) Lamp and Bushel(Gos. Thom. 33:2–3, Q 11:33, Mark 4:21),

F) Hidden Made Manifest(Gos. Thom. 5:2; Gos.Thom. 6:5–6; Q 12:2; Mark 4:22),

G) All Sins Forgiven(Gos. Thom. 44; Q 12:10; Mark 3:28–30),

H) The Mustard Seed(Gos. Thom. 20; Q 13:18–19, Mark 4:30–32),

I) First and Last(Gos. Thom. 4:2; Q 13:30, Mark 10:31),

J) Carrying One’s’s Cross(Gos. Thom. 55:2b, Q 14:27, Mark 8:34),

K) When and Where(Gos. Thom. 3:1–3; Gos. Thom. 51; Gos. Thom. 113; Q 17:23, Mark 13:21–23),

L) Have and Receive(Gos. Thom. 41; Q 19:26; Mark 4:25).

So what can we know from the above twelve sayings, when reading through the lens of our prime datum, that Jesus of Nazareth was seen as a non-violent rebel against Rome? First, that Jesus’s’s movement was political. I say political in the sense of polis, the Greek word meaning people.

Jesus’s teaching wasn’t just about being happy and “getting into heaven”; it was about society. Second, his movement was a continuation of John the Baptist’s movement(A). Jesus and his followers were barefoot, unarmed and homeless wanderers, who preached and healed in exchange for shelter and meals(B). This exchange of teaching and healing for food and accommodation was seen as the discovering of God’s Kingdom, here on earth, a kingdom of interdependent people, where all are beggars and all caregivers, according to their lack and means(12).

As they wandered, Jesus and his missionaries were to pray and trust in God for everything they hoped to receive(C). Jesus and his followers were exorcists(D); they went about casting out evils spirits from people. God’s Kingdom on earth was manifested in this small movement and had to be published and preached, growing like a wild weed(E, F, H). It was a kingdom of the Holy Spirit, where societies values are inverted(G, I).

This Kingdom wasn’t “going to come” it was “already here”, and it would solve the problem of elites having more at the expense of the people losing what little they had(K, L). Lastly, Jesus understood that what he was doing would likely get him killed, as he was in open rebellion against Rome, demanding that others take up his mantle and knowingly follow the same fate( J).

Reading the above twelve sayings through the lens of non-violent rebellion against Rome, a problem the historical Jesus is confronting is the phenomena of the “rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.” This might be in reference to the double taxation which crushed observant Jews in Roman Judea(14). Jews were expected to pay the religious tax, tithing, for the upkeep and maintenance of the Jerusalem temple and its the attendant priesthood. However, there was no mechanism to legally enforce such a payment; it was strictly voluntary. On the other hand, these same Jews had to pay Roman imperial tax, which through its various permutations could be as high as an extra 35% tax(15).

In this setting, many small-time Jewish farmers lost their farms for not paying the Roman tax. What’s more, the right to collect said charge was bought by Jewish “tax farmers” thus the tax burden had the added social cruelty of being enforced by the Jew on his fellow Jew(15). Those who paid the Roman tax, at the expense of tithing, often fell into cultural Hellenization, no doubt as a result of cognitive dissonance.

Jesus’s answer to Roman imperial rule, with it’s’s legal robbery and Hellenization, was the Kingdom of God. However, as I mentioned earlier, this reign was not “yet to come” or “coming soon”; it was imminent, right here and right now. The Kingdom simply had to be uncovered, lived out and heralded by the public witness and possible martyrdom.

Lessons Learned
The central theme of the original Jesus Movement was invisible, immaterial and eternal: “The Kingdom of Heaven”, the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Ghost; these are all spiritual values, spiritual and invisible. The Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t transcendent or yet to come; it’s a kingdom that has always been, though covered up by human wickedness.

This immanent divine Kingdom could only be revealed by taking the ethos of Heaven and living it out on earth. The beggar sages were dependent on the “well to do” for physical sustenance, who were dependent on the beggar sages for spiritual food; again, the ethos of Heaven was one of reciprocal charity.

This also wasn’t the non-violent resistance of MLK or Gandhi; this was spiritual warfare; they cast out demons. In other words, they were fighting invisible forces in invisible ways. Some modern analogues to this would be “the battle for hearts and minds”, weltanschauungskrieg and metapolitics.

Above all, this reminds Traditionalists to not merely dream of a Golden Age, or an end to the Kali Yuga, but to live out this hope in our daily lives. Be it as a Sufi, Russian Orthodox, Pagan, Hasid, Zen Buddhist, Vedantist of Mormon (like me). We must live out in our private lives, the Golden Age we seek to restore; we must live as if everyone in the world was going to imitate us. We must realize, in our personal lives, the esoteric visions of our faith(s); and do it joyfully.

In Rise of The Fourth Political Theory, Dugin describes the need to reject the three central themes of the three modern political theories: the individual, class warfare and race. What the corresponding political theories(Liberalism, Socialism & Fascism) have in common is a materialist metaphysics. Racism reduces human beings to the matter they are composed of and what can be quantified (DNA, head shape, eye shape, hair texture, muscle fibres, IQ and melanin).

Socialism claims peace and harmony will abound, as long as the matter is justly redistributed. Liberalism, with its rapacious capitalism, insists that matter be transformed into the capital to the extent that individual success and a healthy society are defined by the ability to acquire thing with money; rather than having a market which exists for the people’s sake, we get a people who live for the market’s purpose.

Those of the True Right, the Dissident Right, the people of Tradition must reject individualism, egalitarianism and racism in favour of the immaterial, invisible and eternal. In a Fourth Political Theory, every nation must define that central theme for itself. Be it Dasein, the Gospel, Islam, the Brahman-Atman, the kami, or simply world peace. The particulars will differ, but the universal gestalt is the same: the immaterial, invisible and eternal.

Let the Nazis and Communists, or those who LARP as such, fight in the street over the correct form of materialism. We, the True Right, the people of Tradition, have a more profound struggle.

To win the fight, like Jesus, we can’t be afraid of losing. Jesus knew that, in the short term, He was going to “lose”. In around 30 AD, it didn’t take clairvoyance to know that resisting Rome was going to get you killed. Crucifixion was the original “cancel culture”, the bloody nudity of the cross was the original “doxing”. Those who fight for truth know, or should know, that the worst may await them. However, history would show Jesus to have the last laugh, hundreds of years later, as Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

What’s more, Jesus’s’s movement didn’t just preserve Jewish Tradition in the face of Hellenization, it eventually promulgated the Torah to the far corners of the world, ironically making Jesus both Judaism’s’s the most effective and least authoritative exponent. God, Tradition, Truth will prevail but not before many losses and not without sacrifice.

Finally, Jesus understood who the real enemy was; it wasn’t just Rome; it was the religious establishment which enabled Rome, in the name of temple observance(Mark 11:17; Jeremiah 7:11). The Romans allowed the Jews to have a temple on conditions of passivity and the religious elites were more than happy to oblige.

It was Simon Bar Giora’s’s violent rebellion and defeat in 70 AD that led to the destruction of the temple. Mark’s gospel describes the temple precinct as a “den of thieves”, the thieves hideout. Thieves don’t steal in the shelter but outside of the sanctuary. In Jesus’s’s day, this was the crushing weight of double taxation, Hellenization and the raping of a land that once sustained the local population but was now colonized for the benefit of another. Jesus didn’t lash out directly at the Romans; he lashed out at the religious elites of his society who cooperated with the Romans.

Similarly, the True Right, the Dissident Right has two enemies: the Left(in the form of godless Socialism) and the False Right(so-called classical liberals), who do nothing but lose culture wars and sell out the people’s heritage, to the oligarchs, in the name of “the free market”. Like Jesus, the True Right, the Dissident Right, should attack the False Right directly until we take their place as the mainstream opposition to the Left.

Fascists, to the extent they still exist, don’t need to be resisted to the same degree as Socialists and Liberals because their propensity for infighting and backstabbing keeps them from organizing effectively; they defeat themselves. The people of Tradition need only distance themselves and reject their racism.

Much more can be said regarding the Historical Jesus, metapolitics and Tradition. Still, the main idea is this: we, like Him, are engaged in a non-violent struggle for The Invisible, in which we will suffer loses shortly but are guaranteed victory, in the long term, as long as we never give up, stay true to our convictions, and gain strength by both focusing our attack against our false friends in the False Right and engage in metapolitics. We must be non-violent radicals, determined to invert the Inversion of the current age. No to individualism! No to egalitarianism! No to racism! Yes to Tradition!

1) 1 John 4:1-3

2) Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus; 376 – 380, 381-384, 388-397, Epilogue.

3) Reza Azlan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus Christ; pg. 37, 120-121, 146.

4) David Bokovoy, Facebook, May 3rd, 2019

5) Bart D. Erhman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth; pg. 159-164.

6) Acts 5:37; Flavius Josephus, JW 2.56; AJ 18:1, 6; AJ 17:10.

7) Appian, Civil Wars Plutarch, Crassus

8) Acts 5:37; Flavius Josephus, JW 2.56; AJ 18:1, 6; AJ 17:10.

9) Flavius Josephus, AJ 18:5; Matt 13:3-5; Mark 6:17-20; Luke 3: 19-20.

10) John Dominic Crossan, How to Read The Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation, pg. 8 -9.

11) John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, pg. 78.

12) John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Crucifixion of Jesus, pg. 587.

13) Ibid. Pg. 335.

14) Marcus Borg, Jesus: A New Vision, Location 1573(kindle edition).

15) Ibid. Location 1582(kindle edition).