Patricia Nell Warren

Was Jesus Gay? The Detective Story Continues

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | June 14, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living, Politics
Tags: Beloved Disciple, gospel, Jesus, Jesus was gay, Mary Magdalene, papal infallibility

This subject has fascinated me for many years. Most of us agree on the importance of claiming some great historical figures, provided there is evidence. But with Jesus, what some of us view as "evidence" is that heart-throbbing incident in the Gospel of John -- the "disciple whom Jesus loved," who sat next to him during the Last Supper. Father Tony mentions it in his recent "Was Jesus Gay?."

Alas, the incident is possibly misinterpreted.

Many Biblical scholars -- notably the skeptics -- cite evidence that the New Testament was heavily edited by the early Church. To put it bluntly, the four gospels that were chosen to be in the Bible became a fairy tale about Jesus's life. Any other gospels that were circulating, that did not further the Church's aims, were suppressed. Only in modern times were many of them rediscovered -- like the Gospels of Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Phillip.

Thanks to intensive detective work, a radically different picture of the real Jesus is looming out of this mass of rediscovered documents, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Skeptic scholars mostly identify this real Jesus as a prominent Essene. The Essenes were a powerful gnostic sect that lived in a large community near the Dead Sea. Jesus emerges as not only a king but a controversial spiritual leader who got himself condemned because he was at odds with entrenched traditionalists in Judaism.

So it's risky to make conclusions about Jesus' sexual orientation without taking a look at this whole rediscovered background.

In 1984, I stumbled on this fascinating detective story, when traveling in Europe to research my historical novel One Is the Sun. One of its story threads is about European ruling families that publicly supported the Church but secretly adhered to a tradition of knowledge and wisdom that Rome had declared to be "heresy."

I wanted to know more about these families who lived so dangerously.

Interview in Vienna

My European informants told me that the noted New Age philosopher, Willy Keyserling, was a must-interview. She was living in Vienna at the time. Born Princess Wilhelmine von Auersperg in 1921, Willy was a Hapsburg descendant. The Hapsburgs' power as a ruling dynasty came to an end in 1918 when Austria became a republic.

So one of my informants arranged an interview, and we drove to Vienna. The three of us took tea in her apartment crammed with books and sacred art. Willy came across as intense, witty, knowledgeable, wise. She confirmed that an esoteric tradition had existed for centuries in her own family. Then she dropped a bomb -- talking about something she called "the bloodline of Jesus."

I had never heard of it. "The bloodline of Jesus?" I repeated, feeling pretty stupid. "You mean...uh...Jesus had children?"

Willy smiled at my shock. "Oh, my dear," she said, "it's the best-kept secret in European history! Jesus was a human being, not a God. He was king of Judaea, with a wife and children. His descendants fled to Europe, and married into European royalty. The Church has suppressed this fact ever since. But you can't understand European history unless you look at all the hate and war around the bloodline."

I was open-mouthed as she kept talking. The real meaning of European symbols, for example. There's the lion that we interpret today as a generic symbol of royalty, which was really the ancient "Lion of Judah," denoting families that were latter-day branches from the House of David.

"A book about it was published last year," she said, "the first time in many centuries that anyone has talked about it in public. The Church is having a fit about the book, of course."

Willy phoned across town to her favorite bookshop, and had them deliver a copy of the controversial bestseller -- Holy Blood, Holy Grail -- to my hotel. I read it with my hair standing on end.

Over the years, I've continued to follow the battles of Biblical scholarship, and pore over this amazing detective story. Here's my thumbnail sketch of how the "bloodline" story impinges on LGBT hopes that Jesus can be added to the "out celebrities" list.

The Three Children of Jesus

The story starts with the fact that there was a kingdom of Judaea. It had a royal bloodline that Jewish tradition traced back to King David. As in every monarchy, the new heir to the throne had a duty to continue the family line.

So during the Roman occupation of Judaea, with Pontius Pilate serving as governor, the Jewish people were thirsting to revolt and re-establish their independence. Many deemed the current uncrowned heir of David's throne to be Jesus, scion of a prominent Nazarene family. So it would have been Jesus's duty to have children, in case Roman rule ever collapsed and a King of the Jews could be openly crowned. His children would ensure a future for the House of David. The spouse he chose was evidently Mary Magdalene, daughter of another prominent family -- evidently a charismatic and spiritual person in her own right.

Nonconformist scholars have puzzled out that the couple had three children. First came a daughter, Tamar. Since only a man could rule, they had to keep trying. The result was two boys, with the first being the heir apparent, named Jesus Justus. The second was named Joseph.

381px-Vierge.jpgThe underground tradition that Jesus had three children remained so strong that, in the late 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci painted a portrait of them with their mother. In this version of "Madonna of the Rocks," which hangs in the Louvre, mom and kids lack haloes -- a hint that they are "human." The older girl, Tamar, hovers over her brothers in a babysitter mode, supporting Joseph with one hand. With the other, she points at the other baby, a hint that he's "the one" -- the new heir, Jesus Justus. At this baby's feet is a clump of iris in bloom. Hint, hint -- the iris flower, or fleur de lis, was a symbol of the House of David.

Why in the world did Da Vinci decide to position the little family group in a magnificent rocky grotto? The setting suggests the cave in the Provencal mountains where Magdalene is said to have spent her last years as a hermit. More about that later.

Da Vinci must have gotten some heat about this painting. In the next version of this work, which he did some years later, haloes and other orthodox attributes have obediently been added, and the clump of iris taken out, turning it into a conventional portrait of Mary Mother of Jesus, with baby Jesus and John the Baptist. Big problem: how to get rid of Tamar? Feathered wings were added to her back, transforming her into an angel.

This version is in London's National Gallery.

"Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely"

Why did the early Church decide to obliterate the fact that Jesus had a wife and kids? In my opinion, the reason was a thirst for absolute power.

As Christianity's early development shifted from the Middle East to Rome, church leaders realized that the way to have the most power over people's minds and lives was to adapt the old Roman imperial MO. Rome had come to rule half the world because of a state religion whose rulers represented the will of the great god Jupiter. Rome governed by what they claimed was divine right. Early Christians wanted to apostolize the whole world. Evidently they saw Roman government as an alluring model for the new Church.

So by the 4th century, Jesus was being officially re-positioned as divine, a member of something called the Holy Trinity. According to the evolving doctrine, God was born of a virgin in human form, rose from the dead, and gave to apostle Peter the authority to rule and teach in His name -- to "bind and unbind." As the first Pope and Jesus's alleged vicar on earth, Peter passed his power to the next Pope, and so on.

To put it another way, the new Romanized church institution couldn't get the same leverage on the world by teaching about a simple human king with a family. So they made the wife and kids of Jesus disappear from the radar screen.

Thus, conventional Christianity built itself on that claim that its "authority to teach comes from God." And if it taught by God's authority, then everything it taught had to be utterly true -- hence the Pope's claim of infallibility. With Roman Catholics, the alleged divine authority came down through the vertical line of Popes -- and also moved horizontally, as Popes consecrate bishops, and bishops ordain priests.

Despite this claim, however, many Europeans of the early centuries still believed that Jesus was not divine. They saw him as just a great man, 100 percent human, with a powerful message. After all, the descendants of Jesus's family were alive and well and sprinkled across Europe by then. So, starting with the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the Church declared that everyone had to believe Jesus was God -- the penalty being death if they didn't. Eventually the Church even claimed that its mandate from God gave it the right to crown emperors and kings, and to tell civil government what to do.

So believing in Jesus's humanity became the first "great heresy." The Church needed some centuries to get the gory job done, but gradually it killed off most of the European "heretics" in wars or persecutions, or at least drove them underground. And they gradually overpowered the royal and noble families that were said to carry this genetic heritage and tradition, and compelled them to submit -- at least publicly.

Without "Jesus = God = divine authority granted to the Church," Catholicism didn't have a leg to stand on. If ever there was a vivid example of English historian Lord Acton's maxim, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," this was it.

The Protestant Version

Meanwhile the Church was tinkering with the Scriptures to make sure they were politically correct.

But sometimes they left a few thread-ends dangling. Example: In the gospels of Luke and Matthew, we find the intriguing statement that it was Joseph, not Jesus's mother Mary, who was the descendant of King David. Matthew's genealogy traces the line from David down to Joseph, not to Mary. It suggests that Joseph was the real father of Jesus, not God as the Bible claims.

In 1517, when the Protestant Reformation broke out, the Protestants wanted to get out from under the authority of the Popes. But they realized that they had to create their own spin on the "authority to teach." Otherwise nobody would listen to them.

So Protestant theology kept hold of the handy old notion that Jesus was God. But reformist ministers thundered that their own authority to teach, and their own perceived right to dictate to civil governments, came directly from Scripture itself -- from the New and Old Testament. This is why many Protestants are so fixed on the idea that "the Bible is the living, direct and infallible word of God." It also explains why early Protestants were so anxious to get the Bible translated from Latin into living languages, so that people could be in direct personal contact with that "authority."

Today Protestants even spend billions on archeology in Israel to prove that the Bible is "historically true" as well. Because without the Bible's "divine authority," they don't have a leg to stand on. (A few Protestant sects, like the Unitarians, rejected the idea that Jesus was God, and were horribly persecuted for it.)

In the U.S. today, every time the conservative Protestant clergy inveighs against LGBT people, they are brandishing that "authority from God" that they believe they get from a passage in the Old Testament, or a letter written by Paul, that thunders against homosexuality. Whereas the Catholics who don't like us are still thundering at us from the throne of Peter, the first Pope.

But a number of nonconformist Biblical scholars -- Barbara Thiering, Laurence Gardener, and others -- have gnawed at this question of who "Jesus the human man" and "Mary Magdalene his human wife" really were. Some fascinating details come out of their investigations.

Where Did They Go?

Nonconformist scholars have to deal with the crucifixion. According to Thiering, Jesus's followers had enough political juice with Pontius Pilate to rescue their leader from the cross before he died. Usually it took a person some days to die on the cross. Jesus survived because he spent just a few hours there, and was nursed back to health again.

Since Judaea had gotten too hot for Jesus, where did he go?

According to Thiering, Jesus wound up in Rome. Living in hiding, he participated with Peter and Paul in the ongoing struggles over the new religion's development, as it became less "Essene" and more "Roman." In his final years, Jesus may have realized that restoration of the House of David was not going to happen anytime soon. Thiering estimates that Jesus died quietly in Rome around 72 CE. If so, the location of his Roman tomb is yet unknown to archeologists.

Other scholars think that Jesus journeyed to India, looking to preach to a population of exiled Jews that wound up in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Muslims designate Jesus as one of their own prophets, and a Muslim tradition reverently identifies him as the prophet Yus Asaf, who was buried in a tomb that is still visible in the city of Kanyar, in Kashmir.

Some Buddhist scholars agree on Jesus's arrival in India, and point out the clear influence of early Christianity on the early history of Buddhist thought and temple art.

Meanwhile, where did Mary Magdalene go? Thiering finds evidence that Jesus divorced Mary Magdalene and married another woman disciple, Lydia. Divorce was allowed under both Essene and traditional Jewish law. It's possible that Jesus and Mary Magdalene parted because they had some disagreements about ideology.

Scottish scholar Laurence Gardner and others find abundant evidence that Mary Magdalene, with her children and some followers, took refuge in Provence, in today's southern France. There she spent the rest of her life teaching her own version of the new religion, which was more gnostic and inner-directed than the version based in Rome. Many of those years were spent in a cave in the wild rocky mountains, where she studied and prayed. She died around 67 CE. Her tomb, and those of several of her faithful, still exist in those Provencal localities where they lived.

From Provence, a powerful cult of the Magdalene spread across Europe. She became so popular, rivalling the mother of Jesus in the people's affections, that the Church couldn't fight her, so it simply did its best to launder her image of any connections to "the bloodline." Eventually they acknowledged her charisma and wisdom -- often she was represented in medieval church art as a sage, holding a book. The Church even asserted that the ancient crypt in St. Maximin de Provence was definitely that of Mary Magdalene.

Where did the new heir go? Jesus Justus and several other members of the family -- notably Jesus's brother James -- went on to marry into ruling families as far afield as England. Thus began the dynastic ripple that rolled on through the centuries. The descendants (who collectively became known as the Desposyni) also made the effort to stay involved in the Church, but by the 4th century they were being ousted.

Tamar is the most shadowy of the three children. According to Thiering, she married the apostle Paul. It's not known what happened to her after Paul was executed in Rome.

That "Beloved Disciple"

But couldn't Jesus have been gay on the side, along with being a husband and father?

Well, sure....anything is possible. We all know many gay men who manage to marry and have kids. We also know that some members of European ruling families did their dynastic duty by having kids, but were robustly gay or lesbian on the side. Among them are Richard the Lion-Hearted, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, and others I could mention.

But in Jesus's case, could we prove it?

The LGBT claim rests mostly on passages in the Gospel of John about the "disciple whom Jesus loved." Today most Biblical scholars (including leading Catholic researcher Raymond E. Brown) admit that John of Zebedee didn't write that gospel at all. They credit authorship to a yet-unidentified close associate of Jesus.

But a few nonconformist scholars, including Ramon K. Jusino and Laurence Gardner, make an impressive case that the real author of the "Gospel of John" was Mary Magdalene herself. Study of this gospel reveals that its author had to be the Beloved Disciple. A trove of hidden gospels rediscovered at Nag Hammadi, in Egypt, describe her over and over again as Jesus's most beloved disciple. Logically, with other apostles writing their gospels, Mary Magdalene would have written one too.

But the Church felt it had to keep Jesus's spouse wiped off the record, so it evidently edited her gospel and changed the author credit.

If Mary Magdalene is the Beloved Disciple, there goes our neighborhood...meaning the main "evidence" that Jesus was gay.

Making Sense of History

That conversation with Willy Keyserling opened my eyes to the extremes to which winners of wars will go when they want to rewrite history.

And yes, a lot of European history makes no sense unless you factor in the old yet still-urgent struggles around the "bloodline." Meaning who married whom, and why -- who went to war with whom, who had the most legitimate claim to a throne or empire, etc. Those old struggles even affect American history, with today's conservative churchmen doggedly defending the old agendas.

In the wake of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Dan Brown's bestselling novels have given the "bloodline story" an even noisier round of new controversy. It's true that Brown has combined fact with Hollywoodish fiction -- like the moment in The Da Vinci Code when hero Tom Hanks gets the idea that Mary Magdalene is buried under the crystal pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. If she's buried anywhere in France, it's in Provence!

But Brown has done humanity a great service by bringing the nagging old questions back to life, and dramatizing the vital detective work being done on this old story. In my opinion, Brown chose to use fiction at moments simply because this technique makes it easier to tell a long and complicated story to a non-scholarly public.

Fiction or no, both Catholic and Protestant leaders are still having a fit. After all, Dan Brown did not invent the "family of Jesus" story. Institutional Christianity has spent 20 centuries trying to stomp the story into oblivion. Yet here it is again, raising its scary head in the new millennium.

This explains why conservatives of both religions are making such violent attacks on Brown's books, and the films based on them. With Angels and Demons just released, they're on the attack again. And well they should. Both Catholics and Protestants have a lot to lose if they can't go on making people believe that Jesus was God and rose from the dead.

Like I said -- it would be nice if we could say that Jesus was gay. But in my opinion, we don't have a solid peg to hang this claim on. The real historical human Jesus might have been gay-friendly and accepting, since he talks so much about love in the suppressed gospels.

But it will take more detective work by heterodox scholars, to figure out what Jesus's real attitude towards same-sex love might have been.

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Thanks for an intriguing post, Patricia. I can't comment on the specifics of Jesus' life--not my specialty as a historian, I'm afraid. I do want to remind people, however, that the early Church was not as monolithic as it might appear, looking back. You say, "by the 4th century, Jesus was being officially re-positioned as divine, member of something called the Holy Trinity." True, but this was the result of many years of christological controversy, which saw the Arians, among others, as serious challengers to what eventually became the orthodox position on the nature of Jesus. Before the Council of Nicaea (and arguably for some time after that), it might have looked as if things could have gone another way (which in itself is grounds for interesting speculation).

Also, the doctrine of papal infallibility developed largely in the central Middle Ages. See Brian Tierney's The Origins of Papal Infallibility. (And while some scholars dispute aspects of Tierney's arguments, I tend to agree that the full fleshing out and wielding of the idea of papal infallibility was a medieval occurrence.)

Dana, we are actually not in any disagreement. Since the relatives of Jesus were around from the Church’s beginning, a major disagreement was brewing for a couple of centuries over whether Jesus was human or divine. The Arians loomed large among those who dissented about Jesus’s nature. A significant part of Europe's newly Christian population were actually Arian. At that point, many people were just not buying the “Jesus is God” thing.

However, by the time of the first Council of Nicaea in 325, the church leadership were deciding that it was imperative to opt for the core policy that Christ was literally the Son of God, therefore divine. This made it possible for the Church to hammer the Arians as heretics, along with any other believers who denied that Jesus was fully divine.

Over time, other doctrines were derived from this -- not only papal infallibility, but the immaculate conception, virgin birth, etc. etc. All these came later, as you say. The Apostle's Creed, with its list of key beliefs, didn't emerge in its present form till the time of Charlemagne (9th century). And from the beginning, there were fierce doctrinal conflicts as well -- notably over the role of women in the Church. And the early church WAS very diverse in lots of ways, including culturally.

But I am summarizing here, not wanting to write a whole book. So a millennium of fledging out the divinity thing is telescoped. Hopefully some Bilerico readers will be inspired to read more about this fascinating controversy, and make up their own minds what they think.

Rt. Rev. Dr. Raymond S. Decelles-Smith | June 17, 2009 9:44 AM

There is within the Roman Magisterium, an understanding between Patriarchal Protocol and Papal Infallibility.

The five Patriarchal Churches exist today. The Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople are Eastern Orthodox Churches. There are some "subsidiary" uniate dioceses in union with Rome, but the majority are called the Greek Churches. Please note that there are also Coptic Churches who are part of the "Oriental Orthodox" churches who broke with the Eastern Churches in the 7th century.

During what passed as the "Undivided Church" before the Great Schism, the Patriarchal Protocol gave a "primus inter pares" pecking order. Rome first, Constantinople second, Antioch, third, Jerusalem, fourth and Jerusalem, last.

While the Eastern or Greek Churches fell under the political yoke of Islam by the 7th century, the Western Church became theocratic leaders of their nations. There is no doubt that it is easy to confuse "papal infallibility" with these facts.

The Papal States ended with the reunification of Italy under the House of Savoy in 1869-70. Vatican I was under way, and two promulgations last today. The first was the Universal Episcopacy of the Bishop of Rome. All diocesan bishops were now proxies for the Pope. The second was Papal Infallibility, ex cathedra fidei, which although exercised only twice, speaks to how the Roman Church views this question.

Thanks for this very interesting comment. Most people -- unless they start taking a look at complexities like this -- have no idea how non-monolithic Christianity was, even in the earliest times.

When I was married, my immigrant spouse's family (who were World War II DPs) belonged to the Ukrainian Autocephalic Catholic Church...which was essentially operating in exile because at that time Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and the Church was suppressed.

Interesting post Patricia! Have you read "Jesus the Heretic" by Douglas Lockhart? It's an excellent insight on the questionable history of the activist leader Jesus! The Essenes were the "knowers", a society of people of knowledge and reason. Jesus would have been well versed in the art of healing with root, herb and stones, questioning philosophies that were gnostic, all things that Rome has played down for centuries. From I've read of him, he would have been considered a political and civil rights activist of todays society, he challenged the Establishment of his day. The fact that he had a strong following among the working class was reason enough for the ruling powers of that era to have him silenced. The problem I find with any discussion of this with others is that of monotheistic belief based arguments, instead of the recognition of the historical reasons for what took place in history.

Gerri, I agree. Some scholars on both sides are actually arguing from a place of their personal belief, even though they're trying to marshal "historical fact" in support of their views. "Jesus the Heretic" sounds like an interesting book.

Dear Patricia,

Delighted you're adding to the discussion, but your post was largely about the wishfully constructed story of the kingship and lineage of Jesus (a la DaVinci Code, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, etc) but not so much about whether he was gay, other than to agree with my statement that we really don't know.

I would caution you about invoking guys like Ray Brown who is an apologist at best. And, the idea that Mary M could have been the author of that gospel has been dismissed by most scholars as without foundation. A generous prognosis would be to say that the idea has no more supportive evidence than any other apocryphal assertion.

Several times, you said the Catholic Church had fits over Da Vinci Code, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Actually, in the Vatican, those efforts got little attention. Barely a derisive laugh. The magisterium was quite certain that those who spin such tales have no more proof than do the popes and cardinals and bishops who demanded adherence to their edition of the historical Jesus. We remain reliant on our gut feelings because even with the Dead Sea scrolls, we just don't get enough to put our speculations to rest.

Also, I spent a number of years living in Rome and traveling extensively. I met a number of folks (largely belonging to what was termed the "black nobility": folks with pompous last names and titles but no money or power) who claimed to have Jesus blood in their veins. They were almost as numerous as the folks in New England who claim to go back to the Mayflower. Unfortunately, we don't have any Jesus-DNA to test against.

The real take-home for anyone reading you and me on this subject should be that infallibility and fundamentalism are both laughable. Even when scholars argue, they all make clear the difference between trying to read between the lines (good) and trying to sell a belief system (bad). As buyers get more sophisticated, religions wither in their tracks. That is what we are witnessing today.

Father Tony, I agree 100 percent with your last paragraph. I was merely sharing my own personal story of discovering this whole fascinating controversy, and the millennia of history that it has shaped. I took it seriously because that first tweak came from a Hapsburg who is hardly "black nobility."

To me, the fierce debate about Jesus's nature has to loom large in any discussion of the gay question.

I've often thought about the DNA aspect. I seriously doubt that the Church would allow any scientific team to try extracting mitochondrial DNA from the alleged skull of Mary Magdalene that exists in Provence, and to try matching it up with mitochondrial DNA from a wide-as-possible sample of living Europeans who claim that descent.

There IS more to say about the gay question, and I might follow up with another post digging deeper on John the Evangelist.

diddlygrl | June 14, 2009 9:54 PM

I remember reading "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" ages ago. That is why all the rigamorole over the Da'Vinci Code movie didn't phase me much, old hat to me.

Does it really matter if Jesus was gay or not? Not really except as a way to tweak a few noses that do need tweaking. But then, it won't matter you could have Jesus himself come down and tell stories about him and the disciples sitting around the camp fire playing spin the bottle. They still wouldn't believe it. Some minds just can't be changed, guess they are ROM only or something.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 14, 2009 11:32 PM

Was jebuz gay?

The question has no meaning. The jebuz legends are based on old, very badly written fantasies stolen from the cults of the mystery religions and near eastern abrahamic cults. And they pilfered from the Egyptians and the harvest religions too. The christers eclectic theft of dogmas led to a syncretic dogma that finally got the seal of approval from the Roman imperialists.

‘Studying’ that makes about as much sense as studying the plagiarisms of Joseph Smith on the idiocies of L. Ron Hubbard. One cult is pretty much the same as another and the roman cult is proof that cults don’t improve with age, they rot.

Britannica: "Derived from primitive tribal ceremonies, mystery religions reached their peak of popularity in Greece in the first three centuries (CE)... Their members met secretly to share meals... that included wine, choral singing, sexual activity, and mime."

Does that remind anybody of mass? It ought to. The sex part comes after a bit later when the altar boys disrobe the priests. is an excellent site for those who just have to peer into the bloody waters of christer origins and The God Who Wasn't There (2005) is one of the better movies on the subject but not quite as funny as Religulous or the classic films of Luis Buñuel including La Voie Lactée .

I agree with you about all the mystery cult stuff that has been layered onto Christianity. This was one of the reasons that Protestantism wanted to reform the Catholic Church. They were revolted by all the "pagan content" that had become part of Catholic ritual and practice, notably the goddess worship around Mary mother of Jesus.

However, the kingdom of Judah, and its royal line, was not a figment of anybody's imagination -- any more than the Tudors or Stuarts or Windsors are imaginary figures of British history. At some point, deep at the core of this whole controversy, there were real living people.

That is what makes the work of the nonconformist scholars so interesting. By poring over the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the mass of other gospels, chronicles and commentaries that can be found in the first few centuries, they're trying to get a bead on those real people, and what the real issues were all about.

The real question should be, "Did jesus even exist?". Check out the information on this subject at


Yes, I've looked at this website, and agree with some of its sentiments. However, the massive myth that has been created around the figure of Jesus is one thing. Clearly this "Jesus" never existed, in my opinion. But the fact of a real historical kingdom and its royal line is another.

I'm tending to think that, by the time the Romans occupied the Middle East, the House of David had become associated with some intense religious issues. This has often happened in history -- some real-life events set things in motion. In this case, a real-life royal heir who found himself at odds with lethal powerplaying in his part of the world.

But what happened later, as believers and political power-players extrapolated the realities to their own purposes, as they created a world religion, was a whole 'nother thing.

I tend to agree with Father Tony, that the real Jesus would probably be shocked to see what has been done with his real life and real aims, whatever those were.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 15, 2009 8:12 AM

Patricia, I hope you research "The Jerusalem Church" which was headed by Peter upon whom Jesus entrusted the awakenings he had hoped to create within Judaism.

It was Paul and "Pauline Christianity" who prevailed, hence the Roman connection and organization. I do not believe Jesus ever intended to move beyond reforms of Judaism itself.

Now wouldn't THAT upset the fundamentalists?

Dear Robert,
I am among those who always had the feeling that, as you say, "Jesus never intended to move beyond reforms of Judaism itself".

For that, he "coulda been a contenduh".

Jerry Weiss | June 15, 2009 12:06 PM

This account is so full of ignorant errors that it can't be taken as anything but wild fantasy. For one, the claim that "early Buddhism" was influenced by Christianity is a crock - by the time of Jesus, Buddhism was already 500 years old.

The "truth" is that there is no such thing, except in one's subjective mind.

I suggest you search under "Christianity Buddhism influences." You'll find plenty of scholarly material relating to an obvious exchange that took place.

Buddhism may be older than Christianity. But there's certainly a lot of visible evidence right in the older sacred arts of both religions -- Buddhist hand mudras in early Christian representations of Jesus and apostles, etc.

Oh, I am so sorry this stuff is still alive and kicking. I thought it had died in the 80s with 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail'.

I'm feeling like I did when I read Merlin Stone's book 'When God Was a Woman': great mythology, but lacking in evidence or methodology.

Is it not fascinating enough to stick to what there's actual evidence for? Folk beliefs are really absorbing and give a good snapshot of where people are at, but they're not historical evidence.

I'm really not making an attack on you - I don't know you from a hole in the ground, and I'm sure you're a lovely person. But this ground is very well trodden.

Actually this discussion hasn't gone away at all since HBHG was published. With the Dan Brown books and movies, it has continued to rage.

I'm not a Christian, so I don't feel compelled to defend any of the required beliefs of mainline orthodox Christianity. To me, they are just as much "folk belief" as the things you're defending. I merely shared my story of how I became fascinated with a dissenting way of looking at church history, and my own opinions about that.

To me, this long-standing dissent impinges on our LGBT question as to whether Jesus might have been gay. If he were gay, he would probably have been 100 percent human. But most Catholics and Protestants have "built their house on that rock" -- the belief that Jesus was divine.

This is why I responded to Father Tony's question with a discussion of the whole Jesus-was-God controversy -- I think it's very germane to the question of what Jesus's sexual orientation might have been.

I'm Pagan. I'm not sure what you think I'm "defending", but I'm not defending anything except the need to recognise the difference between folk belief and actual evidence when making assertions about historical events. What we believe to have happened is important in determining how we respond to what happened, and as a snapshot of where we are as a culture; it's not useful in looking at ancient religions in context.

Documentary evidence points to a range of beliefs about Jesus's divinity in early Christianity, with the Ebionites being the largest sect in the Mediterranean before the Council of Nicea. The Ebionites considered Jesus to be wholly human, but filled with the Spirit. The Gnostics, another widespread early sect, believed him never to have existed, but to be a sort of archetype guiding us away from the illusion of God the Creator towards the true God and our own divinity. Many people understood Jesus in a Pagan religious context.

I have no idea why Jesus's sexuality (if we understand him to have one) depends on his divine status - at that time in the Mediterranean, there were many actively bisexual and gay deities.

There are lots of mainstream, well-regarded Biblical scholars both within and without the Christian faith whose work is academically rigourous and very different than people used to the superficial religiosity most people associate with Christianity (including many people who are devoutly Christian) would expect. "Dissent" from what we think of as church orthodoxy is the mainstream in academic Biblical studies.

Karen Armstrong's 'The Bible: A Biography' is a really good place to start, along with anything by prof Bart D Ehrman, whose books are both academically fab and really accessible; and David Boulton's 'Who On Earth Was Jesus?' and 'The Trouble With God' are great books which draw together the various strands of Biblical scholarship.

Like I say, I'm not "defending" a monolithic Christian perspective (Christianity is not monolithic, either in its entirety nor within any one sect), just a fan of evidence and context. And it really isn't an attack on you in any way.

The historical existence of Judaea and its kingship, and the questions about its future during the Roman occupation and the early centuries of Christianity, is hardly a folk belief. The New Testament reveals some troublesome passages about descendants of the House of David (like the "brothers of Jesus") that orthodox scholars haven't been able to explain away.

It took Catholicism eight centuries to admit what a few scholars had persistently pointed out -- that the so-called "Donation of Constantine" was not authored in the 4th century by Constantine at all. The document was a forgery aimed at the Davidic descendants -- it was penned around 750, in the Latin current during the Carolingian era. It alleges that Emperor Constantine had given certain paramount rights and powers to Sylvester, Bishop of Rome and Pope. Later, the "Donation" was used by the papacy in the 8th century to legitimize the Carolingian kings' overthrow of the Merovingians, a Frankish dynasty claiming descent from the Desposyni. From there, the Carolingians went on to establish the Holy Roman Empire.

Significantly, in the year 318, it was Sylvester who had moved to deny ongoing power and position in the Church to the surviving Desposyni, and to deny their claim that the Church's center should be in Jerusalem, not Rome. So the Church clearly regarded the Deposyni as a big threat. This is fact, not folk belief.

I merely argue in favor of maintaining an open mind about a persistent thread of European history that puts a very different complexion on a lot of events when you look at it.

beachcomberT | June 21, 2009 7:02 AM

Thanks, Patricia & Father Tony, for an informative and provocative dialogue. Very fitting subject matter for Father's Day weekend! Whether we imagine a gay Jesus, a hetero Jesus or a bi Jesus, I think a lot of us in our latter- day speculations (or "folk religion," if you will) yearn for a spiritual leader with earthly roots, emotions and experiences, not a phantom who spurned sex and then was whooshed away magically into a cloud. (approximately the approved version taught by the Christian establishment)

Isa Kocher | June 21, 2009 7:26 AM

would make a great comic book.

did jesus speak klingon too?

you forgot all about king solomon's mines, the lost tribes of israel, osiris, and quetzlcoatl. i have a cutting from the tree which grew from joseph of aramatheas's cane. be glad to sell it to you. how about a hair from the tail of the donkey jesus rode into jerusalem on palm sunday?

We can continue to say Jesus was a gay man and at the very least this version you have written down would be regurgitated to all the right wing fanatics out there proving Jesus was a human being, not of a god anymore than each one of us. That would be enough for me.