Thursday, April 27, 2006

Political Reality of the Jesus Story

This is not a proof of anything, but I do get a sense of real history in reading the Gospel accounts of the trial of Jesus and the resurrection. Now this was brought up by somnia in the thread on Pilate. He finds it all "fishy" that Jesus is popular but the crowd calls for Barabas. I don't find it fish, I understand it perfectly.

I was a communist, I was a political organizer in the Central America Solidarity movement for a large part of the 1980s. I know that people are fickle, the main support for something is soft support, and crowd are easily wokred up. Our group got on the national news more than othe local central America group. That was partly becuase we had the famous Frank Verelly case where they admitted to being an FBI informant spying on our group. Even after that for years we got good national coverage of our protests because we knew how to build a media circus. In morning people would be saying 'Olie North is a hero" in the evening they would say "He destroyed the constitution." People are fickle and you can turn a crowd if you know how to work a crowd.

The whole story, the narrative as a whole, from the hatching of the plot (complete with household servants getting wind of it and having connections to Joanna and those in Jesus' group) to the arrest, the trail, the crucifiction, it all has a true to life political flavor that I do not think a legond or a myth would have. It could not have aquired that over time. If anything it would lose that sense of realism and take on a fake sense of the legondary over time. I sense a powerful realistic drama below the surface.

I realize the telling is callculated to fit the needs of the community. The hint of upstairs/downstairs kind of drama, the household servants for Jesus, the highpreist owner of the house plotting to destory Jesus to protect his own power. But is just a matter of spin, it doesn't negate the real sting of real back stabbing politics. That's the thing, if I had to put my finger on it. Real street level politics is the most dirty thing in which one can ever be invovled. Street polotics dirty as sin and it's cruel and backstabbing is commonplace. I know what I'm talking about because I was involved in one of the dirtiest faction fights ever, between the Trotskites (I was a "
"Trot," a follower of Leon Trotsky) and the CP (communist party USA).

The overview: It's clear to me that Jesus family had a notion of themselves as a Messiah producing line, or as some kind of remnent of the old guard. That's what's happening in the childhood narratives in the temple in Luke. Simeon and Anna are both said to be waiting for the consolation of Israel, in other words, they have a poiltical slant.Why would that even be in there if the actual family itself didn't take that view somewhat seriously? We see the attempt of the Jewish Christians to found a family dynasty. First with Jesus brother as leader, then with his cousin Simeon. That really explains how it is that Mary would be alarmed by Jesus ministry even though she would have known all his life that he was chosen as Messiah. Because he was not following the program. They would have assumptions in their own human scheming, surely God would do things their way. Jesus wasn't following the script, he had all this spiritual stuff instead of just liberating them from Rome.

The family probably had essene leanings. I'm not saying they were part of the group at Qumran, but it's clearl they were not Pharisees. The enmity between Jesus and the pharisees was natural because to them he represented the outsiders, the other faction, the rabble. To him they represented the establishment, the abusive powerstructure that blew their right to lead. The Sanhedrin feared the wrath of the people toward them if Jesus grew too popular. He may not have beent heir yet, but they were heading him of. His cleansing of the temple, a fine move of political theatrics, probably brought that upon him, because he got away with it. They probably said to themselves. we let him get away with this, what next? He's going to come clean out the Sanhedrin, the people will support him, do we let him do that?"

They had to obtain the support of the Romans to keep the people off their backs. Even at that point they could probalby have fended off an uprising of Jesus supportes and brought most of the populace to their side, but why do that when they could cut him off and put the blame on the Romans?

The finely structured Darama of the arrest, the deniel of Peter, the surprize o the moved stone, all of that speaks of relaity, not fiction. Why? Because they didn't hae novels then. The idea of an author making up a ficitonal story and using real charactor traits and real hsitorical settings and making as realisitc as possible was totally unheard of and would remian unheard for for a thosand four hundred years. It was not until the Renaissance that novels came about and then they came in Europe, not the middle east. The story telling tradition of the middle east is totally oppossed to this kind of realism and this kind of drama. The Arabian knights have some amazing moments, they never appraoch anything like this kind of realism.

The Mark accont of the Resurrection is the most realistic. The sheer terror of the women speaks volumes. The fear is still palpable and clings to the text, even depsite the lost ending. The fake stuck on endnig is so out of sink with the rest of it. That abrupt fear, they see a young man and run away freightened that's so much mroe like I imagine the reality would be. They are faced with a confussing and uncertian event and one that evokes unnamed terrors for them. That's probably the way it would be if they did actually find the door ajar, the tomb empty, and strange men in white telling them "he is risen."

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