A Fascinating Transformation
However Jesus’ pacifist nature was not a problem for the Germanic and Scandinavian overlords. From its inception the Roman Catholic Church had been based in militarism – first as the handmaiden of Constantine’s Roman Empire and then of Clovis’ Frankish Empire in Europe. Then at the beginning of the 1st millennium Pope Urban II sealed the deal when he stated that anyone who died fighting in a Crusade went directly to heaven – shades of Valhalla.
Christ the man, the peaceful Jesus of the New Testament, was skipped. Christ became the military Messiah of the Old Testament. Christ became a warrior for Christianity. To die in battle for the glory of Christ became virtuous. This was perfect for the Norsemen. It was based on the same morality as their old Scandinavian gods. Die in battle and go to warrior heaven.
The Christian message was two-tiered. The Christ of the military overlords became the Old Testament military Messiah, born of the line of David, one of the Jews’ early victorious military leaders. The Christ of the poor was the one who promised salvation to all as long as they believed in him - with the poor first in line to heaven. The European aristocracy, descended from the Germanic/Norse invaders, worshipped a symbolic Christ who would lead them into victory against their enemies, as Jehovah did of old - the Pope promising salvation and everlasting life for those who warred for him, just like their old Scandinavian warrior gods.
Then there was the second tier, who believed in Jesus the man and his teachings. This was the Jesus he was for the underclass of society not for the powerful – too peaceful. “Turn the other cheek.” - “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus sacrificed on the cross by the Roman/Jewish establishment rather than inspire his followers to a violent revolution. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” The peaceful Jesus of the New Testament was for the poor, while the military Messiah of the Old Testament was for the rich and powerful. That these diametrically opposed Christian ideologies could exist simultaneously, and still do, is a great testimony to the human ability to rationalize.
One bridge between the military and peaceful Jesus was the focus on faith rather than knowledge. “Believe in me and ye shall not perish.” –> morphed into -> “Faith or belief will save you, not knowledge.” or “My teachings will not save you, just belief in me.” or with some further morphing this became -> “Belief in Jesus is part of our culture. If you don’t believe in him, then you are the enemy of our culture and deserve to die and your land confiscated.” – “But that’s opposed to the teachings of Jesus.” –“Who cares what Jesus said or believed. I only believe in him as the representative of my culture.”
The Jews never accepted Jesus as the Messiah because all of the predictions referred to the Messiah as a warrior akin to David. The Jewish Messiah was to be a great military leader who would lead the Jews out of political bondage from the Romans. Christ was a spiritual leader from a poor family, preaching peace. It didn’t take an intelligent Jew to realize that this guy might be a prophet, but he certainly was no Messiah. He was no military leader; he was involved in peace. While the Jews didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah because he wasn’t a military leader, the Roman and European military aristocracy had no problem transforming Jesus into a military leader.
This was because the beliefs of Jesus were secondary to him as a cultural representative of the Western Europeans, who were on the rise.
“Onward Christian soldiers,
Onward on to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Marching on before.”
This is not quite the Jesus of turn the other cheek. However it is the Messiah of the Old Testament - a warrior leader like Joshua who could walk around Jericho seven times and have the walls come tumbling down - a military general like David who could expand Israel’s territory and make it a military power to be dealt with, rather than a vassal state under a sovereign power.
The Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, is a history of the relation between Jehovah, the sky god, and the Jewish culture. He promises the Israelites the Promised Land if they would only believe and worship him alone. He clearly states that he is a jealous god and that his followers should not bow down to any other gods but him. Mind you he does not say that there are no other gods, only that he is jealous. Akin to a woman saying that she is jealous woman and that if you play around with any other women that... “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” In the same way our ancient Jehovah is saying “You abandon me, boy, and start worshippin’ those graven images and you and your ancestors are cursed from time immemorial.”
The history of the Old Testament deals with the original deal or ‘testament’ with Abraham. “You obey me, unconditionally, and I will make unto your seed a great nation, lasting forever.” God’s promise had to do with this great nation. Abraham was not promised peace, productivity, or inspiration. Nor was he promised wisdom, justice or equality. He was promised a great nation.
To seal this bargain a great sacrifice had to be made, of course - not a prize goat or lamb - but his only begotten son, Isaac, born of his wife, Ruth, long after child bearing age. He was Abraham’s only seed, who was to be the ‘father of nations’. Abraham proceeded forth to accomplish this grizzly task, because he had so much faith. Of course God Jehovah provides him with a sacrificial ram just in time. Son Isaac lives and indeed does become father of nations.
After this initial deal, the Old Testament, is concluded, a pattern is established. As the Israelites/Jews are more or less devout, Jehovah rewards and punishes them accordingly. Normally before he punishes them he sends a prophet down to warn the Israelites of their wickedness. Noah was the first such prophet warning the early humans of a great flood that was to take place if they didn’t mend their ways. He, of course, was pre-Abraham. They didn’t heed the warning. As a result of their wickedness God destroyed all humans, except Noah and his family, with the Great Flood.
After the deal with Abraham, if Israelites strayed off course – dallying with foreign gods, Jehovah normally cursed them with foreign bondage or dispersal - always as a nation of people. Then when they returned to a devout way of life, he would send a military Messiah to right the world. Moses led the Israelites back to the promised Land, while the great military leaders, Joshua and David, with the God/Jehovah on their side defeated the evil Palestinians - oh excuse me - I mean Canaanites - whatever - the indigenous tribes that were already settled there.
This was a perfect fit for the Warrior Cult. Conquering occupied land becomes a religious mission for the Romans and the Franks. Similarly the Crusaders were reconquering the Promised Land with their great military leaders, their Messiahs - doing battle for Jehovah God - who promises military victory for those who follow him – with a great nation to follow. “Sounds great to us.” say the Romans/Franks/Normans. “Especially the part about the great nation. He’s our kind of God, especially with all these devout soldiers to fight with us.”
This has nothing to do with the Jesus of the New Testament. This is pure Old Testament logic. This is one reason that Christianity is such a schizophrenic religion. Christians are plagued by the dichotomy between the conquering Jehovah God, who promises nations and the peaceful Jesus of Nazareth - “turn the other cheek” to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Old Testament is distinctly national while the New Testament is personal.
The recently pagan rulers aligned with the militaristic Jehovah God of the Old Testament, while the people were, more or less, attuned to the Jesus of the New Testament, who promises salvation to all. Unfortunately the people listen to their leaders and follow their directives voluntarily, or more probably involuntarily, or perhaps because they are forced to. And these leaders are the driving force behind the history of nations. Hence War.
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