Below, we shall have to consider a particular area of Bible critical literature, one called unscientific and tendentious by the experts. The theories put farward in this literature, that Jesus was a failed political rebel or a militant social revolutionary, have been presented to the masses again and again for many years now. The same applies to Johannes Lehmann's widely known thesis that Christianity did not originate with Jesus Christ, but had its origin in the Jewish sect of the Essenes at Qumran. Lehmann also adopted the theory, put forward by others long before him, that Jesus was the leader of an abortive rising against the Romans.
Those who know the Gospels will be surprised at such a peculiar pseudoexegesis, for it is difficult to imagine that the gospel text provides any useful basis for such fantasies. Protestant, Catholic and Jewish theologians and historians who are experts on the subject are unanimous in stating that those authors are guilty of violating the gospel text. Public censure in the spoken and written opinions of the experts has been annihilating. That, however, did not stop these theories from becoming widespread. The heads of Sueddeutscher Rundfunk, a major German broadcasting organization, clearly considered them sensational, and ran a thirteen-part serial representing Lehmann's views under the title "The Secret of the Rabbi J." in 1970. This was followed by a two-hour panel discussion on the subject. The wholly untenable nature of the theories was once again clearly established. Yet this did not prevent Stern, a major German illustrated paper, from publishing "The Secret of the Rabbi J." as a four-part prepublication serial entitled "Who was Jesus: What the Church Does Not Tell Us." Finally, the whole was published in book form by Econ, this time entitled Jesus-Report - Protokoll einer Verfaelschung (Jesus Report - Records of a Forgery). Millions of people have heard the radio series and read the articles and the book. Many of them will not, however, have heard the objections raised by the scientists on the panel.
New Revelation has a passage that characterizes the present-day situation: "The truth will always be hard to reach, while the rule of lies spreads freely over the whole world." (Gr IV 33, 58)
It seems important to include the above hypotheses in our considerations, for New Revelation clarifies the whole issue.
Johannes Lehmann considers that the Bible texts suggest that Jesus was close to the Essenes and promulgated their teaching. According to him, Jesus then decided during the third year of his teaching activity to risk a rising against the Roman occupation forces, with his many adherents, but this failed, and he was executed by the Romans for being the ringleader. After his death, his followers are said to have made him into the figure we know from the Gospels.
If Jesus had been a rabbi representing Essene doctrine, two thousand years of Christian faith would have been one great deception. Lehmann's proposal therefore aims to achieve the collapse of the Christian faith. The suggestive question is therefore put in his book, "Is Qumran (the central monastery of the community by the Dead Sea) the 'cradle of Christianity'? and is Christianity nothing but a continuation of Chassidic hermits, grown and developed through history?" 74 Lehmann bases his assertion that Christianity originated at Qumran on the scrolls found near the Dead Sea in the 1940s, scrolls that contained the Old Testament text and also other doctrinal matter. He considered that these scrolls showed that Jesus' teaching was not original, but had been taken from the Quwari people (Essenes). Such notions could arise among other things because the scrolls were precipitately published shortly after they had been discovered, sensationalism that was to lead in the wrong direction. In 1950, a Frenchman, Professor André Dupont-Sommer (Sorbonne, Paris), stated that the teacher of righteousness mentioned in the scrolls was identical with Jesus, for he, too, had been condemned, crucified, and ascended to heaven, to God. Like Jesus, he, too, had proclaimed the coming of the last judgement and was to be the highest judge at the end of time. 75
The news was avidly taken up by the whole of the mass media. The effect on many Christians was one of shock. Yet the sensation was soon forgotten. Dupont-Sommer found that so many objections were instantly raised by practically all the scholars involved in the translation, that he immediately had to recall his premature and incorrect statements. They did not stand up to scientific scrutiny. A Protestant professor of theology, Herbert Braun, who had been studying the Qumran scrolls for fifteen years, stated: "The column of the Habakkuk Commentary contains absolutely nothing about the passion, death and resurrection of this 'righteous teacher'. All analogies between Jesus and the Qumran sect in that direction are contradicted by the texts, however much popular interest is looking for a sensation on this point." 76
The Qumran people were waiting not for one, but for two Messiahs, one of whom was said to be a priest, the other a military leader. Lehmann does not right shy of making changes in the text, and "in other respects, too, is deliberately misleading." 77
It is impossible to derive Christian doctrine from the Qumran scrolls, for they are the diametrical opposite to major aspects of Jesus' teaching. A Protestant New Testament scholar, Herbert Braun, a man who, according to P.K. Kurz, is not suspected of wishing to cling to traditional dogma against his own better judgement, and is very much an expert on the scrolls, has stated: "Jesus asked people to love both personal and religious opponents (Mt 5, 44) and this goes far beyond the Old Testament, being the polar opposite of the 'eternal hatred for the men of the pit' (Man 9, 21 f.), that is demanded of pious members of the sects" 78
The Essenes were permitted to extend their love only to members of the sect, all who were outside it had to be hated. The same enormous differences exist with regard to issues of law and ritual. Jesus' words concerning the Sabbath (Mk 2, 27) must have been considered downright blasphemous by the Essenes. They attached the greatest importance to ritual purity, while Jesus actually omitted the washing of hands deliberately in order to provoke the Pharisees, as New Revelation reports. The Qumran people were not even permitted to enter into dispute with the "men of corruption" (outsiders), nor accept food or drink from them. 79 The Essenes shunned tax-gatherers and sinners as much as the Jews did.
To substantiate his hypotheses, Lehmann refers to Fank M. Cross. But the latter "exactly does not identify Qumran with Christianity". 80 Lehmann's thesis collapses like a house of cards under scrutiny. All Catholic and Protestant exegetes say that he does not have the necessary subject knowledge in this field and refer to his "enormous lack of knowledge where the scientific literature is concerned." 81
Lehmann considered Jesus to have been more than just an Essene. According to him, Jesus also was a resistance fighter and a leader against the Roman occupation forces. This is nothing new. Some years before Lehmann, an American historian and orientalist, J. Carmichael, made the same assertion in his Life and Death of Jesus of Nazareth. 82 The Jesus novels publlished in Germany in 1970 also made Jesus a rebel and partisan leader. 83 The novelist Frank Andermann did admit in his book Das grosse Gesicht (The Great Vision) that he had set his imagination "the task of looking for the origins of the enterprise that ended on the cross" (p. 165), yet on the other hand boldly asserted that the evangelists were swindlers in his eyes.
In the light of New Revelation, the fabulations of these writers appear as events "twisted in a distorting mirror, exaggerated, frightening or grotesque". 84 The subject had already been taken up by Reimarus in the 18th century. In the 1920s, the Jewish author Robert Eisler wrote a large volume on it. 85 Bishop Dibelius referred to this book as "construed magic", and to Carmichael's work, which is entirely based on Eisler's book, as "a plagiaristic condensation of Eisler's large work." 86
Carmichael's book nevertheless came to be widely read and was applauded by the sensationalist press. The publisher of Der Spiegel (German news magazine), Rudolf Augstein, also welcomed the work with enthusiasm in a book review. 87 The thesis has also caught the interest of theologians, after Lietzmann, Greguel, R. Bultmann and H. Buhr, as well as of the philosopher W. Boekker and the Jewish author Paul Winter. 88
The Bible passages do not provide much material on which to base doubtful theories. This, however, does not inhibit Lehmann and the other authors. Lehmann overcame the problem by introducing the fictitious notion that the evangelists intended tp "cover up" and "minimize" their revolutionary activities, wanting not to "put things on record", but "put the record straigt." (p. 138)
What are the actual arguments used by these authors? Their main argument in favor of Jesus' supposed revolutionary activities is in every case the cleansing of the Temple, despite the fact that in the gospel stories this did not come up in the case before the Sanhedrin nor before Pilate. (As the passages quoted from New Revelation have shown, the cleansing of the Temple had no consequences, and the matter was never brought up.) In conjunction with this event, the entry into Jerusalem is cited as circumstantial evidence, despite the fact that the two events were almost three years apart, as New Revelation has firmly established. The authors consider these events to show Jesus' followers taking possession of the Temple by means of force. When the rebellion had been put down, Jesus, they say, was condemned to death by Pilate for being a political revolutionary. This is the axiom on which all authors who like to regard Jesus as a Jewish freedom fighter build their thesis. They do not make the least effort to go into the background of Pilate's strange behavior. Had they considered the historical facts described in the chapter "Jesus' Life on Earth. Illuminating New Information Complementing the Gospels in New Revelation", in conjunction with the miscarriage of justice committed by Pilate, their theory would have collapsed. As it is, they overlook the political background and the real reasons for Pilate's actions.
The way it is described in the Gospels, the cleansing of the Temple cannot be confused with a political rising. The authors subscribing to the revolution theory nevertheless find a way of seeing things as they always intended. The gospel report, they maintain, is "a kind of reduction to a minimum of what in fact must have been a massive undertaking." Thus Carmichael.
The gospel verse saying "Lord, here are two swords" is also taken to show that the disciples were armed. Yet even Eisler knew that two swords are not enough to organize a rising, and he therefore bent the passage to his purpose, saying: "Their response was - for each of them of course - to show Jesus two swords." 89 Armed revolutionaries entering battle with two swords a head - that surely is something completely new in the history of revolution.
These inventive stories are indeed far from the truth, as may be seen from the following passage from New Revelation, where it is said what kind of weapon a disciple of Jesus should carry: "Your weapon with which you face people shall always consist only in love, gentleness and patience, and by taking this road, which is the one I am now walking before men, you will achieve more than with absolute zeal and its diamond fervor. But where you see that you are unable to achieve anything with love and the right wisdom among people who are in darkness, turn your back on them and continue on your way." (Gr IX 148, 9 and 11)
"I myself am now also on this earth, and where My outside person is concerned, accept the order prescribed by the Roman Emperor, nowhere rebelling against it, not even seemingly." (Gr V 133, 5)
"You, too, shall always obey worldly authority, be it gentle or strict, for it would not have power, had it not been given it from above, on account of the many incorrigible sinners." (Gr IX 159, 16)
Both the Gospels and New Revelation speak of a "fight" and of the sword". The detailed disclosures made in New Revelatopm leave no doubt as to the meaning of those passages.
"For this world, I do not gave you peace, but the sword, for it is by battling with the world and with all that it has to offer you, that you have to attain to the freedom of life eternal. For My kingdom does admit force, and those who do not take it by force schall never take it-" (Gr 1 201, 4-5)
"Yet any man who thinks that I shall now found an earthly kingdom is greatly in error. The Romans are your earthly rulers and will also remain so in future, for as long as it pleases God. If, however, you were to rebel against them, they would break you and grind you in the dust." (Gr VIII 85, 26)
New Revelation tells us that Nicodemus the Councillor said the following to Lazarus: "The strange thing is that He has a great following among the Romans, and that no obstacles whatsoever are put in His way where the dissemination of His teaching is concerned." (Gr VII 47, 11)
Many of the Jews also were of this opinion. When Jesus was fighting for the souls of the Jewish people in the dramatic scene described as taking place in the Temple square, he refused to be made king and, therefore, the leader of an uprising. The Jew then said: "He is known to be a friend of the Romans and Greeks, and therefore cannot gain much of a following among us Jews." (Gr VI 146, 35)
If we compare the above statements with the completely inaccurate rebellion theory, an Old Testament passage comes to mind: "Many are the things that men imagine, and idle phantasies are apt to lead astray." (Sir 3, 23-24)
Jesus did demand revolution, but he meant a moral revolution, the inner change of values that would lead to a new attitude of mind. This change of heart, New Testament metanoia, alone will renew and change the world.
An aspect that still remains to be dealt with is Lehmann's assertion that Jesus was an Essene, and that Christian teaching did not originate with Him. New Revelation also is very much to the point in taking up this issue, as may be seen from the passages quoted below. They show that Jesus foretold His disciples that it would be said, even in His lifetime, that He had come from the Essene school.
"We, too, are surrounded on all sides by the Essenes, who with ease perform all kinds of signs before the blind people, in order to win them to their side as time goes on. Our signs, being stronger and more miraculous, do at least generally make the people take note, even if they do not fully convince them, and that is exactly the right measure, and it would profit the people in no way if we were to make more of a show with our signs. When I heal all the sick, and indeed rouse the dead, this does not cause too great a sensation among the people, in view of the Essenes, - but it does cause the greatest offence to the Temple people, for they have for a long time wished that the Essenes in particular, who are right in front of their noses, might go to the devil." (Gr VI 248, 6-7)
"It really is quite a joke that I of all people am grist to the mill of the Essenes, and you will find people telling you that I am a disciple and have been schooled in this order, which itself believes that it shall soon morally govern the whole world. For the time being, therefore, this order is not against us, and it serves our purpose, even without actually wishing to do so." (Gr IV 248, 8)
There were indeed Jews in those days who took him for an Essene. "He is nothing but a masked Essene, he has all the magical arts, and is misleading the people in good and proper fashion." (Gr VI 146, 36)
To the Essenes themselves, Jesus said: "The words you Essenes are preaching to the people are utter falsehood an deceit, for you do not yourselves believe what you are teaching. You have a double standard, one for the people and another for yourselves, saying among yourselves that the latter is true, bu that the people must not hear of it, in order to remain quiet and contented in the falsehood. What you take to be the truth is wholly false, yet what you are teaching the people is only half a lie." (Gr Il 104. 20)
To his disciples, Jesus said; "Do not fall under the spell of the Essenes, for their words are lies, their actions deceit, and their friendship is utter hypocrisy." (Gr V 274, 8)
According to New Revelation, the apostle Bartholomew had been at Qumran "as a full initiate", but had been able to escape. Bartholomew knew the tricks the Essenes used to work their "miracles", to impress the people and draw the money from their pockets. (Gr II 98, 6 f.)
Lehmann gave his book the subtitle "Records of a Forgery", but this is putting things back to front. It is not the gospel but his book that deserves such a designation, for it has been shown from all sides that it is scientifically untenable. Both Carmichael and Lehmann ought to be aware of the brittleness of their desperate attempts at reinterpretation, though in spite of that they couId be sure that their books would find their "faithful" and that financial success was guaranteed.
In conclusion, a comment is reproduced below that appeared in the journal Publik on 30 October 1970. "Lehmann reveals a frightening ignorance of the relevant literature in his writing, particularly with regard to historical criticism. After all that, one must ask oneself how it was possible for Lehmann's manuscript to be accepted by the expert editorial department of Sueddeutscher Rundfunk and the readers of the Econ publishing house as a 'report' or 'record' and to be published. Not even science fiction writers are nowadays allowed to twist the scienctific facts in their field to such an extent."