"The Jesus Conspiracy"By Holger Kersten and Elmar R. Gruber
Copyright © 1994? by Holger Kersten and Elmar R. Gruber
Published by Barnes & Noble by arrangement with Element Books
Did Jesus actually die on the Cross? Or was he still alive when he was laid in the tomb? Can the Turin Shroud tell us what really happened? This controversial book, as breathlessly exciting as a thriller, asks all these questions and reaches astonishing and disturbing conclusions.
In 1988, the Turin Shroud, the funeral cloth that bore the mysterious imprint of the crucified Jesus, and one of the most revered relics of Christendom, was declared to be a forgery. The proof seemed beyond dispute. Using radiocarbon dating, three scientific laboratories working independently in different parts of the world arrived at the same conclusion: the cloth dated from the fourteenth century.
But is the Shroud really a forgery? Was there an ulterior motive for having it declared a fake? In The Jesus Conspiracy, the authors reconstruct the a compelling story surrounding the Crucifixion and the carbon dating. And their research has brought them to a sensational and dramatic conclusion: Jesus must still have been alive when he was laid in the tomb.
Even more sensationally, they reveal that the results of the scientific tests were manipulated in order to maintain the tradition that Jesus died on the Cross - the tradition central to the doctrine of the Church.
Ever since the existence of the Turin Shroud became known, opinions about it have differed. The discussion had long seemed to favour its authenticity when, in 1988 at the order of the Vatican, three groups of experts, using the so-called radiocarbon method, dated the linen cloth to the fourteenth century. For many that was final. And yet so much was left unanswered. As we seek to show in this book, the Shroud is not a fake. And there is good evidence to prove it.
One of the authors, Holger Kersten, commenced his investigations as soon as the dating results were released. Following his previous work on the Shroud, the medieval date looked extremely suspect to him. And in due course it became clear that behind the scenes of the ominous dating experiment things were in something of a muddle.
In the course of a discussion the authors discovered to their surprise and delight that they were both working on the same subject, albeit from two different standpoints. Elmar R. Gruber had come across the Shroud in the course of his studies about the mysterious Order of Templars. His historical research had also indicated that the cloth, which is preserved today in Turin, was in existence long before the Middle Ages. During our discussions Kersten strongly stressed the importance of the Shroud. Its importance did not, as many assume, lie solely in the fact that it may represent the only surviving piece of original evidence for the existence of Jesus. The special feature of this unusual image of a crucified man on a cloth is that it is the image of a living person! This obviously throws quite a different light on the circumstances under which the cloth was, under Vatican supervision, stamped as a medieval forgery. It forces us to modify all prior conceptions: yes the cloth is not just an unusual object, it is one of the most sacred relics of Christianity, and yet it is this very relic which may prove to be dangerous, even catastrophic, for the institutional Church. Should it be confirmed that the man on the Shroud is actually Jesus, it means Jesus survived the crucifixion. But what of the 'salvation' which Jesus is supposed to have vicariously obtained for all by his 'death on the cross'? In short, what would become of the crucial sentence written by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, 'And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain'? (1 Cor. 15:14).
Only then did the enormous implications of the facts dawn on us. We immediately resolved to pool our energies and fields of expertise, to carry out a thorough investigation into the mysterious circumstances of the radiocarbon dating and the secret of the Shroud. Hardly a day passed without exciting new discoveries being made as, little by little, we uncovered a carefully planned act of deception. Beyond this, even the Bible was seen to reveal a long-guarded secret: Jesus had survived the crucifixion. And a silent witness of the events had also survived, preserved to this day by a lucky turn of fate - the enigmatic linen cloth.
It is not easy for a person brought up in a Christian culture to distinguish between the man Jesus and the Christ of dogma. One may take the easy option and just avoid the historical facts entirely. Or alternatively one can view the historical facts from the standpoint of the current teachings of the Church and fit them in somehow. In the first case one follows a speculative path, a kind of religious conviction, outside the confines of which no historical facts are required. In the second case the tinted glasses of dogma prevent an unbiased view of the true circumstances. And yet to be able to discriminate between myth and truth, one just needs to keep one thing in sight: the facts. It is the facts that decide. And it has been the historical, scientific, philological and exegetical facts which have determined the content and conclusions of this book.
We are well aware that we have touched upon a delicate subject, and perhaps may even have offended the religious feelings of some of the faithful. We thought long and hard about how best to present the facts, and we avoided rushing to any premature conclusions. Where the ground was uncertain, we constantly pursued our inquiries, sparing neither journey nor expense, in order to see things at first hand; hunting in the remotest archives for documentary evidence, and even setting up our own experiments to explore the process of image formation. We have invested a great deal of time in this project, in the conviction that the truth may help to bring to light the treasure of the true teaching of Jesus, buried under 2000 years of accumulated ecclesiastical rubble.
'Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.' (1 Cor. 15:12-14). With these words Paul strongly reprimanded his contemporaries, who had great difficulty in following his idea of the salvation of humanity by the death of Jesus by crucifixion. Paul makes the whole purpose of Jesus' activity rest exclusively in this dying on the Cross. Here he has little interest in the words and teachings of Jesus, but he makes everything depend on his own teaching: the salvation from sins by the vicarious sacrificial death of Jesus.
Does it not seem most strange that Jesus himself did not giv3 the slightest hint that he intended to save the entire faithful section of humanity by his death? If he concealed such an intention it would have been a deplorable and misleading act, an" would go against the essential, highly ethical stand of Jesus an. his love for mankind. Why did Jesus beg in his prayer in Gethsemane, 'Abbe, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt' (Mark 14:36), if he intended his death to be the climax of his mission? And what sort of father would that be, who does not hear the imploring appeal of his 'only begotten Son'? As far back as 1917 the theologian E. Grimm wrote in his book Die Ethik Jesu ('The Ethics of Jesus') about the Pauline idea of Salvation, 'However much this teaching has become rooted among the Christians, the real Jesus knew nothing about it.' There is widespread agreement in theological research today that the tradition of the story of the empty tomb is historically older than the legend of the resurrected man. At first the report that the tomb of Jesus was empty circulated in the early communities, and only later did i Paul tell the story of the miraculous Resurrection of the Lord. In ' his early accounts Paul only spoke of a revealing, a seeing or appearance of the 'Son of God'. Only afterwards did he formulate his theology of the resurrected man. In other words it is actually an interpretation which Paul puts at the centre of his teaching. It may be that Paul meant well, because it is quite] conceivable that this man who, prior to his conversion, had been a fanatic zealot against the Christians, had come across Jesus in the large Essene community of Damascus, where he may have been staying incognito after his recovery. Damascus lay outside Roman jurisdiction, in Syria. Paul had obtained a special authorization from the high priest allowing him to persecute the followers of Jesus beyond the city walls of Jerusalem.
Paul, like the disciples, was convinced of the death of Jesus. The experience of the encounter and the ensuing existential upheaval may have reinforced the idea of a resurrection from the dead. The subsequent developments, however, no longer have anything to do with the message of Jesus.
Although there are several most delightful passages in the texts of Paul, Christianity has his narrow-minded fanaticism to thank for numerous detrimental developments, which are diametrically opposed to the spirit of Jesus: the intolerance towards those of different views (for example, Gal. 1:9; marked hostility to the body and the 1 Cor. 16:22; Tit 3:10), the consequently low view of woman (1 Cor. 6:18, 7:1-2, 7:38, 12:23, Gal. 5:17, Eph. 5:3-5; Col. 3:3, 5-6), and especially the fatally flawed attitude towards Nature (Col. 2:8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 5:19; Phil. 3:20).
According to Paul all are under the wrath of God from the start (Eph. 2:3) and are lost without exception (Rom. 15; 1 Cor. 15:18), all are without hope and without God (Eph. 2:12), for Satan has power over all (Rom. 3:9; Gal. 3:22; Col. 2:14). There is a judgement of damnation by God against everyone without exception (Rom. 5:16; cf also Rom. 8:1). This wrath of God (which also applies to new-born babes) can, according to Paul, only be averted by the death and the blood of Jesus, and only the death and the blood of Jesus can atone for the 'original guilt' (cf Col. 1:22 ; and Heb. 9:22): ' . . . and without shedding of blood is no remission'. By adopting this idea of the vicarious sacrifice of the first-born son, Paul slips back to the primitive culture of the prehistoric Semitic religion. He turns Jesus' teaching of Salvation upside down, and opposes his reforming ideas; instead of the original joyous tidings the Pauline message of threats was developed.
According to the teaching of Paul, the human individual is unable to attain Salvation and atonement before God by any good works of his own, or by any change however good (Rom. 3:24, 3:28, 9:11, 9:16; 1 Cor. 1:29; Gal. 2:16): 'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.' Consequently the precondition for the action of God's Grace is the acceptance of the Pauline teaching on Grace; that means membership of the Church of Paul.
Based on Paul, the Christian churches today still teach that the Salvation of all was perfectly finished once and for all by the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and that men would have absolutely nothing to contribute to it, apart from simply accepting this kind of Salvation in a single act of conversion (baptism). Nothing more is needed to reach the purpose and goal of life, for Jesus has already done all that is needful for us anyway, as our representative. This leads on to the idea that any attempt to participate in Salvation by one's own effort can be taken as a belittling of the service rendered by Jesus, and even as an original sin, as a futile attempt at self-salvation. According to this view anyone holding different beliefs, however exemplary the life he has led (such as Gandhi), is considered to be lost if he does not accept the Cross sacrifice for himself, in other words if he refuses to profess the Pauline Christianity.
Naturally it is an attractive and tempting offer, to be released from all responsibility for one's actions and the consequences of bad acts and thoughts, in a simple and comfortable way, by a few splashes of water. The ominous consequences of this form of Salvation doctrine finally lead to a kind of trade in indulgences, where the offender can count in advance on the annulment of his guilt before God and his conscience. Therefore even thc worst misdemeanours against any fellow creatures have no consequence.
But this idea is completely alien to the teaching of Jesus. It was far from his mind, to form a hierarchical bureaucracy with laws and scriptural doctors, with belief in the letter of the law and arguments about interpretations, with cult and image worship, with 'churchianity' and claims to exclusive rights to bless. He wanted to preach the intimacy between the Divine and the human individual, and not self-aggrandising channels of official instances set up by self-righteous administrators of God. Jesus was certainly educated enough to be able to write his message himself, if he had considered it to be a valid method. But instead of this he presented his teaching by living it as an example: the renunciation of egoistic thinking and acting, unbiased care for all living beings, giving and sharing, the greatest possible tolerance towards people of other convictions, taking on the suffering of others and feeling compassion for them, in other words unlimited love in action for all fellow beings.
What we today refer to as Christianity is a misinterpretation and twisting by Paul of the true teaching of Jesus. Knowledge about this misinterpretation, and the doctrine of Salvation by the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus which is given a central place in it, has long belonged to the truisms of modern theological and church historical research. Unfortunately until now these truths have been suppressed by all possible means, and therefore they have not penetrated to the foundations. Even at the start of the eighteenth century the English philosopher Lord Bolingbroke (16781751) noticed two completely different religions in the New Testament, that of Jesus and that of Paul. Kant, Lessing, Fichte and Schelling also clearly distinguished between the teaching of Jesus and what the 'apostles' made of it. A large number of reputed modern theologians have come to acknowledge this fact.
One can now ask why it took 2000 years before the Pauline Salvation idea could be shown as absurd by these modern methods, by considering the legacy left by Jesus. One possible answer is that there has never been such an urgent need for an honest study of the heritage of Jesus, to finally get back to the true message of his teaching.