The true origins of Christ are uncertain
Questioning the origins of Jesus Christ
By Louise Priest
Norfolk faith author Michael Calum Jacques has made a controversial claim in his new book that the Son of God and founder of Christianity was a terrorist, involved in insurgency against the Roman occupying forces.
"Jesus Christ was a first century political revolutionary, who led an armed band of insurgents around a power base of sympathisers" is the view of Norfolk man Michael Calum Jacques.
His new book '1st Century Radical: The shadowy origins of the man who became known as Jesus Christ' has come under enormous scrutiny in the Church.
It is certainly causing a stir in the public eye, becoming a sell-out on popular Internet retailer Amazon and it is provoking intense debate throughout Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Michael spoke to BBC Radio Norfolk's Louise Priest about why he wrote the book, why he claims the Son of God is a political insurgent and why he feels people should have the right to exercise their own judgement on God.
Michael Calum Jacques
Michael is currently the director of the Diana, Princess of Wales International Study Centre at Riddlesworth Hall, near Diss.
In the past he has studied at St Andrews and Oxford Universities under a number of leading New Testament and Jewish historians, such as Matthew Black, Geza Vermes and Martin Goodman.
He has also been awarded a number of prizes for excellence in Semitic and Classical languages and can even read Qumran Hebrew - the dialect of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
LP: What made you write this book?
MCJ: That's a very good question. My interest in the man we know now as Jesus Christ started over forty years ago and has developed ever since.
When I was a member of the Church of England Pathfinders, I was exposed one evening to John, chapter 14, verse six. It says "Jesus saith unto them, I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me".
I suppose it was that verse which cemented what has become a life long interest in Jesus.
LP: What was it about that verse that made you question it so?
MCJ: Suppose, the claim, all encompassing, that this remarkable man had and has over our lives and at any level deserves as much genuine investigation as possible.
Michael Calum Jacques
LP: Were you aware that writing this book could cause ripples within the Church?
MCJ: Yes. I think all too aware, as I do myself have a faith. I was alerted quite early on when a professor from one of the Universities I studied at informed a member of the Church of Scotland that I was going to publish my research.
I received a rather intense and angry letter from a Church of Scotland minister that alerted me to the sort of reaction I might expect.
It also gave me the opportunity to reappraise my own feelings and thoughts about this absolutely pivotal and important matter.
The political insurgent
LP: What's the basis of the story?
MCJ: It may sound strange, particularly to the more evangelical, that Biblically based themes with quite a lot of information in the Bible pass by unnoticed with the litany and in Bible study groups of which I am an avid subscriber. I am trying to highlight those things.
I am also using the First Century sources, such as Flavius Josephus, to substantiate what I am saying about what I call Yeshua-bar-Yoseph, the man who became Jesus Christ.
LP: Why do you claim He was a terrorist?
MCJ: I think we have to take a step back and look at a broad canvas.
He was born in Galilee, renowned by all ancient Jewish cities as being a hot bed of insurgency, and then we go to the end of his life towards the last remaining days.
He was arrested in a fairly shadowy area, Gethsemeny, literally in the shadow of the Roman garrison which adjoined the temple. That's no coincidence at all.
He was also arrested with armed guards. There was bloodshed during his arrest and we know he also instructed his guards to be armed with, and this is notable, two blades.
The only other reference we've got to these two blades was Flavius Josephus' description of the dagger men, they were known to carry two blades. It's quite an important piece of evidence that has often been passed over.
LP: Does this make Him a terrorist though?
MCJ: I think the crucifixion, the fact he was actually crucified points towards that.
I'm not going to make overt claims about this book, I wouldn't be a historian if I did, but if I did, I bet it points that way.
LP: What are you hoping to accomplish by writing this book? You have already mentioned how popular it is, but won't a lot of people will be angry?
MCJ: The last thing I want to cause or instill is anger. I think the question of who Jesus Christ was and is, is so important that it requires thorough and pitiless investigation and I'm fortunate enough to have knowledge of original languages.
People have the right to question faith
I hope if it brings us closer, as Christians, to the truth about the founder of the Church, then I have at least paid Christianity some service, but I don't think the truth and Christianity can ever be totally exclusive.
I think the Church and Christianity must hold onto the truth, almost more than anything else.
LP: Do you think it's right that Christians should question the origins of their faith?
MCJ: I think it's a distinguishing feature of Christianity, rather akin to how democracy is a distinguishing feature of Western culture, that we have that security.
We have that ability and freedom to be able to exercise God given judgement and I do think it's important that we do that.
last updated: 13/01/2009 at 11:54