I first learned about demytholigization in a seventh-grade religious studies class taught by the Reverend Bertram Honea, an enthsiastic Christian who liked to speak of the hounds of heaven, so it’s not some heathen practice, tho’ it does have a dangerous exotic aspect to it.
The example the Reverend Honea gave was the miracle of the loaves and fishes. People had come from all around to hear Jesus speak, he opined reasonably, so isn’t it reasonable to assume they may have brought food with them?
When Jesus and his disciples broke out their modest provisions and started passing them around, isn’t it reasonable to assume that everyone else might have followed their example? And the leftovers filled a dozen bushel baskets.
Homer can be demythologized, too. The story of the Trojan horse, as it is generally told, makes no sense. The Trojans would have to be utter saps, which they weren’t. The horse was a siege engine that surmounted the fabled walls of Troy, and the stories got completely garbled.
The Reverend Bert Honea really uncorked a powerful genie for me with this demytholigization business. Think about this one: in biblical days, taking a walled city meant either a siege, depriving the city of food or water, a ramp or siege engine, or a tunnel undermining the wall.
If you wanted to undermine the wall, the idea would be to shore up your tunnel with timbers as you built it, and then set them on fire to make the wall collapse. But if you were going to do this, you would need to have a signal so that when the timbers were set on fire, your soldiers would be ready to storm the breach in the walls.
See where I’m going with this? Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came a tumblein’ down. But they had to march around and sound the trumpets as a signal to the tunnelers.
By the way, according to my research, there were people living in Jericho at the time and they were all killed except for the group that helped Joshua. Some of them may have been at fault, but it’s hard to believe that every man woman and child deserved to die.
So in a way Reverend Honea was the progenitor of a tiny sect of Christianity of which, as far as I know, I am the only member. We don’t have a name, we’re just interested in figuring out what it was Jesus actually said and living by his teachings, without so much emphasis on how he got here and how he left.
The Gospel of Mark, the only one written by someone who actually knew Jesus, begins with Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and ends with an empty tomb — no virgin birth, no three wiseguys. It was all added, according to the accepted formulae of the Ancient World. In those days anybody who was anybody was born of a virgin and ascended into heaven.
And from what I’ve read, the 13th chapter of Mark was tinkered with by somebody with some obscure axe to grind — just so you know.
The earliest manuscripts we have of the gospels are in Greek, when we know Jesus spoke Aramaic. The Aramaeans were a people who were exterminated by the Israelis — you can read a record of the plunder in the Old Testament — but whose language remained the diplomatic language of the Middle East at the time.
So as far as figuring out what Jesus actually said, there are lots of challenges.
There’s one thing we know for sure made Jesus angry. Know what it was? Money changers in the temple. Based on what I’ve read, I think he’s angry right now at the money changers in the temple of democracy.
I can’t help think of John Boehner handing out checks from the tobacco lobby to member of Congress on the floor of the House just before a key vote on a tobacco bill. By their fruits shall ye know them.
I’m quite confident that Jesus is very angry with this particular bunch of money changers and when Jesus gets mad, he kicks ass. It’s on record in the New Testament. I reckon this will be a lot of fun to watch. An epic battle of truth with falsehood — and we all have a ringside seat.