Christianity Clarifications (just looking at the facts)

After the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001, I wanted to learn more about Muslim religion and culture, so I read three books about Islam. I was surprised to learn that many Muslims believe things that are not found anywhere in the Quran (also spelt Koran or Qu'ran). I already knew the same was true of Christians (I am not a scholar but did attend three years of religious study prior to Evangelical Lutheran confirmation in 1965) so I then read three books on Christianity coming away evermore confused. Religion scholars inform that there are 400 Christian sects in the world today, each believing their interpretation is the correct one. This page is an attempt to shine some light upon the issue. Citizens, if you choose to "believe in something" then you had better be aware of the facts.
caveat: This is a work in progress (updated weekly - time permitting)
edit: 2023-12-31

It all starts with Abraham (10,000 ft view)

Christian Chronology

Date Event
44 B.C.E. The Julian Calendar (based upon the Alexandrian Solar Calendar used in Egypt) replaces the Roman Agricultural Calendar.
comment: "B.C." usually means "Before Christ" while "B.C.E." always means "Before the Christian Era". This was created because no one really knows when Jesus was born.
4 BCE Jesus, son of Joseph of Galilee is born of "a young woman" named Mary
comment: "A young woman" is often mistranslated as "virgin"
1 A.D.
  • The abbreviated year modifier AD (Anno Domini - 'year of our lord' in Latin) was created by Dionysius Exiguus around the year 500 AD
  • Since nobody was using zero in Europe at that time of Dionysius, there is no "year 0" in this calendar, or the revised Gregorian Calendar of 1582
  • Religion scholars claim this date was chosen because Dionysius made an error in determining the death of Kind Herod. This ignores the fact that none of the Abrahamic religions approved of celebrating birthdays.
  • Modern astronomers claim this date was chosen because ancient astronomers noticed that the Metonic Cycle (proposed 432 BCE) and the Callippic Cycle (proposed in 330 BCE) both reset nicely in year zero when doing the Golden number calculation to determine the annual date of the Easter celebration. There is some evidence that Dionysius was aware of the work of ancient astronomers so might have said: hey look at this coincidence that happens near the birth of Jesus.
What does Passover have to do with Easter?
9 A.D. At age 12, Jesus disappears from the New Testament books until age 30
scholarly speculation: some have mentioned (without evidence) middle eastern people, including Jesus, visiting India. Middle eastern visitors might have mistakenly misinterpreted meditation as prayer (sending a telepathic message to your deity). Scholars also inform that the name "Satan" most likely came to Jewish culture when the ten tribes were living under Babylonian captivity (recall that two tribes escaped that fate). BTW, Devils and demons probably originate with the Hindu culture.
10 Paul of Tarsus is born (Paul was his Roman name. His Jewish name was Saul). You know him as Saint Paul
14 Roman Emperor Augustus (also known as Octavian) dies. He is succeeded by Tiberius.
27 At age 30, Jesus begins his Jewish ministry. There is no indication that Jesus was attempting to start a new religion.
comment: Jesus was a liberal Jew who wanted all people to "obey the spirit of Jewish law". The Sadducees were conservative Jews who wanted people to "obey the letter of Jewish law". Many modern texts say that the Sanhedrin was never involved in the crucifixion narrative which indicates that the synoptic gospels in error.
At age 33, Jesus is crucified under the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (who served between 26 and 36)
49 to 58
The Letters of The Apostle Paul (a man who never met Jesus) are written.
  • the first piece of Christian literature is "1 Thessalonians" which was written in 49 A.D.
  • there are no writings by Jesus, or his disciples, who were all illiterate except Mathew the tax collector (who is not the author of the New Testament book of Mathew)
  • Paul apparently saw a beam of light (and heard a voice) on the road to Damascus. Everything about Paul's description (along with some speculation about Paul's affliction which he writes about, and prays to be released from, but never details) is now thought to be associated with epilepsy. In Roman culture, epilepsy was known as the morbus comitialis ('disease of the assembly hall') and was seen as a curse from the gods. It was also seen as communication with the gods. In Jewish culture it was associated with demonic possession.
64 Paul of Tarsus dies at age 54
66 Jewish freedom fighters murder 6,000 Roman soldiers. Rome's response ends with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.
66 to 70
The Gospel of Mark is first written (all four Gospels were written in Greek; none were written by the original apostles who were all illiterate except Mathew the tax collector)
comment: an historian might consider this Gospel to be a little more accurate than the others only because it is the earliest account
80 to 90
The Gospel of Matthew is written; it appears to be targeted at a Hebrew audience because:
  • The author begins with an incomplete genealogy (does not match that of Chronicles) to nudge the reader into thinking something magical happens every 14 generations (numerology?)
  • Having the birth take place in Bethlehem (not mentioned in the other gospels) in the line of David fulfills Old Testament prophecy (this is important because people in that time believed that Joseph was the father of Jesus; "the trinity" is introduced 300 years later) 
comment: in this book, the women who attend the tomb of Jesus are told to tell the Apostles that Jesus will meet them in Galilee; the ascension happens 40 days later.
80 to 90 The Gospel of Luke is written; it appears to be targeted at Greek and Latin audiences.
  • Scholars tell us that Luke and Acts are volumes one and two of a two volume set.
  • Scholars think that Mathew and Luke-Acts were written at the same time for two different audiences from two similar sources (one source is Mark while the other source is a lost book referred to as "Q" (which is short for "Quelle", the German word for source)
comment: here the women are told to tell the apostles to stay in Jerusalem; the ascension happens on the third day
90 to 95
The Gospel of John is written (while there are many similarities between the first three gospels, John is quite different)
First Council of Nicaea is hosted by the Roman Emperor Constantine who was trying to adopt Christianity as the official state religion. The Nicene Creed is first published.
comment: This version of Christianity is quite different from the teachings of Jesus (perhaps it should have been renamed the Pauline religion)
379 The emperor Theodosius I makes Christianity the official state religion of Rome. All other religions were made illegal.
The Nicene Creed is amended at the First Council of Constantinople
comment: some sources say the Filioque controversy begins here while other sources say later. But the Filioque transforms Jesus from man to God.
1054 At the church in Constantinople, The Church of Rome formally excommunicates the other Churches (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem). See schism just below.
Martin Luther nails his Ninety-five Theses to the church door in kicking off the Protestant Reformation
1582 Problems with the Julian Calendar mean that Easter is being celebrated too late (too close to Summer)
The Vatican publishes the Gregorian Calendar which removes 10 days (Thursday 4 October 1582 was followed by Friday 15 October 1582). Many peasants revolted thinking that 10 days had been removed from their entries in the book of life.
1677 Dutch writer, Baruch Spinoza, kicks off the age of Enlightenment in Europe. This spreads to Scotland then England (as well as the English colonies), then France and Germany
Note: The Illuminati was a real organization that ran for 15 years in Bavaria promoting the European Enlightenment. The German government killed it in its cradle which transformed it into a conspiracy theory.

Two Great Schisms

Bible Oddities

New Testament Oddities

Book Order

Inter-book inaccuracies

Greek Myths become Christian Myths?

The Star of Bethlehem


Old Testament Oddities

Good vs Evil?

When I was first taught bible stories, my church always seemed careful to portray the Christians and Jews (er, Hebrews) as law-abiding citizens who were always being bullied by the Romans. The truth of the matter is this: the Christians and Jews were never as good "as we were told" (King David was no saint) while the Romans were not as bad "as we were told". So what follows is a very high-level overview of what happened to the people living in Judea, slightly before and after the time of Jesus. Apologies for using point form.

comment: the historical view from religious texts (for example: the Old Testament books of Maccabees-1 and Maccabees-2) will be different from the scholarly view from other sources.
167 BCE
160 BCE
The Maccabees were a group of Jewish-Hebrew freedom fighters who revolted against Hellenistic Rule
  • Churches and Sunday Schools will tell you that Hellenistic Rule meant "Greek" rather than "Macedonian". This oversimplification to historians is worse than saying Catholic and Protestant mean the same thing.
  • In the 1960s this was taught as the first Maccabean revolt (of three) but has since been revised with the discovery of more detailed, and accurate, historical accounts.
63 A.D. The Roman general, Pompey, captured Jerusalem. Almost no one died because Pompey learned, though his spies, that Hebrew people would offer no resistance if the military action occurred on the Jewish Sabbath.
66 A.D.
  • What used to be taught in the 1960s as the Second Maccabean revolt is now referred to as First Jewish-Roman War
  • Jewish-Hebrew freedom fighters attacked and killed 6,000 Roman soldiers (one would assume that this is "a legion" because their traveling support staff of butchers, tailors, blacksmiths usually brought the total up to 10,000)
  • One of Nero's Generals, Vespasian is pulled out of retirement (well, he had been exiled to the country-side by Nero for falling asleep during one of Nero's 4-hour performances).
  • Vespasian retakes Jerusalem with much bloodshed.
69 A.D.
As a reward, Vespasian is made Emperor of Rome (ending the Twelve Caesars with the Six Flavians)
70 A.D.
The Roman general Titus Flavius (Vespasian's son) is dispatched to tear down King Herod's Temple (The stolen loot is used to build the Colosseum)
115 to 117 While the Roman armies are off fighting Trajan's Parthian War, Jewish-Hebrew freedom fighters take advantage of the situation by slaughtering the Roman troops guarding Jerusalem.
The Romans regain control (with much bloodshed) during the Kitos War
132 to 136
  • the Bar Kokhba revolt is labelled the Second Jewish-Roman revolt (as if the Kitos War did not happen) by some and the Third Jewish-Roman revolt by others.
  • knowing that another revolt could happen again at any time:
    • the Roman Emperor Hadrian sells Hebrew captives into bondage.
    • then he changes the name of the Roman Province of Judea to Syria Palaestina to prevent them from finding their original homeland. This is where the modern names Syria and Palestine originate.

Continuing the violence...

While on the topic of evil, Christian authored books and Hollywood movies would have you believe that peace-loving Christians were continually persecuted by Rome and/or the followers of pagan regions.

All secular historians agree that: While some accounts of Christians being put to death in the Roman arena are true, these events pale in comparison with the violence that Christians perpetrated on everyone including pagans, adherents of other religions, Jews (a real joke since Jesus was an observant Jew), and Christian heretics (any Christian professing belief in an alternative interpretation). This violence reaches new heights with the Crusades (some scholars claim there were as many as seven), the Roman Catholic Inquisition (none in Venice but at least five in Spain), the burning of heretics, the burning of witches by Catholics and Protestants alike. And last but not least, the Salem witch trials (on 1692) by Protestant Pilgrims.

The violence unleashed upon the new world by Spain and Portugal all came with the blessings of the Vatican.

Festivals to Holidays

Jesus and Christianity from non-Bible sources

I think we can all agree that writings in one place (The Bible) need to be corroborated with other text from other sources. For example, we learn in Christian churches the following general points:
  1. the body of Jesus disappeared from a guarded tomb.
  2. In some of the writings, Jesus walked around Galilee for the next 40 days performing miracles before his ascension directly into heaven.
    In other writings (same Bible) he meets the women in Jerusalem, is transformed, then immediately ascends
If these events were literal occurrences then I am certain that some historian in Judea, or Rome, would have written about them. But the first historical writings about Jesus come from the Jewish historian, Josephus, around 93 AD (so after of the gospels which were written after the letters of Paul). The second historical writing comes the year 110 when the Roman governor of Bithynia and Pontus, Pliny (the Younger), wrote a letter to the emperor Trajan requesting advice about a problem he was having with Christians who ignored an order to all citizens to stop congregating.
Year Author Notes
93 AD Josephus visit: Josephus on Jesus where we will also see the names: Pontius Pilate, James, John the Baptist
comment: Josephus was one of the freedom fighters I mentioned above mentioned in the first Jewish-Roman War in 66 AD. He was captured (by Vespasian?) and about to be put to death when he talked his way out of that dilemma by mentioning "that he was literate" then suggested he spend the rest of his days writing an historical account of Judea under Roman rule
110 Pliny (the Younger) visit: Pliny the Younger on Christians (this is about Christians; not anything specific about Jesus)
116 Tacitus visit: Tacitus on Jesus (mentions the persecution of the Christians under Nero)

~ 400 Christian Sects?

Prelude: I was raised in an Evangelical Lutheran culture so was always surprised when some members our culture made offhanded remarks about the Pentecostal church down the street (holy rollers, etc). While no one in our church ever spoke in tongues, we still believed in the day of Pentecost and all the stuff that went along with it. This just seemed too weird for me. So here's some items to chew on:

To learn more about Christianity "from the scholars"

Many modern Christian preachers and teachers (includes everyone from priests to ministers as well as anyone teaching religion in "Sunday School") are either unaware of these historical facts, or chose to ignore them as unimportant. A lot of new books have been published in the past three decades but I have found the books authored by Bart D Ehrman, Ph.D., M.Div. to be a little more approachable by non-academics.

My worries about the next Dark Age

Before-After the Dark Age

Philosophy, as a serious endeavor, is still somewhat strange to me because philosophers continually rehash old-ancient arguments but never seem to move on. You might hear modern philosophical types talking about their big three which are usually Socrates, Plato and Aristotle but this limited preference, in my opinion, short-changes human intellect. How many non-scholars today are aware of these Greeks?

On the other hand, Aristotle (born 383 BC) published that heavier objects fell faster than lighter objects. People believed that for more than 1,800 years until Galileo did an experiment (supposedly at Pisa) to prove that Aristotle was wrong. On this issue, as well as others, Galileo was now up against the Catholic Church who had been dogmatically promoting incorrect Greek ideas like those of Ptolemy which stated that the Sun went around the Earth and that orbits were perfectly circular because god would have designed things that way. Was the church being stupid here -OR- where they angry become someone was challenging their world view. During the years associated with the inquisition of Galileo (it was NOT a trial), Galileo said in his defense: "The bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go" which, proves to me, that he had a better understanding of life on Earth than the Vatican. But let's not let the Protestants off the hook on this one. Martin Luther (b: 1483 d:1546) is very clear in his writings that he stood on the side of religion when he first heard about the new book published by Copernicus (b: 1473 d: 1543)

What might have been

Could a dark age have been averted? No one knows for sure but I do know this: It is an absolutely absurd statement to say that Christopher Columbus proved the world was round. The flat Earth model was the one adhered to by people with no education, or the people whose education was more religious than philosophical (comment: science was still referred to as natural philosophy in those days)

What now?

According to Edward Gibbon, the 300-year rise of Christianity (after Paul of Tarsus put his spin on it) resulted in a 1,000 year dark age which Europe did not recover from until the Renaissance. Certainly we can all agree that the Vatican trial of Galileo in 1632 is one example of how religion delayed progress. Gibbon and others have made the case that the dark ages really did not end until the beginning of the Enlightenment.

Coincidentally, two founding fathers of the Enlightenment, John Locke and Baruch Spinoza, were both born in in 1632 (the same year that Galileo was found guilty "of promoting a competing world view" by the Catholic Church). I think we can all agree that the current spurt of human progress begins with the Enlightenment. IMHO, humanity needs to teach current and future generations LESS about religion (or teach religion the same way we teach Greek mythology) and MORE about enlightenment along with logic and empirical-based decision making. David Hume is another one of the founding fathers of the Enlightenment with accolades coming from no other than Benjamin Franklin wrote positively about his meetings with intellectuals like Locke, Hume and Adam Smith when Franklin was living in London.




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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.