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Jesus from a different perspective IN this predominantly Christian country, the story of Jesus, his birth and death

, his family background, his teachings and miracles are taken as facts, not subj ect to question or debate. Anyone who disagrees with the story or even simply doubts its authenticity or re ality is denounced as a heretic, if not a lunatic. Perhaps he many ce, not we are we cannot questions religious sincerely really find a definitive or universally acceptable answer to t about Jesus, The Christ. But logic, objective facts and eviden dogmatism, blind faith or emotional outbursts, must prevail if interested in discovering the truth.

Take the following incident that happened about a year ago. I was a guest speake r in a meeting of a society of insurance companies. Over lunch, somebody asked m e, Jimmy, have you seen the movie The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson? I replied, No, I would rather see Jesus making love to Mary Magdalene than see hi m being tortured to death. Upon hearing my reply, the man seated to my right blurted out angrily, That s blasp hemy! The angry man turned out to be a high-ranking member of the militant and we althy Catholic sect Opus Dei, which Dan Brown portrayed in The Da Vinci Code as a m urderous, fanatical and sinister Catholic cult. Of course, the book is fiction, as Dan Brown says. Anyway, knee-jerk reactions like that of the Opus Dei member are what make objec tive discussions about Jesus and his life so difficult in this country. Before o ne can present his arguments or evidence, he is at once rebuked or silenced. Unafraid to ask Fortunately, there are brave souls like Dr. Elaine Pagels and researchers Tim Fr eke and Peter Gandy who are not afraid to report what they have found, even thou gh they might go against commonly held religious beliefs and dogmas. Pagels, who has a Ph.D in Theology from Harvard, wrote the best-selling book The Gnostic Gospels based on the sensational discoveries of lost or hidden Christian gospels in Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt, in 1945. They were written on Egyptian papy rus material in the Coptic language. The gospels were considered heretical or inauthentic by the emerging Catholic Ch urch. In several councils, beginning with the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the ch urch officially adopted only four of the many existing gospels of Christ at the time. They approved only the gospels of Mark, Luke, Matthew and John. Fortunately, the followers of the gnostic point of view hid their gospels very w ell. What emerged from these different gospels (which have come to be known collectiv ely as Gnostic Gospels) is a picture of Jesus Christ quite different from that h anded down to us by the accepted gospel writers.Instead of an authoritarian disp enser of truth and a savior, he appears more like a sympathetic and wise teacher liberating man from his ignorance of spiritual truths, one who listens and answ ers questions of his disciples with patience. Same source In the Nag Hammadi text, Gospel of Thomas, for example, Jesus told Thomas, after t he latter recognized him, that they both had received their being from the same source: I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out. He who will drink from my mouth w ill become as I am; I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden wil

l be revealed to him. As one author pointed out, whereas the approved gospels emphasized the eschatolog ical expectation of the future coming of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel of Thoma s in its oldest form stressed the finding of wisdom, or of the Kingdom of the Fat her in the knowledge of oneself guided by the sayings of Jesus. Freke and Gandy, on the other hand, found evidence that the early Christian conc epts really came from paganism, and early Christians merely adopted the pagan te achings as their own. Here are some of their shocking discoveries, as mentioned in their book The Jesus Mysteries. Whereas today the gathered faithful revere their Lord Jesus Christ, the ancients worshipped another godman who, like Jesus, had been miraculously born on 25 Dece mber before three shepherds. In this ancient sanctuary, Pagan congregations once glorified a Pagan redeemer who, like Jesus, was said to have ascended to heaven and to have promised to come again at the end of time to judge the quick and th e dead. Their conclusion? We have become convinced that the story of Jesus is not the bio graphy of a historical Messiah, but a myth based on perennial Pagan stories. Chr istianity was not a new and unique revelation, but actually a Jewish adaptation of the ancient Pagan Mystery religion. This is what we have called The Jesus Myst eries Thesis. For most Filipino Christians who have long accepted without question the teachin gs of the Church, this is indeed a hard pill to swallow. But they can always ver ify whether there is a shred of truth to the findings of these researchers befor e rejecting them.