Sunday, 26 September 2010

The King of the Jews: The Sign on the Cross

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

When I used to go to church, I would often sit alone at the front before the huge crucifix at the church.  Because it was done often enough, I noticed things.  And one of those things was the sign that read “INRI” above the statue of Jesus (a.s.).  We were taught that the Sign was an abbreviation for the Latin, “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Ideorum,” which meant “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  But is this actually in the Bible?  I was 16 years old when I started to really question the doctrine of Christianity and it began with this sign.  A sign is a static description.  A painted wooden sign should be easily noted in a report since unlike verbal tales, they can hardly be exaggerated or minimised in the retelling.  A sign is simply a tangible display.

Matthew 27:37
37 Over his head they set a written proclamation of his offence, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”

Mark 15: 26
26 A proclamation of his offence was written up over him, “The king of the Jews.”

Luke 23:38
38 (A proclamation had been written up over him in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, “This is the king of the Jews.”)

John 19:19
9 And Pilate wrote out a proclamation, which he put on the cross; it ran, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”

And that began the seed of doubt.  They could not agree on what was written, they did not even agree on the language it was written.  If they could not verify a simple sign, what more the rest of the Gospels.  And with that, how much of Christianity was Divine?  Christian theologians claim that it makes no difference because the story is the same even though the details are different, and that is fine with the vast majority of Christians.  But I was never good at accepting things just because someone said it so.

It lead me to years of serious study of Christianity before I finally found Islam.  But the more that was learned, the more questions there were.  And the sources were themselves found to be in doubt.  We cannot verify who the actual writers of the Gospels are.  It is likely the accounts are second and third hand information at best and not eye-witness accounts.  For example, some Christian Biblical scholars hold the opinion that the three synoptic Gospels according Matthew, Mark and Luke were likely from one predecessor document, and the Gospel according to John was just as likely from another earlier text.  Of the synoptic Gospels, the Gospel according to Mark was thought to be the earliest written, but if the Matthew who wrote his Gospel was one of Jesus’ (a.s.) apostles, why did he have to copy Mark who never met Jesus (a.s.), let alone be one of his original disciples?

Unlike the sciences of the ahadits, the compiler of the Gospel according to Matthew and indeed, almost the entire corpus of early Christian works is problematic in terms of the text, the chain of transmission, the integrity of the transmitters and the number of independent verifiable chains of transmission.  Successive compilers of Christian texts were not averse to inserting their own ideas, suppositions and prejudices and changed, omitted and otherwise adapted the material for their own purposes to reflect their own understanding of the reality of the times.  Even the translation of the Bible has been in many cases, less than honest.

We are not even sure who Luke was and there is no indication that he ever met Jesus (a.s.) since he was definitely not one of the apostles.  But the biggest nail in the coffin was the fact that Paul of Tarsus never met Jesus (a.s.).  He only met the some of the apostles for an extended period perhaps another decade later.  And yet, inexplicably, his deviant teachings have become the basis of much of modern Christianity.  It would be more accurate to call Christianity Paulinism since it was he and his theological successors that formulated the theology and doctrine of Christianity.  Within that interval, Jesus (a.s.) became ‘God.’


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