Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Crucifixion - Courtesy Dr. Lawrence Brown [Book : First and Final Commandment]


The report of my death was an exaggeration.
-Mark Twain, letter to the New York Journal, in response to rumors of his death while in Europe

If there is a keystone to orthodox Christianity, it is the doctrine of the crucifixion. However, if Christians expect others to adopt their belief, they have to satisfy the demand for supporting evidence. Everyone knows the story. Everyone knows the biblical record. But everyone also knows that other myths have been propagated over longer periods of religious history, and the duration and popularity of a deception in no way validates it. So while many accept the crucifixion unquestioningly many others are not satisfied. Such individuals read, "that Christ die for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3), and as "Umm, according to exactly which scriptures?" In Carmichael's words "For that matter the whole insistence, in the Gospels as well as in Paul’s Epistles, that everything had been accomplished in fulfillment of the Scriptures seems puzzling. No such belief-in the death and resurrection of the Messiah-is recorded among the Jews at all, and certainly not in the Hebrew Scriptures,'?" 211
Paul himself invited criticism of the concept of the crucifixion and its related mysteries when he wrote, "For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Gentiles (Greeks) foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
In other words, "We preach something without signs and without wisdom-who's with us?"
No surprise, then, that so many consider the crucifixion incompatible with God's mercy. Muslims, for example, believe Jesus was saved from crucifixion, in accordance with the following: "But they did not kill him [Jesus], nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they did not kill him: Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise ... " (TMQ 4:157-158)
Should a person believe Jesus to have been God, one wonders why God would have allowed His own death when He had the power to save Himself. Should a person believe Jesus to have been the "Son of God," why would God not answer the prayer of His son, when Jesus is quoted as saying, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8). Jesus reportedly did ask-to the point of sweating "like great drops of blood" in prayer (Luke 22:44)-and he clearly sought to be saved. But nowhere is Jesus quoted as saying, "Everyone who asks receives, except for me." Matthew 7:9 reads, "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" Put another way, who imagines that God would answer a prophet's plea for rescue with a short weekend on a cross instead? Plenty of sunshine and all the vinegar a person can sip from a sponge? There's an incompatibility issue here; if people believe God, or the son of God, was born in a bath of his own urine (which is what amniotic fluid consists of), then they will have no problem believing God committed suicide (and what else would the act of allowing Oneself to die be called when, being omnipotent, able to save Oneself?). Similarly, such people will have no difficulty believing that God turned His back on His Son in the time of greatest need. The rest of the world wonders:
"Whose concept of God is this compatible with, anyway?"
Well, Tertullian, the aforementioned originator of the Trinitarian formula, for one. The comment has been offered that, "Tertullian enjoyed paradox. To him the divine character of Christianity was vindicated not by its reasonableness but by the very fact that it was the kind of thing no ordinary mind could have invented. The crucifying of the Son of God sounds ridiculous and scandalous: 'I believe because it is outraqeous,"?" 212

I believe because it is outrageous. If such is the methodology God, are we not justified in believing each and every outrageous theory of divinity-the more "ridiculous and scandalous" the better?

Somewhere, someone is bound to say, "But Jesus had to die for our sins!" One wonders, "Why? Because God can't forgive us otherwise? Because God needs a sacrifice?" This isn't what the Bible teaches. Jesus reportedly taught the message of Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." And not just once-the lesson was worthy of two mentions, the first in Matthew 9:13, the second in Matthew 12:7. Why, then, are clergy teaching that Jesus had to be sacrificed? And if he was sent for this purpose, why did he pray to be saved?

Furthermore, why do we have to believe to be saved? On one hand, original sin is held to be binding, whether we believe in it or not. On the other hand, salvation is held to be conditional upon acceptance (i.e., belief) of the crucifixion and atonement of Jesus. In the first case belief is held to be irrelevant; in the second, it's required. The question arises, "Did Jesus pay the price or not?" If he paid the price, then our sins are forgiven, whether we believe or not. If he didn't pay the price it doesn't matter either way. Lastly, forgiveness doesn't have a price person can't forgive another's debt and still demand repayment. The  argument that God forgives, but only if given a sacrifice He says doesn't want in the first place (see Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7) drags a wing and cartwheels down the runway of rational analysis. From where, then, does the formula come? According to scripture, it’s not from Jesus. So do people believe teachings about the prophet in preference to those of the prophet? The Bible condemns such inverted priorities, for Matthew 10:24 records Jesus having declared, "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master."

What, then, should we understand from the verse, "Then he said to them, 'Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:46)? Given choice between literal or figurative interpretation, only the metaphor makes sense if we are to reconcile God not desiring sacrifice with Jesus having to "die" for the sins of humankind. Furthermore, biblical reference to death is frequently metaphorical, as in Paul's statement of his suffering as, "I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31). 

So perhaps "rising from the dead" doesn't mean literally rising from the state of actual death, but from a metaphorical death, such as:

1.      Having been unconscious or sleeping (as in "He slept like a dead man").
2.      Having been suffering (as in the many biblical analogies between suffering and death).
3.      Having been incapable (as in "I couldn't do a thing last night, I was just dead").
4.      Or having been in the tomb, left for dead, but in fact alive (as in "He recovered miraculously-he came back from the dead").
In any case, Matthew 12:40 reports Jesus having taught, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." This simple verse opens the gates to a relatively uncharted territory of thought. "Three days and three nights" must be assumed to mean exactly what it says, for otherwise it wouldn't have been stated with such clarity. However, if we believe the Bible, Jesus spent only one day and two nights-Friday night, Saturday day and Saturday night- in the sepulcher following the alleged crucifixion. Does this pose a difficulty? We should think so, because the above quote is Jesus' response to the request for a sign, to which he reportedly answered, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:38-40). The above, "No sign will be given to it except ... " declares, in no uncertain terms, that this is the only sign Jesus offers. Not the healing of the lepers, not the curing of the blind, not the raising of the dead. Not the feeding of the masses, not the walking on water, not the calming of the storm. No ... no sign would be given but the sign of Jonah.
Many Christians base faith on something they perceive to be a miracle, whether written in the Bible, attributed to saints, or borne of personal experience. And yet, Jesus strikingly isolates the sign of Jonah as the only sign to be given. Not the weeping statues, not the visions of Mary, not the faith healing. Not the speaking in tongues, not the exorcising of spirits, not the receiving of the Holy Ghost. Just the sign of Jonah. That's all. Those who adopt different signs must realize that, according to the Bible, they do so against the teaching of Jesus. And considering the emphasis he placed on the sign of Jonah, we should examine it.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, which explains why the Jews were under pressure to expedite his death, along with that of the two criminals crucified with him. Friday sunset ushers in the Jewish Sabbath, for the Hebraic calendar is lunar, which means their days end at sunset. Hence, Friday sunset heralds the beginning of Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. The problem facing the Jews was that Jewish law forbade leaving dead bodies hanging overnight (either on cross or on gallows-Deuteronomy 21:22-23), but also forbade taking the bodies down and burying them on the Sabbath. It was an Old Testament Catch-22. Had any of the crucified died on the Sabbath, the Jews could neither leave the corpse nor bury it. The only practical solution was to speed the death of the condemned, and this is why the Roman soldiers were sent to break their legs.
The rapidity by which crucifixion kills depends not only up the individual's fortitude, which is unpredictable, but also upon his physical strength. Most crosses were constructed with a small seat or a wood block for the feet, to partially bear the victim's weight in order to prolong the torture. In Jesus' case, Christian tradition has it that feet were nailed to the cross. The reason for this brutality is that' condemned would be forced to support his weight on impaled feet greatly compounding the agony. However, the Romans would often expedite death by breaking the victims' legs. With no means of supporting his body, the crucified would hang with his body weight suspended on outstretched arms, which fatigues the respiratory muscles. Eventually, the victim would no longer be able to draw his breath. The mechanism of death, therefore, is slow asphyxiation-slower still in individuals with greater endurance and the will to live.

The Bible records that the Roman soldiers were sent to break the legs of the condemned, but upon their arrival, they found Jesus already dead. Subsequently, he was removed from the cross and placed in the sepulcher. When? Late Friday afternoon, prior to sunset.
Sunday morning, before sunrise, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb, having rested on the Sabbath in accordance with the law (Luke 23:56 and John 20:1), and found the tomb empty. She is told that Christ is risen (Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6). The arithmetic works out to one night (Friday sunset to Saturday sunrise), plus one day (Saturday sunrise to sunset), plus one night (Saturday sunset to slightly before Sunday sunrise). Grand total? Two nights and one day-a far cry from the "three days and three nights" referenced in Jesus' "sign of Jonah." Once again, a person either has to admit that the evidence doesn't add up, or rewrite the rules of mathematics.
One more piece of this scriptural puzzle deserves consideration. The quote, "For as Jonah ... " (or, as per the New Revised Standard Version, "For just as Jonah ... ") compares the state of Jesus with that of Jonah. Even schoolchildren know that Jonah was alive from the time his comrades reduced the ship's ballast by the measure of his weight, to the somewhat rough moment of regurgitation onto the sandy shore. Since Jonah was alive throughout the entire ordeal, a person could speculate that Jesus, "just as Jonah ... " was alive throughout as well. It is worth noting that when the tomb was visited on Sunday morning, each of the gospels describes Jesus as "risen," which is hardly surprising given the fact that cold rock slabs, unlike warm, wave-suppressed waterbeds, don't exactly invite a person to punch the snooze button and sleep in. What is missing from the Bible, however, is the statement that Jesus was resurrected. Jesus reportedly said, "I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father" (John 16:28). But how is that different from any of us? And where does Jesus say he would die and be resurrected in the process? The word "resurrected" is nowhere to be found. "Risen from the dead" is mentioned a handful of times, but never by Jesus himself. And notably, many second and third-century Christians believed Jesus didn't die.213
This may not change anyone's way of thinking, but it should at least illustrate the reasonable viewpoints that result from assigning priority to the recorded words of Jesus over those of others. The Islamic understanding is one such viewpoint-one which affirms the prophethood of Jesus while pointing out that his scriptural teachings not only discredit many elements of established "Christian" doctrine, but reinforce Islamic ideology as well.
In recent years, many have found their doubts strengthened by trail of engaging theories in books of critical Christian challenge. One such work, The Jesus Conspiracy by Holger Kersten and Elmar R. Gruber, is of particular interest with regard to the subject of this chapter, for the authors present powerful evidence that whoever was wrapped in the Shroud of Turin did not die. Kersten and Gruber proposed that the Catholic Church realized the devastating impact this theory, if true could have. After all, if the evidence suggested that Jesus had been wrapped in the shroud but did not die, the church would be left without a death, without an atoning sacrifice, without a resurrection and in short, the church would be left without a church. In the words, First Corinthians 15:14, "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God .... "
The authors claim the church responded by deliberately discrediting the shroud, even to the extent of falsifying carbon dating tests.
Well. .. maybe. The authors' evidence is substantial, and ... their logic is compelling, and ... they may be wrong. Then again, they may be right. Chances are, we'll never know. About the only thing we do know about the shroud is that the Catholic church has not taken a position on the authenticity of the shroud, and we have to wonder why it objects to more independent testing. If unauthentic, the shroud is little more than an oddity, so why not trim some insignificant snippets off the edges and pass them around? But no, the custodians keep the shroud under lock and key, and we have to wonder why, if not because they fear the results.
In any case, Muslims believe that Jesus was never crucified in the first place, "but so it was made to appear ... " (TMQ 4:157). If the proposal sounds outlandish to those who have been raised to think the opposite, the doctrine of the crucifixion sounds stranger still when placed beside Deuteronomy 21 :23, which states, "He who is hanqed [i.e., either on a gallows or crucified] is accursed of God." Simultaneous claims to biblical inerrancy and to the divine sonship of the crucified Jesus cast a truly peculiar light on anyone who supports such beliefs, for the contradiction is obvious. Either Jesus was not crucified, the Bible is in error, or, according to the scripture, Jesus was accursed of God. To hold that God's prophet, son, or partner (however a person regards Jesus) is also accursed of God can only achieve acceptance among those with synaptic sterility. The above pieces simply do not fit the package. Something has to give-one or more of the non-conforming elements need to be recognized for what it is-a sham-and cast out. Otherwise, the package as a whole bears the impossible qualities of make-believe, or perhaps we should say, "make-belief."
Similarly confounding is Hebrews 5:7, which states that because Jesus was a righteous man, God answered his prayer to be saved from death: "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission" (Hebrews 5:7, NRSV). Now, what does "God heard his prayer" mean- that God heard it loud and clear and ignored it? No, it means God answered his prayer. It certainly can't mean that God heard and refused the prayer, for then the phrase "because of his reverent submission" would be nonsensical, along the lines of, "God heard his prayer and refused it because he was a righteous man."
Now, while Muslims deny the crucifixion of Jesus, they don't deny that someone was crucified. So who do Muslims think was crucified in his place? It's a moot point, and not terribly important. Some suggest that Allah raised Jesus up and altered Judas' features to resemble those of Jesus, with the end result that Judas was crucified in his place, to the deception of the audience. Well, maybe. But then again, maybe not. There's no compelling evidence to support this opinion, even though it does conform to the biblical and Qur'anic principles of people reaping what they sow.
Notably, there are those who object to the suggestion of Judas being crucified on the basis that, as per Matthew 27:5, Judas threw his ill-gotten silver back at the priests and "went and hanged himself." So he wasn't around to be crucified. On the other hand, Acts records that Judas "purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out" (Acts 1:18). So if the authors of Acts and Matthew don't agree on the matter, what really happened is anybody's guess.
Perhaps we can look at this issue from a different angle. If the idea of Judas being crucified in Jesus' place sounds technically strained, maybe it shouldn't; God is described as having restrained the eyes of two disciples (i.e., intimate companions who should have readily recognized their teacher) when they met the allegedly "risen" Jesus on the road to Emmaus, "so that they did not know him" (Luke 24:16). Another biblical example would be that Mary Magdalene reportedly failed to recognize Jesus outside of the tomb, "supposing him to the gardener ... " (John 20:15). Mary Magdalene? Shouldn't she have been able to identify him, even in the early morning light?
Interestingly enough, this concept of a crucifixion switch isn’t entirely foreign to Christianity. Among early Christians, the Corinthians, the Basilidians, the Paulicians, the Cathari and the Carpocratians all believed Jesus Christ's life was spared.
The Basilidians believed that Simon of Cyrene was crucified in his place, which may not be an unreasonable suggestion, considering that Simon carried Jesus' cross (see Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26). Typically, all of the dissenting sects mentioned above were judged to have been Gnostics and/ or heretics by the church, and were violently suppressed by a Trinitarian majority that systematically burned dissenters into oblivion for the first fifteen centuries of Catholic rule (the most recent roasting having taken place in Mexico in 1850 CE).
To be fair, Gnostic ideology did have a place in many, if not most, or even all groups regarded as dissenters from orthodoxy. But then again, Gnosticism has a place in orthodoxy as well, for what is gnosis if not the belief that its initiates possess some esoteric but essential knowledge necessary for salvation, which can neither be explained nor justified? And what has this discussion thus far exposed, if not the lack of scriptural foundation for the canon of Trinitarian orthodoxy?
Of the above groups, the Paulicians (whose name possibly, derived from their devotion to Paul of Samosata) hold special inter. Paul of Samosata reportedly took his teaching from Diodorus, head of the Nazarene Church in Antioch. His teachings in turn branched off the trunk of apostolic ideology through individuals such as Lucian (who in turn taught Arius), Eusebius of Nicomedia, and even Nestorius (whose influence expanded from Eastern Europe as far east as China and as far south as Abyssinia). The Paulician influence eventually spread to occupy most, if not all, of Europe and North Africa. Yet so complete was their annihilation by the Roman Catholic Church during the period of persecution, both they and their books were virtually completely destroyed. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was one of their sacred books, The Key of Truth, discovered in Armenia and translated. From this document, a view of their beliefs and practices can be appreciated.
The Paulicians may invite condemnation for their dualistic ideology, acceptance of suicide and excess of asceticism. Notable is the peculiar Paulician concept of Jesus Christ having been a phantasm, and not a man. On the other hand, the Paulicians adhered to belief in divine unity, the virgin birth, baptism, and other creeds and practices that date from the apostolic age. Included in the list of their particulars is the apparent lack of an organized priesthood or hierarchy of clergy. The leaders married and had families. Their services were characterized by simplicity of worship and lack of sacraments: they didn't even use holy water. The Paulicians refused to adopt any visible object of worship-no relics, no images, not even the cross. They considered the use of images, whether two or three dimensional, to be idolatrous, foreign to the teachings of Jesus, and in violation of the second commandment. The doctrine of Incarnation appears to have been denied, as were the doctrines of original sin and the Trinity-all rejected on the basis of lacking scriptural foundation. The Paulicians denied the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, and consequently rejected the doctrines of the resurrection, atonement, and redemption of sins. They also shunned infant baptism as an innovation foreign to the teachings and practice of Jesus, and claimed it was worthless since children lack the capacity for mature faith and repentance. They boycotted Christmas on the grounds that it was an illegitimate holiday constructed as a concession to the pagans, who worshipped the rebirth of their Sun-god three days following the winter solstice, on December 25, at the annual festival of Sol Invictus (The Invincible Sun). They neither solicited nor accepted tithes, maintained a strict diet, stressed devotion to worship in all aspects of life and aspired to cleanliness of temper, thoughts, words, and work.
A better model of the carpenter-King would be difficult to find, but for their creed, they were killed. Over a period of centuries the Paulicians were hounded wherever they were found. The Byzantine Empress Theodora reestablished image worship in Constantinople during the ninth century and, as Gibbon notes, "Her inquisitors explored the cities and mountains of the Lesser Asia, and the flatterers of the empress have affirmed that, in a short reign, one hundred thousand Paulicians were extirpated by the sword, the gibbet, or the flames."214
The Paulicians eventually were driven from Armenia to Thrace, and on to Bulgaria. From there they spread to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, then north to Germany, west to France and south into Italy. By sea they found routes to Venice, Sicily and Southern France. The rapid expansion of Paulician theology, which seems to have been revived in the Cathari (meaning "the Pure") in or around the eleventh century, became a serious threat to the Catholic Church, and was condemned at the Councils of Orleans in 1022, of Lombard in 1165, and of Verona in 1184. St. Bernard of Clairvaux described the Cathari thusly: "If you interrogate them, nothing can be more Christian; as to their conversation, nothing can be less reprehensible, and what they speak they prove by deeds. As for the morals of the heretic, he cheats no one, he oppresses no one, he strikes no one; his cheeks are pale with fasting, he eats not the bread of idleness, his hands labour for his livelihood."215
Nonetheless, the church condemned the Cathari, not for their ethics and sincerity, but for their theology. Not until the Medieval inquisition of the thirteenth century was the church able to act upon their condemnation, but then, opening floodgates on the host of several centuries, they applied the full force of their hatred with a  vengeance sufficient to establish their authority and destroy their enemies. The loss of the Paulicians, Cathari, and the various other “heretic” Christian sects testifies to the terrible efficacy of the religious cleansing of the Medieval Inquisition and subsequent periods of persecution. F. C. Conybeare comments,
It was no empty vow of their elect ones, “to be baptized with the baptism of Christ, to take on themselves scourgings, imprisonments, tortures, reproaches, crosses, blows, tribulation, and all temptations of the world."Theirs the tears, theirs the blood shed during more than ten centuries of fierce persecution in the East; and if we reckon of their number, as well we may, the early puritans of Europe, then the tale of wicked deeds wrought by the persecuting churches reaches dimensions which appall the mind. And as it was all done, nominally out of reverence for, but really in mockery of, the Prince of Peace, it is hard to say of the Inquisitors that they knew not what they did.216

That the Catholic Church was so effective in eliminating their opposition is of no surprise to those who study their methodology. Their degree of savagery did not even spare their own people, at times sacrificing members of the orthodoxy to insure complete elimination of the Unitarians. For example, the mixed population of Catholics and Unitarians of the people of Beziers, in the South of France, were attacked mercilessly. In his History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Henry Charles Lea brings the full horror of the invaders' overzealousness into sharp focus:

From infancy in arms to tottering age, not one was spared- seven thousand, it is said, were slaughtered in the Church of Mary Magdalen to which they had fled for asylum-and the total number of slain is set down by the legates at nearly twenty thousand .. "
A fervent Cistercian contemporary informs us that when Arnaud was asked whether the Catholics should be spared, he feared the heretics would escape by feigning orthodoxy, and fiercely replied, "Kill them all, for God knows his own!" In the mad car- nage and pillage the town was set on fire, and the sun of that awful July day closed on a mass of smouldering ruins and blackened corpses-a holocaust to a deity of mercy and love Whom the Cathari might well be pardoned for regarding as the Principle of Evil.217

The inquisitors' use of torture was equally horrific, for it did end at confession. Once they procured a confession, they began torture anew, to extract names of associates until the last drop of information was squeezed from the mangled husk of what had once been a human being.
Once accused, the pitiful defendant was guaranteed to suffer. Torture yielded the required confession-if not out of truth, then out of the victim's desperation to bring an end to the pain. Horrifically, protestations of innocence and even the oath of orthodoxy did not bring relief, for suspects professing orthodox belief were committed to a test of faith, and here the church demonstrated the full measure of its creativity. Trials by water and fire were popularized and sanctioned by Catholic Church for the testing of faith by way of Judicium Dei-Judgement of God, a concept based upon superstition. It was believed the purity of water would not accept a guilty body into its midst, so floaters were judged guilty and executed, sinkers were considered innocent, and if rescued before drowning, spared. It was believed that earthly fire, like the flames of Hell, would not harm those who were (in their view) the faithful Christians bearing the promise of paradise. The "hot iron test" was the most commonly employed, as it was simple readily available. In this test, the accused was required to carry a red-hot piece of iron for a certain number of steps, usually nine. Judgment was offered either at the time of the test (those burned were judged guilty) or several days later (those whose wounds were healing were declared innocent, whereas those whose wounds became infected were deemed guilty). Other variations existed, such as determining whether a person suffered a burn when an arm was immersed up to the elbow in boiling water or boiling oil.                     .~.
Lest a person presume such insane methods were rarely employed, the Council of Rheims in 1157 ordered "trials by ordeal" to satisfy all cases of suspected heresy?"218

Now, why all this discussion about what are now little-known and dead sects? Well, the intent is neither to glorify them beyond the merits of their ideology, nor to evoke sympathy for their cause, but rather to draw attention to the alternate Christian ideologies that have become obscure in the shadow of prevailing Trinitarianism. The Corinthians, the Basilidians, the Paulicians, the Cathari, and the Carpocratians may be little known today, but they were dynamic Christian ideologies that shared a significant place in history. But history, as the saying goes, is written by the victors. "Moreover," writes Ehrman, "the victors in the struggles to establish Christian orthodoxy not only won their theological battles, they also rewrote the history of the conflict ... "219 The Catholic Church attempted to systematically erase the memory of all other sects and scriptures contrary to their own, and at this, they were largely successful. Given their vicious methodology, we should not be surprised.
Additionally, historical attempts to vilify all other religions or Christian sects prejudiced the minds of the populace. So successful were these efforts that the records and holy books of those who appear to have been closest to the teachings of the apostolic fathers have been largely lost. Similarly, those closest to embodying the practices and creed of the prophet Jesus have come to be regarded as heretics, simply because they did not embrace the "evolved" doctrines of the Trinitarian victors. In other words, they were condemned for nonconformity with views which, though lacking scriptural authority, were selected by men of position and propagated for reasons of political expediency.
One of the curious elements of Trinitarian history lies in the fact that in all its travels throughout the Christian world, it had to be forced upon a previously Unitarian people. The Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Vandals, the Arians, Donatists, and Paulicians-all had to be muscled aside prior to the imposition of Trinitarian rule. Even in England and Ireland there is suspicion that, contrary to official historical accounts, a good percentage of the population were staunch Unitarian Christian prior to receiving Trinitarian "encouragement." Whereas Unitarians attempted to spread faith through example and invitation, the Catholic Church spread Trinitarian faith by shearing the populace with the sharp blades of compulsion and elimination.
Reviewing unprejudiced historical accounts, a large population of the religious throughout the known world voiced their opposition to Trinitarian Christianity, and those who denied Jesus Christ's crucifixion and death were not necessarily a minority. Many would argue that from a gut level it makes more sense for God to have punished Judas for his treachery than to have tortured Jesus for his innocence. The argument would be more convincing if the doctrines of atonement and original sin could be shown to be invalid, for these two doctrines hinge off the doorframe of the alleged death of Jesus. The first hurt for many people in considering such revolutionary notions is the age-old assertion that Jesus Christ was the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1 :29) , for in the mind of the Trinitarian, this verse can have no relevance other than to that of the doctrine of atonement. Unitarians, however, conceive Jesus to have lived a life of sacrifice in order to bear a purifying teaching which, if adopted, woould put humankind on the path of God's design.

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