Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Stephan Huller author of The Real Messiah that is being developed into a major documentary for TV in America. It was also positively reviewed recently in Publisher's Weekly. Stephan has also written several books on the subject of early Christianity. He has published articles in the Journal of Coptic Studies and one pending with the Harvard Theological Review. He has appeared on radio and television across Canada and given public readings at many venues.
Good day Stephan and thanks for participating in our interview.
Will you share a little bit
about The Real Messiah with us?
Thanks, Norm. The Real
Messiah is a book which details a major discovery I made in Venice a
few years ago. I saw a chair called the throne of St. Mark in the
Basilica di San Marco . Everyone knew it had a strange inscription
chiseled across its front in reverse Hebrew mirror letters. Scholars
think, ‘oh that’s odd’ and go on to study other things.
at it for the first time and realized these aren’t just regular Hebrew
letters but a special kind only made by the Samaritan sect in Israel;
the Samaritans are the oldest religious sect in the world. I happened
to be very friendly with them. I snapped photos of the inscription and
the throne as a whole and sent them to world-wide experts on Samaritans. I pieced together the code and find
something which proves that Jesus wasn’t the messiah of
Christianity. Jesus was just the guy who came to announce someone
else as the one predicted by Moses and the prophets.
What motivated you to write The Real Messiah and why do you believe it is an important book at this time? Is there a message in The Real Messiah that you want your readers to grasp?
We live in an age where
religion is dying in the West. Go to Europe and look at the churches
there, they're all empty. Even in America, they had a Newsweek
article which noted the decline of Christianity here as well. People want
to believe, however the stuff the churches are feeding them is junk. It
doesn’t even make sense.
For years, centuries even millennia everyone was told ‘just believe, just believe, it doesn’t have to make sense.” Maybe that used to work when we were all riding horses and selling chickens at the marketplace but in today’s world it just doesn’t work any longer. Everything is supposed to make sense. We don’t pick our careers with faith. We don’t want our children to be yes men. We want them to think independently and ask questions. So how can the old religion based on blind faith continue in this sort of environment? It can’t.
Yet, I want to make clear the purpose of my book wasn't to slam religion or rub salt in its wounds. Instead, I wrote the book to help people make sense of it all and I think the throne of St. Mark helps do that because it’s an ancient witness to the original principles Christianity was founded on and how far the Church has drifted away from those beliefs.
How would you respond to potential readers who might be sceptical about the subject matter of the book?
I actually welcome skepticism. I think that doubt and rigorous criticism of a working hypothesis is essential for it to make it better. That’s why I believe in science. We all believe in science for God’s sake. We expect airplanes and cars to be designed by people scientists. We don’t want to learn that the engineers just closed their eyes and ‘hoped for the best.’ But many people govern their faith in this way, it’s simply incredible to me. There was a time where the majority of people in America said that they believed traditional religion good as it solved all of life’s problems. That’s no longer the case and it’s a direct result of improvements in our education system here in America.
The traditional Christian claims about Jesus being the Christ have always been built upon blindness. They don’t make sense and they can’t make sense because Jesus isn’t the kind of person Moses and the prophets predicted was going to come to redeem Israel. This isn’t a matter of debate. The people doing all the arguing in favor of this idea aren’t part of the culture who developed the whole understanding of what a messiah was in the first place. That’s why they don’t know any better. Their ancestors blindly obeyed these understandings about a nice man from Galilee because they likely didn’t have a choice. Now all their descendants have been forced to rationalize a justification for how the Jewish concept of the messiah applied to Jesus and they come up with all these pathetic arguments which don’t make any sense whatsoever because the job position they think Jesus was applying for never existed in antiquity.
What was the most difficult
part of writing your book? Did you learn anything from writing your
book and what was it?
When you try to right a book like this, the difficult part is making sure that you don't want to overwhelm your audience with information. You have to entertain them. You want to tell a story that has relevance to their lives today and not bring forward some theological abstraction that leaves them more confused than when they started out. The one thing that the Real Messiah does is that it shows a great deal of respect to Jesus and the traditions they have learned from their ancestors while at the same time making absolutely clear and without pulling any punches that Jesus never claimed to be the messiah of Israel. All this stuff was made up by later people who were afraid of the Jewish component within Jesus’ teachings.
If Jesus Christ were to return today, would he be returning as the Messiah and where do you think would be the first place he would go to, a Catholic Church or a Jewish Synagogue?
Well that's the central point to my book. Jesus never claimed to be the messiah, so no one has to worry about him coming back and wanting to take over the very job he denied himself two thousand years ago.
Why do you believe over the centuries there have been so many killings in the name of Christianity?
Well Norm it’s like
anything in life. If you are the smartest kid in the class and know
all the answers you don’t have to cheat on the final exam. Only the
guy who never goes to class, the guy who hasn’t a clue what is
being taught in school who has to resort to underhanded tactics.
There can be no doubt that the Catholic Church got to where it was because it knew how to use political muscle to rid itself of any dissenting voices. But look at the situation we find ourselves in now. People are waking up to the fact that the doctrines that their ancestors mouthed for centuries don’t make any sense. They are hungry for answers and I think the Real Messiah offers them a scientific explanation to the origins of Christianity that doesn’t rely on intimidation or bullying tactics to convince people.
Do you believe that the Catholic Pope plays any useful purpose? If so, what?
I think the Catholic Church is filled with good and well intentioned people. There will always be a lunatic fringe in any religion. Yet you can’t judge a whole people on its worst examples. I think Pope John Paul II was a good person. I don't know very much about this current Pope but I think the world won‘t let him or anyone else drift back to the intimidation tactics of the past.
You mention in your bio that there are Hebrew traditions ignored by traditional scholarship. Could you please elaborate? Why is this important?
Well it’s not so much that New Testament scholars don’t know what Judaism is all about. They have been trained to know the basics. Yet it is the traditional Jewish understanding of the messiah and the messianic which they have such a difficult time with. You see, these aren’t stupid men. When they come across an idea they can see how it might effect their own inherited presuppositions. So it is that most of these men acknowledge that the Jews and the Christians don’t agree on the issue of whether Jesus was the awaited messiah and they are clever enough to make all these mental adjustments to avoid bringing their cherished concept of ’Jesus Christ’ in contact with the original understanding of what a messiah was among the Jewish people.
But I didn’t write the book to say the Jews are right the Christians are wrong. They already have books like that out there. What I wanted to do instead was to turn this around and say, Jesus was a Jew and certainly knew that he wasn’t the messiah. Mark the guy who wrote the first gospel was also Jewish and he must have known that Jesus wasn’t this guy predicted by Moses and the prophets. The same holds true with regards to the first people that believed in this story. They all must have believed in something else - even someone else - in order to make the whole religion make sense and this is why the discovery of the throne of St. Mark is so critical because it tells us who they really did think was the messiah.
What are the principal differences between the early Christian followers and today's Christians?
Well who the real messiah was
is of course a big difference but there were many others which go
together with a better appreciation for the Jewish messianic
tradition. My family for instance claimed to have been Frankists,
followers of Jacob Frank the eighteenth century messianic claimant.
The absolutely central point of Frankist dogma was that because the messiah brought forward the perfect Law, the observance of the old Law of Moses was to be left on the side of the road. This is exactly what happened two thousand years ago when Mark wrote the gospel and many people including early Catholic Christians accused them of ‘hating the Law’ and ‘reviling the God of the Jews’ and nonsense like that. They don’t understand Jewish messianic teaching where Moses himself foretells the coming of one ‘like him’ but ultimately better than him who would reveal a more perfect revelation. As a result of this ignorance - an ignorance that is compounded by a pride, even an arrogance about the virtues of irrationality - these people never solve the real mystery of their own religion.
Do you hear from your readers
much? What kinds of things do they say?
Yes with the internet and email you can't help but get feedback from a wide spectrum of people. Most of the feedback has been positive. There are a number of people who are interested re-discovering the original Jewish context of early Christianity. We correspond on a regular basis. I also get some hate mail - but not a lot of course. These people claim that what I am saying is an attack on Jesus which is just plain stupid. Absolutely nothing in what I am saying damages the reputation of Jesus. If he never claimed to be the messiah - and this is a position that these religious nuts refuse to even contemplate - then we owe it to Jesus to restore his original teachings.
How can readers find out more about you and your endeavors?
I have a blog - therealmessiahbook.blogspot.com - whenever I have something important to say or an interesting line of inquiry I put them there. Sometimes I even ask my readers questions because I certainly don’t have all the answers. I look at an ancient text and can’t make heads or tails of what is being said there. I post it on my blog and I get answers from archaeologists, linguists even theologians. The internet really is amazing.
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered and what is next for Stephan Huller?
We are working on a documentary for a major television network which deals with my claims about Christianity developing from the imagination of one man, St. Mark. It will likely air on a cable network in the fall. I am also working with a prominent archaeologist in Egypt in order to uncover the original place where I think Christianity actually started, in the old Jewish quarter of Alexandria. It’s a partnership between the two of us. He found one piece of the puzzle and I think that many of my ideas might help figure out the other half. Yet that involves a lot of financing and permission from the Egyptian government. We’ll have to wait and see.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.