January 15, 2019

Israel During the Life of Jesus


King Herod I. became a Roman Client King over Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea, and Peraea in 37 B.C.  He is known for his huge building projects including the port at Caesarea Maritima, a fortress at Masada, a palace fortress at Herodium, and the second Temple (Herod’s Temple) on an expanded Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He totally alienated the Jews and when he died in 4 B.C. the temporary gap in Roman rule encouraged Judea and other provinces to erupt in full revolt. Would be Messiahs, temple priests, and ordinary Jews rebelled, hoping to restore freedom from the hated Roman oppressor. Publius Quintilius Varus, Rome's governor in Syria, was ordered to restore order throughout Israel. He led two complete Roman legions and a large number of Arab troops led by King Aretas into Galilee. He then marched south to Jerusalem. Varus systematically crushed the rebellion with incredible brutality. Sepphoris was destroyed and many of its residents were sold as slaves. He occupied Jerusalem and as a symbol of Roman power; crucified 2,000 Jewish rebels. Herod’s son Herod Antipas became the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea. He ruled until 39 A.D. He loved Sepphoris, perched on a hill overlooking the valleys below, and in 3 B.C. started an ambitious program to rebuild the city as his capitol.

Herod’s son Philip became tetrarch of territories north and east of the Jordan (including the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee). He ruled until 34 A.D.

 Herod's son Herod Archelaus became ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. As a ruler, he was totally incompetent and like his father, he managed to alienate most of the Jews in his kingdom. Archelaus was also incredibly cruel. By 6 A.D. the aristocracy was so incensed they sent a delegation to Rome to warn Augustus if he did not remove Archelaus there would be a revolt. Augustus agreed. In 6 A.D. Samaria, Judea and Idumea were combined into the province of Iudaea (Judaea) under direct Roman administration. The capital was at Caesarea Maritima. Coponius was appointed prefect. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, who had been appointed legate governor of Syria, was put in charge of a census for the purpose of taxation over a geographic area that included Iudaea (Judaea) and Galilee.

The census was immediately met by another rebellion led by Judas the Galilean, and Zadok a Pharisee. Jewish law prohibited the taking of a census. Judas proclaimed the Jewish state as a republic which would only recognize God as king and ruler. God’s laws were supreme. The revolt continued to spread, and in some places serious conflicts ensued. The Jewish high priest Joazar, who was responsible for maintaining a peaceful population, failed to quell the rebellion. Although initially successful, Judas died by the sword in 7 A.D.

Pontius Pilate was the fifth prefect (governor) of the Roman province of Judaea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D. His relationship with Herod Antipas was one of mutual distrust (and occasional hatred). Antipas was an ambitious man. He longed to gain control over Judaea and he was continually trying to undermine Pilate’s authority. But neither the first Roman Emperor Augustus (ruled 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.) nor his adopted son Tiberius (Emperor 14 A.D. to 37 A.D.) trusted Antipas.

Tiberius became a dark and reclusive ruler. He withdrew from Rome and went to Capri in 26 A.D. That left Sejanus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, effectively in charge of the Roman Empire. But then Tiberius, fearing Sejanus was leading a conspiracy against him, had Sejanus executed in 31 A.D.

The life of Jesus was thus framed by continual intrigue, treachery and suspicion among Israel’s Roman rulers. They also were incredibly arrogant, malicious, and - in the eyes of the Jewish population - highly immoral. From 4 B.C. onward, the rebellion started by Judas of Galilee continued to spread and fester even after his death. The Romans eventually crushed all resistance, destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, and scattered the Jews (Jewish Roman wars 66 A.D. to 136 A.D.)

Ron
History from “Am I Your Son?”
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January 13, 2019

Who Was Joseph, The Father of Jesus?


My father had an incredible sense of duty. So when his National Guard regiment went to war, he went with them - to Australia. He was about 50 years of age. But that didn’t stop him. If his boys (soldiers) were going to war, he was going with them. It was his duty as their chaplain.

But since my mother had deceased, that left a lonely five year old boy a quasi-orphan for the next 5 years.

So I searched for a substitute father. Luck was with me. Or perhaps God reached out to help a little boy. The caretaker at the UNH chicken farm decided he could be my stand-in father until my Dad came home. He fulfilled the role with quiet wisdom for over 4 years. I shall forever love his memory.

The years passed. Something prompted me to research the life of Jesus. Of course, one cannot understand the life of Jesus without knowing his parents. And then a thought struck me. Was Joseph the kind of father I needed as a little boy?

He was. And more.

Joseph
It’s easy to think of Joseph as a simple uneducated carpenter, born in Nazareth, protected by his parents, employed to help his father at age 8 and naive to the ways of the world outside the tiny village of Nazareth. Gospel writers and early church fathers diminished Joseph’s importance in the life of Jesus. They even argued he married Mary after God made her pregnant (which would have breached Jewish Law) or perhaps he was an old man too fragile to father a baby (which ignores the energy required to raise six additional children).

As I researched first century Jewish culture and whatever information I could find about Joseph, it became evident the only way to properly judge him is by his accomplishments and his devotion to the God he loved. To write about Joseph is to develop a deep respect for this boy who became a man at 14, always supported and loved his wife, was a good father to seven children, and faithfully supported the life and work of his eldest son Jesus. And he did all this despite the incredible stress of ever present danger from bandits, Romans, Roman mercenaries, and Jewish zealots. He managed to earn enough money to support his family, and rejected the ever present temptation to become a Jewish nationalist - a decision that could have easily left him maimed or dead.

Joseph's grandfather Mattan (descendant of Solomon) had a wife called "Esther" (not recorded in the Bible) with whom he fathered Jacob (Joseph's father). We know very little about Ruth, Joseph’s mother.

Under Jewish law a boy could transition to manhood at age 12 or 13. My hunch is Joseph joined the men at prayers when he was just shy of 14 years of age. Research suggests Joseph was born in 21 B.C., betrothed at age 14 (7 B.C.), married at age 15 (6 B.C.), and became a father to Jesus when he was 16. In our story, Joseph dies in 26 A.D., at age 46. Death at this age was not uncommon. In the 1st century, children who were still alive at age 10 could look forward to an average life expectancy of 47.5 years.

Given his probable diet and genetic heritage, it is likely Joseph was less than 168 cm (5 feet, five inches) tall, had brown eyes, dark brown or black hair, and a slender build.

Like Mary, Joseph was self-educated. We know he could read because he read from the law in the Synagogue. It is highly likely he mastered the fundamentals of mathematics. In order to be a successful carpenter and stone mason, Joseph would have to be proficient in addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, as well as the skills of basic geometry and elementary algebra. These intellectual achievements would mean he had a better education than 85 percent of his peers. Being a good father, Joseph would have passed whatever knowledge he accumulated on to his children.

Joseph provided an anchor of knowledge and maturity for Jesus, trained him to be a carpenter and stone mason, and took Jesus with him to find work in Sepphoris, a relatively easy walk from Nazareth. Joseph would have been acutely aware of his obligation to God, and he apparently carried it out with wisdom and grace.

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Background for my novel   “Am I Your Son?”
 

January 12, 2019

Who Was Mary, The Mother of Jesus?


I’ve often wondered what Mary, the mother of Jesus, was really like.  Even as a little boy.  Perhaps that’s because I lost my mother when I was 4. That left a huge empty space in my heart. Tormented by a sadness that haunted my thoughts, who could I turn too?

Everyone I knew thought Mary was the ideal mother. So I began to wonder.

Who was Mary?

Unfortunately early theologians had turned Mary into some kind of supernatural Holy Image, untouched by human blood and the ordinary labors of 1st century women.  She is The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, born and preserved free from all stain of origin sin, and Queen of angels and of saints. Mary is not usually considered to be divine. But pretty darn close.

Sorry. The Mary of the Bible was just too distant. Unreachable. Cold. That image just could not replace the warmth, compassion and love of my gentle mother. My heart ached.
 
So I forgot about Mary, the mother of Jesus, until many, many years later. Then some unknown energy urged me to research the life of Jesus. One cannot describe the life of Jesus without also discovering the life of Mary. Getting to know her was like a complex jig saw puzzle, full of twists and turns, truth and fabrication. But I soon discovered if we skip the eulogy stuff, it is possible to develop a reasonably accurate description of Mary from cultural, historical, and archeological information. With an apology to the Catholic Church and an assortment of religious zealots everywhere, here is the way I now think of Mary.


It’s easy to think of Mary as a simple uneducated peasant girl, born in either Sepphoris or Nazareth, zealously protected by her parents, and naive to the ways of the world outside the tiny village of Nazareth.

But as I researched first century Jewish culture and whatever information I could find about Mary, it became evident the only way to properly judge her is by her accomplishments and her devotion to the God she loved. To research about Mary is to fall in love with her. Without question, she is the graceful personification of motherhood. To write about Mary is to develop a deep respect for this girl who became a woman at 14, always supported and loved her husband, was a good mother to seven children, faithfully supported the life and work of her eldest son Jesus, never gave up on the task God had given to her, and could be called the first Christian. And she did all this despite the incredible stress of ever present danger from bandits, Romans, Roman mercenaries, Jewish zealots, the bloodshed of Jewish rebellion, and the constant -sometimes downright nasty - criticism of her son’s ministry.

Under Jewish law when a girl began to menstruate she became a woman and could be married. This transition usually occurred when she was 13 or 14 years old. Research suggests Mary (Mariam) was born in 20 B.C., betrothed at age 13 (7 B.C.), married at age 14 (6 B.C.), and gave birth to Jesus when she was 15 (5 B.C.)  She was probably 48 (almost 49) when Jesus was crucified. Mary apparently died when she was 58 or 59 years old in 39 A.D.

Given her probable diet and genetic heritage, it is likely Mary was less than 155 cm (5 feet one inch) tall, had brown eyes, dark brown or black hair, and a slender build. Mary was self-educated, which was extremely rare for a woman born in 20 B.C. We know she could read because Mary could recite passages from Jewish law. It is likely she had some fundamental math skills: addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. She may have learned some rudimentary geometry from her husband.

Mary would have passed whatever knowledge she accumulated on to her children. Mary was of the tribe of Judah, and the line of David. She was devoted to Jesus and his mission his entire life. Mary helped Jesus when he lived in Capernaum, helped to raise money for his mission, and worked with the other women to organize his travels.

Then she witnessed the cruel and bloody crucifixion of the son to whom she had given her life. With tenderness and sorrow she laid him to rest on a cold block of stone. On the third day, we can only imagine how Mary felt when she explored the empty tomb. A mixture of hope and dread, elation and fear. Where was he? Had God kept his promise?

Mary obviously had incredible inner strength. Intelligent, determined, yet gentle, loving and compassionate. Devoted the task of motherhood, and the God she loved: Mary was - quite a woman.

As a little boy, this is the Mary I could have loved as a substitute Mother. But what did I know?

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You can read about Mary, her children, and Jesus in my novel   “Am I Your Son?”

Christian Theology for the 21st century.
The physical and the metaphysical were both created by God.
.

January 09, 2019

Does quantum entanglement enable our connection with God?


Is it possible there are two kinds of physical reality? We are able to measure our normal physical environment with our five physical senses. We cannot influence this reality with our mental activity.

We are not able to measure the empty space within and between the atoms of our perceived reality, nor are we able to measure the quantum entanglement that occurs between different forms of energy. These phenomena are invisible to us, always in motion, and do not exist at a specific location. The very act of measurement changes the result. But there is a theoretical possibility we are able to influence this reality with our mental activity.

The most obvious result of quantum entanglement would be the possibility of communication between the physical reality of my being and the physical reality of another living organism. In a quantum sense, they become “entangled”. If this is true, then we need to re-conceptualize our understanding of how we interface with the physical universe. The implication: if this mechanism of communication can be used to link one human with another, then it can also be used to enable human communication with the divine consciousness of the Cosmos.

We normally think of our physical reality as energy and matter. But we must remember no living activity would occur without the presence of information. It exists in the DNA of the cell, for example, where it tells a ribosome how to use amino acid building blocks to synthesize proteins. Information transferred within the nervous system enables us to walk, makes our heart beat, controls how we breath, determines our immune system responses, and so on. But then, what is the source of information?

Software instructions may reside as ones and zeroes within the memory cells of a computer, but the information they convey is intellectually separate and distinct from the physical mechanics of the processor. The program in computer memory is information that came from a source outside the computer – the programmer who assembled information into a meaningful set of instructions. Did the programmer create an information reality?

The information that flows through our being (enabling active life) is a natural component of our internal biological processes. But where did it come from? Do cells learn or create new information? Is it possible new information may come from a source outside the human body? Is it OK to believe a mechanism of consciousness and awareness (God) was the information source that created our physical and not physical reality? If not, then where did this information come from (or how did it originate)?

Most cognitive scientists assume consciousness is the result of a complex interaction between brain neurons and other cells. But a few researchers are intrigued by the possibility consciousness is also the result of quantum entanglement that occurs deep within the brain’s neurons. According to this theory, information can exist in an infinite number of states (quantum theory calls this phenomenon a superposition) within the neuron at the core level of consciousness. Quantum information behaves as waves of energy that move within the neurons, and it is this activity that creates our core conscious thoughts and awareness. Recent theoretical work also suggests quantum processes, which until now have been perceived as a purely physical-energy phenomenon, may also appear as biological-energy activity. Even more fascinating, they apparently occur within the DNA molecule. If this theory proves to be correct, then this explains how our consciousness - at the core level - interconnects with the consciousness of other living beings and the omnipresent intelligence that is the consciousness of the Cosmos. It may even suggest the path by which consciousness of the self can continue to exist after death. Quantum information within the neuron at the core level of consciousness is able to connect upward, with information stored in the semi and active levels of consciousness. These waves of energy are also able to connect outward (outside the body) where they are entangled (paired) with quantum information that exists throughout the fabric of the universe.

It is likely science will confirm the correlation of measurements performed on entangled pairs. This correlation has been already been observed even though the pairs may be separated by an arbitrarily large distance. If entangled, the interaction of one constituent cannot be fully described without describing the interaction of other paired constituents. Recent experiments also appear to prove this transfer of information between pairs occurs at least 10,000 times the speed of light (it may be – from the perspective of our physical universe – instantaneous). Furthermore, this phenomenon may occur even if one or more of the paired constituents did not exist at the same time. Thus neither space nor time appears to limit the possibility of pairing between us and another living being (or God).

Think of it this way. What is the “compass” that guides birds during their migration? Do quantum superposition and entanglement allow them to track the earth’s magnetic field? Why do flocks of birds or schools of fish suddenly change direction, all at the same time? Is it because of quantum entanglement? If identifiable parts of the cerebral cortex are responsible for a specific biological activity, then how do they coordinate with other parts of our brain, and control the outcome? How do we interpret the idea that greater consciousness can be stimulated by electric stimulation? Is there a (relatively unused) part of the brain that can assume responsibility for connection with external conscious thought? And how are left brain thought and reaction processes synchronized with right brain processes, even though there is no apparent electro-chemical connection? Is it because they are connected at a quantum level we do not yet understand?

These are a few of many interesting questions. Neither theologians nor scientists should ignore the possibilities.

There is more. Under “normal” circumstances, our free will is preoccupied with the physical and emotional stimuli of everyday life. This means we are consciously able to ignore or override our inherent connection with the intelligence of the Cosmos. Indeed, most humans are so preoccupied with active conscious activity, the closest they come to having a core consciousness experience is when they dream or take certain drugs. During near death experiences, however, active consciousness is no longer a filter or barrier to the information available to us within the Cosmos, or our connection with people and events that have shaped our life in the past. Evidence for the biological theory which enables this phenomenon to occur has been documented. Near death, drug induced and meditative experiences include a reduction of brain metabolism, blood flow and neurological activity. Unrestrained cognition occurs. It would appear a fractal hierarchy of brain activity within the neurons exists in all three levels of consciousness. In altered states, a more intense experience is associated with the faster quantum effect of brain activity that occurs deep within the neuron cores (as versus the slower neuron synapse level of connection that is a characteristic of an active conscious state).

Is quantum entanglement the mechanism by which we connect with God?  

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Text from   “Summa 21”
Christian Theology for the 21st Century.
The physical and the metaphysical were both created by God.
.

January 08, 2019

Human Consciousness: Finding the Connection


If we understand the basic structure and activity of the brain, we realize how our intellect interacts with the consciousness that exists everywhere in the Cosmos. It is this mechanism that connects us with God through prayer and meditation.

We humans operate on three levels of consciousness: animal, human, and social.

We are, at the core of our being, animals. This is the level of automatic body functions, involuntary reactions, basic emotions, and unthinking response to external stimuli. Heart muscle, digestive system, and pain reaction are examples of biological functions that work without conscious thought. Our action and reaction to external stimuli are driven by the basic autonomic mechanisms of animal behavior which drive thirst or hunger; sense and exhibit hostility; lust for sexual pleasure; experience hormone driven emotions such as anger, terror and excitement; and so on. We do not think. We act.

At the human level, the primitive functions of the animal are tempered by the emotional response, rational thought processes, and physical capabilities of Homo sapiens. We exhibit the adaptive physical and emotional responses of human behavior. Self-centered thinking shapes our actions and reactions. Most of us are competitive (although sometimes in subtle ways). We are aware, and sometimes driven, by our need for things like sex, food, shelter, clothing, recognition, love, and social status.

At the social level, we interact with other humans using a complex combination of sensual stimuli and learned behavior. We are socialized by human interaction from birth, and these experiences (good and bad) shape how we reason, communicate, associate, rationalize, fanaticize, dream, plot, and plan our relationships with others. Our responses can be intellectual, emotional, and physical – all at the same moment. We hate or love. We submit or dominate.

We know energy may dissipate, or it may change in form, but it never ceases to exist. Neurons in our brain generate and receive the energy of consciousness. These “packets” may be positive (projected as loving), neutral (no emotional reaction), or negative (given as hateful). When these packets “arrive”, the recipient may generate a like reaction (loving and united, neutral and passive, or hateful and alienated). Positive thoughts encourage a connection (coming together reaction) through love, peace, generosity, humility, and so on. Negative thoughts include the alienating (repelling) energy of hate, anger, greed, arrogance, and so on.

Our five senses (hearing, seeing, smelling, taste and touch) transmit stimuli to our brain for evaluation and possible reaction. The high level of interaction between the three levels of consciousness often leads to conflicting emotions. A malicious personal confrontation, or external physical threat, can drive us to a primitive state where we make panic choices. Human and social reaction is at first confused and subordinate to our animal response. This interaction may also be responsible for some types of mental incapacity: i.e. elevated feelings of animal anxiety that can only be resolved only when rational cerebral cortex activity eventually dominates the interaction.

On the other hand, the sensitivity of this interaction provides us with the ability to sense transcendent phenomena. We are able to connect to the spiritual with the elusive “sixth sense”, that has been much discussed but whose attributes remain largely incomprehensible. Although human intellect usually filters it out, we may become aware of a greater consciousness; one that surrounds and connects to our psychological state. Elevated unfiltered brain activity, as in prayer or meditation, increases our conscious awareness of the physical and not physical ecosystem within which we exist. If we are sincere in our effort, it is possible to sense, and then share, another person’s conscious spiritual state. Conscious energy flows from one person to the other. It is this same mechanism that creates a connection with the spiritual energy of God.

The existence of a sixth sense is not an element of faith but rather a matter of fact. We are able to sense the energy of consciousness. It is unfortunate our “rational” cerebral cortex filters out spiritual energy (external consciousness) because it is – apparently – outside our normal experience and is therefore considered as being irrational. Our conscious mind is focused on, and limited by, centuries of conditioned behavior in the way we process information from the five senses. External stimuli are normally filtered because our survival demands we focus on the reality and activity of our immediate physical environment. But thousands of sixth sense examples have been described by participants. A twin sister, though miles from her sibling, senses her sister’s anguish. A mother senses her baby is in trouble, even though he is in the next room. We may sense danger before it happens. We are able to detect the emotional stress of another person, even if we cannot see them. We know someone is calling us before the telephone rings. And so on.

When we accept the existence of a “sixth sense”, we enable our ability to experience the spiritual though the mechanisms of prayer and meditation. In this, all three levels of our consciousness operate interactively to enhance our sensitivity. We discover the energy of the spiritual flows around us. It is everywhere. We are connected to the Cosmos as a whole: all life and energy. And if we let our being go with the flow, we are able to sense the Spiritual Universe. We may not be able to identify where it is located. We don’t know how it works. But we come to understand it exists.

And with this discovery, it is possible to find a spiritual connection to conscious energy.

The Holy Spirit

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Text from   “Summa 21”
Christian Theology for the 21st Century.
The physical and the metaphysical were both created by God.
.