Jesus was born in the occupied Palestine while the Roman Empire was still in full expansion. The Romans were interested, in the short term, to win the support of the local ruling dynasties. In Palestine the greatest threat to the Romans came from the Zealots. Palestine was a country with a very different religion, and this could only lead to problems as the military force of the Romans came into conflict with the Law of the Hebrews. Palestine, lying at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean sea, was at the cross road of many different cultures and religions.
At the time of Jesus Christ birth, Palestine was the melting pot of Hellenic and Roman pantheist religions, the monotheistic Judaism and the Gnostic tradition. The main ruling force was the Roman occupation army. The Roman Empire had annexed Palestine, from Galilee at the North, to Samaria at the centre and Judaea, with its capital Jerusalem, in the South. Judaea was prepared to compromise with the Romans whereas Galilee was not, and was ready to fight them. The beginning of the struggle started in 6 AD when the Zealots of Galilee, under the leadership of Judas of Gamala, started to fight the Romans. The Zealots, who had been fighting since the second century BC for the independence of Palestine, lost and many of them, including Judas, were killed, but the fight did not stop and Judas’ son, Menahim, took over from his father. Judaism was, of course, the monotheist official religion of the Jewish state. Zoroastrianism came from Persia and this religion introduced Gnosticism with its conflict between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, or in other words, the concept of Dualism. God’s Angels created human existence, and the result was not very satisfactory, whereas the soul was the direct and perfect creation of God himself. This belief was well implanted since many centuries when Jesus was born. The Christian Church is the organisation that has been dominating the politics and thinking of the Western civilisation since Constantine the Great.
The Gnostics believed that anybody could reach the higher state during their lifetime if they behaved properly, that is if they followed the “Gnostic Way”. Having reached that stage of “Gnosis”, or “knowledge”, the individual was guarantee immortality of the soul after death, and salvation from the evil inherent to the human condition. This means that at death the Gnostic “resurrected” leaving his corporeal existence to enter the divine cosmos. This state was reached without the intervention of a divine being such as Jesus Christ in opposition to the Christian doctrine.
Judaism had to contend with Gnosticism but also with the Pagan religion of the Roman invaders. Moreover the Jews did not often agree between themselves and, in the second century BC, some priests broke away from the Temple and retreated in the wilderness at Qumrân where they founded the Essene sect or “Holy Ones”. From 1947 many documents, or scrolls, produced by the members of this sect have been discovered in caves in the cliffs near the Dead Sea. They are a precious inheritance from the past and help us to understand what went on at the beginning of the Christian era and Jesus Christ himself. It is evident from their content that the Essenes already expected a Davidic Messiah in the first century BC. Moreover the documents found at Qumrân are very similar to the New Testament and this shows us that Jesus, who came later, was, to say the least, influenced by the Essenes, or was a member of their community.
As we have seen Jesus was born in a multi-religious and multi-factional world. A simple “Jews versus Romans” scenario does not explain the real situation. Many Jewish sects had expected a Davidic Messiah before but, to many Jews, Jesus was only another prophet, and they had seen many of them. Menahim, for instance, had been considered the saviour of Israel but his downfall was due to his desire to fight. Jesus was very different; he was above all a preacher of peace at all cost and a defender of the poor, while upholding the message of the old testament. The Romans, and the priests of the Temple, thought that he was a trouble maker, mixing religion with politics. By entering Jerusalem before Passover under the acclamations of his followers Jesus made enemies of the Sadducees who ruled the Sanhedrin, the powerful Council of the Jewish Temple that, at the same time, collaborated with the Romans. The arrest and condemnation of another would-be Messiah did not bother too much the majority of the Jews and, again, fulfilled the prophecy of a Davidic Messiah to the full. After his crucifixion, Jesus’ body was placed in a new tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. It was Joseph who asked Herod to release Jesus’ body to him. Normally after decomposition the remains of the rich dead were placed in a terracotta jar or ossuary and put back in the tomb.
Jesus’ disciples had seen the arrest, trial and crucifixion of their leader in one day. According to the New Testament Jesus’ body disappeared from the tomb and he reappeared to his disciples three days later. One could wonder why an empty tomb was so important to the Gospels’ writers until the early Church proclaimed that the resurrection of Jesus symbolises the sacrifice by God of his only son. This is not the same as the conception of a Christ who fulfils a prophecy by re-establishing the line of David and securing the future of the new Jewish messianic age centred around the Temple of Jerusalem. Through the New Testament the early Church provided a simplistic message to the uneducated people. Jesus, the Messiah, had sacrificed himself for the sinners of the world, Jews and Gentiles alike, and his body had been resurrected. The Universal Christian Church was launched.
The man mainly responsible for launching this new church in all the world is Paul, a Jew who also had the Roman nationality. Although he never met Jesus he is however considered an Apostle. He was a Pharisee, born in Tarsus around 10 AD, who was converted to the Christian faith on the road to Damascus. The Pharisees were some way between the politically minded Sadducees, the conservative Essenes, and the revoltee Zealots. They also accepted most of the Hellenistic culture and advocated passive resistance to the Romans. Paul travelled all over the Empire and the success of the church is mainly due to his work.
As a Pharisee Paul believed that Angels and Spirit interceded between God and man; he also believed in the resurrection of the soul after death and in the development of the soul by doing good work on earth. This way of thinking is quite close to the Gnosis doctrine. He saw Christianity as addressing all men, Jews and Gentiles and to him Jesus was God and Messiah. He created Jesus as a resurrected Messiah and helped the Christian Church to survive when the Roman Pageant beliefs and the various Jewish sects disappeared. Paul’s road diverged from the more orthodox early Christian church led by James, Jesus’ brother, and the hard faction of the Nazarenes. They stayed in Jerusalem to finally disappear, while he travelled all over the known world spreading his vision of Christianity. This separation was a milestone in the history of the Christian church together with the integration of the Gentiles.
After Jesus’ death his half-brother, James, inherited the leadership of the early Christian church in Jerusalem. The admission of the Gentiles, with the consequent increase of Hellenic influence in the church, aroused much debate. James was of the opinion that the Christian church should keep its Jewish link while Paul thought the opposite. A compromise was reached that allowed the Gentiles to join the church but only after having accepted the Jewish faith and customs. Circumcision was not mentioned and, as a result, the church was open to all people. The result of this compromise was that the Jerusalem church lost power and influence in the movement.
Paul was first arrested and imprisoned by the Romans in Palestine before being sent to Rome for trial. James was also arrested in 67 AD and assassinated by the Sanhedrin; this was the end of the Jerusalem Jewish Christian church. Paul had successfully preached the message of a resurrected Christ to a large audience through Europe. The new Christian church was his own.
The Essene sect was much alive until 68 AD when the Romans destroyed their monastery at Qumrân. Before leaving the members of the community hid their precious scrolls in some caves where they were found in 1947 and later. There is no proof that Jesus was an Essene although he probably was, or was influenced by their creed. It is true that the Essenes expected a Davidic Messiah who would restore the Temple to the real Jews and, clearly, Jesus did not achieve this or, perhaps, did not even intend to do it. However Jesus, like the Essenes, was influenced by Gnosticism.
If Jesus was crucified, as we are told in the New Testament, we must ask ourselves if he died, and if it is the case, what happened to his body. The only account that we have of Jesus’ death, beside the New Testament, is “The History of the Jews” by Josephus. Unfortunately, here again things are not clear. The translation used these days says that Jesus died on the cross and that he appeared to his disciples three days later having been restored to life; in other words, he was resuscitated. On the other hand, an old translation from the tenth century reproduced in the Arab book “Kitab al’Unwan”, maintains that he appeared to his disciples three days after being crucified and He was alive. The former translation could have been modified by the Christian Church to be in line with the New Testament, that is to confirm the Messianic status of Jesus as a result of his resurrection from the dead. On the other hand the latter translation describes correctly the destruction of the Temple and the siege of Masada. It does not seem logical that Josephus would lie when he reports the death of Jesus. As a result we can assume that Jesus was crucified, that his disciples presented him as the long-awaited Davidic prophet and that he survived.
If he survived, what did he do afterwards? And if he died on the cross, where was his unresurected body taken? At this stage we can only make three hypotheses:
– Jesus survived the crucifixion and travelled to the South of France.
– His embalmed body was brought there by his family and friends.
– His burial place was found by the Templars and his remains brought to France.
Herod and his family had already been send to exile in the South of France as many other Palestinians before him. Jesus’ arrival in this region would have been hardly noticed. Even if Christ did not arrive alive in France, the legends and traditions still tell us that his embalmed body, or bones, arrived in the region of Rennes-le-Chateau, in the utmost secret, at one time or the other. His burial in Jerusalem and the discovery of his tomb by the Templars is the third possibility. It is well documented that the Templars conducted some excavations under the Temple Mount.
Taking into consideration all the possibilities we must still ask ourselves if the remains of Christ could have survived until the days of the Templars. It is known that the art of embalming was well known, efficient and often used at the time of Christ. None of the evidence available to-day support the possibility of the Resurrection. On the other hand Josephus tells us that one friend survived crucifixion not by resurrection but by resuscitation. The hypothesis that Jesus survived crucifixion is then possible and cannot be rejected a priori. Moreover if this was the case, that is if Joseph of Arimathea resuscitated him, he certainly left Palestine for reason of security. Both the Sanhedrin and the Romans thought that he was dead and that the problem he presented to them was solved for ever. That he went to France, where many Jews had already moved, has then become a real possibility since travelling within the Roman Empire had become easy. If he went alone or, as some historians said, if he was accompanied by his pregnant wife, Mary Magdalene, is another story. If this theory is true then Jesus established a blood line that, according to some people like Mr. Lobineau, became the Merovingian dynasty. Some people still believe that some offsprings of this dynasty are still alive to-day.
In any case Jesus’ message has survived and his bodily resurrection is not required to believe in his teaching. Of course the belief that God had raised Jesus from the dead leaving an empty tomb had helped to arouse the interest of the people. In this sense, the reappearance of his body would create a huge embarrassment. This leads us to believe that Jesus, dead or alive, had to be removed from Jerusalem.
It seems clear that the teaching of Jesus contains some elements of ancient Gnosticism (for instance, respect for the individual and the right to self determination based on personal responsibility). This is also true for the early Christian church of James and for the followers of Jesus that had not been influenced by St Paul and his doctrine of resurrection (they believed that Jesus had been bodily resurrected). Christian Gnosticism grew as a direct consequence and the members of this sect believed that Jesus was the mortal son of Mary and that his soul would have left his body on his death. This did not decrease their feelings for Jesus as a prophet who spoke the wisdom of God. This explains why the search for Jesus’ body is so important for some people like the Templars and the Rosicrucians.
The Church of to-day remains silent on the question of Christian Gnosticism. This has not always been the case. The Gnostic Gospel, found at Nag Hammadi, shows that the Roman Christian Church fought the Christian Gnostics in the second and third centuries and imposed the dogma that Jesus had been bodily resurrected. The Nag Hammadi library consists of 52 documents found in Egypt in 1945 in jars of terracotta and first published in English in 1977. According to one of these documents, the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus indicated his half-brother, James, as the leader of his Church after his death. This confirms that Jesus wanted his Church to remain within the Judaism faith and to exclude Gentiles. These Christian Gnostics believed in the resurrection of the spirit and not of the body.
Despite the efforts of the Roman Church, Gnosticism survived until to-day. The Gnostic Christians of the first centuries of our era were attacked by the Roman Church. We must remember that the Christian Church of that time was persecuted by the Romans until Constantine, at the beginning of the fourth century AD, imposed it as the religion of the Empire. However Eusebius, at the same time, went on hunting the Gnostics since the correct definition of God and the status of his son, Jesus Christ, became a matter of death or life for the Church. To solve the problem a Council was convened in Nicaea in 325. Arius’ opinion that Jesus derived from God as part of the overall creation was put aside in favour of the doctrine that he was part of a single Godhead as the Bible maintains. This doctrine has survived until now leaving no place for the Christian Gnostics belief that Jesus was a mortal man who achieved the ultimate state of grace during his own lifetime. The official Church maintains that Jesus was not born naturally and that the knowledge he acquired was not available to all. To pretend the opposite is considered to be heretic. This explains why the Christian churches tried to hide the Nag Hammadi documents. The doctrine of St Paul offers salvation after death; it maintains that Jesus died on the cross to expiate the sins of the world and that the true Christian should live accordingly. The Catholic Church, with the Pope as its leader, represents Jesus on earth and expects the obedience of their people. The growth of the power of the Church is matched by the growth of its fear of the Gnostics, and what they believe in relation to the Resurrection and the sayings of Christ. The Christian Church became universal while Gnosticism was reserved for a few people.
Constantine introduced a balance between church and state that lasted until the reformation (and even after) but at the price of its members feeling guilty due to the involvement of the church in business and politics. Jesus’ personal history was adapted to the Pauline’s doctrine and the fact that he was a Jewish Messiah, or Prophet, or Gnostic Essene, who followed the Law of Moses was played down. Jesus was no longer a Jew but the Christ who was killed by the Romans at the request of the Jewish Priests. The New Testaments, which books had been carefully selected by the Church, was the supreme truth unchallenged by unwanted Gnostic documents. This, of course, until the discoveries of many old scrolls at Nag Hammadi and in the Dead Sea caves; these scrolls have survived from the time of Jesus’ brother, James.
The Crusades created some change in this ideal situation. The order of the Knight Templars was created to defend the pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem after the success of the first crusade. They were soon very powerful and outgrew their initial limited aspirations. They were charged of important diplomatic missions that put them in contact with the rulers of the Arab Empire. From them they learned the sciences of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, sciences that had been hidden by the Christian Church. Their headquarters was established on Temple Mount from where they ruled the new Empire by their military and financial power. They also conducted many excavations under the Temple Mount that are still visible to-day. Nobody knows what they discovered. It could have been a treasure but more probably it was an ossuary with the remains of Jesus. In the twelfth century the intolerance of the Church with the Gnostics was reborn as witnesses the Albigensian crusade against the Cathars. The battles between Christians lasted until the seventeenth century. These wars between brothers were, obviously, in pure contradiction with Jesus’ teaching of love and peace but they were necessary to insure the continuous existence of a powerful and undiscussed Church.
It is probable that the Templars had been exposed to the influence of a Christian Gnosticism faith still alive in the East. Their Baphonet was, in reality, “Sophia” the female figure symbol of “Wisdom” to the Gnostics. Sophia is a communicator between light and dark. She is central to the development of individuals wishing to experience the resurrection of the soul within their lifetime as explained in the Gospel of the Sophia of Jesus Christ found at Nag Hammadi. That the Templars knew, and were influenced, by this document during their stay in the East, is more that possible.
The Reformation of the sixteenth century was the result of the continuous popular discontent with the Catholic Church and the opulence of the Pope and high clergy. However the Protestants were not Gnostics; the few remaining Gnostics had to remain underground during this period of change by fear of persecution. Gnosticism was revived at the beginning of the seventeenth century by two documents describing the achievements of Christian Rosencreutz, the so-called founder of the Rose Cross, a Gnostic movement. Three priests (at least) around and in Rennes-le-Chateau (Saunière, Boudet and Gélis), as well as their Bishop Billard, were behaving as if they were part of this movement, and it is very doubtful that the Vatican gave its approval for their affiliation. It looks as if it was the Rosicrucian movement itself that was responsible for keeping the secret of the hidden bones of Jesus, with the help of local priests and of, at least, one bishop. Moreover, it is difficult to believe that this was not known in the higher circles of the Vatican. To which exact level, is only the object of speculation. It seems obvious that Saunière knew the “Secret” and received a lot of money in exchange or to keep quiet about it. If what he knew was the burial place of Jesus, it was the ultimate heresy that would challenge the authority and, above all, the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church. After all, the Christian Church Theology is based on the Resurrection of Christ and that make it impossible for an individual to save himself alone. The Gnostics, on the other hand, said that he died as a human being and believed in self salvation. A person can be saved during his lifetime if he behaves in the right way. Finding the bones of Jesus would show that the Gnostics were right. What would be the consequence on the Christian Churches is impossible to evaluate, but it would be tremendous.
The conclusion can only be that a Rosicrucian organisation existed until, at least, the beginning of the twentieth century, that this movement was Gnostic and that it was the heir of the Templars, themselves being the continuation of the early Gnostic Christian of Jerusalem. The Languedoc was the ideal place to hide Jesus’ bones. This part of France has always remained very independent in spirit and never forgot that the Albigensian crusade responsible for the death of most Cathars was organised by the King of France and the Pope. Although they suffered at the hand of the Dominican Inquisition, the memory of the Cathar never died completely.
Are the remains of God buried near Rennes-le-Chateau, perhaps in Mount Cardou? Nothing is certain but the question cannot be dismissed of hand in view of the evidences. (34)