This study was published in Dutch as: Jezus de Messias. Was het christendom een vergissing ? Antwerpen, EPO, and as:Toen God sliep schreef de mens de Bijbel. De bijbel belicht door een psycholoog. Antwerpen, Facet.
This psychopathological study of the Gospel resulted in a revolutionary view on the personality of Jesus and his life, the sources of his spirituality and ideas. The hypothesis of paraphreny was able to explain a number of otherwise unexplained events. Did Jesus survive the crucifixion ? Is the Apocalypse the first Christian document, earlier than the letters of Paul ? Was the resurrection a myth? These questions find an answer in this study.
During about 2000 years the story of Jesus has been told to generations of humans in the terms and with the same words as those written in the Gospel. From the beginning however the story and especially the personality of Jesus was also a subject to discussion first by philosophers and theologians then by philologists and later by a number of scientists. Nevertheless the personality of Jesus remained almost a complete mystery.
About 1910 three competent psychiatrists: Ch. Binet-Sangle, G.L.De Loosten (G. Lomer) and W. Hirsch concluded after thorough examination of the texts, that Jesus was mentally ill and suffered from paranoia. They were criticised by A. Schweitzer who alleged that from an historical point of view most texts were dubious or certainly not historic, e.g. the quotations from the Gospel of St. John, and from a medical point of view that the alleged symptoms of paranoia or another mental disease were misunderstood.
Three objections seemed essential: first: there is no certainty about the historical truth of the texts, secondly: what seems to us like a symptom was possibly a normal trait, a cultural feature in that civilisation, thirdly: there are not enough sure elements in order to found on them a safe judgment.
From that time the debate seemed closed. Only W. Lange-Eichbaum in his book: Genie, Irrsin und Ruhm (Munchen, 1956) remembered that such problems once existed. Nobody seemed to care about the question.
Our study proceeded from the following reasoning: If witnesses describe in a text correctly (according to modern psychopathology) a number of elements (symptoms) and if these symptoms are coherent and can be identified with a known syndrome, while these witnesses ignored completely psychopathology and moreover intended to prove a very different interpretation of the facts (a faulty one), there can be no more doubt about the authenticity of the described facts.
The decision consequently about the historicity of the facts will no more depend upon mere philological criteria, but also upon psychopathological ones. Schweitzer supposes incorrectly, that the philological criteria are the only ones that can decide about historicity; in fact: the psychopathological control is more efficient and safe. So the first objection of Schweitzer is eliminated.
The second objection of Schweitzer, that symptoms may be misunderstood cultural features, is at least superficial. It is very clear that the true pathological nature of the observed symptoms is culture-independent, although they may be coloured by the cultural background. Unadapted and strange behaviour as it is seen by extraneous observers, is on account of this fact itself matched against the own cultural background of the observers, but if this background is identical with the background of the subject no cultural interference exists any more. Therefore it is important to study the reaction of the own cultural milieu of the subject. The pathological character however of the observed behaviour is in the most cases a transcultural feature.
Unreasonable autistic behaviour e.g. will never be considered to be normal in any culture. The content of a delusion may be entirely the mirror of the background of a subject, but the inflation of the Ego is not bound by that culture. Even if a number of features of the behaviour of a subject may seem more or less normal, they may become symptomatic, if they complete coherently the image and structure of a known syndrome. So the second objection of Schweitzer is shown to be not pertinent. If he contends that in the Gospel no sufficient symptoms can be discovered in order to found on then a valid diagnosis, -- for Jesus possibly the hallucination at the baptism in the Jordan and his self-conscience according to Schweitzer himself (Die psychiatrische Beurteilung Jesu. Tubingen, 1913, p. 44) could be discussed, but are not sufficient,- he forgets that precisely an hallucinatory state and a pathological Ego-delusion are decisive and sufficient symptoms, and that certainly, if they can be identified as a known syndrome, and moreover are accompanied by a number of coherent typical behavioural features.
Most objections against the psychopathological analysis of the Bible are a-priori-objections: it is contended e.g. that symptoms cannot be recognised after 2000 years or more, that this is undue induction, etc. However such conclusions are eventually only prudently to be drawn a posteriori after due examination of each case. Some cases may be more favourable than others. As a general conclusion these objections are certainly false.
A good example is the story of the possessed child in the Gospel of Mark (9).
In the Gospel of Mark a child is described, possessed by the devil. The features, found in the text, are all coherent with the syndrome of epilepsy and especially with an infantile type: perinatal infection of the ear with inflammatory complications, causing thrombo-phlebitis in the brain with the consequence of epileptic seizures and deaf-muteness. In the text of Mark all symptoms are precisely described: the child is mute, falls in the water and the fire (loss of conscience), utters a cry and is agitated, has foam on his mouth, becomes like dead and after a while is "cured".
2000 years ago nobody was aware of the true nature of epilepsy and the typical features in young children. (Hippocrates described the epilepsy as a disease, but we can consider that this was largely ignored in Judaea.) If a witness describes so correctly the phenomena of an epileptic seizure in a child with all concomitant circumstances, this fact has precedence upon all philological arguments and proves authenticity and historicity. If moreover the witness mentions all these features in order to prove his incorrect view of the facts, it is clear that the testimony is beyond suspicion. If something depends on culture, it is the faulty interpretation, in this case, that the devil causes the seizure.
From this example a method can be derived, which is no more subject to the objections of Schweitzer: the search in the text for certain symptoms should precede any other consideration; if a well-known syndrome can be identified, all other elements should be coherent with this syndrome, finally the fact that the witness is unaware of the scientific signification of the elements he mentions, will be considered as decisive. Therefore this psychopathological control of old texts can decide the questions about the historicity of the facts almost with certainty. If this method is applied to the Gospel, it will be possible to settle the questions about the personality of Jesus. If these texts unanimously mention certain symptoms and if these symptoms are structured coherently as a well-known syndrome, and that notwithstanding the contrary intentions of the authors, it can no more be denied that the observed syndrome is culture-free and independent, all textual and philological criticism has to submit to that fact. -
(Some methods of judicial expertise can subsidiarily be applied, such as the criteria of U. Undeutsch (Court-room evaluation of eyewitness testimony. Internat. Rev. Applied Psychology, 33/1 (1984), p. 51-67) in order to decide about the truthfulness of a testimony according to internal criteria).
As a consequence of this methodological solution some former philological conclusions are to be re-examined. It can be shown that a number of hypotheses about Jesus intended to solve ununderstood texts of the Gospel and the Apocalypse. If one reads e.g. (P. Benoit & M.E. Boismard, Synopse des quatre evangiles, II, Paris, 1972) that in the story of the epileptic child two devils were mentioned: a mute one and an epileptic one, and that therefore one can suspect that two different stories were joined, it is clear that this interpretation is the effect of ignorance of the infantile epileptic syndrome.
Another example is the usual interpretation of the possessed of Gerasa (Mark 5), who called himself a legion of devils and wanted them freed in a herd of pigs. Many philologists see this story as a concoction of two or three others, mixed with folklore (cf. Van Iersel, etc.). The psychopathological examination of this text reveals a quite different picture: the possessed of Gerasa shows all symptoms of a schizophrenia with catatonic agitation. The story is quite realistic, inclusive the delusion that he was possessed by a legion of devils. The text of Mark is rather precise. The man suffered from a grandiose delusion: he was agitated especially during the night, nude and crying he erred amidst the graves and mortified himself with stones. Nobody could master him, he broke all chains. It is not very strange, that such a lunatic persecutes crying a herd of pigs; they can be accidented on the rocks. All these elements confirm the diagnosis of schizophrenia. So there cannot be any more doubt about the historicity of the facts. There is only one story, no folklore, nothing but a rather precise report of a real encounter of Jesus with a schizophrenic patient, written with the intention to show how Jesus had power over the devils. The witness intended to prove a very different thesis than what he actually did. Indeed, in our two examples: the epileptic child and the schizophrenic of Gerasa Mark has shown, that Jesus did not have power over the devils because there were no devils, but he thought there were and that he had special powers.
From these two examples it is clear how the psychopathological examination of these texts is capable to explain them and to show directly their historical truth.
In the Bible numerous texts mention the hearing of voices, especially the voice of God. Current exegesis (Kittel, Theologisches Woerterbuch des Neuen Testaments, s.v. "Phone") interbreeds these texts as metaphorical: hearing the voice of God is simply the expression for a vocation by God. However in psychopathology "hear a voice" is a current expression for an auditive (sensory) hallucination. Often the voice heard is identified as the voice of God. So the question is, if the voices heard by Jesus ( Baptism, desert, Thabor) were hallucinatory ones as even Schweitzer suggests.
The narrative of the baptism of Jesus shows a text-evolution. In the Gospel: as Mark says that Jesus saw the Heaven opened, Matthew says that the heaven opened and that Jesus saw a bird... Luke lays a heavy accent on the physical appearance of a dove and eliminates any allusion to a vision, John adds the testimony of John the Baptist, the latter saw the ghost... The text-evolution seems to intend to change a subjective vision into an objective happening. Of course Mark has always the most original version: Jesus saw the heaven opened, he saw a bird, he heard a voice. This is the evidence, if one considers the complete narrative of Jesus baptism and his stay in the desert. Psychopathological investigation discovers in Mark, Luke and Matthew, regardless of the fact that especially Luke adapted the original version, a number of well-known symptoms of an hallucinatory state: hearing the voices of God and the devil, seeing wild beasts (zoopsie), having the impression to fly (vestibular hallucination), having visions of the whole world, suffering from anorexia (fasting). In that light the vision of the Baptism also is certainly another manifestation of this hallucinatory state: a well-localised (heavenly) vision, seeing a light (opening of heaven) , of a bird, the hearing of a voice, communicating a grandiose genetic message (you are my beloved son), a voice speaking in the second person as hallucinatory voices often do.
The whole picture is coherent with regard to the psychopathological symptoms: in the text one finds a correct description of a delusional hallucinatory state. Moreover the Gospel mentions also circumstances, which are coherent with this pathology;
1° the problematic origin of Jesus: he was the child of an unknown father. According to the Jewish tradition Mary was a hoar and Jesus' father was Panthera, a roman soldier. According to the Christian tradition, there was no human father, Jesus was directly conceived as a Son of God. According to less mystical interprets he is simply the son of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Examining the testimonies none of them is very probable.
The first one was never confirmed and of such banality, that it hardly could have made problems. How many girls in Jerusalem had intercourse with Roman soldiers ? How could it have been concealed so well to Joseph ? The second one is clearly a mythical one, intended to conceal the truth and imagined in order to show for the primitive Church that Jesus was born as a future Messiah. The third one is also improbable: the testimonies are too precise about the events at the conception. Why imagine an angel, the hesitations of Joseph, the visit to and stay with Elizabeth (concealing for the normal neighbourhood that Mary was pregnant). The fact is that Mary according to the Protevangelium Jacobi denied absolutely that she had intercourse with somebody. She kept that secret. Also for Jesus. Jesus therefore was a child begotten by an uncertain father. According to normal psychology his stepfather never accepted him as his true son. Jesus was left with the painful problem: Who is my father ? How can I find him ? How can I communicate with him ? His mother told him that God directly begot him.
In search of his identity he had only the hints of his mother to search in the Bible. The problem is a genetic one and well known in this syndrome: the genetic delusion is common. A lot of patients are convinced that their father is not their natural father; they think or pretend that they are the son or daughter of a king, a prince or another famous person.
2░ the prodrome of the crisis is mentioned in the Gospel. The twelve-year old Jesus remains in the Temple questioning the scribes (of course about the Son of God), indicating how he is yet obsessed by this problem. His response, ice-cold, to his mother signifies: how could you ignore that I should be in the house of my father ? This response reveals quite clearly the revolt of an intelligent boy and his fundamental incertitude. Could it be that he was really directly the Son of God ? At this moment he wants clarity, although there is still doubt, the delusion is growing.
3░ the emotion at the baptism. It is common that the eruption of a crisis happens in an emotional turmoil. All witnesses mention a discussion about the Baptism between John the Baptist and Jesus. According to the Gospel of the Hebrews, wherein a fragment mentions another version of this discussion: Jesus refused to be baptized, although his family urged him, finally he gave in. This latter version is more probable: why should Jesus want to be baptised ? He did not feel he had sinned. How could the Son of God be a sinner ? Jesus was upset when he came to the Baptism, according to both versions.
4░ the later identification with the Son of Man (Enoch and Daniel) and the Servant of Yahweh (Isaiah).
It is also common in this syndrome that the delusion evolves according to a logical process: from the Son of God to Son of Man, servant of Yahweh and King of Israel (Messiah). The integration of all these elements is an effect of the loose, but nevertheless almost logical thinking process. In a normal mind the concept of Son of God is distinguished from that of Son of Man and Servant of Yahweh, or King of the Jews. For the abnormal mind the basic fact or delusion to be begotten by God himself and therefore to be the Son of God implies that this has to be realised somehow and somewhere. The Son of Man is also a son and receives power and fantastic attributes from God, directly, so he can only be the Son of God, who receives such power. The loose conclusion is evident: Jesus is also the Son of Man (although also Enoch proclaimed himself the Son of Man). Such loose and more or less illogical thinking feeds the evolution of the delusional system. Nobody can deny that it is impossible to give an acceptable explanation for all these extravagant features outside the pathological domain, because all these mentioned symptoms are quite common in hallucinatory crises. It would be naive to ascribe each of them to a special supernatural intervention of God. Contemporary theology (e.g. E. Schillebeeckx) ascribes these stories to the imagination of the primitive church, which wanted to glorify Jesus. Why should however the Church invent a number of stories, which caused nothing but difficulties ? E.g. why should the Son of God be baptized ? Why should he be tempted by the devil, and especially with such extravagant temptations ? Why should he fast during 40 days ? Why should he see wild beasts ? It is quite inconceivable that the primitive church invented such strange stories for the glorification of Jesus. On the contrary the primitive Church tried to interpret and to adapt the primitive story in order to demonstrate the divine origin of these phenomena. From a hallucinatory visionary state she made objective supernatural events; but she was sufficiently ignorant so that she could not mask the pathological background of the events she told.
The pathological interpretation of the Baptism of Jesus is confirmed by the presence of an other misunderstood story: the transfiguration on the mount Thabor. Theologians ask why the Gospel tells a glorification of Jesus before his resurrection.
This seems illogical. However, if one accepts the psychopathological interpretation of the story of the Baptism, there is no mystery about his transfiguration. Then it is very clear that Jesus had another hallucinatory crisis. He heard the voices of Eliah, Moses and his Father. He had a vision. In the testimony of Mark (9, 2-10) there is some contradiction: while it is contended that Eliah and Moses appeared, only Jesus is described and it is said that finally the apostles saw nothing but Jesus. Of course the sleeping apostles wake up hearing Jesus speak with the voices he heard; he was pale and in an ecstatic state. The apostles did not know what to say to him. The story ends as a hypnotic session: they are searching to hear or to see something, they saw nothing, but Jesus alone.
This interpretation is corroborated by a third crisis, only related by John (12,28) . Jesus sitting on an ass made his royal entrance in Jerusalem. He heard the voice of his Father saying: I have glorified and I shall glorify my Name. There are only two possible interpretations for these texts: or it are true historical reports about pathological symptoms with an interpretation due to the faith of the primitive Church, or these texts are mythical stories, invented by the Primitive Church without any historical foundation. The second interpretation has become common in the Bible-courses as an effect of the Bultmann-doctrine, which insists on the mythical character of the Gospel and the necessity to demythologise in order to discover its true message. This second interpretation disregards the fundamental problem: who was Jesus really, not mythically. The first interpretation is left as the only one, which is able to discover the true personality of the historical Jesus, because it is issued from a method of scientific control of the text.
It is important to see the essential difference between the Gospel of Infancy and the baptism-Thabor episode. Most biblical students see the Gospel of Infancy as a mythical corpus in the New Testament and they mention numerous reasons. First there are the chronological contradictory data. According to Matthew Jesus should be born (between 6 and 4 B.C.) during the reign of the great Herod, who died in 4 B.C.; the census which according to Luke, obliged the parents to travel to Bethlehem, was executed by Quirinius, who according to the precise indications of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, became procurator of Syria in 7 A.D.., i.e. 11 to 12 years later. Furthermore the beginning of Jesus public life, when he was about thirty years, is situated by Luke (3,1) in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius (1 October 27-30 September 28). According to that indication Jesus should be born in 4-3 B.C . The historians never solved these difficulties.
Secondly: the divergence between Matthew and Luke is striking. For Luke an angel appears to Mary and to Elizabeth. For Matthew each event is predicted in the Old Testament; for Luke the quotations of the O.T. are replaced by occasional prophecies by Hannah and Simeon. For Matthew a star appears, magicians come, there is a flight to Egypt and a killing of innocents by the great Herod. For Luke there are only shepherds, angels and music, the circumcision in the Temple and a simple return to Nazareth. He does not mention Egypt, or the Innocents. In the Protevangelium Jacobi another series of divergent elements can be found. Herod kills Zechariah, while John is sought for; there is no star, no magicians, no prophecies, only the angels and their message to Mary and to Elizabeth.
Thirdly: the only elements, which all witnesses have in common are: 1░ the exceptional pregnancy of Mary, 2░ the hesitation of Joseph, 3░ the birth of Jesus, 4░ the exceptional sphere of wonders. Each witness surrounds these historical events with a scenery of marvellous elements of his own.
Fourthly: whatever the witness, the given details are typically feminine notwithstanding the masculine elaboration. Typically feminine are: the attention to what people say, for gifts, for visits, for the emotional reactions of the fiancÚ, the niece. Typical masculine e.g. is the elaboration of Matthew: the narration of each event is rigorously closed with a quotation of the Bible. Typical is also the elaboration of Luke: he omits a number of marvellous elements (the star, Herod, the visit of the magicians, the appearance of the angel to Joseph); he replaces them by the more credible visit of the shepherds; he omits the quotations of the Bible, but replaces them with the occasional prophecies of Hannah and Simeon. Typical for both is the sphere of wonders (signs in the heaven versus heavenly music, angels), a great historical context( (a roman census versus Herod and a flight to Egypt) and the glorious role for the mother to give birth to a future king of Israel.
Now three positions are possible:
1░ assert that all these elements are literally true, even when contradictory;
2░ assert that all those elements are purely mythical without any reference to reality. In that case the whole Gospel of Infancy is an entirely pseudologic construction;
3░ or submit to a psychopathological examination the different texts and establish the facts that there is a common source for all stories and particularly a feminine one, secondly that the majority of elements are due to imaginative loose construction (mythic), e.g. the prophecies are not even exact allusions. It is common opinion among exegetes that this mythic scenery can be dated after the Resurrection of Christ, when in the primitive Church questions arised about his origin. As it was due, all signs had to be present that Jesus was the future Messiah. As there was a Hellenistic church and a Jewish church, so there was a Jewish version (Matthew) and a Hellenistic version (Luke). For the Jews Jesus had to be predicted by the prophets, for the Hellenistic people the credibility had to be ensured by a more common course of events. Even in this mythical context some fundamental data may occur, which are based on real facts. As the indications about the census of Quirinius, about Herod, about the descent from David, about the journey to Bethlehem (according to the Protevangelium Jacobi Joseph and Mary dwelled in Jerusalem) may be false, it is not impossible that Jesus was born in the period that Herod Archelaos succeeded to his father in 4 B.C. This was a period of revolutionary agitation in Jerusalem. Is it unthinkable that the murder of the Innocents goes back to this period, and that Joseph and Mary, as probably a lot of people, escaped from Jerusalem to safer surroundings as Bethlehem. In that context and in accordance with the most probable chronology Jesus was born during the flight from Jerusalem. That there were also later some cruelties by Roman soldiers in Bethlehem is also probable.
According to the Jewish tradition Mary was a hoar and the father of Jesus was Panthera, a Roman soldier. There are however some unresolved questions: how is it possible that from the beginning there is a supposition that Jesus could become a king in Israel ? This seems quite unrealistic, if Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier. Things may change if one hypothesizes that actually his father was a prince, named Herod Archelaos, a name which evokes the word Archangelos, who became in 4 B.C. successor of the great Herod and who was known for his unrestrained sexual behaviour. Is it unthinkable that a prince said to a girl, that her son could become a king ? We will never know.
As it had to be shown to the many new adepts of the primitive church, who became curious about the origin of Jesus, that he really was born as the Messiah, the inferior conditions of his birth had to be overcompensated: loose virginity outside marriage to give birth to an illegitimate child in very bad conditions (flight to Bethlehem) had to be changed in a direct divine intervention, a virginal conception, a birth of a future king with the presence of royal magicians, shepherds, angels, heavenly signs and prophecies.
About the mythical character of this Gospel of Infancy there is a consensus of exegetes: a fantastic scenery was elaborated in order to mask the inferior conditions of birth. It is impossible to understand truly these fantastic stories, if one does not reduce them to their historical origin: a woman, the mother of Jesus who had to play her glorious role as the mother of the Messiah.
One finds also Mary in another happening: Pentecost. Also this story is full of original commonplaces. There was a great wind, tongues appeared and the apostles spoke several languages. In the text it is said that the people thought, that it was the language of drunken men. But Luke adds that all understood in their own language, which seems rather contradictory. This contradiction together with the character of commonplace of several features (the wind is a popular representation of the Ghost; the tongues of light and fire: one should know that the roofs of the houses were almost never entirely closed, so that rays of the sun came through, and the phenomenon of excited and unclear speech (therefore foreign language) throws doubt upon the authenticity of the happening. It appears as a show, which had to overcompensate the subjective uncertainty of the apostles. Of course they were anxious: would the people believe that Jesus was resuscitated ? Could that project become a success ?
The story of the Ascension is even worse. The evangelists who mention it ( not all even do !) relate the whole event in only one sentence and they are not unanimous about the precise location. Luke mentions two different ones: Bethany and Jerusalem. Nobody describes clearly the place, the event, and the circumstances. Is it credible that a witness of such a wonderful and glorious event could say nothing more than he disappeared? It sounds as a very simple Good Bye. Why did they not invite a number of witnesses ? Even the High Priest ?
Let us recapitulate the arguments:
1░ the Evangelists are witnesses who try to defend the thesis that Jesus returned to heaven;
2░ according to the criteria of courtroom evaluation of witnesses (U. Undeutsch, Courtroom evaluation of eyewitness testimony. Intern. Rev. Applied Psychology, 33/1 (1984), p. 51-67), these are clearly false with regard to the way of disappearance of Jesus.
3░ the only historical fact is that about Jesus nothing is said any more: he disappeared definitively as a living person.
But if this testimony is false, the question arises: if Jesus lived, whereto did he disappear ? Because the Ascension took place before Pentecost, this last event has to be interpreted in the light of the former: if Ascension is mythic, Pentecost was also.
It should be noted that angels appear at all difficult moments: the conception, the birth of Jesus, the resurrection, the Ascension. The Holy Ghost explains the conception of Jesus and the conception of the Church. The structural analysis reveals a systematic trend: a thematic thinking: when there is a difficult situation a myth with angels or Holy Ghost is masking the truth. So there is a constant mythological activity, why not say mythomanic, not in a true pathological sense, but in a larger one.
Exegetes use the term post paschal glorification, indicating by that terminology that all these mythical stories were invented by the Church and are to be classified as devoid of historical foundation as purely literary products, only intended to promote the faith in Jesus. This theory is unable to specify which were the true historical events, masked by this mythology.
So the distinction should be made between two aspects of the Gospel: the first one is the mythological: a myth is build, a fantastic scenery, in order to show the divine nature of Jesus, the second aspect is the transparency of the pathological trend, which could not be masked because of ignorance (Baptism, Tabor, etc). The first has been adequately recognised by the exegetes, the latter has been ignored.
Jesus calls himself the Son of Man. According to the voices he hears: he was also the Son of God. In order to understand this complex psychological situation, one has to be familiar with the cultural background, as well as with the psychopathological one. The Book of Enoch written about 150-100 B.C. by a Pharisee has been a fundamental contribution to the messianic conception of Jesus and his disciples. The Book of Enoch (F. Martin, Le livre d 'Henoch, traduit de l'Ethiopien. Paris, 1975) contains several parts, which at first sight seem quite disparate. The central and most important one is where Enoch tells his visions about the Son of Man, who will come to destroy all bad people.
Enoch contends to have received the revelation of all mysteries of Earth and Heaven, to have visited the universe, accompanied by angels, and most important, that he himself is the Son of Man. Therefore it is not doubtful that the Book of Enoch contains the visions of a paranoid schizophrenic (with all typical features of schizophrenia as Karl Jaspers described them (K.J. Jaspers, Algemeine Psychopathologie, Berlin, 1848/5th ed.). It are these visions, which are at the base of the concepts of Jesus and his disciples.
Not only is Enoch explicitly mentioned (Jud.) in the New Testament, but also a number of expressions are simply borrowed from him. And not only the expressions, but also the whole essential concept of the coming Son of Man with whom Jesus identifies himself, although the authentic Son of Man is Enoch.
However the voice did not say to Jesus: you are the Son of Man, but: you are the Son of God. he thematic Son of God is essential in the story of the conception, of the birth, of the temple-episodes (12year old Jesus and the merchants), in the baptismal and the Tabor-vision. As some kings were sometimes called Son of God, never they pretended to be the physical sons of God, as Jesus did. The son-of-God theme is clearly the fundamental one: the voices confirm that title. The concrete content of such condition is the problem, which preoccupies Jesus in the desert: could he become a Roman Emperor ? Could he transform stones in bread ? Could he precipitate himself in the air ? Jesus of course had to consult the Bible about his condition. There he found the King, the Messiah and the Son of Man. Ever it was predicted that the Son of God would come, so if he himself was the Son of God, he was predicted as the Son of Man. And this Son of Man was clearly described by Enoch. Once he was convinced, it became clear to him that now his reign was coming, because soon he would come on the clouds of Heaven. And then he announced the Reign of God, implicitly his own. He keeps this secret, because it was impossible to declare to the people that soon he would be the Master of the whole world for eternity. After a while it became a problem to him how he should enter in his glory. At the mount Tabor he heard the voices that convinced him, that he was also the Servant of Yahweh, who had to suffer and to die before entering in his glory. With Moses and Eliah Jesus talked about his dead in Jerusalem because that was the way.
Jesus is convinced, that all texts of the Bible point to him because he is the Son of God. In Jerusalem he has to make his entrance on an ass as Zechariah predicted. Before his judges Jesus was silent, he had to be the Lamb of Isaiah, except when he was asked who he was: he affirmed that he was the son of God, the Son of Man, the King of Jews, the Messiah. One sees clearly the loose logical evolution of a genetic delusion (to be the son of God), accompanied by a hallucinatory state.
It cannot escape from the attention that the father-incertitude in Jesus was the fundamental problem, that provoked the genetic content of his delusion: finally to be the Son of God. The genetic content of a delusion is quite typical, as has been said, as a symptom of paraphrenia, when accompanied by some rare hallucinations. Also typical are the rational elaboration of a system and the absolute character of the voices: there cannot be doubt about them and about what they say to him.
The purely pathological elements are the progressive inflation of the Ego, the specific elaboration of the delusion, the interpretative delirium (all texts point to him) and the hallucinatory state. So, against Schweitzer it has been shown that although the content of the delusion is due to the cultural background the specific pathological elements are culture-free.
If paraphrenia is accepted as a hypothesis, then this hypothetical solution can be used for the interpretation of a number of texts, which at the first view may appear strange, but not clearly symptomatic. It can be used also in order to find the true sense of texts, which are not understood up to this day. If most of these' texts manifest themselves as coherent with the hypothesis, while otherwise they remain problematic, one can safely adopt the hypothesis.
The paraphrenic patient has some marked characteristics, other than the rare hallucinations and the delusional state, e.g. :
he shows a great hostility against those who contradict him;
one finds also a familial rage, as the family contradicts him;
sometimes he shows autistic behaviour, autistic in the sense that the rule for judgment and action is not reality, but his subjective will;
he is subject to an interpretative delirium, he interprets a number of events and utterances as pointing to him and to his delusion;
often he conceals his conviction, keeps his delusion secret and temporises.
All these typical features can be found in the Gospel.
A. Jesus threatens Bethsaida, Capernaum, Jerusalem, because they did not believe him. When the Son of Man comes with his heavenly powers, all those will be killed, who did not believe, and even all kings and mighty men; anything will be destroyed. Jesus insults the Pharisees, because they criticize him.
B. Jesus specially is angry with his family, which tried to impede his predication. A number of logia are directed against the family. One cannot find one friendly word especially for his mother. These are my mother and my brothers, who accomplish the will of God (Mc 3,35). The disciples of Jesus should hate their father and their mother (Lc. 14,26), because the true enemies of man are his family (Mt 10, 35). (Cf. also: Mc 11.30; Mt 10,35, Mc 13,11, Mt 13,11).
C. The episode of the fig-tree (Mc 16,20-25; Mt 21,18-22) is especially revealing. It is completely illogical to want fruits outside the season; the aggression against the merchants in the temple (Mc 11,15-17; Mt 21,12-13; Lc 19,45-46), where Jesus objected to the transportation of any object is also a very strange event. Merchants had a function in the religious practice of that time. The animals, which they provided, were essential for the sacrifices. And, moreover, the transportation of any object seems a quite neutral activity. So it is unreasonable to expect a total absence of merchants and their activities in the Temple, where sacrifices had to be held.
D. Jesus tries to realize some utterances of the Old Testament, which he calls prophecies and thinks that they point to him, so is the Zechariah-prophecy: The king comes sitting on an ass.... Therefore he makes his entrance in Jerusalem, sitting on an ass. He tries also to realize the Servant of Prophecy-prophecy (Is. 53). He thinks about himself as the Son of Man, predicted by Daniel and Enoch. This interpretative delirium rules the activities of Jesus and his total behaviour: he preaches the coming reign of God (implicitly his own); he is eager to enter in his Glory and to come with power.
E. It has not been very well understood by exegetes, why Jesus keeps secret his identity and imposes the secret to his apostles. For the people he remains a Prophet, announcing the coming reign of God; for the disciples he is the coming Son of Man, the Son of God. Officially he reveals that secret only before the High Priest, when explicitly asked about.
This behaviour is typical. As Jesus cannot realize immediately his delusion, he temporises: the Son of God will come soon, but later. In Cana he temporises: his hour had not yet come; in the storm in the boat he sleeps, probably waiting till the storm quiets down. The conclusion of this short review is that one can find a number of typical traits of the paraphrenic mental disease in the Gospel. It can be shown that paraphrenia is a good hermeneutic hypothesis, as it can shed light on a number of texts.
Historical criticism of texts up to this day has been almost exclusively founded on literary criteria. Nobody seemed to think about cases, where psychopathology could help. As it can be seen from the preceding examples, psychopathology is a science, which can be invoked with success if strange, incomprehensible behaviour is described in the texts. The question has to be raised however: how sure are the results of such an investigation ?
As has been said, if all symptoms coherently are in accordance with a well-known syndrome, there can be no more doubt about the historical truth of the described facts because it was impossible in Hebrew antiquity to describe accurately and correctly what twenty centuries later became known as a mental disease without having observed it. The fact that can be shown is that in the Gospel an image is found of Jesus, which is entirely coherent with the syndrome of paraphrenia, and that it is quite sure that this was not the intention of the authors of the Gospel. Nothing specifically divine or even superior is noted. Paraphrenia has to be understood as a mental disease sometimes also classified in the category of paranoia and opposed to schizophrenia. In opposition to the schizophrenic the paraphrenic remains adapted to his milieu, has a coherent thinking and a well-organised behaviour. Generally hallucinations are rare, but initiate a delusional state, often with a grandiose genetic theme. The paraphrenic is very sensitive to the opposition against his ideas: he is often full of resentment and hate. This is exactly the image the Gospel has painted of Jesus. If miracles are the only argument for the supposed divinity of Jesus, one must take into account that a number of these are certainly pseudo-miracles (cf. the epileptic child '(Mc. 9) or the possessed of Gerasa (Mc. 5)). The others are very suspect, if one does not consider the fact that nor Jesus, nor the disciples were able to see the difference between the end of a crisis and the end of a disease. With regard to the exorcisms it is very clear that Jesus, as the Gospel attests, cannot impede that the devil comes back (Mt 12,43-45).
Also the cases are to be studied where Jesus refuses to do a miracle. In Nazareth e.g., for the Syro-phenician woman, when Pharisees ask for. One should understand the difficult position of somebody who has to do miracles and to heal the sick in a village where everybody knows everybody. If there are true recoveries anybody will know. Pseudo-recoveries have little chance. So Jesus refuses. Man could also wonder why the Pharisees had to ask for a sign, if it was true that so many miracles happened. One can suppose that some miracles were simply declarations of Jesus that somebody was healed. From the ten lepra-patients only one came back. The nine others were not declared healed by the priests of course. So the miracles of Jesus cannot seriously be considered as a proof for divinity. Suppose the Son of God really appearing on earth, would he need miracles of disputable quality to prove his identity ? The whole story of the miracles supports the hypothesis of paraphrenia and shows the magical spirit of these patients.
If one tries to conclude logically, the hypothesis that Jesus was a paraphrenic excludes a resurrection as understood traditionally. Meanwhile four witnesses relate this resurrection and even quite vividly. So one has the choice: to deny any historical value to these stories and to consider them as mythical just as the Gospel of Infancy or to find out what happened exactly. And this is not possible by the method of psychopathological criticism: there are no symptoms mentioned in the text; however strange, all elements seem normal. Other methods are to be applied such as the criteria of Undeutsch (cf. supra).
According to Undeutsch the clearest sign of falsity of a testimony is the presence of commonplaces. A true witness mentions particular details, which caught his attention; he mentions his emotions, even his faulty reactions. These criteria can help a lot in the study of our witnesses: Mark tells that the Apostles did not believe the story of Magdalene, who announced them that the grave was empty. John mentions the fact that he arrived first at the grave, because he had run faster, but let Peter enter first. These are vivid details. On the contrary Matthew and partly Luke have an impressive collection of commonplaces: an angel appears, there is light and thunder, or suddenly two men are present....
The conclusion therefore is : Matthew and partly Luke falsified the true story; Mark, John and partly Luke tell true events. So the grave was empty at the great astonishment of the disciples. It is also true that Jesus afterwards met his apostles at Jerusalem and in Galilee. Jesus survived crucifixion. If the hypothesis of paraphrenia is accepted, this is the only possible conclusion, given the part of truthfulness of the testimonies.
In that perspective some details in the Gospel may become more important: 1░ the attitude of Pilate, who was not a friend of the Jews and was fond of ridiculing them; 2░ the contacts between Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea; 3░ the good centurion who spared Jesus; 4░ the hasty end of the crucifixion and the restitution of the body to Jesus' mother and to Joseph of Arimathea; 5░ the new grave and the presence of a young person (a servant).
One can suppose that Pilate ordered to spare Jesus, so that he should not die and so that he could resuscitate. Joseph of Arimathea could let a servant in the grave in order to take care of Jesus. After three days Jesus was sufficiently healed in order to appear and to visit some days later at night his disciples in Jerusalem. But he had to escape to safer regions as Galilee, and from there to disappear definitively. A new logical reasoning seems to imply that Jesus disappeared to the desert or to Ephesus e.g. taking another name such as John. If the Apostles wanted indeed to announce his resurrection, they had to tell were Jesus was. The simplest way to get rid of that problem was the story of the Ascension. And this story according to the criteria of Undeutsch is false. So there remains a problem: if Jesus lived somewhere is, it probable that he did not leave some trace ? Not at all. If he is a paraphrenic, it is highly improbable that he would remain entirely quiet. If we want to discover Jesus, we have to look for traces of paraphrenia.
And this is the remarkable result. There exists a mysterious document, which is a pure expression of paraphrenia: the Apocalypse of John. This mysterious text could reveal the truth about Jesus.
Most exegetes date the Apocalypse of John as a text written about 80 A.D. or even much later. The arguments are the following: in the text are mentioned seven or eight kings of Rome (emperors), there is an allusion to a great fire in Rome, probably in 64 under Nero (vaticinium ex eventu) and the number of the beast is 666, probably the number of Nero (QSAR NRWN in Hebrew letters). Counting and beginning with August, not taken into account Galba (68-69), Otho (69) and Vitellius (69) one arrives at Domitianus (81-96). These arguments do not particularly shed light on this mysterious text. Moreover they are in contradiction with this text. It is said that five kings are fallen and that the seventh is not yet there, but will not remain a long time. It follows that the Apocalypse has to be dated during the reign of the sixth and that the cryptogram 666 reveals his name. According to the former opinion Nero should be the sixth, but that is impossible because in the list of the emperors he is the fifth. According to the text the destruction of Rome should happen during the reign of the seventh, who cannot be Nero. The solution that Domitianus is the seventh, or the eight is quite unsatisfying, because he reigned not precisely a short period. One has also to skip arbitrary Galba, Otho and Vitellius. The reason for this hermeneutic chaos is the fact that a number of details were not understood very well, e.g. the eight king who was one of the seven.
The method, which is applied here, is centred upon these details, taking into account the typical special mental processes, the loose construction, the symbolic, hermetic and idiosyncratic style, the contamination of mental concepts and representations. Notwithstanding these particular traits, some details may be exact allusions, metaphors that should be identified. This identification should proceed from an exact representation of the cultural background at the time the Apocalypse was conceived. In the previous interpretation this exact representation is lacking. It was forgotten that the name Caesar was not a title of a function, but a proper name, it was forgotten that the list of emperors we have now does not coincide with the succession of Caesars, that the description of the fire of Rome (borrowed from Ezekiel) is entirely different from the description of the real fire (Tacitus: an indescribable chaos in the city) and an expression as : the eight king who was one of the seven remained completely ununderstood.
Octavius, the eight, was the original name of Octavianus Caesar Augustus, who was adopted by Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was murdered because he was suspected that he wanted to become a king. And there existed also the legend of the seven kings of Rome. The legend of these seven kings at the beginning of Rome is here projected to the end. Rome will disappear during the reign of the seventh. (who will not reign a long time). As the seventh has not yet arrived, the Apocalypse has to be dated during the reign of the sixth, because five have fallen yet. As Octavius is the eight, the seven are Caesars. The first one is Julius Caesar ( first king); the second is also the eight: Octavius Augustus; the third Tiberius; the fourth, often forgotten, Germanicus; who died poisoned and who possessed the imperium maius; the fifth Gaius Caligula, the sixth Claudius and the seventh Nero. The Apocalypse can be dated in 45-47 and not 90 or later.
There is a drake and two beasts: The first beast has seven heads and ten horns, the second has only two horns. Of course the first beast symbolized by these heads the seven kings of Rome, one of them deadly wounded (Julius Caesar). The ten horns are the governors of the ten provinces of the Roman Empire (the drake).
The drake gave power to this beast (the imperial power) . The beast reigns 42 months : this is exactly the period of the reign of Caligula who reigned from the 1st July 37 till the 21st January 41 and who wanted to be worshipped as a god (Zeus Epiphanes Neos Gaios, even in the temple of Jerusalem. The second beast has only two horns, it decrees the worship of the emperors and the taxes; it reigns under the supervision of the first beast, the emperor. This is clearly the senate of Rome with the two consuls at the head. But the beast is also a man and this man has the number 666. Written in Greek characters 666 = Chi Ksi, Digamma. Digamma signifies 6, Ksi signifies 60 and Chi signifies 600. For digamma the signification is clear: five kings felt, the sixth Caesar is there: so digamma signifies the sixth; Ksi is the abbreviation of Kaisar, the Greek pronunciation of Caesar; for Chi one has to remember that the emperors were Roman emperors: 600 = DC in Latin and that is Divus Claudius, as divus was the mode the emperor was addressed. Divus was a title, which was object of mockery for Jews and also for Romans (cf. L. Seneca, Divi Claudii Apocolocyntosis). This Claudius was ugly like a beast, as said his own mother (Suetonius). One sees that this is a mixture of allusions: the dead of Caesar, the reign of Gaius, and the reign of Claudius. Probably the beast comes from the sea, because the battle of Actium was at the origin of the power of the beast (August). By opposition the second beast had to come from the earth.
The term beast takes probably his origin in the physical appearance of Claudius. Seneca says that the gods created his body when they were angry (Sen. Apoc. 11). It was completed by the traits of the beast in Ezekiel ( with the face of a lion, etc. ). It is situated in the Jewish-Roman conflict (taxes and worship), the symbolic short period of the reign of Gaius, the symbolic cipher of Claudius. So one can deduce the procedure of composition: the text is an agglomerate of historical details, loosely unified by symbolic figures. The Apocalypse can therefore be dated in the year 45, because this date is also concordant with the other historical sources. In 49 Claudius banished the Jews from Rome, because they were restless under the instigation of a certain Chrestos (Suetonius). If the Apocalypse was known in Rome in 47, it is quite understandable, that the Jews were in a revolutionary mood, not only because of the taxes and the worship of the emperor Gaius, but also because they were instigated to set fire to Rome and to refuse to pay taxes. It was a campaign of civil disobedience and terrorism, severely repressed by Claudius. So Suetonius is right when he calls the instigator Chrestos.
According to Suetonius a senator said to Nero that he wished that Rome would not be destroyed during his reign. Nero answered that he wished that, because he hated the small streets of ancient Rome and wanted to reconstruct it. So one can suspect that at that time the prophecy was known. Afterwards Nero did not hesitate to arrest the Christians as guilty for the fire of Rome (he let them burn themselves and for the insult to the emperor they had to fight clothed with furs of wild animals, because the apocalypse of course calls the emperors beasts. Anybody should understand that. For the hypothesis that the Apocalypse has been written before 47 the strongest argument is the harmony of all historical sources and the fact that they make sense.
The fact that Claudius is described unanimously as a beast, as a monster by Suetonius, by Seneca and by the apocalypse was also due to the fact that he suffered from a vigorous head-and-hand-tremor, that he had an abnormal gait and a raw voice (Sen. Apoc. 5). Seneca is very explicit; he writes that Hercules had seen several monsters, but not all ! His voice is said that of a sea-monster. Seneca accuses Claudius that he condemned numerous people and one can understand the allusions in the apocalypse to the decapitation of a great number of Christian Jews, ordered by Claudius (Apoc. 20,4; 6,9; 18,6; 13,9 & 15; 16,6; 17,6; 18,24; 19,2; 20,4). Those who obey to the laws of Rome are threatened to be condemned by Jesus and to be tortured by fire (Apoc. 14,10) and by tumours (Apoc. 16,2). The saints should persevere and refuse to pay taxes (take the mark of his name (the emperor)) (cf. 13,17 : nobody can sell or buy, if he is not marked by the name of the beast (who was on the coins) and die (14,12). There can be no doubt that the Apocalypse instigated the Christians to civil disobedience, even when they were sentenced to dead. The Christ is the instigator of the troubles at Rome, as Suetonius wrote, and Claudius was radical in the repression. By capital punishment and by banishment (49) he tried to dominate the troubles, which found their origin in the hate of Jesus against the emperor who impeded him to come with glory and reign over the whole world. (2 Tess. 2, 1-12). The Jews, and especially the Christian ones, had not the sense of humour that characterises the Roman spirit with regard to the deification of the Roman Emperors. If one reads Seneca, one sees how Romans were full of mockery about these deifications. Claudius is ridiculed as he wants to become a god, and finally is condemned to be a slave, and the fundamental reason is that : tam facile homines occidebat quam canis adsidit (Seneca, Apoc. 10,10) (he killed so easy men, as a dog urinates). The real killer of Jews was Claudius. He was the beast.
It is remarkable that Paul in its letter to the Romans (Rom. 13) tries to obtain submission to the authorities and payment of the taxes (13,6). This letter should have been written in 56, just after the dead of Claudius (54). As Seneca suggests, the young Nero inspired some hope in Rome, also for the Jews who returned there. In the main time Paul was in Rome as a prisoner. Probably Peter came also in Rome and was there during the fire. If the Christian Jews set the fire to Rome, this had to be prepared by Paul and Peter in great secret. Paul in Thess. 2, 1-12, alludes to the thesis of the Apocalypse that Jesus cannot come back because he is impeded by the antichrist: the Roman imperium. But the end will come soon, even during the life of Paul (1 Thess. 4-13). The changed strategy : to pay taxes, to honour Cesar, did not change the fundamental attitude and the hostility against Rome, which was to be destroyed. The contradiction between the Apocalypse (not to pay taxes, to die instead) and the doctrine of Paul and Peter can be understood as an evolution, in the hypothesis that the principal author of the former position was dead, and completely neutralised. If the hypothesis is accepted that Nero and some senators knew that the destruction of Rome was predicted, as Suetonius suggests, then of course during the ten years of Nero's reign there was some rumour. Meanwhile everywhere the Christians were persecuted. The 1st Epistle of Peter (1 Petr, 3, 13-17; 4,11-19; 5,9) mentions these difficulties between 60 and 64. Peter also tries to obtain obedience to the emperor (1 Petr, 13; 4, 17). It is easy to distinguish two periods after 45, the presumed publication of the Apocalypse: the first one a period of troubles at Rome and else till 49, the banishment of the Jews; and a second period (45-64) where Peter and Paul preach the submission to the Law, warning that the end is coming soon. In the mean time Christians have difficulties and are criticised, they have to behave prudently, they should not provoke reactions: that is the doctrine of Peter and Paul and that is in contradiction to the doctrine of the Apocalypse. This is a normal evolution, when there is sufficient repression: outward behaviour normalises, but the inner rage remains.
The question can be raised: If we suppose that Jesus' survival ended in 54, this fanatic revenge against the emperor, who impeded Jesus to come in glory, ended also. It was possible that Peter and Paul took over, and, because it would not be a long time before Jesus would come back (the times are now decisive Paul writes to Timothy (2 Tim., 3.1), it was not very useful to sacrifice a number of lives for the taxes and to resist openly to the new Emperor. So they preferred the secret subversion. Rome had to be destroyed, because it impeded the coming of Jesus.
The first Christians were true anarchists; that has been completely forgotten. The period of ten years before the fire is one of caution. But even after the fire the opposition to Rome of the entire Jewish community was at its apogee. In 66 there was the revolution in Jerusalem, and in Alexandria thousands were killed. From 67 till 135 several revolutions took place. Given the opposition between the doctrine of Peter and Paul and the doctrine of the Apocalypse it would be extremely improbable that the Apocalypse came later than the letters of Paul and Peter. In the year 90 the taxes were yet more than 50 years old, the worship of the emperor was an old tradition; the indignation could not be so fresh as when Gaius prepared his statue for the temple of Jerusalem and when the commercial taxes were new. The real sequence is: indignation, troubles, revolution, repression, outwards submission, inner rage, secret subversion, revolution.
The Apocalypse is therefore the first document of Christianity: the oldest. In the light of these problems one can ask if e.g. a logion of Christ: Give Caesar... has not been added lately as a part of the strategy of the Church in order to obtain that the Christians pay taxes.
The consequence of the change in perspective is important. The Apocalypse is the bridge between the real public life of Jesus and the letters of Paul, and later the Gospel as texts.
That the cited logion is probably a later addition is strongly supported by the fact that (Lc. 22,2) in the trial of Jesus before Pilate the accusation against Jesus is, that he preaches revolution against Caesar, that he forbids to pay taxes and that he pretends to be the Messiah, the King.. And this is confirmed by the Apocalypse., which incites to revolution against Rome and Caesar in order to burn Rome, and which forbids paying taxes (to take the mark of the beast). Luke mentions simply the accusations without being conscious of course that the Apocalypse contained exactly the confirmation of them. When the Gospels are published Jesus is presented as a taxpayer and a loyal subject of Caesar, and this is in accordance with the official strategy of the church. So we have to admit that the historical Jesus indeed preached the revolution against Rome and forbade to pay taxes, if not publicly, certainly to his disciples. In the Gospel discussions about the subject are mentioned (Mc., 12. 13-17).
The Apocalypse is certainly the most primitive document. Is it also a paraphrenic document ? The general opinion of the exegetes about the Apocalypse is that it is a literary work of the genre of the apocalyptic literature (Ezekiel, Daniel, Enoch, etc.) , which contains prophecies about the end of times, predicting catastrophes, with visions, angels and cryptic, symbolic expressions, not always well understood today. ( M.J. Lagrange, Le juda´sme avant Jesus-Christ, Paris, 1931 et id. , Le messianisme chez les juifs, Paris, 1909; E. Schillebeeckx, Jezus het verhaal van een levende, Brugge, 1975). the psychopathological examination of the texts produces different results. Ezekiel, Daniel and Enoch were mental patients, schizophrenics and paraphrenics, showing all typical symptoms of these diseases: receiving revelations, seeing visions, being the elected ones, predicting catastrophes (Cf. K. Jaspers, l.c.). The Apocalypse is not an exception. Characteristic for the Apocalypse is the megalomaniacal sphere, the horrible aggressivity and the narcissism. Symptomatic are the loud voices, crying, the symbolic, idiosyncratic, pedantic expression, the zoopsy (seeing monsters and beasts), the hallucinatory state, the catastrophic predictions, the typical systematic elaboration (Enoch, Ezekiel and Daniel were assimilated). The abnormality of the mental processes can easily be shown: a number of expressions are inspired by a great inflation of the Ego: glory and power to him, omnipotence, anybody will see his power, he will destroy the earth and all peoples, he is the son of Man. The narcissism is enormous: all will adore him, anybody has to proclaim his glory because he alone has power and wisdom (5,12) , he alone is worth to receive the glory, alone the Lamb is worth to open the book with the seven seals, he is the king of the kings, the Lord of the Lords.
All events are cosmic: stars fall, angels occupy the four corners of the earth, thunder and lightning and earthquakes accompany events; all voices are loud crying, some with the voice of the thunder. All punishments are terrible: blood streams abundantly; Rome will be destroyed in one hour or one day (18, 8-9), all kings, all soldiers, all their horses will be eaten by the birds. The beast will be burned living (that is why Nero burned the Christians living), all others will be killed by the Christ himself (19, 17-21), all living beings in the sea will die (16, 3), etc., etc. All these catastrophes are the effect of the anger of God; Rome is described as the Great Hoar and the Roman Empire is identified with the Satan himself.
All this anger, all these catastrophes are due to the fact that all others are supposed to be the enemies of Jesus (the majority of the humanity did not even know who Jesus was) and therefore all are guilty and should be destroyed. Only those who are the elected ones will reign with the Christ for 1000 years. Those who died will resuscitate, when Jesus comes back and reign also during 1000 years. (Cf. also the predication of Paul: 1 Thess, 4, 13-19; cf. 2 Tess., 2, 1-12). This immense irrational aggressivity is a consequence of the enormous inflation of the Ego. The pathological character of these mental processes is, as had been said, well known.
The hypothesis that the source of this text is a megalomaniacal paraphrenic is the only plausible, if one considers the original part of the content, opposed to the assimilated part (the part borrowed from Ezekiel and others). N.B. that it is probable, as the text suggests, that it has been written by a disciple, who is responsible for a number of details and stylistic elements (it was certainly a Jew, because the style is typical: a great number of conjunctions, much less particles) . One could characterize the Apocalypse as the hymn of the wrath, of the anger and the hate, exactly the contrary of the (later) doctrine of Jesus in the Gospel.
If our hypothesis is exact, the Apocalypse reflects better the true mentality of Jesus than the Gospels, which were written later. But even in the Gospels traces remain: the threats against Chorozain, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Jerusalem reflect the same mentality. They reflect the same rage of Jesus against those who do not believe him. And that is the essential element : it contains the proof that Jesus was a paraphrenic, who contended to be the Son of God.
The inhuman characteristic of the Apocalypse, its bestial brutality, the irrational rage are a sufficient proof of his origin: a pathological mind. Nothing in the Apocalypse is love, mercy, all is self-glory, revenge, wrath, power, cruelty. The Apocalypse is in strong contradiction with the doctrine of Paul and John and even with some logia of Jesus in the Gospel. In the Gospel Jesus has been humanised in order to make him more acceptable to the faithful.
As the studies of Bultmann have shown, the primitive Church has modified, adapted a number of logia; a clear example is the logion about the children and the reign of God. In the Gospel of Thomas (R.H. Grant & D.N. Freedman, Het Thomasevangelie, Antwerpen, 1960) some logia have been preserved which explain the pericopes of the Gospel: to be as a child is to be asexual and free of sexual shame (log. 21-22). (Cf. also log 37 & 114: if you make masculine and feminine one). In the canonical Gospels it is said also that in the heaven there is no marriage, virginity is exalted just as in the Apocalypse. The theme is constant: virginity, inhibition of sexual activity.
A precise examination of the style of the Apocalypse reveals: 1░ as has been said, a typical Jewish, not-Greek style such as an excessive use of conjunctions (kai) and a scarce use of particles, 2░ a non-Johanneic style as compared with the Gospel of John and the Letters of John. (Cf. H.H. Somers, Analyse statistique du style, Paris, 1962). As the content reflects authentic Jewish feelings against the contributions and the cult of the emperor, the writer was without doubt a Jew, who feels as all Jews at the time of Gaius and Claudius. Taken into consideration that the text reflects also a paraphrenic symptomatology in a later stage of the illness, the author had to be over thirty and more probably over fourthly under the reign of Gaius. This Gaius was a contemporary of Jesus.
It is typical that an angel has been sent to communicate the message to the servant named John (Apoc. 1,1) But in 1, 9 this John had a vision and hears a voice and then he sees the Son of Man, just as Daniel and Ezekiel saw him. In the vision there is a direct communication. According to our criteria the angel is only there in order to hide the truth. It is Jesus who speaks and orders to write to the churches in a typical authoritative style: He spoke with authority, with the same "I"style as in the Gospels and with the same expressions : Those who have ears to hear..., developing the same themes: Those who believe in me and I shall come. The other visions are attributed to John, but at the end the angel comes back, and while the angel is speaking Jesus speaks again: I Jesus, I have sent my angel. There is a constant osmosis of the angel and Jesus. These inconsistencies together with the constant observation that the angel is just there in order to conceal the truth, leads to the hypothesis, that a secretary just noted the visions of Jesus and gave a literary form to them. This scribe could have been John, but that is not certain. These names are sometimes pseudonyms, just as in the Protevangelium Jacobi. Given all these elements we can formulate the hypothesis that the inspiring author of the Apocalypse was the surviving Jesus himself in a later stage of his illness. With this hypothesis in mind the Apocalypse, formerly a poorly understood text becomes a quite clear manifest of early Christianism.
If somebody has numerous pieces of an unknown puzzle, he sees when all pieces fit together and make sense, what the image means: he is certain that the solution is correct. In the case of the Apocalypse also, all pieces fit together. As we see the first part of the life of Jesus as the beginning stage of the disease (the first crises), the second part (the Apocalypse) as the later stage, we find a full-blown hallucinatory state, a systematically evolved delusion and a narcissistic vindictive Ego. It would be excessively marvellous that another person than Jesus could have simulated so well a coherent image of a paraphrenic disease with the same fundamental delusion, the same style of expression and the perfect continuity of the Ego. The text itself is very explicit: It is the Apocalypse of Jesus, written by John. According to the Gospel Jesus was in the Heaven, therefore an angel had to come in order to communicate the message, but this angel is soon obscured by the direct vision of Jesus. This inconsistency means that the angel is only there in order to hide the real situation and to give a literary form to the text. It is quite astonishing that the style of expression of Jesus in the Gospels corresponds with the style of the expressions of Jesus in the Apocalypse. As has been said the style of the predication was characterised as somebody who spoke with authority, I say to you. The same I-style can be found in the Apocalypse: I shall give you... I know...,I shall come.. , I shall confess.. (passim). There are some other typical expressions, which are common: These who have ears to hear (Mt. 13,9; 13,43; Mc 4,11), I shall come as a thief (Mt. 24,42-44; Mc 13,33), I shall confess their name (Mc 8, 38; Mt. 10, 32; Lk. 9, 26), I knock at the door and we will eat together(Lk. 12,36; 22, 29-30; Jh. 14,23). Identical is also the egocentric point of view: in the Gospel:Those who remain faithful to me ( Jh. 8, 31, 12, 44); in the Apocalypse: those who remained faithful to me (Apoc. 2,3;2,13;3,8). The same doctrine with regard to suffering and dead for the faith of Jesus: he who looses his life because of me (Mc. 8, 35), in the Apoc. : be faithful till dead (2,10; cf. 6,11; 13,9). The character of the similarities is rather convincing: all these idiosyncratic features underline the egocentric authoritative style, insisting on faith in Jesus till dead. It is difficult to imagine that an independent author would have so well crystallised the idiosyncrasies of Jesus in the Gospel and used them so naturally.
The expression Those who have ears to hear is not so frequent in the Gospel (Mt. 13,9:13,43;Mc. 4,12), in the Apoc. this expression is used quasi-systematically. We cannot suppose that this expression was so striking, that an independent author would have imitated that expression so systematically. A number of letters of the Apostles are known, there is none that is like the seven letters to the churches, none of them is so extraordinarily filled with allusions to the Gospel and the Old Testament, none of them is so extravagantly characterised by an ego-inflated style. The suspicion therefore is that as well the Gospel as the Apocalypse belong to only one inspiration.
The so-called literary genre hypothesis does not hold: the Apocalypse is not a book that propagates a view of the end of the times, with prophecies of catastrophes, etc. It is a very personal account of the imaginary life of a paraphrenic.
Schizophrenics as Enoch, Ezekiel, both authors of apocalyptic writings, have the revelation to be elected by God; they understand suddenly all mysteries of the world, they travel from one end of the world to the other, they are always at the centre of an immense revolution or happening, they predict catastrophes. The delusions of paraphrenics are generally more systematically evolved, but share often the same cosmic dimensions. It is seldom understood by philologists that the so-called literary apocalyptic genre is more a symptomatic process, typical for mental disease. As most of these delusions are religious and genetic, it is clear that their content was ready to be believed as the word of God. Mysterious, grandiose, futuristic, these revelations seemed to contain higher divine truth and so became holy books. In fact they were reports of the schizophrenic and paraphrenic delusions of mental patients.
It is tempting to try a reconstruction of Jesus'life after what has been found by means of the psychopathological method. Some elements of course remain hypothetical, but they are the best hypotheses, which remain after a thorough investigation.
Herod, the Great, reigned in Jerusalem. Zechariah was a priest, married to Elizabeth. Priests had easy entry to the court of Herod. Zechariah and Elizabeth were well known at the court. They had no children. Herod Archelaos, a young son of Herod, was sent to Rome in order to achieve higher studies. When he came back Herod indicated him as his successor just before he died. Meanwhile the young Archelaos had learned to enjoy life and had a very busy sex life in Jerusalem. Mary was a young girl, who dwelled at Jerusalem and was engaged to Joseph. One day she was pregnant, just as her niece Elizabeth. The latter had to confess to Zechariah that the child was not his. For the neighbourhood and the family of course no scandal could be admitted. In order to make the birth of the child credible they had to construct a scenery. Zechariah should have had a vision of an angel and become mute; he should recover when the child was born. Nevertheless he did not give the child his own name, not let him succeed as a priest to him. Mary meanwhile knew that she was pregnant and she too had to render credible the fact that she did not know whose child it was (Prot. Jac. 13,3). As the story of Elizabeth worked so well, she had to invent a similar story and tell it to her fiancÚ, who was not really convinced, but finally accepted her with her child. Herod the Great died and Archelaos succeeded him. But he was rather young and the Romans had to knock down one revolution after the other. Jerusalem was continually a battlefield. It was just the moment that the pregnancy of Mary was at his term. A lot of people sought safer surroundings in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph also were fugitives and they went to Bethlehem. There in a stable Jesus was born. Exactly as John, he did not receive the name of his legal father. As the troubles were going on, Joseph and Mary decided to settle in Nazareth, a quiet town. In Nazareth Jesus grew up. He knew that he was not the son of Joseph and his mother told him the story of the angel and the Holy Ghost. As all young boys he was eager to understand who he was, who his father was. As it was said to him that it was the Ghost of God, Prophecy himself, who was his only father his curiosity grew and the Bible, which was read in the synagogue, became the centre of his intellectual questioning. And then came the day that Joseph and Mary decided to travel to Jerusalem. Jesus was twelve years old. The Temple was the house of his father. He would see it now. The Temple made an immense impression on him. There he found the Pharisees and the Scribes: he could ask them questions. All questions of course were centred upon the theme of the Son of God and related expressions. Joseph and Mary had no special attention for him. How could it be explained that it lasted almost two days before they began to miss him ? He himself was completely insensitive for the possible pain he caused to his parents, while remaining in Jerusalem. How did he live these three days ? He had to eat and to sleep... After three days Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple. His response to his mother was ice-cold: You could know that I had to be in the house of my father. With this answer he rejects his mother and especially his foster-father. They did not understand says naively the Gospel. Of course Jesus was in search of his identity; he knew that Joseph was not his father; from now on this identification problem becomes the fundamental theme of a growing delusion.
Jesus became an adolescent with an immense interest for the Bible, especially the prophetical books. He was in search for confirmation and clarification. More and more he became convinced that the Son of God was also the coming Messiah, the coming Son of Man and that it could be himself. Sometimes he told about his ideas to his family. They became anxious. At that time John the Baptist began his predication. As somebody who was particular was clearly a sinner, Jesus' family wanted him to be baptised by John in remission of his sins, so that the devil could be driven out.
Jesus did not want to be baptised. He was not conscious of sin. And his growing conviction to be the Son of God could not be seen by him as a sin. After a discussion with John the Baptist, who was aware of the problem and in an emotional turmoil Jesus acceded to Baptism. At the moment, that he, nude, came out the Jordan, he had a vision, a true hallucinatory vision: he saw a light in the heaven, he saw a bird, and he heard a voice. The voice confirmed to him: You are my beloved son, He was not a sinner, he was the beloved Son of God. He had seen himself the Ghost of God coming to him. In this crisis he was conducted in the desert by the relatives and they nursed him during a period of one to two months. One crisis after the other came: he heard the voice of the devil, he saw wild beasts, he did not recognize his relatives: he saw them as angels, he had the impression to fly and to see the whole world, while the devil was tempting him.
Convinced that he was the son of God, he wanted to change stones in bread, he wanted to be the master of the whole world, the emperor of Rome, he wanted to fly in the air, he wanted to inform the whole people of Israel. He had to play his role, and that was not simple. The problem was: how ? As he identified himself with the coming son of Man, as Enoch described him, he had to temporise and to wait till the times were ripe. Meanwhile he could announce the good news: the reign of God had come (because he thought: I am the coming Son of Man and I am here now). He did not communicate that part of the message to the people. He holds that secret for himself in a mood of shame and caution. Then he became calm, and he was certain, he came to Galilee and began to preach. The family was frightened. They wanted him home and they tried to warn people for him. The priests considered him as a mentally ill person and said that he had a devil. But Jesus, living with some fishermen who found their food in the Lake of Genesareth, renied his family and had some success as a prophet. He found some disciples who followed him. He had to do miracles, to drive out devils. Of course each event, which was wonderful, was sufficient to be considered as a miracle, even pseudomiracles as the end of a crisis (epileptic child). One can suspect that some were simply a mise en scene by Jesus himself or his entourage. Meanwhile he had financial difficulties: he could not feed his disciples. He had to remain round the Lake of Genesareth, he wanted invitations; sometimes the disciples were hungry and they found in the fields or in the orchard what they needed (the fig-tree). Financial aid came from women. He preached the renunciation of all possessions in order to obtain sufficient means for him and his disciples. But he himself was eager to enter in his glory. The question was how. He prayed alone in the mountains, and finally he found the solution: the servant of Prophecy of Isaiah had to suffer and to die before to enter in his glory. Clearly this was the way. This idea was confirmed by the voices at the mount Tabor, where a new hallucinatory crisis happened. He spoke with Eliah and Moses, and the voice of his Father confirmed: he had to go to Jerusalem in order to suffer and to die. He would provoke this end by entering Jerusalem as a king, just as Zechariah predicted, sitting on an ass. He knew that he would be arrested and he prepared himself and his disciples for that event.
The resuscitation of Lazarus had to confirm his power. Anew he had a hallucinatory crisis. While entering Jerusalem, he heard the voice of his Father, while he was crying that now the great moment was there, and the voice of his Father confirmed. For the High Priest and Pilate he wanted to realize the Isaiah prediction: he has been silent as a lamb. So he did say nothing, except when directly the critical question was posed: are you the Son of God , and he adds: I am the son of Man, coming on the clouds of heaven. Also before Pilate he affirms that he is the King of the Jews, a heavenly king.
Pilate was convinced that Jesus was not harmful. Probably he heard from his wife and also from Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' council and lawyer at the request of the mother, and from others more details. He was also ready to tease the Jews. On the cross he let write: the King of the Jews. But he did more, he ordered the centurion to spare Jesus and to end the crucifixion early. He ordered to give the body immediately to the mother and to Joseph of Arimathea. He wanted that Jesus could resuscitate, as he had said.
Jesus was taken from the cross and immediately transported to a new grave, where he could receive the care he needed so badly. A servant of Joseph was let there and the grave was closed. After three days Jesus was sufficiently healed, that he could walk. Mary of Magdala and the other women were the first to find the grave empty. They ran to the apostles, but they could not believe her. Than Peter and John ran to the grave. Two disciples came with the news that they recognised him. And finally Jesus came himself during the night. He was meagre and pale and had a ghostlike appearance, but he ate fish and spoke to them. He communicated them that he would return to Galilee and that he would encounter them at the Lake of Tiberias. He had to hide himself, because of the danger that he would have been recognised by the Jews. He could not remain in Jerusalem. He went to Galilee and found at the border of the Lake his disciples. For them it was true that he would resuscitate after three days. In Galilee he could not remain a long period. His departure had to be managed. He spoke to them and disappeared, first to the desert, later to a foreign country.
The apostles returned to Jerusalem. This was a too beautiful occasion to confound the Pharisees. With Mary, Jesus' mother, they planned the action. They were witnesses that Jesus died and resuscitated: so he was the son of Man, who would come back with power. But if they said that he was resuscitated , they had to say where he was. He should be in the heaven, so nobody would search him or suspect his presence in the desert. They found Ascension a good solution. They were enthusiastic, but equally anxious. Would the people believe that ?
They had to invent a scenery, they would preach to the people. They wanted a show: the Holy Ghost, the wind and the tongues of fire and languages. And they spoke to the people, some said they were drunk, others listened and Peter went to the Temple and preached, he wanted also a reputation of doing miracles... In order to live they obliged anybody to give all their money to them; who did not, was killed (Annas and Saphira).
Jesus remained one or two years in the desert, there Mary and John, who went later to Ephesus, joined him. In a great town he could live unidentified. Nevertheless the belief to be the Son of Man was always present and he remained in a hallucinatory state. He had to imagine how he could come back in power. Anew the Bible had the solution: there was the prophet Ezekiel who had an apocalyptic view of the future. Just as all Jews in that time Jesus was upset against the Romans, and he thought that it was the Roman Empire, which impeded that he could come and reign over the whole world. The emperor was the direct concurrent of Jesus, because he wanted also to be worshipped as a divinity. So that beast had to be killed and Rome had to be annihilated. That was the content of the Apocalypse. After the destruction of Rome the reign of Jesus would come. All enemies and all peoples would be cruelly killed. Alone the disciples of Jesus would reign with him during 1000 years.
In 47 the Apocalypse was known in Rome. In 49 Claudius banished the Jews because they were restless, they refused to pay taxes and fomented a revolution. About 54 Jesus died. Peter and Paul thought that Jesus would now come back soon, but adapted the strategy of the church: diplomatically they exhorted the Christians to pay taxes. They let that insert in the gospel. Secretly they prepared the great fire of Rome. Roman authority was aware of the subversion. Peter and Paul were condemned. The great fire of Rome caused the open conflict and the spectacular persecution of Christians. They wanted the emperor to be burned living, now they were burned themselves.
One can ask at this moment of the discussion: what is the real value of this hypothetical reconstruction ? In fact one has the choice between two different images of Jesus: or a mythical one as a mysterious Son of Man, who in fact did not come back up to now, or a human Jesus, with no mysteries at all.
The reconstruction provides an acceptable explanation, founded on what is scientifically known about such psychopathological cases. The alternative is naivety, ignorance or fanatism. The choice is however not evident for everyone. Of course there is a systematic ignorance about the psychopathological aspect of these questions. Some biblical scholars tend to deny the importance of these questions or allege their incompetence, but neglect to consider the consequences of such declaration of incompetence. sometimes they present solutions, which at first sight have some credibility, but remain without strict proofs. A reconstruction cannot be proven in all its details, but provided that no better arguments are presented, it can withstand superficial objections or general criticism. In a puzzle nobody asks for the proof that the correct solution is found. That is self-evident.
Back to Homepage: Homepage of the Psychological Laboratory (Leuven)Dr. Herman H. Somers