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This article originally appeared on AlterNet. It has been corrected since it first published. Jesus has been described as the best known figure in history, and also the least known. If you mentioned the name "Jesus" and someone asked Jesus who, you might blink. Or laugh. Even people who don't think Jesus was God mostly believe they know a fair bit about him. You might be surprised that some of your most basic assumptions about Jesus are probably wrong. We have no record of anything that was written about Jesus by eyewitnesses or other contemporaries during the time he would have lived, or for decades thereafter. Nonetheless, based on archeological digs and artifacts, ancient texts and art, and even forensic science, we know a good deal about the time and culture in which the New Testament is set. This evidence points to some startling conclusions about who Jesus likely was and wasn't. 1. But unlike the Catholic Church, Jews have no tradition of celibacy among religious leaders. Jesus and his disciples would have been practicing Jews, and all great rabbis we know of were married. But a number of ancient texts,including the canonical New Testament, point to a special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. TheGospel of Phillipsays, "[Jesus] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth." 2. A Roman triumphal arch of the time perioddepictsJewish slaves with short hair. In the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he addresses male hair length. "Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?" (1 Corinthians 11:14 NRSV). During the 1960s, new oakley sunglasses sliver vented 9262 conservative Christians quoted this verse to express their disgust against the hippy movement and to label it anti Christian. 3. The Romans did not have a standard way of crucifying prisoners, and Josephus tells us that during the siege of Jerusalem, soldiers nailed or tied their victims in a variety of positions. Early Christiansmay havecentered on the vertical pole with a crossbeam because it echoed the Egyptian ankh, a symbol of life, or the Sumerian symbol for Tammuz, or because it simply was more artistically and symbolically distinctive than the alternatives. Imagine millions of people wearing a golden pole on a chain around their necks. 4. That he is typically depicted taller derives from the mental challenge people have distinguishing physical stature from other kinds of stature. Great men are called "big men" and "larger than life." In ancient times they often were assigneddivine parentageand miraculous births, and the idea that Jesus was uniquely divine has created a strong pull over time to depict him as taller than is likely. A good illustration of this is theShroud of Turin, which is justone of manysuch Jesus shrouds that circulated during medieval times and which bears the image of a mancloser to six feetin height. 5. But the idea that Jesus was born in a stable was added to the Christmas story even later. In the original narrative, Joseph and Mary probably would have stayed with relatives, and the phrase "no room for them in the inn (gr: kataluma)" isbetter translated"no room for them in the upper room. Later storytellers did not understand that people of the time might bring animals into their ground floor, as in Swisshousebarns, and they assumed that the presence of a manger implied a stable. 6. Joshua and Jesus are the same name, and are translated differently in our modern Bible to distinguish Jesus from the Joshua of the Old Testament, who leads the Hebrew people to the Promised Land. Since the Gospels echo the story of Joshua, the "12" apostles mostimmediatelymirror the 12 tribes of Israel. But the number 12 was considered auspicious by many ancient people, including theIsraelites,and the189 repetitions of the number 12 in the Bibleultimately mayderive from the same pre historical roots as the 12 signs of the zodiac and 12 months of the year. Astrotheology or star worship preceded the Hebrew religion, andshapedboth the Bible and world religions more broadly. One might point to the 12 Olympian gods or 12 sons of Odin, or 12 days of Christmas or 12 "legitimate" successors to the prophet Mohammed. 8. In reality, Scooby Doo could solve this one in a single episode with three pieces of information: First, Old Testament prophecies were well known to first century Jews, and a messianic figure who wanted to fulfill some of these prophecies could simply do so. For example, in the book of Matthew, Jesus seeks a donkey to ride into Jerusalem "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet" (Matthew 21:4). Third, scholars now believe that some Bible texts once thought to be prophecies (forexamplein the Book of Revelation) actually relate toeventsthat were current or past at the time of writing. 9. Some of the most popular are the Beatitudes (blessed are the meek, etc.) or the story of the woman caught in adultery (let he who is without sin cast the first stone) or the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which, we are told, sums up the Law and the Prophets). Which words are actually from Jesus? This question has been debated fiercely by everyone from third century Catholic Councils to the 20th century Jesus Seminar. EvenThomas Jeffersonweighed in, but much remains unclear. The New Testament Gospels were written long after Jesus would have died, and no technology existed with which to record his teachings in real time, unless he wrote them down himself, which he didn't. We can be confident that at least some of the wise and timeless words andcatchy proverbsattributed to Jesus are actually from earlier or later thinkers. For example, the Golden Rule was articulated before the time of Christ by theRabbi Hillel the Elder, who similarly said it was the "whole Torah." By contrast, the much loved story of the woman caught in adultery doesn't appear in manuscripts until the fourth century. Attributing words (or whole texts) to a famous person was common in the Ancient Near East, because it gave those words extra weight. Small wonder then that so many genuinely valuable insights ended up, in one way or another, paired with the name of Jesus. The person of Jesus, if indeed there was such a person, is shrouded in the fog of history leaving us only oakley sliver sunglasses oo9262 with a set of hunches and traditions that far too often are treated as knowledge. The "facts" I have listed here are largely trivial; it doesn't really matter whether Jesus was tall or short, or how he cut his hair. But it does matter, tremendously, that "facts" people claim to know about how Jesus saw himself, and God and humanity are equally tenuous. The teachings attributed to Jesus mix enduring spiritual and moral insights with irrelevancies and Judaica and bits of Iron Age culture, some of which are truly awful. That leaves each of us, from the privileged vantage of the 21st century, with both a right and a responsibility to consider the evidence and make our own best guesses about what is real and how we should then live. A good starting place might be a little more recognition that we don't know nearly as much as we'd like to think, and a lot of what we know for sure is probably wrong.

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