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Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 10.15.22 PMBoth the far left and the far right have a very skewed version of the Christian religion. Both have a downright weird version of Christ. I don’t know which is the world. In a way, as long as they get the history and sociology right, then I don’t have as much to complain about.

Do you know why the classic film, Ben-Hur is considered so excellent?  For one thing, Cecil. B. DeMille had a tendency to get it right when it came to his costuming.  Aside from the movie being one of the great hunk-fests of all time, DeMille’s version of Judah Ben-Hur is terribly accurate.  The character, so wonderfully portrayed by Charlton Heston, was as much a Roman as he was a Judean.

Have you had the misfortune to listen to the Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council’s Jerry Boykin’s homo-erotic homage to Jesus of Nazareth? There is nothing like ignorance, especially when spouted by those who think they are just so darn smart. This one makes me wonder about the man’s orientation. I am not quite loath to mention this, but I swear his tribute to manly men is pure homo-erotic. I think we now know what turns this manly man on.

“…“When a man comes out of the womb he has ingrained in him, the instincts of a warrior,” Boykin said. He went on to say that the reason for PTSD is that society has conditioned men to be more “effeminate,” rejecting their natural instinct to make war. To Boykin, Jesus was a rough and tumble “man’s man,” someone who as a carpenter “had to come up this mountain which would just whip me to just get up that mountain. He had to cut the trees down and then he had to shape those trees […] and then he had to get them back down the mountain back into the village of Nazareth.” Now he has turned the carpenter into a lumber jack and then a sawyer and a teamster. … “He was not only cutting the stuff but he was lifting heavy, heavy pieces of wood, logs and he was lifting stones.”He then asked the audience what they think Jesus would look like, suggesting that he would have been a big muscular man — someone who is prepared to kick butt and take names, not “this effeminate picture we always see.” “He smelled bad,” Boykin continued. “Why? Because he sweated, he worked. You think I’m sacrilegious because I said Jesus smelled bad? No he was a man.” Going back to his somewhat sexist mantra, Boykin said, “We feminize him in the church, he was a tough guy and that’s the Jesus that I want to be like.” …”

So many idiots and so little time!

Jesus of Nazareth was as much of a Roman as he was a Judean.  He was a product of his day and age, the way we are products of our day and age.  I don’t quite understand the strange mix of stupidity and ignorance that allows for so-called religious leaders to wax poetic about an era and people who are unrecognizable to history.

Due to the conquest of Alexander the Great, in 4th century BC, the Judean world, the culture which was trying to survive and regroup after several hundred years of Babylonian captivity had changed. This strange culture, this brave new world people like Jerry Boykin like to wax poetic about never existed except in religious fantasies.

The world of Jesus of Nazareth was a hybrid of the newer Hebrew traditions, Hellenic customs, and Roman reality.   It was a world that existed for maybe a century, then came to a fiery and deadly end when Titus conquered destroyed the Second Temple in 70AD.

It was during the Hellenic period that the spunky Jewish woman was completely subjugated the way Athenian women were.  Paul of Tarsus was more Hellenized Jew than Pharisee.  The Athenians thought that women were nothing.  They were only to secure the family lineage, then they could shut up and die.  During this time frame there were Jewish prayers where a man would thank God he had not been born a woman.  The perfect wife was one who would provide a couple heirs then conveniently die in childbirth. They were never to leave the house.  When they were, they were covered head to toe so that they would not be seen.  They were not to be educated.  They were not even to have management of the household.  Slaves were better educated and more trustworthy.

Some scholars use the book of Acts to point to the differences between the Hellenized Jews and the Aramaic-speaking Israelites.  Christ spoke Aramaic.  He would also have spoken Hebrew.  I suspect he was also quite fluent in Latin.  His was a world of social upheaval.  It was hot, dusty, and the temperature was about four degrees warmer than it is today. Yes, the Jews were a conquered people.  Romans spoke of them as provincial and backward, and barbarian, but we need to understand that anyone who existed outside of the megalopolis of Rome was considered provincial, backward, and barbarian, even Roman citizens.

There were certain cultural norms we need to understand.  The world was clean.  Romans understood the connection between cleanliness and disease.  So did the Judeans.  Sanitation, even in the provinces was important.  The ancient Greeks practiced cleanliness and bathing.  It was important to good health. Maybe Boykin used the saying from St. Benedict, from the 6th Century “To those that are well, and especially to the young,bathing shall seldom be permitted.”  That was six hundred years removed from the time of Christ.

“...In the 4th and 5th centuries CE, ‘fathers of the Christian Church’ such as Clement and Jerome condemned excessive attendance at the public baths, and attendance for pleasure. Because bathhouses had mixed facilities, church authorities condemned women’s attendance at mixed gender bathhouses. Jerome, more strict than most, felt that female virgins should not bathe with other women (due to his distaste for pregnancy), and that they should not bathe naked.  However, Shahan argues that bathing was not forbidden: “The ‘Apostolic Constitutions,’ an old episcopal manual originally compiled about the beginning of the third century of our era, look upon the use of the bath as quite a manner of course, and only provide against certain abuses… The early Fathers, in general, had no objection to baths being used for cleanliness or health . . .”

Thing is, while the Hebrews were in Babylon, they adapted many of the habits of the Babylonian culture, including bathing, shampoo, deodorant, cosmetics, and bathrooms with running water.   Ritual bathing was an important part of ancient Jewish culture.  Ritual cleansing baths – mikvot were required:

“...”A mikveh must hold at least 40 seahs of water (approximately 60 gallons). The whole body of the person or vessel to be purified must be totally immersed. And, most significant for our purposes, the water must be “living” water. That is, it must come directly from a river or a spring or from rainwater that flows into the pool; it may not be drawn. To meet this latter requirement, the rabbis permitted the use of an otter, a pool of living water that was connected by a plugged pipe to the main immersion pool. The main pool could be filled with drawn water (not qualified for use in ritual immersion), and when needed, the pipe between the otter and the main pool was unplugged, allowing the qualified, living water from the otter to come into contact with the water in the main pool, rendering it fit for immersions.”…”

How did Jesus of Nazareth bathe?  Perhaps the problem is the fact that there is this myth that early Christians were very dirty people, never bathing.  The dirty society did not begin evolving until the Renaissance.  The ancients, post-Romans, those living in the Dark Ages, and Medieval periods were fairly clean.  Houses built during this era, at least in the Roman areas and regions conquered by Rome even had one seat cesspool toilets that were emptied (by a slave) the waste used for fertilizer. Yep, even in Nazareth, where Boykin envisions the inhabitants to be the great unwashed. As far as toilet paper, they used a sponge on the end of a stick that was constantly being washed in CLEAN water.

“...The ancient Greeks and Romans first smeared their wet bodies with a mixture of pumice and ashes, and then applied a liberal dose of olive oil over that.  Then, they used a curved metal scraper called a strigil to scrape of this “muck”, which would take the dirt and grime that had accumulated on the skin along with it.  The body, thus cleaned, was ready to immerse itself in the large warm or hot water pools for a long soak.  

Although soap-like substances have been found in artifacts in archeological excavations of ancient Egyptian and Babylonian sites dating back to almost 3,000 BCE, according to Roman legend, soap, called sapon, was invented quite by accident on a sacred mountain, Mount Sapo.  There, the fat or tallow from sacrificially slaughtered animals accidentally mixed with ashy water that flowed over the ashes of sacrificial fires to create the world’s first soap.  Or at least that’s how we got the word.

That’s the basic chemistry of soapmaking.  The water and ashes, when mixed together, create alkaline potassium salts which, when mixed with oils or fats, transforms them into a detergent, or soap, in a process called saponification.  A detergent, which all soaps are, is a substance capable of emulsifying fats, grease and grime, so it can be washed away or cleansed by water.  

In ancient Greece, a soap or detergent was called smegma.  In modern medical terminology, smegma means a cheesy, foul-smelling exudate that collects on the genitals of both sexes.  By the second century AD, Galen was recommending soap for cleansing and therapeutic purposes.

An auxiliary cleansing procedure that was sometimes used before the rubdown with oil or soap was rubbing the wet body with a mitt made of coarse muslin cloth.  This not only stimulated and opened up the capillary circulation, but it also removed any residual dead skin on the surface of the epidermis.

Galen also recommended this treatment on the dry, clean body prior to massage.  It would open the pores, stimulate the peripheral circulation, and prepare the body to receive the oil.  Nowadays, the traditional coarse muslin cloth has been replaced, in most cases, by the loofa sponge or the bristle brush, which are used for the same purposes. …”

Would someone please explain to me where Jerry Boykin, in his homo-erotic version of the Manly Christ, come up with the fact that he did not bathe?  One thing we need to understand was, because, at the age of 12, he was presented at the main temple for his Bar Mitzvah, we’re not talking about the under-class. Not every young Judean did this.  It was a big fat, social, hairy deal.  In fact, hair was something that no self-respecting person of the era, unless one was part of the Essene cult.  BTW – they were terribly clean.

“...The necessity to purify oneself constantly–by washing one’s feet, hands and body–was very important to the Brothers and Sisters. They cleansed themselves physically and spiritually before entering someone’s house, at the beginning and at the end of the day, and before eating or praying. They also washed each other’s feet, as a sign of friendship and to cultivate the idea that they must take care of one another, as the Father of all took care of them. They also blessed one another by laying their hands on the top of the head, in order to be always united with the light and to reinforce the love which flowed among them….”

Back to the hair.  The era was one of short hair.  If a beard was worn quite short.  Men’s hair, even in Judea was basically short.  I know this will freak the likes of someone like Boykin, but men of the era did not do body hair.  If you want to get down and not dirty, I’d be willing to bet money that even the hair under the arms of Jesus of Nazareth was plucked. It was the way of the world.  And – he would have used deodorant.  Probably a form of cinnamon.  According to Pliny the Elder, deodorants were made from alum, iris and rose petals were common.

Tomorrow we learn whether or not Jesus of Nazareth would have brushed his teeth.  Hint:  Boykin is full of bull you know what.

 

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