Read The Testament of James (Case Files of Matthew Hunter and Chantal Stevens) Online

Authors: Vin Suprynowicz

Tags: #International Mystery & Crime, #mystery, #Private investigators, #Thriller & Suspense

The Testament of James (Case Files of Matthew Hunter and Chantal Stevens) (19 page)

BOOK: The Testament of James (Case Files of Matthew Hunter and Chantal Stevens)
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“If Jesus shows up and eats dinner with the disciples a week after the crucifixion, then he survived the crucifixion. If you think someone is dead and he shows up later for dinner, lets you touch his wounds and smell his breath, then as your friend Richard says, by definition you were wrong. You can’t just throw out the physical rules of the real world on a whim, like some fantasy novel: ‘And then, just in the nick of time, it came to Princess Buttercup that she had developed the power to hurl thunderbolts.’

“If you believe he didn’t really die because he’s an immortal god, that’s fine — no argument in logic can continue beyond that point. But then you can’t claim he suffered on the cross for our sins, because how could an all-powerful God suffer? An all-powerful God could
pretend
to suffer, but only mortals can really suffer. This is why the Christians spent centuries burning people at the stake for asking too many questions — not Jews or Muslims, mind you, but pesky fellow Christians who kept saying ‘You can’t have it both ways. Was he a mortal or a God? And if was both a God and the Son of God, then you’ve got more than one God, don’t you? In which case why can’t we also have a little altar in the corner for Baal or Dionysus or the Goat God, just to play it safe?’”

“Even if he planned to survive, though, couldn’t he have died when the centurion stabbed him with the lance?” Chantal asked. “Isn’t that what you said the guy concluded in
The Passover Plot
. . . Schonfield?” She wrinkled her nose at Matthew.

“Very good. More and more they talk about his being stabbed through the heart, though that wouldn’t match the evidence of the shroud. There’s even one old tradition that the centurion in charge was a fellow named Longinus, possibly a secret follower, since he later became a Christian bishop in Cappodocia. Would he have stabbed for the heart?

“But we don’t really have to speculate. The gospels were written in Greek, and the original Greek for the lance thrust was
nyssein
, a light scratch or puncture of the skin, not a deep thrust. There’s certainly no evidence Pilate ordered the centurion to ‘kill’ the prisoner, as a deep thrust to the heart would have done. And to reach the rank of centurion, a Roman soldier would have had enough practical experience to wield the lance with considerable dexterity — a good trooper could use his lance-head to peel an apple.

“The more important question is why did Joseph have a tomb there? He lived in Arimathea near the Samarian border, and went back there after the crucifixion. He bought the garden adjoining Golgoltha, and apparently built this tomb for one purpose only.”

“You really believe Jesus was drugged to pass out on the cross?”

“Death on the cross usually took days. After only four or five hours he’s passed the sponge full of vinegar and hyssop — hyoscalomine, as Matthew says. And who knows what else? He immediately cries out that it is done and loses consciousness. In the Greek, Pilate grants Joseph of Arimathea permission to collect the
ptoma
, the corpse. But what Joseph actually asks for is the
soma
, the living body. Whoever was wrapped in the Shroud of Turin — someone who’d been flagellated with a Roman whip with little dumbbell-shaped lead weights that would have been unknown to any medieval forger — bled into the shroud. The dead don’t bleed. If he was dead, why did they rush to the tomb with the balms and unguents used to treat wounds — especially myrrh? Myrrh was not used in cleansing the dead, which no orthodox Jew would have done after sunset on Passover, anyway. A week later our Lord visits the disciples in Galilee; he shows them his healing wounds; he joins them for dinner.”

“He got himself crucified on purpose?”

“It’s clear even from the four accepted gospels that he put up no real defense or resistance. He knew it was dangerous to go to Jerusalem for the high holidays. If he was concerned about his life he could have stayed away. Why did he go?

“We know he was frustrated that his message had been accepted by so few. He obviously felt time was limited — maybe his patrons were reluctant to keep funding a stalled mission. Anyway, he clearly felt he needed to do something dramatic. There’s no report that he acted surprised at any point in the proceedings, that he ever said, ‘Wait a minute, this is going badly, I want a lawyer.’ He probably could have denied everything and said ‘Hail Caesar’ and gone home. Pilate was very reluctant to convict; he thought the Jews might be luring him into some kind of trap.”

“Horrible. Why put yourself through that?”

“It’s always come down to that, hasn’t it?” Lance smiled. “Savior, prophet, madman . . . conjurer? The most logical conclusion, in the end, is that he truly believed he was the messiah, and the messiah had to shed his blood to atone for the sins of a people who would not repent, in order to make things right before the End Times, which he believed were right around the corner. He did it for our sins.”

“Cheated death for our sins?”

“Otherwise he committed suicide for your sins, even if it was suicide by cop. So why has the church always called suicide a sin, if Jesus arranged his own death by going to Jerusalem on Passover where he knew he’d be arrested, and then refused to deny he was the rightful King of the Jews, knowing that would cause his execution? Unless Jesus wasn’t a suicide, of course. Unless he planned to survive, all along. Wait a minute. What the hell is this?”

Matthew stepped around to read over Lance’s shoulder. “You Hebrew is better than mine. Something about a pasture?”

Lance translated the passage as he read: “‘Then there came a morning when Jesus and his followers were in the fields where the sheep had pastured, gathering the . . .’ that sure looks like, ‘the manna while the dew was still on the grass, and preparing for the ritual, when a great multitude arrived, pleading for Jesus to share the Word with them, and initiate them into the . . .’ and that looks like ‘the mystery of the fathers.’

“This is incredible. Here it is. ‘But the disciples said to him, Master, there is not enough for all these people, we’re afraid of what they will do when they find out.

“‘And he said to them, “After all this time, why do you still have no faith? Put the sacrament into a sack, all of it, hold none back. As they hear the teaching, pass the sack among them, telling each to take only as much as he needs.” And when they did so, there was enough in the sack for all, with more to spare. And they all heard the voice of . . .’ can’t read that, ‘YHWY,’ maybe, ‘and all knew the mystery. They went forth, and from that day their lives were changed.’”

“It’s the miracle of the loaves,” said Chantal.

“Before the censors got to it.”

“No bread?”

“This is astonishing.” Lance White was pacing back and forth. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands. He finally hugged Matthew, apparently concerned that hugging Chantal might be taken wrong. Then he went ahead and hugged Chantal, anyway. “We’d always suspected, but there was no textual support. And here it is. We need to get these pages photographed immediately. The rewrite we’ve been stuck with for two millennia is so obvious that the story made no sense at all, till this. How does the story begin? The version we’ve had for nineteen hundred years?”

“The disciples tell Jesus too many people have shown up,” Chantal recalled, “and there’s not enough food to go around. He tells them to put their couple of loaves of barley bread in a sack and pass it around. And by a miracle there’s enough that all are satisfied. In fact, one of the gospels even says when they gathered up the crusts and scraps, there was more bread than they’d started with.”

“OK,” Lance responded, pacing again. “Why were the disciples feeding the crowd?”

“What?”

“When you go to a tent meeting, a rally, an outdoor concert, do you expect the speaker or the band to give you a free meal?”

“No . . .”

“You bring your own food, or money to buy food.”

“So . . . the story makes no sense?”

“Unless what he was handing out wasn’t bread at all — at least not in the same sense we’ve been reading it.”

“So what was he handing out?”

“Why were they in some sheep pasture in the hills, planning to hand out something to a small gathering of chosen initiates? Remember, what had the priests up in arms against Jesus was his accusation that they’d hidden from the people the secret knowledge entrusted to them by Moses, the knowledge of how to commune with God, to hear his voice directly, and then, worst of all, that the priests had abandoned it and not even used it themselves. Jesus was handing it out, cautiously at first, to small groups of invited followers. One lesson for the masses, another for the initiates. And as soon as Jesus was gone, Paul and these anti-Semitic Christians started covering it up again, people who had never actually seen or known or worshipped with Jesus in the first place, rewriting the stories as though they were about loaves of barley bread.”

“Handing out . . . the manna?” Chantal’s face lit up.

“Yes!” Lance hugged them both again. “Up till now, the verse at John six, thirty-two has made no literal sense, when Jesus feeds the multitude and says ‘Verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not the bread from heaven, but my father giveth you the true bread from heaven.’ What ‘true bread from heaven?’ He had to be talking about the food God sent to the Israelites when they were lost in the desert, a food of the soul as well as the body, a plant that sprang up with the morning dew but had to be eaten by noontime lest it become foul and wormy, this is all in Exodus 16, a plant that had such a peculiar nature and effect that Moses had to specify a safe dose for each adult, a plant the shape and color of a coriander seed. . . .”

“It’s all there in Exodus,” Matthew nodded, “just like Lance says, the ‘Bread of the Lord’ that you eat when you climb up into the mountains and you hear the voice of God in a bush that burns but does not consume itself, the manna that Moses instructed the priests to dry and store in the Ark of the Covenant so the people would always know what it looked like. That implied they’d be able to find it again in their new land. So why don’t the Jews eat manna today, at least on high holidays, when they’re forbidden to work? How many can even point it out to you? How many know what it looks like?”

“It was an hallucinogenic plant, an entheogen?”

“Moses instructed that each day one omer of manna, about two liters, was to be gathered for each family member,” Lance explained. “The portion control is highly suggestive. Portion control becomes important only with plants that have strong medicinal or psychoactive effects. The only difference between a medicine and a drug and a poison is usually dosage. Although we’re lucky that for most of the entheogens there really isn’t a fatal dose.”

“The Jew and his bastard offspring, the Christian, are both people of the book,” Matthew said, with the resonance of a bookman on the final word. “Nothing is hidden. It’s all written down.”

“In Exodus 16?”

“The Bible says the manna showed up in the morning, spread across the ground like hoarfrost,” Matthew explained. “The word ‘manna’ even shows up three times in the Koran, clearly referring to mushrooms; Mohammed says truffles were part of the manna that Allah sent to the people of Israel through Moses, and the juice is a good medicine for the eye. Terence McKenna pointed out
Psilocybe cubensis
is a notorious breeding ground for insects, it decomposes rapidly. And of course it’s an appetite suppressant, as well.”

“But no one eats psilocybin mushrooms as a staple of their diet,” Chantal frowned. “You’d be stoned all the time, and I doubt they’re long on carbs, or whatever. The people are starving, and Moses tells them to get up at dawn and hunt for magic mushrooms?”

“After you’ve fasted is a good time,” answered Lance. “But actually, he’d fed them quail the night before, it says their nets were filled with migrating quail. But look, either the prophets are charlatans, or they hear the voice of God. Either their visions, their guidance, is useful, or they’re crazy clowns. People whose visions burn bright enough that people are still trying to sort out their message and their wisdom hundreds or thousands of years later were probably onto something. When the Israelites left the wilderness, did they still have their herds?”

“Hm?”

“Their animals?”

“I think so.” Chantal wrinkled her brow. “Yes, the Bible says they still drove their herds ahead of them.”

“So when we say they were starving, what do we mean? Starving for what?” Matthew smiled. “The joyous knowledge of a birthright that had held them together for centuries?”

“I’m serious now,” said Lance White. “If there are people trying to steal this volume, or to reclaim it and ship it back to Egypt where it can be hidden in some dungeon while it finishes rotting away, we need to get some high-quality color photos or scans made right away, page by page. Do we know someone who can do that? I’ll gladly foot the bill. Surely you don’t need Rashid’s permission to do that. He brought it to you to sell; preparing pictures is just a standard step toward cataloging the book for sale, no matter who turns out to be the final buyer. Right?”

“Professor St. Vincent has the equipment,” Matthew agreed, “but turning the book over to him puts him in some personal jeopardy, as well.”

“So we provide him with a bodyguard. This is a phenomenal find, Matthew. With a call to my foundation I can get us the resources by tomorrow.”

“Chantal, I don’t think it’s safe to keep carrying this artifact up and down the hill. Would you be willing to call Richard? If he’s not in his office Marian should have his home number. Tell him Lance will pay the cost if he’s willing to take some pictures.”

“Sure.” Chantal had trouble getting a good signal on her cell there in the kitchen, so she walked out towards the front of the store, dialing again.

C
HAPTER
E
LEVEN
FRIDAY AFTERNOON

Marian sent Skeezix off with a payment for old Clarence, reminding him to be back in time for the afternoon post office run, mailing out a few books that had been ordered online.

Matthew came out from the back, noticed Chantal was nowhere to be seen, caught Marian’s eye.

BOOK: The Testament of James (Case Files of Matthew Hunter and Chantal Stevens)
3.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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