11 Nov

Many theories for the solution to the ‘mystery at Rennes-le-Château’ involve the fate of the historical Jesus Christ and in particular his death & burial. These theories have always interested me since i read Lincoln et al ‘Holy Blood Holy Grail’ back in 1991. While the book's readers had gotten carried away by the  "Jesus married Mary Magdalene" scenario advocated in Holy Blood,Holy Gail  - those same readers seemed to have missed a very innocent sentence at the end of the book - never explored by the books' authors and certainly never expanded on or investigated. 

On page 319 of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the authors wrote;

According to the letter we received, the documents found by Bérenger Saunière at Rennes-le-Château contained "incontrovertible proof" that Jesus was alive in A.D. 45, but there is no indication as to where….. It has even been hinted that Jesus’ mummified body may be concealed somewhere in the environs of Rennes-le-Château—which would explain the ciphered message in Saunière’s parchments "IL EST LÀ MORT" ("He is there dead).

This hint was never referred to again!

I thought it was such a strange statement to make. Where did the authors hear of such a rumour? Who gave it to them? How does a little village in rural France have such a 'legend'? Considering how loud the South of France talks of the Magdalene and her entourage arriving in France how is it that the legend of Jesus in France is just a tiny local whisper?

I once asked Lincoln himself where he obtained this information. His reply was that he could not remember, maybe via Micheal Baigent he said. 

On this apparent non sequitur, consider the following.

The Gospels of Matthew, [27:59–60] Mark,[15:46] and Luke [23:53] state that Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Jesus in a piece of linen cloth at his burial. However, in the Gospel of John [19:38–40] the burial garments are referred to as strips of linenAnd in John there are two burials indicated where the bodies were wrapped in linen in various ways. 

There is firstly the famous burial of Lazarus - who was buried for four days before Jesus arrived to 'resurrect' him from the dead [notwithstanding apocryphal texts indicating that Lazarus was alive in the burial chamber]. 

John writes;

"Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.”Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

For John, the burial of Jesus is described as follows:

"Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs".

John ends his Gospel with the following:

"Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumour spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true."

This disciple whom Jesus loved is a person who is elevated above the rest of the disciples and is privy to much more 'inside' information regarding the plan and execution of the Jesus Mission. And the Gospel of John is actually this disciple's eyewitness testimony.

This disciple whom Jesus loved is referred to, specifically, six times in John's gospel:

  • It is this disciple who, while reclining beside Jesus at the Last Supper, asks Jesus who it is that will betray him, after being requested by Peter to do so.[Jn 13:23-25]
  • Later at the crucifixion, Jesus tells his mother, "Woman, here is your son", and to the Beloved Disciple he says, "Here is your mother."[Jn 19:26-27]
  • When Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, she runs to tell the Beloved Disciple and Peter. The two men rush to the empty tomb and the Beloved Disciple is the first to reach it. However, Peter is the first to enter.[Jn 20:1-10]
  • In John 21, the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple is one of seven fishermen involved in the miraculous catch of 153 fish.[Jn 21:1-25]
  • Also in the book's final chapter, after Jesus implies the manner in which Peter will die, Peter sees the Beloved Disciple following them and asks, "What about him?" Jesus answers, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."[John 21:20-23]
  • Again in the Gospel's last chapter, it states that the very book itself is based on the written testimony of the disciple whom Jesus loved.[John 21:24]

The other Gospels do not mention anyone in parallel circumstances who could be directly linked to the Beloved Disciple. Identities's for this Beloved Disciple include Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and James, the brother of Jesus. It seems certain, then, that John when writing about the burial and entombment of Jesus & Lazarus, did so from an 'insiders knowledge' because he/she was closer to the inner circle of Jesus, of which there certainly was [for example the Bethany group]. 

For John, the burial of Lazarus & Jesus both the bodies have elements of 'strips of linen' in respect of their burials - Lazarus has his hands and feet tied with linen strips, Jesus - his whole body. 

During the entombment process for Jesus, Joseph and the women who followed are said to be in a hurry. They quickly cleanse the body, and then cover the body with a mixture of antiseptic resins. The reason for their speed in 'burying' was because the Sabbath was fast approaching. Mark states that Jesus died shortly after three in the afternoon (the ninth hour, when the Temple sacrifices were typically given, cf. Josephus AJ 14.65), and Joseph asked for the body within some hours of that, right before the Sabbath began.

Torah Law is clear on the burial of executed men: 

"If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day, for he who is hanged is the curse of God, so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance". (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; cf. Joshua 8:29, 10:26-27).

As Carrier noted;

"It should also not be regarded as unusual that Joseph seeks the body of Jesus: Mark makes it clear that no family relations of Jesus are in the city at the time of the crucifixion, leaving it to the Sanhedrin to ensure the commandments of God were not violated. So serious was this holy duty that:

"the Talmud (BK 81a) states that speedy burial of a corpse found unattended (met mitzvah) was one of the ten enactments ordained by Joshua at the conquest of Canaan and is encumbent even on the high priest who was otherwise forbidden to become unclean through contact with the dead (Nazir 7.1). Josephus records that it is forbidden to let a corpse lie unburied (Contra Apion, 2.211).

It was thus the holy duty of the Jews to see to the body of Jesus, and it was sacred law that he be buried the day he died, or as soon as possible.

The Mishnah tractate Sanhedrin goes on to explain the law regarding the burial of condemned men:

they did not bury the condemned in the burial grounds of his ancestors, but there were two graveyards made ready for the use of the court, one for those who were beheaded or strangled, and one for those who were stoned or burned.(6.5e-f)

If Jesus could not be buried in a private tomb (yet was: Mt 27:60, Lk 23:53, Jn 19:41), but had to be placed in the atoning graveyard of the unrighteous criminals, what explains the Gospel stories as we have them? A clue lies in the earliest report, Mark 16:1-3, which has the women visit the tomb Sunday morning with the intention of opening it and completing the burial (ritual washing and anointing were among the required burial rites). Thus, from the earliest report, they did not regard the burial of Jesus as completed. And Mark also notes the peculiar urgency of the Sabbath. Even before Joseph so much as asks for the body, "evening had already come" (Mark 15:42, and see note below). Only one conclusion fits all the facts: Jesus was not formally buried Friday night.

The law requiring prompt burial could be fulfilled by placing a corpse in a temporary resting place when burial rights could not be carried out right away. One such case was the arrival of the Sabbath, on which it was forbidden to perform any labor, including burial rites, or even so much as moving a body (Talmud: Sanhedrin 35a-35b; Yevamoth 7a; Baba Bathra 100b, Shabbath 150-1). So this is almost certainly what Joseph was doing when "burying" Jesus Friday night, since the Sabbath began at sundown Friday.  So it is conceivable that Joseph could not consecrate Jesus' body to the grave: he had no time to perform all the burial rites (especially, but not only, the ceremonial washing and anointing of the body). He needed, therefore, to place the body in holding somewhere to ride out the Sabbath, and then he would be obligated to bury Jesus at the soonest opportunity, which meant Saturday night, when the Sabbath ended at sundown.

Joseph would have been required to place Jesus in a temporary grave and formally bury him Saturday night. So the body could not have been in Joseph's tomb Sunday morning when all four Gospels claim the women visited it. Though they find it empty, by then his body would have to be, by law, in the graveyard of the stoned and burned".[https://infidels.org/kiosk/article/jewish-law-the-burial-of-jesus-and-the-third-day-125.html]

Incidentally one may compliment the reading of the Fourth Gospel text with the 14th Station of the Cross depicted in the church at Rennes-les-Bains. The 14th Station of the Cross in iconographical terms represents Jesus' burial in his tomb.

Above: The 14th stations of the Cross in the church at Rennes-les-Bains depicts Christ being buried in his tomb. He is wrapped in linen strips so therefore the depiction represents the burial that is described in the Gospel of John. The director of events in the whole tomb would appear to be Mary Magdalene [and not Christ's mother Mary, presumably shown on the right with a halo]. Would this depiction suggest a mummification?

So following Jewish Law and some of the information in the Bible, Jesus was placed in a temporary grave by sundown before the Sabbath [Friday sundown]. Joseph and others wrapped him in medicinal liniments to heal bruises and abrasions and to prevent any infection in this temporary grave [see below]. If the tomb was on private land owned by Joseph then no one else would have had access to the tomb except those person already involved. Then on the Saturday sundown, Jesus would have been given the Jewish final burial which would have been his final place of rest. It also means when the Mary's arrived at the tomb they saw Joseph put him in on Friday sundown - because his body had been 'moved' - this is why they found the original temporary tomb empty. 

The question is this. Where was Jesus moved to and who by? Was he indeed revived and nursed back to health elsewhere? 

All of this may be interesting in relation to the research discovered by Christian Doumergue. He found that there is a relic preserved in the cave of Sainte Baume (South of France). According to the local traditions, this cave is where Magdalene ended her life. The reliquary represents Magdalene and her close relations in the boat which carried them from the East to the South of France. At the front of the boat, a mummified body is stretched out [one can make out the strips wrapping the body]. A woman sits over this body with a halo. For Doumerge she has the mother of Jesus' attributes. He says that no tradition says the Virgin Mary came to the South of France. She is thus there only to identify the mummified body! The reliquary was ordered by Mgr Terris and was made by a jeweller who lived in the city of Lyon: Armand Caillat. It was shown at the “Exposition Universelle” (World Fair) of Paris in 1889. It was given to the sanctuary of Sainte Baume by Paul Terris, the nephew of Mgr Terris. 

Mgr Terris himself studied in Avignon and then at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris [always in the background is Saint Sulpice!], and was ordained a priest on May 29, 1847 in the capital by Mgr Affre. It is the canon of Terris [a relative of Mgr Terris] who had given to Sainte-Baume, in execution of his uncle's testamentary wishes, the reliquary that he had ordered from Armand Caillat, said to contain the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene (a third of the right tibia and a lock of hair ) which he had inherited from his grandparents to whom a certain Mme Ricard had abandoned what she had been able to save from revolutionary profanation.

One does have to ask what the reliquary illustration is supposed to indicate! What has a mummified body to do with religious figures associated with Mary Magdalene coming to Sainte Baume indicate? 

Above - the reliquary showing a mummified body being carried to France.The figures seem to show 4 women and at least one man, possibly three. The body wrapped in strips of linen looks like head is not wrapped, and also has a 'halo'. As the relics are of Mary Magdalene and the three Maries are depicted - it is clear that the reliquary on this depiction shows a wrapped body in a boat presumably coming to France! The whole scenario of a body to do with the resurrection [whether Lazarus or Jesus] may be read in conjunction with the assertions made by the priest of the church at Rennes-les-Bains, and his book LA VRAI LANGUE CELTIQUE ET DE CROMLECK DE RENNES-LES-BAINS. No one however can to this day certify whether the 14th Stations of the Cross depicted in the church of Rennes-les-Bains [the church Boudet was priest of for many many years] is the one before which Henri Boudet prayed in his church.

Above and Below - the Terris reliquary

For the author of the Gospel of John, the only difference in the two burials of Jesus and Lazarus is the length of time the dead bodies were inside the tombs. One was for perhaps 3 days or even less, the other for 4. 

I have oftened wondered why Jesus was described as being buried/entombed for 3 days - but Lazarus 4 days. Both were apparently clinically dead. Lazarus had also begun the decomposition process because the Bethany sisters report that he had started to smell. No such information was recorded for Jesus, but the Gospel of John wants to emphasise the differences. If Jesus was in the tomb for only 3 days [or in actual fact only 2 nights] and had not started to smell, was there a suggestion that he might not be clinically dead? 

This suggestion is further backed up by John because he writes that Nicodemus brought a 'mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds... and then began to wrap the body in the linen strips with the spices'. What would 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes be used for? That is 5 stones in weight of spices!

What was myrhh used for in antiquity? The ancient Egyptians used myrrh in the process of mummification, as well as for treating wounds and skin sores. Myrrh is a natural exudate of certain trees found in the Middle East. When the bark is injured, a sap containing a variety of natural fungicides and bactericides oozes out and prevents the entry of microorganisms into the trees' circulation. The stuff eventually hardens into a resin which can be scraped off.  

Thousands of years before the first Christmas, myrrh also had established places in religious ceremonies. Their most appealing feature was the pleasant aromatic odour produced when the resins were ignited. They were incorporated into "incense," a term derived from the Latin "incendere" meaning to set on fire. 

One can cross-reference this with verses in the poem LE SERPENT ROUGE - specifically the verse of LEO:

"From her that I wanted to free, rose towards me the emanations of perfume which permeate the sepulchre. Once some called her: ISIS, queen of the beneficent springs, COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO SUFFER AND WHO ARE OVERWHELMED AND I WILL COMFORT YOU, otherwise: MADELEINE, with the famous vase full of healing balm. The initiates know the true name: NOTRE DAME DES CROSS."

The whole poem is about a search for an anonymous but sacred tomb. The tomb is associated with the Magdalene, a burial in a sepulchre, emanations of a sweet perfume, Isis [who also was associated with a tomb and a resurrection and mummification] and a vase of healing balm. totally associated with the Magdalene, all pointing to the burial and revival of Jesus!

And in Stone & Paper Cherisey says: 'the treasure hunter will be looting a centuries-old necropolis containing bodies in a well-preserved state of mummification, aptly symbolised by Mary Magdalene as the patron saint of embalmers'

Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. Myrrh mixed with posca or wine was common across ancient cultures, for general pleasure, and as an analgesic. It is also used in some liniments and healing salves that may be applied to abrasions, bruises and other minor skin ailments.

Aloe, the other spice brought by Nicodemus was probably Aloe vera, or "true aloe", the most common Aloe in the Middle East. It is called 'true' because it is cultivated as the standard source for assorted pharmaceutical purposes. It has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes, dating back to ancient Egypt. For example it is documented that Alexander the Great employed the use of aloe juice to heal the war wounds to his warriors (356 - 323 B.C.) Alexander went to the extent of having transportable carts of planted Aloe for practical reasons in order to have fresh supplies at the ready during his numerous battle campaigns. Dioskurides recommended the use of aloe juice for numerous physical disorders such as the treatment of wounds, gastrointestinal discomforts, gingivitis, arthralgia, skin irritation, sunburn, acne, hair loss, etc. Known as “the plant of immortality” by the Ancient Egyptians, and treasured by numerous subsequent cultures, aloe vera it still known today for its many health benefits. Aloe vera is probably the most applied medicinal plant worldwide. Since biblical times, aloe has been used for its purgative effect, skin disorders, healing and beauty treatments.

Theologians comparing the raising of Lazarus to other resurrections in the Bible comment that;

"The difference between revival immediately after death, and resurrection after four days, is so great as to raise doubts about the historicity of this story, especially in view of the unimaginable details in vs. 44 [in John]. Yet there are features in this story which have the marks of verisimilitude."

The Jewish burial tradition was to wash the dead body, wrap it in linen and bury it by dusk on the day of death. The relatives then visited the tomb daily for three to five days to confirm death unless something in Jewish Law meant a speedy temporary burial before 'proper' burial.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, writes that, in principle, the question of whether or not Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead has a strictly scientific answer, whether or not that answer can be discovered in practice. In the 19th century, agnostic speaker Robert G. Ingersoll wrote that, if Lazarus had in fact died, potentially participating in an afterlife, and then subsequently had been resurrected, the experiences Lazarus could have shared with others would likely have been more interesting than everything else in the New Testament, and would have drawn widespread attention to Lazarus during his lifetime and might have made him less afraid than others that did not have his experience when Lazarus approached death for a second time. 

Lysander Spooner wrote that it was unusual that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do not mention the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, which seems as if it could have been a demonstration of the miraculous powers of Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels do include passages concerning the activities of the sisters of Lazarus but fail to mention their brother's resurrection. Spooner wrote that this seemed to indicate that the author of the Gospel of John, "was actually dishonest, or that he took up, believed and recorded a flying story, which an occurrence of some kind had given rise to, but which was without any foundation in truth." 

Myself, i agree with Richard Carrion, who felt the interest regarding these deaths, burials and resurrections lie in the several passages in the Midrash Rabbah, which tie into the Mishnah, a third-day motif that could have been latent throughout a Jewish understanding of the dead. These laws are especially relevant to the passion narrative of Jesus, possibly inspiring the very idea that he was raised "on the third day." The key passage is as follows, based on Job 14:22:

"Bar Kappara taught: Until three days [after death] the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back [into the body]; but when it sees that the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it [the body].

This quote seems to suggest the two differences between the 3rd day and the 4th day regarding the facial features becoming disfigured [ie decomposing?].

This is perhaps further corroborated by the repeated principle that the identity of a corpse could only legally be established by the corpse's "countenance" within three days, after which it became too disfigured for identification by that means. The law stated that "You cannot testify to [the identity of a corpse] save by the facial features together with the nose, even if there are marks of identification in his body and garments: again, you can testify only within three days [of death]." 

And in the Midrash, these two ideas were clearly linked:

For three days [after death] the soul hovers over the body, intending to re-enter it, but as soon as it sees its appearance change, it departs, as it is written (Job 14:22), "When his flesh that is on him is distorted, his soul will mourn over him." Bar Kappara said: The full force of mourning lasts for three days. Why? Because [for that length of time] the shape of the face is recognizable, even as we have learnt in the Mishnah: Evidence [to prove a man's death] is admissible only in respect of the full face, with the nose, and only [by one who has seen the corpse] within three days [after death]. (Leviticus [XVIII:1 (225-226)])

The idea that the soul rests three days in the grave before departing is also casually assumed in the Midrash Rabbah on Ruth [III:3 (43-44)] and Ecclesiastes [I:34 (41-42)]. Confirming this belief is a passage in the Semahot, which says:

One may go out to the cemetery for three days to inspect the dead for a sign of life, without fear that this smacks of heathen practice. For it happened that a man was inspected after three days, and he went on to live twenty-five years; still another went on to have five children and died later.

Thus, it was considered possible for a soul to reunite with its body within three days, but no more, for sometime on the third day the soul realized the body was rotting, and then departed. Thus, a resurrection on the third day reverses the expectations of the Jews: to physicalists, instead of departing, the soul of Jesus reunites with his body and rises; to spiritualists, instead of departing, the soul of Jesus is exalted by God, raised to his right side, thence to appear in visions to the faithful.

Either way, a resurrection before the third day might not be a true resurrection, but a mere revival, [my emphasis] or the ghost of a not-yet-departed soul, but a resurrection on the third day is true evidence that death was in either sense defeated. This "third day" tradition in Jewish law may in fact be very ancient, possibly lying behind the prophecy of Hosea, "He will revive us after two days, He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before him", and no doubt had something to do with Paul's conviction that Jesus "was raised on the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:4). [https://infidels.org/kiosk/article/jewish-law-the-burial-of-jesus-and-the-third-day-125.html]

Rather bizarrely this may also be related to the concept of ancient mummification. The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife when someone died. Mummification helped someone reach the afterlife as they believed that an afterlife could only exist if there was a form the ka (soul) could repossess after death. Egyptians believed that the only way to do this was if the body was recognisable.  The chief embalmer was a priest wearing a mask of Anubis. Anubis was the jackal headed god of the dead. He was closely associated with mummification and embalming, hence priests wore a mask of Anubis.

The step-by-step process of how mummification took place:  

  1. Insert a hook through a hole near the nose and pull out part of the brain
  2. Make a cut on the left side of the body near the tummy
  3. Remove all internal organs
  4. Let the internal organs dry
  5. Place the lungs, intestines, stomach and liver inside canopic jars
  6. Place the heart back inside the body
  7. Rinse inside of body with wine and spices
  8. Cover the corpse with natron (salt) for 70 days
  9. After 40 days stuff the body with linen or sand to give it a more human shape
  10. After the 70 days wrap the body from head to toe in bandages
  11. Place in a sarcophagus (a type of box like a coffin)

Looking at this given process and the information given in John however - it may support the idea that Jesus was revived on the 3rd day before 'death could be recognised'. That Jesus was wrapped in liniments soaked in medicinal spices to help revive him is also a red flag of recognition. The Gospel would also suggest that the body was NOT mummified [at least not at this time] but certainly was revived before death had occurred [which suggests that an occult reading of the 14th Station of the Cross in Rennes-les-Bains of revival is intended] and just as some others who had been buried but were still alive, who were rescued and went on to live twenty-five years; still another went on to have five children and died later.

For me, all things considered the author of John - through the differences between the burials of Jesus and Lazarus is trying to tell us that Jesus in his tomb for 3 days was not really properly dead, but revived whereas Lazarus at 4 days was clinically and physically dead, and if true that it was Lazarus brought back to life which would have been a true resurrection. The Gospel of John would perhaps suggest the same by the use of medicinal plants to heal Jesus, via the wrapped linen strips soaked in the medicinal spices. 

Whatever the truth of these events in 1st century Palestine, if Jesus was revived - then it is entirely possible that he would have survived for another 25 years just as the individual in the  passage in the Semahot bore witness to. 

Is it this scenario and variances of which suggest Jesus did not die on the Cross, lived longer for a period of time and ended up in the Roman province of Gaul in antiquity? [Along with this i am concerning myself with this Roman province which appears to harbour many biblical characters in exile, including followers of Jesus, family members of Herod and other characters around the Crucifixion]. 

I do wonder why, in the context of Holy Blood, Holy Grail - the authors did not investigate the local tradition that Jesus' mummified body is to be found in the area of Rennes-le-Château. For it is such a strange local belief to have, and especially given that the body was mummified - which may explain the biblical accounts in the Gospel of John asserting that the burial was with linen strips!

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