Misunderstanding Jesus-A A +A
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
FORGET the perfectly trimmed beard and freshly washed hair and the immaculate-white robes. What was the real, historical Jesus like?
He lived under harsh conditions in Palestine where water and food were scarce, where motorized vehicles had not been invented yet, and appliances, toiletries, kitchenware, and all other little conveniences that we take for granted did not exist.
Thus, Jesus never brushed his teeth (which probably means he had cavities, which means he didn't have fresh breath), never shampooed or brushed his hair, never used deodorant, and never moisturized his skin or used sunblock.
Which means he probably had dandruff, body odor, dry skin, and dirty fingernails. When he had to go to the toilet, there were no toilets to go to, just holes in the ground hidden behind the bushes on the side of the road).
Jews during Jesus' time didn't start and end their day with a bath, like we do today, because wells and rivers were few and far between. But they did wash their hands before and after meals, as prescribed by their law. He ate with his bare hands-no forks, spoons, knives and plates. His meals were literally daily bread, which he used to scoop up food and dip in olive oil, soup or gravy. Bread defined their social status: wheat bread for the rich and barley bread for the poor.
Everyone squatted (or reclined on pillows) around one dish placed on a basket or copper tray. There were no tables and chairs as depicted in many Last Supper paintings, just a mat spread across the floor.
Like all Jews, Jesus avoided shellfish and pork, which were considered unclean food (because pigs ate human excrement and shellfish thrived in streams where human wastes flowed). Staple food was goat cheese and fish (if you lived near the lake), eaten sometimes with vegetable stew, eggs, fruits and of course wine.
The Jews in Jesus' time, like our own Kapampangan ancestors, didn't eat breakfast like we do today, but had their first full meal late in the morning, close to noon (which our ancestors called "abacan"). Then they had dinner late in the afternoon ("apunan"). Thus, they only had two meals a day (unlike us who are overfed with three meals plus multiple snacks!).
Our religion tells us that the Son of God was "fully man," and "fully" I suppose includes all the bodily processes, sounds, smells, fluids, diseases, and frailties that are common to humanity, like sneezing, snoring, coughing, burping, itching, farting, vomiting. I suppose he picked his nose, too!
And he probably had the flu and suffered one time or another from headache, toothache, sore throat, stomach cramps, diarrhea, maybe even parasite infestation which was prevalent in ancient cultures. What I'm sure he didn't have was diabetes, cancer, arthritis and all the ailments that came with artificial foods and bad diet.
When I went to the Holy Land a few years ago, my tour guide told me that in biblical times, Israel was more fertile and greener than it is today (hence it was called "the land of milk and honey").
There were only half a million people living in all of Israel at the time. The population of the capital city of Jerusalem was only 55,000, which swelled to 180,000 during the annual Passover, when pilgrims from all over came to offer sacrifice at the Temple. (Angeles City still has more residents.)
Average lifespan was 40 to 45 years old (which means if you're 20 you're already middle aged!). That's because there were no hospitals, medicines, and multivitamins to prolong life. Three out of every 10 children died before reaching age 18. More men lived to a ripe old age than women, which is why widowers often married younger girls.
Some people travelled on donkeys and camels, but most everyone else went on foot from town to town. On the average, a travelling Jew could cover 32 kilometers a day (that's like walking from Concepcion, Tarlac to San Fernando, Pampanga).
Thus, Jesus must have been badly sunburned, and I suppose his mother Mary, too, because she had to fetch water from the public well every single day, and sometimes travelled with him when his ministry began.
She was a hardy, weathered Middle-Eastern woman, with rough hands and strong muscles, quite unlike the frail, porcelain-skinned royalty often depicted in art and religion.
But she was unique among all women who turned out to have the purest of hearts, handpicked by God to bear and raise the one who would save the world.
And Jesus-although he looked gentle enough for children to sit on his lap, he was rough, fearless, and nobody's fool. He could berate hypocritical priests in public, chase moneychangers out of the temple, touch lepers, let prostitutes hold him, embrace raving lunatics and consider as family all the dregs of society and scum of the earth.
He had a magnetic personality that he used to summon multitudes and make men drop everything they did and follow him. People judged him by the company he kept, namely, fishermen, tax collectors, harlots, zealots, and gentiles, who always seemed to be having a good time that Jesus was accused of being a glutton and drunkard.
For a preacher who had a reputation of a prophet, Jesus wasn't a pious, solemn-faced, chest-beating spiritual leader but a teacher who had a sharp tongue, irreverent sense of humor, and a voice that didn't need a microphone to address a crowd of thousands in open air.
Actually, the most compelling image of Jesus' humanity is that of the man on the cross, bleeding slowly to death, gasping for air, twitching in pain, and totally naked.
With all the controversies and scandals buffeting the Roman Catholic Church these days, one wonders if this is the kind of church that the historical Jesus had wanted in the first place, or perhaps we misunderstood his instructions or lost our way?
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on February 26, 2013.