- Caveat 1: Those who believe Jesus is truly the Son of God may wish to avoid this post. Although my thoughts are only proposed for mild amusement and interest and in no way intended to offend, for some, the concept behind the idea may be an affront to preciously held beliefs. If that’s likely to be the case, kindly just don’t read.
- Caveat 2. It's a given that this is merely a hypothetical ‘what if…?’ premise, and to the best of man’s current knowledge, not ever going to be feasible in practice. But I am curious to hear other’s comments, suggestions and answers to my theoretical questions.
Don’t take it seriously! Just forget reality and allow your mind to slip into flights of fancy in a fantasy scenario where your imagination and creativity can be given free reign.
Imagine you have invented a high-tech time machine and you travel back to Judea arriving the year before Jesus’s crucifixion. On arrival, you hide your time machine in an unused cave not far from Jerusalem and change into the clothes you obtained from a costume hire company, hoping this will allow you to wander around relatively unnoticed, posing as a traveller from a faraway land.
You sling a couple of large cloth bags over your shoulders, containing items you have bought with you from the 21st century. You head into Jerusalem first to sell a few trinkets to rich merchants. They fall over themselves with eagerness to buy at exorbitant prices the brightly coloured items of costume jewellery made of plastic and cheap metal that that you bought in a discount store in your home town. This provides you with enough money to support yourself. Language is a problem, but having studied Latin and ancient Greek back home, you can get by with the odd word and sign language, and you will learn the native language as you go.
After exploring Jerusalem, you set off to travel through Judea and Samaria and then visit Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida and other places.
In the course of your travels, you discover that there are a number of itinerant preachers in the region, some with a political agenda, others promoting philosophical ideas. You eventually come across what you have been looking for, a particularly charismatic individual named Jesus who is accompanied by a loyal band of followers.
Like many of the other preachers, this man portrays himself as a prophet, however his followers go much further and claim that not only does their master possess special knowledge, healing abilities and other supernatural powers, but controversially, he is the son of God and the promised Messiah sent by Yahweh to save Israel.
Some of the reports of alleged miracles attributed to this man align roughly with accounts in the New Testament, and the topics he preaches about are familiar. So you conclude that the biblical Jesus was indeed a historic character. (You are relieved to find that you made a correct guess as to which year to arrive here, as 21st century bible scholars disagree over the dates of Jesus’ ministry).
But after a few weeks following this Jesus around, listening to his sermons, observing so called ‘miracles’ and studying his personality closely, it is unquestionably clear to you that he is not all he seems. Although he is very clever, enigmatic, outwardly charming and personable, this is just a mask for a much more sinister character. He is in fact a psychopathic, narcissistic megalomaniac, obsessed with his own self-importance. He promotes himself as a compassionate, caring person, but he uses and discards people according to their usefulness to him. He is an exhibitionist and a hypocrite.
You observe that Jesus’ teachings are appealing and compelling, particularly to the downtrodden, the sick, the outcasts and the poor. He promises them a better life. They are attracted by his rebellion against authority and excited by his unorthodox, controversial and politically dangerous views. His promises may be untestable but they provide something to cling on to and a tentative hope for the future. So people are joining the cult in droves. But there is also a lot of ridicule and opposition and the authorities are deeply suspicious of Jesus’s motives and keeping close tabs on his power base.
You perceive that Jesus’s close friends are fully brainwashed and have no hesitation in telling blatant lies for the sake of good PR, to enhance their master’s ‘brand image’. They don’t hesitate to use trickery, bribery, cheating and false promises or any other dishonest means to impress and convince other folk that their master has incredible supernatural powers. All his followers are caught up in the deception except one, (Judas), who has awakened from the delusion and seen through the lies.
Jesus is an expert at mind control and crowd manipulation. He is exceptionally skilled at ‘magic’ tricks and his ‘miracles’ are usually particularly convincing, although it’s quite easy for you with the benefit of modern knowledge, to see how he pulls off the illusions. You learn that many of the biblical miracles did not in fact take place, but were merely fabricated propaganda spun into the future bible narrative to add credibility to the extraordinary claims of Jesus’s power and connection to the God figure.
You are painfully aware that if you intervene to distort the course of history, you can never go back to your own era. In fact you wouldn’t exist in the future if you change anything in the past. But nevertheless, you decide that, using 21st century knowledge and technology, you will set yourself up as a sage and prophet who can do ‘miracles’, and see if you can attract Jesus’s followers to be your followers instead.
However, you have no personality disorders or desire for power and control over others, so your plan is that if you succeed in gaining the attention of a group of followers, you will then publicly reveal the truth, and demonstrate that you have no magic powers or connections to a deity, and wish simply to expose Jesus for being a fraud. You can also pass on some useful knowledge to improve the lives of the people in the community in a practical way, for example teaching them about the role of germs and how to avoid infections.
You are aware that the Romans may try to arrest you for sorcery, and you are conscious that it could all go horribly wrong and you could potentially end up being a martyr yourself. The worst case scenario is that your more gullible followers, missing the crucial point, could ironically build a cult around your memory if you are killed. But you have tried to mitigate the possibility by hiding wax sealed envelopes in temples in all the cities, towns and villages you have visited. These contain texts written in Latin and ancient Greek (typed on a PC on modern photocopy paper!) and explain who you are and the facts of your mission. You also remind people of the dangers of seeking for truth in the words of men.
You hope that if it comes to it, and you are in danger, bribing soldiers with a few bottles of modern beer, some bags of crisps (potato chips) and lads mags might allow you to escape. A modern weapon is an obvious final resort if all else fails, but ideally not to be used.
And if you get a chance of an audience with the Governor of the Province, or even with the Emperor in Rome, a case of fine wine, Belgian chocolates and Nessun Dorma played on a IPod might well sway your case. (Or maybe try Mozart, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Van Halen or the Rolling Stones!)
So all this leads to my questions:..
What items from the 21st century would you take with you to dazzle and astound the people of the 1st century?
What knowledge would you want to pass on to them?
And what do you think would happen next in the story….would you be revered or feared?
Assume your time machine is the size of a large car, so you can only bring limited items, (e.g. a bicycle would fit but not a military tank!) Batteries, or a small petrol generator could be brought with you, but remember there is no Wi-Fi, electricity or phone signal
Over to you and your imagination………