Today, Jesus sells almost as well as sex — so long as He's not the real Jesus. But the Madison Avenue Jesus — the Hollywood Jesus — the fictitious Jesus who has been created in the minds of millions through a combination of religious tradition, misinterpreted history, false assumptions, hazy notions, weird dreams, alleged visions, Byzantine and Renaissance art and literature — is a hot property.
So long as the fake Jesus is a homosexual, a liar, a plotter, a false religious leader, a megalomaniac, a "mushroom," a dissident, a hippie, or even a monastic dreamer whose quiet whisperings made the "birds hush their singing " — Jesus sells!
Judging from the cinematic and literary quest for the Christ of history, modern attempts to market the personage called "Jesus" through motion pictures, plays, books, articles, television, and rock operas manage to avoid any remote resemblance to the personality of Jesus revealed in the Bible.
One modern author proposed Christ was a fake who conspired with His disciples to bring about a sham crucifixion and a staged resurrection. His book has been made into a movie.
And one scholar has propounded the theory that Christ was an hallucinogenic "mushroom"; that His religion was a drug cult; that no such actual personality ever lived.
Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, The Robe and other movies have included a Jesus, however incidentally, in the script. Over the past few decades many moviemakers have seemed content to dress up actors in appropriately tattered, dirty, first-century-style rags, throwing in sufficient Roman citizens, gladiators, galley slaves, dancing girls and pontificating hoary-headed Peters and Pauls to create an illusion of historical accuracy. Millions of moviegoers over the years have gone away feeling not only entertained, but also positively enlightened on "how it really must have been."
And now a Western European film director, Joern Donner of Stockholm, is filming a motion picture which depicts a bisexual Jesus engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activities.
But none of these speculative imaginings has much to do with the actual Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
It's time you met that Jesus — the real Jesus — the Jesus Christ of your Bible.
It's time you knew the Jesus who suffered through and overcame the entire panorama of human temptations, passions and emotions which are common to us all; who enjoyed good food and drink; who was attracted to beautiful women.
It's time you knew the Christ who could cry, shout, laugh and sing; who could enjoy the rough camaraderie of men of His own age in an out-of-doors camp, yet appreciate the glittering setting of fabulous feasts in the most palatial of estates.
It's time you realized that Jesus was a Jew: that He looked like any common, average Jew of His day; that He was so nondescript He was frequently overlooked in crowds, even among people who were seeking to put Him to death.
It's time you were told that Jesus had a large family which included at least six brothers and sisters; and that He owned at least one and probably two homes of His own; that He paid taxes.
It's time you heard that Jesus did not come to save the whole world some 2,000 years ago; that He has not been trying to save it since; and that He is not trying to save it today. It is time you heard that He did not die of a broken heart; that He was not crucified on "Good Friday"; that He was not resurrected on "Easter Sunday"; that He was not born on or anywhere near December 25; and that much of what He taught lies abandoned in the dust of history.
This Jesus — the real Jesus — may insult you, shock you, please you, challenge you, inspire you, surprise you, make you wonder. But He will never bore you.
There is a crying need for solid information on the real Jesus Christ of Nazareth, based on the true writings of those who knew Him best — the eyewitnesses who wrote the four Gospel accounts in your New Testament.
I have written such a book about Christ — rejecting all spurious and apocryphal writings, legends, alleged "lost books of the Bible," and special religious traditions. It's titled The Real Jesus, and we're going to run a series of articles in this magazine excerpted from that book. Watch for them beginning in the December issue — they'll help you get to know the real Jesus.