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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:Jewish
  • Language:English
  • Series title:Before the Myth: The Earliest Footprint of Jesus
  • Series Number:1
  • Pages:398
  • eBook ISBN:9781667818412
  • Paperback ISBN:9781667818405

The Earliest Footprint of Jesus: What We Have Heard

by Daniel G. Slawter

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"The Earliest Footprint of Jesus: What We Have Heard" introduces readers to the dual figures of Jesus the Nazarene and Paul the Apostle. The book to some extent contrasts their worldviews, attitudes, and values. Jesus was a rural rabbi from the Land of Israel. Paul was raised in one of the leading Hellenic academic communities of his day. With the exception of Jerusalem, the story of Jesus limited its scope to rural Palestine. Paul’s proselytizing deliberately focused on urbanized locales spread across the Eastern Mediterranean. Each would have seen life quite differently from the other.

For Jesus and other early first-century Jews to a large extent life revolved around changing seasons and the Jerusalem Judaic temple. Theirs was an agrarian-dominated culture. What we know about Paul’s life had no meaningful emphasis on any of these themes. For Jesus and his contemporaries, ceremonial prayers to the godhead would have often embraced petitions for sunshine, rain, and bountiful harvests. We know from his extensive correspondence that the Apostle Paul maintained an entirely different focus.

From historical records, we know that the three primary Judaic cyclical festivals – Tabernacles, Passover, Pentecost – celebrated in Jerusalem were wildly popular among contemporary Israelites. In all fairness, as temple-worshipping Jews, we have to believe such prioritization would have included the likes of Jesus and his disciples. With one exception (a random “Pentecost” comment – 1 Cor 16.8) Paul never mentioned Jewish festivals (NOTE: Nearly all New Testament scholars agree that the Epistle to the Hebrews – referencing Heb 11.28 – was probably not written by Paul).

Coincidentally, as far as the canonical gospels go, only within the Johannine story was Jesus realistically portrayed attending these activities. Synoptic tradition – probably out of ignorance due primarily to very late, post-Palestine, Hellenistic connections – (with the exception of one Passover) never mentioned Judaic feasts. Or offered any related context.

This first volume spends some amount of time acquainting readers with prevailing social conditions in first-century Roman Palestine. For example, during the era a number of self-appointed “kings” arose from the common people. So the report in all four canonical Gospels that Jesus was proclaimed “King of the Jews” retained at least some degree of plausibility within the historical narrative.  

Ignored by most New Testament scholars, the subject of orality is enormously important for gaining a proper understanding of numerous historical themes related to Jesus and his mission. The book highlights multiple chapters focused on this rarely mentioned motif in modern studies.

Finally, the so-called "proselytizing" activities of the early disciples are examined in a historical light. And found wanting.


"The Earliest Footprint of Jesus: What We Have Heard” opens by following the Apostle Paul in the story of his confrontation with Athenian community leaders at the Are-op′agus hill. Paul’s reality is compared to that of Jesus. The world of Jesus is further investigated by research into his likely attitudes towards the divinity and varying socioeconomic conditions on the ground.

Palestine's social makeup, archaeology, and the crucial impact of mass illiteracy on the life and times receive special emphasis.

That Yeshu-ha-Notzri was a historical figure is beyond any doubt. That he was a devout Judaist familiar with temple and synagogue is hardly news. For that matter, at some point we should face the reality that his message was essentially Jewish in nature and fulfillment. That may perk the ears of some readers. But not those few experts who specialize in the demythization of Near Eastern antiquity. And self-consciously pass this theme by.

In this study we face a real intellectual dilemma. A dilemma that has been either unaddressed or effectively ignored for more than two centuries. One might add, by the best-educated among us. A dilemma that, at all costs, must avoid pursuing a well-familiar later dialogue of post-Palestine, Hellenized intrigue. Masquerading as early tradition. For casual readers, what are we talking about? The synoptic texts are loaded with accounts when weighed against a legitimate historical background would have been extremely late narrative additions. Almost certainly created beyond the Land of Israel. This topic is examined in some depth throughout this two-book series.

Or the bulk of Paul's ecstatic visionary world. Dogmatic religious themes that formulated adulatory praise to a divine or semi-divine Hellenized figure. This Pauline interpretation had nothing to do with the Palestinian experience of one Yeshu ha-Notzri. A practicing rabbi from an anonymous speck of a village in the remote Nazareth valley. This area of concern will also – to some extent – be investigated.

We will come to realize that these somewhat Hellenistic profiles emerged long after original oral memories began forming in exclusively Hebraic village settings. The Hellenistic outlook transpired beyond territorial Palestinian borders. Beyond the altruistic worldview of rural villagers entirely devoted to temple, rainfall, and tilled soil.

Paul's "Christian" experience was urbanized from the start. Largely patterned around a mature, hellenistic, cultural mythos. And to some degree, we might add "educated" and "literate." As far as we know, Paul was born into the cosmopolitan pagan world of Tarsus in the Roman province off Cilicia. The key to competently filling in the blanks: the story of Jesus would have been initially cast against an entirely Judaic cultural backdrop.

In particular, Paul's Hellenistic thought-world would have been largely unrecognizable. Certainly, in the northern territory of Galilee. Not only that. But among rural villagers, many of Paul's conceptual ideas, if explained, would be insistently frowned upon. Even ridiculed.

Within the Nazarene's timeline, Israelites were looking for answers to Roman occupation and collusion from their own aristocratic overseers. They (partially) found them in numerous social activities that revolved around cultic "purity" concepts. As a consequence, during the first century the native population presented a steady, growing, nationalistic drumbeat. The Land of Israel increasingly resented the Roman takeover. And corrupt Judaic officials. A set-in-stone social profile that never let up till sometime in the second century with the complete dismantling of the Jewish state.

The subject of orality is enormously important for gaining a proper understanding of numerous historical themes related to Jesus and his mission. The book closes with multiple chapters focused on this rarely mentioned motif.

Today, the shady side of New Testament scholarship is met in rather curious interpretive trends. In academic research the familiar religious icon we call "Jesus the Nazarene" has been reimagined in life settings at times seemingly reserved by cranks and simpletons. For that matter, much of biblical research often follows a similar trend. In brushstrokes, these two books attempt to reconstruct an authentic historical past.

About the author

The search to uncover the figure we know as Jesus the Nazarene (or "Yeshu ha-Notzri") began in the fall of 1973 and has continued off and on to this day. The author's last line of work (off and on over 20 years) was devoted to business software development and related programming. That career has taken him as far away as rainforest Africa. While the author is not a scholar, across his adult life he has made it his quest to understand Jesus the Nazarene in a historical light. That passion has led him into many areas of investigation which includes:

* understanding temple worship

* Jewish festivals;

* Mosaic themes;

* historical Galilee;

* the synagogue;

* Roman Palestine;

* the Land of Israel;

* orality;

* ancient storytelling;

* the group vs individual dynamic;

* other sociological themes blanketing the geographical setting;

* the role of "elders" in ancient society;

* the canonical Gospels (with emphasis on John and Mark);

* Palestinian Christianity;

* the Apostle Paul;

* themes surrounding Judaic "renewal";

* first-century Palestinian violence and social unrest;

* so-called "exorcism" inside the historical setting;

* Greeks versus Jews;

* the early gospel witnessed as "Signs" tradition;

* related historical works of classical scholars;

* the Dead Sea Scrolls;

* John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene;

* Passion Week;

* and the Resurrection.

This list is far from complete.

These two volumes strongly suggest that mainstream scholarship has committed grievous errors reconstructing their so-called "historical" models. Thus, the necessity to ultimately publish the author's findings.