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Who is the Real Jesus – Shaman, Fatherless in Galilee, or More?

Posted by Tom Lessing on October 27, 2008

Questions and answers are certainly the most important yardsticks in the assessment of people’s opinions. It not only determines a person’s knowledge of certain topics but in spiritual terms may even indicate the person’s ultimate destination after death. Consider for a moment the following very compelling question and the various answers in response to it.

Matthew 16:13-17 Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Although most of the answers were dead wrong, at least some of the them remained within the ambit of biblical history, something today’s distinguished researches cannot lay claim to at all for they do not define history as the sequential occurrence of events based on clear historical facts but as the subjective perceptions of people shaped by their own personal worldview. Hence Prof. Jurie le Roux’s[1] incongruous remarks: “My reason formulates the reality. I create the reality, I assign meaning to history, I create meaning. . . Every exegete makes the Scriptures meaningful . . . Mankind does not have the ability to think in absolute terms . . . Therefore it is impossible to make absolute pronouncements about God.”[2] “For the first century Christian Jesus rose from the dead because it was part of their worldview; today we cannot understand it like that.”[3]

If man is incapable of thinking in absolute terms he is not only completely impotent with regard to his statements about God but also in regard to recent history such as the murderous deeds of Hitler who executed 6 000 000 Jews. Does this consign the postmodern thinkers to the madness of the Neo Nazis who cannot think in absolute terms and deny the absolute facts about the holocaust? Fallacious and unscientific remarks such as the above have one specific purpose in mind and that is to “mayathologize”[4] world history, and in particular biblical history. The word “mayathologize” is of my own making and is derived from the old Sanskrit word “maya,” a term used mainly in Hinduism which says that everything is an illusion. “Mayathologizing” has become a very handy tag to explain away the factual evidence of Jesus Christ’s words, miracles, death and resurrection as mere shamanic experiences induced by altered states of consciousness and out of body instances. The latter must be done at all cost so that the Bible may be brought on par with other religious mythologies, stories and sayings.

Martin Dibelius (1883-1947) and Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), two German theologians and professors for the New Testament, coined two types of history — “Historie” and “Geschichte.” “Historie” are real, objective and verifiable events that are provable through scientific resources such as excavations and archaeology. “Geschichte” on the other hand, are events which the observer claims to be true in his mind and heart; it is therefore internal and non-verifiable and constitutes ‘faith’ or subjective history.“This distinction permits the assertion that something (say the resurrection of Jesus) is ‘true’ [i.e.: ‘Geschichte’] [but] which is not ‘true’ in the sense of history as fact [i.e.: ‘Historie’].” [5] “Formgeschichte” which is part and parcel of these dualistic and divergent views of history, maintains that the various reports of the life, works and words of Jesus Christ were modified, exaggerated and even fabricated by the Christian community to suit their own needs. These narratives were categorized by Dibelius and Bultmann as legends and myths. This led to the never-ending quest for the real Jesus — a demythologized Jesus (“Geschichte”) toward a Jesus of “Historie,” stripped of all the embellishments, myths and legends the early Christians allegedly experienced as true facts in their own hearts and minds through altered states of consciousness or out of body experiences. The quest for the real Jesus has since developed into a quagmire of researched “findings” of which the latest is blatant blasphemy — i.e. the notion that Jesus performed healings and exorcisms, controlled the spirits, and acted as prophet, teacher and mediator of divine knowledge as a Galilean shamanic figure.

In an open public debate held on 16 October at the University of Pretoria, three notable speakers in their particular field delivered papers on the subject “Who is the Real Jesus – Shaman, Fatherless in Galilee, or More.” They were Proff. Pieter Craffert, Andries van Aarde and R. Zimmermann.

Prof. Craffert, a member of the New Reformers (Nuwe Hervormers) who is on the staff of UNISA has recently published a book entitled The Life of a Galilean Shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective.” It has won the acclaim of many postmodern theologians.

Christopher Rowland of Queens College, Oxford, applauds it as follows:

“Dr. Pieter Craffert’s book is a timely contribution to the debate about Jesus, which deserves to be read widely and pondered by the scholarly community, as it enables a better grasp of Jesus of Nazareth in his historical context. Those who have discussed the political problem posed by Jesus have never taken seriously enough the power wielded by the charismatic, miracle-worker, and seer in an ancient society. The careful exploration of the way in which Pieter Craffert has explored how shamanism might inform the understanding of the Jesus tradition sheds much light on the religion and politics of the Jesus of history which will set future discussion on a firmer historical footing.” (Emphasis added).

Bruce J. Malina, Creighton University, Omaha, is overcome by a shamanic-like ecstacy when he says with gleeful elation:

“In this book, Craffert uses the metaphor of traveling to describe the task he has undertaken. Given the existence of the two prevailing pathways leading into contemporary ‘historical Jesus’ study, Craffert leaves the century-and-a-half old Schweitzer Street (Schweitzerstrasse) and Wrede Road (Wredebahn) to do some ‘bundubashing’ (South African: to travel off road through remote and rough terrain) to get to the social personage of Jesus the Galilean. His critique of prevailing historical Jesus study is insightful and incisive, while his description of Jesus as first-century Galilean shaman is masterful and accomplished. His rationale for and realization of a work of anthropological history is quite on the mark, enabling a reader to have an encounter with a first-century, Galilean shamanic Jesus that shouldproduce an appropriate culture shock in those unused to the radically different cultural and social landscape of Mediterranean antiquity.” (Emphasis added)

Bundubashing?  . . .  indeed! The postmodern intelligentsia are following “bundubashing” paths and ways which the Word of God describes as ways and paths that seem right to the traveler but the ends thereof is eternally destructive.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

John J. Pilch, Georgetown University, Washington says:

“Craffert’s groundbreaking study lifts contemporary historical Jesus research out of frustrating dead ends to move it in a new and richly rewarding direction. According to him, Jesus is best understood as a shamanic figure who lived in first century Galilee. Everything the New Testament reports about Jesus, his teaching and his activities, fits the model of a shamanic complex. This model offers the most culturally plausible interpretation of biblical evidence that others have judged to be purely literary compositions with no basis in reality contrived to teach a ‘theological’ or ‘spiritual’ lesson. Craffert’s new view of Jesus makes him as intelligible as other universally documented holy persons who have appeared in all cultures throughout the millennia of human existence.” [5] (Emphasis added).

The last sentence proves what I said previously, that the enemies of God are doing everything in their power to bring God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on par with all the other so-called holy persons who have been prominent in every conceivable religion.

In his essay Craffert said that Shamanism is a way to explain how Jesus of Nazareth performed his miracles, died and rose from the dead. At first I could not understand how he links the unique miracle of Christ’s resurrection, wrought by God’s Holy Spirit, to a demonically inspired practice such as shamanism, until I read the following words in an article on the internet.

The Way of the Shaman
The shaman has often been referred to as “the wounded healer.” What this means is that the shaman has passed through some terrible illness or crisis, or has even been to the land of the dead, and has survived, but not only survived: he has also come back, stronger and wiser, with the help of the spirits. It also means that most of the people reading this article have the potential for doing shamanic work, for we have all faced, and gone through, times of pain and crisis.[6] (Emphasis added)

This is clearly a demonically inspired counterfeit of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection which provokes God’s terrible indictment in Matthew and Mark:

Mt 12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Mr 3:29-30 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He has an unclean spirit.

Anyone who attributes the work of the Holy Spirit to that of the devil and his demons and like the Pharisees of old asserts that Jesus performed his miracles by the power of Beelzebub, is in danger of eternal damnation.

Mt 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.

What is the difference between the above Pharisaic denunciation and Craffert’s assertion that “As a Galilean shamanic figure Jesus typically performed healings and exorcisms, he controlled the spirits while he also acted as prophet, teacher and mediator of divine knowledge”? (Emphasis added). To understand this abysmal and abyss-like affirmation, we need to take into account the essential traits of a shaman.

According to an article on Wikepedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism) the shamans main functions are to perform a plethora of functions depending upon the society wherein they practise their art: healing; leading a sacrifice; preserving the tradition by storytelling and songs; fortune-telling; acting as a psychopomp (literal meaning, “guide of souls”). In some cultures, a shaman may fulfil several functions in one person. The necromancer in Greek mythology might be considered a shaman as the necromancer could rally spirits and raise the dead to utilize them as slaves, soldiers and tools for divination. Generally, the shaman traverses the axis mundi and enters the spirit world by effecting a transition of consciousness, entering into an ecstatic trance, either autohypnotically or through the use of entheogens. The methods employed are diverse, and are often used together. Some of the methods to induce such trances are:

  • Tobacco (improves concentration, but is not psychotrophic)
  • Drumming
  • Dancing (trance dancing)
  • Singing (chanting)
  • Icaros / Medicine Songs
  • Vigils
  • Fasting
  • Sweat lodge
  • Vision quests
  • Mariri
  • Swordfighting / Bladesmithing
  • “Power” or “master” plants used as incense or consumed to heal or attain altered states .
  • Psychedelic mushrooms – alluded to euphemistically as holy children by Mazatec shamans such as María Sabina.
  • Cannabis
  • San Pedro cactus – named after (St. Peter), guardian and holding the keys to the gates of heaven, by the Andean peoples; Quechua name: Huachuma
  • Peyote
  • Ayahuasca – Quechua for Vine of the Dead; also called yage
  • Cedar
  • Datura
  • Deadly nightshade
  • Fly agaric
  • Iboga
  • Morning glory
  • Sweetgrass
  • Sage

(Emphasis added throughout)

Is Prof. Craffert suggesting that Jesus used similar drugs and methods to induce His alleged shamanic altered states of consciousness? If so he is either very close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit who, according to Scripture, empowered Jesus to do His miracles and also raised Him from the dead, or he has already blasphemed Him on so many occasions that Craffert no longer feels any compunction whatsoever.

The public were given an opportunity to ask questions which were taken and answered in a batch. I phrased my question as follows:

Who said these profound words, and indeed they are very profound – ‘if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.’ Was it a shaman as you proclaim and if so, would you say that your and my sins are merely shamanic experiences?”

The three very distinguished speakers answered all the other questions except mine. This reminded me of Paul’s serious admonishment in Romans 1:18-19:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. (Emphasis added)

They know what the truth is but deliberately withhold it in unrighteousness. Men directly resist the doctrines of religion, since they know they cannot hold to those doctrines without abandoning their sins. Was this the reason why they could or would not answer my question?

My most sincere plea is that the three honoured speakers whose misinterpretation of Jesus Christ is leading them and others astray to repent of their evil ways and to receive the truth of God’s Gospel so that they may be saved because it is not the will of God that any should perish.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us–ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Throughout the years the Theological Faculty of the University of Pretoria has hosted many speakers who have contributed to their own and the Dutch Reformed Church’s slide into apostasy. They are increasingly ridiculing the fundamentalists who in godly fear uphold the fundamental truths of Scripture and refuse to compromise those truths in behalf of a “unity-in-diversity” paradigm. A person who has often scoffed at fundamentalism is Prof. Piet Naudé.[8] At the annual Spring Festival of the Theological Faculty held on 8 October, he said that the church should incorporate and propagate diverse spiritualities with one exception – and that is to avoid fundamentalists as the plague  because it is impossible to negotiate any common ground with them. They are mad, he said. A large audience comprising mainly of men (?) laughed with abandon at Naudé’s little jokes and his mockery of fundamentalism. The only thing you can say to the fundamentalists, he said is “See you in heaven . . . and maybe not!” Madness, however, is not akin to fundamentalists but rather to liberalists who profess to be wise but have become mad in their own crazy suppositions.

Romans 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. (Amplified Bible)(Emphasis added).

The irony is that while Piet Naudé scoffed at the fundamentalists, he stood in front of the pulpit of the Univeristeitsoord DRC in Pretoria on which it is written “Even so I send you,” the words Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples after His resurrection from the dead (John 20:21). He sent them out into the world to proclaim the most fundamental truth ever encountered by mankind: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” How can Piet Naudé, the Theological Faculty and the men (?) who giggled and laughed with him obey Christ’s command to go into the world and what kind of message can they offer a world gone crazy when they scoff at the fundamental remarks Jesus Christ made during His sojourn on earth?

2 Peter 3:1-3 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.(Emphasis added)

Brother Peter seemed to have known and anticipated the ill-reputed meetings at the Theological Faculty of UP such as the one that took place on 8 October 2008. Indeed, he was spot-on when he said there will be scoffers in the last days. To them I want to reiterate what die Psalmist said:

Psalm 2:1-4 WHY DO the nations assemble with commotion [uproar and confusion of voices], and why do the people imagine (meditate upon and devise) an empty scheme? The kings of the earth take their places; the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed One (the Messiah, the Christ). They say, Let us break Their bands [of restraint] asunder and cast Their cords [of control] from us. He Who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision [and in supreme contempt He mocks them]. (Psalm 2:1-4) (Emphasis added).

Jesus called Simon Peter a blessed man because His Father in heaven revealed to Him the eternally immutable truth about Himself. Who revealed to Prof. Pieter Craffert that Jesus must have been a shaman . . . the god of this world?

2 Corinthians 3-4 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (Emphasis added)


[1] Prof. Jurie el Roux is on the staff of the Department Old Testament of the Theological Faculty at the University of Pretoria.

[2] Le Roux JH 2001. Geskiedenis van die Pentateugnavorsing. Deprt. Ou Testament. Universiteit van Pretoria. p 36-38)

[3] Jurie le Roux 2004. Na OTW Pentateugkritiek vraestel aan Ferdie Mulder gesê. 19/06/2004; GW 1:12; 11 h30. Universiteit van Pretoria.

[5] Richard Soulen: Handbook of Biblical Criticism,” p. 79

[6] http://www.unisa.ac.za/Default.asp?Cmd=ViewContent&ContentID=20742

[7] http://www.shamanism.dk/Artikel%20-%20All%20life%20is%20connected.htm

[8] Prof Naudé has a master’s in philosophy, a doctorate in theology and is an ordained pastor. He has won countless research awards, particularly in the field of Christian theology and ethics, has published two academic books, more than 50 articles and presented more than 100 papers at national and international conferences. Leading Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University ethics academic, Prof Piet Naudé has been appointed as director of the university’s Business School.

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