DIVVS·IVLIVS

Commentarii de religione Divi Iulii vel primordio Christianitatis

Tag: Resurrection

Liberalia and Easter: The breads of the Holy Week

There is a long tradition of bakery products for Easter all over continental Europe—and even beyond, as the popularity of the hot cross bun in the UK and former British colonies like the US and Australia shows. In the more traditional regions, especially those in the Mediterranean area, it is often a form of plain flatbread or wafers that are a prominent part of the tradition. In Spain a whole wafer industry has developed for the Semana Santa, and in rural areas with stronger and older traditions these wafers and especially more traditional flatbreads are sold or handed out to the people attending the ceremonies of the Holy Week, especially on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday. (Please note that these products are all distinct from the liturgical communion wafers.) In Greece there is for example a long tradition of women baking the so-called koulouria using outdoor ovens (see image below).

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The death of Christ on Holy Wednesday

Bercianos de Aliste is a small and remote Spanish village near the Portugese border. Due to its century-long isolation the town’s parish has retained a very ancient and unadorned tradition of the Semana Santa, the Spanish Holy Week leading up to Easter. At first sight they seem to be following the standard rituals of the Holy Week: During the night before Holy Thursday a monumento is built for the host. From Wednesday to Good Friday women mourn for the enshrined body and watch over their Lord and Savior. Then the host is shared during the Holy Thursday liturgy. The Good Friday rituals begin in the morning, when the priest symbolizes the deceased Christ by lying on the floor.

BercianosDeAliste_SemanaSanta_1.jpg

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Quest Historie 1/2010: Theologian Annette Merz has reached the second stage…

…and inadvertently touches the third.

Here’s a kind of Kübler-Ross model for new scientific truths:

  1. disregard (theory is ignored)
  2. combat (theory is fought fiercely and by all means including ridicule)
  3. acceptance (theory is approved, admitted and accepted)

These three stages do not derive from a revolutionary new insight into the scholarly reception of spearhead science and paradigm shifts. In general they may be based on personal experience, and in this context they are specifically quoted from a 2003 review of Francesco Carotta’s book Jezus was Caesar that Dutch historian Thomas von der Dunk published together with this Schopenhauerist paraphrase in Spiegel Historiael,1 an acclaimed and popular journal for history and archaeology. The Dutch magazine Quest however is a totally different kind of beast and belongs to the flashy form of yellow press that publishes popular science as infotainment—or “braintainment”, as the Dutch editors like to call it. On four extensively illustrated pages their offshoot Quest Historie covered Carotta’s theory that the historical Jesus was Julius Caesar, that Jesus Christ is Divus Iulius incognito, and that the Gospel is a diegetic transposition of the historical sources on Caesar’s Civil War.2 And they did so quite well…

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Liberalia: Julius Caesar’s funeral and Resurrection

Caesar_Liberalia_Funus_SimulacrumTropaeum.jpg

The Resurrection of Julius Caesar
on the day of the Liberalia

On Friday, 17 March 44 BCE, the day of the Liberalia, the festival of Liber Pater (Bacchus/Dionysus), Julius Caesar received his state funeral and resurrected as god by the will of the people. A wax effigy of his slain body was presented, raised above the bier, at the exact spot where a cruciform tropaeum stood, and was then rotated for the attending crowd.

The image above shows a reconstruction of Caesar’s simulacrum on the cross from the available archaeological sources. In the context of the Liberalia this cross was not (as usually) only a Roman victory cross, but especially needs to be seen as a liturgical prop commonly found in the rituals of Dionysian festivals. The tropaeum is taken from one of the many Caesarian coins that display Caesar’s tropaea, while the effigy is from a denarius by Caesar’s moneyer Buca, a coin that represented the imagery used at Caesar’s funeral, including his effigy as the legendary shepherd/king Endymion.

Caesar’s real body was cremated by the people in an improvised manner during the same ceremony on the Forum Romanum. In the gospels, which are a diegetic transposition of the historical sources on Caesar’s Civil War, Caesar’s cremation was interpreted as Christ’s Crucifixion, and all of the hypotextual properties are still found in the Passion narrative, for example the Latin cremare (CREMO; “to cremate”), which was understood as the Greek term κρεμαω (κρεμάω; “to hang from”, “to suspend”; Christian: “to crucify”), a striking accordance that was also noted (vice versa) by Church Father Augustine in Quaest. Num. 4.33.5, where he insinuated Christ’s cremation and specifically explained the Resurrection as an apotheosis by fire:

Et cremabunt eam in conspectu eius. Puto quia concrematio ad signum pertinet resurrectionis. Natura est quippe ignis ut in superna moveatur, et in eum convertitur quod crematur. Nam et ipsum cremare de graeco in latinum ductum verbum est a suspensione. Quod vero additum est, in conspectu eius, id est in conspectu sacerdotis, hoc mihi insinuatum videtur, quia illis apparuit resurrectio Christi, qui futuri erant regale sacerdotium. Iam quod sequitur: Et pellis eius et carnes et sanguis eius cum stercore eius comburetur, id ipsum expositum est quomodo concremabitur: et significatum est quod non solum substantia mortalis corporis Christi, quae commemoratione pellis et carnium et sanguinis intimata est; verum etiam contumelia et abiectio plebis, quam nomine stercoris significatam puto, converteretur in gloriam, quam combustionis flamma significat.

For more information, especially on the scientific background and sources, see the following three articles and book excerpts:

  • Carotta F, Eickenberg A. 2009a. “Orpheos Bakkikos: the missing cross”. Kirchzarten/Berlin/Écija/Sevilla. Originally published in: Isidorianum 35.
  • Carotta F, Eickenberg A. 2009b. Liberalia tu accusas! Restituting the ancient date of Caesar’s funeral”. Kirchzarten/Berlin.
  • Carotta F. 2005. Jesus was Caesar. On the Julian Origin of Christianity. An Investigative Report. Soesterberg: Uitgeverij Aspekt. Chapter: “Crux”.
  • Below is a camera snapshot series of a sequence from the documentary feature film Death Masks, which originally aired on History HD in 2009. It shows a 3D reconstruction of Caesar’s wax effigy on the cross during his funeral, however with several omissions and errors, most notably the arms that are not extended, but bound to the body and to the vertical stem, as if Caesar were simply a common criminal being crucified.

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