Shattered Foundation

In the year 1555, a Jewish physician living in southern France wrote that the Catholic Church would one day come to grief. By this he did not mean the rise of Protestant Christianity or the Reformation led by Martin Luther and John Calvin -both of which were by then accomplished facts. What he had to say was something far more ominous for the Church: according to his vision of the future, Europeans in large numbers would abandon the Church 'with its shattered foundation' and return to paganism. His exact words were (with my translation):

Temples sacrez prime facon Romaine, Rejectoront les goffres fondements; Prenant leurs loix premieres et humaines, Chassant, non tout des saints les cuhement.

For temples sacred in the pristine Roman fashion, They'll reject the one with the shattered foundation; Taking to their laws ancient and human, Will expel almost all their cults with saints' action. Century II, quatrain 65.

The Jewish physician in question was one Michele de Nostradame, better known as Nostradamus. He is a much misunderstood man. We may now see him as a mystic and prophet, but in his own day he was renowned as the foremost physician in Europe, good enough to be appointed court physician by Queen Catherine de Medici of France. He was also a first rate astronomer and mathematician who, while still a youth, had studied and accepted the heliocentric model of Copernicus for the solar system. This was more than fifty years before Galileo and the invention of the telescope. For this or some other heretical position, he had been called to appear before the Inquisition by the Church authorities in Toulouse; he saved himself by leaving France and staying out of the country for six years.

As a Jew whose family had been forced to convert to Catholicism, at a time when both the wars of religion and the persecution of Jews were at their height, he detested the Church of his day.2 And as a man of science who had to flee the country for his progressive beliefs, he hated the Inquisition. (This is enough to make one wonder if he really could read the future all that well - at any rate his own.) Anyway he had this to say about the Inquisition and its judges:

De plus lettres dessus le faits celestes Seroot par princes ignorance reprouves: Punit d'Edit, chassez comme scelestes. Et mis it mort lit au seront trouves.

Among the most learned in the heavenly arts, Will by princes of ignorance be denounced; Punished by an Edict and chased out as frauds, And put to death wherever found. Century IV, quatrain 18.

Some have read in this the persecution of Galileo some sixty years later, but that can only be a matter of faith in Nostradamus as a prophet. The 'princes ignorance' are the self-styled princes of the Church, notably the Cardinals and the Archbishops who presided over the trials by Inquisition. On the whole this is a pretty accurate description of the state of affairs in his own time when the Inquisition was raging in all its fury. This was not all, for shortly before his own death Nostradamus came out and boldly predicted the fall of the Roman Church.

o vaste Rome, ta ruine s'approache,

Non de tes murs de ton sang et substance:

o great Rome, your ruin draws close,

2 Persecution of the Jews was particularly virulent in Nostradamus' own time. Following the Christian reconquest of Spain. Jews had been expelled from Spain; most went on to settle in Egypt and Turkey. Earlier, during the period of the Crusades, the Crusaders were being instigated by the clergy to kill Jews to gain remission of their sins. Pope Innocent VIII (1484-92) sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition that led to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Jews. The Nazi persecution of the Jews may be seen as the culmination of nearly two thousand years or anti-Semitism that began with the rise or Christianity.

Not your walls - but your blood and soul; Century X, quatrain 65.

Nostradamus made a large number of similarly ominous predictions foretelling the downfall of the Church, giving many details. Their validity is more a matter of faith than scientific proof, but the Church apparently took his predictions seriously, for his Centuries ended up on the infamous Papal Index of prohibited works. In much of Rome itself, Church attendance has fallen to less than three per cent which is being seen as a grave crisis. In Europe and many parts of America, Christianity is facing a serious decline. (We shall be taking a closer look at the crisis confronting the Church in the next chapter.) All this has made the Church extremely anxious.

In what is a remarkable coincidence, at this period in its history when Church attendances are at historically low levels, it has also to deal with the storm let loose by the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It feels its existence being threatened from two sides - the doctrinal and the temporal. The Church has reacted in the only manner it knows how - suppression and distortion of evidence.

Suppression of material that may cast doubts on its positions has been a method of long standing with the Church throughout its eventful history. Nonetheless it is a measure its deep insecurity that it should have gone to the extent of banning a work like the Nostradamus Centuries which most readers find incomprehensible. Be that as it may, the Church now has to deal with a far more serious threat to its position than any of the prophecies of Nostradamus - the ominous shadow cast by the Dead Sea Scrolls.3

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran region of Palestine is being seen by many - including Church authorities - as the latest and the most serious threat to organized Christianity. In this regard, Nostradamus' prophecy about 'shattered foundation' may be seen to have been fulfilled, for, if anything can strike at the foundations of the Church, it is likely to be the discovery of these ancient manuscripts dating to the turbulent period leading to the Jewish Wars that also saw the birth of Christianity. The Church is unlikely to recover from the blow delivered by the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Recognizing the threat posed by the Scrolls, the Vatican and its related institutions have gone to great lengths to keep suppressed the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls for nearly half a century. But recently, there have been two major developments to make the Church's worst nightmare come true. First, the release of the Scrolls transcripts by the Huntington Library in California. Secondly, the publication of all the facsimiles and translations of some of the most important texts by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise. In their recently published book - The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered: The First Complete Translation and Interpretation of 50 Key Documents Withheld for Over 35 Years, Eisenman and Wise observe:4

The struggle for access to the materials in Cave 4 [where some of the most important Scrolls fragments were found] was arduous, sometimes even bitter. An International Team of editors had been set up by the Jordanian Government to control the process. The problems with this team are public knowledge. To put

3 The so-called predictions of Nostradamus are contained in ten books known collectively as Les Vrays Centuries or the True Centuries. Each century is a collection of one hundred four-line rhymed verses called quarrains. Most of his quatrains are incomprehensible leaving the reader free to read whatever suits his fancy. It is a fact however, that many Church officials see the Dead Sea Scrolls as a fulfillment of his quatrains foretelling the downfall of the Church.

them in a nutshell: in the first place, the team was hardly international, secondly it did not work as a team, and thirdly it dragged out the editing process interminably.

These two recent developments - the release of the transcripts, and the publication of the Eisenman-White book - of course means the collapse of the Scrolls monopoly, leading to a scenario worse than any predicted by Nostradamus - at least from the Church's point of view. The floodgates are now open; it is only a matter of time before the real facts about the origins of Christianity are also brought out into the open. When this happens, it will truly leave the foundations of the Church shaken - if not actually shattered. This at least is how it appears to the present author based on a study of the texts belonging to the Dead Sea Scrolls, viewed against the background of the current state of Christianity and its recent history.

My goal in these pages is to give a brief account of the radically changed picture of Christianity and its origins resulting from a restudy of the Biblical literature along with the texts from the Scrolls now available. While it will no doubt be decades before a more complete picture can be presented, I am encouraged in this effort by the appearance of several books on the topic by scholars like Eisenman and Wise, Golb and Vermes. Also to be noted is the book Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh who brought to public attention the 'scandal of the scrolls' - as Vermes called it - basing their conclusions mainly on the recent important work of Robert Eisenman. These have been supplemented by my own study of the Bible and other classical sources - notably the great Jewish historian Josephus, as well as Greek and Roman historians of the period of early Christianity.

In broad terms, what I have attempted in the present volume is a picture of the Church in its current state as seen from the perspective of an outsider, one who has no stake in the various partisan positions, at least in a religious sense. I have tried also to anticipate the direction in which the Church appears to be moving faced with the collapse of Christianity in Europe. I see the Church becoming much more of a multinational business enterprise concentrating its activities in the Third World, particularly India with its tradition of tolerance. I see this as a dangerous portent for the pluralistic societies of Asia, for the expansion of Christianity has invariably meant loss of pluralism.

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