Was Jesus Phoenician?
In his book Jesus the Phoenician, Lebanese author Karim El Koussa challenges conventional thinking about the origins of Jesus Christ.
On September 30, Karim el Koussa, author of Jesus the Phoenician, gave a lecture at LAU NY about his findings. Drawing on historical, geographical, archaeological, cultural and theological sources, el Koussa used books and ancient texts in different languages and re-examined the validity of typically dismissed apocryphal gospels, such as the Gospel of Bartholomew and the Gospel of James.
How did you come up with the idea to write this book?
My mentor Father Yammine had a great influence on my work. He pioneered the study of the area where Jesus lived, reaching the conclusion that Jesus could not in any possible way be a Jew. I expanded on his research and included a compiled list of references to Jesus’ identity as a Canaanite-Phoenician.
In your book, you describe how Jesus opposed not only some of the Jewish rituals but the entire Judaic religion. Can you give an example?
There are many instances in the New Testament. Matthew 23:15-16 reads, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! A “proselyte” in this verse means a Gentile converted to the Jewish faith.
In John (18:33-36) Jesus refused to be called “King of the Jews” because he was not, nor did he ever want to be.
You say that the etymology of the name “Jesus” sheds light on his Phoenician origin. How is that?
Jesus’s name is derived from the Aramaic-Phoenician word «Yāwshu», which means “May Yāw Saves.” Yāw (or Yām) was the Canaanite-Phoenician god of water mentioned in the Ugaritic tablets and in the Phoenician coastal cities. The other name given to Jesus is «Immanuel» which is also an Aramaic-Phoenician name composed of two words, Immanu and Ēl that means “God Ēl with us.” Ēl was considered by Canaanites-Phoenicians as the Supreme God, the Father of all. Therefore, Jesus’s name sheds more light on his Phoenician origin than his Jewish origin.
If Jesus was not Jewish, what would that mean for the Christian faith?
We are focusing on a truly historical examination. We have evidence that Jesus was Phoenician and followed the Phoenician god El, just as we have evidence that Pythagoras was Phoenician and that Socrates was Greek.
Some Christians who believe that Jesus was a Jew think that his role was to rebel against the Romans and claim himself a king, as if he were a member of the Zealots, known to have been the military arm of the Pharisees. In Hebrew custom, the Mashiah is often referred to as Mélekh ha-Mashíaẖ, which means a king-to-be, “the anointed king,” something Jesus rejected as we see during his discourse with Pilate (John 18:33-36).
The Meshiha in Canaanite-Phoenician tradition, however, is simply a savior, a son of God, who would sacrifice himself for the life of others, and that’s what Jesus did during his ministry here on Earth.
If Jesus was a Phoenician, why have Christians believed him to be a Jew for over two thousand years?
The writers of the Gospels intended to show Jesus as a Jew and attempted to connect him to Jewish Kingship through the Davidic line as a result of the first official Christian Assembly (Council of Jerusalem) convened by James (the cousin of Jesus) in the city of Jerusalem sometime between 49 and 52 A.D. The connection to the Jewish faith was important at a time when Christians in Jerusalem were being persecuted, stoned and killed by the Jews (Acts 11:19).
It is not a coincidence that the Gospel was preached in Phoenicia almost ten years before it was spread around the world as a result of the Assembly.
Christianity was well received all over Phoenicia because Phoenicians saw in Jesus the historical manifestations of the Mythological Adon, son of Ēl. In contrast, the real aim of the first Assembly was to convince Jews that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and thus conversion was necessary for them. James hoped that the new faith would find solid ground in Jerusalem and that the persecution of Christians would cease, but this failed and soon afterwards he was killed!