Anyone see this Channel 4 documentary on Christmas Day, presented by theologian Robert Backford ?
The Channel 4 website summarises Backford's conclusions thus :
"In Channel 4's The Secret Family of Jesus, Robert Beckford explores the historical evidence for claims that Jesus had brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and nephews, as well as a deep friendship with Mary Magdalene. Beckford and many other theologians believe that Jesus did indeed have an extended family that survived some 300 years after his death. However, they have been airbrushed from history and excised from the Bible as the result of a power struggle in the early church.
The idea that Jesus was a divine being is backed by the claim that his mother Mary was a virgin and that his birth was the miraculous work of God.
There is evidence from the Gospels and other documents that Mary and Joseph had other children besides Jesus, and that he grew up in an ordinary Jewish family, surrounded by brothers and sisters.
For most Christians Mary's virginity is central to their faith, and many consider it heresy to suggest that Jesus was not her only child.
After Jesus died, those descended from his family and friends, led by his brother James, saw the original Christian message as a renewed version of Judaism, and first and foremost wanted to persuade other Jews to join them.
In opposition to Jesus' family, Christians led by Peter and Paul wanted to establish a new religion to include non-Jews.
Peter and Paul's version won out. They placed more emphasis on Jesus' divinity rather than his humanity, and wrote the human story of Jesus' family out of Christian history.
Peter and Paul's version of Christianity developed in opposition to the Jewish Christianity of Jesus family and friends and resulted in a seam of antisemitism down the ages.
Some churches explain the references in the Bible to Jesus' brothers and sisters by saying either that they were not Mary's children but the children of Joseph from a previous marriage, or that they were cousins of Jesus.
According to the earliest Gospel (of Mark) Jesus was a disciple of John, who taught and baptised him, and not the other way round.
Jews and Muslims see Jesus as a prophet – a human being with a powerful message to change the world – rather than the son of God.
Some say that the historical evidence of Jesus' humanity and teachings invalidates 2,000 years of Church teaching that has given more emphasis to his divinity.
Some argue that Jesus' humanity and revolutionary teachings – his blueprint for a 'Kingdom of God on earth' – are the foundations of Christian belief.
Christian tradition says that salvation can only come through faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and a literal belief that he died and rose again. "
This understates the extent to which Beckford, a committed Christian, questioned the whole basis of Christianity. Relying on the bible and other historical documents, he provided evidence that the whole idea of Jesus's divinity was something invented by Paul and his followers years after Jesus's death. Jesus's brother James the Just, who was the first Christian leader after Christ, made no such claims. It can reasonably be argued from the historical evidence that Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist who became an inspirational teacher himself in John's tradition. The people who took over leadership of Christianity in later years rewrote the Jesus story to suit their own purposes, and we can see evidence of this in the bible. Whereas the earliest gospel refers to Jesus's blood family by name and makes no reference to the virgin birth, later gospels edit Jesus's brothers and sisters out of the story and make Jesus into this mystical divine figure. It's not a very big step from here to suppose that the story of the resurrection was also a much later invention.