In short, Jesus was a proto-hippie.

Your comment is well-written, and I agree that Jesus comes across in the gospels as more balanced than, say, John the Baptist or the Essenes. Jesus didn’t retreat from society but entered the lion’s den to challenge the false purity of the Jewish establishment. He critiqued the social conventions of his day, including the hubris of pagan empires, by proclaiming the imminent divine judgment and the threat of everlasting punishment in hellfire for nonbelievers. Where’s the “balance” in separating the sheep from the goats? Looks like an uncompromising dichotomy to me.

And while Jesus was more balanced than those extremists, he was far, far less balanced than what Kierkegaard called the apologists for modern Christendom. From the fourth century onward, Christian clerics embraced the Roman Empire that had cynically embraced Christianity. Calling this “balanced” and “big-minded” doesn’t diminish the fact that the Jesus of the gospels could have had no interest in setting up a long-term religious institution, since that would have contradicted his eschatological assumptions and the apocalyptic force of his message.

Of course, the gospels want to have it both ways, as in all matters, because they were redacted at later dates.

How do you know what Jesus looked like? Assuming he was a historical figure, we can only speculate about his physical appearance. The earliest portrayals presume Roman standards, and the later ones take up other stereotypes. We’re as in the dark about what Jesus looked like as we are about what such an historical figure would have said or done. Most if not all of the New Testament is theological and propagandistic, you know, not a modern-day historical report.

I’m not sure why you imply I’m trying to settle on a self-righteous standard of godliness. In this article, I’m more interested in an honourable standard of godlessness. I leave godliness to the hypocrites of Christendom that even your balanced fair and Jesus would have shamed.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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