The History of Early Christianity, part 2

13 Jul

And here is part two of my lengthy email to her. Part three coming soon.

Well, after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, four new major (for this email) religions sprout out from the rubble of the 2nd Temple: the Ebionites, Rabbinic Judaism, proto-Catholic Christianity, and Christian Gnosticism. The first two groups are thoroughly Jewish, the last two are thoroughly Greek/Roman (Gentile) phenomena. Most importantly, the Ebionites were Jewish-Christians who still maintained Jewish practices/full Torah observance (following all 613 mitzvahs [commandments] – yeah, there are more than just “ten”) and said that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, but he was just a regular person. Not God, not the *literal* but *adopted* “son of God” (a common title among revered Jews; see Slight digression, “son of God” was also a title used for Roman Emperors. describes the “good tidings” [ευαγγελια / “gospel”] of the “son of God” [υιος του θεος] and savior [σωτηρας / soteras] Augustus, who was so revered we get the month “August” from him), was born by normal means from Mary and Joseph, who’s crucifixion didn’t serve any theological or atonement purpose, and didn’t pre-exist as Philo’s Logos. This makes sense since the Ebionites’ name derives from the Hebrew word for “poor”, which is “ebion” – this means they could read and write Hebrew. Ebionites literally means Poor Ones, meaning that they placed special value on poverty (Matt. 19:16 – 24).

Also, since they could read Hebrew, this meant that they weren’t restricted to using the LXX, which meant they saw through the “arguments” that formed the basis for Jesus’ divinity and virgin birth. Both arise from using the LXX and not Hebrew version of the OT. Hebrew has those certain language nuances I mentioned earlier that are absent from Greek that Greek *only* speaking Jews or Gentiles would be unaware of – hence the abundance of Greek words in Christian literature such as:

The Greek Iesous (Jesus) instead of the Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua) [All instances of “Joshua” in the LXX are transliterated as “Jesus”; so Moses’ successor “Joshua” in the LXX is “Jesus”; the “Book of Joshua” in the LXX is the “Book of Jesus”]
Christ (Anointed / Messiah)
Catholic (universal)
Presbyter (elder)
Ecclesia (gathering / assembly [church])
Baptize (dunk)
Pet[e]r (Rock, root word for [petr]ified)
Episcopal (literally “epi” “scopos”: “over seer” – bishop)
Apocalypse (to unveil; revelation), apocrypha (hidden)
Apostle (ambassador)
Evangelist / angel (good news proclaimer / messenger)
Gospel (it’s actually ευαγγελια – “evangelia” which is “good news” or “good tidings” [ευαγγελιον – “evangelion” is good message; singular]. Good news was then transliterated into “god spell” from which we get “gospel”. The root for ευαγγελια also forms the root for “eulogy” which is basically “good words” [also the root for euthanasia – ευ θανατος “good death”, eugenics, eucharist, etc – notice that evangelia is a combination of ευ and “αγγελια” – the word for “angel (messenger)”].)
Deacon (diakonos/diakonon – literally “dia – through” and “konos – the dust” which is a “servant”; the dust kicked up by the servant as he/she waits on people; or a “Minister”: vis Mark 1:16 και οι αγγελοι διηκονουν αυτω – “and the [pl.] angels served him” – though some translations might say “and the angels ministered to him”)
Epistle (letter)
Canon (from the Greek κανόν, “kanon”, which means “rules” or “measuring stick”)
And “Bible” (comes from the Greek word “βιβλίο – biblio” which means “book”).

Also, a lot of words associated with the “Old Testament” are Greek in origin as well, like “Genesis”, “Deuteronomy” (δευτερο νομοι – deutero nomy: second laws) , “Exodus”, “Moses”, “Psalms”, etc. Another line of evidence that modern Christianity is descended from the LXX.

The Ebionites held that only members of Jesus’ family were rightful leaders of the new Church (like James the Just – see gThomas 12), and that Paul was a Greek who converted to Judaism, apostatized, and later started having gnostic visions of a “Son of God” redeemer – a fusion of Jewish theology and Greek philosophy. There might be some truth to their claim due to Paul citing the LXX in his arguments instead of the Hebrew Bible, as I mentioned above. A well trained Pharisee wouldn’t cite the LXX and confuse the word “lord” with YHWH if they could read Hebrew.

Any time people fuse Greek philosophy with Jewish theology, a system of thought that resembles Christianity always pops up. Paul, also, is not the first person to preach “non-circumcision” in Judaism. Like I wrote earlier, Hellenistic influence was always creeping in on Judaism, Hanukkah is pretty much a celebration of circumcision Jews over non-circumcision Jews. I think I’m the only one to notice this, but it seems as though Jesus clearning the Temple in the gospels might be a literary device used as allegory by the gospel authors “reversing” the Hannuka celebration. Victory of the non-circumcison Jews (Christians) over the circumcision Jews. However, I don’t have the pedagogy or the time to flesh that out more.

But think about it this way: the 2nd Temple was HUGE. It was like the size of a football stadium. It wasn’t just a religious temple, it was also a military fortress. Did Jesus really cleanse the Temple of “the money changers” in such a huge arena without being tackled and arrested; and then kept out the money changers while preaching freely? During the preparation for the biggest holy day in Judaism where hundreds of thousands of people were probably clamoring about, coming in from all over the Roman empire (the equivalent of policing a stadium during the Super Bowl)? When Judah Maccabee did this, he had an *army*. I don’t know about you, but I’d have a pretty hard time clearing a temple that’s like the size of a football field of probably hundreds of money changers’ booths and successfully keeping them out while preaching… all by myself. Imagine trying to kick out some vendors by yourself during Woodstock without the cops/security (or in 33 CE some Roman or Jewish troops) arresting you. So, yeah, it might just be another allegory and not a historical event (if it was historical, then Jesus would have needed an army or a large group of supporters which might look like an insurrection…).

Another significant event happens in Jewish history in the year 132. The Roman Emperor Hadrian starts erecting a statue to Jupiter on the sacred grounds of the rubble of the Second Temple. An abomination… standing where it doesn’t belong… causing desolation. This incites the Jews to go to war again with Rome and the *actual* Jewish messiah comes – Simon Bar Kochba. He leads this rebellion against Rome and re-acquires Jerusalem, re-establishing the Kingdom of Israel. He reigns as prince in Jerusalem for 3 years. During this time period, the Ebionites are severely persecuted. Both by the Jews for refusing to accept Simon as the real messiah and by the proto-Orthodox Christians for refusing to accept Jesus’ divinity, virgin birth, and atonement. Of course, the Romans pretty much did the equivalent of nuking Jerusalem to reclaim it, killing Simon (who is officially thus far the last actual prince of Israel), and purging Jerusalem of all Jews. In the aftermath of the war, Rome consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina (Palestine). The new name was derived as an insult from the name of the enemies of the Jews, the Philistines who had occupied the coastal plain in ancient times.

Also, the Roman emperor Hadrian attempted to root out Judaism because he saw that as a major factor in the continued rebellions over the past 60 years (there was also the “relatively” minor Kitos War inbetween the First Jewish-Roman war and the Bar-Kochkba Revolt, where a Roman “Legion” with an ensign of “pigs” were stationed in Caesarea – “Gadara”, “Gerasa” or “Gergesa” – “C” and “G” are somewhat interchangable in Greek. What’s the name of that demon that gets exorcised into pigs?? Another allegory). He prohibited the Torah law, the Hebrew calendar, and executed Judaic scholars.

Some scholars posit that the attempted outlawing of Judaism is what prompted the writing of the gospels; using allegory to separate Christians (like the situation with Barabbas) from Jews and to show that Romans (represented by Pilate, the centurion who claims that “this man really was the Son of God”, etc) were actually supportive of Christ[ians]. It’s also odd how the Pharisees are always depicted as the “bad” guys in the gospels yet Jesus only has one run in with the Sadduccees and it ends with the Sadduccees basically saying “hey you’re right!” and we never hear from them again. In the gospels the Pharisees are depicted as being stubborn and legalistic in regards to the “Law” (Torah), yet it was the Sadduccees who were the strictly legalistic branch of the Jews, since their power base, being the “ruling class” of the Jews, was dependent on the Law. The Pharisees were actually more interested in the spirit of the Law and not adhering to it literally. Why would Jesus be at odds with the sect of Jews who were interested in the allegorical and non-dogmatic application of the Law and yet only have one run in with the class of Jews who *were* actually insanely legalistic? Why would Jesus be at odds with the Pharisees – who were *anti-slavery?* The *Sadduccees* were pro-slavery! But… Jesus never does condemn slavery… (another odditiy of Paul’s letters is that he complains about the Law and only mentions the Pharisees, even though during his lifetime it was the Sadduccees who were the legalistic ones).

Now for the most important part of the Christian Bible. A Christian Bishop named Marcion who was probably born around 70 – 80 AD “breaks off from the ‘orthodoxy'” (a very subjective designator in this time period) being kicked out of the church in Rome around 110 and starts what is later called by his detractors “Marcionism”. Marcion affirmed that Jesus was the Savior, but Jesus’ teachings were incompatible with the god of the Torah and that Jesus was actually the savior sent by a higher, hitherto unknown god of love and mercy (more Plato inspired theology). This god, from one of the higher heavens (2 Cor 12:2), sent his son Christ as a blood sacrifice to the lower, brutal, bloodlusting god of the Jews (possibly 2 Cor 4:4 – who is the “god of this age”??) for the redemption of all mankind. Marcion then was the first person to separate the Torah and make a distinction between “Old” and “New” and in 140 he compiled the first “New Testament” with 10 of Paul’s letters (the ones above minus the “Pastorals”) and one gospel, that seems to share a lot of similarities with our current Luke.

Notice that this happens in 140, five years after the failure of the Bar-Kochkba revolt, and in an environment that was trying to make Jewish theology illegal. Paul, for Marcion, was this new god’s chief apostle, whom Paul knew via personal revelation (just like Paul’s current corpus says like in Gal. 1:11 – 17, 1 Cor 11:23, and elsewhere). Marcion’s teachings made a lot of logical sense (why would God sacrifice himself to himself to save us from himself? It makes more sense for a God of love to sacrifice its son to a separate war-like God), and lot of his arguments against the brutality depicted in the Torah (called the Antithesis; cf the supposed “morality” in Numbers 31 or Deut. 22:28-29) are still used to this day.

The “orthodoxy” then scrambled to compete with this by arguing for their own “New Testament” against Marcionism. A simple, narrow popularity contest is what prevented you (and all of Western civilization) from being Marcionites. According to radical critic Hermann Detering (and some other scholars), Simon Magus may be a cypher for Paul, [] with Paul having originally been detested by the proto-Orthodox church due to the popularity of Marcionism, and the name changed when Paul was rehabilitated by virtue of forged epistles correcting the genuine ones. Simon Magus is sometimes described in apocryphal legends in terms that would fit Paul. Furthermore while the Christian proto-Orthodoxy frequently portrayed the major “Gnostic” leader Marcion as having been a follower of Simon Magus (according to Irenaeus, Simon Magus was the “father of all heresies”), Marcion nowhere mentions even the existence of Simon, and instead identifies himself as a follower of Paul. The Ebionites, also, had a huge disdain for Paul – in what’s regarded as some of their writings called the “pseudo-Clementines”, Peter is seen at odds with Simon Magus which most scholars conclude is Paul. The Ebionites argued in their writings that Peter never argued for the abolition of the Law or considered a “curse” like Paul did so there was no way they could have gotten along.

The three Pastoral epistles and “Acts of the Apostles” (maybe even canonical Luke and 2 Peter) were more than likely written to counter Marcion as well, which means they were written almost 100 years after Paul lived. No Christian prior to Marcion seems to be aware of the existence of Acts of the Apostles. Hence, the name change of Paul in Acts, which Paul himself never mentions in his letters. Other “Acts” type literature is also dated to the 2nd century, such as “Acts of Pilate”, “Acts of Peter and Paul”, “Acts of John”, “Acts of Thomas”, “Acts of the Twelve”, etc. This also explains why there are so many letters written by “Paul” in the NT, because the proto-Orthodox church used his letters in their own canon to capitalize on the popularity of Marcionism. From another perspective, why would Jesus go out of his way to pick 12 disciples, teach them the secrets of the coming Kingdom of God, send them out to evangelize during his time on Earth (or “LXX” number of apostles in Luke), just so that he can later knock a guy off of his horse months (or years) after his resurrection to make this guy’s evangelism take up half of the documents for his New Covenant?

While Christians earlier than Marcion (like Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius) write a word or two about Paul or quote one or so of his letters, it seems as though Marcion is the first to actually collect “all” of Paul’s letters – minus the Pastorals. There’s a possibility that every single one of the 10 uncontested and contested Pauline epistles were written by Marcion and distributed throughout his churches. It might even be possible that Marcion was writing about *himself* in those letters, since he did found a lot of churches in the Roman empire. Marcion is also the first Christian to use “Luke” in arguments – even before the earliest proto-Orthodoxy use of the gospel material like Justin Martyr.

Irenaeus is a name you should know. He has a work called “Against Heresies” that he wrote in 180 in which he attacks Marcion (conveniently after his death), the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, and the various Gnostics (like Valentinians, Sethians, Cerinthians, etc.[interestingly enough, the Gnostic Valentinus was a disciple of a “Theudas”, and Theudas was supposedly a disciple of Paul]). In his work, Irenaeus finally gives names to, and argues for, four gospels in the orthodoxy’s “New” Testament:

Matthew also published a gospel in writing among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter & Paul were preaching the gospel and founding the church in Rome. But after their death, Mark, the disciple & interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing what Peter used to preach. And Luke, Paul’s associate, also set down in a book the gospel that Paul used to preach. Later, John, the Lord’s disciple — the one who lay on his lap — also set out the gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia Minor – Against Heresies 3.1.1 (the first Christian document that gives names to the gospels)

It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground [1 Timothy 3:15] of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. – Against Heresies 3.11.8 (arguing for only four gospels even though there were more in circulation at the time)

As you probably can tell, 3.1.1 is the order that the gospels appear in the NT. However, Irenaeus’ credibility is questionable. We know now that his depiction of Gnostics is incorrect due to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in the 1940s containing over 30 manuscripts of Gnostic gospels; he was writing more to warn his proto-Orthodoxy about Gnosticism, not trying to accurately describe it. Also, no Hebrew version of Matthew has ever been found; Matthew was writing originally in Greek due to his use of the LXX. Unless, of course, Irenaeus is referencing the Hebrew written gospel used by the Ebionites (but he would consider their gospel “heretical”). Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” is the first Christian apologetic writing that actually names the gospels of “Luke” and “John” (possibly also the first mention of the names “Matthew” and “Mark”, piggybacking on Papias’ Mark “Logia” [literally “words” – a sayings gospel]). Prior to Irenaeus, no other Christian writes “according to John” or “according to Mark”, etc. they just quote what we find is a phrase specific to John or specific to Matthew etc. Marcion, writing before both Justin Martyr (150s) and Irenaeus (180s) called his “Luke” the “Gospel of the Lord”. Marcion is actually the earliest Christian to quote any gospel directly in his writings. Quite ironically, if we Anglicized “Marcion” (like “Jesus” is the Anglicized version of “Ιησου::Iesou”) his name would be “Mark”.

So, just to bring this point home: the gospel names Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are first given to the canonical gospels in 180. Prior to 180, no one knows of any gospel *authors* called Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John and no one knows of any documents called “the gospel *according to John*”, etc.

However, it’s generally agreed by NT scholars that Mark was the first gospel written, and that Luke and Matthew edited and expanded Mark because they didn’t like his version and used another source called “Q” (like I mentioned to you before) that might be similar in form to the Gospel of Thomas or Papias’ “Logia”, and John was written last. gThomas might have even been written before Mark.

Reading these gospels in their chronological order, Jesus goes from the *adopted* son of God in Mark (like what the Ebionites believed, and what Paul writes in Romans 1:3) via baptism (in Mark, the spirit descends like a dove *into* him, and *immediately* forces him into the desert/wilderness – like being possessed – if you read it in its original Greek) and loses his power/adoption on the cross (thus Mark 15:34-35, with the Temple veil being spilt in two. According to Josephus, the Temple veil was a huge picture of a starry sky, the symolism harkening back to when the sky split open and the spirit descended into him from John’ baptism [Mark and Matthew both have Jesus quote Psalm 22:1, while Luke quotes Psalm 31:5]), to the *literal* son of God in Matthew/Luke (thus trying to *explain* the baptism since he was *already* the son of God), and then to God *himself* (or Philo’s “Logos” – the Word – the baptism now completely gone) in John. Each gospel also gets progressively more gnostic, changes Jesus’ last words on the cross, and gospels written after John are relegated to the Gnostics – though the “Gospel of Peter” was considered canonical for a while as well, it’s a bit more Gnostic-like than John (the True Cross is able to talk and says the word “Yea” wtf lol) – it eventually fell out of favor for possibly promoting “Docetic” (Jesus was just a spirit with the illusion of being human) Christology. There are actually some who say that a prototype version of John was written by the “Gnostic” Cerinthus (who was schooled in *Alexandra, Egypt*… hint hint) and was edited by the person who wrote 1 John to make it more “orthodox” by insisting on the Christ made flesh (google the “Egerton gospel”).

If James had been the brother of Jesus, why does no Christian know any stories about the life of Jesus from the age of 12 to 30? Surely the brother of Jesus would have had his brains picked clean by Christians eager to know what Jesus had been like. Therefore, the evolution of Jesus from being the adopted son of God to being God himself makes more sense, given the lack of any details of Jesus’ childhood and if he wasn’t considered the son of god from birth.

Also, Mark originally ends without any resurrection appearances; the women just run away scared and don’t tell anyone (16:8). The part after 16:8 is called the “Long Ending”, but the language in the LE is different than that found in the rest of Mark’s gospel. NT scholars are almost unanimous that the part after 16:8 isn’t original to Mark. So, Matthew and Luke have the first resurrection appearances. John also further corrects the resurrection appearances (also Paul’s account of resurrection appearances) by having the “Doubting Thomas” scene and the scene where Peter gets to reaffirm his love for Jesus three times to make up for him denying Jesus three times in the Synoptics (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) – which is odd if Mark was supposed to get his info from Peter but doesn’t have this reconciliation. Reading Mark, it actually looks like the author of Mark was *discrediting* Peter and the disciples (e.g. “are you still so dull?” and “get behind me satan!”, the Parable of the Sower with the “word” getting lost on the *rocks*… rock=peter: Peter, even though he was anxious for the “word” abandons Jesus at the end, etc.).

And then, since Matthew and Luke didn’t like this discreditation, they edited Mark’s narrative to rehabilitate the disciples (e.g. “for you are Peter [“rock”], and on this rock…” nullifying the Parable of the Sower). This is an evolving Christology, an evolution common to many myths; John is the most popular, yet least historical – if at all – gospel out of the four. As a matter of fact, it seems as though the (Greek speaking) gospel writers, writing after Paul, got ahold of a LXX, Paul’s letters, and simply picked “prophecies” for Jesus to fulfill in their narratives (this process is called “midrash”), with some getting a bit overzealous about the prophecies fulfilled.

For example, Matthew is the worst of it – the word “Nazarene” or “Nazareth” never appears in the LXX, but somehow the writer of Matthew thinks this is fulfilling a prophecy in the LXX. Matthew also thinks that Isaiah 7:14 is a messainic prophecy, but it isn’t. Isaiah is telling Ahaz to wait for YHWH for support instead of making alliances with Assyria. The “sign of Immanuel” is a timetable for when YHWH will destroy Ahaz’s enemies. By the time the child Immanuel reaches puberty (Is. 7:15 – 20) – telling Ahaz to wait for about 15 years – the time it takes for the woman in their company to give birth and have the child reach puberty – the two kingdoms (Is 7:16) which are about to invade that Ahaz is fretting over will be defeated, (See and 7:14 doesn’t say “virgin” in Hebrew. It *does* say “virgin” in the LXX though; a line of evidence that Matthew was written by a Greek speaker. Matthew also thinks that Hosea 11:1 is a messainic prophecy, but he conveniently leaves out the very first sentence of Hos. 11:1 which says “When Israel was a child, I loved him” so he could get “And out of Egypt I called my son” and apply it to Jesus. Also, Matthew quote-mines Jeremiah 31:15 for the “slaughter of the innocents”, but he also conveniently leaves out the rest of Jer. 31 which is about the Babylonian captivity, saying that Rachel’s children will “return from the land of the enemy”.

Anyway, Proto-Catholic Christianity is centered in Rome, whereas Ebionite Christianity is centered in Jerusalem (Aelia Capitolina after the destruction of Jerusalem after the Bar Kochba revolt, though the Ebionites joined the rest of the Jewish diaspora after Bar Kochba). In my opinion, the Ebionites are probably what the real, prior to Paul Christians were. The religion of Cephas/Peter, John, and James (Jesus’ brother), while the religion of Paul was closer to Gnosticism. The Ebionites continue surviving until proto-Catholic, Pauline Christianity is favored by Constantine for the “official” Roman religion circa 330 AD. Thus the Catholic Church is formed. When the first official Pope is named, the Ebionites and the Desposyni (relatives of Jesus) came to the gentile Pope and tried to re-claim the now official church but were dismissed. The Ebionites and Desposyni (along with the Gnostics) become further marginalized, finally disappearing around the 5th century (no, I’m not advocating some sort of Da Vinci code scenario!). The oppressed in the proto-Catholic church thus become the oppressors… Part 3.

References: (The Septuagint or LXX) (this is my web site! yay!) (Philo’s and Josephus’ writings about Pilate) (The argument by most scholars that Mark was written first) (The Maccabees and Hanukka) (Essene’s Dead Sea Scrolls) (Eusebius’ “Church History” written c. 300) (Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” written c. 180) (2008 Oxford conference about the “Synoptic Problem” by Christopher Tuckett) (Sanhedrin 43a – Yeshu ha-Notzri) (Sanhedrin 107b another exerpt about Yeshu) (Sanhedrin 67a a passage about a ben Stada / ben Pandira) (a lengthy diatribe by a Jewish guy arguing against Christianity. While lengthy and doesn’t cite sources, he does provide good linguistic arguments since he apparently knows Hebrew) (Biblical Archaeology Review article on the “Teacher of Righteousness”) (Biblical Archaeology Review article about similarities / differences between Jesus and the “Teacher of Righteousness”),8599,1820685,00.html (Gabriel’s Revelation) (another comparison between the Essenes and Jesus) (a verse-by-verse exegesis of the gospel of Mark) (this is a pretty radical deconstruction of the gospel of Mark but it makes some pretty good arguments that Mark is a pro-Paul, anti-Peter work).

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Posted by on July 13, 2009 in Adonai, adoni, christ, early Christianity, ebionites, Hashem, jesus, LXX, paul, septuagint, YHWH, YHWH pronunciation


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