Monthly Archives: September 2010

Άλλο ιστορία για Ιησου

Here’s another model for a historical Jesus that’s been rattling in my head for a couple of weeks.

A while back, I made a little post about Simon the Zealot. There I made an argument that the Simon the Zealot in the gospel narratives is the same Simon the Zealot in Josephus. Josephus’ Simon was executed (along with his brother James [the Zealot]) sometime in the mid 40s CE.

It’s telling that two of Jesus’ disciples share the same names as these two sons of Judas [the Zealot]. Not only that, but these two are also among the “pillars”. While I think that part is coincidence, I do think there’s significance that Simon the Zealot was listed as one of Jesus’ disciples in Mark and the other two Synoptics. I don’t see any reason for Simon the Zealot’s inclusion, either from a wholly literary point of view or from the traditional peace preaching Jesus historical view.

What if Jesus on the other hand was the disciple of Simon the Zealot and not the other way around?

This would mean that not only is Mark’s narrative theology; that Mark’s Jesus is mythical, but that Mark’s narrative is also apology. I think this makes sense of the silence in early Christian writings about the teachings of Jesus – because there were none. This makes sense of why no one talked about any of the Earthly activities of Jesus – because he was a revolutionary, and his actions were disreputable. That’s why they used to think of “christ” from a human point of view (2 Cor 5:16) but no longer. This might mean that Jesus was executed along with the brothers James and Simon, hence the two other criminals on the crosses with Jesus.

Though this throws the traditional dating scheme for the Jesus narrative 10 years later than it usually is. I see no reason to stick to that, since Jesus being crucified under Pilate is part of the narrative that we have no reason to think is veracious (especially since Mark is primarily theology and not biography).

So where did all of the teachings come from?

Well, we know that Paul already had some ideas that have parallels in Mark. Since Paul didn’t attribute those ideas to Jesus, and Paul precedes Mark, then Mark must have gotten those sayings from Paul or other “super-apostles” like Paul. I think we can assume that Paul and his philosophizing wasn’t restricted to Paul; that there were other Christians who were preaching similar messages and had their sermons and preaching memorized.

So a saying like “let the dead bury their dead” wasn’t uttered by Jesus, it was uttered by one of the pillars like John. The Sermon on the Mount wasn’t given by Jesus, it was given by Cephas (and attributed to Jesus) while he was caught up in the third heaven.

If the Jesus I’ve proposed is only tangentially related to the Jesus in Mark and Paul – as in, only sharing the name and the crucifixion – does this count as a historical Jesus or a mythical Jesus?

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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in historical jesus, jesus myth, simon the zealot


A Christian Neologism?

The Greek word κυριακος::kuriakos only appears two times in the canonical Christian literature. It’s an adjective derived from the Greek word for “lord” (κυριος). Thus kuriakos would be akin to “lord-like” or “lordly”, used in the same manner that we might use the word “awesome”. One time it is used in 1 Corinthians 11:20 where Paul describes the “lordly” dinner – κυριακον δειπνον (kuriakon deipnon). This is translated in modern bibles as “the lord’s supper”. But the only noun in that phrase in Greek is the word “supper” (δειπνον) which seems somewhat dishonest for bible translators to do. The other time κυριακος is used is in John’s Apocalypse at 1:10 where he describes the “lordly” day – κυριακη ημερα. Again, this is translated as “the day of the lord” in modern bibles.

To contrast that, 1 Cor 5:5 uses “day of the lord” which is written as ημερα του κυριου, which would really be translated as “day of the lord”. In this respect, “the lord’s supper”, if it really was a supper that belonged to “the lord”, then it would be written in Greek as δειπνος του κυριου – supper of the lord.

As for the “lordly day”, the same grammatical form is used for “the third day” (τριτη ημερα) in Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:64, Luke 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7,21; and various other places. We wouldn’t say that the “third” possesses the noun “day” so it seems odd that Rev 1:10 would describe it that way in English – i.e. a day belonging to the lord.

In modern Greek, κυριακος simply means “Sunday”. But this is obviously from years of having Rev 1:10 in mind.

On the Perseus website, I did a search for κυριακος and it shows up various times in what I assume are non-Christian documents. Here are some of the Greek contexts:

From “SB, Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Aegypten”
document 11082: … Ποτά μμωνος [καὶ τοῖς σ]ὺν αὐτῷ πρᾶξον εἰς τὸν κυριακὸν λόγον [ ] τῆς ἐγδείας σὺν διαφόρῳ ἀρτάβας
document 12484: … Φιλοξένου ἀπ[ὸ] τοῦ αὐ τοῦ Μούχεως ἐγὼ δὲ Γεώργιος Κυριακὸν υἱὸν Βίκτορος μητρὸς Κυρίας ἀπὸ τοῦ αὐτοῦ κτήματος Εὐτυχιάδος … Πραοῦν υἱὸν Φιλοξένου] ἀπὸ τοῦ α̣ὐ̣ τοῦ Εὐτυχιάδος καὶ Κυρι[ακὸν υἱὸν Βίκτορος ἀπὸ τοῦ αὐτοῦ Μούχεως ?. ]
document 13049: … δύο [ ] [ πρ]οσθέσθε τῷ κυριακῷ λόγῳ δρα̣[χμὰς ] [ κα]ὶ̣ τὰς λοιπὰς
document 14197: … ἀπ᾽ ἀρταβῶν 149 ½̣ ὡς αἱρεῖν τῷ κυριακῷ λόγ ῳ κατὰ τὸ ½ μέρ ος

Michigan Papyri
document 174: … οὐσιακῷ μισθωτῇ καὶ ἱ κανοὺς φόρους διαγράφοντι εἰς τὸν κυριακὸν λόγον καὶ πρὸς τὴν μίσθωσιν̣ ἱ κανὰ ὑπαλλάξαντι οὐκ
document 423: … τετολμημένων καὶ τῶν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐδαφῶν δημοσίων ἐκφορίων τῷ κυριακῷ λόγῳ λογο διὰ τὸ αὐτοὺς
document 620: … ἔστιν ταμεῖον ταμιον , πρότερον οὖσα ὑπὸ κυριακὸν χόρτον, νυνὶ δὲ ὑπὸ Χρυσᾶν, ἐνοικίου δραχμῶν

Papiri greci e latini
document 953: … ῇ τοῦ ἐνδόξ ου οἴκ ου ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ τῆς ἀναστάς εως ὄξ ους δι πλοῦν

P.Stras., Griechische Papyrus der kaiserlichen Universitäts- un Landesbibliothek zu Strassburg
document 725: … φρόντισον τὸ ὡρισμένον πρόστιμον ἐκπράξας τὸ ἀργύρι[ον] λημματίσαι τῷ κυριακῷ λόγῳ ἢ ἀ[ν]τιλέγοντα ἐπ̣᾽ ἐμὲ ἀπ̣[ο]- στε̣ῖλαι π̣ερὶ το̣ύτου

P.Ryl., Catalogue of the Greek and Latin Papyri in the John Rylands Library, Manchester
document 427: … βασιλ ικῷ γρα μματεῖ [ γρά]φειν τῷ κυριακῷ. [ ἐπ]ὶ̣ τῷ ἀμείνονα αἵρεσιν διδ[όναι

Chrest.Mitt., Grundzüge und Chrestomathie der Papyruskunde
document 372: … οὗ μὴ ἐπή- ν̣ε̣[γ]κας οἰκογένειαν [ ]ται [ε]ἰς τ̣ὸ̣ν̣ κυριακὸν λόγον τὰ ἄλλα σοι ἀνίημι. ἀξιούσης αὐτῆς ἀποδοθῆναι τάλαντον

P.Münch., Die Papyri der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München
document 11: … βεβαιώ- σεως νόμον πρὸς τῷ σὲ Φλαύι ον Κυριακὸν τὸν πριάμενον ἀπεντεῦθεν κυριεύειν καὶ δεσπόζειν καὶ διοικεῖν καὶ

P.Prag., Papyri Graecae Wessely Pragenses
document 132: … χρηστηρίο[ις πᾶσι καὶ] σκεύεσι ε̣π̣[ ] κυριακὸν λ̣όγ̣[ον ] μέχρι δὲ [ ]

P.Graux, Papyrus Graux
document 30: … 3 χαλκοῦς 4 πρόσθεσθε τῷ κυριακῷ λόγῳ καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς δραχμὰς ἑκατὸν τριάκοντα ἑπτὰ

P.Freer, Greek and Coptic Papyri in the Freer Gallery of Art
document 1+`2: … αστήριον Ἄπα Ζηνοβίου τόπ ου Πιλήμωνος ὑπ ὸ Κυριακὸν Βίκτορος καὶ Βίκτορα Ἀνωμερίδ ου γεωρ γοὺς σπο… μον αστήριον Ἄπα Ζηνοβίου ὑπ ὸ Κυριακὸν Βίκτορος γεωρ γὸν σπο ρίμης γῆς ἄρουρα

PSI Congr.XI, Dai papiri della Societa Italiana: Omaggio all’XI Congresso Internazionale di Papirologia
document 8: … καὶ] ἐνοφειλέσαντος ενωφειλεσαντος εἰς̣ τὸν κυριακὸν λόγον κε̣ [ ] σιτολογοπρακτορείαν

P.Hever, Greek Documentary Texts from Nahal Hever and Other Sites
document 64: … καὶ νααρου σάτα ἕξ, ἧς γείτωνες ἀ- ν̣ατολῶν κῆπον κυριακὸν καλούμενον Γαννα̣θ Αββα̣ιδαια δυσμῶν κληρονό̣μοι Αρετας νότου ὁδὸς

There seems to be a lot of references to “lordly word”

Right now I’m looking up the Nahal Hever scroll or “Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek Documentary Texts from Naḥal Hever and Other Sites” (P. Hever) from the Dead Sea Scrolls or “Discovery in the Judean Desert” (DJD). There’s no English translation available online, and the hardcover version of it is over 200 dollars. I guess if I want to find the specific context for the use of κυριακος there I’d have to learn more Koine Greek. From what I can tell, it mentions “Caesar” a lot and a “most high” “Titus Titianus” (Τιτου Ατιλιου Ρουφου Τιτιανιου), who I’ve gathered was a Prefect in Egypt c. 130 CE.

The section quoted above mentions a “lordly garden” called Gannath Abbaidaia on the road or way (οδος) [belonging to?] the heirs of Aretas from the south. In the actual papyrus, there’s another garden called Gannath Asadaia using an adjective I don’t know (φοικεικωνος).

A summary I’ve read about it suggests that it’s some treatise about an underage girl named Salome co-habitating with a guy ironically enough named Jesus, and that it was some sort of γαμος αγραφος – an unwritten marriage. More than likely this isn’t any sort of document written by a Christian so this would be a non-Christian use of the phrase “lordly”.

So until I get 200 dollars or learn more Koine Greek, this post will have to wait unresolved :). Though I’m thinking that κυριακος might be more along the lines of an adjective like “primary” or “main”. This would mean that Paul is talking about the “primary” or “main supper” and John’s Revelation is talking about the “primary day”; the first day of the week. Meaning that neither have anything to do with Jesus (or even YHWH). On the other hand, it could be something more like a “regal dinner/day” which might be closer in context.

Though I don’t know how likely that is since I’m 2,000 years and a couple of cultures and languages removed from all of these other instances of κυριακος.

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Posted by on September 15, 2010 in lord's day, lord's supper


The Oddity of the New Testament: The Epistle of James

The epistle of James sticks out in the NT to me. Not because it seems to be a Judaizing Christian letter, but because it doesn’t seem Christian at all.

The first thing that sticks out to me is that James only writes “Jesus Christ” two times. The first line in chapter 1 and the first line in chapter 2. Keep in mind that all of our original books of the bible did not have “chapters” so there’s a strange coincidence going on there. What follows from the dearth of mentions of Jesus is the lack of any quotes of Jesus. Instead, James quotes from the Tanakh to make his points. He quotes from Leviticus 19:18, Exodus 20:14; Deut. 5:18, Gen. 15:6, and Prov. 3:34, but not from Jesus. The quotes from the Torah are only made for examples (well, except for Deut 5:18), but the Proverbs quote is deference to scriptural authority. Like my post on Paul’s silence, James could have simply quoted their lord Jesus on the issues that James is addressing instead of making arguments.

I realize that the epistle of James is short overall, but these two things — the mention of “Jesus” only twice and a lack of quoting Jesus — make it seem to me that this epistle was not originally a Christian document, but a Jewish document that was hijacked by (possibly Ebionite) Christians who inserted the two Jesus references. It would have been a lot shorter if James had simply quoted Jesus. Which would also have been more effective.

The epistle is certainly positive towards “the poor”; that phrase being what Ebionite means.

Removing the two references to Jesus Christ, the letter maintains its logic and flow, which makes me think they are interpolations. They don’t add any content, context, or logic to the letter. So either this is not a Christian document, or it has a view of Jesus that is similar to Paul (or it’s a type of Christianity that’s indistinguishable from Judaism). A Jesus that is an agent of salvation and not a wandering sage. This, however, is at odds with the Ebionites.

When James speaks of salvation or being saved, it has nothing to do with Jesus’ death or resurrection:

1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Obviously, a Logos-Christian could read this part and say that the word that saves you is the Word: The Logos Jesus. And on the other hand, Ebionites did not believe that Jesus’ death had any value in their salvation scheme. But still, one has to wonder what “word” it is that is doing the saving in James’ mind. I would guess some sort of preaching. Coincidentally, another possible strange thing is that this epistle doesn’t mention anything about good news or “gospel”.

The first witness that I could find who seems to know the epistle of James is Irenaeus writing in the late 2nd century. From Against Heresies 4.16.2:

2. And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows—that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.

This is a quote from James 2:23, but is actually a quote from Genesis 15:6. The part that’s unique to James (or Irenaeus) is the “friend of God” part. Here, I don’t think Irenaeus is quoting from James, but is quoting from Genesis and added the friend of God part himself. Irenaeus also doesn’t say who that short phrase “friend of God” he’s quoting from. In the contexts prior to this, Irenaeus doesn’t seem to have any problems saying who his quote is coming from:

(4.16.1) For we, says the apostle, have been circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (Colossians 2:11) And the prophet declares, Circumcise the hardness of your heart (Deut 10:16 LXX). But the Sabbaths taught that we should continue day by day in God’s service. For we have been counted, says the Apostle Paul, all the day long as sheep for the slaughter; (Romans 8:36)

It’s also quite possible that Irenaeus was viewing a version of James that was anonymous.

Origen, writing more than a generation after Irenaeus, seems to be the first unambiguous witness to the epistle of James. In his Commentary on John (19.61) he refers to it as ‘the Epistle of James that is in circulation’, so Origen would function as a terminus ante quem for when this epistle was written.

My thinking is that this epistle was originally Jewish, but Ebionites got a hold of it. They added some “Christian”/Ebionite flavor to this letter so that they have something in circulation in their arguments against orthodox or Paulinist Christians sometime in the 2nd century. But this still doesn’t explain why they wouldn’t add that this was the brother of Jesus writing this letter instead of a servant.

So who knows. I do know one thing – this letter has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus or any Christian specific subject matter. No resurrection, no cross, no gospel/good news. It really doesn’t belong. Maybe Martin Luther was right!

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Posted by on September 1, 2010 in ebionites, epistle of james, interpolation

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