RSS

Category Archives: gnosticism

Propheciezed or Derived?

So was Jesus’ life really predicted according to Jewish scripture? Or was his life derived from Jewish scripture?

The first line of evidence for this is the fact that the Hebrew Bible is split into three types of writings: Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). Prophecy ended in Israel on the deaths of the last prophets; Zechariah, Malachi, etc. Daniel, who is considered a prophet according to Christians, was not considered a prophet in Judaism since he lived after the time period that prophecy had ended.

Accordingly, the psalms are not prophetic. They are simply the hopes and dreams of Jews written to songs. The word “psalm” comes from the Greek word ψαλμος (psalmos) which was derived from the verb ψάλλω (psallo). When I fingerpick my guitar, I ψάλλω it. Psalms are songs to be sung, usually accompanied by a stringed instrument which is plucked with fingers. So the psalms are listed among the Ketuvim, along with Daniel. Though in John, Jesus fubs and calls the Psalms “Torah”:

Psalm 82:6

I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’

John 10:34

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’

(Why does Jesus say “your law”? Isn’t it his law too, being Jewish?) Jesus’ entire crucifixion scene, according to Christians, was “predicted” by the 22nd psalm. But this makes no sense since the psalms aren’t prophetic. Therefore, Jesus’ crucifixion scene must have been derived from the 22nd psalm!

Psalm 22:1

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46

the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, […] “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Psalm 22:18

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture

Matthew 27:35

When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots

Psalm 22:7

All they that saw me laugh me to scorn, they shoot out the lip, they shake their heads

Matthew 27:39

And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads

Psalm 22:8

He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him

Matthew 27:43

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if He will have him

Though Luke changes Jesus’ last words, they are still derived from a psalm:

Luke 23:46

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father into thy hands I commend My Sprit…

Psalm 31:5

Into thine hand I commend my spirit

Other aspects of the crucifixion are derived from other psalms:

Matthew 27:24

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

Psalm 26:6

I will wash mine hands in innocency

Matthew 27:34

And they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall…

Psalm 69:21

They gave me also gall for my meat, ……and they gave me vinegar to drink

John 13:18

He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.

Psalm 41:9

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me

Mark 15:28 says “and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “He was counted with the lawless ones” (Isaiah 53:12)”. But Mark 15:28 doesn’t show up in some earlier manuscripts, so some Bibles either leave it out, or have a little annotation to denote this. So it means this “prophecy” was inserted into the text at a later time period. But what if that was endemic to the entire text? That an original author wrote a narrative gospel and another author realized that there were “similarities” between Tanakh texts and the gospels?

Also, the name “Barabbas” literally means “son of the father” or “descendent of the father” (Bar Abba). The reason why it’s “Barabbas” in the text is the same reason why it’s “Jesus” in the text. These stories were originally written in Greek and so the ending of a noun in Greek depends on its grammatical context. So for example, if I said “They crucify Barabbas” in Greek it would be αυτοι σταυρώνει Βαραββαν. Notice the ending – it’s a “ν” which is “n” in Greek – it literally says “Barabban”. If I wanted to say “Barabbas writes the good news” it would be Βαραββας γραφει τα ευαγγελια. Barabbas ends with a sigma – “s”. If I wanted to write “What does your father want, Barabbas?”, in Greek it would be τι κανει ο πατερας σου θελει, Βαραββα; which would literally be “What does your father want, Barabba?”

So that entire sequence is really between Jesus, who is supposed to be the actual “Son of the Father” and his polar opposite – a violent insurrectionist – who is literally named “Son of the Father”. Some manuscripts of Matthew even have Barabbas named “Jesus Barabbas”. So one “barabba” is sacrified for sin while the other “barabba” is released. This seems to mimic the scapegoat ceremony in Leviticus 16. Or, seems to be derived from Leviticus 16. Of course, this probably slipped passed the overzealous redactor who inserted “prophecies fulfilled” in the text, or that entire scene might have said at the end “and so they released Barabbas to fulfill Leviticus 16” which doesn’t really make sense.

Of course, there’s also the derived virgin birth (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14), the derived “slaughter of the innocents” (Matthew 2:18, Jer. 31:15), the derived “flight from Egypt” (Matthew 2:15, Hosea 11:1). What if the entire narrative itself was derived from the Hebrew Bible? This process is called “Midrash” – no wonder Christians are so zealous that Jesus “fulfilled” so many “prophecies”. But it seems like it was the other way around. Jesus didn’t fulfill any prophecies, the “prophecies” gave life to Jesus.

Another idea is that the original gospel Mark was written as a play. What if the reason that so much of the Passion sequence is derived from the psalms is because the Passion sequence, also, was supposed to be played to music?

And of course, keeping with Gnostic tradition, Mark ends his midrash of the Hebrew Bible at 16:8; which Matthew and Luke didn’t like:

The terms “Abrupt Ending” [Mark 16:8] carry with them a begging of the question.

It is only abrupt if you assume a longer ending. There is nothing incomplete, nothing rushed, nothing out of place – it ends, and moreover it ends with what is decisive historically: nobody knows. Jesus slips through un-noticed so the scriptures may be fulfilled and those of us in on the secret can inherit everlasting life.

As you add in the specious material after 16:8 the problems start to mount. In the original ending you had to explain the historical silence regarding Jesus. It is done so effectively with stupid, fearful disciples, and an ignorant Jewish church.

So when you re-introduce the spectactular appearance before multitudes after death, now you are back to explaining why nobody noticed him.

[…]

Jerome tells us in his 120th epistle that the long ending of Mark “is met with in only a few copies, almost all the codices of Greece being without the passage”. (The earliest manuscript we have with the ending is the Codex Washingtonianus (5th c.) which itself has a large interpolation after v.14, attesting to the volatility of the Markan ending (as do the variations in many other manuscripts).

Either the vast majority of manuscripts of Greece (in the late 4th c.) were an aberration or Irenaeus’s source (in the late 2nd c.) was. We have earlier sources again as non-witnesses, both Matthew and Luke, neither of which support the long ending, a strange occurrence for they usually follow Mark.

[…]

The gospels of Matthew and Luke diverge wildly after more or less following Mark’s [Passion Narrative] through 16:8. That was the end of Mark’s gospel.

Advertisements
 
Comments Off on Propheciezed or Derived?

Posted by on August 26, 2009 in gnosticism, jesus, midrash

 

Anointed with the Oil of Knowledge

“And about your laughing at me and calling me Christian you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first called [anointed]? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God”
– Theophilus of Antioch, “To Autolycus” 1.12 (2nd century)

Here Theophilus, writing in the 2nd century, says that being a Christian has nothing to do with Jesus, but has to do with “being anointed with the oil of god”. The Holy Spirit is mentioned, but “speaks through Moses and the rest of the prophets, so that the writings which belong to us godly people are more ancient, yea, and are shown to be more truthful, than all writers and poets.” This means Theophilus traces his religion to Moses and other Hebrew prophets, but not Jesus.

He also explicitly claims that his scriptures are more ancient than all the pagan writers and poets. By this Theophilus means the Hebrew Scriptures. But it also equally rules out any Christian scriptures, gospels or epistles. According to Theophilus, in chapter 11 “Of Repentance” he teaches that salvation is by following the law. It has nothing to do with faith in Jesus, his blood, or the crucifixion. Most importantly, in chapter 13, on the resurrection, Theophilus uses Hercules and Aesculapius as proof of the resurrection of the dead, but not Jesus! I can’t think of a reasonable explanation of this except he had never heard of it.

This shows one of the many varieties of “Christianities” that were around in ante-Nicea Christianity. If that’s the case, then I can call myself a “Christian Gnostic” because I [want to be] anointed with the “oil of knowledge” without having to latch onto any of the other dogmas of “orthodox” Christianity.

 
Comments Off on Anointed with the Oil of Knowledge

Posted by on August 9, 2009 in early Christianity, gnosticism

 

Christian Gnosticism

Back when I first started investigating early Christianity sometime around 2000 I stumbled upon Christian Gnosticism. “Stumbled” is the wrong word though; anyone who investigates early Christianity is going to come across that word. While I admired the fact that this was a branch of Christianity that was interested in “knowledge” (gnosis::γνωση), their theology seemed pretty “out there”.

Archons? Yaldabathoth (sic)? Demiurge? Plemora? Sophia?

None of that highly anthropomorphic theology appealed to me. So I kinda brushed it off and continued my studies. However, later on in life I discovered Buddhism. The message of Buddhism is that “salvation” comes from knowledge of self, and following the “Middle Way”. The Middle Way is basically a philosophy of non-extremism. So hyper-asceticism leads to Suffering just as much as hyper-hedonism. Though, at the same time, none of the theology of Buddhism appealed to me, either. It’s almost as convoluted as the various Gnostics. But the thing about Buddhism was that the theology was irrelevant to soteriology. The message is the same whether the Devas are real or not… and the message is still the same whether the Buddha lived or not.

Then I had sort of an “unveiling” (απόκαλυψις): Buddhism and Gnosticism essentially have the same soteriology; that is, the same framework of salvation. If I could do away with the wacky [anthropomorphic] theology of Buddhism and the message would still be the same, why not do the same thing with with Christian Gnosticism?

Jesus said: If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Father’s kingdom is
within you and it is outside you. If you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will realize that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty; and you are the poverty

– Gospel of Thomas, pericope 3

That is totally Buddhism and totally Gnosticism. Which still fits within a Naturalistic Pantheism theology. Even moreso, if the “Father’s” kingdom is inside of us, then not only should I seek to find the True inner “me”, but I should try to get to know others as well… since we are all made up of “the same stuff”. This necessarily leads to empathy. I think I’ll coin this extension of Gnosticism the “Gospel of Empathy”, since all morality comes from empathy.

So I guess from now on I’ll call myself a “Christian Gnostic”. Hopefully, I’ll be the change that I want to see in the world. A world where knowledge is seen as a virtue instead of faith.

 
Comments Off on Christian Gnosticism

Posted by on April 25, 2009 in buddhism, gnosticism, naturalistic pantheism

 

Secret Book of James

So I’ve been reading about Cerinthus, who was apparently someone who John, son of Zebedee (the purported author of the gospel of John and the Book of Revelation) really didn’t like. It seems as though Cerinthus was a gnostic and the gospel of John was written in retaliation to Cerinthus’ beliefs. However, another sect of Christians pejoratively called “Alogi” (literally ‘without logic’) said that gJohn was actually written by Cerinthus. Neither camp – modern Christians or the Alogi – have any evidence either way as to who wrote gJohn. Attribution of gJohn as being written by the actual Apostle John was done in an ipse dixit fashion by Ireneaus. Who really doesn’t have any more authority than the Alogi other than his say so. Anyway, reading on wikipedia, some scholars think that the Secret Book of James was written to Cerinthus.

James is mentioned by (Jew) Josephus in his “Antiquities of the Jews” as the “brother of Jesus [son of Damneus]”. I wonder who Damneus is, since Joseph is supposed to be Jesus’ father. Anyway, according to the Secret Book of James, James is the one who continues Jesus’ ministry after Jesus is executed for sedition. This also follows the theme of gJohn and the Gospel of Mary where Peter fails to get Jesus’ message and James does. Near its beginning the Apocryphon (revelation) of James mentions another “secret book”, which may have described a different revelation from Jesus to James. But if this other book actually existed, it has apparently been lost.

The Apocryphon also says that this story takes place “550 days” after Jesus’ resurrection, but before his ascension! I thought he was supposed to ascend up to heaven after 40 days (10 days before pentecost)? Not 550 days!

Of course, all of this goes contrary to what the churches teach, since most churches – oddly enough – follow more of a Pauline Christianity (Christians don’t have to follow Jewish laws) moreso than a James/Cerinthus/Gnostic Christianity (Christians do have to follow Jewish laws, Jesus wasn’t god, etc.)

Which is also really weird because Valentinus, who I think is like the most influential Gnostic, was also a follower of Paul.

Anyway, none of these writings exist until Eusebius and Constantine – so who knows what they did to the writings to suit their own agenda…

 
Comments Off on Secret Book of James

Posted by on September 2, 2008 in cerinthus, gnosticism, james, josephus, paul, valentinus

 

More on Paul and Gnosticism

So I remember taking a class that had us read Plato’s “Symposium”. Basically the story (with Socrates as Plato’s sockpuppet) about how “love” came to be. Well, an interesting side note is that in ancient Greek society, they practiced a sort of pederasty. 25 – 50 year old men would get a “lover” in the form of a 14 – 25 year old kid. This was the “lover-beloved” paradigm in ancient Greece. Throughout the text, there were references to what was basically “cute boys”.

Aaaah!

How can such a classic novel have such language?!? That’s what earlier translators thought of the book. So in earlier translations of this book, instead of them translating the Greek as “beautiful boys” they translated it as “noble boys”. Just so that the general public wouldn’t know about Greek pederasty. This brings me to a little note about Paul and Gnosticism.

In my earlier post, I mentioned how Christian Gnostics traced their lineage of thought back to Paul. Well, it turns out that in one of Paul’s letters, he describes himself as “έκτρωμα” (ektrwma) literally “abortion” (1 Corinthians 8). That specific word had a special meaning for Gnostics:

Now “the abortion” is a technical and oft-repeated term of one of the great systems of the Gnosis, a term which enters into the main fabric of the Sophia-mythus.

In the mystic cosmogony of these Gnostic circles, “the abortion” was the crude matter cast out of the Pleroma or world of perfection. This crude and chaotic matter was in the. cosmogonical process shaped into a perfect “aeon” by the World-Christ; that is to say, was made into a world-system by the ordering or cosmic power of the Logos. “The abortion” was the unshaped and unordered chaotic matter which had to be separated out, ordered and perfected, in the macrocosmic task of the “enformation according to substance,” while this again was to be completed on the soteriological side by the microcosmic process of the “enformation according to gnosis” or spiritual consciousness. As the world-soul was perfected by the World-Christ, so was the individual soul to be perfected and redeemed by the individual Christ.

Paul thus becomes comprehensible; he here speaks the language of the Gnosis, and in this instance at least it is possible to draw the deduction that the Gnosis in this connection could not, in his opinion, have been “falsely so called.” Paul is speaking to communities who are familiar with such language “He appeared to me just as it were to that well-known imperfect plasm

http://www.gnosis.org/library/grs-mead/jesus_live_100/ch17.html

This is another problem with politics and the Bible – we’re also subject to the political biases of those who translate the Bible for us:

The solution to erasing [anti-semitic] hatred is for bible societies and religious publishers to produce two editions, one for the public, similar to the Contemporary English Version which reduces significantly this anti-Judaic potential, and the other edition for scholars taken from
the Greek text… [t]he stakes are high. People have been murdered because of these words
-H. C. Kee and L. Botowsky (1998 pp 18, 20)

 
Comments Off on More on Paul and Gnosticism

Posted by on August 28, 2008 in gnosticism, greek, paul

 

Politics and the Bible

It’s always been said that “Biology only makes sense in the light of [the theory of] Evolution”. Well, after reading about the history of the Bible, the different time periods the different books were written in and how it was compiled, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “historicity” of the Bible only makes sense in the light of politics. Politics, as we’ve come to know it, is simply about the attainment and consolidation of power. Many stories in the Old Testament are about how the Jews rose and fell ad nauseum in power. What they don’t tell you in Bible class though (unless you’re getting a doctorate in Bible studies) is that archeology doesn’t correspond with the early Biblical account of how things happened.

For instance, who is the “pharaoh” in Exodus? You would think that if Moses went up and talked to that pharaoh to demand he “let his people go” that he would know the dude’s name. Especially if he’s the one who wrote the first five books of the OT. There’s no evidence of 1 – 2 million people being displaced and wandering around the desert in the area between Egypt and modern day Israel. There is evidence of small communities rising and falling with the same trends as the larger kingdoms around them in that area.

King Solomon was said to have a kingdom that spread from modern Israel to Egypt – that’s a huge flippin’ kingdom! A kingdom that size wouldn’t be known in history until Roman times in around 300 – 400 CE. A good 1,000+ years later. How come there’s no record of this kingdom from other kingdoms that we know about? In other words, how come no Egyptian kings from that time period (11,000 – 800 BCE) wrote about this huge Israel kingdom right next to theirs in any of their letters to other kingdoms in that area?

The hypothesis is that these stories were embellished to give solidarity and a sense of history to the early Jews as a means of unifying them under a common banner. Much like the story of King Aurthur for the Saxons. It wasn’t meant as history, but as politics.

And what about the New Testament? First of all, none of the synoptic gospels or the gospel of John names their author. They were all written anonymously – any Bible scholar will tell you that. It’s the equivalent of getting one of those annoying chain mail emails that are written anonymously and one of the forwarders just types in “from Bill Cosby” in the text and then forwards it. In my readings, I oddly enough traced Gnosticism back to Paul of Tarsus, you know – the dude who’s letters make up the bulk of the NT. Valentinus, who’s said to be a student of Theudas, who was said to be a student of Paul, was a major figure in early Christianity. He was a major proponent of Gnosticism for the Gnostic Christians, and a major antagonist for what would become the Trinitarian (the concept of the “Trinity” didn’t exist in 100 CE) Christians. The popularity of the Gnostics was huge in the second century. How come, then, Christians today aren’t Gnostics? Not because of any divine authority, but because of politics. Ireneaus, who is mostly responsible for the modern NT, was highly annoyed and threatened by these Gnostics, so he wrote “Against Heresies” in the second century. In it, he vociferously attacks Valentinus and Gnosticism, and claimed that his church had what was called “Apostolic Succession” – their churches could be traced back directly to the original apostles, while Valentinus and the Gnostics could only be traced back to Paul. If Ireneaus lost his churches to Gnosticism, he would lose his power.

Politics!

Marcion, who was another popular figure in early Christianity, compiled his own “NT” with what he called the Gospel of Truth, which was simply a modified version of the Gospel of Luke (it’s been argued by scholars that the Gospel of Luke might actually be a modified version of Marcion’s Gospel of Truth) and all of Paul’s letters. This is also reportedly where we get a 3 Corinthians from. At the beginning of the second century, there were a crapload of gospels going around – too much to name here – and it’s believed that these gospels were all written in response to other gospels and such and so forth. None of these original gospels survive today. This is the time period that we get the Gospel of John, which isn’t a synoptic gospel. It must’ve been a terrible job to sort through all of the noise to get a “one true” NT during this time period – much like today there are thousands of denominations of Christianity, the same was true back in the first century. There was no one unified church – and all of these churches wanted to be the “one true” church, the universal (“universal” in Greek is “catholic”) church. That one church would get all of the power – politics.

And what about that whole “blaming the Jews” thing? Doesn’t that seem odd – considering that Jesus was a Jew? The hypothesis is that after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE – the Jewish-Roman war, most Jews began to consolidate into what is now Rabbinic Judaism. The Pharisees. The Essenes and the Sadducees pretty much disappeared from the scene due to how closely their spirituality was to the Temple (Sadducees) or how apathetic they were to the Temple (Essenes). Jewish-Christians also fell off the map at this time.

So around 70 CE is when Christians start converting Gentiles in heavy numbers. This is also around the time that the first gospel is actually written down (Mark). So if these new Christians are in majority Gentiles, and they want Christianity to gain more ground with more Gentiles, in Roman territory, how can they blame the death of Jesus on Roman rules? As Pilate is quoted “I wash my hands of this” when he asks whether the Jews want Jesus dead or Barabbas dead. Thus, in order to gain popularity with Romans Gentiles, Jesus’ death is blamed on the Jews.

Politics!

As we all know, Constantine I is largely responsible for the modern incarnation of the Catholic Church. One of his homeboys – Eusebius – was a major adviser in the First Council of Nicaea. Right now I’m trying to find the link between Eusebius and all of these 2nd and 3rd century churches and writings. Why he decided on which books to accept, and which ones he decided to reject – Arianism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, etc. He also could have been responsible for the anti-Jewish, Roman neutral slant of the gospels…

If we look at politics today, there’s a huge joke that an honest politician is a politician that doesn’t exist. We all think of politicians as crooks and liars, only out to get more power. More prestige. Election after election we’re spoonfed biased statistics, half-truths, and only the facts that put the politician in a good light. Dirt from the opposing party’s past is brought up as a means of diminishing the popularity of the other politician. Think about this for a second – we have all of these problems today in an age of the Internet and are supposedly a more informed generation. But we still get people who are like “I’ll never vote for Obama because he stole the Democratic Nomination from Hilary” or “Obama is a child-molesting muslim terrorist – that’s why I’m voting for McCain” or “McCain doesn’t know how many houses he owns – he so out of touch with the regular American.” These are propositions that people are taking seriously in their decision to vote for a president! And this type of stuff happens repeatedly and repeatedly – every election, every year. If we can’t even get a descent noise-to-signal ratio, how would people in the first and second century get a descent noise-to-signal ratio? You can bet the same type of assertions and personal attacks were going on in the first century, second century, 18th century, 3rd century BCE, and all throughout human history. How can we discern any true picture from what politicians write about themselves and their enemies?

 
Comments Off on Politics and the Bible

Posted by on August 28, 2008 in bible, Christianity, gnosticism, history, politics

 
 
NeuroLogica Blog

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Slate Star Codex

SELF-RECOMMENDING!

Κέλσος

Matthew Ferguson Blogs

The Wandering Scientist

What a lovely world it is

NT Blog

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

PsyBlog

Understand your mind with the science of psychology -

Vridar

Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

Maximum Entropy

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Skepticism, Properly Applied

Criticism is not uncivil

Say..

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Research Digest

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Disrupting Dinner Parties

Feminism is for everyone!

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

The New Oxonian

Religion and Culture for the Intellectually Impatient

The Musings of Thomas Verenna

A Biblioblog about imitation, the Biblical Narratives, and the figure of Jesus

The Syncretic Soubrette

Snarky musings from an everyday woman