A New Account, Pt. 9—The ministry of Yeshu

For our purposes, the witness of the Dead Sea Scrolls must be considered much more valuable than either the Talmud or Samaritan writings, for the DSS were written within a generation or two of the events that they describe. The sectarian DSS writings (especially the Pesharim) describe contemporary events of interest to the Yachad, including political developments, the founding of their community (Damascus Document), difficult relations with the Jerusalem priesthood (MMT, etc), and the activity of the renegade preacher Yeshu/Jonathan in Samaria. These all occurred in the first half of the first century BCE: Finally, a few texts from Cave 4 actually refer to historical individuals by name. These references, though isolated, are of enormous importance, as will be seen … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 8—The DSS, Yeshu, and Samaria

In the previous post I identified Yeshu ha-Notrsi—whom I consider to have been the founder of Christianity—as a significant figure written about in the Dead Sea Scrolls: “the Man of the Lie.” Once this identification is made, it becomes possible to investigate the ministry and death of Yeshu via the DSS. I have already noted that Yeshu, on his return from Egyptian exile shortly after the death of Aexander Janneus in 76 BCE, probably went to Samaria. This suspicion was initially based on evidence from Samaritan sources. They, however, are very late (dating to the Middle Ages). Welcome confirmation of a period of Yeshu’s activity in Samaria is now also to be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. (a) “Therefore … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 7—The founder: Who was he?

Just a couple of hours ago, while researching another post that was actually scheduled for publication today (but is now forthcoming), I read a few words in the writings of Josephus that have apparently been overlooked heretofore, words that have a momentous bearing on our investigations into the founder of Christianity. It looks like somebody will have to change at least one Wikipedia article to reflect the new information. The matter has to do with relations among the Hasmonean royal family, as well as with the parentage of Yeshu, and I will now have to revise some of the information I posted recently in that regard. As you can imagine, writing these posts is not only exciting for me, but … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 6—The founder: Who was he?

As we seek basic answers to the origins of Christianity, it is worth noting that we are embarked on a sublime mission, one that is as necessary as it is difficult. We are not like children playing in the sand or adults gazing at the clouds. Our purpose is essentially to understand. This is the same purpose that motivated the ancient Gnostics, the Buddhists, the shamans… It is a quintessentially human undertaking. Our purpose, however, will not meet with success except with complete dedication and a universally inclusive view. One writer has remarked:      The only person able to deal conclusively with [the link between Buddhism and Christianity] must not only be fluent in Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew, etc., but he must … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 5—The founder: Who was he?

The name As mentioned in a prior post (last paragraph), the early first century BCE prophet known to the Talmud as “Yeshu ha-Notsri” doubtless had some other name in actuality. We know this because Yeshu means “Salvation” and ha-Notsri means “the preserver” (also “watcher, keeper of secret wisdom” etc). Nobody is born with the name “Salvation the Preserver.” The later religious writings of various traditions vaguely remember the prophet under a number of pseudonyms. This shows that already in late antiquity the founder had attained mythical status, for his personal attributes (including his name) were soon discarded. The Talmud records at least three names: Yeshu ha-Notsri, Balaam, and ben Stada. Samaritan texts record Dositheus and Dusis. Mandean texts record John. … Continue reading

A New Account—Pt. 4: A brief historical overview c. 100–63 BCE (cont.)

About the time that Yeshu ha-Notsri was born (c. 100 BCE) a gifted priest began to call for Sadduceean reform. He is referred to in the Dead Sea Scrolls as the Righteous Teacher, or Teacher of Righteousness (Moreh Tsedek). This was the reign of Alexander Janneus, and the Teacher of Righteousness was evidently looked upon favorably by the king. We can conclude this on several grounds: (1) the Dead Sea writings are pro-priestly and thus generally aligned with the Sadducees, as also was King Janneus; (2) the DSS (as also Janneus) oppose the Pharisees, whom the scrolls label “Seekers of Smooth Things”; and (3) at least one Dead Sea work explicitly praises Janneus (see In Praise of King Jonathan, 4Q448). … Continue reading

A New Account—Pt. 3: A brief historical overview c. 140–100 BCE

Christians as well as researchers into the origins of Christianity are very familiar with the historical dynamics and events in Palestine around the turn of the era—the Herodian dynasty, the Roman occupation, events leading up to the First Jewish War… The canonical gospels and later Church literature supplement (generally with unreliable or even invented material) the works of Josephus which, unfortunately, scholars are finding to be not always accurate. Those of you who are following my hypothesis regarding Yeshu ha-Notsri (and I thank you for that interest) must, however, completely redirect your focus to a period about one century earlier. This post is not going to be a history lesson—I’m just going to furnish some basic historical facts available anywhere, … Continue reading

A New Account—Pt. 2b: A look back to c. 250 BCE (cont.)

As we have read in the preceding post, in order to facilitate trade with the Far East and points south, the Macedonian Pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphus laboriously reactivated the old canal system linking Lake Mareotis at Alexandria with the Nile River, and the river in turn with the Red Sea. This immense engineering and construction project occupied Ptolemy for years. When the new Egyptian canal system was finally complete, towards the middle of the third century BCE, Ptolemy probably had a huge celebration, a Ptolemaion to end all Ptolemaiai, a three-day celebration of the new canal. And the crowning event of that incomparable celebration were very special gifts from the great Emperor Ashoka of faraway India. In fact, we know from … Continue reading

A New Account—Pt. 2: A look back to c. 250 BCE

The aristocratic young Pharisee—Yeshu ha-Notsri to the later Rabbinical scholars—stood on firm religious shoulders, on hallowed tradition already ordered, analyzed, codified, and even memorized. The problem for him and for his early followers was that the tradition upon which Yeshu stood was emphatically not the tradition of his forefathers. It was, simply put, not the Mosaic tradition so foundational to the chauvinistic and exclusive Jewish religion, to its culture, and to its self-identity. Not to Yahweh, not to Moses, not even to Jewish scripture—after his conversion to Buddhism Yeshu was pointing to a very different source of salvation. The Buddhists call that source nirvana (literally “extinguishing”), or “enlightenment.” In the West, this is known as gnosis. As mentioned before, the … Continue reading

A New Account of Christian Origins—Pt. 1: General considerations

The preceding series of posts, “Yeshu ha-Notsri as the founder of Christianity,” is now complete. Those fifteen posts serve as an introduction to a new account of Christian origins presented on this website. The series began with an examination of the figure Yeshu ha-Notsri in the Talmud, an obscure figure that Christians have long considered anomalous and quite curious. We investigated what exactly the Talmud has to say about Yeshu, brought those clues together, and constructed a preliminary biography of the prophet. Yeshu lived in the early first century BCE. He was a Pharisee, a protegé of the leading Pharisee in Judaism, Joshua ben Perachiah. Joshua and Yeshu (together no doubt with other aristocratic Jews, their families, and servants) fled … Continue reading