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

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity—Pt. 15: Dositheus = John = Jesus = Simon Magus

In the preceding post I made a bold claim: the founder of Christianity, Yeshu ha-Notsri, is identical to Dositheus, the Samaritan arch-heretic. If I am accused (or lauded?) in future for being the inventor of this claim (which must appear monstrous to ordinary Christians), I accept full blame (or credit)—for I don’t believe it has been made before. One objection that immediately arises to the above claim is that Dositheus is generally dated to the first century CE. But it is not a serious objection. The conventional dating of Dositheus depends on the dating of so many other mythical characters (see below), including John the Baptist, Simon Magus, and Jesus of Nazareth himself—all of whom have been placed in the … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity—Pt. 14: Dositheus

In prior posts I have hinted that, after his excommunication in Egypt at age twenty-four, Yeshu ha-Notsri (not his actual name) returned to Palestine. The chronology for Yeshu that I have been using was pieced together from various places, including the Talmud (which explicitly dates Yeshu to the time of Joshua ben Perachiah, i.e., early I BCE) and the medieval Jewish writer Abraham ibn Daud (who gives a lifespan for Yeshu of about 34 years and his date of death in the 60s BCE). Additional information came from Epiphanius who—in an apparent slip of the pen—also dated the founder of Christianity to the time of King Janneus and Queen Salome Alexandra. The next step in our search for the prophet’s … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity—Pt.13: The falsified biography

The Toldoth Yeshu Before proceeding with Yeshu’s activities in Samaria after his return to Israel, I would like to expand a little on a remark made in the preceding post. There I noted that Yeshu was not merely a religious rebel due to his unconventional (Buddhist-gnostic) views, but also that he was a political threat. This suspicion derives from several clues, most importantly being that the young Yeshu was important enough to accompany Perachiah, the head of the Sanhedrin, into Egyptian exile. This alone suggests that Yeshu was probably associated somehow with an influential Jewish family. Many other clues, however, support the suspicion that Yeshu was indeed connected to Jewish aristocracy—if not to royalty itself. In his book Did Jesus … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 12: To Samaria

Yeshu’s teachings In preceding posts we looked at three central themes of Yeshu/Jesus’ teaching, as witnessed in the gospels and other Christian writings: not of this world, self-denial, and his adversarial relationship with ‘scribes and Pharisees’ (posts 8-10 in this series). These themes must also relate to the reasons Yeshu was excommunicated. ‘Not of this world’ signifies that Yeshu did not bestow honor upon the creator, Yahweh. ‘Self-denial’ signifies that Yeshu embraced the very un-Jewish doctrine of encratism (from Gk. egkrateia, ‘in continence’)—the sacrifice of pleasure in order to attain understanding. Finally, Yeshu was against ‘scribes and Pharisees’—very understandable given that they excommunicated him, and that Yeshu believed he knew a better way. Rabbinic literature preserves additional clues regarding the … Continue reading

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity–Pt. 11: Excommunication and aftermath

In 76 BCE Yeshu ha-Notsri was about twenty-four years old. Still officially a Pharisee in exile, he had been living in Alexandria, Egypt since boyhood. However, in that year the political situation in Israel altered and the balance of power radically shifted. The rabidly anti-pharisaic King Janneus died, and his wife Salome Alexandra ascended to the throne of Israel. She was as pro-Pharisee as her husband had been anti-Pharisee, doubtless because her own brother, Simeon ben Shetach, was a leading Pharisee and would himself become head (nasi) of the Sanhedrin after Perachiah. In all, later rabbinical writings romanticized the short reign of Alexandra (76–67 BCE) as the glory days of the Pharisees. With Salome’s ascendancy to the throne, suddenly the … Continue reading