Essenism and Buddhism–Pt. 3

By M. André Dupont-Sommer [In: Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles- Lettres, 124e année, N. 4, 1980. pp. 698-715.] Abridged and translated from the French by René Salm For footnotes, please see the original PDF. Part 3 (Final) [P. 711. M. Dupont-Sommer writes:] As for the Essenes of Palestine, I wish to emphasize—and this with the greatest force—that the community’s structure clearly derived from that of Buddhism. Philo, the Jewish philosopher, characterizes that structure as follows: In the first place, then, there is no one who has a house so absolutely his own private property that it does not in some sense also belong to every one. For besides that they all dwell together in companies, … Continue reading

Essenism and Buddhism–Pt. 2

By M. André Dupont-Sommer [In: Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles- Lettres, 124e année, N. 4, 1980. pp. 698-715.] Abridged and translated from the French by René Salm For footnotes, please see the original PDF. Part 2 [705] Let us now consider the famous Emperor Ashoka, who lived in the third century before the common era. King over Magadha, he was in fact emperor of the entire Indian subcontinent with the exception of its southern tip. Ashoka’s grand father Sandragupta (known by the Greek as Sandracottos) founded the Maurya dynasty and was the contemporary of Alexander the Great. Ashoka was consecrated in the year 260 BCE and he soon conquered Kalinga, a vast province of the … Continue reading

Essenism and Buddhism–Pt. 1

I am indebted to Mr. Klaus Schilling for bringing to my attention a 1980 article by the French scholar, A. Dupont-Sommer, on the influence of Buddhism on Essenism. This article is included here as part of the ongoing discussion—promoted by the late Dr. H. Detering and by myself—concerning Buddhist influence on early Christianity. While that discussion has taken place for over a century in the perennial subfield known as “comparative religion” (see, e.g., Roy C. Amore), it has yet to be taken seriously in the more entrenched domains of Christian scholarship on the one hand, and Buddhist scholarship on the other. Here, however, we begin to tread old and forgotten pathways that ultimately link Christianity up with Buddhism. Readers familiar … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 30)

→ Table of Contents The Egyptian Background—Pt. 2 Nun and the Egyptian pantheon A seminal scholar The great Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934) bequeathed to posterity massive tomes on ancient Egyptian religion, volumes filled with an equal mixture of primary data (facsimiles, translations, diagrams) and expert commentary. I happen to possess two of Budge’s most important works, The Gods of the Egyptians (1904/69), and his translation of/commentary on the enormous Papyrus of Ani, better known as The Book of the Dead (1920/60). To call Budge a mere “Egyptologist” does not do him justice. The scholar’s knowledge was encyclopedic, as witnessed by his first official position as Curator of Assyrian antiquities at the British Museum. Astonishingly, Budge was also familiar with little-known … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 29)

→ Table of Contents The Egyptian background—Pt. 1 Eisler’s perceptive observations, chronicled by Dr. Detering in the preceding post, open the door upon great vistas. We must now follow those observations back into great antiquity. In Egyptian religion, Nun (also Nu) was a major god—the “father of the gods” and the god of the watery abyss. (We discuss Nun more fully in the next post.) Nun was the counterpart of the Mesopotamian god Enki—the god of wisdom/gnosis and also of the watery abyss. In later times Nun became associated with the upper waters of the sky. But we should not forget his earliest association with the deep, which still survives in the Coptic word NOUN, “abyss, deep.” (See E. Budge, The … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 28)

→ Table of Contents Jesus, Joshua ben Nun, Dositheus, and the “True Prophet” Dr. Detering begins this section of his paper (pp. 43–48) with consideration of Dt 18:15–“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed.” Detering notes the import of the verse for the Yachad (fellowship) at Qumran, e.g., QS IX 9-11: “And you shall not stray from any rule of the Law… until the coming of a prophet and of those sent of Aaron and Israel” Other passages in the DSS write of a “Teacher of Righteousness” and a “Teacher of Truth,” both placed in apposition to Moses. In Samaritanism, Moses assumed an exalted role and … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 10)

→ Table of Contents The PerataePart 1—Indian influences [Dr. Detering writes, p.3:] Further interpretations of the Exodus motif are found with the Peratae and the Naassenes. The two Gnostic sects—together with the Sethians—make up the so-called Ophites, described by Hippolytus in the fifth book of his Refutations. The name derives from the Greek word for serpent, ophis, based on the fact that the serpent plays a central role in the mythology of all three sects… [4] For them, the serpent in the Garden of Eden brought gnosis. It was also a symbol of healing and salvation.   …The Peratae identified the serpent with the Logos, whose domain is situated between the unmoved Father and Matter in motion. Thus the Logos is … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 7)

→ Table of Contents The Therapeutae—Pt. 3 Passover and Pentecost Normative Judaism and Christianity view the Exodus—traditionally commemorated by Jews at Passover—as a formative historical event in the distant past. However, one of the principal revelations of Dr. Detering in his article under discussion is that the Christian Gnostics of late antiquity viewed the Exodus as a spiritual ‘crossing over to the other side’—an inner transformation. Interestingly, this latter view was also known to mainline Christians, particularly in Alexandria:      At the end of the second century in Alexandria, however, we encounter a somewhat different understanding of the feast [of Passover], one that focused upon “passage” rather than “passion”—the passage from death to life. Clement of Alexandria describes the Passover as humanity’s … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 4)

→ Table of Contents Note: The German edition of Dr. Detering’s article has now appeared and is linked to his website here. The English edition, translated by Stuart Waugh, is forthcoming. (This post has no color coding, as it is entirely my commentary. Much of the information below is from my essay, “Pre-Rational Religion,” Kevalin Press: 2010, privately circulated.—RS) Sacred water and hidden meaning below the surface   In his treatment of the Exodus theme, Dr. Detering’s argument centers on the element of water and its allegorical interpretation. As noted in the preceding post, already in the third millennium BCE Elam had a sacred water ritual, and the Mesopotamian divinity Enki was Lord of water, of wisdom, and of creation. We … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 3)

→ Table of Contents Note: Dr. Detering’s original writing (translated) is in brown. My commentary is in black. Page numbers (in brackets) may change, as the English translation has not yet been published. A commentary on Dr. Hermann Detering’s “The Gnostic meaning of the Exodusand the beginning of the Joshua/Jesus Cult” (2017) Abstract by Dr. Detering of the entire article: In a gnostic interpretation, the Exodus motif has strong affinities with Buddhist-Indian conceptions. An investigation of where and when the thought systems of East and West converge—in this case, Hebrew scripture and Jewish tradition on the one hand, Buddhist and Indian spirituality on the other—leads to the Therapeutae, described by Philo of Alexandria in his De Vita Contemplativa. The Therapeutae were, … Continue reading