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: The arrival

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

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