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

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 the middle term. … Continue reading

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

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 passage “from all … Continue reading

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

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 may ask: Why … Continue reading

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

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, in all probability, … Continue reading

J. W. Wesselius: “The Origin of the History of Israel” (2002)—Review

This book by the Dutch scholar Jan Wim Wesselius presents yet another radical solution to the question hulking over OT studies like a malignant phantom: Who wrote the ancient history of Israel? Much depends on the answer—including the self-proclaimed legitimacy of the modern state of Israel. We recently considered Russell Gmirkin’s answer, which I personally find quite plausible: a group of Jewish scholars penned the Torah in Alexandria, c. 273 BCE, drawing on sources found in the Alexandria Library (particularly Berossus and Manetho). Wesselius presents a very different, but equally provocative, solution to the authorship question as regards the so-called Primary History (Genesis through 2 Kings). His book’s full title is The Origin of the History of Israel: Herodotus’s Histories … Continue reading

R. Gmirkin: Berossus and Genesis (2006)—Review

Though there are a few reviews of Gmirkin’s book it deserves a revisit today, over a decade after publication. Priced at $180, it’s unlikely that many of you have read this important tome. I did so only because the nearby University of Oregon Library possesses a copy. This is not a thoroughgoing review of Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch (New York: t & t Clark 2006), but rather a series of excerpts (see below) presenting its essential thesis and argument. For more details, see Neil Godfrey’s 2012 analyses (here, here, and here), and also Laura Knight Jadczyk’s fine customer review on Amazon.com. At 332 pages, the book contains eleven chapters and … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 6

Priests vs. Levites   We concluded the last section with an observation of Ellis Rivkin: “We must, therefore, conclude that the Aaronides come to power with the finalized Pentateuch and, as such, are their own creation” (IDB). The priestly Aaronides, centered in Jerusalem, are the post-exilic religious hegemonists who took authority away from the pre- and concurrently-existing (gnostic) Levites. By “their own creation,” Rivkin means that the Aaronides invented their own pedigree, invented their status as Levites (for Aaron was supposedly himself a Levite), and in this way they took over from the ancient and ʻtrueʼ Levites the rights to administer the Temple. Essentially, they arrogated to themselves the religion which became known as “Judaism.” With the rise of the … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 5

The demise of gnosticism   Scant elements of the gnostic worldview remain in the Jewish scriptures. They are hidden, to be ferreted out from among the obloquy heaped upon gnosticism by the later scribes. The meaning of old gnostic symbols was lost, perhaps unknown even to many in later antiquity. When the Jewish religion turned against its gnostic roots, the Aaronide priests of Jerusalem jettisoned the old goal of ‘acquisition of gnosis’ (which was still practiced at Dan in the north) and fashioned an impassable chasm between man and god, one not to be crossed. Thus Judaism made an about-face, from a people who at first celebrated ʻcrossing overʼ from the material to the transcendent, to a people who forbade … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 4

Ephrathah and ʻcrossing overʼ   In Jewish scripture, Bethlehem is sometimes equated with Ephrath/Ephrathah (Gen 35:19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11; Mic 5:2). Elsewhere, the latter is the “father” of Bethlehem (1 Chr 4:4). Both ʻplacesʼ were not material settlements in Judah, Benjamin, or Ephraim, but mythical locales in pre-Israelite religion. Beit-Lahmu (Bethlehem) was the home of the Lahmu divinities, servants of the great god of hidden wisdom who guarded the ʻgateʼ of his house. Hidden wisdom (gnosis) had long been symbolized by fresh water emerging from within and under the earth. Thus, it is no surprise that the Bethlehem known to Jewish scribes was noted for a well with special water sought out by David himself, as already cited (2 Sam … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 3

David, Bethlehem, and the scribes   To this day, archaeologists cannot be certain where the settlement of Bethlehem was located. The scribes who penned the Jewish scriptures were also in doubt, for in several cases they found it necessary to identify Bethlehem with another unlocated settlement called Ephrath/Ephrathah: “So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachelʼs tomb, which is there to this day” (Gen 35:19–20; cf. 48:7). However, Jewish scripture clearly locates Rachelʼs tomb to the north of Jerusalem (1 Sam 10:2; Jer 31:15). This anomaly has long caused both Jewish and Christian scholars a good deal of … Continue reading