H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 17)

The Testimony of Truth On pages 7–8 of his article, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus and the Beginnings of the Joshua/Jesus Cult,” Dr. Detering considers the Testimony of Truth (TT), a Christian Gnostic tractate from the Nag Hammadi Library (IX.3). This interesting work was originally written in Greek, probably around Alexandria, Egypt, c. 200 CE or a little later. Birger Pearson writes in his introduction to the tractate (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 1977:406) that “the false doctrines and practices attacked are clearly those of the catholic Christian church.” But the author of the TT is not satisfied with attacking the nascent Church. He also vilifies certain views of other gnostic sects. It is apparent that what we … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 15)

Simon MagusPart 5—Conclusion In the Book of Joshua, stones assume an important and rather strange role in the Israelite crossing of the Jordan River. The relevant verses are below, taken from chapter 4: 1 When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2 “Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3 and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5 Joshua … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 11)

The Peratae (Part 2) [Detering writes, p.4:] The connection between the Peratae and the Exodus theme is already evident in their name. According to Hippolytus, it derives from the Greek for “cross over/cross through” [Ger. hindurchgehen, < Gk. περαν]. In other words, they considered themselves “those who have crossed over”…   …For the Peratae, the creation is the realm of nothingness and transience. Because all is subject to these characteristics, for the Peratae there is only one way to salvation: man must pass through his demise—which he cannot avoid—even before physical death. [R.S.] The above paragraphs combine two concepts: (1) passing through/crossing over—that is, transcending this material realm of “nothingness”; and (2) doing so before physical death. The former is … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 9)

Simon MagusPart 1 [Dr. Detering writes, p.3:] We encounter another allegorical interpretation of the Exodus motif with Simon Magus, as reported by the church father Hippolytus… The passage gives an analogy between the World Tree and the umbilical cord of the growing fetus in the womb. In Simon’s allegorical thought, the Book of Exodus is symbolic: [Hippolytus writes:] Again, the inscription of the second book is Exodus. Now, they say [Simon Magus] calls the Red Sea blood—and who has been produced, passing through the Red Sea, must then come into the wilderness and taste bitter water. For bitter, he says, is the water which is drunk after crossing the Red Sea; which water is a path to be trodden that … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 5)

It is easy to become wearied of the many sects and names that populate the history of religion. This and the next post mention the Therapeutae, Mandaism, Falasha, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Buddhism… Yet, I maintain that different times and places often had different names for the same thing—in this case, for the path to the knowledge of life (literally, Manda d’Haije in Mandaic). I advise the reader to focus on the unity of underlying doctrine and outlook, rather than on the quite misleading plethora of names. In this way, s/he will better appreciate Dr. Detering’s bold attempt to build a cross-cultural and cross-religious bridge between East and West, one based on an examination of the Exodus, of ‘crossing over,’ 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. 2

Noah, the first Natsarene?   The flood was a divine judgment upon all mankind, one which came suddenly. But god gave Noah secret knowledge in advance: to build an ark. The ark itself represents and symbolizes the secret saving knowledge of god. After all, it was the ark that saved Noah. Thus it is no surprise that in the Akkadian flood story the boat is named natsirat napishtim, “Preserver of Life,” a phrase employing the root n-ts-r.6 It should also not surprise us that netsêru in Akkadian means “secret knowledge,” particularly that received from the moon god Ea/Enki (the god of the underword ocean).7 In the flood story, secret knowledge protects the wise person against that which destroys the entire … Continue reading

Loisy disappoints

A Review of Le Mandéisme et les Origines Chrétiennes (Paris: Nourry, 1934) I just finished reading Alfred Loisy’s book on Mandeism. It was a disappointment. Given the high regard that many mythicists retain for Loisy, this came as something of a surprise. Yet, the little I have personally interacted with Loisy’s work has, admittedly, been less than satisfactory. I feel it’s time to give my reasons and to call Loisy out. From the Mythicist Timeline: – Listed in the Timeline as a Jesus “skeptic,” Loisy was a historicist and is often termed a “modernist.” He was excommunicated (1908). – Loisy argued that, though Christianity was complex, from the beginning it saw the presence of God in Jesus. – Loisy was … Continue reading