The late second century and Paul

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 8 In the preceding post I introduced some evidence that Christianity in fact predated the turn of the era—such as that Philo (fl c. 20 CE) knew ‘Christian’ sectarians including the Sethians and Ophites, that his description of the Therapeutae was of an early Buddhist-Christian group on the outskirts of Alexandria, that ‘Apollos’ in the Acts of the Apostles already knew ‘Jesus’ but not ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ etc. In this post I jump forward two centuries, to the late second century CE—just when the New Testament canon was being formulated. The prevalent form of christology was still ‘Jesus is the indwelling spirit of God’s wisdom’—a christology that I have termed Stage II. I briefly … Continue reading

Christians before the turn of the era

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 7 Birger Pearson I mentioned in a prior post that the thief always leaves clues. Detectives count on that. It might be a fingerprint, a stray hair that can be genetically analyzed, a tip from a casual passerby… Every crime is different, and every crime leaves clues—if one simply looks long enough. The thief himself often provides clues. It is said that one lie requires another lie to cover up the first. The second lie requires yet another, and eventually the lier is caught up in a web of contradictions. With a really big crime—something involving many people, several generations (!), and a lot of coordination—there will be many contradictions. Picture Colombo stroking his … Continue reading

The obliteration of Gnosticism from early Christian history (cont.)

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 6 “At Alexandria [before c. 200 CE] it was hard to differentiate between gnostic and Christian doctrines…” The statement dates to 1986 and is by Robert M. Grant (d. 2014), the ‘dean’ of Early Christian History for a whole generation. Grant’s distinction between “gnostic” and “Christian” doctrines has been, and still is, typical of the field—and so wrong! By and large, the Gnostics considered themselves the true Christians: …There is much evidence to show that in the Roman Empire, at least, the Manichaeans considered themselves to be Christians, nay, the true Christians, while they condemned the Catholics for “judaizing,” and hence for being unfaithful to the true doctrine of Christ.     [G. Stroumsa, in: The Roots … Continue reading

The obliteration of Gnosticism from early Christian history

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 5 The chronology of Christian origins being developed on this website places the appearance of the canonical gospels in the 140s CE, the canonization of the NT c. 200 CE, and the final Christianization of the Roman Empire in early IV CE. Those are three late highpoints. Christian chronology, for me, begins before the turn of the era—with the life and ministry of Yeshu ha-Nostri (c. 100–c. 67 BCE). According to this extended chronology a full two hundred years transpired between the crucifixion of Yeshu and the appearance of the canonical gospels. That’s a long time and plenty could (and did) happen in those centuries. The Church Fathers—who suddenly begin writing in mid-II CE—witness … Continue reading

The second century: from the spiritual Jesus to the canonization of the New Testament

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 4 Orthodoxy developed gradually While it is easy to show that many pre-200 CE Christian works (Shepherd of Hermas, Ad Autolycum, Didache, etc.) make no mention of the virgin birth, walking on water, etc., Christian literature reveals a clear increase in the ‘superman’ traits that will eventually coalesce into Jesus of Nazareth. The Savior (‘Jesus’) of the World—an entirely spiritual entity in the first century CE—slowly takes on flesh as the second century progresses—the flesh of an increasingly exalted being. The canonical gospels appearing towards mid-century were not anomalies. They did not suddenly emerge out of nowhere but belong to a stream of orthodox anti-gnostic literature that was gathering impetus for some time. The … Continue reading

150–200 CE: A ‘watch and wait’ period in early Christian history

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 3 In a recent comment, Albert Wubs kindly brought to my attention a work entitled Ad Autolycum, the only surviving writing (in three ‘books’) by Theophilus of Antioch, a Christian bishop in the latter half of the second century CE. The Greek text and English translation, edited by the late Robert M. Grant, are available via PDF download here. The problem Wubs correctly notes that “any reference to the name ‘Christ’ is totally absent. Maybe Theophilus also knew a ‘Christianity’ without Christ.” This is interesting, for Ad Autolycum (composed c. 185 CE) seems to know the canonical gospels—it names “John” as one of “the sacred scriptures” (and includes two verbatim quotations from the Johannine … Continue reading

John the Baptist in Josephus—Pt. 2

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 2 The Authenticity of John the Baptist in Josephus (continued) Arguments for inauthenticity By his own admission, Kirby’s points are indecisive as regards the authenticity or inauthenticity of the John the Baptist passage in Josephus (Ant. 18.116-119; Whiston’s chapter 18.5.2). In this latter half of his article he argues mainly against Frank Zindler (The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, pp. 88–99), who raised a number of points against authenticity. Kirby also argues against Robert Price, citing rebuttals by Maurice Casey (d. 2014). This is revealing, for Casey believed “that the documents on Jesus of greatest historical value are the Gospel of Mark and the Pauline epistles.” Right. The Pauline epistles have next to nothing … Continue reading

My new 2021 article on archaeological shenanigans in Nazareth

I have just uploaded a 29 page rebuttal to My article refutes a 2020 “primary report” by Yardenna Alexandre, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Her article concerns the site in Nazareth commonly known as “the house from the time of Jesus.” The abstract of my rebuttal article follows: In 2020 the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) published an extensive article in its journal ‘Atiqot authored by one of its archaeologists, Dr. Yardenna Alexandre, a name familiar to readers of my books and to those interested in the archaeological history of Nazareth, Israel. The IAA article goes far beyond a standard excavation report and functions also as an updated history of Nazareth. I point out that many of … Continue reading

A New Account: Pt.12—Family ties (and a correction)

As you are well aware, this website is a creation in real time. It is technically a blog, a record of my researches from day to day or week to week. It is a process of discovery and you, the reader, witness that process live. Of course, I don’t have fact checkers or an editorial board. Your comments sent to this site or to my email (see “Contact” on the front page) help me correct mistakes, improve the argument, and modify statements or positions—thanks! Such corrections can also be quite fascinating. And there have been (and will be) mistakes. After all, the process of discovery is not a straight line. It’s more like a zigzag or a spiral, with occasional … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 11—Family ties (cont.)

The name—again In the immediately preceding post we saw that a certain Jonathan was the founder of Christianity. The Jewish rabbis who penned the Talmud several centuries later dubbed him “Yeshu ha-Notsri” ( < Gk. Iesou Nazarene, “Jesus the Nazarene”). They did so under the influence of the Christian gospels that had by the fourth century CE become well-known. The Christian evangelists, however, knew better. Through a series of permutations that need not concern us here, they demoted the figure Jonathan (“Yahweh Gives”) to a secondary prophet, John the Baptist. The Mandeans, however, preserved the name Jonathan/John for their founding prophet. The Mandeans also retained the original sense of the word Natsarene (< natsar, “preserve, keep secret”) and called their … Continue reading