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

A New Account, Pt. 10—Family ties

As noted in an earlier post, John or Jonathan was probably the actual name by which the Christian founder was known in his lifetime. Jonathan means “Yahweh Gives” (cf. Gk. Dositheus, “Gift of God”). Later Jewish records (the Talmud) refer to the Christian founder as Yeshu ha-Notsri, “Preserver of Salvation,” reflecting latter-day Christian developments of the name “Jesus” (→ Yeshu) and “Nazarene” ( → Notsri). John was a favorite name among the Hasmoneans. John, the person with whom we are concerned and the founder of the religion that eventually became Christianity, was the son of a Hasmonean known to history by the name of Absalom—the brother of Alexander Janneus (who was also known as “Jonathan”). Thus, John/Yeshu was a nephew … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 9—The ministry of Yeshu

For our purposes, the witness of the Dead Sea Scrolls must be considered much more valuable than either the Talmud or Samaritan writings, for the DSS were written within a generation or two of the events that they describe. The sectarian DSS writings (especially the Pesharim) describe contemporary events of interest to the Yachad, including political developments, the founding of their community (Damascus Document), difficult relations with the Jerusalem priesthood (MMT, etc), and the activity of the renegade preacher Yeshu/Jonathan in Samaria. These all occurred in the first half of the first century BCE: Finally, a few texts from Cave 4 actually refer to historical individuals by name. These references, though isolated, are of enormous importance, as will be seen … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 8—The DSS, Yeshu, and Samaria

In the previous post I identified Yeshu ha-Notrsi—whom I consider to have been the founder of Christianity—as a significant figure written about in the Dead Sea Scrolls: “the Man of the Lie.” Once this identification is made, it becomes possible to investigate the ministry and death of Yeshu via the DSS. I have already noted that Yeshu, on his return from Egyptian exile shortly after the death of Aexander Janneus in 76 BCE, probably went to Samaria. This suspicion was initially based on evidence from Samaritan sources. They, however, are very late (dating to the Middle Ages). Welcome confirmation of a period of Yeshu’s activity in Samaria is now also to be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. (a) “Therefore … Continue reading

A New Account, Pt. 7—The founder: Who was he?

Note: This post was substantially revised on 10/23/20 after its initial publication (on 8/29/2020). I incorporate new material that more correctly describes the family ties of Yeshu ha-Notsri ( = Jonathan, son of Absalom the Hasmonean).—RS Just a couple of hours ago, while researching another post that was actually scheduled for publication today (but is now forthcoming), I read a few words in the writings of Josephus that have apparently been overlooked heretofore, words that have a momentous bearing on our investigations into the founder of Christianity. The matter has to do with relations among the Hasmonean royal family, as well as with the parentage of Yeshu. Josephus writes in his Wars of the Jews: [Pompey, upon taking Jerusalem] reinstated … Continue reading

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. 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