H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 14)

Simon MagusPart 4—The “Standing One” (cont.) Having broadly summarized Simonian doctrine in the last several posts, Simon Magus emerges as a figure whose gnosticism had Buddhist precursors, whose outlook was Jewish, and whose doctrine was radically heterodox. The Buddhist aspects of Simon’s thought can be summarized as follows:   (a) According to Hippolytus, Simon viewed entrance into life as entrance into suffering—dukkha in Buddhism (cf. post #9). (b) Simon taught that the world is on fire. In Buddhism, desire/craving (tanha) is a link in the chain of dependent origination and is equated with fire (on this, cf. post #13). (c) Simon preached the need for “investigation” (Rec 2:21; Gebhardt 55). In Buddhism, the entire spiritual journey is one of investigation—via … 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. 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. 6)

Note: This post continues an analysis of the Therapeutae, as reported by Philo of Alexandria. Before proceeding, you may want to click here to open a new window containing the 23 points describing the Therapeutae listed in the preceding post. Having both windows open on your desktop will facilitate reading, as I refer to those points often in what follows.—René Salm The Therapeutae—Pt. 2 Extensive parallels between the Therapeutae and Buddhism The preceding post closed by pointing out a number of interesting parallels between Philo’s description of the Therapeutae and heterodox (Jewish) Christianity. On the other hand, we found very few (if any) parallels with what would become orthodox (gentile) Christianity. This is rather surprising. But far more remarkable is … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 2)

Highlights of this post: • the New Testament must be dated to the second century CE • Epiphanius identifies the pre-Christian Jessaeans with Philo’s Therapeutae, and the Therapeutae with early Christians • According to Epiphanius, some Jewish pre-Christians “set themselves ablaze” • Epiphanius shows that the Nazoraeans were in some way related to Indian monks The later (Jesus mythicist) chronology In these posts we are immersed in developments during the first century CE. This is a different world. Apparently there are “venerators of Joshua/Jesus” (a Semitic name roughly meaning “Y[ahweh] is Salvation,” BDB 221)—as Dr. Detering will claim later in his article. However, there were not yet “Christians” in the accepted sense of that word (see below). Both Detering and myself agree that in … Continue reading

An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Chp. 9

As noted in the Introduction, two texts of the relevant chapter in the Gospel of Mark are presented here. The first is a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of an UrMark reconstructed according to the criteria below. At the bottom of this post is the entire Chapter 9 in the RSV English translation. Both the short and the longer forms of the chapter are color coded. In order to separate out later Catholic accretions from the earlier Jewish Christian “core,” I have employed the following criteria: The criteria used for color coding are discussed here. The resultant color coding is as follows: [Contained in the Hebrew Gospel / UrMark] Green: Possible/probable, or amended in UrMark. STAGE 1: Gnostic. To c. … Continue reading

An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Introduction

[Note: This post substantially updates an older version).] The comprehensive UrMark, cumulatively updated after each installment, is found here. The canonical (color coded) Gospel of Mark, also updated after each installment, is found here. In any very large endeavor—as is the exploration of Christian origins—from time to time an intellectual synthesis is required, one that attempts to pull together various lines of research. Without such a synthesis, the world of early Christian studies quickly becomes a bewildering quagmire, with myriad disparate elements and little overall unity. So, I’d like to provide my personal synthesis regarding a critical text: the Gospel of Mark. This will take the form of a series of posts—one post for each of the sixteen chapters of … Continue reading

Three stages in the development of early Christianity

In my view, three major (and incompatible) strains of earliest Christianity existed side-by-side in the first century CE: the gnostic, the Jewish Christian, and the Pauline. The gnostic strain was the first. It goes back to a prophet I suggest was Yeshu ha-Notsri (“Jesus the Nazarene”), who lived in the early first century BCE. I have also proposed that early Christian development can be divided into three stages, chronicling the changing view of “Jesus.” In this post I expand on those stages, and include important historical considerations. STAGE 1: From the death of Yeshu ha-Notsri to c. 50 CE Yeshu was martyred in Jerusalem on the eve of Passover, about 75 BCE, after having been condemned by the Sanhedrin for … Continue reading

Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion”—Pt. 6

It is possible to find isolated passages in Tertullian’s lengthy attack on Marcion that can be interpreted as if the Church Father is critiquing a text. One must be wary, however, of translation bias and equivocal words, such as “gospel/evangelium”—so frequent in Tertullian’s writing. That word has long since become synonymous with four well known Christian religious texts, and we have quite forgotten its older, more general meaning (“doctrine”)—prevalent when Tertullian was writing and before the canonical gospels had conquered the western world. Another problem is that modern translations of Tertullian’s writings have been carried out under the false conviction that a text of Marcion was indeed the subject of the Church Father’s attack. The translators themselves use words in … Continue reading

Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion”—Pt. 5

The prior posts in this series have alerted us to the dual meanings of “gospel” in antiquity, and also to the argument—apparently broached here for the first time—that Tertullian (the primary ancient witness to Marcion’s “gospel”) never had a text of the arch-heretic in mind at all. In support of this view one can point to the astonishing fact that in all of Tertullian’s five books Against Marcion (AM), one nowhere encounters a clear citation from a text that we could call the “Gospel of Marcion” (see below). This is damning, for it is impossible that the Church Father would critique a text while never offering a quotation from that text! Who critiques a text without repeatedly citing it? After … Continue reading