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

Before Jesus of Nazareth

The first half of the second century was a watershed time in Christian history. By mid-century all four canonical gospels had been written (below), and the bulk of the Pauline epistles were ‘collected’ and published. At the beginning of the second century, however, it seems that only some elements of Paul’s letters (short epistles) were known, and probably not to many people. It is difficult for us to imagine a Christianity without Jesus of Nazareth. But we must do so, for the colossal God-man arrived not before the second century. The Pauline epistles do not know such a Jesus. On the other hand, the gospels do. The period of greatest ferment in Christianity can be dated to the two centuries … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 6

This series of posts is an attempt to help resurrect the Hebrew Gospel from a very long and undeserved oblivion. Though little more than a name today, in the early Christian centuries the Hebrew Gospel (GHeb) was noted by many Church Fathers—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, and sometimes simply with a neutral tone. Seventy-five references—a few with quotes—demonstrate that GHeb was significantly different from our canonical gospels. Its most critical difference was in christology, for in GHeb Jesus was a spirit: For since the apostles considered [Jesus] to be a spirit or, according to the gospel which is of the Hebrews and is read by the Nazoraeans, a demon without a body, he said to them… (Edwards 284, citing Jerome) It … Continue reading

“A Shift in Time” (L. Einhorn)—Book review, Pt. 1

A Shift in Time: How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus by Lena Einhorn (New York: Yucca Publishing, 2016; 227+11 pages) Review by Hermann Detering translated from the German by René Salm [For a 2012 review of Einhorn’s work on this site, see here.] Lena Einhorn has distinguished herself in Sweden as a documentary filmmaker. She is known in Germany mostly for her Holocaust book, Ninas Reise (“Nina’s Journey: How my Mother Escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto”). Over the last decade, the focus of her interest has moved to early Christianity. In 2007 the English edition of her book appeared, The Jesus Mystery: astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul (Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press; German … Continue reading

The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 4

Outside the familiar terrain of twenty-seven New Testament books lies a vast, virtually unexplored expanse of so-called “apocryphal literature.” The word apocrypha derives from Greek and literally means “from [that which is] hidden” (apo+crypto). Well, let me say up front: the only reason most of this literature is hidden is because the Catholic Church has done everything it could to hide it. In short, these texts contain what is threatening to the Church—what it doesn’t want you to read. The Church’s suppression of the apocryphal literature was pretty successful during the fifteen or so long centuries when European scholarship was either conducted by the Church or approved by it. Increasingly, however, secular modern scholarship has broken the Church’s monopoly on … Continue reading