H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 35)

→ Table of Contents The ever-present Jesus In a brief section of his paper (pp. 59–61), Dr. Detering draws attention to the short Epistle of Jude, a second century pseudepigraphic writing claiming authorship by Jesus of Nazareth’s brother, Judas (cf. Mk 6:3; Mt 13:55). In the fifth verse, most manuscripts have “Lord” (kurios), others “God” (theos), and—most remarkably—a few manuscripts have Iésous. The verse reads: Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that Iésous, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. Detering maintains that preference goes to the reading Iésous, as above, for this is the lectio dificilior. If one goes along with this … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 34)

→ Table of Contents The Didache—Pt. 4 The spiritual Jesus I have argued on this website that “Jesus” in the first century CE (before appearance of the canonical gospels) was spiritual, not material (see here and here). As so much in Jesus mythicism, the consequences of this thesis are far too provocative for mainstream scholarship. After all, a first century ‘spiritual’ Jesus strikes at the very heart of Christianity and gives the lie to the very existence of Jesus of Nazareth. So today this view of an early spiritual Jesus—graphically recorded in the Christian apocrypha and in some gnostic tractates—lives only in the outer reaches of the Internet. The great irony is that, while Christians are forever desiring to recover earliest … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 33)

→ Table of Contents The Didache—Part 3 We have now arrived at page 56 of Dr. Hermann Detering’s remarkable essay, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus and the Beginnings of the Joshua/Jesus Cult.” Detering breaks a great deal of new ground and, as in such cases, the points made in his piece will require testing and some will certainly require adjustment. Were an essay of equal significance written more friendly to the Christian tradition, I suspect that it would immediately find publication and would probably also secure a book contract with a mainline publisher. Like so much good mythicist work carried on today, however, Detering’s works languish largely in obscurity, and he has long since accustomed himself to a scholarly career … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 31)

→ Table of Contents The Didache (Pt. 1) Dr. Detering points out that the Didache (“Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) is a Church manual discovered only in 1873. “Majority opinion holds that it dates to the early second century,” he writes, reflecting the somewhat more progressive European scholarship. (American scholarship largely dates the work to I CE.) Kurt Niederwimmer (Vienna), author of the 1992 Hermeneia commentary The Didache, writes (p. 53): “An origin around 110 to 120 C.E. remains hypothetical, but there are as yet no compelling reasons to dismiss this hypothesis.” Also in agreement with Niederwimmer, Detering considers that the document is based on Jewish Vorlagen and was given only a superficial Christian veneer. Detering (p. 54) cites three passages … Continue reading

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

→ Table of Contents 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 … Continue reading

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

→ Table of Contents 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 … Continue reading

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

→ Table of Contents 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. … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 10)

→ Table of Contents 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 … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 6)

→ Table of Contents 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.—RS 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 … Continue reading

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

→ Table of Contents 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 … Continue reading