H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 37)

→ Table of Contents Justin Martyr “For I have proved that it was Jesus who appeared to and conversed with Moses, and Abraham, and all the other patriarchs without exception, ministering to the will of the Father; who also, I say, came to be born man by the Virgin Mary, and lives for ever.”(Dial. Trypho 113) Exegesis of Jewish scripture by the Church Fathers In the penultimate section of his article (pp. 66–69), Dr. Detering highlights a faulty exegetical strategy of the Church Fathers: “The direction does not lead from the historical Jesus back to Old Testament figures, but the reverse: from an allegorical exegesis of the Old Testament to a historical Jesus.” In other words, the starting point was not … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 32)

→ Table of Contents The Didache—Pt. 2 Jesus/Joshua is not divine and he is not “Lord” We recall that most scholars date the Didache around 100 CE—some towards the end of I CE, and others (such as Detering and Niederwimmer) to the early part of II CE. This dating has great significance for the issues raised below. First of all, in the preceding post I pointed out that the Didache nowhere mentions ’Iésous “of Nazareth.” This must strike the reader as astonishing, given that scholars universally assume the text to be all about Jesus. They are, of course, looking at the text through a later filter—and scarcely realizing that fact. It is perhaps a minor detail, but a 100 CE Christian … 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. 20)

→ Table of Contents The Odes of SolomonConclusion: The theology of immanence The two prior posts have briefly considered the Odes of Solomon, a ‘Christian hymnbook’ dating to the early second century CE. My discussion took its point de départ from Dr. Detering’s observation that Ode 39 knows dual outcomes of the Exodus: “Crossing the water is the judgment—it represents salvation for believers, but destruction for unbelievers” (pp. 8–9). We have seen that this dual outcome is very ancient and goes back to the Flood. Its equivocal nature allowed gnostics to interpret water as salvation (gnosis) for those who possess understanding, and as doom for those who do not. I proposed in a prior post that the early second century CE, … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 19)

→ Table of Contents The Odes of SolomonPart 2 The preceding post noted that the Odes of Solomon date to the first quarter of the second century CE. That was the critical ‘transition’ period—the final generation before ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ appeared on the world stage. As a transition work, the Odes seem to have one foot in the coming catholic world and one foot in the gnostic past. Buddhism, and the Odist’s gnostic credentials The Odist is clearly at home with the gnostic worldview. He repeatedly emphasizes the importance of gnosis/knowledge/understanding, equating it with the Word (12:3, 13) and even with the Savior (41:11). The Odist knows encratism and esoteric bridal symbolism (33:5 f; 38:9 f). At one place he mentions … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 18)

→ Table of Contents The Odes of SolomonPart 1 [H. Detering:] We encounter another allegorical interpretation of the Exodus motif in the Odes of Solomon. This collection of early Christian hymns apparently comes from an Alexandrian milieu in the first half of the second century. The 39th ode compares the “power of the Lord” with “raging rivers” that “send headlong those who despise Him” (v. 1). But “those who cross them in faith shall not be destroyed” (v. 5). Verse 8 follows: “Therefore, put on the name of the Most High and know Him, and you shall cross without danger; because rivers shall be obedient to you.”   A structural similarity [of Ode 39] with the aforementioned gnostic interpretations of the … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 13)

→ Table of Contents Simon MagusPart 3—The doctrines The principal sources for the doctrines of Simon Magus are two: Book VI (Chps 2-16) of the Refutation of All Heresies by Hippolytus, and the Pseudo-Clementine literature. Both documents are hostile to Simon and are full of tendentious material and obvious propaganda. Yet, though the Pseudo-Clementines are much longer, the précis of Hippolytus may be more rewarding as far as divining the gnostic doctrines ascribed to ‘Simon.’ Indeed, a careful analysis of Hippolytus’ description reveals a profound and coherent doctrine. The following attempts a brief outline of Simonian theology. It includes a good deal of ‘interpretation’ with which other scholars may disagree: • First of all, Simon taught that man can perfect himself. … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 12)

→ Table of Contents Simon MagusPart 2—Person or cipher? In the Clementine writings, the adversary Simon is nothing less than a (false) Christ figure. This is clear from the way Peter speaks of him: “For who would not marvel at the wonders done by him [Simon Magus], so as to think of him as a god come down from the heavens for the salvation of human beings?” (Rec. 2.6; Gebhardt p. 49; emphases added.) Epiphanius knows the same claim: “He [Simon] therefore came forward, and under the name of Christ…” (Pan. 21.2.1). This must cause wonder. For over fifteen hundred years the West has been inured to only one Christ figure: Jesus of Nazareth. However, when one investigates the many ‘heretics’ … 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