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

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 going up “into … Continue reading

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

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 Exodus is unmistakeable. … Continue reading

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

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. We can infer … Continue reading

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

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’ and the plethora … 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

An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Introduction

[Note: This post has been substantially updated.] 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 that gospel. Recognizing that I may well be quite wrong in this venture, I candidly call it an “experiment.” Some assumptions After many generations of dealing with … Continue reading

Part 3—A revolution in the Synoptic Problem

[NOTE: This is a significant revision. The original post has been archived here. — R.S.] The so-called Synoptic Problem can be defined as the search for the literary and redactional relationship between the three (obviously) extensively related “synoptic” gospels—Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Majority opinion has long favored the “two source theory”: Matthew and Luke primarily drew on Mark, and they also drew on a saying source not available to Mark known as “Q” (German abbreviation for Quelle, “source”). However, ongoing disagreements among New Testament scholars show that the two source theory is not satisfactory to many. Perhaps the biggest sticking point is that the Q source is entirely hypothetical. Despite a veritable library that has now been written about it … 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