“Marcion”

In solidarity with our brave brothers and sisters fighting for freedom in Ukraine. A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 15 On this website six years ago I wrote a series of posts “Questioning the gospel of Marcion.” The thrust of those posts was my novel thesis (not taken up anywhere else, to my knowledge) that there was no “gospel of Marcion”—not as a text, at any rate. My argument still stands, but here I expand it and reject the existence of Marcion himself. “Marcion” was, as I shall describe below, a convenient tool of the Catholics, an invented figure used to establish the (false) priority of their new gospels and epistles and to anathematize all those who believed in the … Continue reading

Forgery as a means of Christian survival

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 14 “Misinformation works.” — Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky A few nights ago I picked up Bart Ehrman’s book Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (Oxford, 2003). I have been looking through some of his books of late—not for knowledge so much as to check the current heartbeat of American Christianity—which, unfortunately, is undergoing a frightful irregularity. On the one hand are informed Christians—those who read books, who care (at least a little) about facts, and who may have taken a religion class or two in college. They are the target of Ehrman’s more popular books. On the other hand are the legions of unschooled Christians for … Continue reading

The early (nonexistent) Church Fathers

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 13 For hundreds of years scholars have been largely relying on the Church Fathers to reconstruct the history of Christianity. The Fathers tell us when something happened, who did it, what the circumstances were, and also the consequences. Regarding the archheretic Marcion, for example, we learn that he was either a nauclerus (Lat. “ship-owner” or “ship-builder”) or the excommunicated son of a bishop (there are two traditions), that he tried to buy his way into the Church, that he was a disciple of a certain Cerdo, that he had a distinguished disciple named Apelles, that he came to Rome in 144 CE and/or 155 CE (again, there are two traditions), etc. And now let … Continue reading

“Paul”

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 11 Paul didn’t exist. I’m surprised it took me so long to arrive at this conclusion, but I’m hardly the first to do so—Bruno Bauer and Edwin Johnson (Antiqua Mater) knew as much in the 1800s, and Hermann Detering more recently. Let’s reason it through, one step at a time: (1) If Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist (as mythicists quite correctly maintain), then the over-the-top story recounted in the canonical gospels was also invented. (2) But if the gospel storyline was invented, then the setting (time and place) of the canonical Jesus story is arbitrary. (3) In turn, given the arbitrary nature of the setting, and the fictiveness of the story, one must conclude … Continue reading

The “Christ”

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 10 The preceding post ended as follows: We can imagine the scene, say, in the gnostic Christian congregation of Philippi, ca. 150 CE. The Reader or First Servant stands before the congregation and says solemnly: “My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus: there is great news! Even as some of us suspected, the full power of God entered into a man about one hundred years ago. I have his story here, and it has just arrived. Let us say a communal prayer of blessing, and then I will read to you The Good News According to Markus.” Stunned, wide-eyed silence. The communal prayer was intoned. And then the First Servant proceeded to read The … Continue reading

The birth of Catholic Christianity

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 9 Pre-Catholic Christianity If we could go back nineteen hundred years, to the year 122 CE, we would find no Christians at all—no one whom we would today call a ‘Christian.’ Yet Jesus followers were around, lots of them. But not one of them believed in Jesus of Nazareth—for that figure had not yet been invented. The first century religion of Jesus was much different from the religion that we would recognize today. The many Jesus followers who existed before the mid-second century CE were what we would call ‘gnostics’ and ‘heretics.’ They believed in a savior (in semitic savior is ‘Jesus,’ yeshua), but their savior was an invisible and completely ineffable entity—a clarity … Continue reading

The late second century and Paul

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 8 In the preceding post I introduced some evidence that Christianity in fact predated the turn of the era—such as that Philo (fl c. 20 CE) knew ‘Christian’ sectarians including the Sethians and Ophites, that his description of the Therapeutae was of an early Buddhist-Christian group on the outskirts of Alexandria, that ‘Apollos’ in the Acts of the Apostles already knew ‘Jesus’ but not ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ etc. In this post I jump forward to the late second century CE—just when the New Testament canon was being formulated. The prevalent form of christology was still ‘Jesus is the indwelling spirit of God’s wisdom’—a christology that I have termed Stage II. I briefly discussed the … Continue reading

The second century: from the spiritual Jesus to the canonization of the New Testament

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 4 Orthodoxy developed gradually While it is easy to show that many pre-200 CE Christian works (Shepherd of Hermas, Ad Autolycum, Didache, etc.) make no mention of the virgin birth, walking on water, etc., Christian literature reveals a clear increase in the ‘superman’ traits that will eventually coalesce into Jesus of Nazareth. The Savior (‘Jesus’) of the World—an entirely spiritual entity in the first century CE—slowly takes on flesh as the second century progresses—the flesh of an increasingly exalted being. The canonical gospels appearing towards mid-century were not anomalies. They did not suddenly emerge out of nowhere but belong to a stream of orthodox anti-gnostic literature that was gathering impetus for some time. The … Continue reading

150–200 CE: A ‘watch and wait’ period in early Christian history

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 3 In a recent comment, Albert Wubs kindly brought to my attention a work entitled Ad Autolycum, the only surviving writing (in three ‘books’) by Theophilus of Antioch, a Christian bishop in the latter half of the second century CE. The Greek text and English translation, edited by the late Robert M. Grant, are available via PDF download here. The problem Wubs correctly notes that “any reference to the name ‘Christ’ is totally absent. Maybe Theophilus also knew a ‘Christianity’ without Christ.” This is interesting, for Ad Autolycum (composed c. 185 CE) seems to know the canonical gospels—it names “John” as one of “the sacred scriptures” (and includes two verbatim quotations from the Johannine … Continue reading

The Hermann Detering Legacy/4—Curriculum Vitae 2010–14

2011. Publication of Detering’s book FALSE WITNESSES (Falsche Zeugen: Ausserchristliche Jesuszeugnisse auf dem Prüfstand; 243 pp., Alibri). In this important book, HD argues in detail that the earliest (first century) mentions of Jesus in the literature (by Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, etc) are later Catholic interpolations. Comment: The bogus earliest textual ‘witnesses’ to Jesus of Nazareth are one of the pillars of the Jesus mythicist argument. Due to its significance in any primary database regarding the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, this terrain has been covered often and exhaustively (also by R. M. Price, F. Zindler, and R. Carrier). However, Detering’s German book probably represents the fullest and most convincing treatment of the issue to date.      Detering defends his book’s conclusions … Continue reading