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

The Hermann Detering Legacy/3—Curriculum Vitae 2005–2010

2005-06. “Die Gegner des Paulus—Judaistenthese 2. Jahrhundert” (“The Opponents of Paul—Judaists 2nd Century Thesis). This is a significant book-length treatment (270 pp → German PDF). Detering writes: “The thesis that I here expound is new. I attempt to show that the author of the Pauline epistles addresses Judaizers of the second century rather than those of the first century. The inauthenticity of the Pauline epistles necessarily follows” (p.1). In turn, Detering’s arguments lead to the overall conclusion that the New Testament derives not from the first century, but from the second. (HD’s later comment from his website here.) 2006. Article on the biologist Ernst Haeckel and the freethinking pastor and Jesus mythicist Albert Kalthoff, in A. Lenz (ed.), DARWIN, HAECKEL, UND … Continue reading

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