Infancy narratives IV: The Armenian Gospel of the Infancy

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 27 In the last several posts I have been building the case that the concept of the Incarnation was a seminal turning point—not only in the ‘birth’ of Jesus of Nazareth, but also in the birth of the Christian religion. In my view, the revolutionary conception of the Incarnation first occurred towards the middle of the second century CE. Before that, a diffuse range of non-incarnational Christianities existed. This pre-Catholic stage, before the invention of Jesus of Nazareth, was characterized by belief in a spiritual Jesus (‘Stage II’ christology). These early Christianities focussed on the aspirant, not on God or on a Son of God. These first century CE religious movements were gnostic, encratite, … Continue reading

The Protevangelium of James

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 22 It may surprise you that the Protevangelium of James is a work uniquely positioned in Christian history for its capacity to shed light on the origin of the canonical gospels. However, that capacity is hardly admitted by the tradition, which classifies PrJames with the New Testament Apocrypha (lit: ‘hidden’)—biblical or related writings not accepted as scripture, i.e., not considered genuine or ‘true.’ Terms such as orthodox, apocryphal, canonical, accepted are self-serving and ultimately depend upon a circular argument: if the Church approves a work (that is, if the work agrees with its theological positions), then the work is ‘admitted.’ But if the work conflicts with the Church’s position then it is ‘not genuine’, … Continue reading

A review…

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 20 Below is my summary of the birth and development of Christianity in the first three centuries. Of course, just about everything regarding the points below differs from the ‘received tradition’:   • I begin ca. 100 BCE rather than at the turn of the era; • I propose a different prophet than Jesus of Nazareth (namely, Yeshu ha-Notsri); • for me neither Paul nor Marcion existed—nor did the earliest Church Fathers until Justin Martyr; • the ‘Pauline epistles’ came after the canonical gospels, not before; • the canonical gospels themselves are products of the second half of the second century. The tenets above are fleshed out in slightly greater detail in the 22 points below, each … Continue reading

John the Baptist in Josephus—Pt. 1

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 1 A certain “Peter” recently commented on a post on this website where I make the claim that, at an early stage in Christian history, John = Jesus (lit. “Savior”). In his comment Peter poses several questions, including whether I maintain “that the Josephus story of John the Baptist is inauthentic, considering among other factors the time frame with Herod Antipas, contra the article by Peter Kirby?” The passage in question is Ant. 18.116-119 (Whiston’s chapter 18.5.2). For now I leave aside whether or not the commenter is himself Peter Kirby. The article referenced is a very long one by Kirby entitled “The Authenticity of John the Baptist in Josephus,” uploaded May 21, 2015. … Continue reading

The prophet Yeshu—Pt. 1: General considerations

The preceding series of posts, “Yeshu ha-Notsri as the founder of Christianity,” is now complete. Those fifteen posts serve as an introduction to a new account of Christian origins presented on this website. The series began with an examination of the figure Yeshu ha-Notsri in the Talmud, an obscure figure that Christians have long considered anomalous and quite curious. We investigated what exactly the Talmud has to say about Yeshu, brought those clues together, and constructed a preliminary biography of the prophet. Yeshu lived in the early first century BCE. He was a Pharisee, a protegé of the leading Pharisee in Judaism, Joshua ben Perachiah. Joshua and Yeshu (together no doubt with other aristocratic Jews, their families, and servants) fled … 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. 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. 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. 4)

→ Table of Contents Note: The German edition of Dr. Detering’s article has now appeared and is linked to his website here. The English edition, translated by Stuart Waugh, is forthcoming. (This post has no color coding, as it is entirely my commentary. Much of the information below is from my essay, “Pre-Rational Religion,” Kevalin Press: 2010, privately circulated.—RS) Sacred water and hidden meaning below the surface   In his treatment of the Exodus theme, Dr. Detering’s argument centers on the element of water and its allegorical interpretation. As noted in the preceding post, already in the third millennium BCE Elam had a sacred water ritual, and the Mesopotamian divinity Enki was Lord of water, of wisdom, and of creation. We … Continue reading

An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Chp. 1

[Note: This post is substantially updated here.] As noted in the Introduction, in this series of posts I will be attempting a reconstruction of the earliest Gospel of Mark—a text that I identify with the “Hebrew Gospel” (a view, incidentally, not found anywhere else). Each post will deal with a separate chapter, and two versions will be offered: (1) a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of a Hebrew Gospel/UrMark reconstructed according to several criteria (see next paragraph); and (2) the entire chapter in the English translation (RSV). Both the short and the received versions will be color coded. In order to separate out later Catholic accretions from the earlier pauline-marcionite “core,” I use six basic criteria:      (a) Jesus is a … Continue reading