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

Book Review: “Mark, Canonizer of Paul” by Tom Dykstra (2012) — Pt. 2

Chp. 3: The Chimera of Oral Tradition      Like the Aramaic substratum thesis (Casey et al) the poor oral tradition has really been taking a beating lately and seems to be going the way of the dodo. I have no problem dispensing with the oral tradition theory and so skipped this long chapter on the first run-through. Dykstra asks (41): “How can a narrative written 30-plus years after the events that it records include such vivid detail..?” And: “How is it that Mark’s elaborate narrative appeared suddenly out of nowhere after three decades?” Whoah. This dating is increasingly passé. Accumulating data are showing that the Gospel of Mark probably dates to the second century CE, not the first (hence GMt and … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 6

Priests vs. Levites   We concluded the last section with an observation of Ellis Rivkin: “We must, therefore, conclude that the Aaronides come to power with the finalized Pentateuch and, as such, are their own creation” (IDB). The priestly Aaronides, centered in Jerusalem, are the post-exilic religious hegemonists who took authority away from the pre- and concurrently-existing (gnostic) Levites. By “their own creation,” Rivkin means that the Aaronides invented their own pedigree, invented their status as Levites (for Aaron was supposedly himself a Levite), and in this way they took over from the ancient and ʻtrueʼ Levites the rights to administer the Temple. Essentially, they arrogated to themselves the religion which became known as “Judaism.” With the rise of the … Continue reading

The Natsarene (“Nazarene”) Religion – Pt. 6

In the fourth post of this series I looked at the Parable of the Ten Maidens (Mt 25:1-13) and concluded that it was an allegory—certainly not the ipsissima verba from the mouth of the human prophet who lies at the origins of Christianity. The incipient Great Church needed to erase that flesh and blood prophet to make room for its invented and grandiose “Jesus of Nazareth.” It needed to do this because the gnostic doctrine of the “Nazarene” (Natsarene) prophet was diametrically opposed to its doctrine of faith which lay at the heart of the Pauline kerygma (“proclamation”). Erasing the prophet from history was a fairly easy task, for that prophet has—as we can see—left few if any traces. However, … Continue reading

The Natsarene (“Nazarene”) Religion – Pt. 2

A human prophet In the first post of this series I surmised that if three criteria are applied to the sayings in Christian scripture, then the contours of a revolutionary teaching emerge. The three criteria are dissimilarity, coherence, and impracticality. For various reasons as discussed below, these criteria show that the teaching could not have been “invented” but derived from a historical figure. It was also noted that most of the material in the canonical gospels is, in fact, invented. How then, can we know which sayings attributed to “Jesus” are authentic? Precisely on the basis of the three above-mentioned criteria. Let me explain… When it comes to the Jesus tradition, there are numerous “sayings” (parables and aphorisms) which scholars … Continue reading

Ten steps to the birth of Christianity: My view

1. A PREACHER (“Teacher”) is born in Palestine towards the beginning of the common era. He claims to have found answers to the ultimate questions facing mankind and attempts to teach others the “Way” to understanding and fulfillment. His teachings conform to the Gnostic type and are fundamentally secular—the exercise of human reason and the application of effort towards the “understanding of life” (Mandaic: manda d’hayye).   2. THE REBELLION: The Teacher challenges the religious institutions of his time and place (as did the Buddha and Zoroaster before him). He considers Jewish teachings useless and misleading: cant, rite, sacrifice, and obedience. Though born a Hebrew, he rebels against Judaism. 3. THE BEGINNING OF A NEW RELIGION: Some followers listen to … Continue reading

Loisy disappoints

A Review of Le Mandéisme et les Origines Chrétiennes (Paris: Nourry, 1934) I just finished reading Alfred Loisy’s book on Mandeism. It was a disappointment. Given the high regard that many mythicists retain for Loisy, this came as something of a surprise. Yet, the little I have personally interacted with Loisy’s work has, admittedly, been less than satisfactory. I feel it’s time to give my reasons and to call Loisy out. From the Mythicist Timeline: – Listed in the Timeline as a Jesus “skeptic,” Loisy was a historicist and is often termed a “modernist.” He was excommunicated (1908). – Loisy argued that, though Christianity was complex, from the beginning it saw the presence of God in Jesus. – Loisy was … Continue reading

The Mandeans and Christian Origins (R. Stahl)

In a recent post I mentioned reading a book by Robert Stahl, “Les Mandéens et les Origines Chrétiennes” (Paris, 1930). I finished it yesterday. Actually, I only read about half the book, because when I was at GTU library in Berkeley (see last post) I photocopied only what I considered the most important chapters. Here’s my comment on this interesting work… Stahl sees the Gospel of John as dependent upon (and as a reaction against) Mandaism (pp. 10, 14). Both emphasize light/life/the word, but the main difference is that the Fourth Gospel carnalizes these in the person of Jesus. According to Stahl, GJohn was a reaction against those who considered John the Baptist to be the “Great Revealer,” and the … Continue reading

John was Jesus? (Price) Pt. 3

“Was Jesus John the Baptist Raised from the Dead?” by Robert M. Price, Ph.D. Being Chapter Seven of Jesus is Dead (American Atheist Press, 2007) Reproduced by permission, in three parts. With occasional added footnotes in green by R. Salm Part Three Narrative Mitosis Is the whole thing utterly implausible? If an historical analogy would help, recall F.C. Baur’s theory that Simon Magus was a bifurcated “evil twin” of the Apostle Paul. Simon Magus was at first a caricature of Paul understood as a usurping opponent of Simon Peter, a false pretender to apostleship who sought to purchase the recognition by the Pillars by means of the collection made among the Gentile churches (compare Acts 8:18-24 with Galatians 2:7-10). As … Continue reading

John was Jesus? (Price) Pt. 2

“Was Jesus John the Baptist Raised from the Dead?” by Robert M. Price, Ph.D. Being Chapter Seven of Jesus is Dead (American Atheist Press, 2007) Reproduced by permission, in three parts. With occasional added footnotes in green by R. Salm Part Two In a Looking Glass Darkly Mark 1:14 (“And after John had been delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.”) has Jesus neatly replace John on the public stage, occasioning the popular opinion that Jesus’ public advent signaled the miraculous return of John. Note the use of paradidomi, the same pregnant word used for the sacrificial delivering up of Jesus to death, whether by God (Romans 8:32) or by Judas Iscariot (Mark 3:19). Can the … Continue reading