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

John was Jesus? (Price) Pt. 1

“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 One There are several New Testament passages which over the years have struck me as being pregnant with implications far beyond those scholars usually reckon with. These texts seem to me to be held in check by the conventional ways in which we read the documents in which they occur. They are “anomalous data” (Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) which somehow seem “left over” in the context of the paradigms which seem to make such excellent … Continue reading

The Acts of Mark: Translation

Note: The only known Greek text of the Acts of Mark is in the library of the Stavronikita monastery in Thrace, northern Greece. The Greek text was published by François Halkin in the journal Analecta Bollandiana 87 [1969]: 346–371. In 1969, Halkin wrote in a footnote: “Once again I am obliged to Mr. M. Richard for a photocopy of this inaccessible text.” This is “a fairly literal translation, and so it may sound a bit rough,” in the words of the translator. Occasionally, the Greek is provided in brackets in cases where the translator was uncertain of the best English rendering. Some Greek words have also been provided for those who may not have access to the original text. Capitalizations (e.g. … Continue reading

John was Jesus (Ory) Pt. 1

Hypothesis regarding John the Baptist by Georges Ory Cahiers du Cercle Ernest Renan, no. 10 (1956) Translated by R. Salm (Note: Editorial additions are in brackets and/or are signed “RS”) Part One The birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus The Gospel according to Luke is the only one to give an account of the birth of John the Baptist. Though it precedes the account of Jesus’ birth, this introduction to the gospel1 is not primitive. It certainly betrays the effort which was attempted—and which met with success—to make of John a Jewish prophet. In the time of Herod the Great, we are told, the angel Gabriel appeared to the priest Zachariah. He and his wife are very old. … Continue reading

Mythicists, docetists, Nazoreans (Salm)

The present confrontation between Jesus mythicists and the tradition may seem new to some. Others may suppose that it dates as far back as the eighteenth century, when scholars began to question the historicity of Jesus. However, I suggest in this statement that mythicism is a modern name for ancient docetism—Christianity’s “twin” born along with the religion itself. In his Panarion (29.6.1) Epiphanius writes of a sect of “Nasarenes” whom he denominates as heretics. He writes that “the Nasarene sect was before Christ and did not know Christ.” The Church Father carefully distinguishes these Nasarenes (with sigma) from later “Nazoreans” (with zeta) whom he accepts as “Christians.” Other indications also exist of a pre-Christian movement somehow attached to the Greek … Continue reading

Samaria: The Messiah’s Homeland (Ory) Pt. 6

by Georges Ory Cahiers du Cercle Ernest Renan, no. 11 (1956) Edited and translated from the French by R. Salm (April, 2012) Note: Bracketed editorial additions are in green and signed “R.S.” Followed by a concluding note A little further on in the same book, Josephus recounts the victory of Aretas (Ant. XVIII.5.1). After giving certain details, he writes (§2): “Some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment for what he did against John…” Now, until this passage John had not yet been mentioned by Josephus who, we recall, had also not named the Samaritain messiah (for whom he certainly had no admiration). Immediate thereafter, §2 continues … Continue reading