H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 18)

The Odes of SolomonPart 1 [H. Detering:] We encounter another allegorical interpretation of the Exodus motif in the Odes of Solomon. This collection of early Christian hymns apparently comes from an Alexandrian milieu in the first half of the second century. The 39th ode compares the “power of the Lord” with “raging rivers” that “send headlong those who despise Him” (v. 1). But “those who cross them in faith shall not be destroyed” (v. 5). Verse 8 follows: “Therefore, put on the name of the Most High and know Him, and you shall cross without danger; because rivers shall be obedient to you.”   A structural similarity [of Ode 39] with the aforementioned gnostic interpretations of the Exodus is unmistakeable. … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 17)

The Testimony of Truth On pages 7–8 of his article, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus and the Beginnings of the Joshua/Jesus Cult,” Dr. Detering considers the Testimony of Truth (TT), a Christian Gnostic tractate from the Nag Hammadi Library (IX.3). This interesting work was originally written in Greek, probably around Alexandria, Egypt, c. 200 CE or a little later. Birger Pearson writes in his introduction to the tractate (The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 1977:406) that “the false doctrines and practices attacked are clearly those of the catholic Christian church.” But the author of the TT is not satisfied with attacking the nascent Church. He also vilifies certain views of other gnostic sects. It is apparent that what we … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 11)

The Peratae (Part 2) [Detering writes, p.4:] The connection between the Peratae and the Exodus theme is already evident in their name. According to Hippolytus, it derives from the Greek for “cross over/cross through” [Ger. hindurchgehen, < Gk. περαν]. In other words, they considered themselves “those who have crossed over”…   …For the Peratae, the creation is the realm of nothingness and transience. Because all is subject to these characteristics, for the Peratae there is only one way to salvation: man must pass through his demise—which he cannot avoid—even before physical death. [R.S.] The above paragraphs combine two concepts: (1) passing through/crossing over—that is, transcending this material realm of “nothingness”; and (2) doing so before physical death. The former is … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 9)

Simon MagusPart 1 [Dr. Detering writes, p.3:] We encounter another allegorical interpretation of the Exodus motif with Simon Magus, as reported by the church father Hippolytus… The passage gives an analogy between the World Tree and the umbilical cord of the growing fetus in the womb. In Simon’s allegorical thought, the Book of Exodus is symbolic: [Hippolytus writes:] Again, the inscription of the second book is Exodus. Now, they say [Simon Magus] calls the Red Sea blood—and who has been produced, passing through the Red Sea, must then come into the wilderness and taste bitter water. For bitter, he says, is the water which is drunk after crossing the Red Sea; which water is a path to be trodden that … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 4)

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 may ask: Why … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 3)

Note: Dr. Detering’s original writing (translated) is in brown. My commentary is in black. Page numbers (in brackets) may change, as the English translation has not yet been published. A commentary on Dr. Hermann Detering’s “The Gnostic meaning of the Exodusand the beginning of the Joshua/Jesus Cult” (2017) Abstract by Dr. Detering of the entire article: In a gnostic interpretation, the Exodus motif has strong affinities with Buddhist-Indian conceptions. An investigation of where and when the thought systems of East and West converge—in this case, Hebrew scripture and Jewish tradition on the one hand, Buddhist and Indian spirituality on the other—leads to the Therapeutae, described by Philo of Alexandria in his De Vita Contemplativa. The Therapeutae were, in all probability, … 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 and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 5

The demise of gnosticism   Scant elements of the gnostic worldview remain in the Jewish scriptures. They are hidden, to be ferreted out from among the obloquy heaped upon gnosticism by the later scribes. The meaning of old gnostic symbols was lost, perhaps unknown even to many in later antiquity. When the Jewish religion turned against its gnostic roots, the Aaronide priests of Jerusalem jettisoned the old goal of ‘acquisition of gnosis’ (which was still practiced at Dan in the north) and fashioned an impassable chasm between man and god, one not to be crossed. Thus Judaism made an about-face, from a people who at first celebrated ʻcrossing overʼ from the material to the transcendent, to a people who forbade … Continue reading