The ancient battle over ‘fake news’: the heroes Judas and Thomas become villains

In this post I present some very brief reflections on the Gospel of Thomas. Thomas the Twin. Thomas was the quintessential messenger of truth in early Christian gnosticism. The name appears twice in the Gospel of Thomas, once in the title at the end of the work, and once in Saying 13, where Thomas outshines both Peter and Matthew: Jesus says to his disciples: “Compare me, and tell me whom I am like.” Simon Peter says to him, “You are like a just angel!” Matthew says to him, “You are like a wise man and a philosopher!” Thomas says to him, “Master, my tongue cannot find words to say whom you are like.” Jesus says, “I am no longer your … Continue reading

In memoriam: Dr. Hermann Detering—Pt. 1

With great sadness I learned yesterday of the passing of Dr. Hermann Detering, an event that took place already over three months ago. In translation from the Italian, the post from Pier Tulip reached my FaceBook timeline as follows: For those who may be interested: Dr. Hermann Detering, one of the great scholars of the New Testament, died on October 18, 2018. I only learned of it today. His work is only readable in German and English.Let me say that I’ve had several exchanges of ideas with him—one of the very few who, like me, proposes the Buddhist origin of Christianity.For those who read English, there is a long commentary written by René Salm on his page.Here is the link to … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 38)

→ Table of Contents Conclusions Dr. Detering’s overall conclusion                  [I translate his final section in toto below. Emphases are added.—R.S.] [Dr. Detering writes:] Beginning with the gnostic interpretation of the Exodus motif and the question of its origin, we have arrived at an element of critical importance: the metaphor of transcendence, expressed figuratively as [reaching] the “other shore”—which plays a central role in Indian/Buddhist spirituality. The question of where the two trajectories intersect—Jewish tradition/Hebrew Bible on the one hand, and Buddhist/Indian spirituality on the other—led us to the Therapeutae, about whom Philo of Alexandria reports in his De Vita Contemplativa. Once the Buddhist origin of the Therapeutae is seen as plausible, it can be shown that their central mystery consisted of … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 36)

→ Table of Contents The Transfiguration In a short section (pp. 62–64) of his paper, Dr. Detering reveals that the Transfiguration scene in Mk 9:2–8 primarily serves to answer the question: Who is the true prophet predicted in Jewish scripture (Deut 18:15)? Three candidates are at the top of the mountain: Moses, Elijah, and Joshua/Jesus. The answer that comes from heaven is clear: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”—and only Jesus/Joshua is seen to be still there, while the other two Old Testament figures have disappeared. Consistent with the rest of his paper, Detering argues that the “Jesus” of the scene was, in the earliest stratum of the story, not “Jesus of Nazareth” but Joshua ben Nun—the … 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. 25)

→ Table of Contents The Therapeutae—Pt. 5 The Therapeutae, a new chronology, and Yeshu ha Notsri (For the previous post on the Therapeutae, see here.) Dr. Detering begins a fairly lengthy section of his paper (pp. 26—42) with a review of the sect of the Therapeutae as reported by Philo. The sect holds a special importance for Detering, for he places it not only at the very heart of Christian origins—that is, at Alexandria—but also at the crossroads between Buddhism and Christianity. In other words, Detering concludes that the Therapeutae were a critical lynchpin between Buddhism and the gospels. Though we have already discussed the Therapeutae at length (posts 5-8), we will here attempt to place the sect within the wider … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel/UrMark: working criteria

The comprehensive UrMark, cumulatively updated after each installment, is found here. The canonical (color coded) Gospel of Mark, also updated after each installment, is found here. As noted in the Introduction, in this series of posts I attempt 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 deals with a separate chapter, and two versions are offered: (1) a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of a Hebrew Gospel/UrMark reconstructed according to several criteria (see next paragraph); followed by (2) the entire chapter in the English translation (RSV). Both the short and the received versions are color coded. In my view, the best way to … Continue reading

“Jesus has a Nazareth problem” (interview transcript)—Pt. 3

The Nazarene is “the enlightened one” (See also here.) René: …Everything is showing that Marcion’s was in fact the first gospel and that Capernaum was the original hometown of Jesus.      The reason “Nazareth” was invented—that would be by Matthew, now, and taken up by Luke—is to change “the Nazarene,” because “Nazarene” was objectionable to the Catholic Church. “Nazarene” had some strong religious and theological meanings at the time, and it would be very valuable if scholarship looked seriously at this question, because this brings us to the heart of the issue: What does “Nazarene” mean? René: Jesus in the earliest gospels is called “Jesus the Nazarene.” But nobody seems to know what that meant. Now, “Nazarene” means the enlightened person, … Continue reading

“Jesus,” the rebel against Judaism

For the last several decades a wrong-headed and tiresome refrain has emanated from the theological podiums (or is it podia?) around the USA: “Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew.” So I myself learned on the first day of a New Testament course at the University of Oregon some years ago. The professor—Daniel Falk, a respected specialist in Qumran studies—quickly elaborated a little: Christianity was “a very significant modification of the religion of ancient Israel… It and Judaism are two offshoots of ancient Israel. Both came from rabbinic Judaism. Later, Christianity became a gentile religion.” The bottom line was clear: Jesus brought nothing radically new. He was in fact quite orthodox! What was “new” was Paul’s mis-interpretation of Jesus’ Jewish message…   … Continue reading