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

The two Christian messiahs

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 16 Some readers may notice that occasional entries on this weblog change after the initial posting. This is because—when new information requires—I go back and revise passages in older posts to conform to new discoveries. I used to keep the older post in an ‘archive’ section of this site, but I rarely do that anymore because my capacity to revise prior entries is limited by time and energy—after all, there are now over 300 posts on this site! If a book ever results from all this material, that will be the time to revise and put this “New Account of Christian Origins” into proper order. Thankfully, I’ve not yet had to take down a … Continue reading

The prophet Yeshu: Pt.12—Family ties (and a correction)

As you are well aware, this website is a creation in real time. It is technically a blog, a record of my researches from day to day or week to week. It is a process of discovery and you, the reader, witness that process live. Of course, I don’t have fact checkers or an editorial board. Your comments sent to this site or to my email (see “Contact” on the front page) help me correct mistakes, improve the argument, and modify statements or positions—thanks! Such corrections can also be quite fascinating. And there have been (and will be) mistakes. After all, the process of discovery is not a straight line. It’s more like a zigzag or a spiral, with occasional … Continue reading

The prophet Yeshu, Pt. 11—Family ties (cont.)

The name—again In the immediately preceding post we saw that a certain Jonathan was the founder of Christianity. The Jewish rabbis who penned the Talmud several centuries later dubbed him “Yeshu ha-Notsri” ( < Gk. Iesou Nazarene, “Jesus the Nazarene”). They did so under the influence of the Christian gospels that had by the fourth century CE become well-known. The Christian evangelists, however, knew better. Through a series of permutations that need not concern us here, they demoted the figure Jonathan (“Yahweh Gives”) to a secondary prophet, John the Baptist. The Mandeans, however, preserved the name Jonathan/John for their founding prophet. The Mandeans also retained the original sense of the word Natsarene (< natsar, “preserve, keep secret”) and called their … Continue reading

The prophet Yeshu, Pt. 10—Family ties

As noted in an earlier post, John or Jonathan was probably the actual name by which the Christian founder was known in his lifetime. Jonathan means “Yahweh Gives” (cf. Gk. Dositheus, “Gift of God”). Later Jewish records (the Talmud) refer to the Christian founder as Yeshu ha-Notsri, “Preserver of Salvation,” reflecting latter-day Christian developments of the name “Jesus” (→ Yeshu) and “Nazarene” ( → Notsri). John was a favorite name among the Hasmoneans. John, the person with whom we are concerned and the founder of the religion that eventually became Christianity, was the son of a Hasmonean known to history by the name of Absalom—the brother of Alexander Janneus (who was also known as “Jonathan”). Thus, John/Yeshu was a nephew … Continue reading

The prophet Yeshu, Pt. 9—The ministry of Yeshu

For our purposes, the witness of the Dead Sea Scrolls must be considered much more valuable than either the Talmud or Samaritan writings, for the DSS were written within a generation or two of the events that they describe. The sectarian DSS writings (especially the Pesharim) describe contemporary events of interest to the Yachad, including political developments, the founding of their community (Damascus Document), difficult relations with the Jerusalem priesthood (MMT, etc), and the activity of the renegade preacher Yeshu/Jonathan in Samaria. These all occurred in the first half of the first century BCE: Finally, a few texts from Cave 4 actually refer to historical individuals by name. These references, though isolated, are of enormous importance, as will be seen … Continue reading

The prophet Yeshu, Pt. 8—The DSS, Yeshu, and Samaria

In the previous post I identified Yeshu ha-Notrsi—whom I consider to have been the founder of Christianity—as a significant figure written about in the Dead Sea Scrolls: “the Man of the Lie.” Once this identification is made, it becomes possible to investigate the ministry and death of Yeshu via the DSS. I have already noted that Yeshu, on his return from Egyptian exile shortly after the death of Aexander Janneus in 76 BCE, probably went to Samaria. This suspicion was initially based on evidence from Samaritan sources. They, however, are very late (dating to the Middle Ages). Welcome confirmation of a period of Yeshu’s activity in Samaria is now also to be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. (a) “Therefore … Continue reading

The prophet Yeshu, Pt. 5—The founder: Who was he?

The name As mentioned in a prior post (last paragraph), the early first century BCE prophet known to the Talmud as “Yeshu ha-Notsri” doubtless had some other name in actuality. We know this because Yeshu means “Salvation” and ha-Notsri means “the preserver” (also “watcher, keeper of secret wisdom” etc). Nobody is born with the name “Salvation the Preserver.” The later religious writings of various traditions vaguely remember the prophet under a number of pseudonyms. This shows that already in late antiquity the founder had attained mythical status, for his personal attributes (including his name) were soon discarded. The Talmud records at least three names: Yeshu ha-Notsri, Balaam, and ben Stada. Samaritan texts record Dositheus and Dusis. Mandean texts record John. … 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

Yeshu ha-Notsri as founder of Christianity—Pt. 14: Dositheus

In prior posts I have hinted that, after his excommunication in Egypt at age twenty-four, Yeshu ha-Notsri (not his actual name) returned to Palestine. The chronology for Yeshu that I have been using was pieced together from various places, including the Talmud (which explicitly dates Yeshu to the time of Joshua ben Perachiah, i.e., early I BCE) and the medieval Jewish writer Abraham ibn Daud (who gives a lifespan for Yeshu of about 34 years and his date of death in the 60s BCE). Additional information came from Epiphanius who—in an apparent slip of the pen—also dated the founder of Christianity to the time of King Janneus and Queen Salome Alexandra. The next step in our search for the prophet’s … Continue reading