H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 35)

→ Table of Contents The ever-present Jesus In a brief section of his paper (pp. 59–61), Dr. Detering draws attention to the short Epistle of Jude, a second century pseudepigraphic writing claiming authorship by Jesus of Nazareth’s brother, Judas (cf. Mk 6:3; Mt 13:55). In the fifth verse, most manuscripts have “Lord” (kurios), others “God” (theos), and—most remarkably—a few manuscripts have Iésous. The verse reads: Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that Iésous, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. Detering maintains that preference goes to the reading Iésous, as above, for this is the lectio dificilior. If one goes along with this … 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. 33)

→ Table of Contents The Didache—Part 3 We have now arrived at page 56 of Dr. Hermann Detering’s remarkable essay, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus and the Beginnings of the Joshua/Jesus Cult.” Detering breaks a great deal of new ground and, as in such cases, the points made in his piece will require testing and some will certainly require adjustment. Were an essay of equal significance written more friendly to the Christian tradition, I suspect that it would immediately find publication and would probably also secure a book contract with a mainline publisher. Like so much good mythicist work carried on today, however, Detering’s works languish largely in obscurity, and he has long since accustomed himself to a scholarly career … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 32)

→ Table of Contents The Didache—Pt. 2 Jesus/Joshua is not divine and he is not “Lord” We recall that most scholars date the Didache around 100 CE—some towards the end of I CE, and others (such as Detering and Niederwimmer) to the early part of II CE. This dating has great significance for the issues raised below. First of all, in the preceding post I pointed out that the Didache nowhere mentions ’Iésous “of Nazareth.” This must strike the reader as astonishing, given that scholars universally assume the text to be all about Jesus. They are, of course, looking at the text through a later filter—and scarcely realizing that fact. It is perhaps a minor detail, but a 100 CE Christian … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 31)

→ Table of Contents The Didache (Pt. 1) Dr. Detering points out that the Didache (“Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) is a Church manual discovered only in 1873. “Majority opinion holds that it dates to the early second century,” he writes, reflecting the somewhat more progressive European scholarship. (American scholarship largely dates the work to I CE.) Kurt Niederwimmer (Vienna), author of the 1992 Hermeneia commentary The Didache, writes (p. 53): “An origin around 110 to 120 C.E. remains hypothetical, but there are as yet no compelling reasons to dismiss this hypothesis.” Also in agreement with Niederwimmer, Detering considers that the document is based on Jewish Vorlagen and was given only a superficial Christian veneer. Detering (p. 54) cites three passages … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 30)

→ Table of Contents The Egyptian Background—Pt. 2 Nun and the Egyptian pantheon A seminal scholar The great Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934) bequeathed to posterity massive tomes on ancient Egyptian religion, volumes filled with an equal mixture of primary data (facsimiles, translations, diagrams) and expert commentary. I happen to possess two of Budge’s most important works, The Gods of the Egyptians (1904/69), and his translation of/commentary on the enormous Papyrus of Ani, better known as The Book of the Dead (1920/60). To call Budge a mere “Egyptologist” does not do him justice. The scholar’s knowledge was encyclopedic, as witnessed by his first official position as Curator of Assyrian antiquities at the British Museum. Astonishingly, Budge was also familiar with little-known … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 29)

→ Table of Contents The Egyptian background—Pt. 1 Eisler’s perceptive observations, chronicled by Dr. Detering in the preceding post, open the door upon great vistas. We must now follow those observations back into great antiquity. In Egyptian religion, Nun (also Nu) was a major god—the “father of the gods” and the god of the watery abyss. (We discuss Nun more fully in the next post.) Nun was the counterpart of the Mesopotamian god Enki—the god of wisdom/gnosis and also of the watery abyss. In later times Nun became associated with the upper waters of the sky. But we should not forget his earliest association with the deep, which still survives in the Coptic word NOUN, “abyss, deep.” (See E. Budge, The … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 28)

→ Table of Contents Jesus, Joshua ben Nun, Dositheus, and the “True Prophet” Dr. Detering begins this section of his paper (pp. 43–48) with consideration of Dt 18:15–“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed.” Detering notes the import of the verse for the Yachad (fellowship) at Qumran, e.g., QS IX 9-11: “And you shall not stray from any rule of the Law… until the coming of a prophet and of those sent of Aaron and Israel” Other passages in the DSS write of a “Teacher of Righteousness” and a “Teacher of Truth,” both placed in apposition to Moses. In Samaritanism, Moses assumed an exalted role and … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 27)

→ Table of Contents The Therapeutae—Pt. 7 A turning point Dr. Detering concludes on page 42 of his article: “The alexandrian/gnostic exegesis of the Exodus theme, as we have seen, was dependent on Indian-Buddhist traditions from the very beginning.” This conclusion is stunning. If Detering is correct, we can infer two important chronological consequences. Firstly, Indic influences entered into Jewish exegesis prior to the rise of Christian gnosticism (the Naassenes, etc—see below). Secondly—and more controversially—we can be sure that those Indic influences occurred prior to the formation of the Christian tradition itself. One need only connect the dots regarding the Therapeutae: they were long considered ‘Christians’ by the Church; they flourished already at the turn of the era; and (as Dr. … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 26)

→ Table of Contents The Therapeutae—Pt. 6 The Therapeutae, Buddhism, and Gnosis On pp. 34 ff. Dr. Detering lists some parallels between Buddhism and the Therapeutae, as described by Philo of Alexandria. He notes certain outward, visible characteristics, such as the makeup of the Buddhist order (e.g. men and women living separately), and the posture, dress, and ranking of monks. Such elements can be valuable in drawing parallels between East and West, but it should be noted that they concern a stage of Buddhism where the order (sangha) had already attained a certain level of organization and settled protocol—namely, the onset of the Mahayana from about the turn of the era. The somewhat longer list of parallels between Buddhism and the … Continue reading