A note on the Toldoth Yeshu

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 21 I have been studying the Toldoth Yeshu (Hebrew: “Generations of Yeshu”) for several weeks in the hope that this unusual work might shed some light on Christian origins. However, I have been disappointed and conclude that the TY is a rather poorly-written, scurrilous, and late anti-gospel composed, I suspect, by a disenchanted rabbi in distant Babylonia. Here is some of what the insightful Robert M. Price writes concerning the work: The Toledoth Jeshu (Generations of Jesus) is the title of several variants of an anti-gospel text portraying Jesus as a false prophet and magician… The wide distribution of various language versions and manuscript fragments, together with the numerous parallels with second-century Jewish-Christian polemic … Continue reading

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 ‘Watch and Wait Period’—II

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 19 Readers may not be aware that the traditional view of Marcion was my principal reason for fixing the authorship of the canonical gospels to the middle decades of the second century. However, in a recent post I proposed that Marcion was an invention of the Catholics, a useful tool in the fledgling church’s efforts to paint naysayers (those who rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the savior) as heretics (“Marcionites”). Now that ‘Marcion’ is gone, the dating of the 4G to the middle decades of II CE loses a good deal of force. Here I briefly summarize the reasoning that originally led me to connect Marcion’s presence in Rome to the dating of the … Continue reading

Pliny on Christians ca. 110 CE: Authentic (My view)

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 18 I have finished reading Hermann Detering’s chapter “Pliny the Younger—Christian persecution in Bythynia” from his book Falsche Zeugen (“False Witnesses”), and have also surveyed the rather copious literature on this seemingly obscure topic—at least, the literature readily available at my university library and online. While I have immense respect for the late Dr. Detering’s work, I have to disagree with him regarding these two Pliny letters (Bk. 10:96–97). Of course, few things are 100% certain in history, and Detering marshals evidence for his argument that the letters in question are forgeries. Uncharacteristically, however, he used outdated (19th century) references that became obsolete when newer evidence came to light in the early twentieth century. … Continue reading

Some questions for readers…

This is an experiment… I just received an awfully long comment (below) from one Peter Koerber, an informed reader who presents with a host of good questions that, unfortunately, I simply don’t have the time to answer. But they do deserve answers, and so I’m passing Peter’s questions on to readers—you. Please help us all out by responding to one or more of Peter’s queries, which I’ve numbered 1–7 below. Send your comment to this blog and please put the number of the question/paragraph that you’re addressing in your comment. That will help orient us readers. This might be quite informative… And thanks in advance!–René I don’t know exactly where I should put this, but thank you for your insights … Continue reading

Pliny on Christians ca. 110 CE: A forgery? (Detering’s view)

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 17 Adieu Pliny! June, 2011 by the late Dr. Hermann Detering Translated from the German by R. Salm with light editing for style. Note: In the comments below I play the ‘devil’s advocate’and intentionally give Dr. Detering’s argument a hard time.—R.S. It’s been a good 35 years since I first read the two so-called “Christian letters of Pliny” (Book X, nos. 96 and 97—in English here). At the time, I was—along with other graduate students—sitting in a New Testament seminar whose topic I have forgotten. I do remember the November rain prattling against the windows and, of course, the lecturer Dr. Walther Schmithals, who read the Latin text of the letter to us, amiably … 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

“Marcion”

In solidarity with our brave brothers and sisters fighting for freedom in Ukraine. A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 15 On this website six years ago I wrote a series of posts “Questioning the gospel of Marcion.” The thrust of those posts was my novel thesis (not taken up anywhere else, to my knowledge) that there was no “gospel of Marcion”—not as a text, at any rate. My argument still stands, but here I expand it and reject the existence of Marcion himself. “Marcion” was, as I shall describe below, a convenient tool of the Catholics, an invented figure used to establish the (false) priority of their new gospels and epistles and to anathematize all those who believed in the … Continue reading

Forgery as a means of Christian survival

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 14 “Misinformation works.” — Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky A few nights ago I picked up Bart Ehrman’s book Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (Oxford, 2003). I have been looking through some of his books of late—not for knowledge so much as to check the current heartbeat of American Christianity—which, unfortunately, is undergoing a frightful irregularity. On the one hand are informed Christians—those who read books, who care (at least a little) about facts, and who may have taken a religion class or two in college. They are the target of Ehrman’s more popular books. On the other hand are the legions of unschooled Christians for … Continue reading

The early (nonexistent) Church Fathers

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 13 For hundreds of years scholars have been largely relying on the Church Fathers to reconstruct the history of Christianity. The Fathers tell us when something happened, who did it, what the circumstances were, and also the consequences. Regarding the archheretic Marcion, for example, we learn that he was either a nauclerus (Lat. “ship-owner” or “ship-builder”) or the excommunicated son of a bishop (there are two traditions), that he tried to buy his way into the Church, that he was a disciple of a certain Cerdo, that he had a distinguished disciple named Apelles, that he came to Rome in 144 CE and/or 155 CE (again, there are two traditions), etc. And now let … Continue reading