H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 23)

→ Table of Contents Resumé of the series thus far: In the foregoing posts we have seen that the Exodus theme is far deeper than a mere physical event involving a body of water. The roots of ‘crossing over’ are primordial and spiritual, ultimately involving the liminal threshold at death. For the gnostic, the crossing over was from ignorance to understanding. Such a view can only exist for those who define ‘life’ as gnosis, and ‘death’ as ignorance itself. For the gnostic, then, one can cross over from death to life even while in this body—that is, long before physical death. This is called realized eschatology, and it has apparently existed in one form or another since shamanism and even before … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 22)

→ Table of Contents The MandeansPart 2 [H. Detering, p. 10:] Lidzbarski points to the frequent Mandaean interpretation of the Sea of Reeds as the “Sea of Ending.” As the following citation from the Book of John shows, the crossing of the sea (symbolized at the baptism by the water of the ‘Jordan’) is, for the Mandaeans, God’s judgment: the water causes the destruction of those who are evil, but for believers it is a bridge to the light. The gnostic savior calls out: I am the treasure, the treasure of life. The evil ones are blind and do not see. I call them to the light, yet they bury themselves in the darkness. ‘O you evil ones,’ I call to … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 21)

→ Table of Contents The MandeansPart 1 [ → Previous discussion of the Mandeans] [H. Detering:] [P. 9] With the Mandeans we also encounter the allegorical-gnostic interpretation of the Exodus theme. This sect originated on the eastern border between Palestine and Syria. Apparently it was genetically closely related to early Christian baptist sects. The Mandeans viewed the Exodus in a way quite similar to that already discussed. Mark Lidzbarski, the devoted translator of Mandean texts, observed: “The allegorical and eschatological interpretation of the Exodus from Egypt [by the Mandeans] goes back to Alexandrian hermeneutic: the city’s fleshpots, the view of existence as material and sensual, the Exodus as flight from this hylic world to a more spiritual plane, and the Red Sea as … Continue reading

The Detering Commentaries: Table of Contents

Dr. Hermann Detering “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus and the Beginning of the Joshua/Jesus Cult” (2018)   Commentary by René Salm This extensive series of posts explores literary, religious, and historical links between Buddhism and Christian origins. It argues that Christianity emerged from a gnostic substratum, and that the figure Jesus of Nazareth and the New Testament gospels are second century CE developments. Table of Contents Pt. 1. Some background — Structure of Dr. Detering’s article ★ Pt. 2. The later (Jesus Mythicist) chronology Pt. 3. Water, water everywhere — Materialism vs. gnosticism Pt. 4. Sacred water and hidden meaning below the surface — The serpent — Passing through the upside-down vortex — The moon — The moon, water, and … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 20)

→ Table of Contents The Odes of SolomonConclusion: The theology of immanence The two prior posts have briefly considered the Odes of Solomon, a ‘Christian hymnbook’ dating to the early second century CE. My discussion took its point de départ from Dr. Detering’s observation that Ode 39 knows dual outcomes of the Exodus: “Crossing the water is the judgment—it represents salvation for believers, but destruction for unbelievers” (pp. 8–9). We have seen that this dual outcome is very ancient and goes back to the Flood. Its equivocal nature allowed gnostics to interpret water as salvation (gnosis) for those who possess understanding, and as doom for those who do not. I proposed in a prior post that the early second century CE, … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 19)

→ Table of Contents The Odes of SolomonPart 2 The preceding post noted that the Odes of Solomon date to the first quarter of the second century CE. That was the critical ‘transition’ period—the final generation before ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ appeared on the world stage. As a transition work, the Odes seem to have one foot in the coming catholic world and one foot in the gnostic past. Buddhism, and the Odist’s gnostic credentials The Odist is clearly at home with the gnostic worldview. He repeatedly emphasizes the importance of gnosis/knowledge/understanding, equating it with the Word (12:3, 13) and even with the Savior (41:11). The Odist knows encratism and esoteric bridal symbolism (33:5 f; 38:9 f). At one place he mentions … Continue reading

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

→ Table of Contents 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 … Continue reading

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

→ Table of Contents 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 … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 16)

→ Table of Contents Note: Dr. Detering’s writing (as well as summary of his writing) is in brown. My commentary is in black text. An insightful study of the Naassenes, written for the layperson, is M. H. Gaffney’s Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2004).—R.S. The Naassenes On pp. 5-7 of his article, Dr. Detering considers the views of the Naassenes. Our main source for this sect is the fifth book of Hippolytus’ Refutation of all Heresies. The Church Father offers an extensive but hardly clear treatment. From one sentence to the next he brings forward the Greek mystery religions, the Genesis story, the ‘giants.’ Egyptian gods, and obscure names such as the Corybantes, Curetes, Cabiri, etc. That … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 15)

→ Table of Contents Simon MagusPart 5—Conclusion In the Book of Joshua, stones assume an important and rather strange role in the Israelite crossing of the Jordan River. The relevant verses are below, taken from chapter 4: 1 When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2 “Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3 and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each … Continue reading