“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

The Natsarene (“Nazarene”) Religion – Pt. 8

Early Buddhist influence on the West It is hardly acknowledged by Christian scholarship that Buddhism potentially exercised considerable influence in the Western world as early as the third century BCE. In the middle of that century, Ashoka (r. 269-232 BCE)—the Mauryan “Emperor of Emperors” who conquered most of the Indian subcontinent—sent a Buddhist missionary contingent to Alexandria at the official request of the curious and enterprising emperor Ptolemy II of Egypt (r. 283-246 BCE)—the same emperor who founded the great Library of Alexandria (eventually destroyed, probably by Christians in 391 or 415 CE).   Both Ashoka and Ptolemy II were extraordinary figures. After a particularly bloody victory against the Kalingas, Ashoka Maurya converted to Buddhism and became a pacifist. Surrounded … Continue reading

The Acts of Mark: Translation

Note: The only known Greek text of the Acts of Mark is in the library of the Stavronikita monastery in Thrace, northern Greece. The Greek text was published by François Halkin in the journal Analecta Bollandiana 87 [1969]: 346–371. In 1969, Halkin wrote in a footnote: “Once again I am obliged to Mr. M. Richard for a photocopy of this inaccessible text.” This is “a fairly literal translation, and so it may sound a bit rough,” in the words of the translator. Occasionally, the Greek is provided in brackets in cases where the translator was uncertain of the best English rendering. Some Greek words have also been provided for those who may not have access to the original text. Capitalizations (e.g. … Continue reading

Mythicists, docetists, Nazoreans (Salm)

The present confrontation between Jesus mythicists and the tradition may seem new to some. Others may suppose that it dates as far back as the eighteenth century, when scholars began to question the historicity of Jesus. However, I suggest in this statement that mythicism is a modern name for ancient docetism—Christianity’s “twin” born along with the religion itself. In his Panarion (29.6.1) Epiphanius writes of a sect of “Nasarenes” whom he denominates as heretics. He writes that “the Nasarene sect was before Christ and did not know Christ.” The Church Father carefully distinguishes these Nasarenes (with sigma) from later “Nazoreans” (with zeta) whom he accepts as “Christians.” Other indications also exist of a pre-Christian movement somehow attached to the Greek … Continue reading

Samaria: The Messiah’s Homeland (Ory) – pt. 3

by Georges Ory Cahiers du Cercle Ernest Renan, no. 11 (1956) Edited and translated from the French by R. Salm (April, 2012) Note: Editorial additions are in green. Part Three Simon and the Taheb or “Messiah” It was in Samaria that the belief in the messiah, which was very old, appeared most coherently. This messiah—the Taheb—would return divine favor to Samaria (that is, to “Israel”), would return the tabernacle and the cult to Mt. Gerizim and would live one hundred and ten years. He was Moses returned to save his own, a conception opposed to that of the Jews of Jerusalem. At his death evil would multiply until the Day of Judgment at the end of the world. On that … Continue reading