The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 6

Priests vs. Levites   We concluded the last section with an observation of Ellis Rivkin: “We must, therefore, conclude that the Aaronides come to power with the finalized Pentateuch and, as such, are their own creation” (IDB). The priestly Aaronides, centered in Jerusalem, are the post-exilic religious hegemonists who took authority away from the pre- and concurrently-existing (gnostic) Levites. By “their own creation,” Rivkin means that the Aaronides invented their own pedigree, invented their status as Levites (for Aaron was supposedly himself a Levite), and in this way they took over from the ancient and ʻtrueʼ Levites the rights to administer the Temple. Essentially, they arrogated to themselves the religion which became known as “Judaism.” With the rise of the … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 4

Ephrathah and ʻcrossing overʼ   In Jewish scripture, Bethlehem is sometimes equated with Ephrath/Ephrathah (Gen 35:19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11; Mic 5:2). Elsewhere, the latter is the “father” of Bethlehem (1 Chr 4:4). Both ʻplacesʼ were not material settlements in Judah, Benjamin, or Ephraim, but mythical locales in pre-Israelite religion. Beit-Lahmu (Bethlehem) was the home of the Lahmu divinities, servants of the great god of hidden wisdom who guarded the ʻgateʼ of his house. Hidden wisdom (gnosis) had long been symbolized by fresh water emerging from within and under the earth. Thus, it is no surprise that the Bethlehem known to Jewish scribes was noted for a well with special water sought out by David himself, as already cited (2 Sam … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 3

David, Bethlehem, and the scribes   To this day, archaeologists cannot be certain where the settlement of Bethlehem was located. The scribes who penned the Jewish scriptures were also in doubt, for in several cases they found it necessary to identify Bethlehem with another unlocated settlement called Ephrath/Ephrathah: “So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachelʼs tomb, which is there to this day” (Gen 35:19–20; cf. 48:7). However, Jewish scripture clearly locates Rachelʼs tomb to the north of Jerusalem (1 Sam 10:2; Jer 31:15). This anomaly has long caused both Jewish and Christian scholars a good deal of … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 2

Noah, the first Natsarene?   The flood was a divine judgment upon all mankind, one which came suddenly. But god gave Noah secret knowledge in advance: to build an ark. The ark itself represents and symbolizes the secret saving knowledge of god. After all, it was the ark that saved Noah. Thus it is no surprise that in the Akkadian flood story the boat is named natsirat napishtim, “Preserver of Life,” a phrase employing the root n-ts-r.6 It should also not surprise us that netsêru in Akkadian means “secret knowledge,” particularly that received from the moon god Ea/Enki (the god of the underword ocean).7 In the flood story, secret knowledge protects the wise person against that which destroys the entire … Continue reading

The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis – Pt. 1 (Salm)

Foreword I wrote the essay entitled The Natsarene and Hidden Gnosis in 2011, to be read in conjunction with Ditlef Nielsen’s groundbreaking and long forgotten book The Old Arabian Moon Religion and the Mosaic Tradition (1904). This essay was originally conceived as an addendum to Chapter Four of Nielsen’s work. I am now revising and updating it in this series of posts, in order to make the essay available in the search features of this website and also in order to bring it once again to the attention of readers. The original essay is available complete in PDF form here. The first five chapters of Nielsen’s book (in my translation from the German) are available in a series of PDF’s … 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 Natsarene (“Nazarene”) Religion – Pt. 6

In the fourth post of this series I looked at the Parable of the Ten Maidens (Mt 25:1-13) and concluded that it was an allegory—certainly not the ipsissima verba from the mouth of the human prophet who lies at the origins of Christianity. The incipient Great Church needed to erase that flesh and blood prophet to make room for its invented and grandiose “Jesus of Nazareth.” It needed to do this because the gnostic doctrine of the “Nazarene” (Natsarene) prophet was diametrically opposed to its doctrine of faith which lay at the heart of the Pauline kerygma (“proclamation”). Erasing the prophet from history was a fairly easy task, for that prophet has—as we can see—left few if any traces. However, … Continue reading

The Natsarene (“Nazarene”) Religion – Pt. 5

What’s in a name? In the preceding post I suggested that a number of “core” sayings found in the Christian scriptures have already been extensively redacted. They are not the ipsissima verba of the “lost” prophet whom I propose existed in history (certainly not Jesus of Nazareth). Rather, those sayings are the product of a fairly complex and sophisticated religious tradition. For convenience I may sometimes call that tradition “Nazoreanism” and the movement to which it refers the “Nazarene” movement. This terminology is somewhat incorrect, however, for the movement that these posts describe was never Hellenist but existed purely in the Semitic realm. Hence, it should not be referred to by a term derived from Greek which contains the “z” … Continue reading

The Natsarene (“Nazarene”) Religion – Pt. 4

The highly redacted nature of Christian scripture In the third post of this series I listed a number of “themes” which provide a contour of Nazarene (i.e., pre-Christian) theology. Those themes can be deduced from sayings attributed to “Jesus” in Christian scripture, both orthodox and heterodox, according to the criteria of dissimilarity, coherence, and impracticality. They betray a gnostic outlook wherein the goal of life is to seek and find hidden wisdom (gnosis). They delimit a body of teaching which endorses separation from “the world” and the adoption of a rigorous ethical code including humility, renunciation, and chastity. This, I would suggest, is the contour of the pre-Christian Nazarene theology as evidenced by the surviving scriptural record.   The scriptural … Continue reading

The Natsarene (“Nazarene”) Religion – Pt. 3

The background In the first two posts in this series I argued that a human prophet lay at the root of the Christian religion—certainly not ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ This prophet taught a rigorous code of personal fulfillment out of step with both Hellenism and Judaism, yet conforming in fundamental ways with the uncompromising ethics and search for enlightenment (gnosis) found in Buddhism. The proof of these statements lies in a body of sayings preserved in the Christian scriptures themselves. Those sayings—which I have numbered at about 150—comprise a coherent body of material in tension with both the Jewish worship of Yahweh and with the Hellenist ethos of man’s domination over the material world. These “core” sayings are inward-looking and socially … Continue reading