Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Gospel Must Have Been Written in the Same Way the Torah was Written - A Revelation from an Angel

The problem of course is that scholarship claims it doesn't know how the Torah was written.  'The Pentateuch describes Moses going up to receive the Ten Commandments but how was the Book itself written?'  'The Torah describes Moses's death, so Moses couldn't have been the author.  But then whom?'  Everyone in antiquity knew Ezra wrote the Torah.  Not just Porphyry but even the rabbinic literature intimates its knowledge of the tradition.  If even Jews admitted Ezra was the real author of the Torah, it must have been common knowledge.  If Ezra came into contact with the angel who meets with the Patriarchs in his narrative, the angel must have been his spiritual 'guarantor.'  In other words, people were convinced that this Torah was Moses's Torah because the angel told him so. 

This must have been the basis to apostle's authorship of the original gospel.  Ezra's text was written at the beginning of an era of reconstitution, as was the gospel (i.e. after 70 CE).  The angel was identified as

in the earliest manuscripts of the Christian religion, interpreted 'Jesus' but the term meant 'Man' (= איש).

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Beginning of Another Book

Is it possible the gospel isn't what many of us suppose it to be?  Is it really a historical document?  Is it really about a man named Jesus the son of Mary or Joseph?  Certainly that is the easy answer, the answer which comes down to us from a selective reading of the surviving source material.  But is truth ever discovered through superficiality? 

I can't remember the first time I came into contact with the idea that the Christian faith that has been passed down to us, is fraudulent.  It is certainly not something that they taught me in university.  All I remember is the incredible lengths to which academics who study the origins of the Jesus religion avoided using the 'f-word' - at least openly.

Now admitted there are a number of atheists in the formerly sacred halls of the universities who think that God and religion generally is 'full of shit.'  But in my opinion, this isn't any better.  What I long for above all else is to be able to see the nakedness of the gospel without anyone whispering in my ear what I should think about it, what I should believe. 

The closest I have ever gotten is to have private conversations with the heads of religious studies departments in those major universities and hearing those men acknowledge the canonical gospels are forgeries.  If the gospel was a woman, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are altered photos to make her appear some other way than she looked à la naturelle

Of course these are things that are whispered in private conversations.  They are certainly never deemed as suitable for publication in a 'reputable' academic journal.  Yet the facts remain - Christianity and the gospel weren't originally what we presently believe them to be.  In order to become 'Catholic' or universal, most of what grounded that faith in the time it developed had to be jettisoned. 

I pin all my hopes on rediscovering the truth in following the thread associated with a first century preacher named 'Marcion' in the writings of the Church Fathers.  Over time I have come to assume that the truth rests with uncovering what the followers of this man believed.  As we shall see the followers of Marcion assumed he was the head of the apostles, the one who sat in the place of Peter in our present ecclesiastical tradition.  I don't ask you to believe everything that his followers said about him, only to consider what emerges if we give the Marcionites a voice to be heard. 

Most scholars agree that the gospel emerged around the time the Jewish temple was destroyed.  If Marcion's lost gospel was the original, the narrative wasn't about a nice Jewish man who simply wanted everyone to be nice to one another, but rather why the destruction of the temple was a good thing, a thing decreed by God.  Sure most of us don't have a cock in the fight as to whether the Romans were justified in destroying Judaism.  But if Marcion was right, this is what the gospel was really all about. 

Of course the question for the reader here - would any of us still care about Christianity if it turned out that it was really only limited to issues and concerns which faced first century Judaism?  Who among us is honest enough for this sort of truth?  I have always had concerns about the 'universal' characteristic of our inherited Jesus.  You know 'Jesus is _______' billboards which dotted the landscape in recent memory, the campaign effectively saying Jesus can be made into whatever you want him to be. 

Perhaps we shouldn't expect people to have honesty and the integrity does anyone openly encourage their sons or daughters to live in a fog and actively make stuff up about the person he or she is going to spend the rest of their lives with.  If someone is going to spend their life as a bride of Christ, shouldn't you at least start with some reliable background information about your respective mate?

To this end, let's start with the fact that the Marcionite gospel tells us that Jesus was an angel who came down from heaven.  When did he come down?  All evidence suggests that the Marcionites believed that the descent took place in 20 CE and that less than a year later - exactly forty nine years before the destruction of the Jewish temple - he appeared crucified in Jerusalem. 

What day did his descent occur?  There are strong reasons for believing the descent took place during the full moon of the Egyptian month of Tybi or Kislev according to the equivalent Hebrew calendar (mid to late November).  Most early Christians believed that Jesus ascended back to heaven exactly one year later and we have at least one third century Egyptian source which preserves exactly this understanding. 

Where did the Marcionite gospel say Jesus landed?  One late second century Church Father says that it was thought to have occurred in 'Judea' rather 'Galilee' - the geographical location associated with our canonical gospels.  Indeed another fourth century Church Father who lived in what is now southern Turkey says specifically that the place he landed was called 'Bethsaida.' 

For most of us of course 'Bethsaida' has come to be associated with a village in Galilee.  Scholars now believe that it means something like 'fishing house.'  But I think we can be certain from our existing sources that in reality 'Bethsaida' was a familiar way of identifying the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and it literally meant 'demon house' or 'house of demons.' 

Let's start with this indisputable fact.  Almost every early Church Father acknowledges that the first gospel was written in Hebrew.  It has been argued that by 'Hebrew' they mean the related Semitic language of Aramaic which was commonly spoken through the Middle East.  A Hebrew gospel happened to have come into the hands of a Castilian Jewish physician named Shem Tov in the fourteenth century.  Here we find that Beth Saida is spelled 'bit shidah.' 

What is so interesting is that 'shidah' is exactly the way a famous demon was spelled which was supposed captured by King Solomon.  According to a legendary story common to early Jews and Christians the temple of Jerusalem was 'powered' by a demon of this name who was placed in a pool of water.  These sources tell us that a passage in the Book of Proverbs tells us about this magical activity on the part of Solomon. 

The words of the Book of Proverbs are quite fascinating.  It has the king declare:

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired shidah and shidoth, and a harem as well—. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. [Ecclesiastes 2:5 - 10]

The story finds its way into the Talmud and early Jewish sources but also a heretical Christian book very close to Marcionism.  The Testimony of Truth discovered at the Egyptian city of Nag Hammadi speaks of the Jewish indebtedness to such demons. 

This text speaks of the 'wickedness' of the Jewish religion which led them to worship idols.  The text continues:

Others have demons dwelling with them, as did David the king. He is the one who laid the foundation of Jerusalem; and his son Solomon, whom he begat in adultery, is the one who built Jerusalem by means of the demons, because he received power. When he had finished building, he imprisoned the demons in the temple. He placed them into seven waterpots. They remained a long time in the waterpots, abandoned there. When the Romans went up to Jerusalem, they discovered the waterpots, and immediately the demons ran out of the waterpots, as those who escape from prison. And the waterpots remained pure thereafter. And since those days, they dwell with men who are in ignorance, and they have remained upon the earth.
Who, then, is David? And who is Solomon? And what is the foundation? And what is the wall which surrounds Jerusalem? And who are the demons? And what are the waterpots? And who are the Romans? But these are mysteries ...

At this point the manuscript becomes unfortunately quite damaged and unreadable. Nevertheless we can be certain that the story was central to the anti-Jewish narrative that runs through the gnostic text as a whole, but also the gospel.

As noted earlier, the original gospel is lost to us, however it is worth noting that the text survives in numerous early copies in the related language of Syriac.  In those texts interesting 'shidah' and 'sheda' and consistently used in the place that daimon or 'demon' is used in the standard Greek text.  When we put all the pieces together, how didn't the Marcionite gospel imply that Jesus came down to 'beth shidah' - that is, the Jewish temple recognized as a house of demons throughout near contemporary literature.  When this is accepted and recognized, it should be plain that Jesus's 'healing' is in fact making a specific point about the flawed nature of the Creation, something which we know the Marcionites and related traditions made mention in their debates with the orthodoxy.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Marcionite Gospel was Secret Mark

I haven't done attempted to demonstrate that 'secret Mark' was one and the same with the Marcionite gospel in some time but consider this strange tidbit from De Recta in Deum Fide.  The Catholic representative (Adamantius) uses the resurrection of Lazarus as an example demonstrating Jesus's ignorance.  The text has the Marcionite (Megethius) declare this particular statement - i.e. 'where have you laid him?' - doesn't appear in the Marcionite gospel.  So it is that Adamantius choosing another passage.  But clearly Adamantius thinks that the Marcionite gospel (a) contained a reference to the raising of Lazarus but that it differed with respect to Jesus's ignorance:

MEG. The Creator God did not know where Adam was, when He asked, "Where are you"? Christ, however, knew even men's thoughts.

AD. How is it then that Christ said concerning Lazarus, "Where have you laid him?" Perhaps He was ignorant where he lay!

MEG. This is not written in our Gospel.

AD. You know that you undertook to make your proof from our Gospel, d But since you do not want this, what is meant when Christ inquired from the chief of the demons, "What is your name?" and he replied, "Legion"? So according to your Gospel He was ignorant, and therefore asked the question. [De Recta in Deum Fide 17]

Now compare Secret Mark where Jesus knows where the tomb of the youth is:

And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb.

and compare that with the reference in John where Jesus displays his ignorance about where the body is located:

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

How an Appreciation of Samaritan Sectarianism Helps Us Understand the Origins of the Qumran Sectarian Association

Most people are clueless not only about the Jewish religion but traditional religion as such.  We have as a whole been brought up by something of the British 'practical mind set' so we imagine the practitioners of ancient religion as sharing our faith in inherited 'common sense.'  But this is often leads to difficulties when trying to reconstruct history at the turn of the Common Era because, well - these people really weren't at all like us. 

Let's start with the Book of Daniel and in specific the famous 'Seventy Weeks' prophecy.  It must be acknowledged at the outset that this can hardly be counted as a 'prophecy.'  It was written during the very events it was pretending to 'project into the future.'  In short it was 'about' Antiochus Epiphanes 'encounter' with Judaism c 167 BCE.

This sort of charlantry has existed in every age so in itself it is not the expression of anything distinct to the ancient world or Judaism in particular.  In pretending to be Daniel, the author assumes that the events in his lifetime were going to have lasting impact on Judaism.  The issue here is Antiochus's ritual defilement of the temple altar.  We know that the 'prophecy' must have been written close to the events in question because of what the author does not apparently know - i.e. that the Maccabees are going to 'cleanse' the whole area and make it functional once again in a few short years. 

Most scholars today acknowledge the 'pretend prophecy' aspect of Daniel chapter 9.  However they often stop short of realizing the implications of the authors 'ignorance' of the Maccabean 'spring cleaning.'  Daniel chapter 9 must have been written by an anti-Maccabean reactionary group.  For if it follows that the events of 168 CE is the 'abomination of desolation' the official history of the Maccabean dynasty doesn't see Antiochus as anything more than a hiccup in the continuous functioning of the Jewish religion.  The person writing Daniel chapter 9 by contrast necessarily saw the defilement of the foreign 'ruler' as permanent and ultimately catastrophic. 

This is what is so problematic about our modern 'practical' understanding of religion.  We often take so many intellectual 'short cuts' along the way that we miss a critical juncture.  For instance since the officially sanctioned interpretation of Daniel 9:24 - 27 in both Judaism and Christianity apply the prophecy to the events of 70 CE we have learned to think in terms of the physical destruction of the Jewish religion rather than what is actually meant by the author - ritual defilement.  Ritual defilement is something difficult for the modern mind to get a handle on because it goes against all our inherited assumptions about us being able to uncover a practical solution to problems. 

For instance, it used to be that girls were 'protected' from ritual defilement by remaining virgins until marriage.  To the modern sensibility this is a hopelessly archaic.  Women 'need to know' how to please themselves and their partners in order to be 'practical partners' in marriage and perhaps more importantly to be 'fully realized human beings.'  The ancient interest in 'ritual purity' for women can only be understood now in terms of a 'plot' to disenfranchise women. 

To this end then we pretend by removing the pillar of ancient religion - its interest in preserving ritual purity - we effectively destroy its very raison d'etre.  In its place we put forward an absurd English 'practicality' which is nothing short of the living embodiment of the murder of God.  Now even God bows down before the sanctity of practicality.  Since practicality is more 'rational' than this archaic sense of 'purity' reason itself demands that we have a varied sexual 'history' before marriage so that we fulfill all the practical obligations of being good partners in marriage. 

But the ancient religious mind certainly didn't think this way.  It wasn't that the Jewish people didn't have sex or weren't familiar with arguments for sexual promiscuity or even participated in premarital or extramarital sex.  Rather they values ritual purity above and beyond all other considerations.  We can debate the merits of this belief but it stands before anyone who hopes to make sense of ancient history and in particular Daniel's contemporary view of the defilement caused by Antiochus Epiphanes. 

For 'Daniel' there was no going back - the altar had been defiled and the old religious order was incapable of being restored.  It is interesting to note that a similar situation emerged in the parallel northern religion of Samaria around this time which offers us some context.  The major difference between the Samaritans and the Jews was that the Jews abandoned the prescribed sanctuary in the original Torah - that associated with mount Gerizim.  However sectarians argued - in the same manner as Daniel - that this altar had become defiled in the age. 

There is of course no instruction in the Torah about how to "undefile" something holy.  1 Maccabees makes it seem the priests quickly "solved" the problem of defilement with a bucket of Lysol. Daniel implies some catastrophic and irreparable has occurred. How can the two be reconciled?  1 Maccabees and Daniel 9 and can't reconcile them to one another. They don't reconcile because they are not the same event.  Did all the Jews really accept that the Maccabean 'spring cleaning' got rid of the defilement? Certainly not.  After the rise of the Maccabean dynasty a group of priests took over the sacrifices and necessarily excluded another group of priests who formerly had authority there. But it is difficult to believe that Daniel's prophesy could have been deemed authoritative unless a large group of Jewish priests accepted the idea that the altar was still ritually defiled. How else could anyone take Daniel 9:24 - 27 seriously.

I imagine then that the prophesy was written after the events of Antiochus Epiphanes and was highly valued among a priestly group that was marginalized after the events of 168 BCE. This may account for the early rabbinic ambivalence about the canonical status of Daniel.  One scholar notes for instance that all the chapters are represented in one form or other in the fragments at Qumran he notes:

It is a highly surprising phenomenon that no fewer than eight manuscripts of Daniel have been identified among the materials discovered in three of the 11 caves of Qumran. In order to appreciate the significance of this fact, we need to compare it with the manuscript finds of other Biblical books from the same caves. To my knowledge, the most recent listing of published materials (as of 1992) from the Dead Sea scrolls appeared in 1977. The listing speaks of 13 fragments of scrolls from the Psalms; nine from Exodus; eight from Deuteronomy; five from Leviticus; four each from Genesis and Isaiah (Fitzmyer 1977:11–39); and no fewer than eight scrolls representing Daniel. Although we have no sure knowledge yet of the total scrolls that have been preserved from the Bible at Qumran, it is evident from this comparison that the book of Daniel was a favorite book among the Qumran covenantors

While the author here proposes that the high frequency of Daniel fragments at Qumran suggests that the text was written before the Antiochus Epiphanes crisis I think my hypothesis better explains or at least offers a viable alternative view. At this juncture we need to make another point.

According to current historical-critical opinion, the book of Daniel originated in its present form in the Antiochus Epiphanes crisis, that is, between 168/167–165/164 BCE. It seems very difficult to perceive that one single desert community should have preserved such a significant number of Daniel manuscripts if this book had really been produced at so late a date. The large number of manuscripts in this community can be much better explained if one accepts an earlier origin of Daniel than the one proposed by the Maccabean hypothesis of historical-critical scholarship, which dates it to the second century BC.

And again:

A reconstruction of 4QDan., the oldest manuscript of the book of Daniel (second half of the second century BC). Shown are the positions of the fragments of 4QDanc across four columns of the original scroll (reading was from right to left). Linda Manies For those supporting the historical-critical date of the book of Daniel new issues are being raised. Since there is a manuscript of Daniel that supposedly dates within 50 years of the autograph, is there enough time for the supposed traditio-historical and redaction-critical developments allegedly needed for the growth of the book? Supporters of the Maccabean dating hypothesis of Daniel will be hard put to explain all of this in their reconstructions. To express it differently, do the early dates of the fragments from Cave 4 leave enough room for the developments, editorial and redactional as well as others, that are so often proposed (e.g., Koch 1986:20–24)? The verdict seems to be negative, and an earlier date for Daniel than the second century is unavoidable.

I would suggest however that if we assume that the Qumran community shared Daniel's negative assessment of the purity of the altar it would be reasonable to assume that Daniel was written by the Qumran sectarians and it may help identify them as holding the view that the temple was still impure even after the Maccabean 'spring cleaning.'

The classic definition of the Qumran community: The disputes apparently prompted the founder of the sect – an unknown figure referred to in the scrolls as the “Teacher of Righteousness” (Heb. Moreh Zedek) – and those who gathered around him (all or most of them from priestly circles) to renounce the Temple, which they considered impure, and break away from the Jewish people. Going into voluntary exile, they decided at some point to establish a settlement by the Dead Sea. The point of course would then be that if there was a community which held that the altar was still defiled and they lived until the time of the destruction of the temple - which I think is highly probable - then at once we find the solution to why the sacrificial religion of Judaism wasn't restarted after the end of the Jewish revolt.

As I have said many times here, there is no reason why Judaism couldn't have continued to sacrifice animals at Jerusalem in spite of the defeat in 70 CE. The decision must have been based on the idea that Daniel - and the Qumran community - was right. In other words, ever since 168 BCE the altar had been in a state of defilement. But let's move on to the discussion of a similar understanding of ritual defilement at mount Gerizim in Samaria.  First some background to the sacrificial religion of Israel.

The Torah says the lambs are to be slaughtered outside the Sanctuary. But there is no Sanctuary, not in Jerusalem and not on the mountain. If there is no holy place, there is no profane place outside it to be contrasted to it.  There were sectarian Samaritans and the Dositheans in particular who said that Gerizim was no longer sacred for a contrasting view of the Qumran community. The Dositheans would not have slaughtered any lambs on the mountain. Their religious service after sunset on the 15th of the first would have been in a synagogue or near the booth on the Balata Meadow at the foot of the mountain, or otherwise in a synagogue wherever they lived. They could not have had any slaughtering of lambs, for exactly the same reason as modern Jews can’t have it. Note that I said “can’t”, not “don’t”.

Let's turn to the appropriate discussion in Abu'l Fath the fourteenth century Samaritan chronicler for whom we are indebted most of the surviving information about the sects.

“He (Sakta, the Dosithean sectarian) said there was no holiness in the time of error” (A.F.) “They (the followers of Sakta) made the Festivals common” (A.F.)

in other words 'not sacred' in the full sense of having Priests in a state of holiness inside the Sanctuary. This is the Jewish position since the PROFANATION [not destruction at first] of the sanctuary. We should disregard the prevalent reading of Abu'l Fath “They made a substitute for the Festivals”. I am told by Boid that this comes from inability to read Arabic mss. The word is not بدلوا [baddalû] but rather بذلوا [badhdhalû] ). At the service, in the synagogues or on the meadow in the central Dosithean provisional worship place set up by Sakta, they expressed the hope of restoration of the Sanctuary. The mountain had no holiness in itself, though it was the appointed place for the Sanctuary.

“They (the Dosithean followers of Sakta) said Mt. Gerizim was a mountain like any other mountain, and whoever prayed facing Mt. Gerizim might as well pray facing a graveyard” (A.F.).

The Sanctuary was expected to reappear, at the prayers of the Ta’eb, and then all the sacred days could be observed on the mountain in a state of holiness.

“He (Sakta) said: ‘From this booth we will go up to Mt. Gerizim’ “ (A.F.).

This is why Josephus says the Samaritans were not on the mountain, but intended to go up the mountain. They did intend to go up, but not till the appearance of the Ta’eb and the reappearance of the Sanctuary. They certainly would have expressed this hope in their liturgy. Boid agrees that they probably expected something special on the night Jesus was arrested. The Dositheans probably did have religious services in a synagogue on the mountain, but not as part of the observance of any of the three Pilgrim Festivals [Hebrew regalim] which require appearance at the Sanctuary if feasible, that is, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles or Booths [Sukkot].

“He (Sakta) died without ever having gone up Mt. Gerizim in his life” (A.F.).

This sentence in its context only means he never went up the mountain in the sense of fulfilling the requirement of the three Regalim. Boid thinks that what they did at Passover was to have a Passover meal on the meadow, but without having slaughtered any lambs, and then go up the mountain after sunset and pray for the restoration of the Sanctuary.

I think it is important to compare the Samaritan sectarian position with the Jewish one at Qumran to gain some perspective. Let's look at the concluding phrase of the whole passage in Abu'l Fath about Sakta:

“But he never went up Mt. Gerizim in his life”.

From the context, what is meant is that he never went up the Mountain on the occasion of one of the Festivals or on the Day of Atonement. His reason was logical:

“He said there was no Holiness in the Time of Error”.

The holiness meant here is the higher degree of ritual purity required of the Priests if they are to eat the meat of the sacrifices of the Sanctuary, or are to officiate in the Sanctuary (kodesh קדש) which is a step beyond tohorah (טהרה). [The Passover MUST be performed outside the holy part (in the technical sense) of the Sanctuary, so it was not affected for other Samaritans by the ending of the sacrificial service]. The view that the sacrificial sevice could not be carried out was shared by everyone else, but Sakta was remorselessly consistent, and denied the validity of the requirement of a special prayer service on the Mountain.

“He declared the Festivals profane” and not “He made a substitute for the Festivals”.

Presumably there was a special prayer service, but not on the Mountain. All this is the same as the practice and theory of Rabbinic and Karaite Judaism to this day. Judaism has discontinued the Passover sacrifice as well. The argument is that it must be performed in the outer courts of the Temple, in a state of purity (tohorah) not holiness (kodesh). This is impossible. For the Samaritans, the outermost courts of the Sanctuary are the ground on the Mountain. As Sakta denied the intrinsic sacredness of the Mountain, saying it was dependent on the presence of the Tabernacle, he must have denied the legitimacy of the Passover sacrifice as well.

“He said Mt. Gerizim was a mountain like any other mountain, so praying facing the Mountain was no better than praying facing a graveyard”.

His constant waiting for the reappearance of the Sanctuary is much the same as the practice of the Mourners of Zion אבלי ציון who merged with the Karaites when the Karaites moved to Jerusalem two generations after ‘Anan ben David, or one generation after their founding. (‘Anan himself was not a Karaite. The Karaites say they could only be so named one or two generations later. It could be argued that they only took on this name on moving to Jerusalem and merging with the Mourners of Zion). The Samaritan altar was also defiled a number of times in the second century. I wonder if this had a role in developing this point of view too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Year of Jesus's Crucifixion

The world has become convinced that 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' - that is 29 CE - was the year that Jesus, the supposed founder of Christianity, was crucified in Jerusalem. This 'fact' is taken for granted even though it stands on incredibly weak philological grounds, namely that the Gospel of Luke represents an authentic witness to 'apostolic Christianity' - that is, that a man named Luke was a companion of Paul who wrote the text this apostle speaks of when he references 'my gospel' in the letters associated with his person.

No other surviving gospel makes this explicit reference to the year of Jesus's death. Mark says nothing about it, nor Matthew or John. If, as most scholars now assume, Luke took a narrative originally written by Mark and added a number of 'things' to it, 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' was certainly be one such detail. Yet is this how this critical detail made its way into our collective consciousness? Did Luke simply take a text without the reference to 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' and add this date to our canonical gospel of Mark?

If this is the way the addition manifested itself one can suppose that 'Luke' got his information from somewhere reliable.  After all, 'Luke' makes reference to the kind of information that historians like to see represented in source material, things like censuses and historical chronologies.  But the story isn't that simple.  When Paul declares his association with a text he refers to as 'my gospel' could he really be imagining that an associate took a gospel associated with another Christian and then went to the library on his own initiative and 'added' historical details lacking in the original.  I don't think so.

The closest we can get to understanding what Paul meant by 'my gospel' is that it was the result of some sort of heavenly revelation.  We get this understanding from the earliest references associated with a group of Christian writers now called the 'early Church Fathers.'  Of course the Church Fathers themselves as a rule accept the fact that Luke wrote on behalf of Paul and when Paul says 'my gospel' he means 'the gospel of Luke.'  It should be noted that not all the early Church Fathers believed this, but it is as a rule a fair representation of what 'the official Church' based in Rome believed in the late second century.

Nevertheless we learn from sources around this time and later that there was an older understanding of how the gospel associated with 'Paul' emerged in history.  This understanding is rather sketchy but basically follows the declaration of the apostle in the letter called 'to the Corinthians' (the first of two documents with this name in the orthodox canon).  Here we learn that 'Paul' took a text or an understanding originally associated with Peter and the apostles and 'perfected' or polished it according to a revelation he received when he rose to the 'third heaven' in an out of body experience.  This was probably the original understanding of what Paul meant when he made reference to 'my gospel' in his canonical letters.

In other words, it wasn't 'Luke' who added details to an oral tradition associated with Paul but rather Paul who added 'mystical' knowledge to an oral teaching associated with Peter.  This gospel is now lost but the basic formula bears striking resemblance to what we learn about Mark's gospel writing activities in early sources.  It is worth noting that one early source identifies a radical sect which strictly adhered to the doctrines and texts of 'Paul' as possessing a mystical gospel according to Mark.  This group called 'the Marcionites' in the writings of the early Church Fathers will become critical in determining whether or not Luke was manipulating early source material in order to establish the wrong date for Jesus's crucifixion.

The Marcionites were an extremely ancient Christian sect.  Many if not most scholars now believe that they established the first 'New Testament canon' - that is, a closed collection of writings assumed to be wholly made up of texts written by 'Paul.'  But who was 'Paul'?  Even the canonical 'Acts of the Apostles' says that 'Paul' wasn't his original name.  Is it possible that rather than the homophone appellation 'Saul' the name or title 'Paul' developed as a way of disguising the apostle's real identity as Mark the companion of Peter and more importantly the understanding that his gospel - that is 'the gospel according to Mark' - was not sanctioned by his master Peter?  We shall revisit this idea later in our investigation.

Our present interest in merely establishing the most basic 'truth' about the gospel narrative - that is, when did it 'happen'?  The gospel according to Luke, that text which is supposed to represent 'my gospel' - that is 'Paul's gospel' - and at the same time an expansion of the primitive gospel faithfully written down by Mark for Peter, is our only source for this critical historical information.  So the next logical question emerges, whether or not 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' was already present in this text - that is, the orthodox version of the 'secret gospel' treasured by the Marcionite community and preserved by them as the original gospel 'according to Mark' (undoubtedly because 'Mark' was really 'Paul')?

After reviewing all the surviving evidence it will be determined that 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' was undoubtedly a deliberate misrepresentation of the original reading 'the fifteenth of Tybi' - that is, the fifth month in the Egyptian calendar.  We know this from a reference made in the writings of a prominent Alexandrian Church Father from the turn of the third century named Clement.  The reference was first noted by George Mead at the turn of the last century who cites the reference as follows:

"They of Basilides," says Clement, "celebrate His Baptism by a preliminary night-service of readings; and they say that 'the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar' means the fifteenth day of the month Tybi." It was then that the Father "in the likeness of a dove"--which they explained as meaning the Minister or Holy Spirit--came upon Him. In "the fifteenth [year] of Tib[erius]" we have, then, perhaps an interesting glimpse into the workshop of the "historicizers." [Fragments of a Faith Forgotten p. 278]

The original reference in the manuscripts of Clement make clear that the author is moving on from determining the date of Jesus's birth to that of his baptism and then we hear:

φασὶ δὲ εἶναι τὸ πεντεκαιδέκατον ἔτος Τιβερίου Καίσαρος τὴν πεντεκαιδεκάτην τοῦ Τυβὶ μηνός, τινὲς δὲ αὖ τὴν ἑνδεκάτην τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός

they say that the 'fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar' the fifteenth day of the month Tybi while some the eleventh of the same month

To this end it would seem that Mead's interpretation of this passage is correct - at least one heretical group's gospel began with a reference to a specific day rather than a year - i.e. 'the fifteenth of Tybi' rather than 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' - leaving open the question of what the actual year wide open for speculation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Understanding the New Paradigm for a Gospel Set in 20 - 21 CE

The fact that we know that:

  1. 'the fifteenth of Tybi' is a recognized variant of 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' and
  2. Marcion is explicitly associated with the Egyptian calendar of twelve months (which includes 'Tybi') by Tertullian (Adv Marc 1.19)

It supports the idea that the Marcionite reading here was 'the fifteenth of Tybi.'  Indeed look at the context of the passage from Tertullian:

For the time it must suffice to follow up bur present argument so far as to prove, and that in few words, that Christ Jesus is the representative of no other god than the Creator. 'In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar Christ Jesus vouchsafed to glide down from heaven, a salutary spirit.' In what year of the elder Antoninus the pestilential breeze (aura canicularis) of Marcion's salvation, whose opinion this was, breathed out from his own Pontus, I have forborne to inquire. But of this I am sure, that he is an Antoninian heretic, impious under Pius. Now from Tiberius to Antoninus there are a matter of a hundred and fifteen and a half years and half a month.

Tertullian is following Irenaeus is trying to establish Marcion as a heretic who can be dated to the middle of the second century.  However our other sources make clear he comes from a much earlier period - undoubtedly the first century.

Tertullian's point is that Jesus was identified in Marcion's gospel as coming according to the rising of the Dog-star Sirius rather than 'the fifteenth of Tiberius' as in Luke.  The fifteenth of Tybi is also identified as the date which the Ascension occurred according to the Pistis Sophia.  Given that the Egyptian tradition explicitly identifies a single year to Jesus's ministry (not only Clement and Origen but Irenaeus's attack against 'heresies' which certainly included Marcion) the fifteenth of Tybi was both the start and the end of the gospel.

The early Egyptian gnostic text the Pistis Sophia also tells us that the Egyptian lunar calendar was meant here because the fifteenth is also identified with a full moon.  Given that the Hebrew calendar began in the spring the equivalent of 'the fifteenth of Tybi' would be the fifteenth of Kislev.  Why is that significant?  Because a gospel which announced the coming of Jesus from heaven on this date would clearly connect the Christian message with the 'abomination of desolation' both in Daniel 9:24 - 27 and more specifically with the events of Hanukkah.

For in 1 Maccabees we explicitly read the date of the fulfillment of Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophesy as taking place in the very same date:

Now the fifteenth day of the month Kislev, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Judah on every side. (1 Maccabees 1:54)

We shall discuss the implications of this new paradigm over the next few days, but the obvious point of departure here is to revisit the underlying point of Daniel's expectation.  Everyone agrees that Antiochus Epiphanes's actions profaned the temple.  The Maccabean apologists claim that they managed to 'cleanse' the altar of impurities.  But clearly not every Jewish group agreed.

Even though Daniel 9:24 - 27 was clearly written for and after the events associated with Antiochus Epiphanes the normative interpretation of Jews and Christians now is that it applies to the capture of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  Why is that?  Because Daniel's prophesy clearly doesn't 'jibe' with the positive message of the Maccabean propagandists.  In other words, there must have been a group that did not think the temple had been purified or even that it was still in a state of impurity.  The Maccabeans acted as is everything had been 'fixed' in spite of Antiochus's actions (much like optimists continuing to invest in the stock market after the events of 2008).  Nevertheless a hard core group of critics (probably marginalized priests after the Maccabean and Hasmonean eras) argued that the altar was no longer sacred and without a holy place sacrifices could no longer take place.

The gospel story then and the specific Marcionite interpretation of that original text necessarily begin with Daniel's understanding - written after the events of 168 CE - that sacrifices could no longer take place in Jerusalem.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Further Support For the Idea that the Gospel Narrative was set c 20 CE

The physical stones of the temple were never destroyed or knocked over during the Roman capture of Jerusalem c 70 CE.  Josephus makes this explicit.  All he says is that a fire destroyed and profaned the holy place within the temple.  As such these words cannot have applied to the temple given that Mark wrote them undoubtedly after the capture of the city of Jerusalem:

‘See ye this construction?  Verily I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another which shall not be taken away; and this generation shall not pass until the destruction begin.  For they shall come, and shall sit here, and shall besiege it, and shall slay your children here.’

This is taken from the text of the gospel associated with the author of the Clementine literature.  Nevertheless it underscores the very same point as the synoptic texts.  The implication is clearly that Jesus was pointing to the construction of the walls of Jerusalem recent archaeological discoveries properly date to 18 CE and later.
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