I posted a ridiculously long Youtube video attempting to organize my current thoughts on the advent of Christianity. View at your own risk!
Names were fluid among early Christians. Paul and Saul, Peter and Cephas, Matthew and Levi, Joseph and Barnabas, James and Stephen…a tangled web indeed!
Why should such a phenomenon happen? There are various quasi-apologetics that attempt to solve this puzzle, including the Jews-often-had-Greek-names explanation.
From my perspective, much of this name confusion is explained by a couple impulses among Jewish Christians:
- As the religion evolved, prominent characters in the original stories were replaced with newer ones, who reflected the day’s leaders.
- Straw man characters were created, and filled with attributes of former leaders, now fallen from grace. Simon Magus is one example of this.
I believe the Apostle Jude, who was also called Thaddeus and Judas, is a key piece in this puzzle. This Jude, who shows up in the Gospels and Acts, also went by Thaddeus; this name would have been interpreted as Theudas by later outsiders, including Josephus.
Recall the story of Theudas: a messianic leader in the early to mid 40s, who had numerous followers. He took his disciples to the Jordan River and performed various water rituals, including parting the river. His religious movement must have irritated Roman procurator Cuspius Fadus, because Fadus sent soldiers to behead Theudas, break up the cult, and bring his head back to Jerusalem.
Sounds familiar, yes? This is strikingly similar to the story of John the Baptist. Throw in some legend and dramatic license, and the literary conversion from Theudas to John the Baptist is self-evident. Recall that Clement of Alexandria tells us that Theudas and the Apostle Paul had a student-teacher relationship (Stromateis 7.17), and what it looks like is that the stories of Theudas and Paul were altered to render a Gospel story which featured composite characters who resembled secular figures plucked from the annals.
Thaddeus’s rearranged name looks remarkably like Theudas. Indeed, I believe the two are the same person. There were evolving traditions surrounding Jude and Thaddeus. In Mark 3:18 and Matthew 10:3, Jude is omitted, and replaced with Thaddeus. Yet, Jude is referred to as an apostle in the Gospels of Luke (Lk 6:16), John (Jn 14:22), and Acts (Acts 1:13). It is easy to understand why later scribes might have done this, especially considering how sullied the name Judas (the long form of Jude) became.
Tradition holds that Thaddeus came from Edessa, which is 250 miles East of Tarsus, in modern Turkey (Syria at the time). In the Epistle of Jude, Judas-Thaddeus called himself the brother of James, and in some cases, specifically the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jude was the brother of Jesus! Jude held such a revered position in the early church that he got his own book in the New Testament.
The most (in)famous Judas in Christianity is Judas Iscariot, whose last name seems an anagram of the Sicarii, those religious fanatics who roamed Judea in the 1st century with curved blades, ready to kill or circumcise anyone who lacked reverence to the holy texts. Judas is the last disciple selected in Mark, which is interesting in light of Mark 9:35, which has Jesus telling his disciples that the last shall be first.
In Simon vs. Judas, I pointed out an intriguing alternative tradition: for the Basilideans, and later Muslims, Simon of Cyrene inherited the Spirit from Jesus (or was simply crucified in place of Jesus) prior to crucifixion. Yet in the Islamic text, the Gospel of Barnabas, Judas is crucified in place of Jesus, so that Jesus can perform final cleanup tasks prior to departing earth (or at least Judea!).
This difference might be chalked up to frivolous license taken by later scribes; my speculation is that these were separate traditions which referred to and revered separate people; the most revered one would be the one who played the key role to help the Gospel Jesus trick the rulers (Mark 3:22-26) of the Earth to divide on themselves, and thus open a pathway (John 14:6) for believers to get out of the lower realms and to the Pleroma (or at least something better than the current Sphere).
The fact that Judas-Thaddeus is identified as an early follower of John the Baptist is relevant here, as such an explicit link may indicate that John and Judas share the same root person. Another alternative is that Theudas/Thaddeus were followers of John the Baptist, and met a similar fate.
Jude and Paul
Consider a passage from the Epistle of Jude:
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you…Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.
Jude shares a similar political sentiment as Paul that some have injected themselves into Christian communities and corrupted them, such as Galatians 2:4
This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves
The difference between Paul and Jude comes because the two seem diametrically opposed in their theological concerns (various parts of Galatians paint a picture of Paul as an adversary to Jude’s concerns, and vice versa).
Jude even uses a Greek term, skotous, which refers to darkness, and which is almost exclusively reserved for the Pauline letters; I think it is clear Jude is writing with Paul in mind. This term is used in the context of “wandering stars” and “wild waves of the sea” in Jude 1:13, which would seem to refer to Marcionite communities, as Marcion (Paul’s most zealous student) was presumed to be a mariner.
It is interesting that Jude invokes Egypt in his description of those infiltrators, especially considering that Acts of the Apostles 21:38 specifically equates Paul to the Egyptian whom Josephus described in Wars and Antiquities. The fact that Josephus conveys that the Egyptian stirred up the masses and then escaped from Judea is fascinating here, as both the Simon of Cyrene and Judas traditions have those characters assisting Jesus in escaping the cross. Likewise, interesting traditions about both of these characters rang prominent in Egypt, specifically with the Sethians and Basilideans, both groups explicitly linked to Egypt.
It seems that altered histories, either conveyed by original apostles or lifted straight out of Josephus and other accounts, were reworked to cast the revered leader du jour in the best light possible, and often as a method to sanitize and synthesize a variety of Judean leaders, who lived decades or centuries earlier, and whose theologies were out of fashion by the time later writers were crafting the Gospels.
In 2 Corinthians 11:4, the Apostle Paul gives a remarkable insight into early Christianity:
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
There are a variety of interpretations for Paul here. One is that Paul believes that others are corrupting the Good News. This is economical enough; we certainly get the sense throughout Paul’s authentic texts that Paul saw Cephas, Apollo, John, and James, along with their followers (see Galatians 2, 1 Cor 1, 1 Cor 3) as his theological adversaries.
In my view, Paul was an adoptionist. He saw himself as the earthly manifestation of Christ. He was a slave to Christ (Philemon 1:1); his actions were compelled by the Christ Spirit, just like Jesus was in the Gospel of Mark. As an aside, I also presume the Gospel of Mark was set in a realm which was a perfect image of our Earth (see Irenaeus, AH i.25), and that Simon of Cyrene (a cipher for Paul), who received the Christ Spirit in Mark 15, received it in that other realm, and was reborn into this earthly realm.
Paul admits he was not the first to receive the Christ Spirit; it even seems the case, in light of 1 Corin 1:11-13 and 1 Corin 3, that, in Paul’s framework, there may be multiple living concurrent encapsulators of the Christ (alternatively, an individual may possess the Christ spirit for a finite amount of time, until some catalyst compels it out).
Consider the first passage, 2 Cor 11:4, in this context. Others who (claim to) possess the Christ are preaching and corrupting his readers’ interpretation of Christianity. Such a paradigm would imply Jesus Christ, far from being the Galilean minister, is simply one who has encapsulates the Christ Spirit in the present generation. Paul is saying that his congregants should disregard Cephas, Apollo, or any other Christ claimant, and listen to him instead, because his Christ possession is the true one.
This puts a claim about an early Christian sect called the Nazarenes, made by early church father and heresiologist, Epiphanius of Salamis (Panarion 22.214.171.124), into context:
[The Nazarenes believed] Until [Christ] came the rulers were anointed priests*, but after his birth in Bethlehem of Judea the order ended and was altered in the time of Alexander
Alexander of Judea died in 48BCE! That is nearly 100 years before the supposed death of Jesus Christ! Were the Nazarenes Epiphanius described misguided fools? Inventing history on the fly? Con artists trying to rewrite Jesus? Victims of Epiphanius’s libel?
The Nazarenes were adoptionists too! The earliest Christians were. They had a very specific idea of who the Christ was, and it was not Paul.
[The Ebionites] use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law
There were multiple Jesus Christs feeding into the Gospel traditions, none of which provide a perfect match. This theory explains nearly every serious problem in the Christian tradition. It explains why we cannot find Jesus in the secular record, how Christianity spread so fast, why we have such a dissonant picture of Jesus’s views in the canonical texts, and why the so-called heresies were so divergent from the eventual Orthodoxy.
The solution is simple. Different Paraclete encapsulators, who were referred to as the Christ (or perhaps the Standing One in Samaria), were preaching different and evolving Gospels.
When the time came to assemble a canon and make it Orthodox, traditions from multiple sects fed into the official Jesus character. It did not matter that these views were incompatible. All that mattered is that people accepted it.
Traditional consensus gives us an approximation of Christianity’s advent: Jesus ministers in Judea, and collects followers who would later become known as the Ebionites. Several of Jesus’s original followers scatter throughout the Diaspora and collect followers of their own. A renegade Pharisee, oppressor-turned-ally, Paul, takes the message to the Gentiles, who toss out the sacrilegious Paganism which permeates their land, and become initiates into Paul’s mystery. In subsequent centuries, Christians have run-ins with various emperors, until finally Constantine sees “the truth” and adopts Christianity on everyone’s behalf.
Anyone, from the staunchest atheist to the most zealous Christian, can accept this narrative and be roughly in-line with historical consensus.
It Doesn’t Work
There are problems with this narrative, though. Lots of them. For example, why are there no Hebrew Christian writings? Did Jews in Judea not write religious texts? That’s ridiculous! Qumran is full of scrolls written in Hebrew by the same type of people, who lived at the same time in roughly the same place as the earliest Christians.
And those Ebionites, who correlate to characters in the Gospels and epistles, resembling the earliest Jesus-followers, as well as “the poor” and “the saints of Jerusalem” Paul wrote about in Galatians and 2 Corinthians, evidently used a Matthew-like Gospel, which implies they relied on Mark, a text written by an author who was clueless about Judean culture and geography.
Even if we presume Matthew’s author had actually stepped foot in the geographic area the Gospel discusses, we still have the problem that the text was clearly written in Greek (decades after Jesus’s supposed ministry). Scholars point out that the traditions described in the Gospels must have had a Hebrew origin; therefore, evidently, it is economical to presume that the Greek Gospels were simply written versions of earlier Hebrew oral traditions. This is complete and utter bullshit.
The most economical formulation derived from this detail is not that there was a mysterious, long-lost Hebrew Gospel story circulating throughout the Diaspora. Rather, the most economical presumption is that the Gospels were written by Diaspora Jews, who lived varying distances from Judea!
Paul also does not assert that the Ebionites were the earliest Christians. Rather, according to Paul, Cephas was the earliest (or at least earlier) Christian, followed by 512 people. Finally, James, the figurehead for the Ebionites, received the Spirit (1 Corin 15).
Paul gives us the person he sees as the first Christian: it’s Cephas! He also tells us where Christianity goes astray: when the law-abiding Ebionites started to influence Cephas and his eating habits (Gal 2).
Cephas and Cerinthus
Consider one of my speculations, that Cephas and Cerinthus are one-in-the-same. I made this case a few months ago, although I didn’t invent the idea. One of the most remarkable passages in Irenaeus’s tome against the heretics is in AH i.26, when he describes Cerinthus and the Ebionites. The remarkable feature of that passage is that the Ebionites were similar to Cerinthus in all but one detail, the matter of the Earth’s creator (and by extension, the most high).
We learn from Irenaeus that the Ebionites had a staunch reverence for Jerusalem, similar to the way modern Muslims might revere Mecca. Notice that Irenaeus’s assertion does not imply the Ebionites lived in Jerusalem. In fact, it is quite more reasonable to presume they did not.
This presumption ties in with early Christianity’s concern for the New Jerusalem, which I think was the concern from the very beginning of Christianity, and which springs up inside and outside of the eventual Orthodoxy.
Cerinthus had a Demiurge (a lower creator of the Earth); according to Irenaeus, Cerinthus’s Demiurge was inferior angels, rather than the most high. This is the most explicit contrast we can find between Cerinthus and the Ebionites.
We are also told from various church fathers that Cerinthus used a sans virgin-birth Gospel of Matthew; Irenaeus implies that Cerinthus used something he might have recognized as the Gospel of Mark (AH i.26.1, AH iii.11.7).
Cerinthus, The Ebionites, and Matthew
Consider the speculation here:
If Cephas and Cerinthus are the same, and Cerinthus used a Gospel which resembled Mark and Matthew, and Cephas preceded James and the Ebionites, then we must presume that Cerinthus’s Gospel precedes anyone who was a native Hebrew speaker (if we presume Cerinthus was not a native Hebrew speaker – several church fathers put him in Roman Asia and Egypt). Rather, the impulse to Judaize Jesus came once Cerinthus’s theology took hold among Jews who had more reverence for the mother land than the earlier Christians did.
The fact that Cerinthus is likewise linked with (and purported to be the author of) Revelation is consequential here, as Revelation, like the Ebionite concern, gives insight into what New Jerusalem was. New Jerusalem was the return of the proper lady to the temple, and the purge of the whore of Babylon (which I think was the Babylonian influence on the 2nd temple, along with the temple which separated the Holy of Holies within it).
Pseudo-Tertullian gives corroboration to my point:
[Cerinthus’s] successor was Ebion, not agreeing with Cerinthus in every point
There are problems with the validity of the above statement, notably the notion that Ebion was a historical figure (he probably was not, although it is not entirely implausible that Ebion was James). Pseudo-Tertullian draws on Irenaeus to formulate his opinion, which means he may have been making a similar inference I am.
However, this chronology of Cerinthus and the Ebionites strikes me as more plausible, given my earlier presumption that the earliest Christianities were written by Diaspora Jews, and were eventually taken up by proto-Matthew communities which were much more attached to their Judaism than their earlier counterparts were.
In this theory, Cerinthus takes his proto-Synoptic Gospel, along with the deeper mystery text, proto-Revelation, throughout Asia and into Syria, coming into contact with various Nasaraene communities, who were likewise concerned with the restoration of the lady to the holy land. Many Nasaraenes, including the Montanists, were indeed concerned with creating a new holy land, since Jerusalem became increasingly uninhabitable for Jews between 70CE and 140CE.
Early Christianity was very modular. For some sects, the most high God was Yahweh. Other sects plugged in different Gods – a plethora, it would seem, based on the views of the Marcionites, Valentinians, Sethians, and Manicheans. The matter of who the beloved apostle was a modular replacement in the Gospels of Mark and John – Mark had the “last disciple”, Simon of Cyrene, being the recipient of the (proto) Paraclete, where John seems to have Lazarus as the “beloved disciple” (Jn 11:5). Various modules within the mystery seem custom-made to support component replacement.
Part of these divergences is explained by evolution of the religion and cultural influences, but others, I think, were political gamesmanship.
Like the Basilidean case of the Spirit hopping to Simon of Cyrene, a Judas Iscariot tradition invoked a similar mechanism: the crucifixion of the unintended person would trick the rulers of this earth, thus causing division in this material hellhole via a cascade of dissonance – killing an innocent man, killing the incorrect man, thus forcing Satan to divide himself.
Jesus alludes to this requisite confusion in Mark 3:23-24
So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand
The Christ Spirit compelled Jesus-man to say this because it foreshadowed the Spirit’s true intention: to divide Satan (the ruler of this earth) and bring his rule to the end. Jesus finishes this soliloquy with an allusion to the centerpiece of the mystery
…whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin
Mark gave the Spirit the utmost priority; my speculation is that this Spirit, which was the communication mechanism that Wisdom used to communicate to Jesus and other Paraclete encapsulators on Earth (also see Rev 17:19), was an early version of the Logos (Word). It seems to me, in light of John 1, and the passage “through him all things were created”, that the Logos and the Spirit must have been interchangeable (or at least in the same evolutionary line) at times. Mark’s defense of the spirit also suggests that it was the only way to return to the father. Compare that to the later Gospel of John, which has Jesus (the Logos) being the only way to the father (Jn 14:6).
In Against Heresies i.31, Irenaeus describes a curious group of Christians called the Cainites. It is difficult to know whether this was the term the group would have called itself; rather, I suspect that Irenaeus was claiming they revered Cain, as opposed to Seth or Abel, which would imply they revered the line of humanity which advocated and invented murder.
Irenaeus alludes to a Gospel the Cainites used
They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.
Interestingly, and exactly corresponding to the sort of data I would expect under my current theory (which has the deeper layer of the Christian mysteries reverent to the divine feminine), the Cainites resembled Carpocrates (and by extension, the Marcionites), with their presumption that this material world will not be exited without paying “the very last farthing”; by extension, those members “must render unto Caesar” his material demands. The Cainites believed the creator of the Earth was a figure named Hystera, which is a reference to the female uterus – clearly (IMHO) an allusion to the divine feminine.
It is not clear whether the Gospel of Judas Irenaeus referenced was the same one discovered in Egypt in the 1970s – I’m personally agnostic about whether it is. My point though is that Irenaeus was aware of a group (or groups) who kept a positive view of Judas, despite his villainy in the Gospel story. If Judas was a means to the desired end, then it is not a stretch to presume that some groups would have seen him as necessary (*of course, Judas must have been necessary according to modern Christians as well, although there does not seem to be such compulsion to keep Judas’s necessity in mind).
As with the Islamic tradition about Simon of Cyrene, which is clearly derivative of the Basilidean tradition, the Gospel of Barnabas, which is a text remembered by Muslims, and has been for centuries. In Barnabas, Judas assumes Simon of Cyrene’s role as Jesus’s facilitator:
And the disciples were sleeping. Whereupon the wonderful God acted wonderfully, insomuch that Judas was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus that we believed him to be Jesus… And John, who was wrapped in a linen cloth, awoke and fled, and when a soldier seized him by the linen cloth he left the linen cloth and fled naked…The soldiers took Judas ;and bound him, not without derision. For he truthfully denied that he was Jesus…Those disciples who did not fear God went by night [and] stole the body of Judas and hid it, spreading a report that Jesus was risen again; whence great confusion arose…And Jesus lifted up his mother and the others from the ground, saying: ‘Fear not, for I am Jesus; and weep not, for I am alive and not dead.’
In Barnabas, Jesus’s trickery results in Judas’s death. This trickery also saves Jesus from the cross so he can perform final cleanup prior to ascending with angels to heaven.
In this sense, the similarity between Simon of Cyrene and Judas is in their support of Jesus’s trick, although Barnabas seems to have lost the roaming Paraclete notion. A closing passage in Barnabas reminds us of tension among sects:
Others preached, and yet preach, that Jesus is the Son of God, among whom is Paul deceived.
Simon of Cyrene is treated well by pro-Paul factions. Matthew (which was used by Ebionites – a group hostile to Paul) undercuts Mark’s kindness to Simon of Cyrene, by cutting Jesus’s pleasantry about “whomever is not against us is with us” (Mk 9:40, Mthw 12:30), as well as the associated kindness to the unnamed demon-caster, which I presume to be a foreshadowing of Simon of Cyrene (Mk 9:38, Mthw 7:22). In other words, Barnabas, a text with clear Muslim affiliation, remembers traditions and sentiments of the Ebionites, that group which hated Paul (Ir. AH i.26.2)
The feature the Paulinists and the Ebionites shared is that Jesus’s death was surrounded by confusion and trickery, and this trickery served to undercut Satan. The divergence centered around who the facilitator was – Simon of Cyrene or Judas Iscariot.
I recently had the honor of being interviewed by my favorite podcaster, Miguel Conner on his Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio podcast (interview should be out sometime in February!). Author and owner of The Aeon Eye website, Alex Rivera, (who I frequently read) also joined, and we all geeked out on early Christian heresy. Miguel’s show engineer, Vance also contributed.
Despite my own nerves during the interview, we managed to have a productive conversation about a variety of topics which I’ve written about in the past, and touched on Mithraism, the Cathars, and a few other associated topics.
We covered a broad range of topics which centered around my theory on the development of early Christianity. One of the topics I did not articulate as well as I would have liked centered around Gnosticism, and in particular how Gnosticism emerged out of Paul’s letters and Mark’s Gospel. I’ve written about Mark’s Gnosticism in Part 1 and Part 2 of “Is The Gospel of Mark Gnostic?”, but there are details in this topic which I thought deserve articulation, and which I struggled to articulate in the interview.
In this post, I will offer a supplement to the Aeon Byte interview, give my take on Gnosticism, and attempt to describe the bridge between Gnosticism and earlier Christian iterations in the context of Paul’s letters and Mark’s Gospel.
Gnosticism generally refers to a secret knowledge which is necessary in order to attain salvation, or some other outcome which was to the benefit of the non-material soul or spirit. This implies a connection between God and the soul, and usually includes an intermediate power preventing this connection. It also means that a clear dichotomy existed between the material world and non-material soul.
Gnosticism is a wide term, and can (and did) come in many versions. The general picture we have of early Christian Gnosticism is that it had a reverence for the divine feminine, Sophia, as a way to return to the most high God and his high heaven. Sophia’s story had many attributes. In most versions, Sophia’s attempt at wisdom constituted the first rebellion, and caused an eruption in the most high heaven, giving rise to the creator of the Earth, Yaldabaoth (Yahweh). Sophia also served as the way out of Adam and Eve’s false paradise (described in Genesis) and the real divine place. An interesting, and almost certainly non-accidental coincidence is that Mariamne (the long form of Mary) means rebel.
Sophia served as humanity’s link between this world and the realm above. In a sense, Sophia’s imperfection was a metaphor for our own.
An implication in this story is that the material world is ruled by creators who were hostile to humanity or sought to exploit or undermine material beings. To many Gnostics and heretics who espoused similar views (including Marcion), the malevolence of the world’s rulers is detectable in the Old Testament with a God who flooded the earth and drowned everyone. Of course, one need not look far in the Old Testament to detect other hostility towards humans.
The injection of the Demiurge (creator) into the creation story provides a better response to the world’s evils than the day’s Orthodox Judaism did.
The earliest version of Christianity, for the moment excluding Pauline Christianity, produced a Gospel something like Mark. This Christianity was adoptionistic, which presumed that Jesus was ordinary, but received a special collection of powers and a communication mechanism with God after his baptism. This Christianity alluded to deeper mysteries which were probably quite Gnostic looking – the special communication the Christ encapsulator had with God rendered outcomes and worldviews that were inconsistent with surrounding Jewish Orthodoxy; indeed, that was the most recurring theme of the Gospel. I believe that this earlier version probably included mysteries which were similar to the story found in Revelation, where a divine woman, whose spirit underlies the earliest Jewish temple, gives birth to the Davidic messiah. The woman was replaced on earth by a female impostor who represented the replacement temple. One gripe among these early Christians was that this replacement temple’s construction was ushered in by Babylonians, and was subsequently controlled by those who would eventually surrender its control to Pagans, Rome, and economic hedonism (as represented by the money changers, etc). Based on the contents of Revelation, I presume this version of Christianity sought the return of an archaic version of Judaism which described tiers of power in heaven, and which included the divine mother and anointed son, Asherah and Ba’al, who were more interactive on Earth than the most high, El, was. This older version of Judaism also had a royal priesthood which modeled itself after Melchizadek, rather than Aaron.
An Early Splinter
This earliest Christianity would have then splintered off into a break between the Ebionites, Cerinthians, and Paulinists. From the Ebionites emerged various Nazarene iterations. The Cerinthians were roughly synonymous with the Petrines, and similar to the Basilideans. The Paulinists produced the Marcionites, Johannines, Carpocratians, and Valentinians. There were also groups which did not fit into these broad categories, and subsequently evolved into the Mandaeans, Manicheans, and other groups which survived for some time in the East, from the Arabian Peninsula and into Asia.
Ba’al Correlates To Jesus
One piece of support for this presumption of a link between the Gospel of Mark and a concern for the son, Ba’al is found in Mark 3:22-23
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul [another name for Ba’al]! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come
Notice Jesus’s strange reply in the above passage. “How can Satan drive out Satan?” Jesus spoke in parables, which alerts the reader that an encryption will follow. Jesus’s response is hardly an explicit rejection of the teachers’ accusation. There is also no explicit allowance of Ba’al’s equivalence to Satan. Jesus is performing spin, and the hidden meaning would have been revealed for deeper initiates in the Christian mystery. Jesus is speaking in a completely different paradigm than his accusers; indeed, Jesus was possessed by a Spirit, and that’s spirit’s root included Ba’al, the Spirit which served as the other half of the feminine spirit. Jesus also alludes to something quite interesting here: “If Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand.” In other words, Jesus foreshadows a trick he will pull that will force Satan to oppose himself, and thus divide himself.
How would Jesus pull this trick to cause Satan to oppose and divide himself? Because the Christ Spirit leaves Jesus prior to his crucifixion, the body is rendered an innocent byproduct of the Spirit which compelled Jesus’s earlier behavior. This caused the rulers to kill an innocent man, which, in conjunction with the Spirit’s escape, catalyzes those rulers’ downfall, or otherwise open up the Christ spirit to propagate and undo the archons’ death grip on humanity. The Roman rulers on Earth are simply a metaphor for the rulers who live in celestial realms.
This explains why Jesus refuses the gall-infused wine on the cross: he was not near enough to death to take on the sin of imbibing. It also explains why Jesus doesn’t seem to refuse the wine vinegar in Mark 15:36 – the crucifixion was done, and the crime against the innocent man was complete. It also seems to be the case that the Spirit had already left Jesus. Jesus then died, and the Babylonian curtain in the temple which prohibited access to the Holy of Holies from anyone except the high priest was torn.
An Alternative Trick
There are various traditions, including the Gospel of Barnabas, which have Judas Iscariot receiving this spirit, as opposed to Simon of Cyrene. In this case, the division of Satan which Jesus alludes to in Mark 3:23 would occur because Judas encapsulates the Spirits of both Satan and the Christ.
Early Christianity probably had a spectrum, in terms of hostility to Moses and the Aaronic priesthood. The more hostile these renegade Jewish Christians were to the Orthodoxy, the more likely they were to refer to themselves as the Nasar, which Revelation 12:17 says were the brothers and sisters of the messiah. The Nasar were the children of the Queen of Heaven, who in later versions became Sophia.
On the other side of the spectrum, at least according to Acts of the Apostles 21:20, were Jewish Christians who resembled Zealots in consequential ways. In my theory, the existence of these Jamesian Christians, coupled with the chronology (in terms of authorship) of the Gospels and other Christian texts suggest that this Christianity did not originate in Judea! This is roughly consistent with Paul’s description in Galatians 2, which said that Cephas’s eating habits were on the up-and-up until men from James injected themselves and corrupted Cephas’ worldview. It also coincides with Paul’s claim in 1 Corin 15:5-8, which said Cephas’s revelation from Christ preceded James’.
Mark 1:24 alludes to a mystery underlying its adoptionistic theme. In this passage, Jesus heals a leper, and then tell him to go out and give regular lip service about Moses to the priest. The contrast Jesus drew was to say that reverence to Moses was now superfluous – there was a new sheriff in town, and he rendered Mosaic law, along with associated formalities, such as the Aaronic priesthood, moot. Like Jesus’s treatment of Ba’al in Mark 3, the entire framework of Jesus’s ministry revolved around secrecy and contrast to Jewish Orthodoxy, and his intended meaning was obfuscated by clever phrasings.
Moses And The Deuteronomic Reform
My speculation is that the closer to Jerusalem the sect was, the less hostile to Moses the group was – these groups became the Ebionites and later Nazarenes. Other groups specifically rejected a rewrite of the Torah which occurred after the King Josiah’s Deuteronomic Reform (C 630BCE), during the 2nd temple era. In my estimation, the Nasar advocated the return of the Melchizadekian priesthood which was present in the first Jewish temple, and was deprecated after King Josiah’s purge of the Queen and Ba’al. According to Epiphanius of Salamis, the Nasar also rejected the Pentateuch, the core of Moses’s writings. In his “Medicine Chest”, Epiphanius wrote that the Nasar believed they had the true writings of Moses; my speculation is that such writings remembered a Judaism much more concerned with the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, etc), and were either ambivalent or hostile to Moses and Aaron.
In this theory, Early Christians would have specifically rejected Exodus 6:3, and Moses’s interaction with God:
“I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them”.
In the above passage, Moses is injected into Orthodox Judaism, and his monotheistic God becomes equivalent to the God of the Patriarchs. Scholars have long recognized this passage as a critical and obvious insertion into a pre-existing religion.
In reality, the Patriarchs’ heavenly hierarchy would have resembled that of Cerinthus (AH i.26.1)
Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all.
In many ways, Nasarene Christianity correlates and precedes Christian Gnosticism. Both iterations had a divine woman who rendered heavenly wisdom onto earth. The fact that Irenaeus wrote that some Valentinians believed Sophia gave birth to the Logos (AH i.7.1) means that those Valentinians used Revelation, as the similarity between those Valentinians’ presumption and the narrative described within Revelation (Rev 12) is too close a match to presume otherwise. Therefore, we see an obvious thread between the Nasarenes and the Valentinians, in terms of their memory of the divine lady who gives birth to the messiah who will eventually fight the 7-headed red dragon – just like in the Canaanite tradition, where Ba’al fights the Lotar on behalf of his imprisoned mother.
The mystery references in Mark, coupled with the fact that a sect known for its deeper layers of initiation (the Valentinians) used Revelation probably means Revelation was reserved for the deeper mystery. I have made the case that Cerinthus, who seems to have used Revelation and a scaled down Gospel of Matthew, fits nicely into this Nasarene/Revelation puzzle. One wonders if Paul himself was referring to Revelation when he referenced a similar notion in 2 Corin 12:2
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
Throughout Mark, the author continues to allude to deeper mysteries, such as in Mark 4:11 when Jesus says “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables”. The intermediate phase between early Christianity’s rejection of Judaism’s emerging Orthodoxy and full-on Gnosticism in Alexandrian and Syrian sects is adoptionism. Adoptionism, at least in an early (Ebionite and Cerinthian) iteration, refers to some mysterious Spirit which descended onto Jesus after his baptism.
Similar spirit transience is detectable in Mark with the demons sent by (presumably) the ruler of this world. Those spirits could also spot Jesus in a crowd, such as in Mark 1:24, where a demon infested man says to Jesus
“What do you want with us,Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Compare this to a remarkable parallel in the Gospel of Judas, where the other apostles’ spirits refuse to stand in front of Jesus, but Judas does:
“But [the apostles’] spirits did not dare to stand before [him], except for Judas Iscariot . He was able to stand before him, but he could not look him in the eyes, and he turned his face away…Judas [said] to him, “I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.”
In Mark, Jesus told the demon possessed man to be quiet. In Judas, Jesus had a long private conversation with Judas, outside of earshot of the other Apostles.
Consider an implication: Almost everything and everyone (including physical objects, such as the temple) in Mark is susceptible to manipulation by, and encapsulation of, a Spirit. The question becomes what Spirit is guiding you?
In my mind, this formulation in Mark, along with the new advent of Spirit delivery after baptism, must imply a high God separate and above the ruler of this world. Of course, this is no stretch, as many Christian sects today presume that the Earth is ruled by Satan; however, this advent originally referred to a ruler who must have had a tremendous amount of control over the Earth; why shouldn’t we presume this ruler also created the Earth?
Another Mark Consumer: Basilides
Like other early Christians who used an early Synoptic Gospel, such as Cerinthus and the Ebionites, Basilides believed the Spirit was transient. The transient Spirit left Jesus to go to Simon of Cyrene; in the process, Jesus’s switcheroo revealed premeditated trickery on the part of the Christ. This trickery, likewise present in Gnostic texts such as the Gospel of Judas, was required to overcome the stranglehold the Demiurge and his princes had over limiting material beings from rejoining the highest heaven and gaining closer access to the most high, along with his Pleroma (fullness).
To early Basilideans who espoused this belief, that must have meant that the real star of the show was Simon and the Spirit, rather than Jesus, the first Christ encapsulator, who might have just as well been understood to have gained these powers in a higher realm. In this version, Simon’s heavenly version received the Spirit from the heavenly Christ, and was then reincarnated on Earth.
Consider Irenaeus of Lyon’s description of Basilides in AH i.24.3
Then other powers, being formed by emanation from [the aeons], created another heaven similar to the first; and in like manner, when others had been formed by emanation from them, *corresponding exactly to those above* them, these, too, framed another third heaven; and then from this third, in downward order, there was a fourth succession of descendants; and so on, after the same fashion, they declare that more and more principalities and angels were formed, and three hundred and sixty-five heavens. Wherefore the year contains the same number of days in conformity with the number of the heavens.
The challenge Irenaeus’ description presents us is that, if true, such sentiments should be detectable within Basilides’ favorite Gospel, Mark. One obvious parallel is the notion of 365 heavens. The fact that Mark has Jesus’s ministry last one year (by reference to a single Passover) is correlated to this Basilidean notion.
The link between Mark and the 365 manifests in striking correlations to the zodiac. Bill Darlison in Gospel and the Zodiac purports the following link between the Gospel of Mark and signs of the zodiac
Mark 1:1-3:35 ARIES Mark 4:1-4:4 TAURUS Mark 4:35-6:29 GEMINI Mark 6:30-8:26 CANCER Mark 8:27-9:29 LEO Mark 9:30-9:50 VIRGO Mark 10:1-10:31 LIBRA MARK 10:32-10:52 SCORPIO MARK 11:1-11:26 SAGITTARIUS Mark 11:27-12:44 CAPRICORN Mark 13:1-14:16 AQUARIUS Mark 14:17- PISCES
The 365 heavens are also found in The Gospel of Judas
“The twelve aeons of the twelve luminaries constitute their father, with six heavens for each aeon, so that there are seventy-two heavens for the seventy-two luminaries, and for each 50 of the firmaments, for a total of three hundred sixty firmaments
The Basilidean notion of multiple realms which are copies of one another is analogous to the Platonic concept of forms; however, in order to build a bridge with Mark, I must again invoke the Gospel of Judas, which in my mind seems like the flip side of the Mark coin. After his conversation with Judas, the Gospel of Judas gives the following account
“Master, where did you go and what did you do when you left us?”
Jesus said to them, “I went to another great and holy generation.”
His disciples said to him, “Lord, what is the great generation that is superior to us and holier than us, that is not now in these realms?”
This notion of Jesus in other realms shows up again in the Doctrine of Carpocrates (AH i.25)
inasmuch as [Jesus Christ’s] soul was steadfast and pure, he perfectly remembered those things which he had witnessed within the sphere of the unbegotten God
Carpocrates is relevant here as I think there is much evidence that the Carpocratians are another name for Marcionites, those zealous Paul followers who assembled a Gospel of Paul’s writings. There are various lines of evidence for this assumption, not least of which was the claim by Saint Jerome that Marcellina the Carpocratian (AH i.25.6, Ep. 130, Ctes. vol. i. p. 102) was the first Marcionite to arrive in Rome. Irenaeus also intimates the Carpocratians used at least one of Paul’s letters, Romans.
One interesting thread in the memory of a realm above is that Paul’s letters seem to advocate the same thing. For instance, in Galatians 4:19, Paul makes reference to the pains he felt relating to his childbirth; this pain, says Paul, would continue until the Christ Spirit forms within his readers.
Paul makes perhaps his strangest assertion regarding his birth in 1 Cor 15:8, where, when he describes earlier Spirit recipients, he claims his reception followed James, and that his (Paul’s) former self was as one who was born of a miscarriage.
In my theory, Paul’s reference to circumstances surrounding his birth was multi-tiered. I believe this reference was in part related to the Gospel of Thomas, which said that someone was on the way who would not be born of a woman – that one is the father. But it also relates to other Gnostic notions, particularly one found in On The Origins of the Earth:
And when they had finished Adam, he abandoned him as an inanimate vessel, since he had taken form like an abortion, in that no spirit was in him… Now on the fortieth day, Sophia Zoe sent her breath into Adam, who had no soul…When Eve saw her male counterpart prostrate, she had pity upon him, and she said, “Adam! Become alive! Arise upon the earth!”
In this Gnostic story, Adam was an empty vessel prior to his receipt of the Spirit.
Epiphanius gives insight into one manifestation of a Gnostic reading of this text:
For some of them [Ebionites] even say that Adam is Christ – the man who was formed first and infused with God’s Breath
In other words, Paul claimed in 1 Corin 15 that he was simply a miscarried body until he received the Spirit. He was claiming to be a reincarnation of the first Adam!
When one analyzes other Paul oddities, a very unorthodox view emerges. Consider Galatians 4:4
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law
Paul is not talking about the Judean minister here. He is talking about himself. Paul was born of a woman under the law…that is why he claimed to be a Pharisee in Philippians 3:5. The Greek he used is telling in this case. He uses the term genomenon, which means something like “to manifest”. He indeed manifest in that he was infused with the Spirit after revelation.
The Paul/Nasar Link
Paul gives a fascinating and largely ignored detail. In Galatians 1:16-17 he gives a curious description of what he did after he received the spirit: He went to Arabia!
I did not immediately consult with anyone;nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
This is a very strange place for Paul to go. Why wouldn’t he have gone to Jerusalem, ground zero?!? Or Galilee? What was so special about Arabia?
What was special is that the Melchizadek priesthood was expelled to Arabia after Josiah’s Deuteronomic reform! The descendants of those priests who remembered a more archaic Judaism still lived there. Paul went to get instruction from them. That’s why he says things like in 1 Corin 3:16:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
Indeed his readers were the temple; the Spirit which underlies it would exist until the whore of Babylon was purged from the 2nd temple.
From Paul To Mark
My contention is that Simon of Cyrene was a cipher for Paul. I further suspect that Paul’s alternate name was Simon. This is why the Ebionites and other sects were fond of making Paul’s theology synonymous with Simon Magus. The earliest formulation was to combine attributes of other magic-centric Christian sects with Atomus (Simon), who Josephus wrote helped procurator Felix lure Herodian princess Drusilla away from her husband.
The reference to Simon bearing Jesus Christ’s cross is found in Galatians 6:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world…from now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
Further, I think Simon of Cyrene was foreshadowed in Mark 9:35-40, as being simultaneously the last apostle as well as being the unnamed demon caster who was working on Jesus’s behalf to counteract the clumsiness of the official apostles. That would explain why the Matthean (Ebionite) community was so hostile to Simon/Paul’s magic in Matthew 7:21-23.
The Gnostic Link
The Nasarene movement bore much resemblance to Gnosticism. Both espoused a hierarchy in heaven that offered limited access to the most high, but had Earthly manifestations with the mother and son. The son’s interaction on earth later evolved into the Johannine Logos (which bore similarity to the Valentinian Logos). The mystery which was so present in the Gospel of Mark was simply a continuation of the adoptionism espoused by Paul – Paul inherited the Spirit via revelation. To Paul, Christ Jesus was in a realm above, and he received the Spirit by bearing Jesus Christ’s cross. In this sense, Mark’s Gospel and Christology was very much influenced by Paul.
In The Lives of the 12 Caesars, Suetonius writes of Claudius (emperor 41-54 CE):
Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome.
There is an irony around apologetic references to this passage. Apologists cite this passage as definitive proof of Jesus Christ’s historicity; rather, this passage’s true historical value is that it proves the Gospel Jesus was a fiction. The reason is obvious: assuming these Jews in Rome were proto-Christians, Jesus would have been dead for 10 to 20 years by the time Claudius expelled them. If Suetonius was referring to Jesus Christ’s Spirit, he would have alluded to such an oddity for his reader’s benefit. The fact that Suetonius phrased the passage as he did (Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit) suggests he was referring to an individual person, rather than the dead Palestinian.
This means, in the mid-1st century, there was a Jew in Rome who called himself Chrestus (Chresto) and had a significant following. This man compelled Roman Jews to behavior which irritated the Roman government enough to expel them.
If it were not for the Christian compulsion to recall Jesus Christ’s suffering under Pontius Pilate, Suetonius’s historical record would be fodder for alternative legend: Jesus Christ escaped the cross and moved to Rome to start a new sect. However, such a hypothesis is blasphemy in any Christian congregation. An interesting and consequential aside is that the Islamic version of Jesus Christ’s death has Jesus skipping town, convincing the authorities that Simon of Cyrene was the real Jesus. The Islamic view is an obvious derivative the Basilidean view, which had the Christ Spirit hopping from the man Jesus to Simon of Cyrene.
I believe my own theory explains Suetonius well. The earliest Christianities, notably the Ebionites and Cerinthians (and by extension the Johannines, Basilideans, and Carpocratians) were adoptionists: the Christ, which doubled as the Spirit which underlies the temple and works in conjunction with the feminine Spirit, descended onto an ordinary man, whose earlier persona would die. The man would then become the Earthly Christ, and become a slave to this Spirit (Philemon 1:1).
There are several historical figures who were probably Christ claimants. One obvious character was Theudas, that mid-1st century leader who brought his followers to the Jordan River, claimed he could part it, and was beheaded and had his severed head paraded around Jerusalem.
The second Christ figure was the one whom Josephus relayed took his followers to the Mount of Olives, gathered tens of thousands of followers, and claimed he could knock down the temple walls — the Egyptian. Josephus gives this man’s fate: he escaped, and was never heard from again. This occurred during Felix’s procuratorship, which was from 52 to 58 CE. Josephus is not entirely clear when the Egyptian was active, but he mentions the Egyptian near the point where he describes Felix’s appointment, so it is likely that the Egyptian was active in the early 50s, less than 10 years after Theudas, who looks suspiciously like John the Baptist.
In my recent post, Paul and Jesus in Egypt, I pointed out a curiosity in Celsus’s polemical remarks against Jesus, specifically that Celsus believed Jesus had spent much more time in Egypt than the Gospels remember. The fact that Acts 21 has a Roman commander referring to Paul as the Egyptian is quite remarkable in this context, as it begins to look like the Jesus Christ of the Gospels is simply a construction composed of attributes primarily from this Egyptian, coupled with influence from the Jamesians, who introduced their own version of a virgin birth in the Infancy Gospel of James. In other words, the historical Jesus was cobbled together as a way to synthesize the various conflicting versions of the Platonic Jesus Christ (earthly Christ encapsulator).
In this theory, the Egyptian about whom Josephus complained in Wars 2.261 escaped to Rome to make similar proclamations as he made to the Judeans. Of course, this is in no way the most economical conclusion. The most economical assumption would be that a variety of these adoptionistic Christ encapsulators were spread throughout the Diaspora into Rome, and believed themselves to be the Christ. However, I think the two characters, the Egyptian and Chrestos, are one-in-the-same.
Acts of the Apostles 18:2 gives a hint:
And [Paul] found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome: and he came unto them
A casual observer might find Paul’s link to Pontus interesting, as the first Christian canon was assembled by our favorite Pontus native, Marcion. A more cynical reader might presume Acts’ author was attempting to explain Marcion’s heresy and reverence for Paul.
The most consequential fact hiding in this link is Marcion’s name for his Christ: Isu Chrestos. In other words, Paul, who became the Christ by bearing Christ’s cross, was Marcion’s Jesus.