Why I Think Revelation Was The Earliest Christian Text

Full Text of Revelation:  http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/revelation-kjv.html

Revelation chapters 1-3 was probably written between 130 and 160, as tensions grew between the Johannines (and their southern counterparts, the Syrians) and the more Alexandrian sects, such as the Cerinthians, Marcionites, and Valentinians; interestingly enough, the text in those first chapters reveal precisely what Valentinus would have called a “spiritual immaturity”.

One can’t read the Johannine “prologue” of Revelation without noticing the writer’s very unChristian-like hate for the Nicolatians.

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Here’s what Irenaeus says about the Nicolatians:

The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas [my note: he was from Antioch, Syria] who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.

…John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith, and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that knowledge (gnosis) falsely so called

The Johannines are taking aim at a Syrian!  Why should that be?  Weren’t the Johannines and the Syrians roughly equivalent in their theology, save for a couple mystical practices?

I think Nicolas, like Valentinus, found the theologies of the Alexandrians (and maybe even Marcion) more attractive than those of James (the more Jewish practitioner), and they were trying to create a “safe space” for practice of a higher level of Christianity…sort of like modern Scientology.  So the Nicolatians split off from the core Syrians, notably Ignatius’ sect.  There must have been some nuance in this dynamic, as tradition holds that Valentinians remained members of the orthodoxy, despite having more celestial concerns than the garden variety Johannine Christian.

There was a rift in the first half of the 2nd century, and there are snapshots in the New Testament that capture it; those snapshots pretend the rift was happening 40 to 60 years earlier than it was, probably because the people adding historical legitimacy to Christianity, namely the Johannines and Irenaeus, needed a plausible timeline that linked the Johannines to the Apostle John, despite the fact that the Apostle John (probably) never existed.   This explains why Polycarp and Ignatius, according to tradition, were made to be born much earlier than they actually were, 35 and 69, respectively; there needed to be plausible apostolic authority for the Johannines and the Syrians, and a pretend link between Polcarp/Ignatius and the Apostle John was invented and defended by Irenaeus.  In actuality, they probably both were born around the late 1st or early 2nd century, and were contemporaries of Marcion and Valentinus.

The rift related to spiritual maturity and mysticism:  the Johannines and the Syrians eventually reduced the role of mysticism in their theologies, and those “Alexandrian” practitioners such as Marcion and Valentinus, did not; a claim made at the time by Valentinus was that Paul revealed a deeper Christian insight to his companion Theudas, who then shared it with Valentinus; Valentinus could then leverage that insight to talk to Jesus beyond the grave.

The original Revelation begins at chapter 4, and it was not written by the Johannines.

When you start reading the abstract dissertation in Revelation 4 and onward, you get insight into how early Christians were thinking:

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

Right away, we get this sort of “visionary” mysticism that, ironically enough, the Johannines tried to stamp out in the Gospel of John 3:13 by saying it was only Jesus who saw heaven:  “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man”.

In this light, isn’t it amazing that Christian scholars can’t seem to figure out that these two Johannine texts, both claimed to have been written by John the Apostle, later corroborated by Irenaeus, could not possibly have been written by the same person, let alone an illiterate Aramaic speaking fisherman?  In fact, it’s quite obvious (to me anyway) that John and Revelation didn’t even come from the same sect!

Christianity always had a dying-and-rising Godman, whose original purpose was to free human wisdom (Sophia) from the ruler of the earth (Ialdabaoth), and then, if he had time, go back and save humans, and take on an Anubis-like role, where he would help humans navigate the stars after death to rejoin the Pleroma (heaven).

Consider Revelation 16:

And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
[18] And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
[19] And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

I think the earthquake signifies a new pathway to be travelled between the Pleroma, Kenoma, and Cosmos, and I think this pathway is what allowed spiritually mature Christians to travel past Ialdabaoth and his archons undetected.

Look at Revelation 12:

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

The sun and moon references are clear references to the notions of the bridegroom and bride (nomenclature the Johannines indeed adopted) – the woman was Jesus’ mother who gave birth, but this birth occurred in heaven!  Heaven was where Jesus lived in this theology.  It might very well be that Jesus’ mother was Sophia, and that the dragon depicted who wanted to eat Jesus was actually Yaldabaoth, or perhaps the archon who had a dragon’s face:  Sabaoth (alternatively, it could be that archon described in Pistis Sophia, Xarmarōch).

The requisite flip side of the coin for theologies that rely on dying-and-rising Godmen.  If there’s a destination past the stars that the dead need help navigating, there needs to be some revelation about what that journey looks like, how it relates to the earth, and what it’s like there.

There are a few reasons why I think Revelation came first:

  1.  It is so much different than every other text in the New Testament, it makes sense that it might have come first or last.  Given that the emerging orthodoxy was beginning to shun this sort of mysticism, I think it came first
  2. It has a very “mystery school” feel – I think Christianity came from the mystery schools, and the text seems like one of those texts that might have been withheld from the “spiritually immature”…this is just speculation, though
  3. The Irenaeus story.  There’s a story about John running away from Cerinthus in a bathhouse.  Later Christians claimed Cerinthus had written Revelation.  There’s a reason why Irenaeus was painting Cerinthus as an “enemy of the truth”…it’s because he wanted to distract people from that concern
  4. Again, Irenaeus mentions Cerinthus in the same breath as the Apostle John and the Nicolaitians.  The Revelation 1-3 prologue was written as a hit job against those people who were on Cerinthus’ side: Marcion, Nicolas, and (perhaps) Valentinus
  5. Marcion tells us his predecessor, Cerinthus, wrote it…14 years before Marcion was active, sometime around 112, probably when Pliny the Younger wrote his letter to Trajan.  Of course, there is no explicit claim made by Marcion, as Marcion has been more or less erased from history (I wonder why…); rather, the claim is made by Marcion’s proxy and doppelganger, Paul, and it has managed to outlive Marcion in 2 Corinthians 12:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations.

I doubt I’ll ever really have a strong opinion about whether Marcion’s claimed teacher, Cerdo, and Cerinthus are really the same person.  I think this hypothesis works, regardless of whether or not they were 2 people; in fact, it actually makes a little more sense if they were separate people, because, if we put Cerinthus in Alexandria, and we put Cerdo in Syria (I’m not just inventing those geographic locations; these are speculations made by other people), then Christianity’s travels from Alexandria to Northern Turkey get more plausible, because it explains the anecdote about how Marcion “discovered” Paul’s letters in Syria.

Consider a few assumptions:

  1.  Cerinthus wrote Revelation sometime in the first decade of the 2nd century
  2. Marcion wrote a chunk of the Synoptic narrative
  3. Marcion and Cerinthus were (more than loosely) acquainted
  4. Marcion invented in entirety, or added to significantly, most of the Pauline texts (save for the Pastorals)

In this context, why would Marcion create the Synoptic narrative if he already had Paul?

One conclusion is that Marcion didn’t craft the Synoptic narrative, a view Robert M. Price holds.

The other assumption, if we presume Valentinus split from a more Syrian sect because he was too liberal in his mystical point of view, it might very well be that an emerging paradigm was that there were 2 separate Christianities – one for the initiants, and one for the spiritually mature.

In that case, the Synoptic gospels (Mark and/or Luke) might very well have been recruiting tools that offered an entry point for “truth seekers”, and Revelation and other texts were reserved for those who understood the broader Christian paradigm.


Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

4 thoughts on “Why I Think Revelation Was The Earliest Christian Text”

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