Revelation 1:3 reads:
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it
It goes on to describe an old man dressed in a white robe who proclaims himself to be “the Living One…His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance”. Later, in Revelation 10, the narrator is instructed by a voice from heaven to eat a scroll (Rev 10:9-10).
Revelation has a heavenly “man of light” who conveys secret knowledge that must be transmitted orally, rather than by scroll. “Secret knowledge” is a theme repeated in many places throughout the New Testament and in Gnostic traditions, but was also a staple of ancient mystery religions.
Revelation 12 goes on to refer to a woman clothed in the sun with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. A 7-headed dragon with 10 horns (which might be a reference to the kingdoms of the time, or perhaps a reference to Daniel 7, and the lion, bear, leopard, and 10-horned beast) was waiting to devour her soon-to-be-born son. The archangel Michael waged war against the dragon and his angels, and the dragon fell out of heaven and to the Earth*. The dragon attempted to find the woman who had likewise been sent to Earth, where she and her male child were protected for 1260 days.
*Note: A fascinating bit of subtext here is that this picture of the dragon falling to the Earth is quite aligned with the Gnostic story of Sophia, who attempted a thought of her own, and as a result, generated Yaldabaoth, who subsequently created copies of himself, and called them his archons (rulers). Together they created and ruled the Earth. From that perspective, it is easy to see how Gnosticism eventually integrated into Christianity, as some of the earliest Christians – Cerinthus and Carpocrates, specifically – believed that the Earth was created by inferior angels to a higher God.
Because of the dragon’s failure to capture the woman and her child, he decided to wage war
against the woman’s other offspring. The dragon subsequently passed his power onto other beasts beginning in Revelation 13. Those beasts seem to be representations of Roman leaders, who were “given authority” to persecute the people, by setting “up an image in honor of the beast”, which in this scope is a reference to the deification of Roman emperors, and Caligula’s order to have a statue of himself put in the Jewish temple Circa 40CE.
To a reader of the day, this reference to “the woman” would have been a clear invocation of “the queen of heaven“, who had various implementations throughout history and geography, notably as Sophia in Gnostic Christianity, but in this case, might very well have been some formulation of the goddess Anat, who boasted of killing Lotan, the Canaanite seven-headed sea monster. Revelation told its consumers they were “children of the woman clothed with the sun” (Barker, Jesus the Nazorean, 2014).
In Revelation, the dragon waged war against the children who revered the queen, and who “keep God’s commands”.
As Margaret Barker points out in her paper Jesus the Nazorean, the term “keep” is the Greek word tereo, which was used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew bible) to translate the Hebrew term nasar. The Nasorenes were the Nosrim – the keepers.
My point of referencing Revelation, and its relationship to ancient Hebrew lore is multi-fold:
- I think Revelation was one of the earliest Christian texts, and all signs point to it as a Nasorean text
- Therefore, the writers, children of the divine feminine, were the earliest Christians
In this context, these earliest Christians were Nasorean derivatives – the Nasoreans were a mystical Jewish sect which split into various sub-sects, including the Elkesites, the Hemerobaptists, and the earliest iteration of the (John the Baptist) Mandaeans…perhaps branching or receiving influence from the Essenes.
According to Eusebius, the Elkesites (like the Ebionites), hated “the apostle [Paul]”, but also claimed to have “..a certain book which they say fell from heaven…whoever hears and believes this shall receive remission of sins, another remission than that which Jesus Christ has given”.
My speculation is that this Elkesite “book from heaven” was an early iteration of Revelation, and the schism that occurred in these earliest Christian iterations occurred at the Nasorean layer, which triggered a break between the (perhaps Samaritan) pre-Mandaeans and the Elkesites, who would later branch off into the Cerinthians and the Ebionites.
One of the earliest experts on Mandaean culture was E.S. Drower. She wrote about the Mandaean use of holiest texts:
…the esoteric doctrines imparted only to priests and Nazoraeans, nasuraiia, that is to say, to initiated persons
Barker relays that these teachings were never written down, and initiates were warned not to reveal their treasure. In that sense, the theme within Revelation that the text should be swallowed and spoken, rather than copied and disseminated, matches the Nasorean tradition.
Barker also points out that the Nasorean tradition held that 360 prophets fled from Jerusalem and settled in Mesopotamia. A heavenly Man of Light came to earth to separate the believers from the Jews, and then returned to heaven.
This Christian-Mandaean connection also helps to explain the connection between Simon Magus and Paul. Simon Magus, according to Ebionite Christians (in Recognitions) had battled with Dositheus for control over John the Baptist’s cult (to become “The Standing One”), but later came into conflict with the Apostle Peter – in another post, I made the argument (borrowed the idea from a commenter) that Peter and the heretic Cerinthus were the same person. This parallels the rift Paul describes in Galatians, where he laments about “men from James” (Ebionites) and their influence on Cephas (Peter).
But this Paul connection is also amplified in 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul describes a man he knew who ascended to the third heaven and who saw unspeakable things, either materially or in spirit (Paul did not know). Paul’s description bears a striking resemblance to the scenario depicted in Revelation.
In Mark 16 (I’ve previously argued that I think Mark’s Gospel was a Docetic/Cerinthian text – see also Irenaeus’ AH i.26.1 and iii.11.7), there is a young man dressed in white who explains to onlookers that Jesus has risen. This seems to be a clear reference to the old man (of light!) dressed in white in Revelation 1. Also consider Mark 4:10-11
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables
A speculation I make here is that Mark 4:10-11 is another allusion to Revelation – not just because of the reference to the 12 apostles, which is simultaneously an astrological reference and a reference to the 12 stars on the queen of heaven’s head, but also because of the reference to Jesus’ verbal communication to them, as opposed to handing out scrolls – “blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophesy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart which is written in it”.
The delineation of this data matrix is that there is indeed a narrative that does not require Jesus Christ to have existed. If Jesus never existed, and he was simply an invention to personify a heavenly archangel or man of light, it would have happened around the time I have described here, catalyzed in the late 1st century after the temple was destroyed, and his invention would have been necessitated by rifts within the Nasorean community, which led to the creation of splinter groups, notably the Elkesites and Mandaeans, and subsequently, the Cerinthians, Ebionites, and Carpocratians.