Inventing Jesus

The short answer for why Jesus inherited seemingly later attributes such as the virgin birth is because some of those attributes were reserved for leaders in Christian communities.  Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said, “When you see one who was not born of woman, prostrate yourselves on your faces and worship him. That one is your father.”

The modern reader is inclined to assume Jesus was talking about himself in the Gospel of Thomas, but he was actually talking about the Paraclete – the person who would inherit the Spirit and take up Jesus’s cross after he died.

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This misdirection was an example of what I have come to refer to as a “head fake” – these head fakes were common in early Christian writings.  For example, the Gospel of Mark contains such a head fake:  the reader (or audience member – Gal 3:1) consumes a story centered around Jesus; meanwhile, a lone-wolf messiah mentioned in Mark 9:38 was working in parallel to cast out demons despite the fact that only Jesus and those with his authority (Mark 6:7) were supposed to possess such ability.  As I have argued in previous posts, this lone wolf was Simon of Cyrene, who showed up in Mark 15 to inherit the Christ Spirit from Jesus prior to his crucifixion; this explains why Basilides and other early Mark consumers believed Simon of Cyrene played the role as future cross-bearer, which would have been synonymous with the later-named Paraclete.  It also explains why the seemingly earliest Christians, the Ebionites and Cerinthians, were adoptionists (believed the Spirit descended onto Jesus after his baptism), and why inklings of this story still survive in modern Islam.

Those attributes which a later version of Jesus inherited in extant versions of Matthew and Luke are given as inklings in Paul’s (authentic) writings.  For example, Galatians 4:4 implements a “head fake”, while telling how Paul imagined himself:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, constructed (genomenon) from a woman, born under the law,

This notion of construction Paul alluded to in Gal 4:4 (genomenon) is presumed to be about Jesus, but I think Paul was referring to himself.  Paul’s phrasing gives insight into abnormal attributes of his own birth in that he was constructed, rather than the typical term used for born, something like egennēthēsan.  Paul makes a similar reference to his awkward birth in 1 Corin 8:

Last of all, as to one born of a miscarriage (ektroma), he appeared also to me.

There are other odd Pauline childbirth passages, notably Galatians 4:19, where Paul tells his readers that he is once again feeling pains from child birth:

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you

Paul claimed to possess attributes which were prophesied in early Christian texts (notably the Gospel of Thomas); references to this Paraclete transference concern manifest in various Christian texts including the Acts of John when John granted his spirit to a young man (I speculate this young man was intended to be Polycarp, who tradition remembers as taking John’s torch, passing it to Irenaeus, and subsequently giving rise to Catholic Orthodoxy):

And yet holding the young man by the hand he said: I say unto thee, child, go and raise the dead thyself, saying nothing but this only: John the servant of God saith to thee, Arise. And the young man went to his kinsman and said this only…and entered in unto John, bringing him alive. And John, when he saw him that was raised, said: Now that thou art raised, thou dost not truly live, neither art partaker or heir of the true life

References to the transient spirit are also found in Acts of the Apostles, such as Acts 8 when the arch-heretic Simon Magus attempts to buy the Spirit from Peter.

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What I have described here is a framework which is agnostic to the matter of whether Jesus existed; yet the inclination, based on Jesus Christ’s presence, is to presume he did exist.  Yet, along with notable historical silence, specifically the fact that Josephus did not notice Jesus despite noticing other messianic figures with similar stature and followings as Jesus (specifically Theudas and the Egyptian), there is a passage in 2 Esdras 9-10 which leads me to believe the Jesus figure was entirely fictional.

In 2 Esdras 9-10, Ezra encounters a grieving woman with ashes in her hair whose son had recently died.  This encounter occurs in a field (Mark also makes reference to a field from which Simon of Cyrene emerged prior to carrying Jesus Christ’s cross).  At the end of this encounter, the woman transformed into the new Jerusalem, which was in “the field”.  An angel accompanying Ezra later reveals that the woman was the Spirit of Zion, and her dead son was Solomon’s temple.

The emerging formulation was that the new Jerusalem would be in “the field”; an expansion of this motif was that seeds must be planted in the field.  This might help to explain such references throughout Christian texts (mustard seeds, Mary mistaking Jesus for a gardener, etc).

The earliest Ebionite and Cerinthian Christians believed that human encapsulation of the Spirit/Christ was impermanent and transferable.  A diverse group of early Christians, including Ebionites, believed that the Spirit and the Christ were feminine/masculine polarities which were 96 mile tall beacons in the sky (see Elxai in Hippolytus and Epiphanius).  In these theologies, the Christ was never intended to be human.  Rather, the Christ was the gift which God gave to humanity, which people who had undergone proper initiation (baptism, etc) could receive.

The fact that a transferable Spirit is detectable in extant Christian literature, notably Acts and the Gospel of Mark, is not inconsequential; it is an artifact of this earlier Christianity.

My conclusion is that Jesus was a literary device: a representation of what the Christ (or the Spirit of the temple), who inherited authority from the mother Spirit, would have wanted his followers to do.

Those later attributes, originally reserved for the Paraclete, but later assigned to Jesus himself, injected humanity, via literature, into an otherwise metaphorical spirit.  The most likely reason later redactors chose to give those attributes to Jesus was so that existing power hierarchies could be preserved without undue influence from an outsider claiming to be the Paraclete, as was the case with Mani the Manichean, found throughout Manichean literature:

Let us worship the spirit of the Paraclete (comforter).
Let us bless our Lord Jesus who has sent us the Spirit of Truth…Honor and Victory to our Lord Mani, the Spirit of Truth, that cometh from the Father and has revealed to us the Beginning, the Middle, and the End.

An earlier Christianity is detectable throughout the literature.  For instance, we see the Christ receiving authority from his mother in the Gospel of John; later, Jesus turned over his mother to the disciple:

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her,“Woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”

Another reference to Jesus’s “true mother” can be found in the Gospel of Thomas saying 101:

Whoever does not hate [their father] and mother as I do cannot be my disciple, and whoever does not love father and mother as I do cannot be my disciple.  For my mother [For my mother is of this world*], but my true mother *gave me life*

*Note:  This is my speculative interpolation – actual text is lost

The Gospel of Thomas makes reference to Jesus’s “true mother” who gave him life.  He distinguishes his true mother from his earthly mother.  The paradox Jesus creates, where a person must simultaneously hate and love their mother and father, is well-explained when one recognizes that Jesus was referring to hating their earthly father and mother, while loving their celestial father and mother.  In this case, it was his celestial mother who provides life.

There is an equation between the Spirit and the temple in Paul in 1 Corin 3:16-17

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple

Paul again equates this temple Spirit as an item which lives within Christian hearts in 1 Corin 6:19:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

 

This a religion obsessed with secret messages from God which manifested as two distinct spirits – the feminine mother/city Spirit and the masculine temple Spirit Christ.  Early Christianity was concerned with the temple, and how that temple could deliver messages to adherents, even if the temple is no longer on Earth.  One consequential aspect of this religion, along with several other parallel Jewish-sourced religions of the day, was an increasing antipathy towards Jewish (Pentateuch) scripture.

It was from this emerging antipathy, coupled with the aftermath of bar Kokhba, where most Jews were expelled from Judea, that many early Christians were motivated to create a “New Jerusalem” which is indicated in Revelation 21.  To the once popular (later heretical) group known as the Montanists, the New Jerusalem was in Central Turkey.

My speculation is that the pre-existing theology which gave rise to Christianity was the Nasaraene movement.

We learn from Epiphanius that the Nasaraeans rejected the Pentateuch, believed they had secret writings from Moses, yet who lived among Jews and practiced their customs.

In Hebrew, Nasar means to keep, guard, or preserve; therefore, any references to such preservation in Christian literature is likely a reference to this group of “keepers”.  We find such a reference in Revelation 12:17

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who *keep* God’s commands and hold fast their testimony…

As I have described in earlier posts the woman mentioned in Revelation 12 was The Queen of Heaven.  In Revelation, she gave birth to the son, who was taken up to heaven and later came to purge evil from the earth.  Here, we have a paradigm which is better explained as metaphorical prophesy, rather than post-Jesus poetic fiction.

Prior to King Josiah’s Deuteronomic reform in the 7th century BCE, where his high priest claimed to have found a (still extant) book of the law which purports to have been written by Moses, described in 2 Kings 22-23, temple worshipers burned incense for the Queen, and she was represented as the Asherah, which was a sacred tree or pole, a likely reference to the tree of life found in Genesis (remember, Jesus’s celestial mother gave him life in the Gospel of Thomas), and perhaps manifested in Kabbalah as the Sephirot.

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The Queen of Heaven, along with the older faith which produced her, is detectable in Jeremiah 44

But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”

The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes impressed with her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”

Consider the late 1st/early 2nd century quasi-Christian Elxai, and his Nasaraene, Ebionite, Essene, and Nazarene followers.  A likely speculation is that all four of these groups were doing roughly the same thing:  practicing a religion which had evolved from this pre-Deuteronomic Judaism.

Cerinthus, an early Christian who much-resembled the Ebionites, was linked to Revelation, via several disparate groups evidently claiming Cerinthus wrote Revelation.  Therefore, another likely speculation is that Cerinthus was, like the Ebionites and Essenes, a member in this Nasaraene conglomeration.

Following King Josiah’s Deuteronomic reform, the Queen and all other references to heavenly hierarchy and Monolatrism were thrown out of the temple, burned, and otherwise destroyed.  Within a few decades, Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II and Jews were expelled from Judea.

Though the 2nd Jewish temple was rebuilt in the late 6th century BCE, there were probably many who worshiped the Queen of Heaven who saw the Queen-less temple as illegitimate.  Scribal re-workings which purged the Queen from scripture would have made the Queen’s adherents likewise untrusting of the new Jewish Orthodoxy.

 

In 70CE, the 2nd temple was destroyed, and not long after, Jews were expelled from Judea.  Theological solutions for Christians and Nasaraeans in a temple-less world manifested in 2 notions:

  1. New Jerusalem (which represented the Queen/mother/city)
  2. The Spirit of the Temple (which represented the Christ/son)

The New Jerusalem is found in Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 21:2.  This New Jerusalem was the place in which the Spirit of the Queen of Heaven could live, as was alluded in 2 Esdras 10.  It would have been necessary because the Queen’s followers needed a place to welcome their queen, and because Jews were no longer welcome in the original Jerusalem.

If Jesus did not exist, why did people think he did?

There likely were people who resembled Jesus a great deal; further, those people might very well have been leaders within the Nasaraene communities.  For example, there was a James, who in the mid-60s was stoned to death at the hands of an unpopular high priest named Hanan ben Hanan; James’ death caused such an uproar that the people of Jerusalem pleaded with the recently-appointed Roman governor Albinus to punish Hanan.

There was also a prophet named Theudas who took his followers to the Jordan River, claimed he could divide the river (note the Moses reference), implored his followers to sell or take their possessions, and was beheaded and had his remains flaunted around Jerusalem.  Theudas’s resemblance to John the Baptist is significant, and his death preceded James’ death by about 20 years.

A few years after Theudas’ death, following increased tensions between religious movements in Judea and the Roman authorities, there was an Egyptian who took his followers to the Mount of Olives and who claimed he could knock down the wall of the temple.  The local governor made war against him and his followers, but the Egyptian escaped, and was not heard from again.  This Egyptian bears striking resemblance to both Jesus and Paul – Acts of the Apostles even links Paul to the Egyptian in Acts 21:31.

If the prerequisite for leadership in Nasaraene communities was a claim to the Spirit, the likely result would have been many people claiming to have inherited the spirit, and thus possess the appropriate attributes to be the Christ.

The solution for an evolving, maturing church with increasingly defined power hierarchy was to merge these early attributes into a single person which became Jesus Christ.

 

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Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

17 thoughts on “Inventing Jesus”

  1. Re “If Jesus did not exist, why did people think he did?” In a time when mass communication being only the spoken word (literacy was low), how many human beings could interact with another? To know someone physically was actually rare. So, if one is told story upon story of a person claimed to be real, a person who has already “died,” how would one be able to verify he had ever lived? What I find suspicious and therefore supportive of Jesus being fictitious, is that if I believed that God had come to Earth in the form of a human being and I believed that God to be real, I would have sought out all who had come into contact with him and debrief them. Obviously there would be many people motivated to do this and some few of them would be rich enough to hire scribes to record the interviews, etc. None of this happened, of course, because at first the story line wasn’t fully formed and by the time it was, many of the supposed actors (probably fictitious also, but how would one know?) would be supposed to have died.

    A parallel to this is the early 1900’s wave of “biblical archaeologists” who swarmed the “Holy Land” to confirm (not discover) the historical leavings of the stories in the Bible. Those stories were believed to be true, they just had to link them up with the evidence they were sure to find. Their beliefs were concrete. Personages like David and Solomon surely existed as they were described, they just needed to connect the stories with the physical evidence … that was nowhere to be found. These “scientists” were looking for physical evidence of people they believed existed almost 2000 years before them and they were sure the stories were real. Why should we be even surprised that people believed a guy existed 100 miles and just a few years away … when told stories by a sincere storyteller? (Sincerity … when you can fake that, you really have something. Alex P. Keaton)

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  2. Tim – could you comment on Theophilus of Antioch who said that he considered himself a Christian because he had been ‘anointed’ and made no reference to Jesus or his ministry?
    Were there Christ type cults among ‘pagans’ which fused with Jewish concepts somewhere down the line?

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    1. It’s hard to detect a Christology from Theophilus, but several observers have wondered if Theophilus was the one whom Luke and Acts was addressed to – it seems plausible to me, and it fits into a very convenient mid-2nd century narrative that includes Polycarp, Justin, and Marcion.

      One consideration might be that Christ is not detectable in Theophilus because Christianity was still a mystery religion at the time, and outside of the apologies, Christians may not have been inclined to describe them. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it’s something to consider.

      If you notice in Theophilus 2.18, he remarks on Genesis and the 7th day, and the passage “Let us make man in our image”; he invokes reference to the Logos (word) and Wisdom (the mother). This focus on Genesis is indeed in-line with a lot of early Christians, including Gnostics; yet, he definitely is not Gnostic.
      In this sense, Theophilus strikes me as a Nasaraene without a Christ on Earth, similar to Elxai, and perhaps to Paul, as well.

      “Were there Christ type cults among pagans?” I think so. The diaspora gave rise to Christian versions in Alexandria, Mesopotamia, and Asia – there certainly were Jews spread throughout the Diaspora for hundreds of years. But I think the movement was born out of a fundamentally Jewish core, which was concerned with an older, non-Orthodox Judaism; however, the fact that many of these sects (Manicheans, Mandaeans, Valentinians) had different high gods than Yahweh (and from each other) is interesting, but I think those roots are with the Nasaraeane movement, which had hierarchy in heaven, which included the Queen of Heaven, and a host of lower angels who may (or may not) have been responsible for the creation of the earth. I think this movement was probably several hundred years old by the 1st century CE, and had various versions throughout the area.

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    2. @Derick
      Chances are “κρατιστος θεοφιλος” or “most excellent Theophilus” in the Lukan Prologue is Theophilus Bishop of Antioch (fl. 169-183 CE). From the book “Who Was Jesus?, p. 72-74”:

      It is possible that Luke’s Theophilus is indeed the bishop of Antioch, who was a “Pagan” convert to Christianity, fitting in with Luke’s assertions concerning Theophilus’s instruction in Christian doctrine. In fact, Bishop Theophilus (c. 115-c. 181/188 ad/ce) was one of the early Christian apologists, composing an apology called Ad Autolychum (c. 176), in which the author describes himself as a convert from “heathenism.” It is singularly noticeable that, despite his sincerity as a Christian convert, in this work Theophilus does not discuss any of the synoptic gospels, a fact which tends to validate the notion that the gospels were not in circulation at that point and that Luke may have been composing his gospel specifically to encourage the bishop in his apologetics. In book II, chapter XXII of Ad Autolychum, Theophilus does bring up a “spirit-bearing” man named John, giving some language that appears to be from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. However, we cannot be certain that this brief mention is not a later interpolation by a Christian scribe, and, even if we accept that this passage genuinely came from Theophilus’s hand, he does not state that John was an apostle or immediate disciple of Christ’s. Moreover, in his apology Theophilus specifically says that he was converted to Christianity through reading the Jewish scriptures. If the gospels had been known at that time, why would Theophilus need to rely on the Jewish scriptures for his conversion from Paganism? In discussing his own conversion, would a proselyte to Christianity refer only to the “sacred scriptures of the holy prophets,” as Theophilus does in chapter 14 of his apology? Could it be that these canonical gospels—the most valuable tool for proselytizing—were not yet in existence by that time? In any event, with this reference in his apology and a purported text of commentaries on the gospels, Bishop Theophilus becomes the first Church father clearly to discuss the canonical gospels! Indeed, in the “Introductory Note” to one authoritative translation of Ad Autolychum, Rev. Marcus Dods remarks of Theophilus: He was one of the earliest commentators upon the Gospels, if not the first; and he seems to have been the earliest Christian historian of the Church of the Old Testament. In this astounding admission, Rev. Dods is referring to one of Theophilus’s lost works, apparently his commentary on the Gnostic-Christian “heretic” Marcion (fl. c. 155-166 ad/ce), the originator of the New Testament… Theophilus represents a “smoking gun” when it comes to unraveling the era of the canonical gospels’ composition? Moreover, Dods further acclaims Theophilus’s ability in his apology to describe “the Antioch of the early Christians,” which is fitting for the bishop of the place where Christ’s followers were first called Christians. In fact, it may be surprising for many to discover that it was in the Syrian city of Antioch, rather than anywhere in Judea, that Christ’s followers were first named “Christians.” Does that fact make any sense, if Christ had a large following originating in Judea beginning decades earlier? Why would they not have been named there? Why Syria? It is evident Antioch played a significant role in the development of Christianity that is not widely addressed. (emphasis added)

      I’m now starting to think that Ur-Lukas and Ur-Markus are the same and it’s Marcion’s Gospel of the Lord. If we strip away chapter 1 and 2 from Luke, it’s basically Mark. I’m thinking when the canonical Mark is released, the Church Fathers aren’t that pleased especially with the geographical errors in Mark which means that the author/s of Mark didn’t lived in Judea. Matthew swooped in corrected Mark and of all the four gospels, it’s the most Jewish pandering gospel followed by Luke. I’m thinking from the middle of the second century towards the last quarter, every Church has their own gospel and what the vestigial Catholic Church want is sort of unification but there’s so much theological warfare that time even among Christians or Chrestians.

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  3. I think you’re getting close in unlocking how Jesus and Christianity started. Does the Jesus of the four gospels based on a a single itinerant preacher or a cynic sage named “Jesus of Nazareth”who had 12 apostles minus the magic tricks? Probably not. I think even if there was a “Jesus” whom the gospel writers based it on, constructing a biography about would be an extremely tall order because even if we subtract the magic tricks, the four canonical gospels aren’t in agreement. I’m now starting to think that researching about Jesus is like an inescapable rabbit hole.

    I have a question though,

    Another reference to Jesus’s “true mother” can be found in the Gospel of Thomas saying 101:

    Whoever does not hate [their father] and mother as I do cannot be my disciple, and whoever does not love father and mother as I do cannot be my disciple. For my mother [For my mother is of this world*], but my true mother *gave me life*

    *Note: This is my speculative interpolation – actual text is lost
    The Gospel of Thomas makes reference to Jesus’s “true mother” who gave him life. He distinguishes his true mother from his earthly mother. The paradox Jesus creates, where a person must simultaneously hate and love their mother and father, is well-explained when one recognizes that Jesus was referring to hating their earthly father and mother, while loving their celestial father and mother. In this case, it was his celestial mother who provides life.

    Could the writers of Matthew and Luke have the gospel of Thomas in front of them and copied it?
    Matthew 10:21-23 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.
    Matthew 10:37-39 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
    Luke 14:26 “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (from Revised Standard Version)

    Obviously these hateful verses are interpreted figuratively but do you think leaving your family is a Gnostic initiation? This reminds me so much of Matthew 11:25-27:
    “At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I definitely agree that it is an inescapable rabbit hole.

      “Could the writers of Matthew and Luke have the gospel of Thomas in front of them and copied it?”
      It’s hard to say that, although there are speculations that the original proto Gospel was a sayings Gospel like Thomas – there are some things in Thomas that are also in the Synoptics, so I don’t think it’s a terrible stretch to assume the Gospel writers had Thomas…but then again, one of the attributes of the mystery was oral transmission, rather than writings, so it’s difficult to say…also, the Gospels have undergone a lot more refinement than Thomas has, as well.

      One note I will make about that, in Gal 3:1, Paul makes reference to Galatians witnessing a depiction of Christ’s crucifixion. This leads me to believe that the original “Gospel” included dramatic depictions, as was common in other mystery religions of the day. So, it could be that the core of the early missions included a collection of sayings PLUS the dramatic depiction, and it eventually evolved into a more of a monolithic fictional narrative, but that is just speculation.

      “do you think leaving your family is a Gnostic initiation?”
      I think there were definitely aspects of that, and it might not have been solely attached to Gnosticism – other non-Gnostic sects seemed to have incorporated this idea as well, as evidenced by Matthew, which evidently was used by Ebionites and Cerinthians. I think this was probably an inheritance from other ascetic philosophical movements of the day

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  4. I think you have written before that Turkey/Asia Minor played a part in the origins of Christianity. Remember what Acts 11:26 said:

    “…kai heuron auton eganen auton eis antiocheian egeneto de autous eniauton holon sunachthenai en te ekklesia kai didaxai ochlon ikanon chrematisai te proton en anthiocheia tous mathetas christianous…
    “…and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.For a whole year they met with[a] the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians….”

    The word “church” or “ekklesia” in Greek literally means “assembly” or a “town hall meeting”. The thing is only in the second century when Christian houses of worship are called “Churches”. Gnostics especially Marcionists who adore “Isu Chrestos” or “Jesus the Good” gather at synagogues. Also, why would Luke call disciples in Antioch “first time called Christians”? I think it would be fair to call the ones present in the Pentecost the first Christians but they are not apparently. I think this event with Paul/Saul and Barnabas was an attempted embellishment of an earlier event about a group in Antioch who was first called “Chrestians”

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    1. And I have the strong feeling the ones described by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus are indeed Chrestians as in “docetists” who were expelled in Rome, not Christians followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

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    2. Antioch is huge too – Acts 11-13 gives a lot of insight, especially when it seemingly makes reference to Simon of Cyrene. I remember Eisenman wrote there were 4 Antiochs, so I wonder if this was the Antioch in Syria…

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  5. I am in complete agreement that Turkey played the primary role of disseminating Christianity in the Roman world. As for Simon of Cyrene, that seems to me to be a cypher for Simon bar Kochba since both have of them had a son named Rufus. The fact that Simon bar Kochba failed to become the Jewish Messiah and was executed for trying explains why the Gospel of Basilides has the true Messiah laughing at Simon for his arrogant presumption.

    I think the part about Mary Magdalene confusing Jesus for the gardener has to do with the a more original version of the gospel story in which the traitor is now Judas Iscariot, a cypher for Judas of Galilean, who like Simon bar Kochba, “betrayed” Jesus by getting Jerusalem invaded and the Temple destroyed, but instead a gardener named Gaisa. The Sethites or Cainites then turned the traitor character into Jesus’ twin brother, which I think explains why Mary supposedly confused the gardener for him.

    I also liked your theory about Cerdo being the same as Cerinthus, but I’m not sure it holds. There seems to be some slight differences in the way their theologies are described, but more importantly, Cerdo is supposed to be Docetic, supposedly taking after Menander, but Cerinthus was an Adoptionist just like the followers of Mark. You seemed to take the two as meaning the same thing but I am not so sure. I think the Cerinthians came after the Ebionites because the Ebionite version of Matthew had neither the virgin birth nor the genealogy but the Cerinthian version of Matthew had the genealogy. But the Ebionites must have been aware of the Marcionites or the Cerdoians before them because the Gospel of Matthew has a reaction against some “Marcionite Antitheses”.

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    1. Hi Jeff. Thanks for your response. Lots to digest here!

      I try to stay tentative about the Cerdo/Cerinthus connection, but I think Cerdo was probably not the man’s name. As to Cerdo’s Docetism, I’m not so sure. My source of truth is Irenaeus, who is curiously vague. Therefore, later descriptions are suspect – even in Hippolytus, Cerdo is not explicitly claimed to be a Docetist, where Marcion is. Hippolytus says that Cerdo advanced the doctrine of Empedocles – he’s presumably talking about reincarnation there…in this sense, Cerdo resemebles Carpocrates, who likewise believed in reincarnation…this leads me back to AH i.26.2, where Irenaeus says that the Ebionites, Carpocratians, and Cerinthians basically believe the same thing about Jesus.

      It’s probably more economical to just say Cerdo and Cerinthus are different people…just my pet theory 🙂

      Very interesting stuff about Simon bar Kochba. I did not know he had a son named Rufus. That definitely is going to make me revisit him. One curiosity is that there would be Christians who would have treated bar Kochba kindly, especially considering his persecution of them, coupled with the whole “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”. Thoughts?

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  6. Apologies for stepping without thoroughly examining all of your points. I have had a few days of other heavy reading. ‘Masks of Christ’ is my go to summary of theories. However I have just finished reading Einhorn ‘The Jesus Mystery’
    I have always thought that Theudas and The Egyptian had clear parrallels with John and Jesus (especially with Jesus’s Egyptian links). But in saying that I feel Jesus and John were real individuals. Lots of myths, legends and stories were attached to them but there were real people to attach those stories too.

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    1. It might very well be. If you look at the relationship between Theudas and the Egyptian, there seems to be a clear relationship between them – the Egyptian sprung up following a quelling of similar movements after Theudas was killed.

      My speculation is that both these leaders were operating within a similar religious paradigm, specifically a Nasaraene one, which sought to preserve the older version of Judaism, pre-Deuteronomic reform.

      I do admit that the more economical alternative was that the Gospels simply relied on historical details gleaned from Josephus’ description of the time, and then shifted back a couple decades…something like what Einhorn argues.

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