The Multiple Jesus Theory

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-on-the-road-to-damascus-1100x800

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 1.29.3.3), 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?

No!

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.

If you presume that the Nazarenes were a later iteration of the Ebionites, one might speculate that they hated Paul, just like the Ebionites did (AH i.26.2):

[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.

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Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

16 thoughts on “The Multiple Jesus Theory”

  1. Off topic – Tim I thought you were great on Miguel’s channel. Unfortunately I support a couple of other channels and am retired on a small pension so didn’t hear the second interview. I was intrigued that Miguel intimated that they would be discussing the dates of the gospels – as we have them presumably. I go for mid second century with perhaps a proto Mark earlier in the first quarter during some period of upheaval/persecution regarding Judaism. What thinkest thou?

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    1. Thanks, I appreciate that. FYI – don’t quote me on this, but I believe I’ve heard Miguel say in the past that he takes a sort of “ask and ye shall receive” attitude…he might just give you access to it if you ask…

      RE: Gospel dates. I think the conventional dates of 70-105 is way too early. I tend to think that the Gospels were between 115 and 155, with some of the epistles a bit later than that. I think Mark is between 125 and 136, but honestly, I don’t have much of a defense for that belief, except that I can’t get earlier dates to make sense. Irenaeus is referencing the Gospels and assembling the canon by C 182, and based on my reading, I think his Gospels roughly resemble what we have today, of course leaving a decent amount of room for interpolations and what not.

      That being said, I don’t have much of a problem with inklings of a proto-Gospel coming quite a lot earlier.

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    2. @Derick
      I too, lean towards the mid to late 2nd century date for the final canonical gospels which came together with the redacted and sanitized Pauline epistles. I think the canonical gospels are a textual polemical response to the docetic Gnostics especially the Marcionite Christianity which I highly speculate that the gospels are written after Marcion’s death.

      Early Church Father Justin Martyr has the so-called “Memoirs of the Apostles” where most mainstream conservative and liberal scholars contend that he’s quoting from the four gospels. That’s may sound plausible at first but if we look closely at his writings especially the “Dialogue with Trypho”, Justin is saying stuff that isn’t found in the gospels which makes me think he’s either quoting a proto-gospel or a common source text/s. The typical apologetic response is that Justin is sloppy in quotations but I don’t think so as he’s known for being scrupulous and accurate in citing the Old Testament. There are other elements to consider why the gospels are most likely dated in the second century and few of those are the anachronisms and geographical errors as well as no one prior to Irenaeus cites it by name. In fact, the earliest strata of the Talmud named “Mishna” lacks any reference to Jesus Christ.

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      1. “… he’s known for being scrupulous and accurate in citing the Old Testament.”

        That’s actually not true as there are many points where he misquotes the LXX. It also seems that he’s not above making up certain prophecies to fulfill his machinations. For example, when he appears to iterate a psalm, he then adds in a glib statement about the Lord “reigning from the wood”. The closest approximation of which I can think of is Odes of Solomon. But as to what Justin is quoting, doesn’t exist.

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  2. The Nazarenes/Nazoraeans are talking about the first century BCE Jesus, who is mentioned in the Toledot Yeshu, a proto-gospel that most scholars believe is medieval but which has elements proving it is actually earlier than the gospels. In this story, Jesus’ body is moved to a garden, either by his disciples or by the traitor, Garsa, or “gardener”, which is the reason both Matthew and Luke link Judas to a “Garden of Blood”. The moving of the body is likewise mentioned in Matthew. Garsa is said to have hidden the body because people were stepping on his lettuces, which is likewise mentioned by Tertullian. Jesus is hung on a tree in the Toledot Yeshu, which is why the epistles and Acts has the apostles talking about Jesus being “hung on a tree”, which is typically assumed to be symbolic of Jesus being hung on the cross. More likely it is the Greek gospel with its updated chronology that was attempting to be symbolic.

    http://www.lost-history.com/christianity_is_older.php

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    1. So you must be Bahumuth! I have really enjoyed reading your very long articles.

      Something I would like to add to your observations on the Toledot was that the conflict between Nazarenes and Jews described has parallels to Antiqutities 20:6 and Luke 8:51 which describes the conflict between the Samaritans and Galilean jews. This may give us some historical collaboration for the 12 deceivers the Toledot mentions.

      Also, the idea of stealing the name of ‘God’ to perform magic seems to have a parallel with Basilides sect, but the Toledot links this with the Jewish God, while Basiledes downgraded the Jewish God and used the names of other Gods he considered far superior.
      Are you aware of any sects which may have believed that Jesus got his power from knowing the name of the Jewish God, or had a traditions about the Bethel stone being involved?

      One thing I find unusual about the Toledot of Yeshu is that as an anti-jesus gospel it does not really convince me that the Pharisees position was righteous or justified. They certainly paint themselves as a bunch of stick in the muds, and Yeshu as a courageous rebel who is prepared to use a power that the pharisees are too afraid of themselves. I note that it has been written in a tongue in cheek manner, and perhaps it is meant to be as much a dig at the Pharisee tradition as the Nazarene religion?

      I am thinking the Toledot of Yeshu could be written into a fantastic novel set in a world of ancient magic, and I like the idea of Yeshu being similar to the Chinese Monkey spirit who has the nerve to take on heaven.

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      1. I am not sure if the Galilean Jew vs. Samartian conflict is the correct context for this story. Stephan Huller has pointed out that the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a Samaritan and demon-possessed yet Jesus only defended himself against the demon possession accusation. I assume the “12 deceivers” are the original “12 apostles” who probably appeared shortly after Yeshu’s death but was then replaced in the first or second century A.D. by the Greek Gospel’s 12 disciples. Notably, the Gospel of Thomas talks about “24 prophets in Israel who spoke of [Jesus], which has been interpreted to mean the 24 books of the Tanakh, but it is not like it is one prophet per book, so I think a better interpretation is that there were two sets of 12.

        I think the idea of “stealing the Name” comes from a reaction against the older tradition of Alexandrian Jews using the name of Yahweh as a magic word for healing. I think this ran afoul of the newer scribe/Pharisee tradition of substituting “Adonai” or “the Name” for Yahweh so as to prevent breaking the commandment of using the Name in vain. I don’t know of any further tradition on the Stone of Jacob, but it seems to fall in line with Jesus being accused of “worshiping a brick”. Perhaps this follows an older tradition of respecting sacred objects that began to become interpreted as idol worship as Judaism advanced further into “true monotheism” (as opposed to Christianity’s Three-Persons Trinity and angel- and demon-filled polytheistic theology that I would dub “monotheism in name only”). It seems to me that both Joshua ben Peraciah and Yeshu were Magi using charismatic healing and that the rabbis reinvented Joshua as a good Pharisee/rabbi who was too harsh on Jesus and therefore lost him to heathenism. I think that is the reason for the multiple folkloric Talmud stories about how some slight misunderstanding between rabbi and student led to a massive theological rift in Judaism.

        I agree that the Toledot has themes that make the scribes/Pharisees look shockingly bad for a satire against Jesus, but I think that is because it retains a lot of elements from an original proto-gospel in which Jesus is the good guy and the scribes are the bad guys. For example, references to Jews killing Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 2:14 are interpreted by some scholars, especially mythicists, as an anti-Semitic interpolation. Yet why would the rabbis choose to perpetuate such a “lie”, going so far as to cut the Romans out of the story altogether and portray themselves as killing him in an even more direct manner?

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      2. The case for linking Antiquities 12:6 with the Nazarene / Jewsish conflict is that this comes about because the Samaritans are attacking Galilean Jews who are travelling through their land to get to Jersualem for festivals. In response the Galileans attack and burn down their villages. (hence the sons of Zebedee asking Jesus if they should call fire down from heaven on the Samaritan villages). The Toledot story has the same elements with jews having trouble getting to their religious festivals. In all three cases Luke/Antiquities/Toledot we have a religious skirmish between Jews and Samaritans or Jews versus Nazarenes.

        This event is important because it is a turning point for the Nazarene movement, going from violence to pacifists. It is possibly why Luke includes the story to emphasize that Jesus rebukes the violence, and in typical Luke manner obfuscates the history by swapping the roles around here.
        I note the evidence that the early messianic movements were violent is quite obvious, as we have ears being cut off and the disciples carrying swords to the Mount of Olives. We have Sicarii and Zealots as disciples. We have Tacitus and Saturnius implying ‘Chrestians’ were insurgents, then all of a sudden Christianity is being re-branded as pacifists who ‘turn the other cheek’.
        This rebranding of a violent and splintered apocalyptic cults into a cynic aesthetic movement is remarkable, and is perhaps something we should admire about the early Christian writers. Yes, they obfuscated their history and invented white-lies without shame, but they did manage to end the violent tendencies of these angry adolescent cults (for a few centuries).

        I suspect the the Toledot portrayal of the Pharisees who take on Yeshu is as you say consistent with being derivative from other sources more sympathetic to Yeshu, but the fact that over time this was not mutated to a more black and white depiction indicates the keepers of the Toledot are not particularly concerned with justifiying the actions of the Pharisees or identifying themselves with them. The story is probably a humorous take on both Jewish and Christian legends. This is an early draft for the “The Life of Brian”!

        PS – the spaceship scene in The Life of Brian is a subtle allusion to the air battle between Simon Magus and Simon Peter!
        PPS – I think I am the first person on the internet to have made the above connection!
        PPPS – and just in case you need to watch it again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSY4fEEg4j0

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  3. Yes, multiple Christ encapsulators makes sense, but do we assume here that the Christ spirit can only be in one person at a time, or is there allowance for several Apostles to have this same spirit?
    I am not sure if Paul (or Paul’s ghost writer here) is claiming to have the one unique Christ spirit, but certainly is claiming the authority of an apostle.
    When Paul does speak of having the Christ spirit, he does normally talk about something that all believers can have.
    I would propose that Paul’s writer believes all believers can take on this paraclete now, but it must be from the genuine source – which would be the one he preaches about. The point at which the Christ spirit can become split into many is defined in John, where Jesus says “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

    Who was this original paraclete source for Paul considering:

    “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified”

    I read this as meaning Pauls original christ source is someone who was not known for a greek philospher nor a miracle worker – the latter making him very different to the Jesus of Mark!

    The problem with the Christ Spirit becoming divisible is that it no longer becomes unique, and every man and his dog can be ‘Christ’! I think Paul is however just defining the boundaries more, but I do not think he can claim to be the only – or if he did, later interpolations have changed this?

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  4. So far as I can tell, there is only five figures who hold relevance to embodying the Christ.

    The first may be Yohanan ben Zakkai, the first official rabbi.

    The second is definitely Lukuas-Andreas, the insurrectionist during Kitos.

    The third is Jacob, either of Kephar or r. Akiva, with his possible brother, Simon bar Kochba, also encapsulating it.

    The fifth is Marcion/Peregrinus.

    But then we reach an impasse. What exactly is the Christ spirit? Is merely a status symbol of authority? Is it magic? Is it a certain insight into celestial affairs? And how is it transmitted from one host to the next? Through ritual? (Crucifixion) Through blood? (Eucharist). Through rebirth? (Baptism) What?

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    1. I think it must involve the naming of one as being able to hold the Christ. This idea goes back to Exodus where YHWH places his name in the Angel–as if this name had an ontological existence beyond the vocal vibrations of one’s throat–and is also seen in Acts of Peter, where Simon Magus was believed to hold the name of God. A remnant of this maybe seen where Jesus gives Simon his name of Peter, and the brothers Zebedee, Boanerges. These names indicate their position and their holding the Christ spirit.

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    2. My conjecture (I believe I’m borrowing this from Margaret Barker) is the Christ Spirit refers to the oil that came from the tree of life, which was stored in the Holy of Holies. The oil was applied to the high priests to give them vision to see wisdom. This ties in with my speculation that the Christ Spirit was originally the Spirit of the Queen of Heaven (and her son). The Queen was the mother of the “keepers” (Nasar) – Rev 12:17, and it was through her authority that her children had powers on earth – John 2:3-5.

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      1. I take it then that the woman who poured oil over Jesus was ‘Sophia’ giving him the Christ spirit. This of course competes with the baptism from John, so the former story has been downgraded into something else.
        And of course, the woman gets downgraded into a prostitute – cliché!

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