The utmost priority in early Christianity was the creation of a “New Jerusalem.” For some, this New Jerusalem was perhaps a city-in-waiting in heaven, while for the Montanists, it was in central Turkey .
Our entry point for this insight is the Book of Revelation, which has a heavenly woman chased to Earth (Rev 12:1-6), mimicked by a Babylonian whore who collaborated with that same dragon that chased the divine lady (Rev 17:5-7). The scarlet-clad harlot was later removed and replaced with the lady returning as the New Jerusalem – the bride adorned for her bridegroom (Rev 21:1-23).
The lady’s children were branches, keepers of a mysterious law which diverged from Moses’s law. The reference to keepers and branches/children make the following clear:
- The lady might be symbolized as a tree
- The children of the lady were Nasar – Nasarenes
In the Gospel, Simon of Cyrene bears Jesus’s cross (Mark 15:21). He is the rendering of an earlier foreshadowing – the Earthly advocate who casts demons on behalf of the Christ (Mark 9:35-40), the last apostle, but will be first in the kingdom of heaven. Simon helps to advance Jesus’s death march so that Jesus can be killed; Jesus’s death causes the temple’s Babylonian veil to tear, which opens a previously closed pathway to heaven (see also Philo of Alexandria, Questions on Exodus 2.91). In this theory, the pathway had been closed since the Aaronic priesthood had replaced the Melchizadek priesthood after Solomon’s temple was destroyed (a few decades after the Yahweh group gained control over competing temple groups, notably the Asherah [Queen of Heaven] worshipers, whose ideals are described in the Book of Jeremiah [Jer 7:18, 11:12, 44:18]).
Simon was in the field prior to his forced labor – in a sense, this forced labor made him a slave to Christ, which reinforces the notion that Simon of Cyrene was a cipher for the Apostle Paul, who likewise claimed to be compelled to actions he did not necessarily intend (1 Cor 9:17, 1 Cor 7:22, Rom 6:18). Simon’s field was symbolically recognized as the place where the “New Jerusalem” would reside. 2 Esdras 9-10 gives us less curated symbolism than Christianity does:
So I went, as he directed me, into the field that is called Ardat…When I said these things in my heart, I looked around, and on my right I saw a woman; she was mourning…her clothes were torn, and there were ashes* on her head…While I was talking to her, her face suddenly began to shine exceedingly… she suddenly uttered a loud and fearful cry, so that the earth shook at the sound. When I looked up, the woman was no longer visible to me, but a city was being built…The woman whom you saw is Zion, which you now behold as a city being built
[my note: her torn clothes symbolized the destroyed temple, and the ashes were remnants of incense burned for her]
Paul encrypts the notion of the New Jerusalem in his letter to the Galatians (Gal 4:24-26):
These things are being taken allegorically: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
Paul speaks allegorically here, like Jesus did in Mark 4:11. For Paul, there are two mothers, which represent Moses’s law, along with another, more divine law. As in Revelation, two women are contrasted. The 2nd temple was concerned with Moses’s law, as it was built after the Deuteronomic reform, which was Moses-centric from the beginning. In Paul’s allegory, Hagar, the maid who was compelled to bear Abraham’s son before he conceived Isaac with Sarah, was the Earthly holy city – a stand-in until a divine promise is fulfilled.
God promised Abraham a legitimate son, and when he was born, Abraham and Sarah kicked Hagar and her son Ishmael to the curb, robbing them of an inheritance and depriving them of significant possession, while they wandered the desert looking for a new home and their next meal.
This story was an allegorical construction, designed to differentiate God’s chosen people from inferior stand-ins. This notion of dichotomies in ancestry is indeed a common trope in Judaism – Seth vs Cain, Shem and Japhteh vs Ham, etc. Paul is saying that sons of Isaac are chosen, but sons of Ishmael are slaves, and he equates Christians with the sons of Isaac.
We might presume that, to Paul, there is a heavenly holy city which will replace the current one, just as in Revelation. The city was a woman – the true wife of Abraham, whose religion was replaced by Yahwists after Josiah’s reforms.
The Jerusalem Talmud relays that 80,000 priests joined the Babylonians and fought against Josiah’s Deuteronomic reform during the Babylonian invasion. These priests, who preserved the old ways of the first Jewish temple, later settled in Arabia, where Paul curiously claims he went immediately after converting to Christianity (Gal 1:17). According to this story of the 80,000 priests (certainly an inflated number) attempted to settle with the Ishmaelites in Arabia, but were not welcome.
Is it a coincidence that Paul uses allegory to describe Ishmael’s descendents (Arabians) as the inferior stand-ins – not the true sons of Abraham?
Why so hard to glean?
Explicit reverence for aspects of this reconstructed Nasarene philosophy are difficult to find in Paul’s writings, although they are not entirely invisible. For instance, Paul refers to his followers as “the temple” in 1 Corinthians, surely tapping into a (proto) adoptionistic framework which has the Holy Spirit descending on the elect. Yet, Paul is quite subtle and cryptic when alluding to secret elements.
Why is this? Paul’s cryptic words are the earlier versions of Jesus’s words (indeed wrote in reverence to Paul, the Paraclete) in Mark 4:11, when Jesus tells his inner circle that his words will be allegory:
Christianity was a mystery cult.
The deepest secrets in this religion were not written; they were oral! Tertullian documented that Valentinians were looked upon with suspicion by general congregations because they had deeper mysteries which were not available to the average Christian. The link here is that Valentinus was said to be a later disciple of Paul’s secret teachings (via Theudas).
Revelation alludes to this mystery when an angel compels the narrator to eat the scroll in Rev 10:9. The words taste sweet but turn the stomach sour. Tertullian alludes to this in Against Valentinus, where he writes that initiated Valentinians receive “the entire mystery of the sealed tongue”.
According to Revelation, the secrets underlying the prophesy give the person who ate it the ability to traverse nations and speak in different languages, similar to the Montanists who are described by Eusebius:
And he [Montanus] became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning