Paul and Jesus in Egypt

The Invention of Jesus

It is my contention that the Gospel character named Jesus Christ is a composite of multiple historical figures, known and unknown.

The actual Christ was a (anointing) Spirit in the sky, who existed as the masculine-half of a polarity, as presumed by Elxai and his Ebionite and Nasarene followers.  This, I suppose, is fairly compatible with Richard Carrier’s contention that Jesus was originally an angel.

From my perspective, an economical approach to unwrapping the real Christian history is via the Heresiologists, who describe, in stunning detail, attributes of the earlier versions which were hijacked for a variety of purposes – power grabs, political necessity, bigotry, etc.

Therefore, the Jesus Christ of any given generation was simply the Paraclete; the human representation of a merger between Heaven and Earth; that is to say the man who possessed the Spirit at any given time.  This Spirit presumably evolved to support multiple Paracletes within the same generation.  And according to Paul, the Christ descended onto Cephas, 500 Christians, James, and finally onto Paul himself (1 Corin 15:5-10).  Based on Paul’s focus on his own death, the presumption probably was that once the Christ descended into the Paraclete, that person died and became Jesus Christ (Romans 6:2, Romans 6:8, Romans 7:9) .

The descending spirit, which is activated upon baptism (or some other collection of catalysts), is not only detectable in Mark (Mk 1:10-11) and Matthew (Mthw 3:16), but it is clearly attested to via church fathers who tell us that early Christian groups such as the Ebionites, Cerinthians, and Carpocratians (AH i.26.2), believed this exact thing.  In addition, this notion of a transient Spirit is detectable in later Christian texts, as well.

For instance, Simon Magus, who at times served as the Ebionite doppelganger for Paul, tried to buy this transient Spirit from Peter and John in Acts of the Apostles 8 (one implication is that this is a reworking of the feud between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2:8-11), and paints Paul as a false Spirit encapsulator.  Irenaeus describes an Apostolic succession, which had the Spirit moving from person to person.  Similarly, in the Acts of John (47), a young man comes to John and asks him to raise his friend from the dead.  John gives the young man the magic incantation to recite, and the young man is able to raise his friend by himself (this young man, at least according to my estimation, must have been Polycarp).

It is also my contention that much of the Gospel character Jesus was influenced by legend surrounding Paul.  For example, the (Ebionite!) Pseudo-Clementines have Simon Magus claiming to be born of a virgin in his confrontation with Peter.  Paul, in 1 Corin, claims to specifically to be born from a miscarriage.  But,as I have made the case in earlier posts, Paul was the original Simon, who was presumed by his followers to be the first true Earthling who received the Spirit from Jesus around the time of his death, perhaps several lifetimes and reincarnations earlier.

It is from the same Ebionite source that we get the factoid that Simon Magus was a disciple of John the Baptist, and fought for control of the sect with Dositheus.  Such admissions serves to give us several facets of what the Ebionites believed:

  1. Jesus was a contemporary of Simon Magus
  2. Jesus and Simon Magus were in the same place at the same time with the same people
  3. Simon Magus and Jesus both worked to achieve the same means – to control John the Baptist’s sect after his death

Josephus

The Jewish-Roman historian Josephus makes reference to plenty of historical figures who resemble the Gospel Jesus.  One character who resembles Jesus is the so-called Egyptian, the messianic claimant who took thousands of followers to the Mount of Olives, and claimed he could knock down the temple walls, just like Jesus does in Mark 14:57, Matthew 27:40, and John 2:19.  Such a following in Judea – perhaps over 1% of Judea’s population at the time, would surely have some holdovers and legend surrounding it!

The link between Jesus and Egypt is explicit, as described in Matthew 2:13-23.  However, another curious link to Egypt comes from Celsus, who was quoted by Origen.  In his polemic against Christianity, Celsus writes

“…[Mary] disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself to be a God.”

Note the parallels Celsus draws between (his understanding of) Christianity at the time and the tradition history remembers.  This is not the only place where Jesus is described as being born illegitimately and in disgrace.  The Toldoth Yeshu also describes that Mary was raped, and Jesus was the byproduct.  The curious detail about Celsus’s account is that Jesus was away from Jerusalem for a number of years, certainly to the point where he would have had the wherewithal to perform labor for money.

In other words, the Celsus version of Jesus might consider himself an Egyptian; surely, this version has plenty of reasons to refer that portion of his biography.  The stunning link here comes from Acts of the Apostles 21:37-39, where Paul speaks to a Roman commander:

 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”

“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”

320px-Acts_of_the_Apostles_Chapter_21-16_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)

One wonders what the Acts author was attempting here.  Was this a polemic? A slight against an early Christian member whom the author was begrudgingly forced to admit into the Orthodoxy?  Or are we getting insight into a partial truth of Christian history?

We must also allow for the assumption that the Acts author was familiar with Josephus, and was slyly integrating Christian history into what was left of secular history.  But as far as smoking guns go, this seems like one.

Advertisements

Marcion Revisited

The boilerplate biography for Marcion includes the following:  he was a heretical, mid-2nd century Sinope (northern Turkey) native who rejected the God of the Old Testament, and elevated the Apostle Paul above all the other first-generation apostles; Marcion’s “bible”, which was purported to be the first multi-text Christian canon, was composed of Pauline letters – all extant letters except the so-called Pastorals, a detail which amplifies the critical consensus that the Pastorals are indeed forgeries.

20130715-220109
 *A depiction of Marcion harassing Polycarp with his Satanic disposition

Another generally-accepted presumption is that Marcion was a consumer of a scaled down version of Luke’s Gospel and that he believed Jesus Christ was not composed of physical flesh.  This phantom-view of Jesus was called Docetism, and is referenced in the Acts of John, which has John walking next to Jesus, remarking that his feet left no prints in the sand (Acts of John 93).

The earliest (extant) reference to Marcion was in Justin Martyr’s first apology to Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, circa 155 CE; in his apology, Justin complained that Marcion’s sect was not persecuted by Rome, but his own sect was.

A point of intrigue is that the Apostle Paul, Marcion’s Apostolic focal point, was likewise accused and presumed to be friendly with Rome (at least via his Herodian alliances).

Dissonant Timeframes

A curious detail emerges when contrasting Justin’s first apology with Irenaeus’s c 182 Tome, Against Heresies.  Irenaeus puts Marcion as active in the mid-150s (AH iii.4.3); however, Justin’s characterization indicated that Marcion’s theology had spread across all nations in the Roman empire, a trajectory which would have been impossible to accomplish within a few years; a more economical presumption based on Justin’s proposition and the speed of travel and information dissemination at the time, is that Marcion had been active for decades by the time Justin complained about him.  This presumption is corroborated in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata 7.17, which purports that Marcion was active with several other heretics, including Valentinus, but was much older than his contemporary heretics.

The Polycarp Connection

One of the earliest prominent members in the Johannine (John-centric) tradition is Polycarp of Smyrna.  This link is obvious from a number of perspectives.  For instance, Smyrna (Izmir) is geographically close to Ephesus, which is traditionally considered “ground zero” for Johannine Christianity.  More to the point, Polycarp was purported by Irenaeus to have received instruction from the Apostles in his youth (AH iii.3.4); this Apostolic succession, coupled with Irenaeus’ claimed seeing of Polycarp in his own youth, is presumably what gave Irenaeus his later authority in the church (of course, it is no great leap to be skeptical of such timeframes and relationships).  In Against Heresies iii.3.4, Irenaeus gave an anecdote about Polycarp encountering Marcion; in this encounter, Polycarp accused Marcion of being “the first-born of Satan”.  Irenaeus gave this anecdote in the sentence immediately following the anecdote of the Apostle John running from Cerinthus in a bathhouse in Ephesus.  Irenaeus was aware of both Polycarp and Justin (AH iv.6.2), who were both hostile to Marcion.  One wonders, given similar timeframe, geography, Roman preoccupation, and hostilities, if Polycarp and Justin knew each other; indeed Robert Grant in Greek Apologists of the Second Century argued that Justin’s apology was in response to the Martyrdom of Polycarp.

In another tradition, relayed at the end of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, it was “our brother, Marcion” who played a role in disseminating the story of Polycarp’s martyrdom (Martyrdom 20:1), but, in the story, it was from Irenaeus’s manuscripts that the story was assembled (Martyrdom 22:2).

The Peter Connection

The late 2nd century bishop, Serapion of Antioch, made brief reference to Marcion.  In his reference, Serapion claimed that Marcion used a “mostly Orthodox” text purported to be written by Peter.  In contrast to (staunchly defended) tradition which has Jesus Christ’s apostles writing the Gospels and epistles, Serapion wrote “But those writings which are falsely inscribed with [the earliest apostles’] name, we as experienced persons reject, knowing that no such writings have been handed down to us”.

Consider a speculation:  The Gospel of Mark, which lacks a virgin birth and was used by Gnostic Christians, is rooted in Petrine traditions, as Mark was the supposed interpreter for Peter.  Marcion is the diminutive version of Mark, meaning “Little Mark”.  It is more than a little curious that Marcion supposedly had a Petrine Gospel and was also presumed to have a Luke-like Gospel which lacked a virgin birth.  Could this Gospel mentioned by Serapion be the same one mentioned by Irenaeus?  If so, then a subsequent speculation is that the appropriate Gospel linked to Marcion is not Luke; rather, it should be Mark!

The Peter connection does not end there.  Consider Marcion’s favorite Apostle, Paul.  In 1 Corin 15, Paul brags that Christ’s revelation to Cephas (Peter) preceded his own.  In other words, Paul delighted in being the last Apostle to receive revelation; this bears striking resemblance to the Gospel of Mark 9:35, which has Jesus telling the 12 apostles that the real first apostle will be last; to the Basilideans, who according to various church fathers used the Gospel of Mark, the last Apostle who received the Christ from Jesus prior to his crucifixion, was Simon of Cyrene (AH i.24.4), who Acts of the Apostles has proselytizing to the Greeks in Antioch with Barnabas and a Herodian ally around the time of Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road (Acts 13:1).  This is a fascinating parallel, as Paul’s pre-Christian persona seems to be that of the Herodian Saulus, who mistreated Jerusalem citizens during the same timeframe.

In Acts of the Apostles 10, Peter spends time with a Simon Joppa, and subsequently has a vision where the heavens opened and the Lord told him to ignore Jewish dietary laws.  This is in stark contrast to Paul’s description of Peter, which had him rigidly adhering to rules set forth by “men from James” in Galatians 2:11-13.  In Acts 11, when Peter returns to tell his fellow Christians in Jerusalem the good news about the updated dietary guidelines, he’s met with resistance because he ate with uncircumcised Gentiles.  According to Epiphanius of Salamis (Panarion 28.2.5), the person who gave the most resistance to Peter’s update was Cerinthus, who has his own links to the Johannine community, as he was purported to be the author of Revelation and the Gospel of John (and of course, scared John out of the bathhouse in Ephesus).  Cerinthus, like Marcion, was a native of Asia.  An intriguing detail in this mix is that Marcion’s purported teacher, Cerdo, shared the same name prefix as Cerinthus, which is also similar to Cephas.  Indeed, this Cerdo might be the same historical person as the 4th Alexandrian Pope, Kedron, who was said to have been baptized by St. Mark, and was martyred under Trajan’s rule.

To be continued.

Introducing Heresium

I wanted to introduce Heresium, a new Facebook page that is a collaboration between Kristyn Hood, Derreck Bennett, and me.  Kristyn has worked over the past few years administrating Mythicist Milwaukee’s Facebook page – she approached me a couple weeks ago about Heresium, and I am very excited to be a contributor to the page.  Also administering the page is Derreck Bennett, author of Addictus: A NonBeliever’s Path to Recovery.

If you’re on Facebook, please follow us.  We’ll be sharing old and new content, and it’s going to be a great hub and resource for Christ mythicists and people interested in comparative mythology and other secular issues.  If you have content you’ve written, or have an author, blogger, or content creator you want to plug, let us know, and (assuming they pass our rigid filtering rules), we’ll share them on our page.

Heresium’s first chosen cover photo was a painting by 17th century Dutch artist Jan Luyken, which depicts the Apostle John running out of a bathhouse in Ephesus – running from Cerinthus.  The painting is a riff on a story originally told by Irenaeus of Lyon in Against Heresies (AH iii.3.4).  Irenaeus wrote that the Apostle John encountered Cerinthus in a bathhouse in Ephesus, and ran away screaming.

Luyken

Irenaeus is an important historical figure.  Not because of his honesty, or his grand wisdom or logically coherent philosophies; rather, he is important because he was one of the earliest prolific Christian writers whose writings still exist.  Based on tradition, internal clues, and authors who were aware of him, Irenaeus probably wrote at the tail end of the 2nd century.

The anecdote Irenaeus gave about Cerinthus and John is probably not true; but it raises an important point:  Irenaeus must have considered Cerinthus one of the earliest Christian practitioners.  As opposed to Valentinus and Marcion, who Irenaues placed in the mid-2nd century (which I suspect is later than they really were), Cerinthus is clearly put in the 1st.  Irenaeus was concerned about constructing a timeline of Christian history – a timeline which I think has permanently inhibited accurate scholarship on real Christian history.

Ironically, it was following this Cerinthian trail that led me to the unapologetic conclusion that Jesus Christ was not a real, individual historical figure.  The common feature of many early Christians is that they believed that a special Christ Spirit in the sky descended onto a man Jesus – Cerinthus, along with the Ebionites, those presumed “men from James” who were hostile to the Apostle Paul, believed this. In other words, it becomes economical (especially in light of a reasonable skepticism to Irenaeus) to presume that this Spirit-descending view was part of the earliest, or earlier, version of Christianity.

In my opinion, the very most economical conclusion in this matrix is that Jesus Christ was simply an abstraction of the ideal Paraclete, the encapsulator of the Christ Spirit.

We liked this painting as the cover photo for Heresium because it is a great metaphor for the current state of Christianity.  The truth has the Apostles on the run.

Eye On The Ba’al

For some Gnostic Christians, Jesus Christ was analogous to the Earth’s Craftsman, Yaldabaoth, in consequential ways.  Yaldabaoth was the spawn of the exiled mother Aeon, Sophia (AH i.7.1).  Depending on which version of Gnosticism you look at, Jesus is similarly a product of Sophia.  This is at least found in Irenaus’s claims about the Valentinians (AH i.11.1).

Christ also was not produced from the Aeons within the Pleroma, but was brought forth by the mother who had been excluded from it, in virtue of her remembrance of better things, but not without a kind of shadow.

In other versions of Gnosticism, the Logos is the last-created Aeon, sometimes created by other Aeons in the Pleroma.

If one holds to the notion that the early heretic, Basilides, was a Gospel of Mark consumer, then we have another manifestation in that Yaldabaoth’s minions could recognize that Jesus encapsulated the Christ.

But one of the Valentinian views, which has the Logos as the offspring of Sophia, would subsequently imply that the Demiurge and the Logos were siblings!  Perhaps this is why a Valentinian view emerged which had the real source of evil on the Earth as the Demiurge’s creature, the Cosmocrator, rather than the Demiurge (AH i.5.4).  In other words, a complex hierarchy which explains material, evil, and the nature of reality begins to emerge within Valentinian Gnosticism.

The point that I have made over the past year has been that the original Christian Trinity would have been the Father, Mother, and Son.  This is strikingly analogous to the Canaanite view, which had El as the Father, Asherah as the Mother, and Ba’al as the son.

Like Jesus, Ba’al had his own battles to wage.  For example, Ba’al battled Mot for control over the Earth’s fertility.  Ba’al also battled Yam, who was the Sea God.  Yam’s servant was Lotan, a dragon-like sea monster, who in some versions has 7 heads, and was the equivalent to the Leviathan, who showed up throughout the Old Testament, notably Job 3 and Isaiah 27.  Compare the Canaanite tradition to Revelation, which features the Queen of Heaven escaping from a 7-headed dragon in Heaven (Rev 12:3):

And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns…

*I should make the obligatory note that there are many interpretations of this 7-headed dragon; there were probably multiple layers of intent by describing the dragon this way, perhaps in part describing the number of nations that Israelites would have been aware of.

red-dragon-revelation

The scarlet, 7-headed dragon in Revelation 12 chased the pregnant queen in the hopes of devouring her unborn child; this child was immediately snatched up to heaven by “the father” after he was born, leaving the dragon the singular option of chasing the mother, who was then protected by the Earth.  The dragon, after realizing the mother found protection, made war with the woman’s other children, who were also the brothers and sisters of the messiah.  I have made the case (and I am hardly alone in my speculation) that these “other children” were the Nasar – the keepers of an older law which had been lost from mainstream Judaism for hundreds of years BCE.

The victim of the 7-headed dragon was the Mother (and by extension, the child and other siblings).  The dragon rendered authority onto a “beast” (Rev 13:2), and “the people” subsequently worshiped the dragon *because* he had given authority to the beast (Rev 13:4).  Put another way, the beast purported the dragon to be the most high; according to the readers and writers of Revelation, it was obvious this was not the case.

Revelation adjusts the Canaanite myth, which has the 7-headed dragon as the servant of Yam; in Revelation, it is not clear that the dragon is subservient to anyone.  However, in some versions of the Canaanite myth, Yam’s rulership on the Earth turned tyrannical after he imprisoned (the Most High) El’s Wife, Asherah, the Queen of Heaven.

Yam’s misbehavior outraged, El and Asherah’s son, Ba’al enough to take action, waging war against Yam.  There is unambiguous correlation between Canaanite myth and the story in Revelation, where the Queen is victimized by (what must be) the malicious offspring of the Most High, the dragon.

Revelation 17 gives insight into another adversary who had collaborated with the scarlet, 7-headed dragon.  The purple and scarlet clad woman, who is later identified as the whore of Babylon, was clearly a reference to the decoration of the temple veil, which had those colors and was of Babylonian origin.

Josephus gives the following description of the Babylonian veil:

It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple…

The purple and scarlet wearing whore had replaced the prior protector of the temple:  the Queen of Heaven!  The heavenly-emanated woman who was at the helm looking over Solomon’s Temple was absent from the 2nd temple, presumably because the dragon prevented it.

Revelation eventually has the whore falling, and “the beast was captured, along with the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf” (Rev 19:20).  They were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

In the Canaanite myth, it is Ba’al who battled the 7-headed dragon.  In Christianity, it is “the angel standing in the sun” who ushers in the beast’s destruction and the dragon’s 1000 year imprisonment.  This gave rise to angels who were “given authority to judge” (Rev 20:4); compare that to the Canaanite myth, which had the most High giving Yam the ability to judge on Earth, prior to his rebellion and imprisonment of the mother/queen.

It is easy to look at these correlations and presume Revelation’s writer simply rewrote the Canaanite myth.  But there is something strange about this:  why is the tradition of Ba’al, who in Orthodox Christianity came to represent Satan (or at least one of his minions), treated so kindly?

One of my presumptions is that Revelation was not crafted by anyone with much concern for the emerging Orthodoxy’s rules.  Rather, Revelation’s author here seems to have a very clear picture of how he and Jesus Christ (ie the Logos manifested on Earth) sees creation and other units within their emerging religion.  The blatant lifting of attributes from the Canaanite myth might be inconsequential, but I believe these were traditions that were originally important to the Queen of Heaven cult, and that is why they survived into the Orthodoxy (via Revelation) despite Revelation being considered heretical by many early Christians.

Ba’al, Yaldabaoth, and Satan

A lot of my interest over the past year has been on the evolution from the deposed Jewish Queen of Heaven, and her transformation into the Gnostic Christian Sophia.  This evolution, and the speculation of various groups who maintained concern for this female deity, including the Nasaraenes, Elchesites, and others, has remarkable explanatory power around various curiosities within Christianity, such as why so many women were revered in early Christian communities.  This is particularly interesting in light of the notion of the transient Paraclete Spirit, which was encapsulated by the Christ of each generation; in my model, there were male and female Paracletes, and this notion was rooted in the Elchesite view that the angelic originators of those Spirits lived in the sky, and sent shadows of themselves onto the inferior material of the earthly realm, a clear invocation of Platonism.

According to tradition found throughout the Old Testament, including 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Jeremiah, the Queen’s purge from Orthodox Judaism occurred a few decades before the Babylonian destruction of Solomon’s temple – in the 6th century BCE.

In my investigation, I have largely ignored the other victim of King Josiah’s purge during the Deuteronomic reform:  Ba’al.

220px-baal_ugarit_louvre_ao17330

Ba’al functioned as a God across several religions and geographic locations, primarily in the Canaan religion, but clearly was a player in earlier versions of Judaism, sometimes synonymous with El Elyon (the most high) and Yahweh; at other points, Ba’al was the son of the most high, often the Storm God – He Who Rides on the Clouds.  He was also the brother of Asherah, who can be identified with the Queen of Heaven.

In terms of his relationship with storms, Ba’al is similar to Zeus, but it also reframes the curious invocation of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, as the sons of thunder; if one is committed to the notion that the Gospel of Mark contains Gnostic sentiments (Part 1, Part 2), then this might actually be a slight against James and John, by purporting they are children of a God lower than the Most High.

In the mythology of Canaan, Baal was the god of life and fertility, and is perpetually locked in mortal combat with Mot, the god of death and sterility.  This dualism of good versus evil was typical of religions of the day; this conflict between Ba’al and Mot, which signified the changing of seasons, was similar to other season myths, such as that of Persephone, whose annual sentence to the Underworld caused Demeter to neglect the vegetation, which brought on drought.

Consider an implication of Ba’al: his domain, primarily in his role as vegetation God, was on the Earth.  This is in contrast to Gods who exclusively reigned in Heaven.

As I traverse the attributes of Ba’al, I wonder if, aside from influencing the Judeo-Christian notion of the Earth’s ruler as a friendly, loving God, also contributed to a more hostile Demiurge who was present in various Gnostic iterations.  Contributing to my suspicion is that Ba’al is sometimes the equivalent of Satan in various Christian stories.

In order for this presumption to hold any water, there must have been some notion where Ba’al was simultaneously the craftsman of the material realm AND lower than the most high.  This notion of Ba’al as the Demiurge appears well-developed among authors who have written about this topic, but as of this moment (10/23/2017 at 7:10pm CST), I have struggled to find a primary source which explicitly posits this.

I’ve really only scratched the surface on this topic, but as of now, Ba’al provides remarkable explanatory power about the curious notion that the Demiurge was a malevolent Spirit committed to the entrapment of humans within the material realm.

 

Is The Gospel of Mark Gnostic? (Part 2)

In my previous post about detectable Gnosticism in and around the Gospel of Mark, I discussed one of Mark’s presumed earliest consumers, Basilides.  The key feature of Basilides, and so many others, is that they omitted the virgin birth in their theology, believing instead that a transient spirit descended onto Jesus at the time of his baptism – a feature still extant in Mark’s Gospel.

This transient spirit hopped to Simon of Cyrene, the unknown stranger plucked from the field by Roman soldiers, and who was, in my opinion, foreshadowed as the Jesus’s last disciple and unnamed demon caster in Mark 9:35-40.

An intriguing question emerges in the Basilidean worldview:  what makes Simon of Cyrene so special?  Why is he placed specifically at the end of the story and given such a revered and sacred responsibility?

One speculation is that the Gospel story was simply a parable which described how the sacred Spirit, emanated from Elxai’s 96 mile tall sky angels, made its way into the human body.

Another speculation, and one which I prefer, is that Simon of Cyrene was a stand-in for the real inspiration behind the Gospel theology, Paul.   Paul was referred to as Simon by his theological adversaries, the Ebionites (Ir AH i.26.2).  Like Simon, Paul boasted of bearing Jesus Christ’s cross (Gal 6:14).

Like the Spirit, names seem to have been transient in Christianity.  A propensity for pseudonyms in early Christianity is confirmed in Lucian’s Passing of Peregrinus – in it Lucian says “I have heard that he no longer deigns to be called Proteus but has changed his name to Phoenix”.  Lucian also quips “He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god…”.  Compare this polemic in Lucian to a similar sect Irenaeus of Lyon referred to as the Carpocratians: “…some of them declare themselves similar to Jesus; while others, still more mighty”.  The Carpocratians also believed “[Jesus Christ] perfectly remembered those things which he had witnessed within the sphere of the unbegotten God”.

Consider my parallelomanic assembly:  The Christ bounced from person to person, and this Spirit went to Simon of Cyrene.  Suppose this Gospel activity occurred in “the realm of the unbegotten God”.  I have made the case Simon of Cyrene was a cipher for Paul.  Paul claimed to remember details which would only have made sense if he had perfect memory of his pre-birth (1 Corin 15:8, Gal 4:19); what we have in Paul is a Christ (messianic/Paraclete) claimant, similar to Simon Magus.  In this context, assuming the Basilideans played a role in Mark’s construction, then Jesus Christ is simply a cipher for Paul.

Consider another tact to investigate the Gospel’s Gnosticism:  let’s put Mark’s discrepancies from Matthew and Luke in the spotlight.  It is most reasonable to presume the contents of Mark preceded Matthew and Luke for a number of reasons, notably because it rarely contains content not contained in Matthew or Luke.  When there are small deviations between Mark and the other two Synoptics, it is usually Matthew or Luke correcting awkward language or technical errors, such as geographic or cultural goofs.

There are only a few passages in Mark not present in either Matthew or Luke.  In my theory, these passages ought to have Gnostic, or Gnostic-parallel elements in them.  Indeed, I think they do.

The Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)
“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

These agricultural tropes were common in Christian literature.  When one allows for the fact that Simon of Cyrene was plucked from the field, rather than the more commonly translated “country”, this feeds into the Basilidean view.  Simon of Cyrene was presumably not expecting to be forced to carry Jesus Christ’s cross.  Likewise, if one believes Simon is foreshadowed in Mark 9:35-40, the reader is left to wonder how Simon got the power to cast out demons if Jesus never granted such authority.  This question is not answered in the text, as far as I can tell.  But this notion of planting seeds in the field is likely a reference to the field in which the New Jerusalem will emerge (2 Esdras 10:3, 2 Esdras 10:27).  This notion of the New Jerusalem is also found in Revelation 21:2  – where the city emerges “as a bride adorned for her husband” – Revelation shares a common feature with 2 Esdras: the woman is the city.   In other words, the woman will mark the rebirth of Jerusalem.

This concern for a New Jerusalem is prominent with the Montanists, who were located in central Turkey, near Galatia.  The Montanists (and presumably generations before them), settled into central Turkey to make it the New Jerusalem.  They were planting seeds in the New Jerusalem.

The Healing of the Deaf Mute (Mark 7:31-37)

Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. 

This might be a reference to the tradition of Paul becoming temporarily blind, which also seems to be inverted in Acts 13:11, when Paul tells bar Jesus “And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun”.  Of course, one reason Matthew’s community might have disliked this story is because Jesus is seemingly performing a parochial magic act, something Jewish communities would have grimaced at.  But if this tradition of Jesus as a magician was the original one, then that could mean the Simon Magus traditions perhaps were also original.

The Healing of the Blind Man (Mark 8:22-26)

Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?”  And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

Once again, we see an aspect of Jesus’s magic unique to Mark.  And once again, this calls into question Paul’s blindness on the Damascus Road.  It was sky-Jesus who catalyzed Paul’s blindness.  It was also the sky Christ’s collaboration with eye-scale-removing do gooder, Ananus to return Paul’s sight; in Mark, Jesus performed a similar act more than once.  Again, Acts seems, in my opinion, to be a sophisticated inversion of the earlier tradition.

The Naked Fugitive (Mark 14:51-52)

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

There are many interpretations of this text, but to me, this appears to be a metaphor with relation to the Christ Spirit, which inhabits the Paraclete’s body.  The surviving Islamic tradition, that Jesus tricked the Romans, conveys a similar sentiment.  They caught the linen-clothed boy, but he ran off, leaving the cloth with them.  If the point of the Gospel was to prepare the reader (audience) for the Spirit hopping, a scene like this would have served to butter the audience up for the main event.

Is The Gospel of Mark Gnostic?

As I have pointed out in several posts (ex. Jesus or the Christ), the Gospel of Mark’s users did not believe in the virgin birth.  This is detectable within the text of the Gospel of Mark, as it omits a birth narrative and gives clear indication that Jesus’s post-baptism behavior is entirely new, notably in Mark 3:21, when Jesus’s family considers locking him up because they believed he lost his mind.

We also glean from a variety of heresiologists, including Irenaeus of Lyon, in Against Heresies i.24, that one of Mark’s earliest consumers, Basilides, whose theology holds clear Gnostic attributes, believes that the Spirit, which an ordinary man Jesus absorbed at the time of his baptism, left him prior to his crucifixion, and jumped to Jesus’s cross bearer, Simon of Cyrene, who had been plucked from the field, and essentially becomes “the last” apostle which Jesus Christ mentioned in Mark 9:35, and who (in my opinion) is clearly foreshadowed in Mark 9:38 as the unnamed demon-caster who John complains to Jesus about.

The fact that Gnostic Christians used the Gospel of Mark does not necessarily mean that Mark was written with Gnostic intentions.  However, there is a passage in the Gospel of Mark 4:10-11 which reveals alternative motives.

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

The above passage alludes to a mystery religion.  The defining characteristic of a mystery religion is that the literal components of the religion are obfuscated so that outsiders have limited access to the religion’s inner workings.  Jesus privately addressing his inner circle about hidden meaning in his words is a clear allusion to a deeper mystery.

This means decoding techniques which rely on modern literal intuition are not going to render the intended meaning.

Along with the theme of secrecy which is detectable throughout the Gospel, the specific attribute that makes Jesus so special, aside from his demon-casting abilities is that demons recognize him.  This paradigm is given almost immediately in the Gospel in Mark 1:23-24

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,  “What do you want with us,Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

The above passage implies that malevolent spirits can inhabit humans.  But where did the malevolent spirits originate?  And how could they originate on an Earth which is governed by a benevolent God?  And what was that Je ne sais quoi about Jesus that triggered demons to lash out at him?

According to Irenaeus of Lyon, the Gnostic view of earth-originating demons is that the Cosmocrator is the ruler of the Earth.  The Cosmocrator, in Against Heresies i.5.4, is the “creature of the Demiurge” (the Demiurge was the Craftsman who created Earth).  This gave the Valentinian Gnostics the ability to offload the Craftsman’s malevolence onto the Cosmocrator; for the Valentinians, the Demiurge was more ignorant than malevolent.  Incidentally, this Demiurge-Cosmocrator relationship correlates to the dragon rendering his authority to “the beast” in Revelation 13:4.

According to Irenaeus, the Valentinians saw the Demiurge as “incapable of having knowledge of spiritual things”.  The Christ, which Jesus possessed, was a Spirit.  How then could the Demiurge’s minions, such as the demon-possessed man around the synagogue, have recognized Jesus in this context?

The Demiurge and his followers recognized Jesus because the Demiurge became aware of “spiritual things” after Jesus received the Christ!

In Mark 1:9-10, Jesus receives the Spirit via baptism:

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

After Jesus was baptized and the dove descended carrying the Spirit, the heavens opened to express the lord’s pleasure.  Mark 1:12-13 has Jesus being instantly taken to the wilderness to be deposed by Satan:

 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tested by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

christ_in_the_wilderness_-_ivan_kramskoy_-_google_cultural_institute

Note that the wilderness (ἐρήμῳ / ἔρημον) to which Jesus was taken was the same wilderness mentioned around John the Baptist’s ministry:  “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance” (Mk 1:4).

The Demiurge’s ignorance of all things spiritual was transformed into hostility against the spiritual after he interrogated Jesus.  This awareness remains evident throughout Mark; for instance, with the demons from Mark 1:34, who knew who Jesus was.

The fact that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days is probably not inconsequential, as it may have been a multiple (as in other Jewish text, such as 2 Esdras 10:45) – consider my speculation that 40 days was equivalent to 4000 years, that would imply this interaction occurred prior to the Earth’s creation, which according to Rabbinical Chronology, occurred on October 7, 3761 BCE.  In other words, Satan’s attempted deal-making with Jesus would have occurred prior to creation, which means Satan was in control of the wilderness prior to the creation of the earth.  This would put Satan as the primary candidate for the Demiurge, or the creator of the world — hardly an Orthodox view of creation!  In Mark 1:13, Jesus “was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”  Incidentally, this allows for the Gospel of John’s assertion that “through him all things were made” (Jn 1:3).

Who are those angels and wild beasts?  In Gnostic traditions, the Demiurge’s fellow rulers (archons) were often represented as animal hybrids.  Likewise, according to various Gnostic and proto-Gnostic practitioners, the Earth was created by inferior angels.

Jesus’s presence during this time puts him as a candidate for a primal Adam.

What these details amount to is a Gospel which must have been more aware of Gnostic traditions than tradition purports.