The Queen of Heaven Revisited

It has been over a year since I had an epiphany that convinced me that early Christianity was a reworking of an ancient Queen of Heaven cult.  There were a variety of clues that led me to this conclusion.

Queen of Heaven

The first indication of this is Mary, the Queen of the Universe and mother to Jesus.  Mary was analogous to the Gnostic Sophia in that Mariamne means rebel, and Sophia’s actions which gave rise to the universe were a form of rebellion.  With these figures, we have a mythological underpinning linked to the notion of the divine feminine, which is likewise pervasive across other myths.  Both Sophia and Mary managed to give birth without the expected male counterpart.

There is a curious phenomenon in early sects which I think builds a bridge to this notion of the divine feminine.  There were women in several heretical Christian sects who were very high ranking; according to early heresiologists, including Irenaeus and Hippolytus, these women were centerpieces in their respective cults.  When I first read about these high ranking women, I wondered if there was correlation between Mary’s archetype, in their respective Christian communities – the mother and bride, so to speak.  In his tome, Hippolytus has the Naassenes (arguably a corruption of the term Nasarenes) revering Mariamne, a disciple of James.  One tempting speculation is that those Naassenes saw James as Jesus Christ!  This presumption is compatible with the early adoptionistic notion that the Christ descends onto a man.  The name of the man would then be subject to change once he received the Spirit, as indicated in Acts of the Apostles, when Saul became Paul after receiving the Spirit.

The Paraclete

Early Christian leaders, such as Simon Magus, Apelles, Montanus, and others, saw themselves as the Paraclete – that is to say, they were the current owner of the Christ Spirit, which facilitated communication between the human host and heaven’s spokespeople.  The early sects had the male Paraclete and his bride – the high ranking woman, who heresiologists often purported shared her name with a Greek mythical character (Helen, Philumene, Charis); an implication is that early Christian communities had 2 Paracletes: one male and one female.  This notion is substantiated in descriptions of Elxai, who had one male and one female 96 mile tall spirit in the sky; this Elchesite framework is compatible with Irenaeus of Lyon’s description of the Ebionites (AH i.26.2), who believed the Christ Spirit descended onto Jesus in the form of a dove.  Epiphanius of Salamis wrote that Elxai had Ebionite and Nasarene followers, which hints at an equivalence:  the Ebionites were Nasarenes.  When we integrate the Naassene framework which had James and Mariamne occupying similar roles as other Paraclete pairs, coupled with a presumption that the Ebionites were early James followers, we seem to have a parallel framework between all these mentioned sects: Male and female leaders who represented material versions of the Holy Spirit, which later became known as the Paraclete.

Hebrew Roots

Both terms, Ebionite and Nasarene, are rooted in Hebrew.  Ebion means poor, which makes the Ebionites candidates for Paul’s poor, whom Paul begrudgingly promised to deliver cash in Galatians 2:10.  Irenaeus of Lyon wrote that the Ebionites hated Paul!  We might presume Paul’s own claim to the Paraclete undercut James’, which could have given rise to Ebionite resistance.

Nasar is Hebrew for to keep, guard, or preserve.  In Acts 24:5, Paul is accused of being the “ringleader of the Nazarenes”*.

*Note:  I believe this was an obfuscation, as the earliest Nazarenes probably resembled the Ebionites in their distaste for Paul.

Another implementation of this Hebrew word is Netzerite, which means branch (Isa 11:1, 60:21).

This word modulation is a critical element of the language, and provides much explanatory power in the inclination to link concepts together in the literature.  Branches are children of trees.

This relationship to the tree, in the context of the parent/child relationship, is relevant.  Ancient Hebrew did not have vowels, and therefore branch and keep were the same written wordנצר

The Johannine Texts

A reference the keepers is found in Revelation 12:17, which equated those keepers of the law with the children of the heavenly woman chased from heaven by dragon.  This is a clear reference to the Hebrew term Nasar.  Those children were likewise the siblings of the messiah – they are the brothers and sisters.  A parallel in another Johannine (John community) canonical text, the Gospel of John, was that the unnamed mother of Jesus gave authority to Jesus which catalyzed his magical powers in John 2:4-9.  At the end of the Gospel, Jesus’s mother received Jesus’s disciple as an adopted son before Jesus died on the cross (John 19:25-27).

My first assumption about the woman from Revelation 12 was that it was a reference to Sophia, the Gnostic Wisdom aeon who catalyzed the disconnect between the material realm and the highest heaven.  This assumption is corroborated by Irenaeus of Lyon, who claimed that the Valentinians (who had a robust creation story which included Sophia) were vociferous consumers of the Gospel of John (AH iii.11.7).  It is no stretch to presume that the Gospel of John and Revelation would have been used in conjunction during the 2nd century; in other words, the Valentinians probably consumed Revelation.  That Irenaeus also stated that the Valentinians believed Sophia gave birth to the Logos (AH i.11.1) amplified my presumption that the divine lady, who stood in the sun with her feet on the moon and stars in her hair, was a rethinking of Sophia.

Correlation

Despite the links between the lady from Revelation, who was chased to Earth (Rev 12:1), but eventually returns like a bride adorned for her bridegroom* (Rev 21:2), this story was also reminiscent of a Canaanite tradition, which had Asherah imprisoned by the sea God Yam.  In this story, Asherah’s son, Ba’al, battled a red 7-headed dragon in order to free his mother from imprisonment.  In the Valentinian story, Sophia was likewise imprisoned – trapped as a result of her creation, Yaldabaoth, awaiting the cross of the Logos to disarm the archons (Col 2:14-15).

*Note:  Rev 21:2 is in reference to the new holy city; however, other texts make a clear equation between the crowned lady and the restoration of the city – the two were synonymous (2 Esdras 9:38, 2 Esdras 10:27).

I started to wonder if all 3 of these traditions shared the same root.  This matter is likewise intriguing in that Judaism and the Canaanite religion shared similar history and genetics.

The Purge of Canaanite Elements

Most Jews and Christians today would be surprised to learn that Judaism prominently featured characters who were featured in the Canaanite religion.  1 Kings 15 describes King Asa, who purged Asherah from the temple.  His attempts were not permanently successful.  The term Asherah occurs many times across the Old Testament, but the impression we get is that there were cultists in the 1st temple era who blasphemed by worshiping Asherah, a feminine tree idol.  King Josiah burned the wooden pole which represented Asherah in 2 Kings 23:6.  The impression of Asherah in the Old Testament is that a frivolous cult insisted on worshiping her, despite her unholiness.  Passages that describe this time in Jewish reconstructed history make it clear that the Asherah idol was also referred to as the Queen of Heaven (Jer 44:18).

The Losing Side

Josiah’s purge of the Asherah pole and related artifacts was not without pushback.  Throughout Jeremiah, there were people who resisted Josiah’s new Orthodoxy.  Women in the Book of Jeremiah lament that their failure to burn incense, bake bread, and pour out wine for the Queen of Heaven brought on Jerusalem’s destruction and its people’s expulsion from their holy land.

There is also non-canonical literature which makes reference to Josiah’s purge.  1 Enoch describes the “Apocalypse of Weeks”, which gives chronological history as the writer saw it.  Here is 1 Enoch 93:7-8

And after that in the fifth week, at its close, The house of glory and dominion shall be built for ever.  And after that in the sixth week all who live in it shall be blinded, And the hearts of all of them shall godlessly forsake wisdom

In 1 Enoch, the 5th week had a house of glory built, but by the sixth week, the house’s inhabitants were blinded, and they abandoned Wisdom. The fifth week represented the construction of Solomon’s temple, and the sixth week was Josiah’s reform.

What precipitated this abandonment?  Recall it was Josiah’s so-called Deuteronomic reform which purged the Queen from the temple and Orthodoxy.  The Deuteronomic reform was so-named because the “long lost book of the law” which Hilkiah discovered during his renovation was actually major portions of Deuteronomy.  Deuteronomy 4:6 represents such abandonment:

Keep therefore and do [the commandments]; for this is your wisdom and your understanding…

In other words, Moses was inserted into the Jewish Orthodoxy, and he (and his law) replaced an older theology which included worship of the Queen of Heaven.  Wisdom was formerly the Queen, but Moses replaced  it with his law.  Another obvious Moses insertion is Exodus 6:2-3

God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.

The Tree

The idol that represented Asherah was the Asherah Pole, which was a large, carved tree.  In other words, the tree was a symbol of the lady.  The notion of a particular spirit living within a living thing, so often found in Christianity, is present in this Jewish tradition as well.

2 Chronicles 15:16 describes an event where King Asa, some 250 years before Josiah, cut down the tree his mother worshiped, and burned it.

There is a Gnostic text, On The Origins of the Earth, which has Sophia Zoe (Eve) breathing life into Adam and then going to live in a tree.

She put mist into [the archons’] eyes and secretly left her likeness with Adam. She entered the tree of knowledge and remained there

The Gnostic text refers to the lady entering the tree of knowledge (in Eden).  We get a competing assertion in Proverbs 3:

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding…She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed…By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;

1 Enoch 26.1 remembers a cut tree as well:

And from there, I went to the middle of the earth, and saw a blessed,well watered place, which had branches which remained alive, and sprouted from a tree which had been cut down.

We have the notion of the lady entering the tree, with some disagreement about which tree it was, knowledge or life.  My assumption is that the lady was originally the tree of life, and the reference to knowledge was a later Gnostic inversion.

A Speculation about the Eden Story

An implication of the lady’s adherents equating her to the tree of life is striking, and fits within the context of the Deuteronomic reform, which injected Moses into the Orthodoxy, simultaneously removing the lady and her periphery:  The Eden story is a corruption of an earlier tradition.  

The lady was Wisdom, and this earthly wisdom was replaced by the law (Deut 4:6), which also became Wisdom.  That is why she became Sophia in the Gnostic traditions.  Sophia was Wisdom, who was a later iteration of the Queen of Heaven.  The most plausible explanation of these data,  at least in my mind,  was that the tree dichotomy in the Eden story replaced an earlier formulation.

It is not a surprise then that Epiphanius of Salamis describes the Nasaraenes as a Transjordan quasi Jewish group which practiced Jewish customs and celebrated the holidays,  but rejected the Deuteronomic canon and believed they had the “true” writings of Moses (Panarion 1.3.19.2: “But they hold that the scriptures of the Pentateuch are not Moses’ scriptures, and maintain that they have others besides these”).

Interestingly enough, Epiphanius relayed that the term Nasaraean means rebels, similar to the reference to Mariamne and Sophia!

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The Other Jesus

The scholarly consensus is that the Gospel of Mark was written Circa 70CE.  Matthew and Luke were written in the following decades,  appending Mark’s core, which we might call the proto-Gospel.  It is likely the earliest Matthew and Luke Gospels lacked familial lineages, and those competing lineages were added in the subsequent decades as Christianity evolved, and as disagreements arose concerning Jesus’s background.

Let us borrow this framework for a speculative exercise.

Given Mark’s priority, along with the actual content of the Gospel and assertions made by early church fathers about who were using these Gospels, we can derive that the earliest Gospel theology was adoptionistic.  In this theology, the Christ Spirit descends onto Jesus, and influences his behavior, which purportedly gets him crucified.  Based on early consumers’ interpretations of the Synoptic Gospel, given by Irenaeus in Against Heresies (AH i.24, AH i.26), coupled with content within Mark’s Gospel, this crucifixion allows Jesus to trick the world’s rulers by causing them to kill a spiritually pure man.  This error causes the temple veil to tear, and provides a pathway to heaven which had been blocked since the 2nd temple was erected, and access to the holy of holies was limited to the Aaronic high priest (and prohibited to others who ought to have rightful access to this room).

Adoptionism And The Transient Spirit

Early Ebionites and Nazarenes, often presumed to be the same group, used a Matthew-like Gospel which lacked the virgin birth.  According to early adoptionists (AH i.25), Jesus’s soul was steadfast and pure; this allowed for the Christ’s trick: it descended onto Jesus and completely overtook him, which kept the man’s Spirit pure while the Christ Spirit acted on his behalf.

One variable in the Gospel centered around the matter of who received the Spirit after Jesus died.  To Mark’s readers, it was Simon of Cyrene.  Of course, there is a benefit to anyone who claims to be Simon of Cyrene (or the subsequent Spirit recipient); that subsequent Spirit holder gets to manage the religion’s direction.  Given Mark’s pro-Paul sentiments, we might presume that Simon of Cyrene was a cipher for the Apostle Paul.  Therefore, Paul was the recipient of the Christ Spirit – a detectable theme within Paul’s authentic writings (Gal 1:1, Gal 1:12, Gal 4:4, Gal 4:19, 1 Cor 15:8, Phillipians 2:17).

Enter the Ebionites

The Ebionites hated Paul.  This is clearly attested by Irenaeus (AH i.26.2).  We also see subsequent anti-Paul sentiments in later Ebionite texts, notably the pseudo-Clementines, which equated Paul with Simon the Magician from Acts 8.

The Ebionites, therefore, had a dilemma.  Mark’s Gospel was written before they could construct their own Gospel.  Mark must have become popular.  For the Ebionites, Mark’s emphasis is on the wrong character. An implication of the Christ spirit bouncing to Simon of Cyrene was that Simon was the real star.  The Gospel readers fall in love with Jesus, and then turn to the new Jesus, Simon of Cyrene, after Jesus the man is crucified.

According to the Ebionites, the first Gospel was based in the wrong time, drew attributes from the wrong historical figures, and gave spiritual inheritance to a charlatan.  Rewriting the Gospel would have been time consuming, expensive, and would have required scribal skills not common in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

The earliest Ebionite and Nazarene responses to Mark would have been to make small edits.  As the Gospel traveled to Nazarene communities, it underwent modifications to undercut Simon of Cyrene – removing details about Simon’s sons, and omitting that he was returning from the field, a cipher for the “New Jerusalem”, when he was grabbed by Roman soldiers.

Later Nazarenes were more overt in their responses to Mark.  They injected a virgin birth and had Jesus give long diatribes which undercut magical underpinnings pertinent to Christians who were deeply initiated into the mystery.  They also reintegrated Mosaic law into their Gospel.

The Nazarenes replaced the historical figures who were the basis for the Gospel Jesus.  Instead of using attributes taken from Josephus in his descriptions of Jesus ben Ananias and the Egyptian, the Nazarenes remade their Jesus in the image of Jesus ben Pandera.  The Nazarene Jesus was active a century earlier than Mark’s Jesus.  Even in Mark, those characters were backdated 15-20 years prior to the root characters’ actual time, perhaps for numerological purposes – putting Jesus’s death 40 years prior to the temple’s destruction was a reuse of the number 40, which was in relation to the number of years Jesus came after the Genesis account of the creation of the earth – 4000 years.

The Nazarene Jesus is remembered in several places throughout the historical record.  For instance, Epiphanius of Salamis gives the Nazarene Jesus as being active in the time of Alexander Jannaeus:

For the rulers in succession from Judah came to an end with Christ’s arrival. Until he came <the> rulers <were anointed priests >, but after his birth in Bethlehem of Judaea the order ended and was altered in the time of Alexander, a ruler of priestly and kingly stock.

There is similar attestation in a later Jewish source in the Toldoth Yeshu:

In the year 3671 in the days of King Jannaeus, a great misfortune befell Israel, when there arose a certain disreputable man of the tribe of Judah, whose name was Joseph Pandera. He lived at Bethlehem, in Judah…[Joseph tricks Miram and rapes her]…Miriam gave birth to a son and named him Yehoshua, after her brother.

The anti-Christian polemicist Celsus, by way of Origen, was aware of a similar tradition:

…when Mary was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera

It is difficult to know whether Jesus ben Pandera is the root character at the basis of the original Christianity.  My own speculation is that he is not, given the fact that the Ebionites were so far behind on the construction of their own Gospel, coupled with a slavish reliance on Mark.  What seems most likely, in my opinion, is that the Ebionites were later adopters of Christianity, and encountered it as they were forced to leave their holy land as the Jewish-Roman wars raged.

Jude and Thaddeus

Names were fluid among early Christians.  Paul and Saul, Peter and Cephas, Matthew and Levi, Joseph and Barnabas, James and Stephen…a tangled web indeed!

Why should such a phenomenon happen?  There are various quasi-apologetics that attempt to solve this puzzle, including the Jews-often-had-Greek-names explanation.

From my perspective, much of this name confusion is explained by a couple impulses among Jewish Christians:

  1.  As the religion evolved, prominent characters in the original stories were replaced with newer ones, who reflected the day’s leaders.
  2. Straw man characters were created, and filled with attributes of former leaders, now fallen from grace.  Simon Magus is one example of this.

I believe the Apostle Jude, who was also called Thaddeus and Judas, is a key piece in this puzzle.  This Jude, who shows up in the Gospels and Acts, also went by Thaddeus; this name would have been interpreted as Theudas by later outsiders, including Josephus.

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Theudas

Recall the story of Theudas:  a messianic leader in the early to mid 40s, who had numerous followers.  He took his disciples to the Jordan River and performed various water rituals, including parting the river.  His religious movement must have irritated Roman procurator Cuspius Fadus, because Fadus sent soldiers to behead Theudas, break up the cult, and bring his head back to Jerusalem.

Sounds familiar, yes?  This is strikingly similar to the story of John the Baptist.  Throw in some legend and dramatic license, and the literary conversion from Theudas to John the Baptist is self-evident.  Recall that Clement of Alexandria tells us that Theudas and the Apostle Paul had a student-teacher relationship (Stromateis 7.17), and what it looks like is that the stories of Theudas and Paul were altered to render a Gospel story which featured composite characters who resembled secular figures plucked from the annals.

Thaddeus

Thaddeus’s rearranged name looks remarkably like Theudas.  Indeed, I believe the two are the same person.  There were evolving traditions surrounding Jude and Thaddeus.  In Mark 3:18 and Matthew 10:3, Jude is omitted, and replaced with Thaddeus.  Yet, Jude is referred to as an apostle in the Gospels of Luke (Lk 6:16), John (Jn 14:22), and Acts (Acts 1:13).  It is easy to understand why later scribes might have done this, especially considering how sullied the name Judas (the long form of Jude) became.

Tradition holds that Thaddeus came from Edessa, which is 250 miles East of Tarsus, in modern Turkey (Syria at the time).  In the Epistle of Jude, Judas-Thaddeus called himself the brother of James, and in some cases, specifically the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jude was the brother of Jesus!  Jude held such a revered position in the early church that he got his own book in the New Testament.

Judas

The most (in)famous Judas in Christianity is Judas Iscariot, whose last name seems an anagram of the Sicarii, those religious fanatics who roamed Judea in the 1st century with curved blades, ready to kill or circumcise anyone who lacked reverence to the holy texts.  Judas is the last disciple selected in Mark, which is interesting in light of Mark 9:35, which has Jesus telling his disciples that the last shall be first.

In Simon vs. Judas, I pointed out an intriguing alternative tradition:  for the Basilideans, and later Muslims, Simon of Cyrene inherited the Spirit from Jesus (or was simply crucified in place of Jesus) prior to crucifixion.  Yet in the Islamic text, the Gospel of Barnabas, Judas is crucified in place of Jesus, so that Jesus can perform final cleanup tasks prior to departing earth (or at least Judea!).

This difference might be chalked up to frivolous license taken by later scribes; my speculation is that these were separate traditions which referred to and revered separate people; the most revered one would be the one who played the key role to help the Gospel Jesus trick the rulers (Mark 3:22-26) of the Earth to divide on themselves, and thus open a pathway (John 14:6) for believers to get out of the lower realms and to the Pleroma (or at least something better than the current Sphere).

The fact that Judas-Thaddeus is identified as an early follower of John the Baptist is relevant here, as such an explicit link may indicate that John and Judas share the same root person.  Another alternative is that Theudas/Thaddeus were followers of John the Baptist, and met a similar fate.

Jude and Paul

Consider a passage from the Epistle of Jude:

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you…Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude shares a similar political sentiment as Paul that some have injected themselves into Christian communities and corrupted them, such as Galatians 2:4

This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves

The difference between Paul and Jude comes because the two seem diametrically opposed in their theological concerns (various parts of Galatians paint a picture of Paul as an adversary to Jude’s concerns, and vice versa).

Jude even uses a Greek term, skotous, which refers to darkness, and which is almost exclusively reserved for the Pauline letters; I think it is clear Jude is writing with Paul in mind.  This term is used in the context of “wandering stars” and “wild waves of the sea” in Jude 1:13, which would seem to refer to Marcionite communities, as Marcion (Paul’s most zealous student) was presumed to be a mariner.

It is interesting that Jude invokes Egypt in his description of those infiltrators, especially considering that Acts of the Apostles 21:38 specifically equates Paul to the Egyptian whom Josephus described in Wars and Antiquities.  The fact that Josephus conveys that the Egyptian stirred up the masses and then escaped from Judea is fascinating here, as both the Simon of Cyrene and Judas traditions have those characters assisting Jesus in escaping the cross.  Likewise, interesting traditions about both of these characters rang prominent in Egypt, specifically with the Sethians and Basilideans, both groups explicitly linked to Egypt.

Conclusion

It seems that altered histories, either conveyed by original apostles or lifted straight out of Josephus and other accounts, were reworked to cast the revered leader du jour in the best light possible, and often as a method to sanitize and synthesize a variety of Judean leaders, who lived decades or centuries earlier, and whose theologies were out of fashion by the time later writers were crafting the Gospels.

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.

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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.

The Ebionites And The Chronology Con

The Consensus

Traditional consensus gives us an approximation of Christianity’s advent: Jesus ministers in Judea, and collects followers who would later become known as the Ebionites. Several of Jesus’s original followers scatter throughout the Diaspora and collect followers of their own. A renegade Pharisee, oppressor-turned-ally, Paul, takes the message to the Gentiles, who toss out the sacrilegious Paganism which permeates their land, and become initiates into Paul’s mystery. In subsequent centuries, Christians have run-ins with various emperors, until finally Constantine sees “the truth” and adopts Christianity on everyone’s behalf.

The Sermon on the Mount Carl Bloch, 1890

Anyone, from the staunchest atheist to the most zealous Christian, can accept this narrative and be roughly in-line with historical consensus.

It Doesn’t Work

There are problems with this narrative, though. Lots of them. For example, why are there no Hebrew Christian writings? Did Jews in Judea not write religious texts? That’s ridiculous! Qumran is full of scrolls written in Hebrew by the same type of people, who lived at the same time in roughly the same place as the earliest Christians.

And those Ebionites, who correlate to characters in the Gospels and epistles, resembling the earliest Jesus-followers, as well as “the poor” and “the saints of Jerusalem” Paul wrote about in Galatians and 2 Corinthians, evidently used a Matthew-like Gospel, which implies they relied on Mark, a text written by an author who was clueless about Judean culture and geography.

Even if we presume Matthew’s author had actually stepped foot in the geographic area the Gospel discusses, we still have the problem that the text was clearly written in Greek (decades after Jesus’s supposed ministry). Scholars point out that the traditions described in the Gospels must have had a Hebrew origin; therefore, evidently, it is economical to presume that the Greek Gospels were simply written versions of earlier Hebrew oral traditions. This is complete and utter bullshit.

The most economical formulation derived from this detail is not that there was a mysterious, long-lost Hebrew Gospel story circulating throughout the Diaspora. Rather, the most economical presumption is that the Gospels were written by Diaspora Jews, who lived varying distances from Judea!

Paul

Paul also does not assert that the Ebionites were the earliest Christians. Rather, according to Paul, Cephas was the earliest (or at least earlier) Christian, followed by 512 people. Finally, James, the figurehead for the Ebionites, received the Spirit (1 Corin 15).

Paul gives us the person he sees as the first Christian: it’s Cephas! He also tells us where Christianity goes astray: when the law-abiding Ebionites started to influence Cephas and his eating habits (Gal 2).

Cephas and Cerinthus

Consider one of my speculations, that Cephas and Cerinthus are one-in-the-same. I made this case a few months ago, although I didn’t invent the idea. One of the most remarkable passages in Irenaeus’s tome against the heretics is in AH i.26, when he describes Cerinthus and the Ebionites. The remarkable feature of that passage is that the Ebionites were similar to Cerinthus in all but one detail, the matter of the Earth’s creator (and by extension, the most high).

We learn from Irenaeus that the Ebionites had a staunch reverence for Jerusalem, similar to the way modern Muslims might revere Mecca. Notice that Irenaeus’s assertion does not imply the Ebionites lived in Jerusalem. In fact, it is quite more reasonable to presume they did not.

This presumption ties in with early Christianity’s concern for the New Jerusalem, which I think was the concern from the very beginning of Christianity, and which springs up inside and outside of the eventual Orthodoxy.

Cerinthus had a Demiurge (a lower creator of the Earth); according to Irenaeus, Cerinthus’s Demiurge was inferior angels, rather than the most high. This is the most explicit contrast we can find between Cerinthus and the Ebionites.

We are also told from various church fathers that Cerinthus used a sans virgin-birth Gospel of Matthew; Irenaeus implies that Cerinthus used something he might have recognized as the Gospel of Mark (AH i.26.1, AH iii.11.7).

Cerinthus, The Ebionites, and Matthew

Consider the speculation here:

If Cephas and Cerinthus are the same, and Cerinthus used a Gospel which resembled Mark and Matthew, and Cephas preceded James and the Ebionites, then we must presume that Cerinthus’s Gospel precedes anyone who was a native Hebrew speaker (if we presume Cerinthus was not a native Hebrew speaker – several church fathers put him in Roman Asia and Egypt). Rather, the impulse to Judaize Jesus came once Cerinthus’s theology took hold among Jews who had more reverence for the mother land than the earlier Christians did.

The fact that Cerinthus is likewise linked with (and purported to be the author of) Revelation is consequential here, as Revelation, like the Ebionite concern, gives insight into what New Jerusalem was. New Jerusalem was the return of the proper lady to the temple, and the purge of the whore of Babylon (which I think was the Babylonian influence on the 2nd temple, along with the temple which separated the Holy of Holies within it).

Pseudo-Tertullian gives corroboration to my point:

[Cerinthus’s] successor was Ebion, not agreeing with Cerinthus in every point

There are problems with the validity of the above statement, notably the notion that Ebion was a historical figure (he probably was not, although it is not entirely implausible that Ebion was James). Pseudo-Tertullian draws on Irenaeus to formulate his opinion, which means he may have been making a similar inference I am.

However, this chronology of Cerinthus and the Ebionites strikes me as more plausible, given my earlier presumption that the earliest Christianities were written by Diaspora Jews, and were eventually taken up by proto-Matthew communities which were much more attached to their Judaism than their earlier counterparts were.

In this theory, Cerinthus takes his proto-Synoptic Gospel, along with the deeper mystery text, proto-Revelation, throughout Asia and into Syria, coming into contact with various Nasaraene communities, who were likewise concerned with the restoration of the lady to the holy land. Many Nasaraenes, including the Montanists, were indeed concerned with creating a new holy land, since Jerusalem became increasingly uninhabitable for Jews between 70CE and 140CE.

Simon vs. Judas

Early Christianity was very modular. For some sects, the most high God was Yahweh. Other sects plugged in different Gods – a plethora, it would seem, based on the views of the Marcionites, Valentinians, Sethians, and Manicheans. The matter of who the beloved apostle was a modular replacement in the Gospels of Mark and John – Mark had the “last disciple”, Simon of Cyrene, being the recipient of the (proto) Paraclete, where John seems to have Lazarus as the “beloved disciple” (Jn 11:5). Various modules within the mystery seem custom-made to support component replacement.

Part of these divergences is explained by evolution of the religion and cultural influences, but others, I think, were political gamesmanship.

Like the Basilidean case of the Spirit hopping to Simon of Cyrene, a Judas Iscariot tradition invoked a similar mechanism: the crucifixion of the unintended person would trick the rulers of this earth, thus causing division in this material hellhole via a cascade of dissonance – killing an innocent man, killing the incorrect man, thus forcing Satan to divide himself.

30 Pieces of Silver

Jesus alludes to this requisite confusion in Mark 3:23-24

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand

The Christ Spirit compelled Jesus-man to say this because it foreshadowed the Spirit’s true intention: to divide Satan (the ruler of this earth) and bring his rule to the end. Jesus finishes this soliloquy with an allusion to the centerpiece of the mystery

…whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin

Mark gave the Spirit the utmost priority; my speculation is that this Spirit, which was the communication mechanism that Wisdom used to communicate to Jesus and other Paraclete encapsulators on Earth (also see Rev 17:19), was an early version of the Logos (Word). It seems to me, in light of John 1, and the passage “through him all things were created”, that the Logos and the Spirit must have been interchangeable (or at least in the same evolutionary line) at times. Mark’s defense of the spirit also suggests that it was the only way to return to the father. Compare that to the later Gospel of John, which has Jesus (the Logos) being the only way to the father (Jn 14:6).

The Cainites

In Against Heresies i.31, Irenaeus describes a curious group of Christians called the Cainites. It is difficult to know whether this was the term the group would have called itself; rather, I suspect that Irenaeus was claiming they revered Cain, as opposed to Seth or Abel, which would imply they revered the line of humanity which advocated and invented murder.

Irenaeus alludes to a Gospel the Cainites used

They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.

Interestingly, and exactly corresponding to the sort of data I would expect under my current theory (which has the deeper layer of the Christian mysteries reverent to the divine feminine), the Cainites resembled Carpocrates (and by extension, the Marcionites), with their presumption that this material world will not be exited without paying “the very last farthing”; by extension, those members “must render unto Caesar” his material demands. The Cainites believed the creator of the Earth was a figure named Hystera, which is a reference to the female uterus – clearly (IMHO) an allusion to the divine feminine.

It is not clear whether the Gospel of Judas Irenaeus referenced was the same one discovered in Egypt in the 1970s – I’m personally agnostic about whether it is. My point though is that Irenaeus was aware of a group (or groups) who kept a positive view of Judas, despite his villainy in the Gospel story. If Judas was a means to the desired end, then it is not a stretch to presume that some groups would have seen him as necessary (*of course, Judas must have been necessary according to modern Christians as well, although there does not seem to be such compulsion to keep Judas’s necessity in mind).

As with the Islamic tradition about Simon of Cyrene, which is clearly derivative of the Basilidean tradition, the Gospel of Barnabas, which is a text remembered by Muslims, and has been for centuries. In Barnabas, Judas assumes Simon of Cyrene’s role as Jesus’s facilitator:

And the disciples were sleeping. Whereupon the wonderful God acted wonderfully, insomuch that Judas was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus that we believed him to be Jesus… And John, who was wrapped in a linen cloth, awoke and fled, and when a soldier seized him by the linen cloth he left the linen cloth and fled naked…The soldiers took Judas ;and bound him, not without derision. For he truthfully denied that he was Jesus…Those disciples who did not fear God went by night [and] stole the body of Judas and hid it, spreading a report that Jesus was risen again; whence great confusion arose…And Jesus lifted up his mother and the others from the ground, saying: ‘Fear not, for I am Jesus; and weep not, for I am alive and not dead.’

In Barnabas, Jesus’s trickery results in Judas’s death. This trickery also saves Jesus from the cross so he can perform final cleanup prior to ascending with angels to heaven.

In this sense, the similarity between Simon of Cyrene and Judas is in their support of Jesus’s trick, although Barnabas seems to have lost the roaming Paraclete notion. A closing passage in Barnabas reminds us of tension among sects:

Others preached, and yet preach, that Jesus is the Son of God, among whom is Paul deceived.

Simon of Cyrene is treated well by pro-Paul factions. Matthew (which was used by Ebionites – a group hostile to Paul) undercuts Mark’s kindness to Simon of Cyrene, by cutting Jesus’s pleasantry about “whomever is not against us is with us” (Mk 9:40, Mthw 12:30), as well as the associated kindness to the unnamed demon-caster, which I presume to be a foreshadowing of Simon of Cyrene (Mk 9:38, Mthw 7:22). In other words, Barnabas, a text with clear Muslim affiliation, remembers traditions and sentiments of the Ebionites, that group which hated Paul (Ir. AH i.26.2)

The feature the Paulinists and the Ebionites shared is that Jesus’s death was surrounded by confusion and trickery, and this trickery served to undercut Satan. The divergence centered around who the facilitator was – Simon of Cyrene or Judas Iscariot.