Friday, April 1, 2016

An Example of What Happens When We Suppose that the Nomen Sacrum ΙΣ Derived from אש

It is one of the most problematic passages in the gospels.  The man in the synagogue sees Jesus and the demons within him declare "what have we to do with you, Jesus?"  The narrative is problematic on a number of grounds most notably with respect to the 'messianic secret' narrative that runs through the earliest gospel.  If Jesus wants to cultivate a shroud of secrecy around his person it is odd that the demons should immediately recognize him.  The demons are ultimate evil and Jesus is the ultimate good whose existence isn't well known or even ever grasped before his coming.

The implication then in one of the first narratives in the gospel is that demons 'recognize' Jesus as a god - and even more curiously know the existence of a god named 'Jesus' existing secretly in heaven.  Getting back to the 'gospel secret' thread, given the immediacy of this 'recognition' Jesus's deliberate cultivation of 'secrecy' is presumably directed against human beings rather than the demonic powers (otherwise God is portrayed as failing to maintain his disguise a minute into his earthly mission).  The details get stranger and stranger the further we go down this rabbit hole.  Did the Jews know about a god named 'Jesus'?  Of course not.  An angel named Jesus?  No certainly not.

'Jesus' presumably was the name of an earthly being.  Why then do the demons 'know' him as a god?  The solution is once again to assume - as most authorities on the nomina sacra do - that the strange Greek letters go back to something originally written in paleo-Hebrew.  We already have examples from the LXX where the name ΙΣ transposed the Hebrew name אש into Greek.  The god of Christianity was originally known as 'Man' and this corresponds with the earliest gnostic traditions preserved in Irenaeus and the Nag Hammadi texts - not to mention the earliest Jewish speculation about a second god.

Yet at its simplest the transposition solves the difficulty implicit in the demons seeming to know the name of 'Jesus.'  For, as the Marcionites originally knew, 'Jesus' was a stranger to everyone - even the demons.  Instead of 'recognizing' Jesus as a god or the god 'Man' they are rather speaking rather generically about this stranger claiming to have authority over them.  Note the parallel expression in Epictetus - "What have we to do with you, man? we are perishing and you come to mock us?"

τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, ἄνθρωπε Epictetus 2.19
τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, ΙΣ Mark 1:24 
The saying appears over and over again in various forms in the writings of the philosopher.  Rather than it denoting a 'recognition' on the part of the demons, it merely represents a common figure of speech reinforcing the 'alien' nature of the figure standing in front of them.

As noted above, the implication that the demons know Jesus is entirely at odds with Mark's 'secret' narrative and the identification of a stranger as 'man' figures elsewhere in the gospels.

Ἄνθρωπε ἀφέωνταί σοι - Luke 5:20
Ἄνθρωπε οὐκ εἰμί -  Luke 22:58
Ἄνθρωπε οὐκ οἶδα ὃ λέγεις - Luke 22:60 
I am sorry I just don't believe that the author had the Christian god fail a minute into his message to keep his identity secret from the world.  Even more unlikely is the idea that demons 'knew' that who 'Jesus' was.  The original religion of Israel recognize a second god named אש.  The gospel was written as a story of this god's repentance and crucifixion.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Where My Head Has Been At Lately ...

I have taken off time from blogging - mostly because life is quite busy at the moment.  When you are in the habit of always writing down your thoughts in a public way it doesn't seem at all strange.  It's just as natural as - well - biting your fingernails which is to say it really is a rather odd habit. Nevertheless since I have been just so overworked and I am trying to find a new bad habit I will let my readership (assuming it still exists) where my 'big thinking' is at now.

1. Mythicism - I can't shake to profound but ultimately contradictory thoughts namely that the gospel developed from a myth to a story about a historical man AND the absolute necessity that myths played in shaping 'good societies.'  So on the one hand I find myself less and less able to see beyond the stories in the gospel developing from scriptural passages at the very same time I feel uncomfortable about the zeal with which some people want to open Pandora's box.  I think the world would quite literally end in a generation if we completely abandoned cultural myths.  It's not just that human beings are basically selfish and selfishness leads to arrogance (the current election cycle in my mind is little more than the playing out of the death of religion) but that myths make the world beautiful.  Human creativity improves upon nature - that's the bottom line for me.

2. That the nomen sacrum  ΙΣ developed from the archaic Hebrew word for man אש - it's not that I want to create a new myth I simply find that scholars aren't a terribly creative lot.  Their attempts to find 'the Jewish roots of Christianity' suck.  Surely the place to start looking is the 'two powers' tradition made famous by Alan Segal.  This is where Christianity developed and nowhere else.  The idea that 'Jesus was a Jew' and so 'believed in the Torah' is so bloody stupid and misguided it is no wonder we never make any meaningful headway in this regard.  The obvious place to begin is the fact that the circle of R Ishmael used the Samaritan text of Exodus which clearly reinforces the 'idea' at the heart of the reports about the 'two power' tradition.  The 'bits of Deuteronomy' which are preserved in the original narrative make it explicit that there was one god on the mountain and another in heaven.  Everyone knew that and the god on the mountain was named  ΙΣ.  This was 'Jesus' for the earliest Christians or  ΙΣ.  It's really that simple.  This is where we should start looking for the 'Jewish roots' of Christianity rather than anything related to modern 'messianic Judaism.'  Yuck.

3. 'Jesus' and 'Christ' were two separate beings - this is explicit in Irenaeus's testimony about the earliest Christian users of the gospel of Mark who in turn represent the oldest known exegetical tradition related to the gospel (unless you count the Marcionite understanding of Paul).  I can't tell you how much difficulty this concept gives to me.  On the one hand it supports my theory that the original name of Jesus was 'Man' and that in turn 'fits' the oldest core gnostic understanding of the Demiurge looking up and seeing the perfect Man (presumably 'Christ' in the Christian tradition) and fashioning Adam (imperfectly) after his image. The obvious corollary of this (once you spend a year thinking about it) is that 'Jesus' - that is the second god of the traditional Jewish religion - failed at his creation of Adam and somehow and for some reason died on the Cross as some sort of repentance for this 'original sin.'  I 'get' that some heretical groups must have developed this understanding.  The Marcionite and Valentinian notion of the repentance of the Demiurge is rooted in this.  But there are obvious difficulties too.  If 'Jesus' came down from heaven at the beginning of the original gospel (viz. Marcion) when does 'Christ' appear?  Irenaeus only tells us the end of the original gospel of Mark - namely that 'Jesus' was crucified but that 'Christ' stood by impassably witnessing the testimony.  However it is difficult to see how any of this fits into the beginning of the gospel.  Yes there was no baptism of John narrative in the Marcionite gospel.  Fine.  But I find it difficult to reconcile the appearance of a second being 'Christ' in what survives of the original text.

4. the influence of Homer - I've started to read MacDonald's book and see it as deeply flawed.  Nevertheless after watching again the Odyssey because of my son's recent illness I can't get over the fact that the docetic understanding of Jesus was deeply influenced by Odysseus's disguise as a beggar.   The fact that there was a Christian sect of 'Ebionites' (from the Aramaic word for 'beggar') because Paul speaks of Jesus becoming a beggar to make us rich, because disguise is a necessary part of the gnostic understanding of the gospel - for all of these reasons I find it difficult not to see that Homer exhibited a deep influence on the heretical reading (and composition) of the gospel.  I think from my imperfect understanding of MacDonald that he was misled by an attempt to develop his argument with the surviving text of Mark.  The early heresies understand some sort of 'magic' taking place where 'the Jews' took the 'wrong Jesus' and crucified him on the Cross.  I think this understanding was built into the ur-gospel which is now lost.  Whether or not I can make the jump with MacDonald that just as Odysseus's name is rooted in the concept of suffering, a Jew ('Mark') developed a text loosely modeled on Odysseus's redemption for the second god of Israel is of course yet to be seen.  It is what I am 'working on' at the present moment.

5. Sinai - I tell my son that the theophany on Sinai is the clearest evidence that there were two powers in Judaism (we were having a discussion coming home from his soccer academy the other day).  One voice speaks from heaven, the other speaks from the mountain.  Akiba's solution to bend space and time to argue that heaven was on the mountaintop is just stupid.  In Christian terms then 'Jesus' gave the ten commandments but what about the god speaking from heaven?  I am not so sure and I suspect that the dispensation of the gospel with its solitary commandment to 'love one another' (or some variant) may well have been part of the 'recovery process' for the second god.  Clearly (I say clearly because I have thought about these things and you haven't) Christ must have 'loved' Jesus and this model becomes the beginning of Christian redemption through martyrdom.  Jesus has to 'die' on the Cross to become wholly reconciled with 'Christ.'  In that sense the Christian proclaiming of 'the Father' at the expense of the 'god of the Jews' in its original historical context (rather than the current reactionary Judaism which pretends the Torah was monotheistic) represents the first glimpse of monarchianism in the history of the tradition.  Of course it is unlikely the Roman authorities saw it that way especially given the low estimation that early Christians gave to the κοσμοκράτωρ.

6. the testimony of Abu'l Fath - the Samaritan chronicler uses a near contemporary Greek source to speak of massive persecutions in Samaria at the time of the Emperor Commodus over the question of 'monarchianism' or to what degree Israel venerated the world ruler.  His source names a prominent contemporary philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias as the protagonist in the ancient holocaust.  The Samaritans were issued an ultimatum - abandon your belief in two powers or die.  One can't help but think that Samaritanism wasn't the only Israelite sect to face martyrdom for its traditional beliefs.  Christianity was similarly challenged in the era as the stories of persecution in both Alexandria and Gaul indicate.  Could the refusal of Christians to adopt the kind of 'monarchian reforms' imposed on the Samaritans have resulted in martyrdom?  It is difficult to say.  But it does offer the explanation for why a wholly different form of Christianity arose from the ashes of the late second century at least theoretically.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Step One: How Did the Gospel and Philo Imagine 'the Logos' Was Involved in Creation When There is No Mention of Him in Genesis?

It is an age old problem, one that still haunts the Islamic anti-Christian polemic to this very day.  Where did the Christian 'second God' Jesus come from?  It would be easy to say that the first Christian writers were 'seduced by paganism' when they imagined a creative Logos or Word being active since Creation, but then again we see evidence from a Jewish writer from Alexandria named Philo who shows this can't be true.

Oh, some people might turn around and say, maybe Philo invented the Logos and then Christianity was influenced by him.  While there are uncanny similarities between the prologue which now appears at the beginning of our gospel according to John and Philo's writings, this also can't be the case.  The difficulty is that we simply don't know very much about what Jews believed in the five hundred year period between the writing of the Pentateuch or Torah and the time of Philo.  What we do know however suggests that other people knew about this 'second God' but didn't call it by the Greek terminology 'the Logos.'  These Jews and Samaritans spoke Hebrew or Aramaic.

There is no doubt that Hellenistic - that is 'Greek' - culture had an influence on Philo.  But this is hardly surprising.  It would only be natural to suppose that the way Jewish writers and writers from most other backgrounds were 'influenced' by the greater culture they lived in.  Look at the parallel example of the philosopher 'Porphyry' ('purple-wearer') whose real name was 'Melech' or king.  It is unlikely that we would know of people who refused to integrate into the societies they lived in.  That's the simple fact of history - it biases us in favor of the thoughts and ideas of those who 'played the game' as it were.

The second god of Israel was not 'invented' through the influence of Greek culture.  Instead He was hidden by the author of the Pentateuch within the Hebrew letters he laid down while writing the book.

This is going to be the hardest idea for people to come to terms with in my coming book.  It isn't just that I will propose that the only way the Pentateuch can be understood is through 'kabbalak' or a mystical hermeneutic.  All people in all ages who read the Bible in Hebrew accepted this basic principle.  My book will demonstrate that what survives as 'kabbalah' to this day is a corrupt version of the original doctrine known to people living while the Jewish temple stood.  It will be my contention that the author of the Pentateuch, a man named Ezra, encoded his original Hebrew narrative with mathematical clues which unlocked the secret existence of this second god who was called 'the Logos' by Philo and a two letter code which Christians now identify by the name 'Jesus.'

It will be my contention that this secret understanding opens the door to a true understanding of what the Judeo-Christian tradition was originally about.  But before I go through all of that, I think I should spend a little time explaining where 'the Logos' or 'Jesus' is in the Book of Genesis.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

If I Was to Write Another Book ...

For some reason, I am not entirely sure why, I think I should write another book.  Of course I am not very good at writing books.  That might be a small problem.  Nevertheless, as I have little common sense, I might try it again.

Of course, the first question is - why?  Why bother attempting something I failed at so miserably the last time I went up to bat.  Well, for one, aside from being wrong about all the particulars, I thought it was a lot of fun.  And isn't life about having a few good times before it's all over?

The second point is that even though I am not very good at writing books, I am not all that great at doing much else.  I mean, I am tolerably proficient at a few things. But there is this nagging thought in my head - don't I have to fail at something at least twice to know that I am perfectly unsuitable for doing it ever again?

So what went wrong the last time?  I think I set out with the idea of finding out what it would be like to publish a book.  I succeeded at that.  I flew to London, signed a book deal and in the process got a literary agent, and met some delightful people.  I worked on a television documentary and ended up meeting even more interesting people as I continued to pitch shows and even appeared in a television documentary as recently as last year.

The problem of course was that I didn't really have a firm idea about what I was going to write about when I signed the book deal in the first place.  Of course, there was an 'idea.'  But with all this other stuff going on I sort of got distracted from the original premise of writing a quality book.

Did I mention I got an all expense paid trip to Venice, another trip to London and a bunch of other nice places?

So what's changed this time?  I think I have a much better idea for a book.  It might even be built around an article I recently helped write.  There are some difficulties I have yet to work out - like why anyone in their right mind would buy this book I am working on.  That's always the problem isn't it?  But maybe I should the book for myself.  Or better yet lay it out like I am trying to explain things to the person I love most in the world - my son.

I could have said my dog but my ten year old Bichon Frise is really only interest in sirens and people knocking on the door.  That range of material is a little too limited for me to work with this time around.

I think my main difficulty writing is that I write to avoid getting personal with people.  I mean, most writers are introverts.  I just hate people - period.  I am a good-natured misanthrope.  I don't actively despite humanity.  I just like keeping people at arms length because I expect either nothing or the worst from them.

All of this makes my next idea for a book very odd for me.  I want to write a book which explains the mystical foundations of Judeo-Christianity in a way that hopeless morons could understand and maybe even learn something.  Once again, 'it's an idea' book.  I am not going to sit down and write the history of an idea.  I don't have the patience for that.  I have this idea which I think is the answer to everything, and then if everyone agrees with me I can basically die and live happily ever after.

Here's the idea in a nutshell - Christianity is just a Gentile version of an ancient Jewish doctrine of mystical Menschlichkeit (brotherliness).  I know this sounds self-explanatory (for people that know either Yiddish or German) but I can't help but think that the Jewishness of this doctrine or myth has been unrecognized so far.

Scholars might talk about the beliefs of an ancient Jew like Philo of Alexandria for instance, acknowledge that he had this heavenly man at the heart of his worldview but they won't say he held fast to a practical understanding of mystical 'brotherliness' which was almost identical with earliest Christianity or what the rabbis say when they say 'be a mensch.'

Yes, I know it doesn't sound that impressive but it's a work in progress.  Above all else I want to write it for my son because I can't help but come to the conclusion that at the core of Western civilization whether it is 'Jewish' or 'Christian' version of the myth, it was Menschlichkeit - that made us a great.  Idealism may be naive - even stupid at times - but all the cleverness in the world can't found a civilization you'd want to live in.

I don't believe that we can live in harmony with one another without a myth which connects each of us to every one else.  I think Christianity was developed out of a long tradition of 'human idealism' within Judaism.  I would like to explain the Bible as a doctrine of brotherliness from the point of view of someone who doesn't practice any sort of religion, faith or worship.  It might read as an appreciation and understanding of the seminal role that religion had in the humanizing of humanity without preaching or believing in any of it.

That's really where I come from.  I think all of this Menschlichkeit develops from myth.  It's not objectively true but entirely necessary because myths are what are needed to prevent utter chaos and catastrophe in this world.  We humans are hopelessly self-centered and destructive. I think I understand what the people who wrote the most fundamental parts of the Bible were trying to accomplish even if I don't believe what they wrote was heaven sent.

Like many parents, I am willing to tolerate enduring a lie for the betterment of my son and the world he is going to live in.  My gift to the world is to hopefully explain how idealism - this myth of Menschlichkeit in its various forms - helped civilization attain its former greatness.  Any way, that's the idea for my new book, naked and laid bare for everyone to see.  Back to work ...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

'Reports' About the Heretics in the Patristic Writings are Almost Always Reworkings and Corruptions of Things Said by Previous Church Fathers

Origen Commentary on John (preserved in the Philocalia):
[the ancients] must have regarded the whole of Scripture as one book ... I will add to demonstrate this to you an apostolic utterance (ῥητὸν ἀποστολικὸν) not understood by the followers of Marcion, who therefore reject the Gospels (because of it). For whereas the Apostle says, "According to my gospel in Christ Jesus," and does not speak of gospels, they (the Marcionites) oppose us, and maintain that if there were several gospels the Apostle would not have used the word in the singular. They do not understand that as He is one, so the Gospel written by its many authors is one in effect, and that the true Diatessaron is one Gospel (καὶ τὸ ἀληθῶς διὰ τεσσάρων ἕν ἐστιν εὐαγγέλιον)
. John Chrysostom Homilies on Galatians:
the Marcionites are misled by this phrase (Gal 1.7 'another gospel') as diseased persons are injured even by healthy food, for they have seized upon it, and exclaim, So Paul himself has declared there is no other Gospel. For they do not allow all the Evangelists, but one only, and him mutilated and confused according to their pleasure. Their explanation of the words, according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, [Romans 16:25] is sufficiently ridiculous; nevertheless, for the sake of those who are easily seduced, it is necessary to refute it. We assert, therefore, that, although a thousand Gospels were written, if the contents of all were the same, they would still be one, and their unity no wise infringed by the number of writers. So, on the other hand, if there were one writer only, but he were to contradict himself, the unity of the things written would be destroyed. For the oneness of a work depends not on the number of its authors, but on the agreement or contradictoriness of its contents. Whence it is clear that the four Gospels are one Gospel; for, as the four say the same thing, its oneness is preserved by the harmony of the contents, and not impaired by the difference of persons. And Paul is not now speaking of the number but of the discrepancy of the things spoken. With justice might they lay hold of this expression, if the Gospels of Matthew and Luke differed in the signification of their contents, and in their doctrinal accuracy; but as they are one and the same, let them cease being senseless and pretending to be ignorant of these things which are plain to the very children.
Notice that in the standard translation "καὶ τὸ ἀληθῶς διὰ τεσσάρων" is translated "that truly delivered by four." But I wonder whether it is better translated "that the true Diatessaron" compare Plato Phaedo 109 E ὁ ἀληθῶς οὐρανὸς καὶ τὸ ἀληθῶς φῶς καὶ ἡ ὡς ἀληθῶς γῆ = "the real heaven and the real light and the real earth." So καὶ τὸ ἀληθῶς διὰ τεσσάρων ἕν ἐστιν εὐαγγέλιον would = that the real Diatessaron is one gospel. By the fifth century this was further corrupted into καὶ τὰ τεσσάρων Εὐαγγέλια ἕν ἐστιν Εὐαγγέλιον "that the four gospels is one gospel." But that wasn't there originally.
Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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