Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Waiting for Boid

I have been stuck in limbo waiting to start work on my new book because I can't be certain whether my kabbalistic interpretation of 'John' is completely unworkable or not.  Believe it or not, when I wrote the Real Messiah I made my publishers wait until I had Professor Ruaridh Boid of Monash University go through everything line by line.  It's not that I am a perfectionist (you should see how messy my car is).  It's just that I hate being embarrassed.

So it is that I am in a holding pattern with this question as to whether Marcus Agrippa or 'Mark' if you will used the three letter name יון to designate himself as 'John' in the gospel.

I can't be objective about this any more. I used to have this problem debating with myself when I wanted to cheat on my then girlfriend (now my wife). A voice would say 'well, we're not married so it isn't really cheating.' And then another voice would come and say 'but she will be devastated if she finds out so it's wrong.' And then the original voice would say something I don't care to repeat at the blog and then the second voice would say 'well then you better break up with her' and on and on it would go until the opportunity passed.

The point is that I have this idea in my head that יון might have been a short form for יוֹנָתָן‎. I might be improperly prejudiced in this regard as I have a Jewish relative named Jonathan who calls himself יון.

The basic idea would be that the name 'John' used in the gospel was NOT a form of יוחנן but a short form of Jonathan.

Why does this matter? Well, first off it would bring all the gospels back to one historical person (minus 'Luke' which a figure invented in the late century by Irenaeus anyway and a name probably originally associated with Lucius).

You see I have always worked under the assumption that the Gospel of John and ur-Mark were somehow related. But then there is the whole Gospel of the Hebrews tradition associated by Irenaeus with a guy named Μαθθαιος which in turn is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic diminutive מתי). The Aramaic diminutive is ultimately derived from the Hebrew name מתתיהו or מתניהו.

The thing that keeps swimming around in my head is the idea that this last name מתניהו is just Jonathan with the position of the letters changed. Both mean the same thing 'the gift of God.' The fact that there is great confusion over the identity of Dositheus - the meaning of the name 'Matthew' or 'Jonathan' translated literally in to Greek - some making him the first Christian heretic others the first heretic in Judaism, makes this 'Dositheus' a most intriguing figure.

Dositheus was at one time clearly referenced in the gospel when Jesus and the Samaritan woman (who is explicitly identified as a Dosithean by Jerome) stand in front of mount Gerizim and Jesus says "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

Now it is has been established that the figure of 'Dositheus' is ultimately interchanged with 'Simon' in Christian sources. The Samaritans speak of of the former, the Christians the latter with a great deal of confusion in the late second and third centuries identifying exactly how these two traditions related to one another.

What is significant is that even the author of Acts has Peter deny that Simon is or has 'the gift of God' - "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!" The confusion over who is who among the heretics manifests itself again where a parallel story it attributed to Marcion in Tertullian's Prescription Against the Heresies. In other words, these were stock accusations developed as I have shown from a misunderstanding (or perhaps better yet a deliberate misapplication) of the fact that the heretics identified their baptism as 'redemption' (apolutrosis) where the root of this term lutron means literally meant in everyday speech 'the purchase money' for slaves.

The point is that whenever we go back to our earliest recollections of life in Samaria in the apostolic era we inevitably have some kind of notion that a heretical tradition was established connected some nexus involving יון the ultimate root of the name 'Dositheus' (if it is taken to ultimately derive from Jonathan).

So the rabbinic tradition REPEATEDLY says that the Samaritans venerated a dove. In one instance it is spelled יונה (Hull. 6a) in the other the exact word I am suggesting was the Hebrew name used in the original gospel - viz. יון (Y Abod. Zar V 44d).

It is worth noting that Augustine seems to have this dove in mind when he references that 'gift of God' reference in Acts for he writes:

This Simon—who was not a dove but a raven in the Church, because he sought his own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s; whence he loved the power which was in the Christians more than the righteousness—Simon, I say, saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles (not that it was given by them, but given in answer to their prayers), and he said to them, “How much money will ye that I give you, so that by the laying on of my hands also, the Holy Ghost may be given? And Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou thoughtest that the gift of God was to be bought with money.” To whom said he, “Thy money perish with thee”? Undoubtedly to one that was baptized. Baptism he had already; but he did not cleave to the bowels of the dove. [Lectures VI Chapter 1.32.18]

The point again is that there is an unmistakable nexus between the two figures of 'Simon' and 'the gift of God' in the form of a dove and this only gets stronger when we introduce the enigmatic figure of 'John.'

Now since I was practically introduced to Christianity through 'Marcionitism' I am very comfortable putting forward the idea that 'John the Baptist' was a deliberate Catholic invention to distract from the original formula of Jesus baptizing his beloved disciple John. I will save this for another post but - as I demonstrated yesterday - since the Marcionite gospel is UNIVERSALLY acknowledged not to have had our familiar baptism narrative involving John the Baptist it is impossible to imagine that he had a role in the religion.

Moreover I have been intrigued by the fact that the rabbinic tradition - despite the Catholic gospel claims that 'all of Judea' were baptized by 'John the Baptist' - has absolutely no historical references to this imaginary figure.

Of course, as we have just shown, just as the earliest heretical traditions have a prominent Samaritan sect which thought 'John' was the messiah (cf. the Clementine tradition), the rabbinic tradition repeatedly references a cult venerating יון at Gerizim (the place where the Samaritan messiah was expected to appear). The mediating factor as I have noted is the fact that there is absolutely no question that a Dosithean tradition - PERHAPS associated with a figure named 'Jonathan' or this shortened form of the name יון - would take us back to the place where we started.

Perhaps the last point that I should bring up is the fact that I have developed my premise for the fact that Marcus Julius Agrippa was the 'Mark' who wrote the gospel. It is well established that the rabbinic tradition references him as Jannai in various places. For instances when the Mishnah writes:


The Gemara identifies the 'king' as Jannai - "said R. Joseph: I see here a conspiracy; for R. Assi, in fact, related that Martha the daughter of Boethus brought to King Jannai a tarkab of denarii before he gave an appointment to Joshua b. Gamala among the High Priests." The Soncino editors note "Jannai is often employed in the Talmud as a general patronym for Hasmonean and Herodian rulers. Here it stands for Agrippa II, v. Josephus Antiquities XX, 9, 4, and Derenbourg, Essai, pp. 248ff."

Now the logical question would be to ask 'WHY does the rabbinic tradition identify both Hasmonaean and Herodian rulers by this name?' The answer is obvious - these rulers all had the Hebrew name 'Jonathan.' In the case of which Hasmonaean ruler was first identified as Jannai it is quite obvious - it is Alexander Jannaeus or 'Jannai' as he is alternatively remembered in coinage and in the rabbinic literature. But why else would Marcus Julius Agrippa be identified as 'Jannai' unless his Hebrew name (all Jews and Samaritans in the period had two given names) was also Jonathan?

To this end, my suspicion is that rather than referencing himself by EITHER of his given names the author of the gospel chose the deliberately ambiguous יון which as we noted COULD BE a shortened form of Jonathan. My understanding would be that this form was later (mis)taken to be associated with 'John' and written Ἰωάννης. But notice (strangely) that there is no kabbalistic interest in the name John among the Marcosians. This could not have been true in antiquity. Even the Samaritans fixated on the name Mark as having a value of 345.

My explanation would also explain how the Catholic understanding of Jesus having a 'dove' descend into him originated.

It is worth noting that the name John is spelled Ἰωάνης in many manuscripts. There is also the reference to Peter as Simon βαριωνᾶ. ιωνᾶ is always taken to be derived from Jonah but Jonah in turn derives from the same root יון.

Nevertheless it is still stuck in limbo until I get a second opinion ...

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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