Friday, September 3, 2010

Back From Holiday

I had a wonderful holiday in Vegas.  The Wynn hotels are always very different from other Vegas properties.   It was very quiet and I was able to find some time to develop some important new lines of research sitting by a pool with screaming children around me.

I always wondered whether traditional scholarship has underestimated the point at which Christianity became Platonized.  My introduction to Christianity was through the eyes of Origen's Against Celsus.  One of Celsus's main arguments is that Judaism and Christianity developed from an imperfect understanding of Plato.  One example taken from many is where Origen reports:

with regard to the declaration of Jesus against rich men, when He said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," Celsus alleges that this saying manifestly proceeded from Plato, and that Jesus perverted the words of the philosopher, which were, that "it was impossible to be distinguished for goodness, and at the same time for riches." [Con. Cels. 6.16]

Celsus's clear point is not that Jesus stole from Plato.  Only minds that have been brainwashed from too much dogma HAVE TO see the passage in this way.  Celsus is clearly saying that the author of this passage in the gospel developed a Platonic narrative.  I can't believe sometimes that things are never reported by scholars in this way.

Why everything always has to be about 'Jesus' all the time frustrates me to no end.  Why does Jesus matter to the study of Christianity?  The battle lines should be drawn on the issue of the INTERPRETATION of whatever Jesus did or didn't say in the year of his ministry.

Why does Jesus matter?  What matters is how Mark developed the original narrative and the question now before us - because Celsus demands it - is whether the gospel was developed as some sort of Platonic narrative.

I spent my holiday reading and re-reading Plato's Politikos (or 'the Statesman') as it is commonly translated into English for the expressed purpose that our entire understanding of the term 'gnostikos' is wrong.  We have been too influenced by Irenaeus in this regard.  The term 'gnostic' meant something close in meaning to messiah - or perhaps if I state that idea a little better - it corresponded to what we MUST imagine the term Christ meant to Alexandrian Jewry.

Again I want to emphasize that our modern sense of what the word gnostikos meant is completely incorrect.  I am not saying that the first Christians thought their messiah would be a member of the ancient equivalent of the Theosophic Society.  This is exactly what is wrong with our modern understanding of the interpretation of the word.

From carefully reading Plato's Politikos I have figured out something quite important.  I realized that the description of Marcion as a naucleros (= 'pilot') in Tertullian's Against Marcion is likely derived from the Platonic interest of the gnostikos as κυβερνήτης (= 'pilot').

More on all of this when I wake up from some much needed sleep ...

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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