Monday, February 27, 2012

The Chapter After the Very Next Chapter of the Myth of Jesus Christ [Part Three]

So at last we come upon our first sighting of the Jesus myth - or perhaps better yet - the original framework within which the gospel is interpreted within a mythological framework.  It is only because so many of us have learned to treat the story of Jesus as if it were about a real human being who was born in some Jewish city and died on the cross that we have failed to see what was certainly the original understanding which developed from a mystical gospel of Mark.  This text was not only used by the community of Clement of Alexandria but other heretical groups too.  Yet it is Hippolytus's (or perhaps Irenaeus originally) understanding that this text incorporated mystic material from Empedocles which breaks our whole understanding wide apart.  For it is now quite possible to reconstruct the original mythical framework by means of Hippolytus's reference to the pre-Socratic philosopher.

 Indeed Jaap Mansfeld has already done a great deal of the preliminary work for us in his 1981 article Bad World and Demiurge which dissects Hippolytus's arguments.  He writes:

I am fully satisfied that Ref. VII, 29-31 is indeed a Gnostic piece (Hippolytus' interpolations, moreover, can be easily distinguished). There are several remarkable features to these chapters. What, in the present paper, is of most interest to us is the fact that, pace this anonymous Gnostic, Love has no demiurgic function at all, since even the living beings (ourselves included) which according to the real Empedocles are the work of Love are here the creations of Hate. Love's only remaining function is that it still brings about non- or postcosmic unity and assists souls to escape from the cosmos.

Mansfeld also notes that not only is vegetarianism is preached in this message but marriage and procreation are prohibited as well : to beget children is to assist Hate, and Hate is designated, expressis verbis, as "the Demiurge of the world."

We should further add that this original tradition - in the very manner of Empedocles - did not identify the Demiurge as evil.  Instead the love-strife dichotomy more closely resembles the Alexandrian and early rabbinic understanding of two powers in heaven - that of mercy and judgment.  Irenaeus actually makes this connection with Jewish thought explicit in his Against Heresies.  As such it does not take a large stretch of the imagination to begin to see that Marcion understood that the Demiurge was the vengeful god of the Jewish religion who encouraged his people to have children, accumulate wealth and obtain rewards in this world according to the doctrines of wisdom as set out in the Pentateuch.  It is unclear however whether the Marcionites separated the ten utterances from the rest of the commandments after the manner of the Sadducees and Samaritans. Nevertheless, it likely that this work of enmity is juxtaposed against the gospel, presumably a doctrine of 'love.'

Jesus's mission of love undoubtedly began with his descent into the world in a particular year of the Emperor Tiberius.  His purpose here was clearly to unite the individual beings 'separated' by Strife back to the One.  It culminated undoubtedly in his decision to initiate a single disciple in the material cited from this 'mystic gospel' in Clement's Letter to Theodore.  The discoverer of that manuscript however could only think in terms of a historical Jesus of 'real flesh and blood.'  Morton Smith read this private instruction as evidence that Jesus offered his closest disciples a mystery rite that involved union with his spirit and a mystical (hypnotically induced) ascent to the heavens.  The reality however was something quite different.  Jesus was a god who only appeared to be a human being.  He was instead was the embodiment of the Empedoclean concept of philotes.

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