Thursday, May 3, 2012

The New Second Chapter of the Myth of Jesus Christ

So it is we have in a mere chapter and an appendix disposed of the tradition assumptions of over four hundred years of Protestant scholarship. There was no historical individual named Jesus who founded a religion called Christianity. There was instead a story – a myth, if you will – which spread like wildfire in the world after the destruction of the Jewish religion in 70 CE. Indeed it is impossible to know for certain why this narrative touched such a nerve in antiquity. The reality is however that it did, and the world was forever changed.

Our discovery of the existence of a Jewish witness to the spread of earliest Christianity is nothing short of a revelation, yet the text is rarely used by scholars to assist in understanding the tradition.  The reason for this quite simple - it overturns all of our inherited assumptions about Jesus.  The way the story was framed in later periods of Church was of course that Jesus claimed to be the awaited messiah of the Jews - the son of David as it were - and the Jews rejected him.  This tradition is often identified as the myth of the 'Wandering' or 'Eternal Jew' which has its beginnings in the writings of the fourth century Latin writer Prudentius who wrote "from place to place the homeless Jew wanders in ever-shifting exile, since the time when he was torn from the abode of his fathers and has been suffering the penalty for murder, and having stained his hands with the blood of Christ whom he denied, paying the price of sin."

The centerpiece of this mythology is of course that the Jews were punished for denying that Jesus was their messiah.  Yet we have begun to demonstrate that this is a complete misrepresentation of the original formulation.  The Catholic tradition certainly did introduce the question of Jesus being the awaited messiah and Son of David at some point in the period before Nicaea.  It might have been at the end of the second century or perhaps even as late as the beginning of the third century, it is very difficult to determine these details with any certainty.  There is after all so much that we don't know and will probably never know.

There can be no doubt that part and parcel with this effort to redefine Christianity as a tradition centered on the question of Jesus Christ involved the recasting and rewording of the gospel narratives.  Nevertheless as we shall demonstrate in a subsequent chapter there can be no doubt that the original gospels made the question which 'caused the Jews to stumble' was that of Jesus being the Son of God.  This is how the earliest copies of the Gospel of Mark were written and it is the controversy at the heart of the disputes with Jewish leader such as the author of the two demegories used by the pagan critic Celsus of Rome.

The myth of Jesus Christ then is specifically introduced in a period subsequent to Celsus's composition of the True Word.  This text was the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room throughout all the writings of the next fifty years.  Celsus's accusation that the idea that Jesus was a God is madness and the popular ridicule that it generated against Christianity among members of the educated elite caused a shift in the focus of the religion in the late second and early third centuries.  It became something of an embarrassment to claim that a God visited humanity in the appearance of a man during the twelfth or fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius.  It wasn't that Christianity gave up its belief in the supernatural origins of Jesus.  The influence of Celsus merely caused them to stress his humanity more whenever outsiders were engaged in discussion.

Indeed one can make a very strong case that a conscious effort was made to reform the tradition from within in this period.  Church Fathers like Irenaeus and Hippolytus of Rome spearheaded a reform movement to make Christianity abandon what were some of the more radical formulations which had been passed down from the earliest periods of the faith.  One can hear many of Celsus's rhetoric actually being reused by Irenaeus and other Catholic Fathers against the last remnants of the 'crazy traditions.'  In that way Celsus work remained unmentioned for almost a century after its original publication.  It wasn't just that his arguments were so powerful that Christians made a conscious effort to avoid mentioning them - many of them decided to use his work as a call for reform.

It is very remarkable indeed that Origen at several points in Christianity's delayed response to the True Word actually expresses bewilderment that Celsus avoids making any reference to the Catholic Church.  The third century Church Father tries to argue that this must show that the pagan couldn't find anything wrong with the true Church.  Yet the reality is clearly that our tradition developed subsequent to this literary broad side that Celsus developed to early Christianity.

Indeed when we look at the effort that the Church took to 'bundle together' four different texts as one gospel, the strategy again betrays its development from a reading of the True Word.  Not only does Celsus reference a 'fourfold' expansion of the gospel as we already saw in the last chapter, most specifically his source - the anonymous Jewish author of the demegories - brings forward an early version of the Gospel of Matthew to prove the idea of a Jesus as a wholly divine power is a completely untenable idea.  This is precisely very reason why Matthew is first in our canon.  The idea in either case is that the gospel which most clearly emphasizes Jesus's humanity is necessarily the 'original source' of the rest.

All of the other claims which go along with the claim that Matthew was first - namely that it was written originally in Hebrew or that it was the gospel associated with Jews - are red herrings.  The Gospel of Matthew was without question written in better Greek than the Gospel of Mark which most scholars acknowledge as the more original.  The signs that Matthew is 'more Jewish' than Mark is also something of a misnomer.   As the great scholar of early Judaism Jacob Neusner once aptly noted, there were many 'Judaisms' in the period before the destruction of the temple.  The Gospel of Matthew just happens to be closest in spirit to the Judaism that became established in the second century.  The Gospel of Mark can and will be argued in a subsequent section of this work to be closer to the Judaism of the first century.

The important thing for us to see is that we have to be careful of taking the ideas and beliefs of Christianity after the composition of Celsus's widely influential work and attempt to project it back on the first and early second century.  Of course this is exactly what Irenaeus and his associates want us to do.  It is the acknowledged position of the Church today.  Nevertheless it represents a thoroughly uncritical evaluation of the evidence.  One can't take a repentant school boy's promise 'never to do it again' as proof that there never was an original transgression.  The 'transgression' of an uncontrolled belief in Jesus as God not man is present all throughout the writings of the late second and early third century Church Fathers.  We simply choose to close a blind eye to that and focus instead on the myth of a human Jesus who claimed to be Christ developed by the newly repentant Church of the late second and third centuries.

It would be expecting too much honesty from people to expect a confession of indebtedness to Celsus of Rome in the writings of Irenaeus.  Nevertheless imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.  The orthodoxy of the newly reformed Catholic Church is completely in line with the rare moments of constructive criticism within in the tome of Celsus.  Whenever Celsus says for instance the Christians should hold the same beliefs as the Jews, but that Christians as a whole do not - this becomes the dominant position within the Church by Origen's time.[1]  There are many other examples which could be brought forward, yet it is enough to set the late second century as the beginning of the introduction of 'the more politically correct view' of Jesus as a man who happened also to be God which replaced the original understanding of him as a God who happened to appear human.

It would have been impossible for this effort to pull the rug from under the Jesus the God figure to succeed unless there was some 'substitute' theology waiting in the wings.  This of course was the now familiar myth of Jesus Christ.  As the messiah could only be human, promoting the idea that Jesus was secret claiming to be the Christ in the gospel necessarily reinforced his humanity in an indirect manner.  When the last bastions of the traditional understanding of a wholly divine Jesus hit back at this successful reform effort they did so by pointing out the sin of the Golden Calf among the ancient Israelites in the book of Exodus.  In that myth, the newly redeemed nation plundered the gold and riches of the Egyptians and when Moses was taking too long to return from the holy mountain his brother Aaron organized the manufactured an idol from that wealth in order to help the people venerate God.

Of course in the Exodus narrative this is seen as an abomination.  God orders the purging of the ranks of the Israelites because of this offense.  In the same manner Irenaeus tells us that many of the traditional believers in a wholly supernatural Jesus accused the newly established 'Great Church' of falsifying the true belief in Jesus with the corrupting influence of money - indeed establishing the idol of a human Jesus in place of the original understanding.  To this Irenaeus - in a surprising moment of candor - acknowledges that the Church has accepted money and 'benefits' from the current Emperor Commodus but that they should not be judged too harshly because of it.  He writes that it is true that:

in some cases there follows us a small, and in others a large amount of property, which we have acquired from the mammon of unrighteousness. For from what source do we derive the houses in which we dwell, the garments in which we are clothed, the vessels which we use, and everything else ministering to our every-day life, unless it be from those things which, when we were Gentiles, we acquired by avarice, or received them from our heathen parents, relations, or friends who unrighteously obtained them?--not to mention that even now we acquire such things when we are in the faith. For who is there that sells, and does not wish to make a profit from him who buys? Or who purchases anything, and does not wish to obtain good value from the seller? Or who is there that carries on a trade, and does not do so that he may obtain a livelihood thereby? And as to those believing ones who are in the royal palace, do they not derive the utensils they employ from the property which belongs to Caesar; and to those who have not, does not each one of these [Christians] give according to his ability?

This testimony represents the clearest sign of the general reorientation of the new Church at the dawn of the third century.  Christians were now in the highest ranks of the government and would only grow in influence until the further reform efforts of Constantine.  This should be something to celebrate, shouts Irenaeus.  Yet there can also be no doubt that something essential was sacrificed along the way in order to make Christianity 'respectable enough' to be in the 'royal place' in the first place.

At the top of the list of reforms which were enacted in the late second century - Jesus became a man.  Celsus's ridicule of Christianity didn't marginalize the tradition as much as it brought much needed attention.  Indeed Irenaeus's reference to Christians in the 'royal palace' seems at once to recall a similar statement made about his teacher Polycarp, another Christian named Florinus and himself being present many years earlier in another 'royal court.'  In other words, this process of making the religion of Jesus appear more respectable didn't start at the time Irenaeus was writing but in fact dates back many generations.  At first it was just one or two or three Christians who had access to the corridors of power.  In the span of only a few generations it was 'many' and soon it was many more still.

It is said in today's political discussions that 'hanging around Washington' has a corrupting influence on the soul.  There was little difference in Christian antiquity.  Yet with the re-discovery of the Jewish demegories preserved in Origen's commentary on the writings Celsus we have acquired a unique window into the original development of Christianity.  The anonymous author not only ridicules first century Christian claims that Jesus was God but moreover that his ministry was a divine visitation.  Yet it is important to note that he never expresses any doubt that God could and would come down again to earth.  The Jews central point was that Jesus missionary activity wasn't divine inspired.

Indeed from the traditional Jewish religious perspective at least there is could be no grounds for doubting that a divine visitation was at least possible.  Abraham is understood to have had his wife prepare a meal for God and his heavenly companions.  Jacob wrestled with God while Moses spoke with him face to face.  Indeed it is only because the art of reading the Bible badly is so widespread in contemporary culture that the idea of God 'coming back' seems so unusual to us now.  To this end no informed 'believer' in the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob could have found the idea of the divinity appearing in the guise of a Galilean preacher in itself unusual. This is precise what separated Celsus from his Jewish eyewitness and indeed explains why Christianity had to change its doctrines in order to assist in its penetration of the greater populace Roman Empire.

In short, white people have a hard time with the idea of God in the form of a man coming to visit another people beside themselves.

To this end, it might be instructive to do a little more digging into the person of the 'anonymous Jew' of the anti-Christian demegories.  In our last chapter we left matters at acknowledging that scholarship has established these texts were at least as old as 120 CE.  Yet a more ambitious interpretation of the same material might push the dating back to the period Celsus himself undoubtedly claimed for the text - i.e. at least fifty years earlier or 70 - 95 CE.  In other words, there are a number of reasons for believing that we already know the author of these two speeches against Jesus and the Christians.  Scholarship has simply become too busy with other things to realize that the author of this material might have been the famous Jewish exegete Philo of Alexandria.

Indeed at the very least it must be conceded that it is odd the manner in which Origen doesn't mention the name of Celsus's most important witness against Christianity.  Even if the Church Father is right in claiming the text was a forgery, most important forgeries are written in the name of someone famous.  Most scholars for instance concede that the so-called Pastoral Letters of St Paul weren't written by St Paul.  Many ancient witnesses say that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John weren't written by people named Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  The fact that we have an important Jewish figure - important enough to have given demegories i.e. public speeches reserved for formal bodies - who was alive at the time of Jesus, spoke Greek and embraced the concept of the divine Logos is already a promising start.  Yet there is so much more that goes generally unrecognized.

Philo of course was a well-known leader of the Jewish community in Alexandria who was famous for his allegorical interpretation of scripture. The dates of his life are unclear although it is generally thought that he stopped writing before the Jewish rebellion against Rome c. 66 – 70 CE. It is only because Philo was embraced by so many Christians in Alexandria that the idea that he could have been a popular crusader against Christianity has been buried in the literature.  Nevertheless it is one of the unexplained features of the legendary material associated with the person of Philo of Alexandria that he is both friend of the apostles - even convert to the Christian religion - as well as its bitterest opponent.

David Runia, perhaps the greatest living authority on Philo, has suggested that at least some of the legendary material derives from Clement of Alexandria in the late second century.  The story was ultimately passed on to Eusebius the famous historian of the early Church in the early fourth century that "during the reign of the emperor Claudius, he had visited Rome, where he met St. Peter, chief of the apostles, and became intimate with him, which explains why he thought the disciples of St. Mark the evangelist, who was a disciple of St. Peter, worthy of praise, of whom he says that they led a contemplative life amongst the Jews. He calls their dwellings monasteries, and declares that they always led an ascetic life, practising fasting, prayer, and poverty." If Runia is correct and this material should be read as deriving from a single report from Alexandria and would appear to make Philo entirely favorable to the message of Peter and the Alexandrian Church which developed out of him through his 'interpreter' Mark.

How then could Philo of Alexandria be considered to be the author of the two demegories cited in Celsus's anti-Christian polemic?  To begin with, it should be noted that Eusebius is very aware that this notion of Philo meeting Peter would likely seem incredible to his readers - "[n]or is this indeed improbable."  Indeed the material he subsequently references - an account of a monastic community called the Therapeutae who lived in a lake compound just outside of Alexandria - makes no explicit mention of St Mark or Christianity.  Most scholars reject Eusebius's claims and instead view this community as a Jewish sectarian movement related to those who left us so much written material at Qumran.  As such Eusebius can certainly be accused of overstating the plausibility of the tradition that Philo met St Peter in Rome.

If there is no reason to believe that Philo met St Peter or - as subsequent developments of this legend claim - converted to Christianity - what was the Alexandrian Jewish exegete's attitude toward Christianity?  Runia also provides us with three legends that make it clear that Philo was known to have been an active disputer with Christians in the first century.  The tenth century Byzantine theologian Photius tells us that "it is said that he was converted to Christianity, but afterwards abandoned it in a fit of anger and indignation."  It is clear from the context of the statement that Philo's 'conversion' and subsequent falling away would be dated to a period very close to the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 CE.

Most scholars dismiss both Philo's embracing and then rejection of Christianity judging that the material is ultimately 'legendary' in nature.  Nevertheless it has to be admitted that the idea of Philo's hostility to Christianity isn't as silly as conversion.  For instance we hear from a fifth century witness of the Acts of St John that Philo asked the evangelist to pardon him for his anti- Christian diatribes.  In this tradition Philo receives baptized and catechetical instruction for the rest of the day.  Similarly the sixth century Armenian translator of Philo's works tells his readers that "those Jews who disputed with Stephen were for the most part from Alexandria (cf. Acts 6:9), and Philo is believed to have belonged to their number."

Indeed it has to be recognized that these accounts at least open the door to the possibility that Philo might have been the author of our two anti-Christian demegories.  Celsus claimed to have a first century Jewish witness to Christianity and Philo is put forward by various Christian authors as a witness to Christianity.  Yet there is one more literary tradition which is worth us considering.

At the end of the nineteenth century the existence of several copies of "a dialogue between the Jews Papiscus and Philo and a monk" (named Anastasius in some manuscripts) came to light.  It was determined that this was one of many Byzantine texts which somehow go back to the lost Altercatio Jasonis et Papisci, a dialogue between a Jewish Christian (Jason) and an Alexandrian Jew (Papiscus).  The fact that two Jewish names appear alongside the Christian representative was deemed as unusual especially when the dialogue featured only one anonymous 'Jew' and 'Christian' engaged in a heated debate. The only explanation is that two traditions - one identifying the Jew as 'Papiscus' the other 'Philo' were combined into one account.[2]

Of course we would like to know more about the original Dispute between Jason and Papiscus as it attested by a number of early Christian witnesses.  Unfortunately very little can be definitively said about its contents.  Our earliest Christian source understood to have been composed by the evangelist Luke by our earliest source.[3]  Later witnesses date the Dispute between Jason and Papiscus to the early second century.[4]  The only other nugget of information that comes forth from the historical darkness is that it concluded with the Jewish representative converting to Christianity.  As noted, this is already consistent with what we know of the legends associated with Philo of Alexandria.

Yet the most interesting reference to the Jason and Papiscus text appears in Celsus's True Word.  Celsus thought the narrative was stupid and Origen seems to agree with him.  Celsus also clearly links Philo to the Dispute in some way.[5]   Celsus may even have identified Philo as the author of the demegories and the Dialogue of Jason as a dishonest reporting of the original dispute.[6]  Of course all of this would amount to little more than idle speculation if it wasn't for the existence of a seventh century witness to Philo as both the Jewish opponent of the Christian Jason. It is this discovery, made by an American pastor in the late 1970s which tips the scales in favor of Philonic authorship of the demegories.

In the last century the Reverend J Edgar Bruns wrote an influential paper noting that a text of the monk Anastasius of Sinai. makes reference to an ancient text where Philo of Alexandria is cast in a very negative light.  The monk warns against "the unbelieving Jew Philo, the philosopher; for he argued against the divinity of Christ with Mnason, the disciple of the apostles, and called Mnason the two-coloured (dichrota)." He then introduces a series of thirtty arguments which were said to have come from the very mouth of Philo which are certainly derived from Celsus's True Word.[7]  While it must be pointed out that in themselves all of these parallels do not prove that Philo of Alexandria is the author of the demegorias.  Nevertheless it is the simplest explanation of the parallels.

The idea that one of the most prominent Jews in the ancient world was in reality nascent Christianity's harshest critics, is a mind-blowing revelation.  For we not only see that Jesus was originally understood to wholly divine but moreover that Christianity isn't what we thought it was.  It once seemed utterly impossible to penetrate the 'end zone' as it were with respect to the origins of the religion.  Now we have the testimonies of the most intelligent and highly regarded men in the world writing disparaging comments about the faith.

Philo affords us an utterly unbelievable - and previously unrecognized - opportunity.  We can finally know what Christianity really was in the very beginning.  We don't need to accept the word of the late second, third and fourth century Church Fathers to tell us what they want us to believe was at the heart of the movement.  Now we can finally know these with certainty.  No one has ever had this clarity of vision before us.  We can literally know things that were previously unknown to our ancestors.

Indeed there is so much more.  Most reasonable scholars acknowledge that Philo probably makes reference to at least a few Christian sectarian movements that eventually appear in the writings of the later Church Fathers.  It is generally accepted that Philo knew something of the so-called 'Cainite' sect - a group that believed that that Judas's betrayal of Jesus was somehow 'like' Cain's slaughter of Abel.  The first scholar to suggest this was Moritz Friedlander in the nineteenth century.  Some like Birger Pearson of San Diego University have sought to explain Philo's apparent knowledge of these sects by claiming that there were pre-Christian antecedents to the groups reported in the later Church Fathers.  This is certainly incorrect.

Pearson positions his argument that the sects of the "Cainites, and Sethians all derive from the Jewish Diaspora" and that "their members were recruited from the Jewish radicals known to us from Philo, and from philosophically oriented proselytes who had attached themselves to the synagogues."  Yet the relationship was actually the other way around.  Just as the Disputation of Jason and Papiscus is a Christian recasting of Philo's original demegories by a Christian copyist living in the middle of the second century, the reports about Christian heretical followers of 'Cain,' 'the serpent' and 'Seth' hardly derive from contact with actual sect members but rather the writings of Philo of Alexandria once again.  Indeed the author of both sets of Christian material is undoubtedly Irenaeus of Lyons or perhaps his master Polycarp of Smyrna.[9]

Indeed the clearest proof that the reports of various Christian 'heresies' which now appear in the writings of Irenaeus are actually derived from original anti-Christian treatises of Philo of Alexandria can be demonstrated from a passage from his On the Eternity of the World.  The point was obliquely references in my last book, the Real Messiah, and Pearson criticized my interpretation in a review he published of that work in the Religious Studies Review.  It was my contention that when Irenaeus makes reference to the followers of a certain heretic named Mark the information actually went back to a first century report about St Mark the evangelist in Alexandria.  Pearson argued that this was a misunderstanding of the evidence because 'the magician Mark' was actually reported in Irenaeus as if he was alive in the second century.

The reality is however that Irenaeus never says that Mark was actually still alive in Lyons or anywhere else.  All that is reported is that his followers credit Mark for imparting 'grace' to their Eucharist services.  Irenaeus argues that they are in error as no human being has that kind of power - grace only comes from Jesus in heaven.  Pearson certainly takes this report - no less than the material regarding the Cainites a contemporary report which Irenaeus either made himself or borrowed from a peer.  Yet his information about the heretical followers of Mark disproves that assumption.

The common assumption about the Marcosians being an offshoot of a second century gnostic teacher Valentine can for instance be easily disproved.  Irenaeus's work Against Heresies was a patchwork of many different reports but the material about the Valentinians was clearly at one time a 'stand alone' text.  This original version is still preserved in Latin for us by the third century Church Father Tertullian.[10]  Indeed the Marcosians only look an offshoot of the Valentinians because of the order of material in Irenaeus treatise.  Nevertheless Irenaeus himself introduces Mark as if he "boasts himself as having improved upon his master" Simon Magus - not Valentinus.  To this end, the Marcosians are a related but ultimately independent tradition from the Valentinian sect.

The question should always have been where was Irenaeus getting his information about the followers of Mark?  If the original report was from the second century, then the sect probably developed in the second century.  Yet if the original information came from some period much earlier - say the end of the first century - then the followers of Mark were very likely to be one and the same with the evangelist.  This is especially true because later Church Fathers actually identify 'Mark' as originally residing in Egypt.  Yet most importantly there are uncanny resemblances between the information that Irenaeus passes on to us about the 'Marcosians' and beliefs and traditions which another Church Father Clement of Alexandria cites as Christian orthodoxy presumably established by the patron saint of his Church Mark the evangelist.[11]

For Clement tells his readership at one point in his explanation of the gospel that Jesus's crucifixion in the sixth hour[12] makes explicit some mystical connection with the number six and the sixth letter of the alphabet.  While he refuses to get into specifics it is clear that Jesus's death is associated with the loss of one letter from the Greek alphabet - the sixth letter which is called the Episimon.  For the moment we will just report the facts and then hopefully the ancient mysticism by the end of the book.

According to Clement this crucifixion of Jesus not only leads to the disappearance of one letter from the alphabet but causes all letters which follow it to be diminished by the value of one:

the sixth conspicuously marked, becoming the eighth, might appear to be God in a body of flesh, by displaying His power, being numbered indeed as a man, but being concealed as to who He was. For six is reckoned in the order of numbers, but the succession of the letters acknowledges the character which is not written. In this case, in the numbers themselves, each unit is preserved in its order up to seven and eight. But in the number of the characters, Zeta becomes six and Eta seven.[12]

This very same teaching is reported in Irenaeus's original report on the evil heresy of the 'Marcosians':

that the letter Eta along with the remarkable one constitutes all ogdoad, as it is situated in the eighth place from Alpha. Then, again, computing the number of these elements without the remarkable (letter), and adding them together up to Eta, they exhibit the number thirty. For any one beginning from the Alpha to the Eta will, after subtracting the remarkable (letter i.e. episemon) ... they subtract twelve, and reckon it at eleven. And in like manner, (they subtract) ten and make it nine.[13]

This parallel has long been noticed by scholars and has traditionally been explained with the understanding that Clement was merely using a Marcosian book as a source this and countless other parallels with Irenaeus's report.

Nevertheless it is utterly implausible to suggest that Clement was just putting together a work and happened to pull off a book off the shelf and started copying things from a heretical group and passing them off as his own ideas.  Clement confesses a secret association with Mark the evangelist in one of his letters.  The most obvious explanation is that 'Mark' that is common to both traditions is one and the same person.  Clement then only goes on to make verbatim references to material reported cited in Irenaeus's report on heresy because Mark was the founder of the tradition he belonged to at Alexandria.  One man's heretic was another man's saint.

Indeed things start to become even clearer when we bring Philo of Alexandria's first century witness of On the Eternity of the World.  For this treatise was written at the prompting of some group - which is left unnamed - who claimed that the world would be imminently destroyed.  Even though Philo's starting point in the work is to question 'why should God destroy the world?'[14] almost no one has ever even considered the possibility that his opponents may have been Christian.  Most scholars acknowledge that the treatise was written late in Philo's life.[15]  The fact that Christians are generally recognized to have been actively promoting the idea of the imminent destruction of the world should make them a prime candidate for the community which prompted the publication of this text.  Yet discovery of yet another clear allusion to the doctrines of the 'Marcosians' in first century Alexandria confirms that hunch.

Philo alludes to the exact example and words of Clement and connects it to a group of contemporary scaremongers who terrorized the superstitious population of Alexandria, using it to prove that the world was coming to an end:

some of those persons who have (in the past) fancied that the world is everlasting, inventing a variety of new arguments, employ also such a system of reasoning as this to establish their point: they affirm that there are four principal manners in which corruption is brought about, addition, taking away, transposition, and alteration; accordingly, the number two is by the addition of the unit corrupted so as to become the number three, and no longer remains the number two; and the number four by the taking away of the unit is corrupted so as to become the number three; again, by transposition the letter Zeta becomes the letter Eta ... But of the manner of corruption thus mentioned there is not one which is in the least degree whatever applicable to the world, since otherwise what could we say? Could we affirm that anything is added to the world so as to cause its destruction? But there is nothing whatever outside of the world which is not a portion of it as the whole, for everything is surrounded, and contained, and mastered by it. Again, can we say that anything is taken from the world so as to have that effect? In the first place that which would be taken away would again be a world of smaller dimensions than the existing one, and in the second place it is impossible that any body could be separated from the composite fabric of the whole world so as to be completely dispersed. Again, are we to say that the constituent parts of the world are transposed? But at all events they remain in their original positions without any change of place, for never at any time shall the whole earth be raised up above the water, nor the water above the air, nor the air above the fire. But those things which are by nature heavy, namely the earth and the water, will have the middle place, the earth supporting everything like a solid foundation, and the water being above it; and the air and the fire, which are by nature light, will have the higher position, but not equally, for the air is the vehicle of the fire; and that which is carried by anything is of necessity above that which carries it. Once more: we must not imagine that the world is destroyed by alteration, for the change of any elements is equipollent, and that which is equipollent is the cause of unvarying steadiness, and of untroubled durability, inasmuch as it neither seeks any advantage itself, and is not subject to the inroads of other things which seek advantages at its expense; so that this retribution and compensation of these powers is equalized by the rules of proportion, being the produce of health and endless preservation, by all which considerations the world is demonstrated to be eternal. [On the Eternity of the World 12:113]

As we shall see the followers of Mark clearly brought with them a unique kabbalistic teaching about the crucifixion of Christ causing the end of the world because of the loss of the sixth letter of the alphabet.  While such beliefs may sound unusual to traditional believers in the doctrines of the Church, the mystical significance of letters and numbers comes second nature to Jewish sectarians groups.  If Christianity was indeed a Jewish sect as most acknowledge, it should not be surprising for the community to harbor distinctly Jewish sentiments.

The point of course is that it is impossible to maintain Pearson's suggestion that Philo just happens to be continually stumbling upon the building blocks of Christian heresy in Alexandria.  The reality is that Philo was an active campaigner against the new religion.  He sought it out to uncover its various forms and warn against the evils of its doctrines. This is probably the very reason why his demegories were fixed to Celsus's anti-Christian polemic in the second century - Philo was an authoritative source.  He must have come into contact with 'Mark' the founder of the Marcosian heresy or at the very least evidence for his mystical doctrines.

At the very least Philo of Alexandria provides us with irrefutable evidence that Christianity was founded on the idea that Jesus was a wholly divine hypostasis.  His death was likened by some groups to the disappearance of the sixth letter while other groups employed the virgin birth to explain his initial appearance in the world.  Before we recognized Philo as a witness for earliest Christianity, scholarship was wholly dependent on the writings of the Church Fathers in order to develop its understanding of what happened in the first century by means of hostile witnesses in the third century.  Now at last we have the building blocks available to us to piece together the story with within the time period.  The reports of the Church Fathers in fact amount to little more than the systematic misapplication of the original Jewish material.

[1] At one point Origen alights on an important passage in Celsus which he tries to turn around into a 'complement' from the pagan critic. “The Jews accordingly, and [Christians] have the same God” says Celsus as if advancing a proposition which would not be conceded.  Celsus did acknowledge 'some' of the Christians in his day were open to this idea and this small minority becomes for Origen an opening saying in his own voice "it is certain that the members of the great Church confess this [homologounton], and adopt as true the accounts regarding the creation of the world which are current among the Jews" (Cels. 5.59)
[2] Most studies of the surviving manuscript have assumed that Philo must have taken the place of Jason the Alexandrian Jewish convert who defends Christianity against the attacks of Papiscus.  Yet most of these studies were written before Runia brought attention to the many traditions which make Philo an opponent of the faith.
[5] Celsus's reference to Philo appears in Against Celsus 4.51 and  his reference to Jason and Papiscus occurs at 4.52.  They undoubtedly appeared in the same original paragraph, perhaps even in the same sentence.  What's more this section as a whole immediately follows his citation of the two demegories.  Celsus's characterizing of Jews and Christians as 'swamp creatures' fighting over the question of which community was truly visited by God and apparently - according to Origen - an overt reference to Philo of Alexandria
[6] Indeed  assumes that his readers are already knowledgeable enough about the historical debate that is referenced in the Christian treatise to know that it was wholly spurious.  Celsus speaks of the Christian account of the dispute as would "excite pity and hatred instead of laughter" with his readership so "it is not, therefore, my duty to refute this nonsense; for it is visible [dela] to all, I presume, and especially to anyone who has had the patience and endurance to give his attention to the actual writings."  Origen doesn't make clear why Celsus thinks his pagan readership is informed enough already in order to recognize the spuriousness of the Christian account.  The only explanation that makes any sense here is that his having already produced the original substance of the dispute in demegories prove that the Christian narratives are misrepresenting the debate.
[9] there is an unbelievable blunder in the Disputation of Jason and Papiscus where the author claims that the Hebrew at the beginning of the Book of Genesis reads 'in his Son, God created the heavens and the earth.'  The only other person who is foolish enough to repeat this error as fact is Irenaeus of Rome.
[12] Philosophumena 6:42

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