Saturday, February 2, 2013

Uncovering the Mythical Core of the Gospel at the Foot of the Samaritan Holy Mountain

I haven't posted for a while because I have been so very busy with work.  Nevertheless absence makes the heart grow fonder just as repetition dulls the senses.  I think I have a new fresh perspective every time I get away from blogging.  I almost think that if I stopped posting I might actually make more progress figuring everything out from religious antiquity.

I think the place to start is to admit that none of us knows the answer as to why 'Judaism' developed into 'Christianity' - not even the greatest expert on the subject.  Of course there are people who think they know a great number of things - the simplest understanding being that Jesus was a Jewish man who happened to be God, Christ and a whole number of other things.

Yet what goes so often unrecognized in these discussions is that Christianity is a whole re-evaluation of the traditional understanding of Israelite religion.  At the core of this revolution was the idea that God needn't be worshiped at a physical place on earth called 'Salem.'

I don't know if most of my readers understand what I am getting at here.  The Epistle to the Hebrews from the Christian New Testament identifies Jesus as being related to a figure named Melchizedek identified in turn with a place called 'Salem.'   For Jews the location of Salem is Jerusalem but this explanation is puzzling. Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Pentateuch where as Shechem - the place identified as 'Salem' in the early Greek translation of the text as well as the earliest witnesses and the Samaritans - is by far the more likely candidate.

Let's suppose for a moment that our earliest witnesses are correct - Salem is another name for Shechem.  Jesus's appearance at the beginning of the gospel declaring that this physical spot of land is no longer sacred, no even Jerusalem, is a deeply significant declaration.  It provides the proper framework for understanding what Christianity represented in the contemporary religious experience.  Only the heavenly tabernacle matters; the earthy tabernacle will disappear or is no longer sacred.

As I have noted many times at this blog over the years, this point of view is clearly Samaritan.  This would certainly imply that John chapter four was written by a Samaritan and specifically a member of the Dosithean cult.  The Letter to the Hebrew has been argued by Scobie and others to be a development of the same Samaritan culture.  Jerome also notes that the Samaritan woman in the narrative was specifically Dosithean and else where we learn she was named Foti (Φωτη) or Fotini (Φωτεινη) or 'enlightenment.'

The ultimate path toward understanding the lost proto-gospel goes through this paradigmatic discussion now relocated to a 'gospel of John' chapter 4.  For the discussion that takes place between the two is firmly rooted in the beliefs and practices of the Dosithean sect.  For the moment it is worth noting that the gospel still has an important use of this term:

The light of the body is the eye if therefore thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light (φωτεινὸν) [Matthew 6:22 cmp. Luke 11:32 - 36]

We should be particularly intrigued by the fact that the Peshitta renders fotini as nahira (ܢܗܝܪ). In due course we might be able to formulate a thesis that the anonymous Samaritan woman might well be a truly mythical woman.

Let's pay close attention to Epiphanius's discussion of the heretical interest in the woman identified as 'nuria':

The Gnostics, who are closely associated with this Nicolaus, and in turn are hatched by him like scorpions from an infertile snake's egg or basilisks from asps, propose some further names for nonsense to us, and forge books of nonsense. One they call "Noria," and mix falsehood with truth by their alteration of the Greeks' legendary recital and imagining from the meaning the Greek superstition really has. For they say that this Noria is Noah's wife. For they say that this Noria is Noah's wife.4 But their aim in calling her Noria is to make their own alteration, with foreign names, of what the Greeks recited in Greek, and thus make an impression on their dupes so that they will translate Pyrrha's name too, and name her Noria. Now since "nura" means "fire" in Aramaic, not ancient Hebrew — the ancient Hebrew for “fire” is “esh”—it follows that they are making an ignorant, naive use of this name. Noah's wife was neither the Greeks' Pyrrha nor the Gnostics' mythical Noria, but Barthenos. (And indeed, the Greeks say that Deucalion's wife was called Pyrrha.) Then these people who are presenting us with Philistion's mimes all they suggest the reason why Noria was not allowed to join Noah in the ark, though she would often have liked to. The archon who made the world, they say, wanted to destroy her. But they say that she laid siege to the ark and burned it, a first and a second time, and a third. And this is why Noah's own ark took many years to build — it was burned often by Noria. For Noah was obedient to the archon, they say, but Noria revealed the powers on high and Barbelo, the scion of the powers - the opposite of the archon, as the other powers are. And she intimated that what has been taken from the Mother on High by the archon who made the world, and others with him - gods, demons, and angels - must be gathered from the power in the bodies, through the male and female emissions [Epiphanius Panarion 26.1]

The point of course is that Epiphanius is only telling us half the story here.  We know from the Nag Hammadi literature and Irenaeus that the gnostics conceived of noria as the wife and sister of Seth too.

In other words this figure called Noria or Nahiyra was married to lots of different men throughout time and undoubtedly was originally understood to be a wholly symbolic figure in the gospel.  This certainly puts the entire discussion of her 'many husbands' - still preserved in an undoubtedly corrupt form in the gospel - in an entirely new light (John 4.18).  She is not a human being at all but the feminine counterpart of Jesus in the mythical realm.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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