Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Myth of Jesus

Chapter One
Jesus and the Crypto-Jewish tradition of Mark


I have a crazy story to tell you, one which will completely turn everything you thought you knew about God, religion and history upside down.  All things your parents told you about Jesus is wrong.  He never came from Nazareth, he was never a son of Mary, he was never born of a virgin.  All these things were invented by white people in the mid to late second century to distract their contemporaries from the real truth, a mystical understanding of a hidden god, venerated in secret for generations among the Jewish people - my people - and which will now be revealed to outsiders for the first time.

I am not going to argue against the traditional Jesus.  There is absolutely no way of disproving the existence of the obscure historical figure which graces the pages of our inherited gospels.  The point of this book is not to get in people's faces and attempt to slaughter sacred cows.  My wife is a devout Catholic woman, who goes to church every Sunday.  More often than not, I actually end up attending mass with her - if not only to demonstrate how compatible the understanding I am about to impart to you is with the existing doctrine. 

Indeed, above all else I want to draw attention to the existence of countless crypto-Jews and Christians who managed to co-exist with the state sponsored faiths.  Moreover, let me take this opportunity to take a shot over the bow of any atheist who might be reading this book. The fact that the average person will never have the intellectual capacity to understand the truth his religion should not in turn be used against the sublimity of Christianity as such or the tradition of Jesus as it was originally conceived - i.e. as a crypto-Jewish theology.

I have literally spent over half my life trying to understand what the earliest Christians believed.  I must confess, I do not possess a PhD and in truth, I never wanted one.  Well, if they just handed me one, I wouldn't refuse it.  Yet then again, that's not going to happen any time soon.  I relish being in the role of the quintessential crypto-Jew - the consummate outsider.  I don't know how the traditional role of Ausländer is going to be reflected in the writings of someone who jumped through hoops like a trained seal. 

What I will offer the reader in this book is my tradition - that is, an understanding of the development of early Christianity from the point of view of an étranger.  Our starting point will be an assumption for which I roundly criticized by Professor Birger Pearson formerly of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  When the late second century Church Father Irenaeus of Lyons writing from Rome, criticizes the followers of a certain Mark for interpreting the gospel through kabbalah, this Mark was the evangelist of the same name.

In other words, if my hypothesis holds weight, the more we learn about the community of Mark, the more we find out that Christianity development not merely from 'Judaism' but rather from a form of crypto-Judaism that bears a striking resembles to the beliefs and practices of my direct ancestors.  This doesn't mean that Mark knew anything about the Zohar.  He certainly didn't.  We know this because this book was written well over a millennium after the gospel.  But rather that Jews of all ages were what the ancient Greeks called 'Pythagoreans.'  In other words, Mark used kabbalah to write the gospel.

As I just finished saying - this view is not much liked by scholars of early Christianity.  They point to the fact that Irenaeus does not say that this 'bad Mark' was Mark the evangelist.  Instead he is portrayed as a recent supernatural boogeyman who 'must have been' contemporaneous with Irenaeus's original source.

As we shall see very shortly, this view is complete nonsense.   But for the moment let us at least entertain the idea that evidence exists which supports the idea that the gospel was developed not merely as kabbalah, but specifically - a kabbalistic myth.  How could such a position be proved?  After all, Irenaeus's doesn't give us enough information about these originally 'followers of Mark' to make a definitive case for how they interpreted their canon.

In the end, I will lay out a case for understanding the gospel as developing from Jewish mysticism.  If the reader buys into my theory, I will have done my job.  If the case for kabbalah does not seem convincing by the end of this book, I will not have done my job well and my arguments should be summarily dismissed.


A kabbalistic myth?  Yes indeed.  Now that I have mentioned the followers of Mark, another early Christian community I have to mention is the various associates of a certain Valentinus.  The information about Valentinus again comes to us through the writings of Irenaeus.  The 'Valentinians' as they are known in scholarship or 'followers of Valentinus' are also specifically identified as 'Pythagoreans.'   This, again means that they were quite interested in the mystical significance of numbers and letters.  In fact the Valentinians, above and beyond developing complicated myths about the origins of the world through numbers, had some curious beliefs about Jesus too, that are worth investigating.

Irenaeus identifies Valentinus as being active in the middle of the second century.  A superficial reading of Irenaeus's Against Heresies - the single source of most of our information about the early sects of Christianity, makes it seem as the followers of Mark were really 'a certain kind of Valentinian' (hence Professor Pearson's criticism of my identification of 'Mark' as the evangelist).  Yet I call the readers attention to the fact that the report of the various types of Valentinians (chapters 1 - 12) of Book One of Against Heresies and the various types of 'followers of Mark' (chapters 13 - 21) really seems like to separate reports fused together in the introductory section of the book.

Most studies of Irenaeus see the book as a kind of literary 'head cheese' - i.e. a haphazard fusing together or bits and pieces of things originally written by the Church Father along with those of other contemporary writers.  Irenaeus himself might have been the original editor of Against Heresies or it may have been a devoted associate after he had died in the late second century or early third century.  The 'head cheese' quality of the existing work as a whole is almost never questioned.

The section on Mark for instance is given a specific title when cited by the fourth century Church Father Epiphanius as Salamis, a city in Cyprus - 'Against the Marcites.'  A parallel 'stand alone text' Against the Valentinians has been reworked into Latin by the third century Church Father Tertullian who seems to have in his possession a lot of the original 'lectures' of Irenaeus before they were pressed into the Against Heresies 'head cheese.'

The idea would then be that by the time Against Heresies was fused together, the followers of Mark were no longer of much interest.  Already Irenaeus is our only source for most of the information about them - even though it is clear that he is using an earlier source written by someone else.  Indeed what is most interesting is the fact that at least one large chunk of Against the Marcites shows up as a positive declaration of 'orthodoxy' in the writings of another contemporary writer from Alexandria named Clement.  In other words, the heresy of 'the followers of Mark' for Irenaeus is little more than 'the faith' for a writer from the see of St Mark in Alexandria.

The beliefs attributed to the Marcites in Irenaeus had all but disappeared in the world outside Alexandria, which also happens to this day to be the last bastion of devotion to the evangelist St Mark.  I have postulated elsewhere that this was owing to a massive persecution against the followers of Mark during the reign of the wicked Emperor Commodus (177 - 192 CE).  This also happens to be the age that Irenaeus was most active as a writer and theologian.

At some point, after the end of Commodus's rule Irenaeus simply drops off the face of the earth.  He was however immensely influential during this period describing the bloody reign of the tyrant as nothing short of a 'golden age' for his Catholic Church.  In the twelve or fifteen years that he had effective control over Christianity in Rome, our familiar 'four gospel' New Testament canon was probably consolidated.  So too most of the familiar beliefs that we now hold about Jesus and the early Church.

In the same way that the followers of Mark utterly vanished outside of Alexandria in this period, there were still a few Valentinians likely holding out down to the end of Commodus's reign.  One in particular - a certain Florinus the priest - has been the subject of much speculation by scholars.  He seems to have been a prominent member of the Roman Christian community before the rise of Irenaeus.  Irenaeus, undoubtedly owing to his Imperial connections eventually gets 'Pope' Victor to banish him from the church.  However this was certainly done reluctantly at first.

This historical reality, in turn explains why the current edition of Against Heresies was written principally 'against the Valentinians' and in turn why the already vanquished Marcites were basically slapped on to the end of a section dealing with the allies of the once powerful Florinus.  Politics explains everything.  To this end, by about the end of the second century, the Roman 'Pope' according to tradition pressed the bishop of Alexandria to become an ally against 'Judaizing' factions to help establish Sunday as the official date for celebrating Easter.  In due course all mention of the evils of 'Mark' were officially abandoned and a new name for identifying individual pockets of 'resistance' in the Empire.  The evil head of the Marcites was no longer called Mark (Μάρκος) but Marcion (Μαρκίων). 

The weary Egyptians, fearing a similar assault directed against their tradition as wiped out the Marcites from Italy, happily went along decrying the evils of a non-existent heretic so named.


Back in the day when I attended university I took the name Marcion to a friend who happened to be a professor of Syriac, the ancient language still spoken by Christians in the Middle East.  I asked him, what he thought the origins of it were.  He looked at the name on the page in both Greek and Syriac and concluded 'it is the Roman name Marcus attached to a Greek diminutive - or if you will 'little Mark' or 'the lesser Mark.'  Just the other day I received an email that came to the very same conclusion.  The same conclusions were reached by a very influential nineteenth century German scholar named Adolph Hilgenfeld.  I think it might be important to share the first correspondence even if it may be difficult for many of my readers to follow it the first go round.

The following was written to me on the subject of Marcion by the prominent Hungarian epigraphist Adam Lajtar:

Dear Stephen Huller,

Thank you very much for your mail. You are right: the name Μαρκίων derives from the Latin "Marcus". But it is neither Samaritan nor Egyptian; it is purely Greek. In Greek, especially in the Post-Classic period, ίων is a very productive nominal formant, used also in constructing personal names. The formant is simply added to the root irrespectable of the fact if the root ends in a consonant or a vowel. As far as personal names are concerned, the ίων formant is frequently added to a thephoric element, thus Ἀπολλων-ίων, Δίων (from Δι-ίων), Σαραπ-ίων, Ἁνουβ-ίων, Δημητρ-ίων, Μην-ίων, Ἀρ-ίων, etc. The ίων formant has somewhat diminutive meaning, thus Ἀπολλων-ίων actually means "The small Apollo" (in the sense: "He is like Apollo"), Δίων - "The small Zeus", etc. Μαρκίων can be analyzed as Μαρκ-ίων, "The small Marcus" ("the one who is like Marcus"). The name may refer to a person with the name Marcus, e.g. the father of the man who bears the name Μαρκίων. I insist on the fact that ίων names are not an Egyptian particularity; it is an overall Greek phenomenon.

I hope this helps you

Best regards

Adam Lajtar

The point of course is that across the centuries now scholars have recognized that the figure of Marcion was developed as a Mark in the shadow of an original and much greater Mark - in this case Mark the evangelist.

Of course there are alternative interpretations of this bit of evidence.  Marcion could simply have been a Christian who had a father named Mark.  Yet the hostile evidence from the Church Fathers denies this possibility as even here - as Marcion's father is never identified as also being named Mark.  As I noted earlier, the specific name Marcion was developed immediately following Irenaeus's writing of the original report Against the Marcites.  Apparently there was still some remembrance of a relationship with the evangelist, so the identification of this 'other Mark' now becomes above all else a 'lesser Mark' if not a 'like Mark.' 

In earlier versions of Irenaeus's Against Heresies Marcion is identified to be enough like Mark that the identification is specifically denied.  He is not the author of the Gospel according to Mark.  Moreover, in our present copies of Against Heresies we see alongside the familiar claim that the Marcionites used the gospel according to Luke:

Those of the Marcionites who (qui autem) who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. 

The same idea of 'two kinds of Marcionites' appears again later in the same case, reinforcing the idea that Marcion was not only a lesser Mark but to many very much 'like Mark' the evangelist.

This is not the place to begin discussing the understanding of Joseph Tyson and many other scholars, that our gospel of Luke was developed as an anti-Marcionite gospel.  It is enough to say that the original association of Marcion with the evangelist Mark goes back to our earliest sources and has formed the background for various respected scholars ranging from Hermann Ratschke in the early twentieth century to Markus Vinzent in more recent times.  The understanding moreover that Irenaeus's original description of 'Mark' of the Marcites was one and the same with Marcion, was developed by many early Church Fathers such as the influential fourth century Gregory of Nyssa and other enigmatic references dating back to Justin Martyr and the second century Church.

For the purposes of the present investigation we shall attempt a general understanding of the 'Marcionite' tradition for the sake of clarity, albeit periodically referring to the 'Marcite' references in Irenaeus (even though others ascribe them to 'Marcion'), the 'Markan' tradition of Alexandria (and Clement of Alexandria specifically even though many of his testimonies are specifically 'Marcite').  In due course we shall also draw from the writings of Marqe the Samaritan which again bear striking resemblance to things referenced as 'Marcite' in Irenaeus's writings no less than 'Christian' quite specifically Christian according to the exhaustive study of John MacDonald of Leeds University (albeit MacDonald refers to him as 'Marqah'). 

It is the hallmark of my approach to assume the existence of an influential late first century figure who bore the Roman praenomen (or 'given name') Marcus.  This individual was hugely influential not merely over the northern Israelite community of 'Samaritans' who continue to venerate him with near messianic fervor (i.e. a 'prophet like Moses') but over the Jewish and Christian communities at the turn of the second century.  By the late second century those who continued to venerate his legacy were marginalized by the Imperial state for reasons that are not quite clear.  Massive persecutions were directed against his legacy among the Samaritan and Christian communities - to the point where the last pockets of his devoted followers (i.e. the community of Samaritans in what used to be called Neveh Marqe near Tel Aviv and the Coptic community headquartered in Alexandria) no longer have any substantial information about his real historical identity.

Yet it is clear from surviving references over the last two thousand years, Mark was a wealthy Hebrew who was deeply immersed in Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy.  He is the first historical 'kabbalist' that we know of (though there were certainly exegetical traditions to this effect which antedated him.  The suggestion that the memory of one historical Mark was preserved in three separate communities (i.e. Samaritan, Christian and rabbinic literature) is of course a controversial suggestion and one which is treated briefly in Birger Pearson's summary of my previous work.  It is left up to my readership to decide for themselves whether or not my thesis holds water.


It is enough for me to make explicit my belief that what is said in the earliest Samaritan records, namely that 'Mark formed wisdom' expresses the same idea what we read in our earliest Alexandrian witness, namely that:

Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge. Thus he composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected. Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils.

Accordingly this 'wisdom' or ' mystical knowledge' was promulgated through kabbalah.  In other words, the reader had to pay attention to words and numbers that unlocked a secret meaning otherwise undiscernible in a plain reading of the text.  

To be certain, Mark began his understanding from what we might call a 'gnostic' interpretation of the writings of Moses - i.e. the Pentateuch of 'five books' that form the traditional backbone of Israel culture since time immemorial.  His genius however was to develop a central myth, used to unite the now decimated community in the immediate aftermath of the destruction that followed the Jewish revolt of 66 - 72 CE.  This myth manifested itself in the pages of the original gospel, a text that no longer exists.  This narrative was originally written specifically with an audience of recent converts to Judaism in mind. 

I identify the Marcionite text of that lost original gospel.  The idea that the Marcionites preserved the earliest canon of the 'New Testament' of the Christian religion is of course controversial but a position espoused by a number of respected scholars.  While we no longer know what the actual text of this gospel looked like, it is enough to say that we know what it said about our 'Jesus.'  The Marcionites, like many early 'heresies' espoused the idea that Jesus was not a mortal man but a mostly unknown 'second' god within a secretive tradition within Judaism.  This divine being was identified as 'man' or the 'man of God' in the Samaritan tradition of Marqe.  It is my assumption that the early Christian sects associated with Mark held much the same belief.  

According to my understanding and the thesis which will be developed over the next hundred pages the name 'Jesus' was a misrepresentation of the identity of the Markan 'second' god.  The god whose name is still pronounced Eesu by the Greeks was a development of a traditional Jewish interest in a shadowy figure called Eeshu in the pages of Moses's writings - a heavenly man with skin made of spiritual fire who visited the Israelites and helped secure their release from bondage in Egypt.   The assumption at the heart of the myth of the gospel is that God's man had come back at what was presumed to be the end of times to establish a new religion according to a new revelation of truth given by Eesu just forty nine years before the destruction of the Jewish temple. 

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