Monday, February 17, 2014

The Myth of Jesus

Chapter 10
The Myth of Jesus

In the end it shall hopefully become obvious that our starting assumptions about Jesus determine how view the gospel.  If we begin by assuming that the gospel 'had to have developed' from the life of a historical individual named Jesus, we have at once received a commission to jettison large amounts of mythical stories in the text in good conscience.  After all, 'good' and 'bad' - that is, what is 'true' and what is 'false' about the gospel - have now been clearly determined.  We can proceed to rearrange and ultimately falsify what the gospel actually tells us about this figure 'in the name of science.' 
At the same time, if we proceed along the path charted in this book for the first time we can begin to see the gospel develop as a myth.  A myth doesn't mean 'none of the things contained in the narrative actually happened' (despite what many self-described 'mythicists' might want to believe).  Instead a myth point to a greater purpose to the gospel beyond merely recounting the historical facts of the life of an otherwise undistinguished man. 
At least a few of the people who continue to promote the idea of a historical Jesus do so within the traditional dating of the gospels - that is long before the destruction of the Jewish temple.  One prominent scholar, James Crossley of the University of Sheffield, promotes the idea that the gospels may have been written as early as 45 CE.  As unlikely as that understanding may be to some, it at least avoids the kind of half thought reasoning of those who recognize that there are signs that the gospel was written after the destruction of the Jewish temple but refuse to see the mythical implications of that argument. 
To lay out matters plainly, the more time passes between an event and its recording the less certainty that there ever was an event or that the recording accurately preserves the original happening.  With respect to the gospel in particular we have to ask - what are the details in the story that we can have reasonable confidence would - or indeed could - have been faithfully preserved by an oral tradition lasting forty to fifty years?  What about the things Jesus said?  Can we imagine a disciple faithfully recording the words of his Lord.  Perhaps.  Yet words can equally well be imagined to be dictated by an angel as in the case of Islam or the Ten Commandments for that matter.  The idea that 'words of our Lord' were preserved in some form do not prove or disprove the existence of a real historical 'Jesus.' 
What is rather troubling from a historical point of view is that the 'great acts' associated with Jesus - the so-called 'miracles' - seem altogether too fabulous to imagine that they go back to anything historical.  Even if we take Morton Smith's suggestion of Jesus as some second rate magician, it is hard to reconcile that understanding with all the incredible deeds recorded in the gospel.  Even David Copperfield couldn't pull off these 'tricks.'  To this end, we have to ask ourselves, if the miracles were merely developed for symbolic value by some over-zealous evangelist, what is left on the 'historical side of the ledger' which can explain why there needs to even be a historical person behind the gospel?
According to the  understanding, the timing of the gospel writing is everything.  The Jewish religion has just ended and we must imagine that many believers feel 'let down' by the promises raised by the priestly establishment that Yahweh and his angels would fight on behalf of the revolutionaries.  We must remember that the habit of reading the Pentateuch as if many divine powers were being referenced pre-dates the destruction of the temple.  So we needn't think of the development of a narrative where איש acts entirely and openly independent of Yahweh isn't a wholly new development.  At best we must imagine that the Pentateuch could have been read in such a way that Yahweh and איש has an ambiguous relationship with one another.  Above all else, איש is God's man, where Elohim is the kind, merciful power who exists in heaven. 
It should also be noted that in Philo's understanding of the Bethel narrative - and Clement's further amplification of that doctrine in the context of the gospel - the 'Lord' and 'God' are not only two distinct powers but moreover 'God' is clearly deemed to be superior to the 'Lord.'  Jacob is understood to no longer have the 'Lord' as his god after seeing the luminous human shape above the ladder.  He is now associated with 'God' that is 'Elohim' and this change of allegiance is understood to operate on the level of the soul.  He is being prepared for the sacred mystery where his very name with be transformed and he will take on the identity of the man he saw formerly above the ladder and with whom he wrestled at Peniel. 
My point is of course that too little effort has been taken to understand the gospel as a mythical narrative.  It seems scholarship has heard from a few people who run kooky websites identifying Jesus with Osiris or Mithras or a hundred other things misunderstood and misrepresented from the ancient world and the question of whether the gospel was developed as a myth is 'settled.'  Given the shallowness of the claims of 'mythicists' in the last few years, we can be confident that there are no grounds for seeing the gospel narrative as mostly or completely made up.  Yet I would counter that once we become aware of the existence of an angel named  and his importance in the Samaritan tradition, the fact that most of the heretics in early Christianity (a) can themselves be connected to Samaritanism and (b) promoted a supernatural Jesus mean that we have to try again and again to plumb the depths of this tradition. 
The fact that so many of the earliest Church Fathers demonstrate a familiarity with the writings of Plato opens the possibility that some sort of literary synthesis of Samaritan and Pythagorean ideas stands behind the gospel narrative.  For instance, in our last chapter we mentioned the parallels between Moses and the angel who has 'my Name' (= Shemah) in him.  Samaritan Mark repeatedly alludes to the idea that Moses and the angel are twins.  One seems to act as the leader of the angels in heaven, the other leader of the Israelites on earth.  Yet there is a deeper layer to the Pentateuch which goes beyond the safety associated with merely discussing a figure such as Moses from the collective past of Israel. 
As we have already noted at least once, the one who is to come is identified in the Pentateuch as having a name with the very same numerical value - i.e. 345.  In chapter 38 the 'eternal איש' helps Judah establish worthy descendants.  It is assumed by the Jewish tradition that this has something to do with the future messiah.  Yet since the Samaritans don't recognize the specific concept of 'the anointed one' and it isn't mentioned in the Pentateuch there may have been at one time another explanations for this interest on the part of איש in Judah. 
The most important passage in the Pentateuch which deals with a future redeemer says
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shilo comes and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

My point again is that we have a tendency to read the Bible with blinders on.  This passage is often treated as if it can 'only be about' the future messiah, that is a man of war.  Since 'Shilo' is yet another name whose letters add up to 345 we have to ask ourselves - who or what is being referred to here?  Is the author of the Pentateuch saying that a second Moses will come again or it that the angel who is said to have 'my Name' will manifest himself after the last king reigns in Judah?

The pattern here is very similar to what we have said about the interpretation of the gospel.  Too little time is spent determining what was meant by the author and what could have been held by the early interpreters of the text.  Too much time is wasted on reinforcing familiar viewpoints that happen to be our own.  Indeed one can imagine a situation where the original author writing after the Babylonian Captivity cast into the mouth of Moses the useful claim with the end of that line of Jewish kings the angel would return to help establish once again the Law he gave to Moses.  At the same time, a parallel argument could have been made that איש - that is the ΙΣ of the gospel - appeared in Judea leading to the departing of the scepter from Judah. 

Scholars often seem to avoid acknowledging how many other possibilities there really are to explain a given phenomenon.  It is a lot like a district attorney not revealing the evidence which exonerates a suspect, only in the realm of Biblical scholarship we must still believe that the suppression is done wholly unconsciously.  The possibility that the gospel narrative is myth is rejected as 'completely ridiculous' long before anyone even has the chance to complete a full assessment of the scope of mythical possibilities.  To this end, with the limited space that is left in the present investigation, I hope the reader will allow me the opportunity to take the first steps towards presenting the case for the gospel developing from a wholly Jewish myth.


For some reason which no one can explain, the author of the Pentateuch took an interest in the number 345.  The Moses has a value of 345, the same is true with Shilo, the Name, my Name (in Aramaic), El Shadai and a host of other possibilities.  While it is generally assumed that 345 just came about naturally through the act of the narrator 'reporting the facts' Moses is certainly a made up name.  There may well have been a historical founder of Israel in Egypt, but his name was something other than Moses.  Moses was a name which fulfilled the narrator's goal of assigning him a value of 345 rather than the other way around.  The same holds true with the name Shilo.  It is another made up name. 

Interestingly enough the Samaritans apparently had an extremely important Biblical exegete who happened to have as part of his name the Roman praenomen Marcus.  This individual is remembered as Marqeh specifically to allow him to be identified as another 345.  Moshe Florentin Professor of Hebrew and head of the section of Hebrew studies in the Department of Hebrew Culture at Tel Aviv University has suggested that it has something to do with the vocative case, the form used in certain languages to identify the noun being addressed.  There is no vocative case in Aramaic.  So what Florentin is suggesting - and it is pretty eye-opening even to consider how this might have occured - the names 'Marcus' and 'Titus' were preserved as Marqeh and Tuteh in Samaritan from the Samaritan people addressing these figures in the Latin or Greek vocative form.

This is yet another illustration of how plausible our suggestion that ISU is a preservation in Greek of a Hebrew word.  Marqeh and Tutah represent parallel phenomena going in the opposite direction (i.e. Greek to Aramaic).  A marginal note in a Samaritan manuscript of Mark's writings in St Petersburg, Russia speaks of Moses as the 'apostle of (the age of) favor' and Mark 'the apostle of (the age of) disfavor.'  To this end we must assume that the transliteration of the vocative case of a foreign language was purely chosen for its numerological significance.  The implication was that Mark was Shilo, the second Moses and so it is understood in the contemporary Samaritan tradition. 
Of course we haven't even so much as explained why the Hebrews should have venerated the number 345 so.  It doesn't really fit into any pre-existent number theory.  The truth is that no one has explained it so we shall at least attempt to put forward what it might have meant to a Platonizing Hebrew in the Common Era.  Could it be that it was associated with the lengths of the Pythagorean triangle - i.e. the famous '3 4 5 triangle'?   Of course there is no real way of proving such a theory as there is no surviving evidence to directly support it.  Nevertheless it is an intriguing possibility. 

If we are allowed to indulge in a little speculation it is worth noting that the first century Jewish historian Josephus makes the absurd claim that the Israelites built the pyramids.  Many have drawn the inference that the Egyptians knew of the 3,4,5 triangle is based on the proportions of the fourth dynasty pyramid of Khafre (Chephren) at Giza and of many of the later Old Kingdom pyramids.  This could have been enough to suggest an association to a contemporary of Josephus.  Of course we have no way of knowing whether ancient thinkers figured out the dimensions of the pyramids or whether they knew what we know about early texts showing the ancient Egyptians working out mathematical problems includes sloping-pole and rectangle problems  that involve the Pythagorean triples 3,4,5; 5,12,13; and 20,21,29 or that same proportions occur in some pyramid problems included in the certain papyri. 

It is enough to allow for the possibility that a well educated Jew or Samaritan - someone like Mark - might have noticed the connection between the number 345 and the Pythagorean triangle.  The followers of Mark in Alexandria were deeply interested in mathematics and geometry as well as numerology.  The very same interests are found in the writings of Clement.  These individuals certainly knew that a 345 triangle had the surface area of 6.  This was demonstrated by a polymath named Hero of Alexandria, in the first century of the Common Era.  The fact that Jews, Samaritans and Christians alike were deeply moved by the mystical significance of the number six, one can at least suppose that this was another reason for associating Moses's name with the Pythagorean triangle. 

All Pythagorean triangles are Hero triangles that is, all right triangles whose sides (a, b, c) follow the equation a²+ b² = c², and that have all their sides as integers then have areas that are integers.   A Pythagorean triangle are those where sides a and b are the shorter sides that meet at a 90 angle and side c is the hypotenuse.  As noted above the formula a²+ b² = c²  is the Pythagorean formula.  To find the area of such a triangle, you multiply side a by side b and take half of this.  This formula is written as A = ½bh in which A = area, b = base or side b, and h = height or side a.  Thus, A = ½ab.

Already we see Philo of Alexandria take over the Pythagorean interest in the number six acknowledging that "seven reveals as completed what six has produced, and therefore it may be quite rightly entitled the birthday of the world, whereon the Father's perfect work compounded of perfect parts, was revealed as what it was."  Christians perhaps already from the time of Mark himself developed this understanding one step further.  The tradition associated with the evangelist posited that Jesus was the six and that is why individuals were initiated into the mystery of the kingdom of God, were taken on to the Mount of Transfiguration 'after six days.' 

Well into the fifth century Christian writers like Augustine of Hippo continued to pass forward these notions by writing things like "we do not perceive this perfection of the number six outside ourselves, as we do bodies with our eyes, nor inside ourselves either as we do the appearances of bodies and the images of visible things, but in an altogether different way ... the human spirit should always be giving thanks to its creator, by whom it was so created that it could see this which no soul of birds, no soul of beasts can see, though together with us nonetheless they see heaven and earth and the lamps of heaven and the sea and the dry land and all the things that are in them. That is why we cannot say that the reason the number six is perfect is that God perfected all his works in six days, but rather that the reason God perfected his works in six days is that six is a perfect number. And so, even if none of these existed it would still be perfect, while unless it were perfect these would not have been completed and perfected in accordance with it."
To this end, while the association between the 345 of Moses and the Pythagorean triangle remains unproved it is worth concluding with J C M van Winden's observation of the general nature of Philo's arguments regarding the number 6.  For him:
the number that belongs to becoming (as opposed to being) par excellence is the number six, for it is the product (genesis) of the first two numbers, two and three, the first even and the first odd number, representing the female and male element in the world. Six, therefore, is the first perfect number.  The Pythagorean background of these remarks rings through loud and clear.
Philo interpreted all aspects of the Jewish creation narrative in terms of his Platonic education.  How could that not have extended to the very name of Moses manifesting the perfection of the sixth?

The fact that we have uncovered that that Marcionite name for 'Jesus' - ISU - has a numerological value of 216 can't be treated as something completely separate from this discussion.  The Marcionites similarly mixed Greek philosophy and overt Platonism and the criticisms directed against this sect by the Church Fathers implies that they took their Platonizing 'too far.'  To this end, we must similarly ask whether their deep interest in Plato extend to taking over his interest in the number 216 from the discussion of the 'number of the state' in the Republic Book Eight. Plato says interestingly that this mathematical figure of the number of the state, or the numerical interval which separates king from tyrant, is above all else the embodiment of the 'perfect' soul.

Now of course there are other explanations for this interest - most notably the fact that the number 216 has long been identified with the name of the second god.  The name gevurah has a numerological value of 216 and is used throughout the early Jewish and Samaritan mystical writings to denote the angel of God.  Yet the association with the concept of Shemhamphorasch or Shem ha-Mephorash "the explicit name" is so significant that provides a certain Jewish grounding for the Marcionite heavenly hypostasis. 

The Jewish mystical tradition identifies three verses in Exodus chapter 14 which have a value of 216.  The phenomenon was developed by Daniel Aronofsky into a popular movie Pi which tells the story of the implications of mathematical experiments done by the main character which result in a 216 digit number attracting the attention of both a shadowy Wall Street firm who believes it could be used to predetermine stock prices, and a group of Hassidic Jews who believe the number can be used to bring about the Messianic Age.

The 216 Letter Name of God is the composition of three verses of 72 letters each in Exodus. The Name composes into 72 triplets by taking the first letter of the first verse, the last letter of the second verse, and the first letter of third verse. The next triplet consists of the second letter of the first verse, the second to last letter of the second verse and the second letter of the third verse. We proceed this way until we form all 72 triplets developed from the following sections of text:

Exodus 14:19: The angel of God moved when it traveled in front of the camp of Israel, and went behind them.
Exodus 14:20 It came between the Egyptian camp and the camp of Israel. There was the cloud and darkness [for the Egyptians] and it [the pillar of fire] lit the night.
Exodus 14:21 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the Lord turned back the sea with a strong east wind [blowing] all through the night. He made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.

Both Samaritans and Jews can be linked to the same practice of forming triplets from these three 72 letter verses.  This is deeply significant given the fact that these traditions that have been separated long before the Common Era. As such shared practices are almost certainly ancient ones too. 

In the Judaism the practice of constructing these 72 triplets from the 216 letters of Exodus 23:19 - 21 is first witnessed by the Biblical exegete Rashi (c. 10th century CE).  The Samaritans have an ancient practice of inscribing these words on amulets.  Nevertheless we see a similar reverence for the existence of 216 letter name in the writings of the prominent mystic and kabbalist Abraham Abulafia writes:

And the name of the holy high mountain is the Ineffable Name, and know this, and the 216 – ריו and secret of the mountain is Gevurah (might = 216), and he is the Mighty One, who wages war against the enemies of God who forget His Name. And behold, after this the letters are corporealized in the form of the Ministering Angels who know the labor of singing, and these are the Levites, who are in the form of God, who give birth to a voice of joy and ringing song, and teach with their voice matters of the future and new ways, and renew the knowledge of prophecy.

Gevurah, strength, has the gematria of 216 – גבורה. Abulafia might link Gevurah and ‘mountain’ through the phrase, “and the mountain” – וההר that also has the gematria 216.  Indeed there are frequent allusions to the concept in Abulafia's writings and indeed those of his school. 
The anonymous author of the Shaarey Zedek similarly notes “I set out to take up the Great Name of God, consisting of seventy-two names, permuting and combining it. But when I had done this for a little while, behold, the letters took on in my eyes the shape of great mountains.” The similarly anonymous Perus haTefillot, also written by one close to Abulafia states: “Know that every one of the letters of the alpeh-bet contains a great principle and a hidden reason, and it is a great mountain which we are prevented from climbing.”  The ascent of the mountain is usually taken to mean a spiritual ascent alluding to prophecy.

There is an equally strong tradition associating the number 216 with the power that raises the dead.
The prophet Habakkuk’s name has gematria 216 – חבקוק. Owing to the gematria of the name Habakkuk the mystical tradition usually assumes that Habakkuk was the Shunamite’s son revived from the dead.  In the he Zohar 1:7 it is specifically said that the 216 Letter Name of God to the revival of the dead. "By this Name, God will give life again in the world to come." While the 72 Letter Name has the power of redemption, the 216 Letter Name magnifies this power threefold resulting in the power of restoration.

This understanding that the 216 Letter Ineffable Name has the power to restore life is illustrated by a story about the prophet Habakkuk.  The Zohar writes:

They continued their journey and reached a certain hill at sunset. The branches of the trees on the hill began to shake and rustle and broke forth into hymns. Whilst walking, they heard a resounding voice proclaim: ‘Holy sons of God, who are interspersed among the living of yonder world, ye who are the lamps of the Academy, reassemble into your places to regale yourselves, under the guidance of your Master, in the study of the Torah.’

In fear and trembling they stopped and sat down. Meanwhile, a voice went forth again and proclaimed: ‘O, ye mighty rocks, exalted hammers, behold the Lord, lo, Him whose appearance is as a broidered pattern of many colours, mounted on His throne: enter then into your place of assembly.’ At that moment they heard a loud and mighty sound issuing from between the branches of the trees, and they uttered the verse: ‘The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars’ (Ps. 29, 5). R. Eleazar and R. Abba fell upon their faces and a great fear came over them. They then arose in haste and went on their way, and heard nothing more. They left the hill, and when they reached the house of R. Simeon the son of Lakunya they saw there R. Simeon the son of Yohai, and they rejoiced exceedingly.

R. Simeon said to them, ‘Assuredly ye traversed a path of heavenly miracles and wonders, for as I was sleeping just now I had a vision of you and of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, who was sending you two crowns by the hand of a certain elder to crown you withal. Assuredly the Holy One, blessed be He, was on that path. Further, I saw your faces as if transfigured.’ R. Yosi remarked: ‘Well have ye said that “the sage is superior to the prophet”.’ R. Eleazar then approached and put his head between the knees of his father and told him all that had happened to them.

R. Simeon trembled and wept. ‘ “O Lord, I have the report of thee, and I am afraid” ‘ (Habak. 3, 2), he said. ‘This verse did Habakkuk exclaim at the time when he reflected on his own death and his resurrection through Elisha. Why was he named HaBaKuK? Because it is written, “At this season when the time cometh round, thou shalt be embracing (HoBeKeth) a son” (II Kings 4, 16), and he - Habakkuk - was the son of the Shunamite. He received indeed two embracings, one from his mother and one from Elisha, as it is written, “and he put his mouth upon his mouth” (Ibid. 34).
A similar story is recognized from a work called the Book of Solomon where it said:

He (Elisha) traced on him the mystic appellation, consisting of seventy-two names. For the alphabetical letters that his father had at first engraved on him had flown off when the child died; but when Elisha embraced him he engraved on him anew all those letters of the seventy-two names. Now the number of those letters amounts to two hundred and sixteen, and they were all engraved by the breath of Elisha on the child to put again into him the breath of life through the power of the letters of the seventy-two names. And Elisha named him Habakuk, a name of double significance, alluding in its sound to the twofold embracing, as already explained, and in its numerical value (= 216) to two hundred and sixteen, the number of the letters of the Sacred Name.

By the words his spirit was restored to him and by the letters his bodily parts were reconstituted. Therefore the child was named Habakuk, and it was he who said: “O Lord, I have heard the report of thee, and I am afraid” (Habak. 3, 2), that is to say, I have heard what happened to me, that I tasted of the other world, and am afraid. He then commenced to supplicate for himself, saying, “O Lord, Thy work” which Thou hast accomplished for me, “in the midst of the years”, I pray, “let its life be”. For he who is bound up with the cycles of past years has life bound up with him.

“In the midst of the years make it known”, to wit, that stage in which there is no life.’ R. Simeon then wept and said: ‘I also from what I have heard am seized with fear of the Holy One, blessed be He.’ He then raised his hands above his head and said, ‘What a privilege it was for you to see face to face the venerable Rab Hamnuna, the light of the Torah-a privilege I have not been granted.’ He then fell on his face and saw him uprooting mountains, and kindling the lights in the temple of the Messiah. R. Hamnuna, addressing him, said, ‘Master, in this other world thou wilt be the neighbour of the teachers of the Law in the presence of the Holy One, blessed be He.’ From that time onward R. Simeon named R. Eleazar his son and R. Abba Peniel (face of God), in allusion to the verse, “For I have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32, 31)

In other words, there seems to be good evidence to suggest that there was a precedent from within Judaism to support the Marcionite interest in the name ISU.  Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that real inspiration was Plato and the grounding of his philosophy in Pythagoreanism.  In the end, we have yet another example of the cross-cultural fertilization that occurred within Judaism and Samaritanism at the beginning of the Common Era.

I want to take one last opportunity to explain to the reader what we are attempting to do here.  We are speculating about the manner in which the existence of a divine being called איש was adapted for mythopoetic purposes by Mark the evangelist in the late first century.  There can be little doubt that
the heretical followers of Mark were a community deeply immersed in the Greek philosophical tradition.  This is why they were called 'heresies' by Irenaeus and his followers.  They were condemned for having 'corrupted' the purity of the gospel with their Pythagorean and Platonic 'theories.'   Yet the reality is that the gospel was undoubtedly developed by someone who had one foot in each cultural tradition. 

The combined testimony of the gospel and the apostle witnessed ISU to be the ignored 'perfect man' who came down from heaven in the last days to perfect the souls of men.  How did he accomplish this great feat?  The idea is certainly already present in the Samaritan writings of Mark.  In the gospel it made clear that he came to 'lay down his soul' for his friends - that is establish the mix of fire and water in the baptismal pool where initiations took place 'after six days' and lasting until the 'goings out' of the seventh - which is the eighth. 

The reality is that the Pythagorean understanding of the Christian sacraments was so prevalent that even the orthodox retained the terminology and symbolism.  Yet in due course the grand mystical vision originally put forward by Mark was lost.  What was the purpose of creating the myth of Jesus?  The complete reformation of man.  This understanding is still retained in the rabbinic reference to the community of Christians as notzrim.  It is undoubtedly the original term behind the title 'Nazarene' and - as I am about to demonstrate - it actually stands behind the seemingly familiar concept of the Passion of Christ.

It is my suggestion to read the term נוצרים as notsarim (root yod-tsade-resh, nif‘al participle). I believe this deserves serious consideration. Of course there could have been a pair of terms, an exoteric term notsrim from nun-tsade-resh meaning “guardians” and an esoteric term notsarim from yod-tsade-resh meaning “re-formed" or “those with a new yetser."  A similar idea appears in the literature associated with the Qumran sect.  The two spirits in the Community Rule bears some relationship to the rabbinic concept of two yetsers or 'natures' in man.

What we are suggesting now is that Marcionite tradition must have understood God as wanting to come down to earth in the Passion as a means of 'reforming' or 'transforming' humanity from a material being to a spiritual being. Think about what is introduced just before - ritual washing and the consumption of his spiritual flesh and blood.  This reformation was made according to the principles of Pythagoreanism.  As Clement of Alexandria notes "eight is the first cube, which is equality in all the dimensions -- length, breadth; depth" and moreover a little later in the same book "they called eight a cube, counting the fixed sphere along with the seven revolving ones, by which is produced 'the great year,' as a kind of period of recompense of what has been promised."

Why does this mean?  Clement is specifically referencing the numerological significance of the number 6.  It is always taken to be the symbol of man and the world.  Man because he was made on the sixth day, the world because there are six directions in the world - north, west, east, south, up and down.  This is why Clement goes on to discuss Jesus as the 'sixth' at the transfiguration and the number six already cited.  Yet what we are showing now with respect to the Great Year reference is that the Alexandrian Christians went beyond merely venerating the number six but moved on to two related numbers to illustrate the perfect man and the perfect world.  ISU the 216 is related to the 'great year' of the Pythagoreans. 

The Great Year is the concept whereby all the planets return back to their original position.  As the near contemporary Philosophumena notes in the system of Pythagoras:

And the Sun calculates and geometrically measures the world in some such manner as the following: The world is a unity cognizable by sense; and concerning this (world) we now make these assertions. But one who is an adept in the science of numbers, and a geometrician, has divided it into twelve parts. And the names of these parts are as follow: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. Again, he divides each of the twelve parts into thirty parts, and these are days of the month. Again, he divides each part of the thirty parts into sixty small divisions, and (each) of these small (divisions) he subdivides into minute portions, and (these again) into portions still more minute. And always doing this, and not intermitting, but collecting from these divided portions (an aggregate), and constituting it a year; and again resolving and dividing the compound, (the sun) completely finishes the great year.

As been well established in other studies, the Pythagorean great soul is equal to the number six cubed or 216, the number of the great year is six quadrupled or 12960000 days (60 x 60 x 60 x 60) - that is 36000 years in a universe where years were thought to have 360 days. 

The concept of the 'Great Year' goes back to ancient Babylonia which at least suggests that it may have been compatible with mystical ideas in Judaism.  It is enough to acknowledge now that Clement and his Alexandrian Christian tradition saw the perfect man as a microcosm of the great year given the relationship of 216 (6 cubed) to 12960000 (6 quadrupled).  To this end, Moses and his 345 nature 'anticipates' the revelation of the perfect 216, a number which Plato describes as a "period of divine begettings comprehended by a perfect number, and for mortal ... this entire geometrical number is determinative of this thing, of better and inferior births."  The supposition then would be the 'rebirth' associated by baptism into ISU the 216 transformed the individual into a divine being. 

As noted earlier it seems likely that 345 triangle associated with the numerological value of 'His name' and Moses was understood to be related to the number 6.   Now we will take that argument one step further.  When the lengths of that triangle are cubed or made into a three dimensional solid - i.e. (3 x 3 x 3) (4 x 4 x 4) (5 x 5 x 6) - we arrive at the magical number 216.  216 was one of the most important numbers in the Pythagorean tradition.  It represents the cycle of years for the reincarnation of the divine soul.  Yet in order to finally understand the myth at the heart of the gospel we have to move on to the Platonic adaptation of this Pythagorean discovery.  In short, Christianity was founded on the belief that ISU would be able to found a new political order within the Empire. 

It all starts with comments that Aristotle makes with reference to the Platonic number - the number which controls human births, which is obtained by "squaring and cubing," by which "three intervals and four terms are produced."  His language suggests that the number 216 is a solid figure.  He writes in the Politics that Plato:

only says that nothing is abiding, but that all things change in a certain cycle ; and that the origin of the change is a base of numbers which are in ratio of four to three, and this when combined with a figure of five gives two harmonies  [he means when the number of the figure becomes solid] ; he conceives that nature will then produce bad men who will not submit to education, in which latter particular he may very likely be not far wrong, for there may well be some men who cannot be educated and made virtuous.

Aristotle himself nowhere shows the practical function of number and measure, either as a base of society or as an instrument of government but Plato clearly makes number the base of both, and connects his celebrated theory about the perfect state. 

Yet anyone reading the material can already begin to see that this 'number of the state' increasingly takes on the character of that described as 'the number of beast' in the Book of Revelations which as most people know is 666.  There simply has been no plausible explanation of what this number actually means.  It certainly does not mean 'Neron Caesar' given that the text of Revelations was written in the middle of the second century - long after Nero had died and become irrelevant to Christian life.  The suggestion put forward by Irenaeus - 'Latienos' - as the 'name of the last kingdom' doesn't make any sense either.

When we take a second look at the context of the enigmatic statement in the Book of Revelations it is absolutely rooted in the concept of the Platonic 'number of the state.'  In chapter 13 a beast comes out of the sea.  It clearly represents a great empire or a series of empires as one can only 'make war' against a state.  The second beast that emerges in the same chapter seems to represent a smaller community within the greater state.  We read that "it exercises all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and it makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound had been healed ... it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. Its number is six hundred sixty-six."

We have already seen that the community of Mark was obsessed with this sixth letter - the episemon.  This letter was used as the sixth number.  As we will demonstrate in our next book the symbol marked on the hand or foreheads of slaves - the Roman 'F' - was also related to the episemon or sixth letter of the Greek alphabet.  There is evidence to suggest that Christianity adapted the practice of being inscribed with the sixth letter to denote their having become a 'fugitive' from this world and its ruler.  It was from this nexus of ignored second century practices that the puzzling statement of Revelations has emerged.   

If we have already established the justification for associating it with 3-4-5, it is hardly a great leap of logic to argue for 666 representing 6 cubed or 216.  At first glance then the argument that appears in Revelations seems to develop as a criticism of Marcionitism or a larger group of Christians who depended on Pythagorean notions to explain Christianity.  This perhaps may be one reason why the document was rejected in 'heretical' centers like Rome and Alexandria.  As we have already noted 'being a heretic' simply means you employed philosophic and 'scientific' knowledge to explain the gospel.

So we find ourselves taking a second look at Revelations.  As the text stands now it seems to be suggesting that 'John' is criticized the theology associated with the followers of Mark and their 'Jesus' whose name had a value of 216.  For generations to come, anyone pointing to Jesus having the value of 6 6 6 was immediately condemned as a servant of the Antichrist.  But was this really true?  Or was this idea grafted on to an older text in order to obscure the original beliefs of Christianity? 

It is worth noting that immediately after mentioning the 'bad' number of the beast the text suddenly switches to mention of the author seeing before him "the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads."  The implication would seem to be that they are inscribed with 'the true name' of Jesus distinguished from the ISU of the Marcionites, but can we really be so sure?  We have to ask - could it be that the negative assessment of 666 have been added to the text by a later hand? 

It seems uncanny that immediately after criticizing the 666 number the 144,000 is associated with the name of God.  Indeed if these individuals are standing on Mount Zion how coincidental can it be that the New Jerusalem coming from heaven is specifically said to have the very same measurements:

And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel."  Rev 21:17

But as everyone knows - or at least knew in antiquity - a cubit was 18 inches or 1.5 feet.  As such the walls of the city turn out to be the exact dimensions of ISU - i.e. that is 216.  The implications are clearly that the text was not originally written by someone who opposed the name Jesus.  The assumptions seem to support the idea that the name of God had the very same numerological value. 

To this end, once we see that exactly 144,000 people marked with the name of God are standing waiting for the perfect Jerusalem formed after the number of ISU - that is 216 - the clearer it becomes that a later editor has in effect condemned the literary purpose of the original author of the text.  That is, the angel ISU is coming to reform every aspect of society in the kingdom.  Mankind and the very society in which he lived will in the end be reformed according to the perfect Platonic number.  At last the rabbinic identification of Christians as notzrim is finally explained. 

A lot of these ideas were anticipated in a short article published by Nicholas Humphrey in the New Scientist magazine on the significance of the 'number of the beast.'  Humphrey rightly points to the underlying problem for Plato in the Republic was the need to establish the right rulers to rule the state.  Numerology and the number 216 in particular was understood to provide the solution.  He has Socrates declare that:

the rulers you have trained for your city are wise, reason and perception will not always enable them to hit on the right and wrong times for breeding; some time they will miss them, and then children will be begotten amiss

Socrates appeals to numerology for a solution:

the number of the human creature is the first in which root and square multiplications (comprising three dimensions and four limits) of basic numbers which make like and unlike, and which increase and decrease, produce a final result in completely commensurate terms.

To this end, Socrates is suggesting that literally breeding humans according to the 216 principle would raise perfectly good rulers.

Could it be that the author of the gospel was in effect offering much the same message with his gospel?  Humphreys noting that the Greeks thought seven months was the minimum period a fetus needed for gestation and that the Pythagoreans also thought that the number 6 was a 'marriage number' because 2 - the feminine number - was multiplied by 3 - the masculine number.  Yet the author of Revelations seems to go much further than Plato.  Rather than merely having human being born after 216 days in order to ensure their readiness to rule, the author envisions a situation where the physical dimensions of the perfect 'city' or government would be divinely established according the number of ISU. 

That the text of Revelations has been altered is confirmed by the frequency with which millennialism is associated with the text in early writers - a trait that has vanished from our surviving editions.  Cerinthus, the presumed author of the book, said angels had revealed to him that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ would be established on earth and that those who had been restored to bodily life would dwell in Jerusalem; for a period of 1000 years.  This seems closely related with the idea found in the Epistle of Barnabas that after 6000 years of world history, at the beginning of the seventh millennium Christ's peaceable kingdom would be established (Barn 154-5), and a second creation will be made like the first (6:13). This means that the seventh millennium will correspond to the seventh day of creation or Sabbath. 

The fact that the Marcionites thought that Jesus's coming happened just before the year 6000 and another prominent Alexandria argued that the year 6000 arrived with the reign of Septimius Severus at the end of the second century implies that there was a body of speculation associated with the number 6 that made it dangerous.  One may speculate that at least part of the reason this doctrine was abandoned was because it went against the principles of monarchianism once again.  The implications of suggesting that a more perfect age is imminent with 'more perfect rulers' who are associated with the Israelite rather than Roman tradition are so obvious they needn't be explained to deeply.  The bottom line is that these early Christians were suggesting that their religious leaders were superior to their political leaders in Rome.  Not a good doctrine to promote with paranoid Emperors on the throne. 


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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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