The Torah is Gnostic but denies it is

The following was written listening to Van Morrison.

The Torah was created with the legalism that developed from the Code of Hammurabi and not with the mathematical logic from Plato, Aristotle and Euclid. Legalism can run astray – “jede Konsequenz führt zum Teufel”. Hence we know that there is the letter of the law and the intention of the law:

“God has two thrones, one for judgment, and one for “ẓedaḳah” (benevolence, justice, and mercy; Ḥag. 14a).” (Jewish Encyclopedia, “Gnosticism“)

Volcanoes and/or lightning and thunder

Judaism also developed from a moon god Iah with the symbolism of volcanoes and/or lightning and thunder. Fire would stand for reason and the message (Moses) and thunder for the voice (Aaron). Observe the duality. I cannot avoid a full quote of a blogtext by Stephan Huller. My interest now concerns his reference to “two powers” but I do not want to quote him out of context on his other argumentation:

“According to the two powers tradition there were two powers in the Deuteronomy narrative’s account of the Sinai theophany – the god whose voice was heard from heaven and Eeshu, ‘his fire.’  I’ve taken the incredibly audacious step of identifying the being whose name ‘Eesu’ in Greek but spelled Iesous (the pronunciation attributed to itacism = ἰωτακισμός).  I have also argued that the spelling of the ‘Jesus’ in the actual manuscripts of the early Church ΙΣ (the manuscripts never identify the Christian Lord as Ἰησοῦς. Indeed Irenaeus in the second century explicitly denies that Ἰησοῦς is the proper name of the Lord arguing instead for yeshu (and demonstrating that with an acronym YSU ‘the Lord of heaven and earth’ perhaps from Genesis chapter 2).

Here’s my observation.  Eeshu creates Moses in his image (as his earthly ‘twin’) – that is bringing him into his presence and impressing his ‘image’ or ‘likeness’ upon his person.  Doesn’t the early Christian tradition argue for the same practice?  There are so many ‘twins’ (Thomas) and ‘brothers’ (James) and ‘brothers of brothers’ (James and John, Peter and Andrew).  There is also a clear ‘adoption rite’ where individuals are baptized and made a brother of Jesus, ‘the firstborn of many brothers.’  There is even the Islamic pseudepigraphal notion of Judas (or ‘Simon’ in the Basilidean tradition) literally taking on the appearance of Jesus.  Note also the parody in the Pseudo-Clementines where Faustus ‘takes on’ Simon’s image and is hunted down by the authorities who want the Magus. 

The author of Deuteronomy declares that when the Israelites were terrified of the two powers (i.e. the voice in heaven and his fiery presence on earth) the Lord promises to send ‘one like Moses’ – a prophet – who will instruct them.  Doesn’t this sound like the heretical understanding of the paraclete especially when applied to ‘Paul’ by the Marcionites, the Valentinians and the ‘orthodoxy’ (Archelaus) in the Marcionite stronghold of Osroene (locked in a battle with Mani who says he is the Paraclete, the twin of Jesus)?  Why do the heretics always resemble Jewish sectarianism against their orthodox adversaries (who ‘confess’ a belief in the monarchia but do not act, think or believe like any Jews known to anyone in history but nonetheless claim to be the ‘true Israel’). ” (Stephan Huller, 2015-01-09)

Philo and the second god

Neil Godfrey has this surprising quote from Philo from Alexandria on duality:

“Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? (Genesis 9:6). Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word [Logos] of the supreme Being (Questions on Genesis II.62)” (Vridar.org 2010-07-28)

Godfrey gives some explanations but the one by Margaret Barker seems somewhat more convincing:

“Another scholar, Margaret Barker (The Great Angel) is not persuaded by Segal’s explanation. She believes it is far more likely that Philo took the ideas of a mediating divinity from existing Jewish beliefs and adapted or described them in terms of Greek philosophy. That is, he did not attempt to play with the facts of Jewish beliefs to make them sound palatable to Greek philosophers. He merely used philosophical language to describe Jewish beliefs.” (Vridar, idem).

The distinction between a supreme being and its derivatives (emanations) however is quite gnostic.

Wikipedia presents ‘monotheism with duality’

We find the following statement in the wikipedia portal (not source). Note that “God of Israel” is dubious given the distinction between the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and the Kingdom of Judah. See Appendix A on God’s indivisibility, and bold face by me:

“The conception of God in Judaism is strictly monotheistic. God is an absolute one, indivisible and incomparable being who is the ultimate cause of all existence.  (..) The God of Israel has a proper name, written YHWH (Hebrew: יְהֹוָה, Modern Yehovah Tiberian Yəhōwāh) in the Hebrew Bible. The name YHWH is a combination of the future, present, and past tense of the verb “howa” (Hebrew: הוה‎) meaning “to be” and translated literally means “The self-existent One”. A further explanation of the name was given to Moses when YHWH stated Eheye Asher Eheye (Hebrew: אהיה אשר אהיה‎) “I will be that I will be”, the name relates to God as God truly is, God’s revealed essence, which transcends the universe. It also represents God’s compassion towards the world. In Jewish tradition another name of God is Elohim, relating to the interaction between God and the universe, God as manifest in the physical world, it designates the justice of God, and means “the One who is the totality of powers, forces and causes in the universe”.” (Wikipedia, “God in Judaism”, 2015-01-30)

For mathematics this is inconsistent bullocks. With this text you can drive people crazy.  It states something like: “monotheism = compassion + justice” or 1 = 1 + 1. You may try for a formalisation in propositional logic or set theory: “monotheism = compassion (and ?)(or ?) justice”, but then you have to explain whether mercy can take priority over justice, or conversely. Justice & mercy might be heaven, no justice & no mercy would be hell, but what when only one is lacking ?

Indeed, there is the “Akedah“: the willingness by Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and the willingness by Isaac to be slaughtered, only to obey the law that Yahweh imposes on them. Their submission causes mercy, and Yahweh sends a lamb instead. Jesus however becomes the lamb, and the mercy extends to the believers in Christ who are saved from Original Sin. These are striking stories, but rather artificial, with childish simplicity. There are rather more complex cases in reality. The Torah dodges the real questions, like why women can’t be priests (if only by mercy). A proper modern answer however can be found in democracy, see the tale of the high priests of high treason.

Just to be sure: A hypothesis that Genesis derives from Plato

This present discussion has the underlying hypothesis that the Christian Church (CC) intended to link up Plato’s Demiurge with Torah’s Yahweh. A remarkable analysis is that Genesis might actually derive from Plato, see Godfrey’s report here. See an anthropological mechanism for the whole Bible. Of course, look also for Egypt and Babylonia. Plato is said to have visited Egypt. Godfrey discusses Greenberg, who is no academic egyptologist (his website). J.P. Allen provides an academic source. Alice C. Linsley taught philosophy & ethics at college and this is her take on Plato and Egypt.

Conclusion: the Torah is gnostic

Obviously, the distinction between an all-powerful god and the derivative minions of justice and mercy is very gnostic.

Now, gnosticism is as much a mess as the Torah, or religion overall – see this grand comparison map. I can put some tentative observations in Appendix C, but one could make it one’s life to get more clarity. I put some observations on snakes in Appendix B.

For now, it suffices to conclude these points:

  1. The official (though inconsistent) view that the Torah had a monotheistic Yahweh allowed the true Christian Church (CC) to link up to Plato. Yahweh ~ Demiurge, since these were recognised as unique god(s). In this link-up the Demiurge was not an evil force but the supreme being.
  2. Philo tried to apply Greek logic to the Thora, and came up with the One and his minions. In this, he apparently relied on existing Jewish Gnostism (JG). His effort to link up to Hellenism showed a problem however. Plato linked the Demiurge to the creation of the material world, which in Judaic thought would be done by only an emanation. Philo implicitly invited the Christian Gnostics (CG) to present the Demiurge as an evil force.
  3. Hence my earlier weblog: that Simon Magus looks like a real heretic.  The CC really wanted to get rid of the priesthood in Jerusalem, and CG had to be eliminated.
  4. The problem of the Torah & Philo had already been “solved” before by Egyptian religion or syncretic Serapis: the distinction between Osiris (Father, the One), Isis (Spirit, Mercy) and Horus (Son, Demiurge). This solution also leaked through into Christian Gnosticism early on, and later Christianity and eventually also the Neo-Platonists. Plotinus (204/5 – 270 AD) presented the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. These correlations of functions are not perfect, since Jesus might also be presented as bringing mercy, for example when Simon Magus presents him as a ransom for the Demiurge. What counts is the (undeveloped) logic or set theory behind some trinity.
  5. It is not clear yet who actually forms the CC in the years 70-100 AD …. Who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews ?
Appendix A. Simon Magus ~ Atomos ~ Elymas Bar-Jesus ~ Paul

Incidently, the wikipedia article on God in Judaism describes God as “indivisible and incomparable”. The use of the negative is suggestive of the phenomenon of apophasis. Apparently Simon Magus wrote a book Apophasis Megale (the Great Apophasis). Wikipedia translates this as Great Declaration, but doesn’t link to the lemma on apophasis, so that you are less likely to see that it is a wrong translation. Perhaps “The Great Negative” might be a better translation. (See my earlier short focus on nothing.) Subsequently, Simon Magus is reported to have dwelled on this notion of the indivisibility of God. This quote is allocated to him:

“This indivisible point which existed in the body, and of which none but the spiritual knew, was the Kingdom of Heaven, and the grain of mustard-seed.” (Wikipedia, Simonians)

Subsequently, others have linked this to Josephus mentioning of a priest called Atomos, supposedly a Jew from Cyprus. Since Simon Magus is supposed to come from Samaria, there would be a problem with “Jew” and “Cyprus”. However, modern-day wikipedia also correlates Israel (Samaria) with Judea, and this will also have happened in the past, even by a Jewish author like Josephus. (PM. Godley’s discussion of “Jew”.) Perhaps the reference to Cyprus only reflects a short visit. The reference calls attention to Elymas (“Wise”, “magus” ?) a.k.a. Bar-Jesus, who is in conflict with Paul on Cyprus. Perhaps the Acts merely wish to create a smoke-screen on Paul’s true identity ?

Appendix B. Snakes in this story

Some Gnostic sects are the Naassenes (reminding of nazoraios, but without r), the Sethianism and the Ophites in general. I tend to associate these sects with the Therapeutae since we still see medical doctors using the caduceus symbol with a snake. Snake poison would be a powerful medicine. It remains to be seen how this further relates to Hippocrates from Kos, but the god Asclepius who was associated with Serapis at least had his staff with a snake. And, just to be sure, since we are discussing Original Sin indeed, there is also a link to Apophis & the tree of life (not necessarily knowledge), and there is also a contention that Ophiuchus should be a 13th astrological sign in the zodiac.

Appendix C. A bit more on the relation between Torah and Gnosticism

This appendix essentially compares a Jewish encyclopedia article with an introduction of a Hag Nammadi library.

Starting with the latter, we can distill these characteristics for Gnostism:

  1. “The Greek language differentiates between rational, propositional knowledge [not Gnosis], and a distinct form of knowing obtained by experience or perception [Gnosis].”
  2. “heterodox segment of the diverse new Christian community”. Thus no Mithra or so.
  3. “Stephan Hoeller explains that these Christians held a “conviction that direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings, and, moreover, that the attainment of such knowledge must always constitute the supreme achievement of human life.”” This would explain that Simon Magus ~ Paul thought that he could rely on “revelation” as a source of knowledge about Jesus.
  4. “Clement of Alexandria records that his followers said that Valentinus (100-160 AD) was a follower of Theudas and that Theudas in turn was a follower of St. Paul the Apostle. This is remarkable, and at least shows an awareness of Josephus (if it is the same Theudas). Following might merely be on ideas, not in person.
  5. “By 180 C.E. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, was publishing his first attacks on Gnosticism as heresy”. But we may assume that the problem already existed with the Bar-Kochba Revolt in 132-135 AD and when Marcion presented his proposal to abolish the Torah (called heretic in 144 AD).
  6. “The complexities of Gnosticism are legion, making any generalizations wisely suspect.” (…) “we will outline just four elements generally agreed to be characteristic of Gnostic thought. “
  7. First: “One simply cannot cipher up Gnosticism into syllogistic dogmatic affirmations. The Gnostics cherished the ongoing force of divine revelation–Gnosis was the creative experience of revelation, a rushing progression of understanding, and not a static creed.” (Already seen in 1 and 3 above.)
  8. Second: “says Bloom, “is a knowing, by and of an uncreated self, or self-within-the self, and [this] knowledge leads to freedom….” This reminds of Socrates: gnothi seauton. But he probably was more matter-of-fact. In the Gnostic case the “indivisible point” of Simon Magus comes to mind: “By all rational perception, man clearly was not God, and yet in essential truth, was Godly. This conundrum was a Gnostic mystery, and its knowing was their treasure.” Obviously we in 2015 still have not resolved the conundrum of consciousness and the ability of a student of mathematics to imagine a perfect circle. But beware of deceit: “The creator god, the one who claimed in evolving orthodox dogma to have made man, and to own him, the god who would have man contingent upon him, born ex nihilo by his will, was a lying demon and not God at all. “
  9. Third: “its reverence for texts and scriptures unaccepted by the orthodox fold. (…) Irritated by their profusion of “inspired texts” and myths, Ireneaus complains in his classic second century refutation of Gnosticism, that “…every one of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability; for no one is deemed perfect, who does not develop…some mighty fiction.”” One can understand the feeling. Compare nowadays the productive Michael Baigent, and Dan Brown with the Da Vinci Code not adequately referring either (at least morally, see justice and mercy).
  10. Fourth: “This is the image of God as a dyad or duality. While affirming the ultimate unity and integrity of the Divine, Gnosticism noted in its experiential encounter with the numinous, contrasting manifestations and qualities. In many of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts God is imaged as a dyad of masculine and feminine elements. “ Though this is called unorthodox, we find some aspects also in the Torah, as explained. But if you don’t refer and don’t do the syllogisms, then you might think indeed that you are being unorthodox.

The article on Jewish Gnosticism allows us to observe that Paradise can be visited, and thus Original Sin overcome, via Gnosis, and, that also Paul attests of this (II Cor. xii 1-4) (point 7 below). Thus, Paul destroys the argument of the Epistle of the Hebrews that it was Jesus who is required – which is the position of the CC. There is also a strong defence of monotheism of the Torah (points 8 and 11 below):

  1. The Gnosticism relevant for Christianity (CG) had Jewish (JG) origins: “It is a noteworthy fact that heads of gnostic schools and founders of gnostic systems are designated as Jews by the Church Fathers. Some derive all heresies, including those of gnosticism, from Judaism (Hegesippus in Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” iv. 22; comp. Harnack, “Dogmengesch.” 3d ed. i. 232, note 1). It must furthermore be noted that Hebrew words and names of God provide the skeleton for several gnostic systems. Christians or Jews converted from paganism would have used as the foundation of their systems terms borrowed from the Greek or Syrian translations of the Bible. This fact proves at least that the principal elements of gnosticism were derived from Jewish speculation, while it does not preclude the possibility of new wine having been poured into old bottles.” This does not preclude foreign influence however (Serapis, Egypt).
  2. “Cosmogonic-theological speculations, philosophemes on God and the world, constitute the substance of gnosis. They are based on the first sections of Genesis and Ezekiel, for which there are in Jewish speculation two well-established and therefore old terms: “Ma’aseh Bereshit” and “Ma’aseh Merkabah.”” But the article argues that the Jewish priesthood regarded the discussion as improductive.
  3. “In the gnosticism of the second century [BC ?] “three elements must be observed, the speculative and philosophical, the ritualistic and mystical, and the practical and ascetic” (Harnack, l.c. p. 219).”
  4. “The speculations concerning the Creation and the heavenly throne-chariot (i.e., concerning the dwelling-place and the nature of God), or, in other words, the philosophizings on heaven and earth, are expressly designated as gnostic.” But discussion is discouraged: “”Forbidden marriages must not be discussed before three, nor the Creation before two, nor the throne-chariot even before one, unless he be a sage who comprehends in virtue of his own knowledge [“hakam u-mebin mida’ato”]. “
  5. Judaism remains monotheistic, but the Gnosis allows a distinction between God and the Demiurge: “The characteristic words “hakam u-mebin mi-da’ato” occur here, corresponding to the Greek designations γνῶσις and γνωστικοί (I Tim. vi. 20; I Cor. viii. 1-3). The threefold variation of the verb in the following passage is most remarkable: “In order that one may know and make known and that it become known, that the same is the God, the Maker, and the Creator” (… reference …); these words clearly indicate the gnostic distinction between “God” and the “demiurge.” “ But this presents the gnostic view, while for the CC the Yahweh ~ Demiurge still would be valid.
  6. “Gnosis is neither pure philosophy nor pure religion, but a combination of the two with magic, the latter being the dominant element, as it was the beginning of all religion and philosophy. “
  7. “”Four scholars, Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Aḥer [Elisha b. Abuyah], and Rabbi Akiba, entered paradise [ = πασάδεισος]; Ben Azzai beheld it and died; Ben Zoma beheld it and went mad; Aḥer beheld it and trimmed the plants; Akiba went in and came out in peace [references]. (…) Paul (II Cor. xii. 1-4) speaks similarly of paradise (…)” The latter is remarkable: apparently Original Sin can be overcome, and Paradise can be visited by Gnosis. (Trimming the plants: restrict knowledge about this.)
  8. Very important: “Jewish thought was particularly sensitive in regard to monotheism, refusing all speculations that threatened or tended to obscure God’s eternity and omnipotence. R. Akiba explained that the mark of the accusative, , before “heaven and earth” in the first verse of Genesis was used in order that the verse might not be interpreted to mean that heaven and earth created God (“Elohim”: Gen. R. i. 1), evidently attacking the gnostic theory according to which the supreme God is enthroned in unapproachable distance, while the world is connected with a demiurge (comp. Gen. R. viii. 9, and many parallel passages). “
  9. “The archons of the gnostics perhaps owe their existence to the word = ἀρχή. The first change made by the seventy translators in their Greek version was, according to a baraita (2d cent. at latest), to place the word “God” at the beginning of the first verse of Genesis. Rashi, who did not even know gnosticism by name, said it was done in order to make it impossible for any one to say, “The beginning [‘Αρχή as God] created God [Elohim].””
  10. On duality of man and woman: “Genesis v. 2 was amended to: “Man and woman created he him” (not “them”), in order that no one might think He had created two hermaphrodites.” and “It may be mentioned here, in connection with these views about original hermaphroditism, that even the earlier authorities of the Talmud were acquainted with the doctrine of syzygy (Joel, l.c. i. 159 et seq.). The following passages indicate how deeply the ancients were imbued with this doctrine: “All that God created in His world, He created male and female” (…)”
  11. “The Jews of course emphatically repudiated the doctrine of the demiurge, who was identified by some Christian gnostics with the God of the Old Testament and designated as the “accursed God of the Jews,” from whom all the evil in the world was derived (…). The monotheism of the Jews was incompatible with a demiurge of any kind.” Incompatible with a Gnostic Demiurge, but compatible with the CC interpretation of Plato.
  12. “God has two thrones, one for judgment, and one for “ẓedaḳah” (benevolence, justice, and mercy; Ḥag. 14a).” (Possibly the origin of the separation of State and Religion.)
  13. “The official view, and certainly also the common one, was that founded on Scripture, that God called the world into being by His word (see Ps. xxxiii. 6, 9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast”). According to tradition, however, it required merely an act of His will, and not His word (…) There were materialistic ideas side by side with this spiritual view. “ Note: The Gospel of John has the beautiful: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. But if the Logos is the Gnostic Demiurge, second to God, then John leads us into a theological morass. The Apocalypse might be the result of a false start.)
  14. Freedom of thought if the Torah rituals were observed: “Gnosis was regarded as legitimate by Judaism. Its chain of tradition is noted in the principal passage in Ḥagigah, Johanan b. Zakkai heading the list. Here is found the threefold division of men into hylics, psychics, and pneumatics, as among the Valentinians. Although these names do not occur, the “third group,” as the highest, is specifically mentioned (Ḥag. 14b), as Krochmal pointed out before Joel. The ophitic diagram was also known, for the yellow circle which was upon it is mentioned (Joel, l.c. p. 142). Gnosis, like every other system of thought, developed along various lines; from some of these the Jewish faith, especially monotheism, was attacked, and from others Jewish morality, with regard to both of which Judaism was always very sensitive.”
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