The logical primacy of Salvation from Original Sin
Price (whom you can trust) and wikipedia (that you cannot trust, especially because MIT students turn it into their math books) both seem to miss the main purpose of atonement:
- The core meaning of Jesus’s sacrifice is to take away the power of the priesthood in Jerusalem. See the argument in my earlier blog on the importance of logic for our understanding of the origin of Christianity. This angle is not discussed by Price or wikipedia (in its version today).
- The derivative meaning of this atonement is that the common folk can do without circumcision and eating laws, so that the faith can be spread to gentiles as well. This angle is discussed by Price and wikipedia. This angle causes its theological questions, but is less relevant than the core issue.
Admittedly, creation of a gentile church is the practical vessel to take away the power from the priests in Jerusalem. But creation of a gentile church is logically impossible if the faith would contain laws that render primacy to Jerusalem.
Using Atonement we might find who created Christianity: someone with a purpose to get rid of the primacy of Jerusalem.
Incidently, on a minor issue, Price refers to a confusion of criminal and tort law. I don’t think that this confusion applies. The idea that some hero sacrifices his or her life for the rest of the family is fair enough. The soldiers of WW II who gave their lives for our freedom are rightly honoured. What they did might still be called a sacrifice. The sacrifice of Allies in WW II sets us free, but of course doesn’t save us from our sins. This also differs from a sacrifice in a temple, or the delusion by a suicide terrorist.
On a major issue, though, Price also has a great explanation for how fundamentalism and zealotry come about:
“How can the Christian be sure everyone needs Christ’s atonement? This is what we are asking when we tell the pushy evangelist that his faith is fine for him, but that we prefer another way. Why do I have to go your way? The answer, the real, psychological answer, is that “It has to be the way for everybody without exception. If it’s only for some people, I won’t know if I am one of the ones it will work for!”
Sometimes, like Paul, who claimed to have been the chief of sinners, an evangelist will say, “If it worked for me, it can work for anybody.” But what this really means is, “Since it will work for everybody, then I can be sure, deductively, that it will work for me.” The revival chorus celebrates “All sufficient grace for even me.” I must have certainty! So for me to be sure the gospel will redeem me, I have to believe that you need it, too. Hence I cannot be satisfied thinking you might not need it. If I admit that something else might do the trick for you, I have to suspect that something else might work better for me, too. And since the much-vaunted claims that “Christ changed my life” are usually more statements of faith than accurate descriptions of experience, this suspicion would be fatal. I might then have to recognize that Christ is not living up to the advertising rhetoric and get back on the road looking for another panacea. And I’m sick of that.” (Robert M. Price, “Damnable Syllogism”, 1997)
For completeness, let me refer to these angles: (1) Earlier I enjoyed applying social psychology to economic theory. (2) Price’s suggestion to focus on truth and love requires a focus on democracy, see the high priests of high treason.
Who is a Jew ?
Affiliation to tribe, nation or religion must have been an issue since the dawn of mankind. When a word exists, then it is tempting to think that it has some meaning. If it walks like a duck and if it talks like a duck, then it must be a duck. Wittgenstein might hold that “the meaning of a word is its use”, but the temptation of ontology is strong. The question “Who is a Jew ?“ therefor receives attention in Wikipedia (a portal and not a source).
I am inclined to go along with Neil Godfrey’s query whether the view in antiquity wasn’t rather focused on religion (Yahweh) rather than tribe (Judah) or nation (Judea). But, even in those days: when you worshiped Yahweh but discovered that you had to pay taxes to Jerusalem, and that the kingship had been hijacked by the tribe of Judah and the priesthood by the tribe of Levi, then you might start to feel that ethnicity apparently was an issue.
Notably, king Herod was an Idomite even though Herod is a good Greek name, and he said that he was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was considered an usurper since he didn’t descent from David, something that Jesus corrected. Apostle Paul also acknowledged that he was from the tribe of Benjamin. He didn’t call himself a Jew but a Hebrew. Hence the Epistle to the Hebrews is a statement that Jewishness / Judaism was out. Jesus descended from David, but after his ascension to heaven, the king came from the worldly authorities (at that time the Romans) and the priests came from the Christian Church (CC).
The wikipedia article clarifies (in wordy words) how the Jews discovered that a father may be unknown but that the mother can always be established. The Roman period apparently changed the emphasis of “Jew” from religion to tribe:
“According to historian Shaye J. D. Cohen, in the Bible, the status of the offspring of mixed marriages was determined patrilineally. He brings two likely explanations for the change in Mishnaic times: first, the Mishnah may have been applying the same logic to mixed marriages as it had applied to other mixtures (kilayim). Thus, a mixed marriage is forbidden as is the union of a horse and a donkey, and in both unions the offspring are judged matrilineally. Second, the Tannaim may have been influenced by Roman law, which dictated that when a parent could not contract a legal marriage, offspring would follow the mother.” (wikipedia 2015-01-31)
For Jewish men, the identifier remained circumcision, as established at the hill of foreskins when Joshua after the Exodus crossed the Jordan and entered the Holy Land. Jewish women however don’t need circumcision.
I come to this topic because of the intriguing story of Queen Helen of Adiabene. She is said to have converted to Judaism (wikipedia: around 30 AD, and deceased around 56 AD) but then decided to have a bath every day. This would be the sect of the Sabians (Mandaeans) – sometimes wrongly spelled as the Sabaeans of Yemen. Helen’s story is related in Eisenman’s book on James.
Apparently Helen had to take baths since women can’t circumcise to join the Jewish faith.
The importance of not-circumcising (and appreciating women)
The Jewish War of 66-70 AD was rather a Regional Conflict, with forces from elsewhere joining in. Gary Goldberg tells what Josephus hides:
“What Josephus doesn’t tell us is the names of the people who appointed the new generals, nor why those chosen arrived at those positions. We can try to surmise some of those involved.
Prominent of those who had fought Cestius, hence may have been these leaders, included: relatives of King Monobazus of Adiabene; Niger of Peraea; Silas the Babylonian; and Simon son of Gioras (2.19.2 520).
The only identifiable feature of these men is that they all originate outside of Jerusalem: the royal Adiabeneans; Niger a native of Peraea across the Jordan River and former governor of Idumaea; Silas perhaps a descendant of one of the Babylonian Jews who had been settled in Batanaea east of Galilee by Herod the Great; Simon, we find later, was a leader and possibly civil magistrate in the toparchy of Acrabatene.
Does this mean the Jerusalem revolt was driven by outsiders? That is doubtful — more likely is it that Josephus did not want to name any of his Jerusalem companions, many of whom he grew up with, and so only identified non-Jerusalemites. And other than the Adiabeneans, the men he named were all dead at the time he wrote the War; perhaps other early leaders were not.” (Gary Goldberg, Josephus.org)
This also shows the importance of Paul and the mission to the gentiles: while circumcision is required for Judaism, it is not required for Christianity. Helen’s sons Monobazus and Izates were enlisted without circumcision (at first). And Simon bar Giora might be Simon Peter.
Ralph Ellis increased the heat by suggesting that Izates would be Jesus, but this would seem to be unlikely.
But let us hold on to the notion that we want to use atonement to get clarity in this issue.
Messianic claimants according to Livius.org
Livius.org (Jona Lendering) has a list with messianic claimants. A problem here is that he also lists Jesus of Nazareth, since Lendering thinks that this Jesus was a historical figure, where he uses sources that Richard Carrier regards as unreliable. Here is my analysis that Lendering creates his own Jesus. A problem is that Lendering doesn’t respond to my criticism, perhaps since I am no trained historian but only apply logic and common sense. Perhaps a historian of antiquity can copy my criticism to Lendering. The following of course is more speculative, since I am still puzzled and puzzling.
Uncovering Paul ~ Simon Magus
The basic historical fact is that the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were not destroyed, and thus must date from before 70 AD. Eisenman in the New Testament Code determines, looking at the texts, that the DSS must discuss events up to the period close before 70 AD. Lena Einhorn in the time shift hypothesis confirms this in an independent analysis. Thus the Liar must have been identified before 70 AD.
Eisenman in James, the brother of Jesus mentions that there is a curious historical parallel of Queen Helen with Simon Magus and his Helen. Why don’t we accept an identification ?
Gary Goldberg as an important website on Josephus, and he lists parallels to the Bible. A crucial event is the famine around 44 AD. Thus we might have:
- (Simon Magus ~ Paul), (Simon’s Helen ~ Queen Helen from Adiabene) ~? (Mary Magdalene or Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή for Jesus ?). In standard Aramaic “mgdl” (magdal, magdla) means “tower”. This might be her Palace. But it might also refer to magos and perhaps the main work by Simon: the Apophasis Megale – at least Krijbolder suggests there would also be “mag’d” for “great”. Note: Aramaic “mgd” (mged, ma/egda) means “precious goods” – the beloved disciple ?.
- (Helen sends for grain from Egypt and figs from Cyprus) ~ (Paul meets Bar-Jesus on Cyprus) ~ (Paul ~ Simon Magus ~ Bar-Jesus ~ Elymas ~ Atomos) ~ (Paul ~ The Egyptian) ~ (according to Josephus there was an Atomos / Simon who had dealings with Felix and Drusilla, and according to Acts Paul was held captive by Felix and Drusilla) , while grain and figs meet the nazirite rule to stay away from death (not eat meat and be vegetarian)
- Simon (Paul ?) thus has an important early role for the uprising (Helen is rich)
- However, Paul continues emphasizing the abolition of the Jewish rules on circumcision and eating – perhaps trying to widen the uprising to the Romans by appealing to Gnostism – and this falls sour on the party of James with adherence to the Torah. Someone is depicted as the Liar in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).
- The Christian Church (CC) doesn’t want Paul’s gnosticism and is motivated to diminish his role. But they are limited in doing so, given Paul’s important role for the cause, and his texts already circulating.
This reading fits the analysis by Roger Parvus, who argues that Paul’s role was inverted by a later interpolator. Historically he would first join and later oppose James, while the Acts turned this around: with first persecution and then conversion.
“If this is right, it would mean that the interpolator not only retained but transformed the element of enmity between Paul and the early church. And not only retained but transformed the element of a second visit to Jerusalem after fourteen years. It would mean that he also retained but transformed the elements of “appearance” and “privacy” that characterized the Simonian gospel. He attached those elements to the gospel in a new way, one that was inoffensive to proto-orthodoxy.” (Roger Parvus, part 5)
The Acts may have assigned the name Paulus to Simon Magus. The name “Paulus” means “small”. It can be understood as a reference to “Atomos” and to the gnostic reference by Simon Magus to an “indivisible” core (mustard seed) in each human, that links up to God. The Acts used Josephus’s mention of some Saulus to historically anchor the story of first persecution and later conversion.
But what counts as proof in these matters ? (Check this website on using archeology.)
More questions: Paul ~ Josephus and Banus ~ Ebionites ?
I keep wondering whether Paul can’t be Josephus: born in 37 AD and thus 33 in 70 AD. Why would Josephus only write history ? Why would he not think about religion ? In that case he could adopt a “nom de plume” as Paulos himself. Josephus great-grandfather was Matthias Curtus (“humpback, short”).
Josephus the Philosopher published Against Apion under his own name, defending Judaism as an older religion than the upstart Greeks. I didn’t read it. But why would he not write more ?
If it is true that Josephus foretold Vespasian that he would be emperor, because the Jewish stories about a messiah applied to him, then Vespasian might have asked Josephus later on whether the Jewish scriptures had more useful things for him, and why the Jews after 70 AD were hesitant on his rule if he indeed was that messiah. With such a question, Vespasian would effectively demand a religious foundation for his rule, i.e. the abolition of the Torah rule that the king would descent from David. Thus Josephus might have been forced to create Christianity, that both keeps the Torah (precious to Josephus) but that abolishes the davidic king and the levite priesthood, see the earlier blogtext.
This Josephus the Philosopher could well follow the path given by Philo, to link up the Torah to Plato: and arrive at a gnostic version that we also see in Simon Magus. For Josephus we indeed have the story that he was taken prisoner and taken to Rome. For Simon Magus the proof of existence is weaker. (Though there are some super-sceptics who insist that also the existence of Josephus needs proof, with the hypothesis that he and his works are also part of deliberate creation.)
Josephus born in 37 AD and Helen of the famine of 44 AD don’t link up easily. It still may be that the creators of the New Testament used both Simon Magus and Josephus to create both Jesus and Paul.
I was struck by the Ebionites that I hadn’t heard much about before. When Josephus mentions that he stayed with some Banus for three years, this might perhaps be those Ebionites. The original word in Hebrew or Aramaic is different and the common translation dates of a later period. It would mean that Josephus would have tried at an independent translation.
There are some (other) events in the destruction of Jerusalem that suggest of parallels in the gospels. The story of Simon bar Giora reminds of both Simon Peter and Jesus.
And what about the parallels by Daniel Unterbrink and Riaan Booysen ?
Daniel Unterbrink complains about the lies in the NT, and wrote four books on this: The Three Messiah’s, Judas the Galilean, New Testament Lies, and Judas of Nazareth.. He has degrees in Accounting and Education, but (recently) collaborates with Barrie Wilson, retired professor of Humanities and Religious Studies.
- Reveals the biblical Jesus as a composite figure, a blend of the political revolutionary Judas the Galilean and Paul’s divine-human Christ figure
- Matches the events depicted in the New Testament with historically verifiable events in Josephus’ history, pushing Jesus’ life back more than a decade
- Demonstrates how each New Testament Gospel is dependent upon Paul’s mythologized Christ theology, designed to promote Paul’s Christianity and serve the interests of the fledgling Gentile Christian communities
Surprisingly he arrives at an early death by the true Jesus (Judas of Galilee) around 19 AD, similarly like Booysen.
I was struck by Riaan Booysen‘s parallels (though he is a PhD engineer and not a trained biblical scholar):
“If Simon Peter was indeed Josephus’ Simon bar Gioras, a vicious and violent man, would the other disciples of Christ not also have been like that? In fact, would they not have followed their master in this respect? In Barbelo I show that John the Beloved was non other than Josephus’ John of Gischala, the cruellest of all the three rebel faction leaders during the Jewish revolt against the Romans. The third was led by Eleazar, most likely Christ’s Lazarus. Regarding Christ, there are numerous subtle suggestions and outright accusations that he was a violent man (…)
(…) In Barbelo I argue that Christ, Simon Magus and Paul of Tarsus were one and the same person. Paul was rightfully accused of being Josephus’ Egyptian, who led a rebel army of 4 000 ‘terrorists’ against the Romans (Josephus’ number is 30 000). In other words, even the New Testament inadvertently acknowledge that Paul (Christ) was a violent man. According to a specific version of the Toledot Yeshu, Christ had more than two thousand armed followers with him on the Mount of Olives.
(…) To conclude, it is clear that numerous accusations of violence had been levelled against Christ and his disciples. If they had truly been the peace loving, meek and tearful men the New Testament would have us believe, not one such an accusation should have been made. In fact, it is certain that many similar accusations must have been suppressed by the early church. “ (Booysen, subtext “The Violent Messiah”)
“In spring 69 CE, the advancing Roman army forced Simon ben Giora to retreat to Jerusalem, where he camped outside the city walls and once again began harassing people. Within Jerusalem, John of Giscala had set himself up as a despotic ruler after overthrowing lawful authority in the Zealot Temple Siege. In order to get rid of him, the Jerusalem authorities decided to ask Simon to enter the city and drive John away. Acclaimed by the people as their savior and guardian, Simon was admitted.” (wikipedia) This reminds of how Jesus entered Jerusalem on his two donkey’s (Simon and John), hailed by the people.
(…) In August 70, five months after the siege began, Jerusalem fell to Titus. Simon escaped into the subterranean passages of the city. By means of stone cutters he tried to dig away into freedom, but ran out of food before he could finish. Clothed in the garments of a Judean king he rose out of the ground at the very spot where the Temple had stood, was taken prisoner and brought to Rome.” (wikipedia) This reminds of “being buried but with a disappearing body” and “the mocking of Jesus as King of the Jews” and “Peter goes to Rome”.
Decoding the New Testament is sometimes complex, but we should not make it more complex than it is. The creators of the NT could create their story from simple clues.
But it doesn’t help that even the Bible translations give different versions. Simon bar Giora is Simon son of John and Simon son of Jona. In John 1:42 we find in Biblija.net, fortunately with a footnote that Cephas is Aramaic for “rock” (and somehow I always want to relate this to Capernaum (Kefar Nahum):
Common English version: “Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” This name can be translated as “Peter.”
King James version: “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. “
Stephan Huller: ““Simon barjona” would mean “Simon the revolutionary”. (… in Rome …) Simon was thrown off the Tarpeian Rock (a clear play on his title Kepha).”
Stephan Huller also warns about linking up Simon Magus with Paul.
Indeed, we have no evidence that the Romans really took Simon bar Giora to Rome, to parade him and then kill him. They took a person who came out of the caves under Jerusalem and who dressed up as a king. Perhaps a loyal follower of Simon took his place, and Simon himself escaped later unseen ?
“Neither “Simon Magus” nor “Simon Peter” as we have come to know them was a real historical figure. They developed over time as reactions to the historical Simon bar Giora who likely claimed that he was the messianic “rock” prophesied by Moses. That the gospel writer chose to identify him as a “stone” – i.e. kepha – rather than a true “rock” is significant enough. Yet I think it ties into an even more significant play on words in the gospel. For the Aramaic word kepha sounds a lot like the verb to deny, kipha, and, as early as Celsus, Peter is identified as the “denier” of Christ. One of the clear literary purposes of the gospel, at least as far as Marcionites interpreted the text, is to demostrate that Simon was instructed over and over again by Jesus that “little Mark” was to be his messiah, but he steadfastly refused to comply with the Lord’s teaching. We must remember again that Jesus wasn’t the true Christ according to this tradition. The Marcionites went out of their way to show that it was Simon who wrongly identified Jesus in this manner. Take a look at the classic rejection of the “Jesus is Christ” doctrine in the gospel (which is still read in the Marcionite manner by members of the Islamic tradition).” (Stephan Huller)
Decisions, decisions …