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Theological Publications





Christianity, Diaspora Judaism, and Roman Crisis

Robert M. Price


Acts of the Apologists

I first came to the study of the Bible as a would-be theologian, which meant I wanted to take the great menagerie of texts and genres and feed them into a meat grinder that would give me neatly packaged sausages called "theology."1 It was, as some Postmodernists like to say, "Logocentric," at least an exercise in abstraction. I wanted to press scripture into the service of so-called Systematic Theology. When I thought I had jumped the track and changed my focus to New Testament and Early Christianity as a descriptive discipline, little did I suspect I was still trying to play the same game. I was trying to construct an abstract template of "Christian Origins," as church historians had always done, and then fit all the data of the New Testament and the Church Fathers into that symmetrical systematic outline. I began with the traditional outline, accepted by Christian historians since Eusebius in the fourth century. According to this schema, Christianity began with Jesus Christ who taught true doctrine to his disciples, the apostles. The sum and substance of this faith was preserved in the Apostles’ Creed. The apostles in turn taught the true doctrine to their appointed successors, the bishops, who in turn trained their own successors, the next generation of bishops, and so on down the line. As the official version had it, Satan waited till the last of the original apostles died and then began to train and send out heretics to corrupt the church with false doctrines. Had the devil not done this, there would have been no real diversity of belief or practice among Christians. And since it was the devil’s doing, the approach to diversity could not be one of friendly dialogue. No, it had to take the form of suppression, polemic, eventually of persecution. It was war, not love.

But eventually I began to see the wisdom of more recent scholars like Ferdinand Christian Baur, Walter Bauer, Walter Schmithals, and others,2 who had redrawn this map. They showed in great detail how the texts of the New Testament and other early Christian writings made much better sense if you pried the traditional puzzle apart, reshuffled the pieces, and started over again. The approach was more inductive, derived from the data read as much as possible on its own, not deductive, trying to make the facts fit a later creed superimposed on them in the name of institutional dogma.3 History began to be done for its own sake, not to reinforce a party line. It was coming to be real history, not just theology in disguise. Naturally, there is never any complete escape from systematic paradigms as heuristic tools through which to construe the data as data, as Collingwood4 would remind us: evidence for what? Without some theoretical framework through which to filter raw data, we are left dumbly facing the blooming, buzzing confusion of the undifferentiated manifold of perception, as we do every day until the evening news tries to make sense of it for us. But the paradigm we employ may arise from our consideration of the data themselves, insofar as we can momentarily shelve our expectations about them and approach them with Zen-like wonder. Or the paradigm can be imposed out of some extraneous interest (and it is this that we hope to avoid). In this sense at least, we may speak of the "colonialist" perspective of traditional Church History, in that the historical data winds up being wrested from its aboriginal (or at least earlier) meanings and appropriated for new and heteronomous dogmatic agendas. Theologians stand astride the conquered texts, planting the flag of theology where perhaps some other, earlier banner ought to fly. We seek, by contrast, to let the texts speak for themselves if we can. It may be a naive hope. Stanley Fish and others warn us that we will find nothing in the texts but whatever we approach them looking for (the traditional bane of historical Jesus studies, even today), or at least that our "findings" will inevitably be a function of the methodology we adopt and the kind of thing we approach the text looking for,5 but the advice of Thomas V. Kuhn still holds good as a rule of thumb and a virus-alert against total subjectivity: it is easy enough to recognize "anomalous data," bits of information, signals that conspicuously did not fit well the traditional paradigm but rather ground like sand in its gears.6 Those were bits that defied the hermeneutical project of "naturalizing the text" (Jonathan Culler).7 They were not easily assigned a place in the orthodox scheme of things, except by harmonizations and special pleadings that made even apologists for the system guiltily wish for something better. These are the graft points from which a new paradigm may begin to grow. Ideally, it will be able to make new sense of these anomalous data as well as most of the data that fit quite well into the old understanding. That, it seems to me, is precisely what Baur, Bauer, Mack, Schmithals, and the other revisionist historians of Christianity have sought to do, and with fabulous success.

A Jungle, Not a Garden

The picture of Christian origins that I accept and seek to build on is much sloppier than the traditional one. It posits no single origin for the Christian religion. If there was a historical Jesus in the first place (something I certainly do not take for granted anymore8), even he was no more than one significant factor. Radical critics sometimes say that Judaism was only partly the origin of the Christian faith, that paganism contributed just as much of the original DNA. Indeed, in some ways this reflects the traditional Jewish view of Christianity9 as far as I understand it: Christianity is a somewhat paganized form of Jewish ethical monotheism and therefore inherently benign, though still heretical. I would agree with this if it weren’t possible to get things even a bit more tightly into focus. To twist the scope over a notch, we must recognize with recent scholars10 that our picture of a single Orthodox Jewish mainstream in the first century, a kind of Eohippus version of Rabbinic Judaism, is a fantasy, at least an exaggeration produced as a piece of apologetics for later Rabbinic Judaism.11 Jewish Orthodoxy as we know it only became any kind of mainstream in the early second century CE after the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and the establishment of the Javneh Sanhedrin. Before that, the religion swarmed like a kaleidoscope with swirling sects and parties including the Pharisees (named, I think, for their considerable theological debt to the Parsees, or Zoroastrians12), the Sadducees, the Essenes, the so-called Zealots, or dynasty of Judas of Galilee,13 the Masbotheans, Sabeans, Hemerobaptists, Nazoreans, etc. As Norman Golb argues in Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?, the so-called Qumran scrolls may originally have formed the Jerusalem Temple Library,14 and that means there was as yet no orthodoxy, not even any mention in the sacred texts of anything we would recognize from later standards as orthodoxy.

Margaret Barker, in The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God 15 and Raphael Patai, in The Hebrew Goddess 16 go further and make clear by a survey of lots of usually neglected evidence, that not even the cornerstone of Jewish monotheism was secure in the first century CE. What would later be christened Trinitarianism emerged first from popular, traditional Israelite polytheism, the very ancient belief, interdicted by prophet and king alike, that God was one, eventually the king, of a larger pantheon, a king who had reigned with a divine queen, who had had a son, or been a son, depending on which God one conflated with which other God. In many or even most ways, early Christianity differed not so much from contemporary types of Judaism as it did from the later paradigm of orthodoxy, whether Jewish or Christian. It was only once Orthodox Judaism consolidated itself after the Roman crisis that Christianity looked so different, because Christianity was a direct cousin of those types of Judaism that had been rejected from the Orthodox synthesis.

This was a process with an ancient pedigree in Israelite religion, as Julius Wellhausen was the first to show. Each major regrouping and standardizing of Jewish traditions led to a retroactive, revisionary view of what had gone before. At first, for instance, anyone might construct an altar anywhere that God had manifested himself (for example, in a dream, Genesis 28:10-22). So stipulates the Book of the Covenant preserved in the J source of the Pentateuch, in Exodus 20:24-26. But after Deuteronomy’s centralization of worship, implicitly in Solomon’s Temple, the Deuteronomic redactors who compiled Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings made these once-proper shrines into abhorrent "high places," as if they had always been illicit dens of blasphemy. The Priestly Code even makes Moses and Israel centralize worship by carrying the Ark of the Covenant around amid their wanderings. Still later, the Chronicler, who cannot picture Israel without a temple, concocts the mini-temple called the Tabernacle, which must be knocked down and set up again every day in the Sinai Wilderness--not likely. In each case, the current arrangements of orthodoxy were retrojected into the remote past.

The same held good for the very late development of monotheism, exclusive belief in a single God. It surfaced first with Jeremiah and the Second Isaiah, and once it had taken hold among the religious establishment, we suddenly read that Moses himself had commanded monotheism, and so had all the prophets. Where had all the other gods mentioned in scripture come from? Simple: they must have been illicit adoptions from Canaanite polytheism. As if there had ever been much of a difference between ancient Israelite religion and its cognate forms across the borders in the adjacent postage-stamp kingdoms. In fact, Jehovah had always been little more than Baal-Hadad with a nom-de-plume. He had defeated Leviathan just as they said he had defeated the dragon Lotan across the street where they recounted the same myth with only a difference in accent.

You see, it is exactly in this light that we can start to make sense of the Jewish perception that Christianity began as a straining of Judaism through a filter of pagan assimilations, by pagans who admired Judaism from afar, the so-called God-fearers. It only looks that way once you superimpose onto the history an anachronistic model of Judaism, as if Gentile God-Fearers started with an early form of Rabbinic Judaism, stripping off most of the purity regulations and adding odd bits of pagan cult soteriology. Instead, it seems more likely that what they learned as Judaism already had more native content in common with the paganism they had inherited. In turn, this was not because ancient Israel had assimilated forbidden cultic fruit from the Canaanite blasphemers, but rather because ancient Israelite religion originally had quite a bit in common with its neighbor denominations. It is not so much a case of Christianity and Judaism having separated from one another as of emergent Orthodox Judaism, Mishnaic Judaism, excluding from itself the various earlier types of Judaism among which early Christianity belonged.

Suitors and Seducers

What about the challenges of Diaspora assimilationism? There surely was such a thing as Jews taking attractive features of Gentile faiths and mixing them with their own. My caveat is just to say that wildly diverse Judaism already existed back in the Holy Land. And I would say the mythemes later assimilated from Hellenistic Mystery Religions were able to gain entry because they answered to elements already present in Judaism, perhaps all the more attractive once they had become forbidden fruit in the wake of Javneh. In other words, when the family next door celebrated the death and resurrection of Osiris or Adonis this might appeal to a Jew who was dimly aware that his grandfathers had celebrated pretty much the same rites in honor of Baal, Tammuz, or even Isaac, years before.17 2 Maccabees 6:7 tells us that Antiochus converted large numbers of Jews to the worship of Dionysus. One suspects it was no arduous task, given that some Greek writers already considered Jehovah simply another local variant of Dionysus anyway. The Sabazius religion of Phrygia is plainly an example of worshipping Jehovah as Dionysus. The Phrygian Attis was another version of Adam, his mother and lover Cybele a cognate form of Eve. No wonder the Naasene Document identifies the resurrected Jesus with both Attis and Adam. No wonder we have Jewish sarcophagi from this period depicting both the menorah and the symbol of the resurrected Attis.18

The temptations and challenges of the Diaspora only served to increase the diversity of ancient Judaism, a diversity directly reflected in emerging Christianity, which demonstrably partakes of Jewish Gnosticism,19 Zoroastrianism,20 the Mystery Cults, etc. As Rodney Stark has shown, Diaspora Jews remained a major and continuous source of new Christian converts on into the fifth century.21 Christianity would have been, Stark very plausibly surmises, the ideal assimilation vehicle, since the "new" faith allowed one to retain the cherished ethical monotheism of Judaism yet without keeping up the walls of purity rules that separated one (arbitrarily, as it seemed, and as it would seem again to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Reform Jews) from one's neighbors. It seems to me that adherence to Christianity (the "true Israel") would also have been the natural way of clinging to traditional elements of popular Judaism upon which Orthodoxy had frowned but which, as Barker shows, had never died out. I suspect that such Christian-leaning Jews eyed emergent Rabbinic Javneh Judaism as a modern product and viewed it as most pious non-Pharisaic Jews had always viewed the stricter party of the Pharisees (and the Essenes). It would have been entirely natural for Christianizing Jews, hanging on to cherished "underground" mythemes, etc., to have viewed themselves as the real Judaism, the old-time religion. We have, again, been too eager to take the Rabbinic claims to pedigree and originality at face value. Perhaps one more piece of evidence that this is a proper way to view matters is the otherwise odd fact that many Christians continued to attend synagogue for centuries, alongside church, often to the great consternation of their bishops. This implies that the synagogue-attenders viewed the defining label for their religiosity as Judaism, not as a new, split-off religion. Their Christianity was Judaism in their eyes, even if Christian bishops (like Chrysostom) and Jewish Rabbis alike bemoaned the fact.22

Assimilation Makes an Ass out of I and Him

What happens to a culture which is suddenly and massively challenged by an invasive culture? There are three responses to such a situation. They may be predicted like clockwork. First is cultural-religious capitulation, where the threatened people simply throws in the towel and admits the new, foreign gods must be the ones to worship, since after all, one’s own traditional deities proved unable to turn back their assault. It was to fend off such a conclusion that the prophets had argued that it was the Hebrew God, not the Assyrian and Babylonian gods, who had directed the heathen to defeat Israel. Or, one might simply reassure oneself that the new God was just the old one under a different name--as he might well have been! Or think of Philo who reinterpreted the Torah as an allegory of Plato, rationalizing that Plato had himself derived his thought from reading Moses! Those to the left of Philo reasoned that, since they understood the allegorical meaning of the laws of Moses, there was no longer any need to keep them! What some called apostasy from Judaism, others deemed the rehabilitation of Judaism. No wonder confusion arose among Jewish Christians as to whether Jesus had abolished or fulfilled the Torah! Was it that hard to tell the difference? Ask today’s Orthodox and Reform Jew!

Second, one might make a stand, refuse to compromise, and try to fight off the alien culture. Presumably we might see Mattathias and his sons in this position, throwing off the yoke of the Seleucid Empire. Whether they fought the fight without compromise is not absolutely clear. After all, the subsequent shape of proto-Orthodox Judaism, with its rabbi-disciple relationship, the institution of synagogues, hermeneutical rules like Hillel’s, all come from Greece.23

Third, one may recognize that the heathen must be onto something or they would not be so successful, so one selectively adopts and adapts aspects of the enemy to use against him. Perhaps the Hasmoneans belong in this category. A movement like this third type is called a Revitalization Movement.24 It seeks to save the old ways by making creative compromise with the new. The Ghost Dance religion of the Sioux would be a good example, as would numerous Cargo Cults described by Peter Worsley in The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of "Cargo" Cults in Melanesia.25 In the latter group of movements, we find a recurring pattern whereby islanders assimilate at least the pantomiming of Western technology and religion and wind up with a belief that the colonists' Jesus was originally one of themselves, stolen from them, like their other resources, by the Western occupiers, and that he will soon drive out the Europeans and return aboard an airplane or an ocean liner filled with all manner of Western goodies for the faithful. Of course, the inevitable danger here is that one's new product, partaking both of the familiar and the alien, will be perceived (perhaps rightly) as a species of dangerous Modernism scarcely less ominous than the challenge from without. Traditionalists may give up, feeling they are faced only with Scylla and Charybdis. But then this may be the point when an old religion dies and a new one is born, the improbable product of hybridization between the alien and the traditional religions/cultures.

John G. Gager26 has suggested Christianity began as precisely such a revitalization movement, facing down the twin challenges of Hellenism and Roman domination. But his theory seems to presuppose the traditional picture of a historical Jesus as the single and specific founder of the movement, just reinterpreting him a bit, sort of a variation of S.G.F. Brandon.27 It seems to me that the various depictions of Jesus and the various sayings attributed to him are functions, products, of the various factions of early Christianity, themselves the products of various Jewish and Hellenistic currents. And yet, perhaps, this very insight mitigates the problem with Gager's theory in that the messianic office may need to function only as a banner of faith which, dropped by one fallen bearer, may be taken up by a successor, scarcely missing a beat.28 Remember how the followers of both men are shown in Mark 6:14; 8:27-28 to have believed Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected from the dead and carrying on for him, just as Jesus himself is shown interpreting John the Baptist as the promised return of Elijah (Mark 9:12-13). Was Jesus' ostensible resurrection similarly his replacement by a successor?29 One might almost say that the notion of a hero's resurrection is simply a symbol for the continuity between a fallen Messiah and his successor, who is thus perceived as the first Messiah's continuation. It is perhaps the office not the man (though a particular man's name may have become a title of office).30 So Gager's reconstruction need not necessarily depend on there having been one single prophet-founder.

These three options would have faced Jews in the Holy Land, but Diaspora Jews like Philo also faced them as I have already implied. How best to witness for Judaism? By drawing the lines clearly between oneself and one’s non-Jewish neighbor? Or by seeking to translate one’s own beliefs and mores into pagan idiom? Many understand Paul the Apostle as embracing the latter option as an evangelistic strategy. And his creative "indigenous" theologizing is understood by many as the major entry point of pagan elements into Christianity. I think this is an error. Paul is as much a factional totem with many faces as is Jesus himself. Again, we can speak only of Paulinism as a type (or family of types) of early Christianity.31 And it seems likely to me that the Pauline trajectory was less a matter of paganizing the Judaism of Jesus than it was of seeking to abstract a cosmic half-philosophical salvation myth from its original Jewish elements.

Paulinism, especially Marcion and the Gnostics in the second century, did this precisely, I am guessing, as a repudiation of emerging Rabbinic Judaism, the Judaism that no longer bore the marks of kinship with primitive Christian sectarianism. This has become crystal clear from the discovery of the astonishing Nag Hammadi texts, which must be understood as the written testaments of living religious conventicles, including Christianized Sethian Jewish Gnostics, Melchizedekians, and Zoroastrians. We cannot leave these writings in a docetic vacuum, as if they were a bunch of science fiction novels spun out of the imagination of some eccentric. Rather, I believe, they will demand a wholesale rewriting of Christian origins once we have studied them enough to surmise how to reshuffle the pieces of the puzzle, now that we have more of them, to compose a much larger and more colorful resultant picture.

Prehistoric Monsters

Marcionism, Gnosticism, Jewish Christianity and several other kinds of Christianity are now fossils in the theological museum, and for one simple reason. There came a moment of Christian consolidation, again, due to Roman influence.32 The foundation of Javneh Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem had its parallel in the establishment of Catholic/Orthodox Christianity under Constantine’s heavy-handed patronage. Not Christianity per se, but a particular kind of Christianity attracted his favor (if he had not actually been brought up in it 33): a combination of the Gnostic Redeemer Myth with the sacramental initiation of the Mystery Cults.34 Other Christians and scriptures and texts of the New Testament were systematically destroyed as far as the long hand of the Emperor and his favorite bishops reached. And the retrospective understanding of church history I began with was crafted to form the legitimation myth of this Establishment Christianity. The Nicene Creed and the Athanasian New Testament canon were the result.

One caveat: when we speak of Gnosticism as a type of Christianity that was suppressed, we probably ought to think of it (as with Ebionite "Jewish Christianity" and the rest) as more of an ideal type, a collection of spiritual and theo-mythological tendencies abroad in early Christianity, than as a set of discrete organizations with membership lists, as if some would have considered themselves adherents of a movement called "Gnosticism" and others would not have.35 Distinct social entities corresponding to "Gnosticism" did eventually emerge, namely later congregations of Manicheans, but first- and second-century Gnostics existed, as Irenaeus tells us, as cells within Catholic churches. (Marcionism was an organized denomination from early on, but it was not Gnostic, holding back no advanced course for the elite.) The best analogy would be that of the modern American Pentecostal/Charismatic movements. At the turn of the nineteenth-twentieth centuries, "Pentecostalism," i.e., emphases on empowering Spirit-baptism and the initial evidence of speaking in tongues began among Holiness Church circles and revivals and quickly spread into Baptist and Methodist congregations. They sought to coexist, but their zeal led to their being excluded, excommunicated, whereupon they had no choice but to organize their own new churches and denominations, like the Church of God in Christ, the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the United Pentecostal Church. For our purposes it is important to recognize that Gnosticism must have begun and proceeded in somewhat the same manner. That is, the polemics against Gnostic teachings and practices by Irenaeus and Tertullian, like the opposition of Baptist, Methodist, and Holiness hierarchies to Pentecostalism, would have led to a social consolidation of Gnostics into new groups, and this made it possible subsequently for Constantinian bishops to pursue violent persecutions of such publicly visible groups. But if we retroject "Gnosticism" as a social entity back before Irenaeus, we are stumbling into the old familiar pitfall. We are positing an apologetically convenient whipping boy whom we may accuse of insidiously corrupting a hitherto distinct and pure Christianity when in reality it was just a name for a set of tendencies shared throughout Christianity (as in Judaism). In delineating and polemicizing against Gnosticism, Irenaeus and his fellows were not trying to fight off invaders from some other theological world. Instead, they were trying, like Dr. Jeckyll, to exorcise the dangerous tendencies from their own breast, and the result was a veritable Mr. Hyde, a theological bogeyman. Gnostics had thus taken over the role from the ancient Canaanites.

It was in defense of Constantinian Orthodoxy that Eusebius invoked from the (possibly fictive) second-century Jewish Christian historian Hegesippus36 and his model of the post-apostolic sabotage of pristine Catholicism. I think we can see the real function and nature of this model by observing how easily it is appropriated by a whole series of sectarian groups, all of whom see themselves as the restorers of authentic primitive Christianity. For them, the post-apostolic "Fall of the Church" is the very establishment of Constantinian Orthodoxy! By contrast, the efforts of Alexander Campbell, Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, John Nelson Darby, Victor Paul Wierwille, and others were aimed at voyaging into the apostolic past and recreating the Christianity of those days. All such strategies represent what Jacques Derrida calls "the dangerous supplement," something that poses as a lost original but is actually a later substitute. Other examples would include the Golden Age of primitive communism, the Noble Savage, primitive Matriarchy, the Historical Jesus. All are hypothetical reconstructions seeking to supplant inherited beliefs or institutions which have come to seem unsatisfactory. In all such cases, one is in effect trying to substitute counter-culture for the reigning culture by the device of claiming for one's creation the privileged status of nature, the "real thing" before culture ruined things. The easy and natural sectarian use of the Hegesippean/Eusebian model reveals emergent Catholic Orthodoxy, ironically, as one more sect striving to appropriate the coveted pedigree of apostolic foundation.

Evolution, Not Excommunication

This "classic," "Orthodox" type of Christianity does not look much like Javneh-Rabbinic Judaism, nor like the varieties of Christianity suppressed for its sake. Thus Christianity as we know it and Judaism as we know it never in fact separated from one another in the manner of, say, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity in the eleventh century. Rather, each is a finally dominant form at the end of its own branch of the tree of religious evolution. I am denying what evolutionists deny when they correct the popular misconception that humans descended from apes: no, the two are related, but not directly. They merely share remote evolutionary ancestors.

And the same goes for Islam. To glance in that direction, we may suggest that, just as primitive Christianity inherited and/or preserved beliefs excluded by formative Rabbinic Judaism, making them central, so did Islam cherish numerous discarded elements of once-vibrant Christianities rendered "heretical" by Constantine. These would include the belief that Jesus only seemed to die on the cross, the expectation of the Paraclete as a historical individual,37 the use of apocryphal gospel traditions, and the elimination of the so-called "Writing Prophets" in favor of an esoteric succession of prophets including Adam, Seth, Noah and Enoch.38 In the same way, Shi’a Islam seems to have preserved and accentuated elements gradually excluded from the Sunni community, eventually spinning off the Druze and Baha’i Faiths. The Shi'ites took up for themselves the fallen banner of messianic expectation, rejecting the Sunni notion of Muhammad as the Final Prophet in all but name, and replacing the Sunni prophetology with a continuing line of Imams inspired by Allah and descended from Ali. As time went by, Orthodox Islamic prophetology was further revoked as the various Imams took their places following Muhammad and his own predecessors (as well as new trajectories of Caliphs, Imams, and Babs) as veritable divine incarnations. The great wave that had once swept Muhammad to his seemingly insurmountable pinnacle had receded and had now thundered back in, carrying a number of others even further in its wake. Theological sea-walls erected to stop the wave's next encroachment only served to increase its power when it came roaring back in. 39 And so it goes. Nothing is lost. The repressed returns. One faith’s outgrown heresy becomes the next faith’s cherished badge of orthodoxy, just as Buddhist monks donned the shrouds of the dead for their monastic habit.

1. Gerhard Lohfink, The Bible: Now I Get It: A Form Criticism Handbook. Trans. Daniel Coogan (Garden City: Doubleday, 1979), p. 65, illustration by Bill Woodman.

2. Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ, his Life and Work, his Epistles and his Doctrine. Trans. A. Menzies. Theological Translation Fund Library (London: Williams and Norgate, 2nd ed. Vol. I, 1876. Vol. II, 1875 [Sic]; Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Trans. by a team from the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins. Eds. Robert A. Kraft and Gerhard Krodel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971; Walter Schmithals, The Office of Apostle in the Early Church. Trans. John E. Steely (NY: Abingdon Press, 1969); Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth. Trans. John E. Steely. NY: Abingdon Press, 1971; Schmithals, Paul and the Gnostics. Trans. John E. Steely (NY: Abingdon Press. 1972); Schmithals, Paul and James. Trans. Dorothea M. Barton. Studies in Biblical Theology 46 (London: SCM Press, 1965); Schmithals, The Theology of the First Christians. Trans. O.C. Dean (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997); James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester, Trajectories Through Early Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971; James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977); Burton L. Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco [Sic], 1993); Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco [Sic], 1995).

3. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

4. R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (NY: Oxford University Press, Galaxy Books, 1956), p. 281: "Nothing is evidence except in relation to some definite question." Cf. Stanley Fish: "something very important about evidence: it is always a function of what it is to be evidence for, and is never independently available" Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980): (p. 272).

5. Stanley Fish: "formal units are always a function of the interpretative model one brings to bear; they are not 'in' the text, and I would make the same argument for intentions" (Is There a Text in this Class?, p. 164). "This, then, is my thersis: that the form of the reader's experience, formal units, and the structureof intention are one, that they come into view simultaneously, and that therefore the questions of priority and independence do not arise" (p. 165).

6. Kuhn, 64-65.

7. Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976): "what we speak of as conventions of a genre... are essentially possibilities of meaning, ways of naturalizing the text and giving it a place in the world which our culture [or, with Stanley Fish, our community of interpreters] defines. To assimilate or interpret something is to bring it within the modes of order which culture makes available, and this is usually done by talking about it in a mode of discourse which a culture takes as natural" (p. 137) "The expectations enshrined in the conventions of genre are, of course, often violated. Their function, like that of all constitutive rules, is to make meaning possible by providing terms in which to classify the things one encounters. What is made intelligible by the conventions of genre is often less interesting than that which resists or escapes generic understanding" (p. 148).

8. Robert M. Price, Deconstructing Jesus (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2000). In this book I extrapolate form the multiple-root model of Burton L. Mack, derived in part from Jonathan Z. Smith's studies of the diverse forms of the myth and cult of Attis, to a scenario in which, though there may well have been a historical Jesus, such a figure cannot account for all the New Testament Christologies and is required for none of them.

9. See Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity. Chicago Studies in the history of Judaism. Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion XIV. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), where he tries to understand modern discussions of heresies as pseudo-historical proxy-wars between rival ecclesiastical camps who caricature and condemn each other under the guise of ancient heresies.

10. Jacob Neusner, William S. Green, Ernest Frerichs (eds.), Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (Cambridge University Press, 1987); Robert Eisenman, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians: Essays and Translations (Rockport: Element Books, 1996), esp. chapter 1, "Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumran: A New Hypothesis of Qumran Origins," pp. 3-110; Norman Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Search for the Secret of Qumran (NY: Scribner, 1995; Gabriele Boccaccini, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1998.

11. Solomon Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology (NY: Macmillan, 1910); George Foot Moore, Judaism. Vols. I-III (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2nd ed., 1954).

12. T.W. Manson, The Servant Messiah: A Study of the Public Ministry of Jesus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), p. 19).

13. Contra Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 77-89, who tries desperately to make Judas the Galilean/Gaulonite into a pacifistic resistor of Roman taxation. He observes that Josephus says Judas was willing to resist even to the point of shedding blood, and Horsley, who wants to interpret Jesus, too, as a non-violent resistance leader, makes Judas his predecessor by suggesting that all Josephus meant was that Judas was willing to have his own blood shed in martyrdom rather than pay taxes to the pagan empire, like the saintly Eleazer who underwent horrible tortures rather than have a ham sandwich at Antiochus Epiphanes' behest. But then what sort of "fourth philosophy" can it be that Judas founded by whatever action he took? We know good and well from Josephus' subsequent references to various violent revolutionists, like Menahem and the Zealots, who proudly traced their dynastic descent from Judas, something they would scarcely have done had Judas been a pacifist as Horsley wants him and Jesus and us to be.

14. Golb, chapter 5, "The Copper Scroll, the Masada Manuscripts, and the Siege of Jerusalem," pp. 117-150 and 382-383.

15. Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God (London: SPCK, 1992).

16. Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess (NY: Avon/Discus, 1978).

17. For Isaac as an echo of a Hebrew dying-and-rising god, see Shalom Spiegel, The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac as a Sacrifice, the Akedah. Trans. Judah Goldin (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1993 rpt.), pp. 57-59, 111-113. On Abel as Baal, see Robert Graves and Raphael Patai, Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis (NY: Greenwich House/Crown Publishers, 1983), p. 95. In the latter case, the crying out of Abel's voice from the bloody ground is a remnant of the myth in which Anath discovers Baal's fate on the bloody field and resolves to restore him to life.

18. Richard Reitzenstein, Hellenistic Mystery Religions: Their Basic Ideas and Significance. Trans. John E. Steely. Pittsburgh Theological Monograph Series 15 (Pittsburgh: Pickwick Press, 1978), pp.123-125, 158, 176-177.

19. Walter Schmithals, The Apocalyptic Movement: Introduction and Interpretation. Trans. John E. Steely (NY: Abingdon Press, 1975; Gershom Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition. NY: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2nd ed., 1965), esp. chapter IX, "The Relationship between Gnostic and Jewish Sources," pp. 65-74.

20. Andrew Welburn, The Beginnings of Christianity: Essene Mystery, Gnostic Revelation and the Christian Vision (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1991), pp. 44-51. The identification of the Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Adam as Zoroastrian in substance has enormous implications.

21. Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 57-64.

22. Ibid., pp. 66-70.

23. Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine during the Early Hellenistic Period. Trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, One Volume ed., 1981), Vol. I, pp. 80-81.

24. Anthony Wallace, Religion: An Anthropological View (NY: Random House, 1966), pp. 30-38; Wallace, "Revitalization Movements," American Anthropologist 58 (1956): 264-281.

25. Peter Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of Melanesian "Cargo" Cults (NY: Schocken Books, 2nd ed.,1974).

26. John G. Gager, Kingdom and Community: The Social World of Early Christianity. Prentice-Hall Studies in Religion Series (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1975).

27. S.G.F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots: A Study of the Political Factor in Earliest Christianity (NY: Scribner's, 1967).

28. Stephen Fuchs, Rebellious Prophets: A Study of Messianic Movements in Indian Religions (NY: Asia Publishing House, 1965), p. 150: "As often in messianic movements, when a prophecy fails to come true it is the prophet, not his prophecy, that is discredited. The failure is his fault. Thus the way remains open for another prophet to come forward with a slightly modified version of the doctrine and claiming that he, and not his predecessor, is the true Messenger of God and Messiah."

One early Unificationist (Moonie) missionary from Korea to America said, "Reverend Moon is one of the potential messiahs, because his role has to be fulfilled, and it is not yet fulfilled. So I don't say he is the actual messiah. Whether he will be the one, I can't say yet." Quoted in Frederick Sontag, Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church: An In-Depth Investigation of the Man and the Movement (NY: Abingdon Press, 1977), p. 49.

29. In John's gospel, one receives the distinct impression that the coming of the Paraclete is synonymous with the return of Christ, and that the Paraclete is none other than the man who wrote the Gospel of John.

30. See the excellent and most informative article by Scott D. Hill, "The Local Hero in Palestine in Comparative Perspective," in Robert B. Coote (ed.), Elijah and Elisha in Socioliterary Perspective. Society of Biblical Literature Semeia Studies (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992), pp. 37-73.

31. Hermann Detering, "The Dutch Radical Approach to the Pauline Epistles," Journal of Higher Criticism 3/2 (Fall 1996), 163-193.

32. It is remarkable that in both cases of Roman crisis issuing in doctrinal consolidation of the religion the relevant Caesar came to assume a messianic character. Josephus proclaimed Vespasian the messiah predicted in scripture, while Constantine viewed himself implicitly as the new Christ, arranging to be buried surrounded by the gathered relics of the twelve apostles (William Steuart McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles [Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1973], pp. 19-20). Come to think of it, Cyrus the Persian, patron of Ezra's consolidation of a new Post-Exilic Judaism, had been hailed as God's Anointed in exactly the same fashion (Isaiah 45:1).

33. T.G. Elliott, The Christianity of Constantine the Great (Scranton: University of Scranton Press, 1996), chapter 4, "Rome, 312-and Eusebius' Conversion Story," pp. 61-72).

34. I am afraid I am unable to consider emerging catholic Christianity as even one of the early types of Christianity. It seems rather to be a secondary development, an amalgam, as I have said, of two earlier types, each with its own theological integrity, plus the popular Hellenistic tradition of Jesus as a wonder-working demigod.

35. Michael Allen Williams, Rethinking "Gnosticism": An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

36. I suspect that "He-gesippus" is a garbled version of "Josephus," made into a catch-all pedigree for whatever tradition or belief one wished to retroject into an earlier "apostolic" period; cf. Jacob Neusner, In Search of Talmudic Biography: The Problem of the Attributed Saying. Brown Judaic Studies 70 (Chico: Scholars Press, 1984) on the similar problem, in Rabbinic literature, of knowing whether there is ever anything to an attribution of a information to a venerable name earlier in history than the document in which the citation appears.

37. "And the figure itself must have originated in a body of opinion, according to which the revelation was not concentrated on one historical bearer, but shared amongst several messengers following upon each other, or repeated in them." Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Trans. G.R. Beasley-Murray, R.W.N. Hoare, J.K. Riches (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), p. 567.

38. Tor Andre, Mohammed: The Man and his Faith. Trans. Theophil Manzel (NY: Harper & Row Torchbooks, 1960), esp. chapter IV, "Mohammed's Doctrine of Revelation," pp. 94-113.

39. See the historical deposits of these tidal waves of revelation in Mohammed Ali Amir-Moezzi, The Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism: The Sources of Esotericism in Islam. Trans. David Streight (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994); Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina, Islamic Messianism: The Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shi'ism (Albany: State University of New York, 1981); Fuad I. Khuri, Imams and Emirs: State, Religion and Sects in Islam (London: Saqi Books, 1990); Farhad Daftary, The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Matti Moosa, Extremist Shiites: The Ghulat Sects (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988); Sami Nasib Makarem, The Doctrine of the Ismailis (Beirut: Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, 1972); Makarem, The Druze Faith (Delmar, NY: Caravan Books, 1974); Robert Brenton Betts, The Druze (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988).




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