Stephan Hermann Huller,
Jesus the Good Samaritan [unpublished manuscript]
Reviewed by Robert M. Price
The book is very, very fascinating, just the sort of
thing I relish for its ability to force us to throw the puzzle pieces up
in the air and let them fall into new configurations. A new paradigm. As
always, the main question that arises with regard to a new paradigm is how
naturally it makes sense of the evidence? How much of the framework seems
to arise inductively from a consideration of the evidence before we have
to shift gears and begin showing how the remainder of the data, which
perhaps does not so clearly call forth the paradigm, can be read in light
of it. It is a shift from inductive to deductive reading, The more of the
theory that seems to make sense as inductively and naturally read off from
the evidence, the stronger and more compelling the paradigm will seem. The
more the data needs to be harmonized with the paradigm, the weaker it is.
similar consideration that arises in mind is whether we are really being
asked to accept more than one paradigm. Will one part of the offered
theory make sense if you don’t accept another section of it that is really
complex and controversial? We can’t cheat and accept one enormity just
because we are attracted to another.
many bridges must the reader/scholar cross before he can arrive safely at
acceptance of the theory? The fewer the better. The more, the more
speculative the theory. The more speculative, the greater the degree of
tentativeness necessary. That may represent the ambiguous state of the
evidence more than any weakness of a comprehensive theory. It may be that
any and all reconstructions of Christian origins can only be entertained
as possibilities. We cannot transfer the certainty we long ago felt as
believers in a creed about Jesus to a new, scholarly theory about Jesus
simply because we are used to having certainty in these matters. I think
too many historical Jesus scholars do this, i.e., fail to draw the
expressed the sort of thing circulating in my mind as I read Jesus the
Good Samaritan, let me begin evaluating. The first thing that hit me
is to separate the various questions, the first and foremost being, what
strong evidence implies Jesus was a Samaritan and that Christianity began
as a Samaritan schism? From your presentation, what strikes me as simple
and strong evidence would be the following:
pro-Samaritan texts of Luke-Acts and John. These might just represent a
friendliness of these evangelists to the Samaritan mission in the early
church (which is what I always thought), but it could just as naturally be
read as polemic for “our” side, if “we” early Christians are Samaritans.
enemies of Jesus charge him with being both demon-possessed and a
Samaritan; he denies the first but not the second. Quite striking!
Jesus is shown in John 4 as proclaiming his identity as the Samaritan
Taheb and is received as such by the Samaritans. There is no note here of
the Samaritans somehow, in some sense, converting first to Judaism, or of
Jesus being a Davidic messiah. And it is useless to argue that John is
simply ignorant of major Samaritan/Jewish differences, since he shows
himself familiar with dietary contagion rules governing the two
very name Jesus at least being natural for a Samaritan messiah because of
the Joshua-Messianism of Samaritanism. I am even open to the possibility
that “Jesus” was a Samaritan messianic title.
Transfiguration comparing and contrasting Jesus with Moses and Elijah, but
not with David.
astonishing similarity between Samaritan Mosaic Logos “Christology” and
that of early Christianity (though much of this is found in Philo, too;
his creative Logos is heavenly Adam, heavenly High Priest, firstborn Son
of God). I’m sure you are long familiar with Michael Goulder’s article on
Samaritan Gnosis as a source of Christian Christology in The Myth of
astonishing similarity of the Last Supper words of Institution and the
Samaritan Passover liturgy.
sense it would make of the “Verus Israel” dispute between Christians and
Jews if it were not merely analogous to, but actually the consistent
continuation of the old dispute between North and South.
sense it would make of Jesus’ words against the Temple, his gloating over
its doom, and his own plans to be the end of it. And of course, as does
the whole Brandon-type approach, your theory is able to make sense of the
obvious embarrassment of the evangelists over the report that Jesus said
he would destroy the Temple.
Similarly, the spin you put on (or the light you shed on) the “say to
this mountain, ‘Be thrown into the sea,’” saying as referring to Mount
Zion, i.e., the Temple, is brilliant!
logic of the raid on the Temple is brilliant: if the god inside no longer
received his feedings, he would be unable to keep up his strength and his
world would no longer be maintained! Fascinating!
like what you do with the evidence that Jews were believed to be
worshipping mere archons in the Temple, and that the cherubim were in
sexual embrace. I have only read of this elsewhere in Patai’s striking
book The Hebrew Goddess.
Stephen’s speech (a la Johannes Munck) and Hebrews have both been
understood as Samaritan-influenced before by others not arguing your case
(important, because it shows your assignment of them to Samaritanism is
seen not to be merely a function of your larger theory).
On the other hand, your theory makes it hard to understand why
anyone would have been scandalized at Jesus associating with tax
collectors and sinners. If he were a Samaritan, the Pharisees would have
been happy to consign him to the same sewer. But then I have no trouble
understanding such traditions as polemics on behalf of a later Judaized
Christianity seeking to explain the stubborn memory that Jesus associated
with outcasts because he was one.
Paul being Simon Magus, many will choke on this, but not me. I see the
cogency of Baur’s identification of the two figures, something made even
more likely once one understands Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic doubling.
It also helps us understand the Ebionite slur that Paul had not been a
Jew! It seems hard to believe that he had no connection with what we think
of as Judaism, but if he were attached to Judaism obliquely as a matter of
Samaritan allegiance, it all seems more natural. I had, however, assumed
that the Samaritan business was synonymous with Paul being considered a
heretical double/rival of Peter, but your reading makes sense. To be
honest, I don’t see it as compellingly better, but when I ask myself, “Is
this viable?” the answer is yes.
important point: making Paul the fountainhead of heresies as the church
fathers said Simon was (Tertullian calls Paul by name of course, “Apostle
of Marcion, and of the heretics,” though he imagines they have
misappropriated him) is no stretch, especially since Basilides claimed
direct apostolic succession, once removed, from him. The Clementines, as
you note, make Paul into a distinctly Marcionite Simon, so the equation of
Marcionite Paulinism as Simonian Samaritan “heresy” is quite plausible.
From Hermann Detering’s The Falsified Paul I have been linking
Paul, Simon, and Marcion more and more closely anyway. So it is no problem
for me, as it may be for others, to accept your twin paradigm shift of
making Simon into Simon Magus the Marcionite. In fact I wonder if “Saul”
in Acts does not serve as a transitional form/conflation for “Simon and
would Samaritans accept a doctrine of Law-free religion, and of a second
God? You are persuasive here, too, I’d say, by (in effect) taking the
reasons people like C.K. Barrett posit or Jews turning to Gnosticism after
70 CE: the Samaritans had long since had reasons to abandon the overrated
god of the Old Testament who had not protected them in a very long time.
They were writing “After Auschwitz.” And the bind they were in: how can
they keep the Law of sacrifice without a temple? Granted, they might have
spiritualized the matter as did the Qumran sect and the Rabbis did, but
this is no less likely a possibility.
John the Baptist a Samaritan? Might have been. The baptizing at Aenon near
Salim does seem to place him in Samaria. And I find it plausible, as many
unfortunately will not, that the Slavonic Josephus may here and elsewhere
be considered a serious historical source.
are some points where I have trouble seeing it your way, but where this
presents no real problem with the larger thesis. I think it important to
draw this distinction; some reviewers don’t and dismiss theories too
quickly that they ought to agree with.
aim next to read your on-line Against Polykarp; I haven’t yet, so I
admittedly do not now know the whole argument (pointing up the need, by
the way, for both to be published). But I find it slightly strained to
take Pauline references to “my gospel” to refer to a written text,
especially since he says it was what he “preached” or “proclaimed.” I
guess you could say there are written proclamations, but can we imagine
him getting a congregation to sit still long enough to listen to a whole
But then it seems to me one need say no more than that Mark is a
Paulinist gospel, perhaps even a Marcionite one (“Thus he declared all
foods clean”), and I have wondered if perhaps the evangelist Mark were in
fact Marcion. Our Mark could be read as a shorter version of Luke, after
all, and some of the Patristic mud-slinging about Marcion cutting Luke’s
text may stem from a time when synoptic relationships were not so well
understood, and when some of ours were not even familiar. So even if it
were not Paul himself writing this and that about Jesus, it might still be
early Paulinist tradition.
Likewise, I find it hard to paste together the distinctively Johannine and
Lukan styles to make them into pieces of a single original gospel, or to
assign any part of John’s gospel to Paul. But then it is nothing new to
see John, too, as Paulinist or similarly Gnostic. I don’t think your case
really depends on assigning so many writings to particular “big names.” I
think instead of assigning writings, a la Baur, to certain camps and
tendencies. Others may, too, but that doesn’t count against you. (And I
like very much what you say about the tendency to discredit and vilify
Peter in the gospels as factional polemic, not biography.)
Polycarp single-handedly redact all that early Christian literature?
Again, I look forward to reading your other book on this, but in the
meantime, I would say that even if you are over-simplifying the matter,
choosing a single name for what is really a shadowy collective or group,
your point is still a good one. If so inclined, a reader might simply
substitute for your Polykarp Bultmann’s nameless “Ecclesiastical Redactor”
or Loman’s “Paulus Episcopus.” Doesn’t seem to matter. Similarly, when you
say Polycarp has created new gospels to overbalance the Pauline gospel,
this may be a bit much to credit this single church father with. But how
much different in effect is John Knox’s theory (in Marcion and the New
Testament) that the emerging Catholic church chose the already
existing non-Paulinist gospels of Mark, Matthew and John and padded and
sanitized Marcion’s Pauline gospel of (Ur-) Luke?
to more substantial hesitations. Mainly on the substitution of martydom/martyrion
for sacrifice. I am first tempted to just dismiss the idea as a
never-explicit exegetical phantom, one derived by extrapolation of
imagined implications. For instance, your eye-opening exegesis of the Good
Shepherd metaphor--doesn’t it imply he is leading them to slaughter?
Clever, thought I, but surely a perverse inference. But then I remember
that overt call to martyrdom: “If anyone would be my disciple, let him
take up his cross and follow me.” We have some work to do if we want, like
conventional exegesis, to make this say something figurative! And
there is the prediction that Jesus’ disciples will be persecuted, seeming
universal in scope, implies an expectation that all will, not that some
might, be martyred and should be ready. So you certainly have solid and
clear textual evidence on your side.
then so do those who say Jesus told everyone to give up all possessions.
And yet it is hard to imagine a real social movement in which everyone did
this, and there is even textual evidence that many so-called disciples did
not. I wonder if in both cases you had some sort of “Plan A and Plan B”
system (as in Buddhism, where only the elite monks and nuns actually tread
the 8-fold path). There must have been early Christians who renounced
wealth to live on the alms given by those Christians who did not! And
likewise, don’t we see an early church in which confessors and martyrs
were idolized by the larger majority who benefited from the formers’
bodhisattva-like charity? In the same way, Marcion required his members to
renounce sex, but they could delay baptism and have sex in the meantime.
Medieval Cathari required self-starvation, but only for the Perfect, not
everyone automatically. Could something like this have been going on in
the Pauline churches?
age of the apostles was filled with thousands upon thousands of executions
of Christians by the hands of the Jews... in every corner of the Empire.
The reason we have no information on this period...“ I wonder of
persecution of Christians, especially by Jews, was all that common in the
early days. I have been reading lately how some scholars see the
persecutions as part of early Christian mythology of origins. If we have
no information on the period, what is the basis for your claim? There may
well be some, but this seems puzzling.
sometimes I am left uncertain how passages you cite really say what you
say they do, e.g., some Nag Hammadi and Mandaean texts that you say show a
belief that the Temple would be destroyed. And when you make Ephesians
(“We struggle not against flesh and blood but forces of wickedness in
heavenly places”) I just cannot see the destruction of the Temple as in
view at all. This seems to be one of those places where unsuspecting texts
have a theory forced on them like a too-tight hat. Ditto re the use of the
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” text as referring to
the relative freedom from Samaritans and Jews from Rome and from the Torah
strikes me as very arbitrary, eisegetical. Again, to read the sayings
about treasure in heaven, good trees and bad fruit, and the mote and the
beam as dealing with the obsolescence of the Torah strikes me as
are some other notes:
why, if Jews glorified failed heroes, as Christians assert, Bar-Kochba was
not similarly glorified. He may have been, according to the plausible
suggestion (all it is, of course) of Geza Vermes that Bar Kochba has in
fact survived in Jewish eschatology as Messiah ben Joseph, who dies in
battle to atone for Israel’s sins, clearing the way for Messiah ben
how the warring sects of Christians had so much in common despite what
separated them, that they must have derived the common material from Jesus
himself. I’m not sure about this. They may have split (soon after
foundation) over some single point over which they differed. Like the
Latter Day Saints and the Reorganized Church of LDS. Like the Free Will
Baptists and the Original Free Will Baptists. The unity on their common
points implies nothing re the origin of that common body of belief.
Jesus was being sarcastic in advising disciples to make friends by means
of unrighteous Mammon strikes me as a tactic of desperate exegesis, as it
always does when scholars employ what I call “the irony dodge.” He did not
mean it because, on my theory, he cannot have meant it. If there is a
gross inconsistency with what he seems to say elsewhere, I find it much
more natural to make one of the colliding logia an inauthentic saying.
Samaritan have said, “The Law and the Prophets were until John”? Didn’t
their canon lack the Prophets? Pardon my ignorance, which is probably the
problem here. Similarly, weren’t Elijah and Elisha prophets of Israel, not
not at all clear on what you mean by saying Lazarus’ spirit passed into
Paul/Simon. Could you clear this up for me? Also: “Simon [Paul] died in
the struggle in the temple.” Huh?
you are right that the writer of the gospel of John means the reader to
accept him as the Paraclete.
intrigued by your suggestion that originally the Good Samaritan laid into
the thugs and was killed by them! But is there any possible evidence for
this? Why should we think it is true? It is certainly a fascinating
midrash if nothing else!
as scholars cannot be so simple-minded as to argue that ‘Jesus must be
true; therefore whatever makes sense from the developments one hundred
years after his crucifixion was his “true account.”’” I’m not sure I know
what you mean here. Do you mean that the normativity of Jesus for
Christian faith tempts scholars to assume they must be able to come to
some true account of the historical Jesus by delineating some synthesis of
(actually already corrupt) century-old traditions? That they can’t seem to
leave it at agnosticism even if the evidence calls for it. Is that the
“Do we invite a resurrection of true Christianity...?” What do you think
this would look like?
you connect up the Rich Man who ignored poor Lazarus and the Rich Man of
Luke 16, I have to wonder if you are not being over-subtle. If so, it is a
mark of great insight and ingenuity, like that of the rabbis who found
they could combine separate verses of scripture to yield new sense implied
by neither of the originals (like harmonizing the two Genesis creation
accounts to come up with Lilith!). I wonder if we are not doing this when
we think to reconnect what may never have been joined before. Some would
say the same of Bultmann’s rearrangements of John's gospel is more of the
same. Hard to say. But I can fully sympathize with what you say about the
sheer irresistability of some such (re)combinations: “there are so many
resonating revelations that I find it hard to control myself from drawing
attention to them.” (II:7:8)
result of linking Luke 16 with John 8, making Father Abraham the warden of
Hell is striking! Wow!
Robert M Price
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