Philo's guide to decoding the Hebrew Bible

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Forum Monk
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Post by Forum Monk » Wed Jul 23, 2008 4:48 pm

Minimalist wrote:We simply cannot be certain when, or by whom, those letters were written and, most significantly...re-written.
The same for every extant old text. We have very few if any originals. Let's throw out the whole lot since we can never be certain who may have forged it.
This suggests that the Christians of the time of Pausanius were so utterly marginal as to go unnoticed and that the Jews of Corinth were either thoroughly Hellenized and honoured the gods of Greece and Rome, or so totally impoverished as to be unable to support a synagogue. After all, Jews of a later period, for example, in 4th century Rome, built splendid
Flawed reasoning based on the content of a single text. The multiple Pauline letters attest to the existence of the jewish synagog and the christian church in Corinth. No claim is made about their size or importance in the overwhelming hellenistic culture. (with regard to Pausanius' writing, we all know absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.)

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Post by Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 5:45 pm

The same for every extant old text. We have very few if any originals. Let's throw out the whole lot since we can never be certain who may have forged it.

If you read Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus you'd know just how right you are.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Post by Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:39 pm

Ishtar wrote:
Minimalist wrote:And, Ish, while on the subject of JNE, you might find this page of interest. It has a section that is right up your alley.

http://jesusneverexisted.com/belief.html
Thanks. I've looked at this Min and it's not really 'right up my alley' because it contains a lot of value judgements that are not supported in the reasons the writer gives for the proliferation and existence of these groups.

He's also wrong that the inner, secret teachings were distributed to the masses, and this is supported by quotes from the Jesus character and the Paul character as I showed in a post earlier. Certainly in the teachings they covered it up as best they could. This would also be in keeping with what we know about Greek Gnosticism, which Jewish and Christian Gnosticism was really just a Hebrew version of.

I don't think this story was popularised to the masses until Constantine found it expedient to do so.

I think this article is obviously written by an atheist with an agenda and not someone who has any understanding of Gnosticism other than as a stick to beat up Christians with, which is not particularly helpful to us here.

But thanks anyway.

The problem with "understanding gnosticism" is that, except for the late and fortunate find at Nag Hamadi, gnosticism suffers from the same problem as Herod, Nero and Caligula. What writings do we have about them that are not filtered through the eyes of their enemies who were also the guys who won out in the end? The main thing that we can tell from Irenaeus and the rest is that the gnostics were seen as a problem that had to be controlled. That they were subsequently controlled is obvious but I will allow that there is a lot of conjecture on the subject.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

Ishtar
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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:09 am

Well Monk – I am hung on my own petard!

By quoting from Hebrews, because the quote suited my purpose, I walked straight into a trap – that being that no sensible Bible scholar would accept Hebrews as a work of Paul’s, and thus also rendering your further Hebrews quotes to back up your argument completely useless too. So we’ve both gone up a blind alley, it seems. And as you’ve based your whole argument on Hebrews and another perceived forgery, Ephesians, we both need to retrace our steps.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_to_the_Hebrews
The author of Hebrews is not known. The text as it has been passed down to the present time is internally anonymous, though ancient title headings attribute it to the Apostle Paul. Internal considerations suggest the author was male (Hebr 11:32), he was an acquaintance of Timothy (Heb 13:23), and was located in Italy (Heb 13:24).

Tradition attributes the letter to Paul, but the style is notably different from the rest of Paul's epistles. Eusebius reports that the original letter had a Jewish audience and was written in Hebrew, and then later translated into Greek by Luke. In support of this, Luke's record of Paul's speech in Antioch (Acts 13:13-52) is sometimes claimed to have a similar style to Hebrews,[citation needed] notably different from Paul's letters to gentile audiences.

However, even in antiquity doubts were raised about Paul's alleged authorship. The reasons for this controversy are fairly plain. For example, his letters always contain an introduction stating authorship, yet Hebrews does not. [1] Also, while much of its theology and teachings may be considered Pauline, it contains many other ideas which seem to have no such root or influence. Moreover, the writing style is substantially different from that of Paul's authentic epistles, a characteristic first noticed by Clement (c. 210). In Paul's letter to the Galatians, he forcefully defends his claim that he received his gospel directly from the resurrected Jesus himself.

Nevertheless, in the fourth century, the church largely agreed to include Hebrews as the fourteenth letter of Paul. Jerome and Augustine of Hippo were influential in affirming Paul's authorship,[2] and the Church affirmed this authorship until the Reformation.
That last paragraph supports the view of those who believe that the Literalist church forged letters from Paul with the intent of presenting Paul as a Literalist.

The sudden appearance of the Timothys and Titus in the hands of Irenaeus in the second century are suspicious because they turned Paul into a hostile opponent of Gnosticism. Irenaeus relies heavily on a quotation from 1 Timothy for his “Unmasking and Refutation of the Gnosis, Falsely So-Called."(I guess they didn’t go in for snappy titles in those days!)

But it was widely accepted by the fourth century that Hebrews was not from Paul, yet still Augustine and Jerome wanted to include it. Makes you wonder why, doesn't it? Especially as you found it so useful for destroying the case for Paul being a Gnostic ...

So we’ll have to look at the only letters of Paul’s that all scholars agree are actually written by him to attest to his Gnostic or Literalist leanings. These are:

Romans
First Corinthians
Second Corinthians
Galatians
Philippians
First Thessalonians
Philemon

I’m prepared to have this discussion for a while because I have made the point that I think he was a Gnostic.

But our case here, about whether early Christianity was Gnostic, does not really hang on whether Paul was a Gnostic, as there is plenty of other evidence of other Gnostic groups centuries prior to Paul, and attested earlier than any Literalists. However, I would enjoy exploring Paul for a bit, before carrying on.

That there actually was an initiation, a secret teaching, and that it was not just some false hope ‘dangled’ as you put it, is confirmed in quotes from Jesus.

In Mark 4: 10-12 it says:

"And when he (Jesus) was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

"And he said unto them, 'Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

"'That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.'"

Also in Mark 4: 34 it says:

"...but without a parable spoke he not to them; and in private he explained all things to his disciples."

So the quotes from Mark above show that if anyone’s “dangling” anything falsely, then so are the Literalists — and even Jesus himself.
Last edited by Ishtar on Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:31 am

Minimalist wrote:
The problem with "understanding gnosticism" is that, except for the late and fortunate find at Nag Hamadi, gnosticism suffers from the same problem as Herod, Nero and Caligula. What writings do we have about them that are not filtered through the eyes of their enemies who were also the guys who won out in the end? The main thing that we can tell from Irenaeus and the rest is that the gnostics were seen as a problem that had to be controlled. That they were subsequently controlled is obvious but I will allow that there is a lot of conjecture on the subject.
You are right up to a point, but the finds at Nag Hammadi revealed another source of evidence, as they turned out to be the link, philosophically, with the Greek Gnostics. By studying them, similarities with the Greek philosophy were revealed. In fact, a copy of Plato's Timaeus was found among the NH texts.

It also gave us much more material upon which to come to a conclusion. So we also realised how their allegories were sometimes based on older Jewish allegories, thus showing some of the Old Testament Jewish stories in a different light. For example, the main landmarks in the Exodus story match those of a classic Greek initiation story.

And then by zooming out from Israel to get a wider view of spiritual/religious stories in the greater Mesopotamia and Mediterranean area, we could then see the Literalist Biblical texts in context - and revealed to be what they really are...part of a much wider philosophy and not a story about a historical person at all.

Literalist Christianity only really works within the context of the 'chosen few' who are told that their story about Jesus is totally unique and who are kept in ignorance and discouraged from looking beyond the confines of Israel (as an abstract concept) for any other answers. They achieved this by labelling others as heathen and evil - thus, as you rightly point out, they were the first to embark on holy wars.

It's silo thinking at its worst and it demonstrated the personification of ignorance - thus the complete opposite of the wisdom that this philosophy was designed to inculcate.

The books that were chosen to make it as Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were the ones that supported the Literalist Christians aims politically - the others (like those at Nag Hammadi) were more spiritually-based and were more specific about an initiation that no Literalist Christian could give, or could even be bothered to think about as, by then (earliest attest: Iranaeus c. 180 CE) it was not what they were about.

As Freke and Gandy say: "When Literalist Christianity exiled the Gnostic Inner Mysteries, it lost its soul. It became a bastion of the hypocrites which the Gnostics portrayed Jesus as mocking in their gospel stories - ecclesiastical autocrats who imposed their dogmas with threats and maintained their power through violence, politicians dressed up as priests who justified the laying waste of whole continents and enslaving millions."
Last edited by Ishtar on Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:08 am

OK Monk, this is the first throw of the dice in the new Paul debate under the parameters of only using the seven aforementioned epistles that all scholars agree are genuine.

However, before we start – just one small caveat. If Paul was a transmitter of the mysteries - the secret teachings and the initiations - he would have been preaching a dual message (just as Jesus is portrayed as doing, and just as they did in Eleusis in Greece with their Lesser Mysteries and Greater Mysteries). This means that Paul would have had one outer message for the masses that would rely on the Jesus as a human man, and the other secret teaching would centre on the initiation of the Christ consciousness within.

Theodotus the 2nd century Christian writer, confirms that this was Paul’s role. He says that Paul, having “become the apostle of the resurrection”, through his experience of revelation, from then on “taught in two ways at once.” On the one hand, he taught the saviour “according to the flesh”, as one “who was born and suffered” as in “Christ crucified” to the wider audience because “this is all they were capable of knowing, and in this way they feared him.”

But Theodotus says that to the elect he “proclaimed Christ according to the spirit, as one born from the spirit...”

Paul himself confirms this dual role in his letter to his Roman followers, to who he explained his mission in Romans 1:11-14:

“For I long to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established ....

“[But] I am a debtor, both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians: both to the Wise and the unwise.”

In other words, I am called to teach both these different groups - the Greeks/Wise in this case being the initiated; the barbarians/unwise being the masses.

And again he says in 1 Cor. 2: 6-7.

“How be it that we speak wisdom among those that are perfect [initiates]; yet none of the wisdom of this world, nor the princes of this world, that comes to nought.

“But we speak of the wisdom of God [Sophia] in a mystery, ever the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.”

So Monk, we will find evidence of both kinds of teachings among Paul’s genuine letters – the Literalist and the Gnostic. Thus I wonder if trading quote for quote is going to achieve anything in this case?

I think the only way forward is for you to find examples of where he is purported to be criticising the Gnostics, and see if they stand up to scrutiny.

:D

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Post by pattylt » Thu Jul 24, 2008 6:59 am

Forum Monk wrote:Quote:

In Hebrews 8:4 he writes: “If Jesus had been on earth, he wouldn’t have been a priest.”
and not ...
“When Jesus was on earth, he wasn’t a priest.”
That is because his Jesus Christ is mythical

This was not said because Christ was mythical. Because it's extracted from context, it is not clear from this snippet that Paul (let's be clear there is no certainty Paul was the author of the Hebrew's letter, but we needn't quibble over it) was giving a discourse on two types of priesthoods.
There were the lawful levitical priests who descended from the order of Aaron, the first high priest, and there was another type of priest of whom is glimpsed in the personhood of Melchiezidek. The author is stating, that Christ's priesthood (and hence religious authority) is of this latter type.
Christ was not a descendant of Levi and so "Heb 8:4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law." In other words, if he were presently on earth in the flesh, he would not be legally qualified to serve as a priest.

That's all it is saying. Jesus was not a priest because he was not a Levite, he was a Judahite. A completely different point is being made with regard to who is qualified to make the atoning sacrifice.
In looking up the reference to Melcheizidek I found this snippet on Wikki:
Gnostic Beliefs

A collection of early Gnostic scripts found in 1945, known as the Nag Hammadi Library, contains a tractate pertaining to Melchizedek. Here it is proposed that Melchizedek is Jesus Christ[9]. Melchizedek, as Jesus Christ, lives, preaches, dies and is resurrected, in a gnostic perspective. 'The Coming of the Son of God Melchizedek' speaks of his return to bring peace, supported by the gods, and he is a priest-king who dispenses justice.
I always like a dog so long as he isn't spelled backward.

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Post by Minimalist » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:40 am

The books that were chosen to make it as Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were the ones that supported the Literalist Christians aims politically - the others (like those at Nag Hammadi) were more spiritually-based and were more specific about an initiation that no Literalist Christian could give, or could even be bothered to think about as, by then (earliest attest: Iranaeus c. 180 CE) it was not what they were about.

Again, I'm not interested in what either side believed so I'm not commenting on any of that.

We have only small fragments of the gospels...or what later became the gospels...from the time preceding Irenaeus (one from c 150 AD and one found in Qumran but the terminus ad quem for Qumran is 136 AD when Hadrian got pissed which is well after the supposed date of composition for "Mark."

Of course, what we do not know is how much even the 4 canonical gospels were later changed to meet the dictates of the powers that be. "Mark" for instance had no "resurrection scene" in the original version....that had to be added.

What strikes me as interesting/important is that the Nag Hamadi copies exist at all. They are carbon dated to the later 4th century which means after Nicaea and therefore after the creation of the Orthodox church. That tells me that someone, probably a cult living on the fringes of the empire had both the time and inclination to translate these texts from Greek to Coptic and to bury them to save them from the flames of the book-burners. It suggests "opposition" to the imposing of orthodoxy on the Roman world. The church never talks about opposition, do they?
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:48 am

Minimalist wrote:

What strikes me as interesting/important is that the Nag Hamadi copies exist at all. They are carbon dated to the later 4th century which means after Nicaea and therefore after the creation of the Orthodox church. That tells me that someone, probably a cult living on the fringes of the empire had both the time and inclination to translate these texts from Greek to Coptic and to bury them to save them from the flames of the book-burners. It suggests "opposition" to the imposing of orthodoxy on the Roman world. The church never talks about opposition, do they?
They are thought to have belonged to a nearby Pachomian monastery, and were buried after Bishop Athanasius condemned the uncritical use of non-canonical books in his Festal Letter of 367 AD which is here:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204 ... i.xxv.html

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Post by Minimalist » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:59 am

and since I fear lest, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians45424542 2 Cor. xi. 3., some few of the simple should be beguiled from their simplicity and purity, by the subtilty of certain men,

Ah, yes...."Paul" and the friggin' Corinthians again. What goes around, comes around!

Still, Ish it's a long time from Nicaea to 367 and still the good bishop felt it necessary to write a warning to the recalcitrant. It would appear that the holy mythology of the Roman World joyfully converting to Christianity as soon as Constantine said to is somewhat exaggerated.

("Somewhat exaggerated" in this case being a much more polite way of saying "bullshit.")
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:14 am

Minimalist wrote: Still, Ish it's a long time from Nicaea to 367 and still the good bishop felt it necessary to write a warning to the recalcitrant. It would appear that the holy mythology of the Roman World joyfully converting to Christianity as soon as Constantine said to is somewhat exaggerated.
It's around 40 years, Min. So yes, you're right .... it's the good ole PR guys at the Vatican at it again!

One of the main purposes of the 1st Niceane Council was to establish the Creed, and the reason for that was to separate the Literalists from the Gnostics. So they had to stand there and say:


1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting.
Amen.

In other words, that Jesus had been a human being who lived and died and will come again. It was deliberately designed to exclude the Gnostics. They even had to say that they believe in the holy catholic Church in the same breathe as saying that they believe in the holy spirit, and they still have to say it today. Freakin' brainwashing if you ask me...


:roll:

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Post by Minimalist » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:21 am

who lived and died and will come again.

He's late.


"Brainwashing" is a fine term. And true of all religions
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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Post by kbs2244 » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:27 am

Melcheizidek is an interesting Bible character.
He is only mentioned twice, once in a prophecy in Psalms 110and then in Paul’s applying of that prophecy in Hebrews 6.
He is not given any history as to who he was.
Neither does he have any listed decedents.
But he must have been important if Abraham went out of his way to visit him, and tithe to him.
There is some thought that he was Shem Noah’s son.
Whoever he was, the fact that he is used in the NT as an example of a “King/Priest” to the common people is evidence that his role as such was common knowledge at the time.
At least among those with Hebrew background.
Jesus being referred to as a King/Priest “in the manner of Melcheizidek” was to explain the concept that there would not be a “separation of powers” in his kingdom as there was under the Law of Moses.
There was to be a reversion to the Patriarchal concept of one person being responsible, and having authority over, all aspects of your life.

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Post by rich » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:28 am

I kind of think the Jews had a sect that wanted to defend their OT god and show he was a good guy as opposed to the gnostic interpretation:

from wiki:
Gnosticism (Greek: γνώσις gnōsis, knowledge) refers to a diverse, syncretistic religious movement consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect god, the demiurge, who is frequently identified with the Abrahamic God: called "Yahweh" or "Jahveh" for the true name of God is the ineffable Tetragrammaton.[1] The demiurge may be depicted as an embodiment of evil, or in other instances as merely imperfect and as benevolent as its inadequacy permits. This demiurge exists alongside another remote and unknowable supreme being that embodies good. In order to free oneself from the inferior material world, one needs gnosis, or esoteric spiritual knowledge available to all through direct experience or knowledge (gnosis) of God.[2][3] Jesus of Nazareth is identified by some Gnostic sects as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnosis to the earth. In others he was thought to be a gnosis teacher, and yet others, nothing more than a man.
Eventually I think the two merged and they tried to "purge" the demiurge bit. I think they were feeling threatened by the gnostics at first and created an alternate story in the form of the story of Christ - to show how much god loved them instead of condemned them. The gnostic interpretation showed their god (yahweh) as evil and that didn't sit well with them. The gnostics - in order to preserve their reasoning - tried to merge into the "Christ" story.

From http://www.behindthename.com/name/joshua:
JOSHUA
Gender: Masculine

Usage: English, Biblical

Pronounced: JAH-shə-wə (English), JAW-shwə (English) [key]

From the Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehoshu'a) meaning "YAHWEH is salvation". Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent into Canaan by Moses in the Old Testament. After Moses died Joshua succeeded him as leader of the Israelites. As an English name, Joshua has been in use since the Protestant Reformation.
The name Jesus comes from a Greek translation of the Aramaic short form יֵשׁוּעַ (Yeshu'a), which was the real name of Jesus.
Yahweh couldn't be the saviour of the gnostics! He was the demiurge!
i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin

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Post by Minimalist » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:33 am

Certainly Marcion didn't think much of him!
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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