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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Ishtar
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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:41 am

rich wrote:
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
No Rich, this is muddled thinking.

First of all, the Gnostics already had a loving God/Abraxas/Great Architect - in some versions, he's more remote than others and the love aspect comes from his female counterpart, Sophia. But the overarching loving godhead aspect was already there.

The Demiurge was a lesser god, who is often depicted as blind because he can't see how small he is in the scheme of things, and because he can't see, he thinks he is the great I AM that everyone should bow down to ... which is why he's been compared to Yahweh, as they have similar personalities, but he is not another version of Yahweh. Yahweh comes from the Canaanite tradition and is a minor god in that pantheon.

The Gnostics didn't "try to merge into the Christ story" as the story of the dying and resurrecting godman born to a virgin existed among Gnostics in Greece, in Egypt and Sumeria long before 1 - 32 CE which is when Jesus was supposed to have lived.

The Literalist Christians took the Gnostic teaching and made it a literal story and the rest as they say, is hysteria!

Hope that helps.
Last edited by Ishtar on Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

rich
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Post by rich » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:41 am

And neither did the gnostics - and I think that was the whole reasoning to starting the story of Jesus being the Christ - to prove that Yahweh was a good god and refute the gnostics.

Sorry Ish - was in answer to Min.
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Post by rich » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:45 am

Point is Ish - Yahweh was the demiurge in the gnostic story and Abraxas was the true saviour - but in the christ story Yahweh is the saviour - hence the name Jesus as the Christ.
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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:08 am

There are a few theories about the origin of the name of Jesus/Yehoshua/Joshua.

Wiki says not that it means Yahweh, but 'Yahweh rescues'.
The name "Jesus" is an Anglicization of the Greek Ίησους (Iēsous), itself a Hellenization of the Hebrew יהושע (Yehoshua) or Hebrew-Aramaic ישוע (Yeshua), meaning "YHWH rescues".
But 'Yahweh rescues' existed as a name way back in the OT.

Some believe that the name of Jesus/Yehoshua/Joshua/Joseph was used in the NT because the Christian Jesus was a mythic development of the Old Testament Joshua. Early Christians were well aware of the parallels between Jesus and Joshua. Justin Martyr (c 100 CE) explained that the Christian Jesus will lead his people to the Promised Land just as the Jesus of Exodus led to Children of Israel to the Promised Land. After Jesus's baptism in the river Jordan, he chose 12 disciples. After Joshua and the CoI crossed the Jordan, who chose 12 of them to form the tribes.

Others believe that Jesus was a mythic development of the Old Testament's Joseph. Joseph was born of a miracle birth, Jesus was born of a miracle birth. Joseph was of 12 brothers, Jesus had 12 disciples. Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of silver, Jesus was sold for 30 pieces of silver. Brother "Judah" suggests the sale of Joseph, disciple "Judas" suggests the sale of Jesus. Joseph began his work at the age of 30, Jesus began his work at the age of 30.

If you read these stories as mythic teaching tools, instead of history (for which there is no proof), a lot of this stuff soon starts to make sense.
Last edited by Ishtar on Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:11 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Post by Minimalist » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:09 am

The Gnostics didn't "try to merge into the Christ story" as the story of the dying and resurrecting godman born to a virgin existed among Gnostics in Greece, in Egypt and Sumeria long before 1 - 32 CE which is when Jesus was supposed to have lived.

Unless the gnostic christians pre-dated the supposed time of "jesus."
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 11:15 am

Minimalist wrote:
The Gnostics didn't "try to merge into the Christ story" as the story of the dying and resurrecting godman born to a virgin existed among Gnostics in Greece, in Egypt and Sumeria long before 1 - 32 CE which is when Jesus was supposed to have lived.

Unless the gnostic christians pre-dated the supposed time of "jesus."
That's the point I'm tryng to make. The earliest attested Christians-as-we-know-them-today is represented by Iranaeus c 180 CE. We can attest Gnostics earlier than that: [repeated from earlier post].

The Therapeutae - Jewish Gnostics who regarded themselves not to be rooted in any country but cosmopolitans. Philo of Alexandria (b. 20 BCE) is considered to have been one of these. They practised something called The Way. The fourth century Christian Literalist Eusebius saw so many similarities between the Therapeutic Way and the Christian Way that he claimed in his History that they must have been among the first followers of Christ.

The Essenes – a 2nd century BCE Jewish Gnostic group who lived near Qumran and close to the wilderness where John the Baptist was said to have preached. Also Pythagorus-inspired and followers of The Way, and reputed to be the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Their existence is recorded by a whole host of writers including Josephus, who in both his The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, refers to them as the Essenoi who are a Jewish philosophy group.

The Simonians – early 1st century Samaritan followers of Simon Magus with a philosophy based on an allegorical view of the Book of Moses. Justin Martyr says of Simon in Chapter 26 of his First Apology, “...and almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as their first god.” Simon may also have been a mythological figure – he is said to have called himself ‘the Christ’, to have ‘suffered in Judaea’ and to have travelled around with a redeemed harlot. One Simonian, Basildes, taught the crucifixion, but instead of Jesus, it is Simon the Cyrene who is crucified. (One has to wonder if Matthew, Mark and Luke let Simon the Cyrene carry the cross for Jesus as a sop to the Simonians. Interestingly, John doesn't mention him ... although, with his talk of the Logos being the First Cause, and the Arche, I find John the most Gnostic of all the gospels.)

The Paulists – The Paulists ran the seven churches of Asia Minor and Greece, with their mother church at Corinth. (Stoyanoth, Y, 2000). Paul’s teachings were the primary inspiration for two of the most influential Christian Gnostic schools – the schools of Marcion and Valentinus. Marcionites followed the allegorical ‘Jesus Chrestus’ (Jesus the Good) and sometimes called themselves ‘Chrestians’.

The Valentinians – their leader was Valentinus (b. 100 CE) who said he received his secret teachings and initiation from the master Theudas, who in turn, received his from Paul. The school was divided in two – the Italic school founded by Ptolemy and Heracleon, and the Oriental school founded by Theodotus and Marcus (Layton, B. 1987). These schools lasted until the 5th century, when the Roman one was forcibly closed down the Roman Catholic Church.

The Ebionites – the most traditional of the Gnostics who wanted to keep the philosophy for Jews only, saying that if Gentiles wanted to join, they would have become circumcised too. Paul attacks them over this, and Ebionite letters (attributed to Clement of Rome) retaliate that Paul has become inspired by Satan. (see Ephinanius, The Ascension of James). In the 2nd century CE, when the Christian Literalist Melito of Sardis went to Jerusalem in the hope of finding the original Christians, he said he found only Ebionite Gnostics whose ‘ heretical’ scriptures were the Gospel of the Ebionites, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles and the Gospel of the Nazarenes which brings us on to:

The Nassenes/Nazerenes – from which many believe that Jesus got the title of Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus the Nazerene, as Nazareth as a place did not exist in the early first century. The Nassenes taught that there was one spiritual system underlying the mythology of all religions. Their initiates were initiated into the mysteries of the Great Mother and they regarded Jesus to be the same mythical figure as all the other dying and resurrecting mythological godmen – Osiris (Egypt), Attis (Phrygia), Adonis, Pan and Bacchus (Greece) and so on.

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Post by rich » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:24 am

The gnostics existed before the time of the character Jesus, but I don't believe "Jesus" as a character in their story did. I think it was another of the symbolisms instilled into the story by the original writers of the story - to show "Yahweh is saviour". Either way - it goes against the gnostic idea that the god of the OT was the bad guy. And I think that was the point of it. I wouldn't put it past the Jewish Sanhedrin to comission a group to come up with a story to combat the gnostics - including allegory to fight allegory.
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 11:27 am

I'm more interested in the first century BC.

Between the time of Alexander Jannaeus ( king from 103-76 BC) and Herod's attainment of the throne there was constant turmoil in the region and a lot of outright religious persecution as the Hasmoneans supported the Sadduccees who controlled the temple. It's a fascinating period of history. Prior to the Maccabaean revolt the area was under the control of the Seleucid Greeks and afterwards under the control of Herod as the mouthpiece for the Romans. But in between all hell broke loose.
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 11:32 am

The point though surely is that most Jews lived in Alexandria at that time, so to find out where they were at in terms of religious thinking, that's where we should be looking?

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Post by Minimalist » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:34 am

And Babylon.....
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 11:37 am

OK ... so how important would some local little political difficulty in Jerusalem be to philosophic thought ... which was much wider geographically in its scope?

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Post by rich » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:40 am

Other areas wouldn't have a problem at all with condemning the Jewish god. Take your pick. Myself - I still think it started with the Zoroastrians - as far as the gnosis part.
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Post by Ishtar » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:48 am


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria

Alexandria was not only a center of Hellenism but was also home to the largest Jewish community in the world. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, was produced there. The early Ptolemies kept it in order and fostered the development of its museum into the leading Hellenistic centre of learning (Library of Alexandria) but were careful to maintain the distinction of its population's three largest ethnicities: Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian.[2] From this division arose much of the later turbulence, which began to manifest itself under Ptolemy Philopater who reigned from 221–204 BC. The reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon from 144–116 BC was marked by purges and civil warfare.

The city passed formally under Roman jurisdiction in 80 BC, according to the will of Ptolemy Alexander but only after it had been under Roman influence for more than a hundred years. In 115 AD Alexandria was destroyed during the Jewish-Greek civil wars ...
See my bolding: Gnosticism is a blend of Jewish, Greek and Egyptian thought.

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Post by rich » Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:57 am

Yes, Ish. It was a blend - and that is the point. I think the Sanhedrin was trying to purge that.
It made their god look "bad". Again - why would the original gnostics use a reference to Yahweh as the saviour? The name "Jesus" basically says that. If they were going to come up with a name - I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have had anything to do with Yahweh in it.
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Post by Minimalist » Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:00 pm

Ishtar wrote:OK ... so how important would some local little political difficulty in Jerusalem be to philosophic thought ... which was much wider geographically in its scope?

Depends on how much validity one assigns to the idea of the temple being central to Jewish life before 70 AD, I suppose. I've skimmed some of Philo's philosophical writings, you know that's not my thing, but Alexandria would have been at the very forefront of Greco-Roman knowledge and learning at the time and Philo's whole family seems to have been deeply involved. I believe it was his nephew, Tiberius Julius Alexander who became procurator of Judaea in 46 AD after the Romans reasserted direct rule upon the death of Herod Agrippa.

So, I agree that it seems absolutely certain that Philo was trying some synthesis (at least) of Hellenic thought onto Judaism but it seems unlikely that there was any Roman negative reaction to the family at all. They were apparently highly thought of by Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius.

Were the gnostics a political force at the time? Hard to say, Ish. Neither Tacitus nor Josephus mentions them in the run up to the Great Revolt. It seems unlikely that they did not exist, though. Maybe they were simply not a factor in Judaea?
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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