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Batanat

John the Baptist & Early Christianity

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Batanat

Lately I've been doing a lot of reading on John the Baptist, and the Mandaeans. Something that interests me is how closely Mandaean beliefs seem to correlate to early gnostic-type Christian beliefs, and even Richard Carrier's model of the Apostle Paul's teachings. The Mandaeans would thus seem to represent a sister group not of later Christian sects, but of very early ones (and perhaps even pre- or proto-Christian ones). The Mandaeans reject Jesus, but use a cross as a symbol. They venerate John the Baptist but deny the gospels. They reject the Christian Trinity and singular Satan, and instead have a trio of demiurgic/diabolical figures and one supreme benevolent deity. They reject Abraham and apparently backtracked his journey, migrating out of the Levant and settling in southern Mesopotamia where he allegedly began; undoing his journey as described in Genesis. And there are several closely related groups to the Mandaeans (the Elcasites, Manichaeans, etc.) who appear to represent offshoots that settled in different areas along that migratory path from Judea to southern Mesopotamia. 

But what did John actually teach? According to Josephus, John was a popular preacher who baptized people to purify their bodies, and taught that while he washed their physical forms, internally their souls were purified and washed by righteous actions and thoughts. The Mandaeans regard John as the earthly envoy of the divine, the teacher of the sacred gnosis that allows humans to transcend the mortal sphere. But this is very different from how the gospels describe him. The gospels put Christian words in John's mouth, appropriating him as a mere subordinate to Christ rather than a figure of veneration and salvation in his own right. The gospels say that John preached of repentance as the vehicle of atonement, rather than righteousness: a Christian teaching in place of a Mandaean one. The gospels frame John as presaging Jesus; a mere warmup act. John is strongly identified with Elijah or Moses in the gospels, and Jesus with Elisha and Joshua. John is portrayed therefore as a retiring prophet whose role has ended and whose mission is to be completed by someone else — in this case, Jesus. Like Moses, John is shown dying before the work is finished; he doesn't get to enter the Promised Land, he was simply the guide on the way there. But the discrepancy between the historical John known from Josephus (and to a lesser extent the Mandaeans, John's followers) and the Christianized John of the gospels is very apparent.

Early Christians apparently recognized the close relationship between their religion and that of the early Mandaeans; indeed it can be easily inferred that early Christians saw John's sect as simply heterodox Christians. Hence the gospels attempt to co-opt John and to persuade Mandaeans to abandon their "heresy" and convert to Christianity. The evident close relationship between the Christian and Mandaean sects has very interesting implications about the form of very early Christianity. 

Also interesting is that despite the apparent close relationship, the gospels are the only parts of the New Testament which refer to John the Baptist. Paul doesn't appear to mention him at all. Unless, however the John he mentioned as one of the 'Pillars' of the Jerusalemite chapter of early Christianity (together with Cephas and Jacob/James), was perhaps the Baptizer. By many estimates, this would be an impossibility, since of course Paul supposedly didn't become a Christian until after Jesus' death, and John died either just prior to or very early in Jesus' ministry. But I think that an argument can be made that the possibility is alive. 

Based on the dates Paul gives in early Galatians, it can be ascertained that his apostolic revelation (whatever it was; I don't accept the Lucan account of the Damascene vision) occurred circa 27CE. Not only does this make Paul' chronology already hugely divergent from the (already inconsistent) gospel timelines, but it changes many things about the origins of Christianity. (Personally I'm unconvinced of the historicity of Jesus, and this chronological anomaly is consistent with his not having been historical. If one assumes his historicity, these inconsistencies are harder to account for.) John the Baptist according to Josephus seems to have been executed at some time circa 35-36CE (after the scandal with Herodias, but before the war between Antipas and Aretas). So between the time Paul describes for his revelation, and the death of John the Baptist, there seems to be a decade-long window in which it's conceivable the two could have crossed paths. At most they would likely have been only acquainted, since of the three Pillars, John is the one Paul speaks of the least.

Also of note is names. In the Sefer Refuot, a Jewish medical text of uncertain provenance or authorship, one of the two dedications is to a certain Yoḥanan ben Zabda, evidently a famous or legendary sage or healer. Is this the same character as Yoḥanan ben Zebedê? And for that matter: John the Baptist is also known as Yoḥanan ben Zakarya. In Aramaic/Hebrew script, Yoḥanan ben Zakarya is rendered as יוחנן בן זכריה — meanwhile, Yoḥanan ben Zebedê is יוחנן בן זבדי. Is this purely coincidental? Zabda/Zebedê and Zakarê/Zakarya are nearly identical when written: ב looks very similar to כ, and ד looks similar to ר. Could whatever this name was have been corrupted due to this similarity? Could some scribe's handwriting have been misread? Could someone less than fluent in the language have mistaken a letter or two for similar-looking ones? If so, is it then possible that Yoḥanan ben Zebedê and Yoḥanan ben Zakarya may have been one and the same? And does this then imply that indeed (since Yoḥanan ben Zebedê is paired with Jacob/James the Just as a member of the Pillars) the John spoken of by Paul could have been John the Baptist?

It would appear difficult for Paul to have met him, even if it were the case: he says in Galatians 1:19 that he didn't meet any of the other apostles besides Cephas (and perhaps Jacob/James) during his two-week visit to Jerusalem in 30CE. It's quite likely he would at least have been aware of the third Pillar however, though he did not meet him. He then says that he returned to Jerusalem fourteen years later (44CE), during which time he was given the blessing of the Pillars. This would appear to rule out John the Baptist, as he died c. 35-36CE. However we must be wary of possible interpolation. Many scholars have suggested that Galatians 2:7-9 (where Paul seems to mention meeting with all three Pillars: James, Cephas, and John) is ideologically and grammatically inconsistent with Paul's writing style, and is potentially interpolated by later editors. If this is correct, then the possibility remains that the Pillar John could have been the Baptizer. I won't hang my hat on such a thing, of course, but that the possibility might remain open is intriguing.

If Yoḥanan ben Zebedê and Yoḥanan ben Zakarya are the same person, what are the ramifications of this on early Christianity? Actually, surprisingly little. Yoḥanan ben Zebedê together with Jacob/James (with whom he is habitually paired; whether they were literal brothers or paired for some other reason is historically unclear) are nicknamed "Sons of Thunder/Thundering", and are portrayed as having the divine ability to summon lightning from the sky — a feat very distinctly beyond the power of any of the other apostles. According to Acts, James/Jacob was beheaded by "Herod the king"; seemingly a parallel to John the Baptist's execution by Herod Antipas. Clearly it was the view of early Christians that James and John were strongly tied to one another, though if John is indeed John the Baptist then what exactly that connection is becomes difficult to assess. If we read the relationship as allegorical rather than literal, then perhaps the early Christians perceived James' and John's teachings to be identical or very similar. If indeed the Pillar James was the author (in whole or in part) of the Epistle of James, which deals strongly with the primacy of righteous actions over mere faith, the perhaps Pauline Christians (who were in disagreement with that premise) regarded such a view as being the same as John the Baptist's known historical teachings that the soul is purified through righteousness. Whether the historical James is behind the eponymous Epistle or not, the similarity in its teachings to those of John the Baptist do seem compatible with the idea that the Pillar John was the Baptist, and that the two were thus paired together due to ideological kinship. 

Any thoughts anyone? ^_^

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Batanat
12 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Welcome aboard.

Thanks! ^_^

12 minutes ago, eight bits said:

You seem to hold that the living Mandaeans have a continuous history back to the First Century CE (i.e. John the Baptizer started something that has been carried forward, without interruption, to the present day). How confident are you about that continuity, and why?

I'm not hugely confident in a strong continuity, but shall we say a sort of imperfect continuity. By most accounts the Mandeans appear to be the descendants of the earlier Sabians, Elcasites, or Nasoreans (indeed they refer to themselves as Nasoreans), which I think can trace them plausibly back to the Baptizer himself. But I don't imagine it's at all likely that the modern Mandeans (or even the medieval ones) perfectly resemble their 1st Century antecedents. I do however think that it's plausible that the core features of their belief system (John the Baptist as central figure, gnostic-type beliefs such as secret knowledge to transcend the mortal sphere, the earth being a corrupt torturous prison made and presided over by demonic forces, a distant benevolent deity sending an emissary to help free humans from the mortal world, etc., etc.) do go all the way back to the beginning.  

12 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Gnostic is a category we moderns impose on ancient people who apparently didn't think of themselves as a coherent group apart from being Christians as they understood how to do that. I think we justify our category in part because some ancient proto-orthodox writers thought there was a "geneaology" of heresy, maybe rooted in Simon of Samaria, and eventually flowering as a mature Gnosticism in Marcion or similar near-contemporary figures.

There are traditions that make Simon a disciple, maybe even the designated successor, of John the Baptizer. Do those traditions figure anywhere in your ideas?

True true. It's damn hard saying where exactly gnostic ideas came from, since they're so syncretic. I don't think Simon was the inventor, nor do I think it's likely that he was John's successor, though a relationship between the early Mandeans and the Simonians or Menandrians seems credible. Certainly their beliefs seem very similar, though the Simonians evidently saw Simon as more or less an avatar of the divine rather than as merely an emissary; a bit more like the Christian idea of Jesus as the manifestation of the divine on earth. Perhaps the earliest Christians to conceive of Jesus as god-made-flesh did so based on influence from the Simonians. Stranger things have happened. 

Early Christians seem as though they combined a lot of disparate elements that some of their ideological relatives didn't acquire. The cult described by Paul resembles a Hellenistic Mystery religion, and there are countless apparent allusions in New Testament texts to what seem like contemporized/Hellenized adaptations of pre-Exilic Levantine polytheism. These features don't seem as evident in the Mandeans, Simonians, Ophites, etc.; but since little has survived of what their beliefs were in the earliest days, I suppose we can't say for certain.   

12 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Finally for now, 27 CE is about the earliest date possible for Paul's conversion without completely divorcing a historical Jesus from the Gospel Jesus, and from the supposed "best attested 'historical' incident in the ancient world," Jesus' crucifixion under Pilate (whose term in Judea is usually dated as beginning in 26 CE). Could you walk us through your estimation procedure?

Mostly my estimate is based on Paul's dates given in early Galatians, and a couple cross-references to Josephus and Act (much as I am very skeptical of most of Acts). Paul says that after his apostolic revelation (whatever it was), he spent 3 years in Arabia, after which he visited Cephas for two weeks in Jerusalem. He then relates that he didn't go to Jerusalem again until 14 years later. I connect this second Jerusalem visit to the one noted in Acts, whereupon Paul and his companions went to Jerusalem during the famous famine there that began in 44CE (according to Josephus). I suppose it's possible that the second Jerusalem trip could've been in 45 or 46 (the latter years of the famine), but since the initial purpose of the visit seems to have been to provide relief, and Queen Helena of Adiabene provided ample relief (particularly to Jerusalem) quite early in the famine, I tend to think it makes the most sense for Paul to have heard of the famine very quickly and gone there immediately from Antioch, within perhaps its first few months.

And yes, I suppose it would still be theoretically possible for a historical Jesus to fit (barely) into this timeline. However it would also invalidate the gospel claims that Jesus' ministry began after the arrest and death of John the Baptist, which I date to circa 35-36CE.  

12 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Great debut post, BTW.

 

Thank you!!! ^_^

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eight bits
Posted (edited)

Thanks for those answers.

Mandaeans: I'm hoping to do a little face-to-face research someday soon. One of the largest Mandaean communities outside of the Middle East has settled in central Massachusetts. I'm a New Englander, and their Worcester facilities are a reasonable driving distance away.

Of course, over two thousand years, even with the strictest continuity, I'd expect development (and so change) from any original ideas. Also, I am skeptical about that continuity. But, I'll admit it; I'm fascinated by the possibilities.

Simon and the Gnostics: I'm unsure that there was a historical Simon, but the evidence for Simonians contemporary with early and more proto-orthodox Christians is pretty good (including the location of a geographic core constituency in Samaria, thanks to Justin's personal recollections). The connection from Simon back to John is thin, and the connection forward to the Gnostics has the usual problem - we have only the testimony of ideological enemies supporting that. Even the most scrupulously honest opponent could see all "heresy" as one single coherent diabolical movement, even if in reality many varieties of "heretic" dissented from a developing proto-orthodoxy independently.

One thing I do notice: there sure seem to be a lot of magicians in early Christianity. Paul and his "signs of the apostles," his respect for the "famous pillars" with whom he barely gets along, but apparently respects for having had similar visionary experiences with his own. Philip, a mere deacon, wows the Samaritans who are already wowed by Simon, a living god. Etc.

Maybe then, it is interesting that nobody, neither Josephus nor the canonical evangelists, portrays John as doing any magic. Yet Josephus does say that ordinary people remembered him after he died (a point omitted from the canon) and thought it plausible that G_d would intervene in history to avenge his assasination.

Just musing.

Timing. Acts  is diffiult to reconcile with Galatians, as I'm sure you've noticed. Within Galatians, is the second visit 17 or 14 years after Paul's conversion? Was the second visit really in the midst of the famine? If so, when was the subsequent mission to Antioch? Still during the famine?

But yes, I do see how you can hold 27 CE as a possibility. Thank you.

More musing. I think John the Baptist is a bigger factor than he gets credit for in Christian orthodoxy.

Rank speculation: Even Gospel Jesus doesn't do much to launch the church, except to serve as an explanation of how the original apostles got together in the first place. To hear Paul tell it, Jesus' reputed career (whether earthly or celestial) may even have been an impediment to efficient church planting, what with that hideous shameful death and all.

John brought lots of people together; all our sources agree about that. He died a tidy, or at least unremarkable, martyr's death, which allowed the only "miracle" attributed to him: Antipas' military reverses. If Josephus is right, John had a simple, attractive message that would easily stick with people and avoided the need for costly animal sacrifice, which is a big thing for the poor, of whom there are always many.

Given that we have John, is there any role for a historical Jesus in Christian origins? Or even a celestial Jesus before Paul put a name and face to a deputy-divinity hero-figure who was coming soon to save his people?

 

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Batanat
5 hours ago, eight bits said:

Mandaeans: I'm hoping to do a little face-to-face research someday soon. One of the largest Mandaean communities outside of the Middle East has settled in central Massachusetts. I'm a New Englander, and their Worcester facilities are a reasonable driving distance away.

Of course, over two thousand years, even with the strictest continuity, I'd expect development (and so change) from any original ideas. Also, I am skeptical about that continuity. But, I'll admit it; I'm fascinated by the possibilities.

That sounds brilliant! And yeah I agree about development over the course of millennia, that seems inescapable.

5 hours ago, eight bits said:

Simon and the Gnostics: I'm unsure that there was a historical Simon, but the evidence for Simonians contemporary with early and more proto-orthodox Christians is pretty good (including the location of a geographic core constituency in Samaria, thanks to Justin's personal recollections). The connection from Simon back to John is thin, and the connection forward to the Gnostics has the usual problem - we have only the testimony of ideological enemies supporting that. Even the most scrupulously honest opponent could see all "heresy" as one single coherent diabolical movement, even if in reality many varieties of "heretic" dissented from a developing proto-orthodoxy independently.

One thing I do notice: there sure seem to be a lot of magicians in early Christianity. Paul and his "signs of the apostles," his respect for the "famous pillars" with whom he barely gets along, but apparently respects for having had similar visionary experiences with his own. Philip, a mere deacon, wows the Samaritans who are already wowed by Simon, a living god. Etc.

Yeah I'm not totally sure about a historical Simon either. I've sometimes wondered if Simon Magus and Simon of Perea could be related; it seems apparent that the latter had some kind of messianic following around him in the last years of the BCEs, and Samaria and Perea are immediate neighbors separated only by the Jordan River. There were of course LOTS of Simons, but the idea does intrigue me. Also makes me wonder where the gospel writers got the name of Simon. Paul never uses that name, he always calls him Cephas (or occasionally Peter, which may or may not be interpolated). So I wonder if some kind of allegory was intended to link some earlier Simon figure (such as Magus or Perea) with Cephas and the Pillars. Simon and Peter duking it out in Acts and other legends certainly make such a possibility very bizarre and fascinating to think about. Cephas = Simon Magus? Cephas = Caiaphas? Simon Magus = Simon Perea? Simon Cyrene = Simon Niger? Lots of interesting questions that we may never resolve. I wish we had more substantive data about any of these guys, lol 

5 hours ago, eight bits said:

Maybe then, it is interesting that nobody, neither Josephus nor the canonical evangelists, portrays John as doing any magic. Yet Josephus does say that ordinary people remembered him after he died (a point omitted from the canon) and thought it plausible that G_d would intervene in history to avenge his assasination.

Just musing.

Yes, I've noticed that as well. Very interesting.

5 hours ago, eight bits said:

Timing. Acts  is diffiult to reconcile with Galatians, as I'm sure you've noticed. Within Galatians, is the second visit 17 or 14 years after Paul's conversion? Was the second visit really in the midst of the famine? If so, when was the subsequent mission to Antioch? Still during the famine?

But yes, I do see how you can hold 27 CE as a possibility. Thank you.

Yeah, definitely tricky. Something I've always found a little strange is that Paul supposedly had his apostolic experience (the criterion for being an apostle) over a decade before he was formally recognized as an apostle by the others. That seems so bizarre. So he personally knew and stayed for two weeks with Cephas, seemingly the first or chief apostle (by Paul's own account), but then spent over a decade roaming around acting like an apostle without the recognition/acceptance of the other major apostles? That seems so bizarre. He says that he met two of the three Pillars during his first Jerusalem visit. Why did they not give him some form of recognition on that occasion, so that other congregations wouldn't have to worry that he might be a "teacher of other Jesuses" (since that was apparently a concern at the time)? And judging by what he says about his preexisting negative reputation, I should think getting friendly with the other apostles would be a priority. So why are things put off for fourteen years, when he had opportunity to get things straightened out from the outset?  

5 hours ago, eight bits said:

More musing. I think John the Baptist is a bigger factor than he gets credit for in Christian orthodoxy.

Rank speculation: Even Gospel Jesus doesn't do much to launch the church, except to serve as an explanation of how the original apostles got together in the first place. To hear Paul tell it, Jesus' reputed career (whether earthly or celestial) may even have been an impediment to efficient church planting, what with that hideous shameful death and all.

John brought lots of people together; all our sources agree about that. He died a tidy, or at least unremarkable, martyr's death, which allowed the only "miracle" attributed to him: Antipas' military reverses. If Josephus is right, John had a simple, attractive message that would easily stick with people and avoided the need for costly animal sacrifice, which is a big thing for the poor, of whom there are always many.

Given that we have John, is there any role for a historical Jesus in Christian origins? Or even a celestial Jesus before Paul put a name and face to a deputy-divinity hero-figure who was coming soon to save his people?

 

I agree. John the Baptist seems to much more cleanly fit the space people think belongs to a historical Jesus. 

On another note (about Jesus' crucifixion): the Mandean darfash intrigues me. It's of course possible that its simply an appropriation of Christian imagery, but it interests me that it has a significance to the Mandeans that's totally divorced from anything to do with Jesus or crucifixes. I don't see a particular reason for them to have picked it up during a later period, since they regard Jesus as a false messiah. If it really does go back to an early period contemporaneous with early Christianity, then it implies that the cross could have originated decoupled from its now-received meaning. There was some ambiguity in early Christianity about the nature of Jesus' death: was he hanged? Impaled on a stake? Lynched on a tree? The gospels seem to be the first place we see a (mostly) unambiguous depiction as a Roman-style crucifixion. Did the cross already exist as a symbol among early Christians (and perhaps even sister groups) even before it came to be associated with a Roman crux? The Roman crosses of that period generally weren't a Latin cross anyway, they were more typically Tau crosses. So did the symbol of the Latin cross originally have some other significance (much like the Mandeans to this day have an alternate meaning for it)?

I've speculated that when Paul said "I have been crucified with Christ" this could possibly intimate an early ritualistic mock crucifixion (not unlike those performed in the Philippines) and simulated "death and resurrection", somewhat like the Osirian Mysteries' rituals in a dark room described by Plutarch. The initiate would be strung up (or possibly even nailed up) on a cross or stake, and either pass out naturally or drugged (the "wine mixed with wormwood/myrrh"?), and then be wrapped in burial clothes and sealed in a dark room with an "angel" attending, to then eventually awake and be "risen" — and then perhaps be seen as "transfigured" and treated as the divine guest of honor at the eucharistic banquet. Very interesting. 

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Davros of Skaro

First off Paul gives no dates in any of the nonpseuedographical epistles. He gives some time between certain activities, but no specific dates. Paul could have been writing in the first century BCE, but that's hard to prove. The dates for the epistles is inference from the dubious Gospels, and Acts. I doubt John the Baptist was part of the Pillars, or rather group Paul talks about, nor any credible evidence of.

I would not trust anything about John except what Josephus mentions. He must have had a sizeable following for Josephus to mention him other than to further paint the picture of who executed him. I believe imho that whoever wrote Mark took what they found in Josephus's Antiquities about John to fill out his narrative. If my opinion is true? This would make the first Gospel written called Mark penned in the very late 1st century CE instead of the popular circa 70 CE. 

The Mandeans look to be simular to other spurious Jewish sects outside the Temple system with syncretism to Hellenistic philosophy, and post Babylonian captivity diaspora Persian theology. It's hard to tell if their John Baptiser tradition is Gospel influenced legend, or goes back to the core of the person Josephus mentions? Speaking of which be careful of conflating later legends with gaps in our knowledge of the ancient world.

Good luck.

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eight bits
Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Batanat said:

On another note (about Jesus' crucifixion): the Mandean darfash intrigues me.

It is interesting that in European iconography, John is often portrayed holding a staff with a cross piece. He wasn't a Christian, he didn't die on a cross, Gospel John doesn't proclaim Jesus' death - so where'd the European cross of John come from?

As to the Mandaean one, theirs isn't directly John's. Although no outsider knows, I deeply suspect that the darfash symbolism has a "public" interpretation (something like divine light suffusing creation throughout the cardinal directions) and a distinct initiates'  interpretation. Such "double meaning" is typical of mystery societies (religious or quasi-secular like the Masons), and darned if the darfash doesn't look ripe for plural interpretation.

But of course I don't know. As you say, however, it is intriguing.

15 hours ago, Batanat said:

There was some ambiguity in early Christianity about the nature of Jesus' death: was he hanged? Impaled on a stake? Lynched on a tree? The gospels seem to be the first place we see a (mostly) unambiguous depiction as a Roman-style crucifixion.

Yes. Curiously, and despite the best efforts of translators to get Paul in line, Paul never does quite say that Jesus died on a cross-or-stake, just that the corpse ended up displayed on something wooden. The guild position seems to be (when this comes up at all) that Paul was mainly concerned with the gibbeting that is inherent in execution by crucifixion, since it is the gibbeting that is cursed in Deuteronomy 21:23, and would thus be an apparent scriptural impediment to Jesus being the Christ.

The Gospel-Acts canon is also equivocal about how Jesus would end up on a Roman cross-or-stake. Supposedly, the priests need Pilate's help because they have no legal way to kill anybody, and yet just a few years later, they kill Stephen legally and publicly enough (with Paul running the coat-check concession). John offers the strong suggestion that the woman taken in adultery was in mortal peril had Jesus not rescued her (OK, that's not originally John, but it is canonical).

And what's the hang-up with legality all of a sudden? Gospel Jesus is in Temple custody overnight. He wouldn't be the first inconvenient prisoner to be dispatched while trying to escape, or there's the ever-popular guard-assisted suicide. Pilate is going to launch an investigation into the matter?

Even the logic of the hand-over makes no sense in context. The Temple pays Judas good money in order to take Jesus at night, far away from crowds, despite Jesus being surrounded by Temple guards day after day, available for free. Why? Because the people will riot. So, then what? Jesus is executed in the most public way available. Plus, to get him there, the Temple authorities have to stir up a crowd to pressure Pilate to carry out the execution. That's a mighty strange way to avoid a riot, particularly since the historical Pilate had this thing about managing unruly crowds with lethal force.

Still just musings.

15 hours ago, Batanat said:

I've speculated that when Paul said "I have been crucified with Christ" this could possibly intimate an early ritualistic mock crucifixion (not unlike those performed in the Philippines) and simulated "death and resurrection", somewhat like the Osirian Mysteries' rituals in a dark room described by Plutarch.

Based on Romans 6:3-5, vicarious participation in Jesus' passion is Paul's interpretation of baptism. (Yet another reason to give some weight to Paul's silence on Jesus' manner of death). I don't think the early Christians did anything weirder than that.

Wouldn't it be a hoot if the origin of the Jesus myth was some poor fellow named Joshua who drowned in the Jordan during one of John's baptisms? John fishes the poor guy out with his wooden staff, and then realizes "Oh crap, I'm displaying his corpse on a piece of wood. There must be a lesson in this."

 

Davros!

2 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

I believe imho that whoever wrote Mark took what they found in Josephus's Antiquities about John to fill out his narrative.

I don't think so. John enjoys an interesting distinction among pious Gospel characters: written secular attestation that there really was an oral tradition about him, rooted in his actual existence and persisting after his death. Thus, Mark doesn't need Josephus, and he doesn't closely follow Josephus either. Mark interprets the ritual meaning of John's baptism differently than Josephus (or Paul for that matter, see above), and the whole head-on-a-platter business is nowhere in Josephus. I suspect it's an original composition, artfully crafted to parallel (and foreshadow in the context of the performance) Jesus' passion, which itself may be largely Mark's original composition.

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Davros of Skaro
3 hours ago, eight bits said:

Yes. Curiously, and despite the best efforts of translators to get Paul in line, Paul never does quite say that Jesus died on a cross-or-stake, just that the corpse ended up displayed on something wooden. The guild position seems to be (when this comes up at all) that Paul was mainly concerned with the gibbeting that is inherent in execution by crucifixion, since it is the gibbeting that is cursed in Deuteronomy 21:23, and would thus be an apparent scriptural impediment to Jesus being the Christ.

Imho Paul's celestial Christ was hung on a Tree. Possibly in the third Heaven where the Tree of Life resides in Eden?

But it will take lots of words, and verses to show this possibility. ;)

3 hours ago, eight bits said:

Davros!

I don't think so. John enjoys an interesting distinction among pious Gospel characters: written secular attestation that there really was an oral tradition about him, rooted in his actual existence and persisting after his death. Thus, Mark doesn't need Josephus, and he doesn't closely follow Josephus either. Mark interprets the ritual meaning of John's baptism differently than Josephus (or Paul for that matter, see above), and the whole head-on-a-platter business is nowhere in Josephus. I suspect it's an original composition, artfully crafted to parallel (and foreshadow in the context of the performance) Jesus' passion, which itself may be largely Mark's original composition.

eight bits!

Considering Mark gets the geography of ancient Judea wrong, and some aspects of Judaism as well is what partially forms my opinion. Like I said it's hard to prove, but not important, yet a peculiarity to ponder. Mark could have heard about John even if he was just a gentile Christian living in Rome?

John's baptism, and Paul's might be closer than you think. John is Judaism's cleansing of sins for purity. Yet Paul's corruptible cannot inherit the incorruptible is dying to sin like Jesus did, but symbolically.

Yes. Mark looks to foreshadow Jesus's passion with John's death. Dennis Macdonald finds some striking parallels with Mark's baptiser narrative and Homeric epics (I hope the first link functions correctly?).

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=8JkFqMXX6WAC&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=dennis+macdonald+Agamemnon+john+the+Baptist&source=bl&ots=LaYLkOMqIC&sig=ACfU3U0DM9Nvaewkal0UxwcXkLJweENxEA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwins-zlkI_lAhWJTN8KHcTHD2gQ6AEwA3oECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=dennis macdonald Agamemnon john the Baptist&f=false

http://vridar.info/xorigins/homermark/mkhmrfiles/wilderness.htm

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Will Due
4 hours ago, eight bits said:

But of course I don't know.

 

Pardon me but since you admit this, has it ever occurred to you, that only looking at the ancient writings as having been perpetrated as superstitious myth or worse nefarious religious propaganda, is exactly what keeps you from noticing the common thread of spiritual truth that runs through all of them like so many do?

 

 

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Davros of Skaro
17 minutes ago, Will Due said:

Pardon me but since you admit this, has it ever occurred to you, that only looking at the ancient writings as having been perpetrated as superstitious myth or worse nefarious religious propaganda, is exactly what keeps you from noticing the common thread of spiritual truth that runs through all of them like so many do?

Pardon me, but don't you find a book that "spiritually" pens it's self even remotely suspicious? Especially the part about giant birds offering transportation services to people. 

latest?cb=20120916030724

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Will Due
2 minutes ago, Davros of Skaro said:

Pardon me, but don't you find a book that "spiritually" pens it's self even remotely suspicious?

 

Like I said, has it ever occurred to you, that only looking at the ancient writings (or new ones for that matter) as having been perpetrated as superstitious myth or worse nefarious religious propaganda, is exactly what keeps you from noticing the common thread of spiritual truth that runs through all of them like so many do?

In other words, why limit yourself?

 

 

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eight bits
2 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

Mark could have heard about John even if he was just a gentile Christian living in Rome?

Josephus, our only secular source for John, says he came to Rome in the early 60's on a diplomatic mission. There were some Herodians at Rome, were there not? If Paul did write in the mid-First Century, as many believe, then there were Christians at Rome in the fifties who might plausibly have shared their co-religionists' interest in John. Paul obviously thought they knew what "baptism" was.

I don't accept that Mark was Roman, but that was what you asked. Oh, and while I do accept that Mark was a Gentile, I have yet to see that elusive first scrap of evidence that he was a Christian at the time he wrote. Maybe an ex-, maybe a different flavor of G_d fearer, or maybe somebody who, like Seneca, was interested in Middle Eastern religion just because they were. (I'm not a fan of the "Seneca wrote a lost play" theory, but there were lots of people with lots of interest in exotic religions back then, in Rome and elsewhere.)

2 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

John is Judaism's cleansing of sins for purity.

Not according to Josephus. The washing was a capstone ritual which achieved the obvious physical result: a clean body, whose symbolic significance was that the soul had already been cleansed by getting right with G_d. Paul's interpretation requires a Christ figure already crucified and resurrected, and neither Josephus nor the canon has John teaching anything about that.

2 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

Dennis Macdonald finds some striking parallels with Mark's baptiser narrative and Homeric epics (I hope the first link functions correctly?).

If you're sniffing around Vridar, you might also look at some of the posts there about possible Greek influences directly on Hebrew scripture.

Neil Godfrey is an acquired taste, in my view, but he writes a great deal about other people's writing, and thereby manages to be interesting, because he chooses interesting writers to write about. Meh, he is a librarian after all, he ought to be good at picking books!

 

@Will Due

1 hour ago, Will Due said:

Pardon me but since you admit this, has it ever occurred to you, that only looking at the ancient writings as having been perpetrated as superstitious myth or worse nefarious religious propaganda, is exactly what keeps you from noticing the common thread of spiritual truth that runs through all of them like so many do?

That isn't my view of the ancient writings, especially not the Gospel according to Mark, which is the root canonical Gospel.

I happily acknowledge that just about every time I read Mark, I notice new things about it. So, yes, it has often occurred to me that there may still be some things there that I have yet to notice. Are any of those things your notion of spiritual truth? Could be.

Turn about is fair play, though. Has it ever occurred to you that if you engaged directly with something like Mark, rather than through a modern work of interpretation, that your notion of spiritual truth might be altered thereby?

 

 

 

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Davros of Skaro
1 hour ago, Will Due said:

Like I said, has it ever occurred to you, that only looking at the ancient writings (or new ones for that matter) as having been perpetrated as superstitious myth or worse nefarious religious propaganda, is exactly what keeps you from noticing the common thread of spiritual truth that runs through all of them like so many do?

In other words, why limit yourself?

633353a42b44db04-imagination-spongebob-g

Proverbs 9:5, :9-11

"5 "Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed."

"9 Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will gain in learning. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. 11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life."

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

"23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed?/delivered up? (context?) took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the LORD's death until he comes."

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Will Due
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, eight bits said:

 

@Will Due

That isn't my view of the ancient writings, especially not the Gospel according to Mark, which is the root canonical Gospel.

 

Good to hear it isn't your view.

I agree Mark is the canonical root of the Christian Gospel.

However it dilutes, the good news of the fatherhood of God and the materialization of the brotherhood of men proclaimed by Jesus, with Paul's personal religious ideas.

 

Quote

I happily acknowledge that just about every time I read Mark, I notice new things about it. So, yes, it has often occurred to me that there may still be some things there that I have yet to notice. Are any of those things your notion of spiritual truth? 

 

Absolutely. 

 

Quote

Turn about is fair play, though. Has it ever occurred to you that if you engaged directly with something like Mark, rather than through a modern work of interpretation, that your notion of spiritual truth might be altered thereby?

 

As I've mentioned before, I only use books as a reference to help me understand better how to engage directly with an individual unique part of the Absolute that indwells us all.

In my estimation that's what all these types of books are for. To help understand better how to engage directly. 

 

 

Edited by Will Due

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Davros of Skaro
31 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Josephus, our only secular source for John, says he came to Rome in the early 60's on a diplomatic mission. There were some Herodians at Rome, were there not? If Paul did write in the mid-First Century, as many believe, then there were Christians at Rome in the fifties who might plausibly have shared their co-religionists' interest in John. Paul obviously thought they knew what "baptism" was.

Yes it's plausible, and mainstrean. I would not call it solid considering the evidence thus my conjecture.

31 minutes ago, eight bits said:

I don't accept that Mark was Roman, but that was what you asked.

We don't know who he is either. Though his Gospel is low spoken Greek, it reveals higher learning.

31 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Oh, and while I do accept that Mark was a Gentile, I have yet to see that elusive first scrap of evidence that he was a Christian at the time he wrote. Maybe an ex-, maybe a different flavor of G_d fearer, or maybe somebody who, like Seneca, was interested in Middle Eastern religion just because they were. (I'm not a fan of the "Seneca wrote a lost play" theory, but there were lots of people with lots of interest in exotic religions back then, in Rome and elsewhere.)

Unless he was commissioned to write Mark for the interest of others? I would say he was very likely Christian, and very Pauline theologically at that. 

Do I have to post this again (keeping in mind it's not an exhaustive representation)?

2 Cor 8:9=Mark 10:17-22, 1 Cor 13:2=Mark 11:23, 1 Cor 3:10-11=Mark 12:10-11, Rom 13:7=Mark 12:17, Rom 6:12-14=Mark 9:42-47, 2 Cor 9:6-15=Mark 12:41-44, 2 Cor 11:13-15=Mark 13:21-23, Gal 5:13-15=Mark 12:28-34, 1 Thes 5:4-11=Mark 13:32-37, Phil 3:21=Mark 12:25, 1 Thes 4:16=Mark 14:62, Gal 2:11=Mark 8:33, Gal 4:6=Mark 14:36, 1 Cor 5:6-8=Mark 8:15 

 
31 minutes ago, eight bits said:

Not according to Josephus. The washing was a capstone ritual which achieved the obvious physical result: a clean body, whose symbolic significance was that the soul had already been cleansed by getting right with G_d. Paul's interpretation requires a Christ figure already crucified and resurrected, and neither Josephus nor the canon has John teaching anything about that.

You're right. It's been awhile since I read Antiquities. But they are still very simular though differ in base theology. 

Both take a less significance role for the flesh. Paul just takes it a step further by righteousness through Christ's death. To Paul sinful flesh is for Satan to treat as what a dog would do to a rawhide.

31 minutes ago, eight bits said:

If you're sniffing around Vridar, you might also look at some of the posts there about possible Greek influences directly on Hebrew scripture.

Hebrew scripture has several influences.

No comment on Dennis Macdonald's findings? 

Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark

https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/homerandmark.html

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Davros of Skaro
6 minutes ago, Will Due said:

I agree Mark is the canonical root of the Christian Gospel.

However it dilutes, the good news of the fatherhood of God and the materialization of the brotherhood of men proclaimed by Jesus, with Paul's personal religious ideas.

Actually the Gospels dilute the true message of Jesus that Paul was conveying. You have it turned around, and diluting it further with your cult book.

6 minutes ago, Will Due said:

As I've mentioned before, I only use books as a reference to help me understand better how to engage directly with an individual unique part of the Absolute that indwells us all.

In my estimation that's what all these types of books are for.

That’s another area you got backwards. You kick logic to the curb for your imagination to rule the roost.

flintstones_airplane.jpg

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, Davros of Skaro said:

Actually the Gospels dilute the true message of Jesus that Paul was conveying. 

 

If Jesus is the God Paul said he is, don't you think God would eventually get the true message of Jesus sent to us without anyone needing to convey it for him (and possibly getting it wrong) like it was necessary in ancient times before modern printing and now the internet?

According to what the Bible says Jesus said, the time will come when everything hidden will be uncovered. 

Aren't you interested in what's been uncovered now?

 

 

Edited by Will Due

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Davros of Skaro
57 minutes ago, Will Due said:

 

If Jesus is the God Paul said he is, don't you think God would eventually get the true message of Jesus sent to us without anyone needing to convey it for him (and possibly getting it wrong) like it was necessary in ancient times before modern printing and now the internet?

According to what the Bible says Jesus said, the time will come when everything hidden will be uncovered. 

Aren't you interested in what's been uncovered now?

I'm not interested in a self writing cult book that has man flying by bird power.

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Will Due
4 minutes ago, Davros of Skaro said:

I'm not interested

 

Neither was Joseph ben Caiaphas.

 

 

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Sherapy
2 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

Yes it's plausible, and mainstrean. I would not call it solid considering the evidence thus my conjecture.

We don't know who he is either. Though his Gospel is low spoken Greek, it reveals higher learning.

Unless he was commissioned to write Mark for the interest of others? I would say he was very likely Christian, and very Pauline theologically at that. 

Do I have to post this again (keeping in mind it's not an exhaustive representation)?

2 Cor 8:9=Mark 10:17-22, 1 Cor 13:2=Mark 11:23, 1 Cor 3:10-11=Mark 12:10-11, Rom 13:7=Mark 12:17, Rom 6:12-14=Mark 9:42-47, 2 Cor 9:6-15=Mark 12:41-44, 2 Cor 11:13-15=Mark 13:21-23, Gal 5:13-15=Mark 12:28-34, 1 Thes 5:4-11=Mark 13:32-37, Phil 3:21=Mark 12:25, 1 Thes 4:16=Mark 14:62, Gal 2:11=Mark 8:33, Gal 4:6=Mark 14:36, 1 Cor 5:6-8=Mark 8:15 

 

You're right. It's been awhile since I read Antiquities. But they are still very simular though differ in base theology. 

Both take a less significance role for the flesh. Paul just takes it a step further by righteousness through Christ's death. To Paul sinful flesh is for Satan to treat as what a dog would do to a rawhide.

Hebrew scripture has several influences.

No comment on Dennis Macdonald's findings? 

Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark

https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/homerandmark.html

Welcome back Darv:wub:

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Will Due said:

However it dilutes, the good news of the fatherhood of God and the materialization of the brotherhood of men proclaimed by Jesus, with Paul's personal religious ideas.

The hitch in the giddyup is attaining adequate confidence that "Jesus" was ever anything more than just another of Paul's personal religious ideas.

I realize how easy it is to get there by faith, but I prefer to follow evidence, of which there isn't much.

 

@Davros of Skaro

I think discussion of Mark in general should be deferred to that thread you've been promising since Christ made corporal. Besides, I think some of the points you've just brought up are matters you and I have discussed before in other threads (e.g. the Homeric influence question). John the Baptist as a character in Mark is on-topic here, maybe we should stay close to that when we sally forth into the muddy waters of Mark?

One idea that Mark introudces which I think is huge is the hypothesis he places both in the mouths of unspecified plural people and in the mouth of Antipas (6:12-16):

Quote

[The disciples] went out and preached that people should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed many with oil who were sick and healed them. King Herod heard this, for [Jesus'] name had become known, and they [unspecified] said, “John the Baptizer has risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” Others said, “He is a prophet, or like one of the prophets.” But Herod, when he heard this, said, “This is John, whom I beheaded. He has risen from the dead.”

Later, the disciples repeat that the resurrection of John is on the lips of people in general (8:27-28):

Quote

Jesus went out, with his disciples, into the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?”They told him, “John the Baptizer, and others say Elijah, but others, one of the prophets.”

I don't know if Mark is witnessing here to a resurrection tradition for John, earlier than Jesus' own, but he plainly thinks his audience will find this idea plausible, and we know that this idea survived in later Gospels (Matthew 14:2 and Luke 9:7 for Antipas' opinion; Matthew 16:13-14 and Luke 9:18-19 for hoi polloi), so early Christians must have found this plausible.

To hear Paul tell it, Jesus' resurrection is the first fruits of a general resurrection and the sign that Jesus has attained a deputy-divine status.

Mark may make you wonder if anybody back then ever thought that John was the first fruits, and whether we are seeing some kind of mystical merger of two religious figures in early Christianity: a historical martyred John and a visionary sacrificial Jesus.

Why two, when one would do? One possibility: There is no indication in Josephus that John had any interest in Gentiles one way or the other; Markan Jesus emphasizes a Jewish audience, but is open to (if not super enthusiastic about) Gentile participation. Pauline Jesus, then, may have opened the door for Paul to bring authentic John-pioneered salvation methodology to the underserved Gentile market.

Regardless, something is going on there.

 

 

Edited by eight bits
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, eight bits said:

The hitch in the giddyup is attaining adequate confidence that "Jesus" was ever anything more than just another of Paul's personal religious ideas.

 

I understand. 

From a certain point of view everything religious and everybody written about in holy books are nothing more than characters in a story or a figment of somebody's imagination. 

And from the other point of view; fragmented, torn and diluted as they are, propagandized distorted and maligned even, billions are still encouraged and find solace in having faith in what to them are much more than just stories. Albeit the experience isn't with the words in a book.

 

 

Edited by Will Due
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Batanat
12 hours ago, eight bits said:

It is interesting that in European iconography, John is often portrayed holding a staff with a cross piece. He wasn't a Christian, he didn't die on a cross, Gospel John doesn't proclaim Jesus' death - so where'd the European cross of John come from?

As to the Mandaean one, theirs isn't directly John's. Although no outsider knows, I deeply suspect that the darfash symbolism has a "public" interpretation (something like divine light suffusing creation throughout the cardinal directions) and a distinct initiates'  interpretation. Such "double meaning" is typical of mystery societies (religious or quasi-secular like the Masons), and darned if the darfash doesn't look ripe for plural interpretation.

But of course I don't know. As you say, however, it is intriguing.

Yeah, you may well be right about the exoteric-esoteric darfash. And yes, John's standard cross-staff in European art is very interesting indeed. Not quite a darfash, as you say, but there does seem to be some significance of the cross to John the Baptist that's totally unrelated to Jesus or crucifixion, which is intriguing indeed.

12 hours ago, eight bits said:

Yes. Curiously, and despite the best efforts of translators to get Paul in line, Paul never does quite say that Jesus died on a cross-or-stake, just that the corpse ended up displayed on something wooden. The guild position seems to be (when this comes up at all) that Paul was mainly concerned with the gibbeting that is inherent in execution by crucifixion, since it is the gibbeting that is cursed in Deuteronomy 21:23, and would thus be an apparent scriptural impediment to Jesus being the Christ.

Yeah, Paul seems to be deliberately quite vague about that. Being killed or tortured and then strung up on a gibbet seems to evoke Attis, or even Inanna. Not derivative directly thereof, of course, but the trope of a savior slain and their corpse hanged seems to have been present in the Near East and East Mediterranean world for a long time. So the idea that an iteration of that same trope appeared originally in earliest Christianity wouldn't be all that surprising. Interesting for sure though.

12 hours ago, eight bits said:

The Gospel-Acts canon is also equivocal about how Jesus would end up on a Roman cross-or-stake. Supposedly, the priests need Pilate's help because they have no legal way to kill anybody, and yet just a few years later, they kill Stephen legally and publicly enough (with Paul running the coat-check concession). John offers the strong suggestion that the woman taken in adultery was in mortal peril had Jesus not rescued her (OK, that's not originally John, but it is canonical).

And what's the hang-up with legality all of a sudden? Gospel Jesus is in Temple custody overnight. He wouldn't be the first inconvenient prisoner to be dispatched while trying to escape, or there's the ever-popular guard-assisted suicide. Pilate is going to launch an investigation into the matter?

Yeah it's a total farce. Trying to somehow get the Romans involved when it's already violating Sanhedrin protocols is absurd. Riots would be virtually inevitable no matter what, as we see in Josephus in the aftermath of James' death at the hands of an ad hoc Sanhedrin under Ananus II, which clearly neither required the greenlight nor supervision of the Roman authorities. Presumably those who would be rioting would be those who were supporters of the person unjustly killed: why would their executioners be worried about the Romans cracking down on the rioters? Sure, there could be collateral damage, but I'd think, frankly, that it would take a lot off of the priests' plate if they could not only dispatch the leader but let the Romans massacre and suppress the followers for them. Sure, I suppose one could argue that they were worried that the Romans could mistake it for a revolt and respond with shock-and-awe or something, but clearly Ananus didn't take that into his consideration when having James killed. 

And quite frankly, I don't see how the "people would have rioted" idea can be reconciled with the very common historicist "Jesus was a total nobody with almost no following" idea. They seem mutually exclusive. If theoretical riots would have been so bad and large that the Romans could have mistaken them for a revolution, then surely the number of followers would have to be very substantial. Whereas if Jesus was so obscure that he had only a handful of supporters, whence comes the supposed hesitance of the Sanhedrin to simply execute Jesus themselves and be done with it? 

Shoehorning in both the Roman and Jewish authorities is clearly a labored effort by the evangelists. And it ends up being such a convoluted mess because it doesn't add up for either one. They had totally differing agendas, would have totally different motives for executing Jesus, and would have little reason to both get involved on what ought to have been an extremely open-and-shut case.

12 hours ago, eight bits said:

Even the logic of the hand-over makes no sense in context. The Temple pays Judas good money in order to take Jesus at night, far away from crowds, despite Jesus being surrounded by Temple guards day after day, available for free. Why? Because the people will riot. So, then what? Jesus is executed in the most public way available. Plus, to get him there, the Temple authorities have to stir up a crowd to pressure Pilate to carry out the execution. That's a mighty strange way to avoid a riot, particularly since the historical Pilate had this thing about managing unruly crowds with lethal force.

Yeah, the gospels seem to totally ignore the existence of guards or soldiers until they need them. The Temple guards just stood by and did nothing as Jesus ransacked the currency exchange tables and menaced the clerks with a whip? Or the Roman regiments marching nearby, around Fort Antonia? Or what about the time Jesus came triumphantly into the city with crowds of people treating him like a monarch? The Romans throughout Jerusalem wouldn't have noticed that?   

One can almost envision a Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead-esque scene in which the Romans and Temple guards are simply standing by watching the events of the gospels, wondering why they aren't being ordered to do something, lol :lol:

12 hours ago, eight bits said:

Based on Romans 6:3-5, vicarious participation in Jesus' passion is Paul's interpretation of baptism. (Yet another reason to give some weight to Paul's silence on Jesus' manner of death). I don't think the early Christians did anything weirder than that.

I think from various hints a simulated crucifixion ritual could be inferred (Galatians 6:17 for instance could be read that way), but yeah, who knows? Flagellatory practices seem compatible with early Christian beliefs to me, so a kind of reenactment of the death, hanging, burial, and resurrection seems credible to me. Perhaps even a final ceremony to complete the initiations and sympathetically attain oneness with the savior. But yeah, Paul has a habit of using very slippery and vague and esoteric language, so it's difficult to say.

12 hours ago, eight bits said:

Wouldn't it be a hoot if the origin of the Jesus myth was some poor fellow named Joshua who drowned in the Jordan during one of John's baptisms? John fishes the poor guy out with his wooden staff, and then realizes "Oh crap, I'm displaying his corpse on a piece of wood. There must be a lesson in this."

That would be a hoot indeed :lol: And it's a fair speculation!

 

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Batanat
15 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

First off Paul gives no dates in any of the nonpseuedographical epistles. He gives some time between certain activities, but no specific dates. Paul could have been writing in the first century BCE, but that's hard to prove. The dates for the epistles is inference from the dubious Gospels, and Acts. I doubt John the Baptist was part of the Pillars, or rather group Paul talks about, nor any credible evidence of.

That's true. His timetable, as with most things he wrote, is vague and can be read multiple ways. Personally I think that the dating hinging on the 44CE famine is most plausible, but there are certainly other readings which could date the events in Galatians either earlier or later than the 27-44 chronology I tend to favor.

15 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

I would not trust anything about John except what Josephus mentions. He must have had a sizeable following for Josephus to mention him other than to further paint the picture of who executed him. I believe imho that whoever wrote Mark took what they found in Josephus's Antiquities about John to fill out his narrative. If my opinion is true? This would make the first Gospel written called Mark penned in the very late 1st century CE instead of the popular circa 70 CE. 

I tend to date Mark (or at least a recension of Mark more similar to our own; an earlier draft could have existed in the 60s or 70s) to sometime in the 80s or even 90s. This is interesting on multiple accounts. 1.) Whether we assume the author of Mark is writing earlier or later, his knowledge of John the Baptist's mere existence is a question unto itself. Clearly he had some degree of fame, for Josephus to have not only written about him many decades after the fact, but to have implied that the defeat of Antipas was karmic judgment for having executed John. (Given Josephus was probably a very young child during John's last days, it's possible that his knowledge and views on John may be influenced by some degree of nostalgia for a famous figure he knew about as a kid; so it's possible that he might be slightly exaggerating John's renown, who knows?) Mark has often been taken to be Roman (I find this plausible, but it's not the only possibility), and moreover one who would appear never to have visited the Levant himself: so how (assuming he didn't use Josephus as a source; though of course he might have) did he know about this Baptizer fellow who'd died many decades earlier in another country he'd never visited? This implies that there might have been early proto-Mandeans/Sabians who venerated John that had either spread beyond the Levant, or were very closely tied to (or at the very least well-known by) early Christian communities within Mark's sphere.

2.) As I said in my initial post: yeah, the discrepancy between Josephus' description of John's teachings and the words put in his mouth by Mark is indeed interesting, and seems like a deliberate ideological subversion. Josephus preserves what the real John preached, while the writer of Mark simply appropriates John as a mouthpiece for Christian (Pauline-type) doctrine. I've often noted how Mark seems fond of inverting, subverting, and otherwise playing around with the content and form of his source materials (e.g., his pericopes borrowing scenes from the Tanakh seem almost without exception to reverse the structure of those scenes and thereby subvert or alter the meaning in some way). Mark going out of his way to subvert the historical John and mold him into a pseudo-Paul of sorts isn't too bizarre. What's strange is that in doing this, he's not trying to subvert John to the point that he becomes incompatible or antagonistic towards Christianity. He subverts him with clear intent to co-opt him, not to demonize or humiliate him. And this is interesting, because as we see from the ideological jabs at Cephas (and probably other non-Pauline sects) by Mark, this guy was clearly not above making caricatures of even major apostles. In sparing John the Baptist such treatment, many questions arise. Was John regarded with a similar magnitude of reverence as Christ? Was John the inspiration for the human Jesus? Was the relationship of the early Christians to the early disciples of John the Baptist so close that the two were seen almost as dual messiahs (perhaps like the paired Elijah-Enoch, Metatron-Sandalphon typology found in esoteric Jewish literature, as I've sometimes wondered)?

15 hours ago, Davros of Skaro said:

The Mandeans look to be simular to other spurious Jewish sects outside the Temple system with syncretism to Hellenistic philosophy, and post Babylonian captivity diaspora Persian theology. It's hard to tell if their John Baptiser tradition is Gospel influenced legend, or goes back to the core of the person Josephus mentions? Speaking of which be careful of conflating later legends with gaps in our knowledge of the ancient world.

Yeah the origins of the Mandeans are obscure, and as we've discussed, whether there's a strong continuity directly between them and the man himself is hard to determine. I don't find it likely that they have been influenced or derived too strongly by or from Gospel Christianity, since they reject the gospels and Jesus quite emphatically (a rather unlikely move to take had they emerged from within Christian tradition itself). I characterize them as a sister group that's closest to early pre-gospel Christianity and/or Gnostic Christian sects (which, depending on who you ask, may or may not be one and the same), which could credibly put their origins in the time of the Baptizer; but yeah, we can't know for sure. 

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eight bits
On 10/9/2019 at 7:00 PM, Batanat said:

Mark going out of his way to subvert the historical John and mold him into a pseudo-Paul of sorts isn't too bizarre.

Or maybe a forerunner of Paul, even while on the surface of the story, positioning him as a forerunner of Jesus. Josephus doesn't give John's cause of death, but Mark goes with beheading, the traditional cause of Paul's death. Mark's John never endorses Jesus as the true Messiah (just as Paul initially didn't), and John is pointedly excluded from the baptismal visionary experience which carries the same information as Paul says he got from his visions - but not in time to avoid opposing and even hating the Jesus movement.

On a point arising, though

On 10/9/2019 at 7:00 PM, Batanat said:

And this is interesting, because as we see from the ideological jabs at Cephas (and probably other non-Pauline sects) by Mark, this guy was clearly not above making caricatures of even major apostles.

I think Mark's jabbing at Rocky may be over-rated, and reflects harmonization with the later Gospels. The first clue, I think, is that Mark's Peter is one of the most sympathetic secondary characters in world literature. That's an odd outcome if a writer as skilled as Mark was looking to portray Peter as a loser.

If we only had Mark, so nobody felt the need to harmonize Peter's story arc across the canon, then it would be more obvious what's on the page. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus instructs Peter directly to tell nobody that Jesus is the Christ. On the night of the arrest, yes, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him three times before morning. But Peter also makes a prediction, that he will stay with Jesus even when all the others have left him.

And so it comes to pass. Only Peter is still with Jesus at the time of the trial, right outside in the courtyard, just as he said. What Peter doesn't know (and this is only laid out this way in Mark) is that Jesus has already spilled the Messianic beans to the Sanhedrin. From Peter's point of view, he can't defend Jesus, or even thinks that he can only make Jesus' predicament worse by trying. So yes, he denies Jesus as the necessary step to do the only thing he can do, and the thing he has promised to do, and that which he alone has done: stay close by. But it unravels. The servant won't shut up. Somebody else appoints themselves dialect connoisseur. Peter can't stay; at some point the guards will make a move. cawk-a-doodle-do, and Peter realizes that he is existentially stuffed.

That plays a lot differently than a comical cowardly blowhard, no?

 

 

Edited by eight bits
The language filters disapproved of what a rooster says.
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