2011-07-21

“Son of David” as an anachronism (or metaphor?) in the Gospels, Paul and Acts?

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by Neil Godfrey

Updated with NT passages for reference

This follows my previous post that set me thinking along a related line. The verse for the day is Horsley’s sentence that I quoted there:

It would thus appear that the supposedly standard Jewish ideas or expectations of the messiah are a flimsy foundation indeed from which to explain early Christian understanding of Jesus.

Now if it is the case that the notion of a Davidic Messiah was something that was only on the horizon of literary elites, and if even there it was an idea to be realized only in a vague and remote future time, and if the idea of a Davidic Messiah was a metaphor and not a genetic son of David, — recall Horsley’s other observation that “Like the title ‘Messiah,’ the explicit term ‘Son of David’ simply does not occur with any frequency in Jewish literature until after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.” — then should not we raise a questioning eyebrow when we see Jesus being hailed as the Messianic Son of David in the Gospels, and when we read in Romans the claim that Jesus was a Son of David? (Son of Belial, we all know, means  a bad person, not a literal son.)

Now in my previous post I pointed out that Horsley said the idea of a Davidic messiah was very rare and confined to literary elites in the time prior to Jesus. Here I look at his discussion of these exceptions.

Qumran — the exception proving the rule

My earliest questioning as I read Horsley was related to Qumran. But here is what Horsley wrote in expectation of my question:

It is clear from this passage [4QFlor 1:10-13], as well as others, that for Qumran the Branch of David was one of the principle agents of imminent eschatological fulfilment. He was expected to rescue Israel from domination by foreign rulers, even to achieve victory over the nations. He was to be honored with a glorious enthronement and was expected to rule over all peoples, as well as to establish justice within Israel. Here the priestly scribes at Qumran have picked up an important concern of the ancient tradition of kingship. (p. 104)

By the ‘ancient tradition of kingship’ Horsley is speaking of the tradition of the time of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah — ancient by the standards of Qumran, not just ancient by our standards. It should also be realized that the Qumran community does not represent popular ideology but is a cultic elite.

But here is the interesting bit he throws up for thought:

As strikingly as these passages indicate a revival of messianic expectations, such expectations by no means dominant ed the eschatological outlook of the [Qumran] community. Not only did the Anointed Priest and eschatological prophet or teacher have more prominent roles, but the Qumranites seem to have resisted placing messianic interpretations on what might appear to us as royal messianic texts. In one of the principal messianic passages of the Damascus Rule (7:14-21), for example, the fallen “tabernacle of David” (Amos 9:11) which is to be raised up is understood as “the books of the Law,” “king” is found to mean the Assembly, and the “Star” from Jacob is understood as referring to the Prince of the Congregation. The Qumran texts generally resist using the word “king” in reference to the Anointed of Israel, following the usage of Ezekiel who prefers “prince.”

Horsley has been describing the Qumran community in the generations leading up to the time of Roman conquest. He continues:

It would appear that in later Qumran literature, composed in Roman times, the royal figure is more prominent. Yet even in these texts the Branch of David will rule, not according to his own viewpoint, but as he is instructed by the priests, directly contradicting the Is. 11 text that is being interpreted (see 4QpIsa). In the priestly Qumran community, the anointed royal figure was always subordinated to their intense concern for careful interpretation of covenant law, as well as for calculating the historical application of God’s eschatological mysteries. (p. 104)

Psalm of Solomon 17

Horsley continues his discussion of the development of the idea in the elite literate class.

Toward the beginning of the Roman period there was also a resurgence of expectation of an anointed royal figure in other literate circles. In the Ps. Sol. 17, the focus is on the actual earthly establishment of the Kingdom of God, following rule by illegitimate usurpers and conquest by foreign nations. The psalm is an appeal for, and an anticipatory description of, the rule of the future king, the son of David. Thus,

Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David, at the time in the which Thou seest, O God, that he may reign over Israel Thy servant and gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, and that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample (her) down to destruction. . . . . And he (shall be) a righteous king, taught of God . . . . He will rebuke rulers, and remove sinners by the might of his word. (Ps. Sol. 17:23-24, 35, 41)

Although the psalm is based on biblical texts it is not (Horsley is explaining) simply a repetition of biblical texts.

The expectations in this psalm focus exclusively on a royal figure: a son of David, a righteous king. He is expected both to end the reign of unrighteous rulers within the society and to liberate Jerusalem from foreign domination. He is expected to destroy foreign enemies and bring the heathen nations under his own righteous rule. Within Israel he will bring an end to injustice and oppression so that the whole society will dwell in righteousness. The fact that the future king will be the “anointed of the Lord” is directly connected with the anticipation that justice will finally be established in the society. (p. 15)

But then Horsley points out another observation of significant importance for the topic I am interested in:

Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that the expectation is strongly spiritualized, particularly the political-military imagery: he shall not place trust in military forces and technology, but in spiritual forces. The anointed king will rebuke or destroy the unrighteous rulers by the word of his mouth. The Psalms of Solomon express an expectation of a teacher-king, a royal agent of eschatological Torah, an anointed one conceived, perhaps, in the author’s own image, who would be able to bring the true kingdom of God into effect. (p. 106, my emphasis)

Back to the question of anachronism (or metaphor)

I think Horsley’s study, as I’ve discussed in this and the previous post, obligates us to pause and think carefully about Jesus being described as the Son of David in a mid-first century setting.

  • Was this really an expression of popular expectation?
  • Does it make sense in the historical intellectual context as portrayed by Horsley to imagine disciples of Jesus being so disillusioned over Jesus as an apparent Davidic deliverer of “popular expectation” that they found solace by turning him into a spiritual one, let alone a “Son of David”?
  • Did the early (first century?) Christian authors themselves introduce the concept and inject it into their narratives about Jesus?
  • Or do the references to Son of David and House of David in the Gospels, Romans and Acts betray a second century influence, interpolation or even creation?
  • Or if original in Romans then do we not have another perspective on spirituality of the concept as Doherty has argued?

Just thoughts. But one thing is sure. The questions are surely legitimate and worth thinking through.

.


Here are some of the passages that I have in mind —

Romans 1:

[1] Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

[2] (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

[3] Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh

.

Mark 10:

[46] And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

[47] And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

[48] And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Mark 11:

[8] And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.

[9] And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

[10] Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

[11] And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple

Mark 12:

[35] And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?

[36] For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

[37] David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.

.

Matthew 1:

[1] The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 12:

[22] Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.

[23] And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?

Matthew 15:

[22] And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

Matthew 21:

[9] And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

[15] And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,.

.

John 7:

[41] Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?

[42] Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?

.

Luke 1:

[26] And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

[27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

[32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

[67] And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

[68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

[69] And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;

Luke 2:

[4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

[10] And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

[11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

.

Acts 13:

[20] And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

[21] And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

[22] And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

[23] Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

22 Comments

  • 2011-07-21 11:15:49 UTC - 11:15 | Permalink

    I did not state it in my post, but what went through my mind re Psalm of Solomon 17 was that this is not depicting the anticipated-historical-this-worldly Davidic messiah that some scholars say was extant among Jews and that the disciples of Jesus reinterpreted to apply to Jesus in a spiritual manner.

    Rather, this is the very same idea that we find in some Christian texts. The Christian idea is not a reinterpretation of a “physical” Jewish idea but a borrowing of a Jewish idea wholus-bowlus and applying it to Jesus without modification. This is thus no different from any other literary borrowing — such as the borrowing of the plot lines for the raising of Jairus’ daughter from Elisha’s miracle.

    In other words, the Christian idea that matches the one in Ps Sol 17 is not the outcome of a tormented struggle on the part of disillusioned disciples trying to make sense of the death of Jesus by reinterpreting scriptures. It is a simple borrowing of an extant idea. The question then becomes among whom, where and when was this particular concept circulating, and what factors were involved in leading some Christians to pinch it?

  • John
    2011-07-21 23:58:51 UTC - 23:58 | Permalink

    The main reason the Jews started the war with Rome, according to Josephus, was an oracle they interpreted to mean that “one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth” (War 6.312). Josephus applies this instead to Vespasian, and Doherty suggests that this is why Origen says that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was “Christ.” In any event, This alone is a good indication that Jews were expecting a “messiah,” to such an extent that they started (and ultimately lost) a war with Rome.

    In addition to this, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls, which, however it may be understood, also expected a messiah (or two or three or whatever).

    If there’s not much more than this to indicate that first century Jews expected a messiah (though I think the above is plenty), I suppose it’s because (judging from Josephus and the fate of the DSS group) Jews who had this belief then generally did not get to continue to live to talk and write about it. If the DSS were not hidden and found in caves, we would not know of them. In contrast, we have always had the writings of people who interpreted
    messianic oracles to apply to Vespasian or a Rome-friendly heavenly Jesus.

    • 2011-07-22 00:47:38 UTC - 00:47 | Permalink

      Hi John. Josephus is describing a time from the mid 60’s when conditions apparently dragged the people into war and messianic hopes of delIverance. It is from this period on that we have evidence for popular messianic hopes for the first time. As for the DSS I should have clarified that Horsley addresses them as the products of the Qumran community.

      • John
        2011-07-22 01:35:11 UTC - 01:35 | Permalink

        Whatver the conditions were that inspired the uprising against Rome, the mid-60’s and after were also roughly the same time period of the production of Christian literature. Josephus, the rabbis and “Pauline” Christianity had a more Rome-friendly understanding of “the messiah,” while those who didn’t perished. All of them dealt with the first century expectation of a “messiah.”

        The Qumran community does not appear to be isolated from the events of their time (whether in the first century or not), to judge from both their literature and the archaeological remains at Qumran (like coins, which go up to 68 CE, and even some from the Bar Kochba era, if I recall corectly), and thus are evidence for messianic expectation of the late second temple era among the disenfranchised.

        I assume you are wondering where the evidence is for “messianism” before the 60’s, and I suppose it is the anti-Roman activity that Josephus documents from Judas the Galilean to the First Revolt, and the apocalyptic literature of the sort found at Qumran. The absence of anything else is understandable, as I said, because Jews who had this belief generally did not get to live to write about it, or if they did they had to hide it.

        The conditions of the mid-60’s appear to have been the “last straw” for people who had fought Herod and the Roman occupation from the beginning, who no longer had a Hasmonean king.

        • 2011-07-22 09:47:10 UTC - 09:47 | Permalink

          I also think it is significant that, as you point out, it is the time of the production of the Christian literature that we find the evidence for the messianic expectations that we find referenced in the Gospels themselves. This favours the point that such messianic references in the Gospels are anachronisms and do not go back to what was on the mind of any disciple of Jesus in the time of Pilate.

          I focussed on this more in my previous post, but Horsley points out that we have no reason to think that any of those rebel movements before the war were “messianic” in any way. Some may have wanted to act out a Joshua event, maybe, that is, to mimic a biblical hero of the past, but there is nothing here to indicate they were looking for some long-anticipated royal messiah. Rebel movements are not uniquely Jewish, either, of course.

          The Qumran/DSS evidence does refer to a messiah, as you said, but it seems you are not convinced by my presentation of Horsley’s point that this is not representative of popular thought and is even vitiated among that community by being turned into a metaphor and being used as a foil to justify priestly rule.

          • John
            2011-07-23 02:02:34 UTC - 02:02 | Permalink

            Josephus makes the connection himself between Judas the Galilean’s “fourth philosophy” and the messianic revolt of the mid-60’s:

            “And it was in Gessius Florus’ time [the mid-60’s] that the nation began to grow mad with this disease [that began with Judas] … and he occassioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans” (Ant. 18.23-25).

            It’s been awhile since I’ve thought much about the OT, but wasn’t it normal for priests to “rule over” kings? The king was even required to “write for himself in a book a copy of this law, from that which is in charge of the Levitical priests” (Dt. 17:18). The priesthood was older than kings, and most of the Torah pertains to them and their sacrificial system, and very little to kings. It seems normal enough that the DSS group thought that
            “the messiah” was to be a subservient to priestly rule.

            The idea of being “priests” in the DSS was more symbolic than real, in any event. The Damascus Document lays this out plainly when interpreting the meaning of “the Priests and the Levites and the Sons of Zadok” in Ezk. 44:15:

            “‘The Priests’ are the Penitents of Israel, who went out from the Land of Judah and ‘the Joiners’ with them” (CD 4.2-3). They even change the spelling of “Levites” to nilvim to force their interpretation of it to mean “Joiners’ instead of actual “priests.”

            The DSS group seem to be more like “regular guys” trying to “do the right thing” in an era of “wickedness,” who represented people they call things like “the poor,” “the Doers of the Torah in the House of Judah whom God will save,” and “the Simple Ones of Judah doing the Torah” in the Habakkuk Pesher.

            And they had a lot of expectation for a messiah. Does the all messianic expectation in the DSS and Pseudepigrapha stem from the mid-60’s, or was it something that had percolated among “the poor” since the fall of the Hasmoneans and inspired the apocalyptic literature and the “deceivers” and “magicians” in Josephus during the Roman era?

            • John
              2011-07-23 02:09:11 UTC - 02:09 | Permalink

              I should have mentioned that it is Eisenman that brought to my attention that the DSS group changed “Levites” to nilvim.

              • 2011-07-23 07:42:44 UTC - 07:42 | Permalink

                On another topic for the moment, this sort of thing was one of the practices of midrash — and we find Matthew doing something similar with his changing of a word for branch into a similar one for a town Nazareth.

            • 2011-07-23 07:41:06 UTC - 07:41 | Permalink

              Does Josephus really suggest that Judas the Galilean’s rebellion had anything messianic about it? I will be posting again on Horsley’s survey of the evidence for the rise of popular messianism from the 60’s on.

  • Geoff
    2011-07-22 19:21:12 UTC - 19:21 | Permalink

    The so-called Qumran community was completely destroyed by the Roman army. (In any case I don’t believe there was any such thing as a Qumran community – I basically go with Golb). The first revolt was limited to Judea, but exaggerated by Flavian editors to cover other areas such as Galilee in the writings attributed to Josephus. It was the priests who were doing the fighting. THEY WERE MESSIANIC. Roman forces under Nero invaded Judea in 66. The priests had got wind of an invasion. Many priests fanned-out into Judea and took over the fortresses such as Qumran and Machaerus, taking with them their scrolls – scrolls have been found strewn in a number of Judean locations, not just at Qumran. The priests had already captured Masada from Agrippa I’s soldiers.

    The priests who were doing the fighting had previously been banned by Herod the Great (at the end of his reign) from the temple. There were no sacrifices of animals. But in the reign of Agrippa I they had gained control of the temple, killed the king and taken over Masada from the king’s forces.

  • Pingback: Vridar » Jesus the Seed of David: One More Case for Interpolation

  • Tariq
    2015-02-19 05:32:54 UTC - 05:32 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    Hope you read comments on old blogposts!

    Two of the NT references you quote caught my attention:

    Mark 12:
    [35] And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?
    [36] For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
    [37] David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.

    and:

    John 7:
    [41] Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
    [42] Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?

    These two quotes imply that Jesus was NOT from the seed of David and so needed to explain why, because there was an expectation among those receiving the Gospel – whether we mean by that the audience in the Gospel or those reading the Gospel – that the Christ/Messiah would be of the Seed of David.

    Hence in the quote from Mark above, Jesus asks rhetorically, ‘How say the scribes Christ is the Son of David?’ By Christ here he means the Messiah they are expecting. He then explains from Scripture that the Christ is NOT the Son of David, because in Psalm 110, David calls him Lord and therefore he cannot be his Son.

    Similarly in John, the objection is that Christ cometh of the seed of David (i.e. the Christ they are expecting) AND out of the town of Bethlehem, neither of which are fulfilled in the current candidate, Jesus.

    The understanding I present of Mark above assumes that Jesus objects to the scribes contention that the Christ is the literal son of David. It is also possible that he objects to their contention that he is the metaphoric son of David, because he believes his stature is greater than that of David. However, this also entails that he is not the literal son of David, otherwise anyone listening to him could reasonably answer ‘But hold on a minute, you ARE the son of David, so what are you objecting to?’.

    Now, this helps us make sense of Paul’s need to argue that Jesus was the Christ from scripture in the epistles, just as Jesus is arguing that he is the Christ from scripture above in Mark. If the Jesus that he was arguing was the Christ was a perfect fit for the job, there would be no need to make an argument for his case from scripture.

    Jews prior to Paul had two beliefs of relevance. Firstly, they believed in an angel, the Beloved of God, who was exalted to almost divine stature. This is posited by Margaret Barker in The Great Angel. The secret/tremendous name of this Angel, as revealed in the Ascension of Isaiah is ‘Jesus’. Compare this with Yahweh, the special name of God, to give you an idea of the divine nature of this angel. Obviously, this Jesus was not of the lineage of David, nor would it have been appropriate to refer to him as the Son of David metaphorically, because his status is greater than David’s. This is what ‘Jesus’ is arguing in Mark above from Psalm 110.

    Secondly, they believed in a Christ/Messiah/Savior who would come and rescue them from their current situation. They believed this Christ would from the lineage of David: a son of David.

    The religious innovation of Paul – or the sect to which he belonged – was to associate these two concepts; to say that Jesus the semi-divine angel was the Messiah. Hence his need to argue that Jesus was the Christ from scripture, just as Jesus does here in Mark, because people are expecting the Christ/Messiah – according to their understanding of scripture – to be from the line of David, not for him to turn out to be the angel Jesus. Then arises the question of how this Jesus-angel Messiah provides salvation for Israel, which was the expected function of the Messiah, to which Paul’s answer was the final part of his innovation – the crucifixion. So he turned it from a physical salvation into a spiritual salvation. Hence the crucifixion being a stumbling block for the Jews, as he says in his epistles.

    Make sense?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-02-19 08:04:45 UTC - 08:04 | Permalink

      Makes sense, but I have to say I have questions about some of the assumptions you raise even though they are conventional ones. You might be interested in my series of posts on Novenson’s book, Christ Among the Messiahs; also Was Paul Really Persecuted for Preaching Christ Crucified where I find myself siding with Morton Smith’s argument that the crucified Christ ideas itself was not an offence to the Jews. That same point, I have since learned, is also argued by James C. Hanges. And iconoclast that I am, I also question the common claim that Second Temple Jews generally believed in a Davidic Messiah to come and liberate them.

      • Tariq
        2015-02-22 08:21:20 UTC - 08:21 | Permalink

        Neil,

        Thanks for the links. Yes, you are right; a crucified Christ was not a novel idea. People had been preaching it prior to Paul. His innovation, as you say, was to interpret the crucifixion as entailing the abrogation of the Law – definitely a stumbling block for Jews.

        Giuseppe: Maybe my previous comment was not very clear. It left a few things unsaid, which I will try to fill out now.

        I first read Roger Parvus’ posts on the Simonian origins of Christianity last summer. I found it very interesting and largely convincing. More importantly, it provided a framework through which one could understand the texts that we now have and ‘what actually happened.’

        I had always felt that mythicists did not have a cogent explanation for Christianity. The Church had given us one explanation: HJ, four gospels written by first-/second-generation followers, Paul a bit later on, writes the epistles, other epistles written by Apostles, etc. Mythicists pointed out the holes in this theory and presented partial solutions; Jesus as non-corporeal being, Jesus as dying-rising God, Jesus as re-write of mystery religion, etc., but no-one (as far as I know) provided an all-encompassing narrative that made sense of Christianity. This is where I felt Roger’s thesis was particularly strong.

        I have since thought more on the subject and other bits and pieces have fallen into place. Subsequently I discovered that others have said similar things on some points – always comforting – such as Allegro, Massyngberde Forde. The rest remains my own conjecture.

        So here it is, my theory of Christian Origins:

        Cast of characters:

        One of the most confusing things about the various texts in the canon is the plethora of characters, most of whom have no external corroboration. However, in reality, many of the characters are the same person under different guises and have historical counterparts in external sources.

        Firstly, we have John the Baptist. ‘Luke’ calls him Peter in the beginning of Acts, often mentioned along with ‘John’. More on that in a minute. He is also the same John the Beloved disciple in the Gospel of John.
        Secondly, we have Paul the Apostle, author of the Epistles. Jesus calls him Simon BarJona in Matthew 16:17. The four Gospels refer to him as Simon Peter. James calls him Simeon in Acts. He is also the same person called Simon Magus in Acts, as Roger Parvus pointed out at length.

        Thirdly, James the Brother of the Lord is himself, with one consideration: when the average Christian or post-Christian reads ‘brother of the Lord’, he or she will instinctively read ‘the Brother of Jesus Christ,’ but that is not who is meant. ‘The Lord’ here is John the Baptist. James was his brother and his successor in heading John’s movement after his death.

        Fourthly, Cephas. Cephas is not Peter; rather he is Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Temple and initiate in the movement of John the Baptist. Others have already pointed this out, as I discovered in an article Tim linked to on Vridar.

        Finally, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not a historical figure. He is a semi-divine angel who manifests in a given person. In the Synoptic Gospels, that person is Paul. Jesus is really Paul. In the Gospel of John, that person is John the Baptist. Jesus is really John. More on this in a minute.

        A few points are in order.

        Firstly, Peter is not a name. It is a title of the founder of a church. The metaphor implicit in the title comes from the Foundation Stone under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on which the Temple was built. This is why the High Priest Joseph was known as Caiaphas. This is why Luke calls John the Baptist Peter; because he was the foundation on which his Church was built. Last, but not least, this is why Paul is also called ‘Peter’; because he was the foundation on which his church was built, as he himself says in the epistles.

        Secondly, Paul is also a title, not a name. Paul’s name is Simon; he adopted the title after being born into John’s movement. Luke alludes to this in Acts, although he tries to throw us off track by claiming Paul’s name was previously Saul.

        Thirdly, Jesus calls Simon ‘Simon BarJona’ – Simon the Son of John – because John the Baptist is the spiritual father of Simon/Paul. He was initially an initiate of John’s movement before founding his own church. This expression is common in the writings of Paul: he refers to his own initiates as his ‘children’ and says that he is their ‘father’.

        Fourthly, there is an allusion to Paul’s conversion in the story of Simon Magus in Acts, although Luke takes the opportunity to deny that Peter (who is John the Baptist) laid his hands on Simon Magus.

        Fifthly, Luke refers to one person as two. Specifically, Peter and John, who seem to be wondering around together all over the place, are really just John; Peter is his title and John is his name. Similarly, Paul and Barnabas, another double act, are simply Paul. Paul is his title and Barnabas is a name for him. Barnabas means the ‘the Son of the Father’. Who was his father? John. So Barnabas = BarJona = Simon.

        Those are our cast of characters. When we understand who is who, we find ourselves on a firmer historical footing. We no longer need to look for a historical Jesus. We no longer need to wonder about a historical Paul; we find him in the historical Simon Magus and in the historical Simon Peter who founded his own church.

        Next, we need to understand which texts belong to whom.

        Firstly, we have the Ascension of Isaiah and the Book of Revelation. These two books are part of the canon of the church of John the Baptist. There may be others texts that have not survived.

        Roger Parvus dates the Ascension of Isaiah to AD 30. I agree. This book was part of the canon of John’s movement before it was co-opted into the Christian canon.

        J Massyngebird Forde argues in Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary that the Book of Revelation is also a product of John’s movement. I agree.

        The Epistles of John (certainly the first) and the Letter of James (John’s brother) are also part of this movement.

        The Synoptic Gospels, as I mentioned earlier, are the production of the Simonian church. Specifically, the Simonian church produced Mark. It was redacted by Matthew and then finally by Luke.

        The Gospel of John is the product of the church of John and we should be place it in their canon.

        Each church made their spiritual founder ‘Jesus’ in their respective gospels.

        Once we realize this, we can more easily understand the differences between the two gospels. Paul tells us that unlike others, he is not well spoken. The others he is referring to are John and his apostles. John is the one to say things like ‘I am the Truth’, ‘I am the Way’; apparently Paul was not ‘all that’. It also explains the differences of themes, which I will get to in discussing the differences between the movements themselves.

        We also find the themes, language and theology of the Gospel of John in the other works mentioned above, the Epistles of John, James and Revelation. For example, the beginning of the Gospel of John refers to the Word and it recurs in these other works; however, we do not find it in the Synoptic Gospels or Pauline Epistles.

        The two movements and the differences between them:

        John and Paul both founded churches. Paul was initially an initiate of John’s church. However, at a certain point he had a religious experience where the semi-divine angel Jesus of the Ascension of Isaiah revealed himself directly to him. Based on this experience, he re-interpreted the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the Ascension of Isaiah and founded his own church.

        Both of these churches were gnostic churches. By gnostic, I do not mean the Wikipedia definition of Gnosticism. By gnostic, I mean a path whose goal is spiritual unification of the initiate with a divine entity, in this specific case Jesus Christ. I am not sure whether they would have understood it as a unification of spirit or consciousness, but it is not relevant.

        People became initiates in John’s movement by undergoing Baptism. The path was a Law-based path – following the Halacha. It was one of teachers and adepts. To become an apostle required formal authorization from one’s teacher, i.e. there was an initiatic chain. They taught the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God as per the book of Revelation. They also taught the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the semi-Divine Angel as per the Ascension of Isaiah. However, they understood the significance of crucifixion to be one of expiation of sins through blood sacrifice. This is why we find the Paschal lamb motif only in the gospel of John. John – who was Jesus manifest – was the Paschal Lamb, the sacrifice of whose blood would redeem the sins of Israel. They also taught the doctrine of the Word and that John was the Word made flesh.

        Paul on the other hand did not baptize anyone – except those two baptisms while he was still part of the John movement. His path was one of immediate direct experience of Jesus Christ – the foundation that he laid – on which other teachers built. He re-interpreted the crucifixion of Christ to mean the abrogation of the Law – hence his disinterest in baptism, circumcision, food and the rest of it. However, after having the Christ-experience, initiates in his path would develop good character by their newfound Christ-consciousness. This gospel he received directly from Christ. Although he had been in John’s church, he never received authorization as a teacher in that path. Instead, he claimed he had received a direct revelation from Jesus Christ as Cephas had before him. When he says in Galatians should an angel come with a contrary gospel, let him be accursed, he seems to be making a direct dig at John’s movement, because John received the book of Revelation from an angel. Similarly, when he says he did not receive it from a human teacher, he is referring to the methodology of the John movement. When he says he only teaches the crucifixion of Christ, he means as opposed to John’s movement, who teach the coming of the Kingdom with equal, if not more importance. In Paul’s theology, this makes sense. If his initiates are not going to be judged, who cares about the Kingdom to Come?

        Finally, what was involved in this Christ-experience? I think that initiates would be witness to an event, the grand finale of which was the crucifixion of Paul himself. He would appear on a cross, crucified. Then he would be taken down and then finally rise from the dead. This explains why he has the scars of Christ on his body. This experience would raise the initiate into a state of Christ-consciousness. I have a feeling that Paul would act out some form of ur-Mark before the crucifixion, i.e. ur-Mark is a play used in the initiatic event. This is why his initiates received him ‘as an angel, as Jesus Christ.’

        The sequence of events

        In the beginning, there was John and his movement…

        John is the starting point. Without understanding his movement, his canon, his methodology, we cannot really make sense of the whole picture. I have tried to put the pieces together above. We can begin with Simon, as Roger Parvus does, but we will be starting too late and we will miss a lot of points.

        Paul joined this movement and became an initiate in it.

        John was arrested and beheaded.

        After his death, Cephas saw Jesus Christ in a vision. So did others. Then, so does Paul. However, Paul re-interprets this vision and starts preaching his own Gospel. This brings him into conflict with the mother-church, who question his authority to teach his gospel.

        Paul preaches his gospel, gains converts among gentiles and performs his grand party trick, his own crucifixion.

        One day, it goes wrong, and Paul dies on the cross. Later authors will record for us that Simon Peter, Paul and Simon Magus all died on the cross. They were all the same person.

        This is my theory so far. I think it does a good job of explaining a lot about the texts we have and places the cast and events in extra-biblical history.

        I would appreciate any feedback; I am sure everyone who reads this reply is far more conversant in the subject than I am.

        • Giuseppe
          2015-02-22 17:12:23 UTC - 17:12 | Permalink

          Very interesting. But I consider the view of Roger as an serious and original instance of the mythicist paradigm of Doherty-Carrier and therefore do not understand why you started your post criticizing mythicism.

          To me these three great scholars (Earl, Richard and Roger) excite me a lot, but I still wonder if their error is not to cast doubt on even deeper into the authenticity of the socalled Pauline letters. The name ”Paul”, at times, seems to hide behind a theological program as big as a house: the last is first.

          On the other hand, remains insoluble the eternal problem raised by Radical Criticism: if Marcion invented ”Paul” and wrote a gospel too, because he is both ignorant of a HJ in the epistles while is the first inventor of a HJ with his first gospel?????? A real mystery. Or rather: a true antithesis!

          • Tariq
            2015-02-22 17:25:19 UTC - 17:25 | Permalink

            Hi Guiseppe,

            I was not criticizing mythicism, I was expressing disenchantment with what I had read up to that point, which admittedly wasn’t much.

            I also don’t think Marcion invented the Pauline letters; he may have edited them as a possibility, but invention seems unlikely. As for the conundrum you allude to, that would entail Luke preceding Mark, no? Is that the position of the Radical Critics? I can’t recall off the top of my head.

            • Giuseppe
              2015-02-22 18:08:49 UTC - 18:08 | Permalink

              yes, the conundrum is the possibility that the person that wrote the first ”pauline” letters is the same person that wrote the first Gospel.

              This abstract possibility is examined indirectly by Richard in this way:
              Mark is so demonstrably allegorical it could even have been written by Paul and still be complete (and deliberate) fiction.

              But after the same dr.Carrier is more precise:

              Since unlike the later Gospels it [Mark] never represents itself as history.

              Replacing Mark with Mcn (=proto-Luke), there’s the conundrum of which I talked.

              • Giuseppe
                2015-02-22 18:17:34 UTC - 18:17 | Permalink

                Maybe a solution of that conundrum (is you accept the hypothesis, oviously) is that with the Epistles Jesus is ”seen” only by revelation and recognized as Son of True God from the last(=the first). While, with the Gospel, Jesus is ”seen” as a phantom on terra firma, but he is not recognized as such by the first apostles(=the last).

                I would ask for a reply on this by Stuart (obviously, only under condition that he assumes a mythicist scenario for a moment, putting aside his agnosticism on matter)

    • Giuseppe
      2015-02-19 08:31:06 UTC - 08:31 | Permalink

      Hi Tariq,

      for me it makes sense. But how do you explain that Marcion not only recovered Paul in II EC but claimed to be the more true Paulinist of all times? If your view is true, it will arise a problem in II CE: a need of a separation between ”Christ” and ”Jesus”, contra the historical Paul’s view, just from the man that collected for all us the Paul’s letters and published them the first time!

      I can hold your view with this apparent inconsistency only under the condition that Paul thought that Jesus was first a semi-divine angel, and only secondarily, for the Jew outsiders (the Pillars?), a ”Christ”. In this way, Marcion eliminated from Paul everything (the part relative to Christ according the scripture) that Jesus was, according to Paul, as the only part of facade (the traditional Jew Christ). Perhaps Marcion thought that Paul would approve his choice: removing what is superfluous and keep the ”essence” of Paul, the angel Jesus, given the failure of Jewish Christians (before) and proto-orthodox (after) to understand what Paul meant.

      Otherwise, the innovation about you talk is not pauline, but by Pillars of Jerusalem (the real founders of cult), while Paul was really the same Paul of Marcion, i.e. the first Apostle with the need (and the divine mission) to separate what the Pillars had joined, the semidivine angel from the Jew Messiah.

      Happy to listen comments on your view.

      • Giuseppe
        2015-02-19 09:19:09 UTC - 09:19 | Permalink

        This raises an interesting question: who had come before, the angel ”Jesus” or the title of messiah ”Christ”? According to dr. Detering, Gal 1:18-22 is a probable proto-orthodox interpolation. If this were true (and authentic of Paul), then the first to speak of ”Jesus” in History would really be Paul himself (when he listed ”his Son in me”), with the Pillars of Jerusalem to know later his ideas only when Paul decided finally to visit them in Jerusalem (as reported in Galatians 2, that would be the description of the first meeting between the oldest church of Paul and the more recent church of the Pillars). In other words, the angel Jesus (Paul) would come before the Messiah Jesus (James and Peter), with Marcion wanting to return things in their proper chronological order.

  • David Ashton
    2015-02-22 12:10:47 UTC - 12:10 | Permalink

    A-maze-ing!

    • James D. Williams
      2015-02-22 18:37:00 UTC - 18:37 | Permalink

      The history in “Tariq’s Gospel” (above) is as substantial as any in the NT.

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