Christianity was born of the travail of the days of John. The Baptist gave it two talismans with which to bind souls:
- the advent of the Heavenly Man in a universal cataclysm,
- and the rite of baptism which allowed the initiates to await, without apprehension, the Coming of the Judge.
(p. 31, my formatting)
At first the teaching spread like wildfire but without John’s name attached to it as its IP owner.
Before long the teaching became enriched with various kinds of additions. First among these additions were new names for the Heavenly Man: Lord, Christ, Jesus.
Lord as a title was derived from Psalm 110:1
The Lord said unto my Lord,
Sit thou at my right hand,
Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
To whom could this have been addressed? Surely not to the Messiah, the Son of David, waited for by the Pharisees. David would not have called his son “my Lord.” It must have been to the Son of Man who, according to the Revelation of Enoch, was placed on the throne of his glory by God Himself. (p. 31)
Since David as an inspired prophet makes it clear that the Son of Man is enthroned at the right hand of God and calls him Lord. So believers could also call the Son of Man their Lord.
(Note that the title “Son of Man” was used as a Greek expression, too. Think of Christianity as moulded very largely by Greek speakers.)
Christ, Christos, “is a somewhat barbarous translation of the Hebrew word which means consecrated by unction, Messiah.”
Now the Son of Man, our Lord, was consecrated by unction. He it is, as Enoch explains, who says in Isaiah: —
The Spirit of the Lord Jahweh is upon me,
For Jahweh has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good tidings to the unfortunate,
To bind up the broken-hearted . . . (Isa. lxi, I, quoted by Enoch)
The Heavenly Man is the Anointed, the Christ, to fulfil for the elect a beneficent and gentle office. Thus the title “Son of Man” indicates the judge and avenger, while that of “Christ” recalls his kindlier functions. (p. 32)
This name, Christ, was the one these devotees preferred and from which they derived their label, christiani, the people of Christ; “for his name is ever on their lips”. This title became a proper name that had tender and mystical meaning for them, while for the Pharisees the Christ or Messiah “is merely a man, a son of David, a warlike and vain king, whose kingdom is of this world only.” (p. 32)
The name Jesus
This Christ had a name of his own that was revealed to Enoch at the moment God commissioned him for his mission, but Enoch kept the name secret.
But a careful scrutiny of the scriptures which are obscure mysteries of God will not fail to bring it to light.
Nor did it fail. A passage in the Book of Exodus was noted where God by the mouth of Moses said to the people (Septuagint xxiii. 20-21): —
Lo, I send my Messenger to thee
To guard thee on the road,
To lead thee to the country I have made ready for thee;
Take heed of him, hearken to his word,
Do not gainsay him.
He will not desert thee.
For My Name is upon him.
So who is this Messenger who is to lead God’s people to their promised destiny?
It is Joshua, first called Oshea (Numb. xiii. 17, Septuagint xii. 16, A.V.). Moses called Oshea Joshua, which means Jahweh Saves. Jahweh means when he says of Oshea “My Name is upon him” that one of the names of God is Jahweh Saves. This name was not revealed to Abraham not to Jacob. At the right time it was understood (for this mystic reasoning see Justin, Dialogue lxxv. 1-2). . . . [Jesus] is the personal name of the Son of Man, of the Christ, our Lord. It is the name “which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth” (Phil. ii. 9-10). (pp. 32-33)
The name Jesus was the talisman of the Christians. Those who knew the name had great powers. In the name of Jesus they could drive out demons, trample underfoot serpents and scorpions, heal the sick, etc. Even in the New Testament — and the Talmud — we read of unbelievers attempting to use the name of Jesus to perform miracles (Mark 9:38-40; Acts 19:13-17).
It is an extraordinary thing that the name Jesus should have been accepted in its Greek form and is never referred to in the Hebrew form. This shows the large part played in the development of the Church by Greek-speaking Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ was the full title given to the Son of Man. These three names, together or singly, served to invoke him. (p. 33)
The followers of the Book of Enoch identified the Light of the World and Servant of Yahweh in Isaiah with this Heavenly Man. One set of verses in Isaiah became the “Christian Charter” — Isaiah 53:3-12.
These fine verses became the Christian Charter. It was accepted that the Servant of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, had borne the burden of our sins and had suffered a death in the manner of an expiatory sacrifice for the sins of all. The revelation of Isaiah completed that of Enoch. Before being exalted to heaven and named with solemnity, the Heavenly Man, the Servant of God, had suffered death (see the famous passage in Phil. ii. 6-11, in which the same order appears — death on the cross, the giving of the name). (p. 35)
Here is the passage as it appears in The Creation of Christ (Couchoud’s book). Couchoud says that the text has been mutilated and he follows the translations of A. Condamin and A. Loisy:
Despised, and rejected of men,
Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,
Before whom we veil our faces,
Despised and accounted as nought.
Surely our ills he bore them
And our griefs he carried their burden;
But we thought him stricken,
Smitten of god and afflicted.
He was wounded for our sins,
And bruised for our iniquities.
The chastisement which saves us is fallen upon him
And with his stripes we are healed.
We all like sheep have gone astray,
We have turned every one his own way.
Jahweh has laid on him
The iniquity of us all.
Ill-treated, he was resigned,
He opened not his mouth,
Like a lamb that is brought to the slaughter,
Like a sheep dumb in the hands of the shearer.
He was taken from us by a judgment of oppression.
He was cut off from the land of the living
And for our sins he was put to death.
His tomb has been placed among the impious,
He is dead among the wicked.
But there was no wrong in his deeds,
No lie in his mouth.
Yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise him.
. . . My Servant shall justify many;
Their sins are his burden.
Therefore I will give a portion of many men;
He shall receive multitudes as his share of booty.
Because he has poured out his life,
He was numbered with the evil-doers,
Since he bore the sins of many
And made intercession for the transgressors. (p. 34)
In what land was he slain? By whom? At what time? In what manner? The text was profoundly mysterious. Certain phrases struck the imagination, and suggested the Lord Jesus, in guise of a Heavenly Paschal Lamb, sacrificed before the creation of the world (vide Rev. v. 6; xiii. 8; and cf. I Cor. v. 7, “for even Christ our passover is sacrificed”). Then, again, his tomb among the impious and his death among the wicked suggests other mystic visions. St Paul and John of Patmos will paint very different pictures of the redeeming death. But all were agreed that he died for our sins and that he was resurrected on the third day according to the prophecy in Hosea (vi. 2): —
After two days he will revive us;
In the third day will he raise us up. (p. 35)
Baptism takes on a new meaning. Henceforth it cleansed believers by the power of the Divine Death.
This Elect One (Isa. 42:1) was, through the Psalm 2:7 that said, The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, became the Son of God.
This Sonship was through a begettal that took place in the Resurrection.
This is no day of human measuring, no period of earthly time, but is of the mystic spiritual dimension. (p. 35)
God himself had therefore confirmed the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God. The faithful were exalted towards the marvellous being on whom their salvation depended. Expectation, apprehension, adoration, were raised to ecstasy. The Lord Jesus Christ made his apparition. To one man first — great was his glory and the authority it gave him! Then to several at a time. These apparitions, duly testified, became irrefutable proofs and an unshakable foundation of the faith. (pp. 35-36)
Paul gives us our earliest evidence of these individuals and groups who received these visions in 1 Cor. 15:3-8, and Couchoud quotes here the Marcionite text. (The link is to the AV text which we are more familiar with):
For I delivered unto you first of all
How that Christ died for our sins,
And that he was buried
And rose again on the third day.
And that he was seen by Cephas,
Then of the twelve;
After that he was seen of more than five hundred brethren at once,
Of whom many remain until this present,
But some are fallen asleep.
Then he was seen by James,
After that of all the apostles;
To the last of all as to an abortion
He appeared to me also.
The “pillars” at the Jerusalem Church must have owed their positions to the visions they had had, although at the time of writing the above John had not yet had his vision. When it did come to him he wrote it down in what is now our Book of Revelation. To Couchoud it is this book that “gives us the best picture of the beliefs of the early Christian.” Nothing is known of the visions of Peter and James. Presumably the visions of James were of such an intimate nature that he was titled the “brother of the Lord” — just as Abraham was the “friend of God”. His real brothers may have shared this title with him. (From Jerome — De Viris illustr., 2, — we read of the Gospel to the Hebrews narrating how Jesus called James his brother.) (Noted also is that the phrase in Galatians 1:19, “brother of the Lord”, is missing in the Marcionite text. In 1 Corinthians 9:5 we read of “brothers of the Lord” as if they are a special spiritual group like “the apostles”.)
The five hundred brethren, Couchoud suggests, were visionaries who followed Peter/Kephas and the Twelve, “and successfully experienced the extraordinary feat of a grand collective vision of the Lord Jesus.”
This indicates in what hectic effervescence of mind the faith was engendered. (p. 37)
Schism from John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ
So Christians parted from the teachings of John the Baptist. For them they were different in their knowledge of the names of God, the death of Christ and the visions of Christ.
Followers of John the Baptist meanwhile continued with prayers and fastings and gaining new converts to baptism. They spread beyond Palestine and one of them, Apollos, became a great teacher in Alexandria (Acts 17:25).
In this sense John was the forerunner of Christ. In other places the Johannists were opposed to the Christians. At Ephesus they were strong enough to war with the author of the fourth gospel. (p. 38)
Christianity’s expansion meant the retreat of the Baptist faith. Couchoud thinks John’s religion became permeated with Gnosticism and ‘survives’ in some form as Mandaeism today.
Christianity, meanwhile, was no longer bound to the words of a dead prophet at John was, but its adherents became prophets themselves. They preached throughout the world the “good news” of the imminent coming of Christ Jesus.
This completes the section of Couchoud’s book up to the period of 40 c.e. To be continued, etc.