For those of us who like to be stimulated with different views on Christian origins, René Salm has translated and made available a 1956 essay by Georges Ory, Was Jesus “John the Baptist”?
This hypothesis reminds me of Robert M. Price’s suggestion that the two figures are doubles, or that Jesus was indeed something of a mythical hypostasis of John. (Unfortunately I forget the source for this discussion now — I welcome a reminder from anyone reading this.) Others — Roger Parvus and Hermann Detering, if I recall correctly, have had thought-provoking views of the role of John the Baptist and Simon Magus.
I’ve had a less “psychological-anthropological” explanation for John the Baptist than Bob Price’s views, and have to admit I have never given enough sustained attention in the past to some of the views of Parvus and Detering. I know I have only covered one dimension of the evidence available — the midrashic literary. I wonder if the motif of a representative of the old, usually metaphorically rough in appearance, as the deliverer of one who ushers in the new creation and new world, is a deeply rooted cultural archetype found from the Epic of Gilgamesh right through to modern fiction and fables.
I may not always come away from reading radical new views being immediately convinced, but rarely do I ever come away without having been stimulated with new questions and avenues to explore.
So who was George Ory?
René Salm has done a bit of digging and has published his findings on his site. The key section of interest for me is (and I have reformatted the last paragraph for here):
In 1949, together with Prosper Alfaric, Georges Ory co-founded the Cercle Ernest Renan in Paris, a “ Center for the history of religions, for biblical criticism and free research [libres recherches] into the origins of Christianity.” The Cercle (CER) has been at the cutting edge of French Jesus-mythicism for over half a century and continues to publish quarterly Cahiers and to offer monthly lectures in Paris. Ory was also prominent in the Union Rationaliste, and was the principal religion contributor for its Dictionnaire Rationaliste (1964), writing over fifty entries including those entitled “Jésus Christ,” “Gnosticisme,” “Paul-Louis Couchoud,” and “Charles Guignebert.” The dictionnaire is an indispensable resource for liberal French trends in religion.
Some notes can be culled regarding Ory’s thought.
- He identified John the Baptist as the original Christian messiah.
- He further identified this figure with the Samaritan heresiarch Dositheus. . . .
- Ory refused to identify the Essenes with the Dead Sea Sect . . . .
- He supposed that Marcion had a disciple, Lucanus, who was ultimately responsible for the third gospel and who succeeded Marcion at the latter’s death. Lucanus led the Marcionite community in Rome and considered Christ a heavenly being. “Jesus” was a composite.
So here is a second copy of the link — Was Jesus John the Baptist? — in case you ever lose the first one.
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