The Detering Commentaries: Christian Origins, Joshua, Gnosticism and Buddhism

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by Neil Godfrey

René Salm has concluded his series of Hermann Detering Commentaries:

Dr. Hermann Detering

“The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus and the Beginning of the Joshua/Jesus Cult” (2018)

Commentary by René Salm

This extensive series of posts explores literary, religious, and historical links between Buddhism and Christian origins.

It argues that Christianity emerged from a gnostic substratum,
and that the figure Jesus of Nazareth and the New Testament gospels
are second century CE developments.


René Salm quotes Hermann Detering’s overall conclusion:

Beginning with the gnostic interpretation of the Exodus motif and the question of its origin, we have arrived at an element of critical importance: the metaphor of transcendence, expressed figuratively as [reaching] the “other shore”—which plays a central role in Indian/Buddhist spirituality. The question of where the two trajectories intersect—Jewish tradition/Hebrew Bible on the one hand, and Buddhist/Indian spirituality on the other—led us to the Therapeutae, about whom Philo of Alexandria reports in his De Vita Contemplativa.

Once the Buddhist origin of the Therapeutae is seen as plausible, it can be shown that their central mystery consisted of an interpretation of the Exodus, an interpretation based upon Buddhist sources. This interpretation, in turn, was the seed of the Christian sacrament of baptism. Early Christian gnostics, such as the Peratae and the Naassenes, transferred to Moses’ successor Joshua what the Therapeutae (more strongly rooted in Jewish tradition) maintained for Moses. The old cult of Moses would be surpassed by the new, Gnostic-Christian cult of Joshua. The counterpart of Moses became Jesus/Joshua.

Seen in this light, the “historical” Jesus, that is, Jesus of Nazareth, was hypostatized in the second century of our era out of the Old Testament Joshua. The Christian savior Joshua/Jesus is nothing other than the result of Jewish-Buddhist exegesis of the Old Testament.

I have read in translation much of Hermann Detering’s article. I look forward to being able to devote the time and energy that a proper assessment of his argument requires.

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13 thoughts on “The Detering Commentaries: Christian Origins, Joshua, Gnosticism and Buddhism”

  1. You might also look at the essays and books by Michael Lockwood on academia.edu (if you haven’t already). He comprehensively surveys the secondary sources on Buddhist-Therapeutae and Buddhist-Jesus connections. He has a theory that Buddhist oral traditions were first recorded in written form in the third century BCE at Alexandria.

    1. Fascinating if true. In this context, it is appropriate perhaps to consider the Milinda Pañha, a comparatively early Buddhist text that is presented as a dialogue between a Greek King (ruling in India) and a Buddhist monk.

  2. The Christian concept of baptism can be traced back to ancient Egyptian religion. I’m not necessarily saying the early Christians were directly influenced by Egyptian religion(though I personally think it’s likely) but their concept and meaning behind baptism is the same as the Egyptians. It’s a rebirth or transfiguration out of the waters. The concept probably comes from all of life being birthed out of the primordial waters/chaos. The crossing of the sea or waters that you find in a lot of myths probably represents this concept.

    In the ancient Egyptian books of the afterlife the sun god would go through a baptism, death, resurrection/rebirth, and transfiguration. The deceased in Egyptian religion would be identified with the sun god or Osiris so they too would go through a baptism and rebirth/resurrection.

    For the Living and the Dead: The Funerary Laments of Upper Egypt, Ancient and Modern by Elizabeth Wickett:
    “… deceased king and subsequently all deceased, male or female, are to become ‘the god Osiris’ and are symbolically ‘drowned’ (Pyr 24d, 615d, 766d). Osiris was believed to embody the source of the inundation: You have your water, you have your flood, the fluid which issued from the god, the exudation which issued from Osiris(Pyr 436)”

    Notice the translation of the Pyramid Texts uses the word “exudation”. Exudation means “An exudate is a fluid emitted by an organism through pores or a wound”. The purifying life-giving waters(of the Nile) were said to come out of Osiris’ wounds because after Set killed Osiris he threw his body into the Nile waters. When Jesus is pierced in gJohn blood and purifying water flow from his wound.

    Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt By John H. Taylor:
    “The first stage was the purification of the corpse by washing…According to Egyptian belief, water held important purifying and life giving qualities. Each dawn was a repitition of the orginal birth of the sun god from the watery chaos of Nun. Hence lustration came to be closely associated with rebirth…A ritual purification was necessary before the dead king could ascend to heaven…The ‘hery seshta’ was closely linked with the god Anubis, who had mummified Osiris, according to mythology. In the ritualized process of mummification the deceased was identified with Osiris.”

    Les fêtes d’Osiris à Abydos au Moyen Empire et au Nouvel Empire by M. Christine Lavier:
    “It is always about the source of life, the fresh water in which the divinity (Re, Osiris) immerses himself, in prelude to his (re) birth.”

    Empty Tomb, Apotheosis, Resurrection By John Granger Cook:
    “Texts from the frieze of the West Room Three from the Chapel of Osiris at Dendera vividly describe his resurrection…”Take for yourself (the flood) maaty that makes your body young. 3. Take for yourself (the flood) hebebet that makes your flesh live…6. Take for yourself the water of renewal that emerges from the primeval flood…(429) 6. Take for yourself the water of renewal, you live from it”…Clearly Isis is the agent of resurrection and water is fundamental to the process.”

    Paul says:
    “Or aren’t you aware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4We therefore were buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be raised to life as He was.”

    When the sun god journeys through the underworld him and his “companions” sail in a boat through the waters from one side of the underworld(west, sunset) to the other side or “shore”(east, sunrise). So I suspect that the stories of heroes or saviors sailing in a boat or crossing waters and reaching the “other shore” that you find in a lot of myths are conveying the same concept as the story of the sun god. The crossing of the waters is a form of baptism. Paul even says the Israelites were baptized when they crossed the sea.

    “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud, and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”

    1. Hello, nightshadetwine

      Can you suggest books and authors on Egyptian links with early Christianity? I’m exploring this topic. Any relevant help is much appreciated.

      1. Hi Delaware, greetings from Sydney. I found books by Ahmend Osman good for Egyptian connections e.g. “House of the Messiah” and there are others. See
        Some background on the author is at
        I found his detailed explanations of Egyptian history too difficult to follow but I still appreciate much of the insight into the figure of JC in the NT.

        Good luck, Peter

  3. Another interesting connection I just came across is that in the Bible Joshua is said to be the son of Nun. Apparently the name Nun means “fish” in Aramaic. Fish are born in the waters. In ancient Egypt(where Joshua was born) Nun was the primordial waters and was said to be the “father of the gods”. The Nile was also associated with Nun or the primordial waters for obvious reasons. Joshua also led the Israelites through a baptism(which I think is related to the birth out of the primordial waters) when crossing the Jordan river, the same river John the baptist baptizes people in. The wikipedia page for the Jordan river says: “The New Testament speaks several times about Jesus crossing the Jordan during his ministry (Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1), and of believers crossing the Jordan to come hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases (Matthew 4:25; Mark 3:7–8).”

    I think the crossing of the Jordan represents the same thing as other stories of reaching the “other shore” or baptism. I think these stories are highly allegorical for religious/metaphysical concepts.

  4. Lockwood, Michael. 2013. Mythicism: A Seven-Fold Revelation of the Buddhist “Branch” Grafted onto Jesse’s “Lineage Tree.” : T. R. Publications.

    ———. 2014. Buddhism’s Relation to Christianity: A Miscellaneous Anthology with Occasional Comment. 2011 edition. Chennai: T.R. Publications. https://www.academia.edu/32342417/Buddhisms_Relation_to_Christianity https://www.scribd.com/document/122425646/Buddhism-s-Relation-to-Christianity.

    ———. n.d. “The Unknown Buddha of Christianity [Final Draft].” Accessed October 5, 2018. https://www.academia.edu/37537325/THE_UNKNOWN_BUDDHA_OF_CHRISTIANITY_Final_Draft_.

    and in addition…

    Carus, Paul. 1894. “Buddhism and Christianity.” The Monist 5 (1): 65–103. https://archive.org/details/jstor-27897205/page/n1 and https://www.jstor.org/journal/buddchristud

    DeFrancisco, James. 2017. “Comparisons Between Buddhism and Judeo/Christian History, Beliefs, Practices, and Goals Introduction-Key Points,” July. https://www.academia.edu/35633900/Comparisons_Between_Buddhism_and_Judeo_Christian_History_Beliefs_Practices_and_Goals_Introduction-Key_Points.

    Hanson, James M. 2005. “Was Jesus a Buddhist?” Buddhist-Christian Studies 25: 75–89. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4139151

    Rene Salm has much more to say about this question on his site: http://www.mythicistpapers.com/sitemap/

  5. I think the reason people are seeing parallels between Christianity and other religions like Buddhism, Egyptian, Plato/Greek, and even Assyrian(see Assyriologist Simo Parpola) is because all these religions are telling a lot of the same stories. They’re using these stories to convey some of the same concepts. They’re just coming out of different cultures so that’s why there’s some differences between these religions.

    Here’s some links to writings by Simo Parpola if interested:

    “Monotheism in Ancient Assyria” by Dr. Simo Parpola

    “Assyrian Prophesies” by Simo Parpola

    “The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy” by Simo Parpola

  6. Your findings echo what I shared in a previous post of how my baptismal experience in 1974 was a new birth complete with forgiveness, empowerment, status, community and purpose in life. (And what’s wrong with that ? – well that’s a long story) I think that you guys are really onto a major element of how Christianity started. It makes sense to me having experienced it in this way. I understood Earl Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle to infer that the gnostic systems of the time shaped the Judaism that gave us Christianity. The piece of the puzzle that I find not being addressed sufficiently is that the Roman elite and rulers exploited the opportunity to diffuse the militant sects of Judaism by hijacking and promoting the gnostic sects, and later uniting the empire to include pagans / Gentiles by means of the central authority of Christianity being held by the political and economic leaders. Naturally they tried to destroy the evid3nc3 of what really happened. Thanks to Luther and now great scholars and the internet, we are building on that little evid3nc3. I think that the Vatican will remain very quiet on these matters. Does anyone know if the Vatican has made a response to the gnostic arguments, or if there are any good debates out there ?

  7. Obituary

    According to a note made by Robert Price in the social media, recently forwarded by our resident Giuseppe to Peter Kirby’s Earlywritings, Dr. H. Detering died October 18.

  8. Pingback: Remembering |

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