2019-01-06

Paul’s and Isaiah’s Visions — A Possible Connection

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

See the Ascension of Isaiah archive for other posts on this source. I am sure over time more will be added and views will change.

Roger Parvus posted comments relating to the relationship between Paul’s letters and some things we read in the Ascension of Isaiah. (Recall that the Ascension of Isaiah is a two part text consisting of the Martyrdom of Isaiah and the Vision of Isaiah, and was interpreted by Earl Doherty as a piece of evidence for early Christian belief in a crucifixion of Jesus in the lower heavens.) I have been wading my way through various studies on the document and it is slow going because I find myself struggling through machine translations much of the time. I have as a result become open-minded to possible interpretations that may compete with Doherty’s initial proposals.

Roger Parvus has posted two major series on Vridar:

He’s been doing some more thinking about things since then and I found the following two comments of his thought-provoking.

First one:

Paul regularly appeals to revelation through Scripture. And as Doherty notes:

“The strong implication is that, if the key phrases in Paul are his own voice and not an interpolation, Paul must have had in mind something different in regard to Christ than simply being ‘born’ in the normal sense.” (Jesus Neither God Nor Man, p. 207).

So I am still quite open to the possibility that the Scripture Paul had in view was the Vision of Isaiah’s pocket gospel. Its Jesus is not really born in the normal sense. As Enrico Norelli puts it:

“If the story is read literally, it is not about a birth. It’s about two parallel processes: the womb of Mary, that had enlarged, instantly returned to its prior state, and at the same time a baby appears before her— but, as far as can be determined, without any cause and effect relationship between the two events.” (Ascension du prophète Isaïe, pp. 52-53, my translation)

At this point in general discussion Tim reminded me of Herman Gunkel’s view that Revelation 12 speaks of a birth of a saviour in heaven in Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton. (For a criticism of Gunkel’s hypothesis see Creation and Chaos: A Reconsideration of Hermann Gunkel’s Chaoskampf Hypothesis see Scurlock and Beal’s Creation and chaos : a reconsideration of Hermann Gunkel’s Chaoskampf hypothesis.)

Second one:

Yes, there are grounds to suspect that Paul knew some version of the Vision of Isaiah. But my suspicions go further than that. I suspect Paul’s gospel was the Vision of Isaiah. His gospel was not just a message; it was a message based on a specific text: the Vision of Isaiah. And of course, if that was the case, it would seem to follow that he wrote the Vision, for he says in Galatians that he received his gospel by revelation and not from any man.

II Cor 12: I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 
And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 
was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 
I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 
or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 
10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

That possibility, i.e., Paul as original source of the VoI, opens up a different way of understanding II Cor 12: 1-10. The revelation that Paul touts in that passage would be the revelation of his VoI gospel. That would explain why for him it was a revelation of “words” (II Cor 12:4). He had said at the beginning of the passage that he was now turning his attention to “visions and revelations” (II Cor. 12:1), but he never get around to describing anything he saw. His focus is on revealed words. Specifically,

words that it is not lawful for a man to utter” (II Cor 12:4).

This is usually taken to mean that it was not lawful for Paul himself to utter the words, but that need not be the case. The sense could be that the unlawfulness had been in effect up until the time they were revealed to Paul. In other words, Paul was privileged one who had been chosen to reveal previously unlawful words. Which words? The ones in the Vision of Isaiah, for the utterance of those words had been unlawful for hundreds of years, ever since the time of Isaiah himself. At the end of the Vision Isaiah makes king Hezekiah

swear that he would not tell this to the people of Israel, and that he would not allow any man to copy these words” (AoI 11:39).

So if gospel revealed to Paul was the Vision of Isaiah, his gospel related something that hitherto it had been unlawful for a man to utter.

In further support of this possibility notice that Paul’s revelation, like Isaiah’s, entailed an ascent and that Paul, like Isaiah, numbers the heavens. In II Cor. 12:2 he his caught up to the third heaven, and in verse 4 it is to Paradise. Now it is often claimed that Paul was using parallelism here and that for him Paradise was located in the third heaven. If so, my proposal identifying Paul’s gospel with the VoI of course fails, for in the latter the highest heaven is the seventh one. Keep in mind, however, that many commentators do not accept the parallelism idea here. They think that if Paul used both third heaven and Paradise it is because he had some kind of sequence or progression in view. Paul does use the plural (“Lest the greatness of my revelations lead me to pride…”), so I think it remains a viable possibility that some of his revelations were received in the third heaven, and some in Paradise. For example, perhaps Paul claimed that Isaiah’s words were revealed to him in the third heaven whereas the words of God were revealed in Paradise. This would somewhat mirror what the VoI says about Isaiah’s ascent, namely, that some things were revealed to Isaiah in the lower heavens but the greatest revelations were received in the highest one.

Just when you thought the number of possibilities and options that can be laid on the table are more than enough already, Roger adds…

One caveat: Although I have been speaking of Paul as possible author of the Vision of Isaiah, I should qualify that. Given the very uneven nature of the Pauline letters, I think it is quite likely that many parts of them were written between 70 and 140 CE by early gnostic types. This has been argued, for example, by Alfred Loisy and, more recently, by Robert M. Price. So it may be that it was not Paul himself but quasi-gnostic successors who wrote the VoI and brought its ideas into the Paulines. I personally see Simonians as likely candidates. The main theme of the VoI is an ancient one, as Richard Carrier points out in his book On the Historicity of Jesus (pp. 45-47), but Simon Magus appears to have adopted and adapted it too. The VoI could be an adaptation of an earlier Simonian work. Simone Petrement suggests “it may have been written by a Simonian, around the time of Menander” (A Separate God: The Christian Origins of Gnosticism, p. 326). Poor Paul. It is he who is usually accused of perverting original Christianity. The real culprits may turn out to be his earliest interpolators!

Another spinoff from this view relates to the authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 which expresses a vengeful spirit against Jews — the Jews who killed Christ — who have suffered some major calamity. Many commentators have considered this passage to be uncharacteristic of Paul and the calamity in mind is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The passage directly attributes the death of Jesus to the Jews and so those who argue for a heavenly crucifixion have, naturally, pointed to the not uncommon scholarly view that the passage is an interpolation. But if Paul’s gospel included some form of the “pocket gospel” that we find in the AoI, then even if we were to conclude that 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 were not an interpolation but original to Paul, one might be able to conclude that the passage is a response to the line that reads

And after this the adversary envied Him and roused the children of Israel against Him, not knowing who He was, and they delivered Him to the king, and crucified Him, and He descended to the angel (of Sheol). (See AoI 11:19)

Or perhaps not. That line does not sound like such a devastating slur against Jews as 1 Thess. 2:14-16 would warrant, given its stress on the Jews appearing to be victims of greater heavenly forces.

But then one wonders how one is to define a “Pauline letter” at all given Roger Parvus’s suggestion that the corpus consists of so much interpolation any attempt to find an original may be a lost cause. (Recall his zig-zag theory as And that’s where Tim reminded me of another scholarly perspective on Paul’s letters:

Any truly critical study of such attempts at the so-called purification of the texts of the epistles would show them that there is no reliable criterion for distinguishing between authentic and inauthentic material, and that all emendations are made entirely on the basis of subjective opinion.

Schweitzer, Albert. 2001. The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. 422

And so we come back to an even earlier comment by Parvus:

To me, accepting at face value Marcion’s assessment of the Pauline letters is the best way to make sense of their contents. To explain Paul’s zigzagging we don’t have to resort to strained psychological or tactical explanations. Anyone who has read mainstream Pauline commentaries knows what I am talking about. They contain seemingly endless psychological reasons why Paul shifts back and forth on the contentious issues that separated the proto-orthodox from the early gnostics. If he speaks dismissively of the Law in one passage but praises it in another, it is because he was impulsive by nature. Or he was not a clear or systematic thinker. Or he was so passionate about his beliefs that he failed to notice the contradictions in what he wrote. He wrote things when he was angry that he surely later regretted. Etc… Etc. Or his reasons were tactical. Yes, it must be admitted that he used gnostic language and spoke like a gnostic. But as Schmithals, for instance, would explain it (away?), he was not really a gnostic. It was only a tactic he used because his opponents were gnostics:

“Paul becomes a Gnostic to the Gnostics, in order to win the Gnostics” (Gnosticism in Corinth, p. 273).

“… he (Paul) can have acquired the Gnostic elements of his theological set of concepts only during the fifteen-year stay in Arabia, Syria, and Cilicia…” (p. 71)

But, Schmithals assures us, Paul’s knowledge of Gnosticism must have been very superficial, for

“If Paul had known the actual meaning of his Gnostic terminology, he would not at all have been able to use this to express his own proclamation…” (p. 71.)

Hmmm. Unfortunately, Schmithals convinced very few people that Paul’s Corinthian opponents were actually gnostics. So the nagging question remains: why then did Paul speak like a gnostic? My suspicion is because he was one, the first Christian one. And that his given name was Simon.

Instead of submitting the author of the Paulines to psychological or tactical analysis to explain his contradictions, I think consideration should be given first to the earliest explanation, that of Marcion: someone has tampered with the letters; they were originally gnostic but were subsequently Judaized. I know that playing the interpolation card looks like an “easy-out.” But surely it counts for something that from the first moment the Pauline collection of letters turns up in the early record a prominent Christian, Marcion, was already screaming: “Interpolated!”

Let me know when you’ve finished mulling over all of that and I’ll try to offer something else to think about.

 

The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

25 Comments

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-06 09:45:51 GMT+0000 - 09:45 | Permalink

    Since my earlier posting of the above I have added to it links to the scholars’ arguments for 1 Thess. 2:14-16 being an interpolation and criticisms of one particular challenge to those arguments. I am in the process of reading further on the interpolation theory for this passage and expect to post an update in the coming weeks.

  • db
    2019-01-06 13:26:25 GMT+0000 - 13:26 | Permalink

    Per the OP: “Revelation 12 speaks of a birth of a saviour in heaven”

    Godfrey, Neil (5 June 2011) [now formatted]. “Born of a woman in heaven: cosmic origin of the Messiah”. Vridar.

    [Per the constellation of Virgo] in Revelation 12 she is pregnant, while other astrological concepts of this constellation understood her to be nursing a child, like Isis with Horus. The dragon, Satan, is also “standing” before her in heaven. The word for “standing”, explains Malina, is a technical astrological term identifying the location of a constellation. The setting, he argues, is in pre-history.

    • John is shown a detail of pre-history here, and events before Satan fell and before the one to become the Messiah . . . was born.

    • nightshadetwine
      2019-01-06 18:58:19 GMT+0000 - 18:58 | Permalink

      The Dendera zodiacs as narratives of the myth of Osiris, Isis, and the child, Gyula Priskin http://www.enim-egyptologie.fr/revue/2015/9/Priskin_ENiM8_p133-185.swf.pdf

      “although some astronomical texts of later antiquity, all deriving from the register of
      stars made by Teukros in the 1st century CE, talk about a constellation showing a seated
      woman and a child in a hall as the first decan of Virgo.119 This textual tradition is important,
      however, because it does identify the figures as Isis providing nourishment to her son, Horus.
      Given that the description of Teukros matches the image of the Dendera zodiacs so closely,
      we must surmise that Teukros either saw the zodiacs himself or based his opinion on an
      intermediary source, and one of them mistook the position of the figures.”

      I think the gospels are telling the same story as this zodiac and the myth of Isis, Osiris, and Horus.

    • nightshadetwine
      2019-01-06 19:11:58 GMT+0000 - 19:11 | Permalink

      Osiris/Horus = Jesus
      Isis = Mary
      Wewawet = John the Baptist

      In the Gospels John the Baptist “Prepares the way” and “makes straight paths” for the coming of Jesus.

      “Immediately above the solar disc a jackal is shown striding forward and it must stand for
      Wepwawet, “opener of the ways”. As he is often depicted at the front of processions,
      pioneering the way for the king or divine beings,57 his role is entirely concordant with
      conception on the one hand, and also with the calendar entries that report the launch of the
      ritual activities for Isis on IV Akhet 6…The animal is again a manifestation of Wepwawet,172 and he may
      once more feature here in hisrole of opening the cult activities, all the more so because he is known
      to have been the initiator of the Osiris mysteries as early as the Middle Kingdom.”

      Three figures/three decanal stars = Magi who offer three gifts

      Twelve divisions/twelve signs of the zodiac = Twelve disciples

      “The circular zodiac accentuates this crucial stage, the period of winter solstice, with the images
      that are placed in the vicinity of the sign ofCapricorn, the month which follows on the sun’s tropical
      turning point. As also indicated by the linear zodiac, three figures are connected with this time
      of the year…These images derive from the depictions of the three decanal stars or star clusters
      that belong to Capricorn… since the observation of the risings (or meridional transits) of three
      decanal stars ? as a matter of fact ? coincided with each of the twelve divisions of the ecliptical
      band..An entire section below will be devoted to the argument that some of the images standing for
      the decans along the circumference of the zodiac also narrate symbolically the events of the
      birth of Horus, but the three images around Capricorn, with their meaningful allusions, are the
      only such stars that were incorporated into the central field of depictions.”

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-06 21:25:07 GMT+0000 - 21:25 | Permalink

        The first gospel to be written, that of Mark, did not have a virgin birth narrative. Nor did the Gospel of John. So I don’t see how we can say that the gospel narrative derives from such interpretations of images in Egypt. Further, the time of birth of Jesus in the gospels appears to have coincided with the Jewish festival period of Tabernacles (Sept/Oct), not December.

        Similarly, the John the Baptist character derives from Old Testament images and parallels. Nor is there anything distinctive or unusual about a prophet or herald announcing a coming event. There is no reason that I can see to say he derived from an Egyptian figure. The Egyptian figure you refer to was just another herald as there are heralds in many societies and narratives.

        • nightshadetwine
          2019-01-07 04:55:52 GMT+0000 - 04:55 | Permalink

          They’re telling a very similar story. It’s the story of the coming of the king/savior/hero which usually includes solar and astrological symbolism. I don’t know that the gospel writers had astrology in mind when writing them but just by using some of the same motifs that are a part of the king/savior mythology you get a solar/astrological influence.

  • Giuseppe
    2019-01-06 15:05:35 GMT+0000 - 15:05 | Permalink

    The VoI could be an adaptation of an earlier Simonian work. Simone Petrement suggests “it may have been written by a Simonian, around the time of Menander” (A Separate God: The Christian Origins of Gnosticism, p. 326).
    Effectively, reading J. Magne’s book, I found written:

    In the Ascension of Isaiah the angel who led Isaiah to the seventh heaven did not pronounce the ineffable Name of the Lord who will descend on earth, but revealed that when he has descended he will be given the name of Jesus:

    E. Tisserant (later cardinal) in a note in his translation supposes the words ”who will be called Jesus in the world” to be an interpolation because ”Jesus” is the name Isaiah could not yet hear. But Isaiah in his flesh, like all men, can hear the name of ”Jesus”, borne, moreover by many Others than the Saviour, but cannot hear the ineffable Name YHWH, a name so ineffable that scholars were obliged to rediscover its pronuntiation.

    (From Gnosis to Christianity, p. 184-185, my bold)

    So, according to J. Magne, the previous Gnostic text on which the our AoI is based had the following rules of the game:

    1) the supreme god = not the Creator but the alien god of the Gnostics

    2) the Son = Sabaoth the converted son of the evil Demiurge Yaldabaoth.

    3) this Sabaoth was killed by Yaldabaoth and he became himself the new Demiurge in the place of Yaldabaoth, therefore receiving the name of YHWH.

    4) The our AoI was written by a judaizing author who was scandalized by this previous text and corrected it, but he left a surprising trace of that previous version, a kind of lectio difficilior:

    Et princeps mundi illius propter filium ejus extendet manus suas in eum et suspendent illum in ligno, et occidet eum nesciens qui sit.

    viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4683#p93631

    And the prince of that world will stretch out his hand against the Son of him [OF THE PRINCE OF THAT WORLD], and they will lay their hands upon him and hang him upon a tree, not knowing who he is./i>

    the ony possible way the Archon of this world can kill just the his Son (just when we believe that this Son is the Son of the supreme god and NOT, ABSOLUTELY NOT, of the Archon) is that the Son is the repented Sabaoth son ofthe evil Yaldabaoh. As effect of the his conversion, the bastard son of the Demiurge (”son of carpenter”) is punished just by the Demiurge and, as reward, he is made the new Demiurge of the new Creation, but who gives him this reward is the supreme god (not the god of the Jews), the Unknown God of the Gnostics.

    • db
      2019-01-06 18:22:47 GMT+0000 - 18:22 | Permalink

      I suggest the following terminology to avoid confustion:

      • first-god
      • second-god

      • first-cretin
      • second-cretin

      As I understand first-cretin killed second-god. However per

      Et princeps mundi illius propter filium ejus extendet manus suas in eum et suspendent illum in ligno, et occidet eum nesciens qui sit.

      second-cretin became opposed to first-cretin. Then first-cretin killed second-cretin.

      • db
        2019-01-06 21:47:35 GMT+0000 - 21:47 | Permalink

        Charles, Robert Henry (1900). “Chapter IX. 9–17The Ascension of Isaiah. A. & C. Black. p. 121.

        S:IX:14. Et princeps mundi illius propter filium ejus extendet manus suas in eum et suspendent illum in ligno, et occidet eum nesciens qui sit.

      • db
        2019-01-06 22:25:55 GMT+0000 - 22:25 | Permalink

        So:

        • second-cretin rejects first-cretin

        • first-god adopts second-cretin and sends him on a suicide mission against first-cretin

        • first-cretin kills second-cretin

        • first-god raises second-cretin and inaugurates him as second-god

      • Steven Watson
        2019-02-07 02:25:27 GMT+0000 - 02:25 | Permalink

        Cretin is a even more derogatory stand-in for the derogative ‘stupid’ in English, so you have deepened my confusion rather than avoiding it. You will have to unpack your meaning some more for me, please. I don’t understand what you are on about.

        • JohnG
          2019-03-06 08:05:34 GMT+0000 - 08:05 | Permalink

          Maybe:

          https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cretin

          From French crétin (“cretin, idiot”), from crestin, an Alpine dialectal form of chrétien, from Vulgar Latin christiānus in the lost sense of “anyone in Christendom”, often with a sense of “poor fellow”. Doublet of Christian.

  • Giuseppe
    2019-01-06 17:28:27 GMT+0000 - 17:28 | Permalink

    if the father of the Son (Sabaoth) is an evil deity (Yaldabaoth), then this explains the Talmudic accusation against Jesus: he is the bastard son of the Roman soldier Panthera. “Roman” as the ruler of this world.

    A common folk etymology derives the word from Greek pan- (πάν), meaning “all”, and thēr (θήρ), meaning ”all-beast”. The demiurge was conceived as an entirely bestial deity. Yaldabaoth is described in the form of both snake and lion.

    So ”born by woman, born under the law” may mean: Jesus is the son (Sabaoth) of the fallen Sophia (and of Yaldabaoth), when she helped the Demiurge to create the world ”under the his law”.

  • Klaus Schilling
    2019-01-06 18:02:46 GMT+0000 - 18:02 | Permalink

    The situation is similar in various places of Paul, such as Philippans 2:9-11. Sabaoth, while son of Sammael, can also be seen as an adopted son of the Father, the adoption occurring upon the martyrdom/resurrection or the baptise (metanoia). The NH text Hypostasis of the Archons includes the best representation of the myth of the metanoia of Sabaoth.

    The judaizer should be seen in circles who deemed intertestamental texts like First Henoch (without parables) or the Testament of Levi important, if not authorative, as they use the circumscription “Great Glory” for the Tetragrammaton.

    Apelles, the pet heretic of resident Roger Parvus (not to be confused with Roger Pearse or Richard Pervo), went one step farther and justified also Ialdabaoth (the creator). Two aspects of the OT god , yet both of them commissioned by The Father, would sound like an overkill, yet the development sketched by Magne provides an explanation for this: First one of them was rehabilitated, then the other.

    The Catholic Church, of course, identifies The Father with the god of the OT, and the now free role of Sabaoth was transferred to an agent of this OT/NT god; and this agent was constructed to fulfil Scripture, as the new prophet like Moses, the returning Eliyah, and ultimately as the messiah. In doing so, many texts got reworked in the Judaizing sense.

    • Giuseppe
      2019-01-07 18:54:48 GMT+0000 - 18:54 | Permalink

      Scipio became Africanus because he won Hannibal.

      Nero Claudius Drusus became Germanicus because he won the Germans.

      Trajan, became Dacicus became he won Decebalus.

      Obviously, he list continues.

      So, in the original (Gnostic) Hymn to Philippians, the Son received the name of “YHWH” because he won the evil Archon of this World: YHWH himself.

  • Bob Moore
    2019-01-06 21:08:29 GMT+0000 - 21:08 | Permalink

    Cool. Does Parvus explain elsewhere why VoI doesn’t sound like Paul?

    • RParvus
      2019-01-08 02:33:16 GMT+0000 - 02:33 | Permalink

      It may be that it was originally a Simonian composition and was reworked to Christianize it. In such a scenario the reworking would not need to have been done by Paul or even by someone contemporary to him. It could have occurred later, say between 70 to 140 CE. And it need not have been done by the same person who composed the Pauline passages (e.g., I Cor. 2:6 – 16; II Cor. 12:1-10) that appear to have the VoI in view. The Pauline letters appear to be a patchwork, and many of those who embrace the patchwork theory see many hands involved belonging to a generation or two after the time of Paul.

      Thus, for example, in the last chapter of Loisy’s “The Origin of the New Testament,” he writes:

      “Though ‘the gnosis of Paul’ is a phrase freely used, it would be more exact to speak of the gnoses that have been put out under his name. For it is far from true that one and the same gnostic system is professed in all the Epistles, or in all parts of the same Epistle, which have their origin in gnostic mysticism… But, first and foremost, we have only to confront the Epistles attributed to Paul with the seven letters which the Christ of the Apocalypse addresses to the churches of Asia by his prophet-spokesman to satisfy ourselves that in those churches, and chiefly at Ephesus, there were Christian groups which claimed Paul’s authority and ascribed it to those whom we may call his literary successors. To such circles as these we owe the fictitious gnostic Paul, who especially in the Epistle to the Galatians and in Second Corinthians, puts forth the altogether preposterous claim to be, by the special choice and revelation of the Christ, the unique depository of a unique Gospel, to wit, the revelation of the mystery, under the diverse forms or definitions it assumes in the great epistles and lesser.”

      And a bit further on Loisy continues:

      “We have now reached what is, perhaps, the most important result of this part of our study. This consists in the radical dissimilation of the Paul who really spoke and the Paul who was represented as speaking. The first, the historic Paul, was the preacher of the primitive eschatological catechesis, enlarging it only, as it had already been enlarged by the Antioch missionaries, with a view to bringing pagans into the fold by sparing them the constraint of legal observances. The second was Paul the mystic, with his audacious pretensions, his perpetual and tiresome boastfulness, his gross abuse of the old disciples who he makes out to be Judaizers. As a personality having a place in primitive Christian history this second Paul would be wholly inexplicable, but is intelligible enough as the mouthpiece of Christian groups which believed themselves heirs of the Pauline tradition. They it was who, in reality, brought into the tradition, not indeed the principle of universal salvation by faith in the risen Christ … but the mystery of salvation by mystic union with a Saviour who had come down from heaven and returned to it in glory — a Saviour to whom the ardent believer was united, not only by knowledge of the mystery, but in an intimate communion affected by sacraments, with their ritual of probation, participation and final vision.”

      Or, if you prefer, Robert M. Price, echoing Van Manen, puts it this way:

      “The kind of virulent advocacy, opposition, and reinterpretation of Pauline doctrine evidenced in these writings really is more appropriate if their subject is an authority of the past. We seem to be witnessing a debate over Paulinism by the Christians of a subsequent generation, much as we see in James 2:14-26 and 2 Peter 3:15-16, only here the writers are all posing as Paul in order to correct things authoritatively from within the Paulinist ranks” (“The Amazing Colossal Apostle,” p. 34).

      Now, in the Simonian series I wrote for Vridar I took the approach that the mystic Paul was the original figure and that he was in fact Simon of Samaria under another name. Having mulled that over for a couple of years I have to say that I am less and less comfortable with it. (I should perhaps add a post of afterthoughts to the series.) I am still convinced that the Paulines are a patchwork and that whoever wrote I Cor. 2:1-5 knew the VoI. But I have to admit that Loisy’s assigning of the various patches is more plausible than my own. For the most part he assigns the interpolations to the 70-140 CE time period. He doesn’t mention any specific names but, to my mind, what he says elsewhere about Saturnilus is interesting: “In many respects, therefore, he was a forerunner of Marcion. Though much indebted to Simon and Menander, he, unlike them, does not set himself up as the Saviour sent form on high, but attributes that role to Jesus. Consequently, heretic though he be, we cannot deny him the qualification of Christian, while, from the Christian point of view, Simon and Menander qualify rather for Antichrists” (“The Birth of the Christian Religion,” p. 302).

      Thus in the extant record Saturnilus is the first Simonian who “switches allegiance”, so to speak. Was the switch genuine or was it just a way to give his ideas a hearing under new auspices? Who knows? (There is also the happy coincidence that his name, SAtUrniLus [my caps], contains the letters needed to form the name ‘Saul’ which, at least according to Acts, was the original name of Paul, another switcher). But in any case, Saturnilus is said to have had followers and to have founded churches. Justin mentions the Saturnilians in one of his Apologias. So I wonder whether much of the material in the Pauline letters started life as either intramural debates within Saturnilian type communities, and between them and external Judeo-Christian rivals. It is true that the letters, despite their patchwork character, do exhibit a kind of overall unity. This is to be expected since the proto-orthodox no doubt carefully went over them before allowing them to circulate in their own churches. But I seriously doubt that it was the proto-orthodox who collected together the various elements that make up the patchwork. I would think that had already been done by the time the letters came to the attention of the Proto-orthodox, and even of Marcion. Some pre-Marcionite Saturnilian, or perhaps Cerdo, since he is said to have preceded Marcion to Rome, may have already put all the material together.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-08 09:37:44 GMT+0000 - 09:37 | Permalink

        Roger, it looks like another series is overdue, here, yes?

      • balivi
        2019-01-16 15:53:56 GMT+0000 - 15:53 | Permalink

        Roger!
        What do you think about this interpretation:

        There is a tradition of Paul’s partner is Tekla (in Paul’s actions, in Paul’s Ascension, Williem Barnstone: The Other Bible), Helen is Simon’s partner (more Christian fathers, and your writting). In the case of Simon, Helen appears as a Holy Spirit, in the case of Paul, Tekla did the baptism. What if, these two women are the same and the two men are the same, and both parts of the tradition are true?
        What it means? Simon/Paul triggered Helen out of the prostitute line, to carry out the “Holy Spirit baptism”. We know from the pauline letters, the “Holy Spirit” baptized, into the “Christ.” True? Helen/Tekla was “used” to baptize into the Christ. How? In sexual act. Since orgasm is a very strong sympathetic and parasympathetic shift, within the nervous system. At the moment of orgasm, “Christ/ or Son of God” was revealed.

    • James Barlow
      2019-02-09 18:24:46 GMT+0000 - 18:24 | Permalink

      (shshsh….)

  • Klaus Schilling
    2019-01-06 21:31:23 GMT+0000 - 21:31 | Permalink

    The end of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth chapter of Second Corinthians is absent in Marcion’s version as reconstructed by Stuart Waugh from the usual patristic polemic sources. Its insertion can further be explained and motivated as a harmonization with Paul’s appearance presented in the Acts of the Apostles. The next late interpolation starts with 12:9b, which also betrays harmonization with the Acts and the Pastoral Epistles.

    So the pre-pastoral/Acts layer reduces to:

    7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
    8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
    9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

    These lines are no longer sufficient to justify the connexion with VoI, which means that the connexion was established by the harmonizing layer.

  • balivi
    2019-01-07 11:12:00 GMT+0000 - 11:12 | Permalink

    Paul/Simon was a docetic/gnostic. This is obvious to me. Just two examples:

    “…for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” Cor10:4)
    Shamuel Golding writes somewhere, these sentences we can find word for word in an ancient Mithraist text, only in instead of Christ’s name, the name of Mithras is.
    Jesus (as son of god) in the letters of Paul is not flesh- blood (Rom8:3, Fil2:6-8).
    “Who, being in very nature[a] God (like an angel? Gal4:14), did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (like Son of God, Rom8:3, Fil2:6-8)
    And being found in appearance as a man,” (as ‘antropos’, Christ as a man, when God gave his son to death in 1Cor11:23)…(Phil2:6-8)

    Christ is not a specific/concrete person at Paul, but a spiritual moment.

    • Klaus Schilling
      2019-02-09 23:13:29 GMT+0000 - 23:13 | Permalink

      The first pericope of 1 Cor 10 equates the Saviour with the Tetragrammaton, following the example of Numbers 17. Mediated by Moses, Israel in the desert is watered by a rocky fountain which is YHWH in disguise. This is also in a line with Justin the Martyr, who equates the Son with scriptural theophanies.

      The epistle of Jude makes Jesus responsible for wrathful divine actions of the OT, such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorre.

  • Steven Watson
    2019-02-07 04:18:55 GMT+0000 - 04:18 | Permalink

    Hhmmm. It is my understanding that the “pocket gospel” is a later substitution for an erasure; otherwise I am now sympathetic, on Neil’s further exposition and re-formatting, to Roger’s idea that Paul could have written, or contributed to the redaction of, the AoI. I think it can certainly be argued that amongst Paul’s visionary experiences there was a similar ascension. I’m not convinced at all myself of the overall Simonian thesis; it seems to substitute one apocryphal legend of Christian origin for another, both being (unintentionally?) bogus inventions from long after Paul, whose floriut by his own words is perhaps the reign of Alexandra Salome or a decade later. Aretas IV can never have held Damascus, however fleetingly; this is an artefact of later eisegesis. Gospels-Acts is sufficiently acknowleged as entirely fictional to remove any reason to date things dependent on it, never mind our removing Jesus having any basis other than as an allegory based on a reality existing only in the visionary experiences of Paul and the apostles he acknowledges!

    If we fictionalise everything I can’t help but notice we are left with bugger all and are just filling an abhorred vacumn with ‘just so’ stories, making us no less foolish than the Christians and other religidiots. 🙂

    On the dicusion of Gnosis, Ialdabaoth, Sabaoth, Alien God and the ‘evil’ Demiurge, and whatnot; something is nagging at me from another scholar of “Gnosis so- called” that might be relevant. I’ll come back to that perhaps after I’ve re-read the paper and established I’m not misremebering it.

  • James Barlow
    2019-02-09 18:21:46 GMT+0000 - 18:21 | Permalink

    Close. Very close but (as they say) “no cigar.” {The reason why Paul could not have bedn the author of VoI should be apparent….}

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.