2020-06-06

Medieval “Christ Mythicists” and the Ascension of Isaiah

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by Neil Godfrey

The thirteenth-century Cathars in southern France that I compared with today’s political opposition in my previous post embraced the Ascension of Isaiah as one of their core texts. (The reason I was re-reading the Sibly translation of Peter’s chronicle of the crusade against them was to try to get a clearer picture of the history of different manuscript lines of the Ascension of Isaiah — those containing and those lacking the “pocket gospel” (11:2-22) of Jesus being born through Mary in Bethlehem and being crucified in Jerusalem.)

Peter begins by describing the beliefs of these Cathars and at one point makes this intriguing note:

[11] Further, in their secret meetings they said that the Christ who was born in the earthly and visible Bethlehem and crucified at Jerusalem was ‘evil’, and that Mary Magdalene was his concubine – and that she was the woman taken in adultery who is referred to in the Scriptures; the ‘good’ Christ, they said, neither ate nor drank nor assumed the true flesh and was never in this world, except spiritually in the body of Paul. I have used the term ‘the earthly and visible Bethlehem’ because the heretics believed there is a different and invisible earth in which – according to some of them – the ‘good’ Christ was born and crucified. Again, they said that the good God had two wives, Oolla and Ooliba, on whom he begat sons and daughters. There were other heretics who said that there was only one Creator, but that he had two sons, Christ and the Devil; they said moreover that all created beings had once been good, but that everything had been corrupted by the vials referred to in the Book of Revelations.

What was that about Christ being crucified not on earth but in some spiritual counterpart to earth?

Cathars were dualists. They believed that this world was created by Satan. Note, though, that Peter writes that “some” of the Cathars believed Jesus was crucified (and born!) in a “celestial” realm of some kind. Most texts discussing the Cathars that I have come across do not mention that this was a belief of “some” of them. The Cathars did have a religious hierarchy, though — the “perfects” who lived a most ascentic life-style and “the rest” of the followers. It is tempting to speculate that the “some” who believed in a “heavenly” crucifixion were the “perfects”. But that is only speculation.


Peter. 1998. The History of the Albigensian Crusade: Peter of Les Vaux-De-Cernay’s Historia Albigensis. Translated by W. A Sibly and M. D Sibly. Woodbridge: Boydell.


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39 thoughts on “Medieval “Christ Mythicists” and the Ascension of Isaiah”

  1. Fascinating! Thanks for digging this up! Along the same lines, I think there are echos of a belief in a celestial Christ in the sepher toledoth yeshua. In particular, the story about Judas sodomizing Jesus in mid air. Sodomizing is a clear parody of crucifixion (bearing in mind that crucifixion basically just means “to stake”).

  2. The original Latin is more suggestive:

    Ideo autem diximus in Bethlehem terrestri et invisibili; quia haeretici fingebant esse aliam terram novam et invisibilem, et in alia terra secundum quosdam, bonus Christus fuit natus et crucifixus
    source

    Interesting is the fact that the heretics are described as arguing that the Catholic insistence on Bethlehem being “earthly and visible” was meant deliberately to eclipse the existence of an “invisible” Bethlehem.

  3. Has there been any discussion about Acts 8:26-40 as being an oblique reference to the Ascension of Isaiah? I am taking Acts as a whitewashing of the history of Christianity, harmonizing differences among the personalities mentioned, and so not actual history, but with historical nuggets embedded.

    I note that this story with the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip, which ends with a baptism, appears immediately before Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus — as if there is a symbolic timeline being represented in terms of the spread and influence of ideas leading to Paul’s conversion. It’s as if Paul’s conversion needed a story from Isaiah to be interpreted in a certain way first.

    Quote from Acts 8:35: “Beginning with this scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” — Why are these possibly Hellenized or intellectually high-brow and foreign individuals starting with this passage from Isaiah as an example of how to interpret this Christ figure? It’s as if this idea came from far afield, from Hellenized Jews and godfearers, and represents a radical interpretation.

    In the quote from Isaiah, the silence of the sheep being led to slaughter has a faint parallel to the Vision of Isaiah of the “silence” of the descending Christ who doesn’t say the password at the final stage. What if this story is actually describing an incident of interpreting scriptures that produced the narrative of a cosmic Christ in the Ascension of Isaiah that predates the stories of the historical Jesus in Mark and later gospels? Perhaps the goal in this passage is to rewrite what happened because Philip and the eunuch are some of the people who generated or perpetuated an interpretation of a cosmic-only Christ, and so the author of Acts needed to whitewash and harmonize this with a second century Christian view of a physical Jesus being crucified on Earth.

    1. My own take on the points you raise . . .

      Isaiah was one of the core texts for early Christian literature (both epistles and gospels) because of

      1. the status of the name of the prophet Isaiah — early chapters depict him seeing the throne of God;
      2. its Suffering Servant passages that became a building block for later Son of Man (Book of Daniel) and Messianic (Enoch) images;
      3. its explicit prophecies of gentiles coming into the fold of God’s people creating a new kingdom of Jews and gentiles.

      So quite apart from the Asc.Is. there are strong reasons we can expect to see Isaiah heavily referenced in the NT. Points 2 and 3 above are closer to the context in which Isaiah is alluded to in Acts than anything in the Asc.Is., I think.

      Commentators have suggested that the references to Isaiah and the conversion of gentiles or proselytes before Paul’s conversion in Acts are there in order to promote the idea that Paul and the twelve apostles were all part of one body and work. The otherwise heretical idea that Paul stood in opposition to the Twelve or had a separate mission from theirs is rebutted by this time-line ni Acts.

      1. re “Isaiah was one of the core texts for early Christian literature (both epistles and gospels)” –

        All NT epistles; Pauline, Pastoral, and Catholic? Or just some?

        1. Here’s one list of Isaiah quotations and allusions in the NT: https://levendwater.org/companion/append80.html (I just glanced at it but it looks like its illustrating the point I was making.)

          It’s more than direct quotes and allusions, too. The Son of Man — if it comes from Daniel (I think it does, contrary to those who claim it was often just a circumlocution for “man”) — then as addressed in some of the posts at https://vridar.org/?s=suffering+servant+son+man+hengel — Isaiah’s Suffering Servant was the origin of the Christian concept of “messiah”. If the Suffering Servant was from an early date considered a personification of Israel then we also have that Isaianic motif as a key contributor to the whole idea of the Jesus story — a story of a personification of God’s people who suffer yet are restored again.

      2. Very interesting — every time I reread this section in Acts, my perspective shifts when taking into account that the unified message may have been an overlay from the next century. If Paul had read or been inspired by something like the Ascension of Isaiah, leading to a different Jesus being described and proclaimed, it is this timeframe that is most interesting.

        Despite the papering over of differences, it is in this section in Acts where splits are described. The persecution in Jerusalem by Saul leads to the apostles staying (!) in Jerusalem and the rest “scattered” (Acts 8:1). It’s in the stories of the “scattered” that major shifts are depicted, including the conversion of Saul as he went out to deal with the “scattered.” It as if the “scattered” are generating some innovation not just preaching the same message. Even when differences are seemingly worked out (Acts 9:28), only when Saul leaves Jerusalem (because of disputes with Hellenistic Jews) is there a “time of peace” with the church described. This attempt in Acts to cover this period feels like there was a lot of dynamic shifts and splits occurring that did persist despite the best efforts of the author of Acts to show otherwise.

        1. It’s interesting to see that one of the themes in Acts from the opening chapter has been splits/opposition followed by a demonstration of inspired reconciliation, healing and unity. It starts with Judas. Another major split is over the widows’ needs. One can imagine the author addressing a divided “church” and justifying the unifying authority of his own base, probably Rome, as the spiritual heir of the church authorities at Jerusalem.

          On the particular section you are looking at, another perspective is to see a narrative that takes the gospel from Judea, the Jews, to the Samaritans, the “fallen house” of the divided biblical kingdom, and from there to the gentiles of Ethiopia. This structure is open to interpretation as the fulfilment of the prophesied pattern: first the Jews (who reject the message), then ironically via Jews with Greek names it is taken to Samaria, and then to the gentiles. — All exactly as per 1:8.

          The author uses persecution as the driving force that propels this expanding message. It’s myth creation. The persecutions are not historical: they are literary tropes from an entirely literary imagination.

          Yes, there is something the author is saying about Simon Magus that is an attempt to rewrite another narrative that is known to his audiences. I wish we knew more about the reputation of that Philip and who he represented (as a literary figure).

          1. The “Philips” in that time period and in the N.T. are myriad and confusing, although there is a Herodian aspect to several of them.

            For Simon Magus, there have been parallels to all sorts of things, including the descent depicted in the Vision of Isaiah.

            As I was reviewing Simon Magus (who some have equated with Paul), I came across Ephphanius’ Panarion – which has Simon in his own descent through the heavens, to rescue a female entity of God, Ennoia, and to confer salvation upon men through knowledge of himself:

            “But in each heaven I changed my form,” says he, “in accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought, who is none other than her who is also called Prunikos and Holy Ghost, through whom I created the angels, while the angels created the world and men.”
            from Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Magus

            I also can’t help thinking of the bizarre (maybe satirical) story in Josephus’ antiquities about the seduction of Paulina — who could not be bribed (parallel to simony?) but is fooled by someone disguised as a god in sleeping with her. That story also has a three-day period and crucifixations galore.

            Of course this appears right after the controversial Testimonium Flavianum mentioning Christ– as if this whole section in Antiquities is filled with replacement bits and satirical takes inserted over time on some other story that was supposed to be here.

            And perhaps the author of Acts is doing the same — mixing and matching different stories and reversing them to smooth over the actual underlying story.

            1. fyi, –

              Jan N. Bremmer (2019) ‘Simon Magus: The Invention and Reception of a Magician in a Christian Context’, Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE), Vol 5 (2); pp. 246-270 (25).

  4. The thing is that they aren’t actually denying that a historical Jesus existed.

    “Further, in their secret meetings they said that the Christ who was born in the earthly and visible Bethlehem and crucified at Jerusalem was ‘evil’, and that Mary Magdalene was his concubine”

    It means they appear to have been separational dualists, i.e. two Christs (an earthly Jesus who is evil and a spiritual Christ who is good). However, they still clearly believe that the Jesus of Christianity’s orthodoxy was a historical person on Earth.

    As such, this dualistic good/bad Jesus in different visible/invisible realms largely has no parallel to the Asc. of Isa. (which I don’t think attests at all to a Jesus dying in a celestial realm) or other early Christian texts. The best one could come up with would be to compare this to separationist Christologies which had the “Christ” “born” in the Heavens who then inhabited the body of the man Jesus (as many gnostics and docetists believed, although others thought he came to earth and “appeared” as human, but in fact was not and suffered not).

    1. One question I have that I suspect can no longer be answered from any of our surviving sources is what version of the Ascension of Isaiah the Cathars used. The Asc. Isa. was one of their texts, but two forms of that work have survived: an Ethiopic line with the “pocket gospel” of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and crucifixion in Jerusalem, and a Slavonic (and L2) that lacks that detailed gospel narrative.

      The Cathars are understood to have received their Asc. Isa. from the Bogomils in the east — Bulgaria, or what might be Slav territory. Should we infer that they used the “shorter” version of the Asc. Isa.? If so, there is room to think that they saw in that document only a slaying of the Beloved by the Prince of this world (the Devil).

      (I personally doubt that the full Asc. Isa. in particular posited a heavenly crucifixion. I am inclined to see it, and Paul, teaching an earthly event.

      I think it is better to describe this earthly crucifixion as simply belief in an earthly appearance of Jesus. “Historical existence”, to me, brings overtones of a thought-out “historical investigation” or serious scholarly rationale for a historical conclusion based on a belief in supporting evidence. I don’t think Cathars or Catholics tended to think in terms of a “historical Jesus” but rather of an “earthly Jesus” — that was the central core of their “kerygma”, Christology, etc. They believed in Jesus entirely as a result of having been taught about him (on earth) from birth and growing up in a society that took that belief for granted.

      As for the mythicism question, I think the celestial crucifixion explanation is misguided.

      1. I do agree that maybe earthly appearance is probably a better description. I don’t think really anyone of that era really went through a “historical investigation” of Jesus in any way we would think of it.

        I think we could infer the Slavonic line very tentatively, though it is quite the inference (one could also suppose they took after the Latin lines, thus either L1 or L2, given we know that L2 has a close relationship to S).

        I think when it comes to groups like these, as with those like Marcion and others, we will forever be epistemologically left in a black hole until we find their actual texts or older, less hostile reports. I am eternally skeptical of relying on the reports of opponents. Claims of belief in a purely celestial Jesus or a nonexistent, for example, have long been used as polemics (such as against Quakers in the 1700’s, and against Popes in the early 1800’s). Imo, until we hear it from the horse’s mouth, it is at best doubtful.

        1. There can be no question that Peter presents evidence that people believed in an other-worldly crucifixion. Whether we accept the reliability of that evidence, or whether “first Christians” held the same belief, are entirely different questions.

          1. Is it evidence they believed that, or that there was a polemic of that? Since we do not have their writings, I’m skeptical. Again, there is strong evidence of these type of ideas being used as polemics by Christians against “heretics”, even those far less radical than the Cathars.

            1. It is testimony about their beliefs. In the Sibly translation I see a court-sourced account. I don’t see polemical rhetoric in his description. Why or from where would accusers make up such a preposterous charge if it were fabricated. What/who put into their heads the idea that anyone would imagine a celestial crucifixion. Was there a Christ myth debate raging then and had a pre-publication version of Couchoud been made available? If it were a polemical charge then why do we read it in just this one sense as applying to one subset of Cathars and never again, as far as I am aware?

              I’m posted the point because I thought it would be of interest to those who do argue Jesus was crucified in the firmament. I certainly don’t accept that as the original belief myself. Do I sense some hypersensitivity to the particular point being even raised?

    2. It is very clear that the heavenly or superior Christ was a counterpart to the earthly Christ. That’s why the heavenly slain one was “superior” to the earthly one. I don’t see any attempt to deny that point. (Though again, the teaching is an “earthly Christ”, not a “historical one”. The former is the theological term that is being discussed. They were not talking historical methods and conclusions.) But I am beginning to sense a hypersensitivity to any mention of a point, however indirect, that might cohere with some part of what some (certainly not all) mythicists argue.

      I fear some people, on both sides of the debate, are too focussed on a posited explanation for the alternative belief system. That is really a secondary discussion to whether or not the Christian belief originated with a Christ crucified in heavens.

      My own view is that Jesus was said to have descended through Mary onto earth. He was crucified on earth. That, I believe, (or “believe” in a light sense of “provisionally accept pending evidence that points elsewhere”) was the original conception. Historicity of the believed or conceived event is quite another matter.


      Correction added:

      I spoke of “original” belief. I have no reason to think that there was any single “original” belief; rather, a medley of different interpretations of revelations through scripture and related midrashic constructs.

      . . . .

      Further — if the Gospel of Mark represents something close to what was the “original narrative” (distinct from an “original belief”), such a narrative was constructed as a parable of an idealized Israel.

  5. The thing is that they aren’t actually denying that a historical Jesus existed.

    Evidence of a celestial crucifixion is also here:

    The animal and carnal Christ, however, does suffer after the fashion of the superior Christ, who, for the purpose of producing Achamoth, had been stretched upon the cross, that is, Horos, in a substantial though not a cognizable form. In this manner do they reduce all things to mere images — Christians themselves being indeed nothing but imaginary beings!
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0314.htm

    If the oldest belief was a celestial crucifixion as that described above, then an earhtly appearance of Christ could be conceived as an event “witnessed” on the earth meant to hearken back to a cosmic principle (Cosmic Cross named Horos etc) which began or was associated with the beginning of the universe. In this sense, the OT scriptures could serve to “witness” that event. The symbology about the cross/wood/tree from Isaac’s sacrifice was only a way to give a ‘realistic’ picture of the cosmic crucifixion, in a time when still the crucifixion was placed in heaven.

      1. Apart what Couchoud and Doherty wrote about Hebrews (the first in particular about Hebrews 13:11-14), apart the possible interpretation of Pilate as Pylatis (meaning: “gate-keeper”, which refers to lower heavens), it is especially the silence of Paul about an earthly Jesus: by mentioning a Jesus lived on earth, he could make it more easy for the Jews accept the idea that the crucified Jesus was the Jewish Christ. Evidently, the principal problem for the Jews was the crucifixion of Jesus. Hence, when the risen Jesus shows his hands to disciples, he does so in order to persuade them not that he is risen hence he is the Christ, but precisely that he is risen as the crucified Christ. The Argument from Silence in Paul and Hebrews is therefore strong against the same presence of an earthly Jesus in the epistles.

        1. I was wondering what evidence points to the particular gnostic terminologies and concepts that you referenced being the oldest belief. — Schamotte, the superior Christ being stretched out on a “cross” to give rise to achemoth, etc

          1. I have answered partially to your question, by pointing out the fact, witnessed by Paul, that the Jews felt as alien the belief of the crucifixion of the Christ. It (the cosmic crucifixion) was really such, even if Paul wanted to derive a Jewish crucifixion by midrash.

            The complete answer is the following:

            1) The Valentialin belief quoted above about Achamot, etc, talks basically about a cosmic “cross” of glory found in heaven.

            2) There are many passages in Paul about the cross as a cross of glory. For complete references, read the Nanine Charbonnel’s book, p. 402 (especially the quotes of Jean Daniélou).

            3) The best explanation for the cross of glory in Paul, is that it is the same cosmic cross preserved in the Valentinian belief. To think otherwise means to go against Occam, by assuming two different origins for the cosmic cross of glory found respectively in Paul and in the Valentinian belief.

    1. Again, this is not denying that a historical Jesus existed, though. You are forgetting they had two figures, an earthly historical Jesus, and another spiritualized Christ. You cannot just reject this dualistic element.

      In regard to the Cathars, there can be no argument made for whether or not this goes back to earliest Christianity.

      1. In regard to the Cathars, there can be no argument made for whether or not this goes back to earliest Christianity.

        I think you are right. That’s why I asked Giuseppe to explain, expand on the justification for his view. I don’t think we get very far by simply denying a point without hearing the reasons for it. We don’t have to be nervous or defensive in response to proposals and ideas that are unconventional. That’s not being gullible: it is merely being aware of all options and having good reasons for accepting and rejecting other points of view. Again, I think you are right here, but I hope I also understand Giuseppe’s reasoning and am not dismissing (or embracing) it with a knee-jerk.

    2. That specifically has Jesus actually die on Earth. There is a separationist ideology there.

      Here is the fuller quote:

      “As for Soter (Jesus), he remained in Christ to the last, impassible, incapable of injury, incapable of apprehension. By and by, when it came to a question of capture, he departed from him during the examination before Pilate. In like manner, his mother’s seed did not admit of being injured, being equally exempt from all manner of outrage, and being undiscovered even by the Demiurge himself. The animal and carnal Christ, however, does suffer after the fashion of the superior Christ, who, for the purpose of producing Achamoth, had been stretched upon the cross, that is, Horos, in a substantial though not a cognizable form.”

      The Soter (Christ) leaves Jesus the human being during the trial, but the implication is that the Christ is with Jesus until the end. Thus, they are crucified in tandem, however, the spiritual Christ cannot be harmed, so the “suffering” of the “superior Christ” happens as an illusion, while the earthly “animal and carnal” Christ dies.

      The reality is that they are still attesting to a belief in a human Jesus, though. There is still a humanly form of Jesus on Earth.

      1. James, Separationism is the view that the spiritual Christ possessed the man Jesus and abandoned him on the cross and I don’t deny that the Valentinians could be Separationists hence ‘historicist’ Christians. But according to the quote reported above, the spiritual Christ is crucified on a celestial cross (a lot of time) before the death of the earthly Jesus in Jerusalem. The idea is found also in Irenaeus:

        “Then the (higher) Christ took pity on it, extended himself through the cross (Horos) and formed it by his power into a figure, but only according to nature, not according to knowledge.
        (I, 2:6)

        Hence there is evidence of a belief in a celestial crucifixion as a distinct event from the earthly crucifixion.

        Since the celestial crucifixion is a more “glorious” event (talking in ‘cosmic’ terms) than the humble earthly crucifixion, what I am saying to Neil is that the cross of glory found in Paul (see Jean Daniélou above for the references) is more probably the celestial crucifixion than the earthly crucifixion.

          1. So Elaine Pagels:

            For Paul has explained in 1:18 that to the psychics, to “those who are perishing”, the logos of the cross – the symbolic interpretation of the cross as signifying stauros and horos in the pleroma – “is folishness”.
            (“The Mystery of the Resurrection”: A Gnostic Reading of 1 Corinthians 15)

            But especially:

            Nowadays the sign of the cross normally calls to mind the gibbet to which Christ was nailed. But we have to ask ourselves whether this was the primary origin of the sign on the forehead in the primitive Christian community. It seems indeed that it was not, that in the beginning it was a matter of a sign that had a different significance. We have to notice that several ancient texts compare the sign of the cross with the letter tau…
            The conclusion reached by our inquiry is this. The sign of the cross is seen to have its origin, not in an allusion to Christ’s passion, but as a signification of his divine glory. Even when it comes to be referred to the cross on which he died, that cross is regarded as the expression of the divine power which operates through his death: and the four arms of the cross are looked on as the symbol of the cosmic significance of that redeeming act.

            (Jean Daniélou, Primitive Christian Symbols, p. 145, my bold)
            https://ia601301.us.archive.org/13/items/PrimitiveChristianSymbols/Primitive%20Christian%20Symbols_text.pdf

            Note that Nanine Charbonnel based a lot on Danielou when she talks about the various symbologies of the cross.

              1. Only as that quote says, as an additional name for Horus, in <i.Adv. Val. (I don’t know if he refers to Crux elsewhere).

                I’ve seen reference to Crux as the place where the Egyptian Horus was crucified.

                The crux ansata (Latin), ankh (Egyptian) – a cross surmounted by a loop (handle, ansata) – is said to be an ancient hieroglyph signifying life, including in Anatolia (and is a cross long associated with the Coptic Orthodox Church).

                D. M. Murdock/ Acharya S asserted the crux ansata resembled or represented a person ‘crucified in the heavens.’

                Larry Hurtado said the crux ansata was one of the first if not the first monograph of Jesus (Hurtado, Larry W. (2006). <i.The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Eerdmans; p. 136).

                Intriguingly, Crux was/is the name given to the Southern Cross star constellation which was visible to the ancient Greeks, though they saw it as part of the constellation Centaurus. It was entirely visible as far north as Britain in the fourth millennium BC. However, the precession of the equinoxes gradually lowered its stars below the European horizon, and they were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes. By AD 400, most of the constellation never rose above the horizon for Athenians.

            1. I thought you were addressing a term “cross of glory” that was distinct from, say, a “cross of shame”. Even our canonical gospels represent the cross as a victory, a glorious event — with the outward shame being all that was seen by the world, though those “called” to have insight saw it as a crowning victory — as per Paul’s writings.

              I doubt that there is any evidence to point to there being two crosses, one on earth and another, “of glory”, in the heavens as the more primitive belief. I understand all our evidence to point to the bifurcation being a later gnostic development.

              I think the earliest evidence we have (Paul’s letters, both Romans and Galatians) lead us to infer that behind the cross of Christ lay a midrashic interpretation of the “sacrifice” of Isaac. The wood that Isaac carried and to which he was bound was reinterpreted as the wood of the tree on which the son of God was sacrificed as a debt God owed Abraham. (I’ll be posting more about this in future, though I have begun with a recent post on a Wilcox article.) That cross was ironically both the curse and the glory, a defeat and a victory. The one cross was both. Hence Paul says that that cross, the one cross, was foolishness to some and wisdom to others.

              1. My point is that the bifurcation you are talking about happened only when a Gospel Jesus (hence a humble crucifixion in Jerusalem) was introduced in the previous scenario where there was only a celestial crucifixion of glory. I hope you read the chapter of Danielou about the meaning of cross. He also mentions Isaac etc.

                you write:

                That cross was ironically both the curse and the glory, a defeat and a victory. The one cross was both. Hence Paul says that that cross, the one cross, was foolishness to some and wisdom to others.

                …but for Paul it was not foolishness. The foolishness feature was introduced by outsiders. You can’t say that for an insider (and Paul was one) “the one cross was both”. For Paul, the one cross was only one… …of glory. Hardly an earthly humble event.

              2. Yes, for Paul it was glory. Agreed. But Paul said that the same cross was folly to others. It was the one cross. Different groups viewed it differently.

                (I didn’t see in Danielou reasons to see a celestial crucifixion was an original belief. — But if I have overlooked something I stand to be corrected.)

    1. Danielou is discussing the physical symbol(s) of the/a cross, the artefact, the physical sign. That is a different thing from the idea or concept of the cross in Paul’s writings. Paul is not addressing a physical symbol marked on bodies or on walls or carved as an ornament as far as I am aware. No?

  6. May I never boast,” Paul said, “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14) He was saying that the glory of the cross supercedes everything. These words about the “world crucified” have to be interpreted literally, to mean that by the cosmic cross the Pleroma (and Paul with it) was divided from the matter. Hence we find here the same function of Limit for Horos or Stauros. A “world crucified” requires by need a cosmic cross in heaven, not an earthly humble cross. This doesn’t prevent Paul from using the wood of Isaac to “portray” the cross for poor Galatians.

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