How the Holy Spirit Replaced Jerusalem in a Power Game

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by Neil Godfrey

In a former life I was led to understand that when I was baptized God would give me the Holy Spirit, which was his power, and with that power I would be able to overcome my carnal nature and fulfil the law in its full spiritual intent. After my baptism I was often troubled by the fact that I felt no different from before — but don’t be misled by looking for “feelings”, they said — and I certainly did not recognize any extra power within my person to “overcome” my sinful nature. Years later I finally was able to admit I was lied to. But where did this idea of the Holy Spirit having such a central role in the lives of Christians come from?

Here is an interesting thought from Paul Tarazi in first volume of his introduction to the New Testament, Paul and Mark.

Ezekiel: Vision of Shekinah — Ezekiel, pearled nimbus, left hand raised, semi-reclines next to river Chebar. Above, below Arc of Heaven (?), are four Beasts of Apocalypse, all winged, with pearled nimbi, and holding books. . . . From The Morgan Library & Museum

Paul concludes this section (i.e. 1 Thess. 4:1-12) dedicated to the relationship between the Thessalonians and God with a sudden reference to God as the grantor of the Holy Spirit: “Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (v.8) The previous mention of the Holy Spirit occurs in 1:56:

For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Thessalonian Gentiles were chosen and became God’s people just as the “chosen” biblical Israel was, through the gospel that was both preached and accepted in the Holy Spirit. The next reference to the Spirit is found in 5:19-20 in conjunction with pro phrophecy: “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying.” What can be made of all this?

My conviction is that Paul himself raised to prominence the biblical element “Holy Spirit” among his Gentile churches in order to minimize any chance that the Jerusalemite church would be able to gain and keep hegemony over them. He took the lead mainly from his predecessor Ezekiel, the Jerusalemite priest who made out of the Babylonian, and thus Gentile, locality Chebar not only a place where the God of Jerusalem could also speak, but actually the location from which he would authoritatively address Jerusalem itself. To do so, God and his prophet Ezekiel, or their spoken word, had to be eminently mobile and it was God’s spirit that supplied the agency for that mobility of the divine/prophetic word and allowed it to travel from the Gentile Babylonia to Jerusalem. Paul followed Ezekiel’s pattern and made it clear to his churches that they were, through the Pauline gospel, in direct contact with God’s word through his spirit, and not via Jerusalem and its leaders. Those Jerusalem leaders were actually bound by God’s word in the gospel, and not vice-versa. Thus, Paul was actually laying the foundation for his churches’ dependence on the gospel and, at the same time, their independence from Jerusalem.

(Tarazi, Paul Nadim. The New Testament: An Introduction. Volume 1, Paul and Mark. Crestwood, N.Y: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999. pp. 21f)



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30 thoughts on “How the Holy Spirit Replaced Jerusalem in a Power Game”

  1. And what does the CLT or that Michael Lockwood have to say about this? http://www.jesusisbuddha.com/Q.html

    The Sanskrit is: namo Buddhâya, namo Dharmâya, namo Samghâya
    The imitation, originally in Greek letters:
    namô o bodo, namô o douarmo, namô o saggo.
    Jesus imitates the Buddhist Trinity in his own way in his “last wish”, Matthew 28:19. But, with an ambiguity that is only too typical, he imitatates not only the namo to the Buddha, to the Dharma and to the Samgha. He also has puns on the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit of the SDP.
    The secret of the Holy Spirit is also the secret of the SDP. You have to dip all people into the name (namo) of the Tri-ratnas, the Trinitas. But the Greek word for name also imitates the sanskrit word for homage. A typical ambiguity!

  2. Tarazi’s suggestion is attractive, but he assumes that Paul was a Judean who evangelized Gentiles. What if, instead, Paul was in the same Gentile sect as Marcion? And Samaritan-influenced? In those cases, the Holy Spirit would have been the best authority available to Paul, especially for authorizing teachings beyond what was in Scripture. He wasn’t deploying it to counter the authority of the Jerusalem Church (if it even existed).

    1. Good point. It is impossible that a man alone in the 40-50 would have modified so soundly the DNA of the original sect, by doing de facto what the tradition attributes to a Simon Magus. What is more probable is that the historical Paul continued the goal of the original sect, only introducing more prudence and diplomacy in his relations with Gentiles (for example, by calling ‘Satan’ the Roman authorities). His real name was lost, at any case: too good divine coincidence, that the leader of the ‘little ones in the faith’ (=Gentiles) was just: ‘the little one’ (=Paulus).

      1. G: it is probably very very rash for me to hazard a different term for your Italian/Latin. But would “ex nihilo” be a better term than “de facto”?

        Humbly; James

    2. Tarazi is only attractive to people who still believe religiously in Christian origins from within pre-seventy Judean Judaism.

      But it is all later propagandistic dogm to make the church look like fulfilling the law and the prophets, while it really deprecates the Jews and only co-opts the Old Testament.

    3. Just think some of your Marcionites could have survived in Anatolia right up to 1915 like some “Children of the Sun” [Armenian Zoroastrians] managed to do https://books.google.com/books?id=VKS_C45BSOAC&pg=PA151&lpg=PA151&dq=arewordik+russell&source=bl&ots=uOpq5_35mT&sig=ACfU3U12BfbHAyi2MblnLjRaM4fsNzDNrQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwipv__xnqL0AhUIkGoFHSV9B_QQ6AF6BAgiEAM#v=onepage&q=arewordik%20russell&f=false Some Paulicians were still there too. Though sadly those Tondrakites who the Soviets were rather interested in seemed to have totally melted away before someone could interview a last one or two elderly adherents found in the diaspora. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tondrakians

      1. Wow. Of course Marcionism continued on its independent trajectory outside orthodoxy. Thanks for the references.
        I’ve been suspecting that Anatolia and Syria were hotbeds of nonorthodox Christianities. I never knew about them. I suppose the language barrier for study about them is largely responsible.

        1. Matti Moosa (originally from Mosul) did a good bit of ethnographic field work on extant nonorthodox sects of all types in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran in the sixties and seventies especially before the Iran-Iraq War and Kurdish insurgencies severely curtailed those possibilities. https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/erietimesnews/name/matti-moosa-obituary?id=18118285

          One must remember that what eventually became Islam started out as a nonorthodox Christian sect. Moosa had a book Extremist Shiites: The Ghulat Sects …the Alawites in NW Syria for example absorbed part of a sect of sun worshipers who were present near Aleppo for centuries. The Romans picked up part of their Sol Invictus stuff from that region and that one crazy emperor [218-222] Elagabalus was hereditary high priest of such a sect headquartered at Emesa (modern day Homs). Their cult image was a baetylus a conical black meteorite in a temple there… interestingly the same exact location eventually became a church where lo and behold John the Baptists head was miraculously found after being lost for a few centuries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elagabalus_(deity)#/media/File:Bronze-Uranius_Antoninus-Elagabal_stone-SGI_4414.jpg Always wondered if a chunk of it is what people are still trying to kiss and touch in Mecca.

          https://archive.org/details/Moosa1988Kizilbash Armenian Elements in the Beliefs of the Kizilbash Kurds, by Matti Moosa. This study appears as chapter 38 in the book Extremist Shiites, the Ghulat Sects (Syracuse, 1988), pp. 432-447. Written by the eminent historian and Syriac scholar, Dr. Matti Moosa, it describes the cultural and religious interaction between heterodox Christianity and heterodox Islam in parts of Asia Minor and northern Mesopotamia. Includes chapter notes and the book’s full Bibliography, in 54 searchable and bookmarked pdf pages. Scanned by Robert Bedrosian.

          https://archive.org/details/Moosa1988GhulatBeliefs “Pagan, Christian, and Islamic Elements in the Beliefs of the Ghulat,” by Matti Moosa. This study appears as chapter 37 in the book Extremist Shiites, the Ghulat Sects (Syracuse, 1988), pp. 419-431. Written by the great historian and Syriac scholar, Dr. Matti Moosa, it describes the cultural and religious interaction between heterodox Christianity and heterodox Islam in parts of Asia Minor and northern Mesopotamia. Includes chapter notes and the book’s full Bibliography, in 52 searchable and bookmarked pdf pages. Scanned by Robert Bedrosian.

  3. If you want to talk about the replacement of Jerusalem in a power game it is good to remember it happened more than once!

    “the first Ṭawāf (the sevenfold circumambulation of the Kaʿba) is performed; this is followed by the Sa’i, the run between the hills Safa and Marwa (aṣ-Ṣafā wal-Marwa)” Kerr from Inarah has shown that Safa is clearly Mt. Scopus. Had read this last winter and suddenly remembered it just now while skimming through the comments under your 10/31 post.

    With regard to Jerusalem, however, in the Jewish Antiquities Flavius Josephus’ account of Alexander the Great at Jerusalem, where he is said to have sacrificed to Yahweh in the Temple according to the instructions of the High Priest (here, since our interest remains purely geographical, the historicity of the event is insignificant), we read XI.329 (ed. Whiston): “And when he understood that he was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha, which name, translated into Greek, signifies a ‘prospect’ (σκοπόν), for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple (τά τε γὰρ Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ τὸν ναὸν συνέβαινεν ἐκεῖθεν ἀφορᾶσθαι).”

    This place is none other than Mount Scopus in Jerusalem (today the main site of the Hebrew University), one of the highest places in that city (cf. one of the Arabic names: ğabal al-mašārif). The Hebrew name har haṣ-ṣōfīm “Watchman’s Mountain” confirms Josephus’ indication. In postbiblical Hebrew, a ṣōf is a pilgrim who has seen Jerusalem, cf. another Arabic name ğabal almašhad “Witness Mountain” (cf. above on the ‘first pillar’). This mountain in Arabic rendering is then none other than aṣ-ṣafā.

    In the biblical tradition (cf. 2 Chronicles 3:1; the Targum to Song of Songs 4:6 etc.) the Temple Mount (har hab-báyiṯ is Mount Moriah (har ham-moriyyāh; where according to Genesis 22:2 the sacrifice of Isaac almost took place), i.e. in Arabic, Marwa. On the basis of these explanations, we have in Jerusalem the “house” (scil. of God – báy(i)t), undoubtedly in the monotheistic understanding “blessed and a guidance for the worlds” (Q3,96), on the Temple Mount, that is Moriah/Marwa as well as the second mountain Scopus/har haṣ-ṣōfīm/aṣṣafā. All that remains is Bakka (3:96) and a “barren valley” (or wadi 14:37) near to the “house of God” (bi-wādin ġayri ḏī zarʿin ʿinda baytika l-muḥarrami).


    1. High places, mountains, are often associated both with retreats. And the view, with intellectual and a guardian overview of things; but also the heavens? A heavenly spirit? The eye on the top of the pyramid, etc..

      Maybe “Nazareth” is based on the “nez” or “nase” or nose; a high vantage or overlook point?

      1. As others have pointed out before isn’t Natzerat a noun for “watchtower” in Hebrew? And the site of the supposed town sits below a ridge which offers a panoramic view (Arabic: nadhara, also pronounced nazara) of the Jezreel Valley to the northeast, south, and west.

        Could have more to do with one being an observant watcher of others.

        1. Yes. Observant … or protective or menacing. Prison towers? Lookouts ? Military? Birthplace of Jesus.

          Cf. Plain of Armageddon, etc…

          Pretty grim scenarios.

  4. I am probably wrong, but seems to me that the Holy Spirit may be some kind of compromise that evolved from Gnostic thought of body “bad”, spirit “good”, philosophy. Seems more direct, than a substitute for Jerusalem. Especially for Gentiles. If Jerusalem was that important, Christians should have required all be circumcised. With a spirit, you don’t need surgery to be reminded of your status!

    1. Might be simple plagiarism typical of many religions. “On the north wall of Tutankhamun’s tomb, one finds: a physical resurrection scene; an ascension scene with the figure welcomed to heaven by the sky goddess; a trinity scene: God (Osiris), son of God (Horus), and spiritual Ka, a holy ghost.” – Beyond the Crusades, p. 233.

          1. Yup. Some also consider Platonism to be dualistic. With the mind or spirit or ideas or Logos on top.

            Which is why I have always proposed Platonism as the origin of gnosticism. And then much of idealistic, mental, spiritual Christianity.

  5. In the back of my mind, I think that Paul is always trying to bolster his standing in the Christian community. Since he has had little to no contact with the major “plyers” he emphasizes that he has knowledge revealed to him directly. “He don’ need no stinkin’ credentials.” The orthodox church, of course, stamped this out fairly early as they didn’t want competition from anyone claiming to being possessed by the Holy Ghost or having Jesus reveal things to them directly. Since the Holy Ghost wasn’t part of the orthodox church’s hierarchy, I would expect Paul to emphasize a role for it, direct to his customers, bypassing all of the middlemen.

  6. It becomes more comprehensible if one understands, as elaborated by Jean Magne in Logique des Sacrements, the origin of the Christian baptise in the Hermetic text The Crater and the Monad or something like that, fourth part of what was later redacted into CH IV.

    The passage is about the acquisition of the nous, loosely rendered as mind or intellect, by means of diving (baptism) in the crater sent by The Father. It is an allegory for philosophical studies. The Father sends a herald (keryx) to preach that baptism to mankind, and whoever attends teh kerygma and goes through this procedure is illuminated.

    As a sacrament for the masses, this baptism has ultimately to be by a priest in co-operation with god. It is the conversion (from the Jewish god or any idols) to the Father. This is still expressed in a passage in the book of Acts where Paul talks in Milet.

    To propagate the baptism in a Jewish world, certain ammendments had to be made. The Father had to be identified ultimately with the Jewish god, and the baptise had to be justified from the Old Testament. The herald was thus represented in the likeness of Eliyah, whose return from utopia was expected according to one of the Book of Kings.

    The expression nous, however, is hardly used in the Septuagint, as the Hebrew bible never expressed a dualism of body and mind, substantial for hermetics, gnosis, and idealist hellenic philosophy. The best match was pneuma, translating a Hebrew word rwah or similar, which appears quite frequently in the Old Testament, either as a supernatural person (the spirit of God walking on the waters in Genesis) or as a charismatic gift of many heroes of the old Testament.

    The new Testament is frequently confused and unable to distinguish the divine person from the charismatic gift. (and modern scholars multiply this confusion)

    The Old Testament knows two ways of passing the charismatic spirit: Imposition of hands and ointment. Jesus, son of nun, receives the imposition of hands from Moses; whereas Isaiah mentions that God’s spirit was upon him, which he equates to being annointed by God. So various practices competed in early communities, as seen by conflicts in the Book of Acts. The compromise was that to use the water baptise as a means of purification (washing of sins), while assigning the provision of spirit to the sacrament of confirmation, inclusing imposition and ointment.

    1. If you want to call it almost holy? Consider the connection with also animism. Or just superstition.

      Or mental vanity, solipcism. Everything is mind; there is no material world.

      Hegel’s variant might seem partly religious. But could include a very secular “spirit” or mood “of the times”, say . A prevailng philosophy.

      Whatever it is however, if it exists at all, it never seems as perfect as advertised.

      Some very considerable recognition of the material, not just mental world, seens necessary just to stay alive; and flourish too.

      At best I feel, only the secular realist versions of all that, really make much sense.

  7. I recall from my casual, highly amateurish readings that at least one Christian Gnostic sect supposedly considered the Holy Spirit to be evil. I am surprised not to see mention of that point. Or do I remember incorrectly?

    Someone with ancient language skills I lack — please help:
    Until reading this section I always assumed that when Jesus is said to have given up the ghost (in English translations I heard in church) on the cross it was meant that as he died the Holy Spirit/Ghost left. However maybe I was just making things up, or the translators were assuming or pushing a certain theology.

    1. The Mandeans (see this earlier post for some details and links about the Mandaeans) are considered to be the remnant of one of the early gnostic schools or sects have taught that the following:

      The “World of Darkness” is ruled by the “King of Darkness,” who arose from the “dark waters” of chaos. Belonging to the World of Darkness is a dragon named ’Ur (which in Hebrew means “light”) and a female being called Ruha (“Spirit”), also called Ruha dQudsha (“Holy Spirit”). Their offspring are various demonic beings, and from them also come the “Seven,” that is, the seven planets, and the “Twelve,” that is, the twelve Zodiacal constellations. According to some traditions, Ruha originally belonged to the World of Light. Her counterpart in the human makeup is the ruha, or spirit, which vacillates between the soul (nisimta) and the body. . . .

      The evil Ruha reminds us of fallen Sophia, who in some Gnostic (originally Jewish) traditions is referred to as a “holy spirit.”

      Pearson, Birger A. Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007. pp 320, 323

    2. As the Jewish God is an evil being in proper Gnosis, the same is consequently valid for its spirit (rwah) mentioned in various places the Old Testament.

      1. In several of the gnostic myths the Holy Spirit is depicted as a level above the Demiurge and is described as a genuinely “Holy” spirit with the higher powers above the Demiurge.

        1. A good discussion.

          Usually holy spirits are considered good in Judeo Christianity – if they are Judeo Christian. Otherwise they are “false spirits”. Gnosticism has some spirits liked by Gnostics, Jews or especially Christians; but some not.

          Eventually, “spirituality” – living in your trained, peaceful, thoughtful spirit or mind or head – is thought to be good. Better than living according to your animal “desires” and ‘lust” for material and bodily and “worldly” thoughts, pleasures. Gluttony; lust; greed; etc..

          Some of the latter is also considered good in secular culture, civilization, too.

          But some is not.

          In some rough-draft books on “Overspirituality”, it is argued that living too much in our heads, is too much. It neglects
          our (some say God-given) physical material body, and the wonders of the physical material world, universe; science.

          So finally there are problems even with the quiet and retiring Holy Spirit revered by priests and monks and ascetics.

          Some of the problems with priestly overspirituality, are even mentioned in the Bible itself. See the Book of James; where being filled with JUST spirit, means an empty physical stomach. And starving to death.

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