Another Angle on Paul

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by Neil Godfrey

Greg Doudna once again challenges us to think outside the box (recall his thoughts on the John the Baptist passage in Josephus and related discussion): this time, regarding Paul. See his conference presentation online at:

Note his second part of the title. His thoughts, as I understand that title, are an invitation to dig further into the possibility.

The proposal here is that the Christian Paul and Apollonius reflect independent tradition trajectories from a single original figure, i.e. that Paul was Apollonius.

GD takes up the suggestion that Saul the Herodian in Josephus is our Paul: see Robert Eisenman’s Paul as Herodian. (GD earlier opened up the questioning of the conventional date for Paul on the basis of his letters — though other evidence allows for a far wider set of options for the time of Paul’s activity) He notes the presence of three famous anti-Roman namesakes in Jerusalem: Simon bar Giora, John bar Sosa and James bar Sosa. Were the different visits of Paul to Jerusalem that we read about in Galatians and Acts actually different versions of the one visit? Is it possible that Joses (=Joseph) Barnabas in Acts is Josephus, the Jew who remained observant to Judaism while his companion Saul the Herodian rejected Jewish observance?

The original gospel of Paul was analogous to the views set forth by Josephus in his post-70 writings concerning the positive role of Rome in the divine economy in dealing with the Jewish rebels’ bloody defilement of the temple in Jerusalem. As Josephus told it, the Roman destruction was a purification of the Jewish temple cult, a temple which Josephus portrayed as defiled by the revolutionaries who brought divine wrath upon the Jewish nation as a result of their misdeeds, wrath carried out through the divine agency of the Romans, the severity and scale of the disaster and atrocities squarely the fault of the rebels who could have avoided it by surrendering earlier.

This was the ideology of Josephus in interpretation of the disasters which befell the Jews in 70 even as Josephus in Rome continued to be observant and sought in his writings to represent the Jewish people favorably to the educated world through his writing of Jewish history. Josephus’s ideology or “gospel” is startlingly similar to the ideology or gospel of Paul in the epistle to the Romans and in the other epistles as well. The writings of Josephus and Paul reflect the same basic ideology or lines of interpretation in response to 70, though Paul went beyond Josephus in arguing creatively—on the basis of Jewish scripture and in the name of a Jewish messiah—that Jewish religion and practice were superceded and now obsolete.

And to come back to the title of the article…..

This teaching of Paul with respect to Jewish religion and ideology in a post-70 context may be understood as in keeping with, a special case of, Apollonius’s rejection of sacrifices and cult practices in Apollonius’s view of true religion.

I simply have no idea where to place the canonical letters attributed to Paul in the history of the early church. I have no idea who the person behind the name of “Paul” was — and that name pops up in all sorts of places with all sorts of (contradictory) beliefs and practices. But I am increasingly partial to the idea that Christianity as we might recognize it as something with a distinct identity as a “movement” did not begin until after the Jewish War of 66-70/73 CE. This possibility makes me open to exploring ideas such as those raised by Greg Doudna.



Jesus’ Unheroic Moment in Gethsemane – and a return to Vridar/Vardis Fisher

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by Neil Godfrey

Some regular readers will know that I am in the process of translating Bruno Bauer’s criticism of the gospels (scandalous in his time!) into English. I recently completed his discussion of Jesus “soul struggle” in Gethsemane and thought one of his observations worth bringing to more general notice here.

In sum, Bauer notes that heroic figures face their decisive challenges with resolve. They do not collapse into a struggle over whether they have what it takes to endure the fate that awaits them.

The Agony in the Garden, by George Richmond (Wikimedia)

Here is his gist:

Bruno Bauer begins by noting that the author of the Gospel of Luke made a few clumsy adjustments as he attempted to introduce an angel to stand beside Jesus to the scene he was borrowing from Mark and Matthew. In the earlier gospels Jesus prayed three times but how could that happen if an angel — taken, Bauer suggests, from the original temptation scenes where angels in Mark and Matthew came to assist Jesus (but not in Luke’s temptation scene) — came to give him the power and assurance to go through with the coming torment? If the angel appeared at the time of Jesus’ first prayer, then there would be no need for any more prayers, or else the angel’s presence had not been effective.

or should the angel come only at the third attempt, it would be too late, namely, arriving at the moment when the struggle, according to the original account [in Mark and Matthew], was already decided without the intervention of heavenly miraculous power. (Bauer, 214/215)

No, so Luke had Jesus pray just the once. And that once was with the angel so once was enough.

But then Luke ran into other difficulties. He had to find a way, following his earlier gospel narratives, to have Jesus reprimand the disciples for sleeping while he prayed. The trouble Luke failed to notice — at least till after the ink was dried — was that in the earlier gospels Jesus had instructed the disciples to watch with him but they fell asleep on that watch, and hence deserved a rebuke, while Luke had left out that command of Jesus and so there was no justification for his rebuke to the disciples for sleeping. Indeed, Luke even says the disciples fell asleep “because of their sorrow”, but as Bruno Bauer rightly remarks, sorrow keeps one awake; it does not induce sleep. (In the other gospels I notice that it is Jesus who is said to be full of sorrow.)

Further, one little detail I had failed to notice after all these years: BB points out that in Luke Jesus “is taken” to a remote place to pray. In Mark and Matthew he walks off to a secluded spot but in Luke, no, rather…

And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
And when he was at the place, he said unto them [not only to three of them as in Mark and Matthew], Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed (Luke 22:39-41)

I am reminded of Mark’s introduction where after the baptism of Jesus he writes,

And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness . . . (Mark 1:12)

Image from A Theology in Tension

But let’s cut to the chase, to the point that pulled me up enough to make me rethink everything. BB notices Mark harking back to the prayer of the righteous one in the Psalms:

 I am overcome by the blow of your hand. (Ps. 39:10)

Like all great and sublime moments, it is made up of three parts:

like everything great and sublime, was divided in its course and development by the number three (Bauer, 216/217)

But heroes, as we know from all our other stories, are not like that . . .

on the contrary, we only consider historical fighters great and worthy of respect when they endure their sufferings with calmness due to the self-assurance of their new content and legitimacy, thereby proving that they stand over the external power and authority of the worldly state they fight against, just as they know they have overcome it in the content of their self-consciousness. (Bauer, 216/217)

Why yes, I thought. I have had my moments of despair, my gethsemanes, as have we all. But gasping and crying for help to do what we want is not like simply standing up, taking courage, and going out and facing what we have to face.

I thought of other heroes surely known to any ancient writer of Greek. Hector in the Iliad. He knew he was doomed to die, and others pleaded with him not to go out and face Achilles. They were like Peter imploring Jesus at Mount Hermon not to go to Jerusalem. Jesus then was like the heroic Hector and said, Stand aside, Satan! I must go!

Achilles defeats Hector, Rubens (Wikimedia)

‘Hector!’ the old man called, stretching out his arms to him in piteous appeal. I beg you, my dear son, not to stand up to that man alone and unsupported. You are courting defeat and death at his hands. He is far stronger than you, and he is savage. . . . So come inside the walls, my child, to be the saviour of Troy and the Trojans; and do not throw away your own dear life to give a triumph to the son of Peleus. Have pity too on me, your poor father, who is still able to feel. . . .

As he came to an end, Priam plucked at his grey locks and tore the hair from his head; but he failed to shake Hector’s resolution. And now his mother in her turn began to wail and weep. Thrusting her dress aside, she exposed one of her breasts in her other hand and implored him, with the tears running down her cheeks. ‘Hector, my child,’ she cried, ‘have some regard for this, and pity me. How often have I given you this breast and soothed you with its milk! Bear in mind those days, dear child. Deal with your enemy from within the walls, and do not go out to meet that man in single combat. He is a savage; and you need not think that, if he kills you, I shall lay you on a bier and weep for you, my own, my darling boy; nor will your richly dowered wife . . . .

Thus they appealed in tears to their dear son. But all their entreaties were wasted on Hector, who stuck to his post and let the monstrous Achilles approach him. As a mountain snake, who is maddened by the poisonous herbs he has swallowed, allows a man to come up to the lair where he lies coiled, and watches him with a baleful glitter in his eye, Hector stood firm and unflinching, with his glittering shield supported by an outwork of the wall. But he was none the less appalled, and groaning at his plight he took counsel with his indomitable soul. He thought: ‘If I retire behind the gate and wall, Polydamas will be the first to cast it in my teeth that, in this last night of disaster when the great Achilles came to life, I did not take his advice and order a withdrawal into the city, as I certainly ought to have done. . . . But it will be said, and then I shall know that it would have been a far better thing for me to stand up to Achilles, and either kill him and come home alive or myself die gloriously in front of Troy. (Iliad, XXII)

Hector actually did run from Achilles at first, but finally found his resolve and when he saw he was about to die, said:

Alas! So the gods did beckon me to my death! . . . Death is no longer far away; he is staring me in the face and there is no escaping him. Zeus and his Archer Son must long have been resolved on this, for-all their goodwill and the help they gave me. So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorious end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn.’ (Iliad, XXII)

We have other instances of steel resolve: Socrates does not weep and plead for strength to drink the hemlock. Rather, he consoles his weeping friends. Antigone stood hard as iron against Creon and it is impossible to imagine her weeping for strength and courage to endure her fate.

When I think back on the references to Jesus outside the gospels I don’t recall any notion of “soul struggle”. Paul simply says that Jesus took on a lowly position to die. That was his purpose for taking on flesh. Soul-struggle is completely alien to this biblical concept.

The gospels changed all that.

Jesus had long since predicted his end, and now it was necessary for him, once and for all and perfectly beyond doubt, to express his submission. He could no longer just speak, prophesy, he had to feel, mourn, be anxious, become powerless, in order to reconcile himself with his task through his inner struggle. Precisely the religious interest that determined the initial structure and the enduring foundation of the gospel story, and which made a great and dignified struggle, that is, a struggle in which the opposing forces also appear great and significant, impossible, had to result in the end in the fact that Jesus’ struggle against the opposing powers coincides with his inner soul-suffering. Other historical or epic heroes do not need such a struggle with their weakness, nor can they even collapse in themselves when the tragic conclusion arrives, because they have proven themselves in the struggle with great and significant historical powers and have worked through the shortcomings of their personal one-sidedness even in this struggle. (Bauer, 217)

Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane is not heroic. It is a struggle to obliterate his own self before an idea of a god who demands his non-existence.

As Eric Fromm wrote long back:

[Man] projects the best he has_onto God and impoverishes himself. . . . The more he praises God the emptier he becomes. The emptier he becomes the more sinful he feels. The more sinful he feels the more he praises God — and the less he is able to regain himself. (quoted by Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 432)

Vardis Fisher spoke of a “lunacy of prayer and tears and pleading” which makes one feel emptier and more sinful, and the more sinful and empty one feels, the harder one prays!

Volume 2 of Orphans of Gethsemane — the biography that led me to name this blog Vridar, the central figure of Vardis Fisher’s “autobiographical” novel.

Jesus had knelt alone to pray: . . . in all the gethsemanes in myth and legend, where all the father-fearing and father-hating Jewish.and Christian sons had knelt in supplication, and were still kneeling, and would kneel, as long as the Desert-Yahweh was driven into their child-souls. (Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 479)

Think of this:

The pathetic wretched lonely orphan, going off alone into his gethsemane (gath shēmāni, the oil press) to pray, knowing it to be the will of his father that he should die! In his death he would appease the father’s wrath, who was on the point of killing all his children!(Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 480)

Vridar spent hours talking aloud to himself about “Jesus,” . . . saying, “He was the immolated son — this is the myth of the complete submission of the son to the father with the son-symbol standing for all Christians who submit. He was the orphan: this is the myth of the one who had no love, and went alone into his gethsemane to pray, and prepare to die, because his father willed it. This is the myth of the lonely lost man naked before the universe, and before death and time and all his enemies. (Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 482)

Bruno Bauer: Book 6, Ch 4 – Jesus’ Soul Struggle in Gethsemane

Fisher, Vardis. The Great Confession: Orphans of Gethsemane, V2. Testament of Man 13. New York: Pyramid, 1960.

Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Émile Victor Rieu. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1950.


From Humble Beginnings: A Tale of Two Divinities — Jesus and Apollo

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by Neil Godfrey

Apollo with bow and lyre. National Gallery of Art

Have you heard it declared that no-one would make up a story about Jesus coming from such a nothing-back-of-the-woods place as Nazareth? No, no, the argument goes — if anyone were to make up a story about Jesus they would have impressed their readers by having him hail from some place of renown.

I don’t recall off-hand what led me into reading an obscure French work from 1927 about Pythagoras, but that work in turn led me to once again pick up the Homeric Hymns of all things. This time a light flashed above my head: I found myself confusing the goddess Leto with Mary urgently looking for a place to give birth to her child and finding nowhere … except a humble stable! And Nazareth — how could a messiah possibly come from Nazareth?

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. — John 1:46

Now before you roll your eyes a second time let me explain. I am NOT saying that the story of Jesus’s humble origins are a direct, intertextual creation inspired or shaped by the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. What I am saying is that the idea of a great divinity having a very humble earthly beginning was a motif, a trope, a concept, an idea that was part of the cache of ancient Greco-Roman culture. (A quick persusal of some chapters in The Reception of the Homeric Hymns did persuade me, though, that the hymns were certainly part of the collective knowledge of literate persons in the first and second centuries of this era.)

Let’s have a look at the passage of interest in Hymn 3, to Apollo, as translated by Michael Crudden.

The hymns begins with a picture of all gods on Olympus rising up in awe when the great Apollo enters, all except for his father and mother, Zeus and Leto.

According to Greek mythology, Apollo was born on this tiny island in the Cyclades archipelago. Apollo’s sanctuary attracted pilgrims from all over Greece and Delos was a prosperous trading port. (Unesco)

Next, Leto is called the blessed one for having given birth to such a mighty son. Apollo is called a “joy for mortals”. The poet ponders where to begin his tale and decides to sing of the time of Apollo’s birth on the island of Delos.

The time came for Leto to give birth and we read of her traveling a great distance to find the appropriate place, at least a welcoming one. She traversed populous Crete, and the countryside of Athens, and Aigina’s isle . . . .

And, famed for its ships, Euboia; Aigai, Eiresiai too,
And, near to the sea, Peparethos; Athos the Thracian height,
And the topmost peaks of Pelion; Samos the Thracian isle,
And the shadowy mountains of Ida; Skyros, Phokaia too,
The precipitous mount of Autokane; Imbros the firm-founded isle,
And mist-enshrouded Lemnos; holy Lesbos—the seat
Of Makar, Aiolos’ son—and Khios that lies in the sea,
Sleekest of isles; rugged Mimas, and Korykos’ topmost peaks;
Dazzling Klaros too, and sheer Aisagea mount;
Samos with plentiful waters, precipitous Mykale’s peaks;
Miletos, Kos—the city where dwell the Meropes folk —
Precipitous Knidos too, and Karpathos swept by the wind;
Naxos, and also Paros, and rocky Rhenaia too

Over so great a distance in labour with him who shoots
From afar [Apollo was an archer] went Leto, seeking whether amongst these lands
There was any that would be willing to furnish her son with a home.

But there was no room at the inn….

But they trembled much in fear, and not one dared, despite
Her rich soil, to welcome Phoibos [a name for Apollo], until queenly Leto set foot
Upon Delos

The rich and famous chose not to welcome Leto and her son-to-be.

Delos https://www.greece-is.com/rise-fall-delos-visible-island/

Leto plaintively asked Delos….

and, questioning her, gave voice to winged words:
‘Delos, would you be willing to be the seat of my son,
Of Phoibos Apollo, and furnish him with a rich shrine on your ground?’

But how did Delos compare with all the above that Leto had just passed through? Leto said to Delos,

you’ll not, I think, abound in cattle or flocks, nor will you bear corn or grow an abundance of trees.

And Delos knew it well enough and said in reply:

‘Most glorious Leto, daughter of mighty Koios, I would
With pleasure welcome the birth of the lord who shoots from afar,
For in truth in men’s ears I am of dreadfully grim repute,
But in this way might gain great honour.

Delos’s inferiority complex over her stony, barren appearance got the upper hand, though, so she poured out her fear:

. . . . this dreadful fear
Pervades my mind and heart, that, when [Apollo] first sees the Sun’s light,
Holding the isle in dishonour—since stony indeed is my ground—
He may with his feet overturn me and thrust me under the sea.
There always great waves without ceasing over my head will break,
While he will reach some land that is pleasing to him . . .
. . . But the many-footed beasts
And black seals will make their lairs upon me, homes that will be
Secure for lack of people.

Fear not, Leto reassured Delos. First, with the promise that Delos would become the most famed central sanctuary in all of the Greek world and beyond:

. . . But if you possess a shrine
Of Apollo who works from afar, all humans, assembling here,
Will bring you their hecatombs: vast beyond telling the steam of fat

Will always be shooting upward, and those who possess you you’ll feed
From a foreigner’s hand, since there is no richness beneath your soil.’

And finally with an oath declared that Delos would have honour above all other isles.

‘Now let the Earth know this, and also broad Heaven above,
And the down-dripping water of Styx, which is the blessed gods’
Greatest and most dread oath: here Phoibos will always have

His fragrant altar and precinct, and will honour you above all.’

Isodore Levy, author of that book on the influence of the legend of Pythagoras in the Greek and Jewish worlds, was drawing quite different links with the gospels, between Apollo and Jesus. But they can wait for another post. I found the above of most interest for now. Never again will I allow anyone to get away with trying to say that Jesus really did have to come from Nazareth because no-one would make up a story about a god-man (or a figure near enough) coming from some place of no reputation.

Crudden, Michael. The Homeric Hymns. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.


A Simonian Origin for Christianity? — A few more thoughts

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by Roger Parvus

A Few More Thoughts

A few months back Neil asked me if I had any further thoughts regarding my hypothesis about a Simonian origin for Christianity. In March of 2019 I had revised it. I am happy to report that four years later I am still quite comfortable with the revision. To me it seems to best account for the many peculiarities of the New Testament and plausibly explains much that can be gleaned from the writings of the earliest heresy hunters. This post is just a summary with a few additional thoughts on the subject.

All Things to All

As I laid out in the series, the Simonians appear to have regularly co-opted the religious beliefs of others and twisted them to serve their own purposes. This involved injecting the object of their belief—Simon Megas—into the storylines of other religions and giving him the prominent role therein. Thus they, for example, made Zeus into Simon under another name, and Athena into Helen, Simon’s consort. Similarly, they apparently claimed that their Simon was the mysterious figure whose hidden descent was described in the Vision of Isaiah (chapters 6-11 of the Ascension of Isaiah).  The main storyline of that writing is an ancient one, going back, as Richard Carrier points out in his book On the Historicity of Jesus (pp. 45-47), to the Descent of Inanna. But it too was modified along Simonian lines and dragged into their orbit. Most famously, the Simonians claimed that a Jesus who had suffered in Judaea was actually their unrecognized Simon. In short, the Simonians seem to have wanted their Simon to be all things to all men, and so gave free rein to their proclivity for appropriating and modifying the beliefs of everyone else.

The Gospel of Proto-Mark

CORRECTION — I originally posted an outdated view of Roger Parvus’s here — RP will be clarifying his thoughts, soon – Neil (9th March 2023).

I think that our Gospel according to Mark is a proto-orthodox reworking of an earlier Simonian version in which the Simonians were again doing their thing. I will refer to the earlier text as Proto-Mark, although it may well be the same as the mysterious Secret Mark. In it the beliefs of a group of Jews about a crucified and supposedly resurrected Jew named Jesus underwent Simonization. If I had to name its author, I would choose Basilides of Alexandria, whom even the heresy hunters acknowledge as the author of an early albeit heretical gospel. He is at the right time, the right place, had the right skills, and–most importantly—had the right mindset: delight in secrecy and enigma. This was the man who, according to Irenaeus, said “Not many can know these [teachings], but one in a thousand, and two in ten thousand,” and “Know everyone, but let none know you.”    

Mark owes its enigmatic nature to Proto-Mark. That is, its Simonian author intended it to be understood only by his fellow Simonians. Its “mysteries” (Mk 4:11) were deliberately hidden from those “outside” (Mk 3:32 & 4:11). The key needed for understanding the text was Simonian belief, and that was disclosed only to the initiated. There was indeed an identification secret in Proto-Mark, but I doubt it was the so-called messianic secret. The correct answer to “Who then is this whom even the wind and seas obey?” (Mk 4:41) is Simon Megas. Only later, after the Bar Kochba revolt, or whenever the proto-orthodox became aware of the text and decided to adopt and sanitize it, was the necessary changeover to a messianic secret made.   

The Pauline Letters

In regard to the Pauline letters: I still see Paul as the author of some original bare-bones letters. The bulk of the letters as we now have them, however, was likely composed by a circle of Saturnilians, a community founded by the Simonian Saturnilus of Antioch. It may even be that much of the material originally had Simon in view, and that Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Lord Jesus, and so on were substituted when it was decided to pass the whole off as Pauline. Who was it who combined Paul’s letters with the Simonian material and formed them into a collection? My guess would be Cerdo of Syria “originating from the Simonians” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1,27,1) He is from the neighborhood of Saturnilus and is the earliest figure named in connection with the letter collection. And he it would be who likely brought them to Rome shortly after the end of the Bar Kochba revolt. “Cerdo, who preceded Marcion, also joined the Roman church and declared his faith publicly, in the time of Hyginus… then he went on in this way: at one time teaching in secret, at another declaring his faith publicly, at another he was convicted of mischievous teaching and expelled from the Christian community” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4,11).    

Enter the Historical Jesus

Continue reading “A Simonian Origin for Christianity? — A few more thoughts”


How John “Destroyed” Luke with Lazarus!

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by Neil Godfrey

We have seen how the author of

  • the Gospel of Mark rewrote the tradition about the resurrection appearances in Paul’s letter
  • the Gospel of Matthew polemically rewrote Mark to rebrand the disciples
  • the Gospel of Luke polemically rewrote Matthew and Mark

But they can’t compete the way the author of the Gospel of John put Luke to shame …. according to Bruno Bauer.

In Luke 7:11-17 we read how Jesus just happened to be coming into the village of Nain when he encountered a funeral procession for a young man, but what moved Jesus to compassion was the (presumably supernatural) knowledge that his mother was now without a male to support her. So Jesus stops the procession and yells to the corpse to Rise up!

“Jesus raises the son of the Window of Nain” Matthias Gerung, 1500-1570

No doubt there is in the scholarly literature acknowledgement of the possibility that the author of the Gospel of John had Luke’s little story in mind when he developed his account of the resurrection of Lazarus. But I have just translated Bruno Bauer’s thoughts on how the Lazarus episode in the Gospel of John is a direct rebuff to the comparatively very poor “widow of Nain” anecdote.

Luke has Jesus raise a man who has just died and whose corpse is probably still warm as it is carried to the graveyard? Ha! John will have Jesus do a really serious miracle and raise one who has been dead four days!

The one who allowed the young man of Nain to be revived when he was just being carried to the grave [that is, a reference to Luke 7:11-17] is now ashamed, and the primary evangelist [=Luke] who, in his modesty and caution, contented himself with the revival of a dead man who had just succumbed to illness before his eyes, does not even dare to lift his eyes before the magnitude of the historical master and finisher [that is, John]. The fourth [evangelist] has destroyed him.

That’s my translation of one detail of Bruno Bauer’s much richer discussion of how the author of the Gospel of John mechanically struggled* to work with earlier gospel sources in order to create a “far superior” account of Jesus. You can see the full discussion at The Raising of Lazarus, which is part of my larger project to translate Bauer’s work on the four gospels.

Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, ca. 1420-1482). ‘The Resurrection of Lazarus,’ 1426. tempera and gold leaf on panel. Walters Art Museum (37.489A): Acquired by Henry Walters, 1911.

* One little detail Bauer identifies as a clumsy effort by “John” to out-do Luke is his adding the note that Jesus wept when he saw all the mourning over Lazarus — Bruno Bauer’s analysis has the rest of this story depicting a very angry Jesus who is frustrated over everyone’s lack of faith, so weeping at that moment was quite inappropriate. But it seemed a reasonable place to deposit that one detail the author of John really liked in Luke — Jesus weeping. So there it went — consistency of narrative characterization be damned.



A Brilliant New Book on Gospel Origins

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by Neil Godfrey

If you are looking for a serious, easy-to-read and up-to-date study of the question of how the gospels came to be written, what sources their authors used, what their authors were trying to achieve, and for the most part is delivered in conversational style, then you will have found it in Rhetoric and the Synoptic Problem by Professor Mike Duncan.

While acknowledging and questioning other views in New Testament scholarship, Duncan clearly presents a logical case for the various gospels all being polemical re-writes of the Gospel of Mark. He introduces insights that strengthen Mark Goodacre’s revamped case that the author of Luke used both Mark and Matthew and that, consequently, there is no need to postulate, as most scholars have done, a long-lost source (Q). He even demonstrates the physical process of how Luke copied Matthew and Mark without Q on the widespread understanding that authors of the time wrote with scrolls on their knees and in so doing shows that the most common argument against Goodacre’s (Farrer’s and Goulder’s) view — that Luke was unlikely to have broken up Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount if he knew it — all but vanishes.

Duncan is a scholar of rhetoric and communications but his study is very different from the pioneering “gospels through rhetoric” analysis of classicist George Kennedy that I posted about some years back. The simple justification for a rhetorical approach lies in the fact that the gospels were written to persuade and rhetoric is the study of how persuasion works.

I am not a biblical scholar, a seminarian, or even a Christian. To write to any of these audiences would be therefore disingenuous. I am an academic rhetorician who works in a university English department. I often write on early Christianity and rhetoric, and I am an agnostic who holds no text sacred. As such, I make no pretense to offer this book as a contribution to the longstanding field of biblical studies, especially as practiced by its many evangelical academics, or, on the other end, militant atheists. I have no dog in that fight; I do not care if tomorrow someone solves the [Synoptic Problem] by way of a method other than the Farrer Hypothesis that I tend to prefer, although it will be a minor annoyance in that I will have to find another example for my ideas on unsolvable problems and rhetoric. As such, this book is offered in the same spirit as Frank Kermode’s The Genesis of Secrecy, an analysis of the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of literary studies, save I’m using rhetoric as a focus, and I’m looking at all the canonical gospels at once. (p. 2)

One point of method that I particularly liked was Duncan’s demonstration that certain characters and events in the gospels function to make specific polemical points. If Occam’s razor be our guide, that means the events or characters originated in the authors’ imaginations rather than from oral tradition about a presumed historical event — though Duncan does accept the historicity of Jesus and John the Baptist. Here is an example. The author of Mark is apparently responding to the “tradition of resurrection appearances” that we read in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians by introducing the “empty tomb”.

The author of Mark had plenty of sources available for inspiration for an empty tomb narrative, including Psalms 22, 23, and 24, the widespread Orphic theology as well as the end of the Iliad, the story of Elpenor in the Odyssey, and Plutarch’s and Livy’s accounts of the death of Romulus. But the source of the story is not as important as the kind of rhetorical claim that it allows the author of Mark to make. If the author of Mark invented the empty tomb story, for what purpose was it done?

— It could be to show a “removal”—a Hellenistic showing of an empty grave as evidence that the gods have conferred hero status on its missing occupant.

— It could also just be a simple dramatization of what the author thinks probably happened that day, working with current Jewish custom for visiting the recently deceased.

— The empty tomb could also be a narrative “promise of a personal resurrection to later Christian martyrs”—an important point for post-70 CE Christians in the wake of Jerusalem’s devastation, suggesting a similar physical resurrection for them: you, too, will die, but you will rise again.

But these are just suppositions. I can make a more defensible observation that does not require any of them. Holding the earlier points for historical plausibility in stasis for a moment, the author of Mark’s empty tomb narrative allows Jesus’s resurrection to be implied rather than witnessed. In other words, Mark can have Jesus rise without granting either Peter or the apostles any authority that they might have gained by having witnessed it. Theodore Weeden took a similar position that the authority of the twelve disciples, derived from their witnessing a post-resurrection Jesus, is removed by this maneuver, though he did not note that the empty tomb serves a dual rhetorical function by removing the necessity of eyewitnesses. In any case, the appearances in 1 Cor 15 suggest visual appearances that were witnessed, but Mark’s version lacks appearances; this could also be a subtle way to reconcile 1 Cor 15:35-49’s spiritual resurrection with the 1 Cor 15:3-8 list of physical appearances.

The narrative skill by which Mark accomplishes this maneuver, coupled with Paul’s obliviousness to any empty tomb story, refutes the notion of a longstanding tradition of the discovery of a vacated tomb. . . . 

(pp. 48f – my formatting and highlighting; italics are original)

You might recall from the Epistle to the Galatians that Paul saw himself in some kind of rivalry with Peter and resisted tendencies to exalt Peter’s status above his. We have many hints of a leadership struggle in those earliest documents. The Gospel of Mark, many scholars believe, favours Paul over the other apostles, especially Peter. The author of that gospel speaks through his literary figure of the young man in the tomb an assurance that Jesus has been resurrected and, implicitly, that he will be seen again.

The author of Mark’s argument does not need a post-resurrection appearance by Jesus to make its ultimate point: Jesus prophesied truly and not even his disciples, many of whom started a religion after his death, really understood the true implications. For Jesus to appear like a parlor trick and say, “Told you so!” would deflate the author’s call for much hardier discipleship that the original followers of Jesus mustered. (p. 52)

So where does that leave the later gospels that do contain descriptions of resurrection appearances to leading apostles?

With this understanding of the rhetorical role of Mark’s gospel as a denunciation of apostolic authority in hand, the variances of the post-resurrection appearances in the other two synoptic gospels can be better explained. They are not simply variances in tradition as many exegetes posit, but rejoinders in a hostile rhetorical conversation with peculiar rules dictated by rapidly developing theology and power struggles. (p. 53)

Duncan, as you can see in the above example, addresses explanations about this or that biblical text that many of us may have encountered and obliges us to think more clearly and thoroughly about their ultimate worth.

The book explores the various accounts of the women at the tomb of Jesus, the comparable but different versions of a few miracles, characters and sayings to demonstrate similar points of polemical rivalry among the gospel authors but concentrates on a selection of key areas. I’ll mention the others shortly.

Technical terms are introduced gently and simply for the lay reader. The scholarly literature often refers to “redaction”. Duncan clarifies the different kinds of that process (adding, deleting, tweaking, reordering, retaining) with digestible explanations along with his preference for the simpler (and, he explains, more neutral) term, “editing”. He also offers an easy guide to the different ways we tend to make decisions about various problems, including “the synoptic problem” — deduction, induction and abduction.

The one thing I did not at all like — being a scholarly kind of reader myself — was his relegation of citations and tangential discussions to endnotes instead of being on the main text page. But others, of course, much prefer that style.

Not that the book is “for the lay reader”. It is most decidedly targeted at a scholarly readership as well. The history of the scholarship and current debates are addressed in enough detail to assure both sets of readers of currency and adequate thoroughness.

I referred to the detailed discussion of the resurrection appearances above. The other key topics addressed are the John the Baptist material across the four gospels (this includes observations on “the invention of the gospel genre”), the contrasting treatments of the Twelve Apostles, and the Sermon on the Mount. An appendix exploring the question of the dates of the gospels is included at the end. Duncan does not confine his Baptist discussion to the moment of Jesus’s baptism but shows how the differences in the opening chapters of all the gospels are best understood when one considers the way the Baptist is handled in all references throughout the gospels.

The Sermon on the Mount

Continue reading “A Brilliant New Book on Gospel Origins”


Bruno Bauer Translation Update

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by Neil Godfrey

Bruno Bauer

I have resumed translating Bruno Bauer’s work on the gospels — Criticism of the Gospels and History of their Origin (Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs) — the link to all the completed chapters under Bruno Bauer in the right margin, beneath About Vridar.

The work is mostly machine translation (a mix of GoogleTranslate, DeepL and ChatGPT and direct human meddling). I have had to process Old German fonts to modern fonts in order to copy text for the translation and there are niggling errors here and there. I try to fix them but I am sure there are many I have overlooked. In case anyone does find anything particularly awkward I have included the German text with my processed modern fonts beside the translation so one can see where the errors might arise and offer a correction.

I asked ChatGPT what I could add about Bruno Bauer here that might be of interest to a general audience and here is its response:

Bruno Bauer was a prominent 19th century German philosopher and theologian, whose ideas were controversial and influential in shaping the cultural and intellectual landscape of his time. Here are some potential topics that could be of interest to a general audience:

      1. Bauer’s Critique of Religion: One of Bauer’s most famous works is his critique of religion, particularly Christianity. Bauer argued that religion was a product of human imagination and projection, rather than a divine revelation. He saw religion as a way of perpetuating social and political oppression and called for the abolition of religion as a means of promoting human freedom.
      2. Bauer’s Political Views: Bauer was also a political thinker, and was involved in various revolutionary and socialist movements throughout his life. He advocated for the overthrow of traditional monarchies and the establishment of a democratic republic and was a strong critic of the Prussian state.
      3. Bauer’s Influence on Marxism: Bauer’s ideas had a significant impact on the development of Marxism, particularly in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Bauer was an early critic of Hegelianism, which provided the philosophical foundation for many of Marx’s ideas, and his critique of religion helped shape Marx’s concept of ideology.
      4. Bauer’s Contributions to Biblical Criticism: Bauer was also a scholar of the Bible, and his work on the New Testament was influential in the development of biblical criticism. He argued that many of the texts traditionally attributed to the apostles were actually written much later and that the historical accuracy of the New Testament was suspect.
      5. Bauer’s Controversial Reputation: Despite his significant contributions to philosophy and theology, Bauer was a controversial figure in his own time. He was often criticized for his radical views and for his harsh criticism of the established order and was frequently denied academic positions or censored by authorities.

I asked a follow-up question for the next points:

While Bruno Bauer was never formally excommunicated from the Christian church, many religious authorities of his time saw his views on religion and Christianity as highly controversial and heretical.

Bauer was a theologian and biblical scholar who came to reject the notion of divine revelation and the supernatural elements of Christianity. In his view, Christianity was a human invention that perpetuated social and political oppression. These views brought him into conflict with both the established Christian churches and the secular authorities that supported them.

As a result of his controversial views, Bauer was denied academic positions and faced censorship and persecution from the authorities. He was also widely criticized by his contemporaries, including other intellectuals and theologians.

So while Bauer was not formally excommunicated from any particular Christian denomination, his rejection of Christian dogma and his embrace of radical and heretical ideas made him an outcast from the mainstream religious and intellectual establishments of his time.

I consider his analyses essential reading for anyone seriously interested in a critical exploration of the gospels. Of course much work has been done since that cannot be ignored, but Bauer’s insights are still provocative and often still deserve a place in any discussion today.





Where Did the God of the Bible Come From? – [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 8]

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

by Neil Godfrey

Most of us have been conditioned by the conventional wisdom that the Old Testament books were written between the eighth and fifth centuries. But there is no independent evidence for the existence of any of the Bible’s books or any knowledge of biblical traditions (Davies, 1992 and Vridar.info notes), nor any evidence for the practice of Judaism itself (sabbath observance, dietary practices, etc) until the Hellenistic era — the third century (Lemche, 1993 and the post Old Testament – A Hellenistic Book?Adler, 2022 and the post The Late Origins of Judaism). It is against this background of the hard archaeological evidence that we must approach Gmirkin’s thesis of Hellenistic influence on the Bible.

With thanks to Taylor & Francis (Routledge) for the review copy

We come to the final, and longest, chapter of Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts: Cosmic Monotheism and Terrestrial Polytheism in the Primordial History by Russell Gmirkin. If the author of Genesis did use Plato’s Timaeus-Critias, what does that tell us about Jewish monotheism in the third century BCE?

In the discussion of Genesis 1 we saw Gmirkin’s case for the Genesis authors drawing upon Plato’s notion of “cosmic monotheism” — the idea of a sole creator god beyond space and time who brings about the universe, including time itself, and then retires from the scene. This god was of a higher order of divinity from other gods and it is in that sense that we speak of “monotheism” here.

In covering Genesis 2 we observed the narrative moving into a storybook world featuring a god who walked amidst his garden and spoke with his created humans and their offspring.

We read of God appearing to address a council of fellow divinities when he (or one of him/them) says, “Let us make humankind in our image….”, “Let us make him a helper….” and then at Babel, “Let us go down and confuse their language….”  The supreme deity creates the perfect world but it appears that lesser deities create potentially sinful mortals and interact with them. Sons of god are even said to bear children with human women. And then we encounter the patriarchs sacrificing at altars to gods recognized by their Canaanite neighbours.

Gmirkin compares this outline with Plato’s narrative in Timaeus and Critias. As in Genesis, Plato begins with a supreme craftsman (demiurge) god who is without human form or body and beyond space and time yet who is responsible for creating the perfect universe. After that, lesser gods take over and create corruptible humans and interact with them.

When we read Genesis against the background of Plato’s myths we begin to understand solutions to hitherto perplexing puzzles about Genesis, Gmirkin notes:

Various otherwise perplexing narrative details, small and large, attain a new clarity when interpreted in light of Platonic parallels. Most significant are those relating to a directly polytheistic mythical narrative context that complements (and in small details contradicts) the cosmic monotheism of Genesis 1: the appearance of a multiplicity of gods in both the First Creation Account (Gen 1:26) and the tale of the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:18 [LXX], 3:22); the contrast between the portraits of Elohim as supreme Creator in Genesis 1 and Yahweh as a storybook terrestrial god introduced in Genesis 2-3, and the marriages between gods and mortal women (Gen 6:1-4). The book of Genesis, like Plato’s Timaeus, promoted two complementary visions of the divine realm of the gods: a transcendent philosophical monotheism manifested in the creation of the perfect kosmos at the dawn of time, and a conventional terrestrial polytheism that accommodated the popular beliefs and cults of tradition. Both of these carefully balanced Platonic theological elements were highly innovative: that a single supremely good eternally existent god created the heavens and earth, and that the pantheon of well-known terrestrial gods, his sons and daughters, were also universally good and worthy of honor. (Gmirkin, 247)

There are also compound forms of these names for god, such as Yahweh-Elohim and El-Shaddai. There are various explanations for these in the literature — a) that the one god took on various “guises” (or hypostases), b) that they were different gods, c) that later editors were attempting to change the text (for which there is manuscript evidence) for theological reasons. Gmirkin understands that some of these later changes to the text were introduced by editors seeking to bring Genesis more closely in line with the theological perspective of Exodus-Deuteronomy.

The Genesis god of creation was called Elohim. The storybook god who appears after creation was given the name Yahweh. Yahweh, as you no doubt recognize, is also a transliteration of that famous tetragram YHWH, the god uniquely associated with the Old Testament. In Genesis 1 YHWH is not the creator.

So much for Genesis, but what about the world outside the literature?

Archaeological evidence informs us that before we have any signs of knowledge of biblical accounts Yahweh was a local deity of Jews, Samaritans and others along with other divinities, such as the mother-god Asherah. All the evidence we have for religious practices in the times of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah points to polytheism. Yahweh is simply one among a pantheon of deities.

When the Judahites were defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and many of them transported to Babylonia, we know that there they continued to worship Yahweh along with other gods — in this case the Babylonian gods. Even into the Persian era, wherever archaeologists have uncovered Jewish settlements, they find the worship of other gods alongside Yahweh. Some readers may find this surprising or think the interpretation of the evidence is perverse, but until I post more about the evidence of what has been dug up from the ground here is a smattering of many publications that interested readers can turn to for further detail:

It is not only a question of whether or not the people of Judah worshipped Yahweh alone, but as indicated in the side-box above, in particular with the Adler reference (see also his academia.edu outline of the book), archaeological evidence points to practices contrary to biblical laws and religious customs until the second century BCE.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Pentateuch was a Hellenistic era work so it follows that Hellenistic ideas should be seriously considered among its sources.

Since Gmirkin’s analysis places the origin of the first five books of the Bible in Hellenistic times (the third century BCE) it would follow from the state of the evidence as alluded to above that Genesis 1

arguably represents the earliest expression of monotheism among the Jews and Samaritans, alongside the equally novel benevolent terrestrial polytheism of the rest of Genesis. (249)

So in Genesis we have an expression of the Plato-like supreme and sole deity, existing outside space and time, creating the cosmos and then retiring, followed by references to what looks like another deity (Yahweh) living and interacting with mortals (e.g. in Garden of Eden, with Cain and Abel, visiting and eating a meal with Abraham, wrestling with Jacob), along with patriarchs honouring the gods of the Canaanites (e.g. with Melchizedek at Salem, Bethel, El Shaddai, El Olam . . .). At the same time we find the patriarchs enjoying positive relations with their “pagan” neighbours. Abraham bonds with Amorites, engages in peaceful negotiations with Hittites and Philistines, is honoured by Egyptians, while breakdowns only happen as a result of personal wrongs and not because of any “evil” inherent in the different races themselves.

After Genesis, Yahweh changed

In both the stories and legal content of Exodus-Joshua one sees the rejection of benevolent terrestrial polytheism in favor of a Yahwistic monolatry that equated the local patron god of the Jews and the Samaritans with the creator of the universe and which opposed the gods of the nations and their cultic practices. Given that Exodus-Joshua was arguably written contemporaneously with Genesis . . . , yet from a radically different perspective, this suggests a fundamental clash in philosophy and agenda between authorial groups involved in the creation of the Hexateuch ca. 270 BCE. (Gmirkin, 249)

There are other authors who argue that a single author was responsible for the Pentateuch: Bernard Barc, Thomas Brodie, Jan-Wim Wesselius and Philippe Wajdenbaum. (See the post, Did A Single Author Write Genesis – II Kings?) Barc, who also argues for a Hellenistic origin of the Pentateuch, views the respective appearances of the god El and the god Yahweh as two different “forms” (hypostases) of the Most High and each performs an allotted function in a single plan of history. Gmirkin argues for a deeper influence of Plato and other Greek ideas on the text. A difficulty for the average reader when pondering this question is the fact that most Bibles are translations of a Hebrew text that was finalized in the Christian era. To discover earlier versions requires a comparison with ancient Greek translations and the Dead Sea Scrolls (first addressed here). We also have the question of how the final editor made changes to Genesis when he incorporated the work into a set with the following books.

Are the views of Barc, Brodie, Wesselius and Wajdenbaum able to respond adequately to the challenges Gmirkin raises? My next task is to step back and refresh my memory of the details of all of Gmirkin’s works and try to see how all of the evidence coheres.

Gmirkin does, however, offer a plausible response to those who find themselves troubled over what seems to be a fuzzy line between the gods and cults in Genesis but it casts an eye beyond Plato. Elohim is the creator but Yahweh-Elohim engages with humans; El Elyon and El Shaddai are both “Els”. In the views of the Stoic philosophers the many Greek gods were different aspects of “one god”:

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 7.147.

The deity, say they, is a living being, immortal, rational, perfect or intelligent in happiness, admitting nothing evil, taking providential care of the world and all that therein is, but he is not of human shape. He is, however … called many names according to his various powers. They give the name Dia (Δία) because all things arc due to (διά) him; Zeus (Ζήνα) in so far as he is the cause of life (ζην) or pervades all life; the name Athena is given, because the ruling part of the divinity extends to the aether; the name Hera marks its extension to the air; he is called Hephaestus since it spreads to the creative fire; Poseidon, since it stretches to the sea; Demeter, since it reaches to the earth. Similarly, men have given the deity his other titles, fastening, as best they can, on some one or other of his peculiar attributes.

It is possible that the well-known Stoic assimilation of the Greek gods to their monotheistic god, the creative fire, influenced the biblical conflation of deities associated with various titles of the ancient god El with the local patron god Yahweh. (Gmirkin, 300, my formatting)

Let’s continue Gmirkin’s discussion.

Something Completely Different: Here is a light-hearted digression on God’s treatment of the Egyptians at the Red Sea that comes from a study on the history of swimming through the ages:

The Hebrews left Egypt ‘with boldness’, but when they reach the Red Sea they accuse Moses, ‘Have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?’ Moses (brought up by Egyptians, and perhaps therefore knowing how to swim himself ) soothes the Hebrews, and tells them not to be afraid. He stretches out his hand over the sea. God parts the Red Sea for the Hebrews, and then drowns the Egyptians. . . . .

This was the reverse of what readers might have expected, knowing that the Egyptians had always been strong swimmers and the Hebrews had never known how to swim. The parting of the Red Sea takes on new meaning when we realize that the Hebrews are non-swimmers, afraid of the water, being pursued by confident, experienced Egyptian swimmers.

from pages 55-56 (heard on Late Night Live)

It is only after Genesis, in the book of Exodus, that Yahweh claims to have been the God of the Patriarchs in Genesis and that he will tolerate no rivals. The covenant he makes with his people is to wipe out the Canaanites after having reigned death and destruction on the Egyptians.

God — Yahweh — has changed.

What of the god of the Flood, though? Did not Gmirkin say the biblical author had a more vicious view of god than Plato. At least Plato’s deity sought to discipline humans through calamity for their own good while the biblical god simply wanted to destroy humanity outright. Perhaps some of the Genesis authors also slightly wavered in their view of Yahweh’s character.

Plato’s Program and the Birth of Montheism

Gmirkin concludes from his comparative analysis that the Pentateuch was the work of authors united in seeking to introduce Plato’s program for an ideal society.

Plato taught that there was a supreme deity, formless and beyond space and time, yet who was perfectly good. Such an idea arose from the attempts of Greek philosophers to understand the origins of the universe. This concept of god (Gmirkin traces in some depth the history of the idea and the different functions of the gods of the Greek civic cults, the gods of the literary mythical world and god(s) of the natural philosophers) was the beginning of monotheism as we understand the term.

For Plato (and much of the western world has followed his idea) belief in the concept of a supreme, perfectly good deity is the first requirement of a virtuous society.

Civic authorities periodically accused and punished philosophers who openly taught “atheism” — which was how they understood the new monotheism with its implication of the rejection of other gods. Plato, however, found a role for these lesser gods in the wider society despite his philosophical preference for monotheism. But those lesser deities needed to be refashioned through literature and other arts and regular festivals as perfectly good. Old myths of gods misbehaving had to be banned. People could continue to cement their social bonds by gathering for the worship of these earthly, yet now “purified”, deities.

These ideas of Plato are what Gmirkin finds in Genesis.

Plato further envisioned a Nocturnal Council of the piously qualified as a vital institution to rule his ideal society. Members would be responsible for maintaining the morality of the public and public administration.

In Plato’s Laws, the divine philosophical ruling class elite exercised its power through an institution called the Nocturnal Council to accord with its meetings in the pre-dawn hours (Laws 12.95Id, 961b). Although Laws never explicitly mentions philosophers, “the members of the Nocturnal Council are philosophers in all but name” (Hull 2019: 217). The major function of the Nocturnal Council was to control the internal affairs of the nation. The ruling class elites of this “divine council” (Laws 12.969b; cf. the “divine polity” of 12.965c) would administer the nation’s new laws (Laws 7.809b; 12.951d, 952a-b) and education (Laws 7.811c-812a; 12.951d, 952a-b, 964b-c) from the earliest age on (Laws 12.952b), approve and strictly control its literature (Laws 7.802b-c, 811c-e) and enforce its religious beliefs (Laws 10.908e-909d), controlling the beliefs, and even the collective national memory of the populace, who would come to regard their constitution and way of life as established since time immemorial by their patron gods (Laws 7.798a-b). Through this new theocratic form of government in which the people believed they were under divine rule, the whole of national life would come under the perpetual control and guidance of philosophers, with the willing cooperation of the people who believed their leaders to be the divine agents of the supreme god. (Gmirkin, 268)


While the exoteric function of the Nocturnal Council was the administration of the state and its beliefs through control of its legislation, literature, education and religion, its even more important esoteric function was the continued pursuit of philosophical and scientific studies, thought to be essential to the proper administration of the polis. The Nocturnal Council thus functioned both as the ruling body of government and as a university for the continued study of theology, astronomy, ethics and international law, like Plato’s Academy (Morrow 1993: 509; Hull 2019: 228). Investing the nation’s highest educational institution with the full power of government not only ensured wise philosophical rule in the present but allowed the perpetuation of training in the arts of enlightened government from one generation to the next (Laws 12.960d-961b, 965a-b). (Gmirkin, 269)

Here we begin to overlap with what we have covered in other posts about Gmirkin’s earlier work. See the archived posts on Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible.

Authors Divided

Continue reading “Where Did the God of the Bible Come From? – [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 8]”


Ch 1 — The Entry into Jerusalem

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

by Neil Godfrey



Der Einzug in Jerusalem


The Entry into Jerusalem

108 Woher weiß es Jesus, als er zu seinem feierlichen Einzugs in Jerusalem Anstalten trifft, daß dieselben nicht unnütz seyn werden?

Sein feierlicher Einzug in Jerusalem ist von ihm von vornherein beabsichtigt — seine Absicht ist so ernstlich, er selbst seiner Sache so gewiß, daß er das Thier, dessen er be-darf, den Esel, auf dem er als der verheißene König Zions einziehen will, durch ein Wunder herbeischasst — woher weiß er es aber, daß die Dekoration nicht fehlen werde, ohne die sein Ritt auf jenem Thier allen Effect entbehren würde? — woher weiß er es, daß die Volksmenge ihm entgegen kommen, Baum-zweige auf den Weg streuen und ihn mit dem Rufe: gesegnet sey, der da kommt im Namen des Herrn! in die Stadt geleiten werde?

How does Jesus know, when he makes preparations for his solemn entry into Jerusalem, that they will not be in vain?

His solemn entry into Jerusalem is intended by him from the start – his intention is so serious, he himself is so sure of his cause that he miraculously brings about the animal he needs, the donkey, on which he wants to enter as the promised King of Zion – but how does he know that the ceremony will not be lacking, without which his ride on that animal would lack all effect? – How does he know that the crowd will come to meet him, scatter branches of trees on the way and escort him into the city with the cry: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

108/109 Und die Menge — woher kommt ihr auf einmal die Gewißheit, daß dieser Mann auf seinem Esel ihr verheißener König sey? Bis jetzt hat sich Jesus vor dem Volke noch nicht als Messias bekannt — ja, als die Jünger am Schluß seiner galiläischen Wirksamkeit hinter das Geheimniß seiner Messianität kamen, verbot er ihnen streng, den Leuten zu sagen, wer er sey — woher kennt ihn also die Volksmenge von Jerusalem — woher kommt ihr der Gedanke, ihm entgegen zu ziehen und ihn in die heilige Stadt einzuführen? And the crowd – where did they suddenly get the certainty that this man on his donkey was their promised king? Until now Jesus has not confessed himself to the people as Messiah – yes, when the disciples discovered the secret of his Messiahship at the end of his Galilean ministry, he strictly forbade them to tell the people who he was – so how does the crowd of Jerusalem know him – where does the idea come from to meet him and introduce him into the holy city?
109 Und als die Jünger nach dem Geheiß ihres Herrn in dem Flecken den beschriebenen Esel fanden und losbanden, woher kommt es, daß jene Leute, die nicht begreifen konnten, wie die Jünger dazu kamen, sich an fremdem Eigenthum zu vergreifen, durch Ein Wort, durch die Formel: „der Herr bedarf sein!” sich zufrieden stellen lassen? — woher kommt es, daß das Eine Wort „Herr”, während sie den Herrn selbst noch nicht kannten, sie zur Ruhe brachte?

Alle diese Schwierigkeiten und Widersprüche hat der Prag-matismus des Urevangelium- erzeugt — also auch in vorau-geebnet und gelöst. Der letzte Kampf, die Vollendung der Kollision und die schließliche Herbeiführung der Katastrophe fordern die Voraussetzung, daß Jesus offen als Messias aufgetreten und als solcher anerkannt ist — daher der feierliche Einzug in Jerusalem mit allen Widersprüchen, die in ihm selbst und in seiner Vorbereitung liegen — daher auch der Blinder der als Vorposten der begeisterten Menge der Hauptstadt zu Jericho austritt *).

And when the disciples, at the command of their Lord, found the donkey in the village and untied it, how is it that those people, who could not understand how the disciples came to take possession of other people’s property, let themselves be satisfied by one word, by the formula: “the Lord needs to be! – Where did it come from that the One Word “Lord”, while they did not yet know the Lord Himself, brought them to rest?

All these difficulties and contradictions have been created by the pragmatism of the primal gospel, and have thus also been anticipated and solved. The final struggle, the completion of the conflict and the eventual bringing about of the catastrophe demand the prerequisite that Jesus openly appeared as Messiah and was recognised as such – hence the solemn entry into Jerusalem with all the contradictions that lie in it and in its preparation – hence also the blind man who exits as the outpost of the enthusiastic crowd of the capital at Jericho *).

109* *) Wenn es noch im jetzigen Marcusevangelium, in der Mitte des Bericht« (E. 10, 49), heißt: die Lenke „riefen den Blinden”, so be-weist diese Wendung, daß der Mann im Anfang« des Berichts nur als »ein Blinder” (τυφλὸς τις) bezeichnet war. Erst der Ueberarbeiter der Urevangeliums, der Urheber des jetzigen Marcusevangelium, hat den Zusatz und die falsche Bestimmtheit: „der Sohn des Timänn, Barttmäus, der Blinde” (V. 46) eingeschoben — ein Zusah, dessen UngehöriM sich auch daraus erweist, daS er die folgende Bestimmung, der Man« habe bettelnd am Wege gesessen, überflüssig machte. Im Urevangelium hieß es nur: „eia Blinder sag am Weg« und bettelte.” *) “If in the current Gospel of Mark, it still says in the middle of the account (ch. 10, 49) that the people “called the blind man,” this phrase proves that the man was only referred to as “a blind man” (τυφλὸς τις) at the beginning of the account. It was only the reviser of the original Gospel, the author of the current Gospel of Mark, who inserted the addition and the false specification: “the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, the blind man” (v. 46) – an addition that is shown to be inappropriate by the fact that it made the following specification, that the man was begging by the roadside, redundant. In the original Gospel, it only said: “a blind man sat by the roadside and begged.”
110 Nach der Beschreibung, die Epiphanias von Marclon-Evangelium gibt, hat Urlukas die beiden Erzählung-stücke von dem Einzug in Jerusalem und von der Tempelreinigung (C. 19, 29—46) ausgelassen.

Ausgelassen — denn daß er durch sein Verfahren einen Typus, der Jesum wirklich nach Jerusalem kommen ließ und sein erstes Auftreten in der Hauptstadt schilderte, lückenhaft und haltlos gemacht hat, kann er selbst nicht läugnen, wenn er auf die Notiz (C. 19, 28), daß Jesus (von Jericho) weiter zog und die Reise nach Jerusalem fortsetzte, sogleich da- fertige Factum folge« läßt, daß Jesus sich täglich mit Lehren im Tempel beschäftigte.

Mit überlegter Absicht ausgelassen — denn kurz vorher hat er den Herrn den Satz aufstellen lassen, daß das Reich Gottes im Jnnrrn der Gläubigen waltet (C. 17, 21), — ja läßt er ihn sogar mit ausdrücklicher Beziehung darauf, daß er nahe bei Jerusalem war und sie — (sie überhaupt!) — meinten, daß das Reich Gottes auf der Stelle offenbar werden sollte (C. 19, 11), in Jericho die Parabel von den Talenten vor« tragen. Jst das Reich Gottes ein inwendiges, so wäre der Pomp des Einzuges in Jerusalem sehr ungehörig gewesen — hat Jesus auf der letzten Station vor Jerusalem sich gegen die voreilige Erwartung des Reiches Gottes erklärt, so durfte er nicht den Augenblick darauf durch den Antritt seiner königlichen Herrschaft seine Erklärung widerrufen.

According to the description given by Epiphanias of Marclon’s Gospel, Urlukas omitted the two narrative pieces of the entry into Jerusalem and of the cleansing of the temple (C. 19, 29-46).

Omitted – for he himself cannot deny that by his procedure he has made incomplete and untenable a type which really had Jesus come to Jerusalem and described his first appearance in the capital, when he immediately “follows” the note (C. 19, 28) that Jesus moved on (from Jericho) and continued the journey to Jerusalem with the finished fact that Jesus occupied himself daily with teaching in the temple.

With deliberate intent he omits – for shortly before he had the Lord establish the proposition that the kingdom of God reigns in the hearts of the faithful (C. 17, 21), – yes, he even has him recite the parable of the talents in Jericho with explicit reference to the fact that he was near Jerusalem and that they – (they at all!) – thought that the kingdom of God should be revealed on the spot (C. 19, 11). If the kingdom of God is internal, the pomp of the entry into Jerusalem would have been very unseemly – if Jesus, at the last station before Jerusalem, declared himself against the premature expectation of the kingdom of God, he was not allowed to revoke his declaration the moment after by taking up his royal reign.

110/111 Zeugt aber gegen Urlukas die Lücke, die er unvorsichtig genug zwischen der Reise nach Jerusalem und dem wirklichen Aufenthalt daselbst offen ließ, so werden seine vorbereitenden Vorbemerkungen, die stillschweigend den Bericht vom Einzug in Jerusalem erstiaen sollen, von ihrer Umgebung selbst zurüage-wiesen und als verunglückter Nothbehelf widerlegt. But if the gap which he carelessly enough left open between the journey to Jerusalem and the actual stay there testifies against Urluke, then his preparatory preliminary remarks, which are supposed to tacitly cover the report of the entry into Jerusalem, are themselves rejected by their surroundings and refuted as an unfortunate stopgap.
111 Daß das Reich Gottes ein inwendiges sey*), soll Je-sus auf die Frage der Pharisäer, wann das Reich Gottes komme, erwidert haben — welche Antwort also! Die Phari-särr fragen nach der Zeit, wann das Reich Gottes eintreffen werde, und Jesus behandelt in seiner Antwort den Gegensatz des Jnnerlichen und Aeußerlichrn — hat diesen Gegen-satz wenigens im Auge, wenn er dem Reich Gottes die Aeußer-lichkeit abspricht! Als Eingang zu diesem Spruch stellt er da« gegen den Satz auf, daß das Kommen des Reiches Gottes kein Gegenstand der Beobachtung sey — spricht er also doch von der Zeit — setzt er das Kommen des Reiches als gewiß, als zukünftig voraus und verneint er nur die Vorstellung, daß man dieses Kommen berechnen und beobachten könne — und unmittelbar darauf? (C. 17, 22—37) — folgt eine jener Anticipationen der Rede Jesu über seine Wiederkunft, — eine jener Anticipationen, die Urlukas in jenem unförmlichen Reise-bericht zusammengehäuft hat — die Ausführung des Gedankens, daß die Wiederkunft des Menschensohnes eine plötzliche und eine unerwartete seyn werde. That the kingdom of God is internal*), Jesus is said to have answered the question of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God will come – so what an answer! The Pharisees ask about the time when the kingdom of God will come, and in his answer Jesus deals with the contrast between the internal and the external – he has this contrast in mind when he denies the external nature of the kingdom of God! As an introduction to this saying he sets up “there” against the proposition that the coming of the kingdom of God is not an object of observation – does he therefore speak of time – does he presuppose the coming of the kingdom as certain, as future, and does he only deny the idea that this coming can be calculated and observed – and immediately afterwards? (C. 17, 22-37) – follows one of those anticipations of Jesus’ speech about His return, – one of those anticipations which Urlukas has heaped together in that shapeless travelogue – the execution of the thought that the return of the Son of Man will be a sudden and unexpected one.
111* *) ἐντὸς ὑμῶν *) ἐντὸς ὑμῶν
111/112 Urlukas hat also sehr Unrecht daran gethan, jenen Spruch von der innerlichen Natur des Reiches Gottes in diese Rede über das Plötzliche der Wiederkunft des Menschen-sohns einzufügen, und es konnte ihm auch nichts helfen, wenn er sein Versehen dadurch zu vertuschen und den Schein der Zusammengehörigkeit zu erzeugen glaubte, daß er dem Spruch von der innerlichen Natur des Gottesreichs dieselbe Warnung und Wendung voranstellte, die nachher wiederkehrt, nachher aber nur (V. 23) an ihrer Stelle ist, wenn es gilt die Verführer zu schildern, die vor der Zeit schon den wiedergekommenen Menschensohn zeigen wollen. Dieser Formel: „sie werden zu euch sagen, siehe hier! siehe da!” hat er sogar, weil auch der vorhergehende Satz: „nicht kommt das Reich Gottes”…. mit einer Verneinung anfängt, (V. 21) die ungelenke und unpassende Form gegeben: „nicht werden sie zu euch sagen”… Urluke was therefore very wrong to insert the saying about the inward nature of the kingdom of God into this speech about the sudden return of the Son of Man, and it could not help him if he thought he could cover up his oversight and create the appearance of coherence by prefixing the saying about the inward nature of the kingdom of God with the same warning and turn of phrase that returns later, but is only used in its place (v. 23) when it is necessary to describe the deceivers who want to show the Son of Man returning before the end of time. 23) in its place, when it is necessary to describe the deceivers who want to show the returned Son of Man before the time. To this formula: “they will say to you, look here! look there!” he even gave (v. 21) the awkward and inappropriate form: “they will not say to you” because the previous sentence: “the kingdom of God is not coming”…. also begins with a negation….
112 Und die Parabel von den Talenten soll der Leser wirklich als eine Widerlegung und Belehrung derjenigen ansehen, die auf der Stelle schon die Offenbarung des Reiches Gottes erwarteten? Welche Zumuthung! Sie kennt nur die Eine Moral, daß dem, der da hat, gegeben, dem, der da nicht hat, auch was er hat, genommen wird. Nur der für die Moral des Ganzen unwesentliche Nebenzug, daß der Herr der Knechte, ehe er dieselben mit den Talenten ausstattet, verreist und nachher zurückkehrt, hat Urlukas dazu verführt, den Vertrag der Parabel durch jene Erwartung zu veranlassen, d. h. sie an so un-passender Stelle anzubringen.

Diese Lütte ist also nicht mehr gerechtfertigt und sie muß wieder ausgefüllt werden — aber nur durch den Urbericht, nicht durch die Darstellung des Einzuges, den der Compilator des jetzigen Lukasevangeliums sammt der Tempelreinigung wieder zu Gnaden angenommen hat.

Richt die Jünger dürfen, wie dieser es haben will (Luk. 19, 35. 36), nachdem sie ihre Kleider auf den Esel gelegt haben, ihre Kleider auch noch auf den Weg breiten — sondern das muß, wie es im Urbericht geschieht, ein Theil der Volksmenge thun, während der andere Theil Zweige von den Bäumen bricht und sie auf den Weg streut.

And should the reader really regard the parable of the talents as a refutation and instruction of those who expected the revelation of the Kingdom of God right away? What impertinence! It knows only one morality, that to him who has shall be given, and from him who has not shall be taken away what he has. Only the incidental feature, which is not essential to the morality of the whole, that the master of the servants, before he endows them with the talents, goes away and returns afterwards, has seduced Urlukas to induce the contract of the parable by this expectation, i.e. to place it in such an inappropriate place.

This lie is therefore no longer justified, and it must be filled in again – but only by the original account, not by the representation of the entrance, which the compiler of the present Gospel of Luke has again accepted with grace, together with the cleansing of the temple.

The disciples were not allowed to spread their garments on the road after they had put them on the donkey, as the author wanted (Luk 19, 35. 36), but rather, as in the original account, a part of the crowd had to do so, while the other part broke branches from the trees and scattered them on the road.

113 Nicht „der ganze Haufe der Jünger” (B. 37) kann dem lobpreisenden Zug bilden, denn man weiß nicht, woher auf ein-mal diese vertraute Jüngerschaar kommt — sondern das Volk, das seinen König erkennt, geleitet ihn in seine Stadt.

Es ist der Triumphzug des Königs, der seine Herrschaft ««tritt — es ist daher ungehörig, wenn der Compilator (Luk. 19, 37) allein an den Wunderthäter denkt und den Jubel jener Jüngerschaar aus der Menge der Wunder erklärt, die sie gesehen hatten.

Man sieht zwar noch, wie der Compilator dazu kam, die Menge der Jünger an die Stelle des Volks zu setzen: — weil nämlich das Bolk nicht „auch” — (wie jene Jünger) — be-dacht habe, was zu seinem Frieden dient, muß der Herr, als er nahe herbeikam und die Stadt sah, über ihr Ende weinen und ihren Untergang weissagen (V. 41—44) — d. h. den Freudentag trüben.

Auch das war schon unpassend, daß der Compilator vor der Bedrohung der Stadt den Zug anbrachte, daß einige Pha-risäer den Herrn aufforderten, er solle seinen Jüngern Einhalt thun, worauf derselbe antwortet: „wenn diese schweigen, so werden die Steine schreien” (V. 39. 40) — die Freude des Tages muß vollständig seyn! Vollständig und ohne Mißklang! Deshalb ist es auch unpassend, daß dieser spätere Bearbeiter des Lukasevangeliums an demselben Tage noch, sogleich nach dem Eintritt in die Stadt, die Tempelreinigung geschehen läßt. Heute ist vielmehr ein Festtag! Ein Tag des Glanzes — der Freude, die durch keinen Mißton unterbrochen werden darf.

Not “the whole multitude of disciples” (B. 37) can form the praising procession, for one does not know where this familiar crowd of disciples comes from all at once – but the people, who recognise their king, lead him into their city.

It is the triumphant procession of the King who “treads” his reign – it is therefore improper for the compiler (Luk 19:37) to think only of the miracle-worker and to explain the rejoicing of that band of disciples from the multitude of miracles they had seen.

We can still see how the compiler came to put the multitude of disciples in the place of the people: – for because the multitude had not “also” – (like those disciples) – considered what was for their peace, the Lord, when he came near and saw the city, must weep over its end and prophesy its destruction (vv. 41-44) – i.e. cloud the day of rejoicing.

Even this was incongruous, that the compiler, before threatening the city, made the move, that some Phaisees called upon the Lord to stop His disciples, to which He replied: “if these are silent, the stones will cry out” (v. 39. 40) – the joy of the day must be complete! Complete and without discord! Therefore, it is also inappropriate that this later editor of Luke’s Gospel has the cleansing of the temple take place on the same day, immediately after the entrance into the city. Today is rather a day of celebration! A day of splendour – of joy, which must not be interrupted by a murmur.

113/114 Auch Matthäus gibt dem Ganzen die falsche und unpassende Anordnung, daß Jesus sogleich nach dem Einzuge in den Tempel läuft und die Reinigung desselben vornimmt. Auch er las wie Lukas in einer seiner Quellenschriften von einer miß-liebjgen Bemerkung der Ober» über den Beifall, der Jesum empfing — er läßt dieselben zwar erst «ach der Tempelrei-nigung mit ihrer unzustiedenen Mahnung auftreten, muß es aber gleichwohl noch verrathen, daß diese Episode in seiner Quelle einen Bestandtheil des Einzuges bildete, da die Unzufriedenheit der Obern durch das Hosiannarufen der Kinder (!) hervorgerufen wird. Er wußte auch bereits davon, hatte darüber Etwas gelesen, daß der Jubel, der au diesem Tage Jesum umgab, durch den Anblick von Wunderthaten hervorgerufen war — er läßt deshalb sogleich nach der Tempel-reinigung — sogar noch im Tempel! — Jesum Wunder ver-richten, damit der Aerger der Obern und der Jubel der Kinder recht natürlich erklärt werde. Allein weder das Jubelgeschrei der Letzteren, noch die Bemerkung der Gegner enthält die leiseste Bezugnahme auf jene Wunder und in Beidem ist so wenig wie in der Antwort Jesu die Voraussetzung, daß das Ganze im Tempel geschieht, aufzufinden. Matthew also gives the wrong and inappropriate order that Jesus runs into the temple immediately after the entrance and cleanses it. Like Luke, he also read in one of his sources about a displeasing remark by the “superiors” about the applause that Jesus received – although he only lets them appear “after the temple dedication with their unpleasant admonition, he must nevertheless reveal that this episode in his source formed a part of the entry, since the dissatisfaction of the superiors is caused by the children calling out to the hosannah (!). He already knew about it, had read something about it, that the rejoicing that surrounded Jesus on that day was caused by the sight of miraculous deeds  – He therefore had Jesus perform miracles immediately after the cleansing of the temple, even while still in the temple, so that the anger of the rulers and the rejoicing of the children would be explained quite naturally. But neither the rejoicing of the latter, nor the remark of the opponents contains the slightest reference to those miracles, and in both, as little as in Jesus’ answer, is the precondition that the whole thing takes place in the temple to be found.
114 Der erste Bildner jener Episode und Variation auf die mißliebige Bemerkung der Pharisäer, die uns im Lukasevange-lium erhalten ist, hat sie, wie das Hosiannarufen beweist, in den Einzug verwebt, und wenn sie hier als ein störender Ueber-fluß vom Urbericht zurückgewiescn wird, so will dieser auch nachher, nach der Tempelreinignng, von ihr Nichts wissen, da er nach dieser nur Eine Aeußerung und Frage der Obern kennt — die Frage nach der Vollmacht, die Jesus für sein großartig gewaltthätiges Auftreten und für sein oberstrichterliches Benehmen aufzuweisen habe. The first author of this episode and variation on the disliked remark of the Pharisees, which is preserved for us in Luke’s Gospel, interwove it, as the calling of the Hosanna proves, into the entrance, and if it is rejected here as a disturbing overflow from the original report, the latter, after the cleansing of the temple, does not want to know anything about it, since after this he knows only one statement and question of the superiors – the question of the authority that Jesus had to show for his grandiose violent appearance and for his supreme judicial behaviour.
114/115 Das eigne Werk des Matthäus ifl dagegen das schriftstel-lrrische Wunder, daß Jesus zu gleicher Zeit auf zwei Thieren reitend seinen Einzug hält — bewirkt hat er es dadurch, daß er die Jünger, als sie ein Eselsfüllen mit dessen Mutter herbeigebracht und ihre Kleider auf beide*) gelegt hatten, ihren Meister in Einem und demselben Augenblick« gleichfalls auf beide Thiere**) setzen läßt — das Erstere, an sich schon unnöthig, geschah unwillkührlich, weil dem Matthäus beide Thiere wichtig waren und zum Ceremoniell des Ganzen zu gehören schienen, nachdem er einmal in der Weissagung des Zacharias C. 9, 9 die beiden parallelen Bezeichnungen Eines und desselben Esels zu peinlich prosaisch als dir Bezeichnung zweier Thiere aufgefaßt hatte — das zweite, ein reines Unding, war die me-chanische Folge des Intereffes, welches er an den beiden Thieren der Weissagung nahm. Bon der Formel „auf sie” konnte er sich nicht trennen und er schrieb sie mechanisch zum zweitenmale hin, nachdem sie ihm einmal als wichtig und bedeutungsvoll erschienen war. Matthew’s own work, on the other hand, is the scriptural miracle of Jesus’ entrance riding on two animals at the same time – he brought this about by having the disciples, when they had brought a donkey’s colt with its mother and laid their clothes on both*), the former, in itself already unnecessary, was done involuntarily, because both animals**) were important to Matthew and seemed to belong to the ceremonial of the whole, after he once in the prophecy of Zacharias C. 9, 9 he had understood the two parallel designations of one and the same donkey too embarrassingly prosaically as the designation of two animals – the second, a pure absurdity, was the mechanical consequence of the interest he took in the two animals of the prophecy. He could not part with the formula “upon them” and wrote it down mechanically for the second time after it had once seemed important and significant to him.
115* *) ἐπ’ αὐτῶν. *) ἐπ’ αὐτῶν.
115 Während übrigens der Verfasser des Urberichts seiner Sache sicher ist und sich darauf verlassen ka«n, daß Jedermann in sei« ner Darstellung den verheißenen König des Zacharias sogleich erkennen werde, hat Matthäus das Ueberflüssig« gethan und noch ausdrüalich daran erinnert, daß es sich, als Jesus die Jünger nach dem Esel ausschiaie, um die Erfüllung jener Weissagung des Zacharias handelte. Er hätte auch noch darauf verweisen können, daß der Esel losgebunden werden muß und daß Jesus ausdrücklich dieß Losbinden erwähnt, weil Juda’s, des Erwählten, des Fürsten und Herrn Esel (1. Mos. 49, 11) angebunden ifl. Meanwhile, the author of the original account is certain of his matter and can rely on everyone recognizing the promised king of Zechariah in his portrayal. However, Matthew has done the superfluous and explicitly reminded that, when Jesus sent the disciples for the donkey, it was about the fulfillment of that prophecy of Zechariah. He could also have pointed out that the donkey must be untied and that Jesus expressly mentioned this untying because Judah’s, the chosen one’s, the prince and lord’s donkey (Gen. 49:11) was bound.
115/117 Der Vierte endlich muß eine Darstellung vor Augen gehabt haben, die ebenso wie diejenige, die wir im jetzigen Lukasevangelium lesen, die Begristrung des Volks durch die Wunder erklärt, die es vom Herrn gesehen hatte — ein Anstoß dieser Art konnte es nur bewirken, daß er seine Geschichte von der Auferweckung des Lazarus gerade hieher setzte — ein Anstoß dieser Art mußte auf ihn gewirkt haben, als er mit seiner unbeholfenen Absichtlichkeit es hervorhob, daß die Leute, um Lazarus zu sehen, nach Bethanien hinausgingen, und als er die Leute, die Jesum beim Einzuge ———— doch was sprechen wir vom Einzuge, wenn wir die Darstellung des Vierten wikdergeben wollen — unter seiner Hand verlieren die festesten Gestalten des synoptischen Geschichtskreises ihren Halt und ihre Form — was in diesem Kreise ein bedeutsames, von Jesu selbst vorbereitetes und beabsichtigtes Ereigniß ist, wird durch die Kunst des Vierten zu einer zufälligen Begebenheit, die dem Heben, er weiß nicht wie, arrivirt — selbst die Mittel, die der Vierte zur Herbeiführung dieser Begebenheit in Bewegung fetzt, verändern im Augenblia, wenn er sie als Hebel ansetzt, ihre Gestalt und mit je größerer Absichtlichkeit er ihre Hebelkraft rühmt, um so mehr straft ihn ihre Schwächt und ihre ungeschickte Form Lügen. Erst soll das Wunder, das Jesus am Lazarus verrichtet hat, die Menge, die ihn nach Jerusalem geleitet, herbeischaffen — darum müssen Viele nach Bethanien hinausströmen, um den Ailferwraten zu sehen, und an Jesus glauben (C. 12, 11) — auf einmal aber, als man in Jerusalem hört, daß Jesus nach der Stadt kommt, muß ihm eine ganz andere Volksmasse entgegenziehen und sein zufälliges Kommen zu einem feierlichen Einzuge machen — nämlich die Volksmenge, die des Festes wegen nach Jerusalem gekommen war (V. 12) — und in demselben Augenblicke, wo man noch glaubt, daß diese Festbesucher dem Herrn als dem König Jsraels entgegencufen, bemerkt der Vierte, daß jener Volkshaufe, der dabei war, als Jesus den Lazarus er weckte, jetzt seine That verkündete, also die preisende Menge bildete (v. 17) — nein! nein! so verhielt es sich nicht! in demselben Athemzuge meldet uns der Vierte, daß die Menge, dir Jesum umgab und geleitete, durch die Nachricht von seinem Wunder am Lazarus dazu bewogen wurde, ihm entgegen zu ziehen! Finally, the Fourth [Evangelist] must have had a representation before his eyes which, just like the one we read in the current Gospel of Luke, explains the limitation of the people through the miracles they had seen from the Lord. Such a stimulus could only have caused him to place his story of the resurrection of Lazarus here. Such a stimulus must have acted on him when, with his clumsy intentionality, he emphasized that the people went out to Bethany to see Lazarus, and when he loses the firm shapes of the synoptic cycle of events under his hand – “But why do we talk about the entry when we want to reproduce the portrayal of the fourth [evangelist]? – under his hand, the firmest figures of the synoptic cycle of stories lose their grip and shape –  What in this circle is a significant event, prepared and intended by Jesus himself, is turned by the artistry of the Fourth Gospel into a random occurrence that happens, he knows not how – Even the means that the Fourth Gospel employs to bring about this event change their shape in an instant, as soon as he sets them as levers, and with the greater intentionality he praises their leverage power, the more their weakness and clumsy form expose him as a liar. The miracle that Jesus performed on Lazarus is supposed to bring the crowd that led him to Jerusalem – therefore, many must stream out to Bethany to see the one who was raised from the dead, and believe in Jesus (John 12:11) — but all at once, when one hears in Jerusalem that Jesus is coming to the city, a completely different crowd must meet him and make his accidental coming a solemn entry – namely the crowd that had come to Jerusalem for the feast (v. 12) – And in the same moment, while people still believed that these festival-goers were going to meet the Lord as the King of Israel, the Fourth [Gospel writer] noticed that the crowd who was there when Jesus raised Lazarus now spread the word about his deed, forming the praising crowd (v. 17) – No! No! It was not like that! In the same breath, the Fourth Gospel informs us that the crowd surrounding and accompanying Jesus was moved by the news of his miracle on Lazarus to go out to meet him!
117 Ein Geschichtsschreiber, der mit so viel Mitteln des Pragmatismus die feierliche Einholung — zur Einholung nämlich ist der Einzug geworden — herbeigeführt und erklärt hat, bedurfte des synoptischen Wunders nicht mehr, mit welchem sich Jesus den unentbehrlichen Esel verschaffte — sein Jesus findet ihn (V. 14) — findet ihn zufällig und das war genug — der Leser bedurfte keiner Erklärung dieses Zufalls, nachdem die ganze Begebenheit durch eine so zwingende und großartige Nothwendigkeit herbeigeführt war.

Der Leser brauchte es auch nicht zu wissen, wie die Pha-risäer bei dieser Gelegenheit zu ihrem Ausruf kamen: „seht ihr, daß Nichts hilft?” (L. 19). Muß denn der Vierte die ganze Quellenschrift, die er benutzte, abschreiben und dem Leser jene Episode des Einzugs, in der die Obern gleichfalls dem Jubel des Volks gewehrt wissen wollen und auf die Vergeb-lichkeit des Bemühens aufmerksam gemacht werden, voll-ständig mittheilen? Jst der Vierte nicht Meister des gegebenen Stoffs und ist es nicht genug, wenn er demselben nur zerstückelte Stichworte entlehnt?

A historian who, with so much pragmatism, has brought about and explained the solemn reception – The entry has become a reception – no longer needed the synoptic miracle by which Jesus procured the indispensable donkey- his Jesus finds it (v. 14) – finds it by chance and that was enough – the reader did not need an explanation of this chance, after the whole event had been brought about by such a compelling and magnificent necessity.

Nor did the reader need to know how the Pharisees came to their exclamation on this occasion: “Do you see that nothing helps? (L. 19). Must the Fourth then transcribe the whole of the source scripture which he used and give the reader a complete account of that episode of the entry in which the superiors likewise want the people’s rejoicing to be resisted and are made aware of the futility of their efforts? Is the Fourth not a master of the given material and is it not enough if he only borrows fragmented key words from it?

117/118 Am Ende soll er auch dem Leser sagen, welches der vorhergehende Tag war, mit welchem der folgende (V. 12), der der Lag der Einholung ist, in Verhältniß steht? Am Ende soll er diesen folgenden Tag, nachdem das Dauernde, daß die Juden nach Bethanien hinausflrömten, um den Lazarus zu sehen, und daß die Hohenpriester schon daran dachten, den Stein des Anstoßes, den Lazarus au- dem Wege zu räumen (B.9—11), vorangegangen war, überhaupt nur erklären? Oder soll er gar, wenn dieser folgende Tag der Lag nach der Salbung ist, die sechs Tage vor dem Pascha geschah, es erklärlich machen, wie diese Rückbeziehung möglich ist, wenn indessen jenes Dauernde dazwischengetreten war? The author also wants to inform the reader which was the previous day and how it relates to the following day (v.12), which is the day of the triumphal entry. In the end, is he supposed to explain this following day, after what was established as constant, that the Jews were streaming out to Bethany to see Lazarus, and that the high priests were already thinking of removing the stumbling block, which was Lazarus, from their path (John 9-11)? Or should he even, if this following day is the day of the anointing after which there are six days before the Passover, make it understandable how this retrospective reference is possible, when in the meantime that which lasted intervened?
18 Welche ungerechte Zumuthung!

Wir wollen es von ihm auch nicht wissen, wie er es rechtfertigen kann, daß er die Salbung, die die Vorfeier des Begräbnisses Jesu ist, vor den Einzug gestellt hat, der im synoptischen Geschichtskreis vielmehr den letzten Kampf in Jerusalem einleitet. Es ist klar, daß er nur deshalb die Salbung so unangemessen verfrüht hat, weil er sie mit der Geschichte des Lazarus in möglichst nahen Zusammenhang bringen wollte, da Maria, die Schwester des Auferweckten, die salbende Frau ist — aber wir wollen nicht weiter in ihn dringen und ihn fragen, ob dieser äußerliche Zusammenhang uns für jene unzeitige Vorausnahme einer Handlung, die nur unmittelbar vor dem wirklichen Eintritt des Leidens und Todes Sinn und Bedeutung hat, entschädigen kann.

Mag er auch das Geheimniß, wie er zur Notiz kommt, daß die Salbung (C. 12, 1) sechs Tage vor Ostern geschah, für sich behalten — wir halten es mit dem Urevangelium, dessen Schöpfer nicht daran denkt, die Dauer des Aufenthalt- Jesu in Jerusalem zu bestimmen, weil er in jener Zeit lebt, die nicht nach Sonnen-Aufgang und Untergang, sondern nach der idea-len Ausbreitung der Begebenheiten gemessen wird.

What an unjust imposition!

Nor do we want to know from him how he can justify placing the anointing, which is the preliminary celebration of the burial of Jesus, before the entrance, which in the synoptic historical circle rather introduces the last battle in Jerusalem. It is clear that he only brought the anointing so unreasonably early because he wanted to bring it into as close a connection as possible with the story of Lazarus, since Mary, the sister of the resurrected man, is the anointing woman – but we do not want to penetrate further into him and ask him whether this external connection can compensate us for that untimely anticipation of an action which has meaning and significance only immediately before the real occurrence of suffering and death.

He may keep to himself the secret of how he came to note that the anointing (ch. 12, 1) took place six days before Easter – we keep it with the primal gospel, whose creator does not think of determining the duration of Jesus’ stay in Jerusalem, because he lives in that time which is not measured according to the rising and setting of the sun, but according to the idea of the spread of events.

118/119 Wir lassen dem Vierten seine Ansicht, daß Jesus auch dießmal, wie bisher, nur um der Feslfeier willen nach Jerusalem kommt, und lassen uns um Urevangelium genügen, dessen Verfasser — wie schön! nach der Ansicht des Vierten: wie ärmlich! — noch nicht an- Pascha denkt, wenn Jesus Jerusalem betritt, und erfl da, als die Katastrophe eintritt und in der Salbung da- Begräbniß Jesu in voraus geleiert wird, bemerkt, daß diese Vorfeier zwei Lage vor dem Pascha geschah! We leave the Fourth his view that Jesus comes to Jerusalem this time, as hitherto, only for the sake of the celebration, and let us be content with the primal gospel, whose author – how beautiful! in the view of the Fourth: how poor! – does not yet think of the Passover when Jesus enters Jerusalem, and when the catastrophe occurs and Jesus’ burial is read in advance in the anointing, he notes that this preliminary celebration took place two days before the Passover!
———- ———-


Two Covenants: Israel and Atlantis — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7f]

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by Neil Godfrey

Russell Gmirkin concludes his second last chapter with a look beyond Genesis to highlight the plausibility of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias influencing some of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Joshua.

In Critias Plato was composing an account of Athenian origins and its political organization, a politogony. Gmirkin cites Naddaf’s The Greek Concept of Nature which I turned to and read how various Greek poets and philosophers were interested in writing accounts that began with a cosmogony, then moved on to an anthropogony or zoogony, and finally came to a politogony — all of which seems to me to encapsulate the structure of Genesis and the Pentateuch: creation of the cosmos is the opening chapter, then the creation of humans and how humans came to be organized as they are across the inhabited world, and finally how thbe nation of Israel came about with its laws, priesthood, tribal organization as well as how its relations with other peoples originated. After writing the above I quickly checked the early chapters of Gmirkin’s book and found he had made just that point from the outset.

Plato’s account of Atlantis is set in mythical time: the god Poseidon married the mortal, Cleito, and fathered five pairs of twins who became princes ruling the ten tribes of the land. These ten leaders ruled independently as kings but swore allegiance to be one with each other in loyalty and policies and keep forever the laws of Poseidon. Those laws were inscribed on a pillar and kept in the temple. Gmirkin is, of course, prompting us to compare this scenario with the organization of Israel and its covenant with Yahweh.

One can point to the many obvious differences between Plato’s Critias and the biblical book of Exodus. My own approach to such comparative studies is to examine how unique the comparisons are and whether we can find in those similarities explanations for the differences that go beyond the ad hoc. The most significant place where a comparison must begin is the fact that in the following scene we look in vain, as far as I am aware, for parallels in the literature of the Levant or Mesopotamia.

National Covenant with Yahweh || National Covenant with Poseidon

Some similarities between Plato’s Critias and the scene of Israel swearing obedience to their god at Mount Sinai in the Book of Exodus:

Exodus 24:3-8 Critias 119e-120b
Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (4) And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. And whatsoever bull they captured they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of the pillar, raining down blood on the inscription.
He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. And inscribed upon the pillar, besides the laws, was an oath which invoked mighty curses upon them that disobeyed.
(5) He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the Lord. When, then, they had done sacrifice according to their laws and were consecrating (120a) all the limbs of the bull,
(6) Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. they mixed a bowl of wine and poured in on behalf of each one a gout of blood, and the rest they carried to the fire, when they had first purged the pillars round about.
(7) Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”


And after this they drew out from the bowl with golden ladles, and making libation over the fire swore to give judgment according to the laws upon the pillar and to punish whosoever had committed any previous transgression; and, moreover, that henceforth they would not transgress any of the writings willingly, nor govern nor submit to any governor’s edict (120b) save in accordance with their father’s laws.
(8) Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” And when each of them had made this invocation both for himself and for his seed after him, he drank of the cup and offered it up as a gift in the temple of the God

The similarities between the passages were pointed out by Philippe Wajdenbaum in Argonauts of the Desert and Gmirkin has gone another step in spelling out specific points for comparison:

  • the moment of the creation of a new nation is identified in a single episodic event;
  • all the tribes of the nation are assembled and participate;
  • a sacrifice seals the event, with bulls representing the tribes;
  • there is an altar with an associated pillar or pillars;
  • blood is (a) splashed about to consecrate the place of sacrifice and (b) poured into ceremonial vessels;
  • laws are inscribed on the pillar or altar [in Exodus the laws were written in a book, but later in Deuteronomy and Joshua they were inscribed in stone: see below];
  • a solemn oath or covenant to obey all the words of the law;
  • strong curses invoked for disobedience to the laws [see below – Deut 27, 28, 29];
  • the oath is binding on those present as well as their descendants [Deut 28].

Such strong and systematic literary parallels exist between Exodus 24 and no other passage in Greek literature.29 Conversely, no literary parallels exist between Exodus 24 and Ancient Near Eastern literature or inscriptions, where there is no example of citizens entering into a covenant to obey a law collection, and where indeed the laws carried no prescriptive force.

29 A minor difference is that in Exodus 24 and Deuteronomy, it was the entire assembled children of Israel who were enjoined to obedience to the laws and who were entered [into] the covenant, whereas in Critias it was the ten princes who ruled in the kingdom of Atlantis.

(Gmirkin, 237, 241 — bolding is my own in all quotations)

Here is a little more detail on the inscribing of laws on pillars in the Greek world. It comes from another work cited by Gmirkin. (I have replaced Greek quotes with translations taken from the same work by Hagedorn or added my own translations alongside Greek text.) Continue reading “Two Covenants: Israel and Atlantis — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7f]”


When Yahweh was at Peace with Other Gods — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7e]

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

by Neil Godfrey

With thanks to Taylor & Francis (Routledge) for the review copy

When we read the Bible we assume that its references to God or Lord all mean the same idea: the deity of Judeo-Christian belief. So when we (non-scholars) read that the Bible’s references to the God of the Patriarchs were originally names of various local deities it can be a difficult pill to swallow. But a principal reason I began this blog was to share with the general reader what scholarly research has to inform us about the Bible, so let’s look more closely at the Genesis references to El Shaddai, El Elhon, and the various altars Genesis says the Patriarchs established in Canaan.

Here is Russell Gmirkin’s paragraph in Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts that pulls up the reader who is not familiar with the scholarly background references:

Genesis 11-50 mention a number of local gods, such as El Shaddai, with an altar at Bethel or Luz (Gen 17:1; 28:3, 19; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25); El Olam, with a grove at Beersheba (Gen 21:33); El Elyon, with a temple at Salem (Gen 14:18-20, 22); and Yahweh, with altars at Bethel (Gen 12:8; 35:1, 3, 7) and Hebron (Gen 13:18); the god Bethel (Gen 28:17; cf. Cross 1973: 47 n. 14); cf. Baal Berit (Judg 8:33; 9:4) or El Berit (Judg 9:46), the god of Shechem (cf. Smith 1990: 6; Cross 1973: 39, discussing the Hurrian El Berit). Most of these are thought to be local titles or manifestations of the Canaanite deity El (Cross 1962, 1973: 6-69; Day 2000: 13-43). Yahweh was another local god, worshipped in Iron II Hamath (Dalley 1990), Samaria and Judah, alongside Baal, El, Bethel and other Canaanite gods. Far from being inimical towards their polytheistic religious heritage, the pantheon of Canaanite gods was carried over into the present text of Genesis as local divinities associated with numerous ancient altars and holy sites. In Ex 6:3, El Shaddai was explicitly assimilated with Yahweh, but the identity of the two deities is not evident in the text of Genesis itself. (Gmirkin, 233f — bolding is mine in all quotations)

Let’s take a closer look at each of the above. I have for the most part (not entirely) followed up on Gmirkin’s bibliographical references.

El Shaddai

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk before me, and be blameless. (Gen 17:1)

May El Shaddai bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you . . . .  He called the name of that place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz. (Gen 28:3, 19)

And may El Shaddai grant you mercy (Gen 43:14)

And Jacob said to Joseph, “El Shaddai appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me (Gen 48:3)

by the God of your father, who will help you, and El Shaddai, who will bless you with blessings of the sky above, blessings of the deep that lies below, and blessings of the breasts and of the womb. (Gen 49:25)

Here is what John Day in Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan has to say about El Shaddai. Italics are original.

El-Shaddai. The most likely interpretation of the divine name El-Shaddai is ‘El, the mountain one‘, with reference to El’s dwelling place on a mountain. . . . (Day, 32)

And Frank Moore Cross in Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic:

A group of names from Ugarit gave additional confirmation of the etymology . . . 

The epithet šadday thus proves to mean “the mountain one.” (Cross, 54f)

Many Bibles translate the term as God Almighty, but that translation should be discarded:

Traditionally, El Shaddai has been rendered ‘God Almighty’, following the LXX’s παντοκράτωρ and the Vulgate’s omnipotens, but it is widely accepted that this is a later misunderstanding, possibly arising through association with Hebrew šdd ‘to destroy’ (cf. Isa. 13.6; Joel 1.15,  kešōd miššadday ‘as destruction from Shaddai’).

The two most widely accepted views today render the name El-Shaddai either as ‘El, the mountain one’, relating it to Akkadian šadû ‘mountain’ (and šaddā’u, šaddû’a, ‘mountain inhabitant’), or as ‘El of the field’, connecting it with Hebrew śādeh ‘field’. It is a disadvantage to the latter understanding that the Hebrew word for ‘field’ has ś, whereas Shaddai has š. (Day, 32f)

This same god appears among the Hurrians and Amorites:

Amorite states = Yamhad, Qatna, Mari, Andarig, Babylon and Eshnunna c. 1764 BC (Wikipedia)

Cross observes that in a Hurrian hymn El is described as ‘El, the one of the mountain‘ . . . . He also notes that an epithet resembling ‘ēl-šadday, namely, bêl šadêlord of the mountain‘ is employed of the Amorite deity called Amurru; judging from such facts as that this deity is also called Ilu-Amurru and has a liaison with Ašratum, the counterpart of Athirat (Asherah), El’s consort, Cross suggests that Amurru is to be regarded as the Amorite El. (Day, 33)

There is a “Balaam text”, the Deir Alla inscription, from Jordan:

This is a detail of the so-called “Bal’am Text” (also Balaam Inscription) which was discovered in 1967 CE at Tell Deir Alla, in modern-day Balqa Governorate, Jordan. It was written in around 800 BCE. It was written in black and red ink on wall plaster. (World History Encyclopedia)

Interestingly, in the Deir ‘Allā inscription, 1.5-6 we read,

I will tell you what the Shadda[yyin have done]. Now come, see the works of the gods! The gods gathered together;
the Shaddayyin took their places as the assembly.

In both sentences it is most natural to take the Shaddayyin (šdyn) and the gods (‘lhn) as parallel terms referring to the same deities, who constituted the divine assembly. Logically, El, the supreme deity, who also features in the text (1.2; II.6) would therefore be Shaddai par excellence. Since, moreover, this epithet is here applied to the gods in their role as members of the divine assembly, which characteristically met on a mountain, the meaning ‘mountain ones’ seems very appropriate, much more so than ‘those of the field’. (Day, 33 – my formatting)

El Olam

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, El Olam (Gen 21:33)

It seems inherently plausible that we have an Old Testament allusion related to El’s being an aged deity in Gen. 21.33, where the patriarchal deity at Beer-sheba is called El-Olam, ‘El, the Eternal One’, which may possibly have meant originally ‘El, the Ancient One’ . . . . Probably El-Olam was the local Canaanite god of Beer-sheba . . . . (Day, 19)

A Canaanite tablet proclaims ‘El is “eternal”, translating “olam”:

Indeed our creator is eternal [= ‘ôlam]
Indeed ageless he who formed us.

El (mythology.net)

Another series of epithets describe ‘El as the “ancient one” or the “eternal one” with grey beard and concomitant wisdom. One is cited above. In another Asherah speaks of a decree of ‘El as follows:

Thy decree O ‘El is wise,
Wise unto eternity [= ‘ôlami],
A life of fortune thy decree.

In the same context Lady Asherah addresses ‘El:

Thou art great O ‘El, verily Thou art wise
Thy hoary beard indeed instructs Thee.

(Cross, 16)

We are reminded of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7 who sits on his throne in judgement when another god “like a man” comes riding on clouds  (Baal was the rider of storm clouds who defeated the beasts of the sea) to be given the rule over the earth.

Olam can be used alone to refer to El. Cross cites and comments on a Phoenician incantation:

The Eternal One has made a covenant oath with us,
Asherah has made (a pact) with us.

The formulaic juxtaposition of ‘Ēl’s consort Asherah with ‘Ôlām . . . argues strongly for the identification of ‘Ôlām as an appellation or cult name of ‘Ēl. The two supreme gods are named and then follows:

And all the sons of El,
And the great of the council of all the Holy Ones.
With oaths of Heaven and Ancient Earth,
With oaths of Ba’l, lord of earth,
With oaths of Ḥawrān whose word is true,
And his seven concubines,
And Ba’l Qudš’ eight wives. (Cross, 17f)

Olam appears in a later (early fifth century BCE) Phoenician account of the origins of the gods as the first god perceptible to human intellect — as we learn from the Christian-era Damascius:

Phoenician mythology according to Mochos. Aither was the first, and Aer; these are the two same principles from which was begotten Oulomos [= Olam] the (first) deity that intellect can perceive, and he, I think, is unmixed mind. . . . This Oulomos himself is the mind that may be intelligible. (from Azize, 219)

Azize also turns back to Cross where he writes:

The name ‘Ôlām also appears in the Phoenician theogony of Moschos reported by Damascius, in the late Phoenician form transliterated into Greek: oulōm(os). Its context strongly suggests, however, that it applies not to a god of the cult such as ‘Ēl, but to one of the old gods belonging to the abstract theogonic pairs. This would equate Moschos’ oulōmos with Philo Byblius’ Aiōn of the pair Aiōn and Protogonos, and, of course, the Aiōn(s) of later Gnosticism.

We also find the epithet ‘ôlām applied to the “old god” Earth in the theogonic pair: “Heaven and Eternal Earth.” (Cross, 18)

Going back to the fifteenth century BCE we have Proto-Canaanite inscriptions in Sinai that point to an El cult in south-west Palestine and identify El Olam with the Egyptian god Ptah, the Egyptian “lord of eternity” (Cross, 18f).

The consort of ‘Ēl, Canaanite and Egyptian Qudšu, whose other names included ‘Aṭirāt yammi, “she who treads on Sea,” and ‘Ēlat, also is well documented in the south. (Cross, 20)


In the case of ‘Ēl ‘ôlām, “the god of eternity” or “the ancient god,” the evidence, in our view, is overwhelming to identify the epithet as an epithet of ‘Ēl. This is the source of Yahweh’s epithets “the ancient one” or “the ancient of days,” as well as the biblical and Ugaritic epithet malk ‘ôlām [eternal king] . . . At Ugarit and in the Punic world, ‘Ēl is the “old one” or “ancient one” par excellence: ‘ôlām, gerōn, senex, saeculum, he of the grey beard, he of eternal wisdom.

. . . . ‘Ēl ‘ôlām is an “executive deity,” a deity of the cult, namely the cultus of the (‘Ēl) shrine at Beersheba. (Cross, 50)

El Elyon

Elyon means “Most High”, hence El-Elyon is God Most High according to Day (1985, 129) though in the view of Cross,

The title theoretically could mean “the god ‘Ēlyōn, creator of (heaven and) earth,” or “‘Ēl, Most High, creator …,” or ‘Ēl ‘Ēlyōn, creator …” (that is, a double divine name). (Cross, 50)

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by El Elyon,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20And praise be to El Elyon,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

. . . 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, El Elyon, Creator of heaven and earth (Gen 14:18-20,22 — “to the Lord” translates “to Yahweh” but Cross notes that these words were not part of the original text according to comparisons of various manuscripts.)

[In] Gen. 14.19, 22, ‘El-Elyon, creator of heaven and earth’, . . . is depicted as the pre-Israelite, Jebusite god of Jerusalem. Elyon also occurs elsewhere as a divine name or epithet a number of other times in the Old Testament (e.g. Num. 24.16; Deut. 32.8; Ps. 18.14 [ET 13], 46.5 [ET4], 78.17, 35, 56, 82.6, 87.5; Isa. 14.14; Dan. 7.22, 25, 27). There is dispute as to whether Elyon was originally the same deity as El or not. Philo of Byblos (c. 100 CE) depicts Elioun, as he calls him, as a separate god from El. Interestingly, he refers to Elioun (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 1.10.15) as the father of Heaven (Ouranos) and Earth (Ge), which is reminiscent of the creator god El, and also strongly supports the idea that the reference to El-Elyon as ‘Creator of heaven and earth’ in Gen. 14.19. 22 is an authentic reminiscence of the Canaanite deity, and not simply invention. Prima facie the eighth-century BCE Aramaic Sefire treaty also represents Elyon as a distinct deity from El, since ‘El and Elyon’ occur together . . . (Day, 20f)

Day concludes that El Elyon is a separate god from El, but El-like. Cross, however, leans towards Elyon being an epithet of El, the creator god of the Canaanites, and thus identical with El.

Sefire inscription – images from http://archive.org/details/aramaicinscripti0000fitz


Continue reading “When Yahweh was at Peace with Other Gods — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7e]”


Table of Nations and other Post Flood events — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7d]

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

by Neil Godfrey

With thanks to Taylor & Francis (Routledge) for the review copy

The survival of humans and animals in an ark owes more to Mesopotamian than Greek antecedents, but the division of the known world into 70 nations in Genesis 10 follows Greek patterns of the genealogical organization of nations descending from eponymous founders . . . (Gmirkin, 230)

The Table of Nations

Once again Gmirkin detects a Greek-like interest in scientific thought of the day. (Compare earlier posts focused on the scientific interests underlying the creation chapter.)

The writings of the philosopher Anaximander of Miletus included the book Genealogies, which cataloged nations and migrations of peoples, supplementary to his creation of the first map of the world. (Gmirkin, 232)

Anaximander’s map of the inhabited world (Naddaf, 111)
Genesis 10, the “Table of Nations”, describes the post-flood division of the earth among (as traditionally acknowledged) 70 nations.

Compare Deuteronomy 32:8-9 that in its original wording (as established in part by reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls) says Yahweh (YHWH) was one of a host of lesser gods who was assigned a particular nation to possess:

When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God; The Lord’s (Yahweh’s) own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share.

The number of 70 nations may have derived from a Canaanite tradition that said the consort of the “most high god” (El) had 70 children.

At Ugarit we read in the Baal myth of ‘the seventy sons of Asherah (Athirat)’ (šb’m. bn. ‘atrt, KTU2 1.4.VI.46). Since Asherah was El’s consort, this therefore implies that El’s sons were seventy in number. (Day, 23)

Each nation acknowledged its own god(s):

Babylon (Bel-Marduk, Nebo, Tammuz), Mizraim or Egypt (the Queen of Heaven), the Canaanites (Baal and Asherah), the Arameans (Hadad) and Sidon (Ashtoreth). Later in Genesis we encounter other nations whose gods appear in later biblical books: the Philistines (Dagon), Moab (Chemosh) and Ammon (Molech or Milcom). (Gmirkin, 231)

Recall that Plato portrayed the primeval world as various localities divided up among the gods, the gods ruling the people assigned to them (or those they created) in their respective regions.

Also — though Gmirkin does not refer to the event in this chapter (he had raised it in another context earlier)  — compare the division of the cosmos among three divine brothers.

There are three of us Brothers, all Sons of Cronos and Rhea: Zeus, myself [Poseidon], and Hades the King of the Dead. Each of us was given his own domain when the world was divided into three parts. We cast lots, . . . (Homer, Iliad, 15. …) see below for a discussion of the relevance to Genesis.

I add these other possible links to Greek myth here to reinforce the case for the Hellenistic sources for the Bible. Gmirkin’s work, as the title itself makes clear, is primarily addressing the case for Plato’s Timaeus and its companion composition Critias lying behind Genesis 2-11.


Given the monotheism of the Bible, we expect to read that all founders are human.

Gmirkin does not discuss in this volume other studies that suggest the mythical origins behind the biblical account of Noah cursing Canaan, son of his youngest son, for “seeing” him naked when he was drunk:

Noah’s interactions with his sons, and how their offspring are thought to become progenitors for all humankind, may be based upon myths in which the main characters were originally gods, an instance of Euhemerism. Like Euhemerus, Israelite authors could interpret the gods acting in the primeval myths of other cultures as really having been “illustrious humans, later idealized and worshiped as gods.” (Louden, 87f)

The Bible itself takes the same road [as the Greek philosopher Euhemerus], as humans replaced the gods of Greek mythology. (Wajdenbaum, 108)


While these two mythic types [see adjacent column] are extant in several different traditions, the versions in Genesis 9, though highly truncated, not only seem closest to the forms the same two mythic types assume in Greek myth but also correspond in four particulars absent from the other known versions:

      • the corresponding names, Iapetos/Japheth;
      • the altered sequence given of the punished sons;
      • the connection with the eponymic Ion/Javan;
      • and the closely corresponding wordplays (yapt/Yepet, Τιτήνας/τιταίvoντας). (Louden, 87f – my formatting)

Great Ouranos [=Heaven] came, bringing on night, and upon Gaia =Earth] he lay, wanting love and fully extended; his son, [=Cronos] from ambush, reached out with his left hand and with his right hand took the huge sickle, long with jagged teeth, and quickly severed his own father’s genitals (Hesiod, Theogony, 176ff]

Plato thought that such a scandalous story should be censored. . . (Plato, Rep. 377 b). It seems likely that the biblical writer recycled that story but modified the detail of Cronos castrating his father into Ham seeing his father naked; it is most noteworthy that some Jewish midrashim interpret Ham’s deed as an actual castration. . . . (Wajdenbaum, 108)

Now behind Genesis there seems to lie a story in which Noah’s sons did more than see him naked: Gen 9:24 “When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his young son had done to him …” What can this have been but castrating him? The association of Iapetus with Kronos, and hence with the castration of Ouranos, suggests that he is the same figure as Japheth youngest son of Noah. (Brown, cited by Louden, 87)


I suggest, then, that to connect the Flood myth with stories set in subsequent eras, Israelite tradition utilized a combination of two common types of myth set in primeval times: one in which intergenerational conflict among gods resulted in a son taking power by castrating his father, the former king of the gods; and another in which three brother gods draw lots to determine their own portions of rule and to establish hierarchical relations between themselves.  (Louden, 87)

See also What Did Ham Do to Noah?

See the previous post for the flood event being the beginning of historical time. Once, he [= Solon] said, he wanted to draw them into a discussion of ancient history, so he launched into an account of the earliest events known here: he began to talk about Phoroneus, who is said to have been the first man, and Niobe; he told the story of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha after the flood, and the tales of their descendants; and he tried, by mentioning the years generation by generation, to arrive at a figure for how long ago the events he was talking about had taken place. (Timaeus 22a-b)

Genesis 10:1-32

Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.

The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.

And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan. And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan. . . . And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistim,) and Caphtorim. And Canaan begat Sidon his first born, and Heth, And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.

19 And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.

20 These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.

21 Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born. The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram. And the children of Aram; Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Mash. And Arphaxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber. And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan. And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah, And Hadoram, and Uzal, and Diklah, And Obal, and Abimael, and Sheba, And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab: all these were the sons of Joktan.

30 And their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar a mount of the east.

31 These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.

32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.

While it is now widely acknowledged that the genealogical structure of Genesis, and especially the division of nations in Genesis 10, is broadly indebted to Greek antecedents . . . a specific indebtedness to Critias and Timaeus has generally escaped consideration. (Gmirkin, p. 232)

Critias 113e-114c

By copying this section of Critias below I do not intend it to be read as a direct hypotext for Genesis 10. Rather, what one finds in common with Genesis 10 is the cogently brief account covering the description of how an entire land was divided up, with geographic markers for verisimilitude, with geographic names taken from founding figures, and other details you may discern for yourself:

[Poseidon] fathered and reared five pairs of twin sons. Then he divided the island of Atlantis into ten parts.

He gave the firstborn of the eldest twins his mother’s home and the plot of land around it, which was larger and more fertile than anywhere else, and made him king of all his brothers, while giving each of the others many subjects and plenty of land to rule over.

He named all his sons. To the eldest, the king, he gave the name from which the names of the whole island and of the ocean are derived — that is, the ocean was called the Atlantic because the name of the first king was Atlas.

To his twin, the one who was born next, who was assigned the edge of the island which is closest to the Pillars of Heracles and faces the land which is now called the territory of Gadeira after him, he gave a name which in Greek would be Eumelus, though in the local language it was Gadeirus, and so this must be the origin of the name of Gadeira.

He called the next pair of twins Ampheres and Evaemon;

he named the elder of the third pair Mneseus and the younger one Autochthon;

of the fourth pair, the eldest was called Elasippus and the younger one Mestor;

in the case of the fifth pair, he called the firstborn Azaes and the second-born Diaprepes.

So all his sons and their descendants lived there for many generations, and in addition to ruling over numerous other islands in the ocean, they also, as I said before, governed all the land this side of the Pillars of Heracles up to Egypt and Etruria.


I omitted a section in the above chapter. The reason, again, is to cast an eye beyond what Gmirkin discusses and to note other Greek influence. Here we have a vignette breaking into a genealogy that reminds us of a famous Greek poetic genealogy of heroes who were born from gods.

The genealogies of the Old Testament, especially the Book of Genesis, are much more closely comparable to the Hesiodic ones [than to Mesopotamian lists], both in their multilinearity and in their national and international scope. (West, 13)

And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.

The [Greek] genealogies are not homogeneous. They contain folktale, fiction, and saga in very varying proportions. These variations reflect the different sorts of material that were available in different regions for the construction of genealogies. (West, 137)

Fragments from Hesiod’s genealogy of founding Greek heroes:

Of mortals who would have dared to fight him with the spear and charge against him, save only Heracles, the great-hearted offspring of Alcaeus? Such an one was strong Meleager loved of Ares [= the god of war], the golden-haired, dear son of Oeneus and Althaea. From his fierce eyes there shone forth portentous fire: and once in high Calydon he slew the destroying beast, the fierce wild boar with gleaming tusks. In war and in dread strife no man of the heroes dared to face him and to approach and fight with him when he appeared in the forefront. But he was slain by the hands and arrows of Apollo, while he was fighting with the Curetes for pleasant Calydon. (fr 98 )

Aloiadae. Hesiod said that they were sons of Aloeus, — called so after him, — and of Iphimedea, but in reality sons of Poseidon and Iphimedea, and that Alus a city of Aetolia was founded by their father. (fr6 )

Abraham at War

The story of Abram’s military defeat of the coalition of Mesopotamian kings in Genesis 14 has motif and themes that are highly reminiscent of the conflict between Athens and Atlantis in Critias. The kings of Atlantis were portrayed as ruling righteously within their borders many years, until they engaged in a war of territorial aggression to enslave the peoples within the Mediterranean (Timaeus 24e, 25b; Critias 120d, 121b; cf. Gen 14:1-3). All would have been lost (Timaeus 25b-c; cf. Gen 14:4—12) had not the Athenians valiantly engaged the Atlantians in war and defeated them (Timaeus 25c; Critias 112e; cf. Gen 14:13-15). Abram similarly rose to the occasion, leading a small band that included Amorite allies (Gen 14:13-14) to rescue his nephew Lot from slavery, defeat the unjust invaders and liberate the local kings, much as the Athenians took the leadership of the Hellenes and defeated the invading forces of the Atlantians against overwhelming odds, liberating Egypt and the Greek world (Timaeus 25b-c). (Gmirkin, 232)

Abraham is presented as a national exemplar of righteousness and courage in war just as the Athenians were models worthy of their patron goddess of wisdom and courage in war, Athena.

A few pages later Gmirkin proposes that Joshua’s conquests of the Promised Land had a similar literary purpose.

Sodom and Gomorrah

There are many echoes of Plato’s Critias:

    • Yahweh’s portrayal as a terrestrial deity who dined and counseled with Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18);
    • the ethical decline of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:20; 19:4-13), precipitating judgment from God (cf. Critias 121 b-c);
    • a cataclysm of fire from heaven (Gen 19:24-29; cf. Timaeus 22c-d);
    • the saving of a righteous few (Gen 18:17-33; 19:14-23);
    • and the re-founding of civilization (Gen 19:30-38, locally, in Moab and Ammon).

One also sees echoes of the catastrophe that ended the pre-flood world:

    • the evocative comparison of the Jordan plain with the Garden of Eden (Gen 13:10);
    • the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:20; 19:4-13; cf. Gen 6:6-7);
    • the survival of a righteous few (Gen 19:14-23; cf. 6:14-18; 7:1; 9:1);
    • new tribes descending from the survivors of the cataclysm, (Gen 19:31-38; cf. Genesis 10).

These echoes point to the re-use of story motifs from Timaeus-Critias in both the biblical flood story and the story of Lot’s rescue from Sodom. (Gmirkin, 233, my formatting)

Day, John. Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. London ; New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2002.

Gmirkin, Russell E. Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts: Cosmic Monotheism and Terrestrial Polytheism in the Primordial History. Abingdon, Oxon New York, NY: Routledge, 2022.

Naddaf, Gerard. The Greek Concept of Nature. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2006.

Wajdenbaum, Philippe. Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible. London ; Oakville: Equinox, 2011.

Louden, Bruce. Greek Myth and the Bible. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge, 2018.

West, M. L. The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Its Nature, Structure, and Origins. Oxford Oxfordshire : New York: OUP Oxford, 1985.

Hesiod. Theogony. Translated by Richard S. Caldwell. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett, 2015.

Hesiod. “Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments.” Theoi Classical Texts Library. Accessed January 19, 2023. https://www.theoi.com/Text/HesiodCatalogues.html.

Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Émile Victor Rieu. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1950.



Sons of God, Daughters of Men … and “Giants” — Why are they in the Bible?

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

by Neil Godfrey

In Genesis 6 we read a most cryptic detail that leaves us wondering what it is all about:

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. . . . There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth . . . 

On “giants” — a whole post or two could be written on this word. Suffice it for our purposes to note that the Hebrew word is “nephilim”. Nephilim, from the root nāpal, literally means “fallen ones” (cf Ezekiel 32:27 “They lie with the warriors, the Nephilim of old, who descended to Sheol with their weapons of war.”) We may think of them as mighty warriors now departed from the earth, heroes of old, and not necessarily as gigantic in stature — although many of them were depicted as larger than average. (cf Hendel, 21f)

We have been covering Russell Gmirkin’s book, Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts, but as I was poring through the background reading I found myself drawn back to the question of why the story of the flood in Genesis begins with an account of “sons of god”, or as the Hebrew also allows, “sons of gods”. Why did the Genesis author open his flood story with such a curious episode?

Let’s begin at the beginning — with the noncontroversial fact that Mesopotamian myth lies behind the biblical story of Noah’s flood. But let’s also examine how Mesopotamian and Biblical narratives are so very different from each other.

In Mesopotamian flood myths the gods did not use the flood to punish humankind because of its immorality or violence. No, it was not a moral judgement sent by any of the gods. It was a decision of convenience and comfort: a god was complaining of overpopulation and the resultant noise of so many people on earth keeping him awake.

Cuneiform tablet with the Atra-Hasis epic in the British Museum. Wikimedia

The land grew extensive, the people multiplied,
The land was bellowing like a bull.
At their uproar the god became angry;
Enlil heard their noise.
He addressed the great gods,
“The noise of mankind has become oppressive to me.
Because of their uproar I am deprived of sleep. (Atrahasis myth as quoted in Hendel, 17)

Significant here is what happens after the flood. The flood marks a dividing line between two different ages:

To prevent future overpopulation, the gods take several measures: they create several categories of women who do not bear children; they create demons who snatch away babies; and . . . they institute a fixed mortality for mankind. The restored text reads: “Enki opened his mouth / and addressed Nintu, the birth-goddess, / ‘[You,] birth-goddess, creatress of destinies, / [Create death] for the peoples.'” Death, barren women, celibate women, and infant mortality are the solutions for the problem of imbalance that precipitated the flood. (Hendel 17f)

Here we find that although there were myths of great floods, the primary myth about the dividing of mythical from “historical” time was the Trojan War. And this mythical saga opened, like the Genesis flood story, with gods and mortals marrying and producing heroic figures.

In previous posts we have seen Gmirkin’s argument that the Genesis author began his flood narrative with gods marrying women under the influence of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias. What I am interested in doing here is examining the wider tradition of that same Greek myth of gods and mortals and how other accounts more directly linked this myth with the end of the primeval world. There are additional influences from this wider world of Greek myth on the Genesis author, I believe.

The Trojan War as the Divider between Mythical Time and Historical Time

Surviving Greek tales of gods living on earth with humans are compiled in a work called the Catalogue of Women. This poem begins with gods (or sons of older gods) marrying mortal women and producing heroic figures.

The Catalogue . . . does not begin with an account of the flood but with a remark about the union of the gods with mortal women to produce the heroes who are the subject of the Catalogue. This strongly suggests that the [biblical author] has combined this western genealogical tradition and the tradition of the heroes with the eastern tradition of the flood story. (Van Seters, 177)

In this myth the chief god, Zeus, decided to put an end to the mixing of divine and mortal races by means of war: he manoeuvred events to bring about the Trojan War that was meant to kill off the semi-divine heroes. Many of these heroes were taken to the Fields of the Blessed but the point of their demise was to re-establish a clear division between gods and humans. (There is no general moral condemnation of these heroes in Greek myth, nor, as Gmirkin stresses in his own work, is there moral condemnation against these figures in the biblical narrative.) From the time of the Trojan War the “age of myths” basically comes to an end and “real history” begins.

Returning to the question of why Genesis 6:1-4 is such a brief account (so brief the author must have assumed his readers knew the larger story), it is interesting to learn that brief synopses of longer tales are also found in Hesiod’s Catalogue of Women. This work, too, often reads much like a compendium of mere outlines of myths.

As in the Theogony, the genealogies were interspersed with many narrative episodes and annotations of greater or less extent. We can see that these narratives were often very summary; but they are there, and are an essential ingredient in the poem. A large number of the traditional myths, perhaps the greater part of those familiar to the Greeks of the classical age, were at least touched on and set in their place in the genealogical framework. Thus the poem became something approaching a compendious account of the whole story of the nation from the earliest times to the time of the Trojan War or the generation after it. We shall see when we come to study its contents more closely that its poet had a clearly defined and individual view of the heroic period as a kind of Golden Age in which the human race lived in different conditions from the present and which Zeus terminated as a matter of policy. We shall also see that he organized his material with some skill so as to convey his sense of the unity of the period in spite of the multiplicity of genealogical ramifications. (West, 3)

The first readers or audiences were expected to know the details of what could be abridged so they could maintain their focus on the larger plot.

In Greek myth, the intermarriage of gods and mortals was the opening scene of the tale that led Zeus to destroy the race of heroic demi-gods and so restore a new world with a clear division between the divine and human. These myths were anything but consistent, however, and other accounts offered a different reason for Zeus deciding to depopulate the earth through the Trojan War. One other reason was that the earth was simply becoming overpopulated. It is possible that the Greeks borrowed this idea from the Mesopotamian myth (see above where a god complains about the noise so many people were making) but it is also possible — since there is a comparable Indian myth — that the concept had a more general Indo-European origin (Hendel, 20).

So we have different motives for Zeus’s decision to destroy the old world and bring about a new one: Continue reading “Sons of God, Daughters of Men … and “Giants” — Why are they in the Bible?”


Demigods, Violence and Flood in Plato and Genesis — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7c]

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

by Neil Godfrey

Is it possible to set forth a plausible case that the Genesis author of Noah’s Flood was inspired in any way by his reading of Plato’s myth of Atlantis? There can be no doubt that the author was influenced by an ancient Mesopotamian story so let’s establish that undeniable source for Genesis with Russell Gmirkin’s own acknowledgement:

The traditional view of scholars is that the Genesis flood derived from sources extant no later than the time of the seventh to sixth-century Babylonian captivity. Gmirkin expands the field for literary comparison to include third-century BCE Hellenistic-era works and identifies Berossus as the Genesis’ author’s source for the Mesopotamian myth. In the words of another author, Philippe Wajdenbaum,

Even if the most ancient version of the deluge comes from the Sumerian tradition, and even if the biblical writer knew of this tradition, he inserted it into a platonic framework. . . . The first eleven chapters of Genesis are indeed inspired by Mesopotamian myths, but there is a more recent Greek layer that is just as obvious. The evolution of humankind in the Bible—from the ideal life in Eden to the degeneration that led up to the deluge, and from the discussion of patriarchal life to the gift of laws— is all found in Plato’s dialogues. (Wajdenbaum, 107)

In the Primordial History, the Mesopotamian flood story, with its survival of Utnapishtim and his family and servants in a boat, had undeniable literary parallels to both the J and P versions of the Noachian flood. (Gmirkin, 10 — J and P are scholarly abbreviations pointing to different sources thought to lie behind the biblical literature: for a critical discussion on J and P in the Genesis Flood see Rendsburg on Genesis and Gilgamesh: Misunderstanding and Misrepresenting the Documentary Hypothesis (Part 2))

What, then, is Gmirkin’s view of that “more recent Greek layer” that Wajdenbaum (see the side box) speaks about?

Here are the common elements between Plato’s story of Atlantis and the Genesis Flood:

    • Both stories are preceded by a “golden age” of innocence and abundance when the deity (Poseidon, Yahweh) ruled directly with his people;
    • Both stories depict a descent into corruption after sons of gods marry mortal women: in the myth of Atlantis immorality increases over generations as the divine element in the demigods becomes diluted through ongoing marriages with mortals; in Genesis the corruption is said to happen following the sons of the gods taking women and producing “nephilim”. (An important note needs to be injected here for those of us conditioned to think that Genesis 6 is referring to demons (“sons of god/s”) descending to earth to take human women. That interpretation arose later in Jewish tradition with works like Enoch and Jubilees. There is no suggestion in Genesis 6 that these “sons of god/s” were demonic or evil. They are introduced, rather, as producing “men of renown”, though they later descended into violence.)

      This image from https://www.greece-is.com/the-search-for-atlantis/ is a brilliant reminder that Atlantis was created entirely from Plato’s imagination.

.Plato’s Critias 121

[After earlier describing the god Poseidon taking the human girl Cleito and with her producing generations of highly renowned kings, the first named Atlas … ] But when the divine portion within them began to fade, as a result of constantly being diluted by large measures of mortality, and their mortal nature began to predominate, they became incapable of bearing their prosperity and grew corrupt. Anyone with the eyes to see could mark the vileness of their behaviour as they destroyed the best of their valuable possessions; but those who were blind to the life that truly leads to happiness regarded them as having finally attained the most desirable and enviable life possible, now that they were infected with immoral greed [or “lawless ambition”] and power.

Zeus looks down, sees the degeneration, and decides to pass judgment:

Zeus, god of gods, who reigns by law, did have the eyes to see such things. He recognized the degenerate state of their fair line and wished to punish them, as a way of introducing more harmony into their lives. He summoned all the gods to a meeting in the most awesome of his dwellings, which is located in the centre of the entire universe and so sees all of creation. And when the gods had assembled, he said . . . 

Genesis 6:1-12

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. . . . There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Yahweh, like Zeus, sees the corruption and announced judgement:

Then [Yahweh] saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And [Yahweh] was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. . . . 

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 

Continue reading “Demigods, Violence and Flood in Plato and Genesis — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7c]”

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