Revising the “Simonian Origin for Christianity” hypothesis
Revising the Series “A Simonian Origin for Christianity”, Part 1
Revising the Series “A Simonian Origin for Christianity”, Part 2
Revising the Series “A Simonian Origin for Christianity”, Part 3
Revising the Series “A Simonian Origin for Christianity”, Part 4 / Conclusion – Historical Jesus?
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 1
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 2: The Letters of Paul
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 3: Three Deutero-Paulines
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 4: Excursus on Marcion, Valentinians, and the Pauline Letters
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 5: The Transformation of Simon/Paul in Galatians
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 6: Traces of Helen in the Pauline Letters
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 7: The Source of Simon/Paul’s Gospel
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 8: The Source of Simon/Paul’s Gospel (continued)
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 9: The Source of Simon/Paul’s Gospel (conclusion)
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 10: A Different Perspective on the Corinthian Controversy
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 11: A Different Perspective on the Corinthian Controversy
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 12: A Different Perspective on the Corinthian Controversy (conclusion)
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 13: Simon/Paul and the Law of Moses
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 14: Simon/Paul and the Law of Moses (continued)
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 15: Simon/Paul and the Law of Moses (continued)
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 16: Mark as Allegory
A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 17: Mark and Proto-Mark
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73 thoughts on “Roger Parvus: A Simonian Origin for Christianity”
I’m probably not as well-studied on these things as anyone else here, but I stumbled into this article and I think Parvus would be intrigued to see it: http://www.christianorigins.com/damascus.html
I’ll quote a few relevant paragraphs so you’ll see why: “Many scholars opt for Qumran, but there is a strong counter argument that suggests a great deal of wishful thinking by the earlier Scroll scholars. Some would propose a more general area near the Dead Sea, the home of the Essenes according to Pliny, but there is scarcely a scholar to be found who would suggest that ‘Damascus’ is here intended to mean the Syrian city. Michael Wise however believes that it may have been the land lying between that city and the border of Judaea. He notes incidentally that from 95-64BCE Damascus was the capital city of Coele Syria, a short-lived and rather small kingdom, dominated for part of that time by Aretas III of the Nabataeans.  The ‘Land of Damascus’ therefore might mean the country of which Damascus was then the capital. Wise’s opinion, whether right or wrong, introduces a historical matter that may be seen as significant as we investigate further.
From sources available since the 1950s, we can say that the group of Essenic sectarians who venerated the Teacher had been led by him to this other ‘Damascus’ where he was captured by ‘the Wicked Priest’ and executed.  These sectarians were the ‘Guardians’ or ‘keepers’ (‘of the Law’) – ‘Shomerim’ in Hebrew – which is the origin of the name of the Samarians who shared the conviction that their role in protecting the Hebrew scriptural heritage was unique. The term is used persistently throughout the sectarian writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in Aramaic, the spoken language of that time and place, the word was ‘Natsarraya’ which transliterates perfectly into the Greek as ‘Nazoraioi’ meaning ‘Nazoreans.’ The Nazoraioi are unambiguously identified in Acts 24:5 as the group persecuted by Paul until he became one of them.
( . . . )
Why would it be desirable, early in the second century when the Pauline epistles were being collected and circulated for Christian appreciation, to attempt to deceive people about the nature or whereabouts of Paul’s ‘Damascus?’ Acts of the Apostles, written only a few years earlier, declares quite openly that the Nazoreans are the religious sect to which Paul became converted, so any decision to deny such an association was decided quite shortly after Acts was written. No NT writer could have known that the ‘other’ Damascus would be forgotten, remaining unknown until its rediscovery in 1896, but suppression of any mention of it, or of the ‘Nazoraioi’ themselves, suggests that it was desirable to lose the connection. Christians of almost all denominations conspire to translate the frequent references to ‘Nazoraios’ as ‘of Nazareth’ so that Jesus the Nazorean becomes ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Oddly it is a fundamentalist bible translator, Darby, who refuses to fall in with this.  Acts 24:5 escaped because Paul could not have been the leader of the villagers of Nazareth; the switch in meaning simply doesn’t work in this instance and the reference had to be either ignored or removed. Fortunately for posterity, the former option was chosen.”
Now, as far as I can tell, this is amazingly relevant to his thesis.
Thank you for the link to Sid Green’s article. I am familiar with some of his proposals from posts he made at the Jesus Mysteries website, but was unaware of this essay which helpfully brings a number of them together. Although I don’t think it likely that Paul/Simon was connected with communities mentioned in the DSS, I continue to follow with interest the arguments of those like Sid who think otherwise. The case they argue is one that I continue to mull.
As you know from the series, I question whether Paul was ever a violent persecutor of the Jerusalem church. Here I will just comment on one of the other items in Sid’s scenario.
He proposes that the “Damascus” referred to in Galatians 1:17 was the sectarian site referred to in the DSS Damascus Document and that Paul did a kind of three-year novitiate there. But in the first chapters of Galatians Paul is mainly concerned to assert his independence. He protests that he received his gospel directly by way of revelation, not from any man. If Sid’s identification of Damascus is correct, Paul’s admission that he spent three years there would seem to go against his claim of independence. How does a three year novitiate with the sectarian Jews (i.e., Christians) further Paul’s claim of independence?
I suppose it could be argued that Paul’s poorly articulated point is: “The gospel was revealed to me BEFORE I did my three years of training at the sectarian center.” But in Gal. 1:17 the verb “returned” indicates that Paul was at “Damascus” at the time he received his revelation. So, if his “Damascus” was the sectarian location, he is in effect saying: “I was at the training center both when I received my revelation and then shortly afterwards when I returned and spent three more years there.” That seems an odd way to go about asserting one’s independence.
Yet, it may be that the facts forced Paul to argue in that odd way. If he was in fact at the sectarian center when he received his initial gospel revelation, but still maintained that he was not taught it by the people there, he would indeed have had to make some distinctions of the kind we see in the passage. Basically: “Yes, I was there at the time but I didn’t get the gospel message from the people there. I got it directly from Christ.” But, I wonder, how could he have been there with the sectarians and not be aware of their gospel? He doesn’t explain. Had he just arrived there and received his revelation before he had a chance to speak with anyone? Or was their gospel a secret that they withheld until an interested individual met certain requirements? We can only guess.
Anyway, this gives you an idea of the kind of back-and-forth that goes on in my head when I consider Sid’s Damascus scenario. I have firmer positions about some of Sid’s other contentions. For example, as Neil mentioned in his comment, the arguments that Acts was written after the letters of Paul are strong. I would date Acts to the mid-second century, and I too think its author knew the letters.
I realized I posted the other reply in the wrong place, and you might not get the same notification for it that you’d get if I posted it here. I wouldn’t mind if someone could erase the other comment. I’ve been doing this from a mobile phone (which makes the ‘Verify your real existence’ thing particularly troublesome!).
Indeed, I’m aware of the growing consensus for Acts’ second-century dating; however, that assumption doesn’t strike me as being especially crucial to the part of Green’s argument I found potentially relevant to [your] argument. I wouldn’t consider myself adequate to speculate alternative reasons the Nazorean reference may have been kept in Acts myself, but it doesn’t strike me off hand that they’re entirely lacking. Perhaps having already addressed Simon explicitly within Acts, no need was felt by the author to go any further out of the way denying connections between the two of them?
“These sectarians were the ‘Guardians’ or ‘keepers’ (‘of the Law’) – ‘Shomerim’ in Hebrew – which is the origin of the name of the Samarians who shared the conviction that their role in protecting the Hebrew scriptural heritage was unique.”
What strikes me here is that we have a potential reference to Samaria that has been scratched not only mostly out of Paul’s writings, but that even was applied to Jesus and has been systematically mistranslated. Possibly, here, we have a case where a connection to Samaria was wiped out with both figures. And if both Paul and Jesus’ connections to the Samarians have been (mostly) erased, it seems that there could *potentially* be room in that to find another argument for Paul/Simon’s having considered himself to be the Christ; as this would be a rather important reason why it would have been desirable at any number of points for the orthodox to begin trying to erase that connection between “Paul” and “Jesus.”
It does seem to me that it’s a stretch (although no more than those involved with the Simon-Paul hypothesis more generally: how to explain claims of Simon’s relationship with Helen vs. Paul’s claims of celibacy? Or the hostility to Simon even in apocryphal gospels, in one case Paul even being present for Simon’s death, if Paul/Simon was one of the very origins of Gnosticism?), but that’s precisely why I was intrigued to see if someone with more knowledge than I might be able to fit together a sensible argument out of it. In any case, it was a curious thing to stumble into immediately after reading this series. So if nothing else, thanks for humoring me.
The point about Galatians 1 strikes me as a good one. Interpolation to cover up Simonian appearance here, to a layman’s glance at the chapter, doesn’t look very plausible (maybe?), but I wonder, how much do we know about what the doctrines of the Samarians would have been prior to Simon, or how the two might have generally differed? If Simon was initiated here, yet still was to believe he had received his own particular further doctrine by revelation while considering it to be a doctrine which still properly fell within the Samarian ‘fold,’ it seems to me that that could be one possible ‘out.’
The author of GMark does write with an awareness of word origins. A number of times he calls attention to the meaning of words. Scholars usually say he is just interested in helping Gentile readers to understand his story. But I suspect there is more going on than that. So, yes, I too find it interesting that the root meaning of both words (Nazarene and Samaritan) is the same. I commented on it here once. See comments section of Neil’s 2011-11-08 post: “Why Jesus healed the leper in anger — another explanation?”
Maybe as Paul the Pharisee interrogating members of the Essene sect (The Way) he began putting what they said all together piece by piece, And not until that auspicious day traveling between towns did it all come together at once, as he describes it in his letter, as a revelation within. He realized at one time that the Essenes were correct, which led him to go spend three years with the community as an initiate in order to glean whatever else he could from them, specifically, to learn more about their “teacher of righteousness”. I think Paul’s falling out with the Essenes is likely due to his expounding the mysteries to all, especially to Gentiles, which would have angered other members of the Essene community who were sworn to secrecy.
There are many strong arguments that Acts was indeed written well after the letters of Paul had been collated and there are also more scholars now coming to side with the view that the author of Acts did know that collection of Paul’s letters.
If Acts were composed as a catholicizing work then we have an explanation for the way it merges the teachings of Paul with the teachings of more “orthodox” Christianity that relied more heavily upon Jewish roots. (After one reads Acts one is conditioned to interpret Paul’s letters through this “orthodoxy”.) A catholicizing agenda could also explain the author’s bringing in other sectarians (like the Nazoreans) into the common fold.
There is much in the article you point to that rests upon debated assumptions. I am sure Roger has his own take on all of this, however.
Indeed, I’m aware of the growing consensus for Acts’ second-century dating; however, that assumption doesn’t strike me as being especially crucial to the part of Green’s argument I found potentially relevant to Parvus. I wouldn’t speculate alternative reasons the Nazorean reference may have been kept in Acts myself, but it doesn’t strike me off hand that they’re entirely lacking. Perhaps having already addressed Simon explicitly, no need was felt to go any further out of the way denying connections between the two of them?
“These sectarians were the ‘Guardians’ or ‘keepers’ (‘of the Law’) – ‘Shomerim’ in Hebrew – which is the origin of the name of the Samarians who shared the conviction that their role in protecting the Hebrew scriptural heritage was unique.”
What strikes me here is that we have a potential reference to Samaria that has been scratched not only mostly out of Paul’s writings, but that even when applied to Jesus has been systematically mistranslated. And if both Paul and Jesus’ connections to the Samarians have been (mostly) erased, it seems that there could *potentially* be room in that to find another argument for Paul/Simon’s having considered himself to be the Christ; as this would be a rather important reason why it would have been desirable at any number of points for the orthodox to begin loosening that connection between “Paul” and “Jesus.”
It does seem to me that it’s a stretch (although no more than those involved with the Simon-Paul hypothesis more generally: how to explain claims of Simon’s relationship with Helen vs. Paul’s claims of celibacy? Or the hostility to Simon even in apocryphal gospels, in one case Paul even being present for Simon’s death, if Paul/Simon was the very origin of Gnosticism?), but that’s precisely why I was intrigued to see if someone with more knowledge than I might be able to fit together a sensible argument out of it. In any case, it was a curious thing to stumble into immediately after reading this series. So if nothing else, thanks for humoring me.
The point about Galatians 1 strikes me as a good one. Interpolation to cover up Simonian appearance, to a layman’s glance at the chapter, doesn’t look very plausible (maybe?), but I wonder, how much do we know about what the doctrines of the Samarians would have been prior to Simon, or how the two might have generally differed? If Simon was initiated here, yet still was to receive his own particular doctrine by revelation, it seems to me that that could be a possible ‘out.’
Don’t the Samaritans have their own brand of Messianic faith such that the Messiah will be a Joshua (=Jesus) figure?
Any chance of reviews by Robert Eisenman, Barbara Thiering and Markus Bockmuehl of this competitive scholarship?
Not likely from me on the first two, sorry. Apologies again since I don’t recall Markus Bockmuehl at the moment. Can you outline his ideas?
To save my time & your space, download e.g. PDF John Granger Cook’s summary of Prof. B’s “Remembered Peter in Ancient Reception & Modern Debate”  esp. p.3 re Simon Magus.
Thanks. I have the book now and it is on my “to read” shelf, waiting patiently in line.
Wow, it’s been a full year since the last installment of the Simonian Origin series. I hope, most importantly, that Roger Parvus is well and, granting that, that 2016 (or, who knows, even the remaining days of 2015) will see the continuation of this work, since I believe the Simonian Origin might ultimately prove to be an important part of scholarship on the New Testament.
I’m doing fine. I was a bit burnt out on the Simonian series, and I also had a lot going on this past year, including selling my house, moving a thousand miles away, and starting a new job that is somewhat more physically demanding than my previous one. Many days are little more than work and sleep. But soon, I hope, I will be fully settled in, will get all my books unpacked, and will finish the Simonian series.
I am curious to know the final series, too. Someone had the idea that to be crucified instead of Jesus is precisely Simon Peter, with James and John on his right and his left (!). Here I tried to play all the suggestive implications. In short: within the night after Mark 14:14 and before 15:1, Peter assumes the physical appearance of Jesus (the real reason why he is crying: he is going literally ‘behind Jesus’, cfr. 8:33). Obviously, I will be surprised to see possible convergences with your future exegesis of gMark.
Interesting, but there is not much convergence with my understanding of GMark. I’m more inclined to view that gospel the way Tom Dykstra does in his “Mark, Canonizer of Paul,” basically that “Mark deliberately created a literary Jesus whose words and actions parallel the words and actions of Paul” (p. 149).
The main outstanding question at this point for me is how to explain the current form of the Gospel of Mark in the context of the Simonian thesis. It is one thing to point to Pauline thoughts and images in the Gospel but don’t we also see in that Gospel various uses of Scripture etc that we would not expect? Do we have zigs and zags in the Gospel just as we do in Paul’s letters according to the thesis?
Yes, from the perspective of my Simonian thesis, the current form of GMark would have to be a reworked version of an earlier writing. I think that the words and actions of the Jesus in the original GMark were meant to point to words and actions of Paul/Simon. The Jesus in the original had a ministry that foreshadowed and in advance validated Paul/Simon’s.
But that original image of Jesus is blurred in the current form of GMark. He now takes on the mantle of John the Baptist too and his message has been altered to bring it more into line with that of the greatest of all the prophets. I suspect that his longest discourse – the eschatological prophecy in Mk 13 – was likely John’s originally or arose in John’s community. To accomplish that modification of Jesus I think the author of canonical Mark had recourse to a collection of John’s sayings – Q, if you will – but of course used it much more sparingly than the two Synoptic writers who followed his lead. As Goldilocks would put it, Q was used first too little (GMark), then too much (GMatthew); but finally just right (GLuke) to create a sufficiently orthodox Jesus.
So, yes, in the current form of GMark, I think there is some zigzagging. Its Jesus zigzags between being Paul/Simonesque and some kind of figure more in the mold of John the Baptist.
I see zigzagging in the wellknown alternation between the 1) literal reading of the Bible; reading it as being about real, historical, physical events. Versus 2) the Bible’s own frequent suggestions that we take events as mere metaphors, for spiritual or heavenly things.
So for example, at times it seems we are offered a literal kingdom of physical prosperity. But other times, we are offered a new spirit, in our heart’s or minds. Or in the spirit world of heaven.
If so, then the widely recognized literal vs. spiritual dichotomy, supports this notion very strongly.
I think that if we pointed this out, it would greatly help conservatives to see our case. Since many already see and accept the alternation between literal, vs, spiritual.
This alternation by the way, is found essentially throughout the entire New Testament. Though Paul rather favors the spiritual of course.
Simply put, Christian ” spirituality,” equaled Marcionism.
Marcionism, Gnosticism, and spirituality, in turn however, were just the current expression of Greek, Plato’s, dualism. The idea was that the universe is made up of basically two types of things: 1) visible matter, visible physical objects. And then 2) invisible spirits. Who were mainly but not wholly in heaven.
The invisible spirits were thought to be more important, more real, than visible objects. So religion, Platonists, Gnostics, said that the visible “world” is an unimportant thing. Even a “delusion” or a crass illusion, compared to the far more real spirits.
This idea was prominently supported around the time of early Christianity, by especially the Marcionists. Who were at times were opposed by many Christians. But whose ideas can be found throughout the New Testament.
Very simply put, Marcionism was the belief in powerful invisible spirits in Heaven especially. It was thought these invisible spirits actually controlled, created, this material world. And so, if we ourselves learned to value and repeat them, to be “spiritual,” we would tap into the great, real power behind all visible, material things.
This finally, is what the New Testament was doing. When it told us that God was a spirit. And when it told us that if we became complaint with the commands of this invisible spirit, our lives would be greatly improved.
Very, very simply, Marcionism was just one example of the belief in invisible spirits.
Or beings not commonly visible on earth.
That’s the discussion I’d like to see in detail. I think there are several very appealing literary analyses of the Gospel of Mark now that such a thesis might find itself confronting. What would have to give with respect to theories of authorial competence and skill?
You ask: “What would have to give with respect to theories of authorial competence and skill?”
But what prevents the competence and skill of GMark’s author from being along the same lines as that exhibited by the authors who wrote GMatthew and GLuke. If GMatthew were the only extant gospel, I’m not sure anyone would suspect that its author had used, at times quite slavishly, an earlier text. And this despite the fact that he did it so extensively. The same observation is valid of course for the author of GLuke. It seems to me that it is only because GMark is extant that we realize to what degree the skill displayed by the authors of GMatthew and GLuke is a reuse and rework skill. Without GMark, either one in isolation would come across as being more of a genius than they were. With our knowledge of GMark, we realize that both of the other authors were skilled enough to accomplish their authorial goals by manipulating an earlier text.
So I’m wondering if the same may be true for the author of GMark. Did he too rework an earlier text that had Jesus clearly and unmistakably foreshadowing and validating Simon/Paul?
I accept that point, Roger. What I am wondering about is the structure of the final product, the apparent balancing of Jewish and gentile motifs, the verbal allusions in later scenes and sayings to earlier ones, and such. To what extent would we expect such structure to be present in a work that is a composite of earlier text and subsequent “corrections”. I am not saying that Mark’s text is perfectly symmetrical or anything; it isn’t. And some people insist it is just a crude composite of beads on a string. I am one of those who sees in the gospel more art than that.
What I’m keen to see are the details of what your thesis would imply for the gospel literary and textual structure that several of us discern, the extent to which your thesis might explain some of the irregularities in that structure, whether it would require an abandonment of the view that the gospel is so artfully structured at all — have I been imagining shapes in the clouds after all, imputing authorial intent into what might be mere coincidences, etc etc?
But often a rewrite is better than a first draft. And editing by a professional, better still.
Granted, we’re seeing an editor manhandling disparate material to the point of creating his own work out of it.
Rather exactly the way an academic summarizes whole historical eras, with his own narrative summary or story. The way Bulfinch say, manhandled Greek mythology into one coherent whole.
The editor or author I am seeing, is an academic, probably.
History is “his story”, as feminists often complain.
I see GMark and all the gospels, as coming not just an original, single author. But several authors, and/or a succession of editors.
We see editing for consistency, especially. To make sure any obviously contradictory parts are smoothed over.
To be sure, the editors missed a few things, notoriously. But the effort was clearly made.
Possibly an early draft GMark was available as early as c. 56 BCE. But we don’t have that original piece of paper.
Even Hurtado recently acknowledged that the earliest bits of actual early paper NT texts we have, are tiny bits of paper from 150 AD or later.
That leaves plenty of time for subtle and even rather extensive alterations or editorializations. So long as they didn’t obviously contradict other contemporaneous reports.
Correction, 56 ACE of course
If the Gospel of Mark, or its main character Jesus, appears to have the kind of unity we associate with a single person, I attribute this to 1) one individual or institutional editor. But even more, to 2) his mental image of the ideal but partly common kind of person he hoped the gospel would develop.
That is: civilization’s require, and develop, civil, or rather meek and mild workers. Who may have their Walter Mitty dreams of personal triumph, or even kingship. But who have been trained to put aside their personal ambitions for most of the time. To meekly obey even an unjust boss.
Civil life requires a Christlike submissiveness in other words.
So the presentation of a mostly meek Jesus, as an ideal, was based on the civil servants, workers, that civilizations require. Thus ironically, if the gospels present a recognizable coherent personality, that is not really based on a single individual. But is a distillation of common desirable qualities found in countless good, long suffering workers.
…the kind of unity we associate with a single person
it is stronger than me, but I can not help but see the ”essentia” (if an ”essentia” has to be at all for the hero of 4 and more books) of the Gospel Jesus in the ”romantic” dichotomy between the appearance, the expected, the traditional, the boring, the ”historical”, the known and the being, the unpredictable, the new, the <surprise, the mythical, the unknown.
In a word: the marcionite Jesus.
I find interesting that observation:
Without GMark, either one in isolation would come across as being more of a genius than they were.
I wonder: if we have only a gospel where Jesus descends from heaven already an adult since from the incipit, can we easily imagine how it would be a hypothetical gospel preceding that?
My question is rhetorical: I doubt the answer is yes.
Not sure I understand. But? In myths of gods in general, we often hear about their adult works. And only later ask about their parents, their origins. Rather as we often use a new word for some time, before looking up its etymology.
In the meantime we just accept the word. As if it appeared ex nihilo. Or out of heaven or thin air. By miracle. Not requiring naturalistic birth accounts, or evolution.
And for that matter? If some go looking for a natural origin for a word, and can’t quickly find one? Often people clumsily fabricate a “false” or “folk” etymology. Or in other words, they fabricate a false birth narrative.
Do you think the timing of the “Jesus mission” could have been influenced by Daniel 9.24-27?
No doubt many parts of the story of Jesus came from the Old Testament. But my own special interest is in those parts that seem to have come from other sources, other cultures. Which I feel caused Christianity to largely break away from Judaism. To become its own, distinct religion.
I refer to Couchoud’s hypothesis that Marcion ‘euhemerized’ first Jesus on Terra firma. If Jesus was a mythical angel, then the simplest expected way to historicize him is to make him descend from heaven already in the incipit of a Gospel. Roger observes acutely that we are ‘tempted’, in absence of a known Gospel preceding the gospel x, to consider x as work of a ”genius” and not of remake. But this ‘temptation’ is very strong about gMarcion once we see that:
1) a case may be made in next future that gMarcion was the first Gospel
2) Marcion was effectively a ”genius”, or at least a very strong personality.
the more strong argument of Roger, as I see it, in support of the priority of a simonian gMark, is that there are elements in Mark that seem to be there only ”to mock” the outsider readers: I am referring especially to the enigmatic episode of Jesus Barabbas, of Simon of Cyrene, of the two thieves, the names of the women attending the crucifixion, the times of crucifixion, the young man dressed in white, etc.
To some extent, no genius is quite as brilliant as he appears. Since all borrow most of their ideas in life, their very language, from the millions of people who came before them.
But indeed, Marcionists and others appear quite clever. And watching the way their ideas or ” spirits” contend with others, or jockey for superiority, can be a fascinating hobby.
In particular, the contest between Greek Platonists, mystics, Gnostics, and Peter and the later Church, has long fascinated and even hypnotized many of us, for at least a moment.
Which notions, moods, spirits, went where, and which won out, is hard to say. And some things were kept secret, too. Though it seems obvious that in spite if the Church’s prohibition on Marcionism, the neoplatonistic notion of indeed, contending spirits, ideas, now associated with one figure, but then with another, remains. (C.f.. Hegel).
Gnosticism rejected the materialism of God, in favor of spirituality in general, it seems. Which played the key role in differentiating the New Testament, or even Jesus, from the Old Testament, and the Jews.
I don’t know who or where the final winners will be, in many of the skirmishes between competing philosophies, ideas, spirits, and those who hold them; their individual spokesmen or heroes.
Though I have my guess. Which is that spiritualism and materialism will be reconciled.
Turton’s online commentary on Mark, as others do too, shows how much Mark was based on Paul’s epistles (as well as the Septuagint and Josephus) but leaving aside the heavenly Christ emphasizes the adoption of Jesus at his baptism. This is Paulto emphasise another aspect of the Pauline epistles: that at our baptism we become adopted children of God. This is because Mark’s allegory is the model for the Christian life – that we must take up the cross and follow him, know how to preach and stand up to persecution, and as our model he like us is adopted by God. The beginning of the Gospel does not contradict this as adopted sons has no less status than genetic ones (see any Roman aristocratic or Imperial family tree, or Greek or Jewish legends and stories). The adoptionist story does contradict Other parts of Paul’s narrative : that the heavenly Christ humbles himself and wins the name Jesus and is raised to glory after fulfilling his passion in the heavens. Mark would perhaps not think of himself as contradicting unless you mistakenly take his story literally. He was expressing a spiritual truth and a guide to action (which perhaps rarely worked ).
I see that Paul’s statement in Romans 1.34 is compatible with adoptionalism – but at his resurrection not his baptism. Need to dig about a bit I think.
In another thread, Roger gives a glimpse of what he will offer us in future.
According to Strong’s Concordance ‘Cyrene’ means ‘supremacy of the bridle.” So the idea may be that in the bringing of the wooden cross/horse to Golgotha the Son of God functioned as the bridle.
If the Son of God functioned as the bridle, then ”behind” him there is his ‘mask’ in a literal sense (the wooden cross/horse) but even in an allegorical sense: ”behind” him there is the one to whom Jesus himself had commanded to come after him, i.e. Simon Peter as Satan.
Under my hypothesis that for the insiders in Mark 14:14-15:1 Peter becomes Jesus, I wonder then if with the episode of the Cirenaic, the son of God, disguised as Simon of Cyrene, instead of replacing Simon Peter, would take possession of the body of Simon Peter, so that Simon Peter is the apparent crucified ”Jesus”, while Simon of Cyrene/Simon of Samaria is the real Son. This way when Peter/”Jesus” dies, the spirit of the Son abandons him just before (separationism):
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
Just a comment here as I read this last line after having noticed how …. at the “beginning” Jesus had the breath of the Father at his baptism breathed into him (like an Adam or son of man echo – from Genesis) and then at the end of his life “he breathed out” the breath of the Father … that ruah or pneuma of dying inspiration or expiration with its own fulfillment in Jesus’s baptism with breath upon the Jews needing a real “model” who was put together out of OT motifs and midrash so they could follow in baptism as well. Jesus is the True and Ideal son = Israel!!! Israel is to follow Jesus as Jesus follows or lives out the breath of the Father. I am more and more convinced that Jesus is a conglomerate of all the major motifs and figures in the OT and not the historical figure he is made out to be. He has the breath of the spirit in him — ie. the prophetic powers of the scriptures in him but this is made more explicit when Mt and Lk expand Mark’s inspiration or “Jesus” exspiration in the end. I am presently preparing a major translation of the NT called “Scribe” and sharing a few thoughts here for further reflection. Vridar and Neil Godfrey. You have a great website and it has helped me a lot to form my own thoughts on these matters and perhaps kick it up a notch.
He has the breath of the spirit in him — ie. the prophetic powers of the scriptures in him but this is made more explicit when Mt and Lk expand Mark’s inspiration or “Jesus” exspiration in the end.
I like your reading of that evidence in Mark. I note that Matthew has Jesus who starts his mission coming from Nazareth, Luke has Jesus who does his first miracle in Nazareth, Mark has Jesus coming from Nazareth to his baptism (==> ”when Jesus had the breath of the Father at his baptism breathed into him”). In any case, the quasi-obsessive emphasis about Nazareth is:
Jesus is the True and Ideal son = Israel!!! Israel is to follow Jesus as Jesus follows or lives out the breath of the Father.
Is not all this the more natural reaction against someone who did deny/i> precisely that strict identity (and that particular provenance) for Jesus?
Neil, I understand your comment above regarding the structure of GMark. I have never been very comfortable with any particular structural analysis of it that I’ve come across but, once I lay out my ideas for that gospeI, I hope you will provide your take on how compatible or incompatible they are with any of the more promising analyses.
Look forward to it.
This is really fine work. Of course it would benefit from being fleshed out and turned into a book. But it strikes me, rightly or wrongly, as Mythicism 2.0, a sort of second stage. I have only a passing familiarity with Earl Doherty’s work, but if Doherty really believes in a basic authenticity to the Pauline epistles, then this view can surely be improved upon. Reading this online presentation, I feel like I have for the first time something like a full picture of Simon Magus (with all the caveats you can add to such a statement). Some along-the-ways:
1. Would love to hear Price’s take on many of the points.
2. Would like to see a book-length treatment address Eisenman’s Paul-as-Herodian evidence
3. Here’s a beginner’s question: any chance the epithet ‘Simon Magus’ could be a straightforward pejorative wordplay on Simon Megas?
This effort really shed some light on the strange structure of GMark for me – seeing it as trying to express Simonian esotericism in the duplications really made sense.
Ah, I see the Magus/Megas bit is in the intro.
Thought I’d mention here that on the most recent episode of The Bible Geek, in response to a question I posed about this piece, Robert M. Price called Parvus a ‘genius’. Worth a listen.
I have now finished all of your blogs on “A Simonian Origin for Christianity.” It is great. I still go along with Doherty that Paul’s Jesus was crucified in heaven, but I learned a lot, and you made many good and interesting points.
I was especially excited to read your post on Mark being an allegorization of Paul. In my book I do not see Jesus as a forerunner of Paul, but I see your points. With regard to the Parable Discourse I imply on p 119 of my book that the sower is Paul. You remark on the words of hearing in the Parable Discourse. I note that also, but compare it to the words of seeing in the Olivet Discourse. My theory is that both discourses are about the kingdom of God and they bracket the Pauline section of the original Gospel. Mysteriously the words “kingdom of God” are not found in the Olivet Discourse.
I show that Mark’s Original Gospel has three main sections and is structured OT – Paul – OT. These main sections are sub structured: OT Paul OT, Paul OT Paul, and OT Paul OT.
I was interested in your theory that the miracle feedings were about Paul’s epistles. I have a different take. First, in the original Gospel there was only 1 feeding and it is foreshadowing the Last Supper. The redactor did something very clever and split the original feeding so that the first half of the first feeding is original and the second half of the second feeding is original. Everything in between the two feedings is interpolated, except 7:1-23, the controversy about washing dishes. This was relocated from between 10:46a and 10:46b.
However, when we get to the leaven of the Pharisees at 8:14 I show that 8:14 and 8:19 are interpolations. The disciples only retrieved bread once and that was 7 loaves. Jesus is talking about Paul’s epistles (the 7 original) and the disciples don’t understand.
Anyway, great series. Loved it. Gave me a lot to think about.
Glad you enjoyed the series. In regard to your book: I hope at some point I will have an opportunity to read it and give Markan chiasmic structure another try. What kind of feedback have you received so far?
Hi. I’m a professional journalist and amateur secular historian who has in the past few years become interested in the question of how Christianity arose — i.e. what did Paul think “Jesus” was, etc. — and stumbled across this excellent blog. I am particularly intrigued by Roger Parvus’s hypothesis on a Simonian origin of Christianity.
Might Dr. Parvus be available for an interview, or simply for an informal chat, to start?
One thing I would very likely be able to arrange is an opportunity for Dr. Parvus to appear in a friendly conversation on a video interview channel together with Dr. Robert M. Price, who I know shares many of Dr. Parvus’s interests and shares his suspicion that “Paul” and Simon Magus might be the same person.
Please send me a quick reply to let me know this email was seen by Dr. Parvus. Kind thanks.
I’ve forwarded your contact details to Roger.
Thank you for expressing interest in my Simonian hypothesis. But are you aware that I have backed away from my identification of Paul as Simon of Samaria? If not, please read the final four posts in the series. Although I still suspect that the Pauline letters contain significant input from the former Simonian Saturnilus of Antioch and his community (the so-called Pauline school?), I don’t think that Paul, the author of the original letters, was Simon of Samaria. Or that Paul himself was a Simonian. So if you are looking for someone to argue that Paul and Simon were one and the same, I’m afraid I have to decline.
One other clarification: I formerly was a Catholic priest, but I never pursued or obtained any advanced theological or Scriptural degree. So, I am not a Dr., and please feel free to just call me Roger or eccentric Roger.
This is an astonishing study. I hope we’ll be able to enjoy it some day in paper volume form. Thanks to the author, and my very best wishes to him from Spain
Hello Jose from Spain.
I am glad you found it worthwhile to read the series. I have not ruled out self-publishing a book but I would obviously have to rework the material considerably. It is too confusing as it stands, especially because I changed my mind part way through. I would also need to bring some ideas from the comments section into the main text. When I retire – hopefully in a year or two – I will decide what to do.