Klaus Berger, one of the prominent, still better, a defiant spokesman for Conservative Christianity in Germany has recently written, "in both Paulus and in the Gospel of John one is confronted with a common Tradition, which reveals characteristic distinctions and uniformities" (Im Anfang war Johannes; Datierung und Theologie des Vierten Evangeliums, Stuttgart: Quell Verlag, 1997, p. 275). But Berger go yet further. He points out also (p. 132) that similarities in John and St. Ignatius of Antiochia "suggest, from time to time, a common theological milieu from which both of them draw inspiration." In particular, he refers to the Prologue to John's gospel and to the letters to the Colossians and Hebrews (Col 1:15-20; Hebr 1:1-3).
Is it possible that 1) Paul, 2) John and 3) Ignatius were contemporaries?
Were the three of them, in point of fact, jointly active in the early Second Century C.E.? In the East, Theophilus of Antiochien (ad. Autol. II, 22), circa 181 C.E., was the first prelate, let us stress: there were none before him, to openly declare himself for John's Logos Christology, taking this step even though the fourth gospel in his day was - strictly speaking - still not an accepted element in the Roman church's canon. (Martin Werner, Die Entstehung des Christlichen Dogmas, Bern and Tübingen: Verlag Paul Haupt and Katzmann Verlag KG., 1954, p. 167)
I was would answer my question curtly with `Yes.' Yes, the persons (plural!) who identified themselves with these names were indeed acquainted with one another's work. The essential proposition at the heart of the following argument, then, is that the three groups of scheming strategists identified respectively with the names of Ignatius, John and Paul worked with relative unanimity, hand in glove, so to speak, producing through their collective effort in possibly less than a decade's time the strategic framework within which the leadership of the church of Rome built the organization which would finally best the martial/administrative authorities of the Roman Empire, replacing them in several respects. It was a combat-ready, subversive structure - not lacking in its `terroristic' components, to employ the parlance of the moment.
Ignatius - to use this single name - coined the concept of "immortal medicine" (his letter to the Ephesians 20:21). The second group that identified itself as John identified the source of that `medicine' (Gospel, 19: 34-37) and the Pauline group outlined the fashion in which this elixir would be administered (I Corinthians 11: 23-26). The perfect, indeed nearly aesthetic, dove-tailing of the elements within this core bit of Christian Dogma gives us every reason for arguing that some of those who contributed to the completed product were alive at the same time and in communications with one another as they worked out the details of the paradigm which granted the church victory in the early fourth century, scribbling down ever new rough copy, drafts, notes and rejecting the one after the other, occasionally even booting out one participant or the other as an intolerable trouble-maker.
If I employ the single names, Ignatius, or John or Paulus, hereafter, then let it be stressed that we are constantly dealing with collectives, working under the same umbrella, perhaps a duumvirate, a symposiai,' a `college' or a hotch-potch of varying size. In the case of John and his gospel, we may very well be dealing with a very small group, occasionally a single person. In Ignatius' case, the numbers involved were probably larger and in the case of the letters, assigned to Paulus, the collective of individuals was far and away the largest, requiring occasionally much more time to arrive at a consensus.
In my parallel essay in this website, "St. Ignatius, the Insidious Pragmatism of the Episkopoi of Rome and the Rise of Christianity," originally published in "The Journal of Higher Criticism," Drew University, Madison New Jersey, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall 2000), p. 242-285, one may learn much about the pseudo-person of Ignatius. I'll not go over that ground here again, but rather limit myself to the doctrine elaborated under his name which became the king pin in the erection of the monarchical rule over Christianity from Rome. Decisive were the concepts of a) the Eucharist and Transubstantiation, b) the doctrine of the `medicine of immortality,' c) the `priesthood of the single God and d) the dogma of the trinity.
Ignatius' description of the Eucharist as an elevated form of magic appears in his Letter to the Ephesians 20:21 "You may obey the bishop and the presbytery with undistracted mind," he is made to write, "breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality (= pharmakon athanasias), the antidote (= antidotos) preventing death, but leading to life in Jesus Christ forever." And pursuing his metaphor one step further, he then asserted (in Smyrnaeans 7:1) that this Eucharist, in turn, is "…the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ who suffered for our sin, whom the Father raised by his goodness." He is "…the gift of God…" something that every `right-thinking person' ought to covet consequently as the apple of his eye and for which it is worth paying a high price.
But this "one bread," this unique sacrament, for which there is no substitute whatsoever - and this point must be stressed heavily - can only be acquired through cooperation with the "professional, full-time, hierarchical organized" cadre, i.e. the church's priesthood. Salvation, then, was inseparable from hierarchy! To leave no one in doubt regarding the obsequious behavior expected from the church's fold, Smyrnaeans 8:1 declares, "You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father and follow the presbytery [understanding them] as the apostles; respect the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no one do anything that has to do with the church apart from the bishop."
The faithful found himself, then, at the bottom of a hierarchy in which he could assure himself his status and future salvation only as he abjectly submitted. Disobedience was punished by withdrawal of the sacrament and accordingly from one's entrance, at death, into heaven. For him who had recently performed an act of faith and had gladly entered into the local community of fellowship, to spurn controls from above - that reached verily into the details of one's every day life - would require great strength of character, substantial self-sufficiency and a readiness to strike out into unfathomed waters on one's own. But Ignatius would not only direct the convert to his rightful place in the heap. Concurrently, he would pit his Eucharist against the claims and regalia of competing religions!
The term "athanasias," i.e. `immortality,' was not only an abstract concept, but likewise the name of a very specific drug associated by some of Ignatius' contemporaries with the dread Pontic king, Mithridates VI, renown for the lengthy list of those he'd poisoned in his experiments. Athanasias was said to have been discovered originally by the Egyptian Goddess, Isis, who was said to have used it to raise Horus from the dead (Diodorus Sic. 1.25.6) In a sense, Ignatius was attempting to out best this keen competitor for men's souls. (Perhaps Ignatius also had Seneca's words in his mind (De prov. 3.2), the latter referring to Socrates' hemlock as the "medicamentum inmortalitatis.")
In his letter to the Trallians, 6: 6-7, Ignatius contrasts "strange plants," "weeds" (botane), "poison mixed with honey" - all of them, heresy - on the one hand, and "pure, Christian food" on the other hand, reflecting "love of Jesus Christ," but simultaneously - the tie-in with the church's hierarchy ever and again - reflecting one's inseparability from "the bishop and from the ordinances of the apostles." And ever fearful of not being understood, he took yet another swat at his favourite theme: "He who is within the altar is pure and he who does anything apart from the bishop, presbytery and deacon, is not pure in conscience."
That these letters, seven in number: to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, the Romans, the Philadelphians, to Smyrnaeans and to Polycarp, do not appear in the New Testament where they very emphatically belong next to those attributed to Paulus, can only be explained by their risqué, provocative nature which, if they had appeared there, might have set too many critically analytic mind to work seeking to fathom their genuine substance and identify the essence of the Roman church's power-hungry onslaught against the norms of the society in which it initially hibernated.
The gospel of John, written in all likelihood well over half a century later than the synoptic gospels sought to describe a very different Jesus, not born of a virgin - she is never mentioned! - but the issue of the Almighty Himself. St. John has Jesus say (10,30),"I and the Father are one." This is the only direct statement to this effect in the entire New Testament. Luke informs us (2:52) that "Jesus increased in stature and in wisdom and in grace." There, one is dealing with growth, physically and intellectually, in a human context. And that actually was the initial Christian stand in the midst of the First Century.
As a matter of fact, primeval Christianity really did not think in John's parameters. Jesus was initially no god at all. Christians of the first century were quite satisfied with the concept of the transformation of a human being into an angel. But John would assert the divinity of Jesus from the very onset of his appearance on earth. If this essentially alien depiction of Jesus is given equal weight with the synoptic Gospels, one is unavoidable confronted with a fundamental conflict that immediately flares forth within the first chapter of John's gospel, i.e. 1:14 "And the Word became flesh."
From these words, derives the doctrine of one substance with two distinct characters (the dogma of the "hypostatic union"). And therewith one is points directly at the concept of the `Trinitarian Logos.' If the `Father,' following Hellenistic thought patterns, is to be characterized as `apatheia' (= without sensitivities of an immediately human character), then someone else must come up front to deal with the general public. If you're engaged in mass recruitment, you needs must draft an authoritative, parallel personality fully open to the petitions of the man on the street. Either that or your claim to a `personal God' is jeopardized!
To understand the thinking behind the proposition pursed by the group engaged in building the stage setting, one must turn immediately to the decisive passage, John 19:34-37 which is likewise without the slightest parallel in the synoptic gospel. We read:
"One of the soldiers thrust a lance into his side and at once there was a flow of blood and water. (35) This is vouched for by an eyewitness, whose evidence is to be trusted. He knows that he speaks the truth, so that you too may believe; for this happened in fulfilment of the test of scripture. `No bone of his shall be broken.'
And another text says,
"They shall look on him whom they pierced."
Therewith, John identified the source of Ignatius' medicine of immortality, the latter's "pharmakon athanasias," an antidote against death and this just in the nick of time. Precisely at the moment when, Ignatius raises the issue, the explanation was laid out on the table! But not enough! If that blood and water had flown from a mere human being, then Isis' drug, "Athanatias," aye, even Seneca's "medicamentum inmortalitatis" were still altogether competitive! Jesus had to be kicked upstairs. He dare not be merely a human being! But even the status of an angel - the status attributed to Jesus in all probability by his first century novices, the status Mohammed is presumed to have attributed to himself in Arabia in the Seventh Century, the status Osama bin Laden, own in our own days, would reserve for himself - would definitely not do, for in the popular mind of the first and second centuries, angels were thought to exist by the tens of thousands.
If the synoptic gospels reserve Jesus' glorification for later, only on the occasion of his parousia (Mk 8:38; 13:26; Mt 25:31), then not John. He saw clearly that the Eucharist, as a means of binding the church's membership to their santified leadership would only work if its essential ingredient came from the ultimate source. Quite clear on this count, John, in essence, categorically disqualified his synoptic predecessors by having Jesus pray (17:5) "…Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world began." The blood and water that flow does not issue from one slated for promotion, rather the sacrament of the Eucharist literally involves the swallowing of the Ultimate's very being -at the instant of its consumption, a squirming bit of divine protoplasm. The decisive passage in the gospel of John reads: (§ 6)
"(50) I am speaking of the bread that comes down from heaven; whoever eats it will never die. (51) I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. The bread which I shall give is my own flesh, given for the life of the world.' (52) This led to a fierce dispute among the Jews. `How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' they protested. (53) Jesus answered then, `In very truth I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you can have no life in you. (54) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. (55) My flesh is real food; my blood is real drink. (56) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me and I in him. (57) As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. (58) This is the bread which came down from heaven; it is not like the bread which our fathers ate; they are dead, but whoever eats this bread will live forever."
With the sweep of the writing pen, a priceless substance became an indispensable element in the salvation of souls. A wonder for all to behold moved front and center and its efficacy presupposed its administration under the auspices of a sanctified cast of priests who were ever free to punish the recalcitrant by withdrawing God's presence from him, and therewith, blocking the latter's passage at death on into heaven. Very concretely: To have performed an act of faith was to find oneself in a straightjacket! Regaining freedom of movement, presupposed a reject of the apriority at the onset.
In his elaboration on the Eucharist, Theodore of Mopsuestia, circa 350-438 C.E., a theologian of Ignatius' Antioch school, explained the role of the Holy Spirit as follows: "At first it (i.e. the wafer and drink) are laid upon the altar as mere bread and wine mixed with water, but by the coming down of the Holy Spirit it is transformed into body and blood, granting the power of a spiritual and immortal nourishment."
The three parts of the Trinity are therewith spelled out: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, the latter terms being displaced only some fifty years ago, by the new designation, the Holy `Spirit'. The church long feared the word would call attention, first of all, to Halloween, not to the third part of God Almighty, but the new term became imperative in the light of the striking portrait of the "Holy Family." This work of the Italian painter, Raphael, 1483-1520, increasing well known throughout the West through innumerable copies, encouraged one to speak of the Father, Son and Holy Ghostess!
The dangers of falling into Tritheism, i.e. polytheism were exceedingly great. Roman's Hellenistic Church Father consequently integrated yet more Greek philosophy into their theology. They turned to Platonic, Trinitarian theology. One spoke now of the `hypostasis' (= `individualization,') of the three components of a single `ousia' (= substance). That is to say: one `ousia' and three `hypostaseis,' all of them, together, constituting a single `theotes,' i.e. Godhead in eternal "homoousios" (= equipoise). The term appears only once in the New Testament, but that is hardly decisive. After all, Ignatius' decisive words which legitimized the Roman Church's power-play are also absence from the New Testament. That sole entry occurs in the Letter to Hebrews 1:3:
"He is the radiance of God's glory, the stamp of God's very being [literally: the mark of the very being of him = `Character tes hypostaseos autou'] and he sustains the universe by his word of power."
The final pay-off came at the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451 C.E. In that council's 101st canon, Pope Leo `the Great' of Rome declared that Jesus' death on the cross created the sacraments. It has so remained since then. In the liturgy of the eastern orthodox church's mass the ritual still exists of reading John 19:34 out loud before the deacon pours wine and water into chalice. (M. Werner, Die Entstehung des Christlichen Dogma, p. 483.)
The letters of Paulus, dating back to the 40s and 50s of the first century C.E., (Nero who died in 68 C.E., supposedly did him in well before) are the eldest source documents of the Christian religion. That is what we are incessantly told. The importance Christians attach to the person of Paul and his message is neigh-on-to comprehensive. But this is not only the case within the faith in our day and age. Adamantius Origenes, 185-254, one of the most influencial Christian Fathers, tell us (Hom. XXV in Lc) that some deacons understood John 14:16ff as referring to Paulus when he wrote, "I will ask the Father and he will give you another to be your advocate [Paraclet] who will be with you for ever." Here, we would return to our initial suggestion at the out set of this essay: under the name, `Paulus,' one must understand, the very best, `symposiai,' a `college' and quite possibly a hotch-potch of varying size. Preceding a step further, I visualize a circle in which strenuous discord; impassioned disagreement and frequent expulsions were characteristic.
The arguments presented in my parallel essay on this Website, "Marcion's Place in Early Christianity: A Political Power Play," to the effect that the contents of Paul's letters could not have been written down in the midst of the first century C.E., an essay which may be perused as well in Hermann Detering's radikalkritik.de and at
will not be repeated here, save for the issue immediately at hand: the Eucharist. I would encourage the reader who can handle German to read Hermann Deterings, "Der Gefälschte Paulus; Das Urchristentum im Zwielicht," Düsseldorf: Patmos Verlag, 1995. Additionally one may read the many relevant entries - also in English - in Dr. Detering's webcite radikalkritik.de And within that website, one should, at the very least, consult the essays by the Dutch theologist of the early twentieth century - one of the original `radical critics' - G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga, in particular his observations on Paul's letters. Push the button at radikalkritik for "Classics."
Among Jews, and that for a period well over two thousand years, the father 1) says the Kiddush, a prayer to God and thereafter, 2) drinks wine, passing the glass on till it reaches the youngest member of the family. (If possible, a guest, particularly a poor person, should participate.) As next, he 3) pour water over his hands, 4) removes the cloth from the two `challoth,' cuts the bread, and 5) breaks the bread into pieces the portions of which he salts and passes on to each. Only after each has eaten his respective piece of bread does the Sabbat meal - richer and more varied than a week-day meal - officially begin. The sequence, first the cup, thereafter the bread is maintained in Luke 22: 14-20; it however, is reversed in Christianity's official directive: I Corinthians 11: 23-25, i.e. first the bread and only thereafter the wine.
I Corinthians 11: 23-26: For the tradition which I handed on to you came to me from the Lord himself: that on the night of his arrest the Lord Jesus took bread and after giving thanks to God broke it and said: `This is my body which is for you; do this in memory of me.' In the same way, he took the cup after supper, and said: `This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me' For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
This sequence is sustained - no typo! - in I Corinthians 10: 16-17 and 11: 27-32. Therewith, the Eucharist - now assigned a function of strategically auspicious import - was totally estranged from its frequently assumed Jewish origins. Far from dealing with a circumcised member of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5-7), we are dealing with a Hellenist - no matter his race! - whose referents hearken back to the characteristics of an idolatrous, Dionysian Omophagia! The idea that a pious Jew would have spent his last evening on earth asking his disciples to drink a cup of his blood, even symbolically, is unthinkable, as A. N. Wilson declares (Paul; the Mind of the Apostle, London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1997, p. 165;166.) We are closer to Mithras' sacrificial bull. Indeed, as Hyam Maccoby has argued forcefully (Paul and Hellenism, London: SCM Press, 1991,p. 123-26), "The whole notion of `eating the god' is familiar in a Hellenistic setting, but bizare in a Jewish one."
"The prohibition of eating blood arose precisely to prevent imbibing `mama,' i.e. divine `life' (cf. Gen. 9.4; Lev. 17.14). Attempts to escape from humanity by achieving godhead are illegitimate. In the Eleusinian mysteries, by contrast, the initiated became deified (`entheoi'), by partaking in a meal which represented the body of Dionysus (ceremony of `omophagia'). In the mysteries of Attis, a meal of bread and liquid, representing the body of the god, enabled the initiate to participate in his passion and resurrection. In Latin poetry, it is a commonplace to speak of eating Ceres (= bread) or drinking Bacchus. On a sublimated level, foodstuffs were symbolic or, magically, became transubstantiative. Such ideas were pervasive in the pagan world." (Maccoby, ibid.)
Given the importance assign to Paulus by Christians and the disdain with which they respond to my relocation of his person - or rather the group that so identified itself - to the first half of the second century C.E. let us examine the reasoning behind my proposal more closely.
To the indispensable primary sources for the student of the first century of the Common Era (= C.E.) in the eastern Mediterranean belong the extensive writings of Flavius Josephus (circa 37 to 100 C.E.). His narratives, which may be designated literally as indispensable, reach back beyond his own lifetime - as far as 200 B.C.E. (= Before the Common Era). Taken to Rome in the late 60s of the first century by the emperor Vespacian's son, Titus, he spent the balance of his life writing about the Jewish war, 66-70;73 C.E., but also about Judean history and culture in general and about his own career ("Life"). In all, one is dealing with four works in thirty volumes.
His best known work was his account of the Jewish War in which he himself was involved until the territory under his command, Galilee, was overrun and he surrendered. The modern student relies upon Josephus for an understanding of other texts from the period, indeed in the exegesis of the New Testament itself, and of the remains uncovered by archaeologists. He is the only comprehensive and connected account of the period.
Was Josephus acquainted with the principle figures involved in the savage war against the Romans and with the leading personage of the preceding generation in Palestine? Most assuredly! But if this be the case, then he must have known or been thoroughly informed regarding a much larger group of persons who played their roles in setting the stage for the war. That is to say: he must have known, not only Pontius Pilatus, but also Jesus, St. Paul, St. Peter, Timothy etc. Regarding the procurator, he was indeed well informed, but - dismay and confusion - one find naught in his writings regarding the founding figures of the Christian faith! Here we are interested particularly with the person of St. Paulus. Did Josephus know Paulus, even though we find the first mention of him elsewhere?
For the earliest depiction of the man we know as `Paulus,' we must rather turn to the Acts of the Apostils in the New Testament, Chapter 8. There the later St. Paul is presented in the guise in which his contemporaries knew him, i.e. as Simon Magus. If we combine the names, Simon, and Paulus, the latter a Latin a word meaning, quite literally, `shorty' or the little one, the runt, we end up with the designation: Simon the Runt. It is this fellow who becomes, in succession, Saul, and then the St. Paul of the English NT.
Did Joseph and Saul, alias Simon the Runt know one another? Despite the silence in Josephus' writing my answer is Yes! It is highly likely! I submit the following reflections to support my stand:
Early Christians throughout the Mediterranean basin, acting at the instigation of the Church Fathers, e.g. the early Popes, particularly Clement, but also St. Ignatius of Antiochia, Tertullian of North Africa, Iraeneus of Lyon et al. liquidated many source materials that the historian of today urgently requires; re: Paul's adherence to the Pharisees, contemporary, popular rumours regarding Jesus' birth etc. The so-called Church Fathers appreciated forthwith that such passages were incriminating to their attempt to recruit ever-greater numbers in the second, third and fourth centuries. Consequently the relevant documents were destroyed. Or in the case of Josephus, the relevant passages were simply struck. Let us consider the following:
Flavius Josephus' works were of great utility to the early church if only one expurgated such extensive passages as cast unwished light upon the origins of Christianity. The attempt to cover up the Christian's handiwork were highly imperfect. Surely twenty, maybe even fifty or more pages were struck, particularly those entries dealing with events during the rule of the procurators Valerius Gratus and Pontius Pilatus.
Consider as an example Josephus' list of the Roman Procuratorii in Palestine in the first quarter of the first century in his "Jewish War." He lists 6 - 9 C.E. Coponius, 9 - 11 C.E. Marcus Ambivius (Ambibulus) and 11 - 14 C.E. Annius Rufus. Then suddenly, he informs us that Valerius Gratus, 14 - 25 C.E., the immediate predecessor of Pontius Pilatus, 25 - 36 C.E., was the fifth Procurator. There is not the slightest hint as to whom the fourth Procurator might have been! The reason is clear: The missing name appeared in the many pages which the Christians expurgated to escape Josephus' treatment of Yeshua and his confreres, among them Saul. To cover up their handiwork, they lengthened the reign of Annius, or alternately that of Gratus to fill in the years, `correcting,' so to speak, Josephus' text. They forgot however - since they were not especially clever! - to strike the telltale number five.
Josephus probably understood the tales of Jesus' birth from a virgin as a contemptible joke. What had be heard in this direction? Ode 8:14 of the Odes of Solomon (late first to early second century C.E.) God informs us that that "I fashioned [my own] members and my own breast, I prepared for them that they might drink my holy milk and live by it."
Still, for many, a virgin was deemed indispensable to the Son's earthly appearance. John didn't see it that way, but then not he alone remained standing. But the virgin might not be a run-of-the-mill female under any circumstances. Ode 19 in the odes of Solomon informs us that she needed no midwife and labored without pain. "She bore as a stong man with desire," we are told, "and she bore according to the manifestation and possessed with great power." (J. H. Charlesworth, A New Translation and Introduction, in J.H.Charlesworth (Ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, II, London: Darton, 1985, p.725ff.)
Upping the ante yet another step, the "Ascension of Isaiah" of the later second century, possibly of Qumran origin, assures us that Maria's pregnancy lasted only two months (Presumably, the author thought, if we must deal in such messy human matters, then let's sidestep the matter or at least get it over as quickly as possible.) Two months after the annunciation, verse 11:7 of the "Ascension of Isaiah" informs us, "… on the day 8. it (i.e. Jesus' birth) happened as Joseph and Maria were alone at home … Maria raised her eyes 9. And saw the child and praised God, 10. that he had achieved His purpose. 11. And a voice called to them: `Tell no one what has happened.' 12. And the rumor spread through Bethlehem. 13. Some said: `The virgin Maria has given birth before she was married for two months.' 14. and many said, `She has not given birth and the midwife didn't go to her and we have heard no cries of pain.'"(Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung, Wilhelm Schneemelcher (Hrsg.) II, Tübingen: J.C.B.Mohr, 1989, p.560-561.)
Aye, in this fashion, with the person of the reprehensible Saul, `Paul,' in his mind's eye - whom I call Simon the Runt - Josephus wrote down a particularly vitriolic report against the `inimicus quidam homo, as the PseudoClemintine (Rec.1,71) would have it. Christians had to remove every word of it on the first possible occasion. Josephus' silence, consequently, fairly shouts out to us in impassioned protest against the folksy chatter that came to his ear.
But we are examining the wrong text, the protest rings out. Let us turn our attention to the eighteenth book, 3rd chapter, § 3 of Flavius Josephus' "Jewish Antiquities." There we find some eighteen lines of text on the person of Jesus. It is even suggested in passing that he might possibly have been much more than a human being. Let us not be too quick to alter course, but rather examine the passage more carefully.
In it, the Christians are presented in an entirely a-historical fashion as a single, thoroughly integrated, homogeneous group. Though they number among themselves both Jews and pagans - as is specifically pointed out - they are pictured as single-minded in their purpose and unacquainted with either internal bickering or contending factional strife. Quite in contrast with the situation sketched in the three synoptical gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, we are encouraged to believe that unchallenged unanimity rules. Again, they are made to identify Jesus, all quibbling to the side, as `the Messiah,' though the literary sources of the period make it quite clear that the term meant very different things to the various, contending groups in the Jerusalem of the earlier first century C.E. And the brief statement is made to conclude that "To this very day, the Christians who identify themselves by using `His' name, continue their way as a coherent folk."
Nowhere does the draft's author - hardly Josephus! - attempt to address any real life issue in this context. We confront only stereotyped Christians with no names. Other than assuring us that he performed untold numbers of unspecified wonders, the sole identifying remark attached to the person of Jesus was that he "lived in this period," i.e. during Pontus Pilatus procuratorship in Judaea. Having successfully weathered an extended era of turmoil, the scribe at his table, looking back, sketches out briefly a fanciful earlier moment of placid calm and tranquillity. Indeed, one is tempted to date these eighteen lines to the late third century if not on into the early fourth. Evaluated in its totality, the piece comes close to the advertising hype one is accustomed to expect from Hollywood, Time-Warner or the White House in Washington D.C.
But not only is it bad copy; on top of that, the piece is a `filler' for expurgated text, very much as in the case of the "Jewish War" treated above. Let us consider what follows immediately upon the Christians in the § 4 of the 3rd chapter.
Beginning with the words, "Precisely in this time, scandalous events occurred in the Isis Temple in Rome," Josephus - and we may assume that he himself is once again producing the text before us - informs us that a highly esteemed knight, one Decius Mundus, fell madly in love with a certain Paulina from a fashionable family in the empire's capital. She, virtuous, rich, extremely beautify, was married to a certain Saturninus and refused Decius' advances, provoking him finally to offered her two hundred thousand Drachme to sleep with him a single night. Again, she refused him.
Now there lived in Decius's house a former female slave, one Ide, whom Decius's father had freed, a woman washed by many waters. Having had enough of Decius' talk of committing suicide to resolve his unremitted love, she declared that she could settle the matter for fifty thousand Drachme.
Having noted Paulina inclination to the cult of Isis, Ide offered the local Priest of the cult twenty thousand Drachme to propose a tête-à-tête between Paulina and Isis right-hand-man, the God, Anubis. If the attempt succeeded, Ide told the Priest, he could have the remaining thirty thousand, which she held on to for the time being. So planned, so executed.
Paulina was completely bamboozled. Decius, disguised as a God, easily entered her while she in his foolishness adjudged herself highly honoured to spend the night with an immortal. Only some three days later did Decius take the occasion to look Paulina up again and inform her that she'd saved him some one hundred and fifty thousand Drachme for his night in bed with her.
Now the question poses itself almost instantly: Why should such a scurrile tale immediately follow the enunciation of Jesus Christ? Or better put: What about Jesus and his circle of friends, Peter, Timothy, Simon the Runt, would have had to appear in the expurged pages to have made the two tales compatible at this juncture well into the later portion of Josephus' "Jewish Antiquities"? Having concerned himself with civil disorders at Jerusalem in § 1 and 2, Josephus suddenly and without warning skips to distant Rome in § 4, casting about seemingly for a comparable moment elsewhere in the Roman empire. And once satisfied with his choice of a parallel, he then immediately jumps back to Jerusalem to take up his narrative of events in Judaea again. Doesn't the situation suggest that to Josephus' way of thinking in the expurgated passage, the Virgin Mary, like the aristocratic Paulina was hornswoggled?
No! no. The characterization of Jesus and his original Christians in the writings of Flavius Josephus may most assuredly not be cited to affirm the veracity of the group of figures upon whom monarchic Christianity at Rome erected its eighteen hundred year reign over the hearts and mind of we Westerners!
Three men - Tom, Dick and Harry; or to conform with our timeframe, Ignatius, John and the runt named Simon - each with his own scatterings of folktales, reminiscences and categorical pronouncements on the nature of the universe writ large on parchment, three men with auguries regarding the possible growth-potentials of coherent movements based upon the schemes that had hatched out in their respective brains, three men with their coterie of disciples about them, they chanced to meet, if not at Antiochia, in the southeastern extremity of Anatolia, then perhaps at Halicarnassis on the southwest tip of that land mass, or at Ephesos, further up the western coastline, or even inland at, possibly, Hieropolis where Master Marcion held court, devising his own blend of Jewish-Christian cultic life as suggested by the documents he'd scrapped together during his travels in the eastern Mediterranean as the master of a trading ship.
And the three of them set themselves a question: how best can a dynamic, tantalizing movement with every increasing membership be launched among the simple city-dwellers who populated the intersection where they chatted with one another. `First attract them and then bind them!' Yes, they nodded their heads. `That's the correct, auspicious sequence!' Though their separate needs led them far away from one another, they managed by hook or crook to stay in contact, exchanging missives by dispatching members of their respective `symposiai' or employing chance messengers who adjusted their journeys accordingly.
First off, we need an object people can look at, something they can touch and identify with," wrote Ignatius in our fancied exchange of correspondence. "How about the likes of coagulated blood, like in a lump!" replied John who'd been reflecting along that line anyway.
Ignatius nodded to himself and forwarded John's response to the Runt. "But that lump will have to be a very special bulbus," he informed John in a parallel missive, "like blood from our crucified savior."
"O.K." came the Runts input, "and that bit of matter's something the man in the street can best identify with, if he literally swallows it! Then it would actually become a part of him, that is to say, a solid in his digestive tack."
"Right you are," John chipped in. "I've got it! That clump of hardened blood once flowed from the cut of a sword thrust firmly into our savior's rib-case while he still hung from the upright they nailed him to."
"And if we follow this up by insisting that, hanging there so miserably, he still constituted a piece of the Almighty himself, like maybe his metaphorical right arm," Ignatius scribbled down, "then no one will be able to up the ante, we'd have a lump nobody couldn't outbid, not even Isis, or Mithras, or Apollo, or the numina of a family alter, or the flamen Dialis of the pontifex maximus.
"Lets take a clue from the Greeks," the Runt dictated to either Demas or Hermogenes, two of his personal scribes, leaning into the exchange again. "In the Eleusinian mysteries, the initiated is deified by sampling a morceaux of Dionysos' hip, digesting his deity, so to speak, it in his innards ... But since that could be difficult to swallow," Simon continued dictating, "add in something that stays liquid, John, like maybe simple water!"
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