It is a most suggestive fact that there is not a word in the so-called sacred Scriptures to show that Jesus was actually regarded as a God by his disciples. Neither before nor after his death did they pay him divine honors. Their relation to him was only that of disciples and "master"; by which name they addressed him, as the followers of Pythagoras and Plato addressed their respective masters before them. Whatever words may have been put into the mouths of Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and others, there is not a single act of adoration recorded on their part, nor did Jesus himself ever declare his identity with his Father. He accused the Pharisees of stoning their prophets, not of deicide. He termed himself the son of God, but took care to assert repeatedly that they were all the children of God, who was the Heavenly Father of all. In preaching this, he but repeated a doctrine taught ages earlier by Hermes, Plato, and other philosophers. Strange contradiction! Jesus, whom we are asked to worship as the one living God, is found, immediately after his Resurrection, saying to Mary Magdalene: "I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God!" (John xx. 17.)
Does this look like identifying himself with his Father? "My Father and your Father, my God and your God," implies, on his part, a desire to be considered on a perfect equality with his brethren — nothing more. Theodoret writes: "The heretics agree with us respecting the beginning of all things. . . . But they say there is not one Christ (God), but one above, and the other below. And this last formerly dwelt in many; but the Jesus, they at one time say is from God, at another they call him a Spirit."+ This spirit is the Christos, the messenger of life, who is sometimes called the Angel Gabriel (in Hebrew, the mighty one of God), and who took with the Gnostics the place of the Logos, while the Holy Spirit was considered Life.} With the sect of the Nazarenes, though, the Spiritus, or Holy Ghost, had less honor. While nearly every Gnostic sect considered it a Female Power, whether they called it Binah, HD'3, Sophia, the Divine Intellect, with the Nazarene sect it was the Female Spiritus, the astral light, the genetrix of all things of matter, the chaos in its evil aspect, made turbido by the Demiurge. At the creation of man, "it was light on the side of the Father, and it was light (material light) on the side of the f Theodoret, "Hxret. Fab." ii., vii. J See "Irenxus," I., xii., p. 86.
Mother. And this is the 'two-fold man,' "* says the Sohar. "That day (the last one) will perish the seven badly-disposed stellars, also the sons of man, who have confessed the Spiritus, the Messias (false), the Deus, and the Mother of the Spiritus shall perish."+
Jesus enforced and illustrated his doctrines with signs and wonders; and if we lay aside the claims advanced on his behalf by his deifiers, he did but what other kabalists did; and only they at that epoch, when, for two centuries the sources of prophecy had been completely dried up, and from this stagnation of public "miracles" had originated the skepticism of the unbelieving sect of the Sadducees. Describing the "heresies" of those days, Theodoret, who has no idea of the hidden meaning of the word Christos, the anointed messenger, complains that they (the Gnostics) assert that this Messenger or Delegatus changes his body from time to time, "and goes into other bodies, and at each time is differently Manifested. And these (the overshadowed prophets) use incantations and invocations of various demons and baptisms in the confession of their principles. . . . They embrace astrology and magic, and the mathematical error," (?) he says.}
This "mathematical error," of which the pious writer complains, led subsequently to the rediscovery of the heliocentric system, erroneous as it may still be, and forgotten
* "Auszuge aus dem Sohar," p. 12. f "Cod. Naz," vol. ii., p. 149. J Theodoret, "Hxret. Fab." ii., vii.
since the days of another "magician" who taught it — Pythagoras. Thus, the wonders of healing and the thaums of Jesus, which he imparted to his followers, show that they were learning, in their daily communication with him, the theory and practice of the new ethics, day by day, and in the familiar intercourse of intimate friendship. Their faith was progressively developed, like that of all neophytes, simultaneously with the increase of knowledge. We must bear in mind that Josephus, who certainly must have been well-informed on the subject, calls the skill of expelling demons "a science." This growth of faith is conspicuously shown in the case of Peter, who, from having lacked enough faith to support him while he could walk on the water from the boat to his Master, at last became so expert a thaumaturgist, that Simon Magus is said to have offered him money to teach him the secret of healing, and other wonders. And Philip is shown to have become an ^throbat as good as Abaris of Pythagorean memory, but less expert than Simon Magus.
Neither in the Homilies nor any other early work of the apostles, is there anything to show that either of his friends and followers regarded Jesus as anything more than a prophet. The idea is as clearly established in the Clementines. Except that too much room is afforded to Peter to establish the identity of the Mosaic God with the Father of Jesus, the whole work is devoted to Monotheism. The author seems as bitter against Polytheism as against the claim to the divinity of Christ.* He seems to be utterly ignorant of the Logos, and his speculation is confined to Sophia, the Gnostic wisdom. There is no trace in it of a hypostatic trinity, but the same overshadowing of the Gnostic "wisdom (Christos and Sophia) is attributed in the case of Jesus as it is in those of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.+ These personages are all placed on one level, and called 'true prophets,' and the seven pillars of the world." More than that, Peter vehemently denies the fall of Adam, and with him, the doctrine of atonement, as taught by Christian theology, utterly falls to the ground, for he combats it as a blasphemy.} Peter's theory of sin is that of the Jewish kabalists, and even, in a certain way, Platonic. Adam not only never sinned, but, "as a true prophet, possessed of the Spirit of God, which afterwards was in Jesus, could not sin."§ In short, the whole of the work exhibits the belief of the author in the kabalistic doctrine of permutation. The Kabala teaches the doctrine of transmigration of the spirit.** "Mosah is the revolutio of Seth and Hebel."++
"Tell me who it is who brings about the re-birth (the
* "Homilies," xvi., 15 ff.; ii., 12; iii., 57-59; x., 19. Schliemann, "Die
Clementinem," p. 134 ff; "Supernatural Religion," vol. ii., p. 349.
f "Homilies," iii., 20 f; ii., 16-18, etc. J Ibid., iii., 20 ff.
§ Schliemann, "Die Clementinem," pp. 130-176; quoted also in
"Supernatural Religion," p. 342.
** We will speak of this doctrine further on.
ff "Kabbala Denudata," vol. ii., p. 155; "Vallis Regia."
revolutio)?" is asked of the wise Hermes. "God's Son, the only man, through the will of God," is the answer of the "heathen."}}
"God's son" is the immortal spirit assigned to every human being. It is this divine entity which is the "only man," for the casket which contains our soul, and the soul itself, are but half-entities, and without its overshadowing both body and astral soul, the two are but an animal duad. It requires a trinity to form the complete "man," and allow him to remain immortal at every "re-birth," or revolutio, throughout the subsequent and ascending spheres, every one of which brings him nearer to the refulgent realm of eternal and absolute light.
"God's First-Born, who is the 'holy Veil,' the 'Light of Lights,' it is he who sends the revolutio of the Delegatus, for he is the First Power," says the kabalist.§§
"The pneuma (spirit) and the dunamis (power), which is from the God, it is right to consider nothing else than the Logos, who is also (?) First-begotten to the God," argues a Christian.***
"Angels and powers are in heaven!" says Justin, thus bringing forth a purely kabalistic doctrine. The Christians adopted it from the Sohar and the heretical sects, and if Jesus mentioned them, it was not in the official synagogues that he learned the theory, but directly in the kabalistic teachings. In
*** Justin Martyr, "Apol.," vol. ii., p. 74.
the Mosaic books, very little mention is made of them, and Moses, who holds direct communications with the "Lord God," troubles himself very little about them. The doctrine was a secret one, and deemed by the orthodox synagogue heretical. Josephus calls the Essenes heretics, saying: "Those admitted among the Essenes must swear to communicate their doctrines to no one any otherwise than as he received them himself, and equally to preserve the books belonging to their sect, and the names of the angels.* The Sadducees did not believe in angels, neither did the uninitiated Gentiles, who limited their Olympus to gods and demi-gods, or "spirits." Alone, the kabalists and theurgists hold to that doctrine from time immemorial, and, as a consequence, Plato, and Philo Judeus after him, followed first by the Gnostics, and then by the Christians.
Thus, if Josephus never wrote the famous interpolation forged by Eusebius, concerning Jesus, on the other hand, he has described in the Essenes all the principal features that we find prominent in the Nazarene. When praying, they sought solitude. + "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet . . . and pray to thy Father which is in secret" (Matthew vi. 6). "Everything spoken by them (Essenes) is stronger than an oath. Swearing is shunned by them" (Josephus II., viii., 6). "But I say unto you, swear not at all . . . but let your
* Josephus, "Wars," II., chap. 8, sec. 7.
+ See Josephus; Philo; Munk (35). Eusebius mentions their semneion, where they perform the mysteries of a retired life ("Ecclesiastic History," lib. ii., ch. 17).
communication be yea, yea; nay, nay" (Matthew v. 34-37).
The Nazarenes, as well as the Essenes and the Therapeute, believed more in their own interpretations of the "hidden sense" of the more ancient Scriptures, than in the later laws of Moses. Jesus, as we have shown before, felt but little veneration for the commandments of his predecessor, with whom Ireneus is so anxious to connect him.
The Essenes "enter into the houses of those whom they never saw previously, as if they were their intimate friends" (Josephus II., viii., 4). Such was undeniably the custom of Jesus and his disciples.
Epiphanius, who places the Ebionite "heresy" on one level with that of the Nazarenes, also remarks that the Nazaraioi come next to the Cerinthians,} so much vituperated against by Ireneus. §
Munk, in his work on Palestine, affirms that there were 4,000 Essenes living in the desert; that they had their mystical books, and predicted the future.** The Nabatheans, with very little difference indeed, adhered to the same belief as the
§ Cerinthus is the same Gnostic — a contemporary of John the Evangelist — of whom Ireneus invented the following anecdote: "There are those who heard him (Polycarp) say that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed forth from the bath-house . . . crying out, 'Let us fly, lest the bath-house fall down, Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, being within it' " (Ireneus, "Adv. Har," iii. 3, § 4).
** Munk, "Palestine," p. 525; "Sod, the Son of the Man."
Nazarenes and the Sabeans, and all of them honored John the Baptist more than his successor Jesus. The Persian Iezidi say that they originally came to Syria from Busrah. They use baptism, and believe in seven archangels, though paying at the same time reverence to Satan. Their prophet Iezed, who flourished long prior to Mahomet,* taught that God will send a messenger, and that the latter would reveal to him a book which is already written in heaven from the eternity. + The Nabathœns inhabited the Lebanon, as their descendants do to the present day, and their religion was from its origin purely kabalistic. Maimonides speaks of them as if he identified them with the Sabeans. "I will mention to thee the writings . . . respecting the belief and institutions of the Sabeans," he says. "The most famous is the book The Agriculture of the Nabathœans, which has been translated by Ibn Waho-hijah. This book is full of heathenish foolishness. . . . It speaks of the preparations of Talismans, the drawing down of the powers of the Spirits, Magic, Demons, and ghouls, which make their abode in the desert. "J
There are traditions among the tribes living scattered about beyond the Jordan, as there are many such also among the descendants of the Samaritans at Damascus, Gaza, and at Naplosa (the ancient Shechem). Many of these tribes have,
f "Shahrastani"; Dr. D. Chwolsohn, "Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus," ii., p. 625.
J Maimonides, quoted in Dr. D. Chwolsohn, "Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus," ii., p. 458.
notwithstanding the persecutions of eighteen centuries, retained the faith of their fathers in its primitive simplicity. It is there that we have to go for traditions based on historical truths, however disfigured by exaggeration and inaccuracy, and compare them with the religious legends of the Fathers, which they call revelation. Eusebius states that before the siege of Jerusalem the small Christian community — comprising members of whom many, if not all, knew Jesus and his apostles personally — took refuge in the little town of Pella, on the opposite shore of the Jordan. Surely these simple people, separated for centuries from the rest of the world, ought to have preserved their traditions fresher than any other nations! It is in Palestine that we have to search for the clearest waters of Christianity, let alone its source. The first Christians, after the death of Jesus, all joined together for a time, whether they were Ebionites, Nazarenes, Gnostics, or others. They had no Christian dogmas in those days, and their Christianity consisted in believing Jesus to be a prophet, this belief varying from seeing in him simply a "just man,"§ or a holy, inspired prophet, a vehicle used by Christos and Sophia to manifest themselves through. These all united together in opposition to the synagogue and the tyrannical technicalities of the Pharisees, until the primitive group separated in two distinct branches — which, we may correctly term the Christian kabalists of the Jewish Tanaim
§ "Ye have condemned and killed the just," says James in his epistle to the twelve tribes.
school, and the Christian kabalists of the Platonic Gnosis.* The former were represented by the party composed of the followers of Peter, and John, the author of the Apocalypse; the latter ranged with the Pauline Christianity, blending itself, at the end of the second century, with the Platonic philosophy, and engulfing, still later, the Gnostic sects, whose symbols and misunderstood mysticism overflowed the Church of Rome.
Amid this jumble of contradictions, what Christian is secure in confessing himself such? In the old Syriac Gospel according to Luke (iii. 22), the Holy Spirit is said to have descended in the likeness of a dove. "Jesua, full of the sacred Spirit, returned from Jordan, and the Spirit led him into the desert" (old Syriac, Luke iv. 1, Tremellius). "The difficulty," says Dunlap, "was that the Gospels declared that John the Baptist saw the Spirit (the Power of God) descend upon Jesus after he had reached manhood, and if the Spirit then first descended upon him, there was some ground for the opinion of the Ebionites and Nazarenes who denied his preceding existence, and refused him the attributes of the Logos. The Gnostics, on the other hand, objected to the flesh, but conceded the Logos."+
* Porphyry makes a distinction between what he calls "the Antique or Oriental philosophy," and the properly Grecian system, that of the Neo-platonists. King says that all these religions and systems are branches of one antique and common religion, the Asiatic or Buddhistic ("Gnostics and their Remains," p. 1). f "Sod, the Son of the Man."
John's Apocalypsis, and the explanations of sincere Christian bishops, like Synesius, who, to the last, adhered to the Platonic doctrines, make us think that the wisest and safest way is to hold to that sincere primitive faith which seems to have actuated the above-named bishop. This best, sincerest, and most unfortunate of Christians, addressing the "Unknown," exclaims: "Oh Father of the Worlds . . . Father of the ^ons . . . Artificer of the Gods, it is holy to praise!" But Synesius had Hypatia for instructor, and this is why we find him confessing in all sincerity his opinions and profession of faith. "The rabble desires nothing better than to be deceived. . . . As regards myself, therefore, I will always be a philosopher with myself, but I must be priest with the people."
Was this article helpful?