Clement describes Basilides, the Gnostic, as "a philosopher devoted to the contemplation of divine things." This very appropriate expression may be applied to many of the founders of the more important sects which later were all engulfed in one — that stupendous compound of unintelligible dogmas enforced by Iren^us, Tertullian, and others, which is now termed Christianity. If these must be called heresies, then early Christianity itself must be included in the number. Basilides and Valentinus preceded Iren^us and Tertullian; and the two latter Fathers had less facts than the two former Gnostics to show that their heresy was plausible. Neither divine right nor truth brought about the triumph of their Christianity; fate alone was propitious. We can assert, with entire plausibility, that there is not one of all these sects
— Kabalism, Judaism, and our present Christianity included
— but sprung from the two main branches of that one mother-trunk, the once universal religion, which antedated the Vedaic ages — we speak of that prehistoric Buddhism which merged later into Brahmanism.
pETER nEVER IN rOME
The religion which the primitive teaching of the early few apostles most resembled — a religion preached by Jesus himself — is the elder of these two, Buddhism. The latter as taught in its primitive purity, and carried to perfection by the last of the Buddhas, Gautama, based its moral ethics on three fundamental principles. It alleged that 1, every thing existing, exists from natural causes; 2, that virtue brings its own reward, and vice and sin their own punishment; and, 3, that the state of man in this world is probationary. We might add that on these three principles rested the universal foundation of every religious creed; God, and individual immortality for every man — if he could but win it. However puzzling the subsequent theological tenets; however seemingly incomprehensible the metaphysical abstractions which have convulsed the theology of every one of the great religions of mankind as soon as it was placed on a sure footing, the above is found to be the essence of every religious philosophy, with the exception of later Christianity. It was that of Zoroaster, of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Jesus, and even of Moses, albeit the teachings of the Jewish law-giver have been so piously tampered with.
We will devote the present chapter mainly to a brief survey of the numerous sects which have recognized themselves as Christians; that is to say, that have believed in a Christos, or an Anointed One. We will also endeavor to explain the latter appellation from the kabalistic stand-point, and show it reappearing in every religious system. It might be profitable, at the same time, to see how much the earliest apostles — Paul and Peter, agreed in their preaching of the new Dispensation. We will begin with Peter.
We must once more return to that greatest of all the
Patristic frauds; the one which has undeniably helped the Roman Catholic Church to its unmerited supremacy, viz.: the barefaced assertion, in the teeth of historical evidence, that Peter suffered martyrdom at Rome. It is but too natural that the Latin clergy should cling to it, for, with the exposure of the fraudulent nature of this pretext, the dogma of apostolic succession must fall to the ground.
There have been many able works of late, in refutation of this preposterous claim. Among others we note Mr. G. Reber's, The Christ of Paul, which overthrows it quite ingeniously. The author proves, 1, that there was no church established at Rome, until the reign of Antoninus Pius; 2, that as Eusebius and Ireneus both agree that Linus was the second Bishop of Rome, into whose hands "the blessed apostles" Peter and Paul committed the church after building it, it could not have been at any other time than between A.D. 64 and 68; 3, that this interval of years happens during the reign of Nero, for Eusebius states that Linus held this office twelve years (Ecclesiastical History, book iii., c. 13), entering upon it A.D. 69, one year after the death of Nero, and dying himself in 81. After that the author maintains, on very solid grounds, that Peter could not be in Rome A.D. 64, for he was then in Babylon; wherefrom he wrote his first Epistle, the date of which is fixed by Dr. Lardner and other critics at precisely this year. But we believe that his best argument is in proving that it was not in the character of the cowardly Peter to risk himself in such close neighborhood with Nero, who "was feeding the wild beasts of the Amphitheatre with the flesh and bones of Christians"* at that time.
Perhaps the Church of Rome was but consistent in choosing as her titular founder the apostle who thrice denied his master at the moment of danger; and the only one, moreover, except Judas, who provoked Christ in such a way as to be addressed as the "Enemy." "Get thee behind me, SATAN!" exclaims Jesus, rebuking the taunting apostle. +
There is a tradition in the Greek Church which has never found favor at the Vatican. The former traces its origin to one of the Gnostic leaders — Basilides, perhaps, who lived under Trajan and Adrian, at the end of the first and the beginning of the second century. With regard to this particular tradition, if the Gnostic is Basilides, then he must be accepted as a sufficient authority, having claimed to have been a disciple of the Apostle Matthew, and to have had for master Glaucias, a disciple of St. Peter himself. Were the narrative attributed to him authenticated, the London Committee for the Revision of the Bible would have to add a new verse to Matthew, Mark, and John, who tell the story of Peter's denial of Christ.
This tradition, then, of which we have been speaking, affirms that, when frightened at the accusation of the servant of the high priest, the apostle had thrice denied his master, and the cock had crowed, Jesus, who was then passing through the hall in custody of the soldiers, turned, and, looking at Peter, said: "Verily, I say unto thee, Peter, thou
* "The Christ of Paul," p. 123. f Gospel According to Mark, viii. 33.
shalt deny me throughout the coming ages, and never stop until thou shalt be old, and shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldst not." The latter part of this sentence, say the Greeks, relates to the Church of Rome, and prophesies her constant apostasy from Christ, under the mask of false religion. Later, it was inserted in the twenty-first chapter of John, but the whole of this chapter had been pronounced a forgery, even before it was found that this Gospel was never written by John the Apostle at all.
The anonymous author of Supernatural Religion, a work which in two years passed through several editions, and which is alleged to have been written by an eminent theologian, proves conclusively the spuriousness of the four gospels, or at least their complete transformation in the hands of the too-zealous Iren^us and his champions. The fourth gospel is completely upset by this able author; the extraordinary forgeries of the Fathers of the early centuries are plainly demonstrated, and the relative value of the synoptics is discussed with an unprecedented power of logic. The work carries conviction in its every line. From it we quote the following: "We gain infinitely more than we lose in abandoning belief in the reality of Divine Revelation. Whilst we retain, pure and unimpaired, the treasure of Christian morality, we relinquish nothing but the debasing elements added to it by human superstition. We are no longer bound to believe a theology which outrages reason and moral sense. We are freed from base anthropomorphic views of God and
His government of the Universe, and from Jewish Mythology we rise to higher conceptions of an infinitely wise and beneficent Being, hidden from our finite minds, it is true, in the impenetrable glory of Divinity, but whose laws of wondrous comprehensiveness and perfection we ever perceive in operation around us. . . . The argument so often employed by theologians, that Divine revelation is necessary for man, and that certain views contained in that revelation are required for our moral consciousness, is purely imaginary, and derived from the revelation which it seeks to maintain. The only thing absolutely necessary for man is Truth, and to that, and that alone, must our moral consciousness adapt itself."*
We will consider farther in what light was regarded the Divine revelation of the Jewish Bible by the Gnostics, who yet believed in Christ in their own way, a far better and less blasphemous one than the Roman Catholic. The Fathers have forced on the believers in Christ a Bible, the laws prescribed in which he was the first to break; the teachings of which he utterly rejected; and for which crimes he was finally crucified. Of whatever else the Christian world can boast, it can hardly claim logic and consistency as its chief virtues.
The fact alone that Peter remained to the last an "apostle of the circumcision," speaks for itself. Whosoever else might have built the Church of Rome it was not Peter. If such were the case, the successors of this apostle would have to submit
* "Supernatural Religion," vol. ii., p. 489.
themselves to circumcision, if it were but for the sake of consistency, and to show that the claims of the popes are not utterly groundless, Dr. Inman asserts that report says that "in our Christian times popes have to be privately perfect," + but we do not know whether it is carried to the extent of the Levitical Jewish law. The first fifteen Christian bishops of Jerusalem, commencing with James and including Judas, were all circumcised Jews.}
In the Sepher Toldos Jeshu, § a Hebrew manuscript of great antiquity, the version about Peter is different. Simon Peter, it says, was one of their own brethren, though he had somewhat departed from the laws, and the Jewish hatred and persecution of the apostle seems to have existed but in the fecund imagination of the fathers. The author speaks of him with great respect and fairness, calling him "a faithful servant of the living God," who passed his life in austerity and meditation, "living in Babylon at the summit of a tower,"
f "Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism," p. 28. J See Eusebius, "Ex. H.," bk. iv., ch. v.; "Sulpicius Severus," vol. ii., p. 31.
§ It appears that the Jews attribute a very high antiquity to "Sepher Toldos Jeshu." It was mentioned for the first time by Martin, about the beginning of the thirteenth century, for the Talmudists took great care to conceal it from the Christians. Levi says that Porchetus Salvaticus published some portions of it, which were used by Luther (see vol. viii., Jena Ed.). The Hebrew text, which was missing, was at last found by Munster and Buxtorf, and published in 1681, by Christopher Wagenseilius, in Nuremberg, and in Frankfort, in a collection entitled "Tela Ignea Satanx," or The Burning Darts of Satan (See Levi's "Science des Esprits").
composing hymns, and preaching charity. He adds that Peter always recommended to the Christians not to molest the Jews, but as soon as he was dead, behold another preacher went to Rome and pretended that Simon Peter had altered the teachings of his master. He invented a burning hell and threatened every one with it; promised miracles, but worked none.
How much there is in the above of fiction and how much of truth, it is for others to decide; but it certainly bears more the evidence of sincerity and fact on its face, than the fables concocted by the fathers to answer their end.
We may the more readily credit this friendship between Peter and his late co-religionists as we find in Theodoret the following assertion: "The Nazarenes are Jews, honoring the Anointed (Jesus) as a just man and using the Evangel according to Peter."* Peter was a Nazarene, according to the Talmud. He belonged to the sect of the later Nazarenes, which dissented from the followers of John the Baptist, and became a rival sect; and which — as tradition goes — was instituted by Jesus himself.
History finds the first Christian sects to have been either Nazarenes like John the Baptist; or Ebionites, among whom were many of the relatives of Jesus; or Essenes (iessaens) the Therapeut^, healers, of which the Nazaria were a branch. All these sects, which only in the days of Iren^us began to be considered heretical, were more or less kabalistic. They
* Theodoret, "Hxretic. Fab.," lib. ii., 11.
believed in the expulsion of demons by magical incantations, and practiced this method; Jervis terms the Nabatheans and other such sects "wandering Jewish exorcists,"+ the Arabic word Nabx, meaning to wander, and the Hebrew KDl naba, to prophesy. The Talmud indiscriminately calls all the Christians Nozari.% All the Gnostic sects equally believed in magic. Iren^us, in describing the followers of Basilides, says, "They use images, invocations, incantations, and all other things pertaining unto magic." Dunlap, on the authority of Lightfoot, shows that Jesus was called Nazaraios, in reference to his humble and mean external condition; "for Nazaraios means separation, alienation from other men."§
The real meaning of the word nazar "iTD signifies to vow or consecrate one's self to the service of God. As a noun it is a diadem or emblem of such consecration, a head so consecrated.** Joseph was styled a nazar. ++ "The head of Joseph, the vertex of the nazar among his brethren." Samson and Samuel ('jTwa^ ^tf'ra^ Semes-on and Sem-va-el) are described alike as nazars. Porphyry, treating of Pythagoras, says that he was purified and initiated at Babylon by Zaradas, the head of the sacred college. May it not be surmised, therefore, that the Zoro-Aster was the nazar of Ishtar, Zar-
J "Lightfoot," 501.
§ Dunlap, "Sod, the Son of the Man," p. x.
** Jeremiah vii. 29, "Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places." ff Genesis xlix. 26.
adas or Na-Zar-Ad,* being the same with change of idiom? Ezra, or nitv, was a priest and scribe, a hierophant; and the first Hebrew colonizer of Judea was ^ddtitn Zeru-Babel or the Zoro or nazar of Babylon.
The Jewish Scriptures indicate two distinct worships and religions among the Israelites; that of Bacchus-worship under the mask of Jehovah, and that of the Chaldean initiates to whom belonged some of the nazars, the theurgists, and a few of the prophets. The headquarters of these were always at Babylon and Chaldea, where two rival schools of Magians can be distinctly shown. Those who would doubt the statement will have in such a case to account for the discrepancy between history and Plato, who of all men of his day was certainly one of the best informed. Speaking of the Magians, he shows them as instructing the Persian kings of Zoroaster, as the son or priest of Oromasdes; and yet Darius, in the inscription at Bihistun, boasts of having restored the cultus of Ormazd and put down the Magian rites! Evidently there were two distinct and antagonistic Magian schools. The oldest and the most esoteric of the two being that which, satisfied with its unassailable knowledge and secret power, was content to apparently relinquish her exoteric popularity, and concede her supremacy into the hands of the reforming Darius. The later Gnostics showed the same prudent policy by accommodating themselves in every country to the prevailing religious forms, still secretly adhering to their own
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