Resistance to Christianity

Chapter 1: A Nation Sacrificed to History

[There is no more] singular and paradoxical destiny than that of the Jewish people. The Books or Biblia, which, under the name “Bible,” founded the Hebraic mythology, raised that people to the elective glory of a unique God, who aspired to reign over all of humanity. Invested with an eternal and universal truth, the Jews only entered into the design attributed to YHWH at the cost of an effacement in time and space, of which no nation offers such an unhappy example.

Born from a Statist centralism that unified the nomads, hastily made sedentary on newly conquered territories, the arrogance of the God of the holy wars – by a cruel irony – would not cease to be puffed up with the wind of prediction to the extent that the temporal power of the Hebrews, far from seizing the world in order to propagate obedience to YHWH, would succumb under the blows of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, and would find itself extirpated from the very places in which it had been established over the course of nearly two millennia.

That a nation unanimously placed its fate in the hands of a God and experienced hostility, hate, and scorn everywhere and for so long – its strange specificity doesn’t lie in this. But what surprises us is the fact that this nation kept faith and confidence in, and accredited, a deity that was quite the contrary to it.

Situating themselves in a mythical history, the temporal aspect of which was only the shadow of the divine will, the Jews submitted (as to a malediction to which they subscribed in advance) to an historical exclusion from which they only returned in the Twentieth Century by obliterating the religious under the timestamp of social preoccupations. Today, few believers deny that the army and the cooperative system offer to Israel better guarantees than those of YHWH.

It’s about time. Vilified, oppressed, massacred, and imprisoned in ghettos, they had not ceased to interpret the nightmare in an exegetical way. The malediction confirmed their status as the Chosen People; it conferred upon them – through water, fire, the blood of sacrifice and redemption, ordeal and salvation, expiation and redemption – an existence that was, so to speak, metaphysical, sub specie aeternitatis.[1]

Expelled from Palestine in 135 [C.E.], after the collapse of their last insurrection, the Jews would be stripped of their religion by a Christianity that issued from Judaism, the political career of which would emerge in the West in the Fourth Century under a Catholicism that conducted pogroms.

There isn’t space enough here to make clear the detours by which a conquering will was transformed into resignation, nay, into dereliction, but it won’t be useless to emphasize what one can call the opening out of Hebrew expansionist ambitions.

While a succession of reversals, saluted by prophetic agitators as just divine punishments, swelled with anger and blood the unmerciful myth of the God of Israel, a more pacific conquest made itself clear. Namely, a Diaspora extended to the four corners of the world colonies of Jews who, due to the intransigence with which they treated the question of the one God, did not find it repugnant to compromise when necessary to safeguard their right to asylum and their financial interests. It was here, in the opening of the spirit that imposed the laws of commerce, that cruel YHWH gave way to a more compassionate God, while Mosaic rigor accommodated itself to a relaxation of its rituals. It was here that the “treason” of Judaism would foment itself; that Essenean Judeo-Christianity was established to Hellenize itself.

Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman imperialism included in their respective expansionist politics the recognition of the gods honored by the vanquished nations. Nevertheless, after Babylon, the Greeks and Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem and proscribed the cult of YHWH who allowed no other God than himself.

Once it accomplished the conquest of the territories of Canaan, the young and precarious Hebrew state remained on the defensive. It took root in an agrarian structure. Reassembling the nomads, it cemented the nation in a monotheistic bloc in which God, in solidarity with his people, created the Earth so that they could cultivate it and impose his law everywhere.

YHWH was still a God in formation when the Babylonian invasion of the Seventh Century [B.C.E.] brought down a serious blow upon the unitary myth, already dented by the schism between Judea and Samaria. YHWH had scarcely begun to distinguish himself from the Canaanite God El, a God of women and children, and whose plural form, Elohim, would not be foreign to the future dualism of Samaritan Jewish Gnosticism.

The local trading posts of the Diaspora did not constitute the bridgeheads, the billets of troops who were quick to open up paths for the merchants. But nonetheless there were Jewish slaves where the synagogue represented the Temple of Jerusalem. Although they were proselytes, these slaves isolated themselves in a defensive posture, as if the immobility of the sacerdotal caste that ruled over Judea, Samaria and Galilee was weighing them down.

The dynamism of the industrious Jewish classes got entangled in the nets of the Sadducean bureaucracy, the aristocratic caste of the functionaries of the Temple. Its conservatism concretized the God of conquest who had struck his powerless believers and who held as a salutary expiation the gift that they made to him every day of their existence.

The development of the modernist party, Phariseeism, arrived too late, when the Jewish nation was only a colony that the successive empires indirectly inherited. The Pharisees also clashed with revolts of the extremist type that limited their project of massacring the goyim, or nonbelievers, and adoring YHWH. When Essenism broke with the Yahwehism of the Temple, it undertook to promote an ascetic rigor that would nourish the fanatical guerrillas of the Zealots against the Roman occupation and Pharisee collaboration.

Lacking a bite on history, the Jewish people, made toothless by an all-powerful God who had chosen them, condemned themselves to various holocausts.

Many times re-written and revised, the original kernels of the first Biblical texts date from the 10th and 11th centuries before the Christian era [B.C.E.], shortly after the establishment of the Hebrews in the land of Canaan.

They lived there as semi-nomads and in a mosaic of City-States of the tribes of the Semitic race. Nomads themselves, the Hebrews, whose tribes had visited Mesopotamia and Egypt and had gleaned from them religious beliefs and techniques of organization, seized hold of a part of the land of Canaan under the leadership of a person whom their mythology gave the name Moses.

The formation of the Jewish nation took place around the priest/warrior, who presented himself as the instrument of a patriarchal and creative divinity.

The victorious fights against the raids led by the “peoples of the sea,” the Philistines of the Bible, reinforced the political unity of the Hebraic tribes and designed, with the grand stature of El (who would become YHWH), the triumphant symbols of Hebraic power reduced to annihilating the Semitic nations and their archaic gods: Dagan (the Dagon of the Bible), Ashtoreth or Astarte, and Baal-Zebub, popularized much later under the diabolical traits of Beelzebub.

Around 1,000 [B.C.E.] perhaps King David inaugurated monotheistic syncretism, because Statist centralism needed a transcendent power to impose its cohesion on the tribes, which had traditionally been independent. Arrogating to himself the functions of the high priest, this temporal monarch canonized his power to guide the people chosen by El, the Father, creator of the universe and mankind, conceived in order to be obeyed.

The legend attributes to Solomon, son of David, the construction of the first Temple of Jerusalem, symbol of the faith and supremacy of the Jews, monument to monotheism, which hastened to destroy the invaders and that one day would be replaced by the Basilica of Rome.

Nevertheless, the tyranny of Solomon provoked the secession of the northern tribes. Upon his death, they refused obedience to his son and, strong with the consent of Egypt, founded in 900 [B.C.E.] an independent kingdom in which the cult of El-YHWH, imperfectly implanted, clashed with the partisans of the ancient gods.

From then on, Palestine was split between two rival regions: in the south, the kingdom of Judea, with Jerusalem as its capital; in the north, the kingdom of Israel, including Samaria and Galilee (today the West Bank).

Over the centuries, hate and scorn pitted Judea against Samaria, the former sheltering itself in the jealous cult of YHWH; the latter, more tolerant, offering itself to new ideas and Greek influences.

Because the Samaritans weren’t part of the Judean tribe, the Judeans considered them to be, not Jews, but goyim, non-believers, generally associated with the anathema, “May their bones rot [while they are still alive].”

The opposition between Judeans and Samaritans explains an important part of the Hellenization of Jewish Gnosticism, omnipresent in the first Christianities. It especially explains the anti-Judaism that animated the “Men of the Community,” the Essenes, and the fact that Greco-Roman racism would disguise itself as anti-Semitism.

Priding themselves on being the true children of Israel, the Samaritans rejected rabbinical Judaism and only retained as sacred texts the books of the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

On the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, places of worship were built that the Samaritans believed were more powerful than the Temple at Jerusalem. For them, YHWH, God of war and conquest, had not abolished El, the Father, from whom he issued, nor had he abolished the tetrad that he originally formed with his wife Asterath (Ashtoreth, Astarte), and their sons and daughter.

For the Samaritans, two feminine divinities attenuated the pitiless patriarchy that the Judeans claimed for themselves. So it was not by chance that women occupied a preponderant place in the philosophy of the physician and philosopher Simon, to whom all the varieties of Christianity – and Catholicism in its turn – would impute the origin of a thought radically hostile to the religious spirit.

In 722 [B.C.E.], Samaria succumbed to Assyrian invaders. The population, reduced to servitude, took the road of exile. Thenceforth, foreigners reigned over the territories that the legendary Moses had decreed “the Promised Land” and into which Joshua led his people.

In 586 [B.C.E.], Nebuchadnezzar seized the kingdom of Judea, razed the Temple and destroyed Jerusalem. Among those who survived, the notables and rich people were led away as slaves and “there only remained very few people [...]. The historians designate the form taken by the religion of the Jewish people after the destruction of the First Temple and the captivity in Babylon as Judaism.”[2]

This defeat – the first in a long series – brought forth an apology as desperate as it was frenzied from the all-powerful God, as well as an exacerbated feeling of collective guilt. Upon each reversal, the litany of wandering prophets exalted the grandeur of YHWH, brooding over in psalm-like fashion the calling of the Jewish people to dominate the world and to prove in its heart the just expiation of its lack of faith.

Thus Biblical mythology resounds with hymns to expansionist snobbery at the same time (in counterpoint) that it chants the harsh harmonies of a ceaselessly repeated guilt. The beating of guilt gives rhythm to the Bible and the flight of broken wings punctuates Hebraic power.

Without too much difficulty, polytheism revoked one or the other of the divinities who were incapable of satisfying the prayers that were addressed to them. Does the supplicant not dare to threaten persecutory measures against the god who maladroitly does his job? But what about when it is a question of a unique God, the father of a national family whose children must fear, tremble, venerate and love, as well? Because YHWH would multiply the Chosen People until they were as numerous as the grains of sand by the sea; he would guarantee them an unequaled prosperity; all peoples would give in before the grandeur of Israel and serve it without a murmur. That history continued to ruin the promise of such brilliant glory – this is not what troubled the believer, who was little disposed to accuse the just and terrible YHWH of perjury, powerlessness and perversity.

No, it was obvious [to the ancient Jews] that the guilty ones were the Jews themselves, unworthy men, who – due to the split between the kingdoms of the North and of the South – had profaned the heritage of David, while the weakness of their zeal drew down the just wrath of the Lord. The cruelest of enemies – the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans – wove between the hands of the Eternal the net of unhappiness and redemption. Because if the children of Israel amended themselves, resigned themselves, welcomed misfortune with a morbid joy – and proclaimed their unshakable confidence in the fire of the ordeal – then divine mercy would bring down upon them his perpetual grace. Such is the essential message of the Biblical prophets and the canonized texts; men are invited to cover themselves with imprecations in order to redeem the incongruous conduct of a God who, having chosen to overwhelm an emerging empire with opprobrium, wouldn’t hesitate to annihilate the [whole] universe that he created.

No doubt this is a unique phenomenon in history – a State, possessed by an invincible God and dispossessed of any victory, in which germinated the project of a universal theocracy, a millennium sanctifying the earth, a holy war in which the combatants had no arms with which to confront the enemy other than the teardrops from their bodies.

Once more, it was in Samaria that, against Yahwist intransigence, there emerged a dualism that opposed a good God, unknowable, ungraspable and not of this world, to the God of war, the Demiurge, creator of a bad world; this was an idea later adopted by Christianity of the Nazarene type, as well as by the hedonistic Gnostics of the Carpocratian school.

Where the political and military development of Judea ends, there begins the myth of religious imperialism.

A veritably imprecatory saga, remodeled from older texts, was inscribed on the steps of the Temple that was sacked by the Babylonians. For past heroes it had the “Judges,” priests and warriors who charged with leading holy war in the name of YHWH. They were helped – and here there was the heritage and recuperation of the pre-Yahwist cults – by women, prophetesses, such as Deborah, who commanded the tribes of the north. The nazirs [non-believers], ascetics and combatants devoted to God (Samson, for example), composed the shock troops.

The traditional rivalry between the temporal prince and the priest shows through in the fate reserved for the kings: honored in the narrative books [of the Bible], they were shamed in the prophetic books and the Psalms. For the fanatics of holy war, God was king and had no need of leading his people to the type of victory won by a head of State. Nevertheless, it happened that a particularly pious king took on the traits of a saint and was called Messiah, “anointed by the Lord,” which the Greeks translated as Christos.

Eli and Elise propagated the cult of YHWH in the towns and countrysides against the sectarians of Baal and the ancient gods. Jeremiah, agent of the Assyrian party against Egypt, preached the uselessness of the struggle against Nebuchadnezzar. He placed the stubborn defense of religion above political preoccupations, as if the unquestionable supremacy of God implied the infallible grandeur of the people among whom growing misery was only the secret sign of a triumph that was all the more assured by its delays in manifesting itself on the derisory level of human temporality.

Under the Roman occupation, the Pharisee party would not act otherwise, collaborating with the enemy for the greater glory of the God who tested it. Situating itself under the eternal gaze of the divinity, the spirit of Judaism claimed to be ahistorical. Prophets and heroes changed names and dates by remaining the same. Adam, Moses, Joshua, and Isaiah did not end up being present at every moment.

Around 550 [B.C.E.], the Babylonian empire could not resist the assault of the Persians. In 536 [B.C.E.], Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and reconstruct the Temple. Only the poorest returned to Palestine. Many exiles enriched themselves in Assyria and Babylon as merchants, entrepreneurs and bankers – in Nippur, the Murashu bank offered a perfect example of the successful Jew. They [the Jews] felt themselves to be among their co-religionists, re-grouped in little communities.

Thus began the pacific phenomenon of expansion – a mix of forcible exile and voluntary emigration – that the Greeks would give the name diaspora.

The Diaspora offered the particularity of founding Jewish trading posts that constituted so many enclaves of monotheistic Judaism in goyische territory. The closed theology of the agrarian myth was coupled with the spiritual opening that implied commercial practice and the circulation of commodities.

Implanted in polytheism, the synagogue represented the Temple of Jerusalem, but was disentangled from the sacerdotal despotism of the Sadducees and consequently more receptive to religious innovations. It was the place where the Pharisee party and the diverse Esseno-Christian tendencies confronted each other in the First Century.

The end of exile did not involve the re-establishment of a monarchy. Under the control of the Persians, the Jewish State was transformed into a theocracy. The high priest of Jerusalem directed a sacerdotal bureaucracy that, leading a dissolute existence, employed itself in collating and revising the ancient texts, the corpus of which would sanctify the unity of the nation under the shepherd’s crook of the supreme God, the only one called upon to reign over the world that he had created. The outcome of the power rivalries in the leadership caste would, much later, produce the Sadducean party, conserver of orthodoxy in the kingdom of Judea that claimed a monopoly over Judaism.

Those who were subjected to despotism sometimes responded to the people of the Temple, whose rapacity was matched by a ritualism that replaced faith, with indifference and passivity, and other times with bouts of religious vehemence, appeals for purification, mortification, and asceticism, which were propagated by prophets who were quick to enflame the latent revolt of artisans, small merchants, and the plebes. Through revelation or “apocalypses” (as the Greeks called them), the illuminati announced in great cries the imminence of the end of time and easily gained the adhesion of the crowds in which shoemakers, carpenters, woodworkers and bakers did not disdain from playing the Rabbi and lending to their claims the rags of religious speculation. Such would be the ferment of future sects.

Even before 450 [B.C.E.], the old Samaritan schism engendered dissidences with Yahwehism. The Letters from Elephantine (Assouan), re-written on the occasion of a frontier skirmish between Israeli mercenaries in the service of the king of the Persians and the Egyptians, showed the importance of the religions distinct from Judean monotheism in the Fifth Century.[3] In these Letters, one honored the God Iao, who was derived from El but seemingly different from YHWH. Sometimes confused with the Demiurge Ialdabaoth, Iao would be invoked much later by many Gnostic sects, including the Sethians. His name would be frequently mentioned in the magical conjurations, charm rituals, execration slabs, and talismanic stones called abraxas. And also celebrated in the Letters was the goddess Anath Bethel, from whom the mysterious Barbelo of the non-Christian Gnostics may have issued. Assim Bethel, child of Iao and Anath, had already passed for the Son of God.

In 400 [B.C.E.], the Persian Empire crumbled under the power of the economic, political and cultural imperialism of Greece. In 331 [B.C.E.], the victory of Alexander marked the end of Persian domination.

Upon the death of Alexander in 323 [B.C.E.], the Hellenic empire exploded, Egypt passed into the hands of Ptolemy, and Syria and Palestine became part of the Seleucid Empire.

It was at this time that the often-backdated books [of the Bible] were drafted in order to halo them with the prestige of ancient times. The Catholic Church, too, would move back the dates of its canonical Gospels for identical reasons.

Deuteronomy, falsely dated back to 622 [B.C.E.] and inspired by the return from Babylon, would be re-defined in the more ancient framework of the exodus in order to accentuate the role, in some sense re-actualized, of Moses, around whom the unitary myth that created a synthesis of the three great currents of thought (royal, sacerdotal and prophetic) was restructured.[4] The Book of Ezekiel, which had been projected back between 586 and 536 [B.C.E.], presented its heroes as if they were prophets and priests, even though the sacerdotal function did not exist at that time. The priests described were identical to the “Sons of Sadoq,” a sect founded around 300 [B.C.E.]. The last part of Ezekiel proposed a religious and nationalist eschatology: a great river flowed underneath the Temple in order to irrigate the holy earth while the final struggle against Gog, the enemy of Israel, whom Torrey identifies with Alexander,[5] took place.

In its first nine chapters, the Book of Proverbs betrays a Hellenic influence; several aspects recall a book of Egyptian wisdom called The Wisdom of Amenemope. It is significant that, little by little, the counsels of politeness and everyday civility dressed themselves up in a religious ritualism.

Favored by Hellenization, books of wisdom founded a tradition that would play an important role in the Second Century redaction of the Logia, that is, the remarks attributed to Joshua/Jesus.

Through perpetual re-writing, the corpus of the sacred books – with the Greek plural noun biblia ending up in the singular noun Bible as if to suggest the idea of a single book dictated by the one God – claimed to be a celestial monument dedicated to the absolute power of YHWH, sculpted with bitterness, hatred, dereliction and megalomania that secreted a mentality resigned to support the foreign yoke and that drew from suffering its reason to exist. And this book, which only ever reflected the ignominy imposed on its scribes, was proposed for generations as a model to more than half the world.

The Sadducees would impute to the epic hero Moses the care of having prescribed, in all their details, the rites, costumes, habits, and objects of the cult around which the priests moved, instilling the omnipresence of God in the routine of gestures and comportments. The most ancient texts, legendarily attributed to the same “Father,” would thus be periodically reviewed, nay, corrected by prophets such as Dositheus, who, in the manner of many, characterized himself as the “new Moses.”

Also backdated, the text known under the name Isaiah II contains a part titled “The Songs of YHWH’s Servant” (50-53), the theme of which inaugurated the legend of the suffering Messiah. The Servant, a man resolved to sacrifice himself and die for the salvation of the nations, was scorned and misunderstood: “We rejected him, we did not have anything to do with him. Nevertheless, they were our sufferings that he carried [...] The punishment that gave us peace fell upon him. And it was by his bruises that we were healed” (53). Here there appeared for the first time the literary prototype of the envoy of God who dies for the salvation of all. The Essenes applied this model to their Master of Justice, who was put to death around 60 [B.C.E.], before the Nazarenes and their enemies in the Pauline School used it upon the Messiah that they called Joshua and the Greeks called Jesus.

Encouraging Samaria’s refusal of obedience to Judea, the Greek occupation allowed the Samaritans to erect in the region of Ebal and Gerizim a temple distinct from the one in Jerusalem. Thus Samaria encountered in the north the welcome that Judea had refused to give. In Samaria, from the conjunction of Judaism and Greek philosophy was thus born a thought that was oriented around knowledge of self and the world – Gnostic thought – that sometimes took root in religious speculation, other times in a feeling for life that revoked all forms of religion to the profit of a magic Hermeticism, nay, a somatic analysis, such as that of Simon of Samaria.

Such a modern spirit would easily propagate itself in the communities of the Diaspora, in the Jewish colonies of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, Rome and the Gauls.

From the Samaritan schism derived the sects that put forth different conceptions of Judaism: the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Esseno-Baptists who, through the Nazarene and Ebionite groups, would form the original Christianity.

The Samaritans only recognized as sacred texts the Pentateuch and the book by Joshua (who, under the name of Jesus, had a certain future). These texts and the manuscripts discovered at Qumran present similarities that accredit the close relations between the Samaritans and the Essenes; they differ from the Masoretic texts, which were exegetical enterprises on the sacred books written by Masoretes or Jewish theologians.

From 300 to around 165 [B.C.E.], the Hellenization of Palestine impregnated religious literature with a thought that was radically foreign to the Jewish mentality. Two civilizations clashed: one closed upon its agrarian economy and situating its commercial activities beyond its frontiers, in the trading posts and communities withdrawn into intransigent monotheism; the other, essentially mercantile, propagated its logic and rationality everywhere that its system of exchange penetrated.

Nothing is more antagonistic than [the relationship between] the mythic, analogical and ahistorical spirit of the Jews and the Greek Logos, the linear time of the historians, the usage of syllogism, analysis and synthesis, a reality in which the Gods drew their splendor from the capricious facets of destiny.

The Indo-European structure of the Greek language very imperfectly rendered Hebraic idioms, with its atemporal verbs, word play, magical sounds, phonetic equivalences, and numerical values attributed to letters – elements that lent to the pre-Gospel midrashim significations that developed Kabalistic speculations, but were dead ends for the Greeks and ended in mistranslations. (“Midrash: Jewish (or Samaritan) exegesis. Term derived from the Hebrew DRS, ‘to seek, to search.’ Among all the rabbinical midrashim and the commentaries on the Torah and then on the Bible in its entirety, it is fitting to cite the Midrash Rabbah, the Great Midrash, a Hebraic compilation of which certain portions date back to an epoch much before the First Century.”)[6]

Although it attests to the universal curiosity of the Greeks, the translation by the so-called “Seventy” (because it was legendarily attributed to seventy translators) of the Biblical texts appeared to the Masoretes and Jewish theologians as a sacrilege and a betrayal of the Biblical message. It is here – it is not useless to say – that “Joshua” was, for the very first time, translated by Iesous, Jesus.

From the Alexandrian epoch came two literary genres that were diametrically opposed, but both of them entered into the fabrications of the “novels” about Jesus: the “wisdom” that bore the stamp of Hellenic morality, and the “apocalypses” or “revelations,” which were prophecies that were hostile to the Greek and then to the Roman occupiers, and that were rooted in the Hebraic myth of the all-powerful God, for whom punishments were the wages of love and redemption.

Issuing principally from Egypt, “wisdom” became Hellenized in Palestine through two texts destined for great influence. The first one was The Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira or, more precisely, Wise Instruction and Proverbs Cared for Simeon, son of Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sira. Although the Pharisees excluded it from their canon, the Talmud cites it nearly 80 times. The Catholics would make it one of their preferred books under the title that was imposed on it around 250 [C.E.] by Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage: the Ecclesiasticus liber, also known as the Ecclesiastics. (Not to be confused with the Qohelet, “He who speaks in the assemblies,” which the Catholics called Ecclesiastes – in Greek, “assembly” is ekklesia, the Church – and which is a text from the Fourth Century before the Christian era that communicated [then] unusable banalities about the bitter destiny of man and the ignominy of woman.) The epistle falsely attributed to Jacob borrows from it a great number of expressions, as does the Logia (attributed to Jesus), in which Simeon, who became called Simon-Peter, appears.

An early Hebrew manuscript version dating from the Eighth Century [C.E.] was exhumed in 1896 from the gennizah (a reserve in which sacred books that were no longer used were stored) in a synagogue at Cairo. The authenticity of the text was confirmed by the discovery, in 1964, at Masada – the high place of the Zealot resistance to the Romans – of a scroll that contained important fragments in the original Hebraic versions. (Yadim situates the redaction of the text in the pre-Herod period, around 40 [B.C.E.], between Isaiah I and the Manual of Discipline.)[7] The Wisdom was attributed to Rabbi Sira (around 190 [B.C.E.]). His grandson Joshua/Jesus had it translated into Greek around 117 [B.C.E.]

In the era of Rabbi Sira, the Seleucids – masters of Syria and Palestine – attempted to break the monotheistic rigor of the Jews by forced Hellenization. In 165 [B.C.E.], the revolt led by Mattathias Maccabee and his son, Judah, demonstrated one more time that State tyranny never puts an end to religious tyranny, but reinvigorates it with the same authoritarian principles that destroy it. The insurrection would offer a model of heroic and desperate holiness to the struggle that the Zealots – on the initiative of Judah of Gamala and his two sons, Jacob and Simeon – would conduct against the Romans later on.

By prohibiting the practice of worship in the Temple, the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215-163 [B.C.E.]) succeeded in convincing the Jews of the vanity of terrestrial empires and the interest of a celestial kingdom, the imminence of which prophetic agitation had proclaimed.

The author of the Wisdom did not reject Hellenism, but strove to assimilate it into Judaism, as Philo of Alexandria did later on. Rabbi Sira’s faith in the final victory of the Chosen People did not reject the luminaries of Greek thought.

The true son of Israel was a sage. Wisdom [sagesse] would save him, because “he who seizes the Law receives wisdom” (15, 1). Crowning messianic hope, Sophia (Wisdom) plays the role of great mediator between God and man: “She appears before him as a mother; like a virginal wife, she welcomes him; she nourishes him with the bread of prudence; she gives him the water of wisdom to drink.”

The Greek word sophia, which translates the Hebrew Hochma and the Aramaic Achamoth – two feminine terms that also designate the Spirit – assumed a considerable importance in the Esseno-Christian Gnosticisms and the hedonistic currents in which figured, under a great variety of names and forms, that which brings salvation to men. Wife, mother and virgin, Sophia was at the origin of Miriam-Mary, the virgin mother, and her companion Mary of Magdalene (as presented in the Gospel attributed to Thomas), but also of the Holy Spirit descended upon the Messiah.

The second of the two texts by which “wisdom” became Hellenized in Palestine was the Wisdom of Solomon, drafted around 50 [B.C.E.], which allied with Judeo-Greek thought a magical conception that would be known in the Hermetic current and would become very popular, in particular, in Alexandria. In Judaic Antiquities, Flavius Joseph recalls that “God even accorded to him [Solomon] the comprehension of the art [of fighting against] against demons for the usefulness and healing of men. Having composed incantations thanks to which sickness is relieved, he left behind the exorcism formulas by which the possessor chases away the demons so that they may never return.”[8]

An extract from the Wisdom attributes to Solomon knowledge “of the power of spirits and the thought of man, varieties of plants and the virtues of roots” (7, 20).

Researchers have wanted to detect here the ideas of an Essene community on the Lake Mareotis, which Philo names Therapeutes, and it is true that Judeo-Greek magic is not absent from the texts found at Qumran.[9] Christian Gnosticism of the First and Second Centuries included thaumaturgical groups from which diverse evangelic novels concerning Jesus took inspiration in order to disguise their heroes as exorcists, healers and miracle workers.

Rejected by the Pharisee synod of 80-90, the Wisdom of Solomon would later enter into the Catholic canon. The Platonism into which Biblical mythology seemed to merge allows us to glimpse the surpassing of Judaism, for which the Hellenized Christianities worked starting in the second half of the Second Century.

On the other hand, the hostility of Judaism towards Hellenization was exacerbated through a mode of original expression: “revelation,” better known under its Greek form, “apocalypse” – a term that much later assumed the meaning of “universal catastrophe.”

A cyclical thought that loops around in a dazzling shortcut of birth and death, the origin and the end of time, the alpha and omega of a world created in order to annihilate itself in its terrestrial form and be reborn in a cosmic beyond, apocalypse drains away in a sudden rage the multiple reasons for putting an end to an existence that is condemned to tragedy. Its suicidal resolution has avenging accents, because none of the powers would escape from the egalitarian leveling of the death that it announces. Over the centuries, the oppressed creature discovered in apocalypse a panacea for the maledictions of injustice, the end of the centuries that founds the hope for the Great Night and the days after it that sing. It is the song of an immobile history, fixed in its glaciation, which can only set off a total explosion. Born in the rupture of archaic Judaism with history, it reappears every time that dreadful oppression [l’oppression désespérante] explodes under the blows of a desperate revolution [une revolution désespérée].

Judaic and Christian literature contains fifty apocalypses. Two of them twinkle with a particular glimmer in the speculative torrent that would furrow the historical landscape in which Christs and Messiahs proliferated.

Attributed to the legendary patriarch Enoch, the Parables contain an apocalypse whose influence marked the myth of Jesus among the Christians. At the end of an ascension that leads him to the Kingdom of the Heavens, Enoch sees the Son of Man, that is to say, Adam, and discovers his true nature: the Son of Man collaborated in the creation of the world as an integral part of YHWH; he then sits at his right hand and, at the end of time, which is imminent, he returns to earth to deliver mankind from its pitiful condition.

The Apocalypse attributed to Daniel reflects the struggle of religious Jews against the political Hellenization of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Through an artifice that reveals a cyclical vision of history more than a deliberate lie, this work claimed to be from a previous epoch and thus foresaw the future. The author backdated the prediction of events that in fact took place under his own eyes, around 165 [B.C.E.], during the revolt of the Maccabee family and their partisans, the defenders of the faith.

Obeying a mythic logic, also conforming to the structure of Hebrew, which hardly accords with the rationality of the Greek [language] (which fails to render it), the narrative transposed the political situation to the divine plane. Michael, the chief of the angels and the protector of Israel, uses his power to save his people. The visionary prophesized the ruin of four great oppressive empires: the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Persian and the Greek. The effective disappearance of the first three in 165 [B.C.E.], of course, augured the ruin of the fourth and revived the ardor of the combatants by demonstrating that God would never surrender his people to an impious domination. The fact that (once again) the crushing of the Jewish insurgents threw a bitter shadow on the antiphony “the time is near for His power and His justice to restore Israel to its glory” did not exhaust the source of a type of inspiration that, far from being discouraged, was stimulated by failure.

The last Jewish apocalypse would also be, under its zealously Christianized form, the only one that was retained by the Catholic canon, despite those that flourished up to the Sixth Century. The original Jew (lost) no doubt stigmatized the Roman politics of Tiberius, who from the year 19 [C.E.], encouraged the pogroms in Rome and prohibited the Jewish religion in Italy.

The Greek version, attributed to John, adopted the schema of all the revelations: evil has disturbed the divine order; order must be restored so that the kingdom of the heavens and the saints can be propagated on earth. The unleashing of calamities sounds the announced hour of the Days of the Savior, the extermination of the wicked, and the glory of Jerusalem. The era of prosperity, peace and heavenly happiness will coincide with the triumph of the “communities,” the Essene churches.

By claiming that only blind faith in God would vanquish the enemy, the Apocalypse attributed to Daniel dressed up in divine emanations the manifesto of the Assideans, the fanatical observers of Mosaic law and the shock troops of the Maccabean insurrection. The apocalypse later attributed to John resounds, in similar fashion, with the echoes of the Zealot program; perhaps the rage to destroy Rome was not foreign to the fire of 64 [C.E.], which has been so unreasonably imputed to Nero.

The Maccabean wars also date the Psalms, songs of praise addressed to God by the devout, whose rhythms and repetitions were obeyed with care in order to impregnate spirits and comfort the faith.

[1] Translator: Latin for “under the aspect of eternity.”

[2] Author’s note: M. Simon, Le Judaisme et le Christianisme antique, Paris, p. 49.

[3] Author’s note: J. Hadot, Histoire des religions, Brussels, 1980-1981, p. 14.

[4] Author’s note: Ibid., p. 27.

[5] Author’s note: C. C. Torrey, “Certainly Pseudo-Ezekiel,” JBL, 53, 1934.

[6] Author’s note: B. Dubourg, L’Invention de Jésus, Paris, I, p. 251-260.

[7] Author’s note: Y. Yadim, The Ben Sira Scroll from Masada, Jerusalem, 1965; Th. Middendorp, Die Stellung Jesu Ben Sira zwischen Judentum und Hellenismus, Leiden, 1973.

[8] Author’s note: Flavius Joseph, Antiquitiés judaiques, Paris, 1929, VIII, 45.

[9] Author’s note: C. Puech, “Un rituel d’exorcisme (11 Q Ps Ap),” Revue de Qumran, XIV, #55, 1989.

(Published by Fayard in 1993. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2013. Footnotes as indicated.)

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