Resistance to Christianity

Chapter 10: Quarrels about Prophets and Apostles: Jochanaan, Theudas/Jude/Thomas, Jacob/James, Simon-Peter, Barnabas, and Saul/Paul


If history did not preserved the least trace of someone named Jesus, on the other hand, his inventors and worshippers – disguised over the course of time as his brothers, companions, witnesses, disciples or apostles – easily and randomly revealed themselves in the accounts of the First Century. So it goes with John the Baptist, Thomas, James the Just, Simon Cephas and Barnabas.

Paradoxically, concerning Paul – the best known, upon whom the biographers have expounded with the greatest gullibility – there remains almost nothing of the epistles that, reduced to the sincerity of love letters, accommodated the mixed doctrines of the Marcionites and anti-Marcionites before they were washed, purified and re-sharpened several times according to the rectified line of the Fourth Century.


Jochanaan, Also Called John the Baptist

In Jewish Antiquities, drafted around 95, Flavius Joseph spoke of a preacher named John.

“He was a good man who encouraged the Jews to practice virtue, justice for all and piety to God so that they could receive baptism. In fact, God considered baptism to be pleasant if it served, not to pardon certain faults, but to purify the body, after the soul was purified by justice.”

(Note here the connection with the Master of Justice, James the Just, Tsadoq, and Melchitsedeq.)

“Around John were assembled many people who, having heard him, reached the greatest excitation” (Jewish Antiquities, XVIII, 116-118).

The Greek version of Joseph’s War of the Jews (written around 90) doesn’t mention Jochanaan. Two Slavic versions, written much later and unreliable, return to this person. One reads in the first version:

“At this time, there lived among the Jews a man of strange costume; he applied to his body the hides of animals everywhere he wasn’t covered by his own hair. In his face, he was similar to a savage.

“He went to the Jews and summoned them to freedom, saying: ‘God sent me so that I can show you the Path of the Law, by which you can deliver yourselves from many powerful people. And over you will not reign a mortal, but the Very High who sent me.’

“And when the people heard this, they rejoiced. And he was followed all over Judea, the region in the vicinity of Jerusalem. And he did nothing other than plunge them into the waves of the Jordan and then sent them away, saying to them that they should renounce their bad works, and that he would give them a king who would emancipate them and submit to them all who were not submitted to them, but that he himself would not be submitted to anyone.

“Some blasphemed, others believed him. And as he had been led before [Herod] Archelaus, and as the doctors of the Law had been assembled, they asked him who he was and where he had been until then. He responded to them: ‘I am a man, the Spirit of God has led me, and I feed upon reeds, roots and carob.’

“They threw themselves upon him to torture him if he did not renounce his words and acts, but he said: ‘It is for you to renounce your abominable works and become devoted to the Lord your God.’

“And Simon, originally an Essenean scribe, arose in anger and said: ‘We read the divine books every day. But you, who come from the forest like a beast, you dare to instruct us and seduce the crowd with inflammatory discourse.’ He hurried to punish him physically. But he punished them by saying: ‘I will not reveal to you the mystery that lives in you, since you haven’t wanted it. Through this will come on you an inexpressible unhappiness, and it will be your fault.’

“After having spoken thus, he went to the other bank of the Jordan and, [since the others] no longer dared to molest him, he continued to act as before.”

In the second Slavic version, Herod intervened.

“Alone, this man whom one called a savage came before him (Herod) in anger and said to him: ‘Why have you taken the woman of your brother, infamous one? Because your brother died a pitiless death, you too will be mowed down by a false fate [la faux céleste]. The decree of God will not be lifted, but you will perish miserably in a strange country. Because you do not uphold [tu ne suscites pas] the line of your brother; you satisfy your carnal passion, since he already had four children.’

“As soon as Herod heard this, he became angry and ordered him to be beaten and chased away. But he did not cease accusing Herod everywhere that he found himself, until Herod had him seized and ordered him to be killed.

“His character was strange and his life wasn’t human. He lived like a spirit without flesh. His lips never knew bread. Even at Easter, he didn’t eat unleavened bread, saying that it had been given in memory of God, who had delivered his people from servitude, as a consolation because the road had been sad. As far as wine and the intoxicating drinks, he didn’t even let them near him. And he had a horror of all animals. He disapproved of all infractions, and he made use of carob.”

A fanatic of anti-nature, an ascetic moralist, and a hysterical and extreme imprecator, Jochanaan inscribed himself in a current that hasn’t ceased, up to today, to oppose against the freedom of life a system of corporeal and spiritual occlusion that propagates morbidity and death around itself. Depending on the circumstances, such dispositions fit in with the resentment of the disinherited, nay, even entire peoples who had been subjected to Roman colonization and who erected their God as a timeless machine of war against the imperialist violence of the West.

According to the Slavic manuscripts, his rage at the people of the Temple did not spare the masters of the country. Presented to Archelaus, who was the Ethnarch of Judea, Samaria and Edom from 4 [B.C.E.] to 5 [C.E.], and subsequently banished, Jochanaan would succumb much later (according to the evangelic legends) to the blows of Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee from 4 [B.C.E.] to 38 [C.E.].

The news raged along the Jordan that Joshua – a conqueror, a thaumaturge, a maker of miracles (he stopped the sun) and a leader of the Jewish people – had crossed over, had surpassed a limit that was inseparably terrestrial and celestial.

As in Essenism, his baptism symbolically liberated the soul from the “stain of the body” and consecrated a penitential choice, the renunciation of the goods of the earth and the mortification of the flesh. The least pleasures horrified this holy man, and he execrated the animals, whose sexual liberty annoyed his aggressive chastity. If he covered himself with animal skins, it was to resemble a certain Esau, of whom Genesis spoke (25:25-26).

The hostility of the Sadducees and Pharisees did not rally to him the adhesion of any of the Essene factions, because a Man of the Community named Simon (so famous that [Flavius] Joseph cited him) violently took him aside and manifested the animosity that reigned between the saints or perfect ones, who were devoted to prayer and study, and the preachers of voluntary poverty or ebbyonim, the Ebionites. Here it was a question of rival currents of Essenism, because Simon would not have seated himself among his worst enemies, that is, the sacerdotal aristocracy of the Temple.

Therefore, the hostility to John the Baptist remained strong among the Nazarenes-Elchasaites from whom the Homilies of Peter emanated. For the Elchasaites, who were adepts of James the Just and Simon-Peter, John the Baptist incarnated the Messiah’s adversary. A syzygy was situated within the antagonism between the Light and the Darkness, between Jesus, the Son of Man and the good path, and Jochanaan, the Son of Woman, and the path of evil.

Opposed to the Essenism of the communities – the subsistence of which agriculture assured by various meats and wine, which thus allowed the neophytes to marry and satisfy themselves, with the aim of procreation, in a sexuality reduced to occasional coitus – the wandering prophets extolled absolute dispossession and continence without reserve: they stigmatized the “laxity” of their co-religionists.

Another sect issued from Essenism, Mandaeism (from manda, “gnosis”), held John the Baptist as its founding apostle, and having rejected the false messiah named Jesus, professed an equal scorn for the Jews and the sectarians of the impostor “denounced by Anosh” (Enoch).

In the very heart of Nazarenism, contradictory midrashim retraced the complexities of the quarrels of the prophets. The echoes of these Hebrew and Aramaic texts (today disappeared) even clearly resounded in the later-day canonical Gospels that translated into Greek writings whose allegorical and Semitic meanings escaped their redactors.

In the Gospel attributed to Luke, John the Baptist was not the simple herald of Jesus, but the announcer of the end of time and the imminent kingdom of God. The works placed under the names of Mark and Matthew presented John the Baptist as equal in importance to Jesus, whom he baptized. He recruited his partisans from among the Jochanaanites and only acceded to the front of the mythological stage once his master was decapitated. Herod, moreover, saw in Jesus the reincarnation of John the Baptist.

On the other hand, the Gospel attributed to John reduced his role to the smallest share. He was neither prophet nor Eli, but only “the voice that cries out in the desert”; not the Light, but a witness to the Light.

From whence comes the question: did not the John who was proposed to be the author of a Gospel that, at the beginning, was Gnostic (Naassene or Sethian) – did he not come from John the Essene whom Flavius Joseph mentions? As far as the Apocalypse, which was a Jewish text transcribed into Greek and also attributed to a certain John [under the title Revelations]: it cited neither Jesus nor Jochanaan, but evoked two “witnesses of God” in struggle against the Beast, that is to say, Rome. Put to death, they remained three days without burial and then were resurrected up to the heavens. Therefore, according to Joseph, there existed two Jewish and anti-Judean leaders who were victims of the Roman occupation: Jacob/James and Simon, the sons of Judah of Gamala, who were the mythic witnesses to the Angel-Messiah summoned to lead the Just to final victory, despite the terrestrial failure of 70, and to conquer the world in the name of a God who was more powerful than YHWH, the bloody and boastful God.


Theudas/Jude/Thomas

In 45, in Jewish Antiquities (XX, 97-98), Flavius Joseph cited the tumult caused by the “magician” Theudas (“magician” was a qualifier frequently synonymous with “Egyptian” due to the great vogue for Hermeticism in Upper Egypt.) (Note that, on the other hand, there was no trace – other than in the composite novel titled Acts of the Apostles – of an agitator by the name of Etienne, who speculated on the Torah, invented midrashim, rose up against the people of the Temple, and claimed to be a just man who had been cruelly persecuted and would return to the earth. This “imaginary Etienne”[1] fits a portrait that could have included the majority of the Essenean preachers, all of whom modeled themselves on the Master of Justice in the midst of a “messianic agitation (that) soon began and didn’t end until Bar Kokhba.”[2])

In the words of Flavius Joseph,

“At the time Fadus was the governor of Judea, a magician by the name of Theudas persuaded a great crowd to take their riches with them and follow him to the Jordan. He said that he was a prophet and that, after he had divided it by command, the river would allow them to pass easily. By speaking thus, he deceived much of the world. But Fadus didn’t let him enjoy this folly. He sent against him a troop of cavalry, which attacked them spontaneously, killed a great many, took many of the survivors, and captured Theudas himself and, after decapitating him, sent the head to Jerusalem.”

The Talmud identifies the Theudas mentioned by Joseph with Ben Stada, who promised his partisans he’d destroy the walls of Jerusalem as Joshua had destroyed those of Jericho.[3]

Theudas also enjoyed the posthumous privilege of having furnished at least two recruits to the evangelic legends of the apostles. Because Theudas or Thaddeus corresponded to Judah or Judas, who was none other than Thomas. There’s no mystery as to why the acts and gospels called him the “twin bother of Jesus,” because Thaddeus, Jude and Thomas [all] mean “twin,” from which came the double of the Greek translators, who were unaware of the original meaning of the name and surnamed Thomas “Didyme” (didumos, “twin”).

While the Nazarene disciples of James and Simon-Peter established themselves in Antioch, those loyal to Theudas/Thomas propagated themselves in Edessa, where their communities founded a specific [kind of] Christianity before entering the syncretic wave of the years 90-100. At the beginning, each sect expressed the truth of its quest for a unique messiah by putting itself under the patronage of an elder, a witness or a “brother” of the Savior. The unification of the various Judeo-Christian currents engendered the legend of apostles who had been initially united (complete with differences, doubts and betrayals) around the Lord, the Adonai, who had descended to the earth.

By guaranteeing the separation of the waters of the River Jordan for the crowd of his partisans, Theudas/Jude/Thomas identified himself with Joshua. His crossing transmuted the waters of death into the waters of life. In the mythic and messianic spirit of the epoch, Joshua and Thomas were mentioned at the same time in the Acts of Thomas (the manuscript dates from the Sixth Century and no doubt transcribed a much older text): “Jesus then appeared under the form of Thomas and sat on the bed.”

Thomas/Theudas was/were probably referred to by the Gospel of the Egyptians, in which the will to asceticism common to all Esseno-Baptism expressed itself violently: [“]Jesus came to abolish the works of women and procreation, and thus to abolish the death that affects everything brought in the world.[”] (Note that, outside of the Christian milieu, this idea also existed in several Hermetic groups in Alexandria. According to Chapter 18 of the Poimandres, love was the cause of death. Asclepius supported the contrary thesis.)

The same spirit was encountered in a text discovered at Nah-Hammadi and popularized under the arbitrary name the Gospel according to Thomas.[4]

This work had points in common with the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Acts of Peter, the Acts of Philippe, the canonical gospels, the doctrines of the Naassenes, the Sethians and the Enochians (logion 11), Essenism (monachos does not mean “monk,” but the “perfect man,” as in the texts from Qumran), Marcion (logion 32), Theodotus and Heracleon (logion 144), and the Recognitiones, a Latin and later version of the Homilies of Peter, I:84 (logion 39).[5]

The text [of the Gospel according to Thomas] included 118 logia or remarks attributed to Joshua/Jesus, put onstage in the form of brief dialogues between James, Thomas and Simon-Peter. Imprinted by a number of Semitisms, the text seems to have been a collection of rewritten, translated and sequenced midrashim. It manifestly inspired the authors of the canonical gospels, who purged it of doctrinal archaisms and strengthened its ascetic rigor.

In a reversal of the real that was itself the inhuman essence of religion, the condemnation of desire and pleasure ended in the identification of the Holy Spirit with a mother, a mother who gives life, whereas women who bring children into the world engender death. (Note that this is the sense, that is to say, contrary to nature, that Jesus was called “the Living” in the work attributed to Thomas.) The Adamism of this return to paradise implied a total emaciation of sexuality. In paradise, man was neither male nor female, but identical to a putatively asexual child. As soon as it ate the forbidden fruit of sensual pleasure, its primitive unity was lost, and the result was a man different from the woman. Only a spiritual androgyny – as the pure spirit of a body without desire or impulses – would return to it the disincarnated unity from which it proceeded. This same speculation was illustrated in the Gospel of the Egyptians. Catholicism would condemn as heretical the frenzied asceticism that adepts of the communities devoted to Jude/Thomas practiced until the Third Century (this was perhaps the reason that the evangelic novels recognized by the Church execrated the double of the good Thomas: the informer named Judas).[6]


Jacob/James

In his Ecclesiastical History (II, I, 3-4), Eusebius of Caesarea cited an extract from the Hypotyposes of Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria, who was born around 150 and died around 210. Clement was a Christian philosopher classified among the orthodox by the Catholics, but whom the patriarch and theologian Photios I (820-855) judged to be impious and heretical in many of his opinions.

A commentator on biblical texts, Clement belonged to anti-Marcionite Christian Gnosticism, as did the Christians of the New Prophecy and its disciple, Origen. Clement drew his references from the Epistle of Jude, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Apocalypse of Peter, which later were condemned as apocryphal, because Clement didn’t know the canons that didn’t yet exist when he was alive. Of course, his future copyists were careful to compensate for his legitimate ignorance by adding in backdated citations.

For him, gnosis allowed one to discover the topography of the celestial dwellings, inhabited by the cohorts of hierarchically arranged angels. Gnosis revealed to him the superimposed or successive worlds through which the soul elevated itself to attain its supreme repose. And Joshua/Jesus was none other than the informed guide in this spiritual adventure.

According to the extracts produced by Eusebius, Clement declared: “The Lord, after his resurrection, brought gnosis to James the Just, John and Peter; they gave it to the Seventy, of whom Barnabas was one.” (Note that this was enough for Eusebius to consecrate James the “bishop of the Church of Jerusalem.”)

In another work, the Stromates, in which he attempted to reconcile Greek philosophy and Jewish prophecy, Clement called the true gnosis “Christian,” unlike Irenaeus who, vituperating the Christian Gnostics Marcion and Valentinus, judged gnosis and the teachings attributed to Jesus to be irreconcilable. Clement referred to the “true tradition rightfully issued from the holy apostles Peter, James, John and Paul, transmitted from father to son,” thus composing a list of ancient masters in which were unified, in a desire for unity, two antagonistic currents: that of Saul/Paul and that of James and Peter.

James, in whom the Master of Justice was reincarnated, played a role of the highest rank in a work discovered at Nag-Hammadi: Here are the hidden words that Jesus the Living said and that were transmitted by Didyme Jude Thomas, which proclaimed, “The disciples said to Jesus: ‘We know that you will leave us; who above us will (then) be the (most) great?’ Jesus said to them: ‘There where you will go, render yourselves to James the Just, the one because of whom the heavens and the earth were produced’” (logion 13).[7]

The phrase “because of whom the heavens and earth were produced” made James nothing less than the co-creator of the universe, at the same level as Adam and Jesus, who was furthermore his “brother.” This remark, borrowed from a midrash that claimed for itself the authority of James, illustrated quite well how the [self-] legitimating acts of the Church – which, as it happened, erected the master as the auxiliary and right arm of God – were collected, collated, and harmonized to the extent that the initially disunited Nazarene Churches became federated and formed accords among themselves. Thus, there would appear – engendered by a community inspired by a Levy/Matthew – a work titled The Secret Words that the Savior said to Judas Thomas and that I, Matthew, wrote down while I heard them speak to each other, sometimes called the Gospel according to Matthew.[8] (Note that Saul/Paul also spoke of a vision in the course of which he heard “the ineffable words that no one is permitted to repeat.”) The pious lies by virtue of which the local Churches invented witnesses or brothers of the Messiah would be seen as instances of inadmissible naivety in the eyes of the redactors of the New Testament, who would take the precaution of giving the colors of historical probability to these falsifications or, more exactly, these myths, and thus effaced the original documents, which were accused of being crude aberrations. (Note that, with respect to the invention of witnesses and brothers, the abbeys of the Middle Ages didn’t proceed in any other fashion when they invented patron saints and exhibited their relics so as to attract the faithful, crowds and alms.)

By the way, the figure of James wasn’t exclusively connected to Judeo-Christianity, since the Naassenes – according to the Elenchos (V, 7) – kept in their teachings “the principle points of the doctrine that James, brother of the Lord, transmitted to Mariamne.” Here the Lord was NHS, the Redeemer Serpent, and Mariamne corresponded to Miriam/Mary. It was also under the name of James that, after the Second Century, the Proto-Gospel of James, a recitation of the childhood of the Christ Jesus and the story of Mary and Joseph the carpenter would be disseminated.

The original specificity of a Jamesian Christianity, with its own Church, was perpetuated in Nestorianism, which was condemned as a heresy and still exists to this day in Jacobite Churches.

James, prophet and Messiah, assumed the roles of witness, brother, and apostle of Joshua/Jesus to the extent that the diverse currents of Esseno-Christianity, nay, even the Sethian, Naassenean and Barbelite forms of messianism slowly came together and grouped their [respective] patrons or founders together within the apostolic cohort of the Lord.

A fragment from the Judeo-Christian writer Hegesippus (end of the Second Century), transcribed by Eusebius of Caesarea, described James the Just as an ascetic “sanctified in the womb of his mother,” a trait attributed to Jesus. This accounts for the mythical slide of James (the Messiah of an Essene community) into Jesus (the syncretic Messiah of the first Churches, which were, perhaps, federated by Elchasai).

Like Dunstan, Jochanaan, the Servant celebrated by Isaiah and the other spawn of the Master of Justice, Jacob/James did not eat meat, never shaved, combed his hair, or washed. He dedicated all of his time to prayer. Hegesippus called him “rampart of the people,” because “those who have faith keep it through James.”

Among the Elchasaites, James passed for the true founder of their community. The primitive text of the Homilies of Peter presented itself as a letter from Clement, alias Zacchaeus, to James.

History has preserved traces of two people named Jacob tied to Messianic agitation; the ahistorical spirit of the midrashim easily united them in an identification made plausible by the common front of Zealotism and Essenism. According to Flavius Joseph (Judaic Antiquities, XX, V, 2), Jacob of Gamala, son of Judah and brother of Simon, was crucified around 45, under the reign of Tiberius Alexander, who succeeded Caspius Fadus (responsible for the execution several months earlier of Theudas/Thomas) as procurator of Judea.

The first Jacob, a Zealot, was doubled by another, who was either a Nazarene or an Ebionite. The Talmud and a midrash set themselves against a Christian Jew named Jacob of Kepher Schanya (or Maia Simai), who was accused of contesting the orthodox rituals prescribed by Deuteronomy. Interrogating Rabbi Eliezer on a point of doctrine, Jacob was invited to answer and advance an interpretation drawn from Micah (2, 7) that emphasized the solicitude of God in the interests of men. Eliezer rallied to Jacob’s explication and thus drew upon himself the reproach of complacency with respect to Nazarenism.


Simon-Peter

Named governor of Bithynia in 111, Pliny the Younger solicited directives from Emperor Trajan on the conduct to adopt with respect to the chrestianoi, whose behaviors had aroused unfavorable reactions among the inhabitants (Letters X, 96-97). Oscar Cullmann has shown that the incriminated Christian sect was that of the Elchasaites, whose doctrine synthesized the teachings of Nazarenism and Ebionism, if not other Messianistic sects.[9] Their ideas were expressed in an ensemble of texts that were revised many times, and for a long time were held as orthodox by virtue of Clement’s name, under which they had been organized. Indeed, Clement (the “Gentle”) – a translation of Zacchaeus from the Bible – was the third Pope of Rome in the official histories of Catholicism. Rejected much later by the Church, these writings would be re-baptized Pseudo-Clementines by the historians who were, it should be noted, hardly eager to contradict aberrant speculation concerning the epoch in which any Roman pontificate lived.

Under the name of Clement (the [First] Pope of Rome and successor to Peter) – “Clement” was in fact a fictive person invented by Irenaeus and consecrated by Eusebius[10] – a text was disseminated that analysis reveals had three states. First, the Homilies or the Epistle of Clement to James was a Greek revision of an old midrash placed under the name of Zacchaeus. Second, a Greek development, called the Anagnossos, was translated and revised under the title Recognitiones (“Recognitions”) by Rufin, a notorious forger and censor of the works of Origen. Third and last, the Epithome represented the Catholic version, amputated from the text of the Homilies, which would reappear much later under the title Summary of the Predictions of Peter by Clement.

The Hebrew source has disappeared, but the primitive kernel, extracted by Cullmann, explicitly revealed the central theme of the speculations advanced by the author: “The true prophet and the intelligence of the law according to the teachings of the Mosaic tradition.” Cullmann summarized it thus:

“The world with its sins and errors is compared to a house that is filled with smoke. The men who find themselves inside search in vain for the truth, which doesn’t enter. Only the true prophet, by opening the door, can give it to them. This prophet is the Christ, who first entered into the world in the person of Adam, anointed by the oil of the Tree of Life. For all beings, God made a prototype: for the angels, an angel; for the spirits, a spirit; for men, a man who is Adam-Jesus. Adam was without sin, despite certain mendacious passages in the Scriptures. Adam, the true prophet, announced the world to come. By contrast, Eve, who was inferior to him as the moon is inferior to the sun, was appointed to the present world as the prototype of the prophets born from women, whereas Adam was the ‘Son of Man.’ The feminine principle led the men of the first generation astray from the path of truth. Their depravity manifested itself especially in the practice of sacrifices. But since the beginning of the world, the true prophet hasn’t ceased to travel through the centuries, changing name and form. He was incarnated in Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. Moses renewed the eternal law that Adam had already promulgated, but, at the same time, by authorizing sacrifices through a law, Moses made a concession to the hardening of the Jews that placed a curb upon the most serious excesses: sacrifices had to be offered to God only, and only in a unique place. But this permission was only provisional. Moses foreshadowed a future prophet who would abolish sacrifices. The true prophet finally reached his perfect repose in the Christ. He put an end to sacrifices and replaced them with baptism. Also, during the Jewish War, only the baptized were saved. Before dying, the true prophet chose twelve apostles, and, in the manner of Moses, tasked seventy-two doctors of the law with transmitting the truth. By abolishing sacrifices, the Christ did not abolish the law, but that which was not part of primitive law. He announced that, until the heavens and the earth had passed, not an iota or a trait of the Law would fall.”[11]

The author (or authors) of the Homilies were inscribed in the reformist current that was more and more critical of the biblical texts and Mosaic law. They not only eliminated the prophets who represented feminine principles, but also certain important parts of the Pentateuch. Of course, the Elchasaites, in conformity with the Essenean matrix, rejected the sacrifices of the Temple. “When the Law was put down in writing, it was subjected to a certain number of additions that contained errors against the unique God” (Homilies, II, 38). This argument recalled those of the Dunstanites or Dositheosians. James, their prophet, mystically presided over the authority of a church to which Peter himself was obliged to render an account.

As far as the defense of the unique God, it was inscribed in the polemic of the two Gods and their [respective] natures. Was it necessary, in the manner of Marcion circa 140, and perhaps in the manner of Saul, the enemy of the Elchasaites, to postulate the existence of a Good and Christian God radically different from YHWH, the creator-God of a bad world, a bloody God who betrayed his people, a Demiurge who was master of a deplorable universe? Or was it necessary to rally to the Elchasaite thesis, from which would in fact be born the God of Irenaeus, Tertullian and then the Catholics and the Protestants (“God kills with his left hand, that is to say, through the ministry of the Bad, which, by temperament, takes pleasure in tormenting the impious. But he saves and does good with his right hand, that is to say, through the ministry of the Good, which was created for rejoicing in lavishing blessings on the just and saving them,” Homilies, XX, 3)?

Finally, the Elchasaites, having entered into the general quarrel about the “true messiah,” were perhaps the first ones to produce – with Saul/Paul and Satornilus – the ecumenical name of Joshua/Jesus.

In the manner of the various Christianities of the first two centuries, their [the Elchasaites’] conception of the Messiah was that of the angelos-christos. He had been created as one of the archangels – in the same way that Michael was also Melchitsedeq. “For all beings, God created a prototype: for angels, an angel; for the spirits, a spirit; for men, a man who was Adam-Jesus. Adam was without sin, despite certain mendacious passages in the Scriptures.”[12]

Elchasaite Christianity believed in the successive reincarnations of the Messiah, who had, “since the origin of the world, changed his form and name, and thus reappeared ceaselessly and ceaselessly in the world” (Homilies, III, 10).

No doubt the Messiah was manifested through the voice of Elchasai, just as he prophesized a half-century later through the mouth of Montanus in the popular Christianity of the New Prophecy, born in Phrygia, in the immediate neighborhood of the Bithynia of Pliny and the Elchasaites.

But the means of preventing other enlightened ones from obeying the revelation of the Messiah? The two great enemies of Elchasaitism – like those of Montanism and Tertullian, but later on – also held the message of the Christ.

Cullmann did not detect in the primitive text of the Homilies a charge made against Marcion, which was refuted instead by a subsequent copyist who revised the text. On the other hand, as Baur has demonstrated, the hostility manifested with respect to Simon “the Magician” in fact aimed at Saul/Paul, held to be a false prophet.

Nevertheless, the authors of the Homilies did not know any of the letters by Paul, nor the texts of the New Testament invented by Marcion. They simply preached the good news, the gospel, and rejected that of Saul, the founder of competing churches.

According to the Homilies (II, 17), “the gospel of the lie, preached by the seducer, came first; then came the gospel of truth, after the destruction of the holy place.”

Which holy place? Jerusalem and the Temple? But Essenism didn’t cease demanding the annihilation of the town consecrated to the “impious priest.” Wasn’t this, instead, a question of Qumran or Damascus, that is to say, DMS, the sanctuary, towards which Paul traveled, according to this legend, when he had [received] the revelation of the Messiah? (Unless the allusion is to [the era] after 135.)

If Saul/Paul was treated as a false witness to the Lord, his notes stigmatized his adversaries as “false brothers.” Between the different communities invested with the divine message, harmony decidedly did not reign.

Towards the end of the Second Century, and more surely in the Fourth Century, the monarchal Churches – aiming to win the good graces of imperial power – effaced from their histories the divergences between the partisans of James and Peter and the disciples of Saul/Paul. Simon-Peter and Paul, finally reconciled, reigned as the patron saints of Rome, in which they had never set foot.

Nevertheless, the hatred for the “impostor” never completely disappeared from the restoration of the Christian edifice by Catholicism. A manuscript discovered by Schlomo Pines that illustrated the opinions of a Jewish community from Syria in the Fifth Century accused Paul of Tarsus of having falsified the teachings of the Messiah. This false prophet rejected the Torah with the intentions of attracting to himself the favors of Rome and acquiring personal power and influence. Having flattered the anti-Semitism of the Romans, he was the one truly responsible for the destruction of the Temple in 70. And this text, caught up in the polemical whirlpools of the Fifth Century – during which the Church invented the legend of “Paul, apostle to the gentiles” who won the Empire over to Christian convictions – objected that “His Christianity was only pure Romanism; rather than converting the Romans into Christians, he converted the Christians into Romans.”[13]

Furthermore, this manuscript denounced the impostures and contradictions of the canonical gospels and only accorded credit to the original Gospel, the one drafted in Hebrew. This community, which made exclusive claims for the authority of James and Peter, existed until the Tenth Century, according to the Jewish philosopher Saadia Gaon.

Perhaps it was from the same milieu that came a kind of “novel about Paul” that attacked the official novel called the Acts of the Apostles. Epiphanius of Salamis (438-496) echoed it in his Panarion (30, 16, 6-9):

“They affirmed that Paul was Greek. According to them, he went to Jerusalem and, after having lived there a certain amount of time, he felt an inextinguishable passion for the daughter of the priest. It was for this reason that he became a proselyte and was circumcised. But when this young woman rejected him, he became so enraged that he committed libels against circumcision, the Sabbath and the Law.”

The vogue (no doubt quite limited) for Elchasaitism survived the Jewish revolt of 133-135 that ended in the defeat of Bar Kokhba and the end of the Palestinian nation. The future of Christianity henceforth belonged to the Pauline tendency, which the ship owner and founder of Churches, Marcion, exploited before he himself was rejected by the popular development of a Hellenized Christianity, whose the birth in Phrygia clearly showed its relationship to the Christianity of the prophet Elchasai, established in Bithynia.

As far as Simon-Peter, the disciple or younger brother of James, his name derives from the Hebrew Symeon and from the Aramaic sobriquet Kepha, “rock.” Thus, Simon the Rock, Simon the Pitiless or Simon the Bald.

His only historical traces led back to Simon, son of Judah of Gamala and brother of Jacob, put to death as a Zealot. Was he confused with Simon the Essene, whose violent hostility to John the Baptist Flavius indicated? The Homilies do indeed execrate Jochanaan. Another mark of Essenism, the Testamentum domini (a discourse addressed to the Sons of Light) appeared in the Homilies.

The Recognitions, a development and revision of the Homilies, preserved a list of couples or syzygies: the Antichrist was opposed to the Christ as Cain was opposed to Abel, Ishmael to Isaac, Isaiah to Jacob, Aaron to Moses, John the Baptist to the Son of Man, and Paul to Peter. (It isn’t useless to recall that the first description of the Antichrist – as well the Messiah’s horoscope – were discovered among the manuscripts at Qumran.)

The authority of Simon-Peter eclipsed that of James around the end of the Second Century. He triumphed over Saul at Antioch, where he acted as James’ delegate. It was in Simon-Peter’s midst that Clement was instructed in Caesarea and learned from his mouth the doctrine of the “true prophet.” The legend of his death, invented by Tertullian and reprised in the Acts of Peter, entered into the dogma of the Church in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries by virtue of the efforts undertaken to offer to Rome, the Emperor and the citizens (all of whom were hardly eager to embrace Catholicism) the ancient patronage of the two pillars of faith, Peter and Paul, united despite themselves for the great glory of God. (Note that the Acts of Peter, still part of the canon in the Fourth Century, were rejected as “apocryphal” upon the triumph of the belief that Peter had founded the Roman Church. In the Twentieth Century, certain archeologists – who, like the historians, were motivated by their sense of Christian duty – strove to discover his tomb. The Light of Faith only illuminated their absurdity.)


Barnabas

No historical certitude gives plausible contours to the person named Barnabas. In his study of the apocryphal books of the New Testament, Erbetta made him a Levite from Cyprus, a Jewish member of the minor clergy involved with the services at the synagogue.[14] He was supposedly the companion of a certain Mark, author of a Gnostic, secret gospel in the line of Essenean teachings. A Letter to Theodore by Clement of Alexandria (end of the Second Century) affirmed that this Mark “composed a gospel of a more elevated spirituality for the usage of those whom one made perfect [...] Nevertheless, he did not divulge the things that should not have been pronounced.”[15]

Everything leads one to suppose that the apocryphal text attributed to Mark, whose name would later on crown a canonical gospel substituted for the Gnostic one, was similar in its content to the epistle placed under the name of Barnabas, which is a text of great interest for the comprehension of Judeo-Christianity at the end of the First Century and the beginning of the Second. In the opinion of Erbetta, this epistle was composed in Alexandria, Syria or Asia Minor, and in its Greek form dated from the years 117 to 130. Transcribed again for the Sinaiticus manuscript of the Fourth Century, it was held as canonical until [Pope] Gelasius’ decree set it aside.

Originally Hebrew or Aramaic, the text defined the program of revising Judaism undertaken by Essenism in its entirety, and more particularly by the sects of the Diaspora that adapted anti-Judean Christianity to the Greco-Roman way of thinking.

The reproach addressed to Phariseean orthodoxy much later nourished the anti-Judaic polemic. It wasn’t a question of globally rejecting Yahwehism, as Marcion wanted, but expelling the Jews from biblical exegesis, of which they had “shown themselves to be unworthy.” Hadn’t they chosen to interpret the writings of the Bible literally and not in a spiritual sense? The Epistle of Barnabas thus recommended the practice of circumcision of the heart and not that of the flesh (“circumcise the hardness of your heart”). (Note that the abandoning of circumcision during the rites of conversion indubitably favored proselytism and the adhesion of non-Jewish believers.)

In the same way, the prohibition of [certain] foods had to be understood symbolically as a refusal to associate with the people shaped by immorality. The Temple of Jerusalem had to give way to a true temple that lived in the heart of the believer. So as to more clearly break with Jewish practice, the Sabbath was shifted from the sixth to the seventh day, consecrated dies domini, Sunday.

The second part of the Epistle corresponded almost completely with the Hebrew manual that was revised, corrected and disseminated by Jewish Christians under the name Didache. One notably found in it the doctrine of the two paths (Barnabas, 18-20), which conformed with the Essenean combat between the Light and the Darkness.

But in the Epistle of Barnabas, the two most significant elements of Judeo-Christianity in the process of Hellenization showed the obvious influence of Naassenism and a strictly biblical conception of Jesus. For the Christians who were contemporaries with the famous letter of Pliny, Jesus – insofar as he was the Christ – was none other than the successor to Moses, Joshua, the holder of the New Alliance or Novum Testamentum.

As for Naassenism: “The fall of Eve was provoked by the Serpent. The Lord wanted to convince them that their sin made them prey to the malediction of death. From then on, although Moses had ordained, ‘No found or sculpted object shall serve as God to you,’ he himself constructed one to represent Jesus. Moses constructed a serpent of bronze; he exhibited it to the eyes of all; and in the voice of a herald, summoned the people to assemble. Once united, they begged Moses to intercede in their favor so that they could heal themselves. Moses said to them: ‘If one of you is dying, then he should direct himself to the serpent attached to the wood (the cross) and he should fervently put his hopes in the one who, though dead, can give life, and at that instant he will be healed’” (Epistle of Barnabas, 12:7).

As for Jesus, his person presents no historical trace at all. There is not the least allusion to the anecdotes complacently reported by the canonical and Catholic texts. He was simply Joshua, son of Noun or Nahum, an angel of God, co-creator of the world, the alpha and omega, an immanent being without any connection to the events that unexpectedly took place in the era of Tiberius and Procurator Pontius Pilate.

“What then did Moses say to Jesus, son of Noun, after having imposed on him, inasmuch as he was a prophet, this name, uniquely so that all the people knew that the Father had revealed everything concerning the subject of his Son Jesus? Moses thus expressed himself to Jesus, son of Noun, after having imposed this name upon him, when he sent him to visit the earth: ‘Take a book between your hands and write down what the Lord says: at the end of time, the Son of God will destroy the entire house of Amalek down to its foundations.’ Here again Jesus was not the son of a man, but the Son of God revealed in flesh through the means of an effigy that had preceded him. And as one says that the Christ is the son of David, this very David prophesized full of fear and conscious of the errors of the sinners. . .” (Epistle of Barnabas, 12, 80).

It is fitting to compare the Epistle of Barnabas to a letter attributed to Saul/Paul by the Catholics (not without some difficulty): the Epistle to the Hebrews.

In his De pudenta (20), Tertullian attributed this epistle to Barnabas. Luther placed it under the name of Apollos, one of the opponents supposedly encountered by Paul.

For Prosper Alfaric, the text was of Alexandrian origin and took up a midrash from the 60s that was revised and Hellenized around 135:

“Christ, the first-born Son of God, enthroned Sovereign-Sacrifice-Performer, shed his blood ‘once for all’ so as to remove sorrow and death from the lives of men. Divine promoter of a New Alliance, he had – upon the order of his Father (5/8) – to descend ‘for a short time’ ‘below the angels,’ to take human form and submit to a Passion. His death and resurrection rendered the immolations of the Temple null and void, and rendered the sacrifice-performers [les sacrificateurs] of the race of Aaron useless; because his divine nature, perfected by suffering, made him the Perfect Victim. Passing through ‘the door’ to the heavens in which the Just would rejoin him (13/14), he immolated himself in his celestial sanctuary, not in a temple constructed ‘by the hand of man’; he worked the purification of sin by his blood, but he did not take their sins on him and did not become a ‘scourge.’”[16]

The drama of the timeless Christ excluded all terrestrial historical existence. Moreover, he did not live on the earth: he “appeared” in flesh (9:26) so as to identity himself with the humans whom he was charged with saving. The prototype that is suggested here was Melchitsedeq, who was like Jesus “without father or mother, without genealogy, having neither a beginning to his days nor an end to his life.” Those who denied Christ would be trampled by him (10, 13); gehenna awaited the impious.

Many of the features exhibited in the primitive kernel of the Epistle to the Hebrews were found again in the notes that, perhaps, were drafted by Saul/Paul.


Saul, Called Paul of Tarsus

Catholics, Byzantines, Protestants and Christians of all kinds have erected Paul and his Christian theology as a pillar of the Church. His biography offers fewer lacunae than that of Holderlin. Bernard Dubourg notes with irony that, “Everywhere one speaks of the psychology of Paul, the voyages of Paul, the doctrinal efforts of Paul, the difficulties of Paul, etc. – as one speaks, elsewhere and at random, of the mood-swings of Caligula, the peregrinations of [the Count of] Lapérouse, the hypotheses and theories of Kepler and the tribulations of Socrates. That’s it: in learned opinion, Paul is the Socrates of the Church. . . . Even better, he is a Socrates who writes.”[17]

On what has such striking certitude been based? On a composite novel whose late-Second Century redactors compiled from apologues and Jewish midrashim, the meaning of which escaped them and which they translated and explicated anecdotally, historicizing the Hebrew myths. And on fourteen letters recorded in manuscripts that were contemporaneous with the instauration of Catholicism and State orthodoxy.

Picking out the incoherencies and improbabilities of the first document, Dubourg emphasized the midrashic elements that were revealed by a retroversion of the text into Hebrew.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul was a Jew who became a Roman citizen and was originally from Tarsus, in Cilicia. He then changed his Jewish name, Saul, to Paul. His writings do indeed bear the mark of many Semitisms that are perceptible in the Greek redaction.

It is impossible to be a Jew and a Roman at the same time, Smallwood declares. The adhesion to Roman citizenship “involved the duty to participate in both pagan social rites and religious observances that were incompatible with Jewish orthodoxy.”[18]

The fact that the authors of the Acts of the Apostles attributed to Paul Roman citizenry in Tarsus indicates quite well the epoch in which they forged this biographical fantasy. Tarsus was not made Roman until the second half of the Second Century. Voltaire did not fail to perceive the following in his Philosophical Dictionary: “Was Paul a Roman citizen, as he boasts? If he was from Tarsus in Cilicia, Tarsus wasn’t a Roman colony until 100 years later, all the antiquarians agree.”

Paul’s pilgrim’s journey evokes that of Aeneas. After a journey to Malta, Paul borrowed an Alexandrian vessel with the “insignia of the Dioscuri” (Acts of the Apostles, 28:11) to return to Rome. In the attempt to accord the Hebrew myths and Greek philosophy, in which the symbolism of the Dioscuri or twins [Castor and Pollux] did not assume a small importance, this apparently journalistic detail awoke echoes of the voyages of initiates, like that of the Argonauts. Particularly because the inventor of Paul – the Christian dualist and anti-Semite Marcion – used his profession as a ship-owner and a businessman to found his own Churches everywhere.

Therefore, due to a strange amnesia, the historians and biographers of Paul generally forget to mention that he was indeed a product of Marcion, the bête noire for Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin, various Phariseean or Christian Jews and, much later, Catholic apologists.

Nevertheless, it was Marcion and Marcion alone who, around 140 or 150, revealed the existence of ten epistles written by someone named Paul, the founder of Churches in the East.

Nevertheless, these letters existed prior to Marcion and they attested to quarrels between diverse communities or Esseno-Christian Churches. The hostility between these groups, some sworn to James, Peter or Thomas, the others sworn to Saul/Paul, led the historian Bauer to conjecture that the person of Simon caricatured in the Homilies was in fact a stand-in for Saul, who – contrary to the “true witnesses,” James and Simon Cephas – claimed to have received the revelation of the Messiah.

Who was the original author of Paul’s epistles, which were recopied in the Fourth Century, in an atmosphere of dogmatic fabrication, and revised on the basis of the Roman past that the Church of Constantine and Theodore falsified without scruple? Loisy doubts their integrity and authenticity. Meaks holds seven of Paul’s letters to be authentic, and attributes Thessalonians I and II, Timothy I and II, Philemon, Hebrews and Titus to the Pauline schools of the Second Century.[19]

For Ory, “the interpolations in the letters of Saint Paul are certain and obvious; they travesty the appearance of Paulinism in an extravagant manner.” According to Deschner, opinion today agrees to recognize the existence in the First Century of several short notes, echoes of pastorals, polemics and midrashic speculations on the Messiah whom Saul/Paul, in any case, did not present as a historical person.[20 The word “Christ” comes from the Bible, in particular, from Isaiah; on the other hand, it is not impossible that “Jesus” was an addition made at the beginning of the Second Century.

To whom were the letters addressed? The historians obedient to Catholicism and Protestantism have designated them to be the goyim, the non-Jews, whom Catholicism called the gentiles (kind people) or pagani (peasants).

In Medieval Hebrew, goyim had the connotation of impiety, which was emphasized by the anathema: “May their bones rot [while they are still alive].”[21] Dubourg remarks: “But in the Hebrew of the Bible or Qumran, ‘GWY, GWYM,’ mean ‘nation, nations.’ The epistles of Saul/Paul were not addressed to the Romans, Ephesians, Galatians or Corinthians, but to the Jews or Judaicized people of the Diaspora. They were addressed to the Jews of all nations. They carried traces of the midrashim of rival groups before they were revised by Marcion, who cut them loose from their purely Jewish foundations.”[22] The letters transmitted the revisionist and anti-Judean theses common to Essenism, Nazarenism, Ebionism and Elchasaitism.

If Marcion used the authority of Saul/Paul to give an apostolic character to the Churches he founded everywhere in opposition to Jewish Christianity, this was because he had discovered in them many arguments against orthodox Judaism, nay, against YHWH.

Saul’s midrashim and polemical fragments thus fell into the hands of Marcion, who was in opposition to the Nazarene/Elchasaite current. Marcion recopied them, not without bending their meaning to fit the polemical orientations of his times. He intended to federate his Christian Churches by imposing upon them the central reference point of Rome, thus foreshadowing the politics instaurated by Catholicism two centuries later. Nevertheless, his authoritarianism and his arrogance as a businessman (a legend has it that he attempted to buy the Judeo-Christian communities established in Rome, whose myths, legends and polemics were collated by the Shepherd of Hermas) set against him the Judeo-Christians and the Hellenized Christians who – also hostile to Christian Jews – refused Marcion and his doctrine, having judged his dualism and his global condemnation of Hebrew mythology (the Old Testament) to be unacceptable.

Revised by Marcion, Paul’s letters were then subjected to the corrections judged to be useful by the anti-Marcionites: Justin, Polycarp, Tertullian, and Irenaeus. In addition, Tatian – the presumed author of the first version of the three “synoptic” gospels – improved their aesthetic aspect by polishing and harmonizing them with the Greek version.[23] But Tatian, who was condemned later on for the extreme asceticism that he shared with those faithful to the New Prophecy, yielded the Pauline epistles to which orthodoxy would require several adjustments to be made. So many revisions, interpolations and harmonizations followed each other, stacked up, stratified – all to produce the historical authenticity of manuscripts from the Fourth Century! And yet hundreds of scholars have founded their studies and their honesty on these letters, arbitrarily backdated to the First Century.

The two Letters to Timothy, called “pastorals,” carried anti-Marcionite developments. (On the other hand, the voyages evoked in them might well be those of Marcion. The names Titus, Mark and Luke figure in them.) They emanated from the enemies of the ship-owner. The author, who had no scruples about signing these texts “Paul, apostle of the Christ,” would be – according to Deschner[24] – the bishop named Polycarp (second half of the Second Century), who was close to the Christian current of the New Prophecy.

The two Letters to the Thessalonians disavowed an older letter by Paul.[25]

The Letter to the Galatians retained something of the quarrels between the Jews of the Diaspora. The first Letter to the Corinthians extolled asceticism and advanced the Phariseean idea of the resurrection of the body. The second evoked differences with Apollos.

In the Letter to the Colossians, the word “Church” took on a Catholic meaning (which it did not have in the other texts) and thus was of a later date.

Priscillian still held the Letter to the Laodiceans to be an authentic text from Paul, when in fact it was a Marcionite text from the years 160-190.[26]

Must we recall that all of the so-called Catholic letters, which were placed under the names of Peter (I and II), John (I, II, and III), James and Judas were forgeries? In the middle of the Third Century, Origen mentioned them for the first time and judged them to be subject to controversy.

The correspondence between Seneca and Paul, no doubt inspired by Jerome, “Father of the Church,” offered the slightly too clairvoyant merit of presenting Paul as the contemporary of Nero and a perfect Roman citizen. These letters met the fate of the letters exchanged between Jesus of Nazareth and King Agbar. Focusing on some outrageous fakes more easily attributes truthfulness to the epistolary dabbling of the apostle.[27]

What remains of Saul/Paul after he’s been screened by the critique that is legitimate to bring to bear on every dubious historical person?

He was assuredly a Jew, perhaps Hellenized, but certainly not a Roman citizen. Perhaps he adhered to the doctrines of the Pharisees, as his legends suggest. In any case, his syncretism retained the Phariseean idea of the resurrection of the body and an ecclesial organization for which the synagogue offered an efficacious model. “It is following the path described by those of the party that I serve the God of my fathers, keeping my faith in all that there is in the Law and in what is written by the prophets, having hope in God, as they have it in themselves, that there will be a resurrection of the just and the sinners.” (Note here the use of the word “the path”: odos, the “path,” and not hairesis, the “choice.”)

Traces of Essenism weren’t lacking from the Pauline corpus. Murphy O’Connor has detected their presence.

As Dubourg noted, the symbolism of the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus, not to the city, but to DMS, the sanctuary, would be added to the doctrine of the two paths, Light and Darkness, to anti-Judaism, to the refusal of the sacrifice of animals in the name of penitential sacrifice. Saul rejected anti-Essenean Phariseeism, and encountered the revelation of the expected Messiah. He affirmed the return of the Master of Justice, of the Just Person, of whom Jacob/James affirmed himself to be the brother. He saw him in the light of Essenism. And he founded Churches and thus aroused the animosity of the established communities that treated him as a false prophet.

If Paul extolled the universal Church, he did so in strict obedience to the Master of Justice, for whom the Church “wants to be universal, present in the entire world, eternal; it feels itself to be in communion with Eden and even with Sheol.”[28]

In the novel called Acts of the Apostles, there was, perhaps, some confusion between Paul and the Egyptian, that is to say, Theudas/Thomas. Did not Saul momentarily rally the groups loyal to the “twin brother of the Lord” before erecting himself as a privileged witness?

Just as Moses heard the voice of God in a flaming bush, Saul perceived the Messiah and heard his voice in an illumination. He proclaimed that he had “been individually selected as an apostle by the Christ himself, in a face-to-face meeting to which he was the only witness.”[29]

Here we find the only holder of the truth, privileged by his own authority among the apostles, about whom the Qumranian manuscript Writing from Damascus says this: “Those called by a name [the conscripts] are those who hold themselves upright until the end of time.” But Simon of Samaria used this same expression, but in a completely different sense: the Hestos, The-One-Who-Holds-Himself-Upright, was the man who created his destiny by being aware of the Great Power (the Megale Dynamis) present in him. Although the doctrine of Saul/Paul was situated in a perspective that was radically opposed to that of Simon, his adversaries stigmatized him by identifying him with Simon, “who wanted to be God.” (Note that, in the biblical texts, there was a Saul who was a son of Simon, who might have been the malicious inspiration for this polemic.)

Traces of quarrels weren’t lacking. A legendary tradition reported by Eusebius has it that Paul assassinated James the Just. The Homilies contained a direct attack on Saul, as Cullmann emphasizes: “Truth doesn’t need to be sought in an ecstatic way, but it imposes itself on whomever believes in the true prophet. By this natural path, the truth was revealed to Peter when he made his confession: [‘]You are the son of the Living God.[’] Simon (that is to say, Paul), on the other hand, rested his supposed knowledge of Jesus on a vision that had no value and that did not confer upon him the right to the apostolate.”[30]

For their part, the Paulinians didn’t spare Peter. An evangelic fable accused him of having denied Christ, of behaving, in sum, like another traitor, Judas/Thomas. Thus did the apologetic novels translate the quarrels concerning ascendancy between the diverse Esseno-Christian communities of the First Century.

The Letter to the Galatians (2:11-14) rejected Simon-Peter in particular: “But when Cephas went to Antioch, I remained opposed to him because he was reprehensible. In fact, before the arrival of several people sent by James, he ate with the pagans. But when they arrived, he snuck away and held himself aside, for fear of circumcision. Like him, the other Jews dissimulated, with the result that Barnabas himself was taken in by their hypocrisy.”

The allusion to circumcision, unimaginable on the part of Saul, a Jew, seems like the intervention of the anti-Semite Marcion. (Horace gave the appellation an insulting connotation and spoke of “turning up one’s nose at circumcision”).

In the second Letter to the Corinthians, Saul balked: “I am not at all inferior to those ‘very high’ apostles, although I am nothing.”

This response emphasized quite well the nature of the reproach. Another interesting indication appeared in the Letter to Timothy, falsely attributed to Paul, which implored his interlocutor to live in Ephesus so as to combat those who referred to “endless genealogical fables.” Isn’t one founded in supposing that certain Churches undertook to provide a historical consistency to Jesus who, from then on, was very different from the Messiah of whom Saul/Paul spoke?

Because the only Messiah that Paul recognized was the angelos-christos, the envoy of Adonai. And on this point his belief agreed with those of the Judeo-Christians, the Marcionites and Anti-Marcionites such as Justin the Apologist. Renan was perceptive when he wrote: “For Paul, Jesus is not a man who lived and taught, but a completely divine being.”

Irony has wanted things so that the prophet who was the dearest to the Catholic Church had undeniably to fall under the blow of accusations of heresy, which were dictated to Catholicism due to its care for fabricating the historical existence of Jesus: Docetism, the belief in an Angel-Messiah who assumed human form for a brief terrestrial and voluntary downfall.

The Savior incarnate, dead and resurrected, had nothing in common with a rabbi who agitated the people, nor with a sage, slightly Brahman, who dispensed his secret wisdom in the logia piously and falsely compiled by Matthew and Thomas.

For the Christians who followed Paul, for the Nazarenes, the Ebionites, the Elchasaites, the Marcionites and the Anti-Marcionites (at least up to Justin), Joshua/Jesus had neither childhood, parents, nor any adventure other than his descent into the darkness of matter and his ascension towards the Light. He appeared suddenly, without anyone knowing from whence he came. He was a heavenly Adam and a Logos. Even the canonical gospel placed under the name of Mark didn’t know anything about baby Jesus and was content with the anecdotal staging of his wise remarks (logia) and his penitential message.

Like all Christians up to the 150s or 160s, Paul was a Gnostic. “In Pauline Christianity,” Maccoby writes, “the gnosis that the Savior bestows is nothing other than the knowledge of the saving power of his own sacrifice, which only has meaning if the initiate shares the mystical sacrificial experience.”[31]

The Greek text of the letters presented a good number of expressions that were used in Gnostic writings; the Latin and other translations took care to efface them. Speaking of the assault of the forces of evil against the Messiah, the Greek version literally said, “None of the archons of this eon (archton tou ainos toutou) knew it (his glory) because, if they had known it (gnosis), they would not have crucified the glorious Lord” (I Corinthians, 2:8). The Christ is a pneuma: “the Lord is the Spirit” (II Corinthians, 3, 17).

“If I live, it is no longer me who lives, it is the Christ who lives in me,” Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Galatians (2:10), but since Christ was a pneuma, Paul was a pneumaticos, a “Perfect One” possessed by the spirit that expressed itself in him. (Note that Paul’s conception of a pneumatic baptism was opposed to the baptism by water of the Elchasaites and Nazarenes.) And Leisegang remarks: “It is no longer he who lives but the Christ who lives in him, speaking through his mouth, becoming him. Such is the sense in which Simon [of Samaria] was aware of being the Great Power God.”[32]

Paul’s dualism was expressed by [the incompatibility he saw between] the path of Light and the path of Darkness, the internal man and the external man, and the struggle between the Christ and Belial, the leader of the ages. Nevertheless, no allusion to the two Gods put Jewish monotheism into question.

Moreover, Paul fought other Gnostics at Corinth – Nicolaites or Barbelites – who estimated that the ecstasy in which the pneuma or Holy Spirit revealed itself gave one the freedom to act according to one’s desires (I Corinthians, 6, 12, 15, 16). Once more, the choice between a daily practice governed by asceticism or one governed by hedonism determined the demarcation among the various Gnosticisms.

The Letter to the Colossians evoked the opposition of the Pauline current to a Hermeticist group that practiced the astral magic that amulets or abraxas carried. This epistle explicitly rejected the doctrine of the stoichea [first principles]. One had to renounce it to follow Christ, “because it is in him that the plerome [fullness] of the divinity truly resides,” and “we are enslaved to the elements of the world” (upo ta stoicheia tou cosmou). (Note that the theory of the stoicheia accorded the power to act upon the stars and the destinies of men to magical rites and incantations such as the “song of the seven planetary vowels.”)

On the other hand, the Letter to the Colossians alluded to a secret doctrine, secret in the sense that the gospels revealed apocrypha or hidden things. “I knew a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago – was it in my body? I do not know, was this outside my body? I do not know, only God knows –, this man was elevated to the third heaven [...] and heard the inexpressible words that no man is allowed to repeat” (II Corinthians, 12:2). Did not Valentinus – who around 140 left Egypt for Rome, where he knew and fought against Marcion – claim that, “through the intermediary of Theudas, one of the proper disciples of Paul, he himself had understood the secret teachings of Paul”?[33] Therefore Theudas was none other than Thomas, under whose name appeared the Logia of Jesus discovered at Nag-Hammadi. Note that the canonical gospel attributed to John was related to the Gnostic gospels via its vocabulary and ideas. Thus, the Christ existed en arche (at the beginning of the world); he was the Logos of God, the Zoe (the Life) and the Phos (the Light) that spread the pneuma (the Spirit) of life. This does not preclude a refusal of Samaritan gnosis, which was expressed by the interview between Jesus and a Samaritan woman to whom he explained that the salvation of the Samaritans came from Judea.

The Good News (the Gospel) of Paul constituted the only gospel to which Christians of all kinds referred until the Third Century. The Epistle attributed to Clement, which emanated from a Judeo-Christian milieu at the beginning of the Second Century, let it be understood that the Messiah whose return had been so often promised had still not yet come.

The Good News of Paul – should we not say the Good News of Marcion? – was that the Redeemer had in fact been manifested in a suffering Messiah. Not only had the Jews not recognized him [Jesus], but they put him to death, too.


[1] R. Eisenmann, Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumrans, Leiden, 1983.

[2] Ibid.

[3] J. Moreau, Les persécutions dans l’Empire romain, Brussels, 1964.

[4] J. Menard, “L’Evangile selon Thomas,” Nag-Hammadi Studies, Leiden, V, 1975.

[5] Ibid.; Grant. [Translator: text missing from original. The bibliography cites three works by M. Grant.].

[6] J. Doresse, L’Evangile selon Thomas, op. cit.

[7] Ibid., p. 88.

[8] Ibid., pp. 31-35.

[9] B. Dubourg, L’Invention de Jésus, op. cit., II, p. 354.

[10] O. Cullmann, op. cit., pp. 82 and 83.

[11] Ibid., p. 83.

[12] Cited by Maccoby, Paul et l’invention du christianisme, op. cit., p. 260. [Translator: I am not sure why this passage, just quoted within the long passage from Cullman, has been repeated.”]

[13] J.-M. Tosenstiehl, “Portrait de l’Antichrist,” in Pseudépographie, p. 59.

[14] Erbetta, Gli apocrifi.

[15] Cited by M. de Chambrun-Ruspoli, Le Retour du Phénix, op. cit., p. 165.

[16] P. Alfaric, Le probleme de Jésus, Paris, 1954, p. 21.

[17] B. Dubourg, op. cit., II, p. 149. [Translator: cf. Frederick Nietzsche’s definition of Socrates as “the one who doesn’t write” and Jacques Derrida’s comments on Socrates in The Post Card.]

[18] E. M. Smallwood, The Jews under Roman Rules, p. 234.

[19] G. Ory, Le Christ et Jésus, Bruxelles, 1968; Meeks, The First Urban Christians, London, 1983, p. 8.

[20] K. Deschner, op. cit., III, p. 99.

[21] Translator: I am not sure why Vaneigem specifies that goyim had this meaning in “Medieval Hebrew,” when it seems that it had this meaning in Ancient Hebrew, as well. Note that in the first chapter of his book, he writes, “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].”

[22] B. Dubourg, op. cit.

[23] K. Deschner, op. cit., III, p. 99.

[24] Ibid., pp. 100 and 101.

[25] Ibid., p. 102.

[26] Erbetta, op. cit.

[27] Translator: the original French text says, Dauber sur quelques faux outranciers, which creates a bit of a problem: Dauber is not a word in French and Dauber is not the name of a scholar, researcher or writer (at least the name is not mentioned in the book’s index or bibliographer). And so I have treated it as a typo and translated the sentence so that it fits the meaning of the paragraph in which it appears.

[28] M. O’Connor, o.p., Truth: Paul and Qumran. Studies in New Testament Exegesis, London-Dublin-Melbourne, 1968.

[29] A. Dupont-Sommer, Les écrits esséniens. . . , op. cit., pp. 378 and 379.

[30] O. Cullmann, op. cit., p. 85.

[31] Maccoby, op. cit.

[32] Leisegang, p. 74.

[33] E. Pagels, Gnostic Gospels, New York, 1981.


(Published by Fayard in 1993. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2013. All footnotes by the author, except where noted. There was an obvious error in the original: 31 footnotes embedded in the text, but 33 footnotes at the end of it. Now fixed, the error was caused by the footnotes formerly numbered 19 and 20, which should have been combined into one, and the footnote formerly numbered 29, which was perhaps included by mistake.)



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