Resistance to Christianity

Chapter 8: Three Esseno-Christian Christs: Seth, Melchizedek, and Joshua/Jesus


The diverse sects of the movement that was given the general name of Essenism inscribed at the top rank of their preoccupations, which were conferred a dramatic reality by the Zealot movement, the question of the Messiah, the envoy in whom God would confide the care of leading the people towards a promised new earth.

Due to their collaboration with the [Roman] occupiers, the Pharisees condemned Messianic speculations, and in particular those that, hoping for the reincarnation of Adam or one of his sons, claimed that the first man was a partner of God and took part in the creation of the world. For them, no Messiah infatuated with some kind of power could arrogate to himself any right or function exclusively reserved for Adonai, the Savior, the Creator. Adam chose evil and the Pharisees stigmatized as minim (Gnostics) those who affirmed that Adam repented, chose God and was saved, as the Epistula apostolorum claims. (“There existed Jewish traditions about Adam that represented him as the Vice-Regent of God, established like a king in a sphere above the world from which he imposed his domination on the entirety of creation. Several rabbis perceived the danger of contradiction and attempted to check the most perilous of these positions.”[1] Soon there was a struggle between rabbis and groups that claimed to valorize Adam as the essence of the Messiah, nay, even as the Father of the Messiah who was called the Son of Man.)

Many Essene factions supported the thesis of Adam seated at God’s right hand, redeemer of the human being and, at the same time, the Co-Regent of God, which was a proposition that was inadmissible to Yahwehist monotheism, but that shows through in certain letters [claimed to be] by Saul/Paul.

The Letter to the Colossians (1:15) makes the Christ a pre-existing agent of God in the creation. “The Messiah is called ‘Image of God’ and ‘The Head of the Body,’ which originally signified the entire universe (the ‘Church’ is almost surely an addition designed to destroy the parallelism between the hymn and the current cosmic vision).”[2] (This is an example of one of the many falsifications of the letters of Saul/Paul by his copyists and translators. They were intended to make the reader forget that Saul had belonged to Jewish Gnosticism.)

Nevertheless, the name of the Messiah varied according to the sect; therefore the name was precisely what conferred power to the community or Church. A fragment from an apocryphal Book of Daniel discovered at Qumran insists on the expectation of a savior delegated by God and carrying the Name: “He will be called the Son of the Great God and by his Name he will be named. He will be greeted as the Son of God, one will call him the Son of the Most-High.”[3]

The quarrel about the secret name of the Son of God: was it Adam reincarnated or the son of Adam, the Son of Man? The Testament of Abraham, a text of Jewish origin from the First Century before the Christian era, describes Adam crowned in the heavens. Such was also the vision of Saul/Paul in the second Letter to the Corinthians (22-23), which evoked the presence of Adam in Paradise or the third heaven.

The Apocalypse of Adam, another text of Judaic origin from the First Century, discovered at Nag-Hammadi (Nag-Hammadi Library V), contained the revelation of the future destiny of the Adamites, offered by Adam to his son, Seth.

For Fossum, “Adam was the first manifestation of the True Prophet.”[4] Adam possessed the spirit of God, which brought knowledge (gnosis) of all things, past and future (Homilies of Peter, III, 17). The cycle of legends concerning Adam constituted the axis of Jewish speculations that turned around the nature of the Messiah. It originally explained the theme of the descent and ascension of the savior.[5]

According to the Poimandres, the heavenly Adam was made in the form and image of God, a formulation that Saul/Paul took up when he assured [his followers] that Jesus was a form of God.[6]


The Messiah Seth

The new Adam and Son of Man that the Ebionites and Nazarenes would christen Joshua, was, for some Essenes, the third son of Adam, Seth. The important Sethian literature discovered at Nag-Hammadi proves that the vogue for religious syncretism didn’t hesitate to absorb the doctrines of other sects, such as those of the Naassenes (some Sethians estimated that the savior had deceived the creator by assuming the form of a serpent), the Cainites, for whom Seth was Adam’s brother, and the sectarians attached to Joshua (the Gospel of the Egyptians expresses the equivalence between Seth and Joshua/Jesus). (The collection at Nag-Hammadi includes a great number of Sethian works, sometimes indistinct from each other, due to the successive syncretic waves of works by Naassenes, Barbelites and Joshua/Jesus-Christians: the Three Pillars of Seth, the Epistle from Eugnosta (which became Sophia Jesus), and the Paraphrase of Sem (Seth), in which the mediating Spirit intervenes in the primordial struggle between Light and Darkness.)[7]

Seth was born to Adam and the Virgin Eve. Their descendants were the “spiritual,” “pneumatic” or “perfect” Sons of the Light, who extolled asceticism and the stimulation [l’exacerbation] of the spirit at the expense of the body.

According to Sethian mythology – at least as one is able to discern it in the writings at Nag-Hammadi – Ialdabaoth (the God of Genesis) created a bad world. Nevertheless, in the man that he produced was perpetuated a heavenly spark that, aspiring to return to the superior places from which it had come, showed the road to salvation. Like Sophia, Barbelo and Naas, Seth was the Messiah of the Good God, superior to Ialdabaoth.

The Sethians divided history into four periods: the age of Adam, the age of Seth, the age of the first Sethians, and the present, in which the Sethians prepared for the return of their Messiah. After the end of time, the faithful, the Sons of the Light, would enter a pleroma [a fullness] superior to the places created by the Demiurge. Because “their kingdom isn’t of this world.” Come from elsewhere, “non-natives,” as they would say, they would return to the side of the Father in a universe illuminated by four entities: Harmozel, Oroiael, Daveithai and Eleleth (in the same way that the Judeo-Christians selected four angels, Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Oriel, and that the Catholics would place the four canonical gospels under four symbols that doubled the names Mark, Matthew, Luke and John: the eagle, the lion, the bull and the man).

The Messiah Seth announced the return to the “other world.” The race of Seth, Puech says of Seth’s sons and their descendents, is “another” race, a foreign or strange race in the strong senses of these terms.[8] (Strounsa thinks that the famous Elisha ben Abuyah – who was condemned by Jewish orthodoxy at the beginning of the Second Century because he rejected the Talmud and therefore became aher, “other,” a “stranger/foreigner,” “non-native” – was a member of the Sethians.[9] Sperma eteron translates zera aher.) This idea was shared by other Christian sects, including those devoted to Joshua/Jesus, whose adepts, to the great scandal of the Greeks and Romans – for whom all of the religions assumed their meaning in the citizen-cult of the State – displayed the greatest scorn for death and punishment because they were assured of re-joining the true kingdom of light (and such was still the profession of faith of Justin the Apologist, condemned to death around 165).

The Elenchos quoted from extracts from a Sethian cosmogony in which (as among the Naassenes) one can perceive a religious recuperation of Simon of Samaria’s attempt to return the mythological inspiration of the Pentateuch to the human body. Here the cosmos was in the image of the belly of a pregnant woman.

“In the womb, the innumerable imprints gave birth to the infinite multitudes of living beings. This infinite variety that bloomed in the form of different beings born under the heavens was inseminated by the odorous effluvium of the Pneuma that came from on high with its light and was mixed in. From the water surged a first-born principle, a powerful wind, impetuous, the first cause of all existence, because the wind makes the waters boil and raises them up in waves. Therefore the formation of the waves resembled the effort of the womb to deliver itself from man or the spirit as soon as it was excited and heated by the shock of the Pneuma.

Note that, in a process inverse to that of Simon and his cosmo-somatism, the sperma (sperm) becomes pneuma (spirit); the coupling of man and woman that creates the world gives way to religious allegory, to spiritualization. The Sethians called themselves Pneumatics in opposition to the Hylics, the sons of Cain, and the Psychics, the sons of Abel.

“When this wave raised by the wind was elevated above the waters, it conceived and, conforming to its nature, received the fruit of the woman; it retained the light disseminated from on high with the odorous effluvium of the Pneuma, that is to say, the Spirit in the various forms that are the Perfect God, descended from on high, from the Light and the Pneuma unbegotten in human nature as in a temple, born from water by the impulse of nature and the movement of the wind, combined and mixed with the body, as salt impregnates things and the light impregnates darkness, aspiring to be free from the body [that is] without the ability to find salvation or issue. Because what had been mixed in was only a very small spark, a kind of fragment separated from the luminous radiance that was introduced into the corporeal world in multiple forms and that ‘retained the depths of the great waters’ (Psalm 29:3), as the Psalm says. The light from on high thus had only a thought and a care: how the Spirit was to be delivered from a shameful death and the dark body, delivered from his father below, the wind that raised the waves in unleashed whirlwinds and engendered the Spirit, his perfect Son but of a difference essence. Because it was a ray of this perfect light descended from on high, imprisoned in the dark waters, frightening, bitter and impure; it was the luminous Pneuma that was carried above the waters (Genesis, 1:2). Thus, when the raised waves of water conceived the fruit of the woman, they retained in all sorts of forms – as does the belly of a pregnant woman – the disseminated light, as one sees among all living beings. The impetuous and terrible wind rerouted its whirlwinds like a serpent, a winged serpent.”

Note that the winged serpents are the seraphim (seraphs). As among certain Naassenes of the ascetic tendency, the Redeeming Serpent was opposed to the Serpent of Lust. Here the womb was impure, which was the inverse of the Simonian conception.

“This it is through this wind, that is to say, through the serpent, that creation began in the manner described, all things having begun their generation at the same time. Thus, when the Light and the Pneuma were received in the chaotic and impure womb, source of corruption, the serpent, the wind of darkness, the First-Born of the waters penetrated it and engendered man, and the impure womb neither loved nor knew another form. The Logos from on high issued from the Light, being similar to the serpent, deceived it by this resemblance and penetrated into the impure womb in order to break the bonds that enclosed the Perfect Spirit that had been engendered by the First-Born of the water, the serpent, the wind, the beast, in the impure womb. Such was the slavish form; such was the necessity that obliged the Logos of God to descend into the heart [or womb] [sein] of a virgin. But it did not suffice that the Perfect Man, the Logos, had penetrated into the heart [or womb] [sein] of a virgin and appeased in the darkness the pains of childbirth. After he entered into the shameful mysteries of the womb, he washed and drank from the gushing, living water that must exhaust anyone who wants to divest himself of the slavish form and assume the heavenly garment” (Elenchos, V, 19-22).

It would suffice for the sects devoted to Joshua/Jesus to translate this myth into a legend of virginal birth, embellished as a familial saga. Likewise, the triad Light, Pneuma and Darkness, alias the Father, the Mother (or the feminine Spirit, the Sophia/Wisdom) and the Son, would engender future Arian and Catholic speculations on the Trinity.

The library of Nag-Hammadi contains a Sethian text, titled the Epistle of Eugnosta, which clearly expressed the ideas that the Joshua/Jesus sects of the Second and Third Centuries would not have any scruples about exploiting and recuperating in the name of their mythic hero.

“In the Infinite appeared the Father produced by himself; he produced an androgynous man, whose masculine name is lost to us, but whose feminine name is Sophia-Pansophos. The immortal man created a great eon with the gods and archangels: he is called: the God of Gods and the King of Kings; he is the Faith of the things who then produced themselves; he possessed an intelligence, an intention [ennoia], a thought . . . like the primordial being. This first heavenly man, united with his Sophia, produced an androgynous son; the son was the first engendering Father, the Son of Man, whom one also calls: Adam of the Light. He created in his turn an eon peopled by a multitude of angels that one names: the Ecclesia of the luminous saints. He united with his Sophia and produced a great androgynous light that is, in his masculine name, the Savior, the creator of all things, and, in his feminine name, Sophia, generator of all, whom one also calls Pistis.”[10]

To affirm that the Messianic sects had deformed the dogmatic message of Jesus and his apostles is to suppose that this orthodoxy had existed in the First Century, when in fact it was still in its infancy in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries. With a strange complacency with respect to ecclesial falsifications, many historians have preferred to ignore the stratification of successive syncretisms that – drawing upon the doctrines of the Sethians, Naassenes, Barbelites, Elchasaites, Nazarenes and others – ended up, under the name of Joshua, offering to the federated powers of the bishops a powerful shield and a universality that was required by their political projects of conquest and Empire.

The Epistle of Eugnosta was thus cut out, recomposed on the model of a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, and given the title Sophia of Jesus.[10] (The prologue to the Canonical Gospel attributed to John was also inspired by Sethian texts.)


The Messiah Melchizedek

The Epistle to the Hebrews, attributed to Saul/Paul by the Catholics, to Barnabas by Tertullian and to Apollos by Luther, linked the priesthood of the Messiah Joshua-Jesus to the priesthood of Melchizedek. According to Fitzmeyer, this epistle was addressed to the Essenes.[12]

Who was Melchizedek? For biblical mythology and orthodox Jews, he was a person of little importance, a priest-king of Salem (Jerusalem). Therefore Essenean texts treated him with veneration and credited him – as well as Adam and Seth (with whom he was sometimes confused) – with the vocation of Messiah.

Cave 11 at Qumran revealed a midrash in which Melchizedek was held as the announcer of the Good News (otherwise called the Gospels) and was none other than the Messiah through whom salvation would come.[13] Hero of the battle of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness, he vanquished Belial, the master of evil (“He who announces the Good News is the Messiah”).

Furthermore, Melchizedek came to be associated with Michael, the head of the angels. Other characteristics that completed the sketch of the figure of Archangel Michael would be of great consequence for Christo-angelology. One gave to Melchizedek the name “Michael” and it was to him that one connected Psalm 110: 1 and 4. He was invested with a cosmogonic function: he was the maintainer of the universe. According to Enoch, 69:14 sq: “God placed into the hands of Michael the Secret Name by which the heavens were suspended before the creation of the world and for eternity; the Name by which the earth was created upon the waters and by which the profound secrets of the mountains became the beautiful waters.”[14]

Moreover, the Zohar makes this precise: “Everywhere you find mentioned Michael, who was the first of the angels, the Shekhina is suggested.”[15] Therefore, the Shekhina (or Achamoth) is none other than the Spirit, feminine in Hebrew, figured under the traits of Sophia, Mariamne, Miriam and Mary.

The Book of Enoch, which were dear to the Essenes, called Melchizedek the Son of Man, in accordance with the Book of Daniel, which was adopted by the sects devoted to Joshua/Jesus to describe their Messiah.[16]

Spanning from the Second Century before the Christian era to the First Century that inaugurated it, the text of Enoch existed in three manuscript versions in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries: Greek, Ethiopian and Slavic. One can distinguish an orthodox Jewish redaction in which YHWH mercilessly punished the two hundred watchers or Egregores, and an Esseno-Christian redaction in which God, having judged their fault to be pardonable, reconciled himself with them, a softening that – like the salvation accorded to Adam and the Serpent by the Sethians and Naassenes – suggested the appearance of a God of kindness who opposed his mercy to the intransigence of the God of Israel.

The miraculous birth of Melchizedek in Enoch foreshadowed that of Joshua-Jesus: without the intervention of a carnal father, he was engendered by a woman (the Spirit, the Shekhina/Achamoth/Sophia, Mariamne/Miriam and, much later, the Virgin Mary). Following the Epistle to the Hebrews (7:16), the Messiah endowed with the name Jesus “was not made according to the law of carnal order.”

Finally, Melchizedek, whose name [as we have seen] contained an allusion to justice (tsedeq), participated in the Essene thematic of the Master of Justice. The Testament of Levy said: “And then the Savior will raise up a New Priest to whom all the words of the Savior will be revealed, and he will exercise a judgment of truth on the earth during a multitude of days.”

A manuscript from Nag-Hammadi pushed this identification much further: it evoked heavenly messengers who assigned to Melchizedek his future role as great-priest and predicted for him the destiny of a Messiah condemned to undergo torments so as to triumph over death.

At the end of the Second Century, the devotees of Melchizedek would disapprove of Theodote Trapezetes, with whom they nevertheless shared the belief in an angel-messiah, an angelos-christos. They estimated that it was Melchizedek and not Joshua-Jesus who was the superior angel. The quarrel would reappear in the Fourth Century with Arius, who, far from being an innovator, remained loyal to the old angel-Christology, which was permitted by the ensemble of the Christian sects until the second half of the Second Century.

Werner showed that Arius interpreted the Epistle to the Hebrews as proof of angel-Christology (Jesus as angel of the Savior) and was inspired by the argumentation of the followers of Melchizedek who, drawing from the same Epistle, reached the conclusion that the Christ, as far as his essence and rank, was not above but below the heavenly angel Melchizedek.[17]


Joshua/Jesus, Unknown Prophet and Syncretic Messiah

The creature whose crucified body and spirit of sacrifice have dominated two thousand years of an inhuman civilization pushed abstinence and abnegation so completely that he left no traces of his own passage through history.

Neither historians, philosophers, authors, nor polygraphs – no one in the First Century ever heard the hero of the evangelic novels speak. Pliny the Elder (instructed in the existence of the Nazarenes, nevertheless), Justus of Tiberias, Juvenal, Martial, Dio Chrysostom, Philo of Alexandria, Petronius – all knew nothing of him.

Flavius Joseph, an attentive observer of a war of the Jews in which he collaborated with the Romans, mentioned Theudas, James and Simon, the son of Judah of Gamala. But the least echo of the exemplary gesture of a New Joshua, named “Jesus” by the Greeks, never reached him, except through the intervention of a copyist who, to a Slavic version [of Joseph’s text] from the Twelfth Century, added information about Jesus, the absence of which struck him as inadmissible to a contemporary historian. The patriarch of Constantinople, Photios, showed more honesty, if not naivety, in this regard. Commenting on a copy of the Chronicles of the Kings of the Jews, credited to Justus of Tiberias (he possessed the manuscript, which has since disappeared), Photios – in his Myriobyblion (108), a collection of analyses of 279 different texts read by him – was indignant about the silence concerning Jesus by an author who had lived several kilometers from Capernaum, a city that was famous in the sacred geography of the Church.[18]

The Qumran manuscripts spoke of Seth, Melchizedek, the Master of Justice. They said nothing about Jesus, unless “Jesus” was a kind of identikit of the Messiah and a text plagiarized by The Sermon on the Mount.

In the Letter attributed to Barnabas, a Judeo-Christian text from end of the First Century or the beginning of the Second Century that advocated the abandonment of Mosaic law, not only in the spirit, but in its letter (circumcision of the heart must replace circumcision of the sexual organ), Jesus was none other than Joshua, the son of Noun. Around 230-250, Origen, in his sermon on Joshua/Jesus, celebrated the timeless and exemplary glory of the biblical Joshua whom he called Jesus.

In 135 (and not between 80 and 90), the Phariseean convention condemned the heresy of the noisrim or Nazarenes, but knew nothing of a community leader named Jesus.

One must wait until the beginning of the Second Century to find an allusion to the chrestianoi, otherwise known as the followers of the Messiah (Chrestos or Christos translates the Hebrew word Messiah). Around 111, a letter from Pliny to Trajan asked the Emperor about the fate reserved for the chrestianoi – in all probability, the Elchasites – who “assemble before the dawn to sing hymns to the Messiah as if to a God” (Christo quasi Deo).

In the same epoch, Tacitus’ Annals and, a little later, Suetonius, did not speak of Jesus but of Chrestos, the cause of agitation under Nero. Therefore, there existed at the same time a quite historical Chrestos who preoccupied Emperor Hadrian and aroused the disapproval of Greco-Roman public opinion: the nationalist Messiah Bar Kokhba, hero of the last insurrection of the Jewish people.

Tacitus and Suetonius were not unaware that the Rome of Claudius and Nero had repressed many agitations of Jewish Messianism conducted by the Zealot movement. The Elchasite behavior described by Pliny in his letter to Trajan, towards which he was lenient, did not justify the repulsion felt by Tacitus and Suetonius: their insulting commentaries were much more inspired by insults addressed to the Jewish religion and the contemporaneous rise of anti-Semitism.

Around 160, the Christ or Messiah of a Christian such as Justin the Apologist was not a historical individual. He was a God incarnated in the form of a man, martyred on earth and returned to the divine essence of which he was the emanation (this was the doctrine of the angelos-christos that Catholicism would condemn much later under the name Docetism). The irony was that the conjecture about a prophet born from a man and a woman [originally] emanated from a Jew. Justin reported in his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho:

“Those who affirm that the Christ was a man, and that he was anointed and became the Christ by election, seem to me much closer to the truth than your doctrine. Because we Jews expect the Christ as a man born from a man, and Eli will come to anoint him when he has come. But if the one of whom you speak claimed to be the Christ, one must conclude that he was a man born from a man. Yet, since Eli did not come to anoint him, I do not believe that he was the Christ.”[19]

(Note that Marthe de Chambrun-Ruspoli, who quoted Justin, added: “It is perhaps in response to this argument that we read in the Gospels that Eli returned in the person of John the Baptist.”[20])

And Trypho also objected: “You Christians follow vain rumors; you have invented a Christ for whom you unwisely sacrifice your lives.”[21]

How can the historians be so little attached to the testimony of attested facts that they have accredited the Catholic and Roman fable of a historical Jesus, whereas for Justin (a Saint and martyr, according to the Church) he was still an angelos-christos, and while Jesus possessed neither family nor history in the letters of Saul/Paul, whom Marcion was the first one to mention?

In a challenge to the forgeries by Eusebius of Caesarea and “the Church Fathers,” the Emperor Julian, who in 350 or so wrote his Against the Galileans (as a precaution, it was later destroyed, except for several quotations), found himself justified in stating: “If you can show me that one of these men is mentioned by the well-known writers of the epoch – these events [supposedly] took place under Tiberias and Claudius – then you would be right to consider me to be a perfect liar.”[22] Obviously, Julian did not belong to the long line of liars.

On the other hand, in the Fourth Century, Jerome – a saint according to the Church – exposed the truth by disseminating the letters that Seneca exchanged with Paul, proving that the author of the epistles (like the adventures imagined by the Acts of the Apostles) had an historical and dogmatic existence well before Marcion’s discovery of it. (The question of the Gospels that, canonical or apocryphal, were only Kultlegende [German for “cult legends”] to Soden[23] will be examined later in this book.)

Today, everything takes place as if the historians, finally perceiving the enormity of the official lie, are now devoted to evoking a plausible, historical Jesus, despite the first two centuries in which he played [the role of] angel-Messiah: a spark imprisoned in a body freed itself from death and returned to God. Not ignoring the character of the “pious fables” (cf. Loisy, Bultmann, Guillermin and Schweitzer) of the anecdotes that exoterically translated the elements of the myth, these historians draw from New Testament – the texts of which were revised as late as the Fourth Century – information that was coupled with events from the very first decade of the First Century. Brandon thus advances the idea that Jesus was a Zealot, crucified between two lestoi or brigands, which was the term Joseph [Flavius] used to describe the anti-Roman guerrillas.[24] In order to win the good graces of Rome, the Pauline school made a pacifist of the martyr who crucified by the Jews, not by the Romans. As for Robert Amberlain, who bases himself on the crucifixions of James and Simon (the sons of Judah of Gamala), he infers that Jesus was their father and also a Zealot.[25]


Elements of a Forgery

The 70-odd canonical and apocryphal scriptures elaborated for the greater glory of the Messiah Jesus illustrated in an exemplary manner a remark by Robert Graves: “Almost all [of them] were explanations of ritual or religious theory, overlaid with history: a body of instruction corresponding with the Hebrew Scriptures and having many elements in common with them.”[26]

Such a large number of elements entered into the fabrication of a historical Jesus that accounting for them all would require several volumes and a quantity of energy that, for my part, I would prefer to invest in more passionate matters. Thus I will content myself with recalling the most obvious.

The only Jesus known in the First Century was the biblical Joshua, son of Noun, and Jesus ben Sirach, whose name appears in a book of wisdom.

The myth of Joshua carried a double eschatology: a national salvation recalled by the River Jordan, beyond which the successor of Moses led his people, and a universal salvation, because the crossing of the heavenly river, or the baptismal immersion in its waters, was accomplished without encountering any opposition from the kingdom of the Father. The syncretism born from the Zealot opposition to the Roman occupiers did not fail to found the preoccupations of the Zealots, Essenes, and Nazarenes in a universal eschatology. The reincarnation of the Tsedeq, the Just One martyred around 63 [B.C.E.], was revived in the crucifixion of James and Simon of Gamala, brothers or witnesses of God according to a midrashic expression reprised by the Apocalypse attributed to John.

In Revolution in Judea [English in original], Maccoby supposes that Barabbas and Jesus were actually one person: the first of the two, put to death as a “bandit,” was a political symbol of the second. For myself, I am inclined to approach the meanings of the two names: Bar Abbas, Son of the Father, and Joshua/Jesus, “God saved, saves, will save.” Especially so, since an Naassene sect clearly evoked the trinity of Kalakau or Adam, the man from on high; Saulassau, the mortal man from below; and Zeesai, the Jordan that flows towards the high and that Adam deposed through the terrestrial suffering that was overcome in order to return to the Father.

It was still Joshua, the Jordan and the soul imprisoned in matter that was described by a Naassene hymn transcribed in the Elenchos:

Jesus said: regard the Father,
Pursued by evil on the earth,
Far from your breath, the earth truly wanders:
It looks to flee from bitter chaos,
and it does not know how to cross it.

At the instigation of Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage who died in 258, the Catholics called the Ecclesiasticus liber (or the Ecclesiastic) by the name Sophia Iesou uiou Sirach (the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach), the last book of wisdom to figure in the Bible of the Seventy. Written on the eve of the Maccabees’ uprising, this work enjoyed a great reputation among the Zealots.

“Whoever seizes the Law receives Wisdom.” And this “comes before him like a mother; like a virgin wife, she welcomes it; she nourishes it with the bread of prudence, she gives it the water of wisdom to drink.” As in all the Gnostic and Christian developments, this Sophia, who was simultaneously mother, wife and virgin, ruled at the side of God and communicated her knowledge (her gnosis) to the Sons of Israel so that they could be saved. But her remarks encompassed more than just the Hebrew people. She meant to found an alliance in which God encountered Israel in order to promote the order that would permit all of humanity to accede to salvation.

Thus the Essenean sects referred to a New Alliance (Novum Testamentum in Latin), the universal message of which the Master of Justice would express through his return.

In his study of Lilith, Jacques Brill says, with pertinence, with respect to the Sophia Iesou uiou Sirach: “The author is represented in it as a child whose marvelous deeds and gestures illustrate wisdom, in the manner in which the deeds and gestures of Jesus are treated in the Gospels of Childhood.”[27]

The Virgin wife and mother, the child nourished by divine wisdom – did not they offer to prophetic imaginations and commentators on community rules enough elements for an anecdotal staging that would facilitate access to simple souls? The clumsy and confused didactics of the Hebrew and Aramaic midrashim easily found among Greek authors the novelistic form that pleased the people. The Homilies of Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Acts, and the apocryphal and canonical gospels were [all] literary fictions with apologetic pretensions.

Before the [creation of the] staging and imagery that illustrated [certain] allegories and symbols, there might have existed other compilations of wisdom that continued [the saga of] Jesus ben Sirach. This was the case with a work discovered at Nag-Hammadi: The Hidden Words that Jesus the Living Said and Were Transcribed by Judas Didymus Thomas, which the Catholics later called the Gospel of Thomas.[28]

The idea of Jesus developed from a tradition of wisdom that had opportunely given the angel-Messiah a doubled human [and divine] nature. Here was sketched out the figure of the insurgent, the audacious thinker and the philosopher proffering the truths of biblical morality, with which Jewish orthodoxy, ensconced in its sacerdotal rituals, did so little. The Sophia that was dispensed under his name served as a guide for the leaders of the Nazarene and Ebionite communities; it also brought to them the authority of the master who rained down upon his disciples, witnesses, and brothers in spirit.

Other compilations of wise remarks made by Jesus ben Sirach had been disseminated ever since the Second Century, when Basilides stated he’d affirmed received from Matthew the secret doctrines of the Savior – the name Jesus being confounded with the saving role of the Sophia-Spirit. There existed under the name Matthew, alias Levy, an apocryphal gospel and a gospel revised according to the Catholic canon.

The hypothetical conjunction of a sage born from the book of Jesus ben Sirach and from the angelos-christos named Jesus is confirmed when one finds out that, around 100-110, the Christian Gnostic Satornilus of Antiochus, who was the first to found his doctrine on the name of Jesus, established a distinction between a just and wise man named Iesou, on the one hand, and the Messiah or Christos, the intelligence of the transcendent God that united with him when he became an adult, on the other other.


To the warrior Joshua, who prophesized the reconquest of Palestine, was added Joshua the Sage, who summoned men to the incarnation of the Sophia-Spirit that would conduct them to salvation. And to that amalgam was added the Adamic Joshua, the double of Melchizedek/Michael.

“From the start, the entire trajectory of Joshua/Jesus rests upon the Christianity of resurrection and salvation,” Dubourg writes.[29]

The Gospel of the Ebionites spoke of the final union of the Holy Spirit (the Sophia) with Jesus, the last of the prophets. And, according to the Gospel of the Hebrews: “The Holy Spirit says that it was lodged in all of the prophets, [finally] taking its repose in Jesus.” At the end of the First Century, the Ebionites, Cerinthians, and Nazarenes managed to impose a syncretic and prestigious name of such a nature to put an end to the quarrels over Messiahs in which were mixed NHS the Serpent, Barbelo the Essential Woman, Sophia, Seth, and Melchizedek the Master of Justice (sometimes symbolized by another sign of Messianic rallying, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet WAW).[30] (Hermetic thought and magical practices were manifested in a number of sects in which abounded talismans and abraxas [stones] engraved with signs of power – IAW, WAW, WW, the sign W transcribing the omega and the litany of the seven vowels. Jung was able to identify Jesus with lapis, “stone,” in latter-day alchemical texts.)

After the collapse of Palestine in 70, the warrior Joshua ceded place to his divine transcendence, to his spiritual alter ego. Having lost the war, he propagated in hearts a message of hope that was less contingent, more generously universal and prudently timeless: “God saved, saves, will save.” The meaning of the Name left no doubt.

“Jesus, whose name is also the Savior,” Ptolemy writes, “or even, according to his Father, Christ and Logos; or even the All, because he proceeded from all.”[31]

Even the canonical Gospel placed under the name of Matthew did not dream of hiding it: “You will give to him the name of Jesus because he will save” (Gospel attributed to Matthew, 1:21).

Up to the end of the Second Century, nay, beyond, this Joshua/Jesus was nothing other than the Spirit-Sophia of God incarnated in the suffering of terrestrial existence, overwhelmed by death, resurrected, and returned to the place of his divine origin.

For Justin the Apologist, the Christ was identified with the Sophia or the Logos described by Philo of Alexandria: “God engendered from himself a form of power and a rational beginning, before all his works, who he also called the Holy Spirit, the glory of the Savior and, at other times, the Son or sometimes Wisdom or the Angel of God or the Savior or Logos. He sometimes calls himself ‘commander in chief’ when he appears under the human form of Joshua, the Son of Noun.”[32]

In the Second Century, the Christian Jew Aristo of Pella erected the messiah with the divine name as the co-creator [of the universe]. His Dialogue of Jason and Papiscos, cited by Origen (Contra Celsum, IV, 52), stated that the first verse of Genesis had to be read In filio Deus facit coelum et terram (“God made the heavens and the earth in the person of his Son”).

Even the canonical [Gospel attributed to] Matthew, despite being purged more than once of its Judeo-Christian and Gnostic residues, conserved the idea of a Son of Man who co-created the world with God: “The Son of Man will arrive in his glory, accompanied by all the angels, and he will sit with majesty upon his throne with all the nations united before him” (Gospel attributed to Matthew, 25:31-32). We still cite the Jewish liturgical fragments of the Constitution of the Apostles, in which the Savior was simultaneously the Son, Sophia, Logos, Great Priest and Angel of the Great Council.

Henri Corbin[33] writes:

“It is anthology of christos-angelos that requires reproduction here. In general, the question is so rarely present in the minds of our contemporaries that we, at least, must choose a few references concerning the broad traits. There is the Christology of the Judeo-Christians and the Ebionites, for whom the Christos that descended upon Jesus at the moment of baptism in the Jordan was one of the Archangels, who had power over the [other] angels and the creation in general, and who was the lord of the future Aion, as Satan was the lord of the current Aion. There were the Elchesaites (issued from the preceding sects), for whom the Christos appeared as an angel of immense stature and masculine sex, and revealed the Book to the founder of the sect, and who was accompanied by a feminine angel, his sister, who was the holy Angel-Spirit (ruah is feminine in [the] Semitic [languages]). Among the Valentinians, the Christos was an angel from the pleroma. In the Gnostic book of the Pistis Sophia and in the “Books of Joy,” there was a Christos-Gabriel. And there was the Shepherd of Hermas, which belonged to Judeo-Christian literature, and in which the figure of the Archangel or, better said, the figure of the Christos-Michael was the dominant figure. In a very old treatise titled Of the Triple Fruit of the Christian Life, the Christos was one of the seven archangels created from the fire of the seven evangelic princes (ex igne principum septem). In the Book of the Ascension of Isaiah, there was the Angelos-Christos and the holy Angel Spirit.”

A multiform Joshua, a son of the Virgin Sophia, a Logos, an angelos-christos, an author of wise remarks, an Adam who was the co-creator of the world – the Messiah was all this, except the son of Joseph and Mary who was born in Bethlehem, preached the Good News, healed the paralytics, helped the widows and the orphans, and succumbed to the wickedness of the Jews for preferring humankind to Israel.

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church would describe as a “heretical perversion” the Christian vision that served as the basis for the instauration of its temporal and spiritual Church.

It is true that there existed an ecclesial Christology that inspired the mysterious Saul/Paul and his school in order to ordain the political project of their Churches. There was a crucified person, the victim, not of the Jews, but the Judeans, quite dead in 63 [B.C.E.] – but time is nothing to history when it comes to mythical matters. He contrasted sharply with the disorder of the wandering prophets and their partisans. Was it not assured (Hymn XVIII, 14-15) that God gave him the mission of being, “according to his truth, the one who announces the Good News in the time of his goodness, evangelizing the humble people according to the abundance of His mercy (and watering them) from the source of holiness and consoling those who are contrite of spirit and afflicted”?

Whereas the “Songs of the Savior” from Isaiah declared:

The Spirit of the Lord YHWH is upon me,
because YHWH anointed me.
It is to announce the Good News to the humble people that he sent me,
To bandage those who have contrite hearts.[34]

And again, in the same text, there was this foreshadowing of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary:

YHWH called me from the womb;
From the loins of my mother he mentioned my name.

And his betrayal by some of his own disciples:

And the men of my Council being in revolt
and murmuring nearby
And the mystery that You have concealed in me,
They calumny among the sons of the unhappy.[35]

This Messiah was tailor-made for the men of power who were resolved to impose their authority on other communities, nay, to federate the Churches, by nourishing the dream of one day offering Rome a State religion. The true founders of the monarchal Churches would be Marcion and the “Paul” whose letters he exhibited. But Marcion discredited himself through a false maneuver. Blinded by his anti-Semitism, he rejected the Old Testament as a whole. He went even further: he ruined the very foundations of the temporal Church by imputing the creation of the world to a bloody and crazy God, to a Demiurge whose work reached such perversity that there was nothing more urgent than renouncing it by rejoicing in the beyond of a Good and Unknowable God.

The bishops of Smyrna, Carthage, Rome, Lyon, Antioch and Alexandria did not think that they could increase their control over the popular and aristocratic mindsets of the world if they professed a perfect disdain for terrestrial and corporeal matter. They invented a carnal Jesus, who had both of his feet on the earth, certainly assuming divine grace and invested with a saving role, but carrying himself like any other human creature. He would be a God who shared the common existence of the humble people, with their temptations and weaknesses. The popular Christianity of the New Prophecy greatly contributed to the painting of this portrait of the Savior.

A proletarian due to his father, a slightly silly carpenter, he could claim an incontestably divine ancestry due to his mother, Mary the Virgin, who was Sophia, Mariamne, while his divine parèdre [consort], Prunicos the prostitute, became Mary Magdalene.

Mary herself was not born yesterday. In The Return of the Phoenix, Marthe de Chambrun-Ruspoli noted that, according to the old Egyptian religion, “TUM, in his capacity as Creator, sent across the abyss the soul of his Son, the Word, whom he engendered by himself from his own substance. And he pronounced these words: ‘Is made flesh’ (text from the Merenra Pyramid, line 97, Editions Maspero). And the Spirit (Thoth), crossing the abyss to the earth, stopped before the sycamore at the feet of which NOUT, the Virgin, stood. He made the divine germ penetrate into her womb.”[36]

Alexandria and Upper Egypt was an old crucible for speculations on the female Spirit, much later made virile by an angel procreating the New Joshua.

Why was Jesus [supposedly] born in Bethlehem? Because the biblical text Micah (5:1) declared:

And you, Bethlehem, Ephrata,
Although you are small among the clans of Judah,
From you will come out, for me,
Those who will dominate Israel.

The cave and the date 25 December, borrowed from the mythology of Mithra, entered into the policy of recuperating the competing cults, whose references were Christianized.

Thus it went, from the borrowed symbolism of the bread and the wine to the rituals of Attis and the replacement of the Essenean Eucharistic banquet, in which sharing bread and water simply reestablished the commensality that united the members of the same community.

The Passion (from patiri, “to suffer”) drew its inspiration from the torments of the Servant of the Savior reported in the Book of Isaiah and brought up to date in the epic of the Master of Justice, a suffering and glorious Messiah.

Nazareth, a market town that did not exist before the Fourth Century, was anecdotally substituted for the term “Nazarene,” which designated the sect that had invented the syncretic doctrine of the Joshua-Savior. The mention of Nazareth in a text, apocryphal or canonical, clearly indicates that the revision dated from the era of Nicaea [325 C.E.], at the earliest.

The Messiah was killed on the Mount of Olives because Zacharias cited it as the place where the great miracle would be accomplished.[37]

The couple or syzygy of Mary and Mary Magdalene reproduced the doubling of the Virgin Sophia and the prostitute Prounikos, who was the former’s form after she had fallen and been imprisoned in matter. The miracles popularly attributed to Apollonius of Tyana enriched the imagery of the therapeutic Messiah, whose life achieved its end at thirty-three years, in perfect accord with the number that signified purification among the Jews.

The Third Century began to invent for Jesus a childhood in which his mother, Sophia-Mary, was endowed with a Morganatic husband. The idea of the cross came from a symbol in the works of Justin. In his Apology (60:5), he noted, “Plato [...] says of the Son of God that God extended him through the universe in the form of an X [...] He did not see that this sign was a cross.”

The instauration of a State religion in Nicaea in 325 ad majoram Dei gloriam[38] endowed the Truth with a dogma and an army finally determined to impose it on all of humanity. The Church, securing the vacillating powers of the emperors to its profit, extended itself into the territories where the pax romana had buried the local civilizations under the rockslide of its authority.

Orthodoxy invented a past for itself and, having choosen from among thinkers such as Paul, Justin, Clement and Irenaeus (whose works were purified and rewritten), condemned as heretical perversions the varieties of the Christianities that had preceded it and from which it had extracted the rudiments of its theology. The light of Jesus, his apostles and his faithful were thus condemned to the contempt and silence of the Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and atheist historians, all of whom fell to their knees before the testimony of the New Testament – the effervescence of three centuries, the amusing state of which Bernard Dubourg summarized thus:

“And all the Gnostics, who squabbled and gutted each other on occasion, were, like the primitive Christians, Jews or Samaritans; all of them, like the evangelists and the (pseudo-?) Paul who invented/discovered ‘Jesus/Joshua,’ sculpted narrative, visionary, allegorical and eschatological (but not historical!) monuments from piles; and all of them, with blows of midrash, polished these monuments upon the unique basis of the same and unique Hebrew Bible. So that they recognized it and knew it (as sacred): because long and hard would be the battle between (and within) the Gnostics, orthodox Samaritans, Phariseean Jews, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and primitive Christians with respect to the sacredness, one by one, of the books of the Bible. There would be brawls with respect to Ezekiel, Enoch, the Canticle of Canticles, etc. – brawls with respect to the beginning of the book of Genesis. And so many texts were discarded, excommunicated and buried in the genizoth (see the manuscripts of the Dead Sea).”[39]

[1] Fossum, op. cit., p. 297.

[2] Ibid., p. 307.

[3] J. A. Fitzmayer, “The Contribution of Qumran Aramaic to the Study of the New Testament,” New Testament Studies, 20, 1973-1974, p. 391.

[4] Fossum, op. cit., p. 290.

[5] Ibid., p. 312.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Nag-Hammadi, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, ed. Hedrick and Hodgson, 1988, pp. 55-86.

[8] C. Puech, Les Nouveaux Ecrits, p. 127; M. Tardieu, “Les livres mis sous le nom de Seth et les séthiens de l’hérésiologie,” Gnosis and Gnosticism, NHS 8, Leiden, 1977.

[9] G. Strounsa, “Aher, a Gnostic,” in Rediscovery of Gnosticism, II.

[10] J. Doresse, Les Livres secrets des gnostiques d’Egypt, p. 211. [Translator: cf. “Eugnostos the Blessed” in The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M. Robinson, revised edition: San Francisco, 1990: “Afterward another principle came from Immortal Man, who is called ‘Self-perfected Begetter.’ When he received the consent of his consort, Great Sophia, he revealed that first-begotten androgyne, who is called, ‘First-begotten Son of God.’ Now, first begotten, since he has his authority from his father, created angels, myriads with number, for retinue. The whole multitude of those angels are called ‘Assembly of the Holy Ones, the Shadowless Lights.’ Now when these greet each other, their embraces become like angels like themselves. First Begetter Father is called ‘Adam of the Light.’ And the kingdom of Son of Man is full of ineffable joy and unchanging jubilation, ever rejoicing in ineffable joy over their imperishable glory, which has never been heard nor has it been revealed to all the aeons that came to be and their worlds. The Son of Man consented with Sophia, his consort, and revealed a great androgynous Light. His masculine name is designated ‘Savior, Begetter of All things.’ His feminine name is designated ‘Sophia, All-Begettress.’ Some call her ‘Pistis.’”]

[11] Rediscovery of Gnosticism, op. cit., II, p. 656.

[12] J. A. Fitzmayer, p. 619.

[13] Revue de Qumran, VII, 1970, #27, pp. 343 sq.

[14] H. Corbin, “Necessité de l’angélologie,” in L’Ange et l’homme, Paris, 1978, p. 38.

[15] Ibid., p. 39.

[16] A. Vaillant, Les Livre des secrets d’ Henoch, Slavic text and French translation, Paris, 1976; M. A. Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, Oxford, 1976; R. H. Charles, The Book of Enoch, London, 1917.

[17] M. Warner, Die Entstehung des christlichen Dogmas problemgeschictlich dargesteullt, Berne and Tubingen, 1953, p. 344.

[18] I. Kryvelev, Le Christ: mythe ou réalité? Moscow, 1987.

[19] Justin, Dialogue avec le juif Tryphon, p. 49.

[20] M. de Chambrun-Ruspoli, Le Retour du Phénix, p. 69.

[21] Justin, op. cit., p. 48.

[22] P. de Labriole, La Réaction païenne. Etude sur la polémique antichrétienne du 1 au IV siècle, Paris, 1934, p. 19.

[23] H. von Soden, Christentum und Kultur in der geschictliche Entwicklung ihrer Beziehungen, 1933.

[24] Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, Manchester, 1967.

[25] R. Ambelain, Jésus ou le mortel secret des templiers, Paris, 1976.

[26] R. Graves, La Déesse blanche, op. cit., p. 66. [Translator: first published in English in 1948 as The White Goddess. Rather than translating the French translation back into English, we have quoted the original text.]

[27] J. Brill, Lilith, Paris, 1986.

[28] J. Doresse, L’Evangelie selon Thomas, Monaco, 1988.

[29] B. Dubourg, L’Invention du Jésus, op. cit., II, p. 264.

[30] A. Dupont-Sommer, La Doctrine secrete de la lettre WAW d’après une lamelle araméene inédite, Paris, 1961.

[31] Leisegang, La Gnose, op. cit., p. 212.

[32] Fossum, op. cit., p. 357.

[33] H. Corbin, op. cit., p. 41.

[34] A. Dupont-Sommer, Les écrits esséniens. . ., op. cit., p. 373.

[35] Cited by Laperrousaz, Les manuscrits de la mer Morte, Paris, 1961, p. 55.

[36] M. de Chambrun-Ruspoli, op. cit., p. 79.

[37] Maccoby, Paul et l’Invention du christianisme, p. 60.

[38] Translator: Latin for “for the greater glory of God.”

[39] B. Dubourg, op. cit., II, p. 46.


(Published by Fayard in 1993. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2013. All footnotes by the author, except where noted. Please note: we corrected a mistake: there were two footnotes marked #27 in the original, which threw off the numbering of the successive ones.)



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