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Jesus, We Hardly Know Ye

[1]5,383 words

Robert M. Price
Judaizing Jesus: How New Testament Scholars Created the Ecumenical Golem
Durham, N.C.: Pitchstone Publishing, 2021

“[The] Christian faith, sprung from the wisdom of India,[1] [2] overspreads the old trunk of rude Judaism, a tree of alien growth; the original form must in part remain, but it suffers a complete change and becomes full of life and truth, so that it appears to be the same tree, but is really another.” — Schopenhauer, “The Christian System”

Just in time for Halloween, Robert M. Price [3] — an Evangelical pastor turned skeptical academic who divides his time between the Christ Myth [4] and the Cthulhu Mythos [5] — turned his attention to one of the most frightening and dangerous myths of our time: the Ecumenical Golem.

In this book, Price takes aim at what he sees as a fashionable new paradigm rooted not in scholarship but a misguided attempt at “togetherness” and “dialogue”: the idea that Jesus should be understood as a Jew.[2] [6]

Price is not endorsing the idea, long favored by enthusiasts of all things Aryan, that Jesus was not ethnically Jewish;[3] [7] rather, he is examining the notion that the best way to understand the historical Jesus, or even find such a possible chimera, is to place him within the context of Second Temple Judaism: a wandering rabbi, a seditious Zealot, or a renegade Pharisee, etc.

[8]

You can buy James O’Meara’s book The Eldritch Evola here. [9]

The problem arises, ironically, from the “embarrassment of riches” presented by the evidence unearthed by several generations of New Testament scholars. Those who absorbed their ideas about Christianity from Pastor Flanders or Father O’Bubblegum[4] [10] — the folks ex-minster Price elsewhere calls, with perhaps some affection, “pew potatoes” — are likely unaware of how much “gospel data” there are, “pointing in so many directions and susceptible of many, diametrically different interpretations.” Lacking what Thomas Kuhn would call an agreed upon paradigm to evaluate them, even a supposed scholar’s choice is likely to conceal a theological agenda, either ecumenical or apologetical.[5] [11]

Price suspects that “much of the ‘Jewish Jesus’ or ‘Rabbi Jesus’ industry is manufacturing an ecumenically viable Jesus,[6] [12] an interfaith bargaining chip” for “theologically liberal scholars,” while conservative scholars try “to interpret the historical Jesus as far as possible in conventional Jewish categories”[7] [13] in order to ignore “distasteful influences on Christianity from Hellenistic Mystery Religions and Gnosticism,” so as to make Christianity “a direct product of supernatural revelation.”

Fortunately, Kuhn himself provides us with “something like objective criteria” to weigh the alternatives:

We ought to prefer any paradigm that makes the most sense of the data without resorting to ad hoc hypotheses (“epicycles”); a model that interprets the data in the most natural and inductive manner given the historical-cultural setting; a paradigm that has “predictive” value in providing a way to make sense of new questions and to unlock hitherto “anomalous data” in the sources.[8] [14]

Using these criteria, Price evaluates “the exegetical-evidential basis for today’s ‘Jewish Jesus’ models (there are more than one), analyzing the cases made by Geza Vermes, James H. Charlesworth, Richard A. Horsley, Bruce Chilton, Hyam Maccoby, Daniel Boyarin, and others, Christian and Jewish, conservative and liberal,” and exposing their often not very hidden agendas. He will then present “possible alternatives” to the Jewish Jesus paradigm, and finally consider a more fruitful approach to ecumenicalism.

I

The problem is that the “Judaic” materials in the Gospels are arguably late: that is, fictional sayings and situations added by later writers to “beef up” the historical trappings being added to a figure who, even if “real,” was largely unknown, especially to later Gentile converts, due to increasing distance in space, time, and culture.[9] [15] Local color, as the journalists say. The stories and parables are perhaps less evidence of Jesus disputing among his “fellow Pharisees” than Gentile ignorance of what rabbis would argue about or how they’d go about it.[10] [16]

In short, the whole “Rabbi Jesus” paradigm is just a vast exercise in begging the question.

The most amusing example is Sean Freyne, who tries to leverage what appears to have been extensive research into first-century Palestinian geology and ecology into an explanation of Jesus’ innovative teachings; he’s the Liet Kynes to Jesus as Paul (Atreides).[11] [17] Thus, when Jesus leaves John in the desert and enters the milk and honey land of Galilee, he is inspired to rework John’s teachings into a new, Heaven on Earth doctrine; kind of like “magic dirt.”[12] [18] “Jesus is Palestine,” sniffs Price, echoing Lovecraft’s “I am Providence [19].”

Price has a pleasing quality, here and throughout, of not only availing himself of the latest scholarship, but also drawing on the insights of earlier generations of Higher Critics, from Bultmann to Wrede, and all the way back to F. C. Bauer, whose work has not been refuted or superseded so much as memory-holed when troubling to current fads and fashions.

Price, given his mercurial nature, is not afraid to wade into the Augean stables of popularism — for example, he even devoted an entire book to deconstructing Bill O’Reilly’s evidence-free Killing Jesus — and here he concludes by examining the contribution of Shmuley (yes, Shmuley) Boteach (pronounced “Bo-tech,” like “Vo-Tech [20]”), who was briefly famous as Michael Jackson’s personal rabbi and moral advisor, which he parlayed into some neoconish books and periodic appearances on The Howard Stern Show. Surely the man Stern called “Jewy Jewstein” will provide some expert opinions on Jesus’ Jewishness; alas, the well is dry.

II

In Part Two, “The Four Living Creatures,”[13] [21] Price offers evidence for four — more plausible and interesting — alternatives. Here they are, with his typically irreverent tags:

1. “Ascended Archangel”

Prior to the “Deuteronomic Reforms” of the post-Babylonian Exile period, the Hebrews worships El Elyon, The Most High, and Yahweh was one of his sons, The Angel of the Lord. The stories of these various Sons (paralleled in various mythologies) were transferred to angels, kings, and heroes, all of whom suffer various deaths and rebirths:

The Christian Christology is based directly on the Sacred King mythology which was pre-Judaic, that is, part and parcel of that ancient Israelite religion which the Deuteronomists replaced by Judaism proper, but which continued flowing like hidden streams far(?) underground in popular belief, coming to the surface again in Gnosticism, Philonic speculation, Merkavah Mysticism — and the New Testament.

Some argue that Galatians 4:14 implies that Paul understood the pre-existent Christ not as God but as an angel (as did Justin Martyr and some other early Christians).[14] [22]

In this [paradigm], the halakhic, hair-splitting proto-rabbinical Jesus must be seen as an attempt, perhaps by Christian Pharisees, to remodel Jesus in a manner reminiscent of their predecessors, the Deuteronomists. It would be a Judaizing makeover.

Along the way, Price makes the interesting suggestion that the kenosis hymn (Philippians 2:6-11[15] [23]) is not (as traditionally interpreted) the story of Christ becoming the New Adam and refusing to make the same mistake as Adam, but an alternative account in which Adam himself does not make the mistake claimed in the Genesis version.

2. “Gnostic Redeemer”

The various Gnostic movements pre-date Christianity, and their myth of a “pre-cosmic attack of the evil Archons upon the Primal Man, which resulted in his stolen life-giving photons vivifying the inert mud-pie creations of the Demiurge,” followed by his resurrection, “leaving spiritual photons behind, embedded within the Gnostic illuminati” — the “Redeemed Redeemer”[16] [24] — is not only the basis of the Christian myth,[17] [25] but “seems to be a variant of the Vedic Purusha cosmogony [26], whereby the universe was the result of the celestial self-sacrifice of the gigantic Primal Man.”

The Gnostic version of the redeemer myth “clearly is based on the far more ancient Babylonian royal ideology represented in the Enuma Elish” (from which Price provides a handy excerpt). This “myth of primordial combat” was “eventually ‘updated’ and historicized into our familiar gospel drama of the ‘historical’ Jesus.”

Just as the death of the Man of Light, dismembered by the archons, gave life to the formerly inert human homunculi, so did Jesus, crucified by the Archons (1 Cor. 2:6-8) bring eternal life to all who believe in him.

3. “Cynical Sage”

[27]

You can buy James O’Meara’s The Homo and the Negro here [28].

Live like the birds and flowers! Hate your mother and father! Sell everything you have and give it away! Let your dead father’s corpse bury itself! Who cares if your food is kosher, you’ll just shit it into the latrine with everything else! Oddly enough, many of the most loved, most famous, and most controversial — indeed, just downright weird — sayings attributed to Jesus have clear, often word-for-word parallels in the legends of the Greek Cynics.

Price provides a dozen or so pages of such parallels, which advise us to “throw off the burdens of social respectability, family entanglements and soul-killing mundane work”:[18] [29]

Jesus said: “I say to you, love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.” Epictetus said: “A rather nice part of being a Cynic comes when you have to be beaten like an ass, and throughout the beating you have to love those who are beating you as though you were father or brother to them.” Diogenes said: “How shall I defend myself against my enemy? By being good and kind towards him.” Seneca said: “Someone gets angry with you. Challenge him with kindness in return. Enmity immediately tumbles away when one side lets it fall.”

The “anti-Semitic” idea that Jesus must have been an Aryan has at least this much to recommend it: “Jesus is said to have lived in Galilee, a marginally Jewish territory which had been heavily Hellenized. Nazareth was in the middle of a dozen Greek cities. If Jesus had not been familiar with Greek popular philosophy, it would be a surprise.” If Jesus wasn’t a Greek himself, he could still have been heavily influenced by “the Hellenistic ethos known to have prevailed in Galilee.” Or it could have been later followers who assumed Jesus must have held such views. Who knows? In any event, Jesus’ disputes with the Pharisees seem less like historically accurate rabbinical debates and more like the sophomoric interventions of an online troll who’s read too much about Diogenes.[19] [30]

4. “The Logos as Lotus”

Christianity and Essene monasticism originated as “indigenized” versions of Buddhism by Buddhist missionaries sent to Egypt and Syria by Emperor Asoka in the third century B.C.E.

I had vaguely thought that the “Jesus was a Buddhist/the Buddha” notion was a product of late nineteenth-century “Congress of Religions” enthusiasm, briefly revived by the hippies, but apparently it’s a hot topic again.

Scholars like Christian Lindtner and Michael Lockwood suggest that “Philo’s Egyptian ascetics, the Therapeutae, were Buddhist Theravadins,” and that “Simon Peter was the same as the Buddha’s favorite disciple Sariputtra.” But it goes beyond word-play; like Jesus the Cynic, damned if it doesn’t make sense of the most puzzling texts.

Luke’s birth narrative has elements recounted in the Buddhist story of the sage Asita. Likewise, Luke’s story of the Temptation is the only one that has Satan claim to be lord of this world, which matches the claims of Mara the Tempter. Walking on the water, and a disciple’s attempt to do as well but almost drowning due to a lack of enough faith? Buddhist tales as well. Even Bultmann said decades ago that the Samaritan Woman tale was likely borrowed from Buddhism:

“Sister,” [Ananda] said to her, “give me some water to drink. Prakriti replied, “I am a Chandala girl,[20] [31] revered Ananda.” “Sister, I did not ask about your family and your caste, but if you have any water left, give it to me and I will drink.”

But Buddha wasn’t crucified! Yes, but an ancestor, also named Gautama, was, complete with blood mixing with water (rain). Another story gives us the earthquakes, saints rising from their graves, curtains torn from top to bottom (okay, not “from bottom to top,” so there’s that). “What are the chances that all this is mere coincidence, outrageous as it must strike us, captive as we are to conventional assumptions?”

As with Jesus the Sage, Jesus might have been a Buddhist missionary himself, or a Jew influenced by them, or perhaps later disciples heard Buddhist tales and adapted them when looking for material to construct an account of Jesus.

And also as with Jesus the Sage, it can be remarkably enlightening (as it were) just to read the Gospels alongside Cynic anecdotes or Buddhist tales, in a method Alan Watts called “the Chinese box” and which I’ve used myself in other contexts.[21] [32] Even those who stubbornly (faithfully) insist on their real historical Christ Jesus will find it interesting (enlightening?) to compare some of their favorite NT passages with their Buddhist parallels: for example, that other Samaritan, The Good Samaritan:

But there is also the matter of the pious clerics’ indifference to a man’s suffering because they are preoccupied with the niceties of ritual purity, implied, as many think, in Luke but explicit here. The Buddhist version can almost count as confirmation of that particular reading of Luke — as if we are reading the original version. Maybe we are.

Or comparing The Prodigal Son, which some might consider the essential Christian parable, with the “more complex Buddhist original” in the Lotus Sutra:

The difference corresponds with that between the “Catholic” character of Luke, who simply calls sinners to repent, and the Gnostic character of the Saddharma-Pundarika, which here implicitly prescribes a difficult discipline leading to awakening to the forgotten secret of one’s own sonship (Buddha-nature).

So, which of these paradigms is true? Don’t ask Price! There’s no pretense of “settled science” here; but where so much evidence points in so many directions, anyone with what Nietzsche (no mean philologist himself) called “intellectual conscience” will suspend belief for the foreseeable future.

III

[33]

You can buy James O’Meara’s End of an Era here [34].

If Price thinks the Ecumenical Golem is a fantasy, and can’t decide in favor of any of the popular alternatives, what then? In his final section, Price offers his alternative way of handling what we might call the Jewish Problem. As Kuhn has suggested, “in order to field a new paradigm, we must begin with the ‘anomalous data’ left over by the previous paradigm.”[22] [35]

His proposal “would account for how and why a mythic Jesus would have come to be historicized, as well as explaining how, as a historian, one may understand the role of Paul and the Pauline gospel on the one hand and the Messianic Torah sect of James and Peter on the other, for they seem impossible to fit under one roof.”

Perhaps, then, they were originally two different sects, that somehow became fused? Is there any reason to think that? “Ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the remarkable parallels between the Qumran community and the Jerusalem Church have been glaringly evident.” Price suggests that “The sect of the Twelve, Jewish Christianity, was identical with the Qumran sect“:[23] [36]

Thus the council of the Twelve [aka the Apostles] with an inner circle of three (James, John and Peter, the so-called “Jerusalem Pillars”).[24] [37] . . . If the Twelve were supposed to be the tribal Patriarchs, where does Jesus fit in? He doesn’t, because he is a subsequent insertion. From where? Suppose “Jesus” was originally the Marcionite/ Paulinist Christ. [Remember the Ascended Archangel and Gnostic Redeemer above?] The two sects merged, perhaps as part of a financial arrangement (as in Galatians). The narrative of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah was constructed by rewriting Old Testament stories.

The “communal lifestyle at Qumran” also recalls the Jerusalem Church,[25] [38] and as Price has observed elsewhere, like all such communes, they quickly ran out of “other people’s money” (as Baroness Thatcher would say).

This is where Paul comes in: a former member who had split or been thrown out, then joined Marcion’s Cosmic Christ Cult and struck it rich on the missionary circuit:

The shrinking sect of the Poor was poor not only in spirit but in cash flow as well. They must have looked with envy and amazement at the swelling ranks of Pauline Christianity. [They] comforted themselves with the (no doubt sincere) thought that their rival was offering cheap grace by dropping the requirement of circumcision and Torah observance . . .[26] [39] Such watering down was abhorrent to the Poor and their Pillars — but maybe they could arrange for some of the Paulinist congregations’ cash to find its way into worthier coffers! And there was a meeting of the minds. [Paul] would buy recognition by his former co-religionists, exacting the proverbial revenge of success. And they will welcome a transference of earthly treasure.

But, as fellow Tribesman Dr. Hannibal Lechter would say, it was “Quid pro quo”:

The Pillars agreed not merely to authorize/recognize the Pauline mission; the only doctrinal demand he makes is to accept his celestial Christ, whose representative on earth he is. But they exact the right to fit this Christ into their own categories, making him a Jewish messiah. This entails historicizing “Jesus” by rewriting Old Testament tales.[27] [40]

Thus Jesus, far from being “really” a first-century Palestinian rabbi, is perhaps more likely a Gnostic savior: Christ, paid to wear the robes of the Jewish Messiah.

It’s a dramatic scene, but this ever-so-Judaic wrangling might seem a bit much, even for the most ferocious anti-Semite. Take a look at Price’s wrangling of the evidence for yourself; it’s a tour de force of textual weighing and sifting, the centerpiece of which is bringing together the remarkably similar tales told of Saul, Paul, Simon Magus, and others, where an interloper tries to buy his way into the cult (the so-called sin of “simony” from Simon Magus).[28] [41]

Though Price’s discussion of the evidence is, as per usual, fascinating, the relevance to the main topic may seem unclear, until in the Conclusion he suggests that the proponents of the Ecumenical Golem, “Rabbi Jesus,” are engaged in the same process as did the Christian Torah sect: “artificially Judaizing the Jesus figure [who emerged] from a wholly different world of belief.”

Finally, Price engages in a little theologizing of his own, drawing on the likes of Niebuhr, Altizer, and Tillich to suggest an alternative approach: rejecting the idea that “my creed [must] include the criticism or denial of yours.”

Remember that “wholly different world of belief” a couple paragraphs above? For Price, these are best seen as analogous to Leibniz’s monads [42], or Wittgenstein’s “language games [43]”:

The “world” of Christian existence is self-referential and self-contained, a Leibnizian monad co-existent with others adjacent to it, but not interpenetrating with them. Insofar as “Jews” and “Judaism” figure in the Christian monad, they are functions of Christianity and have nothing to do with Jews and Judaism as they exist in the Jewish monad.

When a Christian affirms Jesus as the Messiah, he does not, need not, impinge upon the Jew’s belief that the Messiah has not yet appeared — or the Islamic belief that Jesus is not God’s Son. Different monads. Different language games.

I suppose these function like Kuhn’s paradigms, although Price does not explicitly make the connection. He does point out that Christians already take this approach to the Trinity, seeing not contradiction but “Holy Mystery”: Why not treat religious differences as a Holy Mystery as well?[29] [44]

He also uses, again without explicit connection, a somewhat Traditionalist trope: “Who knows if farther up, further out, the parallel lines may meet?”[30] [45]

But ultimately, he suggests that “the best course was set long ago by Gotthold Lessing” in his drama Nathan the Wise, or more precisely, his retelling therein of a tale from Boccaccio’s Decameron [46].

It’s a charming tale, but it may not be the final answer; even Nathan calls it a story for children.[31] [47]

As for Jesus — remember him? — Price draws no conclusions, other than that “Jesus the Rabbi” is a scholarly dead end, dreamed up and continuing to be propped up for non-scholarly reasons. As for the reader, Price provides copious amounts of evidence, with extensive quotations from non-Biblical sources, so that the reader can make up his own mind, or perhaps more importantly, free it up. Like the skeptical works of the New Chronologists [48], the value here is less in establishing new dogmas and more in the enjoyment of freeing oneself from the old ones and contemplating a vast, new, and more interesting world of evidence.[32] [49]

*  *  *

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Notes

[1] [51] Cf. Alexander Jacob, “The Aryan Christian Religion and Politics of Richard Wagner [52].”

[2] [53] Price quotes Shaul Magid opining that “The continuing project of Jewish Americanization . . . requires a new Jewish Jesus that . . . is a tool of ecumenism, a means to cultivate a new relationship between Judaism and Christianity in a post-Holocaust world.” On this and several similar statements, Price comments, “I think here of a college motto in a cartoon I once saw: ‘Standing for nothing, offending no one.’”

[3] [54] See Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008). Herschel is obviously horrified by the whole idea; for friendlier examples, see Alexander Jacob, “The Aryan Christian Religion & Politics of Richard Wagner [52]” and my own “Alexander Jacob Analyzes Wagner [55].” Amory Stern’s Galilee Against Judea: Wagnerian Bible Criticism (self-published, 2020) collects excerpts on the “Aryan ancestry of Jesus” from Wagner as well as Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Paul Haupt, and others. For the most Sub-Genius-style fun, see Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, Ostara and the New Templars; translated by George Klanderud (GermanenOrden Series, vol. 4; The 55 Club, 2019), which I review here [56]. Not being a partisan of “cancel culture,” Price devotes several pages of long quotes from Ethelbert Stauffer to illustrate the previous Protestant paradigm, the “non- or anti-Torah Jesus,” very much like the “heretic” Marcion, noting only at the very end that Stauffer was “technically not a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party”; adding: “Yikes!” Later, rebutting Charlesworth’s straw man that “We must discard the presupposition that Jesus was not a Jew,” Price insists that “Nobody’s going that far, not even Reichsfuehrer Stauffer.”

[4] [57] Back in the ‘80s, Auberon Waugh disparaged the attempt to promote a “positive” image of sexuality as “Saintly Fr. O’Bubblegum peekin’ in the windah and blessin’ the union.”

[5] [58] Price references Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1962), pp. 150, 156-57.

[6] [59] What he later calls “an ecumenical Golem,” citing  Gustav Meyrink [60]‘s 1914 novel Der Golem [61] , a favorite of Baron Evola.

[7] [62] “’Jewishness’ is code for ‘Old Testament.’”

[8] [63] For example, “Christianity was invented by a shadowy bunch of Jews because they’re a hateful race that just wants to destroy the goyim, and anyone who disagrees is a Jewish apologist” is not a fruitful hypothesis; see my review of David Skrbina’s The Jesus Hoax, here [64].

[9] [65] Few Christians appreciate how little could have been known about Jesus; Price quotes Tim Rice’s lyric from Jesus Christ Superstar: “Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.” How much could a Christian in Alexandria in 120 BC know about an obscure Palestinian rabbi? Even much later, David Hume casually referenced “An Indian, or someone else totally unknown to me . . .” while today we have real-time iPhone access to events in India. If Jesus wasn’t a myth, he might as well have been one, for all we can say about him.

[10] [66] In the same way, when supposedly disputing with the Pharisees, Jesus almost always cites the Greek Septuagint, not the original Hebrew, since his supposed words are being composed by later Hellenized Jews or Gentiles; the rabbis, Price notes, would not have used the Septuagint even to “wipe their holy hindquarters.”

[11] [67] In David Lynch’s 1984 film, Dune, Kynes was played by Max von Sydow, who was Jesus in the 1965 film The Greatest Story Ever Told. Actually, it would be hard to find a major Christian figure von Sydow hasn’t portrayed, despite being by all reports either an atheist or an agnostic [68].

[12] [69] “The idea is that blacks could attain parity with whites simply by planting their feet in the magic dirt of “good neighborhoods.” Alex Graham, “Conservative Blank Slatism [70].”

[13] [71]The four living creatures [72] are described in Revelation 4:6-9 [73]5:6-14 [74]6:1-8 [75]14:3 [76]15:7 [77], and 19:4 [78]. They are said to be “full of eyes in front and behind” and look to John like a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle in flight. They each have six wings and are always saying “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” These four living creatures closely resemble the four creatures described in Ezekiel 1:10 [79] and Isaiah 6:2 [80].” The recently-deceased apocalyptic cult leader Brother Stair, to whom I have devoted much study [81], inevitably found himself promising his flock that those lucky enough not to have been chosen to be damned will instead spend eternity chanting such praises; as I noted in “Of Apes, Essence & the Afterlife [82]” (reprinted in my collection Mysticism After Modernism: Crowley, Evola, Neville, Watts, Colin Wilson & Other Populist Gurus [83] [Melbourne, Australia: Manticore Press, 2020]), the Christian “heaven” is so dreary that Christians spend most of their time contemplating Hell. Alan Watts pointed out that Jehovah is modeled on an Oriental despot, craving nothing but outpourings of praise from his cringing subjects; see his Beyond Theology (1964). The point goes back at least to A. N. Whitehead: “As for the Christian theology, can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of heaven? What kind of deity is it that would be capable of creating angels and men to sing his praises day and night to all eternity? It is, of course, the figure of an Oriental despot, with his inane and barbaric vanity. Such a conception is an insult to God.” See Lucien Price, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, p. 277; sourced from Robert M. Price, “Errors of the Eloist [84].”

[14] [85] “You welcomed me as an angel of God, as Jesus Christ himself” meaning “not just any angel, but Jesus Christ himself!”

[15] [86]Being in the form of God, he did not think equality with God a thing to be seized but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,” etc.

[16] [87] Cf. the final scene of Wagner’s Parsifal, with its “Erlösung dem Erlöser (Redemption for the Redeemer).”

[17] [88] Ever wonder about Jesus being “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)?

[18] [89] Brother Stair, whose end times cult has been a frequent subject of mine, presents much the same teaching, but while the Cynics preached a “return to nature,” Bro. Stair demands his followers quit their jobs, abandon or not start families, leave the cities, abjure medicine, shun grocery stores and other shopping adventures, and live a simple, self-sufficient life on his farm compound, from the perspective of rejecting nature and “the World” in the face of an imminent apocalypse. Interestingly, Stair promotes hyper-conventional sexual roles — long hair and dresses for women, for instance — while the Cynics rejected all conventions, going about naked and masturbating in public (“If only I could cure hunger by massaging my belly!” said Diogenes); Stair, however, hypocritically sexually exploits his womenfolk. Who, if either, is praiseworthy?

[19] [90] Discussing the various reconstructions of “Rabbi Jesus,” Price emphasizes how unrealistic and unmotivated his interactions with the Pharisees are; they seem to have been composed by later devotees with little knowledge of first-century Judaism; ironically, scholars today know more than these authors. One also suspects this is why Jesus always “wins” the argument.

[20] [91] Nietzsche famously contrasts Christian and Hindu morality, claiming that the former elevates what in the latter are the lowest caste: in German, the “Tschandala”; see Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), “The Improvers of Mankind,” and Der Antichrist (The Antichrist), ch. 56-57.

[21] [92] See the books, articles, and reviews collected on the website “James O’Meara’s Chinese Box Articles on Neville Goddard [93].” In Beyond Theology (pp. 16ff.), Watts describes his technique as the “Chinese Box method” (although it sounds more like the Russian Doll method): What happens when we fit, say, Christianity into Hinduism, and — if we can — vice versa?

[22] [94] Referencing Kuhn, op. cit., p. 52.

[23] [95] In fact, “I am referring to the Jerusalem Church, the Qumran community, the sect of John the Baptist, the Essenes, and the Ebionites as the same, or branches of the same, movement.”

[24] [96] Price notes the similar Shi’ite Islamic term, “The Twelvers,” as well as references to the Imams as “Pillars” in Islam, as well as original roles as the supports of Heaven on Earth (cf. Castor and Pollux, or the Nordic “World Tree”).

[25] [97] “All the believers were together and had everything in common; selling their possessions and goods, they shared with anyone who was in need . . .” (Acts 2:44-45); later, “The multitude of believers was one in heart and soul. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they owned.” (Acts 4:32).

[26] [98] The Ebionites, descendants of the Jerusalem Church, preserve the tale that Paul was a Gentile who converted to Judaism, including circumcision, in order to marry the daughter of the chief priest; spurned instead, “he flew into a rage and wrote against circumcision and against the sabbath and the Law” (Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 30). Price points out that the love story is standard character assassination among holy joes, but the idea of Paul as a disillusioned convert to Judaism rings true; no real Jew ever rages against the “burden” of the Law, or found it impossible to fulfill (the idea that “he who breaks one commandment breaks them all” is pure Roman Stoicism and foreign to Judaism).

[27] [99] Rivka Ulmer calls this “constructing a messianic saga by stitching together certain scriptural passages” (quoted by Price on p. 164), which was a specialty of the Qumran sect.

[28] [100][28] “Thus, Simon Magus = Elymas = Etomas = Josephus’ Simon = Simon Magus. And ‘Atomus,’ which means ‘tiny one,” is equivalent to “Paul,” which means little one.’”

[29] [101] One might also point out how Protestants seem able to read both Paul’s Romans epistle as well as the epistle of James, which even Martin Luther realized were completely contradictory.

[30] [102] Compare the diagram in Huston Smith, “Introduction,” in Frithjof Schuon, The Transcendent Unity of Religions (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. xii. Though a useful first approximation, the mountain paths metaphor misstates the Traditionalist view, or at least René Guénon’s. According to the latter, the exo/esoteric division takes different forms: In China, there are two separate traditions, Confucianism and Taoism; in Hinduism, there is no “esotericism” as such and everything is openly available to all, according to their nature or abilities; in Islam, Sufism is so detached from orthodoxy as to be better considered “Islamic esotericism” — esoteric wisdom taking the local Islamic garb rather than some supposedly inner “esoteric Islam.” The “inner/outer” or “higher/lower” form seems only to characterize the Christian tradition.

[31] [103] “Among other things, “”Nathan the Wise”: An Ambiguous Plea for Religious Toleration [104]“ suggests that Lessing himself did not think of religions as monadic: “Lessing stipulates that religious toleration requires certain important or even decisive changes within the monotheisms themselves. Most important among these changes is a greatly circumscribed belief in miracles.” Moreover, “Leo Strauss points out in unpublished notes on Nathan the Wise, [that] Lessing’s writings may be read as containing many oblique qualifications of his central thesis.” For example, in his dialogues on Freemasonry, as discussed here [105] by Greg Johnson, he presents a similar picture of harmony, but only within a world order: “The ultimate goal of Freemasonry, he hints, is a world in which differences of nationality, religion, and class still exist. But the conflicts between them are mediated and harmonized, for the greater good, by a transnational elite. In short, the aim of Freemasonry is not a universal homogeneous state, to borrow Alexandre Kojève’s term for the “end of history,” but a harmonious world in which real diversity flourishes, preserved by real boundaries and distinctions.”

[32] [106] Just as most Christians have a naïve view of Jesus, almost everyone takes the accepted historical chronology for granted, as if it were digitally recorded somewhere, rather than a medieval construction full of inaccuracies, gaps, and anomalies. See the series of articles by The First Millennium Revisionist [107], especially the third, “How Long Was the First Millennium [108]?” Just as “Rabbi Jesus” is an assumption by which evidence is already interpreted, the official chronology was fixed centuries before the development of modern archeology, and so taken for granted that archeologists use it to date their work, not vice versa. Indeed, the relationship between the two areas of skeptical research is quite close, since the fake chronology was largely the product of mediaeval Church historians, and so the second article, “How Fake is Church History [109]?” quotes Jesus minimalist Bart Ehrman, who begins his book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics thus: “Arguably the most distinctive feature of the early Christian literature is the degree to which it was forged.” This could also explain the dismal track record of various apocalyptic predictions, all of which assume the standard chronology.