16. JESUS' MESSAGE
The people were a lot more interested by
Jesus' healing than by his preaching:
Mk3:8 "When they heard all he was doing,
[note: doing (healing), NOT teaching]
` many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon"
a) Idumea, the farthest aforementioned area (located south of Jerusalem), was 5-6 days walk away.
b) In medieval Europe, a pilgrim from central Sweden had to walk for no less than 80 days in order to reach Santiago De Compostela (Spain)!
The healing made Jesus a well known "man of God"; even educated man like Jairus, the synagogue ruler, went looking for his services (Mk5:22-23).
And because of his newly-found status, either in synagogues (primitive Sabbath meeting places) (Mk1:21,39,6:2), in small houses with a limited amount of followers around him (Mk3:32-34), on the lake (Mk9:10) or during outdoor gatherings of villagers (Mk6:34,8:1a), Jesus had the opportunity to be listened.
His sayings had to be immediately understandable, as for any other form of verbal communication, and not pedantic: his audience of uneducated people would not have tolerated anything else, especially coming from someone who was
"without having studied":
In Nazareth, when Jesus "began to teach", the villagers "took offence at him" because of his lack of education ("Where did this man [ordinary, like his brothers] get all these things?") (Mk6:1-3).
Also, his words had to be adapted to his audience and time (the rural poor Jews then), sympathetic to their cause and befitting popular common sense.
16.2 Jesus' main message:
Jesus' main message was simple:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Lk6:20, also in Mt5:3).
a) Both versions appear to be elaborated (see later on this page for "Luke" and The Q source for "Matthew"). The original "Q" version was probably like:
"Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God."
b) John the Baptist (a poor by choice) might have suggested something in that direction, but could not have stressed it because his audience was very diverse.
But it was Jesus, and not John the Baptist, who emphasized salvation (entry in the Kingdom):
"This salvation which was first announced by the Lord [Jesus], was confirmed to us by whose who heard him." (Heb2:3b)
a) In the whole "ground breaking" Hebrews' letter, this is the only thing about Jesus which is "confirmed" by eyewitnesses. However, the author did not give any details on what was announced by Jesus!
b) There is only one more occurrence in this letter of Jesus/Christ/Lord being "heard" (this time allegedly by God) and it was "who, in the days of His flesh ..." (Heb5:7)
Also, Jesus was emphasizing:
"many who are first [the rich?] will be last, and the last [the poor?] first." (Mk10:31)
Mk10:23 "... How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
Mk10:25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." also in Mt19:23-24 & Lk18:24-25
Lk16:13b "... You cannot serve both God and money [or mammon: wealth regarded as source of evil]." also in Mt6:24b
When meeting a young rich man (who, as implied by Mk10:23b, wanted to enter the Kingdom), Jesus said:
Mk10:21-22 "... "Go, sell everything you have [get poor yourself] and give it to the poor ..."
[10:22=>] But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."
also in Mt19:21-22 and Lk18:22 (Mk10:22 dropped!)
Note: "The ancient Mediterranean attitude was, "Every rich person is either unjust or the heir of an unjust person" (St. Jerome: "Every rich person is a thief or the heir of a thief," In Hieremiam, II,V,2,CCL LXXIV 61). Profit-making and the acquisition of wealth were automatically assumed to be the result of extortion or fraud. The notion of an honest rich man was a first-century oxymoron.
To be labeled "rich" was therefore a social and moral statement as much as an economic one. It meant the power or capacity to take from someone weaker what was rightfully his. Being rich was therefore synonymous with being greedy. By the same token, to be "poor" was to be unable to defend what was yours. It meant falling below the status at which one was born. It was to be defenseless, without recourse."
However, Jesus' message was passed over early
on, because among the first Christians were
middle-class or wealthy persons, whose generosity
was greatly appreciated:
Paul in Php4:14-19 "Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians [first Christian community founded by Paul] know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I [Paul] departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Note: even the "Nazarenes", Jesus' most direct later followers, were not asking the wealthy new recruits to give all of what they own (which would have driven them off, as for the "young rich man" of Mk10:21-22). Instead, they were happy about a cash donation from the sale of a portion of their assets ('Ananias and Sapphira' Ac5:1-11). See later about the "Nazarenes".
Paul knew about Jesus' poverty (2Co8:9) and
may have acknowledged here Jesus' instruction
"give to the poor (Jews)" (which
the Corinthians likely knew):
2Co9:12-13 "For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints,
[the "Nazarenes" & their community, "the poor" as in Ro15:26 & Gal2:10]
` ... while, through the proof of this ministry,
[the collection of money among Pauline Christians for the church of Jerusalem]
` they [the "Nazarenes"] glorify God for the obedience of your confession to
[also translated as "for your professed subjection unto" KJV]
` the gospel of Christ [Jesus] ..."
Note: nowhere else in Paul's letters the gospel (of Christ or Paul) includes "giving to the poor". Let's also notice "the proof of this ministry" is only the collection (and nothing else!) and the "Nazarenes" themselves would interpret that as a full adherence to Jesus' gospel! (and then glorify God, not Christ! See later ...)
With Jesus' salvation message ("the poor (Jews) to inherit the Kingdom") made inoperative in early Christianity, questions like 'who will be saved?' and then, more so for Gentile Christians, 'why me, an ex-sinner?', begged to be answered (see "HJ-3b" "The beginning of Christianity").
Now, let's observe how the authors of gospel reacted:
"Mark" himself considerably "cooled down" the directive:
"...Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor ..."
by writing later, as for damage control:
Mk14:7a "For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good;
[give them some money, according to the two preceding verses. Charity towards the poor has become optional, according to one's wishes]"
Also, after Jesus' statements on "how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God"
"... [allegedly the disciples (but more likely well-to-do Christians who heard that from eyewitness(es)!)]
` were greatly astonished, ... "Who then can be saved?"
[most early Christians (and the disciples) were poor (2Co8:1-2,9:6-9). But here, evidently, "Mark" was thinking only about the small minority of wealthy ones in his "church"!]
` But Jesus ... [allegedly] said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."
[there is hope for the rich, despite the preceding statements by Jesus! Once again, that seems to be damage control from "Mark"]" (Mk10:26-27)
Let's also notice, within the rich man's story, "Mark" wrote:
"Jesus looked at him [the rich man] and loved him." (Mk10:21a)
Later in the gospel, most elects appear to be Christians (rich or poor), who, after going through tribulations, persecutions, false christs & prophets and disconcerting news (Mk13:5-13,19-27), hang on to the faith:
"but he who endures to the end shall be saved." (Mk13:13b)
More details in "Parables and gospels"
b) "Matthew" purposely disabled (by way of short strategic insertions) all sayings (from Mark's gospel & "Q") which specify the poor as being the elects (details in here). Instead, they were replaced by the 'righteous', who, according to Mt25:31-46, also had to care about the destitutes.
c) "Luke" kept the "poor" in the kingdom of God and even stood against the rich (Lk1:53,6:24-25a), more so the ungenerous ones (Lk12:16-21,16:19-25). However here, as cleverly suggested, the "poor" in question are Jesus' disciples ONLY, who would rule the Kingdom (with Jesus and God), but the poor would not be its only inhabitants (full explanation given later on this page).
Charity and cancellation of debts are stressed (Lk6:34-35,12:33a) and donation to the needy of half the wealth of a repentant rich man brings
(Lk19:2-9). Also, "wordly" benevolence towards
"the people of the light"
(Lk16:8-9) may earn "eternal dwellings".
However later on, in 'Acts', "Luke" moved to other stipulations:
"[Peter allegedly saying to the Diaspora Jews] ... whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved." (2:21) but it is (only!!!) "from this perverse generation" (2:40)
"[Peter allegedly saying] ... we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we [the "Nazarenes" and their followers] shall be saved in the same manner as they [Gentiles (and NOT Jewish Christians!)]." (15:11)
"[Paul allegedly saying to Gentiles] ... Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, ..." (16:31)
And the Kingdom is still mentioned:
"[Paul allegedly saying] We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." (14:22b)
d) "John" skipped the "poor" issue and indicated the kingdom of God is for "born again" baptized Christians (Jn3:3,5). Furthermore, the ones to get "eternal life" are "whoever believe in Him [Son of Man = Son of God = Jesus]" (Jn3:13-16), "those who have done good" (Jn5:29) and "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood [Eucharist]" (Jn6:54).
The local people had heard already about (and inclined to believe) John the Baptist's main message,
the kingdom of God is near
...". It was still in everybody's mind; but Jesus' addition to it,
"... and believe the good news!
[= "Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God."]" (Mk1:15b)
was new to them and attracted much interest; they were living in utter poverty:
"... On the other side were, above all, the Peasants - that vast majority of the population [in the Roman empire] about two-thirds of whose annual crop went to support the upper classes. If they were lucky they lived at subsistence level, barely able to support family, animals, and social obligations and still have enough for the next year's seed supply. If they were not lucky, drought, debt, disease, or death forced them off their own land and into share-cropping, tenant farming, or worse ..."
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: 'A Revolutionary Biography' (1994)
"Direct evidence of
heavy indebtedness in first-century Palestine
comes from primarily two items. One is Josephus' description of the burning of the debt archives by the rebels at the beginning of the Jewish War (66-73 c.e. ... ).
[Wars, II, XVII, 6 "... after which they [Zealots in Jerusalem] carried the fire to the place where the archives were reposited, and made haste to burn the contracts belonging to their creditors, and thereby to dissolve their obligations for paying their debts; and this was done in order to gain the multitude of those who had been debtors, and that they might persuade the poorer sort to join in their insurrection with safety against the more wealthy; so the keepers of the records fled away, and the rest set fire to them."]
` The other is a provision by Rabbi Hillel (the much-discussed prosbol) for evasion of the debt-remission required in the sabbatical law. Indirect evidence, however, is prevalent in a wide variety of sources, including Hellenistic papyri.
The processes by which peasants fell into debt were many. Population growth affected some: more mouths to feed reduced a farmer's margin of livelihood and made borrowing more likely in lean years. Unreliable rainfall contributed as well ... The chief reason for indebtedness, however, was the excessive demand placed on peasant resources. Demands for tithes, taxes, tribute and the endless variety of tolls kept small landowners under heavy pressure (evidence suggests that 35-40% of the total agricultural production was extracted in various taxes). Peasants unable to repay loans of seed or capital frequently became tenant sharecroppers on their own land.
... Late in the first century the numbers of peasants fleeing because of hopeless indebtedness grew so large that it required imperial efforts to keep tenants on land being left unworked - ..."
16.3 Jesus' preaching:
In his preaching, Jesus was stressing the need for not worrying:
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" (Lk12:25-26), also in Mt6:27
Note: death is anticipated at its normal time. There is no hint God can extend one's life by granting immortality.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear." (Mt6:25a), also in Lk12:22
In Lk12:29-31, the connection is made between not worrying and the Kingdom:
NASB "And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you." also in Mt6:31-33
Let's compare this with:
Lk6:21 "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied." (also in Mt5:6 but elaborated)
In Jesus' preaching, it appears that the Kingdom was to benefit physically the poor "flesh and blood" Jews living during Jesus' times. The poor will stay poor (no wealth from heaven), but they
be dispensed of the back-breaking labor necessary for just subsisting.
As shown in "HJ-1b" "John the Baptist", Section 6, the Jewish scriptures related abundantly about a new divine order to come, benefitting "good" "flesh and blood" Jews alive then.
Isa65:19-20 "... Never again will there be in it [the "New Jerusalem"] an infant who lives but a few days or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed."
Psalm132:13-15 "For the Lord [God] has chosen Zion ... here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it-- I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food."
a) How could Jesus promise free food (and clothes: see later) without believing in divine intervention (the kingdom of God)?
b) Why would people think that Jesus, a poor Galilean, can deliver the goods either on his own or by some secret formula (or aphorism!)?
c) Jesus' vision of the kingdom of God was undoubtebly influenced by his own background, the garden of Eden & the "manna" (Ex16:31,Dt8:16) biblical stories, and also by Essene beliefs.
Josephus wrote in Wars, II, VIII, 2:
"They [Essenes] praise God, as he that bestows their food upon them"
The ascetic Essenes were already practicing it (by living off the land and getting from it crude food and clothes): John the Baptist (Section 4, "HJ-1b") and Banus (Section 5, "HJ-1b")
d) Jesus in Capernaum and his latter most direct followers, the "Nazarenes" in Jerusalem, are never mentioned to have worked for a living.
A similar theme (this time about clothes) appears in Mt6:28-30:
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin [they do not work!]. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like this. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown in the fire,
[grass was commonly used to heat the clay ovens of Palestine. Also, let's notice God does bother to cloth "the grass of the field", again and again, after the old grass "dies" and when the new one grows. Not conducive into thinking the ones to be clothed will not die!]
` will he not much more clothes you, O you of little faith?" also in Lk12:27-28
Note: in Palestine then, winters were cold, according to Philo of Alexandria:
"for in the winter they [Essenes in Judea] are thick cloak found" (Hypothetica)
But could the poor and destitute, who were treated as insignificant wretches by the arrogant ruling class, be forgotten by God and his Kingdom to come?
Jesus would answer:
Lk12:6-7 "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." also in Mt10:29a,30-31
In Lk12:24 the same idea is expressed, with the reminder that if God feeds the birds (allegedly!), he can and will feed the humans too:
"Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap [no work here, also], they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" also in Mt6:26
The "Lord's prayer" (Lk11:2-4) has been discredited, because some of its points are found in other (highly sophisticated) Jewish texts of the first century C.E. I do not think that's a valid reason to reject it. Why does it have to be totally original? And this Jesus was not impervious to what he heard around him. It certainly fits Jesus' beliefs and preaching:
"Father, holy be your name,"
Father was (for a Jew) a designation for God:
Ps89:26 "... 'You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.'"
Isa64:8 "... O Lord , you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."
"your kingdom come."
Another supplication for the coming of the kingdom of God.
"Give us each day our daily bread."
Rather "essenish", as "They praise God, as he that bestows their food upon them" quoted earlier. And then, the poor were not guaranteed daily food.
"Forgive us our sins, for
everyone who sins against us."
Principle of reciprocity. A hidden message in the second part would be: do not try to retaliate against the like of dishonest tax collectors, greedy landlords, etc.! This can be interpreted as a plea: tacit acceptance of the hardship inflicted by others should serve as atonement for your own sins.
As in Mk11:25 "... if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." also in Mt6:14
Preaching repentance for the already depressed & feeling unjustly punished poor would not be well received!
a) Jesus accepted the local tax collector Levi (who very likely had seen "the error of his ways" and was behaving) as one of his followers. He ate with his disciples at Levi's house, considered a hot bed of sinners by the locals (Mk2:14-15).
b) 'Levi' in Josephus' works:
- "a man of Gischala [Galilee], the son of Levi, whose name was John." (Wars, II, XXI, 1)
- "Janneus the son of Levi" (Life, 26)
- "Levi, one of my own guards" (Life, 34)
c) Matthew's Greek OFEILHMATA for "debts" (Mt6:12 "Forgive us our debts ...") appears to be a direct translation of the Aramaic word 'xwbyn', which means 'debts' but also 'sins'. It seems the prayer was first composed in Aramaic but got translated differently.
"And lead us not into temptation
Here, it is God and not Satan (as in Mk1:13 and 1Co7:5b "... so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."), not the devil (as in Mt4:1 "Jesus ... tempted by the devil" and Lk4:1) and not Beelzebub, who leads into temptation.
Also the belief that God is doing the tempting will be radically opposed by 'James' (see later on this page about the epistle):
Jas1:13-14 "When tempted, no one should say "God is tempting me." For God is not tempted by evil, not does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed."
16.4 The "Nazarenes" and Jesus' message:
Later, the message & some of the teachings
of Jesus were not lost on the "Nazarenes"
(comprised of Jesus' brothers and eyewitnesses
from Capernaum, including fishermen like
the sons of Zebedee: John and James), who
under the leadership of Peter and James (Jesus'
brother) and (to a lesser degree) John (Paul
and John, those
reputed to be pillars
...") established themselves, and for a long
time in Jerusalem (over twenty five years):
Eusebius' "the History of the Church", 2, 23, quoting Hegesippus, a second century Jewish Christian writer:
"James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church
[the proto-Christian community of Jerusalem and the very first one anywhere]
` in conjunction with the apostles
[note: here is evidence the "Nazarenes" did not start the "Church" in Jerusalem. Who did it? That will be explained later]."
Note: 'Cephas' (Aramaic) means "stone", as 'Peter' (Greek). 'Stone' appears to be a very rare name (likely a nickname). Within the main non-Christian books written in antiquity (reference internet Perseus library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/), there is only one occurrence of 'Peter'/'Cephas' and it is in:
Josephus' Antiquities, XVIII, VI, 3 "So Marsyas desired of Peter, who was the freed-man of Bernice, Agrippa's mother ..."
Paul called "Stone" as "Cephas" (1Co1:12,3:22,9:5,15:5, Gal1:18,2:9,11,14). However there are two exceptions: "Peter" appears twice in Gal2:7-8. But for many reasons (& not only because of 'Peter'), Gal2:7-8 (except for "On the contrary") is very likely a later interpolation. See http://www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/barnikol.htm for details.
Ac2:42 "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, [love of one's fellow human] in the breaking of bread [sharing food], and in prayers [piety towards God]."
Ac2:44-45 "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need."
Ac4:36-37 "And Joses, who was also named Barnabas [Aramaic] by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet."
"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.
[it is implied Ananias had other assets]
` And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why ... [did you] ... keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? "While it remained, was it not your own?
[no money should be kept for one's benefit; it is to be shared by the whole community]
` And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?"
Note: John the Baptist and the Essenes were emphasizing sharing. Josephus wrote about Essenes, in Wars, II, VIII:
"Nor is there any one to be found among them who has more than another; for it is a law among them, that whose who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, -insomuch, that among them all there is no appearance of poverty or excess of riches, but every one's possession are intermingled with every other's possession; and so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren."
Before going any further, and as promised,
let's go back to Luke's gospel and the
receiving the kingdom of God, whom I postulated
earlier to be the (twelve) disciples:
a) In Lk6:20-25, it is "looking at his disciples" (6:20) that Jesus says:
"Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled."
Note: in GMatthew, we have: "Blessed are the poor ... For theirs is the kingdom ... Blessed are those who hunger ..." (Mt5:3-6). NO "you" or "yours"
b) In Lk12:22-32, "Jesus said to [only] his disciples" (12:22) the "good news" (from "Q")
about the Kingdom providing free food, drink
"Luke" did add "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (12:32)
a) From a) & b), we can deduce Jesus' disciples would "co-rule" the kingdom of God (according to "Luke"). Also, and more important, the Kingdom is not pre-assigned only to the poor, just a few of them!
There is plenty of room for others, including well-to-do Christians! Generous collections for the disciples (as in 2Co8:1-4), and after them, charity to others in need, would go a long way in order to insure "eternal dwellings" (Lk16:9)!
b) Let's also note that, according to "Luke" and matching the initial "Q" saying in Lk12:29-31, food & drink are available in the Kingdom:
"Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (Lk14:15b)
"... I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." (Lk22:18, from Mk14:25)
"My Father bestowed one [kingdom] upon Me, that you [the disciples] may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and [the rest from "Q"] sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Lk22:29b-30)
c) In Lk22:29-30a "[allegedly, Jesus to his disciples during the "Last Supper"]
` And I bestow
[notice the present tense]
` upon you a kingdom,
[this kingdom comes from Jesus, not God!]"
Here, "a kingdom" may reflect the later privileged situation of the "apostles"/disciples at the head of the "church of Jerusalem". Their material needs (food, clothes, lodging) were met by contributions from community members and, later on, collections from the emerging Christian world (see next).
If it is the case, some of Jesus' promises (including "a kingdom" ) towards "the poor", alias his disciples, had been fulfilled!
16.5 Were the "Nazarenes" urban
In some ways, YES:
They expected the newcomers with any wealth to sell what they owned (but not necessarily all), in order to pay for the basic necessities of life for all of them.
Later, they were helped by money collections from Christian communities outside of Palestine:
Paul in Ga2:10 "All they [the "Nazarenes" in 52C.E.] asked was that we [Paul and his "helpers"] should continue to remember the poor [of Jerusalem], the very thing I was eager to do."
The 55C.E. planned collection:
Paul in 1Co16:1-4 "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: on the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me."
The 56-57C.E. collection:
2Co8:3-4 "For I [Paul] testifies that they [the Macedonian Christians] gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints [the "Nazarenes"]."
2Co9:12-14 "For the administration of this service [the collection of money among Pauline Christians for the church of Jerusalem] not only supplies the needs of the saints ...
... they [the "Nazarenes"] glorify God for your liberal sharing with them and all [men], and by their prayer for you ..."
Ro15:25-27 "Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings."
Ac24:17 "After an absence of several years, I [Paul] came to Jerusalem to bring my people [Gentile Christians] gifts for the poor [the "Nazarenes"] ..."
But in other ways, NO:
The temple was their meeting place:
Ac2:46a "Every days they continued to meet together in the temple [of Jerusalem] courts"
not a room within a community building, where the Essenes met. Actually, the Essenes were not authorized to go in the temple: Josephus in Ant., XVIII, I, 5, wrote:
"They do not offer sacrifices ... On which account they are excluded from the common court of the temple"
This also implies the "Nazarenes" were offering animal sacrifice in the temple, or asking their guests to do so:
In Ac21:23-26, the "Nazarenes" asked Paul and four other men to take part in "purification rites" (all at Paul's expense, as a punishment & despite the very important donation!). Those rites included animal sacrifice at the end:
Ac21:26 "The next day [57C.E.], Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the purification would end and the offering would be made for all of them."
The "Nazarenes", unlike the Essenes, had high regard for the temple.
Jesus' followers did not believe in resurrection:
Mk9:9-10 "... Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen [the "transfiguration" and Moses & Elijah] until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
[after allegedly witnessing and identifying Moses, alive and well! (Mk9:4-5)]"
In GMark, on this matter of crucial importance, Jesus is neither explaining it to his followers, nor the disciples questioning him about it!
Mk9:31b-32 "He said to them [allegedly], "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise. "But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it."
But the author used shrewdly this damaging evidence to explain why Peter never told of the high mountain event: because it was conditional of him knowing the meaning of "rising from the dead".
What follows may seem beside the point, but in order to demonstrate that Peter, all his life, kept "questioning what the rising from the dead meant", explaining (according to "Mark") why he never talked about Mk9:2-8, I have to demonstrate the "transfiguration" story is not about a true event, but designed to answer specific (and well documented) disbeliefs among later Gentile Christians.
"Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on
a high mountain
apart by themselves; and
He was transfigured
before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white,
like snow, such as no launderer on earth
can whiten them.
[Da7:9 "His clothing [of the "Ancient of Days"] was as white as snow"]
` And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles [shelters]: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"; because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.
And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!".
Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves."
a) Why is the high mountain not named? Certainly fishermen who were not used to climb mountains would remember its name. Please note that in Hellenistic Jewish mythology, the top of a high mountain is part of heaven:
1Enoch17:2-4 "And they brought me to the place of darkness, and to a mountain the point of whose summit reached to heaven. And I saw the places of the luminaries and the treasuries of the stars and of the thunder ... and all the lightnings."
b) Why is Jesus the only one to be transfigured?
c) Why does he have to be transfigured? He could have talked with the others without "transformation".
d) How do the two other men become identified?
There was no human representation allowed in Judaism; there was not even any written description available.
e) Why does Peter, who later is said not to understand about "rising from the dead", assume the two men are Moses and Elijah, who either died (for Moses) or disappeared (for Elijah) long ago?
f) Why is the very important discussion not reported? It would be most interesting! "Luke" "corrected" that (Lk9:31).
g) Why does a supposedly frightened Peter feel he has to ask a (dumb) question rather than observe?
And then, judging by the formulation of the question, Peter looks rather well collected. "Luke" dropped the question.
h) Why is Peter in a rush to build individual shelters when the three men had just met and it is not known if they are going to stay? The fishermen could not have been expert builders, and building material & tools on top of a high mountain are rather hard to get!
i) Why does Peter want to put the conversing threesome in three different shelters (which would separate them), rather than a single common one?
That's not tactful! But that would demonstrate that each one of the men is thought (by Peter) to require the same protection against the elements.
Obviously "Mark" wanted to make a point. We'll see later.
j) Why does the visitation seem so short?
That must have been a subject of doubts because "Luke" (Lk9:32) had the disciples falling asleep for most of it (in my experience, the top of a high mountain is not the place where anyone is inclined to take a nap!).
In conclusion, the "transfiguration" story (Mk9:2-8) has so many incongruities that it could not have been a witnessed event.
Other passages in Mark's gospel seem to complement
and clarify this story:
Mk12:25-27 "... They [the risen dead (like Moses)] will be like the angels in heaven ..."
Mk14:51-52 "Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth
[the fabric of angels: Rev15:6,19:14 and demigod: Da10:6,12:6-7]
` thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked."
Note: let's compare this with Paul:
2Co5:2-3 "... longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked."
Who is that young man? Evidently an angel: who else can survive in a cold night (Mk14:67 "... she saw Peter warming himself ...") with only a linen cloth?
If you think that the "young man" was meant to be human, try to spend some time in the cold with only a small sheet over your naked body!
The "naked one" story appears only in GMark.
Here, "Mark" was showing an angel has a body but is not suffering from the cold. Consequently, Peter had been wrong into thinking raptured body (as for Elijah) and resurrected one (as for Moses) (Mk12:25b: "[the risen dead] will be like the angels ...") require protection against the elements (Mk9:5)!
"Immortalized" alive person (as the "transfigured" Jesus & Elijah) and resurrected dead will have a similar heavenly body!
Note: this "body" in the Kingdom would be able to enjoy wine, according to Mk14:25
"Assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day [of the Lord] when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
As suggested, the elects (dead or alive at "the day of the Lord"), in their heavenly bodies to come, will enjoy (eternal) life in the Kingdom. How reassuring and worthy to hope for!
The "transfiguration" and the aforementioned passages were addressing an area of great concern for the Christians of Corinth. And about fifteen years before the writing of the gospel, Paul was dealing with the same problems:
About the possibility of resurrections:
1Co15:12 "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
Note: how could Paul have written that, if, at the time (only some twenty seven years after Jesus' crucifixion), proofs & trusted testimonies existed about a resurrection of Jesus?
Here, the risen Christ is a matter of faith as in:
1Th1:14a "We believe that Jesus died and rose again ..."
Ro10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
It is only trust into what is preached.
To be noted: Paul, who had been in contact with eyewitnesses, like Peter (Gal1:18), never wrote that Jesus preached about resurrections; even if, in this letter for example (also in 2Co4:13-14), that would have considerably helped.
1Co15:13-15 "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised."
Note: in this passage, it is clear that a "raised Christ" belief is conditional of two items:
a) Trust in Paul's preaching
b) Belief that dead persons can be raised
"Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for
the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, ..."
1Co15:32b "If the dead do not rise, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!""
Note: nobody then (including Paul) seems to be aware of the very public (alleged) resurrections of the widow's son in Nain (Lk7:11-17) and the one of Lazarus (Jn11:1-44,12:17-19)!
Lk7:17 "And this report [about the resurrected widow's son] about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region."
Jn12:18-19 "For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign [Lazarus' resurrection]. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, "... the world has gone after Him!""
About the substance of resurrected bodies:
1Co15:35 "But someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?"
1Co15:40 "There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another."
1Co15:50-53 "I declare to you, brother, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;
[then, the "Nazarenes" and Jewish Christians believed otherwise (see later in this page and "HJ-3b"). That would explain the troubles of Paul on this issue]
` nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep [be dead before the Day], but we will all be changed - in a flash,
[transfigured, as Jesus on the high mountain]
` in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed [transfigured]. For the perishable must cloth itself with the imperishable,
["His clothes became shining, exceedingly white"]
` and the mortal with immortality ..."
Therefore, the "transfiguration"
was generated (most likely by "Mark")
in order to illustrate the teachings of Paul
and, more importantly, reassure the Christians
of Corinth on the (then) fundamental issues
of resurrection and heavenly (but physical)
Note: addressing the same Corinthians later, the author of '1Clement' went back on the subject and offered several other detailed "proofs" on resurrections, such as the mythical Phoenix bird (chapt. 24 to 26).
In conclusion, because the "transfiguration"
story did not come from eyewitness(es), it
is rather certain Peter and other "Nazarenes"
never "understood" about 'rising/risen
from the dead':
Mk9:9-10 "... Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen [the "transfiguration"] until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant"
More confirmation later ...
Going back to our Essenes and Josephus' Wars,
II, VIII, 11:
"For their doctrine is this: "that bodies are corruptible ... ; but that the souls are immortal, ... and are united to their bodies as in prisons, into which they are drawn into a certain natural enticement; but when they are set free from the bounds of the flesh [at death], they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward."
Note: some texts found in Qumran relate about the belief of bodily resurrections.
Did Paul believe in bodily resurrections?
Paul never explained any physicality for the heavenly body, but mentioned it is "spiritual" (1Co15:44-49), as opposed to "natural". Paul's "spiritual body" is not "flesh and blood" but above all is imperishable (1Co15:50-57) and clothed/housed/swallowed by/into immortality (2Co5:1-5).
In '2Corinthians', the earthly body (with NO new body mentioned!) is to be left behind in order to join the Lord:
2Co5:6-8 "So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord."
And when Paul related going briefly to third heaven to meet (not reported "seen") Christ, it is "whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows" (2Co12:3).
Paul did not think one needs a bodily form in order to "be present with the Lord"!
Now, let's go back to the "spiritual body" of 1Co15:44-46:
Does "body", something normally physical, make "spiritual" other than immaterial?
Let's consider from the same epistle:
1Co10:3-4 "all [the Israelites of the exodus] ate the same spiritual food, drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ."
There is an analogy with another passage from Paul, referring to "spiritual" drinking:
1Co12:13 Darby "For also in [the power of] one Spirit *we* ... have all been given to drink of one Spirit."
Here the drinking is about "spiritual" teaching. As the milk and food expressed in:
2Co3:2 "I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;"
And the word "spiritual" is employed by Paul to describe Christian teaching:
1Co2:13 Darby "we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, communicating spiritual [things] by spiritual [means]."
1Co9:11 "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?"
Consequently, it appears the "spiritual food" and "spiritual drink" in 1Co10:3-4 are about spiritual sustenance, as in this passage from the Didache:
Ch.10 "You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment ...; but to us You did freely give spiritual food and drink ..."
a) Let's notice that in 1Co9:11 (previously quoted), "spiritual things" are contrasted with "material things". The same occurs also in:
Ro15:27 "... For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them [the "Nazarenes"] in material things."
b) Note on 1Co10:3-4 from the NIV Bible:
"spiritual food ... spiritual drink. The manna and the water from the rock are used as figures representing the spiritual sustenance of God continually providing for his people (Ex16:2-36; 17:1-7; Nu20:2-11; 21:16)."
"that rock was Christ. The rock, from which the water came, and the manna were symbolic of supernatural sustenance through Christ ..."
Therefore, it is rather obvious Paul used some imagery
in 1Co10:1-12 to set the Israelites then
Moses' followers were somehow baptized (1-2), then offered spiritual sustenance by a "spiritual" Christ/rock (3-4,7c) (as for Paul's Christians who "have the mind of Christ" (1Co2:16b)!), but nevertheless, because they relapsed into pagan practice (7b,8a), idolatry (7a), testing the Lord (9a) and grumbled (10a), that caused their end (5b,8b,9b,10b).
Paul's message to his Christians: do not "parallel" them (7a,8a,9a,10a) or you'll be damned!
"1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3 They all ate the same spiritual food
4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
5 Nevertheless, their bodies were scattered over the desert.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry."
8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did--and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.
9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did--and were killed by snakes.
10 And do not grumble, as some of them did--and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"
Of course, no parallel would occur if this "spiritual" food & drink meant real food & water: certainly the Christians of Corinth in Paul's times were not getting true (material) sustenance from Paul or God!
And from 'Hebrews' (written earlier than 1Co10:1-12: see later HJ-3b), the same idea is formulated, except no "Christ" & "spiritual drink" are mentioned; instead "the gospel" is preached to the Israelites during the Exodus (as later to the Christians), again in vain:
Heb3:16-4:11 "Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? ...
For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they [the Israelites of Moses] did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. ...
It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them [the same Israelites] did not go in, because of their disobedience. ...
For if Jesus had given them rest [to the Israelites], ...
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience."
It is now evident the three "spiritual" in 1Co10:3-4 render the food, drink and rock immaterial & figurative; and the argument that Paul never used the later word to "spiritualize" normally material things goes for naught.
A) The O.T. never has a moving rock (or well) supplying water on demand and accompanying the Israelites of the Exodus. It is rather precluded by:
Nu20:5 "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt [after wandering through the whole Sinai desert!] to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!"
However, a legend developed among rabbis through a midrashic process, likely in order to explain how the more than one million Israelites could survive in the desert, when no permanent water source is mentioned in the O.T. (but in Ex16:45 the Israelites feed on the manna for forty years!):
- A moving well (NOT a rock!) appears in Pseudo-Philo:
Biblical Antiquities x.7: "'A well of water following them brought he forth for them.'"
The dating of those writings is most likely after Paul's times:
James Charlesworth wrote: "It is becoming clear that Pseudo-Philo is not so late as earlier scholars concluded. The traditions recorded therein are ancient (cf. G. Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Haggadic Studies, 2d. ed. [SPB 4] Leiden: Brill, 1973; passim), and the work itself is rather early, dating probably from around A.D. 100 (G. Delling, nos. 1190, 1191; C. Dietzfelbinger dates Ps-Philo between A.D. 70 and 135; cf. his Pseudo-Philo, Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum. Göttingen Ph.D., 1964; pp. 191-94 [N.V.], and his no. 1192, p. 95; also see L. H. Feldman's caveat, no. 1205, pp. xxviii-xxxi) and possibly before A.D. 70 (P.-M. Bogaert, no. 619, vol. 1, p. 246; Harrington, nos. 1198, 1202, 1203)."
(The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, p. 170)
- Then in the Pirke of Rabbi Eliezer 45B.i (90-150?)
"Every place our forefathers went, the well went in front of them."
- Then, around 200C.E., from the Babyloniaan Talmud, Tract Taanith, Book 4, Ch. 1:
"An objection was raised: R. Jose the son of R. Jehudah said: Three good leaders were given to Israel, and they are: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam; and three good gifts were given through them, namely: the well of water which the Israelites had along with them in the desert was given them for the sake of Miriam; the 'pillar of cloud which led them by day was given them on account of Aaron, and the Manna was given them for Moses' sake. When Miriam died, the well vanished, as it is written [(Nu20:1); but no well mentioned here & in the whole Nu20:1-13 passage!]: "Miriam died there, and was buried there"; and immediately afterwards it says: "And there was no water for the congregation."
[the embarrassing Nu20:5 (previously quoted) had to be explained: the permanent & moving well vanished because of Miriam's death!]
` Still, the well was again given to the children of Israel through the prayers of Moses [by him striking a rock (Nu20:11); but still no well mentioned here!] and Aaron."
- Later, in the third century, the well becomes "like a rock", some 200 years after Paul's times! From the Tosefta:
"It was likewise with the well that was with the children of Israel in the wilderness, it was like a rock that was full of holes like a sieve from which water trickled and arose as from the opening of a flask.
[this is a follow-up of the earlier aforementioned "traditions": the continuous water supply of the moving well is now explained!]
` It ascended with them to the top of the hills and descended with them into the valleys; wherever Israel tarried there it tarried over against the entrance to the tabernacle"
(Sukkah 3. 11 ff., cited in Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, vol. 3, p. 406)
The Tosefta (literally means "addition'') was edited by Rabbis Hiyya and Oshaiah (3rd cent.), on their own, and is a collection of rabbinic teachings which expands upon the instructions in the Mishnah.
B) It seems the "tradition" related by Paul was inspired by Philo's writings:
"For the flinty rock [(Dt8:15), which provided water for the Israelites of the Exodus] is the wisdom of God [1Co1:24 "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God"], which He marked off highest and chiefest from His powers, and from which He satisfies the thirsty souls that love God" (Allegorical interpretation II, ch. XXI, 86)
"the highest Word of God [Christ is Word-like in 1Co8:6], which is the fountain of wisdom, in order that by drinking of that stream he may find everlasting life instead of death." (On flight and finding, ch. XVIII, 97)
"the manna, the divine Word, the heavenly, incorruptible food of the soul ..." (Who is the heir of divine things, ch. XV, 79).
"This is the heavenly nourishment which the holy scripture indicates, saying, in the character of the cause of all things, 'Behold I rain upon you bread from heaven' [Ex16:4]; for in real truth it is God who showers down heavenly wisdom from above upon all the intellects which are properly disposed for the reception of it" (On flight and finding, ch. XXV, 137-139)
C) Despite the evidence against it, some preachers and apologists cling to the notion of Christ, the true (material) rock, supplying real water to the Israelites (for forty years!), as picked up by Paul from some old (unsubstantiated) oral Jewish tradition. This is in order to "prove" that "spiritual" was not used to "etherealize" material things.
But then, why would Paul take the risk to be ridiculed by using such unbiblical legend?
And why did he qualify the food, drink and rock as "spiritual" if he was thinking about real physical things?
And why would he involve Christ in a first coming, and just as a moving rock supplying water?
This aforementioned notion is simply preposterous.
What is there to conclude about Paul's "spiritual body"?
The "spiritual" adjective can prevail on the noun (even if the later is about something normally material) and make it spirit-like/figurative. This is also apparent in other Christian writings, such as:
1Pe2:5 "you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God ..."
and Justin Martyr:
Trypho, XXX "while they were in a sinful condition and labouring under spiritual disease;"
Trypho, XLIII "And we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed."
Also considering 2Co5:6-8 & 2Co12:3 (previously quoted) and 1Co15:44-45,47-49 (quoted next), in the mind of Paul it seems the "spiritual body" would look more like a spirit, with "body" implying a finite reality, as according to one of the Webster dictionary definitions for 'body': "something that embodies or gives concrete reality to a thing".
This is exactly how Jesus is described in heaven (a "spirit"):
1Co15:44-45 "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being [Ge2:7]." The last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit."
And the raised Christians are to be in the image of the heavenly Christ (a "spirit"), himself in God's image:
1Co15:47-49 "The first man [Adam] was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven [Christ]. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man ["... Christ, who is the image of God"(2Co4:4)]."
a) For Paul, the "spiritual body" is unperishable/eternal. And what is eternal is not visible:
2Co4:18b "... For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal"
b) In 2Co12:1-10, Paul related of an alleged visit to "third heaven"/"paradise", "in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows", where he has a conversation with the resurrected Lord. But Paul never said he saw anything or anyone there!
c) "Spiritual body" can be an adaptation of the ill-defined Platonic ethereal heavenly "form", itself a "copy" (image) of earthly being (or vice versa).
d) 1Co15:44-49 appears to be inspired by Philo's writings:
"And God formed the man by taking clay from the earth, and breathed into his face a breath of life, and the man became a living soul" [Ge2:7]. There are two types of men; the one a heavenly man, the other an earthly. The heavenly man, being made after the image of God, is altogether without part or lot in corruptible and terrestrial substance; but the earthly one was compacted out of the matter scattered here and there, which Moses calls "clay." For this reason he says that the heavenly man was not molded, but was stamped with the image of God;" (Allegorical interpretation I, ch. XII, 31)
However, it is also certain Paul never closed the door to some physicality for his "spiritual body", likely in order to take in account beliefs (or wishes) among his Christians.
What were the afterlife beliefs of those
Different forms of "resurrection" were believed by many Hellenistic Jews and Gentiles:
a) Greek philosopher Plato (428-348B.C.E.) in 'Phaedo' "I am confident in the belief that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring from the dead,"
"Granting that the soul is longlived, and has known and done much in a former state, still it is not on that account immortal; and its entrance into the human form may be a sort of disease which is the beginning of dissolution, and may at last, after the toils of life are over, end in that which is called death. And whether the soul enters into the body once only or many times"
b) Philo of Alexandria, in 'On the Giants', III "Some souls, therefore, have descended into bodies, ... and these, when hallowed and surrounded by the ministrations of the father, the Creator has been accustomed to employ, as hand-maidens and servants in the administration of mortal affairs."
And in 'On the Confusion of Tongues', XVII "For this reason all the wise men mentioned in the books of Moses are represented as sojourners, for their souls are sent down from heaven upon earth ... therefore having taken up their abode among bodies ..."
c) Josephus' Wars, II, VIII, 14:
"[The Pharisees] say that all souls are incorruptible; but that the soul of good men are only removed into other bodies,- but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment."
Beliefs of reincarnation are mentioned also in the gospels: Mk6:14-16,8:28,9:12-13.
B) Spiritual rising (right after death):
a) Plato (4th cent. B.C.E.) in 'Phaedo' "And the same may be said of the immortal: if the immortal is also imperishable, then the soul will be imperishable as well as immortal; but if not, some other proof of her imperishableness will have to be given. No other proof is needed, he said; for if the immortal, being eternal, is liable to perish, then nothing is imperishable. Yes, replied Socrates, all men will agree that God, and the essential form of life, and the immortal in general, will never perish." (check the similarities with 1Co15:42-44,50b-54a)
"And purification, but the separation of the soul from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and collecting itself into itself, out of all the courses of the body; the dwelling in its own place alone, as in another life, so also in this, as far as it can; the release of the soul from the chains of the body? Very true, he said." (check the similarities with 2Co5:1-4)
"Then, Cebes, beyond question the soul is immortal and imperishable, and our souls will truly exist in another world!"
b) Cicero's Republic (6. 9-26), "Dream of Scipio Africanus" (1st cent. B.C.E.)
"... there is a certain place in heaven [the Pauline paradise?], where they [Roman army men] shall enjoy an eternity of happiness."
"... my father Paulus, and others whom we look upon as dead, were really living. Yes, truly, ..., they all enjoy life who have escaped from the chains of the body as from a prison. ... But see, here comes your father Paulus towards you!"
"... justice and piety ... Such a life as this is the true way to heaven, and to the company of those, who, after having lived on earth and escaped from the body, inhabit the place [heaven] which you now behold."
"... the soul of Romulus penetrated into these eternal mansions ..."
"... indeed the door of heaven is open to those who have deserved well of their country ... consider your body only, not yourself, as mortal. For it is not your outward form which constitutes your being, but your mind; not that substance which is palpable to the senses, but your spiritual nature."
The text was highly influential and functions as a kind of universal declaration of the gospel of astral immortality (Luck 1956).
c) Philo of Alexandria, in 'The sacrifices of Abel and Cain', II "... Abraham also, leaving mortal things, "is added to the people of God," having received immortality, and having become equal to the angels; for the angels are the host of God, being incorporeal and happy souls."
III "There is another proof that the mind is immortal ... the migration of a perfect soul to the living God"
d) Philo of Alexandria, in 'On the Giants', III "These, then, are the souls of those who have been taught some kind of sublime philosophy, meditating, from beginning to end, on dying as to the life of the body, in order to obtain an inheritance of the incorporeal and imperishable life, which is to be enjoyed in the presence of the uncreate and everlasting God."
e) Josephus in Wars, II, VIII, 11: "For their doctrine [of the urban Essenes] is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward." (same concepts to be seen in the alleged discourse of the zealot leader Eleazar -- Wars, VII, VIII, 7, such as "...death; for this last affords our souls their liberty, and sends them by a removal into their own place of purity ...")
f) Mt10:28a "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul."
g) 1Peter3:18 RSV "For Christ also died for sins once for all, ..., being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;"
h) Josephus in Ant., XVIII, I, 3:
"They [the Pharisees] also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards and punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; on account of which doctrines, they are greatly able to persuade the body of the people;"
i) Tacitus, in 'History of the Jews', Bk V, Ch V, wrote:
"They [the Jews, likely the Hellenized ones] also look on the souls of those that die in battle, or are put to death [as Jesus?] for their crimes, as eternal."
C) Incarnation of heavenly beings:
Incarnation of angels, even God, was believed by some Hellenized Jews like Philo of Alexandria:
'On dreams', I, (238) "God at times assumes the likeness of the angels, as he sometimes assumes even that of men"
'Questions and answers on Genesis', I, (92) "for the substance of angels is spiritual; but it occurs every now and then that on emergencies occurring they have imitated the appearance of men,
[do you remember the young (naked) man in Mk14:51-52?]
` and transformed themselves so as to assume the human shape [and then fathered children with mortal women!]"
'On the change of names', (44) "[clear reference to Ge32:24-29, where God, as a man, wrestles patriarch Jacob (and looses!)]
` ... [God] said to the victorious wrestler ... "You have been mightily powerful both with God and with men;""
Incarnation (of gods) was believed also by Gentiles (as illustrated in Josephus' Ant., XVIII, III, 4, the story of Paulina, the Roman lady, who thought she made love with god Anubis; as already mentioned in "HJ-1a").
Appearances after death and vision of ghost were believed by Gentiles:
- Aeschylus (525-456) featured ghost as a character in some of his tragedies: 'Eumenides', 'Agamemnon', 'Hecuba' & 'Persian' (here, king Darius rises from his tomb).
- Euripides (480-406), 'Alcestis':
It is none other: the woman you see here is your wife.
Perhaps it is some ghost from the Underworld."
- Plato (428?-347), 'Phaedo': ""tombs and sepulchres, in the neighborhood of which, as they tell us, are seen certain ghostly apparitions of souls which have not departed pure, but are cloyed with sight and therefore visible. That is very likely, Socrates." "Yes, that is very likely, Cebes""
- Pliny the younger (61?-113), 'LXXXIII, letter to Sura': "I am extremely desirous therefore to know whether you believe in the existence of ghosts, and that they have a real form, and are a sort of divinities, or only the visionary impressions of a terrified imagination. What particularly inclines me to believe in their existence is a story which I heard of Curtius Rufus. When he was in low circumstances and unknown in the world, he attended the governor of Africa into that province. One evening, as he was walking in the public portico, there appeared to him the figure of a woman, of unusual size and of beauty more than human. And as he stood there, terrified and astonished, she told him she was the tutelary power that presided over Africa"
Now let's consider this:
Lk24:37-43 "They [the disciples] were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. ... "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." ... They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence."
a) Earlier in GLuke (24:13-33,35), two followers converse with the resurrected Jesus, in broad daylight, walking with him for miles. This Jesus could not appear to be a ghost, as he would later for the eleven!
b) It seems that some (Gentile) Christians in Luke's community believed Jesus' resurrection was based on reappearance of him as just a ghost (they had to be convinced otherwise!).
c) Strangely enough, Lk24:37-43 has 'pneuma' (spirit) for obviously "ghost", rather than 'phantasma' (phantom/apparition/spectre). Maybe "Luke" knew the disciples did not believe in 'phantasma'?
Remark: on my page about Luke's great omission and the one on "Q", I show that "Luke" was unaware of Mk6:47-8:27a and GMatthew where 'phantasma' is written for "ghost" (Mk6:49,Mt14:26).
d) In '1Samuel' (28), Samuel (after his death) converses with Saul, but is "seen" only by a medium as "an old man wearing a robe".
In Josephus' Wars, II, VIII, 11:
"And indeed the Greeks seem to me to have followed the same notion, when they allot the islands of the blessed to their brave men, whom they call heroes and demigods"
Beliefs that some brave Greek men went to some paradisiac islands were mirrored in Jewish beliefs, where some very notable righteous men went to heaven, body and soul. There are two cases, both of them acknowledged by early Christian writers:
a) Enoch, a patriarch:
Ge5:24 "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away"
Heb11:5 "By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away ..."
Note: let's compare this with the young man/angel's explanation in the "empty tomb":
Mk16:6 "... He has risen! He is not here. See the [empty] place where they laid him ..."
Elijah, a Jewish prophet and healer:
2Ki2:11b "... and Elijah went up to heaven [alive, not to be seen again] in a whirlwind."
a) Both Elijah and Moses appear alive during the transfiguration "scene" in the synoptic gospels.
b) Prior to that, Philo of Alexandria (20B.C.E.-50C.E.) had Moses risen as a soul:
'The sacrifices of Abel and Cain', III "There is also another proof that the mind is immortal ... [God] raised the perfect man [Moses] from the things of earth up to himself ..."
'On the life of Moses', II, ch. LI "For when he [Moses] was on the point of being taken away, and was standing at the very starting place [the top of mount Nebo (Dt34:1)], as it were, that he might fly away and complete his journey to heaven ..."
But later, 'the Assumption of Moses' (a Jewish apocryphal book written 70-100C.E.) has Moses' body transported in heaven:
Jude1:9 "But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, ..."
evidently taking its clue from:
Dt34:5-6 "And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is."
Let's notice here, pertaining to Moses, the progression from spiritual rising to heavenly "body snatching", within a span of about fifty years.
Other afterlife beliefs existed among Gentiles, such as:
Some Greeks had the notion that at death, all were judged. They appeared naked before three judges, who themselves had once lived and died. The just were clothed and sent to dwell in the Elysian fields (also called Paradise).
Let's compare this with Paul in:
2Co5:2-3 "... longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked."
After having explored the different afterlife beliefs in the Roman/Jewish world, let's go back to Palestine.
The concepts about going to heaven for a few chosen ones and immortality of the soul might have been popular among some Hellenistic Jews, but probably not into non-Hellenized Galilee and Judea (especially in the rural area). Here, the Sadducees, powerful among the temple priests (Josephus' Ant., XX, IX, 1), with traditional beliefs based on the first five books of the O.T. (Ant., XIII, X, 6), rejected it:
Mk12:18a "Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection ..."
Also in Ac23:8 "(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels or spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)"
And Josephus wrote in Ant., XVIII, I, 2:
"The doctrine of the Sadducees is this: that souls die with the bodies;"
and in Wars, II, VIII, 14:
"[the Sadducees] also take away [from the Pharisees] the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades."
"Luke" was certain the Jews in Palestine (as the Sadducees) did not believe in resurrection:
Ac26:6-8 NASB ""And now I [Paul] am standing trial for the hope
[of resurrection, according to Ac24:15 and Ac23:6b "... concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I [Paul] am being judged!"]
` of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King,
[Agrippa II, the Jewish king of eastern Galilee & Cesarea Philippi]
` I am being accused by Jews.
[among them "Sadducees" (Ac23:6-8) and "chief priests and Jewish leaders" (Ac25:2)]
` Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?"
[explaining why some Galilean villagers would be "questioning what the rising from the dead meant"]"
And this observation is made despite references
for physical resurrections, as written in
Isa26:19 "But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead."
Eze37:1-10 "... I [God] will attach tendons to you ["dry bones"] and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath into you, and you will come to life ..."
Job19:25-27 "... in the end, he [God] will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God ..."
Da12:2a "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life ..."
Da12:13 "As for you [Daniel], go your way till the end [of your life]. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."
Note: but from the same O.T., a few verses take away the possibility of future resurrection:
Ecclesiastes9:5-6 "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward ... nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun."
Job7:9 "As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up" (conflicting with 19:25-27, likely a later interpolation, probably done after 'Daniel' appeared!)
In the gospels, there are descriptions of fulfilled physical resurrection (some by Jesus and others by God, all of them before Jesus' alleged one):
Mt27:52-53a "The tombs broke open and the tombs of the many holy people who have died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs [allegedly after Jesus' death] ... and appeared to many people."
Lk7:11-15 "... Then He [Jesus] came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. ..."
Jn11:1-44 (the resurrection of Lazarus)
Obviously, Jesus' own resurrection would
not be so unique or the first one!
But earlier on, Paul suggested he considered Jesus' alleged resurrection as the first:
Ro1:4 "... [Jesus] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead ..."
1Co15:20-22 "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man [Jesus]. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
It looks the authors of the gospels were intent to "prove" resurrection, in order to provide hope for the kins of the deceased Christians. Resurrection had to be "demonstrated" by some "witnessing" of (a) previously dead person(s) in human form and alive again! Even if bodily resurrections were not readily accepted then:
Eumenides, by Aeschylus (Greek dramatist), written 458B.C.E, as said by Apollo the god "But when the thirsty dust sucks up man's blood once shed in death, he shall arise no more."
Origen, 'Contra Celsus', V, XIV "[Celsus, a pagan, wrote in 168:] For the soul, indeed, He [God] might be able to provide an everlasting life; while dead bodies, on the contrary, are, as Heraclitus observes, more worthless than dung."
Origen, 'Contra Celsus', V, XVIII "he [Celsus] has ridiculed at great length the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh, which has been preached in the Churches, and which is more clearly understood by the more intelligent believer;"
And not only among the Gentiles: Philo of Alexandria and Josephus did not endorse the idea of physical resurrection.
After this long digression, let's go back to our "Nazarenes" and the question "Were they urban Essenes?"
Rather than living in the same buildings
as the Essenes, the "Nazarenes"
seem to have their own accommodations:
Paul in Gal1:18-19 "... I went to Jerusalem [38C.E.] to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the apostles - only James, the Lord's brother."
Also in Ac2:46 "... They broke bread in their homes ..."
They do not appear to follow strict rules, take ritual baths or have a well defined hierarchy. And, when traveling, Peter had the reputation to go inside Gentile homes and share their food (Ac10:9-16,28,11:2-3,6-9).
Paul in Gal2:12a,14b "for before certain men came from James [Jesus' brother], he [Peter] would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came [in Antioch, Syria, 52C.E.], he withdrew and separated himself ... I said to Cephas before them all, If you, being a Jew [see also Ro15:25-27 quoted earlier] live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?""
Was Peter trying to have Gentiles be circumcised?
For some scholars, the aforementioned passage is interpreted as the indication that Peter was one. But considering:
A) "live in the manner of Gentiles"
B) "compel Gentiles to live as Jews" does not mean "compel Gentiles to accept fully the law (of Moses)".
Note: Galatians2:15-21 is most likely NOT part of Paul's unleashing to Peter's face (as 2:14b), mainly because of the lack of "you" & reference to Peter, the content of 2:17-21 (where Paul states his own beliefs) and the (Jewish) law (2:15,16,19,21) being not an issue in 2:14b.
Most Bibles put 2:14b-21 within the same set of apostrophes, but the Greek does not show any (as in the Blue Letter Bible). The NIV & NKJV acknowledge some interpreters end the quotation after verse 14.
Peter, breaking some of the Law in front
a) Entering non-Jewish home (see Ac10:28). Please notice the gospels' authors have Jesus avoiding just that (Mk7:29-30, Lk7:10).
b) Eating Gentile food (see also Ac10:10-15)
was hardly in position to ask them to comply with the law (& get circumcised!). Therefore, Peter could not have been trying to circumcise Gentiles.
C) Gal2:12b "... he [Peter] withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision."
Paul's testimony proves that Peter was not part of the "circumcision group".
What was Paul's relationship with Peter &
Paul lashing out publicly against Peter is certainly not an expression of love (or even respect) for one of the celebrated (& Jesus' eyewitness) "pillars" of the "church of Jerusalem":
Gal2:11 "When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong."
And considering what follows, the relationship of Paul and the "Nazarenes" was not as harmonious as described (understandably!) later in 'Acts' and earlier by Paul himself (Gal2:7-9a):
a) As already shown in Gal2:11-14, Paul never accepted the leadership of James and Peter (but Barnabas did: see later about him):
Gal2:6a "As for those who seemed to be important [the "Nazarenes" leadership in Jerusalem] -- whatever they were makes no difference to me; ..."
b) Paul's gospel was not drawn from the one of the "Nazarenes"/Jesus' eyewitnesses:
Gal1:11-12 "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it [by the "Nazarenes" (or Barnabas or Jewish Christians)!]; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."
Actually, before Paul's visit in 52C.E., the "Nazarenes" did not seem to know what gospel he had been preaching:
Gal2:1-2 "... I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I ... set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
[sounds like Paul was afraid the "church of Jerusalem" would "pull the plug" from under him; and consequently was looking for a private arrangement with the leaders. More so because earlier on in Corinth, "... the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. "This man," they charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law."" (Ac18:12-13)]"
c) The "Nazarenes" did not consecrate Paul as 'apostle to the Gentiles':
[the "Nazarenes", but only their leaders (and privately)]
[implied: upon request]
` that we
[Paul and Barnabas (not Paul only!)]
` should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
[the "Nazarenes" were not interested into addressing the non-Jews]"
The "Nazarenes" liked Barnabas (Ac4:36-37) and called him "Son of Encouragement". Barnabas, "a good man, full of ... faith" (Ac11:24) and ardent missionary (without being financed: "Or is it I and Barnabas who must work for a living?" 1Co9:6), offered his own money (Ac4:36-37) and stayed in Jerusalem for years. Then he was sent to Antioch by the "Nazarenes" (Ac11:22) in order to oversee Gentiles already made believers by "men from Cyprus and Cyrene" (Ac11:19-21). And, as can be gathered through Gal2:11-14, Barnabas acknowledged the authority of James.
So the agreement was likely to have been made thanks to Barnabas rather than Paul.
Also, the main reason for their consent (about going back to the Gentiles) may very well be indicated by what Paul wrote next:
Gal2:10 "All they [the "Nazarene" leadership] asked was that we should continue to remember the poor,
[collect "survival" money for the "church of Jerusalem": 1Co16:1-4, 2Co8-9, Ro15:25-27]
` the very thing I was eager to do."
Let's also note that, at this time (52C.E.), Paul's Christology did not feature
Jesus as pre-existent & as the 'Son of God'. And Paul never had Jesus as the cosmic 'Son of Man' coming back as the King.
The fact that Paul's Christian teaching was very minimal, at this particular time, is confirmed by what he wrote soon afterwards to the Christians of Corinth:
1Co2:2 "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
1Co3:6 "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase"
1Co3:10 "... I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it."
More details later on this page and "HJ-3b" "The beginning of Christianity"
Did Peter go to Corinth?
Peter (Cephas) very likely went to Corinth (as Paul and Apollos (Ac18:27-28,19:1) did) in 52C.E. and consequently he had followers as told by Paul in:
1Co1:12 "What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; ...""
1Co3:21b-22a "... All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, ..."
a) '1Corinthians' (or any other Paul's letters) never states Apollos (or Peter) went to Corinth. The fact that Apollos sojourned there (before Paul's return to Ephesus) is described in 'Acts' only. So why does 'Acts' never mention any Peter's trip to Corinth?
From Ac13:1 and about 45C.E., "Luke" did not care anymore about Peter's missionary activities (for example, Peter staying in Antioch in 52C.E. (Gal2:11-14) is not recorded in 'Acts'). Instead, the "spotlight" is turned on Paul and Barnabas during the 1st journey; then on Paul and his "helpers" (with Apollos as one of them) during the 2nd & 3rd journeys.
b) The church of Jerusalem was going to the Jews (Gal2:9) and one of them, Peter (Cephas), was traveling (Gal2:11, 1Co9:5). There were Jews in Corinth (Ac18:2,4,6,12,14) and some of them converted to Christianity early on (Ac18:7-8). Consequently, Peter had incentives to go to Corinth, after his visit to Antioch (Gal2:11).
Remark: because Paul humiliated him in public in this later city, Peter would be motivated to deflate Paul's Christology by offering his eyewitness' testimony on (the "down to earth") Jesus!
c) Eusebius in "The History of the Church", 2, 25, quoting bishop Dionysius of Corinth (late 2nd century):
"... For both of them [Paul & Peter] sowed in our Corinth and taught us ..."
d) It is also preposterous to think that some Corinthians would become followers of Peter through a visit of some "representative", with Peter, alive and well, shunning the place. Obviously, the Christians of Corinth were attracted to Paul and Apollos, whom they saw and heard. Why would it be different regarding Peter?
"Nazarenes" as Essenes, overall
Far from being urban Essenes, the "Nazarenes" practiced a combination of:
a) Essene "ways"
b) Traditional Judaism (especially for James "the righteous", Jesus' brother; see later)
c) Elements of freedom (especially for Peter)
Note: Paul never wrote the "Nazarenes" were "in Christ" or "in the Lord", as himself & other Christians:
1Th2:14;3:8;4:16;5:12; 1Co3:1,4:15,17;9:1-2;15:18,58;16:19,24; 2Co1:21;2:14,17;12:2; Php1:14;3:1;4:1-2,4,10,21; Phm1:6,8,16,20,23; Gal1:22;3:14;3:26,28;5:10; Ro8:1;12:5;16:3,7-13,22
And in his letters, Paul had the opportunity to call the "Nazarenes" "in Christ" or "in the Lord" (but did not!):
1Co16:1,3; 2Co8:4,13-15;9:1,12-15; Gal2:1-10; Ro15:25-26,31
That would have been most advantageous for Paul, more so because those were considered "saints" (= God's people):
1Co16:1,2; Co8:4;9:1,12; Ro15:25,26,31
16.6 James, the brother of Jesus and latter leader of the "Nazarenes":
The authenticity of James' letter is contested.
Some scholars see it as an anti-Pauline tract written around 80-90C.E. Also, they assert it is inspired from the Wisdom literature of the O.T. Apocrypha, in particular Hobit 4:5-19. But the differences in style & themes and the few analogies (i.e. charity for the poor) make the later claim very debatable.
Others (and myself) think that a large part of the epistle contains a rendition of Jesus' brother homilies or/and exhortations: despite being written in excellent Greek, the letter is disorganized, with reoccuring tenets & themes, as like a collection of randomly placed "sayings". It was likely put together, possibly by an ex-Pharisee (Ja4:13-17) and certainly an admirer of James, in order to be read among Jewish Christians outside Palestine (as in Syria). Because the letter mentions repeatedly the contemporaries of James will be alive when the Kingdom comes (with God's wrath and very soon!), a date of issue beyond 70C.E. (when most people in Jerusalem perished) does not make sense. Rather, a date of writing prior to James' death is probable.
Also, in the epistle, God himself is the Judge of the coming Day (4:12,5:7-11). This is typical of early Christian writings, as Paul's letters (Ro2:3,5-6,5:16,14:10b,12) and 'Hebrews' (12:23) (see "HJ-3b" "The beginning of Christianity" for its dating). However in later ones, written around 85-100C.E., GMatthew (25:31-46), GJohn (5:25-30) and 'Acts' (10:42), Jesus has become that Judge.
Now, let's start by the passages the most likely to be authentic:
Jas1:9-11 "Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits."
"For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brethren: has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
[quintessential belief of Jesus and the "Nazarenes". Let's also notice the present tense in "love", in contrast of the past tense in "promised": the "Nazarenes" must have believed Jesus had been "the apostle" (Heb3:1) of God, revealing in his behalf, salvation (admission in the Kingdom) for the poor of his generation ("the door of Jesus": see later on). Let's also observe the Kingdom is to arrive when these poor (and also the wealthy ones, as shown later) are still alive. Also of interest: being poor is not enough to get in the Kingdom, you have to love God also (piety)]
` But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?"
Jas2:15-16 "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries
that are coming upon you!
[allusion to the "negatives" to be administered when the Kingdom arrives]
` Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire [see 3:6b]. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
[it was thought the Kingdom would arrive very soon and before these wealthy ones die!]
` Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
[no mention of Jesus in heaven (here and in the whole letter!). However, as can be gathered in Eusebius' "the History of the Church" 2, 23, quoting Hegesippus (a Christian), James (described here as the ultimate holiest Jew) used often his brother's name in the simple expression: "the door of Jesus" (meaning salvation but without any elaboration). It is also clear, from the same passage, that "the Righteous One" was never referring to his brother as "Christ", "Lord", "Son of God", "Son of David" or being in heaven. See Appendix C]
` You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.
[allusion to the "day of the Lord (God)" and his Judgment: see later]"
Note: such virulent attacks against wealthy ones were bound to infuriate the high priests, who were hoarding money. And their wrath happened: in 62C.E., one of them, Ananus, a Sadducee and the high priest then, "formed an accusation against them ["James, and some others"] as breakers of the law". As a result, "he delivered them to be stoned". See my "Appendix C" with Josephus' testimony, for more details.
This is what Josephus wrote about the high priests then:
Ant., XX, XVIII, 8 "About this time king Agrippa gave the high priesthood to Ismael [60C.E. at the latest], who was the son of Fabi. And now arose a sedition between the high priests and the principal men of the multitude of Jerusalem; each of which got them a company of the boldest sort of men, and of those that loved innovations about them, and became leaders to them; ... And such was the impudence and boldness that had seized on the high priests,
[that would include the aforementioned Ananus]
` that they had the hardiness to send their servants into the threshing-floors, to take away those tithes that were due to the priests, ..."
Ant., XX, IX, 2 "But as for the [former] high priest [48?-52?C.E.], Ananias [the son of Nebedeus], he increased in glory every day, and this to a great degree, and had obtained the favor and esteem of the citizens in a signal manner; for he was a great hoarder up of money: he therefore cultivated the friendship of Albinus [Roman governor, 62-64?C.E.], and of the [new] high priest [Jesus (no relation!)], by making them presents; he also had servants who were very wicked, who joined themselves to the boldest sort of the people, and went to the thrashing-floors, and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them. So the other high priests
[again that would include the aforementioned Ananus]
` acted in the like manner, as did those his servants, without any one being able to prohibit them; so that [some of the] priests, that of old were wont [accustomed] to be supported with those tithes, died for want of food."
Also of interest and with a high likelihood of authenticity, in the same letter: 1:2-8,12-15,19-27; 2:7-14,17-26; 3:1-18; 4:1-12, 5:7-20.
James believed that "faith without deeds is dead" (2:26 also 2:14,20) and exhorted for deeds (see Gal2:10,): "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (2:27).
He warned about "great boasts" (3:5) (see Paul in 2Co10:13-14,11:10,16-18,21,12:1,5,6) and slips of "the tongue" ("a restless evil full of deadly poison" 3:8) from "teachers" causing disaster in one's life (3:1-6).
The royal law is mentioned "Love your neighbour as yourself" (2:8) but warned that "friendship with the world is hatred toward God" (4:4, also in 1:27; see Gal2:12-13, 1Co2:12,11:32, 2Co6:14,7:10).
For him, the Law (of Moses) is "the perfect law that gives freedom" (1:25 also in 2:12. But Paul wrote in Gal3:10a "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse")
and "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (2:10)
"The prayer offered in faith [especially from righteous elders (5:14,16)] will make the sick person well" (also in Mk9:29). Anointing with oil is also recommended for the sick (also in Mk6:13). Sins can cause illness (5:13-16), even death (1:15b,5:20). Big sinners should "grieve, mourn and wail ... Humble yourselves before the Lord [God], and he will lift you up" (4:9-10)
God (the Lord) is the "Law-giver and Judge". (4:12,5:9), "able to save and destroy" (4:12) at Judgment Day (5:9) and the Lord (Job's God, 5:11) is coming soon (5:7-8) and "the Judge is standing at the door" (5:9). But "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy" (5:11) and "Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (2:13).
In the letter, James appears to have been a responsible (and sympathetic) leader projecting authority and popular wisdom. He was concerned by the (spiritual and physical) welfare of his community (and possibly others). And he was not scheming about doctrine, theology (like Paul) and rituals.
Also, the general tone of the letter suggests that James considered himself the successor of Jesus, as corroborated in a "saying" in the uncanonical gospel of Thomas (12):
"The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that You will depart from us. Who is to be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "Wherever you are, you are to go to James the Righteous ...""
Finally, James' letter has so little Christianization added ( "Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1) and "glorious Lord Jesus Christ" (2:1): that's it), so much conservative (non-hellenistic) Judaism, and, on some points, conflicting with Christian doctrines, that it barely made it into the New Testament.
Note: "... the New [Testament] has its deuterocanonical books ..., their canonicity having formerly been a subject of some controversy in the Church. These are for the entire books: the Epistle ... of James ..." (Catholic Encyclopedia: Canon of the New Testament)And the imagery complementing unequivocally the plain language is very reminiscent of Jesus' sayings, even if James' homilies or/and messages appear more sophisticated (but no parable or cynicism here! And no "sacrifice" also).
As can be gathered so far (including James' letter), the "Nazarenes" did not believe in immortality, resurrection & life after death. They also probably rejected late imports in Judaism such as angels (including the "fallen ones", i.e. Satan) & spirits (as separate independent entities), as the Sadducees did (Ac23:8).
But many of these beliefs were shared by the Pharisees. So, it is understandable that Jesus could have said, as a traditional Jew: "... "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees ..."" (Mk8:15, Mt16:6,11, Lk12:1).Remark: in Mk8:15, the reference of "the yeast of the Pharisees" comes unexpectedly. And then, it is abandoned and not explained:
Mk 8:14-16 "The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread.""
This seems to be the mark of a saying believed to be authentic by the Christians in the community (but also embarrassing) that "Mark" felt obligated to insert. The saying was awkwardly put to good use in order to introduce a fictitious dialogue where Jesus would try to convince his disciples (and Christians!) about the two miraculous feedings.
Embarrassing? Paul, for sure (Php3:5), and probably other early Christian preachers (like Apollos) had been Pharisees (or at least very much influenced by Pharisaic beliefs). And the Gentile Christians must have known about the gap between the limited set of beliefs of the "Nazarenes" (like Peter and James) and the expanded one of the others. Certainly, there was no need to remind anyone about it.
In his latter years, James was a noticeable figure:
Josephus explained, in Ant., XX, IX, 1, the irregularities in his (and others) trial by the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious tribunal) for "breaking the law" leading to his death by stoning (62C.E.). That led to the replacement of the high priest (see Appendix C for complete text).
16.7 The "Nazarenes" and James' legacy:
Remnant of James' exhortations for "deeds" can still be observed in Matthew's gospel:
Mt25:35-36a "for I [Jesus, who now is the King and Judge of the second coming] was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me ..."
Mt25:44-45 "They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
He will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"
Note: then later in Mt25:46, the Judgment of the righteous is administered solely on the basis of (past) charity towards the poor.
The holistic life that the "Nazarenes" practiced and James preached was an important part of Paul's initial message:
1Th4:6-11 "that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.
But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing."
The same legacy can clearly be seen in Pliny the Younger's famous letter (107-113) to emperor Trajan:
"they [Christians in Bithynia/Pontus] had met regularly before dawn on a certain day to chant verses antiphonally amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves with an oath, not in a criminal conspiracy, but to abstain from fraud, banditry, and adultery, to commit no breach of trust, and not to renege on a deposit. After completing this foolishness, it was their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of a common and innocuous type"
16.7.4 The Didache 'two ways' teaching seems to incorporate many of James' exhortations.
a) The Didache was published (minus a few later interpolations), around 95C.E.
b) Most of the 'two ways' teaching is also in the so-called epistle of Barnabas (written around 97).
Ch.1 "The way of life is this:
... If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able ... ; for the Father wills that everyone should be partakers of our free gifts. Great rewards are awaiting anyone who gives according to the commandment; for that person is guiltless. Woe to the one who receives but has no need, for he will pay the penalty ..."
Ch.2 "Your speech must never be false, nor meaningless, but confirmed by action. You must never be greedy, nor accumulate riches ..."
Ch.4 "If earned something through work, your giving will be weighed as a ransom against your sins. You must not hesitate to give, nor grumble afterwards, for one day you will face the reward of the Paymaster. Never turn away those in need but always share all things with your brother, and never say that your possessions are your own, ..."
Ch.5 "The way of death is this:
... having no mercy for the poor, not working for the afflicted, ... turning away from the needy, oppressing the afflicted, prejudiced in favor of the rich and against the poor, utterly sinful ..."
Other parts of the Didache describe the beliefs of the "Nazarenes" (Jesus as prophet/apostle and God & his Kingdom to come):
Ch.9 "Now concerning the Thanksgiving meal, give thanks in this manner. First, concerning the cup: We thank You, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David Your servant, whom You made known to us through Your servant Jesus;
["servant" is the translation of the Greek "pais", meaning servant or child. Translation as "Son" is therefore misleading. Please note, the holy vine is of David, not Jesus (as his blood)]
` may the glory be Yours forever. Concerning the broken bread:
[the order (cup then bread) is Jewish, and contrary to what shows in the "Last Supper" in 1Co11:23-26, Mk14:22 & Mt26:26-29. "Luke", who likely knew about the "Nazarenes" (although indirectly), had the order right (22:17-19a -- and accepting 22:19b-20 as a later interpolation)]
` We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Your Servant Jesus
["Your servant Jesus" and "Your servant" appear also in chapter 10.
Let's notice there is no mention of (Christ's) death, sacrifice, blood & body, or atonement of sins] ..."
Ch.10 "Lord, Remember Your Church, ... Sanctified for Your kingdom which You have prepared for it; ... Let Your grace come, and let this world pass away . Hosanna to the God of David. If any man is holy, let him come ... Marana tha [Aramaic for "Come O Lord!". Also in 1Co16:22]"
Ch.16 "And then ["in the last days"] the deceiver of the world
[emperor Domitian of the great tribulation, who had himself called "lord & god"]
` will appear as son of god
[translated also as "the Son of God". The context here suggests any "Son of God" is bad. Domitian was the son of Vespasian, deified earlier by Titus: therefore "son of god" for Domitian is amply justified]
` ... and he will do abominable things
... all mankind will be tried by fire [God's wrath], causing many to fall away and perish
[the many are the ones following "the way of death"]
` ... as it was declared, "The Lord will come, and all the holy ones with him
[those are the ones following "the way of life"]."
The expressions "Son of Man" and "Son of David" do not appear in the Didache.
More on the Didache and its dating here.
The Ebionites were members of sects which
survived for a few centuries, some of them
becoming more and more Christian or Gnostic
along the years. Their origin is subject
of debates: some scholars proposed the "Nazarenes"
were the first Ebionites, but Eusebius placed
them first in the 70-110C.E. period.
Their core beliefs can be described by this excerpt from Eusebius' 'The History of the Church', 3, 27:
"They [the Ebionites] regarded Him [Jesus] as plain and ordinary, a man esteemed as righteous through growth of character and nothing more, the child of a normal union between a man and Mary; and they held that they must observe every detail of the Law. By faith in Christ alone, and a life built upon that faith, they would never win salvation."
Earlier on, Irenaeus wrote in 'Against Heresies':
Book I, ch. XXVI, 2 "They [the Ebionites] ... repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God."
Book V, ch. I, 3 "Vain also are the Ebionites, who do not receive by faith into their soul the union of God and man, but who remain in the old leaven of [the natural] birth, and who do not choose to understand that the Holy Ghost came upon Mary, and the power of the Most High did overshadow her"
Little is known on how they lived, but "Ebionites" is derived from a Hebrew word meaning "poor men".
Note: Tertullian (early 3rd century) first proposed a certain Ebion as the founder of the sect, but due to lack of evidence, that is generally dismissed.
Finally, as a conclusion, from Eusebius' 'The History of the Church', 3, 32:
[a (Jewish) Christian, who wrote extensively against Gnostics]
` goes on to say that until then the Church [of Jerusalem] had remained a virgin, pure and uncorrupted, since those who were trying to corrupt the wholesome standard of the saving message,
[well explained in James' letter (& the Didache). Also let's note: a "saving message"]
` if such they were, lurked somewhere under cover of darkness.
But when the sacred band of apostles had in various ways reached the end of their life, and the generation of those privileged to listen with their own ears to the divine wisdom had passed on, then godless error began to take shape, through the deceit of false teachers, who now that none of the apostles was left threw off the mask and attempted to counter the preaching of the truth by preaching the knowledge falsely so called."
=> Next: HJ-3 "From Jerusalem to Son of God"