Scholarly Questions and Comments

Oldest Set

Replies: © 2005,2006,2007,2008, 2009 Dr. Barbara Thiering

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The successor of Peter as Pope
Claude Robitaille, of Quebec City Canada, asks for
a comment on an apparent contradiction concerning the man who succeeded Peter as Pope.
Q. "According to the Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VIII , which you mention to be a reliable source, the Epistle of Clement to James narrates the Ordination of Clement:
"When Peter was about to die, the brethren being assembled together, he suddenly seized my hand, and rose up, and said: "Hear me , brethren... the day of my death is approaching. I lay hands upon this Clement as your bishop, and to him I entrust my chair of discourse... Therefore I communicate to him the power of binding and loosing ... "
On the other hand, the Catholic Encyclopedia refers to Linus (67-76) and Anacletus/Cletus (76-88) and then Clement I (88-97).
Some commentaries:
"... we cannot accept as more reliable Tertullian's assertion, which unquestionably places St. Clement after the Apostle Peter, as was also done later by other Latin scholars (Jerome). The Roman list in Irenaeus has undoubtedly greater claims to historical authority. This author claims that Pope Linus is the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in his II Timothy 4:21.
The passage by Iraeneus (Adv. hareses, III, iii, 3) reads:
"After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order ( in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus"

A. As so often happens now that we have more information, earlier assumptions, such as there could be only one Pope at a time, reveal a lack of knowledge of the background. Peter became Pope to the Gentiles in Rome within an existing system dating back to Herod the Great and the Temple Scroll. Both accounts are correct: there were two successors of Peter at the same time.

In the plan of the Temple Scroll, which places 12 ascetic orders called "tribes" around the walls of a New Jerusalem, the "tribes" of Naphtali, Dan and Asher are placed on the north wall. The original tribal area of Naphtali was in Galilee, including the town of Capernaum. Peter came from Capernaum, as is shown in Mark 1:16-21 (although that story concerns events at the Qumran council, which missionary leaders including Peter were attending). The "tribes" of Dan and Asher are both connected with women, who appear in the original tribal areas. South Dan included Joppa where the widow Dorcas appeared (Acts 9:36-43). Asher included Tyre from which the Syrophoenician woman came (Mark 7:24-30). These ascetic orders were set up for celibate women, whom the Therapeutae included in their meetings. Consequently the orders were extended to include Gentiles, who were classed with women as being uncircumcised.

Peter, a married man (1 Corinthians 9:5)so of a low grade, "unclean" by celibate Essene standards, had been asssigned to mission to "unclean" women and Gentiles. Under the influence of Jesus the whole class of Gentiles claimed equality with Jews and broke away when they were denied it. Now calling themselves Christians, they founded a new center of mission in Rome. Their structures, however, preserved those that had been established by the ascetics in the 1st century BC.

Gentiles made the same distinction between the celibates and the married as did the Jewish ascetics. The order of Dan was for their celibates, who eventually established Christian monasticism. The order of Asher was for the married, including married men who followed the Nazirite rule of short term retreats from marriage. John Mark came from the order of Dan, and James and John of Zebedee, who appear with Peter in Mark 1:19-20, belonged to the order of Asher.

The Catholic tradition that you quote prefers Linus because he would have been a successor in the monastic Gentile order of Dan. The Clementine literature (See "The Clementine Books" in Section 4 on this site) - which is certainly an early and reliable source in my view - associates Peter, the married man, with James the brother of Jesus, a Nazirite. Peter would have appointed Clement - who according to the Clementines was the younger brother of (James) Niceta and (John) Aquila - to be his successor to married Gentiles of the order of Asher. The double papacy would have continued for some time until the persecutions of the 90's gave Clement the pre-eminence. The need for unity resulted in the establishment of a single, supreme papacy.

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Some earlier sidetracks
Pentti Ruotsalainen from Finland has asked about two earlier theories that have not been sustained.
Q. "Doctor Carsten Peter Thiede has written something that seems to support your new dating of the gospels. In his book "The DSS and the Jewish Origins of Christianity"(2000) (pp. 153-181) he comes to the conclusion (like many others) that one fragment of the DSS is part of the Gospel of Mark. Consequently, his dating of this gospel is very close to that of yours, around AD 50.

On the other hand, many scholars have claimed that Qumran was not a monastery, that it was rather a defensive fortress or a pottery."
A. The claim was made in the 70's by Jose O'Callaghan, a Spanish Jesuit, that fragments found in Cave 7, written in Greek uncials, were remains of books of the New Testament. The fragments were published in Discoveries in the Judean Desert 3, in 1962. In particular, he claims that 7Q5 is from a copy of the gospel of Mark. It was paleographically dated 50 BC - AD 50.

The fragment contains the following Greek words or remains of words on successive lines:

tō a [

] ē kai tō[


]thēs [

From this data alone, O'Callaghan argued that it came from Mark 6:52-53.  Verse 53 contains the words  Gennēsaret  kai  prosōrmisthēsan.  From syllables in these two words, O'Callaghan drew his conclusion. But in the previous verse, and even in verses before it, there are no words that would yield the two sets of letters above these. The claim, well publicised in Time Magazine, has been rejected by all Greek scholars.

I would add that it is extremely unlikely that any New Testament book would have been preserved at Qumran. The Christians broke away from the Qumran sect, rejecting their militancy against Rome and their emphasis on uncleanness, particularly as applied to Gentiles. The first gospel completed was, I believe, published in Caesarea - John's gospel. Mark was written and published in Rome, as the Christian record says. Others also were written outside the country.

Another theory that has now been positively denied by establishment Qumran scholars was that Qumran was merely a manufacturing site, or, in one case, a lodging place for travellers coming up the Dead Sea by boat. Geza Vermes wrote derisively of this latter case, of "the Qumran Hilton". From the start there was strong literary evidence that Qumran was the home of the Essenes, and the monastic life-style of Essenes corresponded to obvious features of the site: the scriptorium, the numerous stepped cisterns for ritual bathing, the caves used for spiritual retreats and study of religious documents.

Scholarship that takes into account all the available evidence just has to keep going.

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The Gospel of Judas that has just been published
John Geiger of Oklahoma, USA writes "The following title was published by the NY Times today:
"'Gospel of Judas' Surfaces After 1,700 Years" By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD and LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Q. It seems to have been authenticated as genuine. Would it be possible for you to provide more information about the Gospel of Judas?"
A. There is no doubt that there once was a document called the Gospel of Judas, which was composed before 180 AD. The church father Irenaeus, writing his treatise "Against Heresies" at about that date, refers to it, condemning it, without giving its text.

He states that it is Cainite, which means that it contains the doctrines of a secret gnostic sect that was licentious and antinomian in character. The Cainites, taking their name from Cain the murderous son of Adam, believed that they were the highest of human beings. They practiced sexual rites which were said to enable their attainment of the "perfect gnosis". It is possible that the work contained a Passion story saying that Judas by his treachery made possible the salvation of mankind. By bringing about the crucifixion of Jesus, he thwarted the designs of the evil powers who wished to prevent the crucifixion , since they knew that it would deprive them of their power and bring salvation to men.

Amid massive media publicity designed to take advantage of the present interest in hidden Christian history, a fragment said to be part of the Gospel of Judas is now announced. It was in a collection of Coptic documents that were said to have been discovered at Muhafazat al Minya in Egypt during the 1950's and 1960's. Other works in the 62 page leatherbound codex were already known, being found in the Nag Hammadi Coptic documents. This one was a small fragment ending with the words "Gospel of Judas". It has been carbondated to about 300 AD, but if it is the same Gospel of Judas that Irenaeus refers to it was composed in Greek before 180 AD and translated into Coptic.

The few extracts that have been given to the media seem to accord with Cainite content. Jesus says to Judas, "You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man who clothes me". Jesus also said, "Step away from the others and I will tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal". Judas is told "You will be cursed by the other generations and you will come to rule over them."

The media naturally highlight the idea that it might contain real history. But that is to show an absence of information about what the gnostic Nag Hammadi documents have taught us. All of them come from circles within which - as may be argued - the first Christians worked. The gnostics were the members of the schools, monasteries and abbeys, which had adopted many aspects of hellenistic thought and were teaching them as religious truth. Since it was rare to have such a standard of education, they held themselves to be superior, above ordinary men, possessors of the "divine spark" that gave them the ability to receive such knowledge (Greek gnosis).

They put ideas far above facts, being more interested in speculative philosophy than in history. An example of how they could re-interpret the crucifixion of Jesus comes from one of the NHL works, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth. It is asserting the opposite of what the Gospel of Judas is alleged to be saying, that the crucifxion did not happen to Jesus, because he was too superior to allow it.

"I (Jesus) did not die in reality but in appearance, lest I be put to shame by them because these are my kinsfolk. ...For my death which they think happened, happened to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man to their death....It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height above all the wealth of the archons and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance." (vii, 2, 55: 19- 56:19).

It has also become apparent, amid inevitable controversy, that distinctions have to be made among the gnostic works. The earlier they are, the more likely they are to reflect actual history, especially if it accords with an objective reading of the New Testament. Because some of this history is unwelcome to conservatives, modern scholars have sometimes overridden evidence in order to give a late date, thus allowing the history to be thought fictitious. This is particularly the case with the NHL Gospel of Philip, whose internal evidence shows it to have been composed prior to 70 AD, when there were still "Hebrews" who were changing their doctrine and beginning to call themselves "Christians". This is the work that presents Mary Magdalene as having a sexual relationship with Jesus. It has been given a 3rd century AD date, erroneously in my opinion.

The gospel of Judas, if it has more of the content that the published extracts illustrate, is likely to come from one of the gnostic factions that gave free rein to speculation about the crucifixion to uphold their own philosophy, an opposite faction to the one that produced The Second Treatise of the Great Seth. It would be an interesting example of the great diversity of outlooks within which the Christian party arose. There can no longer be an assumption of a pure, original, unified Christianity which all these strange ideas subsequently corrupted.

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The Rosslyn Chapel and the Knights Templar
Lary S. Wright of Calgary, Alberta Canada asks about two books by the same pair of authors that are part of the present enthusiasm for the hidden history of Christianity. The first one is about the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, which is especially topical at present because the climax of the Da Vinci Code is set there. My comment on the research would cover both books.
Q. My enquiry concerns two books written by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas - "The Hiram Key, Pharaohs (Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus)" [Arrow Books Limited 1997] and "The Second Messiah (Templars, the Turin Shroud & the Great Secret of Freemasonry)" [Arrow Books Limited 1998]. Their topic concerns the origins and history of Freemasons and its connection to Jewish history (including Sumer, Egypt , Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus and the dispersal), the Pharaohs, Jewish rule of Egypt and their expulsion, Jesus, the origins and history of Christianity, the Templars, the Turin Shroud and Rossyln Chapel. (I am not a Freemason). Have you read these books, and if so, what is your comment on their research.

A. A reliable book on the Knights Templar comes from Piers Paul Read (The Templars, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999). It was a secret society formally founded under that name by Hugh of Payns in 1119. The Templars were the leaders of the Crusades. The Order was dissolved in 1312 by Pope Clement V. Their image was preserved as a secret men's society, romanticised by some, as in Wagner's opera Parsifal, as the chivalrous possessors of the Holy Grail; vilified by others such as Edward Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

While previous accounts had seen them arising de novo in the 12th century, the Dead Sea Scrolls have supplied an obvious previous stage that has to be admitted. Read's book begins with early Jewish history and the temple of Solomon, and goes through the period of the Scrolls, of "austere and fanatic sects such as the Essenes who lived in quasi-monastic communities; the Zealots; the Sicarii". I would add that the fact that the Qumran community were intent on recovering control of the Jerusalem temple, as shown by the Temple Scroll, must now be taken into account in any history of the Templars.

Read traces the history through the medieval period, then arrives at the modern growth of what he calls "Templarism", which he says was a product of the Freemasons, the secret initiating society best known for its hostility to the Roman Catholic Church. He quotes on p.306 a modern writer, "Templarism...was a belief manufactured by charlatans for their dupes." His examples are from Baigent and Leigh's Holy Blood Holy Grail and from a book called The Head of God by Keith Laidler (1998). This latter book claims that the Knights Templar found under the Jerusalem temple the embalmed head of Christ, to which the name Baphomet was given, worshipped secretly by the Templars.

Another writer is quoted, Andrew Sinclair in The Discovery of the Grail, giving the obvious criticism of methodology that any scholar would make: "These fantasists put forward a hypothesis....Did Jesus marry Mary Magdalene and provide the bloodline of the Merovingians? Within a few pages, the assertion becomes the actual, the idea is changed into the proof."

The Hiram Key by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas (Century Books, 1996) is a product of the industry. It starts with a remarkable building, the Rosslyn Chapel just south of Edinburgh in Scotland. I was taken to see it, and would agree that it is important evidence for the history of the Freemasons. It is full of carvings, primarily of plants and flowers. Two striking stone pillars are readily associated with the columns Jachin and Boaz that stood outside Solomon's temple (1 Kings 7:15-221 ). The Rosslyn pillars are beautifully decorated, one with wreaths of flowers winding around it , one straight up and down.

The tactic of The Hiram Key is the same as in all these works that are 80% fakery - they start with a strong fact, such as the obvious connection with the DSS, then arrive at a sensational conclusion for which there is no evidence. They slide the fake facts in on top of the true facts, using the same terminology, so that less informed readers think it is all due to learning. On p.306 the authors assert that the Rosslyn chapel was a post-Templar shrine built to house the scrolls found by Hugh of Payns under the Holy of Holies of the last Temple at Jerusalem. It seems that the Qumran finds - which do actually exist - were simply second rate works deposited elsewhere in Judea, while the really important ones (for which there is no evidence whatever) were placed under the Holy of Holies in AD 69. These tell the real facts - "the story of Jesus Christ, the secret ceremony of resurrecting the living and the importance of building the human spirit as though it were a temple. They will tell us about the life of Jesus, and as such must be the lost gospel of Q, the gospel that was the source material for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John." (!!! The hypothesised Q contained sayings only, not narrative, and is not found in Mark and John. Oh well, near enough. Further, the Christians in AD 69 were nowhere near the Jerusalem temple, but had separated from the zealots and transferred to Rome. But why spoil a good story?)

There is a nucleus of fact in all of these romances, that Jesus was a real human being and was part of an actual history. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi codices, and the consequent re-evaluation of the Apocrypha have forced scholars to admit that there was a whole history of earliest Christianity that we have not known about and that can be recovered if we set aside theological prejudice. In particular, it has to be admitted that there is reason for accepting the tradition of descendants of Jesus in the south of France. The evidence for it is the presence in Vienne and Lyons of the houses of the two Herods who were exiled there, Archelaus and Antipas , together with the fact that the Herods were an integral part of the history. Herod the Great founded the institution that became the Church. Once the pesher technique that is learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls is applied, it is known that the family of Jesus transferred to Rome. They would have escaped over the Alps in the persecutions of the 90's to seek refuge in the Herod houses.

The Da Vinci Code, a very readable thriller that is now making headlines because of the court case alleging plagiarism, has the merit of introducing to the public in the palatable form of fiction the theological truth that Jesus was a great human being, but no more. Its demerit is that it has serious historical errors that tend to discredit its genuine parts, and - in my personal opinion - that it lends itself to a cult of Mary Magdalene that is as idolatrous as the cult of a divine Jesus.

Still, I suspect that the enormous market it found was set up by the hunger for a reform of an inadequate and superstitious Christianity. The change we are going through now has the proportions of the Protestant Reformation, at the very least, perhaps more. We sit on top of a theological volcano.

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The pesher of two verses on the afterlife
John Gutermuth, Atlanta USA asks for the pesher of two verses on the afterlife.
Q. As they preceded the resurrection peshers in your Section 6, have your other researches indicated any pesher meanings to the following Mark verses? : "Truly I tell you, some of you standing here will not taste death until you see the Kingdom of God having come in power." (Mark 9:1) "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (Mark 13:30)
A. Thanks for a very productive question. I'll give the information and pesher for both verses. I'll follow our usual form, giving the necessary information from the Greek, and ask the Webmaster to make the links with the Lexicon of special meanings. The Greek script is given first, followed by the transliteration in green, then the very literal translation in blue, then the pesher in red.

Mark 9:1

1. Kai elegen autois, Amēn legō hymin hoti eisin tines hōde tōn estēkotōn hoitines ou mē geusōntai thanatou heōs an idōsin tēn basileian tou theou elēlythuian en dynamei.

1. And he (Jesus) said to them, "Truly I say to you that Certain Ones here of those standing, the Certain Ones will not-not taste of death until {heōs} they See{eidon} the kingdom of God having come in Power."

1. The pesher of this verse is about politics, as is always the case. Its theological meaning, apparently saying that some will not taste death until a great religious future, is only indirectly connected with its pesher. The special meaning concerns a political crisis that was occurring in September AD 32, when the Damascus party was formed as a military opposition to both Rome and to Agrippa. Jesus was at this point giving some support to its formation as being inevitable in the present circumstances, and was anticipating that it would win power.

A characteristic device of pesher is the use of a double negative that becomes a positive. The Greek "not not taste of death" means "will taste of death." "Death" is a name for a person, Simon Magus. He was the rival Pope who would gain power in the crisis . A certain person, given the pseudonym hoitines apparently meaning "some", would taste Death, that is form a political alliance with Simon Magus. The word "Power" also means Simon in his role as the Pope.

The men named in the verse by pseudonyms are Thomas Herod (tines), Theudas the Chief Therapeut (hoitines) (Certain Ones with the plural article meaning the Chief Therapeut), Simon Magus ("Death" and "Power"), and Jonathan Annas, the Sadducee who is referred to by the name "God", for Sadducee priests believed that they were an incarnation of God. All of these are found in the narrative of Acts in the party based in Damascus. It was the same party that produced the secatarian Dead Sea Scrolls.

The words were spoken by Jesus shortly before the occasion on September 12, AD 32, which is described in Mark's gospel (9:2-8) as the Transfiguration. It is one of the most important and valuable passages for the whole history. There are 3 independent accounts of what happened on that day. One is in the DSS, in 1QpHab 11:1-4, concerning the occasion when the Wicked Priest (Jesus) "caused them to stumble" on the Day of Atonement. The reason was that Jesus himself made an attempt at the papal power, as he agreed with neither of the rival parties. His garments "underwent a metamorphosis" and "became exceedingly white" when he put on the white robes of the Zadokite high priest (Mk 9:2-3). Another outside source is in the Clementines (Clementine Homilies 2, 24) which record that although Dositheus (Jonathan Annas) had gained the papacy after the execution of John the Baptist, he was subsequently ousted by Simon Magus. The gospels themselves give their account of the same event, both in the Transfiguration episode and in John 7.

Mark 13:30

30 Amēn legō hymin hoti ou mē parelthē hē genea hautē mechris hou tauta panta genētai.

30. "Truly I say to you that not-not will this generation pass away until All Things These Things have come about."

30. Another case of a double negative meaning a positive, and of a special meaning that was political. A "generation" was a period of 40 years, using the divisions of time made by the Therapeuts. "All Things" refers to Herodian policy. Mark 13 was added to Mark's gospel after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, as all scholars recognize. The verse means that the Herodian political ambitions for world power would fail altogether following the destruction of the city. That event took place 40 years after the gospel period - a figure that is also drawn on in the DSS, in CD 20:13-15.

These are good examples of the way a political history is actually being given, with a theological meaning secondary to it. In other cases, the theological or ethical meaning is more directly derived from the event.

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Male and female baptizers
Jeffrey Jay, of Manhattan USA asks about male and female baptizers.
Q. Within your book "Jesus of the Apocalypse" chapter four page 35, discusses the importance of using a "Miriam" for the express purpose of actually performing the hands on rite of baptism. John the Baptist, as a Zadokite and "Michael" should not have not been able to perform this rite for his grade would have made him untouchable. Would you please explain what looks like an inconsistency of Essene baptismal rites. Is there any information known whom John the Baptist married?
A. Thanks for your question. The essential point is that the woman baptized Gentiles and the priest would only baptize Jewish celibates. The "Miriam" (Mary), the Chief Woman of the Therapeuts, was permitted to act in ministry, following the example of Miriam the sister of Moses in Exodus 15:21. The Therapeuts, not living in monasteries but only in hermitages, admitted female hermits. The Therapeuts were the ones who attracted and accepted Gentiles. Since both the woman and the Gentiles were uncircumcised, and the baptismal rite of immersion in a river required physical proximity, only a woman was allowed to be close to such "unclean" men. But the rite of immersion baptism in monasteries was performed by the highest priests on Jewish men who were committing themselves to the permanently celibate life. John the Baptist as the Zadokite, when living in the monastery, performed these ceremonies.

The Christian version of baptism came through the Gentiles. The Gospel of Philip, II 52, 21-25, says, "When we were Hebrews we were orphans and had only our mother, but when we became Christians we had both father and mother". This gospel comes from the 1st century AD (as may be argued, with strong evidence, against some present day scholarly opinion). It came from Gentiles, who had begun with the Therapeuts and called themselves "Hebrews". They had known only baptism by a woman, who was symbolised as their "Mother". But when the views of the Gentile party led by Jesus prevailed, adopting the name "Christian" in 44 AD, Gentiles were no longer treated as "unclean", and they were baptized by a village priest whom they called "Father", a title preserved in the Church.

There is no information on Mrs Baptist. Since the Baptist was a Zadokite, she would have had to conform to the rule for Zadokite marriages in Ezekiel 44:22. "They shall not marry a widow, or a divorced woman, but only a virgin of the stock of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest."

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Gardner's book: "Bloodline of the Holy Grail"
Ray Smith, of Milwaukee WI, asks about Laurence Gardner's book "Bloodline of the Holy Grail".
Q. Gardner in his book "Bloodline of the Holy Grail" puts Joseph of Arimethea (James) in England circa AD 64 and you have him being stoned to death in AD 62 on page 389 (Chronology) citing Josephus (Ant. 20:197-203). Gardner specifically cites James as the "uncle" of Jesus Justus at that time.
This seems like a significant conflict, especially when contemplating the continued lineage. Can you help?
I have e-mailed Mr. Gardner this same question.
A. Laurence Gardner's book is not to be relied on in any way. See the following Notes, which I have sent to many enquirers:


This is not the work of a competent historian. I begin with a list of the errors I have noticed, points that are not especially related to my work.

(Page references are to the hard cover edition, published 1996)

p. 22. Roman procurators in the time of Herod the Great! Erroneous.The fact was that Herod was allowed to rule independently from 37 to 4 BC, then the Romans let his son Archelaus try, but when he failed, the kingship was abolished in AD 6 and the country was then put under procurators. The change from native kings to subsequent procurators is a basic fact of the history.

p. 105. In AD 37 Gaius Caligula "sacked Pontius Pilate to install his own man, Felix, as Governor in Judea". Erroneous. Felix did not become governor until AD 52, under Claudius.

p. 409 "Augustus died AD 18". Erroneous. It was AD 14. "Claudius AD 41-45". Erroneous. It was AD 41-54.

p.361, note 1, he gives a reference to one of the Scrolls, which he has got from my book, 1QS 6:4-5. That means Manual of Discipline column 6, lines 4 to 5. In his hands, this now becomes "chapter 6, pages 4 -5" !!! This shows that he has no knowledge whatever of the Scrolls. They do not have chapters and pages.

p. 47. He attributes to Josephus the date of Jesus' appearance as the 15th year of Tiberius. This is from Luke 3:1. Josephus gives no exact date.

p. 63. World events being foretold "using the methodology of Pythagoras"! Untrue. This is a conflation of two facts, a) The Essenes agreed with Pythagoras that number controlled everything and b) they used their own solar calendar, which had nothing to do with Pythagoras, to predict future events.

p.50, note 6. The footnote indicator promises a list of the sources on Simon Magus, of which there are many. But it simply refers to a book on levitation, none on Simon Magus.

Turning to his use of my work, it is clear to me that Gardner has relied heavily on my book Jesus the Man (in US Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls), but uses it in a partial, confused, and misleading way. He knows nothing of its central thrust, that Jesus was part of an existing institution, and the history is that of this institution. He has simply picked out odds and ends that suit him, very often misunderstanding the fact or the methodology, and -worst of all - freely adds invented points, giving the impression that they are part of my work.

He goes from my work to a 'genealogy' of Jesus, and at the point on which his whole case depends, he fabricates. Since he is giving the impression that his inventions are part of my work, I would like it known that they are not.

My book contains certain statements about the family of Jesus, which are derived from the use of the pesher technique on the gospels and from contemporary sources. They have, regrettably but not surprisingly, become the subject of media sensations.

Once it was pointed out that Jesus as a member of a great dynasty had to continue his family line, it was, I suppose, inevitable that there would be speculation about whether that line still continues today. Gardner is telling the public that it does, with the aid of his falsified version of my findings.

There was good reason for saying in Jesus the Man that the Joseph of Arimathea who was present at the cross of Jesus was his brother James. In the 'new Israel' of which his family were a part, there was a new 'Abraham',an 'Isaac' and a 'Jacob', who gave rise to the Pope and patriarchs of the Church. The heir of David who had become involved with this mission to the Diaspora took the position of the 'patriarch Jacob', so his son or successor had the title of 'Joseph'. All such names were titles, passed from one member of the family to another. For example, the 'Miriam' (Mary) was the woman who took part in a liturgical drama led by a 'Miriam' and a 'Moses', so there were a number of 'Marys'.

This observation, that the original Joseph of Arimathea was James, has been taken up by Gardner as the central point in his case for a descent of British royalty from the family of Jesus (pp.132-146, p.236). There was previously only the tradition of Joseph of Arimathea coming to Britain very early. Now, the identification with James looked like the missing link.

But Gardner meets a snag in the fact that his Joseph was still alive in Britain in AD 82, (p. 138), whereas the death of James the brother of Jesus took place in AD 62. Gardner attempts to get out of this by misusing a point of the pesher technique to say that Flavius Josephus' clear and factual account of James' death (Josephus, Antiquities 20:200) refers only to excommunication (p. 136 ). But Josephus, an outside historian, knew nothing of the special language of the gospels that uses 'die' in the sense of excommunication, and moreover he goes on to describe the punishment of the perpetrators of the murder.

Gardner then quotes one record as saying that Joseph of Arimathea was accompanied by a nephew (p. 135). It has been said in my books that when the phrase 'the Word of God increased' appears in Acts, it refers to the birth of a son of Jesus, for whom 'Word of God' was a code name. Jesus as an heir of David had to continue his family line. Once it is established, on a test of consistency, that moral or spiritual terms have a further technical, institutional sense throughout, and a chronology is known, then this phrase, apparently about spiritual increase, has a second level of historical information. Mary Magdalene was Jesus' chosen wife, with whom he lived only for the purpose of procreation, following the rules of the dynastic Essenes. In my book Jesus of the Apocalypse, reason was given why the line of the first son, whose title was Jesus Justus, continued through four generations.

But now, the second son, born AD 44, about whom nothing is stated apart from his birth date, has become in Gardner's case the nephew who accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to Britain (p. 135). He is given a wife, and made the ancestor of the line of British royalty (p.236). Jesus Justus the first son, born AD 37, is dismissed (p. 140) with the imagined fact that he chose celibacy after two generations, contrary to the evidence in Jesus of the Apocalypse, which Gardner has apparently not read.

The historical reality behind the Joseph of Arimathea tradition will have been that when the mission to the Diaspora was planned, it was intended that it should follow the Roman empire, bringing a hellenised version of the Jewish religion wherever the empire went. The Romans came to Britain in 55 BC, and the emperor Claudius himself visited it in AD 43. When a later British monk wrote that Christianity had come to Britain in the time of the emperor Tiberius (died AD 37) he was recording a true fact, that the original Jewish form of the mission had come there in the first centuries. Britain was 'the uttermost parts of the earth', well known to those in Jerusalem, as the external histories show. When this 'New Israel' was planned as a Kingdom of God, this most remote region was assigned to a 'Joseph', the crown prince of the Davids. But being too important to go there himself; he sent a servant, representing him and using his name, like a royal emissary. There was no actual relative of Jesus in Britain.

Some of Gardner's inventions on this subject are:

p. 140. The wife of Jesus Justus was 'a granddaughter of Nicodemus'!! No source is given, no reference to it anywhere else in the book, and I certainly did not say it.

p. 140. 'As we have seen (but simply asserted without evidence on the page referred to), Joseph of Arimathea had been to Britain with Mary's elder son, the 12 year old Jesus Justus, in AD 49.' No evidence, and contrary to Jesus of the Apocalypse. But now this boy becomes 'the feet walking on England's mountains green'.

p.109. Thaddaeus (Theudas) was 'trying to escape across the Jordan, and was seized by Chalcis and summarily executed'. Fact: Theudas was not trying to escape anything, but was acting as a 'Joshua' in an Exodus drama, as fully recorded in Josephus. He was executed by the Roman governor. Herod of Chalcis had nothing to do with it. His name appears in my work about this time, and Gardner has simply picked it out, without knowing who he was, and invented this fact.

p. 109. 'Mary (Magdalene) gave birth to her second son in Provence' ! That was quite a journey, from Judea to Provence, in a few days (perhaps there was a manger in Provence!). I said that at the season of the birth in March AD 44 Mary was at Qumran, as the doorkeeper Rhoda. He places her in Provence at the same date. He has cited my work at this point for the phrase 'the Word of God increased', and given the impression that I included the Provence bit.

p. 109. Having learnt that under the dynastic rule sex took place in December, he has failed to note that this was not the case for subsequent children, and has the second son conceived in December 43 and born in September 44. But my chronology plainly gave his birth date as March 44.

p. 63. "A series of prophecies had predicted the date of the Messiah but were seven years out!" I gave extensive information on the chronology, but he has not read it and has made up the fact that it was 7 years out. It was not devised in order to predict the date of the birth of the Messiah.

My research, and that of others who are also studying new sources for the historical Jesus, has given rise to a whole industry, books by opportunists who have no historical background at all, and do not have the scholarship to distinguish between what is accepted fact and what are new conclusions, for which evidence needs to be presented.

Gardner's fraudulent book is the most extreme example of this industry that I have come across. I do not intend to enter into public controversy with him as it would give him publicity, but I have sent copies of this document to anyone who asks me about it.

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Motives of Jesus
Peter Riches,of Alberta Canada, raises an important question about the motives of Jesus.
Q. I recently gave a one hour presentation of Jesus the Man to the book club at the Unitarian Church of Calgary (Alberta, Canada). In the discussion that followed several people expressed puzzlement about the "Babes in Christ". They found it difficult to understand why they were having the wool pulled over their eyes.

It seems logical that Simon Magus would have been willing to perpetrate the myths but it seems out of character for Jesus, who championed the rights of the poor and under-privileged, to allow the two tier interpretations system to continue in the Christian church.

One person suggested that perhaps the "Babes in Christ" were illiterate.

Can you explain why Jesus did not feel more strongly about challenging the perpetration of the myths?

Or is the answer simply that the world has always had individuals who want to control the masses - and keeping them ignorant is the key to control.
A. This question inevitably arises when it is shown that there is conscious deception on the surface of the gospel narratives. How could Jesus, whose name is synonymous with everything that is best in human nature, have deliberately set out stories that amount to lies?

He did not set out to lie - he set out to educate. All humans are educable, but as every teacher knows, humans are at very different levels of what we call intelligence, whatever the factors that determine intelligence. Different methods are needed for each stage, and the methods prepare for maturing into the next stage. Five year old children are told that Santa Claus will come down the chimney and give them presents if they are good. That is a lie, but it communicates effectively with the stage of growth that the child has reached. It gives the concept of a choice between right and wrong.

Adult humans vary greatly in their capacity to receive necessary moral knowledge. For some, at some of the stages of life, there has to be a super power that will punish them if they do wrong. It is thought of as "he", because he will act just like the child's father. If the punishment does not happen in this life - as it frequently does not - it will happen after death, so it can't be escaped. That is an idea that is very powerful socially, more powerful than any government. It is the chief function of religious institutions to perpetuate it. It is not ignorance that is the instrument of control - it is imagination, the human capacity for conceiving possibilities in trying to better itself. The Jesus to whom these moral standards are attached lives in a Christian's imagination rather than in reason.

Art educates, even when its content is invented. The invented gospel stories were intended as art. Jesus was in the tradition of Diaspora Jews who had developed a drama expressing their condition, that of being alienated from pagan society, like the exiles under Moses in the wilderness. Their Exodus story enhanced the history of a band of runaway slaves, giving it an ultimate significance. Their drama had become inadequate to the issues that concerned the more sophisticated society of the 1st century. It did not deal with the questions of life after death, or of control of sexual drives. The pre-nuptial conception of Jesus, and his survival of the crucifixion, could be enhanced into a drama that helped control sex, or gave a positive interpretation of death.

But the art of Jesus prepared also for the maturing of the intelligence of some, those who had access to the written text, which was not the case for many. They themselves were ready to disbelieve the miracles, having learned from life's experience that they did not happen. They were capable also of close analysis, storing of information, and rigorous reasoning on a wide range of information. These were the methods of scientific enquiry that was currently enlightening the hellenistic world, giving tremendous hope for human improvement. When these methods, scrupulously observed, were applied to the text of the gospels and Acts, they gave a provable account of what Jesus actually did. It was an account also of a political movement of which he was only a part. There are no divine human beings. But the political movement caused a maturing of the western part of the world, one whose benefits we still know and are continuing to build on.

The hearers of the stories were treated as "babes" because that was the stage they had reached, for whatever physical or social reasons. Hearing, they would be more courageous about life, and some would arrive at the point where they sought out the educational process. There is no final stage of human perfection, where all truth is known and all the rest can be classed as lies. But there can be increasing strength of intelligence and of consequent effectiveness for the wellbeing of oneself and others.

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Jesus as High Priest
John Gutermuth, of Atlanta USA, asks:
Q. In all of this pesher context, it is still difficult for me to understand why Jesus - with the support of his disciples - chose to take over the High Priesthood of Qumran. He seemingly had no bloodline to justify such and it was certain - as shown even in the surface Gospels - to cause massive reactions from the majority of the still-Judaic, Qumran people. This act may have triggered the turning-in of Jesus to the Romans, the charges for his trial, and the repeated, post-crucifixion rejections of him. Have I missed something, in your books or here? Can you pose a sensible rationale for this action?
A. Some more background is needed for this one. As in any situation of political crisis, the matter was not straightforward. The ancient hereditary lines of high priesthood were all in disarray. Herod the Great had appointed ordinary men to be high priests simply because they were his sycophants. In one case, it was because he wanted to marry the man's daughter, Mariamme II. When they displeased him, he sacked them, although the high priests had always held lifelong tenure.

The ascetic movement based at Qumran did not have any reigning high priests out of its own bloodlines. It could not, because its priests kept a solar calendar, whose feasts fell on a different day from those in the Jerusalem temple, which kept a lunar calendar. John the Baptist was a descendant of the ancient Zadokite line, and would have been hereditary high priest if his line had not been expelled from the Jerusalem temple. But among his party, aiming at the restoration of the old lines, John was "the Light", the high priest who stood in front of the Menorah, the 7-branched candlestick. John could also claim the title Melchizedek, that of the original Zadokite priest-kings of the Jerusalem temple (Genesis 14:18).

Under the old regime, the kings of the line of David exercised many priestly functions, such as escorting the ark in procession (2 Samuel 6:12-15). The Psalms, which were liturgical pieces used in the temple, were all attributed to him, although he had not written them. The original David, who had taken over Jerusalem, ensured that at his coronation his line was grafted in to that of the earlier priest-kings. "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalms 110:4).

As a biological descendant of the Davids (although of a junior line) Jesus had political battles to fight. His backing came from the great numbers of members of the ascetic movement in the Diaspora, who were ready to follow his policy of giving equality to Gentiles. Jesus had first to prove his legitimacy, which was accepted by Sadducees who had joined the movement, but rejected by nationalist Pharisees. These sided with John the Baptist, the Teacher of Righteousness, and their views are found in the sectarian Scrolls. They called Jesus "Man of a Lie", which included the meaning "bastard".

But Jesus claimed more than this. He claimed a rival high priesthood to that of the Baptist, bringing about a schism. According to John's gospel, the Baptist was not the Light, but Jesus was (John 1:8; John 8:12). It was Jesus who represented the Melchizedek line, and so could act as the Zadokite (Hebrews 7:1-28). These claims gave him the epithet "the Wicked Priest", which meant "Anti-Priest", just like the term "Anti-Pope".

His reasons were powerful political ones, and some of them had permanent validity. The ascetic movement in the Diaspora had got to the point where it was no longer helpful to claim traditional Jewish identity , or to insist that Gentiles should adopt it. The temple and its priesthood, including the Qumran priests who aspired to regain it, were no longer respected. The ethical and intellectual values of Judaism could be retained without claiming to be Jewish. The time had come for a major break, the abandonment of Jewish identity, with a turning away from priests and the temple.

Moreover, the time had come for the abandonment of the hierarchical distinction between priests and laity. Not all descendants of the priests were worthy. It was better that the position should go to a layman on the basis of merit, who had been made a priest not by birth but by ordination.

Jesus and his supporters had only to call on the precedent of the Davids to combine the role of the two Messiahs of Qumran, the Messiah of Aaron, the Zadokite, with the Messiah of Israel, the David. For this reason they adopted the name "Christian", which could mean that there was only one Messiah, the Christ. In the context of the times, it meant a major socio-political change, with the emergence of a new religion that was neither Jewish nor pagan. It was brought about by the processes of history, but Jesus was in the position to be its spokesman.

That is the "sensible rationale" for his action!

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Sayings of Jesus
Question From Frank Eliason, Canberra, Australia on the sayings of Jesus
Q. I support pesharism. However there are always questions. For example, in the New Testament there are records of what Jesus said. Some record him verbatim and this is of interest. Now Jesus in 3 years of ministry would have spoken tens of thousands of words but here in the NT we have just a few verbatim sentences.
Are his verbatim sentences open to pesher analysis?
If so I cannot imagine he was capable of delivering sentences with both direct and pesher content (in fact in everything he said) whilst speaking to someone in normal conversation.. Is there an answer to this question?
A. I think I need to clarify a few points. It is understandable that you should still hold that there are genuine sayings of Jesus mixed up with narrative and other material of diverse origin. That was the opinion of liberal scholars of previous generations, but now we have something new. To put it simply: it is all sayings of Jesus, in a sense. But at the same time there are no original sayings of Jesus. There is no longer reason to hold the theory distinguishing between sayings and narrative - much of which is unbelievable. The gospels, Acts and Revelation were composed from the start as unified literary works.

There was no previous oral tradition. But there was much previous action. The gospels came from a reforming party within a major political movement, Diaspora Judaism in its Herodian form. Under hellenistic influence they had come very far from their Old Testament scripture, the product of an antiquated culture. The need for a new scripture was keenly felt. Jesus, whose political activity had centred on giving equality to Gentiles, saw the chance of composing a new scripture, supplying a new sacred drama , that of his crucifixion and "resurrection" , in place of the previous sacred drama of the Exodus and Holy War. The surface appearance was intended for liturgical performance, theatre speaking movingly of the human condition. But for history, sought by people with critical intelligence, it gave the full account of the reforming party by the pesher device.

The new scripture should also include ethical teaching. But the ethical teaching was already in existence, derived largely from Hillel in the time of Herod the Great. Hillel had taught Gentile proselytes, adapting Jewish law so as to leave out its obsolete elements and adjust it to hellenistic thought. Every teacher of Gentiles, including Jesus, repeated his words in the schools that had been set up for them. When these teachings were included in the new scripture, further content was added to them in the pesher form while leaving their essential meaning the same.

For example, Hillel had taught the Golden Rule - "love your neighbour as yourself", and this implied "love your enemies". The Greek words used in Matthew 5:44, agapaō for "love" and echthroi for "enemies" , always had a specific institutional sense in the pesher, the former referring to the Agape, the sacred meal for initiates only, the latter to the Roman governor. So the words also meant "admit Gentiles to the sacred meal" - a daring innovation to those who held that initiation meant adoption of a Jewish identity. Especially militant zealots who were fighting Romans as their political enemies.

Jesus himself set the example of this kind of writing, in John's gospel, and he remained influential for the subsequent books during the years following the crucifixion. We will be tracing those years in a forthcoming section, showing the points at which the books were composed and published.

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On the deaths of the apostles
Jeffrey Jay of Manhattan asks a question about the deaths of the apostles.
Q. I am wondering if there are any further specific details on the deaths of the Apostles within the pesher besides Judas and Jonathan Annas? There are so many varying descriptions that clarity in this regard would give alot of light and erase the element of myth that surrounds this subject.
A. We are seeing that the gospels are giving a political history. In politics, ancient and modern, the processes of power can include physical destruction of opponents. No one needs reminding these days that religion - in its social aspects - can practice the same destructiveness. In the history of Christianity, wars and assassinations were as frequent as they are in secular history.

The death of Judas Iscariot is described in Acts 1:18-19 with emphasis on its gruesome physical aspects, without making it clear what was its cause and how it came about. "Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong (or swelling up, prēnēs v.18 ) he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Akeldama, that is Field of Blood".

A reader of the surface narrative might justifiably wonder - how could falling over in a field have such effects? Why are the essential causes not given, only the results? It has been shown in the "Combined Narrative" in "The Complete Pesher of the Resurrection" section how all this is accounted for in the pesher. Judas was poisoned and then thrown down the steep cliff below the caves at Qumran. It was a political assassination.

The contemporary record also shows a public assassination of a religious leader, that of the priest Jonathan Annas in the late 50's. Josephus' account in Antiquities 20, 162-163 shows the habitual violence of this politically troubled period. It was actually instigated by Felix, the Roman governor of Judea AD 54-60, who had married into the Herod family. Felix was the brother of a rich and influential Roman, Pallas, who had great influence in the Roman court.

"Felix also bore a grudge against Jonathan, the (former) high priest because of his frequent admonition to improve the administration of the affairs of Judea. For Jonathan feared that he himself might incur the censure of the multitude in that he had requested Caesar to dispatch Felix as procurator of Judea. Felix accordingly devised a pretext that would remove from his presence one who was a constant nuisance to him; for incessant rebukes are annoying to those who choose to do wrong. It was such reasons that moved Felix to bribe Jonathan's most trusted friend, a native of Jerusalem named Doras, with a promise to pay a great sum, to bring in brigands to attack Jonathan and kill him. Doras agreed and contrived to get him murdered by the brigands in the following way. Certain of these brigands went up to the city as if they intended to worship God. With daggers concealed under their clothes, they mingled with the people about Jonathan and assassinated him. As the murder remained unpunished, from that time forth the brigands with perfect impunity used to go to the city during the festivals and, with their weapons similarly concealed, mingle with the crowds."

The word used for "brigand" in this account is lēstēs, the same word that is used for "thief" in the crucifixion stories (Mark 15:27, John 18:40 ). In the parallel passage in his Jewish War (2, 254) Josephus calls them sicarii, from the name of their curved daggers. These terms alone lead to the perception that the two "thieves" crucified with Jesus were militant zealots like the Sicarii. The Romans did not execute people for theft.

The Sicarii appear under that name in Acts 21:38, where Paul is questioned by the tribune following his involvement in a disturbance in Jerusalem. He was asked "Are you not the Egyptian, who before these days caused an uprising and led out into the wilderness the 4000 men of the Sicarii?" On the surface impression, that Paul and his humble associates had nothing to do with the tumultuous politics of their times, it was quite irrelevant to the narrative to include this obvious confusion by the tribune. In the pesher, however, it had everything to do with it.

The story of the Egyptian is given by Josephus in Antiquities 20, 169-171,soon after his account of Jonathan's assassination by the Sicarii.

"At this time there came to Jerusalem from Egypt a man who declared that he was a prophet and advised the masses of the common people to go out with him to the mountain called the Mount of Olives, which lies opposite the city at a distance of 5 stadia (about a kilometer). For he asserted that he wished to demonstrate from there that at his command Jerusalem's walls would fall down, through which he promised to provide them an entrance into the city. When Felix heard of this he ordered his soldiers to take up their arms. Setting out from Jerusalem with a large force of cavalry and infantry, he fell upon the Egyptian and his followers, slaying 400 of them and taking 200 prisoners. The Egyptian himself escaped from the battle and disappeared."

The "Egyptian" plainly believed that he was a latterday "Joshua", who would bring about another "fall of Jericho". In the current political imagery, Jerusalem under Roman occupation was seen as another "Jericho", a pagan city. The Joshua story was part of the Exodus theme, a theme that governed the observances of the Egyptian Therapeuts (Philo, The Contemplative Life). The Therapeuts were closely related to the Essenes, and the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls supply the basic information for the pesher of the gospels.

Another "Joshua", his own name given as Theudas, appears in an earlier record by Josephus (Antiquities 20, 97-98), this time attempting a miraculous crossing of the Jordan river, reproducing the event that had preceded the conquest of Jericho (Joshua 3; Joshua 4; Joshua 5; Joshua 6).

"During the period when Fadus was procurator of Judea (AD 44-45), a certain impostor named Theudas persuaded the majority of the masses to take up their possessions and to follow him to the Jordan River. He stated that he was a prophet and that at his command the river would be parted and would provide them an easy passage. With this talk he deceived many. Fadus, however, did not permit them to reap the fruit of their folly, but sent against them a squadron of cavalry. These fell upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them and took many prisoners. Theudas himself was captured, whereupon they cut off his head and brought it to Jerusalem."

In Acts 5: 33-39 the Pharisee Gamaliel in the council addressed the question of the Christians, who in the 30's AD were told "You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man's (Jesus') blood upon us." Gamaliel found it relevant in his speech to describe the uprising of Judas the Galilean in AD 6, and he associated a Theudas with him. On the belief that the Christians had nothing to do with contemporary politics, this was, again, quite irrelevant.

In Matthew 27:16 in a variant text the name of the "thief" Barabbas is given as Jesus Barabbas, that is Joshua Barabbas, "Jesus" being its Greek form. The association of a Joshua with a Holy War is found even in the name of Jesus. In Luke 1:32-33 the name was given to Jesus because "he will be great ... and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." In the light of the background, it is difficult not to see political implications in the name and in these associations.

To come more directly to the question being asked, there is reason from the pesher for identifying Thaddeus of the list of apostles with Theudas, the same man who when young had taken part in the uprising of Judas the Galilean. In age he was Barabbas, the "thief" who should have been executed by Pilate for political sedition along with the other two "thieves". As his final act in old age, in AD 44, he led the demonstration at the Jordan and was executed by the Roman governor. The Egyptian who acted as a subsequent "Joshua" was Apollos, who figured prominently in the New Testament record. Paul was closely associated with him.

The first Christians were fully involved in the zealot politics of their day, and that was the reason why Jesus was crucified. Like the zealots, they were prepared for martyrdom, but for a version of the program that Jesus had radically modified. They remained involved, at the highest levels, including within the Roman court through their association with the Herods. The deaths of Peter and Paul were the direct result of their involvement. The detail of this history is given through the pesher of the gospels, Acts, and Revelation.

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Mary Magdalene in France
Dana Chivers , residing in the south of France, asks about the Mary Magdalene cult that is flourishing there.
Q. "I am writing from the south of France where, as I am sure you already know, there is a legend concerning Mary Magdalene spending the last decades of her life in a grotto in a place called la Sainte Baume. As far as I am aware, Dr Thiering has not expressed herself directly on this subject and I presume that this is for the simple reason that the question does not interest her much. It does hold some interest for me however because I have been asked to study the idea of creating a sacred music festival in the area.

Dr. Thiering does mention a possible trip or banishment for Mary Magdalene to Herodian lands in the "south of France". But it would seem that these holdings were closer to Lyons some 400kms north of St Maximin la St Baume where tradition suggests she stayed.

My immediate question: Could someone please steer me in the right direction? Is there someone who has done good work on Mary Magdalene? In searching on the net, there are so many dubious sources that I feel that I must come right to the source (Dr. Thiering) in order to not be too misguided in my search for the answer.

I thank you in advance for your attention and take this opportunity to express my admiration and gratitude for the marvellous work Barbara Thiering carries on."
A. The true facts on which the whole profitable cult of Mary Magdalene is based are, first, that two of the Herods, Archelaus and Antipas, were exiled to the south of France by the Romans, Archelaus to Vienne in 6 AD, and Antipas to Lyons in 39 AD. (Josephus, Antiquities 17, 344; 18, 252) These cities were prominent in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD as centers for Christian martyrs. Another element drew on my research, that the Christian movement had begun as a mission to the Diaspora in the courts of the Herods, that Jesus had survived the crucifixion, died in Rome in the early 70's AD, and that he had a family. His first wife was Mary Magdalene.

When the political ambitions of Christians to take over the Roman empire for a Kingdom of God became known, persecution broke out. It became intense under Domitian in the 90's AD. The descendants of a brother of Jesus were questioned by Domitian on suspicion of a political involvement (Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius in H.E. ii, 23). At this stage it would have been natural for the sons and grandsons of Jesus, rightly accused of sedition, to flee up through Italy to the south of France, where they would find shelter among friends on the Herodian estates. The religion that had been developing from Herodian Judaism, now called Christian, would have been practiced and spread from these estates.

In an earlier answer here, on the subject of Glastonbury in this section on this site, I discussed the fictitious development of these facts into the Grail legend and the story of Joseph of Arimathea. The origin of the story can be accounted for by the original Herodian mission organisation, as is explained in that answer.

The Mary Magdalene cult in the south of France had some slender historical roots. A book published before my books, "Holy Blood and Holy Grail ", by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, tapped into a tradition associated with the church at Rennes-le-Château in the south-west of France, and added to it a conspiracy story that was almost entirely imaginary. I'll summarise it below. It was this story that became the basis for Dan Brown's fictitious thrilller The Da Vinci Code, that has sold billions worldwide. Baigent and Leigh, but not Lincoln who pulled out, are suing Brown for plagiarism, but his answer is of course that he is only writing fiction. In a way he is sending them up, with his anagrams using their names (Sir Leigh Teabing) and use of the name Saunière.

The demonstration in my books that Jesus had offspring was seized on by other exploiters, such as Laurence Gardner and Andrews with Schellenberger. Gardner simply perverts my work, and Andrews and Schellenberger have transparent frauds that I'll discuss below. But another element came in at this point , the Nag Hammadi literature that contains a Gospel of Mary, showing Mary Magdalene to have been a revered religious leader and teacher in her own right. Some very good scholars such as Karen King made this work known. Some feminists who, to my regret, were not accustomed to an objective treatment of religious history, saw this as a reason to promote a cult of Mary Magdalene. She was presented as an alternative to Jesus, to be worshipped in the same way, justifying the freeing of women from the way the church had treated them.

My own view is that both a cult of Jesus and a cult of Mary Magdalene are idolatrous. To worship human beings, that is ourselves, diminishes us. The amount of fraud that goes with both cults has a historical parallel in the chicanery of the threatened Roman church at the time of the Protestant Reformation, with sales of indulgences and holy relics.

Of course there can be no objection to a sacred music festival anywhere, such as you are arranging. Music, art and theatre take enduring human themes and express them without relying on factuality. But assertions about historical events are subject to evidence and proof, and if factual untruths on religious history are believed without testing it is crippling to the integrity and truthfulness that religion is intended to uphold.

The slight historical basis of the Mary Magdalene cult.

The original popularisers of the story of Mary Magdalene in the south of France were Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, (Dell Publishing, 1983, now with Random House) (HBHG). They were followed by Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger, The Tomb of God (Little, Brown and Company, 1996) (TG). Putting together what they say:

In 1967 Gerard de Sède published L'Or de Rennes, also published as Le Trésor maudit. The two documents his book describes are said (p.15 TG) to have been "leaked" by the Priory of Sion, an organisation said to be once associated with the Knights Templar. The whereabouts of the two documents is now completely unknown (p.14 TG), but it seems sufficiently convincing that they did exist, with the contents as described. But the documents themselves rely on what were probably fantasies.

De Sède had investigated a number of stories circulating in the village of Rennes-le- Château in south-western France. It contains a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. In 1885 a new parish priest arrived, Abbé Bérenger Saunière (1852-1917). He had been posted to this obscure village, apparently after making himself unpopular in the seminary. He lived at first in dire poverty, but then had a sudden change of fortune, displaying enormous wealth. It came about after he began to renovate his church, and discovered four parchments in sealed wooden tubes. Of these, the two documents of interest had apparently been composed in the 1780's by an earlier curé of the church. They contained paragraphs from the New Testament, in Latin, one of Mark 2:23-26, the other of John 12:1-11. They looked simply like pious productions, but were written in a peculiar way. The first of them had some letters a little raised above the line. When these were read off independently , they could be seen to mean "To Dagobert II king and to Sion belongs this treasure and he is there dead." The second of them contained a great many extraneous letters inserted into the text. When these were taken out, it looked as if they formed a code message. De Sède claimed that they were able to be deciphered, but there is no a straightforward reading of them (p. 46 TG ). He arrived at a message which in itself seems incomprehensible, but contained the number 681.

From these and from the village tradition that the abbé had found a treasure, speculation became rampant, that Saunière had discerned the hiding place of a hidden deposit of the temple treasure. It had something to do with Dagobert II (AD 651-679). A brief resume of the history is necessary. The Visigoths under Alaric the Great had sacked Rome in AD 410. The historian Procopius (HBHG p. 42, note 5) said that Alaric had made off with "the treasures of Solomon, the king of the olden times they had been taken from Jerusalem by the Romans".

After the fifth century the Visigoths had lost power to the more sophisticated and wealthier Merovingians. They had produced King Dagobert II. His second marriage had taken place in the church of Mary Magdalene in Rennes- le- Château. His new wife was a Visigoth princess (p. 250 HBHG ).

There are traditions about Mary Magdalene, rather than Mary the mother of Jesus, as a female icon in France, including the dedication to her of the church at Rennes- le- Château. "According to certain medieval legends the Magadelen brought the Holy Grail, or Blood Royal, into France" (p. 313 HGHB). The source of these is not stated. In TG p.7, "according to one theory (source not stated ) Mary Magdalene was pregnant with Jesus' child when she arrived".

On this unstated source of legend is built the whole structure taken over by the Mary Magdalene industry.. Mary Magdalene's offspring must have produced a Visigoth princess, and she was the one who married Dagobert II. (Evidence? Because they were married in a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene ?) "A bloodline descended from Jesus through Dagobert would also explain the Grail family in the romances" (HBHG p. 314).

Supporting evidence? Something very mysterious happened to Dagobert II. He was murdered, his young son murdered, his line cut off, and he was only remembered and canonised two centuries later. This must "obviously" mean that the Vatican knew that his bloodline proved that Jesus had offspring, found it necessary to remove him, and two centuries later felt guilty about it and made him a saint. (HBHG p.252)

More supporting evidence? The painter Nicolas Poussin in 1647 painted a rural scene that has been shown to depict a tomb near Rennes- le- Château. This proves that he knew something. The famous inscription on the tomb he painted is 'Et in Arcadia ego' ('and I am in Arcadia' ). On p.46 of HBHG the authors quote this and ask "Why should the verb be missing?" They are apparently unaware that the verb 'to be' is frequently omitted in Latin. This "omission" is for them sufficient reason for finding that the letters are an anagram about concealing the secrets of God.

In TG, the authors argue with Henry Lincoln, one of the authors of HBHG, who claimed that the first document with the raised letters had the letters so arranged that they formed the directions to a treasure map. They go on to claim that the number 681 is a direction to a spot on the map, a hill with a height of 681 metres, where treasure was hidden.

While HBHG was published before my books and knows nothing of them, TG was published after them. On p.383 they quote me as saying in JM/JRDSS that Jesus and his family may have found refuge in the south of France, on Herodian estates. They go on to say that 'after further research' I had changed and said in Jesus of the Apocalypse that Jesus had died in Rome. This was enough to prove to me their outright untruthfulness. In both books, JM/JRDSS(p.160) and JA (p.31), I said that the evidence indicates that Jesus died in Rome, and his family later, at a time of persecution, would have fled to Herodian estates at Lyons and Vienne in the south of France, places to which Archelaus Herod and Antipas Herod had been exiled .

The manifest invention of a code

In "The Tomb of God" there is a claim to a code that is laughable to anyone who knows Latin. It is offered in support of the "Priory of Sion", a secret organisation which has not previously been known to history.

On pp.17- 45 the authors, Andrews and Schellenberger, build on Lincoln's claim concerning one of de Sède's documents that a line can be drawn through certain letters, and this is the beginning of sets of triangles in which they find a treasure map. Lincoln ran a line from the cross in line 4 to the cross in line 10, and said that it ran straight through the letters S, I, and O in the document. He then continued the line down to the N in line 14, and said that it formed the word Sion, a word that is found more obviously by another method near the end of the document. Our authors accept Lincoln's claim, and say "The reappearance of the word SION could not be a coincidence."

It does not reappear. The letter in line 7 that they say is an I is in fact a T. It is part of the word "autem", meaning "but, however" in Latin. The Latin words at this spot are: "...quod non licet, respondens autem, ins(ertim) S. et XII. Adeos numquam hoc lecistis quod fecit David..." It is the Vulgate Latin translation of Luke 6:2-3, with a reference added. It means literally "...which it is not lawful, he replying however, by insertion S and 12. Have you not even read this, what David did...."

The letter 'I' in the script is sometimes written with a small bar on the top, like a 'T'. The authors have taken the 'T' in 'autem', meaning 'however', to be an 'I'. But any knowledge of Latin and of the Vulgate text rules this out. It is a T, not an I, so there is no word "Sion".

The word 'ins' at the end of line 7 may be understood as an abbreviation of 'insertim', 'by insertion'. It would give the reference to the OT David story, appropriate at this point. The story is found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The S would stand for 'Samuel', and 'and XII' to a way of dividing up its sections.

Other claims to triangles in the text forming a treasure map equally depend on distorting the text, so as to make triangles.

We are living in a time of such poor educational standards on religious history that nonsense like this is believed by millions, to the great financial profit of the perpetrators.

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Medical facts of crucifixion
MEDICAL FACTS OF THE CRUCIFIXION Mike Fuery, of Victoria Australia, offers comments from his experience about the medical facts of crucifixion.
"The Gospel narrative provides us with an account that Jesus was poisoned while crucified, and your research provides us with a cogent explanation as to why this happened and why Jesus was seen alive subsequent to this.

In my professional role I see many instances in the natural world where people lose consciousness every day for a variety of reasons - poisoning being one - who then recover. The notion of Jesus surviving the crucifixion does not trouble me from a physiological perspective. Catholicism taught for many years that Jesus' ultimate cause of death on the cross was "suffocation" due to his hands being nailed down to the cross-beam and then being unable to mobilise his chest-wall muscles associated with breathing. However, I see many people today - victims of accidents leading to quadriplegia - who are able to breathe purely because their diaphragm achieves the total task of ventilating the lungs. The Catholic attempt to provide a "water-tight" explanation of a plausible cause of death seems very poor.

I believe that accounts of "resurrections" were not uncommon throughout the ancient world. Was a simple loss of consciousness in those times, and an inability to rouse that victim, a common precursor to someone being pronounced "dead" or "dying"? It seems that people today would, through the lessons of medical science, look for presence of vital signs and other observations and would not assume that unconsciousness will necessarily lead to death.

I understand that the healing cult of Asklepios flourished in the Hellenistic world around 500BCE, and had a knowledge base of medicinal substances. (Interestingly their ancient symbol of the rod entwined by a serpent adorns most medical establishments, ambulances and paramedic uniforms today!)

Does history tell us anything specific about this group's knowledge and use of particular medicines? I can think of a handful of naturally occurring substances, that if administered in a certain dose range, will lead to temporary loss of consciousness. Higher doses may well lead to death. Could the Hellenistic world's influence in Israel at the time of Jesus have given certain people exact knowledge to administer such substances? If so then the notion of being poisoned certainly seems to assume a non-lethal implication."

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QUESTION ON GLASTONBURY AND JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA Sandra Roome, of UK, gives some interesting information about Glastonbury in the south west of England, and asks for comments. It is worth quoting what she says in full, then adding my reactions.
Q. She writes: "I have visited Glastonbury in the UK where Joseph of Arimethea is alleged to have visited in the early AD years. A thorn bush grows from where his staff (from crown of thorns) was planted in the ground in Wearyall Hill. Also legend has it that he brought a young Jesus with him on one of the visits. The first wattle and daub Christian church was built in the ground of the now demolished abbey. It is widely believed and printed in the Glastonbury literature that Joseph of A was an uncle of the Virgin Mary. Also the legendary Arthur and Guinevere are supposedly buried here as well as the 'holy grail' whatever it may ultimately be.

After reading your book, Jesus the Man, many years ago and again recently, I was very interested in your views on Joseph of Arimethea. If it is the case that Joseph of A is actually James, younger brother of Jesus and as well that Jesus and Mary M had a son also named Jesus, then the Glastonbury story makes more sense. Joseph of A was supposedly a tin trader and brought young Jesus with him on a buying expedition. If Joseph is James then Jesus would actually be 6 years older than him not younger. There is also some confusion over the date when Joseph actually visited as well as the geography of the place at the time. It may have been an island even though now Glastonbury is quite inland in the south west of England. Also, if after the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary and family members actually escaped to live in the south of France, then it makes more sense that the trip may have originated from this closer destination at a later date.

The alternative story of Joseph of A depicts him as a rich man who owned a cave and came from Damascus. He had some sway with the powers and therefore was able to have Jesus' body released to be placed in his cave. I know that your version is that James took the tithes to safekeeping in Damascus and that is the possible explanation of the 'rich man'. As he was the oldest male member of the family, he would have been the person to whom Jesus' body was released. I have read that Arimethea or similar is an actual place whereas you state that it is a code for his alliance to Agrippa?

Have you heard about the Glastonbury fable or visited the area? If so, what are your opinions about the Joseph of A that visited this area. I would be interested in your comments."
A. Yes, I visited Glastonbury during a tour of Britain some years ago, and bought all the books on sale there. A particularly good one is Geoffrey Ashe, King Arthur's Avalon, The Story of Glastonbury (Fontana Collins 1973).

My main concern has been to sort out the fact from the fiction. Glastonbury was indeed a sacred place, from very early times, and very much part of the earliest Christian history.

The existing evidence, some of which I'll give below, indicates that Glastonbury was a centre for worship that could be called Christian from the 1st century AD. My historical research has no problem with that, in fact it requires it. But it is of course orthodoxy in British tradition to believe that Christianity did not arrive until centuries later.

The point I have to emphasise is that there was a Jewish organisation from the 1st century BC that evolved gradually into Christianity. It began with Diaspora Judaism, very much encouraged by the ambition of Herod the Great (37-4 BC). It aimed at a Jewish kingdom of God, a theocratic empire that would outdo the rising Roman empire. A highly organised missionary project brought it to all known countries in both east and west. In the west, it would have reached as far as France, Spain, and England from a base in Rome.

From the start it was organised into provinces on the model of Rome. Under Herod, it was conceived as a New Israel, with leaders using the pseudonyms "Abraham" (the Father, giving the word Pope), "Isaac" (the patriarch of the east) and "Jacob" (the patriarch of the west). The titles were hereditary, the patriarchs having the role of administration and organisation of continuing mission. Each was the supremo of a very large geographical area, and would visit it in person rarely if at all. He would act as the Pope does now, all missionaries reporting to him and holding great councils.

The original "Jacob" was the man called Heli, the grandfather of Jesus in Luke's genealogy. As the patriarch of the west, his base was in Ephesus, which was as far west as any Jewish missionary would want to go. Across the straits from Ephesus lay Europe - Greece, which was bearable; Italy, which was barbarian even if a coming power, and in the distant and dangerous mists beyond, the ends of the earth, Spain, with England furthest of all. Another patriarch was needed for places as far as this. The task was given to the son of Jacob-Heli, who in accordance with the naming system was called "Joseph". It was the title, not the personal name, of the father of Jesus.

Jesus should inherit the title and work of the "Jacob", and his heir inherit the title and work of the "Joseph". Before Jesus had a son of his own, his next brother was his heir. He is the man who appears as Joseph of Arimathea. He came to be called the "Jacob", James, alongside Jesus, because one of Jesus' revolutionary actions was to claim himself to be the supreme high priest - at least for his Gentile party- and the title of patriarch was no longer applicable to him.

There was, then, a very definite organisational connection between James-Joseph of Arimathea and Britain. He was the patriarch of the region, responsible for missionary work there. But you can forget the story about Joseph and the boy Jesus. It always was told, in order to account for the lingering tradition of something to do with Joseph of Arimathea, without understanding of the organisational system. But Joseph himself would never have gone there. He was not the uncle of Jesus but his younger brother, and the young boy Jesus would certainly never have gone there. He was being given the best possible education for a pretender to the throne of David at Qumran and Mird-Hyrcania in the wilderness of Judea

Please forget also the fictions that have sprung up in recent years, chiefly inspired by the Da Vinci Code. There is indeed a connection with the south of France and the Merovingians, from the same missionary process. But the cult of Mary Magdalene that has been imposed on the facts comes from assertions that are easily demonstrated to be fraudulent.

Here is some of the genuine historical evidence about Glastonbury, that I collected some years ago.

In the twelfth century William, the librarian of Malmesbury Abbey, visited Glastonbury, where he examined the manuscripts preserved there and learned oral tradition from the monks. At their invitation he wrote a book, De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae about the history of the church at Glastonbury, the famed site of early Christianity in the west of England. His account described how King Lucius, a British ruler of c.170 AD, went to Rome and persuaded Pope Eleutherius to send missionaries, with the result that they converted the people and established the church of St Mary in Glastonbury.

At the same time, William included another story preserved by the monks, which said that the church of St Mary had been founded by the disciples of Christ. His words were: 'There are documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in certain places to the following effect: "No other hands than those of the disciples of Christ erected the church of Glastonbury"'. William expressed doubt about this story, remarking that he would "leave disputable matters and gird himself for the narration of solid fact". He then went on to record the connection of Glastonbury with St Patrick in the fifth century, ascribing to him the real beginnings of its monastic life. He had recovered this history from the records of the abbey, most of which perished in the fire of 1184.

It is certain that Christianity in England began earlier than Augustine, who arrived in 597 AD to establish Roman Christianity in Canterbury. By the beginning of the third century Tertullian and Origen wrote of the British Church as already in existence. Three British bishops were invited to the Council of Arles in 314 AD and to the Council of Rimini in 359 AD. In the same period Britain even produced the heretic Pelagius, a British monk who came to Rome in 400 AD, denying original sin. About Pelagius the theologian Jerome made a typically scathing remark, "a big fat dog from Albion, bloated with Scotch porridge".

Monasticism was flourishing in the sixth century, before the arrival of Augustine, as evidenced in the writings of Gildas and Uinniau, and the careers of Columba and Columbanus. St Ninian was credited with being a monastic founder, but the claim has been disputed. J.W.C. Wand suggested that in Wales and Ireland monasticism may have been an indigenous growth, "at all events it shows strikingly individual features......In its looseness of formal rule and its encouragement of individual austerity Celtic monasticism had much in common with the early Egyptian type. It is significant in this respect that contact with the East was maintained by Ireland long after it had been lost elsewhere in the West".

The link between Coptic and Celtic monasticism is directly evidenced, and is now well accepted. In S. L. Poole's words: "...Christianity was the child of the Egyptian Church...Seven Egyptian monks are buried at Desert Ulidh, and there is much in the ceremonies and architecture of early Ireland that reminds one of still earlier Christian remains in Egypt". As W. Dalrymple has recently observed, the cells at Mar Saba, the cliff-hanging monastery on the Kidron in the wilderness of Judea, are "relatively sophisticated conical beehives, intriguingly similar in design to the cells of the Celtic monks of the same period preserved in the more remote corners of Ireland, such as the coastal island of Skellig Michael". Detail on an icon at the monastery of St Antony, Egypt, is found again on a Pictish symbol-stone at St Vigeans, Dundee.

The most direct written evidence of a first century Christianity in England comes from the work of the sixth century British monk Gildas, who lived at Glastonbury, and who on going to Brittany wrote a book about current problems in Britain. Speaking of his country's past, he wrote that "the holy precepts of Christ" had come to "these islands, stiff with cold and frost, and in a distant region of the the latter part, as we know, of the reign of Tiberius Caesar". This would mean that Christianity had come to Britain by 37 AD, the year of Tiberius' death, only a few years after the crucifixion. It would be the Jewish ascetic mission that came there, subsequently reformed by the Christian version of the doctrine.

Geoffrey Ashe underlines a tradition recorded in the fourth century that Aristobulus, to whom Paul sent greetings in his epistle to Romans (Rom 16:10), was a "bishop of Britain", and "was chosen by St Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very fierce and warlike race". Moreover, Ashe points out, the British woman Claudia, with her husband Pudens, referred to as members of first century Roman society by the epigrammatist Martial, were very possibly the same Claudia and Pudens to whom Paul sent greetings in 2 Tim 4:21. Claudia may have been the daughter of Caractacus, who was brought to Rome by Claudius Caesar when he visited Britain in 43 AD. According to a Welsh story, Caractacus was accompanied to Rome by his father, Bran the Blessed, who was baptised by Paul and returned to Britain, bringing with him some named persons who were described as "men of Israel".

Ashe points to the detail given in William of Malmesbury's book, or in its subsequent revision, that the two missionaries sent by Pope Eleutherius in c. 170 AD had found the signs of previous Christian activity. "Examining the spot (the Isle of Avallonia, Glastonbury) diligently, they discovered the sign of our redemption and other manifest marks by which they plainly saw that Christians had formerly inhabited the place...On that account they loved this spot above all others".

To this may be added the point that interest in Britain was expressed even further east than Rome, by the Jewish writer Josephus. In describing Vespasian's part in the Jewish war (68-70 AD), he remarks: "Vespasian had by his military genius added to the empire Britain, till then almost unknown".

This has been rather lengthy, but I would like these facts to be better known than the accounts of Christianity in Britain that keep being recycled in historical documentaries.

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Mike Fuery, of Victoria Australia, asks for clarification on an interesting question
Q. Recently SBS TV Australia broadcast a program dealing with the archaeological finds of a community of the shores of the Dead Sea. The narrator spoke of the "Cave of Letters" and it was portrayed that the community which occupied the cave sporadically, was politically motivated in opposing and avoiding confrontation by the occupying Romans. From memory, the Essenes were not mentioned in the course of the documentary and I gained the impression that the community who used this cave was completely different. The narrator then brought into the discussion the Copper Scroll and suggested that its inventory was tied to the community who used the Cave of Letters. I found it odd that they should cite a document which is clearly linked to Qumran, as relevant to their discoveries. Could you please provide a clarification to this?
A. The reason why Essenes were not mentioned in the documentary is that the finds in the Cave of Letters come from the period of the Bar Kokhba revolt, about 130 AD. It was a last, desperate attempt by the Zealots to throw off the Roman occupation of their country. They hid in caves in the wild, nearly inaccessible country further down the west coast of the Dead Sea. Believing that they would soon come into power with a new government, they even declared their own dating. For example, one of their documents dates from Tishri 1 (autumn) of AD 131 as 'Year 1 of the Liberation of Israel'. The leader's name is variously spelt, usually Simon ben Kosba.

Documents such as contracts drawn up in that period were carefully preserved in their caves, intended to have legal force when they came into power. The contracts included such matters as the sale of land, marriage and divorce. The documents included letters written to and by Simon ben Kosba himself.

Their network of caves extended for miles down the coast. They were in the cliffsides above the wadies, the winter streams that cut a path through the barren rock to flow into the Dead Sea. One of these was Nahal (wady)Hever. It is about 60 kms south of Qumran and 20 kms north of Masada.

A pair of caves was explored here - as always with great difficulty. Fragments of papyrus documents were found. Two caves close to each other were given the picturesque names of the Cave of Horror and the Cave of Letters. The Cave of Horror finds included a copy of the Twelve Minor Prophets in Greek. In the nearby Cave of Letters were found legal contracts, of which the most interesting is the archive of Salome Komaise daughter of Levi. It is similar to, but not the same as, the much larger Babatha archive, documents relating to another woman from the same Nabatean village.

The Salome archive from the Cave of Letters, published in Discoveries in the Judean Desert vol. 27, covers the period from the end of January 125 to August 131 AD. Most of its records are in Greek - an insight into the widespread use of Greek as the universal language. The dating in the Greek documents uses the Roman formula naming consuls, meaning that it was drawn up by an official under Roman authority.

An example of a property contract between two women is in no. 64. It concerns a transfer of property from a mother to her daughter in the village. It includes , "Salome, who is also Gropte daughter of Menahem, present with her as a guardian for the purpose of this matter Yosef son of Shimeon her husband, to Salome who is also Komaise daughter of Levi, her daughter, all of them living in Mahoza, which items are listed as follows: a date orchard called the Garden of Asadaia with its water allowance once a week on the fourth day for one half-hour...."

If the documentary you saw connected the Cave of Letters with the Copper Scroll, that is very unlikely. It is true that the Copper Scroll gives the deposits of large amounts of money, many of which are unknown. But no money deposits were found in the zealot caves. The first 18 sentences of the Copper Scroll name deposits that are readily identified with places at Qumran, called Sekakah. Such deposits, able to be guarded within buildings, are likely to have been much earlier - I would argue that they began in the reign of Herod the Great, who used Qumran, temporarily deserted following the earthquake of 31 BC, to store his huge income from the Diaspora collected for his building works.

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Complete pesher publication
M.B, of UK, asks
Q. Does Dr Thiering intend to produce and publish complete decoded texts of all the gospels and Acts as she has done for Revelation?

A. A complete pesher of all the Passion narratives, dealing with every word, is now in preparation, and will be published on this site by the end of this year. It is better to group the gospel passages together as they overlap one another. It needs a good basis in the subject to do the close work of studying it, so would appropriately follow the preparatory work already on this site. If it proves effective here, further such close studies would follow.

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Pseudonyms Christianity and DSS
F.E., of Canberra Australia, asks two useful questions.
Q. In the New Testament there are a number of individuals who have quite a few pseudonyms. Why couldn't they be called always by their correct names?. What was the point of the obscuration?

There are critics of the pesher technique. I do not know what they assert but has any one of them won on any point against the pesharists findings?

A. On your first question, we are dealing with an underground political movement, aiming at the overthrow of the occupying power, the Romans. There have been a number of such movements in our own times, aiming at massive political change. The nearest parallel that comes to mind is the Communist party in Russia. Its leaders regularly used pseudonyms to hide their activities as spies and plotters. Both Stalin and Lenin were pseudonyms. In Israel, during the Israeli-Jordanian wars of the 1960's, military men used pseudonyms. Yigael Yadin adopted a name meaning "he will judge", although he was the son of Elazar Sukenik.

Moreover, the initiating movement of the ascetics had long practiced taking on new names at the time of initiation, to show that they were entering a new symbolic family and leaving their old identity behind. The custom came from the habit of priests of the Israelite shrines of adopting illegitimate children, including babies that had been exposed and left to die. Their practice is described in Ezekiel 16:4-6. Adopted into a new "family" with a new name, these unfortunates were said to be "born again". That is the original meaning of the term that has been so misused in modern Christian religiosity. The practice of giving the name at baptism is also derived from the custom.

On your second question, there has been resistance at every stage to recognising any Christian connection to the DSS, for it would obviously have the effect of relativising a religion that claimed to be unique and directly revealed. Attacks on a Christian dating of the Teacher held by both Robert Eisenman and myself were made in the name of carbondating and paleography. The attacks were made in the face of the actual facts, misleading the public. After the Tucson carbondating tests of 1995, it was plain that carbondating supported the 1st century AD date of the Teacher. Paleographical dates also support it. Please see "Date of Composition of the Pesharim" and "Carbondating Issues" in The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christianity section on this site for the details.

The discovery of the pesher of the gospels, Acts and Revelation, which was my work, has of course met even greater resistance, for religious reasons that are obvious. It disposes altogether of the supernatural element, joining repeated such approaches that have been made since the rise of the scientific worldview. It goes further, drawing on the new information from the DSS to show that the gospels are not collections of legends as has been thought, but deliberately composed to give the true, natural, history of Jesus. The theory and its application are fully explained in Sections 2 and 3 of our site.

Because it is a true-false matter, the pesher would be discredited if it was proved that it was found arbitrarily, that my claim that every word meets the test is not substantiated. I know myself that every word does meet the test, and continues to do so with the even more exact work on the gospels that I am doing now. But of course others have to make the test for themselves. In the 24 years since it was first published, and the 15 years since it was published in popular form, no case of such inconsistency has been identified.

Thomas Kuhn's theory of a paradigm shift (in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962, 1996 third edition) helps in interpreting the present situation. It takes time for it to be understood that the results can lead to a reformed and much healthier Christianity.

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Hymn of the Pearl
Hello to our webmaster, Dylan Stephens, who is offering a comment out of his personal interest in the Hymn of the Pearl.
Q. I only recently discovered the Hymn of the Pearl and I was amazed at how beautiful and powerful it is and yet it appears not to be well-known in the West. Would the passage: "I charmed it (the serpent) to sleep by naming over it my Father's name, the name of our next in rank, and that of my mother, the queen of the East" be equivalent to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? If this is so, it would explain this hymn's suppression in the Western Church as it allows for high female status.
A. Your last point is true of all the gnostic literature, as Elaine Pagels first pointed out. Here is a relevant passage in another gnostic work, the Gospel of Philip. "Some said, 'Mary conceived by the holy spirit.' They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and the apostolic men." (GPhil 55, 23-30).

The passage shows that the holy spirit was assumed to be female, and shows also the opposition of Hebrews to female leadership. As we have seen, Paul retained the views of Hebrews on women, and his attitudes and those of the married man Peter dominated in Rome. There was clearly a western Roman versus eastern gnostic split.

On the father - son -mother threesome in the Hymn of the Pearl, I would suggest that the physical fact was the first step. Life can only continue when there is a father, mother, and (preferably!) a son. The next step was cultural, that countries east and west of the Mediterranean differed. The unnamed son belonged with the undeveloped west, while the mother, emphasised, was queen of the superior east.

The next step after that was to build a metaphysic on the physical facts. All reality must be structured in terms of a male progenitor who united with a female entity. As an illustration, here is some of Hans Jonas' insightful interpretation of the sources on Simon Magus and Helena.

"There is one Power, divided into upper and lower, begetting itself, increasing itself, seeking itself, finding itself, being its own mother, its own father, its own daughter, its own son.....The one root is unfathomable Silence, pre-existent limitless power, existing in singleness. It bestirs itself and assumes a determinative aspect by turning into Thinking (nous, Mind) from which comes forth the Thought (epinoia or ennoia, a feminine noun) conceived in the singleness. Mind and Thought are no longer one but two.

"This Ennoia, springing forth from him and perceiving her Father's intention, descended to the lower regions and...generated angels and powers, by whom this world was then made. After she had brought them forth, she was detained by them out of envy...She suffered all manner of abuse from them, that she might not return upward to her Father, and this went so far that she was even enclosed in human flesh and migrated for centuries into different female bodies. And since all the Powers contended for her possession, strife and warfare raged among the nations wherever she appeared. Thus she was also that Helen about whom the Trojan war was fought...Migrating from body to body, suffering abuse in each, she at last became a whore in a brothel...For her sake God descended in the person of Simon (Magus). A main point of Simon's gospel consisted in declaring that the whore from Tyre traveling around with him was the fallen Ennoia of the highest God, i.e. of himself, and that world salvation was bound up with her redemption by him." (The Gnostic Religion, Boston, Beacon Press, pp. 104-107).

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RO, of New York, comments from a traditional scholarly standpoint
Q. Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18-19 differ widely in their accounts of the death of Judas Iscariot. Matthew's account is "gospel" while the Acts' account is clearly, in my opinion, an expository note interrupting Peter's discourse. This note might have begun as a marginal entry in an earlier compilation, only to be written into the text by a later scribe.

I just cannot imagine Peter breaking his flow in order to make a parenthetical statement to an audience who were familiar with Judas' passing.

If this is the actual case, how much weight can be placed on its veracity as opposed to the "gospel" account of Judas' death in Matthew 27:5?
A. Thanks for giving me the opportunity of stating something of the first importance for proving the pesher.

Contrary to established scholarly habits, which you understandably illustrate, we are now in a new situation. There are no scribal additions, no contradictions, no incompatible accounts of the same episode. All passages give an exact history. If at first sight two passages on the same event seem to differ, the pesher of each gives exactly the same history.

This is a post-critical methodology. It looks at first like a reversion to literalism, in that all accounts, no matter how problematic, are taken seriously as reliable history. It naturally ran into misunderstading, even derision, when it was first put forward. The great achievement of 19th century biblical critics - fought for at the cost of martyrdom sometimes - was to demonstrate what they believed to be the processes of growth of tradition. Fanciful stories, legends, grew up about Jesus, were written down generations after him, and ended up in the unbelievable mixtures that are now the gospels and Acts. The thrust of the critics' labours was against naïve biblical literalism, a sign of limited education. It was an immense advance - on the information they had.

Now we have new information that produces something that is both more radical, yet at the same time more sympathetic to the gospel records. It shares the critics' assumption that there is no supernatural. But - whether this is acceptable theologically or not - it produces a fully human history of the origins of Christianity, a political history, with all the heroism and failures that always come with politics.

The accounts in Matthew and in Acts record the two successive stages of Judas Iscariot's failure and death. He had joined with the militant party of Simon Magus, appointed as levite deputy to Simon. But there were internal disputes, especially when Agrippa I returned from Rome, bankrupt and claiming the Herodian property for his project of restoring the monarchy. Simon Magus opposed Agrippa, Judas supported him.

After the uprising of December 32 AD (Luke 13:1), Pilate issued a warrant for the arrest of the three ringleaders, Simon Magus, Judas Iscariot, and Theudas-Barabbas.They remained in hiding for three months until March, when they were due to hold their Passover council at their secret headquarters in the Qumran monastery. Judas knew that the leaders would risk going to the council, and thought he saw his opportunity of playing the political tensions to buy his own freedom. After the regular communal meal on the Thursday evening, he left the meeting (John 13:30) and sent a messenger to Pilate in Jerusalem. It was about three hours' ride on horseback along the Jericho road.

By alerting Pilate on the whereabouts of the wanted men, Judas knew that he would earn the governor's gratitude, for Pilate badly needed to regain the approval of Rome after a series of blunders that had offended the Jews. When Pilate arrived at Qumran early on Good Friday, he set about conducting the trials, having the power of summary execution. A complicated situation ensued, with Jesus' enemies trying to have him crucified in place of the elderly hero Theudas-Barabbas. At one stage it looked as if Judas would be freed as his reward, Jesus would be crucified as the third man, and Theudas-Barabbas would be crucified in the place of the levite deputy, for he was also qualified for that position. Whether out of conscience or pressure, Judas saw that he could not allow that to happen. Moreover, the astute Simon Magus had foreseen the way in which a rescue could be arranged for them after only a few hours on the crosses. So Judas "going from, hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5) - offered himself as one to be crucified.

When Pilate was deceived into changing the method of execution to burial alive in the nearby dungeon-cave, the legs of Simon and Judas were broken on Pilate's orders, to prevent any escape (John 19:31-32). It would need help from supporters to bring them out of the cave when the coast was clear. That help was given to Simon, who in the evening was lifted out to effect the resuscitation of Jesus in the adjoining cave, then put back in the dungeon-cave, then at early dawn brought out again, to be hailed as the new Pope following his "miracle". But Judas remained helpless in the dungeon. He had attempted to betray everyone. Late on the Saturday afternoon, when the strict sabbath rules permitted lifting, he was carried out of the dungeon into the adjoining cave which had window openings, then thrown out of the window down the steep side of the cliff, to be smashed on the rocks far below (Acts 1:18).

Peter in the Acts account is officially announcing the death of Judas, as a necessary prelude to appointing a successor.

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Testimonium Flavianum followup
JG, of Georgia USA, asks a follow-up question to the item on the Testimonium Flavianum
Q. As anything but a scholar of the N.T., I remember from your books that "Christ" was the title of the first son of the king (of Israel or Judea). Hence, Joseph was "the Christ" until his father died and he became "king-sans-throne". At this time, his eldest son, Jesus, became "the Christ" (ignoring the question of his legitimacy). In discussing "Christ = heir to the kingship" with many Christians, I get blank stares. Are there any surface (non-pesher) verses in the N.T. which clearly delineate this meaning?
A. You don't have to look to NT verses to tell you what is a well known fact! As any dictionary would tell you, and dictionaries of NT Greek would explain, "Christ" (christos) is Greek for Hebrew mashiach, which means "anointed". In the days when oil stood for holiness, every king and every priest was anointed with oil as a sign of consecration to a holy office, with oil poured on his head. There were many "Anointed Ones". The DSS have two of them, the Messiah-Anointed One of Aaron and the Messiah-Anointed One of Israel (1QSa 2:11-15 , 1QS 9:11 ). However, without further qualification, the title usually referred to the kings, and this was especially so when the two Messiahs of Qumran were combined into one.

The kings of Jerusalem of the dynasty of the Davids encouraged the theory of kingship that was common in the Ancient Near East, that they were sacred persons, sacrosanct, not to be touched. When the kingship was abolished by the Persians in the 5th century BC, the religious aura clung to their descendants. A party of monarchists wanted a Restoration, just as in recent history exiled kings have become pretenders to a throne. In Israel a David would restore not only the monarchy but the true religion of the temple. The party ended up at Qumran, looking for both a restored David and a restored high priest, the Zadok.

The physical descendants of the lines were cherished and protected by the Qumran solarists. The "hidden Holy Shoot" of 1QH 16/8:10-11 means the David living among them. Each descendant of David in turn was a potential king, a Christ, if the Restoration came. Jesus was the heir in his own generation (at least to liberals who held that he was legitimate, as opposed to his next brother James). When Josephus wrote of Jesus "he was the Christ" (Ant. 18, 63-64; Ant. 20, 200), he only meant that Jesus was given this political title by his supporters. But subsequently the full religious content was focussed on Jesus alone, with the result that modern scholars read it with our eyes, disregarding the historical evidence.

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Mary Magdalene kiss
WS of Washington State USA asks questions inspired bythe recent documentary "The Real Da Vinci Code"
Q. Why was Mary Magdalene in a teaching position at the time? Why was she was kissed on the mouth?
A. On her teaching role, see The Gospel of Mary, just added to our Section 4.

On the grave theological question of where she was kissed, discussed in the documentary, the following may help.

When the Gospel of Philip was first published in the 1977 edition of The Nag Hammadi Library, a hole in the text was filled in conjecturally. The passage on Jesus and Mary Magdalene in 63, 34-36, at the end of a column, had gaps in the text. Some could be filled in from other texts, as shown, others not so certain. What was extant or could be supplied read "And the companion of the [........] Mary Magdalene. [...loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [....]."

The 1977 edition filled in "mouth" in the last gap. Possibly to avoid anything worse! The 1984 edition does not supply a word at all, more correctly from a scholarly point of view. A speaker in the documentary, opposing the idea that Mary was the wife of Jesus, joked that there were "literally holes in the argument" about where Jesus kissed Mary. Perhaps just on the cheek or forehead? Just brotherly affection?

Obfuscation! In the light of the numerous passages showing that she was his wife (See "The Marriage of Jesus" in The Pesher Technique section on this site; (See "The Gospel of Mary" and "The Gospel of Philip"in The Other Gospels section on this site), this can hardly be called a convincing interpretation.

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Philosophical positions
AA, from California USA, offers an insightful comment
Q. Do you think Jesus was using philosophical positions in order to achieve practical political goals, or using practical politics to achieve philosophical goals?

For example, wasn't the major achievement of Jesus the fact that he promoted a more just or universal type of individualism? Even though the Jews before him were innovators as regards individualism, didn't they fall short in their achievement, in that it was a type of individualism which was tempered by a collective Jewish identity?

How much of the later philosophy of the Church do you think was added by people like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, as compared to what Jesus originally intended?'
A. I don't think you can distinguish politics from religion, or even politics from philosophy, especially these days. But the point at which I would take issue with you is the assumption of Jesus as the originator. As the full context within which he worked becomes better known, he can be seen as a member of an existing highly organised political movement, whose structure was retained because it was culturally determined, not by him. He was a creative reformer within that movement, acting to keep it responsive to cultural changes. His literary skill, in the gospels, gave it its drama, an enduring expression of the human condition. To make him the centre of a cult is to worship a human being, that is worship ourselves, an act of idolatry.

Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, like all the best theologians, understood the thrust of what he was doing and re-expressed it in terms of their own changed culture. And met the same resistance and persecution from the previously established culturally determined language.

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Testimonium Flavianum
A question on a much disputed passage of Josephus comes from DS, Washington State, U.S.A.
Q. What is your opinion about the famous Testimonium Flavianum, in Josephus' Antiquities 18, 63-64? It could be read as meaning that there had been an actual resurrection of Jesus.
A. There are two references to Jesus in Josephus' Antiquities. The first reads:

" About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats (paradoxōn ergōn poiētēs) and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ (ho Christos houtos ēn). When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them living (ephanē gar autois tritēn echōn hēmeran palin zōn), for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvellous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared." (Ant. 18, 63-64).

This passage, usually called the Testimonium Flavianum, is found in all manuscripts and is quoted in Eusebius (Eccl. Hist.1, xi, 7-8).

The second reference is included in the account of the execution of James the brother of Jesus by Ananus the Younger, who was high priest in Jerusalem in AD 62.

"(Ananus) convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law, and delivered them up to be stoned. Those of the inhabitants of the city who were considered the most fair-minded and who were strict in observance of the law were offended by this." (Ant. 20, 200).

From the beginning of the modern period of scholarship, when inventions and interpolations were readily suspected, the Testimonium Flavianum has been hotly disputed. Notes on the controversy are given by Feldman in the Loeb edition of Antiquities. The notes include: "the principal arguments for its authenticity are that it is found in all the manuscripts, that it is cited by Eusebius, and that the vocabulary and style are basically Josephan."

The possibility that the wording means that Jesus survived the crucifixion has not been publicly aired, for obvious theological reasons. Yet Josephus' wording is good evidence that that was the case. It may be seen to mean simply an aborted crucifixion, from which Jesus had escaped. The exact expression is "he appeared to them on the third day again living", the word "living" a present participle. Josephus would have known of the record that Jesus was seen in person two days after the crucifixion. According to the pesher, he was present at community centres in the Wilderness of Judea on the Sunday, and in Jerusalem on the Monday.

"He was the Christ" need only mean that Jesus used the word as a title, claiming to be the descendant of King David, the original Messiah ("Anointed One") or (Greek)Christ, who would restore the venerated kingship of the Davids. The full religious content of the word "Christ" would not be intended by Josephus, who was not a Christian.

In keeping with the many indications now better understood that Josephus was a reliable historian, it may be seen that these passages are part of the evidence for a human Jesus, a political figure, who had survived the crucifixion.

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High priests
A question on high priests comes from CR, Quebec, Canada.
Q. Was the high priest the same one in Jerusalem (singular - the literal Jerusalem) and in Jerusalem (plural - Qumran) or were there two high priests?
A. At the outset, in the 2nd century BC when the Essenes separated from the Jerusalem temple, they had an alternate high priest, the descendant of Zadok. He and his Essene sect followed the solar calendar with its different days for feasts. The Essenes continuing into the 1st century AD always upheld him as the only true high priest, the Light. John the Baptist was the Zadokite in the gospel period.

By the 1st century AD some Pharisees and Sadducees had attached themselves to the Essenes because they admired their ascetic way of life. They adopted the Mishmarot calendar, described in scroll fragments, which added the new moons and full moons to the solar dates. When some Essenes in the re-occupied Qumran in 1-6 AD turned to Judas the Galilean and wrote the War Scroll, they with the ascetic Pharisees and Sadducees combined in a political pressure group aimed at overthrowing the Roman occupation. It suited their purpose to lobby for the high priesthood in the Jerusalem temple, and they succeeded with both the Annas-Sadducee and Caiaphas-Pharisees lines. These men had a dual role - publicly performing the lunar calendar observances in the Jerusalem temple, and privately belonging to the ascetics as a kind of secret brotherhood, attending their observances at Qumran and Mird-Hyrcania on different days.

Jesus and his Gentile followers came out of this secret brotherhood as a new party, with yet another opinion on the high priest. They said he could be a layman, ordained to the high priesthood because of merit, not from levitical birth. The two Messiahs, the priestly and the lay Messiah, could be combined into one. Jesus had combined both roles in himself, as is argued in Hebrews 7:1-17. Their view, called Christian, meant the abolition of the levitical priesthood and of traditional Judaism.

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Pesher in New Testament
Two questions on pesher from MB, in UK
Q. How much of the New Testament is written in Pesher?
A. The four gospels and Acts - the five books intended to be the equivalents of the Torah, with the greatest authority, as well as Revelation from Jewish Christians. Paul in his Epistles uses pesher terms occasionally, eg for his "14 years" in Galatians 2:1. It means "year 14", 44 AD, starting 30 AD, Agrippa's dating.
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Pesher in gnostic gospels
Q. Are any of the gnostic gospels written in Pesher?
A. They are in Coptic, translated from Greek, so since the complete pesher only works on Greek, it is difficult to be certain. But it does not appear that they give a word-for-word pesher. Rather, they are written for insiders, the "knowing ones" or gnostics, and draw on the inside knowledge, in undisguised form. Much of it is symbolism, eg the marriage symbolism of the Gospel of Philip, which is the richest source of their thought.


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