Thursday, June 5, 2014

What do we know?

Her are a few pages copied from "The Jesus Mysteries". I'll have to remove them soon, it is too much to quote like like this but I'd like for FL and some other people at PT to learn that things are not as obviously settled once and forever as they pretend:

(I have not bothered to remove numbers referring to original quotes in the notes section)

 What of the New Testament letters ascribed to the apostles Peter, James, and John? Can these help us at all? Unfortunately, modern scholars have shown that these letters are forgeries written much later to combat heretical ideas within the early Church. They  
are not even very good forgeries. As one translator writes of the Second Letter of Peter, "It refers to the apostles as 'our ancestors' as if they were dead and buried. "108
 So it is clearly not by Peter, but uses his name so that the apostle is seen as endorsing its anti-heresy message.109 These letters were widely seen as fakes and took a long time to become an established part of the canon of the New Testament. 110
 What about Paul's letters! Here at last we have someone who is universally agreed to have been a historical person. However, scholars believe his later letters, known as "the Pastorals," are forgeries, which contradict his earlier letters.111
 Like the letters attributed to the other disciples, they were written in the second century CE to combat internal divisions in the Church.112
 But some of the earlier letters, while suffering from editing, additions, and the usual " cut and paste" treatment, are widely believed to have been written by Paul. Paul wrote his letters before 70 CE. So, they actually predate all of the gospels. They are the earliest existing Christian documents and some of them are basically genuine. At last we have something substantial!
 It is a completely remarkable fact, however, that Paul says nothing at all about the historical Jesus! He is concerned only with the crucified and resur­rected Christ, whose importance is entirely mystical. Paul makes it clear that he never met a historical Jesus. He writes: "Neither did I receive the Gospel from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ."113
 Paul doesn't mention Jerusalem or Pilate either. Indeed, as we shall explore in more detail later, he declares that Jesus was crucified at the instigation of the " Archons" or "rulers of the age" -demonic powers that are talked of by the Gnostics! In fact Paul does not link Jesus with any historical time and place, including the recent past.
 Paul's Christ, like the Pagan's Osiris-Dionysus, is a timeless mythical figure.
Paul says nothing about Nazareth and never calls Jesus a Nazarene.  Although he portrays Christianity as a baptist sect, he never mentions John the Baptist.
 He tells us nothing about Jesus eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, his Sermon on the Mount, his parables, his arguments with Pharisees, or his clashes with the Roman authorities.
 Paul doesn't even know the Lord's Prayer which, according to the gospels, Jesus gave to his disciples, saying, "Pray then like this," for Paul writes, "We do not even know how we ought to pray."
 If Paul were actually following a recently deceased Messiah, it is astonish­ing that he did not feel it necessary to go and see the apostles who knew Jesus personally before starting off on his own teaching mission. Yet he says he does not gain his authority from anyone. It would also seem reasonable to assume that, if Jesus were a literal figure not a mythological Christ, Paul would have quoted from his master's teachings and the example of his life on a regular basis. In fact he never mentions Jesus' life and only quotes Jesus once-and when he does, it is the universal Mystery formula of the Eucharist:

This is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

When Paul quotes this passage, he tells us that Jesus spoke it "on the night when he was betrayed" or in some translations "on the night of his arrest." Both of these translations, however, embellish the original Greek to give the idea of historicity. The Greek actually states that Jesus spoke these words on the night he was "delivered Up,"121 a phrase reminiscent of that used to describe the fate of the Greek sacrificial pharmakos, who also meets his death to atone for the "sins of the world."
Paul gives his ethical teachings on his own authority, without mentioning Jesus. When he wishes to Support them he draws on the Old Testament, even when quoting Jesus would have served him just as well, or even better. He teaches that Christ's death puts an end to Jewish Law, but doesn't draw on Jesus' claim that he has come to do exactly that. He doesn't back up his call for celibacy with Jesus' praise of those who renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.122
 When he argues that at the resurrection a person's body will be changed from flesh and blood, he doesn't quote Jesus' teachings that "when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in mar­riage, but are like angels in heaven."123
If he had known the master's words, are we really to believe he would have made absolutely no reference to them? Although Paul doesn't mention a historical Jesus, he does mention a John and a James, who are often presumed to be two of the disciples mentioned in the gospels. Paul tells us nothing about John, but he does call James "the brother of the Lord," which is sometimes seized upon to prove that Paul acknowledged a historical Christ, because he had met his brother. It was a common Christian practice, however, to call each other "brother." In both the Gospel of Matthew l24 and the Gospel of John, 125
 Jesus calls his followers his "brothers" without inferring that they are his blood family, and in a Gnostic gospel called The Apocalypse of James we read specifically that James was "said to be the Lord's brother only in a purely spiritual sense."126

Paul also mentions a certain "Cephas." This is traditionally taken to be the apostle Peter. Peter was originally called Simon but, in different circum­stances in each gospel, was given the name "Rock" by Jesus. This is "Cephas" in Aramaic and "Peter" in Greek. Is Cephas the same person as Peter? Paul also mentions a "Peter" once in his letters, but does not equate Cephas and Peter as one and the same person. An early Christian scripture called The Letters of the Apostles opens with a list of 11 apostles, the third of whom is called Peter and the last of whom is called Cephas, so there cer­tainly was a Christian tradition that Cephas and Peter were not identical. The modern tendency to assume that they are necessarily the same person is mistaken.127
 Even if Cephas is taken to be another name for Peter, is this the Peter who supposedly knew Jesus? It is easy to assume so, because we are all so familiar with the gospel stories. However, there is nothing in Paul's letters to suggest that the Cephas he meets in Jerusalem and Antioch is the Peter of the gospels who personally knew Jesus. In fact, quite the opposite. Paul's relationship with the Cephas of his letters would certainly not suggest that Cephas was the right-hand man of a historical Messiah. Paul is extremely hostile to Cephas and opposes him with strong language:

When Cephas came to Antioch I challenged him face to face, because he was acting inexcusably.128
 He takes issue with Cephas for conforming to Jewish Law and refusing to eat with Gentile Christians.129
 Yet Paul does not bring up the fact that, if Cephas is the Peter of the gospels, he must have known that Jesus ate and drank with sinners and prostitutes and defended himself against criticism that he was violating Jewish Laws.130
 Paul calls Cephas a hypocrite.131
 Yet, if he is the Peter of the gospels, why doesn't Paul throw in his face the fact that he had fallen asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, and denied the Lord three times with curses,132
 and had even been compared to Satan by Jesus himself? 133
 There is only one short passage in Paul, which could justify the belief that the Cephas of his letters is the Peter of the gospels. Writing of the resurrected Jesus, Paul says, He appeared to Cephas and then the Twelve. Next he appeared to hundreds of the faithful at once.134

This is curious, because according to the gospels, Judas Iscariot was dead by this time, so Jesus could only have appeared to the 11. And none of the gospels speak of Jesus appearing to "hundreds" of people. Once again we have to acknowledge we are at a loss to know what to believe.
This passage could well be a later addition to Paul's letter. But even if it is not, all it really tells us is that a Cephas, along with hundreds of others, had the mystical experience of seeing the risen Christ, just as Paul himself had done. Is Paul describing a historical event or mystical rites? Thousands of ini­tiates in the Pagan Mysteries of Eleusis could have made essentially the same claim of experiencing the resurrected godman without inferring that any of them had met a historical Osiris-Dionysus. This may sound like a radical interpretation, but it does make sense of a passage in Paul's Letter to the Galatians, which is otherwise incomprehensible. Paul criticizes the "Stupid Galatians," "before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly displayed on the cross!" for looking to a "material" rather than "spiritual" understanding of salvation.135
Are we really to believe that this Christian community in Asia Minor had witnessed the crucifixion in Jerusalem and that Paul, who never claimed to have known Jesus, felt justified in calling such witnesses "stu­pid?" Paul's comment would make sense, however, if the Galatian Chris­tians had rather witnessed a dramatic representation of Christ's passion. It is this, Paul states, that will make them "perfect"-or to use the more accurate translation, " initiated! "
So what can we actually say about Paul's Cephas? Only that he is a leader of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and a theological rival to Paul. It would seem that Paul's letters, the earliest Christian documents, cannot help us in our search for a historical Jesus. All he can tell us is that the Christian com­munity was already internally divided by the middle of the first century between pro-Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and those, like Paul, who saw Jesus as coming to replace the old Jewish Law. It is only because of the gospels and Acts of the Apostles, both written much later, that the figures of Cephas, John, and James in Paul's letters have become associated with the gospel figures who bear their names. There is actually nothing in Paul to make us believe that the Christians he is talking about personally knew a historical Jesus. The gospels were written after Paul's letters and have been revealed as theological rather than historical documents. It is more likely, therefore, that the gospel writers picked up on the names of Cephas, James, and John mentioned earlier by Paul and developed them into the characters we find in the Jesus story.


The evidence suggests that the New Testament is not a history of actual events, but a history of the evolution of Christian mythology. The earliest gospel is Mark, itself created from pre-existing fragments. The authors of Matthew and Luke added to and modified this gospel to create their own ver­sions of the life of Jesus. From this we can conclude that they did not see Mark's gospel as a valuable historical record that must be preserved intact. Neither did they see it as the inviolable "Word of God," which must never be altered. They evidently believed it to be a story that could be embellished and adjusted to their own needs-in exactly the same way that Pagan philosophers had been developing and elaborating the myths of Osiris­Dionysus for centuries.

But Mark is not our earliest evidence of the Jesus story. This is found in the letters of Paul. Despite the fact that these letters were written before any of the gospels, and by as many as 100 years before the Acts of the Apostles, they are placed in the New Testament after these books. This gives the false impression that Paul follows on from the gospels and Acts, rather than the other way around. 106

Hence, it is easy not to even notice that Paul's Christ is not a historical figure. However, if we put the elements that make up the New Testament in their correct chronological order, we see the Jesus story developing before our eyes.

The mythological dying and resurrecting Christ of Paul is developed by the primitive Jesus story of Mark. This is significantly added to by Matthew and Luke. We then have the more philosophically developed Gospel of John, with its "Logos" doctrine and long Greek speeches by Jesus. Finally we have a collection of legends about the apostles, followed by a number of forged let­ters, which presuppose a literal Jesus and adopt the authority of the apostles to attack heretical Christians.
Looked at in this way, the New Testament itself tells the story of how Christianity developed:

Jesus is a mystical dying and resurrecting godman.

The Letters of Paul c.50
The Gospel of Mark 70-110
The myth of Jesus is given a historical and geographical setting. 155
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke  90-135
Details of Jesus' birth and resurrection are added and the story embellished.
The Gospel of John c.120
Christian theology is developed.
Acts of the Apostles 150-177
Having now created the illusion of a historical Jesus, Acts is created to account for his disciples.
Letters of the Apostles 177-220
Letters attributed to Paul and the apostles are forged by Literalists in their battles with Gnosticism, attacking "many deceivers" who "do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. " 137

The original version of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest account of the Jesus story, did not include the resurrection at all. This has been added later. Before these additions, Mark's gospel ended with the women finding the empty tomb and only the intimation that Jesus had resurrected as promised. Char­acteristically, the Gnostic gospels start where Mark's original gospel ends. They do not relate the events of Jesus' life, but the secret teachings of the risen Christ after the resurrection. This suggests that the original quasi­historical Jesus story related in the Gospel of Mark was, as the Gnostics claimed, the Outer Mysteries designed to appeal to spiritual beginners. These Outer Mysteries could take an initiate as far as the empty tomb and the inti­mation of eternal Life, but only the secret teachings of the Gnostics revealed the sayings of the risen Christ. These led initiates beyond the literal story to the true Mystery, to the mystical experience of their own death and resurrec­tion and the realization of their deeper identity as the Christ-the ever-living Universal Daemon.


Like countless scholars who have made this quest before us, we have found that looking for a historical Jesus is futile. It is astonishing that we have no substantial evidence for the historical existence of a man who is said to have been the one and only incarnation of God throughout all of history. But the fact is we do not. So, what have we got?

.:. A few mentions of "Christians" and followers of someone called Crestus among all the extensive histories of the Romans
.:. Some fake passages in Josephus among all the substantial histories of the Jews
.:. A handful of passages from among the vast literature of the Talmud, which tell us that a man called Yeshu existed and had five disciples called "Mattai, Nakkia, Netzer, Buni, and Todah"
.:. Four anonymous gospels that do not even agree on the facts of Jesus' birth and death
.:. A gospel attributed to Mark written somewhere between 70 and 135 CE, which is not even meant to be an eyewitness account and certainly isn't from its ignorance of Palestinian geography and the fact that it misquotes Hebrew scripture
.:. Gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke, which are independently based on Mark and give us entirely contradictory genealogies
.:. A gospel attributed to John, which was written some time after the other three and certainly not by the disciple John
.:. The names of 12 disciples for whom there is no historical evidence
.:. The Acts of the Apostles, which reads like a fantasy novel, misquotes the Hebrew Old Testament, contradicts Paul's letters, and was not written until the second half of the second century
.:. A selection of forged letters attributed to Peter, James, John, and Paul
.:. A few genuine letters by Paul, which do not speak of a historical Jesus at all, but only of a mystical dying and resurrecting Christ
.:. A lot of evidence which suggests that the New Testament is not a history of actual events, but a history of the evolution of Christian mythology

Maybe (if we really want to believe it), something of this could (perhaps) be evidence of a historical Jesus. This cannot be ruled out. But the evidence that
suggests that Jesus is a mythical figure is so compelling that we will need something far more substantial than any of this to undermine it.
The lack of any evidence for a historical Jesus finally made us completely abandon the idea that the true biography of Jesus had been distorted and overlaid with Pagan mythology to create the gospel stories. It also made us dismiss an extraordinary idea developed in the 1920s by a group of monks in Germany called the "Mystery Theory." 138 This explains the resemblances between the biography of Jesus and the mythology of the Mysteries by claim­ing that, as the climax of a divine plan, the life of Jesus finally fulfilled in his­tory what had previously been only mythical. This is actually just the diabolical mimicry theory in a more positive disguise. There is no good rea­son to view the stories of Osiris-Dionysus as myths and the Jesus story as their historical fulfillment. To do so is just cultural prejudice.
It is often argued that only the existence of a historical Jesus can account for the power and appeal of Christianity. Without the inspiration of some charismatic founder how could it have originated and spread around the whole of the ancient world! The Jesus Mystery Thesis accounts for this with­out needing to hypothesize the existence of a man for whom we have no evi­dence. Christianity, as the Mysteries of Jesus, originated and spread around the ancient world in exactly the same way that the Mysteries of Dionysus had done-and the Mysteries of Mithras, and of Attis, and of Serapis, and of all the other mythical dying and resurrecting Mystery godmen.
Far from throwing the Jesus Mysteries Thesis into question, our search for a historical Jesus had endorsed it. However, our studies of the New Testa­ment had opened up a serious area of doubt. If Paul is the earliest Christian we know of who is actually a historical figure, and the Gnostics were the original Christians, as the Jesus Mysteries Thesis claims, then surely we should expect to find that Paul was a Gnostic. But traditionally he is por­trayed as vehemently anti-Gnostic. We seemed to have hit a major flaw in our thesis. Until, that is, we once again dared to challenge the received view and look more closely at the evidence for ourselves.

 Was Paul a Gnostic?

Much of what passes for "historical" interpretation of Paul and for "objective" analysis of his letters can be traced to the second-century heresiologists. If the apostle were so unequivocally anti-Gnostic, how could the Gnostics claim him as their great Pneumatic teacher? How could they say they are fol­lowing his example when they offer secret teaching of wisdom and Gnosis "to the initiates?" How could they claim his resurrection theology as the source for their own, citing his words as decisive evidence against the eccle­siastical doctrine of bodily resurrection?'                                                                                            Elaine Pagels

St. Paul is the most influential Christian of all time. There are 13 letters attributed to him in the New Testament, making up a quarter of the whole of canonical Christian scripture. On top of that, most of the Acts of the Apos­tles is devoted to tales of Paul. But who is Paul?
Traditionally Paul is viewed as a bastion of orthodoxy and a crusader against the heretical Gnostics. Yet it is a remarkable fact that the Gnostics themselves never saw him in this light. Quite the opposite-the great Gnos­tic sages of the early second century CE called Paul "the Great Apostle"2 and honored him as the primary inspiration for Gnostic Christianity. Valentinus explains that Paul initiated the chosen few into the "Deeper Mysteries" of Christianity, which revealed a secret doctrine of God. These initiates had included Valentinus' teacher Theudas, who had in turn initiated Valentinus himself.3

Many Gnostic groups claimed Paul as their founding father and Gnostics calling themselves "Paulicians" continued to flourish, despite persistent per­secution from the Roman Church, until the end of the tenth century. Paul wrote his letters to churches in seven cities, which are known to have been centers of Gnostic Christianity during the second century. These Christian communities were led by the Gnostic sage Marcion, for whom Paul was the only true apostle.5 One thing is for sure: if Paul really were as anti-Gnostic as the Literalists claim, then it is astounding how many Gnostic texts quote him or are actually attributed to him. The followers of Marcion even had a gospel, which they claimed was written by Paul.6 The Nag Hammadi library includes The Prayer of the Apostle Paul and The Apocalypse of Paul.7 A scripture called The Ascent of Paul records the "ineffable words, which it is not permissible for a man to speak," which Paul heard during his famous ascent to the third heaven alluded to by the apostle in his Letter to the Corinthians.8 Another text, called The Acts of Paul, describes Paul traveling with a companion called Thecla - a woman who conducted baptisms!9


Who is the genuine Paul? Could he have been a Gnostic, as the Gnostics claimed? As we have already discussed, modern scholars now regard many of the letters attributed to Paul as forgeries.10 Of the 13 New Testament letters, only seven are now accepted as largely authentic.11
As already mentioned, the so-called "Pastoral" letters to Timothy and Titus are universally regarded as fakes. Computer studies have confirmed that the author of the Pastorals is definitely not the author of the letters to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians, which are accepted as genuinely by Paul.2 The earliest collection of letters attributed to Paul does not contain the Pastorals.13 In fact, we do not even hear of the Pastorals at all until Ire­naeus (c. 190). They appear as a part of the Christian canon only after this time, always as a set, and are regularly dismissed by Christians of all persua­sions as forgeries.14 Even the great orthodox propagandist Eusebius does not include them in his Bible (c. 325).
This is important, as it is only in the Pastorals that Paul is anti-Gnostic. Unlike the genuine Pauline letters, the Pastorals present him as an organizer

of the Church, a mainstay of Church discipline, and the unswerving antago­nist of all heretics.'7 He is made to condemn Gnostic myths as "unhallowed old wives' tales" and to recommend his followers "not to meddle with the teachings and not to waste time on endless mythologies and genealogies, which lead to empty speculations." Obviously by the end of the second cen­tury the view of Paul as a Gnostic teacher was a sufficient threat to motivate someone to create an indisputably Literalist Paul in response.
This Paul is made to specifically advise:

Guard what has been handed down to you by fending off all the God­less prattle and contradictions of false "Gnosis," which some have adhered to, losing the way of the faith.

He is also made to be authoritarian in enforcing the power of the Church hierarchy, writing, "Those who do go wrong should be publicly reproved, to give the others a scare."21 He particularly attacks "Hymenaeus and Philetus," two Gnostic teachers who have "wandered afield from the truth" and are teaching the Gnostic doctrine that "our resurrection has already occurred"; although in his genuine letters Paul claims to be already "resurrected" him­self! And despite the fact that there was a widespread tradition that Paul traveled with a woman who baptized, he is also made to attack the Gnostic practice of treating women as equal to men:

A woman should quietly receive instruction in complete obedience. I will not allow a woman to be a teacher nor act superior to a man.

At the end of the second century, then, Paul is portrayed by Literalist Chris­tians as anti-Gnostic and authoritarian. This has been assumed to be histori­cally accurate, but is actually only the perspective of these Literalist Christians25 Just a few decades earlier, however, their view was the complete opposite-in the first half of the second century letters attributed to Clement, the Bishop of Rome, vigorously attack Paul as a misguided heretic!26 These letters describe Peter as vehemently denying Paul's status as an apostle since only an eyewitness of the resurrection should be regarded as an apostle and Paul did not actually see the risen Christ. Paul's vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus is apparently not only invalid, it is a revelation from an evil demon or lying spiritr7 Jesus is claimed to be "angry" with Paul who is his
"adversary," because what Paul preaches is "contradictory" to Jesus' teach­ings.28 Peter writes of Paul as his "enemy" who has convinced some of the Gentiles to reject the Jewish Law and to embrace "foolish teachings," which are "outside the Law." Paul is accused of creating a heretical gospel and Jesus' genuine apostles have to secretly send out " a true gospel" to correct these heresies.29 Like his contemporary the arch-heretic Simon Magus, Paul is a satanically inspired divider of the Christian community.3° He is a danger­ous man who should be expelled from the Church!31


If we can throw off the traditional picture of Paul and look at the evidence with an open mind this anti-Paul rhetoric is understandable, since his letters show distinct Gnostic and Pagan influences. Paul is a Jew who had embraced the ubiquitous Greek culture of the times. He writes in Greek, his first lan­guage. He quotes only from the Greek version of the Old Testament. His ministry is to Pagan cities dominated by Greek culture.32 Of these, Antioch was a center for the Mysteries of Adonis, Ephesus was a center for the Mys­teries of Attis, and Corinth was a center for the Mysteries of Dionysus.33 Paul was a native of Tarsus in Asia Minor, which by his time had surpassed even Athens and Alexandria to become the major center of Pagan philosophy.34 It was in Tarsus that the Mysteries of Mithras had originated, so it would have been unthinkable that Paul would have been unaware of the remarkable sim­ilarities we have already explored between Christian doctrines and the teach­ings of Mithraism.35
Paul frequently uses terms and phrases from the Pagan Mysteries, such as pneuma (spirit), gnosis (divine knowledge), doxa (glory), sophia (wisdomh teleioi (the initiatedh and so on.36 He advises his followers to "earnestly seek the greater charismata."37 The word "charismata" derives from the Mystery term makarismos, referring to the blessed nature of one who has seen the Mysteries.38 He even calls himself a "Steward of the Mysteries of God,"39 which is the technical name for a priest in the Mysteries of Serapis.4°
Paul quotes the Pagan sage Aratus, who had lived in Tarsus several cen­turies earlier, describing God "in whom we live, and move, and have our being."41 He also teaches Mystery doctrines.42 Like the Pagan sage Socrates, who was deemed wise because he knew he knew nothing,43 Paul teaches:

If someone thinks he knows something, he still doesn't know the way he ought to know.44

Just as Plato had written that we now only see reality "through a glass dimly:45 so Paul writes, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face."46
This famous passage from Paul has also been translated:

At present all we see is the baffling reflection of reality; we are like men looking at a landscape in a small mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face:47

This translation clearly brings out the platonic nature of Paul's teachings. Plato had used the image of prisoners trapped in a cave who are only able to see the shadows of the outside world cast on the cave walls as an allegory for our present condition of mistaking for real what is in fact only a reflection of ultimate reality.48 For Plato, as for Paul, " At present all we see is the baffling reflection of reality."
Plato teaches that philosophers are those who are released from the cave to go outside and see the reality of the dazzling light of day for themselves­"face to face." This phrase is a ritual formula of the Pagan Mysteries. In The Bacchae we read: "He gave these Mysteries to me face to face."49 Lucius Apuleius writes of his initiation: "I penetrated into the very presence of the gods below and the gods above, where I worshiped face to face."50 Justin Martyr acknowledges that: "The aim of platonism is to see God face to face."51 Plato describes how in the temple of the "true earth," which exists in the realm of ideas of which this Earth is a mere image, "Communion with the gods occurs face to face."52


Paul's Jesus is the mystical dying and resurrecting godman of the Gnostics, not the historical figure of the Literalists. The only place where Paul seems to treat Jesus as a historical figure is in the Letter to Timothy, where he writes of "Jesus Christ who swore out so noble a deposition before Pontius Pilate"-but this letter is a forgery.53 The genuine Paul preaches the Gnostic doctrine of Illusionism, claiming that Jesus came not as a person but in the "likeness" of human flesh.54

Paul's letters are full of such distinctively Gnostic doctrines. How many modern Christians have wondered what Paul's famous claim to have ascended as far as the third heaven could possibly mean? This would not be puzzling for a Gnostic or an initiate of the Pagan Mysteries, for both would have been taught that there are seven heavens linked to the seven heavenly bodies-the five visible planets and the moon and sun.55
Like the Gnostics, Paul is extremely disparaging of the externals of reli­gion-ceremonies, holy days, rules, and regulations.56 Like the Gnostics, he claims that true Christians become like Christ: having "no veil over the face" they "reflect as in a mirror the splendor of the Lord" and are thus "transfigured into his likeness, from splendor to splendor."57
The Gnostics saw Paul as a teacher of secret "Pneumatic" initiations. In his Letter to the Romans Paul writes: "I long to see you, so that I may share with you a certain Pneumatic charisma,"58 of which he says, "I would not have you remain ignorant. "59 If Paul wants to urgently share something with his correspondents, why doesn't he write it in his letter? The answer for the Gnostics is that the "Pneumatic charisma " is an initiation, which he can only transmit in person and "in secret."60 Paul writes:

As it is written, "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him. "61

Initiated readers would undoubtedly recognize these words as a Mystery for­mula pronounced at the time of initiation. The vow of secrecy undertaken by the followers of the Gnostic sage Justinus incorporated these words and, among other places, they also occur in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, where Jesus offers:

I will give you what eye has not seen, and what ear has not heard, what has not been touched, and what has not arisen in the heart of man.62

It is only inadequate translation that conceals the fact that Paul's letters are full of characteristically Gnostic phrases and teachings. For example, the Valentinians claim that Paul initiated Christians into the "Mystery of

Sophia," which probably included the myth of the goddess' fall and redemp­tion, and quote as proof his First Letter to the Corinthians, in which Paul writes: "We speak of Sophia among the initiated. "63 If you are wondering why you have never come across this decidedly Gnostic line of Paul's before, it is because it is usually translated as "We speak wisdom among the perfected," which doesn't make a lot of sense but at least sounds orthodox!
The traditional translation continues:

Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to nought: but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory: which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.64

This translation, if intelligible at all, distorts Paul's actual meaning consider­ably. One modern scholar explains:

The proper meaning of this passage is obscured at two crucial points. The Greek word translated "world" here, severally in its singular or plural forms, is a ion, which does not mean this physical world or earth, but "time" or "age." Paul's use of a ion here accordingly shows that he was thinking in terms of an esoteric system of "world-ages." Next, the words translated as "rulers of this world" (archontes tou aionos toutou) do not refer, as is popularly supposed, to the Roman and Jewish authorities who were responsible for condemning Jesus to death; they denote demonic beings, who were associated with the planets and were believed to govern the lives of men on earth.
In this passage, then, Paul is found explaining that, before the beginning of a series of world-ages, God determined to send into the world, for the good of mankind, a preexistent divine being, whom the demonic rulers of the world, not perceiving his real nature, put to death and thereby in some way confounded themselves. In brief, Paul envisaged mankind as enslaved by demonic beings, connected with astral phenomena, whom he describes by a variety of terms such as archontes tou aionos toutou and stoicheia tou kosmou ( "The ele­mental powers of the universe"). From this mortal slavery mankind had, accordingly, been rescued by the divine being, who, incarnated
ill the person of Jesus, had been crucified mistakenly by these archontes who, presumably, by thus unwittingly exceeding their rights, forfeited their control over men.65

This is not Christianity as we know it today! Paul is preaching Gnosticism. Paul writes of a Gnosis which can be taught only to the l'fully initiated."66 He offers a prayer l'that your love may more and more be bursting with Gno­sis."6! He writes of “Christ in whom are hid all the treasures of Sophia and Gnosis” and of "the Gnosis of God's Mystery.”168 Like a Gnostic initiate Paul claims: "By revelation the Mystery was made known to me.”69 Like a Gnos­tic defending the secrecy of the Inner Mysteries he asserts that he has heard "ineffable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”70 Like a Gnostic he puts the emphasis on understanding, not on dogma, writing, "The letter kills, while the spirit gives life.”71 And like a Gnostic, he describes stories in the scriptures as “'allegories"72 and writes of “events” as “symbolic”73


Literalist Christians tried to quote Paul to endorse their bizarre belief that at the Second Coming the dead would actually rise from their graves in their physical bodies.74 It is clear, however, that Paul had a very different perspec­tive. In common with the Gnostics, he sees the resurrection as a spiritual event. He writes categorically: "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God."75
The Gnostic sage Theodotus calls Paul "the apostle of the resurrection.”76 Like the Gnostics, Paul does not see the resurrection as a promised future event, but as a spiritual experience that can happen right now. He writes, "This is it: the duly appointed time! This is it: the day of salvation."77 His message is clearly mystical and allegorical-he writes of being “raised up to heaven" and "enthroned with Jesus" not as some hoped-for afterlife reward, but as something, which he and other Christian initiates have already experienced.78
Like the Gnostics, Paul preaches that Jesus' passion is not an event in the past, but a perennial mystical reality. Through sharing in Jesus' death and resurrection each Christian initiate can themselves die to their lower self and be resurrected as the Christ or Logos.79 In his Letter to the Philippians

Paul writes of "participating in his suffering" and "sharing in the form of his death," and so being "resurrected from the dead."80 In his Letter to the Gala­tians he writes: "I have been crucified with Christ: from now on I live no more, instead Christ lives in me."81 In his Letter to the Romans he interprets Jesus' passion allegorically, writing:

All of us who were initiated into Jesus Christ were initiated into his death as well. By being initiated into his death, we were buried with him, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of his Father, so we might walk in the freshness of a new life. Because if we have grown into the likeness of his death, we shall do the same with his resurrection. This much we know: that the old was crucified with him, that sin's body was destroyed to keep us from being the slaves of sin any more.82

In his Letter to the Colossians Paul describes himself as having been assigned by God the task of delivering his message " in full" ; of announcing " the secret hidden for long ages and through many generations: which is now being dis­closed to those chosen by God. And what is this great secret? Is it, as we might expect from an orthodox apostle, the "good news" that Jesus had liter­ally come and walked the Earth, worked miracles, died for our sins, and returned from the dead? No! It is the perennial mysticism of Gnosticism and the Pagan Mysteries-that within each one of us is the one Soul of the Uni­verse, the Logos, the Universal Daemon, the Mind of God. Paul writes:

The secret is this: Christ in you!83

When Paul describes his famous vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus it is significant that he doesn't say "God revealed his Son to me," as we would expect from a Literalist Christian. Rather, he writes, "God revealed his Son in me."84

Paul's Jesus is not a historical figure, but a symbol of the Universal Dae­mon of whom we are all limbs. For PauL "Christ is like a single body with its many limbs and organs, which, many as they are together make up one body. "85 In his Letter to the Ephesians he teaches:

Let each of you speak the truth with your neighbor because we are parts of each other.86
The Gnostics claimed that Paul taught that seeing Jesus as a flesh and blood man was only a transitory stage for beginners-the Outer Mysteries for Psy­chic Christians. Those Pneumatic Christians initiated into the Inner Myster­ies understood the Jesus story's allegorical meaning. The Gnostics claimed that this change of perspective through initiation into the Inner Mysteries is what Paul was referring to when he wrote: "Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more."87 Since Paul never claimed to have known a historical Jesus "in the flesh," it is indeed difficult to see what else he could have meant!


So how could Paul have come to be both the hero of the Gnostics and the Lit­eralists? As we have already explored, the Gnostics taught that the Jesus story works on two levels at once: as an introductory story for Psychic Chris­tians initiated into the Outer Mysteries and as a mystical allegory for Pneu­matic Christians initiated into the Inner Mysteries. Although it was understood in two completely different ways, the story remained the same. According to the Gnostics, Paul's letters were likewise designed to work on two levels. As the Gnostic sage Theodotus puts it, Paul "taught in two ways at once. "88
Theodotus claims that Paul recognized that " each one knows the Lord in his own way: and not all know him alike. "89 So on the one hand he preached the savior "according to the flesh" as one "who was born and suffered." This "kerygmatic gospel" of "Christ crucified" he taught to Psychic Christians "because this they were capable of knowing."9o But to Pneumatic Christians he proclaimed Christ "pneumatically" or "according to the spirit. "91 Each level of initiate would take from these teachings whatever they were wise enough to be able to hear. Paul himself writes:

The Psychic does not receive the things of the spirit of God; they are foolishness to him; he cannot recognize them, because they are Pneu­matically discerned, but the Pneumatic discerns all things.92

The Gnostics claimed that like the gospel parables, Paul's letters encoded secret teachings so that uninitiated readers would hear one thing and the

initiated another. Only those who had been initiated into the secret oral teachings of the Inner Mysteries were capable of understanding Paul's deeper meaning. As Elaine Pagels writes,

The Valentinians claim that most Christians make the mistake of reading the scriptures only literally. They themselves, through their initiation into Gnosis, learned to read Paul's letters (as they read all the scriptures) on the symbolic level, as they say Paul intended. Only this pneumatic reading yields " the truth " instead of its mere outward "image. "93

The followers of Valentinus systematically decoded the allegorical meaning of Paul's letters to show their hidden meaning. For example, in his letters to the Romans Paul uses a simple everyday situation-the relationship between Jews and Gentiles-as a parable for the relation between Psychic and Pneu­matic Christians. An initiate of the Inner Mysteries would understand that where Paul writes "Jews" he means "Psychic Christians" and where he writes "Gentiles," he means "Pneumatic Christians."94 As well as "Gentiles," the other code words used by Paul to signify "Pneumatic Christian " include "the uncircumcised," "the Greeks," "Jews inwardly," "Jews in secret," and "the true Israel. "95
In a striking passage in his First Letter to the Corinthians Paul writes with disappointment of wanting to give his followers Pneumatic teachings, but finding them only to be on a "Sarkic" level of awareness (a term synonymous with "Hylic," meaning the lowest level of human awareness). So he is forced to teach his students only the most basic of Christian doctrines:

And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to Pneumatics, but as to Sarkics, as to those uninitiated in Christ. I fed you rnilkl not meat, for you were not yet able to take it. Nor are you now-you are still Sar­kic. For where there is strife and envy among you, are you not Sarkic?96

Paul is impatient that his followers are still not ready to move on from ele­mentary teachings. In his Letter to the Hebrews he writes:

Therefore let us leave behind the elementary doctrine of Christ and progress to another level of initiation (ten teleioteta), not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward

God, with teachings of baptism, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. For it is impossible for those who have been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the holy breath [holy spirit], and have tasted the goodness of God's Logos, and the powers of the age to come, to have fallen back to renew repentance again. They re-crucify for themselves the Son of God.97

The "elementary doctrine," which Paul wants his disciples to leave behind, as a Gnostic would expect, includes repentance, faith, baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment-all the rituals and dogmas so precious to the Literalist Church. To the Gnostics these were only the Psychic Outer Mysteries of Christianity. Paul wants his disciples, having tasted the holy breath of Pneumatic initiation, to progress to the Pneumatic level of understanding completely and leave behind such Psychic concerns.


Like the Gnostics, Paul teaches that the Mysteries of Jesus supersede the Law of the Jewish god Jehovah.91; Jesus has given Jews a New Covenant or agreement with God and Paul does not hide his low opinion of the redundant old agreement that is traditional Judaism!99 He writes:

Calling this the "new" agreement already makes the first one the "old" one, and something so antiquated and creaky won't be around much longer.1oo

Like the Gnostics, Paul does not preach moral servitude to the Law, but spir­itual freedom through Gnosis. He declares: "where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."lol For Paul, "Nothing is unclean in itself."lo2 Later Gnos­tics, such as Carpocrates, quote Paul to defend their own doctrines of natural morality against those who accused them of immorality. After all, it was Paul, not some "loony" Gnostic heretic, who had famously proclaimed: " All things are authorized for me!"lO3

Paul even goes so far as to declare Jehovah's traditionally sacred Law, the very basis of the Jewish religion, to be a curse, writing, " All who depend upon works of the Law are under a curse,"104 and "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. "lOS For Paul, as for the Gnostics, through sharing in Christ's suffering and resurrection the Christian initiate can be redeemed from the Law and set free: "Now, having died, we are out of the purview of the Law that kept us down."lo6
Paul claims the Law is the product of the "mediator." What does he mean by calling Jehovah, supposedly the one God and creator of all, a "mediator?"
A mediator between what and what? Literalists have no answer, but Gnos­tics immediately recognize that Paul is teaching the Gnostic doctrine that Jehovah is the "demiurge," a lesser god who mediates between the ineffable supreme God and creation. Paul certainly does not regard Jehovah as the true God, for he continues: "The mediator is not one; God is one."lO7
According to Paul, people who do not understand the gospel he is preach­ing have had their "unbelieving minds blinded by the god of this passing age."lO8 In many translations of his letters, the editor adds a helpful little note here to explain the mysterious phrase "the god of this passing age." The gen­eral orthodox gloss on this line is that Paul is referring to the Devil, but why he should refer to a wicked angel as a "god" is left unexplained! To the Gnos­tics it was obvious what Paul meant. He was referring to Jehovah, the lesser god of the Jews, whose years of ruling the Jewish people were coming to an end and who was to be abandoned in favor of the true ineffable God of Jesus and Plato.


The anti-Gnostic letters of Paul have been found to be forgeries, but his authentic letters do oppose others within the early Christian Church who preach "another Jesus."lO9 These are not Gnostic heretics, however, but pro­Jewish Christians who believe that the Church should maintain the old Jew­ish custom of circumcision and honor the Law of Jehovah.
Paul attacks them with passion. In his Letter to the Philippians he warns: "Watch out for those dogs, those evil operators, those axe-wielding circumci­sionaries!"llO In his Letter to the Galatians he proclaims: "Mark my words: I,
Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision Christ will do you no good at all,"'!! and quips, " As for these agitators, they had better go the whole way and make eunuchs of themselves! "!!2
It is not such outer Psychic observances of religious rituals, but inner Pneumatic qualities, which mark the Mysteries Paul is preaching. He claims:

We are the circumcised, we whose worship is Pneumatic (spiritual), whose pride is in Jesus Christ, and who put no confidence in anything extemal.!!3

Paul's teachings here are completely in line with those of the Gnostic Jesus. In The Gospel of Thomas, for example, when the disciples ask Jesus about the benefits of circumcision, he explains:

If it were beneficial, their father would beget them already circum­cised from their mother. Rather the true circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable. 114
What characterizes Paul's rival Christians is not their Gnosticism as opposed to Paul's Literalism, or their Literalism as opposed to Paul's Gnosticism. This is not the issue at all. Their disagreement is over the relationship between Christians and old Jewish traditions, and whether Christianity should be open to non-Jews, and if so in what way. The battles in the Church of Paul's time were not between Literalists and Gnostics, but between Chris­tians with different views on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.
Paul's letters suggest that these more traditional Jewish-Christians live in Jerusalem. They have traditionally been taken to be Peter and others of Jesus' disciples who are mentioned in the New Testament. As we have already shown, this is actually an interpretation of the evidence based on unjustified preconceptions. There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that there ever existed a Jerusalem Church of the apostles as envisaged by tradi­tional Roman Christianity.!!S In fact, quite the opposite.
Indeed, when in 160 Bishop Melito of Sardis went to Judea to discover what had become of the legendary Jerusalem Church, to his dismay he found not the descendants of the apostles, but instead a small group of Gnostics!!!6 These Christians, who called themselves the Ebionites or "Poor Men," had their own Gospel of the Ebionites and also a Gospel of the Hebrews,!!7 a

Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, and a Gospel of the Nazarenes.118 All of these gospels differed significantly from the gospels of the New Testament.119 This form of Jewish-Christian Gnosticism managed to survive for many hundreds of years.12O
The Literalist propagandist Eusebius explains the fact that the Jerusalem Church had turned out to be made up of Gnostics by claiming that they had obviously all "apostated" from their original Literalism and become heretics-but he does not explain why or how this might have happened! Actually the evidence suggests that the Jerusalem Christians had always been Gnostics, because in the first century the Christian community was made up entirely of different types of Gnosticism!


So was Paul a Gnostic? Let's review a little of what we have discovered:

.:. The Gnostics claimed that their spiritual lineage stemmed from Paul and that they were privy to secret oral teachings taught by Paul to select disciples.
.:. Gnostics had many gospels which they attributed to Paul, their "Great Apostle."
.:. Many Gnostic groups claimed Paul as their founding father.
.:. By the middle of the second century the communities to which Paul had written his letters are known to have been centers of Marcionite Gnosti­cism.
.:. Paul's anti-Gnostic Pastoral letters are fakes, forged in the late second century. In the genuine letters Paul is not anti-Gnostic and never men­tions a historical Jesus.
.:. Literalist Christians of the early second century attack Paul, who they claim " contradicts" the true teaching and is the " adversary" of Jesus.
.:. Paul was born in Tarsus, a major center for the Pagan Mysteries, and often uses terms from the Mysteries in his letters. He even calls himself a "Steward of the Mysteries of God," the term for a priest in the Pagan Mys­teries of Serapis. Paul quotes Pagan sages and teaches Pagan doctrines.
.:. When properly translated, Paul's letters reveal a powerful Gnostic con­tent. Paul regularly uses Gnostic terms. He is a teacher of a Pneumatic
initiation. He journeyed mystically to the third heaven. l-ie teaches that Jesus came only in the "likeness" of flesh. He is disparaging of external religion. He describes the scriptures as "allegories" and "symbolic." He rejects the Law of Jehovah, who he calls "the mediator" and "the god of this passing age."
.:. While the Literalists saw the resurrection as the promise that they would rise from their graves and experience bodily immortality after the Sec­ond Coming, Paul teaches the Gnostic doctrine that the resurrection is a mystical experience that can be had here and now.
.:. The great secret that Paul claims to be able to reveal is not that Jesus lit­erally walked the Earth, but the mystical revelation of "Christ in you."
.:. The Gnostics claimed that, like the gospels, Paul's letters encoded secret teachings. Paul taught in "two ways at once": the Outer Mysteries to Psychic initiates and the Inner Mysteries to Pneumatic initiates. Paul's letters can be understood in different ways because they were designed to speak on different levels simultaneously.
.:. Paul is frustrated with his disciples because they are not ready to aban­don " elementary" Christianity and move on to the deeper level.

All of the evidence strongly suggests that Paul was indeed a Gnostic-just as the Gnostics themselves had claimed all along. Yet, upon reflection we felt that to call Paul a Gnostic was, in a sense, misleading. The more we looked at the evidence we had uncovered, the more it seemed that to apply the terms "Gnostic" and "Literalist" to the Christianity of the first century was actually meaningless. From Paul's letters it is clear that the Christian com­munity of this period was deeply divided, yet this schism was not between Gnostics and Literalists, as was the case by the end of the second century. Paul is neither anti-Gnostic nor pro-Gnostic, because in his day the great schism between Gnostics and Literalists had yet to occur.
At the time of Paul, the strands of thought that would become Gnosticism and Literalism were harmoniously co-existing as the Inner and Outer teach­ings of the Jesus Mysteries. The theological battle that Paul is engaged in is between those initiates of the Jesus Mysteries who want to maintain a tradi­tional and distinctively Jewish identity and those, like himself, who wish to make their new Mysteries completely "modern" and cosmopolitan.
Paul has all the characteristics we would expect to find in an initiator of the Jesus Mysteries. This was powerful confirmation of the Jesus Mysteries Thesis. When a theory is true, everything starts to fall into place. Our new

vision of the origins of Christianity explained the evidence, was internally consistent, beautifully simple, and wonderfully ironic. There was still some­thing that worried us, however.
The Jesus Mysteries Thesis proposed that the Jews had created their own version of the ancient Mysteries with Jesus as their Osiris-Dionysus. How could this have happened? The traditional history paints a picture of the Jews as an insular people, separate and distinct from the other Mediterranean cul­tures, staunchly nationalistic and fanatically devoted to their religion, fiercely loyal to their one god Jehovah and entirely hostile to the Paganism of their neighbors. From this perspective, the idea that the Jews could possibly have adopted the Pagan Mysteries seems unthinkable. And so it would be, if any of this were true.


The Jewish

That Jewish priests used to perform their chants to the flute and drums, crowned with ivy, and that a golden vine was discovered in the Temple, has led some to imagine that the god they worshiped was Dionysus.'


The traditional picture of Jesus has him growing up among shepherds and fishermen in a rural backwater of the ancient world. Actually by the time that Jesus is supposed to have lived, Judea, like so many other countries of the time, had adopted much of Greek culture and become 'IHellenized.'12 An hour's walk from Nazareth in Galilee, where Jesus is supposed to have grown up, was the Hellenized city of Sepphoris, which contained a theater with a beautiful mosaic of Dionysus.3 Gadara, a day's walk from Nazareth, con­tained an important school of Pagan philosophy.4 Scythopolis, on the south­ern border of Galilee, was a center for the Mysteries of DionysusS and was even said to have been founded by the godman himself.6
Jerusalem was surrounded by thoroughly Hellenized cities, such as Larissa and Ascalon, which produced a stream of eminent Pagan philosophers whose renown spread as far as Rome.7 A Jewish scripture called 2 Maccabees records that the Temple of Jerusalem itself was transformed into a Greek temple to Zeus and festivals of Dionysus were celebrated.8 The high priest Jason built a Greek-style gymnasium-a Pagan I'university" for physical, intellectual, and spiritual education-alongside the Temple which clearly appealed to Jewish clergy more than their traditional ways. According to 2 Maccabees:
The priests no longer showed any enthusiasm for their duties at the altar, they treated the Temple with disdain, they neglected the sacri­fices, and whenever the opening gong called them they hurried to join in the sports at the wrestling school in defiance of the Law.9

This process of integration between Jewish and Pagan culture had been going on for centuries. The history of the ancient Jews is one of repeated conquest by other nations: in 922 BCE by the Egyptians; in 700 BCE by the Assyrians; in 586 BCE by the Babylonians; in 332 BCE by the Greeks under Alexander the Great; in 198 BCE by the Syrians; and finally in 63 BCE by the Romans, who completely destroyed the state of Judea in 112 CE.1O These con­quests inevitably led to the Jewish people coming under the cultural influ­ence of their conquerors as well as Jews becoming dispersed throughout the Mediterranean as slaves, forming the so-called "Diaspora." Those who regained their freedom became integrated with Pagan civilization and even when they had the chance to return from exile to their homeland, the major­ity chose not to.11
Jews of the Diaspora integrated Pagan spirituality with their own religious traditions. In Babylon, for example, Jews became famous for their practice of Babylonian astrology. The great patriarch Abraham himself was a Babylonian Jew who was said to have been well-versed in astrological doctrines.12 Indeed, eminent Jews such as the historian Josephus and the philosophers Aristobu­Ius and Philo make the outrageous claim that Abraham invented astrology.13 Jews even adopted the Pagan Mysteries. In Babylon they practiced the Mysteries of Tammuz, the Babylonian Osiris-Dionysus.14 In the Old Testa­ment, the prophet Ezekiel describes Jewish women ritually mourning the death of Tammuz at the north gate of the Jerusalem Temple Accord­ing to St. Jerome, there was a shaded grove sacred to Adonis, the Syrian Osiris-Dionysus, in Bethlehem.16 In Syria striking Pagan Mystery symbols have been found painted alongside traditional Jewish motifs on the walls of the synagogue.1l In Asia Minor Jews equated their god Jehovah with Sabazius, the Phrygian Osiris-Dionysus.18 We are even told that Jews were expelled from Rome in 139 BCE for trying to introduce the Mysteries of Sabazius into the city!19
The god of the Jews became known as "Iao," which is an ancient Mystery name of Dionysus.2o A coin has been found at an archaeological site less than 40 miles from Jerusalem that depicts Jehovah as the founder of the Mysteries of Eleusis.21 Indeed, it is a shocking fact that many ancient authors, including

Plutarch, Diodorus, Cornelius Labo, Johannes Lydus, and Tacitus, repeatedly identify the god of the Jews with Dionysus.22 One modern scholar comments:

Of all the ancient gods, Dionysus was most persistently associated with the Jewish god in Jerusalem.23

The view of Jews as united in their opposition to Paganism is an illusion fos­tered by Christianity to act as the foundation for its own later claims to be spiritually distinct from Paganism. The truth is that different Jews adopted different positions toward Pagan culture. Some were traditional fundamen­talists. Others enthusiastically adopted Pagan ways. Many sought to synthe­size their own traditions with Paganism and have the best of both worlds.


The greatest integration of Jewish and Pagan cultures occurred in Alexandria in Egypt. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt at the end of the fourth century BCE, the Jews helped him by acting as spies and mercenaries. They were rewarded by being allowed to inhabit their own quarter of the new city of Alexandria, which Alexander founded. This initiated a mass voluntary migration of Jews into the city, where they enjoyed all the benefits of sophis­ticated Pagan culture.24 It is thought that up to half of the original population of Alexandria were Jews.25
From the very start Alexandria was a cosmo-polis-a "universal city." Alexander had created a vast empire within which Greek became the com­mon language and people from every race journeyed to Alexandria to become citizens of this new multi-racial city. Ptolemy I, the first ruler of Alexandria, decided to create a small Greece in Egypt.'" Under his enlightened rulership a library and museum were founded, which systematically collected together the knowledge of the ancient world. At its height, the library housed hun­dreds of thousands of scrolls-some say perhaps more than half a million scrolls and papyri.27 Alexandria became the greatest center of learning in the ancient world, replacing even Athens.
In Alexandria the Mysteries of Osiris-Dionysus reached new heights. The mystical pageant of Eleusis was developed into an even grander dramatic spectacle, performed in many acts on multi-level stages.28 Unlike in Athens,
the Mysteries practiced in Alexandria were not even protected by a rule of secrecy, so anyone could attend these great mystical rites.29 Such a cos­mopolitan and tolerant environment naturally encouraged the merging and combining of different spiritual traditions. The Jewish population could not help but come under the spell of the sophisticated Pagan culture they encountered in Alexandria. The religious taboos 0f traditional Jews prevented them attending public banquets, festi­vals, and the theater, because 0f their associations with Paganism.31 This cut them off from the immense advantages 0f being a part 0f the great civiliza­tion that surrounded them. Not surprisingly, therefore, large numbers 0f Jews chose to break with their traditions and attempted to integrate themselves into Pagan society. In a remarkably short period, Jews abandoned their own tongue and adopted the universal Greek language.32 Aramaic and Hebrew continued to be spoken, because of constant immigration 0f Jews from Judea into Egypt, but Greek became the dominant language, not only in dealings with other national groups in the city, but within the Jewish community itself. It was even used in the services 0f the synagogue and in family worship.33
By the second century BCE, this process 0f cultural assimilation had gone so far that a Jewish playwright, Ezekiel, rewrote the Jewish scripture of the Exodus as a Greek tragedy in the language and style of Euripides.  The Jew­ish intelligentsia wanted to reconcile their ancestral faith with the wisdom of other peoples. They questioned the fundamentalist view of their scriptures as literal history and began to interpret them as mystical allegories.35 Using this technique borrowed from the Pagan sages, Jewish philosophers were able to interpret their scriptures in line with Greek thought.36 Under their influence Jewish philosophy blossomed and the Alexandrian rabbis, becoming known as the "Light of Israel," were highly esteemed by Jews everywhere.37
Jewish fundamentalists saw their god Jehovah as a tribal deity who had helped them throughout their history to achieve victory over their oppressors and who was in complete opposition to Paganism. The Hellenized Jews of Alexandria, however, portrayed Jehovah as a universal God, identical with Plato's vision of the supreme Oneness.38
To avoid accusations from fellow Jews that they were abandoning their own traditions, Hellenized Jews began to claim that Pagan philosophy was origi­nally Jewish! Hermippus asserted that Pythagoras had received his wisdom from the Jews.39 Aristobulus developed this ludicrous idea, announcing that Plato and Aristotle had borrowed from Moses.40 Artapanus wrote a historical

fantasy in which he equated Moses with Hermes Trismegistus, the mythical founder of the Egyptian Mysteries, and with Musaeus, the mythical founder of the Greek Mysteries.41 Although absurd, such ideas made it easier for Jews to retain their national dignity while at the same time adopting the philosophy of their Pagan neighbors and participating in cosmopolitan society.


In claiming a Jewish ancestry for the wisdom of the Pagan Mysteries, Hel­lenized Jews portrayed Paganism and Judaism as essentially parts of the same religious tradition. This justified them introducing Pagan concepts and phi­losophy into Judaism. In the second century, the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek under the influence of platonic philosophy."2 Hellenized Jews also wrote a number of new spiritual texts which demonstrate the inter­penetration of Jewish and Pagan ideas.43 Written between the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian New Testament, they are known as "inter­testamental " works.
The Letter of Aristeas, for example, equates Jehovah and Zeus, and argues for harmony between Jews and Greeks, who are portrayed as sharing one cul­ture and one vision of the Good Life:4
A modern scholar writes of another such text, called 4 Maccabees:

This text is a wonder of contradictions, or should we say, resolution of contradictions. It is ostensibly directed against a Greek tyrant, Antiochus IV, by a devout orthodox Jew, yet it is written in exquisite Greek by a philosopher trained in Greek thought, and its methods of argument are those of Socrates:s

The Books of Enoch also draws on Pagan motifs. These scriptures were attributed to the ancient Jewish Patriarch Enoch, but in the hands of Hel­lenized Jews he becomes a grand mythological figure, equated with the leg­endary Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus:6 One scholar notes:

In their wondrous and transcendent poetic vision, these documents contain universal stories and preoccupations which relate them to other great myths of the ancient world:7
This inter-testamental 'IWisdom Literature" no longer divides humanity into Jews and Gentiles, but rather into the I'wise and foolish." It stresses spir­itual piety rather than obedience to the Laws of Moses and portrays Jehovah not as a Jewish god, but as Lord of the whole Earth.48
Jews even created their own version of the Pagan Sibylline Oracles. The original Pagan oracles were attributed to the Sibyl, a prophetess believed to be centuries old who, in a state of ecstasy, spoke the words of God. Sometime in the second century BCE, an Alexandrian Jew invented a Jewish Sibyl and composed her sayings in perfect Greek hexameters.49
Jewish inter-testamentalliterature often personifies wisdom as "Sophia," as did the ancient Pagans. As a modern scholar notes, thi3 'lis entirely Greek and has no counterpart in orthodox Jewish theology.'lso The Jewish Sophia appears from as early as the third century BCE, when she is described as Jeho­vah's consort in the Book of Proverbs.51 Three centuries later, echoing Pagan Mystery doctrines, the Jewish philosopher philo wrote of Moses as lithe child of parents incorruptible and wholly free from stain, his father being God, who is likewise Father of all, and his mother Sophia, through whom the uni­verse came into existence." For Philo, as for the Gnostics, Sophia is the 'IMother of the LogoS.1152 The central role given to the Divine Feminine by the Pagan philosophers, the Hellenized Jews of the inter-testamental period and later by the Gnostics, is strong evidence for a direct line of evolution linking these three traditions together.


Clearly then, Hellenized Jews wanted to integrate the wisdom of the Pagan Mysteries with their own spiritual traditions. But did they create a specifically Jewish version of the Mysteries as the Jesus Mysteries Thesis predicts?
The clues we need to answer this question are found in the works of philo of Alexandria (20 BCE-40 CE), a well-respected Jewish leader and famous Jew­ish philosopher.53 Philo was devoted to his native Judaism, but was also thor­oughly Hellenized and obsessed with Pagan philosophy. He writes of philosophers as an international brotherhood of world citizens who "dwell in the cosmos as their city," looking after all alike, and eulogizes: 182
Such men, though comparatively few in number, keep alive the cov­ered spark of Wisdom secretly, throughout the cities of the world, in order that Virtue may not be absolutely quenched and vanish from our human kind.54

Among the ancients, Philo particularly revered Pythagoras and his follower Plato, whom he called "the great" and "the most sacred."55 The Christian philosopher Clement of Alexandria refers to Philo as "the Pythagorean."s6 Like all followers of Pythagoras, Philo was well versed in music, geometry, and astrology, as well as Greek literature from every age.57 Also, like other Pythagoreans, he was immersed in the mysticism of the Pagan Mysteries.58 Philo uses what he calls "the method of the Mysteries" to reveal Jewish scriptures as allegories encoding secret spiritual teachings.59 He interprets the "historical" story of Moses and the Exodus as a mystical metaphor for the path that leads through this world to God. The guide on this journey is the familiar Pagan figure of the "Logos." For Philo, as for the sages of the Mysteries, the Logos is "the only and beloved Son of God." Like the sages of the Mysteries, he teaches that the wonders of the visible world are designed to lead humans to the experience of mystical union with God.61
Philo did not only adopt the philosophy of the Mysteries, but claimed to be an initiate himself 62-but not of the Pagan Mysteries, however. He encouraged Jews not to participate in Pagan initiations, as they had their own specifically Jewish Mysteries: the Mysteries of Moses! 63 According to Philo, Moses was the great initiator, "a hierophant of the ritual and teacher of divine things." Philo also calls himself a hierophant and initiator in the Jewish Mysteries. 64 He writes of "teaching initiation to those initiates worthy of the most sacred initi­ations."65 As in the Pagan Mysteries, his initiates formed a secret mystical sect and were required to be morally pure. As in the Pagan Mysteries, they were sworn to never reveal the "veritably sacred Mysteries" to the uninitiated, lest the ignorant should misrepresent what they did not understand and in so doing expose the Mysteries to the ridicule of the vulgar.
For Philo, initiation was the entrance to a new world, an invisible country, the world of ideas where "the purified mind could contemplate the pure and untainted nature of those things which are invisible and only discernible by the intellect. "66 As in the Pagan Mysteries, the purpose was for the initiate to become transformed into a divine being through the experience of religious ecstasy. In the manner of the Mysteries, Philo writes of enthousiazein (being
divinely inspired), korubantian (being mystically frenzied), bakeuein (being seized by divine madness), katechesthai (being possessed by the deity) and ekstasis (ecstasy!.67 He compares the ecstasy of the initiates of the Jewish Mysteries to both prophetic inspiration and the divine frenzy of initiates of the Mysteries of Dionysus. He writes:

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