Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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mlinssen
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Re: Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Post by mlinssen »

I'm not trying to be difficult here, I just want ample attestation to a destroyed Temple in 70 CE. So far, it's Josephus - and Josephus and no one else

If the Colosseum indeed was built with the spoils from Judea, as is alleged, then it must have been a war to write about - and the Romans loved to write about their successes. Yet no one has - save for Josephus. And it is evident that he greatly exaggerated of the war, among others

Remove Josephus from the equation and it all falls apart. Remove a destroyed Temple in 70 CE from the equation and the only option is to fast forward to 135 CE - where it just got torn down after the war, but still
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billd89
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Re: Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Post by billd89 »

Wilhelm Bousset [1915] "Gnosticism is first of all a pre-Christian movement which had roots in itself."

An excellent brief survey is Gerard Luttikhuizen, "Monism And Dualism in Jewish-Mystical and Gnostic Ascent Texts" published on 01 Jan 2007 by Brill: Link

Wilhelm Anz, Zur Frage nach dem Ursprung des Gnostizismus[1897] is smthg I need to examine: Link.

The Oracle at Delphi is a remote inspiration, but I suppose Egyptian temples attracted 'open-minded' or 'weakly Jewish' intellectuals (among the literate class of Therapeutae) on the one hand, and on the other, antinomian/heterodox 'Judeo-Egyptian' folk communities (w/ Semitic roots but little loyalty to the Jerusalem Temple) desired gnostic materials for a new piety: outsider synagogues, e.g. w/ Sethian Jewish preachers, innovating to capture a new market among Roman tourists, etc. during the period c.150 BC - 38 AD.
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yakovzutolmai
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Re: the Earliest "Gnostic" Timeframe?

Post by yakovzutolmai »

billd89 wrote: Mon Aug 09, 2021 3:47 pm
If the Torah/Bible was written in 270-160 BC in Alexandria (mostly), the Torah is a kind of universalizing propaganda project of the Mosaic Brotherhood that Philo refers to repeatedly. I'm not convinced it would be enormously successful persuading huge numbers of converts in six generations (270 BC - 70 AD), but we must assume semi-literate Semitic emigrants HAD already colonized many towns of the Empire. How do we reckon with THEIR culture(s)? Philo's universalistic Jewish tendency would have been only ONE trend - and 'Judaism' in the 1st C AD was already a collection of competing belief systems. If that is so, and I suppose it is, then a variety of Jewish cults or independent synagogues must have coexisted and vied/competed with each other in the Diaspora long before the Temple system collapsed in 70 AD.
Possibilities that might help explain the above:

1) Proto-Jewish beliefs syncretized Canaanite theology in a similar fashion to how Buddhism integrated Shinto in Japan. Thus, from 600-300 BC monotheism emerges first out of a mystical interpretation of the gods. The idea of a single spirit in common between the gods, or the gods as the many faces of the One. Therefore, even in the first century, Judaism can be comfortably monotheistic while tolerating a more diverse mystical pantheon, or vice versa where the mysticism of polytheistic Israelites is comfortable conceiving of one god behind all. The debate over who is right would have to occur between esoteric and not exoteric systems. Who is the One God behind all? Thus we get the back and forth about Metatron and secret Adams and so forth.

2) The value of scripture as a reference point that overpowers oral tradition. This may have been why they wrote the Pentateuch. Many Israelites with different traditions and incomplete scrolls receiving a single reference which can settle debates. The Enochian elements in Genesis, for example, having greater meaning for those which had maintained those oral traditions, now brought into the context of the patriarchs and ancient perceptions of history. Those using the Pentateuch would not necessarily perceive that they would be acceding to our notions of rabbinical Judaism, since they would already know "what's between the lines".

3) The intensity of Hasmonean persecution. Idumeans and Itureans were forcibly circumcised, and Samaritans and Jews crucified. The nationalism of Galilee always seemed strange to me, but in this context I see it as a region surrounded by Itureans, Arameans, Samaritans, Idumeans and Philistines. Zeal for Mosaic Judaism is zeal for the Hasmonean protectors by a surrounded minority.

4) Vague notions of the Jewish identity. We know that Northern Israel relocated to the Nisibis area, in part, and these recognized Israelites fought alongside the last kings of Neo-Assyria. We know that as late as Muhammed's time, Arab desert clans were recognized as Israelite. However, does this mean Jewish? The Yemeni tribes converted quite consciously and explicitly to Judaism (in a similar fashion to Khazaria). They were embracing rabbinical, Mosaic Judaism. But what if these "Israelite" tribes? The Jews of the East were labelled, "Babylonian". Yet, the exiled Jerusalemites ostensibly responsible for building the "second" temple left many of their number in Babylon proper. So the "Israelites" of Mesopotamia, were they "Jewish"? Did they recognize Moses's name, or have to learn it from the Pentateuch. Did Babylonian Jewish merchants ride out into desert settlements to wayward Israel to introduce it to them? Were they following laws and circumcision before such an event? We really just don't know. Moses of Chorene features a discussion between Arsham the father of Abgar Ukkama and his proudly Jewish vizier, Ananias. The latter tells Arsham that "their people" were anciently Jews. The Judaizing of Israel may have been a vastly incomplete project well into the Gnostic periods two or three centuries after the time of Christ. We know that the Greco-Roman world gains its understanding of Judaism from the Septuagint and Josephus rather exclusively (and Philo, for those who count him).

5) Josephus's incredibly misleading four philosophies categorization. If it were 150 BC and you told me there were Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes, I'd understand. Sadducees are the bloated aristocrats, who'd argue really only priests need to follow the laws of Moses, and only while officiating. They aren't "righteous", they're the dynasties of the "Zadokim" who are the Simeonite chiefs who invented the priesthood of Zadok to grant themselves authority over the defunct Aaronite and Levitical priesthoods. Pharisees are political dissenters, unhappy with the idiosyncrasies of the Hasmonean aristocrats. Early zealots. Essenes are the mystics and monastics. Adding a fourth philosophy is like saying, "nothing to see here, move along." By 50 AD, however, I'm not sure these distinctions work very well. They still exist, the parties forming lasting dynasties, but the philosophies of the Jews split along other lines. I would have the Sadducees and Pharisees both as "Mosaics" who become the rabbis. Philo and the Ananians are the Alexandrian faction pushing a Hellenized, modern interpretation. The Babylonians, Samaritans and so forth are reasserting the mystical, Syrian/Canaanite elements, bringing them forward into the light. It seems that with the end of the Hasmoneans, Mosaic Judaism stalls, the project almost fails and other interpretations of Israelite faith are asserted (with an increasing need to reach back before 300 BC and have the debate there, or in what we would call the philosophical or esoteric dimension). With Judea defeated, the rabbis double down on Moses and the Pentateuch as a replacement for the temple.
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Re: Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Post by yakovzutolmai »

mlinssen wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 12:24 pm I'm not trying to be difficult here, I just want ample attestation to a destroyed Temple in 70 CE. So far, it's Josephus - and Josephus and no one else

If the Colosseum indeed was built with the spoils from Judea, as is alleged, then it must have been a war to write about - and the Romans loved to write about their successes. Yet no one has - save for Josephus. And it is evident that he greatly exaggerated of the war, among others

Remove Josephus from the equation and it all falls apart. Remove a destroyed Temple in 70 CE from the equation and the only option is to fast forward to 135 CE - where it just got torn down after the war, but still
So it must have been destroyed by 135, and if it wasn't destroyed by then it would have to have been an empty ruin.

Nevertheless, it seems unlikely for Josephus to lie about a very public event which he is contemporary to.

What does it matter of the temple was not destroyed?
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mlinssen
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Re: Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Post by mlinssen »

yakovzutolmai wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 7:17 pm
mlinssen wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 12:24 pm I'm not trying to be difficult here, I just want ample attestation to a destroyed Temple in 70 CE. So far, it's Josephus - and Josephus and no one else

If the Colosseum indeed was built with the spoils from Judea, as is alleged, then it must have been a war to write about - and the Romans loved to write about their successes. Yet no one has - save for Josephus. And it is evident that he greatly exaggerated of the war, among others

Remove Josephus from the equation and it all falls apart. Remove a destroyed Temple in 70 CE from the equation and the only option is to fast forward to 135 CE - where it just got torn down after the war, but still
So it must have been destroyed by 135, and if it wasn't destroyed by then it would have to have been an empty ruin.

Nevertheless, it seems unlikely for Josephus to lie about a very public event which he is contemporary to.

What does it matter of the temple was not destroyed?
Emphasis mine

Josephus exaggerates quite a lot, I'm unsure where you draw the line between truth and lie, but his number of casualties

From https://www.britannica.com/biography/Flavius-Josephus:

The work has much narrative brilliance, particularly the description of the siege of Jerusalem; its fluent Greek contrasts sharply with the clumsier idiom of Josephus’ later works and attests the influence of his Greek assistants. In this work, Josephus is extremely hostile to the Jewish patriots and remarkably callous to their fate. The Jewish War not only is the principal source for the Jewish revolt but is especially valuable for its description of Roman military tactics and strategy.
(...)
As a historian, Josephus shares the faults of most ancient writers: his analyses are superficial, his chronology faulty, his facts exaggerated, his speeches contrived. He is especially tendentious when his own reputation is at stake

Usually, language gets better over time. Not in the case of "Josephus", apparently.
If the Temple wasn't destroyed in 70 CE, then the prediction that it would occur in the current generation (Mark 13:30) becomes rather invalid
davidmartin
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Re: Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Post by davidmartin »

not sure how we can believe history when Priapus's 10 foot cock was thought to be real, haha
yakovzutolmai
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Re: Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Post by yakovzutolmai »

mlinssen wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 8:12 pm If the Temple wasn't destroyed in 70 CE, then the prediction that it would occur in the current generation (Mark 13:30) becomes rather invalid
It's one thing to ascribe incorrect reasons to an event, or to use pseudonyms to confuse the reader, but to invent an entire war or make a claim about a building when any can go at any time to visit and check for themselves is an entirely different matter.

Wasn't it Jesus ben Ananus the only one predicting the destruction of Jerusalem? Were there any prophecies about the temple written before 70? I don't think there's evidence of that.
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billd89
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Thank you, Good Sir!

Post by billd89 »

yakovzutolmai wrote: Thu Aug 19, 2021 7:13 pmPossibilities that might help explain the above:

1) Proto-Jewish beliefs syncretized Canaanite theology...
All excellent possibilities and some lines-of-thinking I had already considered, plus much I did not!

The 'Temple's destruction in 70 AD' isnt a troll. But the Faked Moon Landings? Well, then ...
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Re: Who were the Earliest Gnostics?

Post by andrewcriddle »

FWIW Cassius Dio records the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple
6 Though a breach was made in the wall by means of engines, nevertheless, the capture of the place did not immediately follow even then. On the contrary, the defenders killed great numbers that tried to crowd through the opening, and they also set fire to some of the buildings near by, hoping thus to check the further progress of the Romans, even though they should gain possession of the wall. In this way they not only damaged the wall but at the same time unintentionally burned down the barrier around the sacred precinct, so that the entrance to the temple was now laid open to the Romans. 2 Nevertheless, the soldiers because of their superstition did not immediately rush in; but at last, under compulsion from Titus, they made their way inside. Then the Jews defended themselves much more vigorously than before, as if they had discovered a piece of rare good fortune in being able to fight near the temple and fall in its defence. The populace was stationed below in the court, the senators on the steps, and the priests in the sanctuary itself. 3 And though they were but a handful fighting against a far superior force, they were not conquered until a part of the temple was set on fire. Then they met death willingly, some throwing themselves on the swords of the Romans, some slaying one another, others taking their own lives, and still others leaping into the flames. And it seemed to everybody, and especially to them, that so far from being destruction, it was victory and salvation and happiness to them that they perished along with the temple. 7 Yet even under these conditions many captives were taken, among them Bargiora, their leader; and he was the only one to be executed in connexion with the triumphal celebration.
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billd89
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'Fake News'

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Truth: I met John Cleese once, after a concert. Stoned out of my gourd, I had written some funny 'local' bits on the index cards passed about, and he congratulated me for the big laughs he got - simply dead-panning my lines.

I wonder what ever happened to this epic painting?
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