The "Assembly of God"

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
gryan
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

Post by gryan »

Irish1975 wrote: Sun May 23, 2021 7:02 am
...there is the suggestion of Steven Davies (Spirit Poessession and the Origins of Christianity) that the 500 brothers of 1 Cor 15 would have been some kind of group of worshippers who “became of one mind” in the mystical-psychological sense, by having a shared ecstatic experience “of the Lord.”
Thanks for this. I'm sympathetic to Steven Davies' interpretation. I've appreciated his work since the publication of Jesus the Healer in the late '90s. At that time, he was active on the internet discussion forum Crosstalk. In those days, I spent a lot of time comparing GThomas and GMark with Davies as a discussion leader (Incidentally, we also discussed Secret Mark, and Davies convinced me it was a forgery). I always thought of him as being in the historical Jesus camp, so I'm perplexed to see that in his later years he is so appreciative of the mythicist views of Doherty.
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Irish1975
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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gryan wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 9:02 am
Irish1975 wrote: Sun May 23, 2021 7:02 am
...there is the suggestion of Steven Davies (Spirit Poessession and the Origins of Christianity) that the 500 brothers of 1 Cor 15 would have been some kind of group of worshippers who “became of one mind” in the mystical-psychological sense, by having a shared ecstatic experience “of the Lord.”
Thanks for this. I'm sympathetic to Steven Davies' interpretation. I've appreciated his work since the publication of Jesus the Healer in the late '90s. At that time, he was active on the internet discussion forum Crosstalk. In those days, I spent a lot of time comparing GThomas and GMark with Davies as a discussion leader (Incidentally, we also discussed Secret Mark, and Davies convinced me it was a forgery). I always thought of him as being in the historical Jesus camp, so I'm perplexed to see that in his later years he is so appreciative of the mythicist views of Doherty.
Davies is underrated, no doubt.

He is also the only scholar of note who takes the Odes of Solomon at all seriously as a witness to early Christianity. (Since the Odes have no Jesus, of course the mainstream refuses to touch it.)

As for the HJ vs. MJ issue, I think he is right not to make that the central issue. He argues convincingly that, regardless of Jesus' historicity, neither any putative teaching, nor the "reports" of his resurrection, could have had anything to do with the origins of Christianity as a religion (i.e. Christ worship); nor, we should add, the story of his very bad weekend trip to Jerusalem. The whole thing doesn't add up.

Isn't that what this is all really about??

Not some abstract argument about "existence."
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billd89
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Re: The "Assembly of God" was perhaps Melchizedekian?

Post by billd89 »

rgprice wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 7:54 amThis may actually be a very important point! I've always read "the traditions of my fathers" as meaning the traditions of Judaism. But, this could in fact be to the key to the whole damned thing, because "the traditions of my fathers" may in fact mean Canaanite traditions!

This goes directly to Margaret Barker's book, The Great Angel, in which she proposes (and I agree) that the distinction between "El" and "Yahweh" was known and remained known to Israelite descendants in spite of the fact that the Temple priesthood taught otherwise. Barker argues that there would have been others who retained the original polytheistic Canaanite traditions, in which Yahweh was the son of El. The writer of the Torah combined Yahweh and El into a single figure. The Torah partially preserves this distinction in the names of God and this is also evident in the LXX in the use of "God" vs "the Lord".
...
In that light... are the Canaanite traditions, in which there is a distinction between El and Yahweh. This makes everything make sense!
...
I think you are right in that Paul uses "assembly of God" to refer to a form of Judaism that incorporates elements of the older Canaanite traditions. As Barker stated in The Great Angel, there must have been strains of Judaism in which the older traditions were maintained and remembered.
Strains of Judaism preserved 300-600 yo Canaanite traditions (explicit beliefs & practices) in Judea? I think not. But I believe you're essentially correct: there were unorthodox or antinomian synagogues in Egypt and elsewhere throughout the Diaspora following different playbooks. For example, Melchizedek had been an ancient Canaanite solar deity (c.500 BC), officially anthropomorphized to a Priest-King of El Elyon to bless Abram by the time the Septaguint is composed in Alexandria (c.170 BC). Unofficially, an alternative Melchizedek cult (originally: of Egyptian Jewish mercenaries, c.400-100 BC) had also spread a messianic salvationist message across Jewish sea-trade networks for hundreds of years. I suppose Melchizedek had been long eradicated from Judea, yet survived in some communities of Old Jews elsewhere. In Egypt c.45 AD, it may still have constituted a veritable 'second Judaism' - and a competing ideology along trade networks of the Diaspora? The Melchizedek mythos was not easily stamped out!

Paul and other religious innovators targeted and exploited such antinomian synagogues throughout Asia Minor: almost certainly, some were (had been?) Melchizedekian-oriented until the Alexandrian network collapsed c.117 AD. Consider Epistle to the Hebrews: Apollos (perhaps the Author) the Alexandrian Jewish Christian lectured on Melchizedek - the Chief Angel - to an assembly of lapsed Chrestiani who clearly recognized Two Powers, confirming your suspicion.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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It has been pointed out earlier in this thread that "church/assembly of God" appears comfortably in the writings of the second-century fathers. Might not that context resolve the problem raised by Geoff and acknowledged by others here? That is, Galatians is a second-century document addressing issues and using terminology that were marks of second-century discussions.

Droge, Brodie and others have placed the letters of Paul post 70 and posed problems that arise from dating them pre 70. Is the problem raised in this thread another one of those that disappears if we set its composition of Galatians in the second century?

Of course, if we see the Gospel of Mark heavily reliant on Paul's letters then that would relocate Mark to the second-century, too. Re-enter Hermann Detering and Marks 13's relationship to the Bar Kochba war.
rgprice
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Re: The "Assembly of God" was perhaps Melchizedekian?

Post by rgprice »

billd89 wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 11:37 am Strains of Judaism preserved 300-600 yo Canaanite traditions (explicit beliefs & practices) in Judea? I think not. But I believe you're essentially correct: there were unorthodox or antinomian synagogues in Egypt and elsewhere throughout the Diaspora following different playbooks. For example, Melchizedek had been an ancient Canaanite solar deity (c.500 BC), officially anthropomorphized to a Priest-King of El Elyon to bless Abram by the time the Septaguint is composed in Alexandria (c.170 BC). Unofficially, an alternative Melchizedek cult (originally: of Egyptian Jewish mercenaries, c.400-100 BC) had also spread a messianic salvationist message across Jewish sea-trade networks for hundreds of years. I suppose Melchizedek had been long eradicated from Judea, yet survived in some communities of Old Jews elsewhere. In Egypt c.45 AD, it may still have constituted a veritable 'second Judaism' - and a competing ideology along trade networks of the Diaspora? The Melchizedek mythos was not easily stamped out!

Paul and other religious innovators targeted and exploited such antinomian synagogues throughout Asia Minor: almost certainly, some were (had been?) Melchizedekian-oriented until the Alexandrian network collapsed c.117 AD. Consider Epistle to the Hebrews: Apollos (perhaps the Author) the Alexandrian Jewish Christian lectured on Melchizedek - the Chief Angel - to an assembly of lapsed Chrestiani who clearly recognized Two Powers, confirming your suspicion.
I didn't mean that Paul had a direct understanding of Canaanite traditions, but rather that remnants of those original traditions still circulated in bastardized forms in contradiction to the teachings of the temple priesthood. I would doubt that people in the first century understood the real origins of those traditions or how they related exactly to the Torah, but they knew of a distinction between "God" and "the Lord" that was rooted in the distinction between El and Yahweh.

That's exactly what Barker proposes ad puts forward a lot of evidence to support. The important thing is that Judaism as we know it was developed in Hellenistic times by reformers who created the Torah, in which the polytheistic traditions of the Canaanites and Israelites were transformed into a monotheistic cult in which the identities of the original gods were all merged into a single figure. Different names, roles, and stories were all merged together and attributed to a single deity.

It is no coincidence that Paul is splitting that deity back apart, into father and son. Paul is clear that God is the father while the the Lord is the son. At the same time, father and son are one, just as in the Torah, the father and the son were literally merged into a single character.

Paul also says that the Jews don't recognize who the Lord really is (Romans 10). So it seems that Paul is working from some branch of Judaism that that retained some older traditions that were outside the mainstream of temple Judaism. Those older traditions must have related to the identity of the Lord/Yahweh in relation to God/El.

As for the "assembly of God".

13 For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the assembly of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.

What if we read this as follows:

"For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the temple priesthood beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions."

Unlike the traditional reading, which views Paul as a persecutor of Jesus worshipers, what if Paul is saying that he was originally a persecutor of the mainstream temple sect because of contradictions between the traditions he was raised in and the temple priesthood's version of Judaism? But, he then came to accept that his version of Judaism could be compatible with mainstream Judaism?

Admittedly there are difficulties with this reading in regard to Gal 1:22-23.
gryan
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

Post by gryan »

Irish1975 wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 10:52 am
gryan wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 9:02 am
Irish1975 wrote: Sun May 23, 2021 7:02 am
...there is the suggestion of Steven Davies (Spirit Poessession and the Origins of Christianity) that the 500 brothers of 1 Cor 15 would have been some kind of group of worshippers who “became of one mind” in the mystical-psychological sense, by having a shared ecstatic experience “of the Lord.”
Thanks for this. I'm sympathetic to Steven Davies' interpretation. I've appreciated his work since the publication of Jesus the Healer in the late '90s. At that time, he was active on the internet discussion forum Crosstalk. In those days, I spent a lot of time comparing GThomas and GMark with Davies as a discussion leader (Incidentally, we also discussed Secret Mark, and Davies convinced me it was a forgery). I always thought of him as being in the historical Jesus camp, so I'm perplexed to see that in his later years he is so appreciative of the mythicist views of Doherty.
Davies is underrated, no doubt.

He is also the only scholar of note who takes the Odes of Solomon at all seriously as a witness to early Christianity. (Since the Odes have no Jesus, of course the mainstream refuses to touch it.)

Isn't that what this is all really about??
From Ode 11

....And speaking waters touched my lips from the fountain of the Lord generously.
And so I drank and became intoxicated, from the living water that does not die.
And my intoxication did not cause ignorance, but I abandoned vanity,
And turned toward the Most High, my God, and was enriched by His favors.
And I rejected the folly cast upon the earth, and stripped it off and cast it from me.
And the Lord renewed me with His garment, and possessed me by His light.
And from above He gave me immortal rest, and I became like the land that blossoms and rejoices in its fruits.
And the Lord is like the sun upon the face of the land.
My eyes were enlightened, and my face received the dew;
And my breath was refreshed by the pleasant fragrance of the Lord.
And He took me to His Paradise, wherein is the wealth of the Lord's pleasure.
I beheld blooming and fruit-bearing trees,
And self-grown was their crown.
Their branches were sprouting and their fruits were shining.
From an immortal land were their roots.
And a river of gladness was irrigating them,
And round about them in the land of eternal life.
Then I worshipped the Lord because of His magnificence.
And I said, Blessed, O Lord, are they who are planted in Your land, and who have a place in Your Paradise;
And who grow in the growth of Your trees, and have passed from darkness into light.
Behold, all Your laborers are fair, they who work good works, and turn from wickedness to your pleasantness.
For the pungent odor of the trees is changed in Your land,
And everything becomes a remnant of Yourself. Blessed are the workers of Your waters, and eternal memorials of Your faithful servants.
Indeed, there is much room in Your Paradise. And there is nothing in it which is barren, but everything is filled with fruit.
Glory be to You, O God, the delight of Paradise for ever.
Hallelujah.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/odes.html

---------

I read Odes in one sitting this morning, for the first time.

Seems to me that the notions of intoxication without need for literal wine and of being transported to Paradise probably do express something of the shared ecstasy of those early assemblies.
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billd89
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Re: The "Assembly of God" was perhaps Melchizedekian?

Post by billd89 »

rgprice wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 2:14 pmAs for the "assembly of God".
13 For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the assembly of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.

Saul the Pharisee had persecuted antinomian Jews. Some might otherwise have been proselyte Logos-Christos followers, some might have been pagan Chrestiani. And you're right: he and the antinomian Jewish congregations he had attacked didnt need to know - for example - that Melchizedek had been a solar deity +400yrs earlier. Yet they both understood and worked around the Two God/Two Power (Theos-Kupios) distinction, on the ground.

So whatever variety of universalistic 'Judaism' became the syncretistic faith as practiced in those dissident synagogues. And there must have been many other preachers, more or less 'Jewish', adapting whatever strange religious forms had taken root in the areas they propagandized. It was a hot mess! It is a huge mistake to assume one ideology all-pervasive everywhere.

'Assembly of God' was probably shorthand for dissident & heterodox or universalistic Judaism (whatever that looked like, in a myriad of practices across the Roman Empire), though there may have been a network of synagogues with a particular belief system which Paulists favored and 'worked on' especially. The Christos believers, I think.

Alexandrian pagans had successfully spread the Serapis/Isis cult; I suppose the prevalence of 'Melchizedek' in so many documents is telling, for Alexandrian Judaism's reach. Epistle to the Hebrews suggests what their congregations believed.

And right on point, see Prof. Dalgaaard's 2013 PhD:
Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God (London: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 88–89; 224, also proposes that the name Melchizedek in 11Q13 refers to Yahweh, yet with the additional unique interpretation that Yahweh does not refer to the Jewish God, but rather to his son and viceroy. In ibid., 39, she states that “The only possible conclusion [to the content of 11Q13] is that Melchizedek, the heavenly high priest, was the LORD, the God of Israel”(author’s emphasis).

My quibble is although there's a real tension between (older) Melchizedek and (younger) Yahweh, I doubt it was in Palestine proper circa 45 AD. Yahweh had supplanted Melchizedek for hundreds of years in the land we now call Israel; nevermind the dissident & hermit Qumran community had older literature from abroad.

otoh, 'Melchizedek' persisted as a living tradition among older 'Jewish' communities of the Diaspora, especially in Egypt (w/ a million resident Jews, c.25 AD). What was the situation in Asia Minor?
rgprice
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

Post by rgprice »

neilgodfrey wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 12:36 pm It has been pointed out earlier in this thread that "church/assembly of God" appears comfortably in the writings of the second-century fathers. Might not that context resolve the problem raised by Geoff and acknowledged by others here? That is, Galatians is a second-century document addressing issues and using terminology that were marks of second-century discussions.

Droge, Brodie and others have placed the letters of Paul post 70 and posed problems that arise from dating them pre 70. Is the problem raised in this thread another one of those that disappears if we set its composition of Galatians in the second century?

Of course, if we see the Gospel of Mark heavily reliant on Paul's letters then that would relocate Mark to the second-century, too. Re-enter Hermann Detering and Marks 13's relationship to the Bar Kochba war.
Possibly, but "assembly of God" exists in the LXX as well and was used by Philo, so it certainly isn't a term that was exclusive to the second century.

I've not seen a good case for dating all of the Pauline letters to the 2nd century. I'd love to see such a case if it is persuasive. As far as I see, there are plenty of reasons to date at least the basis of the letters prior to the First Jewish-Roman War, but if there is a case otherwise I'd be interested in hearing it. To me the biggest issue is that none of the the letters are appear to be entirely authentic documents produced by a single individual. They all contain an significant amount of revision and sorting out what is original and what is not has become almost impossible.

I don't see Mark in the context of the Bar Kochba revolt, and I disagree with Detering's case. That doesn't necessarily mean that Mark wasn't written in the early 2nd century though. I'm confident that Mark is reliant on the Pauline letters. And I think that Marcion's Gospel is related to Colossians and Laodiceans. Certainly Colossians and Laodiceans could be 2nd century, though even they don't address the conflicts as much as one might expect if they are.

I'm still unsure about whether Paul being a "persecutor" is a concept that was original to the earliest version of the letters or if that is something that was added later by anti-Marcionites. We know it was something that was emphasized by anti-Marcionites, because of the interpolation in 1 Cor 15 and Acts, which are both anti-Marcionite.

To me, there is just a contradiction between Paul's use of "assembly of God" in other places and the claim of persecution in Gal 1.
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Irish1975
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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rgprice wrote: Sat May 29, 2021 5:36 am I'm still unsure about whether Paul being a "persecutor" is a concept that was original to the earliest version of the letters or if that is something that was added later by anti-Marcionites. We know it was something that was emphasized by anti-Marcionites, because of the interpolation in 1 Cor 15 and Acts, which are both anti-Marcionite.

To me, there is just a contradiction between Paul's use of "assembly of God" in other places and the claim of persecution in Gal 1.
I reason backwards from what is clear in the final form of the NT. Acts of the Apostles carries the burden of portraying Paul as a persecutor of an original “Christian” church, who miraculously converts to that cause. Since that narrative is the final, politically correct narrative of the NT editors, why would they also fabricate a narrative of him having been a persecutor of some vaguely non-Christian “Assembly of God”? It undermines their purpose. Whereas if the Pauline epistles are already well defined among Valentinians and Marcionites by the time the Church gets hold of them, they are not so free to re-invent the earliest layer. The best they can do is tinker with the epistles, and fabricate a compelling sequence of tales in an entirely separate narrative.

I still don’t see a reason to interpret “assembly of God” as anti-Marcionite. Nor does the story of Paul’s conversion from enemy to champion of the Assembly of God strike me as historically problematic or implausible. On the contrary, it is the only thing that explains his frequently expressed desire to raise a large collection in the Greek churches for the churches in Judea. Not to enhance his reputation or goodwill with the pillars, as often imagined in Christian exegesis, but because Paul felt tremendous guilt for his early sins as a persecutor.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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rgprice wrote: Sat May 29, 2021 5:36 am
neilgodfrey wrote: Thu May 27, 2021 12:36 pm It has been pointed out earlier in this thread that "church/assembly of God" appears comfortably in the writings of the second-century fathers. Might not that context resolve the problem raised by Geoff and acknowledged by others here? That is, Galatians is a second-century document addressing issues and using terminology that were marks of second-century discussions.

Droge, Brodie and others have placed the letters of Paul post 70 and posed problems that arise from dating them pre 70. Is the problem raised in this thread another one of those that disappears if we set its composition of Galatians in the second century?

Of course, if we see the Gospel of Mark heavily reliant on Paul's letters then that would relocate Mark to the second-century, too. Re-enter Hermann Detering and Marks 13's relationship to the Bar Kochba war.
Possibly, but "assembly of God" exists in the LXX as well and was used by Philo, so it certainly isn't a term that was exclusive to the second century.
No, no -- the point is not the term per see but its meaning, its application -- it has the same meaning in Galatians as we find in the second century writings. That's the point that seems to me to lead to a resolution of the problem you and others here have raised.
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