Stephan Hoebeeck on the philosophical origins of Christianity

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Giuseppe
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Stephan Hoebeeck on the philosophical origins of Christianity

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Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. This sentence is probably true for Christianity: the appearance of Christianity marks the disappearance of Alexandrian Judaism. A text from the third century, the Apostolic Constitutions, has preserved for us the first Christian liturgy. Today we know that the first Christian liturgy is simply the liturgy used in the Greek-speaking synagogues: Christians are therefore the Judaizers and the Judeo-Greek half-breeds. It is therefore in this specific milieu that we must try to understand the gospels; indeed, if these men and women overwhelmingly rally to Christianity, it is because for them Christianity represents quite clearly what they are attached to.

Since 100 BC, Alexandrian Judaism has been confronted with the attack of the Greek philosophers. The latter mocked the Jews by saying that the God of Israel was only a Zeus or a Baal among others and that he was not the true God. These philosophers believe that the true God is necessarily unknowable, he has no contact with man and has entrusted the universe to his sons, who are the logoi or gods. The philosophy is monotheistic, but their One God is inactive and impassive: He and we are like two parallel lines that never meet. In this context, the God of the Bible who acts, comes down to earth, knows men, cannot be the true God. It is Philo who will reply to them that there are not Logoi but only one Logos who is the second god, the son of God, etc. Philo's philosophy is very simple, as soon as God does something in the Bible, it is not God who does it but the Logos of God who does it in his place. It is not God who speaks to Moses, but the Logos of God who speaks to Moses; it is not God who feeds the Israelites in the desert, but the Logos of God who feeds the Israelites in the desert. Philo rewrote the Bible in philosophical language... If the Jews of Alexandria, the Judeo-Greek half-breeds and the converts from paganism were convinced of the Philonian interpretation of the Torah, the rabbis of Yavneh were much less so. They rejected this type of interpretation. For them, God really acts and, despite his infinity in history, this God is the true God and is not replaced by an archangel, a son in his action towards men.

Let us observe the miracles of Jesus, which imitate the miracles described in the Old Testament, the calmed storm, the miraculous fishing, the walking on water, the healed lepers, the healed paralyzed hand are all miracles attributed to God in the Tanakh. Jesus is thus fundamentally for the Christians of the years 120-140, not a man, but the Second God, archangel, Logos, Son of God, etc. described by Philo. Philo would say that the function of the Logos is to be the Savior God, in Hebrew Yehôshua... Jesus. In this early gospel, the miracles of God in the Tanakh are described as the miracles of the Logos of God and not of God who is impassible and therefore cannot perform miracles.

But these Judaizers are confronted with another problem, how to explain their philosophical interpretation of the Bible when the majority of people are illiterate? They will compose an allegory which accounts for the truth of the Bible within the framework of Greek philosophy and the mores of the time: they will say that he is a man.

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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck claims

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Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. This sentence is probably true for Christianity: the appearance of Christianity marks the disappearance of Alexandrian Judaism.

c.35 AD, Philo claimed there were 1 mln Jews in Egypt (including Alexandria) and if annual population growth was 0.12%, there should be how many more c.135 AD? Yet, after the pogrom of 38 AD and the devastating Kitos War, Alexandrian Judaism disappears c.120 AD; by the Bar Kokhba revolt 132 AD, there's little evidence that Jews even exist in Egypt. Where did they go? Holocaust and apostasy, it would appear, or 'underground'.

Today we know that the first Christian liturgy is simply the liturgy used in the Greek-speaking synagogues: Christians are therefore the Judaizers and the Judeo-Greek half-breeds.

Is that translated? It's racist language that doesnt work in N.America, but I think I get the point: heterodox Judaism. But I disagree that only appeared in the 3rd C. AD. No, it was there all along, at least as far back as the 1st C. BC. Philo had such radical allegorizers on his hate-list, they were well-established by 25 AD. Much of his writing can be seen as a counterpoint to these opponents, their movement.

It is therefore in this specific milieu that we must try to understand the gospels; indeed, if these men and women overwhelmingly rally to Christianity, it is because for them Christianity represents quite clearly what they are attached to.

Specific milieu of Alexandria? No: I dont believe the Gospels come fr Egypt. There was smthg quite different going on in Egypt, very Judeo-Gnostic (1st C. AD), then Post-Jewish Gnostic (2nd C. AD). Christianity -the nascent orthodox religion- is probably Late 2nd C. and more the product of trends of Byzantium and Rome. Scholars (esp. Bauer) have noted the peculiar absence of Church History on Alexandria 50 AD-150 AD - precisely because it was such a Gnostic embarassment.

the God of the Bible who acts, comes down to earth, knows men, cannot be the true God. It is Philo who will reply to them that there are not Logoi but only one Logos who is the second god, the son of God, etc. Philo's philosophy is very simple, as soon as God does something in the Bible, it is not God who does it but the Logos of God who does it in his place. ... Philo rewrote the Bible in philosophical language... If the Jews of Alexandria, the Judeo-Greek half-breeds and the converts from paganism were convinced of the Philonian interpretation of the Torah, the rabbis of Yavneh were much less so. They rejected this type of interpretation. For them, God really acts and, despite his infinity in history, this God is the true God and is not replaced by an archangel, a son in his action towards men.

Philo is NOT the innovator: the allegorizing method was generations old. There was NOT a single Philonic Two Power Thesis - I have discussed one example where Philo has 3 or 4 iterations of the God of Time. There are other examples. It was not only Greek philosophy that Philo addressed: Egyptian concepts and schemas also! True, whatever we might call the traditional/normative/conservative Palestinian Jews, they (elites excepted) mostly rejected Philonic theosophy, but the Diaspora was vast. As for the Gospel Judaizers in Asia Minor, well they're different also. I disagree with any 'one size fits all' oversimplification.

Jesus is thus fundamentally for the Christians of the years 120-140, not a man, but the Second God, archangel, Logos, Son of God, etc. described by Philo. Philo would say that the function of the Logos is to be the Savior God, in Hebrew Yehôshua... Jesus. In this early gospel, the miracles of God in the Tanakh are described as the miracles of the Logos of God and not of God who is impassible and therefore cannot perform miracles.

Almost 100 yrs earlier, Epistle to the Hebrews c.55 AD is a fairly novel Christos doctrine taught (by Apollos, one of these early Judeo-Xtians) to a Melchizedekian synagogue in Alexandria. 'Melchizedek' is a hallmark of Alexandria, absent from Palestinian Judaism (Qumran docs were not all locally produced; Melch. partisan literature was exported abroad to buyers of esoterica). Indigenous Judeo-Egyptian faith is profoundly heterodox, in a myriad of forms, more or less 'Jewish' (identifiable). The function of the Jewish Logos as the Savior God may well be an Egyptian development (maybe!) but this would have come about in Judeo-Egypt where rural Jews long worshipped Joseph (the Egyptian Jewish Patriarch) as Serapis. Melchizedek (or Enoch) as a divine mediator wasnt really seen as a Man. And the Alexandrian Mosaic cult tried to replace Moses for Melchizedek c.175 BC but even that apparently didnt succeed: the former wasnt accepted and the latter only weakened. Alexandrian Jewry was fighting amongst itself - that must have hastened the decline.

I'm curious what he says about Sethians, since they had a corpus of literature also (perhaps rivalling the Hermetica?) and they obviously pre-date Xtianity. Many more Jews turned Gnostic (in a Sethian Spring, c.120 AD?) rather than Xtian, but those lines arent firm either. After 115 AD, Gnosticism was a stepping-stone to Xtianity over 3-4 generations I suppose.
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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck claims

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billd89 wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:34 am
Is that translated? It's racist language that doesnt work in N.America, but I think I get the point: heterodox Judaism.
yes I have used deepl translate :roll: The French original is métis.
billd89 wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:34 am
Almost 100 yrs earlier, Epistle to the Hebrews c.55 AD is a fairly novel Christos doctrine taught (by Apollos, one of these early Judeo-Xtians) to a Melchizedekian synagogue in Alexandria.
the author places the Christian epistles all after the 120 CE, and he remembers rightly that a tent could be sufficient to replace the temple destroyed in 70, hence the fact that Hebrews mentions still sacrifices in the temple is not a strong argument to place the epistles (included Hebrews, therefore) before the 70 CE.

billd89 wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:34 am
I'm curious what he says about Sethians, since they had a corpus of literature also (perhaps rivalling the Hermetica?) and they obviously pre-date Xtianity.
I will report the reference to sethianism in a distinct thread.

But for the moment, returning to the topic, some thoughts?
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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck claims

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Giuseppe wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 9:06 am
billd89 wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:34 am
Almost 100 yrs earlier, Epistle to the Hebrews c.55 AD is a fairly novel Christos doctrine taught (by Apollos, one of these early Judeo-Xtians) to a Melchizedekian synagogue in Alexandria.
the author places the Christian epistles all after the 120 CE, and he remembers rightly that a tent could be sufficient to replace the temple destroyed in 70, hence the fact that Hebrews mentions still sacrifices in the temple is not a strong argument to place the epistles (included Hebrews, therefore) before the 70 CE.
On other threads, I've shown (after Friedlander, Bodinger) that Melchizedekianism disappears after 70 AD. For Jews seeking an intermediary, the figure of Melchizedek was replaced by Archangel Michael or Yahoel in the 2nd C AD.

The Logos had already been replaced by the Christos (though not uniformly) in the 1st C. AD, the Judeo-Chrestiani must have appeared. Whether the Christos is an Alexandrian development or not, I doubt that. (Mid 2nd C. AD is 100 yrs too late, anyway.) As for the Jesus veneer, that should come a generation or so later, YES.

One can make a good case for the claim that Chrestianus, Christianus, and Χριστιανός are not creations of the second century and that Roman officials were probably aware of the Chrestiani in the 60s. Tacitus’s and Suetonius’s accounts of the persecution are fundamentally reliable.

I generally reject Late Dating (by the time it has been written down, it's probably a generation older) and hold the above true. By the time Roman officials finally recorded smthg, it had been percolating and spreading a decade or so.
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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck claims

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billd89 wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 9:30 am Roman officials were probably aware of the Chrestiani in the 60s. Tacitus’s and Suetonius’s accounts of the persecution are fundamentally reliable.
insofar they refer only to Zealot messianists and not to Christians, yes. From this POV, the first in real history to report about a CHRISTUS in a public trial before the imperial court in Rome was a guy named Pilate, during his apology for having killed cruelly the pacific followers of the Samaritan false prophet.

Which is the reason why the inventors placed the Gospel Jesus just under Pilate, believing (or wanting to believe) that provvidentially Pilate was the first to talk about CHRISTUS in Rome.
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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck claims

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billd89 wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:34 am I'm curious what he says about Sethians, since they had a corpus of literature also (perhaps rivalling the Hermetica?) and they obviously pre-date Xtianity. Many more Jews turned Gnostic (in a Sethian Spring, c.120 AD?) rather than Xtian, but those lines arent firm either. After 115 AD, Gnosticism was a stepping-stone to Xtianity over 3-4 generations I suppose.
Just to bring in a few points from different threads of investigation. Certain speculations:

1) Jewish monotheism didn't embrace the Monad until the Pentateuch. Before this, Jewish pseudo-monotheism identified a Joshua or Metatron like figure who was the animating power behind a set of gods or powers who were divisions of the Metatron-figure. "Melchizedek" was their one true god, in a scheme that recognized diverse and esoteric powers. What we see as Gnosticism or Sethianism arises out of the original Jewish tradition, which is itself an evolution of polytheism. The Islam like pure Monotheos is a more novel, alternate direction coming exclusively from Hellenic influence.

2) The Kitos revolt was a Christian uprising, or rather, Sicarii: The Next Generation. This is why Lukuas of Cyrene is inserted into the Brethren at Antioch (Manaen, Joses, Simon) who are otherwise well correlated with the sons of Judas of Gamala. The Basilidean school specifically is the first major Christian successor, Gnostic school to arise and it rises immediately after the Kitos revolt devastated Alexandria. Menander and Simon Magus are claimed as influence, and in Menander we can see Manaen (in my opinion, Menahem).

3) The schism behind the House of Onias and their temple in Egypt has to do with Hasmonean control of the Jewish nation and Judaism itself. This is also reflected in the schism between Boethusians and Sadducees. My understanding of this is that Boethusians and Sadducees are the anti-Hellenic party within the Jewish aristocracy (High Priests). They win, but then the Boethusians (House of Onias), are forced to remain in Egypt. Meanwhile, the Sadducees (Hasmoneans) nevertheless push for a Hellenized Judaism regardless. The Essenes are upset about the Sadducaical usurpation of Judaism, but that doesn't make their beliefs equivalent to the innovations of the Boethusians, who return in 23 BC to power in Jerusalem.

So, the Sethian or "Melchizedek" school of Judaism might be seen as the authentic, earlier pseudo-monotheistic Judaism contained in the esoteric teachings of the priesthood. Pentateuchal Judaism emerges in a similar fashion to Christian Protestantism via the Pharisees, who embraced the Greek Monadic elements which were written into the Pentateuch (a Hellenistic document).

The Sicarii were an aggressive, fanatical messianic faction (specifically, the family of Judas), who followed a eschatological branch of the larger tradition.

With the ultimate defeat of "Sicarii" leaders after the Kitos War, Gnostic fence-sitters were able to assert themselves.

We would assume it takes another 50 years for Christianity to reassert itself with a new face.

In Summary:
1) Proto-gnosticism is authentic, traditional Judaism.
2) Christianity started as a violent and eschatologically specific branch, favoring a specific faction.
3) The Pentateuch was novel, and the Hasmoneans built a state around it.
4) The only radically innovative form of Gnosticism was Marcionite or pre-Marcionite philosophy, in that the Jewish pseudo-Monotheistic scheme can have Yahweh as the ineffable divine essence which expresses itself as Joshua/Seth/Melchizedek. Marcionite belief, for some reason, upholds Yahweh as a wicked spirit. This seems like it could very much be a reactionary innovation related to Jewish theological bickering after the temple's destruction.

Orthodox Christianity seems to be little more than a reaction against Marcionism.

We can see that, as the Sicarii identify their people as incarnating or fulfilling Jewish prophecy, Gnostics can easily reverse the formula and identify Sicarii characters as either allegorical, or instructive/imaginary figures symbolism Gnostic forms.

I think one of our missing pieces is the evolution of post-Sicarii religion in the East, which we would largely know as Simionianism or Elchasaite Christianity. Gnosticism emerges after the Kitos War's defeat of Sicarii Judaism in the West, but I suppose the continued evolution of Christianity in the East would cause Gnosticism to adopt Christian stories and norms.

My current hypothesis identifies the Markian tradition as Pontic and derived from the Flavian sect. The Lukan tradition is derived from Alexandrian Gnosticism (they are taking over the memory of Lukuas of Cyrene). Finally, the Johannite tradition is where orthodoxy begins, and is wholly a reaction to Marcionite ideas.

John proposes that the the world is made by a benevolent creator who intends to save it, not destroy it.
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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck claims

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billd89 wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:34 am
Philo is NOT the innovator: the allegorizing method was generations old. There was NOT a single Philonic Two Power Thesis - I have discussed one example where Philo has 3 or 4 iterations of the God of Time. There are other examples. It was not only Greek philosophy that Philo addressed: Egyptian concepts and schemas also! True, whatever we might call the traditional/normative/conservative Palestinian Jews, they (elites excepted) mostly rejected Philonic theosophy, but the Diaspora was vast. As for the Gospel Judaizers in Asia Minor, well they're different also. I disagree with any 'one size fits all' oversimplification.
On a point Philo was THE innovator.

He said that the Temple is the image of the Logos.

Only that claim is necessary to personify the Logos, if the goal is to re-built the worship of the Temple.

The Temple is destroyed, but the Logos is still there; it is no more useful to mourn the destroyed Temple than for the dead Jesus, they are both resurrected and live in heaven.
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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck on the philosophical origins of Christianity

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Reading at moment only from his blog, it seems that Hoebeeck sees the primal impulse for the birth of Christianity in the need, after the 70 CE, of a Judaism "for gentiles".

This remembers me what Couchoud said about the process of euhemerization.

For example, so G. A. Wells reported the Couchoud's thought:

Couchoud makes the interesting suggestion that liturgical needs may well have led to the composition of written gospels. 'The Christians no longer observed the Mosaic law. They could hardly have continued the ritual readings from the Pentateuch. And we know that in the days of Justin (I Apol. lxvii, 3) readings from the gospels replaced readings from the law and preceded the recitation of passages from the prophets. This indicates for what purpose the gospels were composed'. [1]

(The Jesus of the early Christians, p. 309-310)

Note 1, instead to report where precisely Couchoud is quoted, adds:

An intermediate stage between a spoken prophecy and a written gospel would be represented by a pseudonymous epistle, which, as Aland has recently argued (9, pp. 7-8), would be ready by its author to his own congregation in the service of worship. The congregation knew the author as their priest, but accepted his epistle as the work of the apostle James or John or Peter because he spoke with the apostle's voice. When at such a service a prophet got up and preached the word of the Lord, everyone knew the prophet and his human affairs. 'But when he spoke with inspired utterance it was not he that was heard but the Lord or the apostles or the Holy Spirit himself... What happened in pseudonymous literature of the early period was nothing but a shift of the message from the spoken to the written word... When the pseudonymous writings of the NT claimed the authorship of the most prominent apostles only, this was not a skilful trick or the so-called fakers, in order to guarantee the highest possible reputation and the widest possible circulation for their work, but the logical conclusion of the presupposition that the Spirit himself was the author'.

Then Wells writes:

Couchoud adds that they 'were composed at the time when prudent bishops were trying to rest the leadership of the flock from the seers and prophets. The gospels gave them straightforward reading matter... calculated to limit the free inventions of the spirit' (68, p. 162).

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Re: Dating Redux

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Giuseppe wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:34 amNote 1, instead to report where precisely Couchoud is quoted, adds:

An intermediate stage between a spoken prophecy and a written gospel would be represented by a pseudonymous epistle, which, as Aland has recently argued (9, pp. 7-8), would be ready by its author to his own congregation in the service of worship. The congregation knew the author as their priest, but accepted his epistle as the work of the apostle James or John or Peter because he spoke with the apostle's voice.

I believe that in such areas with low literacy, myths took generations to form. Where there was some literacy, the time-frame will condense somewhat, but the Jesus-Gospel might have had an oral phase (Stage 1: spoken prophecy) of several decades, a generation or so. What time-frame does Couchoud suggest?

I suppose smthg like the following, a 'narrowing down'.

First Stage: Period of Spoken Prophecy, Year 1-50?
Second Stage: Period of Pseudonymous Scripture, Year 35-70?
Third Stage: Period of Accepting Gospel, Year 50-75
Fourth Stage: Period of 'Canonical' Gospel, Year 75-100

By this time-frame and working backwards, and since Irenaeus, Tatian, Marcion, etc. (c.135-150 AD) obviously know 'the canon':
the Spoken Prophecy occurred c.35-75 AD,
the Pseudonymous Scripture appeared 75-100 AD,
the Gospels were widely accepted 115-125 AD.

Couchoud adds that they 'were composed at the time when prudent bishops were trying to rest the leadership of the flock from the seers and prophets.

"wrest" - wrestle or pull away the leadership from ... the compiler/collector Marcion (140 AD) was 3rd or 4th Generation, 1-2 generations after Composition. But there were seers and prophets appearing for centuries after the Gospels were official canon.
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Re: Stephan Hoebeeck on the philosophical origins of Christianity

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Couchoud assumed traditional dating for Paul and Hebrews, and the first gospel (he opted for Marcion's priority in a first moment, then in his last book he appears to opt for Mark's priority) in Bar-Kokhba's times. Hence you can't criticize him to be a "Late Dater" as to Paul.

I quote him here because his case (about how and why a gospel-'biography' was invented) may be similar to Hoebeeck's case about early Christians emerging around the 120-130 CE, in need of a story for judaizers among gentiles.
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