Gospel of the Hebrews, Dating? (Melchizedek)

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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billd89
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Gospel of the Hebrews, Dating? (Melchizedek)

Post by billd89 »

Walter Bauer got me thinking.
It is quite in harmony with our conception of the original situation in Christian Egypt that the Gospel of the Hebrews clearly displays the heretical trademark. In the fragment preserved by Origen {c.240 AD}, Jesus declares (on an occasion that we can no longer recover with certainty): "Just now my mother, the Holy Spirit, siezed me by one of my hairs and carried me away to the high mountain Tabor." According to Cyril of Jerusalem {c.375 AD}, the following also stood in the Gospel of the Hebrews: "When Christ desired to come to earth to men, the good Father chose a mighty Power in heaven named Michael, and entrusted Christ to its care. And the Power entered the world and was called Mary, and Christ was in her womb seven months." The great importance which Michael has in the Egyptian magical texts -- Greek as as well as Coptic -- and in the Pistis Sophia is well known.

I'm considering the (Jewish) Melchizedekian turning, here.

Clement of Alexandria (c.200 AD) also draws on this source, 'Gospel to the Hebrews', which most probably was composed for the earliest Jewish-Christian community, before or at the time of Basilades (c.120 AD). The "mighty Power" chosen strongly evokes (is) Melchizedek, here as the Father/Son of God (analgous to the Teacher/Pupil) - an exquisitely metaphorical shift recorded in 'the Christ entrusted to Melchizedek' (Heb 1:5). Yet the Gospel of the Hebrews preserves the origins of this switcheroo: Melchizedek has been entirely erased, replaced by Michael, by that time; Sophia has been replaced by Mary, also. And this Power is bi-sexual - uh-oh! Jewish & Christian gnosticism, twined.

I'm focused on the date. That looks like an absolute terminus for the Melchizedek 'cult' in Alexandria probably two generations before c.120 AD: or c.60 AD.

In Epistle to the Hebrews, Apollos (presumably the Alexandrian) was preaching to a synagogue backsliding Melchizedekians c.55 AD, somewhere (perhaps Corinth) in Asia Minor; there's no Archangel Michael there, yet, at the time of Epistle (c.55 AD). But the Christ is now entrusted to Melchizedek, who should cede his place to the new Son. (This dogma would have been preached first in Alexandria before c.50 AD, if we follow Acts 18:24 correctly) Melchizedek is now supplanted, but only recently, hence the Melchizedek cult was on the wane. Yet the synthesis was incomplete in the minds of some Melchizedekian back-sliders in Asia Minor. We may conclude the Melchizedekian network (such as it had been: synagogues connected to an older, quasi-military Judeo-Egyptian fraternity) had collapsed. But the argument in Epistles to the Hebrews was too valuable to be lost, for the Eastern Mediterrean.

The promise of Rest (Heb 4:1-11) topically suggests the 'Gospel to Hebrews', also. I suspect the Gospel to the Hebrews went through varied iterations, composed after 80 AD, c.85-125 AD. It may have been too eclectic and inconsistent (multiple versions circulating), so heretical it was systematically destroyed by Church Fathers in the 3rd-5th C. and ever after.

These are just ideas I'm considering... In these documents, there were heretical/adaptive Jewish synagogues (Melchizedekians, suddenly open to radical cosmopolitan ideas) susceptible to a Christological belief, which became 'Jesus Christian' c.50-100 AD.
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billd89
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Re: Gospel of the Hebrews, Dating? (Melchizedek)

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More Bauer:
But what sort of Christianity existed in Alexandria-Egypt in the half century {180-230 AD} that preceded the victory, backed by Rome, of Demetrius and his policy? At the end of his life {230 AD}, Demetrius fought Origen most vehemently and drove him out of his sphere of activity where he had accomplished enormous things, and even out of his native city. In contrast, at the beginning of his tenure Demetrius {c.195 AD} had no ear for Rome's wishes in the matter of the Easter controversy; nor had he molested Origen's predecessor, Clement {c.190 AD}, although the latter deviated from the teaching of the church far more than did his successor. It may here suffice to recall the harsh judgment which Photius {c.875 AD} passed regarding the "Outlines (Hypotyposeis) of Clement":

In some passages he appears to teach quite correctly, but in others he allows himself to be carried away entirely into impious and fictitious assertions. ... he drivels on about transmigrations of souls and many worlds before Adam. ... The angels, he fancies, interbred with women and begot children by them, and the Logos did not really become flesh but only appeared so. He also let himself be trapped by the fact that he fabricates stories about two Logoi of the Father, of which only the lesser appeared to men, or rather not even that one... And all this he seeks to support from certain passages of scripture ... And on and on endlesly he prattles and blasphemes...

Demetrius represents the arrival & triumph of orthodoxy, the systematic consolidation of the faith against local (Judeo-) Egyptian heresies and gnosticism. Though that battle wasnt won overnight, The Gospel of the Hebrews (c.80 AD) and the somewhat later Gospel of the Egyptians (c.100 AD) had been excluded from the ecclesiastical canon by Clement's seniority (c.175 AD). In Alexandria, the ethnic distinction between Hebrews and Egyptians dissolved by c.150 AD; in fact, there's little evidence of any Jewish community there after 135 AD. The Gospel to the Hebrews might have been 'popular' for only one or two generations (c.100-170 AD), if that, but it was circulating with other Gospels c.140 AD. And we may reasonably presume it was already a dated or eclipsed gnostic artifact by the time Demetrius came to power (190 AD). This clarifies a timeline for the Alexandrian Melchizedek question, again.

The condemnation by Photius (875 AD), who possessed heretical documents (by Clement!) which the Church typically destroyed, is quite telling here. Clement's 'Two Logoi' are the Logos of Genesis and the 'New Logos' of Christ (then later, veneered w/ Jesus data.) Among the 'Melchizedekians' - whatever that Judaic cult called itself - the First Savior/Logos had been Melchizedek. Then, this Alexandrian M.-Logos was supplanted by the Christos (c.25 BC-50 AD), to which the Jesus Myth was added & adapted, c.50-75 AD. Intuitively, we see this Logos-Melchizedek figure was systematically erased c.50-100 AD. Then the Logos (-Melchizedek) had also been transformed into the Archangel Michael by c.125 AD, logically.
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billd89
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Re: Gospel of the Hebrews, Dating c.60 AD

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I arrived at my own conclusions independently, but this is consistent (if almost a generation earlier than I would guess.)

Peter's site offers this:
[Ron Cameron, The Other Gospels [1982], p.82] makes these observations on dating and provenance: "The earliest possible date of the composition of the Gospel of the Hebrews would be in the middle of the first century {c.60 AD}, when Jesus traditions were first being produced and collected as part of the wisdom tradition. The latest possible date would be in the middle of the second century {c.150 AD}, shortly before the first reference to this gospel by Hegesippus {c.180 AD} and the quotations of it by Clement and Origen. Based on the parallels in the morphology of the tradition, an earlier date of composition is more likely than a later one. Internal evidence and external attestation indicate that Egypt was its place of origin."

Bold and italics mine.
andrewcriddle
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Re: Gospel of the Hebrews, Dating? (Melchizedek)

Post by andrewcriddle »

Photius' criticisms of Clement are discussed in Clement of Alexandria on Trial by Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski .

Andrew Criddle
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billd89
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Re: Melchizedek Study, 2008 PhD

Post by billd89 »

I'm interested in this sort of thing, obv.

"Apocalyptic and Sethian Trajectories and Melchizedek Speculations in Late Antique Egypt The Melchizedek Apocalypse from Nag Hammadi (NHC IX, 1) as a Test Case" 2008 PhD.

Edit: I'm 55pp. into it; it's an EXCELLENT summary of relevant points in the Gnostic debate up to c.2005, in the quarter century after Yamauchi.
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