Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Christ Conspiracy: ... and their plots (Chapter 20, pt 5)

[Completing a triplet of of not entirely completed posts, this too will get its sources added later on]

When their efforts to raise up the messiah failed and no such promised inheritance was forthcoming, in order to save Judaism and achieve its goals of world domination, zealous “Jews,” i.e., “the Chosen,” worked to concoct a story to demonstrate that their new covenant had indeed been kept by “the Lord.”
Cleverly enough by constructing a story that also clearly implies that the Jews failed to keep their part of the bargain.  I like the scare quotes, as copious amounts of them are the mark of scholarly quality. The "Jews". Indeed.

We can look at other people of antiquity, and notice that similar ideas of ethnic superiority were not unique to the Jews, nor were the Jews the only ones to fabricate a glorious past with god(s) involved in it[2]. 

Just as a Moses was created to give divine authority to “his people” and to make them the elect of God, so Jesus was devised to prove that the Lord had indeed sent his long-awaited redeemer to his chosen as part of the new covenant. However, it could not be demonstrated that such a redeemer was a great warrior who physically usurped the enemies of Israel, because Israel had been destroyed; therefore, the messiah’s advent was made solely into a spiritual usurpation. [...] As Higgins says, “It has . . . always . . . been the object of Jesus to open the Jewish religion to the whole world.”cmxxiv For, as it says at John 4:22, “salvation is from the Jews.” Translated differently, that passage would read, “Jesus is from the Jews.”
It seems rather peculiar that it would be so badly designed an attempt to bring Judaism to the whole world, that in effect it brought almost nothing of the kind to the world. Yes - some weird take on Yahwist monotheism, coupled with a really weird tension of disdain for the Jews and respect for their God, pretty clear rejection of their religious customs with the belief that the Christians are the sole people to properly have understood the Jewish customs.

As for translations of John 4:22, Higgins' understanding of the idea of translation is so off it should not even require comment. Strictly translated, it can only mean "Salvation is from the Jews", unless we first back-translate it to Aramaic or Hebrew, and only then translate our conjectural reconstruction. Conjecture is not evidence, and the hypothesis we are dealing with already hinges on mindboggling heaps of assertions.
Of the creation of Christianity by the Therapeutan brotherhood, Taylor says:
The Therapeutae of Egypt, from whom are descended the vagrant hordes of Jews and Gypsies, had well found by what arts mankind were to be cajoled;
Taylor is clearly not a neutral source regarding Jews (and Gypsies), given his pretty negative utterances about them in general. He seems to have ascribed all manner of deception to both these groups. An important observation, by the way, is that neither Jews nor Gypsies descend from the Therapeutae of Egypt - and this we can state with almost complete and utter certainty. The quote from Taylor goes on to claim various things about the Therapeuts having knowledge of curative herbs and stories from all over the ancient world, and they mixed these stories and changed the location, all in order to deceive their adherents. As time went on, apparently, even the leaders among them were duped by this deception of their own devising. But of course, as Taylor insists, Jews and Gypsies are descendants of groups that had figured out how to deceive people. Does this not sound like antiromanyism and antisemitism? As for antiromanyism, given that Taylor was a 19th century pseudoscholar, it is understandable that he accepted the prejudices of his ill-informed times. In a world where antiromanyism still is widely socially tolerated, not using sources that accuse them of being cajolers by origin would maybe be a good idea.
The Therapeutae, we see, though not Jews, nor inhabitants of Palestine, were, says Eusebius, “it is likely descended from Hebrews, and therefore were wont to observe many of the customs of the ancients, after a more Jewish fashion.”cmxxx
Which goes to show that Murdock had read enough of Eusebius to see what he was actually saying (unless she skipped the bits between this passage and the previous one she used). This makes it even clearer that she engaged in quote-mining earlier in the chapter. In fact, Eusebius seems to have thought of them as Jewish Christians, and Philo clearly explicitly saw them as Jews. Murdock is ignoring the statements of the very sources she is referring to. In fact, Eusebius explicitly states this with regards to Jewish customs that the Christians of his time widely did not observe, and thus accounted for the difference by this explanation.
In creating their myth, the Hebrew/Israelite conspirators took one more Baal, Baal Jehoshua, the Savior, and carnalized him anew. Like his predecessor Joshua, Jesus was made to be an Israelite/Galilean/Samaritan, not a Judean, with his Bethlehem birthplace added later to “fulfill scripture.” The Samaritan influence on and origins of the gospel tale is evident, firstly because its early contributors, the Gnostics Apollonius and Marcion were considered “Samaritans,” as was Antioch. 
Jesus clearly is presented as a Judean as concerns his tribal affiliation, though, as he is quite clearly presented as the offspring of David and Solomon, both of the tribe of Judah. Here, we only have an assertion regarding the Samaritan influences being evident and a handful of examples that do not showcase any particularly Samaritan influences as such, except an awareness of the Judaeo-Samaritan conflict, and in the case of the gospel of John, a utilization of that in order to attract Samaritans and maybe to generally depict Judaism in negative terms.
Furthermore, although Jesus is also made to call Samaritans “dogs,” he himself is declared by the Jews a “demon-filled Samaritan,” to which he is made to respond that he does not have a demon, without denying he is a Samaritan. In reality, the gospels actually serve to elevate the Samaritans above the Jews. 
So not responding to an allegation is the same as agreeing with it?
For example, the most lasting memory of the Samaritans is the New Testament story of the “Good Samaritan,” in which the Jews are made to look bad. Also, in the Gospel of John, Jesus is made to go against the Jews by welcoming a Samaritan woman, who, although she claims to have no husband is told by Jesus that she has in fact five, and “he whom you now have is not your husband.” This “woman” with the “five husbands,” however, is not a person but the northern kingdom of Israel, and these “husbands” are “her” foreign occupiers, Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, who is nevertheless not Samaria’s “husband,” or “baal,” or “lord.”
Murdock nicely omits what the Samaritan woman responds to him: "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" and Jesus does not deny the validity of her statement. Two can play the game of selective quoting. Clearly the line of reasoning Murdock is using here is invalid, since opposite conclusions can be reached by it.

It is true, though, that the Gospel of John clearly strives to present the Samaritans in better light than the Jews, this much is clear. It seems a more reasonable explanation is that the early Christian movement had managed to attract more Samaritans than Jews, and had decided to focus on Samaritans rather than on Jews in their attempts to gain converts, and therefore turned their attention to them. Meanwhile, anti-Judaic statements could serve to distance early Christianity from Judaism, a group that was disliked by many gentiles anyway.
In the Gospel of John, in fact, the Samaritans accept Jesus as the Messiah and “Savior of the world,” but the Jews plot to kill him. As noted, John is an anti-Jewish text, with aspersions being cast only against the Pharisees, “priests and Levites,” as well as “the Jews,” but with no mention by name of the Sadducees, who constituted in large part the Samaritan priesthood. In fact, in the NT the Sadducees are mentioned by name only about a dozen times, while the Pharisees are named 100 times and bear the brunt of the blame for Jesus’s death. In addition, the Pharisees disparaged the Samaritans for being “adherers to the Bible” and for interpreting it in a literal manner, just as Christians do to this day.
Other scholars have observed that John is probably the most recent of the four canonical gospels, and that it also is more anti-judaic than the three synoptic gospels. Murdock attributes the claims regarding the pharisees disparaging the Samaritans for being "adherers to the Bible" to one Rod Kinson's History of the Talmud, and I am sad to inform her that no scholar of the Talmud has gone by that name. Her source is one Michael L. Rodkinson, although I guess when reading sources second-hand one might get some names wrong. Rodkinson lived 1854-1904, and thus his knowledge of Jewish history of the circa-2nd temple era might be somewhat unreliable. Certainly even modern knowledge about it is unreliable, but it would seem he relied quite strongly on orthodox ideas about the history of the opponents of the Pharisees, which clearly are not worth taking at face value without input of modern scholarship. An adherent of Pharisaism conflating the Samaritans and the Sadducees is no surprise. A search in the Talmud for the word 'cuthean' does not provide any passages where the Pharisees expressed an opposition for the Samaritans on those grounds, so again I think mr. Rodkinson was airing his own idealized view of the history of Judaism in the introductory chapter to his History of the Talmud.

As for Sadducees constituting a large part of the Samaritan priesthood, sources would be interesting. I find no other sources that agree with this claim, then again, I have not searched particularly diligently. But as I have pointed out, it is not the reader who is obligated to find sources to back the author's claims up, it is the author who should well enough back his or her claims up. 
Thus, the gospel story serves to elevate not only “the Jews” as God’s chosen but also the northern kingdom over the southern kingdom, with the southern actually being castigated for its interpretation of the law. In this regard, the Samaritan Jesus’s character is patterned after a Pharisee so that he can debate “the Jews” and usurp their power. Orthodox, Pharisaic Jews, in fact, have rejected the fallacious tale for 2,000 years, acknowledging in their Talmud that it was the Zadokites/ Sadducees who created it and Judaized the books of the New Testament.
The Talmud says no such thing! The particular Talmudic quote that Murdock refers to says nothing but this about the Sadducees:
R. AKIBA SAID: ALSO HE WHO READS UNCANONICAL BOOKS etc. A Tanna taught: [This means], the books of the Sadducees. R. Joseph said: it is also forbidden to read the book of Ben Sira. [Sanhedrin, 100B]
To put this into context, Rabbi Akiba here adds 'also he who reads uncanonical books' to a list of people who have no share in the world to come. A controversial stance, obviously, but that was how the rabbis rolled. Some variants have minim - sectarians - rather than Sadducees. This may well originally have been a reference to Christians - the Talmud has often been censored by Christians in power, or by Jews not wanting to offend Christians in power, replacing explicit mentions of Christians by names of other groups (however, Christians have also forced the censorship of terms they have suspected might have been veiled references to Christians). The reference to 'a tanna' and Rabbi Akiva gives a timespan of the second half of the second century for this comment. The argument that since the Sadducees had ceased as a party in 73CE the rabbis would not have mentioned them any longer as argued by some scholars is somewhat relevant but not water-tight - clearly the memory of them would have remained, and it is possible some of their literature may still have existed or been in circulation for a while after 73CE (especially given that there may have been genuine vectors of transmission from the Sadducees to the Karaites several centuries later). 

However, we do know that the Talmud has been censored - both by Jews preemptively protecting themselves from Christian powers, and by Christian powers forcing them. We know 'Christian' sometimes was substituted with 'min(im)', but sometimes, minim was substituted with pagan, giving the rather wonderful phrase 'a pagan bean' in one spot, due to an excessively zealous Christian censor. (Min also means 'kind', so 'a kind of bean' was the original meaning.) In conclusion, the use of 'Sadducee' as a term there may only be a convenient way of masking the original term in use, not an act of identification. In that case, substituting Christian with Sadducee was a way of getting around censorship, not a way of telling students about the relation between Sadducees and Christians. The uncanonical books here may very well be Christian books; seeing this as the Talmud equating the authors of Christian literature with the Sadducees is far from justifiable. 'Acknowledging ... that it was the [...] Sadducees' is quite different from what this is - this is not a statement from which any hidden history of Christianity can be meaningfully derived.

The Talmud can be used as historical evidence for certain types of claims, but that requires some knowledge about the Talmud. Murdock seems to lack all requisite understanding for using the Talmud as a source.

[1] D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy

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