Author Topic: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity  (Read 1929 times)

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Offline Porter ODoran

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Hint: Not all loud noises are the same noise.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline rakovsky

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Josephus has a helpful note explaining the founder of Jerusalem:
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But he who first built it. Was a potent man among the Canaanites, and is in our own tongue called [Melchisedek], the Righteous King, for such he really was; on which account he was [there] the first priest of God, and first built a temple [there], and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem.
It brings to mind the verse in the Old Testament about Melchizedek of Salem coming to Abraham with a gift. (Gen. 14)
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Offline rakovsky

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The underlined part in the passage in Book VII about the capture of the rebel leader Simon by the Romans below does not make sense grammatically (especially the blue part), and I am also trying to understand the philosophical explanation, if there is one.

Quote
Thus did God bring this man to be punished for what bitter and savage tyranny he had exercised against his countrymen by those who were his worst enemies; and this while he was not subdued by violence, but voluntarily delivered himself up to them to be punished, and that on the very same account that he had laid false accusations against many Jews, as if they were falling away to the Romans, and had barbarously slain them for wicked actions do not escape the Divine anger, nor is justice too weak to punish offenders, but in time overtakes those that transgress its laws, and inflicts its punishments upon the wicked in a manner, so much more severe, as they expected to escape it on account of their not being punished immediately.

Thackeray's translation makes sense grammatically:
Quote
Thus was Simon, in retribution for his cruelty to his fellow-citizens, whom he had mercilessly [tyr]annized, delivered by God into the hands of his deadliest enemies ; not subjected to them by force, but spontaneously exposing himself to punishment — an act for which he had put many to a cruel death on false charges of defection to the
Romans. For villainy escapes not the wrath of God, nor is Justice weak, but in due time she tracks down those who have transgressed against her and inflicts upon the sinners a chastisement the more severe, when they imagined themselves quit of it because
they were not punished immediately.
Is it saying that Justice inflicts on sinners a more severe punishment because they were not punished immediately?

I don't know, is that true? Let's say a Judean rebel kills a villager. If he was captured and punished immediately, he could be crucified or otherwise killed. But if he escaped and then got captured a few years later and was crucified or otherwise killed, he would end up in the same fate. So is it really right to compare the two fates and say that the second is more severe?
« Last Edit: July 26, 2017, 01:57:41 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline Porter ODoran

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It's called a conceit.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline rakovsky

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Here is another place where Josephus suggests the Romans' belief in God:
Quote
The multitude did also betake themselves to feasting; which feasts and drink-offerings they celebrated by their tribes, and their families, and their neighborhoods, and still prayed God to grant that Vespasian, his sons, and all their posterity, might continue in the Roman government for a very long time, and that his dominion might be preserved from all opposition.
(Wars of the Jews, Book 7)
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Offline rakovsky

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In the section on the surrender of the fortress of Macherus in Book VII Chapter 6, it looks like Whiston's online translation is cut off. Even looking at the snippet that remains and comparing it to Thackeray's one can tell that there are some significant translation differences in wording:

Whiston writes:
Quote
The most courageous, therefore, of those men that went out prevented the enemy, and got away, and fled for it; but for those men that were caught within they...

Thackeray writes:
Quote
The most courageous of the fugitives, however, contrived to cut their way through and escape ; of those left in the town, the men, numbering seventeen hundred, were slain, the women and children were enslaved. Bassus, holding himself bound to observe his agreement with those who had surrendered the fortress, let them depart and restored Eleazar.
https://archive.org/details/josephuswithengl04joseuoft

Whiston thinks that the Emmaus that Josephus says Vespasian gave to 800 Roman soldiers was the same one mentioned in Luke 24 to where two disciples were going when they saw Jesus.

Quote
[Vespasian]  assigned a place for eight hundred men only, whom he had dismissed from his army, which he gave them for their habitation; it is called Emmaus, and is distant from Jerusalem threescore furlongs.

Whiston's Footnote
That the city Emmaus, or Areindus, in Josephus and others which was the place of the government of Julius Africanus were slain, to the number of one thousand seven hundred, as were the women and the children made slaves. But as Bassus thought he must perform the covenant he had made with those that had surrendered the citadel, he let them go, and restored Eleazar to them, in the beginning of the third century, and which he then procured to be rebuilt, and after which rebuilding it was called Nicopolis, is entirely different from that Emmaus which is mentioned by St. Luke 24;13; see Reland's Paleestina, lib. II. p. 429, and under the name Ammaus also.

But he justly thinks that that in St. Luke may well be the same with his Ammaus before us, especially since the Greek copies here usually make it sixty furlongs distant from Jerusalem, as does St. Luke, though the Latin copies say only thirty. The place also allotted for these eight hundred soldiers, as for a Roman garrison, in this place, would most naturally be not so remote from Jerusalem as was the other Emmaus, or Nicopolis.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2017, 05:09:09 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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In Book VII, Josephus mentions the high priest Onias building a temple in Egypt, which is interesting, because although I knew of synagogues outside Judea, Jerusalem's Temple was the only one that I knew of.

Josephus writes:
Quote
2. Now Lupus did then govern Alexandria, who presently sent Caesar word of this commotion; who having in suspicion the restless temper of the Jews for innovation, and being afraid lest they should get together again, and persuade some others to join with them, gave orders to Lupus to demolish that Jewish temple which was in the region called Onion, (19) and was in Egypt, which was built and had its denomination from the occasion following: Onias, the son of Simon, one of the Jewish high priests fled from Antiochus the king of Syria, when he made war with the Jews, and came to Alexandria; and as Ptolemy received him very kindly, on account of hatred to Antiochus, he assured him, that if he would comply with his proposal, he would bring all the Jews to his assistance; and when the king agreed to do it so far as he was able, he desired him to give him leave to build a temple some where in Egypt, and to worship God according to the customs of his own country; for that the Jews would then be so much readier to fight against Antiochus who had laid waste the temple at Jerusalem, and that they would then come to him with greater good-will; and that, by granting them liberty of conscience, very many of them would come over to him.

3. So Ptolemy complied with his proposals, and gave him a place one hundred and eighty furlongs distant from Memphis. That Nomos was called the Nomos of Hellopolls, where Onias built a fortress and a temple, not like to that at Jerusalem, but such as resembled a tower. He built it of large stones to the height of sixty cubits; he made the structure of the altar in imitation of that in our own country, and in like manner adorned with gifts, excepting the make of the candlestick, for he did not make a candlestick, but had a [single] lamp hammered out of a piece of gold, which illuminated the place with its rays, and which he hung by a chain of gold; but the entire temple was encompassed with a wall of burnt brick, though it had gates of stone. The king also gave him a large country for a revenue in money, that both the priests might have a plentiful provision made for them, and that God might have great abundance of what things were necessary for his worship. Yet did not Onias do this out of a sober disposition, but he had a mind to contend with the Jews at Jerusalem, and could not forget the indignation he had for being banished thence. Accordingly, he thought that by building this temple he should draw away a great number from them to himself. There had been also a certain ancient prediction made by [a prophet] whose name was Isaiah, about six hundred years before, that this temple should be built by a man that was a Jew in Egypt. And this is the history of the building of that temple.

4. And now Lupus, the governor of Alexandria, upon the receipt of Caesar's letter, came to the temple, and carried out of it some of the donations dedicated thereto, and shut up the temple itself. And as Lupus died a little afterward, Paulinns succeeded him. This man left none of those donations there, and threatened the priests severely if they did not bring them all out; nor did he permit any who were desirous of worshipping God there so much as to come near the whole sacred place; but when he had shut up the gates, he made it entirely inaccessible, insomuch that there remained no longer the least footsteps of any Divine worship that had been in that place. Now the duration of the time from the building of this temple till it was shut up again was three hundred and forty-three years.

Whiston the translator comments:
Quote
Of this temple of Onias's building in Egypt, see the notes on Antiq. B. XIII. ch. 3. sect. 1. But whereas it is elsewhere, both of the War, B. I. ch. 1. sect. 1, and in the Antiquities as now quoted, said that this temple was like to that at Jerusalem, and here that it was not like it, but like a tower, sect. 3, there is some reason to suspect the reading here, and that either the negative particle is here to be blotted out, or the word entirely added.

Thackeray translates Josephus this way:
Quote
The emperor, suspicious of the interminable tendency Onias in of the Jews to revolution, and fearing that they might again collect together in force and draw others away with them, ordered Lupus to demolish the Jewish temple in the so-called district of Onias. This is a region in Egypt which was colonized and given this name under the following circumstances. Onias, son of Simon, and one of the chief priests at Jerusalem, fleeing from Antiochus, king of Syria, then at war with the Jews, came to Alexandria, and being graciously received by Ptolemy, owing to that monarch's hatred of Antiochus, told him that he would make the Jewish nation his ally if he would accede to his proposal. The king having promised to do what was in his power, he asked permission to build a temple somewhere in Egypt and to worship God after the manner of his fathers ; for, he added, the Jews would thus be still more embittered against Antiochus, who liad sacked their temple at Jerusalem, and more amicably disposed towards himself, and many would flock to him for the sake of religious toleration.

Induced by this statement, Ptolemy gave him a tract, a hundred and eighty furlongs distant from Memphis, in the so-called nome of Heliopolis. Here Onias erected a fortress and built his temple (which was not like ° that in Jerusalem, but resembled a
tower) of huge stones and sixty cubits in altitude. The altar, however, he designed on the model of that in the home country, and adorned the building with similar offerings, the fashion of the lampstand excepted ; for, instead of making a stand, he had a
lamp wrought of gold which shed a brilliant light and was suspended by a golden cliain. The sacred precincts were wholly surrounded by a wall of baked brick, the doorways being of stone. The king, moreover, assigned him an extensive territory as a source of revenue, to yield both abundance for the priests and large provision for the service of God. ... There had, moreover, been an ancient prediction made some six hundred years before by one named Esaias, who had foretold the erection of this temple in Egypt by a man of Jewish birth.'

Lupus, the governor of Alexandria, on receipt of Caesar's letter, repaired to the temple and, having carried off some of the votive offerings, shut up the building... The duration of the temple from its erection to its closure was three hundred and forty-three years.

Thackeray comments:
Quote
This temple is often mentioned in Josephus : B. i. 33, A. xii. 387 f., xiii. 62 if., 285, xx. 236 f. Leontopolis, its site (A. xiii. 70), has been identified as TeU-el-Yehudhjyeii, X.E. of Memphis at the southern end of the Delta : excavations have laid bare the remains of the Jewish temple

Joseph us here corrects his previous statement that the temple of Unias resembled that at Jerusalem, £. i. 33

The reference is to Isa. xix. 18 f., and in particular to the "words (partially quoted in A. xiii. 68) " In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt." The passage is regarded by modern critics as a late insertion in Isaiah : by some even so late as to be vaticinium post eventum, the city in v. 18, whose name is variously given in different texts as " city of righteousness," " of destruction,*'

Josephus' comment "The duration of the temple from its erection to its closure was three hundred and forty-three years" sounds too long in time, from the Maccabean period to the 1st century AD. But Thackeray makes an interesting comment that Josephus might have made an error in calculation to reflect a mystical meaning:
Quote
The first figure is probably corrupt ; 243 years, i.e. c.170 B.c.-A.D. 73, would be approximately correct. Dr. Eisler, however, in a forthcoming work, has an ingenious
explanation of the figure in the text. " By one of those errors in calculation, not rare and easily intelligible in this author, Josephus imagined that the duration of the Onias
temple . . . was a period of 343 ( = 7x7x7) years or seven jubilees. . . . This mystical number indicates that J. saw in the destruction of the two Jewish temples, at Heliopolis and in Jerusalem, God's judgement upon the impious transgression of the deuteronomic law (of the single sanctuary). . . . Some idea similar to that of the seventy year- weeks of Daniel may have been in his mind."

Quote
Land of Onias

it is known that the Jews of Leontopolis had a functioning Temple, presided over by kohanim of the family of Onias IV (for whom the "Land of Onias" is named). Like its predecessor the Jewish Temple at Elephantine (destroyed in the 4th century BCE), the Temple at Leontopolis was the only Jewish sanctuary outside of Jerusalem where sacrifices were offered. Aside from a somewhat uncertain allusion of the Hellenist Artapanus,[2] only Josephus gives information about this temple.[3] The Talmudic accounts are internally contradictory. The establishment of a central sanctuary in Egypt was probably undertaken in response, in part, to the disorders that arose in Palestine under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the desecration of the Temple at Jerusalem under his reign, the supplanting of the legitimate family of priests by the installation of Alcimus, the personal ambition of Onias IV, and the vast extent of the Jewish diaspora in Egypt that created demand for a sanctuary of this nature.

In his dig at Tell al-Yahudi in 1905/6, Flinders Petrie identified the remains of this temple. ... Only this can be stated as a fact, that the temple of Leontopolis was built on the site of a ruined temple of Bubastis, in imitation of the temple at Jerusalem, though smaller and less elaborate.

The Egyptian Jews sacrificed frequently in the temple of Leontopolis, although at the same time they fulfilled their duty toward the Temple at Jerusalem, as Philo narrates that he himself did.[21] The Temple at Leontopolis never gained the popularity of that of Jerusalem; while the Alexandrine Jews might like having a subordinate temple close to home, support for the Temple of Onias never was seen to replace the need to send tithes and pilgrims to Jerusalem. Indeed, the Leontopolist temple site seems never to have achieved even the importance of the synagogue in Alexandria's Jewish quarter.

In the Talmud the origin of the temple of Onias is narrated with legendary additions... In regard to the Law the temple of Onias (Beit Honio) was looked upon as forbidden, though there is a question as to whether idolatry was done there or not.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_of_Onias

Quote
The temple that was built in Ptolemaic Egypt in Leotopolis (north of present Cairo) stems from the Maccabean crises. The temple was built by the Oniads who were the legitimate descendants of Zadok from the time of Solomon... This temple had priests, Levites and daily sacrifices. According to the Mishnah vows and sacrifices at Leonotopolis were legitimate. Priests there were recognized as priests but could not offer sacrifice in Jerusalem but they could eat the priests portion. This temple in Leontopolis was destroyed by the Romans as a result of the Jewish Revolt in AD 73/4.


http://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2016/01/19/now-there-was-an-ethiopian-who-did-philip-talk-to-exegetical-notes-on-acts-8-27-and-why-historical-context-is-essential/

I am not sure that I agree with Simcha Jacobivici's theory, which I underlined below:
Quote
It was built by a High Priest named Onias, who was the last of the pre-Maccabean Zadokite high priests. The Zadokite line was established during the reign of King David. They were ousted by the Maccabeans in the 2nd century BCE. Frustrated, they went to Egypt and built their own temple in Heliopolis. This created a spiritual crisis in the Holy land. In Jerusalem, you had a legitimate temple with an illegitimate priesthood. In Heliopolis, you had legitimate priests serving in an illegitimate temple. For the first time in eight hundred years there was a spiritual disconnect among the Jewish people. This caused many people to imagine that the real temple service, which was disrupted on earth, was continuing undisturbed in heaven. It was at this time that some people came forward claiming to be “chariot riders” i.e., they could live on earth but ascend to heaven and participate in the temple service above. These messiah figures like Judas the Galilean, Simon of Perea, and the Teacher of Righteousness, who is the star of the Dead Sea Scrolls, promised that they would link heaven and earth for their followers, ushering in a new era and a new temple.
http://www.simchajtv.com/jewish-temples-in-egypt/


Tel El-Yahudiya (Jews' Hill), Hill at Leontopolis



Quote
Leontopolis Leontopolis (also Nay-ta-hut and today Tell el-Yahudiya) is an Egyptian town located along the eastern delta, just north of Heliopolis. During the Roman period, Jews had large communities throughout Egypt, and their principal synagogue was located at Leontpolis after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.6 Translated, Leontopolis means "The City of Lions", reflecting worshipping of lions which occurred in Leontopolis.
http://li505-49.members.linode.com/site/detail/public/87/
This reminds me of the theme of the "Lion of Judah". Archaeologists consider this to be a Jewish or Hyksos site going back to the Middle Kingdom period of Egypt.
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Offline rakovsky

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In Book 1 of Wars of the Jews, Josephus relates how Aristobulus the king of Judea killed his brother in a palace intrigue and then vomited blood, spoke of the power of the all-seeing eye of God, and died:
Quote
6. Hereupon Aristobulus repented of the great crime he had been guilty of, and this gave occasion to the increase of his distemper. He also grew worse and worse, and his soul was constantly disturbed at the thoughts of what he had done, till his very bowels being torn to pieces by the intolerable grief he was under, he threw up a great quantity of blood. And as one of those servants that attended him carried out that blood, he, by some supernatural providence, slipped and fell down in the very place where Antigonus had been slain; and so he spilt some of the murderer's blood upon the spots of the blood of him that had been murdered, which still appeared. Hereupon a lamentable cry arose among the spectators, as if the servant had spilled the blood on purpose in that place; and as the king heard that cry, he inquired what was the cause of it; and while nobody durst tell him, he pressed them so much the more to let him know what was the matter; so at length, when he had threatened them, and forced them to speak out, they told; whereupon he burst into tears, and groaned, and said, "So I perceive I am not like to escape the all-seeing eye of God, as to the great crimes I have committed; but the vengeance of the blood of my kinsman pursues me hastily. O thou most impudent body! how long wilt thou retain a soul that ought to die on account of that punishment it ought to suffer for a mother and a brother slain! How long shall I myself spend my blood drop by drop? let them take it all at once; and let their ghosts no longer be disappointed by a few parcels of my bowels offered to them." As soon as he had said these words, he presently died, when he had reigned no longer than a year.
The reference to vomiting blood on the same day of his brother's killing due to palace intrigue makes me suspect that Aristobulus could have been killed by poisoning in palace intrigue.

And although the reference to God's eye(s) shows up in the Old Testament
(eg. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place." - Proverbs 15:3), I think that the phrase "all-seeing eye of God" was probably inserted by Whiston himself, as others told me that Thackeray's translation in general is better. Thackeray puts the part of the passage this way:
Quote
At length, under pressure of threats, they told him the truth.  With tears filling his eyes and a groan such as his remaining strength permitted, he said : " My law-
less deeds, then, were not destined to escape God's mighty eye ; swift retribution pursues me for my kinsman's blood.
The ocean, impassable by men, and the world beyond it are directed by the same ordinances of the Master. ~ I Clement 20

Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #53 on: September 13, 2017, 03:43:47 PM »
In Book 1 of Wars of the Jews, Josephus presents a very positive image of the first century B.C. king, Herod the Great:
Quote
After this he marched through Jericho, as making what haste he could to be avenged on his brother's murderers; where happened to him a providential sign, out of which, when he had unexpectedly escaped, he had the reputation of being very dear to God; for that evening there feasted with him many of the principal men; and after that feast was over, and all the guests were gone out, the house fell down immediately. And as he judged this to be a common signal of what dangers he should undergo, and how he should escape them in the war that he was going about, he, in the morning, set forward with his army, when about six thousand of his enemies came running down from the mountains, and began to fight with those in his forefront; yet durst they not be so very bold as to engage the Romans hand to hand, but threw stones and darts at them at a distance; by which means they wounded a considerable number; in which action Herod's own side was wounded with a dart.
...
Now when at the evening Herod had already dismissed his friends to refresh themselves after their fatigue, and when he was gone himself, while he was still hot in his armor, like a common soldier, to bathe himself, and had but one servant that attended him, and before he was gotten into the bath, one of the enemies met him in the face with a sword in his hand, and then a second, and then a third, and after that more of them; these were men who had run away out of the battle into the bath in their armor, and they had lain there for some time in, great terror, and in privacy; and when they saw the king, they trembled for fear, and ran by him in a flight, although he was naked, and endeavored to get off into the public road. Now there was by chance nobody else at hand that might seize upon these men; and for Herod, he was contented to have come to no harm himself, so that they all got away in safety.

Wikipedia notes how the New Testament paints a very negative picture of Herod:
Quote
Vital details of his life are recorded in the works of the 1st century CE Roman–Jewish historian Josephus. Herod also appears in the Christian Gospel of Matthew as the ruler of Judea who orders the Massacre of the Innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus.

Josephus makes Cleopatra sound very bad:
Quote
[Herod]sent [money] to Antony, and to those about him. Yet could he not hereby purchase an exemption from all sufferings; for Antony was now bewitched by his love to Cleopatra, and was entirely conquered by her charms. Now Cleopatra had put to death all her kindred, till no one near her in blood remained alive, and after that she fell a slaying those no way related to her. So she calumniated the principal men among the Syrians to Antony, and persuaded him to have them slain, that so she might easily gain to be mistress of what they had; nay, she extended her avaricious humor to the Jews and Arabians, and secretly labored to have Herod and Malichus, the kings of both those nations, slain by his order.
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Offline Schultz

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #54 on: September 13, 2017, 05:05:26 PM »
It's called a conceit.

rakovsky is obviously thinking out loud here, so to speak, and, as you mentioned just a bit before this unhelpful post, is actively looking to learn. 

The internet is famously difficult on which to convey tone, but your previous posts in this thread make your tone loud and clear: snarky and dismissive. 

Real helpful there, buddy.  And just to be clear, that was sarcasm.

Please continue rakovsky.  I'm enjoying this investigation of yours.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #55 on: September 13, 2017, 06:55:53 PM »
It's called a conceit.

rakovsky is obviously thinking out loud here, so to speak, and, as you mentioned just a bit before this unhelpful post, is actively looking to learn. 

The internet is famously difficult on which to convey tone, but your previous posts in this thread make your tone loud and clear: snarky and dismissive. 

Real helpful there, buddy.  And just to be clear, that was sarcasm.

Please continue rakovsky.  I'm enjoying this investigation of yours.

On this point, I myseld am disappointed, in that I had expected from Rakovsky a more organized index, with commentary to follow, and I am not quite seeing this.

I am going to therefore posit a question related to the subject in the OP, but not to his posts:

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware quotes from Gnostic gospels to support Orthodox theology in The Orthodox Way, among other non-Orthodox sources.  Is it therefore permissable for Orthodox to use Gnostic material to corronorate Orthodoxy where it does not contradict it, or did His Eminence err in tapping the "poisoned well" of Gnostic literature (recall the very severe anathemas against the authors of these books issued by Pope Gelasius I in the Decretum Gelasianum of 493).
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- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #56 on: September 14, 2017, 12:05:56 AM »
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware quotes from Gnostic gospels to support Orthodox theology in The Orthodox Way, among other non-Orthodox sources.  Is it therefore permissable for Orthodox to use Gnostic material to corronorate Orthodoxy where it does not contradict it, or did His Eminence err in tapping the "poisoned well" of Gnostic literature (recall the very severe anathemas against the authors of these books issued by Pope Gelasius I in the Decretum Gelasianum of 493).
As quoting Pagans for support of Orthodoxy is frequent in Orthodox tradition, despite everything we've always preached against Pagans, I don't see why this couldn't apply to Gnosticism.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #57 on: September 14, 2017, 03:04:39 AM »
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware quotes from Gnostic gospels to support Orthodox theology in The Orthodox Way, among other non-Orthodox sources.  Is it therefore permissable for Orthodox to use Gnostic material to corronorate Orthodoxy where it does not contradict it, or did His Eminence err in tapping the "poisoned well" of Gnostic literature (recall the very severe anathemas against the authors of these books issued by Pope Gelasius I in the Decretum Gelasianum of 493).
As quoting Pagans for support of Orthodoxy is frequent in Orthodox tradition, despite everything we've always preached against Pagans, I don't see why this couldn't apply to Gnosticism.

That is brilliant!  Just as we "plunder the Egyptians" by using Greek philosophy, et cetera, we can certainly also plunder the Greeks and Mesopotamians who through syncretism produced the Gnostic religion.   And now I also understand what Metropolitan Kallistos Ware was doing.

The Gnostic gospels contain lies and deceptions, but they also contain statements which are correct.  This blend of truth and falsehood is typical of how the devil operates.  But the devil is infinitely less cunning than God.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, learned Orthodox divines like Metropolitan Kallistos Ware can extract from the Gnostic literature the true statements, which have the effect of corroborating Orthodox theology as an independent "third party" witness, since where the statements of two enemies are in agreement, it is likely they speak the truth.  In like manner we can make use of the works of Protestant theologians or even the Book of Mormon, although the latter prospect is deeply unappetizing; I would rather read through the entire Nag Hammadi library than one verse of Joseph Smith's silly invention. 

So, the ancient Gospel of Thomas, for example, or the Valentinian Gospel of Truth, or the Gospel of Peter, which come to mind as three examples of Gnostic scriptures that contain Orthodox-compatible statements, by virtue of their antiquity, being only slightly newer, or perhaps in the case of the Gospel of Thomas* , contemporary with the Four Canonical Gospels, provide a third party witness both to the sayings of our Lord and Orthodoc theology.  The Gospel of Thomas especially, given that it is merely a collection of sayings of our Lord also found in the Synoptics, interspersed with the occasional toxic Gnostic comment or idea.

By the way, one of our saints condemned a Gospel of Thomas as written not by the Apostle, but by Thomas the disciple of Mani.  I have come to believe this refers not to the text uncovered at Nag Hammadi, but rather, to the horrific Protoevangelion of Thomas, which blasphemously depicts our Lord in his childhood killing people for his own amusement.  The latter text was much more widely known, was never lost, and was published at a time when the Protoevangelion of St. James, and other literature about the childhood of our Lord, was extremely popular.  But it is a vile and pernicious text, and thus one can see why it was one of the earliest Gnostic texts to be denounced by name by a saintly Orthodox bishop.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #58 on: September 14, 2017, 03:17:15 AM »
I should add the Protoevangelion of Thomas is in accord with many of the disturbing aspects of the Manichaean faith and the bizarre behavior of Mani himself, whereas the Gnostic content in the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi is subtle; one could read it and not notice it, and some even deny it to be of Gnostic origin; I think it clearly is, but it also clearly reflects the older school of 1st and 2nd century Gnosticism, of Tatian and Valentinus and others, who in their zealous respect for the deity of our Lord came to reject his humanity, and also developed a mythos of secret, salvific knowledge passed on from certain of the Apostles to the Gnostic heresiarchs through intermediate disciples, a sort of occult Apostolic succession, which the leaders of the Gnostic sects then revealed to a specific elite they attracted to their sects, in a progressive manner, not dissimiliar to the catechtical method of the early Church, albeit in the Orthodox Catholic Church there is one deposit of faith from all of the apostles, as opposed to the plethora of competing and contradictory secret teachings passed on from a particular disciple of our Lord to a chosen successor we find in the Gnostic sects.

It is this principle in fact that really makes the early Orthodox Church "Catholic"; its teaching is the composite of all of the apostles, passed openly with clear lines of Apostolic succession, which are in tuen not left in isolation but intermingled by the ancient rule of three bishops being required to ordain one new bishop, meaning that by the fourth century, except in the most remote parts of the Church of the East, where an apostolic succession purely from St. Thomas remains a plausible scenario, most bishops in the Meditteranean area at least were likely the successors of many or most of the Apostles, who ordained other bishops.  I suspect St. John Chrysostom, for instance, was not just the successor of St. Peter, but also St. Paul, St. John, St. Thomas, and probably St. Mark and St. Andrew and St. James the Just.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #59 on: September 14, 2017, 03:41:26 AM »

Thus the teaching and the succession of the bishops of the Orthodox church were "according to the whole."  The Orthodox dogma and the standard practices of worship common across all of the liturgical rites of Christianity, was derived from the teaching of all of the legitmate Apostles, amd represented the entire teaching of the early Church, of the disciples and apostles selected by our Lord, and of their immediate legitmate successors.

In contrast, the Gnostics were completely uncatholic; their belief in secret teachings passed down from one Apostle contradicts this.

~

The Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi clearly is of this form, in that in its opening verses it identifies itself as the secret teaching given from our Lord to St. Thomas "Thomas Didymus."

In contrast, Mani did not claim to have received his doctrine via an occult line of transmission from one of the original Apostles.  Rather, he claimed to be an Apostle, not only that, but to be the Paraclete, and to have received his doctrine directly from God. 

So I think this absolutely rules out the idea that the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi is Manichaen.  Indeed, I don't believe any of the material found at Nag Hammadi is Manichaen or expresses his specific doctrines; rather, it is almost entirely of the older Gnostic school, most of the texts referencing a secret transmission from an apostle, or else agreeing with the known doctrines of various pre-Manichaean sects, or else being incomprehensible works related to the Gnostic mysteries, for example, the barely lucid poem Thunder: Perfect Mind. 

In conclusion, I believe there is no doubt the Gospel of Thomas the fathers atteibuted to Thomas, who along with Buddha* and Hermes**, was one of the three disciples of Mani, was not the one found at Nag Hammadi, but rather, the Protoevangelion of Thomas, a frightful work which accords with Manichaen peculiar ideas concerning life, death, matter and so on.

* Not Siddharta Gautama, the founder of the Buddhist religion, but a Persian-Indian disciple of Mani, who is known also by another name, which I forget.  He was sent to spread Manichaeanism to the Far East, where it apparently lasted the longest, in part by dissimulating itself as Buddhist (see the Manichaean temple in China disguised as a Buddhist temple).
** Not the Roman deity Hermes, obviously, or the mythical figure of Hermes Trimestigus, but the name of the disciple Mani sent to Egypt.  Thomas likewise dwelt in the region of Syria and Mesopotamia.  I think it very probable that the names Thomas, Hermes and Buddha were intentionally taken by the disciples of Mani to aid them in disseminating the religion in the regions to which they had been sent, based on the cultus St. Thomas enjoyed in Syria, and the pagan figures of Hermes and Hermes Trimestigus, and Buddha, enjoyed in Egypt and the Orient, respectively.  This is in accord with the established Manichaean principle of syncretism and dissimulation, referred to in the Acts of the Debate of Mani with Archelaus, and in the Panarion of St. Epiphanius, and archaeologically proven by the Buddhist-Manichaen temple in China; Manichaeanism originated as a set of spiritual books injerited by Mani which were in no respect specifically Christian, but which he adopted and attempted to integrate into the Christian religion, nearly succeeding; recall even St. Augustine was born a Manichee.  The religion of Mani, following in the Gnostic footsteps of syncretism and dissimulation, where it failed to win adherents on its own merits, attempted to impersonate and infilitrate the existing dominant religion, parasitically, and this apparently kept it alive into the second millenium.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #60 on: September 14, 2017, 04:06:27 PM »
You know how XIX-century Manichaeism smells like? Spiritism. Very similar doctrine, very similar methods, very similar claims. It has had its moment of great popularity in Europe, but nowadays it's mostly restricted to Brazil (split in Kardecism, spread by the massive attention two or three particular mystics brought upon themselves, and Umbanda, created by African syncretism), Cuba (no idea why) and Vietnam (due to Cao Dai).
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #61 on: September 15, 2017, 11:11:02 AM »
You know how XIX-century Manichaeism smells like? Spiritism. Very similar doctrine, very similar methods, very similar claims. It has had its moment of great popularity in Europe, but nowadays it's mostly restricted to Brazil (split in Kardecism, spread by the massive attention two or three particular mystics brought upon themselves, and Umbanda, created by African syncretism), Cuba (no idea why) and Vietnam (due to Cao Dai).

Is Cao Dai really spiritist?  I thought it was an extremely strict liturgical syncretism derived from Roman Catholicism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and Confucianism.

If you could post a thread explaining why you regard it as spiritist, and what you know about it, that wojld be thrilling to me, because I would like to see that, as my own efforts to learn more about that religion, which I regard as a dangerous cult, btw, hit a brick wall.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #62 on: September 15, 2017, 01:53:42 PM »
You know how XIX-century Manichaeism smells like? Spiritism. Very similar doctrine, very similar methods, very similar claims. It has had its moment of great popularity in Europe, but nowadays it's mostly restricted to Brazil (split in Kardecism, spread by the massive attention two or three particular mystics brought upon themselves, and Umbanda, created by African syncretism), Cuba (no idea why) and Vietnam (due to Cao Dai).

Is Cao Dai really spiritist?  I thought it was an extremely strict liturgical syncretism derived from Roman Catholicism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and Confucianism.


Taoism is as spiritist as a religion gets. Summonings, exorcisms, spirit mediums, etc. are meat and potatoes of Taoist practice. Not related to European spiritism, of course, but certainly comparable.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #63 on: September 15, 2017, 02:07:16 PM »
It's called a conceit.

rakovsky is obviously thinking out loud here, so to speak, and, as you mentioned just a bit before this unhelpful post, is actively looking to learn. 

The internet is famously difficult on which to convey tone, but your previous posts in this thread make your tone loud and clear: snarky and dismissive. 

Real helpful there, buddy.  And just to be clear, that was sarcasm.

Please continue rakovsky.  I'm enjoying this investigation of yours.

It's a literary concept. It would help him immensely there to understand it. Keep your tie on.

You certainly take a brighter view of Rakovsky's efforts than most of us do. I have no objection. However, consider how his posts appear to others of us. Here he reads an important book simply to feed his own conspiracy theories. Why do you not jump to Josephus's defense? Conspiracy theories that he supposes are blows to Christianity. Why not jump to the defense of the Holy Evangelists and Apostles? And his method are if possible even madder than his conclusions, which my terse responses have meant to shed light on. No, one cannot pretend the name "John" was used but once or twice in antiquity (it was very common) and use this as evidence the Scriptures are untrue. I'm glad the thread has given you an interest in Josephus, and recommend you do your own studying, but I think you posted before you understood.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 02:08:40 PM by Porter ODoran »
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #64 on: September 15, 2017, 02:27:13 PM »
rakovsky is obviously thinking out loud here, so to speak, and... is actively looking to learn. 

Please continue rakovsky.  I'm enjoying this investigation of yours.

It's a literary concept. It would help him .... to understand it.
Thanks Schultz and Porter for those of your comments that are encouraging and helpful.

The main reason that I read Josephus is for spiritual benefit. He is one of the main writers on the era of Jesus, and his writings about Jesus are strong evidence that Jesus existed, since Josephus is a mainstream, famous 1st c. historian. It looks to me like Josephus was a Christian because he calls Jesus the "Christ" in the main version of Antiquities of the Jews passed down to us. Christian scholars have differed over the centuries whether he was one.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 02:31:59 PM by rakovsky »
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #65 on: September 15, 2017, 05:06:38 PM »
Herod the Great's piety for Judaism sounds suspect. He showed reverence for Jerusalem's Temple by building a wall around it, but he also built a temple to Caesar, which is prohibited in Judaism as idolatry:
Quote
[Herod the Great] had built a most beautiful wall round a country in Samaria, twenty furlongs long, and had brought six thousand inhabitants into it, and had allotted to it a most fruitful piece of land, and in the midst of this city, thus built, had erected a very large temple to Caesar, and had laid round about it a portion of sacred land of three furlongs and a half, he called the city Sebaste...

WARS OF THE JEWS, BOOK I

Josephus relates that King Hyrcanus of Judea had been held captive in Mesopotamia, and that when he returned, King Herod killed him, claiming that Hyrcanus suggested it was better for Hyrcanus to be king.

My understanding is that king Hyrcanus was formally the king, while Herod was de facto a powerful ruler over the land, who took over affairs fully in Hyrcanus' absence. Then on Hyrcanus' return, Herod killed him to prevent Hyrcanus from taking kingly power.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 05:13:55 PM by rakovsky »
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #66 on: September 16, 2017, 01:00:12 AM »
You know how XIX-century Manichaeism smells like? Spiritism. Very similar doctrine, very similar methods, very similar claims. It has had its moment of great popularity in Europe, but nowadays it's mostly restricted to Brazil (split in Kardecism, spread by the massive attention two or three particular mystics brought upon themselves, and Umbanda, created by African syncretism), Cuba (no idea why) and Vietnam (due to Cao Dai).

Is Cao Dai really spiritist?  I thought it was an extremely strict liturgical syncretism derived from Roman Catholicism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and Confucianism.


Taoism is as spiritist as a religion gets. Summonings, exorcisms, spirit mediums, etc. are meat and potatoes of Taoist practice. Not related to European spiritism, of course, but certainly comparable.

Oh duh, you are of course quite right, I forgot that in that when RaphaCam called them Spiritist, I thought only of Seances and Theosophists and Madame Blavatsky, forgetting of course that she was inspired by Taoism among other things.

Also, on that note, the major indigenous religion of Vietnam, the Mother Goddess religion, is Spiritist, in that in it, female mediums fall into a trance and are posessed by the spirits of mother Goddesses (really demons or delusion like Pentecostalism, I suspect).  The faithful who attend bring sacrifices of food, money (which they randomly throw around) and other things, which are partially shared with the mediums ar the temple but mostly with others who need it.  So a poor chicken farmer might bring roasted chicken meat as a sacrifice and collect money, a wealthy person might get catharsis by just tossinf alms about to the beating of drums, and a destitute person might join the mediums in just collecting the stuff.

Fr. Peter Owen Jones visited that religion last in Episode 2 of Around the World of 80 faiths, and clearly rather liked it, unlike Cao Daism.  A typical pattern for him was to show second to last a religion he disliked or felt needed to "move forward" from "literalism or fundamentalism" (examples include the Cao Dais, Ethiopian Muslims, Samaritans, a frightening cult in Brasilia, of which I will get the name and try to find a link for RaphaCam, and the Benedictine Monastery of Monte Cassino; he sometimes broke from this pattern however, showing the Jains or India, which afterwards he said for he record that, along with the Bishnoi (tree hugging Hindus), he was most impressed with in his journey, as the penultimate religion in India, before descending to a Tamil-speaking village for a typical Hindu festival where all the men cover each other and throw at each other the sacred dung of the Brahma bulls; he is a Church or England vicar, as one might have surmised).  Interestingly the religion that disturbed him the most of all was Voudon, on which he focused three segmente of his Africa trip in Episode 3.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #67 on: September 17, 2017, 02:05:08 PM »
Josephus says that Herod had numerous wives. At one time did Judaism stop having arrangements of multiple wives per husband?

In Book 1 of Wars of the Jews, it says there was a report that Herod killed Pheroras by poison. Although Josephus doesn't agree, it sounds reasonably possible to me because of how much Machiavellian intrigue, including assassination, Herod was involved in:
Quote
Pheroras took this injury very patiently, and went away into his own tetrarchy, [Perea beyond Jordan,] and sware that there should be but one end put to his flight, and that should be Herod's death; and that he would never return while he was alive. Nor indeed would he return when his brother was sick, although he earnestly sent for him to come to him, because he had a mind to leave some injunctions with him before he died; but Herod unexpectedly recovered. A little afterward Pheroras himself fell sick, when Herod showed great moderation; for he came to him, and pitied his case, and took care of him; but his affection for him did him no good, for Pheroras died a little afterward. Now though Herod had so great an affection for him to the last day of his life, yet was a report spread abroad that he had killed him by poison. However, he took care to have his dead body carried to Jerusalem, and appointed a very great mourning to the whole nation for him, and bestowed a most pompous funeral upon him.
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #68 on: September 19, 2017, 03:52:48 PM »
In his Autobiography, Josephus says that the pharisees are like the Stoics. Did he mean that they are similar in being dedicated to philosophy?
Quote
So when I had accomplished my desires, I returned back to the city, being now nineteen years old, and began to conduct myself according to the rules of the sect of the Pharisees, which is of kin to the sect of the Stoics, as the Greeks call them.

In the Autobiography, it's confusing which side Josephus is on until he gets finally captured by the Romans. He starts off saying that he is against the Judean rebellions, which he calls "innovations". It sounds like he belongs to a circle of leading Jerusalemites and pharisees who are against the revolt. They send him to Galilee with orders to destroy Herod's house/palace, which sounds like he is part of the revolt. But then he claims that he is upset at the fate of the palace, which was looted and destroyed:
Quote
I removed, together with them, from the city of Sepphoris, and came to a certain village called Bethmaus, four furlongs distant from Tiberius; and thence I sent messengers to the senate of Tiberius, and desired that the principal men of the city would come to me: and when they were come, Justus himself being also with them, I told them that I was sent to them by the people of Jerusalem as a legate, together with these other priests, in order to persuade them to demolish that house which Herod the tetrarch had built there, and which had the figures of living creatures in it, although our laws have forbidden us to make any such figures; and I desired that they would give us leave so to do immediately. But for a good while Capellus and the principal men belonging to the city would not give us leave, but were at length entirely overcome by us, and were induced to be of our opinion. So Jesus the son of Sapphias, one of those whom we have already mentioned as the leader of a seditious tumult of mariners and poor people, prevented us, and took with him certain Galileans, and set the entire palace on fire, and thought he should get a great deal of money thereby, because he saw some of the roofs gilt with gold. They also plundered a great deal of the furniture, which was done without our approbation; for after we had discoursed with Capellus and the principal men of the city, we departed from Bethmaus, and went into the Upper Galilee. But Jesus and his party slew all the Greeks that were inhabitants of Tiberias, and as many others as were their enemies before the war began.

13. When I understood this state of things, I was greatly provoked, and went down to Tiberias, and took all the care I could of the royal furniture, to recover all that could be recovered from such as had plundered it.

Josephus later became a rebel leader, but there is a curious story of how he surrendered to the Romans: he had the rest of the rebels hiding with him in a cave kill themselves via a non-random lottery game, so that he was able to surrender. And then in his Autobiography and other writings, he takes a stance against the rebels.

Josephus gives the justification that he felt it was better and more peaceful to serve as a plenipotentiary over Galilee and to give the rebels some arms and money in return for them agreeing to not attack Rome:
Quote
14. But when I had dismissed my fellow legates, and sent them back to Jerusalem, I took care to have arms provided, and the cities fortified. And when I had sent for the most hardy among the robbers, I saw that it was not in my power to take their arms from them; but I persuaded the multitude to allow them money as pay, and told them it was better for them to give them a little willingly, rather than to [be forced to] overlook them when they plundered their goods from them. And when I had obliged them to take an oath not to come into that country, unless they were invited to come, or else when they had not their pay given them, I dismissed them, and charged them neither to make an expedition against the Romans, nor against those their neighbors that lay round about them; for my first care was to keep Galilee in peace. So I was willing to have the principal of the Galileans, in all seventy, as hostages for their fidelity, but still under the notion of friendship. Accordingly, I made them my friends and companions as I journeyed, and set them to judge causes; and with their approbation it was that I gave my sentences

Another example of this confusion is when, as a plenipotentiary in Galilee but before becoming a rebel general, he talks about how Sepphoris' Galileans loyal to Rome opposed him:
Quote
begged of them to give me leave to do what I intended, which was to put an end to these troubles without bloodshed; and when I had prevailed with the multitude of the Galileans to let me do so, I came to Sepphoris.

22. But the inhabitants of this city having determined to continue in their allegiance to the Romans, were afraid of my coming to them, and tried, by putting me upon another action, to divert me, that they might be freed from the terror they were in.
If his job were to keep people from rebelling against Rome, it seems strange that the citizens in Sepphoris would be afraid of him coming to them. It sounds more like in practice he was building up forces for a later rebellion.


The Autobiography's story of Josephus making a speech from an elevated place in the city of Tiberias, rebel soldiers coming to kill him there, and him jumping down from it with a guard named "James" reminds me of the story of the apostle James' death where he made a speech from an elevated place and was knocked down and killed:
Quote
But when I was in the open place of the city, having dismissed the guards I had about me, excepting one, and ten armed men that were with him, I attempted to make a speech to the multitude of the people of Tiberias: and, standing on a certain elevated place, I entreated them not to be so hasty in their revolt; for that such a change in their behavior would be to their reproach, and that they would then justly be suspected by those that should be their governors hereafter, as if they were not likely to be faithful to them neither.

18. But before I had spoken all I designed, I heard one of my own domestics bidding me come down, for that it was not a proper time to take care of retaining the good-will of the people of Tiberias, but to provide for my own safety, and escape my enemies there; for John had chosen the most trusty of those armed men that were about him out of those thousand that he had with him, and had given them orders when he sent them, to kill me, having learned that I was alone, excepting some of my domestics. So those that were sent came as they were ordered, and they had executed what they came about, had I not leaped down from the elevation I stood on, and with one of my guards, whose name was James, been carried [out of the crowd] upon the back of one Herod of Tiberias, and guided by him down to the lake, where I seized a ship, and got into it, and escaped my enemies unexpectedly, and came to Tarichese.
For example, does it sound realistic for Josephus to escape by being literally carried together with this "James" on Herod's back? It sounds a bit like a metaphor that Josephus was spiritually carried with James.
The ocean, impassable by men, and the world beyond it are directed by the same ordinances of the Master. ~ I Clement 20

Offline RaphaCam

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I probably know as much about Cao Dai as you do, but for all I know, there's a lot of focus on the progression of individual spirits from body to body vs. the universal spiritual progression of mankind, and mediunity, influenced by European Spiritism. There's also Asian Spiritism plain and simple, as Iconodule has mentioned.
"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

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