Sons of Light and Sons of Seth

I discussed Dylan M. Burns’s book Apocalypse of the Alien God, an account of the influential early Gnostic sect called Sethians. Burns’s arguments resonated because of work I have been doing recently on the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and the influence of the sectarian Judaism we know from Qumran and the Dead Sea [Read More...]

Seth and the Alien God

Plotinos

The origins of Gnosticism are normally discussed in terms of debates within Christianity. However, one richly informative conflict occurred beyond the familiar realm of church history. One of the great minds of Late Antiquity was the Egyptian-born philosopher Plotinus, the leading figure of Neoplatonism, and a younger contemporary of Origen. Around the year 263, in [Read More...]

Babylonian Baptists

I have been posting about the emergence of Christianity in Iraq/Mesopotamia, and its possible inheritance from sectarian Judaism. Other continuities from the older Jewish world lay beyond the realms of orthodox Christianity, and these likewise tell us much about the importance of those Mesopotamian lands. During the third century, Mani founded a Dualist-Gnostic religion that [Read More...]

The Jesus Identity!

Like many readers, I have been stunned by the revelations in the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. Their bold detective work exposes the hidden narrative of Jesus found in a text called Joseph and Aseneth, which timid [Read More...]

Christians in Babylon

In the early Christian era, Mesopotamia/Iraq was a thriving center of rabbinic Judaism, and throughout the first millennium it was the intellectual capital of that faith. Given the Jewish background, naturally we find very early Christian settlements in Iraq. Within the Persian empire, the greatest seat of church power was of course at the capital [Read More...]

By the Rivers of Babylon

Ctesiphon-ruin_1864

In 1973, Geza Vermes reminded us, indelibly, that Jesus was a Jew, and subsequent generations of scholars have thoroughly absorbed that lesson. Less effective, though, have been statements that early Christianity also operated in a thoroughly Jewish matrix, and that the separation between the two movements was slow, uneven and patchy. Long after the first [Read More...]

The Enoch Code

Raleigh

This is puzzling. On multiple occasions, I have written about the ancient text known as 1 Enoch, which the early church regarded as almost canonical. From the early Middle Ages, though, the book was mostly lost to the West, and was only rediscovered in the eighteenth century in Ethiopian translations. Although this lengthy book deals [Read More...]

Revolution in the Making

Something strange happened to the Jewish world in the third century BC. Although the land was usually part of the Ptolemaic Empire, local authorities carried on ruling much as before, largely undisturbed in their power. If we read our main source for the period – the twelfth book of Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, roughly covering the [Read More...]

Egypt’s Diaspora

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Although the third century BC is a shadowy time in Jewish history, both faith and people were being transformed in multiple ways. I recently lamented how little we know of the Jewish world in Palestine at this time, but of course revolutionary developments were occurring elsewhere, in the emerging Diaspora. Two developments in this era [Read More...]

The Missing Century

I am in search of a missing century. As I recently described, the second century BC was an incredibly fertile time for Jewish culture and religion, with emerging ideas about Judgment and the afterlife, angels and demons, and a major outpouring of writings. From a Christian perspective, we are looking at the essential prehistory of [Read More...]


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