Rome in transition

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Rome in transition​
The tragedy of the third century is that the chosen leader had to usurp imperial powers to assume the necessary authority instead of acting on behalf of a legitimate emperor who had lost all his credibility.
The result was constant disunity, forcing the Romans to spend valuable time and resources fighting each other, instead of working together to devote all their energies to solving the social, religious, financial and military issues that beset the empire in this time of crisis.
The fact that the empire came so close to disintegration, and yet recovered, is a tribute to the various emperors who put an end to the chaos. But in doing so, they created a different world.
The Roman empire entered the third century in a form that would have been recognisable to Augustus and his successors, but it emerged into the fourth century with all its administrative and military institutions changed, bureaucratic, rigid, and constantly geared for war, with its capital no longer at Rome but in Constantinople.
BBC - History - Third Century Crisis of the Roman Empire

The Romans developed a sophisticated world-view which they projected successfully through literature, inscriptions, architecture, art, and elaborate public ceremonial.
Some elements of this world-view evolved during the existence of the empire, most notably with the adoption of Christianity in the early fourth century AD.
As well as stressing the role of the emperor as civil ruler, Roman propagandists henceforward developed a more rounded and inclusive view of what it meant to be part of the empire.
Gladiators fought to the death dressed to mimic historic enemies like Samnites, Gauls and Britons. Christians were eaten alive by half-starved beasts. Rebels and outlaws were burnt at the stake. The arena offered a pageant of 'the war on terror' Roman-style.
Much imperial propaganda consisted of traditional themes endlessly repeated. But one big change was of truly world-shaking importance: the adoption of Christianity by the Roman state.
Paganism had been the living heart of Roman propaganda for a thousand years. Every significant act demanded sacrifice to appease a god. No new enterprise could be entertained without divine favour.
When Constantine the Great ordered his men to fight as Christians in 312 AD, he began an ideological revolution.
By the end of the century, paganism was effectively outlawed, and Christianity was the dominant religion of the state, the army, the elite and the towns.
The bishops reciprocated the favour shown the Church by preaching loyalty to the secular power.
An alliance was forged between church and state, and henceforward Roman emperors were represented as the agents of God on Earth, charged with crushing paganism and heresy, with defending Christendom against its enemies.
BBC - History - The Official Truth: Propaganda in the Roman Empire
 
The story of Christianity’s rise to prominence is a remarkable one, but the traditional story of its progression from a tiny, persecuted religion to the established religion in the medieval West needs some debunking.
Although in the first few centuries AD Christians were prosecuted and punished, often with death, there were also periods when they were more secure. Secondly, the rise of Christianity to imperial-sponsored dominance in the fourth and fifth centuries, although surprising, was not without precedent, and its spread hardly as inexorable as contemporary Christians portrayed it.
Although fourth and fifth century AD Christian narratives tend to describe the preceding centuries bitterly as a period of sustained and vicious persecution, there were in fact lulls.
How can we explain this? Well, the Roman empire was in the first few centuries AD expansionist and in its conquests accommodated new cults and philosophies from different cultures, such as the Persian cult of Mithraism, the Egyptian cult of Isis and Neoplatonism, a Greek philosophical religion.
The very history of Christianity and Judaism in the empire demonstrates that there were limits to how accommodating Roman religion could be, and these were not the only cults to be singled out for persecution.
Emperors had historically been hostile or indifferent to Christianity. How could an emperor subscribe to a faith which involved the worship of Jesus Christ - an executed Jewish criminal? This faith was also popular among slaves and soldiers, hardly the respectable orders in society.
The story of Constantine’s conversion has acquired a miraculous quality, which is unsurprising from the point of view of contemporary Christians. They had just emerged from the so-called ‘Great Persecution’ under the emperor Diocletian at the end of the third century.
The moment of Constantine’s conversion was tied by two Christian narrators to a military campaign against a political rival, Maxentius. The conversion was the result of either a vision or a dream in which Christ directed him to fight under Christian standards, and his victory apparently assured Constantine in his faith in a new god.
Constantine’s ‘conversion’ poses problems for the historian. Although he immediately declared that Christians and pagans should be allowed to worship freely, and restored property confiscated during persecutions and other lost privileges to the Christians, these measures did not mark a complete shift to a Christian style of rule.
Many of his actions seemed resolutely pagan. Constantine founded a new city named after himself: Constantinople. Christian writers played up the idea that this was to be a 'new Rome', a fitting Christian capital for a newly Christian empire.
But they had to find ways to explain the embarrassing fact that in this new, supposedly Christian city, Constantine had erected pagan temples and statues.

… (T)here was no ‘triumph’, no one moment where Christians had visibly ‘won’ some battle against pagans. Progress was bitty, hesitant, geographically patchy.
Christianity offered spiritual comfort and the prospect of salvation on the one hand, and attractive new career paths and even riches as a worldly bishop on the other. But plenty of pagans, both aristocrats based in the large cities of the empire and rural folk, remained staunch in their adherence to an old faith.
Some hundred years after Constantine’s ‘conversion’, Christianity seemed to be entrenched as the established religion, sponsored by emperors and protected in law. But this did not mean that paganism had disappeared.
Indeed, when pagans blamed Christian impiety (meaning negligence of the old gods) for the barbarian sack of Rome in 410 AD, one of the foremost Christian intellectuals of the time, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, regarded the charge as serious enough to warrant lengthy reply in his mammoth book 'The City of God'.
Paganism may have been effectively eclipsed as an imperial religion, but it continued to pose a powerful political and religious challenge to the Christian church.
BBC - History - Christianity and the Roman Empire
 
The Manichees were followers of the third century AD Babylonian sage Mani. He consciously blended aspects of Gnostic Christianity, Persian Zoroastrianism and Buddhism to create a new religion which might be acceptable in both the east and west.
Pagans and Christians alike were suspicious of the Manichees’ secretive ascetic lifestyle; the pagan emperor Diocletian issued an edict against them at the end of the third century, and even after Constantine had declared that pagans and Christians should be allowed to worship whatever gods they liked, the Manichees continued to be singled out, banned and persecuted.
The fact that Manichee beliefs included Christian elements was particularly vexing for the church, and also explains why some notable Christians began their religious journey in the Manichee sect.
Augustine, a North African pagan who experienced a number of conversions until he finally and dramatically embraced Christianity, was briefly entranced by Manicheism during his youth.
He provides a riveting account of the diet of the Manichee elect: they believed that certain fruits contained trapped particles of the divine, which could be released by consumption and digestion, with the result that, as Augustine puts it, the Manichee fruit-eater would 'breathe out angels' or 'bring up bits of God'.
'The Manichee fruit-eater would 'breathe out angels' or 'bring up bits of God'.'
Augustine’s Manichee past had a huge influence on the formation of his Christian theology. His interest in the big question: ‘Where does evil come from?’ was one of the preoccupations of the Manichees, and a favourite opening line when they engaged in debate.
But the very fact that Augustine had dabbled in Manicheism made some Christians suspect the purity of his theology.
For instance, he had to be very careful to show that his idea of 'original sin' did not derive from the pessimistic Manichee conviction that flesh and matter were evil. 'Original sin' entailed the biological transmission to all mankind of the guilt from Adam’s disobedient consumption of the apple in Eden.
But Augustine insisted that man had been created entirely good, and that even after sinning so heinously, could be redeemed.
BBC - History - Lost and Hidden Christianity

The once entrenched idea that early Christian heresies emerged in opposition to some ancient, permanent orthodoxy, is utterly misleading. There were in fact many different competing 'Christianities' in the first few centuries AD.
Different groups of Christians battled with the same basic problems of self-definition: what should one believe, and how should one live, to be a proper Christian?
There were many different solutions to these big questions of doctrine and practice, and the early church forged a biblical canon, a creed, and doctrine, through conflict and compromise between different groups.
Much early Christian doctrine was formulated precisely to combat ideas that were already well-developed, but were perceived to be theologically troubling. Thus groups which had no intention of deviating from the church, but had seen themselves as the true church, found themselves marginalised as heretics.
Looking at obscure Christian and non-Christian sects gives us a good idea of the diversity and character of religious beliefs within and adjacent to Christianity, and also helps us to understand why the Christian church developed in the way it did.
Christianity has its origins in Judaism, and initially existed alongside a number of other Jewish groups such as the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.
The process of establishing which books should be part of the Christian canon had begun early. Marcion was the first to propose a particular canon in the mid-second century, and from then on different Christian groups disputed hotly which combinations of writings should be included or excluded.
As Christianity became more distant from its Jewish roots, different groups of Christians competed vigorously to establish their set of scriptures, their creed, and their practices, as those of the single, true, Christian church.
It is a cliché that history is written by the winners, but in the case of early Christian history it is particularly true. The 'losers' were commemorated by their contemporaries only as heretics and sinners.
Christian historians would (and did) say that the losers were those whose opinions were not in conformity with divine truth, and deserved to lose. Secular historians would say that the losers were merely unlucky, victims of political and social circumstances.
BBC - History - Lost and Hidden Christianity
 
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The once entrenched idea that early Christian heresies emerged in opposition to some ancient, permanent orthodoxy, is utterly misleading. There were in fact many different competing 'Christianities' in the first few centuries AD.
Different groups of Christians battled with the same basic problems of self-definition: what should one believe, and how should one live, to be a proper Christian?
There were many different solutions to these big questions of doctrine and practice, and the early church forged a biblical canon, a creed, and doctrine, through conflict and compromise between different groups.
Much early Christian doctrine was formulated precisely to combat ideas that were already well-developed, but were perceived to be theologically troubling. Thus groups which had no intention of deviating from the church, but had seen themselves as the true church, found themselves marginalised as heretics.
Looking at obscure Christian and non-Christian sects gives us a good idea of the diversity and character of religious beliefs within and adjacent to Christianity, and also helps us to understand why the Christian church developed in the way it did.
Christianity has its origins in Judaism, and initially existed alongside a number of other Jewish groups such as the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.

Herein lies the real bitch of the whole thing. There is no pristine, original point Christianity. You can't isolate the original artifact. It grows out of a soup of syncretic activities and sometime later is standardized and codified, labeled, organized, and institutionalized. It's mythology is polymorphic, and it's theology is equally multi-adaptive. It's philosophy and ethics are divinely Greek, but the storyline is Jewish. It became the perfect ideological meme for the conquests and crusades to follow, and it still works like that today.

Chris
 
Herein lies the real bitch of the whole thing. There is no pristine, original point Christianity. You can't isolate the original artifact.

Yet, with all of the confidence redactors have concerning the dissection of the various texts and subtexts, I wonder.

Seems to me if "they" can discern the "Q" document, "J" document, etc., out of what we hold now, then the only thing stopping "them" is the lack of effort in discerning what the radical Judaism is from all of the superfluous fluff added on top.

It grows out of a soup of syncretic activities and sometime later is standardized and codified, labeled, organized, and institutionalized. It's mythology is polymorphic, and it's theology is equally multi-adaptive. It's philosophy and ethics are divinely Greek, but the storyline is Jewish. It became the perfect ideological meme for the conquests and crusades to follow, and it still works like that today.

The philosophy and theology do tend towards the Greek, but I see an awful lot of stock and standard Roman superstition and ritual and a lot of *rubber meets the road* Jewish pragmatism.
 
Changes under the Roman Empire​
Under the Empire, religion in Rome evolved in many ways. Numerous foreign cults grew popular, such as the worship of the Egyptian Isis and the Persian Mithras. The importance of the imperial cult grew steadily, reaching its peak during the Crisis of the Third Century. Also, Christianity began to spread in the Empire, gaining momentum in the second century. Despite persecutions, it steadily gained converts. It became an officially supported religion in the Roman state under Constantine I. All cults except Christianity were prohibited in 391 by an edict of Emperor Theodosius I. However, even in the fourth and fifth century Roman paganism kept its vitality. Temples were still frequently visited, ancient beliefs and practices continued.
The divinity of the emperor and the cult surrounding him were a very important part of religion in the Roman Empire. In an effort to enhance political loyalty among the populace, they called subjects to participate in the cult and revere the emperors as gods. The emperors Augustus, Claudius, Vespasian, and Titus were deified, and after the reign of Marcus Cocceius Nerva, few emperors failed to receive this distinction.
The Roman religion in the empire tended more and more to center on the imperial house. Especially in the eastern half of the empire imperial cults grew very popular, and the cult complex became one of the focal points of life in the Roman cities. As such it was one of the major agents of romanization. The central elements of the cult complex were next to a temple; a theatre or amphitheatre for gladiator displays and other games and a public bath complex. Sometimes the imperial cult was added to the cults of an existing temple or celebrated in a special hall in the bath complex.
Evidence for the importance of the imperial cult include the "Achievements of the Divine Augustus" (Res Gestae Divi Augusti), written upon two large bronze pillars once located in Rome, Roman coins where the Emperor is portrayed with a halo or nimbus, and temple inscriptions such as "Divine Augustus Caesar, son of a god, imperator of land and sea..." (Roman Temple Inscription in Myra, Lycia).
As the Roman Empire expanded, and included people from a variety of cultures, more and more gods were incorporated into the Roman religion. The legions brought home cults originating from Egypt, Britain, Iberia, Germany, India and Persia. The cults of Cybele, Isis, Mithras, and Sol Invictus were particularly important. Some of those were initiatory religions of intense personal significance, similar to Christianity in those respects.
Religion in ancient Rome - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I can’t help but wonder, the similarity of Christianity with the Pagan initiatory religions. Coincidence? I am inclined to think not.

Res divina Latin for service of the gods, was the laws of the Roman state that dealt with the religious duties of the state and its officials. Roman law was divided into res divina and res publica. (The term res publica then became the title of the state.)
Res divina also means, as a technical term, ritual sacrifice; Augustine played on this, and the root sense of "divine concern" to form a new Christian term.[1]
Res divina - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Again we have St. Augustine playing Pagan themes into and off of Christian themes. I suspect this is deliberate in an effort to reach a broader audience with a majority appeal. I hadn’t before this research realized the impact St. Augustine seems to have had on the metamorphasis of the Christian church soon after Constantine. Apparently he was pretty instrumental in developing a PR program that sold Christianity to a Pagan audience, by playing to common themes and mutually understood concepts, rituals and superstitions.

At least, that is how this seems to be unfolding to me… ;)
 
In Latin, “religio” means “something that binds.” For Romans, religion was a force that bound families together, bound subjects to their ruler and bound men to the gods.

Private and public

Roman religion was divided into two. Spirits watched over people, families and households, and the paterfamilias was in charge of the household worship that honored them.

Romans also had a set of public gods, such as Jupiter and Mars. State worship was much more formal: colleges of priests paid tribute to these gods on behalf of Rome itself.

Divine blessing

The objective of Roman worship was to gain the blessing of the gods and thereby gain prosperity for themselves, their families and communities.

Emperors understood the central importance of religion to the lives of the Romans and used it for their own ends. Augustus appointed himself as the chief priest – or Pontifex Maximus – and used the appearance of Halley’s Comet to claim that he was, himself, the son of a god.

Cult worship

Unlike most religions today, the Roman gods did not demand strong moral behavior. Roman religion involved cult worship. Approval from the gods did not depend on a person’s behavior, but on perfectly accurate observance of religious rituals. Each god needed an image – usually a statue or relief in stone or bronze – and an altar or temple at which to offer the prayers and sacrifices.

The Roman Empire: in the First Century. The Roman Empire. Relgion | PBS

Roman worship was divided into the public and the private. Families would honor their household spirits while Rome had colleges of official priests to ensure that its actions met with divine approval.

Roman religion involved cult worship. Approval from the gods did not depend on a person’s behavior, but on accurate observance of religious rituals. Each god needed an image – usually a statue or relief in stone or bronze – and an altar or temple at which to offer prayers and sacrifices.

Quid pro quo

Requests and prayers were presented to gods as a trade: if the god did what was requested (the nuncupatio), then the worshipper promised to do a particular thing in return (the solutio). This trade was binding. To persuade the gods to favor the requests, a worshipper might make offerings of food or wine, or would carry out a ritual sacrifice of an animal before eating it.

The Romans believed that their gods or spirits were actively involved in their daily lives. As a result, sacred meals were held in their name during certain religious festivals. It was believed that the god actually took part in the meal: a place was set for him at the table, invitations were issued in his name, and a portion of the food served was set aside for him to enjoy.

Public worship

The public side of religion was more organized and more formal than the private. At home, the paterfamilias – head of the family – performed religious rituals for the household. Beyond the home, gods were worshipped by the state, which employed colleges of highly trained priests and priestesses.

Roman priests

The two most important colleges for priests were the augures and the collegium pontificum. Augures were priests who had been elected for life. Only they had the authority to read and interpret signs from the gods.

Although they could not predict the future, augures would discover whether the gods were happy with a particular plan, such as a battle. To do this, they would watch natural phenomena, such as lightning or birds in flight. Specialists (called haruspices) were also employed to read the entrails of sacrificed animals.

Collegium pontificum

The collegium pontificum had four branches. The pontifices were by far the most important priests and controlled state religion. During the time of Julius Caesar, there were 16 of these priests, half of which were patrician, with the other half plebeian.

The pontifices determined festival dates, assisted the emperor in his religious duties, and determined which days were legal for conducting business. They were headed by the pontifex maximus (chief priest) who, from Augustus onwards, was always the emperor.

The king of sacred things

The rex sacrorum, meaning “king of sacred things” was a patrician appointed for life and was barred from holding any other public office. Along with his wife, the regina sacrorum, he performed sacrifices on behalf of the state.

The flamines were minor priests and had responsibility to a particular god. Although there were originally just 15 flamines, over time more were added to serve emperors who had been deified.

The vestal virgins

Finally, the vestal virgins lived at the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Vesta was the native Roman goddess of the fireplace and the six virgins tended the sacred fire, baked sacred salt cakes (mola salsa) and oversaw the care of sacred objects in the temple.

Young girls from some of Rome’s best families were chosen to be virgins by the pontifex maximus. Starting between the ages of six and ten, they had to serve for 30 years, but most continued to help out even after they had left. They were also expected to remain virgins and faced a severe penalty if it was discovered they had had sex – they were buried alive.

The Roman Empire: in the First Century. The Roman Empire. Worship | PBS
 
Yet, with all of the confidence redactors have concerning the dissection of the various texts and subtexts, I wonder.

Seems to me if "they" can discern the "Q" document, "J" document, etc., out of what we hold now, then the only thing stopping "them" is the lack of effort in discerning what the radical Judaism is from all of the superfluous fluff added on top.



The philosophy and theology do tend towards the Greek, but I see an awful lot of stock and standard Roman superstition and ritual and a lot of *rubber meets the road* Jewish pragmatism.

The problem is that with both Christan and Jewish origins the line between history and mythology is intentionally blurred. We don't know who the first Jews or Christians were. Whoever they need to be to make one's pet ideology work out is where one inevitably draws the lines. There is an abundance Greek gematria and other devices of non Jewish metaphysical orientation in the Gospels. Paul employs classic Greek discursive techniques in his writings. This might suggest a larger Hellenistic, or Pagan if you want, influence on the foundational mythology of Christianity than Judeo-centric purists would like to admit, or, equally troubling perhaps, it may suggest a much more cosmopolitan, decidedly un-pristine Judaism of the day.

Chris
 
The problem is that with both Christan and Jewish origins the line between history and mythology is intentionally blurred. We don't know who the first Jews or Christians were. Whoever they need to be to make one's pet ideology work out is where one inevitably draws the lines. There is an abundance Greek gematria and other devices of non Jewish metaphysical orientation in the Gospels. Paul employs classic Greek discursive techniques in his writings. This might suggest a larger Hellenistic, or Pagan if you want, influence on the foundational mythology of Christianity than Judeo-centric purists would like to admit, or, equally troubling perhaps, it may suggest a much more cosmopolitan, decidedly un-pristine Judaism of the day.

I know what you're saying Chris, and I don't disagree. There are a couple of things I would add though.

I think it is fair to say Christianity is largely the product of Pauline "spin." Not saying good or bad, simply stating factual truth. What became Christianity did so through the lens of Paul's eye. Regardless of any traditions that might state otherwise, any other competing branches of Christianity were pruned away by the Roman politicos under Constantine and later. And that faction that was founded by James and Peter in downtown Jerusalem was destroyed in or around 70 AD along with the Temple.

So, who then is Paul? Paul was indeed cosmopolitan; a product of his times, culture and region. Outside of Judea, Greek influence permeated everything. Inside Judea, one could reasonably expect some amount of Greek influence as well. How much might be debated, but it is difficult to deny it being there. Further, since Judea was under Roman occupation for about a hundred years as I recall prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, there would seem to be even further support of Hellenistic and Pagan influences subtle and not in the region. Paul was a cultural chameleon; he was able to bounce back and forth between these cultural constraints with some degree of ease. He could relate to the Jews and the Romans and the Greeks equally well. So it is really no surprise to me that at least in the Pauline epistles we do see some divergent cultural ideas mixed together.

I could step a bit further back as well. You stated, “(I)t may suggest a much more cosmopolitan, decidedly un-pristine Judaism of the day.” I think any scholar of Jewish history would have to agree. The Jews of Palestine circa first century AD were not a direct line descent from King David, etc. There was a little “hitch in the git along” on the way when Babylon under Nebuchadnezzer had conquered Judah. It is a part of Jewish history and tradition, but a part that is seldom told in the west and with little emphasis or understanding. Especially as to how it relates to the birth of Christianity. This would lead into the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and the first rebuilding of the Temple.

Then there’s the whole Maccabean revolution thing against the Syrian Greeks of Antiochus Epiphanes (Antiochus IV), which took place in Palestine and Jerusalem some hundred years or so prior to the Roman occupation and annexation. So I would think “pristine” Judaism to be a problematic term. In fairness though, I can think of no “pristine” culture that hasn’t been influenced by others in some way. So I am wondering if the idea of a pristine culture is, ummm…unrealistic to begin with. Certainly there will always be those who will long for a patriotic ideal, but that ideal is more than likely an illusion of tradition; not any genuine and truthful reality. So for a student of history the idea of a pristine culture (Jewish, Christian or otherwise) is a bit of a red herring.

Of course, this leads me to wonder if I should post some historical tidbits relating to issues such as this too, in addition to the Roman historical info. The trouble with history is that one cannot take a slice out and say “see, there it is!” It doesn’t work quite like that. Every event, every situation, builds from something preceeding and leads into something else, which eventually ties everything all back together in the end. We want to point a finger to a specific point in time and space and say “see, that’s the problem!” But it doesn’t really work like that.

Just take a look at the Israel-Palestine problem going on today. Most people don’t have a clue what the deal is all about, and most are so burnt out on it they don’t even care anymore. But the situation is far too complex to point to one moment in time and say, “See, they started it!” Both sides bear some responsibility, in my opinion. But that is off the subject.

Christianity is not the perfect little petrie dish test tube baby some traditions would have us believe. It is one baby with a very mixed pedigree that wants to claim royal heritage. That want is sincere and overwhelming, but the lineage is just not there…
 
1 Maccabees - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2 Maccabees - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

3 Maccabees - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

4 Maccabees - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The story of the Maccabees can be found in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles in the deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. The books of 3 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees are not directly related to the Maccabees.

Although they were not said to be of the family of the Maccabees, seven Jewish brothers and their mother, described as martyred for their faith in 2 and 4 Maccabees, have been known in Christianity as the "Holy Maccabean Martyrs" or "Holy Maccabees", from the titles of the books where their martydom is described.

Maccabees - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jewish tradition and the Bible (Genesis through Malachi) tells that the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty one years after which they conquered Canaan under the command of Joshua, dividing the land among the twelve tribes. For a time, the twelve tribes were led by a series of rulers known as Judges. Afterwards, an Israelite monarchy was established under Saul, and continued under King David and Solomon. King David conquered Jerusalem (first a Canaanite, then a Jebusite town) and made it his capital. After Solomon's reign the nation split into two kingdoms, Israel, consisting of ten of the tribes (in the north), and Judah, consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (in the south). Israel was conquered by the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser V in the 8th century BCE. There is no commonly accepted historical record of those ten tribes, which are sometimes referred to as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Exilic and post-exilic periods

The kingdom of Judah was conquered by a Babylonian army in the early 6th century BCE. The Judahite elite was exiled to Babylon, but later at least a part of them returned to their homeland, led by prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, after the subsequent conquest of Babylonia by the Persians. Since Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Persian Empire, the extent to which Zoroastrianism has been an influence in the development of Judaism is a subject of some debate among scholars (See Christianity and world religions).
Already at this point the extreme fragmentation among the Israelites was apparent, with the formation of political-religious factions, the most important of which would later be called Sadduccees and Pharisees.

Hellenistic Judaism

Currents of Judaism influenced by Hellenistic philosophy developed from the 3rd century BC, notably the Jewish diaspora in Alexandria, culminating in the compilation of the Septuagint. An important advocate of the symbiosis of Jewish theology and Hellenistic thought is Philo.

The Hasmonean Kingdom

The Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great. After his demise, and the division of Alexander's empire among his generals, the Seleucid Kingdom was formed. A deterioration of relations between hellenized Jews and religious Jews led the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes to impose decrees banning certain Jewish religious rites and traditions. Consequently, the orthodox Jews revolted under the leadership of the Hasmonean family, (also known as the Maccabees). This revolt eventually led to the formation of an independent Jewish kingdom, known as the Hasmonaean Dynasty, which lasted from 165 BCE to 63 BCE. The Hasmonean Dynasty eventually disintegrated as a result of civil war between the sons of Salome Alexandra, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II. The people, who did not want to be governed by a king but by theocratic clergy, made appeals in this spirit to the Roman authorities. A Roman campaign of conquest and annexation, led by Pompey, soon followed.

Roman rule

Judea under Roman rule was at first an independent Jewish kingdom, but gradually the rule over Judea became less and less Jewish, until it came under the direct rule of Roman and later Christian administration (and renamed the Iudaea Province), which was often callous and brutal in its treatment of its Judean subjects. In 66 CE, Judeans began to revolt against the Roman rulers of Judea. The revolt was defeated by the future Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus. In the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Romans destroyed much of the Temple in Jerusalem and, according to some accounts, plundered artefacts from the temple, such as the Menorah. Judeans continued to live in their land in significant numbers, until the 2nd century when Julius Severus ravaged Judea while putting down the Bar Kokhba revolt. 985 villages were destroyed and most of the Jewish population of central Judaea was essentially wiped out, killed, sold into slavery, or forced to flee. Banished from Jerusalem, the Jewish population now centred on Galilee. In spite of this, Judaism remained a religio licita, a tolerated religion, throughout the empire.

Jewish history - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Just a VERY BRIEF rundown of some of the things I was talking of in my previous post. The Maccabee articles are well worth looking at, and I HIGHLY recommend the story of the 7 brothers found in the 4th book of Maccabees. The most inspiring story of any I have read dealing with martyrdom, surpassing even Joan of Arc.
 
Philo (20 BC - 50 AD), known also as Philo of Alexandria (gr. Φίλων ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς), Philo Judaeus, Yedidia, and Philo the Jew was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher born in Alexandria, Egypt.
Philo used allegory to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy and Judaism. His method followed the practices of both Jewish exegesis and Stoic philosophy. His work was not widely accepted. "The sophists of literalness," as he calls them[1], "opened their eyes superciliously" when he explained to them the marvels of his exegesis. Philo's works were enthusiastically received by the early Christians, some of whom saw in him a cryptic Christian. His concept of the Logos as God's creative principle apparently influenced early Christology. To him Logos was God's "blueprint for the world", a governing plan.[dubious – discuss]
The few biographical details concerning Philo are found in his own works, especially in Legatio ad Gaium ("embassy to Gaius"), and in Josephus.[2] The only event in his life that can be determined chronologically is his participation in the embassy which the Alexandrian Jews sent to the emperor Caligula at Rome as the result of civil strife between the Alexandrian Jewish and Hellenized communities. This occurred in the year 40 AD.

Knowledge of Hebrew
Philo read the Hebrew Bible chiefly in the Greek translation. His knowledge of Hebrew has been a matter of scholarly dispute, with most scholars arguing that he did not read that language. One piece of evidence that supports that hypothesis is Philo's creative (often fanciful) use of etymologies. His knowledge of Jewish law, including Midrash, was extensive, but departed in many significant ways from rabbinic tradition.

Exegesis
The writings of Philo show resemblances to Plato, Aristotle, as well as from Attic orators and historians, and poetic phrases and allusions to the poets. Philo's works offer an anthology of Greek phraseology of the most different periods.
Philo bases his doctrines on the Hebrew Bible, which he considers as the source and standard not only of religious truth but in general of all truth. Its pronouncements are for him divine pronouncements. They are the words of the ἱερὸς λόγος, ϑεῖος λόγος, ὀρϑὸς λόγος[3] uttered sometimes directly and sometimes through the mouth of a prophet, especially through Moses, whom Philo considers the real medium of revelation, while the other writers of the Old Testament appear as friends or pupils of Moses.
Although he distinguishes between the words uttered by God, as the Decalogue, and the edicts of Moses, as the special laws[4], he does not carry out this distinction, since he believes in general that everything in the Torah is of divine origin, even the letters and accents[5].
The Hebrew Bible had not been canonized at the time of Philo, and the extent of his knowledge of Biblical books cannot be exactly determined. Philo does not quote Ezekiel, Daniel, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, or Esther. Philo regards the Bible as the source not only of religious revelation, but also of philosophic truth; for, according to him, the Greek philosophers also have borrowed from the Bible: Heraclitus, according to "Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit" § 43 [i.503]; Zeno, according to Quod Omnis Probus Liber, § 8 [ii.454].

Stoic influence
Greek allegory had preceded Philo in this field. As the Stoic allegorists sought in Homer the basis for their philosophic teachings, so the Jewish allegorists, and especially Philo, went to the Old Testament. Following the methods of Stoic allegory, they interpreted the Bible philosophically (on Philo's Predecessors in the domain of the allegoristic Midrash among the Palestinian and Alexandrian Jews, see Siegfried, l.c. pp. 16-37).
Philo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It would seem Philo may have had a bit of influence in introducing Greek Pagan thought into Jewish / Christian thinking too.

The Septuagint (IPA: /ˈsɛptuədʒɪnt/), or simply "LXX", is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC in Alexandria.[1] The Septuagint also includes some books not found in the Hebrew Bible.
It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean since Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). The word septuaginta[2] means "seventy" in Latin and derives from a tradition that seventy (or seventy-two) Jewish scholars translated the Pentateuch (Torah) from Hebrew into Greek for Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285–246 BC.[3][4]
Many Protestant Bibles follow the Jewish canon and exclude the additional books. Roman Catholics, however, include some of these books in their canon while Eastern Orthodox Churches use all the books of the Septuagint.
The Septuagint was held with great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus ascribed divine inspiration to its authors.[4] Besides the Old Latin versions, the LXX is also the basis for the Slavonic, Syro-Hexaplar (but not the Peshitta), Old Armenian, Old Georgian and Coptic versions of the Old Testament.[5] Of significance for all Christians and for bible scholars, the LXX is quoted by the Christian New Testament and by the Apostolic Fathers. While Jews have not used the LXX in worship or religious study since the second century AD, recent scholarship has brought renewed interest in it in Judaic Studies. Some of the Dead Sea scrolls attest to Hebrew texts other than those on which the Masoretic Text was based; in many cases, these newly found texts accord with the LXX version. The oldest surviving codices of LXX (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus) date to the fourth century AD.[4]

Creation of the Septuagint

Jewish scholars first translated the Torah into Greek in the third century BC. Further books were translated over the next two centuries. It is not altogether clear which was translated when, or where; some may even have been translated twice, into different versions, and then revised.[6] The quality and style of the different translators also varied considerably from book to book, from the literal to paraphrasing to interpretative. According to one assessment "the Pentateuch is reasonably well translated, but the rest of the books, especially the poetical books, are often very poorly done and even contain sheer absurdities".[7]
As the work of translation progressed gradually, and new books were added to the collection, the compass of the Greek Bible came to be somewhat indefinite. The Pentateuch always maintained its pre-eminence as the basis of the canon; but the prophetic collection changed its aspect by having various hagiographa incorporated into it. Some of the newer works, those called anagignoskomena in Greek, are not included in the Hebrew canon. Among these books are Maccabees and the Wisdom of Ben Sira. Also, the Septuagint version of some works, like Daniel and Esther, are longer than those in the Masoretic Text.[8] Some of the later books (Wisdom of Solomon, 2 Maccabees, and others) apparently were composed in Greek.[9]
The authority of the larger group of writings, out of which the ketuvim were selected, had not yet been determined, although some sort of selective process must have been employed because the Septuagint did not include other well-known Jewish documents such as Enoch or Jubilees or other writings that are now part of the Pseudepigrapha. It is not known what principles were used to determine the contents of the Septuagint beyond the Law and the Prophets.

Septuagint - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
So yes Chris, there is a huge conflation of Roman and Greek Paganistic thought in combination with Jewish tradition that gets blended together and (half?) baked into a shepherd's pie that is then served up somewhat forcefully over the centuries as Christianity. Kinda like Mom telling you "Eat it! You will like it because I said so!" If you hear that often enough you begin to believe you actually like it, whether or not you really do, and whether or not it is actually good for you. :D

At some point though it is probably fair to consider the outside impact of Divine forces in all of this. But at least up to this point it is pretty evident to me that things are not as simple as we are being told they are. Traditions and superstitions...serve the purpose of teaching the lesson and pointing the way, but "truth" they truly are not.
 
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The philosophy and theology do tend towards the Greek, but I see an awful lot of stock and standard Roman superstition and ritual and a lot of *rubber meets the road* Jewish pragmatism.
It occurred to me earlier that what is decidedly missing in Christianity is Jewish *ritual*.

Perhaps that's an easy way to look at this:

Jewish storyline + Pagan ritual and superstition = Christianity
 
The Roman habit of interpreting natural phenomena as signs from the beyond stemmed from the Etruscans.

The Etruscans, who developed reading omens and auspices into a form of science, knew different means of divination. In their beliefs the signs they read were sent to them by a mythical boy called Tages, who in their mythology was to have been ploughed up from the earth.

They would seek to read the future by examining the entrails of sacrificial animals, the liver being of special importance for that purpose. They would observe lighting and interpret its meanings. And they would try and put meaning to any unusual phenomena which occured.

The belief that objects, or living beings could possess special spiritual properties was widespread in primitive societies. The Romans were no strangers to this idea. Stones, trees, springs, caves, lakes, swamps, mountains - even animals and furniture - were all deemed to be hosts to spirits (numina). Stones in particular were often seen to contain spirits, especially if they were boundary stones, dividing one man's property from the other. It is very telling that the Latin word for such a boundary is terminus and that there actually was a Roman god called Terminus. This odd deity took the form of a huge piece of rock which rested in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. Apparently several attempts to move the bolder when constructing the temple had failed. And so it remained within the temple, because it had 'refused to move, even for Jupiter'.

But Roman superstitions didn't end there. Children were told stories of nasty creatures who'd come to eat them if they weren't good. From the Greeks they had Mormo, a terrifying woman with donkey legs. And the Roman Lamia who stalked around looking for children to eat.

Children were by far not the only ones to fear such bogeys. The ghosts of the dead (lemures) roamed in all kinds of dark places. The Romans believed that some houses were visited by ghosts. Perhaps because the house had been the scene of a crime, worse still a murder.

Nobody dared live within such haunted walls, few would even go near the place.

Werewolves (verspilles), men who would turn into wolves and roam with the real wolves, perhaps attack herds at night, before turning back to human form, were also a belief known to the Romans. Further there was the belief that some old women knew the art of changing their form into birds. The stormy north seas were also said to be teeming with ghastly monsters, some being shaped half man, half beast. Witches and vampires would sneak into house of a dead man to rob and mutilate his corpse, for example; eating its nose.

The bodies of the dead were hence well watched over during the time before they were buried.

Many Roman also wore amulets and lucky charms, to avert the 'evil eye'. Marriages were planned for certain days and certain months to prevent them from being overshadowed by bad omen. One was to take care to cross the threshold of a house with one's left foot.
Omens and Superstitions

To modern eyes, Roman "religion" is best described as Roman "superstition". Even the more educated Romans tend to look on their own religion as little more than "the traditional way of doing things", though that in itself is usually considered sufficient reason for enforcing it. The more cynical openly admit that it's simply a useful tool for keeping the masses under control.

Roman religion is polytheistic in the extreme. In addition to the well-known "Olympian" gods, the Romans recognize hundreds of gods associated with specific cities, peoples, activities, professions, and abstractions. Every home has its penates, statues of the household gods. The Roman Senate is continually extending official recognition to new gods, both former emperors and gods introduced by foreigners, though all residents of the empire are expected to sacrifice to the major Roman cults. (Jews are sometimes granted dispensation from this duty, depending on the politics of the current emperor.)

Religious worship has very little to do with salvation or the soul and everything to do with propitiating and petitioning the gods through proper ceremonies and sacrifices. Rituals are the heart and soul of Romanreligion, from the recitation of simple prayers over every meal to the vast spectacles held on high holidays. Almost every activity, public or private, has a religious aspect and there are over 100 official holidays.

There is no separation of church and state. The emperor, the senators, and other government officials all use their authority to define and enforce "proper" worship, and all have their own roles to fill in the rituals. The state supports and regulates the larger temples, whose high priests (pontifices) usually sit in the Senate. The person of the emperor is increasingly the focus of the major public rituals, a practice which the imperial government encourages; the imperial cult rivals those of the Capitoline triad (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva) and Mars (the favored god of the legionaries).

Mystery cults from the east, offering a spiritual solace notably lacking in Roman state religion, are just beginning to become popular in Roman society. The most common are the cults of Isis, Mithras, and Cybele. They consist of close devotional circles which teach secret "mysteries" to their initiates and promise spiritual insight, miraculous blessings, and salvation. The newest mystery cult, Christianity, stands out among their number for its denial of other gods. Membership is a capital offense, though prosecution is sporadic.

Omens and divination are widely accepted by all levels of society. Two colleges of priests provide official predictions for the state, the augurs by interpreting the movements of animals and the haruspices by reading the entrails of sacrifices.

Morally, Roman society is a study in contrasts. Traditional Roman values emphasize family obligations, duty to the state, and a puritanical attitude toward anything pleasurable. The empire was built on a foundation of Roman self-sacrifice and civic participation. Sumptuary laws were common, and Augustus himself made adultery a state crime, instituting special courts and harsh penalties to deter its spread. Yet at the same time licentiousness and excess are rampant. Roman aristocrats ruthlessly use their positions to amass great wealth and then spend it prolifigately on lavish homes and banquets. Augustus's own daughter was often embroiled in embarrassing sexual scandals. Stoicism and Epicureanism are the dominant philosophical schools of the empire and paradoxically co-exist in the words and deeds of Rome's elite.
IMPERIUM - Roman Society

Greek and Roman pagans, who modeled their relations with the gods on political and social terms scorned the man who constantly trembled with fear at the thought of the gods, as a slave feared a cruel and capricious master. "Such fear of the gods (deisidaimonia) was what the Romans meant by 'superstition' (Veyne 1987, p 211). For Christians just such fears might be worn proudly as a name: Desdemona.

The Roman Catholic Church considers superstition to be sinful in the sense that it denotes a lack of trust in the divine providence of God and, as such, is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states superstition "in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion" (para. #2110).

The Catechism clearly dispels commonly held preconceptions or misunderstandings about Catholic doctrine relating to superstitious practices:
Superstition is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition. Cf. Matthew 23:16-22 (para. #2111)

Superstition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I see some irony in this last quote, but I will let it pass for the moment without further comment…
 
It occurred to me earlier that what is decidedly missing in Christianity is Jewish *ritual*.

Perhaps that's an easy way to look at this:

Jewish storyline + Pagan ritual and superstition = Christianity

:D Even the stuff the jews did around the tabernacle & wandering around was just passing time away if God had no pleasure in it- or something like that.

Except for I did not see it as Paul/Paulines' who did it because if you look at Pauls writings through what would be more like the eyes of Jesus then I see a different picture. Paul rejected the statues, the planet worship & all that type of thinking but was not for or against esteeming days & seasons.

as I quick note, it was great to locate the tamperings & it was very easy to do because they had no second witness. Then when someone pointed to the second witness there was massive amounts of evidence that the second witness never existed which shows why the first witness never made any sense when compared in the test of frequency. Nice.


It was the romans who took on all the pagan stuff then called themselves rcc. I mean gods who turn into men? statues all over the place & kissing them? the holy days are not so holy after all and they loved crucifixions as that was the most brutal way to kill someone... It is recorded *history* LOL! that Zeus & Hercules were godmen long before jesus ever was...and now we shall take over the world and will kill & create fear on all who do not believe this new jewish godman.
Has there not been at least 16 'gods' that have been crucified & all of them B.C.?

baked into a shepherd's pie that is then served up somewhat forcefully over the centuries as Christianity. Kinda like Mom telling you "Eat it! You will like it because I said so!" If you hear that often enough you begin to believe you actually like it, whether or not you really do, and whether or not it is actually good for you. :D

and when you eat this bread it will turn into body flesh & blood of god and if you do not eat it then you burn in hell. That explains why the children spit it out & I would as well. When you repeat chants or something like creeds hundreds of times from age 5 to 12, you WILL believe it, just because they say so!
Just glad I did not come up with any moms trying to force the shep pie down my throat.

...and after all, the GOOD NEWS always comes with fear and threats or it aint good news:D

Now I shall go & vomit the shepards pie for six months as it has made me very ill & poisoned just to look at it.

You are on track with all of this, Juan:)...and the other thread on superstition is going to help people, especially for those who may feel fear if they should talk about it.
 
It occurred to me earlier that what is decidedly missing in Christianity is Jewish *ritual*.

Perhaps that's an easy way to look at this:

Jewish storyline + Pagan ritual and superstition = Christianity

I think that the story line is all wrong. There are lots of little hints in the Gospels of some sort of zealot movement providing the main cast of characters in the story. Layered on that is a kind of proto-Gnostic ideology that comes out clearly in the beatitudes.

Chris
 
Hey, Bandit! So cool of you to drop by!
Except for I did not see it as Paul/Paulines' who did it because if you look at Pauls writings through what would be more like the eyes of Jesus then I see a different picture. Paul rejected the statues, the planet worship & all that type of thinking but was not for or against esteeming days & seasons.

Yes, Paul said a number of things that get ignored or misquoted. Sometimes what he did write can become confusing to understand because of it.

Look at the whole "clean meats" argument that made Peter bristle. Paul was taking the whole show into a new direction. And comments about food that had been offered to idols as being acceptable because the idols were non-entities, but that if it caused a brother or sister to stumble to refrain from such foods.

It was the romans who took on all the pagan stuff then called themselves rcc. I mean gods who turn into men? statues all over the place & kissing them? the holy days are not so holy after all and they loved crucifixions as that was the most brutal way to kill someone... It is recorded *history* LOL! that Zeus & Hercules were godmen long before jesus ever was...and now we shall take over the world and will kill & create fear on all who do not believe this new jewish godman.

The religious landscape way back when Rome was founded was kinda complex, yet there was a lot of similarity in the surrounding area between competing cults. Roman gods followed essentially the same format that the Greek gods followed, as did the Egyptian gods and some number of others, each pantheon showing a remarkably similar structure with a sun god, god of the hunt, god of death, etc... Monotheism was pretty much the realm of the Jews, Zoroastrianism and arguably Hinduism (if one looks at the various Hindu gods as representations different aspects of the one god). Taoism I believe was more like a natural alchemical science than a religion in the sense we usually think. In that it probably shared some similarities with Celtic and Druidic "crafts" we usually think of as witchcraft and spell casting.

Has there not been at least 16 'gods' that have been crucified & all of them B.C.?

Something like that, at least according to the Theosophists. I haven't ever tried to tally them all up or put them into a context.

and when you eat this bread it will turn into body flesh & blood of god and if you do not eat it then you burn in hell. That explains why the children spit it out & I would as well. When you repeat chants or something like creeds hundreds of times from age 5 to 12, you WILL believe it, just because they say so!
Just glad I did not come up with any moms trying to force the shep pie down my throat.

...and after all, the GOOD NEWS always comes with fear and threats or it aint good news:D

Now I shall go & vomit the shepards pie for six months as it has made me very ill & poisoned just to look at it.

I am sorry if I am the cause, Bandit. It is not my intention to undermine any other person's faith. At the same time I have to be true to myself.

You are on track with all of this, Juan:)...and the other thread on superstition is going to help people, especially for those who may feel fear if they should talk about it.

I guess it depends what "truth" means to a person. If a person is content with allegory and myth, then that is sufficient to be their truth.

For me, "truth" is supposed to be true; with supporting evidence from internal *and* external sources, repeatedly verifiable, and in accord with all associated and related truths. Maybe a monkey faced Adam isn't glamorous, maybe Eden is only allegory; there are still enough unanswerable questions to keep the whole thing interesting. But I know, tried and true and tested repeatedly (even if only a subjective and personal truth) that certain Biblical elements are beyond reproach. In that much I know that G-d IS. When it comes to the rest I've got some serious questions.

It's great to see you around again, Bandit. Stick around a while this time... ;)
 
I think that the story line is all wrong. There are lots of little hints in the Gospels of some sort of zealot movement providing the main cast of characters in the story. Layered on that is a kind of proto-Gnostic ideology that comes out clearly in the beatitudes.

Hey Chris!

I'm still a bit fuzzy on the gnostics, were they the ones that had issues over the nature of matter?

I think the idea of the characters coming from a zealot movement sounds remarklably like what Baigent (sp?) and pals put forth in "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." I don't know that I'm ready to make that leap yet, even though I know it is not too far from where I find myself standing. Yes, something caught the attention and ire of the Roman government, and brought about the execution of a remarkable teacher. Yet I suppose this is where the Divine Providence factor seems to weigh in, because if it were all a bunch of hogwash, surely nothing worthy of note in history would have come of it. I can't see the whole "Jesus movement" as just a grass-roots fad without an expiration date.

Of course, it is a bit complicated. Certainly there are those who would like to trumpet the Divine Hand card as their own, longevity as evidence of endorsement so to speak, even when some rather un-Divine things have been carried out by the same group. Its just a tad difficult to justify Divine endorsement with matters such as schisms over idols, duelling headmeisters duking it out excommunicating each other, and a cadaver synod to top it all off. How justifiable is it to believe G-d has a hand in the worldly affairs of humans? Is the same G-d that gave us all of the glories of the Christian faith also responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust, the Inquisition and the Crusades?
 
I dunno Juan. The whole Templar bloodline thing strikes me as medieval gilt. It's another encrustation of derived mythology. Not that there aren't granules of interesting truth here and there. But if the purpose of inquiry is to remove the patina it doesn't help to add more, in my ever so humble opinion.

The Gospels exhibit a set of influences in the process of creating the liturgical Christ. First is the zealotry. But somehow the zealots are preaching pacifism. Now that's a weird mix. With that is a sort of Pythagorean mystery school kind of gematria that shows up in the parables. And layered upon that is a very Greek avatar concept. With Paul we get obvious tie-ins with Stoicism and Cynicism. And all of that is primitive. So it's obvious that it was never so simple as Paul and Peter: A gentile movement and a central Jerusalem church.

Chris
 
The whole Templar bloodline thing strikes me as medieval gilt. It's another encrustation of derived mythology. Not that there aren't granules of interesting truth here and there. But if the purpose of inquiry is to remove the patina it doesn't help to add more, in my ever so humble opinion.

Granted, and I agree. Isn't the whole Templar thing a bit of Masonic mythos? Any way one cares to look at it, the Templars are yet another bunch to provoke the ire of the Vatican in their own time. How's that for biting the hand that feeds? One day you are championing the cause of the Pope, and the next day you are on his $hit list...

The Gospels exhibit a set of influences in the process of creating the liturgical Christ. First is the zealotry. But somehow the zealots are preaching pacifism. Now that's a weird mix. With that is a sort of Pythagorean mystery school kind of gematria that shows up in the parables. And layered upon that is a very Greek avatar concept. With Paul we get obvious tie-ins with Stoicism and Cynicism. And all of that is primitive. So it's obvious that it was never so simple as Paul and Peter: A gentile movement and a central Jerusalem church.

I see some of what you are getting at, enough to be intrigued. Would you be so kind as to elaborate a bit?
 
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