(Continued) 3. We owe to Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann the insight that reality is always

Glacier Morteratsch, Pontresina, Upper Engadine 2011
Glacier Morteratsch, Pontresina, Upper Engadine 2011

“socially constructed”, in other words, embedded in society. This also applies to the Bible’s authors, of course. The religious reality they describe follows contemporary social conventions that we are no longer familiar with, so we need to research them.


The difference between oral and written tradition must also be taken into account. As long as traditions are passed on orally, the wording can change. As soon as they are written down, a change of meaning can only take place through an interpretation of the tradition.


Because the written versions of the Gospels and Acts were preceded by a long period of oral tradition, we must assume that they were adapted to the changing early Christian consciousness before being written down.


V  15   The canon of the New Testament

The dominant master narrative about the origins of the New Testament canon states that in the first half of the 2nd century AD,

Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Christ
Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Christ

there were so many Gospels and Apostolic letters circulating among the communities that the churches had to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The only texts they adopted into the canon of significant texts for the Christian religion were those that they considered were written by one of the twelve Apostles or the Apostle Paul, or that were authorised by one of the Apostles; e.g. Luke’s Gospel, written by Paul’s companion Luke (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24), was authorised by Paul.

The new theses about the origin of the New Testament canon:

The New Testament canon was formed from writings from the three Palestinian Apostolic churches of James, John and Peter and the Gentile Christian church of Paul.

The criterion for the acceptance into the canon was the balance between the origins in the individual churches and the extent to which the writings supported the church’s unity.


V  14   Mark’s Gospel

The dominant master narrative about Mark’s Gospel states that the Christians passed down their memories of Jesus

Istanbul, Theodosian Walls
Istanbul, Theodosian Walls

orally in the church community. When those who had known Jesus personally grew older, Mark collected their memories, wrote them down and published them as the Gospel.

The new theses about Mark’s Gospel:
Mark’s Gospel is an epic narrative. The author modelled it on Homer’s Iliad.

Mark formed the Passion narrative within his Gospel according to the  Praetexta Octavia des Pseudo-Seneca.


In the Greek version of the Persian myth, the following thought model emerged:

Greek Middle Ages: Mystras
Greek Middle Ages: Mystras

God sacrifices his son: Mark 12:6-8 par. In (neo)Platonic philosophy one would say emanation rather than son; a piece of God himself.


The Marys in the New Testament are prosperous women, in particular merchants, who had the reputation

Ephesus, ancient toilet
Ephesus, ancient toilet

of possessing skills in alchemy and who supported the Christians materially and financially.

The Messiah’s conception was understood as an (alchemical) act of creation, and only an entirely upright, i.e. pure alchemist could achieve the conception of the Messiah with God’s help (God’s Spirit).

This is why the Messiah’s mother was named after the famous alchemist Mary. She is called a virgin to indicate her purity; therefore in the legend, Jesus must be her first-born son.

The resurrection was also viewed as an alchemical act of creation. It was prepared by the women called Mary.

When the women arrived at the grave to prepare Jesus’ body for the resurrection, the Creator God, Lord of alchemical powers and mysteries, had already carried out the act of new creation and had raised Jesus from the dead.


V  11   Mary and Joseph

The dominant master narrative about Jesus’ parents states

Ephesus, Roman foot soldier
Ephesus, Roman foot soldier

that Mary, a housewife, and Joseph, a building worker, were Jesus’ biological parents.

The new basic narrative about Jesus’ parents states:
Mary was not the name of Jesus’ mother. His mother’s name, like her virginity, are part of the Christian legend about the Messiah’s origin.

Mary was not the name of the women called Mary in the New Testament; at most it was their nickname.

Mary was a well-known Jewish alchemist in classical times.

Literature: Patai, Raphael: The Jewish Alchemists. A History and Source Book, Princeton, New Jersey 1994, p. 60-91; Schütt, Hans-Werner: Auf der Suche nach dem Stein der Weisen. Die Geschichte der Alchemie, Munich 2000, p. 117-126,


Cephas, the later leader of Peter’s church, is not identical with Simon Peter. It was Cephas, not Peter,

Ephesus, goddess
Ephesus, goddess

who attended the Apostolic Council. Paul never met Peter personally; he only met Cephas. Paul differentiates in Gal. 1f precisely between the Jewish Apostle Peter and Cephas, one of the three pillars (Gal. 2:9) whom he personally met.


The international language of astrology: a legend quoted by Luke in Acts states that when the Holy Spirit was

Masada, tourists
Masada, tourists

poured out at Pentecost, all Jews from the diaspora could understand the Apostles speaking in their various languages.

Nowadays the phrase “international language” makes us think of art or music. In classical times, we should first think of astrology, a “language” that was understood by all nations.

The Gnostic’s statements about the astrological Age of Aries that was ending and the new Age of Pisces that had just begun were statements that everyone understood in their mother tongue.

The linguistic miracle at Pentecost, a sign of the last days, was interpreted according to contemporary understanding as annulling the Babylonian confusion of languages from the ancient Biblical story in Gen. 11:7f.


The Armenian crisis in 35 – 36 AD, a conflict between Rome

Jerusalem, Shrine of the Book
Jerusalem, Shrine of the Book

and the Parthians about the kingdom of Armenia, meant that Jesus was back in the race for political power in the Jewish territories.

The Armenian king Artaxias, linked to Rome by a friendship agreement, died in 35 AD. The Parthian king Artabanus III, anticipating the decline of Rome under the ageing emperor Tiberius, conquered the Armenian capital city Artaxata and established his eldest son Arsaces as king there.

The Armenian crisis in 35 – 36 AD led to a brief phase of weakness in Roman power in the east and fuelled hopes of independence from Rome in the Jewish provinces: Tacitus, Annals, 6.31ff; Ant. 18.4.4; Karl Christ, Das römische Kaiser­reich, Munich, 3rd ed. 1995, p. 205f.


IV  8   The completion of the Old Testament after 70 AD

The destruction of Jerusalem and of the Yahweh temple in Jerusalem

Capernaum, Church of the Multiplication, mosaic
Capernaum, Church of the Multiplication, mosaic

seemed to many Jews to be the end of an era.

The individual Old Testament writings were revised, expanded and completed after 70 AD.

The cut-off point of the Old Testament canon came after the end of the Bar Kochba rebellion (after 135 AD) and under the influence of the formation of the Christian canon.


The Jewish Revolt was unsuccessful in the end, in that it did not achieve the longed-for independence. In the Old Testament accounts

Capernaum, Church of the Multiplication, mosaic
Capernaum, Church of the Multiplication, mosaic

of the rebellion. However, we can perceive its significance for Judaism’s search for its identity.

In the brief period of the rebellion, Judaism was able to develop autonomously while not under foreign rule, and to evolve criteria for its own religious culture that still define Jewish life even today.


IV  7   The great revolt

The great Jewish Revolt of 66 – 70 AD is depicted in the last part of the books of Moses: in the book of Joshua it is shown as the time of Moses’ successor Joshua

Capernaum, Church of the Multiplication
Capernaum, Church of the Multiplication

(= Hebrew form of the name Jesus) and in the books of the Kings as the reign of King Josiah (name not confirmed by archaeological documents).

The rebels’ aims are discernible in the Biblical accounts of Joshua and King Josiah. Joshua conquers the land of Israel, circumcises the Israelites, celebrates the Passover, makes sacrifices and proclaims the law.

King Josiah does not have to endure foreign rule, finds the law and follows it, purifies the temple from non-Jewish gods and non-Jewish religious symbols and celebrates the Passover in its pure form (2 Kings 22f).


The Jewish poet-prophets did not get involved in the military, or in love, but transposed the metaphors of love

Capernaum, ancient synagogue
Capernaum, ancient synagogue

from Ovid and other poets to the religious level. In Ovid’s poems the lover, the literary first-person narrator, laments the beloved woman’s unfaithfulness.

In the works of the Hebrew poet-prophets the Jewish God laments the unfaithfulness of his beloved people in the same images and verses; see Hez. 16 and 23.


Ovid and other poets of the Augustan period recommended the service of courtly love to replace military service or service to the state.


In several literary works, Ovid described how the young man who had no opportunity to serve his country, or who found this service distasteful, should devote himself to the service of courtly love, dedication to his lover. The poet also gave tips on how to go about this.

The young men of Judea and Galilee were in the same position as those in Rome: the period of peace under Augustus and his successors denied them a military career; the monarchy of Herod’s successors or Roman governorships prevented them from gaining the influential political posts that had previously been available in the small independent states.

Ovid’s alternative, the service of love, was also denied to the religious young men in Judea and Galilee.

However the Augustan poets not only suggested courtly love as an alternative occupation; they also spoke out against the social and religious conditions in Rome. And the Jewish poets discovered this option as a new field of activity.



IV  5   The prophets

The traditional master narrative about the origins of Old Testament prophecy are closely based upon the Biblical accounts.

Jordan, boat trip
Jordan, boat trip

It states that the prophets were spiritually gifted men in ancient Israel who proclaimed a new concept of God and spoke out against social injustice.

The same objections that were raised above in theses 4.0.2 – 4.0.5. against the pre-Roman origin of Old Testament writings in general also apply to the traditional master narrative in this case.

These are my theses on the origin of Old Testament prophecy:

The Jewish and Israelite written prophets are the equivalent of Roman poet-prophets, the vates. In republican times young aristocrats had served in the army and applied for political positions; under Emperor Augustus’ rule they lost their central function.

Military service was no longer attractive in peacetime and under Emperor Augustus, politics no longer provided real participation in power; it offered purely representative duties.