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5.5.12.
The hero’s self-sacrifice and the Age of the Pisces: the Gnostics around Simon Magus interpreted

Masada, Roman ramp
Masada, Roman ramp

Jesus’ death on the cross as a parallel to the god Mithras’ self-sacrifice in the Mithras cult.

This was the origin of the cultic celebration of the Eucharist. Later, this took a form based on the Jewish Passover meal, but the basic idea, the self-sacrifice of the cult hero, originated in the Mithras cult.

The Gnostics also believed that they could perceive the divine answer to Jesus’ proclamation of God’s kingdom in the astrological Age of Pisces that was just beginning. They gave the name fishermen to those who proclaimed Jesus’ message. Jesus sacrificed himself as the ram (lamb) at the end of the former age, the Age of Aries.

According to astrological teaching about the ages of the world, Jesus’ death as the sacrificial lamb (ram) symbolises the end of the Age of Aries, The disciples taking the role of fisherman symbolises the beginning of the new astrological Age of Pisces.

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5.5.11.
The Resurrection: like the ancient mystery cults, the baptismal sect believed in the death and resurrection of people

Masada, Roman military camp
Masada, Roman military camp

and celebrated this in baptism. Death in baptism signifies laying down the old person and the resurrection in baptism signifies the transformation into a new person.

Jesus had not only undergone death in baptism symbolically, like the others who had been baptised; he had really died and was raised to life again by God, due to his merits. In other words he was transposed into the new creation that everyone anticipated.

The Easter resurrection narratives are later literary illustrations of the belief in the resurrection; the resurrection formulae quoted by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:3-5 are statements of faith, not accounts of actual experiences.

The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection describe an interpretation of his death; they do not describe a historical fact, nor can it be claimed that they give historical proof of God’s existence.

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5.5.10.
The suffering of the righteous man: the oldest interpretation of Jesus’ death. The Samaritans, who were well-disposed towards Jesus,

Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, ancient olive tree
Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, ancient olive tree

found the following explanation for his death: Jesus’ suffering is the suffering of a righteous man. Jesus died for us, for our sins.

This explanation was set down in the Servant songs in Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40ff) in the Old Testament and in Stephen’s speech in Acts 7; cf. also Acts 8:32f.

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5.5.9.
The first Passion performance: the fact that Jesus’ crucifixion

Jerusalem, Temple Mount
Jerusalem, Temple Mount

was so widely discussed was the result of a particular event described in the following:

The Jewish King Agrippa I went to Rome in 41 AD to pay his respects to Emperor Caligula (Ant. 19.4.1).

While there, he happened to witness the emperor’s murder. In this context Josephus refers (Ant. 19.1.13) to a theatrical performance on 24. 1. 41 AD, the day of the emperor’s death:

Here there were two new portents. In the first place a mime was presented in the course of which a chieftain (hegemon) is caught and crucified. Moreover, the play presented by the dancer was Cinyras, in which the hero and his daughter Myrrha are killed. Thus a great quantity of artificial blood was shed, what with the crucified man and Cinyras.

The crucified prince was the crucified Jesus, as the accompanying pantomime shows. To Roman ears the name Myrrha sounded like Maria, the mother of Jesus according to the legend. The myth of Myrrha (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10, 298-502) is about Myrrha’s incest with her father Cinyras. The allusion to the Christian faith in the Messiah’s virgin birth is clear. The origin of this belief is hinted at in an obscene way.

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5.5.8.
Early Christianity originated in Samaria-Sebaste. That is where Jesus was crucified in 36 AD;

Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque
Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque

the protests that led to Pilate being recalled started there. Simon Magus was active there; he was the leader of the Gnostic Jesus movement, and in Christian tradition he became Simon Peter, the disciples’ and Apostles’ spokesman. The first baptismal community also emerged there, though it did not feature the Gnostic idea of receiving of the spirit at baptism; Acts 8:12; 16.

And the great speech of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in Acts 7 expresses the spirit of James’ Samaritan Jesus movement: Stephen refers to the Samaritan Messiah, the Taeb: Acts 7:37 = Deut. 18:15.

Philip’s mission in Acts 8 starts there and Luke continues the Acts of the Apostles there too, only interrupted by Paul’s conversion, and Peter’s missionary activities in Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea Maritima.

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5.5.6.
Christianity did not start as an inner-Jewish renewal movement; it began when initially autonomous

Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque
Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israelite, baptismal and gnostic movements, represented in the Gospels by the great disciples James, John and Simon Peter, joined forces.

5.5.7.
The interpretation of Jesus’ death

Because Jesus was famous long before his time as Messiah, his death was discussed everywhere, but particularly in Sebaste, as Samaria was called in Roman times, and interpreted in the light of his life and work. This interpretation did not take place among his followers, because there weren’t any.

Rather, this interpretation took place in the various social and religious movements and networks that defined spiritual life. Samaritan Judaism, the baptismal sect around John the Baptist and the Gnostics around Simon Magus deserve particular mention.

There was certainly a wide range of opinions about Jesus within these movements. We are particularly interested in the opinions that interpret Jesus’ fate in a positive light.

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5.5.4.
Jesus’ death

The situation changed radically at Mt. Gerizim. Jesus was taken prisoner as a rebel by Pilate and was crucified. A dead Messiah

Jerusalem, Temple Mount from the south-west
Jerusalem, Temple Mount from the south-west

is not a Messiah. Jesus had disappointed the followers who had expected an earthly Messiah and an earthly Messianic kingdom. The followers of the Messiah’s journey scattered and returned to their home villages and towns. Because Jesus had no disciples, there was no successor and no one to continue his work.

5.5.5. (=5.2.24)
The end of Jesus’ enemies

Jesus’ opponents were not able to enjoy their victory over the Messiah for long. Pilate and the high priest Caiaphas were removed from their positions in the same year, 36 AD: Ant. 18.4.2f; Emperor Tiberius died on 16 March 37 AD; Antipas was deposed in 39 AD and banished to Gaul, his wife Herodias going with him.

The misfortune of Jesus’ enemies rehabilitated Jesus in his followers’ eyes. They believed that God himself took revenge on Jesus’ enemies for his death.

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5.5.3.
Jesus the Messiah
During the Armenian crisis, Jesus was selected in 35 AD by the citizens of Caesarea Philippi to succeed Philip. He was proclaimed

Jerusalem, Temple Mount (north)
Jerusalem, Temple Mount (north)

as the Jewish Messiah by John the Baptist and went with many followers to Mt. Gerizim in Samaria in 36 AD.

Being proclaimed Messiah increased Jesus’ popularity; he was now definitely a star and a beacon of hope for all Jews and for many others in the Roman East.

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V  5   The phases of early Christianity

5.5.1.
The dominant master narrative about the phases of early Christianity is closely based on the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles; it states that Christianity

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar)
Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar)

emerged as a renewal movement within Judaism. Jesus proclaimed a new religious message and gathered a circle of followers. He appointed twelve disciples and went to Jerusalem with them, where they expected his mission to be successful.

When Jesus was unexpectedly executed, his disciples scattered. Within days, Jesus appeared to them in visions that restored their self-confidence and their trust in Jesus and his divine mission. They gathered in Jerusalem and began to spread Jesus’ message.

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V  4  The chronicles of the Apostolic Age

5.4.1.
The dominant master narrative of the Apostolic Age states the following: the Gallio episode in Acts 18:12ff fixes

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar)
Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar)

the date for Paul’s visit to Corinth at 51/52 AD. Paul’s missionary journeys can be reconstructed on the basis of the information in the Acts of the Apostles and in Paul’s letters, and the date of the Apostolic Council set at 48/49 AD. The other events can also be dated from this basis.

5.4.2.
These are my theses on this subject:

The Gallio episode in Acts 18:12ff is a literary construction by Luke; it is not based on any historical event and does not offer a reference point for the chronology of early Christianity.

5.4.3.
The Apostolic Age begins with Jesus’ death in 36 AD: Ant. 18.4.1.

5.4.4.
John the Baptist, the founder of the church of John (see below), died in 37 AD: Ant 18.5.2.

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5.3.7.
It is important to me to show that Jesus did not tell fairy tales about a better future that would never come, just to cheer up his audience.

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar)
Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar)

It was Jesus himself who – commissioned by Antipas – invited the poor, the sick and those who may have been slaves and provided them with homes and work (land or building work in the city that was still under construction).

Jesus was not a dreamer. He combined practical politics that developed the economy with clever social policies that gave the poor and destitute tangible advantages and a prospect for the future. We can also assume that Jesus invested part of his own fortune in Tiberias, wealth that he had amassed as governor.

5.3.8.
Jesus taught his followers a simple, private piety; the Lord’s prayer in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels still give us an example of this.

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5.3.5.
Since Antipas was often out of the country and in Rome, Jesus himself had the role and duties of a local ruler

Jerusalem, orthodox Jews
Jerusalem, orthodox Jews

such as dispensing justice and attending to the economic and social problems of the land and its people, so that during his time as governor he was already seen by the people as the father of the country.

5.3.6.
Jesus was responsible for founding and building the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Tiberias was a model city where Jesus could realise his concept of an ideal society in practical politics.

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V  3  Jesus – the message

5.3.1.
The dominant master narrative concerning Jesus’ message states that Jesus was impressed by John the Baptist’s preaching

Jerusalem, Jewish family
Jerusalem, Jewish family

about repentance. In his own pronouncements, however, he proclaimed a loving God full of grace whose kingdom would soon be realised, bringing equal rights for all people; it could already be experienced in the community of the disciples.

5.3.2.
These are my theses about Jesus’ message:

Jesus was a Jewish statesman; he was Prince Antipas’ governor and shaped Galilean politics. He viewed religion simply as a supplementary measure to safeguard economic and political developments.

5.3.3.
Jesus imitated Emperor Augustus’ form of rule in his political work (imitation Augusti) and aimed to organise society around a monarchy.

5.3.4.
Jesus aimed for a monarchy in Galilee headed by a Jewish monarch, a Messiah. This monarch, this Messiah, could only be the ruling Jewish prince; for Jesus, therefore, this was Antipas.

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5.2.24.
Jesus’ opponents were not able to enjoy their victory over the Messiah for long. Pilate and the high priest Caiaphas

Jerusalem, Wailing Wall, Jewish ritual
Jerusalem, Wailing Wall, Jewish ritual

were removed from their positions in the same year, 36 AD: Ant. 18.4.2f; Emperor Tiberius died on 16 March 37 AD; Antipas was deposed in 39 AD and banished to Gaul, his wife Herodias going with him.

The misfortune of Jesus’ enemies rehabilitated Jesus in his followers’ eyes. They believed that God himself took revenge on Jesus’ enemies for his death.

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5.2.22.
There are two accounts of Jesus’ death in the Old Testament. The first account is in 1 Kings 13:24: the Man of God is Jesus

Jerusalem, Wailing Wall
Jerusalem, Wailing Wall

while the lion stands for the Roman, Pilate. Verse 28 states that the Man of God’s body is unharmed, contrary to assumptions. This is a literary reference to Homer, the Iliad 24.18ff, where the same is said of the body of the Trojan hero Hector. In John 19:33, Jesus’ body is also described as unharmed, unlike those of the men crucified with him (his legs are not broken).

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