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The “Jesus of History” vs the “Jesus of Faith” part 3:3 – The Book of Enoch

Enoch was a name given to an ancient Jewish text that was written, according to religious historian Michael Baigent, by several authors. It stands as a testament to prior mystical traditions influencing Judaism, although many Jewish rabbis would not accept it. Early Christians in Ethiopia, on the other hand, accepted it as part of the Old Testament, especially the parts that tell of the coming of Jesus and a reference to it in the New Testament in a Letter of Jude (14). Ultimately, the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 sidelined the Book of Enoch and it was eventually banned by late-fourth and early-fifth-century theologians such as Jerome and Augustine.

According to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, Enoch was the seventh generation of Adam and Eve and the father of Methuselah, who lived 969 years and was the grandfather of Noah. In those days it was common to live several hundred years. Enoch didn’t hang around quit as long. As the story goes, “And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:23-24). The story of Enoch, of course, is a travelogue of his visit to heaven–which greatly influenced the writers of the New Testament and contributed to much of the dogma of Christianity and especially Catholicism.

Michael Baigent gives a brief summary of Enoch’s visit to heaven in his book The Jesus Papers–Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History:

[The Book of Enoch] uses many of the motifs that are now familiar to us: Enoch has a visionary dream (13:8); he asks for an explanation of the Tree of Life (25:1-3); he mentions three eastern portals through which stars pass on the eastern horizon (36:3), in accordance with the Babylonian and Assyrian astrolabes, which date from around 1100 B.C.; and he also speaks of the actions of men as being weighed in the balance, like the Egyptian concept of afterlife judgment (41:1).

We are once again on familiar ground: we have esoteric matters taught to a seeker by means of dream visions of the Far-World—and in a Jewish context. As we have seen, these dream visions occur as part of an initiation, and the dreamer goes to a quiet, dark place, such as a cave or a temple crypt, and uses the techniques he or she has been taught to enter the stillness from which the Far-World is accessible. So we would expect, somewhere in the Book of Enoch, to find a reference to the experiential, the initiatory. We are not disappointed. (underscores mine)

“And it came to pass,” the text explains,”‘that my spirit was translated and it ascended into the heavens: and I saw the holy sons of God” (Enoch 71: 1). This report has all the appearance of being an account of something that truly occurred to the writer—a mystical experience that could be induced by someone seeking initiation into the esoteric tradition of Judaism.

Enoch was taken up “from amongst those who dwell on the earth … he was raised aloft on the chariots of the spirit” (Enoch 70:2).  This image seems to be a Judaic equivalent of the Egyptian winged Ba. But there is no doubt that this event concerned an initiation, since the text explains what happened to Enoch after he had been raised to heaven but before his spirit became transfigured:

“And the angel Michael seized me by my right hand, and lifted me up and led me forth into all the secrets, and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness. And he showed me all the secrets of the ends of the heaven.” (Enoch 71:3 – 4)

The anonymous ancient writer continues, describing what then occurred: “And I fell on my face,” he recounts, “and my whole body became relaxed, and my spirit was transfigured” (71:11).

This is precisely the type of experience that we would expect to find among the Therapeutae, for example. And crucially, just in case we have failed to spot it, the text makes a point of explaining that this ascent into the heavens occurred while Enoch was still living – as the text puts it, “during his lifetime.” This is virtually identical to the explanation in the Egyptian Pyramid Texts that the king has “not departed dead” but has “departed alive.” It is hard not to see the two statements as describing an essentially similar experience, an experience deriving from an initiation into the mysteries of the Far-World.

These visionary texts cannot be any other than records of initiations—records gathered together under the name of Enoch in much the same way as in Egypt those attributed to Hermes Trismegistus were collected together in the Books of Hermes.

I don’t agree with the author’s conclusion that Enoch’s visit to heaven was an “initiation into the mysteries of the Far-World.” We’re talking about several thousands of years before the Egyptian Mystery Schools even existed. I rather attribute Enoch’s visit to the realms of light to the fact that heaven was still accessible by virtue of the yet uncluttered veil between heaven and earth in human consciousness and to certain vibrational factors that were still in place at the time that made visits Home possible. It rather seems more likely that this ancient story played an inspirational and intriguing role in the Egyptian’s efforts to visit the Far-World themselves, just as Enoch reportedly had done. Again, looking back to ancient times and events and attempting to understand and interpret them using a much evolved (or devolved) state of consciousness and set of values, is presumptuous at best and misdirecting at worst.

Given the visionary nature of this text, it is, at first sight, curious to discover that seven pieces of the Book of Enoch form part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. All were found in 1952 in the Qumran cave in the marl cliff face near the ruins of the community, now called Cave 4. So, on the face of it, it seems as though the Zealot group that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls and was so important a part of Jesus’s political milieu and the messianic Jewish group that gave rise to Christianity were both well aware of the Book of Enoch. But an analysis of it reveals an interesting fact.

The Book of Enoch, as we have said, is a compilation of texts from different authors. In fact, scholars have separated the text into five sections, each distinctive and different from the others. The section that contains the report of the mystical ascent and transfiguration is the second section, which is also known as “the Parables.” This mystical, initiatory section is completely absent from the texts found at Qumran.

The Dead Sea Scroll texts contain fragments, written in Aramaic, from sections one, four, and five only of the Book of Enoch. Not only is the mystical section missing, but so too is the following section on astronomical and calendar matters — in particular, the section providing the basis of the solar calendar, which, we will remember, was evidently used in the Jewish Temple of Onias in the Egyptian delta.

We can see here the same clash of traditions that we find expressed in the story of Jesus when he rejects the Zealot position on the payment of taxes to the emperor. Jesus took a mystical approach; the Zealots took a worldly approach. The Zealot Book of Enoch clearly rejects this mystical approach. This stands in further evidence that — as we have said before — Jesus could not have learned his skills among the Zealots of Galilee.

Mystical texts like the Book of Enoch, texts that would have been very dear to the Therapeutae, would also have been very dear to those who taught Jesus. With the Book of Enoch, we finally have a text that appears to issue directly from the Jewish milieu within which Jesus was nurtured and from a group concerned with initiation into secret teachings, with an ascent to heaven, and with an experience of the Divine Light. Of this there can be no doubt, for according to the Book of Enoch (96:3), “A bright light shall enlighten you.”

All of this, of course, is supposition and speculation on the part of Michael Baigent, admittedly so.  Joseph B. Lumpkin, author of The Books of Enoch published in 2009, shares some interesting insight into this ancient story and the book itself:

Of all the books quoted, paraphrased, or referred to in the Bible, the Book of Enoch has influenced the writers of the Bible as few others have. Even more extensively than in the Old Testament, the writers of the New Testament were frequently influenced by other writings, including the Book of Enoch. However, things are never easy when such a span of time is involved. Over the elapsed two-thousand years, three major works attributed to Enoch have been discovered. . . .

. . . However, recent discoveries of copies of the book among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran prove the book was in existence long before the time of Jesus Christ. These scrolls force a closer look and reconsideration. It becomes obvious that the New Testament did not influence the Book of Enoch; on the contrary, the Book of Enoch influenced the New Testament. The date of the original writing upon which the second century B.C. Qumran copies were based is shrouded in obscurity. Likewise lost are the sources of the oral traditions that came to be the Book of Enoch.

It has been largely the opinion of historians that the book does not really contain the authentic words of the ancient Enoch, since he would have lived several thousand years earlier than the first known appearance of the book attributed to him. However, the first century Christians accepted the Book of Enoch as inspired, if not authentic. They relied on it to understand the origin and purpose of many things, from angels to wind, sun, and stars. In fact, many of the key concepts used by Jesus Christ himself seem directly connected to terms and ideas in the Book of Enoch.

It is hard to avoid the evidence that Jesus not only studied the book, but also respected it highly enough to allude to its doctrine and content. Enoch is replete with mentions of the coming kingdom and other holy themes. It was not only Jesus who quoted phrases or ideas from Enoch, there are over one hundred comments in the New Testament which find precedence in the Book of Enoch.

Other evidence of the early Christians’ acceptance of the Book of Enoch was for many years buried under the King James Bible’s mistranslation of Luke 9:35, describing the transfiguration of Christ: “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear him.'” Apparently the translator here wished to make this verse agree with a similar verse in Matthew and Mark. But Luke’s verse in the original Greek reads: “This is my Son, the Elect One (from the Greek ho eklelegmenos, lit., “the elect one”). Hear him.” The “Elect One” is a most significant term (found fourteen times) in the Book of Enoch. If the book was indeed known to the apostles of Christ, with its abundant descriptions of the Elect One who should “sit upon the throne of glory” and the Elect One who should “dwell in the midst of them;” then the great scriptural authenticity is justly accorded to the Book of Enoch when the “voice out of the cloud” tells the apostles, “This is my Son, the Elect One,”… the one promised in the Book of Enoch. . . .

. . . . The Books of Enoch, and especially 1 Enoch, seems to be a missing link between Jewish and Christian theology and is considered by many to be more Christian in its theology than Jewish. It was considered scripture by many early Christians. The literature of the church fathers is filled with references to this book. The early second century apocryphal book of the Epistle of Barnabus makes many references and quotes from the Book of Enoch. Second and third century church fathers like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin and Clement of Alexandria all seemed to have accepted Enoch as authentic. Tertullian (160-230 A.D.) even called the Book of Enoch, “Holy Scripture”. The Ethiopian Coptic Church holds the Book of Enoch as part of its official spiritual canon. It was widely known and read the first three centuries after Christ. This and many other books became discredited after the Council of Laodicea. And being under ban of the authorities, it gradually disappeared from circulation.

In 1773, rumors of a surviving copy of the book drew Scottish explorer James Bruce to distant Ethiopia. He found the Book of Enoch had been preserved by the Ethiopian church, which put it right alongside the other books of the Bible.

What emphasizes itself to me in all of this is the longing in the human heart to return Home to an Edenic heaven we somehow lost sight and experience of, and the human mind’s futile endeavors to devise ways of exploring higher levels of consciousness, as exemplified, for example, in the mind-altering drug culture. We rather believe that heaven is “up there” somewhere in the heavens, whereas Jesus clearly stated that the kingdom of heaven is within us and all around us–and that will be the topic of my next post in this series. Until then,

Be love. Be loved.

Antony

I invite you to read my HealthLight Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com.

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The “Jesus of History” . . . . Vs The “Jesus of Faith” . . . . Part 2: The “Missing years”

My Chorale Pic

Eighteen years of Jesus’ life are not accounted for in the four Canonical Gospels. The last we hear of his early childhood is the alleged story about him debating with the chief priests and elders in the Temple of Jerusalem at the age of twelve. Where he went after that is a question that has given rise to much scholarly speculation.

Religious historian Michael Baigent has a very intriguing chapter on the missing years of Jesus’ life in his book The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. Digging deeply and tenaciously into whatever ancient texts and oral traditions he could find—the most resourceful being those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, written by the Jewish Zadokites and Zealots in Egypt, where they were found around 1947-56, and the Nag Hammadi texts discovered south of Cairo in Egypt in 1945—Baigent places Jesus in Egypt where he receives his messianic training in the Egyptian Mystery Schools.

It is in Egypt, Baigent suggests, where Jesus received training in the ancient rituals of Egyptian mysticism that opened heaven’s gate for passage into the Underworld—the “land of the dead,” which was thought more to be the “land of the living”—and re-entry into the physical plane.  Bagent suggests that Jesus was initiated into these mysteries whereby, with the assistance of fellow initiates who attended to the physical body during the soul’s out-of-body journey, one could die to this world, visit the realm of the gods and obtain wisdom, then be resurrected from the “dead.” Not entirely without historical support for his scenario, Baigent’s speculation is quite conceivable and compelling, especially knowing what we know today about “near death experiences” (NDE’s). Was Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection akin somehow to an NDE? Let’s have a look and decide for ourselves whether or not Baigent’s scenario is in the least bit credible, perhaps even likely.

(This is a dense and complex consideration with many political and religious threads weaving through the fabric of the story. I will attempt to condense it into two or three installments. Encompassing the larger part of Jesus’ thirty-three years of life as recorded by the four Gospel writers, it is perhaps the most crucial and important period, as it was his formative years of preparation for the three-and-a-half years of his public ministry, which ended in his personal victory over death—which was the sole interest of the Gospel writers, though not the sole reason and purpose for Jesus’ life and mission, as we will see.)

Where did Jesus live as a young man?

According to three of the four Canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus was living in the town of Nazareth in Galilee in his youth. Luke says that Jesus grew up there and that he went with his family every year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was on one of those occasions that he was found debating with the learned scholars in the Temple. “Unfortunately,” Baigent writes, “there is no evidence whatsoever that Nazareth even existed in Jesus’ day.” Then, as is his style when he comes upon an inconsistency such as this, Baigent’s critical thinking and suspicions kick in. I love the manner in which he goes about questioning everything handed down as history. Here’s a taste of his reasoning and compelling writing:

The first mention of it appears no earlier than the third century A.D. Could this mention of an exchange at the Temple have been placed here as some kind of cover story for a period in Jesus’ life that was otherwise unaccounted for?

As far as the Gospels were concerned, Jesus appears to have vanished during his youth and early adulthood. But it was during those years that he learned the ideas, the beliefs, and the knowledge that he later taught. So where exactly was he? And why have his whereabouts been kept hidden? Had he been “talent-scouted” by priests or rabbis and whisked away for almost two decades of secret training? Surely the disciples must have known where Jesus had been. But what could have possibly been at stake, what problem could have arisen, through sharing this information? In fact, we cannot avoid asking, what were the writers of the Gospels intent on concealing?

Scholars over the years have speculated about this gap in the account of Jesus’ life. Some believe that Jesus traveled with his family to the East,

“far beyond the jurisdiction of the Romans, to Parthia, Persia, or beyond, to Afghanistan, or India. Even today there are many who believe that the shrine of Yus Asaph in Kashmir is that of Jesus himself who, after surviving the crucifixion, returned home to the East to live and ultimately die. There are also suggestions that he studied as a child under Buddhists—this would explain, it is said, the parallels that can be found between the teachings of Jesus and those of the Buddha. And we have the very early Christian community, centered in Malabar on the west coast of India, which claims to have been founded by the apostle Thomas. Surely where Thomas went then so too could Jesus have gone?

Is it possible that the Great Spirit who incarnated in Jesus is the same Divine Being who was also incarnate in the Buddha some six-hundred years earlier in Nepal, India?  Well, that’s getting a little ahead of the current story. There was no reason for Jesus to have fled Roman jurisdiction as he was not involved in the Zealot’s revolutionary activities against the Romans. Baigent reasons:

Any move he made out of Judea or Galilee must have been by choice rather than by coercion. But where could he have ventured, and why?

There is a single clue in the Bible, one in the Old Testament that is echoed in the New. As we have seen, it was important for Jesus to follow, to act out quite specifically, the predictions made by the Old Testament prophets in describing the coming of the messiah. We have already seen the very literal expression of these predictions during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when he finally went public with his messianic claims. We can therefore be confident in expecting that every messianic prediction in the Old Testament would be pressed into use in this manner.

In a real sense these predictions by the Prophets limited Jesus. They provided a set of boundaries within which his messianic mission needed to express itself. A particularly interesting prediction was given by the prophet Hosea (II:I): “When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt” (emphasis mine). Matthew (2:I5) picks up on this in one of the earliest prophetic predictions he mentions: in a garbled historical account, he records that the Holy Family fled into Egypt when Jesus was still a baby, explaining, “This was to fulfill what the Lord has spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my son out of Egypt.'”

I’ve learned that anywhere in the New Testament when these words “This was to fulfill . . .” are used to preface a Biblical event, one can be sure that what follows is a rationalization by the author(s)inserted into the text in order to connect the event with words of prophecy from the Old Testament. It’s like doing research in order to find something that backs up or proves one’s preconceived conclusion or beliefs.

Why Egypt?

AT THIS POINT, we cannot help but ask, why Egypt? This is a minor detail in Matthew’s Gospel and is treated as such in the Roman Church. But for the Egyptian Coptic Church, which separated from Rome in 451 following the Council of Chalcedon, it is a matter of considerable importance indeed. For almost a thousand years it has maintained a legend about the journey the Holy Family made into Egypt, all the sites they visited or resided at, and all the miracles that accompanied the presence of Jesus. This legend is called “The Vision of Theophilus.” Theophilus was patriarch of Alexandria and leader of the Egyptian church from A.D. 385 to 4I2, but the Vision seems not to have been written down until the eleventh or twelfth century

Given the highly devotional nature of the story and the very obvious use made of it to justify Jesus’ uniqueness and divinity, we can locate its theology far beyond the beliefs of the Jewish community in Egypt—the community that would have been giving refuge to Jesus’ family. What’s more, these same factors place the origins of the theology in an era following the dogmatic decisions of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. It seems fairly evident that the Vision—at the very least—is a product of Christian thought in the fourth century A.D. or later, and certainly not of Judaism or Judeo-Christianity. It therefore cannot be an accurate account of any such journey, although it may very well contain some elements of a real journey. Thus, we need to ask, whom does the story serve? Who would have benefited from its telling?

No one would have benefited more than the author of the Gospel of Matthew himself, as it added credibility to his Gospel. For less obvious reasons, the Coptic Church in Egypt would have benefited by the story of the Holy Family’s travels to the East. “The Coptic Church has been at odds with Rome for over six-hundred years, and its faith was at least tolerated by the Muslim rulers.” There appear to be political and economic factors influencing Mathew’s scenario.

If the Gospel of Matthew is given greater credence, then it stands to reason that various Egyptian holy places within the story would also be validated, thereby opening up a whole new pilgrim route that would include Egypt. With pilgrims, of course, came trade and gold.

Despite its deficiencies, the tale gives every appearance of picking up on local oral tradition or legend. And local legend is dismissed at one’s own peril, for local memories are long. There has certainly been a very ancient and widespread Jewish presence in Egypt—extensive enough to justify the story’s telling well into Islamic times.

There was a legitimate and functioning—although controversial—Jewish Temple in Egypt during the lifetime of Jesus. It was founded by the Zadokite high priest, Onias III, who built it upon the ruins of an old Bubastis temple in the Egyptian delta on the same design as the Temple of Jerusalem.

Onias III, a Zadokite priest, was forced to flee Israel to Egypt when Jerusalem was attacked by the Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphane in 170 B.C., and the Temple in Jerusalem was taken over by non-Zadokite priests allied with Epiphane. The Onias Temple with its Zadokite priest became the only legitimate Jewish Temple in the region. That is until his son, Onias IV, a military commander in the Egyptian army and a non-Zadokite priest, succeeded his father as high priest. This made the Onias Temple in Egypt illegitimate, a diminishing of status by Josephus that was used as his rationale for excluding it from serious academic consideration, by Josephus himself as well as by Philo of Alexandria—both of whom had friends in high places in Israel to placate; friends in the upper class wealthy Jewish sector as well as in the ruling class. Both groups wanted to put distance between them and the Zadokites and the Zealots associated with the Onias Temple in Egypt as well as the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Onias Temple was on the road that Jesus and his parents would have traveled from Judea to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt in order to avoid the strongly-influenced Jewish communities in Alexandria and Naucratis to the west. They would then have traveled south along this road that passed by Onias’ temple, where they would most likely have stopped and settled. Baigent reasons:

And it is highly unlikely that Jesus and his family, raised in a Zealot environment, one that hoped and prayed for a reinstatement of a Zadokite priesthood in the Temple of Jerusalem, would have just passed by this Egyptian Jewish temple. All of these observations lead naturally to the thought that the Temple of Onias served as the initial training site of Jesus. It was here perhaps that he received his introduction into the politically active world of the Zealots.

In a sense, we can see the temple as an overseas branch of Galilee where Greek-speaking Zealots could learn their trade. It would have also been a good place for Jesus’ family to bring him so that he could learn what it would mean to be the Messiah of Israel, for all the texts and commentaries on the role of the messiah would have been available there. So we do now have a good reason for the Holy Family to have traveled to Egypt, and a reason for Matthew’s brief comment, disguised as a flight from the dangers posed by Herodian infanticide. In fact, it would seem not to have been a flight at all but rather a positive action undertaken in order to allow Jesus to grow, to study, and to teach away from the troubles in Judaea and Galilee.

Despite his training in the Zealot cause, Jesus, as we have seen, at some point secretly took another path – one revealed only after he had been anointed as messiah [by Mary of Bethany, who was also Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ wife and companion], when it was far too late for anybody to challenge him. That path was a more mystical path. Yet where in the Jewish world of Egypt could he have learned such a path? For the answer to this question, we need to look at one of the mystical groups of the time, one described by Philo of Alexandria.

In my next post I will consider the Therapeutae healers in Egypt with whom Jesus may have studied and developed his own gift of healing. I will also consider a most enlightening chapter of Baigent’s book that tells about the mysticism of Egypt and the rituals of initiation into the Mystery School and what was called “incubation,” a most interesting and exciting consideration that may shed light on what really happened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, stay tuned.

Anthony Palombo

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