This post replies to GR's suggestions that we should expunge any thought of long term cosmology from the Gospels. I really appreciate that GR expresses his views so vigorously, as he helps to clarify how things are seen by many others, and where he and they have false assumptions that need to be exposed and rebutted.
GR wrote: "You seem to think this age of peace and rest, what I termed a golden age, will happen when the age of Aquarius arrives; all this signified by a Mark describing a man carrying a jug of water showing the way to an upper room... [as] ... secret code."
RT: The point is to try to understand the Gospels through a consistent and rational natural scientific framework, putting all the pieces together in a way that makes sense. This line from Mark is just one instance of a cosmic theme found widely through ancient sources, such as in the God Aion, as I have explained already. The Gospel authors looked at the cosmos, they saw the simple pattern of time in the cosmos, accurately enough, and they developed an allegory on that basis, saying that the cosmic structure of time provides a framework for their theory of human history. It is rather like if I say 'when the clock strikes 6 I wll have dinner", there is no sense that the clock causes me to eat, it is a simple marker. In the same way, the Gospels, consistent with Jewish eschatology, say, when the equinox reaches Aquarius, the world will reach the end of the present age. The stars no more cause the new age than the clock causes me to eat.
There are numerous references to a new age in the gospels, especially in Matthew. Mark gives at least one statement which considered literally refers to the whole inhabited earth, at 13:10, 'all nations'. Matthew gives several more, especially in Chapter 13, where Jesus says "The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels... As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age... at the end of the age the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous."
I, and orthodox Christian faith, accept that it makes sense to consider these age references as pointing to a very long period of time. As I mentioned earlier, there are also abundant Jewish sources that are fully consistent with this framework - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_esc ... sianic_Era
It is not just me arguing for this general framework, this link states "According to the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, the 'deadline' by which the Messiah must appear is 6000 years from creation. A majority of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews believe that the Hebrew calendar dates back to the time of creation; the year 2009-2010 corresponds to the Hebrew year 5770. There is a kabbalistic tradition that maintains that the 7 days of creation in Genesis 1 correspond to seven millennia of the existence of natural creation. The tradition teaches that the seventh day of the week, Shabbat or the day of rest, corresponds to the seventh millennium (Hebrew years 6000 - 7000), the age of universal 'rest' - the Messianic Era... Elaborating on this theme are numerous early and late Jewish scholars, including the Ramban, Isaac Abrabanel, Abraham Ibn Ezra, Rabbeinu Bachya, the Vilna Gaon, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Ramchal, Aryeh Kaplan, and Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.
It is perfectly reasonable to posit that these traditions were part of a widespread mystery doctrine at the time of the writing of the Gospels. In line with these widespread traditions, the man with the jug is just the number on the clock for the year 6000 in the Jewish eschatology.
I have previously argued that a famous suspected Jew, Leonardo Da Vinci, used this temporal framework as the template for his painting ofThe Last Supper. It all illustrates that there is a Jewish tradition about these matters that is not well understood in the Christian literature.
My view quite simply is that there were conflicting eschatologies that informed the Gospels, an accurate long term cosmic vision, and an inaccurate short term political vision. These sit alongside each other just as the creation stories do in Genesis. If we consider the symbolism in the Bible as allegory for accurate cosmic observation, the entire vision becomes coherent.
Why did the New Testament use the zodiac as a "secret code"? My view on this is that the politics of Christianity demanded hostility to pagan thought, whereas the framework for the idea of Jesus Christ was entirely cosmic, based on accurate observation of the precession of the equinox as the actual structure of time. The resolution of this tension between politics and cosmology was that the cosmology was included in a concealed format, and was later forgotten and suppressed.
[GR] "Okay, so the gnostic understanding of the Bible is what you espouse? The Bible is replete with secret code/teaching that only the enlightened can see and understand? From what I've read of Hermeticism, it's just another name for secret Gnostic knowledge for the enlightened, a drak ages holistic philosophy now
only embraced by New Agers, like you."
RT: There are many Gnostic ideas that accord with the observable cosmology of precession, such as the 'duodecad of the aeons' condemned by Irenaeus. This idea of codes has got a very bad press due to irrational magical traditions such as gematria and use by fundamentalists. All I am saying is they had a 7000 year theory of time, they matched that up to the star clock, and they hid it in the Bible. It is a simple claim for which there is abundant evidence, which helps us to make sense of the Bible.
[GR] "Robert, you're nit-picking here. An age of peace and rest is
essentially the same as a golden age."
RT: Actually, I have a good scientific reason for 'nit-picking' on this. The origin of the idea in Daniel and Hesiod and Virgil of the Golden Age appears to be the old Vedic idea of the Satya Yuga. My view is that this Indian cosmology informed the basis of Christian eschatology, much as Dyaus Pita is the source of Deus Pater, so it is worth setting out.
The Vedic idea sees history as cyclic, declining from gold through silver, bronze and iron ages before ascending again through each metal in order. On face value this looks like an absurd myth, especially in its corrupted popular format of billions of years. However, against the actual temporal framework of precession of the equinox, this cosmology matches precisely to the actual planetary cycles of light and dark that drive glaciation.
The best source I know to show these cycles scientifically is the Journey of Mankind at http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/journey/
where the orbital cycles of precession are shown as impacting on glaciation, sea level and human migration over the last hundred thousand years. Against the accurate scientific basis of the Vedic framework, earth has cycles of light and dark every 20,000 years.driven by precession, and we are now emerging from the depth of an "iron age". So the Age of Aquarius is a bronze age, against this accurate scientific framework, and the next Golden Age is due in some 6000 years. I hope homo sapien has the brains not to go extinct before then.
I do not think that the Gospel authors were aware of this scientific understanding of climate cycles, but it seems to me to be feasible that they had an intuitive grasp of it, with the sense that climate had grown more difficult since the dawn of the Holocene 10,000 years ago, and was now approaching a turning point from which it would grow easier over the next ten thousand years. This turning point actually happened astronomically in 1296 AD, when the perihelion passed the solstice, as shown at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Prece ... easons.jpg
Against the cosmology of fall and redemption, the 'sabbath' age is a time of repair. Fixing the damage of the last 6000 years will only lay the foundations for future evolution.
[GR] "Right, sin and evil in the Bible, invented by Jewish priests a few millennia ago to control the rabble. Is that part of the science you keep referring to?"
RT: You are welcome to your apparent view that sin and evil are not real. Again, that would take us into a metaphysical theological discussion that is off topic for the historical question of the study of the Gospel authors.
[GR] "Thank you, I most certainly do think they got it wrong. I think this whole way of seeing the Bible boils down to bad science, bad exegesis and just plain ol' contradicting what the Bible says. However, you're
welcome to this "scientific" method of interpreting the Bible; I think I'll just stick to sound exegesis.
RT: Thanks again GR for expressing your self so clearly, even if I think you are completely wrong. I have explained here why I consider my ideas to be sound exegesis.
Some key themes emerge from the supposition that the authors of the Gospels actually had a sound appreciation of the difficulty of turning around human culture towards a non-alienated spirituality, with a long term vision of atonement and redemption that is real, not magical. The authorial communities involved competing perspectives and interests, with long term and short term views in conflict. You say the short term view is the only one there is, whereas I say that the basic symbols of the identity of Jesus Christ are based in a long term accurate cosmology.
Considered sub specie aeternitatis, the Bible aims to an eternal validity. To say Mark formulated his concept of this age and the next as indicating an immediate political overthrow of Rome demeans his capacity to see the power of Rome, and how the Christian vision had to take a patient long term view.
Carl: "Could it be that you consider those passages allegorical when that serves your purpose and fits your theory?"
Robert: Colossians said "the gospel has been preached to every creature." From Genesis, "creature" includes animals. I'm struggling to imagine how this might be anything other than an allegory. Did Paul preach to animals? Who preached the word of Christ to every insect in the jungles of Africa? Forget the literal absurdity, the idea here has to be an allegory. It may mean that animals are in tune with God so have an intuitive understanding of Christ as the point of reconciliation between fallen humanity and divine reality. Just because a Pauline writer makes an absurd extravangant literal assertion does not justify saying that Mark agreed with it and saw the eschaton solely as an immediate looming political event, especially when Mark had emphasised that 'only the Father knows the time'.
Carl: "I gave you several examples of how "world" is used in the text. There is never any indication that it refers to a zodiacal age."
Robert: Aion means age, and is translated "world' in the KJV discussion of judgment day at the end of the world. The Greco-Roman God Aion quite clearly symbolizes the zodiac ages. Some good analysis on this is in Aion by Carl Jung. The coherent reading of the Gospels is that 'end of the age' means 'end of the age of Pisces'. Fish imagery indicates that the new age of Christianity is the age of the fish, matching the stars. The twelve jewels of the holy city symbolize the twelve zodiac ages of the Great Year. In existential terms (eg Heidegger), 'world' is a context of meaning, so matches to the paradigm framework of an age.
Carl: "the writers of the gospels ... created a historical fiction to explain how the fall of Jerusalem fits into their divine plan."
Robert: This is a short term political reading, It stands in conflict with the long term cosmic reading that equally appears alongside it in the text. My point in this thread has been to argue you cannot entirely exclude the cosmic in favour of the political.
Carl: "One only has to read the story to see that the gospel writers have a specific focus, and that focus is not some distant event at the cusp of a zodiacal sign. The keynote of the gospels is the urgency with which the message is to be proclaimed. That would not make sense if the "time of the end" was thousands of years in the future."
Robert: Mark and Matthew defer this supposed "urgency" of the arrival of the kingdom until after the gospel has been preached to all nations. The proclamation of the message is urgent, but that is a different thing from the coming of the kingdom at what is conventionally called the day of doom. The message has to be proclaimed to all before the kingdom will come. As a matter of historical fact, it was only in the twentieth century that every country on earth had heard of Jesus Christ. Surprisingly, that is a timing that matches well to the Jewish idea that the messiah would arrive 6000 years after Adam.
Carl: "The gospel story begins as John the Immerser preaches that "the axe has already been laid to the root." All three of the Synoptic writers place the final outcome of their story before the passing of their own generation. This re-affirms the urgency that is central to their story."
Robert: This 'axe' line at Matthew 3:10 reads like a supposed prophecy of the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, not as a prophecy of the second coming of Jesus Christ. "Urgency" related primarily to preaching and repentance, not the parousia, except in the 'keep the wick trimmed' sense. There are two contradictory narratives on the 'final outcome', one that is short term, possibly aimed at fostering fervor, and one that is long term, possibly linked to an original cosmic back story.
Carl: "I think [the idea of zodiac ages] makes sense to you because you have already made up your mind that it means something that context will not support. The Christians scriptures talk about Covenant Ages, and although there may be some literary parallels with the cosmic solar myth that influenced their culture, that is not of much significance to the purpose of the authors of the gospels."
Robert: But the context does support the idea that Ages are about 2000 years long, even more so when we consider Revelation. The Covenant Ages (a phrase I did not find as such in a Bible search) are the covenant of law given to Moses and the covenant of grace given through Jesus Christ. These match exactly to the Zodiac Ages of Aries and Pisces. There is also the rainbow covenant through Noah in the Age of Taurus. Perhaps it even makes sense to say the coming of the kingdom in the Age of Aquarius is imagined as another covenant, of the kingdom of God?
The covenant of the Age of Aries started with Abraham sacrificing the ram in place of Isaac. Moses presents his covenant of law as arising from the destruction of the idolatry of the golden calf (Taurus) and with the passover celebrating the lamb, symbol of Aries. Joshua emphasises this 'Age of Aries' covenant with the ram's horn trumpets that destroy Jericho. It is entirely plausible in each of these 'Covenant Ages' that religious leaders and seers saw that the spring equinox had moved into the constellation that corresponded to their covenant idea, and reinforced the cosmic observation using religious symbols.
Ignoring zodiac ages requires us to imagine the ancients did not look at the stars. That suits the alienated supernatural biases that have infected Christianity, but the fact is they looked at the stars a lot more than people do today.
Carl: "You have to read the story from the author's point of view and purpose in writing. You need the same focus in reading as they had in writing. Otherwise it is just wild speculation, and anything can be interpreted to mean whatever you want."
Robert: And that is precisely what I am questioning. What is their point of view and purpose? I say they envisaged the transformation of the world and saw this as a long term endeavour. Far from wild speculation, my view is that is a reading that explains the Bible far better than the assertion they envisaged a celestial messiah overturning the Roman Empire. In fact we cannot yet reconstruct their focus in any way that commands a consensus, since we cannot even agree if Jesus Christ was real or imaginary.
We do not know how the ancients thought, but we can seek to reconstruct it by asking if various interpretations make sense against the historical evidence, including the wider frameworks of cosmology and mythology. Claims of literal supernatural faith that don't match the broader evidentiary record and scientific plausibility are what we should exclude first as wild speculation. Just saying you do not like a view because it reminds you of astrology is not a meaningful critique, especially when this is an area of ancient focus that is systematically neglected in modern readings.
Carl: "I don't hear you giving any consideration to the passing from one Covenant Age to another. How do you account for that being the contextual focus?"
Robert: I discussed the covenant context already. Incidentally, I wrote a song about this, The Seven Days of Creation, in which each millennium is imagined as a divine covenant, two covenants per zodiac age. Here are the words
Seven days of creation, into the seventh day.
On the first day of creation, Adam and Eve fell from Paradise.
On the second day of creation, Noah built the Ark
On the third day of creation, Abraham and Sarah came from India.
On the fourth day of creation, King David brought the Ark to Jerusalem
On the fifth day of creation came Jesus Christ, the alpha and omega, the sun of love
The sixth day of creation was the dawn of modern times.
And the seventh day is the sabbath day, the healing day, the day of peace
Into the seventh day.
There are seven days of creation, the future is the seventh day.
Carl: "how did Paul himself use Gnostic terms?"
Robert: Pagels explains how Valentinus and other Gnostic theologians read Paul as speaking at two levels. The Gnostics say that Paul's letters distinguish between a secret spiritual or `pneumatic' level of teaching aimed at initiates and a popular simplified `psychic' version for ignorant newcomers. For example, Gnostics said Paul's teaching of the resurrection of the dead was code for how a person grows from psychic ignorance to pneumatic spiritual knowledge. From my review of The Gnostic Paul at http://www.amazon.com/review/R2803T62V90MTR
Carl: "Paul's letters reveal that he was dealing with his belief in an "end of the age" that he expected to see in his own lifetime. This is the same message of urgency that we find in the gospels. Obviously, the age coming to an end was that of the Hebrew Covenant, and the new age to follow was "a new heaven and a new earth" of Christian understanding."
Robert: Perhaps Paul is more sympathetic to the political than to the cosmic vision of eschatology, but it is far from obvious that you can equate the age of grace proclaimed by Paul with the new heaven and new earth of revelation. My reading is that the age of grace is the Age of Pisces while the new heaven and new earth is the Age of Aquarius. Romans 8:25 calls for patience in awaiting the time when creation "shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
Carl: "Obviously, the symbols in the cosmic myth of Christ, being part of Paul's world of religious thought, would be used to link the message to previous and well-known buzz words that people would recognize and identify with. Some of these were zodiacal, but given a new literary construct and used in a historical, rather than a cosmic, setting. You seem to want to disregard that fact and return to the older meaning of the cosmic myth. If the purpose of the New Testament writers was just to re-tell the cosmic myth, they could have done so without creating a historical fiction. You're not accounting for that fact."
Robert: The motives for the Gospel language choices are far from obvious. For example I don't think the purpose was just to re-tell the cosmic myth. My assessment is that the authors saw the degraded mentality of the emerging times, and sought to conceal their cosmic vision in a historical story that would popularise and protect it until a time when people could understand and discuss it. Maybe they did also tell it just as explicit cosmic prediction, and that version was sought out and burnt? Various pressures and tendencies influenced the Bible text, from perspectives including the cosmological, the spiritual, the ethical, cultural, historical and political.
Carl: "The cosmic myth may have been the literary archetype, but the way it is used is what is important to understanding the Biblical texts."
Robert: This recognition of the role of cosmic myth in Biblical ideation is a very important observation, and I fully agree. It could be expanded to discuss how myth and empirical observation serve as template as well as archetype for the Christ Myth. I am arguing that observation was used to construct the Biblical cosmology in ways that scholarship still has not fully appreciated.
Carl: "To dismiss the author's intent and return to extrapolating meaning from the cosmic myth will not really get us anywhere."
Robert: Now that is a complex assertion! I am not dismissing the author's intent. How are we to separate intent from the myth when we have no reference to determine intent? How can we tell how they used the myth? Surely exploring the cosmic myth on its own terms is a first step?
Carl: "Now, you say that you don't believe in the superstition or magic of the zodiacal mythology, and yet you make a remark about waiting to see what the Age of Aquarius will bring. Which way is it??"
Robert: The Age of Aquarius is just a real time period when the equinox point will be in that constellation, as observable from the diagram I linked from wikipedia in reply to GR. The interesting thing, as a matter of objective fact, is that the equinox point moves into Aquarius in the period corresponding to the time the ancients envisaged as the millennium in their expressed 7000 year theory of time. It is not anything superstitious or magical. I made a diagram of the age structure including the future, available at http://rtulip.net/yahoo_site_admin/asse ... 56_std.JPG
The Age of Pisces is now coming to an end. We can readily see that Christianity used Piscean symbols, just as the stories of Moses and Abraham used Aries ram symbols, without having to assert some mystic emanation from the sign of the fish to inspire the ichthys acrostic.
What would be magical would be if I lived long enough to see Christianity shift from a Piscean belief framework to an Aquarian knowledge framework! I regard the laws of physics as omnipotent and omnipresent, if not omnibenevolent. I don't think science yet has a deep understanding of terrestrial cycles, and this is a field where there is a lot of research needed before we understand how the structure of the seasons is embedded in life and time at all scales.
GR wrote "The word translated "creature" is the Greek "ktisis", which means the act of creating or founding, the things created. All men according to the Bible are created and are therefore creatures."
RT: Thanks GR for helping me make my point that "creatures" at Colossians 1:23 is allegorical. Just on a point of logic, the text says "all creatures". In the Biblical framework all men are creatures, but not all creatures are men.
GR: "[Paul thought] Enough people in the (known) world had heard the gospel to usher in the so-called second coming"
RT: Yes, I agree some Paulines may well have thought that. But there is also a cosmic line in the Gospels which you ignore, why I am not sure, since I have explained it at some length in this thread.
GR: "I wouldn't boast about having the same interpretive framework as Orthodox Christianity"
RT: I don't boast, and nor do I claim to have an orthodox framework. There are many features of orthodoxy that are not true, such as all claims of the supernatural and the miraculous. But the 7000 year time frame of orthodoxy is one that warrants much more careful scrutiny. You are the one saying that Orthodox Christianity is completely wrong in its reading of Biblical eschatology, despite the abundant Biblical and non-Biblical basis for the ancient 7000 year theory of time. I am simply observing that this 7000 year theory has a clear observational astronomical basis, and provides a much better interpretative framework for the Gospels than your straw man insistence that we can dismiss the whole of gospel eschatology because of an incorrect prophecy.
GR wrote: "The context of Colossians is what determines the meaning of "creature" and one doesn't preach the gospel to animals, but to men; therefore "ktisis" applies to men, not beasts"
RT: Yes, so ktisis (creature) is allegory for men, which has its own perfectly good Greek word which the author would have used if he did not wish to speak allegorically. What am I not getting?
[GR] "How can I ignore what isn't there? Your explanations are but you reading your beliefs about astrology back into the Bible when there are none there. I'm not saying there's no astrology at all, but not in the
eschatology of the NT which is so clearly written to express a soon coming of Jesus. The age "Jesus" was referring to was a New Covenant age, not the age of some guy with a water jug."
RT: This requires that we analyse the history of the 7000 year eschatology whereby the man with the jug is allegory for the Age of Aquarius, without jumping to prejudicial conclusions. The 7000 year theory is presented in the BabylonianTalmud, for example Rosh Hashana 31a and Sanhedrin 97a which date at least to late antiquity. GR's theory requires a very convoluted process for this basis of orthodox Christian eschatology to get into the Talmud. GR's theory requires that Christianity was first proved wrong by the failure of the kingdom of heaven to arrive, and then the Jews hastily cobbled their 7000 year theory out of embarrassment at the Christian failure.
Frankly, GR's view on this looks ludicrous. The Talmud texts accord with the sweep of long term eschatological views which see Psalm 90:4 as presenting the seven days of creation as allegory for 7000 years of historical time. They document an oral tradition which in this case very plausibly predates and informs Christianity. I have not been able to find a source indicating when the 7000 year theory was first expressed, and would welcome if other learned members on this list could comment. But I feel confident in questioning GR's suggestion that it only arose as a cobbled together reaction to failure of Christianity.
GR is saying the 7000 year eschatology "isn't there" in the Gospel of Mark, even though it explains texts such as "preached first to all nations", the man with the water jug, and the basis of Christianity in Jewish lore. Instead he insists fanatical politics is the only driver, and only the texts which derive from this line should be considered.
[GR] "Orthodox Christianity is wrong in its reading of NT eschatology because the predictions made didn't materialize, so they re-interpreted them to mean that it would be much later."
RT: Again, so this means the Talmud got the same 7000 year theory of time from Christianity? No way. You are deriving orthodox Judaism from Christianity when the real causal direction is the reverse.