Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?

By G. R. S. Mead

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As we have already seen that, according to Epiphanius, the Essenes, Nazorenes, Ebionites, and Sampsaeans thought very highly of a certain ancient document called the "Book of Elxai," it will be of interest to enquire further into the matter.

Hilgenfeld has argued[1] that already the apocalyptic scribe of that Early Church document the "Shepherd of Hermas," or as he prefers the redactor of the Apocalyptic Hermas (as distinguished from the Pastoral Hermas) was acquainted with this "Book of Elxai." Whether or not this early writer was acquainted with the actual book the later Church Fathers had in mind is a matter still sub judice; but he certainly was acquainted with some portion of the enormous cycle of apocalyptic literature and the general circle of ideas with which all the early mystic schools were more or less in touch. 

The apocalyptic part of the "Shepherd" is practically one of the innumerable permutations and combinations of the Sophia-mythus. It is one of the many settings forth of the mystic lore and love of the Christ and the Sophia, or Wisdom, of the Son of God and His spouse

[1] Hilgenfeld (A.), "Hermae Pastor" (Leipzig; 1881, 2nd ed.), Introd., pp. xxix., xxx. 


or sister, the Holy Spirit, of the King and Queen, of the Lord and the Church. In this most instructive series of visions are depicted the mystic scenes of the allegorical drama of man's inner nature—the mystery-play of all time. Most beautifully and most simply is the story told in this ancient monument of early Christendom, and it is much to be regretted that the "Shepherd" has not been included in the Canon; but perhaps it was too general, too universal for the historicizers. 

It is also of very great interest to notice the many intimate points of contact between the contents of the Apocalyptic Hermas and the teaching of the early "Shepherd of Men" tractates of the mystic school who looked to Hermes the Thrice-greatest as their inspirer, that is to say, the earliest deposit of Trismegistic literature. But that is another story which has not yet been told.

Like all the other extant extra-canonical documents of the Early Church, the "Shepherd of Hermas" has been submitted to the most searching analysis by modern criticism, and though its unity is still strenuously defended by some scholars, we are inclined to agree with Hilgenfeld, who detects in the present form of the Hermas document three elements, or three deposits so to say; (i) the Apocalyptic (Vis. i.-iv.); (ii) the Pastoral (Vis. v.—Sim. vii.); (iii) the Secondary, or appendix of the latest redactor (Sim. viii.—x.). Hermas i. and ii. cite nothing from any of the books of the canonical New Testament.[1] 

It is Hermas i., moreover, which is acquainted with 

[1] Hilgenfeld, op. cit., pp. xxx,, xxxi. 


the most distinctive features of the cycle of ideas of which we find traces in the few fragments of the "Book of Elxai" which can be recovered from the polemical writings of the Fathers.  This Apocalyptic Hermas is distinctly Anti-Pauline, and therefore cannot be expected to quote from the Letters of Paul, but what is remarkable is that neither it nor the Pastoral Hermas quote from any of our four canonical gospels.

If, then, we are inclined to accept the statement the writer of the Muratorian Fragment (c. 170 A.D.), that Hermas was written at Rome during the bishopric of Pius (140— c. 155 A.D.), this must be taken to refer to the last redactor who is held to be responsible for Hermas iii., and who seems to be acquainted with several books of the Canon, and the Apocalyptic Hermas may be pushed back to at least the beginning of the second century. We have also to remember not only that the Greek original even of our form of Hermas is lost, but that the Old Latin version has also disappeared, and that we possess only a Greek retranslation of the Latin,[1] and therefore the original Hermas may have contained more abundant traces of some things of which it would be of great service to independent students of the origins to have a more exact knowledge, but which have disappeared in translation and retranslation. 

In any case the original form of the "Book of Elxai" is thus seen to be of an early date, and the general ideas in it are presumably still earlier. A just ap- 

[1] See De Gebhardt (O.) and Harnack (A.), "Hermae Pastor," in "Patrum Apostolicorum Opera," fascic. iii. (Leipzig; 1877), Prolegg. xi. n. 2. 


preciation of the nature of its contents, therefore, is of very great importance to the historian of Early Christianity; and as Hilgenfeld, in the appendix[1] to his admirable edition of the "Shepherd," has conveniently brought together every passage from the Fathers relating to this curious document of Christian antiquity, we will bring the evidence into court and discuss it. 

In the first place we must remember that our scanty information is derived entirely from those who have not a single good word to say for the book or for the followers of its teaching. We have painfully to extract what facts we can from the hurly-burly of indiscriminate denunciation, from a few sentences here or there torn out of the context for polemical purposes, only such things being quoted as appeared to the heresiologists ridiculous, extravagant or detestable. 

Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus, writing at Rome about 222 A.D., is bitterly incensed at the book, a copy of which, he says, had been brought to the City by a certain Alcibiades, a native of Apameia in Syria[2]; but whether or not Hippolytus always quotes from the book itself or from the teachings of Alcibiades, who made use of the authority of what he considered to be a very ancient document in support of a more lenient view of the forgiveness of sins, a question which was then strongly agitating the Church of Rome, and on which Hippolytus himself held a far stricter view, is by no means clear. 

[1] "Elxai Fragmenta Collecta, Digesta, Dijudicata." 

[2] The original "Book of Elxai" was presumably in H«brew, and was subsequently translated into Greek. 


Basing themselves apparently on Hippolytus, all scholars[1] confidently assert that according to the book itself, it was written in the third year of Trajan, that is 101 A.D.; whereas, as a matter of fact, Hippolytus does not say so. It is true that Hippolytus states ("Philos.," ix. 13) that Alcibiades declared that the gospel of a new remission of sins was preached in the third year of Trajan; but did Alcibiades make such an assertion himself, or did Hippolytus deduce this from a passage which he elsewhere professes to quote from the book itself? 
What the full text of this passage may have been originally we can by no means be certain, since in the only surviving copy of Hippolytus' "Refutation" some words are utterly corrupt. It must be remembered that we have only the single copy of the text of the "Philosophumena," or "Refutatio Omnium Haeresium" of Hippolytus, which was discovered in one of the monasteries on Mount Athos, and brought to Paris by Minoides Mynas in 1842. 

This passage from the "Book of Elxai" is a reference to a famous prophecy of the time, and runs as follows: "When three years of Trajan Caesar are fulfilled, from the time when he subdued . . . the Parthians (when three years have been fulfilled),[2] the war between the angels of unrighteousness of the North is stirred up,[3] 

[1] So also even Hilgenfeld, op. cit., p. 233. 

[2] Probably a gloss. 

[3] aggizetai, a very rare word, not found at all in Liddell and Scott, while in Sophocles' Lexicon (New York; 1887) the only references are to our passage and to Symm. Prov. xv. 18. Sophocles gives the meaning as "to irritate, excite," while Duncker and Schneidewin translate "exardescit." 


owing to which all kingdoms of unrighteousness are thrown into confusion" ("Philos.," ix. 16).[1] 
Whatever may be the exact meaning of the passage, it seems not illegitimate to conclude that the "third year of Trajan" date originated in this "prophecy," which, for all we know, may have belonged to the general Elxai circle of ideas, or literature (for this was certainly not confined to one document), and originally formed no part of the Book, though it may have subsequently been appended to the original apocalyptic document, for it apparently came at the end of the copy known to Hippolytus, and not at the beginning, as some have carelessly supposed. 

In this connection it is of interest to recall to mind that Trajan began the Parthian campaign in 114 A.D., and that three years afterwards the fierce and bloody revolt of the Jews of Cyrene and Egypt, in which no less than a million Hebrews are said to have perished, was suppressed. In 117 Trajan died, and in 118 Hadrian set out for Maesia (the modern Bulgaria), one of the most northern provinces of the Empire, to fight against the Sarmatians. If this is the fact alluded to, then we have a date of a similar nature to so many in the prophetical and apocalyptic literature of the times and of earlier years, and we may place the terminus a quo of this particular element of the Elxai literature at 118 A.D. But are the mystic visions and christology of our

[1] I use the latest text and critical notes of Duncker (L.) and Schneidewin (F. G.), "S. Hippol. . . . Refutationis Omnium Haeresium quae supersunt" (Göttingen; 1859), and regard the emendation given by Hilgenfeld, in his "Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums" (Leipzig; 1884), p. 435 n. 757, as too arbitrary.


book to be so dated? For our part we consider them to be far earlier. 

On the other hand, supposing that the date of the third year of Trajan (101 A.D.) is taken as Hippolytus gives it, then, seeing that this "prophecy" did not come true—(unless the fact that the first Dacian War broke out in the third year of Trajan, Dacia being the most northern province on the other side of the Danube, be held vaguely to explain the "prophecy")—as Hilgenfeld acutely remarks, the Book must have been written prior to this date, for who fabricates a prophecy which he knows already to be false ?[1] 

But even so I do not think that it can be asserted categorically that the "Book of Elxai" itself was written in 101 A.D. It may very well be that the fierce suppression of the frantic effort to regain their independence made by the Jews of Cyrene and Egypt, where apocalyptic ideas were specially rife, may have been a psychological moment when the mystic teaching of repentance could be preached with the greatest effect, even as had been the case some fifty years before when Jerusalem fell; it may very well have been that the Essene-Nazarene-Sampsaean circles used this opportunity of making known the saving mysteries of their traditions for the benefit of their disheartened countrymen; but those mysteries were not newly invented. 

Who, then, was Elxai? What does the name mean? The name is evidently Semitic; Hebrew, Aramaic, or Old Arabic, it matters not. Hippolytus gives it as Elchasai, Origen as Helkesai, Epiphanius as Elxai or Elkessai, Epiphanius further informs us (" Haer.," xix. 

[1] Op. cit., p. xxx. 


2) that the name meant the "Hidden Power." Some scholars accept this,[1] others reject it,[2] though no sufficient reason for this rejection is given. In my opinion, this scrap of information dropped by Epiphanius —the significance of which he was totally unable to appreciate, and which he only reproduces to serve as the occasion of a sneer, as in so many other cases—puts us on the right track out of this labyrinth of misunderstanding. Elxai was the name of no man, even as Ebion, the founder of Ebionism as imagined by the haeresiologists, was no man, and just as Colarbasus and Epiphanes were imagined heretics, and even to some extent Simon Magus. 

As to the mythic Colarbasus, in Hebrew Chol-arba means literally the "All-four,'' that is, the sacred Tetrad or Tetractys, which in the system of Marcus, for instance, is figured as the Feminine Power, the Greatness, who in the form of a woman, the Divine Sophia, was the revealer of the mysteries as set forth in the apocalyptic scripture in which Mark expounded the general ideas of his tradition; for, as he says, the world could not bear the power or effulgence of the Masculine Greatness or Potency, the Christ.[3] Epiphanes in like manner can be equated with the "Newly Appearing One," the "waxing moon," the Moon being also a glyph of the Sophia.[4] Simon and Helen again are the Sun and Moon, the Christ and the Sophia; but of this later on.

[1] See Salmon's article "Elkesai" in Smith and Wace's "Dictionary of Christian Biography" (London; 1880). 

[2] See Hilgenfeld, op. cit., p. 230. 

[3] See "The Number-System of Marcus" in my "Fragments of a Faith Forgotten" (London; 1900), pp. 358-382. 

[4] Op. cit., p. 234.


I, therefore, conclude with no rash confidence, that Elxai, the Hidden Power, was in reality one of the many names of the Sophia or Wisdom, the Holy Ghost, the mystic sister or spouse (the Shakti as Brahmanical mysticism calls it) of the Masculine One, the Christ. And this is borne out by the main apocalyptic fragment of the Book which has survived among the few quotations made by Hippolytus and Epiphanius, and which is in the form of a vision of the Christ and Sophia as of two immense beings, reaching from earth to highest heaven, of which the mystic dimensions are given, just as in the diagram of the Heavenly Man, as portrayed in the apocalypse of Marcus.

But we have not yet done with the matter, for Epiphanius tells us that Elxai, who, as we have seen, he takes for a man, and a dangerous and blasphemous heretic to boot, had a brother called Iexaios ("Haer.," xix. 1), and in another place ("Haer.," liii. 1), he further informs us that the Sampsaeans said they possessed another book, which they regarded with very great reverence, namely, the "Book of Iexai," the brother of Elxai. Remembering, then, that the Marcosians declared that the world was not able to bear the effulgence of the "Masculine Greatness," it is legitimate to speculate that this "Book of Iexai" was purposely kept back from general circulation; it was a true apocryphon. It was presumably a book containing the higher mysteries or more recondite mystic teachings of this tradition; it may even have been the book which contained what was thought to be the real name and teaching of the one called Jesus among men, which name, as Marcus declares, was held to be a substitute for a far more ancient and sacred title. 


In brief Iexai was the Christ, the King, the spouse of Elxai, the Hidden Power, or Holy Ghost, or Sophia; He was perhaps the concealed Divine Triad of the Holy Four of Marcus, the "Triple Man" of other systems. In this connection it is interesting to notice that Iexai is explained by some scholars as meaning in Hebrew the "Hidden Lord." Can it then be possible that there is some connection between the name Iexai (or Jessai) and the Iessaians or Jessaeans to whom Epiphanius refers, as Hilgenfeld supposes? And if so, what conflation or syncretism is there between the general term Iexai or Jexai (Hidden Lord) and the Jesus of history? For "Jesus," says Marcus, is only the sound of the name down here and not the power of the name; "Jesus," he declares, is really a substitute for a very ancient name, and its power is known to the "elect" alone of the Christians. Was this mystery name, then, Iexai? 

But even so we have not yet done with names in this connection. Hippolytus ("Philos.," ix. 13) will have it that the "Book of Elxai" was said to have been revealed to Elxai, whom he regards as a man, and that this Elchasaï, as he spells the name, handed it on to a certain Sobiaï. Now as we have already seen that in every probability the teaching of the Book was set forth in the form of an apocalyptic vision, as revealed by Elxai or the Sophia or Wisdom, and that the man Elxai is a fiction of the imagination begotten by patristic misunderstanding, so also it may be that Sobiaï is also an apocalyptic personification historicized by the same class of mind which historicized and materialized so much else that was purely mystic and spiritual. In fact I would suggest that Sobiaï is nothing else than a 


transformation of Sophia, for as Epiphanius himself says, though with a sneer, the Book purported to be written prophetically, or, as it were, by the inspiration of Wisdom (Sophia).

Yet again more names are brought forward by Epiphanius in this connection, and he has somewhat to tell us of two sisters called Marthus and Marthana (or Marthina), who, he avers, were regarded with great reverence by the adherents of the tradition of this early Gnosis; they were, he says, worshipped as goddesses. Our great inquisitor of heresy, however, will have it that they were actual women living in his own times. Moreover, and in this he lets more escape him than he would have done had he understood, they were of the "race of Elxai" ("Haer.," xix. 1, and li. 1).[1] 

Now it is of service in this connection to remember that Martha in Aramaic means simply "Mistress" or "Lady"; Martha is the feminine of Mar ("Lord").[2] Can it then be possible that here also we are face to face with some more scraps of the scattered débris of the once most elaborate Christos-Sophia-mythus? 

Nay, this is not altogether a so wild speculation as the general reader may suppose, for do we not find in the Syriac Hymns of the Gnostic Bardaisan (155-233 A.D.), that the Holy Spirit, the Mother, the Sophia, 

[1] In this connection we may pertinently ask the question: Who are the Gnostics whose tenets Origen ("C. Celsum," v. 62) tells us were known to Celsus, that is to say, at least as early as 175 A.D., and who were known as "those of Martha"? 

[2] One bold scholar has even suggested that Mar being in Syriac a general title of distinction, Epiphanius has mistaken the names of two bishops of unorthodox views for the names of women, and so developed his romance, 


has two daughters, whose birth the orthodox Ephraem, the most bitter opponent of the Bardesanian Gnosis, writing more than a century later, declines to explain, and who were, in the poetical nomenclature of Bardaisan, called respectively "Shame of the Dry" and "Image of the Water."[1] The Mother Sophia thus addresses the elder of them: 

"Let her who comes after thee 
To me be a daughter, 
A sister to thee." 

Ephraem makes a great to-do about the mystery of their conception, which he says he is ashamed to relate. It appears, however, to have been nothing more than the conception of the Mother first without her Syzygy or Divine Consort, and subsequently with Him; the bringing forth of the "Abortion" and of the "Perfect Æon "—the fruit of the "impure womb" above when the mother disobeyed the "law of pairing" of the Pleroma, and desired to imitate the Father over all and create without a Syzygy, and the child of the "virgin womb," in the spiritual economy of the world process; all of which is set forth with much elaboration in several forms of the Sophia-mythus which have come down to us in the quotations of the haeresiological Fathers. In the microcosm of man, these daughters are presumably two aspects of the human soul, the Sophia below, or sorrowing one; tending downward she is regarded as the "lustful one" (Prunicus), the harlot; tending upward she becomes the spouse of the Christos. 

[1] See Hilgenfeld (A.)," Bardesanes der letzte Gnostiker "(Leipzig; 1864), pp. 40, 41; and Lipsius (R. A.), "Die apokryphen Apostelgesohichten" (Braunschweig; 1883), i. pp. 310, 311. 


Again in the Greek Acts of Thomas, which still contain many early Gnostic traces in spite of Catholic redaction, we read: 

" Come . . . Thou Holy Dove who art mother of twin young ones; come Hidden Mother!" 

Have we here, then, our Marthus and Marthana? Are the "sisters" of Epiphanius, then, simply misunderstood forms of the Sophia in one of her many transformations? Will the dire straits into which relentless historical criticism is forcing the defenders of an unyielding conservatism, permit us to believe that there may have been a mystery-teaching behind the beautiful historicized story of the sisters Mary and Martha and of Lazarus, their brother, who was "raised from the dead" after being "three days" in the grave? Was not Lazarus raised as a "mummy," swathed in grave clothes ?[1] What has this to do with the mystery-tradition of Egypt? Is not the Mary of Lazarus thought by many to have been the Magdalene, the courtesan, out of whom He had cast seven devils? Was not the Sophia below called the "lustful one," the "harlot," the "shame of the dry"? Was not the Helen of Simon also called the harlot? Was not even Jesus, according to the Jews, the son of a harlot? Can it possibly be that in this vulgar material controversy of things physical between Christian and Jew, 

[1] It is somewhat strange to find Tertullian ("De Corona," viii.; Oehler, i. 436) referring to the "linen cloth" with which Jesus girt himself, mentioned in John xiii. 4, 5, as the "proper garment of Osiris." The "proper garment of Osiris," of course, consisted of the linen-wrappings of the mummy. Tertullian thus appears to have picked up a phrase he did not quite understand, and used it inappropriately.


there may be, in spite of the controversialists on either side, still some grain of mystic truth almost miraculously preserved? Why, again, had Mary the better part, though Martha was the more laborious and virtuous? Has orthodox exegesis a satisfactory answer to this "dark saying"? Is not its exact parallel to be found in the mystery-parable of the prodigal and his elder brother? 
Such are a few of the questions which rush in upon the mind of a student of the ancient Christian Gnosis, and make it not illegitimate to speculate as to whether under the names Marthus and Marthana may not be concealed a key to unlock the under-meaning of the beautiful Gospel story of Mary and Martha.

Finally we have seen that Epiphanius gives Marthina as a variant of Marthana. Now it is remarkable that Epiphanius also tells us of some heretics whom he calls Merinthiani ("Haer.," xxix. 8). Of the origin or meaning of this name he admits he knows nothing, and can only suggest that they are derived from a certain Merinthus, who he suggests is identical with the famous early Gnostic Cerinthus; however, he confesses that this is a pure guess on his part. Can it, then, be by any means possible that the name Merinthiani is a transformation of Marthiani? No one but Epiphanius knows of these Merinthians. Did he invent the name? If not, and there really was a circle or line of tradition bearing some such name, can it be that our famous heresy-hunter heard wrongly, and remembered vaguely that it was some name like Cerinthus, only beginning with M. Hinc illae lacrimae! 

The question, however, which is of greatest import- 


ance for us, is to discover what were the views concerning the Christ held by those who used the Apocalypse of Elxai as one of their scriptures.

As we have seen, the main apocalyptic element of this book was a vision or two great beings standing side by side—the Christus ("Haer.," xix. 1) and Sophia above ("Haer.," xxx. 3, 17), the male-female Heavenly Man in separation; the male potency was also called the Son of God, the female the Holy Spirit (Hipp., "Philos.," ix. 13). 

In the human economy, however, "Christus" was apparently, according to Epiphanius ("Haer.," liii. 1), not considered as absolutely identical with deity; this was in its microcosmic sense apparently the spiritual Self in man. This Self had been first clothed with the paradisiacal "Body of Adam," but had put it off and left it behind in Paradise, the super-celestial garment left in the "last limit" till the glorious day of the revestiture of the Conqueror, according to the so-called Pistis-Sophia document, or the "robe of glory "of the beautiful hymn of Bardaisan,[1]—He had put it off when He descended through the spheres, clothing Himself in each in the "garb of a servant," but at the last He shall resume it again in triumph. 

Of this Christus the Sophia, or human soul, was the sister or spouse; He was called the Great King ("Haer.," xix. 3). But Epiphanius can find nothing in the teaching of these early mystics to confirm his own later orthodox views concerning "Jesus Christ," and is naturally very puzzled at the unhistorical nature of their 

[1] See the "Hymn of the Robe of Glory" in my "Fragments," pp. 406-414, and also my translation of Pistis-Sophia (London; 1896), pp. 9 ff. 


universal transcendentalism. Hippolytus ("Philos.," ix. 14), however, tells us that their teaching concerning the Christ of the general Christians—that is, concerning Jesus—was that he was born as are all other men; they denied that the Christ of their mysteries had been now for the first time born of a virgin; the mystery Christ had been born before, nay, had again and again been born, and was being born, and had been and was being manifested, changing His births and passing from body to body. 

Theodoret, writing in the fifth century, gives us some further confused information when treating of the Elcesaeans.[1] As to this mystery of the Christ, they said that He was not one-—.that is to say, apparently He was not simply Jesus the Nazarene, as the general Christians believed. There was, they held, a Christ above, and a Christ below; the former had of old indwelt in many, and had subsequently descended, that is, presumably, found full expression. 

Theodoret imagines that this means descended into Jesus, or had come down to earth; but even so he cannot understand the doctrine and gets hopelessly confused over what they say concerning Jesus. For sometimes, he says, they state that He is a spirit, sometimes that He had a virgin for mother, while in other writings they say that this was not so, but that he was born as other men; further they teach that Jesus (or rather the Christ in Jesus) reincarnates again and again and goes into other bodies, and at each birth appears differently. 

All of this, though apparently a hopeless confusion to the ordinary mind, is quite clear to the mystic, and it is 

[1] "De Elcesaeis," in his "Hereticarum Fabularum Compendium." 


strange that with all their marvellous industry scholars have not been able to disinter the main conceptions of this all-illuminating idea from the polemical writings of the Church Fathers; all the more so as it is clearly stated in other early writings which have fortunately escaped out of the general destruction, as we shall show elsewhere. But with regard to our present special subject of research, we cannot leave it without giving what seems to be as good a proof as can be expected in early Christian literature, that the Elxai teaching went back to a very early date; for even the few scattered quotations which we are enabled to extract from Patristic polemical literature show this very clearly. 

It is well known that the Essenes and allied communities, even while they remained on the ground of Judaism, were strongly opposed to the blood sacrifices and burnt offerings of the Temple. When, then, we find a quotation from the "Book of Elxai" which distinctly refers to these sacrifices, we cannot be accused of rashness in concluding that this document, or at any rate part of it, existed in days when the Temple sacrifices were still kept up, that is to say, prior to 70 A.D., when the Temple was destroyed and the sacrifices, which could only be performed in it, ceased. 

Referring to this very condemnation of the Temple blood sacrifices at Jerusalem, Epiphanius ("Haer.," xix. 3) quotes from the "Book of Elxai" as follows: 

"My sons, go not to the image of the fire, for ye err; for this image is error. Thou seest it [the fire], he says, very near, yet is it from afar. Go not to its image; but go rather to the voice of the water!" 
This is evidently an instruction not to visit the 


Temple at Jerusalem. The reason is given in a quotation apparently from a still more ancient writing, for the number is changed from "ye" to "thou," and the written sign of quotation "he says" is introduced. Now we know that these mystics worshipped the spiritual Sun, as the masculine potency of the Logos, the real "Fire" of the "Simonian" Gnosis. The expression "voice of the water" appears at first sight to be exceedingly strange; when, however, we recollect that those Gnostics regarded "Water" as the "source of all things," not of course the physical element, the "image" of the Water, but the "Water of Life," the Life (Sophia) being the spouse of the Light (Christos),— she who was the Mother of all,—the "voice of the water" may very well be taken as a mystic expression for the "voice" of the Holy Spirit, in brief the "voice of conscience," as may be seen from many verses of the later penitential psalms, in which the physical sacrifices are set aside and the doctrine of the truly spiritual sacrifice of the heart inculcated. What else can this "voice" be than the Bath-kol,[1] the "heavenly voice" to which the prophets gave ear, according to these same mystics and later Talmudism? 

This water, then, was the Sea of Life, and much might be said concerning it. It is by the shore of this Sea that is the Mountain on which "after the resurrection" Jesus, the Living One, assembles His Taxis, or Order of Twelve, and shows them the mysteries of the inner spaces, taking them within with Himself as described in one of the treatises of the Codex Brucianus. It will, however, for the moment suffice to remind our readers 

[1] Lit. "Daughter of the Voice." 


that the "fish" (ichthus) was one of the earliest symbols of the Christ. Not only so, but the early Christian neophytes were called "little fishes," and even at the end of the second century Tertullian is found writing: "We little fishes (pisciculi), according to our Fish {Ichthus), are born in water." It would take us too long to follow up this interesting trace, but the idea will not be so difficult to grasp if we quote part of the famous Autun sepulchral inscription, discovered in 1839, the date of which early monument is hotly disputed, the battle ranging over dates from the second to the sixth century. Marriott translates this precious relic of the past as follows: 

" Offspring of the Heavenly Ichthus (Fish), see that a heart of holy reverence be thine, now that from divine waters thou hast received, while yet among mortals, a fount of life that is to immortality. Quicken thy soul, beloved one, with the ever-flowing waters of wealth-giving Wisdom [Sophia], and receive the honey-sweet food of the Saviour of the saints. Eat with a longing hunger holding Ichthus in thy hands." [1] 

There is a curious analogy between these ideas and some of those of which we have a few traces in the inscriptions found on golden tablets in graves at Thurii in what was once Magna Graecia, and elsewhere. It is supposed that there was a sort of Orphic or Pythagorean Book of the Dead, "The Passing into Hades" or "The Descent into Hades," from which some of these inscriptions quote. These tablets were evidently placed in 

[1] See art. "Ichthus," in Smith and Cheetham's "Dictionary of Christian Antiquities" (London; 1875). 


the graves of ancient Orphic or Pythagorean initiates, and on one of them we read: 
"In the mansions of Hades, upon the left, a spring wilt thou find, and near it a white cypress standing; this spring thou shouldst not approach. But there [to the right] wilt thou come on another, from Memory's lake a fresh flowing water. Before it are watchers: To them shalt thou say: ' Of Earth and starry Heaven child am I, my race is of the heavens. But this ye must know of yourselves. With thirst I parch, I perish; quick, give me to drink of the water fresh flowing from Memory's lake! Then will they give thee to drink of the spring of the gods, and then shalt thou reign with the rest of the heroes."[1]
Moreover the connection between this wonderful symbolism of the "living water" of these early Christian mystic schools and the beautiful gospel story of the woman of Samaria and the Christ, and with the many fish figures introduced elsewhere in the gospel narratives, must strike even the least observant. 

It is also to be noticed that the "fish" played some important part in one of the variants of the eucharistic rite (the five loaves and two fishes) of early Christianity, and it is also of great interest to remember the very simple form of the covenant meal of the earliest Essene-Christians of whom we are treating was bread 

[1] "Inscr. Gr. Siciliae et Italiae," 638. See also Foucart (P.), "Recherches sur 1'Origine et la Nature des Mystères d'Eleusis." "Extr. des Mem. de 1'Acad. des Ins. et Belles-Lettres" (Paris; 1895), tom, xxxv., 2d partie, pp. 68 ff; and also my articles "Notes on the Eleusinian Mysteries" in the "Theosophical Review" (London; 1898), vol. xxii., pp. 145 ff., 232 ff., 312 ff., 317 ff. 


and salt, or bread and water, the fruit of the Sun and Sea, for they eschewed wine. 

The "Book of Elxai," then, in one of its deposits at any rate, for it was doubtless edited and re-edited as were so many other of these early documents, apparently went back to as early as at least 70 A.D., while even in that deposit we find an earlier scripture quoted. Moreover, all that is told us of these early "Christians," for they looked to the mystic Christ as the ideal of all their aspiration, is of a very primitive stamp, and in closest contact with much that we learn concerning the Essenes and Therapeuts. I am, therefore, persuaded that we are here in touch with a body of ideas that for all we know may have been Pre-Pauline, and that we are not far from discovering one of the most mysterious factors in the genesis of the great religion of the Western world. 

Before, however, closing this chapter on the mysterious "Elxai," who, as we have seen, never existed, and yet always is, there is to be mentioned a scrap of information which may throw some further light on this earliest and most widespread "heresy" of Christendom. 

We have already seen that some remnants of these early teachings are preserved even to-day by the Mandaïtes, or so-called Christians of St. John. It is, therefore, of interest to learn that "Elcasaeans," distinctly so named, were still in existence in the tenth century. Mahammed ben Is'haq en-Nedim, in his "Fihrist" (written in 987-988 A.D.) tells us concerning the Mogtasilah, or Baptists, that they were then very numerous in the marsh districts between the Arabian 


desert and the Tigris and Euphrates. Their head, he says, was called el'Hasai'h (Elchasai), and he was the original founder of their confession. This el'Hasai'h had a disciple called Schimun.[1] 
Hilgenfeld[2] thinks that Schimun may be Sobiaï, but in my opinion Schimun (Shimeon or Simon), if he were ever a mortal, is more likely to have been Simon Magus, and this would confirm the early date of the Elxai teaching. Or if this is thought to be too precise, then the Schimun of Elxai, the Holy Spirit, may have originally had some connection with Shemesh, the spiritual Sun of the Sampsaeans and Simonians, the Spouse of the Spirit or Water, Helena (Selene) or Luna, the Moon, and the irresponsibility of legend has "deranged the epitaphs."

Finally we must remember that the prophet Nahum, a name meaning "rich in comfort" or the "comforter," is called the Elkoshite ("Nah.," i. 1), a name given in the Greek translation of the so-called Seventy as Elkesaios.[3] Moreover Jerome and Epiphanius (or pseudo-Epiph.) tell us that this prophet was born at a village in Galilee called Elkesei.[4] It is, further, to be remembered that Cephar-naum means the village or town of Nahum, and here it was that Jesus began his ministry, and where he specially laboured. Moreover we read in the narrative of the first evangelist (Matt. 

[1] See Chwolsohn, "Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus" (St. Petersburg; 1856), ii. pp. 543. ff. 

[2] Op. cit., p. 232. 

[3] See Budde's art. "Elkoshite" in the "Encyclopaedia Biblica." 

[4] Hieron., "Comm. in Naum," praefat., Opp., vi. 535; Epiph., "De Vitis Prophetarum," c. 18. See Hilgenfeld, op. sup. cit., p. 231


ix. 1): "And he entered into a ship, and passed over (the Lake of Galilee), and carne into his own city"— which the parallel passage in Mark (ii. 1) gives as Capernaum. What curious coincidences for a lover of Talmudic and allied riddles!

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