GDay World 387 – Tim Freke, The Gospel Of the Second Coming

Gospel of the Second Coming

Tim Freke is the co-author (with his writing partner Peter Gandy) of many books about the Jesus myth – including THE JESUS MYSTERIES and THE LAUGHING JESUS. I chatted with him recently about one of their books “The Gospel of the Second Coming”, a marvelous book that manages to combine humour and insight – it explains the Jesus myth as a Gnostic parable. As Tim points out during our chat – nobody really thinks there was an historical “good Samaritan” or “prodigal son”. They are understood to be parables. Tim explains that the whole Jesus story is a series of parables wrapped up in another parable – the parable of Jesus himself.

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12 thoughts on “GDay World 387 – Tim Freke, The Gospel Of the Second Coming

  1. THis chap presents a compelling argument. However, he passes over several important points that would be stumbling points besides. The zero date for the beginning of the stories is central and necessary. There is simply no evidence before the sources (or hypothesized sources, such as Q) we have for any worship or cult around Joshua. Further, Jewish gnostic sources only start to appear in 100 CE, after many of the stories of Jesus we know exist. So, he is basing this on a hypothesized cult that has zero evidence. Second, his identification of the Therapeutae as worshippers of Moses and Joshua in mystery religion is totally unfounded. We know nothing of the therapeutae other that THAT they existed from Josephus and Philo. In fact the evidence for them is very similar to the evidence we have for a historical Jesus. Third, his presentation of gnosticism is simplistic and self-serving, just as he describes the Jesus of the liberal or the Jesus of the fundamentalist. His Jesus is simply the Jesus of the Buddha. He is highly unspecific and uncritical of the whole diverse school of gnosticism in evidence through the voluminous sources. Fourth, he sort of passes over the timeline issue where he thinks human-like Jesus doesn’t arise until the 2nd century, while Mark and Q and even early Paul, even though he speaks of death and resurrection, all know a human Jesus.

    I’ve critiqued this without mentioning the main issue with Freke and Gandy: They are popular writers. They are not academic, do not follow either the methodology of biblical studies, or myth and myth theory, both of which are established and well-founded fields in the study of Jesus and gnosticism. They are in no way accepted, and it is not because of a bias within these communities, but because of the critiques mentioned above.

    It was a great interview, but he plays just too fast and loose to be of any use in this story.

    Finally, Cameron has slightly misquoted me a few times. Though in most cases to no major effect, so no harm done.

  2. Hey Francis

    Good retort! Sorry if I misquoted you, it was innocent, I assure you!

    You say Paul knows a human Jesus, but I don’t know what evidence there is for that in his epistles. Can you back that up?

    And I’d counter your stuff about there being no evidence for earlier Gnosticism etc with the fact that there is no evidence for Jesus The Man, either. Apologists for Jesus love to play the “well it was a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away” excuse – and it cuts both ways. 🙂

  3. Well the fact that Paul has Jesus dying and being resurrected in the seven “accepted Pauline” epistles necessarily requires that he lives. The places where the crucifixion are mentioned are too numerous too count. A spirit-based christology would not allow for that human element.

    The point about the earlier gnosticism that you counter is basically exactly my point. In the case of Jesus there is little evidence, as we have gone over and over again, and need not anymore. In the case of earlier gnosticism there is ZERO evidence. Thus to come up with this alternative theory that is both historically and methodologically unfounded seems totally ludicrous to me.

    Two further points that I don’t think I brought up have less to do with the exact argument of Jesus, but are more about gnosticsm and then parables. A few times Freke, and you (Cameron), mentioned gnosticsm as a non-dualistic philosophy; this is directly counter to all the evidence of the gnostic texts we have out there and counter to the attacks on gnosticism. There is a precise line between body and soul, between self and other, and between in-groups and out-groups in gnosticism. It is what these and other mystery sects/groups thrived upon. It is another case of Freke falsely casting the Vedas or Buddhism onto the available evidence of gnosticism. Secondly, Freke also mentioned the possibility of Jesus’ story being a parable, but shows no proof. The problem with this is that parables are a well defined genre (or rather set of genres) in the literature of the ancient mediterranean. They have a specific form and function in a specific way. None of the Jesus stories matches the criteria for a parable, so in the future I would suggest he (and you, if you choose to repeat his faulty arguments) not use the term without really knowing its precise definition.

    A final point, and this is also sort of cheeky, is that even if we read all the varied gnostic texts out there in existence, we still are told of a Jesus who walked the earth (as I think I mentioned in our interview). Some deny he had a real corporeal body when he lived, others say he merely took on the body like some sort of alien would a human host (think Men in Black), others say only his genius was divine and the rest was human and thus corruptible. None deny that he existed on earth in Palestine at the time the other sources report. So, to rely on this gnostic argument is just really faulty. I don’t hope to convince you Cameron, I know you’ll go to your grave not believing that there was a historical Jesus, but I hope to dissuade you from touting this argument as a convincing solution to the problem, because it really is risible.

  4. Francis, I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on gnosticism, but reading this entry on wikipedia (my source of all knowledge 🙂 ), it *does* sound remarkably similar to non-dualistic philosophies such as zen and advaita vedanta (which I am *quite* familiar with).


    It says they gnostics viewed the world as a “simulacrum of a higher-level reality or consciousness” and that salvation comes through “a process of awakening” via “Knowledge of a specific kind as a central factor in this process of restoration”.

    That sounds very similar to a clumsy interpretation of zen buddhism or advaita vedanta.

  5. I would question that interpretation of gnosticism. Highly. A major facotr has to do with a shedding of the corruptible body. The very separation between body and soul and body and mind makes it de facto dualistic as it is used in the field of philosophy and in the field of theology, both of which I have a relatively good acquaintance with.

  6. Well buddhism and advaita both refer to this world / body as being, for example in the words of buddhism, “the cause of all suffering” or, in the words of the Avadhuta Gita, “the body is made up of impure elements, of blood, flesh, bones and the like.”

    Of course, the more a student delves into either philosophy, the more they attain “knowledge of a specific kind” and they are “awakened” to the truth of a “higher lever reality”, they will learn that this dualism is an illusion and that they are the Atman, the Buddha, the One.

    Perhaps the same was true of Gnosticism?

  7. This is true of one particular brand of gnosticism with which I am familiar, but certainly not most. Valentinian gnosticism, as far as I recall, sees the division as an illusion or as approaching one. It’s been a number of years since I did much of my New Testament area reading though. But for instance Donatism, Manicheism, Montanism and the thousands of other schools out there definitely had a strict dualist worldview.

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