Podcast episode

Episode 64: The Enigma of Early Christianity

In this episode we look at the evidence for the very earliest Christian movements; some scholars call it the ‘Jesus movement’, some the Early Church, some want to say it was all a case of ‘Jewish-Christianity’. But the part no one seems to talk about is that no one really knows much about the origins of what is now the most widespread religion in the world.

Essential ground-laying for future developments in the podcast, as western esotericism develops in the Roman world and beyond.

Works Cited in this Episode:


  • Eusebius HE 3.12: Vespasian orders descendants of David to be put on watch; ibid. 3.19-20: Diocletian orders their execution.
  • Pliny to Trajan on how to punish the local Christians who are making trouble:  Ep. X.96
  • Tacitus disses the Roman Jews: Ann. 15.44.2-4.


  • Frazer, James George, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (London: Macmillan, 1939) [This is just one edition of Frazer’s ever-expanding magnum (?) opus].
  • Reimarus, Hermann Samuel, Fragments from Reimarus: Consisting of Brief Critical Remarks on the Object of Jesus and His Disciples as seen in the New Testament (London/Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1879).
  • Schweitzer, Albert, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede (A. and C. Black, 1910).
  • Smith, J.Z., Map Is Not Territory (Chicago, IL/London: University of Chicago Press, 1993) [The essays in this volume develop the locative/utopian distinction].
  • Strauss, David Friedrich, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, trans George Eliot (London: Swann Sonnenschein, 1846) [yes, that George Eliot].

Recommended Reading:

  • Carleton Paget, J., ‘The Definition of Jewish Christian/Jewish Christianity in the History of Research’, in R. Hvalnik and O. Skarsaune, ed., A History of Jewish Believers in Christ from Antiquity to the Present vol. 1, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006).
  • Daniélou, Jean, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973).
  • Deissmann, Adolf, Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004) [The classic presentation of the evidence for the influence of traditional ruler-cult on early Christianity].
  • Dunn, James, Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003) [A good summary of the story of the quest for the historical Jesus down the ages].
  • Schweitzer, Albert, Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1906).
  • G.F. Snyder. Ante Pacem: Archeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine. Mercer University Press, Macon, 1985.



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