Before we begin today, there is a bit of news about America Unearthed.
When an avalanche claimed the lives of more than a dozen people climbing on Mount Everest this week, Committee Films was in the process of shooting segments on the mountain for a History Channel documentary as well as America Unearthed, according to producer Maria Awes, whose husband was among the climbers. He was at 12,500 feet when the avalanche hit. All of the Committee Films production team members as well as their Sherpa guides were unharmed and were able to descend.
Since today is Easter I thought it might be an interesting time to take a look at a strange bit of information I found that by rights ought to play into fringe history’s Jesus conspiracy theories and yet somehow does not.
As I’m sure you’ll recall, I’ve been investigating the ancient texts related to the so-called Pillars of Wisdom best known from Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews (1.69-71) but which appear nearly everywhere in ancient literature. I came across a reference to these pillars being mentioned in pseudo-Manetho’s Apotelesmatica, an imperial-era forgery in six books. Naturally, most of the writers who mention this know the reference only secondhand, making it a huge pain to try to find the actual text, which was cited to Book V and “p. 93” of the 1832 publication of the Greek text. Of course that edition isn’t online, and the more recent editions have a bizarre dual book numbering system, making it hard to tell which Book 5 was meant. Anyway, I finally found it, and it was rather useless, merely alluding to the “mysterious stelae” of Hermes at 5.2. This seems to be the same as the “stelae set up in the Seriadic land” in another contemporary pseudo-Manetho forgery, the Book of Sothis (Syncellus, Chronicon 72), as well as the “secret stelae” of Hermes in the Kore Kosmou. I almost missed the Syncellus reference because the standard English translation of the Manetho fragments by Waddell inexplicably translates the Greek stelai (literally: blocks of stone) as inscriptions. Similarly, the Kore Kosmou’s standard English translation by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland gives the “secret stelae” as “hidden tables,” which isn’t very accurate.
Anyway, in researching this and reaching what I hope is the bottom of the barrel on such references, I came across a footnote in a book that asks readers to compare this to Cainan’s discovery of antediluvian stelae in Jubilees 8:3. Jubilees is a non-canonical book (outside of Ethiopia, anyway) that was for a long time venerated by Christians and Jews alike. I wasn’t familiar with that passage, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t say something interesting:
And he [Cainan] found a writing which former (generations) had carved on the rock, and he read what was thereon, and he transcribed it and sinned owing to it; for it contained the teaching of the Watchers in accordance with which they used to observe the omens of the sun and moon and stars in all the signs of heaven. (trans. R. H. Charles)
And there’s the missing link I had been looking for that proves that at least some ancient Jews believed that the Watchers had set up the Pillars of Wisdom otherwise attributed to Seth’s children (in Josephus) or to Hermes or to Enoch. (The Ethiopian Jubilees actually splits the difference between Enoch and Josephus and asserts that the Watchers and the children of Seth are the same.) It further is a fairly clear reflection of the Babylonian belief that Xisuthrus had preserved the antediluvian wisdom of the apkallu sages on tablets, which were recovered after the Flood (Syncellus, Chronicon 28; Eusebius, Chronicon 7), just as Cainan finds the rock with the Watchers’ teachings from before the Flood.
So what does this have to do with Jesus?
The fellow named Cainan, son of Arphaxad, appears only once in the Bible, in Luke 3:36, where he is given as one of the ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus. For all the Jesus conspiracies involving Christ receiving instruction from Buddhists in India (from the Victorian forgery, the Life of St. Issa), or from the priests of Amun in Egypt, I’ve never heard one involving Jesus being the recipient of the ancient wisdom of the Watchers, who are, of course, space aliens according to ancient astronaut theorists. And yet here we have an actual textual connection between the Watchers and Jesus, especially notable since Jubilees was written at least 200 years before the Gospel of Luke.
This makes it all the more remarkable that ancient astronaut theorists continue to exempt Jesus from their speculations.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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