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orion-list Rechabite History - Part 1 of 2 (A Little Known Text)

In his most recent works, Eisenman has explored the sometimes elusive
connection between the Rechabites, Jewish asceticism and the early
Christian communities.  In the Jewish Bible the Rechabites, in exchange
for their discipline and spiritually-oriented self-control, are
to survive as a clan until the End Times.  They forbade themselves
wine and maintained a nomadic lifestyle.  Eisenman has located support
in the Talmud and elsewhere that the Rechabites married into the Temple
priestly families and also into the Scribe families (the degree to which
families overlap is of some interest but I cannot go into this at this

The Church Fathers also make references to the inner circle of Jesus
as being Rechabite Priests, which is doubly important:  1) it shows that
the presence of Rechabite spiritual lineage continued into the days of
Jesus and 2) that this lineage had combined to some extent with the
priestly lineages.

Naturally, because of the Rechabite mission to inhabit the desert
wilderness in and around Palestine, the question arises as to whether
there was some combination between the self-denial of Rechabite
families and the self-denial of the DSS and/or Essene families.

Depending on the material examined, this can become an 
agonizing process.  In the text I reproduce below, we can see
separate threads from Jewish and Christian ascetic tradition.  There
is mention of abstaining from wine (a Rechabite tradition that seems
to be familiar to at least some Essene writings), non-sexual nudity
(which seems to have its only equivalent in some of the more
interesting sects of the earliest Christianity), and a de-emphasis
in procreation (which is found well blended into Essene folklore
as well as Pauline literature and that of other Church Fathers of
early Christianity).

There is also the "thread" of "blessed ones" or "saints" that
are mortals but now enjoy a special status in paradise because
of how the are of the Rechabite lineage.  This thread is
also found in both Essene and the earliest Christian writings.
It would appear that some Rechabite traditions depict Paradise
as a place where clothes (as humanly understood) are not needed.

Even the terminology evokes wonder.  There is mention of
"isles" or "islands" where the Blessed Ones dwell, which is the
kind of terminology that Josephus uses to describe the destination
of souls in the Essene view of the afterlife.  Other than this Rechabite
literature, I have not yet encountered Christian text that uses 
"isles" in the same way - - but maybe some others have?

The most interesting thing about this "isle" is that people still
die on it, and **then** the soul departs to Heaven.  In other
words, "Paradise" and "Heaven" do not appear to be synonymous!
Clearly, the Rechabite-inspired texts (if not the actual Rechabite
clan in reality) offer us quite a grab-bag of ideas.

As a service to the Orion, I thought I would provide some
text from a translation by James H. Charlesworth called THE
Recension (Scholars Press (c) 1982).  There appears to be
two volumes but I have not yet obtained a copy of the 2nd

Charlesworth writes:

P. 1:  "I have concluded that an early Jewish document about the
Rechabites was expanded with numerous Christian sections at the
beginning and end."

"The apocrypha [The History of the Rechabites] has circulated
under numerous titles and even if it does not preserve portions of
an ancient Jewish writing, it is important - - even fascinating - - for
its record of Jewish reflections on the legend of the lost tribes and the
marvelous characteristics of the terrestrial paradise and its
the Blessed Ones, the Rechabites."

P. 2: Charlesworth lists several different titles for the various
of this work.

Greek MS B "(The) Word of Our Devout Father Zosimus (About) the
Holy Blessed Ones.  (O Lord,) Bless."

Greek MS C "(The) Narrative of Monk Zosimus Concerning the 
Fathers, Verily the Brahmans Whom Alexander Found *and Philip and he
Conversed with Them,* Those Being Naked as a Serpent.  Therefore I wish
to Show from Which Tribe They were Separated, (and then) Inhabited
the Islands of the Blessed Ones" (*ex margine)

Syriac MS B "The History of the Sons of Jonadab, the Son of Rechab,
who are in the Midst of the Ocean, the Great Sea, When God Showed Them
to Zosimus, the Virtuous Hermit"

Syriac MS D "The History of the Blessed Ones, the Sons of the Rechabites,
Whose Record is Recorded by Jeremiah the Prophet When He Said that
They are the Sons of Jonadab, the Son of Rechab, who are Inhabitants of
the City of Jerusalem.  But it was Translated from Hebrew into Greek
and from Greek into Syriac by the Hands of the Reverend Mar
Jacob of Edessa."

And there are several more "titles" translated on page two.

P. 15:  "And behold, an angel of the Lord was sent saying to him,
"O Zosimus, man of God, behold, I was sent from the Most High,
the God of all, to tell you that you shall proceed forth to the
Blessed Ones, but shall not dwell with them...."

P. 16:  "And the angel said to him, "Know also this:  that you are
not worthy of (partaking in) one of their meals; nevertheless, rise,
proceed forth...."

[....to be continued...]

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