We are often told that the mythological Jesus Christ is a modern idea, but note this in 2 John 1.7-11:
I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
This passage tells us that there were people visiting Christian communities and proclaiming that Jesus Christ did not come “in the flesh” (ἐν σαρκὶ). The debate is not over whether Jesus was Christ, a debate that came later, but if Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. One might superficially see this as a debate over the reality of the Jesus Christ stories, but I think Jesus Christ was simply the name for the Jewish God and thus the original meaning was quite different.
Note also 1 John 4.2:
Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
Not only are human deceivers saying that Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh, but apparently spirits are saying this too. Thus both people and spirits are saying that Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh and other people and spirits are saying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
But what does it mean to “come in the flesh”? (ἐν σαρκὶ). We have eight other biblical references to “in the flesh,” Genesis 18:14:
Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people
I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh
Clearly the term “in the flesh” refers to circumcision of the foreskin of the penis in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The term is used five times in the letters of Paul, Galatians 6:13:
they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh
Again the term is being used to reference the circumcision of the foreskin in the penis. Again as in the Old Testament, the term “in the flesh” is roughly a metonymic term for “in the penis.”
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh
God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh…
Circumcision may be associated with a sin offering.
Leviticus 12:2-4 Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: “When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed.”
The woman is unclean after giving birth to a male child. The circumcision begins her process of purification. A sin offering completes the process.
When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a
daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of
meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon
or a turtledove for a sin offering (12:6).
The writer of Romans 8:3 sees circumcision as part of the sin offering. He is referring to the foreskin being a sin offering when he says, “God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh.” By sin “in the flesh” we may read “sin in the penis” or sexual intercourse. The foreskin (God’s son in the likeness of sinful flesh” is sacrificed during circumcision for the sin of sexual intercourse that the woman has engaged in.
These are the final references to “in the flesh” in Paul’s letters, Galatians 6:13:
Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.
Again “in the flesh,” is just a poetical euphemism for “in the penis.” Philippians 3:2-4
2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
Because “those dogs” the Jews who do not understand that the foreskin is a sin offering for the sin of sexual intercourse on the part of the mother, those Jews are simply “mutilators” of the flesh. Philippians 6-8
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
Again “in the flesh” just means “in the penis”. Paul is saying that he has been circumsized and is a loyal Jew. Note that the word “persecuting” in the translation “persecuting the church” contradicts the rest of the cases where the writer is affirming his loyalty to Judaism. Note Stong’s definition of the term used here for persecuting, “1377 diṓkō – properly, aggressively chase, like a hunter pursuing a catch (prize). 1377 (diṓkō) is used positively (“earnestly pursue”) and negatively (“zealously persecute, hunt down”).”
It is obvious, that the translation of diṓkō should read “earnestly pursuing” as opposed to “persecuting.” The writer earnestly persued the Church, meaning most likely he was either a faithful member or actually was becoming a member of the Jewish Church.
Finally, the last mention of “In the Flesh” is in Timothy 1:16
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
This may be a reference to King Izates who was circumcised and saved by angels. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia:
Josephus relates (“Ant.” xx. 2, §§ 3, 4), a Jew named Ananias sought to make converts to Judaism. He succeeded with Queen Helena and the women of the court, and her son Izates was eager to follow her example. But Izates’ mother, on hearing of his determination to submit to circumcision also, implored him not to do so, as the people might take umbrage at his act of compliance with strange and abhorrent rites, and overthrow the dynasty. His instructor, Ananias, also tried to dissuade him and to allay his scruples with arguments based on the meritoriousness of his intention, which would atone, in the sight of God, for the non-performance of the rite. But, through the influence of another Jew, Eleazar, from Galilee, the home of the Zealot party, Izates was easily induced to submit to the operation; and he informed both his mother and Ananias of what he had done. He was rewarded for his fortitude and piety; for “God . . . preserved both Izates and his sons when they had fallen into many dangers, and procured their deliverance when it seemed impossible, demonstrating thereby that the fruit of piety is not lost to those who wait for Him and who put their sole trust in Him.” Compare the story related in Gen. R. xlvi.: “King Monobaz and Izates, sons of King Ptolemy [an error: read “Monobaz” for “Ptolemy”], read the Book of Genesis together. When they came to the passage xvii. 11 they wept; and each, without the other’s knowledge, underwent circumcision. The next time they read the chapter together one said to the other: ‘Wo unto me, my brother!’ They then disclosed what they had done. Their mother, on hearing of the matter, told their father that they had needed circumcision as a precaution against phimosis, and he signified his approval. As a reward for their action they were saved by an angel from being killed in an ambush during a war in which they had become involved”
We may suppose that Jesus Christ (or King Jesus/ King Yaweh Saves) referred to the foreskin and the need to circumcize it in order for Hellenes to become Jewish and thus be saved. Jesus Christ probably started as a euphemism for this way to salvation by non-Jews. Apparently baptism became an alternative or substitute way. Note this from the Jewish Encyclopedia
The issue between the Zealot and Liberal parties regarding the circumcision of proselytes remained an open one in tannaitic times; R. Joshua asserting that the bath, or baptismal rite, rendered a person a full proselyte without circumcision, as Israel, when receiving the Law, required no initiation other than the purificative bath; while R. Eliezer makes circumcision a condition for the admission ofa proselyte, and declares the baptismal rite to be of no consequence (Yeb. 46a)…[Read more: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/vi…#ixzz1DCuzpXmm%5D
Obviously, the party of Jews favoring entry of non-Jews into the religion through baptism would have a clear advantage over the party of Jews favoring entry into Judaism through circumcision. We might expect the more zealous pro-circumcise party to kick out the baptism party. The baptism party adopted new language and narratives to make up for their loss of power in the Jewish community. The important thing perhaps is to see that the letters are pre-Jesus Christ as Man-God, and reflect the idea of Jesus Christ as foreskin-God.
The exact evolution of the two parties in their struggle for power and their playing with words, symbols and stories is the true stuff of early Christian History.
We might also relate these ideas to the worship of Min and Priapus, but that is another issue.