We tend to regard Christianity as a ready made religion with in-built concepts like the Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ co-existing and the redeeming of sins through the great example of the crucifixion.
But all these concepts were hotly fought over in the early centuries of Christianity. The Trinity was seen as a lapse in to polytheism, the human nature of Christ was spurned by Gnostics while the idea of a purely divine messiah was rejected by the Ebionites.
And the idea of God in the form of his Son being actually crucified was rejected by others who still called themselves Christians.
One variant of Christianity – or offshoot – even denied that Jesus Christ was the saviour. Indeed he was seen as either a lesser figure to John the Baptist or an outright imposter. Far from blazing a path for somebody to come after him, John was the redeemer and the baptism of Christ was the act of a superior bestowing a gift to an inferior. Incredibly, there are still people adhering to this view in the Middle East today.
When the Templars were in ‘outremer’ – the Holy Land and crusader territories in the Levant – they undoubtedly encountered many of the eastern variations on Christianity. Unlike the west, religion was disputed and debated over much more vigorously in the east. From the legalisation of Christianity under Constantine to the Middle Ages, the clash of views resulted in murderous feuds between patriarchs in Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople.
Most Christians, though, would have outrightly condemned the Johannites or ‘Saint John Christians’ as the Portuguese called them when they encountered such people in the Arabian gulf during their sixteenth century age of navigation.
But it’s been conjectured that the Templars, far from condemning this obviously heretical view – embraced it. Thus the head of the creature called ‘Baphomet’, said to be held by the Order, was the head of John the Baptist. Look at the similarity between the two words – Baphomet and Baptist – say supporters of this view.
This rather gnostic veneration of John the Baptist as a great teacher – a view sometimes called Mandaeism – was the great secret of the Templars, it is alleged. A proponent of this theory is Lynn Picknett and here she is explaining it in more detail.