Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Antinomianism and the Ogdoad

I have been getting so much mail lately I don't know what to do with it. I have a few minutes to answer another question from a reader in Greece. The question is:

what about antinomian gnostics are they from Jewish religion or not?

The reader is by no means alone in throwing around terms like 'antinomian.' Some have even argued that the Marcionites should be so designated.

I should tell my readers that my opinions are by no means normative but my family is from a Jewish sect which is sometimes so designated so I have, I think, a unique perspective to offer here.

It all comes down to the status of Moses and how the reader wants to interpret the Torah.

Q: Was Moses heralding 'one like him'? [Deut. 18:15]

A: I think the answer is obvious but rarely examined in too much detail. We should ask instead what was this 'one like Moses' going to do when he appeared? The tradition of the Samaritans is very instructive here all though at the same time, still very ambiguous.

Ben Hayyim argues that the portions of the Mimar Marqe ('the teachings of Mark') which refer to the Ta'eb (the Restorer who is like Moses) come from a later period. This of course doesn't mean that the Samaritans didn't have an expectation for one like Moses until a late period but rather only that the Ta'eb expectation was not originally a part of the Samaritan tradition associated with its founder Marqe (Mark).

Q: So what was Marqe's understanding 'of the one who was to come'?

A: This is what is so interesting about studying the Samaritan tradition.  It seems so straightforward at first glance - a tradition which emphasizes only what is in the Torah.  But it really isn't that simple. This 'Mark' is a complete enigma to us and Marqe utterly defines the entire tradition.

Modern Samaritans cringe when I argue that he MUST HAVE BEEN a Dosithean but I see clear evidence for this supposition.  But there is something so sweeping about his transformation of all that preceded him.

The dates for Marqe differ widely among scholars.  I happen to agree with Boid, Kippenberg and Stenhouse all of whom advocate for dates much earlier than the fourth century.  Indeed I place Marqe in the golden age for Samaritans which ended with the Bar Kochba revolt.

Indeed not only was Marqe's original eschatology completely rewritten, his historical identity was so utterly obscured that Samaritan curiously know almost nothing about the founder of their very tradition (sounds remarkably similar to the Alexandrian Copts!)

As we noted large portions of the Mimar and even the hymns associated with Marqe were reworked in a later period. Yet Ben Hayyim as we already noted already says this about the former; Kippenberg argues that the hymns also make reference to a recent revaluation of orthodoxy.

I find it difficult to believe that all of this would have been necessary if Marqe's original position WASN'T problematic.  As such he was a 'heretic' (at least defined by later standards of orthodoxy) - and in my mind - undoubtedly of the baptizing 'Dosithean' sect (given that this was the only rival to 'orthodoxy').

There isn't much that one can say about an expunged tradition.  We can't say what Marqe's interpretation of Deut. 18.15 - 18 because they have not been preserved in his sacred writings.  But we can point to one curious feature of the modern Samaritan preservation of his historical identity - viz. Marqe's identification as a prophet 'like Moses.'

The Samaritans emphasize that the name 'Mark' has the numerological value of the name 'Moses' that Mark's original understanding was that HE was the one expected by Moses (i.e. M + Sh + H = 345 = M + R + Q + H).

So regular readers of my post can already see that a striking parallel exists between Samaritan Mark again and the gnostic Mark and Marcion (which I again argue is a heretical boogeyman developed from a backformation of the Semitic gentilic plural Marqione i.e. 'those of Mark'). All three 'Marks' were held by their believers to be messianic figures. I will provide my readers will a list of references that the Marcionites thought that their 'Marcion' was Christ but informed readers already know the citations.

The point is that when people throw around terms like 'antinomian' they have to be very careful because this is a loaded term. 'The Law' isn't just a name describing a physical object (i.e. a series of scrolls which contain the five books of Moses) but rather a CONCEPT designating what we as a community BELIEVE Moses's Law to represent.

Eearly Catholic Christians held that Jesus was 'the one like Moses' prophesied in the Law.  As such to deny this proposition (viz. that Jesus was the one prophesied by Moses) necessarily put one in the category of being 'antinomian.'

It's sort of like when my wife asks me if she has gained any weight over the time we have known each other.  Affirming that she has (as would only be natural) DOES NOT mean necessarily that I am saying she is fat or has a weight problem.  Indeed it is certainly not the case.  Nevertheless some subjects can be so touchy than nothing short of a confession of faith ('no, honey you are absolutely the EXACT same weight as when we met') is required to be in good standing.

I see all three historical Marks as being lumped together here.  Irenaeus for instance says that the heretic 'Mark' claimed that he was the 'only-begotten' (John 1:18) through his having underwent the gnostic baptism ritual called 'apolutrosis' (AH i.21).  I have long argued that many features of this ritual resemble Marqe's description of the crossing of the Sea by the ancient Israelites.

Yet Irenaeus specifically condemns Mark for being 'the Antichrist' (AH i.13.1).  Marcion has the same charged leveled against him which means something more than just being a 'false prophet.'  It is someone who falsely claims to be the awaited messiah.

Within the Catholic tradition 'the real Messiah' is already known - viz. Jesus Christ.  So for a Christian to accept baptism and announce that they are the awaited Christ is clearly heretical.  An 'Antichrist' clearly managed to get a lot of people to acknowledge him as this 'rival messiah' such as we must imagine 'Mark' to have done.

Yet there is another component to this Antichrist charge which connects Mark to Deut. 18:18.  'Mark' is always understood to herald 'another God' higher than the Hebdomad of the Jews.  This charge explicitly surfaces in Irenaeus' Proof of the Apostolic Preaching which is addressed to a figure called 'Marcian' - i.e. 'belonging to Mark' as well as in his description of the heretic Mark:

he has induced them [i.e. his followers] to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above. Thus it appears as if he really were the precursor of Antichrist [AH i.13.1]

Whenever Marcion is accused of being 'the Antichrist' it is connected with his coming to speak on behalf of a power above the God of the Jews too.  Marqe too can be connected with the mystical principle of the Ogdoad.

While Deuteronomy 18:18 explicitly references the idea of God "standing up" for the Israelites "a prophet like you from among their brothers" who God will "put his words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything" commanded to him by God, there is a warning that "a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." [Deut. 18:20]

It would certainly be a matter of debate as to whether someone claiming to issue in the awaited 'ogdoad' - i.e. the prophesied coming of something better than the hebdomad - was a heretic or a fulfillment of Mosaic expectation.

Jews and Samaritans have argued ever since the appearance of the Catholic tradition in the late second century that Jesus could not have been the one like Moses. I won't get into the whole debate but it is worth noting that the Muslims actually succeed at exposing the weaknesses in the Christian argument by bringing forward a figure like Mohammed who is certainly more 'like Moses' than Jesus.

It is actually surprisingly difficult to pin down the early Fathers on this point - i.e. how Deuteronomy 18:18 applies to Jesus. As Everett Ferguson aptly notes "it is worth noting that Deut. 18:15 is not cited in the apostolic fathers apologists, Irenaeus, or Clement. Perhaps it presented too many difficulties."

In other words, the surviving writings of Irenaeus merely make a blanket statement that Jesus was the one figure in history in whom ALL the (Jewish) prophesies were fulfilled. Nevertheless the specific manner in which a particular messianic 'scripture' related to Jesus may never have been actually worked out until much later.

This is VERY CERTAINLY an example in my mind of the cart leading the horse - viz. JESUS CAN ONLY BE THE ONE to whom the prophesies referred THEREFORE to argue otherwise was to be engaged in heresy. But did Mark really have Jesus in mind as the fulfillment of EVERY scripture cited in his gospel? Or better yet did the early Alexandrian tradition hold that Jesus was the fulfillment of every scripture cited in the gospel? The answer is clearly no.

For Clement and Origen did not hold that Jesus was the 'messiah' referenced in Daniel 9:24 - 27 and this section of Daniel is specifically referenced in turn in the Gospel of Mark (Mk 13:14).

Q: Who did the Alexandrian tradition think was the historical figure referenced in THIS prophesy?

A: It was in fact 'a guy named Mark' viz. Marcus Julius Agripa and this became the starting point for my recent book, the Real Messiah (left).

Q: Did the Alexandrian tradition argue that St. Mark thought that Daniel himself was foretelling that someone named Mark was coming as the messiah? 

A: It is of course difficult to say as we only have Clement and Origen saying that Agrippa was the messiah of Daniel.  But yes, I think this MUST be thought to be true.  Origen for one points to earlier sources including Josephus and Justus of Tiberias, Agrippa's secretary.  I think that this was the official position of the Markan tradition of Alexandria.  The only way one could get around it is by denying that an episcopal tradition in the name of St. Mark was already existing at the time of Clement and Origen.  Yet this is something EXPLICITLY AFFIRMED by Clement's Letter to Theodore.

Q: Do I think that St Mark really thought that Daniel 9:24 - 27 was referring to ANOTHER GUY named Mark?

A: No, I think Mark thought Daniel was heralding HIM as the coming as the messiah. I think this is why he wrote the gospel.  I think this is the whole reason there is a 'gospel secret' at its core - viz. Mark's cryptic self-reference to himself as its neaniskos.

I have even demonstrated the great Coptic historian Severus of Al'Ashmunein EXPLICITLY referenced St. Mark as the Christ of the Alexandrian tradition.

Of course I am not trying to promote my theories at my own blog (heaven forbid!). I am trying instead to demonstrate that it is very difficult to prove WHAT THE TRADITION ASSOCIATED WITH MARK actually believed given the later 'correction' of that original understanding.

On the one hand, there is shockingly NO reference to Deuteronomy 18:15 - 18 in EITHER the writings of the earliest Church Fathers or for that matter the Mimar Marqe. The one glimmer that we have of what the proper interpretation of this passage was in the first and second centuries is found in a story involving Marcus Agrippa (the 'Mark' who was interpreted to be the messiah of Daniel 9:26 among Jews and Alexandrian Christians) in the Mishnah where he is said to be standing while reading the Deuteronomy scroll (when he should have been sitting according to custom).

King Agrippa rose and received [the scroll] and read standing and the Sages praised him. When he reached, “You may not place over you [as your king] a foreigner [who is not your brethren] his eyes flowed with tears. They said to him, “Do not fear, Agrippa. You are our brother! You are our brother!”

If you go searching on the internet you will find all sorts of stupid interpretations of this passage. The only interpretation that matters is that of the Gemara which explains sages praising Agrippa as follows 'since they praised him, it follows that he acted rightly.' This appears first among all explanations as such it is the authoritative one.

As I note in my book, what ALWAYS goes unexplained in all the modern interpretations is why Agrippa is standing while reading the Deuteronomy scroll. The Gemara is specifically saying that the sages were right in praising Agrippa for STANDING when he should have been sitting according to custom:

THE KING STANDS AND RECEIVES IT, BUT READS SITTING. KING AGRIPPA STOOD AND RECEIVED IT AND READ STANDING. [Since it is stated that] he stands, it follows that he had been sitting. But a Master has said: In the Temple-court the kings of the House of David alone were allowed to sit; as it is said: Then David the king went in, and sat before the Lord, and he said etc.! — It is as R. Hisda declared: [This occurred] in the Court of Women, and here also [with the reading by the king] it was in the Court of Women. FOR WHICH ACT THE SAGES PRAISED HIM. Since they praised him, it follows that he acted rightly

So the context is important here. The sages are said to have been correct in praising Agrippa standing instead of sitting reading the Deuteronomy scroll.

Now look at the CONTEXT of the reading as noted in Sotah. We are told EXPLICITLY:

what the procedure was in connection with the portion read by the king at the conclusion of the first day of the festival (of Tabernacles) in the eighth - or (more specifically) the end of the seventh - they erect a wooden dais in the temple court upon which he sits as it says 'at the end of every seven years in the set time (Deut 31.10) the synagogue-attendant takes a Torah scroll and hands it to the synagogue president and the synagogue president hands it to the high priest's deputy [and] he hands it to the high priest to hands it to the king. The king stands and receives it, but reads sitting. King Agrippa stood and received it and read standing for which act the sages praised him.

Now my friends if you have been following what we have been developing over the last three months you know that we are seeing another ritual replication of the same mystical interest in motsa'e shabbat 'the goings of the Sabbath' (plural construct suffix) - i.e. it means the transition from the seventh to the eighth.

If any of the so-called 'experts' in early Christianity had ANY knowledge of Jewish principles of exegesis they would realize that Agrippa reading the Torah scroll STANDING at this particular time (i.e. the seventh year going out into the eighth) is a messianic statement. The fact that chapter eighteen immediately follows this citation and it is here that Moses says:

The LORD your God will STAND (emphasis mine) for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die." The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. I will STAND for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. [Deut 18:15 - 18]

I cannot change the way that way Christians HAVE LEARNED TO THINK about their faith. They chose the Acts of the Apostles over what is necessitated by logic - namely that Christianity developed from the ancient expectation that the messiah would be one like Moses.

Now I don't want to get into one of these inane debates where the pious try and convince non-believers that Jesus was indeed the one predicted by Moses. The real question these people will have to answer is why isn't this argument front and center in the earliest Christian literature. Why do the earliest Christian writers AVOID Deuteronomy chapter 18 rather than embrace it as one would expect.

The answer is already witnessed by the much older Alexandrian tradition - Jesus wasn't the one heralded by Moses, St. Mark was. In the monophysite tradition of earliest Alexandria Jesus was wholly divine. He was divine power who established the one who was to come in the 'mysterion of the kingdom of God' - i.e. baptism.

Morton Smith's discovery of the Letter to Theodore is so absolutely important because it lays out a parallel to Sotah's narrative about 'King Mark' (i.e. Marcus Agrippa). As I demonstrate elsewhere the Coptic tradition preserves that the year of Jesus's ministry was a forty ninth year (i.e. the seventh sabbatical year). The baptism described in the narrative of the gospel of Mark also specifically reinforces the 'going out of seven into eight' if we look carefully.

In other words, when Secret Mark says this:

And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan

We begin with Jesus arriving at the location at the end of the first day. Six days after the neaniskos is raised he returns in the evening to undergo his initiation. In other words it is another ritual reinforcement of the motsa'e shabbat. Indeed I would even go so far as to say that "thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan" is a foreshadowing of the eighth day.

There can be no doubt that Israelites crossing of the sea is the ultimate context for ALL the interest in the seventh going out in to the eighth. Irenaeus specifically identifies the heretical Marcosian sect - i.e. 'those of Mark' as having the EXACT SAME interest:

He asserts that the fruit of this arrangement and analogy has been manifested in the likeness of an image, namely, Him who, after six days, ascended into the mountain along with three others, and then became one of six (the sixth), in which character He descended and was contained in the Hebdomad, since He was the illustrious Ogdoad [AH i.14.6]

Irenaeus says again of the Marcosians that this interest in the seventh going out in the eighth is also manifest in their 'redemption' baptism too:

for this reason did Moses declare that man was formed on the sixth day; and then, again, according to arrangement, it was on the sixth day, which is the preparation, that the last man appeared, for the regeneration of the first [ibid]

With this discussion of the Marcosians we come full circle to Clement of Alexandria, the author of the Letter to Theodore who cites these exact same opinions of 'those Mark' albeit as a disciple of St. Mark the head of the Episcopal tradition of Alexandria.

Clement repeats almost every argument developed by Irenaeus against the followers of Mark and their interest in the numbers seven and eight, except that Clement is clearly doing so as a disciple of St. Mark. We read:

And they called eight a cube, counting the fixed sphere along with the seven revolving ones, by which is produced "the great year," as a kind of period of recompense of what has been promised.

Thus the Lord, who ascended the mountain, the fourth, becomes the sixth, and is illuminated all round with spiritual light, by laying bare the power proceeding from Him, as far as those selected to see were able to behold it, by the Seventh, the Voice, proclaimed to be the Son of God; in order that they, persuaded respecting Him, might have rest; while He by His birth, which was indicated by the sixth conspicuously marked, becoming the eighth, might appear to be God in a body of flesh, by displaying His power, being numbered indeed as a man, but being concealed as to who He was. For six is reckoned in the order of numbers, but the succession of the letters acknowledges the character which is not written. In this case, in the numbers themselves, each unit is preserved in its order up to seven and eight. But in the number of the characters, Zeta becomes six and Eta seven.

And the character having somehow slipped into writing, should we follow it out thus, the seven became six, and the eight seven.

Wherefore also man is said to have been made on the sixth day, who became faithful to Him who is the sign (to episemo), so as straightway to receive the rest of the Lord's inheritance. Some such thing also is indicated by the sixth hour in the scheme of salvation, in which man was perfected. Further, of the eight, the intermediates are seven; and of the seven, the intervals are shown to be six. For that is another ground, in which seven glorifies eight, and "the heavens declare to the heavens the glory of God."
[Stromata vi.16]

The reader should note that Clement begins with a specific reference to the eight representing the YEAR AFTER the seventh sabbatical year or a Jubilee. Irenaeus specifically references a Marcosian belief that Jesus's ministry was WRONGLY connected with this year [AH ii.22 ff]

Now the reader should see that there is an uncanny parallel between the three Marks of three different cultures (viz. the Jews, Samaritans and Alexandrians) and their interest in the mystical significance of the motsa'e shabbat.

Of course for a Jew with some knowledge of the mystical traditions association with his religion this would hardly be surprising especially in first century Alexandria. Yet what makes it so revelatory is that we have a complex system of lies being introduced from Rome in the late second century which has brainwashed countless generations of Europeans (and the subjects of their empires that they managed to convert to their religion) which essentially says that Christianity WASN'T a natural development of Judaism.

I don't want to attack those I don't agree with but their system simply doesn't make sense. Even though it sounds utterly jarring to most to suggest that Marcus Julius Agrippa was the founder of Christianity when you see the parallels between ALL Markan traditions the coronation of Agrippa as the seventh year went out into the eighth only helps to provide a REAL HISTORICAL CONTEXT for what has always been taken to be a 'random' and 'unconnected' interest in the numbers seven and eight and rituals associated with those numbers (the apoltrosis and its Ogdoad for instance, the mystery of the kingdom of God in To Theodore and for that matter its "lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils" i.e. 'the truth' is thus 'one more' than the seven or 'the ogdoad').

What has present this most natural of all interpretations is the fact that each tradition has been forced to change its original orthodoxy. In each case this transformation occurred IN THE EXACT SAME PERIOD viz. the end of the second century with - as I see it - the same transformational process - viz. Irenaeus relationship with Commodus and the parallel war against the Alexandrian tradition, Judah ha Nasi relationship with 'Antoninus' i.e. Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus, the Samaritans report a persecution in the Commodian period which ended up causing the destruction of a great number of their books.

If we had all the ancient resources someone would have come up with this long before me. The only reason I see it is that I began with absolutely no knowledge of Christianity. I started with a clean slate.

I will move on in my next post to explain the Samaritan parallels with the mysteries in the Pauline writings. I hope you enjoyed this post. Many more to come ...

Email with comments or questions.

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