Saturday, May 22, 2010

On the Hebrew Origins of Marcosian Kabbalah

I often speak about the difficulties inherent in being a Jew in the study of early Christianity. I am sure that I get little in the way of pity from my readership because I have no Jewish readership to speak of. Nevertheless let me just say that if you won't show sympathy for the plight of Jews studying Christianity I was hoping that at least some of you would take up the cause of the mistreatment of the original Christian adaptation of the Jewish science of kabbalah.

There isn't a single Patristic scholar who even so much as gives the Marcosian system a second look. All of them essentially agree with Irenaeus's assertion that it is utterly stupid.

The entry is very well written. He presents a very good summary of what is written in Book One of Irenaeus's present work and later traditions developed from that original source.

But it is absolutely clear to the author of this entry that this system has nothing to do with 'true Christianity.'

Yet has anyone before me taken the possibility that the gospel MIGHT have been written with a kabbalistic cipher at its core SERIOUSLY?

I think by now my readers know who I am. I am certainly not one of those 'new age' writers who tries to argue that Christianity derived its origins from paganism or Buddhism or some such nonsense.

Christianity certainly did develop from Judaism - Alexandrian Judaism to be precise. But how is it so utterly implausible that Mark wrote the gospel in the way the Marcosians tell us he operated?

Two posts ago I demonstrated that Philo witnessed the kabbalistic system of Clement and the Marcan tradition of Egypt in the first century. In my last post I noted that the Ogdoad, the mystical principle common to Alexandrian gnosis, is one and the same with the concept of אֶת (the Hebrew equivalent of the ΑΩ) except that the first and last letters ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING in Hebrew.

שְׁמוֹנֶה = 'eight' = 401 (300 + 40 + 6 + 50 + 5) = אֶת = 'letter, sign' = (1 + 400)

I also argued that Irenaeus DELIBERATELY put forward the worst possible argument for the original Alexandrian gnosis. He knew that the original system functioned entirely in Hebrew. He says for instance that the followers of Mark repeat "Hebrew words in order the more thoroughly to bewilder those who are being initiated" [AH i.21.3]

I am now starting to look again at the kabbalistic system ascribed to Mark and argued to be the hidden structure to his gospel and am starting to see signs that it original functioned in Hebrew but that Irenaeus was DELIBERATELY reporting ONLY THE WATERED DOWN argument that the Alexandrians used for Greek speakers (cf. Stromata vi.11).

In other words, the original gospel AND the original kabbalah operated in Hebrew or Aramaic. Another version of that system was developed by the Alexandrian Church as an explanatory tool to prepare the catechumen to receive 'perfect knowledge.'

As such what Irenaeus is really giving us is the equivalent of something idiotic like this (i.e a popularized version of the original truth).

Of course Irenaeus can argue that the kabbalistic system doesn't work in Greek. But I take very seriously Morton Smith's idea that that the Gospel quotation rests on an Aramaic original which was employed by canonical Mark and John.

In any event it is enough for me to begin to show that the Marcosian system CAN'T have been originally formulated in Greek. Let's be frank - if the prayers of the community were originally developed in Hebrew or Aramaic it is unlikely that their gospel was originally written in Greek.

Let me also say IF Mark is understood to have originally written his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic then this would necessarily start to dislodge the idea the connection of the 'Gospel of the Hebrews' exclusively with Matthew. There might have been dozens of Hebrew gospels. The Roman Church might well have mandated that Matthew was the original Greek translation of the 'Gospel to the Hebrews' but did Origen for instance know and use a Hebrew gospel text THAT HE IDENTIFIED as 'of the Hebrews' and therefore Matthew's text but which is secretly 'according to Mark'?

There is much more to write about Origen's secret use of such a text in his Commentary on Matthew and the open question of whether the Alexandrian Church secret knew that the Epistle to the Corinthians was originally 'to the Alexandrians' (as the Marcionites identified it). Was all of Alexandrian Christianity a crypto-Marcionite/Marcosian faith, one PRETENDING to adopt the new rules of Rome?

These are all open questions. But what I think I can start to demonstrate in this present post is how Irenaeus's report is deliberately taking too seriously a Marcosian attempt to explain the original Aramaic gnosis in Greek letters.

The first step in dealing with kabbalah is for us to stop thinking in traditional 'reistic' terms when dealing with essentially what amounts to kabbalah's poetry involving letters and numbers. There is a secret doctrine being expressed here, sometimes with one letter, another time with other letters.

The last thing we need to do is LITERALLY IMAGINE a kingdom of letters where A, B and C are talking to one another and mowing their lawns, and having barbecues together with their extended families. This isn't Sesame Street. It's a secret doctrine which the Jews and Samaritans kept secret from their European rulers owing to their unfamiliarity with the medium.

In that way I imagine kabbalah to have originally appeared like rap music when it first came out (my wife still doesn't understand ANY LINE by ANY RAPPER because of the manner in which ideas as wholly obscured by deliberately invented terminology.

So let's start where we left off in the last post. I think that the whole concept of a dove descending down from heaven into the waters of baptism is a deliberate attempt to adapt the original Hebrew kabbalah of Alexandria.

The original 'thing' which descended in the waters was the Ogdoad or שְׁמוֹנֶה which is Jesus. However the author of the original gospel narrative didn't want to use gematria to allow for his audience to expand the original meaning of his narrative so he chose to use the word אֶת which has many different meanings depending on its concept but ultimately is used in kabbalah to mean 'the whole collection of heavenly letters' (i.e. אֶ to ת).

So let me repeat - I don't think that the original gospel of Mark had any reference to a dove descending from heaven as Jesus went into the waters. This was developed only in the Greek translation of Mark (notice how Mark identifies Aramaic words throughout the narrative - this means an Aramaic original was lurking beneath). I think that περιστέρα makes its way into the narrative is because someone is trying to find something to replace אֶת in the original narrative.

When you change אֶת to περιστέρα you end up preserving the 'first and the last' concept as well as the idea that Jesus was a collection of aeonic powers but you unfortunately loose the specific identification of him as the Ogdoad - viz שְׁמוֹנֶה - and then in turn the idea that Jesus was equal to the 30 because the Marcosians also developed a system where the 6th letter vav (ו) was understood to have fallen from heaven leaving the collection of numbers up to eight adding up to the number 30 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 7 + 8 = 30).

I know that this will all seem very stupid to Western minds but I think it is important to remember that the cart should be seen as driving the horse. There is a secret system beneath all these references to numbers and letters which our need for specificity actually helps protect the system.

What I want to demonstrate in this present post is that if we allow for the possibility that our familiar word 'dove' in the baptism narrative WAS A GREEK ADAPTATION to replace אֶת something amazing happens. We can actually start to make sense of the Marcosian system shared by Clement and his contemporaries.

For no one should doubt that Jews have always understood אֶת to mean the collection of the total alphabetic powers in heaven. Just look up any kabbalistic commentary on the first line of Genesis and you will see that there are twenty one letters which precede the vav (ו) and that immediately following this vav (ו) the letters אֶת appear. Go on, just count the letters from starting at the right:

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת (Genesis 1:1)

The Marcosian idea that the vav (ו) fell from heaven leaving 21 powers in the upper world is clearly an adaptation of this familiar kabbalistic reference to Genesis 1:1.

I think it might be useful to give my readers an idea with how the אֶת in Genesis is the subject of consistent mystical speculation from the earliest surviving mystical commentaries in Judaism. The very early text the Sefer ha Bahir records the following:

Rabbi Ishmael expounded to Rabbi Akiba: What is the meaning of the verse (Genesis 1:1), "[In the beginning God created] (אֶת) the heaven and (אֶת) the earth"? [Why is the word אֶת added in both places?] If the word אֶת (an untranslated preposition that connects a transitive verb to its predicate noun) were absent, we would think that "heaven" and "earth" were gods. [For we could have read the verse, "In the beginning, God, the heaven and the earth created..." taking all three nouns as subjects of the sentence.] He replied: By the Divine Service! You may have reached out for the true meaning, but you have not sorted out, and therefore you speak in this manner. But [in the case of "heaven"] the word et comes to include the sun, moon, stars and constellations, while [in the case of "earth"] it comes to add trees, plants, and the Garden of Eden. [Bahir 32]

Now the idea of a collection of alphabetic powers in heaven isn't just described by the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet - אֶת - but the first, MIDDLE and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet viz. emet (אֱמֶת).

I can't possibly see any other explanation for the Marcosian interest in the concept of 'truth' as a collection of alphabetic powers. The original Marcosian material MUST HAVE been derived from an Aramaic treatise using the term emet (אֱמֶת) when we hear Irenaeus cite stuff like this:

I wish to show thee Aletheia herself; for I have brought her down from the dwellings above, that thou mayest see her without a veil, and understand her beauty--that thou mayest also hear her speaking, and admire her wisdom. Behold, then, her head on high, Alpha and Omega; her neck, Beta and Psi; her shoulders with her hands, Gamma and Chi; her breast, Delta and Phi; her diaphragm, Epsilon and Upsilon; her back, Zeta and Tau; her belly, Eta and Sigma; her thighs, Theta and Rho; her knees, Iota and Pi; her legs, Kappa and Omicron; her ancles, Lambda and Xi; her feet, Mu and Nu. Such is the body of Truth, according to this magician, such the figure of the element, such the character of the letter. And he calls this element Anthropos (Man), and says that is the fountain of all speech, and the beginning of all sound, and the expression of all that is unspeakable, and the mouth of the silent Sige. This indeed is the body of Truth. But do thou, elevating the thoughts of thy mind on high, listen from the mouth of Truth to the self-begotten Word, who is also the dispenser of the bounty of the Father. [AH i.14.3]

The point is that only an ignoramus would avoid acknowledging that the system preserved here in Greek is itself a translation of an original system developed in Aramaic and based on traditional kabbalisic interest in the word אֱמֶת which is always understood to be a symbol of 'all' the letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

It is worth noting that both ἀλήθεια and אֱמֶת are feminine nouns.

Now before we go any further we should note that both אֱמֶת and את can be used to denote the 'totality of alphabetic powers' in heaven but the Marcosians I think used the term אֱמֶת for their narrative about the 'recreation' of the universe because the middle letter 'mem'(מ) is understood to have been emitted from the heavenly household in a parallel manner as the original fall of vav but only now to redeem the world.

Irenaeus writes, somewhat incomprehensibly in the Greek that:

inasmuch as he [the Father] was only-begotten, has brought to the birth in some such way as follows that which was committed to him of the defective Euthymesis. He [Mark] declares that the infinitely exalted Tetrad descended upon him from the invisible and indescribable places in the form of a woman - i.e. 'truth' - for the world could not have borne it coming in its male form, and expounded to him alone its own nature, and the origin of all things, which it had never before revealed to any one either of gods or men. This was done in the following terms: When first the unoriginated, inconceivable Father, who is without material substance, and is neither male nor female, willed to bring forth that which is ineffable to Him, and to endow with form that which is invisible, He opened His mouth, and sent forth the Word similar to Himself, who, standing near, showed Him what He Himself was, inasmuch as He had been manifested in the form of that which was invisible. Moreover, the pronunciation of His name took place as follows:--He spoke the first word of it, which was the beginning [AH i.14.1]

As we noted in another post the idea presented with Irenaeus's use of Greek letters is that the father created a collection of letters that adds up to the number 30 which is Jesus. [ibid]

But I think that all this complexity HAD TO BE developed because the original system of Hebrew letters COULDN'T be properly explained in Greek. The letter that was 'emitted' was the 'mem'(מ) in the middle of 'truth' (אֱמֶת). The heavenly powers are now represented again by אֱת but the twelfth letter which has a numerical value of 30 - because of the fall of vav (ו) - is 'mem'(מ).

There can be no doubt that the Marcosians took the mem as the twelfth letter which had a numerical value of thirty because it is explicitly referenced in Irenaeus - viz. "but that this Lambda, being the eleventh in order, descended to seek after one equal to itself, so as to complete the number of twelve letters, and when it found such a one, the number was completed, is manifest from the very configuration of the letter; for Lambda being engaged, as it were, in the quest of one similar to itself, and finding such an one, and clasping it to itself, thus filled up the place of the twelfth, the letter Mu." (AH i.16.2)

The point then is that our supposition regarding the letter mem (מ) being emitted from truth (אֱמֶת) are supported by the surviving material. It is amazing that no one before me saw the original Hebrew context of all this word play.

For those who wonder how the mem could in turn be understood to be both a tetrad and an ogdoad at the same time in this system, this is easily enough explained. Irenaeus, again somewhat obscurely references not only that the Mu is made up of two letter - viz. "Mu being composed of two Lambdas" (ibid) - but also that each letter can be spelled out and derive a secret numerical value from the letters that make up its name - viz. "The word Delta contains five letters, viz., D, E, L, T, A: these letters again, are written by other letters, and others still by others. If, then, the entire composition of the word Delta [when thus analyzed] runs out into infinitude, letters continually generating other letters, and following one another in constant succession, how much raster than that [one] word is the [entire] ocean of letters!" (ibid i.14.2)

But Mem's traditional value is 40 - or 4 - but when spelled out it is made up of two mems and has a value of 80 or 8. However Irenaeus says that the M that filled in the place of the 12th has the equivalent of two L's = (30 + 30 = 60) or 6.

As such it is my guess that Jesus came for the redemption of the 6 and his transformation BACK into the 8.

The means of this transformation or 'redemption'? Clearly for the Marcosian cult it is through the means of water - mayim - which is the MEANING of the letter mem. Mem is usually assumed to come from the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for water (The hieroglyph n which had been simplified by the Phoenicians and named after their word for water, mem.

An example of Jewish mystics connecting the letter mem with water see the Bahir again "What is a Mem? Do not read Mem, but Mayim (water). Just like water is wet, so is the belly always wet." [Sefer Ha Bahir 84] Jewish mystics also connect 'heaven' with 'water' "Heaven is called Shamayim, indicating that fire and water existed before it. It is written (Genesis 1:6), “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it be a division between water and water.” It is then written (Genesis 1:8), “And God called the firmament heaven (Shamayim).” [ibid 99]

The folk etymology of the Bahir is shared by even Rashi and other experts. It is a core part of the Jewish belief system and if we remember from when we examined the writings of Marqe - the waters of the Red Sea were understood to have fire and water mixed when the Israelites crossed too:

Greatness was seen in that place; water and fire were combined. This was a tremendous wonder, far exceeding anything, that water and fire should appear there. The dominion of the water was brought low and that of the fire overcome. The mighty act of Adam's creation was there made known, for water and fire were combined in that too. Adam's body was from the dust, and the fire brought great power and wisdom into him. From the beginning he was borne by spirit, and from it wisdom dwelt in his mind [Mimar Marqe ii.8]

I have argued at length that the real Marqe of history must have been part of a ritual system which RECREATED the experience of the crossing of the Red Sea as the seventh day went out into the eighth day and where immersion in 'heavenly water' (i.e. where fire was mixed with water) was understood to recreate humanity after a heavenly form.

I see this understanding confirmed in the writings associated with the Marcosians such as what is described in the now Anonymous Treatise on Baptism "And some of them try to argue that they only administer a sound and perfect, not as we, a mutilated and curtailed baptism, which they are in such wise said to designate, that immediately they have descended into the water, fire at once appears upon the water. Which if it can be effected by any trick, as several tricks of this kind are affirmed to be— of Anaxilaus (cf. AH i.13.1)— whether it is anything natural, by means of which this may happen, or whether they think that they behold this, or whether the work and magical poison of some malignant being can force fire from the water; still they declare such a deceit and artifice to be a perfect baptism, which if faithful men have been forced to receive, there will assuredly be no doubt but that they have lost that which they had. Just as, if a soldier after taking an oath should desert his camp, and in the very different camp of the enemy should wish to take an oath of a far other kind, it is plain that in this way he is discharged from his old oath." [Anonymous Treatise on Baptism 17]

Now I know that these kinds of explanations give Western people a headache because it is impossible to keep track of who is what and what is who but the secret knowledge that is being expressed here is worth having to run out and by Advil.

Something of this original system IS STILL PRESERVED in the Alexandrian tradition because those who sit in St. Mark's throne and manifest his presence to the world are given the title 'the thirteenth apostle.' It is one of Mark's oldest titles. Surely it can't be coincidence that in both Hebrew and Greek (when the episemon is restored) the first letter of Mark's name is the thirteenth letter. When the sixth letter falls from grace he is then the twelfth apostle.

There is a consistent sense throughout Irenaeus's garbled understanding of the apolutrosis baptism which comes from Jesus that someone was prepared to fill the place of twelfth which is at once also connected to the apostasy of Judas (whose name interestingly also adds up to thirty).

We here that 'by a special dispensation there was generated by Jesus' a man whom:

the Father of all chose to [obtain] the knowledge of Himself by means of the Word. And on His coming to the water, there descended on him (i.e. 'that man'), in the form of a dove, that Being who had formerly ascended on high, and completed the twelfth number, in whom there existed the seed of those who were produced contemporaneously with Himself, and who descended and ascended along with Him. Moreover, he maintains that power which descended was the seed of the Father, which had in itself both the Father and the Son, as well as that power of Sige which is known by means of them, but cannot be expressed in language, and also all the AEons [AH i.15.3]

I think when you look at all these descriptions there is an idea that the name which 'Christ' adopted (remember the Marcosians say that 'Jesus' and 'Christ' are two different people) began with the letter M. It is also worth noting that the Samaritans spell the name Mark in such a way that it adds up to 345 the equivalent of the name Moses and the expected value of the messiah.

I wonder if John only becomes 'Mark' after emerging from the waters of baptism?

So little time, so much to figure out ...

Email with comments or questions.

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