Friday, May 21, 2010

Was the Gospel of Mark Altered to Disassociate it from the 'Heresy' of the Marcosian?

I have been writing for some time now that THERE IS A REASON why the earliest history of the Alexandrian Church is unknown to us. 'St. Mark' also called 'John' was the father of all heresies. I happen to think that he embodied the original Platonic understanding of the term gnostikos which as Morton Smith notes means:

the ideal king, the only man capable of knowing God, who would therefore act as the mediator between God and man; he would be, in effect, the Nous [the divine intellect] of his subjects, in whom he would restore their lost contact with the heavenly world from which he came.[M. Smith Studies in the Cult of Yahweh p. 186]

Why do I think that Mark was the first gnostikos? Well, it is because I think that he was the historical figure Marcus Julius Agrippa, last king of Israel who, interestingly enough is described by 'Josephus' as a person "who deserved the greatest praise" for his "knowledge of Greek philosophy." [Against Apion I.9] When you read the rabbinic account of his interest in Plato it is readily apparent that he is being likened to Marcion.

In any event, the real point of all my efforts is to demonstrate that Alexandrian Christianity developed naturally from Alexandrian Judaism. I think that the first Christians worshiped Iesous as the living embodiment of the Ogdoad (Iesous = 888) in the Jewish 'holy house' on the eastern shores of Alexandria just outside of the eastern walls of the city. In a later period, when the originally massive Jewish dyplastoon building was destroyed, the Martyrium of St. Mark was build closer inland, just behind the old structure now already sinking into the sea.

I think that the original tradition of St. Mark should be identified with the Marcosian sect of Irenaeus with 'Mark' as the messiah of the community (Irenaeus says 'Antichrist' but as we say, one man's Christ is another man's Antichrist).

I also think that Clement's Letter to Theodore is one fleeting glimpse as that original Jewish messianic tradition was being forced to accommodate itself to the new 'officially purged' Imperially sanctioned Roman Church of Jesus Christ. I think various other references (such as the account of Victor in the Liber Pontificalis) give other 'glimpses' into this transformational period.

That Clement was connected with the Marcosians has been well established by many other much better scholars than myself including:

"Irenaeus gives an account of Marcus and the Marcosians in 1.13 - 21 ... Hippolytus and Epiphanius (Haer 34) copy their accounts from Irenaeus, and probably had no direct knowledge of the works of Marcus or of his sect. Clement of Alexandria, however, knew and used his writings." [Philip Schaff note on Eusebius Church History iv.11.4]

" ... for on comparison of the sections just cited from Clement and from Irenaeus [regarding the Marcosians] the coincidences are found to be such as to put it beyond doubt that Clement in his account of the number six makes an unacknowledged use of the same [Marcosian] writing as were employed by Irenaeus." [William Smith A Dictionary of Christian Biography p. 161]

"Clement of Alexandria, himself infected with Gnosticism, actually uses Marcus number system though without acknowledgement (Strom, VI, xvi)." [Arendzen JP. Marcus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX]

Yet what even these people haven't recognized is that the 'Marcosian heresy' was already present at the time Philo was writing. As we noted in our last post, all we need to do is work backwards from Irenaeus's original statement about 'those of Mark' who

express themselves in this manner: that the letter Eta along with the remarkable one constitutes all ogdoad, as it is situated in the eighth place from Alpha. Then, again, computing the number of these elements without the remarkable (letter), and adding them together up to Eta, they exhibit the number thirty. For any one beginning from the Alpha to the Eta will, after subtracting the remarkable (letter i.e. episemon) ... they subtract twelve, and reckon it at eleven. And in like manner, (they subtract) ten and make it nine. [Hippolytus AH 6:42]

We should then note that Clement of Alexandria makes the same argument as in the name of the Alexandrian tradition of St. Mark:

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.[Stromata 6:16]

Yet this understanding can be traced all the way back to Philo, a member of a leading priestly family in the Jewish community of Alexandria who notes that there is a closely related Jewish sect which promotes a highly contagious kabbalistic apocalyptic doctrine. It is important to note that Philo's description EXACTLY matches the things said by second century 'Marcosians' like Clement of Alexandria namely that:

some of those persons who have (in the past) fancied that the world is everlasting, inventing a variety of new arguments, employ also such a system of reasoning as this to establish their point: they affirm that there are four principal manners in which corruption is brought about, addition, taking away, transposition, and alteration; accordingly, the number two is by the addition of the unit corrupted so as to become the number three, and no longer remains the number two; and the number four by the taking away of the unit is corrupted so as to become the number three; again, by transposition the letter Zeta becomes the letter Eta when the parallel lines which were previously horizontal (3/43/4) are placed perpendicularly (1/2 1/2), and when the line which did before pass upwards, so as to connect the two is now made horizontal, and still extended between them so as to join them. And by alteration the word oinos, wine, becomes oxos, vinegar.

But of the manner of corruption thus mentioned there is not one which is in the least degree whatever applicable to the world, since otherwise what could we say? Could we affirm that anything is added to the world so as to cause its destruction? But there is nothing whatever outside of the world which is not a portion of it as the whole, for everything is surrounded, and contained, and mastered by it. Again, can we say that anything is taken from the world so as to have that effect? In the first place that which would be taken away would again be a world of smaller dimensions than the existing one, and in the second place it is impossible that any body could be separated from the composite fabric of the whole world so as to be completely dispersed. Again, are we to say that the constituent parts of the world are transposed? But at all events they remain in their original positions without any change of place, for never at any time shall the whole earth be raised up above the water, nor the water above the air, nor the air above the fire. But those things which are by nature heavy, namely the earth and the water, will have the middle place, the earth supporting everything like a solid foundation, and the water being above it; and the air and the fire, which are by nature light, will have the higher position, but not equally, for the air is the vehicle of the fire; and that which is carried by anything is of necessity above that which carries it. Once more: we must not imagine that the world is destroyed by alteration, for the change of any elements is equipollent, and that which is equipollent is the cause of unvarying steadiness, and of untroubled durability, inasmuch as it neither seeks any advantage itself, and is not subject to the inroads of other things which seek advantages at its expense; so that this retribution and compensation of these powers is equalized by the rules of proportion, being the produce of health and endless preservation, by all which considerations the world is demonstrated to be eternal.
[On the Eternity of the World XXII]

Philo able to demonstrate that the kabbalah of 'those of Mark' was INTRODUCED IN THE FIRST CENTURY but that Philo's comments necessarily mean that the tradition of Mark was initially opposed by the Jewish priesthood in Alexandria.

One of these days I will provide a detailed examination of the first principles of this original Markan kabbalah. For the moment it is enough to say that it is based on the idea - shared by modern Jewish and Samaritan mystical traditions - that the number six represents the generative power of the world. The followers of Mark promoted the idea that owing to the crucifixion of this letter vav, it was imperative that the population of the world undergo the apolutrosis baptism which effectively 'redeemed' them to the power of the Ogdoad.

I think that the baptism referenced in Secret Mark is the basis to this Marcosian ritual. It is no coincidence then that it is said that the neaniskos waited 'six days' to undergo the sacrament. Irenaeus notes that it was according to this principle of the 'sixth' that baptism was established "and 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 [i.e. in baptism], and of this arrangement, both the beginning and the end were formed at that sixth hour, at which He was nailed to the tree. [AH i.14.6]

Yet as we all know the passage which referenced the secret baptism which occurred after 'six days' was removed from the copies of the Gospel of Mark which circulated outside of Alexandria. But this isn't the only anomaly. The surviving copies of the Gospel of Mark no longer say that the crucifixion occurred in the 'sixth hour.' We read instead that "and it was the third hour, and they crucified him." [Mark 15:25]

I have repeatedly pointed out that there are countless examples which demonstrate WITHOUT ANY DOUBT that the canonical gospel of Mark was developed in Rome with a specific anti-Alexandrian agenda. Yet the clearest of all requires that we accept the link between the heretical boogeyman Mark the gnostic and St. Mark.

For Severus of Antioch, in the context of discussing editorial changes to the gospel produces Eusebius's Letter to Marinum which now - if read with a critical eye - confirms our theory about changes to the original Gospel of Mark. For Severus writes:

But Eusebius of Caesarea, who is called 'Pamphili', whom we mentioned a little above, when writing to a man called Marinus about questions concerning the passions of our Saviour and about his Resurrection, showed us nothing whatever about the said addition, as being unknown and having no place in the books of the gospel. But in the same letters to Marinus, who had asked him for an interpretation on the subject of our Saviour's passions and his Resurrection, he inserted the following exposition also in his letters, that the divine Mark the Evangelist said that it was the 3rd hour at the time when Christ who is God and our Saviour was crucified, but the divine John (he said) wrote that it was at the 6th hour that Pilate sat upon his judgment-seat at the place called 'the pavement', and judged Christ. And therefore Eusebius said that this is an error of a scribe, who was inattentive when writing the Gospel. For it is the letter gamal that denotes 3 hours, while the letter which is called in Greek episemon denotes the number of 6 hours, and these letters are like one another in Greek, and, the scribe wishing to write '3' quickly, and having turned the letter a little backwards, it was thereby found to be '6', because, since the letter had been turned backwards, it was supposed to be the letter that denotes '6'. Since therefore the three other evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke stated alike as with one mouth that from the 6th hour to the 9th there was darkness over all the land, it is plain that our Lord and God Jesus Christ was crucified before the 6th hour, at which the darkness took place, that is from the 3rd hour, as 1142 the blessed John himself wrote. Similarly we say that it is the 3rd hour, because those who wrote before, as we have said, changed the letter. We must insert also in this our letter upon this matter a part of what Eusebius himself stated at length; and his words are as follows: «We agree not with any chance man, but with the evangelist who gave this testimony, Mark. For it happened that there was an error on the part of the scribe so that he changed the letter by adding length to it, and it was thought that the letter which represents '3' was '6', on account of the likeness of the two letters [of that which denotes '3' and that which denotes '6'. If the refore it is stated by John that it was the preparation of the day of unlevened bread, and it was about the 6th hour, and Pilate said to the Jews «Behold! your king» 1143, and so on, let there be read instead of '6th' '3rd', since the beginning of his trial took place at that time, and in the middle of the hour or after it had been completed they crucified him, so that the result is that they judged and crucified him at the same hour»; If you look for and find the volume addressed to Marinus about the interpretation of these things, you will find the accuracy of the writer as regards these matters. For our part we do not wish to write much on these subjects in this our letter. May the industry of your holiness be preserved for us meditating on these things and occupied with these things in priestly fashion, and rousing up the gloom of our silence and urging it to speak [Severus of Antioch Letter CVIII]

The fact that Eusebius says that the correct reading is 'the third hour' is not our concern. Clearly we have in the Marcosians a group connected with Mark which would have argued that in fact the corruption developed in the other direction - viz. that the episemon was exchanged for a gamma. Indeed their 'gospel of Mark' (i.e. I would argue that it is clear that whoever 'Mark' was he as "one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above" [AH i.13.1] would have written a gospel even if his association with 'the Evangelist' is denied) has the 'sixth hour' reading.

I would argue that they had a much more authentic gospel of Mark - undoubtedly identical with the Alexandrian 'secret' Gospel referenced by Clement [cf. AH i.19.1 with regards to 'secret' scriptures]. Moreover I am certain that it was OUR gospels which were changed to disassociate them with the 'heresy' of the aforementioned Marcosians and indeed assist in Irenaeus's characterization of their arguments as 'laughable' [AH i.16.1] and the adherents themselves 'mad.' [ibis i.13.1]

For those who want more information on the kabbalistic interpretation of the Marcosians here's the link to my post from two days ago.

Email with comments or questions.

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