Monday, June 28, 2010

I Have Decided to Edit My Second Article on the Throne of St. Mark Online [Part Five]


I should be noted that there is good reason to believe that the exact wording of Origen's original statement is in some doubt. The Homilies of Luke survive thanks to a Latin translation of Jerome. Not only do we find great variation between the Latin texts of Jerome when compared to other preservations of Origen's writings from other sources, Tzamalikos notes that Jerome's use of kalends in the last citation should cause us to question the ponder the what the original Greek text might have looked like - "the calends were the first day of each month in the Roman calendar. The term καλένδαι only entered Greek in the sixth century through John Laurentius Lydus. This short expression may well be an interpolation by Jerome essaying to communicate the implied notion to Latin readers."[1]

The catenae as we noted have already completely transformed everything which follows, "But perhaps the divine word has concealed some mystery in the preaching of a year of the Lord ..." The best thing that we can do now is to assume that Origen originally referenced a very Jewish conception related to the Jubilee - viz. "other days are to come, not days like those we now see in the world; there will be other months" and then some notion of a different order to the calendar.

While there is very little that survives which from the messianic interpretation of any sect for this original passage it is worth noting that 11Q13 (11QMelch) mentions the end of an old calendar - "its interpretation for the last days refers to the captives" - in relation to Isa 61:2, before breaking off and becoming fragmentary. A close parallel perhaps can also be found in the Hasmonaean period where the apocalyptic literature now associated with Qumran all seem to encourage the use of a 'messianically' inspired solar calendars. As Stern notes all of these seem ultimately to have been resisted by the native Jewish population:

lt is only in the Hellenistic and Hasmonaean periods that Jewish sources begin to set out explicitly how the calendar is reckoned. Some of these sources describe the calendar in much detail: in particular, the books of Enoch, Jubileet, and calendrical texts from Qumran. These show a distinctive preference for solar calendars. However, it should not be inferred from these sources that the calendar observed in practice by the Jews was solar. The polemical tone of Jubilees suggests, quite on the contrary, that many Jews did not follow its solar calendar, and preferred instead a calendar that was lunar.[2]

Stern points to Ben Sira in Palestine and to Aristobulus in Alexandria that our "sources from this period confirm the existence of a lunar calendar.

Indeed Stern also goes through the writings of Philo to show that at the time of the advent of Christianity, the Jewish community in Alexandria was still maintaining a lunar calendar. In one quote interestingly passage from Philo he notes that there is even a contemporary call to 'resist' the temptation of the Egyptian solar calendar:

But not all (peoples) treat the months and years alike, but some in one way and some in another. Some reckon by the sun, others by the moon. And because of this the initiators of the divine festivals have expressed divergent views about the beginnings of the year, setting divergent beginnings to the revolutions of the seasons suitable to the beginnings of the cycles. Wherefore (Scripture) has added, 'This month (shall be) to you the the beginning," making clear a determined and distinct number of seasons, lest they follow the Egyptians, with whom they are mixed, and be seduced by the customs of the land in which they dwell." (Quaestiones ad Exodum 1.1 Marcus 1953: 4 - 5).

As Stern notes "by 'Egyptians' he meant, no doubt, the Egyptians of his own day as much as those of the biblical narrative." Not only did the Egyptians have a solar calendar in the period but Stern also notes that "This passage expresses, if only implicitly, the significance that a distinctive, lunar calendar must have had for the Jewish identity of the Alexandrian community."[3]

Yet it is very interesting to note that the Alexandrian throne of St. Mark not only preserves an inscription taken together with various iconographic references to the Jubilee and its introduction of a new 'first year' but more over testifies that this new messianic community adopted a three hundred and sixty calendar like that used by the contemporary Egyptian population. For Dorigo, in what is certainly one of the most important studies of the throne of St. Mark, noted the object was deliberately manufactured according to specifications which reflected the importance of the number three hundred and sixty.[3]

Wladimiro Dorigo, former professor of Medieval Art History at the University of Venice notes that the throne of St. Mark was constructed according to deliberate mystical symbolic measurements. Dorigo initially being tipped off by the Phoenician character of the iconography tried to determine the measuring system which might have been used in the throne's construction to better date the throne. He eventually became certain that it was developed according to an 'inch' and 'foot' measurement that had existed since ancient times in Beirut.[4]

Dorigo notes that the same measurement seems to have been used across the Near East at a very early date, as an alternative to the more familiar cubit. In the case of the throne the inch is around 2.82 cm in length, leading to a foot measuring between 33 cm and 34 cm. Dorigo noticed that a definite pattern began to emerge in which all the measurements of the throne represented even numbers of inches. These he quotes as being 12, 52, 40, 12, 20, 18, 20 and 18. He adds that not only that this would be impossible to attribute to coincidence but that two of the most important numbers - the width and depth of the throne 18 and 20 respectively - when multiplied result in the number three hundred and sixty.

The fact that we know that the Alexandrian Church already adopted the three hundred and sixty day solar calendar of Egypt at a very early date is one thing. The throne also, as demonstrated by Dorigo and many others, has strong solar imagery. The iconography strongly suggests the throne is the Hebrew merkavah or solar chariot and its occupant the tsemach (Gk anatole) or 'rising sun.' On each side he is flanked by the four living creatures of Ezekiel.

Yet when we go beyond the parallel of the 'year one' inscription and Origen's allusion to a change of calendars accompanying the same 'year of favor' his predecessor Clement explicitly connects the same 'year of favor' to the number three hundred and sixty when he writes:

The three hundred and sixty bells suspended from the robe are the space of a year, 'the acceptable year of the Lord proclaiming and sounding the magnificent epiphany of the Savior.(Stromata V 37.4)

And again in a passage which reflects his connection with the heretical followers of Mark condemned by Irenaeus a generation earlier:

And again in the same book: "And Jesus was coming to His baptism, being about thirty years old," and so on. And that it was necessary for Him to preach only a year, this also is written: "He hath sent Me to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." This both the prophet spake, and the Gospel. Accordingly, in fifteen years of Tiberius and fifteen years of Augustus; so were completed the thirty years till the time He suffered. (Strom 1:21)

or again elsewhere:

and thirty, or as in some, twelve, they say points out the preaching [of the Gospel]; because the Lord preached in His thirtieth year; and the apostles were twelve.(Strom 6:  )

Looking at all the evidence there can only be one meaning behind Clement interpretation - that Jesus's announcement of the year of favor (Luke 4:19) represented nothing short of a complete transformation of the traditional 354 day Hebrew lunar calendar into the 360 day solar year that came to characterize Alexandrian Christianity.  We should see that the throne of St. Mark testifies to the exact same thing with its mention of  'year one' and its deliberate manufacture to reflect the number 360.

It is incredible to see how many of the Egyptian Christian writings of Nag Hammadi reflect an interest in this number.  The most explicit confirmation of Clement's connection between the solar year and the year of favor is the so-called Valentinian Expositions now fragmentary "the Decad from Word and Life brought forth decads so as to make the Pleroma become a hundred, and the Dodecad from Man and Church brought forth and made the Triacontad so as to make the three hundred sixty become the Pleroma of the year. And the year of the Lord [...perfect...]."  Earlier in the same treatise the 'three hundred and sixtieth' is clearly also a reference to a collection of heavenly powers.[6]  There are a number of ways that the 360 powers are divided into smaller units in the literature.  The Nag Hammadi text Eugnostos describes it in term of a multiplication of seventy two heavenly powers (12 x 6) multiplied by five 'spirituals,'[7] but notice the definite relationship to the 'year of favor' again later in the same treatise:

Therefore our aeon came to be as the type of Immortal Man. Time came to be as the type of First Begetter, his son. The year came to be as the type of Savior. The twelve months came to be as the type of the twelve powers. The three hundred and sixty days of the year came to be as the three hundred and sixty powers who appeared from Savior. Their hours and moments came to be as the type of the angels who came from them (the powers), who are without number.[8]

There is remarkable affinity with the ideas of Eugnostos to the understanding developed in the Pistis Sophia, an Egyptian text preserved independently from the Nag Hammadi discovery.  There 'Yew' (Iao) is said to have "set three-hundred-and-sixty over them, and he set five other great rulers as lords over the three-hundred-and-sixty and over all the bound rulers, who in the whole world of mankind are called with these names: the first is called Kronos, the second Arēs, the third Hermēs, the fourth Aphroditē, the fifth Zeus."[9]

Yet there can be no doubt where the Alexandrian (or Egyptian) interest in the number three hundred and sixty derives its ultimate origin - the followers of Mark.  It is only owing to the unfortunate compilation of Irenaeus's original treatise against the Marcosians immediately following the separate 'Against the Valentinians' (see Tertullian's Adversus Valentinianos) that has led later Patristic writers to misidentify the followers of Mark as a Valentinian sect.[10]  As many writers have already referenced Clement's consistent employment of so-called 'Marcosian' material, the emerging picture from Alexandria of the tradition of St. Mark being rooted in the same number should at least open the possibility to reasonable people that Irenaeus's was originally demonizing the rival tradition's association with 'heresy' in order to bolster the argument for Roman primacy.

To this end when we hear from Agapius that the 'heretic' Marcus maintained a similar interest in the number three hundred and sixty, it should be seen as as the source of all later expressions of the paradigm going back to the founding of the Alexandrian tradition. The throne - only occupied by the representative of the Evangelist during services[11] - represents the concept of the new aeon, the ruler of the new age governed according to the principle of solar year.[12]  So Marcus, aka 'St. Mark,' is envisioned as promoting the idea that:

three hundred and sixty gods exist in all eternity, and they together created the world and each of them governed it in turn; power belonged to each of them for one day a year during which he was the sole master of it; among them, some loved good, the others evil. But united they had the ability to do good and evil, and they could choose in this regard. The chief of the gods sent the Lord Christ, may he be glorified, who was a part of his nature, in order to get men to worship him alone and obey him. Learning of this, the gods stirred up mankind against him, and these crucified him.[13]

A careful examination of the parallels between the writings of Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus's condemnation of the like-minded 'followers of Marcus' will make it absolutely certain that both have our throne in mind with their mutual understanding that the 'year of favor' is embodied by the number three hundred and sixty.  It will also reveal that the Marcosian interest in the redemption of the world through the restorative power of the Episemon (number six) is really only an allegory for the addition of six days to the lunar calendar to make it accord with the solar year (i.e. 354 + 6 = 360).  

More to follow ...

[3] W. DORIGO, La cosidetta “cattedra di San Marco”, in Venezia Arti, 3, 1989, pp. 5–13
[7] Eugnostos Then the twelve powers, whom I have just discussed, consented with each other. males (and) females (each) were revealed, so that there are seventy-two powers. Each one of the seventy-two revealed five spiritual (powers), which (together) are the three hundred and sixty powers. The union of them all is the will.
[8] Eugnostos continues "And when those whom I have discussed appeared, All-Begetter, their father, very soon created twelve aeons for retinue for the twelve angels. And in each aeon there were six (heavens), so there are seventy-two heavens of the seventy-two powers who appeared from him. And in each of the heavens there were five firmaments, so there are (altogether) three hundred sixty firmaments of the three hundred sixty powers that appeared from them. When the firmaments were complete, they were called 'The Three Hundred Sixty Heavens', according to the name of the heavens that were before them. And all these are perfect and good. And in this way the defect of femaleness appeared."
[9] And elsewhere in the Pistis Sophia "Jesus continued in the discourse and said: "It came to pass then thereafter, that the father of my father,--that is Yew,--came and took other three-hundred-and-sixty rulers from the rulers of Adamas who had not had faith in the mystery of the Light, and bound them into these aërial regions, in which we are now, below the sphere. He established another five great rulers over them,--that is these who are on the way of the midst."  See also Hippolytus's description of the astrologers "For as the power of spirit is fire, so also that of earth is water; . . . and the elements themselves, when computed and resolved by subtraction of enneads, terminate properly, some of them in the masculine number, and others of them in the feminine. And, again, the ennead is subtracted for this cause, because the three hundred and sixty parts of the entire (circle) consist of enneads, and for this reason the four regions of the world are circumscribed by ninety perfect parts. And light has been appropriated to the monad, and darkness to the duad, and life to light, according to nature, and death to the duad. And to life (has been appropriated) justice; and to death, injustice. Wherefore everything generated among masculine numbers is beneficent, while that (produced) among feminine (numbers) is mischievous. For instance, they pursue their calculations thus: monad--that we may commence from this--becomes 361, which (numbers) terminate in a monad by the subtraction of the ennead. In like manner, reckon thus: Duad becomes 605; take away the enneads, it ends in a duad, and each reverts into its own peculiar (function)."
[12] or as the Gospel of the Egyptians describes it "Domedon Doxomedon, the aeon of the aeons, and the throne which is in him, and the powers which surround him, the glories and the incorruptions"

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