Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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

(need better Greek fonts)

As we have just seen, there is a paradoxical situation in our earliest Christian sources where we find a palpable hostility toward the lunar year of the Jews but no explicit reference to how this 'shadow' was ultimately overcome by the 'light' of truth.  The closest we get to anything resembling an explanation is a series of cryptic allusions to the idea that Jesus announced the establishment of the Alexandrian solar year in the synagogue in Galilee (Luke 4:19).  There is only one explicit reference to this concept in the Pauline writings, the statement in 2 Corinthians 2:6 "now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."  These words would seem to indicate - at least from an Alexandrian perspective - that the revelation of the 'year of favor' had already taken place in the apostolic age.

In other words, it seems difficult to argue with the idea that all the earliest representatives of the Alexandrian tradition interpreted Luke 4:19 with a historical event connected to the Church abandoning the lunar year of the Jews in favor of the three hundred and sixty day solar year.  Nevertheless, as we will see in this section, Irenaeus offered a very influential interpretation of these same words intended undoubtedly to salvage the Quartodeciman tradition associated with his master Polycarp.  The 'year of favor' was not supposed to be a reference to a particular year of any length or number of days but an loose reference to - at least from Jesus's perspective - was a coming age when the Church would be at peace with the world around it, including having favorable relations with the Imperial government.

Perhaps it was owing to the influence of Irenaeus's interpretation that Origen chose to emphasize instead the phrase "the fulness of time" (τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου) from Galatians chapter 4. After all, here was a phrase which didn't seem to make any allusion to the Jewish concept of the Jubilee year (even though the connection is obvious) but moreover could not be understood in any other way except as a past historical event.  Indeed, if we look at the immediate context of this statement we see it again inexorably connected with  the standard Alexandrian condemnation of the observance of measures of time associated with the Jewish lunar year.  As such, from Origen's perspective at least, there can be no mistaking that Jesus's ministry was the very event that ended the old chronological system.

For we see in the fourth chapter of Galatians the apostle declares again that the individual Christian initiates are:

only subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου. But when the fullness of time had was come (ὁ πλήρωμα ὁ χρόνος ἐξαποστέλλω), God sent his Son ... to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. and because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable στοιχεῖα? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
(Galatians 4:1 - 10)

It should be obvious now to readers that when Irenaeus says that "they declare that Paul has often set forth, in express terms, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and this was the same which is handed down by them in so varied and discordant forms" they were referencing passages like this one where baptism is described as an act of redemption.[1]

So once again we see the same nexus of concepts - viz. baptism, ἀπολύτρωσις from a law established through the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου and the overarching concept which connects everything together, the Jewish lunar year.  For the moment it might well be worth noting that Irenaeus makes explicit reference to the Marcosian interest in the στοιχεῖον throughout his description of the sect. It should be noted that strictly speaking στοιχεῖον meant a simple sound of speech, the first component of the syllable which differed from the concept of letter (γράμματα) but as Lidell Scott notes but are freq. not clearly distd. from them, as by Pl.Tht.l.c., Cra.426d; “τὰ ς. τῶν γραμμάτων τὰ τέτταρα καὶ εἴκοσι” .

This confusion is clearly in evidence in Irenaeus description of the beliefs of the heretic Mark when he writes:

the pronunciation of His name took place as follows:--He spoke the first word of it, which was the ἄρκη, and that utterance (συλλαβή) consisted of four στοιχείων. He added the second, and this also consisted of four στοιχείων. Next He uttered the third, and this again embraced ten στοιχείῳν. Finally, He pronounced the fourth, which was composed of twelve στοιχείων. Thus took place the enunciation of the whole name, consisting of thirty στοιχείων, and four συλλαβων. Each of these στοιχείων has its own peculiar letters, and character, and pronunciation, and forms, and images, and there is not one of them that perceives the shape of that [utterance] of which it is a στοιχεῖον.[AH i.14.1]

Irenaeus tells us that Mark has called "those names of the στοιχείων which may be told, and are common, AEons, and words, and roots, and seeds, and fulnesses, and fruits." [ibid 1.14.2] It is difficult often to understand what the Marcosians meant by στοιχείων. At one time we see the 'familiar' Valentinian Aeon 'Anthropos' is identified as a στοιχεῖον (AH i.14.3) at other times to letters or even numbers.

Perhaps it is best to go back to that interpretation shared by Clement and the Marcosians to gain some perspective on the use of στοιχείων in the context of Galatians chapter 4.  As we saw earlier Clement maintained almost verbatim the understanding of those of Mark 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, and contained in Himself the entire number of the elements (ἅπαντα τῶν στοιχείων) ... 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, Of this arrangement, both the beginning and the end were formed at that sixth hour, at which He was nailed to the tree. For that perfect being Nous, knowing that the number six had the power both of formation and regeneration, declared to the children of light, that regeneration which has been wrought out by Him who appeared as the Episemon in regard to that number. Whence also he declares it is that the double letters contain the Episemon number; for this Episemon number, when joined to the twenty-four στοιχεῖοίς, completed the name of thirty letters.(AH 1.14.6)

As we shall see, there is a consistent understanding throughout the mysteries of those associated with 'Mark' that 'six' is added to various sums of letter or numbers to 'perfect' them.  According to the mystical allegory known also through Jewish sources, the letter episemon (or alternatively the Hebrew letter vav) was missing from the beginning of creation.[2]

In the case of the original understanding of the Marcosians the restoration of the six is not only described as occurring on the mountain of the Transformation but also in the 'redemption' (ἀπολύτρωσις) of the baptism that the Marcosians knew occurred in the Gospel of Mark chapter 10.[3]  Irenaeus choses only to explain the baptism in terms of the 'first' baptism narrative - i.e. the dove (a word whose numerological value in Greek is 801) coming down from heaven.  Yet it is patently obvious from the context of the statement of the Marcosians that they originally understood the number 'six' to be added at their ἀπολύτρωσις rituals.  This is easily resolved when we go back to Galatians that we are subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by our father. We were in slavery under τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου until the πλήρωμα ὁ χρόνος when God sent his Son to redeem those under law when God sent the Spirit into our hearts through baptism when the Spirit who calls out, "Abba" presumably to acknowledge the union with the Father in the bridal chamber (cf. Irenaeus AH i.21.3). The Aramaic word Αββα is presumably retained from the rituals of the Marcosians owing to the fact that the word has a numerological value of six (Αββα = 1 + 2 + 2 + 1).

Indeed it is rarely emphasized enough that Irenaeus's purpose is not to inform his readers about the 'truth' or the justification for the many beliefs of the Marcosians.  Irenaeus is a hostile witness to the tradition, a reporter who deliberately selects material from the beliefs of the sects to make them look as foolish as possible.  To this end we should not be surprised that he consistently avoids giving us 'the bigger picture' or the context of why this or that sect promotes seemingly irrational beliefs. To this end, we can see that he avoids making specific mention to the restoration process on the mountain concentrating instead on his familiar emphasis that "this Episemon number, when joined to the twenty-four στοιχεῖοίς, completed the name of thirty letters." Yet it should be equally obvious to people who take the time to read what is actually written here and in Clement that the three numbers mentioned as being present on the mountain (6 x 7 x 8 = 336) when added to the same "twenty-four στοιχεῖοίς" results in the same three hundred sixty number which Irenaeus does his best to avoid specific mention in his report.

In other words, where Agapius's short report brings the interest in 360 front and center, Irenaeus choses to emphasize a single and rather minor point (the establishment of the number thirty).  What can account for Irenaeus silence? One can make the argument that part of Irenaeus avoidance of the number 360 is the fact that it demonstrates quite clearly that the Marcosians actually maintained the original meaning of the various passages in the Apostolikon.  In other words, the reason the Apostle employed the rather perplexing term στοιχείων (which is rarely adequately explained by New Testament scholars) is because he was indeed thinking in terms of astrology.  In other words, the 'weak' στοιχείων were finally 'perfected' in the bridal chamber by means of being baptized into the number six - the same "number six" which the Marcosians said "had the power both of formation and regeneration, declared to the children of light, that regeneration which has been wrought out by Him who appeared as the Episemon in regard to that number" - i.e. the 'Father, viz. Αββα.

Indeed I am certain that part of the problem for modern interpreters of the various Pauline references to the στοιχείων is that they lack the necessary Sprachgefühl for the original terminology. Liddell Scott makes clear that the Christian use of the term is inevitably linked to the zodiac which after all is a circle of 360 degrees, often specifically linked to twelve divisions of heaven each with the value of thirty.  The most common use of the term related to the form of sun-dial the shadow of the gnomon, the length of which in feet indicated the time of day, ὅταν ᾖ δεκάπουν τὸ ς. when the shadow is ten feet long, Ar.Ec.652, v. Sch.; “ὁπηνίκ᾽ ἂν εἴκοσι ποδῶν . . τὸ ς. ᾖ” Eub.119.7, cf. Philem.83. Consider also “ς. καυσούμενα λυθήσεται” or στοιχειωματικοί "persons who cast nativities from the signs of the Zodiac," Ps.-Ptol.Centil. 9 and στοιχειογραφέω "to be written in the order of the Zodiac," Vett.Val.162.34, 335.30. Indeed that is why Liddell Scott emphasizes the following - ἄστρων στοιχεῖα the stars, Man.4.624; 2 Ep.Pet.3.10, cf. 12; esp. planets, “στοιχείῳ Διός” PLond.1.130.60 (i/ii A.D.); so perh. in Ep.Gal.4.3, Ep.Col.2.8; esp. a sign of the Zodiac, D.L.6.102; of the Great Bear, PMag.Par.1.1303.6. ς. = ἀριθμός, as etym. of Στοιχαδεύς, Sch.D.T.p.192 H."

To this end there can be no doubt that the followers of Mark understood the Apostolikon to be describing the superiority and accuracy of a division of the heavens into 360 over the original dispensation given by the Creator of a 354 day year.  All so-called 'antinomian' arguments develop from this basic question about the accuracy of the lunar year.  How could the Creator be the ultimate Lord of heaven if his original dispensation (i.e. the liturgical year) was fundamentally flawed. As such there were of course many mystical variations explaining why the 'six' had to be added to creation, but the most basic expression of the new world order was the transition away from the lunar calendar to a 360 day year.

It is worth noting that the throne of St Mark that we have noted was built according to specifications that reflected the importance of the 360 day year also has clear astronomical symbolism. It is worth noting that the throne of St Mark that we have noted was built according to specifications that reflected the importance of the 360 day year also has clear astronomical symbolism. The four creatures depicted on the sides and back of the throne - the bull, the lion, the eagle and the man - all have a celestial representation, representing the zodiac path or ecliptic through which the Sun travels during the year.  Each is connected with a zodiac sign, and these four signs have been significant to observers for millenia.  The zodiac signs in question are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.  These zodiac signs can be seen as 'corners of the year,'; often called 'cross-quarters.'  Taurus marks the point at which spring is at its fullest.  Three months later comes Leo, with the heat is summer.  Another three months pass and the Sun is then in Scorpio, to mark the fall and then, after a further three months, the Sun appears in Aquarius, signifying the travails of winter.  In this way these four zodiac signs, in the form of four creatures, circle around the throne and, in a figurative sense, they form equidistant zodiac cross.  The throne or rather that very special individual who sat in the throne represents the cosmic Logos, riding the solar chariot performing its annual dance through the zodiac clouds.

So on the one hand we have a throne of St. Mark which has already been demonstrated to have been the earliest Alexandrian Episcopal throne and whose horizontal axis (i.e. its width and depth) when multiplied reveals the number 360 and then on the other hand we have a tradition associated with a heretic Mark which is later identified as deriving from Egypt which makes repeated statements about the'dimensions of the universe' equally 360 such as when Irenaeus writes:

The sun also, who runs through his orbit in twelve months, and then returns to the same point in the circle, makes the Duodecad manifest by these twelve months; and the days, as being measured by twelve hours, are a type of the invisible Duodecad. Moreover, they (the Marcosians) declare that the hour, which is the twelfth part of the day, is composed of thirty parts, in order to set forth the image of the Triacontad. Also the circumference of the zodiacal circle itself contains three hundred and sixty degrees (for each of its signs comprises thirty); and thus also they affirm, that by means of this circle an image is preserved of that connection which exists between the twelve and the thirty. Still further, asserting that the earth is divided into twelve zones, and that in each zone it receives power from the heavens, according to the perpendicular [position of the sun above it], bringing forth productions corresponding to that power which sends down its influence upon it, they maintain that this is a most evident type of the Duodecad and its offspring(AH 1.17.1)

Indeed if we look at what immediately follows these words Irenaeus seems to put forward a very garbled version of what we presume to be the original Alexandrian interest in 'redeeming' the lunar year.

Irenaeus immediately goes on to note that "in addition to these things, they declare that the Demiurge, desiring to imitate the infinitude, and eternity, and immensity, and freedom from all measurement by time of the Ogdoad above, but, as he was the fruit of defect, being unable to express its permanence and eternity, had recourse to the expedient of spreading out its eternity into times, and seasons, and vast numbers of years, imagining, that by the multitude of such times he might imitate its immensity. They declare further, that the truth having escaped him, he followed that which was false, and that, for this reason, when the times are fulfilled, his work shall perish."(AH 1.17.2) Clement of Alexandria explicitly tells us that 'eight' is the number of the Jubilee or 'year of favor' (i.e. 7 + 1)[3] but we should hold off on reconnecting with these matters for a moment and close the book on the connection between Clement and the Marcosians.

Clement has learned from Philo to interpret the sacred table of the temple in terms of the zodiac, "And loaves are placed on the seventh day on the sacred table, being equal in number to the months of the year, twelve loaves, arranged in two rows of six each, in accordance with the arrangement of the equinoxes; for there are two equinoxes every year, the vernal and the autumnal, which are each reckoned by periods of six months." (Philo, Spec. Leg. i 1 72; cf. Jos. Ant. iii 1 82). Yet Clement's interpretation is very different than Philo's perhaps because he is referencing Ezekiel 41:22 multiplying "three cubits high" by "the length thereof two cubits" to arrive at the conclusion that "the table which was in the temple was six cubits." When he factors in some other measurements he notes that "they add, then, the twelve cubits, agreeably to the revolution of the twelve months, in the annual circle, during which the earth produces and matures all things; adapting itself to the four seasons. And the table, in my opinion, exhibits the image of the earth, supported as it is on four feet, summer, autumn, spring, winter, by which the year travels."(Stromata 6.11)

The point is that as 'unnatural' as it may seem to us to imagine that the Apostle was developing a mystery developed from astrology or that the original Episcopal throne of Alexandria would reflect similar principles, Philo and Josephus make absolutely certain that the ideas fit perfectly in the original Jewish cultural milieu of the first century.  What stands in our way of restoring this original understanding is one man, or perhaps more fairly, one tradition within Christianity - the Asian tradition associated with Polycarp, Irenaeus and ultimately Hippolytus which did not deem it all necessary to completely abandon the liturgical year of the Jews developed as it was from a lunar calendar.  Indeed it is only through such a lens that Mark - or more correctly St. Mark - could be so demonized that he was identified as a μάγος or even worse - "Marcus, thou former of idols, inspector of portents, Skill'd in consulting the stars, and deep in the black arts of magic, Ever by tricks such as these confirming the doctrines of error, Furnishing signs unto those involved by thee in deception, Wonders of power that is utterly severed from God and apostate, Which Satan, thy true father, enables thee still to accomplish, By means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel,-- Thus making thee the precursor of his own impious actions."(AH 1.15.6) Indeed in the end, doesn't Mark's interest in astrological allegories and symbols place him all the more firmly in first century Alexandria?


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