Monday, June 21, 2010

The Second Example of Philo Witnessing the Tradition of Mark Existing in Alexandria in the First Century

In my last post I cited extensively from Pier Franco Beatrice's relatively recent article (The treasures of the Egyptians. Studia Patristica XXXIX, 159-183) on the tradition of the plundering of Egyptian treasure during the Exodus.  In that article he noted that there is a consistent understanding which goes back to the time of Philo which attacks the ancestors of the Jews for stealing the property of the nation of Egypt.

As Beatrice notes, we only hear about this tradition from sources that are hostile to it but he rightly identifies the Marcionites as at least perpetuating a traditional attack of the Egyptian people:

Both Philo and Clement reveal that strong accusations were brought against the Hebrews for covetousness and unjust behaviour. But, while Philo only uses a fairly general expression to indicate a possible objection ('as someone might say in accusation'), Clement argues against unidentified people who actually support that accusation ('as the accusers claim'). One wonders who these accusers were. One wonders who these accusers were. As far as Philo is concerned, if he is writing about real people, they can only be Egyptian pagans who did not look favourably on the wealth of the Jews, considering it the perverse result of their covetousness of others' goods. But the accusers rejected by Clement, like the anonymous opponent mentioned by Isidore of Pelusium in his letter to Panellenius, seem rather to belong to a Christian school of thought. Rudolf Riedinger had the indubitable merit of drawing attention to the question, identifying the 'accusers' mentioned by Clement as the followers of Marcion's dualistic heresy. I am inclined to welcome this suggestion, since many texts confirm that the theft of the treasures of the Egyptians was one of the favourite arguments advanced by the Marcionites against the Demiurge, that is, the God of the Old Testament. The history of the Christian interpretation of the spoils of the Egyptians begins with Marcion and his critics. [p. 164]

While the idea would certainly seem ridiculous to Beatrice and others before him, we already demonstrated at this blog that Philo cites a heretical kabbalah associated with the followers of Mark (see below) and (b) that the Marcosians are undoubtedly one and the same with the Marcionites who are now identified as at least 'perpetuating' this attack which was originally developed in Egyptian 'pagan' circles according to Beatrice.

Yet could it be that Philo was ONCE AGAIN responding to propaganda associated with 'those of Mark'? In other words, there is no specific evidence that these sources were Egyptian pagans. Beatrice just assumes that because it makes sense as the kind of argument that would appeal to the native Egyptians.

Yet as we have already identified ONE example of Philo coming into contact with the followers of Mark, couldn't this be a second example?

Let's not forget that Clement - against the claims of the tradition of Rome - DOES NOT identify Marcion as a second century heretic but rather a figure who was converted in the apostolic era as we read "For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics]. And after him (i.e. Marcion) Simon (Magus) heard for a little the preaching of Peter." [Strom. vii.17]

So let's start with a fresh slate as we reconsider the possibility that Philo might have a second example of Philo witnessing the tradition of Mark in Alexandria in the first century.

Our first example, as we noted above, begins with connecting the Marcosians of Irenaeus to those of Alexandrian See of St. Mark which is quite easy to do when we actually take a second look at the evidence. Irenaeus says that the heretical followers of Mark:

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:113]

I noted in my original post that cited this evidence that the identification of the Marcosians of Egypt (cf. Jerome) as the followers of Mark in Alexandria helps explain curious changes that were made to the Gospel of Mark. In short, the orthodox editors in Rome were always trying to show how 'crazy' and 'unfounded' the kabbalah of the Marcosians was. By changing specific references to the number six in the Gospel of Mark - i.e. the hour in which Jesus was crucified - one could disprove the central claims of the tradition.

For the moment however I want to go back to Beatrice's original point that there is a TRADITION that questions the goodness of the God of the Israelites that goes back to Philo. Beatrice eventually follows Hill's identification of the unnamed 'presbyter' and his unnamed heretical opponents in Irenaeus Book Four as Polycarp and the Marcionites respectively (although he does not credit Hill anywhere).

I don't think that we need to accept his suggestion that Philo is responding to Egyptian pagans while Polycarp was attacking Marcionites. We have already noted that Hilgenfeld identifies the name Marcion as a diminutive of Marcus. We have developed our own explanation of the relationship between these names arguing that the Syriac term for Marcionites in the sixth century Life of Aba shows that Marcion was developed from a back formation of a Semitic gentilic collective plural which means 'those of Mark.'

I think that Philo was once again coming into Marqiyone (i.e. those of Mark) in Alexandria who were actively converting native Egyptians with an argument that the Exodus was just a 'type' for the ἀπολύτρωσις baptism mentioned in Irenaeus Book One chapter 21. I will show in my next post that the basis for this formulation can be shown to develop from the Alexandrian Jewish tradition as witnessed in the writings of Philo. The basic idea was that the new initiates from the Egyptians were being baptized on behalf of the dead Egyptians who drowned in the sea on the eighth day of Passover.

For the moment let's just note according to my theory Clement actually belonged to the tradition which Philo appears to attack in the Life of Moses. Indeed before my readers assume that because van den Hoek has found evidence of Clement citing Philo's words in the Life of Moses he must have completely supported his arguments, let us remind ourselves that van den Hoek notes that Clement goes out of his way to modify Philo's original comments.

Van den Hoek writes, citing first from the original text of Clement drawing our attention to the parallels in Philo:

Str. I 157,2-4 - VM I 141f. I 157,2 " ... and the Hebrews going away thereafter, departed carrying off much spoil from the Egyptians not in avarice as their accusors say (for God did not persuade them to covet other people's property),

I 157, 3 but, first of all, they took a just wage for all the time they had served the Egyptians, and then in a way, they vexed the Egyptians in return, avaricious as they were, afflicting them by removing the booty, as they had afflicted the Hebrews by enslaving them.

1 157, 4 One should say that this happened either as if in war, claiming under the law of victors their enemies' property, as the stronger do from the weaker (and the cause of the war was justified; because of famine, the Hebrews came as suppliants to the Egyptians, but they, reducing their guests to slavery, compelled them to serve them as captives, giving them no recompense), or as if in peace taking the spoils as wages against the will of those, who for a long period had given them no recompense, but rather had robbed them.

As a whole, VM I 141ff is apparently present as a source for Clement. Many words are taken over in the same declension or conjugation, but also new forms appear. The order is changed a few times ... some words are inserted in a different position ... also the meaning of the last sentence is altered.

Philo argues that the Hebrews take the spoils as compensation in spite of the fact that a real compensation is not possible for slavery and torture. Material damage and suffering, as Philo says, are quantities that cannot be compared to one another; they are of different natures. Connected with this, he stresses the idea of the justified and legitimate action of the Hebrews. These arguments do not reappear in Clement in the same form. The passage states baldly that the Hebrews take the spoils as compensation. As has been remarked above, Philo argues with more nuance and with more psychological sense. His observation, for example, that the Hebrews defended themselves not with weapons but with the shield of the Just cannot be found in Clement ... In contrast with the previous borrowings (from Philo), this entire passage (from Clement) gives an untidy impression ... From the point of view of both narrative technique and content, the passage seems confused.
[p. 56 - 57]

There is something about this whole section which seems puzzling to van den Hoek. Clement was going along citing Philo's work pretty much verbatim and then in this section particular he suddenly starts reworking the material when this material just happens to be employed by members of the 'those of Mark' sect of which he has been demonstrated to have been a 'secret' member.

So what gives?

My assumption as always, is that Clement is very aware of Irenaeus's position - which has by now been established as the official orthodoxy of the Church. As such he has to avoid coming into direct conflict with what is written against the unnamed (Markan) heretics in the Fourth Book of Against All Heresies which declares:

Those, again, who cavil and find fault because the people did, by God's command, upon the eve of their departure, take vessels of all kinds and raiment from the Egyptians," and so went away, from which [spoils], too, the tabernacle was constructed in the wilderness, prove themselves ignorant of the righteous dealings of God, and of His dispensations; as also the presbyter remarked: For if God had not accorded this in the typical exodus, no one could now be saved in our true exodus ... The Egyptians were debtors to the [Jewish] people, not alone as to property, but as their very lives, because of the kindness of the patriarch Joseph in former times; but in what way are the heathen debtors to us, from whom we receive both gain and profit? Whatsoever they amass with labour, these things do we make use of without labour, although we are in the faith.

Up to that time the people served the Egyptians in the most abject slavery, as saith the Scripture: "And the Egyptians exercised their power rigorously upon the children of Israel; and they made life bitter to them by severe labours, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field which they did, by all the works in which they oppressed them with rigour." And with immense labour they built for them fenced cities, increasing the substance of these men throughout a long course of years, and by means of every species of slavery; while these [masters] were not only ungrateful towards them, but had in contemplation their utter annihilation.

In what way, then, did [the Israelites] act unjustly, if out of many things they took a few, they who might have possessed much property had they not served them, and might have gone forth wealthy, while, in fact, by receiving only a very insignificant recompense for their heavy servitude, they went away poor? It is just as if any free man, being forcibly carried away by another, and serving him for many years, and increasing his substance, should be thought, when he ultimately obtains some support, to possess some small portion of his [master's] property, but should in reality depart, having obtained only a little as the result of his own great labours, and out of vast possessions which have been acquired, and this should be made by any one a subject of accusation against him, as if he had not acted properly. He (the accuser) will rather appear as an unjust judge against him who had been forcibly carried away into slavery.

Of this kind, then, are these men also, who charge the people with blame, because they appropriated a few things out of many, but who bring no charge against those who did not render them the recompense due to their fathers' services; nay, but even reducing them to the most irksome slavery, obtained the highest profit from them. And [these objectors] allege that [the Israelites] acted dishonestly, because, for-sooth, they took away for the recompense of their labours, as I have observed, unstamped gold and silver in a few vessels; while they say that they themselves (for lot truth be spoken, although to some it may seem ridiculous) do act honestly, when they carry away in their girdles from the labours of others, coined gold, and silver, and brass, with Caesar's inscription and image upon it.

... As a matter of course, therefore, these things were done beforehand in a type, and from them was the tabernacle of God constructed; those persons justly receiving them, as I have shown, while we were pointed out beforehand in them,--[we] who should afterwards serve God by the things of others. For the whole exodus of the people out of Egypt, which took place under divine guidance, was a type and image of the exodus of the Church which should take place from among the Gentiles; and for this cause He leads it out at last from this world into His own inheritance, which Moses the servant of God did not [bestow], but which Jesus the Son of God shall give for an inheritance. And if any one will devote a dose attention to those things which are stated by the prophets with regard to the [time of the] end, and those which John the disciple of the Lord saw in the Apocalypse, he will find that the nations [are to] receive the same plagues universally, as Egypt then did particularly.
[Irenaeus AH.iv.30.1 - 4]

I had to remove of course THE CONTEXT of Irenaeus's statement in order to make the passage digestible for my readership. The criticism that Irenaeus is tackling is specifically arguing that the Church of Rome is in the pocket of Caesar, using the gold and silver to establish idolatrous practices like those associated with the Golden Calf.

This is a VERY COMPLICATED information matrix as Beatrice notes where a debate over the proper interpretation of the Exodus has been going back and forth for centuries by the time Irenaeus comments upon it. I can demonstrate that in fact the same debate was taking place in Jewish circles where one particular school - the debe Jannai - laments the plundering of gold because it was ultimately used to construct an idol (cf. Sanhedrin 102a, Berakhoth 32a etc.). This is clearly the context of the debate between Irenaeus and the Marcionites. It is ONLY IN THE COURSE OF THAT DEBATE that Irenaeus draws from Philo's general argument about the rights of the ancient Israelites to be repaid for their lost wages.

My guess then is that Clement goes out of his way to avoid echoing the heretical beliefs of his Markan tradition slammed by Irenaeus throughout Book Four of Against All Heresies. As the Alexandrian Christian tradition was developed from an original appeal to Egyptian proselytes where they told that they were baptized into the death (and sins) of their ancestors, Clement avoids echoing the strongest language of Philo which identifies God as specifically shielding the Israelites at the expense of the Egyptians. Yes, the Egyptians represented sin and death, but I will argue that this was applied as a typology for the conversion of the Egyptian people (as we see elsewhere in Irenaeus's debate with his Marcionite opponents).

The point then is that the debate between Polycarp and Irenaeus on the one side and the Marqyone on the other IS ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT than the original debate between Philo and the followers of Mark. Irenaeus cites Polycarp as establishing the proper typology of the Exodus - i.e. that it sets the stage for the ἀπολύτρωσις guided by the Emperor in Rome (read chapter 30 carefully you will see the idea leap off the page). The Alexandrian tradition by contrast argued that the ἀπολύτρωσις occurred immediately after Jesus's crucifixion through a baptism into death established in the Gospel of Mark (i.e. LGM 1).

The debate between Philo and the followers of Mark in the first century was essentially over whether the proselytes were meant to adopt the existing system of Judaism that had operated in Alexandria for centuries or - as the opponents of Philo claimed - that something 'better' had come along which was superior to the idolatry established through the gold plundered from the Egyptians.

I want to stress that this specific idea is NOT referenced in the Life of Moses BUT IT HAS TO HAVE BEEN THERE. Philo is only dealing with ONE PART of the exegesis of his opponents. It is time scholars stopped living in mere caricatures because it is self-serving. I can demonstrate that the argument was present in his detractors polemic by citing the Life of Moses. For the moment though, as I bring this post to a close, I will merely cite the particular passage cited by Beatrice and van den Hoek in order to allow the reader to compare the words of Clement and Irenaeus with those of Philo:

So they, being now driven out of the land and pursued, coming at last to a proper notion of their own nobility and worth, ventured upon a deed of daring such as became the free to dare, as men who were not forgetful of the iniquitous plots that had been laid against them; for they carried off abundant booty, which they themselves collected, by means of the hatred in which they were held, and some of it they carried themselves, submitting to heavy burdens, and some they placed upon their beasts of burden, not in order to gratify any love of money, or, as any usurer might say, because they coveted their neighbours' goods. (How should they do so?) But, first of all, because they were thus receiving the necessary wages from those whom they had served for so long a time; and, secondly, because they had a right to afflict those at whose hands they had suffered wrong with afflictions slighter than, and by no means equal to, what they had endured. For how can the deprivation of money and treasures be equivalent to the loss of liberty? on behalf of which those who are in possession of their senses dare not only to cast away all their property, but even to venture their lives? So they now prospered in both particulars: whether in that they received wages as it in price, which they now exacted from unwilling paymasters, who for a long period had not paid them at all; and, also, as if they were at war, they looked upon it as fitting to carry off the treasures of the enemy, according to the laws of conquerors; for it was the Egyptians who had set the example of acts of injustice, having, as I said before, enslaved foreigners and suppliants, as if they had been prisoners taken in war. And so they now, when an opportunity offered, avenged themselves without any preparation of arms, justice itself holding a shield over them, and stretching forth its hand to help them.[Life of Moses I 140 - 143]

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