Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Concluding Argument Which Will Almost Certainly NOT Appear in My Article (But I Will Share It With You All Anyway)

So it would seem that we have solved the mystery of why the throne of St. Mark was built to dimensions which reflect the number three hundred and sixty.  The followers of Mark have now been demonstrated to have developed a myth to explain how it was that the three hundred and fifty four was transformed into the Egyptian three hundred and sixty day solar year. As Irenaeus and other sources note, this was accomplished through the union of various things with the sixth letter of the alphabet. While most New Testament scholars seem to cheer on Irenaeus's ridicule of this 'crazy' understanding it once again only testifies to their complete ignorance of a well established Jewish mystical interest in the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

While it would take us too far afield to develop a proper understanding of this ancient tradition which goes as far back as the Samaritan writings of Mark (Marqe), it is worth noting that this speculation doesn't end with the six letter word Bereshith which establishes creation and then disappears from the Genesis narrative. There is a consistent understanding that for instance certain important words are spelled without the sixth letter in critical places in the story of the redemption of Israel in order to draw attention to the occultation of the divine presence. So for instance the first verse which speaks of Israel's enslavement in Egypt: in the Torah

And the voice was heard in the house of Pharaoh (Genesis 45:16)

The word 'voice' (קֹּל) is understood to have this unusual spelling (i.e. missing the sixth letter) to signify that the divine presence is weeping over the sins of Israel. Indeed, in a manner which seems connected to Marcosian exegesis, the Zohar identifies this strange spelling with 'silence' or 'silent prayer' so that:

a person should not let his voice be heard while praying but rather pray in a whisper - with that inaudible voice. This is the prayer that is always accepted. Your mnemonic is וְהַקֹּל, and the voice was heard - קֹּל, voice with out a vav, is head. This is silent prayer, accepted by the blessed Holy One when it is fashioned fittingly with passion, intention and harmony - actualizing every day the unity of one's Lord. (Zohar 1.210a)

At this point the Zohar cites the example of Hannah (1 Sam 1:13) to prove the importance of uniting the sixth letter to silent prayer to empower the requests in heaven.

The same point can be also seen in Alexandrian writers who take up the cause of the sixth letter. Clement writing:

we and the angels pray. But not similarly. For it is not the same thing to pray that the gift remain, and to endeavour to obtain it for the first time. The averting of evils is a species of prayer; but such prayer is never to be used for the injury of men, except that the Gnostic, in devoting attention to righteousness, may make use of this petition in the case of those who are past feeling. Prayer is, then, to speak more boldly, converse with God. Though whispering, consequently, and not opening the lips we speak in silence, yet we cry inwardly. For God hears continually all the inward converse. So also we raise the head and lift the hands to heaven, and set the feet in motion at the closing utterance of the prayer, following the eagerness of the spirit directed towards the intellectual essence; and endeavouring to abstract the body from the earth, along with the discourse, raising the soul aloft, winged with longing for better things, we compel it to advance to the region of holiness, magnanimously despising the chain of the flesh. For we know right well, that the Gnostic willingly passes over the whole world, as the Jews certainly did over Egypt, showing clearly, above all, that he will be as near as possible to God.

Now, if some assign definite hours for prayer—as, for example,
the third, and sixth, and ninth — yet the Gnostic prays throughout his whole life, endeavouring by prayer to have fellowship with God. And, briefly, having reached to this, he leaves behind him all that is of no service, as having now received the perfection of the man that acts by love. But the distribution of the hours into a threefold division, honoured with as many prayers, those are acquainted with, who know the blessed triad of the holy abodes.(Stromata 7.7)

Not only does Clement associated the silent prayer of Hannah with the cry of Israelites in Egypt and their ultimate redemption but more significantly he says absolutely explicitly that such a prayer should take place in the 'sixth' hour. Given that he has earlier identified that Jesus's crucifixion in the sixth hour is indicative of the sixth letter (Strom. 6.14) it is impossible to argue that he was not aware of a tradition which connected the 'silent prayer' (קֹּל) of the Egyptians with the mystical function of achieving union with the sixth letter.

Our purpose of course is not to explore the shared interest of the Alexandrian and Jewish traditions in the sixth letter but to develop an explanation of iconography on the throne of St. Mark. According to what we have laid down so far, Irenaeus's report on the tradition of Mark should be seen as hostile account of 'telltale signs' of heresy. He is not interested in 'explaining' or justifying the beliefs of groups he opposes, but rather to help bishops in communion with him and the Roman see 'spot' members who shared outlawed beliefs. We took it upon ourselves to complete the job of making sense of these seemingly random statements in the first two books of his writings about these so-called Marcosians and connect them to some underlying historical reality in the period before the composition of the material associated with the Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So Called.

It was decided that the gospel was originally developed as a means of justifying this historical transformation of the Alexandrian Jewish community.  The clearest testimony of this transformation by means of the sixth letter of the alphabet was the adoption of the three hundred and sixty day calendar.  This was explained by means of a mythopoeic narrative where Jesus (the heavenly being who embodies the 'sixthness' of creation) comes down from heaven in order to crucify himself and set in motion a mystery where by the imperfections of the universe are 'healed.'  Jesus is understood by the earliest surviving witnesses of the Alexandrian tradition to have come to this world to announce his 'repairing of the world' (תיקון עולם) in the messianic Jubilee which would would follow in the sixth month after his Passion.

Through the efforts of a number of critical interpretations of the Transfiguration narrative (and the surviving tradition of the Apocalypse of Peter) we decided that later that  later on Yom Kippur, Jesus is deliberately portrayed as appearing in glory dressed as the heavenly high priest next to the heavenly throne.  After he, Moses and Elijah go up to heaven John, one of three human witnesses to the event gets the idea that he too wants to sit on that throne.  It seems only natural to suggest that the manufacture of the throne which now resides in the Basilica di San Marco reflects these very same ideas because they were so important to the contemporary Alexandrian community.

A previous study, based on similarities between the Venetian throne and the Episcopal chair described in the Passio Petri Sancti and other early references has established the date of the object to the mid-third century at the very latest. My suspicions are that the object was manufactured in a much earlier period but as we do not have access to any reliable eyewitness testimonies to a functioning Alexandrian Church before the fourth century it is impossible to date the throne to a period earlier than a few generations before the martyrdom of Peter I.  What is much easier to examine is the hostile references of Irenaeus to an Alexandrian 'gnostic' tradition which, as we have already noted, maintained a doctrine which is closely related to the iconography on our early Alexandrian throne.

Yet even with all that we have brought forward, it is difficult to imagine that a second century Alexandrian community could still have engendered such hostility from Irenaeus merely for maintaining a memorial that testified to the transformation of the Jewish liturgical calendar.  Yes to be certain, Irenaeus was connected to a tradition in Asia Minor which still used the old calendar of Jewish months and years to memorialize Easter.  Yet it is difficult to come to terms Irenaeus's hostility to this 'gnostic' venation of the transformation of the three hundred and fifty four day lunar calendar.  The mythopoetic understanding of the redemptive power of the sixth letter might well seem silly or misguided, but his unbridled hostility against a seemingly harmless 'fairy tale' seems to beyond the pale.

What was it about this 'gnostic myth' that Irenaeus found so insidious and ultimately 'heretical'? This is a very difficult question to answer and has received very little attention in study of the Patristic writings (as most writers have simply assumed that because Irenaeus was hostile towards the tradition it must have deserved his admonition). The answer is certainly to be found in looking for recognizable patterns in Irenaeus's attack against the two related heretical groups (the Valentinians and Marcosians). Norris comes to our aid in some respects in his Irenaeus's Use of Paul in his Polemic Against the Gnostics, by noting that it is possible to see the original heretical doctrine because "Irenaeus reflects the agenda of a 'Gnostic' reading of Paul" whenever he attacks the heretical exegesis of that particular text.[1] This 'counter attack' so characterizes Irenaeus's use of Pauline texts Norris notes that it is extremely difficult to get an exact idea of Irenaeus's own interpretation of the Apostle free from this polemic.

To this end, I would like to follow Norris's lead and argue that the consistent citation of Galatians 4:4 - 6 in Irenaeus reflects his attack against a rival Alexandrian interpretation of the material which reflects their belief that Jesus was God but not Christ, Father but not Son.[2] Jesus, as we have just seen was acting the part of 'Father' or Αββα - a word deliberately retained in its Aramaic form because of its reflection of the number six - who had established baptism as the means of adoption of various 'sons' starting with the νεανίσκος of LGM 1. We have already noted that the numbers six, seven and eight (two of which are implicit, the other - 'six' - explicit) are reflect a pattern that date back to the typology of Creation and the crossing of the sea but which ultimately come together at the 'fulness of time,' the enthronement of Christ on the Yom Kippur (seventh month) of the Jubilee year (eighth year) six months after the crucifixion.[2]

Of course Irenaeus rejects this interpretation of πλήρωμα ὁ χρόνος and the accompanying Alexandrian understanding that the exact timing of its manifestation was unknown to Moses and the prophets. Origen has clearly learned from his tradition that Moses and Elijah were resurrected in order to make them aware that the 'fulness of time' would manifest itself on that 'day of vengeance' in that 'year of favor' - i.e. the Jubilee which followed Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection. As we noted earlier Irenaeus's positing or promoting of a rival ending to Mark which featured an enthronement but without reference to the Jubilee concept.

Indeed if we examine Irenaeus's promotion of what is commonly known as the longer ending of Mark it is plain to see what the 'heretical' position when he stresses that 'plainly' does:

the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord; Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John (the Baptist) [AH 3.10.5]

It can be consistently demonstrated that the Alexandrian gospel of Mark not only divided Jesus from Christ (AH 3.11.7) and made the monophysite Jesus, a wholly angelic hypostasis the messenger for Christ, the Father of his newly adopted νεανίσκος.

It is interesting to note how consistently the refuted heretical position promotes the idea of these two figures 'becoming one' (Eph 2:14) at the fulness of time, i.e. the Yom Kippur enthronement. Irenaeus writes for instance that:

Paul also says: "But when the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son." By which is made manifest, that all things which had been foreknown of the Father, our Lord did accomplish in their order, season, and hour, foreknown and fitting, being indeed one and the same, but rich and great. For He fulfils the bountiful and comprehensive will of His Father, inasmuch as He is Himself the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Lord of those who are under authority, and the God of all those things which have been formed, the only-begotten of the Father, Christ who was announced, and the Word of God, who became incarnate when the fulness of time had come, at which the Son of God had to become the Son of man.

All, therefore, are outside of [this] dispensation, who, under pretext of knowledge,
understand that Jesus was one, and Christ another, and the Only-begotten another from whom again is the Word and that the Saviour is another, whom these disciples of error allege to be a production of those who were made Aeons in a state of degeneracy. Such men are to outward appearance sheep; for they appear to be like us, by what they say in public, repeating the same words as we do; but inwardly they are wolves. Their doctrine is homicidal, conjuring up, as it does, a number of gods, and simulating many Fathers, but lowering and dividing the Son of God in many ways ... Wherefore [John] again exclaims in his Epistle, "Every one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, has been born of God;" knowing Jesus Christ to be one and the same, to whom the gates of heaven were opened, because of His taking upon Him flesh: who shall also come in the same flesh in which He suffered, revealing the glory of the Father.(AH 3.14.7)

Of course it will be our contention that Irenaeus is referencing the central mystery of the Marcosians here - that Jesus was God and someone else was the Christ. But before we get into all of that, let's try to come to terms with Irenaeus's methodology for a moment.

On the surface the Irenaean exegesis of this material is very similar to the Marcosians. As Norris notes "the Son in question is 'the first-born of all creation,' whom Irenaeus, as we have seen, identifies, not imperceptively perhaps, with the Logos of John 1:1-14." Moreover, Norris adds that Irenaeus argues that "Paul in Galatians, then, is locating the central redemptive event in the incarnation of the divine Son or Word. But more than that, he is presenting this event as the outcome of an initiative on the part of the God of the prophets — the God who spoke in the Jewish scriptures and who, indeed, promised this redemption ahead of time in those very scriptures." According to Irenaeus then "there is a divine oikonomia that embraces everything (universe dispositio: AH 3.16.6) and culminates in the enfleshing of God's son. It means that "all thing are foreknown by the Father and carried out by the Son ... at the moment that is appropriate (apto tem- pore)" God, then, has a history with humanity, and humanity with God, and in that history different things happen at different times. The phrase "fulness of time" itself, of course, refers to one moment in that history, the time of the Word's being made flesh (AH 3.17.4) but also implies for Irenaeus that there are other 'times' that have their place in the same divine scheme." (p. 112,113)

Of course, knowing what we know about the original Alexandrian system we can see that they had a much simpler understanding. The 'fulness of time,' 'the day of vengeance' and the 'year of favor' all refer to one period of time which began on the Yom Kippur after Jesus's resurrection and continued for a year and half after that. Jesus, as we noted earlier, was for the Marcosians the Logos, the living presence of the Father. The Marcosians are clearly reported by Irenaeus to have held that their founder Mark was the 'only-begotten' (AH 1.14.1) and presumably 'the Son' of their tradition. It can be seen that while claiming on the one hand that the heretics wrongly 'separate' God from Lord, Father from Son and the like, Irenaeus's interpretation of the same material goes beyond merely arguing that all the different powers are 'one' but drifts toward something which is ultimately entirely self-serving.

As we have noted the Alexandrians established that whatever Christianity was, it was established within a few months of the Passion of Christ. Christ underwent transformation from crucifixion to resurrection and then within a short span of time the entire world also underwent a similar transformation. The Alexandrian tradition presumably developed this image of a throne presumably as a sign that the community was intimately connected with the event which was 'the fulness of time.' Irenaeus understanding is a little more ambiguous. Yes the 'fulness of time' is still connected with the Passion but he clearly changes the meaning of 'the year of favor' into something which essentially means the century and a half that transpired between the Passion and the establishment of the Roman Church of Irenaeus's day. It would also only be natural for Irenaeus to want to bury the trail of evidence in Alexandria which might suggest that something existed in Egypt before his day.

Of course, it is worth noting that Schaff has already made part of the argument for us already when he notes that:

all the essential elements of the later church doctrine of redemption may be found, either expressed or implied, before the close of the second century. The negative part of the doctrine, the subjection of the devil, the prince of the kingdom of sin and death, was naturally most dwelt on in the patristic period, on account of the existing conflict of Christianity with heathenism, which was regarded as wholly ruled by Satan and demons. Even in the New Testament, particularly in Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14, and 1 John 3:8, the victory over the devil is made an integral part of the work of Christ. But this view was carried out in the early church in a very peculiar and, to some extent, mythical way; and in this form continued current, until the satisfaction theory of Anselm gave a new turn to the development of the dogma. Satan is supposed to have acquired, by the disobedience of our first parents, a legal claim (whether just or unjust) upon mankind, and held them bound in the chains of sin and death (Comp. Hebr. 2:14, 15). Christ came to our release. The victory over Satan was conceived now as a legal ransom by the payment of a stipulated price, to wit, the death of Christ; now as a cheat upon him (1 Cor. 2:8, misapprehended) either intentional and deserved, or due to his own infatuation. (This strange theory is variously held by Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, Augustin, Leo the Great and Gregory the Great. See Baur, ch. I. and II. p. 30-118.093).

The point then is that while it is usually assumed that 'those of Irenaeus' and 'those of Marcus' represent polar extremes in terms of their respective interpretations of the person of God, while their differences are pronounced, they ultimate arise from a common source. Irenaeus commands his hearers to accept his rule of faith without learning enough about the other side to make a fair assessment about which tradition was actually of greater antiquity.

However when we realize that the followers of Mark do not stray from the veneration of the year of favor and the followers of Irenaeus necessarily stretch the original meaning to allow the original concept to become watered down or altered by subsequent events or 'revelations' there should be little doubt about the historical reality of the period. Irenaeus tells us that Jesus is both Lord and Christ and the heretics are wrong when their gospel of Mark 'separates' Jesus and Christ as two separate people. It seems obvious to us that Irenaeus is correct because we share his prejudices, after all we got our ideas from him.

But when we go back to those 'Jewish prophets' that he cites to support his ending of the Gospel of Mark and his claim that there is only one Lord and one God throughout the gospel, things don't seem so convincing. Psalm 110 clearly identifies two Lords "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool." So now Irenaeus modifies his position to saying that there are two Lords - Father and Son - but that the claims of the heretics that Jesus and Christ are two different people are false.

Indeed Irenaeus goes on to make it absolutely specific that these heretics who 'separate' Jesus Christ in the wrong way they do so in terms of a variant enthronement narrative. For we read:

the Spirit, therefore, descending under the predestined dispensation, and the Son of God, the Only-begotten, who is also the Word of the Father, coming in the fulness of time, having become incarnate in man for the sake of man, and fulfilling all the conditions of human nature, our Lord Jesus Christ being one and the same, as He Himself the Lord doth testify, as the apostles confess, and as the prophets announce,--all the doctrines of these men who have invented putative Ogdoads and Tetrads, and imagined subdivisions [of the Lord's person], have been proved falsehoods. These men do, in fact, set the Spirit aside altogether; they understand that Christ was one and Jesus another; and they teach that there was not one Christ, but many. And if they speak of them as united, they do again separate them: for they show that one did indeed undergo sufferings, but that the other remained impassible; that the one truly did ascend to the Pleroma, but the other remained in the intermediate place; that the one does truly feast and revel in places invisible and above all name, but that the other is seated with the Demiurge, emptying him of power. It will therefore be incumbent upon thee, and all others who give their attention to this writing, and are anxious about their own salvation, not readily to express acquiescence when they hear abroad the speeches of these men: for, speaking things resembling the [doctrine of the] faithful, as I have already observed, not only do they hold opinions which are different, but absolutely contrary, and in all points full of blasphemies, by which they destroy those persons who, by reason of the resemblance of the words, imbibe a poison which disagrees with their constitution, just as if one, giving lime mixed with water for milk, should mislead by the similitude of the colour; as a man" superior to me has said, concerning all that in any way corrupt the things of God and adulterate the truth, "Lime is wickedly mixed with the milk of God."(ibid AH 3.17.4)

Irenaeus makes absolutely clear in other very specific references that his heretical opponents venerate a throne which occupies physical space in this world. But the real story in the above reference that he accuses them of both 'uniting' and 'separating' Jesus and Christ in ways which justify their condemnation.

Irenaeus has already told us that those who only use the Gospel of Mark use that narrative to "separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered."(AH 3.11.7) Now he ends up telling us that the two powers end up together on a terrestrial throne. Is it possible that the followers of Mark - while maintaining that the Jewish prophets did not know when the 'fulness of time' would take place - employed a different Old Testament scripture to foretell the enthronement that would close their gospel of Mark? I think that the answer to this question might be found on the image on the throne's backrest.

The front of the backrest shows a bushy tree, such as a tamarisk. The four rivers of Paradise that water the whole earth (Genesis II:10-14) are shown flowing out of a cube from in front of it or under it. They do not branch out in four directions of the compass. Their flow has the pattern of two pairs of streams going down a slope. The mundane images of these four streams are the pair the White Nile (Pishon) and the Blue Nile (Giḥon), and the pair the Tigris and Euphrates. The tree is not strictly symmetrical. If you count the number of fruit on each main branch, you get 8 7 6 5 9. If these are converted to the corresponding Hebrew letters you have Ḥet Zayin Vav He Ṭet. The first four letters formed the Aramaic word ḥezwa, meaning a vision, in the emphatic state (absolute state ḥazu). The last letter can be read as the number 9. This gives the words ḥezwa tish‘ana meaning ‘the ninth vision’, in Aramaic. The question then is, the ninth vision in which part of Scripture? Boid is inclined to see it as a reference to Genesis XXII:13, where Abraham sees the ram that he is to sacrifice. He recognises the difficulty that this is not a vision of God. Normally a vision in the Torah that is not said to be in a dream is a vision of God. But what if the Christian makers of the throne identified the ram with Jesus? What if we are to see the ascended Christ, the Pantokrātōr? Perhaps. Both of us agree with the suggestion by a colleague at Columbia University that there is a second referent to the term “the ninth vision”. This is the ninth vision in the book of Zechariah, ch. VI, verses 9-15. The vision that is seen is the messianic king enthroned and ruling with the High Priest.

Here is the Hebrew of verses 12b-13. “Behold a man whose name is sprout [or growth bud: tsemaḥ]. From being static [literally from under himself] he will sprout [yitsmaḥ] and will build the Temple of the Lord. He will build the Temple of the Lord and will take on royal majesty [hod]. He will sit and rule on his throne, and the Priest will be on his throne, and there will be concord between them”. Here is the Greek translation (conveniently but improperly called the Septuagint, LXX). The Greek of the Minor Prophets is an interpretative translation, without being arbitrary. “Behold the man whose name is Dawn [anatolê]; over the horizon [hypokatôthen, literally up from under] he will dawn [anatelei], and build the house of the Lord. And he will take on nobility [or prowess: Greek aretê], and sit and rule upon his throne; and there will be a Priest on his right hand, and there shall be concord between them”.

There is no difficulty in reconciling the Hebrew and the Greek. There are two main groups of meanings of tsemaḥ in Hebrew and anatolê in Greek. They can mean “sprouting” and “first appearing over the horizon, shining for the first time”. The two verbs tsamaḥ and anatellein have the same range of meaning as the noun. The root idea, a first appearance from nowhere, can be seen clearly in their use in speaking of the outwelling of the headwaters of a river from the ground. When opening most modern English translations we find the Hebrew word tsemaḥ rendered as “the branch”, or something to that effect. This is a bad rendering, caused by mental association with verses in Isaiah and elsewhere that speak of a new branch, as well as being due to absence of feeling for the Hebrew language. It sounds like something said by the Black Adder when taken out of context –- “behold a man whose name is Sprout”, or “behold the man whose name is the eye of the potato”. That is what the text actually says. Aquila renders it in Greek as “new growth” [anaphyē; the noun is not in Liddell and Scott, but the verb is well attested]. Symmachus and Ho Hebraios render as growthbud [blastēma]. The Bible de Jérusalem and the Traduction Ecuménique de la Bible also both translate correctly as ‘germe’ in French, meaning growthbud, such as the eye of a potato. The Greek translator chooses a valid alternative interpretation, the first dawning. Here is Philo’s comment on Zechariah VI:12, “Behold a man whose name is the Daybreak (Anatolē)”. Philo says these words are: spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the Daybreak has been given to him with great felicity. For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his Father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns. (We quote from the Loeb Classical Library). Philo finds a hint of the connection of both the passage from Zechariah and Genesis XXI:23, the planting of the eshel, with Paradise in Genesis II:8, “The Lord God planted a Garden in Eden in the East.” The Hebrew is miqqedem, which can also mean “aforetime” and this is the interpretation in the Jewish Targums. Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus do the same. In the LXX however the term that appears in its place is kata anatolas “in the east”. The Samaritan Targum agrees. There can be no doubt that Philo understood that the Jewish Messiah would come like a solar god, exactly as we see indicated by the combination of images on the throne.

The imagery in Zechariah is of a future king. Using the image of a tree, he is still only a sprout. Using the imagery of the sun, he is the first dawn. He is a child. The dimensions of the throne are right for a child, not an adult. The illustrations on the throne show or symbolise the stages of his growth and expected rise to uncontested kingship. The imagery is mostly solar. This is most clearly seen in the image of an eagle near the sun disc on the back of the chair. The combination of the eagle and sun belongs to the old religion of Egypt, not Christianity. It is associated with Horus and with resurrection. The sequence of illustrations on the back and sides of the chair symbolises the stages of the future king’s expected rise and the coming of the ideal kingdom, or heaven on earth, but there is no room here to demonstrate this. Although the imagery is solar, a linkage is made between the tree metaphor and the sun metaphor by the prominent depiction of two pairs of palm trees. The palm tree is associated with the phoenix. In addition, the numerical value of tamar, a palm tree, is 640, the same as the numerical value of shemesh, the sun. On one panel, the pair of palm trees are still partly below the horizon. On a panel to be read as later in the order of development, the pair of palm trees are fully over the horizon, growing out of the ground as normally. The final panel has an eagle pushing the sun disc up with its wings and carrying the gospel in its talons. A coded reference to Mark is built in here. If you take the word nesher, an eagle, in Hebrew spelling and substitute the previous letter of the Hebrew alphabet for each letter, N becomes M, Sh becomes R, and R becomes Q, spelling Marc(us), Mark(os), Mårq(e), Marq(a).

The question of course is whether the throne preserves the secret meaning of the entire Alexandrian secret gospel tradition. Did the original gospel secretly hold that Jesus and Mark represented two 'separated' figures of God and Christ respectively? It is impossible to determine this in the limited space available to us here. It is worth noting that one more thing which I think has some relevance to our present discussion.

Irenaeus's description of the Marcosians makes it quite clear that the community held some secret baptism that preceded the Passion and is actually specifically identified as being located in chapter ten verse thirty five of the Gospel of Mark, the very place where the relatively recently discovered Letter to Theodore of Clement identifies LGM 1. This ritual is called ἀπολύτρωσις and seems to develop from traditional Jewish Samaritan speculation about the numbers six, seven and eight as we have noted before.

The earliest Alexandrian descriptions of baptism seem to emphasize it as an act of redemption such as that which we read in the Excerpts of Theodore:

Advancing from faith and fear to knowledge, man knows how to say Lord, Lord; but not as His slave, he has learned to say, Our Father. Having set free the spirit of bondage, which produces fear, and advanced by love to adoption, he now reverences from love Him whom he feared before. For he no longer abstains from what he ought to abstain from out of fear, but out of love clings to the commandments. “The Spirit itself,” it is said, “beareth witness when we cry, Abba, Father.”

Irenaeus has already told us that Mark was the 'only-begotten' of Marcosian community. We can theorize again that this developed from some aspect of the secret narrative but we will never know anything for certain. I have written a number of speculative works which have suggested that Marcus Agrippa, the last king of Israel might possibly be the historical St. Mark who developed a mystery religion around his own messianic status. While these theories can in no way be understood to have been 'proved' in any way, it is worth noting that the name 'Agrippa' אגריפס has a numerical value of 254 (60 + 80 + 10 + 200 + 3 + 1).

If Agrippa was the 'Mark' who was secretly understood to be in the waters with Jesus and received became his only begotten son, by uniting with the Father (Αββα) through his presence it is interesting to consider that the mystery of the number three hundred and sixty would have been understood to have been manifest in his person.

At the same time if we return to the alleged cipher on the backrest, we can possibly see why it is that Jesus is only portrayed as wearing the robes of the high priest in the Transfiguration. The vision that is seen in Zechariah is that of the messianic king enthroned and ruling with the High Priest. In the Alexandrian text of Zechariah the priest’s name is Jesus while the messianic king is only identified as the Dawn [anatole]. The text begins by telling of the historical 'crowning' of both Jesus and immediately goes on to announce the royal messiah who would follow him:

Behold the man whose name is Dawn; over the horizon he will dawn [anatelei], and build the house of the Lord. And he will take on nobility [or prowess: Greek aretê], and sit and rule upon his throne; and there will be a Priest on his right hand, and there shall be concord between them

Could it be that this is the proper context for understanding the mysteries of Alexandrian Christianity? Could this be the proper context for understanding the throne of St. Mark? That Jesus and Christ were reconciled in the person of St. Mark?

We will never know for certain but the closest we can get are the words of the great Coptic historian Severus of Al'Ashmunein who reminds us that the various Patriarchs of Alexandria "sat upon his episcopal throne, one after another, each of them succeeding his predecessor; and thus all were his representatives, and the shepherds of his flock, and his imitators in his faith in Christ.” Who is this Christ? As Severus again notes it might be Mark for he writes in his Homilies of St. Mark that "St. Mark the apostle and servant of Jesus Christ has appeared among all creatures like the mustard seed (which speaks the Gospel), which grows and becomes a huge tree, so that the birds come to rest on its branches and get away from his shadow, because, although our Lord Jesus Christ (may he be glorified!) have wanted to nominate himself for this comparison, however, can also apply the meaning to St. Mark, this shining light, for those who follow Christ are themselves Christs and other members of Christ." [Homily on St. Mark 1 p.7]

Perhaps this is as close as we are meant to get to this great mystery.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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