Thursday, July 22, 2010

Does the Gnostic Title 'Sabaoth' Really Derive From צבאות?

I don't think so. I have never been convinced of what I consider the LAZY explanation - viz. 'the Lord of Hosts.' Why on earth would the title have been shortened to mean 'hosts'? I prefer the Gnostic interest in Jesus as the Ogdoad and relating Sabaoth to the number seven. 

Here is ANOTHER example of New Testament scholars ignorance of Jewish traditions leads to unlikely etymologies. 

Let's start with the obvious. שבעות more closely represents the Greek Σαβαωθ than צבאות does. 

Representation of a letter and sound ‘AYIN by alpha is standard at this period. This is partly out of necessity, partly because when there was still a pronounced consonantal ‘Ayin in all positions it affected the neighbouring vowels, and partly because when ‘Ayin disappeared in some positions later on it became an “a” sound. So שבעות is a real possibility. The apparent connection with צבאות might only be illusory.

There was a Samaritan sect identified as 'the Sebuaeans' which is ABSOLUTELY CERTAINLY connected with the no. seven. First, we have the name in an ARAMAIC Jewish text from the time of the Ge’onim, when it is known that there were still Sebuaeans. The reference is Sefer Halachot Pesukot. Second, the transcription by Abu ‘l-Fath. confirms this. Third, the confused account by Epiphanius shows he had been told there was a connection with the no. seven.

If the name Sabaoth is connected with the no. seven, it must be connected with Shavu’ot, Pentecost, the occasion of the revelation of the first and second Torah. Moses first became King on that occasion, because he then had a congregation to rule.(see the first verses of Deuteronomy XXXIII, and the phrase vayehi melech be-Yisra’el, meaning “and then (after the revelation of the Torah) there was a King in Israel”. Also Samaritan and Jewish tradition). The Christian Church came into existence on the second occasion.

For all these reasons I think that the gnostic figure of Σαβαωθ has something to do with a rival interpretation of the giving of the ascension occurring on the Pentecost following the resurrection. I think the fifty stars on the throne of St. Mark has something to do with this symbolism. The problem of course is determining what the heretics thought happened on this date. 

Most of us I presume are familiar with the mid-second century tradition in Acts which explains what happened on this date:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galilean? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power."

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

This was certainly NOT the Marcionite understanding of what happened at the Pentecost which followed the Resurrection. The Marcionite rejected EVERYTHING in Acts. So what did they think happen on שבעות? And is there a way to relate this to the Greek title Σαβαωθ?

The first thing that jumps out at us is the consistent connection of the revelation of the Paraclete at the Pentecost. The Catholics WRONGLY associate the figure of 'the Paraclete' with a holy wind. Those traditions most closely associated with the original Semitic culture of Christianity know better. The Paraclete is the title of the messiah (Numb. Rabba 13 etc). That this tradition of associating the παράκλητος with a human being who would come after Jesus's death to take over the Christian community and be its messiah is clearly present in the Marcionite and Valentinian communities (cf. Origen Hom Luke 25.5) and is the orthodox understanding in the Christian communities of Osrhoene (cf. Acts of Archelaus), Manichaeanism (where one of the title of Mani is that of the Paraclete) and earliest Islam (where Mohammed is similarly identified).

My guess is that the original gospel held by many communities (including the original Diatessaron) concluded with an enthronement on the Pentecost following of this other Christ. The arguments for this are quite complex and have been developed in some respects by Teeple, Reisenfeld and many others. I do think however that they missed a lot of evidence which would have strengthened their case. 

For instance, Ephrem's Against Marcion Book One makes absolutely clear that the Marcionite text ends with the Transfiguration, and a Transfiguration narrative like that of the Apocalypse of Peter (i.e. where Moses, Elijah and Jesus go up to heaven with Jesus and leave the rest of the apostles on the mountain). I think Ephrem's discussion makes absolutely clear that the 'high mountain' in question was Gerizim (the 'high mountain' is in fact a traditional title of the Samaritan holy mount. All of which helps provide a context for Peter's strange idea about establishing three booths when he sees the spiritual figures of Moses, Elijah and Jesus. 

Let me give my readers some context on the Samaritan manner of celebrating Pentecost.

The Festival of Pentecost is called ha saba’ot in the Samaritan language. The name derives its name from the seven weeks of the counting of the omer preceding it. Other names used for the festival are “Festival of the firstlings” and “Harvest Festival” as well as “Festival of the legislation” (although the latter term is not mentioned in the Torah and, therefore, is of later origin).

It is known that the Samaritans do have a special meaning for these weeks or Sabbaths:

1) Week of the crossing of the Sea (Exodus 14:26-15:21)
2) Week of the changing of the water of marah (Exodus 15:22-26)
3) Week of elim, where they found twelve water springs and seventy palm trees« (Exodus 15:27-16:3)
4) Week of the man, which fell down upon them from heavens in the desert« (Exodus 16:4-36)
5) Week of the welling out of water from the rock (Exodus 17:1-7)
6) Week of the battles against ‘Amaleq (Exodus 17:8-17)
7) Week of standing at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1 ff.)

One Samaritan group counted these days and weeks from the Sunday after the Sabbath during the week of Unleavened Bread as opposed to the Pharisees who understand “Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:15 as the first day of Passover. Yet the Dositheans agreed with the Pharisees. It should be noted that there were differences among the Jews too in this regard as Menahot 10:3 shows: the Boethusians began counting on Sunday (and thus agreed with the Samaritan Sadducees). Later on, the Karaites maintained the same tradition.

On the fourth day after the sixth Sabbath of the counting of the omer, the Samaritans celebrate the Day of Standing at Mt. Sinai, ywm m’md hr Syny. The day is also called “Day of Scripture”, ywm mqrth. According to their tradition, the Pentateuch was given to the Israelites from above Mt. Sinai on this day

On the fiftieth day is the festival of Pentecost, the Samaritans make a pilgrimage to Mt. Gerizim. It begins early in the morning, and during the procession all the places holy to the Samaritans that are situated on the peak, are visited: gib’at ‘olam, on which Moses’ tabernacle stood; Isaac’s Altar, the spot where Abraham bound his son; and the site of the twelve rocks that Joshua set up before erecting Moses’ tabernacle, according to Samaritan tradition. 

I think the context of standing at the gib’at ‘olam provides the context for the act of Peter's booth building. We see in Josephus the interest in 'rediscovering' the lost tabernacle of Moses. Peter is clearly associated with memorializing the Transfiguration in a traditional manner. The Samaritans however remember a figure called 'booths' (Sakta) who seems closely associated with Pauline Christianity who argued that HE WAS THE BOOTH (or 'booths' - 'Sakta' is actually booths or sukkah in the plural).

In any event, another thing which the Samaritan celebration of שבעות helps explain in the gospel Transfiguration is the reference to 'after six days.' The Samaritan sages determined that the status of Shavuot should not be diminished among the pilgrimage holidays. Just as the Festival of Unleavened Bread and the Harvest Festival [Succoth] are holidays, which last for seven days each, as is written in the Torah, so, they resolved, that the festival, which marks the climax of the fifty days of Counting the Omer [of seven weeks and one day], should also last for seven days, from the Monday of the week preceding it until the day of the festival, which would be the seventh day. The opening day of the seven-day festival is called the Day of Assembly, to mark the day when the people of Israel, who preserve the Truth, gathered for the second pilgrimage of the year. This day is devoted to visiting the sites, which mark the parameters of the future Garden of Eden, the boundaries of the chosen place, Mt. Gerizim Bet El, with song and prayers. Each person who makes this pilgrimage or sacrifices the Passover sacrifice there, has fulfilled the commandment, which states At the place God has chosen to rest His name there.

There are four demarcations: 
a) The Everlasting Hill on Mt. Gerizim. 
b) The Parcel of Land in Shechem which Jacob the Forefather bought. 
c) Joseph's Tomb in Shechem. 
d) Kiryat Eburta [currently known as Awwarteh], the burial place of the High Priests, Elazar and Itamar, the sons of Aaron the High Priest, Pinhas ben Elazar and his son Avisha. This was also the burial place of the seventy elders and Samaritan High Priests. 

On Tuesday of the festival week, the second of the seven days, the people are sanctified in preparation for the Day of the Revelation at Mount Sinai. In the evening, people gather in the synagogues for a special prayer service. 

On the third day of the seven festival days, from midnight to the following evening, the prayers are devoted to the remembrance of the Revelation at Mount Sinai. A variety of hymns are sung and the entire Torah is read. 

During the first five days of the festival week, work is permitted. 

On Thursday and Friday, which are the fourth and fifth of the seven days, the Samaritans move to their homes at Kiryat Luza on Mt. Gerizim to prepare for the pilgrimage. 

On the sixth day, the Sabbath, the prayers are devoted to a description of the giving of the Torah, which is why it is called the Sabbath of the Commandments. Today we see that in the middle of the prayers, a hymn, composed in the 14th century and describing the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, is sung. 

Sunday brings Shavuot, the years second pilgrimage to the holy sites on Mt. Gerizim. The prayers begin at 1:00 a.m., after midnight, in the synagogue at Kiryat Luza on Mount Gerizim. At about 4:00 a.m., the congregation leaves the synagogue and makes the pilgrimage to the mountain top, while singing and praying. They move from station to station:

a) The first station is the Place of the Stones [The Twelve Stones, Deut. 27:4; in the Samaritan version: Mount Gerizim]. 
b) The second stop is the site of the altar of Adam and his son Seth. 
c) The next stop is the site of the Everlasting Hill [The Everlasting Hill, Deut. 33:15]. 
d) The next is the site of God Will Provide [God Will Provide, Gen. 22:8], where Abraham saw a ram in the thicket when he was about to sacrifice his son, Isaac. 
e) The following stop is the site of the Altar of Isaac. 
f) The next station is the Altar of Noah. 
g) The next stop is the site of the Everlasting Hill. In the past, two monuments of Jacob marked the place and this had been the third station. 

The prayers are devoted to the Harvest Festival. At the end, there is a festive meal. 

Now let me remind the reader that the Markan gospel narrative (and Matthew as well says) "after six days." Origen EXPLICITLY AND REPEATEDLY reconciles Lukes 'eight days' with this understanding by saying that:

Luke counts the day itself on which the event took place, whereas Mark counts only the days in between. There is no disagreement in what they say. (Hom Luke 139 Luke 9:28). 

There are similar statements throughout Origen's writings to acknowledge that 'after six days' means that the author of the gospel counting SIX DAYS AFTER some day used as a marker. If we are to assume the Samaritan counting method at Penecost (i.e. FROM Monday) and Luke's 'eighth day' to mean Sunday (something reflect in other Patristic sources) we have found the only plausible explanation to the puzzling dating of the Transfiguration. 

It should also be noted before we leave this subject that it has been noted that:

(a) the Marcosian interpretation of the Transfiguration EXPLICITLY EMPHASIZES the day as one in which the numbers SIX, SEVEN and EIGHT come together. The SIX is obvious from the gospel narrative but it should also be noted that Pentecost usually occurs on the sixth of Sivan. The SEVEN is obvious again from the name of the festival שבעות. The EIGHT is equally obvious because Pentecost is on Sunday. The passage in Irenaeus reads "He asserts 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 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." (Irenaeus AH i.14.6)

(b) it should also be noted that Irenaeus's description of the Marcosian interpretation of the passage emphasizes that the concluding narrative to the gospel reinforces an interest in these numbers THROUGHOUT the gospel narrative as a whole AND in the original Torah of Moses. The first narrative which is mentioned is that of the baptism and then we read "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." (ibid) Irenaeus specifically references the familiar Jesus being baptized by John narrative but I have argued that it is equally plausible to view this as something which Irenaeus added to the original Marcosian understanding. There are a number of clues in Irenaeus's discussion of the ἀπολύτρωσις ritual of the Marcosians that indicate it should be connected with LGM 1 of Secret Mark (the most notable is its association with Salome's request in Mark chapter 10 cf. AH i.21.1,2). The narrative in the Secret Mark not only uses the same formulation i.e. "after six days" and I have already argued that the Marcosian identification of the ritual as ἀπολύτρωσις necessarily connects it to the crossing of the sea (cf. 1 Cor 10) which reinforces these same numbers in Jewish and Samaritan rituals (i.e. SIX viz. the ancient Israelites who were 'about six hundred thousand' (Exodus 12:37) who enter the waters as the seventh day 'went out' to the eighth i.e. SEVEN and EIGHT).

(c) finally, there have been countless studies which have connected the description of the Transfiguration to the account of Moses receiving the Torah which is traditionally fixed by Jews and Samaritans to Pentecost. At least seven parallels surface:

1. The most obvious is that Moses is present at both Mount Sinai and the Mount of Transfiguration (Ex, Mark 9:4)
2. Both accounts take place on a high mountain (Ex 24:12–15, Mark 9:2)
3. In both cases a cloud covers the mountain (Ex 24:15–16, Mark 9:7)
4. A six-day interval leads up to the climactic events (Ex 24:16, Mark 9:2)
5. In both cases God speaks from the mountain on the seventh day (Ex 24:16, Mark 9:2,7)
6. At Mt Sinai, Moses’ face shines (Ex 34:29–35); at Mt Transfiguration, Jesus’ clothes shine (Mark 9:3)
7. The fear of the people in seeing Moses is paralleled by the fear of the disciples (Ex 34:30, Mark 9:6).

And another interesting connection links Moses and Jesus together in the Transfiguration. In the OT Moses says to look forward to a coming prophet—a new prophet—and when he comes, listen to him. Compare this to God’s words at the Mount of Transfiguration:

Moses: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut 18:15).

God: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7).

The standard interpretation among European Christians today is to assume that Jesus is the one like Moses. But like I said the title of Paraclete, which is associated with whatever happened on שבעות was UNIVERSALLY associated with a human representative who we can infer was the one whom Jesus 'transformed' his appearance to resemble. This interpretation was known (and condemned by Irenaeus). Jesus's appearance in the robes of the high priest also clearly signal that he was not the messiah of the original Transfiguration enthronement which concluded the earliest gospel narratives.

All of which takes us back to the figure of 'Sabaoth' whom we can now understand as being the one enthroned on the שבעות. Only someone with Down Syndrome can avoid seeing that all signs point to Mark the original evangelist as being the one enthroned on the שבעות. After all the figure has to be associated with the dispensing of the second Torah. All the references to the Paraclete which have been ghettoized to the Gospel of John by the Catholic editor of the four-faced canon (but were clearly a part of the Marcionite narrative otherwise it is impossible to explain the Marcionite interest in the Paraclete) reinforce that he was the author of the Evangelium. 

The most obvious passage which has relevance here is that the Paraclete "whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26) I have assembled a list of variant Paraclete passages used by the Marcionites, Manichaeans and early Muslims. No one should be misled any longer that the reference was to a holy wind.

There is a lot more to discuss here. I think I can reconstruct what the original ending of the gospel looked like with its enthronement of this secondary figure on Pentecost. I am beginning to suspect that the throne of St. Mark (which I have already argued was the original Episcopal chair of Alexandria) memorialized this event and is reflected in later gnostic literature by Sabaoth's creation of a throne for himself as we see in On the Origin of the World. 

Fallon's The Enthronement of Sabaoth is a good guide here. It references On the Origin of the World 95 (143) 26 - 28 "Now when these events had come to pass, he (Sabaoth) made himself a huge fourfaced chariot of cherubim." This is clearly a reflection of the image of the throne of St. Mark which incorporates the four hiyyot directly into the shape of the throne. 

I will complete this study later, but I thought it was worth sharing with everyone.

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