Monday, November 8, 2010

Clement's Very Secretive Use of the Gospel

I have always been intrigued by one implicit assumption at the heart of the arguments of those who argue that Clement of Alexandria could not have written the Letter to Theodore.  According to them, Clement was more or less an orthodox Church Father and the beliefs and practices of late second century Christian Alexandria were more or less the same as those of other urban centers across the Empire.

I guess they would claim that somehow, all Christians living in the Empire came to discover that they believed in the same Roman centered beliefs as those being promoted by Irenaeus. 

I am of the opinion that nothing gets done in the world - especially in the ancient world - without the use or threat of force.  Why would an Alexandrian, for instance, buy into a Roman-centered faith?   But I have already written about this extensively at this blog.  However one imagines that Irenaeus managed to convince the rest of the world to go along with his 'fourfaced gospel' it is very interesting to pay close attention to the way a contemporary like Clement of Alexandria uses his canon.

It seems to me at least as if Clement has learned to sing the sheet music but is holding back something.  What is he holding back on?  I think it is his Alexandrian community's traditional relationship with the Gospel of Mark.   I think it might even reflect the private aside in To Theodore "to them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath. For, “Not all true things are to be said to all men.” [Clement To Theodore II.10 - 13]

But let's start at the beginning.  The first thing for us to do is set some limits on our discussion of what documents actually reflect Clement's historical POV.  I have always proposed that that should be the collection of Clementine writings established by Arethas of Caesarea (860 - 932 CE).  I will treat Quis Dives Salvetur separately. 

Clement rarely names his his gospel and there is something also very something strange about the way he cites from what he calls 'the gospel.'  It might be useful to cite John Patrick's summary:

That Clement regarded the Four Canonical Gospels as a unit and as forming a whole in spite of difference in expressions which in no way affected the harmony of the thought, there can be no doubt.  This he designates as τὸ εὐαγγέλιον.  After the phrase ἐν τῷ εὐαγγέλιω or τὸ εὐαγγέλιον we have quotations, for the most part introduced as sayings of the Lord, indifferently from the Gospels of St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke, and St John.  It should be noted, however, that the passage assigned to St Mark, as it is quoted only in part, might have been taken from the parallel passage in St Matthew, so that the conclusion as to St Mark in this connection is uncertain. [p. 221]

So let's try and incorporate Patrick's observation written long before the discovery of To Theodore.  While most scholars looked for evidence that Clement might have favored Mark and walked away empty-handed, we asked a different question and came up with something remarkable - Clement actually seems to avoid citing from Mark.

Now I can't turn around and claim that any of this proves that Clement had a secret gospel of Mark, it is intriguing.  Patrick notes that Clement only identifies the Gospel of Matthew by name only once (Strom. 1.21), the Gospel of Luke twice (Strom. 1.21, Paed. 2.1) and the Gospel of John only once (Paed. 1.6).  There is something very different about Clement's use of the Gospel of Mark as Patrick takes great pains to note - "there are few certain references to the Gospel of Mark."  Quis Dives Salvetur is the except where there is one reference to Mark but there is something very special about this text as we shall demonstrate shortly.

It is enough then to go along with Patrick's conclusion that "the important points that arise from this survey are these. The word 'Gospel' — with the possible exception of St Mark — is applied indifferently to all. All the Gospels are mentioned by name."  What is so interesting about this of course is that - as Bar Hebraeus rightly notes - only Mark identifies itself as a 'gospel' (Mark 1.1). 

Now if we take matters one step further it is interesting to note that the specific content of these passages reference which did not appear in the Gospel of Mark and more often than not contradict the monophysite presuppositions of Alexandria.  Matthew is only cited by name to bring forward its genaeology.  Luke is referenced for its calculation of the year that Jesus's ministry began (a date which won't allow the traditional Alexandrian dating of Sunday March 25th for the Resurrection) and its claim that Jesus was hungry and ate fish after the resurrection (which seems to be at odds with the traditional Alexandrian monophysite presuppositions). 

As such I hope it isn't too much to suggest that Clement only referenced Matthew or Luke three times and only three times because they referenced things that were alien to his tradition. 

This leaves only explicit gospel reference left in the Arethas collection of Clementine writings - the one which draws attention to the gospel of 'John the apostle.'  I find this reference most suspicious of all - not because John is cited to draw attention to things out of step with Alexandrian belief - but because John's name is employed to protect Clement and his tradition from the accusation of 'heresy.' 

The full reference in Stromata Chapter Five Section Thirteen reads:

And John the apostle says: “No man hath seen God at any time. The only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” [John. 1.18] — calling invisibility and ineffableness the bosom of God. Hence some have called it the Depth, as containing and embosoming all things, inaccessible and boundless.  This discourse respecting God is most difficult to handle. For since the first principle of everything is difficult to find out, the absolutely first and oldest principle, which is the cause of all other things being and having been, is difficult to exhibit. For how can that be expressed which is neither genus, nor difference, nor species, nor individual, nor number; nay more, is neither an event, nor that to which an event happens? No one can rightly express Him wholly. For on account of His greatness He is ranked as the All, and is the Father of the universe. Nor are any parts to be predicated of Him. For the One is indivisible; wherefore also it is infinite, not considered with reference to inscrutability, but with reference to its being without dimensions, and not having a limit. And therefore it is without form and name. And if we name it, we do not do so properly, terming it either the One, or the Good, or Mind, or Absolute Being, or Father, or God, or Creator, or Lord. We speak not as supplying His name; but for want, we use good names, in order that the mind may have these as points of support, so as not to err in other respects. For each one by itself does not express God; but all together are indicative of the power of the Omnipotent. For predicates are expressed either from what belongs to things themselves, or from their mutual relation. But none of these are admissible in reference to God. Nor any more is He apprehended by the science of demonstration. For it depends on primary and better known principles. But there is nothing antecedent to the Unbegotten.  It remains that we understand, then, the Unknown, by divine grace, and by the word alone that proceeds from Him; as Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates that Paul said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For in walking about, and beholding the objects of your worship, I found an altar on which was inscribed, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17.22, 23) [Clement Strom. 5.13]

It is impossible not to look at the manner in which Clement uses the apostolic names 'John' and 'Luke' with some cynicism given that they are employed only to defend what is clearly a heretical interpretation of the Father as a hitherto unknown God referenced by many gnostics as 'Depth.'  Yet I don't think that anyone besides me has noticed this subtlety.

The thing that almost every modern discussion of Clement seems forget is that scholars of previous generations had already noticed that Clement was a Marcosian.  In other words, that Clement either was a member of - or someone who frequently employed the writings of - the heretical community associated with a certain 'Mark' in the writings of Irenaeus.  Without spending too much time on the question I will simply cite what smarter people than I have already established:

" ... for on comparison of the sections just cited from Clement and from Irenaeus [regarding the Marcosians] the coincidences are found to be such as to put it beyond doubt that Clement in his account of the number six makes an unacknowledged use of the same [Marcosian] writing as were employed by Irenaeus." [William Smith A Dictionary of Christian Biography p. 161]

"Clement of Alexandria, himself infected with Gnosticism, actually uses Marcus number system though without acknowledgement (Strom, 6, 16)." [Arendzen JP. Marcus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX]

"Irenaeus gives an account of Marcus and the Marcosians in 1.13 - 21 ... Hippolytus and Epiphanius (Haer 34) copy their accounts from Irenaeus, and probably had no direct knowledge of the works of Marcus or of his sect. Clement of Alexandria, however, knew and used his writings." [Philip Schaff note on Eusebius Church History iv.11.4]

Yet I think that these men only state the obvious.  If we go back to the cynical attempt to use John and Luke to defend the 'unknown God' and the 'Depth' of the Alexandrian heretics before him, it is difficult not to see that Clement was a lot more clever then these men give him credit for.  Clement wasn't just an orthodox Church Father who used heretical writings, he was a heretic (at least by the foreign standards of Irenaeus) pretending to be orthodox.  In short he was a crypto-Marcosian. 

It might be useful to compare Clement's interpretation of the gospel with what Irenaeus says about the Marcosians.  Irenaeus intimates that these followers of Mark had a secret - or 'apocryphal' - gospel which superficially resembled the Catholic collection but was used to support the very same ideas we just saw in Clement.  Irenaeus writes:

some passages, also, which occur in the Gospels, receive from them a colouring of the same kind, such as the answer which He gave His mother when He was twelve years of age: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?"  Thus, they say, He announced to them the Father of whom they were ignorant. On this account, also, He sent forth the disciples to the twelve tribes, that they might proclaim to them the unknown God. And to the person who said to Him, "Good Master,"  He confessed that God who is truly good, saying, "Why callest thou Me good: there is One who is good, the Father in the heavens;" and they assert that in this passage the AEons receive the name of heavens. Moreover, by His not replying to those who said to Him, "By what power doest Thou this?" but by a question on His own side, put them to utter confusion; by His thus not replying, according to their interpretation, He showed the unutterable nature of the Father. Moreover, when He said, "I have often desired to hear one of these words, and I had no one who could utter it," they maintain, that by this expression "one" He set forth the one true God whom they knew not. Further, when, as He drew nigh to Jerusalem, He wept over it and said, "If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace, but they are hidden from thee," by this word "hidden" He showed the abstruse nature of Depth. And again, when He said, "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, and learn of Me," He announced the Father of truth. For what they knew not, these men say that He promised to teach them

But they adduce the following passage as the highest testimony, and, as it were, the very crown of their system:--"I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes. Even so, my Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knoweth the Father but the Son, or the Son but the Father, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him." In these words they affirm that He clearly showed that the Father of truth, conjured into existence by them, was known to no one before His advent. And they desire to construe the passage as if teaching that the Maker and Framer [of the world] was always known by all, while the Lord spoke these words concerning the Father unknown to all, whom they now proclaim.[Irenaeus AH 1.20.2,3]

While few have picked up on this, it would seem to me at least that Irenaeus was saying that 'those of Mark' had a secret gospel which had parallel references to the four canonincal gospels but in one single, long text.  The gospel wasn't specifically attributed to a human author (a parallel idea appears in the Marcionite community).  But someone using this secret gospel could certainly sound orthodox - at least until you started to hear the way he was interpreting scripture. 

Irenaeus was warning that one you start hearing references being made to an 'unknown God' called 'Depth' you were probably dealing with some associated with 'Mark' the heretic or some related sect.  Indeed I noted in a previous post somewhere at least fifty proofs from Clement's writings that demonstrate quite clearly that he was a heretical follower of Mark as defined by Irenaeus.  This very passage which Irenaeus says the Marcosians 'adduce as the highest testimony' and 'the very crown of their system' has Clement quite spellbound.  He cites the material over six times in his writings and what's more - Irenaeus identifies the material here as being present in the Gospel of Mark. 

What I am trying to work towards with my readership is that there is something obviously Marcosian about the way Clement cites from his Alexandrian gospel.  It is secretive and very elusive.  I am highly suspicious that Clement only referenced the John 1.18 as belonging to the gospel of 'John' because he was trying to avoid making explicit that he was a Marcosian - or better yet, that Marcosians were really secret followers of the Alexandrian cult of St. Mark.  If you look carefully at another reference in Irenaeus's narrative 'Mark' is explicitly said to have declared by his 'cracked-brain followers' that "he alone was the matrix and receptacle of the Silence of all four (gospels) inasmuch as he was Only-begotten." [ibid 1.14.1]I don't know if my readership sees it yet but by declaring that Mark was the Only-Begotten, his followers are essentially arguing that he was Christ - or perhaps to cite the formula noted in our last post from Clement's Exhortation - Mark was the mortal Christ beholding the God Christ Jesus.  This was the underlying Alexandrian formulation that no scholar has hitherto been able to penetrate.  It still alive in the liturgy of the Coptic Church when St. Mark is referenced as theorimos - the 'beholder of God.' 

Yet for the present moment it is enough that we limit ourselves to Clement's strange and secretive use of the gospel.  If we go back to the incredible statistic that Clement only specifically names the Gospel of Matthew once, the Gospel of Luke twice and the Gospel of John once in all of the many, many pages of the authentic writings preserved by Arethas what we also have to keep in mind is the other three or four hundred citations of the gospel come down to single - sometimes back to back references of what we would consider two different gospels - alluded to as 'the gospel,' 'scripture' or some such vague and general allusion.

The question that I have is whether - since Irenaeus already tells us that the Marcosians only pretended to cite from canonical texts but that in fact "they adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth" - Clement is betraying the habits of a follower of St. Mark in the period.  Could it be that all the other times that he cites - for instance - from what we would call the prologue to the Gospel of John, he and his adherents knew this same material actually originally and properly belonged to the prologue to the Gospel of Christ, a secret gospel known by cryptic allusions in the Apostolikon (1 Cor 2.16, 2 Cor 4.4f) - or if you will, in the parlance of To Theodore, the secret gospel of Mark?

I would like to take a brief moment to cite all the existing references to the prologue in the writings of Clement and then end with the most curious and cryptic of all references in Quis Dives Salvetur.  I think the exercise will prove very thought provoking for most of my readers.  Here in order of Clementine texts we read:

You have, then, God’s promise; you have His love: become partaker of His grace. And do not suppose the song of salvation to be new, as a vessel or a house is new. For “before the morning star it was” (Ps. cx. 3) Septuagint has, “before the morning star.” and “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (1:1) Error seems old, but truth seems a new thing. [Exhortation 1]

For, wandering in life as in deep darkness, we need a guide that cannot stumble or stray; and our guide is the best, not blind, as the Scripture says, “leading the blind into pits.” (Matt. xv. 14). But the Word is keen-sighted, and scans the recesses of the heart. As, then, that is not light which enlightens not, nor motion that moves not, nor loving which loves not, so neither is that good which profits not, nor guides to salvation. Let us then aim at the fulfilment of the commandments by the works of the Lord; for the Word Himself also, having openly become flesh (1.14) exhibited the same virtue, both practical and contemplative. Wherefore let us regard the Word as law, and His commands and counsels as the short and straight paths to immortality; for His precepts are full of persuasion, not of fear. [Instructor 1.3]

At home, therefore, they ought to regard with modesty parents and domestics; in the ways, those they meet; in the baths, women; in solitude, themselves; and everywhere the Word, who is everywhere, “and without Him was not anything."(1.3)  For so only shall one remain without falling, if he regard God as ever present with him. [Instructor 1.5]

Further release from evils is the beginning of salvation. We then alone, who first have touched the confines of life, are already perfect; and we already live who are separated from death. Salvation, accordingly, is the following of Christ: “For that which is in Him is life."(1.4)  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into condemnation, but hath passed from death to life."(John 5.24)   Thus believing alone, and regeneration, is perfection in life; for God is never weak. For as His will is work, and this viz., the result of His will. is named the world; so also His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church. He knows, therefore, whom He has called, and whom He has saved; and at one and the same time He called and saved them. “For ye are,” says the apostle, “taught of God." [Instructor 1.6]

Now the law is ancient grace given through Moses by the Word. Wherefore also the Scripture says, “The law was given through Moses," (1.17) not by Moses, but by the Word, and through Moses His servant. Wherefore it was only temporary; but eternal grace and truth were by Jesus Christ. Mark the expressions of Scripture: of the law only is it said “was given;” but truth being the grace of the Father, is the eternal work of the Word; and it is not said to be given, but to be by Jesus, without whom nothing was "(1.3)  [Instuctor 1.7]

If, then, the Word hates anything, He does not wish it to exist. But nothing exists, the cause of whose existence is not supplied by God. Nothing, then, is hated by God, nor yet by the Word. For both are one—that is, God. For He has said, “In the beginning the Word was in God, and the Word was God. (1.1)   If then He hates none of the things which He has made, it follows that He loves them. [Instructor 1.8]

The divine Instructor is trustworthy, adorned as He is with three of the fairest ornament”—knowledge, benevolence, and authority of utterance;—with knowledge, for He is the paternal wisdom: “All Wisdom is from the Lord, and with Him for evermore;”—with authority of utterance, for He is God and Creator: “For all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made;” (1.3) —and with benevolence, for He alone gave Himself a sacrifice for us [Instructor 1.11]

But he who has the light watches, “and darkness seizes not on him,” (1.5) nor sleep, since darkness does not. He that is illuminated is therefore awake towards God; and such an one lives. “For what was made in Him was life.” (1:3,4) [Instructor 2.9]

For one may escape the light of sense, but that of the mind it is impossible to escape. For how, says Heraclitus, can one escape the notice of that which never sets? Let us by no means, then, veil our selves with the darkness; for the light dwells in us. “For the darkness,” it is said, “comprehendeth it not." (1.5) [Instructor 2.10]

What then? Is not speaking our business, and does not action proceed from the Word? For if we act not for the Word, we shall act against reason. But a rational work is accomplished through God. “And nothing,” it is said, “was made without Him”—the Word of God.(1.3).  And did not the Lord make all things by the Word? Even the beasts work, driven by compelling fear. And do not those who are called orthodox apply themselves to good works, knowing not what they do? [Stromata 1.9]

And the apostle says, “Which things we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” (1 Cor 2.13)  For of the prophets it is said, “We have all received of His fulness" (1.16)  that is, of Christ’s. So that the prophets are not thieves. “And my doctrine is not Mine,” saith the Lord, “but the Father’s which sent me.” And of those who steal He says: “But he that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory." (John 7.16,18) 
[Stromata 1.17]

Now among the Greeks, Minos the king of nine years’ reign, and familiar friend of Zeus, is celebrated in song; they having heard how once God conversed with Moses, “as one speaking with his friend." (Exodus 33.11)  Moses, then, was a sage, king, legislator. But our Saviour surpasses all human nature.  He is so lovely, as to be alone loved by us, whose hearts are set on the true beauty, for “He was the true light." (1.9)   He is shown to be a King, as such hailed by unsophisticated children and by the unbelieving and ignorant Jews, and heralded by the prophets. So rich is He, that He despised the whole earth, and the gold above and beneath it, with all glory, when given to Him by the adversary. [Stromata 2.5]

He, then, who from among the Gentiles and from that old life has betaken himself to faith, has obtained forgiveness of sins once. But he who has sinned after this, on his repentance, though he obtain pardon, ought to fear, as one no longer washed to the forgiveness of sins. For not only must the idols which he formerly held as gods, but the works also of his former life, be abandoned by him who has been “born again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,” (1.13) but in the Spirit; which consists in repenting by not giving way to the same fault. [Stromata 2.13]

And if “they hunger after righteousness itself,” they are blessed. “And blessed are the poor,” whether “in spirit” or in circumstance”—that is, if for righteousness’ sake. It is not the poor simply, but those that have wished to become poor for righteousness’ sake, that He pronounces blessed—those who have despised the honours of this world in order to attain “the good;” likewise also those who, through chastity, have become comely in person and character, and those who are of noble birth, and honourable, having through righteousness attained to adoption, and therefore “have received power to become the sons of God,” (1 12) and “to tread on serpents and scorpions,” and to rule over demons and “the host of the adversary.” (Luke 10. 19)  And, in fine, the Lord’s draws the soul away gladly from the body, even if it wrench itself away in its removal. “For he that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life shall find it,” (Matt. 10. 39; John 12.25) if we only join that which is mortal of us with the immortality of God. [Stromata 4.5]

And what? Does not he, who denies the Lord, deny himself? For does he not rob his Master of His authority, who deprives himself of his relation to Him? He, then, who denies the Saviour, denies life; for “the light was life." (1.4)  He does not term those men of little faith, but faithless and hypocrites, (Matt 6.30) who have the name inscribed on them, but deny that they are really believers. [Stromata 4.7]

Now the Word issuing forth was the cause of creation; then also he generated himself, “when the Word had become flesh," (1.14)  that He might be seen. The righteous man will seek the discovery that flows from love, to which if he hastes he prospers. For it is said, “To him that knocketh, it shall be opened: ask, and it shall be given to you." (Matt 7.7)  “For the violent that storm the kingdom” (Matt 11.12) are not so in disputatious speeches; but by continuance in a right life and unceasing prayers, are said “to take it by force,” wiping away the blots left by their previous sins. [Stromata 5.3]

And we also have already heard that angels learned the truth, and their rulers over them; for they had a beginning. It remains, then, for us, ascending to seek their teacher. And since the unoriginated Being is one, the Omnipotent God; one, too, is the First-begotten, “by whom all things were made, and without whom not one thing ever was made.” (1.3) “For one, in truth, is God, who formed the beginning of all things;” pointing out “the first-begotten Son,” Peter writes, accurately comprehending the statement, “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.” (Gen 1.1)  And He is called Wisdom by all the prophets. This is He who is the Teacher of all created beings, the Fellow-counsellor of God, who foreknew all things; and He from above, from the first foundation of the world, “in many ways and many times,” (Heb 1.1) trains and perfects; whence it is rightly said, “Call no man your teacher on earth." [Stromata 6.7]
“I must decrease,” said the prophet John, (John 3.30) and the Word of the Lord alone, in which the law terminates, “increase.” Understand now for me the mystery of the truth, granting pardon if I shrink from advancing further in the treatment of it, by announcing this alone: “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not even one thing." (1.3)  Certainly He is called “the chief corner stone; in whom the whole building, fitly joined together, groweth into an holy temple of God," (Eph 2.21,22) according to the divine apostle. [Stromata 6.11]
The apostles accordingly say of the Lord, that “He spake all things in parables, and without a parable spake He nothing unto them;" (Matt 13.34) and if “all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made," (1.3) consequently also prophecy and the law were by Him, and were spoken by Him in parables. [Stromata 6.15]
The sensible types of these, then, are the sounds we pronounce. Thus the Lord Himself is called “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, (Rev 21.6) by whom all things were made, and without whom not even one thing was made." (1.3) God’s resting is not, then, as some conceive, that God ceased from doing. For, being good, if He should ever cease from doing good, then would He cease from being God, which it is sacrilege even to say. [Stromata 6.16]
But it is said Providence, from above, from what is of prime importance, as from the head, reaches to all, “as the ointment,” it is said, “which descends to Aaron’s beard, and to the skirt of his garment" (Ps. 133.2) (that is, of the great High Priest, “by whom all things were made, and without whom not even one thing was made" (1.3) not to the ornament of the body; for Philosophy is outside of the People, like raiment. [Stromata 6.17]
Ruling, then, over himself and what belongs to him, and possessing a sure grasp, of divine science, he makes a genuine approach to the truth. For the knowledge and apprehension of intellectual objects must necessarily be called certain scientific knowledge, whose function in reference to divine things is to consider what is the First Cause, and what that “by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made;" (1.3) and what things, on the other hand, are as pervasive, and what is comprehensive; what conjoined, what disjoined; and what is the position which each one of them holds, and what power and what service each contributes.  [Stromata 7.3]

There is one more citation to go but I want to stop here to draw my readership to a couple of things.  The first is the fact that if we didn't know that there were four separate gospel texts Clement's citations would lead us to believe that there was only one gospel which contained all the writings we attribute to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Indeed if we compare him to Theophilus and Irenaeus - who when citing John almost inevitably say that they are citing from the 'Gospel of John' - we cannot help but notice that Clement's citations sound a lot more like Tatian's references to material we would call 'Johannine.'  Tatian at one point in his Address to the Greeks cites from the same prologue but does not identify it as having 'John' as its author:

The soul is not in itself immortal, O Greeks, but mortal. Yet it is possible for it not to die. If, indeed, it knows not the truth, it dies, and is dissolved with the body, but rises again at last at the end of the world with the body, receiving death by punishment in immortality. But, again, if it acquires the knowledge of God, it dies not, although for a time it be dissolved. In itself it is darkness, and there is nothing luminous in it. And this is the meaning of the saying, "The darkness comprehendeth not the light." For the soul does not preserve the spirit, but is preserved by it, and the light comprehends the darkness. The Logos, in truth, is the light of God, but the ignorant soul is darkness. On this account, if it continues solitary, it tends downward towards matter, and dies with the flesh; but, if it enters into union with the Divine Spirit, it is no longer helpless, but ascends to the regions whither the Spirit guides it: for the dwelling-place of the spirit is above, but the origin of the soul is from beneath.

Now if we allowed our habits to get the better of us we would just naturally assume that Tatian meant 'the gospel of John.' Yet we know better. Scholars would identify the text being cited here as 'the Diatessaron' while the Syriac name for this gospel harmony is 'ܐܘܢܓܠܝܘܢ ܕܡܚܠܛܐ' (Ewangeliyôn Damhalltê) meaning 'Gospel of the Mixed.' This text was held to have had no specific human author attributed to it Indeed those who used the text undoubtedly referred to it simply as 'the Gospel' understood it went back to some authority long before Tatian.

In any event I have long noticed that the description of the development of the secret gospel of Mark in Alexandria very closely resembles the Diatessaron. Mark 'mixed' various sources to make a complete or 'perfect' text. As such I wonder in this last citation from what we would call 'the Johannine prologue' might have been understood by Clement - secretly at least - to have belonged to his gospel of Mark. We read after a long citation from the Alexandrian gospel of Mark in Quis Dives Salvetur the interesting statement that 'the apostle' also wrote the Johannine prologue:
These things are written in the Gospel according to Mark; and in all the rest correspondingly; although perchance the expressions vary slightly in each, yet all show identical agreement in meaning.  But well knowing that the Saviour teaches nothing in a merely human way, but teaches all things to His own with divine and mystic wisdom, we must not listen to His utterances carnally; but with due investigation and intelligence must search out and learn the meaning hidden in them. For even those things which seem to have been simplified to the disciples by the Lord Himself are found to require not less, even more, attention than what is expressed enigmatically, from the surpassing superabundance of wisdom in them. And whereas the things which are thought to have been explained by Him to those within—those called by Him the children of the kingdom—require still more consideration than the things which seemed to have been expressed simply, and respecting which therefore no questions were asked by those who heard them, but which, pertaining to the entire design of salvation, and to be contemplated with admirable and supercelestial depth of mind, we must not receive superficially with our ears, but with application of the mind to the very spirit of the Saviour, and the unuttered meaning of the declaration.

For our Lord and Saviour was asked pleasantly a question most appropriate for Him,—the Life respecting life, the Saviour respecting salvation, the Teacher respecting the chief doctrines taught, the Truth respecting the true immortality, the Word respecting the word of the Father, the Perfect respecting the perfect rest, the Immortal respecting the sure immortality. He was asked respecting those things on account of which He descended, which He inculcates, which He teaches, which He offers, in order to show the essence of the Gospel, that it is the gift of eternal life. For He foresaw as God, both what He would be asked, and what each one would answer Him. For who should do this more than the Prophet of prophets, and the Lord of every prophetic spirit? And having been called “good,” and taking the starting note from this first expression, He commences His teaching with this, turning the pupil to God, the good, and first and only dispenser of eternal life, which the Son, who received it of Him, gives to us.

Wherefore the greatest and chiefest point of the instructions which relate to life must be implanted in the soul from the beginning,—to know the eternal God, the giver of what is eternal, and by knowledge and comprehension to possess God, who is first, and highest, and one, and good. For this is the immutable and immoveable source and support of life, the knowledge of God, who really is, and who bestows the things which really are, that is, those which are eternal, from whom both being and the continuance of it are derived to other beings. For ignorance of Him is death; but the knowledge and appropriation of Him, and love and likeness to Him, are the only life.

He then who would live the true life is enjoined first to know Him “whom no one knows, except the Son reveal (Him).”(Matt. 11. 27). Next is to be learned the greatness of the Saviour after Him, and the newness of grace; for, according to the apostle, “the law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;” (1.17) and the gifts granted through a faithful servant are not equal to those bestowed by the true Son. If then the law of Moses had been sufficient to confer eternal life, it were to no purpose for the Saviour Himself to come and suffer for us, accomplishing the course of human life from His birth to His cross; and to no purpose for him who had done all the commandments of the law from his youth to fall on his knees and beg from another immortality. For he had not only fulfilled the law, but had begun to do so from his very earliest youth. For what is there great or pre-eminently illustrious in an old age which is unproductive of faults? But if one in juvenile frolicsomeness and the fire of youth shows a mature judgment older than his years, this is a champion admirable and distinguished, and hoary pre-eminently in mind. [Quis Dives Salvetur 6 - 8]

I want to remind my readers that Irenaeus explicitly says that even the words "whom no one knows, except the Son reveal (Him)" appeared in the Gospel of Mark.  How then could Clement have begun his discussion with a long citation from Mark, followed that by another section which Irenaeus says was also in Mark and then end with a reference to 'the apostle' writing 1.17 of the commonly held prologue.  'The apostle' almost always is used by Clement to refer to the author of the Apostolikon.  I have argued repeatedly that Mark was also the name by which 'Paul' was known among the heretics. 

There is so much more to discuss but this is a very good beginning ...


Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.