Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Historical Circumstances Surrounding the Revelation of the Marcionite Gospel During the Reign of Antoninus [Part One]

I don't know if scholars are able to visualize the Marcionite paradigm.  Let's be honest here for a moment - most scholarship is just an endless recycling or reaction against what was been established by previous generations of academics.  I really don't know how much original thought has been put into deciphering the Marcionite paradigm.  I haven't seen any meaningful work written in English in a long time that's for sure. 

Here's another thing to consider when comparing Clement's historical perspective in To Theodore with what is known about the parallel Marcionite paradigm - there is strange agreement that some 'revelation' of a secret gospel occurred in the middle of the second century.  I think there's an underlying relationship here that hasn't been previously noted. 

Clement doesn't say much on the subject but what's there is quite startling.  Let's start at the beginning:

1. There was this 'secret' gospel written by Mark at Alexandria which is somehow related to a better 'known' Markan text (at least we have to assume this) associated with Rome. 
2. The head of the heretical 'Carpocratian' sect apparently 'enslaved' a 'certain presbyter of the Church of Alexandria' to get a copy of the hitherto 'secret' text of Mark and then openly proclaimed a poor copy of this text mixed with his own 'inventions.' 
3. The reaction of the Alexandrian Church was to either 'deny that the secret gospel of Alexandria is by Mark' (so Smith's translation) or 'when they put forward their falsifications" (i.e. the formerly secret gospel that they claimed was associated with Mark) one should not concede that it is Mark’s secret Gospel, but should even deny it on oath.'

The implication for me at least - given that we have already determined that similarities with Irenaeus's report (AH 3.2.1) - is that Clement and Irenaeus are referencing some well known historical 'event' when a gospel formerly made secret was revealed to the world for the first time during the reign of Antoninus Pius.  This event rocked the Christian community at Rome and was coupled with similar seismatic 'happenings' across the Empire. 

If you haven't read my online publication Against Polycarp and related blog posts from last month you really should.  For I can't help get the sense that Polycarp's appearance in Rome after coming from Alexandria (so Lucian relates in the Death of Peregrinus) seems to parallel Clement's report of a Carpocratian stealing of the gospel and misrepresentation of its contents.  The critical point here being that 'John' and 'Mark' are always identified as the same name of the Alexandrian apostle.  Irenaeus likely just created a fourfold canon to assist in reestablishing a new order after Polycarp's revelation of a variant gospel in Rome c. 147 CE.

The point is that whoever introduced the Gospel of John to the world, it is impossible to deny that its story of the raising of Lazarus bears an uncanny resemblance to the so-called 'first addition to Secret Mark' (LGM 1).  If we accept the authenticity of Morton Smith's discovery - that it is a genuine letter originally written by Clement about a real 'hidden' gospel of Mark in Alexandria - it would have to be argued that the original (and now similarly lost) gospel of John and which I think resembled a Diatessaron in form must have developed its Lazarus narrative from LGM 1.

Isn't it interesting then that Clement of Alexandria in all of his writings only makes one reference to the raising of Lazarus and even here it is not the same narrative as our canonical gospel of John. I will cite the whole section shortly but the most important part is what follows:

And to the dead Lazarus, he said 'go forth' (ἔξιθι) and the dead man issued from his coffin (σοροῦ) such as he was before suffering (παθεῖν), having undergone resurrection.

Καὶ τῷ τεθνεῶτι Λάζαρε, εἶπεν, ἔξιθι ὃ δὲ ἐξῆλθεν τῆς σοροῦ, ὁ νεκρός, οἷος ἦν πρὶν ἢ παθεῖν, μελετήσας τὴν ἀνάστασιν.

I don't know how people simply assume that Clement is simply citing from our John.  There is too much different about this narrative to allow for its uncritical acceptance. 

Yes to be sure there is someone named 'Lazarus' who is dead who is ultimately resurrected by Jesus.  That much is similar.  However the word issued to the dead Lazarus are different.  In Clement's source Jesus declares ἔξιθι; in the canonical gospel of John we read "Λάζαρε, δεῦρο ἔξω."  Moreover the dead man in John is raised from a tomb (μνημείῳ) in John and Secret Mark.  In Clement's source Lazarus is raised from a coffin (σοροῦ) after a prolonged 'suffering' (παθεῖν).  The resemblance here at least seems far closer to the unnamed neaniskos in Luke chapter 7:12 - 14:

Now when he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, one who was dead was carried out, the onlyborn son (μονογενὴς) of his mother, and she was a widow. Many people of the city were with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her, 'Weep not.'  And He came up and touched the coffin (σοροῦ); and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise! (νεανίσκε, σοὶ λέγω, ἐγέρθητι)

The point I am making of course is that there are enough differences here between the canonical account of the raising Lazarus in John to leave open the possibility that Clement was citing another text - perhaps a variant text of canonical John, perhaps a variant of Luke where the unnamed neaniskos was named Lazarus or perhaps a parallel narrative referenced in the Acts of John. 

We read in fact in the Acts of John a reference to an extended diatribe against riches there the beloved disciple strangely does not cite our canonical gospel of John but a narrative about the resurrection of Lazarus from an unknown gospel (presumably still identified as 'his' gospel - i.e. 'according to John') which develops from the synoptic story of Lazarus in the underworld:

Then the holy John said unto them: Go, and redeem to you the lands which ye have sold, for ye have lost the estates of heaven. Buy yourselves silken raiment, that for a time ye may shine like the rose which showeth its fragrance and redness and suddenly fadeth away. For ye sighed at beholding your servants and groaned that ye were become poor. Flourish, therefore, that ye may fade: be rich for the time, that ye may be beggars for ever. Is not the Lord's hand able to make riches overflowing and surpasably glorious? but he hath appointed a conflict for souls, that they may believe that they shall have eternal riches, who for his name's sake have refused temporal wealth. Indeed, our master told us concerning a certain rich man who feasted every day and shone with gold and purple, at whose door lay a beggar, Lazarus, who desired to receive even the crumbs that fell from his table, and no man gave unto him. And it came to pass that on one day they died, both of them, and that beggar was taken into the rest which is in Abraham's bosom, but the rich man was cast into flaming fire: out of which he lifted up his eyes and saw Lazarus, and prayed him to dip his finger in water and cool his mouth for he was tormented in the flames. And Abraham answered him and said: Remember, son, that thou receivedst good things in thy life, but this Lazarus likewise evil things. Wherefore rightly is he now comforted while thou art tormented, and besides all this, a great gulf is fixed between you and us, so that neither can they come thence hither, nor hither thence. But he answered: I have five brethren: I pray that some one may go to warn them, that they come not into this flame. And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. To that he answered: Lord, unless one rise up again, they will not believe. Abraham said to him: If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again. And these words our Lord and Master confirmed by examples of mighty works: for when they said to him: Who hath come hither from thence, that we may believe him? he answered: Bring hither the dead whom ye have. And when they had brought unto him a young man which was dead (Ps.-Mellitus: three dead corpses), he was waked up by him as one that sleepeth, and confirmed all his words.

But wherefore should I speak of my Lord, when at this present there are those whom in his name and in your presence and sight I have raised from the dead
: in whose name ye have seen palsied men healed, lepers cleansed, blind men enlightened, and many delivered from evil spirits ? But the riches of these mighty works they cannot have who have desired to have earthly wealth. Finally, when ye yourselves went unto the sick and called upon the name of Jesus Christ, they were healed: ye did drive out devils and restore light to the blind. Behold, this grace is taken from you, and ye are become wretched, who were mighty and great. And where as there was such fear of you upon the devils that at your bidding they left the men whom they possessed, now ye will be in fear of the devils. For he that loveth money is the servant of Mammon: and Mammon is the name of a devil who is set over carnal gains, and is the master of them that love the world. But even the lovers of the world do not possess riches, but are possessed of them. For it is out of reason that for one belly there should be laid up so much food as would suffice a thousand, and for one body so many garments as would furnish clothing for a thousand men. In vain, therefore, is that stored up which cometh not into use, and for whom it is kept, no man knoweth, as the Holy Ghost saith by the prophet: In vain is every man troubled who heapeth up riches and knoweth not for whom he gathereth them. Naked did our birth from women bring us into this light, destitute of food and drink: naked will the earth receive us which brought us forth. We possess in common the riches of the heaven, the brightness of the sun is equal for the rich and the poor, and likewise the light of the moon and the stars, the softness of the air and the drops of rain, and the gate of the church and the fount of sanctification and the forgiveness of sins, and the sharing in the altar, and the eating of the body and drinking of the blood of Christ, and the anointing of the chrism, and the grace of the giver, and the visitation of the Lord, and the pardon of sin: in all these the dispensing of the Creator is equal, without respect of persons. Neither doth the rich man use these gifts after one manner and the poor after another.

The point here is that Connolly has already demonstrated that the gospel here is the Diatessaron.  In other words, there was a second century gospel according to John which blended synoptic and so-called 'Johannine' elements that was used by Leucius as John's gospel in the Acts of John.  He didn't know or use our canonical gospel of John. 

For those who will argue that this in no way proves that Clement used Secret Mark your point is certainly taken.  Nevertheless it is intriguing that there is even a possibility that Clement never cites from the canonical account of the 'raising of Lazarus.'  Origen also interesting speaks of 'Lazaruses' in the plural when identifying resurrection narratives associated with a figure of this name.  Indeed Origen begins by noting that all the accounts of raised young people are somehow related:

I think something similar happened also when Jesus raised the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue after he prayed about it, for he asked that her soul return and dwell again in her body. And you shall also inquire whether it is the same or not concerning the widow's son who was being carried out, that you may discover the orderly sequence in these accounts in all the passages, for it is not proper that we make such great digression. [Commentary on John 28.45 - 46]

And then he goes on a little later to hint again at some mystical context which isn't generally known to people:

We have explained these words in relation to the literal meaning and the resurrection of Lazarus. On the other hand, the anagogical sense concerning the passage is not difficult in consequence of what we have already explained [i.e. regarding the resurrection of other dead people]. For he asked that the one who had sinned, after becoming his friend, and had become dead to God return to life by divine power. And he obtained it and saw movements of life in such a one for which he gave thanks to the Father. [ibid 28:49 - 50]

It is strange for Origen to characterize our canonical raising of Lazarus narrative in terms of Jesus having "asked that the one who had sinned, after becoming his friend, and had become dead to God return to life by divine power."  Origen certainly is thinking of some other text which more closely resembles the synoptic gospel of John known to Leucius and the Acts of John. 

Heine tries to explain the passage as if it is only pertains to those who have sinned after baptism. This is incorrect as no specific reference is ever made to this effect by Origen. It is an attempt to make sense of a very strange and cryptic interpretation on the part of the Alexandrian master.  As I have noted in other posts there is a clear sense throughout the material that Origen is thinking of the discussion of the rich youth (Mark 10:22) whose "face fell and went away sad, because he had great wealth" and who was never baptized. Let us for the moment notice that these words just cited cannot apply to the raising of Lazarus narrative but strangely appear in a discussion of the raising of Lazarus immediately after Origen makes reference to 'other resurrection narratives' in other gospels again which all refer to the same mystical understanding and originate from a common lost written source. 

So it is that Origen goes on to state that:

We must consider this too, to be a work worthy of Jesus, not only to pray that the dead might live, but also to shout to him and summon the one within the cave and the tomb to the things outside it.  Now we ought to be aware that there are some Lazaruses even now, who, after they have become Jesus' friends, have become sick and died, and as dead persons they have remained in the tomb and the land of the dead with the dead and later they were made alive by Jesus' prayer, and were summoned from the tomb to the things outside it by Jesus with his loud voice. He who trusts in Jesus comes forth wearing bonds worthy of death from his former sins, and still bound around the face, so that he can neither see, nor walk, no do anything because of the bonds of death, until Jesus commands those who are able to loose him and let him go. And let everyone who is able to say, 'or do you seek proof of Christ who speaks in me?' attempt at least to become such that Christ might cry out in a loud voice in him and say to the one who stirred and after he died but not quickly and for this reason need Jesus' cry, 'Lazarus come forth.'

Consider the one who has fallen from Christ and returned to the Gentiles life after he has received knowledge of the truth and been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and become a partaker of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, to be in Hades with the shades and the dead, and to be in the land of the dead or the tombs.

Whenever therefore on behalf of such a person Jesus comes to his tomb and, standing outside it, prays and is heard, he asks that there be power in his voice and words and cries out with a loud voice, and summons him who was his friend to the things outside the life of the Gentiles and their tomb and cave.

Now and then we see someone following Jesus in the following manner. Such a one comes forth because of Jesus' voice, but his is still tied and bound with the cords of his own sins. He is alive because he has repented and has heard Jesus' voice but because he has not yet been released from the bonds of sin, he cannot completely walk with free feet, but neither has be been released to perform the things that excel, his feet and hands being bound with strips of cloth as the bonds of death.

Such a person, because of the death which is in him clinging to the bonds with his hands and feet, has covered his face with ignorance and bound it round himself.

Since then Jesus did not wish that he merely live and remain in the tomb, he has come bound to the things outside of the tomb as was said before. And because he has not been able to come forth from the tomb insofar as he is bound, Jesus says to those who can serve him, 'loose him and let him go.' I think he was not in agreement with the teaching about the conversion afer one has sinned. But such a one has come forth from the tomb still too weak to live by himself and control the active efficient and contemplative powers of his soul. His feet and hands are still bound with bandages, and his face is bound with a napkin.

But because the command of Christ is like that of a master, when Jesus said to those who are able to release him, 'loose and let him go,' his hands and feet were released and the veil lying upon his face was removed and put away. He advances so far that he anticipates that even he himself may become one of those who recline with Jesus. [cf Jn 12.2][ibid 28.52 - 60]

While there is no direct mention of a 'secret gospel' of Mark in any of these references, there is an underlying sense that there was another raising of Lazarus narrative which was connected with the synoptic material in Mark chapter 10.  Petersen points this out from earlier work on the Diatessaron by Phillips.  I have found the same idea in the writings of Clement. 

The point here is that I think it highly probable that canonical John is not the original 'gospel of John' which was at the heart of intense controversies in Rome and Alexandria in the late second and early third centuries.  There was another gospel of the same name and properly classified as a Johannine synoptic text which must on some level have been introduced by its supporters as the gospel of 'John Mark.'  In other words, the idea that John and Mark were two separate disciples is an artificial contrivance of Irenaeus, presumably to bring harmony to the churches after the controversies of the previous age.

More on this later ...

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