Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Origen Witnesses 'Another Baptism' Narrative Which Has to Be From Secret Mark

Epiphanius's testimony that the Marcionite gospel referenced something similar to Mark 10:37 - 41 is only part of the story.  Aside from utterly shattering all the stupid nonsense that gets promoted in books about the Marcionite gospel being a 'version of Luke' it makes one other point that gets lost in the mix.  Epiphanius makes clear that for some reason the followers of Marcion derived their distinct baptism rites from this passage.  Irenaeus says the same thing about 'those of Mark' but there is a problem here that no one seems to have noticed - the Mark 10:37 - 41 as it now stands can't be about baptism.

Oh of course, the word baptism is there in black and white.  After John and his brother ask about sitting to the left and right of Jesus - a concept that strangely appears 'out of the blue' in the narrative with no context whatsoever - Jesus offers up 'drinking and baptism' instead:

Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”  “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.'

Yet strangely our narrative goes on to have Jesus confess that he is powerless to grant the privilege of enthronement.  Instead he can only confirm that they will 'drink from his cup' and 'baptized with his baptism.'  It is among the strangest narratives in the whole gospel.  Ask Jesus for a seat and he will offer you a Coke and a bath instead. 

So what is going on here?  The only answer which makes any sense is that Jesus must really talking about martyrdom.  The early Catholic tradition is fairly explicit about James's martyrdom.  Epiphanius even knows a tradition in the contemporary Syrian church that James is the naked neaniskos in Mark 14.52.  So it would make sense for us to simply close the book and say that Mark must have been talking about 'martyr thrones' and that a baptism of blood.  It might make sense in any other tradition, but this doesn't seem to have been the Alexandrian interpretation of the material, nor the Marcionite interpretation (assuming the two are different).

It is difficult to simply 'spell out' Origen's understanding of a given scripture.  Like Clement before him, he rarely just comes out and 'says' what is meant in a given passage.  Nevertheless it is important to note that Origen shows unmistakable affinity with what Irenaeus reports of the heretical sect associated with 'Mark' when he writes:

Thus there are as many schemes of "redemption" as there are teachers of these mystical opinions. And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole faith.

They maintain that those who have attained to perfect knowledge must of necessity be regenerated into that power which is above all ... For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins, but the redemption brought in by that Christ who descended upon Him, was for perfection; and they allege that the former is animal, but the latter spiritual. And the baptism of John was proclaimed with a view to repentance, but the redemption by Jesus was brought in for the sake of perfection. And to this He refers when He says, "And I have another baptism to be baptized with, and I hasten eagerly towards it." Moreover, they affirm that the Lord added this redemption to the sons of Zebedee, when their mother asked that they might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom, saying, "Can ye be baptized with the baptism which I shall be baptized with?" Paul, too, they declare, has often set forth, in express terms, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and this was the same which is handed down by them in so varied and discordant forms. [AH 1.21.2]

As Harvey notes, the surviving manuscripts of Against Heresies are very corrupt here. There are a number of variants.  The first time around it is the juxtaposition of the baptism for 'the remission of sins' by 'the visible Jesus' and the baptism of 'perfection' instituted by 'Christ,' while in the second take a sentence later the 'baptism of perfection' is compared with the repentance of 'the baptism of John.'

It is only when we get Origen's Commentary on Romans the real story starts to come together.  Origen tells us that there is another baptism other than that which was established by John.  All the clues in my mind point to the additional narrative in the 'mystic gospel of Mark' referenced in Clement's Letter to Theodore:
'Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?  For we were buried with him by baptism into ins death;' teaching by these things that if any one is first dead to sin, he is necessarily buried with Christ by baptism; but if any one is not first dead to sin, he cannot be buried with Christ by baptism; but, if any one is not first dead to sin, he cannot be buried with Christ. For no living person is ever buried.  But, if he is not buried with Christ, neither is he lawfully baptized.

But concerning the meaning of baptism, we have spoken to the best of our ability whatever was able to come or, rather, whatever the Lord freely granted, when we were explaining the Gospel according to John,  when it came to the passage where he says of Jesus, "He himself will baptize you in the Holy Spirit," and again where the Savior himself says, "Unless someone should be born anew of water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."  In that passage we tried to reveal the force of that expression more profoundly, in which it is said, "unless someone should be reborn anew." For what we Latin speakers use as "anew," the Greeks say ἄνωθεν  which means both "anew" and "from above." In this passage, that whoever is baptized by Jesus is baptized in the Holy Spirit, it is suitable to be understood not so much as "anew," as "from above"; for we say "anew" when the same things which have already happened are repeated.  Here, however, the same birth is not repeated or done a second time, but this earthly one is laid aside and a new birth from above is received.  For that reason we would more accurately read the text in the Gospel as, "Unless someone has been reborn from above, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."  For this refers to being baptized in the Holy Spirit. For this reason, that baptism is confirmed to be "from above," not unfittingly are even the waters, which are above the heavens and which praise the name of the Lord," linked to the Holy Spirit. And although all of us may be baptized in those visible waters and in a visible anointing, in accordance with the form handed down to the churches, nevertheless, the one who has died to sin and is truly baptized into the death of Christ and is buried with him through baptism into death, he is the one who is truly baptized in the Holy Spirit and with the water from above. [Comm. Rom. 8.5]

I don't know where to begin with this passage.  Scholarship has never recognized the connection between Origen and what Irenaeus attributes to 'those of Mark' in Against Heresies.  The context of this 'other baptism' has to be based on the same baptismal 'addition' to Mark referenced by Clement in his Letter to Theodore.

Origen clearly has something in mind which is not the Passion of Christ.  There simply is no baptismal context in the gospel Passion narratives.  It makes much more sense to imagine that this narrative is the liturgical context being referenced by Origen:

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.

 I will develop this at much greater length in coming posts.  I will also demonstrate that Origen is not alone in this understanding.  The Anonymous Treatise on Baptism also knows the context of this 'other' baptism which is not the baptism of Jesus by John.

In any event, let's close this post by continuing to cite what Origen goes on to say in his Commentary on Romans.  We read now a specific reference to a 'mystical order' or 'mystical sequence' (mystici ordinis; μυστικός = mysticus) in some ritual context which must be a 'secret gospel':
But attend yet more closely to this mystical order. It is necessary for thee first, to die to sin, that thou mayest be buried with Christ. Burial belongs to the dead. If thou dost yet live to sin, thou canst not be buried with Christ, Burial belongs to the dead. If thou dost yet live to sin thou canst not be buried with Christ, nor be placed in his new sepulcher, because thy old man lives and cannot walk in newness of life. The Holy Spirit has carefully taught that  the sepulchre, in which Christ was buried, must be new; and that he was wrapped in clean linen, that every one who wishes to be buried with Christ, bring nothing of oldness to the new sepulchre, nothing of uncleanliness to the clean linen ... But observe how careful is the Apostle, for he says, ' Whosoever of us have been baptized into Christ.' Therefore our baptism is 'into Christ.' But Christ himself is said to have been baptized by John not with that baptism which is 'into Christ,' but with that Baptism, which is into the Law. For so he says himself to John, 'Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulful all righteousness.'  By which it shews that the Baptism of John was the ending of the old, not the beginning of the new." [Comm. Rom 8.5]

Can everyone begin to see now the truth finally?  The heretical sect associated with Mark is the Alexandrian tradition of St. Mark.  Their 'other' baptism HAS TO HAVE some context in the gospel narrative.  The only clue that all of the Patristic sources say to us (i.e. Irenaeus, Hippolytus, the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism, Origen, Epiphanius etc.) is that this 'other baptism' is referenced at Mark 10:37 - 41!

Am I the only one that gets this?  Are we finally at the point where we can universally accept the authenticity of To Theodore?  What is it going to take for these people to accept that Alexandrian Christianity was a wholly separate Christian tradition?

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