Monday, April 25, 2011

Demonstrating Once and For All That the Alexandrian Church Understood That Baptism Developed From Joshua's Appropriation of the Divine Name in Numbers 13.16

In the last few posts we have finally broken through all the speculation and misinformation about 'Secret Mark.'  While other scholars are preparing to 'debate' the authenticity of Morton Smith's discovery, we have finally determined why Mark originally included this narrative in his gospel.  There is a pattern of appropriation of stories related to the Biblical patriarch Joshua in the gospel.  None of this should seem all that surprising to anyone as Jesus shared a name with the first king of Israel.  Yet the particulars of this highly mystical reinterpretation of Jewish scripture are quite surprising.  It might be useful to go over things one more time for those who are joining us for the first time.

We determined in a number of our previous posts in this series that the Samaritans had an understanding of Numbers chapter's description of Oshea's adoption of the divine Name which bears an almost exact resemblance to LGM1 (= the first addition to the longer gospel of Mark referenced in the letter to Theodore).  Everything is here - but most especially the 'mystery of the kingdom of heaven.'  We have been looking at the parallel traditions of Philo of Alexandria and the Church Fathers before that and noted that the latter seemed to get much the same idea from the former.  The most important passage to which we drew the readers attention, is found in Philo's On the Change of Names where the Alexandrian jumps from a discussion of Jacob's change of names at Peniel to a mystical interpretation of Oshea's name change in the Book of Numbers.  Here is the original passage:

But, moreover, Moses also changes the name of Hosea into that of Joshua; displaying by his new name the distinctive qualities of his character; for the name Hosea is interpreted, "what sort of a person is this?" but Joshua means "the salvation of the Lord," being the name of the most excellent possible character; for the habits are better with respect to those persons who are of such and such qualities from being influenced by them: as, for instance, music is better in a musician, physic in a physician, and each art of a distinctive quality in each artist, regarded both in its perpetuity, and in its power, and in its unerring perfection with regard to the objects of its speculation. For a habit is something everlasting, energising, and perfect; but a man of such and such a quality is mortal, the object of action, and imperfect. And what is imperishable is superior to what is mortal, the efficient cause is better than that which is the object of action; and what is perfect is preferable to what is imperfect. In this way the coinage of the above mentioned description was changed and received the stamp of a better kind of appearance. And Caleb himself was changed wholly and entirely; "For," as the scripture says, "a new spirit was in Him;" (Num 14:24) as if the dominant part in him had been changed into complete perfection; for the name Caleb, being interpreted, means "the whole heart." And a proof of this is to be gathered from the fact that the mind is changed, not by being biased and inclining in one particular direction or the other, but wholly and entirely in the direction which is good; and that, even if there is any thing which is not very praiseworthy indeed, it makes that to depart by arguments conducive to repentance; for, having in this manner washed off all the defilements which polluted it, and having availed itself of the baths and purifications of wisdom, it must inevitably look brilliant. [Philo, On the Change of Names 121]

As we noted in our previous posts, there is already an implicit connection between the change of names in the Book of Numbers and the immersion of initiates in 'purification baths.' In future posts we might went to bring forward Philo's discussion of the manner in which proselytes were established in Alexandrian Judaism.

Yet for the moment I merely want to present what we should 'the missing link' in our investigation so far - namely the proof that Clement of Alexandria, the author of the Letter to Theodore and believer in Secret Mark, took over much of Philo's understanding of the mystical significance of the name 'Jesus' and its transformation of Oshea, one of 'the twelve' of Moses. The discussion appears at the beginning of Clement's Pedagogue where we read:

There is the communication of the Instructor's friendship. And He most manifestly appears as Jacob's instructor. He says accordingly to him, "Lo, I am with thee, to keep thee in all the way in which thou shalt go; and I will bring thee back into this land: for I will not leave thee till I do what I have told thee." He is said, too, to have wrestled with Him. "And Jacob was left alone, and there wrestled with him a man (the Instructor) till the morning." This was the man who led, and brought, and trained with (συγγυμναζόμενος), and anointed the athlete Jacob against evil. Now that the Word was at once Jacob's trainer and the Instructor of humanity [appears from this]--"He asked," it is said, "His name, and said to him, Tell me what is Try name." And he said, "Why is it that thou askest My name?" For He reserved the new name (τὸ ὄνομα τὸ καινὸν) for the new people (τῷ νέῳ λαῷ)--the babe (τῷ νηπίῳ); and was as yet unnamed (ἀνωνόμαστος), the Lord God not having yet become man. Yet Jacob called the name of the place, "Face of God." "For I have seen," he says, "God face to face (πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον); and my life is preserved." The face of God is the Word by whom God is manifested and made known. Then also was he named Israel, because he saw God the Lord. It was God, the Word, the Instructor, who said to him again afterwards, "Fear not to go down into Egypt." See how the Instructor follows the righteous man, and how He anoints the athlete, teaching him to trip up his antagonist.

It is He also who teaches Moses to act as instructor. For the Lord says, "If any one sin before Me, him will I blot out of My book; but now, go and lead this people into the place which I told thee." Here He is the teacher of the art of instruction. For it was really the Lord that was the instructor of the ancient people by Moses; but He is the instructor of the new people by Himself, face to face (πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον). "For behold," He says to Moses, "My angel shall go before thee," representing the evangelical and commanding power of the Word, but guarding the Lord's prerogative. "In the day on which I will visit them," He says, "I will bring their sins on them; that is, on the day on which I will sit as judge I will render the recompense of their sins." For the same who is Instructor is judge, and judges those who disobey Him; and the loving Word will not pass over their transgression in silence. He reproves, that they may repent. For "the Lord willeth the repentance of the sinner rather than his death." And let us as babes, hearing of the sins of others, keep from similar transgressions, through dread of the threatening, that we may not have to undergo like sufferings. What, then, was the sin which they committed? "For in their wrath they slew men, and in their impetuosity they hamstrung bulls. Cursed be their anger." Who, then, would train us more lovingly than He? Formerly the older people had an old covenant, and the law disciplined the people with fear, and the Word was an angel; but to the fresh and new people has also been given a new covenant, and the Word has appeared, and fear is turned to love, and that mystic angel is born--Jesus (ὁ μυστικὸς ἐκεῖνος ἄγγελος Ἰησοῦς τίκτεται). For this same Instructor said then, "Thou shalt fear the Lord God;" but to us He has addressed the exhortation, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." Wherefore also this is enjoined on us: "Cease from your own works, from your old sins;" "Learn to do well;" "Depart from evil, and do good;" "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity." This is my new covenant written in the old letter. The newness of the word must not, then, be made ground of reproach. But the Lord hath also said in Jeremiah: "Say not that I am a youth (νεώτερός): before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before I brought thee out of the womb I sanctified thee." Such allusions prophecy can make to us, destined in the eye of God to faith before the foundation of the world; but now babes, through the recent fulfilment of the will of God, according to which we are born now to calling and salvation. Wherefore also He adds, "I have set thee for a prophet to the nations," saying that he must prophesy, so that the appellation of "youth" (νεωτέρου) should not become a reproach to those who are called babes (νηπίοις).

Now the law is ancient grace given through Moses by the Word. Wherefore also the Scripture says, "The law was given through Moses," 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 (Ἰησοῦ), without whom nothing was. Presently, therefore, Moses prophetically, giving place to the perfect Instructor the Word, predicts both the name and the office of Instructor (τὸ ὄνομα καὶ τὴν παιδαγωγίαν προθεσπίζει), and committing to the people the commands of obedience, sets before them the Instructor. "A prophet," says he, "like Me shall God raise up to you of your brethren," pointing out Jesus the Son of God, by an allusion to Jesus the son of Nun (τὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν τοῦ Ναυῆ αἰνιττόμενος τὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν τοῦ θεοῦ υἱόν); for the name of Jesus predicted in the law was a shadow of Christ (τοῦ κυρίου τὸ ὄνομα τὸ Ἰησοῦ προκηρυσσόμενον ἐν νόμῳ). He adds, therefore, consulting the advantage of the people, "Him shall ye hear;" and, "The man who will not hear that Prophet," him He threatens. Such a name (ὄνομα), then, he predicts as that of the Instructor, who is the author of salvation. Wherefore prophecy invests Him with a rod, a rod of discipline, of rule, of authority; that those whom the persuasive word heals not, the threatening may heal; and whom the threatening heals not, the rod may heal; and whom the rod heals not, the fire may devour. "There shall come forth," it is said, "a rod out of the root of Jesse." [ibid 1.7]

It is impossible to deny that Clement is confirming our suppositions about the use of Joshua in the early exegesis of the gospel narrative. Ἰησοῦς (Jesus) is for Clement a wholly divine being who has a key role in the culmination of world history whereby 'the Word was made flesh.' The one who takes on the name Ἰησοῦς has been transformed into the awaited messiah of Jesus scriptures. It is difficult to conceive how any of the things that Clement has taken over from Philo of Alexandria seem remotely compatible with the Catholic notion of Mary giving birth to a child and then naming him Jesus.

I might also argue that Clement, like Philo, takes a great interest in the notion that Jacob's name change occurred as he was standing πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον with God.  While this is usually translated as 'face to face' it is worth noting that πρόσωπον like the Hebrew original פָּנִים really means 'front' or 'countenance.'  Clement says that it was God's πρόσωπον that Jacob saw when wrestling.   This clearly means God's 'front' naked at least according to Clement's inherited cultural understanding.  There was nothing overtly sexual about this reference.  The reality was that it is very difficult to limit the encounter to that of a 'face to face' given the context.  This is clearly why mention of γυμνὸς γυμνῷ is raised by Theodore (and referenced in Clement's response).  Theodore was very familiar with Clement's teachings.

The point of course is that for Clement at least there are two Pentateuch narratives that always dominate any discussion of the mystical 'giving' of the divine name - Genesis 32.20 and Numbers 13.16.  He developed this interest clearly from Philo but unlike his Jewish predecessor Clement believes that the experience the described in the Pentateuch has now been fulfilled in the Alexandrian Church.  He can speak of its liturgy as "the immortal measure of the new harmony which bears God's name--the new, the Levitical song." [Exhortation 1]  It is a 'song' which formerly only gave out the promise of man being refashioned as God but has now been fulfilled in the narrative of the gospel and the divine mysteries developed from it:

Well, inasmuch as the Word was from the first, He was and is the divine source of all things; but inasmuch as He has now assumed the name Christ, consecrated of old, and worthy of power, he has been called by me the New Song. This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man--the Author of all blessings to us; by whom we, being taught to live well, are sent on our way to life eternal. [ibid]

Of course as we read these words we have to fight our inherited tendencies to simply read this as a reference to the 'incarnation' which took place as Mary gave birth to the child Jesus.  Clement always pushes this idea to the side as an inferior understanding of the Christian mysteries (cf. Strom 7.16) and has something very different in mind.

Indeed whatever it was that took place in the beginning to establish Christ through the name of Ἰησοῦς it is connected with the mystery of baptism in which the divine name in understood to 'dwell' in the hearts of the catechumen.  We should take note of Clement's consistent exegesis of the Prologue of John in this respect:

But it is truth which cries, "The light shall shine forth from the darkness." Let the light then shine in the hidden part of man, that is, the heart; and let the beams of knowledge arise to reveal and irradiate the hidden inner man, the disciple of the Light, the familiar friend and fellow-heir of Christ; especially now that we have come to know the most precious and venerable name of the good Father, who to a pious and good child gives gentle counsels, and commands what is salutary for His child. He who obeys Him has the advantage in all things, follows God, obeys the Father, knows Him through wandering, loves God, loves his neighbour, fulfils the commandment, seeks the prize, claims the promise. But it has been God's fixed and constant purpose to save the flock of men: for this end the good God sent the good Shepherd. [ibid 11]

Indeed as we again see reinforced in another reference to the Prologue the individual initiate is 'inscribed with the name of him' during the rite of baptism:

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." He does not term those men of little faith, but faithless and hypocrites, who have the name inscribed on them, but deny that they are really believers. But the faithful is called both servant and friend. So that if one loves himself, he loves the Lord, and confesses to salvation that he may save his soul. Though you die for your neighbour out of love, and regard the Saviour as our neighbour (for God who saves is said to be nigh in respect to what is saved); you do so, choosing death on account of life, and suffering for your own sake rather than his. And is it not for this that he is called brother? he who, suffering out of love to God, suffered for his own salvation; while he, on the other hand, who dies for his own salvation, endures for love to the Lord. For he being life, in what he suffered wished to suffer that we might live by his suffering. 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." He does not term those men of little faith, but faithless and hypocrites, who have the name inscribed on them, but deny that they are really believers. But the faithful is called both servant and friend. So that if one loves himself, he loves the Lord, and confesses to salvation that he may save his soul. Though you die for your neighbour out of love, and regard the Saviour as our neighbour (for God who saves is said to be nigh in respect to what is saved); you do so, choosing death on account of life, and suffering for your own sake rather than his. And is it not for this that he is called brother? he who, suffering out of love to God, suffered for his own salvation; while he, on the other hand, who dies for his own salvation, endures for love to the Lord. For he being life, in what he suffered wished to suffer that we might live by his suffering. [Stromateis 4.7]

And again a little later in the same book:

But, as seems, the most of those who are inscribed with the Name, like the companions of Ulysses, handle the word unskilfully, passing by not the Sirens, but the rhythm and the melody, stopping their ears with ignorance; since they know that, after lending their ears to Hellenic studies, they will never subsequently be able to retrace their steps. But he who culls what is useful for the advantage of the catechumens, and especially when they are Greeks (and the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof ), must not abstain from erudition, like irrational animals; but he must collect as many aids as possible for his hearers. [Strom 6.11]

Indeed the heretics themselves - i.e. the followers of Carpocrates, Basilides, Valentinus, Marcion and the like are all identified by Clement of being 'inscribed with the name' in the same manner as the rest of the Alexandrian Church, making it likely that they shared the same or a similar baptismal ritual.

Now many people will again simply say that this is the standard way of expressing the purpose of the sacrament.  Yet I think there are a few notable differences here.  First of all, there is no evidence that the Alexandrian Church in this period accepted a Trinitarian formula for its rites.  It was quite literally a baptism in the name of Ἰησοῦς as we see in other north African communities (cf. Cyprian's Letter 72)  Now the reason for this original emphasis should now be pretty obvious - the ritual was a recreation of what was presumed to have occurred when (a) Oshea received the name Ἰησοῦς after being proved faithful as one of 'the twelve' of Moses (Num 13.17) and (b) he crossed the Jordan river as the precursor of the messiah.  Both these elements are clearly present in the first addition to Secret Mark mentioned in the Letter to Theodore which reads as we have already noted:

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 [to Theod.III.10 - 11]

What I am now arguing here is that LGM 1 (= the first addition to the longer gospel of Mark referenced here in the Letter to Theodore) isn't just some random piece of a now lost gospel.  It was a terribly important - perhaps the most important - 'missing link' to understand the development of the 'Gospel of Ἰησοῦς' from the original messianic expectation of the 'Book of Ἰησοῦς.'

When the name Ἰησοῦς comes to Joshua we hear in the Samaritan version of that book Moses initiates him into a mystery (רָז) or 'secret' of the kingdom of God:

At the completion of the hundred and nineteenth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, of the life of our master Musa the prophet- peace be upon him- God revealed unto him in the plain of Mab (Moab), that he should lay his hand upon the head of Yush'a (Joshua), the son of Nun, the spiritual man; meaning by this, that he (Moses) should give him (Joshua) information of the profound secret, and revealed to him the vision of his dream and the science of knowledge, as much as he was capable of bearing; by the which his heart would be strengthened and his spirit perfected and his soul elevated, and the rule over the creatures be rendered easy unto him; and that he should also inform him of the Name, by which he should put to flight hostile armies, and by which a nation that no country could contain and whose numbers were countless might be confounded. And He ordered him (Moses) to set him (Joshua) before el-`Azar (Eleazar) the imam - peace be upon him- and to assemble unto him (Joshua) the people of learning and knowledge with the nobles and rulers, and ratify a compact with him, and make a new covenant with him, and invest him with the kingly authority, and install him in the rule over all the children of Israel. [Samaritan Chronicle 1.2]
This exactly what is described in the passage above from the longer version of the Gospel of Mark known to the Alexandrian Church and we see Clement in other texts identify the 'name of Jesus' as quasi-divine hypostasis which bestows the same authority of kingship on its recepients:

For it is wisdom which regulates in the case of those who so practise virtue; and divine things are ordered by wisdom, and human affairs by politics -- all things by the kingly faculty. He is a king, then, who governs according to the laws, and possesses the skill to sway willing subjects. Such is the Lord, who receives all who believe on Him and by Him. For the Father has delivered and subjected all to Christ our King,"that at the name of Ἰησοῦς every knee may bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [Paed 1.24]

I know there is a tendency in New Testament scholarship to avoid looking at the actual meaning of the text and just assume it says what it thinks it says.  However Philippians 2:10 does indeed apply all kingship and authority quite specifically to the name Ἰησοῦς.  Clement and others clearly took it to mean that this authority was transferable to others at baptism.

The same mystical 'building process' of housing the divine name in the temple of a believer's heart is also understood by Clement to be alluded to in the writings of Barnabas:

"Before we believed in God, the dwelling-place of our heart was unstable, truly a temple built with hands.  For it was full of idolatry, and was a house of demons, through doing what was opposed to God."  He [Barnabas] says, then, that sinners exercise activities appropriate to demons; but he does not say that the spirits themselves dwell in the soul of the unbeliever. Wherefore he also adds, "See that the temple of the Lord be gloriously built. Learn, having received remission of sins; and having set our hope on the Name, let us become new, created again from the beginning." For what he says is not that demons are driven out of us, but that the sins which like them we commit before believing are remitted. Rightly thus he puts in opposition what follows: "Wherefore God truly dwells in our home. He dwells in us. How? The word of His faith, the calling of His promise, the wisdom of His statutes, the commandments of His communication, dwell in us." [Stromateis 2.20]

Clement later tells us quite specifically that the divine name was displayed in the Holy of Holies of the temple.  The point of course is that the individual initiate is being refashioned as a living temple of God with the divine name Ἰησοῦς inside of him.

Now some may object of course that the divine name of the temple was a four letter name YHWH (Stromateis 5.6,11) which is ultimately incompatible with the story of the adoption of the name Ἰησοῦς in Numbers 13.17 LXX.  Nevertheless a careful reading of Clement's exegesis demonstrates that he is really only interested in the first letter of each name - i.e. yod or iota.  In the story in Numbers it is this letter which is added to Hosea to transform his name into Joshua.  Both the yod and the iota have a value of ten.  So indeed Clement on a number of occasions speaks of the iota embodying the person of Ἰησοῦς:

And, in fine, the Decalogue, by the letter Iota, signifies the blessed name, presenting Jesus, who is the Word. [Stromateis 6.16; see also Strom 6.11]
One might even expect that the consecration with oil in these rituals - i.e. a smear on the forehead - might have been liked to this letter and thus the name Ἰησοῦς.

Clement mentions this mystical interest in the letter iota or yod many times.  All seem to confirm the mystical interest in the number ten (undoubtedly because the ritual originally took place also on the tenth of Nisan to coincide with the original crossing of the Jordan and the selection of the lamb for Passover on this day).  Note the interest in the letter in the following references from Clement's writings:

Further, His righteousness cried, "If ye come straight to me, I also will come straight to you but if ye walk crooked, I also will walk crooked saith the Lord of hosts;" meaning by the crooked ways the chastisements of sinners. For the straight and natural way which is indicated by the Iota of the name of Jesus is His goodness, which is firm and sure towards those who have believed at hearing [Stromateis 4.4; Comm Jude]

There shall not then pass away from the law neither the iota nor the tittle; that is, neither the promise that applies to the straight in the way, nor the punishment threatened against those that diverge. For the Lord is good to the straight in the way; but "those that turn aside after their crooked ways He shall lead forth with those that work iniquity." "And with the innocent He is innocent, and with the froward He is froward; " and to the crooked He sends crooked ways. His own luminous image God impressed as with a seal, even the greatest,--on man made in His likeness, that he might be ruler and lord over all things, and that all things might serve him. Wherefore God judges man to be wholly His, and His own image. He is invisible; but His image, man, is visible. Whatever one, then, does to man, whether good or bad, is referred to Himself. Wherefore from Him judgment shall proceed, appointing to all according to desert; for He will avenge His own image [Macarius Chrysocephalus: Oration 13.9]

I don't see how anyone can read this last reference and not see it as confirming that those who undergo baptism literally receive not only the name of Ἰησοῦς but his very person.  This undoubtedly goes back to the mystical interest in γυμνὸς γυμνῷ in the original question from Theodore in the Mar Saba letter.  Clement draws our attention to the example of Jacob wrestling with Jesus naked at Peniel and getting a glimpse of his person, 'dying' and being reborn ultimately as an angel.

This is clearly explained in yet another reference in the writings of Clement where, in the course of attacking the beliefs of Basilides and Valentinus, he lets slip out what the beliefs and understandings of the 'true Church' of Alexandria were:

For he also [i.e. Valentinus], similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature, and that this different race has come hither to us from above for the abolition of death, and that the origin of death is the work of the Creator of the world. Wherefore also he so expounds that Scripture, "No man shall see the πρόσωπον of God, and live," as if He were the cause of death. Respecting this God, he makes those allusions when writing in these expressions: "As much as the image is inferior to the living πρόσωπον, so much is the world inferior to the living Æon. What is, then, the cause of the image? The majesty of the πρόσωπον, which exhibits the figure to the painter, to be honoured by his name; for the form is not found exactly to the life, but the name supplies what is wanting in the effigy. The invisibility of God co-operates also in order to the faith of that which has been fashioned." For the Creator, called God and Father, he designated as "Painter," and "Wisdom," whose image that which is formed is, to the glory of the invisible One; since the things which proceed from a pair are complements, and those which proceed from one are images. But since what is seen is no part of Him, the soul comes from what is intermediate, which is different; and this is the inspiration of the different spirit, and generally what is breathed into the soul, which is the image of the spirit. [Stromateis 4.13]

I hope the reader can now see that we have come back full circle to the original context of the Letter to Theodore, its citation of the passage from Secret Mark and the original question from Theodore regarding 'naked with naked' (γυμνὸς γυμνῷ).  It is all rooted in Mark's original appropriation of the baptism ritual of Alexandria from the 'change of name' passages in Genesis 32:30 and Numbers 13:17.  The initiates were being refashioned as angelic beings after 'dying' and witnessing the holy countenance of God.

This kind of understanding will never make its way to an academic conference - let alone one dealing with 'Secret Mark.'  Its sublimity is beyond the comprehension of professional do-nothings like those who fill the ranks of academia.  I do not consider its revelation at a 'mere blog' to be at all unfortunate.  I consider myself very blessed to have lived at a time when information can be disseminated on such a scale.  I mean that sincerely.

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