Thursday, May 5, 2011

Morton Smith (And Every Other Scholar Since) Has Failed to Notice a Direct Citation of the Opening Words of the Book of Joshua in Secret Mark

Well, I finally found it - I discovered a Patristic text which can only be read as confirming not only the authenticity of the Letter to Theodore and Secret Mark but also the alleged liturgical habits of late second century Alexandria described in the text.  The text in question is of course Origen's Fourth Homily on the Book of Joshua (or 'the Book of Jesus' as he refers to it).  The reason, I think, that no one saw the connection between is that they were unaware of the significance of the closing line of the Secret Mark fragment referenced in the Letter to Theodore:

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 (τὸ πέραν τοῦ ιορδάνου).

Now I have never read anyone take any great notice of the words - τὸ πέραν τοῦ ιορδάνου. I think the assumption is that the 'he' here is Jesus who leaves the scene of the initiation to continue on with his travels on the other side of the river.

The problem with this of course is that the section which immediately precedes the reference describes an initiation but no specific reference to water immersion. As Scott Brown rightly notes, in order to make this about water immersion you have to assume that the action is carried out 'off stage' like an ancient drama, which is somewhat odd when you think of it.

What no one before he has noticed is that the 'he' who crosses the Jordan has to be the initiated disciple. Why does change everything? Well obviously, like what we learn in the fragmentary report of a heretical form of the Gospel of Mark in the near contemporary writings of Irenaeus (AH 3.11.7) there clearly existed a form of the text which divided 'Jesus' and 'Christ' into two separate individuals. The idea of 'the crossing of the Jordan' was clearly messianic in the first century given Josephus's description of a certain Theudas who may or may not have been the disciple of Paul referenced in Clement's Stromateis (7.2).

The more glaring omission on the part of scholars is that πέραν τοῦ ιορδάνου isn't just a Greek phrase that Clement made up to signify someone going from one side of the Jordan, it's a citation of well established mystical phrase from the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. What's the matter with scholars? Is everything about 'Secret Mark' a debate over Morton Smith's alleged 'mastery' of the text? Well if that is the case Smith clearly failed to understand almost everything about the material. We have demonstrated this time and time again.

In this week's episode of 'Morton Smith proves he did not understand the Mar Saba document' we come across the phrase τὸ πέραν τοῦ ιορδάνου which is the LXX translation of the Hebrew בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן which is used over and over again in the six core texts of Judaism and Samaritanism. As we noted yesterday, it is almost impossible to overlook the mystical significance of this phrase as it has a numerological value of 543 (= the equivalent to the highest name for God). If the one crossing the water was understood to be 'like' Moses, as we see reinforced throughout Jewish, Samaritan and early Christian writings - lo and behold! - we have the meeting of 345 and 543 to equal the divine name of Jesus or 888.

In my mind at least this makes certain that the unnamed disciple was named 'Mark' or received the divine name (ha Shem or Shemah) when 'crossing the Jordan' (τὸ πέραν τοῦ ιορδάνου). But this is just a suspicion on my part. The point however is that scholars have been asleep at the wheel for over fifty years now when it comes to the Letter to Theodore. First they let Morton Smith make his imagination go wild with stupid theories which never fit the text. Then when the text disappeared shortly after his death, the question of the authenticity of the Letter to Theodore and Secret Mark came down to a referendum on whether or not his stupid theories hold any weight.

Why can't these people see another option which is that the text is real and Morton Smith and all of the contemporary age have lacked the imagination or insight to truly understand this most intriguing document?

I won't hold my breath for a response but it should be known that there is only one place in the whole LXX where the whole phrase τὸ πέραν τοῦ ιορδάνου appears and that is in God's promise to Joshua that he will lead the Israelites to the Promised land:

Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall abide in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan; but ye shall pass over before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and shall help them; until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as unto you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them; then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and possess it, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you across the Jordan toward the rising (εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ ιορδάνου ἀπ' ἀνατολῶν ἡλίου) [Joshua 1.14,15]

The Secret Gospel of course does not mention the sun rising but instead the 'rising' of the initiated disciple in a mystic sense (εκειθεν δε αναστας επεστρεψεν εις το περαν του Ιορδανου).

There are exactly forty references to the phrase 'περαν του Ιορδανου' almost all of which correspond to the Hebrew בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן which as noted has a numerological value of 543. The point of course is that we have once again determined that Morton Smith did not understand the actual context of his discovery, nor the subsequent generations of scholars who squabble over the question of 'whether it is real or a fake?' We have left this question behind us a long time ago as we bring forward the testimony of Clement's student Origen and demonstrate that he clearly knew Secret Mark existed and that it was developed from the Alexandrian Jewish mysticism that surrounded the Biblical Patriarch's crossing on the tenth day of the first month.

As a way of preparing my readership for this discussion I will close with Origen's Fourth Homily on the Book of Jesus in its entirety. I will explain shortly how Origen's testimony agrees with the description which develops from Irenaeus's attack against the 'Marcosians' (= 'those of Mark') and the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism regarding a very different kind of baptism being promulgated in Alexandria. As the reader will see, for Origen, the crossing of the Red Sea, which took place in fear while on a forced march, is a type of entry into the catechumenate, merely. It is the crossing of the River Jordan, which was joyful and serene, that is for him the true type of baptism.

The Fourth Homily on the Book of Jesus

To a sinner, all creation is an enemy, just as it is written concerning the Egyptians: The land fought them, the river fought them, the air itself and the heavens fought them. But to the just person, even things that seem inaccessible are made plain and easy. The just person crosses the Red Sea as though on dry land, but if an Egyptian wishes to cross, he is overwhelmed, and no wall of water will be made for him on the right and on the left. Even if the just person enters a dreadful wilderness and wasteland, food is provided from the heavens.

Thus in the Jordan, the ark of the covenant was the leader for the people of God. The order of priests and Levites stand together, and the waters, as though signifying a certain respect, hold back their course for the mysteries of God and are heaped up together into a mass, yielding a harmless journey for the people of God. (Joshua 3:15 - 17)

Lest you marvel when these deeds concerning the former people are applied to you, O Christian, the divine word promises much greater and loftier things for you who, through the mystery of baptism (baptismi sacramentum), have parted the waters of the Jordan. It promises a way and a passage for you through the air itself. Indeed, hear what Paul says concerning just persons: "We," he says, "shall be seized up into the clouds to meet Christ in the air and thus shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4.17) There is nothing at all that the just one should fear. All creation waits upon that person. Hear, finally, how God makes this promise even through the prophet, saying to him, "If you pass through the fire, the flame will not hurt you, because I am the Lord thy God." (Isa 43.2 - 3) Therefore each place receives the just one, and all creation renders a servitude it owes.

And do not imagine that these deeds are only in former times and nothing so great as this is brought forth in you who are now the hearer of them. For all things are fulfilled in you according to a mystical reckoning. Indeed you who long to draw near to the hearing of the divine law have recently forsaken the darkness of idolatry and ate now for the first time forsaking Egypt. When you are reckoned among the number of catechumens and have undertaken to submit to the precepts of the Church, you have parted the Red Sea and, placed in the stations of the desert, you daily devote yourself to hearing the Law of God and to looking upon the face of Moses, through which the glory of the Lord is revealed. But if you also have entered the mystical font of baptism, and in the presence of the priestly and Levitical order have been initiated in those venerable and magnificent mysteries which they know who have the right to know such things, then, with the Jordan parted, you will enter the land of promise by the services of the priests. In this land, Jesus receives you after Moses and becomes for you the leader of a new way.

Mindful of such great and excellent powers of God — that the sea was divided for you and that the river's water stood upright — you will turn around and say to it, "Why is it, O Sea, that you fled?" (Psalm 114:5,6) And you, Jordan, that you turned backwards? Mountains, why did you skip about like rams, and the hills like lambs of the flock?''" But the divine word will respond to you and say, "By the face of the Lord is the land aroused, by the face of the God of Jacob who turns the rock into a pool of water and the cliff into springs of waters." (Psalm 114:7,8)

What great things were manifested before! The Red Sea was crossed on foot, manna was given from heaven, springs were burst open in the wilderness, the Law was given through Moses. Many signs and marvels were performed in the wilderness, but nowhere is it said that Jesus was "exalted." But where the Jordan is crossed, there it is said to Jesus, "In this day I am beginning to exalt you in the sight of the people." (Joshua 3.7) Indeed, Jesus is not exalted before the mystery of baptism. But his exaltation, even his exaltation in the sight of the people, assumes a beginning from then on. If "all who are baptized are baptized into his death," (Romans 6.3) and the death of Jesus is made complete by the exaltation of the cross, deservedly then, Jesus is first exalted for each of the faithful when that person arrives at the mystery of baptism. Because thus it is written that "God exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth, and below the earth." (Phil 2.9 - 10)

Nevertheless, the people are led by the priests and make the journey to the land of promise by the teaching of those priests. And who today is so great and so excellent among priests as to deserve to be added to that rank? For if anyone be so excellent, the waters of the Jordan will yield to that one, and the elements themselves will show their respect. Part of the waters of the river will leap backwards and be restrained behind his back, but the other part will disappear into the salty sea in a rapid glide.

Still I believe it was not without reference to a mystery that this was not without reference to a mystery that this was written, that part of the waters of the Jordan plunges into the sea and flows into bitterness,19 while the other part continues on in sweetness. For if all who are baptized maintained the sweetness of the heavenly grace they received and no one were changed into the bitterness of sins, it would never have been written that part of the river was plunged into the abyss of the salty sea. Therefore, it seems to me that the variety of those baptized is designated in these words, a variety we ourselves — I remember with grief — often see occur. When some who receive holy baptism surrender themselves again to the affairs of the world and to the lures of pleasure, and when they drink the salty cup of avarice, they are symbolized by that part of the waters that flows into the sea and perishes in salty billows. But the part that continues steadfast and protects its own sweetness stands for those who unchangeably hold the gift of God they have received. And suitably, there is one part of them who are saved, because there is also one bread "who descends from heaven and gives life to the world," (John 6.33) and "there is one faith and one baptism and one spirit," from which all are caused to drink in baptism and "one God the Father in all." (Ephesians 4:4 - 6)

Meanwhile it is the priestly and Levitical order that shows the way to the people of God who have gone forth from Egypt. ( For they themselves are those who instruct the people to go forth from Egypt, that is, from the delusions of the world; and to cross through the desolate wilderness, that is, to hasten past diverse kinds of temptations; and to escape the venom of evil suggestions. Wherefore, if by chance anyone should be struck by a serpent in the wilderness, the priests show him a bronze serpent, suspended on a stauros. (Numbers 21.6 - 8) The person who sees it, that is, the one who believes in him whose figure that serpent was meant to represent, will be able to disperse the diabolical venom.

It is the priestly and Levitical order that stands by the ark of the covenant of the Lord in which the Law of God is carried,25 doubtless, so that they may enlighten the people concerning the commandments of God. As the prophet says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, Lord, and a light for my paths."(Psalm 119) This light is kindled by the priests and Levites. Wherefore, if by chance anyone from this order "puts the kindled lamp under a peck" and not "upon a lampstand so that it may shine forth for all who are in the house," (Matt 5:15) let him see what he must do when he begins to render an account of the light to the Lord for those who, receiving no illumination from the priests, walk in shadows and are blinded by the darkness of their sins.

Finally, see what is said: "Let the people be at a distance from the ark of the covenant," it says, "by two thousand cubits."28 The priests and the Levites, however, are very near, and near enough so that the ark of the Lord and the divine Law are carried on their own shoulders. Blessed are those who deserve to be very close to God. But remember that it is written, "Those who draw near to me, draw near to fire."(Gospel of Thomas 82) If you are gold and silver and have drawn near to the fire, you will shine forth more splendid and glowing because of the fire.

But if you are conscious of building "wood, hay, and stubble" (1 Corinthians 3.12) upon the foundation of your faith, and you approach the fire with such building, you will be consumed. Blessed, therefore, are those who are very near, who are so very near that the fire illumines but does not burn them. Nevertheless, even Israel will be saved; but it will be saved from far away, and it makes its journey not by its own power but by the support and foresight of the priests.

And when do they come to the crossing of the Jordan? For I have noted that this also has been indicated, so that even the time might be distinguished, and with good reason. "On the tenth," it says, "of the first month." (Joshua 4.19) That is also the day on which the mystery of the lamb was prefigured in Egypt." On the tenth of the first month, these things were celebrated in Egypt; on the tenth of the first month, they go into the land of promise. This seems to me exceedingly fortunate, that on the very same day in which someone has escaped the errors of the world, that person may also be worthy to enter the land of promise, that is, on this day in which we live in this age. For our present life is designated as one day. Therefore we are instructed through that mystery not to put off our acts and works of righteousness until tomorrow, but rather "today" (cf. Hebrews 3.13) — that is, while we are living, while we are lingering in this world - to make haste to accomplish all things that pertain to perfection, so that on the tenth day of the first month, we shall be able to enter the land of promise, that is, the blessedness of perfection.

But, if you observe carefully, you will notice that many other things are brought together on this day in the narration of the Scriptures. Concerning those individual things — lest the discourse from us be extended now more than we wish - we must understand this thing: the day is repeated so often because, even if in general we think there is one perfection, still, each one of the virtues that we undertake to unfold has its own perfection, if we can complete it wholly and perfectly. For example, if he who is prone to anger desires to acquire the virtue of gentleness, undoubtedly he at first offends in many ways, until by long meditation he can change a longstanding practice into something natural. And when he obtains what he proposed, he acquires a certain perfection of meekness, though he will not possess the perfection of all virtue from this. Thus, therefore, by means of individual virtues, many perfections are found. But perfection in general is that which contains in itself the summation of all perfections. Because of that, therefore, many deeds are brought together on this day so that they may signify that many perfections proceed to one end, just as the prophet says "Much has my soul wandered about" (Psalm 120.6); and again, "When they say to me day after day, Where is your God? I remembered these things and poured out my soul within me, for I am going into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God, with a voice of exultation and confession, sounds of those who keep a festival." (Psalm 42:4 -5)

For after the labors and the temptations that we shall have borne in the wilderness of this world, after the crossing of the Red Sea, after the waves of the Jordan, if we shall have been worthy to enter the land of promise, we shall arrive with gladness and exultation, following the priests of the Lord, our Christ and Savior, to whom is the "glory and power, forever and ever, Amen!"

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