Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Secret Gospel of Mark and the Alexandrian Mysteries of Divine Kingship.

The point of my current blogging is to note that we can be reasonably certain that the Letter to Theodore is authentic based on its identification of a 'mystery of divine kingship' (βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ). If this were any other Church Father in any other apostolic see one might question the existence of such a rite. The fact that it is St. Mark who is associated with the establishment of these 'mysteries' makes perfect sense given the importance of the evangelist's throne in Alexandria from at least the third century.

The reason scholars haven't seen this connection is quite frankly because they don't believe or want to accept that the Egyptian Church had a separate and quite legitimate existence from at least the time of Clement (if not earlier). It is for this reason that I can ignore most of the criticism of the document as essentially uninformed. Most Patristic scholars like Larry Hurtado only see things from the traditional model of a Church centered in Rome from the very beginning (either that or the even more ludicrous 'primitive Church' model which required the hand of God miraculously developing Christianity through ignorant peasants and slaves).

The idea of a real Christian Church centered in Alexandria from at least the middle of the first century challenges all existing dogmas. Whoever the historical St. Mark was, we must imagine that he was associated with divine kingship - in other words that he was a messianic claimant. The reason for this again is his association with a divine throne and the rites of divine kingship. There is absolutely no question about this. As I noted in a previous post, when the eminent Yale professor Stephen J Davis introduces the most fundamental concept of the Alexandrian tradition to his readership, he does so through the enthronement rites associated with St. Mark.

If a modern Copt had discovered the Mar Saba document he would have recognized what Clement was writing about. Indeed if a Copt had discovered the text and put forward what I consider to be the proper exegesis of the document, many scholars would have argued perhaps that the text was invented by the Coptic community to establish the antiquity of their tradition! Nevertheless Morton Smith did not see the truth because quite frankly he never understood the Alexandrian tradition and Clement's place within the apostolic succession from St. Mark.

Why indeed would Morton Smith have forged a text which clearly is nothing short of an argument on behalf of Alexandrian episcopal primacy? This question of course never gets asked because like Smith most of the people engaged in the debate over authenticity shouldn't even be deemed qualified to make authoritative statements about the text in the first place.

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