Thursday, July 14, 2011

Maxwell E Johnson Tries to Explain How the Jerusalem Baptism Rite Was Developed "In Close Imitation of the Saving Events in the Life of Christ" But It Simply Doesn't Make Sense Without 'Secret Mark'

I never cease to be amazed that scholars don't want to accept the obvious - i.e. that the Letter to Theodore discovered by Morton Smith in the Mar Saba monastery in 1958 is authentic and finally helps explain the origins of not only the baptism liturgy of Jerusalem in the fourth century but moreover the origins of the whole Christian sacrament. We read:

As the following excerpts from the Mystagogical Catecheses demonstrate, Cyril describes the process of Christian initiation itself as a close imitation, an image or icon, of the saving events in the life of Christ. That is, the stripping of the candidate signifies the nakedness of Christ on Calvary, the prebaptismal anointing joins the candidate to the cross, and the three immersions or submersions in the imitate his three days in the tomb. After baptism, Cyril's paradigm changes from Christ's passion and burial to that of his baptism in the Jordan. In other words, for Cyril, the rite of initiation itself has become for the candidate a dramatic ritual enactment of the salvic events themselves:

Mystagogical Catechesis (1.2): You began by entering the outer room of the baptistery. You faced westward, heard a voice commanding you to stretch out your hand, and renounce Satan as though to his face. . . . (1.4): . . . you are told to stretch out your hand, and to address the devil as if he were before you: / renounce you, Satan. I will tell you now, for you need to know, why you face westward. The west is the quarter from which darkness appears to us; now the devil is darkness, and wields his power in darkness. So we look to the west as a symbolic gesture, and renounce the leader of shadow [of death] and darkness ... (2.2) : Upon entering [the inner room of the baptistery] you took off your clothing, and this symbolised your stripping "off of "the old nature with all its practices." Stripped naked, in this too you were imitating Christ naked on the cross, who in his darkness "disarmed the principalities and powers" and on the wood of the cross publicly "triumphed over them." (2.3) : Next, after removing your garments you were rubbed with exorcising oil ... (2.4) : Then you were conducted by the hand to the holy pool of sacred baptism, just as Christ was conveyed from the cross to the sepulchre [Maxwell E Johnson The rites of Christian initiation: their evolution and interpretation p. 122]

Maxwell's point then is that the Jerusalem baptism rite corresponds closely to the gospel narrative. Yet which gospel and why would the rite 'jump' forward and backwards in such an erratic order (i.e. back and forth from the Passion)? Indeed who in their right mind would argue against the basic shape of this baptism liturgy deriving from the 'mystic' gospel of Alexandria described in the letter to Theodore:

And going near Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightway, 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 (the youth) returned to the other side of the Jordan. [to Theodore III 3 - 5]

It's absurd my friends and do you want to know something else whenever I talk to these experts on Cyril of Jerusalem they confess they had never even heard of the Letter to Theodore! Can you imagine that? It's been sitting around for fifty years and thanks to the efforts of the 'hoaxers' those who need it the most don't even think of referencing it.

I can't help but pin the blame on these mean-spirited scholars because of what Francis Watson closed his last article for BAR:

While discussion of the Secret Gospel will no doubt continue, my hope and expectation is that it will be increasingly ignored by scholars who fear, with good reason, that their work will be corrupted by association with it

Really? So even though Morton Smith makes little or no reference to the Mystagogic Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem, this masterful genius somehow manages to (a) perfectly produce a seventeenth handwriting for three pages (b) compose a letter that sounds perfectly Clementine (c) invent an addition to the Gospel of Mark that perfectly resembles a 'Markan addition' (d) say that this 'mystic' text which developed by the 'mystagogue' Mark as the basis to the Alexandrian liturgy which (e) fits perfectly with the core baptism ritual known to Cyril of Jerusalem and (f) smuggle that greatest ever forgery in the history of the world into the Mar Saba library and leave it sitting on the shelf for thirty years not making a dime from your labors.

Are people for real? Why aren't things just the way they seem - i.e. Morton Smith found 'the missing link' to explain what the Christian liturgy looked before Nicea? Why shouldn't things be taken the way they appear? Why is a massive conspiracy theory needed to explain things when the handwriting looks perfectly natural and authentic and resembled other handwritings in other old books in other Greek monastic libraries? The document was found in a monastery governed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Cyril is a Patriarch of Jerusalem who lived in the fourth century. No one who knows anything about the origins of the Jerusalem tradition doubts for even a minute that the earliest Patriarchs of Jerusalem developed their liturgy with the Alexandrian liturgy in mind and establish a massive collection of writings from the Alexandrian Fathers as early as the third century.

Why is accepting the discovery so naive? Why is the connection the recently discovered writing of Clement of Alexandria and the established writings of Cyril of Jerusalem implausible? Someone please help me out.

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.