Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Truth About Early Christian Adoptionism

Everyone once and a while you come across something amazing while carrying research and that happened to me to day. I was reading a great number of books to help develop my theory about earliest Christian 'adoptionism' - that, as I suspect, the original paradigm was not 'an earthly Jesus' and a 'heavenly Christ' as Irenaeus portrays it in his Against Heresies but rather 'a heavenly Jesus' and 'an earthly Christ' as we see in the parallel material from an older and more original lecture and preserved in Latin by Tertullian in Against the Valentinians - when I came across the book which I think will ultimately help connect the conception back to Secret Mark.

The book is called Jesus, Gnosis and Dogma and it was written by a scholar, Dutchmen Riemer Roukema professor of New Testament in Kampen, the Netherlands, at the Protestant Theological University and translated into English by Saskia Deventer-Metz. The book is absolutely wonderful and finally proves - at least part - of what I have been saying about the original Alexandrian paradigm from Clement's Excerpts of Theodotus:

Clement's notes from the writings of Theodotus are often difficult to understand and do not always show a clear consistency. Yet it can be deduced that, according to the Valentinian view described here, differentiation must be made between the heavenly Jesus, who is the Saviour, and the earthly, psychic Christ proclaimed in the Old Testament and coming forth from the Creator. This division between Jesus and Christ is different from that put forward by Cerinthus and the Ophites. According to them, Jesus was an earthly figure and Christ came from heaven. According to the Valentinians, when the earthly Christ was crucified, Jesus the Saviour led the divine particles or sparks, which were found in the true believers, back to the heavenly pleroma. In this view, salvation means that those spiritual particles of the highest God, which were joined to material bodies on earth, are again brought back to the pleroma from which they originated. The heavenly Jesus came as Saviour to get the process started. [Jesus, Gnosis and Dogma p.106]

I hope my readership can finally begin to see what I have always known about the early heretical tradition. It is only the reporting of our third century sources (Against Heresies and the like) which have deliberately inverted the original paradigm.

Why would there be this active conspiracy among Patristic writers to misrepresent the heresies? One only need take a second look at the Acts of Archelaus and see the continuation of the 'Jesus announcing someone else as the one announced by the Jewish prophets' to see where all of this leads - i.e. a figure like Muhammed who would conquer 'Rome' in the name of the people of the East.

This is why Christianity was deemed so heretical in the early period. The Imperial authorities were not stupid. If the religion was really just the worship of a peaceable Jew teaching mankind to love one another, this religion would have been encouraged rather than persecuted. The religion was from the beginning all about Jesus announcing someone else and the sacrament of baptism was from the beginning the means by which 'Christ' was to be manifested.

Just think about the implications of the actual adoptionist formula of the early period - i.e. 'heavenly Jesus' descending on the one who is 'the earthly Christ' - in the context of the chaos that was the third century. Each Christian bishop was in a sense a political ruler, a figure who seemed to possess all the trappings of secular authority to govern the people independent of Rome. This is why Paul of Samosata was made into such a heretical figure. Here was a Christian bishop who ended up serving the enemies of Rome.

Just take a look again at the mystery of divine kingship in Secret Mark and wonder no more why this section of text had to be removed from the gospel in the third century:

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 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 returned to the other side of the Jordan.

This is the baptism by which 'the earthly Christ' adopted 'the heavenly Jesus.' I have a strong suspicion that Theodotus is the key to solving how the Alexandrian gospel could have placed the resurrection which served as the paradigm for Christian baptism independent of the Passion. More to follow ...

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