Sunday, September 11, 2011

I've Seen this Magic Trick (= 'Fire Baptism') in the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism

I will try to scan this page and post it. Yet in the meantime you can see the link here. In order to see the match I will have to cite the original material on Anaxilaus (which I will do momentarily). For the moment here is part of the passage from the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism:
And such men as these do all these things in the desire to deceive those who are more simple or more inquisitive. And some of them try to argue that they only administer a sound and perfect, not as we, a mutilated and curtailed baptism, which they are in such wise said to designate, that immediately they have descended into the water, fire at once appears upon the water. Which if it can be effected by any trick, as several tricks of this kind are affirmed to be— of Anaxilaus— whether it is anything natural, by means of which this may happen, or whether they think that they behold this, or whether the work and magical poison of some malignant being can force fire from the water; still they declare such a deceit and artifice to be a perfect baptism, which if faithful men have been forced to receive, there will assuredly be no doubt but that they have lost that which they had. Just as, if a soldier after taking an oath should desert his camp, and in the very different camp of the enemy should wish to take an oath of a far other kind, it is plain that in this way he is discharged from his old oath.[Anonymous Treatise on Baptism 16]
The important thing to realize is that the treatise draws on the same source as Irenaeus's report against the Marcosians (= the 'followers of Mark'). The common reference to Anaxilaus is critical and leaves no room for doubt these are two related reports. Anaxilaus is remembered for putting phosphorus in heated water for effect. Here is the original reference from Pliny:
Anaxilaus used to employ this substance [sulfur] by way of pastime : putting sulphur in a cup of wine, with some hot coals beneath, he would hand it round to the guests, the light given by it, while burning, throwing a ghastly paleness like that of death upon the face of each. [Pliny Natural Science 35]
It is important to note that one of the tricks of Anaxilaus - one involving cuttlefish - can be connected with the Marcionites, thereby underscoring my long standing contention that Gregory Nazianzus was right in identifying the two sects as one and the same. Yet for the moment can anyone cue up the Deep Purple ...

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