Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Marcionites Give Us the Clearest Evidence that Morton Smith was Wrong about the Use of Water Baptism in Secret Mark

It is amazing that no one else has made the connection between the Marcionites and Secret Mark. The key to everything is the account of the Marcionites which appears in the Philosophumena commonly attributed to Hippolytus. Not only does the text say that the Marcionites claimed to have the 'true gospel of Mark' but it also makes reference to the sect employing fire baptism as we read:

You [Marcion] forbid marriage, the procreation of children, (and) the abstaining from meats which God has created for participation by the faithful, and those that know the truth. (Thinkest thou, then,) that thou canst escape detection, (while thus) enjoining the purificatory rites of Empedocles? [Phil. 7.18]

The Marcionite purification rite is here being likened to Empedocles plunging himself into the fires of Aetna. Diodorus says of this explicitly "Thou, Empedocles, didst purify thy body with the Living Flame, and Fire didst thou drink out from Immortal Craters." In other words, Marcion introduced among his followers a baptism of fire referenced in Mark 9:49 (according to Baarda's reconstruction).

I think all of this can be argued to all fit together - viz. the Marcionite use of another gospel of Mark, the 'correction' of Mark 9:49's 'baptism of fire' (the only place Jesus ever makes reference to his association with this rite) and most importantly now, the Marcionite acceptance of the fire baptism ritual. In my humble opinion this seems to indicate we are closing in an association and the fact that Smith's interpretation of the letter was fundamentally flawed.

Just look again at the statement where Hippolytus says that Marcion introduced fire baptism into the Gospel of Mark:

neither Paul the apostle nor Mark, he of the maimed finger, announced such (tenets). For none of these (doctrines) has been written in the Gospel according to Mark. But (the real author of the system) is Empedocles, son of Meto, a native of Agrigentum. And (Marcion) despoiled this (philosopher), and imagined that up to the present would pass undetected his transference, under the same expressions, of the arrangement of his entire heresy from Sicily into the evangelical narratives.[ibid]

It is well established that the Marcionite gospel did not reference the baptism of Jesus by John (cf. Tertullian Against Marcion 4.3 and elsewhere). Now we have Hippolytus saying that Marcion added things to the Gospel of Mark including material which justifies the Empedoclean interest in fire baptism. This is the principle reason for associating Marcion with Empedocles. No one before me thought of connecting this to 'Secret Mark.'

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