Friday, December 9, 2011

The Thirteenth Apostle

I frequently engage in online discussion groups because I readily admit I do not know everything there is to know about early Christianity.  I know that should sound self evident to anyone about everyone in a field or discipline but there is something about studying the Bible which encourages ordinary people to posit that they have 'absolute knowledge' about any given topic.  Perhaps it is the idea of 'God' - the very embodiment of the idea of omniscience - which is the root of the problem.  I bet no one studying the causes of physical, mental or spiritual ailments ever thinks they have all the answers.  Yet turn that around and study the perfect and absolutely True One - aka God - and there all sorts of perfectly infallible 'experts' on every question related to his revelation to humanity.

In any event, the point of this very quick post is that I have always known that the representative of St Mark, the Patriarch of Alexandria has as one of his oldest titles the epithet 'thirteenth among the Holy Apostles.'  It is commonly attributed to St Mark but there is no direct proof that Mark was ever identified as such.  Instead we find - very interestingly for my Marcionite theory - that the figure usually associated with this title is Paul.  Paul is repeatedly identified as 'the thirteenth apostle' in early literature, the idea being that he is the one after or apart from the Twelve.

The interesting part of all of this is of course that both Paul and Mark can be seen as 'fitting' this role.  Yet it is the Alexandrian Patriarchate which is most explicitly connected with the title.  Not only do we have the early testimony of Athanasius demonstrating that Alexandrian Patriarchs called themselves 'the thirteenth apostle' later representatives of St. Mark used the fuller title 'the thirteenth apostle and fifth evangelist' implying certainly that there was a fifth gospel written by their patron saint Mark ....

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