Thursday, April 12, 2012

Towards Chapter Eight of the Myth of Jesus Christ

The seven hundred or so living Samaritans in the land of Israel are the last living links to the past.  The Samaritans do not accept the prophetic writings which make up the bulk of the Old Testament.  They refuse to obscure Moses's original vision for the community with what they consider to be fraudulent utterances.  The Samaritan have always owned a sacred piece of land that happens to be a core geographic interest in the Pentateuch - the mountain called 'Gerizim' which now sits in what is called the Palestinian Territories.  While the closest major city is Nablus, formerly Neapolis, most Samaritans live in Holon a suburb of Tel Aviv.  Yet despite the modern political inconveniences, the Samaritan people will make the trek to climb the holy mountain for three specific pilgrimages each year - the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (late March/April), Pentecost (June/July) and the first day of the feast of Sukkot (late September/October).

While the Samaritans are certainly not Christians, it has long been noted that Samaritans have an important role to play in understanding the gospel.  Simon Magus is said to have been a Samaritan.  We have also discovered that the baptism narrative in the Alexandrian gospel of Mark (i.e. 'Secret Mark') seems to be tied to the traditional Samaritan interest in the creation of man on the first day of the year.  This creation of an androgynous Adam - i.e. a being who was neither male nor female - took place according to the mixing of fire and water.  Adam was vested with a spiritual garment made of fire which Jesus came to restore to all of mankind at the end of time.

We have already determined that both these 'events' are to be dated to the first day of the first month of the new year.  We also noted that Jesus's actual ministry according to the liturgy of the Church was actually much shorter than generally recognized - i.e. only seventy seven days.  It seems unusual that Mark should introduce a previously unknown figure named Jesus to the world only to just as suddenly take him away.  The clear explanation here is that Mark originally intended us to understand him as a wholly supernatural being.  Nevertheless, how it is difficult for us to get beyond the manipulations which were perpetrated on our existing manuscripts of the gospels.

Yet what would happen if we went beyond merely acknowledging the common liturgical interest in the first of the year?  What would happen if we took the two and a half month ministry of Jesus and arranged it according to the Hebrew calendar?  Would be any closer to understanding the mythological origins of the gospel?  The surprising answer here - one that few people could have imagined before attempting such an endeavor - is that yes, the Samaritan liturgy simply holds the key to understanding everything about early Christianity.  For at its core the gospel story is an attempt at 'modernizing' or 'updating' the Passover narrative.  The Passover story is recounted in the biblical book of Exodus and is itself the defining moment in the redemption of Israel.

There isn't a reasonable individual out there who would deny that the gospel narrative is related to the story of Passover.  After all, Jesus is said to be 'our Passover lamb.' The timing is unmistakably relevant for the final act of the story.  Yet what about all that comes before this?  The standard view is that Mark is retelling an actual historical account of a man named Jesus who happened to have died at Passover.  Yet there is a very big difficulty in simply taking the gospel account as is which is the determination that we see projected into Jesus by Mark in wanting to get himself slaughtered in time for Passover.  In other words, the timing wasn't coincidence; it was planned and part of God's active will in the world.

Indeed Jesus's death is too sudden to be natural.  The authorities are surprised to hear Jesus has died within a few hours of being executed.  The whole point of crucifying someone was to have them die a slow agonizing death.  Nevertheless the literary purpose of the gospel writer is to make Jesus into the substitute for the Paschal lamb.  To this end, on some level there is a palpable artificiality to the whole timing of the gospel.  It is all too good to be true.  We first learn that Jesus is consciously trying to time his death to Passover but then the impossible happens - he even manages to will his own body to shut down so that he dies on the fourteenth of Nissan - the day of the Paschal slaughter - according to the gospel of Clement of Alexandria.

No one can simply will his death to occur at a certain time when someone else is control of their fate.  The gospel writer must be acknowledged to embellished the narrative in some way - either in terms of Jesus planning his own death or in terms of its timing being symbolic.  First we had a situation where Jesus baptized an individual on the day of the creation of cosmic Adam and now we are wrestling with the idea of him being crucified Paschal sacrifice.  Could the whole gospel narrative itself have been a part of this symbolic appropriation from the Book of Exodus?

This is exactly what we see when we lay the two and a half ministry of Jesus from baptism with John in the Jordan to the crucifixion at Golgotha on top of the Samaritan liturgical calendar.  For as Jacob ben Aaron (1840-1916) a former high priest of the Samaritan religion wrote, despite the fact that there are only ten or eleven miracles in the lead up to Passover in the Exodus narrative "a certain amount of space elapsed after each miracle, that the two apostles (Moses and Aaron) might have time to carry their message to Pharaoh and to receive his reply thereto, and act accordingly. Thus the whole period of miracles amounted to two months and a half."  In other words, the Samaritans have always held that the lead up Passover took exactly the same duration as the ministry of Jesus in the gospel.

In order to clarify his comments a little further the high priest notes that "the first wonder took place in the eleventh month, and the last took place in the first. It is so affirmed by our traditions, handed down from father to son, and is so accepted and agreed upon by the people of Israel."  The modern way of counting these Sabbaths is to literally read the account of each one of the ten plagues on each Sabbath starting with the first Sabbath of the eleventh month ending with the second Saturday of the first Month and the eleventh plague on the night of the Paschal sacrifice.  Yet there exists a much older version of the liturgy from the twelfth century which demonstrates that it was established originally that the whole Book of Exodus was read starting on the first Sabbath of eleventh month and ended on the last Sabbath of the year.

What makes this so interesting is that it opens the possibility that the gospel narrative is just a retelling of the Book of Exodus - or at least specifically the narrative starting with the burning bush (where God teaches Moses magic) down through to Passover.  We are not the first to suggest this idea. A number of theses, papers and books have been written on the idea that the gospel writer borrowed themes from Exodus - the most obvious being Matthew's invention of a slaughter of the firstborn.  Yet we are the first to go outside of the four canonical gospels and focus on the material shared in the heretical texts(s) and in specific the gospel of Clement of Alexandria.  Moreover we are the first to notice the two and a half month chronologies held in common by both traditions.

The best effort hitherto to understand the gospel as a product of the Jewish scriptures was one developed by John Bowman of   .Bowman a proper understanding of the Gospel cannot be attained without knowledge of both the Old Testament and post- biblical Jewish sources.20 He is convinced that Scripture is assumed by the author of Mark even in passages where no supporting allusions or quotations appear.  For example, he suggests that the reference to the 'green grass', which implies the spring season, in Mk 6.39 may be significant in strengthening the parallel between the feeding of the 5000 and the giving of the manna to the Israelites   The parallel is based on Exodus Rabba on Exodus 12 which contains a midrash on Cant. 2. 1 1, 'for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.'  The midrash supposedly places the giving of the manna in the spring when the grass would have been present as in the feeding of the 5000. In this respect, the story of the old Exodus is likened to the Gospel story of the new exodus.

Of course Bowman will not go as to argue that the original gospel was developed according to the Samaritan liturgy.  Indeed he isn't even aware of the limitation of the dating of the chronology saying that the "that the feeding of the 5000 is pictured as taking place in April or May. But this was not put in to indicate that the feeding of the 5000 was for a gospel reading in April or May."  Yet this only shows unfamiliarity with the weather in Israel.  For the only possible dating that Mark could have given this even was between January and March which - while technically 'winter' in Israel is the furthest thing from being cold.  The average in Tel Aviv for instance in this period is between 17-22 C in the day and 10-15 at night.

The point of course is that we already know how the chronology of the gospel must have unfolded.  It took place within a fixed liturgy that began basically in January or February and continued through to March or April.  The original gospel story was conceived as running early January to late March.  We already know from the earliest Samaritan liturgy the basic pattern by which Mark constructed his gospel.  The readings typically fall into the following pattern:

Sabbath 1 - Ex 1:1 - 7:8  the burning bush/God teaches Moses signs
Sabbath 2 - Ex 7:9 - 11:10 Moses and Aaron perform the various signs
Sabbath 3 - Ex 12:1 - 18:26 the Exodus/Moses appoints officers
Sabbath 4 - Ex 19:1 - 25:1 Moses ascends Mount Sinai/enters into the cloud
Sabbath 5 - Ex 25:2 - 28:43 sanctification of the utensils
Sabbath 6 - Ex 29:1 - 31:18 appointment of the priesthood
Sabbath 7 - Ex 31:19 - 36:19
Sabbath 8 - Ex 36:20 - 40:38 setting up the tabernacle
               New Years Day
Sabbath 1 - Lev 1.1 - 6.8 burnt offerings
Sabbath 2 - Lev 6:9 - 9:22

Even though the original narrative actually lasts over a year it was compressed into this two and a half month period - the same duration of time that the Samaritans say it took for Moses and Aaron to complete their miracles before Pharaoh.

What we are suggesting is that the Hebrews of the Common Era associated this period with what one might call 'the ministry of Moses and Aaron.'  Mark the evangelist took this basic outline of what happens in a liturgical year and developed a gospel narrative which embodied the 'spirit' of a two and a half month 'event' which formed the basis to the community of Israel.  It cannot be coincidence for instance that the reading from the closing chapter of Exodus takes place on the last Sabbath of the twelfth month.  The setting up of tabernacle is explicitly said to have taken place on the first day of the year which will necessarily follow this reading.

The reader has to be reminded of course that according to the chronology of the Pentateuch, Passover has already taken place.  The tabernacle is set up in the first day of the first month of the following year.  Nevertheless in order to understand the context for Mark's composition of the gospel - Jesus's baptism of Simon on the first of the year represents the establishment of a new 'spiritual' tabernacle or temple which is referenced throughout the writings of Paul.  It can't be coincidence that Simon Magus takes the epithet 'the standing one.'  Clement of Alexandria makes this explicit when he says that God's declaration to Moses to "stand there with Me.” (Ex. 34. 2) is the basis for this title.

We have to begin to see that it is the Exodus narrative - the second book of Moses, just as Mark was assigned the place of the second gospel in the Christian canon - was consciously reworked to make the story of Jesus.  It was from Moses's experience standing beside God in the reading on Sabbath 7 that transformed his flesh.  His very being was radiant.  As has been noted before, the very structure of the baptism ritual of Secret Mark is modeled on Moses's experience on Sinai.  As Mark the Samaritan notes:

When the great prophet Moses erected the Sanctuary, the cloud covered all that he had made, as he said, "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting" (Ex. 40. 34), and the Glory of the Lord dwelt within the veil, and the cloud abode on the Sanctuary many days. A t the time when he says, "Arise, 0 Lord" (Num. x. 35) and "Return, 0 Lord" (Num. x. 36) ; the peace of the Lord be upon him who saw such greatness! There has not arisen and never will arise his like. At the time God said to him, "Come up to me on the mountain" (Deut. x. 1 ; Targ.), when he went up to Him and the cloud covered him for six days, his body was holy and holiness was (thereby) increased. He ascended from human status to that of the angels. He was making supplication during the six days and prostrating before the King of all kings; he saw the Sanctuary of the Unseen spread out in the fire within the cloud. He was called on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud and he saw the ranks of the angels in their array. He descended from the mountain with great might—none like it! In the case of each of these things described there was a great wonder.

Yet the key to making sense of the Samaritan tradition is the understanding that on the seventh day Moses stepped into the fire where God stood.  This is the equivalent to the words in the Secret Gospel "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."

While the Samaritans venerate the actual date of Moses's standing on Sinai in the lead up to Pentecost - as the yom mammad ar Sini or 'Day of Standing on Mount Sinai' the key to making sense of the gospel is to focus on the original readings on the lead up to Passover.  Sabbath 7 is the account of Moses standing in the fire on Sinai but the next and final reading of the liturgy is the establishment of the tabernacle.  This is the reason why Jesus originally began his mission with 'I will destroy this temple and build it again in three days' - the number of days after which Jesus says that he will raise the Son of Man immediately before the baptism of the disciple in Secret Mark.

Mark deliberately establishes the baptism of Simon on New Year's Day of the Hebrew calendar because he is understood to be the new tabernacle, the new temple.  The readings in Exodus have already been building throughout the weeks leading up to this date.  The reading of Exodus chapter 40 on the Sabbath before the first of the year cements the understanding - "the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us."  Indeed it has to be recalled that Mark wasn't the first person to develop a second layer over the Exodus narrative.  The author of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Pentateuch, begins "In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them."  The narrative continues with to the death of Moses which tradition holds occurred on the first of the twelfth month and which was ultimately followed thirty days later with Joshua's cross of the Jordan on the first day of the first month.

Mark's original purpose was to fuse together three absolutely central mystic events into his second baptism narrative - the creation and 'vesting' of cosmic man in fire, the completion of the divine tabernacle and the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land.  Of course the reader may wonder about Mark's literary purpose in developing the various miracle narratives in the two preceding months.  Yet the obvious answer is that Mark developed the Jews as the Egyptians in the new narrative and the destruction of the temple is the equivalent of the escaping from bondage.  Jesus deliberately performs his miracles on Sabbath days.  They are meant to signal the end of the age and the eventual overthrowing of the powers that rule the world.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this understanding. The signs and wonders that Jesus performs are not intended to show that he is the messiah.  The evangelist is absolutely clear about this.  The question has always been - what are they then?  The right answer is found in the narrative's conscious imitation of the Exodus narrative.  God already knows before he descended to earth that the Jews would not turn back from their iniquity.  This is an obvious parallel to the 'hardening of the heart' of Pharaoh of Exodus.  Of course, there are so many theories from so many modern scholars each trying to 'carve a name out' for themselves with published papers and books that the landscape of possibilities becomes utterly cluttered and ultimately quite distracting.  The real question should not be whether the gospel could have been a retelling of the Exodus narrative but rather is there proof that the earliest witnesses from antiquity held this very point of view.

It turns out that every ancient writer argues this very point in some form or other.  If we go back in time starting at Nicaea, the great turning point in Christian identity, we see witnesses such as the Church Father Lactantius for instance making the very same argument quite explicitly:

It is contained in the mysteries of the sacred writings, that a prince of the Hebrews, compelled by want of grain, passed into Egypt with all his family and relatives. And when his posterity, remaining long in Egypt, had increased into a great nation, and were oppressed by the heavy and intolerable yoke of slavery, God smote Egypt with an incurable stroke, and freed His people, leading them through the midst of the sea, when, the waves being cut asunder and parted on either side, the people went over on dry ground. And the king of the Egyptians endeavouring to follow them as they fled, the sea returning to its place, he was cut off, with all his people. And this deed so illustrious and so wonderful, although for the present it displayed to men the power of God, was also a foreshadowing and figure of a greater deed, which the same God was about to perform at the last consummation of the times, for He will free His people from the oppressive bondage of the world. But since at that time the people of God were one, and in one nation only, Egypt only was smitten. But now, because the people of God are collected out of all languages, and dwell among all nations, and are oppressed by those bearing rule over them, it must come to pass that all nations, that is, the whole world, be beaten with heavenly stripes, that the righteous people, who are worshippers of God, may be set free. And as then signs were given by which the coming destruction was shown to the Egyptians, so at the last time wonderful prodigies will take place throughout all the elements of the world, by which the impending destruction may be understood by all nations. [Lactantius Divine Institutes 7:15]

The further we go back through the writings of the Church Father this understanding is strengthened rather than weakened.  From the very beginning of Christianity we find those closest to the original evangelists making the connection between the evangelical narratives and the Book of Exodus.

The interesting thing about Irenaeus of Lyons testimony for instance is that this idea of reading the gospel as a retelling of Exodus was shared by the heretics no less than the orthodox.  In other words, it was always there, it was always the correct interpretation.  Irenaeus only questions how those outside of the Church can claim that Jesus was only a god of love when part of his mandate was to judge the sinners.  He calls to task those who:

call attention with regard to the God who then [in the Exodus narrative] awarded temporal punishments to the unbelieving, and smote the Egyptians, while He saved those that were obedient; these same shall nevertheless repeat themselves in the Lord, who judges for eternity those whom He doth judge, and lets go free for eternity those whom He does let go free: and He shall [thus] be discovered, according to the language used by these men, as having been the cause of their most heinous sin to those who laid hands upon Him, and pierced Him. For if He had not so Come, it follows that these men could not have become the slayers of their Lord; and if He had not sent prophets to them, they certainly could not have killed them, nor the apostles either. To those, therefore, who assail us, and say, If the Egyptians had not been afflicted with plagues, and, when pursuing after Israel, been choked in the sea, God could not have saved His people, this answer may be given;--Unless, then, the Jews had become the slayers of the Lord (which did, indeed, take eternal life away from them), and, by killing the apostles and persecuting the Church, had fallen into an abyss of wrath, we could not have been saved. For as they were saved by means of the blindness of the Egyptians, so are we, too, by that of the Jews; if, indeed, the death of the Lord is the condemnation of those who fastened Him to the cross, and who did not believe His advent, but the salvation of those who believe in Him
In spite of Irenaeus's reassurance that the opinions of these heretics were worthless we have a duty to understand how it was that they could have understood Jesus to have been purely a 'god of love' when the Exodus narrative makes clear that God ultimately destroyed the Egyptians.

Indeed the heretics could not have been ignorant that after Jesus 'gave his signs' to the Jews 'he' destroyed their temple.  This is of course the central irony of the gospel narrative.  Jesus begins by witnessing that 'he is able' to destroy the temple and raise it up again in three days.  This infuriates the Jews who ultimately try him for blasphemy on account of his statement against their house of God in Jerusalem.  As Jesus is hanging from the cross they ridicule him for his claims but in the end, by the time Mark sets about to write the gospel narrative, the outcome of world history is already well known - 'God' ultimately did destroy the offensive building and for the believers at least, established Christian believers as the true tabernacle of the Lord.

So how did Clement of Alexandria reconcile the Exodus narrative with the gospel?  As we have already seen, Jesus is not understood to be 'like Moses' in the sense of a messianic being taking the role of 'leader of the people.'  Instead Jesus is the divine power who instructed Moses, the one who sent 'the apostle' as the Samaritans refer to the historical founder of the nation of Israel.  Clement repeatedly makes clear that he is the angel in the Exodus narrative - the glory - who comes to assist and strengthen Moses:

“For behold,” He says to Moses, “my angel shall go before thee,” representing the evangelical and commanding power of the Word, but guarding the Lord’s prerogative. “In the day on which I will visit them,” [Ex. 32. 33, 34] He says, “I will bring their sins on them; that is, on the day on which I will sit as judge I will render the recompense of their sins.” For the same who is Instructor is judge, and judges those who disobey Him; and the loving Word will not pass over their transgression in silence.

This is an extremely important point which is critical to understand how Mark originally pieced together his narrative from Exodus, preserved in the writings of a representative of his See, the city of Alexandria, a little under a hundred years after his death.  The God who instructed Moses from the burning bush - the one called 'the Being' (ho on), already announced in Exodus will come back to visit humanity at some point in the future in order to blot them out of the book of life owing to their sinfulness.

It is impossible now not to see that the seventy seven day parallel between the instruction of Moses by God from the burning bush and the Passover on the one hand and duration of time between the fire in the water while Jesus stood beside John in the Jordan and the Passion.  Jesus is understood to be the fulfillment of the typology established in Exodus, Moses witnessing signs before Pharaoh serving as a preparation for the coming of God doing the very same thing before the wicked Jews.  Yet it isn't just the miracle workings but rather the essence of the very appeal to Pharaoh - the warning of imminent destruction - which is developed by Mark.

Clement of Alexandria tell us in no uncertain terms that Exodus is being channeled when Jesus warns the Jews with the words:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'

Indeed he writes this is "further, to Moses He says, “Go and tell Pharaoh to send My people forth; but I know that he will not send them forth.” For He shows both things: both His divinity in His foreknowledge of what would take place, and His love in affording an opportunity for repentance to the self-determination of the soul."

In fact, if we look to the sayings where Jesus establishes the missionary work in the gospel there is a very similar logic in terms of the acts of loving kindness being associated with 'a warning.'  For instance when Jesus instructs his disciples - "Where ye enter into a house and are received, say unto them: Peace be with you. And if they are worthy, let your peace come upon them; and if they are not worthy, let your peace return unto you'" this is clearly associated with a threat of destruction upon those who reject the signs being performed.  Nevertheless, as with the case of Jesus's original appeal to Jerusalem, the vengeance is ultimately delayed.  This is undoubtedly how the heretics managed to explain how divine retribution was leveled in spite of Jesus being a 'god of love.'  As the Church Fathers themselves testified about their adversaries, they divided god into two powers, one of mercy and another of judgement after the example of very Jews whom they opposed.

Of course the apparent difficulty in Clement's understanding of the gospel narrative being developed from the pages of Exodus is that it seems absurd to hold that the modern retelling only featured a bodiless spirit.  After all, the Jews ultimately capture Jesus - that is physically laid their hands on him.  He stood in front of the Sanhedrin and was ultimately abused, beaten and crucified.  The question has always been - how could Clement and generations of Alexandrian 'heretics' have understood Jesus to have been a phantom when the gospel narrative so clearly witnesses a physical person undergoing all these travails.  Indeed, the whole notion of a non-existent Jesus seems to contradict the basic foundation of Christian theology.  The new Passover is after all called 'the Passion' or suffering of Christ.  How could an invincible God who had no humanity be understood to have 'suffered' on the cross?

These matters of course must have formed the foundation of the original understanding of Alexandria.  The peculiarity that almost everyone has noticed about Mark 10:34 is that it seems to begin Jesus's commitment to establish a human sacrificial offering.  “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”  The establishment of the 'Son of Man' - a semi-divine figure Mark appropriated from the writings of the prophet Daniel - has to be related to the baptism of Simon which follows.

Indeed when a human being who appeared in Jesus's form before the Jews at the Sanhedrin he confirms the connection in chapter 14 of the same gospel.  As Clement himself notes:

Now, in the Gospel according to Mark, the Lord being interrogated by the chief of the priests if He was the XS, the Son of the blessed God, answering, said, "I am;  and ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power."  But powers mean the holy angels. Further, when He says "at the right hand of God," He means the self-same [beings], by reason of the equality and likeness of the angelic and holy powers, which are called by the name of God. He says, therefore, that He sits at the right hand; that is, that He rests in pre-eminent honour. In the other Gospels, however, He is said not to have replied to the high priest, on his asking if He was the Son of God. But what said He? "You say." Answering sufficiently well. For had He said, It is as you understand, he would have said what was not true, not confessing Himself to be the Son of God; [for] they did not entertain this opinion of Him; but by saying "You say," He spake truly. For what they had no knowledge of, but expressed in words, that he confessed to be true.

Once again we see a confirmation of the basic pattern.  Clement understands that all of the gospels confirm that Jesus is the Son of God.  Yet who is this 'Son of Man' and why does Jesus always reference him in the third person?

This 'problem of the Son of Man' has plagued scholarship on the New Testament ever since it began.  The great German scholar Rudolf Bultmann argued that Mark's allusion to the 'Son of Man' was to a figure other than Jesus.  Bultmann suggested that the early church subsequently merged “Jesus” and “Son of Man,” understanding them to be one and the same. The early church thus invented the application of the term to Jesus.  In the case of Clement of Alexandria, the appellation is consistently applied to a divine figure.  This was true with Daniel's original use of the terminology which

I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man (kibar 'anash), and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

The point of course is that the 'Son of Man' in Daniel is an enthroned being who takes to be established on that chair by means of his crucifixion.  Perhaps this is the reason that Mark makes John and James also speak about them also being enthroned alongside the Son of Man in Mark 10:35.

Since of course Clement speaks of Jesus initiating Peter 'as in a mirror' the idea is already present that the purpose of the second baptism ritual on the very day the androgynous 'cosmic Adam' was formed was to refashion humanity after Jesus's image.  At its most extreme, the argument must have been presented that Jesus made Simon into his substitute at this rite.  So it is that we have Mark's gospel - even its present form - reference the fact that Simon carried the cross.  Moreover the Church Father Epiphanius makes reference to the claim of some Alexandrians who followed Simon, that Simon was crucified in the place of Jesus.  Indeed Irenaeus makes explicit allusion to the notion that 'the Gospel of Mark' originally held the notion that such a substitution took place.

If we return to our original discussion of the liturgy it can't be coincidence that the Samaritan readings immediately following the first of the year have to do with the rules regarding burnt offerings. The reading on the first Sabbath of the first month specifies that they "are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord."  Not only is the offering done for atonement - an idea repeatedly discussed in the Pauline interpretation of the crucifixion - but the importance of washing the offering and then placing it in fire for purification.   It is important to mention that these burnt offerings are requirements for any individual who has knowingly or unknowingly violated the various ordinances Moses received while at Sinai.  One had to have enough money to provide the appropriate animal for atonement.

The readings of the second Sabbath of the first month - and the last Sabbath before Passover - tell the story of Aaron and his sons carrying out the rules of sacrifice for the first time.  Of course the readings form a natural progression from the sabbaths of miracles because the discussion is building toward the annual slaughter which secured the Exodus in 'liturgical time.'  The very act of carrying out the first sacrifices also establishes the priesthood.   Yet above all else there is an underlying obsession with fire which is the most essential part of the atonement ritual.  "Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown."

It is difficult to overstate the Samaritan obsession with fire which of course carries over to the Patristic reports about Simon Magus.  These ideas carry over to Mark the Samaritans interpretation of the Pentateuch, the organization of the liturgy and ultimately - as noted - the arrangement of the Christian gospel by another Mark.  Mark notes that:

Fire glorified him [Moses] seven tines: fire's first dealing with him was on Mount Sinai at the beginning of his prophetic mission; it was revealed to him in the Bush; from it call was made by name twice—"Moses, Moses" (Ex. iii. 4)—a great wonder the like of which has never been in the world and never will be! From the fire he was called on the morning of the day of Horeb, from the top of Mount Sinai in the presence of six hundred thousand; fire flaming up to the heart of heaven, as he said, "While the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven" (Deut. iv. 1 1 ) ; then he trod in it with his feet and was not harmed by it; it was like a plant with the dew of heaven on it under his feet; in the holy Sanctuary, when a priest offered the offering for Aaron and his sons, fire went forth from the Lord and consumed all that he had put upon the altar (Lev. ix. 24)

The point of course is that even though fire is not specifically referenced in either the text of Secret Mark or Clement's analysis of the text, we know that it was part of the ritual based on what the Church Fathers tell us about 'heretics' who take a special interest in this section of the gospel of Mark.  As we noted in our previous chapter, we are told that in and around Mark 10:35 the traditions outside of the Catholic Church acknowledged that there was some kind of 'missing narrative' which referenced a second baptism of fire.  The rediscovery of this lost piece of the original gospel narrative ultimately helps make sense of how the gospel narrative developed from the Samaritan liturgy given, as we have just noted, that in the immediate lead up to Passover the burnt offering theme clearly pertains to the disciple baptized by Jesus in Secret Mark.

It cannot be overstated how important it is to pay close attention to the natural progression in the Samaritan liturgy.  It literally goes from Sinai, to the establishment of the tabernacle, to instructions about burnt offerings, to Moses and Aaron carrying out the first offerings in the fully operation tabernacle and then in the week that follows in 'liturgical time' the re-enactment of the Paschal sacrifice which has the deliberate emphasis of the significance of fire.  The Passover reading from Exodus 12 goes:

This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs.  Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

What has to be recognized is that the weekly Sabbath readings are being layered on top an already established cycle of rituals and memorials related to the Passover lamb.  Not only is the fourteenth the day of sacrifice, the tenth the day of selection but moreover it is well established that the first day of the same month was the day Moses and Aaron received the instructions for the first time about carrying out the sacrifice of lambs.

In other words, what the reader should notice is that there was a complex intertwining of multiple layers of narrative within the Samaritan liturgy long before the introduction of Mark's gospel.  To recapitulate - not only was there the original two and half month cycle from the burning bush to the first Passover and the original attempt to establish a priesthood leading up to the establishment of the tabernacle and the first 'reenactment' of that sacrifice by a 'professional' priesthood but also the narrative of Deuteronomy-Joshua which retells the two and a half month period leading up to the first celebration of Passover in the Promised Land.  There were even deeper mythical layers within this continuum - the creation of Adam on the first, Abraham's attempt at sacrifice on the fourteenth - the gospel narrative only represents a final 'completion' of this ancient cycle with God returning to earth at the beginning of the sacred two and a half month period and ultimately establishing an unblemished male offering to replace the system of animal sacrifices.

It is often said that Mark had to replace the original religion of Moses owing to the new political realities - i.e. the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE.  Yet what is often overlooked is the fact that nowhere in the Pentateuch is there any reference to a requirement for a standing temple.  The tabernacle described in Exodus was a portable structure whose specifications were easy enough for Jewish people to recreate in light of the loss of their holy structure on mount Zion.  The Samaritans continue to this day to carry out sacrifices.  The point then is that a decision was made by the authorities in the era immediately following the destruction that the era of sacrifices had come to an end.  It was not mandated by a need for a physical building.

So it is in fact inaccurate to say that sacrifices had to end with the razing of the Jewish temple.  Mark seems to have latched on to a popular contemporary movement against such physical buildings.  Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles is another mouthpiece for this point of view.  Yet scholars have always lost sight of the fact that the sectarian group most clearly associated with this notion were an otherwise obscure Samaritan sect called 'the Dositheans' presumably named after individual named Dositheus.  The Dositheans have a murky past but consistently identified with ritual baptism and early Christian sectarianism.  Simon Magus is even connected with the founder.  Indeed all that we can say for certain is that Dositheans seem to have been centered in Alexandria, were probably a Greek-speaking community there continuing to exist there into the Muslim conquest.

The fourteenth century Samaritan chronicler Abu'l Fath lists over a half dozen different sects of Dositheans.  It is difficult not to see Mark at least appropriating some of their ideas in his gospel.  This reliance may well explain at least in part why the gospel of Mark seems to develop from a Samaritan liturgy.  Yet there is also no doubt that Mark introduced a mystical doctrine of love to replace the system of sacrifices.  We have already seen the Patristic references to a longer gospel of Mark which incorporated 'Empedoclean' ideas into its narrative.  This is clearly the same text as Clement ascribed to

To this end when we take a second look at Mark's re-imagining of the traditional sacrificial liturgy in terms of a single paradigmatic human 'sin offering' it is impossible not to see that he grabbed hold of another thread within the Exodus narrative

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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