Friday, May 18, 2012

The New Seventh Chapter of the Myth of Jesus Christ

Love is the strangest of emotions.  It proudly declares itself to be the most selfless and the most selfish of the passions all at the same time.  With such an inherently contradictory state it is no wonder that scholars who are raised as Christians have such difficulties accepting how far removed we actually are as individuals from the original culture of earliest Christianity.  These people long for the certainty of their ancestors while at the same time feel burdened by the weight of critical objectivity.  In the end they settle for the mean or if you will, the assumption that Christians and Christianity should be representative of 'ordinary experience.'  That is, Jesus the man and his movement to make the world more rational and at the same time more compassionate.

Yet the actual sense that one gets from the earliest sources provides the exact opposite portrait of Christian origins.  We cannot help but sense a wholly supernatural experience throbbing at the core of the religion like an over-sized heart in a withered old body.   There are intense emotions which crack the surface of a supposedly cool, calm and collected facade.   The earliest Christians didn't just 'confess' Jesus or turn to accept his teachings.  They longed for him with a yearning that rivaled the most intense erotic obsessions.

In order to get to that understanding of course the historian will have had to have followed a literary thread through an entire tradition - even a school like that in Alexandria which deliberately tried to obscure itself to outsiders.  Indeed even if we assume that perhaps a thousand people have actually followed the transformation of Alexandrian Christianity through its earliest heretical representatives down to the fourth and fifth century attempts at purification, it is rarer still to find scholars who aren't already cheering for the co-opted form of the religion.

To this end there is an unconscious tendency to bury or ignore what is strange about the first four centuries of Christianity at the expense of what is familiar.  For instance in the fourth century we find an unmistakable Imperial effort to reshape the Christian experience in favor of a clear political agenda.  This doesn't mean that there weren't similar efforts before Nicaea, but rather what happened in the fourth century was the most effective.  It forever redefined all that came before it, and so for instance we see a great number of fourth and fifth century figures literally reworking the testimonials from Alexandria in the previous centuries to purge them of what was claimed to be 'recent' corruptions.[1]

In light of all of this falsifying of the historical record it is amazing that we continue to see the lasting perpetuation of the original testimonials of Christian Alexandria - albeit in a re-packaged form.  The clearest example of this is of course the brother-making rite called 'adelphopoiia' or 'adelphopoeisis' which manifests itself in the twilight of Byzantine rule in the Near East.  The re-emergence of this rite has been linked to a circle of 'Origenist' monks who fled persecution in Alexandria and Egypt in the late fourth century to settle in Palestine at the beginning of the fifth century.  Yet there are other signs, usually ignored, which argue for a more direct connection between this rite and the circle of Alexandrian writers reverenced by these ascetics (i.e. Clement, Origen, Didymus the Blind etc.).

The difficulty has always been both the quantity and quality of testimonials from Alexandria.  As it stands now we have available to us a little more than a dozen figures from the first four centuries of the tradition's development.  The Emperor Constantine ordered all documents associated with the purest expression of Alexandrianism (= Arianism) to thrown into the fire and made possession of such texts a capital offense.  All that survives down to our times are not the original form of any of these treatises but texts which were systematically altered to conform to this Imperial edict.  Even then theologians for the next hundred years after Nicaea argued over the best way to salvage the original Alexandrian legacy in ever more corrupt and co-opted forms.  These disputes were carried out in public with all parties secretly being aware of the actual unspoken truth.  They were all engaged in an elaborate charade, cowering in fear of the whim of a constantly changing political landscape.

In order for us to know the truth about the earliest period of Christianity in Alexandria we have to somehow grow wings to carry us up and beyond the dishonest crypto-religious landscape that was taking shape in the post-Nicene Church.  On the one hand we have to find a way to get up close and personal with the second and third century sources knowing full well that what has been handed down to us was altered by the likes of Eusebius of Caesarea, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Rufinus of Aquila, Jerome and countless others.  Yet each of us cannot help feel hopelessly lost in this seemingly impossible task given how many layers there were to this original corrupting effort.

Strangely, even here the oldest of Christian truths seems to offer us hope.  Love - and specifically coming to terms with what love means in Christianity - may well be the answer. It has always been true that the only path to really getting to know someone is intimacy.  At its simplest, there is no more fundamental expression of being intimate than nakedness.  This is why unclothing oneself is a fundamental mystic concept in Christianity.  Yet even in a worldly sense we see business people seeking out intimacy through meeting contacts in casual social settings.  Romantic couples often consider getting introduced to the family of one's beloved a deeper expression of intimacy than sex.

It is for this reason that if we pick up our study of the term philia from the last chapter that we deem 'intimacy' to perfectly capture its meaning in antiquity.  In the classical model philia was used to denote preferential attachment.  The evangelist must have been drawing from an already established interest in philia in the Greek philosophical tradition.  Plato celebrated pair-bonding as the keystone of happiness and the focus of personal desire (epithymia). Aristotle spoke more of shared goals and morals than desire, but he kept things personal.  Philia, in his view, was grounded in intimacy and reciprocity. It reached its pinnacle among pairs of true philoi (friends), ideally those of equal status and virtue.

Expressions of philia, however, were not limited to particularist bonding. Fourth-century clerics, the term carried gradations of meaning. From philosophers and sophists, philia acquired a communal aspect.   Inspired by the shared imitation of a teacher, philosophic philia was supposed to be as intimate as erotic love— and just as strong.  By the fifth century, Christian leaders spoke of the communal philia of monastic communities.  They also spoke of their own philia with clerical subordinates (and superiors). Yet reciprocal friendship remained an important connotation, especially when bishops wrote one another.  Notionally bishops were all men of elite rank, bound by shared morals and learning. eir geographical scattering required letters, which expressed the mutual goodwill central to Christian identity.

The point is that we have a very curious situation where the specific term philia is identified as being present in the original 'longer gospel' composed by Mark and still in the hands of heretics but that terminology is now not only entirely removed from the narrative but perhaps more significantly almost totally erased from the entire New Testament canon.  Was this an accident?  We have already noted that the related term 'friend' is still present in what is now called 'the Gospel according to John.'  Nevertheless the widespread use of philia in Christian literature of all periods suggests that something of the original theology - later deemed subversive and dangerous - survived an overt attempt at censorship.

What could possibly have encouraged such an effort?   As we have already noted the later Christian use of the term philia was consistent with pagan culture dating back to the time of Socrates.  Clement of Alexandria and the authorities that came after him repeatedly employs philia in their writings to denote an ideal state of Christian love.  All the people in this tradition were Platonists and their writings betray awareness of the tradition associated with this Greek philosopher using the terminology in a particularly nuanced fashion.

Plato engages in a linguistic analysis of philia in Republic (5.474c-475c) which was again highly influential in the development of the gospel.  Speaking first of the "love of young men" Plato defines philia as meaning "appreciation." He distinguishes this from erotic attachment to some particular man by going back to his theory of ideas.  In Christian terms, my love of my brother goes back to idea of God shining through his example.  In the words of the evangelist, 'see your brother, see your God.'

We can say that for Plato philia is likened to the love of red wine, be it a good Cabernet or Merlot, appreciating the different virtues of each. When one feels passion for a particular vintage from a particular vineyard and find it like no other, one moves into erotic territory.  In his discourse then Plato starts with philia for red wine generally as an example for all examples of this kind of love. As Plato puts it (Rep. 475b), "philia of X" implies an appetite (epithumia) for all x, so that a wine lover feels philia for all kinds of wine. To have a favorite X, one must like the sort of being that X is. Historian James Davidson, perhaps hyperbolically  likens the "-philia" suffix to the "-oholic", so that a "chocoholic" would be someone who enjoys all kinds of chocolate and whose life would feel incomplete without it.

With regard to the difference between philia and eros, it must be noted that philia can refer to love of an individual — someone who is one's friend, parent, sibling, or other close family member. It would be odd to use eros to describe, say, filial affection (Symposium 199d).   As Arthur Adkins says about philia between individuals, it "encompasses all cooperative relationships" and it, unlike eros, is "not overcome by passion" Eros applies to one's relation to a lover or object of libidinal release.   For example, a foot fetishist might be a friend (in the sense of philia) to women's feet in general, which would be different from feeling desire (eras) for a particular lover's feet. Philia, arguably, ranges over a broader semantic field.

Of course, as we have already noted, we have already been informed that the Gospel of Mark originally contained this terminology.  Given that this text no longer exists, we settled upon a topic study of Clement of Alexandria's use of the terminology in our last chapter.  Yet it is important to note that there are continuing examples of the trickling down in this original interest in divine philia into the crypto-Christianity of the fourth century.  One important enclave where Alexandrian Christianity seems to have survived with particular intensity was in the far off region of Pontus on the shore of the Black Sea in what is today northern Turkey.  A particularly rich and influential disciple of the neo-Alexandrian enclave in Palestine in the early third century named Gregory (aka Theodore) established an important presence there that seems to have continued into the fourth century.

A grandchild of one of Gregory/Theodore's original converts was named after this famed wonder worker and ultimately wrote a long treatise called the Life of Moses which concludes with a panegyric praising Moses for his exemplification of the Christian idea of philia:

Since the goal of the virtuous way of life is the very thing we have been seeking, it is time for you, noble friend, to be know by God and to become His friend. This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things of which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God's friendship (philia) as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God's friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life.

What is so significant about Gregory of Nyssa's testimony is that it confirms something that we already noticed in our last chapter - namely that original Alexandrian interest in the gnostic path to salvation seems to develop through the description of Moses in the Book of Exodus.  Indeed we can even take that one step further - the gospel itself is nothing more than a mythical adaptation of this same example of Moses in the second book of the Pentateuch.

When we try and trace the origins of this understanding of Moses as the exemplar of divine philia in Alexandria, the obvious place to start is with Philo.  This Jewish writer continues to mine the original Platonic definition of philia's relation to eros saying Moses loved (erastheis) the love of man (philanthrôpia) as none other had.   Philo redirects Platonic erôs to thé human world, rather than to thé lofty world of Forms. The Pentateuch does not tell us to contemplate thé forms of justice and goodness, but rather to establish these ideas in the world around us.  Moses’ own life, as a man of 'love of man through fellowship' (philanthrôpia kai koinônia Virt 80), is the concrete archetype of these virtues, grounded in his unique koinônia with the Creator (Exod 20, 21), which allows him to share the title ‘God’ (Mos 1:158; cf. Exod 4, 16; 7, 1)

Philo redirects attention from the philosophical logos of virtues to the empsychos logos represented by a virtuous man. Again, when the philia of Moses for Joshua is described as the result of erôs ouranios, truly divine, from which all virtue springs (Virt 55), the power of the Platonic language of erôs is recuperated for the biblical value of koinônia.  "And the clearest proof of what I have said may be afforded by the following consideration. He had a friend and pupil, one who had been so almost from his very earliest youth, Joshua by name, whose friendship (philia) he had won, not by any of the arts which are commonly in use among other men, but by that heavenly and unmixed love (eros) from which all virtue is derived. This man lived under the same roof, and shared the same table with him, except when solitude was enjoined to him on occasions when he was inspired and instructed in divine oracles. He also performed other services for him in which he was distinguished from the multitude, being almost his lieutenant, and regulating in conjunction with him the matters relating to his supreme authority."

This example of Moses essentially mystically establishing Joshua as his successor through divine philia is not the first example of this process.  Philo makes many cryptic references to the original Alexandrian interpretation of the encounter between Moses and Aaron.  We have already noted that nothing in the Pentateuch narrative which would suggest that Moses actually knew about his relation to Aaron.  This was clearly interpreted originally as a brother-making exercise - the two men were joined together in divinely established philia.  This pairing was always understood to have a deep mystical significance.  Philo of Alexandria likens the two to the roles of mind (nous) and reason (logos) in heaven.[2]  He says that nous is to logos as thought speaking is to thought spoken (or word), or even as a silent well-spring to a babbling brook.[3]

This understanding of Aaron as the logos almost certainly explains why this 'younger brother' is explicitly identified as 'the interpreter' of Moses's word.  Philo paraphrases God's words in Exodus chapter 4 as:

Who gave man a mouth and formed his tongue and throat and all the organs of reasonable speech?. .. Fear not, for at a sign from me, all will become that none can hinder the stream of words from flowing easily and smoothly from a fountain undefiled. .. If you need an interpreter, have in thy brother a mouth (Vit. Mos. 1.84)

This understanding is perfectly mirrored in the Targums, the Aramaic translations of the Pentateuch which survive to this day.  Instead of saying that Aaron will be Moses's mouth or his prophet, the Targums say that he will be Moses's interpreter-translator (meturgeman).  Pharaoh and the Israelites did not speak Hebrew and so Aaron's role was to 'interpret' Moses's divine words so they could be properly understood.

Of course the original understanding of Philo holds that Aaron was a mystic. God is understood as telling Moses "you shall suggest to him conceptions which are in no respect different from divine language and divine arguments ... and he shall interpret thy conceptions."  Philo never explains the circumstances of their family relation settling instead for mystical language such as “for one rational nature being the mother of them both, it follows of course that the offspring are brothers.” Indeed scholars are often handcuffed by the language of Alexandrian Judaism. They treat allegory as mere ‘poetic exaggeration’ when in fact it is consistently used by Philo and those who read him – members of the Alexandrian Christian tradition certainly – as a means of expressing inexpressible mystical conceptions.

The more one looks at the language that Philo uses to describe their relationship it is apparent that Aaron was understood to have been brought in to serve in a role much like the ‘apostles’ of Christ. Moses, the image of God, needed a ‘spokesman’ and so God chose Aaron to be his brother:

and making him (Moses) perfect in them by the election of Aaron who was the brother of Moses, and whom he was accustomed to call his mouth-piece, and interpreter, and Prophet [Exodus 7:1]. For all these attributes belong to speech (logos), which is the brother of the intellect (nous); for the intellect is the fountain of words, and speech is its mouth-piece, because all the conceptions which are entertained in the mind are poured forth by means of speech, like streams of water which flow out of the earth, and come into sight. And speech is an interpreter of the things which the mind has decided upon in its tribunal. Moreover, it is a prophet and a soothsayer of those things which the mind unceasingly pours forth as oracles from its inaccessible and invisible retreats.

Some of course might want to read Philo’s mystical interpretation of their meeting as something essentially silly layered on top of a literal reading of the original material. Yet the original account of Exodus is so bizarre in itself that it is difficult to believe this. Philo has merely explained away the ambiguities of the narrative by saying that the author wants us to take their conjunction as union of mystical significance – a representation of the functioning of the heavenly household.

Indeed a little later the mystic truth becomes a little clearer when he pushes aside the literal meaning and notes “but as for the deeper meaning, there are two brothers in one – the mind and the word. Now Moses, who is called by another name, mind (ho nous), has obtained the better part, namely God, whereas the word, which is called Aaron, the lesser which is man.” This pairing of Moses and Aaron bears striking similarities to that traditionally understood to exist between St Peter and St Mark.  For reasons that are never explained, the Gospel of Mark is understood to go back to Peter.  Mark, it is said, was his 'interpreter' (hermeneutes).[3]  If Mark was originally understood to be Aaron in this pairing, it is not difficult to find countless examples of Peter assuming the role of Moses.

In one fourth century tradition with ties to Jewish Christianity Jesus is understood to have accused the scribes and Pharisees "with hiding the key of knowledge which they had handed down to them from Moses, by which the gate of the heavenly kingdom might be opened."[4]  It is in light of this original saying that Matthew 16:19 blessing of Peter "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" should be understood.  It is an acknowledgement that Peter is a second Moses, or in the terminology of the fourth century text 'the true Prophet.'[5]

According to the Roman tradition, Peter was considered to be the official guarantor of this inheritance, the person with whom Jesus had stipulated the deed of passage of the promises of God from the synagogue to the church.  It should be noted that the second most common sarcophagus scene shows Peter, like Moses, bringing water out of the rock.  We also see in the ancient iconographical tradition, Peter placed next to Moses, who, by giving the Jewish people the tablets of the law, was considered the founder of Judaism.  Peter, like Moses, assumed the role of legal representative of the new religious reality of the Christians, indeed the role of true founder for the churches. In this same perspective, when the iconography presents Moses opposite Jesus to indicate the two founders, Peter either sits or stands at the right of Jesus, in the role of his representative.

Of course the pairing of Peter and Mark, while fundamental to Christianity is ultimately wholly legendary.  We have no independent confirmation regarding how or if they actually saw themselves in this light.  To the same end Peter and Paul are similarly identified as Moses and Aaron as early as the fourth century.[6]  Because early Christian art regularly paralleled Peter with Moses (especially in Rome), Paul naturally came to be aligned with Aaron.  In the apocryphal literary traditions the meeting of the two apostles in Rome is always liked to the encounter in Exodus 4:27.

We can see Paul's likeness to Aaron in various apocryphal accounts.  After Paul arrives in Rome, he appeals to the Jews (who had objected to Peter's teachings about the law) to be obedient to Peter.  The Jews are clearly the Egyptians and Peter the second Moses. Similarly when Peter and Paul finally met in person, they exchanged the kiss of peace from the Agape.  As the Blackwell Companion on Paul notes "art historians, noting the apostles' frequent pairing, have suggested possible iconographic prototypes, including Rome's other founding duo, Romulus and Remus."  The motif, usually referred to as the concordia apostolorum, shows them embracing (like the tetrarchs), presumably at their first Roman reunion.

The  Blackwell Companion on Paul adds that "an early (fourth-century) version of this motif was discovered in the recent excavations of the catacomb of the “ex-vigna Chiaraviglio, ” near the Basilica of San Sebastiano, possibly associated with the memoria to the apostles at that site.  Two palm trees, standing on either side of the apostles, attest to their coming martyrdom as they lock arms in greeting. Another early example of this theme, on an early fifth-century ivory belt buckle discovered beneath the cathedral of Castellammare di Stabia (30 km southeast of Naples), shows the two leaning in toward one another, their cheeks touching and their arms entwined. This particular composition may have been influenced by a painting in Rome's fourth-century basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura (destroyed  by fire in 1823). Here, Paul and Peter's meeting was the final fresco on the north wall, ending a series of forty episodes on the life of Paul and concluding a biblical cycle that made brotherhood one of its unifying themes by depicting Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and Moses and Aaron. One of the scenes of Moses and Aaron portrayed the two brothers embracing – perhaps an intentional allusion to the concordia apostolorum."

Indeed at the very moment the paintings were being completed, Gaudentius of Brescia (ca. 390) preserved the same ideas in writing.  Gaudentius emphasized the analogous, fraternal relationships, citing the line of Psalm 133:1, “Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity" and even called them “twins,” born from one womb, and “blood brothers,” siblings by a communion of blood.[7]  Indeed the earliest identification of the pair with Moses and Aaron appears in the Second Epistle of Clement on Virginity perhaps dating to the second century.  The chaste apostles are likened to Moses and Aaron whose only "conduct and living was with men, who themselves also followed a course of conduct like theirs. And thus did Joshua also, the son of Nun. Woman was there none with them; but they by themselves used holily to minister before God, men with men."[8]

We can find examples which perpetuated the brother-making rite associated with Moses and Aaron in every century.  Hippolytus tells us of a certain Noetus who claimed to be Moses and his brother Aaron.  The interest in the Book of Exodus was not passing.  We are also told that they seek to exhibit the foundation for their dogma by citing the words, " I am the God of your fathers" and "ye shall have no other gods beside me" [Exodus 3:6, 20:3]  Moreover the pair are scorned because they died within a short span of one another "but not in glory like Moses; nor was his brother buried with honor like Aaron. They were cast out as transgressors, and none of the godly would lay them out for burial."  This is a clear echo of the sentiment of Jude with respect to the promises of the Agape.

It is impossible to believe that this early Christian interest in the pair of Moses and Aaron and Jesus's sending out of pairs of apostles were unrelated.  As we have noted there was an early love rite which began with a kiss and which proceeded to nakedness and baptism which must have been the original brother-making rite in the Christian community.  It is said for instance in more than one gnostic work that the unlike human sexuality the heavenly beings are created from kissing - "for it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in one another."  In another text these heavenly beings come forth through the philia of Father and Son - "those which exist have come forth from the Son and the Father like kisses, because of the multitude of some who kiss one another with a good, insatiable thought, the kiss being a unity, although it involves many kisses."

So too the second century Gospel of Truth similarly speaks of the production of 'emanations' through kissing:

all the emanations of the Father are pleromas and the root of all his emanations is in the one who made them all grow up in himself. He assigned them their destinies. Each one, then, is manifest, in order that through their own thought <...>. For the place to which they send their thought, that place, their root, is what takes them up in all the heights, to the Father. They possess his head, which is rest for them, and they are supported, approaching him, as though to say that they have participated in his face by means of kisses. 

The idea at the root of all of this once again is that the divine philia of nous (Father) and logos (Son) is productive force behind the Agape.  This idea couldn't have been established so early in Semitic Christianity without it being a pre-existent concept in Judaism or some Hebrew tradition before the beginning of this sectarian movement.
As it turns out the source of Agape rite is to be found in the traditional Samaritan interpretation of the first meeting of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 4:27).  The Samaritans are an ancient culture with the consistently oldest living interpretation of the Pentateuch.  It has long been identified as the source of gnostic thought in no small part owing to Simon Magus, the chief of the heretics original status as a Samaritan.  As always the Samaritan interpretation of scripture is rooted in the cryptic source of all their hermeneutics - a shadowy figure named Mark (Marqe) whose writings bear a striking similarity to those of Philo of Alexandria.

In Mark's systematic interpretation of Exodus, the coming together of Moses and Aaron is described as a conjunction - a term from the study of astrology.  Moses is the embodiment of the sun and Aaron the moon and the day of their conjoining represents the head of days, the beginning of the year.  The symbolic meaning of sun and moon also represents a cosmic force of love as Mark paraphrases Exodus 4:27 in the following terms "how good to see them embracing there, between them great joy, the one kissing the other with tears in their eyes, having double love for one another."  After Aaron's death Moses's kiss on the face of Aaron's son Eleazar seems to establish him in his father's place "He looked at Eleazar, situated on his right. He kissed his face and said to him, 'My brother's son, O power of the Lord, O inheritor of the high priesthood, you are exalted above the status of ordinary priesthood which you have inherited, and your actions will take place in the holy Sanctuary and you will be worthy of that.'"[10]

The term translated here as 'power' (shultan) is also used by Mark for the angelic equivalent of the Greek logos (Mimar Marqe 2:11, 5.1)  This is yet another example of Mark's Samaritan tradition agreeing with the theology of Philo, the high priest being here established as the earthly equivalent of the heavenly logos.  Yet the important thing again is to give proper attention that this begetting is established through a kiss.  There is something even more significant about the Samaritan interpretation of this passage.  The Samaritans differ from the surviving Jewish tradition in that they develop their calendar system from astronomical calculations of the ‘conjunction’ of the moon and the sun rather than mere observation of new moons.  Nevertheless, in spite of this, there is evidence that the original Jewish communities originally agreed with the Samaritan method of calculating the start of the year.

So let's stand back from this conception and break it down for our readership once again.  The Hebrew calendar begins with the coming together or conjunction (= tzimmut) of the sun and the moon.  For reasons no one has ever been able to explain this astrological phenomenon was likened to the coming together or conjunction of Moses and Aaron in Exodus 4:27 in the Samaritan tradition for as long as anyone can remember.  The interest in the mystical conjunction of the sun and moon is reinforced by the fact that Samaritan holiday is centrally concerned with the collection of the half-shekel tax which is due by the first of the year.  Nevertheless because the Samaritans had to prepare for the exact date of the first day of the year the tzimmut holiday is actually celebrated a month and a half before New Years day, once all the astrological calculations have determined the exact start of the calendar. [11]

Perhaps the best way to understand the Samaritan celebration of Tzimmut is that of being the memorializing of the 'conjoining' of Moses and Aaron, a foreshadowing of conjoining of the sun and the moon for the year of the redemption of Israel.  There is something inherently prophetic about the conception.  Israel was still in bondage but God had established the means for the people's liberation by means of the making of these two men brothers.  In the lead up to the New Year Moses and Aaron will go before Pharaoh and perform signs right up to the first year.  This will culminate in the slaughter of the firstborn and the Passover sacrifice and the sign of the cross-like letter tav which would set in motion entry into the land of milk and honey.  Yet for the moment, in the liturgical memorial of the conjoining of Moses and Aaron we are merely anticipating that 'year of favor.'

As noted above the term tzimmut was an established astrological terminology for which the Greek synodos or ‘coming together' was its scientific equivalent.  It should be also clear to the reader that synodos was also an important ecclesiastic terminology in its own right in later Christianity.  When the Emperor Constantine asked the warring rival bishops of Alexandria Alexander and Arius to reconcile he wrote to them "the great God and Saviour of us all has extended to all the common light. Under his providence, allow me, his servant, to bring this effort of mine to a successful issue; that by my exhortation, ministry, and earnest admonition, I may lead you, his people, back to unity of communion (synodou koinonian)."  So too we see the Samaritan Mark speaks of Moses use the equivalent astronomical Aramaic term tzimmut to describe the coming together of Moses and Aaron.

Moses and Aaron are “two great lights” who “will illumine the congregation of Israel.”  They are understood to go down into Egypt like the two angels who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, they were “like two lights, their faces giving light in Pharaoh's abode,” “two lights shone among the stars of Sarah and Abraham.” (1.6) He speaks of them as 'conjoined' as heavenly spheres - “O magnificent ones, as I have united the two of you in goodness, so you shall be united as one in uprightness … I have vested you (Moses) with my name and I have vested him (Aaron) with yours"(1.9) and again "the two of them were united in perfection and at various places unions took place for them in their mission to Pharaoh.” (3.1) and "when the two were joined together, when the world was magnified” (4.4) and again "excellent these two, their glory fills the earth and heavens!” [12]

The Samaritan Mark has transformed the very meeting of Moses and Aaron as a symbol of the new year of favor which is to come.  Yet because Mark established the living liturgy of the Samaritan religion that continues to this day, the fifteenth day of the eleventh month has continued to memorialize both the conjunction of brothers and the anticipation of the coming Passover.  The thirteenth century poem by Aaron ben Maner is developed from these ideas first established by Mark and is still sung each Zimmot of Passover.  Here we see in most explicit terms Aaron’s meeting with Moses literally described as the moon being drawn into the fire of the sun:

Listen to my words,
Beautiful and heavy words,
Coming from full heart,
And the Almighty supports it,
My words will inform you,
what is quickly done,
Between the Man that testify,
The Great Prophet,
When Aaron went out to meet him,
With happiness and greatness,
He raised his eyes from far,
Saw an honored light,
Hid the light of the sun,
Like a flame of fire,
He said: Is it an Angel?
Or Prophet? or a king? or a obedience?
And he was wondering in his heart,
Could not stand still.
And the Angel of God said to him
With an honorable way,
Aaron, He is you brother Moses,
That promoted and honored,
Go forward and greet him,
And kiss his hand.
Aaron went towards Moses
And bowed down before him,
Saying to him, Hello my brother Moses,
The honorable man,
Hello the messenger of the Almighty
The Slave of the Almighty,
Hello the Man of the Almighty,
That his hand was raised,
I never expected to see your face,
And be hold the Almighty let us meet,
Today is between you and me,
In happiness and kindness,
Today the Will
Established in it,
The meeting of Aaron and his brother,
The meeting of kind with kind
The meeting of the moon and sun,
Meeting of teacher with teacher.
There Aaron prayed,
And honored and praised,
And said: The World Creator,
Should be bowed to the Almighty.
And the Angels Commented and said:
The Almighty is King and the world witness.
In no uncertain terms then
When Aaron went out to meet him,
With happiness and greatness,
He raised his eyes from far,
Saw an honored light,
Hid the light of the sun,
Like a flame of fire.

There is a reason then that Jesus was understood to have sent out pairs of disciples.  There is a reason why Peter and Mark and Peter and Paul were likened to Moses and Aaron and why the heretics of the Epistle of Jude connect their 'corrupt' Agape rituals to the transformation of Moses in Exodus.  The gospel and the liturgy of earliest Christianity was developed from Samaritanism.

We are of course only at a preliminary stage in our understanding of what was being celebrated in that religion.  Nevertheless the reader should begin to see that there is a reason why Moses and Aaron are so important to the early tradition.  Indeed as we shall demonstrate in a upcoming chapter the gospel narrative itself has always liturgically 'taken place' over the memorializing of the Exodus narrative dealing with Moses and Aaron.  Brotherhood is not some made up concept which came to Christianity later after the historical ministry of Jesus was established.  We should argue instead that the gospel - the original fuller text written by Mark and reported in the writings of various early Church Fathers - was centrally focused on divine philia.  Jesus was a heavenly being who had come to restore perfection to humanity by 'conjoining' two men together as brothers.  To express it in the language of Clement of Alexandria, this was the ultimate expression of his philanthropia, his very love of men.

[3] The early account of the gnostic Christians tells us that logos was developed from nous as a son from a father.  This is what makes the brother-pairing of the two hypostases so hard to reconcile.  Nevertheless the understanding is made over and over again with respect to Moses and Aaron in the writings of Philo.  It cannot be accidental.
[10] But there is an interesting kissing exchange between Moses and Jacob and the sons of Aaron. It begins with the announcement of the death of Moses which was originally made to Joshua and then new carries to Eleazar, Ithamar and Phinehas: "they saw Joshua standing weeping, they said to him, "What is the matter? Why are you weeping?" He answered them, his tears flowing down like rain, "My lord Moses this day seeks to go up to die." This statement was distressing to the holy priests and they were
gravely troubled when they heard this news from Joshua. They made haste to go, accompanied by the whole priestly house, and came to the great prophet Moses. When they reached him, they kissed his face on both sides and then fell at his feet. Phinehas the son of Eleazar was carrying the trumpet in his hand and standing before Moses weeping. The great prophet Moses said to him, "O grandson of my brother, stand you and Ithamar at the gate of the place of meeting, the trumpets in your hands, and blow a blast that all the congregation may hear and come here and be arrayed before me and I shall pronounce peace upon them." [Mimar Marqe 5:2]
[11] Nevertheless there is evidence which suggests that the understanding which survives among the northern tradition of Israel isn’t .  For instance given that the half shekel tax and the ‘conjunction’ are both events timed to the first of the month rather than the fifteenth, it would stand to reason that the Tzimmut celebration was originally sixty days from the start of the year.  One further piece of evidence underscores that dating even more – the consistent representation of the ‘tzimmut’ of the moon and the sun as the meeting of Moses and Aaron. The writings of Mark the Samaritan make frequent reference to this phenomenon, albeit not specifying a specific day for the ‘zimmut.’  Nevertheless given that all evidence suggests a two and a half month veneration of the giving of signs by Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh in the lead up to Passover, the current placement of the Zimmut of Passover on the fifteenth day of the eleventh month makes very little sense.  After all the Sabbath of the Miracles is already in its third week; one would naturally suppose the ‘conjunction’ of Moses and Aaron to come before not after the first ‘sign.’  Indeed all of the symbolism associated with the Zimmot – the ‘conjunction’ of the moon and the sun, the ‘conjunction’ of Moses and Aaron and the half-shekel tax all point once again to an original veneration of this holiday sixty days before the first day of the new year.
[12] The Lord said to Aaron, Go (Ex. 4:27; Targ.) and meet your brother, and receive from him the secrets he holds.
The Lord said to Aaron, Go and meet your brother, for you are about to become his prophet.
The Lord said to Aaron, Go and meet your brother. Because of you he will wage victorious war against Pharaoh the king.
The Lord said to Aaron, Go and meet your brother, for through seeing you his heart will be strengthened.
The Lord said to Aaron, Go and meet your brother, for his sons and wife have departed from him, and he is alone, left all by himself on the way ...
Go and meet him at the Mountain of God—two lights going out to each other.
So he went and met him at the mountain of God (Ex. iv. 2 7 ; T a r g . )—
the sun and the moon who came together from Amram and Jochebed.
So he went and met him at the mountain of God—the Tigris and Euphrates joined together.
How good to see them embracing there, between them great joy, the one kissing the other with tears in their eyes, having double love for one another.
"Welcome, my brother," Aaron said to Moses, "The years have been too long for me since last seeing you. Time is short! The God of the world has proclaimed to me in your name."
Moses' joy was considerably increased (on hearing that). "Praise be to the Powerful One who has brought us together now after much delay, for a meeting after tarrying greatly increases love."
Jacob was united with Esau after many years, and their joy was great and their hostility removed.
In the cave of the rock they stood, the two of them in great affection. (1.3)

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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