Saturday, May 26, 2012

The First Draft of the First Two Chapters of My New Book

Chapter One

In the beginning there was Jesus, but who or what is Jesus?  Let's face it, there are more cockamamie theories about this guy than you can shake a stick at.  Everyone seems to have a new angle on the familiar story and so it is that there's a seemingly endless production of books and articles claiming to reveal the 'real Jesus' of history which all seem to inevitably hit bookstores in the lead up to Easter.

It's now almost impossible to keep track of all the sensational theories.  Previous blockbusters include ‘Jesus the Galilean peasant,’ ‘Jesus the rabbi,’ ‘Jesus the revolutionary,’ ‘Jesus the magician,’ ‘Jesus the pacifist,’ ‘Jesus the Cynic,’ ‘Jesus the Jew,’ ‘Jesus the Gentile,’ ‘Jesus the Buddhist,’ ‘Jesus the hermaphrodite,’ ‘Jesus the sage,’ ‘Jesus the Essene,’ ‘Jesus the Pharisee,’ ‘Jesus the king,’ ‘Jesus the socialist’ and of course ‘Jesus Christ.’ Of course the million dollar question is how could all these personalities fit into one historical person?  Even the Sybil didn't have this range or repertoire.

In 2011 an America charismatic pastor named Wendell Smith took matters one step further.  He organized a major media campaign essentially saying Jesus can be whoever you want him to be.  There is no need to worry about whether the evidence supports your wild claims - just do as you please.  As the ‘Jesus is _________’ website spells it out:

Jesus is a lot of things, but the answer is in the Bible. It says that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth on a mission to restore mankind to God. By living a perfect life, dying on a cross, and coming back to life, His mission was a success. We can know God because of Jesus. So maybe the reality of who Jesus is remains too big for the blank.

Apparently Jesus can be whoever or whatever you want him to be.  You can turn him into whatever you want - except of course, he can't be allowed to associated with homosexuality.  Mainstream Christianity is incredibly uncomfortable and inflexible about this.  It is 'unthinkable' in America at least to suppose that Jesus might have had anything resembling a positive attitude toward same sex attraction and same sex unions.

The reason we bring this up of course is that it is impossible to really know someone if your understanding of that person is rooted in false assumptions.  There's always that interview with the neighbors of the serial killer - 'he seemed to be a nice, clean cut kid' - or the spouse who can't believe they've just seen their significant other arm in arm with someone else.  We can't claim to know someone until we've considered all the options.  That is why we will begin this investigation by going to the 'unthinkable' notion that Jesus might have been in favor of some form of homosexuality.  Because when it really comes down to it - you just never know.  

For instance can it be determined that Jesus was ever 'in favor' of heterosexual marriages in any way, shape or form?  I don't think it can.  We are just told this because it is a convenient assumption.  There has always been marriage.  The gospel even has Jesus make reference to topics related to marriage for instance his chastising Moses for allowing for divorce.  Yet none of this really proves that Jesus was in favor of heterosexual coupling as described in the writings of the Jews.  It might just be that Jesus wanted married people to stay miserable or at least not to find happiness with someone else.  

I make this point quite seriously.  For there is another argument which frequently comes from the mouths of religious people in many subtle ways which simply holds no water.  Why does God care if we are happy?  If there is a divine power and we are like ants next to his greatness, it would be unthinkable that the emotional well being of otherwise insignificant creatures would matter to the ruler of all things.  Yet for the modern Christian believer in America the idea that God would bend over backwards to make sure that they pay their cable bill comes almost second nature.

The bottom line here is that we can't continue to use what we want to be true or need to be true to guide our understanding of who Jesus was.  As a Jewish person I have something of an advantage in this regard.  I begin with a tabula rasa, a clean slate, as I had no presuppositions about who or what this foreign relic from antiquity should be taken to be.  I was drawn to the study of early Christianity quite by accident - a chance meeting at a bar where I met my future wife who happened to be Catholic.  In order to understand here, I needed to come to terms with this culture that ultimately grounded her.

Since sex is such a powerful force between two young people it was inevitable that at least some of my research into origins of early Christianity would focus on this topic.  After all, the traditional Catholic attitude toward sex is at the very least unnatural, if not downright strange.  How could sex be inherently sinful if indeed each of us were created from this act?  Indeed, wasn't it God himself who said 'be fruitful and multiply'?  What kind of a God changes his mind midstream during his lifespan?

Indeed while my future wife believed in many of the doctrines of her Church she had less than no interest in thinking about what she believed.  Her profound indifference to analyzing her faith was by no means unusual.  This seemed to be the attitude of most 'women of faith.'  I was suddenly struck with a profound realization.  Most guys who were good at something could expect getting laid as a reward for their mastery of that skill.  The victorious athlete, the successful businessman, the popular musician all shared that in common but not the holy man, the theologian or the scholar.  What then was the point in becoming an expert on the Christian religion?

The answer that shines through from the writings - and from the doctrine held by believers - is that there is something better or beyond human sexuality.  This is the whole point of the Christian religion.  Over and over again in the earliest writings of the Church you are told that if you manage to be brought into acquaintance with this amazingly profound understanding, you would lose your interest in getting laid by women.

This is the central argument developed in favor of the Christian faith that existed from the time of Jesus.  Once you know, you won't be interested in heterosexual sex.  It appears in countless ancient writers almost none of whom were married men, so there must be something to it - unless of course these same writers were by nature disinterested in women to begin with and used the religion to cover up their natural inclinations.

Our point of course is not to deride traditional religion only to expose its barest soul.  If we were to ask - where did the idea that something better than sex existed in the world came from? - the answer, at least in the West would be that it came from Jesus.  When he said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" what he was really saying "I am the truth and the life without sex."  Nobody ever seems to make that plain enough.  All the believers in the ancient traditions know this by heart.  Some of course should have put a little asterisk with an explanation for the rest of us who get married into this way of thought.

In any event, to avoid getting trapped in the labyrinth of my own complexity let's ask the more basic question - what kind of a guy comes up with "the way, the truth and the life without sex with women" as the solution to all of life's problems?  It should be noted also that there is nothing about Jesus that screams out 'straight man.'  It wasn't like he went on a few dates and discovered that women were just plain 'bad news.'  He was never married, never had children and grew up without a strong male role model.  Was it something to do with having the classic overbearing Jewish mother that led him to have this low estimation of women?

Indeed it has to said that our existing gospel material actually presents in many ways a 'cleaned up' take on his strange views on sexuality.  Many of our earliest gospels have Jesus go beyond merely attacking marriage and traditionally sanctioned sexual practices but instead have him become the spokesman for transgenderism, ritual castration and repeatedly warn against the 'evils' of heterosexuality.  According to these sources the Devil created marriage which sounds suspiciously like the bumper sticker of a bitter friend of mine who had went through a painful divorce.

These traditions are typically ignored by contemporary scholars yet they certainly point to broader trends within the early tradition.  For instance it must be noted that there is nothing rarer in antiquity than a married saint.  Of course a few examples do exist especially in the earliest period.  Yet by and large earliest Christian saints were unmarried and were celebrated for their impassibility (apathia), their being 'unmoved' by the seductive charm of women.

At the very least it has to be noted that this 'virtue' would come quite easily for a closeted homosexual man.  He would be able to exemplify apathia in the face of even the most beautiful woman.  It would seem to be the easiest thing to claim that all of the saints of earliest Christianity were about as straight as your favorite Hollywood movie stars until one more piece of evidence is brought forward.  Our earliest Christian sources seem especially attached to a third type of human being, rarely even encountered in today's world - that of the eunuch or sexually castrated individual.

It has to be noted that there were apparently two types of eunuchs in antiquity.  There was the 'natural' eunuch who was simply born without sexual organs and those of the 'man-made' variety - i.e. those who removed their virility through a variety of means.  As strange as it may seem to those who have never read the writings of the early Church Fathers, it turns out that Christians liked to think that Jesus introduced this third typology - those made eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven' - into the world.

These 'eunuchs' were said to be imitating Jesus's example insofar as Jesus was himself an angel - i.e. one who did not have sexual organs.  As the third century Greek Church Father Methodius explains that Jesus came to help those:

whom He no longer wills to be excited by procreations to lust, and to be defiled, but henceforth to meditate and to keep the mind upon the transformation of the body to the likeness of angels, when they neither marry nor are given in marriage, according to the infallible words of the Lord; since it is not given to all to attain that undefiled state of being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, but manifestly to those only who are able to preserve the ever-blooming and unfading flower of virginity." [1]  

There are countless other examples of this idea in the early Church.  Even when Christian disagreed about matters - and the literature shows an abundance of dissension - they agree on this fundamental understanding with respect to 'being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom,' becoming like an angel, being made like Jesus and subsequently being 'saved.'

For those who maintained the beliefs of these early Christian writers Jesus was an angel who was at once the typology of a eunuch.[2]  If we wanted to be saved there was something each of us had to 'take care of' by undergoing some radical procedure.  The Church Father Origen is said to have poured some chemical on his penis in order to make it wither and 'die.'[3]  There are many other examples or comparisons of Christians castrating themselves like beavers' - the analogy of course failing in English because this animal is taken to be a euphemism for the female anatomy.  In Latin however it is a clever play on words - castrator carnis castor.

The point of course is that there appears to be a very unusual gathering of three types of sexual identities in early Christianity with our preferred typology, heterosexuality, certainly getting the worst treatment.  Opposite sex attraction was deemed to be of an animal nature opposed essentially to spiritual love, the love of angels, which was based on likeness.  There is absolutely no way anyone can claim to have read the writings of the earliest Christian sources without walking away with this same impression.  Of course there is one single example which on the surface at least seem to mitigate this radical interpretation -  the odd example of Demetrius the Patriarch of Alexandria at the turn of the third century.  Yet even this case only ends up opening a whole other can of worms for the existing tradition.

According to our earliest sources Pope Demetrius came to the Alexandrian church an already married man through what must have been a civil union (the Church did not preside over marriages in this early period).  Demetrius was an outsider who never learned from the Christian masters of Egypt but somehow - indeed inexplicably - ended up being placed in the highest rank of the church.

The story that is preserved in the History of the Coptic Patriarchs tells us that this choice was met with a lot of popular resistance.  There was a lot of grumbling about a married man sitting on the throne of St Mark in Alexandria.  One of his most famous acts was to chase the eunuch Origen out of town.  Alexandria was apparently a popular destination for transsexual Christians, the city was the place to be for getting a sex change to become like Jesus since at least the early second century.[4]

Tradition holds that Demetrius's status as a married man did not sit well with the congregation.  They were constantly grumbling about his being unfit to sit in the papal throne.  It got so bad that according to legend an angel came down from heaven to help straighten things out.

The angel told Demetrius that he had to gather the leaders of the Christian community to stand around the throne of St Mark.  He would be seated there with his wife at his side and they were to demonstrate that they were still virgins.  How am I to do that, Demetrius asked the angel.  The angel answered that he had to set himself and his wife on fire.  This would demonstrate to the congregation that Demetrius, in spite of being married was really a eunuch.

The story goes that when Demetrius carried out the order of the angel the entire congregation changed its mind about him.  Everyone suddenly 'knew' that he was fit to preside over the church.  They begged his forgiveness and suddenly had all sorts of questions for their new friend.  They asked him how managed to at least resist lusting after his wife as he slept beside her each night?  Demetrius's answer would become a justification for heterosexuality within the ranks of the Coptic Church:

Attend, all of you, to what I say. Know that I have not done this seeking glory from men. My age is now sixty-three years. My wife who stands before you is my cousin ... I said to her : "Listen to what I say. We must of necessity remain together in this chamber without being separated all our lives, but there must be no further connexion between us, until death shall part us; and, if we remain thus in purity, we shall meet in the heavenly Jerusalem, and enjoy one another's company in eternal bliss." And when she heard this, she accepted my proposal; and her body remained inviolate. But my parents knew nothing of our compact. Then the wedding-guests demanded the customary proof of the consummation of the marriage, as you know is done by foolish men; but my mother said to them : "These two are young, and the days before them are many." Thus we kept our purity; and when my parents as well as her parents were dead, we remained orphans together. It is now forty-eight years since I married my wife, and we sleep on one bed and one mattress and beneath one coverlet; and the Lord, who knows and judges the living and the dead, and understands the secrets of all hearts, knows that I have never learnt that she is a woman, nor has she learnt that I am a man; but we see one another's face and no more. We sleep together, but the embraces of this world are unknown to us. And when we fall asleep, we see a form with eagle's wings, which comes flying and alights upon our bed between her and me, and stretches its right wing over me, and its left wing over her, until the morning, when it departs; and we behold it until it goes. Do not think, my brethren and ye people who love God, that I have disclosed this secret to you to gain the glory of this world which passes away, nor that I have told you this of my own will; but it is the command of the Lord, who bade me do it, for he desires the good of all men, and he is Christ our Saviour ... I am a man and have a body like all other men, but I will teach you how to answer the suggestions of the Devil. When my heart was troubled by evil thoughts, I remembered the compact I had made with Christ; and if I broke it, I feared that he would reject me in the kingdom of Heaven, before the Father and his holy angels. Moreover, when I saw the beauty and grace of her form, I thought of the corpses lying in their tombs and the foulness of their odour, so to keep myself from strange words, through fear of the fire that is not quenched, and the worm that sleepeth not, in the other world, where none can open his mouth

Of course this discussion might run the risk of sounding rather silly to our ears.  The comedian in each of us might ask - why set your wife on fire when you can easily get a divorce? - forgetting of course Jesus prohibited divorce, a ban the Coptic Church still has in place to this day with absolutely no exceptions.

Demetrius presents himself as an example of how heterosexual unions could approach the tradition pairing of same sex partnerships modeled after the syzygies of angels in terms of blessedness.  For it was well established that the disciples were sent by Jesus as male pairs.  The saints Peter and Paul were understood by the Roman Church to represent a divine pairing modeled after God in heaven.  Why then couldn't the traditional marriage of man and woman by viewed in a similar manner?  One did not have to imagine that heterosexuals were irrational animals engaging in wanton sexuality.  Demetrius and his wife served as examples that a sort of divine friendship of one soul in two bodies was indeed possible even for heterosexuals.

The idea of heterosexuals being locked a sexless marriage really isn't all that ridiculous.  Forty million Americans admit to being in a sexless marriage and this happens to be one of the most candid, oversexed countries in the world.   As much as the media bombards us with images of the virtues of virility, does anyone really want to have sex with a sixty year old?  Indeed it was Christianity which instilled in heterosexual unions something which was almost inconceivable in antiquity - the modern concept we all take for granted that marriage was a 'partnership' rooted in friendship rather than promiscuity.

What is often not recognized is that this modern Christian ideal originally established between same sex pairings which only trickled down in a later period.  Indeed Demetrius's speech seems jarring to many of us because of its candor.  As George Burns once quipped, marriage is what you do when you get out of bed.  Yet it is worth noting that the story in the History of the Coptic Patriarchs clearly presents even this 'idealized' state of heterosexual matrimony as an aberration of the original paradigm in Alexandria.  The reason Demetrius's fellow co-religionists are scandalized by a married Pope is because it had never been done before.

While we are never told how 'correct belief' was originally defined in the community, it seems difficult not to suppose that it had something to do with the tradition associated with that Origen guy who was run out of town by Demetrius.  It wasn't just that Origen was a eunuch but that there was a strange form of marriage within the eunuch culture of Alexandria which at first rejected Demetrius's authority on the basis of his marriage to a woman.  As noted in the Coptic report, this resistance to heterosexuality was ultimately overcome.  It was likely overcome in part by chasing the representatives of the original 'queer' culture like Origen out of town as much as it was finding apologetic voices who supported Demetrius.

Indeed we are very fortunate to have an 'on the ground' report of what was going on in the Christian community of Egypt at this time.  A contemporary of Demetrius's named Clement of Alexandria wrote a work called the Instructor around the time that the new Pope was being seated on the papal throne. Clement  was a very famous Church Father.  He was far more important to the history of Christianity than Demetrius.  Yet Demetius was in effect Clement's boss.  The tension of having an unqualified superior is already witnessed by the original report behind the material in the History of the Coptic Patriarchs.

As we just noted Clement's Instructor was written while all this conflict was brewing over having a married  Patriarch sitting on the throne of St Mark.  It can fairly be interpreted as Clement's attempt to 'brown nose' his boss - a systematic effort to justify what was clearly seen as being a breach of tradition in the eyes of other leading voices in Alexandria.  The Instructor provides unmistakably clear evidence that heterosexual marriage was not traditionally sanctioned among ecclesiastical officials.  Clement only gets around this objection by a series of attempts to justify opposite sex marriage as a lower, but ultimately acceptable form of the ideal state of being 'married in the Lord.' (1 Cor 7:39)

As Clement acknowledges near the beginning of the work, heterosexual union was not originally understood to be sanctioned by Jesus.  It was traditionally held to be something belonging to irrational animals rather than the truth established by Jesus during his ministry.  It is important to note that not once does Clement cite 'tradition,' 'established opinion' or 'orthodoxy' while arguing that his community should change its traditional rejection of heterosexual union among its members.  Over and over again he prefaces his remarks by acknowledging he is speaking wholly on his own authority in his advocating a revaluation of the tradition rejection of marriage.  This is deeply significant.

Here is an example of the typical manner in which Clement makes his case.  In the fourth chapter of the first of three books of the Instructor Clement declares to his readers:

Let us, then, embracing more and more this good obedience, give ourselves to the Lord; clinging to what is surest, the cable of faith in Him, and understanding that the virtue of man and woman is the same. For if the God of both is one, the master of both is also one; one church, one temperance, one modesty; their food is common, marriage an equal yoke; respiration, sight, hearing, knowledge, hope, obedience, love all alike. And those whose life is common, have common graces and a common salvation; common to them are love and training. "For in this world," he says, "they marry, and are given in marriage," in which alone the female is distinguished from the male; "but in that world it is so no more." There the rewards of this paired and holy life, which is based on syzygies, are laid up, not for male (arreni) and female (theleia), but for man (anthrwpw), the sexual desire which divides into two being removed.

Again we have a remarkable consistency about the low opinion that Jesus had about heterosexual unions.  The established opinion in Alexandria was that they belonged to another God - the Creator - who was established in Jesus image as a kind of 'original accident' which established the mistake that was the present world.  Clement responds to this original idea by saying Jesus really didn't think that heterosexual sex was 'evil.'  In fact the gospel makes clear that he tolerated this 'animal pairing' in the here and now but came to establish a better pairing or syzygy 'in the world to come.'

Of course the obvious question is now - when was the 'world to come' supposed to come?  The very concept of 'the world to come' is Jewish.  The Jews believed that it represented the world that would come with the advent of the messiah.  In other words, it was the messianic age.  This is rather straightforward and corresponds to the gospel terminology - the kingdom of God or heaven.  Yet as obvious as this might seem at first glance later Christians wanted to avoid this original simplicity perhaps owing to the implications that the world to come had on Christian marriage.

For reasons that are never fully explained Jesus is argued to have been the messiah but that the messianic age would come at the end of time, in a final judgement which was completely divorced from Jesus's original coming.  Again, this was not the original understanding of this terminology but a deliberate attempt among the new leadership in Alexandria to justify Demetrius's legitimacy and perhaps at the same time to avoid criticisms that Christianity had 'strange' attitudes towards heterosexuality.

The opponents of Demetrius's marriage - and Clement's superficial attempts to justify its legitimacy - argued that this very same saying of Jesus from the gospel reinforces that a divine syzygy would be introduced immediately "after the resurrection."[5]   The specific context of 'the resurrection' is clear.  It was not the 'resurrection of bodies' in some future age as the Catholics would have it.  Instead the resurrection which Jesus references was the one described in the gospel - i.e. which already happened long ago.  As such, the original orthodox understanding of Alexandria held that the gospel taught that immediately following the resurrection of Christ, a syzygy or pairing would be introduced which would end traditional marriage - i.e. "they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."

At this point we can see another wrinkle in the formulation.  The new syzygy or pairing that was introduced by Jesus the angel was like the union of angels  in heaven.  The angels were not divided into male and female so the humans who followed Jesus after the resurrection were similarly paired in same sex unions.  As Clement noted in the earlier citation - "there the rewards of this paired and holy life, which is based on syzygies, are laid up, not for male and female, but for man (anthrwpw), the sexual desire which divides into two being removed."  In short, the original model for the pairing established by Jesus was a 'heretical' notion of the conjoining of powers in heaven.

The source of Clement's ideas here come from an early generation of Alexandrians - those who lived before Demetrius and his forcing heterosexual unions onto the Church.  Luckily, Clement preserved for us the writings of one such earlier Alexandrian writer - an otherwise unknown figure named Theodotus (150 CE?) where we see many of these same ideas developed in much fuller detail.

Apparently these earlier Alexandrians held that these "syzygies" Jesus established were "brought down from divine emanations above"  (Strom 3.1) the heavenly realm where the angels exist.  Theodotus says that in Pleroma" or spiritual 'fullness' "where unity reigns each of the aeons has its own fullness, that is, the syzygy."  In other words, each of the powers is paired in its own 'pleroma.'  Theodotus adds that "whatever proceeds from a syzygy, they say, is fullness, whereas whatever proceeds from one single, is image” (Ex Theod. 32:1). Again, this distinction between fullness and image is used to introduce a deeper point about the heavenly realm and in turn about the 'union' between individuals who are purified through baptism which ultimately mirrors this situation in heaven.

The only point which Theodotus brings up that concerns us now is the central idea that the Father, the power which is invisibly behind all things is One, while all that proceeds from him is an 'image' or eikones of this hidden unity.  In other words, we can't see the perfection of the highest God only the reflected fullness of the syzygy. (Strom 4:13)  This is the expressed image of his perfection.

The original tradition of Alexandria held that the secret narrative of the gospel told the story of Jesus coming to bring lost individuals into the fullness of the pleroma.[6]  He did this by introducing a new union which would replace marriage.  It was a same sex union developed imitation of the syzygy of powers in heaven.  The angels in heaven were all paired into same sex couple, so too would those imitated them here on earth he likened.

Theodotus tells us that in the original Alexandrian rite after baptism, the initiates enter into something called 'the bridal chamber' which unites their souls were united with another individual of the same sex.  "For as long as we were children of the female only," writes Theodotus, "as if of a base intercourse, incomplete and infants and senseless and weak and without form, brought forth like abortions, we were children of the woman, but when we have received form from the Saviour, we have become children of a husband and a bride chamber." (Ex Theod 68)  Clement mirrors many of the ideas of Theodotus in his own writings, nevertheless he expresses himself in a deliberately obscure manner.  It would seem that Demetrius's sitting on the throne was not an accident.  There was a conscious effort underway to reformulate Christianity in Egypt. The heterosexuals were attempting nothing short of a spiritual coup d'etat.

We shall examine the political intrigues of the age later in this work.  For the moment it is enough to say that in the beginning in Alexandria Jesus was understood to be advocating an obscure and under-reported same-sex union which is ignored in most studies of the age.  This union or syzygy was established through a ritual was certainly known to Clement, yet for centuries we have been forced to sift through his notoriously obscure writings in order to find reference to them.  His greatest masterwork was called 'coverings' or stromata precisely because it was consciously designed to hide the mystic truth at its core.

What was it that Clement was hiding?  A discovery made in the last century made clear that it was the original Alexandrian gospel, used in the community since the time of its composition by the city's patron saint, St Mark.  To be certain, Clement's knew that the winds were shifting.  He must have divined that it would be dangerous to make openly positive references to the original practices of his native community.  So it was that he wove a tapestry of veil and truth, slowly letting the reader into an understanding that could only be revealed through gnostic initiation.

In the course of our present work we will demonstrate that we have decoded this secret understanding.  It was a mystic truth rooted in same sex union, a reflection of the syzygy of angels, and we will demonstrate that this radical understanding of Jesus never entirely disappeared.  In order to survive it had to go underground to a community of famous crypto-Christians whose mission above all else was to pass on the tradition of St Mark down through to the modern age.

We will demonstrate that Jesus is not the man we have come to believe.  He was not a man, but an angel, on a mission to change our nature rather than our habits, to recreate rather than reform.  Jesus may well be many things to many people today, but to those who knew him best in the most distant ancient past, he could only be found in a divinely sanctioned same-sex union.  In the lost words of that original gospel, "see your brother, see your God" ...


[7] The question of course is if heterosexual marriage only began to accepted by the authorities of the Alexandrian Church on these rather unusual terms - i.e. Demetrius in effect 'forcing' the issue upon them, it becomes clear that some other form of union (syzygia) - one that involved two males was originally argued to have been the heavenly gift brought to humanity by Jesus.  Clement of course had developed these arguments to help support his master Demetrius's scandalous marriage. They appear throughout his works.  Nevertheless, it is impossible not to read this information as attempts to reinforce an otherwise unknown teaching into Alexandria.  The original idea was that Jesus established some sort of sexless conjugal union between men which was similar to the syzygies of angels in heaven.  In many of Clement's sayings the original understanding still shines through: "For in this world they marry and and are given in marriage." But having done with the works of the flesh, and having been clothed with immortality, the flesh itself being pure, we pursue after that which is according to the measure of the angels. [Instructor 2:10] That is why he says: "Work not for the food which perishes, but for that which abides unto eternal life." Similarly they quote the saying: "The children of the age to come neither marry nor are given in marriage." But if anyone thinks care- fully about this question concerning the resurrection of the dead and those who asked it, he will find that the Lord is not rejecting marriage, but ridding their minds of the expectation that in the resurrection there will be carnal desire. The phrase "the children of this age" is not meant to make a contrast with the children of some other age, but is equivalent to saying "those who are born in this age," who are children because of birth; they beget and are begotten since without birth no one will come into this life.[Stromata 3.12] For souls, themselves by themselves, are equal. Souls are neither male nor female, when they no longer marry nor are given in marriage. And is not woman translated into man, when she is become equally unfeminine, and manly, and perfect? [Stromata 6.12]  Rightly, then, they reckon the number seven motherless and childless, interpreting the Sabbath, and figuratively expressing the nature of the rest, in which "they neither marry nor are given in marriage any more." For neither by taking from one number and adding to another of those within ten is seven produced; nor when added to any number within the ten does it make up any of them.[Stromata 6.16]

Chapter Two

So we leave to the side the question of the real Jesus is and ask something which at first at least seems to be a little easier.  Who is this Demetrius, and how did this straight guy manage to make the traditional Alexandrian less queer?  Unfortunately when we scour the surviving material there is again very little to understand this champion of heterosexuality.  The Coptic Church, the Christian tradition still rooted in Alexandria only makes clear that he was not an educated Alexandrian.  The story they tell is once again quite perplexing.  Another riddle wrapped inside of an enigma.  There is only enough here really to keep a dying flame hoping for more oxygen.

The tenth century History of the Coptic Patriarchs tells us that Demetrius apparently was a stranger to the Alexandria tradition.  He came from from without divinely chosen to replace the earlier Patriarch Julian (179 - 189 CE):

When the patriarch Julian was dying, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream, on the night before his death, and said to him : "The man who shall visit thee to-morrow with a bunch of grapes shall be patriarch after thee." Accordingly, when it was morning, a peasant came to him, who was married, and could neither read nor write; and his name was Demetrius. This man had gone out to prune his vineyard, and found there a bunch of grapes, although it was not the season of grapes; so he brought it to the patriarch. And the patriarch Julian said to the bystanders : "This man shall be your patriarch: for so the angel of the Lord last night declared to me." So they took him by force, and bound him with iron fetters. And Julian died on that very day; and Demetrius was consecrated patriarch.

Of course we shouldn't need to assure the reader that none of this ever happened.  It is an apocryphal legend and nothing more.  This is not how the Alexandrian tradition established its priesthood let alone its bishop.  Nevertheless the story is so odd that it almost demands an explanation.

The real Demetrius of history could certainly read and write.  This is certainly an embellishment.  However the story, when taken with his status as a married man clearly attest to one basic fact - this unlearned, married man was not originally part of the Alexandrian Church.  There is no discernible reason that the Coptic tradition would make this up such a strange story.  It must be developing the barest factual thread.  Yet the fourth century Church historian Eusebius can provide us with one additional clue to help shine some light on this darkest of historical riddles.

In Book Five of his famous Church History, Eusebius assigns Demetrius's rise to the top of the Alexandrian see to 'the tenth year' of the Emperor Commodus.  He says "In the tenth year of the reign of Commodus, Victor succeeded Eleutherus [in the church of Rome], the latter having held the episcopate for thirteen years. In the same year, after Julian had completed his tenth year, Demetrius received the charge of the parishes at Alexandria."  But at the beginning of Book Six of the same work he writes "It was the tenth year of the reign of Severus, while Lætus was governor of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, and Demetrius had lately received the episcopate of the parishes there, as successor of Julian."  There is a thirteen year difference between the dating in the two books.

It is impossible that Eusebius could have meant that Demetrius became bishop of Alexandria in 205 CE.  No scholar would accept that.  We know that he means that Dionysius took the throne in 189/190 CE because of the original mention of Victor succeeding Eleutherus.  There is also no evidence that there ever was a Laetus, "governor of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt" in the tenth year of Septimius Severus or any recent Emperor for that matter.  Given that Quintus Aemilius Laetus was an important praefect under Commodus - the prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, from 191 until his death in 193 - Eusebius must have garbled an original Roman source which made reference to Demetrius's ascension coinciding with 'the prefect Laetus' and Victor taking over from Eleutherus.[1]

Demetrius's rise to power has always been dated to 189-190 CE because of Eusebius's statement in Book Five.  The interesting fact is that the very same date (189 - 190 CE) is given in official Roman documents for a certain Quintus Tineius Demetrius being given the role of Prefect of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt."  In other words, someone has possibly obscured the fact that it was Demetrius - not Laetus - who held this post by identifying the ascension with the next closest Emperor who had a tenth year to his reign.

There are other reasons for accepting this understanding.  Demetrius is identified over and over again as working closely  working closely - almost as an adjunct of the Imperial government.  Eusebius tells us numerous times that governors of other provinces sent Demetrius requests to send Origen the successor of Clement to visit them.  Given that we know that Quintus Tineius Demetrius only held the post of prefect of Egypt for two years at the most, we must suppose that he was replaced and chose to become 'overseer' of the most important church in the world at that time.

Now at last we can begin to see why an unlearned, married man could have forced his way to the top of the Egyptian Church - he had connections.  We shall examine these a little later.  For the moment at least we should pay attention to the manner in which the surviving letters associated with the bishop were addressed to him and the new governor of Egypt - implying at least that he worked hand and hand with the Imperial government reporting the goings on at the church.  Eusebius writes at one point - "about this time, while [Origen] was still at Alexandria, a soldier came and delivered a letter from the governor of Arabia to Demetrius, bishop of the parish, and to the prefect of Egypt who was in office at that time, requesting that they would with all speed send Origen to him for an interview. Being sent by them, he went to Arabia. And having in a short time accomplished the object of his visit, he returned to Alexandria."  The fifth century Latin Church Father reports much the same thing about the way another Alexandrian scholar who took orders to leave Egypt based on Imperial correspondence with the former prefect.[1]

By assuming that Demetrius was some sort of hold over from the Commodian persecution of Christians we can explain why there is the curious division of the administration of the Alexandrian see between 'bishop' and 'head of the catechetical school.'  A two-fold administration opens up during Demetrius's administration 'because he was unlearned.'  Clement, then Clement's student Origen, then Origen's student Heraclas all occupy this shadow pulpit.  The separation between this chair of catechetical instruction and the bishop was likely geographical as well as spiritual.  The holiest church in Egypt, the Church of St Mark wasn't actually located in the Greek speaking city of Alexandria proper but in the Boucolia, a region just to the east of the walls of the main city.

We see this same geographic division continue up until the so-called 'Arian schism' of the fourth century.  Arius the 'heretic' is said to have been the presbyter of the Church of St Mark.  The orthodox bishops Alexander and Athanasius likely never set foot in this church preferring instead to set up a network of churches behind the safety of the thick walls which protected the Greek speaking population.  At the very point Heraclas 'takes over' from Demetrius, 232 CE, we should notice that we are already at the point where civil unrest had destablized the Empire - the so-called 'Crisis of the Third Century.'  Clement and Origen's banishment from Egypt was part of Demetrius continuing to act as an Imperial administrator rather than a true member of the original Church of Egypt.

Indeed it is amazing to see that despite continuous Imperial persecution of the Egyptian Christian population Demetrius holds on to his job.  The reason for this again is that Demetrius was 'overseeing' the Church in Egypt in order to see who deserved punishing.  This becomes clear from the surviving examples of his periodic correspondences from government officials.  Take the story of Origen's eventual condemnation by Demetrius at a hastily organized synod later in the third century.  Jerome states: "He stands condemned by his bishop, Demetrius, only the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phenicia, and Achaia dissenting. Imperial Rome consents to his condemnation, and even convenes a senate to censure him..." [2]  It doesn't get much clearer than that.

Further we get a sense of Origen's dismay at being hounded by this Imperial watchdog during his period in Alexandria from Jerome's Apology Against Rufius Book II.  It is here we hear a description of a letter of Origen, in which Origen complains about being excommunicated "The object of the whole letter is to assail Demetrius the Pontiff of Alexandria, and to inveigh against the bishops throughout the world, and to tell them that their excommunication of him is invalid. ...He is contending, then, against the Bishops of the church generally, because they had judged him unworthy of its communion."  The important thing to see here is that the Alexandrian Church was clearly the most influential ecclesiastic body in the world.

If we accept the idea that Quintus Tineius Demetrius originally went to Alexandria to become prefect of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt and only later became an official 'overseer' of the church perhaps we can finally explain why the this unlearned, married man was accepted as the leader of contemporary Christianity in the region - he simply made them an offer they couldn't refuse.  Indeed we needn't be conspiracy minded about this.  The age of Commodus was filled with uncertainty.  Having a high ranking Commodian official 'safeguard' the flock might seem a sensible solution.  It is after all the principle behind mafia 'protection' throughout the ages.

It is possible of course that Demetrius may even have considered himself a Christian or at least a 'God-fearer' (a term usually used in the period for someone who was sympathetic to the teachings of Christ).  We shall come upon the example of  Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias, a highly influential concubine who shared his cognomen who was recognized as such in this period even though she was the furthest thing from being woman of virtue.  Indeed the example of Marcia will certainly help explain how Demetrius got pushed on to the Alexandrian Church in the first place.

It is clear that Marcia the Emperor's 'Christian concubine' was doing the very same thing within the ranks of the Roman church.  She rescued a future Pope from the mines.  Marcia provided influence and power to the man who was sitting on the throne of St Peter.  Is it really that unthinkable given Marcia's connection with both Egypt and the Emperor in that craziest period of history she couldn't have influenced this election?  Alexandria was only a 'rock's throw' across the pond.

What kind of argument could the Alexandria have put up against heterosexuality to a whore?  One might expect someone like Clement to over intellectualize the concept of sexuality with a lady of refinement.  These arguments fall on deaf ears when the woman has 'been around' as much as Marcia.

As such it will be impossible to tell the story of how heterosexuality forced its way on to Christianity without at least providing the barest outline of what was going on within the inner circle of Commodus court in the twilight of his reign. Anyone who has ever seen the movie the Gladiator already knows, the story of the age -  one of the best Roman Emperors produced one of the worst Emperors.  The best Emperor was of courseMarcus Aurelius Antoninus.  The 'worst' was Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus otherwise known as 'Commodus.'

Commodus was born on August 31, 161 CE near Rome.  He was acknowledged even by his detractors to have been one of the most beautiful men in the world.  Commodus received extensive tuition at the hands of what Marcus Aurelius called "an abundance of good masters."  Unfortunately Commodus had little interest in learning or following the philosophical path of his father.  By the time Commodus reached his teenage years his father was intent on making him his successor. Marcus Aurelius joint rule over the Empire with his adoptive brother Lucius Verus had just ended with the death of Lucius Verus in 169 CE.  As much as Marcus directed his son to learn virtue, the son could likely only see how much his father detested doing the day to day work of being Emperor.

After the population of Alexandria - and the residents of the Boucolia in particular - supported two insurrection in 172 and 175 CE the Imperial household developed an almost obsessive interest in the stability of Egypt. On 17 March 180 Marcus Aurelius died, leaving the 18-year-old Commodus sole emperor.  He loathed engaging in the business of administrating the Empire and chose to leave the day to day running of the state to an inner circle of favorites.  Dissatisfaction with this state of affairs would lead to a series of conspiracies and attempted coups, which in turn eventually provoked Commodus to take charge of affairs, which he did in an increasingly dictatorial manner. Nevertheless, though the senatorial order came to hate and fear him, the evidence suggests that he remained popular with the army and the common people for much of his reign.

The reason for Commodus's popularity is quite simple - he put on lavish shows and staged and took part in spectacular gladiatorial combats.  In short, it was like Ryan Seacrest becoming President of the United States.  The first great plot against his life was hatched by his eldest sister Lucilla who held the rank of Augusta as the widow of her first husband, Lucius Verus.  She drew in her two lovers Marcus Ummidius Quadratus Annianus (who was also her first cousin) and Appius Claudius Quintianus and attempted to murder Commodus as he entered the theatre.  The operation went horribly wrong and Quadratus and Quintianus were executed while Lucilla was exiled to Capri and later killed. The unexpected consequence of this effort was that Commodus inherited Quadratus's chamberlain Eclectus and his Christian concubine Marcia who as noted would later become the Emperor's most trusted associate.

The existing literature makes clear that Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias had an incredible hold on Commodus.  Dio Cassius, who lived through the period reports "that she greatly favoured the Christians and rendered them many kindnesses, inasmuch as she could do anything with Commodus."[3]  We see this influence reflected in Christian recollections of the period.  In spite of Commodus and Marcia regularly engaging in the worst sort of depravity, the church historian Eusebius calls the Commodian era something of the first golden age of the Catholic Church.  The contemporary Christian theologian Irenaeus boasts that many Christians sat in the Imperial court at the time.  There were grumblings from other Christians that these men were in the pocket of Caesar, to which Irenaeus replies "think of all the money we give to the poor."[4]

It is unclear who else beside Marcia in the Imperial court was Christian.  The chamberlain Eclectus is the most likely bet given that he and Marcia were lovers.  It is enough to say that Marcia was coming into her own in this period as one of Commodus's most trusted confidants.  She obviously harbored ambitious to have Commodus all to herself and so crafted a plan to eliminate the one man that stood between her and the Emperor.

By the summer of 188 CE, Commodus’ brother-in-law, L. Antistius Burrus was accused in conjunction with C. Arrius Antoninus of ‘aspiring to the throne.' [4]  The accuser was the Commodus's successor Pertinax, a freedman and former grammarian who distinguished himself as a soldier in the Parthian Campaign.  Yet the man masterminding this plot was Marcus Aurelius Cleander, another former slave who rose to praetorian prefect earlier in the year.  Cleander had taken care of Commodus as a child.  Now he had supreme command of the powerful Praetorian guard, the men who protected the Emperor himself,  he became extremely rich selling public offices to the highest bidder as his private business.  This was the man who stood between Marcia and the Emperor.

After the plot was 'discovered' Burrus was summarily executed, along with many of his supporters. Antoninus seems to have been murdered somewhat later in the year.  The executions of Burrus and Antoninus caused widespread discontent including in the city of Rome. We are told that the urban populace in the capitol "organised themselves in theatres and shouted insults at him [Cleander] all together."[5]  Marcia must have hatched a plan that would fan the flames of Cleander's growing unpopularity.  A conspiracy developed between herself, her lover the chamberlain Eclectus, Pertinax, Aemelius Laetus and perhaps Septimius Severus.  All these individuals were involved in Commodus's death on New Years Eve 192 CE.[6]

It was now the middle of summer, 189 CE.  Two important appointments were made which all directly related to Cleander's down fall.  The first was the assignment of our Quintus Tineius Demetrius to replace Marcus Aurelius Papyrius Dionysius as prefect of Egypt.  This appointment was puzzling because Dionysius had only been on the job for a month or so.  We nothing about Demetrius other than the fact that his cognomen was shared by Marcia herself.  The second important appointment was that of assigning the future Emperor Septimius Severus to govern Sicily. The odd thing here was that Severus was replacing his older brother Publius Septimius Geta.  It was very unusual to have two brothers serve in succession as proconsuls there.

Although not a senior or military province, Sicily was still an important command. Alongside Africa and Egypt, the island was a major exporter of grain to the capital. Septimius’ main duty would have been bureaucratic, making sure that the grain ships left harbour on time.  The appointment of Demetrius to govern Egypt left only one major 'breadbasket' province to consider - that of the province of Africa.  It is interesting to note that Pertinax, the urban prefect took his new post after serving as governor of Africa.  His successor in Africa was none other than Didius Julianus, the man who would become his successor on the royal throne after Commodus's assassination.

It is incredible to see how all the future Emperors of the Roman Empire were now involved in the grain plot of 189 CE.   The only notable exception was Demetrius's governing of Egypt.  Egypt of course was the most important position yet the grain from Egypt was so essential that there were safeguards in place to carefully watch for manipulations of the system.  Demetrius's real purpose was merely to act incompetent which his predecessor raced back to Rome.  It should be our assumption then that Marcia must have used her influence to have Dionysius recalled in order to set in motion the famine.  The official explanation seems to have been both that the unpopular and greedy Cleander was deliberately trying to drive up wheat prices and at the same time that Dionysus holding up the wheat supply in order to pin the blame on Cleander.[7]

The only sensible explanation here was that Marcia was orchestrating events so as to both have Cleander removed and replaced by her lover Eclectus and her namesake Demetrius firmly seated in Alexandria.  The two victims in the riots were little more than unfortunate dupes.  Marcia knew that Dionysius would be furious with Cleander whom he presumed the orders had come from.  Soon after his arrival in Rome, the conspiracy was ready to make it appear that Dionysius was preparing to take action against Cleander.  Pertinax was now the urban prefect and the urban prefecture was a very important and influential post.
The prefect presided over his own court, which had jurisdiction within the hundredth milestone of Rome. More importantly, he commanded the urban cohorts, the only armed force, apart from the Praetorian Guard and the imperial horse guard, to be based in the capitol itself.

Even more unlikely is the coincidence of the timing of the sudden grain shortage.  Events seem to have finally reached a climax during the ludi Ceriales, on April 19th. This festival honoured Ceres, the goddess of corn, probably originally in the hope that her favour would protect the grain ships that usually arrived at about this time. On this occasion, the festivities included horse races. However, before the start of the seventh race, a group of children ran out into the Circus and interrupted the proceedings. Dio remarks that the children, who were led ‘by a tall maiden of grim aspect’, ‘shouted in concert many bitter words, which the people took up."[8] These protests quickly stirred up the people, who ‘set up a shout demanding Cleander’s blood" [9]

Rather than dispersing, the increasingly riotous crowd set off to find the emperor, who seems to have been staying at Laurentum just outside the city, ‘invoking many blessings upon him and many curses upon Cleander’ [10]  Learning of the demonstration, Cleander ordered the Praetorians and imperial horse guards to intercept the march, which they did with stark efficiency, ‘charging and cutting down anyone they came across."'[11] This panicked the already excited crowd, who fled back to the city.  Under normal circumstances, such firmness would presumably have ended the affair. However we are repeatedly told that the demonstration regained its momentum when other soldiers came to their aid, prompting some to attack the Guard with roof tiles and stones.

The identity of these soldiers is important. As Cleander, the imperial chamberlain and praetorian prefect, commanded both the Guard and the imperial cavalry these troops must have been the urban cohorts, whose commander was Pertinax, the praefectus urbi. It was the responsibility of the urban cohorts to police the games, which meant that they were already on hand when the disturbance occurred. Pertinax had therefore, either ordered or allowed the soldiers under his command to assist the people. In other words, he was either involved in the conspiracy beforehand or else had let it run its course without interference.

Interestingly also is the fact that when news of the disturbance eventually reached Commodus it makes its way to the Emperor through Marcia.  The official account of what transpired relies almost entirely on Marcia's version of events. The praetorian prefect was blamed for inciting the incident and denounced by the court as a rebel and a traitor, whereupon the emperor, fearing for his own safety, summoned Cleander and had him executed.  This must have been Marcia's suggestion or at least developed from the explanation of 'what the crowd wanted' as she relayed the information on the scene.  Cleander's body was then handed over to the mob, who ‘dragged it away and abused it and carried his head all about the city on a pole."[12] Cleander’s sons, along with many of his close associates, suffered a similar fate.

Although only Dionysius is explicitly credited with Cleander’s overthrow by the sources, a closer examination clearly demonstrates that he could not have acted alone. The organisation needed to successfully execute the plot would have required more than one person. Also, the timing of the incident, at a festival in honour of the corn goddess, would have had a particularly striking effect. It is also important to note the decisive presence of such key figures as Pertinax, whose urban cohorts actually fought the Praetorian Guard, and  Marcia, whose revelations to Commodus were ultimately responsible for Cleander’s death.

We can now finally explain why Demetrius was removed from office only after serving for a little over a year.  Commodus, like all the Emperors before him, must have been petrified of the consequences of losing control of Egypt.  Demetrius's tenure was actually quite standard.  We must imagine however that it was Marcia who arranged for Demetrius transferring posts to that of overseer of the Christians.  He must have obtained special privilege to remain in Alexandria.  Egypt was after all not an ordinary province, but the emperor's personal possession.  A prefect was chosen, a member of the Equestrian class, and the prefectship of Egypt, along with that of the Praetorian Guard, was considered the highest political achievement open to a Roman knight. This was to insure no patrician could take power over the empire and possibly seize the throne.

The reason of this concern is because Egypt could provide up to sixty-percent of the food for the Roman Empire. This food gave an emperor extreme wealth and Augustus' power increased dramatically because of completely controlling this food trade between Aegyptus and Rome. Hence the reason that no patrician was permitted to set foot in Egypt without the permission of an emperor.  That Demetrius had such longevity in Egypt is explained by that inner circle that developed around Marcia.  He was certainly trusted by Pertinax, Septimius Severus and the Severan Dynasty that followed.  To this end, with Demetrius in charge of the most important church in the world at that time, the government managed to have greater control over its policies.  All of which takes us to the growth of the Roman church in the very same period.


[1] Indeed this makes much more sense given the fact that all of this serves only to provide background for Origen.  By putting Origen in the tenth year of Septimius Severus Eusebius contradicts an earlier statement that there were no persecutions under that Emperor's rule.  Moreover it pushes all of the events in Origen's life by sixteen years.  The persecution that his father Leonides suffered came in the Commodian period, a fact also testified in several documents including the martyrdom of Apollonius.
Jerome states that Pantaenus "was sent by Demetrius ... into India at the request of legates from this people" [J36; FOTC 100 (1999) 59].
[2]  letter to St. Paula (Letter 33) 
[2] (Chrysostom, Homiliae in Genesim 22)
[4] (HA Pert. 3.7-8).
[5] (Her. 1.12.5)
[6] Dio 72 (73). 13.1-3).
[7] [7] (Dio 72 (73). 13.3-4).
[8] (Her. 1.12.5).
[9]  (Dio 72 (73). 13.4).
[10] (Her. 1.12.6)
[11] (Dio 72 (73). 13.6)[184].

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