The closer we get to the modern age the more personal our information becomes. This is often extremely difficult for people who have never read the earliest Church Fathers to appreciate. Scholarship lays out a 'history' of the early Church with such absolute certainly. They put forward a string of names and dates associated with that narrative and makes it seem as if we have a firm understanding of who or what they are. Yet all of these portraits are dangerously superficial. We have only the barest of information about anyone before the Council of Nicaea. In order to 'make up the difference' scholars just carry over an inherited religious belief that the early Patristic writers were 'united' in the same orthodox beliefs.
It has been our working hypothesis that there was a tradition in Alexandria which was influential from the very beginning of Christianity. This school of thought employed a 'secret gospel' which took a special interest in Jesus's 'yoking disciples' together, not only with himself but also amongst each other. As such wherever we see pairs of saints in early Christianity we raised suspicions that they were already 'mystically united' according to an ancient Alexandrian rite. Indeed by the fifth, sixth and seven centuries we already come across a new terminology to describe this spiritual yoke - the ritual of adelphopoiesis or adelphopoiia -that is, the 'making' or 'doing' of brothers, which many modern scholars have likened to 'same sex marriage.'
Up until now it has been very difficult for us to find something as clear cut as the adelphopoiia rite in the earlier period. We have had had trouble saying anything as definitive about Patristic intimacy because we are of course ultimately not allowed to get intimate with our sources. Very little survives from the beginnings of Christianity - perhaps intentionally so. Nevertheless we shall make the case that there is a way to make things a little clearer. If we take the time to lay one pair of Church Fathers on top of another, a clearer pattern emerges which transcends the temporal period which separates them.
What we are suggesting of course is that there was a common Christian ideal which all yoked partners were trying to attain, They were trying to consciously imitating an original narrative that was originally established in the 'secret gospel' of Mark. Whether or not all or any of those couples knew about the existence of Alexandrian text in the later periods of Christian history is an open question. All that is clear when we place the image of Basil and Gregory on top of that of Theodore and Athenodorus we can begin to discern a third image - that of Jesus and a chosen disciple. In other words, Theodore was aware that Jesus and a male companion were united and shared one soul in two bodies, the classical ideal at the heart of the longer gospel of Mark.
There can be no doubt that Theodore was aware of this yoking of a wholly divine Jesus and a mortal participant in his Passion. It is the very heart of the heretical experience condemned in the writings of the Church Fathers over and over again. The understanding shines through Theodore's treatise entitled to Theopompus, On the Impassability and Passibility of God which survives in a Syriac translation. In this text Theodore gives what one scholar describes as "an explanation of God's impassible passion in the incarnation that may have been an impetus for several key elements of Gregory Nazianzen's Christology." While this may sound like a confusing nexus of unfamiliar terminology for some, it is essential for solving the mystery of same sex unions in earliest Christianity.
What we are being told is that Gregory Nazianzus borrowed an essential understanding about Jesus's relationship with a chosen disciple from Theodore. As we shall see, a disciple with whom he was mystically paired ends up taking part in the Passion and 'suffering for' Jesus because he was a impassible god incapable of experiencing passion or suffering directly. Yet because God was yoked to a mortal being, and the two shared a divine nature in common, they experienced the Passion as one man.
This may sound absolutely crazy to most readers, yet this is the essential truth which connects our three male same sex pairings spanning three ages of Christianity back to one underlying mystic truth. Theodore's understanding of Jesus and his yoked disciple's 'impassable passion' in to Theopompus at last connects the author to Clement's addressee in the Letter to Theodore discovered in the Mar Saba monastery. While this may sound like an outrageous claim, we shall advance this argument in what remains in the final chapters of this book.
Indeed it isn't that our Theodore - aka 'Gregory Thaumaturgus' - ever makes direct reference to the material discussed in the Mar Saba letter. In the half dozen works that survive we see no interest in Mark chapter 10, or a rich youth resurrected from the dead or his "looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him." Yet the longer version of the gospel of Mark known to various heretical communities was more than this one addition. As we have seen from our study there were many additions to the text, a pattern of appropriation from the teachings of the Greek philosopher Empedocles according to Hippolytus of Rome.
The 'smoking gun' as it were is what we find with respect to uncanny similarity between the central premise of Theodore's to Theopompus and the contents of the longer gospel of Mark as referenced in the writings of Irenaeus. As we have already noted, Irenaeus alludes to the existence of a Marcionite group who employ a longer gospel of Mark. "Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified." It was not only Morton Smith who identified this material as being related to a longer, mystical version of the gospel of Mark, but Smith acknowledged that the reference had already been divined by the earliest authority on Irenaeus William Wigan Harvey.
In this one fleeting reference we have three very significant ideas come together within the context of a single sentence:
- that Jesus was one part of a divine pairing with another individual where
- one individual suffered (Greek passio) while the other remained 'impassable' (i.e. did not suffer) and
- this information was contained within a version of the Gospel of Mark which contained additional bits of text of a mystical nature.
This is clearly more than enough evidence to help us identify the Theodore of to Theopompus with the Theodore who asked Clement about 'secret Mark' in the Mar Saba letter. For while Theodore's to Theopompus never explicitly references the gospel of Mark as the source of its mystical doctrine, what we have just seen in Irenaeus matches perfectly the interpretation of Theodore of the functioning of the Passion, thus confirming his familiarity with the same narrative.
Indeed Theodore is drawing from an identical gospel tradition throughout to Theopompus, even though what Irenaeus reports about the Marcionite sect is found in no other known gospel tradition. Theodore begins by referencing the idea of God coming to face his martyrdom saying:
But if the most blessed and incorruptible God should come to the fire, not fearing the fire because he always continues the same, and should despise the greedy flames, since the fire is not always the same — for how can we say that fire, whose activity dies down, is itself always the same? — is not that God alone impassible, despising the sword, scorning the fire, not fearing death? For he in his sufferings continues as he is, voluntarily taking human sufferings upon himself, and does not suffer the pains which arise from human passions. For God is the one who is unharmed by every suffering, and it is his property always to remain the same. But the one who suffers harm from the passions, is overthrown by pains, is hindered by the force of necessity from carrying out good things, this one is not worthy of mention, even if he be called God. The one who indeed is not subject to death, who shows his impassibility by his suffering, let him come and do what it is fitting for God the helper- to do, and let what belongs to me be transformed, while he continues in his immutability, and let him be everything, though being outside everything.
It is difficult not to see the parallel with the statement from the longer gospel of Mark that the divine being "Christ" remained impassible" while a yoked human figure "suffered." It is of no matter whether or not Irenaeus has identified that suffering individual as 'Jesus' as Irenaeus consistently demonstrates himself to be careless with his sources.
The critical word in this whole section is the 'if' which initiates the discussion. In other words, Theodore is not saying that it was Jesus - i.e. 'God' - who actually appeared suffering on the Cross. Rather, as we shall see what follows, God was with him - the human agent - 'participating' with this and other martyrs throughout time and space and yet is also in another sense strangely removed from the experience. This would again correspond to the idea of 'Christ remaining impassible' in the account of Irenaeus. As Theodore repeatedly emphasizes, God retains his freedom and immutability even in suffering. He manifests his impassibility not by keeping aloof, but by the manner of his participation in suffering.
"We would not have known the impassible to be impassible if he had not participated in the passions and undergone the force of the passions," says Theodore again and immediately adds "for impassibility eagerly rushed upon the passions like a passion, so that by his own Passion he might show himself to be the cause of suffering of the passions. For the passions were not entirely able to stand against the weight of the power of impassibility." In other words, God only undergoes or takes part in 'passion' by participating in the human experience of suffering from a safe distance. Theodore makes clear that God suffers our passion but is incapable of having any passion of his own. He in no uncertain terms relates this to the narrative of what happened on the cross in the gospel. As such he must have had a version of the same gospel of Mark mentioned in Irenaeus's anti-heretical treatise.
According to Theodore the whole purpose of the passion was to demonstrate the dynamics of 'divine participation' with human beings. God suffers in such a way as to preserve his divine impassibility and to defeat our suffering and death. He empties himself of everything but his divine nature "then he, who is life and is superior to death, can enter death, inasmuch as he would not receive sufferings from death and would free mortals from death, because he himself is God who remains always in his impassibility," Theodore explains this in highly unitive images and terms that prefigure Gregory Nazianzus's own view: in the incarnation the divine Son actually ''enters into relationship with [our] passions;'' he ''entered into the passions'' and ''took upon" himself and "participated in" our passions, in order to defeat them with his own impassability.
As we have already noted the only place that this doctrine could have derived its origin is from the longer gospel of Mark associated with Alexandria and the heretical tradition. In Irenaeus's formula the same concept is described as "Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered" which is an 'error' according to the Church Father because it is typical of the Marcionite tendency to divine god into two agents participating in one divine nature. Origen's Theodore is clearly passing on the very same doctrine from the longer gospel of Mark. To this end the conclusion of the gospel - the so-called 'Passion' - is secretly or mystically a demonstration that God became ''mixed'' with our condition, the ''mingling'' being not merely an apparent one, but an actual ''fusion" of two beings.
This 'mixture' is possible, Theodore continues, because, even though God's impassible nature and human suffering are incompatible opposites, God's nature is so powerful that it can truly subsume creaturely passion into itself in such a way that that transforms passion while remaining unalterably divine—a phenomenon that can even be observed in material examples, such as light that penetrates and eliminates darkness, or absbetos which conquers fire. Yet in practical terms this 'participation' of Jesus's divine nature is most visibly displayed in the conclusion of the gospel where the man on the cross suddenly reveals that he is not Jesus at all but someone transformed into his likeness undoubtedly as a result of participating in the mysteries which Jesus taught him.
From the earliest period of recorded information about Christianity there are traditions that just before the crucifixion Jesus substituted someone in his place to suffer crucifixion. The followers of the heretic Basilides identified that individual as Simon, while the Marcionites apparently said it was Judas - a view which has been passed on to the Manichaeans apparently and close to a billion Muslims to this very day. Clement presents the tradition that Jesus baptized Simon Peter and that he in turn established pairs of apostles thereafter - his 'brother' Andrew being the first followed by the brothers James and John. It is also interesting that in the original gospel of the east, there are indications that it was shortly before the Passion Jesus "called his twelve disciples, and gave them power and much authority over all devils and diseases; and sent them two and two, that they might proclaim the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick."
Of course this is not the place here to bring forward all the traditions which preserve the original understanding that there were actually two participants in the Passion or the belief that the authorities didn't really crucify Jesus but rather someone else who assumed his likeness. While this was certainly at the core of the ancient mystical doctrine associated with secret Mark, as Irenaeus clearly witnesses, this material is ultimately outside of our immediate concern. Our interest is to remain steadfastly focused on the mystical doctrine of same sex pairing in the early Church. To this end, it is much more important that we not only reinforce that this same doctrine of divine participation went on to influence Gregory Nazianzus - something which is universally recognized - but more significantly that it clears the way to understanding early Christian 'same sex unions' as something utterly essential to the early tradition.
What we are suggesting is that the first Christians weren't merely allowing men and men to get married like men and women. This is only indicative of the pattern of modern social discourse. It has nothing to do with the pairing Jesus and his beloved disciple, Clement and Origen, Theodore and Athendorus or Basil and Gregory were aspiring for. The yoking of Jesus and his fully initiated disciple in the section of the Alexandrian gospel of Mark referenced in Clement's letter only becomes fully realized in the Passion narrative which follows. It stands to reason that the one was the set up for the other.
Nevertheless to shine light on the living interpretation of this gospel we find ourselves at a loss for there is very little in the way of a surviving commentary. The reasons for this are obvious - the most notable being that it was understood from the very beginning to be a secret gospel so direct mention of the text is only made inter pares. As Clement writes to outsiders and in the presence of heretics "one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath."
Of course this situation makes our task much more difficult. We only have a few surviving works by Theodore of Pontus. If we want to piece together how the classical model of friendship as "one soul in two bodies" was filtered down into later Greek and Latin Patristic friendship literature the only way it can be accomplished is by taking a second look at the fourth century pairing of Basil and Gregory Nazianzus. Not only are they almost universally acknowledged to be united in imitation of Theodore and Athendorus, Gregory's direct borrowing from Theodore's to Theopompus makes it highly likely their friendship was also established in light of 'secret Mark' consciously or otherwise.
Like Theodore and Athenodorus, Basil and Gregory first met and became friends at school. They were acquainted in Caesarea in Cappadocia and resumed their friendship in 352, when they were completing their schooling together in Athens. Basil came from a family of saints. His parents were Basil the Elder and Emmelia of Cappadocia. After completing his own schooling, Basil opened a school of oratory, and practised law before deciding to become a monk. He first retired to Pontus to lead the life of a hermit; but finding that Gregory could not join him there, came and settled first at Tiberina (near Gregory’s own home), then at Neocaesarea, in Pontus. Here Basil lived in holy seclusion for some years, and gathered round him a brotherhood of cenobites, among whom his friend Gregory was for a time included.
During the next few years, Gregory and Basil together edited some of the exegetical works of Origen. Gregory also helped his friend in the compilation of his famous monastic rule, which became the most enduring rule in the Eastern monastic tradition. Gregory remained with St Basil for several years. After founding several more monasteries, Basil accepted ordination, and in 373, was appointed bishop of Caesaria. His great learning, eloquence and charity earned him the title of “the Great” during his lifetime, and Doctor of the Church after his death.
We are fortunate to have in our possession a wonderful examination of the funeral oration that Gregory Nazianzus gave to his beloved written by Jostein Bortnes of the University of Bergen in Norway. Entitled Eros Transformed: Same-Sex Love and Divine Desire, Reflections on the Erotic Vocabulary in St. Gregory of Nazianzus's Speech on St Basil Bortnes reveals that a critical part of the eulogy reveals the one soul in two bodies doctrine. The section, basically extending from chapter 18 - 25 has a strongly erotic component. Moreover Gregory's description of his love for Basil has been traditionally undervalued, downplayed or even ignored by scholars because there is very little interest in exploring hints of homosexuality in the early Fathers.
While it is difficult to believe that the two unmarried men, college roommates and devoted monks never acted out on their longing for one another, we do not claim to know that this certainly happened. While Carolinne White argues that "it is true that the friendships usually existed between members of the same sex and usually between men but to imply that all close friendships between members of the same sex are homosexual is absurd, an unfortunate consequence of modern attitudes to friendship" evidence from the monastic literature of many cultures supports this very conclusions. It has been demonstrated that the term 'friendship' was "used euphemistically in Coptic sources to describe homoerotic relations between monastics, and this is also found in eastern and western Christian monastic sources in a number of traditions, from Late Antiquity throught the Middle Ages and even into the present."
It is not at all an abuse of our sources to assume that the erotic language contained in them pointed back to something erotic between the correspondents. To argue otherwise is to shirk ones duty as a scholar to be engaged in uncovering the truth. Nevertheless our ultimate purpose in revealing the exact nature of the relationship between Basil and Gregory is to help shine a light 'down the chain' as it were of the obscure relationship of the 'brothers' Theodore and Athenodoros in the original circle of Origen. The Cappadocian Fathers certainly believed that their relationship was a mirror of that of the Pontic bishops of the third century. Their mutual love in Athens was a perpetuation of the original Alexandrian yoking rite established in Caesarea Maritima with Origen's sudden departure from Egypt. Basil and Gregory's unnamed Athenian teacher playing the part of mystagogue no less than Origen did at the time of Theodore and Athenodorus.
Bortnes begins his study with the very last lines of the Oration, in the section where Gregory Nazianzus remembers reflecting back on their lover affair after leaving Greece. "After only a short time in Athens, my longing desire turns me into Homer's horse, and breaking the bonds of those who restrained me, I thunder over the plains, running towards my mate." Athens was the beginning of their philia. Bortnes notes that in describing how he returned to Cappadocia to be reunited with his friend, Gregory uses an image know from Homer's Iliad, when toward the end of the sixth book, Paris runs toward his brother Hector: "As when some stalled horse who has been corn-fed at the manger breaking free of his rope gallops over the plain in thunder"
In the above passage we find already some of the elements typical of what Bortnes calls "Gregory's rhetoric of philia." This is a most passionate love which begins with Basil's arrival at Athens which Gregory characterizes as follows "Athens, which has been to me, if to anyone, a city truly of gold, and the patroness of all that is good. For it brought me to know Basil more perfectly, though he had not been unknown to me before, and in my pursuit of letters I attained to happiness." This happiness ultimately explodes when they fell madly in love with one another:
Up to this point our discourse has proceeded smoothly, carrying us along the even, very easy, truly royal highway in the praises of this man. But from here onwards, I do not know what language to employ or which way to turn, for our discourse is getting difficult. For at this point of my speech I should like to take the opportunity and follow my desire to add to what I have said a few things that concern myself personally, and to delay my story a little in order to tell you about the cause, the circumstances, and the origin of this friendship, or, to put it more properly, this unity of body and soul. For the eye is not wont to turn away easily from attractive sights, and if torn away by force, it is wont to return to them again. It is the same with a speech when it tells of that which is most sweet to us. Yet I fear the difficulty the difficulty of the undertaking. I will try, therefore, to use all possible moderation. And if I should be overpowered by longing desire pardon this most just of all feelings, not to experience which would be a terrible loss, at least to sensible men.
Bortnes draws attention to the fact that the words used in this section - philia, sumpnoia, sumfuia, pothos - "are all basic words in Gregory's erotic vocabulary." The all reinforce a most passionate relationship, hardly the kind of thing most of us would associate with common 'friendship.'
"This was" Gregory goes on to say after his description of their first encounter, a mere "prelude of our philia. This kindled the spark of our relationship, thus we were wounded by our love for one another." Again when Basil with Gregory's support wins the dispute with the Armenians again at Athens, Gregory comments that now their friendship was kindled for the second time, "no longer a spark, but a manifest and conspicuous blaze." When Basil has his feelings by disappointment Gregory notes "I restored his cheerfulness, and by this mutual experience, he was the more closely united to me."
The discussion continues now to an account of their intimacy and their living arrangements. Gregory confessing:
When, as time went on, we confessed our innermost desire to each other, and above all that philosophy was what we wanted to pursue, from that moment, onwards we were everything to each other, roommates, messmates, soulmates, in contemplation of the One, forever strengthening and intensifying each other's desire. For the love of body for body, since it is transitory, passes like the flowers of spring. For neither will the flame last when the firewood is spent, but goes away with what kindles it, nor will desire remain when the incentive has been quenched. But a love that is divine and chaste, since its object is firm, is thereby firmer, and the fuller their vision of beauty, the more closely does beauty bind to itself and to each other lovers whose love is the same. This is the law that governed our love for each other.
Bortnes notes that what is being described here is a classic Platonic distinction between the two forms of eros. It is a distinction we know from dialogues such as Alcibiades, Lysis, Phaedros, and the Symposium, in particular. Not only do we here find the image of "the fading flower of the body he so loved," it is in Pausanias's speech in the Symposium that we find a discussion of the dual nature of eros in combination of with a survey of the various laws concering eros.
Bortnes rightly remarks that Platonism in Gregory is not the same as Platonism in Plato. Gregory's erotics is uniquely Christian formulation of same-sex philia which we should add greatly resembles the things said in the text by Hippolytus of Rome. Indeed Gregory continues in what immediately follows: to acknowledge that
Such were our feelings for each other, when we had thus supported, as Pindar has it, our well-built chamber with pillars of gold, as we advanced under the united influences of God's grace and our own affection. Oh! How can I mention these things without tears. We were impelled by equal hopes, in a pursuit especially obnoxious to envy, that of letters. Yet envy we knew not, and emulation was of service to us. We struggled, not each to gain the first place for himself, but to yield it to the other; for we made each other's reputation to be our own. We seemed to have one soul, inhabiting two bodies. And if we must not believe those whose doctrine is All things are in all; yet in our case it was worthy of belief, so did we live in and with each other.
It is simply impossible to argue that this is not something deeply personal and ultimately remarkably sexual appearing on the page here. Yet this Christianized Platonism that Bortnes acknowledges lies in the background of the Oration is necessarily related to Secret Mark.
The theme of ritually same sex union also appears throughout Theodore's Praise of Origen. While Basil and Gregory never directly reference this text, it is impossible to imagine that they did not know this most important of Theodore's works. Bortnes nevertheless argues that the love described in Gregory Nazianzus's Oration for Basil is slightly different that that which appears in the the Panygeric for Origen. At least part of that misunderstanding however is attributable to his failure to understand the third century text as an expression of thanks to Origen for his service as the mystagogue that brought them Theodore and his partner together. This failure to grasp the mystical context of the Panygeric causes Bortnes to lose sight of the underlying connection between the two male pairs and ultimately their ultimate rooting in Alexandrian same sex union rites.
The most critical part of the Panygeric, the section which ultimate connects the material back to secret Mark and forward to the Oration of Gregory is where Theodore acknowledges that Origen:
did not aim merely at getting round us by any kind of reasoning; but his desire was, with a benignant, and affectionate, and most benevolent mind, to save us, and make us partakers in the blessings that flow from philosophy, and most especially also in those other gifts which the Deity has bestowed on him above most men, or, as we may perhaps say, above all men of our own time. I mean the power that teaches us piety, the word of salvation, that comes to many, and subdues to itself all whom it visits: for there is nothing that shall resist it, inasmuch as it is and shall be itself the king of all; although as yet it is hidden, and is not recognised, whether with ease or with difficulty, by the common crowd, in such wise that, when interrogated respecting it, they should be able to speak intelligently about it. And thus, like some spark lighting upon our inmost soul, love was kindled and burst into flame within us—a love at once to the Holy Word, the most lovely object of all, who attracts all irresistibly toward Himself by His unutterable beauty, and to this man, His friend and advocate. And being most mightily smitten by this love, I was persuaded to give up all those objects or pursuits which seem to us befitting, and among others even my boasted jurisprudence,— yea, my very fatherland and friends, both those who were present with me then, and those from whom I had parted. And in my estimation there arose but one object dear and worth desire—to wit, philosophy, and that master of philosophy, this inspired man.
At once we see in this third century Christian context the philia of Empedocles which one scholar notes the philosopher held "alone is worthy of true worship, as the eternal elemental force of creativity and unity in the cosmos." In no uncertain terms is the longer gospel of Mark the liturgical basis for this rite of same sex union, so too that Basil and Gregory's philia only another link in the chain perpetuating this original doctrine.
Bortnes rightly notes that the philia of Theodore and his teacher represents a relationship not unlike the relationship between Socrates and his pupils. As he puts it "in his spiritual ascent towards the divine, Origen — the theios anthropos, the "friend" and "spokesman" of the Holy Word, has, in the eyes of his disciple already transcended the human condition. It is the "most godlike" in him (Panegyric 2.13) that enables him to play the part of a mediator between the divine and the disciple in an erotic relationship that requires that the latter should break all other bonds and submit his will to that of his guide and master." While Bortnes argues that what is being described in Gregory's funeral oration for his lover is ultimately different - that Basil and Gregory's union is of two equals rather than a master and guide - his analysis misses the larger point.
As we have already noted Bortnes fails to account for Theodore's repeated allusion to 'us' - i.e. two men - being united by Origen's initiation. Origen is taking the role of priest - or St Mark to use the Alexandrian terminology - in order to transform the two bodies into one soul by means of his perfect being. In other words, Origen takes the role of Christ (or 'David' according to this arrangement) and Theodore and Athenodorus have been each joined to him. Indeed at the very place Bortnes cuts off the citation from the Panegyric we see an unmistakable reference to this understanding. Theodore cites 1 Samuel 18:1 to explain what has happened to him under Origen's hand:
And the soul of Jonathan was knit with David. (1 Samuel 18:1) This word, indeed, I did not read till afterwardtheos in the sacred Scriptures; but I felt it before that time, not less clearly than it is written: for, in truth, it reached me then by the clearest of all revelations. For it was not simply Jonathan that was knit with David; but those things were knit together which are the ruling powers in man— their souls—those objects which, even though all the things which are apparent and ostensible in man are severed, cannot by any skill be forced to a severance when they themselves are unwilling. For the soul is free, and cannot be coerced by any means, not even though one should confine it and keep guard over it in some secret prison-house. For wherever the intelligence is, there it is also of its own nature and by the first reason. And if it seems to you to be in a kind of prison-house, it is represented as there to you by a sort of second reason. But for all that, it is by no means precluded from subsisting anywhere according to its own determination; nay, rather it is both able to be, and is reasonably believed to be, there alone and altogether, wheresoever and in connection with what things soever those actions which are proper only to it are in operation. Wherefore, what I experienced has been most clearly declared in this very short statement, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David; objects which, as I said, cannot by any means be forced to a separation against their will, and which of their own inclination certainly will not readily choose it. Nor is it, in my opinion, in the inferior subject, who is changeful and very prone to vary in purpose, and in whom singly there has been no capacity of union at first, that the power of loosing the sacred bonds of this affection rests, but rather in the nobler one, who is constant and not readily shaken, and through whom it has been possible to the these bonds and to fasten this sacred knot. Therefore it is not the soul of David that was knit by the divine word with the soul of Jonathan; but, on the contrary, the soul of the latter, who was the inferior, is said to be thus affected and knit with the soul of David. For the nobler object would not choose to be knit with one inferior, inasmuch as it is sufficient for itself; but the inferior object, as standing in need of the help which the nobler can give, ought properly to be knit with the nobler, and fitted dependently to it: so that this latter, retaining still its sufficiency in itself, might sustain no loss by its connection with the inferior; and that that which is of itself without order being now united and fitted harmoniously with the nobler, might, without any detriment done, be perfectly subdued to the nobler by the constraints of such bonds. Wherefore, to apply the bonds is the part of the superior, and not of the inferior; but to be knit to the other is the part of the inferior, and this too in such a manner that it shall possess no power of loosing itself from these bonds. And by a similar constraint, then, did this David of ours once gird us to himself; and he holds us now, and has held us ever since that time, so that, even though we desired it, we could not loose ourselves from his bonds. And hence it follows that, even though we were to depart, he would not release this soul of mine, which, as the Holy Scripture puts it, he holds knit so closely with himself [emphasis mine]
While this is certainly an extremely lengthy citation, it is necessary to make a broader point outside of Bortnes's failure to grasp the interconnection between the Oration for Basil and the Panygeric for Origen. The use of 1 Samuel 18:1 here was again almost certainly reinforcing same sex love 'being in the room' as Theodore was being ritually yoked to his partner Athenodorus.
David's love for Jonathan has always been recognized to have homosexual undertones to it. We see it in David's praise for Jonathan's 'love' (for him) over the 'love' of women in 2 Samuel 1:26 no less than Saul's exclamation to his son at the dinner table, "I know you have chosen the son of Jesse - which is a disgrace to yourself and the nakedness of your mother!" The "choosing" (bahar) may indicate a permanent choice and firm relationship, and the mention of "nakedness" (erwa) could be interpreted to convey a negative sexual nuance, giving the impression that Saul saw something indecent in Jonathan's and David's relationship. Moreover when they are alone together, David confides that he has "found grace in Jonathan's eyes", a phrase proponents say normally refers to romantic or physical attraction.
Throughout the passages, David and Jonathan consistently affirm and reaffirm their love and devotion to one another, and Jonathan is willing to betray his father, family, wealth, and traditions for David. It is worth noting that at his 1895 trial, Oscar Wilde cited the example of David and Jonathan in support of "the love that dare not speak its name." He wrote "such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare." Modern scholars who have argued that homosexuality is referenced in the text include the classicist David Halpern, the historian John Boswell, the Biblical scholar Susan Ackerman, and the Orientalist Jean-Fabrice Nardelli.
Of course our overarching purpose in bringing forward all this material is to not only connect Theodore and Athenodorus to Basil and Gregory who lived over a century after they came to Pontus but indeed to gain some insight into the inner workings of the Alexandrian rite of same sex union. There can be no doubt that Theodore and Athenodorus were united together in Origen at Caesarea Maritima. This was an ancient Egyptian rite which had been transplanted to Palestine because of worsening political circumstances in Egypt. While it is hard to accept Theodore's claim that he and Athenodorus simply stumbled into Origen on his escape from Alexandria, it is even more implausible that two boys from central Turkey suddenly ended up falling in love from a 'chance meeting' in Athens.
Is it too much to suggest that the consistent identification of Pontus with Marcionitism explains the interest in the Alexandrian rite and the Alexandrian gospel? We must suspect that the original attraction between these youths was already established long before this encounter in the formal school setting. Perhaps it was started with family connections or some other social contact. It is now impossible to establish the original contact. Indeed it has to be remembered in the case of Basil, that his family settled in Neocaesarea some time after he was born. As such it seems likely that it was in Pontus that the two became mutually interested in Theodore (= Gregory Thaumaturgus), Origenism and ultimately each other. Perhaps these bonds were tolerated or even encouraged in the neo-Marcionite culture of fourth century northern Turkey.
In the end it is important to note that Gregory twice uses language of marital union to describe his relationship with Basil. In his recollection of their last day at Athens he says "it was like cutting one body into two, to the destruction of either part, or the severance of two bullocks who have shared the same manger and the same yoke (homozygwn), amid pitiable bellowings after one another in protest against the separation. However, my loss was not of long duration, for I could not long bear to be seen in piteous plight, nor to have to account to every one for our separation. After only a short time in Athens, my longing desire turns me into Homer's horse, and breaking the bonds of those who restrained me, I thunder over the plains, running towards my mate." The critical word here is homozygon (= 'one yoke') and it obviously derives from the word syzygy.
Gregory uses the word syzgias four times to describe the ideal behind heterosexual marriage (43.9.1, 43.9.3, 43.16.3, 43.81.2). It is also the term he repeatedly uses to describe the same sex union that he had with Basil - "While I, Gregory, who am half dead, and, cleft in two, torn away from our great union (tes megales syzygias), and dragging along a life of pain which runs not easily, as may be supposed, after separation from him, know not what is to be my end now that I have lost my guidance." This terminology is critical for understanding was going on in Alexandrian circles likely back to the origins of the community. Men were being united with other men through the power of Christ.
Bortnes is quite correct that after Athens Gregory and Basil's philia changed to something else. Gregory speaks of After he had become a bishop, Basil "built up a network of contacts, acquaintances, relatives, clients, and of friends in the richest sense."  Gregory's understanding of friendship as a reciprocal loving relationship between two equals, united in their quest for divine truth, was, however, irreconcilable with Basil's status as a prince of the Church. And although Gregory found a model for their new relationship in Paul and Barnabas in Acts, their friendship was never the same after Athens. Indeed to put it plainly, Gregory was disappointed by Basil inability to give up ties with this world. This is not how Clement, Origen or even Theodore had originally portrayed this syzygy. Above all else, it like their love was supposed to be inviolable.
 (II. 6.506 - 7).
 Gregory has many syncretic references to classical Greek literature — Homer in this instance — his frequent use of the prefix -sun, and the concept of pothos, 'yearning' or 'longing desire.' The repetition of these elements is a key device in Gregory's rhetorical effort to bring out the true meaning of his and Basil's philia as the central event in his own life.
 : "Hurtful as Athens was to others in spiritual things, and this is of slight consequence to the pious, for the city is richer in those evil riches—idols—than the rest of Greece, and it is hard to avoid being carried along with their devotees and adherents ; yet we, our minds being closed up and fortified against this, suffered no injury. On the contrary, strange as it may seem, we were thus the more confirmed in the faith from our perception of their trickery and unreality, which led us to despise these divinities in the very home of their worship."
 (43.14:8 - 29)
 (43.19.1 - 14)
 (Gregory and Basil's birthplaces are about 150 km apart)