Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chapter Twenty Two of My New Book

Once upon a time there was a most interesting icon displayed at St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.  The image now sits in a museum in Kiev but the question which has raised ever since the image was 'rediscovered' by the late Chairman of the Yale history department John Boswell is this a depiction of Jesus presiding over a gay marriage?  The idea seems shocking to many people and the answer goes to the very heart of the question of what we are trying to accomplish with our present investigation.

The place to begin of course is with the identities of the two men featured in the icon - St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. The two officers in the Roman army allegedly incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

As we have already seen the pairing of saints was not unusual in the early Church.  Yet it would seem that as time went on the cult of twin saints seems to be associated with a small group of martyrs who died in the most recent persecutions of the religion.  To this end, alongside Sergius and Bacchus we also hear the names of Cyrus and John as well Cosmas and Damian.  We must remember that it was relatively rare for two 'brothers' to end their lives together in martyrdom.  Most of the examples we have seen over the course of the third century have one half of the 'pair' sacrificed for the benefit of the other partner.  The point that we should keep in mind is that in the course of time - and with the general coarsening of intellect in the Church after the fifth century - if you didn't die with your 'brother' you weren't celebrated as a same sex pair.

In any event, if we return to the example of Sergius and Bacchus for the moment it is worth noting that the association between these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (512 - 518 CE) explained that, "we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life".[1]  Moreover in the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus.[2] Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as "erastai,” or "lovers."[3]  In other words, there is a strong circumstantial case to be made that the two were remembered as a male homosexual couple.

It was for this very reason that Boswell placed the icon of Sergius and Bacchus on his 1994 book Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe.[4]  Moreover Boswell went on to reveal that Sergius and Bacchus played an important role in an important role in a brother making rite which he argued was an ancient precursor to 'gay marriage.'  After going through countless ancient liturgical documents Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).[5] He claimed that these church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards.

Boswell noted that these elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.  One Greek 13th century rite for instance is called the "Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union" and invokes St. Serge and St. Bacchus, calling on God to "vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".[6]  Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union" has the function of uniting two men or two women, with the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.[7]

As Boswell notes the ecords of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century. Yet the Yale professor is only following in the footsteps of original work carried out by the Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).  Indeed the earliest example of adelphopoiia pneumatike rite - literally "the making [or creation] of spiritual brothers" - is found in an eighth century prayer book known as the Barberini euchology originally referenced by Goar - our earliest surviving witness for the Byzantine rite.[8]

In the end Boswell found versions of the ceremony in some sixty Greek and Slavonic manuscripts dating from the eighth through the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries.  A typical example  'Office for Ritual Brotherhood' (Akolouthia eis adelphopoiesin):

The priest shall place the holy Gospel on the Gospel stand and they that are to be joined together place their right hands on it, holding lighted candles in their left hands. Then shall the priest cense them and say the following:

In peace we beseech Thee, O Lord.
For heavenly peace, we beseech Thee, O Lord.
For the peace of the entire world, we beseech Thee, O Lord.
For this holy place, we beseech Thee, O Lord.
That these thy servants, N. and N., be sanctified with thy spiritual benediction, we beseech Thee, O Lord.
That their love [agape] abide without offense or scandal all the days of  their lives, we beseech Thee, O Lord.
That they be granted all things needed for salvation and godly enjoyment  of life everlasting, we beseech Thee, O Lord.
That the Lord God grant unto them unashamed faithfulness [pistis] and sincere love [agape anhypokritos], we beseech Thee, O Lord....
Have mercy on us, O God.
"Lord, have mercy" shall be said three times.

The priest shall say:

Forasmuch as Thou, O Lord and Ruler, art merciful and loving, who didst establish humankind after thine image and likeness, who didst deem it meet that thy holy apostles Philip and Bartholomew be united, bound one unto the other not by nature but by faith and the spirit.

As Thou didst find thy holy martyrs Serge and Bacchus worthy to be united together [adelphoi genesthai], bless also these thy servants, N. and N., joined together not by the bond of nature but by faith and in the mode of the spirit [ou desmoumenous desmi physeis alla pisteis kai pneumatikos tropi], granting unto them peace [eirene] and love [agape] and oneness of mind.

Cleanse from their hearts every stain and impurity and vouchsafe unto them to love one other [to agapan allelous] without hatred and without scandal all the days of their lives, with the aid of the Mother of God and all thy saints, forasmuch as all glory is thine.[9]

In the end the real question for us isn't whether not Boswell overstated his case with respect to these ceremonies representing the equivalent of same sex marriage, but rather whether or not they represent a continuation of the ideas we uncovered within the early Alexandrian brother-making rite referenced by Clement in several places and performed by his student Origen on Theodore and Athenodorus of Pontus associated with the secret gospel of Mark.  It would seem impossible not to conclude there is some kind of a relationship.

To be certain there are certain methodological short-comings referenced with respect to Boswell's thesis.  Claudia Rapp makes us aware of these points and argues furthermore that it is important to make a distinction between (a) brotherhood language used in a metaphorical sense for larger groups, generically for monks, or for monks in a large community, or for all Christians as a result of the incarnation of Christ, (b) brotherhood references  to two men (this may partially overlap with the first usage) and finally (c) references to adelphopoiesis (with the use of that word and its derivatives) that implies the use of the ritual prayers to bless a bond between two men.[10]  Nevertheless there is an important link between adelphopoeisis and secret Mark which is almost inevitably overlooked - the physical presence of the earliest witnesses to the rite John Moschus and Sophronius at the Mar Saba monastery where the Letter to Theodore was ultimately discovered.

In order that we present the most objective account of this material about the circle of association with adelphopoeisis we shall draw heavily from the work of Claudia Rapp.  As she notes adelphopoeisis relations are described in Byzantine sources for nearly a mlilennium, from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries, and are attested beyond the fall of Constantinople in countries and cultures shaped by the Orthodox Church.  While Rapp is often criticized for consistently present the rite as nothing more than a cold contractual kinship rite - ignoring the many signs that it was a warm, personal experience - she often fills in many gaps in Boswell's original research.

We should begin by noting Rapp's identification of three phases to the development of adelphopoeisis from the seventh century onward.[11]  According to our earliest contemporary sources we see at least one of the two ritual brothers was a monk or a man of the church, and the relationship served the purpose of securing assistance in the quest for spiritual growth, cementing a friendship and reaping the benefits of social advancement.  The evidence for adelphopoeisis in monastic and ecclesiastical sources continues in subsequent centuries, mostly in the form of prohibitions against this bond.

In the second stage of development from the ninth century onward accounts of adelphopoeisis relations are also found in formal histories and chronicles that focus on members of the imperial family and the aristocracy.  In these sources adelphopoeisis served the purpose of social and political networking and was often supplemented by relations of godparenthood and marriage.  Finally in the eleventh century authorities began to regulate adelphopoeisis among laymen often in response to queries by aristocrats.  Such pronouncements suggest a growing uncertainty regarding the implications of adelphopoeisis relations

As our only interest here is to connect adelphopoeisis to the concept of 'brother-making' in Clement of Alexandria we only pay attention to our earliest surviving sources.   Of particular interest is the story of  John the Almsgiver Patriarch of Alexandria and Niketas cousin of the Emperor Heraclius as the pair were joined in adelphopoiesis and their story first told by John Moschus and Sophronius of Jerusalem.  In other words, as Phil Booth of the University of Cambridge notes "it is not unlikely" that the pair from Mar Saba were similarly united.[12]

The point here is that although no explicit mention of this rite dates back further than Sophronius's surrendering of Jerusalem to the armed forces of Islam, all signs suggest an origin among the so-called 'Origenist' monks of Palestine and the Mar Saba monastery in particular.  It should not be at all surprising that there is a connection with neo-Alexandrian monastic culture as our earliest reference to the term adelphopoeisis is found in the writings of the fourth century Alexandrian Patriarch Athanasius who in the course of explaining the mystical understanding of Jesus as 'the firstborn of many brothers" (Rom 8:29) declares that "the title of 'First-born' needs some explanation ... [f]or the same cannot be both Only-begotten and First-born, except in different relations;— that is, Only-begotten, because of His generation from the Father, as has been said; and First-born, because of His condescension to the creation and His brother-making (adelphopoiesin) of the many."[13]

In other words, there is a natural progression from Clement's explanation of Mark's Question of the Rich Man narrative in the third century to Athanasius's adelphopoiesis reference with respect to Romans 8:29 in the fourth and finally to the John Moschus and Sophronius's ritual yoking at the end of the fifth century according to a rite specifically identified as adelphoiesis.  Again, we cannot claim that by the time a ritual of this name is spelled out in Barberini Codex - the oldest witness to the Rite of Constantinople - it has been modified, expanded or even completely reworked.  We are after all speaking about a massive period of time.  Nevertheless it is impossible to escape the understanding that John Moschus and Sophronius represent the missing historical link between the use of the terminology before and after the fall of Jerusalem.

Clement as we have seen focuses his attention on the passage in the gospel where Mark has Jesus hint that those brothers will after undergoing the rite of the secret gospel receive new brothers - not according to the flesh but rather the spirit.  Clement, making reference to the concept of Jewish Law in the gospel material, distinguishes Jesus's creation as "unlike a slave making slaves, but (a son making) sons, and (a brother making) brethren, and (an heir making) fellow-heirs, who perform the Father's will."[14]  In other words, Clement reads the author of Romans as if he had the gospel of Mark - even the secret gospel of Mark - in his possession.

There should be no doubt that Clement - no less than Athanasius - understands Jesus to have come to the world to 'make brothers' out of men.  But Clement also intimates that the purpose of the brother-making rite is to impress the 'seal' or stamp of Jesus's androgynous image onto humanity:

"For if God foreknew those who are called, according to His purpose, to be conformed to the image of His Son," for whose sake, according to the blessed apostle, He has appointed "Him to be the first-born among many brethren"  are they not godless who treat with indignity the body which is of like form with the Lord?  The man, who would be beautiful, must adorn that which is the most beautiful thing in man, his mind, which every day he ought to exhibit in greater comeliness; and should pluck out not hairs, but lusts.[15]

Clement is clearly edging towards a discussion of the ideal state of the Christian eunuchs, one who has been stamped with Christ's 'form' - i.e. "many are eunuchs; and these panders serve without suspicion those that wish to be free to enjoy their pleasures, because of the belief that they are unable to indulge in lust. But a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure."[16]

Of course as we already noted the making of eunuchs and the making of brothers was originally connected in Alexandria.  God the Father was understood by our earliest sources to be a hermaphrodite and Jesus, the image of this unseen divinity, was consistently identified in similar terms.  So it is that Clement, living at the beginning of the end of castration being associated with the brother-making rite, attempts to find a position of compromise between the traditional understanding of God only loving eunuchs and the new embrace of heterosexuality at the highest ranks of the Church.

Clement now explaining the heretical interest in Isaiah 56.3 -5 - "the eunuch should not say, ‘I am a barren tree.’ This is what the Lord says to eunuchs: If you keep my sabbath and fulfill all my ordinances, I will give you a place which is preferable to sons and daughters" writes that this means that:

a eunuch is not justified merely because he is a eunuch, and certainly not because he observes the sabbath, if he does not keep the commandments. And for the married he goes on to say, "My elect shall not labour in vain nor bear children to be accursed; for they are a seed blessed by the Lord." For him who begets children and brings them up and educates them in the Lord, just as for him who begets from himself (gennesanti) by means of the true teaching, a reward is laid up, as also for the elect seed. But others hold that procreation is a curse and do not understand that the Scripture speaks against them. Those who are in truth the Lord's elect neither teach doctrines nor makes children (teknopoiousin) to be accursed, as the sects do.[17]

Of course we never hear Clement specifically mention brother-making (adelphopoeisis) but here we have something clearly related with respect to the idea of the heretical manufacture of eunuchs as teknopoiousin (child-making).

To emphasize his point Clement immediately goes on to note that according to the gospel "a eunuch, then, does not mean a man who has been castrated, nor even an unmarried man, but a man who is childless of truth."  What does 'childless of truth' mean for Clement?  The Alexandrian explains the concept by means of Isaiah 56 again:

Formerly he was "dry wood," but if he obeys the word and observes the sabbaths by abstaining from sins and keeps the commandments, he will be in higher honour that those who are educated in word alone and fail to do what is right. "Little children," says our teacher, "a little while longer I am with you." That is why Paul also instructs the Galatians in these words: "My little children, with whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." And again he writes to the Corinthians: "For though you may have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers. For in Christ I have generated you through the gospel." On this account a eunuch shall not enter into God's assembly," that is, the man who is unproductive and unfruitful both in conduct and in word; but blessed are those who have made themselves eunuchs, free from all sin, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven by their abstinence from the world.

Clement is clearly dancing around a controversial issue at the time of Demetrius.  On the one hand he wants to uphold the 'child-making' rites of the Alexandrian tradition, on the other he desperately wants to avoid being labeled a heretic like his student Origen.

Clement's solution is to acknowledge that the gospel did indeed teach the principle of 'child-making' through castration.  His caveat here is that it is not according to the doctrines of the heretics.  These men apparently misunderstood what exactly was meant by 'making oneself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.'  Clement never says that this 'child-making' doesn't involve self-castration.  His devoted pupil Origen clearly understood it that way and this should be taken to mean this was Clement's actual understanding of the material.  He instead has to open the door to a looser interpretation of what it means to be a 'eunuch' - one which ends up ultimately allows for a brother-making rite which involved no 'plucking out' of the sinful part of man.

We can trace the development of the early adelphopoiesis doctrine through the writings of Clement's successor Athanasius of Alexandria.  Not only does Athanasius make reference to the specific terminology he does so in relation to the same Pauline material that Clement used to reinforce the traditional understanding of castration being a kind of 'stamping' or 'sealing' of the image of the Father.  Of course as we shall see Athanasius attacked this understanding owing to what he saw as its heretical implications.  The Pauline material seemed to indicate that what was being done to make men 'brothers' was done in imitation of the making of the Son by the Father as a 'creature.'  As such, Athanasius saw it as an imperative to transform the original understanding of Alexandria.[18]

Our understanding begins by looking at Athanasius's reference to material at the end of Hebrews chapter 2.  It is said here by Paul - "to the Alexandrian Church" according to many early teachers[19] - that "both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers  He says, 'I will declare your name to my brothers, in the assembly I will sing your praises.” (Heb 2.14)  This is followed by a statement regarding the primitive Eucharist "since the children have partaken in flesh and blood, he participated in the same so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death," and then finally the declaration that "it was necessary that the brothers be made like, that a merciful being he might be and faithful."[20]

No one has ever seen this reference to 'brothers being made like' as the basis for an adelphopoiesis reference.  Nevertheless Athanasius pays special reference to the lines which immediately follow:

Wherefore, holy brothers who partake in the heavenly calling fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.  He was faithful to him who made him ... But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Indeed, this is one of several passages which the Second Oration Against the Arians pays special attention to because of its importance to the traditional authorities in Alexandria.  The obvious difficulty for the orthodox - 'Paul' here says that the Father 'created' the Son.

Athanasius notes - "And as the Apostle makes mention in his Epistle of His being made man when mentioning His High Priesthood, so too he kept no long silence about His Godhead, but rather mentions it immediately, furnishing to us a safeguard on every side, and most of all when he speaks of His humility, that we may immediately know His loftiness and His majesty which is the Father's. For instance, he says, 'Moses as a servant, but Christ as a Son [Hebrews 3:5-6]' and the former 'faithful in his house,' and the latter 'over the house,' as having Himself built it, and being its Lord and Framer, and as God sanctifying it."  Yet there is more here than a difficulty with respect to the words "he made."

As Athanasius continues "it holds that the Apostle's expression, 'He made,' does not prove that the Word is made, but that body, which He took like ours; and in consequence He is called our brother, as having become man ... For so long as we are confessing that He became man, there is no question about saying, as was observed before, whether 'He became,' or 'He has been made,' or 'created,' or 'formed,' or 'servant,' or 'son of an handmaid,' or 'son of man,' or 'was constituted,' or 'took His journey,' or 'bridegroom,' or 'brother's son,' or 'brother.' All these terms happen to be proper to man's constitution; and such as these do not designate the Essence of the Word, but that He has become man."

The place of course that Athanasius's arguments break down is the fact that 'Paul' also says that Jesus 'makes' brothers by stamping the image of God the Father on them.  In other words, Clement and the traditional authorities saw what happens between Jesus and his disciple as mirroring or being a continuation of what happened 'in the beginning' with respect to the Father and his Son.  Jesus was 'made' by receiving the stamp of the Father's image.

So in the very next line in the treatise Athanasius says "The same is the meaning of the passage in the Acts which they also allege, that in which Peter says, that 'He has made both Lord and Christ that same Jesus whom you have crucified.' For here too it is not written, 'He made for Himself a Son,' or 'He made Himself a Word,' that they should have such notions. If then it has not escaped their memory, that they speak concerning the Son of God, let them make search whether it is anywhere written, 'God made Himself a Son,' or 'He created for Himself a Word.' or again, whether it is anywhere written in plain terms, 'The Word is a work or creation.' and then let them proceed to make their case, the insensate men, that here too they may receive their answer."[21]

The argument continues for many pages.  The point clearly is that the difference between Athanasius and the established tradition at Alexandria is the significance of 'stamping' or 'sealing' has been obscured.  Clement clearly understands this to be manner in which sons are 'made.'  Athanasius on the other hand develops a rather silly argument that Jesus's 'taking on of flesh' is the important thing:

God, being first Creator, next, as has been said, becomes Father of men, because of His Word dwelling in them. But in the case of the Word the reverse; for God, being His Father by nature, becomes afterwards both His Creator and Maker, when the Word puts on that flesh which was created and made, and becomes man [emphasis mine]. For, as men, receiving the Spirit of the Son, become children through Him, so the Word of God, when He Himself puts on the flesh of man, then is said both to be created and to have been made. If then we are by nature sons, then is He by nature creature and work; but if we become sons by adoption and grace, then has the Word also, when in grace towards us He became man, said, 'The Lord created me.' And in the next place, when He put on a created nature and became like us in body, reasonably was He therefore called both our Brother and 'First-born. ' For though it was after us that He was made man for us, and our brother by similitude of body, still He is therefore called and is the 'First-born' of us ... But if He is also called 'First-born of the creation ,' still this is not as if He were levelled to the creatures, and only first of them in point of time (for how should that be, since He is 'Only-begotten?'), but it is because of the Word's condescension to the creatures, according to which He has become the 'Brother' of 'many.'[22]

It is for this reason that when Athanasius makes reference to adelphopoiesis in the next line, it is not surprising that it is done without any reference to 'sealing an image' - the central rite of secret Mark reinforced above all else that the act of brother-making reinforced the Arian belief that Jesus was a mere 'creature.'

The idea then that the secret Alexandrian brother-making rite reinforced the beating heart of Arianism accounts for it almost disappearing from our radar for the period between Nicaea and the sixth century.  It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the fourth century was devoted to the struggle to contain the 'Arian schism' from ripping apart the Church.  The reason we say that the brother-making rite almost disappears from our radar is because there are a number of important references which suggest that the final act of Athanasius's war against the original Alexandrian 'brother-making' rite was carried out in the last year of the fourth century, when Theophilus the Patriarch of Alexandria expelled the Origenist monks who went on to populate the monasteries of Palestine, the highest ranks of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and ultimately the New Lavra of the Mar Saba monastery.

While Theophilus's Festal Letter of 399, the text which justified the expulsion of the Origenists from Nitria, no longer survives we have a summary of its contents from Gennadius of Marseilles (writing in about 480).  This material makes clear that the controversy was fueled by the very same understanding of 'creating after the image and likeness' which bothered Athanasius.  Gennadius tells us that Theophilus:

wrote one great volume Against Origen in which he condemns pretty nearly all his sayings and himself likewise, at the same time saying that he was not original in his views but derived them from the ancient fathers especially from Heraclas, that he was deposed from the office of presbyter driven from the church and compelled to fly from the city. He also wrote Against the Anthropomorphites, heretics who say that God has the human form and members, confuting in a long discussion and arguing by testimonies of Divine Scripture and convincing. He shows that, according to the belief of the Fathers, God is to be thought of as incorporal, not formed with any suggestion of members at all, and therefore there is nothing like Him among created things in substance, nor has the incorruptibility nor unchangeableness nor incorporeality of his nature been given to any one but that all intellectual natures are corporeal, all corruptible, all mutable, that He alone should not be subject to corruptibility or changeableness, who alone has immortality and life.[23]

Indeed there are two extraordinarily interesting pieces of information in this report.  Not only does Gennadius tell us that the monks who expelled from Nitria held that man was made like the Son but that Origen got these ideas from the Alexandrian Fathers who preceded him.  While Clement is not named directly in this short summary it is impossible not to believe that he was identified in the original text.

Why would the issue of God being anthropomorphic or 'man-like' suddenly flare up in Egypt at this time?  The Arians had of course been utterly vanquished in the country but clearly some vestige of the original Alexandrian doctrine was seen to be 'hiding out' in the monastic communities in Nitria.  John Cassian was an eyewitness to the expulsion and writing from a monastery in Palestine years later notes that Theophilus by his letter "seemed to impugn the teaching of holy Scripture by the denial that Almighty God was formed in the fashion of a human figure, though Scripture teaches with perfect clearness that Adam was created in His image."[24]  Of course the question of the Son being created by the same stamp as Adam is not referenced in the discussion, only that the festal letter was not read by the abbots at Nitria.  John Cassian deliberately avoids explaining what the exact nature of the 'error' of this group was other than to say that the simple stumbled over the "passage where it is said 'Let us make man after our image and our likeness' [Genesis 1:26] ignorance and simplicity being its authors, so that actually there has arisen owing to this hateful interpretation a heresy called that of the Anthropomorphites, which maintains with obstinate perverseness that the infinite and simple substance of the Godhead is fashioned in our lineaments and human configuration."[25]

Clearly the community of 'Origenists' now gathered in Palestine under the authority of the Patriarch John refined the original doctrine to rid it of controversial beliefs carried over from the earliest Alexandrian fathers.   There is only the weakest of references to the significance of "image and likeness" in the surviving adelphopoiesis rites such as the words:

Forasmuch as Thou, O Lord and Ruler, art merciful and loving, who didst establish humankind after thine image and likeness, who didst deem it meet that thy holy apostles Philip and Bartholomew be united, bound one unto the other not by nature but by faith and the spirit.[26]

There are many other references in surviving liturgical texts which make reference to the continuation of this practice into the modern age.  It is our opinion that it is enough to link the surviving adelphopoiesis references from the eighth century onward to the expelled Egyptian monks at the dawn of the fifth century.

There can be no doubt that over the course of the three centuries there was a transformation of what was originally a monastic rite.  Nevertheless it shall be argued that we can indeed make out yet another thread which helps link the survival of this so-called 'kinship rite' back to the neo-Alexandrian monastic communities of fifth century Palestine.  In order to fill in the gap even further we have the accounts of several notable early seventh century figures who are said to have undergone this reformulated adelphopoiesis rite.  In order to present our readership the most restrained retelling of this original material we shall in what follows mostly stick to Rapp's summary of two of the most important of the contents of these texts.

As Rapp notes one of our earliest adelphopoiesis narratives tells the story Theodore of Sykeon (d. 613) a miracle working saint ascetic saint in Galatia who entered into a brotherhood relationship with Thomas the Patriarch of Constantinople from 607 - 610.  The origin and implementation of this relationship are described in great deal by Theodore's disciple and hagiographer George who claims to rely on firsthand information.  The first contact between the patriarch and the saint was indirect.  The patriarch in Constantinople heard about Theodore's miraculous powers Dominitziolos, the nephew of the emperor Phokas and his head of the palace who had earlier profited from the saint's prophetic assurances and prayers, when he was healing the Byzantine army in a campaign against Persia.  Ever since that time he showed his gratitude in personal visits to the saint, support for his charitable work and donations for the adornment of Theodore's monastery including a golden processional cross that he commissioned upon his return to Constantinople.  The patriarch who also wished to contribute, donated four precious relics of Christ and the Holy Virgin to be incorporated into this cross.

After hearing further reports of this saint's astounding powers and being appraised of the strange repeated occurrences in Galatia of processional crosses that were moving on their own account, the patriarch invited Theodore to stay at the capitol.  Before he even set eyes on him the patriarch had thus succeeded in obliging the saint through his generosity.  Upon his arrival Theodore was received by the patriarch with customary friendly welcome, and then paid a visit to the Emperor Phokas, in the course of which he prophesied that, unless the Emperor mended his ways, he would be visited by the wrath of God.  (Phokas was indeed overthrown by Heraclius in 610 and died a horrible death).  The audience was immediately followed by second reception by the patriarch.  On this occasion prompted by "a friendly attachment (schesis) and confidence towards him, with many pleas [Thomas] persuaded" Theodore to enter into ritual brotherhood (adelphopoeisis) with him.

Theodore was clearly reluctant to accept this proposal, while Thomas as the continuation of the narrative shows, was interested in acquiring a share of the saint's intercessory powers and especially his gifts of prophecy.  As soon as they were 'brothers,' he demanded from Theodore an interpretation of the strange portent of the moving processional crosses, and learned from the saint about the sorrows and upheavals that would soon afflict the Empire - a reference to the immediate overthrow of the Emperor Phokas.  Included in the patriarch's proposition was his request to be "with" the saint also in the life to come. This is a scene frequently encountered in Byzantine hagiography: either as a result a miracle or under the impression of the saint's spiritual instruction, someone developed a personal attachment to a saint and then expressed his desire to be included in the saint's "family."  Most commonly, the saint was asked to "become a father" (pater genesthai) in a relationship that would secure the saint's further spiritual advice and especially his prayers on behalf of his "child."

In the present case it seems to me the usual pattern between a saint and his admirer, with its inherent inequality between 'father' and 'child,' is replaced by a fraternal bond in order to eliminate any possible tension between the elevated hierarchical position of the patriarch and the spiritual authority of the saint.  We are not informed about the way in which this adelphopoeisis was concluded.  It would be interesting to know if one or the other of the liturgical prayers included in the euchologia was used on this occasion and if so who would have been qualified to perform this ritual, which joined the highest dignitary of the Byzantine church and a saintly bishop in this bond of brotherhood.

The patriarch's aim in gaining the saint as his spiritual kin is obvious.  He wanted to be assured of the saint's prayers as intercessor in this life and the next.  The continuation of the story bears this out.  When Theodore prophesied the future calamities that would befall the empire, Thomas implored him to pray to God for his timely demise so that he might be spared from witnessing these horrors.  To overcome the saint's reluctance Thomas reminded him of his obligation to pray for him by invoking their bond of brotherhood and friendship. The saint's reaction to this request is not described.  The narrative continues with Theodore's desire to depart from Constantinople.  The patriarch however refused to give him leave, pointing out that the saint's prayers on behalf of the city would be required in the upcoming turmoil.  Not much later the patriarch fell seriously ill and asked again that the saint pray for his demise.  The saint tenaciously refused to comply and prayed for his recovery instead.  The patriarch repeated his entreaty, this time appealing to their bond of brotherhood and now - without hesitation - the saint complied with this "order" (kelensis) as he called it.  The patriarch died the same day.  Clearly the relationship between patriarch and saint had something of a contractual character, which could be claimed by one of the parties at the appropriate moment.

John the Almsgiver the illustrious and charitable patriarch of Alexandria (d. 619) was another saint from the early seventh century.  While the earliest account was composed by John (Moschus) and Sophronius it does not survive in its original form but was accessible to an epitomator.  His abbreviated version is preserved in two anonymous redactions.  According to the early epitomators, John's appointment in the year 610 to the patriarchal throne of Alexandria where he subsequently gained a saintly reputation because of his charitable works was not an obvious choice.  He was the son of a governor of Cyprus, married, the father of several children, and he had no previous involvement in matters religious or ecclesiastical.  But he was on intimate terms with Niketas, the friend and supporter of Heraclius in his quest to overthrow the regime of Phokas.  After Heraclius had established himself as emperor in Constantinople, in 610, Niketas was appointed governor of Egypt, and John was persuaded to accept the position of patriarch.  Long before these events Niketas and John had been joined in ritual brotherhood (they are called adelphopoietoi) and it was probably by invoking this relation that Niketas was able to compel John to take this office.

The longest and most detailed surviving text in John's hagiographical dossier is the Life by Leontios of Neapolis, which was composed in late 641 or early 642 with the intention of presenting additional material that had not been covered in the earlier account of John and Sophronius.  Hence it does not deal with John's appointment to the patriarchal office, but John's relation to Niketas is discussed on two occasions.  Near the end of his work, the author declares that John and Niketas were joined by the bond of "spiritual love" and by the sentiment of "friendly attachment" (schesis) - the same word that was used to describe the sentiment that prompted the Patriarch Thomas to propose brotherhood to Saint Theodore of Sykeon.  The author then explains that the intimate nature of their relationship has already been discussed in an earlier chapter, clearly referring to an episode that takes place early in the patriarchate of John, when he taught Niketas a concrete lesson in charity and generosity.

As a consequence, Niketas was filled with admiration for the holy man and from then on the two were bound by such spiritual love that John even became Niketas's synteknos.  These two passages in the Vita by Leontius of Neapolis are of great importance for the present argument, since they show that Byzantine authors employed the exact same terms to describe the emotional bonds between synteknoi and those between ritual brothers.  Furthermore the hagiographical dossier about John taken as a whole, demonstrates that synteknia and adelphopoeisis were conceptualized as fulfilling analogous social roles: while John's relation to Niketas is described by the early epitomators as adelphopoeisis, Leontios of Neapolis declares it to be synteknia.

We have already noted that the authors of the original hagiography of John the Almsgiver were paired monks with a particularly strong attachment to the Mar Saba monastery.  John and Sophronius were so closely paired and so firmly identified with the 'one soul in two bodies' ideal that the Spiritual Meadow circulated under both of their names.[24]   The two men certainly knew each other in the late sixth century, John being a decade older than Sophronius and already a priest.  They were both from Damascus, there is no indication that they had known each other previously and the layman Sophronius quickly became Moschus’ “inseparable friend and disciple”.

Moschus’ first years as a novice and his monastic tonsure were at the Monastery of St. Theodosius, which had been founded in 478, five miles west of Bethlehem on a hilltop containing a cave where the Magi hid from Herod. Moschus had arrived thirty years after the 529 repose of St. Theodosius the Cenobite, the monastery’s founder, but within the lifetime of monks who had known him.  After his tonsure Moschus spent ten years the smaller New Lavra of St Saba at Pharan, southwest of Bethlehem in the Judean Desert where Sophronius eventually joined him in 575-580.   Within a few years the compatriots began their famed travels, collecting the anecdotal wisdom and experience of cenobitic and hermit monks, a spiritual treasury that Moschus hoped to preserve in the face of a younger, less ascetic generation of monks.

Although it adds gorgeous detail to our understanding of late 6th-century Byzantine ascetics and their society, The Spiritual Meadow was not written as history.  The purpose of the text according to one author, is “to move his readers to a new inner compunction, which he sees as a deep need for the troubled times through which he is living.” The first round of visits with Sophronius is through Egypt, the monastic communities of the Thebaid, and the Desert of the Oasis, where they reside for a time with Stephen of Alexandria, a commentator on Aristotle and later professor of philosophy in Constantinople. Upon reaching the Lavra of the Ailiotai on Mount Sinai, the two companions seem to have found a spiritual home, for they settle into the community there for a decade.

It is during these Egyptian travels or perhaps their later sojourn in Alexandria, that they visit the shrine of Sts. Cyrus and John at Menuthia, the inspiration for Sophronius’ later panegyric for the two saints, along with an account of seventy healing miracles including Sophronius’ own dramatic healing from ophthalmia.  Cyrus and John were a native Alexandrian saint pair.  They are said to have perished in the third century persecutions of Diocletian but represent a specifically Alexandrian adelphopoeisis cultus.  Their bodies were kept in the Church of St Mark in Alexandria until Cyril of Alexandria placed them in a newly built church in Menuthis to counter the influence of a pagan temple.

There can be no doubt that the cult of Cyrus and John influenced John and Sophronius's own compact for spiritual union.  Because the cult of the pair was established in an earlier period - the third century - we see many parallels with the union of Theodore and Athenodorus under Origen.  Most notably the two Alexandrians are described as 'wonderworking unmercinaries' (thaumatourgoi anargyroi) because they healed the sick free of charge.  Once again we find ourselves staring at another sign that the pairing ritual was rooted in an effort to imitating God's brother-making effort with respect to Moses and Aaron, the original 'wonder-workers' from the burning bush.

Indeed while we will likely never completely uncover most of the essential details of a secret cultus, we can assume that the original adelphopoeisis rites of Alexandria were brought and continued at Mar Saba and the Palestinian monesteries into the modern age.  The Patriarch who welcomed Morton Smith to work in the library is identified on his Greek Wikipedia page as having been a member of the 'Adelphopoeisis Order' of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Greece.  Of course this single strand of evidence is hardly proof of anything.  Yet when taken in the broader context of evidence we have assembled throughout this work, could it be a sign of something more significant?  Could it explain the monastery's refusal to allow the original manuscript to be carbon dated and established as an eighteenth century copy of a much older, ancient text?   As we have seen so many times during our investigation, you just never know ...

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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