Monday, August 13, 2012

Chapter Five of Naked Man With Naked Man

The Real Femineretic

So we have now established that heresy came into the Church by means of a wholly fictitious woman named Marcellina of a non-existent sect called the Carpocratians. The source of this garbled information is Celsus’s True Account written in the sixth decade of the second century. Yet it was the attempt by an early Christian forger to ‘spin’ Celsus’s original claims which transformed our understanding of the early heresies. As we have just noted, names associated with sects composed likely entirely of men were consciously developed so as to seem headed by women. While we have argued that these imaginary ‘beards’ were invented to shelter the early tradition from the accusation of being homosexual, we have yet to explain why the creation of a figure like Marcellina the Carpocratian would be believed.

The answer of course is that Joseph’s invention of Marcellina was clearly channeling a real life historical figure who was known to all – Marcia the concubine of Commodus. This most famous Christian woman was continuing to enjoy remarkable popularity a generation after the supposed introduction of her name sake Marcellina. Both names for instance are feminine versions of the masculine name Marcus but Marcia helps account for the development of Marcion. While Marcia was eventually taken to be the feminine form of Marcus, it more closely resembles the archaic form of the name – i.e. Marcius which was the family name (nomen) of the ancient Roman gens Marcia.

Plutarch again testifies that the name Marcius was translated into Greek as Marcion. The point of course is that when Joseph’s Marcellina was transformed into Marcion the inventor – Irenaeus? – clearly recognized the shadow of the historical concubine of Commodus behind this invention. While Origen clearly witnesses to the contrary, it would stand to reason that behind all the names of heretical groups we have come across so far – the Marcellinous, the Marcianistae, the Marcionistae – the only real historical sect was that of the Marciani – ‘those of Mark’ and specifically, the followers of St Mark of Alexandria.

The implications of course here are again that the homosexual interpretation of secret Mark which Clement foists upon a non-existent Carpocratian sect more than likely applied in some form to the Alexandrian tradition as a whole. Yet what seems to get in the way of this understanding – a distraction that the contemporary Church Fathers were all too happy to embrace – was that the influence of Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias the Christian concubine of the Emperor Commodus over the Church in the latter half of the second century effectively ‘disproved’ Celsus’s accusations. In other words, it seemed to be implicit that it would have been impossible to have a woman rise to such prominence if Christianity was all about the love shared by two men.

Marcia is of course one of the best kept secrets of early Christianity. As embarrassing as it might be for Christians to acknowledge the role of same sex unions in their tradition, the idea that a harlot could have held such influence in the early Church hardly makes things any better. Like Marcellina and Marcion, Marcia came over to Rome during the reign of Anicetus, as part of the Imperial household of the Emperor Lucius Verus. She also fits into the pattern of references Celsus frequently makes to contemporary Christians gathering in the houses of rich patrons and being instructed by women.

After the death of Lucius, Marcia seems to have become the mistress and consort of senator Marcus Ummidius Quadratus Annianus, the nephew of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Quadratus was involved in a plot to kill Aurelius’s son, the Emperor Commodus in 182 CE. While all the plotters were ultimately put to death, Marcia survived and became the beloved consort of the Emperor until his death in 192 CE. In this period Marcia was without question the most powerful Christian in the world at that time. After all she had immense political influence. The third century Church Father Hippolytus makes reference to her direct involvement in the running of the Roman Church. Marcia consulted with Victor the bishop no less than rescued and favored the future bishops Zephyrinus and Callixtus.

Ancient historical texts testify to the incredible hold that Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias had on Commodus. Dio Cassius, who lived through the age reports "that she greatly favoured the Christians and rendered them many kindnesses, inasmuch as she could do anything with Commodus." 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. To this end, it is difficult to believe that Marcia felt compelled to conform to the traditional misogyny of Alexandrian Christianity. As the most trusted advisor to the young Emperor she helped define the contemporary world. How could the traditional beliefs and practices of the Church reasonably withstand her influence?

It would have been intolerably hypocritical for the Roman leadership to condemn women and heterosexual unions given the harlotry of a woman was responsible for the religion's new found favor. There was of course delicious irony insofar as Christianity's rise to prominence in the Empire was almost entirely attributable to the sexual prowess of a whore. Indeed we can be assured that many would have felt that it wasn't merely 'ironic' but nothing short of the corruption of the salvation brought by Jesus to the world. Marcia conforms so closely to the image of Marcellina it is difficult to believe the portrait didn’t somehow capture an early phase in her ascendence.

It was on the 17th of March, 180 CE that Marcia’s destiny began to reveal itself. This date marked the death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in what is now the modern city of Vienna. According to the practice of the Romans, he received the honour of deification (Divus) and games, a temple, and a college of priests – the Marciani sodales - were instituted to commemorate his virtues. The citizens of the Empire had high hopes that his excellent governance would continue in perpetuity. It was only to be expected that because Marcus's secured the best educators for his son, Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus, that he would emerge as the very embodiment of the philosopher king.

Yet the world soon learned that this Emperor was something else entirely. Commodus wanted to be adored like the ancient world's equivalent of a rock star and to this end he took the stage for long stages at the Colloseum to try and winner over audiences to his new brand of politics. No one seems to have foreseen that Commodus would have been attracted to the licentious ways of his uncle Lucius Verus. The ancient world simply took it for granted that Marcus Aurelius's 'contemplative nature' would be passed on to his son. Indeed it is remarkable to read the criticisms which were directed at Lucius by ancient historians. "He was a great womanizer," complain the ancient witnesses. Yet the words don't necessarily carry the same implications as we might give them.

The triumph of Christianity in the West effectively transformed our collective attitude toward sex and sexuality. To be certain 'womanizing' is traditionally regarded as a sign of weak character but we have lost touch with the judgement of the ancients in this regard. For Marcus Aurelius was considered a great-souled man because he was attracted to establish friendships with other great men. There was certainly a homoerotic component not only to Marcus's relationships but more importantly for him to be considered a great man. Indeed only animal-souled, pleasure seeking individuals would take an interest in women. Women were simply deemed incapable of greatness and unworthy objects of desire.

The point here is that our tastes, our presuppositions and our inherited 'moral compass' leads us to misunderstand the ancient past and this is especially true with respect to earliest Christianity. We typically foist our inherited prejudices about the attitudes of ancient Christians. We assume a much greater influence for Judaism and its homophobic attitudes over the second century religion than is evidenced in the actual writings of the tradition. And lastly we ignore how rarely the question of homosexuality and same sex attraction gets raised in the earliest Christian texts in spite of the general permissiveness of contemporary society.

The point here is that the mystical interest in same sex unions could likely have continued indefinitely in Christianity if it were not for the influence of Marcia the concubine of Commodus. As we have started to see, in spite of her apparent imperfections she became the embodiment of a new acceptability of women in the Church. Of course traditional scholarship can only think in terms of the acceptability within the Church. Yet like all organizations, Christianity was defined to a much greater degree by what outsiders thought of the faith. This is partly confirmed by the obsessive interest in ‘what the world thinks’ in the writings of the Church Fathers from the late second century period onward.

What we have to see is that Marcia provided the Church with a needed break from established tradition. She represented an irreparable break with tradition which, after her death in 193 left a vacuum which Irenaeus and the Catholic theologians were all too eager to fill. It was Irenaeus not Marcia who used the opportunity to introduce an entirely new theological and scriptural paradigm in the wake of the end of the Commodian era. Marcia, as we shall demonstrate represented only an adaptation of the traditional gnostic message of the secret gospel of Mark. In other words, she changed the tradition only so much as to allow a woman to have a leading role within the ranks of highest ranks of the ecclesiastical organization.

To the outside world of course, Marcia provided a much needed public face to the secretive tradition. Commodus and Marcia were just too conspicuous for her devotion to Christianity to escape notice of contemporary observers. The two lovers weren't like other Imperial couples who sought to maintain private lives. Just ask the 50,000 spectators at the Colosseum witnessing their staged spectacles each night.

The fact that had always been whispers about a secret union between men at the heart of Christianity became completely redefined by the example of Marcia. One begins to wonder again whether the gnostic of myth of Sophia may well have been influenced by her life story. As we shall demonstrate, Valentinianism – the tradition which preserved the ‘fall of Sophia’ myth seems to have reached the zenith of its influence in the Commodian period. It is impossible not to get the sense that the story of how Marcia met Lucius, a narrative which has more twists and turns than a bad soap opera, might well have been incorporated into the official narrative of the religion of the time if we would only listen.

From our present vantage point we can now only see the barest of outlines of their original union. As with any ancient historical figure the place to begin our investigation is with her name Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetria. The first three names testify that she was freed by the Imperial household in the reign of the Antonines (161 - 169 CE). The cognomen Demetria can be taken two different ways - her birth name might have been Demetria or she could have been married to a man with the cognomen Demetrius. The first possibility makes little sense given the fact she is always referenced as 'Marcia.' The second solution presents difficulties because we know so little about her male companions other than they were many.

What we do know about Marcia is that she was raised by the Christian eunuch Hyacinth who still accompanied her when traveling in Rome during the reign of Commodus (c. 180 - 92). If the story of Marcia is understood to have influenced the historical narrative of Joseph, it would seem that the little girl made her way to Rome with the household of Commodus's uncle Lucius Verus, the Emperor Lucius Ceionius Commodus. This explains the presence of Ceionius in her name. There is an inscription associated with a fountain in a town called Anagnia (modern Anagni) some forty miles south-east of Rome that has her full name inscribed on it. It also mentions a Marcus Aurelius Sabinianus Euhodus who is generally assumed to be her father.

We seem to know at least something about this Euhodus. It is generally agreed that he had obtained his freedom and risen to wealth and influence as an imperial freedman. They had some strong local connection with Anagnia, though whether the family came from this region or whether Euhodus settled there with his new-found wealth is unknown. Given the Greek names the latter is more probable, which leaves open the question of their original homeland. Euhodus may have been one of those many slaves (mostly performers of one kind or another) brought back by the Emperor Lucius Verus from Syria and Alexandria in 166 CE.

It is generally assumed that the family came originally from either Antioch or Alexandria. Both cities had vibrant Christian communities by this time. It is also possible that among the others that Verus brought back with him was an Egyptian Eclectus, who like Euhodus was soon made into a freedman and acquired money and favor through manipulating the easy-going Verus. Verus in fact was the junior co-emperor of the philosophic Marcus Aurelius. When Verus died in 169 CE, Aurelius dismissed all his colleague's freedmen with the exception of Eclectus. Eclectus probably remained assigned to Verus' widow Annia Lucilla, Marcus' own young daughter. Perhaps at this time Euhodus took his money and settled at Anagnia, where he rebuilt the aformentioned public bath.

After the excitement of palace life the duller pleasures of rural Anagnia may not have been sufficient for some in Euhodus' family. It is likely that they kept up connections with any remaining friends in the palace like Eclectus, and so it is not surprising that some time about182 CE Marcia emerges as the mistress of a collateral relative of the imperial family named Marcus Ummidius Quadratus. It is likely that Marcia was in her late teens. Her role as Quadratus' mistress may not have been voluntary. As the daughter of a freedman and quite possibly a freedwoman herself she was governed by the ancient protocol that gave their patronus (former owner) fairly extensive claims on her deference (obsequium). In this case since the patronus was effectively the imperial family the combination of tradition and power would have been impossible to deny.

It is at this time that Marcia would again have been brought into close contact with Eclectus who was now Quadratus' chamberlain (cubicularius). He was probably transferred to the household by Annia Lucilla, the high-born lady who was involved in an affair with Quadratus which ultimately mushroomed into a plot to get rid of her brother, the Emperor Commodus. The assassination attempt was botched and all those involved were executed either then or soon afterwards. For reasons that aren’t clear, Eclectus and Marcia both survived the bloodbath. They must have been born under a lucky sign as every attendant close to Quadratus would certainly have been tortured to reveal any details of who was involved in the conspiracy.

Of course there is a more romantic explanation for their survival. It has been speculated by some historians that Commodus already had his eye on the breathtaking Marcia and used the claim of assassination to clear the way for him to take his prize. This theory is most notably put forward by the French historian Adolphe de Ceuleneer over a century and half ago. "It is understandable that Commodus would notice the beautiful imperial freedwoman," writes de Ceuleneer and "convenient" to link Quadratus to this conspiracy as a pretext to his mistress and chamberlain cubiculaire. "It may well be that Commodus chose this conspiracy as a pretext to get rid of a man who had a mistress that the Emperor wanted to take,” writes de Ceuleneer “after all many emperors put to death for the most trivial reasons."

Marcia remained the favorite of Commodus for nine years - up until the assassination she organized to murder him. Historians have traditionally struggled to reconcile her identity as a Christian with her being passed around the leading men of Rome like a party favor. Not only was she sleeping now with the murderer of her former lover, there is evidence to suggest she wasn't even loyal to Commodus. For the ancient historian Herodian maintains that she was also carrying on an affair with Eclectus the chamberlain. Yet this is utterly implausible. Eclectus was almost certainly a eunuch who were found in great numbers in the Imperial court - and especially in the post of chamberlain cubiculaire.

Lucius Verus was famous traveling with a massive entourage which certainly included many eunuchs. He probably got the inspiration from his girlfriend Panthea of Ephesus. Lucius Verus only seems to have taken things to the next level. Included in his massive company of actors, musicians, jesters, mimes, jugglers were "all kinds of slaves in whose entertainment Syria and Alexandria find pleasure, and in such numbers, indeed that he seemed to have concluded a war, not against Parthians, but against actors." Eclectus was undoubtedly one of many eunuchs. Dio Cassius’s reference to Marcia’s supposed ‘marriage’ with Eclectus was clearly based on a misunderstanding.

There can be no doubt that Marcia and Eclectus were together already in the Quadratus household while she was carrying on as the senator Quadratus's mistress. It seems impossible to believe that they carried on with a carnal union throughout their time in the Imperial household. We should think instead that the two were connected by the same Christian bond that was formerly reserved only for men. All of which leads us back to the most basic question about where the 'Demetrias' from her full name came from? Could it be that she was married to yet another male figure named Demetrius?

There are so many men in Marcia’s life you almost need a scorecard to keep track of what is going on. It is of course very unfortunate that we have ultimately lost that ancient ‘scorecard.’ Nevertheless there are some precious clues which might help us fill in the gaps in our knowledge. If we again assume that Marcellina was somehow developed from the life of Marcia it would seem her sharing of many men is reflected in the surviving testimony. Clement of Alexandria interestingly notes that "the followers of Carpocrates think that wives should be held in common" and "in this love-feast [of theirs] they practice commonality. Then by daylight they demand any woman they want in obedience –it would be wrong to say to the Law of God – to the law of Carpocrates."

It is also worth paying attention to the innovation which shows up in the Alexandrian historical narratives about Demetrius and his wife. As we saw in the Coptic History of the Patriarchs, Demetrius describes himself as a 'eunuch' who is married to his 'virgin' wife. Is it really that incredible that at almost the exact same period in history we have two Christians in the Imperial household - another eunuch and woman pair who seem to have been 'married' at least according to the later historians like Dio Cassius? Could it be that underneath all of these references was the sacred union rite associated with Secret Mark in Alexandria? In other words, the Carpocratian agape or 'love feast' which Clement says had already spread to Roman women in the late second century?

There are a number of reasons to think that something like this was true and brought the Alexandrian tradition into disgrace. There are a number of reports in the period of 'virgins' and 'noble ladies' being seduced by heretics with names associated with Mark and his gospel. It is at this same time that the Egyptian heretic named Mark enters the Patristic literature. Mark here is clearly St Mark personified as a contemporary boogeyman who is above all else a 'seducer' of innocent souls. Irenaeus describes him as a "perfect adept in magical impostures, and by this means drawing away a great number of men, and not a few women, he has induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above."

It is also interesting that we learn from Irenaeus and various other sources that this Mark instituted a second type of baptism different from that associated with John the Baptism. This was a baptism of perfection or 'redemption' in which fire appeared in the water or on the water while the catechumen were being initiated. Indeed the justification for this additional rite comes from several parts of the gospel but most notably the very same section of Mark chapter 10 where we find the addition to 'Secret Mark.'

All of this seems to reinforce again that Marcia only expanded the traditional love union which formerly existed only between men. To this end we should focus our attention of Irenaeus's consistent concern that a great number of noble women were taking part in this secret ritual. Irenaeus is scandalized that these "deluded women" are seem to have been numbered among the lower ranks of the presbytery. A woman is said to bring forward the Eucharist cup and help in the consecration of the sacred vessels. Interestingly the same thing is said of the role of women in the Marcionite churches and Marcion is himself similarly accused of corrupting virgins.

There is also an undeniable strong sexual undercurrent to Irenaeus's description of the Marcian sacraments. Mark announces to the assembled females the following words while mixing the sacramental wine - "May that grace who is before all things, and who transcends all knowledge and speech, fill thine inner being, and multiply in thee her own knowledge, by sowing the grain of mustard seed in thee as in good soil." These words, says Irenaeus are use for goading on the wretched women to madness and convincing them they can prophesy. Yet they would certainly also have scandalized contemporary Roman society and Christians who came over to Christianity hearing reports about the manner in which wives and virtuous women generally were corrupted by the secret religion of Mark.

Scholars have known about these passages but inevitably failed to grasp their true significance for what they tell us about earliest Christianity. We should pay attention for instance to the statement that Mark unites himself "with both men and women" but that Irenaeus only takes an interest in the sex scandal involving women. Indeed the very same thing happens with respect to the material about the 'Carpocratians' which Irenaeus incorporates into a later section of the same work. We know Hegesippus originally made reference to the sect performing "every unspeakable, unlawfulthing, which is not right even to say, and every kind of homosexual unionand carnal intercourse with women, with every member of the body." Yet again, Irenaeus again only takes an interest in what is said of their corruption of women.

Instead from the very beginning the reports of the Church Fathers reflect a basic discomfort with the portrait of Christian women in contemporary writers. We read it declared that these heretics "have been prepared by Satan, and put forward as a reproach and stumbling-block for God’s church. For they have adopted the name of “Christian,” though Satan has arranged this so that the heathen will be scandalized by them and reject the benefit of God’s holy church and its real message, because of their wickedness and their intolerable evil deeds— so that the heathen, observing the continual behavior of the evildoers themselves and supposing that the members of God’s holy church are of the same kind, will refuse the hearing of God’s real teaching, as I said, or even, seeing certain of us behave in this profane way blaspheme us all alike. And so, wherever they see such people, most of theheathen will not come near us for conversation or an exchange of views,or to listen to sacred discourse, and will not give us a hearing, since they are frightened by the unholy deeds of the wicked people."

Of course these same Church Fathers found it immensely preferable to be dealing with the problem of wild and wacky women rather than the thorny issue of same sex unions. Our sources chose to deal with the effects of Marcia because they were easier to handle. This is why Irenaeus goes on to express his disgust in what follows in the report on the followers of Mark that he "devotes himself especially to women, and those such as are well-bred, and elegantly attired, and of great wealth, whom he frequently seeks to draw after him." He is said to be "addressing them with seductive words" such as “I am eager to make thee a partaker of my grace, since the Father of all doth continually behold thy angel before His face. Now the place of thy angel is among us: it behoves us to become one. Receive first from me and by my grace. Adorn thyself as a bride who is expecting her bridegroom, that thou mayest be what I am, and I what thou art. Establish the sperm of light in thy nuptial chamber. Receive from me a spouse, and become receptive of him, while thou art received by him. Behold grace has descended upon thee; open thy mouth and prophesy.”

The description that follows of a woman "vainly puffed up and elated by these words and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently, reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense" is directed against members of the Church who are leading member of society in the communities across the Empire. Irenaeus is clearly writing at the end of the second century long after Marcia’s influence came to end with her brutal execution. The women who briefly enjoyed parity with their male counterparts were effectively left out to dry.

All that remains of this brief golden age are reports of the influence of Demetrius’s wife and of course Irenaeus’s witness to the influence of the new ‘co-ed’ mysticism traditionally associated with Alexandria. We read for instance of Irenaeus's 'heretic woman' is said to "henceforth reckons herself a prophetess, and expresses her thanks to Mark for having imparted to her of his own grace. She then makes the effort to reward him, not only by the gift of her possessions (in which way he has collected a very large fortune), but also by yielding up to him her person, desiring in every way to be united to him, that she may become altogether one with him." While this does not yet rise to the scandal epitomized by Elagabalus's defiling of a Vestal Virgin, it is drawing on the same raw never which would eventually bring down an Emperor.

While Irenaeus says that at least "some of the most faithful women, possessed of the fear of God, were not being deceived" by every effort of Mark to seduce them, his success is ultimately attributed to magic and the use of "compounds philters and love-potions, in order to insult the persons of some of these women, if not of all." For Irenaeus goes on to note that even those women "who have returned to the Church of God have acknowledged, confessing, too, that they have been defiled by him, and that they were filled with a burning passion towards him" because of the effectiveness of these magical potions that he developed to seduce them.”

It cannot be overlooked that Irenaeus goes out of his way to present the heretics as diabolically plotting to corrupt the virtues of women. It was a deliberate effort to condemn the followers of 'Secret Mark.' The warning is clear - bring this Egyptian Mark in your homes and he will defile your most prized possessions. To this end Irenaeus brings forward:

a sad example of this occurred in the case of a certain Asiatic, one of our deacons, who had received him (Mark) into his house. His wife, a woman of remarkable beauty, fell a victim both in mind and body to this magician, and, for a long time, travelled about with him. At last, when, with no small difficulty, the brethren had converted her, she spent her whole time in the exercise of public confession, weeping over and lamenting the defilement which she had received from this magician.

It cannot be coincidence that Irenaeus consistently ignores the danger that Mark allegedly poses for men. The bottom line is that no one worries to much about the corrupting of male virtue.

Indeed no one likely disputed that men would have desired to be united with another man for some sort of deep mystical union. The misogyny in the ancient world was such that few believed that women were even capable of such profundity. The only reason they could be acting this way was because they were controlled by magic or drugs. This is why the discovery of the Letter to Theodore is so significant. It not only explains the context for these reports about the heresies and why the descriptions of the Marcians and Carpocratians sound almost identical. It finally explains how Marcia could have considered herself a Christian. For it is interesting to note that historians of religion have struggled to explain the concubine of Commodus. De Ceuleneer goes so far as to question how "so immoral a person could have been a Christian." Indeed he takes issue with the word used in a third century religious text to describe her religious devotion.

Marcia is described in the Philosophumena as a 'philotheos' a Greek word which for de Ceuleneer "is not even synonymous with Christian" and which he notes is actually "used several times by pagan authors, and Aristotle and a Pollux, only in the sense of Dei amans." The same interpretation is brought forward by many contemporary believers. In recent times Thomas C Oden explains the terminology as follows - "this could have implied either a seeker or someone inwardly drawn toward the righteous life who was willing to give Christians a voice and who was seeking life with God."

It is amazing that so many people have attempted to obscure the significance of this terminology when it clearly shows that extol Marcia as a gnostic. Both Moses and Abraham are described as 'lovers of God' (philotheoi) after being prepared by God for the mystic vision of the divinity. Philo says Moses "with a few other men, was loved by God and was a lover of God, being inspired by heavenly love, and honouring the Father of the universe beyond all things, and being honoured by him in a particular manner."

Clement of Alexandria interestingly develops these same ideas within the context of the Christian mysteries and its goal of being totally assimilated with God. He writes that "the godly man is the only lover of God, and such will he be who knows what is becoming, both in respect of knowledge and of the life which must be lived by him, who is destined to be divine, and is already being assimilated to God. So then he is in the first place a lover of God (philotheos). For as he who honours his father is a lover of his father, so he who honours God is a lover of God." The reality of course is that the term philotheos has a very specific significance within the Alexandrian tradition. It means essentially the same thing as 'gnostic' - i.e. a figure who has been brought into acquaintance with God after some mystical vision.

Of course the term philotheos never applies to women in Philo. Instead it is reserved for the Patriarchs of Israel, such as Moses who managed to see God while standing in the holy of holies of the tabernacle:

the soul of the lover of God seeks to know what the one living God is according to his essence, it is entertaining upon an obscure and dark subject of investigation, from which the greatest benefit that arises to it is to comprehend that God, as to his essence, is utterly incomprehensible to any being, and also to be aware that he is invisible. And it appears to me that the great hierophant had attained to the comprehension of the most important point in this investigation before he commenced it, when he entreated God to become the exhibitor and expounder of his own nature to him, for he says, "Show me thyself;" (Ex 33:12) showing very plainly by this expression that no created being is competent by himself to learn the nature of God in his essence.

Indeed Philo understands Moses to united with the divinity in the manner of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who are described as "lovers of God, and beloved by God, loving the only God, and being loved in return by him who has chosen ... to given them also a share of the same appellation as himself.

The important thing for us to see is that the concept of the 'philotheos' - the lover of God - was already established in Judaism, and particular the tradition associated with Philo in Alexandria in the first century which incorporated Greek philosophy into its exegesis of scripture. We should recognize that the related concept of 'friendship' with anything is a quintessentially Greek virtue. All the 'lovers of God' in the Jewish tradition are inevitably described as 'friends of God.' As we shall see later in the book, the Patriarchs were each drawn by 'love' (philia) to God and in the same way the longer gospel of Alexandria is understood by the author of the Philosophumena of establishing the same principle with contemporary men.

This Christian understanding of philia is compatible with what Philo says about the vision of the soul at the end of the Phaedrus. Indeed Philo understands it to have originally been established by Moses who:

describes this mystical or the soul of the man who is the lover of God, being eager for truth, springs upward and mounts from earth to heaven; and, being borne on wings, traverses the expanse of the air, being eager to be classed with and to move in concert with the sun, and moon, and all the rest of the most sacred and most harmonious company of the stars, under the immediate command and government of God, who has a kingly authority without any rival, and of which he can never be deprived, in accordance with which he justly governs the universe.

Of course this use of philotheos in Philo has been entirely appropriated by his devoted Christian student Clement of Alexandria. This is neither surprising nor unexpected especially given the fact that Irenaeus himself describes the Gospel of Mark in very similar terms - as the gospel "which renovates man, and sums up all things in itself ... raising and bearing men upon .its wings into the heavenly kingdom."

Indeed none of these things would likely have caused a great scandal if it were not for the fact that a notorious woman like Marcia was the standard bearer of the text into the third century. The fact that she is the 'philotheos' of the Philosophumena's description of the age is only piece of the puzzle. The bottom line is that having a women partake in the vision described in the Phaedrus was problematic for ancient minds. Beyond the question of whether women were deemed to be 'great souled enough' to experience these heights, there is also the basic problem that the Platonic imagery invoked here is quite specifically homoerotic in its nature. In the very same text heterosexual attraction is explicitly linked to animal husbandry and a soul incapable of being a 'philotheos.' Having a woman - and especially a notorious woman like Marcia - held up as a lover of God like Abraham, Moses and the apostles was extremely problematic for the tradition.

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