Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chapter Six of Naked With Naked

Traditional scholarship doesn’t take up the challenge of understanding how a harlot ends up being being ranked with Abraham and Moses by the third century Church. They ‘already know’ that it would be impossible for a woman to have had the influence that is always ascribed to her. They don’t want to challenge our basic inherited notion of a virgin Church. The idea that Christianity succumbed to the temptation embodied in the Emperor Commodus’s concubine is too much for them to bear so they opt to ignore the problem altogether.

To this end, when the Church Fathers credit her with the status of a philotheos they scramble to find another interpretation of these words. Many even go so far as to substitute alternative terminology altogether. They tell themselves that what the author really meant to say was that she was a ‘God-fearer’ - a well established term designating someone who had a loose association with Judaism.

This is what is inevitably done whenever traditional scholarship comes upon challenging information. There is a tendency to desperately go for the option which preserves the sanctity of our inherited Church. It is of course very difficult to overcome our prejudices. It is something that we either have to work at or – as in the case of Marcia’s influence over the contemporary religion – have shoved down our throat.

The reality is that tremendous changes took place within Christianity in the late second century. There can be no doubt that most of this transformation came about owing to Imperial pressure. To argue otherwise is to exhibit the worst sort of Americanism. There was no ‘freedom of religion’ in antiquity. Every cult in the Empire was tightly controlled by the government. The difference between being an officially recognized religion and a clandestine sect would ultimately determine success or failure as a religion.

If Marcia wasn’t a specifically Christian beloved concubine of Commodus the impentetrable misogyny of the early Church would remain unbreached. Yet Commodus and Marcia were remarkably unique rulers of the Empire. The idea that this Amazon was raised to the status of Moses fits the pattern of overblown extravagance associated with the couple. It is worth noting that among Moses’s most important fuctions was selecting the fitness of priests – something which we know Marcia similarly involved herself with in the Church of Rome.

In many ways the scholarly attempt to obscure her legacy seems comparable to what they done with respect to Christian same sex unions. There is an unconscious conspiracy among these academics to reinforce whatever serves to uphold the dignity of the Church. No one wants to see things from outside of their own inherited presuppositions. The game is effectively rigged in favor of ‘straight’ vote. All of us are the product of a heterosexual union and most of us perpetuate the choices of our ancestors. The bias is literally embedded in our DNA.

In order to make the case that Jesus wasn’t ‘for’ heterosexuality we literally seem to be going against Mom and apple pie. What could be more sacred that a mother’s love? What could be more holy? They call out. It is arguments like this which continue to prop up the cult of the Virgin Mary – a vestage of the same third century period which ultimately saw the final corruption of the original Church.

Marcia had let the cat out of the bag in terms of women taking on a role equal to that of men. The Christian writers of the third century needed to carve out some distraction in order to preserve the original dignity of the wholly masculine order. As such we start to see the development of a liturgical matroyshka doll in early Christianity. There are layers upon layers, corrections upon corrections in order to attain the elusive ‘perfect balance’ of a respectful looking Church that doesn’t appear to have been artificially contrived.

Yet the mere identification of Marcia or any woman as a philotheos – the traditional Christian title for Moses – becomes so utterly absurd in itself because it is built upon layer after layer of misogyny dating back to the Jewish roots of the movement. The facts of the matter are that women were viewed as being inherently sinful. The image of a woman being a ‘God lover’ would necessarily have been viewed as an immense blasphemy – unless of course that woman had the weight of the Imperial government behind her.

Let’s just look at the facts for a moment. The Book of Exodus tells us that Moses need to abstaint from any physical contact with women before receiving the Pentateuch. We are not just talking about sexual intercourse – like an Olympic athlete preparing for a race – but literally being prohibited from standing in the presence of an inherently sinful feminine being. Indeed it wasn’t just Moses who was so instructed. In the nineteenth chapter of Exodus we read that God tells Moses “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people … After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day not to go about a woman.”

When you see it confirmed that there were no women at the Sinai experience and we see that not just Moses but all men who receive the Torah are called ‘God lovers’ in the Jewish tradition we see how implausible it is to have a harlot stand in the place of Moses and call herself philotheos. This doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. All we are saying is that the remarkable turn of events came about owing the threat of punishment lurking in the background. Marcia could pretty much call herself whatever she wanted.

Yet this testimony that Marcia decided to take the most sacred title associated with Moses serves to preserve its original mystical significance for us. Christianity was indeed centrally focused on the union of man with God. Yet as we see with the writings of Clement Moses was a lover of God through another man. One was expected to see God literally embodied in one’s brother and to this end Clement repeatedly references a now lost saying from the gospel to great effect – “see your brother, see your God.”

The point then is that Clement certainly understood Moses to have been a ‘God-lover’ when he stood with the divinity on Mount Sinai. Yet the Christianity was about something more than a veneration of an ancient historical theophany on a hilltop. The religion designed by St Mark at Alexandria sought to make every day a holy day. The secret gospel of Mark testifies to the fact that Jesus was offering humanity continuous unity with God through love. As we shall see this was carried out by the application of Clement’s “see your brother, see your God” formula filtered through the mystical reinterpretation of the narrative about Moses being joined to his brother Aaron in the Book of Exodus.

Clement writes that the gnostic is "above all a lover of God" who "pays service to God by his constant self-discipline" until impassability is reached as a state that transcends effort. This in itself is a clear adaptation of the command in Exodus to stay away from contact with women albeit it is now stretched in perpetuity. The problem of course is that most people can only think about the gospel in terms of what ‘Jesus really thought’ or ‘Jesus really believed.’ The reality is that the only logical interpretation of this text is that it represents the original literary creation of a certain ‘Mark.’ Who or what Jesus was and what he believed is impossible to know and ultimately irrelevant.

The question isn’t whether Judaism sanctioned homosexuality – which it certainly did not – but whether the gospel is anything more than Mark’s attempt to rework the central narrative of the Jewish people, the Book of Exodus. This is a well regarded theory within Biblical scholarship most closely associated with John Bowman of Monash University in Australia. It was his understanding that the gospel of Mark was a Christian Passover haggadah – a traditional reading carried out during the holidy – “written with the purpose of reinterpreting the paschal theme in messianic terms as the new exodus.” Within this framework we can view his secret gospel quite specifically of incorporating an interest in the mystical brother-making rite associated with Moses and Aaron in the early traditions.

Bowman doesn’t mention the secret gospel of Mark and seems to ignore the strong Patristic evidence for this point of view as early as Irenaeus of Lyons. For this Church and his contemporaries certainly saw the narrative as principally focused on developing contemporary history dating back to the time of Jesus as the fulfillment of a pre-existent typology in the Book of Exodus. In other words, very few people in the early Church actually believed that gospel was entirely made up of ‘facts.’ Instead it was a collection of signs and symbols drawn from older scriptural sources and most notably the second book of the Pentateuch.

Of course this approach to the text is very difficult for the modern reader to get their head around. We have been unduly influenced by a literalist Protestant interpretation of the material for far too long. From Irenaeus’s perspective as we have already noted, the gospel account was a retelling of the events which literally took place at the time of Moses or as he puts it “the whole exodus of the people out of Egypt, which took place under divine guidance, was a type and image of the exodus of the Church which should take place from among the Gentiles; and for this cause He leads it out at last from this world into His own inheritance, which Moses the servant of God did not [bestow], but which Jesus the Son of God shall give for an inheritance.”

Irenaeus is anticipating here a principle of religious consciousness that was called ‘the myth of the eternal return’ by the Romanian historian of religion, Mircea Eliade. The reason the Bible is a holy book is not because it preserves every fact about the history of the world from creation but because it provides signs and typologies which help us understand ‘God’s plan.’ To this end the union of the brothers Moses and Aaron in chapter four of the Book of Exodus is essential for understanding the context of Secret Mark. As Clement himself notes in his Letter to Theodore Mark incorporated mystical elements from somewhere and added them “to the stories already written … which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils.”

Of course we are told what is going on behind the curtain – a union of naked man with naked man. Clement only argues that the specific words don’t appear in the text. Nevertheless he does present a clear witness to a story of two men being conjoined in some sort of mystical union. We shall argue here that Mark’s source is clearly the account of Moses and Aaron in Exodus. The gospel was never conceived as a literal history of the ministry of Jesus. Instead it is better described as deriving from a pre-existent divine stamp – an understanding established by God at the time of the Exodus in order to save humanity at the end times.

Irenaeus’s captures the exact essence of that original interpretation when he says that “if God had not accorded this in the typical exodus, no one could now be saved in our true exodus.” Bowman goes muich further, almost going into too much detail to demonstrate that Mark’s gospel developed from the Book of Exodus. Irenaeus on the other hand provides us with some of the most powerful arguments for this understanding noting that Jesus was the angel sent by God to both establish Moses as the apostle of God and exact vengeance on the sinful ruler of the world.

In other words, and this is very critical Jesus was understood by the early witnesses of Christianity to be the Being (in Greek ho on) seen by Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:14. This is why we see the Jews want to kill Jesus for claiming to be this same Being when confronted by the Jews in a critical juncture in the gospel. “‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am the Being!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him. The reason the Jews are angry with Jesus here is because they recognized all too well what Jesus was claiming – he was the god of the burning bush.

If Jesus was originally understood to have been a God rather than a man it is important to note how important Jesus’s sending out of the apostles two by two in the same narrative. Irenaeus acknowledges that the paired males are sent out to function in the exact capacity of Moses and Aaron - “that the nations [are to] receive the same plagues universally, as Egypt then did particularly.” This is a parallel is reported with particular frequency in the early Church Fathers. Lactantius writing slightly before the council of Nicaea notes with respect to Moses signs regarding the eleven plagues that “this deed so illustrious and so wonderful, although for the present it displayed to men the power of God, was also a foreshadowing and figure of a greater deed, which the same God was about to perform at the last consummation of the times, for He will free His people from the oppressive bondage of the world.”

All ready we should begin to see that we have a bare bones outline of how Mark developed his gospel in imitation of the Book of Exodus. The things that became essentially obscured over the course of time is the mirroring of the special relationship between God and his apostles Moses and Aaron in the secret gospel. Nevertheless Clement’s provides us with a few extra clues in his other surviving writings noting that Jesus originally only baptized Peter of all the apostles. This restores our appreciation of the original paradigm where Peter was clearly originally held to have been the disciple who had the same intimate relationship with God as Moses originally had. As the Syriac liturgy still preserves the relationship “Moses, the chief of the old (law), Peter of the new, both alike: God dwelt in (both of them). Moses coming down (from the mountain) bore (in his hand) the tables of the law: Simon received the keys of the (heavenly) kingdom. Moses built the tabernacle of the alliance: Simon built the Church.”

This is not the place to argue that Peter was the unnamed disciple in secret Mark. It is enough to suggest that the testimony of Clement already suggests it. It is enough to note that as the second Moses this anonymous disciple in Secret Mark not surprisingly also conforms to the description of Joshua crossing the Jordan. Joshua is the second Moses in the same way Peter was. So we read at the end of the section cited by Clement from the secret gospel – “and he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.”

Most interpretations of the material lazily assume that Jesus is the he that crosses the Jordan. Yet a much more compelling case can be made that the youth is consistently identified as ‘he’ throughout the section. In other words, it has often noted there is no direct reference to Jesus actually immersing the individual in water. The ambiguity of the description here in secret Mark may have been responsible for the great variation in baptizing techniques cited by Irenaeus as existing among the Marciani. Some of the followers of Mark thought that water wasn’t necessary for their rites, others than this redemptive act could be self-administered. The specific wording of the gospel moreover – arising he returned to the other side of the Jordan – is literally taken word for word from the Greek translation of the Joshua’s crossing.

The implication clearly is that the crossing of the Jordan here is deeply significant. Given what we know of the order of both the gospel and the liturgy up until that point this crossing occurs on a date very close to the traditional understanding of Joshua’s original ‘return’ – i.e. the first day of the Jewish religious year, 1 Nisan. Without getting too deeply involved in the liturgical significance here, the ritual at the heart of secret Mark seems to be a mystical reinterpretation of several important events in the Jewish religion. The references to the Book of Exodus and the Book of Joshua are stacked one on top in the manner we in a liturgical year. For instance in a Christian church Exodus 15 – the crossing of the sea by the Israelites - is always read in the lead up to Easter – the celebration of Christ’s suffering and resurrection - because the two events are understood to have mystically ‘related.’

To this end, it cannot be regarded as coincidence any longer that Jesus’s baptism of the youth occurs on the first day of the year – a date traditionally associated with the making of Adam, the world, the establishing of the tabernacle and the crossing of the Jordan. We see Irenaeus layer the narratives of the Book of Exodus and Joshua in his interpretation of the gospel. It should be seen as certain that this was established in all traditions from the very beginning. Indeed whereas the fourth century baptism rite became fixed not only on Easter Sunday and strangely the crossing of the sea by the Israelites over a week later, it would seem the original initiation rite was tied to Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan to enter into the Promised Land.

The discovery of secret Mark makes clear that the spiritual baptism described in the text was wholly tied to the promise of attaining the ‘heavenly kingdom’ promised to the ancient Israelites. This is why we see the Marciani are reported by Irenaeus to have termed it a ‘redemption’ – a term traditionally used in Judaism to denote entry into the Promised Land. This is also undoubtedly why early Christians gave milk and honey to the newly baptized owing to the words of Exodus 3:8 – “And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large unto a land flowing with milk and honey.”

The point is that when we start putting all the pieces together of how the gospel was originally constructed it is impossible not to see that from the beginning the composition was intended to by liturgically interpreted in light of the Book of Exodus chapter 3 and the start of the Book of Joshua. All three events occur in the very same cycle in the liturgy and more significantly Clement makes explicit reference to Mark developing his gospel with the year over year function of his church in mind. Whereas scholarship has always struggled to make sense of bapstism liturgies, we are making the case now that the rite in secret Mark is meant to occur on the first new moon of the year, coinciding with the creation of Adam, the building of the tabernacle and ultimately the crossing of the Jordan – the day the promise of the land of milk and honey was ultimately fufilled.

As long as we continue to treat the gospel as an attempt at history we stand far removed from understanding the original tradition of St Mark. Bowman always takes notice of how Mark’s gospel writing effort went hand in hand with the development of a rigid lectionary system – or if you will a cycle of public readings. As he puts it - “it is indeed very likely that by the middle of the second century . . . the Gospels came to be looked on as the New Law. This combined with possible greater interest in liturgical Order may have led to the selection of some pericopes as being suitable for reading on certain Sundays, and in time led to the scribes copying out the New Testament making paragraph divisions such as one finds in Codex Vaticanus.”

Indeed it has already been argued since Bowman that the editor of the Gospel of Matthew further developed Mark’s original narrative to make this even more explicit. As M D Goulder notes in his 1969 Midrash and Lection in Matthew:

a gospel is not a literary genre at all, the study of Matthew reveals: it is a liturgical genre. A Gospel is a lectionary book, a series of 'Gospels' used in the worship week by week in lectio continua. Such a conclusion is in every way consonant with the view of the evangelist.

Goulder argued that the portrait of Jesus in Matthew makes this conclusion impossible to deny as “he officiated, week by week, year by year, at worship that was Jewish in root and mainly Jewish in branch. He expounded Jewish readings with Christian traditions in the Jewish manner: and as the Jews read the Law by lectio continua round the year.”

Of course the traditional approach to the gospel is that it was developed according to a Jewish liturgical cycle quite specifically. Goulder argues for instance that “the theory I wish to propose is a lectionary theory: that is, that the Gospel was developed liturgically, and was intended to be used liturgically; and that its order it liturgically significant, in that it follows the lections of the Jewish year.” We shall argue instead that the Gospel of Mark was certainly developed with the liturgy of the Samaritan liturgy in mind – that is the northern cousins of the Jewish people who still exist and remain steadfastly devoted to the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua.

There are many reasons why this understanding makes far more sense than the alternative. The Samaritan liturgy for instance in the weeks leading up to Passover are wholly devoted to the Book of Exodus. Yet there is another far more significant reason for assuming this development – the Samaritan liturgy helps explain the development of secret Mark. For as we have already noted the most ancient tradition venerates the conjoining of the brothers Moses and Aaron in relation to the first new moon of the year.

It should be noted that in the current liturgy the Samaritans read the accounts of the various plagues each Saturday for two and half months prior in what they call the ‘Sabbaths of Signs.’ Yet a much older liturgy published by the Australian Samaritanologist Simeon Lowy in the last century takes us back to the very lectionary system known to Mark. At the beginning of the eleventh month and down to the last Sabbath in the year, the ancient Samaritans read the entire contents of the Book of Exodus:

Sabbath 1 - Ex 1:1 - 7:8 the burning bush/God teaches Moses signs
Sabbath 2 - Ex 7:9 - 11:10 Moses and Aaron perform the various signs
Sabbath 3 - Ex 12:1 - 18:26 the Exodus/Moses appoints officers
Sabbath 4 - Ex 19:1 - 25:1 Moses ascends Mount Sinai/enters into the cloud
Sabbath 5 - Ex 25:2 - 28:43 sanctification of the utensils
Sabbath 6 - Ex 29:1 - 31:18 appointment of the priesthood
Sabbath 7 - Ex 31:19 - 36:19
Sabbath 8 - Ex 36:20 - 40:38 setting up the tabernacle

Since Passover is on the fourteenth of Nisan it is important to note that the new month begins reading from the next book in the Pentateuch – i.e. the Book of Leviticus:

Sabbath 1 - Lev 1.1 - 6.8 burnt offerings
Sabbath 2 - Lev 6:9 - 9:22

The reader should recognize that after the first two weeks of the first month the Samaritans – like their Jewish cousins - celebrated Passover. The reading of Leviticus here makes perfect sense as the material principally deals with sacrifices.

It shall be our argument that Mark developed his original narrative with something like this pre-existent liturgical framework in mind. The gospel is not the literal story of how a man named Jesus was crucified. It is rather a conscious adaptation of the idea that God established Moses and Aaron as apostles witnessing a message of redemption to Pharaoh. It is worth noting that while the reading of the Exodus chapter 3 – the section where the appointment of Moses and Aaron is referenced – occurs at the beginning of the liturgical cycle, the Samaritans also devoted a separate day of special reference to their union tied to the first day of the year.

The veneration of the union or zimmut of Moses and Aaron has always been tied to the conjoining of the sun and moon both masculine nouns in Hebrew. It will be our contention that secret Mark’s assigning of Jesus’s union with his beloved disciple on the first of the year was certainly developed from traditional Samaritan interest in the zimmut. In the current liturgy there are two so-called ‘conjunctions’ established sixty days before the festivals of Passover and Sukkoth. The entire function of the festival is connected with the first of the year – either to ensure the accuracy of the calendar and in specific – the start of the year – as well as the half-shekel redemption tax which has to be collected by this date.

The Samaritans differ from the surviving Jewish tradition in that they develop their calendar system from astronomical calculations of the ‘conjunction’ of the moon and the sun rather than mere observation of new moons. There is evidence that other early Jewish communities originally agreed with the Samaritan method of the start of the year but later abandoned the practice of periodically adjusting the calendar on the zimmut. In the literature associated with the tradition there are unmistakable signs that the festival was originally only associated with the beginning of the year. The most obvious being that the ‘zimmut’ of Moses and Aaron is carried out now inn anticipation of the new year which starts with moon and sun conjoined on the first of Nisan.

The writings of a certain Mark within the Samaritan tradition who is dated to the first century make frequent reference to this astral ‘conjoining’ phenomenon, albeit not preserving which specific day was chosen for the veneraton of the ‘zimmut.’ A natural reading of the early material from Samaritna Mark would suggest that the conjoining of Moses and Aaron had to have occurred on the first of the month given the consistent astral symbolism. The mystic Samaritan writer consistently speaks in terms of the ‘conjunction’ of Moses and Aaron being a reflection of the ‘conjunction’ of the sun and the moon in a manner which in turn is very reminiscent of Philo of Alexandria’s understanding of them as ‘working together’ like the mind and word of God.

The Samaritan holiday of zimmut also provides possible insight into the hieros gamos or ‘sacred marriage’ tradition within early Christianity. For the Greek equivalent to the Aramaic term zimmut is synodos or ‘coming together.’ The language which associates the ‘coming together’ of Moses and Aaron as the sun and moon so closely resembles the tradition Roman interest in Peter and Paul that it is impossible not to regard there to be some dependence on the Samaritan material. Mark tells us that Moses and Aaron are “two great lights” who “will illumine the congregation of Israel.” They are understood to go down into Egypt like the two angels who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, they were “like two lights, their faces giving light in Pharaoh's abode” as well as the “two lights shone among the stars of Sarah and Abraham.”

The mystical language associated with their union is developed from the astrological terminology of the day. God announces to the conjoined males the following words according to Mark - “O magnificent ones, as I have united the two of you in goodness, so you shall be united as one in uprightness … I have vested you (Moses) with my name and I have vested him (Aaron) with yours.” Clement similarly tells us that after Jesus baptized Peter, Peter in turn vested the name of God on Andrew and then the rest of the paired disciples. Mark goes on to say that “the two of them (Moses and Aaron) were united in perfection and at various places unions took place for them in their mission to Pharaoh.” We shall find similar statements in the writings of the Church Fathers regarding paired disciples in the apostolic age as well as the Samaritan claim that “when the two were joined together, the world was magnified.”

The important thing to see here is that the conjoining of Moses and Aaron is always connected with the sun and moon. In another passage Mark describes God telling Moses to “go and meet him (Aaron) at the Mountain of God—two lights going out to each other. So he went and met him at the mountain of God the sun and the moon came together from Amram and Jochebed. So he went and met him at the mountain of God—the Tigris and Euphrates joined together. How good to see them embracing there, between them great joy, the one kissing the other with tears in their eyes, having double love for one another.” All of the early accounts stress not only the astral symbolism but the expressions of love at their conjunction. So we read elsewhere it described that “in the cave of the rock they stood, the two of them in great affection.”

The difficult of course that is never addressed in any of the existing commentary that a conjunction between two men on the first of the year is inescapably connected with sexuality. After all it has been well established in Jewish as well as early Christian literature that the Jewish god had a wife whom he ‘knew’ and thus created the world. The creation of the world was originally understood to have occurred either on the first day of the year or five days earlier. The original idea that Moses is the sun and Aaron the moon who ‘conjoin’ on this sacred day ‘in love’ clearly had the potential at least to be interpreted in the manner we suggest that it was in secret Mark.  The anticipation that ancient Israelites must have felt with respect to the conjoining of the sun and moon ‘in love’ is partially reflected in the early writings of Mark once again. He says that Moses' joy was considerably increased upon hearing he would be joined with his brother. "Praise be to the Powerful One who has brought us together now after much delay, for a meeting after tarrying greatly increases love."

All of these ideas are developed and crystalized in the thirteenth century poem by Aaron ben Maner now sung each Zimmot of Passover in the Samaritan liturgy. Not only is Aaron’s meeting with Moses literally described as the moon being drawn into the fire of the sun there are clear expressions of love and affection which help identify it as at the same time the source of the Christian. The poem begins:

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

The hearer of these words has to be made aware of the parallel context in heaven and on earth. As Aaron approaches Moses he enters into ‘union’ with a fiery object (Moses) in the very manner that the moon becomes one with the sun. The six previous days to their union are marked by the previous moon ‘dying,’ the day after the new moon marks the horn of the unicorn appears in the sky of the waxing orb.

It is so critical when we try and find a context for the central ‘love’ myth of Jesus – that of the brother-making right of Secret Mark. To begin with, the curious thing about the uniting of Moses and Aaron in Exodus is that nothing in the preceding narrative makes it seem possible that Moses could have had knowledge about having a brother. Of course our inherited religious understanding – based in no small part on the words of Exodus “what about your brother Aaron, the Levite?” Yet there is enough ambiguity in the account for Mark to have at least suggested that this typology of two men being united by God served as the basis for the ritual at the heart of early Christianity and associated with the conjoining of the sun and moon on the first day of the year.

The clearest sign that this was so is the unusual statement in the writings of Clement that the newly baptized are those “who know Him who is God alone as their Father, who are simple, and infants, and guileless, who are lovers (erastai) of the horns of the single-horns … and he who fulfils this commandment is in reality a child and a son to God and to the world—to the one as deceived, to the other as beloved.” As we have already noted an erastes is a lover of young men. The term makes little sense until we link it with the reference to the ‘horns of the single horns’ – i.e. the emergence of new moons which are said to be ‘horned’ in traditional usage.

The idea of course goes back to Moses emerging from his union with god ‘horned’ – this union taking place on the new moon of the seventh month. Clement is clearly linking the love and desirability of the newly baptized on the new moon. Indeed he also tells us that the followers of a certain Carpocratian named Epiphanes gather “every new moon and celebrate with sacrifices the day when Epiphanes became a god as his birthday; they pour libations to him, feast in his honour, and sing his praises.” All he needs here is to add the reference to them sexually longing for Epiphanes which is course implicit owing to the fact that the heretic is said to belong to the Carpocratians who not only used secret Mark but also engaged in homosexual rituals.

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