Monday, September 17, 2012

Chapter Eighteen of Naked Man With Naked Man

Adelphopoiesis, or adelphopoiia is a Greek terminology that emerges at the end of the Byzantine control of Egypt and the Levant which has great relevance to our discussion.  It can be translated literally as "brother-making" and according to Wikipedia represents "a ceremony practiced at one time by various Christian churches to unite together two people of the same sex (normally men)."  When the Yale historian John Boswell drew attention to the survival of this rite in his 1995 book Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe the entire focus of scholarship seems to have been whether he was justified in identifying the ritual as an ancient precursor to contemporary same sex marriage.  Yet these partisan debates have little relevance for our discussion.

The fact that something survived from antiquity down to the end of Christian control of the Middle East which resembled the rite at the heart of 'Secret Mark' is deeply significant.  It is impossible to deny that Christianity once preserved a liturgy for the uniting of male couples.  Whether this included a tacit acceptance of homosexual intercourse is of course an open question.  Did it look gay to outsiders?  It certainly did.  Yet if our reconstruction of the prehistory of same sex unions is correct it would seem that these two male members were rendered incapable of sexual intercourse owing to their pre-existent self-castration.  Of course the perpetuation of the rite long after severe restrictions were placed upon 'becoming eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God' leaves open the possibility that the nature of these unions may have changed after the third century.

Indeed we should increasingly become cautious of what we say here.  We can no longer speak in terms of absolutes with respect to 'what Christianity believed' or 'what the early Church did.'  The beliefs of the religion were always changing, adapting to an external political situation that was always in a state of flux.
We have up until now systematically exposed a pattern of same sex pairing within the Alexandrian tradition.  We have also laid the groundwork for a historical context to help explain the consistent heretical interest in 'becoming like angels' along with a partner.  The justification for bringing men and men together does not require us to rediscover 'secret Mark' nor the original manuscript of the Letter to Theodore lost in the Mar Saba monastery since 1984.  We can learn a lot about context of this rite from merely studying what survive of Clement's exegesis of the material before and after this fragment in chapter 10 of our existing gospel of Mark.

As we saw in our study of the material which follows the 'secret Mark' fragment (Mark 10:35 - 45) the two brothers - James and John - are recorded as wanting Jesus to 'rest between them' thereby establishing a kind of enthroned Trinity in the hereafter.  We will now pay a little closer attention to the 'brother making' interest in Clement's exegesis of the material which immediately precedes the 'secret Mark' fragment (Mark 10:17 - 34).  That some sort of relationship exists between Jesus's raising of a dead youth in the portion of text added to the gospel of Mark in Alexandria and this existing narrative is almost universally accepted.  Yet few people have recognized that Clement explicitly identifies it as a prelude to a brother making exercise.

The story in the Gospel of Mark goes something like this.  A rich man comes up to Jesus and asks him how he can attain eternal life.  Jesus answer is intended to reinforce the value of elementary instruction while hinting at the existence of something greater for those seeking perfection.  Indeed according to Clement's interpretation of the passage there can be no doubt that despite this division the Law and the gospel were ultimately complementary teachings.  The former ends where the latter begins.

Clement's version of the Gospel of Mark - which he explicitly says he is citing word for word in his treatise Can the Rich Man be Saved reads:

"And going forth into the way, one approached and kneeled, saying, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may inherit everlasting life?" And Jesus says, "Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and thy mother.” And (the rich man) answering says to Him, “All these have I observed.”

And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him, and said, “One thing thou lackest. If thou wouldest be perfect, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.”

And he answering (Jesus) says to Him, All these have I observed. And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him, and said, One thing thou lackest. If thou wouldest be perfect, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he was rich, having great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith to His disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! More easily shall a camel enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of God.

And they were astonished out of measure, and said, Who then can be saved? bend He, looking upon them, said, What is impossible with men is possible with God. For with God all things are possible. Peter began to say to Him, Lo, we have left all and followed Thee.

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall leave what is his own, parents, and brethren, and possessions, for My sake and the Gospel's, shall receive an hundred-fold now in this world, lands, and possessions, and house, and brethren, with persecutions; and in the world to come is life everlasting. But many that are first shall be last, and the last first."

It is critical that we cite the entire section as it appeared in Clement's text owing to a number of subtle differences that emerge between this second century text and our inherited material.  These variants help Clement ultimately make the case that Jesus is about to introduce a brother making rite in what follows in the narrative.

Yet before we get too deeply involved in this demonstration it is worth noting however that there is at least one earlier reference to this section of text which is generally ignored by scholars.  The pagan writer Celsus in his True Account alludes to a Platonic interpretation of the same material which is certainly one and the same with the opinion of the Carpocratians as referenced in the writings of Clement.  We learn about this statement made in the middle of the second century through surviving material from this lost pagan work which now appears in the sixth book of Origen's apologetic Against Celsus.  Celsus even cites material from the Question of the Rich Man narrative in the gospel.

What survives of the original writings of Celsus will serve as a perfect introduction for Clement's explanation of the same narrative.  Celsus, the Carpocratians and Clement - all agree that the material agrees or was derived from Greek philosophy and the writings of Plato in particular.  We should note that in the case of case of Celsus and the Carpocratians the connection between this material and the writings of Plato is explicit.  Celsus must have learned from Marcia and the so-called 'Harpocratians of Salome' that the mystical doctrines contained in the gospel according to Mark was compatible with Platonic philosophy.  Clement for his part acknowledges and embraces the teachings of Plato but will not go so far as to confirm that Mark incorporated Greek philosophical teachings into his narrative.

It would seem from this nexus of second century references that the longer gospel of Mark was not only taken to have Empedoclean doctrines as Hippolytus argues in his Philosophumena, but there is a consistent understanding of the text to have been a specifically Platonic narrative.  The two statements are actually complementary as the Empedoclean doctrine is cited at great length in the Symposium and both authors were essentially concerned with the unify and redemptive power of love.  It is worth noting also that the Carpocratians themselves are said to have "Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest" of the Greek philosophers.  The point then is that Celsus's claims of a 'Platonic exegesis' of Mark 10:17 - 31 is certainly tenable and quite certainly true.

Celsus must have come across an early - and indeed 'pure' - Alexandrian sect associated with this Marcia and determined that the Platonic borrowing was essential to the tradition.  Nevertheless Origen tells us that he was scandalized by the misapplication of philosophy going so far as to accuse the author of the gospel of "misunderstanding the language of Plato in his Epistles."  Celsus is clearly making reference to Mark 10:17 - 31 and surrounding material.  When he specifically acknowledges appropriation from 'the Epistles of Plato' few have taken the time to actually lay bare what the pagan is actually accusing the evangelist of perpetrating.

There are only thirteen epistles of Plato.  We can narrow down which letters he had in mind by eliminating more of the epistles which have no bearing on the discussion in Mark 10:17 - 31.  We see however in another statement that immediately follows in Celsus's original work that Celsus specifically accused Mark of stealing the concept of 'the kingdom of God' from certain Platonic treatises or as Origen puts it "since Celsus, moreover, from a desire to depreciate the accounts which our Scriptures give of the kingdom of God, has quoted none of them, as if they were unworthy of being recorded by him ... while, on the other hand, he quotes the sayings of Plato, both from his Epistles and the Phaedrus [emphasis mine], as if these were divinely inspired, but our Scriptures were not."

In other words Celsus took the references to the 'kingdom of God' as a statement about the power called 'the Good' in Platonism and specifically references as 'the King' in one particular letter of the Greek philosopher.  Plato in many places in his writings acknowledges the first God to be the king of all things, and says that all things are for his sake, and that he is the cause of all beautiful things.  This would be the equivalent to the figure of 'the Father' in the early Christian system as we have already noted and the idea is present in Mark 10:18 with Jesus statement "why do you call me good?  No one is good except the Father."
Origen also tells us that Celsus claimed that Mark "had read Plato, and being pleased with the opinion he expressed regarding rich men, to the effect that 'it was impossible to be distinguished for goodness and riches at the same time,' had perverted this, and changed it into, 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!'"

Clearly Celsus means to show here that in both Mark's gospel and the writings of Plato 'goodness' comes from the highest god, the first god of the Trinity.  Yet Celsus clearly cited Mark 10:17 - 31 and what followed as an example of something which famously appeared in the Epistles of Plato.  The last reference comes from his Laws.  Celsus's point, as is clearly attested in what immediately follows is to say that Christian baptism and its interest in the Trinity was stolen from the Second Epistle of Plato:

Now the declaration of Plato, quoted by Celsus, runs as follows: "All things are around the King of all, and all things exist for his sake, and he is the cause of all good things. With things of the second rank he is second, and with those of the third rank he is third. The human soul, accordingly, is eager to learn what these things are, looking to such things as are kindred to itself, none of which is perfect. But as regards the King and those things which I mentioned, there is nothing which resembles them."

There can be no doubt that at least part of Celsus's interest is in connecting the Platonic interest in 'the Good' with Mark 10:18.  Yet this clearly only part of the context.  Celsus is citing material from the Second Letter to make the case that the Platonic Trinity appeared in the material related to Mark 10:17 - 31.  The difficulty has always been figuring out what that original context was - at least until the discovery of the Letter to Theodore.

It is certainly an incredibly stretch to fit the doctrine of the Trinity with the Question of the Rich Man.  Yet Jesus's identification of 'the Good' as being the Father god in heaven helps provide the clue to understanding the eventual union of Jesus and the beloved disciple as a threesome.  That Celsus was referencing the material which originally followed Mark 10:17 - 31 - i.e. 'secret Mark' - rather than the surviving portion from our gospel is confirmed as we follow the various references to Celsus's original text in Origen's work.  Origen immediately tells us that "Celsus in the next place alleges, that 'certain Christians, having misunderstood the words of Plato, loudly boast of a 'super-celestial' God thus ascending beyond the heaven of the Jews."  While not directly explaining the earlier statement regarding the Christian appropriation of the Trinity from Plato, it reinforces that heretical understanding of the Father as invisible and unknown.

It is immediately following this statement that we begin to see Origen mount a defense of the Christian Trinity.  He rejects Celsus's claims that the Mark stole from the Second Epistle of Plato by making the case that the gospel developed from the Jewish prophets including Moses who was - according to Celsus - a source for Plato.  So Origen writes "it was impossible for the prophets of the Jews, whose writings are reckoned among ours, to have borrowed anything from Plato, because they were older than he. They did not then borrow from him the declaration, that 'all things are around the King of all, and that all exist on account of him;' for we have learned that nobler thoughts than these have been uttered by the prophets, by Jesus Himself and His disciples [emphasis mine] who have clearly indicated the meaning of the spirit that was in them, which was none other than the spirit of Christ."

In other words, Origen makes that case that rather than reading Plato, Mark partook of the very same 'Holy Spirit' as which passed from God to the Jewish prophets and from Jesus to his disciples.  This is not at all revolutionary but it is used as a tactic to get around Celsus's original claim that Mark stole from Plato, Origen here putting forward the claim that Plato developed his philosophical theories from the writings of the prophets.  Celsus however makes clear that Christians he encountered misunderstood Plato arguing for two separate beings from one description in the Phaedrus - "'No poet here below has ever sung of the super-celestial place, or ever will sing in a becoming manner,' and so on. And in the same passage is the following: 'For the truly existing essence (ousia), which is both colourless and formless, and which cannot be touched, which really exists, is the pilot of the soul, and is beheld by the understanding alone; and around it the genus of true knowledge holds this place.'"

In other words, the Christians argued that the Father was "the Good" and lived in the super-celestial regions but that there was another hypostasis - 'Jesus' - described as a winged charioteer in Plato or "the being" (to on) or "truly existing existence" (ousia ontos ousa) (lit. "beingly existing essence"), "with which true knowledge is concerned, the colorless, formless, intangible essence, visible only to mind" (Phaedrus 247c).  This is a very significant because the description of the winged charioteer is related to 'love' and specifically homoerotic eros.  Plato paints the picture of a Charioteer driving a chariot pulled by two winged horses, Charioteer represents nous or logos the second part of the Platonic Trinity.  He guides his efforts to direct the entire chariot or soul, trying to stop the horses from going different ways, and to proceed towards enlightenment being guided by erotic desire.

Clearly this is just a retelling of Hippolytus's statement about the Gospel of Mark's borrowing from Greek philosophy.  In this case it is Plato's understanding of eros as the force which causes the individual to sprout wings and ascend again to the super-celestial realm.  Yet it is interesting to note that Hippolytus's teacher makes a similar statement about the gospel of Mark in a context of Platonic philosophy. For as we have already noted Irenaeus says that the very opening words of Mark "point to the winged aspect of the Gospel ... [for Jesus] afterwards being made man for us, sent the gift of the celestial Spirit over all the earth, protecting us with His wings." The Gospel of Mark being the last gospel according to Irenaeus, the one "which renovates man, and sums up all things in itself by means of the Gospel, raising and bearing men upon its wings into the heavenly kingdom."

What part of the gospel of Mark does this understanding develop from?  It can only come from the same source as Celsus's discussion about the Platonic borrowings in chapter ten of the Gospel of Mark.   To this end, Mark is now understood to have 'stolen' the material identified by Clement as immediately following Mark 10:17 - 31 from the homoerotic redemption from the Phaedrus,  Yet Origen seems to suggest that this is also the source for Celsus's claim of a Christian appropriation of the Trinity from the Second Letter of Plato.

Before we strengthen this argument let us note one more thing that has rarely been noticed by scholars.  Celsus's argument has a major flaw.  His identification of a Christian appropriation of the concept of  to on (the Being) certainly did not come directly from Plato but from the early Greek translation of the Pentateuch where the god of the burning bush is so called.  The Greek translators may have been influenced by Plato.  Yet when Jesus announces that he is 'the Being; (to on) at the end of John chapter 8 it is certainly not a direct appropriation from Platonism.  The gospel is merely providing one more piece of evidence that the same sex union rite is connected with the brother making in Exodus chapter 4.

Interestingly Celsus goes on to connect the the Platonic appropriation in the gospel with the Christian sacrament of baptism.  Origen notes a little later that Celsus:

brings forward certain monstrous statements, in the form of question and answer, regarding what is called by ecclesiastical writers the "seal" (sphragidos) statements which did not arise from imperfect information; such as that "he who impresses the seal (sphragida) is called father, and he who is sealed (sphragizomenou) is called youth (neou) and son;" and who answers, "I have been anointed with white ointment (chrismati leukw) from the tree of life" ... [and] in the next place, he determines even the number mentioned by those who deliver over the seal (sphragida), as that "of seven angels, who attach themselves to both sides of the soul of the dying body; the one party being named angels of light, the others 'archontics;' " and he asserts that the "ruler of those named 'archontics' is termed the 'accursed' god."

All of this material which appears in Celsus's True Word is closely the citations follow one after the other in Origen's line by line response to the original treatise.

Celsus is clearly identifying the Question of the Rich Man as being connected with a mystery rite.  The same understanding is intimated by Athanasius of Alexandria almost two centuries later.  The only way this could be true is if secret Mark was used by the sectarian groups referenced by these writers in the second and fourth centuries.  It isn't hard to see from Celsus's description that the "father" impressing the seal on the "youth" is related to its reference to a 'mystery of the kingdom of God' taught by Jesus to the disciple who loved him.  The repeated reference to the homoerotic redemption of the Phaedrus reinforces the 'naked man with naked man' context.

Yet it should also be noted that the allusions to the Platonic Trinity confirm the doctrine of secret Mark.  The unseen super-celestial Father is the Platonic 'one' - 'the Good.'  Jesus 'the Being' (to on) who is the embodiment of nous or logos is the Platonic 'two.'  The initiate who is the 'youth' of the report of Celsus embodies the 'three' of the Platonic Trinity or soul.  Celsus testimony helps us understand why Theodore - aka Gregory Thaumaturgus is our earliest exponent of Trinitarian doctrine.  He learned it all from his initiation into the Alexandrian mysteries.  According to this understanding, just as Jesus manifests the unseen Father to his initiated disciples, the 'father' in Celsus's initiation rite embodies Jesus and the youth who in turn - thanks to 'being sealed' - is on the way to becoming like Jesus or in Christian terms, becoming his brother,'

The Platonic interpretation of the gospel isn't something 'made up' by Celsus.  It is a very real part of the second century Christian liturgy.  This information is not only passed on to us by Celsus and the reports about the Carpocratians, there are many references to "baptism and the blessed seal" (makaria sphragida) in the writings of Clement no less than a contemporary sealing rite which invokes "the Son and the Father."  It is clear from his Stromata that this sealing takes place after the initiate undergoes a ritualized death.  Yet the use of Platonic imagery to describe Christian baptism shines through one particular reference in the same text, namely "He is the true Only-begotten, the express image of the glory of the universal King and Almighty Father, who seals (enaposphragizomenos) the Gnostic with the perfect theoria, according to His own image; so that there is now a third divine image, made as far as possible like the Second Cause (= Jesus), the Essential Life, through which we live the true life; the Gnostic, as we regard him, being described as moving amid things sure and wholly immutable."

We are only steps away from coming to terms with the sacred heart of the Alexandrian tradition which in no unmistakable terms is linked to the doctrine of the Trinity.  As we have repeatedly noted the 'third' in the Platonic tradition is 'soul.'  The original exegesis of the secret gospel of Mark understood that Jesus 'the second' united himself with 'the third' or soul.  This becomes clear from yet another reference to 'sealing' in the Stromata, this time with respect to the description of the theophany at Sinai.  Clement makes clear that just as Moses was 'stamped' with the image of God so too was the gnostic (= the disciple in secret Mark) was sealed by Jesus in his mystery rite - "And as in the case of Moses, from his righteous conduct, and from his uninterrupted intercourse with God, who spoke to him, a kind of glorified hue settled on his face; so also a divine power of goodness clinging to the righteous soul in contemplation and in prophecy, and in the exercise of the function of governing, seals (sphragida) on it something, as it were, of intellectual radiance, like the solar ray, as a visible sign of righteousness, uniting the soul with light (phws henomenon psyche), through unbroken love, which is God-bearing and God-borne. Thence assimilation to God the Saviour arises to the Gnostic, as far as permitted to human nature, he being made perfect "as the Father who is in heaven."

For Clement 'sell your possessions and give to the poor' should not be understood to advise people to literally give all their material possessions to those who are destitute.  Clement argues instead that "something else is indicated by it, (something) greater, more godlike, more perfect - the stripping off of the passions from the soul itself and from the disposition, and the cutting up by the roots and casting out of what is alien to the mind. For this is the lesson peculiar to the believer, and the instruction worthy of the Saviour."  In other words, stamping the image of the Father on the body stripped of its offending member, establishing the initiate as a 'son of the Father' who was androgynous.  Celsus infers as much when he references the understanding that "he who impresses the seal is called father, and he who is sealed is called youth and son."  In this scenario then the newly baptized youth is at once not only the son of the Father but also the brother of Christ.

Yet he saves his most explosive interpretation for a line which appears in the Alexandrian version of the Gospel of Mark chapter ten.  We should take note of a subtle difference between our received text of Mark 10:29 and that which found in Clement's text.  Ours reads:

There is no man that hath left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my sake and the gospel's.  But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions and in the world to come eternal life

In this text there is no discernible brother-making doctrine  Yet in Clement's text we read instead:

Whosoever shall leave what is his own, parents, and brethren, and possessions, for My sake and the Gospel's, shall receive an hundred-fold now in this world, lands, and possessions, and house, and brothers, with persecutions; and in the world to come is life everlasting.

There can be no mistaking that this points to a brother-making doctrine once we see Clement's reaction, noting that "Christ is the fulfilment 'of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;' and not as 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."

The reference here is unmistakable.  The author of the gospel has Jesus reference Isaac's 'hundredfold' blessing from God.  The text literally speaks of a hundred fold division or multiplication.  The point here now is that the initiation will multiply himself or make himself anew a hundred times echoing the words of Paul regarding the Corinthians having "a myriad (literally ten thousand) instructors in Christ" yet only one father, the apostle himself "for I have begotten you through the gospel."  The apostle acting the role of 'father' was once himself a 'son' through the same ritual from the gospel which he is currently establishing ten thousand sons.  Yet the key thing to see is that one is made a son alongside someone else - the figure called the 'deacon' in later Christianity, the right hand man as it were of a figure like the apostle.

Once we see that the clues to properly understanding the material from Secret Mark are found in the section of text which precedes it we can feel confident at last that we have come to terms with its meaning.  So we read again the emphasis in Clement's statement later in the same treatise where he writes that "it is neither penniless, nor homeless, nor brotherless people that the Lord calls to life" but "brothers ... as Peter with Andrew, and James with John the sons of Zebedee, of one mind with each other and Christ."  We have already come across this understanding of being of "one mind" or concord with respect to the bishop and the deacon.  Yet this is a later terminology as we have already noted.  The original Alexandrian terminology, as Celsus testifies was that of 'father' and 'son.'

Yet the clearest sign that the material in chapter ten of the Gospel of Mark and the Question of the Rich Man  narrative in particular was used for some sort of brother-making rite is found in that ignored reference in Athanasius we noted earlier.  As many people know, there was a power struggle in Alexandria between those who favored Constantine's compromise for Church unity and those who defended the traditional ways of St Mark.  The adherents of Nicaea referenced the those who adhered to tradition in Egypt as Arians, named after the presbyter of the Church of St Mark at the time of Constantine, Arius.

After the death of Constantine, his second son Constantius took over the Empire and again favored Arianism.  It is very interesting that the first two bishops he installed in the city were both from Cappadocia - Gregory of Cappadocia (339 - 346 CE) was supposedly a friend of the Emperor Constantius and one of his first acts was to bring another native of Cappadocia, Auxenius of Milan, to succeed him.  The Catholic bishop Athanasius no longer having the cover that the inner circle of Constantine provided him was chased out of town.  He had to hide in the wilderness among his supporters where he continued to develop 'attack literature' against George and the Cappadocian 'Arianists.'

It is very puzzling that at least part of this propaganda assumed that George presided over some corrupt initiation ritual which made reference to the terminology from Mark chapter 10 and had homosexual overtones.  So Athanasius writes that:

one George, a Cappadocian, who was contractor of stores at Constantinople, and having embezzled all monies that he received, was obliged to fly, he commanded to enter Alexandria with military pomp, and supported by the authority of the General. Next, finding one Epictetus a novice, a bold youth, he loved him perceiving that he was ready for wickedness; and by his means he carries on his designs against those of the Bishops whom he desires to ruin. For he is prepared to do everything that the Emperor wishes; who accordingly availing himself of his assistance, has committed at Rome a strange act, but one truly resembling the malice of Antichrist.

It has always been puzzling to scholars why the language here so closely resembles Mark 10:21. Gregory 'loved' the 'youth' Epictetus.  At last we now know why.  The pairing of same couples in the Alexandrian tradition did not end with Nicaea.  If anything it grew stronger and stronger for ages to come ...

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