Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chapter Sixteen of Naked Man With Naked Man

There is an old saying “first we make our habits, then our habits make us.” This is especially true with respect to religion. Our traditions are somehow held to have been established by Jesus and the apostles even though none of us have any proof for this claim beyond the boisterous assertions of religious partisans. Look for instance at our reliance on the baptizing of children to populate the Christian churches. To be certain there are third century apologists for the practice. Yet how in the world could this be demonstrated to have been sanctioned by the apostles? Early Christians criticized the tradition Jewish practice of circumcision – itself usually practiced on the youngest of children - and then in the course of a few centuries developed baptism as its replacement.

It is safe to say that in the beginning at least Christian baptism meant something more than a mere outward token of social affiliation. What possible value is the impression made on a participant who is too young to understand what is going on? Nevertheless even within this terribly diluted practice there are still signs of the original ‘adults only’ version of baptism. Even in traditional child baptism most of us overlook the presence of a companion at the font – that is the ‘sponsor’ or in Greek anadoxos, a figure sometimes referred to as the ‘god father’ or the ‘spiritual father.’

Some scholars try to explain the presence of the other as a guarantor to speak on behalf of the ignorant child. Yet the evidence suggests that this other appeared at the earliest adult baptisms too. The reality is that the sponsor isn’t just someone who speaks for the initiate but in fact someone whose touch is extremely important to the efficacy of the rite. Most people are likely not aware that in many traditions the sponsor physically touching or having physical contact with the child is mandated in the ceremony. If there is no physical contact the rite used to be considered invalid.

Let’s look at what happens for a moment in most infant baptisms. The sponsor is supposed to hold the child both before and after baptism. The presence of the outsider is necessary because water immersion is considered a second birth and so is understood to no longer be the child of the mother but of the Church. The fact that the child is presented to the sponsor rather than natural born kin is also deeply significant. It is understood to represent movement away from the natural birth mother, through rebirth, toward new spiritual kin.

So the sponsor has to hold the baby in order to symbolize the infact being taken away from one nature to another better and more spiritual one. Is there any evidence that the same thing was mandated during early adult baptisms? It turns out that there are indeed early canons or ‘rules’ from the council of Nicaea which not only seem to assume such physical contact took place but they further mandated that such ‘touching’ had to be same sex only.

The First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE it seems produced a number of laws or ‘canons’ which are identified as being twenty in number by later western sources. The first canon is a prohibition on self-castration and continues down a wide range of topics. There is another tradition which survives in the East which is supported by a Latin letter purporting to have been written by St. Athanasius to Pope Marcus in the fourth century. We are told that the Council of Nicaea at first adopted forty canons, which were in Greek, that it subsequently added twenty Latin canons, and that afterwards the council reassembled and set forth seventy altogether. The twenty second canon reads “of sponsors in baptism. Men shall not hold females at the font, neither women males; but women females, and men males.”

As such, we see that another wrinkle has now been added to our understanding of the ancient practice of baptizing adults. They were always same sex affairs with a priest and either a man holding another man or a woman holding another woman. A similar idea is reflected in the Apostolic Canons from the same period. We hear “let a woman rather be devoted to the ministry of women, and a male deacon to the ministry of men. And let him be ready to obey and to submit himself to the command of the bishop.” It has been arged that this ‘same sex attendant’ goes back to the early Jewish tradition yet this is not entirely accurate. The Christian prohibition differs from Judaism in that it does not prohibit women from being in attendance at a male water immersion. Indeed it is very much a display of same sex union.

No one can deny that the companion of the initiate – the now called ‘sponsor’ - played a more significant role in adult baptism than is now generally recognized. Their ‘touching’ was considered problematic enough that heterosexual couples were banned from the laver. Indeed our earliest pagan witnesses to the process like Celsus of Rome saw the ritual as involving two individuals ‘bathing’ beside one another. Yet one of our oldest surviving baptismal liturgies – the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus – makes things even more explicit. In the early third century at Rome, men and women and women were not only baptized separately but a same sex pair stood in the water in a rite conducted by the deacon of the Church – i.e. the bishop’s right hand man.

While it is difficult at times to make out exactly what Hypolytus is describing in this text, as the translator Burton Scott Easton notes we should read the text as - “let them stand in the water a deacon going with them likewise.” Who are they? Easton’s suggestion is that “the presbyter, the candidate and the deacon all stand naked in the water.” Yet this is just a forced reconstruction based on our inherited notions of orthodoxy. It may equally be true that males were baptized in pairs. As we see Hippolytus continues “he who is being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him” and then after a threefold immersion we read “and immediately thereafter they shall join in prayer with all the people, but they shall not pray with the faithful until all these things are completed. And at the close of their prayer they shall give the kiss of peace.” The presence of pairs is certainly implied here. There is a ‘they’ alongside the deacon – this is all the text says. There is no reference to a presbyter being present. The reason Easton adds it presumably is because deacons came from the lay church. They were not ordained priests at least at Rome.

What is clear from Hippolytus’s writings is that those being baptized were naked and they were divided into male-male and female-female groups. While there is no specific reference to ‘pairs’ it is interesting to note that Hippolytus does not explicitly reference the concept of ‘sponsor’ or ‘godfather’ either. It is as if his choice of language is deliberately evasive and generic as possible. Nevertheless it is also important to note that immediately after this description there are a number of symbolic actions taken on by the deacons at the Eucharist which symbolize the mystical ‘two becoming one’ doctrine which originally took place at baptism.

We read “and then the offering is immediately brought by the deacons to the bishop, and by thanksgiving he shall make the bread into an image of the body of Christ, and the cup of wine mixed with water according to the likeness of the blood, which is shed for all who believe in him. And milk and honey mixed together for the fulfilment of the promise to the fathers, which spoke of a land flowing with milk and honey.” As noted the completion of baptism with the kiss of peace is followed by the mixing of pairs – water and wine, honey and milk. This symbolizes not only the co-mingling of natures (i.e. spiritual and material) but as we shall see in other writers, the mixing of ‘friendship’ where one soul is shared by two bodies.

Of course with Hippolytus’s deliberate vagueness it is impossible to prove that the same sex groups were baptized as pairs. Instead we can only point to an original development from something like what is described in secret Mark. We see the very same thing with respect to the use of ‘milk and honey.’ There is an obvious connection here to the ‘mystery of the kingdom of God,’ the ‘milk and honey’ of this ritual and Exodus chapter 4 as we have already noted. It should also be noted that the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus like Secret Mark goes on to reference ‘secret instruction’ which accompanies these mysteries of the kingdom of God. After noting that they have already been instructed in ‘things taught in Scripture’ those things that lie beyond this three year long instruction “the bishop should impart it to them privately after their baptism; let not unbelievers know it, until they are baptized.”

The point here is that there are uncanny parallels with the material in the Letter to Theodore. It is not as if the description of ‘secret Mark’ and the Alexandrian liturgy in Clement’s letter reflects a wholly unrelated to the contemporary Roman understanding. Even in Hippolytus’s Roman liturgy it can be argued that we see a development from a scenario where two initiates stand in the water alongside a deacon in a religious ‘mystery.’ The symbolism throughout is clearly linked with the ‘redemption’ associated with reception of the Promised Land (= ‘kingdom of God’) and ‘secret instruction.’ While there were certainly differences between the liturgical practices of the various Christian communities, they all go back to the same underlying Jewish messianic expectation.

To this end we must accept that the baptismal practices of the early Church were constantly evolving. While we no longer possess any explicit information about the manner in which catechumens became priests, it is unlikely that this information was ever written down. As Irenaeus notes it was passed on only by ‘living voice.’ The clues we have available to decipher this mystical understanding survive in fragmentary references in Patristic sources. There were in the beginning two distinct forms of baptisms. The ‘John the Baptist’ form of water immersion which amounts to little more than a direct appropriation from Jewish proselytism and a second baptism called ‘redemption’ originally rooted in the ritual uniting of two men. This second rite was also intimately associated with establishing the priesthood so it was by nature something kept far away from the experience of ‘ordinary men.’

It should also be seen that just as there was a secret gospel there was a secret baptism. Irenaeus and Clement when read together tell us that the ‘mystery’ given to Jesus to his beloved disciple was also about establishing the priesthood. Immediately following Jesus carrying out this ritual the two brothers Zebedee come up and request to sit “the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom.” Origen apparently connected the two chairs as related to a hierarchy in the Church – “they that are the more excellent among such as draw near to Christ, are they on His right hand ; they that are inferior, are they on His left hand.” Marcion and Paul are seated on either chair for the same reason – Jesus is establishing a hierarchy, a structure within the Church through the act of divine intimacy.

We can never lose sight of the fact that baptism was always about the Trinity and this three inevitably broke down to the Platonic pair of ‘mind’ (or spirit) and ‘soul.’ Christian baptism was all about making the two one. This is the doctrine that was passed on from Clement to Origen and Origen to Theodore and Theodore to his various disciples. It is for this reason that Gregory Nazianzus continues to see ritual water immersion in terms of a unification of an primordial division – “since we are twofold, I mean composed of soul and body, and our nature is visible yet also invisible, the purification is also twofold, through water, I say, and Spirit. The one is received in a way that can be seen, and is bodily, as the other agrees with it incorporeally and invisibly; the one figurative (tupikos), the other real (alethinos), purifying the depths. Coming to the aid of our first birth, [baptism] makes us new instead of old, like God instead of what we are now, recasting us without fire, and creating us anew without breaking us up. For, to say it all in one word, the virtue of Baptism is to be understood as a covenant with God for a second life and a purer conversation.”

It is for this reason as well that we see the third century Apostolic Teaching speak of the relationship between bishop and deacon in Aristotlean terms - “and be you (bishop and deacon) of one counsel and of one purpose, and one soul dwelling in two bodies.” These are the very words spoken by Gregory Nazianzus about his life long friend Basil of Caesarea, and it was originally understood to embody the spirit of the relationship between Theodore and Athenodorus. Yet it was also likely describing the mystical bond which united Clement and Origen despite the distance between them. In other to understand this more fully we will have to delve into a topic that receives far too little attention in scholarly literature – just what was the nature of Origen’s relationship with his master Clement?

Scholars typically identify Clement and Origen as being mere ‘teacher and student.’ Yet the source for this statement is Eusebius and he strangely can’t seem to close the deal. He cannot provide any testimony of Clement to Origen or vice versa which is strange considering he had a whole library of literary material at his disposal. Why then the silence? The answer may well have something to do with Demetrius’s effective coup d’etat in the Alexandrian Church. If Clement was supposed to have been the rightful Alexandrian bishop, Origen’s loyalty to Demetrius may have been called into question.

There is a clear pattern of succession in Alexandria after Demetrius where the man who sat on the catechetical chair succeeds the retiring bishop. Demetrius broke this pattern. He was never head of the catechetical school and interestingly both Clement and Origen are identified as presbyters who succeed one another as head of school without attaining the bishop’s chair. Nevertheless it should be notice Ambrose of Tyre is identified as ‘deacon’ of this church. Who was his bishop? The only other bishop of Tyre we know from the period is Methodius. Yet Methodius was Origen’s greatest rival. It would seem that Origen was an occultated bishop either in exile, in Tyre or both.

While there is no direct evidence that the Alexandrian tradition originally used the term deacon, it is clear from a closely related tradition in North Africa that deacons gave catechetical instruction. What has likely happened here is an adoption of a foreign terminology. The Alexandrian ‘head of the catechetical school’ (or whatever the original terminology was) functioned in pretty much the same role as the Roman deacon. Roman deacons in the same period as Clement and Origen were active inevitably succeeded their bishop with the certainty of the ‘head of the catechetical school’ and the bishop of Alexandria.

It is also worth noting that the Alexandrian tradition to this day understands that the succession of bishops in the chair of St Mark shared the same Christ soul. This entity was passed along from bishop to bishop by a chair which necessarily assumed the Aristotlean “one soul dwelling in two bodies” understanding between bishop and head of the catechetical school. In other words, the two men were understood to commune with the same spirit as a same sex couple.

While there is no evidence again that Clement ever sat on the bishop’s chair it is worth noting that there is no direct evidence for the existence of an Alexandrian Christian named ‘Clement’ before Eusebius. As noted the name ‘Clement’ is entirely absent from the writings of Origen. If we go back Porphyry’s ignored testimony about Ammonius rather than Clement as Origen’s teacher - a man who is interestingly always identified as promoting a longer gospel text based on the gospel of Mark – there is support for a bishop and catechetical instructor relationship between Ammonius and Origen in later literature.

The tenth century Byzantine exegete Photius speaks of Origen having a relationship with a bishop named Ammonius “who committed to Origen the delivery of an instruction in his Church. “ We are told that the orthodox authorities “having heard this, went to Thmuis, deposed Ammonius for this cause, and set up in his stead as bishop a younger man named Philip.” It is interesting to note that the Dialogue with Heraclides identifies Philip as having been established under Demetrius and condemns Origen in a mock trial presumably at Alexandria. In Photius’s tradition we are told that Demetrius’s successor “Heraclas, being besought by the people of the city, received Ammonius again as bishop, and gave the episcopate of Thmuis to both Ammonius and Philip. But after the holy Heraclas had gone thence, Philip never sat upon the bishop's throne, but when Ammonius expounded or celebrated the liturgy, always stood behind him all the days of the life of Ammonius.”

It is hard to figure out what to make of any of the early traditions of the Egyptian Church. Why does Porphyry identify Clement as being named Ammonius? What do we really know about Clement beyond the fact that he shared the exact same name as a second century Roman saint? We know absolutely nothing about what happened to Clement after he arrived in Antioch in the third century. The strangest thing of course is that we are absolutely unable to uncover any evidence at all that Origen ever referenced someone named Clement as his teacher. Nevertheless we can demonstrate a link between the writings associated with both men which proves that Origen was the catechetical instructor of the author of Can the Rich Man be Saved?

We will leave open the question as to whether the name of Ammonius was changed by later Church Fathers into ‘Flavius Titus Clement.’ The motivation here should be obvious – Porphyry says that Ammonius despite starting life as a Platonizing Christian became apostatized from the Christian faith. Who would want to acknowledge that? There are of course many common feature outside of the longer, secret gospel associated with both men. In true Pythagorean fashion, it is said that Origen made a pact with Plotinus and Erennius (two other initiates of the circle) never to write or speak about Ammonius's teaching. This already anticipates the ritual secrecy witnessed in the Letter to Theodore.

It is enough to acknowledge that even if we discount the acknowledged relationship between bishop Ammonius and Origen his catechetical instructor, there is enough evidence to suggest that Origen functioned in the same capacity with respect to the author of Can the Rich Man be Saved (usually identified as Clement). To this end we must come to terms with the nature of instruction in Christianity. Eusebius tells us for instance that once Origen left Alexandria it was Heraclas who was entrusted with 'the first introduction (eisagoge) of elementary studies.' This term 'elementary studies' was used by Philo and Clement of Alexandria to refer to the cycle of studies as it existed in the ancient world. According to Augustine, the term comprised seven branches of learning: grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, music, astronomy, arithmetic and physics. Yet the Alexandrian traditional also plainly involved something more - a secret initiation for which we have only scraps of information.

In order to understand what kind of instruction was taking place at Alexandria we should begin by taking a look at this statement of Origen in his First Principles written just before he left Alexandria in 215 CE in order to understand the elementary studies in the larger context of Alexandrian mystery initiations:

Wherefore, seeing that a heavenly power, or a power even from, above the heavens, urges us to worship the Creator only, let us, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, that is, leaving elementary instruction, endeavour to press on unto perfection, that the wisdom spoken to the perfect may be spoken also to us [emphasis mine]. For He Who has this wisdom promises to speak it among the perfect, a wisdom other than the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the ruler of this world, which is brought to nought. And this wisdom shall be plainly stamped on us, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested, by the Scriptures of the prophets and the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory for ever. Amen." (First Principles 1.7)

Many scholars merely acknowledge Theodore and Athenodorus 'completing their elementary studies’ from Origen ‘and leaving for Pontus.' Yet early passages like this make clear there was clearly a secret mystical process which came after learning the Old Testament and even the publicly revealed gospel.

In the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus again, we consistently hear this process being likened to that of Moses in the Bible - "just as Scripture says about Moses, "He was schooled in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," so also the Great One (= Theodore) coming through all the schooling of the Greeks and knowing by experience the weakness and incoherence of their doctrines, came to be a disciple of the gospel, and even before being initiated through the mystical and incorporeal birth, he so perfected his life that he brought no stain of sin to the baptismal cleansing." The model here again is Exodus chapter 4 where a young Moses is instructed into the art of 'wonder working' by the god of the burning bush and is subsequently united with a brother.

To this end Origen's reference to a truth standing 'beyond the four' is deeply significant. By the time he made this statement the gospel was fixed at four complementary texts in imitation of the natural order (i.e. where there are four winds, four elements and four corners to the world). When Origen says that the Christian mysteries take the initiate "beyond the elements (stoicheiwsews)" he was more specifically saying it was 'beyond the four' – i.e. beyond the divided knowledge of this world. The Greek philosophers and natural scientists had long established the number four as the generative principle of this world and Origen is now positing the existence of ‘the One’ – i.e. the Father – also called ‘the Good’ in Platonic writings which has been unknown to previous generations.

Origen is of course channeling the statement in the Letter to the Corinthians regarding a wisdom “other than the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the ruler of this world, which is brought to nought." The heretics took this to mean a god higher than the god of the Jews. Yet the Alexandrians did not reject the 'elementary principles' - the Law, the prophets, the public gospels. They simply argued that the longer gospel of Mark was superior to what came before it, that it was the end of the process of self-perfection in the same way the Good Father in heaven was superior to his instrument, the god who made all things on earth in four.

Those who rejected the god of the Jews and his commandments were not only called heretics but also libertines. They were accused of abandoning the law because of they were possessed by sexual desire. This is why at the very beginning of the Letter to Theodore, Clement makes reference to the "wandering stars" referred to in the prophecy of Jude, "who wander from the narrow way (stenes oudo) of the commandments (entolwn) into a boundless abyss of the carnal and bodily sins.” To argue that one had gone beyond the elementary principles was to argue for lawlessness and so we hear Clement add in what follows “and boasting that they are free (eleuterous), they have become slaves of servile desires."

Although the specific term stoicheia (= elementary) is never used in the letter there are other ways to demonstrate its presence in the material. Clement was saying that even though a particular heretical group might have stolen a copy of the secret gospel, because they never received the correct preliminary instruction they find themselves unable to properly interpret the text. The initiate must first learn to obedient to the authorities, the principles of this world before going beyond to the place that Paul visited - the 'third heaven' - where he had his vision of God. Interesting also is the fact that Clement goes from a discussion of the 'wander stars' to that of 'the narrow road of the commandments.' The 'narrow way' of course is the proper way to the secret gospel through the elementary studies.

The reader can get an even clearer sense of this from yet another of Clement's works entitled Can the Rich Man be Saved. It is here that in spite of not makes explicit reference to the existence of ‘secret Mark’ Clement develops an understanding of the passage which immediately followed it in the gospel of Mark – i.e. Mark 10:17 – 31. The lesson of this book is remarkably consistent with the material we read in the Letter to Theodore. The purpose of Christianity is not to encourage individuals to completely surrender all their worldly goods but rather to establish initiates who are "able in the midst of wealth to turn from its power ... to exercise self-command, and to seek God alone, and to breathe God and walk with God."

Clement understands that the proper education teaches the catechumen that they must strip off their material being before they seek to be united to another soul. The heretics lacking the preliminary instructions seek to have physical union with each other through enflamed by carnal desire. These parallels between what is written in the Can the Rich Man Be Saved and the Letter to Theodore are so compelling it is obvious that the same individual wrote both texts. Clement’s point in Rich Man is that submission to the spiritual authorities is so important that he has assigned the job of instructing people to his associate Origen. He tells his audience, if they have developed an interest for knowledge about the doctrines of Christianity they should contact his assistant.

This instantly becomes clear when we look at the statement as a whole from the pages of Can the Rich Man be Saved:

But if one is able in the midst of wealth to turn from its power, and to entertain moderate sentiments, and to exercise self-command, and to seekGod alone, and to breathe God and walk with God, such a poor man submits to the commandments, being free, unsubdued, free of disease, unwounded by wealth. But if not, sooner shall a camel enter through a needle's eye, than such a rich man reach the kingdom of God.[Mark 10:25] Let then the camel, going through a narrow and strait way before the rich man, signify something loftier; which mystery of the Saviour is to be learned in the Exposition of first Principles and of Theology.

Clement here says that "such a poor man" - i.e. the one who has stripped his flesh - "submits to the commandments (entolias), being free (eleutheros), unsubdued, free of disease, unwounded by wealth." The same three words - 'commandments' 'freedom' and 'narrow way' - always seem to be used by Clement when dealing with the material in the middle of Mark chapter 10 and are repeated in the Letter to Theodore.

In the Mar Saba text Clement stresses that the path to liberation is best understood to be a 'narrow way' that leads to the secret gospel with its depiction of Jesus uniting himself with a disciple. Mark's hidden text only makes explicit what is latent in the teachings of the Old Testament. A careful reader will see that Clement hints at these very same ideas in what follows our last citation in Can the Rich Man Be Saved. We are told that if the rich man does not gain such self-control "sooner shall a camel enter through a needle's eye, than such a rich man reach the kingdom of God." The idea that is being referenced here obviously is ritual castration which effectively ‘cuts out’ the source of lust. Yet even then we see Origen reinforce that understanding that the new law of Christ complements rather than destroys the old commandments of the Jewish god.

Origen notes at one point citing from a lost gospel – “those who, by their affirmation of continence and virginity, do not attend to the necessary duties of nature shall be reproachable; and everyone is to be compelled to get married, even those who, in accordance with the laws of the Gospel, ‘have castrated themselves for the sake of the kingdom of God,’ even though these people have the authority for this precedent both in many other saints and even in the Lord Jesus himself.” To this end it is obvious that Origen shared the exact same understanding as Clement while he was alive. To this end if we return to the difficult parts of Clement’s exposition of Mark chapter 10 verse 25 he stops short of explaining the mystery, opting instead to tell the reader to pick up a copy of Origen's classic text - "let then the camel, going through a narrow way (stenes oudo) and straight before the rich man, signify something loftier; which mystery of the Saviour is to be learned in the exposition 'On First Principles (Peri Archon) and of Theology'"

Clement ends the discussion here by saying essentially - if you want to know more, read this book 'On the First Principles' which we know was actually written by Origen. As Trigg notes "one can, in fact, plausibly see Origen's treatise Peri Archon (also known as On First Principles) as the fulfillment of a theological agenda Clement set forth but never, so far as we know from his surviving works, fully achieved." Pierre Nautin considers Origen's decision to compose, as one of his first books, a work entitled Stromateis to be the strongest single piece of evidence that he came under Clement's influence. Indeed most studies of the Letter to Theodore, aside from failing to recognize that the two men were addressing the same 'Theodore' also fail to recognize that it is above all else a discussion of the necessary role of undergoing 'elementary studies’ in order to suitably prepared for the reception of the true gospel.

In other words, Clement and Origen acted as a team – they were in effect bishop and deacon – sharing one soul in two bodies, representing the two hands of God the Father working in concord in the world below. When we read the correspondances between Theodore and Clement and Origen we get a deeper sense that the two Alexandrians were really a unit. They were a united divine pair, the very model by which Theodore and Athenodorus modeled themselves.

If Can the Rich Man be Saved deals with Mark 10:17 - 31 then the Letter to Theodore discusses which immediately follows. We are told that Jesus stays with the resurrected youth and makes him wait six days before "explaining" or "teaching him the mystery of the Kingdom of God." This idea of Jesus "teaching the kingdom of God" is certainly found in other Latin text of Matthew 21:17 and even makes its way into the liturgy. Yet it represents something more fundamental, something missed by Morton Smith and others who studied the new text.

It should be plain now that “the kingdom of heaven” is now understood as the “teaching” which comes at the end of the “elementary studies.” "The kingdom of God" - or better yet "the kingship of God" is clearly the teaching which comes after the five or eight year apprenticeship that transformed Theodore of Pontus into 'Gregory the Wonder Worker.' We already have part of the answer when we look at the consistent depiction of Theodore as a second Moses in the literature. He is only the most famous example of a catechumen who completed his elementary instructions and went on to receive the kingship of God.

To this end Gregory of Nyssa speaks of Theodore's initiation in terms of Moses experience on Mount Sinai saying. "For just as the word says that Moses, having left the world of appearances and calmed his soul within the invisible shrines (for this is what "the darkness" stands for), learned the divine mysteries, and in person instructed the whole people in the knowledge of God, the same dispensation is to be seen in the case of this Great One (= Theodore). He had not some visible mountain of earth but the pinnacle of ardent desire for the true teachings; for darkness, the vision which others could not comprehend; for writing-tablet, the soul; for the letters graven on the stone tablets, the voice of the one he saw; through all of which both he and those initiated by him enjoyed a manifestation of the mysteries."

The late Marvin Meyer already recognized the same thing from the six days ritual preparation in the Letter to Theodore. It is an adaptation of Moses's experience on Sinai (Exod 24:16) and is the ultimate source for Gregory portrait of Theodore drawing "near to the thick darkness where God was; the thick cloud.” Theodore and Athenodorus were united together as Moses and Aaron because one of them embodied the concept of king and the other high priest. The same understanding seems to permeat the spiritual bond between Basil and Gregory and was certainly also present in the relationship between Clement and Origen and perhaps many generations before that with respect to Peter and Paul. Christianity was preparing for its Exodus and to accomplish this feat it not only needed its paschal sacrifice but also its Moses and Aaron redevivi.

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