Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chapter Twelve of Naked With Naked

Anyone looking at the earliest period of history of Christianity cannot help but see a series of pairs forming something of a chain, each couple forming a link back to Jesus. We have already examined the legends of Peter and Paul and have suggested that this likely goes back to an earlier pairing of Peter and Mark. There is Linus and Anicletus in Rome and many other couples who are referenced here and there but no one knows very much about any of them. It is unlikely even that a written tradition was ever established about these unions. As we have just seen knowledge of these rituals are probably the “hidden mysteries” which Irenaeus references as allegedly being “imparted to the perfect apart and privily from the rest” of the Church.

How long did this tradition survive? It is difficult to say with any certainty. Some would argue that they continue to this very day. At the very least we must recognize again that Theodore and Athendorus are our first historical witnesses to this secret rite. Nevertheless it must also be acknowledged that they are now far removed from us. At best they appear as two birds flying in tandem across the night sky. By comparison, Clement and Origen are better known but the exact nature of their relationship is obscured for other reasons. After all, Origen was a hermaphrodite. How many straight guys even today feel comfortable having a transsexual asan intimate? Imagine what it must have been like in an age where eunuchs raised suspicions about one’s political as well as religious orthodoxy.

Of all the same sex couples in Christian antiquity Basil and Gregory are perhaps the most familiar. After all they lived, worked and loved in the period after Nicaea. Nevertheless few have dared piecing together what can be known of their relationship. It is the clearest testimony as to the power and influence of same sex unions. As Gore Vidal once noted in his novel Julian about Gregory's knowledge of the Emperor's apostasy "If Gregory had said this to anyone, it would have been the talk of Athens. It would also have been treason, since Julian was the heir of Constantius. If Gregory ever made such a prophecy, it must have been whispered in Basil's ear when they were in bed together."

The closer we get to the modern age the more personal this information becomes. This is often extremely difficult for people who have never read the earliest Church Fathers to appreciate. Scholarship lays out a 'history' of the early Church which makes it seem to outsiders that we have a pretty good handle on the facts. They put forward a string of names and dates associated with that narrative and makes it seem as if we have a firm understanding of who or what they are. Yet all of these portraits are dangerously superficial. We have only the barest of information about anyone before the Council of Nicaea. In order to 'make up the difference' scholars just carry over an inherited religious belief that the early Patristic writers all shared the same basic beliefs save only for a handful of inconsequential ‘heretics.’

We have taken a much different approach to the history of the Church. It has been our working hypothesis that there was a tradition in Alexandria which was influential from the very beginning of Christianity. This school of thought employed a 'secret gospel' which took a special interest in Jesus's 'yoking disciples' together, not only with the Lord himself but also amongst each other. As such wherever we see pairs of saints in early Christianity we raised suspicions that they were already 'mystically united' according to an ancient Alexandrian rite.

Indeed by the fifth, sixth and seven centuries we already come across a new terminology to describe this spiritual yoke - the ritual of adelphopoiesis or adelphopoiia -that is, the 'making' or 'doing' of brothers, which many modern scholars have likened to 'same sex marriage.' Up until now it has been very difficult for us to find something as clear cut as the adelphopoiia rite in the earlier period. We have had had trouble saying anything as definitive about Patristic intimacy because we are of course ultimately not allowed to get intimate with our sources. Very little survives from the beginnings of Christianity - perhaps intentionally so. Nevertheless we shall make the case that there is a way to make things a little clearer. If we take the time to lay one pair of Church Fathers on top of another, a clearer pattern emerges which transcends the temporal period which separates them.

What we are suggesting of course is that there was a common Christian ideal which all yoked partners were striving to attain. The original scriptural support for this mystical conception had been mostly obscured by the efforts of Irenaeus and Demetrius at the beginning of the third century. We don’t know whether or not all or any of the same sex couples from the later period knew about the existence of Alexandrian text. All that is clear there is a chain of same sex couples linking back to Alexandria and St Mark. When we place the image of a mystically united Basil and Gregory on top of a similarly conjoined Theodore and Athenodorus we can begin to discern a third image - that of Jesus and a chosen disciple.

In other words, Theodore must have been aware that Jesus and a male companion were united and shared one soul in two bodies, the classical ideal at the heart of the longer gospel of Mark. There can be no doubt about this because this understanding shines through Theodore's treatise entitled to Theopompus, On the Impassability and Passibility of God which survives only in a Syriac translation. In this text Theodore gives what one scholar describes as "an explanation of God's impassible passion in the incarnation that may have been an impetus for several key elements of Gregory Nazianzen's Christology." It shall be argued here that this text is essential for solving once and for all the mystery of same sex unions in earliest Christianity.

Theopompus clearly witnesses that Theodore that could only come from the longer gospel of Mark. As we shall see, a disciple with whom he was mystically paired ends up taking part in the Passion and 'suffering for' Jesus because he was a impassible god incapable of experiencing passion or suffering directly. Yet because God was yoked to a mortal being, and the two shared a divine nature in common, they experienced the Passion as one man. This may sound kind of crazy to most readers, yet this is the essential truth which connects our three male same sex pairings spanning three ages of Christianity back to the same underlying mystic truth which we saw associated with the pairing of Peter and Paul and many other early same sex couples.

Yet what makes Theodore's understanding of Jesus and his yoked disciple's 'impassable passion' in to Theopompus different is that it ties this experience directly to Jesus. In other words, the gospel is not simply about Jesus but Jesus and a particular disciple who shared his divine nature. This is of course strongly hinted at in Clement's reference to the secret gospel in his letter discovered in the Mar Saba monastery. Indeed in a very short while we will even suggest that the Theodore of the letter was none other than Gregory the Wonderworker.

However before we get distracted by this claim let’s simply note that we have knowledge of the longer gospel of Mark through many different sources including Irenaeus of Lyons. In Book Three of his Against Heresies he not only suggests that the other gospel of Mark began and ended differently there were many more additions to the narrative than what is revealed in the Letter to Theodore.

The 'smoking gun' as it were is what we find with respect to uncanny similarity between the central premise of Theodore's to Theopompus and the information about his longer gospel of Mark given to us in the writings of Irenaeus. The most important part of the reference reads – “those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified." Morton Smith was not the first to recognize that this was an allusion to the longer, mystical version of the gospel of Mark. Long before him William Wigan Harvey, a leading expert on the writings of Irenaeus noted the very same thing. Many others have confirmed his initial suspicions made long before the actual discovery of the Mar Saba letter.

Of course some might argue this only one fleeting reference to the longer gospel. Yet despite this fact Irenaeus confirms a number of things we have already seen from other sources. For instance, the longer gospel seems to have been associated with a group within the Marcionite tradition. Moreover, in keeping with the parallel material in the writings of Hippolytus we find that this gospel promoted the idea that Jesus united himself with a particular disciple where – it seems – one of the paired individuals suffered (Greek passio) and the other remained 'impassable' (i.e. did not suffer).

This little bit of information is more than enough to help being the process of identifying the Theodore of to Theopompus with the Theodore who asked Clement about 'secret Mark' in the Mar Saba letter. For while Theodore's to Theopompus never explicitly references the gospel of Mark as the source of its mystical doctrine, what we have just seen in Irenaeus matches perfectly the interpretation of Theodore of the functioning of the Passion, thus confirming his familiarity with the same narrative. Indeed Theodore is drawing from an identical gospel tradition throughout to Theopompus. He begins by making reference to the idea of what God experienced as he faces his own death in the persons of subsequent martyrs – “but if the most blessed and incorruptible God should come to the fire, not fearing the fire because he always continues the same, and should despise the greedy flames, since the fire is not always the same — for how can we say that fire, whose activity dies down, is itself always the same? — is not that God alone impassible, despising the sword, scorning the fire, not fearing death?”

Clearly Theodore, like the secret gospel of Mark, envisions God as the epitome of impassibility. This is an idea repeated over and over again in the writings of Clement who also used the same Alexandrian text. Yet Theodore goes one step further in to Theopompus echoing the very description of the secret gospel a reported in Irenaeus:

For he in his sufferings continues as he is, voluntarily taking human sufferings upon himself, and does not suffer the pains which arise from human passions. For God is the one who is unharmed by every suffering, and it is his property always to remain the same. But the one who suffers harm from the passions, is overthrown by pains, is hindered by the force of necessity from carrying out good things, this one is not worthy of mention, even if he be called God. The one who indeed is not subject to death, who shows his impassibility by his suffering, let him come and do what it is fitting for God the helper- to do, and let what belongs to me be transformed, while he continues in his immutability, and let him be everything, though being outside everything.

It is difficult not to see the parallel here with the statement from the longer gospel of Mark that the divine being "Christ" remained impassible" while a yoked human figure "suffered." Theodore’s point however is that the process continues long after the Passion, with two figures – one suffering like Jesus and the other standing watching being transformed by his example.

Indeed we should pay careful attention here that the critical word in this citation is the 'if' which initiates the discussion. In other words, Theodore is not saying that it was Jesus - i.e. 'God' - who actually appeared suffering on the Cross or in the flames of martyrdom. Rather, as we shall see what follows, God was with him - the human agent - 'participating' with this and other martyrs throughout time and space and yet is also in another sense strangely removed from the experience. This would correspond to the idea of 'Christ remaining impassible' in the account of Irenaeus. As Theodore repeatedly emphasizes, God retains his freedom and immutability even in suffering. He manifests his impassibility not by keeping aloof, but by the manner of his participation in suffering.

The important thing for us to see again is that the tradition which develops from the secret gospel again sees great significance in the pairing of two males. One embodies the perfection of Jesus and the other is the figure of the disciple being prepared to be remade in his likeness. "We would not have known the impassible to be impassible if he had not participated in the passions and undergone the force of the passions," says Theodore again and immediately adds "for impassibility eagerly rushed upon the passions like a passion, so that by his own Passion he might show himself to be the cause of suffering of the passions. For the passions were not entirely able to stand against the weight of the power of impassibility." In other words, God only undergoes or takes part in 'passion' by participating in the human experience of suffering from a safe distance. Theodore makes clear that while God suffers our passion but is incapable of having any passion of his own.

This not something that Theodore invents out of thin air. It comes from the same gospel of Mark that was known to Irenaeus and which is certainly one and the same with secret Mark in the Letter to Theodore. According to Theodore the whole purpose of the passion was to demonstrate the dynamics of 'divine participation' with human beings. God suffers in such a way as to preserve his divine impassibility and to absorb our suffering and death. He empties himself of everything but his divine nature "then he, who is life and is superior to death, can enter death, inasmuch as he would not receive sufferings from death and would free mortals from death, because he himself is God who remains always in his impassibility."

Theodore explains this in highly unitive images and terms that prefigure Gregory Nazianzus's own views on the subject. In the incarnation the divine Son actually ''enters into relationship with [our] passions;'' he ''entered into the passions'' and ''took upon" himself and "participated in" our passions, in order to defeat them with his own impassability. As we have already noted the only place that this doctrine could have derived its origin is from the longer gospel of Mark associated with Alexandria and the heretical tradition. In Irenaeus's formula the same concept is described as "Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered" which is an 'error' according to the Church Father because it is typical of the Marcionite tendency to divide god into two agents participating in one divine nature.

Origen's Theodore is clearly passing on the very same doctrine. It is our contention that it could only have come from the longer gospel of Mark because no other text is ever mentioned sharing this mystical worldview. We must suspect that at the conclusion of its Passion narrative it was shown that God became ''mixed'' with our condition, the ''mingling'' being not merely an apparent one, but an actual ''fusion" of two beings. This doctrine was taught to Theodore, and he passed on that this 'mixture' is possible because, even though God's impassible nature and human suffering are incompatible opposites, God's nature is so powerful that it can truly subsume creaturely passion into itself in such a way that that transforms passion while remaining unalterably divine—a phenomenon that can even be observed in material examples, such as light that penetrates and eliminates darkness, or absbetos which conquers fire.

In practical terms this 'participation' of Jesus's divine nature is most visibly displayed in the conclusion of the gospel where the man on the cross suddenly reveals that he is not Jesus at all but someone transformed into his likeness undoubtedly as a result of participating in the mysteries which Jesus taught him. From the earliest period of Christianity there are traditions that taught that just before the crucifixion Jesus substituted someone in his place to suffer crucifixion. The followers of the heretic Basilides identified that individual as Simon, while the Marcionites apparently said it was Judas - a view which has been passed on to the Manichaeans apparently and close to a billion Muslims to this very day.

Clement however presents us with his Alexandrian tradition’s belief that Jesus baptized Simon Peter and that he in turn established pairs of apostles thereafter - his 'brother' Andrew being the first followed by the brothers James and John. It is also interesting that in the original gospel of the east, there are indications that it was shortly before the Passion Jesus "called his twelve disciples, and gave them power and much authority over all devils and diseases; and sent them two and two, that they might proclaim the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick." At the very least it should be acknowledged that what we are dealing with here is a consistent understanding of there being two participants in the core narrative of the gospel – and from this doctrine sprang the mystical interest in same sex unions.

It would stand to reason then to suspect that Theodore’s own relationship with Athenodorus was shaped by this doctrine. Unfortunately however we have very little in the way of any evidence to help us make sense of things. This is the difficutly inherent in piecing together a secret tradition – you have to find creative means of solving problems. In the case of Theodore and Athenodorus it is best uncover the manner in which they were taken to embody the classical model of friendship as "one soul in two bodies" by taking a second look at the fourth century pairing of Basil and Gregory Nazianzus, two of the greatest devotees to the historical person of Theodore, his writings and the tradition he embodied.

Like Theodore and Athenodorus, Basil and Gregory first met and became friends at school. They were acquainted in Caesarea in Cappadocia and resumed their friendship in 352, when they were completing their schooling together in Athens. Basil came from a family of saints. His parents were Basil the Elder and Emmelia of Cappadocia. After completing his own schooling, Basil opened a school of oratory, and practised law before deciding to become a monk. He first retired to Pontus to lead the life of a hermit; but finding that Gregory could not join him there, came and settled first at Tiberina (near Gregory’s own home), then at Neocaesarea, in Pontus. Here Basil lived in holy seclusion for some years, and gathered round him a brotherhood of cenobites, among whom his friend Gregory was for a time included.

During the next few years, Gregory and Basil together edited some of the exegetical works of Origen. Gregory also helped his friend in the compilation of his famous monastic rule, which became the most enduring rule in the Eastern monastic tradition. Gregory remained with St Basil for several years. After founding several more monasteries, Basil accepted ordination, and in 373, was appointed bishop of Caesaria. His great learning, eloquence and charity earned him the title of “the Great” during his lifetime, and Doctor of the Church after his death.

We are fortunate to have in our possession a wonderful examination of the funeral oration that Gregory Nazianzus gave to his beloved written by Jostein Bortnes of the University of Bergen in Norway. Entitled Eros Transformed: Same-Sex Love and Divine Desire, Reflections on the Erotic Vocabulary in St. Gregory of Nazianzus's Speech on St Basil Bortnes reveals that a critical part of the eulogy reveals the one soul in two bodies doctrine. The section, basically extending from chapter 18 - 25 has a strongly erotic component. Moreover Gregory's description of his love for Basil has been traditionally undervalued, downplayed or even ignored by scholars because there is very little interest in exploring hints of homosexuality in the early Fathers.

While it is difficult to believe that the two unmarried men, college roommates and devoted monks never acted out on their longing for one another, we do not claim to know that this certainly happened. While Carolinne White argues that "it is true that the friendships usually existed between members of the same sex and usually between men but to imply that all close friendships between members of the same sex are homosexual is absurd, an unfortunate consequence of modern attitudes to friendship" evidence from the monastic literature of many cultures supports this very conclusions. It has been demonstrated that the term 'friendship' was "used euphemistically in Coptic sources to describe homoerotic relations between monastics, and this is also found in eastern and western Christian monastic sources in a number of traditions, from Late Antiquity throught the Middle Ages and even into the present."

It is not at all an abuse of our sources to assume that the erotic language contained in them pointed back to something erotic between the correspondents. To argue otherwise is to shirk ones duty as a scholar to be engaged in uncovering the truth. Nevertheless our ultimate purpose in revealing the exact nature of the relationship between Basil and Gregory is to help shine a light 'down the chain' as it were of the obscure relationship of the 'brothers' Theodore and Athenodoros in the original circle of Origen. The Cappadocian Fathers certainly believed that their relationship was a mirror of that of the Pontic bishops of the third century. Their mutual love in Athens was a perpetuation of the original Alexandrian yoking rite established in Caesarea Maritima with Origen's sudden departure from Egypt. Basil and Gregory's unnamed Athenian teacher playing the part of mystagogue no less than Origen did at the time of Theodore and Athenodorus.

Bortnes begins his study with the very last lines of the Oration, in the section where Gregory Nazianzus remembers reflecting back on their lover affair after leaving Greece. "After only a short time in Athens, my longing desire turns me into Homer's horse, and breaking the bonds of those who restrained me, I thunder over the plains, running towards my mate." Athens was the beginning of their philia. Bortnes notes that in describing how he returned to Cappadocia to be reunited with his friend, Gregory uses an image know from Homer's Iliad, when toward the end of the sixth book, Paris runs toward his brother Hector: "As when some stalled horse who has been corn-fed at the manger breaking free of his rope gallops over the plain in thunder"

In the above passage we find already some of the elements typical of what Bortnes calls "Gregory's rhetoric of philia." This is a most passionate love which begins with Basil's arrival at Athens which Gregory characterizes as follows "Athens, which has been to me, if to anyone, a city truly of gold, and the patroness of all that is good. For it brought me to know Basil more perfectly, though he had not been unknown to me before, and in my pursuit of letters I attained to happiness." Of course as Bortnes notes, this happiness ultimately explodes when they fell madly in love with one another:

Up to this point our discourse has proceeded smoothly, carrying us along the even, very easy, truly royal highway in the praises of this man. But from here onwards, I do not know what language to employ or which way to turn, for our discourse is getting difficult. For at this point of my speech I should like to take the opportunity and follow my desire to add to what I have said a few things that concern myself personally, and to delay my story a little in order to tell you about the cause, the circumstances, and the origin of this friendship, or, to put it more properly, this unity of body and soul. For the eye is not wont to turn away easily from attractive sights, and if torn away by force, it is wont to return to them again. It is the same with a speech when it tells of that which is most sweet to us. Yet I fear the difficulty the difficulty of the undertaking. I will try, therefore, to use all possible moderation. And if I should be overpowered by longing desire pardon this most just of all feelings, not to experience which would be a terrible loss, at least to sensible men.

Bortnes draws attention to the fact that the words used in this section - philia, sumpnoia, sumfuia, pothos - "are all basic words in Gregory's erotic vocabulary." The all reinforce a most passionate relationship, hardly the kind of thing most of us would associate with common 'friendship.'

"This was" Gregory goes on to say after his description of their first encounter, a mere "prelude of our philia. This kindled the spark of our relationship, thus we were wounded by our love for one another." Again when Basil with Gregory's support wins the dispute with the Armenians again at Athens, Gregory comments that now their friendship was kindled for the second time, "no longer a spark, but a manifest and conspicuous blaze." When Basil has his feelings by disappointment Gregory notes "I restored his cheerfulness, and by this mutual experience, he was the more closely united to me."

The discussion continues now to an account of their intimacy and their living arrangements. Gregory confessing:

When, as time went on, we confessed our innermost desire to each other, and above all that philosophy was what we wanted to pursue, from that moment, onwards we were everything to each other, roommates, messmates, soulmates, in contemplation of the One, forever strengthening and intensifying each other's desire. For the love of body for body, since it is transitory, passes like the flowers of spring. For neither will the flame last when the firewood is spent, but goes away with what kindles it, nor will desire remain when the incentive has been quenched. But a love that is divine and chaste, since its object is firm, is thereby firmer, and the fuller their vision of beauty, the more closely does beauty bind to itself and to each other lovers whose love is the same. This is the law that governed our love for each other.

Bortnes notes that what is being described here is a classic Platonic distinction between the two forms of eros. It is a distinction we know from dialogues such as Alcibiades, Lysis, Phaedros, and the Symposium, in particular. Not only do we here find the image of "the fading flower of the body he so loved," it is in Pausanias's speech in the Symposium that we find a discussion of the dual nature of eros in combination of with a survey of the various laws concering eros. Bortnes rightly remarks that Platonism in Gregory is not the same as Platonism in Plato. Gregory's erotics is uniquely Christian formulation of same-sex philia which we should add greatly resembles the things said in the text by Hippolytus of Rome. Indeed Gregory continues in what immediately follows: to acknowledge that

Such were our feelings for each other, when we had thus supported, as Pindar has it, our well-built chamber with pillars of gold, as we advanced under the united influences of God's grace and our own affection. Oh! How can I mention these things without tears. We were impelled by equal hopes, in a pursuit especially obnoxious to envy, that of letters. Yet envy we knew not, and emulation was of service to us. We struggled, not each to gain the first place for himself, but to yield it to the other; for we made each other's reputation to be our own. We seemed to have one soul, inhabiting two bodies. And if we must not believe those whose doctrine is All things are in all; yet in our case it was worthy of belief, so did we live in and with each other.

It is simply impossible to argue that this is not something deeply personal and ultimately remarkably sexual appearing on the page here. Yet this Christianized Platonism that Bortnes acknowledges lies in the background of the Oration is necessarily related to Secret Mark.

The theme of ritualized same sex unions also appears throughout Theodore's Panygeric for Origen. It is the very underpinning of the text. While Basil and Gregory never directly acknowledge their familiarity with the Panygeric, it is impossible to imagine that they did not know this most important of Theodore's works. In spite of all this Bortnes argues that the love described in Gregory Nazianzus's Oration for Basil is slightly different that that which appears in the Panygeric. At least part of that misunderstanding on Bortnes part is attributable to his failure to recognize what the third century text is actually about – i.e. an expression of Theodore’s ‘thanks’ to Origen for his service as the mystagogue that brought them Theodore and his partner together.

Bortnes failure to grasp the mystical context of the Panygeric causes him to lose sight of the underlying connection between the two male pairs and ultimately their ultimate rooting in Alexandrian same sex union rites. Indeed the most critical part of the Panygeric, the section which ultimate connects the material back to secret Mark and forward to the Oration of Gregory is where Theodore acknowledges that Origen carried them off “by a kind of divine power” (theia dynamei)which he references in the following terms - “the desire of love (philia) was also brought to bear upon us,--a stimulus, indeed, not easily withstood, but keen and most effective,--the argument of a kind and affectionate disposition, which showed itself benignantly in his words when he spoke to us and associated with us.”

Clearly the ‘power’ here is Jesus who is described in terms familiar to Marcionites. He is above all else the embodiment of philia and it is important to see that there is a strong homoerotic sense here which bears surprising similarities with the understanding preserved in the writings of Methodius. Jesus is a ‘power’ embodied in an individual who is united with a weaker mate and who is expected to strengthen and preserve this underling through love.

Theodore goes on to say that Origen “did not aim merely at getting round us by any kind of reasoning; but his desire was, with a benignant, and affectionate, and most benevolent mind, to save us, and make us partakers in the blessings that flow from philosophy.” Yet this again takes place because of:

the power that teaches us piety, the word of salvation, that comes to many, and subdues to itself all whom it visits: for there is nothing that shall resist it, inasmuch as it is and shall be itself the king of all; although as yet it is hidden, and is not recognised, whether with ease or with difficulty, by the common crowd, in such wise that, when interrogated respecting it, they should be able to speak intelligently about it. And thus, like some spark lighting upon our inmost soul, love (eros) was kindled and burst into flame within us—a love at once to the Holy Word, the most lovely object of all, who attracts all irresistibly toward Himself by His unutterable beauty, and to this man, His friend and advocate.

It must be noted how homoerotic the whole description of the rite which confirms Theodore and his partner Athenodorus into the contemporary Christian community. Origen stands in for Jesus who inseminates both partners witht his spiritual seed of love.

Theodore continues by noting that “being most mightily smitten by this love, I was persuaded to give up all those objects or pursuits which seem to us befitting, and among others even my boasted jurisprudence,— yea, my very fatherland and friends, both those who were present with me then, and those from whom I had parted. And in my estimation there arose but one object dear and worth desire—to wit, philosophy, and that master of philosophy, this inspired man.” Origen, playing the part of intermediary is clearly attempting to fan the spark of spiritual love so it settles in these two youths. This is clearly the very same principle of philia at the heart of the secret gospel which one scholar notes was deemed by Empedocles to have been "alone worthy of true worship, as the eternal elemental force of creativity and unity in the cosmos."

In no uncertain terms is the longer gospel of Mark the liturgical basis for this rite of same sex union, so too that Basil and Gregory's philia only another link in the chain perpetuating this original doctrine. Bortnes rightly notes that the philia of Theodore and his teacher represents a relationship not unlike the relationship between Socrates and his pupils. As he puts it "in his spiritual ascent towards the divine, Origen — the theios anthropos, the "friend" and "spokesman" of the Holy Word, has, in the eyes of his disciple already transcended the human condition. It is the "most godlike" in him (Panegyric 2.13) that enables him to play the part of a mediator between the divine and the disciple in an erotic relationship that requires that the latter should break all other bonds and submit his will to that of his guide and master."

While Bortnes argues that what is being described in Gregory's funeral oration for his lover is ultimately different - that Basil and Gregory's union is of two equals rather than a master and guide - his analysis misses the larger point. As we have already noted Bortnes fails to account for Theodore's repeated allusion to 'us' - i.e. two men - being united by Origen's initiation. Origen is taking the role of priest - or St Mark to use the Alexandrian terminology - in order to transform the two bodies into one soul by means of his perfect being. In other words, Origen takes the role of Christ (or 'David' according to this arrangement) and Theodore and Athenodorus have been each joined to him.

Indeed at the very place Bortnes cuts off the citation from the Panegyric we see an unmistakable reference to this understanding. Theodore cites 1 Samuel 18:1 to explain what has happened to him under Origen's hand:

And the soul of Jonathan was knit with David. (1 Samuel 18:1) This word, indeed, I did not read till afterwardtheos in the sacred Scriptures; but I felt it before that time, not less clearly than it is written: for, in truth, it reached me then by the clearest of all revelations. For it was not simply Jonathan that was knit with David; but those things were knit together which are the ruling powers in man— their souls—those objects which, even though all the things which are apparent and ostensible in man are severed, cannot by any skill be forced to a severance when they themselves are unwilling. For the soul is free, and cannot be coerced by any means, not even though one should confine it and keep guard over it in some secret prison-house. For wherever the intelligence is, there it is also of its own nature and by the first reason. And if it seems to you to be in a kind of prison-house, it is represented as there to you by a sort of second reason. But for all that, it is by no means precluded from subsisting anywhere according to its own determination; nay, rather it is both able to be, and is reasonably believed to be, there alone and altogether, wheresoever and in connection with what things soever those actions which are proper only to it are in operation. Wherefore, what I experienced has been most clearly declared in this very short statement, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David; objects which, as I said, cannot by any means be forced to a separation against their will, and which of their own inclination certainly will not readily choose it. Nor is it, in my opinion, in the inferior subject, who is changeful and very prone to vary in purpose, and in whom singly there has been no capacity of union at first, that the power of loosing the sacred bonds of this affection rests, but rather in the nobler one, who is constant and not readily shaken, and through whom it has been possible to the these bonds and to fasten this sacred knot. Therefore it is not the soul of David that was knit by the divine word with the soul of Jonathan; but, on the contrary, the soul of the latter, who was the inferior, is said to be thus affected and knit with the soul of David. For the nobler object would not choose to be knit with one inferior, inasmuch as it is sufficient for itself; but the inferior object, as standing in need of the help which the nobler can give, ought properly to be knit with the nobler, and fitted dependently to it: so that this latter, retaining still its sufficiency in itself, might sustain no loss by its connection with the inferior; and that that which is of itself without order being now united and fitted harmoniously with the nobler, might, without any detriment done, be perfectly subdued to the nobler by the constraints of such bonds. Wherefore, to apply the bonds is the part of the superior, and not of the inferior; but to be knit to the other is the part of the inferior, and this too in such a manner that it shall possess no power of loosing itself from these bonds. And by a similar constraint, then, did this David of ours once gird us to himself; and he holds us now, and has held us ever since that time, so that, even though we desired it, we could not loose ourselves from his bonds. And hence it follows that, even though we were to depart, he would not release this soul of mine, which, as the Holy Scripture puts it, he holds knit so closely with himself [emphasis mine]

While this is certainly an extremely lengthy citation, it is necessary to make a broader point outside of Bortnes's failure to grasp the interconnection between the Oration for Basil and the Panygeric for Origen. The use of 1 Samuel 18:1 here was again almost certainly reinforcing same sex love 'being in the room' as Theodore was being ritually yoked to his partner Athenodorus.

David's love for Jonathan has always been recognized to have homosexual undertones to it. We see it in David's praise for Jonathan's 'love' (for him) over the 'love' of women in 2 Samuel 1:26 no less than Saul's exclamation to his son at the dinner table, "I know you have chosen the son of Jesse - which is a disgrace to yourself and the nakedness of your mother!" The "choosing" (bahar) may indicate a permanent choice and firm relationship, and the mention of "nakedness" (erwa) could be interpreted to convey a negative sexual nuance, giving the impression that Saul saw something indecent in Jonathan's and David's relationship. Moreover when they are alone together, David confides that he has "found grace in Jonathan's eyes", a phrase proponents say normally refers to romantic or physical attraction.

Throughout the passages, David and Jonathan consistently affirm and reaffirm their love and devotion to one another, and Jonathan is willing to betray his father, family, wealth, and traditions for David. It is worth noting that at his 1895 trial, Oscar Wilde cited the example of David and Jonathan in support of "the love that dare not speak its name." He wrote "such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare." Modern scholars who have argued that homosexuality is referenced in the text include the classicist David Halpern, the historian John Boswell, the Biblical scholar Susan Ackerman, and the Orientalist Jean-Fabrice Nardelli.

Of course our overarching purpose in bringing forward all this material is to not only connect Theodore and Athenodorus to Basil and Gregory who lived over a century after they came to Pontus but indeed to gain some insight into the inner workings of the Alexandrian rite of same sex union. There can be no doubt that Theodore and Athenodorus were united together in Origen at Caesarea Maritima. This was an ancient Egyptian rite which had been transplanted to Palestine because of worsening political circumstances in Egypt. While it is hard to accept Theodore's claim that he and Athenodorus simply stumbled into Origen on his escape from Alexandria, it is even more implausible that two boys from central Turkey suddenly ended up falling in love from a 'chance meeting' in Athens.

Is it too much to suggest that the consistent identification of Pontus with Marcionitism explains the interest in the Alexandrian rite and the Alexandrian gospel? We must suspect that the original attraction between these youths was already established long before this encounter in the formal school setting. Perhaps it was started with family connections or some other social contact. It is now impossible to establish the original contact. Indeed it has to be remembered in the case of Basil, that his family settled in Neocaesarea some time after he was born. As such it seems likely that it was in Pontus that the two became mutually interested in Theodore (= Gregory Thaumaturgus), Origenism and ultimately each other. Perhaps these bonds were tolerated or even encouraged in the neo-Marcionite culture of fourth century northern Turkey.

In the end it is important to note that Gregory twice uses language of marital union to describe his relationship with Basil. In his recollection of their last day at Athens he says "it was like cutting one body into two, to the destruction of either part, or the severance of two bullocks who have shared the same manger and the same yoke (homozygwn), amid pitiable bellowings after one another in protest against the separation. However, my loss was not of long duration, for I could not long bear to be seen in piteous plight, nor to have to account to every one for our separation. After only a short time in Athens, my longing desire turns me into Homer's horse, and breaking the bonds of those who restrained me, I thunder over the plains, running towards my mate." The critical word here is homozygon (= 'one yoke') and it obviously derives from the word syzygy.

Gregory uses the word syzgias four times to describe the ideal behind heterosexual marriage (43.9.1, 43.9.3, 43.16.3, 43.81.2). It is also the term he repeatedly uses to describe the same sex union that he had with Basil - "While I, Gregory, who am half dead, and, cleft in two, torn away from our great union (tes megales syzygias), and dragging along a life of pain which runs not easily, as may be supposed, after separation from him, know not what is to be my end now that I have lost my guidance." This terminology is critical for understanding was going on in Alexandrian circles likely back to the origins of the community. Men were being united with other men through the power of Christ.

Bortnes is quite correct that after Athens Gregory and Basil's philia changed to something else. Gregory says that after he had become a bishop, Basil "built up a network of contacts, acquaintances, relatives, clients, and of friends in the richest sense." Gregory's understanding of friendship as a reciprocal loving relationship between two equals, united in their quest for divine truth, was, however, irreconcilable with Basil's status as a prince of the Church. And although Gregory found a model for their new relationship in Paul and Barnabas in Acts, their friendship was never the same after Athens. Indeed to put it plainly, Gregory was disappointed by Basil inability to give up ties with this world. This is not how Clement, Origen or even Theodore had originally portrayed this syzygy. Above all else, it like their love was supposed to be inviolable.  

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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