Monday, November 5, 2012

The Core Myth of Early Christianity and Alexandrian Judaism

I think my discovery of the original Marcionite two powers doctrine developing directly from Philo and first century Judaism is a major discovery.  What it comes down to is the fact that not only did the Jews of that period accept the existence of two powers (something famously argued by Alan Segal) but that the Marcionite doctrine of 'redemption' - rooted as it was in the idea of the individual initiate being purchased and transferred from one god to the other (from the mean 'Lord' to the kind 'God') - is also found not only in Clement of Alexandria but actually derives from Philo of Alexandria.

In both these writers Jacob's vision at Bethel is a reference to the idea that he passed from the 'jurisdiction' of one god to the other - "and the Lord shall be to me as God."  The Lord no longer had authority over Jacob.  He was now purchased or transferred to the kind God.  This hope was the essence of Marcionitism and by demonstrating that the idea was already present in Philo we finally prove that the 'heresy' developed directly from an authoritative form of Judaism - something not previously recognized by scholars.

The idea of the transfer from one god to the other as a slave redemption is also present in other reports about the heresies from the Church Fathers and related literature.  The concept is also expressed as numerology as the Gospel of Truth, Irenaeus and Hippolytus testify:

He is the shepherd who left behind the ninety-nine sheep which were not lost. He went searching for the one which had gone astray. He rejoiced when he found it, for ninety-nine is a number that is in the left hand, which holds it. But when the one is found, the entire number passes to the right (hand). As that which lacks the one - that is, the entire right (hand) - draws what was deficient and takes it from the left-hand side and brings (it) to the right, so too the number becomes one hundred. It is the sign of the one who is in their sound; it is the Father. Even on the Sabbath, he labored for the sheep which he found fallen into the pit. He gave life to the sheep, having brought it up from the pit, in order that you might know interiorly - you, the sons of interior knowledge - what is the Sabbath, on which it is not fitting for salvation to be idle, in order that you may speak from the day from above, which has no night, and from the light which does not sink, because it is perfect.[Gospel of Truth]

Blending in one the production of their own AEons, and the straying and recovery of the sheep ... the sheep frisked off, and went astray; for they assert that a defection took place from the Twelfthness. In the same way they oracularly declare, that one power having departed also from the Duodecad, has perished; and this was represented by the woman who lost the drachma, and, lighting a lamp, again found it. Thus, therefore, the numbers that were left, viz., nine, as respects the pieces of money, and eleven in regard to the sheep, when multiplied together, give birth to the number ninety-nine, for nine times eleven are ninety-nine. Wherefore also they maintain the word "Amen" contains this number ... Wherefore also they, by means of their "knowledge," avoid the place of ninety-nine, that is, the defection--a type of the left hand,(7)--but endeavour to secure one more, which, when added to the ninety and nine, has the effect of changing their reckoning to the right hand. [Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.14.1 - 3]

And therefore, on account of its having the remarkable (letter), the twelve has concomitant with it a remarkable passion. And for this reason (they maintain) that when an error had arisen respecting the twelfth number, the sheep skipped from the flock and wandered away; for that the apostasy took place, they say, in like manner from the decade. And with a similar reference to the twelve, they speak of the piece of money which, on losing, a woman, having lit a candle, searched for diligently. (And they make a similar application) of the loss (sustained) in the case of the one sheep out of the ninety and nine; and adding these one into the other, they give a fabulous account of numbers. And in this way, they affirm, when the eleven is multiplied into nine, that it produces the number ninety and nine; and on this account that it is said that the word Amen embraces the number ninety-nine ... And for this reason (it was) that these (adherents of Marcus), through their knowledge, avoid the place of the ninety-nine, that is, the Hysterema, a type of the left hand, and follow after the one which, added to ninety-nine, they say was transferred to his own right hand [Hippolytus Philosophumena 6.47]

This was an extraordinarily significant discovery, one which should overturn previous wrongheaded notions about the Marcionite sect (although I'd settle for everyone agreeing to throw Sebastian Moll's book in the fire).

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