Friday, December 28, 2012

De-Mystifying the Mystery of the Secret Gospel of Mark [Part One]

There are just so many people who go into the study of the gospel with already set notions of who or what 'Jesus' is - it is no wonder that many of them refuse to accept the authenticity of 'Secret Mark.'  The question of course that everyone should ask is - why would it be important for Mark to have the following section just before the entry into Jerusalem:

And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.

I have often noted that 'he' who crosses the Jordan is critical.  The assumption of most people of course is that Jesus is the 'he' which explains why the narrative which follows has Jesus placed in Jericho.  Yet there a number of very good reasons for assuming just the opposite - i.e. that the youth is the 'he' and the crossing of the Jordan represents the 'baptism' for which the 'teaching of the mystery of the Kingdom of God' was preparation.

Clement of Alexandria goes out of his way in Quis Dives Salvetur to put forward a most ridiculous argument - at least so it seems - when he suggests that the account of the rich youth in the gospel (Mark 10:17 - 31) is completed in the story which follows of Jesus praising the many named disciple (Zacchaeus, Matthew) who tells Jesus he gives half of his possessions to the poor and says if he has cheated anyone out of anything he pays back the amount fourfold.

The Diatessaron actually inserts the Zacchaeus story in the very place Clement signals a short addition is placed in Secret Mark.  But most significant of all is Clement's remark of yet another addition in his text of

He does not bid them part with their property, but, applying the just and removing the unjust judgment, He subjoins, "To-day salvation has come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham." He so praises the use of property as to enjoin, along with this addition, the giving a share of it, to give drink to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, to take the houseless in, and clothe the naked. (QDS 13)

Of course our gospel of Luke curtails the text at 'he is the son of Abraham.'  However it is clear from Clement's statement here that there was more in Clement's lost gospel of Mark (remember the arguments in Quis Dives Salvetur are specifically connected with Mark and Mark alone).

It is important to note for instance that the disciple is alternatively identified as 'Zacchaeus' or 'Matthew' here.  Clement does the very same thing in

It is said, therefore, that Zaccheus, or, according to some, Matthew, the chief of the publicans, on hearing that the Lord had deigned to come to him, said, Lord, and if I have taken anything by false accusation, I restore him fourfold; on which the Saviour said, The Son of man, on coming today, has found that which was destroyed (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐλθὼν σήμερον τὸ ἀπολωλὸς εὗρεν) [Stromata 4.6]

The received text of Luke 19:10 reads ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός = "Indeed the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost."  The two narratives are indeed quite different owing to the fact that - as Clement himself notes in Quis Dives Salvetur - this narrative concludes or explains the Question of the Rich Man (Mark 10:17 - 31).

The reason that Clement's text of longer Mark has it that Jesus has 'found' (εὗρεν) rather than our Luke's 'seek and save' is because Jesus already 'sought and saved' the 'destroyed' (ἀπολωλός) man in the Secret Mark fragment.  The man was rich, he rejected Jesus's teaching about wealth, he died, resurrected before being baptized in the Jordan (i.e. the 'he' who crossed) and ultimately arrived back in Jericho to demonstrate to Jesus what he had learned about his experience.

Now if we go back to the original discussion in Quis Dives Salvetur we can immediately see another piece of the passage which is now missing from our account in Luke:

"Today salvation has come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham." He so praises the use of property as to enjoin, along with this addition, the giving a share of it, to give drink to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, to take the houseless in, and clothe the naked. (QDS 13)

The italicized passage is clearly a paraphrase of Matthew 25:36 - "I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me" albeit in a slightly different form as we see from Clement's Instructor:

Respecting liberality (μεταδόσεως) He said: "Come to me, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger (ξένος), and ye assembled me; naked, and ye clothed Me; sick, and ye visited Me; in prison, and ye came unto Me (καὶ ἤλθετε πρός με)." And when have we done any of these things to the Lord? The Instructor Himself will say it is a well-making lovingly done to the brother as Himself (τὴν εὐποιίαν καὶ τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἀγαπητικῶς εἰς ἑαυτὸν μετατρέπων καὶ λέγων), "Inasmuch as ye have done it to these little ones (ἐποιήσατε τοῖς μικροῖς τούτοις), ye have done it to Me (ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε). And these shall go away into everlasting life (Καὶ ἀπελεύσονται οἱ τοιοῦτοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον)." [Instructor - 94.1]

The point of course is that it can't be forgotten that the disciple (Zacchaeus, Matthew) is specifically mentioned as a 'little one.'  He has to climb a sycamore tree in order to be able to catch a glimpse of Jesus owing to the obstruction of the crowds.

Indeed when we start looking at the context of the statement as if it refers back to the experience of the Secret Mark fragment we discover a number of interesting parallels.  If Jesus has just 'taught' this same youth 'the kingdom of God' in the previous section, it is interesting that he welcomes him with the words 'come to me, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."  The reference to 'ἐπείνασα' usually means 'I was lacking.'  Yet given Clement's background it is worth noting that Liddell points to Plato's use of the term in the sense of 'lacking' (πεινῶντες ἀγαθῶν” Pl. R. 521a ; “μάλα π. συμμάχων” X. Cyr. 7.5.50).

Clearly then Clement is quite justified in asking "when have we done any of these things to the Lord?"  Indeed none of the disciples has done a single thing described in the narrative.  What is actually being described is the spiritual Jesus settling in the flesh and blood of the particular individual here - and by extension in what follows - the rest of humanity (cf. the Coptic doctrine of Incarnation).  Notice also that 'I was a stranger and you assembled me' follows (συνηγάγετέ comes from συνάγω which is also the root of the term 'synagogue' the gathering place where Marcionites and other heretics gathered to commune with the presence of the spirit Jesus).

It is at this point that the narrative 'flips' and we see the Zacchaeus/Matthew obliquely identified as disciple of the Secret Mark fragment:

naked (γυμνὸς) and you wrapped me (περιεβάλετέ με); weak (ἀσθενὴς) and ye looked after me (ἐπεσκέψασθέ με); in prison, and ye came unto Me (καὶ ἤλθετε πρός με)

The situation can easily be turned around as describing the very situation which led to the youth's initiation.  The key subjoining statement which Clement's makes to explain the statement - "it is a good deed lovingly done to the brother as Himself" - could well be understood to describe an 'act of charity' in our mundane understanding of the term if it were not specifically identified as the very culmination of the Question of the Rich Man narrative (Mark 10:17 - 31).

Jesus is clearly (and secretly) identifying the disciple as the living incarnation of himself after the mystery initiation.  He is telling the crowds that this little one (= Zacchaeus/Matthew) is himself.  This will be further explained in our next post.  In the meantime some clues.  Origen in De Principiis connects Matthew 25:34 - 35 with the material immediately following the Secret Mark fragment when he writes:

even the words addressed to those who are on His right hand (cf. Mark 10:35 - 45), "Come unto Me, all you blessed of My Father, etc.; for I was an hungered, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink," manifestly show that it depended upon themselves, that either these should be deserving of praise for doing what was commanded and receiving what was promised [De Principiis 3.6]

Cyprian (Ep. 4) and Hippolytus similarly identify those being addressed by this statement as the ones enthroned by Jesus in the world to come.  Irenaeus interestingly connects Matthew 25:35 with the sacramental mysteries:

Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned.  But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit.  For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.  Now we make offering to Him, not as though He stood in need of it, but rendering thanks for His gift, and thus sanctifying what has been created. For even as God does not need our possessions, so do we need to offer something to God; as Solomon says: "He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord." For God, who stands in need of nothing, takes our good works to Himself for this purpose, that He may grant us a recompense of His own good things, as our Lord says: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you. For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me; sick, and ye visited Me; in prison, and ye came to Me." As, therefore, He does not stand in need of these, yet does desire that we should render them for our own benefit, lest we be unfruitful; so did the Word give to the people that very precept as to the making of oblations, although He stood in no need of them, that they might learn to serve God: thus is it, therefore, also His will that we, too, should offer a gift at the altar, frequently and without intermission. [Against Heresies 4.18.5]

Yet perhaps most significant of all, Clement of Alexandria clearly connects Matt 25:34, 35 back to Mark 10:20, 21 and the Question of the Rich Man:

This is the sort of fellowship Scripture teaches, not fellowship in lust. How can there be a person who asks, receives, and borrows if there is no one who possesses, grants, and lends? What does the Lord say? "I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear." Then he adds, "Insofar as you have done so to one of the humblest of these, you have done so to me." ... So as the universe is compounded of opposites, hot and cold, dry and wet, so too it is compounded of those who give and those who receive. Again when he says, "If you want to be perfect, sell your property and give the proceeds to the poor," he is showing up the man who boasts of "having kept all the commandments from his youth." (Mark 10:20, 21) He had not fulfilled "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31) At that moment the Lord wanted to bring him to perfection and was teaching him to share out of love. [Stromata 2.54.2 - 55.2]

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