Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Secret Disciple Who Was a 'Partner' in Jesus's Suffering

There can be no doubt that I have come up with the solution to the problem of 'Secret Mark.'  It is a Diatessaronic text, or if you prefer - a 'super text' - insofar as the canonical four divided the original harmony that existed in that narrative.  The reality is that there were likely more than one 'super gospel.'  There was certainly a 'Hebrew text' so-called undoubtedly because it was written in Hebrew characters.  This was the text behind Matthew or so the story goes.  Many different eyewitnesses testify to the existence of a 'harmonized narrative' which began with the cursing of the fig tree and ended with Zacchaeus or Matthew sitting in 'unripe' sycamore fig tree.  By the time we go from A to B a rich youth was told about the shortcomings of the Law of Moses and went down to Hades and was resurrected - possibly in another physical body.

It is not my place to spend too much time speculating about the identity of this figure.  Indeed too much speculation may do more harm than good.  But it is worth noting that in Ephrem's text immediately after the cursing of the fig tree tells the Jews that he will not go to Jerusalem for Passover.  Ephrem explains this oddity as if it pointed to a 'secret visit' by Jesus.  But it is equally possible - given the influence of the Diatessaron in the Middle East - that what was really being pointed to with these words was the fact that Jesus was establishing the disciple as a substitute for himself on the Cross.

The substitution tradition in Islamic pseudepigraphal literature is well established.  There is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to it.  Without getting mired in the controversy over this interpretation of the gospel it is worth noting that there is a much older tradition in the Patristic writings - and one which stands very close to Secret Mark.  Of course we are talking about the idea of an anonymous disciple who was a 'partner in the suffering of Jesus.'  Irenaeus of course refers to this tradition as being associated with a Gospel of Mark with added material used by a group closely related to the Marcionites.

Irenaeus writes "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" (Adver Haer 3.11.7). We have discussed this passage at great length here.  In recent posts we have noted that Irenaeus seems to be misleading the reader in other related passages when he claims that Jesus was crucified and Christ flew down from heaven landing on top of him.  Irenaeus intimates that the heretics themselves understood the supernatural name 'Jesus' to have been adopted by a disciple in the same way that Oshea became Joshua in the Pentateuch.

The idea then that we have two individuals present at the crucifixion - one who adopted the name 'Jesus' and likely 'mistakenly' crucified in his place, the other 'suffering with' him isn't limited to Irenaeus's discussion of the neo-Marcionites.  Irenaeus's seems to have also mentioned such an interpretation of the gospel in his original treatise Against Marcion.  For already in his discussion of Jesus's healing of the leper we read mention of this concept:

Marcion's purpose is in no sense served by what he supposes to be an opposition between the law and the gospel, because this (= the healing of the leper) too was ordained by the Creator, and in fact was foretold by that promise of a new law and a new word and a new testament. But seeing that he argues with unusual insistence in the presence of one whom he calls a kind of συνταλαίπωρον, companion in misery, and συμμισούμενον, companion in hatred, regarding the cleansing of the leper, I shall not think it amiss to meet him, and first to show him the force of that figurative law [Tertullian Adver Marc 4.9]

The simple-minded manner in which tradition scholarship approaches this passage only testifies to the worthlessness of modern education.  For it is usually understood that Tertullian is somehow 'passing on' something that 'he knew about the Marcionites' from direct experience.  The Greek terminology only testifies to him copying out something that appeared in his original source - Irenaeus's Against Marcion which was certainly written originally in Greek.

It is interesting then that Irenaeus - not Tertullian - identifies the anonymous 'leper' whom Jesus healed as being a συνταλαίπωρον and συμμισούμενον.  Marcion is said to have argued with 'unusual insistence' (Latin attentius argumentatur) about the presence of this individual.  Tertullian tells us that this act of healing described in the gospel had a deep significance for Marcionites.  Yet almost no one has picked up on the significance of the words that accompany his sending off of the healed leper to the priests with the words ἵνα ᾖ μαρτύριον τοῦτο ὑμῖν.

The echo here is clearly Micah 1:2:

and the Lord God shall be among you for a testimony (ἐν ὑμῖν εἰς μαρτύριον), the Lord out of his holy habitation. For, behold, the Lord comes forth out of his place, and will come down, and will go upon the high places of the earth.  And the mountains shall be shaken under him, and the valleys shall melt like wax before the fire, and as water rushing down a declivity. All these [calamities are] for the transgression of Jacob, and for the sin of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? [is it] not Samaria? and what is the sin of the house of Judah? [is it] not Jerusalem?

Of course, the reader may wonder why a saying about the coming of the Lord from heaven would be applied to a healed leper.  The answer is clearly to be found in the fact that this particular individual received the divine name of Jesus and suffered 'in his place' - or if you prefer the language of Irenaeus - his 'partner in suffering.'

It is very significant to recall what Irenaeus originally said about the Marcionites taking special interest in this disciple described as "commiseronem" and "coodibilem" given that the rich man who later dies and is resurrected was originally similarly described.  Tertullian now preserves the discussion as:

and when that man replied, in respect of the chief of them (= the commandments), that he had kept them from his youth up, he got the answer, One thing thou lackest; sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Come now, Marcion, and all you companions in the misery and sharers in the offensiveness (commiserones et coodibiles) of that heretic, what will you be bold enough to say? Did Christ here rescind those former commandments, not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to bear false witness, to love father and mother? Or is it that he both retained these and added what was lacking? And yet, even this commandment of distributing to the poor is spread about everywhere in the law and the prophets, so that that boastful keeper of the commandments was convicted of having money in much higher esteem. So then this also in the gospel remains valid, I am not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but rather to fulfil.  At the same time also he relieved of doubt those other questions, by making it clear that the name of God, and of supremely good, belongs to one only, and that eternal life and treasure in heaven, and himself besides, pertain to that one, whose commandments, by adding what was lacking, he both conserved and enriched. So he is to be recognized as in agreement with Micah, in this passage where he says, Hath he then shewed thee, O man, what is good? Or what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justice, to love mercy, and to be prepared to follow the Lord thy God? [Against Marcion 4:36]

Clearly Tertullian is expanding upon Irenaeus's description of that original disciple who asked the question about the Law - and whom Ephrem testifies Jesus "looked at lovingly, so that he might show him that it was his own self that he was rejecting. For he is the rich man, who was attired in purple.  See, he is a son of Israel, because of what [he said], My father, Abraham, and because of, They have Moses and the prophets."

In other words, Irenaeus undoubtedly originally applied the words 'partner in suffering' and 'partner in misery' to the same disciple here again.  He has resurfaced in the narrative after being healed of leprosy and showed himself to the priests as a testimony that he would destroy their temple.  How would the disciple 'testify against them'?  Clearly he not only died and was resurrected - but specifically 'resurrected in Jesus's name.'  He adopted the very identity of his Lord and may well have been crucified in his very place in the manner of the Islamic substitution myth.  We should pay careful attention to the specific line which follows in Against Marcion - "making it clear that the name of God, and of supremely good, belongs to one only."  The suggestion that this disciple would adopt the name of Jesus thereafter and be his 'partner in suffering' was being specifically combated in the original treatise.

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