Friday, April 19, 2013

The Samaritan Origins of Christianity [Part Five]

The most intriguing thing about the Marcian ἀπολύτρωσις rite is that it is so specifically connected with a particular scriptural passage at the heart of a controversy related to Clement of Alexandria.  Irenaeus specifically references the fact that the heretics "affirm that the Lord added this redemption to the sons of Zebedee, when their mother asked that they might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom, saying, "Can ye be baptized with the baptism which I shall be baptized with?"[1]  The Anonymous Treatise on Baptism repeats the same scripture and identifies it as coming from the Gospel According to Mark.[2]  Both texts connect the citation with Luke 12:50 in order to prove that Jesus heralded a second baptism. 

Yet it is interesting to note that you don't have to be a heretic to make the connection between Mark 10:38 and 'redemption.'  Ephrem the Syrian does the very same thing in his Commentary, he writes

When two [of the apostles] came in order to choose places for themselves, as though first among their companions, our Lord said to them, Are you able to drink the chalice that I am about to drink? [He said this] to show that [such places] must indeed be bought at a price. 'Like me.'  Wherefore God has also elevated and exalted him. [Phil 2:9] There is no one who has humbled himself more, according to his nature, than our Lord, for he was of divine origin.

Ephrem's interpretation follows Irenaeus's own[3] - the disciples "they learned that such a place could only be bought through deeds" - that is martyrdom.  For the Marcians the redemption was something quite different - it was a mystical or ritual death associated with baptism. 

According to the Anonymous Treatise - developed undoubtedly from material associated with Irenaeus - the heresies developed from Simon Magus and they contend that "they only administer a sound and perfect, not as we, a mutilated and curtailed baptism, which they are in such wise said to designate, that immediately they have descended into the water, fire at once appears upon the water."  When the author references that the fire is one of "several tricks of this kind affirmed to be from Anaxilaus" the magician, they are echoing arguments in Against Heresies account of the Marcians.[4]  The idea of fire appearing on the water of baptism also appears in many early gospel traditions.[5]

It is also interesting to note that the author of the Anonymous Treatise clearly identifies this redemption rite as a death ritual.  He describes it as a "murderous baptism" which perfects its initiates.[6]  The author of the Philosophumena puts it this way:

And subsequent to the (first) baptism, to these they promise another, which they call Redemption. And by this (other baptism) they wickedly subvert those that remain with them in expectation of redemption, as if persons, after they had once been baptized, could again obtain remission. Now, it is by means of such knavery as this that they seem to retain their hearers. And when they consider that these have been tested, and are able to keep (secret the mysteries) committed unto them, they then admit them to this (baptism). They, however, do not rest satisfied with this alone, but promise (their votaries) some other (boon) for the purpose of confirming them in hope, in order that they may be inseparable.  For they utter something in an inexpressible (tone of) voice, after having laid hands on him who is receiving the redemption. And they allege that they could not easily declare (to another) what is thus spoken unless one were highly tested, or one were at the hour of death, (when) the bishop comes and whispers into the (expiring one's) ear. And this knavish device (is undertaken) for the purpose of securing the constant attendance upon the bishop of (Mark') disciples, as individuals eagerly panting to learn what that may be which is spoken at the last, by (the knowledge of) which the learner will be advanced to the rank of those admitted into the higher mysteries.

Once again it is important to reinforce that this death baptism which represents 'the higher mysteries' is otherwise unknown in early Christianity.  The only other example that we have of the practice of this type of this mystic rite is found in the writings of Clement. 

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