Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Samaritan Origins of Christianity [Part Seven]

In summer of 1958 a most interesting man made an incredible discovery. The man was Morton Smith, a first year Associate Professor of Ancient History at Columbia University. The discovery was the Letter to Theodore, a letter from Clement of Alexandria, the earliest Egyptian Church Father for whom we have any reliable information. We haven't the foggiest idea who was this ‘Theodore’ to whom the correspondence was addressed. All that is certain is that an original Greek manuscript was copied out into the blank pages of a seventeenth century book at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem in the last three centuries.  

The document has been the subject of controversy for some time the arguments themselves amount to a series of ad hominems against its discoverer, Morton Smith.  Since the Letter to Theodore is included in collections of the writings of Clement and seems thoroughly 'Clementine' there is little need for us to seriously doubt the authenticity of the text.  It is accepted as authentic by most authorities on Clement of Alexandria including perhaps the world's leading authority on the Church Father, Alain Le Boulluec.[1] Le Boullec went so far as to argue for Clement's knowledge of the story of the young man in Secret Mark and Clement's association of this young man with the rich young man in Mark 10:17–22.[2]  It is worth noting that Bucur is a prominent hold out against authenticity though as we already noted, he goes to great lengths to challenge Clement's association with the Marcians.[3]

It should not be a great challenge to note the obvious parallel between Secret Mark's 'six days' of preparation before the ritual initiation of the disciple by Jesus.  Marvin Meyer points to this "as symbolizing an appropriate time of preparation and purification before an experience of meeting the divine (e.g., Exod 24:16)."[4]  However given the other affinities between Clement and the Marcians it undoubtedly goes back even further to the understanding of the rite as a recreation of man.[5]  Meyer does connect it to the Transfiguration which was used by both Clement and the Marcians to underscore the significance of the episemon and the number six.  Indeed the re-creation of man is clearly the ultimate context here as Irenaeus notes of the Marcians "it was on the sixth day, which is the preparation, that the last man appeared, for the regeneration of the first."[5]  Given our parallels between Clement and the Marcians it is not difficult to see the second baptismal rite of Secret Mark as the ἀπολύτρωσις.

[3] "I am not even convinced it is not a forgery"

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