Monday, April 22, 2013

The Samaritan Origins of Christianity [Part Nine]

In a subsequent paper we can tentatively demonstrate an underlying association this ἀπολύτρωσις tradition with the Dosithean sect of Samaritanism.[1]  For the moment however it is enough to close our present investigation by strengthening the connection between the Marcites and Clement on the one hand and Philo of Alexandria on the other.  It is tempting to suggest that Jacob's visionary experience associated with 'sleep' at Bethel was reinterpreted as metaphor for ritualized 'death' and resurrection by Clement's Alexandrian Christian community.  It is impossible to prove this assertion of course.  But there are some good reasons for tenatively accepting this understanding. 

While Philo never specifically equates sleep with death he does at one point come pretty close.  The Legum Allegoriae interprets sleep as the state in which the mind is effectively unshackled from the body.  Philo says "when the mind is awake the outward sense is extinguished" and again "the external sense then comes forward when the mind is asleep."  Indeed Philo goes one step further and states that "Moses, being alarmed lest some day or other the mind might not merely go to sleep, but might become absolutely dead."[2] 

We can even go one step further.  We read that in a lost work of Philo's which survived in the Mar Saba library until the eighth century Philo again defines sleep as the quieting of the mind "in consequence cut off from any energy because they are separated from the objects which are perceptible to them, are dissolved in a state of motionless inactivity" but then goes one step fruther defining "sleep as a thing to teach us to meditate upon death, and a shadow and outline of the resurrection which is hereafter to follow, for it bears in itself visible images of both conditions, for it removes the same man from his state of perfection and brings him back to it."[3]  Is it really that much of a leap of logic to equate this 'separated' state with death? 

Philo appears steadfast in his interpretation that Ex 33:21 - 23 means man cannot see God directly in the flesh.  One may imagine that a Christian tradition influenced by his writings understood that the full apprehension of God required a new divine soul - something that Jesus was understood to have established through the divine mysteries.[4]  It is fascinating to look back at the clearest portrait we have of the Marcian ἀπολύτρωσις rite from the writings of Irenaeus and see the echo of the tradition associated with Jacob's dream at Bethel.  The description of the ἀπολύτρωσις as a 'dream' (ἐνύπνιον) where intitiate sees the 'companion of God' in the company of angels (Μεγέθη) that continually behold the face of the Father (πρόσωπον τοῦ Πατρός), draw up their forms (ἀνασπῶσιν ἄνω τὰς αὐτῶν μορφάς) transform initiates into their images (εἰκόνας).[5] 

There is a well established mystical tradition where God and Jacob are understood to mirror images of one another.  In some traditions the angels direct Jacob to see the one whose "image is fixed (engraved) in the Throne of Glory and whom you have desired to see."[6] In others Jacob himself is on the throne.[7]  In some there is a combination of the two understandings - i.e. Jacob-Yisra’el was the earthly reflection of the Angel of the Presence.  Where the mystical tradition explains itself it usually set forth in the observation that it does not say the angels were going up and coming down. It says the angels were going down and coming up. This means they came down , saw Jacob-Yisra’el’s face (the word translated “presence” is literally “face”), recognised it, and went back up to compare it with the original.[8]

The point then is that the Marcian mystical understanding as preserved by Irenaeus clearly understands that Jesus is the Angel of the Presence or the Philonic power 'God' who transformed Mark into a heavenly being.   Irenaeus describes Mark as declaring that he alone was the only-begotten and that he "induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above." [9]  It must be presumed that after being transformed into an image of the divinity - i.e. the Father - Mark promised to do the same to his followers.  One may even imagine that it may be related to familiar identification of the Christian priestly class as 'fathers.'[10]

[6]  Targ. Ps.-J. to Gen 28.12 

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