Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Samaritan Origins of Christianity [Part Eight]

While Clement does not directly tie the specific term ἀπολύτρωσις with the Secret Mark narrative it is important to note that λύτρον is connected with the scene that immediately precedes it - the Question of the Rich Man (Mark 10:17 - 21). That the two narratives are related has been noted many times.[1] As Edward Renaugh Smith summarizes in the story of the rich man's question, it is Jesus who looks upon the rich man and loves him (Mark 10:21). In the raising narrative is the young man who looks upon Jesus and loves him. Is he now returning Jesus' love, in gratitude for being rescued from the grave? The clearest hint that the young man Jesus raised is the same rich man occurs in Secret Mark, where the where the young man is described as “the young man whom Jesus loved” (Letter to Theodore III.15). What young man did Jesus love? A reader who looks back through Mark's narrative will find only the rich man of Mark 10."[2]

Yet it is interesting to note that Clement also twice references this same section as being about 'ransoming.'  In the third book of the Stromata Clement cites Proverbs 13:8 “the ransom (λύτρον) of a man's soul his riches are adjudged” before introducing the Question of the Rich Man:

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." He had not fulfilled "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." At that moment the Lord wanted to bring him to perfection and was teaching him to share out of love.

Interesting Clement repeated identifies 'the neighbor' - i.e. the one who is near - with Jesus.  As such what is really being referenced here is the 'see your brother, see your God' agraphon.  In other words, a recapitulation of the mystery rite we have already examined. 

It should not be surprising that Clement again uses an Old Testament scripture to veil a heretical doctrine.  It is important to note that Proverbs 13:8 is consistently used to veil the Marcian ἀπολύτρωσις rite.  At the end of the Instructor Clement similarly explained but he also makes explicit the great secret at the heart of the mystery rite - Jesus is 'added' to the individual, i.e. 'the two become one':

For the Scripture avouches, "that the true riches of the soul are a man's ransom," (Prov. 13.8) that is, if he is rich, he will be saved by distributing it. For as gushing wells, when pumped out, rise again to their former measure, so giving away, being the benignant spring of love, by communicating of its drink to the thirsty, again increases and is replenished, just as the milk is wont to flow into the breasts that are sucked or milked. For he who has the almighty God, the Word, is in want of nothing, and never is in straits for what he needs. For the Word is a possession that wants nothing, and is the cause of all abundance. If one say that he has often seen the righteous man in need of food, this is rare, and happens only where there is not another righteous man. Notwithstanding let him read what follows: "For the righteous man shall not live by bread alone, but by the word of the Lord," who is the true bread, the bread of the heavens. The good man (ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἀνὴρ), then, can never be in difficulties so long as he keeps intact his confession towards God (πρὸς θεὸν ὁμολογίαν). For it appertains to him to ask and to receive whatever he requires from the Father of all; and to enjoy what is his own, if he keep the Son. And this also appertains to him, to feel no want. This Word, who trains us, confers on us the true riches. Nor is the growing rich an object of envy to those who possess through Him the privilege of wanting nothing. He that has this wealth shall inherit the kingdom of God (ὁ τοῦτον ἔχων τὸν πλοῦτον βασιλείαν κληρονομήσει θεοῦ). [Paed. 3.7.39 - 43]
The understanding behind all of this of course is that Jesus has given the man a new soul, one not made of psychic matter but spiritual glory.  He has exchanged his life for another - i.e. that of the Lord and so in order to fully comprehend how all things go back to the prayer of Jacob at Bethel, we need to pay close attention to the use of 'Lord' and 'God' in this narrative. 

Yet before we get there we should dispense with the main subject of controversy in the letter - the 'naked with naked' reference.  After citing the first section from Secret Mark he makes reference to something Theodore originally asked him in the lost correspondance which immediately preceded this one - "but 'naked man with naked man,' and the other things about which you wrote, are not found (III.14)  Modern evangelicals and other prudes have seized upon this reference as a homosexual reference which is Morton Smith's 'real agenda' with the letter - i.e. to subvert Christianity.  Nevertheless as Le Boulluec and other saner minds have noted Clement's interpretation of 'nakedness' is pretty consistent throughout his writings - i.e. a state of purity and divinity.[3]

Nevertheless there is a deeper level of significance too which connects the ἀπολύτρωσις rite back to its Marcian roots.  The initiate receives a new soul in order to escape from the judge. Irenaeus not only reports that the Marcians "affirm that because of the ἀπολύτρωσις it has come to pass that they can neither be apprehended, nor even seen by the judge."[4]  As Turner notes this is all part of an interest in heavenly ascent.[5]  Yet we can't allow ourselves to ignore the fact that the context of the judgment is heavily influenced by Greek culture (= 'Homeric helmet of Hades').  As such, as Michael Trapp notes Clement was a knowledgeable reader of Plato and it is very likely that he "knew Plato Gorgias 523d – the idea that for effective Last Judgement the encounter must be post mortem, of naked soul judging naked soul."[6]  Indeed Clement specifically references that very passage at least once in his writings.[7]

In other words, while we many of us can only seem to interpret two men naked in each other's company in the context of a homosexual relationship, it certainly wasn't so in antiquity.  As Socrates is recorded as saying by Plato:

they shall be entirely stripped before they are judged, for they shall be judged when they are dead; and the judge too shall be naked, that is to say, dead--he with his naked soul shall pierce into the other naked souls; and they shall die suddenly and be deprived of all their kindred, and leave their brave attire strewn upon the earth--conducted in this manner, the judgment will be just.
Of course there is no specificity in Hebrew writings how the judgment of the dead will actually take place.  In this particular scheme then, the initiate is understood to have 'died' and then been 'released' from what we may presume to be the author of the Lord and passed over to the God the Father by means of receiving the soul of Christ. Indeed this must have been the basis for receiving the Christian sacraments.[8]

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