Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Andrew Criddle Finds a Parallel for Secret Mark (But of Course It is Not a Parallel Because Secret Mark is a 'Hoax')

I remember reading the Apostolic Tradition (commonly attributed to Hippolytus) and posted a question at FRDB what was up about this 'white stone.'

Yet if there is any other thing that ought to be told [to converts], let the bishop impart it to them privately after their baptism; let not unbelievers know it, until they are baptized: this is the white stone of which John said: "There is upon it a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth the stone" [p 49]

The question was raised in July of 2012 and as is always the case at that forum, Andrew Criddle was the only person to give me a reasonable answer.  He replied "see Revelation/Apocalypse of John chapter 2 verse 17."

Fast forward a few months to March of 2013 and it would seem Criddle has taken up the question again.  He does a wonderful job laying out the textual background for the Apostolic Tradition:

The Apostolic Tradition was originally written in Greek but only a few fragments survive in Greek as well as the rewrite of parts of the text in book 8 of the late 4th century Apostolic Constitutions. Our main sources are Latin Syriac Coptic Arabic and Ethiopic. There is a Latin text based on a late 4th century translation of which about half survives. There is a complete Coptic text and an Arabic text translated from Coptic and closely related to the surviving Coptic text. The standard Ethiopic text is clearly largely based on the Arabic but contains passages not in Coptic or Arabic. Some of these passages are clearly ancient, (e.g. found also in the Latin). There is also the Canons of Hippolytus surviving in Arabic which is a late 4th century modification of the Apostolic Tradition. (Some scholars would date it well before 350 CE but this involves a controversial theory about the development of Lent in 4th century Egypt.) Finally the Testamentum Domini or Testament of our Lord. This is a church order and apocalypse put in the mouth of the risen Christ. It is probably late 4th century but possibly early 5th and (apart from a Greek fragment) survives in Syriac and Ethiopic. It is sometimes valuable as a source for the original text of the Apostolic Tradition. The nature of the Ethiopic text of the Apostolic Tradition has been clarified by the discovery of an ancient form of the text translated directly from Greek into Ethiopic. (Published recently by A Bausi as La Nuova Versione Etiopica della Traditio Apostolica Edizione e Traduzione Preliminare pps 19-69 of Christianity in Egypt Literary Production and Intellectual Trends.) It appears that the standard form of the Ethiopic text is a revision on the basis of the Arabic of an original translation from Greek. This recent discovery will allow a more solid reconstruction of the original text of the Apostolic Tradition.
Criddle proceeds to focus on one particular aspect of the Apostolic Tradition - you guessed it - my original interest in its reference to its 'white stone.' 

In the second part in the series (it is already at three parts) he goes back to the question I raised at FRDB and says (of course without reference to me):

A particularly interesting and particularly obscure passage in the Apostolic Tradition occurs after the section on baptism and first communion.
Now we have briefly delivered to you these things concerning the holy baptism and the holy oblation, for you have already been instructed concerning the resurrection of the flesh and all other things as written. Yet if there is any other thing that ought to be told, let the bishop impart it to them privately after their baptism; let not unbelievers know it, until they are baptized: this is the white stone of which John said: “There is upon it a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth the stone”.
This seems to be an early example of the disciplina arcani the practice of revealing some elements of Christian doctrine and worship only to baptized Christians. However since the Apostolic Tradition has already revealed the rituals of Baptism and Eucharist it is unclear what is left to be revealed. (It has been suggested that the Lord’s prayer (Our Father) is meant alternatively some form of mystagogical catechesis on the spiritual meaning of the sacraments. However, none of these suggestions is particularly convincing.)

Strangely the comments section were turned off for this series.  Could it be he was expecting to a silly reply from me?  In any event, Criddle goes on to note that in the Ethiopic text - the one he acknowledges to be the most 'original' has 'the resurrection' as the thing taught to those initiated into the mysteries. 

Let's leave aside the question of whether I was the one who got Criddle interested in the material.  It matters not because he has taken the research beyond anything I could have hoped to accomplish.  Let's focus instead on the question of whether Criddle is ignoring (deliberately or not) the obvious connection with Secret Mark.  In that document discovered by Morton Smith (albeit 'hoaxed' or some such equivalent according to those whom Criddle surrounds himself) there is a reference to a dead youth being resurrected who "remained with [Jesus] that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan."  How far are we away from this very concept in the Apostolic Tradition, one of the oldest texts dealing with Christian baptism. 

As Cridle notes "[f]or the version of the white stone passage in the new Ethiopic text we will have to depend on my English translation of Dr Bausi’s Italian translation of the Ethiopic:

It is therefore convenient to be given this in brief on the washing and on the offering because they have already been notified. But about the resurrection of the body and eveything else, as is convenient the bishop will reveal and explain when they are initiated. But in contrast this is not given to catechumens. And this is the white approval [mistranslation of stone] of which John wrote, that in it is found a new name which no one knows except he who is initiated.

Criddle notes that "Dr Bausi has kindly confirmed in a personal message that the new Ethiopic text is unambiguous in regarding the resurrection not as a teaching already given, but as part of the teaching given only to the baptized."  He himself confrms that "this is in agreement with the teaching of the Testamentum Domini and seems likely to be original."  Yet is it not also implied in Secret Mark?  Of course it is making the text which Morton Smith discovered 'agree' with the one of the earliest testimonies about ancient baptismal practices which Morton Smith could not have known about when he discovered the text. 

Indeed Criddle goes one step further citing directly from the teaching about the 'resurrection' at baptism which as anyone with eyes can see is above all else - a resurrection of the dead and in specific - the 'dead Adam.'  We read that the teaching about resurrection here is clearly the [MYSTAGOGIA OR] INITIATION INTO THE MYSTERIES WHICH IS SAID BEFORE THE OFFERING TO THE FAITHFUL (Criddle's emphasis):

[We confess] Him who is pre-existent, and was present, and is, and cometh ; who suffered and was buried, and rose, and was glorified by the Father ; who loosed our cords from death, who rose from the dead ; who is not only Man but therewith also God; who by the Holy Ghost restored the flesh of Adam with [his] soul to immortality, because He preserved Adam by the Spirit ; who clothed Himself with dead Adam and made him to live [emphasis mine] ; who ascended into heaven ; under whom, after the cross, Death fell, and was conquered, when its bonds, whereby the Devil sometimes waxed strong and prevailed against us, were dissolved ; [and] through whose passion [Death] was manifested useless and weak when [Jesus] cut his cords and his power, when his snares were cut, and He struck him on his face, [even Death] who was filled with darkness and was shaken, and feared, beholding the Only-begotten Son ; who in His [human] soul descended in the Godhead into Sheol ; who descended from the pure heights above the heavens; Him [we confess] the indivisible Thought who is from the Father, and [is] of one will with Him; Him the Maker, with His Father, of heaven ; who is the Angels’ Crown, the Archangels’ Strength, the Raiment of the Hosts and the Spirit of the Dominions; Him, the Ruler of the everlasting Kingdom, and Prince of the Saints, the unfathomable Intelligence of the Father; Him who is the Wisdom, the Power, the Lord, the Thought, Intelligence, Hand, Arm of the Father.”

What we are witnessing is the effect of Irenaeus's repeated emphasis that Jesus and Christ, God and man are not two separate individuals (as the heretics claim) but as Catholics are supposed to believe - one and the same person. 

Clearly the idea of baptism as a baptism into death is a Pauline idea.  But whose death was man originally being baptism into?  To be certain, Irenaeus and the Catholic tradition always argued that it was Jesus's death on the cross.  Yet there is at least now the beginnings of the understanding that baptism was understood in Pauline terms - i.e. as Morton Smith demonstrates in his popular work the Secret Gospel - a baptism into the death described in the fragment of the Secret Gospel of Mark. 

With the Apostolic Tradition there seems increasing certainty that Christians were from the beginning taught about resurrection at baptism, the mystery of the kingdom of God.  The only question is whose death and whose Christ?

 UPDATE:  In case there is any misunderstanding - I revere Andrew Criddle and the post was entirely done tongue in cheek.  He is a great man who has helped me time and time again without anything in the way of compensation.  Again, thank you, thank you Andrew!

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