Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Letter to Theodore Completes Our Understanding of the Creation of the Gospel of Mark Started in the Hypotyposes

It was David Blocker who encouraged me just yesterday to look a second time at the account of the creation of the Gospel of Mark in Clement's Hypotyposeis.  It appears as follows in Clifton Black's recent book:

Mark, Peter's follower [sectator] while Peter was preaching [praedicante] publicly the Gospel at Rome in the presence of certain of Caesar's equestrians [equitubus, i.e., members of the equestrian order] and was putting forward many testimonies concerning Christ, being requested [petitus] by them that they might be able to commit to memory the things that were being spoken, wrote from the things which were spoken by Peter the Gospel which is called according to Mark. [Clement Hypotyposeis from Adumbrations in 1 Peter 5:13].

The original Latin is:

Marcus, Petri sectator, praedicante Petro evangelium palam Romae coram quibusdam Caesareanis equitibus et multa Christi testimonia proferente, petitus ab eis, ut possent quae dicebantur memoriae commendare, scripsit ex his quae a Petro dicta sunt evangelium quod secundum Marcum vocitatur

The obvious - and ultimately shocking - implication of this testimony is as Blocker notes that Mark created 'the Gospel of Mark' at the behest of members of the Imperial household or those closely associated with it.

Of course, no one likes to be labeled a 'conspiracy theorist' so let's tread carefully here.  Could Clement have been really claiming that people very close to Caesar 'encouraged' Mark to write our earliest gospel?  Michael Peppard in the The Son of God in the Roman World: Divine Sonship in Its Social and Political Context points to Clement’s Adumbrationes on 1 Peter 5:13 (preserved only in Latin by Cassiodorus, 6th century founder of monastery & library at Vivarium, Italy) as suggesting an imperial context for Mark’s readership as it is addressed to men of the equestrian order (coram quibusdam Caesareanis equitibus) in close proximity to the imperial household (senior local magistrates, councillors, high priests of imperial cult).

The best counter-argument is von Harnack's claim that the reference to Caesar's equestrians is an addition from the Acts of Peter because it doesn't appear in Eusebius's summary which reads:

Αὖθις δ’ ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῖς ὁ Κλήμης βιβλίοις περὶ τῆς τάξεως τῶν εὐαγγελίων παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνέκαθεν πρεσβυτέρων τέθειται, τοῦτον ἔχουσαν τὸν τρόπον· προγεγράφθαι ἔλεγεν τῶν εὐαγγελίων τὰ περιέχοντα τὰς γενεαλογίας, τὸ δὲ κατὰ Μάρκον ταύτην ἐσχηκέναι τὴν οἰκονομίαν. τοῦ πέτρου δημοσίᾳ ἐν Ρώμῃ κηρύξαντος τὸν λόγον καὶ πνεύματι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἐξειπόντος, τοὺς παρόντας, πολλοὺς ὄντας, παρακαλέσαι τὸν Μάρκον, ὡς ἂν ἀκολουθήσαντα αὐτῷ πόρρωθεν καὶ μεμνημένον τῶν λεχθέντων, ἀναγράψαι τὰ εἰρημένα· ποιήσαντα δέ, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον μεταδοῦναι τοῖς δεομένοις αὐτοῦ·ὅπερ ἐπιγνόντα τὸν Πέτρον προτρεπτικῶς μήτε κωλῦσαι μήτε προτρέψασθαι. τὸν μέντοι Ἰωάννην ἔσχατον, συνιδόντα ὅτι τὰ σωματικὰ ἐν τοῖς εὐαγγελίοις δεδήλωται, προτραπέντα ὑπο τῶν γνωρίμων, πνεύματι θεοφορηθέντα πνευματικὸν ποιῆσαι ευ0αγγέλιον. τοσαῦτα ὁ Κλήμης. (in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.14.5-7)

Again, in the same books, Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels, in the following manner: The Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it. But, last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel. This is the account of Clement. (Arthur Cushman McGiffert)

or alternatively:

And again in the same books [the Outlines], Clement states a tradition of the very earliest presbyters about the order of the gospels; and it has this form. He used to say that the first written of the gospels were those having the geneologies, and that the Gospel of Mark had this formation. While Peter was publically preaching the Word in Rome and proclaiming the gospel by the the [sic] Spirit, the audience, which was numerous, begged Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been said, to write down the things he had said. And he did so, handing over the Gospel to those who had asked for it. And when Peter got to know about it, he exerted no pressure either to forbid it or to promote it… (Bernard Orchard in The Order of the Synoptics, pg 166)

So it is that von Harnack in New Testament Studies IV (1911) notes with his side by side comparison of Eusebius and Cassiodorus (above) that "this particular trait ("coram quibusdam Csesareanis equitibus"), which is wanting in the Greek text, was perhaps inserted by the translator from the Acts of Peter. (p. 128)

So is it possible that  Cassiodorus in the sixth century just 'incorporated' bits of information from the Acts of Peter in the middle of his citation of Clement?  No, certainly not.  And to demonstrate this clearly we need to appeal to Francis Watson's summary of the relationship of Cassiodorus and Eusebius in Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective.  Watson begins by noting that both Eusebius and Cassiodorus demonstrate that they are more than willing to tamper with Clement's original problematic text:

In Cassiodorus's sixth-century Latin translation of short commentaries on four of the Catholic Epistles (1 Peter, Iude, 1 and 2 Iohn), Clement is said to have commented as follows on 1 Peter 5.13, where Peter refers to “my son Mark”:

Mark, a follower of Peter, while Peter publicly preached in Rome before members of Caesar's cavalry [coram quibusdam Caesareanis equitibus] and presented many testimonies to Christ at their request, so that they might remember what was said, composed from what Peter had said the gospel called “according to Mark” [evangelium quod secundum Marcum vocita tur]

Eusebius gives a somewhat different version of Clement's account:
When Peter publicly preached the word in Rome and in the Spirit proclaimed the gospel, those present, who were many, requested Mark, as he had long followed him and remembered what he had said, to put it into writing. This he did, and gave the gospel to those who had requested it of him. When Peter became aware of this, he neither explicitly prohibited it nor endorsed it.

These passages clearly go back to the same original. [footnote here - A comparison between Cassiodorus's translation of Clement (C) and Rufinus's of Eusebius (R) confirms this identification: praedicante Petro evangelium palam Romae (C) I cum Petrus Romae publice praedicasset verbum dei (R); Marcus, Petri sectator . . . petitus ab eis (C) I auditores rogasse Marcum, qui olim iam spectator ipsius fuisset (R); scripsit ex his, quae a Petro dicta sunt (C) I conscribere ea, quae sciebat ab apostolo praedicata]  The most striking difference is the absence in Cassiodorus of the surprising statement about Peter's indifference to his follower's literary endeavours. Cassiodorus explains exactly why such passages are missing from his translations. In Clement's commentaries he states, “many things are acutely said, but others incautiously, which we have translated into Latin in such a way that, with certain offensive elements [quibusdam offendiculis] removed, his purified doctrine may be more securely extracted."

To this end, while Watson does not specifically mention it, there can be no doubt that - against von Harnack's claim that Cassiodorus was drawing from the Acts of Peter - there were a number of parallels with the second century text already present in Clement's Hypotyposeis, including the apparent closeness of the circle of Peter to 'Imperial knights.'  In fact  Watson argues - apparently unaware of von Harnack's argument - that Eusebius must have been influenced by the Acts of Peter in his reporting of Clement.  We read again a few pages later in the same book:

Eusebius has little to say about the origins of Matthew and Luke, merely repeating the traditional view that Matthew was written for the Hebrews and that Luke is the work of a disciple of Paul ... In contrast, Eusebius provides an elaborate account of Markan origins in Book 2 of his history, well before his citation of the important early testimonies of Papias, Irenaeus and Clement. While dependence on Clement and Papias is explicitly acknowledged, or rather asserted, the account is of Eusebius's own construction.

The context for Mark's composition is now Peter's victory over Simon Magus in Rome, a tradition which in Eusebius's version combines Justin's claim that the Romans erected a statue to Simon with a summary account of his final defeat drawn from the Acts of Peter, a text elsewhere rejected as noncanonical. Within Within this new context Eusebius gives his own rendering of the Clement tradition:

. . . When the divine word had thus been established among them [sc. the Romans], Simon's power was extinguished and immediately destroyed, along with the man himself. So greatly did the lamp of piety enlighten the minds of Peter's hearers that they were not satisfied with a single hearing of the unwritten teaching in the divine message, and with all kinds of appeals begged Mark, whose gospel is extant, as he was a follower of Peter, to provide them with a written record of the teaching they had received in oral form. Persisting in their request until they had persuaded him, they were thus responsible for the writing known as the Gospel according to Mark. It is said that, when what had happened was revealed to him by the Spirit, the apostle was delighted by their enthusiasm, and authorized the work, for reading in the churches. Clement gives this account in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes, and it is also attested by Papias, bishop of Hierapolis.

When Eusebius later cites the sources here referred to, we learn that Papias is barely relevant and that Clement's authentic account has been significantly modified. As noted earlier, what Clement actually wrote was:

When Peter publicly preached the word in Rome and in the Spirit proclaimed the gospel, those present, who were many, requested Mark, as he had long followed him and remembered what he had said, to put it into writing. This he did, and gave the gospel to those who had requested it of him. When Peter became aware of this, he neither explicitly prohibited it nor endorsed it.

Eusebius's preemptive rewriting of Clement's original statement makes three closely related changes.  First, he stresses the urgency of the request for a written record, together with its pious motivation.  If Peter's hearers have to overcome an initial reluctance on Mark's part, this underlines how much they wanted the written record and how precious it was to them when it eventually became available. Second, Peter learns what has happened through divine inspiration. Whereas the original account is tacitly critical of an unauthorized initiative, the new version implies that this initiative is already approved by the Holy Spirit, who is Peter's informant. Third, Peter's refusal to acknowledge the work written in his name is directly contradicted.

Far from turning his back on this transcript of his own preaching, the apostle commended the new gospel for public use and approved the conduct of those who had brought it into being. The reader of Mark's gospel should not imagine for a moment that this work has gone out into the world as an orphan, unblessed by its apostolic progenitor. If that had been the case, it would be impossible to justify its place within the canonical collection [p. 443 - 444]

The point of course is that Francis Watson adds to our understanding of the original context of Clement's Hypotyposeis. He rightly notes that Cassiodorus and Eusebius 'corrected' the material so as to remove the fact that Mark's production of the gospel was done independently of Peter. This is very significant. But Watson misses a lot more than he captures in this hunt for information about Clement's lost original text. The most obvious being that both Cassiodorus and Eusebius reference separately small bits of information that find parallels in the Acts of Peter tradition.

In Cassiodorus's case the reference to the text being created at the behest of 'Imperial knights.' This is not directly referenced by Eusebius but it can be seen as being hinted at in his original reporting of the text.  We are now able to dispose of von Harnack's claim that Cassiodorus somehow 'added' information from the Acts of Peter, it would seem that Clement of Alexandria was the original source for the contest between Peter and Simon at Rome or at least knew one of the earliest surviving traditions associated with this narrative and interestingly the Acts of Peter identifies the Roman knights being devoted to Paul and Peter but not Mark:

And a great multitude of women were kneeling and praying and beseeching Paul; and they kissed his feet and accompanied him unto the harbour. But Dionysius and Balbus, of Asia, knights of Rome, and illustrious men, and a senator by name Demetrius abode by Paul on his right hand and said: Paul, I would desire to leave the city if I were not a magistrate, that I might not depart from thee. [III]


Now on the Lord's day as Peter discoursed unto the brethren and exhorted them unto the faith of Christ, there being present many of the senate and many knights and rich women and matrons, and being confirmed in the faith, one woman that was there, exceeding rich, which was surnamed Chryse because every vessel of hers was of gold -for from her birth she never used a vessel of silver or glass, but golden ones only- said unto Peter: Peter, thou servant of God, he whom thou callest God appeared unto me in a dream and said: Chryse, carry thou unto Peter my minister ten thousand pieces of gold; for thou owest them to him. I have therefore brought them, fearing lest some harm should be done me by him that appeared unto me, which also departed unto heaven. And so saying, she laid down the money and departed. [XXX]

At the very least it should be noted that we are opening up a new vista on the development of the Gospel of Mark as we know it - i.e. 'canonical Mark.'  Whether or not there is any historical worth in the claim that people very close to the Imperial household requested its manufacture, the unmistakable fact is that Clement of Alexandria put this claim forward to explain its existence which is very significant.

This is not the place to suggest why Clement might have wanted to believe that canonical Mark was developed under Imperial influence.  The fact is that this is what he says.  It should be noted that regardless whether this was done at the time of Mark or later in the second century, it helps us understand the statements made about two gospels of Mark in the Letter to Theodore.  Edward Klink however does help shed some light on the idea that a private group might have been understood to have requested Mark write a gospel for them in his comparison with a similar phenomenon in the writings of Galen.  We read:

The idea that oral lectures could be put in writing at the request of some of those who heard them seems to have been something of a literary convention. We find several examples in the works of Galen, the prolific medical writer of the second century CE. In the preface to book 7 of his On the Therapeutic Method, he addresses Hiero, the friend to whom he has dedicated the work:

Since you and many others of my friends have been begging me for a written reminder of the treatments which you have often seen me perform in practice on the sick, I shall add what still remains to this study

Describing the circumstances in which one of his books originated, Galen describes how critics were contesting 'the truth of my anatomical writings'. His friends urged him to refute the critics by giving a public demonstration. At first he refused but finally he was:

compelled by my friends to give a public demonstration, wherein, over a period of several days, I proved that I had not been lying, and that there were many matters of which previous authorities had been ignorant. At my friends' behest, too, I wrote up these demonstrations and arguments; and the work is entitled Lycus' ignorance in anatomy.

In these instances Galen wrote, at his friends' request, works that he intended for general circulation. However earlier in his career, before he learned better, he had unfortunate experiences when written versions of his lectures, written only for the benefit of a few hearers or one individual who requested them for private use, circulated more widely than he would have wished. In some cases, since he had not given them inscriptions (title and author), other people passed these works off as their own.

Another story, which he told more than once, has its context in controversy with defenders of Erasistratus, a medical writer of whom Galen was very critical:

At that time the custom had somehow sprung up of speaking in public each day on any questions that were put forward, and someone posed the question whether Erasistratus had been right in not using phlebotomy. I dealt in detail with this question, which seemed a very good one to those listening at the time; this was the reason why Teuthras also urged me to dictate what I had said9 to a boy whom he would send. He said he was particularly anxious to have it since he was planning to visit Ionia and was on the point of leaving. I was accordingly persuaded by my companion and dictated the speech. It so happened that the book leaked out to many people; it was not deliberately spread abroad by him. The work was composed in a manner not befitting a book but rather a lecture room, at the request of my friend that it should be dictated just as it had been spoken. But even such as it was, and having many deficiencies compared with the ideal, it nevertheless seemed to achieve somewhat more than I expected. For all those who now call themselves Erasistrateans have come round to the opposite opinion.

What angered Galen when he found his lectures, written up only for private use, pirated and circulating widely was, in part, as the last quotation shows, that they were oral compositions, suitable for the lecture room, not finished and polished literary works. But he also disliked the publication of material that he had targeted at an audience of beginners in the subject: written for the parties mentioned above would obviously be neither would obviously be neither complete nor perfectly accurate in their teaching. That was not their requirement - nor would such individuals have been able to learn the basic subject-matter accurately until they had first reached a certain basic level.

Galen clearly suffered the kind of embarrassment most modern academics would feel on finding their lectures to first-year students on sale in the bookshops! Galen, when such widely circulated books came to his notice and he had the opportunity to correct them, took to entitling them 'For beginners.' But eventually he simply stopped giving any written work to anyone purely for private use: 'whenever I gave one of these works to anybody, it was composed with an eye to general publication, not just to the attainments of that individual.

These examples from Galen are very helpful in illuminating the situation envisaged by Clement's story of the origin of Mark's Gospel. We may note that the identity of those who requested Mark to write differs in Clement's two accounts: in the Hypotyposeis they are 'those who were present being many (τοὺς παρόντας, πολλοὺς ὄντας) in the Adumbrationes they are 'some of Caesar's knights' (quibusdam Caesareanis equitibus). It looks very much as though in the former text Clement has generalized the more specific group specified in the latter. We might compare Galen's reference to 'you and many others of my friends' in the quotation above from On the Therapeutic Method. A tendency to exaggerate in such a context is natural. But if we think, as the parallels with Galen would suggest we do, of people requesting written versions of what they had heard for their own use, then only hearers of Peter who could read or had slaves who could read to them would be making such a request. [Edward W Klink III The Audience of the Gospels: The Origin and Function of the Gospels in Early p. 73]

After citing a parallel situation to Mark being requested to write a book on behalf of a community Klink notes that:

We cannot tell whether, in Clement's mind, Mark initially intended his Gospel only for the private use ofthose who asked him to write it. But if, for the sake of argument, we suppose that he did, then we should be clear what this does not mean. Galen's practice is the kind of analogy Clement is likely to have had in mind. So he does not mean that Mark wrote his Gospel for the use of the Christian community to which he belonged (to be read out in worship meetings, for example), but that he wrote it for the private use of those among Peter's hearers who requested it. (In the fragment from the Adumbrationes, they are some of Caesar's equites, a rather distinguished group among Peter's auditors, whom, perhaps we are expected to suppose, it would have been difficult to refuse. We could compare them with with the 'notable people' who persuaded John to write his Gospel, according to Clement.) Nor does Clement mean that Mark's Gospel was tailored to the circumstances and controversies of a community. If it was appropriate to those who requested it, this was because they were 'beginners', with not much instruction in Christian teaching before they heard Peter preach. It would presumably have been equally appropriate to any other group of group of Christian 'beginners' wherever they might be found. [ibid p. 75]

The implication to me at least is that Clement is more or less explaining why/how the Gospel of Mark began life in the hands of the Imperial government or at least circles closely related to Caesar. I know it sounds crazy. But that's is the 'reality' being explained.

When one factors in or compliments this information with regards to an Alexandrian text of Mark which is longer and 'secret'/mystical, it would seem to imply an underlying tension between a Roman (= Imperial text) current in Clement's day and this other mystical text. Notice also that Peter does not approve of the creation of this Imperial text. Moreover in the Letter to Theodore it becomes apparent that Peter's and Mark's 'secret teachings' end up in the Alexandrian text 'hidden from the rulers of the world':

As for Mark, then, during Peter's stay in Rome he wrote an account of the Lord's doings, not, however, declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the secret ones, but selecting what he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge. Thus he composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected. 

I don't think this has ever been noticed before - the two accounts of Clement complement one another. One must also suspect that the Carpocratians - from Alexandria but associated with Rome - drew attention to the 'tension' between the Imperial and 'secret' Alexandrian text.

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