Monday, July 1, 2013

איש = ΙΣ Peeking Through Irenaeus's Account of Marcosian Gnosis

I have always struggled with the Marcosian adoption of Catholic concepts like the Virgin Birth, Jesus's baptism, the dove coming down from heaven etc.  If the group was really related to the Marcionites as I claim - how is it possible they embraced these foreign concepts?  My solution is to go back to the Philosophumena's specific reference to bishops of Mark within the Catholic Church who secretly keeping heretical beliefs and practices while pretending to be orthodox.  What Irenaeus is citing here is not 'the pure teachings' of the sect.  But a clear attempt at incorporating Catholic gospels and beliefs into traditional Alexandrian gnosis. 

Just look for instance at the manner in which the Virgin Birth is haphazardly fastened onto the four aeons from the Gospel of John.  Whoever had written in this material (Clement of Alexandria?) was doing his best to embrace foreign gospel material.  Nevertheless if we look carefully at the basic idea of what Jesus was - I have assumed the earliest manuscripts of Irenaeus read ΙΣ - it is unmistakable that he is איש i.e. 'heavenly man.'  It is said here that:

Before the six-letter mark (ἐπίσημον) of this name, that is ΙΣ the Son (ΙΣ τὸν Υἱόν), mankind were involved in great ignorance and error (ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ πολλῇ ὑπῆρχον οἱ ἄνθρωποι καὶ πλάνῃ). But when this name of six letters was manifested - the person bearing it clothing Himself in flesh, that He might come under the apprehension of man's senses, and having in Himself these six and twenty-four letters - then, becoming acquainted with Him, they ceased from their ignorance, and passed from death unto life, this name serving as their guide to the Father of truth.

For the Father of all had resolved to put an end to ignorance, and to destroy death. But this abolishing of ignorance was just the knowledge of Him. And therefore that Man was chosen according to His will, having been formed after the image of the power above. (καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐκλεχθῆναι τὸν κατὰ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ κατ' εἰκόνα τῆς ἄνω δυνάμεως οἰκονομηθέντα Ἄνθρωπον)

As to the AEons, they proceeded from the Tetrad, and in that Tetrad were Man and Church,Word and Life (Ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἡ Ἐκκλησία, Λόγος καὶ Ζωή). The powers, then, he declares, who emanated from these, generated that ΙΣ who appeared upon the earth. The angel Gabriel took the place of Word, the Holy Spirit that of Life, the Power of the Highest that of Man (τοῦ δὲ Ἀνθρώπου τὴν τοῦ ὑψίστου δύναμιν), while the Virgin pointed out the place of Church.

And thus, by a dispensation, there was generated by Him, through Mary, that Man (οὕτως τε ὁ κατ' οἰκονομίαν διὰ τῆς Μαρίας γενεσιουργεῖται παρ' αὐτῷ ἄνθρωπος), whom, as He passed through the womb, the Father of all chose to [obtain] the knowledge of Himself by means of the Word.

And when he came to the water, the number which had withdrawn to heaven and become the twelfth descended on him as a dove. In this was the seed of these people, who were sown together with it, and have descended and ascended with it. He says that the value itself which descended was the Father's seed, and contained both Father and Son, the ineffable value of Silence which is known through them, and all the Aeons.

And this is the Spirit which spoke through the mouth of ΙΣ, which confessed itself Son of Man and made the Father known (τὸ ὁμολογῆσαν ἑαυτὸ Υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου καὶ φανερῶσαν τὸν Πατέρα), and of course was united with ΙΣ in descending upon him. And he says that ΙΣ, the Savior produced by the dispensation, abolished death; but that Christ made the Father manifest.

He says, then, that ΙΣ was the name of the man framed by the dispensation (εἶναι οὖν † τὸν ΙΣ ὄνομα μὲν τοῦ ἐκ τῆς οἰκονομίας ἀνθρώπου λέγει, and that his office was to provide a likeness and form for Man who was to descend upon him.(τεθεῖσθαι δὲ εἰς ἐξομοίωσιν καὶ μόρφωσιν τοῦ μέλλοντος εἰς αὐτὸν κατέρχεσθαι Ἀνθρώπου) After He had received that AEon possessed Man himself (ὃν χωρήσαντα αὐτὸν ἐσχηκέναι αὐτόν τε τὸν Ἄνθρωπον), He possessed Word himself, Father and Ineffable, and Silence and Truth, and Church and Life.

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.