Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Secret Life of Jesus [Chapter Seven]

Branded With an 'F'

It will be our assumption that the Church Fathers have deliberately understated the degree to which Christianity was at bottom - a slave religion.  This is hardly surprising and scholars have done their part to play along.  As much as people pretend that they don't pay attention to class or status, it is only natural for people to take pride in worldly success.  To this end, few people want to admit that Christianity was principally a religion of the lowest strata of Roman society, as Celsus repeatedly and explicitly proclaims.  There were of course wealthy converts to the new religion as well as tradesmen and all different sorts of 'rustic' individuals too.  But in the end, Christianity was increasingly viewed by the Imperial authorities as a dangerous social experiment because it seemed to be consolidating its position among the those who were deemed likeliest to revolt against the social order. 

If it will be allowed that the vast majority of Christian believers at the end of the second century were illiterate slaves, it stands also to reason that those called 'cauterized in the ear' were branded with a Roman letter F.  As we shall see in our next chapter, Origen complains that Celsus has misunderstood his sources, but this seems a most unlikely scenario.  All the evidence points to Christianity being disproportionately comprised of fugitive slaves - and those who were not were certainly sympathetic to their plight.

The letter they were stamped with was the first letter of the Latin word fugitivus or 'fugitive.'  Yet few people recognize that this very same Latin symbol had a 'secret life' within the Greek alphabet.  It would seem that our familiar 'F' also existed in the Greek language as an archaic letter called 'digamma' - because it looks like two overlapping 'gamma' or Г - episemon or stigma.  The last reference is particularly interesting as it demonstrates that the Greek's identified their letter 'F' 'brand' or 'mark.'  The letter fell out of disuse but at some later period it came to denote was the σ-τ (s-t) which begins a number of words related to the passion of Christ - i.e. stigmata and stauros or 'cross.'

Again no one knows exactly when this occurred.  The episemon originally stood for the sound /w/ and only remained in use only as a symbol for the number "6."  The followers of Mark are said to have developed a mystical understanding of this F letter or episemon as early as the second century.  Could the Marcites have been the initiators of the use of the episemon in place of 'st'?  All that is known is that they were famous for their interest in numerology and this substitution transforms the value of the word 'cross' to a value of 777 = st (6) a (1) u (400) r (100) ο (70) s (200) just as Irenaeus points to their interest in the six letter name of Jesus as having a value of 888.

It is important to note then that this 'lost' sixth letter was key to the entire Marcite hermeneutic.  They used it to calculate the secret meaning of words and names.  But more significantly Irenaeus tells us they saw it as a symbol of Jesus.  While the account in Irenaeus is very confused, the Church Father refusing to take the time to accurately preserve his information as his ancient detractors and defenders both acknowledge - we are fortunate to have the writings of Clement of Alexandria, a former Marcite himself, to provide the original sections of things cited in Irenaeus's Against Heresies. 

So it is that Irenaeus implies that letter 'fled' from the system only to be 'redeemed' with the coming of Jesus.  Jesus is the original 'sixth letter,' but there are many who bear his mark who need to come into acquaintance with 'secret knowledge' to recognize their fellowship with him.  It is implied for instance that the lost sheep, branded with the same stigma, was restored to its original owner after 'wandering' or 'frisking' away.  In some manner too, the original statement of Paul - 'I bear the stigma (stigmata plural) of Jesus' was understood as a branding with this fugitive's mark.

As Clement of Alexandria provides us with the best information about the original beliefs of the community of Mark we should pay close attention to what he writes in a section universally regarded as containing verbatim passages with Irenaeus's account of the Marcites.  Speaking of the understanding that Jesus was the sixth letter he adds that:

six is reckoned in the order of numbers, but the succession of the letters acknowledges the character which is not written. In this case, in the numbers themselves, each unit is preserved in its order up to seven and eight. But in the number of the characters, Zeta becomes six and Eta seven. And the character having somehow slipped into writing, should we follow it out thus, the seven became six, and the eight seven.

In other words, as we see from Irenaeus's parallel a dichotomy is recognized by the heretics.  The written world, the realm of human language, misses the fugitive letter.  However in heaven in the realm of mathematics and science it is restored.  The lesson would clearly be that Jesus's coming will shake up the order upon which the world status for the F and all that is associated within needed to be incorporated into its hierarchy. 

Indeed long before Clement Philo the Jew of Alexandria preserves much the same thing with respect to a much earlier heretical group in Egypt who connected the loss of the sixth letter apparently with the end of the world. Philo reports that as early as the first century:

some of those persons who have (in the past) fancied that the world is everlasting (but now don't), inventing a variety of new arguments, employ also such a system of reasoning as this to establish their point: they affirm that there are four principal manners in which corruption is brought about, addition, taking away, transposition, and alteration; accordingly, the number two is by the addition of the unit corrupted so as to become the number three, and no longer remains the number two; and the number four by the taking away of the unit is corrupted so as to become the number three; again, by transposition the letter Zeta becomes the letter Eta when the parallel lines which were previously horizontal (3/4 3/4) are placed perpendicularly (1/2 1/2), and when the line which did before pass upwards, so as to connect the two is now made horizontal, and still extended between them so as to join them. And by alteration the word oinos, wine, becomes oxos, vinegar.

Philo no less than Irenaeus is reluctant to explain the exact beliefs of the Marcites.  For a careful reading of the passage reveals that it to is all about the re-integration of 'fugitives' within the social order.  Perhaps the very people Philo is condemning are members of his own community.  These sorts of false condemnations happen all the time within 'crypto-communities.' 

David Runia has written an entire article about the difficulties inherent in this fragmentary treatise of Philo.  The argument develops rather strangely and it is often unclear which side Philo places himself on with respect to the 'eternity of the world.'  Someone here - apparently heretics - claim that the world is corruptible and soon to be destroyed because of the number six.  The belief is an old one and associated with the idea that the earth would only exist in its present form for 6000 years from Creation.  The Marcionites provide the clearest understanding that they associated this 6000 year with Jesus coming down from heaven during the reign of Tiberius.

This superstition never entirely left Christianity - it was only postponed.  There is evidence to suggest that in Alexandria the 6000 benchmark was understood to coincide with the end of the second century.  The Catholic Church seems to have hit the reset button yet again so that another large scale panic occurred toward the end of the fourth century.  The pattern continued well into the rule of Charlesmagne with each successive generation of 'ruling authorities' hitting the 'snooze button' before mass panic and revolution ensue. 

We should pay special attention to Philo's report because it contains references to the sixth letter - i.e. F - which might escape the casual observer.  He tells us for instance that wine turns into vinegar because of the transposition of their letters.  Yet few people might recognize at first glance that the Greek word 'wine' once had a digamma in front of it - i.e. οἶνος or oinos was in former times spelt in Greek ϝοῖνος and pronounced woinos. This not surprisingly resembles the Latin vinum just like the Doric woikos (compare Attic oikos) or "house" is universally regarded as being related to the Latin vīcus or "village."

There are of course countless examples of this linguistic phenomenon, but they all go back to the missing 'fugitive letter' F in the Greek alphabet.  So it is then that we should not be surprised when we take a second look at the mystical interpretation of the gospel by the followers of Mark in the Christianity of the time.  It wasn't just that they were 'channeling' their experiences with fugitive slaves - many of whom had been stamped with an F - in the Rhone valley.  We should begin to confront the idea that Christianity was from the very beginning designed to be about the restoration of fugitive elements in the universe. 

In Irenaeus's report about the Marcites in the Rhone valley he takes great pains to demonstrate their use of Aramaic in their liturgy.  As such it has generally been supposed that they were an Aramaic speaking community and more than likely 'Jewish' in some form.  It should be mentioned then that there are two ways to say 'fugitive' in Aramaic.  The noun ma'arq plural ma'arqia which happens to sound like Mark and Marcia respectively and palet but used only in the plural peletim.  The latter is clearly connected with the Palutians - i.e. they were refugees or fugitives from the Imperial persecutions.  Yet it is difficult not to also see ma'arq would be a disguise for Mark and ma'arqia - fugitives - for 'those of Mark.'

This concept isn't as strange sounding as one might expect given the consistent association of 'double entendres' with the name of disciples - i.e. Peter, Thomas etc.  Andrew Criddle of Cambridge University has noted the strange reference in the Philosophumena to Marcion and the the gospel of Mark and developed a very similar understanding with respect to the Latin term murcus (= deserter).  Criddle notes that in the Philosophumena reference Mark is specifically identified as 'he of the maimed finger' (i.e. Greek ho kolobodaktulos) as a contrast to the reference of Paul as 'the apostle' (Greek ho apostolos).  There is a tradition about Mark which develops from this in later sources that Mark was lacking a finger or thumb, either congenitally or (more frequently) by self-mutilation. However, as he notes, the literal lacking of a finger or thumb makes little sense as a contrast to apostle.

According to Criddle ho kolobodaktulos is "probably a translation into Greek of the Latin murcus literally stunted docked mutilated but used as a colloquial term for those who cut off their thumbs to avoid conscription in the Roman army."  He refers us to the passage in the Latin jurist Amnianus Marcellinus which equate the hence of murcos with shirker malingerer deserter.  The Marcellinus reference is particularly interesting given the fact that it comes in the context of referencing the province of Gaul.  In other words:

all ages are most fit for military service, and the old man marches out on a campaign with a courage equal to that of the man in the prime of life ; since his limbs are toughened by cold and constant toil, and he will make light of many formidable dangers. Nor does anyone of them, for dread of the service of Mars, cut off his thumb, as in Italy: there they call such men "murci' or cowards.

Criddle thinks that the author of Acts has this Latin reference in mind when he constructed his narrative about John Mark 'deserting' Paul and Barnabas during Paul's first missionary journey (Acts 13:13).  The implications of this assumption are quite eye-opening when applied to our developing theory. 

According Criddle then we should suppose that "among early Latin-speaking Christians one could make the pun that John Mark should be called murcus not marcus." It should be noted that Irenaeus is the first person to draw attention to this story. In Book Three he tells the heretics who already reject Acts that the example reinforces Luke's role as 'true witness' of the Pauline message - against Mark. It is important to note that with Acts and Irenaeus Marcus is a title or an appellation someone called 'John' - presumably the figure Irenaeus identified as established his teacher as a spokesman for the apostolic tradition. Nevertheless the very idea that Marcus was something other than a proper name interestingly leaves the door open to it being a designation of character, valor or the lack thereof.

With Andrew Criddle then we can say that Mark's 'desertion' may have been developed from a pre-existent descriptive 'play on words.' The fact that the actual followers of Mark were stamped as fugitives and - according to Irenaeus - maintained their liturgy in Aramaic makes the original play on words more likely to have with the Aramaic term ma'arq and ma'arqia. It would seem that the use of ma'arqia goes back to the Targumic literature - i.e. the Aramaic translations of the Bible made at the time of Jesus. The related masculine noun marqa means 'to run' or 'be in haste.' In any event, being a 'deserter' and a 'fugitive' are very closely related conceptions. Irenaeus may have recognized the original association of the followers of Mark with 'fleeing' or being a fugitive and saw an opportunity to introduce Luke as the true exponent of the teachings of the apostle.

It is worth noting that the Marcionites are consistently represented as portraying Jesus as a 'stranger' or an alien who swoops down and 'plunders' the property of the Creator - i.e. man.  As Celsus against notes against the Marcionites

Why does he send secretly, and destroy the works which he has created? Why does he secretly employ force, and persuasion, and deceit? Why does he allure those who, as you assert, have been condemned or accused by him, and carry them away like a slave-dealer? Why does he teach them to steal away from their Lord? Why to flee from their father? Why does he claim them for himself against the father's will? Why does he profess to be the father of strange children?

And to these questions, Origen adds, Celsus subjoins the following remark, as if by way of expressing his surprise Venerable, indeed, is the god who desires to be the father of those sinners who are condemned by another (god), and of the needy, and, as themselves say, of the very offscourings (of men), and who is unable to capture and punish his messenger, who escaped from him!

In no unmistakable terms then the Marcionites understood Jesus as the original fugitive, who comes into realm of a 'strong man' and binds and 'steals his good' - that is the slaves he owns.  We will confront Irenaeus's reinterpretation of this heretical exegesis of the parable in Mark 3:27 shortly.  But for the moment it must be acknowledged that it was taken by the Marcionites to speak to Jesus role as one who came down from heaven and pretended to be a slave to rescue slaves, 'redeeming' each slave of his owner - the Jewish god - and bring him back to himself.  Irenaeus and Celsus question how it is that the Marcionites can claim that man who was made by the Creator is understood to be properly understood to belong to an alien god.  The answer was clearly that the Marceion or Marceia - i.e. 'those of Mark' were 'mystically' understood in terms of their Aramaic name - i.e. runaways slaves - stamped with a stigma of the sixth letter which proved their ownership status.

Already Clement and the followers of Mark in the Rhone make clear that Jesus was the episemon which whose outward sign was an 'F.'   Both sources tell us that the gospel has many secret demonstrations of this association with the stigma.  In the less corrupt form of the understanding Clement writes that those "who became faithful to Him who is the Episimon, so as straightway to receive the rest of the Lord's inheritance. Some such thing also is indicated by the sixth hour in the scheme of salvation, in which man was perfected. Further, of the eight, the intermediates are seven; and of the seven, the intervals are shown to be six. For that is another ground, in which seven glorifies eight."  Irenaeus again reports the very same thing about the Marcites but expands this to include other narratives including the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1).

It should be acknowledged now that scholarship has not yet fully understood the fundamental significance of the F in the Marcite tradition.  It wasn't just some abstract mystical 'mumbo jumbo' but an outward sign of the importance of runaways slaves to the composition of the Christian community.  Irenaeus reports that the Marcites had a secret ritual - a second baptism - called 'the redemption' which was associated with Mark chapter 10 verse 45 which we only learn about in one of Clement's writings.  Only once we take the time to evaluation this redemption rite in all its mystical significance will we have a clear idea of what it was that Irenaeus was trying to reform by way of his corruptions. 

To this end we start with our understanding that in the second century Christianity was principally made up of slaves stamped with the sixth letter of the alphabet.  This is how the pagan world viewed the Christian religion - i.e. as a slave tradition.  The believers saw themselves as being 'redeemed' from a worldly Lord back to their true Master, Jesus who was himself also a fugitive in the world.  Of course it wasn't enough that they endure the stamping with a hot iron.  The Christian cultus developed around the idea that slaves as such were being 'imprisoned' in this world by unjust lords.  In order to cleanse them of their original association with slavery they needed to be ritually cleansed and to this end there was a rite called 'the Redemption.' 

Irenaeus explains that the followers of Mark saw this as a completely ritual from that described in some gospel traditions in association with John the Baptist.  We read:

And the baptism of John was proclaimed with a view to repentance, but the redemption by Jesus was brought in for the sake of perfection. And to this He refers when He says, "And I have another baptism to be baptized with, and I hasten eagerly towards it." Moreover, they affirm that the Lord added this redemption to the sons of Zebedee, when their mother asked that they might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom, saying, "Can ye be baptized with the baptism which I shall be baptized with?" Paul, too, they declare, has often set forth, in express terms, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and this was the same which is handed down by them in so varied and discordant forms. For some of them prepare a nuptial couch, and perform a sort of mystic rite (pronouncing certain expressions) with those who are being initiated, and affirm that it is a spiritual marriage which is celebrated by them, after the likeness of the conjunctions above.

After the priest announces a lengthy set of prayers Irenaeus concludes:

Such are words of the initiators; but he who is initiated, replies, "I am established, and I am redeemed; I redeem my soul from this age (world), and from all things connected with it in the name of Iao, who redeemed his own soul into redemption in Christ who liveth." Then the bystanders add these words, "Peace be to all on whom this name rests." After this they anoint the initiated person with balsam; for they assert that this unguent is a type of that sweet odour which is above all things.

Clearly then this rite was based on a now lost passage in the gospel of the Marcites located at or before our Mark chapter 10 verse 38.  It was interpreted as describing the means by which each individual 'slave' throws off his 'worldly shackles.'  It is called 'the redemption' because it also understood to represent the restoration of each individual slave to his rightful owner, that is Jesus the living 'letter F.' 

Irenaeus opposes this conception for a number of reasons but most significant of all he desired to recast Christianity as a system which was entirely compatible with the contemporary social order which included an acceptance of the continuation of slavery.  Nevertheless Irenaeus goes on to describe their rites in detail in order to help his readers 'detect and destroy' communities that perpetuated these practices.  We read:

Others still there are who continue to redeem persons even up to the moment of death, by placing on their heads oil and water, or the pre-mentioned ointment with water, using at the same time the above-named invocations, that the persons referred to may become incapable of being seized or seen by the principalities and powers, and that their inner man may ascend on high in an invisible manner, as if their body were left among created things in this world, while their soul is sent forward to the Demiurge. And they instruct them, on their reaching the principalities and powers, to make use of these words

This is followed by another long prayer and the affirmation as we saw earlier that "by saying these things, he escapes from the powers ... [and] the goes into his own place, having thrown [off] his chain, that is, his animal nature. These, then, are the particulars which have reached us respecting 'redemption.'"

In no unmistakable terms then the 'redemption' is tied to images of slavery, which in the case of the persecutions of 177 CE are to be understood quite literally - i.e. that most of the victims were indeed slaves stamped with the sixth letter of the alphabet - i.e. an F.  Yet we can learn even more about the tradition if we turn to yet another surviving treatise originally written by Irenaeus but now is identified as an 'anonymous' text - the so-called Treatise on Second Baptism. In the very same manner as we see Irenaeus in Book One of Against Heresies go on to argue against the heretics belief in another god who instituted this second baptism rite to 'snatch' men from their Maker, the author of the Treatise on Second Baptism says:

For any one of us will hold it necessary, that whatever is the last thing to be found in a man in this respect, is that whereby he must be judged, all those things which he has previously done being wiped away and obliterated. And therefore, although in martyrdom there is so great a change of things in a moment of time, that in a very rapid case all things may be changed; let nobody flatter himself who has lost the occasion of a glorious salvation, if by chance he has excluded himself therefrom by his own fault; even as that wife of Lot, who in a similar manner in time of trouble only, contrary to the angel's command, looked behind her, and she became a pillar of salt. On which principle also, that heretic who, by confessing Christ's name, is put to death, can subsequently correct nothing, if he should have thought anything erroneously of God or of Christ, although by believing on another God or on another Christ he has deceived himself: he is not a confessor of Christ, but in the name only of Christ; since also the apostle goes on to say, "And if I shall give up my body so that I may be burnt up with fire, but have not love, I profit nothing." 

We have already seen the connection between the martyr and 'Lot's wife' and we will develop the reference even further in our next chapter where we see it specifically alluded to in the persecutions in Gaul of 177 CE. 

Irenaeus's point here is to deny the heretics assumption that this form of baptism 'instantly redeems' us from our worldly masters.  This Church Father is, as we shall see, intimately associated with the idea of monarchianism which strenuously argues for one rule, one Lord over all things and through all things.  The heretics may indeed claim to have a second baptism called 'redemption' and which pretends to liberate slaves from their worldly Lord to another but as Irenaeus notes this an "empty confession and passion profits nothing, except that thereby it appears and is plain that he is a heretic who believes on another God, or receives another Christ than Him whom the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament manifestly declare, which announce without any obscurity the Father omnipotent, Creator of all things, and His Son. For it shall happen to them as to one who expects salvation from another God. Then, finally, contrary to their notion, they are condemned to eternal punishment by Christ, the Son of God the Father omnipotent, the Creator whom they have blasphemed, when God shall begin to judge the hidden things of men according to the Gospel by Christ Jesus, because they did not believe in Him, although they were washed in His name."

Indeed if anyone's has any doubts about the same underlying context behind the description of the Marcite rites in Book One of Against Heresies and this text, one need only notice the common reference to the Anaxilaus the magician (Adv Haer 1.13.1; Anom. Treat. 16) and the liturgy of the sect and more importantly the common scriptural interest in Luke 12:50 and Mark 10:38.  We read:

And even to this point the whole of that heretical baptism may be amended, after the intervention of some space of time, if a man should survive and amend his faith, as our God, in the Gospel according to Luke, spoke to His disciples, saying, "But I have another baptism to be baptized with." Also according to Mark He said, with the same purpose, to the sons of Zebedee: "Are you able to drink of the cup which I drink of, or to be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? " [Mark 10:38] 

But Irenaeus unlike the followers of Mark does not interpret these passages as reinforcing another baptism rite used to liberate men from their masters and restored to their fugitive Lord Jesus but apparently the one rule of water baptism known to the Catholic Church:

Because He knew that those men had to be baptized not only with water, but also in their own blood; so that, as well baptized in this baptism only, they might attain the sound faith and the simple love of the laver, and, baptized in both ways, they might in like manner to the same extent attain the baptism of salvation and glory. For what was said by the Lord, "I have another baptism to be baptized with," signifies in this place not a second baptism, as if there were two baptisms, but demonstrates that there is moreover a baptism of another kind given to us, concurring to the same salvation. And it was fitting that both these kinds should first of all be initiated and sanctified by our Lord Himself, so that either one of the two or both kinds might afford to us this one twofold saving and glorifying baptism; and certain ways of the one baptism might so be laid open to us, that at times some one of them might be wanting without mischief, even as in the case of martyrs that hear the word, the baptism of water is wanting without evil; and yet we are certain that these, if they had any indulgence, would also be used to be baptized with water. 

Irenaeus does go on to acknowledge that martyrdom or 'baptism of blood' can be seen as a kind of 'second baptism' but it is only open to " those who are made lawful believers" for "the baptism of their own blood is wanting without mischief, because, being baptized in the name of Christ, they have been redeemed with the most precious blood of the Lord; since both of these rivers of the baptism of the Lord proceed out of one and the same fountain, that every one who thirsts may come and drink."

Clearly then Irenaeus did indeed not only know of a sect of Mark whose numbers were greatly augmented by fugitive slaves but as we have already seen possessed a 'secret gospel.' (Praescr. 25)  As we already demonstrated there, our source here - Irenaeus - already intimates that this written 'hidden gospel' was associated with Mark.  Now we can already come full circle and go back to Clement of Alexandria - himself a recognized Marcite - and his reference to the actual wording of the passage dealing with the second baptism, it becomes even more apparent how these ideas connect back to the original slave culture that Christianity developed from.

For in no unmistakable terms do we see Clement identify that this 'redemption rite' was placed just before the aforementioned reference from the Gospel of Mark - i.e. Mark 10:38.  Clement not only instructs us that an additional passage once appeared after the section - "And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem" and what follows, until "After three days he shall arise" - but also that the question from the sons of Zebedee came immediately following the redemption rite - i.e. "And these words follow the text, "And James and John come to him" and all that section." To this end, given that Clement and Irenaeus cite the material using the exact same markers it is clear that the passage was interpreted in the exact same way.  Now let's look at some of the features of the section which Irenaeus obvious removed from his copies of the gospel according to Mark - the very version which became standard throughout the Empire.  

Clement makes specific that the initiate has just been risen from a dead state and then we hear:

And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him 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.

We can now see that the reference to 'six days' is clearly the key information to the whole passage.  Not only does Clement elsewhere identify Jesus as the 'sixth letter' - i.e. F - but also that various passages in the gospel are used to reinforce his hidden statusClement also tells us earlier that this is a secret gospel, just as Irenaeus told us that this held to be a 'mystical rite' according to the Marcites.

It is Clement again, in his surviving homily on the section that immediately precedes this lost passage who explains why the youth is described as 'rich,' in possession of a 'house' and why Jesus shows such brotherly love towards him.  As Clement writes the previous section (Mark 10:17 -31) tells of a rich man who must learn to give up his property in order to receive the true riches of the kingdom of heaven. So it that "Jesus, accordingly, does not charge him with not having fulfilled all things out of the law, but loves him, and fondly welcomes his obedience in what he had learned; but says that he is not perfect as respects eternal life, inasmuch as he had not fulfilled what is perfect, and that he is a doer indeed of the law, but idle at the true life ... For Christ is the fulfilment 'of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth' and not as a slave making slaves, but sons, and brethren, and fellow-heirs, who perform the Father's will."

Anyone without initiation into the true mysteries of Christ and has material possessions is a slave to wealth. Clement says then that he who has been purified through this sacred rite now "ministers from them to the God who gives them for the salvation of men; and knows that he possesses them more for the sake of the brethren than his own; and is superior to the possession of them, not the slave of the things he possesses; and does not carry them about in his soul, nor bind and circumscribe his life within them, but is ever labouring at some good and divine work, even should he be necessarily some time or other deprived of them, is able with cheerful mind to bear their removal equally with their abundance."

As part of the secret rites of his community Clement acknowledges that each rich owner like himself effectively agrees to become 'the Father' - the new Lord - of each one of his brothers - "we owe our lives to the brethren, and have made such associations [synthekas] with the Saviour, why should we any more hoard and shut up worldly goods, which are beggarly, foreign to us and transitory?"  Yet for the slaves themselves the example of the rich youth serves as a new promise also.  If we go back to our 'brother making brothers' reference above, we should note that it develops from a variant version of our received text of Mark 10:29.  In other words, Clement's gospel of Mark read differently even in subtle ways in familiar material, all of which served to reinforce their heretical understanding of a society of equals secretly established between rich patricians and runaway slaves. 

In our Roman version of the Gospel of Mark we read Jesus say that:

There is no man that hath left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my sake and the gospel's. But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions and in the world to come eternal life 

In this text, then there is no way to justify the mystical idea of Jesus establishing a secret redemption rite where one rich man establishes other slaves as his brother.  Nevertheless Clement's text of Mark 10:29 read:

Whosoever shall leave what is his own, parents, and brethren, and possessions, for My sake and the Gospel's, shall receive an hundred-fold now in this world, lands, and possessions, and house, and brothers, with persecutions; and in the world to come is life everlasting. 

There can be no mistaking that this points to a brother-making doctrine once we see Clement's reaction, noting that "Christ is the fulfilment 'of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;' and not as a slave making slaves, but (a son making) sons, and (a brother making) brethren, and (an heir making) fellow-heirs, who perform the Father's will."

The slave imagery in the Pauline epistles is well recognized in scholarship.  We are all familiar with the allusions to there being neither 'slave nor freedman' in Christ - of a utopian assembly where the differences between social rank and sex had been all but abolished.  Yet the reality may have been seen quite differently through the eyes of the Imperial lords of the Christian community.  Someone like Clement who was offering clemency to a runaway slave was really stealing the property of another.  Moreover, the discussion that Clement develops in the homily on Mark 10:17 - 31 doesn't really describe an absolute communist utopia but rather a community developed around a rich man who offers limited advantages to slaves but nevertheless maintains his own private wealth.

A perfect example to bring forward is that of Origen's relationship with his great patron Ambrose, described by different writers as either a 'former' Marcionite or possibly a Marcosian.  As long as Ambrose lived he supplied whatever Origen needed to maintain his ability to engage in scholarship and religious propaganda.  Yet many Origenists complained that when Ambrose died his money went to his 'real' family.  Whether or not Origen's example was unique owing to the hostility he generated with the contemporary authorities, it is enough to say that it is difficult to see how Christians could legally transfer their property to 'their brethren' unless it was specified in their will.

The Carpocratians apparently argued for a radical communism where each member surrendered his goods upon entering the community.  Yet it is difficult to see how this model could have any practical value once Christianity was deemed an illegal association.  How could something like a monastery have gotten off the ground in the late second century?  This is why we have to avoid regarding Clement's arguments in his homily with too much skepticism.  The rich patron may well have been needed as a guarantor on property leases, ownership papers etc.  Moreover if the numbers of slaves were much higher than is generally recognized in this period, the 'unholy alliance' between subversive patricians and impoverished slaves might well have emerged by design as Clement suggests from Mark himself. 

In other words, Clement tells us to follow the example of Zacchaeus throughout the narrative.  He is one and the same apparently with Matthew according to the Alexandrian and may appear in other sections of the gospel unnamed.  He is clearly not a slave but rather represents the very Roman knight for whom Clement understands the gospel to have been originally composed.  When this 'purified' one (zakkai = pure, cleansed) ends up confirming to Jesus that he gives a quarter of all he possesses to the poor, Jesus commends him and this - understands Clement - points to a greater understanding of the 'divine plan' to establish rich patricians as protectors within the Christian community.

In short, the gospel wasn't written for slaves but rather as a kind of 'instruction manual' for conscientious rich people to aid and abet fugitive slaves.  This was the ultimate vision for 'the kingdom of God' - not absolute economic equality i.e. communism, but rather a secret society within the greater Empire built around individual 'Lords' or patrons - in short the feudal society we see emerge in medieval Europe when people literally 'lived according to the gospel.' 

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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