Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Myth of Jesus

Chapter Four
Fire and Water


If the Imperial government encouraged all religious traditions - not just the ones associated with Israel - to venerate the sole 'ruler of the world,' how confident can anyone be that the faiths which survived the Roman Empire weren't reshaped by that effort?   We all take for granted that Christianity was always a monotheistic tradition, this even though it has 'Father,' 'Son' and the 'Holy Spirit' - even the 'Devil' - front and center.  We all accept without question that Jesus was a meek, kind Jewish 'something or other' - this even though we are also aware that there is 'other side' of his personality, somewhere, anywhere in the Old Testament.

For instance, it should be noted that the early Christians held Jesus stood in the burning bush speaking to Moses.  The idea is just so strange to most of us - amounting to little more than a bald statement from a preacher standing on an altar - that we don't dare spend too much time thinking about it.  What's a Jewish rabbi doing time traveling in a desert?  But the issue goes beyond a fanciful theological creation on someone's part.  The early Church Fathers actually argued about how to interpret this understanding.  

Irenaeus warned his contemporaries not to follow the heretics into straying from the absolute monarchy of the godhead because Jesus was portrayed talking with Moses from the burning bush.  Indeed we should take a second look who is numbered among these alleged 'heretics' - none other than Justin Martyr.  Irenaeus claims that he and Justin walked in lockstep on issues of orthodoxy.  However the reality was quite different.  Justin plainly admits that there were more than one divine being or at least seems to imply he had some independence from the Father.  The notion of a monarchia just doesn't seem to work with Genesis and Exodus narrative unless you learn to read them badly.

Even the Jewish exegetes struggled to explain this material.  How was the one god both on the earth with Moses and in heaven?  How can anyone claim that there was only one god when the narrative in Exodus chapter 3 plainly shows a plethora of different divine names.  It begins with Moses tending flocks:

the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Okay that's seems pretty clear.  It was an angel, not God.  And yet a little later, we read:

And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said: 'Moses, Moses.' And he said: 'Here am I.'

And then later again:

'I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

and finally:

And God said unto Moses: 'I AM THAT I AM'; and He said: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: I AM hath sent me unto you.' 

So how many God's are there really?  It would seem there is 'an angel of the Lord,' then 'the Lord' (Yahweh) who saw Moses turn aside, and then 'God' (Elohim) calls out to him 'from the burning bush' and finally Moses is afraid to look at God there in the bush.

It would seem pretty difficult for anyone to claim that there was just one god here.   Nevertheless this is exactly what Irenaeus attempts to do in Book Three of Against Heresies.  The Church Father begins with the pompous claim that "neither would the Lord, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the apostles, have ever named as God, definitely and absolutely, him who was not God, unless he were truly God; nor would they have named any one in his own person Lord, except God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has received dominion from His Father over all creation ..."  Familiar stuff for Irenaeus.  But his point seems to be in this particular case that even though many gods seem to be mentioned, they are all inseparable parts of the one ruler of the universe - the Father.

Indeed as noted above, Irenaeus goes on to effectively contradict the explicit testimony of Justin with regards to the distinctiveness of the god who was in the burning bush (= Jesus) from the Father.  Irenaeus goes on to write:
Wherefore, as I have already stated, no other is named as God, or is called Lord, except Him who is God and Lord of all, who also said to Moses, "I AM THAT I AM. And thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: He who is, hath sent me unto you;" and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who makes those that believe in His name the sons of God. And again, when the Son speaks to Moses, He says, "I am come down to deliver this people." For it is He who descended and ascended for the salvation of men. Therefore God has been declared through the Son, who is in the Father, and has the Father in Himself -- He who is, the Father bearing witness to the Son, and the Son announcing the Father. 

Really?  Is anyone really going to believe that the Father was in the burning bush with the angel?  The same argument was applied to the cross by the party of Irenaeus - namely that the Father was crucified there along with Jesus.  The rest of the Christian world sneered at Irenaeus's oversimplification of a complicated understanding.  But it was of no matter.  His radical monarchianism won the day.


All the early Christians agreed that Jesus was in the burning bush.  Not merely Irenaeus but also Justin Martyr:

Permit me, further, to show you from the book of Exodus how this same One (i.e. Jesus), who is both Angel, and God, and Lord, and man, and who appeared in human form to Abraham and Isaac, appeared in a flame of fire from the bush, and conversed with Moses.

And Clement of Alexandria:

For when the Almighty Lord of the universe began to legislate by the Word, and wished His power to be manifested to Moses, a godlike vision of light that had assumed a shape was shown him in the burning bush.

The same understanding was held to be true by all the early Church Fathers back to the beginning of Christianity.  Yet it was Irenaeus who forced a one size fits all explanation of this phenomenon.

Irenaeus would have us believe that the god who gave Moses the Law, and the authority by which Moses expanded the Ten Commandments to 613 laws was all one and the same.  But even the Jews didn't go that far.  Many, like the author of the gospel, argued that Moses added many laws based on his own authority.  This idea that all the powers in heaven and all the patriarchs on the earth were walking in lockstep with one another was simply silly.  There was a power of mercy and a power of lordship and then there was 'Jesus' - the figure who stood between them, the man in the burning bush.

Of course the question of all questions is why did they think this?  Did someone just wake up one day and decided to identify this 'nice Jewish rabbi' with the supernatural being?  Or was there something more to it?  It turns out that it is very easy to identify where the early Christians saw their ISU reflected in the pages of the Pentateuch. For we read in Deuteronomy's retelling of the very same account we finally uncover the very same name identified as the man in the burning bush

Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice (קֹלוֹ), that He might instruct thee; and upon earth He made thee to see His great fire (אִשּׁוֹ); and thou didst hear His words out of the midst of the fire. [Deut 4:36]

We should notice the hiriq or dot under the first letter (aleph). It means the word is meant to be pronounced as אישו. Indeed there is a longstanding mystical connection between 'man' (איש) and 'fire' (אש) recognized by Hebrew linguistic experts.

It was the yod or י which distinguished the two terms 'man' and 'fire' in late Hebrew.  Man and fire were originally written the same way - viz. אש - and still are in some places in the Bible.  The substitution is still found in the early Qumran fragments.  As we shall soon see, it is not a large leap of logic to suggest that this אשו (i.e. the figure referred to as 'His fire' in the Hebrew Bible) was one and the same ISU, the God of the earliest Church.  This will be the subject of this present chapter and it is hoped the reader will be impressed with the solution that such a thesis provides for another important aspect of the Christian religion - the proper liturgical context for Christian baptism.

Let us begin by noting that a strong case can be made that the heretics which are said to have developed from 'Simon Magus' would have identified our Jesus as אשו.  Among the most important features of this most famous heretic already mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles is that he understood his God to be a 'consuming fire.'  Samaritans as a whole have a deep attachment to this concept.  A similar idea appears throughout the writings of Mark the Samaritan.  Moreover Justin Martyr's identification of Jesus with the burning bush goes beyond mere 'inventiveness.'  He was part of a tradition, the same Samaritan tradition as the rest of these men. But perhaps most interesting of all is the early Marcionite identification of 'Jesus' as a 'fiery angel' who 'was in the habit of speaking to Moses.'

It is well recognized fact that the many reports about the Marcionites did not always agree.  Sometimes they said Marcion 'hated' the Jewish god, other times his crime was that he divided the godhead.  The reports about a prominent Marcionite named Apelles and his interest in a 'fiery god' (igneo Angelo) may disagree with many - but not all things - said about Marcion in our other sources.  Nevertheless because the Church Fathers themselves were further removed from Marcion (who is alleged to have lived in the early second century when there was no Catholic Church per se) and Apelles is said to have been in Rome by the end of the century, we should accept the information about Apelles as more accurate and in fact take it to be indicative of the group as a whole. 

Moreover since the ideas reinforce things said about Simon Magus and in specific his identification of god - and in fact 'Jesus' - with the statement in Deuteronomy 4:24 that "God is a consuming fire" we stand on very good grounds with our assumptions.  After all, Marcion is always said to have developed from Simon and Apelles from Marcion.  The identification of Jesus as אשו was clearly not invented by Apelles.  In fact given that it is repeatedly implied that Marcion's god was 'fire' or that Marcion shared an interest in identify god as fire, it is not too much to suggest that this detail was omitted from the early material about Marcion specifically because our sources were too busy attacking his heresy rather than explaining it and justifying its conclusions.

If we take Simon Magus and Apelles then to be 'bookends' as it were of one Samaritan inspired heretical tradition we should take notice how both men take interest in the same section of text in Deuteronomy chapter 4.   No less than twelve lines separate ISU from the god of Simon Magus:

For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.  When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the Lord thy God, to provoke him to anger: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.

And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;  (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?  Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him.  Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt

In the end it is a safe assumption that the god of Simon Magus was the god of Marcion was the god of Apelles was ISU the god of consuming fire as one early source similarly identifies Marcion's god as that of the Greek philosopher Empedocles who "affirmed the originating principle of the universe to be discord and friendship, and that the intelligible fire of the monad is the Deity, and that all things consist of fire, and will be resolved into fire; with which opinion the Stoics likewise almost agree, expecting a conflagration."


None of the previous attempts to identify a 'mythical Jesus' do so with the aid of the Bible itself.  The reason scholars of early Christianity haven't been able to develop this thesis is that they have little or no creative abilities in Hebrew.  Moreover they have very familiarity with the Marcionite tradition.  They are unaware or ignore the fact that Marcionites are consistently identified as sharing the Jewish tradition of 'dividing' the godhead into two powers of mercy and justice.  In the case of Apelles in particular Jesus is rightly identified as the third power that stands between these two:

But Apelles, sprung from these, thus expresses himself, (saying) that there is a certain good Deity, as also Marcion supposed, and that he who created all things is just. Now he, (according to Apelles,) was the Demiurge of generated entities. And (this heretic also maintains) that there is a third (Deity), the one who was in the habit of speaking to Moses, and that this (god) was of a fiery nature, and that there was another fourth god, a cause of evils. 

At last, it is made clear.  As with Philo, 'God' (Elohim) is the good god, 'Lord' (Yahweh) the just god and the third deity is identified as the Logos or 'Word' among other names.  Irenaeus makes reference to the Marcionites dividing the godhead in this way but makes it seem as if Jesus was absorbed or identified with the merciful power. 

Why doesn't Irenaeus explicitly say that the Marcionites had three gods not two?  At the least part of this can be explained by Irenaeus's own theological assumptions.  He passed the understanding that the different divine names should be read as reinforcing a single, all powerful God.  In the case of איש in his various forms and names - and especially in the Samaritan tradition - he is above all else 'the man of God' and the spokesperson (apostle) of God.  In other words, there is already an assumption that God and the 'man of God' are one.  To this end, it would have been absolutely inconsistent for Irenaeus to claim that three were one but deny the Samaritan understanding of the man of God as an instrument of God. 

And speaking of Philo, isn't it interesting that this verse is one of only a handful in the Targums or translations of the Hebrew Bible in to Aramaic which acknowledges the presence of 'the Word'?  We see for instance in the so-called Targum Onkelos on Deuteronomy 4:36

From the heaven He let you hear the voice of His Word (Memra) to teach you; on earth He let you see His great fire (אישתיה) and His words you heard from amidst that fire (אישתא).

All the other translations follow suit.  Like Onkelos, they will occasionally add Memra to "voice," as in Deut 4:33, 4:36, 5:21, 5:22, 23 and 18:16.  Similarly texts identify the 'Word' as being present with Moses in Exodus chapter 3.

In other words then, the Jewish tradition beyond Philo identified identifies the Word to have appeared as 'his Fire' in the same way as Simon Magus says that Jesus was the consuming fire of God:
Thus also, then, when God is called "a consuming fire," it is because a name and sign, not of wickedness, but of power, is to be selected. For as fire is the most potent of the elements, and masters all things; so also God is all-powerful and almighty, who is able to hold, to create, to make, to nourish, to make grow, to save, having power of body and soul. As, then, fire is superior to the elements, so is the Almighty Ruler to gods, and powers, and principalities ... When, then, God is called a consuming fire, He is called a mighty and resistless power, to which nothing is impossible, but which is able to destroy. Respecting such a power, also, the Saviour says, "I came to send fire upon the earth,"  indicating a power to purify what is holy, but destructive, as they say, of what is material; and, as we should say, disciplinary. 

The point here is that it is not a large leap of logic to assume that from the earliest period of Christianity - i.e. the age of the apostles - Jesus was identified with the supernatural man of fire described as being within the burning bush.

What is of course strange about this phenomenon then is that the Catholic tradition acknowledges the existence of this Samaritan inspired tradition to have been in existence effectively from the beginning of Christianity.  This consistent feature of their reporting extends also to the Marcionites.  As long as there were historical 'Church Fathers' (i.e. Ignatius, Polycarp etc) there were heretics of this sort.  Indeed by the very names (Ignatius = 'fiery one') and actions (Polycarp trying to stand in fire) it would seem that an association between Christianity and fire existed.  But if we look deeper within Samaritanism we see a precedent ever for the obsession of the early Church Fathers setting themselves on fire. 

For if we look at the writings of the Samaritan Mark we see that among the most repeated statements about Moses is that he is said to have literally stood in 'his fire' and become like one of the angels:

Where is there anyone like Moses who trod the fire? Where is there anyone like Moses to whom his Lord said: "Stand here by Me"

To this end, if we look at the progression that exists in the Book of Exodus from a Christian perspective for a moment, it would seem that Moses sees ISU and takes things from the fire.  By the time of the Sinai theophany Moses actually goes into the fire after six days.  To this end, one of the most frequent titles is that of 'the man (איש) of God.'  The idea develops from Moses's unique experience on Sinai where he is understood to have been completely enveloped by ISU.

It has been long argument by scholars in the field of Samaritan studies that Simon Magus's epithet of 'standing one' is derived from the Samaritan portrait of Moses.  In other words Simon positioned himself as a 'second Moses' and thus a messianic figure in the tradition.  But what gets over looked clearly is that Moses by standing in fire stands between two assemblies of 'standing ones' as we see from another hymn attributed to the Samaritan Mark.  We read:

On the summit of Mt. Sinai Moses was standing, praising his Lord, having come to receive the Law from the right hand of God. [. . .] The assembly of the Standing Ones above and the assembly of the mortals below were gathered. [. . .] Mighty is the great prophet, who vested himself with the Name of the Godhead and revealed the five books. He was standing between the two assemblies, between the Standing Ones and the mortals ... the God of creation was in the assembly of the Standing Ones, and the God who is from man [i. e. Moses] was standing between the two assemblies

The Samaritan ideas here were once shared by the Jewish sectarians at Qumran.  For we read there that Moses described in the process of receiving the Law as "the man of God" speaking as an angel from his mouth.  

The point that gets lost on scholars it seems is that Christianity developed from this ancient interest in Moses that at one time was shared by Jews and Samaritans alike.  Just as Moses becomes one among the angels, so the followers of Simon are to become like the "Standing One" - but this necessarily means in either case being 'baptized' or fully immersed in 'His' (that is God's) Fire or ISU.  In some cases this interest was taken absolutely literally.  Consider for a moment 'Ignatius,' Polycarp and Proteus Peregrinus (assuming they were separate people) and the underlying assumption about a man absolutely consumed by flame manifesting 'Jesus' to the world.  Yet more significantly still, there is the repeated allusion to a 'baptism by fire' mentioned in the early literature, which we can already see by now was taken to mean 'envelopment by ISU.' 


We are all familiar with the way the gospels introduce a certain 'John the Baptist' in order to show Jesus baptized.  Yet it is clear from the reports of the Church Fathers that the Marcionite gospel lacked this critical detail.  John is said to 'come suddenly' much later in the narrative leaving many scholars wondering how did the Marcionites justify their 'baptism into the death' of Christ?  The obvious answer, and one for which I have tirelessly lobbied on behalf, is that given that the Marcionites were the ultimate 'Pauline' sect, their baptism practices must be rooted in Paul's repeated mention of a 'baptism into the death' of Christ or a 'baptism into Christ' or similar formulas in the early sources.  

The obvious candidate for this gospel source is the so-called 'secret gospel of Mark' mentioned in a letter of Clement of Alexandria as being the most sacred text of the Egyptian community.  As Morton Smith rightly notes the gospel seems to reflect contact with the Pauline baptismal formula.  Yet more interesting for our purposes, the context also mirrors the experience of Moses on Sinai and stepping into fire after six days.   The account in Exodus chapter 24 reads:

And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.  And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.  And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.  And Moses went into the midst of the cloud,

The baptism described in the secret gospel of Mark is clearly based on this understanding for we read that a dead youth is resurrected by Jesus:

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 thought him the mystery of the Kingdom of God.

As the late, great Biblical scholar Marvin Meyer noted, six days "is understood as symbolizing an appropriate time of preparation and purification before an experience of meeting the divine (eg, Exod 24:16)."

However what Meyer failed to recognize is that the interest is reflected in countless other places in the surviving writings of Clement and those of the writings of the followers of Mark.  We read back to back references, Clement clearly dependent on the pre-existent beliefs of the heretics as a detailed comparison of two parallel sections of text in Irenaeus's polemic against the Marcites and Clement's acceptance of Marcite gnosis as holy orthodoxy.  I present this source material now, even though it goes beyond our present discussion because it will be useful to help us appreciate the overriding connection between all the 'Markan' traditions in the late second century:

Clement of Alexandria Irenaeus
And they called eight a cube, counting the fixed sphere along with the seven revolving ones, by which is produced "the great year," as a kind of period of recompense of what has been promised. He asserts that the fruit of this arrangement and analogy has been manifested in the likeness of an image, namely,
Thus the Lord, who ascended the mountain, the fourth, becomes the sixth, and is illuminated all round with spiritual light, by laying bare the power proceeding from Him, as far as those selected to see were able to behold it, by the Seventh, the Voice, proclaimed to be the Son of God; in order that they, persuaded respecting Him, might have rest; while He by His birth, which was indicated by the sixth conspicuously marked, becoming the eighth, Him who, after six days, ascended into the mountain along with three others, and then became the sixth,

in which character He descended and was contained in the Seventh, 

since He was the illustrious Eighth,
might appear to be God in a body of flesh, by displaying His power, being numbered indeed as a man, but being concealed as to who He was. For 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. ...
Wherefore also man is said to have been made on the sixth day, who became faithful to Him who is the sign (τῷ ἐπισήμῳ ), so as straightway to receive the rest of the Lord's inheritance.  And for this reason did Moses declare that man was formed on the sixth day; and then, again, according to arrangement, it was on the sixth day, which is the preparation, that the last man appeared, for the regeneration of the first,
                       Some such thing also is indicated by the sixth hour in the scheme of salvation, in which man was perfected. 

Of this arrangement, both the beginning and the end were formed at that sixth hour, at which He was nailed to the tree. For that perfect being Nous, knowing that the number six had the power both of formation and regeneration, declared to the children of light, that regeneration which has been wrought out by Him who appeared as the Episemon in regard to that number.  
Further, of the eight, the intermediates are seven; and of the seven, the intervals are shown to be six. "And these powers," she adds, "being all simultaneously clasped in each other's embrace, do sound out the glory of Him by whom they were produced; and the glory of that sound is transmitted upwards to the Propator." She asserts, moreover, that "the sound of this uttering of praise, having been wafted to the earth, has become the Framer and the Parent of those things which are on the earth."
For that is another ground, in which seven glorifies eight, 

and "the heavens declare to the heavens the glory of God."
And the first heaven indeed pronounces Alpha, the next to this Epsilon, the third Eta, the fourth, which is also in the midst of the seven, utters the sound of Iota, the fifth Omicron, the sixth Upsilon, the seventh, which is also the fourth from the middle, utters the elegant Omega,"--as the Sige of Marcus, talking a deal of nonsense, but uttering no word of truth, confidently asserts.  As, then, he says, the seven powers glorify the Word so does the soul of infants, weeping and mourning over Marcus, deify him. For this reason, too, David said: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise;" and again: "The heavens declare the glory of God."

Hence also it comes to pass, that when the soul is involved in difficulties and distresses, for its own relief it calls out, "Oh" (Ω), in honour of the letter in question, so that its cognate soul above may recognise [its distress], and send down to it relief.

It is universally acknowledged that the two early Church Fathers are reporting the same tradition.  Some scholars - wrongly - try to claim that Clement is quoting Irenaeus.  This is silly because Irenaeus condemns the followers of Mark for believing these things.  Rather it demonstrates that Clement himself was a 'secret' heretical Marcite.  The one report is condemnation of the beliefs of his Alexandrian community of St Mark; the other, that Clement was a spokesperson of the secret mystical tradition of St Mark.

Before we leave this testimony it might be useful for the reader to understand the basic Pythagorean understanding of the universe reflected in the text.  In both reports there we find the assumption about the existence of seven heavens followed by an 'eighth' - the 'fixed sphere' - which is understood by Philo and Clement with the Biblical beyond the 'upper waters.'

While this doesn't have immediate significance for our present discussion it might be useful to remind ourselves of the important of the numbers 6, 7 and 8 as it pertains to the patterns that existed with Moses during the Exodus. 

Clement references the significance of the number six as being the very bedrock of Christian salvation.  Not only is Jesus the episemon or 'six' he makes specific allusion to the Pythagorean concept of the 'great year' which has long established to be some variant of the number 12,960 or 6 x 6 x 6 x 6.  This interest in the 'Great Year' will in an upcoming chapter help us confirm that ISU himself was recognized to have the value of 6  6  6 = 216.  He notes that the eight itself is a 'cube' (i.e. 2 x 2 x 2).  Of course so is 'Jesus' as he is understood to sit in the 'eighth' above the seven powers of the world with a value of three score six.

We will have a lot more time to examine this understanding in more detail later.  It is enough to go back to the common understanding of Moses and the youth waiting after six days to enter the holy of holies, and suggest that the actual standing in the fire/baptism took place toward the evening of the seventh day - what is called 'the goings out' of the Sabbath in Hebrew - is ultimately rooted in this Pythagorean understanding of the structure of the universe.  Just as Moses approached the tabernacle, a heavenly ascend is being suggested by the numerical sequence of the account.  The same thing applies to the Israelite crossing of the sea and moreover - in Christian terms - the ascent to the mount of Transfiguration and the youth being baptized by Jesus in the account of Mark's secret gospel. 

It is precisely for this reason then that the followers of Mark - like Clement - obsessed about the idea of a 'six' which is at once the eighth.  This is the very point of the discussion of Jesus at the Transfiguration - he is the 'sixth' who is the 'eighth.' The important thing to see here for the moment is that there is throughout an understanding that he is the 'sixth' who occupies a place in the Ogdoad or 'eighth,' one better than the place of the ruler of the world (= seventh).  The very concept of 'eighthness' offended Irenaeus because it destroyed the monarchia of the godhead.  Now there was a power above the ruler of the world - i.e. Jesus.  We can't have that of course because it implies that the Christian Lord was better than Caesar. 

In esoteric terms the followers of Mark seized upon the notion that the sixth letter had 'left' the Greek alphabet.  This was likened to 'Jesus' belonging in the upper realm above the seven powers.  He came down here in a particular year which, the Marcionites said, was just before the 6000th year from Creation.  His purpose was to perfect the sons of Adam and make them more like him. Using the example of Moses as the original parallel, it seems the heretics wanted to be 'standing ones' - that is to be immersed or 'baptized' in the primoridal fire which is the true nature of the flesh of our so-called 'Jesus.'  Hence we hear over and over the earliest Christians were all associated with the concept of 'fire baptism' or the 'baptism by fire' in some form or other.

The most famous of these sources is the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism, a source which necessarily goes to lost portions of Irenaeus's original report against the followers of Mark.  In Against Heresies he says only that they venerate another form of baptism other than that associated with John the Baptist.  In that source it was called 'the Redemption.'  However in the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism it is clear that this same community derived their interest in fire baptism from Simon Magus.  They "even neutralize the baptism of holiness, who derive the origin of their notion from Simon Magus, practising it with manifold perversity through various errors."

Most importantly for our purposes we read further on in the same account that these heretics:

try to argue that they only administer a sound and perfect, not as we, a mutilated and curtailed baptism, which they are in such wise said to designate, that immediately they have descended into the water, fire at once appears upon the water. Which if it can be effected by any trick, as several tricks of this kind are affirmed to be— of Anaxilaus— whether it is anything natural, by means of which this may happen, or whether they think that they behold this, or whether the work and magical poison of some malignant being can force fire from the water; still they declare such a deceit and artifice to be a perfect baptism, which if faithful men have been forced to receive, there will assuredly be no doubt but that they have lost that which they had. Just as, if a soldier after taking an oath should desert his camp, and in the very different camp of the enemy should wish to take an oath of a far other kind, it is plain that in this way he is discharged from his old oath. 

I had read this description of this 'fire baptism' ritual well over a hundred times in the course of my life.  I struggled to find a source for the idea for 'fire being in the water' among the followers of Mark, and then one most surprising day, I found it.  

The reader should already be able to anticipate the discovery.  Our 'Jesus' was originally ISU the angelic being alternatively called 'God's Fire' and 'God's Man.'  The original proto-Man who was created on the sixth day was according to this tradition, a fiery man.  His skin glowed owing to the cosmic flames of his living soul.  The baptism of fire was one and the same with the baptism into Christ for 'Jesus' was really a fiery man.  To this end it is easy to see why Ignatius, Polycarp and Peregrinus sought out to set themselves on fire.  They were ultimately seeking to present themselves as the living presence of the original fire man.  They, no less than Simon Magus before them, were only imitating Moses. 

However I was still left asking - how is the baptism of the dead youth in Secret Mark 'like Moses'?  Yes there is the 'after six days' idea in common.  But where do we find the justification for what is described in the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism - i.e. fire mixed in the water that was being used for ritual baptism rites?  This seems to have little to do with Moses's experience at the top of a mountain standing in a great blaze.  Nevertheless there is a simple solution which is drawn entirely from the 'Pythagorean' writings of Mark the Samaritan. 

Most Christians should be familiar with the idea that the reason Sunday is holy is because it is the eighth day.  It is the day baptisms are traditionally performed performed and more importantly they are traditionally associated with Easter and the crossing of the Red Sea by the ancient Israelites.  What is the traditional date for the Israelites walked between the parted waters?  The Samaritans firmly hold that Mark told them it was the goings out of the Sabbath.  The Egyptians drown on the eighth day when the Israelites are already on the shore never having gotten wet or so much as touched the water.

Paul's original statement that what the Israelites did is 'not a type' or 'not a figure' for those of the community of Jesus.  But what about the Egyptians who were the only one in the Exodus narrative who actually stood in the water?  The writings of Clement of Alexandria show that the Markan community had a number of textual disagreements with their Catholic cousins with respect to the letters of Paul.  Where as our text of 1 Corinthians has the apostle declare:

I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

The Alexandrian text originally only said:

all have not knowledge. For I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, that all were under the cloud, and partook of spiritual food and drink.  But with all of them He was not well pleased

The point of this discussion - especially if we imagine that the Marcionite went on to say 'these things happened to them without types for us' - clearly presupposes that baptism was not originally understood to be rooted in the experience of the Israelites at the Exodus.

The Catholic tradition certainly added the extra-details emboldened above in order to transform the original teachings of Christianity.  Now it is said that the experience of the Israelites were types for the community.  But this again makes no sense because the Israelites never touched the water.  Irenaeus tells us quite explicitly that according to the Marcionites held:

that Cain, and those like him, and the Sodomites, and the Egyptians, and others like them, and, in fine, all the nations who walked in all sorts of abomination, were saved by the Lord, on His descending into Hades, and on their running unto Him, and that they welcomed Him into their kingdom.

The Marcionites also had a 'baptism on behalf of the dead' developed from 1 Corinthians chapter 15 which has never been properly explained.  Nevertheless the idea that Egyptians who died in the waters were invoked during these ceremonies - aimed as they were at proselytes is certainly quite interesting. 

A further reinforcement of this suggestion has to be Charles Evan Hill's synopsis of a section of arguments developed against the Marcionites by Irenaeus's teach Polycarp.  As Hill notes his:

teaching shows that the story of the exodus played a large part in Marcion's argument in the Antitheses. From it he was able to extract three objections: against the God who would harden the hearts of Pharaoh and his people (4.29.1), against the people who the Egyptians and the God who would use these stolen goods for the construction of his tabernacle (4.30.1) and against the God who would send plagues upon the Egyptians and then drown them in the sea to effect his people's salvation [emphasis mine] (4.28.3).

Hill's summary does not do justice to the original material.  He is attempting to make Irenaeus's testimony fit his thesis that 'Marcion's Antitheses' - a work we will examine later - is being referenced here.

The reality is actually quite different when you read the original words of Irenaeus.  The Marcionites in fact 'attack' the Catholics on a number of issues related to the Exodus, but all go back to our original point that the Israelites were not the typology for Christian baptism.  Who, in fact, represent the proper typology?  The answer is - the Egyptians who drowned in the sea.  For we read Irenaeus say:

To those, therefore, who assail us, and say, If the Egyptians had not been afflicted with plagues, and, when pursuing after Israel, been choked in the sea, God could not have saved His people, this answer may be given;--Unless, then, the Jews had become the slayers of the Lord (which did, indeed, take eternal life away from them), and, by killing the apostles and persecuting the Church, had fallen into an abyss of wrath, we could not have been saved. For as they were saved by means of the blindness of the Egyptians, so are we, too, by that of the Jews; if, indeed, the death of the Lord is the condemnation of those who fastened Him to the cross, and who did not believe His advent, but the salvation of those who believe in Him.

It is amazing how this section of text is ignored in Marcionite studies or at least read badly - as we saw with Hill.  The Marcionite ISU was the Exodus drowning the Egyptians and incredibly they and only they serve as the proper typology for salvation - i.e. Christian baptism.

Irenaeus's response is typically rhetorical throughout this section.  He consistently says to the Marcionites - 'yes, he's treating the Jews the same way as he did the Egyptians back then, right now.'  But this misses the point.  Irenaeus does everything he can to incorporate Judaism within Christianity.  But this wasn't the original paradigm of the religion.  The followers of Mark saw ISU as appealing his message to proselytes.  Perhaps they historically appealed their message to specifically Egyptian proselytes - i.e. those mentioned as being established in great numbers in Alexandria in the writings of Philo.  This might explain why there was a such a large concentration of Christians in Egypt from a very early period. 

It is also interesting to note that the Valentinian Theodotus when developing an understanding with respect to material from another Pauline letter that saw 'those in bondage' whom Jesus presumably redeems as not Israelites but Egyptians:

But Israel is an allegory, the spiritual man who will see God, the unlawful son of the faithful Abraham, he who was born of free woman, not he who was according to the flesh the son of the Egyptian bond woman.

The idea that Hagar was Egyptian is very well established in Jewish sources.  The implication on Christian theology is under appreciated especially as Paul understands 'Jesus' to 'redeem the slaves.'  Could it be that Christians were at one time ritually understood to go from being 'Egyptians in bondage' to 'sons of God'?


The bottom line here is that we have now discovered that in earliest Christianity there was an entirely different understanding for the cultural context out of which the religion originated - one which happens to make a lot more sense than the traditional model.  As already noted by the third century Church Father Tertullian of Carthage, the Marcionites directed their message at proselytes to Judaism.  Our 'Jesus' was for them a 'fiery man' or 'fiery angel' who was in the habit of speaking to Moses, allowed the Israelites to pass over to the physical 'Promised Land' in Judea but now, at the end of times also stored up a 'great mystery' for the descendents of those who drowned in the sea at Exodus.  Their typology becomes the pattern for salvation with the descent of this 'heavenly man' at the dawn of the year 6000.  

Mark saw an important parallel between not only the physical salvation of Israel and Moses's experience on Sinai but also that of the ignored 'drowned Egyptians' too.  Just as Moses goes up to Sinai and after six days enters into the tabernacle and ultimately stands in the fire with God, so were the Israelites physical saved and now the rest of the world spiritually redeemed.  Whereas Mark the Samaritan argued to the physical portion of Israel that none of them could ever be like Moses, the  'St Mark' of Alexandria told the descendants of the drowned Egyptians that a plan had been established for them to attain the greatness of Moses through a baptism of fire. 

We read in the writings of Clement of Alexandria that Christian baptism was like Moses receiving the impression of God's seal after six days.  Where did he receive this image?  In the fire.  He stood face to face - or person to person - and was reshaped into the image of 'Jesus.'  This was now being manifested through baptism for the rest of the world outside the physical assembly of Israel.  In the same way then as the fiery angel impressed his soul upon Moses, allowing the apostle to become 'the man of God,' the baptism of fire patterned itself after the experience of the drowned Egyptians in the water. Let's look for the moment only at the writings of Mark the Samaritan to understand the underlying paradigm.

First let us see how Mark interprets the same 'six,' 'seven' and 'eight' pattern with respect to Moses on Sinai.  We read:

He (Moses) was making supplication during the six days and prostrating before the King of all kings; he saw the Sanctuary of the Unseen spread out in the fire within the cloud. He was called on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud and he saw the ranks of the angels in their array ... Fire glorified him seven times: fire's first dealing with him was on Mount Sinai at the beginning of his prophetic mission; it was revealed to him in the Bush; from it call was made by name twice— "Moses, Moses" (Ex. 3. 4)—a great wonder the like of which has never been in the world and never will be!  From the fire he was called on the morning of the day of Horeb, from the top of Mount Sinai in the presence of six hundred thousand; fire flaming up to the heart of heaven, as he said, "While the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven" (Deut. 4. 11); then he trod in it with his feet and was not harmed by it; it was like a plant with the dew of heaven on it under his feet [Mimar Marqe 5.3]

Notice that the same pattern as observed by the followers of Mark with respect to the experience on the mountain of Transfiguration and the secret gospel of Mark.  The contexts may be different but they are all reinforcing the same 'cosmic order'- seven heavens in the lower realm separated from the cosmic Man who is 'six' who lives in the highest heaven which is above the rulers of the world in the 'eighth.'

While it is never made explicit in the Samaritan writings of Mark we might suppose that the standing in the fire happened at the 'goings out' of the seventh.  This would mean that the seventh is really a gateway for passing through to the eighth and thus the Platonic realm of ideas.  Already Alexander Broadie has demonstrated how the writings of Samaritan Mark were entirely grounded in an extremely developed understanding of Greek philosophy.  The experience of Moses in the fire at the end of the seventh day reveals the Lawgiver as a prototypical Platonic gnostic:

It (the mystery) was established from Creation; it was made in the light; it was made known from the mouth of its Composer; a prophet received it, who was worthy of this glory from his very birth. Salvation was wrought for the congregation of the Hebrews. The glory was revealed by reason of him; the angels assembled to magnify him by reason of his perfection, as when the wonders were brought together before him.

Glory came to strengthen him, as when the good came and vested him with the crown of holiness. It appeared and anointed his body with faith; it came and set out laws for him.  Consider this great prophet Moses whose position God exalted in both worlds. He honoured you too in what you heard. See how the light submitted before him when he entered into it and received the tablets. See how the darkness was dispelled before him and had no power over him. See how the fire submitted its power, so that he trod in it and it was like dew to him. See how the water's waves were stilled through fear of him, when he was cast into it.

Divinity said to him, "Come in peace! For your sake I appeared to bring forth my wonders."
The Glory said to him, "Come in peace! I will make my glory to pass before you."
The angels said to him, "Come in peace! O faithful one of God. We cannot turn away from you ever.[ibid 6.2]

See him enter into the fire to receive from the right hand of God the tablets of the covenant, the autograph of the True One. When God willed and gave His autograph to the great prophet Moses in the two tablets of the covenant, after He had made Israel to hear His voice above Mount Sinai, He wrote them on both sides of the tablets, the one then the other.[ibid 6.2]

With his hands he received the autograph of God and it was a treasure-store of all knowledge.
His body mingled with the angels above and he dwelt with them, being worthy to do so.
His speech was like the speech of his Lord; all that his Lord said to him he carried out.
His voice mingled with the voice of his Lord and thus he was magnified above all the human race.
With his feet he trod in the great fire and it was to him like a shower of dew under his feet. [ibid 6.3]

Not even a man of knowledge can possibly realize the greatness of Moses. Thanks be to God who made him worthy of all these things and established him in a position which no man has occupied (other than he). He slew the Egyptians, Pharaoh and all his army. His Lord honoured him in the eyes of the two orders.  He was a shepherd before the mountain. He built a sanctuary gloriously perfect, so that his Lord appeared to him in the flame of fire with manifold wonders. He hastened to Him in holiness, till he was in very great glory. There he was standing and his Lord calling him, till he trod in the fire and He addressed him.[ibid 6.3]

He was crowned with ten wonders never found in any man but him: The first in his feet, for he walked with them on the fire and he was not harmed by it. When did he tread in the fire except on the Day of Horeb? The fire was at the front —as He said, "Because the Lord descended upon it in fire" (Ex. 19. 18 ; Targ.), and there was darkness behind it and cloud in the midst of it. When he was summoned and he ascended, he was struck with fear the third time; he approached the deep darkness where the angels of God were, and he dwelt among powers. [ibid 2.11]

O you to whom God gave the gift of prophethood and whom He vested with His name and whose name he called 'servant' and 'Man' and 'the faithful one of His House' and 'good teacher' and 'honoured leader' and 'His lawgiver.' Consider every one of these words.  The servant of God (Deut. 34.5) trod in the fire and it was like dew under his feet.[ibid 6.6]

You drew near to the deep darkness and dwelt in the cloud. You were crowned with the light. You trod the fire and you were in places where no man had been besides you. You called to heaven and it answered you, and earth did likewise. The waters were stilled at your words and could not dispel the force that subdued them. So when you trod the fire, its might was brought low and you walked in it. The angels glorified you and magnified your position and the Glory appeared to you.[ibid 6.11]

It goes without saying that Samaritan Mark's Moses is one and the same as the Moses of St Mark as witnessed from the writings of Clement of Alexandria.  The only difference again is that the Samaritans were explicitly denied the opportunity of experiencing the transformation that Moses underwent in the fire.  The Alexandrian Church and its leader in the late second century, Apelles the Marcionite, were given that very same opportunity owing to Mark's identifying a previously unseen parallel between the drowned Egyptians and Moses.


In the end, it is worth noting that we can uncover the parallels between Samaritan Mark and Christian Mark by taking note of the fact that at the very beginning of his interpretation of the Song of the Sea (i.e. chapter 15 of Exodus which deals with the Israelites cross the sea) the author points to a strange agreement between the Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek translations.  Mark notes points to the fact that the first of the two words in Hebrew אָז יָשר the first two words in the Greek translationτότε ᾖσε and the first word of the Aramaic translation טטעַ all appear as multiples of the number 8.  The two Greek words have a value of 888, the Aramaic word has a value of 88 and the first Hebrew word אָז has a value of 8.

All of this is clearly meant to reinforce that what happened in the sea was meant to be instructive to not only the Israelites but the world (i.e. the angels who looked down upon it).  The waters were transformed to have a heavenly quality.  But how exactly does he establish this proof? Samaritan Mark goes through and counts the number of times 'the four elements' assisted the Israelites at the sea and and reaches a number of mystical conclusions which are beyond the scope of the discussion.  It is enough to note his reference to the element fire:

THE FIRE of the Glory which appeared to Moses in the bush in order to deliver the tribes, and the FIRE of the hail which flashed continually there - mercy for the Hebrews and vengeance for the Egyptians. The FIRE which appeared among the waves of the Red Sea and consumed the enemies of God and of Israel.  These are the three occassions when the FIRE of the Lord served the servants of the Lord of the Lord God. 

We should pay special attention to the specific statement that 'the fire' (i.e. His fire) 'appeared among the waves of sea and consumed' the Egyptians.  When Simon Magus says that Jesus is a consuming fire he enveloped the ancient Egyptians in the sea. 

The discussion then moves on to the other elements, the only other detail that really concerns us is the fate of the Egyptians which is wrapped up in the latter portion of the fourteen occasions when water assisted the Israelites:

The eleventh: When the servants of the Lord came out (of the sea) and the Egyptians set out to encounter them, He clogged the wheel of his (i.e. Pharaoah's) chariot and overturned walls (of water) before them, so that their heads vanished into a prison. They sought for room, but could find none there. All of them realized then that

The Lord is greater than all the gods.

The twelfth: The sea returned to its normal state before Pharaoh and all his servants, while they were all still alive. They looked, but there was no room for them to escape. The Lord lifted them up with a wind, so that they saw the Israelites safe on the shore of the sea. After that the Egyptians sank like a stone.

For the Lord is greater than all the gods.

The thirteenth: His voice was heard in all directions at the time when the Israelites walked in the water, so that even the nations heard it. By this the great prophet Moses was recognized in his prophethood in the section 'Then sang' (אָז יָשר) which makes known to those who hear that

The Lord is greater than all the gods.

The fourteenth: The water closed in over Pharaoh and all his people. Not even one of them survived, while all the Israelites went forth like kings after having been slaves, exulting in their redemption, giving thanks to the Lord of the world, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, who remembered for them the covenant made with them. And they believed in the Lord and in Moses His servant.

While there is nothing here which demonstrates that Samaritan Mark confirmed the mystery of salvation for the descendents of the drowned Egyptians, it is worth noting that he has the Israelites supernaturally 'raised' by the wind to witness the fate of their enemies.  The traditional Samaritan interpretation is that this was done to warn them not to transgress.  Nevertheless it is possible that there were other interpretations of this understanding.

It is most important to note is the traditional Samaritan emphasis that the Israelites never touched the water.  This cannot simply regarded as an 'anti-Christian' polemic but rather an important effort to distinguish the fate of both parties in the Exodus.  The fact that Mark begins this discussion with an appeal to the mystical significance of the number eight and is identified in the Samaritan liturgy as identifying the 'going out' of the seventh day of Unleavened Bread into the eighth day as the time of the passing through the sea, it becomes especially significant in his hymn of the eighth miracle in the sea specifically identifies 'the true (man)' and power of God as again mixing fire and water to prepare for the drowning of the Egyptians:

Greatness was seen in that place; water and fire were combined. This was a tremendous wonder, far exceeding anything, that water and fire should appear there. The dominion of water was brought low and that of the fire overcome. The mighty act of Adam's creation was there made known, for water and fire brought great power and wisdom into him. From the beginning he was borne by spirit, and from it wisdom dwelt in his mind.

Thanks be to this King whose glory magnifies the Speaker

Blessed the hour in which He created Adam, when Adam filled the whole world with praises to the Lord of the world.
Blessed the hour in which water and fire were combined in the Red Sea.
Blessed the hour in which water and fire combined for the destruction of unbelievers.

The world radiated in the presence of the True One, who appeared for the sake of His beloved. Good is the True One and good are His beloved. Blessed was the world when He appeared! Let us be sincere before Him and give thanks for His greatness, perchance we may be worthy of this.[Mimar Marqe 2:8]

To be certain the fire and water combination is understood to transform the nature of the sea.  There is a longstanding and well established identification of the Hebrew word for heaven, שמים or shamayim, as made up of two words -  אש (esh, fire) and מים (mim, water).  The same tradition is known to the Samaritans.

The idea that Mark is teaching the Samaritans is that it was the presence of fire in the water which transformed brute matter into something which physically saved the Israelites and killed the Egyptians.  Nevertheless the author by his repeated connection of this 'heavenly' substance with the 'eighth' is clearly implying that it too has supernatural qualities.  Notice the comparison with the creation of Adam on the eighth day.  There is an unmistakable baptismal significance to this discussion but again we must remember - only the Egyptians are in the water.  The Israelites cross the water at the 'goings out' of the seventh day.  The Egyptians drown in what must be the eighth day.

If we go back to the original report by Irenaeus regarding the 'fire baptism' practices of the followers of Mark.  It is said again that:

some of them try to argue that they only administer a sound and perfect, not as we, a mutilated and curtailed baptism, which they are in such wise said to designate, that immediately they have descended into the water, fire at once appears upon the water. Which if it can be effected by any trick, as several tricks of this kind are affirmed to be— of Anaxilaus— whether it is anything natural, by means of which this may happen, or whether they think that they behold this, or whether the work and magical poison of some malignant being can force fire from the water; still they declare such a deceit and artifice to be a perfect baptism, which if faithful men have been forced to receive, there will assuredly be no doubt but that they have lost that which they had.

So like the drowning Egyptians for Samaritan Mark, Alexandrian Mark says that fire and water mingled has heavenly qualities which has the abilities to transform the initiates from material to spiritual beings.   

The original argument among the followers of Mark is what leads Irenaeus to connect this heretical baptism of Mark with Anaxilaus of Larissa a famous magician from 1 BCE.  As Pliny reports:

Anaxilaus used to employ this substance [sulfur] by way of pastime : putting sulphur in a cup of wine, with some hot coals beneath, he would hand it round to the guests, the light given by it, while burning, throwing a ghastly paleness like that of death upon the face of each. [Pliny Natural Science 35]

The point here isn't simply to accept this hostile report but acknowledge that it seems to be reflecting elements of the traditional Samaritan understanding of the Exodus that also happened to come from 'Mark.'  Irenaeus' source was likening the Alexandrian interest in 'fire in the water' during baptism which lowbrow magic tricks.  Mark himself is also explicitly identified as a magician by Irenaeus in another report.

It may be impossible for us to say with any degree of certainty whether any particular statement in the Church Fathers is an accurate reflection of how the heretics practiced their Christianity.  Yet we can say that there seems to be an underlying commonality to the references.  Notice again that in the Egyptian gnostic work the Pistis Sophia baptism is similarly referenced.  A story appears there which reads as follows (notice the fire and water baptism reference):

Then Mary started forward and said: "Yea, my Lord, in truth I enquire closely into all the words which thou sayest. Concerning the word then of the forgiveness of sins thou hast spoken unto us in similitude aforetime, saying: 'I am come to cast fire on the earth,' and again: 'What will I that it burn?' And again thou hast distinguished it clearly, saying: 'I have a baptism, to baptize in it; and how shall I endure until it is accomplished? Think ye I am come to cast peace on the earth? Nay, but I am come to cast division. For from now on five will be in one house; three will be divided against two, and two against three.' This, my Lord, is the word which thou hast spoken clearly.

"The word indeed which thou hast spoken: 'I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I that it burn?'--that is, my Lord: Thou hast brought the mysteries of the baptisms into the world, and thy pleasure is that they should consume all the sins of the soul and purify them [emphasis mine]. And thereafter again thou hast distinguished it clearly, saying: 'I have a baptism, to baptize in it; and how shall I endure until it is accomplished?'--that is: Thou wilt not remain in the world until the baptisms are accomplished and purify the perfect souls.

"And moreover the word which thou hast spoken unto us aforetime: 'Think ye I am come to cast peace on the earth? Nay, but I am come to cast division. For from now on five will be in one house; three will be divided against two, and two against three,'--that is: Thou hast brought the mystery of the baptisms into the world, and it hath effected a division in the bodies of the world, because it hath separated the counterfeiting spirit and the body and the destiny into one portion; the soul and the power on the other hand it hath separated into another portion;--that is: Three will be against two, and two against three."

And when Mary had said this, the Saviour said: "Well said, thou spiritual and light-pure Mary. This is the solution of the word." [Pistis Sophia Book III, Chapter 116]

It is not hard to see that the community that produced this unique gospel - it is unlikely any of our canonical texts - takes the material to all be related.  Jesus sees baptism as fire and moreover it seems to be linked to death i.e. the separating of the soul from the body.  These things all arose because Jesus was understood to have been ISU, the fiery man who appeared throughout the Penateuch. 

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