Thursday, November 20, 2014

146. Clement, our main source of information for 'secret Mark,' attributes an unknown resurrection narrative involving 'Philip' to the Marcionite gospel

Interestingly Clement cites as the gospel passage which shows this process one which Clement elsewhere identifies as referencing the resurrection of one of Jesus's disciples - Philip. Clement immediately references a significant variant Luke 9:60:

"For the dead bury their dead." (νεκροὶ γὰρ τοὺς ἑαυτῶν θάπτουσι νεκρούς) Whence Jeremiah says: "I will fill it with the earth-born dead whom mine anger has smitten."

The canonical text by contrast reads:

ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς

It is interesting to note that Clement's text more closely resembles the one cited by Origen in his Homily on Luke 9. Origen's interpretation of the saying is also very important to take note of:

For, everyone "who commits sin is born of the devil," and the evil father lives for every sinner who lives for the things of this world. But, to every one to whom the evil one has died, may the Savior say this: "Follow me." And perhaps the need for us to hate our father"' should be understood mystically (ἀλληγορεῖται) in this way, if we are going to become worthy of Jesus. The words, "to bury the dead,'" mean, allegorically, only our own dead. For, somehow the dead bury "their own dead" in themselves (Θάπτουσι γάρ πως νεκροὶ τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκροὺς ἐν ἑαυτοῖς) and become their own graves and monuments. Finally, the one who obeys Jesus leaves the dead man behind and no longer touches him. For, he knows that the one who touches a corpse is defiled.

It should be immediately obvious why Origen's discussion is very important. He brings up something that few of us I am sure have ever considered before about this cryptic saying - i.e. the role of the Jewish purity laws with respect to the raising of the dead in this lifetime.

Those who are unfamiliar with the writings of Clement of Alexandria might wonder why anyone should associate the raising of the dead with this passage. The reality is however that Clement of Alexandria not only clearly makes the connection between Luke 9:60 and the resurrection of the dead but specifically the resurrection of a particular disciple of Jesus. The surprising thing here is that Clement doesn't tell us about the beliefs of his own church again but, as with the Letter to Theodore, the variant gospel narrative only emerges during the discussion of the beliefs of the heretical traditions. Yet look carefully and you'll see that Clement doesn't dismiss the tradition:

Of the heretics we mentioned Marcion of Pontus as forbidding the use of this world's goods on the ground of opposition to the Creator. The Creator himself is thus the reason for continence, if this can be called continence; for this giant o thinks he can resist God is not continent by an act of free choice, in that he attacks the creation and the process by which n is formed. If they quote the Lord's words to Philip, "Let dead bury their dead, but do thou follow me," (Ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς, σὺ δὲ ἀκολούθει μοι) they ought to consider that Philip's flesh is also formed in the same way; body is not a polluted corpse. How then could he have a body of flesh which is not a corpse? Because he rose from the tomb when the Lord killed his passions, and he began to live unto Christ. We also mentioned the blasphemous immorality of Carpocrates.

There are so many interesting things in this discussion that it is hard to know where to start and where to end. The Marcionites believe that the gospel tells the story of the resurrection of Philip from the dead. Clement takes them to task for their exegesis of the passage - i.e. the inferences they draw from the material namely that the original creation was 'evil.'

Yet notice at once that Clement doesn't dismiss the story about the resurrection of the disciple. Notice also that the Carpocratians are drawn in and attacked for their 'blasphemous carnality' with respect to their interpretation of the same passage. However we should concentrate for the moment on Clement's consistent attack against the Marcionite interpretation of the dead body of the raised disciple as proving that the original creation was 'evil.' Another example is brought forward in their interpretation of Romans chapter 8:

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God," explains the apostle: "for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed, can be. And they that are in the flesh cannot please God." And in further explanation continues, that no one may, like Marcion regard the creature as evil. "But if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." And again: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us. If we suffer with Him, that we also may be glorified together as joint-heirs of Christ. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to the purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. And whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified." [Strom 5.5]

The point of course is that the Marcionite exegesis of the passage sounds suspiciously similar to what is put forward by Origen (albeit the resurrection of Philip is unmentioned). The unmistakable situation that emerges from this discussion is that not only do the Marcionites, Carpocratians and the Alexandrian Church seem to have held a lost gospel in common but also one which 'connected' at a core level with the writings of Paul all of which - curiously - seems to support the most fundamental Marcionite understanding of the development of the New Testament.

Indeed even without knowledge of the Letter to Theodore Clement's knowledge of the Marcionite exegesis of this commonly held gospel indicates the apostle Paul seems to know of its account of the resurrection of the disciple Philip. Yet on even more critical level the discussion shines even more intriguing light on the Pauline conception of "baptism into death" (Romans 6), death as freedom from the Law (Romans 7) and the like. If we make our way back to our original discussion of Stromata 4.4, the material here helps us come to terms with the consistent Alexandrian connection of Luke 9:60 with a lost narrative involving the resurrection of a disciple of Jesus. While the Carpocratians are mentioned as know of this passage, as we have just noted Clement concentrates his efforts condemning the Marcionite interpretation of the material. We also noted that there are striking parallels between Origen's exegesis of Luke 9:60 and that of the Marcionites (perhaps owing to Origen's master Ambrosius being a 'reformed' Marcionite).

The underlying commonality of course is that both Origen and Marcionites take seriously the Jewish legal implications of the raising of the dead in this life. Origen speaking allegorically says Jesus is declaring that the individual must bury his dead self inside of himself thus becoming a monument to the burial of the 'old man.' Yet at the same time Jewish legal arguments are brought forward to justify the abandoning of the old self. The dead are unclean so the newly reborn initiate must refrain from contact with it. Clement seems to suggest the Marcionites take the argument one step further. He claims that they infer that because of this mystical process the old creation must be judged to be 'evil.'

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