But anyone who has read early Christian texts in Syriac knows immediately that in Aramaic šlyḥ (שליח), šlyḥa (שליחא) is masculine noun messenger or naked). The question then is whether - as Morton Smith himself suspected - the gospel went back to an Aramaic source whether 'X with X' in this case means 'naked with naked' or 'apostle with apostle.'
Jesus is identified as an 'apostle' in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There is a tradition in Clement of Alexandria that Peter was baptized by Jesus. How exactly Peter became an apostle is never explained by the orthodox. Is it possible that it has something to do with 'nakedness'? Ephrem the Syrian certainly thinks so, though he looks to Peter's baptism in the sea when Jesus was walking on water as the proper context for that understanding we read:
Men stripped their clothes off and dived and drew thee out, pearl!Tertullian seems to know of heretics who identify Peter in the sea as a baptism reference. So too the Nag Hammadi text the Testimony of Truth.
It was not kings that put thee before men, but those naked ones (or 'apostles') who were a type of the poor and the fishers and the Galileans.
For clothed bodies were not able to come to thee; they came that were stript as children; they plunged their bodies and came down to thee; and thou didst much desire them, and thou didst aid them who thus loved thee.
Glad tidings did they give for thee: their tongues before their bosoms did the poor open, and produced and showed the new riches among the merchants: upon the wrists of men they put thee as a medicine of life.
The naked ones (or 'apostles') in a type saw thy rising again by the sea-shore; and by the side of the lake they, the Apostles (or 'naked ones') of a truth, saw the rising again of the Son of thy Creator.
By thee and by thy Lord the sea and the lake were beautified.
The diver came up from the sea and put on his clothing; and from the lake too Simon Peter came up swimming and put on his coat; clad as with coats, with the love of both of you, were these two.
And since I have wandered in thee, pearl, I will gather up my mind, and by having contemplated thee, would become like thee, in that thou art all gathered up into thyself; and as thou in all times art one, one let me become by thee!
Pearls have I gathered together that I might make a crown for the Son in the place of stains which are in my members.
Receive my offering, not that Thou art shortcoming; it is because of mine own shortcoming that I have offered it to Thee.
Whiten my stains! This crown is all spiritual pearls, which instead of gold are set in love, and instead of ouches in faith; and instead of hands, let praise offer it up to the Highest!
But there are far closer examples in the writings of Ephrem the Syrian which might suggest knowledge or perhaps a tradition which knew of the passage:
Who shall make me able to gaze and look upon thee, thou great light! wherein are crowded together types of thy Lord? Who can search out the heat thereof, which though separate It is not cut off from the ray which is blended in it. Neither from the sun as being mingled with it, each one taketh up the might of its heat according to its ability. By it the naked getteth him warmth, while putting it on, after the likeness of Adam1 who was unclothed; this it is which is 'See on grateful to all that are naked, while it sendeth them forth, as men invigorated, for all labours. The Spirit also clothed the Apostles and sent them forth to the four quarters of the world b upon labours. By heat all things are ripened, as by the Spirit all things are hallowed ! O visible type ! [Rhyme of the Seventy Fourth]The context here is clearly the theophany on Sinai where the Israelites saw a fiery Man of God (= Ishu) on the mountain. Marvin Mayer long noted the parallel chronology between the Secret Mark initiation and Moses entering the fire (according to the Samaritans) after six days.
The Samaritans famously identify Moses by the epithet 'the apostle' (the spokesman of God'). But isn't the second God on the mountain also a 'spokesman' for God in heaven? Of course it's heresy now to say that. But if Moses represents the height of human perfection (as the Samaritans believe to this day) then encountering the second god (the divine 'apostle') and being refashioned in his image necessarily also makes one an 'apostle' also.