Sunday, November 1, 2009

Irenaeus Knew that Details of Secret Mark

Oh if only the vast majority of New Testament scholars were born into Jewish culture! All the mysteries of their culture would have been solved long ago. But perhaps that's the point. Perhaps they don't want to solve these mysteries. It would be like looking at God naked in the shower or something - viz. a shameless act, I don't know ...

In any event you have a terrible situal now where the vast majority of New Testament scholars are Protestants. Their unconscious desire is to divorce the Christian scriptures from the ancient liturgical concepts in order to vindicate their obtuse religious beliefs and so questions like - what's the origin of Lent? - never get answered.

In its place they imagine ancient Christianity as a kind of proto-Protestantism where all the Church Fathers wrote 'treatises' like Luther. Everyone was just trying 'to make sense' of the gospel, the letters of the Apostle and the like.

It's so absurd I can't believe no one else sees the insipidity of it all.

So why not try my approach?

There was the real historical figure behind St. Mark. He wrote the gospel, the Apostolic letters and established the original liturgy of the Christian Church at Alexandria.

The gospel is about Mark receiving initiation from the angel of the presence - Jesus - for the transformation of the Jewish religious paradigm.

It doesn't matter whether we accept the historicity of this event. Let's just go with the original argument for a moment.

We don't know the order of the original gospel but we know that on some level it paralleled the Jewish celebration of Passover. Indeed God ends up appearing crucified and this sacrifice is compared with the Passover slaughter.

Of course if all these Protestant scholars actually knew how Jews always celebrated Passover in the Middle East they would have been aware that it actually begins thirty days earlier than the fourteenth day of Nisan. In other words, the fourteenth day of Adar is the actual starting point for the preparation of the central ritual in Jewish religion.

As we have just demonstrated over the last two weeks there actually were a number of early Christians associated with Mark who WERE AWARE OF THIS. They are identified a 'heretics' in the writings of Irenaeus of Rome or 'Marcosians' - viz 'those of Mark.'

They had a ritual called 'redemption' which seems to have began at Mark x.38 and was finally completed with Jesus para-Paschal self-sacrifice.

Yet if we delve even deeper into Irenaeus' writings we see that they also identified the day Christ was baptized as 'the day of retribution' (a term from the Hebrew text of Isaiah 61:2). This is utterly significant for our model of the development of Christianity from Jewish liturgical practices as Purim is not only identified as 'the day of retribution' from Isaiah but more significantly the actual name might well be derived from an Aramaic root which has this very meaning.

Armed with this understanding let's return to Book II Chapter 21 of Irenaeus' Against the Heresies where he attempts to ridicule the Marcosian liturgical understanding of 'redemption' not telling his ignorant readers that (a) Jews always identified Purim as 'the day of retribution' and (b) the thirty day period from Purim to Passover as 'the redemption.'

Irenaeus begins by attacking the Marcosian interest in the number thirty by saying:

I have shown that the number thirty fails them in every respect; too few AEons, as they represent them, being at one time found within the Fullness, and then again too many. There are not, therefore, thirty AEons, nor did the Saviour come to be baptized when He was thirty years old, for this reason, that He might show forth the thirty silent AEons of their system, otherwise they must first of all separate and eject Himself from the Pleroma of all. [Irenaeus AH ii.21]

We have already shown in a previous post that Irenaeus' student Hippolytus corrects his master's work to acknowledge that the Marcosians were really interested in the thirty days between Purim and Passover. You see the fourteenth of any thirty day month in the Hebrew calendar represents the full moon. It takes thirty days for the full moon of Purim to restore itself to its full form. The day it does this is Passover.

As such, when we learn from Hippolytus that it is the thirty cycle of the moon which really has the Marcosian interest we can go back to what immediately follows in Irenaeus and actually make sense of what the second century Church Father is actually saying:

Moreover, they affirm that He suffered in the twelfth month [ibid]

As we have noted already, the Marcosians did not believe Christ suffered. They had a Passion of Christ which in their Aramaic language meant 'the transformation of Christ.' Christ was transformed after being baptized by Jesus and being ritually 'prepared' over the next thirty days to become united with Jesus' spirit in his flesh and thus perfecting his 'Adamic nature' after its true heavenly image.

As we continue to follow Irenaeus' report I warn the reader that we can only make sense of what he says if we go back to the actual practices of Jews in antiquity. Irenaeus writes immediately after our last quote that the Marcosians believe that Christ:

continued to preach for one year after His baptism; and they endeavour to establish this point out of the prophet (for it is written, "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of retribution"(Isa 61.2 Hebrew)), being truly blind, inasmuch as they affirm they have found out the mysteries of depth, yet not understanding that which is called by Isaiah the acceptable year of the Lord, nor the day of retribution.

The truth is of course that the Marcosians do indeed understand the prophesy of Isaiah. What they say - not surprisingly - turns out to be a lot closer to the traditional Jewish interpretation of the material than the stuff Irenaeus makes up.

Irenaeus attacks the Marcosian application of that prophesy to the 'redemption' of the gospel of Mark saying that:

the prophet [Isaiah] neither speaks concerning a day which includes the space of twelve hours, nor of a year the length of which is twelve months. For even they themselves acknowledge that the prophets have very often expressed themselves in parables and allegories, and [are] not [to be understood] according to the mere sound of the words.

Of course this is pure nonsense. The Jews and Samaritans have always believed that there really will be a 'day of retribution.' It will be a day with twenty four hours and in that span of time, the enemies of Israel will have the wrath of God inflicted on them.

As we have shown in previous posts the traditional associated with the 'day of retribution' is Purim.

Irenaeus goes on to develop his 'allegorical interpretation' of Isaiah 61.2 (does anyone else find it amusing that the Catholics always revert to 'allegory' when they don't know how to get around something) by admitting:

That, then, was called the day of retribution on which the Lord will render to every one according to his works--that is, the judgment. The acceptable year of the Lord, again, is this present time, in which those who believe Him are called by Him, and become acceptable to God -- that is, the whole time from His advent onwards to the consummation, during which He acquires to Himself as fruits [of the scheme of mercy] those who are saved. [ibid AH ii.21.2]

Of course this is certainly not the original understanding of Mark nor those of his followers - the Marcosians. They clearly identified 'the year of favor' with the Jubilee that began with Jesus' crucifixion.

Amazingly Irenaeus doesn't even mention the Jubilee concept in his explanation of the term going on to say only that:

according to the phraseology of the prophet, the day of retribution follows the year; and the prophet will be proved guilty of falsehood if the Lord preached only for a year, and if he speaks of it. For where is the day of retribution? For the year has passed, and the day of retribution has not yet come; but He still "makes His sun to rise upon the good and upon the evil, and sends rain upon the just and unjust."

Of course there isn't a knowledgeable expert alive who would take seriously ANY interpretation of Isaiah 61 which doesn't take into account the Jubilee concept. I happen to have Professor Rory Boid's work demonstrating that the Samaritan year of favor immediately followed the crucifixion of Jesus.

It is important to note that Boid also provides an explanation of why the gospel is called 'gospel' in the first place. The term - NOT SURPRISINGLY - develops from this same Jubilee concept. According to the Samaritans in the preparation period before the Jubilee 'evangelists' had to be sent out to all the cities to announce the coming Jubilee. The Jubilee concept is rooted in messianism and the release from bondage - the very ideas at the heart of the Marcosian 'redemption' concept too.

Before we go any further we should notice Irenaeus' emphasis in the last section that the Marcosians were wrong for putting their 'day of retribution' BEFORE the year of favor:

according to the phraseology of the prophet, the day of retribution follows the year

However it would have been only natural for Jews to interpret Purim as 'the day of retribution' especially in relation to an event happening on Passover (viz. the crucifixion of Jesus).

Irenaeus emphasizes this again in what immediately follows:

But, according to the language [used by the prophet], they ought to be combined, and the day of retribution to follow the [acceptable] year. For the words are, "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of retribution." This present time, therefore, in which men are called and saved by the Lord, is properly understood to be denoted by "the acceptable year of the Lord;" and there follows on this "the day of retribution," that is, the judgment.

Again, no one takes Irenaeus' suggestion seriously - not even Pope John Paul II who wrote a treatise on Isaiah 61 which I happened to read awhile back and not surprisingly he developed the right understanding - the one which the Marcosians followed - that the 'year of favor' HAS TO BE related to Jesus' crucifixion.

The Marcosians again fixed the 'day of retribution' on Purim. The identified the thirty day period to Passover as 'the redemption' and then identified the year of favor as the Jubilee year which ended in Adar of 38 CE - a year from the baptism of Christ.

Irenaeus continues to attack the Marcosian system but his line of reasoning continues to be faulty. He notes in what immediately follows that:

And the time thus referred to [by Isaiah] is not called "a year" only, but is also named "a day" both by the prophet and by Paul, of whom the apostle, calling to mind the Scripture, says in the Epistle addressed to the Romans, "As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter." But here the expression "all the day long" is put for all this time during which we suffer persecution, and are killed as sheep. As then this day does not signify one which consists of twelve hours, but the whole time during which believers in Christ suffer and are put to death for His sake, so also the year there mentioned does not denote one which consists of twelve months, but the whole time of faith during which men hear and believe the preaching of the Gospel, and those become acceptable to God who unite themselves to Him.

This is plainly stupid and was not the original interpretation of anyone before or after Irenaeus. He is just trying to discredit the authority of the original Alexandrian liturgical system owing to it being too dependent on Jewish beliefs and practices.

Notice the next line of attack, where Irenaeus says in again what immediately follows that:

it is greatly to be wondered at, how it has come to pass that, while affirming that they have found out the mysteries of God, they have not examined the Gospels to ascertain how often after His baptism the Lord went up, at the time of the passover, to Jerusalem, in accordance with what was the practice of the Jews from every land, and every year, that they should assemble at this period in Jerusalem, and there celebrate the feast of the passover. First of all, after He had made the water wine at Cana of Galilee, He went up to the festival day of the passover, on which occasion it is written, "For many believed in Him, when they saw the signs which He did," as John the disciple of the Lord records. Then, again, withdrawing Himself [from Judaea], He is found in Samaria; on which occasion, too, He convened with the Samaritan woman, and while at a distance, cured the son of the centurion by a word, saying, "Go thy way, thy son liveth." Afterwards He went up, the second time, to observe the festival day of the passover in Jerusalem; on which occasion He cured the paralytic man, who had lain beside the pool thirty-eight years, bidding him rise, take up his couch, and depart. Again, withdrawing from thence to the other side of the sea of Tiberias, He there seeing a great crowd had followed Him, fed all that multitude with five loaves of bread, and twelve baskets of fragments remained over and above. Then, when He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and plots were formed against Him by the Pharisees, He withdrew to a city called Ephraim; and from that place, as it is written "He came to Bethany six days before the passover," and going up from Bethany to Jerusalem, He there ate the passover, and suffered on the day following. Now, that these three occasions of the passover are not included within one year, every person whatever must acknowledge. [ibid Irenaeus AH ii.21.3]

Of course what Irenaeus doesn't tell his readers is that his whole argument is dependent on the Gospel of John, a text which was only recently introduced at Rome (in its present form) and which found a number of prominent dissenters (Gaius being only the most famous) who undoubtedly suspected that the narrative was undoubtedly concocted to destroy this very same liturgical system of St. Mark (notice that the Passion chronology also doesn't match the synoptics; Irenaeus was simply trying to destroy any sensible understanding of Christianity).

The next attack against the original liturgical understanding of St. Mark is to feign ignorance about the connection of Purim with the 'day of retribution' and ask:

the special month in which the passover was celebrated, and in which also the Lord suffered, was not the twelfth, but the first, those men who boast that they know all things, if they know not this, may learn it from Moses. Their explanation, therefore, both of the year and of the twelfth month has been proved false, and they ought to reject either their explanation or the Gospel

As we already noted Irenaeus isn't telling his readers that the Marcosians held the 'transformation of Christ' to take place over thirty days. We see this practice continued in the surviving liturgy of Lent where the catechumen now PLEDGE for their baptism and then spend the next forty days preparing for that event.

In the original system the baptism took place on Purim - the tradition day associated with the immersion of proselytes fearing 'the day of retribution' - and the thirty day 'redemption' period prepared them for their wedding with Christ at Easter.

When Irenaeus claims that the heretics must chose between their beliefs or the gospel, he conveniently forgets that he has already told us that the gospel of Mark in the hands of these heretics was fundamentally different than our own. He writes elsewhere that:

Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. [AH iii.11.7]

In such a gospel 'Christ' is baptized by Jesus on the day of retribution - or indeed the 'day of recompense' Irenaeus deliberately cites from the Hebrew throughout! - and then thirty days later his flesh is wedded with Christ's spirit.

Irenaeus proceeds to develop all his lines of attack against this original Gospel of Mark from his newly invented Gospel of John - developed again for the sole purpose of destroying the original system - saying

otherwise [this unanswerable question forces itself upon them], How is it possible that the Lord preached for one year only? Being thirty years old when He came to be baptized, and then possessing the full age of a Master, He came to Jerusalem, so that He might be properly acknowledged by all as a Master. For He did not seem one thing while He was another, as those affirm who describe Him as being man only in appearance; but what He was, that He also appeared to be. Being a Master, therefore, He also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself. For He came to save all through means of Himself--all, I say, who through Him are born again to God--infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He might be "the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence," the Prince of life, existing before all, and going before all. [ibid AH ii.21.4]

Of course no one in their right mind believes that Jesus was about fifty years old when he was crucified. But we shouldn't allow the seeming madness of Irenaeus argument to distract us from his real purpose.

We should take special note of the last line. Irenaeus is retaining the 'redemption of firstborn' theme from the heretics. All he has done now is attempt to disprove that Jesus had anything to do with the number thirty at his crucifixion. As the heretics saw it when Jesus was crucified the thirty days from Purim were now complete. Irenaeus does want us to think in terms of Jewish practices. He doesn't want us to continue to venerate the 14th of Adar as the 'day of recompense.' He doesn't want us to identify the thirty days between Purim and Passover as 'the redemption.'

Yet most of all he doesn't want us to know that the year AFTER Jesus' crucifixion was the Samaritan Jubilee and the year 1666 according to their calendar (remember that stuff about three sixes which someone sneaked into the Book of Revelation; the original reading was 616).

Irenaeus goes back on offense in what follows saying that the Marcosians:

may establish their false opinion regarding that which is written, "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," maintain that He preached for one year only, and then suffered in the twelfth month. [In speaking thus], they are forgetful to their own disadvantage, destroying His whole work, and robbing Him of that age which is both more necessary and more honourable than any other; that more advanced age, I mean, during which also as a teacher He excelled all others. For how could He have had disciples, if He did not teach? And how could He have taught, unless He had reached the age of a Master? For when He came to be baptized, He had not yet completed His thirtieth year, but was beginning to be about thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned His years, has expressed it: "Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old," when He came to receive baptism); and, He preached only one year reckoning from His baptism. On completing His thirtieth year He suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age. [ibid AH ii.21.5]

Of course as I see it this entire line of reasoning is a smokescreen. Yes, Jesus was thirty in the heretical system because the redemption from Purim to Passover - from full moon to full moon - was thirty days, but there is a deeper darker secret that only those who have studied the Passio Petri Sancti could possibly know in this generation.

The Passio Petri Sancti is the oldest surviving glimpse of St. Mark's original significance within the Alexandrian Church (aside from the Letter to Theodore). Peter is the seventeenth Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. He is about to die on November 25th, 311 CE under very mysterious circumstances. As Tim Vivian has shown, he was likely an Origenist and almost all his citations from the New Testament have some minor textual variation, the most interesting being Luke's citation (Luke 4:18 - 19) of Isaiah 61.2 in his second Easter Canon:

for they gave themselves up to be afflicted for the name of Christ, even though in their dungeon they enjoyed much consolation from their brethren; which, indeed, they shall return many fold, desiring to be set free from that most bitter captivity of the devil, especially remembering Him who said: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompense unto our God. [Peter I, Canon 2]

Most people just assume that because our canonical gospels 'cut short' Isaiah's prophesy that this must have been the state of the gospel. Indeed it is very telling that Irenaeus never once attacks the Marcosians for taking an interest in the 'day of recompense' concept given that it was 'really cut out' of the gospel.

Peter I, the Marcosians, the Vatican MS and two other MSS all testify that these words of Isaiah WERE INDEED originally present in the gospel narrative. I can even detect a slight 'Arianism' in Peter's full citation - viz. "and the day of recompense unto our God.

The point of course is that when we look at the Passio Petri Sancti the Patriarch comes face to face with the magister of his Alexandrian tradition - and it isn't Jesus. St. Mark is described as the Church's magister and he appears before Peter in the form that he was undoubtedly revered for generations within the Alexandrian tradition - a naked neaniskos wrapped in a linen cloth.

Given that Irenaeus already tells us that these heretics who prefer the Gospel of Mark 'separate' Jesus and Christ, it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that there was something more to his strange argument that Jesus was really an old man on the cross.

It is very significant that Irenaeus DOESN'T TELL US in Book Three WHO THE HERETICS THINK THE CHRIST IS who watches Jesus crucified impassibly in their 'preferred' gospel of Mark. This Christ-who-is-not-Jesus is left to fall among the shadows in obscurity.

The only clue we have is the strange lengths that Irenaeus goes to prove that Jesus was almost fifty years old when crucified. He could have said that Jesus was thirty three or thirty four or some number closer to the age that everyone thinks Jesus was when he died on the cross. But instead we see him latch on to the one title that Alexandrians must always have attached to their Christ-who-was-not-Jesus.


The whole purpose of Irenaeus work is to bury the heretical beliefs of Alexandria. If he comes out and says 'you guys venerate 'little Mark' (Gk. Marcion) as a magister when it is impossible for a child to be a master it would serve to keep alive the very things he wants to kill. So instead he develops a scenario where Jesus embodies the true concept of magister in a way that a neaniskos never could.

So it is that he concludes his argument with yet another citation of the adulterated Gospel of John - so Gaius - to prove that Jesus alone was the true magister:

But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad," they answered Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?" Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, "Thou art not yet forty years old." For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being of flesh and blood. He did not then wont much of being fifty years old; and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?" He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year. For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded as one year, unless indeed, among their AEons, there be so long years assigned to those who sit in their ranks with Bythus in the Pleroma; of which beings Homer the poet, too, has spoken, doubtless being inspired by the Mother of their [system of] error:-- Oi de qeoi par Zhni kaqhmenoi hgorownto Xrusew en dapedw which we may thus render into English: "The gods sat round, while Jove presided o'er, And converse held upon the golden floor." [ibid]

And so Irenaeus comes neatly full circle with this lengthy attack. He in effect says, "Jesus is the true magister, how could you identify a neaniskos as your magister when the title doesn't fit a child? At the same time, he has already said, you Marcosians don't know that Passover, the time Jesus suffered, falls in the first month, now you claim Jesus was thirty to advance a doctrine which is at odds with the simple monotheism of Judaism? When will you give up your pagan ways?"

Of course we already know that Alexandria had a very highly developed and cosmopolitan Jewish community which drew from Homer and Plato. They nevertheless did not abandon their Jewish identity owing to their interest in Greek learning.

Irenaeus is developing smokescreens to distract his readers from seeing that the Marcosian system is wholly compatible with Jewish tradition. Indeed it is the Catholic system which wholly at odds with traditional Jewish exegesis. Scholars get distracted merely because it 'confesses' a belief in the Jewish Creator.

If only they were Jewish, if only they actually knew something about the real traditional practices and beliefs of Judaism. They would have recognized this truth I discovered about the REAL BELIEFS of Alexandrian Christianity which prove the authenticity of the Letter to Theodore.

No wonder Morton Smith ridiculed Jacob Neusner. Sometimes Jews can be even bigger idiots than Christians ...

Email with comments or questions.

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