Tuesday, May 26, 2015


And he was obviously deceived in the same way regarding the earth and heaven and man; for he supposes that there are "ideas" of these. For as Moses wrote thus, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and then subjoins this sentence, "And the earth was invisible and unfashioned," he thought that it was the pre-existent earth which was spoken of in the words, "The earth was," because Moses said, "And the earth was invisible and unfashioned;" and he thought that the earth, concerning which he says, "God created the heaven and the earth," was that earth which we perceive by the senses, and which God made according to the pre-existent form. And so also, of the heaven which was created, he thought that the heaven which was created--and which he also called the firmament--was that creation which the senses perceive; and that the heaven which the intellect perceives is that other of which the prophet said, "The heaven of heavens is the Lord's, but the earth hath He given to the children of men." And so also concerning man: Moses first mentions the name of man, and then after many other creations he makes mention of the formation of man, saying, "And God made man, taking dust from the earth." He thought, accordingly, that the man first so named existed before the man who was made, and that he who was formed of the earth was afterwards made according to the pre-existent form.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Was Adelphopoiesis Developed From Secret Mark?

Byzantium: Fictive Kinship and Human Relationships

Byzantium is the name given to both the state and the culture of the Eastern Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. Until the seventh century, it preserved the basic structures of Late Roman Mediterranean civic culture: a large multiethnic Christian state, based on a network of urban centers, and defended by a mobile specialized army. After the Arab/Muslim conquest of Egypt and Syria, the nature of the state andculture was transformed. Byzantium became much more a Greek state, most of the cities except Constantinople faded away to small, fortified centers, and the military organization of the empire came to be based on a series of local armies. Under the Macedonian dynasty (867–1056), Byzantium’s political power reached its apogee as former territories were incorporated in the empire, and an element of multi-ethnicity was restored. This period is also significant as the time in which Byzantine culture was spread among the Slavs and other Balkan peoples. Following massive Turkish attacks in the late eleventh century, the empire was able to maintain a lesser but still significant political and military power under the Comnenian dynasty: the cost was a social transformation which exalted a powerful military aristocracy, and gradually enserfed the previously free peasantry. In 1204, internal Byzantine politics and the resurgent West effectively ended the imperial pretensions of the Byzantine state. The Fourth Crusade (1204) succeeded in conquering Constantinople and making it a Latin principality for half a century. The Greek political leadership, under the Palaeologan dynasty, regained Constantinople in 1261, but the “empire” was just one state among many in the area for the final 200 years of its existence. Byzantine studies, reflecting their classical heritage, are still much more dominated by philological and art-historical concerns than Western medieval history, and only very recently has the history of women or the study of concepts of masculinity come to the fore. As yet, analyses of gender have not transformed our understanding of Byzantine society in the way we have seen with earlier cultures.

In one crucial area of gender-related research, Byzantium has been the focus of recent scholarship that transforms our perception of both past and present – the existence and functioning of “fictive kinship.” Modern Westerners tend to assume thathuman relationships fall into categories of “kin” (family) or “voluntary” (friendship).In 1994 the historian John Boswell ignited a firestorm by claiming the Byzantines had celebrated liturgical unions for members of the same sex. Boswell’s claims derivedfrom his rediscovery of a ceremony called adelphopoiia (literally “brother-making”) and his interpretation that this functioned as a kind of homosexual marriage. Critics were quick to point out that Roman law, with its clear definition of marriage (as a “union of male and female”), prevailed in Byzantium. Moreover, from the time of Justinian, perhaps earlier, sodomy was illegal in Roman, and hence Byzantine, law.  There could not have been, they concluded, any such “same-sex union” in a Roman and Christian state. Normative legislation is not, however, a good guide to social reality, and Christian invective was usually directed at pederasty rather than the equal relationships suggested by the adelphopoiia liturgies. Boswell’s claims could not be sustained in full, but he had clearly brought to light something that did not fit into modern social categories.

There was without a doubt a ceremony called adelphopoiia in Greek, which was also known to have parallels in Slavic countries, and among Greek-speaking Catholics in Italy, which celebrated the “uniting” of two men as brothers. This ceremony wasusually conducted in church as a blessing. Most surviving texts seem to envision itas taking place between two men, although there are indications that it could occa-sionally involve two women, or more than two people. In Slavic countries it mightalso have been used between men and women. Many commentators, even thosehostile to Boswell, acknowledge that the ceremony may have been used by homo-sexual couples but without any official Church sanction of sexual activity.

In a careful review of the subject, Claudia Rapp (1997) took a look at Boswell’s claims and investigated other sources he had not considered in order to attempt a “history of adelphopoiesis ” – an examination of how the ritual developed and changed over time. She was able to show that adelphopoiesis was first evident in saints’ lives, was later used by the imperial family to create bonds with supporters, and eventually acquired a use in wider society where it was discussed as a rights-creating relationship by legal commentators. The rite created a lifelong bond, almost always between two people (usually two men), and the wider society considered this bond as a form of kinship. No evidence persists, however, that affirms the ceremony conferred status on a sexual relationship. Rather than a form of marriage, Rapp notes that there were other Byzantine rituals and roles which created other forms of fictive kinship, for instance the institution of co-godparenthood (synteknia). She thinks that adelphopoiesis functioned as a form of “fictive kinship” and that in the range of fictive kinships in Byzantium it functioned more like synteknia than marriage.

Rapp’s view of adelphpoiesis is that it was an essentially cold, contractual, unemotional form of social bonding of much less weight than marriage. The problem hereis that the number of liturgical manuscripts clearly suggests a much broader user of the ceremony, at least after the tenth century, than among the imperial and aristo-cratic elites she documents. If, for instance, we were to discuss marriage among these groups, we might come to the same conclusions. In a text overlooked by Boswelland Rapp, we do find a much warmer evaluation of the ceremony. Writing in his Life of St. Cyril of Philea (twelfth century) Nicholas Kataskepenus presents adelphopoiesis as the height of human connection:

Cyril teaches: There are seven manners and seven kinds of prayers, as says the Abbot Anastasios. Three of them exist under the rule of fear and chastisement; the four othersare used by those who are assured of their salvation and have a share in the kingdom of God. When a man is plunged into voluptuousness he holds to a prayer as a man condemned and without confidence, asa man touched by the pain of death; in the second manner, a man takes himself before God and speaks to him as a debtor; the third manner differs from the two preceding, for one presents oneself to the master as a slave, but a slave remains under the rule of fear and the fear of blows; in the fourth, the man carries himself in regard to God as a freed servant, freed from servitude and waiting to receive a recompense because of the mercy of God; in the fifth manner, better than the first four, one holds oneself before God and speaks to him as a friend; in the sixth manner,superior to that, the man speaks to God in all confidence as a son “for I have said that you are of the gods, you are of the son of the Most High”, you all who want it; in the seventh manner, which marks a progress and which is the best of all, one prays among those who have undergone adelphopoiia with Christ.... [Nicholas Kataskepenos, La Vie de Saint Cyriulle le Philéote, moine byzantin ( + 1110) , ed. and trans. Etienne Sargologos, Brussells; Société des Bollandistes ,1964; this English version by Paul Halsall]
The concept of “fictive kinship” plays an important role in Rapp’s analysis. This is an essentially anthropological term, although useful. Because of her close attention to the texts, Rapp avoids almost entirely any discussion of adelphopoiesis in terms of sexuality, though she notes that adelphopoiesis was associated with a relationship of equality between the participants. Now there is little question that “equality” was not a defining characteristic of the predominant classical discourse on same-sex sexual relationships. There the defining language was that of pederasty, an age-differentiated relationship between a penetrator and a penetrated – sometimes valorized, atother times condemned. And it was within such an understanding that condemnations of homosexual sex took place – especially with the Greek Christian notice of the “abuse of boys.” But such a range of discourse clearly had no contact with whatlittle we can grasp of the realities of adelphopoiesis . There is little doubt, I think, that at some stages in its history adelphopoiesis was used by men who were sexually active with one another.

With its varieties of “fictive kinship,” Byzantine society, so often overlooked in thehistory of Western civilization, affords us an opportunity to probe genderedrelationships distinct from marriage, sex, and genetics and yet also to gain insightinto those associations. Byzantium is an example of a society where affective bonds between members of the same sex, treated as unregulated friendship in many other cultures, were brought within the kinship system. While it is a commonplace of standard anthropology that kinship boundaries vary from culture to culture, some degree of blood connection is usually at issue. Byzantium shows that this need not be the case, and indeed since the uproar surrounding Boswell’s work, scholars such as Alan B ray (forthcoming) have begun to explore the ways other cultures incorporated same sex affectivity within socially-acknowledged kinship conventions. [Paul Halsall in A Companion to Gender History pp. 298 - 300]

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Scapegoat Ritual in the First Century CE

By the first century CE, the scapegoat ritual had become more elaborate than its counterpart in Leviticus 16. This signifies its growing importance in the cult. Perhaps the most noteworthy change is that the ceremony ended with the execution of the goat following its expulsion. Ten booths were constructed between Jerusalem and a steep precipice overlooking a particular ravine, seven and a half miles away. The scapegoat was sent off from Jerusalem with the prayer 'Bear [our sins] and be gone! Bear [our sins] and be gone!' (m. Yom. 6.4; cf. 6.2.8) 'Certain of the eminent folk of Jerusalem used to go with him to the first booth.54 Common people (named 'Babylonians' ?) would pull the hair of the goat as he was led away (m. Yom. 6.4). At each successive booth, the goat was provided with food and water by the messenger (m. Yom. 6.4-5,8). Sentinel stations were also set up so that a relay signal of flags would communicate to Jerusalem the moment when the goat had reached the precipice of the ravine (m. Yom. 6.8).

Once the appointed place had been reached, the messenger would tie a thread of scarlet wool around the horns of the scapegoat (m. Yom. 6.6; cf. Barn. 7.8). A second crimson thread was tied to the door of the temple sanctuary. Then 'the messenger pushed the [scape]goat from behind; and it went rolling down, and before it had reached half the way down the hill the [scape]goat had broken into pieces' (m. Yom. 6.6). According to tradition, 'when the he-goat reached the wilderness [and had been pushed down the cliff] the thread [tied to the sanctuary door] turned white; for it is written, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isa 1.18)”' (m. Yom. 6.8). The Targum Pseudo Jonathan theologises the death of the scapegoat by making it a supernatural event: 'And the goat will go up on the mountains of Bethhadurey, and a tempest wind from the presence of the Lord will carry him away, and he will die.'

The custom of killing the scapegoat may have arisen because the scapegoat did, on occasion, find its way back to Jerusalem, perhaps in search of food and water. Such an event would be considered dangerous, threatening to undo all that the Day of Atonement had accomplished. This scenario could be prevented by assuring killing the goat after its expulsion. [B Hudson McLean The Cursed Christ p. 82 - 83]
Most people who offer their opinions about the historical basis for the gospel haven't the first clue about Judaism - let alone the practices of first century CE Judaism.  So it is that they assume that the crucifixion narrative 'must' be based on actual events merely because we are told all these people 'saw' Jesus being dragged through Jerusalem and then crucified outside the city walls.

Yet as the narrative in the Epistle to the Hebrews shows, the 'historical details' coincide with the expectation created by the priestly narratives of the Pentateuch. The bodies of the animals sacrificed as sin offerings were burned outside the camp (Leviticus 16:27).  Of course it can - as has been argued - that Hebrews here is merely 're-interpreting' the historical details of Jesus's death in light of those priestly narratives in Leviticus - i.e. the crucifixion 'really' took place outside the city walls and then the 'sin offering' spin was added.  However this avoids the reality that the entire Passion narrative has this priestly narrative.  

For instance the abuse that is described in the gospel as being heaped upon Jesus 'the divine scapegoat' is derived from the ritual described above.  So too the 'stations of the Cross' - which while not explicitly part of the 'gospel narrative' form the earliest ritual re-enactment of the narrative.  Indeed the Latin Passion plays still preserve what we may identify as 'remembrances' of parts of the ur-gospel - i.e. parts of the heretical text which were excised when the orthodox texts were constructed (i.e. Berenice wiping the face of Jesus etc).  This follows a pattern which we will examine in more detail here - namely that the earlier heretical gospels actually play up the scapegoat ritual elements meaning - quite evidently - that the orthodox texts rather than 'preserving' historical details only made the existing narrative 'seem' more historical by removing implausible details which were deemed to be incompatible with history.

Monday, May 11, 2015

New Theory About Secret Mark

I have taken something of a hiatus from publishing at my blog.  There are a number of factors that have figured into this decision.  What can be said is that I have now come forward out of a period of relative obscurity to say that I am pretty certain I know why the baptism scene in Secret Mark is where it is and I will likely be spending an hour or so each night (if my job and family commitments allow me) to explain it to all of you.

The short answer to 'what led to my discovery' is this very interesting reference in Origen's Homilies on Leviticus which is preserved only in Rufinus's Latin translation.  This text was recently translated by Gary Wayne Barkley and the pertinent section which attracted my attention was this from Homily 9 which deals with the laws related to Yom Kippur.  In the section dealing with Leviticus 16:4 "A consecrated linen tunic will be put on" Origen strangely segues not only to a resurrection miracle of Jesus but also nakedness - themes that stand out in the passage from Secret Mark.

Noting that linen - the only garment worn by the high priest - is made of the fibers of the flax plant Origen strangely (and immediately) goes on to connect flax with 'resurrection' or Jesus 'the high priest' resurrecting a person buried in the earth:

Think of flax thread that comes from the earth. Imagine that the flax thread becomes a sanctified linen tunic that Christ, the true high priest, puts on when he takes up the nature of an earthly body. Remember he takes up the nature of an earthly body. Remember that it is said about the body that“it is earth and it will go into the earth.” Therefore, my Lord and Savior, wanting to resurrect that which had gone into the earth, took an earthly body that he might carry it raised up from the earth to heaven. 

And the assertion in the Law that the high priest is clothed "with a linen tunic" contains a a figure of this mystery. But that it added "sanctified" must not be heard as superfluous. For "the tunic" that was the flesh of Christ was "sanctified," for it was not conceived from the seed of man but begotten of the Holy Spirit.

Of course the youth in Secret Mark is resurrected from the earth - specifically a 'tomb in a garden' which necessarily means that 'the body' had 'gone into the earth.'

There is of course much more to this reference that caught my eye - indeed and previous investigations on the relationship between Leviticus 16 and the passage in Secret Mark.  However this is enough, I think, to guarantee sufficient readership over the next month to put sustained effort into drawing out my ideas about the function of this narrative in the greater context of Mark's gospel.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

'Theorimos' as an Epithet for Mark the Evangelist/Apostle of the Coptic Tradition

An article which confirms previous lines of research conducted here on this blog regarding the epithet 'theorimos' for the apostle/evangelist Mark in the Coptic tradition.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Implications of the Original Narrative of Exodus According to 4Q158

It is rarely discussed outside the small circle of authorities on the Qumran text that - following the pattern in the Samaritan Pentateuch - material from Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20 were 'integrated' into a single narrative. The assumption of most scholars is that - somehow! - the existing Jewish text is still 'correct' despite the basic agreement between the ancient Jewish and surviving Samaritan text - viz. that Exodus originally 'contained' material 'from Deuteronomy 5.'

Of course it goes without saying that our Exodus couldn't have been redacted in the Common Era.  Perish the thought!  Yet it becomes clear - to me at least - that the two powers heresy were responsible for not only the transformation of Masoretic Exodus but also both the Samaritan and Jewish of the narrative immediately following the revelation at Sinai.  For we read in 4Q158:
Honor your [father] and your mother, [so that you may live long in the land God will give you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear] false witness [against] your [neighbor]. You shall not desire [your] nei[ghbor's] wife, [slave, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor]. God said to Moses, Dt 5:30- 31 "Tell them to [return to their tents. And with you next to Me I will tell them all the commandments, statues] and ordinances you are to teach them. They are to follow these rules in the land [I am about to give them"...] 5The people returned to their tents, but Moses remained before Ex 20:22-26 [God. God said, "tell the Israelites] 'that they have seen Me speak to you from heaven. They are not to make [gods of silver or gold. They need to only make an altar of earth, and sacrifice] on it your burnt offerings and offers of well being, your sheep [and oxen. Every place where I cause My named to be remembered I will come and bless you. If] you build me [an altar of stone] do not use formed stone. For by using a chisel [upon it you ruin it. Do not go up steps to My altar or your nakedness will be exposed] on it"
Now just look at the implications of the narrative here.  According to the author of the Pentateuch (i.e. Ezra retelling the ancient story of how the Israelites received the Law) the people only saw the revelation of the ten utterances.  They went back into their tents and then 'afterwards' all these other laws that Moses claimed now (i.e. with the publication of the Pentateuch) to have received from God.

But clearly the original narrative was developed because the people only knew the ten utterances.  All that came afterwards was something new that was 'added' by Ezra in the name of Moses.  For God's sake people, we can't continue to all be this stupid can we?
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