Author Topic: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity  (Read 27059 times)

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Offline Volnutt

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I know all about that tempest in a teapot, yes.
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline rakovsky

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Wikipedia notes about Mara Bar Serapion's Syriac language letter that may mention Jesus:
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"most scholars date it to shortly after AD 73 during the first century."
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mara_bar_Serapion_on_Jesus)

The letter sounds like it is referring to Jesus:
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What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea and the Jews, desolate and driven from their own kingdom, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates is not dead, because of Plato; neither is Pythagoras, because of the statue of Juno; nor is the wise king, because of the "new law" he laid down.

This part makes it sound like the author wasn't a Christian because Christianity would emphasize that Jesus lived on in His resurrected body: "Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."

I don't understand the last part of the end of Mara Bar Serapion's letter:
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One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his side: “Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast seen, that thou laughest.” “I am laughing,” said Mara, “at Time: inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me back.”

Wikipedia says: "There were three cases when captives were taken from Samosata, in 72 AD by the Romans, in 161/162 by Parthians and in 256 by Sasanians".
Since Mara says his city was captured by Rome and he was taken captive, it suggests a date of c. 72 AD for the letter.

William Cureton proposes a date of about 162 AD:
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The mention, however, of that island having been covered with sand, as a punishment for the burning of Pythagoras, seems to me to have a direct reference to the Sibylline verses; "I cannot therefore, in my own mind, come to any other conclusion than that this Epistle ought to be assigned to a period when the Sibylline verses were frequently cited, the age of Justin Martyr, Meliton, and Tertullian. This date, too, will perhaps otherwise coincide quite as well with what is read in the letter as the former. The troubles to which the writer alludes as having befallen himself and his city will apply to those inflicted by the Eomans upon the countries about the Tigris and Euphrates which had been excited to rebel against them by Vologeses, in the Parthian war under the command of Lucius Verus, A.D. 162-165. I have not found the name of Samosata especially mentioned as having suffered more than other cities in this war; but it is stated that Seleucia was sacked and burned by the Romans, and five or six thousand slain. The persecution under Marcus Antoninus followed very close upon this war, and as these facts equally agree with the allusions made in this Epistle of Mara, it may perhaps be nearer the truth to assign its date to the latter half of the second century rather than to the close of the first.

If indeed such be the period at which this Letter was written, there is no improbability in supposing, that the Serapion, to whom it is addressed, may be the same as he who succeeded Maximinus as eighth Bishop of Antioch, about the year 190, and who himself also wrote short epistles, similar to this in purpose and tendency, for which indeed his father's might have set him a pattern.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/info/mara.html

Do you agree with Peter Kirby's claim that the 1st to 2nd nonChristian writers who mentioned Christians described them as odd?:

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If there is one impression that we can gather from the references to Christians in our non-Christian sources, one common theme that that runs through Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Epictetus, Lucian, Marcus Aurelius, Galen, Celsus, and Philostratus, it is the inherent oddity they ascribe to the group. The only real exception in the literature of the era that stands out is that attributed to Mara Bar-Serapion
http://peterkirby.com/mara-bar-serapion-fourth-century.html
Josephus is commonly considered a nonChristian writer and as the scholars most commonly interpret the Testamonium, he doesn't describe them as odd.

« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 12:47:16 AM by rakovsky »
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Offline Volnutt

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Sounds right for most mentions of Christianity, at least. In terms of Josephus, it seems like a lot hinges on just what he meant by "if indeed one could call him [Jesus] a man."
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline rakovsky

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Some scholars discussed whether Mara Bar Serapion was a pagan or a Christian, and a polytheist or monotheist. It looks to me like he was a monotheist because he writes in his letter:
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When, moreover, a person has left his home, and is able still to preserve his previous character, and properly does that which it behoves him to do, he is that chosen man who is called "the blessing of God," and one who does not find aught else to compare with his freedom.
...
When, moreover, anything untoward befalls thee, do not lay the blame on man, nor be angry against God, nor fulminate against the time thou livest in.

If thou shalt continue in this mind, thy gift it not small which thou hast received from God, which has no need of riches, and is never reduced to poverty. For without fear shalt thou pass thy life, and with rejoicing.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/mara.html


It's interesting what he says here:
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beware lest the gain which many hunger after enervate thee, and thy mind turn to covet riches, which have no stability. For, when they are acquired by fraud, they do not continue; nor, even when justly obtained, do they last; and all those things which are seen by thee in the world, as belonging to that which is only for a little time, are destined to depart like a dream: for they are but as the risings and settings of the seasons.

Can you make sense out of this?:
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"About the objects of that vainglory, too, of which the life of men is full, be not thou solicitous: seeing that from those things which give us joy there quickly comes to us harm. Most especially is this the case with the birth of beloved children. For in two respects it plainly brings us harm: in the case of the virtuous, our very affection for them torments us, and from their very excellence of character we Suffer torture; and, in the case of the vicious, we are worried with their correction, and afflicted with their misconduct."
How do virtuous parents suffer torture from their children's excellence of character?


I like what he said here in his letter:
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But as for thee, my beloved, be not distressed because in thy loneliness thou hast been driven from place to place. For to these things men are born, since they are destined to meet with the accidents of time. But rather let thy thought be this, that to wise men every place is alike, and that in every city the good have many fathers and mothers. Else, if thou doubt it, take thee a proof from what thou hast seen thyself. How many people who know thee not love thee as one of their own children; and what a host of women receive thee as they would their own beloved ones! Verily, as a stranger thou hast been fortunate; verily, for thy small love many people have conceived an ardent affection for thee.
...

For myself, what I am henceforth solicitous about is this-that, so far as I have recollections of the past, I may leave behind me a book containing them, and with a prudent mind finish the journey which I am appointed to take, and depart without suffering out of the sad afflictions of the world. For my prayer is, that I may receive my dismissal; and by what kind of death concerns me not. But, if any one should be troubled or anxious about this, I have no counsel to give him: for yonder, in the dwelling-place of all the world, will he find us before him.

Can you make sense of this ending:
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One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his side: "Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast seen, that thou laughest." "I am laughing," said Mara, "at Time: inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me back."
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 01:27:26 AM by rakovsky »
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Offline Volnutt

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Some scholars discussed whether Mara Bar Serapion was a pagan or a Christian, and a polytheist or monotheist. It looks to me like he was a monotheist because he writes in his letter:
Quote
When, moreover, a person has left his home, and is able still to preserve his previous character, and properly does that which it behoves him to do, he is that chosen man who is called "the blessing of God," and one who does not find aught else to compare with his freedom.
...
When, moreover, anything untoward befalls thee, do not lay the blame on man, nor be angry against God, nor fulminate against the time thou livest in.

If thou shalt continue in this mind, thy gift it not small which thou hast received from God, which has no need of riches, and is never reduced to poverty. For without fear shalt thou pass thy life, and with rejoicing.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/mara.html

He could have been a Monotheist in Plato's sense (there's a Supreme Being that is beyond, and the creator of, any other "god" that might exist and far more important than they are).

Can you make sense out of this?:
Quote
"About the objects of that vainglory, too, of which the life of men is full, be not thou solicitous: seeing that from those things which give us joy there quickly comes to us harm. Most especially is this the case with the birth of beloved children. For in two respects it plainly brings us harm: in the case of the virtuous, our very affection for them torments us, and from their very excellence of character we Suffer torture; and, in the case of the vicious, we are worried with their correction, and afflicted with their misconduct."
How do virtuous parents suffer torture from their children's excellence of character?

My guess would be, "Because the virtuous suffer from this evil world and no parent wants to see their children suffer."

I like what he said here in his letter:
Quote
But as for thee, my beloved, be not distressed because in thy loneliness thou hast been driven from place to place. For to these things men are born, since they are destined to meet with the accidents of time. But rather let thy thought be this, that to wise men every place is alike, and that in every city the good have many fathers and mothers. Else, if thou doubt it, take thee a proof from what thou hast seen thyself. How many people who know thee not love thee as one of their own children; and what a host of women receive thee as they would their own beloved ones! Verily, as a stranger thou hast been fortunate; verily, for thy small love many people have conceived an ardent affection for thee.
...

For myself, what I am henceforth solicitous about is this-that, so far as I have recollections of the past, I may leave behind me a book containing them, and with a prudent mind finish the journey which I am appointed to take, and depart without suffering out of the sad afflictions of the world. For my prayer is, that I may receive my dismissal; and by what kind of death concerns me not. But, if any one should be troubled or anxious about this, I have no counsel to give him: for yonder, in the dwelling-place of all the world, will he find us before him.

Doesn't seem too dissimilar to Mark 10:9 and equivalents, to me. It is a nice passage, yeah.

Can you make sense of this ending:
Quote
One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his side: "Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast seen, that thou laughest." "I am laughing," said Mara, "at Time: inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me back."

Just laughing at the whimsical unfairness of life, I guess. Sometimes you gotta laugh just so you don't cry.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 07:31:11 AM by Volnutt »
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline rakovsky

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Good answers.
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Offline rakovsky

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Stephen Goranson proposes that in Pliny's description of the geography of the Qumran community, Pliny the Elder was talking about Qumran:
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It has frequently been pointed out that Pliny here does use the sense of "downstream" which the North to South movement here suggests, rather than placing them in hills west of Ein Gedi, hills whose existence he does not mention.13 It has also often been noted that, despite intensive archaeological surveys, no site other than the Qumran/Ein Feshkha complex qualifies. I can add yet another indication that Agrippa in Pliny did describe Essenes at Qumran. Of the seventeen cases14 where in the geographic books of N.H., books 3 to 6, where Pliny uses "infra," two of those which use the term to mean "downstream" occur in sections of Pliny's text (4.84 and 6.136) which explicitly name Marcus Agrippa. Though this does not absolutely prove that Agrippa used the word in this sense in his account of Essenes, it does appear that the evidence as a whole makes the link of Agrippa's description with Qumran secure.
http://orion.mscc.huji.ac.il/symposiums/programs/Goranson98.shtml

I wonder if Pliny the Elder in his Natural History (Book V, Chapter 19) was referring to the Christian community around Apamea as the "Nazarenes"?
Pliny writes: " Coele Syria has the town of Apamea, divided by the river Marsyas from the Tetrarchy of the Nazerini" (Book 5, Chapter 19)
FOOTNOTE:
"It is suggested, that these are the Phylarchi Arabes of Strabo, now called the Nosairis, who were situate to the east of Apamea. The river Marsyas here mentioned was a small tributary of the Orontes, into which it falls on the east side, near Apamea."

Wikipedia says of Pliny the Elder's Natural History:
Quote
He began it in 77, and had not made a final revision at the time of his death during the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_History_(Pliny))
So at that time the Christians likely were inhabiting the region of Pella. In his Natural History, Pliny says that the Nazarenes were living near Apamea (in Syria), which was also called Pella. He also described the Essenes in detail a few chapters earlier (Chapter 15 of Book 5), so it would fit his style of writing for him to describe the Nazarenes.
In Eusebius' History and the Panarion of Epiphanius, they describe Christian groups in the city of Pella in what is today Jordan:
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The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis cite a tradition that before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Jerusalem Christians had been miraculously warned to flee to Pella (Tabaquat Fahil) in the region of the Decapolis across the Jordan River.

    The people of the Church in Jerusalem were commanded by an oracle given by revelation before the war to those in the city who were worthy of it to depart and dwell in one of the cities of Perea which they called Pella.
    — Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3


    This heresy of the Nazoraeans exists in Beroea in the neighbourhood of Coele Syria and the Decapolis in the region of Pella and in Basanitis in the so-called Kokaba (Chochabe in Hebrew). From there it took its beginning after the exodus from Jerusalem when all the disciples went to live in Pella because Christ had told them to leave Jerusalem and to go away since it would undergo a siege."
    — Epiphanius, Panarion 29,7,7-8

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_to_Pella
In the New Testament, Paul is accused of being a leader of the Nazarene sect (Acts 24:5), and Tertullian (late 2nd c. - early 3rd c.) says that the Christians were called Nazarenes by the Jews.

However, there are some scholarly objections to equating Pliny's Nazarenes with the Christians. Pliny is often considered to have described a pre-Christian "Nazarene" sect in Syria because his writing on the Levant commonly describes the region as it was in the time of Marcus Agrippa, whose writings formed a major source of Pliny's information.
Besides that, Pliny in the first century describes the Nazarini as living near Apamea/Pella in Syria, whereas Eusebius and Epiphanes in the fourth century describe the Nazarenes as living in Pella in what is today Jordan. It could be that Pliny was mistaken about the location (Syria v Jordan) or else that the fourth century writers were mistaken, or it could be that these really were two different Pellas with two different groups of "Nazarenes".
Another curious feature is how the Nazarenes are ruled by a "tetrarchy", which means that four people rule over them. The term tetrarchy is common for that chapter, wherein Pliny names about 20 other "tetrarchies" in the region.
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Offline rakovsky

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In "Pagan Rome and the Early Christians", Stephen Benko wrote about the Stoic philosopher Epictetus:
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Epictetus ... taught first in Rome and then in Nicopolis, Epirus. Both cities had a Christian congregation at a very early date, and, according to Titus 3:12, the apostle Paul spent a whole winter in Nicopolis. Epictetus... had a good opportunity to learn something about the Christians, whom he called Galileans, and he seems to have been particularly impressed by their lack of fear before the authorities.
Josephus talks about the Galileans as a sect and says that they have a leader called Judas the Galilean, but he doesn't equate them openly with Christians. So it's curious to me whether they are the same group.


Peter Oakes writes in "Epictetus and the New Testament":
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Epictetus  can  also  base  relational  ethics  on our  fellow  humans  being,  like  us,  offspring  of Zeus (Diss. 1.13.4).

Conformity to God’s will
Lead thou me on, O Zeus and Destiny,
To that goal long ago to me assigned. 
I’ll follow and not falter; if my will
Prove weak and craven, still I’ll follow on. (Ench. 53)

This  hymn  by  Cleanthes  is  a  favourite  of  Epictetus’   and  points  to  the  centre  of  his  religious  concern,  namely  to  conform  his  will  to  God’s.  God,  for  Epictetus,  is  omnipotent  and  this  is  applied to give the result that whatever happens is God’s will (Frag. 3 [Stobaeus IV.44, 66]).
https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/vox/vol23/epictetus_oakes.pdf

Was "Zeus" a reference to God for the ancient Greeks?

In "Epictetus' Views on Christians", Niko Huutenen writes that "two passages actually refer to [Christians] (Discourses 2.9:19-21 and 4.7.6).

Jules Evans writes in Stoicism and Christianity:
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the Stoics were monotheists – they followed Heraclitus in believing in one Logos. In this they can be compared to the evolving monotheism of Judaism, particularly that of Moses around two centuries earlier. Later Christians would draw on the Stoic concept of the Logos, particularly in the marvelous opening to the Gospel of St John.
http://www.philosophyforlife.org/stoicism-and-christianity/

According to Kevin Vost:
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an anonymous epigram found in the writings of St. John Chrysostom [says]: “Slave, poor as Irus, halting as I trod, I, Epictetus, was the friend of God.”
http://modernstoicism.com/the-porch-and-the-cross-stoicism-and-christianity-by-kevin-vost/


Philip Schaff writes about Epictetus:
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There is a bare possibility that he had a passing acquaintance with him, if not with Paul himself. He came as a slave to Rome with his master, Epaphroditus, a profligate freedman and favorite of Nero (whom he aided in committing suicide), and was afterwards set at liberty.
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc2.v.x.iv.html

I guess that this Epaphroditus is likely the one to whom Paul sent greetings in one of the epistles, and is the one to whom Josephus dedicates writings.


In his Discourses, Book II, Chapter 9, there is a section that is reminiscient of Paul's discussion on being a Jew inwardly vs. having only the rituals of a Jew (like circumcision). What is curious especially for me is how he speaks of himself and his group as being "baptized". Does this reference to baptism and similarity to Paul's philosophy of being an inward Jew suggest that Epictetus, like perhaps his master Epaphroditus, was some version of a secret Christian?
An easy objection could be that Stoic philosophy has known differences from Christianity, yet on the other hand, Christianity was a movement in the process of being born and Paul was trying to spread a wide net to make converts across gentile circles (as when he taught that it was acceptable for Christians to eat food offered to pagan idols, which could occur during shared meals with pagans.).
Here is the passage:
Quote
1925 LOEB TRANSLATION:
Why, then, do you call yourself a Stoic, why do you deceive the multitude, why do you act the part of a Jew,[4] when you are a Greek? 20Do you not see in what sense men are severally called Jew, Syrian, or Egyptian? For example, whenever we see a man halting between two faiths, we are in the habit of saying, "He is not a Jew, he is only acting the part." But when he adopts the attitude of mind of the man who has been baptized and has made his choice, then he both is a Jew in fact and is also called one. So we also are counterfeit "baptists," ostensibly Jews, but in reality something else, not in sympathy with our own reason, far from applying the principles which we profess, yet priding ourselves upon them as being men who know them. So, although we are unable even to fulfil the profession of man, we take on the additional profession of the philosopher —so huge a burden! It is as though a man who was unable to raise ten pounds wanted to lift the stone of Aias.

LOEB FOOTNOTE:
It would appear (especially from the expression "counterfeit 'baptists'" below) that Epictetus is here speaking really of the Christians, who were in his time not infrequently confused with the Jews. (But it should be observed that the text translated here is an emendation, for the MS. says "the part of Greeks when you are a Jew," which may possibly be defended on the understanding that, in the parlance of Epictetus, a Jew is one who does not follow reason as his sole guide.)
The sense of this much vexed passage I take to be: True Jews (i.e. Christians) are a very marked class of men because of the rigorous consistency between their faith and their practice. But there are some who for one reason or another (possibly in order to avail themselves of the charity which the Christians dispensed to the poor, as Schweighäuser suggests,—like the so-called "rice Christians") profess a faith which they do not practise. It is this class, then, which Epictetus has in mind when he bitterly calls himself and his pupils "counterfeit 'baptists.'"

1890 George Long Translation
Why then do you call yourself a Stoic? Why do you act like a Jew, when you are a Greek? Do not you see on what terms each is called a Jew, a Syrian, an Egyptian? And when we see any one wavering, we are wont to say, This is not a Jew, but only acts like one. But, when he assumes the sentiments of one who has been baptized and circumcised, then he both really is, and is called, a Jew. Thus we, falsifying our profession, may be Jews in name, but are in reality something else. We are inconsistent with our own discourse; we are far from practising what we teach, and what we pride ourselves on knowing. Thus, while we are unable to fulfil what the character of a man implies, we are ready to assume besides so vast a weight as that of a philosopher. As if a person, incapable of lifting ten pounds, should endeavor to heave the same stone with Ajax.

1916 Greek text
τί οὖν Στωικὸν λέγεις σεαυτόν, τί ἐξαπατᾷς τοὺς πολλούς, τί ὑποκρίνῃ Ἰουδαῖον ὢν Ἕλλην; [20] οὐχ ὁρᾷς, πῶς ἕκαστος λέγεται Ἰουδαῖος, πῶς Σύρος, πῶς Αἰγύπτιος; καὶ ὅταν τινὰ ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα ἴδωμεν, εἰώθαμεν λέγειν ‘οὐκ ἔστιν Ἰουδαῖος, ἀλλ᾽ ὑποκρίνεται.’ ὅταν δ᾽ ἀναλάβῃ τὸ πάθος τὸ τοῦ βεβαμμένου καὶ ᾑρημένου, τότε καὶ ἔστι τῷ ὄντι καὶ καλεῖται Ἰουδαῖος. [21] οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς παραβαπτισταί, λόγῳ μὲν Ἰουδαῖοι, ἔργῳ δ᾽ ἄλλο τι, ἀσυμπαθεῖς πρὸς τὸν λόγον, μακρὰν ἀπὸ τοῦ χρῆσθαι τούτοις ἃ λέγομεν, ἐφ᾽ οἷς ὡς εἰδότες αὐτὰ ἐπαιρόμεθα. [22] οὕτως οὐδὲ τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαγγελίαν πληρῶσαι δυνάμενοι προσλαμβάνομεν τὴν τοῦ φιλοσόφου, τηλικοῦτο φορτίον οἷον εἴ τις δέκα λίτρας ἆραι μὴ δυνάμενος τὸν τοῦ Αἴαντος λίθον βαστάζειν ἤθελεν.

1877 Chesterfield society edition footnote:
It has been suggested that Epictetus confounded under the name of Jews those who were Jews and those who were Christians.

Maybe it does not really say that "we", the writer and his circle, are "baptized", and this is a later mistaken "emendation"?
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Offline RaphaCam

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Welcome back!
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Offline rakovsky

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Thanks.
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Offline rakovsky

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My guess is that Epictetus got baptized as a secret 1st-early 2nd century Christian because:
1) His master Epaphroditus appears to be an early Christian as mentioned in Phillipians and numerous scholars have suggested (I wrote about this in the 1st century Judaic & pagan writers thread).
2) He seems to write about being a true, inward Jew like Paul talked about and maybe talked about himself and his own group as being baptized. But this could be a mistranslation:

Quote
Why then do you call yourself a Stoic? Why do you deceive the many? Why do you act the part of a Jew,6 when you are a Greek? Do you not see how (why) each is called a Jew, or a Syrian or an Egyptian? and when we see a man inclining to two sides, we are accustomed to say, This man is not a Jew, but he acts as one. But when he has assumed the affects of one who has been imbued with Jewish doctrine and has adopted that sect, then he is in fact and he is named a Jew.7 Thus we too being falsely imbued (baptized), are in name Jews, but in fact we are something else. Our affects (feelings) are inconsistent with our words; we are far from practising what we say, and that of which we are proud, as if we knew it.

Higginson's Footnote:
It is possible, as I have said, that by Jews Epictetus means Christians, for Christians and Jews are evidently confounded by some writers, as the first Christians were of the Jewish nation. In book iv. c. 7, Epictetus gives the name of Galilaeans to the Jews. The term Galilaeans points to the country of the great teacher. Paul says (Romans, ii. 28), 'For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly—but he is a Jew which is one inwardly,' etc. His remarks (ii. 17–29) on the man 'who is called a Jew, and rests in the law and makes his boast of God' may be compared with what Epictetus says of a man who is called a philosopher, and does not practise that which he professes.

1890 Higginson translation, Discourses 2.9


See also page 317 in Religio-Philosophical Discourses in the Mediterranean World, edited by Anders Klostergaard Petersen, George H. van Kooten:
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"One cannot avoid the thought that he is referring to Christian baptism... In section 21, Epictetus says, "we are also counterfeit baptists (parabaptistai); Jews in words, but in deeds something else. ... all the Jews have invalid baptisms (section 21), while real Jews have a valid baptism (section 20). As the valid baptism is the Christian baptism, Epictetus reproduces the Christian and anti-Jewish view.  ... Epictetus' words for Christians, who are the real Jews, undoubtedly reflect a Christian self-understanding. This self-understanding is seen in the New Testament (Romans 9:6-8), not to speak of later Christian literature.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 09:45:33 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline Asteriktos

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Uh... looking at the context, I don't think he's saying that at all...

http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/discourses.2.two.html

Offline rakovsky

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Uh... looking at the context, I don't think he's saying that at all...

http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/discourses.2.two.html
Asteriktos,
Thank you for citing the passage with the context. (Here is an excerpt from what you cited):

Quote
But when he has assumed the affects of one who has been imbued with Jewish doctrine and has adopted that sect, then he is in fact and he is named a Jew. Thus we too being falsely imbued, are in name Jews, but in fact we are something else. Our affects are inconsistent with our words; we are far from practicing what we say, and that of which we are proud, as if we knew it.
It sounds based on the above book that I quoted that he was actually using the Greek word meaning "baptise", rather than just "imbue".

You are free to disagree with me on the passage's meaning. What I wrote is my best guess, and I respect your views.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 10:22:31 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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Epictetus was the Stoic slave of Epaphroditus, likely the same one who is mentioned by Paul in Phillipians and was a major servant in Nero's court:
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“I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me” (Philippians 2:25–30).
...
I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God ... All the saints send you greetings, especially those from the household of Caesar. (Philippians 4:18,22)

Wikipedia has an interesting summary of Epictetus' views on martyrdom:
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For our country or friends we ought to be ready to undergo or perform the greatest difficulties.[54] The good person, if able to foresee the future, would peacefully and contentedly help to bring about their own sickness, maiming, and even death, knowing that this is the correct order of the universe.[55] We have all a certain part to play in the world, and we have done enough when we have performed what our nature allows.[56] In the exercise of our powers, we may become aware of the destiny we are intended to fulfill.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epictetus

Oldfather's introduction in the Loeb Edition of Epictetus' works notes similarities with the New Testament:
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The linguistic resemblances, which are occasionally striking, like "Lord, have mercy!" κύριε, ἐλέησον[Kirie Eleison], are only accidental, because Epictetus was speaking the common language of ethical exhortation in which the evangelists and apostles wrote; while the few specious similarities are counterbalanced by as many striking differences In the field of doctrine, the one notable point of disregard for the things of this world[35] is offset by so many fundamental differences in presupposition, if not in common ethical practice, that any kind of a sympathetic understanding of the new religion on the part of Epictetus is inconceivable. A certain ground-tone of religious capability, a fading of interest in the conventional fields of human achievement, a personal kindliness and "harmlessness" of character, a truly pathetic longing as of tired men for a passive kind of happiness, an ill-defined yearning to be "saved" by some spectacular and divine intervention, these things are all to be found in the Discourses, yet they are not there as an effect of Christian teaching, but as a true reflection of the tone and temper of those social circles to which the Gospel made its powerful appeal.

It's interesting how Epictetus speaks of both "God" and "the gods", Theos and Theon. What is the relationship between the two categories?:
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If a man could only subscribe heart and soul, as he ought, to this doctrine, that we are all primarily begotten of God, and that God is the father of men as well as of gods, I think that he will entertain no ignoble or mean thought about himself. Yet, if Caesar adopts you no one will be able to endure your conceit, but if you know that you are a son of Zeus, will you not be elated?

εἴ τις τῷ δόγματι τούτῳ συμπαθῆσαι κατ᾽ ἀξίαν δύναιτο, ὅτι γεγόναμεν ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πάντες προηγουμένως καὶ ὁ θεὸς πατήρ ἐστι τῶν τ᾽ ἀνθρώπων καὶ τῶν θεῶν, οἶμαι ὅτι οὐδὲν ἀγεννὲς οὐδὲ ταπεινὸν ἐνθυμηθήσεται περὶ ἑαυτοῦ.

Discourses, Bk 1, Chp 3
Epictetus calls God "Zeus". In Greek mythology, Zeus was the son of Cronus‎ and ‎Rhea. But I think that for monotheism, God Himself is not a child of another one of "the gods". How does this work in Epictetus' mind? Is Zeus "God", the father of men and gods, and yet Himself the offspring of other gods?
Elsewhere Epictetus speaks of the god Aeolus (the divine keeper of the winds) as distinct from Zeus:
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"What wind is blowing?" we ask. Boreas. "What have we to do with it? When will Zephyrus blow?" When it pleases, good sir, or rather when Aeolus pleases. For God has not made you steward of the winds, but Aeolus.[4] "What then?" We must make the best of what is under our control, and take the rest as its nature is. "How, then, is its nature?" As God wills.
Book 1 Chapter 1
If Epictetus speaks of God (Zeus) and His distinct offspring, the gods, is Epictetus not really a monotheist?

I wonder if Epictetus' comment about bathing as a faithful person is related to the concept of Christian baptism? Maybe the word faithful is a mistranslation?:

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Where, then, is progress? If any man among you, withdrawing from external things, has turned his attention to the question of his own moral purpose, cultivating and perfecting it so as to make it finally harmonious with nature, elevated, free, unhindered, untrammelled, faithful, and honourable; and if he has learned that he who craves or shuns the things that are not under his control can be neither faithful nor free, but must himself of necessity be changed and tossed to and fro with them, and must end by subordinating himself to others, those, namely, who are able to procure or prevent these things that he craves or shuns; 20and if, finally, when he rises in the morning he proceeds to keep and observe all this that he has learned; if he bathes as a faithful man, eats as a self-respecting man,—similarly, whatever the subject matter may be with which he has to deal, putting into practice his guiding principles, as the runner does when he applies the principles of running, and the voice-trainer when he applies the principles of voice-training,—this is the man who in all truth is making progress, and the man who has not travelled at random is this one.

[18] ποῦ οὖν προκοπή; εἴ τις ὑμῶν ἀποστὰς τῶν ἐκτὸς ἐπὶ τὴν προαίρεσιν ἐπέστραπται τὴν αὑτοῦ, ταύτην ἐξεργάζεσθαι καὶ ἐκπονεῖν, ὥστε σύμφωνον ἀποτελέσαι τῇ φύσει, ὑψηλὴν ἐλευθέραν ἀκώλυτον ἀνεμπόδιστον πιστὴν αἰδήμονα: [19] μεμάθηκέν τε, ὅτι ὁ τὰ μὴ ἐφ᾽ αὑτῷ ποθῶν ἢ φεύγων οὔτε πιστὸς εἶναι δύναται οὔτ᾽ ἐλεύθερος, ἀλλ᾽ ἀνάγκη μεταπίπτειν καὶ μεταρριπίζεσθαι ἅμα ἐκείνοις καὶ αὐτόν, ἀνάγκη δὲ καὶ ὑποτεταχέναι ἄλλοις ἑαυτόν, τοῖς ἐκεῖνα περιποιεῖν ἢ κωλύειν δυναμένοις: [20] καὶ λοιπὸν ἕωθεν ἀνιστάμενος ταῦτα τηρεῖ καὶ φυλάσσει, λούεται ὡς πιστός, ὡς αἰδήμων ἐσθίει, ὡσαύτως ἐπὶ τῆς ἀεὶ παραπιπτούσης ὕλης τὰ προηγούμενα ἐκπονῶν, ὡς ὁ δρομεὺς δρομικῶς καὶ ὁ φώνασκος φωνασκικῶς: [21] οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ προκόπτων ταῖς ἀληθείαις καὶ ὁ μὴ εἰκῇ ἀποδεδημηκὼς οὗτός ἐστιν. [22] εἰ δ᾽ ἐπὶ τὴν ἐν τοῖς βιβλίοις ἕξιν τέταται καὶ ταύτην ἐκπονεῖ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦτο ἐκδεδήμηκε, λέγω αὐτῷ αὐτόθεν πορεύεσθαι εἰς οἶκον καὶ μὴ ἀμελεῖν τῶν ἐκεῖ: [23] τοῦτο γὰρ ἐφ᾽ ὃ ἀποδεδήμηκεν οὐδέν ἐστιν: ἀλλ᾽ ἐκεῖνο, μελετᾶν ἐξελεῖν τοῦ αὑτοῦ βίου πένθη καὶ οἰμωγὰς καὶ τὸ ‘οἴμοι’ καὶ τὸ ‘τάλας ἐγὼ’ καὶ δυστυχίαν καὶ ἀτυχίαν καὶ μαθεῖν,

I like what he says in Book 1 Chapter 12:
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But you are impatient and peevish, and if you are alone, you call it a solitude, but if you are in the company of men, you call them schemers and brigands, and you find fault even with your own parents and children and brothers and neighbours. But you ought, when staying alone, to call that peace and freedom, and to look upon yourself as like the gods; and when you are in the company of many, you ought not call that a mob, nor a tumult, nor a disgusting thing, but a feast and a festival, and so accept all things contentedly.

What, then, is the punishment of those who do not accept? To be just as they are. Is one peevish because he is alone? Let him be in solitude! Is he peevish with his parents? Let him be an evil son and grieve! Is he peevish with his children? Let him be a bad father! "Throw him into prison." What sort of prison? Where he now is. For he is there against his will, and where a man is against his will, that for him is a prison. Just as Socrates was not in prison, for he was there willingly. "Alas, that I should be lame in my leg!" Slave, do you, then, because of one paltry leg blame the universe? Will you not make a free gift of it to the whole? Will you not relinquish it? Will you not gladly yield it to the giver? 25And will you be angry and peevish at the ordinances of Zeus, which he defined and ordained together with the Fates who spun in his presence the thread of your begetting? Do you not know how small a part you are compared with the whole? That is, as to the body; for as to the reason you are not inferior to the gods, nor less than they; for the greatness of the reason is not determined by length nor by height, but by the decisions of its will.

Chapter 13 has a good argument against mistreating slaves:
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Slave, will you not bear with your own brother, who has Zeus as his progenitor and is, as it were, a son born of the same seed as yourself and of the same sowing from above; but if you have been stationed in a like position above others, will you forthwith set yourself up as a tyrant? Do you not remember what you are, and over whom you rule—that they are kinsmen, that they are brothers by nature, that they are the offspring of Zeus?5—But I have a deed of sale for them, and they have none for me.—Do you see whither you bend your gaze, that it is to the earth, that it is to the pit, that it is to these wretched laws of ours, the laws of the dead, and that it is not to the laws of the gods that you look?

I really like this in Chapter 18:
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Who, then, is unconquerable? He whom the inevitable cannot overcome. For such a person I imagine every trial, and watch him as an athlete in each. He has been victorious in the first encounter. What will he do in the second? What, if he should be ex- [p. 1066] hausted by the heat? What, if the field be Olympia? And so in other trials. If you throw money in his way, he will despise it. Is he proof against the seductions of women? What if he be tested by fame. by calumny, by praise, by death? He is able to overcome them all. If he can bear sunshine and storm, discouragement and fatigue, I pronounce him an athlete unconquered indeed.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline rakovsky

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This is a funny story about Epaphroditus and his servant in Chapter 19 of the Discourses:
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What then? When men entertain absurd opinions about what lies outside the province of the moral purpose, counting it good or bad, it is altogether unavoidable for them to pay attention to the tyrant. Aye, would that it were merely the tyrants and not their chamberlains too! And yet how can the man suddenly become wise when Caesar puts him in charge of his chamberpot? How can we forthwith say "Felicio has spoken wisely to me"? I would that he were deposed from the superintendency of the dunghill, that you may think him a fool again! Epaphroditus owned a certain cobbler whom he sold because he was useless; then by some chance the fellow was bought by a member of Caesar's household and became cobbler to Caesar. You should have seen how Epaphroditus honoured him! 20"How is my good Felicio, I pray you?" he used to say. And then if someone asked us, "What is your master[3] doing?" he was told, "He is consulting Felicio about something or other." Why, had he not sold him as being useless? Who, then, had suddenly made a wise man out of him? This is what it means to honour something else than what lies within the province of the moral purpose.

I like his humor:
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To-day a man was talking to me about a priesthood of Augustus. I say to him, "Man, drop the matter; you will be spending a great deal to no purpose." "But," says he, "those who draw up deeds of sale will inscribe my name." "Do you really expect, then, to be present when the deeds are read and say, 'That is my name they have written'? And even supposing you are now able to be present whenever anyone reads them, what will you do if you die?" "My name will remain after me." "Inscribe it on a stone and it will remain after you. Come now, who will remember you outside of Nicopolis?"[4] "But I shall wear a crown of gold." "If you desire a crown at all, take a crown of roses and put it on; you will look much more elegant in that."
Chapter 19

In Chapter 20, he makes an interesting argument against Epicurus, who taught that everything was only matter:
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And yet the chief doctrine of the philosophers is extremely brief. If you would know, read what Zeno has to say and you will see. 15For what is there lengthy in his statement: "To follow the gods is man's end, and the essence of good is the proper use of external impressions"? Ask, "What, then, is God, and what is an external impression? And what is nature in the individual and nature in the universe?" You already have a lengthy statement. If Epicurus should come and say that the good ought to be in the flesh, again the explanation becomes lengthy, and you must be told what is the principal faculty within us, and what our substantial, and what our essential, nature is. Since it is not probable that the good of a snail lies in its shell, is it, then, probable that the good of man lies in his flesh? But take your own case, Epicurus; what more masterful faculty do you yourself possess? What is that thing within you which takes counsel, which examines into all things severally, which, after examining the flesh itself, decides that it is the principal matter? And why do you light a lamp and toil in our behalf, and write such quantities of books? Is it that we may not fail to know the truth? Who are we? And what are we to you? And so the argument becomes lengthy.

Do you agree with this statement?:

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if I can change externals according to my own wish, I change them; but if I cannot, I am ready to tear out the eyes of the man who stands in my way. For it is man's nature not to endure to be deprived of the good, not to endure to fall into the evil. Then, finally, when I can neither change the circumstances, nor tear out the eyes of the man who stands in my way, I sit down and groan, and revile whom I can—Zeus and the rest of the gods; for if they do not care for me, what are they to me? "Yes," you say, "but that will be impious of you." What, then, shall I get that is worse than what I have now? In short, we must remember this—that unless piety and self-interest be conjoined, piety cannot be maintained in any man. Do not these considerations seem urgent?
I guess you can say that piety can be conjoined with self interest in that the person's goal is to be conjoined with God (communion) and this is done in self-interest, even if the person suffers. The person loves God and is willing to suffer as His servant. But here is an interesting question. What parent, willing to suffer on their beloved child's behalf, thinks of this in terms of self-interest? It seems to me that maybe piety, respect and love for God, may not really be unsustainable, because the love could be stronger than the focus on self-interest.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline Jetavan

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If Epictetus speaks of God (Zeus) and His distinct offspring, the gods, is Epictetus not really a monotheist?
For Stoics, "God" (the "Logos") is the most subtle, fine type of matter, described as "fiery", that organizes and enlivens the cosmos.
If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
सर्वभूतहित
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.

Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #241 on: September 03, 2018, 01:53:19 PM »
I like what Epictetus says in Book 2, Chapter 1:
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For if a man should transfer his caution to the sphere of the moral purpose and the deeds of the moral purpose, then along with the desire to be cautious he will also at once have under his control the will to avoid; whereas, if he should transfer his caution to those matters which are not under our control and lie outside the province of the moral purpose, inasmuch as he is applying his will to avoid towards those things which are under the control of others, he will necessarily be subject to fear, instability, and perturbation. For it is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of hardship or death. That is why we praise the man who said

Not death is dreadful, but a shameful death.
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Epictetus,_the_Discourses_as_reported_by_Arrian,_the_Manual,_and_Fragments/Book_2/Chapter_1

Is there anything resembling this teaching in Christianity?:
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The paltry body must be separated from the bit of spirit, either now or later, just as it existed apart from it before. Why are you grieved, then, if it be separated now? For if it be not separated now, it will be later. Why? So that the revolution of the universe may be accomplished;[4] for it has need of the things that are now coming into being, and the things that shall be, and the things that have been accomplished.
In the Nativity story, a star descended from heaven and led the wise men and shepherds to the manger. Doesn't Christianity have a concept comparing people's souls when separated from their bodies to stars and angels? Could the story of the star infer the Christian idea of Jesus' soul preexisting His birth? Can the human soul, like God, live independent of time constraints and thus preexist its physical birth?

The following passage from Book 2, Chapter 6 reminds me of Jesus' words in John 12: "And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."
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Therefore Chrysippus[1] well says, "As long as the consequences are not clear to me, I cleave ever to what is better adapted to secure those things that are in accordance with nature; for God himself has created me with the faculty of choosing things. 10But if I really knew that it was ordained for me to be ill at this present moment, I would even seek illness: for the foot also, if it had a mind, would seek to be covered with mud."[2]

For example, why do heads of grain grow? Is it not that they may also become dry? But when they become dry, is it not that they may also be harvested? Since they do not grow for themselves alone. If, therefore, they had feeling, ought they to pray that they should never at all be harvested? But never to be harvested at all is a curse for heads of grain. In like manner I would have you know that in the case of men as well it is a curse never to die; it is like never growing ripe, never being harvested. But, since we are ourselves those who must both be harvested and also be aware of the very fact that we are being harvested, we are angry on that account. For we neither know who we are, nor have we studied what belongs to man, as horsemen study what belongs to horses. 15But Chrysantas, when he was on the point of striking the foe, refrained because he heard the bugle sounding the recall;[3] it seemed so much more profitable to him to do the bidding of his general than to follow his own inclination. Yet no one of us is willing, even when necessity calls, to obey her readily, but what we suffer we suffer with fears and groans, and call it "circumstances." What do you mean by "circumstances," man? If you call "circumstances" your surroundings, all things are "circumstances"; but if you use the word of hardships, what hardship is involved when that whicli has come into being is destroyed? The instrument of destruction is a sword, or a wheel,[4] or the sea, or a tile, or a tyrant. What concern is it to you by what road you descend to the House of Hades? They are all equal.[5] But if you care to hear the truth, the road by which the tyrant sends you is the shorter. No tyrant ever took six months to cut a man's throat, but a fever often takes more than a year. All these things are a mere noise and a vaunting of empty names.

Here is Loeb's translation of Book II, Chapter IX, where Epictetus calls himself and his group "counterfeit baptists", because they are ostensibly Jews but in fact fail to practice what they preach. This is like Paul's concept of Christians undergoing baptism instead of circumcision, such that they have the opportunity to consider themselves True Jews if they have correct spirituality in their hearts.
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Epictetus,_the_Discourses_as_reported_by_Arrian,_the_Manual,_and_Fragments/Book_2/Chapter_9#cite_ref-3

He seems to equate God and "the gods" in some way in Chapter 14:
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Now the philosophers say that the first thing we must learn is this: That there is a God, and that He provides for the universe, and that it is impossible for a man to conceal from Him, not merely his actions, but even his purposes and his thoughts. Next we must learn what the gods are like; for whatever their character is discovered to be, the man who is going to please and obey them must endeavour as best he can to resemble them. If the deity is faithful, he also must be faithful; if free, he also must be free; if beneficent, he also must be beneficent; if high-minded, he also must be high-minded, and so forth; therefore, in everything he says and does, he must act as an imitator of God.

I like what he says in Chapter 18:
Quote

How must we struggle against our external impressions?

Every habit and faculty is confirmed and strengthened by the corresponding actions, that of walking by walking, that of running by running. If you wish to be a good reader, read; if you wish to be a good writer, write. If you should give up reading for thirty days one after the other, and be engaged in something else, you will know what happens. So also if you lie in bed for ten days, get up and try to take a rather long walk, and you will see how wobbly your legs are. In general, therefore, if you want to do something, make a habit of it; if you want not to do something, refrain from doing it, and accustom yourself to something else instead. 5The same principle holds true in the affairs of the mind also; when you are angry, you may be sure, not merely that this evil has befallen you, but also that you have strengthened the habit, and have, as it were, added fuel to the flame. When you have yielded to someone in carnal intercourse, do not count merely this one defeat, but count also the fact that you have fed your incontinence, you have given it additional strength. For it is inevitable that some habits and faculties should, in consequence of the corresponding actions, spring up, though they did not exist before, and that others which were already there should be intensified and made strong.

Later in Chapter 18, he says that resisting sexual temptation with a woman is a greater triumph than solving the "Master problem", which involves the dilemma of the interaction and relationship between fate and free will:
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To-day when I saw a handsome lad or a handsome woman I did not say to myself, "Would that a man might sleep with her," and "Her husband is a happy man," for the man who uses the expression "happy" of the husband means "Happy is the adulterer" also; I do not even picture to myself the next scene—the woman herself in my presence, disrobing and lying down by my side. I pat myself on the head and say. Well done, Epictetus, you have solved a clever problem, one much more clever than the so-called "Master"[1]: But when the wench is not only willing, but nods to me and sends for me, yes, and when she even lays hold upon me and snuggles up to me, if I still hold aloof and conquer, this has become a solved problem greater than The Liar, and The Quiescent.[2] On this score a man has a right to be proud indeed, but not about his proposing "The Master" problem.
Let me give an example from my own life that illustrates both resisting temptations and addressing the Master Problem. I can tell inside myself that I have a soul and my own will and decision-making power that is guided by it. One time in a class speaking exercise as a student (the excercize was to play the role of a "teacher") I made an off-color joke twice about "paddling" that a girl liked and called me "awesome" for. I wasn't scared of getting in trouble, but I believed that it would be wrong for me as a teacher to treat students that way, and now I know inside myself that I would never do that to a student. So I dropped the joking in the class exercise, and then that evening went to the other student in my project and we agreed that teachers physically punishing students is wrong, we talked about child abuse, and I told him how much I admired him and we in turn called eachother a "good person" because of our convictions. For me, this experience was like a divine spiritual test, and I believe that God rewards me accordingly. To apply this story to the "Master problem", I made a decision using my own soul, my beliefs, my morality, and then as a result my fate and destiny changed accordingly. For example, I formed a spiritual bond with my friend that I wouldn't have formed otherwise.

Isn't it part of faith, if one is defeated in a good task to then reassure oneself that eventually (or "by and by") one will conquer? Yet here Epictetus writes as if that's a bad way to address challenges:
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As for the storm itself, what else is it but an external impression? 30To prove this, just take away the fear of death, and then bring on as much thunder and lightning as you please, and you will realize how great is the calm, how fair the weather, in your governing principle.[6] But if you be once defeated and say that by and by you will overcome, and then a second time do the same thing, know that at last you will be in so wretched a state and so weak that by and by you will not so much as notice that you are doing wrong, but you will even begin to offer arguments in justification of your conduct; and then you will confirm the truth of the saying of Hesiod:

Forever with misfortunes dire must he who loiters cope.
Chapter 18

Chapter 20 has a neat line of logic showing that there are universal truths:
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The propositions which are true and evident must of necessity be employed even by those who contradict them; and one might consider as perhaps the strongest proof of a proposition being evident the fact that even the man who contradicts it finds himself obliged at the same time to employ it. For example, if a man should contradict the proposition that there is a universal statement which is true, it is clear that he must assert the contrary, and say: No universal statement is true. Slave, this is not true, either. For what else does this assertion amount to than: If a statement is universal, it is false? Again, if a man comes forward and says, "I would have you know that nothing is knowable, but that everything is uncertain"; or if someone else says, "Believe me, and it will be to your advantage, when I say: One ought not to believe a man at all"; or again, someone else, "Learn from me, man, that it is impossible to learn anything; 5it is I who tell you this and I will prove it to you, if you wish," what difference is there between these persons and—whom shall I say?—those who call themselves Academics? "O men," say the Academics, "give your assent to the statement that no man assents to any statement; believe us when we say that no man can believe anybody."
« Last Edit: September 03, 2018, 01:58:32 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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Epictetus writes in Book 3:
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It is chiefiy with this principle in mind that a man must exercise himself. Go out of the house at early dawn, and no matter whom you see or whom you hear, examine him and then answer as you would to a question. What did you see? A handsome man or a handsome woman? Apply your rule. Is it outside the province of the moral purpose, or inside? Outside. Away with it. 15What did you see? A man in grief over the death of his child? Apply your rule. Death lies outside the province of the moral purpose. Out of the way with it. Did a Consul meet you? Apply your rule. What sort of thing is a consulship? Outside the province of the moral purpose, or inside? Outside. Away with it, too, it does not meet the test; throw it away, it does not concern you. If we had kept doing this and had exercised ourselves from dawn till dark with this principle in mind,—by the gods, something would have been achieved! But as it is, we are caught gaping straightway at every external impression that comes along, and we wake up a little only during the lecture, if indeed we do so even then. After that is over we go out, and if we see a man in grief, we say, "It is all over with him"; if we see a Consul, we say, "Happy man"; if we see an exile, "Poor fellow"; or a poverty-stricken person, "Wretched man, he has nothing with which to get a bite to eat." These, then, are the vicious judgements which we ought to eradicate; this is the subject upon which we ought to concentrate our efforts. Why, what is weeping and sighing? A judgement. What is misfortune? A judgement. What are strife, disagreement, faultfinding, accusing, impiety, foolishness? They are all judgements, and that, too, judgements about things that lie outside the province of moral purpose, assumed to be good or evil. Let a man but transfer his judgements to matters that lie within the province of the moral purpose, and I guarantee that he will be steadfast, whatever be the state of things about him.
(Book III, Chapter III)
Why are " strife, disagreement, faultfinding, accusing, impiety, foolishness" judgments about things that lie outside the moral purpose? I guess that he means that being impious is irreverence to God, and showing such irreverence is outside of our moral purpose.
What about sympathy though for a person is in grief over loss though? And what about sympathy for an exile? It seems that such sympathy would be within the moral purpose, although he seems to elsewhere have a stoic attitude elsewhere to misfortune, as if a person accepts that God has given this and doesn't let it bother him.

In Chapter 8, Epictetus considers being grieved at calamities to be an evil. What do you think about his opinion, especially compared to Christian views on grief?:
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So-and-so's son is dead. Answer, "That lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, it is not an evil." His father has disinherited So-and-so; what do you think of it? "That lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, it is not an evil." Caesar has condemned him. "That lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, it is not an evil." He was grieved at all this. "That lies within the sphere of the moral purpose, it is an evil." He has borne up under it manfully. "That lies within the sphere of the moral purpose, it is a good."

In Chapter 9, he makes a good point about spiritual wealth and desire:
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Your strong desire is insatiate, mine is already satisfied. The same thing happens to the children who put their hand down into a narrow-necked jar and try to take out figs and nuts: if they get their hand full, they can't get it out, and then they cry. Drop a few and you will get it out. And so do you too drop your desire; do not set your heart upon many things and you will obtain.

What do you think of Epictetus' words in Chapter XX:
"Death? Let it come when it will, whether it be the death of the whole or some part. Exile? And to what place can anyone thrust me out? Outside the universe he cannot. But wherever I go, there are sun, moon, stars, dreams, omens, my converse with gods."
Is he saying that even after death the person is still alive with the planets and gods?

In Chapter 22 on the ascetic Cynics,
Epictetus implies that guards and weapons no longer afford the "kings and tyrants of this world" the ability to censure and punish people. Is this a sign that Epictetus feels that some apocalyptic or cosmic event, like Christ's sacrifice and the nations' conversion to Christianity, has happened that effectively removes the power of tyrants of "this world" to punish people? He writes:
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But above all, the Cynic's governing principle should be purer than the sun; if not, he must needs be a gambler and a man of no principle, because he will be censuring the rest of mankind, while he himself is involved in some vice. For see what this means. To the kings and tyrants of this world their bodyguards and their arms used to afford[31] the privilege of censuring certain persons, and the power also to punish those who do wrong, no matter how guilty they themselves were; whereas to the Cynic it is his conscience which affords him this power, and not his arms and his bodyguards. When he sees that he has watched over men, and toiled in their behalf; and that he has slept in purity, while his sleep leaves him even purer than he was before; and that every thought which he thinks is that of a friend and servant to the gods, of one who shares in the government of Zeus; and has always ready at hand the verse

Lead thou me on, O Zeus, and Destiny,[32]

and "If so it pleases the gods, so be it,"[33] why should he not have courage to speak freely to his own brothers, to his children, in a word, to his kinsmen?

FOOTNOTE IN LOEB'S EDITION
The rather curious imperfect tense here (at which several scholars have taken offence) may be due to an attempt to avoid the suggestion that the Roman emperors might also be evil men themselves.
I don't agree with the explanation that he meant that Roman emperors could not be evil, because 1. There were still many other kings of "the world" and 2. just because a king has the power to punish with his guards would not suggest whether or not the king could be evil.
It looks to me like he is saying that an event has happened such that the kings of this "world" have lost their power to punish. Further, Epictetus' stoic philosophy implies that a righteous faithful person should not be deterred or shamed from his moral purpose by kings' guards and punishment powers. So now, with the slogan ready at hand "Lead thou me on, O Zeus, and Destiny", the Cynic has the courage to speak freely to his kinsmen so that the kings of this world lack the ability to effectively censure him.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2018, 05:47:28 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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In Chapter 23 of Book III, Epictetus writes:
"There is nothing more effective in the style for exhortation than when the speaker makes clear to his audience that he has need of them."
Oldfather's footnote comments: "As God needs the universe in which to exercise and display His power, so the teacher needs pupils, the speaker an audience. There is a mutual need, therefore, each of the other."

What do you think about what he says in Chapter 24 about good people not being miserable because they know that everything in Creation is temporary?:
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But it is impossible that happiness, and yearning for what is not present, should ever be united. For happiness must already possess everything that it wants; it must resemble a replete person: he cannot feel thirst or hunger.—Still, Odysseus felt a longing for his wife, and sat upon a rock and wept.[5]—And do you take Homer and his tales as authority for everything? If Odysseus really wept, what else could he have been but miserable? But what good and excellent man is miserable? In all truth the universe is badly managed, if Zeus does not take care of His own citizens, that they be like Him, that is, happy. Nay, it is unlawful and unholy to think of such an alternative, 20but if Odysseus wept and wailed, he was not a good man. Why, what man could be good who does not know who he is? And who knows that, if he has forgotten that the things which come into being are corruptible, and that it is impossible for one human being always to live with another? What then? To reach out for the impossible is slavish and foolish; it is acting like a stranger in the universe, one who is fighting against God with the only weapons at his command, his own judgements.

In chapter 24, Epictetus proposes that death is not a destruction, but a change into something different:
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Say that also for leaves to fall is ill-omened, and for the fresh fig to turn into a dried fig, and a cluster of grapes to turn into raisins. For all these things are changes of a preliminary state into something else; it is not a case of destruction, but a certain ordered dispensation and management. This is what going abroad means, a slight change; this is the meaning of death, a greater change of that which now is, not into what is not, but into what is not now.—Shall I, then, be no more?—No, you will not be, but something else will be, something different from that of which the universe now has need.[15] And this is but reasonable, for you came into being, not when you wanted, but when the universe had need of you.
Isn't the phrase "No, you will not be, but something else will be" signifying that the person will no longer exist. And yet since he no longer exists, isn't he destroyed?

In Chapter 26, Epictetus writes:
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—And what is also the end of the illness?—Anything but death? Will you, then, realize that this epitome of all the ills that befall man, of his ignoble spirit, and his cowardice, is not death, but it is rather the fear of death? Against this fear, then, I would have you discipline yourself, toward this let all your reasoning tend, your exercises, your reading; and then you will know that this is the only way in which men achieve freedom.
What is the best way to overcome the fear of death? Epictetus seems to hint in Chapter 26 that it is to take an attitude that death is just the recall by God of a general who serves God in the world. Isn't death then, this recall, something to be feared, because good deeds and God's purposes and desires for a person have been left unfulfilled? For example, one monk or saint complained when nearing death that he had not really repented of his sins. christ commanded the apostles to preach to all nations, yet this work was unfulfilled in their lives by them. How should they have felt? Perhaps the answer could be that God is ultimately in charge of everything, and so one ultimately doesn't have to be afraid of failure or death?
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #244 on: November 02, 2018, 05:28:35 PM »
In Book 4, chapter 1 on freedom, Epictetus describes how friendship with Caesar can make one less free than a slave. It reminds me of the fear some people had when dining with Stalin in case they rubbed him the wrong way.
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What, then, is this evil that is harmful and is to be avoided? One person says it is not to be Caesar's friend;[11] he is off the course, he has missed the proper application, he is in a bad way, he is looking for what is not pertinent to the case in hand; because, when he has succeeded in being Caesar's friend, he has none the less failed to get what he was seeking. For what is it that every man is seeking? To live securely, to be happy, to do everything as he wishes to do, not to be hindered, not to be subject to compulsion. When, therefore, he becomes a friend of Caesar, has he been relieved of hiindrance, reheved of compulsion, does he live securely, does he live serenely? From whom shall we inquire? What better witness have we than this very man who has become Caesar's friend? Come into the midst and tell us. When did you sleep more peacefully, now or before you became Caesar's friend? Immediately the answer comes: "Stop, I implore you by the gods, and do not jest at my lot; you don't know what I suffer, miserable man that I am; no sleep visits me, but first one person comes in and then another and reports that Caesar is already awake, and is already coming out; then troubles, then worries!" Come, when did you dine more pleasantly, now or formerly? Listen to him and to what he has to say on this topic. If he is not invited, he is hurt, and if he is invited, he dines like a slave at a master's table, all the time careful not to say or do something foolish. And what do you suppose he is afraid of? That he be scourged like a slave? How can he expect to get off as well as that? But as befits so great a man, a friend of Caesar, he is afraid he will lose his head. When did you take your bath in greater peace? And when did you take your exercise at greater leisure? In a word, which life would you rather live, your present life or the old one? 50I can take oath that no one is so insensate or so incurable as not to lament his misfortunes the more he is a friend of Caesar.[12]

He finds this way to achieve freedom:
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But I have never been hindered in the exercise of my will, nor have I ever been subjected to compulsion against my will.[21]And how is this possible? I have submitted my freedom of choice unto God. He wills that I shall have fever; it is my will too. He wills that I should choose something; it is my will too. He wills that I should desire something; it is my will too. He wills that I should get something; it is my wish too. He does not will it; I do not wish it. 90Therefore, it is my will to die; therefore, it is my will to be tortured on the rack. Who can hinder me any longer against my own views, or put compulsion upon me? That is no more possible in my case than it would be with Zeus.

He makes an inspiring line of reasoning on spiritual safety, starting with the weaknesses of seeking protection from Caesar and then going into something resembling union with God:
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if some circumstance lead him to become my enemy, where indeed had I better retire? To a wilderness? What, does not fever go there? What, then, is to become of me? Is it impossible to find a fellow-traveller who is safe, faithful, strong, free from the suspicion of treachery?" Thus he reflects and comes to the thought that, if he attach himself to God, he will pass through the world in safety.

How do you mean "attach himself"?—Why, so that whatever God wills, he also wills, and whatever God does not will, this he also does not will.
Book IV, Chp. 1

I like how he goes from loyalty to one's emancipation ex-master to how some people cannot be made slaves because of their inward freedom and on to man's nature as a good person here:
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And every day while you are training yourself, as you do in the gymnasium, do not say that you are "pursuing philosophy" (indeed an arrogant phrase!), but that you are a slave presenting your emancipator in court;[26] for this is the true freedom. This is the way in which Diogenes was set free by Antisthenes,[27] and afterwards said that he could never be enslaved again by any man. 115How, in consequence, did he behave when he was captured![28] How he treated the pirates! He called none of them master, did he? And I am not referring to the name! it is not the word that I fear, but the emotion, which produces the word. How he censures them because they gave bad food to their captives! How he behaved when he was sold! Did he look for a master? No, but for a slave. And how he behaved toward his master after he had been sold! He began immediately to argue with him, telling him that he ought not to dress that way, or have his hair cut that way, and about his sons, how they ought to live. And what is there strange about that? Why, if he had bought a gymnastic trainer, would he have employed him as a servant, or as a master, in the exercises of the palaestra? And if he had bought a physician, or a master-builder, the same would have been true. And thus in every subject-matter, it is quite unavoidable that the man of skill should be superior to the man without skill. In general, therefore, whoever possesses the science of how to live, how can he help but be the master? For who is master in a ship?—The helmsman.—Why? Because the man who disobeys him is punished.—But my master is able to give me a sound flogging.—He cannot do so with impunity, can he?—So I thought.—But because he cannot do so with impunity, therefore he has no authority to do it; no man can do wrong with impunity.—120And what is the punishment that befalls the man who has put his own slave in chains, when he felt like it?—The putting of him in chains; this is something which you will admit yourself, if you wish to maintain the proposition that man is not a wild beast but a tame animal.[29] For when is a vine faring badly? When it is acting contrary to its own nature. When is a cock faring badly? Under the same conditions. So also man. What, then, is his nature? To bite, and kick, and throw into prison, and behead? No, but to do good, to work together, and to pray for the success of others. Therefore, he is faring badly, whether you will or no, when he acts unfeelingly.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2018, 05:29:14 PM by rakovsky »
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #245 on: November 02, 2018, 05:37:06 PM »
"The closer you are to Caesar, the greater the fear." -- Lt. Col. Tall, The Thin Red Line
If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
सर्वभूतहित
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.

Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #246 on: November 13, 2018, 09:34:48 PM »
Epictetus must have been orating in 98 AD or later, since he says in Book IV, Chp. 5:
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the qualities which make him a human being, the imprints which he brought with him in his mind, such as we look for also upon coins, and, if we find them, we accept the coins, but if we do not find them, we throw the coins away. "Whose imprint does this sestertius bear? Trajan's? Give it to me. Nero's? Throw it out, it will not pass, it is rotten."
Trajan began his rule in 98 AD.

In Chapter 7, he speaks of the Galileans' disregard for the things that a Stoic feels for "his property just as this other person [a mad or desperate man before a tyrant] feels about his body, and so about his children, and his wife," and says that they have the same disregard, but due to habit, not to madness or to the Stoic's reasoning.
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If, then, a man feel also about his property just as this other person feels about his body, and so about his children, and his wife, and if, in brief, he be in such a frame of mind, due to some madness or despair, that he cares not one whit about having, or not having, these things; but, as children playing with potsherds strive with one another about the game, but take no thought about the potsherds themselves, so this man also has reckoned the material things of life as nothing, but is glad to play with them and handle them—what kind of tyrant, or guards, or swords in the hands of guards can any more inspire fear in the breast of such a man?

Therefore, if madness can produce this attitude of mind toward the things which have just been mentioned, and also habit, as with the Galilaeans,[1] cannot reason and demonstration teach a man that God has made all things in the universe, and the whole universe itself, to be free from hindrance, and to contain its end in itself, and the parts of it to serve the needs of the whole?

LOEB edition FOOTNOTE on the "Galileans"
Obviously referring to the Christians, as the Scholiast saw. Cf. also II. 9, 19-21 and note, and Introd. p. xxvi f.
It is interesting to me that this reference to the Christians shows up in one of Epictetus' last chapters of his long work. It's as if his many contemplations lead up to Christianity or the same mindset that he sees Christianity producing by "habit".
If the Christians produce a mindset that matches' the Stoics' disregard for material possessions, then it looks like the Galileans' habits that he refers to is their asceticism (eg. when Jesus says to not worry about losing material things like clothers, since God clothes the birds) or maybe their willingness to risk severe persecution, since he gives as an analogy a madman who faces a tyrant and his punishing guards and is okay with the risk of death.

Chapter 11 deals with cleanliness. Epictetus disdains the practice of Stoics avoiding personal hygiene due to their asceticism. Addressing an audience of those who avoid bathing due to their stoic philosophy, he says:
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It was impossible that some impurity from eating should not remain on the teeth; for that reason nature says, "Wash your teeth." Why? In order that you may be a human being, and not a beast or a pig. It was impossible that something dirty and needing to be cleaned off should not be left on the person from our sweat and the pressure of our clothes; for that reason we have water, oil, hands, a towel, a strigil,[3] nitre, and, on occasion, every other kind of equipment to cleanse the body. Not so you.[4] But the smith will remove the rust from his iron tool, and will have implements made for this purpose, and you yourself will wash your plate when you are going to eat, unless you are utterly unclean and dirty; but will you not wash nor make clean your poor body?—Why? says someone.—Again I will tell you: First, so as to do what befits a man; and second, so as not to offend those whom you meet.

LOEB's FOOTNOTE 4
The excesses, probably Oriental in origin, to which Christian aseetism soon went in regard to despising cleanliness, seem to have begun to manifest themselves already in the early second century among enthusiastic young Stoics and would-be Cynics. It is interesting to see how Epictetus, simple and austere as he was, vigorously maintained the validity of older Greek and Roman feeling in this regard.
Epictetus continues:
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Will you not take a bath somewhere, some time, in any form you please? Will you not wash yourself? If you don't care to bathe in hot water, then use cold. Will you not come to us clean, that your companions may be glad? What, and do you in such a state go with us even into the temples, where it is forbidden by custom to spit or blow the nose, yourself being nothing but a mass of spit and drivel?

This reminded me of Hegessippus' description of St. James' asceticism:
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He drank no wine or other intoxicating liquor, nor did he eat flesh; no razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, nor make use of the bath. He alone was permitted to enter the holy place: for he did not wear any woollen garment, but fine linen only. He alone, I say, was wont to go into the temple: and he used to be found kneeling on his knees, begging forgiveness for the people-so that the skin of his knees became horny like that of a camel's, by reason of his constantly bending the knee in adoration to God, and begging forgiveness for the people.
What do you think of Epictetus' discussion on asceticism? Do you think that the early Christians were deliberately unbathed and unwashed, and if so, do you agree with their avoidance of bathing?

In his warning about gossiping about one's own private affairs, Epictetus says:
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there is also the thought that we can safely trust the man who has already entrusted knowledge of his own affairs; for the idea occurs to us that this man would never spread abroad knowledge of our affairs, because he would be careful to guard against our too spreading abroad knowledge of his affairs. 5In this fashion the rash are ensnared by the soldiers in Rome. A soldier, dressed like a civilian, sits down by your side, and begins to speak ill of Caesar, and then you too, just as though you had received from him some guarantee of good faith in the fact that he began the abuse, tell likewise everything you think, and the next thing is—you are led off to prison in chains.
This is an interesting tactic, because it's even used by some governments in the world today. I heard a story about it happening in Syria some years ago- a man on a bus started badmouthing the government loudly, and the person next to him started up in response, and then the latter person got off the bus and was arrested.

As his rhetorical question shows, people can console one another by sharing their troubles with each other:
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For who does not wish to use a good vessel, who despises a friendly and faithful counsellor, who would not gladly accept the man who is ready to share his difficulties, as he would share a burden with him, and to make them light for him by the very fact of his sharing in them?
« Last Edit: November 13, 2018, 09:35:32 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #247 on: November 19, 2018, 04:00:56 PM »
In Loeb's Fragment 1, Epictetus suggests that there is no practical value to knowing whether the universe is made of atoms or of other elements. He says that the maxim "know thyself" means in practice that one should live for the benefit of others, and he asserts that man is made for this purpose. His interlocutor asserts that Nature made him this way and Epictetus then asserts that one need not worry whether Nature exists or what it is made up of:
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From Arrian the pupil of Epictetus. To the man who was bothering himself about the problem of being

What do I care, says Epictetus, whether all existing things are composed of atoms, or of indivisibles, or of fire and earth? Is it not enough to learn the true nature of the good and the evil, and the limits of the desires and aversions, and also of the choices and refusals, and, by employing these as rules, to order the affairs of our life, and dismiss the things that are beyond us? It may very well be that these latter are not to be comprehended by the human mind, and even if one assume that they are perfectly comprehensible, well, what profit comes from comprehending them? And ought we not to say that those men trouble themselves in vain who assign all this as necessary to the philosopher's system of thought? Is, therefore, also the precept at Delphi superfluous, "Know thyself"?—That, indeed, no, the man answers.—What, then, does it mean? If one bade a singer in a chorus to "know himself," would he not heed the order by paying attention both to his fellows in the chorus and to singing in harmony with them?—Yes.—And so in the case of a sailor? or a soldier? Does it seem to you, then, that man has been made a creature to live all alone by himself, or for society?—For society.—By whom?—By Nature.—What Nature is, and how she administers the universe, and whether she really exists or not, these are questions about which there is no need to go on to bother ourselves.
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Epictetus,_the_Discourses_as_reported_by_Arrian,_the_Manual,_and_Fragments/Fragments#cite_ref-32

Do you agree with his final assertion?
Fragment 10 has a nice saying:
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Epictetus, moreover, as we have heard from Favorinus, was in the habit of saying that there were two vices which are far more severe and atrocious than all others, want of endurance and want of self-control, when we do not endure or bear the wrongs which we have to bear, or do not abstain from, or forbear, those matters and pleasures which we ought to forbear. "And so," he says, "if a man should take to heart these two words and observe them in controlling and keeping watch over himself, he will, for the most part, be free from wrongdoing, and will live a highly peaceful life." These two words, he used to say, were Ἀνέχου and Ἀπέχου. *

Footnote *
Bear and Forbear

Loeb's Fragment #36 is nice:
"The truth is something immortal and eternal, and does not present us with a beauty that withers from the passage of time, nor a freedom of speech which can be taken away by justice, but it presents us with what is just and lawful, distinguishing the unlawful therefrom, and refuting it."

Elizabeth Carter has her own collection of 169 Fragments. Fragment 18 makes an interesting observation:
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Riches are not among the number of things which are good; prodigality is of the number of those which are evil; modesty of those which are good. Now modesty invites to frugality and the acquisition of things that are good; but riches invite to prodigality and seduce from modesty. It is difficult, therefore, for a rich person to be modest, or a modest person rich.

Fragment 25 proposes an interesting way to deal with hunger:
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Let the first satisfaction of appetite be always the measure to you of eating and drinking; and appetite itself the sauce and the pleasure. Thus you will never take more than is necessary, nor will you want cooks; and you will be contented with whatever drink falls in your way.

Fragment 38 makes an argument against slavery:
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What you avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others. You avoid slavery, for instance; take care not to enslave. For if you can bear to exact slavery from others, you appear to have been yourself a slave. For vice has nothing in common with virtue, nor freedom with slavery. As a person in health would not wish to be attended by the sick, nor to have those who live with him in a state of sickness; so neither would a person who is free bear to be served by slaves, nor to have those who live with him in a state of slavery.

Carter's Fragment 57 says:
"You will commit the fewest faults in judging, if you are faultless in your own life."
But I think this is debateable. First, it's debated how many of these sayings really belong to Epictetus, and this one isn't in Loeb's or the Harvard Classics' collection. Second, it's questionable whether being faultless in one's private life minimizes mistaken judgments. First, a person can still be misled by evidence as to innocence or guilt if they aren't trained well as an investigator, and second, a person with minimal private faults could be more severe in judging the sins of others than is deserved because he hasn't committed such sins himself.

Fragment 66 is a balm against desires for revenge:
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When you are going to attack any one with vehemence and threatening, remember to say first to yourself, that you are constituted gentle, and that by doing nothing violent, you will live without the need of repentance, and irreproachable.

Fragment 79 says something valuable:
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As a skilful manager of horses does not feed the good colts, and suffer the unruly ones to starve; but feeds them both alike, chastising the one more, to make him draw equally with his fellow; so a man of foresight and administrative skill endeavors to do good to the well-disposed citizens, but not at once to destroy those that are otherwise. He by no means denies subsistence to either of them; only he disciplines and urges on, with the greater vehemence, him who resists reason and the laws.

Fragment 104 is a nice story:
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A person once brought clothes to a pirate, who had been cast ashore, and almost killed by the severity of the weather; then carried him to his house, and furnished him with all necessaries. Being reproached by some one for doing good to the evil; “I have paid this regard,” answered he, “not to the man, but to humanity.”

Fragments 105-107 and 110 are good too:
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We ought not to choose every pleasure; but that whose end is good.
It belongs to a wise man to resist pleasure; and to a fool to be enslaved by it.
In all vice, pleasure, being presented like a bait, draws sensual minds to the hook of perdition.

110. The vine bears three clusters; the first of pleasure, the second of intoxication, the third of outrage.

Fragment 122 notes wisely:
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In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; in adversity, nothing is so difficult.

What do you think about Fragment 126:
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Let no wise man estrange himself from the government of the state; for it is both wicked to withdraw from being useful to the needy, and cowardly to give way to the worthless. For it is foolish to choose rather to be governed ill than to govern well.
Some good, wise people have hard spiritual experiences in national, state, or local politics and get disenchanted, burn out, and drop off, with some of them turning to piety and the religious life for emotional and psychological comfort. My Mom's grandfather had a career in sports but felt it was so political that he got disenchanted and turned to becoming a minister.

I take it that Epictetus is criticizing how people's own understanding sometimes rebels against the ideas of Nature in Carter's Fragment 131:
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All things serve and obey the [laws of the] universe; the earth, the sea, the sun, the stars, and the plants and animals of the earth. Our body likewise obeys the same, in being sick and well, young and old, and passing through the other changes decreed. It is therefore reasonable that what depends on ourselves, that is, our own understanding, should not be the only rebel. For the universe is powerful and superior, and consults the best for us by governing us in conjunction with the whole. And further; opposition, besides that it is unreasonable, and produces nothing except a vain struggle, throws us into pain and sorrows.
Here it is in Loeb's Classical Library's Fragment number 3:
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All things obey and serve the Cosmos,[4] both earth, and sea, and sun, and the other stars, and the plants and animals of earth; obedient to it also is our body, both in sickness and in health, when the Cosmos wishes, both in youth and in old age, and when passing through all the other changes. Therefore it is reasonable also that the one thing which is under our control, that is, the decision of our will, should not be the only thing to stand out against it. For the Cosmos is mighty and superior to us, and has taken better counsel for us than we can, by uniting us together with the universe under its governance. Besides, to act against it is to side with unreason, and while accomplishing nothing but a vain struggle, it involves us in pains and sorrows.
How do you interpret, and what do you think of his criticism above? Do you agree with it?

What do you think about Carter's Fragment 22 (under the heading "The following Fragments are ascribed jointly to Epictetus and other authors"):
"If you would lead a life without sorrow, regard things which will happen, as if they had already happened."

Sources:
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Elizabeth Carter's Collection of 169 fragments:
https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/epictetus-the-works-of-epictetus-consisting-of-his-discourses-in-four-books#lf0755_head_108

36 Fragments in: Loeb's collection of 36 fragments (translated by Oldfather)
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Epictetus,_the_Discourses_as_reported_by_Arrian,_the_Manual,_and_Fragments/Fragments

24 Fragments in: Harvard Classics, 1909, https://www.bartleby.com/2/2/190.html
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #248 on: November 24, 2018, 03:12:48 PM »
The Wikipedia article on the Discources makes an interesting observation on Epictetus' three fields of study and how they relate to the three known Stoic focuses in Philosophy:
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Epictetus divides philosophy into three fields of training, with especial application to ethics.[16] The three fields, according to Epictetus, are, (1) desire (ὄρεξις); (2) choice (ὁρμή); (3) assent (συγκατάθεσις):[17]

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    There are three fields of study in which people who are going to be good and excellent must first have been trained. The first has to do with desires and aversions, that they may never fail to get what they desire, nor fall into what they avoid; the second with cases of choice and of refusal, and, in general, with duty, that they may act in an orderly fashion, upon good reasons, and not carelessly; the third with the avoidance of error and rashness in judgement, and, in general, about cases of assent.
    — Discourses, iii. 2. 1

...
Scholars disagree on whether these three fields relate to the traditional Stoic division of philosophy into Logic, Physics, and Ethics.[19] The third field unambiguously refers to logic since it concerns valid reasoning and certainty in judgment. The second field relates to ethics, and the first field, on desires and aversions, appears to be preliminary to ethics.[19] However Pierre Hadot has argued that this first field relates to physics since for the Stoics the study of human nature was part of the wider subject of the nature of things.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourses_of_Epictetus
I think that Pierre Hadot is correct. The Greek "Physia" in Latin is "Natura", and Nature is a major underpinning concept in the Discourses, just as Desire and Aversion is a leading concept focused on throughout and by the work.
That is, the study of (A) Desires and Aversions relates to Physics, (B) Choice and Refusal relates to Ethics, and (C) cases of assent, as well as error & rashness in judgment, relates to Logic.

Section 4 in Epictetus' Manual says:
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4. When you are on the point of putting your hand to some undertaking, remind yourself what the nature of that undertaking is. If you are going out of the house to bathe, put before your mind what happens at a public bath—those who splash you with water, those who jostle against you, those who vilify you and rob you. And thus you will set about your undertaking more securely if at the outset you say to yourself, "I want to take a bath, and, at the same time, to keep my moral purpose in harmony with nature." And so do in every undertaking. For thus, if anything happens to hinder you in your bathing, you will be ready to say, "Oh, well, this was not the only thing that I wanted, but I wanted also to keep my moral purpose in harmony with nature; and I shall not so keep it if I am vexed at what is going on."
It's true that the person can expect the risk of getting robbed at a bath, and that this is the nature of things that happened at the ancient baths, but why is vexation (irritation, worry, annoyance) prevented by the expectation of the risk? Couldn't one remember that one is running the risk and still be vexed if the harmful outcome occurs? I do understand that one's annoyance would be less if one has the expectation.

What do you think about the conclusion that he reaches in Section 5:
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5. It is not the things themselves that disturb men, but their judgements about these things. For example, death is nothing dreadful, or else Socrates too would have thought so, but the judgement that death is dreadful, this is the dreadful thing. When, therefore, we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never blame anyone but ourselves, that means, our own judgements. It is the part of an uneducated person to blame others where he himself fares ill; to blame himself is the part of one whose education has begun; to blame neither another nor his own self is the part of one whose education is already complete.

I like Section 10:
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In the case of everything that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and see what faculty you have to deal with it. If you see a handsome lad or woman, you will find continence the faculty to employ here; if hard labour is laid upon you, you will find endurance; if reviling, you will find patience to bear evil. And if you habituate yourself in this fashion, your external impressions will not run away with you.

What do you think of his proposed attitude to suffering the loss of a cup or of a close relative?:
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26. What the will of nature is may be learned from a consideration of the points in which we do not differ from one another. For example, when some other person's slave-boy breaks his drinking-cup, you are instantly ready to say, "That's one of the things which happen." Rest assured, then, that when your own drinking-cup gets broken, you ought to behave in the same way that you do when the other man's cup is broken. Apply now the same principle to the matters of greater importance. Some other person's child or wife has died; no one but would say, "Such is the fate of man." Yet when a man's own child dies, immediately the cry is, "Alas! Woe is me!" But we ought to remember how we feel when we hear of the same misfortune befalling others.

I think that section 27 needs more explanation:
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27. Just as a mark is not set up in order to be missed, so neither does the nature of evil arise in the universe.

OLDFATHER's FOOTNOTE:
That is, it is inconceivable that the universe should exist in order that some things may go wrong; hence, nothing natural is evil, and nothing that is by nature evil can arise.—Thus in effect Simplicius, and correctly, it seems.
Elizabeth Carter comments: "Happiness, the effect of virtue, is the mark which God hath set up for us to aim at. Our missing it is no work of His; nor so properly anything real, as a mere negative and failure of our own."

Section 40 says something about female psychology and how to treat women.
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Immediately after they are fourteen, women are called "ladies" by men. And so when they see that they have nothing else but only to be the bed-fellows of men, they begin to beautify themselves, and put all their hopes in that. It is worth while for us to take pains, therefore, to make them understand that they are honoured for nothing else but only for appearing modest and self-respecting.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2018, 03:13:48 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #249 on: November 26, 2018, 02:40:32 AM »
14 Books or Volumes of the Sibylline Oracles, translated by Milton Terry (1899), along with 7 fragments found in Lactantius and Theophilus of Antioch and not in the 14 books, can be found here:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/sib/
The above link contains an account by Lactantius, an account by Justin Martyr, an "Anonymous Preface to the Sibylline Oracles", and a Sibylline Acrostic. This work is relevant because some books/volumes in it are Christian in substance and were cited as support for Christianity by early Church fathers.
They
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are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive, in an edition of the 6th or 7th century AD. They are not to be confused with the original Sibylline Books of the ancient Etruscans and Romans which were burned by order of Roman general Flavius Stilicho in the 4th century AD. Instead, the text is an "odd pastiche" of Hellenistic and Roman mythology interspersed with Jewish, Gnostic and early Christian legend. ... One passage has an acrostic, spelling out a Christian code-phrase with the first letters of successive lines.

Books 1-2 may have been written by Christians, though again there may have been a Jewish original that was adapted to Christian purposes. ... The Christian apologist Athenagoras of Athens, writing A Plea for the Christians to Marcus Aurelius in ca. AD 176, quoted the same section of the extant Oracles verbatim, in the midst of a lengthy series of classical and pagan references including Homer and Hesiod, and stated several times that all these works should already be familiar to the Roman Emperor. The sibyls themselves, and the so-called Sibylline oracles, were often referred to by other early Church fathers; Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (ca. 180), Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200), Lactantius (ca. 305), and Augustine (ca. 400), all knew various versions of the pseudo-Sibylline collections, quoted them or referred to them in paraphrase... [The books] do not appear in the canonical lists of any Church.

..."book 9" consists of material from books 1–8 and "book 10" is identical to "book 4", so that the edition by Collins (1983) contains only books 1–8 and 11–14.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibylline_Oracles

Since it considers the final arrangement of the books to be made by a 6th century Alexandrian editor, one would suppose that the work is from the 6th century AD or earlier. The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests that Books I,II, VI,VII,VIII, XI, XII, XIII, and XIV are Christian or Christianized, and that VI,VIII,XI,XIV likely date to the 2nd to 4th centuries. For example, it says: "Book VIII offers peculiar difficulties; the first 216 verses are most likely the work of a second century AD Jew, while the latter part (verses 217-500) beginning with an acrostic on the symbolical Christian word Icthus is undoubtedly Christian, and dates most probably from the third century AD." (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13770a.htm) But why should the second half of Book VIII be written a century later, other than the suggestion that the first part is from the 2nd century and Jewish, and that the second part is Christian and therefore must be written later?

Josephus in the late 1st century (c. 93 AD) quotes from Book III in narrating the story of the Tower of Babel. Book IV talks about Mount Vesuvius' eruption, which happened in 79 AD, so it could be a late 1st century writing.

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In Book VIII there is a famous acrostic (lines 217ff.): Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour Cross. According to Eusebius (Constant. or. c. 18, Euseb. I, p. 179, GCS 1902) the emperor Constantine quoted this, and Augustine also cites it in a Latin translation (Civ. Dei XVIII c. 23)."
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/sibylline.html

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Book 4, a Jewish document, which has an "appeal to baptism as a way of forestalling eschatological judgment." [Anchor Bible Dictionary Entry] This has relevance for the reaction which may have been received by John the Baptist and the early Christian movement.
http://www.tektonics.org/qt/sibor.php

It's interesting that some Church fathers treated the pagan sibyls as if they were inspired by the Holy Spirit:
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They quoted passages from these oracles to pagans as proof that even their own sacred books prophesied of Christ. The Sibyl's prophecies thus began to be seen by many Christians as having been inspired, at least in part, by the Holy Spirit, and they were later quoted by some early Christian apologists and fathers, including St. Augustine ("City of God," 18.23). Following this ancient tradition, she most famously appears in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel murals beside prophets of the Old Testament.
https://www.deseretnews.com/article/765612802/Christians-saw-ancient-femaleoracles-as-divine.html

Is there a theological problem in suggesting that pagan nonChristians had the Holy Spirit working in them?


The Catholic Encyclopedia proposes this explanation for the Oracles' Christian creation or form:
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Because of the vogue enjoyed by these heathen oracles and because of the influence they had in shaping the religious views of the period, the Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria, during the second century B.C. composed verses in the same form, attributing them to the sibyls, and circulated them among the pagans as a means of diffusing Judaistic doctrines and teaching. This custom was continued down into Christian times, and was borrowed by some Christians so that in the second or third century, a new class of oracles emanating from Christian sources came into being.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13770a.htm

The Early Writings site lists other modern writers' opinions:
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Raymond F. Surburg writes: "Book 1 ...has... an arithmograph which seems to be fulfilled in Theos Soter... Book 3 ... has predictions about the coming judgment on a wicked world, terminating in the coming of the Messiah... [In Book 3] the heathen are exhorted to embrace Judaism... The eighth book has an arithmogram and acrostic: IESOUS CHRISTOS THEOU HUIOS SOTER STAUROS."
 
Leonhard Rost writes: "The individual sections [ie. the books of the Oracle] derive from different periods. The earliest date from the early Maccabean period (e.g., 3:46ff.); the latest date from the Christian Era (e.g., 4:128-29, 143-44, dating from A.D. 76). The Jewish oracles were taken over by the Christian church at an early date, probably because of their Old Testament content, their rejection of idolatry, and their hostility toward Rome." Martin McNamara writes: "The Fourth Book ... can be dated to about A.D. 80: lines 107-8 speak of the restoration of Laodicea after the earthquake (of A.D. 60); 115-118 speak of internal struggles in Jerusalem during the siege (in A.D. 69); 125-6 speak of the destruction of the temple (A.D. 70); 119-24 speak of the disappearance of Nero, the expectation of his return, and the struggles of A.D. 76.

Emil Schürer writes [about Book V]: "Bleek distinguishes the following portions as Jewish:—(a) vers. 260-285, 481-531, written about the middle of the second century before Christ, by an Alexandrian Jew; (b) vers. 286-332 by a Jew of Asia Minor soon after A.D. 20; (c) perhaps also vers. 342-433 by a Jewish author about A.D. 70." ...the chronological oracle at the beginning (vers. 1-51) certainly leads as far as to the time of Hadrian.
(http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/sibylline.html)

The Jewish Virtual Library makes a note about Book III that sounds ironic because the sibyl herself is making a series of foretellings of the future in her Oracles:
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The sibyl's glorification of Israel is centered around three points: monotheism, sexual purity, and social justice: (1) strict Jewish adherence to the One God implies rejection of magic, astrology, and foretelling the future.
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/sibyl-and-sibylline-oracles
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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #250 on: November 30, 2018, 03:54:53 AM »
I think that the Sibyl is probably not found to be in contradiction when it spoke against foretellings, because it looks like the style of foretelling that it forbids is the style of pagan sorcery and astrology:
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For they[the Jews] regard not with anxious thought the course of sun and moon, nor the wonders that are found on earth, nor the depth of ocean's blue-eyed sea, nor the omens of a sneeze and the birds of the augur, nor seers, nor sorcerers, nor charmers, nor ventriloquists' fond deceits; they study not the predictions of Chaldæan astrologers...

SOURCE: Book III

The Sibylline oracles (Χρησμοἱ Σιβυλλιακοι) are written in a Greek form called hexameter. One translator, Milton Terry, set his translation into Pentameter instead of making a literal translation precisely, which Charlesworth seems to try more to do. The pentameter flows nicely in English. It would be nice to hear an audio of how the Sibylline hexameter sounds in Greek.
You can find them in Greek, starting on Page 2 in this book here:
Χρησμοι Σιβυλλιακοι. Oracula Sibyllina, textu ad codices manuscriptos
https://books.google.com/books?id=ij9WAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

A preview of Charlesworth's translation can be found starting on page 317 in his book:
https://books.google.com/books?id=Z8cyt_SM7voC&printsec=frontcover&dq=charlesworth+old+testament+pseudepigrapha&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiTzqGty_LeAhWrj1QKHW6ADTQQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=charlesworth%20old%20testament%20pseudepigrapha&f=false
Charlesworth notes:
"Books 3,4,5 and the fragments were known to Clement of Alexandria at the end of the second century. These, and books 6,7, and 8 were known to Lactantius about AD 300."

Charlesworth also notes the concept of two forms of destruction of the world, by fire and by water, in the Oracles:
"The idea of the conflagration [that destroys the world] is often associated with the Flood, as the two great destructions which punctuate the history of the world. (So especially SibOr 1/2 and 4.)"
It's interesting because Fire and Water are two of the fundamental elements in the Greeks' ancient understanding of Physics.

Justin Martyr
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argues that Plato must have had this Sibyl [the Roman one at Cumae, Italy] in his mind when he described in the Phaedrus (244B) and the Meno (99C) the phenomena of prophetic frenzy or rapture, since the Sibyl did not recollect afterwards what she had said during her unconscious ecstasies. [Note: In the Sibylline oracles, the Sibyl is passive or reluctant under the influence of inspiration. This tallied with some Jewish and Christian conceptions of prophetic inspiration.
https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/sibylline-oracles.html
What do you think of this description of prophecying? Is it accurate or Biblical?
Cicero in the first century BC "used the acrostic form of the Sibylline verses to disprove the assertion that the Sibyl spoke in ecstatic frenzy; acrostics, as he observed, are not the product of a frenzied intellect, pouring out impromptu inspiration." (https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/sibylline-oracles.html)

The anti-Christian pagan, Celsus, claimed that Christians interpolated ancient sibylline writings with lines of their own (Orig, c. Cels. v. 61).

William Deane writes in "Pseudepigrapha" about Book IV:
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An epilogue [in Book IV] about the condition of men after the judgment was thought to be sufficiently orthodox and in accordance with Christian notions to be transferred bodily to the Apostolical Constitutions, where it will be found in Book v. chap.7. The episode there is indeed somewhat longer than that contained in the MSS. of the Sibyllines, and the editors of the latter have added the verses thus preserved to their editions, judging rightly that there is sufficient authority for the insertion.
https://biblehub.com/library/deane/pseudepigrapha/the_sibylline_oracles.htm#1
Is he saying that an epilogue in Book IV was copied in a longer form into the Apostolic Constitutions and that afterwards the editors of Book IV ("the latter"?) inserted this longer form into Book IV, thinking that the Apostolic Constitutions were sufficient authority for the insertion?

Deane says that Book IV of the Sibyl brings together hopes, feelings, and events of that era about the first century like the stories of Nero returning after his death, the bursting of Mount Vesuvius, the Jews' and Christians' hate for Nero, and hopes for a future empire based in the Middle East:
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Plutarch [350] twice alleges a supposed Sibylline oracle on the subject [of the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius], which speaks of the overthrow of Cumae and Dicaearchia, i.e. Puteoli, by fire from the Besbian mountain. And the astonishment with which the news of it was received, and the effect upon men's minds, may be gathered from the accounts which have come down to us. Dio Cassius [351] asserts that the ashes reached even Syria and Egypt. To the Jews, suffering from their late disasters, and prone to look for God's interposition in their behalf, the calamity seemed to be a well-deserved judgment on their conquerors, and a sign of the punishment which was to subdue the enemy, and re-establish their own fallen state.
...
The allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple gives occasion for the earliest notice of the legend concerning Nero, which was at one time so widely prevalent. According to this notion, Nero did not commit suicide on hearing of the proclamation of Galba and the desertion of the army, but escaped secretly to the East, and will return some day, enacting the part of Antichrist, and making havoc of the Church. Mention of impostors who assumed to be Nero is found also among the heathen writers who have treated of this period -- Suetonius, Tacitus, and others. [354] The cruel persecution of the Christians under this emperor led them to look upon him as the type of the great enemy of the gospel whose advent they expected in the last days. Many have fancied that St. Paul referred to Nero in speaking of "that Wicked one" who was to be revealed in time (2 Thess. ii.). Indeed, so intense was the hatred of Nero, entertained alike by Jews and Christians, that no evil was too monstrous to be assigned to him -- the former regarding him as virtually the destroyer of their city and polity, the latter finding in him all the attributes of the great enemy of God and man, whose appearance they were led to expect. The near approach of the final consummation was supposed to be heralded by the eruption of Vesuvius, which was regarded as an instance of Divine vengeance, and was to be followed by the return of "the exile from Rome, who should come from the far Euphrates, wielding his mighty sword, attended by myriads of soldiers." Other signs of the times are the demolition of Salamis and Paphos by an earthquake, which visited Cyprus A.D.71, and which is mentioned by other authors, [355] the destruction of Antioch, and the restitution to Asia of the wealth which Rome had plundered from her. This last event was the subject of a common expectation at that time, seized upon with avidity by the Jews out of their hatred for their conquerors. Zactantius (vii.15) expresses the general feeling or hope when he says: "The Roman name, which now is supreme in all the world, shall be utterly abolished, the empire shall return to Asia, and once again the East shall bear rule."
https://biblehub.com/library/deane/pseudepigrapha/

Deane also writes that hardly anything is added to the canonical gospels' story, except
Quote
the story of the fire kindled in Jordan when our Lord was baptized, a legend which is also mentioned by Justin Martyr (Dial.88), and (though under a different tradition) in the Ebionite Gospel. Justin writes: "When Jesus came to the river Jordan, where John was baptizing, and descended into the water, both a fire was kindled in the Jordan, and when He came up out of the water the apostles of our Christ recorded that the Holy Spirit as a dove lighted upon Him." The Sibyl, as we saw above, thus alludes to the same event: "When, in the flesh which was given Him, He came forth, having bathed in the stream of the river Jordan, which rolls, sweeping on its waves with grey foot, He, escaping from the fire, first shall see the sweet Spirit of God coming upon Him with the white wings of a dove."
https://biblehub.com/library/deane/pseudepigrapha

Deane explains that in Book V:
Quote
The Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar to Hadrian, are indicated by the value of the numbers, which in the Greek the initials of their names afford. Thus, J. Caesar is he whose name shall begin with "twice ten" (K), Augustus he who has the first of letters (A), Tiberius he whose initial is three hundred (T), and so on. Hadrian is not designated by his number; he is called "the man of the silver head, who has the name of a sea."

As for Book VI,
Quote
following the tenets of the Cerinthians and Ebionites, the writer holds that Jesus, a mere man, son of Joseph and Mary, received the Divine nature at His baptism by the descent of the Holy Ghost, who united Him with Christ, the eternal Word of God. He recognises two natures in Jesus Christ, and one Person, and always professes belief in His divinity. His words concerning the Cross have continually been quoted as confirming the doctrine of the Hypostatic union for which the Council of Ephesus contended. "O blessed tree," he says, "on which God was stretched"...

Contrary to the tradition which represented Helena as the finder of the Holy Cross (and therefore supporting the earlier date assigned to this book), the Sibyl says that the earth could not keep the sacred wood, but that, it was transported to a heavenly home, to appear again at the last day, "the sign of the Son of man" (Matt. xxiv.30). The same expectation is found elsewhere, e.g. in the acrostic in Book viii.244, which is rendered --
Insigne et cunctis aderit mirabile visu
Nullo sat cultu fidis venerabile lignum.

https://biblehub.com/library/deane/pseudepigrapha/the_sibylline_oracles.htm#1

Book VII describes
Quote
sacred rites (vers.76 ff.) which shall obtain in Messiah's time:
Quote
"Thou shalt offer sacrifice to the great immortal God, not melting with fire the grain of incense, nor slaying with the knife the shaggy lamb; but, in company with all who share thy blood, taking woodland birds, thou shalt pray and let them fly, turning thine eyes to heaven, and thou shalt pour water in libation into the pure fire with these words: O Father, as the Father begat Thee, the Word, I send forth this bird, the swift messenger of my words, with holy water besprinkling Thy baptism through which from the fire Thou didst appear."
[T]he ceremony, consisting in letting a bird fly to convey prayer to heaven... is a remnant of Judaism unknown to any Christian community. The allusion also to the fire in the Jordan at Christ's baptism is evident. https://biblehub.com/library/deane/pseudepigrapha/the_sibylline_oracles.htm#1
The part in bold reminds me of how the Church of Jerusalem releases a dove at Epiphany at the Jordan River, like in this photo below.

I wonder if there is a direct connection in Tradition between this ceremony and the Sibyl's prediction?

M.R. James writes about the Apocalypse of Peter (which I reviewed earlier on OC.net):
Quote
The second book of the Sibylline Oracles contains (in Greek hexameters) a paraphrase of a great part of the Apocalypse: and its influence can be traced in many early writings -the Acts of Thomas (55-57), the Martyrdom of Perpetua, the so-called Second Epistle of Clement, and, as I think, the Shepherd of Hermas: as well as in the Apocalypse of Paul and many later visions.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/apocalypsepeter-mrjames.html
He then quotes at length from the Second Book of the Oracles, verses 190-338, as being a paraphrase of Peter's Apocalypse.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline rakovsky

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #251 on: December 08, 2018, 02:55:15 PM »
Book I appears to describe the foundation of the church of the Christians who follow the New Covenant, then the leading of the church by the apostles, then maybe the killing or suppression of the apostles by governments, then the defeat of the Judean rebels and looting of Judea by Rome's armies, all of which happened in the 1st century:
Quote
Named after him, a new shoot will sprout from the nations, of those who follow the law of the Great One. But also after these things there will be wise leaders, and then there will be thereafter a cessation of prophets. Then when the Henrews reap the bad harvest, a Roman king will ravage much gold and silver.
Charlesworth ascribes the looting by the Romans to what occurred under Vespasian in c. 70 AD. Peter, Paul, and James had been killed earlier, in c.62-63 AD. What other early Christian writings described the "cessation of prophets"?
The best that comes to mind is when, IIRC, St. John Chrysostom or St. Augustine said that in the beginning period of Christianity's spread, miracles and signs were used but that after the Church got founded and strong enough, it switched to emphasizing reason and logic to spread its message.


Book II says "Do not vex thy heart With evils that are past; for what is done Can never be undone."
This is hard because there is trauma that has been done to people and even if one doesn't desire revenge, the trauma can still be hard to deal with. Consider how in Revelation, the martyrs cry out to God for justice. How should a good person address this personal and emotional challenge?

Book II's prediction that God would move the condemned judged wicked to a place of lesser suffering was criticized by a later theologian as Origenist. This prediction goes:
Quote
And to the pious will the almighty God
Imperishable grant another thing,
When they shall ask the imperishable God:
That he will suffer men from raging fire
And endless gnawing anguish to be saved;
And this will he do. For hereafter he
Will pluck them from the restless flame, elsewhere
Remove them, and for his own people's sake
Send them to other and eternal life
With the immortals, in Elysian field,
Where move far-stretching billows of the lake
Of ever-flowing Acheron profound.

Milton Terry's Footnotes:
This passage, which savors of a final restoration from future punishment, has been thought to be contrary to orthodox teaching; and we find appended to some manuscripts the following lines, headed, "Contradiction of the 'To the pious will the Almighty,'" and professedly a disproof of the doctrine of Origen on this subject:

False manifestly; for the penal fire
Shall never cease from those who are condemned.
For also I might pray to have it thus,
Branded with greatest scars of trespasses,
Which need more kindness. But let Origen
Of his presumptuous babble be ashamed,
Saying there shall be end of punishments.

Elysian field.--In Homer (Od., iv, 563) the Elysian fields are represented as situated on the western border of the earth by the ocean stream. Hesiod (Works and Days, 169) speaks of "the Isles of the blessed, beside {footnote p. 52} deep-eddying ocean." But later, and with the Roman poets, Elysium was in the lower world, the blessed part of Hades, and is here conceived as bordering on the Acheronian lake.
The idea of the judged wicked being eventually freed from Hell or forgiven shows up in the 1st-2nd century Apocalypse of Peter, which must have preceded the writing of the Oracles, because this section of Book II is taken from that Apocalypse.
I think that maybe this was a belief already in the time of the apostles (1st century), but I don't know if the apostles taught it or if the Apocalypse of Peter was really by Peter.
See M.R. James' quotation from the Apocalypse and from this section of Book II (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/apocalypsepeter-mrjames.html)

In Book III, the Sibyl explains how she gets and makes her prophecies:
Quote
[I say] these things to you, having left the long Babylonian walls of Assyria, frenzied, a fire sent to Greece, prophesing the disclosures of God to all mortals, so that I prophesy divine riddles to men. ... But when everything comes to pass, then you will remember me and no longer will anyone say that I am crazy, I who am a prophetess of the great God. ... God put all of the future in my mind so that I prophesy both future and former things and tell them to mortals. ... all the latter things have been revealed, so let all these things from my mouth be accounted true.
The implication seems to be that God puts ideas in some prophets' heads and this is the origin of their prophecies. They are in a frenzy and have ideas in their heads about the future and the ideas are their prophecies when they speak them.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline WPM

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Re: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity
« Reply #252 on: December 08, 2018, 05:28:27 PM »
? Good enough for me.

Offline rakovsky

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The number of lines in Charlesworth's 2010 translation of the Oracles is significantly shorter than Milton Terry's. For example, Book V in Terry's version has 711 lines, while Charlesworth's has 531 lines. It appears to be that Terry makes a pentameter whereby he moves a subsequent part of a sentence or extended phrase on the next line at times when Charlesworth makes the whole sentence or long phrase as a single line.

Are you familiar with the idea that Christ's cross was taken to heaven in Book 6?:
Quote
O the Wood, O so blessed, upon which
God was outstretched; the earth shall not have thee,
35 But thou shalt look upon a heavenly house,
When thou, O God, shalt flash thine eye of fire.
James Charlesworth writes: "The idea expressed in verse 37, that the cross would be taken up to heaven, was popular in later Christian writings." (citing Rzach-Wissowa 2A, col. 2141.)

In Oracle 7, there are instructions for baptism. It says " But take the head of this man, sprinkle it with water, and pray three times. Cry out to your God as follows:..."
Was the first-second century practice a full body immersion or just a sprinkling of the head with water for baptism, or both? I suppose that based on this passage, both were used.

At the end of Oracle 7 in Charlesworth's translation, the Sibyl predicts that she will be killed because God had her prophesy about the Son (Christ). Milton Terry's translation does not really make sense and is different:
Quote
Men shall beside the margin of the sea
Construct a tomb, and shall slay me with stones;
For lying with my father a dear son
Did I present him. Smite me, smite me all;
For thus shall I live and fix eyes on heaven.

Oracle 8 sees an interesting prophetic figure of Christ in Moses' posture during the Exodus:
Quote
Him Moses typified when he stretched out
Holy arms, conquering Amalek by faith,
That the people might know him to be elect
And honorable before his Father God,
Here is Charlesworth's translation:
Quote
Moses prefigured him, stretching out his holy arms, conquering Amalek by faith so that the people might know that he is elect and previous with God his father, the staff of David and the stone he promised.

Book 8
also sees Christ's wounds, and I think the 4 royal powers that condemned Christ, as representing the world. I remember reading one of the preceding Oracle Books seeing the cross as indicating the world, maybe because of its four points, like the 4 directions.
Book 8 (Milton Terry's translation) says:
Quote
And first then openly unto his own
Shall he as Lord in flesh be visible,
As he before was, and in hands and feet
425 Exhibit four marks fixed in his own limbs,
Denoting east and west and south and north;
For of the world so many royal powers
Shall against our Exemplar consummate
The deed so lawless and condemnable.
I get three of the powers: Pilate, Herod, and the Sanhedrin. Is the fourth power the Jewish people in the courtyard before Pilate?
Charlesworth's translation says: "For so many kingdoms of the world will accomplish the unlawful blameworthy action as our archetype."

About 3/4 into Book 8, the Sibyl switches voices, changing from speaking as herself to speaking as God. Here is an excerpt.
Quote
All these things in my mind God himself showed
And all that have been spoken by my mouth
Will he accomplish; and I know the number
Of the sands and the measures of the sea,
(480) I know the inmost places of the earth
And gloomy Tartarus, I know the numbers
Of the stars, and the trees, and all the tribes
Of quadrupeds, and of the swimming things
And flying birds, and of men who are now
(485) And of those yet to be, and of the dead;
For I myself the forms and mind of men
Did fashion, and right reason did I give
And knowledge taught; I who formed eyes and ears,
Who see and hear and every thought discern,
(490) And who within am conscious of all things,
I am still; and hereafter will convict
[And punishing what any mortal did
In secret, and upon God's judgment seat
Coming and speaking unto mortal men].

M. TERRY'S FOOTNOTE:
At this point the Sibyl assumes to represent God himself as speaking, and continues this strain to line 567, throwing in occasional observations of her own, as if forgetful of the part she holds. Lines 478, 479, and 496, 496, are identical with two lines attributed to the oracle of Delphi by Herodotus, i, 47.

Book 8 might seem to identify or associate the Star of Bethlehem as or with Christ in a non-incarnate form, which is also my guess of the implication of the Christmas narrative. What do you think?:
Quote
And coming late from the virgin Mary's womb
610) A new light rose, and going forth from heaven
Put on a mortal form. First then did Gabriel show
His strong pure form; and bearing his own news
He next addressed the maiden with his voice:
"O virgin, in thy bosom undefiled
615) Receive thou God."
...
The heavenly throne laughed and the world rejoiced.
635) And the prophetic new-appearing star
'Was honored by the wise men, and the babe
Born was shown in a manger unto them
That obeyed God, and keepers of the herds,
And goatherds and to shepherds of the lambs;

It sounds like the ending of Book 8 is against the Old Testament sacrifices of herd animals, which were part of the Day of Atonement in Judaism. But I am not sure, because wasn't the Day of Atonement only performed for the sins of those still living, whereas Book 8 seems to talks about sacrificing animals to cleanse the sins of the dead?:
Quote
650 Not ever are we suffered to approach
The inmost sanctuary of the temples,
Nor pour libations to carved images,
Nor honor them with prayers, nor with the smells
Much-pleasing of flowers, nor with light of lamps,
655) Nor yet with shining votive offerings
Adorn them, nor with smoke of frankincense
That sends forth flame of altars; nor do thou,
Adding unto the sacrifice of bulls
And taking pleasure in defilement send
660) Blood of sheep-slaughtering outrage, thus to give
Ransom for penalty beneath the earth;
Nor by the smoke of flesh-consuming pyre
And odors foul pollute the light of heaven;
But joyful with pure minds and cheerful soul,
665) With love abounding and with generous hands,
With soothing psalms and songs that honor God,
We are commanded to sing praise to thee,
The imperishable and without deceit,
All-father God, of understanding mind,

It also seems to take the view that part of the Mosaic laws are "dissolved", interpreting them as teachings of men:
Quote
But when all these things of which I have spoken are fulfilled, then for him every law will be dissolved which from the beginning was given in teachings to men, on account of a disobedient people.
This reminds me of Matthew 15:9: "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Christ in turn was Himself referencing Isaiah 29:13: "Therefore the Lord said: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is but rules taught by men.'"
It also brings to mind Colossians 2:
Quote
20 If you have died with Christ to the spiritual forces of the world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its regulations:  …21“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”? 22These will all perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.…

Book 8 also has the idea of Christ preaching to the dead during His time in the tomb:
"He will come to Hades announcing hope for all the holy ones, the end of ages and last day, and he will complete the fate of death when he has slept the third day."

Book XII seems to present the Star of Bethlehem (below) as if it were like the sun and shining in mid-day. Does that sound right? I imagined it to be like a slow, steady large comet.
Quote
But when a radiant star all like the sun
40 Shall shine forth out of heaven in the mid days,
Then shall the secret Word of the Most High
Come clothed in flesh like mortals; but with him
The might of Rome and of the illustrious Latins
Shall increase.

Book 12 suggests that Vespasian would destroy Phoenicia, but I haven't found any record of this, only that he suppressed the Jewish revolt in "Solyma" (Jerusalem) and destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem.
Quote
He will destroy Phoenicia and bring Syria to destruction. A sword will also come upon the land of Solyma... Alas, Phoenicia, how much you will endure, one of great sorrows. You will be bound with cords and every nation will trample you.
I guess that the author is using Phoenicia as a way to refer to Judea.

Charlesworth writes about Oracle Number 13 that it describes 3rd century AD events and figures like Odenath of Palmyra and that "there are also a number of parallels to the Apocalypse of Elijah." The Apocalypse of Elijah is commonly dated by scholars to the 3rd to 4th century, but some consider it to be based on a 1st to 2nd century Jewish nonChristian document.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline rakovsky

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I believe that "Secret Mark", as well as Clement of Alexandria's alleged Letter about it, are modern forgeries, planted by Morton Smith, a late professor of ancient history at Columbia University. However, some well-known, respected scholars like Helmut Koester have considered it genuine. M. Smith
Quote
is best known for his reported discovery of the Mar Saba letter, a letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria containing excerpts from a Secret Gospel of Mark, during a visit to the monastery at Mar Saba in 1958. ...Smith reported he found the manuscript in the Mar Saba monastery in 1958, photographed it carefully, and then left the book where he found it. He first publiczed the discovery in 1960...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton_Smith

M. Smith and Page 2 of the manuscript.

Here is a translation of Clement's alleged letter into English: https://web.archive.org/web/20071009101234/https://www.gospels.net/translations/secretmarktranslation.html

According to Wikipedia:
Quote
The Secret Gospel of Mark... is a putative longer and secret or mystic version of the Gospel of Mark. The gospel is mentioned exclusively in the Mar Saba letter, a document of disputed authenticity, which is said to be written by the Alexandrian Church Father Clement (c. 150–215 C.E.). This letter, in turn, is preserved only in photographs of a Greek handwritten copy seemingly transcribed in the eighteenth century into the endpapers of a seventeenth-century printed edition of the works of Ignatius of Antioch.[ b]
The Secret Gospel of Mark is described as a second “more spiritual” version of the Gospel of Mark composed by the evangelist himself...The purpose of the gospel was supposedly to encourage knowledge (gnosis) among more advanced Christians, and it is said to be in use in liturgies in Alexandria.

Footnote [ b]
Isaac Vossius’ first edition of the letters of Ignatius of Antioch published in Amsterdam in 1646.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark

The two alleged passages in Secret Mark that Clement's alleged letter cites are (1) between Mark 10:34 and 35; ("And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. (etc.) And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.") And (2)  Mark 10:46, after the words, ‘And he comes into Jericho’ and before “and as he went out of Jericho”. ("And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them."
If one were to harmonize the gospels chronologically, Secret Mark's Passage #1 on the youth's raising would fit where Lazarus' raising is told (John 11), and Passage #2 on Jesus not welcoming the women would fit where Jesus calls Zaccheus (Luke 19).

I guess the point of the forger's Jesus' supposed avoidance of the women in Jericho is that Jesus was anti-woman. Otherwise, it's hard for me to see what is the author's point of the mention of the women in Jericho (ie. either for Smith or for Mark). Roger Viklund suggested to me that other passages in Secret Mark that Clement didn't quote could supply the answer. But even in that case, it's not clear why in Passage #2 in particular the writer would claim that Jesus didn't welcome the women.

Instead, it looks like the potentially "missing" part in Mark 10 about Jesus' story of Jericho is the story of Zaccheus. Here is how the Diatessaron inserts the Zacchaeus story from Luke 19:
Quote
    And when Jesus entered and passed through Jericho, there was a man named Zacchaeus, rich, and chief of the publicans. And he desired to see Jesus who he was; and he was not able for the pressure of the crowd, because Zacchaeus was little of stature. Arabic, And he hastened, and went before Jesus, and went up into an unripe fig tree to see Jesus: for he was to pass thus. And when Jesus came to that place, he saw him, and said unto him, Make haste, and come down, Zacchaeus: to-day I must be in thy house. And he hastened, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they all saw, they murmured, and said, He hath gone in and lodged with a man that is a sinner. So Zacchaeus stood, and said unto Jesus, My Lord, now half of my possessions I give to the poor, and what I have unjustly taken from every man I give him fourfold. Jesus said unto him, To-day is salva- tion come to this house, because this man also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and save the thing that was lost. And when Jesus went out of Jericho, he and his disciples, there came after him a great multitude. And there was a blind man sitting by the way side begging.
This looks like a much more fitting story than Secret Mark's insertion about Jesus not welcoming women.

Smith's theory was
Quote
that the two quotations go back to an original Aramaic version of Mark, which served as a source for both the canonical Mark and the Gospel of John. ... [Instead,] Quentin Quesnell... suggested that it might be a modern hoax. He said that the publication of Otto Stählin's concordance of Clement in 1936 would make it possible to imitate Clement's style...
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark)

I think Charles E. Murgia made an interesting point, saying that the lack of scribal errors suggested that the copy of the "Letter" that Morton exhibited was actually an original document, because a document copied many times in history would have the errors.

Some scholars connect Secret Mark to the story in the NT of the young man in the linen cloth:
Quote
In Mark 14:51–52, a young man (Greek: νεανίσκος, neaniskos) in a linen cloth (Greek: σινδόνα, sindona) is seized during Jesus’ arrest, but he escapes at the cost of his clothing. This passage seems to have little to do with the rest of the narrative, and it has given cause to various interpretations. Sometimes it is suggested that the young man is Mark himself.[287][288][aa] However, the same Greek words (neaniskos and sindona) are also used in Secret Mark. Several scholars, such as Robert Grant and Robert Gundry, suggest that Secret Mark was created based on Mark 14:51, 16:5 and other passages and that this would explain the similarities.[ab] Other scholars, such as Helmut Koester[143] and J. D. Crossan,[293] argue that the canonical Mark is a revision of Secret Mark, where either an ancient editor could have deleted an earlier encounter of Jesus with such a young man in a cloth, then added this incident also involving a young man during Jesus’ arrest,[34] or Secret Mark told other coherent stories, including that of a young man. And although some of it was removed (by the original author or by someone else) in the making of canonical Mark, some remnants, such as that of the fleeing naked young man, were left.
   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark#cite_ref-Smith_1955_261-1
The theory seems to propose that the current Mark is incoherent and that it is missing the intended stories about the youth in the cloth that would explain it. But I think that Mark is meant to be sometimes deliberately obtuse, with the youth maybe being the angel.

Some see a relation between the Secret Mark story that would be in Mark 10 and the raising of Lazarus in John 11.
Quote
The resurrection of the young man by Jesus in Secret Mark bears such clear similarities to the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John (11:1–44) that it can be seen as another version.[313] But although there are striking parallels between these two stories,[36] there are also “numerous, often pointless, contradictions.”[314] If the two verses in Mark preceding Secret Mark are included, both stories tell us that the disciples are apprehensive as they fear Jesus’ arrest. In each story it is the sister whose brother just died who approaches Jesus on the road and asks his help; she shows Jesus the tomb, which is in Bethany; the stone is removed and Jesus raises the man from the dead, who then comes out of the tomb.[315] In each story, the emphasis is upon the love between Jesus and this man,[23] and eventually, Jesus follows him to his home.[36] Each story occurs “at the same period in Jesus’ career”, as he has left Galilee and gone into Judea and then to Transjordan.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark
For the underlined part, compare Mark 10:33-34 (ie. the part right before Secret Mark) with John 10-11:
Quote
Mark 10:
33. Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: 34. And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

John 10
23. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. 24. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
...
31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? ...
...
39. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, 40. And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
To me this doesn't look really like the same timing: In Mark, Jesus is going to Jerusalem where he warns he will be killed, whereas in John 10-11, Jesus is at Jerusalem and he escapes the threats there of being killed. So I don't see the parallelism in the two canonical passages that the author does, although I do see how Secret Mark's made-up story about raising the youth could have been a reworked version of the raising of Lazarus.

It's interesting that "numerous scholars believe that it is likely a forgery, even Smith's professor (Arthur Darby Nock), and [at least one of] his students (Jacob Neusner, who called it "the forgery of the century")".(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Secret_Gospel_of_Mark)

Pierluigi Piovanelli touches on one of the strongest and most interesting argument against Secret Mark's authenticity as the "real", "spiritual", or "original" version of canonical Mark when he calls it: “the wrong document, at the wrong place, discovered by the wrong person, who was, moreover, in need of exactly that kind of new evidence to promote new, unconventional ideas”." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark)

The series of unlikelihoods required for "Secret Mark" to be authentic include:
(A) An alleged early Christian ritual practice - private gnostic-style instruction involving possibly disrobing and in my reading of the passage, homosexual activity - that was unknown or very rarely known until M. Smith's 20th c. discovery, was related in
(B) a gospel version (Secret Mark) that was unknown or very rarely known until the 20th c. discovery; the gospel version being related in
(C) a Second century Letter by a self-identified Clement of Alexandria (a "Pseudo-Clement" being also known in Church literature), unknown to the public until M. Smith's 20th century discovery, addressed to
(D) "Theodore" a Second century Christian leader (since he was able to take measures against the heretical version of "Secret Mark"), whose identity is unknown today; the letter being preserved
(E) in a flawless 18th century copy, which was unknown until Smith's 20th c. discovery, and which had been made in
(F) the back of a 17th century book of Ignatius' epistles, a book missing from lists of Mar Saba's books catalogued before the mid-20th c. discovery the book, first catalogued by
(G) Morton Smith, a professor whose research had already linked topics also found in the Letter, eg. "the Kingdom of God", Mark's gospel, secretive early Christian rituals, and Clement of Alexandria. (Smith's articles being titled: "Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels", "Comments on Taylor's Commentary on Mark", "The Image of God: Notes on the Hellenization of Judaism, with Especial Reference to Goodenough's Work on Jewish Symbols"). Ben Smith notes that Stephen Carlson
Quote
finds a paragraph in Morton Smith himself, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, pages 155-156, connecting the mystery of the kingdom in Mark 4.11 with secret teachings on forbidden sexual relationships. ...In the spring of 1958, Smith, who rarely wrote about Clement of Alexandria before, published a piece linking Clement’s notion of secrecy to T. Hag. 2.1[on forbidden sexual relations]... In his lengthy 1955 review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on Mark, Smith suggested the existence of a common source behind Mark and John. Three years later, Smith would possess a new text with a form critically primitive version of the raising of Lazarus that lends support to Smith’s prior suggestion. (http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html)
M. Smith went on to write the book "Jesus the Magician", which like the seeming secretive sexual practices in Secret Mark, would tend to be unsettling or embarrassing for traditional modern-day Christians. The description for Smith's book "Jesus the Magician" on Google says:
"This book challenges traditional Christian teaching about Jesus. While his followers may have seen him as a man from heaven, preaching the good news and working miracles, Smith asserts that the truth about Jesus is more interesting and rather unsettling." (https://books.google.com/books?id=_XxaBQAAQBAJ&dq=%22morton+smith%22+homosexual+OR+homosexuality+magician&source=gbs_navlinks_s)

One of the most interesting aspects for me about the text and the story of its discovery are the coincidences below that they share with earlier literature. One might explain the coincidences by proposing that the literature served as inspiration for a forgery by Morton or by someone associated with him.
(A) In ''The Mystery of Mar Saba'' by James H. Hunter (1940), a British detective, "Moreton", opposes the efforts of Nazis to plant a fake document at Mar Saba monastery that would undermine Christianity, whereas in real life, ''Morton'' Smith later claimed to have discovered the Mar Saba letter that in the view of many readers would tend to be unsettling for its description of alleged homosexual occult early Christian rituals, and Morton Smith did go on to write the book ''Jesus the Magician'' that would reference the Letter briefly and also tend to undermine traditional Christian views.
(B) The Letter that M. Smith presented had been written into a copy of Isaac Vossius’ 1646 printed edition of Ignatius of Antioch's letters, which Bruce Chilton noted is itself relevant to the issue of forgery. Chilton may have referred to how there is a forged, Arian version of Ignatius' letters. As Ben Smith noted, Stephen Carlson "echoes Bart Ehrman in finding irony in the fact that the Clementine letter was found at the end of a 1646 edition of the genuine epistles of Ignatius by Isaac Voss, a text intended to weed out forged members of the Ignatian corpus."(http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html)
(C) In 1936, Otto Stahlin published a compendium of Clement of Alexandria's vocabulary and phrases, making it more practical for a later forger to draft documents and misatribute them to Clement of Alexandria. As Ben Smith observes, Morton Smith had a copy with his own marginal notes.(http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html)
(D) Angus Wilson's 1956 novel ''Anglo-Saxon Attitudes'' narrates the false discovery of a phallic fertility symbol in the grave of the seventh-century bishop Eorpwald, a disciple of the English Archbishop Theodore. In the novel, an archeologist planted the symbol to discredit the site's excavator and other scholars. According to Philip Jenkins, ''“much of the book depicts English gay subculture... By faking the discovery, [the archeologist] was subverting the heroic image that the modern-day church has of its founders... To a large degree, he succeeded, as scholars so uniformly accepted these bizarre claims and integrated them into their understanding of medieval faith.”'' (https://www.apocryphicity.ca/2014/04/19/philip-jenkins-new-source/). If M. Smith forged the Mar Saba Letter a few years after the novel was published, it could explain the source of the bishop "Theodore" in the letter. Tony Burke notes that "Jenkins sees a number of parallels between Wilson’s novel and Smith’s discovery: a forgery planted in an early Christian site, the association with the name Theodore, underground controversial clandestine practices, and accusations of sorcery (against Eorpwald in the novel, and against Jesus in Smith’s monograph Jesus the Magician)"(https://www.apocryphicity.ca/2014/04/19/philip-jenkins-new-source/), although Burke thinks that the coincides are unrelated to M. Smith's discovery.
(E) According to Andrew Criddle, in ''The Codex'' (published 1954 in a journal and separately in 1955), the scholar C.H. Roberts suggested that a very early manuscript of Mark played a central role in the beginning of Egyptian Christianity. A few years later in 1958, M. Smith made his alleged discovery of the Mar Saba Letter, which described Egyptian Christians as using "Secret Mark". Decades later in ''The Birth of the Codex'' (1983), Roberts largely retracted his theory of the early manuscript of Mark. But I don't think Roberts theorized that Mark had an earlier, quite different version of his gospel.

More direct potential sources, references, or parallels to the content in Secret Mark include:
(A) The canonical gospels' stories of Lazarus' raising, the rich young man, the shrouded youth in Gethsemane and at the tomb, and the Beloved Disciple; it is located in Mark 10:34-35 & Mk 10:46-47 where, chronologically, the stories of Lazarus' raising (Jn 11) and Zaccheus' calling (Luke 19) would have occurred. I understand that there is mystery with the stories of the shrouded youth and the Beloved Disciple, but I don't find them necessarily and unintentionally "incoherent" like the Wikipedia entry suggests. I think that gospel authors sometimes left elements of their story deliberately mysterious or unclear, like the story of the water carriers at Jerusalem's gates. So I don't find the seeming mystery in the canonical account as necessarily an indication of a secret version of Mark's gospel that cleared up those issues. John the evangelist is apparently the Beloved Disciple according to John 21. The robed youth in tomb whom the women see in Mark 16 certainly isn't the Beloved Disciple whom those women tell about the tomb angels in John 20. But the robed youth at the tomb appears to be the angel that the women meet in Matthew 28, and thus probably one of the tomb angels in Luke 26 and John 20. Based on the resemblance between the story of the tomb angel and the youth, I guess that they are the same person as the angel in Gethsemane and the youth who loses his robe there.
(B) Stephen Huller proposed that Irenaeus (late 2nd c.) wrote of Secret Mark because of similarities between Secret Mark and things mentioned by Irenaeus. (http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2009/11/day-of-recompense-as-fulfillment-of.html)(Irenaeus on the Carpocratians' use of Mark 10:35: http://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=66540#p66540) In his own book, Peter Jeffrey takes Irenaeus to mean that the Carpocratians had an alleged secret copy of Jesus' teachings, but Jeffrey(who rejects Secret Mark's authenticity) says: <<What no one in the twentieth century would have expected is the information that Clement’s church, too, had an alternate gospel, with additional material believed to be by the same Mark who wrote the original gospel.>>(p. 38)
(C) Morton Smith had written a 1949 article on Protestant and Catholic debates on whether Clement of Alexandria endorsed selective lying, and this relates to the Mar Saba letter's instructions to dishonestly (according to the Letter) deny Secret Mark's authenticity to gnostics.
(D) In The Clementine Recognitions and Homilies, Clement grabs Barnabas' hand, takes him to Clement's house, and Barnabas instructs him for days before leaving for Judea. There are some common elements with "Secret Mark" (http://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4187&p=95227#p95227). The author or forger of Secret Mark could have used this story in creating his passage for Mark 10.
(E) Nonnus of Panopolis (late 4th-5th c.) may have construed the Staphylus/Botrys episode based on something like Secret Mark, according to K. Spanoudakis, as Roger Viklund mentioned in the Wikipedia article's talk section.
(F) Y. Kuchinsky suggested that 2 fourteenth-century sources by Abu-'l-Barakat and a tenth-century writing by Macarius show knowledge of Secret Mark, as R. Viklund mentioned also.
(G) Kuchinsky claims the Middle English (1150-1470) Magdalene Gospel resembles Secret Mark: https://web.archive.org/web/20071217185513/http://www.trends.ca/~yuku/bbl/secmk.htm Ben Smith notes:
Quote
The canonical version of John 11.3 [the story of Lazarus' raising] has nothing about mercy; in the secret gospel, however, the sister of the dead youth says: Υιε Δαβιδ, ελεησον με (son of David, have mercy on me). The Magdalene gospel (Pepys 2498, often called the Pepysian harmony) also has an appeal for mercy: ...wepeande and cryeande hym mercy. [T]he line is a straight copy of Mark 10.47-48 (and, if Smith was the forger, that is where he would have found the line) ...Both the Magdalene gospel and the secret gospel of Mark heighten the relationship between the deceased and Jesus, as compared with the canonical account in John 11.1-44. But this kind of parallel is gossamer. One of the intertextual connections either fabricated or exploited in the secret gospel of Mark is the link between the rich man (whom Jesus loved) in Mark 10.17-22 and Lazarus (whom Jesus loved) in John 11.1-44. The love of Jesus for these two men is almost certainly one of the main things that guided the course of this pericope in the first place. It is only natural that the secret gospel should have something to say about the love between the youth and Jesus. (http://www.textexcavation.com/kuchinskybrownsecmk.html)
I think that Morton Smith could have had an interest in peripheral renderings of stories like Lazarus' raising in the Magdalene gospel and could have used them to construct Secret Mark.
(H) Shem Tov's version of Matthew (c.1385) has places that resemble passages from Secret Mark, as R. Viklund has mentioned.(https://rogerviklund.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/a-fourteenth-century-text-in-which-jesus-taught-the-kingdom-of-god-during-the-night-at-bethany-does-it-demonstrate-that-secret-mark-is-an-ancient-text-and-not-a-modern-forgery)
(I) Whereas the typical early Christian model for initiation seemed to be a catechumenate period, followed by water baptism, "Secret Mark" seems to present a motif where the young man is raised from the dead out of a tomb and then learns secret mysteries from Jesus. This motif reminds me of Freemasonry's ritual initiation, where the initiate is "raised a mason" out of a coffin and then given secret teachings. (See eg.: Death, Burial and Resurrection in the Masonic Lodge, http://www.emfj.org/dbr.htm)
(J) Peter <<Jeffery also detects slips, or deliberate insertions, that imply modern authorship. In his view the three features of Secret Mark's initiation rite--resurrection symbolism, a period of teaching followed by a night vigil, and the wearing of a white cloth--reflect the Anglican Paschal liturgy prior to the liturgical renewal movement of the 1960s.>>(http://dyneslines.blogspot.com/2008/01/agony-of-morton-smith.html)
(K) Peter <<Jeffery finds that Clement's letter is riddled with allusions to Oscar Wilde's nineteenth-century play, Salome. In the play Salome does the "dance of the seven veils," which is echoed by Smith's Clement, who evokes "the truth hidden by seven veils.”>>(http://dyneslines.blogspot.com/2008/01/agony-of-morton-smith.html)
« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 07:45:28 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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This part from the alleged letter of Clement to "Theodore" sounds so ridiculous a statement for him to make that it makes the document look more like a forgery to me: " Also, one must not concede to them [The Carpocratian sect members] that the secret gospel is from Mark, when they put forth their lies. Rather one must deny it, even with an oath. For one does not have to speak the whole truth to everyone." Even if Clement didn't want the sect members to have the "secret" version, I don't think he would put in a letter that one should deny the book's existence under oath.

I find it relevant to Clement's alleged instruction on lying how in The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled Peter Jeffrey, a critic of the letter's authenticity
Quote
notes Smith's brief career as an Anglican priest, citing his harsh judgments on homosexuals in a 1949 article, quite severe by Anglican standards at the time. It would seem that Smith was going through his own sexual crisis, a crisis that caused him to leave the priesthood a year later. Interestingly, in the same 1949 article, Smith alluded to a nineteenth-century debate between Catholics and Protestants over whether Clement of Alexandria believed that lying was justified if it served the causes of the church.
http://dyneslines.blogspot.com/2008/01/agony-of-morton-smith.html

In his book, Jeffrey suggested that Smith forged the letter to create the idea that Jesus performed homosexuality, and he reads "Secret Mark" as an extended double entendre that tells “a tale of ‘sexual preference’ that could only have been told by a twentieth-century Western author” who inhabited “a homoerotic subculture in English universities”.

Jeffrey quotes in his book what sounds like admissions by Morton Smith:
Quote
"The whole story spans more than thirty years, from 1941 to the present. I am shocked to find how much of it I have already forgotten. No doubt if the past, like a motion picture, could be replayed, I should also be shocked to find how much of the story I have already invented. Memory is perhaps more fallacious than forgetfulness." ~ Morton Smith
...
In the context of so many questions, Smith’s playful bantering that ‘‘I soon made my supposed scholarly labors an excuse for spending most of my time in my cell’’ takes on an ominous demeanor: ‘‘supposed’’? Was Smith engaged in something that wouldn’t usually be considered ‘‘scholarly labors’’?
https://the-eye.eu/public/concen.org/Frauds%2C%20Forgeries%20and%20Hoaxes%20in%20Christianity/5-%20Jeffery%20-%20The%20Secret%20Gospel%20of%20Mark%20Unveiled.pdf
As Jeffrey notes, Canonical Mark, as it now stands has two stories about robed youths, at Gethsemane and the tomb, and some scholars have proposed that the stories as they stand now are incoherent (eg. it raises the question of who the youth was) and that therefore canonical Mark is a shorter version of a longer, coherent Secret Mark with the secret parts edited out. But such a suggestion tends to contradict the idea in the Mar Saba letter that Mark first wrote his own gospel and then expanded it into his longer "Secret Mark". Jeffrey writes:
Quote
That would mean that Clement was wrong. Mark did not write the canonical gospel first, and then add further material to it at a second stage. The Secret Gospel with its extra material existed first, but some subsequent editor shortened it to produce the canonical gospel we know. ... Some [proponents of Secret Mark] believe that canonical Mark was the earlier text, and that Secret Mark was produced later, by adding material to create ‘‘an amplification of the canonical Gospel.’’ Others have thought that the Secret Gospel, with the extra material quoted by Clement, was compiled first, then shortened to produce canonical Mark by removing the material Clement quoted. ... Actually, Smith’s theory as a whole was even more complicated than this, as he himself pointed out in a footnote: ‘‘Canonical Mark seemed to have been cut down from a longer text; Clement’s secret gospel shows some signs of censorship; in sum, there seem to have been many minor alterations and we can grasp securely only the main outlines.’’
Jeffrey writes:
Quote
Erhman’s category of ‘‘things that are hard to explain’’ includes three questions: First, ‘‘Why does this letter contradict in content what Clement says elsewhere?’’ Though Clement wrote of ‘‘gnosis’’ or spiritual knowledge, this was never ‘‘a matter of hidden texts with arcane instruction,’’ but of ‘‘deeper understanding of readily available texts.’’ Nor would Clement have advocated lying or swearing false oaths.>> There are amusing aspects like: <<the ‘‘brilliant irony’’ that the letter was inserted into an early modern edition of a highly interpolated ancient author, St. Ignatius of Antioch, facing a page on which the editor inveighed against ‘‘theologically motivated scribes’’ who falsify ancient texts.

Jeffrey also points out the unlikelihood of Clement, as in the Mar Saba letter, supposedly promoting a deeper stage of education into mysteries after baptism:
Quote
The two-stage initiation is enough by itself to raise questions about what kind of Christianity the Mar Saba text represents. Clement, in fact, criticized the Valentinians for teaching that, after baptism, the believer needed to undergo a second stage of being perfected. Small wonder, then, that we have been unable to solve the Mar Saba riddle by investigating only two of the five strands of tradition: the relationship between canonical Mark and the ‘‘more spiritual’’ gospel.

Robert Price relates his conversation with Morton Smith on Secret Mark:
Quote
In 1985 I asked Morton Smith how he responded to charges of forgery, recently renewed in Per Beskow's excellent book Strange Tales About Jesus: a Survey of Unfamiliar Gospels (Fortress, 1983). He told me the now-familiar story of the custodians of the manuscript secreting it away out of embarrassment at the notoriety Smith's book The Secret Gospel had brought them, henceforth wanting to suppress the evidence. He asked, furthermore, what business Beskow had in condemning all the more recent New Age gospels as spurious: if they embodied someone's faith, weren't they authentic gospels, no matter who wrote them or when? Later I wondered if his words did not apply equally, even especially, to his own Secret Mark!
http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_secret.htm
That is, Price followed M. Smith's logic and took M. Smith as inferring that just as the modern forged New Age documents were authentic because they embodied their followers' beliefs, the same could be said about the "Secret Mark" that Morton exhibited. That is, M.Smith viewed Secret Mark as a modern forgery that was authentic because it reflected the modern forger's beliefs.

Ben Smith, on his Text Excavation website, makes an interesting note about Stephen Carlson's criticisms of the Mar Saba Letter:
Quote
Carlson follows these observations up with a search for how Morton Smith himself describes his finding of the Voss book at Mar Saba. Surprisingly, Carlson finds that Smith nowhere asserts or even really implies that the manuscript was present in the monastery library before he himself got there. His statements on the issue, while not exactly evasive, are not exactly as forthright as his statements about other manuscripts in the library.
This evidence again is only support for the main thrust of the argument, but again I find it rather suggestive. The best way to counter Carlson on this point would be to dig up a paragraph in which Smith unambiguously describes his actual finding of the manuscript at Mar Saba (as opposed to, for example, his finding of himself reading the manuscript at Mar Saba).
http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html#marsabaman

Ben Smith also notes the "coincidence" that the letter is broken off at the moment where the letter loses value for a modern scholar interested in Secret Mark:
Quote
The extant ending ["The true exegesis, therefore, and that which is according to the true philosophy...."] is a sign to the modern critic that we have either all that there was or all that the author cared to share of the text in question. The author is finished with the direct quotes, and has now moved on to interpretation. But modern scholars routinely ignore patristic interpretations of their source texts, preferring to reconstruct each source for themselves and study it without patristic interference. And that is just what the Mar Saba text allows us to do. We have had the doubly good fortune of (A) having Clement quote the Marcan excerpts so exactly as to preserve both their Marcan character and their exact Marcan position and (B) having only the Clementine interpretations, not the Clementine efforts at text preservation, cut off by the ravages of time and circumstance. (http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html)

Ben Smith writes that Yuri Kuchinsky found
Quote
a pair of Coptic texts in which Jesus is said to have baptized his apostles just before passion week. Kuchinsky finds in this tradition evidence that the Coptic tradition knew of the secret gospel of Mark, in which Jesus allegedly baptizes one of his followers after raising him from the dead. ... The two Coptic sources are Abu-'l-Barakat, century XIV, and Macarius, century X. The former writes of the week that precedes Palm Sunday: "It is said that the baptism of the apostles took place then." Macarius, some four centuries earlier, had already written concerning the Friday of the same week: "It has been told that this is the day on which the Lord Christ baptized his disciples."
http://www.textexcavation.com/kuchinskybrownsecmk.html
Kuchinsky notes that both Secret Mark and the 2 Coptic sources are from Egypt, and that Jesus' activity initiating his follower was before Passion Week. Ben Smith however replies that unlike the Coptic texts, the Secret Mark passages are not about baptism.
Ben Smith makes a good point:
Quote
Mark himself could not have thought that Jesus baptized the youth, since in Mark 1.7-8 he affirms that John the baptist baptizes with water, but the coming one will baptize with the holy spirit.
Furthermore, in Mark 14.51-52 the youth reappears in the narrative, again dressed in a linen shroud. If the shroud over his naked body were his badge of baptism in Mark 10, why is he still dressed for baptism in Mark 14? It cannot be that the first baptism was for the new believer while the second was for a further ritual initiation,
since then we would be facing the anomaly that the public version of the gospel has only the (attempted) second, or private, baptism while it is only the private version, the secret gospel, that has the first, or public, baptism.
Nor would Clement of Alexandria have thought that Jesus baptized the youth, since John Moschus wrote in the Spiritual Meadow:
Quote
Yes, they were truly baptized, just as Clement the stromatist in the fifth volume of the Hypotyposeis mentions. For he says, explaining the apostolic statement that says: I give thanks that I have baptized none of you, that Christ is said to have baptized Peter only, but Peter [in turn] Andrew, Andrew [in turn] James and John, and they the rest.
Spiritual Meadow 5.176 (volume 3 of Otto Stählin, 196.21, fragment 6 of the Hypotyposeis)

Ben Smith considered whether the reference to six days in Secret Mark ("And after six days Jesus ordered him. And when it was evening the young man comes to him dressed in a shroud") could be related to a Coptic practice of baptism on the sixth day of the week. Where did Ben hear that Copts baptise on Saturday? Earlier in his essay, Ben had noted Macarius saying that Jesus baptised on a Friday (the sixth day of the Jewish week).
Quote
And after six days.... Mark 9.2 has the same phrase, and it is the transfiguration that follows the six days, not a baptism. On pages 148-149 of Mark's Other Gospel Brown takes on Talley, who argues that the Coptic tradition of baptizing on the sixth day of the week arose from this phrase in the secret gospel. Brown rightly notes that there is no good reason why the sixth day after Jesus and the young man entered the house should be in any way equivalent to the sixth day of the week. The only coincidence is the number six, surely an insufficient foundation on which to build a theory.
I note that the "after six days" in Secret Mark sounds absurd. If Jesus raised the youth, stayed in his house, and instructed him "only after six days", then what was Jesus doing in his house for six days?

It isn't clear to me whether, as Kuchinsky suggests, Secret Mark would involve baptism. But if the story of Lazarus' raising has been seen as baptismal, and since Secret Mark immediately precedes a reference to the "baptism" of Jesus, John, and James (maybe metaphorical in their passion), and since teaching the mysteries can be part of initiation, it's reasonable to think that baptism was involved. But still, since there is no mention of baptism, and in the stories of Lazarus' raising and the "baptisms" of Jesus, James, and John in Mark 10 are metaphorical, the baptismal meaning of Secret Mark is unclear and in fact could also be metaphorical. COnsequently, Secret Mark didn't involve a literal baptism.

Kuchinsky argues that since phrases in Secret Mark sometimes match "peripheral" text readings from the NT, it's more likely to be authentic because Morton Smith would have used the usual canonical version. But I think that this is not true and Morton Smith could have used the peripheral readings. Ben Smith writes:
Quote
The canonical version of Mark [10:46] has ερχονται (they come); the secret version of Mark has ερχεται (he comes). The singular is a western (or peripheral) reading found in Bezae (D), miniscule 788, several Old Latin manuscripts, the Alexandrian church father Origen, and other places.
This example is tainted, however, by our certainty that Morton Smith was in fact aware of this variant, as Kuchinsky admits with respect both to this variant in particular and to western variants in general. ... Indeed, the simple and straightforward fact that the western text is accessible to all modern scholars casts a shadow across any argument that Morton Smith was unaware of any of the western variants that Kuchinsky will point up.
http://www.textexcavation.com/kuchinskybrownsecmk.html
Stephen Carlson noted that Morton <<Smith's very first section arguing for the authenticity of the Secret Gospel fragments is entitled 'Influence of the Western Text'; see pp. 122-123 of [his book] Clement of Alexandria.... That's using the Western text affinities of Secret Mark to support its authenticity. (http://www.textexcavation.com/kuchinskybrownsecmk.html)>>

Ben Smith notes:
Quote
The canonical version of John 11.3 has nothing about mercy; in the secret gospel, however, the sister of the dead youth says: Υιε Δαβιδ, ελεησον με (son of David, have mercy on me). The Magdalene gospel (Pepys 2498, often called the Pepysian harmony) also has an appeal for mercy: ...wepeande and cryeande hym mercy. This case I accept, at least pending further evidence, as a true coincidence; for, although the line is a straight copy of Mark 10.47-48 (and, if Smith was the forger, that is where he would have found the line)
Maybe the forger was interested in using peripheral renderings of the Lazarus story like in the Magdalene Gospel?

« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 08:01:41 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline rakovsky

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One of the strongest and most interesting arguments that I've found in favor of Secret Mark's authenticity is that it forms part of a chiastic structure that is composed of the whole of Mark's gospel. In this theory, sections of Mark's gospel line up with other sections of Mark's gospel symmetrically in order, emphasizing different meanings and creating a hidden order and pattern in the book.

Jeffrey Krantz in his article "Mark’s Chiastic Gospel Structure"
has a chart outlining the whole Gospel of Mark in a chiasm, and he lines up the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5) with Secret Mark's raising of the youth, explaining:
Quote
<<Pair E – (5:21-43, after 10:34) Jesus raises two people from the dead. These passages are linked by the state of the people Jesus helps (apeqanen) but also by the way that Jesus helps them, by this grasping of their hands (kratew). While this verb occurs elsewhere in the gospel, it appears that it plays an important role in the way that Mark contrasts the first and second halves of the gospel.>> https://preachingpeace.org/mark-s-chiastic-gospel-structure/
In Krantz's scheme, the central verse of the chiasm that covers the whole gospel is Jesus' first Passion Prediction.(8:31-33) See the link for a full list of his pairings.

John Dart in his book Decoding Mark pairs up Jairus' daughter's raising (Mark 5) with Mark 13:9-13 (the preaching of the gospel to all nations, apocalyptic events where relatives give each other up, and that whoever endures to the end will be saved) as part of the chiasm that he sees that covers Mark's gospel. He also included Secret Mark in his concept of a chiasm covering the gospel. (I expect that it was in pp.188-189 of his book.)
Quote
According to Dart, his analysis supports the authenticity of Secret Mark. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark)
I note however that Dart's pairing of the raising of Jairus' daughter with Mark 13 contradicts Krantz's pairing of the daughter's raising with the raising of the youth in Secret Mark. This makes using Secret Mark in creating chiasms less certain.

Several other writers have made chiasms covering Mark's entire gospel that don't involve Secret Mark. Scott Philip (Chiastic Structure: A Key to the Interpretation of Mark’s Gospel) has a chiasm chart for Mark, but he doesn't include either the raising of Jairus' daughter or Secret Mark.

(https://chiasmusresources.org/content/chiastic-structure-key-interpretation-mark%E2%80%99s-gospel)

Dick Harfield (A Proposed Framework Structure of Mark’s Gospel) unusually makes a chiasm dividing Mark in half and having the two halves run parallel to each other, each from beginning to end (eg. The baptism at the beginning lines up with the Transfiguration at the beginning or the second half.) His scheme doesn't use Secret Mark either. (https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/24910/is-the-gospel-of-mark-arranged-as-a-chiasm-or-parallel-structure)
Hajime Murai (Literary Structure of the Bible) in his outline chiasm covering Mark lines up the story of the woman's healing from an issue of blood who had paid money to doctors (Mark 5), which is preceded and succeeded by the story of Jairus' daughter's raising (Mk 5), with the story of the widow who gave all her money in an offering (Mark 12:40-44):
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[Pairing significance:] Women contribute whole possessions   
[Mark] 5:26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.    
[Mark] 12:44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.
Murai ignores Secret Mark and matches "Jesus foretells his death and resurrection(8:31-33)" with "A third time Jesus foretells his death and resurrection"(10:32-34)(http://www.bible.literarystructure.info/bible/41_Mark_e_1.html#1-1) Murai's work looks much more detailed than Krant's outline and I find it better in that the central verse of the entire gospel's chiasm, Jesus' second Passion Prediction (9:30-32), is symmetrically preceded by Jesus' first and third of such predictions.


An interesting issue that "Secret Mark" brings to my attention (even supposing that Secret Mark is a fraud) about the canonical gospels is the question of the identities of the rich young man whom Jesus urged to sell his own possessions, the youth who lost his robe in Gethsemane, the youth with a robe in Jesus' tomb, and the Beloved Disciple. I wonder how many of these are the same person, what is the significance of the story of the robed youth, and whether they are the same person as Lazarus? But how could the resurrected Lazarus be the same as both the poor Lazarus in the parable and also the rich young man? Was Lazarus the rich young man and then did he give up his riches and become the poor Lazarus in the parable?
Wikipedia notes:
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Miles Fowler suggests that the naked fleeing youth in Mark 14:51–52, the youth in the tomb of Jesus in Mark 16:5 and the youth Jesus raises from the dead in Secret Mark are the same youth; but that he also appears as the rich (and in the parallel account in Matthew 19:20, “young”) man in Mark 10:17–22, whom Jesus loves and urges to give all his possessions to the poor and join him.[36] This young man is furthermore by some scholars identified as both Lazarus... and the beloved disciple (due to the fact that ...in the gospels he is said to have loved only the three siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5), the rich man (Mark 10:22) and the beloved disciple).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Gospel_of_Mark
Couldn't the robed youth in Gethsemane and at the tomb be the "angel" who comforted Jesus in Gethsemane and appeared in the tomb? But how does one equate the robed youth that the women meet at the tomb in Mark 16 with the Beloved disciple who hears the women's news and runs to the tomb in John 20? It seems that the robed youth and the Beloved disciple must be different.

Putting the relevant passages in a list, we get: The Parable of Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31); The Young, Rich Man whom Jesus loved (Matthew 19:20/Mark 10:17–22) ; Lazarus whom Jesus loved (John 11:5) / Secret Mark (Located in Mark 10:34-35); The Beloved Disciple (John 13:23), the angel in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) the naked fleeing youth in Mark 14:51–52, the Beloved Disciple (John 19:26); the youth in the tomb of Jesus (Mark 16:5)/the angel at the tomb (Matthew 28:2) /the two angels at the tomb (Luke 24:4), The Beloved Disciple runs with Peter to the tomb after hearing from the women and leaves, and then Mary sees two angels in the tomb (John 20:2 & 20:12); the Beloved Disciple (21:7,20).

According to Aquinas' Golden Chain commentary, the Church fathers seemed to think that the Lazarus in the story of THe Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16) was a real person, well known among the Jews for his sickness and poverty, and/or that this is just a parable where the name of Lazarus is given because he is in heaven. Chrysostom seems to imply that he is the same Lazarus as the one raised in John 11:
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CHRYS. But a parable is that in which an example is given, while the names are omitted. Lazarus is interpreted, "one who was assisted." For he was poor, and the Lord helped him.
... But that it is true that he who hears not the Scriptures, takes no heed to the dead who rise again, the Jews have testified, who at one time indeed wished to kill Lazarus, but at another laid hands upon the Apostles, notwithstanding that some had risen from the dead at the hour of the Cross.
Here is more from the commentary:
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CYRIL ...This discourse concerning the rich man and Lazarus was written after the manner of a comparison in a parable, to declare that they who abound in earthly riches, unless they will relieve the necessities of the poor, shall meet with a heavy condemnation. But the tradition of the Jews relates that there was at that time in Jerusalem a certain Lazarus who was afflicted with extreme poverty and sickness, whom our Lord remembering, introduces him into the example for the sake of adding greater point to His words.
https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gcc/luke-16.html

In the story of the young rich man, the man tells Jesus that he observed the commandments, whereupon in Mark 10:
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21. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."22. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
The Church fathers take the view that Jesus loved him because he succeeded in obeying the commandments. A problem with equating him with the youth in the robe is that the story ends without saying that he became Jesus' disciple. And it's hard to equate him with the Lazarus in Luke 16, who was poor.

The story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11) sounds a bit disjointed in that Mary announced to Jesus that the one whom Jesus loved, Lazarus, was sick, but the text doesn't mention Jesus meeting Lazarus before. If one takes the gospels chronologically, the rich young man is the only one whom they already say that Jesus had loved.
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Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3. Therefore his sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick. 4. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. [Jesus finds Lazarus dead] ...  35. Jesus wept. 36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
One can also sense that since Mary and Martha were believers, Lazarus was too, and this would by extension explain Jesus' special love for and resurrection of Lazarus.

Commenting on the Last Supper in John 13 ("Now there was leaning on Jesus" bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spoke. 25. He then lying on Jesus" breast said to him, Lord, who is it ?"), the Golden Chain also has Augustine's and Origen's idea that the story suggests that John was given greater mysteries because his head rises from Jesus' bosom to Jesus' breast:
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AUGUSTINE. This is John, whose Gospel this is, as he afterwards declares. It is the custom of the sacred writers, when they come to any thing relating to themselves, to speak of themselves, as if they were speaking of another. For if the thing itself is related correctly, what does truth lose by the omission of boasting on the writer"s part? ... On Jesus" breast; the same as in Jesus" bosom. Or, he lay first in Jesus" bosom, and then ascended higher, and lay upon His breast; as if, had he remained lying in His bosom, and not ascended to lie on His breast, our Lord would not have told him what Peter wanted to know. By his lying at last on Jesus" breast, is expressed that greater and more abundant grace, which made him Jesus" special disciple.

The Golden Chain doesn't name the angel in Gethsemane (Luke 22). Mark 14 on the robed man in Gethsemane goes: "51. And there followed Him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:52. And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked."
The Greek word here for linen cloth is "sindona", which is also used for burial shrouds, which helps relate this youth in my mind to the youth in the tomb in Mark 16. But why would the youth be wearing only a "sindona" cloth?
In the Golden chain, three writers propose that the robed youth in Mark 14 was either from the house of the Last Supper (I think there is a tradition that this was Mark himself as a youth), or James, or else the Beloved Disciple, John. Who do you think it was?
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Theophylact: It appears probable that this young man was of that house, where they had eaten the Passover. But some say that this young man was James, the brother of our Lord, who was called Just; who after the ascension of Christ received from the Apostles the throne of the bishopric of Jerusalem.

Greg., Mor. 14, 49: Or, he says this of John, who, although he afterwards returned to the cross to hear the words of the Redeemer, at first was frightened and fled.

John 19 makes another reference to the Beloved Disciple:
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Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother"s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he says to his mother, Woman, behold your son!27. Then says he to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

When Mark 16:5 gives the story of the young man at the tomb, his white robe in place of his earlier "sindona" (used for burlals) reminds me of the concept of a white, pure, radiant resurrection clothes, perhaps symbolizing transformed resurrection flesh:
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5. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6. And he saith unto them, "Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: He is risen; He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him."7. "But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, and He said unto you."
The resemblance of his words to the words of the angel(s) at the tomb in the other canonical gospels is noteworthy. Theophylact and St. Gregory thinks that the youth in Mark was the angel in Matthew, whereas Augustine allows for them being either the same or separate:
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Augustine: Either let us suppose that Matthew was silent about that Angel, whom they saw on entering, whilst Mark said nothing of him, whom they say outside sitting on the stone, so that they saw two and heard separately from two, the things which the Angels said concerning Jesus; or we must understand by "entering into the sepulchre," their coming within some inclosure, by which is it probable that the place was surrounded a little space before the stone, by the cutting out of which the burial place had been made, so that they saw sitting on the right hand in that space him whom Matthew designates as sitting on the stone.
Bp. Peter Chrysologus sees the angel in Matthew 28 as a supernatural being that descended from heaven and spoke about the same words to the women that the youth in Mark 16 had.

In John 20, after meeting the angels, the women run to Peter and the Beloved Disciple:
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2. Then she runs, and comes to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and says to them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. 3. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher. 4. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. ...
Finally, John 21 (about meeting the risen Jesus by the Sea of Galilee) seems to make some of the clearest identifications of John as the Beloved Disciple, when it says:
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7. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus love says to Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher"s coat to him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
[Next, Peter meets and talks with the risen Jesus.]
20. Then Peter, turning about, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrays you?21. Peter seeing him says to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?22. Jesus says to him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? follow you me. 23. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you?
24. This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
Since this is the Gospel of John, it seems that the Beloved Disciple is John the Evangelist, whom Paul associated with Peter when he wrote in an epistle that Peter, James, and John were the three pillars of Jerusalem's church.
The Golden Chain commentary says that John recognized Jesus because of John's penetrating nature, and that Peter was naked just for work.
Augustine tries to explain here why John was considered in particular to be "The Beloved Disciple:
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Some think, and they no contemptible commentators upon Scripture, that the reason why John was loved more than the rest, was, because he had lived in perfect chastity from his youth up.
...
Yet the question remains, Why did our Lord say of one who was about to die, I will that he tarry till I come? It may be asked too why our Lord loved John the most, when Peter loved our Lord the most? I might easily reply, that the one who loved Christ the more, was the better man, and the one whom Christ loved the more, the more blessed; only this would not be a defense of our Lord"s justice. This important question then I will endeavor to answer. The Church acknowledges two modes of life, as divinely revealed, that by faith, and that by sight. The one is represented by the Apostle Peter, in respect of the primacy of his Apostleship; the other by John: wherefore to the one it is said, Follow Me, i.e. imitate Me in enduring temporal sufferings; of the other it is said, I will that he tarry till I come: as if to say, Do you follow Me, by the endurance of temporal sufferings, let him remain till I come to give everlasting bliss; or to open out the meaning more, Let action be perfected by following the example of My Passion, but let contemplation wait inchoate till at My coming it be completed: wait, not simply remain, continue, but wait for its completion at Christ"s coming. Now in this life of action it is true, the more we love Christ, the more we are freed from sin; but He does not love us as we are, He frees us from sin, that we may not always remain as we are, but He loves us heretofore rather, because hereafter we shall not have that which displeases Him, and which He frees us from. So then let Peter love Him, that we may be freed from this mortality; let John be loved by Him, that we may be preserved in that immortality. John loved less than Peter, because, as he represented that life in which we are much more loved, our Lord said, I will that he remain (i.e. wait) till I come; seeing that that greater love we have not yet, but wait till we have it at His coming. And this intermediate state is represented by Peter who loves, but is loved less, for Christ loves us in our misery less than in our blessedness: and we again love the contemplation of truth such as it will be then, less in our present state, because as yet we neither know nor have it. But let none separate those illustrious Apostles; that which Peter represented, and that which John represented, both were sometime to be.
So in conclusion, I see that the white-robed youth in Mark 16 is a supernatural angel at Jesus' tomb in the other gospels and is probably also the running youth in Gethsemane, as well as a comforting angel there. And I see that John the evangelist is the Beloved Disciple. But it's hard for me to be more specific about the identities of the rich young man who won't give up his possessions in Luke's story and of the angel/ robed youth at the tomb.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 12:03:56 AM by rakovsky »
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20