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Re: [GTh] Secret Mark

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  • sarban
    ... From: Michael Grondin To: Sent: Friday, July 25, 2003 7:06 AM Subject: Re: [GTh] Secret Mark ... early
    Message 1 of 12 , Jul 26 11:56 AM
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...>
      To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, July 25, 2003 7:06 AM
      Subject: Re: [GTh] Secret Mark


      > [Andrew Criddle]:
      > > I'm not sure that the bridal chamber was a distinctive Gnostic
      > > ritual. I think it at least possible that it was a Gnostic
      > > interpretation of mainstream Christian sacraments and worship.
      > > It may have involved ideas similar to those in the "Extracts from
      > > Theodotus" preserved by Clement of Alexandria, in which
      > > human souls are joined in union with angelic powers.
      >
      > What I'm thinking is that the ritual must have had some connection with
      > asceticism - a substitute for natural marriage, if you will. Was there any
      > other "mainstream sacrament" that might have served as an interpretive
      > model? What I'm unclear about is the extent of collective ascetism in
      early
      > "mainstream" Christianity. You've got personal ascetics like Paul, of
      > course - and probably John, and the oddball monastic - but collective
      > ascetics like the Encratites seem to have been uncommon and short-lived
      (as
      > must needs be, one assumes). And then some of the impetus for asceticism
      > seems related to the idea of the world passing away; it isn't regarded as
      > _evil_ exactly (as in later full-blown Gnosticism), but at least perhaps a
      > "corpse", as in Thomas. And then there's the idea of becoming a "living
      > spirit" or a Pauline pneumatic-man. The Carpocratian heresy against
      > Gnosticism aside, does a "living spirit" indulge in carnal pleasures? But
      > then there must be a ritual to "seal" such a person in his/her new
      > self-identity - some official confirmation of the person's new status. And
      > so you get the ritual metaphorical "marriage" or "joining" of the person
      > with the HS or Christ (the major alternatives, I take it). But what were
      the
      > various mechanisms exactly? The phrase "bridal chamber" suggests something
      > much more elaborate than the ceremony still undergone by prospective
      priests
      > to initiate their status as "the bride of Christ". Was the "bridal
      chamber"
      > a physical location wherein one stayed by him/herself for a time? (And how
      > long?) Or was there another person - representing the "bridegroom"
      (whether
      > the HS or Christ) - who went into the "bridal chamber" with the
      prospective
      > "bride"? There may have been disagreements on that point between various
      > ascetic groups. Thomas is clear - only a SINGLE one will enter the bridal
      > chamber. Was that a response to other ascetic sects which had gotten a
      > reputation for libertinism by having TWO folks in the bridal chamber at
      the
      > same time? And then, again, was it a ritual that _everyone_ in the
      community
      > was expected to undergo? Or was it a ritual reserved for the chosen few
      (as
      > Thomas might be taken to suggest)? Maybe, after all, it was an early form
      of
      > intiation for priests and/or missionaries, made to seem more common by our
      > assuming that the audience for such texts as the Gospel of Philip was a
      > general community of Christians, rather than a select group being trained
      to
      > be priests/missionaries. Oh, but then there's the Encratites and the
      > Therapeutae! Oy! (Another theory shot to heck.)
      >
      > Well, all this makes my head spin, but the one thing that seems clear is
      > that it's hard to imagine (and we have no evidence for, that I know of)
      > anything like this being the norm in "mainstream" Christianity. In small
      > pockets of ascetics or under special individual circumstances, OK, but
      then
      > that wouldn't be "mainstream", I guess.
      >

      The major contemporary work on asceticism in early Christianity is Peter
      Brown's "The Body and Society". I highly recommend it.
      Collective sexual abstinence appears to have been common in early
      Syriac Christianity. Tatian and the Encratites are an example of a wider
      tendency in that area. There are also groups of celibates integrated
      into the mainstream church known as "Sons and Daughters of the
      Covenant".

      Andrew Criddle
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