Was the Crucifixion Originally Conceived as an Apotheosis?

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Secret Alias
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Was the Crucifixion Originally Conceived as an Apotheosis?

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:27 am

Apotheosis = the elevation of someone to divine status; deification. Bolt in his The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark's Gospel provides some contemporary background:
Apotheosis was reserved for the virtuous of soul, the great ones of the land. In the first century, this no doubt explains why the apotheosis of the Roman emperors was gradually gathering steam. Mark's Gospel was launched upon the Roman world when the apotheosis of its rulers was still a matter of some debate. This practice began as a sign of great honour, but eventually became simply a matter of custom.

Romulus In the background of this practice lay the deification of Romulus, the founder of Rome (Pease 1942: 15). The story of his deification appeared as early as Ennius' Annals (65–66,111 - 113" in the second century BCE. Naturally enough, the events surrounding the moment when Romulus 'vanished from among men' (ex anthro ̄po ̄n e ̄phanisthe ̄, Plutarch, Camillus 32.5), so that he 'was no more on earth' (Livy 1.15.6), were debated. Some political realists suspected a senatorial conspiracy (Plutarch, Numa 2–3), whereas others were convinced he had been 'caught up to the gods' (Plutarch, Romulus 27–28), one person even swearing an oath that he had seen him go (28.1).

As the imperial power took a new turn with Julius Caesar and then with Augustus, the mythology surrounding Romulus began to be reapplied to Rome's chief man. The prevailing psychology at this time, however, meant that the assumption to heaven was no longer bodily. During the imperial apotheoses, probably from as early as the time of Augustus,42 the funeral ritual symbolized the heavenly ascent of the soul by releasing an eagle from a cage on top of the pyre.43 But down below, the body (or an effigy of it) was still burning. The devaluation of the currency In time, the apotheosis of the emperor would become so customary that it would lose its significance. But it is important to realize that, at the time of Mark's Gospel, apotheosis was still a valued commodity.
Bolt's argument is that the Gospel of Mark - with its empty tomb and many other elements - is a further development of the Imperial apotheosis tradition.

Bolt strangely assumes that the Gospel of Mark 'went into circulation around the time of Claudius's apotheosis. A better match is probably the apotheosis of Vespasian or Titus. The elements he identifies in Mark are - the Transfiguration narrative:
When the story of Jesus' transfiguration is read from this perspective, it seems like a missed opportunity for a story about a translation, or, as it would be read in Mark's day, about an apotheosis.60 The transfiguration scene contains some parallels to stories8 in which a person either disappeared and/or was translated to heaven. In particular, it has several close parallels to Josephus' account of the disappearance of Moses
The Empty Tomb:
Mark's narrative presented Jesus' death as a divine necessity. He had to die before the resurrection and the kingdom of God could arrive. Refusing to avoid death through apotheosis, Jesus willingly embraced this difficult necessity. When he died, he was recognized as Son of God – a title used for the divine Caesar Augustus. Even then he did not undergo an apotheosis of soul, even then he did not undergo an apotheosis of soul as the great Caesars had done. Instead, Mark's final chapter shows that he was raised bodily from the dead.
I guess I am wondering to what degree we can speculate that late Christian orthodoxy - with an 'already divine Jesus' entering the womb of Mary to be a living god Man whose death doesn't have any effect on his status at least according to said orthodoxy - influenced the reshaping of Mark. To me it is apparent that Mark was originally an adoptionist gospel. But that assumption leaves open the possibility that the crucifixion was the last stage of his apotheosis. What do you think?

What raises my suspicions is what Irenaeus says about (the gospel) of Cerinthus:
He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.
This could be an 'apotheosis gospel':
The Christology of Cerinthus seems to have been essentially a form of Adoptionism, securing the apotheosis of the human body, and is closely akin to the doctrine found in Hermas.https://books.google.com/books?id=0ddKA ... 22&f=false
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: Was the Crucifixion Originally Conceived as an Apotheosis?

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:48 am

This makes me think about Mark 14:62 :
Mark 14:62
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
my suspicion (also for other reasons) is that in proto-Mark Jesus was talking about the ascending of the Son of Man (something of very similar to an "apotheosis") more than a descending of the Son of Man (as we have it now).

A clue of the original answer may be found in John 8:28:

When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am
So the identity of Jesus is really to be found on the cross.

But to eclipse this fact the late redactor changed the ascending in a descending.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Was the Crucifixion Originally Conceived as an Apotheosis?

Post by Secret Alias » Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:24 am

I am not so sure that a god was forbidden or excluded from apotheosis if you follow the logic of the two powers argument. If we go back to the theophany on Sinai - the 'second god' is visible on the mountain as fire and the 'first god' is heard from heaven. Only one of the two gods is anthropomorphic - i.e. the one who 'walks' in the garden, is invited to dinner by Abraham, wrestles with Jacob. I think on some level the 'made in his image' dimension means that he and we can be connected to the same apotheosis in the same manner that Julius Caesar led all the Emperors to being declared sons of God:
While the extent of any divine honours paid Julius Caesar during his life is disputed, there is little doubt that following his death he was raised to the level of deity.16 The apotheosis (consecratio) of Julius established a precedent and, unless the Senate voted to the contrary, subsequent emperors upon their death were duly included in the list of civic gods. This required a witness to rise in the Senate and swear that he had seen the soul of the Emperor ascend to heaven from the pyre (usually in the form of an eagle). The ritual supplied a motif popular on coins. The apotheosis of Julius made it possible, in turn, for Augustus to be spoken of as the son of God,18 as were many subsequent emperors. https://books.google.com/books?id=fWXC2 ... 22&f=false
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: Was the Crucifixion Originally Conceived as an Apotheosis?

Post by jude77 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 10:17 am

An interesting idea. I certainly am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in with any serious criticism for or against, but this was sort of my "first impression":

1. Claudius died in 54 and I assume his deification came quickly after that, so is Bolt dating Mark to roughly that period?
2. You offer Vespasian as a better model (died 79). Would 79 then be the earliest that Mark could be completed (I'm assuming various incomplete editions existed earlier)? How then would affect the dates on MT and LK?
3. Does the Vespasian date assume that no empty tomb/resurrection stories existed prior to 79?

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