To no one's surprise, I do not find Stephan's case for Clement's knowledge of Secret Mark based on what he says in Quis Dives Salvator convincing.
Caveat: I accept that Stephan is sincere in his belief, and while I have criticized his behavior in online discussions, especially his hyperbolic polemical style, I am not making any judgment about how he lives his life outside the forum. I know two people who are quite polemical online but are perfectly nice people in person (some of you may be familiar with the blogger Jim West, the other is a friend from U Md. from outside the field), so I've learned to separate the two spheres.
Stephan's case as best I can make it out:
1) In The Rich Man's Salvation (or Who is the Rich Man Who Can Be Saved? Quis Dives Salvator in Latin), Clement is primarily discussing the pericope of The Rich Man and explicitly quotes the passage (Mark 10:17-22 or 31; quoted in Rich Man 4) and attributes it to Mark's gospel (RM 5), though his text of Mark differs from the known text.
2) Immediately after that, Clement says that “And as we are clearly aware that the Saviour teaches His people nothing in a merely human way, but everything by a divine an mystical wisdom, we must not understand His words literally, but with due inquiry and intelligence we must search out and master their hidden meaning” (RM 5, Loeb translation).
3) There follows a discussion several chapters in length of the true meaning of “sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10.21). In this context, Clement concludes that Christ's words cannot mean simply to carry out the physical act of selling what one has and giving to the poor, which is a thing others had done before, but that “one must strip the soul itself and the will of their lurking passions” τὸ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτὴν καὶ τὴν διάθεσιν γυμνῶσαι τῶν ὑπόντων παθῶν (RM 13).
4) It is likely that Clement was influenced by the passage from Secret Mark quoted in the Letter to Theodore, because he says the passage he is citing is found after Mark 10.34, almost immediately after the pericope of the Rich Man, and involves a young man with only a linen cloth about his naked body.
5) The passage from Secret Mark that Clement quoted is probably based on an Alexandrian mystery cult ritual in which initiates strip themselves of their clothing to symbolize the stripping away of their passions.
There is a lot more in Stephan's post, which I consider tangential to the main argument outlined above, but will discuss briefly further below.
I will agree with points 1, 2, and 3, above and think things go wrong at points 4 and 5 where Stephan links the verb γυμνῶσαι “to strip” to the cognate noun γυμνός “naked body,” about which the youth had thrown a linen cloth. The passage from Secret Mark does not actually have the word strip or say that the young man removed the linen cloth. So we have to imagine what the passage is really talking about, which is a ritual in which the young man strips off his clothing as a symbol of ridding himself of his passions. We have no direct evidence of such a ritual. No source mentions it, including Secret Mark. We have to imagine that that's what Clement had in mind because it's just too unlikely to be coincidence that Clement might use the verb γυμνῶσαι in his 43 chapter long exegesis of the story of The Rich Man unless he were somehow influenced by his knowledge of the cognate noun γυμνός in the passage from Secret Mark which would have followed the Rich Man is the text of Secret Mark.
I would contest this judgment and suggest that a single word of near agreement between two documents is an insufficient basis to infer literary dependence. On the contrary, it seems that we have to deduce the existence of the ritual only if we first accept that Clement's comment on the Rich Man and the passage from Secret Mark must necessarily be closely intertwined, and that has not been demonstrated.
To be sure, Stephan can point out other single word agreements with Secret Mark from other parts of Clement's lengthy work to bolster his case, but this is like trying to prove that there's literary dependence between the Secret Mark passage and my Greek dictionary. My dictionary contains every word found in Secret Mark and in the same sense. Here's what Stephan claims:
what Clement is talking about here is a mystery religion which takes place in the here and now based on a passage in his gospel where Jesus performed the Agape on a chosen disciple
Now the word love (agape) is found in both Secret Mark and in Clement. But in Secret Mark it is a verb and describes the young man's love for Jesus and there is no food mentioned in the text, so it's not used in the same sense as the noun Agape, which is the Christian ritual meal.
[I'm trying very hard not to think about what Jesus performing the Agape on a chosen disciple might look like and it's just not working].
That said, it's not impossible that the passage in the Letter to Theodore was some sort of representation of an otherwise unattested Alexandrian secret ritual. Most defenses of the authenticity of the Letter to Theodore seem to understand it that way. A number of scholars have suggested this ritual was baptismal, despite the text not mentioning baptism or the presence of water. And unlike baptism, which is inherently a ritual, or the Lord's Supper, in which the symbolic nature of the meal is made explicit in the text (Mark 14.22-25), there is no direct indication in Secret Mark that the naked youth and Jesus are engaging in a ritual of any kind.
I previously separated out Stephan's secondary argument which involves a reinterpretation of Clement's incarnational language in service of the theory that someone else substituted for Jesus on the cross, but I'll take a look at that now.
Stephan quoted this passage from Clement:
For this also He came (διὰ τοῦτο καὶ αὐτὸς κατῆλθε). For this He put on man (διὰ τοῦτο ἄνθρωπον ἐνέδυ). For this He voluntarily subjected Himself to the experiences of men (διὰ τοῦτο τὰ ἀνθρώπων ἑκὼν ἔπαθεν), that by bringing Himself to the measure of our weakness whom He loved (ἵνα πρὸς τὴν ἡμετέραν ἀσθένειαν οὓς ἠγάπησε), He might correspondingly bring us to the measure of His own strength (μετρηθεὶς ἡμᾶς πρὸς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ δύναμιν ἀντιμετρήσῃ). [Rich Man 37].
In other words, the original discussion about the meaning of the pericope of the rich man segues into this strange discussion about 'the mysteries of love' where Jesus came (κατῆλθε) to 'put on a man' and crucify himself. We have inherited our own idea about what the Passion meant - namely that Jesus i.e God gets crucified, dies and is resurrected. This doesn't make sense of course because God can't die, can't be crucified etc. Basilides and previous generations of Alexandrians clearly understand that someone else died on the cross who had Jesus 'in them.' Simon Magus is one candidate. There are others. But in this tradition Jesus has to go into someone else so that this person can be crucified in his place and perform some service for the Lord which is no longer understood by us. Could the passage in Secret Mark be the 'mysteries of love' that are spoken about here?
Now most readers understand that what Clement is talking about in the passage quoted from Rich Man 37 is how the pre-existent Christ came down from heaven and was incarnated in human form and lived as a human being. This is orthodox Christian theology that has been believed by millions or billions of Christians and which we find in Paul, John, and other Church Fathers. In the Loeb translation, Butterworth translated it: “This is why the Son himself came to earth,” (cf. the near parallel in Rich Man 6). Stephan rejects the usual reading because he believes that God can't die, can't be crucified and therefore he understands “he put on man” to mean he entered into another man who was crucified rather than that Christ himself became a man. Stephan appears to be thinking that, because it's impossible for God to die, Clement must mean Jesus put on *another* man. But what Stephan believes is no limitation on what Clement believed, and what Clement says can be explained quite well on the assumption it means Christ was incarnated as a man.
To be sure, Stephan says “we have inherited our own idea about what the Passion meant,” which suggests everyone else has been getting this wrong all along and he has discovered the true meaning of the text. This would be in keeping with Stephan's claim that the one thing he is attuned to is another person's perspective. He may think he's got Clement right and everyone else has it wrong. But in the absence of a demonstration of his claim, all Stephan is really saying is that he has confidence in his own intuitions about what other people mean.
Stephan also considers the first sentence quoted above from Rich Man 37 to show Clement's knowledge of Secret Mark, based again on a single word agreement:
Καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπῆλθεν μετ᾽ αὐτῆς εἰς τὸν κῆπον ὅπου ἦν τὸ μνημεῖον
In Quis Dives Salvetur it is referenced:
διὰ τοῦτο καὶ αὐτὸς κατῆλθε
Remember ἀπέρχομαι = apo + erchomai. κατέρχομαι = kata + erchomai.
This is another case of Stephan taking a single word (well, two if we count καὶ), in this case an extraordinarily common word which clearly refers to something else in its original context (clear to everyone but Stephan that is) as evidence of Clement's knowledge of Secret Mark. Their common use of the word came outweighs the absence of the words anger, her, garden, and tomb from Clement. Stephan characteristically sets the bar that his own theories need to meet extremely low.