The Simonian hypothesis and the Gospel of Mark

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RParvus
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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

Post by RParvus »

neilgodfrey wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote: Could you accept that both Simon and Alexander (son of Simon - 'helper of man' literally) are references meant to establish the link to Simon (Peter), the brother of Andrew ('man' literally)? That would make more sense to me.
Interesting.

Where's Roger Parvus? I want to hear what he has to say about this and how he thinks it might tie in with his thesis that Mark's Jesus is based on Simon Magus.
Hi Neil,

I don’t think Peter’s thesis ties in well with mine. He may be right about a Leviticus and Numbers connection but, if so, I would be surprised if its author was Simonian. Allegorically associating the death of Jesus with fulfillment of the Law and an atonement motif is more at home in a Jewish Christian or proto-orthodox environment. For Simonians the Law was imposed by lower, ignorant angels. It was by deceiving them that the supreme God overcame them and freed those they held in bondage.

And from a Simonian perspective, if there is some kind of wordplay going on with “-ander” (man) I would expect it to involve Menander, Simon’s alleged successor. I don’t know, however, if the etymologies of Alexander and Menander are close enough for one to pass as an allegorical substitute for the other. And even if so, I don’t know how “Rufus” fits into this scenario. Perhaps that Roman name stands for the founder of the community that the author of gMark (often considered a Roman gospel) belonged to. Thus the Simon who carried the cross would be the father of his successor Menander and the father of the one who founded the Markan community, individuals who the other members of that church could presumably be expected to know (again, if Mark’s Jesus is based on Simon Magus).

Regarding “Kyrenaios”: From a Simonian perspective, the author of gMark could have been interested in the word’s root, not the city itself. That may be the reason the text — unlike Mk. 15:43’s Joseph “from” Arimathea — has “Simon Cyrenian,” not Simon “from” Cyrene. As a surname Kyr(ena)ios has the sequence of Greek letters for “Lord” in it, so I have at times wondered whether “Lord Simon” was the meaning being conveyed. Hippolytus says Simonians called Simon “Lord.”

But elsewhere in gMark the translations have to do with Hebrew/Aramaic meanings (e.g., 5:41; 15:22; 15:34), so maybe that is where we are to look. Paul Tarazi, on page 227 of his New Testament Introduction to Paul and Mark, suggested the Hebrew word for “horn” (qeren) based on the correspondence of consonants (krn-qrn, with Greek using k for a non-existent q). And he thinks “The play on the consonants k-r-n is repeated in v. 22 where Golgotha is explicitly translated as ‘the place of the skull’ (kraniou topos)…” Now as Tarazi himself notes, in the Old Testament “horn” is a word that is a metaphor for “power” (e.g., 1 Sam. 2:1, 10; 2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2; 75:4, 5, 10; 89:17, 24; 92:10; 112:9; 132:17; 148:14). That would seem to make Golgotha the place of the power. Tarazi takes the whole idea to be that “Mark is calling upon Peter to be the qeren, or leader, of the Pauline Gentile church” (p. 227) But obviously, from the perspective of my Simonian thesis, his horn/power proposal would be a great fit as a reference to Simon Magus who claimed to the “power of God that is called Great” (Acts 8:10).

So, a few more possibilities to keep in mind.
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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

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RParvus wrote:So, a few more possibilities to keep in mind.
Thanks, Roger.

I am also thinking back to your comment in part 8 of your Simonian Origins series where you write:
I have left out of my speculative proposal parts of GMark that are arguably later redactional additions, including the cast of named characters: Simon the Cyrenian who is the father of Alexander and Rufus, Mary the Magdalene, Salome, Mary the mother of Joses and James the Small. In a subsequent post I will argue that these were Simonian additions to the original passion narrative. They Simonized it. And I will also argue that the incidents that immediately precede the passer-by in GMark—the Last Supper, betrayal by Judas, denials by Peter, abandonment by the disciples, and preference of Barabbas over Jesus—are allegorical portrayals of events from the last trip of Simon/Paul to Jerusalem. The release of Jesus Barabbas—the son of the father— by Pilate is an allegorical portrayal of the release of Simon/Paul by Felix. The release of Barabbas would function as the seam that separated the allegory about Simon/Paul from the earlier story of the Son’s crucifixion. If this is correct, the only transitional verses that join the allegory to the crucifixion are Mk. 15:16-20 i.e., the crowning with thorns of the king of the Jews and the mockery of him by the soldiers. This transitional material may have been taken from Philo’s account of the mockery of Carabbas (In Flaccum, 6, 36-9).
I'm looking forward to hearing more about these ideas -- in particular the parts of Mark you argue may be later redactional additions.

Indeed, if the names here are later redactions their author has a lot to answer for!
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RParvus
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The Simonian hypothesis and the Gospel of Mark

Post by RParvus »

neilgodfrey wrote:
RParvus wrote:So, a few more possibilities to keep in mind.
Thanks, Roger.

I am also thinking back to your comment in part 8 of your Simonian Origins series where you write:
I have left out of my speculative proposal parts of GMark that are arguably later redactional additions, including the cast of named characters: Simon the Cyrenian who is the father of Alexander and Rufus, Mary the Magdalene, Salome, Mary the mother of Joses and James the Small. In a subsequent post I will argue that these were Simonian additions to the original passion narrative. They Simonized it. And I will also argue that the incidents that immediately precede the passer-by in GMark—the Last Supper, betrayal by Judas, denials by Peter, abandonment by the disciples, and preference of Barabbas over Jesus—are allegorical portrayals of events from the last trip of Simon/Paul to Jerusalem. The release of Jesus Barabbas—the son of the father— by Pilate is an allegorical portrayal of the release of Simon/Paul by Felix. The release of Barabbas would function as the seam that separated the allegory about Simon/Paul from the earlier story of the Son’s crucifixion. If this is correct, the only transitional verses that join the allegory to the crucifixion are Mk. 15:16-20 i.e., the crowning with thorns of the king of the Jews and the mockery of him by the soldiers. This transitional material may have been taken from Philo’s account of the mockery of Carabbas (In Flaccum, 6, 36-9).
I'm looking forward to hearing more about these ideas -- in particular the parts of Mark you argue may be later redactional additions.

Indeed, if the names here are later redactions their author has a lot to answer for!
[Peter, I’m pretty sure what follows qualifies as a sidetracking of this thread, so feel free to relocate it if you like.]

I apologize, Neil, for my delay in responding. The problem, as usual, is time constraint.

As you know, I think the original passion and crucifixion account was in the Vision of Isaiah (i.e., chapters 6 – 11 of the Ascension of Isaiah, see post 7 of the series) and that it was quite limited, likely consisting of no more than a few verses. There is question, of course, about whether the original Vision contained the pocket gospel that is now present at 11:2-22 of the E/L1 version. Richard Carrier and Earl Doherty are among those who deny the pocket gospel’s authenticity, and I too — although still very much open to it — have serious doubts of my own which I explained in the post you linked to. But as I see it, whether the pocket gospel belonged to the original or there was a different one in its place (as, for instance, my post 8 speculative substitute), the Vision’s portrayal of Jesus’ salvific trick was likely so meager as to look like a summary once longer versions like gMark’s were composed. The contexts of the Vision and of the other parts of the AoI do not lead us to think they contained the fuller gMark account of the passion and crucifixion. And assuming I am right that the Vision was the written source of Paul’s gospel, this impression is confirmed by his silence regarding Markan or any other circumstances of these events. I suspect the reason he said little is because his source — the Vision — contained little. Its bare-bones gospel was the whole of the gospel at that point in time (mid-50s CE).

To me much of GMark’s passion and crucifixion account wouldn’t fit well in the Vision. Certainly the E/L1 version of it doesn’t mention or allude to recognizably Markan elements. Its passion account doesn’t have any named characters, let alone the cast that is in gMark (1. Simon Cyrenian who is the father of Alexander and Rufus, 2. Mary the Magdalene, 3. Salome, 4. Mary the mother of James the small and Joses, and 5. Joseph from Arimathea). It doesn’t identify who the unknowing “children of Israel” were (priests? scribes? Pharisees?) or even give the name of the ruler to whom they delivered Jesus. It simply says:
And after this the adversary envied him and roused the children of Israel, who did not know who he was, against him. And they handed him to the ruler, and crucified him, and he descended to the angel who is in Sheol. In Jerusalem, indeed, I saw how they crucified him on a tree, and likewise how after the third day he rose and remained days. (AoI 11: 19-21)


Another arguably first-century writing that seems to betray that the Markan cast was not part of the original passion account is the letter to the Hebrews. Although it is largely devoted to interpreting the crucifixion of Christ none of the Markan characters is mentioned. One could perhaps argue that there is some ambiguity in gMark about how Simon should be regarded (because of the “compelled” issue). And perhaps Joseph of Arimathea was just a pious man doing a pious deed. But I don’t see much reason to question the positive Christian light in which the women who followed Jesus from Galilee are portrayed. They are not among those sheep who will be “dispersed” because their “faith will be shaken” (Mk. 14:27). They see the Lord being crucified and watch where his dead body is laid so that they can go to care for it when the Sabbath is over. And they are of course the first to be informed of the resurrection. So if these alleged privileged witnesses of the crucifixion had been part of the original passion account I expect they would have been held up as examples to the readers of Hebrews who are exhorted “to go to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach that he bore” (Heb. 13:13). The whole of chapter 11 of Hebrews praises faithful individuals, including the women Sarah (Heb. 11:11) and Rahab (11:31). And it praises “women who received back their dead through resurrection” (Heb. 11:35). But no mention is made of Mary the Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James the small and Joses, or of any devoted female followers who were present at Jesus’ last hour. I don’t see how that omission would have been possible if those figures were part of the earliest crucifixion account whether that account was a written one — the Vision of Isaiah, in my opinion — or oral.

But if these characters were not original, is there some plausible explanation for their addition?

To me the most plausible scenario is that the passion story was expanded at the same time that someone first composed a public ministry for Jesus — if, that is, my post 8 speculative proposal is right. Or alternatively, at the same time an originally bare-bones public ministry was expanded — if the E/L1 version of the Vision is original. In E/L1 the longest description of the ministry consists of a single sentence: “And when he had grown up, he performed great signs and miracles in the land of Israel and (in) Jerusalem.”(AoI 11:18). In either case the first indication we see of a more developed ministry is in gMark. Now as you know, I think most of the public ministry we see in that gospel is an allegory about the ministry and teaching of Paul. (I will explain later why I say “most”). It is not just, as some scholars allow, that gMark retrojects Pauline teaching back onto Jesus. I think it goes beyond that. The public ministry itself of the Markan Jesus figure represents Paul’s in a form that is allegorical and clothed in the language of the Old Testament. The work of Jesus as a wandering preacher who frees believers from Satan’s domination and who ultimately goes up to Jerusalem foreseeing violent rejection there was modeled on Paul’s life. The Pauline-inspired public ministry continues up to the unwelcome arrival in Jerusalem and the arrest there where it is then tied to the earlier Vision belief (AoI 11:20) that the Son of God had been crucified incognito in that city.

Thus I find myself agreeing with most of the connections that Tom Dykstra sees between gMark and Paul (Mark, Canonizer of Paul, OCABS Press, 2012). As Dykstra put it: “Mark deliberately created a literary Jesus whose words and actions parallel the words and actions of Paul” (p. 149). The central part of his book is devoted to Pauline themes in Mark and includes “Defending the Gentile Mission” (chapter 4), “Presenting Jesus as the Crucified One” (chapter 5), “Discrediting Jesus’ Disciples and Family” (chapter 6), “Alluding to Paul in the Main Parables and the Ending” (chapter 7), and “Appropriating Paul’s Language and Example” (chapter 8). The basic idea that gMark is an allegorical presentation of Paul’s life and teaching goes back, as Dykstra acknowledges on page 24 of his book, to the nineteenth century German scholar Gustav Volkmar.

Now I, of course, think that Paul is Simon of Samaria under another name. In the first post of the Simonian Origin series I summarize my reasons for making that identification. Here, building on that identification, I would modify Dysktra’s statement thus: Mark deliberately created a literary Jesus whose words and actions parallel the words and actions of Simon/Paul. And to me this identification can explain why someone would dare to provide the Vision’s crucified Son of God with a public ministry modeled on someone else. According to Irenaeus, Simon of Samaria claimed to be the Son who suffered in Judaea. Simon apparently claimed to be some kind of new manifestation of the Christ. So it seems to me that any follower of Simon who believed those claims would have no problem joining the two together. To a Simonian, would not Simon’s ministry have been the ministry of the Son of God? And, again from a Simonian perspective: Since Simon was a new manifestation of the Son, should not the pillars and the Twelve who at some point professed belief in the Vision’s Son be portrayed as Simon’s obtuse and ultimately unfaithful disciples?

This might explain too what Papias says about Mark being the interpreter of Peter. Perhaps this arose from a misunderstanding of which Simon the author of gMark interpreted. He interpreted Simon of Samaria but was misunderstood as referring to Simon Peter. The incorrect order of gMark could turn out to make sense too. Papias does not say Mark is out of order when compared with the other gospels. In fact, he doesn’t mention any other gospel at all, just a collection of logia by Mathew. So perhaps originally the lack of order ascribed to gMark had to do with the relationship between the public ministry and the crucifixion. Belief in the Vision’s incognito crucifixion occurred earlier than Simon/Paul’s ministry, but in gMark that order is inverted. It may be that chronological inversion that gives a circular structure to the gospel. Its ending directs the reader back to Galilee.

So I suspect that a Simonian/Pauline author composed a proto-Mark gospel. He did so by creating or expanding the public ministry of Jesus in the way described and by, at the same time, expanding and Simonizing the Vision’s primitive crucifixion account. The curious episode about the release of Barabbas, i.e., the Son of the Father, may be the seam between the two sections. Simon/Paul exits the first as the Son of the Father but then reenters in the second as Simon Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus.

And to my mind the women in the crucifixion scene were part of the Simonization. They brought Simon’s associate Helen into the scene. Despite the fact that the extant record provides so little information about her, the little there is seems to correspond with what is said about the women in gMark’s passion scene. Simon took Helen about with him and previously she had been successively present in many women. In gMark it is said that “many” (Mk. 15:41) women had followed Jesus in Galilee and to Jerusalem. And in gMark the three named women have names that plausibly correspond to three titles that Simonians allegedly used for Helen. There is Salome, which is the female form of the name Solomon who was famed for his wisdom. To this would correspond a title that the Simonians, as acknowledged by the proto-orthodox themselves, used for Helen: Wisdom. Next, one of the women is described as a mother, the mother of James the small and Joses (Joseph). Again one of the Simonian titles for Helen was “Mother of All.” Now in Scripture one way of saying “all” is by using the adjectives small and great. For example, 1 Sam. 5: 9: “he smote the men of the city, both small and great.” Another example, this time from the Psalm 115:13: “He will bless them that fear the Lord, small and great.” And this is a usage that is continued in the New Testament, for example, in Revelation at Rev. 11:18; 20:12. So I think Mary the mother of James the small and Joses may be the allegorical equivalent of Mary, the Mother of small and great, i.e., of all. Note that the root of the name Joses/Joseph can apparently indicate quantifiable greatness. It means “God will add/God will increase.”

Last, there is the Magdalene, the root of which Hebrew word means “tower.” Now among the few bits of information the proto-orthodox heresy hunters divulge about Helen is that Simon claimed that she, as Helen of Troy, looked for his coming from a tower. A further connection of the Magdalene with Simon’s Helen also seems indicated by Mk. 16:9, a verse which begins a section likely added to gMark sometime in first half of the second century. It describes her as the one “out of whom he had driven seven demons.” Now Irenaeus ascribes to Saturninus (the pupil of Simon’s successor Menander) the belief that “the world and everything in it came into being from seven angels, and man was also the creation of angels.” This is very close to what Simon was said to have taught about his Helen. She was his First Thought who, after she generated the world-creating angels, was held captive by them and forced into one body after another until Simon came and freed her. If Magdalen is Helen, the seven demons driven from her were the seven world-creating angels that she generated and by whom she was held captive.

Another second century belief was that the Magdalene who accompanied Jesus had been a prostitute. To this corresponds what was said about the woman who accompanied Simon. Helen was a prostitute that Simon purchased from a brothel in Tyre. It is possible that canonical gMark still retains traces of Simon/Paul’s liberation of Helen from that brothel. In the episode of the Syro-Phoenician woman the Markan Jesus goes to Tyre. There “he entered a house and wanted no one to know about it” (Mk. 7:24). While in the house he frees a woman’s daughter from an occupying spirit. And we are told that “the woman was Hellene.” (Mk. 7:26). There follows the embarrassing saying about not giving the children’s food to dogs. This may be allegorical wordplay on another bit of information about Helen mentioned by Epiphanius. He relates that some of the bodies she was said to have inhabited were those of animals. And, finally, in Matthew’s expansion of the episode he brings in a saying about the “lost sheep.” I’m not sure it is merely coincidence that, according to Irenaeus, Simon said his Helen was “the lost sheep.”

As it now stands in canonical Mark the statement “the woman was Hellene” refers to the possessed girl’s mother and is usually translated “the woman was Greek.” But due to the number of contacts between this story and the story of Helen one can legitimately wonder whether the Markan exorcism at Tyre was later altered by someone who turned a Simonian proto-Mark into canonical and proto-orthodox gMark. For, in general, that is what I think gMark was: the first proto-orthodox correction of a Simonian/Pauline gospel. GMatthew and gLuke are often viewed as corrections of gMark. But I think it is probably more accurate to see all three synoptic gospels as proto-orthodox attempts to correct an unacceptable proto-Mark that conceivably was written as early as the 70s CE but possibly as late as around 130 CE. GMark was the first proto-orthodox reaction to it; it started the corrective process. A large part of the correction involved adding John the Baptist material, Q sayings whose home was John’s community, and the little apocalypse. The author of gMatthew saw what gMark did and took the corrective process further, adding more John the Baptist material, more of Q, and more apocalyptic signs. And then the author of gLuke, with knowledge of GMark, Q and gMatthew, followed suit.

I will not here attempt to defend the claims made about the relationship between the synoptic gospels. I hope to eventually get to it in the Simonian series. I hope I have at least said enough in this post to explain why I think the cast of characters in the passion account were later additions to an original Vision of Isaiah gospel.
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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

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Hi, Roger. You explain Simon here; but who would Alexander and Rufus themselves be? Or what do they symbolize? Why the unusual inversion, identifying sons of a character in the narrative when those sons play no part in it? Any thoughts on the sons?

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RParvus
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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

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Ben C. Smith wrote:Hi, Roger. You explain Simon here; but who would Alexander and Rufus themselves be? Or what do they symbolize? Why the unusual inversion, identifying sons of a character in the narrative when those sons play no part in it? Any thoughts on the sons?

Ben.
Hi Ben,

No, no ideas I’m comfortable with. If Simon Cyrenian does in fact represent Simon/Paul, it could be that one of the sons would be his successor, Menander, (the Timothy of 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 2:22?), and the other could perhaps be the author of proto-Mark (Marcus?). But I don’t see on what grounds the intended audience (presumably the author’s community) would connect an Alexander and Rufus with Menander and Marcus.

Roger
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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

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RParvus wrote:No, no ideas I’m comfortable with.
Thank you for your response. That seems to be a common reaction to Alexander and Rufus. :) We may just never know for certain.

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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

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If Simon Cyrenian does in fact represent Simon/Paul, it could be that one of the sons would be his successor, Menander, (the Timothy of 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 2:22?), and the other could perhaps be the author of proto-Mark (Marcus?).
If this is the best information we have, God help us. A step up would be having a dog as a witness to a murder.
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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

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It is unfortunate that people with little passing interest in this stuff don't pass by these discussions and wade through the information and then spend sometime looking at the quality of the information we are dealing with. To an outsider this must all look like desperate people developing desperate arguments from exceedingly bad and unreliable pieces of information.
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Re: The Simonian hypothesis and the Gospel of Mark

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"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown
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Re: A Plausible Reading of Mark, Well-Done with a Side of Ra

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Secret Alias wrote:It is unfortunate that people with little passing interest in this stuff don't pass by these discussions and wade through the information and then spend sometime looking at the quality of the information we are dealing with. To an outsider this must all look like desperate people developing desperate arguments from exceedingly bad and unreliable pieces of information.
Reminds me of the financial community (see, for this very secular parallel, the tea-leaf-reading discussions at Seeking Alpha).

... with the possible difference that the pundits and managers get to see how wrong they were each quarter and every year, yet keep plugging away. :!:
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown
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