Clement of Alexandria’s Letter to Theodore

 

From the letters of the most holy Clement, the author of the Stromateis. To Theodore.

You did well in silencing the unspeakable teachings of the Carpocratians. For these are the “wandering stars” referred to in the prophecy, who wander from the narrow road of the commandments into a boundless abyss of the carnal and bodily sins. For, priding themselves in knowledge, as they say, “of the deep things of Satan,” they do not know that they are casting themselves away into “the nether world of the darkness” of falsity, and, boasting that they are free, they have become slaves of servile desires. Such men are to be opposed in all ways and altogether. For, even if they should say something true, one who loves the truth should not, even so, agree with them. For, not all true things are the truth, nor should that truth which merely seems true according to human opinions be preferred to the true truth, that according to the faith. Now of the things they keep saying about the divinely inspired Gospel according to Mark, some are altogether falsifications, and others, even if they of contain some true elements, nevertheless are not reported truly. For the true things being mixed with inventions, are falsified, so that, as the saying goes, even the salt loses its savor. As for Mark, then, during Peter's stay in Rome he wrote an account of the Lord’s doings, not, however, declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the [mystic]2 ones, but selecting what he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to [those studies which make for]3 progress toward knowledge. Thus he composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected. Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain [traditions]4 of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of the truth hidden by seven veils. Thus, in sum, he prepared matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, he left his composition to the church in Alexandria, where it even yet is [preserved with utmost discretion],5 being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries. But since the foul demons are always devising destruction for the race of men, Carpocrates, instructed by them and using deceitful arts, so enslaved a certain presbyter of the church in Alexandria that he got from him a copy of the [mystical]6 Gospel, which he both interpreted according to his blasphemous and carnal doctrine and, moreover, polluted, mixing with the spotless and holy words utterly shameless lies. From this mixture is drawn off the teaching of the Carpocratians. To them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that [it is Mark’s mystical gospel],7 but should even deny it on oath. For, “Not all true things are to be said to all men.” For this reason the Wisdom of God, through Solomon, advises, “Answer the fool from his folly,” teaching that the light of the truth should be hidden from those who are mentally blind. Again it says, “From him who has not shall be taken away,” and, “Let the fool walk in darkness.” But we are “children of light,” having been illuminated by “the dayspring” of the spirit of the Lord “from on high,” and “Where the Spirit of the Lord is,” it says, “there is liberty,” for “All things are pure to the pure.” To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel. For example, after “And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem,” and what follows, until “After three days he shall arise,” the [text]8 brings the following material word for word: [“And they come to Bethany. And there was there a certain woman whose brother of hers had died. And coming, she prostrated before Jesus and says to him, ‘Son of David have mercy on me.’ But the disciples rebuked her. And having become angry Jesus went away with her into the garden where the tomb was. And immediately was heard from the tomb a great cry. And approaching, Jesus rolled the stone from the door of the tomb, and going in immediately where the young man was, he stretched out the hand and raised him, having grasped the hand. But the young man, having looked upon him, loved him and began to entreat him that he might be with him. And going out from the tomb they went into the house of the young man; for he was rich. And after six days Jesus gave charge to him; and when it was evening the young man comes to him donning a linen cloth upon his naked body, and he remained with him that night; for Jesus was teaching him the mystery of the kingdom of God. Now rising, he returned from there to the other side of the Jordan.”] After these words follows the text, “And James and John come to him,” and all that section. But “naked man with naked man,” and the other things about which you wrote, are not found. And after the words, “And he comes into Jericho,” the [text]9 adds only, [“And there were there the sister of the young man whom Jesus loved him and his mother and Salome, and Jesus did not receive them.”] But the many other things about which you wrote both seem to be and are falsifications. Now the true explanation and that which accords with the true philosophy...

Clement’s Citations from the Longer Gospel of Mark, Situated in their Literary Context

 

Mark 10:32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; 34 and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.”

LGM* 1:1 And they come to Bethany. And there was there a certain woman whose brother of hers [sic] had died. 2 And coming, she prostrated before Jesus and says to him, “Son of David have mercy on me.” 3 But the disciples rebuked her. 4 And having become angry Jesus went away with her into the garden where the tomb was. 5 And immediately was heard from the tomb a great cry. 6 And approaching, Jesus rolled the stone from the door of the tomb, 7 and going in immediately where the young man was, he stretched out the hand and raised him, having grasped the hand. 8 But the young man, having looked upon him, loved him and began to entreat him that he might be with him. 9 And going out from the tomb they went into the house of the young man; for he was rich. 10 And after six days Jesus gave charge to him; 11 and when it was evening the young man comes to him donning a linen cloth upon his naked body, 12 and he remained with him that night; for Jesus was teaching him the mystery of the kingdom of God. 13 Now rising, he returned from there to the other side of the Jordan.*

Mark 10:35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, coming forward say to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And having called them to him Jesus says to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:46a And he comes to Jericho. LGM 2:1 And there were there the sister of the young man whom Jesus loved him [sic] and his mother and Salome, 2 and Jesus did not receive them. Mark 10:46b And as he was leaving Jericho, with his disciples and a great multitude, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus....

Notes

1 This English translation of the Greek text is from Morton Smith’s book Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), 448-52, but follows the corrections made in his commentary. Square brackets indicate revisions where I dispute the translation and consider the difference to be important. The longer gospel citations are my literal translations, intended to preserve the idiosyncrasies of their Markan phraseology.

2 Smith: “secret.”

3 Smith’s translation has “to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge.” I have replaced that phrase with the rendition Smith gave in Clement of Alexandria, 91.

4 Smith: “sayings.”

5 Smith: “most carefully guarded.”

6 Smith: “secret.”

7 Smith: “...that the secret Gospel is by Mark....”

8 Smith: “secret Gospel.”

9 Smith: “secret Gospel.”

* LGM 1 and LGM 2 = longer gospel of Mark 1 + 2. The versification is that of the Scholars Version (Robert J. Miller, ed., The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version [Sonoma: Polebridge Press, 1992], 405).

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