The following is from Imad Boles President of the British Coptic Society to your's truly:
You may be interested in this story that I re-read today in the Live of the Coptic Patriarch Mathew IV (1660-1675). The story deals with what the Copts regard as a miracle “Miracle of the Icon of Michael, the Archangel”: there used to be in the Church of St. Mark in Alexandria a beautifully painted icon of St Michael, which Coptic tradition says it was painted by St. Luke, the Evangelist.
The story goes that the Venetians stole this icon (no exact date but during the patriarchate of Mathew IV), but when they tried to sail off to their city the ship found difficulties. The Venetians suspected the reason to be their stealing of the icon, and consequently they returned it back to the church.
When the Arabs around Alexandria heard of the story, and the interest of the Franks (all Europeans were Franks “Frinja” to Arabs) in it, they thought of stealing it themselves, and then selling it to the Franks. So one night they broke into the church to take the icon by force, but as they were about to depart their legs would not support them. Scared, they returned the icon, and left without it.
Johann Michael Vansleb (Wansleben) in his visit to Egypt in 1672 saw this icon. When Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Egypt in 1799, he destroyed St. Mark’s church fearing that the English might use it when landing. Its icons, books, etc., were taken by the Copts to the Church of Rashid (Rosetta), and the icon was fixed to its wall. It is still there.
So the Venetians were after more than the body of St. Mark.
New Information that the Venetians Were Interested in Stealing More than the Body of St. Mark from Alexandria
The following is from Imad Boles President of the British Coptic Society to your's truly:
In my opinion, the original material written by Josephus in the first century is completely lost to us. But as this isn't going to be a post about how and why I think that what has survived in his name should be used cautiously let's move on to deal with the claims of this material that the Jewish temple in Egypt was located in Leontopolis rather than Alexandria. Scholars tend to just open the works of Josephus and exclaim 'there it is!' and end the discussion of alternative possibilities at that. Some will even tell you that W M Petrie 'found' the temple at the turn of the twentieth century. Yet this is academic research at its very worst.
As Albert Pietersma Professor of Septuagint and Hellenistic Greek at the University of Toronto recently noted on Petrie's claim to have uncovered the Jewish Temple at Leontopolis "my impression has been that his identification of the Oniad temple was highly dubious."
Pietersma is not the only one to think this. Only those who don't notice the fact that everyone who has ever accepted Petrie's claims that he has found Josephus' temple in Egypt has to find ways of creatively 'cutting corners' to make one resemble the other. Let's not forget what the surviving text of Josephus claims was at Leontopolis.
Oh, but wait a minute. I forgot. We also gloss over the fact that Josephus' account is absolutely contradictory.
You see at first he says that the building that Onias made in Egypt was an EXACT REPLICA of the Jewish temple:
the son of Onias the high priest, who was of the same name with his father, and who fled to king Ptolemy, who was called Philometor, lived now at Alexandria, as we have said already. When this Onias saw that Judea was oppressed by the Macedonians and their kings, out of a desire to purchase to himself a memorial and eternal fame he resolved to send to king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra, to ask leave of them that he might build a temple in Egypt like to that at Jerusalem, and might ordain Levites and priests out of their own stock. The chief reason why he was desirous so to do, was, that he relied upon the prophet Isaiah, who lived above six hundred years before, and foretold that there certainly was to be a temple built to Almighty God in Egypt by a man that was a Jew. Onias was elevated with this prediction, and wrote the following epistle to Ptolemy and Cleopatra: "Having done many and great things for you in the affairs of the war, by the assistance of God, and that in Celesyria and Phoenicia, I came at length with the Jews to Leontopolis, and to other places of your nation, where I found that the greatest part of your people had temples in an improper manner, and that on this account they bare ill-will one against another, which happens to the Egyptians by reason of the multitude of their temples, and the difference of opinions about Divine worship. Now I found a very fit place in a castle that hath its name from the country Diana; this place is full of materials of several sorts, and replenished with sacred animals; I desire therefore that you will grant me leave to purge this holy place, which belongs to no master, and is fallen down, and to build there a temple to Almighty God, after the pattern of that in Jerusalem, and of the same dimensions, that may be for the benefit of thyself, and thy wife and children, that those Jews which dwell in Egypt may have a place whither they may come and meet together in mutual harmony one with another, and he subservient to thy advantages; for the prophet Isaiah foretold that "there should be an altar in Egypt to the Lord God; and many other such things did he prophesy relating to that place." [Antiquities 13]
So let's remember that this whole story is supposed to end with the building of some sort of a building THAT WAS NOT like the Jewish temple (according to what is written at the end of Jewish War). So let's continue with the story:
So this was what Onias wrote to king Ptolemy. Now any one may observe his piety, and that of his sister and wife Cleopatra, by that epistle which they wrote in answer to it; for they laid the blame and the transgression of the law upon the head of Onias. And this was their reply: "King Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra to Onias, send greeting. We have read thy petition, wherein thou desirest leave to be given thee to purge that temple which is fallen down at Leontopolis, in the Nomus of Heliopolis, and which is named from the country Bubastis; on which account we cannot but wonder that it should be pleasing to God to have a temple erected in a place so unclean, and so full of sacred animals. But since thou sayest that Isaiah the prophet foretold this long ago, we give thee leave to do it, if it may be done according to your law, and so that we may not appear to have at all offended God herein."
So Onias took the place, and built a temple, and an altar to God, like indeed to that in Jerusalem, but smaller and poorer. I do not think it proper for me now to describe its dimensions or its vessels, which have been already described in my seventh book of the Wars of the Jews. However, Onias found other Jews like to himself, together with priests and Levites, that there performed Divine service. But we have said enough about this temple.
Okay, the words on the page say that the temple was located in Leontopolis. There is no doubt about that. That's what the text NOW reads. There's no doubt about it.
There is also the same story reference (sort of) in the First Book of the Jewish War, where it says:
Onias, the high priest, fled to Ptolemy, and received a place from him in the Nomus of Heliopolis, where he built a city resembling Jerusalem, and a temple that was like its temple concerning which we shall speak more in its proper place hereafter. [Jewish War 1.1]
Okay, so it would seem like there are no problems with this story, right? There was a temple made to resemble the Jewish temple only now in Leontopolis. So let's read that story that the last story tells us will confirm everything just said:
So Ptolemy complied with his proposals, and gave him a place one hundred and eighty furlongs distant from Memphis. That Nomos was called the Nomos of Hellopolls, where Onias built a fortress and a temple, not like to that at Jerusalem, but such as resembled a tower. He built it of large stones to the height of sixty cubits; he made the structure of the altar in imitation of that in our own country, and in like manner adorned with gifts, excepting the make of the candlestick, for he did not make a candlestick, but had a [single] lamp hammered out of a piece of gold, which illuminated the place with its rays, and which he hung by a chain of gold; but the entire temple was encompassed with a wall of burnt brick, though it had gates of stone. The king also gave him a large country for a revenue in money, that both the priests might have a plentiful provision made for them, and that God might have great abundance of what things were necessary for his worship. Yet did not Onias do this out of a sober disposition, but he had a mind to contend with the Jews at Jerusalem, and could not forget the indignation he had for being banished thence. Accordingly, he thought that by building this temple he should draw away a great number from them to himself. There had been also a certain ancient prediction made by [a prophet] whose name was Isaiah, about six hundred years before, that this temple should be built by a man that was a Jew in Egypt. And this is the history of the building of that temple.
And now Lupus, the governor of Alexandria, upon the receipt of Caesar's letter, came to the temple, and carried out of it some of the donations dedicated thereto, and shut up the temple itself. And as Lupus died a little afterward, Paulinns succeeded him. This man left none of those donations there, and threatened the priests severely if they did not bring them all out; nor did he permit any who were desirous of worshipping God there so much as to come near the whole sacred place; but when he had shut up the gates, he made it entirely inaccessible, insomuch that there remained no longer the least footsteps of any Divine worship that had been in that place. Now the duration of the time from the building of this temple till it was shut up again was three hundred and forty-three years. [Jewish War 7.10]
The way scholars work of course is to abuse Occam's razor and basically 'find the path of least resistance' to make everything work. The notes to Whiston's translation of Josephus is typical in this regard - "of this temple of Onias's building in Egypt, see the notes on Antiq. B. XIII. ch. 3. sect. 1. But whereas it is elsewhere, both of the War, B. I. ch. 1. sect. 1, and in the Antiquities as now quoted, said that this temple was like to that at Jerusalem, and here that it was not like it, but like a tower, sect. 3, there is some reason to suspect the reading here, and that either the negative particle is here to be blotted out, or the word entirely added."
When People Say that 'There is No Proof that the Copts Ever Venerated St. Mark as the Messiah' I Say 'Learn to Real Severus Al'Ashmunein Better!'
I get this criticism all the time - where the @#$^^ did Huller get the idea that St. Mark was once the messiah of the Alexandrian tradition. I even get high ranking Coptic bishops criticizing my book. Whenever I come across this I just shake my head and wonder what's the matter with these people. Just because THEY don't think St. Mark is the Christ or the contemporary Alexandrian Church does not OPENLY profess this doctrine does not mean that it was never held in a previous age.
I will translate the French edition of Severus' Homilies on Mark because almost every page refers to just this idea. In other words, that this tenth century authoritative Coptic Patriarch CAUTIOUSLY introduces lost ancient sources which say exactly what my Real Messiah puts forward. It's just that idiotic contemporary Copts don't know what is preserved in the authoritative voices of its heritage!
In any event, here is the first mention of this concept in Severus' first homily. He writes:
St. Mark the apostle and servant of Jesus Christ has appeared among all creatures like the mustard seed (which speaks the Gospel), which grows and becomes a huge tree, so that the birds come to rest on its branches and get away from his shadow, because, although our Lord Jesus Christ (may he be glorified!) have wanted to nominate himself for this comparison, however, can also apply the meaning to St. Mark, this shining light, for those who follow Christ are themselves Christs and other members of Christ. [Homily on St. Mark 1 p.7]
I know the way that nitwits will twist this passage - i.e. that Severus THE WITNESS to this tradition, is 'inventing' the comparison. Yet this is complete nonsense. Severus knows that this idea smacks of heresy and so CAUTIOUSLY introduces what he read in ancient source into his homilies on the Apostle.
Just read my book with an open mind for God's sake. I present the argument in the most palatable manner. I could have written a boring academic treatise citing sources like Severus but my publisher was not an academic publisher.
The truth is that my blog has GREATER READERSHIP than any academic journal. I can see the number of academics that read my blog. I have done ten years worth of work in the nine months that my blog has been up and running. And this is only the beginning.
My objective is nothing short of resurrecting the original faith of Alexandria and that means the understanding of St. Mark as the bearer of the Christ-soul. This is made explicit in the Passio Petri Sancti but how many people know what that is? Birger Pearson does and hated my book. He couldn't see how St. Mark was ever considered the messiah of the Alexandrian tradition. And there it is laid out in front of you, now.
Is there any debate? Is there any question that the idea was known to the greatest historian of the Coptic tradition? Then what is the debate? What is the question? What is the controversy?
In any event, happy reading!
The term 'gnostikos' is only one such example. I despise the simple-minded explanation of the term as meaning something like mystical knowledge. The Alexandrians couldn't have been ignorant of the fact that the term was a technical term within Platonic philosophy. The way most scholars use the term gives the impression that it was a commonly used term in contemporary Greek.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When the Alexandrians identified their tradition as 'gnostic' I believe they were referencing their Papacy. I know that this sounds very radical to Coptic scholars because they still debate the question of whether Demetrius was their first Pope. Yet let's be honest with ourselves - the fact that we don't know much about the Alexandrian tradition before Hieraclas (the first Alexandrian to be identified as 'Pope' and Demetrius' successor) the stupid among us allow that lack of information to dictate what is 'acceptable' to believe about the early period of Egyptian Christianity.
It used to be said that there was no proof for an early veneration of St. Mark in Alexandria before the discovery of the Mar Saba letter. Now that the letter has been discovered, the conservatives among us (translation - those who zealously stick to the bigoted notions of our ancestors AGAINST the Coptic tradition) refuse to allow the evidence from Clement's letter to dispel our ignorance.
The point is then that I have discovered the great gnostic secret of Alexandrian Christianity. It isn't a matter of me spending a lot of time banging out a hundred posts to prove my thesis. I wrote an academic article on the throne of St Mark which was looted from the Martyrium of St. Mark in Alexandria in 828 CE and has resided in the Venetian Basilica di San Marco ever since. It has been published in the Journal of Coptic Studies and anyone can buy a copy of that article on line.
I don't see why I have to defend my opinions here as they were peer reviewed by the editors of that journal.
There are people of course who will say that I am not a professor or that I have weaknesses in my skill set (such as working in a particular ancient language). All these criticisms are valid. Nevertheless I was smart enough to identify the throne of St. Mark in Venice for what it is - the original Episcopal Chair of Alexandria (or at least an object built to represent the original chair of St. Mark).
I think that I have stumbled into a discovery greater than the Nag Hammadi texts. I am sure those people who worked on that find will disagree. We all think that whatever we are doing is more important than what the next guy is doing. Yet let me tell you why I think my discovery is so important.
I think my throne explains why Alexandria was 'gnostic.' The throne is a Gnostic relic, you see, but the term needs explanation.
The term “gnôstikoi” was used in ancient times to denote adherents of what we call Gnosticism, but it was used in this sense by their opponents, mainly early Catholic Christian writers. (Note that we call it Gnosticism. There was no Greek word “gnōstikismos” before the 19th century).
When these persons called themselves gnōstikoi, Gnostics, they used it not as a term denoting denominational adherence but rather as a description of their own nature and purpose. The word is artificial. It is a deliberately made up technical term.
It is at this point that nearly all discussions of its origin go astray by assuming that the word was made up by the adherents of what we call gnosticism. The original intended meaning of the artificial term gnōstikoi is then guessed at. The guesses are necessarily vague, something like “those having, or claiming to have, special knowledge”. But in fact the term was invented centuries earlier, and it is known who made it up and precisely what was meant by it.
The word as I noted was made up by Plato. Philo and his contemporaries would have known this fact, and would have known what Plato meant by the term. As Morton Smith points out, it describes “the ideal king, the only man capable of knowing God, who would therefore act as the mediator between God and man; he would be, in effect, the Nous [the divine intellect] of his subjects, in whom he would restore their lost contact with the heavenly world from which he came.”
The Throne of St. Mark demonstrates that the original evangelist –- St. Mark himself –- and those who followed him in an unbroken succession of 'bearers of the Christ soul' were conceived as sitting on a throne like the earthly representative of an ancient sun god or like Plato’s “gnostic” philosopher king.
The presence of numerous and varied symbols, codes and kabbalistic ciphers typical of what we call Gnosticism on the throne along with symbols that express Platonic doctrine adds weight to the theory that what we call gnosticism arose out of a kind of Jewish Platonism.
Many scholars have noted an uncanny similarity between the theological concepts behind the gospel and the writings of Philo. The surviving Christians of Alexandria –- the Copts –- maintain that Mark the original evangelist was Philo’s cousin. The Throne of St. Mark at long last gives independent confirmation that there was indeed a historical relationship between the two.
I just wanted to restate this point as I continue to examine the context of Irenaeus' development of a HOSTILE SYSTEM to Alexandrian gnosticism. Most people don't have the proper context about the original term to see that 'anti-gnosticism' was essentially political.
Irenaeus wasn't just saying that there were people claiming to be 'gnostics' - i.e. possessors of mystical knowledge. This is all that Irenaeus would allow himself to say about what the religious system of the gnôstikoi. But make no mistake about it, his opposition was entirely political.
His point is now laid bare - the man who sat on this throne in Alexandria was not "the ideal king, the only man capable of knowing God, who would therefore act as the mediator between God and man; he would be, in effect, the Nous [the divine intellect] of his subjects, in whom he would restore their lost contact with the heavenly world from which he came."
People will of course say that Demetrius was clearly an acceptable bishop of Alexandria. Yet notice that he is never identified as its Pope by the early witnesses.
I don't believe that Demetrius ever sat on this throne. This throne was part of the ancient church of St. Mark which lay on the other side of the eastern walls of Alexandria, a traditional "no man's land" after the Jewish revolts of the first and second centuries.
The question of all questions for me was whether Clement and Origen sat on this throne and thus functioned in the capacity of Pope while Demetrius was supported by his namesake in Rome - Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias, the Christian mistress of Commodus.
I can't prove that these men represented the occultated Papal leadership during the Commodian period but it is interesting that ALL the remaining Alexandrian Popes thereafter are identified as 'Origenists' in one way or another until Pope Alexander of Alexandria who was essentially a Roman puppet. Arius was the last true Pope of the ancient line (Copts please don't throw stones at me).
This is what I think and believe is true. I would never put any of this is an academic article because I can't prove it. Nevertheless, I think it is essential that somebody says it in order to understand the proper context for the Mar Saba document.
Follow this and many other discussions at Stephan Huller's blog which is updated daily at www.stephanhuller.blogspot.com
There are two Hebrew terms which mean 'disappear'
אינו He is not there.
ואין לו He disappears, he has disappeared.
I put both down for comparison. My point was that the distinction can be made in Hebrew, and Daniel has the second expression, not the first.
The first expression is used of Enoch. “He walked with the angels (ha-Elohim). And he was not (he was not there any more); for God (Elohim) took him (had taken him)”. In Biblical Hebrew ואיננו (ve-enénnu) is the equivalent of ואינו (ve-enó).
The distinction is like this. The first means he she or it does not exist or does not exist any more. Of a person, it could mean he has died, but only if something is added. In the case of Enoch it means he was transported (to Heaven, not to Australia). If said of an empire, it would mean it no longer exists. The second means he is no longer present, he has vanished, he is off the scene. It does not mean he has died. His whereabouts might be well known, but he is not HERE or ACTING IN THIS CONTEXT.
The verb yikkaret does not mean he will die. I know everyone says it does, but it does not. If the context allows AND DEMANDS IT, it can mean he will be killed, as the Peshitta translates it. But the meaning without preconceptions is that he will stop acting in his function. THIS VERB IS NOT NORMALLY USED OF PEOPLE. It is used of dynasties, for example. Its use in relation to a person is not normal. It is JARRING. The meaning can only be that he stops acting as Anointed Leader. The sentence says (over-translating) “The OFFICE of Anointed Leader will terminate. He will disappear from the scene”.
A bit more. There is one common use of the Biblical Hebrew narrative future of KRT in the feminine passive (ve-nichreta ונכרתה) in reference to a person. Someone is sure to raise this as an objection, so here is the answer. In several places in the Torah, it says that if a soul (nefesh, feminine) does some defined thing or does not do some defined thing, that soul “will be cut off” from its (her) people. Rabbinic exegesis on the superficial level says this means death before the age of fifty. (This is why in John it is objected by someone that Jesus is not yet fifty. He has not ye proven his genuineness). If you look more carefully, what is meant is that death before that age can be a sign of this having happened, but not everyone in this category dies before fifty and not everyone that dies before fifty is in this category. The Rabbinic Hebrew noun is karet. Look this up in Jastrow. The meaning of karet is separation of the individual soul from its group identification. Note carefully that it does not in itself mean death. It means the end of adhesion of the individual soul to the group, and the ending of its share in the salvation of the group. The most salient offence [sic] causing karet is not to keep the Sabbath, but there are others.
Otherwise, KRT refers to the end of a dynasty.
Oversimplifying, ve-enó means he no longer exists or is no longer on this earth or at least no-one knows if he is still on this earth. Like when some official says they knew exactly what had become of Bin Laden. Their reliable intelligence informed that he was alive in Afghanistan, or otherwise was dead in Afghanistan or was alive in some other country. I’m not making this up. On the other hand, ve-en lo means he vanishes rather than disappears. His whereabouts might be still be well known and he might still be active. So Daniel says (paraphrasing): (a) “The office of Anointed Leader will be terminated (like the termination of a dynasty). There is no longer any office of Anointed Leader”; OR (b) “The individual Anointed Leader will be separated off (from “the Jews” in the sense the expression has in the NT). He won’t be there doing the job (though he will be alive and well as king, and he MIGHT EVEN STILL BE ANOINTED LEADER, but “the Jews” have no share in it)”. I will see what the Yosippon has as the wording in Agrippa’s speech.
If the final editing of Daniel was before the time of Agrippa, then the first meaning was intended. Agrippa interpreted the words in the second meaning. This is important. We don’t have to say the final editing of Daniel was in the time of Agrippa. This gets rid of a difficulty.
You must look up the root KRT in a full dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, one big enough to give the full range of meanings with examples. You don’t need the recent one published by Brill’s. (Who else?). The Hebrew and English Lexicon known as BDB or Brown-Driver-Briggs of about 1910 is now available in reprint very cheaply. You need it.