“The order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same, even after Christ comes; and after the termination of the thousand years it will be the same; and we shall finally enter into the celestial kingdom of God, and enjoy it forever.
- Joseph Smith1
Although it was not mentioned in Chapter 4, the ordinance of baptism for the dead is performed by the Latter-day Saints in buildings they call temples. Various other ordinances, notably the Endowment and marriage for eternity, are also performed there, both for the living and the dead. Therefore, in keeping with the theme of this book, this last chapter will be devoted to the presentation of evidence that similar ordinances were practiced in ancient Christianity. It is hoped that along the way the reader will get a sense of the beauty and majesty of these ordinances and the principles they symbolize–in this way coming to realize that the restoration of temple worship is indeed the crowning achievement of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The reinstitution of temple worship was an integral part of the “Restoration of All Things,” and yet the content of these ordinances is so shocking to much of the rest of the Christian world that they are routinely labeled as satanic in anti-Mormon literature.2 A large part of the information purveyed in these “exposés” is patently false, however, so perhaps the average Christian would be less shocked by LDS temple ordinances if he or she could be disabused of the wild notions about what goes on in them. This is easier said than done, unfortunately, since Latter-day Saints do not speak openly about certain aspects of these sacred ordinances, especially the Endowment.
Esotericism and the Latter-day Saints
The esotericism involved with the Temple is the crux of the problem encountered by a book such as this, which seeks to present parallels to LDS beliefs and practices in ancient Christianity. As a Latter-day Saint who has participated in these rites, I am bound not to discuss certain aspects of them outside of our temple walls. This is no attempt on the part of Mormons to make their rituals seem more mysterious and impressive. Rather, Latter-day Saints do not discuss certain things in order to follow Jesus’ admonition that certain aspects of the gospel are too sacred to be spoken about to those who are not prepared to appreciate or understand them. (Matthew 7:6) That is, even though many may be curious about certain aspects of the gospel, they are probably not willing to take on the added responsibility which goes along with that knowledge. For anyone who is willing to learn the mysteries of God “precept upon precept; line upon line, . . . here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10), and to make such commitments, the doors to the knowledge of the temple are soon opened. (Latter-day Saints may qualify to enter the temple only after one year of membership, as long as they have been living in accordance with their covenants.) As Jesus said immediately after he charged his disciples not to cast their pearls before swine, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you . . . .” (Matthew 7:7) The Book of Mormon explains this principle clearly:
And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries . . . . (Alma 12:9-11)
Esoteric Doctrines and the Latter-day Saints
There are both esoteric doctrines and rites within Mormonism. These can take a variety of forms. The esoteric doctrines, for the most part, are of a personal nature. That is, God may reveal certain mysteries to a prophet, Apostle, or any other member of His Church, but unless direction comes to reveal it through the President of the Church, one is to keep it to himself. Brigham Young summarized:
If the Lord Almighty should reveal to a High Priest, or anyone other than the head, things that are true . . . or a new doctrine that will be, in five, ten or twenty years hence become the doctrine of this Church and Kingdom, but which has not yet been revealed to this people, and reveal it to him by the same Spirit, the same messenger, the same voice, the same power that gave revelations to Joseph when he was living, it would be a blessing to that High Priest or individual; but he must rarely divulge it to a second person on the face of this earth, until God reveals it through the proper source to become the property of the people at large.3
On rare occasions, the prophets have taught from the pulpit in such a way that only those who were prepared could understand it.4
The esoteric rites in Mormonism are associated with the Temple, and especially with the ritual known as the “Endowment.” And yet, the temple rites are not unknown, because Latter-day Saint authors have spoken about them in general terms and because some disaffected Latter-day Saints have revealed some of the more esoteric aspects to the public. Why do Latter-day Saints refuse to speak openly about certain aspects of the temple rites? The main reason is that those who enter the temple make covenants not to speak about temple worship and ordinances outside the temple. Also, the rites of the Temple are conveyed in symbolic forms so that only those who are spiritually prepared can discern their sacred meanings. Thus, one may know something of the form of the ritual but be completely in the dark as to its meaning. LDS scholar Hugh Nibley makes exactly this point:
Even though everyone may discover what goes on in the temple, and many have already revealed it, the important thing is that I do not reveal these things; they must remain sacred to me. I must preserve a zone of sanctity which cannot be violated whether or not anyone else in the room has the remotest idea what the situation really is . . . . No matter what happens, it will, then, always remain secret: only I know exactly the weight and force of the covenants I have made–I and the Lord with whom I have made them–unless I choose to reveal them. If I do not, then they are secret and sacred no matter what others may say or do. Anyone who would reveal these things has not understood them, and therefore that person has not given them away. You cannot reveal what you do not know!5
In keeping with the sacred nature of the Temple we will give an explanation of the temple Endowment which will consist exclusively of the information available in publicly published statements of various Latter-day Saint general authorities. I will neither go beyond the substance of these statements in my commentary nor comment very much on those parts of ancient ceremonies presented which parallel the Endowment. That is, certain aspects of the ancient ceremonies I will present are very similar to the temple ceremony, and certain aspects are not. (Very little doctrine or practice was transmitted through the apostasy without changes or corruptions, and given their esoteric nature the temple ceremonies would probably have been among the first ordinances to become corrupted or lost.)
In large part I will leave it up to the reader to judge the significance of each area of information presented. Thus, those readers who have participated in the Endowment will necessarily be better equipped in their judgment than those who have not. However, much of the information presented will be related to those parts of the temple ceremony which are public knowledge, so even one who is only cursorily familiar with this aspect of Mormonism will be in a position to examine much of the evidence.
The temple Endowment is primarily a vehicle to present greater light and knowledge about the gospel to those who seek them. In the temple, the Plan of Salvation is presented to the participants in symbolic form, reminding them of their covenants before God and the way to eternal life. By gaining this knowledge and living by it one receives the keys one needs to come into the presence of God in the world to come. The public descriptions and explanations of the Endowment by prophets and Apostles of the LDS Church which follow should give the reader some idea of what constitutes this sacred ordinance.
Elder John A. Widtsoe, formerly an Apostle in the Restored Church, outlined the Endowment thus:
The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith fall clearly into four distinct parts: The preparatory ordinances; the giving of instruction by lectures and representations; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. I doubt that the Prophet Joseph Smith, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete.6
Elder Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve, explains that the first phase of the Endowment ceremony deals with preparatory or “initiatory” ordinances wherein the participant is washed and anointed. He points out that these ordinances are “mostly symbolic in nature.”7
The Lord has said concerning these ordinances: “I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?” (D&C 124:37) Also: “I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings . . . are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house.” (D&C 124:39) Elder Packer goes on to explain that in connection with the washings and anointings, candidates are officially clothed in a symbolic white garment and promised certain blessings.8 Indeed, throughout the Endwoment various symbolic white vestments are used.9
The next phase consists of Christ-centered instruction about one’s place in the Plan of Salvation. Apostle James E. Talmage gave the following description:
The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.10
Elder Packer explains that much of the instruction in the temple is given in symbolic fashion. This should come in no surprise, since so much of the teaching in the scriptures is done symbolically as well.11
Associated with this instruction are various covenants the participants make in relation to their daily conduct. Elder Talmage made the following observations about this phase of the ceremony:
The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,–the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.
No jot, iota, or tittle of the temple rites is otherwise than uplifting and sanctifying. In every detail the endowment ceremony contributes to covenants of morality of life, consecration of person to high ideals, devotion to truth, patriotism to nation, and allegiance to God. The blessings of the House of the Lord are restricted to no privileged class; every member of the Church may have admission to the temple with the right to participate in the ordinances thereof, if he comes duly accredited as of worthy life and conduct.12
In relation to the final phase of the endowment, the tests of knowledge, not much can be said beyond the following statement by the prophet Brigham Young:
Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.13
As President Young seems to indicate, the Endowment as a whole symbolizes and prepares one for the celestial ascent, or as President David O. McKay described, the “step-by-step ascent into the eternal presence.” Thus, the ceremony also includes a symbolic “prayer circle,” which, along with the rest of the Endowment “precedes the symbolic entrance into the celestial world and the presence of God.”14
In addition to the above, there are a significant number of specific ritual aspects of the Endowment which I have not mentioned. However, those familiar with the ceremony will recognize many of these elements in the descriptions of the ancient rites that follow.
The temple Endowment is a profound experience for those who participate in it seeking light and knowledge from above, so one could say that its own fruits justify it, no matter whether it was ever practiced by the ancient Church, or not. However, significant evidence does exist that the ancient Christians practiced similar rituals and had a rich esoteric tradition. Therefore the next task at hand is to describe various of these rites in the context of the people who practiced them.
Esotericism in Early Christianity
Secrecy in the New Testament
When critics of the Restoration speak of the secrecy involved in the Endowment, they never fail to bring up Jesus’ statement to the high priest at His trial: “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.” (John 18:20) Certainly no Latter-day Saint would say that Jesus lied when he said this, but certain facts must be pointed out in relation to this statement in order to assess the impact it should have on our appraisal of the Endowment.
First, while Jesus’ teaching was for the most part public before his death, it may not have been when he appeared to the Apostles and some others after his resurrection. Luke begins the Acts with this statement:
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the Apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God . . . . (Acts 1:1-3)
What were these things that Jesus spoke of during the forty days? The New Testament is strangely silent about what must have been the most important teaching to ever take place in the Savior’s earthly ministry. It is highly unlikely that it was just a repetition of what Jesus had already said. Shortly before his death, Christ insisted to the Apostles that he hadn’t taught them everything: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)
Second, although Jesus taught in public, he usually did it in such a way that those who were not prepared to hear the gospel would misunderstand. The Savior’s parables certainly were useful tools to bring His lofty teachings down to the level of the common man, but it is not often recognized that these symbolic stories also served the function of veiling the truth from those who were not seeking it. When His disciples asked Him the purpose of speaking in parables, Jesus gave them a most instructive answer:
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (Matthew 13:9-13)
Apparently not many of His hearers understood Jesus’ parables, for it was His standard practice to take His disciples aside after reciting a parable and explain it to them clearly. (See Matthew 13)
Professor Joachim Jeremias delineates this pattern of secrecy in the New Testament by listing the items of information which Jesus apparently did not divulge to the public at large. He also shows that in doing so, Jesus was completely at home in the religious environment of the time, for the “whole environment of primitive Christianity knows the element of the esoteric.” As one of his examples he cites the Essenes of Qumran, who buried the Dead Sea Scrolls. This sect of Jews apparently required that at his admission, a new member would swear terrible oaths to never reveal the secret teachings of the order to outsiders.
The classes of information Jeremias claims made up the esoteric teaching of Jesus before the Resurrection are: 1) Jesus’ messiahship, 2) the prediction of Jesus’ crucifixion, 3) prophecies about the signs of the end times, and 4) individual items of instruction. Jesus revealed His messiahship to his disciples before the passion, but always enjoined them to secrecy about it (Mark 8:30; 9:9). He publicly proclaimed His position only once, when he revealed it to the Sanhedrin just before his death (Mark 14:62). His predictions of His own death were exclusively given to close disciples (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34), as were his predictions for the end of the world (Mark 13:3). Items of individual instruction were usually given in enigmatic terms, followed by some hint that a deeper meaning was implied. (“He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” [Matthew 19:12], or “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” [Matthew 9:15].) In addition to all this, Jeremias claims that Jesus hinted in general terms about a secret teaching which was to be made public in the future (Matthew 10:27; Mark 4:22).15
Morton Smith, of Harvard University, concurs with Jeremias that the religious environment of Judaism was permeated with secrecy–not only the Essenes, but the priests of the temple at Jerusalem and the Samaritan priests had “a large body of secret traditions and practices.” There were, in addition, a large number of secret sects in Judaism, including the well-known Pharisees. The Pharisees had a large body of secret doctrines which they not only were sworn to keep secret from outsiders, but from less reliable members of their own sect.16
This practice of revealing the higher truths only to the mature in the gospel was continued in the Apostolic Church. The writings of Paul, in particular, are replete with oblique references to secret teachings. Jeremias17 quotes the following passages (among others) to show that Paul possessed some body of esoteric doctrine which was only to be imparted to the “mature” (Greekteleioi):
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory . . . . (1 Corinthians 2:6-7)
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Corinthians 3:2)
Many similar passages could be cited, but emphasis has been placed on those addressed to the Corinthians because, as Jeremias points out, these were people who had been Christians for years!
Secrecy in the Post-Apostolic Church
As was mentioned above, esoteric trends entered Christianity not through pagan channels, but through its parent Judaism. “Whether oral or recorded in apocryphal works, the esoteric traditions transmitted within Christianity during the first centuries often seem to be of Jewish origin.”18 Accordingly, Jewish-Christian texts like the Pseudo-Clementine literature are replete with references to the secret tradition. For example, in the Clementine Homilies Peter explained that certain “hidden truths” were to be kept from the wicked.
And Peter said: “We remember that our Lord and Teacher, commanding us, said, ‘Keep the mysteries for me and the sons of my house.’ Wherefore also He explained to His disciples privately the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. But to you who do battle with us, and examine into nothing else but our statements, whether they be true or false, it would be impious to state the hidden truths.”19
In the Recognitions Peter explained further that sometimes certain subtle tactics had to be used to make sure the hidden wisdom was not spoken in front of the unworthy:
But if he remains wrapped up and polluted in those sins which are manifestly such, it does not become me to speak to him at all of the more secret and sacred things of divine knowledge, but rather to protest and confront him, that he cease from sin, and cleanse his actions from vice. But if he insinuate himself, and lead us on to speak what he, while he acts improperly, ought not to hear, it will be our part to parry him cautiously. For not to answer him at all does not seem proper, for the sake of the hearers, lest haply they may think that we decline the contest through want of ability to answer him, and so their faith may be injured through their misunderstanding of our purpose.”20
Meantime Peter, rising at the crowing of the cock, and wishing to rouse us, found us awake, the evening light still burning; and when, according to custom, he had saluted us, and we had all sat down, he thus began. “Nothing is more difficult, my brethren, than to reason concerning the truth in the presence of a mixed multitude of people. For that which is may not be spoken to all as it is, on account of those who hear wickedly and treacherously; yet it is not proper to deceive, on account of those who desire to hear the truth sincerely. What, then, shall he do who has to address a mixed multitude? Shall he conceal what is true? How, then, shall he instruct those who are worthy? But if he set forth pure truth to those who do not desire to obtain salvation, he does injury to Him by whom he has been sent, and from whom he has received commandment not to throw the pearls of His words before swine and dogs, who, striving against them with arguments and sophisms, roll them in the rand of carnal understanding, and by their barkings and base answers break and weary the preachers of God’s word. Wherefore I also, for the most part, by using a certain circumlocution, endeavour to avoid publishing the chief knowledge concerning the Supreme Divinity to unworthy ears.” Then, beginning from the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, he briefly and plainly expounded to us, so that all of us hearing him wondered that men have forsaken the truth, and have turned themselves to vanity.21
This tradition of keeping certain teachings secret was continued for hundreds of years after the passing of the Apostles. For example, Ignatius of Antioch, at the beginning of the second century, insisted to the Roman Christians that he knew certain truths about the government and hierarchy of the heavens, but he could not reveal them because the Roman Saints might be harmed by knowledge they weren’t ready for:
I am able to write to you of heavenly things, but I fear lest I should do you an injury. Know me from myself. For I am cautious lest ye should not be able to receive [such knowledge], and should be perplexed. For even I, not because I am in bonds, and am able to know heavenly things, and the places of angels, and the stations of the powers that are seen and that are not seen, am on this account a disciple; for I am far short of the perfection which is worthy of God.22
In the late second and early third centuries Clement of Alexandria and his pupil Origen were quite specific about a secret tradition that existed in the Church in their day.23 For example, against the charges of the pagan Celsus, Origen retorted that the Christians weren’t the only ones with a set of esoteric doctrines:
In these circumstances, to speak of the Christian doctrine as a secret system, is altogether absurd. But that there should be certain doctrines, not made known to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric and others esoteric.24
However, Origen distinguished the pagan mysteries from the Christian mysteries in that the Christians required that one be purified from evil for a period of time before initiation:
And since the grace of God is with all those who love with a pure affection the teacher of the doctrines of immortality, whoever is pure not only from all defilement, but from what are regarded as lesser transgressions, let him be boldly initiated in the mysteries of Jesus, which properly are made known only to the holy and the pure. The initiated of Celsus accordingly says, “Let him whose soul is conscious of no evil come.” But he who acts as initiator, according to the precepts of Jesus, will say to those who have been purified in heart, “He whose soul has, for a long time, been conscious of no evil, and especially since he yielded himself to the healing of the word, let such an one hear the doctrines which were spoken in private by Jesus to His genuine disciples.” Therefore in the comparison which he institutes between the procedure of the initiators into the Grecian mysteries, and the teachers of the doctrine of Jesus, he does not know the difference between inviting the wicked to be healed, and initiating those already purified into the sacred mysteries!25
At the turn of the third century Tertullian chided certain heretics, not for having esoteric teachings, but for making the higher teachings available to everyone:
I must not omit an account of the conduct also of the heretics–how frivolous it is, how worldly, how merely human, without seriousness, without authority, without discipline, as suits their creed. To begin with, it is doubtful who is a catechumen, and who a believer; they have all access alike, they hear alike, they pray alike–even heathens, if any such happen to come among them. “That which is holy they will cast to the dogs, and their pearls,” although (to be sure) they are not real ones, “they will fling to the swine.”26
Lactantius lamented the fact that Christian silence concerning the mysteries of the Kingdom engendered suspicion and base rumors among the pagans:
This is the doctrine of the holy prophets which we Christians follow; this is our wisdom, which they who worship frail objects, or maintain an empty philosophy, deride as folly and vanity, because we are not accustomed to defend and assert it in public, since God orders us in quietness and silence to hide His secret, and to keep it within our own conscience; and not to strive with obstinate contention against those who are ignorant of the truth, and who rigorously assail God and His religion not for the sake of learning, but of censuring and jeering. For a mystery ought to be most faithfully concealed and covered, especially by us, who bear the name of faith. But they accuse this silence of ours, as though it were the result of an evil conscience; whence also they invent some detestable things respecting those who are holy and blameless, and willingly believe their own inventions.27
As late as the fourth century, Basil of Caesarea reported that there was still a strong unwritten and secret tradition that he believed originated with the Apostles:
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles . . . .28
In the same manner the Apostles and Fathers who laid down laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity of the mysteries in secrecy and silence, for what is bruited abroad random among the common folk is no mystery at all. This is the reason for our tradition of unwritten precepts and practices, that the knowledge of our dogmas may not become neglected and contemned by the multitude through familiarity. “Dogma” [doctrine] and “Kerugma” [preaching] are two distinct things; the former is observed in silence; the latter is proclaimed to all the world. One form of this silence is the obscurity employed in Scripture, which makes the meaning of “dogmas” difficult to be understood for the very advantage of the reader . . . .29
Also, a fourth century Mesopotamian Christian document divides members of the Church into the “just” and the “perfect.” And Guy Stroumsa of Hebrew University takes it for granted that “each category of believers receives a different type of teaching.”30
The Content of the Secret Tradition
We have discussed in detail the fact that there was an esoteric tradition within early Christianity, but now the question of what that tradition included naturally arises. Clement of Alexandria claimed that the true “gnostic” tradition was concerned primarily with cosmogony and theology. In other words, it was concerned with the creation and the nature of God:
The science of nature, then, or rather observation, as contained in the gnostic tradition according to the rule of the truth, depends on the discussion concerning cosmogony, ascending thence to the department of theology. Whence, then, we shall begin our account of what is handed down, with the creation as related by the prophets, introducing also the tenets of the heterodox, and endeavouring as far as we can to confute them. But it shall be written if God will, and as He inspires; and now we must proceed to what we proposed, and complete the discourse on ethics.31
Jean Daniélou finds that the esoteric teachings attributed to the Apostles by the Apocrypha and the traditions of the elders who knew the Apostles had primarily to do with the “celestial voyage” or the journey from earth to heaven. 32
This, then, was the content of the early esoteric tradition–creation, theology, and celestial voyage. And although the specifics of the tradition changed with the variations in belief of the various Christian movements, the form remained the same. For example, the Gnostics borrowed this form of the “gnosis” from original Jewish Christianity, as we shall see later in this chapter, but scholars such as Jean Daniélou claim they substituted the original content with “foreign oriental or Hellenistic conceptions.” 33
It is not enough to prove that there was a body of esoteric doctrine in ancient Christianity. In order to show a more complete correspondence to Mormonism, it must be shown that these secret doctrines were connected in some way to secret rituals analogous to those practiced in modern LDS temples.
Baptism and Eucharist as “Mysteries”
In our discussion of baptism for the dead, it was shown that the early Church guarded all of its ordinances, including baptism and the Eucharist, in a shroud of secrecy. Davies reports that in the first two centuries of Christianity, there are a number of references to baptism and the Eucharist, but no detailed descriptions, because “the observance of the disciplina arcani [secret discipline] inhibited full descriptions of these rites.”34 Indeed, very early on (ca. A.D. 110) Ignatius also referred to the Eucharist as one of “the mysteries”:
It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.35
The early second-century Epistle to Diognetus claimed that an outsider must not expect to be able to learn anything about the worship of the Christians: “You must not hope to learn the mystery of their peculiar mode of worshipping God from any mortal.”36 And Tertullian refuted charges of immorality in Christian meetings by saying that since no Christian would reveal what goes on there, strangers must be making the charges.37
In the fourth century, Athanasius spoke of this tradition of secrecy and referred to these rites as “the mysteries”:
We ought not then to parade the holy mysteries before the uninitiated, lest the heathen in their ignorance deride them, and the Catechumens being over-curious be offended.38
Why the emphasis on guarding the ordinances from the profane? Actually, the word “mystery” [Greek mysterion] is a technical religious term equivalent to the Latin sacramentum, which simply means “ordinance.”39 The term was normally used in the context of the Greek “mystery religions” which were common in the ancient world, and included various secret doctrines and rites.40 Therefore, when Paul and later Christian writers spoke of “the mysteries,” they were borrowing a technical term loaded with meaning, and may well have been referring not only to certain doctrines, but to various rites associated with them.41
Indeed, “D.W.B. Robinson argues that teleioi [as used by Paul] is employed in the mystery-initiate sense [in Phil. 3:15 (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6; Col. 1:28)]; Hebrew believers were ‘the first initiates into God’s hidden mystery.’”42 That is, the Greek word teleioi is another technical term associated with the mystery religions, and when Paul used it to denote the “mature in the faith,” he could also have meant, more specifically, “those who have been initiated into the mysteries.”43
Were There Other “Mysteries”?
It is quite possible, then, that even from the beginning Christians associated their esoteric doctrines with certain rituals. As Guy Stroumsa observes, “In fact there is a manifest connection between ritual and doctrine.”44 But were baptism and the Eucharist the only rituals ever referred to as “mysteries” in early Christianity? A clue might have been given by a certain statement of Hippolytus (ca. A.D. 200):
But if there is any other matter which ought to be told, let the bishop impart it secretly to those who are communicated. He shall not tell this to any but the faithful and only after they have first been communicated. This is the white stone of which John said that there is a new name written upon it which no man knows except him who receives.45
R.P.C. Hanson insists that it “is not clear what the matter delivered through this secret rule was. It obviously could not have had any reference to baptism and Eucharist.”46
We shall see that not only were there rituals other than baptism and the Eucharist in early Christianity, but in some ways they were strikingly similar to the LDS Endowment. Later much of the symbolism of these rites was adopted into the liturgies of baptism and the Eucharist. (This could have been a natural consequence of the fact that all the early Christian rituals were considered more or less part of the esoteric tradition.)
“Orthodox” Christian Rites: The Mysteries of Clement
There are perhaps dozens of allusions to the secret rites of the ancient Church in early Christian documents, but two descriptions of these rites stand out from the rest as more complete and clear. First, Clement of Alexandria described in various places in his writings a rite he called a “mystery,” which was an initiation ceremony not necessarily connected with baptism. Second, Cyril of Jerusalem, in the fourth century, described in detail the liturgies of baptism and the Eucharist, which by that time included a variety of ritual actions, some of which are recognizable in Clement’s earlier “mystery.”
The Secret Tradition Transmitted in a “Mystery”
According to Mosheim, Clement of Alexandria claimed to possess a secret tradition of knowledge (Greek gnosis) handed down from the Savior to the Apostles and on to Clement himself by way of certain of his teachers.
Clement represents this secret discipline, to which he gives the title of gnosis, as having been instituted by Christ himself . . . . It appears that he considered this gnosis, or gift of knowledge, as having been conferred by our Lord, after his resurrection, on James the Just, John, and Peter, by whom it was communicated to the other Apostles; and that by these this treasure was committed to the seventy disciples, of whom Barnabas was one . . . . Clement makes it a matter of boast that the secret discipline thus instituted by Christ was familiar to those who had been his masters and preceptors, whom he very lavishly extols, and seems to exult not a little in having, under their tuition, enjoyed the advantage of being instructed in it himself.47
Clement represented the true gnosis as having been transmitted to initiates in the form of a “mystery,” which, as we have seen, probably meant in a ritual enactment or symbolic ordinance. He also stipulated that certain “purifications and previous instructions” were given before the mysteries were revealed:
But since this tradition is not published alone for him who perceives the magnificence of the word; it is requisite, therefore, to hide in a mystery the wisdom spoken, which the Son of God taught.48
Wherefore also all men are His; some through knowledge, and others not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as servants merely. This is the Teacher, who trains the Gnostic by mysteries, and the believer by good hopes, and the hard of heart by corrective discipline through sensible operation.49
Thence the prophecies and oracles are spoken in enigmas, and the mysteries are not exhibited incontinently to all and sundry, but only after certain purifications and previous instructions.50
The teachings of these mysteries were probably quite symbolic, and Clement wrote that the Lord teaches in “enigmas” so that one has to work to get at the truth:
Dreams and signs are all more or less obscure to men, not from jealousy (for it were wrong to conceive of God as subject to passions), but in order that research, introducing to the understanding of enigmas, may haste to the discovery of truth.51
What form did this “mystery” take? Clement made several allusions to the initiation rite in his Stromata and his Exhortation to the Heathen. Another possible reference was made in Clement’s recently discovered letter to a certain Theodore, in which he quoted a lost Secret Gospel of Mark.
The “Drama of Truth”
In the Exhortation to the Heathen Clement invited the Greeks to abandon their mystery religions and participate in the true mysteries of God. He represented the Christian mystery as a “drama of truth” and an “initiation,” lighted by torches and including a hymn sung about the altar in imitation of the choir of angels around the throne of God:
Come, O madman, not leaning on the thyrsus, not crowned with ivy; throw away the mitre, throw away the fawn-skin; come to thy senses. I will show thee the Word, and the mysteries of the Word, expounding them after thine own fashion. This is the mountain beloved of God . . . consecrated to dramas of the truth,–a mount of sobriety, shaded with forests of purity . . . . O truly sacred mysteries! O stainless light! My way is lighted with torches, and I survey the heavens and God; I become holy whilst I am initiated. The Lord is the hierophant [teacher of mysteries], and seals while illuminating him who is initiated, and presents to the Father him who believes, to be kept safe for ever. Such are the reveries of my mysteries. If it is thy wish, be thou also initiated; and thou shall join the choir along with angels around the unbegotten and indestructible and the only true God, the Word of God, raising the hymn with us.52
The “Ring-Dance” or “Prayer Circle”
E. Louis Backman, of the Royal University of Upsala, Sweden, indicates that this hymn was probably sung as part of a “ring-dance” performed in many religions, including early Christianity:
Let me first emphasize that the closing words [of the hymn] must not be regarded as referring only to that which awaits in the future a person inducted into the Christian mysteries. These remarkable final words should also, perhaps mainly, be interpreted quite literally. If you are inducted into the Christian mysteries, then you must perform a ring-dance round the altar . . . not only with the other novitiates but also with the angels! For they are present and participate in the mystery.53
The idea that the “ring-dance” was performed in imitation of the angels around God’s throne may be significant for the interpretation of a certain remark Jesus made in the Epistle of the Apostles. There Jesus alluded to a certain “service” or rite which was performed daily at the “altar of the Father.”54 Hennecke and Schneemelcher speculate: “Is this a projection into heaven of a practice of the Christian community?”55 If so, the practice of such “mysteries” extended back at least several decades before Clement.
This “ring-dance” was an act of praise and included a prayer. Backman56 cites a passage from the Stromata in which Clement reveals that the initiates raised their hands in prayer during the dance: “So also we raise the head and lift the hands to heaven, and set the feet in motion at the closing utterance of the prayer . . . .”57
References to the mystery of the ring-dance/prayer circle in early Christianity can also be found in the writings of Gregory Thaumaturgus (A.D. 210-260), bishop of Pontus, and Basileios (A.D. 344-407), bishop of Caesarea:
We do find the following [in Gregory's writings]: ‘He who has done everything preserved and prescribed by Providence in its secret mysteries, reposes in Heaven in the bosom of the Father and in the cave in the bosom of the Mother (Christ Jesus). The ring-dance of the angels encircles him, singing his glory in Heaven and proclaiming peace on earth.’ In his Four Sermons (10:1146) he quotes a curious legend, ‘Today (Christ’s birthday) Adam is resurrected and performs a ring-dance with the angels, raised up to heaven’.58
In [Basileios's] writings there are several references to the existence of the dance in early Christianity. Thus he says of one who has died in blessedness (Letter 40): ‘We remember those who now, together with the Angels, dance the dance of the Angels around God, just as in the flesh they performed a spiritual dance of life and, here on earth, a heavenly dance.’ Thus life in this temporal world, where it is lived in righteousness, may be described as a spiritual heavenly dance. In another letter (ad 1:2) he writes ‘Could there be anything more blessed than to imitate on earth the ring-dance of the angels and at dawn to raise our voices in prayer and by hymns and songs glorify the rising creator.’59
One might think it strange that the prayer described by Clement was given with arms raised, but J. G. Davies explains that this was the natural posture for one consumed with the thought of the risen Lord.60 A passage from the first-century Odes of Solomon explains that this posture was adopted in imitation of the Savior on the cross: “I stretched forth my hands and sanctified my Lord: For the extension of my hands is His sign: And my expansion is the upright tree [or cross].”61 An Egyptian Christian work of unknown date, called the First Book of Adam and Eve, intimates that Adam and Eve were believed to be the first to adopt this posture in prayer: “Then Adam and Eve spread their hands unto God, praying and entreating Him to drive Satan away from them . . . .”62 This or a similar gesture is still practiced in a number of Christian churches. It is also part of the LDS temple ceremony.
The Linen Garment
Clement’s letter to Theodore also sheds some light on the early Christian mysteries. In this document, Clement wrote to a certain local church leader who had asked several questions about a document called the Secret Gospel of Mark, which a libertine Gnostic group called the Carpocratians had corrupted to suit their agenda. Clement decried the fact that the Gnostics had corrupted the text and described the document as an expansion of Mark’s canonical gospel written after Peter died:
[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 sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue [teacher of mysteries], lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven [veils]. Thus, in sum, he prearranged matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, he left his composition to the church in Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.63
Even though the fragments we have of the Secret Gospel of Mark do not reveal the secret teachings, it may give us one more detail about what Clement called “the great mysteries.” Clement includes a passage from the Secret Gospel in his letter which tells of Jesus teaching the mysteries to a young man whom he had recently raised from the dead:
And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over [his] naked [body]. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God.64
Therefore, it may be inferred that people participating in the “great mysteries” were dressed in linen robes.65 Certainly it would have been standard procedure to call for special ritual clothing in such an important rite, just as was done for the rites of the temple at Jerusalem. And indeed, references to special symbolic garments or robes abound in early Christian literature. Note, for example, that the Shepherd of Hermas includes a description “of a marked secret and symbolic nature” of twelve virgins clothed in white linen. The angel told Hermas that nobody can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is clothed in their garments.66
Origen insisted, in a sermon on the book of Leviticus, that the faithful must have garments kept apart from the common clothing of the world:
Therefore, you have a priesthood because you are ‘a priestly nation,’ and for this reason ‘you ought to offer an offering of praise to God,’ an offering of prayers, an offering of mercy, an offering of purity, an offering of justice, an offering of holiness. But in order to offer these things worthily, you must have clean clothes separated from the common clothing of the rest of humanity . . . .67
In these sermons Origen compared the Christian garment (whether it was real or figurative) to the garments given to the Temple priests, and likened these to the skin tunics given to Adam and Eve by God:
But before we begin to say something about this kind of garment, I want to compare those miserable garments, with which the first man was clothed after he had sinned, with these holy and faithful garments. Indeed, it is said that God made those. “For God made skin tunics and clothed Adam and his wife.” Therefore, those were tunics of skins taken from animals. For with such as these, it was necessary for the sinner to be dressed. It says, “with skin tunics,” which are a symbol of the mortality which he received because of his skin and of his frailty which came from the corruption of the flesh. But if you have been already washed from these and purified through the Law of God, then Moses will dress you with a garment of incorruptibility so that “your shame may never appear” and “that this mortality may be absorbed by life.”68
The Secret Teaching
We have already seen several of the ritual elements included in Clement’s “Great Mysteries,” but we are left to speculate about the specific teaching enacted in the “drama of truth.” Given that the esoteric traditions seem to have normally included cosmogony (creation), theology, and the cosmic journey, we may infer that aspects of these subjects were symbolically reenacted in Clement’s drama. For instance, Wagner speculates that this initiation may have included a ritual enactment of certain aspects of the creation:
Perhaps the initiation was a nocturnal rite which included human gnostic teachers breathing the Spirit into the candidates as Jesus breathed upon his disciples in their special room after the resurrection (John 20) and in harmony with the creation of humanity (Gen. 2).69
The reenactment of the “cosmic journey” or heavenly ascent most likely followed the pattern of the ascension narratives common in ancient Judaism and Christianity. These ascension narratives usually included a ritual clothing in the heavenly garment and anointing.70 The heavenly garment is obtained after one ascends through the various spheres of heaven, giving the appropriate passwords along the way.71 The Ascension of Isaiah includes a good example of this motif:
And then many of the righteous will ascend with him, whose spirits do not receive their garments till the Lord Christ ascends and they ascend with him. Then indeed will they receive their garments and thrones and crowns when he shall have ascended into the seventh heaven . . . . And again I beheld when he descended into the second heaven, and again he gave the password there, for the doorkeepers demanded it and the Lord gave it.72
In the account of Enoch’s ascension in 2 Enoch the prophet was also anointed before he was clothed in the garment:
And the Lord said to his servants tempting them: ‘Let Enoch stand before my face into eternity,’ and the glorious ones bowed down to the Lord, and said: ‘Let Enoch go according to Thy word.’ And the Lord said to Michael: ‘Go and take Enoch from out his earthly garments, and anoint him with my sweet ointment, and put him into the garments of My glory.’73
These ascension narratives often included ritual handclasps, such as were included in the Christian Gnostic, Jewish Gnostic, and Greek mysteries, as we shall see.74 Whoever was being conducted through the heavens was lifted along after grasping the right hand of the guiding angel or God. For example, in the Gospel of Nicodemus, Jesus descends into Hades after His death, grasps the right hand of Adam, and leads him to paradise with all the saints following:
The King of glory stretched out His right hand, and took hold of our forefather Adam, and raised him . . . . And setting out to paradise, He took hold of our forefather Adam by the hand, and delivered him, and all the just, to the archangel Michael.75
A similar occurrence was also described in 1 Enoch: “And the angel Michael, . . . seizing me by my right hand and lifting me up, led me out into all the secrets of mercy; and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness.”76
It must be remembered that these apocryphal narratives were often centered around ritual forms that were practiced on earth, as well as in heaven. For example, J.R. Porter uses the example of Levi’s heavenly anointing in the Testament of Levi as an example of the close relationship between earthly and heavenly rituals:
Another heavenly anointing is found in the Testament of Levi 8.4-5 where the patriarch Levi is invested, according to the ritual for the installation of the high-priest, by seven angels, one of whom anoints him with holy oil. This reflects the well-known idea of the correspondence and the simultaneity of the earthly and heavenly ritual and it raises the question as to whether the actual high priest may have been considered in Israel to be raised by his anointing to the heavenly sphere and to have become an angelic being thereby.77
“Orthodox” Christian Rites: The Later Rituals of Baptism and the Eucharist
By the third and fourth centuries much of the symbolism of the “great mysteries” had been incorporated into the liturgies of baptism and the Eucharist.78 Those who had not been initiated were kept out and strict silence in regard to the mysteries was required of the initiates. Mosheim explains:
The multitude professing Christianity were therefore divided by them into the “profane,” or those who were not yet admitted to the mysteries, and the “initiated,” or faithful and perfect . . . . and as none were permitted to be present at these “mysteries,” as they were termed, save those whose admission into the fellowship of the church was perfect and complete, so likewise was it expected that, as a matter of duty, the most sacred silence should be observed in regard to everything connected with the celebration of them, and nothing whatever relating thereto to be committed to the ears of the profane.79
The most complete description of these rites now extant was given by Cyril of Jerusalem, who wrote a series of catechetical lectures designed to instruct investigators (or “catechumens”) and the newly baptized in the late fourth century. The last five of these lectures are called the “Lectures on the Mysteries,” and were intended for those who had been recently baptized and given the Eucharist. A description of these rites follows.
The Renunciation of Satan
In an effort to mimic the design of the Jerusalem Temple, the basilicas of this era were divided into three parts: the atrium or forecourt, the church proper for the congregation, and the holy place where the clergy officiated at the altar.80 ”The Christian sanctuary, insofar as it was a temple, recalled in some way the holy of holies, in the temple of Jerusalem.”81 The initiate was first taken to the forecourt of the baptistry where facing West, he extended his arm and renounced Satan using the following formula: “I renounce thee, Satan. And all thy works. And all thy pomp. And all thy service.” The initiate then turned to the East. Cyril explained that this action constituted a symbolic re-entrance into the Garden of Eden: “When therefore thou renouncest Satan, utterly breaking all thy covenant with him, that ancient league with hell, there is opened to thee the paradise of God, which He planted towards the East, whence for his transgression our first father was banished; and a symbol of this was thy turning from West to East, the place of lights.” Then the initiate recited another formula: “I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance.”82
Initial Anointing and Baptism
The initiate was then conducted to the inner chamber where he was stripped naked, anointed with oil, and baptized. Cyril described this process:
As soon, then, as ye entered, ye put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds. Having stripped yourselves, ye were naked; in this also imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross, and by His nakedness put off from Himself the principalities and powers, and openly triumphed over them on the tree . . . . O wondrous thing! ye were naked in the sight of all, and were not ashamed; for truly ye bore the likeness of the first-formed Adam, who was naked in the garden, and was not ashamed. Then, when ye were stripped, ye were anointed with exorcised oil, from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive-tree, Jesus Christ . . . . After these things, ye were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism, as Christ was carried from the Cross to the Sepulchre which is before our eyes And each of you was asked, whether he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and ye made that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and ascended again; here also hinting by a symbol at the three days burial of Christ . . . .83
The Catholic editors of another English translation of Cyril’s works explain that the “tunic was the garment worn by both sexes next to the skin. The candidates would already have removed their shoes and outer garments . . . .”84 Who performed the anointing over the whole body? “For the men, no doubt, priests, deacons and the lower clergy. But for the women? . . . [Apostolic Constitutions] 3:15-16 says that the deaconesses completed the anointing after a deacon had begun it on the forehead.”85
After baptism the initiate was anointed again, and Cyril gave a more complete description this time:
[The] ointment is symbolically applied to thy forehead and thy other senses; and while thy body is anointed with the visible ointment, thy soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit. And ye were first anointed on the forehead . . . . Then on your ears; that ye might receive the ears which are quick to hear the Divine Mysteries . . . . Then on the nostrils . . . . Afterwards on your breast; that having put on the breast-plate of righteousness, ye may stand against the wiles of the devil . . . .86
In some churches the initiate’s feet were washed at this time, as well.87
The White Garment
A subsequent passage in Cyril’s lectures indicates that the initiate was symbolically clothed in white after the baptism:
Let thy garments be always white, for the Lord is well pleased with thy works; for before thou camest to Baptism, thy works were vanity of vanities. But now, having put off thy old garments, and put on those which are spiritually white, thou must be continually robed in white: of course we mean not this, that thou art always to wear white raiment; but thou must be clad in the garments that are truly white and shining and spiritual . . . .88
According to Arthur McCormack, the initiate was required to wear the white garments for the rest of the day, and he also received a new name after the clothing.89
The officiating bishop also wore white priestly garb reminiscent of the priestly robes worn in the Jerusalem Temple. Wharton B. Marriott writes that “the dress appropriate to the most solemn offices of the holy ministry, during the primitive age, was white.”90 He also reports that the bishops anciently “wore mitres or priestly caps, after the model of the Jewish priests.”91 Jerome described the mitres of the Jewish priests:
The fourth of the vestments is a small round cap . . . much as though a sphere were to be divided through the centre, and one half thereof to be put upon the head . . . . It has no peak at the top, nor does it cover the whole head as far as the hair extends, but leaves about a third of the front part of the head uncovered. It is attached by a band onto the back of the head, so as not to be liable to fall off.92
There are other articles the Catholic clergy have historically worn as part of their sacred vestments, including a girdle or sash and a stole worn over the shoulders. The stole is worn on different sides, depending on the degree within the priesthood, and is said to represent “the Stole of immortality,” lost through the transgression of Adam and Eve.93
The Prayer Circle
Cyril went on to describe the liturgy of the Eucharist. First the deacon gave the officiating priest water to wash his hands and the elders positioned themselves to stand around the altar in a circle.94 ”Then the Deacon . . . cried aloud, ‘Receive ye one another; and let us kiss one another . . . .’ The kiss therefore is reconciliation, and for this reason holy . . . .”95 A prayer was then offered by the priest in behalf of those in the circle and the others attending which included the giving of thanks, petition for blessing to be pronounced upon the Eucharist, and petition “for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world(1); for kings; for soldiers and allies; for the sick; for the afflicted; and, in a word, for all who stand in need of succour . . . .”96
Cyril then went on to explain that the prayer included petitions in behalf of the dead, who were expected to derive some benefit therefrom. (Perhaps this is a remnant of other ordinances for the dead?)
Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth . . . . For if a king were to banish certain who had given him offence, and then those who belong to them should weave a crown and offer it to him on behalf of those under punishment, would he not grant a remission of their penalties?97
Charles Walker writes, “Formerly the names of those to be prayed for in the Liturgy were written on tablets, or parchments, which, from being folded twice, were called diptychs.”98 The editors of the Catholic edition explain that there was probably more to this prayer which Cyril does not repeat and which was “recited by the celebrant in a low voice and perhaps behind a curtain (veil, screen).”99
Passwords and Signs
Next the priest chanted the Lord’s Prayer and invited the participants to share in the sacrament of the Eucharist.100 It is interesting to note that the Lord’s prayer also served as a sort of password for the initiates:
As those who were admitted to the inner sights of the mysteries had a formula or pass-word . . ., so the catechumens had a formula which was only entrusted to them in the last days of their catechumenate–the baptismal formula itself and the Lord’s Prayer.”101
As the faithful approached the priest they put forward their hands in the shape of a cup to receive the bread:
In approaching therefore, come not with thy wrists extended, or thy fingers spread; but make thy left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen.102
Finally the participant took a sip from the cup and anointed his sense organs with the wine:
Then after thou hast partaken of the Body of Christ, draw near also to the Cup of His Blood; not stretching forth thine hands, but bending, and saying with an air of worship and reverence, Amen, hallow thyself by partaking also of the Blood of Christ. And while the moisture is still upon thy lips, touch it with thine hands, and hallow thine eyes and brow and the other organs of sense.103
The Sacraments Become Exoteric
Little of these rites now remain in the liturgies of the Christian churches of today, so one might wonder what became of them. C.W. Heckethorne asserts that the secret tradition of early Christianity was lost after the Church became the dominant religion and there really weren’t very many people around from whom one could keep secrets:
The number of the faithful having greatly increased–the Christians from being persecuted having become persecutors, and that of the most grasping and barbarous kind–the Church in the seventh century instituted the minor orders, among whom were the doorkeepers, who took the place of the deacons. In 692 everyone was ordered thenceforth to be admitted to the public worship of the Christians, their esoteric (secret) teaching of the first ages was entirely suppressed, and what had been pure cosmology and astronomy was turned into a pantheon of gods and saints. Nothing remained of the mysteries but the custom of secretly reciting the canon of the Mass. Nevertheless in the Greek Church the priest celebrates divine worship behind a curtain, which is only removed during the elevation of the host, but since at that moment the worshippers prostrate themselves, they are supposed not to see the holy sacrament.104
Gnostic Christian Rites
The True Gnosis
It bears repeating that there was, indeed, a true gnosis, or hidden knowledge. J.N.D. Kelly points out that such a strain had existed in the other branches of Christianity since the earliest times:
There was a powerful strain in early Christianity which was in sympathy with Gnostic tendencies. We can see it at work in the Fourth Gospel, with its axiom that eternal life consists in knowledge of God and of Christ, and even more clearly in such second-century works as 2 Clement and Theophilus’s Ad Autolycum. As we noticed above, Clement of Alexandria freely applied the title ‘gnostics’ to Christians who seemed to have a philosophic grasp of their faith. It is the existence of a genuinely Christian, orthodox ‘gnosis’ side by side with half-Christian versions which in part accounts for the difficulty in defining Gnosticism precisely.105
According to Morton Smith, the fact that there existed an esoteric tradition in the earliest forms of Christianity goes a long way to explain why there was such a great profusion of Gnostic Christian sects, although gnosticism had existed in other forms previous to the advent of Christ:
But it seems likely that the primitive secret tradition of Christianity will prove the most important single factor in solving one of the major problems of the history of gnosticism: Why did so very many gnostic sects spring up so early in so many parts of the Christian Church? Groups that seem gnostic occasionally appear in paganism or Judaism, but nowhere else is there anything like the quantity and vigor of the Christian development. This has to be explained, and the explanation must be something in Christianity. What else but the secret tradition?106
Although a Gnostic strain was present in post-Apostolic Catholic Christianity, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their gnosis was the true one! Clement and Origen’s gnosis apparently included various quasi-Platonic speculations of their own which were not present in the original Church,107 and earlier “orthodox” writings with a Gnostic flair, such as the Epistle of the Apostles, soon fell out of favor because they were “too heavily loaded with strange views and no longer had any contemporary significance.”108
We are not so much interested in the content of the secret doctrine as we are in the content of the secret rituals that went along with them. H.J. Rose explains that it has always been standard procedure to keep rituals, but change the doctrines associated with them to suit the times. Thus rituals are among the most conservative elements of religion.109 Therefore, even though the Gnostics held to some doctrines that are repugnant to Latter-day Saints and mainstream Christians alike, it is still instructive to investigate their rituals to determine whether they might have been remnants of an earlier esoteric tradition within Apostolic Christianity.
In Gnostic Christianity we find rituals very similar to the mysteries of other branches of the early Church.110 Indeed, as was discussed above, Clement claimed that the Carpocratian Gnostics had obtained a copy of the Secret Gospel of Mark and had corrupted it to suit their own libertine tendencies. Therefore, since this document was associated with the “Great Mysteries,” it should not be surprising that the Gnostics had similar rites.111 In order to provide a survey of these rites, they will be briefly discussed in connection with three documentary sources: 1) theGospel of Philip, 2) the Books of Jeu , the Pistis Sophia, and related documents, and 3) the Acts of John.
The Gospel of Philip
The Coptic Gnostic Gospel of Philip was discovered in 1945 in Egypt as part of the Nag Hammadi texts. J.J. Buckley claims that this document is in essence a preparatory manual for an esoteric initiation rite.112 Although the descriptions of the rites practiced by those who accepted this document are somewhat vague, they are of great interest to Latter-day Saints. The text describes five successive rites: “The Lord [did] everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a Eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.”113 Considering anointing (chrism) and the Eucharist to be related to baptism, the text goes on to compare baptism, the rite called the “redemption,” and marriage to the three levels of the sanctuary in the Temple at Jerusalem: “Baptism is ‘the Holy’ building. Redemption is ‘the Holy of the Holy.’ ‘The Holy of the Holies’ is the bridal chamber.”114
Some more details of the marriage ceremony are given, as well, which will be discussed later in this chapter. At least one of these rites undoubtedly included the teaching of various “mysteries.” Hennecke and Schneemelcher discuss the content of the esoteric teaching, and reveal that certain passwords designed to allow the soul to ascend through the heavens were included:
The gospel [of Philip] must therefore have contained revelations imparted by Jesus to another person (probably Philip) and reported by him. The instruction here bears upon a subject familiar to Gnosis: the manner of the ascent of the soul. By means of ritual formulae, which are at the same time passwords, the soul ascending after death to its heavenly fatherland obtains from the planetary Archons, the hostile ‘powers’ of destiny who oppose its return, free passage through the seven successive spheres of the visible firmament.115
Clues about the nature of the ritual formulas required were given by Irenaeus, who noted that some Gnostic sects referred to the redemption as “The name which is hidden from every deity.”116 He also observed that “others still repeat certain Hebrew words, in order the more thoroughly to bewilder those who are being initiated.”117
In connection with the ritual enactment of the heavenly ascent, it is also interesting to note that certain Gnostic ascension narratives also contained ritual handclasps. For example, in one Manichean narrative, the Primeval Man is drawn up to heaven by celestial messengers:
The Living Spirit, who was accompanied by the Mother of Life, extended his right hand to Primeval Man. The latter seized it and thus was drawn up out of the depths of the world of darkness. Together with the Mother of Life and the Living Spirit he rose up and up, soared like victorious light out of darkness, till he was returned to the paradise of light, his celestial home, where his kin awaited him.118
The Pistis Sophia, the Two Books of Jeu, and Related Documents
Other Coptic Gnostic works contain information about the “mysteries” the Gnostics practiced. Two good examples are the Pistis Sophia and the Two Books of Jeu. In these documents the Apostles and some female disciples gather together somewhere to receive instruction in the mysteries from the risen Lord. The Pistis Sophia relates that after clothing themselves in linen garments, the participants situated themselves in a circle about Jesus, who stood at the altar. Then Jesus offered a rather strange prayer in behalf of his disciples:
Thomas, Andrew, James and Simon the Canaanite were in the west, with their faces turned towards the east, but Philip and Bartholomew were in the south (with their faces) turned towards the north, but the other disciples and the women disciples stood behind Jesus. But Jesus stood beside the altar. And Jesus cried out, turning towards the four corners of the world with his disciples, who were all clothed in linen garments, and said: iao, iao, iao . . . . But when Jesus had said this, he said: Thou Father of all Fatherhood of the Infinite hearken unto me for my disciples’ sake . . . .119
In all of these documents Jesus answered various questions his disciples asked. Although the answers given usually reflected some rather strange Gnostic doctrines, the general subjects covered can be inferred from a related document called the Sophia Jesu Christi:
After he had risen from the dead, when they came, the twelve disciples and seven women who had followed him as disciples, into Galilee . . . where they were now at a loss in regard to the true nature of the universe, the plan of salvation, the holy providence, the excellency of the powers, about all that the Redeemer did with them, the secrets of the holy plan of salvation, then there appeared to them the Redeemer . . . .120
In the Two Books of Jeu the Savior also gave various “seals” and passwords necessary to ascend to the highest heaven, just as were given in the Gospel of Philip:
Here also are imparted the secret names of the aeons, their several numbers, the “seals” and “pass-words,” the formulae which allow free passage through each of their spheres, on after the other, and ensure escape from their grasp and power.121
It is interesting to note that one of the formulae given in the Pistis Sophia is the statement: “He is I, and I am he.” Jean Doresse explains that this is “the mystery whose words are of an extraordinary power, and thanks to which each of the Perfect ones will be absorbed, in the end, into the person of Jesus himself . . . .”122 Remember that Ignatius had a similar formula he considered necessary, “Thou art I and I am thou,”123 which may have been part of the “orthodox” Christian esoteric tradition.
Then, of course, the discourse was concluded with a charge to keep the mysteries secret:
These mysteries which I shall give you, preserve, and give them to no man except he be worthy of them. Give them not to father nor to mother, to brother or to sister or to kinsman, neither for food nor for drink, nor for woman-kind, neither for gold nor for silver, nor for anything at all of this world. Preserve them, and give them to no one whatsoever for the sake of the good of this whole world.124
The Acts of John
The Acts of John was a common Gnostic document which relates a similar initiation ceremony including the familiar ring-dance/prayer circle. According to Max Pulver, this document was always believed to refer to an initiation rite, and certain clues are given about some of the paraphernalia used in the ceremony:
Thus, as late as the fourth century the hymn from the Acts of St. John was still regarded as a ritual of initiation; here Christ is a mystagogue . . . . That is, Christ was held to have delivered a secret initiation and to have left a secret tradition to his disciples, and above all to John . . . .125
In the last four verses of the hymn [in the Acts of St. John] Christ refers to himself as a torch, a mirror, a door, and a way. These are not only familiar symbols but also probably instruments of initiation.126
A passage from the Acts of John itself describes the ring-dance/prayer circle practiced as part of the initiation:
But before he was arrested by the lawless Jews, whose lawgiver is the lawless serpent, he assembled us all and said, ‘Before I am delivered to them, let us sing a hymn to the Father, and so go to meet what lies before (us).’ So he told us to form a circle, holding one another’s hands, and himself stood in the middle and said, ‘Answer Amen to me’. So he began to sing the hymn and to say . . . . [A long hymn follows, which includes the following injunction:] ‘Now if you follow my dance, see yourself in Me who am speaking, and when you have seen what I do, keep silence about my mysteries.’127
The overarching purpose of this initiation, according to Pulver, was once again to give certain symbols, marks of recognition, and passwords to the disciples so they could ascend to the highest heaven and become deified:
The initiates [in the Acts of John] have entered into the godhead, fused with it. And the mystery god has no longer any outward form but only a voice . . . . This voice imparts to them the symbols, the marks of recognition and passwords . . . .128
The End of Esotericism
It has been established beyond doubt that an esoteric tradition of both doctrines and rituals existed in the early Church. However, it is equally clear that these esoteric trends eventually were modified or disappeared altogether. What happened to the esoteric doctrines and rituals in early Christianity, and why did they fall out of favor?
The Fight Against Gnosticism
The devaluation of the esoteric traditions started in the second century with the “orthodox” fight against Gnosticism. Guy Stroumsa explains:
A more convincing answer lies with the fight of the Church Fathers against Gnosticism. Various Gnostic groups seem to have accepted and developed, sometimes in baroque fashion, early Jewish-Christian esoteric traditions. The appropriation of these traditions by the Gnostics made them suspect for “orthodox” Christian intellectuals. In their merciless fight against the Gnostics, the Church Fathers felt the need to reject these esoteric traditions, which had accompanied Christianity since its beginning, but which had become an embarrassing burden. Victory over Gnosticism thus meant the eradication of esotericism from Christian doctrine.129
Obviously, it would have been very difficult for the Church hierarchy to combat such claims to an esoteric tradition, unless they denied its existence altogether.130 On the other hand, certain Jewish Christian groups felt that the way to fight pretensions to the hidden wisdom was by secretly teaching the true gnosis. Peter explained the principle in the Clementine Homilies:
And thus, as the true Prophet has told us, a false prophet must first come from some deceiver; and then, in like manner, after the removal of the holy place, the true Gospel must be secretly sent abroad for the rectification of the heresies that shall be.131
Of course, Jewish Christianity was not very successful as a movement, and was soon absorbed into the Catholic tradition. The more successful Catholic tradition responded, as was mentioned above, by either downplaying or denying the secret tradition,132 and even by denying the authenticity of apocryphal writings that had formerly been considered orthodox.133
From Gnosticism to Mysticism
In both the East and West by the fourth century the vocabulary of the esoteric traditions was appropriated to describe the new “mystical” traditions of the monks.134 The beginnings of this trend can be found in Origen135, and its culmination in Gregory the Great, who wrote that the mysteries imparted to the faithful not only should not be spoken, but cannot be spoken.136 The point of this mystical tradition was to “experience the divinity” by means of the “interior senses,” thus obtaining a knowledge of the divine that could not be obtained in any other way, and could not be expressed by means of human language.137
Naturally, the mystical tradition was much more acceptable to the Church hierarchy than the esoteric tradition. After all, if the hidden wisdom cannot be expressed in human language, it would be difficult for heretics to exploit it.
Trivialization of the Esoteric Doctrine
As Stroumsa points out, the cultic practices associated with the esoteric tradition survived much longer than the secret doctrines in the form of the secret discipline associated with baptism and the Eucharist.138 The esoteric doctrines were gradually either replaced by mysticism or trivialized. Whereas the original “gnosis” had to do with the great mysteries of theology, cosmology, and creation, when Basil of Caesarea described the secret tradition, he named only trivial practices such as praying toward the east and signing initiates with the cross after baptism:
For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the Apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.
Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation?139
Stroumsa also suggests that Basil may have been protecting the more important points of the esoteric tradition in this way140, but assuming he had nothing more to offer, it would help to explain why the esoteric tradition was completely dropped soon after Basil’s lifetime.
Augustine and the End of Esotericism
It is difficult to say exactly how long the secret tradition survived in Christianity.141 With the fight against Gnosticism and the Peace of the Church in the fourth century142, a new religious sensibility developed within Christianity so that only isolated groups of heretics retained any esoteric doctrines and rites.143 By far the most perfect representative of the new ethos was Augustine, who lived in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, and in this section we will examine his thought on the subject of esotericism.
Augustine summarized his position while commenting on a certain statement Jesus made, recorded in the Gospel of John. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12) Apparently the Gnostic heretics had appropriated this passage to show that they were in possession of the teachings Jesus declined to tell His disciples at that time, and Augustine justly pointed out that just because Jesus declined to say something doesn’t give anyone license to claim he has those very teachings:
Do we on that account know what it is that He would not say, as we should know it were we reading or hearing it as uttered by Himself? For it is one thing to know whether we or you could bear it; but quite another to know what it is, whether able to be borne or not. But when He Himself was silent about such things, which of us could say, It is this or that? Or if he venture to say it, how will he prove it? For who could manifest such vanity or recklessness as when saying what he pleased to whom he pleased, even though true, to affirm without any divine authority that it was the very thing which the Lord on that occasion refused to utter? Which of us could do such a thing without incurring the severest charge of rashness,–a thing which gets no countenance from prophetic or Apostolic authority?144
Next Augustine simply assumed that the Catholic Church was in possession of the teachings Jesus declined to preach, and asked why the catechumens (investigators) of his day could bear all the teachings and sacramental practices of the Church, but the disciples of Jesus couldn’t. The answer? It wasn’t really that those without the Holy Spirit couldn’t bear such things, but they were kept from the neophytes for a time so that they would “more ardently desire them”:
How then, could not the disciples bear any of those things which were written after the Lord’s ascension, even though the Holy Spirit was not yet sent to them, when now they are all borne by catechumens prior to their reception of the Holy Spirit? For although the sacramental privileges of believers are not exhibited to them, it does not therefore happen that they cannot bear them; but in order that they may be all the more ardently desired by them, they are honorably concealed from their view.145
Augustine explained further that anyone can bear the teachings of the Church, but without the aid of the Holy Spirit, they cannot understand them. For example, he excused the incomprehensibility of his doctrine of God by claiming that anyone could immediately see its truth with the aid of the Holy Spirit:
So shall the result be, that not from outward teachers will you learn those things which the Lord at that time declined to utter, but be all taught of God; so that the very things which you have learned and believed by means of lessons and sermons supplied from without regarding the nature of God, as incorporeal, and unconfined by limits, and yet not rolled out as a mass of matter through infinite space, but everywhere whole and perfect and infinite, without the gleaming of colors, without the tracing of bodily outlines, without any markings of letters or succession of syllables,–your minds themselves may have the power to perceive.146
And although no one keeps silence about Him, who is there that apprehends Him as He is to be understood, although He is never out of the mouths and the hearing of men ? Who is there, whose keenness of mind can even get near Him ? Who is there that would have known Him as the Trinity, had not He Himself desired so to become known ? And what man is there that now holds his tongue about that Trinity; and yet what man is there that has any such idea of it as the angels ? The very things, therefore, that are incessantly being uttered off-hand and openly about the eternity, the truth, the holiness of God, are understood well by some, and badly by others: nay rather, are understood by some, and not understood at all by others.147
Finally, Augustine gave the most compelling reason for his prejudice against esoteric traditions. That is, many of the heretical groups who made use of esoteric doctrines actually preached a “hidden knowledge” that was contradictory to the exoteric doctrines taught in the scriptures:
Accordingly, when the Lord says, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,” He means that what they were still ignorant of had afterwards to be supplied to them, and not that what they had already learned was to be subverted.148
Here again we see the influence of the early fight against Gnosticism. As a result of their indiscriminate appeals to the secret tradition to defend their wild speculations, all esotericism became suspect to their enemies.
LDS Belief and Practice
The crowning ordinance of the temple is the Celestial Marriage ceremony. In this rite a husband and wife are joined together not just till death separates them, but for eternity, as part and parcel of the exaltation or deification bestowed on those who reach the highest level of the Celestial kingdom. Those “sealed” together in this rite will be able to participate in the creative work of God in the world to come. The Lord explained this principle to Joseph Smith:
Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever. (D&C 132:15-17)
The Reticence of Jesus
This is a bold and wonderful promise, and one which none of the mainstream Christian sects can give. In fact, Latter-day Saints receive endless criticism for this belief because the sects interpret a certain answer Jesus gave to the Sadducees to mean that there is no marriage in heaven. Matthew reports the conversation thus:
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:23-30)
It must be admitted that the doctrine of eternal marriage is not explicitly taught in the New Testament. However, Latter-day Saints normally reply that there is evidence that Christian marriage was among the early esoteric traditions (see below), so it is not surprising that Jesus would not have explained the doctrine in detail to the Sadducees, who did not even believe in a resurrection and were only trying to trap Jesus in his words. From an LDS viewpoint, Jesus’ reply to the Sadducees was technically correct, since the people in question were Sadducees themselves (“there were with us seven brethren”), and hence were not on the path to the highest degree of salvation. (D&C 132:15-16)149
Early Christian Evidence
Details of the earliest Christian concept of marriage were undoubtedly left out of the New Testament, and R.M. Grant reports that Christian marriage was considered “a great mystery” by Paul, and therefore was probably part of the esoteric teaching:
In Ephesians 5:22-33 the prophecy of Genesis 2:24 ["the two shall become one flesh."] is described as “a great mystery” and is referred not only to Christ and the church but also to Christian marriage in general.150
Paul also taught that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:11)
In the early third century Origen reported that certain Christians, apparently considered orthodox, believed in marriage after the resurrection. Interestingly, he asserted that they thought this way because they understood the scriptures in a “Jewish sense,” and we have seen that many of the great changes came in Christianity through the adoption of Greek philosophical tenets in place of Jewish beliefs.
Certain persons . . . are of the opinion that the fulfillment of the promises of the future are to be looked for in bodily pleasure and luxury . . . . And consequently they say, that after the resurrection there will be marriages, and the begetting of children, imagining to themselves that the earthly city of Jerusalem is to be rebuilt . . . . Such are the views of those who, while believing in Christ, understand the divine Scriptures in a sort of Jewish sense, drawing from them nothing worthy of the divine promises.151
Another more subtle reference to this subject may be found in the second century sermon, 2 Clement:
For the Lord Himself, being asked by one when His kingdom would come, replied, “When two shall be one, and that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.”152
As was stated in our discussion of Gnostic Christian rites similar to the Endowment, certain Gnostic groups considered marriage to be their most holy mystery. We have already seen this in theGospel of Philip, and Irenaeus charged a Gnostic group called the Marcosians with a similar practice, as well:
For some of [the Marcosians] prepare a nuptial couch, and perform a sort of mystic rite (pronouncing certain expressions) with those who are being initiated, and affirm that it is a spiritual marriage which is celebrated by them, after the likeness of the conjunctions above.153
The Gospel of Philip states that “those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated.”154 One aspect of the ceremony is revealed when the bridal chamber is referred to as “mirrored”: “One receives them [the male and female powers] from the mirrored bridal chamber.”155 As with the LDS sealing ceremony, this Gnostic rite could not be rejected in mortality and then accepted later: “If anyone becomes a son of the bridal chamber, he will receive the light. If anyone does not receive it while he is in these places, he will not be able to receive it in the other place.”156 Note that the result of this mystic marriage was believed to be children! “The heavenly man has many more sons than the earthly man. If the sons of Adam are many, although they die, how much more the sons of the perfect man, they who do not die but are always begotten.”157
Although no proof has been presented here that eternal marriage was the original Christian practice, it cannot be denied that this belief was held in one form or another by a significant number of early Christians.
Changes in the Marriage Doctrine
But whether or not eternal marriage was the original doctrine, it can be shown that significant changes in the ideal of Christian marriage took place over the first few centuries after Christ. Confusion started early, and the reason for the misunderstanding can be traced to some enigmatic and seemingly contradictory statements of Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. As we mentioned above, Paul told the Corinthians that “neither is the man with out the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:11) On the other hand, while answering certain unknown questions the Corinthians had posed to Paul, he advised against marriage:
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman . . . . I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Corinthians 7:1, 9)
And yet, later in the chapter Paul made clear that this was not a general principle, but special counsel in unusual circumstances: “I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.” (1 Corinthians 7:26) Paul never let us know what the “present distress” was, but clearly there are circumstances in which it is better not to marry, and indeed there are many in the Restored Church who live celibate lives for various reasons.
In some quarters, however, Paul’s general counsel about marriage was forgotten, and neither marriage nor celibacy was considered a superior state. For example, both Clement of Rome and Ignatius, around the turn of the second century, apparently considered celibacy to be a viable alternative to marriage, and advised celibate Christians not to boast about their strength: “Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence.”158
If any one can continue in a state of purity, to the honour of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckon himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined.159
Apparently some had adopted the ideals of the pagan ascetics, who considered celibacy a higher way of life, and they were so proud of their “purity” that some of them considered themselves outside their bishops’ jurisdiction. (Alternatively, it should be noted that Clement and Ignatius may have advised celibacy for the same reason Paul did, or because of some other special circumstance. This cannot be known with certainty, however.)
Others retained the knowledge that the sexes are not without each other “in the Lord.” For example, Clement of Alexandria felt that marriage “was good practice for life as a god.”160 D.G. Hunter summarizes Clement’s thought:
Clement insists that marriage and procreation are an intrinsic and positive part of God’s plan for the human race. He frequently cites Gen. 1:28 (“Increase and multiply”) and regards human procreation as an act of co-creation with God: “In this way the human being becomes the image of God, by cooperating in the creation of another human being” . . . . Indeed, Clement is even capable of regarding marriage as, in some respects, superior to celibacy. The celibate who is concerned only for his salvation is “in most respects untried.” By contrast, the married man who must devote himself to the administration of a household is a more faithful reflection of God’s own providential care.161
By the third century, mainstream writers such as Methodius and Lactantius could claim that while marriage was proper, celibacy was a higher way of life.162 This attitude has persisted in the Catholic tradition to this day.
Undoubtedly the Latter-day Saint practice that has generated the most publicity is plural marriage. Some Mormons practiced this during the nineteenth century until it was forbidden by order of the First Presidency. This has often been construed as a change in doctrine by outsiders, but to Latter-day Saints it has always been viewed rather as a change in policy consistent with principles found in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. For instance, it is well known that many Old Testament figures practiced plural marriage, but later Paul directed that bishops and deacons, at least, should be the “husbands of one wife.” (1 Tim 3:2, 12) Similarly, the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob gave a stinging rebuke to those who were practicing plural marriage, because it had been forbidden to them at that time, but then gave a caveat: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” (Jacob 2:30) Therefore, the doctrine of the LDS Church has been from the beginning that usually the Lord commands monogamy, but sometimes He commands polygamy to “raise up seed” to Himself.
It is interesting to note that when the Christian world was confronted with LDS practice of plural marriage, they reacted with the utmost abhorrence in spite of the many Biblical figures who practiced it as well. Biblical polygamy has normally been characterized as something which God simply overlooked for a while until Jesus came to set things straight. However, some very prominent early Christian writers held views on this issue that were strikingly similar to the LDS perspective. For example, Tertullian claimed that monogamy was preferable, but the Lord had allowed polygamy at certain times to “replenish the world”:
As I think, moreover, each pronouncement and arrangement is (the act) of one and the same God; who did then indeed, in the beginning, send forth a sowing of the race by an indulgent laxity granted to the reins of connubial alliances, until the world should be replenished, until the material of the new discipline should attain to forwardness: now, however, at the extreme boundaries of the times, has checked (the command) which He had sent out, and recalled the indulgence which He had granted; not without a reasonable ground for the extension (of that indulgence) in the beginning, and the limitation of it in the end.163
And Augustine wrote that polygamy was only forbidden at that time because of the laws and customs of the time:
Again, Jacob the son of Isaac is charged with having committed a great crime because he had four wives. But here there is no ground for a criminal accusation: for a plurality of wives was no crime when it was the custom; and it is a crime now, because it is no longer the custom. There are sins against nature, and sins against custom, and sins against the laws. In which, then, of these senses did Jacob sin in having a plurality of wives? As regards nature, he used the women not for sensual gratification, but for the procreation of children. For custom, this was the common practice at that time in those countries. And for the laws, no prohibition existed. The only reason of its being a crime now to do this, is because custom and the laws forbid it.164
Polygamy and the Mystery of Marriage
We discussed above the fact that Christian marriage was referred to by Paul as “a great mystery” in itself, which also symbolized the union of Christ and the Church. Accordingly, Justin Martyr not only defended the polygamy of Old Testament figures, but referred to it as a “mystery” as well:
“And this one fall of David, in the matter of Uriah’s wife, proves, sirs,” I said, “that the patriarchs had many wives, not to commit fornication, but that a certain dispensation and all mysteries might be accomplished by them; since, if it were allowable to take any wife, or as many wives as one chooses, and how he chooses, which the men of your nation do over all the earth, wherever they sojourn, or wherever they have been sent, taking women under the name of marriage, much more would David have been permitted to do this.”165
Although the evidence is far from conclusive, a form of plural marriage may have been practiced by some of the Apostles and prophets in the early Church. The following passage from the Didache speaks of prophets who “work unto the mystery of the church,” which “mystery” we have already seen was marriage–and possibly plural marriage.
And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself doeth, shall not be judged among you, for with God he hath his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets.”166
Jean Daniélou links this mystery to the type of “spiritual marriages” that groups like the Marcosians practiced:
The expression ‘cosmic mystery of the Church’ seems to stand in opposition to a ‘heavenly mystery of the church’. This heavenly mystery is the celestial marriage of Christ to the Church, which also finds its expression in this world. The allusion in this passage would therefore seem to be to those spiritual unions which existed in Jewish Christianity between prophet-Apostles and a sister. Hermas also appears to allude to this custom (Sim. IX, 10:6-11:8), while a similar reference may underlie I Cor. 7:36ff. The custom endured in the institution of Virgins. The relation of these unions to their heavenly ideal is explicitly stated by the Gnostics: ‘Some of them prepare a nuptial couch and perform a sort of mystic rite (mystagogia) . . . affirming that what is performed by them is a spiritual marriage after the likeness of the unions . . . above’ (Adv. haer. I, 21:3).167
And although Daniélou sees no connection here with plural marriage, it is evident that this “mystery” was something that the “ancient prophets” practiced, but which was forbidden for ordinary Christians. Considering Paul’s prohibition against plural marriage for bishops and deacons, it may well have been polygamy.
Related to the doctrine of eternal marriage in LDS theology is the belief in a Heavenly Mother as well as a Father. Mormons do not worship this being, and actually know little about Her beyond that She is “married” to the Father, participated in creation, and is co-equal with the Father. Therefore, this could be another doctrine likely not to have been revealed in former dispensations, but there is some evidence that it may have been.
The Hebrew Goddess
It is well known that the Israelites worshipped a goddess, from time to time, who was believed to be the consort of “Yahweh” or Jehovah. Theodore Robinson explains:
From our Old Testament alone we should never have guessed that Israel associated a goddess with Yahweh, even popularly, but the conclusion is irresistible, and we are justified in assuming that she played her part in the mythology and ritual of Israel.168
Widengren also reports that in Jeremiah’s day a goddess called the “Queen of Heaven” received officially sanctioned worship in Jerusalem. He sees this as connected to the year-rites, in which a sacred marriage was performed for the god and goddess, who then gave birth to a Savior-King:
In much later times there was a goddess called the Queen of Heaven(s), to whom official sacrifices were offered by kings and princes, both in Jerusalem and in other cities of Judah, Jer. xliv. 17 . . . . That the sacred marriage should bring as its fruit the birth of the Savior-King is in accordance with the general myth and ritual pattern . . . .169
The worship of the Queen of Heaven was forbidden by Jeremiah, but this also is consistent with LDS practice, since Mother-worship is not permitted for Mormons, either.170 In fact, Margaret Barker notes that the evidence points to the conclusion that the goddess had a long-standing relationship with the Temple cult itself.171
This tradition survived in Judaism until the time of Christ, when Philo the Jew could speak of a Mother in Heaven as the personification of “Wisdom”: “[Moses'] father being God, who is likewise Father of all, and his mother Wisdom, through whom the universe came into existence.”172
Could there have been a legitimate and divinely sanctioned Hebrew Goddess? The first chapter of Genesis may give us a clue: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . . So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:26-27) Given the fact that the Israelites and the earliest Christians believed in an anthropomorphic God, it is significant that God said “Let us make man in our image,” and that the image of God is defined as “male and female.”
Heavenly Mother in Jewish Christianity
There is no strong evidence from the New Testament of any belief in a Heavenly Mother, but some post-Apostolic Jewish Christians explicitly stated this belief. For example, the Jewish Christian Gospel of the Hebrews apparently taught that the Holy Spirit was Jesus’ Mother. It is interesting to note that Origen quoted this passage from the lost Gospel and treated it as an authoritative source, finding it necessary to offer a rather fanciful interpretation to explain away the verse:
If any one should lend credence to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the Saviour Himself says, “My mother, the Holy Spirit took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me off to the great mount Tabor,” he will have to face the difficulty of explaining how the Holy Spirit can be the mother of Christ when it was itself brought into existence through the Word. But neither the passage nor this difficulty is hard to explain. For if he who does the will of the Father in heaven is Christ’s brother and sister and mother [see Matthew 12:47-50], and if the name of brother of Christ may be applied, not only to the race of men, but to beings of diviner rank than they, then there is nothing absurd in the Holy Spirit’s being His mother, every one being His mother who does the will of the Father in heaven.173
The Gnostic “Sophia”
Gnostic Christians believed in a Mother in Heaven as well, and the Father, Mother, and Son were considered a sort of Gnostic Trinity by them. For instance, the Secret Book of John speaks of “the three: the Father, the Mother, and the Son, the perfect power.”174 In the Hymn of the Pearl, a document which may have been written as early as the first century and may not be Gnostic at all175, the hero is sent a heavenly message which begins: “From thy father the King of Kings, and from thy mother, mistress of the East, and from thy brother, our next in rank . . . .”176 The Gospel of Philip calls the Mother “Wisdom” (Greek Sophia)177, and Hennecke and Schneemelcher report that Wisdom was presented as a celestial being, who in fact was “the female aspect of the creative power,” in such documents as the Sophia Jesu Christi.178
Finally, the Gospel of Philip taught that the existence of the world depends on the mystery of marriage: “Great is the mystery of marriage! For [without] it the world would [not have existed]. Now the existence of [the world depends on man], and the existence [of man on marriage].”179 I doubt a Mormon could have phrased it any better.
The Female Aspect of God in Catholic Tradition
Margaret Barker posits that the “gnostic Sophia is all that remains of Israel’s goddess.”180 But what happened to the goddess in the “orthodox” tradition? Most likely it was quickly modified or dropped because of its close association with Gnosticism. For example, a modified form of the doctrine can be found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria. Wagner summarizes:
Clement then pressed the scripture and his gnostic traditions to make the church Ekklesia, a heavenly female who was one of a threesome that originated in God’s mind. God’s will became Cosmos, God’s Wisdom was Logos, and God’s Purpose (Boulema) appeared as Ekklesia.181
Certainly this was another echo of the ancient Hebrew goddess.
Note 1: Jewish Esoteric Rites
Of related interest is the fact that various Jewish groups may have had similar mystery rites. While the Essenes, whose community at Qumran wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, had their own peculiar rites, the ancient Jews in general also participated in ceremonies called “year rites” and other initiation ceremonies, which were common throughout the ancient Near East and included some elements in common with the rites we have already discussed.
The writings of the Essenes are replete with references to the mysteries of God. What did these mysteries include? J.J. Gunther explains that the basic “mystery” of the Essenes had to do with the plan of salvation:
In the Qumran writings there are many references to the mysteries or secrets (raz) which have been revealed. Some are recorded on heavenly tablets (Cave 4 fragments). The basic raz concerns the wonders of God: His grace, mercy, wisdom and truth. These attributes are expressed through the mysteries of the divine plan of history.182
Gunther also quotes the ancient historian Pliny to show that the Essenes instructed their initiates in the mysteries “in accordance with an ancient method of inquiry . . . by means of symbols”183
Hippolytus intimated that in the Essene rituals the initiate swore to “tell nothing (of their secrets) to others even if he shall suffer violence unto death. Besides this, he swears to them to impart none of the doctrines [of the sect] otherwise than as he himself received them.”184
In early Judaism certain rituals called “year rites” in which the epic of creation in Genesis was used as a liturgical text were performed annually.
The creation story of Genesis is enacted during seven days and this fact has been compared to the seven tablets of the Babylonian Epic of Creation as well as with the seven days of the Israelitic Festival of Booths. It has been surmised by Humbert that the Hebrew story of creation was used as a cult text or at least served ‘a liturgical purpose’.185
This practice was common to all Near Eastern cultures including those of the Babylonians, Hittites, and others.186 Associated with the creation ritual was a rite involving a dying god and a ritual marriage between the god and his consort. This symbolized the yearly change of the seasons and insured the continued fertility of the earth for the subsequent year. Theodore Robinson reports that the scholarly consensus is that the Israelites had such rites, just as their neighbors did:
This subject has been closely studied in recent years, and it is generally (though not universally) agreed that a ritual involving a dying God, a divine marriage, and a ceremonial procession, was found in Israel. It would be strange if it were not so, for some such ceremonial is almost universal among agricultural peoples, though in many instances it has lost one or more of its characteristic features.187
Did the Hebrews have any rituals analogous to the ring-dance/prayer circle described in many of the other texts we have examined? Backman, in his book on religious dances, speculates that the Israelites used a ring-dance in their worship around the Golden Calf, described in Exodus 32. He considers this evidence that the ring-dance was so common in antiquity that the Israelites chose it as a matter of course.188
Instruction in the Mysteries
Another strange mystery ritual is recounted in the apocryphal Testament of Job. In this document, Job gathered his children together to instruct and bless them before he died. In one section he gave his daughters certain articles of clothing, variously described as fiery cords, ropes, or robes. He explained that these robes were given to him by the Lord as a cure for the diseases he was afflicted with during his great trial, and he instructed his daughters to wear them as a protection against Satan. The daughters put on the garments and began worshipping and speaking in the heavenly language. Then they discussed together “the heavenly mysteries.” The narrator, Job’s brother, went on to say that he wrote down everything that went on “except for the hymns and signs of the word, for these are the mysteries of God.”189
What were the identities of these “signs of the word?” Perhaps they relate to the familiar motif of the journey of the soul through the spheres of heaven. Ernst Müeller explains:
In this Hechaloth literature [ancient Jewish mystical documents], as in the kindred passages in the Talmud and Midrash, we meet with angelic beings in boundless profusion . . . . In the works which relate journeys of the soul there appear at the gates of the various heavens special gatekeepers (porters), who also hand over the “seals” to those who are to be initiated.190
And indeed, such rites were divided into parts corresponding to the different stages in a soul’s progress: “A passage from a Hechaloth tractate quoted by Sholem makes it clear that to each stage of initiation corresponded a stage in religious and moral progress.”191
It was probably common in Jewish initiation rites to use sacred robes or vestments, such as those given to Job’s daughters. Müeller reports that various ancient Jewish mystical documents describe this practice:
From the description in the Zohar cited above we may conclude that already in the talmudical period there were formal initiations. Sholem mentions a special initiation rite which is described in the “Sefer ha-Malbush” as an “investing with the divine Name,” and in which the candidate has to put on a robe with the name of God woven into it.192
Finally, the early Christian writer Origen asserted that the Temple cult itself had been used by the priests to relate the mysteries to initiates:
In conformity to which the Jewish priests “served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things,” explaining enigmatically [i.e. in secret] the object of the law regarding the sacrifices, and the things of which these sacrifices were the symbols.193
Unfortunately, not much else is known about such ancient Jewish initiation rites. However, it should be clear that such rites existed, and they were similar in form to those we have discussed already.
Note 2: Gnostic Jewish Esoteric Rites
Jewish gnosticism was much less prevalent than its Christian counterpart, but amazingly, the only Gnostic sect to survive to the present time is a Jewish Gnostic group called the Mandaeans. (“Mandaean” simply means “Gnostic” in their dialect.) This strange sect has survived in southern Iraq and southern Iran since approximately the third century A.D., when they migrated from Palestine.194
This sect was originally studied by E.S. Drower, who reports that their mystery rites were based on the creation story and other elements of the plan of salvation:
The Mandaean system includes ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is based on the Creation story . . . , especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.”195
In fact, Jean Doresse indicates that Adam played a leading part in many Judeo-Gnostic rituals.196
The Mandaeans call themselves “Nasoraeans,” which “today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.”197 Dr. Drower goes on to explain that each mystery is given in the form of a drama: “Each raza, ‘each mystery,’ is a drama, . . . but they are still couched in the language of parable and symbol, so obscure in expression that none but a “true Nasorean” can interpret its meaning.”198 Each mystery also includes a ritual handclasp called a kusta:
The creation of Adam is related in the third person, and it begins, like all divine acts, with immersion (i.e. baptism?) and prayer. As kusta [i.e. the act of exchanging the ritual handclasp symbolic of good faith and of covenant] is in the Nasoraean church a rite which must precede and conclude every sacramental rite, personified Ether is called upon to be present for the ritual handclasp symbolical of truth and good faith.199
Note 3: Greek Mystery Religions
Given the LDS doctrine of dispensations, Mormons should not be surprised to find that many pagan cultures and religions had rituals similar to the mystery rites discussed above. After all, if the Endowment were given to Adam, it is possible that remnants of the ceremony would be found in a wide variety of places. Of particular interest to us, however, are the “mystery religions” of ancient Greek culture, because they existed concurrently with the ancient Christian mysteries.
According to Edwin Hatch, the “mysteries were probably the survival of the oldest religions of the Greek races and of the races which preceded them.” The main ritual elements of these religions were “the initiation, the sacrifice, and the scenic representation of the great facts of natural life and human life, of which the histories of the gods were themselves symbols . . . .” The purpose of the initiation was purification, and was accomplished by the confession of sins and a symbolic washing similar to baptism.200 The initiate approached this sacrament in the hope of becoming a new creature, “twice-born,” in mystic harmony with the savior-god to whom the ritual was dedicated. “All the Mystery-gods were primarily saviour-gods.”201 This union was believed to ultimately result in the deification of the initiate.202 Samuel Angus reports that the emphasis was not on any specific teaching, however, but on the exhibition of the divine symbols.203 After the public and private sacrifices, the mysteries concluded with a dramatic representation of the cosmic plan of history calculated to teach the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.204
Certain mystery religions also incorporated other elements familiar to us. For example, the Eleusinian Mysteries included a ring-dance205 and many others included a sacred meal as a sacrament of union with the savior-deity.206 Ritual handclasps such as those used by the Mandaeans were employed in the Sabazian mysteries207 and the mysteries of Mithras.208 The purpose of the mysteries of Mithras, in particular, was to prepare the soul to “ascend through the seven planetary spheres to Paradise.”209 Indeed, a ritual enactment of this ascension was performed by the initiate, “clad in holy garments and led by the High Priest.”210 All of the mysteries were esoteric and initiates were impressed with an “awful obligation to perpetual secrecy as to what was said and transacted behind closed doors in the initiation proper . . . .”211
It should be obvious to anyone at this point that many ritual elements of the Mysteries were very analogous to elements of Christian ritual, including the Eucharist, baptism, and the “great mysteries.” In addition, the motif of a dying and rising savior-god was common to both traditions. Bruce Metzger points out that these parallels have been recognized since the early centuries of Christianity:
That there are parallels between the Mysteries and Christianity has been observed since the early centuries of the Church, when both Christian [e.g. Justin Martyr, Apol. I, 66:4, and Dial.70:1; and Tertullian, de Corona, 15, and de Praescript., 40,] and non-Christian [e.g. Celsus, in Origen's, Contra Celsum, 6:22,] alike commented upon certain similarities.212
Is this proof that Christian rituals and doctrine were merely spin-offs or copies of models found in the popular religions of the day? Some scholars have come to this conclusion, but Jesuit scholar Hugo Rahner of the University of Innsbruck points out that religious symbols are the common heritage of mankind, and if a certain amount of borrowing was done it is of no consequence, since the doctrine transmitted through these symbols is essentially different.213 Also, Rahner recognizes that it may not have been an accident that there were so many points of contact between ancient Christianity and the popular religions of the day. God Himself may well have prepared the culture of the Roman Empire to receive Christ by exactly those means.214
However, as was mentioned above, Latter-day Saints see an additional possibility–that the mystery religions were corrupted remnants of the true doctrine, which had been long since lost. This possibility seems likely in light of the fact that the “Mysteries preserved much in ritual that was archaic, the original significance of which was lost in antiquity . . . .”215
Note 4: Masonry & Mormonism
It is a well-known fact that certain symbols used in the LDS Endowment have counterparts in the ritualism of the Freemasons. Since Joseph Smith was himself a Mason for a short time, anti-Mormon writers often charge that he stole the Endowment from that fraternity. The correspondence is hardly surprising, however, since the Prophet confided in several people that he believed the Masonic rituals were incomplete remnants of the ancient Endowment. Apparently, the ceremony was revealed to him after he had asked the Lord about the status of the Masonic teachings.216
Therefore, the question at hand is not whether the Prophet borrowed some symbolism from the Masonic rites, but whether similar rites were found in ancient Christianity. Indeed, the symbols Joseph Smith made use of are not exclusive to the Masons, but go back thousands of years. So even if the Prophet borrowed some symbols, just as the early Christians apparently borrowed from the mystery religions, it is entirely possible that these were exactly the right symbols, handed down from a time when the rituals were not yet corrupted. Furthermore, the Prophet restored symbolism in the Endowment which is not found in the Masonic rite, but which was to be found, as we have seen, in the liturgies of the various mystery rites we have discussed.
Note 5: Mixing of Ritual Elements
We have seen that the later rites of baptism and the Eucharist included elements quite similar to those found in the earlier “orthodox” and Gnostic mysteries. But while Cyril of Jerusalem’s and related accounts make clear that these rites had become quite complicated by the fourth century, the New Testament accounts suggest rather simple ritual patterns.217 As was mentioned above, the hypothesis being advanced here is that the ritual elements of the higher ordinances were adopted into baptism and the Eucharist. But how and why did this happen?
The confusion probably began with the Gnostics, who apparently took elements of the higher ordinances for use in the baptismal rite, and elements of the baptismal rite for use in the higher ordinances. For example, Hippolytus described the “Redemption” rite of one Gnostic group and indicated that they had incorporated a second baptism into it:
And subsequent to the (first) baptism, to these they promise another, which they call Redemption. And by this (other baptism) they wickedly subvert those that remain with them in expectation of redemption, as if persons, after they had once been baptized, could again obtain remission.218
And whereas there is no solid evidence for baptismal anointing in New Testament219 or in “orthodox” Christianity until Tertullian (ca. 200 A.D.)220 Irenaeus described certain Gnostic groups who had introduced anointing into the baptismal rite. “Others, again, lead them to a place where water is, and baptize them . . . . After this they anoint the initiated person with balsam; for they assert that this unguent is a type of that sweet odour which is above all things.”221 J. John argues that the Gnostics may have introduced anointing into baptism to express their superiority over ordinary Christians:
If, as Lampe believes, [the Gnostics] were the first Christians to introduce [anointing], the motive of the rite may well have been to express and emphasize their spiritual superiority over ordinary Christians who as yet practiced only water-baptism. Dix, agreeing that the earliest unambiguous evidence for chrismation is Gnostic, argues that it is unthinkable that the Church should have taken over from its doctrinal enemies.222
But if there is no solid evidence for baptismal anointing in first and second-century “orthodox” liturgy, and it is “unthinkable” that they would have adopted the practice from the Gnostics, how did it come about that the Catholic baptismal liturgy did eventually incorporate anointing? Perhaps the answer is that anointing existed from the beginning in the higher ordinances. However, as the higher ordinances fell out of favor and as the various branches of Christianity drifted further from the truth, elements of these rites were incorporated into baptism and the Eucharist and the higher ordinances were set aside.
1 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 91.
2 E.g. see Decker and Hunt, The God Makers, 209.
3 Young, Brigham, in JD 3:318.
4 It is interesting to note that Brigham Young explicitly stated this was the case for his notorious “Adam-God” teachings:
I may say things this afternoon that do not belong to the world. What if I do? I know the Lord is able to close up every person’s mind who have eyes but see not, hearts but do not understand; so I may say what I please with regard to the Kingdom of God on the earth, for there is a veil over the wicked that they cannot understand the things which are for their peace. Brigham Young, “For this is Life Eternal,” discourse given in General Conference, October 8, 1854, Ms. Brigham Young Papers, d 1234ff marked: Addresses-1854, July – Oct. Editing spelling, punctuation, grammatical corrections and scriptural references by Elden J. Watson, April 1974.
5 Hugh W. Nibley, Temple and Cosmos (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1992), 64.
6 John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 (1921): 58.
7 Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 154.
8 Packer, The Holy Temple, 155.
9 Packer, The Holy Temple, 71-79.
10 James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962), 99-100.
11 Packer, The Holy Temple, 38.
12 Talmage, The House of the Lord, p.100.
13 John A. Widtsoe, ed., Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954), 416.
14 ”Temple Ordinances,” and “Symbolism,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 4:1444, 3:1430.
15 Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press), 125-130.
16 Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 84; cf. Ernst Müeller, A History of Jewish Mysticism (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1995), 44.
17 Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, 130-132.
18 Guy G. Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism (New York: E.J. Brill, 1996), 41; cf. 56.
19 Clementine Homilies 19:20, in ANF 8:336. “For the most sublime truths are best honoured by means of silence.” Peter, in Clementine Recognitions 1:23, in ANF 8:83.
But if he remains wrapped up and polluted in those sins which are manifestly such, it does not become me to speak to him at all of the more secret and sacred things of divine knowledge, but rather to protest and confront him, that he cease from sin, and cleanse his actions from vice. Peter, in Clementine Recognitions 2:4, in ANF 8:98.
20 Clementine Recognitions 2:4, in ANF 8:98.
21 Clementine Recognitions 3:1, in ANF 8:117.
22 Ignatius, Romans 9, in ANF 1:104, brackets in original.
23 ECD 43.
24 Origen, Against Celsus 1:7, in ANF 4:399.
25 Origen, Against Celsus 3:60, in ANF 4:488.
26 Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics 41, in ANF 3:263.
27 Lactantius, Divine Institutes 7:26, in ANF 7:221.
28 Basil of Caesarea, Treatise De Spiritu Sancto 27, in NPNF Series 2, 8:40-41.
29 Basil of Caesarea, Treatise De Spiritu Sancto 27, in NPNF Series 2, 8:42.
30 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 31, n. 13.
31 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 4:1, in ANF 2:409; cf. Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 42; Wagner, After the Apostles, 178. Daniélou asserts that the Jewish Christian “Gnosis” was the knowledge of the eschatological secrets, emphasizing the “Cosmic mysteries” written in the first chapters of Genesis, as well as their fulfillment in Christ. Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 366.
32 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 43; cf. 156.
33 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 365.
34 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 102.
35 Ignatius, Trallians 2, in ANF 1:67, brackets in original.
36 Mathetes to Diognetus 4, in ANF 1:26.
37 Tertullian, Apology 7, in ANF 3:23.
38 Athanasius, Defense Against the Arians 1:11, in NPNF Series 2, 4:106.
39 ECD 193.
40 See Chapter Note 3.
41 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 133.
42 John J. Gunther, St. Paul’s Opponents and Their Background (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973), 294.
43 See Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 69.
44 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 33.
45 Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 23:14, in R.P.C. Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church (London: SCM Press, 1962), 32.
46 Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church, 32.
47 Johann L. Mosheim, Historical Commentaries on the State of Christianity, 2 vols. (New York: S. Converse, 1854), 1:375-376.
48 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 1:12, in ANF 2:312.
49 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7:2, in ANF 2:524.
50 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5:4, in ANF 2:449.
51 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5:4, in ANF 2:450.
52 Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, 12, in ANF 2:205.
53 E. Louis Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977), 19; see also Nibley, H., “The Early Christian Prayer Circle,” inMormonism and Early Christianity, 45-99.
54 Epistle of the Apostles 13-14, in ANT, 489.
55 NTA 1:191.
56 Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 22.
57 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7:7, in ANF 2:534.
58 Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 22.
59 Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 24-25.
60 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 64
61 Odes of Solomon 27, in Platt, ed., The Forgotten Books of Eden, 133, brackets in original; cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho 90, in ANF 1:244.
62 First Book of Adam and Eve 58, in Platt, ed., The Forgotten Books of Eden, 39.
63 The Secret Gospel of Mark, in Smith, The Secret Gospel, 15, third set of brackets in original.
64 The Secret Gospel of Mark, in Smith, The Secret Gospel, 17, brackets in original.
65 For a review of the use of sacred vestments in antiquity, see Nibley, H., “Sacred Vestments,” in Temple and Cosmos, 91-138.
66 Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 18. See also The Pastor of Hermas, Simile 9.
67 Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 9:1:3, FC 83:177.
68 Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 6:2:7, FC 83:120.
69 Wagner, After the Apostles, 265, n. 19.
70 Anointing rites were certainly part of the secret tradition. Clement gives us this clue in his Stromata: “It was not possible to send you by letter, openly, these instructions about charisms [anointings].” Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5:26:5, quoted in Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 113. Margaret Barker speculates that the white linen garments the High Priest wore into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement also represented the heavenly garment. Barker, The Great Angel, 125.
71 Ignatius may give us a clue about these “passwords.” Max Pulver summarizes Ignatius of Antioch’s teaching:
For Ignatius, the believer must repeat the destiny of his God, he must become an imitator of God. . . . For this he must also have knowledge of the secret name of God and of certain formulas, such as the recurrent though much varied “Thou art I and I am thou.” Pulver, M., “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John,” in Campbell, ed., The Mysteries, 176-177.
72 The Ascension of Isaiah, in TOB, 527, 529.
73 Secrets of Enoch 22:7-8, in Platt, ed., The Forgotten Books of Eden, 89; cf. Porter, J.R., “Oil in the Old Testament,” in Dudley and Rowell, eds., The Oil of Gladness, 40.
74 See Chapter Notes 2-3.
75 The Gospel of Nicodemus 8-9, in ANF 8:437. Cf. Compton, T.M., “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, vol. 1, 620-621.
76 1 Enoch 71:3, in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 1:49.
77 Porter, J.R., “Oil in the Old Testament,” in Dudley and Rowell, eds., The Oil of Gladness, 40. Origen claimed the Jewish festivals were shadows of their heavenly equivalents. Origen,Commentary on John 10:12, in ANF 10:389.
78 For a more complete treatment of the correspondence between the Catholic Liturgy and the Endowment, see Marcus von Wellnitz, “The Catholi c Liturgy and the Mormon Temple,” BYU Studies 21-22 (Winter 1981 – Fall 1982): 3-35. For a discussion of how the ritual elements of the Endowment could have been confused with those of baptism and the eucharist, see Chapter Note 5.
79 Mosheim, Historical Commentaries on the State of Christianity, vol. 1, 390-391.
80 John H. Miller, Fundamentals of the Liturgy (Notre Dame, Ind.: Fides Publishers Association, 1959), 83.
81 Joseph Rykwert, Church Building (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1966), 14.
82 See Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 19, in NPNF Series 2, 7:144-146.
83 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 20, in NPNF Series 2, 7:146-148.
84 Cyril of Jerusalem, The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, vol. 2 (FC 64), translated by Leo P. McCauley and Anthony A. Stephenson (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1970), 161.
85 Cyril of Jerusalem, The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, vol. 2, 163.
86 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 21, in NPNF Series 2, 7:148-151.
87 ”Why they who come forth from the laver of baptism are anointed on the head; why, too, after baptism, their feet are washed, and what sins are remitted in each case.” Ambrose, On the Mysteries 7, in NPNF Series 2, 10:321. The Latter-day Saints also have an ordinance of the washing of feet (see D&C 88:139-140) which is used in a different context, but it is still interesting to note that the fourth-century church used this rite in their cult practice, as well.
88 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 22:8, in NPNF Series 2, 7:153; Davies, The Early Christian Church, 59. The editors of the Catholic translation of Cyril confirm this fact, as well. See Cyril of Jerusalem, The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, vol. 2, 162, 184.
89 Arthur McCormack, Christian Initiation (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1969), 65.
90 Wharton B. Marriott, Vestiarum Christianum, the Origin and Gradual Development of the Dress of Holy Ministry in the Church (London: Rivingtons, 1868), xxxiii-xxxiv.
91 Marriott, Vestiarum Christianum, p. 188; cf. Exodus 28:4.
92 Jerome, Letter to Fabiola, quoted in Marriott, Vestiarum Christianum, 13-14.
93 Wellnitz, “The Catholic Liturgy and the Mormon Temple,” 20, and references therein.
94 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23:2, in NPNF Series 2, 7:153.
95 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23:3, in NPNF Series 2, 7:153.
96 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23:4-8, in NPNF Series 2, 7:153-154.
97 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23:9-10, in NPNF Series 2, 7:154-155.
98 Charles Walker, The Ritual “Reason Why” (Oxford: A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1901), 127.
99 Cyril of Jerusalem, The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, vol. 2, 194. John Chrysostom may also have given reference to this practice in his discussion of Paul’s mention of baptism for the dead:
But first I wish to remind you who are initiated of the response, which on that evening they who introduce you to the mysteries bid you make; and then I will also explain the saying of Paul: so this likewise will be clearer to you; we after all the other things adding this which Paul now saith. And I desire indeed expressly to utter it, but I dare not on account of the uninitiated; for these add a difficulty to our exposition, compelling us either not to speak clearly or to declare unto them the ineffable mysteries. Nevertheless, as I may be able, I will speak as through a veil. John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 40:2, in NPNF Series 1, 12:244.
100 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23:11-20, in NPNF Series 2, 7:155-156.
101 Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church, 298.
102 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23:21, in NPNF Series 2, 7:156.
103 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23:22, in NPNF Series 2, 7:156.
104 Charles W. Heckethorn, The Secret Societies of all Ages and Countries, 2 vols. (New Hyde Park, New York: University Books, 1965), 1:107.
105 ECD 27.
106 Smith, The Secret Gospel, 137
107 Mosheim, Historical Commentaries on the State of Christianity, vol. 1, 376.
108 NTA 1:190.
109 Rose, Ancient Greek Religion, 9.
110 For a more complete review of much of this evidence, see Nibley, H., “Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum: The Forty-day Mission of Christ-The Forgotten Heritage,” in Mormonism and Early Christianity, 100-167.
111 Hamblin, W.J., “Aspects of an Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, vol. 1, 211-212.
112 J.J. Buckley, “A Cult Mystery in the Gospel of Philip,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99 (1980,): 569-581. Cf. Hamblin, W.J., “Aspects of an Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, vol. 1, 212.
113 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 140, brackets in original.
114 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 142.
115 NTA 1:273.
116 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:21:3, in ANF 1:346.
117 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:21:3, in ANF 1:346.
118 Widengren, Mani and Manichaeism, 52. Cf. Compton, T.M., “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, vol. 1, 621-622.
119 NTA 1:258-259.
120 The Sophia Jesu Christi, in NTA 1:246. In one other Gnostic document, the Apocalypse of Adam, it is related that originally such mystical instruction was given by three heavenly messengers to Adam. Jesuit scholar George MacRae summarizes: “Father Adam explains how in the Fall he and Eve lost their glory and knowledge. . . . Through the revelation imparted to Adam by three heavenly visitors, however, this knowledge is passed on to Seth and his seed.” MacRae, G.W., Introduction to the Apocalypse of Adam, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 256.
121 NTA 1:263.
122 Jean Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics (London: Hollis and Carter, 1960), 71.
123 Pulver, M., “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John,” in Campbell, ed., The Mysteries, 176-177. “Thou art I and I am though” is also to be found in a fragment of a lost Gnostic Gospel of Eve. Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 48; cf. Epiphanius, Panarion 26:2:3.
124 The Two Books of Jeu, NTA 1:263.
125 Pulver, “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John,” in Campbell, ed., The Mysteries, 173.
126 Pulver, “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John,” in Campbell, ed., The Mysteries, 189.
127 The Acts of John, in NTA 2:227, 230.
128 Pulver, “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John,” in Campbell, ed., The Mysteries, 192-193.
129 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 157.
130 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 85.
131 Clementine Homilies 2:17, in ANF 8:232.
132 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 6.
133 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 39. A first step in this reaction was Irenaeus’s argument that if there were secret doctrines, they would have been given to the bishops who succeeded the apostles:
For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to “the perfect” apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:3, in ANF 1:415.
However, it should be pointed out that Irenaeus was not denying the existence of esoteric traditions, but rather their identification with the ridiculous doctrines propounded by the Gnostics. Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 35.
134 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 6, 180.
135 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 129.
136 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 167-168.
137 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 160.
138 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 146.
139 Basil of Caesarea, Treatise De Spiritu Sancto 27, in NPNF Series 2, 8:41-42.
140 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 36.
141 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 70-71.
142 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 157.
143 Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 45.
144 Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 96:2, in NPNF Series 1, 7:372.
145 Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 96:3, in NPNF Series 1, 7:372.
146 Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 96:4, in NPNF Series 1, 7:373.
147 Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 97:2, in NPNF Series 1, 7:374.
148 Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 98:8, in NPNF Series 1, 7:380.
149 LDS scholar John Tvedtnes offers a novel explanation for Jesus’ statement:
In the Apocrypha. . . we read of a young woman, Sarah, who had been married to seven husbands (all brothers), each of whom was killed on the wedding night by a demon. But in the story (Tobit 6:10-8:9,) Sara ultimately marries an eighth husband, Tobias, son of Tobit, who, following instructions from the archangel Raphael, manages to chase the demon away and is therefore not slain. Of special interest is the fact that the archangel (who, according to Tobit 3:17, had been sent to arrange the marriage) tells the young man that his wife had been appointed to him “from the beginning” (Tobit 6:17.) This implies that she had not been sealed to any of her earlier husbands, which would explain why none of them would claim her in the resurrection, as Jesus explained. But if she were sealed to Tobias, the situation changes. Assuming that the Sadducees (whose real issue was one of resurrection, not of eternal marriage) were alluding to this story but left off part of it, this would explain why Jesus told them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” John Tvedtnes, “A Much-Needed Book That Needs Much,” review of One Lord, One Faith, by Michael T. Griffith, FARMS Review of Books 9 (1997): 41.
150 Robert M. Grant, After the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 184.
151 Origen, De Principiis 2:11:2, in ANF 4:297.
152 2 Clement 12, in ANF 7:520.
153 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:21:3, in ANF 1:346.
154 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 142.
155 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 139.
156 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 151.
157 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 135.
158 Clement of Rome, 1 Clement 38, in ANF 1: 15.
159 Ignatius, Polycarp 5, in ANF 1:95.
160 Wagner, After the Apostles, 180.
161 David G. Hunter, Marriage in the Early Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 15; cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7:12:70; Instructor 2:10:83. The Clementine Homilies also advance marriage as the ideal, but no hint of an eternal marriage doctrine is given. See Clementine Homilies 3:68, in ANF 8:250.
162 Hunter, Marriage in the Early Church, 16.
163 Tertullian, Exhortation to Chastity 6, in ANF 6:53-54.
164 Augustine, Reply to Faustus 22:47, in NPNF Series 1, 4:288.
165 Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho 141, in ANF 1:270.
166 Didache 11, in ANF 7:380-381.
167 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 351.
168 Robinson, T., “Hebrew Myths,” in Samuel H. Hooke, ed., Myth and Ritual (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933), 185. Some have seen the Hebrew Goddess as a foreign importation, but Margaret Barker notes that there is not complete correspondence between the goddess of Israel and those of other nations, and concludes that she was not a foreign goddess at all. Barker,The Great Angel, 52, 57.
169 Widengren, G., “Early Hebrew Myths and Their Interpretation,” in Samuel H. Hooke, ed., Myth, Ritual, and Kingship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), 183.
170 Gordon B. Hinckley, in R. Clayton Brough, Teachings of the Prophets (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1993), 121.
171 Barker, The Great Angel, 54.
172 Philo, On Flight and Finding 109, in Colson and Whitaker, tr., Philo, 5:69.
173 Origen, Commentary on John 2:6, in ANF 10:329-330. For a comprehensive listing of all known fragments of the Gospel of the Hebrews, see TOB 333-335.
174 The Apocryphon of John, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 103.
175 Edwin M. Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism (London: Tyndale Press, 1973), 95-98.
176 The Hymn of the Pearl, in Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 114.
177 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 138.
178 NTA 1:245-246.
179 The Gospel of Philip, in Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 139, brackets in original.
180 Barker, The Great Angel, 185.
181 Wagner, After the Apostles, 179. See also Clement of Alexandria, Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 37, in ANF 2:601, where Clement discusses his belief that the Son also had a female aspect.
182 Gunther, St. Paul’s Opponents and Their Background, 289-290.
183 Gunther, St. Paul’s Opponents and Their Background, 296-297.
184 Hippolytus, in Gunther, St. Paul’s Opponents and Their Background, 296, brackets in original.
185 Widengren, G., “Early Hebrew Myths and Their Interpretation,” in Hooke, ed., Myth, Ritual, and Kingship, 175.
186 See Smith, S., “The Practice of Kingship in Early Semitic Kingdoms,” in Hooke, ed., Myth, Ritual, and Kingship, 40, and Gurney, O.R., “Hittite Kingship,” in Hooke, ed., Myth, Ritual, and Kingship, 108. Cf. Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, 157-162.
187 Robinson, T., “Hebrew Myths,” in Hooke, ed., Myth and Ritual, 183.
188 Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 10.
189 The Testament of Job 46-51, in Sparks, ed., The Apocryphal Old Testament, 644-646.
190 Müeller, A History of Jewish Mysticism, 52.
191 Müeller, A History of Jewish Mysticism, 54-55.
192 Müeller, A History of Jewish Mysticism, 54.
193 Origen, Against Celsus 5:44, in ANF 4:563; cf. Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, 122-123.
194 TOB, 123-124.
195 E.S. Drower, The Secret Adam (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), xvi.
196 Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, 105.
197 Drower, The Secret Adam, ix.
198 Drower, The Secret Adam, 66.
199 Drower, The Secret Adam, 24.
200 Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, 283-290.
201 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 95-96, 137.
202 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 106-108.
203 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 92.
204 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 59-60, 142.
205 Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, 3.
206 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 127.
207 Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, 13 vols., (New York: Bollingen/Pantheon, 1953-1958), vol. 3, figs. 839, 842; 2:45-50. See also Leclerq, “Sabazios,” inDictionaire d’archéologie chretienne et de liturgie, 15:213, cited in Compton, T.M., “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, 1:615.
208 See M.J. Vermaseren, Mithras: The Secret God, translated by T. Megaw and V. Megaw (London: Chatto and Windus, 1963), 97-98, figs. 32-33; Compton, T.M. “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, 1:619.
209 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 123.
210Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1955), 143.
211 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 78.
212 Bruce M. Metzger, Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), 4-5, brackets in original.
213 Rahner, H., “The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries,” in Campbell, ed., The Mysteries, 343, 345-346.]
214 Rahner, “The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries,” in Campbell, ed., The Mysteries, 346.
215 Angus, The Mystery-Religions, 49.
216 ”Freemasonry and the Temple,” in Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:528-529.
217 This was evidently true even as late as Tertullian:
There is absolutely nothing which makes men’s minds more obdurate than the simplicity of the divine works which are visible in the act, when compared with the grandeur which is promised thereto in the effect; so that from the very fact, that with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, finally, without expense, a man is dipped in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner, the consequent attainment of eternity s is esteemed the more incredible. Tertullian, On Baptism 2, in ANF 3:668.
218 Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 6:41, in ANF 5:92-93.
219 John, J., “Anointing in the New Testament,” in Dudley and Rowell, eds., The Oil of Gladness, 68.
220 John, J., “Anointing in the New Testament,” in Dudley and Rowell, eds., The Oil of Gladness, 64; cf. ECD 195.
221 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:21:3, in ANF 1:346.
222 John, J., “Anointing in the New Testament,” in Dudley and Rowell, eds., The Oil of Gladness, 65, second set of brackets in original.