The Gospel of Mark and the Paraclete

The Paraclete is described in the Gospel of John 14:

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him…“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”

One way to interpret John’s “Advocate” or Paraclete is to assume that the advocate was the immaterial Holy Spirit.

But this passage, as it pertains to “the Holy Spirit”, reads awkwardly, and this clunky reading is a theme that often shows up in extant modern Johannine texts, particularly Revelation 1-3, which is mostly later interpolation.  The specific phrase that is strange is the sentence that begins “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send…”.  “The Holy Spirit” reads like a clarification, and clarification within these texts seems out of character, and usually raises my suspicion that the clarification was a later interpolation, designed to alter the original meaning.

Consider the passage without the clarifying phrase:

But the Advocate, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”

One obvious candidate who matches this description is Paul.

In Galatians, Paul wrote that he traveled to meet the apostles, and conveyed negative impressions of them because he either refused to acknowledge their clout within their local Christian communities, or because their faith was corrupted by too strict of adherence to Jewish law.  When Paul opposed  Cephas to his face, and when he called out men from James, Paul fulfilled the role of the Paraclete referenced in John 14; my suspicion is that this detail was not lost on the original writer of John 14.

Simon Magus attempting to buy the Spirit from Peter

If “the Holy Spirit” was a later interpolation, and this passage was originally a reference to Paul, the story about Simon Magus becomes more intriguing, because Simon Magus attempted to buy the “Spirit”, which the apostles had, and therefore, were material manifestations of the (Holy Spirit) Paraclete.  In Acts 8, Cephas rejected Simon’s offer, and told him to go to hell.  The terminology and the character who was assigned this misbehavior validates the notion that Simon Magus was indeed the alter-ego invented to represent Paul, and this was at least partially done to argue against the notion that Paul was the Paraclete; it also seems the people who controlled the direction of the church and its texts were opposed to the notion that Paul should be considered the Paraclete, and they injected an anti-Paul polemic into the Gospel of John, by eliminating the possibility that he could have been the Paraclete.

The Johannines, who eventually were assigned authorship of John’s Gospel, were probably derivatives of earlier Cerinthians, who held that Jesus was a man, whose body temporarily housed the Spirit; this is why Jesus said that people can reject him, but not the holy spirit (Mark 3:29).  As I have written in other posts, some Docetic passages have survived in the Gospel of John (John 1:14, John 20:17); clear references to Johannine Docetism can be found in the Acts of John, a text which was later rejected by the Orthodoxy.

Irenaeus wrote in 180 that people who held similar views to Cerinthus preferred the Gospel of Mark (AH iii.11.7).  Mark is probably the most pro-Paul of all the Gospels; these details create fascinating connections between Cerinthus and Paul, which have lead me to suspect that Cerinthus may have contributed authorship to some of the “authentic” Paul corpus.

There are several allusions to Paul in the Gospel of Mark, including Jesus’ command to Peter: “Get

“Get behind me Satan”

behind me, Satan”(Mark 8:33), which seems a likely reference to Paul’s confrontation of Cephas in Galatians 2:11.  Passages like “Everything is possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23) and “anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and be the servant to all” (Mark 9:35) makes these Paul allusions more obvious, especially considering Paul claimed to have traveled around the Mediterranean.  The fact that in the next breath (Mark 9:38-39), John tells Jesus that someone was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and that Jesus approved of such behavior, makes Paul the most likely candidate, particularly in light of the Ebionite response in Matthew (Matthew 7:22-23), where Jesus refused to acknowledge feigned allegiance because of Paul’s rejection of the law (Matthew 5:19, AH i.26.2).

These passages in Mark, particularly 9:38-39, seem to be foreshadowing – they were giving reference to the person who would inherit Jesus’ work (and the spirit which was encapsulated within him).  In Mark 15:34, Jesus on the cross screamed “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (abandoned) me?”.  To a Docetic Cerinthian reader, the implication could not have been more clear:  the Spirit left Jesus.

But where did the spirit go?  To heaven?  That is one explanation.

Simon of Cyrene carrying Jesus’ cross

But heavenly ascent would not have been the conclusion for a Docetist reader.  The likely interpretation for a Cerinthian would be that the spirit was transferred to Simon of Cyrene, who curiously carried Jesus’ cross in Mark 15:21 (and who was perhaps a garbled version of Simon Magus)?  A reader who was waiting for (and expecting) indication of who would be the next inheritor of the Spirit, from the moment the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove in Mark 1, would certainly have read Mark 15:21-15:34 as an indication that it was Simon who received the Spirit; there was no other conceivable reason to include Simon in the cross-carrying scene.

The Basilideans held the view that Simon inherited the Spirit; this view persists in Islam today.

In this light, the Gospel of Mark seems to have invented a primitive version of the Paraclete.  Based on these speculations, Mark proposed the original Paraclete was a man named Simon, whose Spiritual inheritance left Jesus high-and-dry on the cross. The pre-Orthodoxy, it would seem, later cast the proto-Paraclete as Simon Magus, the arch-heretic and father of all heresies.


Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

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