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The Mar Saba Letter

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16th century copyist gloss:
“From the letters of the most holy Clement (circa 200 AD), author of the Stromateis.”

To Theodore: You did well in silencing the unspeakable teachings of the Carpocratians. For these are the wandering stars referred to in the prophecy, who wander from the narrow road of the commandments into a boundless abyss of the carnal and bodily sins. For priding themselves in knowledge, as they say, “of the deep [things] of Satan,” they do not know that they are casting themselves away into “the nether world of the darkness” of falsity, and, boasting that they are free, they have become slaves of servile desires. Such [men] are to be opposed in all ways and all together. For even if they should say something true, one who loves the truth should not, even so, agree with them. For not all true [things] are the truth, nor should that truth which [merely] seems true according to human opinions be preferred to the true truth, and according to the faith.

Now of the things they keep saying about the divinely Gospel according to Mark, some are altogether falsifications, and others, even if they do contain some true [elements], nevertheless are not reported truly. For the true [things], being mixed with inventions, are falsified, so that, as the saying [goes], even the salt loses its savor.

[As for] Mark, then, during Peters stay in Rome he wrote [an account of] the Lord’s doings, not, however, declaring all [of them], nor yet hinting at the secret [ones], but selecting those he thought useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died as a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge [gnosis]. [Thus] he composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those 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, 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.

But since the foul demons are always devising destruction for the race of men, Carpocrates, instructed by them and using deceitful arts, so enslaved a certain presbyter of the church in Alexandria that he got from him a copy of the secret Gospel, which he both interpreted according to his blasphemous and carnal doctrine and, moreover, polluted, mixing with the spotless and holy words utterly shameless lies. From this mixture is drawn off the teaching of the Carpocratians.

To them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way, nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath. For, “Not all true [things] are to be said to all men.” For this reason the Wisdom of God, though Solomon advises, “Answer the fool from his folly” teaching that the light of the truth should be hidden from those who are mentally blind. Again it says, “From him who has not shall be taken away,” and, “Let the fool walk in darkness.” But we are “children of light” having been illuminated from “the dayspring” of the “Spirit of the Lord” “from on high” and “Where the Spirit of the Lord is” it says, “there is liberty,” for “All things are pure to the pure.”

To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel. For example, after, “And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem” (Mk 10:32), and what follows, until “After three days he shall arise” (Mk 10:34), [the secret Gospel] brings the following word for word:

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, “Son of David have mercy on me.” But the Disciples rebuked her. And Jesus being angered, went off with her to where the Tomb was. And immediately a Great Cry was heard from the Tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the Stone from the Door of the Tomb. And immediately, going in where the Youth was, he stretched forth his Hand and raised him, seizing his Hand. But the Youth, looking upon him, Loved him ... and began to beseech him that he-might be with him. And going out of the Tomb, they came into the House of the Youth, for he was rich. 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. And upon arising, he returned to the other-side of the Jordan.

After these [words] follows the text, “And James and John come to him” (Mk 10:35). and all that section. But “naked with naked” and the other things about which you wrote are not found.

And after the [words], “And he comes into Jericho” (Mk 10:46), [the secret Gospel] adds only, “And the sister of the Youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Solome were there, and Jesus did not receive them.” But the many other [things about] which you wrote both seem to be and are falsifications. Now the true explanation and that which accords with the true philosophy …{text ends}

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