in mind and body the wife of a certain deacon 'from among our own people in Asia' (Haer. 1.13.5). Irenaeus also records the words of'the divinely inspired elder and preacher of the truth' against Marcus, referring probably to Pothinus (Haer. 1.15.6; 13.3), so that the struggle with Marcus was one which Irenaeus inherited from his predecessor. Marcus seems to have indulged in number and letter mysticism to a quite extraordinary degree (Haer. 1.14-17), and to have used numerous apocryphal writings (Haer. 1.20.1). Irenaeus mentions two particular rites of Marcus. In the first, he 'gives thanks over the cup mixed with wine and draws out at great length the prayer of invocation', making the cup appear to be purple or red, through some kind of trickery, so that it appears that 'grace from above has dropped her own blood into the cup', and then, handing the cups over to the women, he has them 'giving thanks over them in his presence' (Haer. 1.13.2). When the women partake of his 'grace', according to Irenaeus, they are enabled to prophesy as he himself does (Haer. 1.13.3). The other ritual described by Irenaeus is the 'spiritual marriage', involving a 'bridal chamber' in which they 'complete the mystic teaching with invocations of those who are being initiated' (Haer. 1.21.3). This rite also seems to have involved the anointing of the heads of those being initiated with a mixture of oil and water (Haer. 1.21.4). Irenaeus clearly wants his readers to believe that what goes on in this 'bridal chamber' is nothing other than ritualised debauchery, just as Christians were themselves accused of Thyestean feasts and Oedipal intercourse.25 Irenaeus' accounts, rather than his interpretations and accusations, clearly indicate that these rituals were the rites of eucharist, the mixed cup over which thanks is given, and baptism, the invocation of those being initiated and their investiture with the wedding garment. However, more important for Irenaeus than the actual practices of his opponents (the historical accuracy of which can no longer be determined), is their own self-understanding, which is invariably expressed in mythological terms (as demonstrated not only in Irenaeus' accounts but also in the Nag Hammadi material). The ever more complex and bizarre mythologies elaborated by his opponents to explain themselves and their situation are taken by Irenaeus to imply an anti-cosmic moral dimension.26 The same interrelationship is evident in Irenaeus' theology, although in his case the human being is placed firmly within the economy of God as unfolded in scripture, which entails an
26 Cf.Williams, Rethinking 'Gnosticism', 118, which argues that the 'Gnostics' had a much higher estimation of the body than previously thought; yet, even he speaks of a 'mythological devaluation of the human body', in what the Gnostics said about their bodies rather than what they did.
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