PP....The evidence re the Epiphany feast nicely complements the internal evidence that the Cana story borrows from Dionysian legends, particularly in how John construes Jesus' miracle as a revealing of Jesus' coming glory (John 2:11-12; "He let his glory be seen"), and also the provenance of the publication of John in Asia Minor. I too see John as directly countering Thomasian docetism, but the main problem is that the Gospel of Thomas does not claim that Jesus lacked a fleshly body -- instead it indicates that Jesus was a spirit being who inhabited a fleshly body (29:1). Of course, such a situation was not unique to Jesus, as Thomas teaches that all people are the same way (cf. 22:4; 24:2-3; 87:1; 112:1; 114:2). It is thus unclear whether Thomas viewed Jesus' incarnation as at birth (as it is for everyone else in the human condition) or at his baptism when the divine spirit entered the fleshly body (cf. Ebionite adoptionism). The Thomas episode in John 20 suggests that Thomasian Christians believed that the spirit being left Jesus' body at death and when he appeared to his disciples afterward he did not have a physical body anymore. This would be more overtly docetic than the Gospel of Peter which has Jesus leaving his body behind on the cross (5:19), going off to "preach to those who sleep" (10:41), and returning to reinhabit the body in the tomb and emerging from the sepulchre with two angels (10:39-40).
That's interesting about Mamortha....however, Josephus (Bel. Jud., 4.8.1) spelled it as Mabortha (and this reflects the actual Aramaic Mabarakta "blessed town"), so I'm not sure if Mamortha was the form known to the author of John; it was Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia 5:69) who spelled it as Mamortha: " Intus autem Samariae oppida Neapolis, quod antea Mamortha dicebatur." But I just found something totally astounding. As you know, Justin Martyr was himself a native of Neopolis (mod. Nablus) and that makes his report locating early proto-gnosticism in Gitton, a town a short distance from Neapolis (mod. Kiryet Jit), somewhat credible. Justin mentions Simon and Meander as the two Samaritan leaders at the forefront of the "heresy", and regarding Simon of Gitton Justin says:
"And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him." (Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 1:26)
Now all of this is getting to be too much of a coincidence! Here Simon is paired with a woman, as Jesus was paired in gnostic tradition with Mary Magdalene, both going about together in a ministry like Jesus and Mary, and extrabiblical tradition designated Mary as a former prostitute; moreover, John presents Jesus as claiming himself to be God, he declares himself as the Christ in almost the SAME TOWN Simon hailed from, the townspeople all believe in him and become his followers, and the woman who led in the conversion was herself a woman of ill repute (John 4:1-42). Might John be drawing on the local Simon legend, perhaps to refute the claim that Simon was the one who converted the town of Sychar (Shechem) to a new faith? I think so because Luke also draws on the same tradition in Acts 8:9-10 and says that "a man called Simon had already practised magic arts in the town and astounded the Samaritan people; he had given it out that he was someone momentous, and everyone believed what he said, eminent citizens and ordinary people alike declared, 'He is the divine Power that is called Megelleh.' " Compare that with John 4:39-42: "Many Samaritans of that town believed in him ... [saying], 'We have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the Savior of the world.' " So Luke apparently solves the issue by turning Simon into a convert of Philip while John solves it by essentially implying that Simon is nothing more than a distorted memory of the real Christ who preached in Samaria.
Irenaeus has more to say about Simon and his wife Helena. He says that Simon taught that Helena was his "first thought," i.e. Logos or Wisdom personified, and she created the angels and archangels for him but they became jealous of her and persecuted her, finally shutting her up "in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel. She was, for example, in that Helen on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken; for whose sake also Stesichorus was struck blind, because he had cursed her in his verses, but afterwards, repenting and writing what are called palinodes, in which he sang her praise, he was restored to sight. Thus she, passing from body to body, and suffering insults in every one of them, at last became a common prostitute; and she it was that was meant by the lost sheep" (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.23.2). Simon met Helena in Tyre on a journey outside Samaria, and having recognized who she really was and realized her true history, he took her with him and "was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman ... was the mother of all." Now let's stop for a moment to witness the amazing parallels between this story and (1) the Johannine story of the Woman at the Well, and (2) the tradition about Jesus and Mary Magdalene. There is nothing about meeting Helena at a well; that trope was something evidently recruited by John from the OT. But like Jesus, Simon meets the woman on a trip outside his homeland, and the woman was of ill repute, "living with a man who is not [her] husband" (John 4:18). And like Jesus, Simon came to have "divine knowledge" of this woman's past history. Jesus tells her that he has already had five husbands (v. 18), and as already discussed in this thread, commentators have long noted that it is hard to believe that this woman had already been widowed or divorced five times in her adult life and is in her sixth relationship. But maybe we have here an echo of the Simon legend, that the woman he marries had already lived a sucession of past lives. And extrabiblical tradition portrayed Mary Magdalene as Jesus' companion, as someone involved in his ministry, and (for some) a former prostitute that Jesus had freed. And most remarkable is Simon's declaration that Helena was the "mother of all". How reminiscent that is to the view of Hippolytus and Cyril of Alexandria of Mary Magdalene being the "New Eve"! Now when we look at Irenaeus' description of Simon's theology, it is a dead ringer for pre-Johannine proto-gnosticism:
This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.... For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded them, but, as being free, live as they please; for men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.... they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them "knowledge, falsely so called," (i.e. Gnosticism) received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions." (Irenaeus, Adverses Haereses 1.23.1-4)
In common with John (and the gnosticism that lay behind John), we find that according to Irenaeus: (1) both Simon and Jesus claimed to have come down from heaven (cf. John 3:13; 6:42, 51, 58), (2) both claimed to be the Son to the Jews (cf. John 3:16-17, 35), (3) both spoke at length about the Son and Father, (3) both are described in quasi-docetic terms, (4) both are said "to have suffered in Judea," (5) both were anticipated by the prophets (cf. John 1:23, 45; 5:46; 12:37-40), and most interestingly (6) both claimed to save men through grace and not on account of works (cf. John 3:16-17). The biggest difference with John is the modalism between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (though John 1:1 could be construed as quasi-modalist). Ignatius of Antioch, who appears to have drawn on similar Johannine traditions, was a clear modalist. There are points of contact also with Paul's proto-gnosticism, cf. the references to the world controlled by "powers and principalities and angels" (cf. Romans 8:38; Colossians 1:16; 2:15; Ephesians 6:12), and the phrase "Father over all" which resembles "God over all" being applied to Christ in Romans 9:5. The Simon tradition is certainly connected with the Jesus tradition and reflects the kind of proto-gnosticism in Paul and John. And the Woman at the Well scene, being set in the very neighborhood Simon was said to hail from, and constructed as a sort of courtship scene lifted directly from OT courtship scenes, involving a woman of ill-repute the Savior meets in a foreign land, seems to form part of this Samaritan proto-gnostic tradition.