Mark's Mysterious Youth in the Linen Cloth

There is general agreement that Mark wrote both the canonical Gospel, the one in the Bible, and this Secret Gospel passage. Not all scholars agree which one he wrote first. Raymond E. Brown agrees with Smith’s own conclusion that the canonical Gospel was written first and then the passages in question were added for those who were ready for more esoteric instruction, what Clement calls “initiation into the great mysteries.”1 For our purposes, the sequence is not important.

In the Secret Gospel passage, we are told that six days after his initiation, Lazarus came to Jesus in the evening. In Jn 12,1 we are told that the supper at Lazarus’ house was six days before the Passover. Since Jesus was tried and put to death immediately after the Passover, these two passages clearly are describing the last six days of Jesus’ life. This means that the supper at Lazarus’ house followed immediately upon his “raising,” as its placement in the Gospel suggests.

Since the Secret Gospel refers to Lazarus as a “youth” who came to Jesus “in the evening ... wearing a linen cloth over his naked body,” can there be any doubt that the “young man following [Jesus] with nothing but a linen cloth about his body” in Mk 14,51 is anyone else?2 For those taking the esoteric instruction, these two passages in Chapters 10 and 14 tie together in all essential details—time, person, clothing and nakedness.

Here we must take note of Steiner’s identification of the “young man” in Mk 14,51 as the Christ Spirit departing from Jesus of Nazareth. However, I prefer to see this as complementary, rather than contradictory, to the Lazarus/John interpretation above, and in any event not to invalidate the latter. An explanation of my position on this matter is set out in Appendix One.

With this understanding, there is room for much contemplation as to the meaning of the statement by Mark (14,51-52) about the young man, that “they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” It would be helpful here to look at my essay entitled “Naked” in The Burning Bush. In biblical metaphor, such as when it refers to “wedding garments,” it is referring to the “three bodies” of the human being, which in order to become wedding garments must be purified (Mt 14,2-14; Rev 3,4,5,18; 16,15). One is “Naked” when only the Ego, soul, or “I Am,” is considered. One thus stands “naked” in judgment. Since this sentence seems to relate to the more esoteric passage of the Secret Gospel, it is probably better to see in it the reality that the soul of Lazarus/John at that moment stood spiritually before Christ and the capturing band.

This is not necessarily inconsistent, as Brown would otherwise imply, with the fact that Mark’s Gospel indicates they all fled (including Peter) while John’s own Gospel says that Peter and the “other disciple” (Lazarus/John) followed Jesus and his captors to the trial (Jn 18,15), suggesting they both fled Gethsemane. On the contrary, that Lazarus/John did not flee is suggested by the statement in the Secret Gospel, “And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God.” “That night” was the night of the trial. Moreover, we shall see that Lazarus/John had a status among the authorities that the other disciples did not have, and thus had no reason to flee them.

We need also to contemplate the possibility that the “young man” dressed in the “white robe” in the tomb on Resurrection morning (Mk 16,5) was Lazarus/John. This possibility has been widely discussed by the scholars, and is not implausible.3

The Secret Gospel of Mark
The Structure of John's Gospel