The Holy Tub Hidden
A FEW DECADES after the Gospel of John was written, the tale of the Holy Tub was known widely enough that more information was desired by believers, along with everything else that could be known about the disciples. And so, perhaps inspired by actual tradition, miracle tales about the apostles began to appear.
Outside the New Testament, very few references exist to the Sacred Basin in the first two centuries apart from a few subtle allusions in Clement of Alexandria and others. Doubtless the fragility of the pot combined with the ruthless efficiency of Roman investigations are largely responsible for the deep secrecy.
But the Holy Tub first prominently appears in the Acts of Peter and John, one of a number of apocryphal scriptures later rejected because of ridiculously implausible miracles or unseemly behavior on the part of the heroes.
Both occur in this volume, which is concerned about the often contentious relationship of Peter, the first pope and thus prototype of the Church of Law, and John, the beloved disciple, embodiment of the Church of Love. Possession and use of the Holy Tub was but one item in their dispute which ranged over the entire relationship of man and God.
By Pseudo-Mark c. 180
This was supposedly written by Mark the Evangelist, Peter’s secretary and traditional author of the Gospel that bears his name. Yet the literary style is quite different from that book, and the view of Peter is certainly not very flattering to the fisherman. But the otherwise-unknown author clearly wished to assume the highest authority to back his tale, which sketches in how the Holy Tub survived.
In the process, it introduces several characters already appearing in other Christian fantasies and miracle tales: both Pontius Pilate and Simon Magus.
Though a basin is not even mentioned in the brief but vivid incident where Pontius Pilate washes his hands of Christ’s blood-guilt, (Matt. 27:23-25) the Holy Tub seems an appropriate addition.
But it was the inclusion of the arch-heretic and foe of Peter, Simon Magus, as the one largely responsible for preserving the Sacred Basin from destruction, that made it popular with early Christian readers. From there, the Holy Washtub’s literary career began to take off.
The Holy Tub in its Roman iron carrying frame, as it might have looked in the Fourth Century.
Document Still to Come:
- Secret Sayings of the Savior on Cleanliness
– Gnostic discourse, c. 220
Consisting of barely more than a few scraps of scribbled papyrus, the remains of this treatise contain very little useful information. It was found among many such incomprehensible bits in a midden at the edge of the desert near Goshen in Lower Egypt in the last century. Like many such items, this papyrus was written by a Gnostic, but this one contains an intriguing reference to foot-washing.
Some scholars think this is the first evidence of the “Pedilavists”, a small, persistent cult believed to be one the distant predecessors of the Endurists.
By Anonymous, c. 306
The tragic tale of the virgin Prunella and her protector and would-be lover, the gladiator Murexius, took place during the persecution of the Emperor Decius around the middle of the Third Century. Though it incorporates her early written Testimony, it was probably not composed until the beginning of the Fourth, to help bolster communities then reeling under the great persecution of Diocletian.
Like all such early tales of martyrs and their exploits, there is an unnatural cheerfulness and indeed, eagerness for suffering that seems macabre to us today. But Prunella’s story set many important precedents: though she never set eyes on the Holy Tub, she was the first to behold it in a vision, and that, interestingly enough, associated with the Moon.
Prunella was the first of countless believers, while her pagan brother Prudentius the Prosecutor prefigured all the skeptics that have followed arguing in their wake through Brother Gabriele, a “consulting theologian” and exorcist in the Middle Ages, to Professore Raimondo Fatamorgana of recent controversy.
Note also that the remains of these martyrs are the first to be preserved in reliquaries and the element of sexual exposure and bondage, which would form a basis of the cult of Endurism many centuries later.
Golden Legend of the Holy Basin, Part 1
By Anonymous, c. 400
Once Emperor Constantine shone his bright favor upon the faith, Christianity flourished in the sunlight. It was finally safe to own scriptures and establish churches, and the government itself compensated the Church for the consfiscations it had suffered during the period underground.
The religion grew rapidly. As part of the new Christian literary boom, fresh tales of saints’ struggles and their miracles were produced. Collections such as the Golden Legend gathered them all together, with little regard for plausibility, much less factual truth. The more marvelous, the better, seemed to be the idea.
The Golden Legend of the Holy Basin did its full share, covering the whole story up to that point and introducing new marvels. Pilate here not only saw the Holy Tub, but was converted by it, ultimately becoming a martyr and saint, as he is indeed still considered in the Coptic Church.
The first part also contained further exciting details added to story of how Simon Magus and his wife saved the Holy Tub from destruction by a Roman Centurion. Desire for the basin by both Peter and Simon was the root reason for their great contest which culminated in Simon’s demise due to his pride many years later. But ironically the fight came about in the first place because Peter’s faith was so weak that he felt he absolutely must have the Sacred Basin to succeed – a feeling the popes do not seem to have ever really shaken off.