Thursday, November 29, 2018

Parallels to the Mar Saba Letter - Crazy Monks Would Write Texts Anywhere Part 2473

the Homily of Evodius of Rome c. 12th century CE
Monastery Old Dongola

There is a well established tradition of monks writing on plastered walls.  At the school of Amheida we see the Greek Classics written on the wall of the school.  Also the Balaam Inscription of Tel Days Alla (in the pre-Common Era period).  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Story of Christianity as the Story of a Failed Art Project

Grappling with the origins of Christianity has been the struggle of my life.  Unlike most people in the field (and with publication of a couple of peer reviewed papers I am part of the field) I don't start with the usual starting point.  I am not a Christian.  I didn't begin life as 'part of the fold' only to start 'thinking about' my faith later in life.  I began as a failed artist and the question that always dogged me was - how did art become history, how did interpretation become literal fact?

That shouldn't be taken to mean that I am a 'mythicist' - that I deny that there was any fact or history behind the story of Jesus.  It's just that any facts or historical details were really of secondary detail - if there were any.  Christianity seems to emerge 'out of the box' as a spiritual phenomenon.  What's more, it wasn't as if just one myth 'won out' quite early.

The more I look at early Christianity you see dozens if not hundreds of myths competing with one another from the second century onward.  What won out was a 'factual religion' defined by the early creeds where the baptized were interrogated about their 'right belief.'  Do you believe that Jesus was crucified under Pilate?  Fact. Do you believe he was born to the virgin Mary?  Fact.

If art was forced to become 'realistic,' if a story about demons and superheroes gave way to ordinary concerns and ultimately 'right belief' - what were 'powers of the world' so frightened of?  Why did it matter if there were dozens and hundreds and hundreds of dozens of kooky sects putting forward stories of a heavenly hall of justice, a 'secret plan' hatched before the creation of the world to avenge the work of demons who brought down the world's Creator?  Why did the worldly powers take on artists, forcing them to abandon doing what they do best - making up stories?

It's easy to see things in terms of 'spiritual truths' - i.e. seeing the world rulers controlled by demons and the innocent 'creative minds' channeling the holy spirit from its source in the heavens.  This is how these artists framed their own situation and it is natural for even modern artists to tell the story this way.  But as I said at the beginning, I started life being a failed artist.  I 'failed' because I could never summon the conviction to 'believe in myself' or believe in my art.

Even as I worked the clay into something 'real' I could never ignore that my creations were little more than mere clay.  Soon I stopped enjoying listening to the music I from each previous stage of my life.  I actually find myself envious of old people who wax with nostalgia from 'the sounds of their lives.'  I never did a slow dance to Stairway to Heaven at my school prom.  I never even attended a single dance at school - although I must admit my wife and I met at club with a massive video screen playing Careless Whisper.   It doesn't get much cheesier than that.

But my point is I believe in art even though I don't read, consume, partake in any real art.  The closest I get nowadays is football (soccer) and training my son to be a 'creative midfielder.'  If it makes any sense to anyone, I worship the process of creativity even though - or perhaps especially because - I know that whatever ends up getting produced is really at bottom, indistinguishable from garbage.

I never wanted to be a father because I thought I my mental attitude was quite unsuitable for being a father.  I grew up in an age where fathers were still towering figures of certainty.  While I spend more time with my son in a month than my father ever did in his entire life with me, I always confess to my beloved companion that I don't have a clue whether I am right or wrong about anything.  I happened to have stored an endless number of half-truths from my voracious reading of ancient books into my memory banks which I readily bring up if I feel it is relevant to the flow of the discussion.

Why exactly my son needs to know that the ancients conceived of heaven as an iron dome I don't know.  I think it's merely because I enjoy having someone to share all these silly facts and bits of information with.  When I come to think of it I think my approach to early Christianity and religion developed from my inability to get rid of garbage.  I am the worst kind of hoarder - a hoarder of facts and ideas.  I love seeing the history of humanity as the story of failed ideas because I think it's the truest thing you can say about us - at bottom we are all failed artists.  It's what binds us and makes us human even if we don't recognize that about ourselves individually or collectively.

To that end, I start with the assumption that Christianity - and even Judaism for that matter - is nothing but a never ending string of failed art projects.  We're all just making up shit.  But the main question for me - and it's the one I can never quite solve - is how did this entire creative enterprise get its start?  What was the original 'germ' of an idea that gave rise to later 'failed experiments' like Marcion and Valentinus?

In my head of course I have sketches of what I think was at the beginning of Christianity.  I can't get over the fact that as an 'art project' it couldn't have gotten off the ground with some powerful patron who financed the whole enterprise.  With everyone scribbling in every corner of the Empire, what was it that put the scribble that was the first germ of Christianity 'over the top'?  My guess is that the first Christian must have been a powerful dude.  It's just a hunch.  It's not like uncovered some document somewhere which gives me an edge over everyone else.

I don't believe in Acts.  I think 'Luke' was a late second century writer who had some connection with Irenaeus and might well have been Irenaeus himself.  Irenaeus, the late second century Church Father helped shape my view of what came before him.  Irenaeus can be summed up as someone who had some association with libraries in antiquity and helped define the Christianity which came after him by nailing down the names of the first disciples, apostles, 'apostolics,' bishops and 'fathers' of the Church down to the end of the second century.  In short Irenaeus was a master forger.

Of course there were dozens of other individuals who worked in the same manner as Irenaeus.  Julius Africanus was a near contemporary.  But my point in bringing this up is to reinforce that a forger is really another kind of artist.  It takes a great deal of creativity to pull off the publication of a terrible literary work like 'the Acts of Paul,' 'the Dialogue of Jason and Pascipus,' 'the Pastoral Epistles' and the like.  No one thinks of any of these books as 'art' because we have been trained to think of religion as the domain of God and truth and everything holy.

But as I said, I see early Christianity through the eyes of a failed artist ...

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

Parallels Between Clement's Initiation in Alexandria by Barnabas in the Homilies and Secret Mark

Clementine Homilies (Clement and Barnabas in Alexandria after hearing an unnamed preacher in Rome): I left all my affairs as they were, and sped to Portus; and coming to the harbour, and being taken on board a ship, I was borne by adverse winds to Alexandria instead of Judæa ... And when I said that I wished I could meet with some one of those who had seen Him, they immediately brought me to one, saying, “There is one here who not only is acquainted with Him, but is also of that country, a Hebrew, by name Barnabas, who says that he himself is one of His disciples; and hereabouts he resides, and readily announces to those who will the terms of His promise.” Then I went with them; and when I came, I stood listening to his words with the crowd that stood round him; and I perceived that he was speaking the truth not with dialectic art, but was setting forth simply and without preparation what he had heard and seen the manifested Son of God do and say.

I took Barnabas by the hand, and by force conducted him, against his will, to my lodging, and constrained him to remain there ... And having spent several days, and instructed me briefly in the true doctrine he said that he should hasten into Judæa 
Clementine Recognitions (Clement and in Rome):
But as the day was declining to evening, I laid hold of Barnabas by the right hand, and led him away, although reluctantly, to my house; and there I made him remain, lest perchance any one of the rude rabble should lay hands upon him. While we were thus placed in contact for a few days, I gladly heard him discoursing the word of truth yet he hastened his departure, saying that he must by all means celebrate at Judæa 
Secret Mark:
he [Jesus] 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 thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan [to Judea]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Who Was Irenaeus Writing For or Writing To?

Irenaeus's massive tome, Adversus Haereses, survives only in Latin.  It is the oldest surviving heresiological work.  While we use terms like 'heretic' and 'heresy' to mean something like 'dissenting voices' Irenaeus's purpose was in fact quite different from this.  His point was to argue that 'the sects' (= heresies) were properly identified as belonging to his Church, albeit under the influence of various 'inventive personalities' who - through their cunning - distanced themselves from the true Church.
"These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe."  
While Irenaeus's tome now appears as something of a 'bird watching guide' - i.e. a listing of various 'types' of sectarians, there are clear signs that the work itself developed into its present form.  A work principally directed against the Valentinians (and now preserved by Tertullian in Latin as Adversus Valentinianos) is at the core of Book One of Irenaeus's tome.  But on top of this lost work the list of 'all the other heresies' was added at a later date and perhaps from earlier sources.

Of course the exact history of how this present work - Adversus Haereses - was formed is clouded by the general tendency of the Church Fathers to plagiarize one another at will.  There are at least a half dozen variations of Adversus Haereses ascribed to different authors - some older, most later - than Irenaeus.  The depth of dishonesty among the first Church Fathers should convince us to hold off on saying for instance that Justin really did write a lost 'syntagma' or pamphlet against the heresies which forms the basis to much of the additional material in Adversus Haereses.  This too might have been a forgery written in the name of Justin as indeed additions to Justin's existing works have been identified by even conservative scholars made around the time of Irenaeus.

In short there was a flood of forged and reforged 'compilations' or lists of heresies that seem to have been channeled through Irenaeus.  They exists and do not exist any longer in the names of virtually everyone associated with Irenaeus so we can't get a clear picture of where and when Irenaeus's influence begins and ends.  It seems as if there was an orthodox 'factory' of heresiological literature associated with this one Church Father at the end of the second century.  Why was this obsession with listing heresies so prevalent in the period?  The short answer seems to be that it was part of the orthodox myth making exercises epitomized by fake histories like the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul.

In other words, at the same time that for instance the orthodox Church was making up a story of its origins from the first apostles, it was also actively promulgating the argument 'the sects' were really reprobate members of their community.  Even though the heresies themselves clearly pitched the idea that they too had a chain of transmission from Jesus through 'alternative distribution channels' - i.e. hearers of Paul who were ignored or condemned by their rivals works like Adversus Haereses succeeded in effectively ignoring these 'alternative histories.'  Why so?  Because the point of Irenaeus's efforts was to say, the heretics stole our books, the heretics came to our churches - we were already established when these men appeared, mostly in the middle of the second century.

The curious thing about these fake histories is that they are always willing to argue for some sort of association between the 'true Church' and the heresies.  Marcion it is claimed, once belonged to the community, Valentinus and others 'came to Rome' to join the community at some date.  If the counterclaims were at all respected of course the 'story of the Church' would be told from a completely different perspective.  The story would have been of 'rival' communities.  But this was not the path that Irenaeus took and the answer for this quite clear when you look at the sources themselves.  Irenaeus was ultimately making the case that the orthodox had the right to the property of the heretics.  Irenaeus was making the case that the orthodox bishops should be the overseers of Christians generally and the only people that such a message could be appealed to would be members of the Imperial court ultimately.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Marcion, Irenaeus and the Monarchia

I am of course a 'minority opinion' within the study of Marcion(1) - I don't think that any 'eyewitness testimony' about the Marcionism is 'eyewitness testimony' at all.  Who really ever met a Marcionite, let alone Marcion?  In this regard I find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum from most scholarship on the subject.  I think the only people to have ever met a Marcionite or engaged in any meaningful way with Marcionism are the Eastern sources - that is Ephrem the Syrian and Eznik the Armenian.   Yes they are late sources but they are also very good sources.

I am not convinced for instance that Epiphanius (fourth century) ever met a Marcionite or had any contact with the Marcionite canon.  'What's that?'  exclaim the Marcionite orthodoxy in scholarship, 'but he published detailed information about the Marcionite canon.'  But Epiphanius published lots of  alleged 'firsthand accounts' of things which are not what they appear to be.  He never encountered the 'Greater Questions of Mary' a text which he claims was in the hands of a particularly sexualized heretical group.  I have on this very blog listed over a hundred claims of Epiphanius which scholars have strong doubts about or are outright lies.

The point is that early Christian scholarship reverences 'textual evidence.'  The preservation of written documentation about early Christianity and early Christian communities forms the backbone of our knowledge in the field.  But I often feel there isn't sufficient suspicion about the reliability of a lot of this information.  Not merely that our sources are 'lying' to us, but that their dishonesty took a much subtler form - viz. instead of providing us with 'direct' firsthand experience of a phenomenon or controversy many of the most prolific Church Fathers simply plagiarized earlier reports which haven't come down to us in their original form.

So to this end, Epiphanius did not sit down at a table with the Catholic canon and the Marcionite canon and set out to write the little pamphlet that was famously attached to his Panarion, a tome of dozens of 'heretical sects' within the first three hundred and fifty years of Christianity.  I suspect that he simply got one of his underlings to cull the many 'Against Marcion' texts that were already in existence and lifted the textual criticism efforts of previous generations of Church Fathers.

Why does this matter?  Because I think it helps explain why Epiphanius's list of 'things in the Marcionite canon' doesn't match Tertullian's and vice versa.  Moreover, and this goes back to my original point,  it helps explain why Tertullian and Epiphanius 'agree' that the Marcionite gospel is 'like Luke' but disagree with Ephrem and Eznik who say essentially their gospel was 'like' a gospel harmony or like the Diatessaron.

The point of course is that both sets of claims can't both be true.  The gospel of Marcion can't both be what Irenaeus, Tertullian and Epiphanius say it is - viz. 'an adulterated version of Luke' and what Ephrem and Eznik take it to be - a gospel very similar to the Diatessaron.  This is a fundamental disconnect which is only explained by traditional scholarship by assuming that 'latter day' Marcionism moved completely away from the 'traditional variety' known to Irenaeus and Tertullian.

But there is something even more peculiar about the chasm which exists between these two camps of 'Marcionite reporting.'  Tertullian makes the case for a strongly dualistic - almost Manichaean - understanding of Marcionite theology.  The rest of our sources tend to disagree.  The Marcionites argued for three powers and most curious of all, Irenaeus - who is Tertullian's source for claims that the Marcionite gospel was 'like Luke' - is an important source for information that the Marcionite godhead was tripartite (or at least that the two principle powers of God were 'just' and 'merciful' rather than 'good' and 'evil').

How is all this confusion to be explained?  The short answer is that the Church Fathers are clearly not very good sources of information about Marcion.  This seems obvious to me given the situation but it is nothing short of heresy within the field of study of Marcionism.  The Church Fathers have to be considered to be reliable sources otherwise, the unconscious argument goes, we can really say anything with any certainty about Marcionism.

But sometimes that's the way it is.  I might like 'being intimate' with someone.  But if that person proves to be an unreliable, dishonest person I might have to break off the relationship or - if I am really enamored - acknowledge that things are going to end up badly but nevertheless 'hang in there.'  Just because I want to enjoy a passionate relationship with an uncommitted partner doesn't mean that everything is going to work out.

In the same way the undeniably contradictory information about the Marcionite sect - when the writings of the Church Fathers are taken as a totality - necessarily means that someone has to be wrong about the group.  But the underlying complexity of the relation between sources is also problematic.  For Clement of Alexandria, Marcion was an extreme Platonist.  For the author of the Philosophumena a devotee of the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles.  Tertullian can say Marcion was too much a Jew and a Jew-hater almost in the same breath.

We can't keep pretending that there isn't something wrong with the state of evidence with respect to Marcion any longer.  It's like the girl who doesn't hear from her boyfriend for most of the night - almost every night - only to be told he's 'got problems with his phone service.'   The real issue with respect to the bad reporting about Marcion in the Church Fathers has to be identified.  How can so many people allegedly having firsthand experience with Marcion, his church and his canon contradict one another in their reporting?

The short answer is of course that no one - with the exception of Epiphanius - ever claims to have before them the Marcionite canon.  Epiphanius is a pathological liar who always aggrandizes his knowledge and his authority so let's dismiss that claim.  No one else actually claims to have before them firsthand information about the very thing they are writing about.  This in itself helps explain why there is so much bad reporting about Marcion.  On some level, some of the stuff is just made up.

Yet there is more to it than that.  Why did all these Church Fathers develop all these wacky theories about Marcionism if they in fact had no firsthand knowledge of the thing they were reporting on?  The real answer comes when we change the 'why' into a 'how.'  How did all this reporting come about?  The how is obvious - the opening lines of Tertullian's Against Marcion make absolutely explicit that at least three different versions of this heresiological tome were floating around at the time the surviving text was produced.  In other words, the world was filled with individual Christians proving that they could write something against Marcion.  It was sort of like the ancient equivalent of the 'ice bucket challenge.'

Given the number of 'Against Marcion' treatises that were floating around at the end of the second century (at least ten different known texts of this name in the span of fifty years) it seems self-evident there was some sort of demand for this type of text.  But why and by whom?  Why does no one in our surviving literature defend Marcion?  Why isn't there a 'For Marcion' pamphlet among all the negative reporting?  It wasn't that Marcion wasn't old, or wise, or learned, or apostolic.  He is credited with all these things and more.  For some reason Marcion was loathed or at least not actively defended by any influential Christians during the period of Commodus's rule.

Let's give the only historical example that has come down to us of a Marcionite.  The story of the 'questioning' of Apelles the Marcionite in Eusebius's Church History.  Eusebius picks up a text that is now lost to us.  It tells of an 'inquisition' of Apelles.  The treatise is directed to Zephyrinus of Rome's deacon Callistus - a man who would later go on to himself sit on the episcopal throne.  The unnamed recounts the story like this:
For the old man Apelles, when conversing with us, was refuted in many things which he spoke falsely; whence also he said that it was not at all necessary to examine one's doctrine, but that each one should continue to hold what he believed. For he asserted that those who trusted in the Crucified would be saved, if only they were found doing good works.  But as we have said before, his opinion concerning God was the most obscure of all. For he spoke of monarchia as also our doctrine does ... When I said to him, Tell me how you know this or how can you assert that there is monarchia, he replied that the prophecies refuted themselves, because they have said nothing true; for they are inconsistent, and false, and self-contradictory. But how there is monarchia he said that he did not know, but that he was thus persuaded.  As I then adjured him to speak the truth, he swore that he did so when he said that he did not know how there is one unbegotten God, but that he believed it. Thereupon I laughed and reproved him because, though calling himself a teacher, he knew not how to confirm what he taught.
The point of course is that Apelles is asked 'how do you know there is a monarchia' and Apelles the Marcionite refuses to answer.   Why does he refuse to answer?  Apelles was an intelligent man, very capable of making arguments.  And yet he pretends he doesn't want to explain what he knows of the heavenly monarchia to the assembled gathering?

It is worth pointing out that there is a contemporary parallel worth investigating.  In the Samaritan the chronicle of Abu'l Fath (who was clearly drawing from an earlier Greek MS) detailing the events of the reign of the Emperor Commodus there is a story which might shed light on why Apelles the Christian was so reluctant to explain his understanding of the heavenly monarchia.    Commodus sent Alexander of Aphrodisias - or the exegete (ὁ ἐξηγητής) as he was called by his contemporaries - to debate a Samaritan named Levi over the very same issue - the heavenly monarchy.  What follows in this lengthy document is a remarkable philosophical discussion but one which finds surprising parallels for what was going on elsewhere in the Empire under Commodus.

We are told Commodus mercilessly slaughters the Samaritans owing to their opinions about the monarchia by the exegete (ὁ ἐξηγητής) as revealed during the debate.  Was this the underlying historical context that was causing Apelles to avoid explaining his Marcionite understanding of the monarchia?   Did he fear for his life?  There is nothing in the surviving document from Eusebius which tells us that Apelles was martyred after his interrogation.  But is worth noting that another body of literature associated with the martyr Apollos - also from Alexandria, like Apelles - says that indeed that this 'philosopher' was killed after he reveals the Father of Jesus, the god whom Jesus told his believers to "honour [as] the monarch."

A great number of ancient witnesses see the names Apelles and Apollos as interchangeable - viz. Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Grotius.  Could Commodus have been waging a war in favor of the religious veneration of the earthly monarchy (i.e. his own throne) as a reflection of the heavenly momarchia?  It is something clearly that Allen Brent would consider.  But I would go one step further as we return back to our original point.  The reason Marcion was vilified by the Christians of the Commodian period is because he promote what was deemed (by the authorities) the wrong understanding of the divine monarchia.  Irenaeus by contrast was favored because he promoted the right understanding - the right belief - associated with this phenomenon.

It is coincidence it seems that like Alexander of Aphrodisias, Irenaeus basically took to task an entire religion - the Christian religion that existed before him - on the subject of 'right belief' regarding the monarchia.  I can't think of a single individual let alone a community whom Irenaeus identifies as having the 'right understanding.'  He simply expounds to his readership - as if it never existed before. Interestingly Irenaeus's orthodoxy reconciling three gods as one ruler is developed at least in part from Aristotelian mixture theory according to the H A Wolfson.  Indeed like Alexander of Aphrodisias, Irenaeus is referenced by the epithet - 'the exegete' (ὁ ἐξηγητής).

The truth is that I don't know why there are so many parallels in two different religions regarding - the monarchia, Aristotelian mixture theory and an Imperial campaign to enforce political orthodoxy in religion. All that we can be certain of is that there seems to be some underlying commonality.  Indeed a recently discovered Hebrew fragment of Nicholaus of Damascus (usually dated to the court of Herod the Great where he held a prominent position) might make matters even more complicated. All that we know for sure is that a man who was usually dated to the period before Christianity seemed to anticipate very Christian ideas regarding the Trinity.  The fragment reads:
And concerning them Nicholas in the name of Aristotle wrote that God is one in substance, three in definition, that is to say, one cannot think that those (principles), being one substance which is God — i.e. that with which He makes the world, and that with which He is its form, and that with which He is its aim — are separated from Him, even in thought, nor even when we consider that24 the world was void and absent, and after this has come to be ; (in fact), if so (i.e. if those principles depart from Him), He (= God) would be neither a god nor a First Cause.
This fragment is explained by its discoverer Mauro Zonta in the following terms:
If this is the case, Nicolaus produced a peculiarly Peripatetic version of this dogma : God is one, being a single substance, but He is also three, insofar as He is the efficient cause, formal cause, and final cause of the whole world. The fragment immediately follows a reference to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and this suggests that it was quoted from Nicolaus’ exposition of this book (a work of his which is quoted by a famous scholion in the ms. of Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gr. 1853, f. 312r, possibly a section of the DPA itself). If so, it is likely that its original location in the book was framed within an account of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book Lambda, ch. 6ss. (although it must be remembered that Nicolaus did not always keep the same order of contents as the one he found in Aristotle’s books5). As for Aristotle’s own theology, the question whether his God, the Prime Mover, is an efficient or final cause is a very controversial matter, and it is not surprising that Nicolaus wished to harmonize those views as he could find good reasons in favour of both. If he was a Christian, the idea that God as Creator is an efficient cause fits quite naturally in his exegesis of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, as the introduction of the fragment indicates, in particular if one compares book 12, chapters 6-7, of this work.6 Concerning God as formal cause, this idea is less immediately evident in Aristotle. However in at least one passage of Lambda, his Prime Mover is said to be substance without matter, essence only (Lambda 1074a35, cf. 1071a36) ; this will allow Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. 200 AD) to regard it as pure, immaterial form, εἶδος ἄνευ ὕλης (cf. e.g. Alexander’s Quaestiones I.1, p. 4.7-16,7 I.25, p. 39.9s.).8 As for the connexion of these different kinds of causes to each other, Aristotle’s Physics II.7 states that in living beings the efficient cause is identical (at least, i.e., specifically identical) with the formal cause, and moreover that this is identical (both specifically and numerically) with the final cause. Thus the doctrine of the fragment, even if unusual, seems a plausible one for a Peripatetic scholar, and it warrants some historical and philosophical analysis for its peculiar harmonizing character. Nicolaus’ interpretation of Aristotle’s Prime Mover seems to have been combined with the fundamental Christian view about the second person of the Trinity. According to this view, the Christ is ὁ λόγος as found already in the first words of St. John’s Gospel (λόγος belongs to Aristotle’s standard terminology to indicate the formal cause, see Metaph. passim, e.g. 983a28). Can the final cause be understood as representing the Spirit ? Certainly the final cause might be identified as the soul, in accordance with Aristotle’s natural philosophy, and especially with his definition of soul as the final cause or perfection (ἐντελέχεια) of the living being in De Anima II. While the Holy Spirit is not identical with Aristotle’s soul, the idea of perfection is often connected to it by Church Fathers (e.g. John of Damascus9). Moreover, the concept of “final cause” can be regarded as an expression of God’s perfection in truth, knowledge, will and love as we will see in some later, namely Mediaeval sources for Christian theology.
The fact that Nicolaus's ideas anticipate Christian notions regarding the Trinity does not mean, however, that we should move up the dating for Nicolaus.  Instead I would argue that the Trinity is in fact a secondary phenomenon within Christianity.  It developed from the very same period - and under the very same Imperial pressure - as we see document in the fragment preserved by Abu'l Fath.

The gospel itself - at least in its original form - had to explicit reference to the Trinity.  We should instead imagine that the pre-existent Aristotelian notion of a tripartite division in the godhead was used to 'correct' heretical beliefs to the contrary.

(1) in point of fact I am really a 'non-existent' opinion' as I have never formally published anything on the subject.  But I have thought, written, blogged, considered the problem of Marcion for over 30 years.
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