Saturday, July 17, 2010

Does the Paschal Letter (Greek) of Peter of Alexandria Give us Some Clue About an Alexandrian Enthronement Tradition at Pentecost?

Peter of Alexandra (d. 311 CE) was the last link to the original Origenist Patriarchs of Alexandria before Arius and the Arians were marginalized as heretics.  Arius was the presbyter of the Martyrium of St. Mark (cf. Epiphanius) and was undoubtedly victimized by the political manipulation of Constantine, Hosius of Cordoba and Alexander of Alexandria.  Despite the frequent statements that Peter was opposed to Arius, the true situation will likely never be fully known.  I think there are clues in Peter's surviving works to the original theology of Alexandria.  The English translation provided by Tim Vivian (Peter of Alexandria) reads as follows:

For we know the faithful who in good faith maintain strongly and say: in the beginning of all things, "the firstborn of creation" [Col 1:15], and the "first fruit of those who sleep" [1 Cor 15:20] has become "also the firstborn of the dead" [Col 1:18] in order that he might cause us to rise together with him, and (that) he might sit "at the right hand of greatness among the most high" [Heb 1:3], through whom we received (a) body from the Virgin - it is clear that like the first fruit of those who sleep the firstborn of the dead, all the dead will rise, changing their form and being conformed "to his body of glory" [Phil 3:21]. This very thing was said by the apostle with assurance: "For it is necessary that this perishable (nature) be clothed with imperishability and this mortal (nature) be clothed with immortality" [1 Cor 15:53] (and) thus it is fulfilled.

After other matters, again from him (Peter)

Just as when we arise from the dead we receive a different body, not according to substance, but according to the quality made manifest in him. "For it is necessary that this perishable (nature) be clothed with imperishability" [1 Cor 15:53]. And thus the Lord gave life to his own body, and after he arose from the dead he made (it) imperishable that is, impassable and eternal. For this is the change to which the teacher [v 1 the apostle] says the Lord submitted. For he does not teach that he changed the substance of (his) body. Not at all!

Performing (this) spiritual service in a pure way, let us lift up "holy hands without anger and arguments" [1 Tim 2:8], being hopeful that we are being brought to life again. We will cease (our) fasts in the evening on Saturday when Holy Sunday begins to dawn four days before the Ides of April, which is the fifteenth of Pharmouth [10 April 309] on which day arose the one who was living and became (one of the) deadand again lives forever [cf Rev 1:18]. He aroused the thought(s) of his disciples who thought they "saw a ghost" [Luke 24:37] saying "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? Feel me and see that a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see me having." And having said this he showed them (his) hands and feet" [Luke 24:39 - 41]

(These) very things he established as reasonable through the change which happened in him, through which "they were prevented from recognizing him" [Luke 24:16] since even in this it was necessary for him to take precedence according to the apostolic word [cf Col 1:18]. Whence also someone took pains to feel him, who also truly becoming fully assured concerning his resurrection called him both Lord (and) God ... [cf John 20:27 - 28]

My commentary to follow ...

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