Saturday, September 26, 2009

Eusebius Might Have Seen the Throne of St. Mark Stolen in Venice (or the Original it was Based On)

Some think that that there are two Seraphim [round the divine throne] but I, based on the idea expounded by the sacred scriptures which says 'the Seraphim stood round about Him,' think there are many and that they are body guards as it were like a crown from all sides surrounding the throne with light and enlivened by Him ..." [Commentary on Isaiah 38.12 - 16]

The reader might be interested in Hollerich's follow up statement which clearly connects us back to our Alexandrian Episcopal throne and my argument in the last post about Clement's use of the word aletheias to describe the same object from Isaiah 16:5.

Hollerich writes that:

Eusebius describes the office and status of the bishop in the Commentary [on Isaiah] in a variety of capacities: governmental, judicial, liturgical and eschatological. Although none of these is described in great detail, which would be inappropriate in a biblical commentary, they cumulatively give the episcopacy a high visibility in exegesis. Most of this section [that follows in Hollerich's book] will illustrate this centrality by demonstrating the bishop's usurping of messianic and eschatological prophesies ...

Eusebius did not suddenly discover the episcopacy when he sat down to write his commentary [on Isaiah]. His other works show a very high estimation of the episcopal office of the church. The opening lines of the Church History proclaim that the first theme of his path-breaking work is the succession (diadochia) stretching from the apostles to his own time, and those who had been most illustrious in the leadership and governance of the church. In book 10 of the Church History his speech at the rededication of the cathedral of Tyre develops an elaborate allegory of the new church and the renewed community at the centre of which is the person of the bishop, Paulinus: "In the ruler [archon] of all, as is right, the entire Christ has taken his seat, and in those who have the second place after him [the bounty] is apportioned to each one's capacity, by gifts of the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit." [HE 10. 4. 67] He also says of Paulinus " ... this man also, bearing in his own soul the image of Christ entire, the Word, the Wisdom, the Light, hath formed this magnificent temple of God most high ..." [ibid 10.4.62]

Eusebius' assertion that the bishop takes the place of Christ is the starting point for understanding his exegetical legitimation of the hierarchy. For the Commentary on Isaiah shows a marked tendency for the bishop to displace the person of Christ in messianic texts or to be invested with eschatological authority in texts that bear, or seem to bear, on the end of all things or on the restoration of Jerusalem. An excellent example of this displacement, especially because it can be compared with Eusebius' earlier and more traditional understanding and because of the heavily juridical flavour of the passage is the interpretation of Isa 16.5 ("Then a throne will be established mercy and there will take his seat on it with truth in the tent of David one who judges and seeks justice and is swift to do righteousness"). In the Prophetic Selections he said of this verse:

This is a prophesy concerning the second coming of Christ when the Word of God shall take his seat in the tent of David and judge with truth, his kingdom having been established over all with mercy and love, that is [by his kingdom], I believe is meant the church of the saints and the firstborn in heaven [cf. Heb. 12.23], and all the saints who have come under the portion of Word of God.

In the commentary the key word thronos suggested an ecclesiastical interpretation in which the Christian bishop, in whom Eusebius had already said in the Church History the whole Christ is seated, holds the very place of Christ and dispenses justice in the church. This is a very clear investment of the bishop with the power and authority of Christ at his second coming.

Does anyone doubt now that Clement could have applied aletheias to the Episcopal throne of Alexandria vis a vis Isaiah 16:5? ...

If you are interested in reading how this observation fits within my greater understanding of the workings of Secret Mark WITHIN the contemporary Alexandrian Church please go here

If you want to read more about how Alexandrian Christianity was rooted in the Jewish traditions of Alexandria, Philo of Alexandria and more feel free to purchase my new book here

Email with comments or questions.

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