Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ex Cathedra

Another quick point which you will never read in any scholarly book on the Church Fathers. All the early Patristic texts were written ex cathedra, which means that they were written by the head of a Christian community. In the case of Ignatius this is obvious. In the case of Polycarp this is not so obvious but then all you have to do is realize that Polycarp was the 'fiery one' (look at his death) and then it all begins to make sense again.

I have long argued that the real historical details of Polycarp's life and identity have long been obscured from us. Who obscured those details? The answer is obvious from the conclusion of the surviving manuscripts of the Martyrdom of Polycarp. The Moscow manuscript is most explicit here. It reads:

This account Gaius copied from the writings of Irenaeus, and he also had lived with Irenaeus, who was a disciple of the holy Polycarp. For this Irenaeus, at the time of the martyrdom of the bishop Polycarp, was in Rome, and taught many, and many most excellent and correct writings are extant, in which he mentions Polycarp, saying that he had been his pupil, and he ably refuted every heresy, and he also handed on the ecclesiastical and catholic rule, as he had received it from the saint. And he also says this that once Marcion, from whom come the so-called Marcionites, met the holy Polycarp and said: "Recognise us, Polycarp," and he said to Marcion, "I do recognise you, I recognise the first-born of Satan." And this is also recorded in the writings of Irenaeus, that at the day and hour when Polycarp suffered in Smyrna, Irenaeus, who was in the city of Rome, heard a voice like a trumpet saying: "Polycarp has suffered martyrdom." From these papers of Irenaeus, then, as was stated above, Gaius made a copy, and Isocrates used in Corinth the copy of Gaius.

Ignatius wrote ex cathedra until Irenaeus developed the person of 'Polycarp' - an apolitical 'preacher,' a 'hearer of John' - all things to keep his independence from the Roman See (and thus spoiling the myth of the 'universal Church' only a generation before Irenaeus invented its existence.

Notice the author DOESN'T SAY that Polycarp confronted Marcion and all the idiot things that most scholars take for granted. He says Irenaeus says these things about Polycarp. If only people in this generation were as careful.

As long as the reader sees that every document in the early Church was written ex cathedra it will all make sense to you. Why so? Because my 'crazy theories' about the Alexandrian throne of St Mark were exported to other places which wanted to set up 'rival franchises' like that of Rome.

When the man we call 'Irenaeus' sat writing his treatises he did so ex cathedra from Rome as the Moscow manuscript makes absolutely explicit.

What does ex cathedra mean? I don't even think experts who pontificate with these terms understand what it means. All the symbolism is on the Throne of St. Mark from Alexandria which is now in Venice.

The basic idea is that the one who sits in the throne is God. The basic understanding comes from Psalm 45. But the original Gospel of Mark with its longer ending and its depiction of enthronement must be the ultimate source of the mystical ideas.

It's a pity we don't have the original text that was pissing Irenaeus off so much in Book Three of his work.

The point is that for those coming to the history of the Church for the first time, let me address my comments to you. There is no real history of the Church from ANY period because it was always changing. Texts were being written and rewritten through the agency of 'the Holy Spirit' to the point that no one will ever know which human being originally authored any of it.

I had my eyes opened up to this concept when I started working with Patristic texts and I actually read the opening words and realized Tertullian didn't really write this text. He doesn't even acknowledge the original author. We read:

Nothing I have previously written against Marcion is any longer my concern. I am embarking upon a new work to replace an old one. My first edition, too hurriedly produced, I afterwards withdrew, substituting a fuller treatment. This also, before enough copies had been made, was stolen from me by a person, at that time a Christian but afterwards an apostate, who chanced to have copied out some extracts very incorrectly, and shewed them to a group of people. Hence the need for correction. The opportunity provided by this revision has moved me to make some additions. Thus this written work, a third succeeding a second, and instead of third from now on the first, needs to begin by reporting the demise of the work it supersedes, so that no one may be perplexed if in one place or another he comes across varying forms of it. [Against Marcion i.1]

As a novice I couldn't get over the idea that the five books weren't written by one author. Against Marcion was really a compilation of a number of texts written by different writers which Tertullian fused together in one compendium.

In Against the Valentinians Tertullian is so kind as to tell us which authors's writings he employed to develop his material.

Indeed you just have to look at the way he developed an original text of Justin into two different works of 'his own' - Against the Jews and Book Three of Against Marcion. They book come from one original source.

It is baffling to the modern mind to comprehend how someone could develop new original material from the writings of someone else and pass it off as his own but I think the 'spiritual beliefs' of the age brushed any difficulty aside. It was the Holy Spirit dictating the words and individual 'vessels' didn't figure much in the transmission process except as 'receivers.'

The opening words of Against Marcion make clear that whenever these later writers came across a passage they didn't like they identified it as a 'corruption' added while the text circulated among 'heretics.' The new author sitting in the chair of authority amended the text to reflect the new state of orthodoxy and life went on quite well.

The key however is that you can't overlook the significance of the contemporary superstition regarding the power attributed to a man sitting in a throne which 'received' the Holy Spirit. Without the throne, the authority of the Holy Spirit would not be acknowledged to be present.

Protestant scholars always over look this because they are too busy looking at their own reflection ...

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