Thursday, August 26, 2010

Was Polycarp the Author of the Second Century υπομνηματα ιστορικά Written in the Name of Josephus?

We are about to resume our side by side comparison of Pseudo-Hegesippus and Jewish War but I would just like to remind everyone the manner in which all testimonials regarding a second century υπομνηματα ιστορικά modeled after Strabo's text of the same name but dealing principally with the events surrounding the Jewish War. It is Clement's testimony which is so puzzling. How could he have identified a Josephan historical text with a chronology which dates to the tenth year of Antoninus Pius? How do Eusebius and Epiphanius find a historical source associated with 'Josephus' (albeit in a deliberately corrupt form 'Hegesippus') which develops a chronology to the same year albeit specifically referencing Christian episcopal successions in Jerusalem and Rome? How could Irenaeus reference the same chronology just mentioned but associate the text with Polycarp? 

The answer has to be that when Polycarp came to Rome under the reign of Anicetus he brought with him a υπομνηματα ιστορικά associated with the historical Josephus which later had a 'preface' or a 'letter of reference' attached to the body of that work by Irenaeus which explains why no one should be at all concerned that Polycarp - a known forger (cf. De Morte Peregrini) - was the compiler of this 'historical commentary.' As Irenaeus reinforces in Book Three of Against the Heresies Polycarp was "a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth" than his detractors. [AH iii.3.4]

Nevertheless I have argued at length in my still unpublished Against Polycarp (a work which has an introduction written by David Trobisch and has attracted fans such as Robert Price but is still unpublished) Irenaeus is still clearly working behind the scenes to disentangle Polycarp from the body of literature he originally produced. The Ignatian corpus for instance is identified by Lucian as having been written by Polycarp the 'fiery one' whose martyrdom is remembered in his own Encyclical Epistle. Ignatius means 'fiery one' and Polycarp figures prominently in the created Ignatian narrative - created I assume by Irenaeus.

In short, I regard the preface to the υπομνηματα as a creation of Irenaeus but written as if coming straight from the hand of the original author which reassured readers that he was a reliable witness or at least a reliable compiler of a υπομνηματα ιστορικά.

Another parallel between Polycarp and the figure identified as Hegesippus as "a contemporary of the apostles" by Photius. George Syncellus identified Hegesippus as a 'disciple of the apostles' which Polycarp is identified by Irenaeus as one "not only instructed by apostles, [but who also] conversed with many who had seen Christ." Hmmm ...

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