Saturday, August 21, 2010

What Did Justin Mean When He Referenced the "Hypomnemata of the Apostles"?

I have come to a point in my personal research where I think I might be standing upon the threshold of a major discovery. It is all based on this - it is simply astonishing how widespread the use of the term hypomnema or hypomnemata is in earliest Christianity.

I don't believe that the term just means 'memoirs' as many have supposed. I don't think it is just the title of a gospel or a collection of sayings associated with Jesus or a term used to reference the 'gospel.'

I happen to believe that Christianity was started in Alexandria. I think it inherited technical terms from Greek literature including

The word “scholia” now has different meanings when used by different groups of scholars. In recent works on Greek literary texts it means “commentary or notes written in the margins of a text,” as opposed to “hypomnema,” which refers to an ancient self- standing commentary, and to “gloss,” which generally refers to a short definition found between the lines of a literary text ... the relationship between hypomnemata and scholia is more complex, and the differences between them more significant, than this formulation suggests. Hypomnemata were unified works by a single author; even composite commentaries like those of Didymus presented a fairly seamless appearance and smoothly integrated pieces of information from various sources. Though written on separate rolls, they were not intended to be read independently of the text but were connected to it by lemmata, short quotations indicating the word or passage under discussion When a hypomnema was intended to accompany a particular edition, like the texts and commentaries of Aristarchus, the two could be linked by marginal signs in the text pointing to notes in the commentary. At the same time marginal and interlinear annotation on papyrus texts is by no means unknown; we have numerous annotated papyri of literary texts from many genres. But such annotation normally consists of brief notes rather than the complex discussions found in hypomenata and in medieval scholia and it is clear that our scholia are descended from ancient hypomnemata rather than from ancient marginalia. [Eleanor Dickey Ancient Greek scholarship: a guide to finding, reading, and understanding p. 10 - 12]

Dickey explains that all ancient hypomnemata have disappeared but "medieval scholia are not simply transcripts, or even abbreviated transcripts, of ancient hypomnemata, nor are many of them readers' casual notes; they are dense and systematic collections of extracts from different sources ... Scholia often represent severe abridgements, and sometimes mutilations, of hypomnemata, but at the same time the initial selection of material appears to have been excellent." (p. 12)

What I am wondering is whether Justin's apostolic υπομνηματα were works which 'explained' the true gospel - works which individually may have been called 'gospels' but not the true gospel itself.

The history of such υπομνηματα is very old indeed. For instance Origen cites from Heracleon's υπομνηματα on the gospels (Commentary on John 6.92). Pantaenus, the supposed head of the Alexandrian tradition wrote what was called a υπομνηματα on the prophets (Clement Ecl. Proph. 56.2). Euseb. Hist. eccl. 5.10.4 ("Pantaenus . . . orally and in writing expounded [hypomnematizomenos] the treasures of the divine doctrine" cited by Zuntz, Text of the Epistles 273.

Most people reference Clement's great work as 'Stromateis' without realizing that it is also a similarly conceived υπομνηματα. He thinks of his work as a "υπομνηματα ... stored up against old age as a remedy against forgetfulness." [Stromata 1.1.1] and the actual title of the work is Patchwork of the Gnostic υπομνηματα According to the True Philosophy.

I have read the explanation of many who argue from 1 Apol 66.3 and 1 Apol 67.3 - 4 that Justin is identifying the υπομνηματα simply as 'gospel texts' themselves but I wonder whether that goes far enough. I wonder whether there was lurking behind these references is an understanding that there was one divine gospel and then a series of υπομνηματα ascribed to human beings.

Clement of Alexandria referred to Mark's υπομνηματα (To Theodore 1.20), by which he understood the notes that became the basis for his Gospel. I know it sounds paradoxical but there is always this idea in the Marcionite tradition that the 'true gospel' DID NOT have a human author. There is also a strong and early tradition that this gospel which had no human author was the gospel of Mark (its first words not only suggest the original title but its being authored by a divine source - i.e. 'the gospel of Jesus' etc).

As such Clement similarly can speak of "the divinely inspired Gospel according to Mark" and - depending on how you translate the original Greek:

to them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath. 

or Scott Brown's equally plausible translation:

To them, therefore as I said above, one must never give way, nor when they put forward their falsifications should one concede that it (i.e. the Carpocratian gospel) is Mark's mystical gospel, but should even deny it on oath. 

I am just wondering now if someone like Justin would

And who will not be filled with wonder, when he goes back in thought to Him who then taught and said, This Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles, and beholds, agreeably to His words, the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached in the whole world under heaven to Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish alike? For the word, spoken with power, has gained the mastery over men of all sorts of nature, and it is impossible to see any race of men which has escaped accepting the teaching of Jesus. But let this Jew of Celsus, who does not believe that He foreknew all that happened to Him, consider how, while Jerusalem was still standing, and the whole Jewish worship celebrated in it, Jesus foretold what would befall it from the hand of the Romans. For they will not maintain that the acquaintances and pupils of Jesus Himself handed down His teaching contained in the Gospels without committing it to writing, and left His disciples without the υπομνηματα of Jesus contained in their works. Now in these it is recorded, that when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then shall you know that the desolation thereof is near. But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes clear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God. [Origen Contra Celsum 2.13]

What I am wondering is whether - between the testimony of To Theodore and the Marcionite gospel - we can argue that it was SECRETLY acknowledged by at least some Christians and potentially Justin himself that (a) there was a true gospel which represented a direct transmission from God Almighty and (b) all other gospels which freely circulated in the name of disciples and their associates were υπομνηματα?

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