Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Against Polycarp [Part Eighteen]

The light of day is breaking over the history of the Church in the second century. What was formerly a mere glimmer of light is now transforming into dawn. For far too long scholars have merely echoed Irenaeus's claims about the beliefs and practices of Polycarp. It is for this reason and this reason alone that the study of early Patristic texts seem so lifeless and uninteresting. There is very little real humanity in these books. In order to even read through one of these texts you have to suspend your belief in reality, you have to completely suppress what you know about human nature and human relations. And so it is that only a handful of individuals have trained themselves to wander through this literary desert.

We are beginning to finally connect all the dots with regards to our historical 'Polycarp' - that is to say Lucian's stranger. We can begin to see that his beliefs and practices could not have been the same as Irenaeus for as Lampe notes, he was always an 'outsider,' a stranger in Rome. Polycarp came as something of a romantic balladeer, poetically referencing a Jerusalem Church which likely never existed but which edified his contemporary claims that he could not but help maintain the Passover of the Jews as Easter. Irenaeus must have seen the glint in our stranger's eye when he referenced an 'apostolic succession' in Jerusalem starting with James, the brother of Jesus, and thought 'I can do that too.'

Many cooks are reluctant to allow people to know how that make a beloved dish. Yet Polycarp apparently allowed Irenaeus close enough to see the magic being created right before his eyes. Irenaeus in turn saw Polycarp as a first step, a path leading to something grander than a mere wandering itinerant prophet. Irenaeus likely believed in the myth of a universal Church and thought he could realize that dream, first at Antioch and then finally at Rome. He likely possessed skills that Polycarp lacked, fostering relations with influential people, men of substance in high places. And so the reality of a universal Church being established everywhere and nowhere in particular was finally born at the end of the second century. Irenaeus's word - not merely about our stranger - but the whole of the Christian canon became law in no small part because of his self-confessed 'connections' with the Imperial court.

Yet in order to come to terms with Irenaeus's myth of a universal Roman Church we have to come to terms with Polycarp's infectious ballad about the Jerusalem Church. The 'sheet music' of this tune so to speak was written in the closing words of his five volume hypomnemata. The work as a whole follows the example of Josephus, the ultimately repentant former general in the Jewish resistance movement. As with most of our existing Josephan narrative, the hypomnemata was written in the third person. Yet in Polycarp's original we follow Josephus through the narration of a Christian believer. Josephus fully confess the true faith but nevertheless provides of the truthful of Christ's original prediction that the Jewish religion would eventually be destroyed owing to the inherent wickedness of its people.

Polycarp however, in the voice of Josephus, goes on to explain what was wrong with the Jews of this previous age - they misunderstood the purpose of the religion of Moses and the prophets. The misapplied the original teaching into some radical doctrine which made the nation of Israel hostile to the Roman people. Emerging out of this tragic misunderstanding was James the brother of Jesus, who founded a church in Jerusalem which continued as a church in exile down until the time of the very completion of the hypomnemata in 147 CE, the seventy seventh anniversary of the destruction of the Jewish temple.

Where was this Church? It was embodied in the example of Polycarp as it had in previous generations in the example of John, the brother of James. Yet with Polycarp's death in 165 CE there was a clear dilemma. How would this teaching be perpetuated into the future? We may suppose that the early example of Ignatius, the contents of the Ignatian canon and the canonical Acts of the Apostles formed an early response to this problem. The material came together around 170 CE to argue that Polycarp was commissioned by Ignatius to find a replacement for his empty episcopal chair at Antioch which was the original seat of the Catholic Church. But then something clearly happened by the time Irenaeus got around to correcting the hypomnemata. Historical events likely linked to Commodus's rise to power around 175 CE likely encouraged the idea of a Church centered in the Emperor's backyard - Rome.

It is of course hard to say how such an event became manifest. Perhaps it was a series of 'little things' of which we will never fully comprehend. Yet the historical process is clearly completed by the time Irenaeus quotes Polycarp in Book Four of his Against Heresies as supporting the transfer of the center of Christianity to Rome - "For if God had not accorded this in the typical exodus, no one could now be saved in our true exodus" which as Irenaeus notes means "the (Roman) faith in which we have been established, and by which we have been brought forth from among the number of the Gentiles." Polycarp was apparently a prominent spokesman for the idea that Christianity was completely compatible with the accumulation of wealth, foreshadowed by the ancient Israelite 'taking gold and silver' from the Pharaoh. So Irenaeus declares in what immediately followed the last citation that for members of the Catholic tradition "in some cases there follows us a small, and in others a large amount of property, which we have acquired from the mammon of unrighteousness. For from what source do we derive the houses in which we dwell, the garments in which we are clothed, the vessels which we use, and everything else ministering to our every-day life, unless it be from those things which, when we were Gentiles, we acquired by avarice, or received them from our heathen parents, relations, or friends who unrighteously obtained them?--not to mention that even now we acquire such things when we are in the faith. For who is there that sells, and does not wish to make a profit from him who buys? Or who purchases anything, and does not wish to obtain good value from the seller? Or who is there that carries on a trade, and does not do so that he may obtain a livelihood thereby? And as to those believing ones who are in the royal palace, do they not derive the utensils they employ from the property which belongs to Caesar; and to those who have not, does not each one of these [Christians] give according to his ability?" [AH iv.30.1]

The point here as we shall see in coming chapters is that the Catholic Church did not just 'spring up' overnight in Rome as part of some natural development. Irenaeus clearly uses Polycarp again and again - and undoubtedly an altered copy of his hypomnemata - to make the case that a Christian 'Exodus' occurred to the 'Promised Land' of the Roman Church, where indeed leading members of the Church seemed to be 'in the pocket' of Caesar. Irenaeus points to Polycarp, his 'anonymous presbyter' as teaching that these were all foreshadowed by the experience of the ancient Exodus of the Israelites. Indeed, Irenaeus seems to remind his readers that the original Greek word for 'Catholic' - katholikos - has the specific meaning 'treasury' and that hoi katholou logoi literally means 'supervisor of accounts.'

In any event, the understanding of the development of the Roman Church is all ahead of us. For the moment it is important that we just come to terms with the original mythology developed by Irenaeus's predecessor. To this end we have to go back to that underlying 'division' we just referenced which must have existed at the end of book five in the hypomnemata where Irenaeus added the reference to the Roman Church. As Robert Lee Williams notes in his work on apostolic succession aptly titled 'Bishop Lists':

Hegesippus gave attention to the bishop introducing the succession in order to show that episcopal authority began in each church with an individual closer to Jesus than the sectarian leader could possibly be. The ecclesiastical leader was portrayed as closer both in time and in thought. We have the following evidence for the beginning of Hegesippus's Jerusalem and Roman successions. The Jerusalem succession began with James as bishop (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.23.4). James was contemporaneous with Jesus. James was “the Lord's brother” (2.23.4). Hegesippus recorded that James was appointed by Jesus himself (Epiphanius Pan 78.7). With reference to Hegesippus's philosophical school categories James was faithful to the “father” of the doctrine (cf. Justin, Dial. 35). He unswervingly witnessed to Jesus' claims. He testified of Jesus as the Christ, the apocalyptic Son of Man, and the Son of David (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.23.8–9, 14). The Roman succession began with Peter and Paul as bishops (Epiphanius, Pan. 27.6). These bishops were apostles. Regarding Paul Hegesippus noted that both Linus and Clement, contemporaries of Paul, later served as bishops (Irenaeus, Haer. 3.3.3; Epiphanius, Pan. 27.6).

This is a very useful description of the structure of the original hypomnemata. It describes the narrative in barest terms, first came Jerusalem, its bishop list dated to 147 CE and then the parallel Roman material. Williams also notes later that in each case there is a discussion about the manner in which heretics in each community caused many to 'fall away from the truth.'

Yet we have already determined that the entire Roman narrative is a fiction developed by Irenaeus to reconcile Polycarp's message with the argument for the primacy of the Church of Rome.  The original hypomnemata makes clear the author's original status as - what Peter Lampe has coined - an 'outsider.'  It is odd how the name 'Peregrinus' seems to fit the figure of Polycarp even when that connection has been deliberately suppressed.  His narrative was clearly a kind of fairy tale - very similar in nature to the Clementine Romance tradition.  That a Jewish Christian Church managed to establish itself in Jerusalem but also managed to survive three revolts and the active effort of Imperial conspiracies against it.  Yet before we can develop a critique of what Hegesippus wrote about this entirely fabulous organization, it is important that we actually demonstrate what those before us have determined was in the original narrative at the end of Book Five.  To this end it is worth going through Hugh Lawlor's work - almost line by line - in order to develop a clearer picture of its shape and color.

Lawlor begins our discussion of Hegesippus's account of James by noting that the earliest extract from Hegesippus is found in Eusebius's Church History Book Two Chapter Twenty Three and contains the account of the martyrdom of James the Just, first bishop of Jerusalem.  Lawlor demonstrates that "this is the only passage quoted by Eusebius of the position of which in the work of Hegesippus he gives us explicit information. It is expressly stated that it came from the fifth Memoir."  He also references the fact that in the passage as given by Eusebius there are many repetitions which suggest either that he took it from a manuscript containing a corrupt text, or that Hegesippus was a very unskilful writer. But it has all the appearance of having been transcribed in its entirety.

Lawlor writes that even though there is no evident indication that Eusebius has omitted any part of the original hypomnemata once we consult with Epiphanius we will see that this appearance is delusive. For Epiphanius brings to our knowledge some sentences which must have belonged to this passage, and of which Eusebius takes no notice.  Yet before attempting to prove this Lawlor thought it necessary to prove to his readers that Epiphanius had direct knowledge of our hypomnemata, or at any rate that for what he knew of them he was not entirely dependent on Eusebius.  To this end, Lawlor reinforces here that Epiphanius (a) never mentions Hegesippus and (b) he notes that "though it is highly probable that he more than once refers to the Memoirs by name, in doing so he gives them a title which is not assigned to them by other writers."  If he were simply using Eusebius as a source he would have followed that author's lead in identifying the material as 'the Memoirs of Hegesippus.'

Lawlor however concludes that "it is quite certain, however, that several passages of his Panarion are based on portions of the Memoirs quoted verbatim by Eusebius ; and a careful examination of those passages gives us reason to believe that in writing them Epiphanius used a text of the Memoirs which differed considerably from that which was known to Eusebius."  It is apparent, for instance that Epiphanius has in Haer. 78.7 a description of James the Just which is plainly borrowed from the fragment now before us and cited in Eusebius's earlier account. Lawlor states that this will be obvious to any one who compares the two together and adds that it is only necessary to call attention to one clause in which his indebtedness to Hegesippus is less evident than elsewhere.

Epiphanius writes that James "was a Nazoraean, which being interpreted is holy". Now in the Memoirs as quoted by Eusebius the word "Nazoraean" does not occur. What according to him Hegesippus said was, "He was holy from his mother's womb, he drank not wine and strong drink, neither did he eat flesh, a razor did not touch his head, he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use a bath." That the greater part of this sentence might be fairly epitomized in the statement that James was a Nazorean (ie Nazirite) many will agree. That Epiphanius thought so is clear. For in another place, after quoting part of it almost as it stands in Eusebius — "In a bath he never washed, he partook not of flesh" — he adds the comment, "If the sons of Joseph knew the order of virginity and the work of Nazoraeans how much more did the old and honourable man (sc. Joseph the father of James) know how to keep a virgin pure, and to honour the vessel wherein, so to speak, dwelt the salvation of men?" (Haer 78.14)

Another point brought forward by Lawlor.  It will be observed that in Epiphanius information that James was called Oblias is given near the beginning of the passage, immediately before this reference to his asceticism. In Eusebius it is lower down, after the account of his prayers.  Lawlor encourages us to glance at the statement as it appears in Eusebius's text. It runs thus "Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, 'Bulwark of the people' and 'Justice,' in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him."  Lawlor points to "several facts rouse the suspicion that the text is corrupt in this place."  That James was named "the Just" was already said, and enlarged upon, only two sentences higher up; the explanation of the title here given is mere tautology — he was called righteous because of his righteousness; further on, the word dikaiosune whether it be taken as another name of James, as Schwartz's punctuation seems to suggest, or as a second translation of Oblias, is almost certainly wrong; and finally no satisfactory explanation of the allusion to the prophets in the last clause has ever been offered.

Now Lawlor also draws our attention to the fact that in Epiphanius, Haer.14, there is a passage which is, at any rate in part, a paraphrase of the opening sentences of our fragment.  In it we find the words di huperbolen eulabeias. They evidently correspond to dia ge toi ten huperbolen in the sentence just quoted. for the two phrases are not only strikingly similar, they occur also in the same position, immediately after the notice of James's habit of prayer. But Epiphanius differs from Eusebius in two respects. He reads eulabeias instead of dikaiosune and he connects the clause, not with the statement that James received the name of "the Just," but with the assertion that he was a man of prayer. Placed in this context, Lawlor notes, the statement yields admirable sense. James prayed unceasingly because he was a man of much piety. As such, Lawlor notes "there can be little doubt that here Epiphanius had access to a better text of Hegesippus than Eusebius." .

Lawlor goes on to note that it is "already clear that the text used by Epiphanius differed considerably from that quoted by Eusebius in this passage, and was freer from corrupt readings. It may be added, as a further proof of its comparative excellence, that it presents a more satisfactory arrangement of the clauses."  Lawlor draws our attention to the order of statements in Eusebius - James was called ' the Just ', he was an ascetic, he had priestly privileges and was constant in prayer, he was called 'the Just' and Oblias. In Epiphanius, on the other hand, the names by which he was known are first fully dealt with, and thus the way is opened for a description of his character, which proceeds without interruption. Now it is evident that if Epiphanius used a better text of the hypomenmata than that which is preserved in Eusebius's extracts, he cannot have depended on Eusebius for his knowledge of them. Lawlor concludes that Epiphanius "must have had either another series of of excerpts, or more probably a complete copy of the work itself."

Lawlor then moves on to discuss two other passages which point to the same conclusion. In Haer. 27. 6 Epiphanius discusses the chronological difficulty involved in the statement that Clement was appointed bishop of Rome by the Apostles Peter and Paul, though he was not first but third in the succession  His explanation is that Clement resigned the bishopric, and resumed it after the episcopate of Linus and Anencletus ; and in the course of his argument he appeals to a passage in Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians : He himself says in one of his letters, "I withdraw, I will depart, let the people of God remain at peace." And Epiphanius adds, "For I have found this in certain hypomnematismoi."  The point of course is that Epiphanius goes into much greater detail than either Irenaeus or Eusebius go into when analyzing this passage.

Then Lawlor turns to Epiphanius's Haer. 78.7 where we have two passages, "one of which we have already shown to be found on the excerpt now before us, while the other will hereafter be proved to be borrowed from a later section of the Memoirs."   He adds that the latter of these references is immediately followed by a sentence about the first wife of Joseph and her children, which leads up to and is immediately followed by the former.  According to Lawlor "it may reasonably be inferred that this sentence, like the two between which it stands, is taken from the Memoirs."  While he acknowledges that "it is true indeed that elsewhere in this chapter Epiphanius gleans information from the apocryphal Protevangelium of James" Lawlor adds that from the information given in this sentence it is certain that it could not have been derived from this source.

Our fragment records that Joseph's wife was of the tribe of Judah and that she had six children, facts which are not mentioned in the Protevangelium. To the description of James succeeds an argumentative passage, which occupies the remainder of the chapter, and then comes (Haer. 78. 8) an enumeration of the children of Joseph by his first wife and other particulars not contained in the Protoevangelium. Lawlor concludes that these may on similar grounds, but with less confidence, be referred to the hypomnemata. The description of James in Haer. 78, 7 begins with words to which nothing corresponds in the text as given by Eusebius : "He (Joseph) had therefore as is first-born James." For like reasons this clause may be considered as borrowed from the Memoirs. The inference is confirmed by the passage already quoted, which claims for the statement the authority of the hypomnematismoi of Eusebius, Clement and others. It is there associated with the statement that James was 'sanctified' (hegiasmenos) which corresponds with Hegesippus's "he was holy (hagios) from his mother's womb."

After going section by section through the material common to the two ancient authors Lawlor eventually concludes that "we have now reasons of varying force for believing that we have recovered from the Panarion of Epiphanius no less than seven passages not quoted by Eusebius" which are enumerated as follows:

1. That by his first wife, who was of the tribe of Judah Joseph had four sons and two daughters.
2. His sons were James, born when he was about forty years old, Jose, Symeon, and Judas, and his daughters Mary and Salome. After a widowhood of many years he took Mary when he was about eighty years of age.
3. James was his first-born.
4. James did not wear sandals.
5. He exercised priestly functions.
6. He wore the mitre.
7. At his prayer the heaven gave rain
and to these we may perhaps add that
8. That he was appointed first bishop by the Lord.

The point of course is that Lawlor helps reconstruct what is clearly Polycarp's original argument that he was the last heir to a rival tradition to that of Rome which was perpetuated by nothing short of the 'family of Jesus' for over a century!  He notes that it is "certain that Eusebius was not ignorant of the view that James was appointed bishop by the Lord. In one place he describes him as 'having received the episcopate of the Church of Jerusalem at the hands of the Savior himself and the apostles.'" (HE 7.19)

It is thus looking increasingly odd that Irenaeus would simply gloss over this entire section of the hypomnemata in his third book.  Instead he musters together some excuse to the effect that "it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches ... [but rather] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul."  By leaving Polycarp's original bit about the Jerusalem Church in the hypomnemata and adding the Roman narrative in the paragraphs that follow, Irenaeus can fall back to the accusation that the heretics - his enemies - have erased the material he wants us to scrutinize.  As we shall see this follows a familiar pattern not only with regards to the literature associated with Lucian's stranger but the entire New Testament canon too.

Of course there are many who want to believe the original claims about Jesus establishing essentially a 'family business' in Jerusalem.  Polycarp's narrative is likely pure nonsense and is based on little more than the establishment of a lost 'golden age' to Christianity which he was attempting to 'revive' in the middle of the second century.  The important thing for our present purposes is that few other Church Fathers seem to pay any interest to this fictitious 'original' Palestinian Christian community.  Lawlor continues by noting that "we may now attempt to fix the position in the Memoirs of the passage represented by HE iv. 22. 4 and iii. 11. It began, as we have seen, with some such words as 'And after James the Just had bome witness . . . and Jerusalem had immediately afterwards been captured '". This seems to imply that a narrative of the martyrdom of James had preceded it; and if so there can be little question that the narrative referred to was that which Eusebius has quoted from the Memoirs} If the whole of that section is summarized in the words 'after James the Just had borne witness', its closing words, kai euthus Ouespasianos poliorkei autous, are recalled by the succeeding allusion to the sack of Jerusalem."

Lawlor then agrees with Zahn that Hegesippus included in his Memoirs a notice of the flight of the Christians of Jerusalem to Pella, immediately before the siege. One might argue that such a narrative could easily have followed the siege narrative. Lawlor notes that Epiphanius has three short narratives of the flight. The first two occur in successive chapters of the Panarion, in the first of which he treats of the origin of the Nazoraeans, and in the second, in similar fashion, of that of the Ebionites (Haer. 29. 7; 30. 2); the third is found in his treatise De Mensuris et Ponderibus (c. 15).3 And the three accounts are characterized by remarkable similarities of phraseology. The fugitives are 'all the apostles' in Haer. 29, 'all the disciples' in De Mens. 15, and in Haer. 30 'all who believed in Christ.'  Pella is said both in Haer. 30 and De Mens. 15 to have been a city of the Decapolis,1 a coincidence all the more remarkable because the name 'Decapolis' was obsolete in Epiphanius's day. This fact he plainly intimates, in one case by observing that the Decapolis is mentioned in the Gospel, and in the other by his disclaimer of first-hand knowledge — "the city is said to belong to the Decapolis."

Lawlor then turns to the only extant account of the flight of earlier date than Epiphanius, that which is given by Eusebius. It is evident, however, that Epiphanius did not depend on it, for he states definitely that the Christians left Jerusalem in obedience to a command of Christ (Haer. 29) which was conveyed by an angel (De Mens. 15), while Eusebius merely says that they had "some sort of (tina) divine intimation (chresmon) granted by revelation."  All these facts lead to the conclusion that Eusebius and Epiphanius relied on a common document for the flight to Pella. What was it? In the earlier part of the long sentence in which Eusebius mentions the flight an indirect reference is made to Hegesippus, when the death of James the Just is said to have been 'already recounted'; and Epiphanius, in that part of the Panarion in which occur his first two accounts of the same incident, is probably depending on the Memoirs for some of his statements about other things.

Indeed Lawlor says even more firmly later that "a close examination of the account of Symeon's election seems to reveal the fact that it was introduced by a notice of the departure of the Christians from Jerusalem." Epiphanius makes clear that the author of the hypomnemata claimed that many of the apostles, disciples, and relatives of the Lord as survived assembled from all quarters to elect a bishop to succeed James the Just. Eusebius also informs us that Symeon was elected bishop of the Church in Jerusalem, a statement which Lawlor says Eusebius probably derived from the portion of the hypomnemata now under discussion. It seems to imply that the Christians had returned thither on the conclusion of the siege.

Lawlor then argues that immediately after Hegesippus's account of the election of Symeon the following words appeared:

On this account they called the Church a virgin , for it was not yet corrupted by vain teachings. But Thebuthis. because he was not himself made bishop, begins to corrupt it from the seven heresies among the people — to which he himself belonged . . . Each [of the heretical teachers] severally and in different ways introduced their several opinions. From these came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, men who divided the unity of the Church with corrupt words against God and against His Christ.'

Eusebius then tells us what followed in the narrative 'Hegesippus in his narrative about certain heretics goes on to state that by these at that time the above-mentioned person [Symeon] was subjected to accusation, and after being tortured for many days in various manners as being a Christian, and very greatly astonishing the judge and his attendants, won as his reward a death which resembled the passion of the Lord."

Lawlor notes that "the first words of this sentence plainly allude to the passage quoted above. The allusion would have been more obvious if the list of heresies and false teachers which it contains had not been omitted in our translation." The succeeding clause will be at once recognized as a condensed paraphrase of the following "certain of these (namely the heretics) accuse Simon the son of Clopas as being a descendant of David and a Christian. And so he bears witness at the age of 120 years under Trajan Caesar and the proconsul Atticus.' Lawlor adds that the parenthesis 'namely the heretics' is clearly an addition of Eusebius.

Lawlor goes to come to an interesting conclusion based on a number of different proofs which is worth citing about the material which immediately followed. He notes that "Eusebius drew from Hegesippus the account of Domitian in chapter xvii and the statement of chapter xviii that the Apostle St. John was banished under Domitian to Patmos; and we have extended it by tracing to the same source the further statement in chapter xx that the apostle returned to Ephesus in the reign of Nerva." In other words, Polycarp's interest wasn't just in establishing narratives about James but also John who - as J Rendel Harris points out - have been transformed into the Dioscuri as early as our gospel and, he adds "in that one stroke swept them out of whatever historic reality they might have had and into the procedures of mythic transformation." While it is premature to say that Polycarp had a hand in introducing this concept into our gospels, it is worth keeping in mind for later sections of this book.

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