Saturday, September 25, 2010

Against Polycarp [Part Fifteen]

Edgar Allen Poe wrote perhaps his cleverest detective story "The Purloined Letter" on the subject of hiding some thing in plain view. The story goes something like this - a damning letter is hidden for ransom and despite the best efforts of the police, they cannot find it—even knowing which room it is in. Finally, the main protagonist of the story describes how very small changes to the letter caused it to be hidden from the police's eyes, even when they saw it, simply because it didn't look quite the way they thought it should.

Most of us have found ourselves in a situation where we have spent hours - even years - looking for something thinking it was lost only to discover that it was right in front of our eyes all the time. So it is that scholars go on a quest for the historical Jesus to solve all the mysteries of Christianity. Yet this assumes again that we can just take our sources at face value, that there is no need to question who is giving us this information and for what reason.

All of our little inquiries into the relationship of Irenaeus to the body of literature associated with 'Polycarp,' 'Ignatius' and 'Clement' have led us to the very place we now stand in our investigation. We have uncovered an obscure work which doesn't get much 'press' in the work - the so-called hypnomnemata - which is generally assumed by the handful of people who have written something about it to have come to us by the hand of someone named 'Hegesippus.' Yet this information is all derived from Eusebius, a Church Father writing almost a century and a half after Irenaeus first cites from the work. As we shall see, Clement of Alexandria, another Church Father who was active in the same age as Irenaeus, references some of the contents of the work as having come from the hand of a certain 'Josephus the Jew' in 147 CE. Epiphanius of Salamis, another author who is generally acknowledged to have used this text and wrote at the end of the fourth century, never identifies the author's name.

Yet we are most interested in Irenaeus account of the material because he both seems to give a name and does not seem to give a name for the author of said work.  How can that be possible?  It was Philip Schaff's genius to see there was apparently another reference to Irenaeus's use of the hypomnemata in the writings of Eusebius.  As such Schaff points us to:

Eusebius's statement (HE 5, 8, 8) that Irenaeus quotes from the 'apomnemoneumata of a certain apostolic presbyter whose name he passes by in silence and gives his exposition of Sacred Scripture' cf. Adv.Haer. 4, 23, if., cf. 4, 28, 1; 30, 1; 31, 1; 32, 1), without giving the name (Eusebius, Dem. evang. 3, 6, 2).

The term apomnemoneumata is roughly synonymous with hypomnemata (meaning 'notes' or 'rough draft,' connoting unfinished form, or 'commentary') but in the singular can mean 'book.'  Indeed for those who actually look at Eusebius's wording in the section on Hegesippus it is not exactly clear that hypomnemata is the actual title of the work or a description of the kind of work it was. As Otto Bardenhewer notes "on his return to his native land he wrote five books that Eusebius sometimes calls pente suggramata (HE 4.8.2) and again pente hypomnemata (HE 4.22.1; cf. 2.23.1). The latter title is used by Hegesippus himself (HE 2.23.3)."

Yet does Eusebius really make certain Hegesippus gave the name 'the hypomnemata' to his five volume work?  Let's look at the reference cited by Bardenhewer a little closer - viz. "Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his hypomnemata. He writes as follows ..." There is nothing in this citation which proves that hypomnemata was anything other than a description of its contents - i.e. that it was a commentary of some sort. This is even plainer in the only other reference of this kind is what appears in Book Four of Eusebius's Church History where he refers to "Hegesippus in the five books of hypomnemata which have come down to us ..." (HE 4.22.1)

The only other person who is almost universally regarded as also referencing this text is Epiphanius and in the sections where he is citing common material with Eusebius he refers to the work by a slightly different name. As Robert Lee Williams notes:

In the early twentieth century Lawlor compiled evidence that Epiphanius had preserved some information from Hegesippus that is not included by Eusebius but dovetails with Hegesippan material he has used. For example, at the point that Eusebius states that James entered the sanctuary, Epiphanius includes mention of his holding “priestly office” and wearing “the mitre” according to 'memoirs,' mnematismoi of Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria and 'others' (HE 2.23.6; Panarion 78.13). Furthermore, the Roman bishop list extends precisely to Anicetus in Epiphanius (Pan. 27.6), as Hegesippus states of his own according to Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 4.22.3). F. Stanley Jones, however, has recently questioned the claim that the “surplus material” on James, that found in Epiphanius but not Eusebius, came from a text of Hegesippus and wondered why Hegesippus, if used, was never named.

Indeed Lawlor, whose work we will cite rather extensively shortly, actually brings forward a number of other examples all of which when read in the proper context prove once and for all that this work being cited did not have the title 'hypomnemata.'

We have already demonstrated that Irenaeus was certainly using the same text when referencing 1 Clement in his Against Heresies only he attributes the letter to Polycarp. The 1 Clement was clearly in the original material for it is referenced twice by Eusebius - once already cited - and then again in Book Two of his Church History he throws out this "these things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement." Epiphanius makes reference to the same portion of the work but once again demonstrates that the text was not called 'the hypomnemata.' We read in Lawlor:

In Haer 27.6.1 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 memoirs' (en tisi hypomnematatismois). Epiphanius therefore did not quote Clement at first hand. From what source then did he take this excerpt? When we bear in mind that perhaps Hegesippus himself, and certainly Eusebius, called our Memoirs by the title hypomnemata and that the latter applies to them the cognate verb hypomnematizesthai, Lightfoot's suggestion that the same work is here designated by the word hypomnematismoi is very probable. And its probability is increased when we remember that Hegesippus certainly gave some account of Clement's Epistle in his Memoirs.

Lawlor brings many more examples like this but there are two things that escape his attention. The first is that hypomnemata cannot be the original title. It is rather a description of the type of work it was - a commentary drawing from many sources as it were - and more importantly it is highly unlikely that Hegesippus was the original author. The reason Epiphanius doesn't give a name is because he knows Irenaeus refers to the same work as being associated with Polycarp.

There are even more things that we need to correct from previous studies of these lost but critically important second century 'commentaries.' As Bardenhewer notes "though the fragments in Eusebius are mostly historical in character, it does not seem possible to reconcile his excerpts with the judgment of Jerome. according to which the work of Hegesippus resembled a history of the Church. It must have been more like a polemical treatise against Gnosticism, with the purpose of setting forth the evidence of ecclesiastical tradition particularly its close dependency on the uninterrupted episcopal succession."

Bardenhewer is at least partially correct in his assessment. Where he goes wrong of course is that he fails to note that there is a conflict between this portion of the hypomnemata and the rest of the material. For Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius and Epiphanius cite portions from the different parts of the original work which demonstrate that it was written in the year 147 CE. Yet this section which references 1 Clement and sounds oddly Irenaean dates from the time of Irenaeus (i.e. the reign of Eleutherius c. 171 - 185 CE).  We shall explain all of this in due course but the reader can already expect to find that the solution here will fit the pattern demonstrated with other ancient Church writings - viz. that original material was transformed in order to become the mouthpiece of our forger.

 We have now started to demonstrate that the work had no clear author, no clear title, nor even a clear purpose. Is there anything intelligent that we can say about these commentaries? Hegesippus's hypomnemata are always said to have been a collection of five books describing the history of the period from a Jewish-Christian perspective. The truth is that no scholar has been able to properly 'crack the code' for what this book was really about. Yet even with regards to Eusebius's testimony earlier that Irenaeus made reference to an apomnemoneumata - yet another variant of hypomnemata - in the name of an anonymous apostolic presbyter, it is impossible not to see that Irenaeus's 'unnamed presbyter' is our stranger. Charles Hill devoted his Lost Teachings of Polycarp to a successful proof that Polycarp was indeed Irenaeus's 'unnamed presbyter.'

Once we learn that Irenaeus's stranger wrote what ammounts to being a 'commentary' (apomnemoneumata) our initial suspicion that Irenaeus's introduces Polycarp as the real author of the episcopal list usually assigned to a hypomnemata associated with a certain Hegesippua seems to be well founded. Why then did Clement attribute the same text to a second century 'Josephus' and Eusebius a 'Hegesippus' from the same period? As difficult as it may sound to virgin ears at first listen, the only logical answer as we will see is that this hypomnemata was ultimately related to the production of the Jewish War literary tradition. Indeed it is well known that a five book Latin text extant in numerous medieval manuscripts under the title of De excidio urbis Hierosolymitanae (On the ruin of the city of Jerusalem) or Historiae (History) related to our familiar Jewish War of Josephus.

Of course right from the outset those who have superficially examined the Hegesippus tradition take great pains to point out that the Hegesippus who Eusebius identifies as a chronicler from the mid-second century can't be the same as the Hegesippus who wrote History. Why so? It is because the material cited by Eusebius's Hegesippus is related to Christianity while our Latin texts of History are written about Josephus, a first century Jew. Of course, this distinction rings hollow given the fact that no one denies that Hegesippus the author of History is also a Christian. Indeed most of the material cited by Eusebius in fact does have parallels with things found in variant manuscripts of the writings of Josephus - especially the narrative of the beheading of James the brother of Jesus. Moreover one of the hallmark of the Latin text of Hegesippus is to 'add' Christianized references to our familiar Josephan narrative.

To this end it might be useful to cite Louis Feldman's introduction to the subject of Hegesippus and the relationship between the two literary traditions:

The name Hegesippus is unfamiliar to most students of ancient or medieval literature ... Those familiar with the history of the early church may recognize it as the name of a mid-second-century Christian author cited several times by Eusebius. This Hegesippus wrote a five-book "memoir" of the church from apostolic times to the age of the Antonine emperors; only those fragments quoted by Eusebius survive. At some time between the fourth and early ninth centuries, however, the name Hegesippus becomes associated with the five-book "adaptation" of Josephus that is the subject of this study. The name Hegesippus was certainly not chosen by the author. It appears in no citation before the mid-ninth century. The medieval writers who cite him seem to have thought they were using the Hegesippus known to Eusebius. A number of manuscripts of the work contain a gloss to the effect that "Ambrosius episcopus de graeco transtulit. This assumption is understandable, though entirely unwarranted. The coincidence of five books in each work and the apocryphal stories of the apostles in the opening chapters of pseudo-Hegesippus' third book, combined with his overarching Christian viewpoint, seem sufficient to explain the association with the early Hegesippus.

The author's identity and the title of his work were lost, along with the first few folios of the oldest manuscripts, Ambrosianus C 105 inf. and Cassellanus, both of which date from the early sixth century.9 But a tenth-century Spanish manuscript, which is shown by a number of its readings to be a direct copy of Ambrosianus. bears the title De excidio Hierosolymitano. This title, or some variation, appears in several other codices as well." The editors of the Patrologia Latina (volume 15) used it, but but V. Ussani, the most recent editor, preferred the noncommittal Historiae libri v.

It should be noted that most scholars date the composition of the text to around 370 CE owing to clues within the narrative. One could argue however that this is rather only the handiwork of the copyist who has added references to recent events as part of his general sloppiness.

There is general agreement among scholars that the medieval copyists though that the five volumes of our surviving manuscripts of History were the hypomnemata cited by Eusebius. "Whoever he was, the author acquired the name of Hegesippus, variously spelled, by a confusion with a late second-century writer who is mentioned by Eusebius. This gave his work false prestige as that of a 'vicinus apostolorum.'" There is also agreement that the name 'Hegesippus' here is a corruption of 'Josephus' - we should even say deliberate corruption.

The question which stands before us now is whether the borrowings from a variant Josephan narrative which make their way into Luke and Acts which was likely written by Polycarp can have nothing to do with Irenaeus's report that Polycarp actively campaigned against Marcion and the Marcionites. The Gospel of Luke is clearly set up as the anti-Marcionite gospel. Was the development of the hypomnemata connected with Polycarp's alleged war against the Marcionites?  Could it be that the reason why the material was disguised is owing to the fact that it laid bare the underlying corrupt origins of the Catholic canon?

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