Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Against Polycarp [Part Seventeen]

So it is that we now approach the final destination in our journey.  We stand on the brink of rediscovering the original influence of Polycarp over the nascent Catholic Church that Irenaeus did his best to hide from us. It is not enough for us merely to say that Lucian's stranger is really Polycarp, Ignatius or Clement. The key to putting all the pieces together is to piece together a text that no longer exists - the hypomnemata which Eusebius wrongly associates with a certain 'Hegesippus.' Polycarp has to be the author of the text. It is implicit in the phraseology of Irenaeus immediately after he cites material from the work and this suspicion is confirmed by Eusebius's reference to Irenaeus employing a 'commentary' in the name of his anonymous 'apostolic presbyter' who Charles Hill clearly demonstrates is Polycarp.

Of course it has to be acknowledged that there is a minority opinion in scholarship that says that Irenaeus is not citing from the hypomnemata in Book Three. Pheme Perkins in her Peter, Apostle for the Whole Church argues that Irenaeus might be citing from a different tradition than Epiphanius because of a slight difference she sees in the start of the episcopal list. She begins:

in the mid-second century, Hegesippus drew up a list to guarantee transmission of true doctrine amid the claims of rival Gnostic groups (see Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 4.22). 16 Eusebius quotes a section of Hegesippus which indicates that he also catalogued Gnostic sects and Jewish sects opposed to Christianity. The principle of such catalogues was to show where they had deviated from the true faith. Eusebius has not preserved Hegesippus' list in complete form. His references to the succession of Roman bishops begin with Linus (Hist. Eccl. 3.13), not Peter. Other scholars prefer to reconstruct Hegesippus from a list in Epiphanius that ends with Anicetus (Panarion 27.6). Epiphanius' list refers to Peter and Paul jointly as the first bishops of Rome. However, the designation of both as "bishops" seems suspect. Irenaeus is more careful to designate Peter and Paul founders of the Roman church. Epiphanius may have adapted the list to the later conviction that the founders had been the first bishops. Irenaeus' list (Adv. Haer. 3.3.3) gives the first bishop, Linus, apostolic credentials by asserting that he is the Linus who appears among those sending greetings in 2 Timothy 4:21. The succession of twelve Roman bishops from Linus guarantees the transmission of the authentic tradition.

Yet Perkins analysis is fundamentally flawed. Irenaeus, Eusebius and Epiphanius have all been demonstrated to have been using the same original source and the idea that Irenaeus is somehow irreconcilably in conflict with Epiphanius is certainly an overstatement.

If we go back to Irenaeus's original citation of the hypomnemata he originally attributed to Polycarp we see that the specific names 'Peter and Paul' do come up as founders of the tradition of Rome. We read from the very beginning of chapter three of Book Three again:

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; 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; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere.

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric.

The best studies all acknowledge that the three Church Fathers are referencing the same material. Nevertheless there are examples of other scholars who feel uncomfortable 'working in dark' and base any degree of certainly on a text that no longer exists. So F F Bruce notes the citation above "is in keeping with early tradition which names Peter and Paul as founders not only of the church of Rome but also of the Roman succession of bishops" and cautiously puts forward that "Irenaeus's informant may have been Hegesippus." The point of course is that if the reports come from the same source, which they certainly do, the hypomnemata wrongly attributed to Hegesippus by Eusebius has to be the original text.

Indeed I want to draw the readers attention again to Irenaeus's opening words which imply that he could if he wanted cite the episcopal lists that Hegesippus apparently compiled in the same section but refrains from doing so. This seems to confirm a pattern that we are about to show in all the reports that the hypomnemata originally dealt with the Jerusalem Church, its founder James, an episcopal list detailing his successors and a brief note about some sectarian groups which sprung up in the early years of the Church. It is hard not to get the sense that this was certainly from Polycarp's own hand and that it was ultimately connected to the Paschal controversy he had with Anicetus. It was part of the stranger's defense arguing that he could not change his practices because he was only preserving the teachings associated with the queen of all churches - i.e. the Jerusalem Church. This document was the original basis for Irenaeus's statement that "for neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant." In other words, 'the tradition of John' was really for the stranger an argument for the primacy of the Jerusalem church.

Lawlor's reconstruction of this original text makes absolutely certain that at least part of this narrative is witnessed by Eusebius as occurring in the fifth and last book in the series. As we shall see here the account of James's beheading happens just before the account of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. The rest of the material about the episcopal line which followed and Imperial efforts to wipe out the line of these 'sons of David' and many other details must have concluded the original five volume work. It will be our supposition that Irenaeus extended the original narrative to include mention of Polycarp's journey from Syria to Corinth and his arrival and stay in Rome, his meeting with Anicetus, his stay until the reign of Eleutherius with specific mention of Rome, the episcopal line starting with Paul and Peter and ending with a lengthy discussion of Marcellina and the Carpocratian heresy.

It will be noted that Irenaeus's episcopal succession is about five or seven years off the Liberian catalogue (c. late fourth century) but this is easily explained given the anomalies of that list.  Every surviving list of Roman bishops that has come down to us has problems associated with it.  The Liberian catalogue for instance splits 'Cletus' and 'Anacletus' (the two different spelling of the same person cited in Irenaeus's and Epiphanius's list) into two separate people.  The fact that Pope 'Sixtus' happens to be the sixth in line of Peter is problematic too. But the point is that Epiphanius obvious recognized the problems with the original Roman list in the hypomnemata as he seems to intent on adding some years to Clement's tenure presumably to 'fill in a hole' in the succession which would 'correct' the original chronology from being 'off' five to ten years years the accepted dates.

So it is that Epiphanius says now that in spite of what he reads in this hypomnemata Clement 'must have' first accepted the post of bishop before Linus but then resigned and took it up later.  So it is immediately after making this formulation he says "in any case, the succession of the bishops at Rome runs in this order: Peter and Paul, Linus and Cletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Xystus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus, whom I mentioned above, on the list. And no one need be surprised at my listing each of the items so exactly; precise information is always given in this way."  In other words, the reference is very precise but ultimately inaccurate.  The inherent problems in the narrative undoubtedly account for why Epiphanius never cites the author nor the name of the original text.  It was cited by Irenaeus as authoritative so that proved its 'apostolic authority.'  Nevertheless, revealing too much about this book was problematic to say the least.

To this end, it is hardly an overstatement to say that it is of paramount importance for us reconstruct the original shape of the work as best we can.  If we do this successfully we will see quite clearly that 'Polycarp' was not the witness for the Roman tradition that Irenaeus claims in Book Three. As we shall see, this reference represents nothing short of a deliberate and ultimately dishonest attempt of Irenaeus to reconcile the historical stranger of Lucian with the Roman Church and fits within a nexus of material we have already brought forward. In other words, there were two layers to the original ending of the hypomnemata which must have clearly reflected differences in Polycarp's and Irenaeus's particular point of view.

Polycarp originally developed the hypomnemata in the name of Josephus to demonstrate that Christianity came out of the Jerusalem Church. In this text Christianity developed out of a 'Jewish repentance' for their forefathers madly rushing into war and not seeing that the truth about Jesus Christ. This is why James and the episcopal list associated with the Jerusalem Church was so important. It provided a historical context justifying the stranger's community as a 'church within the church' - a specifically Jewish-Christian community - which wanted to retain its practices owing to apostolic precedent rather than having to adapt itself to Roman customs and traditions.

Irenaeus by contrast employed the same hypomnemata to reinforce that Polycarp was not advocating Jerusalem primacy but was ultimately a witness for the antiquity and the authority of the Roman Church. This is exactly what Irenaeus meant when he introduces Polycarp to us in chapter three of Book Three just after citing episcopal list of his hypomnemata. Just look at the way he (a) introduces the Roman list and then (b) emphasizes that Polycarp's authority is apostolic:

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those [heretics] who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; 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; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops ... after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna ...

Polycarp is clearly Irenaeus's original source.  Indeed because scholars typically believe in Irenaeus's claims they fail to see that he has to present a witness who (a) the heretics could not reject was 'apostolic' and (b) whose testimony about a specifically Roman Church they could not refute.  Irenaeus is not merely saying that the actual episcopal order in Rome was apostolic but rather that the written source he was drawing from was apostolic - hence the description of Polycarp here as 'instructed by apostles,' but one who had been 'conversant' with apostles. In other words, the hypomnemata itself is of apostolic authority.

Now we as textual critics can immediately see the 'seem' where Irenaeus sewed together this Roman list on to a pre-existing document testifying to Jerusalem episcopal primacy. All the dates in the original narrative conform to its being written on the seventy seventh anniversary of the end of the Jewish war - i.e. 147 CE.  To this end as Turner noted already the Jerusalem line ends in the same year as the authors calculation of the distance between him and Moses the Patriarch.  Indeed Book Five of the hypomnemata must have ended with this context in mind for the Jerusalem Church seems to have died out with the reign of Judas.

When Irenaeus begins his discussion by saying I won't cite the episcopal list of other traditions, it is clearly because the original reference of the hypomnemata to the Jerusalem Church was problematic.  The heretics whom he refutes must have had copies of the original text which ended with Polycarp's original witness that he was the last witness for the Jerusalem community.  Irenaeus goes on to add the bit about Polycarp coming through Corinth and citing from the Letter of Clement before coming to Rome and witnessing not only Anicetus but also Soter and Eleutherius.  These details are very important for Irenaeus as they explicitly deny any connection between his master and the crazy 'stranger' who hung around the Olympic games every year and ultimately burned himself to death.  It also suggests that Polycarp knew and approved of the current bishop Eleutherius who undoubtedly hand-picked by Irenaeus's organization to perpetuate their version of his teaching.  Florinus and his 'Valentinian' followers undoubtedly only knew of the Jerusalem Church ending and undoubtedly had a very different opinion as to which community preserved the true teachings of their master.

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