Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Against Polycarp [Part Fourteen]

Why was Irenaeus's invention of 'Clement of Rome' necessary? What overriding purpose did it serve? These are most important questions for us to answer as they will lead us to the inner sanctum of a most ancient mystery that has yet to be completely comprehended..

It was easy to explain the development of Ignatius - Irenaeus was reacting to the popularity of Lucian's Death of Peregrinus in higher circles. He didn't want his new religion to end up being the but of endless jokes at the Imperial court. If this new Catholic tradition was going to be taken seriously it couldn't be seen to have developed solely from the imagination of a demented man.  Yet to answer the question of 'why Clement of Rome' demands that we continue to probe into the details of Polycarp's visit to Rome in 153 CE. Are we prepared to admit that in his day, Polycarp was not liked by the church in the Imperial capitol? Are we ready to acknowledge that Anicetus and the old guard in the Rome resented his presence in their see and wished for him to go away like some faded historical novelty?

Irenaeus would certainly make sure that this would never happen of course.  But it is difficult to avoid seeing that our stranger and his tradition could only conquer the city if he was made to seem more conservative, even more Roman.  Hence the ultimate reason for the birth of 'Clement of Rome.'

Let's not forget that 'Clement,' like 'Ignatius,' was created out of Polycarp's rib.  Yet we can only see the reason for the development of this literary phenomenon if we focus on the remnant of the historical opposition to Polycarp in the city.

It should by now be absolutely clear that in the period that followed his original appearance in the city in 153 CE the movement that grew around Polycarp eventually developed into a second Church.  Perhaps one could even say - a church within a church.  In this city and the cities and towns of Asia Minor, Syria and even in Egypt there was a rapidly growing spiritual tradition that seemed to be guided by Irenaeus's hand.  He did not inherit the reigns of power within the organization unchallenged of course.  We have already seen that he faced a serious challenge for at least other Imperial courtier who claimed to have a more 'authoritative witness' to the legacy of our stranger.

How did Irenaeus overcome Florinus and other members of the so-called 'Valentinian sect'?  He literally demonized their tradition.  Irenaeus wrote a manual for bishops and overseers within the Church to help identify and 'kill' those 'clever foxes' who claimed to be 'gnostics like Polycarp.'  It was for this purpose that the Detection and Overthrow of So-Called Knowledge Falsely So-Called (and which is typically referenced as 'Against Heresies') was written as the concluding chapter of Book One explicitly declares.

So it was that Irenaeus came to the Imperial court, one of many rivals claiming to have his hand on the pulse of this rapidly growing movement.  Irenaeus managed to prove that he had control of the tradition.  He outfoxed the foxes, and succeeded in rebaptizing 'Polycarp' as exclusive property of the Catholic Church.  Polycarp only managed to be linked to the Roman tradition through the development of a report about the conversion to Judaism of a member of the Flavian Imperial family into a vague reminiscence of a conversion to Christianity.  That historical individual was named 'Titus Flavius Clemens.'

Yet as this understanding is never explicitly laid out by Irenaeus, not everyone in Rome was necessarily convinced of Polycarp's 'Romanness.'

We will eventually develop the connection of Polycarp with the heretical tradition beyond Florinus, but for now it is enough to say that Polycarp and his Johannine tradition was not initially welcomed by members of the Roman establishment. The clearest remnant of this original hostility is the testimony of a Roman presbyter named Gaius who rejected all aspects of the literary tradition associated with John. While Eusebius places Gaius at the beginning of the third century, he must also have been active in a much earlier period too.

It is worth noting that the same Roman enemies of the Johannine tradition tradition of Asia Minor just happened to also be lined up against an unbridled contemporary form of Christian enthusiasm from Asia Minor. It is hard to argue that Gaius for one did not think that one followed from the other.  In other word, that the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse of John were 'fakes' developed from charismatic charlatans like Lucian's stranger. Indeed we should listen carefully as Irenaeus describes those who "frustrate the gift of the spirit which in recent times has been poured out upon humankind by the good pleasure of the father, do not admit that aspect which is according to the gospel of John, in which the Lord promised that he would send the paraclete, but simultaneously put away both the gospel and the prophetic spirit."  While Gaius is unnamed, Irenaeus clearly has him in mind.

The important thing for us to see is that Polycarp's conflict with Anicetus is not isolated.  There are other unmistakable signs that Polycarp was disliked by the Roman Church establishment.  It was only Irenaeus who smoothed over these difficulties with the invention of 'Clement of Rome.'  So it was that Irenaeus was familiar with the account of the Flavius Clemens in the historical account of Dio 'the golden mouthed' philosopher (40 - 120 CE). It was Dio who made it clear that an accusation had been made against this member of the Imperial household for converting to Judaism.

Titus Flavius Clemens was a great-nephew of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. He was the son of Titus Flavius Sabinus (consul 69), brother to Titus Flavius Sabinus (consul 82) and a second cousin to Roman Emperors to Titus and Domitian. Clemens married Flavia Domitilla (Vespasian's granddaughter). They had two sons, both Titus Flavius, born ca. 88 and ca. 90, who were educated by Quintilian and according to the On the Life of the Caesars, Domitian "openly named them, whilst they were very young, as his successors, changing their former names and calling the one Vespasian and the other Domitian". Clemens and his wife were accused of "atheism" and "drifting into Jewish ways" (Dio 67.14.1-3) and, as a result, Clemens was executed and his wife exiled.

Some scholars have argued that these two had drifted toward Christianity rather than Judaism, but this is was clearly developed under the influence of Irenaeus's innuendo. Eusebius refers to a Domitilla who was the niece of Flavius Clemens and who was exiled under Domitian "as a testimony to Christ" (Hist. eccl. 3.18.4). Yet it seems far more likely that Irenaeus knew the story from Dio about a convert from Judaism - say its potential as a 'martyr narrative' and then reworked some literary works of Lucian's stranger in the name of our 'St. Clement' of Rome.

There are very good reasons for believing that Irenaeus simply adapted a story of Jewish conversion into a Christian one. There are good circumstantial reasons based on archaeology alone.  In the second century, for instance, the cemetery of Domitilla became a Christian burial place (catacomb) but it is rather strange that the Domitilla chapel here is arranged on a Jewish pattern. The property associated with the Clemens family seems to have been very early been extended and converted into a church, acquiring the adjoining insula and other nearby buildings. The central nave lay over the former home, with the apse approximately over the former mithraeum. This "first basilica" is known to have existed in 392, when St. Jerome wrote of the church dedicated to St. Clement.

While none of the surviving writings of Irenaeus make the explicit connection that 'Clement' was this 'Flavius Clement' it is clear that he goes out of his way to date the author of 1 Clement to the exact period when the well known figure of the same name was executed. Already in the late second and third centuries the Clementine Literature makes the connection explicit and parts of this fictional tale were eventually incorporated into the official Roman catalogue of Popes.  So it would be hard not to assume given all that we have seen that Irenaeus deliberately went out of his way to pick an important person from the past who might serve as some witness to connect Polycarp to the original Roman apostolic roots of the Church.

 It is worth reminding ourselves again Taley's astute observation that Irenaeus fails to provide an apostolic foundation for Anicetus's Easter tradition - "for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him." In other words, those who opposed Polycarp in Rome only had the authority of 'presbyters' while Irenaeus speaks of Polycarp as having 'apostolic' roots for his understanding "these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant." What other 'apostles' is Polycarp ever associated with? The only one is Clement who identified as 'the apostle Clement' on many occasions (Strom 4.17 etc).

To this end one can begin to see how Irenaeus already establishes a framework where Polycarp and Clement ultimately stand above the later 'presbyters' of Rome. That Clement would naturally have been thought to have embraced Polycarp's preservation of a specifically Jewish Pascha would only be natural from Dio's statement about Flavius Clemens's original Jewish leanings. To this end one can already begin to see how the claim that Flavius Clemens was the author of a text which actually came from the hand of 'Polycarp' would serve as the pretext for the complete reform of Roman Christianity. After all, as we shall see shortly - Polycarp's witness was taken to be that of 'the apostles' - not just John's -  but Clement, Peter and Paul's too. The later 'presbyters of Rome simply didn't have the same stature in Irenaeus's mind and the point would not have been lost on the Catholic laity.

We will proceed to take a careful look at Irenaeus's only reference to Clement and the manner in which Polycarp was brought in to support his authority in a matter of moments. For the moment, it might be worth taking a look at some very good reasons to think that Irenaeus deliberately reworked 1 Clement into a bold statement of Roman apostolic faith.  Lightfoot rightly notes that Clement "is not once named" in the main body of the text but that:

the first person plural is maintained throughout, "We consider," "We have sent." Accordingly, writers of the second century speak of it as a letter from the community, not from the individual. Thus Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, writing to the Romans about ad i 70, refers to it as the epistle ' which you wrote to us by Clement (Euseb. H.E. iv 23)'; and Irenaeus soon afterwards similarly describes it, ' In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very adequate letter to the Corinthians urging them to peace (AH iii.3.1). Even later than this, Clement of Alexandria calls it in one passage 'the Epistle of the Romans to the Corinthians' {Strom, v. 12, p.), though elsewhere he ascribes it to Clement. Still it might have been expected that somewhere towards the close mention would have been made (though in the third person) of the famous man who was at once the actual writer of the letter and the chief ruler of the Church in whose name it was written ... [Yet] we see that his existence is not once hinted at from beginning to end. The name and personality of Clement are absorbed in the Church of which he is the spokesman.

Indeed given all that we know about Irenaeus's falsification efforts, can one really say that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that Irenaeus manufactured this text for the purpose just described - i.e. taking yet another letter originally associated with our stranger and reworking it to reflect how ultimately compatible his master's message was with the original apostolic Church of Rome.

The point here is that we must praise Irenaeus's cunning.  It was his ingenious handiwork that took a letter originally written by an enemy of the Roman tradition and then subtly 're-baptizing it' as a letter expressing what was eternally Roman.  So it was that he made absolutely explicit that Polycarp's beliefs were at one time 'the voice of the Roman establishment.'  Did Gaius believe that this letter was authentic?  It is difficult to say with any certainty.  What is certain however is that Irenaeus witnesses Clement's authority by referencing Polycarp in a way which opens the way for us to rediscover yet another lost text of Polycarp.

In the third chapter of Book Three of Against Heresies in what will eventually be Irenaeus's only reference to Clement, the disciple of Polycarp emphasizes that Polycarp is the lynch pin to all things apostolic.  He not only testifies to the authority of John but also that of Clement in a section so important for us we will cite it in its entirety:

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 [by pointing out] 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 [faithful men] 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. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter 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, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,--a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,--that, namely, which is handed down by the Church.
There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan." Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, "A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."  There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles. [AH 3.3.4]

Almost every scholar who has ever studied this emboldened section of Irenaeus's testimony above with a work attributed by Eusebius to a man named 'Hegesippus' who like Polycarp came to Rome around the time of Anicetus's reign. Yet it doesn't make sense.  The material itself suggests that Irenaeus's attributed Polycarp as the original source.

Indeed lets look again at the manner in which Irenaeus's argument unfolds in the emboldened section just cited above:
  1. Irenaeus begins by saying something that there is this fellow Clement that everyone should be acquainted with.
  2. then Irenaeus cites the work of Hegesippus but does not name him (this work also just happens to summarize 1 Clement and then moves on to a list of the bishops of Rome - see below). 
  3. then Irenaeus brings forward the witness of Polycarp as if the last citation should be believed and treasured as it proves the ancientness of the Catholic tradition - " ... but Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ ..."
The question before us now is whether Polycarp is just named here as someone thrown into the discussion to compliment Clement's status as a companion of the apostles or does Irenaeus think that Polycarp wrote the work from which he drew the list of Roman apostolic succession?

Eusebius identifies this original work cited by Irenaeus as 'the hypomnemata' which translates properly to commentary (not 'memoirs' as we shall see later). Eusebius cites the material as follows:

His words are as follows: “And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus, for it was while Hegesippus was on his way to Rome that he saw Primus; and since he remained in Rome until the accession of Anicetus he must have arrived there while Pius, Anicetus’ predecessor, was bishop, for having gone to Rome on a visit, he can hardly have remained there a number of years. was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine. And when I had come to Rome I remained there until Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherus. In every succession, and in every city that is held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord.

It is uncanny how closely Irenaeus's material resembles this hypomnemata and this understanding must by nature change our whole understanding of the development of documents within the Church.

As Francis Hitchcock notes "the list of early Roman bishops which Irenaeus gives may possibly have been founded on the work of Hegesippus. Hegesippus was an older contemporary of Irenaeus. Eusebius quotes from his Memoirs, in which he states that he made a voyage to Rome, and when there, "made a list of the succession down to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus." He (presumably Hegesippus) then adds: And to Anicetus succeeds Soter, after whom Eleutherus." Anicetus was bishop AD 156 — 167, and Eleutherus AD 175 — 189. It is a remarkable coincidence that both lists conclude with Eleutherus, and that the verb diadechetai 'succeeds,' is used of Soter by Hegesippus, and its participle diadechomenon succeeding, by Irenaeus, who had used no verb with his three predecessors, Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus." The great German historian of the Church, Hans von von Campenhausen similarly chimes in by saying "fifteen to twenty years after Hegesippus, Irenaeus was in Rome, and became acquainted with the list of bishops which he then incorporated into his anti-gnostic work." And Everett Ferguson argues that it "seemed likely" that "Irenaeus was influenced by Hegesippus."

But we will argue that the natural order in Irenaeus's argument makes it very likely that Irenaeus originally claimed that Polycarp wrote the hypomnemata. Eusebius must have wrongly attributed the text to some named 'Hegesippus.'  Only Eusebius so names this source.  Epiphanius doesn't mention any name at all and Clement of Alexandria calls him 'Josephus' as we shall soon see.  As such it seems hard to believe that Irenaeus would cite from the witness of one man's book on the apostolic succession in various cities and then go one not to name the individual but explicitly witness the unrelated testimony of another writer completely.  Irenaeus knew that this lost historical 'commentary' was actually written by Polycarp and has the potential to blow the lid off our knowledge of the early Church.

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