Friday, November 19, 2010

Clement of Alexandria's Marcionite-Like Interest in the Title Χρηστὸς

I haven't managed to get all the references, but I have started to gather together many of the obvious references to the word χρηστὸς and related terms in the writings of Clement (I can't find a Greek text for the Instructor Book Three nor Quis Dives Salvetur).  Why am I attempting this?  Well, I think it is very important so let me start from the beginning.

We are about halfway through our demonstration that (a) Clement seems to have read the Apostolikon (the writings of Paul) in a Marcionite manner and (b) that the 'secret gospel' referenced in the Letter to Theodore seems already to be present in Book Five of the Stromateis.

The reason Clement's interest in the title χρηστὸς is so interesting is because we have suggested on more than one occassion that Alexandria was home to the Marcionites.  This is probably why the Marcionites had a 'letter to the Alexandrians' in their canon, and why Alexandria does not figure in any of the early Catholic histories of the Church. 

Clement and Origen were undoubtedly crypto-Marcionites, or perhaps better yet neo-Marcionites (i.e. attempting to shield or adapt the original Marcionite beliefs of Alexandria to 'fit' the emerging universal Church in the world outside of Egypt).  It would stand to reason that if my thesis was correct that Clement would have some 'hidden' interest in the title χρηστὸς because we know that this must have been the Marcionite title of Jesus. 

It's getting late but I wanted to stress how 'flukey' our knowledge of this detail about the Marcionite religion really is.  If it wasn't for the fact that scholars happened to stumble upon an ancient inscription dated to 318 CE from a Marcionite chuch near Damascus, we would never have known that χρηστὸς (i.e. the 'good,' the 'kind') was the title of Jesus in that religion.  None of our patristic sources mention this fact.

This fact  alone should make us very cautious about limiting ourselves to what the Church Fathers say about Marcion and the Marcionites.  Of course once we know this detail all the little statements from people like Irenaeus, Tertullian and Ephrem start to make sense, especially when they say that the Marcionites refused to call Jesus 'Christ.'  Nevertheless there is certainly a lot they aren't telling us. 

I think Clement's references to χρηστὸς are very interesting precisely because no Church Father comes out and says that this is the heretical title of Jesus.  Clement seems to flirt with the title, yet he is very cautious.  He will never come out and say that this is the Alexandrian title.  Instead it is interesting to note that he repeatedly cites scripture which reference χρηστὸς as a title of Jesus.  The most common is 1 Peter 2.1 - 3 but it is worth noting that at least once he references the words as belonging to Paul rather than Peter.

I should mention one more thing to my readers.  The earliest surviving New Testament manuscripts do not distinguish between Χριστὸς ('the anointed one') and Χρηστὸς ('the good one').  This because of their use of what are called nomina sacra.  Instead of either word appearing in full, only the first and last letters appear in the manuscripts, so we read instead ΧΣ.  It is now impossible to tell which one of the two titles were used.  This may have been the whole purpose in writing this way in the first place. 

In any event, I will continue to edit these citations down to only the most interesting referencs.  But here are most of the references to χρηστὸς that caught my eye in the writings of Clement I had access to:

Wherefore also Peter says: "Laying therefore aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisy, and envy, and evil speaking, as new-born babes, desire the milk of the word, that ye may grow by it to salvation; if ye have tasted that the Lord is Chrestos." (ὅτι χρηστὸς ὁ κύριος)." [Paed. 1.6]

The Lord, accordingly, does not wish to look on evil things; for He is good (ἀγαθὸς). But on His looking away, evil arises spontaneously through human unbelief. "Behold, therefore," says Paul, "the goodness (χρηστότητα) and severity of God: on them that fell severity; but upon thee, goodness (χρηστότητα), if thou continue in His goodness (χρηστότητι)," that is, in faith in Christ. [Paed. 1.8]

Now, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus is good (ἀγαθὸς), the Word Himself will again avouch: "For He is kind (χρηστός) to the unthankful and the evil;" and further, when He says," Be merciful, as your Father is merciful." Still further also He plainly says, "None is good (ἀγαθὸς), but My Father, who is in heaven." In addition to these, again He says, "My Father makes His sun to shine on all." Here it is to be noted that He proclaims His Father to be good, and to be the Creator. [ibid]

Thus He [David] knew that they turned for fear, while they despised His love: for, for the most part, that goodness which is always mild is despised (τὸ ἀγαθὸν χρηστευόμενον ἀεί); but He who admonishes by the loving fear of righteousness is reverenced. [ibid 1.9]

Nor is the cast and character of the life He enjoins very formidable; nor is it made altogether easy by reason of His benignity (χρηστότητος). He enjoins His commands, and at the same time gives them such a character that they may be accomplished. [ibid 1.12]

And as a similar rule holds with regard to hearing and seeing in the case of what is obscene, the divine Instructor, following the same course with both, arrays those children who are engaged in the struggle in words of modesty, as ear-guards, so that the pulsation of fornication may not penetrate to the bruising of the soul; and He directs the eyes to the sight of what is honourable, saying that it is better to make a slip with the feet than with the eyes. This filthy speaking the apostle beats off, saying, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good." [ibid 2.6]

Thus speaks the apostolic Scripture: "But after that the kindness (χρηστότης) and love of God our saviour to man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us."  Behold the might of the new song! It has made men out of stones, men out of beasts. Those, moreover, that were as dead, not being partakers of the true life, have come to life again, simply by becoming listeners to this song [Exhort. 1]

But are ye so devoid of fear, or rather of faith, as not to believe the Lord Himself, or Paul, who in Christ's stead thus entreats: "Taste and see that Chrestos is God? (χρηστὸς ὁ θεός)" [Exhort. 9]

For no hindrance stands in the way of him who is bent on the knowledge of God. Neither childlessness, nor poverty, nor obscurity, nor want, can hinder him who eagerly strives after the knowledge of God; nor does any one who has conquered by brass or iron the true wisdom for himself choose to exchange it, for it is vastly preferred to everything else. Chrestos is able to save in every place (ὁ χρηστός ἐστι πανταχοῦ σωτήριος). [Exhort. 10]

You were boys, then striplings, then youths, then men, but never as yet were you good (χρηστοὶ). [ibid 11]

Good (χρηστός) is the whole life of those who have known Christ. [ibid 12]

This, I think, is signified by the utterance of the Saviour, "The foxes have holes, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." For on the believer alone, who is separated entirely from the rest, who by the Scripture are called wild beasts, rests the head of the universe, the kind and gentle Word (ὁ χρηστὸς καὶ ἥμερος λόγος), "who taketh the wise in their own craftiness. For the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they axe vain" [Str. 1.3]

For the discourse which consists of demonstrations, implants in the spirit of him who follows it, clear faith; so that he cannot conceive of that which is demonstrated being different; and so it does not allow us to succumb to those who assail us by fraud. In such studies, therefore, the soul is purged from sensible things, and is excited, so as to be able to see truth distinctly. For nutriment, and the training which is maintained gentle (χρηστὴ), make noble natures; and noble natures, when they have received such training, become still better (χρησταὶ) than before both in other respects, but especially in productiveness, as is the case with the other creatures. [ibid 1.6]

And the law is not what is decided by law (for what is seen is not vision), nor every opinion (not certainly what is evil). But law is the opinion which is good, and what is good is that which is true, and what is true is that which finds "true being," and attains to it. (ἀλλὰ νόμος ἐστὶ χρηστὴ δόξα, χρηστὴ δὲ ἡ ἀληθής, ἀληθὴς δὲ ἡ τὸ ὂν εὑρίσκουσα καὶ τούτου τυγχάνουσα) "He who is," says Moses, "sent me." In accordance with which, namely, good opinion (χρηστῇ δόξῃ), some have called law, right reason, which enjoins what is to be done and forbids what is not to be done. [ibid 1.25]

Now Moses, to speak comprehensively, was a living law, governed by the benign Word (Μωυσῆς δὲ συνελόντι εἰπεῖν νόμος ἔμψυχος ἦν τῷ χρηστῷ λόγῳ κυβερνώμενος). Accordingly, he furnished a good polity, which is the right discipline of men in social life. [ibid 1.26]

Those they [i.e. the heretics] have stolen are to be pointed out, that we may thereby pull down their conceit; and of those on the discovery of which through investigation they plume themselves, the refutation will be furnished. By consequence, also we must treat of what is called the curriculum of study -- how far it is useful (εὔχρηστος) and of astrology, and mathematics, and magic, and sorcery. [ibid 2.1]

In The Statesman he says expressly, "So that the knowledge of the true king is kingly; and he who possesses it, whether a prince or private person, shall by all means, in consequence of this act, be rightly styled royal." Now those who have believed in Christ both are and are called Chrestoi, as those who are cared for by the true king are kingly.(Αὐτίκα οἱ εἰς τὸν Χριστὸν πεπιστευκότες χρηστοί τε εἰσὶ καὶ λέγονται, ὡς τῷ ὄντι βασιλικοὶ οἱ βασιλεῖ μεμελημένοι) [ibid 2.4]

And it is not the rendering of one accomplished in good habits of conduct, but the knowing how we are to use and act and labour, according as one is assimilated to God (ὡς χρηστέον καὶ ποιητέον, [καὶ] συνεκπονητέον, καθὸ καὶ ὁμοιοῦταί τις θεῷ). [ibid 2.9]

For God, the author and the dispenser of such grace, takes as suitable usury the most precious things to be found among men -- mildness, gentleness, magnanimity, reputation, renown. (ἡμερότητα, χρηστότητα, μεγαλόνοιαν, εὐφημίαν, εὔκλειαν) [ibid 2.18]

How, then, can it be maintained that the law is not humane (χρηστὸς), and the teacher of righteousness? Again, in the fiftieth year, it ordered the same things to be performed as in the seventh; besides restoring to each one his own land, if from any circumstance he had parted with it in the meantime [ibid]

Does the law then which conducts to Christ appear humane and mild (χρηστὸς)? And does not the same God, good, while characterized by righteousness from the beginning to the end, employ each kind suitably in order to salvation? "Be merciful," says the Lord, "that you may receive mercy; forgive, that you may be forgiven. As ye do, so shall it be done to you; as ye give, so shall it be given to you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye show kindness (χρηστεύεσθε), so shall kindness (χρηστευθήσεται) be shown to you: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." [ibid]

Let the Greeks, then, feel ashamed, and whoever else inveighs against the law; since it shows mildness in the case of the irrational creatures (καὶ ἐπ´ ἀλόγων ζῴων χρηστεύεται), while they expose the offspring of men though long ago and prophetically, the law, in the above-mentioned commandment, threw a check in the way of their cruelty. [ibid]

Again, the humane law (ὁ χρηστὸς νόμος) forbids slaying the offspring and the dam together on the same day [ibid]

Thus also it has extended its clemency to the irrational creatures (ἀλόγων ζῴων); that from the exercise of humanity (χρησώμεθα) in the case of creatures of different species, we might practise among those of the same species a large abundance of it. [ibid]

But the benignant account (ὁ χρηστὸς λόγος), abounding in humanity, teaches that neither is it right to cut down cultivated trees, or to cut down the grain before the harvest, for mischiefs sake [ibid]

For He Himself has said, "I will neyer leave thee, nor forsake thee," as having judged thee worthy according to the true election. Thus, then, while we attempt piously to advance, we shall have put on us the mild yoke of the Lord (ὁ χρηστὸς τοῦ κυρίου ζυγός) from faith to faith, one charioteer driving each of us onward to salvation, that the meet fruit of beatitude may be won. [ibid 2.20]

Thus they are in opposition to their Maker and hasten towards him who is called the good God (πρὸς τὸν κεκληκότα ἀγαθόν), but not to the God, as they say, of the other kind (θεὸν ἐν ἄλλῳ τρόπῳ). As they wish to leave nothing of their own behind them on this earth, they are continent, not of their own free choice, but from hatred of the Creator, being unwilling to use what he has made. But these [Marcionite] folk, who in their blasphemous fight against God have abandoned natural reasoning, and despise the long-suffering and goodness of God (καὶ χρηστότητος τοῦ θεοῦ), even if they do not wish to marry, use the food made by the Creator and breathe his air; for they are his works and dwell in his world. [ibid 3.3]

We were saying that from a dislike of its inconveniences the Greeks (δὲ τὴν δυσχρηστίαν ὑφορωμένους Ἕλληνας) have made many adverse observations about the birth of children, and that the Marcionites have interpreted them in a godless sense and are ungrateful to their Creator. For the tragedy says: "For mortals it is better not to be born than to be born; Children I bring to birth with bitter pains; And then when I have borne them they lack understanding.  In vain I groan, that I must look on wicked offspring while I lose the good (χρηστοὺς). If the good survive, My wretched heart is melted by alarm. What is this goodness (χρηστόν) then? Is it not enough That I should care for one alone and bear the pain for this one soul?" [ibid]

It is therefore necessary to learn how to make use of every occurrence, so as by a good life (χρηστέον), according to knowledge, to be trained for the state of eternal life. [ibid 4.6]

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness, meekness (χρηστότητα), long-suffering. And above all these, love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be thankful," ye who, while still in the body, like the just men of old, enjoy impassibility and tranquillity of soul. [ibid 4.7]

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornication uncleanness, profligacy, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, strifes, jealousies, wrath, contentions, dissensions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I tell you before, as I have also said before, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness (χρηστότης), temperance, goodness, faith, meekness ." He calls sinners, as I think, "flesh," and the righteous "spirit." [ibid 4.8]

And the earthly Church is the image of the heavenly, as we pray also "that the will of God may be done upon the earth as in heaven." "Putting on, therefore, bowels of mercy, gentleness (χρηστότητα), humbleness, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if one have a quarrel against any man; as also Christ hath forgiven us, so also let us. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which ye are called in one body; and be thankful." For there is no obstacle to adducing frequently the same Scripture in order to put Marcion to the blush, if perchance he be persuaded and converted [ibid]

Basilides, in the twenty-third book of the Exegetics, respecting those that are punished by martyrdom, expresses himself in the following language: "For I say this, Whosoever fall under the afflictions mentioned, in consequence of unconsciously transgressing in other matters, are brought to this good end
(τὸ ἀγαθόν) by the kindness (χρηστότητι) of Him who brings them [ibid 4.12]

But we say that the things of the world are not our own, not as if they were monstrous, not as if they did not belong to God, the Lord of the universe, but because we do not continue among them for ever; being, in respect of possession, not ours, and passing from one to another in succession; but belonging to us, for whom they were made in respect of use, so long as it is necessary to continue with them. In accordance, therefore, with natural appetite, things disallowed are to be used rightly (χρηστέον), avoiding all excess and inordinate affection. [ibid 4.13]

How great also is benignity (χρηστότης)! "Love your enemies," it is said, "bless them who curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you," and the like; to which it is added, "that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven," in allusion to resemblance to God. [ibid 4.14]

"Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as the rest of the apostles, as the brethren of the Lord and Cephas? But we have not used (ἐχρησάμεθα) this power," he says, "but bear all things, lest we should occasion hindrance to the Gospel of Christ;" [ibid 4.15]

But now in the Gospel the Gnostic attains proficiency not only by making use (χρησάμενος) of the law as a step, but by understanding and comprehending it, as the Lord who gave the Covenants delivered it to the apostles. And if he conduct himself rightly as assuredly it is impossible to attain knowledge (gnosis) by bad conduct); and if, further, having made an eminently right confession, he become a martyr out of love, obtaining considerable renown as among men; not even thus will he be called perfect in the flesh beforehand; since it is the close of life which claims this appellation, when the gnostic martyr has first shown the perfect work (τὸ τέλειον ἔργον), and rightly exhibited it, and having thankfully shed his blood, has yielded up the ghost: blessed then will he be, and truly proclaimed perfect, "that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us," as the apostle says. [ibid 4.21]

For those who strive after perfection, according to the same apostle, must "give no offence in anything, but in everything approve themselves not to men, but to God." And, as a consequence, also they ought to yield to men; for it is reasonable, on account of abusive calumnies: Here is the specification: "in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, in pureness, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness (χρηστότητι), in the Holy Ghost, in love unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God," that we may be the temples of God, purified "from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit." [ibid]

But we desire to learn about the man who is always and in all things righteous; who, neither dreading the penalty proceeding from the law, nor fearing to entertain hatred of evil in the case of those who live with him and who prosecute the injured, nor dreading danger at the hands of those who do wrong, remains righteous. For he who, on account of these considerations, abstains from anything wrong, is not voluntarily kind (χρηστός), but is good from fear (φόβῳ δὲ ἀγαθός). Even Epicurus says, that the man who in his estimation was wise, "would not do wrong to any one for the sake of gain; for he could not persuade himself that he would escape detection." So that, if he knew he would not be detected, he would, according to him, do evil. And such are the doctrines of darkness. If, too, one shall abstain from doing wrong from hope of the recompense given by God on account of righteous deeds, he is not on this supposition spontaneously good (χρηστεύσεται). [ibid 4.22]

For it is not in the food of the belly, that we have heard good (χρηστὸν) to be situated [ibid]

For the account of the Father of the universe is the uttered one, but the wisdom and most manifest kindness of God, and His power too (καὶ χρηστότης φανερωτάτη τοῦ θεοῦ δύναμίς), which is almighty and truly divine, and not incapable of being conceived by those who do not confess -- the all-potent will. But since some are unbelieving, and some are disputations, all do not attain to the perfection of the good. [ibid 5.1]

If, then, "the milk" is said by the apostle to belong to the babes, and "meat" to be the food of the full-grown, milk will be understood to be catechetical instruction -- the first food, as it were, of the soul. And meat is the mystic contemplation; for this is the flesh and the blood of the Word, that is, the comprehension of the divine power and essence. "Taste and see that the Lord is χρηστός," it is said. For so He imparts of Himself to those who partake of such food in a more spiritual manner; when now the soul nourishes itself, according to the truth-loving Plato. For the knowledge of the divine essence is the meat and drink of the divine Word. [ibid 5.10]

Now Moses, describing allegorically the divine prudence, called it the tree of life planted in Paradise; which Paradise may be the world in which all things proceeding from creation grow. In it also the Word blossomed and bore fruit, being "made flesh," and gave life to those "who had tasted of His graciousness (χρηστότητος)" since it was not without the wood of the tree that He came to our knowledge. For our life was hung on it, in order that we might believe. [ibid 5.11]

A figure, then, is a form of speech transferred from what is literal to what is not literal, for the sake of the composition, and on account of a diction useful in speech (τῷ λόγῳ εὐχρηστίας χάριν). [ibid 6.15]

For it is not that we may seem good (χρηστοί) that we believe in Christ, as it is not alone for the purpose of being seen, while in the sun, that we pass into the sun. But in the one case for the purpose of being warmed; and in the other, we are compelled to be Christians in order to be excellent and good. [ibid 6.17]

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