Monday, June 6, 2011

The Making of Irenaeus's Against Heresies Book One [Part One]

As many of you know I had a thing for exotic dancers before I got married. It wasn't just a sexual thing. I inherited an interest in celebrity gawking from my wife (then girlfriend and certainly not a stripper) and attractive exotic dancers always have plenty of run ins with celebrities. In any event, I think I ended up transferring that interest in celebrity to academics.

When I had my first book the Real Messiah come out last year I did everything I could to secure real 'celebrity' reviews of the work. I had at least a dozen big name scholars write something positive about this silly book. The publisher end up using none of the endorsements because they didn't share my equation of celebrity with academia. They thought the list only made the book look boring and difficult to read.

In any event the one other thing that my efforts did manage to secure me was a negative review from one of my absolute favorite scholars in the world - Birger Pearson. I have absolutely no hard feelings about him publishing what follows in Religious Studies Review. It was my first brush with celebrity as I see now it:

By Stephan Huller. London: Watkins Publishing, 2009.
Pp. xii + 274. £16.99.

One of the art treasures preserved in the Basilica San Marco in Venice is a miniature alabaster throne decorated on all surfaces with carvings of symbolic import. A Hebrew inscription on the front identifies it as “the seat of Mark and Evangelist of Alexandria.” In this book Huller uses the symbolism on the throne to construct a revised history of early Christianity. He argues, among other things, that the throne was made for the enthronement of the nine-year-old Marcus Julius Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II) in Alexandria in 38 CE as the Jewish and Samaritan Messiah. He had been arrested with Jesus in the previous year, and was the “Barabbas” released by Pilate. Jesus had never claimed to be the Messiah, only the Messiah’s forerunner. His sacrificial crucifixion allowed little Marcus to claim his messianic throne. In Alexandria, with the help of Philo, Marcus Agrippa created a new Jewish mystery religion designed to appeal to Gentiles. Around the time of the destruction of the Temple Marcus Agrippa wrote the original Gospel of Mark, which Irenaeus turned into the four canonical gospels in the interests of Roman Christianity, at the behest of the Roman Emperor. The original religion created by Marcus Agrippa in Alexandria was replaced by Roman Christianity by Bishop Demetrius, and all traces of the original Alexandrian Christianity were expunged. Marcus Agrippa is not only equated with Mark the Evangelist but also Marcion, Marcus the “magus” refuted by Irenaeus, and the Samaritan Marqe. The throne symbolism found on the throne is said to have inspired the throne visions in the Book of Revelation. In constructing this history of early Christianity Huller impugns the two most important witnesses to first-century Judaism, Philo and Josephus, and completely misreads patristic, rabbinic, and other evidence. Nevertheless, his book is interesting, and invites further study of the miniature alabaster throne of St. Mark in Venice.

Birger A. Pearson
University of California, Santa Barbara

All of this acts as a segue to one central point which is critical to our study of a historical context for Secret Mark and the Letter to Theodore. Birger Pearson and practically every other scholars who has ever studied Irenaeus's Against Heresies hasn't connected the Marcosians (= 'those of Mark') with the Alexandrian tradition of Clement of Alexandria developed around St. Mark.

Let's forget the rest of the Real Messiah for a moment. My beliefs are no sillier than those who have inherited faith that God foretold his own coming as the messiah of Israel. We could talk about them another time but for the moment I want to illustrate what Pearson hasn't seen about the report on the followers of Mark in Irenaeus AH 1.13 - 21.

The first thing that we have to see is that Photius makes clear that there were originally a number of 'stand alone' treatises of Irenaeus floating around in antiquity.  Photius also tells us that they were of questionable orthodoxy.  In the end, I see Book One of Against Heresies as a composite of three separate types of writings 'bundled together' by a much older Irenaeus - or perhaps better yet - a final editor living in the early third century.  Those treatises are :

1. Against the Valentinians (AH 1.1 - AH 1.12)
2. Various Treatises Developed Against the Followers of Mark (AH 1.13 - 21.1,2)
2a A Short Treatise on Redemption Originally Developed Against the Marcosians but later turned against Heracleon (AH 1.21.3-5)
3. Justin's Syntagma (AH 1.22 - 31.1)

There is a reason why we have to separate (2) and (2a) in our reconstruction of the original material of AH.  For even though Epiphanius knows that (2a) is attributed to the heretics in his copy of Irenaeus (Panarion 19 - 20).  He must have known an original version of the text which either did not specifically reference the name of the heretics or one which identified them as followers of Heracleon.  For as Williams notes "for reasons which are unclear, Epiph takes as his source for Sect 36 the last part of Irenaeus' account of the Marcosians, Iren. 1.21.3-5, where the sacramental practices of the Marcosians are described" (p. 259).

I don't went to get too deeply involved in one possible explanation for this transformation of the text (i.e. that 'Heracleon' might well have been one of my corrupt versions of the name of the Alexandrian bishop 'Heraclas' - another appears in Origen's 'Dialogue with Heraclides i.e. 'Heraclides'). The point is that as it stands Epiphanius knows of a manuscript where at least part of the accusations against 'those of Mark' have been transferred to the 'followers' of a certain 'Heracleon' who appears in different places in the variants associated with Irenaeus's writings. I would take that to mean that none of the surviving MSS of Irenaeus's works was older than the early third century (Dialogue with Heraclides' assumes that Heraclas/Heraclides was Pope alongside Demetrius strangely enough).

In any event the unrecognized reality with respect to manuscripts is that we have three basic collections of writings that make up Against Heresies Book One:

Adv Valent 7 -- AH Book One Chapter 1.1
Adv Valent 8 -- AH Book One Chapter 1.2,3
Adv Valent 9 -- AH Book One Chapter 2.1,2
Adv Valent 10 -- AH Book One Chapter 2.3,4
Adv Valent 11 -- AH Book One Chapter 2.5,6
Adv Valent 12 -- AH Book One Chapter 2.6
Adv Valent 13 -- AH Book One Chapter 3.1 and continues with AH Book One Chapter 4.1
Adv Valent 14 -- AH Book One Chapter 4.1
Adv Valent 15 -- AH Book One Chapter 4.2,4 (LOOSELY)
Adv Valent 16 -- AH Book One Chapter 4.5
Adv Valent 17 -- AH Book One Chapter 4.5 - 5.1
Adv Valent 19 -- AH Book One Chapter 5. 1
Adv Valent 20 -- AH Book One Chapter 5.2
Adv Valent 21 -- AH Book One Chapter 5.3-4
Adv Valent 22 -- AH Book One Chapter 5.4
Adv Valent 23 -- AH Book One Chapter 5.4
Adv Valent 24 -- AH Book One Chapter 5.5
Adv Valent 25 -- AH Book One Chapter 5.6
Adv Valent 26 -- AH Book One Chapter 6.1
Adv Valent 27 -- AH Book One Chapter 7.2
Adv Valent 28 -- AH Book One Chapter 7.3,4
Adv Valent 29 -- AH Book One Chapter 7.5 AND 7.3
Adv Valent 30 -- AH Book One Chapter 6.2,4
Adv Valent 31 -- AH Book One Chapter 7.1
Adv Valent 32 -- AH Book One Chapter 7.1 AND 7.5
Adv Valent 33 -- AH Book One Chapter 12.1
Adv Valent 34 -- AH Book One Chapter 11.5
Adv Valent 35 -- AH Book One Chapter 11.5 (VERY CLOSELY)
Adv Valent 36 -- AH Book One Chapter 12.3
Adv Valent 37 -- AH Book One Chapter 11.3
Adv Valent 38 -- AH Book One Chapter 11.1
Adv Valent 39 -- AH Book One Chapter 12.3

In my next post I will demonstrate the 'fingerprints' of the final editor in Book One - i.e. the addition of a pattern of arguments into the fabric of the original Against the Valentinians and elsewhere in Book One that actually holds the different parts together. This discussion will have an important value for any understanding of Secret Mark.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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