Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Birth of 'Against Heresies' and the Composition of Seemingly Endless 'Compendiums of Heresies' within the Church

So I hope that after reading the last few post the reader 'gets' where I am going with all this investigating into the Church in the early third century. Origen and Clement were likely not friendly. I see no evidence of any amicable feelings between them. My further question would be could they have passed as two ships in the night in the first generation of the third century? Was there an 'ocean' of Christianity between Palestine and Alexandria where they could have 'innocently' not recognized one another? My guess is that, no the silence that exists between them is significant.

Just a quick tangential reference - my wife's family are from the Caribbean and they have this old English 'silent treatment' that they use instead of screaming at one another as we do in my family. The point here is that silence doesn't necessarily mean nothing is there. It just means nothing is being said.

Now let's return to our study of the context of our understanding of the early Church. This can't be shouted loud enough. We have one source for everything and that is Eusebius of Caesarea. Now I am not one of the conspiracy theorists who think that Eusebius 'invented' Christianity or something wild like that. Nevertheless, Eusebius has a clear agenda. Let's take a look at that.

Eusebius is supposedly writing a 'history of the Church' and everyone looks at his chronology in this light, but this isn't exactly accurate. Instead it is better to say that he has woven together a few episcopal succession lists and woven on top of these some 'highlighted' individuals - i.e. Irenaeus, Justin etc. - to give his narrative some life. The overarching assumption is that there was always Church unity since the time of the apostles so there is little need (and absolutely no desire) to highlight anything that would contradict this assumption.

Anyone who tolerates my speculation on a daily basis knows full well that this claim is nonsensical. There was no 'united Church' from the beginning. This is a myth that many billions of people have bought to over the centuries, but there is no solid evidence for it and contradicts human nature - especially the nature of Semitic people (where getting ten people to agree on anything is a miracle).

To this end, we cannot use Eusebius's chronology as a 'map' of what actually happened in the early Church from Jesus to Constantine. Rather it is a make world constructed in such a way to make it seem as if there was unity in the Church from Jesus to Constantine. In other words, this is what the history of Christianity would look life if all the individual churches in all the major cities agreed on everything from the very beginning (except for some unimportant 'heretics' which have been witnessed by 'faithful' Patristic writers in every age along the way).

It is this 'as if' characteristic which gets quickly forgotten by scholars. The history of the Roman Church is for instance a succession list borrowed from a previous work by a certain Hegesippus coupled with some biographical details on Clement and a few other notable bishops. The history of the Jerusalem Church is again a succession list and a few scattered references developed entirely from this otherwise unknown 'Hegesippus.' Yet we can be absolutely certain that this information is corrupt given the fact that the name 'Hegesippus' is itself a misunderstanding of the Greek name Josephus. There can no doubt that the name itself is a corruption of the Greek Josephus.

Given the fact that it is universally acknowledged that the original book can be dated to 147 CE (the seventy seventh year since the destruction of Jerusalem) Schaff thinks we can further identify an 'error' which Eusebius makes with respect to the original book:

Anicetus, according to the Armenian Chron. of Eusebius, succeeded Pius in the fifteenth year of Antoninus Pius; according to Jerome’s version, in the eighteenth year (i.e. 155 or 156), which is more nearly correct. Lipsius puts his accession between 154 and 156 (see note 14, above). According to chap. 19, below, with which both versions of the Chron. agree, Anicetus held office eleven years; i.e. until 165 to 167, when he was succeeded by Soter. Irenæus (as quoted by Eusebius in Bk. V. chap. 24) informs us that Polycarp was in Rome in the time of Anicetus, and endeavored to induce him to adopt the Quartodeciman practice of celebrating Easter; but that, while the two remained perfectly friendly to one another, Anicetus would not change the custom of the Roman church (see the notes on the chapter referred to). As stated in note 13, the Liberian and Felician Catalogues incorrectly insert the name of Anicetus between those of Hyginus and Pius. Eusebius evidently makes a mistake here. That Hegesippus remained so long in Rome (Anicetus ruled from 154–168 (?), and Eleutherus from 177–190) is upon the face of it very improbable. And in this case we can see clearly how Eusebius made his mistake. In chap. 22 he quotes a passage from Hegesippus in regard to his stay in Rome, and it was in all probability this passage from which Eusebius drew his conclusion. But Hegesippus says there that he “remained in Rome until the time of Anicetus,”. It is probable, therefore, that he returned to the East during Anicetus’ episcopacy. He does not express himself as one who had remained in Rome until the reign of Eleutherus; but Eusebius, from a hasty reading, might easily have gathered that idea. According to Hegesippus’ account in chap. 22, he must, then, have come to Rome before Anicetus, i.e. during the reign of Pius, and this Eusebius does not here contradict, though he is said to do so by Reading, who translates the Greek words, ἐπιδημῆσαι τῇ ῾Ρώμῃ, “came to the city” (so, also, Closs, Stigloher, and Crusè). But the words properly mean “to be in Rome,” not “to come to Rome,” which would require, rather, ἐπιδημῆσαι εἰς τὴν ῾Ρώμην, as in §2, above, where the words are used of Cerdon. Jerome, to be sure (de vir. ill. 22), says that Hegesippus came to Rome in the time of Anicetus; but his account rests solely upon Eusebius, whom he mistranslated. The tradition, therefore, that Hegesippus came to Rome in the time of Anicetus has no foundation; he was already there, as he himself informs us, in chap. 22, below. Cf. the note on this passage, in chap. 22. [p. 184]

I think Schaff's logic is inescapable but the difficulty with Eusebius's use of original sources is not so easy to come to terms with. Not only does Eusebius garble the original name of the author but also the details of his narrative.

Yet there is an overriding difficulty with the manuscript that Eusebius was using too. For it has also been proved, I think, by Lawlor that the various accounts of the Carpocratians comes from this same Hypomnemata of Hegesippus. I have written about Lawlor's observations many time at this blog but the gist of his analysis is that the testimony of Epiphanius proves to a verbatim citation of the original material regarding the Carpocratians. Yet there was more than just material about the Carpocratians here. As we have seen with respect to the Against Heresies tradition which allegedly spanned Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen and Tertullian, we see a single document originally ascribed to 'Josephus' become expanded and changed by several different hands over the course of time.

I think it is important to note that Clement knows the work as 'Josephus' and cites from the correct chronology which goes down until the year 147 CE as just mentioned. At some point in the line of transmission of this original document, someone added material as we see from Eusebius's citation in Book Four:

Hegesippus in the five books of hypomnemata which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. In them he states that on a journey to Rome he met a great many bishops, and that he received the same doctrine from all. It is fitting to hear what he says after making some remarks about the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. His words are as follows:

And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus 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.

The same author also describes the beginnings of the heresies which arose in his time, in the following words:

And after James the Just had suffered martyrdom, as the Lord had also on the same account, Symeon, the son of the Lord's uncle, Clopas, was appointed the next bishop. All proposed him as second bishop because he was a cousin of the Lord. Therefore, they called the Church a virgin, for it was not yet corrupted by vain discourses.

But Thebuthis, because he was not made bishop, began to corrupt it. He also was sprung from the seven sects among the people, like Simon, from whom came the Simonians, and Cleobius, from whom came the Cleobians, and Dositheus, from whom came the Dositheans, and Gorthæus, from whom came the Goratheni, and Masbotheus, from whom came the Masbothæans. From them sprang the Menandrianists, and Marcianists, and Carpocratians, and Valentinians, and Basilidians, and Saturnilians. Each introduced privately and separately his own peculiar opinion. From them came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupt doctrines uttered against God and against his Christ.

The same writer also records the ancient heresies which arose among the Jews, in the following words:

There were, moreover, various opinions in the circumcision, among the children of Israel. The following were those that were opposed to the tribe of Judah and the Christ: Essenes, Galileans, Hemerobaptists, Masbothæans, Samaritans, Sadducees, Pharisees.

And he wrote of many other matters, which we have in part already mentioned, introducing the accounts in their appropriate places. And from the Syriac Gospel according to the Hebrews he quotes some passages in the Hebrew tongue, showing that he was a convert from the Hebrews, and he mentions other matters as taken from the unwritten tradition of the Jews.

And not only he, but also Irenæus and the whole company of the ancients, called the Proverbs of Solomon All-virtuous Wisdom. And when speaking of the books called Apocrypha, he records that some of them were composed in his day by certain heretics. But let us now pass on to another. [Church History 4.2]

I have long argued that since Irenaeus is the earliest witness to the material added to the original document associated with 'Josephus' in 147 CE that he should be a prime candidate for these additions. Indeed I have made the case that, as with the Against Heresies tradition, the transmission of this document also utterly corrupt but clearly began life - and was still centrally rooted in an early edition of Josephus the history of the Jewish War. The date of 147 CE can't be coincidental in this regard.

My working hypothesis clearly is that 'Hegesippus' is a version of Josephus's Jewish War brought to Rome by Polycarp, Irenaeus's alleged 'teacher.' This is precisely why Irenaeus cites the episcopal list of 'Hegesippus' as if it came from Polycarp in Book Three:

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.

Lawlor notes that the succession list cited by Irenaeus is derived from 'Hegesippus.' Yet Lawlor also makes clear that Hegesippus originally was understood to have come to Rome at the time of Pius and left during the rule of Anicetus. Why then does the list continue down to Eleuterius? The material here is not from Hegesippus or Josephus at all but by Polycarp's hand. It is an addition written in the blank pages of the original codex and mistakenly attributed to Hegesippus by Eusebius. Yet Irenaeus knows better.

So much confusion has arisen from these few words among scholars of various ages, a whole book could be written about it. The identification of specifically twelve bishops of Rome is deliberate (i.e. twelve being a perfect number). Irenaeus's immediate segue from Eleutherius to Polycarp is another clear sign they lived in the same age. While the normal dates for Eleutherius assume his activity c. 177 CE there is great variation in these lists. The truth is that the mistaken understanding that Irenaeus is saying 'I was living at the time of Eleutherius' here has actually influenced the construction of the lists themselves rather than the other way around.

The point here is that Polycarp and then successive generations of writers clearly added material to this original chronology of Josephus. The text of what is now called the Hypomnemata quite literally becomes something of a grove covered with graffiti. I think that while Polycarp actually added only the Jerusalem Church narrative, someone else (a disciple perhaps Irenaeus) added the episcopal list and drew it down to his time (undoubtedly to connect him as a 'witness' to the Church of Rome. The story about Marcellina comes from about this time and actually represents something of the beginning of the 'Marcionites' as Jerome and many others bear witness.

The origins of the accounts of the various heresies is difficult to disentangle, but I think this is the true starting point of the Against Heresies tradition. Notice at once that the account of the Carpocratians is drawn from here. Perhaps there were other narratives too.  The point again is that the dating for Irenaeus during the Commodian period seems utterly wrong.  The reference to the Imperial court being filled with Christians (AH 4.30) better suits the age of Septimius Severus than Commodus.

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