Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chapter Nine of My New Book

A lot of things don't make sense in this world.  Take for instance of the stand of the Roman Catholic Church against 'same sex marriage.'  The religious body actively tells their members that their opposition is not rooted in bigotry.  Instead they say that the Church is forced in to their position to protect the sanctity of marriage.  Now let's think about the irony of this statement for a moment.  We have an all male priesthood that strictly prohibits its members from ever getting married actively telling lay members about the marital bond between a man and a woman.  Of course what they never come out and say is - 'sacred for the rest of you, but not for us.'

It is so utterly ridiculous, yet 'regular folks' out there buys into this nonsense because they start out with such a limited perspective.  They typically begin with the beliefs of their immediate ancestors -  parents, grandparents etc. - these inherited views have been shaped in no small part by priests and pastors along the way all of whom were trained to develop 'dumbed down' messages to help perpetuate popular prejudices.  They claim to represent 'the truth of what Christianity is, was and always shall be' but in reality they embody something else entirely.  They represent little more than a parody of the Christian faith, a counterfeit rouse developed in a two thousand year old echo chamber.

While it is generally presumed that 'the Church' has always joined heterosexuals in marriage who among the self appointed 'social commentators' out there has actually done any research on the subject.  Christianity is a religion in decline so the truth is up for grabs and often belongs to the person holding the biggest microphone.  In point of fact, most Christians have less of an interest in determining what the earliest Christians believed.  Their only focus is a selfish interest in being 'saved' alongside a herd of like minded narcissists. To help matters along most of surviving denominations have decided to serve up 'making war against secularism' as a distraction.

All of this might be a clever tactic to maintain strong ties with the community but it is a terrible way to figure out what Christianity was originally all about.  Indeed there is no greater enemy of the truth and truth seeking that starting of one's investigation in a highly emotionally charged state. Those who routinely engage in 'culture wars' are the last people who should be allowed a say in determining the truth of our collective past.  All the partisanship of the last few generations represents nothing short of a colossal missed opportunity.  We are now in a unique position to learn things which our forefathers simply could not understand.  It would be a terrible tragedy if we stopped just short of reaching our ultimate goal.

The reality is that the Church was never in the business of marrying heterosexuals for a very good reason.  The union of men and women wasn't originally seen as a holy bond.  The focus of this religion from the very beginning was salvation.  Their model for greatness was the pairing of angels rather than the coupling of animals.  At best, as one historian  notes the Catholic tradition "marriage was arranged with the consent of the Church, according to the law of the Land. If the couple were both Christians, they probably received the bishop's or elder's benediction at the Lord's table." [2]  Yet as we have already seen those traditions older than Irenaeus and the third century Church saw marriage as something inherently shameful, as something which should be severely condemned for the elect members of the community.

Outside of the example of Demetrius we have almost no other examples of married bishops anywhere in the world.  As Jerome makes clear that it was the universal regulation of the East, of Egypt, and of Rome to ordain only those who were unmarried, or who ceased to be husbands.[3]  In the Roman Church certainly there are no examples of married Popes.  There were of course a handful of officials who were widowers or put aside their wives in order to enter into the priesthood.  Yet the pattern remains incredibly consistent and ultimately unassailable.

Pope Siricius (384–399) left his wife and children to become Pope.  Pope St. Agatho (678–681) was married for twenty years as a layman and had one daughter. With his wife’s blessing apparently he became a monk at the monastery of Saint Hermes in Palermo. It is thought his wife entered a convent.  Pope Adrian II (867–872) was married before he took Holy Orders, to a woman called Stephania, and had a daughter. His wife and daughter were still living when he was elected Pope and resided with him in the Lateran Palace. They were murdered by Eleutherius, brother of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, the Church's chief librarian.

As such there is a clear pattern in the Roman Catholic Church, one which was originally shared by all the other churches in Alexandria, Palestine, north Africa and countless other place.  Priests and Popes were forbidden to be yoked to women.  The true symbol of divine union was that of two men yoked in a same sex bond.  Whether 'Peter and Paul' or 'Peter and Mark' the end result is still the same.  The pairing of man with man was originally deemed a blessed yoke, while man with woman was condemned as a path to destruction and condemnation.

Indeed, it is undeniable that the Roman tradition modified its original understanding of the twin apostles, transforming the original veneration of the pair into something which was, well, more monarchistic.  Peter and Paul were the first same sex couple of Rome.  The Roman Church originally used the yoking of the two men as the framework to govern the Church and the model by which the gospel could instruct the laity.   Yet at some point this understanding was 'gutted' and nothing short of a holy war was declared on those seeking to be united in order to become acquainted with God.

When exactly did this event take place?  As we began to demonstrate in a previous chapter, it is clear that our very inherited notion of orthodoxy has come to be defined by the writings of a single man - Irenaeus of Lyons.  Irenaeus is often  identified as a 'bishop' - even a bishop of Lyons.  Nevertheless there is no solid evidence to support this claim of him having day to day rule over the churches in what is now the south of France.

To be sure Irenaeus always sounds like a bishop yet his focus is always the governance of the whole Church.  He writes with such conviction and his interpretations sound so authoritative that he comes off sounding like a Pope than a mere bishop.  We should therefore argue that it is far more likely that he held the office of 'bishop of the nations' like Gaius of Rome after him and St Paul before him, than being a mere bishop of a backwater see.

Irenaeus wears down his readership with a relentless assault against any point of view contrary to his own.  To open a page in any of Irenaeus's works is to parachuting into an epic battlefield, a war between light and darkness, angels and demons, the opinions discovered by Irenaeus and the traditions established long before him.  Of course the fact that most believers go along with his worldview is not an argument in favor of their antiquity.  Indeed the reality is that opinions of Irenaeus have simply become our own.  The churches which threw their lot with Irenaeus won out over those who held on to older, stranger forms of Christianity.

Yet at least a few scholars have nagging doubts about Irenaeus.  They ask - what if Irenaeus was really a heretic?   What if he's fundamentally misrepresenting the truth?  What if his supposed 'apostolic message' was really an innovation foisted on to a vulnerable Church at the twilight of the third century?  We can take something as simple as the syzygy of Peter and Paul.  There can be no doubt that this pairing is as old as Christianity in Rome.  All our earliest sources make reference to them as a pair.  Irenaeus even references the concept when citing from the bishops list at the end of Hegesippus's Outlines.

Yet we have to wonder - if Irenaeus was such a mouthpiece for traditional orthodoxy why doesn't he mention the pairing of 'Peter and Paul' in his writings more often - indeed more than on this one single occasion?  Why does he condemn the Marcionites for worshiping two gods - the Father and Son - associated with Paul and Peter respectively when this seems to be more compatible with the original Roman symbolism than anything Irenaeus himself ever brings forward?[4]

Indeed instead of embracing the original Roman doctrine of two powers in heaven, Irenaeus declares war on it, vehemently attacking any trace of dualism anywhere in the Church and putting a peculiar emphasis on one God who spoke through four gospels.  None of the things promoted by Irenaeus have any existence before his advent.  Yet the world goes along with his beliefs just the same.  Irenaeus falsely claims to uphold the founding principles of the Roman Church while he was actively trying to subvert the sacred divine male pairing at the heart of Christianity.

Of course the reality is that he was unable to accomplish this in plain view.  Irenaeus could not simply abolish the veneration of the twin apostles, the Roman Church's equivalent of Romulus and Remus.  Instead he systematically cut off the heads of this ancient hydra.  Irenaeus developed a piecemeal assault against the traditional beliefs of the Church.  He assaulted its acceptance of the existence of two powers in heaven which spoke to the Church through a divided gospel.  Irenaeus condemned the notion that the Church was itself divided into two classes of people, the psychic and the pneumatic. In other words, the man who has been presented as being the greatest defender of Roman orthodoxy was in fact its greatest subverter.[5]

As is so often the case, the man pretending to be a religious conservative was really nothing more than a spokesmen for doctrinal novelties.  Irenaeus was really transforming the Roman faith all in the name of religious orthodoxy.  His greatest invention of all, the thing that became his lasting legacy was the myth of a single rule in the Church of Rome.  The purpose of Irenaeus's great monarchic fable, supported in no small part by his relentless assault against the past was to eradicate those 'heretical' teachings which he believed 'separated' the godhead - divided like the chief symbol of apostolic authority in the city.

Irenaeus opposes dualism in any way that borders on psychosis.  It is not surprising then that he reconstructed a single episcopal line. Peter and Paul originally embodied the principle of divided government that worked.  There was one bishop who looked outward to shepherd the greater Christian world and another whose duty was to govern the day to day operation of the Roman church.  Yet Irenaeus wanted to change all of that and we have clear evidence buried in a very important citation within Eusebius's Church History - to support our claims.  There was a massive change taking place in Christianity at the dawn of the third century.  Eusebius's doesn't tell us who wrote these words and he doesn't tell us much about the context in which it was made.  Yet the citations stands out as one of the most important testimonies that has ever made its way down to us.

In the course of writing about contemporaries of Irenaeus, Eusebius brings forward an anonymous work directed against an otherwise unknown heretic tradition which alleged that:

all the early teachers and the apostles received and taught what they now declare, and that the truth of the Gospel was preserved until the times of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter, but that from his successor, Zephyrinus, the truth had been corrupted.

As we have already noted, we can date the reforms of Irenaeus to 198 CE - the very last year of Victor's reign in the Church of Rome.  It was then that the 'Easter controversy' was finally resolved.  The inescapable conclusion is now that this anonymous testimony only confirms what is implicit in Irenaeus's writings - that all these new inventions which seem second nature to us only took hold at the beginning of the third century.

The point here is that almost all studies of the period reinforce the idea - one might say faith - that things in the third century were essentially no different than they were in the distant past.  All Irenaeus will allow us to acknowledge is that "Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome" while the Gospel of Matthew was being promulgated in Hebrew and that two other gospels emerged separately from each apostle - i.e. Mark wrote Peter's gospel and Luke Paul's.[6]  The original idea - the pre-existent tradition at Rome - was that it was the power of the syzygy which yoked the divine twin apostles together established the gospel.  Try as he may this is something that Irenaeus can't make completely disappear.  After all, the concept is so deeply rooted into Roman soil, it is now impossible to simply pull up with his bare hands.

According to the original formula, Peter first wrote a 'basic' gospel and then Paul developed a more perfect mystical revelation.  The model is clearly derived from the Alexandrian tradition as witnessed by Clement's recently discovered Letter to Theodore, nevertheless there are some minor differences which are worth examining in more detail.  We have in our possession a Patristic text loosely translated into Latin from something Irenaeus originally wrote in Greek at the beginning of the third century called  Prescription Against the Heresies.  The text as it stands now presents a series of 'cures' for heresy and most notably the idea that while Peter wrote the first gospel God saw "something was lacking" in the text so he established the coming of Paul for the establishment of a "fuller gospel of knowledge."

Indeed as the original author simply puts it - "another form of Gospel was introduced by Paul beside that which Peter and the rest had previously put forth."  That this text was a 'secret gospel' is also clear when he goes on to note "Paul was caught up as far as the third heaven, and when brought into paradise heard certain things there and this secret revelation rendered him more qualified to teach another doctrine beside that which was originally revealed by Peter."[7]  The inescapable truth that emerges from this report and others like it is the fact that there were two gospels originally at Rome from the very beginning.  Irenaeus's objection that establishing the gospel in two parts divided the truth of the one God is immaterial to the discussion.  Irenaeus may have had problems with the idea that the gnostic god was 'hidden' above the god of the Jews, he may have had issues with the implications of the idea that Peter and the apostles were by implication ignorant, or indeed that that Paul committed some things openly to all, and others secretly to a few.[8]  None of these objections takes away the fact that these horrible heretical ideas were the original principles by which the Roman Church was founded.

As we have already noted many times in this discussion, it all comes back to the symbol of Peter and Paul as the foundation of the Roman Church.  Yet there is a great deal of evidence which suggests that the Roman Church was divided according to this very same apostolic arrangement without explicitly referencing the names of these apostles.  We should begin with the consistent symbolic representation of two churches of Rome associated with a certain Pudens (2 Tim 4:21).  The tradition appears in the ‘Acts of Pudentiana and Praxedis,’ or as it is sometimes called ‘the Acts of Pastor and Timothy.’

The story goes that a certain 'Pastor' known elsewhere as 'Hermas' is the brother of Pope Pius (142 - 157 CE).  The Pastor narrates the story of the founding of two churches in Rome which correspond to the two children of Pudens.  The first, named after the daughter Pudentiana (= 'modesty' or shame).  In the story, the church is ultimately transferred to the Pastor.  The second church associated with another layman named Novatus (= 'renewed') and associated later Prudens other daughter Praxedis (= 'active'). It is this second figure of Praxedis that the 'church within the Church' theme is most explicit.

For the very name 'Novatus' (= novelty) is very significant as it reappears in association with in important sectarian movement in the third century which lasts for some time in the Roman capitol.  These Novatians represented a conservative movement within the early Church which were particularly numerous in Italy and North Africa.  The Liber Pontificalis, the official 'book of Roman Popes, interestingly attributes a translation of the relics of Peter and Paul to the rise of this 'Novatian' heresy at the time of Cornelius (c. 251 CE).[8]  It cannot be coincidence that Hippolytus is identified as a Novatian and Irenaeus has been recently 'recognized' as 'Praxeas' from a third century Patristic text.

In 1992 Stuart George Hall, professor of ecclesiastical history at King's College London argued that Irenaeus was to be identified with the figure of 'Praxeas' from a text found among the loose Latin translations of Tertullian of Carthage in the third century.  Hall contended that Praxeas means 'fixer' or 'fraud' and that it may be a nickname Tertullian invented to disguise Irenaeus.  Apparently, Tertullian was angry that Irenaeus had actively worked to make his own sectarian tradition heretical in the eyes of the bishop of Rome.[9]  Tertullian alleges that Praxeas dissuaded a bishop of Rome some time ago from recognizing the leaders of his community, Montanus and Prisca as prophets and receiving their churches into communion.  He adds that Praxeas went on to teach a dangerous doctrine, which so strongly emphasizes the one substance of the divine household that it amounted to declaring the Father as crucified on the Cross.

It is very significant that Praxeas is said to have asserted the 'monarchy' of God: God is single, and so Father, Son and Spirit are 'one and the same.'  This is very similar to things said in the writings of Irenaeus including a book he penned with this exact title "On the Monarchy."[10]  Indeed Irenaeus was also responsible for promoting these very same ideas in letters to the very same bishop Victor.  We have already seen the church of Praxedis was related to that of Novatus which in turn can be connected with Irenaeus's student Hippolytus.  Hall's theory has been recognized to have a lot going for it and can certainly help us ultimately establish Irenaeus on an episcopal throne beside that of Victor in the city of Rome.

Indeed the pattern of two bishops one associated with Peter and the other with Paul has already been noted to go back to the first successors of the apostles.  Yet there is yet another proof from the early second century which we have ignored so far - the example of Pope Pius and 'his brother' the Pastor Hermas.  The Muratorian canon written at the beginning of the third century makes reference to this phenomenon in the following manner - "But Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair of the church of the city of Rome.  And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after [their] time."[11]

Of course if we go back to that text we began to examine earlier in this chapter, the Acts of Pudentiana and Praxedis, we see that this Pastor Hermas was assigned to have jurisdiction over the Church of Pudentiana (= modesty).  This work mentioned here - the Shepherd - can also be demonstrated to have preserved the original orthodoxy of having two gospels rather than one.  For the Alexandrian Church Father Origen draws our attention to the text noting that just as there are two parts to man - soul (psyche) and spirit (spirit) - so also is "sacred Scripture" divided into two.  How do we know that this notion of 'sacred Scripture' being divided into psychic and pneumatic portions of the Church is a reference to the Gospel?  It is the only explanation which makes any sense here

Origen points to the saying in "the little book of The Shepherd" where "Hermas is commanded to write two little books, and afterwards to announce to the presbyters of the Church what he learned from the Spirit."  Origen cites the remaining sections of the work in considerable details saying "for these are the words that are written: 'And you will write,' he says, ;two books; and you will give the one to Clement, and the other to Grapte. And let Grapte admonish the widows and orphans, and let Clement send through all the cities which are abroad, while you will announce to the presbyters of the Church.'"

These two books - one psychic and one spiritual - can only represent the traditional twofold gospel of the Roman Church.  Indeed according to Origen's interpretation of the Shepherd of Hermas this Grapte, "is the pure understanding of the letter itself" established for those " who have not yet advanced to the stage of being joined to a heavenly Bridegroom."  The figure of Clement however is said to embody the instruction of those "being built up by this means, have begun to rise above the cares of the body and the desires of the flesh; while he himself, who had learned from the Holy Spirit, is commanded to announce, not by letter nor by book, but by the living voice, to the presbyters of the Church of Christ, i.e., to those who possess a mature faculty of wisdom, capable of receiving spiritual teaching."[12]

Origen is clearly emphasizing again that the early Roman Church originally had two gospels in its canon - one developed for the simple portion of the Church, the other spiritually perfected.  This was certainly a very similar situation to what appeared in his native city of Alexandria.  Yet the city of Rome also originally had two bishops, the one represented by Clement who traditionally had an interest in communities outside of Rome and the other associated with Grapte and who strictly looked after the affairs of the churches under Roman jurisdiction.  It is interesting to note also that the very name Grapte of course means 'written' in Greek.

There can be no doubt that we have yet another witness to the now heretical understanding of a gospel of Peter and Paul.  Yet more than this we have two yoked bishops, Pius and Hermas, who probably represented living examples  of same sex unions to the contemporary Church.  The pattern of two males united in union undoubtedly was carried down from the very earliest period of the Roman tradition.  It was only Irenaeus and his reforms which took issue with this symbol and saw it as something worthy of being overthrown.  


[1]     Indeed Irenaeus does the exact opposite - he fuses 'Peter and Paul' to a chain of single successors, and one which strangely begins with a disciple of Paul - "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." (AH 3.3.3)
[4] With regard to those (the Marcionites) who allege that Paul alone knew the truth, and that to him the mystery was manifested by revelation, let Paul himself convict them, when he says, that one and the same God wrought in Peter for the apostolate of the circumcision, and in himself for the Gentiles.(7) Peter, therefore, was an apostle of that very God whose was also Paul; and Him whom Peter preached as God among those of the circumcision, and likewise the Son of God, did Paul [declare] also among the Gentiles.[AH 3.13.1]
[5] This should have been obvious to anyone whoever took his writings seriously.  After all, he presents himself as the greatest student of Polycarp, the man who was vehemently rejected by the contemporary bishop of Rome Anicetus.  This alone should have made people suspicious.  It should have been equally obvious by the manner in which Irenaeus trumpets the gospel of Polycarp's teacher John, which summarily rejected by another leading 'elder' of Rome, and likely the better part of the Roman establishment.  In all these things Irenaeus lines himself against tradition and yet he is counted among the 'conservatives.'
[7] "and if any heresy affirms that it is a follower of that revelation, then either Paul is guilty of having betrayed his secret, or some one else must be shewn to have been subsequently caught up into paradise to whom permission was given to speak out what Paul was not allowed to whisper."
[9] He writes "Praxeas at Rome managed two pieces of the Devil's business: he drove out prophecy and introduced heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete and crucified the Father" (Prax. 1 — NE 168).
This gospel presented Jesus as speaking mysterious indicating the existence of a hidden mystery which was passed on by word of mouth only.  The world for passing on a teaching by word of mouth is is catechesis, the very name associated with the Alexandrian tradition.  Tertullian reports that this original secret gospel was associated with Paul They hold up instances of Churches reproved by the Apostle. "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you ?" and "Ye were running so well : who hath hindered you ?" and at the very beginning of his letter, "I wonder that ye have been thus so soon removed from Him who called you in grace to another Gospel."  Likewise the words written to the Corinthians because they were still "carnal," and had to be fed on milk, not yet being able to take meat; who thought they knew something when not yet did they know anything as they ought to know it."
[6] An interesting side note is that legend says that Peter stayed at that the house of Pudens (the elder Pudens mentioned by St. Paul) was during his stay in Rome. The sella gestatoria, or St. Peter’s chair, the oak framework ornamented with ivory carvings of the Labours of Hercules and now on display in the Vatican is said to have been originally the senatorial chair of Pudens.
[13] The separation of Law and Gospel is the primary and principal exploit of Marcion," "which refused to contemplate any other god of the Law and the Gospel than that Creator against whom after so long a time, by a man of Pontus, separation has been let loose," "they allege that in separating the Law and the Gospel Marcion did not so much invent a new rule as refurbish a rule previously debased," Ir is said in one place that "instead of dividing, those antitheses [of Marcion] do rather combine into unity the two whom they place in such oppositions as, when combined together, give a complete conception of God."  Was this not the very purpose of the Marcionite understanding?  That is, to bring about the bring harmony to the godhead - a concept fundamental to all forms of Jewish mysticism.  As Tertullian notes, take away the external distractions and at bottom of the Marcionite dogma we end up with "neither more nor less than a description of one and the same God, in his supreme goodness and in his judgement— for these two conceptions are conjoined in God and in him alone."  Indeed we can already see the basis for the reconciliation of Peter and Paul in the very words of Ephesians 2:14 - 17 -that he might create the two in himself, his workmanship, created in Christ—into one new man, making peace that he might reconcile both to God.

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