Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chapter Seven of Naked With Naked

We can be sure that many read our discussion of the joint apostlehood of Moses and Aaron and wondered - what does this any of this have to do with the early Church? After all most self-described ‘Christians’ are familiar with the New Testament and find that there are few explicit references to twin apostles. In most of the examples of paired disciples, the two men are identified as brothers and presumed to descend from common parents. Peter and Andrew, James and John and the like are inevitable assumed to represent ‘real’ siblings rather than men bound through some mystical bond developed according to a secret gospel.

The reality is that documents can only tell us so much about the early Church. After all, words can be changed, deleted or added. New histories can be created from scratch to replace older more problematic traditions. To this we should focus our attentions on the clearest example of early Christian parallels to the Moses and Aaron apostolic union – the pairing of the saints Peter and Paul.

Dr. Reidar Hvalvik is Professor of New Testament at The Norwegian Lutheran School of Theology, Oslo wrote an interesting paper some years back on the earliest representations of the apostles. While acknowledging that the New Testament writings do not often portray Peter and Paul were often together we find that the apocryphal acts often do have stories of the two apostles working together in Rome. At best it can be said that the New Testament – and represents Peter and Paul as representing two separate Christian traditions associated with Jews and Gentiles which ‘come together’ in their union to make one holy apostolic Church.

Hvalvik notes that it is hardly accidental that the most important monuments depicting Peter and Paul together are found in Rome or connected with Rome. Not only do we find that during the reign of Constantine churches were erected at the supposed places of the apostles' martyrdoms. Long before, however, a celebration to the memory of both Peter and Paul was inaugurated on the 29th of June. He notes that in all probability this veneration goes back to 258 and was located to the areaunder the present church of San Sebastiano. At that place Constantine erected the Basilica Apostoloroum to the memory of the two apostles of Rome. Archeological findings witness to this joint veneration of Peter and Paul. On graffiti they are both invoked in hope of the apostles' intercession, e.g. “Paule ed Petrepetite pro Victore” and “Paule Petre pro Erate rogate.”

It is important to note that the pairing of Peter and Paul appears among our earliest reference to the Roman Church. We should go back to the original statement of Marcellina the Carpocratian in Epiphanius’s citation of the Outlines of Joseph where the fourth century Church Father begins by saying:

For the bishops at Rome were, first, Peter and Paul, the apostles themselves and also bishops—then Linus, then Cletus, then Clement, a contemporary of Peter and Paul whom Paul mentions in the Epistle to the Romans.

Epiphanius actually goes on to deal with how it was possible that so much time could have elapsed between Clement and Peter and then in the next section he goes back to summarize the same material regarding Marcellina the Carpocratian cited earlier:

In any case, the succession of the bishops at Rome runs in this order:Peter and Paul, Linus and Cletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Xystus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus, whom I mentioned above, on the list. And no one need be surprised at my listing each of the items so exactly; precise information is always given in this way. In Anicetus’ time then, as I said, the Marcellina I have spoken of appeared at Rome spewing forth the corruption of Carpocrates’ teaching, and corrupted and destroyed many there. And that made a beginning of the so-called Gnostics

We can be certain that Epiphanius is citing from a second century text given that there are uncanny parallels with respect to Irenaeus’s citation of a similar chronology.

Irenaeus for his part begins by mentioning "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 the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops." As mentioned he goes on to reference a uncannily similar bishop’s succession list down to Eleutherius as Epiphanius and even breaks into a lengthy tangential discussion at the mention of the name Clement. Most scholars acknowledge that the material cited by both Church Father derives from the Outlines. The only important difference is that a great number of references to ‘heretics’ has been added. Also the name ‘Marcellina’ appears as ‘Marcion’ in this material.

We should note how similar the reference to Marcion in this section of Irenaeus is to the original Marcellina reference cited in Epiphanius. First the reference to Marcion:

Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus, who held the tenth place of the episcopate. But the rest, who are called Gnostics, take rise from Menander

Compare that to the aforementioned allusion in Epiphanius:

In Anicetus’ time then, as I said, the Marcellina I have spoken of appeared at Rome spewing forth the corruption of Carpocrates’ teaching, and corrupted and destroyed many there. And that made a beginning of the so-called Gnostics

There can be absolutely no doubt that this information derives from the same original source as that which references Marcellina. This is precisely why the original Outlines of Joseph is properly identified as the 'holy grail' of texts related to the heresies. It allows us once and for all to see beyond subsequent attempts to reshape history and come to terms with the original faith of the Roman Church was.

Indeed while it is commonly referenced today as Peter's church, the earliest authorities actually describe Rome as the joint possession of St Peter and St Paul. The see only becomes referenced as belonging exclusively to Peter in the third century. It will be our contention that the twin apostles Peter and Paul embodied the divinely sanctioned syzygy between male members of the Church. Indeed what is so astounding when you look at the evidence from antiquity is how consistently they are represented as a mystical couple.

The idea was present in all the early writers who used Joseph’s Outlines including the second century Dionysius of Corinth. Dionyius speaks of those "joined in close union, the churches that were planted by Peter and Paul, that of the Romans and that of the Corinthians: for both of them went to our Corinth, and taught us in the same way as they taught you when they went to Italy; and having taught you, they suffered martyrdom at the same time." This important reference makes reference to an important part of their early cultus – their simultaneous martyrdom. We shall this idea preserved and strengthened in later literature.

Joseph’s original work made not one but many references to the twin apostles. Irenaeus cites the text against the Carpocratians claiming to be "superior to his disciples Peter and Paul ... and in no respect inferior to Jesus." As such the Carpocratians didn’t simply venerate the sacred union of the twin apostles; they followed their example pairing off intogroups of two in their gathering. Moreover a careful reading of Epiphanius’s citation of the Outlines reveals that it wasn’t just “Peter and Paul” but also "Linus and Cletus” – the divine couple who governed the Church for twelve years together after the simultaneous deaths of the two apostles in the age of Nero.

While Irenaeus is less faithful to the original text of the Outlines both he and Epiphanius break off their borrowing from the Roman succession list with the introduction of Clement. One can made a very strong case that Clement was originally paired his contemporary and now unnamed bishop of Corinth with whom he had a long and utterly fabulous correspondence. In other words, the pairing of twin apostles wasn’t restricted to the Roman See. The Pauline representative, traditionally identified as ‘the bishop of the Gentiles,’ was able to reside outside of the capitol city.

In the case of the pairing of ‘Linus and Cletus’ it would seem that Linus was the Pauline representative (2 Timothy 4:21) while Tertullian tells us that Cletus rather than Linus was the heir of Peter. There is also strong evidence that this twin bishopric continued down to the third century. Gaius is remembered as the ‘bishop to the Gentiles’ even though he is never named in any surviving bishop’s list. The very same thing can be said with respect to Hippolytus of Rome. In the third century an attempt to streamline the succession list to reflect only the authority of Peter. Nevertheless when all the evidence is pieced together it is clear that there were two 'branches of government' in the Roman Church of the second and third centuries.

Gaius of Rome makes clear that there were two separate locales associated with each apostle when he wrtes "and I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you choose to go to the Vatican or to the Ostian Road, you will find the trophies of those who founded this church.” The original understanding was again that even though both apostles died in different parts of the city, they died at the exact same time. This is a common feature of the early cult of conjoined saints. They embodied the classical concept of one soul in two bodies and so these paired ‘brothers’ are often used as examples to explain the divine economy of the heavenly Father and Son.

Indeed where as the concept of the Trinity seems incomprehensible to most of us, for those Christian who had undergone initiation into the divine brother-making rite the logic behind the union of Father and Son almost came as second nature. Indeed Irenaeus and other early Roman figures consistently focus their attention on the divine economy of these two figures rather than the familiar three (= Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This was because as we have already noted all aspects of the Roman Church reflected this original divided union.

In the beginning there were two parts the government of the Roman Church. The figure of ‘Paulus’ (which means ‘little’ or the ‘least’) and who happened to have the greater role in the Church – i.e. overseeing all the nations - and the bishop of Peter who seems to have only had jurisdiction over the churches of Italy. It is important to note that Paulus is openly acknowledged not to have been the original name of the apostle to the Gentiles. Acts doesn’t explain why he chose this name. Yet it is clear from the various surviving epistles that he frequently identifies himself by this title – i.e. ‘the least.’

The Latin Paulus is a contraction of pauxillus which means ‘little’ or the ‘least.’ Matthew 5:9 makes a negative reference to the apostle through this term by saying “anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” The great German scholar Rudolph Bultmann noted that this prophesy regarding the Law-loosening teacher is ‘perhaps to Paul himself.’ This understanding is now generally recognized by many within the study of the gospels.

The point of course is that Paulus was not the apostle’s real name but only his title. He is said to be the ‘least among the apostles’ but in many ways the bishopwho sat in his throne had far more power than his Petrine partner. Peter and Paul were originally venerated as a cult of twins, a divine syzygy which embodied the idea that the two branches of government worked together to transcend the physical distance between the two bishops. It is hard not to believe that this Roman cult was developed from an original Alexandrian model identifying Peter and Mark as adoptive 'brothers.' Indeed in many way s the Alexandrian references to Peter and Mark more closely resemble the traditional roles of Moses and Aaron.

As we have already noted influential Alexandrian Jewish writer Philo makes the case that Moses and Aaron functioned afterr the pattern of the mystical relationship established between God and his Word. It is hard to believe that the Roman cult of "Peter and Paul" could have developed independently of Philo. Rather we must suppose that the Roman cult of the apostolic 'twins' was brought from Alexandria and its original pairing of Peter and Mark. Irenaeus claims that a certain heretic named Valentinus was the first 'heretic' to appear in the capitol. The Valentinian sect seems to have also taken a deep interest in the pairing of Peter and Paul.

It is enough to conclude that this doctrine of heavenly pairs must have originated in Alexandria. Origen for instance likens Peter and Paul to angels and makes a point of saying that both men now have identical 'spiritual natures' - they are one soul in two bodies. This Alexandrian notion seemed to have been diffused into a great many writings of the Church Fathers in the fourth and fifth centuries. One prominent author who developed this notion was Gregory of Nyssa. This understanding was also passed along on to so-called 'Origenist monks' who moved from the Nitra desert to settle in the Mar Saba monastery in Palestine in the fifth century.

So it is that we have John Cassian continually make reference to Peter and Paul participating in one divine nature. The twin apostles are inevitably brought into such discussions of the divine economy because they are quite literally the living symbols of Father and Son. The mystical doctrine survived at Mar Saba down to its last great theologian - John of Damascus. John had access to the monastery's excellent theological library in the eight century. He not only mentions the very collection of letters of Clement of Alexandria from which the Letter to Theodore originated but also countless treatises of this and other Alexandrian writer which expressed the same mystical concept of same sex union in terms of 'Peter and Paul'.

So it is very interesting to see John make absolutely explicit the ‘one soul in two bodies’ conception with respect to the two apostles. ‘Peter and Paul’ were joined together in the very manner that the Son and Father were united in substance or as John puts it:

Peter and Paul are not counted as separate individuals in so far as they are one. For since they are one in respect of their essence they cannot be spoken of as two natures, but as they differ in respect of subsistence they are spoken of as two subsistences. So that number deals with differences, and just as the differing objects differ from one another so far they are enumerated. The natures of the Lord, then, are united without confusion so far as regards subsistence, and they are divided without separation according to the method and manner of difference. And it is not according to the manner in which they are united that they are enumerated, for it is not in respect of subsistence that we hold that there are two natures of Christ: but according to the manner in which they are divided without separation they are enumerated, for it is in respect of the method and manner of difference that there are two natures of Christ. For being united in subsistence and permeating one another, they are united without confusion, each preserving throughout its own peculiar and natural difference ... For things which differ from each other in no respect cannot be enumerated, but just so far as they differ are they enumerated; for instance, Peter and Paul are not enumerated in those respects in which they are one: for being one in respect of their essence they are not two natures nor are they so spoken of.

This is an incredibly bold portrait of Peter and Paul which preserves ideas from a much earlier period. . Peter and Paul are understood to have essentially shared the divine nature of Christ through some sort of mystical union which is obviously known to the monastic culture that John participated in, but is never openly revealed.

As we shall see throughout the course of this book, the union of two males ‘in the manner of angels’ was the great mystical secret than none of the Christian mystics will reveal to outsiders. Nevertheless the idea certainly goes back to the second century or even earlier. We already saw that the mystical conception was known to the author of the Outlines and Irenaeus. It is interesting to note that Athanasius the fourth century champion of orthodoxy in Alexandria expands the original conception to make it conform with contemporary Trinitarian doctrine, arguing that Peter, Paul and Timothy were three hypostases in one. Epiphanius when citing the Joseph’s original reference to ‘the heretics thinking themselves superior to Peter and Paul’ happens to slip Andrew between the divine twins.

John of Damascus is clearly the last in a long line of writers who makes reference to this ancient conception and we hear him repeat the idea over and over again in the same work. He notes for instance that while Peter is seen to be separate from Paul to the uninitiated observer, those who have undergone a similar experience – i.e. of being initiated into the divine mysteries - "the community and connection and unity are apprehended by reason and thought. For it is by the mind that we perceive that Peter and Paul are of the same nature and have one common nature. For both are living creatures, rational and mortal: and both are flesh, endowed with the spirit of reason and understanding. It is, then, by reason that this community of nature is observed." Clearly then this was above all else a ‘secret’ rite. This not only opens the door to an underlying connection with what is described of the secret gospel but also the modern notion of gay-dar – a secret knowledge of identity shared by members of an underground (gay) community.

This idea of two men being united and sharing the same nature is the very essence of Alexandrian Christianity. It was likely Origen who adapted the original Alexandrian interest in "Peter and Mark" model to that of the more familiar "Peter and Paul" formula of the Roman Church. As we shall see this was a matter of survival for the tradition. There is a clear pattern of development of the ancient understanding from the second to fourth centuries. The manner in which the title ‘Paul’ (= less, least) is used by one half of the original apostolic pair suggests that these unions were not originally conceived as a perfectly equitable partnerships. No relationship ever is. There is always the lover and loved, Socrates notes. There is always master and slave, chimes Nietzsche.

Nevertheless the fourth century debates forced a silly dogma over all discussions about the relationship of Father and Son – and by extension Peter and Paul – so that we see another Origenist, Gregory of Nyssa argue for the divine couple embodying the same perfect union of the heavenly household. We read at one point in his debate with the neo-Arian Eunomius him acknowledge that Eunomius ridiculing members of his orthodox tradition for being "rash for instancing the unity of nature and difference of persons of Peter and Paul, and says we are guilty of gross recklessness, if we apply our argument to the contemplation of the objects of pure reason by the aid of material examples." This was certainly true insofar as no relationship – heavenly or otherwise – has ever attained the ‘ideal’ perfect unanimity. This is not possible, nor should it be desirable for anyone.

Indeed there are signs in the tradition associated with the secret gospel of Mark that the original Alexandrian tradition held that Peter and Paul were as different as God the Father and God the Son. It was only the later Roman model promoted by Irenaeus which argued that all here 'shared of one nature.' The heretics clearly assumed that Paul was of a 'superior' nature to Peter even though he called himself ‘the least.’ The same idea shows up in a subtle manner in Clement’s description of Mark writing the secret gospel. Peter's gospel is only as enlightened as Peter’s nature whereas Mark's gospel comes from a heavenly nature which is deemed ultimately superior by Clement and his Alexandrian tradition.

We shall get into the Roman appropriation of the ‘secret gospel’ concept in our next chapter. For the moment it is enough for us to note that ever since Joseph’s original report about the ‘Carpocratians’ there was an idea that in essence ‘two heads’ – or in this case ‘two bodies’ - were better than one. The synergy which is harnessed from the union of two individuals raises the greatness of the individual parts to new heights. This notion of the spiritual superiority of male pairs is clearly perpetuated throughout antiquity. There was an acceptance of two males being yoked into pairs where each part of the union was ‘assisted’ by the other to emerge together as co-equals with Christ.

Without a doubt there is something essentially heretical about this doctrine to outside ears. Nevertheless the basic idea must have been so well established in the community that it could not be easily overcome. While one particular yoked male couple - that of Peter and Paul - is venerated above all others. Nevertheless the cult of the saints had many lesser couples - Cyrus and John, Sergius and Bacchus, Philip and Bartholomew, Cosmas and Damian, George and Demetrius, the two Theodores - just to name a few. The underlying idea was that 'being yoked'' transformed individuals into saints. As the secret gospel declares, it was a divine pattern established by Jesus himself.

So we read in the writings of the fifth century Church Father Theodoret repeatly makes reference to the divine pairing of Peter and Paul as brothers or 'yokefellows' (syzygoi). This language certainly takes us back to the discussions we saw earlier in Clement of Alexandria and related Alexandrian writers with respect to the spiritual equivalent of 'marriage' for men. The only difference now is that this divine syzygy is said to have been established between Peter and Paul at their meeting at Antioch described in the canonical Acts of the Apostles. Theodoret writes that the Antiochenes during the persecutions of the pagan Emperor Julian in the fourth century endured only because they "had received their divine teaching from the glorious syzygoi Peter and Paul, and were full of warm affection for the Master and Saviour of all, persisted in execrating Julian to the end."

The fact that Peter and Paul are described as a 'syzygy' certainly goes back again to the second century. As noted we have already seen how important the idea was to the early Alexandrian tradition. Yet the notion already made its way to Rome at a very early date. Not only were there Valentinians in Rome and outside of the capitol influencing Roman Christianity in the early second century, we learn that Tatian, the disciple of Justus the philosopher said that "several divine beings and several invisible aeons; everything is a mixture of good and evil, because everything lives in syzygy." While there is no direct mention of a Peter and Paul pairing here it is important to note that the veneration of syzygized men can certainly be argued to have predated the cult of these particular Roman saints.

We have already noted that the secret gospel makes reference to Jesus becoming yoked to one of his disciples. The earliest and most fundamental doctrine from the Semitic Christian culture of Edessa assumes that Jesus had this sort of a relationship with one disciple in particular – Judas. The cult of ‘the twin of Jesus’ was taken over and transformed within the third century Mesopotamian environment with the rise of Mani the leader of the Manichaean church. We read over and over again in the early Manichaean writings about Mani associating with divine powers and in particular one described as his 'syzygos' (his Twin, Companion or guardian angel also his 'syzyg'). This power was Mani’s special protector who granted him a special revelation at the completion of his twenty fourth year.

The story goes that after Mani became united or 'syzygized' with his twin he broke with the particular Jewish Christian baptismal sect he grew up in. The syzygos figure was ultimately identified as 'Jesus the Splendor' yet scholars are pretty certain that Mani himself was just mining an established apostolic tradition that seems to have been especially popular in the East - that of the Edessan cult of Judas called 'the twin' (= Thomas). According to this ancient tradition Jesus had a special relationship with a twin named Judas. The idea survives in the Syriac Acts of Judas Thomas among other texts and seems to represent a wholly separate but ultimately related expression of the mystical doctrine associated with the secret gospel of Alexandria.

To this end we have two wholly independent traditions demonstrating that the divine syzygy concept was established by Jesus among his apostles. While the Manichaean texts use different terms for this being – i.e. he is called 'Nous' (= Mind) or Paraclete (= comforter) the basic concept here is consistent with things we find in the earliest cults of the Roman Empire. As we just noted in the Eastern tradition the Syzygos, Mani's alter ego, was sent to him from heaven: this Twin brought Mani the revelation by reminding him of his divine nature and mission; and, like his guardian angel, he protected him. In the West by contrast we see the 'passing on' of the ritual syzygizing of pairs of disciples after Jesus but no mention any longer - or at least until relatively recently - of the original act of Jesus pairing with his one beloved disciple.

It is worth noting that interest in becoming a ‘pair’ is evidenced as early as the Pauline Epistles. The apostle makes explicit reference to a syzygos in Philippians 4:3 - "I ask you, my true syzygos, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel ... whose names are in the book of life." Scholars have never agreed who or what this syzygos was. Some ancient sources argue that this is a reference to Paul's wife. Nevertheless it is hard not to see this reference was originally taken by at least some sectarians to be a reference to the supernatural Jesus. In other words, Paul like Mani and Judas before him was 'partnered' in some way with Jesus.

There are of course many other ‘code words’ in the Pauline writings which are identified by Clement and members of his tradition as witnessing Jesus as their syzygos. Clement says that Paul often references Jesus as his ‘brother’ or ‘neighbor’ to express the underlying intimacy that he and members of the Christian community have with Jesus. Some have argued that Paul was only alluding to a female companion with his use of the term syzygos, yet this is a forced reading of the original Greek. There are some early examples of this interpretation including Clement in the third book of the Stromata. Yet as we have noted already this interpretation was undoubtedly ‘encouraged’ by pressure from his boss – the married Patriarch Demetrius. The original understanding was clearly that Paul’s syzygos was male.

It is also very telling that when Jerome finally ‘opens up’ about his former life in the Origenist heresy and ‘confesses’ his participation in many of the sins of the community he makes specific reference to a very heretical sounding myth about the pairing of 'Peter and Paul' and the unsexing of women. Jerome openly declares that his:

researches have reached this result, that you must believe and hold the resurrection of the flesh in this sense that men’s bodies will be turned into spirits and their wives into men; and that before the foundation of the world souls existed in heaven, and thence, for reasons known to God alone, were brought down into this valley of tears, and were inserted into this body of death; that, in the end of the ages the whole of nature, being reasonable, will be fashioned again into one body as it was in the beginning, that man will be recalled into Paradise, and the apostate angel will be exalted above Peter and Paul, since they, being but men, must be placed in the lower position of paradise, while he will be restored to be that which he was originally created; and that all shall together make up the Church of the first born in heaven, and, while placed each in his separate office, shall be equally members of Christ: but all of them taken together will be the perfect body of Christ.

It is very important to take note of the fact that Jerome is here revealing for the first time many of the deepest secrets from his life as a crypto-Christian. For years he has hidden the true nature of the Alexandrian doctrine that brought him into the Christian faith. Yet now, in the midst of the so-called 'Origenist controversies' which raged throughout the fifth century, he wanted to demonstrate that he had finally turned his back on this heretical sect and was now openly exposing what he claimed was the central myth to the Alexandrian tradition.

The reference to a repentant apostate angel being superior to Peter and Paul seems to echo Joseph’s statements in the second century about the Carpocratian sect. The notion that the Creator who fell in the beginning will ultimately be redeemed is as old as the Marcionite sect. Many people took this as the meaning of the saying ‘the last will be first (i.e. man created on the last day of creation) and the first (i.e. the Creator) will be last.” The idea that their wives would be turned into men can be taken in two different ways. On the one hand, it may be an expression of support for Demetrius’s carrying around a wife. On the other hand it seems to openly acknowledge that the ideal form of marriage was male with male – ‘like the angels.’

There is nothing shocking about any of these ideas other than the fact that they managed to survive so long in a supposedly hostile orthodoxy. Yet this brings us to an important realization. Maybe the beliefs of the actual church were quite at odds with what the leadership were trying to force down their throats. Indeed when we read the writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus and others who held leadership roles in the Church and were trying to impose doctrines and beliefs on others we have to consider that this imposition might have met with great resistance from rank and file members of the community. They might even have been highly unpopular.

Hippolytus makes repeated mention of the Marciani as being a heretical body within the great Church which secretly resisted Irenaeus’s reform efforts. He says that they read Irenaeus’s demands and only sought new and cleverer means of disguising their original heresy. “And it appears that some of the Marciani on meeting with Irenaeus' work, deny that they have so received the secret word just alluded to, but they have learned that always they should deny. Wherefore our anxiety has been more accurately to investigate, and to discover minutely what are the instructions which they deliver.” This sounds remarkably similar to Clement’s advocating deception to Theodore with respect to the secret gospel – “to them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath. For, "For not all true things are to be said to all men". For this reason the Wisdom of God, through Solomon, advises, "Answer the fool with his folly," teaching that the light of the truth should be hidden from those who are mentally blind.”

As such it is careful that we don’t fall victim to the claim of these self-described ‘heresiarchs’ that they represented the ‘truth’ from the very beginning. The very fact that the mystical cult of Peter and Paul should have survived so long in spite of being at odds with the notion of Rome as an exclusively Petrine see is quite surprising. Nevertheless a careful examination of later literature reveals how sterile these depictions ultimately become. They reflect the early notions of Peter and Paul 'speaking together,’ 'working together' as Christ on earth or in the case of Ignatius of Antioch "Peter and Paul who issue orders unto" the Church. There is no little in the way of deep spiritual insights or mystic thought in any of the material.

To this end, the third century's Anatolius of Alexandria for instance speaks of "the successors of Peter and Paul, who have taught all the churches in which they sowed the spiritual seeds of the Gospel." Pope Leo in the fifth century speaks of the "progenitors" at Rome "who learnt the Gospel of the Cross of Christ from the very mouth of the most blessed Apostles Peter and Paul." The point here is that despite the fact that Peter and Paul labored separately for the most part in their careers, 'the Gospel' as such was developed from the synergy of their working together. In short - it was not Peter's gospel, it was not Paul's gospel - 'the Gospel' - represents the mixing of their teachings in the same way as the sacramental cup was part water and part wine. Once again the pairing of the two apostles came to symbolize the unanimity in the godhead and the message of Christ.

So the third century Latin Church Father Tertullian speaks of "Peter and Paul" mystically establishing the gospel together "from the very beginning" and which "which has been kept as a sacred deposit in the churches of the apostles." Which Church might you ask? The answer should by now be obvious - "what utterance also the Romans give, so very near to whom Peter and Paul conjointly bequeathed the gospel even sealed with their own blood." This emphasis of the unanimity of the apostolic message inevitably becomes invoked whenever the conversation turns to Marcionite tradition. This was certainly because the heretic was most explicitly associated with the elevation of Paul above Peter and as we shall see – the existence of a secret gospel from the very beginning of Christianity.

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.