Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Clear Proof What Justin Meant by Syntagma (= Constitution)

There are two references to the terminology in the First Apology.  Everyone seems to have noticed the first reference.  They never quite figure to look at the second one:

But I have a constitution (written) against all the heresies that have existed already arranged (καὶ σύνταγμα κατὰ πασῶν τῶν γεγενημένων αἱρέσεων συντεταγμένον), which, if you wish to read it, I will give you. [1 Apology 26]

But so much is written for the sake of proving that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God and His Apostle, being of old the Word, and appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race, He endured all the sufferings which the devils instigated the senseless Jews to inflict upon Him; who, though they have it expressly affirmed in the writings of Moses (ητῶς εἰρημένον ἐν τοῖς Μωυσέως συντάγμασι), And the angel of God spoke to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush, and said, I am that I am, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yet maintain that He who said this was the Father and Creator of the universe. [1 Apology 63]

I simply can't believe that there is any question what Justin means by the term 'syntagma.'  Just look at the context of who it is that he is alleged to have sent this 'syntagma' - it is the Emperor Antoninus Pius.  It is utterly incredible that scholars ignore the import of what is being claimed here.

The First Letter of Justin is an obvious problem.  It claims to be a letter written to the Emperor by a Christian during the time of persecution against his religion. The over purpose is stated in the opening words by Justin - "we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve." (1 Apology 2). Justin is clearly portrayed as living through the age of persecution referenced by Celsus at the beginning of the True Word.  This is not what we are questioning.  The problem is that this correspondence which takes the form of an apology for the Christian religion may well be based on an actual correspondence from Justin to the Emperor.  What seems absolutely fraudulent is the addition to chapter 26 of Justin offering to send Antoninus his 'ready made' constitution as a means of abating the persecution of Christians.

In other words, when you go through the contents of the First Apology it is quite believable to suppose that what would later be known as 'Marcionites' were being punished in the age - " in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust." (ibid 4)  Clearly the original text of Justin supposed Jesus to be Chrestos and the term 'Christian' to be a garbled understanding of that term.  Yet there is something utterly incredible about Irenaeus (a) arguing that Justin was orthodox (b) actively campaigned against the heresies and most importantly (c) wrote the syntagma which was clearly - i.e. given Celsus's testimony - adopted by the Emperor as official policy with regards to the sect.

I don't know if I am making myself completely clear to my readership.  The only thing we know for certain is that Celsus's True Logos was conceived as a syntagma (constitution) for what was acceptable for the Christian religion.  It was from this original work that a shorter Syntagma contra omnes Hæreses was established by the Church itself to govern the multitudes of Christians and this text stood behind both Hippolytus Syntagma contra omnes Hæreses, the surviving Philosophumena and Irenaeus's Against Heresies.    The myth of Justin being the original author of the material was invented to get around the obvious problem of having Christianity defined by secular authorities.

Just look at how silly the offer from Justin is presented.  As noted Justin begins by writing a likely legitimate letter complaining about the treatment of the authorities by the followers of Jesus Chrestos.  Justin certainly did offer an apology for his religion but then by the 26th chapter an editor - undoubtedly Irenaeus - inserts Justin's offer of a new religious constitution for the faith.  He does so by mentioning the same Simon mentioned in Celsus's original treatise:

because after Christ's ascension into heaven the devils put forward certain men who said that they themselves were gods; and they were not only not persecuted by you, but even deemed worthy of honours. There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome:— Simoni Deo Sancto, To Simon the holy God. And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him. And a man, Menander, also a Samaritan, of the town Capparetæa, a disciple of Simon, and inspired by devils, we know to have deceived many while he was in Antioch by his magical art. He persuaded those who adhered to him that they should never die, and even now there are some living who hold this opinion of his. And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them. And whether they perpetrate those fabulous and shameful deeds — the upsetting of the lamp, and promiscuous intercourse, and eating human flesh— we know not; but we do know that they are neither persecuted nor put to death by you, at least on account of their opinions. But I have a constitution against all the heresies that have existed already arranged, which, if you wish to read it, I will give you.[ibid 26]

The clear important of all of this is that it seems both Justin and Celsus agree about the basic framework of how Christianity became a punishable religion.  A series of schismatics from the true message created a reprehensible faith which is deservedly abused.

Of course there can be no doubt that chapter 26 was added to a pre-existent narrative.  Chapter 27 which immediately begins with a discussion of cultic prostitution which associated with the goddesses last referenced in chapter 25 - "to worship Bacchus the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona (who in their loves with men did such things as it is shameful even to mention), and Proserpine and Venus (who were maddened with love of Adonis, and whose mysteries also you celebrate)."  The clear point here is that the real Justin never likely offered Antoninus Pius a new 'constitution' for Christianity, never mentioned the same sectarian groups as Celsus.  It was Celsus who helped establish the new 'arrangement' for Christianity with the ruling class and then as a way of justifying their authority, Irenaeus altered the contents of the Apology with this ridiculous story.

The bottom line is that we already know that syntagma meant 'constitution' for Justin given the fact that he calls the laws of Moses (which set the rules of the community of Israel' syntagmasi the plural neuter form of syntagma.

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