Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monarchian Thought

Very few people actually think about all the information we have from early Christianity.  Sure they analyse bits and pieces - but I am talking about 'the big picture.'  Here is an example.  The idea that four gospels are one is monarchian.  It's the same thing - or springs from the same well - as Sabellius.  The tradition associated with Arianism by contrast would have had two slightly different gospels, one better than the other and also secret (like the Father) and then a public gospel that was 'sufficient' (cf. Aquila's translation of Shaddai).  Do you get where I am going with this now?  

The idea that many things are all 'actively in communion' is a monarchian idea.  Whenever people naturally try and explain the Trinity they start with the Islamic caricature of Christianity - i.e. three separate gods.  Then they overcompensate and try to imagine a monarchian arrangement where the Father = the Son = the Holy Spirit.  But that ends up not making any sense because a 'Father' has to have been around before his 'Son' was born and so on.  

As I am rereading Ignatius with this critical eye (never having thought about this stuff before) I stumble back into this sections of the epistles where the author seems to echo all sorts of New Testament material.  It happens all the time.  It's hard to tell what is going on.  Is he alluding to scripture?  Is he remembering the material but just doesn't have a Bible in front of him?  Or (now skeptically) is the author the guy who added many of these 'scriptures' to the writings of Paul?  Of course the monarchian response to this accusation of plagiarism is quite ingenious.  We all share the same Holy Spirit.  We can't underestimate this pervasiveness of logic.  

If you think the Father could be 'fully present' in the Son and the Son could be 'fully present' in a mortal man then the natural offshoot of monarchianism is the 'New Prophesy' movement.  The Father could well be in any one of us and so - and this is critical - the authority, the 'active voice' by which Paul wrote his letters is now in me.  'Counterfeiting texts' sounds so cold and legal.  'Communing with the spirit' was probably the preferred technical terminology. 

And don't forget Eusebius's excuse as he went through the writings of Clement, Origen, Dionysius and the various Alexandrian Fathers 'correcting' their works of 'heresy.'  The 'heresy' wasn't from them.  Their orthodoxy, of course, was certainly pure.  The texts supposedly got corrupted through 'being out in the evil world.'  The idea that scribes would have already added things to Origen's original text is ridiculous when Eusebius often claims that he saw his handwriting confirming this or that when it was convenient for him to say so.  But then again Ambrose did hire a team of scribes for Origen.  Maybe the devil 'got into' one of those copyists.  

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