Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Backing Up Our Claim Regarding Clement's Variant Apostolikon

We have been going through all the references in Clement's Stromata to specific named Pauline correspondences.  The reason for this simple.  It is likely that these were added by a later editor.  We have already gone over the basic argument on behalf of this assumption many times now.  We should like instead to justify the specific reconstruction that we have made based on two references to the original section in Clement's Apostolikon containing the equivalent of Colossians 1:28 in the Stromata Books One and Five:

According to revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in brief, in accordance with which, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets. For there is an instruction of the perfect for which we cease not to pray for you, and beseech that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing; being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to the glory of His power and according to the disposition of the grace of God which is given me, that you may fulfil the word of God; the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations, which now is manifested to His saints: to whom God wished to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations. For not only for the Hebrews and those that are under the law, is it right to become a Jew, but also a Greek for the sake of the Greeks, that we may gain all. Advising every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ.

It is of course quite difficult to prove that Clement's collection of Pauline Epistles were rather different than our standard - Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians etc.  Nevertheless there are some circumstantial reasons which assist our argument that his canon would have appeared 'centonized' - i.e. like stones in a mosaic where individual passages were moved out of their original (= assumed) contexts.

Irenaeus already brings up this argument with relation to the gospel in the first book of Against Heresies.  While Irenaeus accuses the heretics of moving the sentences of his 'true canon' Irenaeus interesting demonstrates himself to be very adept at developing centos from Homer in what follows raising suspicions that in fact his canon may have been centonized from a heretical original.  In any event, it is worth noting that whenever he or other Church Fathers that followed in his trailblazing work attacks the heretical interpretation of scriptures they inevitably do so by a line by line exposition of the Pauline Epistles.  We see this carried out most famously in Book Five of Tertullian Against Marcion which we have noted is identified by Barclay and others as a development from Irenaeus's lost work of the same name.

Our point here is to note that the Church Fathers claim that the heretics misrepresent scripture has a ring of truth because quite frankly the surviving canon does not seem to support their contention regarding a 'god above god' and all the rest that they speak.  Some scholars at least have inferred from Tertullian's development of Irenaeus's original work (no less than that of Epiphanius) that the heretics like Marcion may have possessed shorter versions of the individual texts that made up their New Testament canon.  So it is that Epiphanius complains about a massive excision before Jesus appearance in Jerusalem no less than Tertullian's complain that Marcion has erase a huge section our of the Epistle to the Romans between 8:13 and 10:2.

Yet the argument for excisions in the existing text can only go so far. Even with the assumption of the second and third century Catholic editors of the canon adding large sums of text cannot help explain why for instance Basilides thinks that the 'mystery' referenced in Colossians 1:26 points to the god of the Jews being unaware there was a god above him, or in a related argument that there were two gospels or doctrines aimed at 'Jews' and 'Greeks.'  These arguments are always made in Clement and elsewhere with an appeal to large sections of scripture - some of which still appear as a unified whole in our canon (i.e. Col 1.9 - 11, Col 1.25 - 27, Col 1.28 etc) but at the same with a clear assumption that addition text resembling other sections of our present canon stood side by side these references (i.e. Ephesians 3:3 - 5, 1 Cor 9:20).

In our citation above, developed from material which appears in Book Five of the Stromata it is important to note that the section results from an apparent 'fusion' of Ephesians 3:3 - 5 and Colossians 1:9 - 11, 25 - 28.  We have argued that a later editor - Eusebius most likely - came along and added specific reference to the name 'Epistle of the Colossians' to distance this Alexandrian master and teacher of Origen from the charge of heresy (i.e. employing a heretical canon).  The argument which follows in Book 5 assumes that there were two revelations, one to the Jews and another to the Greeks where the latter manifested itself in a mystery religion established by the apostle based on a secret gospel.

We have already exhausted all references to the material from the equivalent to Colossians chapter 1 in the writings of Clement.  Nevertheless it is worth noting that Clement develops an argument apparently from Ephesians 3:3 - 5 that makes no sense whatsoever from the actual context of the Epistle.  He writes at the end of Book One of the Stromata (allusion to Ephesians 3:3 - 5 highlighted in red):

But the true dialectic, being philosophy mixed with truth, by examining things, and testing forces and powers, gradually ascends in relation to the most excellent essence of all, and essays to go beyond to the God of the universe, professing not the knowledge of mortal affairs, but the science of things divine and heavenly; in accordance with which follows a suitable course of practice with respect to words and deeds, even in human affairs. Rightly, therefore, the Scripture, in its desire to make us such dialecticians, exhorts us: Be skilful money-changers rejecting some things, but retaining what is good. For this true dialectic is the science which analyses the objects of thought, and shows abstractly and by itself the individual substratum of existences, or the power of dividing things into genera, which descends to their most special properties, and presents each individual object to be contemplated simply such as it is.

Wherefore it alone conducts to the true wisdom, which is the divine power which deals with the knowledge of entities as entities, which grasps what is perfect, and is freed from all passion; not without the Saviour, who withdraws, by the divine word, the gloom of ignorance arising from evil training, which had overspread the eye of the soul, and bestows the best of gifts,— that we might well know or God or man. It is He who truly shows how we are to know ourselves. It is He who reveals the Father of the universe to whom He wills, and as far as human nature can comprehend. For no man knows the Son but the Father, nor the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him. [Matthew 11:27]

Rightly, then, the apostle says that it was by revelation that he knew the mystery: As I wrote afore in few words, according as you are able to understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. Ephesians 3:3-4 According as you are able, he said, since he knew that some had received milk only, and had not yet received meat, nor even milk simply. The sense of the law is to be taken in three ways, — either as exhibiting a symbol, or laying down a precept for right conduct, or as uttering a prophecy. But I well know that it belongs to men [of full age] to distinguish and declare these things. For the whole Scripture is not in its meaning a single Myconos, as the proverbial expression has it; but those who hunt after the connection of the divine teaching, must approach it with the utmost perfection of the logical faculty.

Whence most beautifully the Egyptian priest in Plato said, O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children, not having in your souls a single ancient opinion received through tradition from antiquity. And not one of the Greeks is an old man; meaning by old, I suppose, those who know what belongs to the more remote antiquity, that is, our literature; and by young, those who treat of what is more recent and made the subject of study by the Greeks,— things of yesterday and of recent date as if they were old and ancient. Wherefore he added, and no study hoary with time; for we, in a kind of barbarous way, deal in homely and rugged metaphor. Those, therefore, whose minds are rightly constituted approach the interpretation utterly destitute of artifice.

And of the Greeks, he says that their opinions differ but little from myths. For neither puerile fables nor stories current among children are fit for listening to. And he called the myths themselves children, as if the progeny of those, wise in their own conceits among the Greeks, who had but little insight; meaning by the hoary studies the truth which was possessed by the barbarians, dating from the highest antiquity. To which expression he opposed the phrase child fable, censuring the mythical character of the attempts of the moderns, as, like children, having nothing of age in them, and affirming both in common— their fables and their speeches— to be puerile.

Similarly, also, demonstrations from the resources of erudition, strengthen, confirm, and establish demonstrative reasonings, in so far as men's minds are in a wavering state like young people's. The good commandment, then, according to the Scripture, is a lamp, and the law is a light to the path; for instruction corrects the ways of life. [Proverbs 6:23] Law is king of all, both of mortals and of immortals, says Pindar. I understand, however, by these words, Him who enacted law. And I regard, as spoken of the God of all, the following utterance of Hesiod, though spoken by the poet at random and not with comprehension:— For the Saturnian framed for men this law: Fishes, and beasts, and winged birds may eat Each other, since no rule of right is theirs; But Right (by far the best) to men he gave.

Whether, then, it be the law which is connate and natural, or that given afterwards, which is meant, it is certainly of God; and both the law of nature and that of instruction are one. Thus also Plato, in The Statesman, says that the lawgiver is one; and in The Laws, that he who shall understand music is one; teaching by these words that the Word is one, and God is one. And Moses manifestly calls the Lord a covenant: Behold I am my Covenant with you, having previously told him not to seek the covenant in writing. For it is a covenant which God, the Author of all, makes. For God is called Θεός, from θέσις (placing), and order or arrangement. And in the Preaching of Peter you will find the Lord called Law and Word. (Stromata 1.28 - 29)

The point here is to note that Clement's use of Ephesians 3:3 - 5 naturally assumes a context which follows exactly like our reconstructed epistle from references in Book Five of the Stromata (i.e. that it is immediately followed by Colossians 1:9 - 11, 25 - 27 etc).  The content which now follows Ephesians 3:3 - 5 in the canonical Epistle to the Ephesians utterly contradicts Clement's assumptions.

We read in Ephesians chapter 3 a discussion which has nothing to do with a twofold division in the world between 'Jews' and 'Greeks' or two different revelations made by means of 'prophets' on the one hand and 'apostles' on the other.  It is interesting that this idea which is consistently retained by Clement and the other Alexandrian heretics utterly disappears from what follows in the existing Letter to the Ephesians: :

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. [Ephesians 3:3 - 21]

My point simply is that whenever we hear about the heretical interpretation of this material (including Clement) there is a consistent connection not only between Ephesians 3:3 - 5 and Colossians chapter 1 (see the reference to 'mature man' above) but more importantly the idea that God established two gospels and two revelations - one by 'faith' and another by means of knowledge through a mystery - for the Jews and Greeks respectively.

It can't be coincidence that all references to 'the Jews' have dropped out of what follows in Ephesians, a text which has long been dubbed a 'deutero-Pauline' epistle.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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