Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why I Was Fortunate to Have Married a Catholic

I going through all the Pauline references in the writings of the Church Father Methodius and ultimately will compile a list that I will use to find parallels with the writings of Clement of Alexandria.  It is of course a time consuming exercise, one which doesn't offer a lot of rewards.  Nevertheless I just happened to be reflecting upon the import of my overall thesis and asked myself why no one ever thought of it before?  After all, Irenaeus and Tertullian make specific mention to the existence of 'scriptures' (i.e. not just gospels) which the heretics are accused of 'jumbling' the order of the sentences.  If the heretics did this surely there would be some sort of 'sign' of these 'centonized' scriptures somewhere?  It is at least a legitimate scholarly question and I was wondering why no one had thought about all the strange references to texts in Clement of Alexandria.

Of course some people have mentioned that 'Secret Mark' appears centonized.  Francis Watson is most famously associated with this position but it dates back to Robert McQueen Grant.  Grant simply told Morton Smith, 'hey there is this reference in Irenaeus I think you ought to look at - seems to describe your discovery.'  Smith rejected the suggestion, but Watson strangely turned this around into a proof of modern forgery quite specifically, which is just downright silly of course.  Indeed as we just noted his Pauline references - and those of his counterparts like Methodius - follow the same pattern.  If anything this brings Secret Mark into line with the general pattern of Clement being associated with heretics.

But that wasn't the point of this post.  As I was thinking about this problem, the obvious objection of scholars  to my suggestion came into my head.  They naturally assume that there was this thing called 'the Bible' which was firmly established and which they assume was openly passed about like weed at a rock concert.  But owing to the time spent with my wife I have seen first hand the actual way that 'the faithful' ever came into contact with the New Testament writings - i.e. through readings in church.  My wife considers herself a faithful Christian but she couldn't identify the origins of any Pauline writings - not even that 'love' reference they always say at weddings.

The point then is that since 'the faithful' only heard short sections of text read aloud in church.  It would be very easy to 'centonize' the New Testament.  The only time most people in antiquity ever came into direct physical contact with a gospel was likely after they were baptized.  Even then the 'mystery' associated with all these individual 'readings' was only 'put together' under strict supervision.  We should imagine that there was a 'heretical' and 'orthodox' pattern to piecing together these individual passages in a particular order.  The Epistula Apostolorum demonstrates a variant manner of 'piecing together' the gospel narrative, there must have been others.  The writings of Clement of Alexandra show superficially emended 'centonized' readings from the Pauline canon - or is it our canon which was 'centonized'?

I suspect the latter, as Irenaeus - the ultimate apologist for the present canon - demonstrates himself to be so adept at developing centos.

Email with comments or questions.

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