Saturday, January 26, 2013

Doherty is Only Half-Right About Jesus and the Heavenly Tabernacle

I believe I have come one step closer to understanding the Marcionite paradigm and it was accomplished by gleaning information from the tradition associated with Valentinus.  Few people mention the textual variant referenced by Irenaeus in his account of the sect when he writes that according to the Catholic understanding the evangelist:

styles Him (= Jesus) Son, and Aletheia, and Zoe, and the "Word made flesh, whose glory," he says, "we beheld; and His glory was as that of the Only-begotten given to Him by the Father, full of grace and truth." But what John really does say is this: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." [Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.8.5] 

It is rarely recognized that these are two different versions of the equivalent of John 1:14 - first the heretical text used by the Valentinians and then Irenaeus's own Catholic gospel.

Indeed if we put the two versions of the gospel side by side we see that the word 'tabernacling' (= eskenosen) is not present in the heretical text.  Instead we see the idea of the Father 'giving' the glory of the Only-begotten:

Heretical text John 1:14 -  καὶ λόγον σάρκα γενόμενον· οὗ τὴν δόξαν ἐθεασάμεθά καὶ ἦν ἡ δόξα αὐτοῦ, οἵα ἦν ἡ τοῦ μονογενοῦς, ἡ ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς δοθεῖσα αὐτῷ, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.

Catholic text of John 1:14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ Πατρὸς, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας
The interesting thing is that - even after citing this textual different - Irenaeus continues to club the heads of the heretics, accusing them of not 'telling the truth' about Jesus when they claim that he was a heavenly being.  Yet there is something even more specific to contemporary controversies about 'the mythical Jesus' and Earl Doherty's theories in particular.  Irenaeus goes on to say that the heretics do not believe that the Logos ever set foot on earth.

Now before the defenders of Doherty jump to their feet, Irenaeus's point ultimately disproves his interpretation of Hebrews 8:4.  The heretics claimed that Jesus did indeed come to earth for a brief time, but interesting he was not the Logos - the figure consistently identified by Philo and those who were influenced by him (= the author of Hebrews) as the heavenly high priest.  Irenaeus writes:

But that the apostle did not speak concerning their conjunctions, but concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he also acknowledges as the Word of God, he himself has made evident. For, summing up his statements respecting the Word previously mentioned by him, he further declares, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." But, according to their hypothesis, the Word did not become flesh at all, inasmuch as He never went outside of the Pleroma, but that Saviour [became flesh] who was formed by a special dispensation [out of all the AEons], and was of later date than the Word. [AH 1.9.2]

Now this is a very important distinction.  It may well have been that the Valentinians did read Hebrews 8:4 in the very way Doherty wants us to interpret the material - i.e. that 'the heavenly high priest' goes about his business in the highest heavens.  Nevertheless all the rest of his conjecture falls to the ground.  For it is quite clear that Jesus is not the Logos for the Valentinians and various other heretical groups - and so too Clement of Alexandria according to Photius of Constantinople.

So it is that Irenaeus continues his - admittedly one-sided - reporting about his heretical opponents.  He continues by condemning them for not acknowledging that Jesus was the Word saying:

Learn then, ye foolish men, that Jesus who suffered for us, and who dwelt among us, is Himself the Word of God. For if any other of the AEons had become flesh for our salvation, it would have been probable that the apostle spoke of another. But if the Word of the Father who descended is the same also that ascended, He, namely, the Only-begotten Son of the only God, who, according to the good pleasure of the Father, became flesh for the sake of men, the apostle certainly does not speak regarding any other, or concerning any Ogdoad, but respecting our Lord Jesus Christ. For, according to them, the Word did not originally become flesh. For they maintain that the Saviour assumed an animal body, formed in accordance with a special dispensation by an unspeakable providence, so as to become visible and palpable. But flesh is that which was of old formed for Adam by God out of the dust, and it is this that John has declared the Word of God became. [ibid 1.9.3]

The specifics of the heretical conception need not concern us here.  The ideas are repeated again in a long section in Book Three where Irenaeus seems to want to overwhelm the reader with too much information about a number of different conceptions - all at the same time. The point here is that Jesus was something other than the Word, he was undoubtedly the 'glory of God' or as it is put elsewhere - the glory-Lord.

It is incredible how many times Irenaeus makes reference to this belief held fast among a great variety of heretics.  Here is only a sampling from some of the books of Against Heresies:

neither was Christ one and Jesus another: but the Word of God--who is the Saviour of all, and the ruler of heaven and earth, who is Jesus, as I have already pointed out, who did also take upon Him flesh, and was anointed by the Spirit from the Father--was made Jesus Christ [AH 3.9.3]

For all things had entered upon a new phase, the Word arranging after a new manner the advent in the flesh, that He might win back(6) to God that human nature (hominem) which had departed from God; and therefore men were taught to worship God after a new fashion, but not another god, because in truth there is but "one God, who justifieth the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith." [ibid 3.10.2]

But salvation, as being flesh: for "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."(16) This knowledge of salvation, therefore, John did impart to those repenting, and believing in the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. [ibid 3.10.3]

For they say that he, the Lord and Creator of the plan of creation, by whom they hold that this world was made, was produced from the Mother; while the Gospel affirms plainly, that by the Word, which was in the beginning with God, all things were made, which Word, he says, "was made flesh, and dwelt among us." But, according to these men, neither was the Word made flesh, nor Christ, nor the Saviour (Soter), who was produced from [the joint contributions of] all [the Aeons]. For they will have it, that the Word and Christ never came into this world; that the Saviour, too, never became incarnate, nor suffered, but that He descended like a dove upon the dispensational Jesus [ibid 3.11.3]

for "not by the will of the flesh nor by the will of man, but by the will of God was the Word made flesh;"(1) and that we should not imagine that Jesus was one, and Christ another, but should know them to be one and the same. [ibid 3.14.2]

being ignorant that His only-begotten Word, who is always present with the human race, united to and mingled with His own creation, according to the Father's pleasure, and who became flesh, is Himself Jesus Christ our Lord, who did also suffer for us, and rose again on our behalf, and who will come again in the glory of His Father, to raise up all flesh, and for the manifestation of salvation, and to apply the rule of just judgment to all who were made by Him. There is therefore, as I have pointed out, one God the Father, and one Christ Jesus, who came by means of the whole dispensational arrangements [connected with Him], and gathered together all things in Himself. [ibid 3.14.6]

Their doctrine is homicidal, conjuring up, as it does, a number of gods, and simulating many Fathers, but lowering and dividing the Son of God in many ways. These are they against whom the Lord has cautioned us beforehand; and His disciple, in his Epistle already mentioned, commands us to avoid them, when he says: "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Take heed to them, that ye lose not what ye have wrought." And again does he say in the Epistle: "Many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit which separates Jesus Christ is not of God, but is of antichrist." These words agree with what was said in the Gospel, that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." Wherefore he again exclaims in his Epistle, "Every one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, has been born of God;" knowing Jesus Christ to be one and the same, to whom the gates of heaven were opened, because of His taking upon Him flesh: who shall also come in the same flesh in which He suffered, revealing the glory of the Father. [ibid 3.18.6]

For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin ... Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: "God, true are His works." But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore His works are true. [ibid 3.18.7]

To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: "I said, Ye are all the sons of the Highest, and gods; but ye shall die like men." He speaks undoubtedly these words to those who have not received the gift of adoption, but who despise the incarnation of the pure generation of the Word of God, defraud human nature of promotion into God, and prove themselves ungrateful to the Word of God, who became flesh for them. For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that might receive the adoption of sons? [ibid 3.19.1]

The point of course is that what we have uncovered with respect to the heretical understanding of John 1:14 is extremely significant.  Doherty may be understood to be partly correct.  Hebrews is almost certainly referencing the understanding that the Logos - the heavenly high priest - never set foot on the earth.  Nevertheless all the rest of what he writes about with respect to Paul - or the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews - not knowing the gospel narrative, or Jesus remaining in the highest heavens is utter nonsense.

More to follow ...

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