Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jesus as Roman Demi-God [Part Nineteen]


There are many other signs pointing to a ‘second development’ of Christianity at Rome in the late second century. The so-called ‘Latinized Greek’ of the earliest canonical gospel for instance – i.e. a well-known situation where the earliest Greek texts of ‘according to Mark’ betray a situation where the author or editor ‘thought’ in Latin or used a great deal of Latin terminology – seems to point to Irenaeus as well. Irenaeus is the earliest witness to cite the Latinized Greek of Mark and he himself has been acknowledged since the 16th century French Franciscan theologian François Feu-Ardent to have been fully functional in both languages – something that cannot be said about any other Church Father from the earliest period.

The idea that the gospel was written ‘in four’ in the ‘four different corners of the world’ with Mark ‘in Latin’ for the Romans is a very Irenaean conception. It also dovetails nicely with his myth of Mark acting as an ‘interpreter’ of Peter, the head of the Jewish-Christian community that produced Matthew. As we shall see shortly Mark being created out of Matthew is repeated often in the early literature of the Church. It undoubtedly accounts for the gospels being ‘one, two’ in our existing canons.

Yet rather than us seeing the ‘second place’ ranking of Mark in a negative light we should instead regard it in relation to the ‘two advent’ doctrine of Irenaeus. In time, it was argued, the doctrine of the Lord will come back and be established in Rome where the foundations of the Church will be laid also. The two ideas go hand in hand and we may even suspect that the idea that Mark was in ‘second’ place was even acknowledged by those attached to the evangelist – if an appeal is made to Clement of Alexandria’s recently discovered letter.

Without getting too far afield, Luke in turn can be seen as a correction of the heretical text of Mark, a document Irenaeus demonstrates he knows. John in turn was the most recent of gospels, and betrays Irenaeus’s later obsession with the Valentinians. In the same manner that Luke is anti-Marcionite, John is anti-Valentinian. The same methodology is used in both texts – that is, establishing ‘proof’ that the heretics misrepresent ‘their’ gospel (i.e. distinguishing ‘their’ texts from the ‘one, two’ punch of ur-Matthew and ur-Mark).

If we allow ourselves to accept Celsus basic attestation to the development of the fourfold canon – i.e. that contemporary Christians “have corrupted the Gospel from its original integrity, to a threefold, and fourfold, and many-fold degree, and have remodelled it, so that they might be able to answer objections” – the idea that it was twofold does not seem to have been a recent development. In some manner, there were always ‘two gospels.’ Paul, after mentioning the establishment of his own text, mentions in the same breath another which existed contemporaneously with his pure, heavenly creation.

Any attempt at ecumenism would have to go through resolving the original antithetical relationship between Matthew and Mark, the Jewish Christian gospel and the Pauline text. We must imagine that in some manner this was accomplished by having Matthew ‘first’ and Mark ‘second’ and squaring that with the two advent doctrine. Not surprising then do we hear Justin and Clement refer to this ‘before Mark’ text as an ‘outline’ or ‘memoir’ in some form. The reason for this it would seem is that only by the time of the advent was the truth entirely revealed. Jesus was something to the first Christians, but their understanding was ‘poor.’ The full riches of Christ were revealed to Paul, it was argued, and he established the very notion of a secondary figure – himself, according to the Marcionites and Valentinians – which was later expanded and developed by Irenaeus and others to open the door to this role being fulfilled by other candidates.

It is true that by the time of Irenaeus the very Marcionite terminology for the ‘secondary figure’ – i.e. ‘the Paraclete’ – was abandoned. Nevertheless it must have still been influential enough that the ‘one who was to come’ was so-called by the otherwise orthodox members of the New Prophesy movement. Irenaeus’s brilliance was to align this ‘secondary figure’ with a ‘secondary gospel’ now written in Latin or Latinized Greek and so already linked with the Imperial court. Indeed even this Mark is said to have written for the equestrian order in Rome in another version of this myth.

We can’t completely discount the association of the figure of the ‘second’ with royalty for even Paul – the original Paraclete – is pictured enthroned in Origen’s description of the heretical understanding. It might be worth citing that testimony in full from his imperfectly preserved Homilies on Luke:

The apostle Paul warns against inordinate and irrational love when he says of himself, "I fear that someone might have an opinion of me above what he sees or hears from me, and that the greatness of the revelations might exalt me," and so on. (2 Cor 12:6-7) Paul feared that even he might fall into this error. So he was unwilling to state everything about himself that he knew. He wanted no one to think more of him than he saw or, going beyond the limits of honor, to say what had been said about john, that "he was the Christ." Some people said this even about Dositheus, the heresiarch of the Samaritans; others said it also about judas the Galilean. Finally, some people burst forth into such great audacity of love that they invented new and unheard of exaggerations about Paul. For, some say this, that the passage in Scripture that speaks of "sitting at the Savior's right and left" (Mt 20.21) applies to Paul and Marcion: Paul sits at his right hand and Marcion at his left. Others read the passage, "I shall send you an advocate, the Spirit of Truth," (Jn 14:16) and are unwilling to understand a third person besides the Father and the Son, a divine and exalted nature. They take it to mean the apostle Paul. Do not all of these seem to you to have loved more than is fitting and, while they admired the virtue of each, to have lost moderation in love?" (Homilies on Luke 23)

It was from this pre-existent Marcionite understanding of a second coming of Christ that Irenaeus developed his doctrine of an enthroned Emperor representing the fulfillment of the advents of Christ. Yes Jesus was seated next to god, but so was the one representing his second advent.

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