Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Secret Life of Jesus [Chapter Four]

Chapter Four
Toward a Redefinition of What 'Catholic' Means

We have a fairly intriguing circumstantial case that a specific legal action was employed by the Catholic Church of Rome to take away property from the more ancient Christian collegia in the city. All signs point to Irenaeus being the original author of the material in De Praescriptione Haereticorum. Yet up until now we haven’t produced any direct evidence from the writings that have survived under his name to connect him directly to the effort. Of course such an event had to have occurred under Commodus rather than under his successors – or at the very least the conspiracy must have initiated then. Lampe has pointed “as late as the 180s Valentinians often held lectures before orthodox Christians — and then were shocked when Irenaeus urged withdrawal from their fellowship.”

Lampe also argues that “it was quite a long time before Victor took offense at Florinus. Significant is the manner in which that occurred. First an outsider, Irenaeus from Gaul, incited Victor to intervene against Florinus and to suppress his writings, which had circulated as far as Gaul (Irenaeus, Fragm. syr. 28, Harvey, 2:457). Victor "obeyed": Florinus had to lay down his priestly office; the separation was made.” In the middle of this controversy which certainly took place during the Commodian period – Irenaeus wrote a work entitled De Monarchia which we learn elsewhere “was addressed to the Roman priest Florinus "On the Sole Sovereignty, or How God is not the Cause of Evil." The work is now lost but a good would be that if we could recover that document we would know by what arguments and tactics Irenaeus succeeded at running the heresies out of Rome.

Of course yet another respected scholar who has written extensively on this period of Christian has a theory which – if corroborated – would provide us with a reworked version of at least part of the original arguments of that text. It was Charles Evans Hill, Professor of New Testament at the Reformed Theological Seminary who found what he considers to be a smoking gun. The argument is laid out at the beginning of his book From the Lost Teachings of Polycarp, that material now found in the Fourth Book of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies was incorporated from this much older work against Irenaeus’s rival in the Imperial court. In Hill’s own words – “it would be a reasonable assumption that Irenaeus has simply brought over this argument from On the Sole Sovereignty, where it would have had a specific target, to AH 4.30.1, where it had a more general application.”

Indeed it would make sense to view most of Against Heresies as a patchwork of things written by Irenaeus on the general topic of ‘heresy’ in the early Church. In fact most scholars acknowledge that Book One is made up of a number of different sources. The same holds true for other parts of the five books that make up this massively dense tome from antiquity. The particular section of text that Hill calls our attention to particularly intriguing and has been the subject of numerous papers and lectures because it openly acknowledges the friendly relations that Christians had with the Imperial court of Commodus. This particular chapter has a peculiar personal characteristic to it. Irenaeus speaks directly to his readership opening a very small window into the ‘good life’ being enjoyed by Christians at the Palatine Hill at the end of the second century before promptly closing it again.

As Hill again notes, citing the very words of Irenaeus - 'and as to the believing ones who are in the royal palace (in regali aula sunt), do they not derive the utensils they employ from the property which belongs to Caesar?' – and then adding in an amusing fashion, “Florinus, we recall, was just such a believer 'in the royal palace' in the days … [t]his in fact looks very much like a jab at Florinus himself!” Hill’s basic premise has been pretty well received in scholarship. John Behr recently endorsed the general notion here adding that it is “pretty certain” that De Monarchia was “written around the same time as haer. 4.27—32, with its reports of his teaching and the allusion to those in 'the royal court', but that the reference to false presbyters in haer. 4.26 also links this section” to other letters of Irenaeus.

We are going to put forward a very similar argument to these men save only that we actually take the implications of their observations one step further. If – as at least some suggest – De Monarchia was incorporated into this section of Book Four it was edited and rework to strip it of most of its specificity. For instance, both Florinus and Polycarp are no longer named anywhere in the material which is certainly odd in the latter case, representing something which has never been adequately explained by anyone. If the beginning and end of the letter was removed and moreover references to specific names and historical details it stands to reason that the main arguments themselves have also been glossed over too.

Scholars generally avoid acknowledging the corrupt nature of the material they are studying as it calls into question the value of any of their conclusions. In the case of the study of the earlier parts of Against Heresies – and Books One and Two in specific - there are so many theories about the composition, transmission and reordering of particular sections of the work that it makes it almost impossible to know where to start. Bingham provides a dizzying history of this speculation; our theory about the development of chapters 21 – 32 in Book Four will seem very tame by comparison.

It shall be our contention that the inclusio tying the two references to the elder's apostolic connection in 4.27.1 and 4.32.1 is basically proved but that the entire section may well go back much further – possibly as far back as chapter 21. It was the French scholar Philippe Bacq who first drew attention to the block of text. His observations have served as the cornerstone for just about every other theory that has developed around the original shape of the material. It would seem we have a discussion which develops from Polycarp’s argument regarding ‘typologies’ in the Old Testament. The original source of the material was a work On the Sole Sovereignty, or How God is not the Cause of Evil’ which directs its arguments against Florinus the Valentinian spending much of its time arguing that the Imperial redistribution of property was (a) a fulfillment of the typology established by the ancient Exodus and (b) responding to fairly well known Marcionite criticisms of this theory by arguing that indeed the handouts by Commodus were from God and not the Devil – hence the title.

To this end, given the fact that material from De Monarchia has been reworked into a section of Book Four of Against Heresies it stands to reason that the original (lost) work was nothing short of a ‘literary snapshot’ of the effects of Irenaeus’s praeceptio on the heretical community. Both the Marcionites and Valentinians are represented and we have a repetition of a general pattern we already saw in De Praescriptione Haereticorum where arguments seemingly disparate heretical groups are tightly woven literary unity. The question is now – what did the Marcionite interpretation of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt have to do with Valentinian presence in the Imperial court at the time Irenaeus was writing if not the Imperial praeceptio? None of our predecessors has provided a satisfactory answer to that one.

It might be useful for us to focus on the end of the fragmentary – and ultimately corrupt – remains of De Monarchia. At the culmination of a discussion of ‘God doing all things for good’ Irenaeus makes his famous statement about his Church being dependent on Caesar for its great wealth. As Lampe summarizes for us, Irenaeus says that (a) imperial slaves or freedpersons at the imperial court ("qui in regali aula sunt fideles") (b) their support was drawn from the emperor's purse ("ex eis quae Caesaris sunt") and (c) they received a lot of money and each of them gave as much as he could to those in want ("his qui non habent unusquisque eorum secundum suam virtutem praestat"). We will take note in due course that the same saying preserved in some manuscripts without the ‘non’ and the ‘suam’ – “and to them that have, each one of them, according to their excellent merit.”

According to the standard interpretation of chapter 30 Irenaeus “counters a Marcionite and gnostic interpretation of Israel's leaving Egypt with the spoils of the Egyptians . . . the Marcionites used the event to substantiate their thesis of contradiction between the Creator and the good God, Christ’s Father.” Indeed those who have written about this closing section to the argument that stretches across several chapters of Book Four tend to see it as a disjointed ‘response’ to almost random statements made by the Marcionites against the Israelites and their god. They certainly do not connect it back to an Imperial redistribution effort at the time of Commodus, yet Bacq and most others see the argument being part of a unified section.

Of course the real difficulty of course is that the section proposed by Bacq has been rewritten and worked to such a degree that it no longer makes any real sense. Scholars often master the art of speaking with such specificity that they forget that ordinary writing in the ‘real world’ – especially polemic letter writing – almost inevitably has a ‘hit over the head’ quality in order to retain its impact. Much of the early documents of Christianity suffer from second and third hands ‘correcting’ what was originally laid down. Indeed many of the theories which reconstruct the surviving material associated with Irenaeus assume that actively re-edited his own material.

This of course may well be true in a general sense. Yet in the example of this section of text (4.27.1 – 32.1) it hardly makes sense given the fact that what survives is has little discernible point. If the material derives from an attack – or even a celebration of victory - over his rival Florinus in the Imperial court it is difficult to imagine that it was Irenaeus who deconstructed the original work and reincorporated into a generic literary ‘meat jello’ which is Book Four of Against Heresies. The organization of the entire five volume work as a whole was not accomplished by Irenaeus himself but by a later adherent and perhaps many – thus explaining the many different literary mutations we see with respect to the work surviving from antiquity.

At the core of chapter 30 Irenaeus is drawing from a pre-existent tradition related to the despoliation of Egypt by the ancient Israelites. The specific passages in Exodus that are relevant here are God statement long before the Exodus:

And I will give this people such favor in the sight of the Egyptians that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. Each woman will ask her neighbor and any woman staying in her house for silver and gold jewelry, and clothing, and you will put them on your sons and daughters. So you will plunder the Egyptians,” [Exodus 3:21-22]

God’s statement during the Exodus:

Now announce to the people that both men and women should ask their neighbors for gold and silver jewelry.” The LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. And the man Moses was feared in the land of Egypt, by Pharaoh’s officials and the people. [Exodus 11:2-3]

and finally:

The Israelites acted on Moses’ word and asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD gave the people such favor in the Egyptians’ sight that they gave them what they requested. In this way they plundered the Egyptians.” [Exodus 12:35]

The simple-minded attempt by some to argue that the Marcionites simply attacked the Jews and their god for plundering the Egyptians misses the point entirely.   We have to go beyond merely seeing the surface of the argument and penetrate into deeper layers of interpretation. 

As Joel Allen notes in his The Despoliation of Egypt: In Pre-Rabbinic, Rabbinic and Patristic Traditions there was a well-established Jewish tradition of criticism of the Israelites for plundering the Egyptians. The debate that Irenaeus was engaged in De Monarchia was about a contemporary redistribution of wealth which was likened by Irenaeus to the original Exodus which was summarily rejected by his opponents. Indeed if we can take matters one step further we can argue that Irenaeus was well aware of these arguments against his celebrating Commodus as an instrument – even a servant of God – and the surviving portions of De Monarchia reflect his response to their criticisms.

As Pier Franco Beatrice perceptively noted about the contents of the present chapter– “according to the presbyter (i.e. Polycarp), the theft by the Hebrews is the prefiguration of the right Christian use of material goods.” In other words, what is often missed in the discussion is that Irenaeus is doing more than merely ‘reacting’ against the Marcionites – he is really forwarding an agenda. Beatrice sees Irenaeus as adapting an original argument found in the writings of the first century Jewish exegete Philo of Alexandria who defends the ancient Israelites against contemporary attacks - “and they did this not in avarice or, as their accusers might say, in covetousness of what belonged to others.”

To this end we begin to see a familiar pattern emerge which we have already seen in De Praescriptione Haereticorum where Irenaeus tackles the Marcionites and Valentinians on the determining who is the rightful owner of despoiled property. In the case of Philo’s treatment of the original actions of the Israelites it is important to see that we find even more reason to associate it with the ancient praescriptio of Irenaeus his line of reasoning that they were only taking back what was owed to them as backwages. Indeed as Allen notes Irenaeus has specifically modified the original Biblical account, presumably to make it fit better his contemporary controversy with the heresies.

According to Allen in his initial description of the plunder “Irenaeus describes that taken from Egypt first as ‘an assortment of things along with some clothing’ rather than the biblical ‘vessels of gold and silver and clothing.’” If we go back to Beatrice’s comments we can take matters one step further and already suggest that the original argument was specifically related to the subject of the Catholic right to use plundered goods from the heresies. Indeed the Greek word used here denotes a host of things – vessel, equipment, ornament, weapon – even the generic ‘things’ or ‘stuff.’ The term is very elastic and this lack of specificity undoubtedly explains Irenaeus’s application of the term to contemporary events.

As Beatrice goes on to write “just as the Hebrews used the objects stolen in Egypt to build the Tabernacle, in the same way Christians put at the service of the Lord (in dominicas utilitates convertentes) the worldly wealth which they obtained unjustly … by carrying out charitable works and thus building the interior tabernacle in which God dwells.” In other words, the ‘tabernacle’ Irenaeus is speaking of is the construction of the worldwide Catholic Church out of the buildings, texts and other things ‘plundered’ from the Marcionites and Valentinians. One interesting side note is the fact that the term used throughout the Latin translation of Irenaeus – vas – has a specific legal significance which may figure into his discussion - “a surety or bail that undertakes for another man in a criminal case, and binds himself that the man impeached shall appear on a certain day.”

The question that arises is whether Irenaeus developed a play on words between the vasa used to describe the Egyptian plunder in Latin translations of the Exodus narrative and the legal dispute that was going on between him and the original owners of the church property involved in his praeceptio. Another thing that connected the two events was the unseemly manner of the Catholic inheritance from Caesar. Irenaeus repeatedly describes it as ‘unrighteous mammon.’ As Beatrice’s again notes “the treasures of the Egyptians stolen by the Hebrews find for the presbyter their true Christian meaning in the saying of the Lord, 'Win friends for yourselves with the mammon of iniquity, so that when you run away (quando fugati fueritis) they will welcome you into the everlasting homes'(Luke 16:9) Irenaeus’s citation of Luke 16:9 has replaced “when it is gone” – i.e. the mammon of iniquity – with the first part of the Greek translation of Exodus 3:21 – i.e. “when you shall escape, you will not depart empty-handed.”

The text now effectively confirms what we saw in Irenaeus’s own commentary above – namely that Jesus was approving of taking ‘the mammon of iniquity’ to establish the churches (= ‘the eternal booths’). Indeed Clement of Alexandria shows that its correct meaning here fits perfectly within the framework of our thesis saying that the text shows “that by nature all property which a man possesses in his own power is not his own. And from this unrighteousness it is permitted to work a righteous and saving thing.” In other words, we can tentatively say that the passage fits within the framework of his praescriptio against the heresies.

It is worth noting with Allen that the nature of the accusation made by the heretics is rather elastic too. Irenaeus repeatedly identifies the harsh words against ‘the people’ often in a contemporary setting:

And [these objectors] allege that [the people] acted dishonestly, because, forsooth, they took away for the recompense of their labours, as I have observed, unstamped gold and silver in a few vessels (vasculis); while they say that they themselves - for lot truth be spoken, although to some it may seem ridiculous - do act honestly, when they carry away in their girdles from the labours of others, coined gold, and silver, and brass, with Caesar's inscription and image upon it. (4.30.2)

Even when Irenaeus goes on to distinguish between ancient and modern ‘people’ involved in the plunder of others, the distinguishing factor between the Church and the Israelites is that the Romans legally gave Irenaeus’s the ‘unrighteous mammon’ in question – it wasn’t stolen:

If, however, a comparison be instituted between us and them, [I would ask] which party shall seem to have received in the fairer manner? Will it be the people from the Egyptians, who were at all points their debtors; or we from the Romans and other nations, who are under no similar obligation to us? Yea, moreover, through their instrumentality the world is at peace, and we walk on the highways without fear, and sail where we will.

The question of who has received their wealth in a ‘fairer’ manner is an unusual one, echoing the real original heretical accusation – i.e. they stole our stuff. The role of the Imperial government in this transfer only becomes more pronounced in the section that immediately follows.

After his surprising - ‘if a comparison be instituted between us and them’ (i.e. the ancient Israelites and the Church of Rome) – we find ourselves at the closest point we ever get to the original De Monarchia. The seemingly abstract ‘scholarly’ debate about whether the Israelites were justified gives way to the question of whether the more timely concern of whether the Catholic Church’s reception of a vast plunder of goods from the Imperial government was just and ultimately divinely sanctioned:

[The meaning is] not certainly that we should not find fault with sinners, nor that we should consent to those who act wickedly; but that we should not pronounce an unfair judgment on the dispensations of God (Dei dispositiones), inasmuch as He has Himself made provision that all things shall turn out for good, in a way consistent with justice. For, because He knew that we would make a good use of our substance which we should possess by receiving it from another, He says … "When thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." And we are proved to be righteous by whatsoever else we do well, redeeming, as it were, our property from strange hands and by means of these same do we erect in ourselves the tabernacle of God: for God dwells in those who act uprightly, as the Lord says: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that they, when ye shall be put to flight," may receive you into eternal tabernacles." For whatsoever we acquired from unrighteousness when we were heathen, we are proved righteous, when we have become believers, by applying it to the Lord's advantage.

The reader should be aware that we have before us the original context for the strange synthesis of Luke 16:9 and Exodus 3:21 cited by Beatrice earlier. As noted earlier the context is clearly a discussion of the moral implications of receiving of material wealth from a ruler who was generally considered to be quite wicked.

More significant however is the clear echo of the very title of the work from which Hill and others presume the work derives its origin – De Monarchia or On the Sole Sovereignty, or How God is not the Cause of Evil. In the last section we heard Irenaeus surprising declare of the regime of Commodus that “through their instrumentality the world is at peace, and we walk on the highways without fear, and sail where we will.” In between this and our present section there is a short section where the heretics are accused of ‘hypocrisy’ (Matthew 7:5) because they are not “separated from the company of the Gentiles” and more importantly they themselves are accused by Irenaeus of having possessed “other people's goods.” The specific terminology here - alienorum apud eum – echoes a standard line of attack against the Marcionite conception of Jesus.

Indeed when we think about the anti-Marcionite propaganda there is a strange emphasis on the idea that the Marcionite Jesus was a ‘thief’ who ‘stole the property of another’ all the way back to Irenaeus. Jesus is understood to have ‘plundered’ the things of another and called it ‘redemption.’ This has always taken to be a statement of fact among scholars of Marcionitism. However it should be seen to play into the hands of the original praeceptio of Irenaeus insofar as the Marcionites are portrait as sanctioning theft of other people’s property. Indeed the central claim of Paul’s gospel writing effort seems to acknowledge the appropriation of ‘things belonging to Peter.’ All of this would have been helpful in Irenaeus’s original claim against the Marcionites.

Irenaeus immediately goes on to ridicule the ‘hypocrisy’ of the heretics for not embodying the ascetic ideal of Matthew 25:35,36 – i.e. “literally naked, and barefoot, and dwells homeless among the mountains, as any of those animals do which feed on grass.” Under such circumstances Irenaeus is willing to give his opponents the moral high ground. Yet because they have ‘things’ – things belonging to another – their criticism of the Catholic Church can be turned around against themselves – “if he do partake of what, in the opinion of men, is the property of others (aliena esse participatur), and if he runs down their type (arguit typum eorum), he proves himself most unjust, turning this kind of accusation against himself.”

Clearly then scholars have gotten the context all wrong for the original heretical complaint. The Marcionites and Valentinians were saying that the Catholics were morally corrupt and ridiculed the shallowness of their Exodus typology. The very notion of the heretical property being the property of others ‘in the opinion of men’ (homnibus) or alternatively ‘in the opinion of all men’ i.e. omnibus, is another very strange construction. What circumstances other than a recent public trial or an Imperial decree would have lent themselves to have a universal judgment against the Marcionites for possessing property that ‘belonged to another’?

The specific allusion to the heretics ‘running down the (Exodus) typology’ (arguit typum eorum) is again clearly at the heart of the debate rather than, as is generally assumed, the Exodus narrative itself. Since Paul declares in the Marcionite scriptures (1 Corinthians chapter 10) that the Exodus is not a typology which applies to Christian redemption the sect would have little interest in the scripture. The matter would have already been settled by the Master’s dictum. The only way the heretics were dragged into the debate was because Irenaeus was in their face about a contemporary transfer of property arguing that it proved the typology of his master Polycarp – something clearly evidenced in the chapters immediately preceding the section we are about to examine (i.e. 4.30.21 – 25).

Irenaeus goes on to conclude from this one-sided discussion that his heretical accuser “will be found carrying about property not belonging to him (invenietur enim aliena circumferens) and coveting goods which are not his (et ea quae eius non sunt concupiscens)” he is a hypocrite and his objections to the Imperial transfer should be completely ignored. Irenaeus goes on to throw up the very words used by the Marcionites to deny that Jesus was a judge:

therefore has the Lord said: "Judge not, that ye be not judged: for with what judgment ye shall judge, ye shall be judged” not certainly that we should not find fault with sinners, nor that we should consent to those who act wickedly; but that we should not pronounce an unfair judgment on the dispensations of God, inasmuch as He has Himself made provision that all things shall turn out for good, in a way consistent with justice

It is impossible to look at this section and not see that we have found the most important passage in the entire section, one that certainly connects the otherwise disjointed argument in 4.27.1 – 32.1 back to its original context in On the Sole Sovereignty, or How God is not the Cause of Evil.

Irenaeus’s original point was to deny the Marcionite – and indeed wholly heretical claim - of the existence of two powers in the world. There was only one power (monarchia) acting in the world and it has been actively ‘revealing’ itself since the time of Jesus’s advent with respect to the establishment of a Roman Church under Imperial authority. This process was first begun by Peter himself, the disciple chosen by Jesus to be head of the Christian assembly. Nevertheless, according to Irenaeus’s lawsuit, the heretics took over his possessions, goods which have only now been properly restored to its rightful owners – the Catholic Church.

Irenaeus issues a warning against the heresies – “not to pronounce an unfair judgment on the dispensations of God.” For speaking of the Catholic Church he says “God knew that we would make a good use of our substance which we should possess by receiving it from another.” The ‘other’ here is not the Marcionites but Caesar. The reader should take note of the ‘strange hands’ argument that follows. As such Irenaeus’s isn’t saying that the Church received ‘money’ or ‘properly’ directly from the State but rather that Commodus and his regime merely facilitated the transfer of goods taken by the heretics, goods that ‘belonged to another’ but where restored again by ‘strange hands’ – hands which Irenaeus recognizes may well have been tainted with sin but, again turning around a morally ambiguous statement by Jesus, Irenaeus justifies this action with ‘let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing’ – or if you will close your eyes to your own misdeeds.

Again once we accept Hill’s assumption that this material derives its origin from a treatise called De Monarchia as the overarching point that Irenaeus makes is that God is behind all things. This section never specifically identifies Caesar giving the Church money (i.e. gold and silver) but rather property which the heretics had wrongly appropriated ‘from another.’ Irenaeus’s specific argument related to the recent transfer of goods is spelled out in the final line in the section – “we are proved to be righteous by whatsoever else we do well, redeeming, as it were, our property from strange hands and by means of these same do we erect in ourselves the tabernacle of God: for God dwells in those who act uprightly.” In other words, the heretics cannot question the validity of the transfer because it again – like all things in this world – is divinely sanctioned.

Yet we should also take note of the moral justification for the transfer by means of the ‘strange’ or indeed wicked hands of Caesar. “We are proved to be righteous by whatsoever else we do well (et reliqua quaecunque benefacientes iustificamur) seems to go back to the variant reading in the Clermont manuscript “and to them that have (property given to them by Caesar) each one of them, according to their excellent merit.” This idea of God acting through Caesar dominates the discussion here. The transfer of wealth is clearly understood to be the clearest sign of divine monarchia – thus making the court victory a certain proof of the activity of the Catholic god in the contemporary events.

We should notice also that the transfer from Caesar is clearly described as a ‘redemption’ i.e. Latin redimo. The underlying sense is still the same in Latin or Greek. ‘Redemption’ implies the return of property that was once yours but had been in the possession of another quite recently. It is impossible to say that you ‘redeemed’ something that didn’t belong to you originally – this would properly be termed a ‘gift.’ It is noteworthy that Irenaeus and other early Catholic Church Fathers criticize the Marcionite use of ‘redemption’ for just this reason – i.e. how can Jesus ‘redeem’ humanity if he didn’t create or make Adam in the very beginning?

To this end we can be certain that Irenaeus is saying that Caesar ‘transferred back’ what belonged to the Church originally but had been in the hands of the heretics only recently – i.e. the very contents of his original praescriptio as reconstructed in the last chapter. Indeed one can even make a strong case for the reading of what follows – i.e. “redeeming (redimentes), as it were, our property from strange hands (velut de alienis nostra) and by means of these same do we erect in ourselves the tabernacle of God” as a statement which confirms that the church which were in ‘alien hands’ – i.e. the heretics – but now restored to the Church. We have chosen to take the line inserted between “strange hands” (alienis) and “by means of these same”:

but thus do I say, "from strange hands," (alienis) not as if the world were not God's possession, but that we have gifts of this sort, and receive them from others, in the same way as these men had them from the Egyptians who knew not God

as representing a secondary or later addition. It has all the signs of a backtracking on the part of someone – perhaps Irenaeus or more likely a later editor - an attempt at clarification to avoid a heretical implication.

Nevertheless it might well be argued that the clarification of what alienis means stems from the heretical idea of the world being alien to God. The interpretation seems forced however because it would be impossible to get that meaning from the context. The real situation here is that the original reference is ambiguous – Irenaeus does not explain who the ‘aliens’ are who had the property now redeemed back to the Church. It seems more likely that a secondary hand would be confused or unclear about Irenaeus’s intentions than Irenaeus himself.

Whether the ‘aliens’ from whom the property was ‘restored’ to the Church was the Imperial court of Caesar or the heretics the important thing to see here is that this event and the contemporary claim of a pre-existent typology was the real source of the controversy with the heretics – not the actual account of Exodus in the Bible. For Irenaeus immediately goes on to say:

these things were done beforehand in a type, and from them was the tabernacle of God constructed; those persons justly receiving them, as I have shown, while we were pointed out beforehand in them,- who should afterwards serve God by the things of others. For the whole exodus of the people out of Egypt, which took place under divine guidance (famulus Dei), was a type and image of the exodus of the Church which should take place from among the Gentiles; and for this cause He leads it out at last from this world into His own inheritance, which Moses the servant of God did not [bestow], but which Jesus the Son of God shall give for an inheritance.

In other words, as with many other sections of Against Heresies, Irenaeus – almost in the manner of a compulsive narcissist always brings the conversation back to himself and the accomplishments of his contemporary Church. It would have been impossible for the heretics to have a debate about the ancient Exodus because Irenaeus would necessarily have dragged the discussion into ‘signs’ and ‘types’ of things contemporary.

Clearly then, the original discussion in De Monarchia was about the court victory under Commodus and – more importantly – Irenaeus’s inference that this ‘proved’ the ancient typology of the Exodus as originally expounded by his common master with Florinus, Polycarp of Smyrna. Hill is right to notice the one clear ‘zinger’ that Irenaeus directs against his rival in the Imperial court nevertheless we should acknowledge also that the section as a whole must have irritated Florinus to no end.

If indeed, as we have no reason to doubt, Polycarp established the idea that the Exodus was a type which would be fulfilled in contemporary history, there were strong reasons for Irenaeus to claim that the restoration of property belonging to church of St Peter was ‘like’ the Exodus – and especially the contemporary Jewish justification of the plunder as ‘repayment’ for back wages. The Marcionites only appear in the text because their property along with property associated with Florinus – perhaps even the house church in the Via Latina recently identified with the sect by scholars – was part of the massive historical ‘redemption’ achieved through the wicked court system under Commodus.

It should be noted almost as an aside that a secondary meaning of the Greek word katholikos is that of ‘treasury’ or ‘common account.’ Liddell Scott first presents the primary meaning of the original terminology:

I. general, huderos Hp.Int.26 ; katholikon, to, generic description, Stoic.2.74; katholika, ta, title of work by Zeno, ib. 1.14; emphasis (v. sub voc.) Plb.6.5.3, cf. 1.57.4; k. kai koinê historia Id.8.2.11 ; k. perilêpsis D.H.Comp.12 ; k. paradoseis Phld. Rh.1.126S. ; k. theôrêma Cic.Att.14.20.3 ; k. praecepta, Quint.2.13.14 ; -ôteroi logoi general, opp. eidikoi, S.E.P.2.84, cf. Hermog.Meth. 5; k. prosôidia, title of work by Hdn.Gr. on accents; nomos -ôteros Ph.2.172 ; k. epistolê an epistle general, 1 Ep.Pet.tit.; of general interest, BGU19i5(ii A.D.); universal, k. tis estin kai theia hê tautotês kai hê heterotês Dam.Pr.310 . Adv. -kôs generally, apophênasthai Plb. 4.1.8 ; eipein in general terms, Str.17.3.10 , cf. Phld.Rh.1.161 S.; k. heurisketai ti Hermog.Inv.3.11 ; k., opp. plêthikôs ('in the majority of cases'), OGI669.49(Egypt, i A.D.); universally, Porph.Sent.22: Comp. -ôteron Plb.3.37.6 , Gal.18(1).15; -ôterôs Tz.ad Lyc.16.

and then second meaning which seems to be a title associated with the Imperial office of governing accounts of money:

II. as Subst., katholikos , ho, supervisor of accounts ( [hoi katholou logoi] ), = Lat. procurator a rationibus, Euphratês ho k. Gal.14.4 , cf. Jahresh.23 Beibl.269(Ephes., ii A.D.); in Egypt, = Lat. rationalis, PLond.3.1157 (iii A.D.), IGRom.1.1211 (Diocletian), POxy.2106.25(iv A.D.), etc.; also, = consularis, Gloss.; in cent. iv, also, = rationalis summarum, Teôrgiôi k. Jul.Ep.188 , 189 tit.

This secondary meaning was transferred to Aramaic and other Semitic languages even outside of Christian influence. There ‘katholika’ means ‘treasury’ or ‘pool of money.’ Go figure …

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