Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Secret Life of Jesus [Chapter Three]

Chapter Three
Seizing the House that Mark Built

If the reader reads any book on the history of the early Church he will certainly not find any reference to the things we have introduced here.  There will be no reference to Irenaeus employing a praescriptio to secure ownership of church property.   It will be unlikely that any reasonable argument for the primacy of the Marcionite and related 'heresies' of Christianity will be put forward.  Instead the reader is almost certain to find a basic acceptance of Irenaeus’s corrupted texts and a watered-down refiguring of his fundamental claims.

Indeed few will be willing to admit it how entirely dependent on his late second century falsification we really are.  This forgery effort was even projected into the future with respect to Tertullian 'taking over' the very writings of Irenaeus and other early Fathers.  They all understood that the Holy Spirit was guiding them and inspiring them to the final 'redemption' - i.e. when all of Rome would accept Jesus Christ.  Irenaeus's praescriptio which seized the property of the Marcionites and Valentinians at the end of the second century represents the first step in this century and a half journey.  If anyone would take the time to look at the entire contents of the surviving De Praescriptione Haereticorum – we have only quoted a small portion of the overall treatise – he would be immediately struck with how incontrovertible the evidence is for it being based on a legal praescriptio.

To this end it might be useful to cite one more section of the surviving Latin text to establish the veracity of our claims - an important section near the conclusion.  Almost immediately following a repetition of his claim that "all heresies have now been challenged by us according to these praescrptiones, and convicted; now let the heresies themselves whether they be later than or contemporaneous with the Apostles" it is then announced:

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged (adiudicetur) to belong to us, "as many as walk according to the rule," which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge (ineundam) an appeal (prouocationem) to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians (christiani), because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics . Thus, not being Christians (christiani), they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures (christianarum); and it may be very fairly said to them, "Who are you? When and whence did you come? As you are none of mine, what have you to do with that which is mine? Indeed, Marcion, by what right do you hew my wood? By whose permission, Valentinus, are you diverting the streams of my fountain? By what power, Apelles, are you removing my landmarks? (limites meos commoues ) This is my property (mea est possession). Why are you, the rest, sowing and feeding here at your own pleasure? This is my property (mea est possession). I have long possessed it; I possessed it before you (olim possideo, prior possideo). I hold sure title-deeds from the original owners themselves, to whom the estate belonged (habeo origines firmas ab ipsis auctoribus quorum fuit res). I am the heir of the apostles (Ego sum heres apostolorum). Just as they carefully prepared their will and testament (Sicut cauerunt testamento suo), and committed it to a trust (sicut fidei commiserunt), and adjured the trustees to be faithful to their charge (sicut adiurauerunt ) even so do I hold it. As for you, they have, it is certain, always held you as disinherited (exheredauerunt), and rejected you as strangers (extraneos) —as enemies (inimicos). But on what ground are heretics strangers and enemies to the apostles, if it be not from the difference of their teaching, which each individual of his own mere will has either advanced or received in opposition to the apostles?"

No reasonable person can claim that the treatise is called De Praescriptione Haereticorum  did not actually develop from a historical praescriptio.   It is only possible to deny this proposition given ignorance of the meaning of the original Latin legal term.

The author clearly makes the claim that the heretics sat upon property that originally belonged to him - or perhaps more correctly, that belonged to the apostles and which he is claiming as their heir to their legacy.  As we shall demonstrate shortly, the issue here comes down to one fundamental legal question - could a Roman collegium put forward a praescriptio?  The answer is not immediately clear because we have so little information about this legal defense before the end of the second century.  Nevertheless we shall put forward that if the Marcionites or another collegium put forward a legal claim after being driven from their property during the persecutions of 177 CE, it stands to reason that such a praescriptio could indeed have been filed by its more recent occupants.  It all comes down to looking at the available evidence with fresh eyes. 

It should be noted that the idea that  De Praescriptione Haereticorum is developed from acquaintance with the Roman legal concept has been discussed many times in scholarship.  The French scholar Pierre Batiffol in his arch-conservative ‘Primitive Catholicism’ while acknowledging that our earliest example of praescriptio longi temporis in a rescript of 29 December, 199 CE - i.e. close to the time the text was written - nevertheless finds it “hardly probable that Tertullian applied to theological questions a device of legal procedure, which, towards the year 200, was so new and so little known.” This even though he admits " Mea est possessio, olira possideo " certainly seems to echo the language of property litigation.

According to Batiffol however, we shouldn’t allow appearances to deceive us. Tertullian, according to him, “does not appeal to this actual and ancient possession, as entitling him to dismiss the claims of heretics.” This is proved in his mind because “the property is proved to be legitimately in the hands of its actual occupant by the very titles which prescription if unsupported would have to supply : for the occupant affirms that he holds his property on the title of inheritance and he produces the will: he shows that there is a legacy, and thus gives a full and direct proof of his right of property, a proof which a praescriptio longi temporis would have rendered unnecessary.” Of course this is precisely the point.  Batiffol assumes that everyone acknowledged the primacy of the Catholic Church, that its ownership of the buildings it occupied was 'self-evident.'  But a close examination of the facts reveals a very different understanding. 

De Praescriptione Haereticorum as we already noted was written likely up to ten years after the persecutions of 177 CE and by Irenaeus rather than Tertullian.  The argument here was over the question of who owned the 'churches' spread throughout the Empire that had been abandoned by the heretics and were now occupied by partisans associated with Irenaeus.  Already Celsus the pagan critic writing c. 177 CE reflects the hostile situation for all Christian sects save for ‘the great Church’ – i.e. Irenaeus’s community.  They were identified as 'heresies' - i.e. haeresis in Greek, meaning philosophical school or sect - because it was deemed that they corrupted the original 'pure' Jewish beliefs of Jesus with Greek speculative learning. 

Celsus didn't believe in the sanctity of Judaism.  Nevertheless he and Irenaeus shared the same understanding that Marcionitism and other contemporary heresies misrepresented the authentic beliefs of the first Christians.  In Celsus's case, they implied that the early Christians were smarter than they actually were.  In any event, the Imperial government would not have punished Christians for appropriating Greek philosophy.  Nevertheless, the idea that the various heresies demonstrated their late origins by 'straying' from the 'simplicity' of Jewish superstition would certainly resonate with an Imperial magistrate.  This was only part of Irenaeus's overall tactic - i.e. to appeal to a neo-conservative sentiment that was sweeping Roman intellectual life.  In order to understand how one collegium could sue another for ownership of buildings and related property we have to come to terms with what exactly constituted a legal collegium. 

To this end we must now turn our attention to an important chapter in the Emperor Justinian's Digests entitled "De collegiis et corporibus" (47.22) composed in 533 CE.  The work transmits legal opinions and rulings on associations deriving from the writings of the pagan jurists Gaius, Aelius Marcianus, and Domitius Ulpianus from the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.  Once again we find our understanding of an important Latin legal term - in this case collegium - is ultimately limited by a lack of information.  Scholars have been disputing whether Christianity was actually a collegium and if so what kind for over a century.  The question has been recently settled by a number of authors including Eric Rebillard's recent work the Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity which will be considered to have settled the issue once and for all. 

Our overview of the information preserved for us about collegia in Justinian's tome with Gaius declaration in his commentary on the XII Tables in the 2nd century CE, that the citizens of Greek and Roman cities were in a remarkable degree free in establishing private associations: "A statute [lex] gives the members of an association [sodales] the power to enter into any agreement [pactio] they like, so long as they do not contravene the public statute [lex publica]." Gaius added that this statute appeared to have been adopted from the law of Solon, which says: "If the people of a city or the clansmen or the members of the sacred mysteries(?) or sailors or those dining together [syssitoi] or those providing for their burial [homotaphoi] or members of the same club [thiasotai] or who combine to engage in some enterprise or for profit: anything that they agreed between themselves will be valid [kyrion] unless forbidden by public statutes [demosia grammata]" (Digests 47.22.4).

In other words, citizens were relatively free to establish collegia in antiquity.  This legal provision accounted for the flourishing of religious associations in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. Here was a legal form that was available for religious communities traveling from the East to the West. Adherents of Sarapis, Isis, Mithras, Dionysus, YHWH, and other gods established corporate bodies by adopting that form. Yet the same sources also point to an important restriction which has deep implications for early Christianity: the association had to comply with the public order.  In the purview of the Roman law, the history of associations was often a history of conflicts. When Dionysian rituals, the Bacchanalia, spread clandestinely in Italy, Roman officials suppressed them in 186 BCE (Livy 39.8-22). In the 1st century BCE, collegia were suppressed due to their involvement in civil strife.

Yet another feature Roman legal restrictions on collegia has deep implication for our understanding of Irenaeus's praescriptio at the end of the second century and his (forged) argument about the antiquity of the Catholic Church.  According to Suetonius, Julius Caesar (49-44 BCE) dissolved all associations "besides those that were long ago established" (42.3). Whether a special lex Julia on collegia existed, the criterion for legitimacy under Roman law was antiquitas.  New associations had to ask for permission. A collegium Symphoniacorum in the ist century CE proudly announced that "the senate has given permission to hold meetings, to be called to assembly, and to be mustered in accordance with the Julian law by authority of Augustus for the sake of the games" (Arangio-Ruiz 1968: 38). Other inscriptions contain the same formula quibus licet ex senatus consulto (ILS 335, 1164, 1367, 4966). But altogether, the number of official recognitions is surprisingly low.

Now the question arises - were all associations lacking an official recognition of the senate actually forbidden? What is clear is that collegia were subject to governmental regulations, supervision, and sometimes imposed upon by authorities. Infact, it seems that a provision regarding associations and assembly may have become a regular part of the municipal laws regardless of whether or not the associative phenomenon was causing problems in the local context. Chapter 74 of the lex Irnitana ,a Flavian municipal charter from Spain, for example, rules “No one is to take part in anassembly ( coetus ) in that municipium or to form a society (sodalicium) or collegium for that purpose or to conspire that it be held or to act in such a way that anyof these things occur.” The penalty of violation is 10,000 sesterces, a considerable sum for the majority of municipal citizens. 

A putative senatus consultum, which has beendated variously to the reign of Augustus, Claudius, or Hadrian, even specifies thefrequency and nature of the collegial meetings. An inscription from Lanuvium from 136 CE containing the regulations of a society of Diana and Antinous points to a different solution. It refers to a senatus consultum sanctioning an entire category of collegia: "Clause from a decree of the senate of the Roman people. Who shall be permitted to assemble, to come together, and to have an association [Quib(us coire co)venire collegiumq(ue) habere liceat ]: those who wish to make a monthly contribution for funerals may assemble in an association [collegium] of that description, provided that they do not assemble more than once a month under the pretext of the said association for the purpose of making contribution whereby dead persons may be buried" (Arangio-Ruiz 1968:35).

There also existed a certain type of collegium that legally could be established without prior endorsement of the senate. The existence of such a type is confirmed by the lawyer Aelius Marcianus (early 3rd century CE). From his writings the opinion was extracted that "the lower orders [tenuiores] are allowed to pay a small monthly fee, provided that they meet only once a month, lest an unlawful association [collegium illicitum] be created under this guise. And the deified Severus stated in a rescript that this applies not only to Rome but also to Italy and the provinces. There is, however, no ban on assembly for religious purposes, so long as there is no contravention of the senatus consultum, which prohibits unlawful collegia [quo illicita collegia arcentur]" (Digests 47.22.1).

It has been argued that the contradiction that Christian associations were established with a hierarchy and property of their own in an age during which new associations were suppressed can be explained if they were regarded as associations of this type.  The difficult of course is that Christian associations met more than once a month.  What we should imagine instead was that heretical Christianity were collegia that had been established as early as the time of Hadrian which fell out of favor in the later period of Marcus Aurelius's rule.  These associations sued the great Church - a collegium which had great Imperial favor under Commodus - to win back their property and ultimately lost. 

We learn a great deal again about the status of Christianity as a collegium from the writings of Tertullian.  His Apology defended Christians against the two main accusations: sacrilege (crimen laesae religionis; Apology 10-27) and hign treason (maiestas; Apology 28-45). He emphasized that Christians were not a factio illicita (38.1) or a coitio illicita (39.20), but admits frankly: "We are a society [corpus] with a common religious feeling, unity of discipline, a common bond of hope" (39.1). Tertullian presents the association as being like a collegium tenuiorum, although he does not mention a senatus consultum.

According to Tertullian everybody contributes once in the month to a common chest, which is used not for banquets or drinking parties, "but to feed the poor and to bury them" (39.5-6). They call each other "brothers" and share property: "All is common among us except our wives" (39:11). Tertullian assumed that an association described in these terms was not illicit — that indeed, Christian associations deserved to be recognized officially as part of a religio licita like Judaism (21.1). That recognition occurred in 313 CE, and in 380, Theodosius went a step further and recognized the church in the empire as the church of the empire.

Before the success of Irenaeus's praescriptio Christians had a very bad reputation as it was widely regarded as stemming from a revolt against tradition.  As Celsus notes it was revolutionary in essence, encouraging change and rejection of time-hallowed behavior and beliefs. Just as they rejected the traditions of their Jewish forefathers, the Christians do not respect any tradition on which social order is established. Indeed, the very language of their religious texts, the mean style of the Gospels, reflects their lowly origin. The apostles should be regarded as seditious people, as "infamous men" (1.63). Their fundamental impiety consists precisely in their abandoning religious customs.

Celsus argued that the first Christians were Jews debasing their own religion, thus behaving impiously (V.52, cf. VII. 44). This reflects a traditional Roman argument against Christianity, one of the most potent reasons for defining Christianity as religio illicita, a dangerous superstitio, that threatened the basis of society. We see here how Celsus's argument offers a synthesis of both Galen's and Marcus Aurelius's perception of Christianity. If Christianity is dangerous for the welfare of the state, it is precisely because of its intellectual illegitimacy and misconception of the nature of religion. Celsus ends his argument with a plea to the Christians, asking them to start behaving as responsible citizens, and to accept their share in the burden of protecting the commonwealth by serving in the Imperial army (VIII, 73).

Indeed two critical issues emerge from Celsus’ early witness to the Christians. He specifically mentions that “the Christians teaching and practising their favourite doctrines in secret, and saying that they do this to some purpose, seeing they escape the penalty of death which is imminent, he compares their dangers with those which were encountered by such men as Socrates for the sake of philosophy.” This means that by 177 CE there was a death penalty hanging over the heads of Christians which has never been satisfactorily explained. The second reference reinforces Christianity's status as a collegium illicitum – “as if they had their origin in the common danger, and were more binding than any oaths. Since, then, he babbles about the public law, alleging that the associations (synthekas) of the Christians are in violation of it.”

The translation of synthekas as ‘associations’ is problematic.  Syntheke literally means something 'fixed in common' by a number of parties, often recorded in epigraphic or documentary form (usually in the plural: synthḗkai). In Greek philosophy, nómos and the syntheke (as positive rules) are contrasted with nature (phýsis). The term syntheke is used as a (document of) treaty or contract in the inter-state law of the Greek poleis and in private relationships. According to the content (alliance, friendship) or stage of the arrangement, various synonyms are used for syntheke as an inter-state agreement.  But most importantly it contrasts with the Greek translations of the Hebrew word for ‘covenant’ – diatheke – because syntheke emphasizes that all members of the contract were equals.

Jews would be very uncomfortable describing their ancestors as entering into a compact with God as equals. Yet interesting early Christians were quite happy to understand their ‘new covenant’ with Jesus in exactly this way. Clement of Alexandria repeatedly uses the syntheke for his understanding of the relationship between ‘the new Israel’ and its god Jesus. Christianity is a collegium founded by a supernatural man:

For this also He came down. For this He clothed Himself with man. For this He voluntarily subjected Himself to the experiences of men, that by bringing Himself to the measure of our weakness whom He loved, He might correspondingly bring us to the measure of His own strength. And about to be offered up and giving Himself a ransom, He left for us a new Covenant-testament: My love I give unto you. And what and how great is it? For each of us He gave His life, -- the equivalent for all. This He demands from us in return for one another. And if we owe our lives to the brethren, and have made such a mutual compact [synthekas] with the Saviour, why should we any more hoard and shut up worldly goods, which are beggarly, foreign to us and transitory? Shall we shut up from each other what after a little shall be the property of the fire?

Clement isn't developing this understanding in a vacuum.  It echoes in many ways what has already been said by Tertullian on the subject.  However his specific emphasis on Jesus as 'supernatural man' emphasizes how it was that the other heretics who shared his understanding lost out to the 'great Church' and ultimately had their churches and property transferred by the Imperial authorities. 

The words we just cited from Clement come in the process of a homily on Mark 10:17 - 31 and specifically an attempt to deny ‘the Carpocratian’ claim that Jesus demanded all Christians shared their goods in common.  Most people who had read Clement's treatise basically shrug their shoulders and assume that Clement was rich and wrote an elaborate argument so that he could 'keep his stuff' for himself or perhaps on behalf of a rich patron who wanted to do the same.  Nevertheless in light of all we have seen with respect to Irenaeus's praescriptio, there was a lot more at stake here than that. 

The Carpocratians are the very same sect with whom debates the nature and existence of the secret gospel. Their understanding that all Christian goods are to be held in common would have important consequences once Irenaeus’s praescriptio was vindicated. If we go back to the original argument as outlined in De Praescriptione Haereticorum, instead of having localized collegiums in every different locale, the author made the case that Jesus, a man from Galilee, was the original founder of the one Christian community. The various heretics – Marcion, Valentinus and Apelles – broke away from this original mutual compact to establish their own schisms. The implication of the Carpocratian interpretation of Mark 10:17 – 21 – i.e. whether individual riches were to be shared in common with all Christians – would in effect lead Irenaeus’s Roman collegium to assume control of all Christian collegia in all the provinces. Perhaps this is the reason Celsus refers to it as ‘the great Church.’

It is important to note then that even though Clement uses the same word as Celsus to describe the ‘compact’ that Christians held in common with each other and with Jesus. What is significant is that for Clement Jesus is not a ordinary human being. He is – in the manner of the heresies – an angelic God-man, who 'comes down from heaven' rather than is born from a womb.  As such it would be impossible for him as a person with no mother or father to be thought to own property in any real sense.   Indeed when we look at the Letter to Theodore Clement speaks instead of Mark’s church in Alexandria.  He perplexingly encourages the denial Mark's authorship of the gospel even upon oath.  The Marcionites do a similar thing with respect to their gospel and its association with their apostle. 

Why all this ambiguity?  Why won't the various heresies explain who wrote their gospel?  At least part of it has to do with Irenaeus's praescriptio and the now successful claim that Peter was the head of the apostles and the de facto 'original heir' of the property of Jesus.  We have already noted the parallels between the approach of Clement and the Marcionites.  An important hybrid is attested in the writings of an otherwise unknown Church Father named Serapion of Antioch at this very same time (i.e. 190 CE).  He writes:

For we, brethren, receive both Peter and the rest of the apostles as Christ Himself. But those writings which are falsely inscribed with their name, we as experienced persons reject, knowing that no such writings have been handed down to us. When, indeed, I came to see you, I supposed that all were in accord with the orthodox faith; and, although I had not read through the Gospel inscribed with the name of Peter which was brought forward by them, I said: If this is the only thing which threatens to produce ill-feeling among you, let it be read. But, now that I have learnt from what has been told me that their mind was secretly cherishing some heresy, I will make all haste to come to you again. Expect me therefore, brethren, shortly. Moreover, brethren, we, having discovered to what kind of heresy Marcion (or 'Marcian') adhered, and seen how he contradicted himself, not understanding of what he was speaking, as you will gather from what has been written to you -for, having borrowed this said Gospel from those who were familiar with it from constant perusal, namely from the successors of those who were his leaders in the heresy, whom we call Docetae (for most of the opinions held by him are derived from their teaching), we were able to read it through; and while we found most of its contents to agree with the orthodox account of the Saviour, we found some things inconsistent with that, and these we have set down below for your inspection.

The point again is that we have yet retelling of the same slippery paradigm that we witnessed in the hands of Clement and the Marcionites.  There is a secret gospel which in some sense belongs to Mark but is identified increasingly as 'Peter's gospel' - this owing to Irenaeus's recent legal victory. 

As we see from the writings of Clement, there was no 'good strategy' in light of the success of the praescriptio.  The best one could hope for is to parrot the party line that Mark wrote on behalf of Peter, but even this was problematic if the text of the gospel deviated too much from the increasingly standardized canonical gospel of Mark.  In Clement's writings and the reports associated with the Marcionite sect we never see this wholesale appropriation of 'the things of Mark' (= Marceion) with Peter.  However this may only be a result of these men having laid down their ideas before the full implication of Irenaeus's legal victory took hold. 

It cannot be coincidental that the Mark's church of Alexandria is universally understood to have been taken over by an outsider named Demetrius in the last years of Commodus's rule.  This Demetrius had a strongly contentious relationship with Clement's student Origen.  He is associated with several arrest warrants for Origen and repeated attestation of his 'closeness' with the Imperial authorities in Rome.  The taking over of the Marceion traditionally located in the Boucolia, just over the eastern walls of the city was undoubtedly the last nail in the coffin for the tradition associated with the Evangelist in Alexandria.  All evidence points to a gathering of neo-Markites in Palestine in the third century as well as Marcionitism being the official form of Christianity in Osroene, the kingdom that lay just over the Roman Empire's eastern borders. 

Since Apelles or Apollos the Alexandrian's execution at the beginning of Commodus's rule seems to mark yet another watershed moment for the Christian community of Egypt, it is hard not to believe that Irenaeus's legal efforts were not in some way connected with assuming control of this original center of the religion.  To be certain Celsus testifies that the 'heretical forms' of Christianity were outlawed in 177 CE.  Yet he never explains why this was so.  It is thus very tempting to connect the important revolt took place against Commodus’s father Marcus Aurelius from this very location as the cause of the loss of favor to the original collegia.

This insurrection that began in the Boucolia swept over all of Egypt in 172 - 173 and was ultimately put down by his most trusted general and governor of Syria Gaius Avidius Cassius. Yet it is important to note that it wasn’t long before the same troublemakers in Boucolia switched allegiances and declared Cassius Emperor in 175 CE. Syria and Egypt were now in league with Cassius an event which must have helped solidify Celsus’s negative portrait of Christians as insurrectionists only two years later. Little is known about the period of rebellion other than it matches perfectly the repeated bitterness with which Celsus refers to Christians as revolutionaries.  The theme dominates the entire discussion in his Alethes Logos. 

The fact that the center of the Egyptian Christian universe was located at the heart of the revolt cannot be seen as coincidental any longer.   As noted above the facts come together every aspect of Irenaeus’s falsification effort to recast Christianity as a collegia founded by a real human being named Jesus who also happens to be god through the Virgin Birth. According to Clement’s understanding, Jesus was a god who descended to earth and then a church was founded by an early hearer of the disciples named Marcus (Mark). Any property rites associated with the movement would only date to the time of Mark which is generally dated to the period of Nero.

What started thereafter was a collegium which theoretically had a syntheke which bound all members to Jesus as brothers. This is a particular use of the term for an enduring bond among equals which is the classical sense of collegium. In mediaeval usage, collegium can refer to the bond of all the faithful (collegium ecclesiae; collegium fidelium qui sum templum . Althusius builds his discussion of the collegium on Roman law. Colleagues are equals unless they organize themselves otherwise. Decision making is by majority rule and decisions pertain "jointly and wholly to the colleagues as a united group, but not in matters separately affecting individual colleagues outside the corporate fellowship. Althusius even requires a quorum of two-thirds of all members to make decisions. "In matters common to all, one by one, or pertaining to colleagues as individuals ... even one person is able to object."

This must have been the original sense of what meant to belong to a Christian collegium - i.e. all men sharing property in common.  Clement's argument in Can the Rich Man be Saved however is not merely directed at saving his own legacy but that of the Church of St Mark.  This explains why he cites the discussion of the Question of the Rich Man from Mark's gospel in particular - a unique occurrence in ancient Christians writers.  Again, since the Carpocratians in Rome thought that all property was shared equally by all members, their understanding of the material here necessarily opened the door to Irenaeus seizing the property of churches everywhere once his praescriptio was deemed legally valid in Rome.

Clement uses syntheke in the same sense as Celsus or any Christian living in the Empire at that time save only for the fact that he emphasizes – undoubtedly against Irenaeus’s efforts to ‘reacquire it’ – that Jesus allowed for individuals to retain personal wealth. The argument is rather complex but founded on a reasonable interpretation of Clement’s secret gospel. The reality was then that the argument that Clement lays forth here was one of many attempts to block the implications of Irenaeus's original praescriptio.  It was recognized immediately that if the Alexandrian Church lost the argument to claim that ‘the things of Mark’ or Markeion should be kept separate from the Roman Church it would only be a matter of time before the lot of them would be chased out of Egypt - a fact which is confirmed that both Clement and Origen end up in Palestine by the end of their lives. 

Finally then we should ask ourselves how was this ultimately carried out?   For this we need only look at the argument of the De Praescriptione Haereticorum and related texts. Jesus was the original head of the college of Christians. He established a constitution (syntheke) of twelve headed by Peter and where later heretics split from the original association. Every piece of the ‘new testament’ or ‘new covenant’ – i.e. the forged documents of the ‘four gospels,’ the Acts of the Apostles and manipulated apostolic epistles reinforces the underlying notion of an ancient compact much earlier than the related clams of the Marceion and related heretical collegia in Rome or Alexandria.  As already noted this was deliberately move to allow Irenaeus and company to retain their hold on this property – a move which was likely done in concert or immediately following the Imperial persecution dated to 175 – 177 CE.

In order to properly understand the events of this age we must compare them to those which faced the Christians of Alexandria at the beginning of the fourth century – a period for which we have a slight bit more documentation. During the great persecution of Diocletian it would appear that the head of the Alexandrian church – Pope Peter I - fled the city. In his stead, the figure of Meletius sat in the throne of St Mark. At about 311 CE, when Christianity had been raised to the rank of tolerated religion Peter decided to return and expected to assume possession of the property he had vacated. The associates of Meletius refused to relinquish control of the Church of St Mark and related buildings which stood in the environs and a conflict arose which ultimately claimed the life of Peter.

The same drama played out during the Decian persecutions in the middle of the second century in North Africa. The groups who stayed in the churches to resist the Imperial government refused to give back control to those who ran away. The difference with the events surrounding the persecutions of 175 – 177 CE was that the Christians who assumed control of the Marceion or buildings associated with Mark had close ties to the government and filed a praescriptio when the original owners demanded they gave it back.

We have to understand the historical origin of the praescriptio grew out of a defense against the claim of an original owner who had neglected property in the provinces. Thus the necessity for a title by prescription — the necessity, in other words, for providing that, in certain circumstances, possession, even though in itself unauthorized, shall, after the lapse of a particular time, ripen into ownership — arises from the fact that, but for such a title, rights of ownership would neither be safe nor capable of proof.  

Early Roman law had not failed to observe this fact, and accordingly it recognized a mode of acquiring ownership by means of a possession — a possession animo domini, or ' usus ' — continued, in the ease of immovables, over a period of two years and, in the case of all other things (ceterae res) over a period of one year. This usucapio of the Twelve Tables, however, being an institution of the jus civile, was confined to Roman citizens, and was moreover objectively applicable to such things only as admitted of quiritary ownership. Thus all provincial soil was excluded from the operation of the civil usucapio, for according to Roman law the fundus provincialis could never be the object of private ownership (dominium ex jure Quiritium), but could only be owned by the populus Romanns.

In reality, however, land could, of course, be dealt with in the provinces by sales and purchases, by inheritances and legacies, in a manner and to an extent which virtually made houses, gardens, farms, the objects of private ownership. But the titles, such as they were, received no legal protection from the Roman jus civile. The provincial governors (praesides), however, introduced, by means of their edict, a form of legal protection called 'praescriptio longi temporis'.  If a person, having come into possession of land on some lawful ground (justo titulo) and in good faith (bona fide), and having continued in the possession of such land for 'a long time', were sued by the person claiming to be owner of the land, he (the defendant) had a good defence to the action, and was protected by what was called a praescriptio, i.e. by a reservation made in his favour, differing in point of form from an exceptio by being placed at the head of the formula. A ' long time ' was declared to mean ten years inter praesentes (i.e. if both parties were domiciled in the same province) and twenty years inter absentes (i.e. if they were domiciled in different provinces). Subsequently he was allowed to brings a real action (in rem actio) against any third party, when the same conditions were forthcoming.

As such we must imagine that Irenaeus and company assumed control of buildings associated with the followers of Mark - or Marcion as they were originally known – and then successfully retained control of them through a systematic literary falsification effort. Did the followers of Mark try and produce original documents to show their ownership of buildings and other property on behalf of their collegium? One story stands out to suggest that this was likely the case.

Tertullian tells the story that when Marcion entered the Roman church, he generously donated 200,000 sesterces to its members, which was returned to him when he separated from them. This figure must have been associated with some documentation. It is hard to believe that the number was just pulled out from thin air.  Peter Lampe and others have demonstrated that such a large sum seems to naturally associate itself with a land purchase:

In Martial (3.52) a house in the city of Rome costs 200,000 sesterces. "With 200,000 one can get a manor near Patrai" (Martial, 5.35). A "little manor" (agellus) that Pliny gave to his wet nurse is worth 100,000 sesterces (Pliny, Ep. 6.3) According to the land prices mentioned above (chap. 18, n. 34), Marcion could have obtained a 50 hectare piece of land (0.5 km x 1 km) for 200,000 sesterces, which corresponds to the cultivatable area of an independent middle-sized farm. Did Marcion belong to the equestrian order, which in imperial times controlled trading and banking? The equestrian rank would be quite conceivable for a second-century provincial from Asia Minor (Juvenal, 7.14f.). The possession of merchant ships was forbidden for senators since the time of the "Lex Claudia." Therefore, the members of the equestrian class moved all the more readily into this lucrative area.

The idea then that Tertullian’s original reference to a figure of 200,000 ‘given’ to the Roman church may well refer to an original land purchase which became a Marceion – a house associated with Mark, the author of the gospel written for the equestrian class. The claim that it was ‘immediately given back’ was just a way of getting around the issue of the original ownership of the building.

In Tertullian’s Latin translation of De Praescriptionem he speaks again about this event occurring “in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus.” This event was apparently documented because in the First Book of Against Marcion he speaks his disciples being unable to “deny that his first faith he held along with ourselves; a document of his own proves this (ipsius litteris testibus).” Littera can have a range of meaning - a writing, letter, document, or record. As such, given that the two references are related the ‘bringing in of the two hundred sesterces into the church was certainly used by the Marcionites to show that the founder of their collegium had proper ownership of the building in Rome.  

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