Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Secret Life of Jesus [Chapter Eight]

 How the Church Accepted 'Natural Sin'

At last we come to the ultimate question about Christianity as it has come down to us.  Why did a religion that is such a downer survive and thrive to such a degree?  When you really think about it, if you walked into a bank with a business plan for a 'club' that assumed that everyone starts life as a sinner, that everything pleasurable comes from the Devil and each person has to spend his or her entire existence repenting for an 'original sin' that was committed by some long lost ancestor no one's ever known or heard of - it doesn't seem likely that anyone would think this business opportunity is a winner.

So how did such a 'downer religion' become so successful?  Why did so many people 'jump on board' this worldview that everyone and everything starts off bad and can only get worse?  Of course religious people today were for the most part born into the system or at least have grown up in culture that assumes basic Christian paradigms.  However when we come to terms with Irenaeus's writings and realize how incredibly influential they were on the shape and character of the 'Imperial Christianity' that emerged at the time of Constantine, it becomes harder and harder to envision the psychological make up of the individual who would buy into all this negativity.

At its core Irenaeus's worldview is that everything in the world is bad except the desire to serve the monarchy.  At its very core individualism is a very bad thing.   The desire to be separate from the monarchia - that is the big group' or natural order that comes down from God, goes through the ruling power of men and extends to the smallest things in the world is evil.  According to Irenaeus's newly invented worldview in the beginning Satan seduced man to stray from the monarchy that governs all things and so now the one redeeming act that humanity can perform is complete submission to God. 

It is hard to believe that people would be lining up to accept their own worthlessness unless of course they were really worthless - i.e. slaves.  Yet even here there are difficulties.  Even a slave wants freedom and Irenaeus's Church and New Testament canon took away this hope from the captives.  If we again liken the situation in the late second century to our modern capitalist model, we have to two stores selling 'redemption' a predominant 'slave' demographic.  On the one hand we have 'Business A' run by 'those of Mark' which offered complete liberation in the here and now.'  Across the street we have  'Business B' associated with those of Irenaeus which did not offer any delivery of redemption in this life time, delaying the very same utopia sold by 'the store down the street' until after one's death.

The idea that the triumph of the Catholic business model over the Marcionites happened 'naturally' - that is, in the modern capitalist understanding of a 'fair playing field' - is simple absurd.  Not only do we have to accept the fact that the ancient world had no appreciation for the idea that 'government should stay out of the marketplace' - in this case, the marketplace of ideas - but more importantly the redemption of fugitive slaves was an illegal activity which necessarily forced government intervention. 

To this end it becomes increasingly apparent that Irenaeus's 'business model' for Christianity took into account Imperial action against the Marcionites.  Whether or not there was an actual handshake between Commodus and the leaders of the new Christian tradition, there must have been tacit acknowledgement of the 'usefulness' of Irenaeus's effort to make all Christians 'feel bad about themselves' and their 'inherent sinfulness' for eternity.  With the decimation of the old priestly order of Markan Christianity there must have been a huge shepherd-less mass of believers, principally made up slaves and fugitives.  Those who refused to let go of their new found freedom 'disappeared' in the persecutions at the end of the reign of Marcus Aurelius.  For those who remained, being servile came only too natural for them.

When we go back to our original discussion about Irenaeus's original praeceptio, it becomes increasingly obvious why the corrupt government of Commodus decided to throw its weight behind the Catholic Church.  According to the understanding of the time, the only thing the government was expected to deliver to its customers was order.  The idea that the Empire would continue to struggle with its slave population indefinitely into the future was simply antithetical to this purpose.  Irenaeus offered a vision of a Christian community which was entirely compatible with the continuation of social order and its heretical opponents presented the exact opposite - i.e. continued flaunting of the property laws which were in many ways the foundation of social order in the Empire.  Eusebius's statement that the Commodian period was a golden age for the Church is hardly surprising given the events at the end of the previous administration. 

To this end, when we go back to our initial investigation about why Irenaeus makes repeated allusions to the Egyptian Exodus in the course of justifying his praescriptio it all suddenly makes good sense.  The Commodian period really was like the events described at the foundation of Israel because both involved masses of runaway slaves or fugitivi.  Origen reports as much when he cites Celsus as saying- "that there is no difference between Jews and Christians, and those animals previously enumerated by him, he asserts that the Jews were "fugitives from Egypt, who never performed anything worthy of note, and never were held in any reputation or account."  In other words from the perspective of both Irenaeus and Celsus - two witnesses of the events of 177 CE - it was all about fugitive slaves.

One even gets the sense that Irenaeus and Celsus, men who agree on so much with respect to Christianity, acknowledged the need for a 'slave rehabilitation effort.'  Few people pay enough attention to the closing words of his True Account and the manner in which he strikes a surprisingly conciliatory tone after running the Christian religion into the ground for dozens of pages.  Origen tells that he concludes by calling on Christians "to help the king with all our might, and to labour with him in the maintenance of justice, to fight for him; and if he requires it, to fight under him, or lead an army along with him."  Celsus also urges them to "take office in the government of the country, if that is required for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion."  Is it possible that Irenaeus in effect 'took him up on this offer'? 

We should take a second look at the unusual version of Luke 16:9 which proved so enigmatic in a previous chapter:

And we are proved to be righteous by whatsoever else we do well, redeeming, as it were, our property from strange hands.  But thus do I say, "from strange hands," that we have gifts of this sort, and receive them from others, in the same way as these men [the Israelites] had them from the Egyptians who knew not God; 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 (fugati), may receive you into eternal tabernacles."

It should be clear by now that fugati is the plural form of fugo 'to flee' the verb behind the masculine noun fugativum.  The implications of this variant passage seems to be that Jesus - 'knowing what would happen in the future age - told his disciples to be friends with Caesar in order that the fugitive slaves will be redeemed, representing some sort of second Exodus.  By this means will they establish themselves as the true Church of the Empire.

Of course, as we have already shown, Irenaeus's understanding of 'redemption' is very different from that of the heretics.  As there was only one god and one rule Irenaeus understands redemption to mean brought back to their original master.  This in turn was taken in two sense by the Church Father, the slaves must accept the bonds of their former human masters, like Philemon in the Catholic New Testament canon, and moreover the spiritual fugitives must go back to their former 'spiritual' slave owner the Creator.  It is again how remarkable Irenaeus's understanding of 'the truth' is exactly the same as Celsus here.  Both essentially proscribe the same 'solution' to the problem of Christian heresy. 

The followers of Mark of course used the parable of the overcoming of the strong man to justify their understanding that Christians should overthrow their former slave masters.  Nevertheless Irenaeus turned around this same parable around to reinforce his 'original sin' paradigm.  Now Satan was not only the strong man the Christian was duty bound to destroy but also "the fugitive from and a transgressor of the law, an apostate also from God. After the Word bound him securely as a fugitive from Himself, and made spoil of his goods,--namely, those men whom he held in bondage, and whom he unjustly used for his own purposes. And justly indeed is he led captive, who had led men unjustly into bondage."

It is amazing to see how thoroughly every aspect of the original Christian understanding is twisted to fit into Irenaeus's new narrowly defined categories of redemption.  This effort was of course assisted with no small amount of forgery and textual manipulation not always involving material within what we would define as 'the New Testament.'  The same theological innovation of seeing the Devil rather than Jesus as the fugitivus is projected back in time in one of the spurious epistles attributed to prominent Church Fathers of the past like Ignatius.  It is here we read the alleged Antiochene bishop from the beginning of the second century declare against Satan "you runaway slave, you incorrigible slave, do you rebel against the good Lord?"

The point of course is that the events of 177 CE led to the complete transformation of Christianity during the Commodian era.  Irenaeus lived in an age where the ranks of Christians were disproportionately filled with runaway slaves.  Even the future Roman bishop Callistus is so identified as a "fugitive serf released from punishment" on the orders of Marcia, the concubine of the Emperor.  It is no surprise then that Jesus should be understood in the very terms of the majority of his followers - a fugitivus.  However once the Marcionites were run out of town the reality of so many fugitivi in the ranks of the Church left its imprint in the soul of the community, even if Irenaeus now reports on it in an entirely negative light.

So for instance Irenaeus's repeatedly condemns the heretical belief that the spiritual Jesus 'fled' from Christ or vice versa at the time of the Passion.  We read in Book Three of Against Heresies about the manner in which the heretics claimed that "He (Christ) was Himself not to suffer, but should fly away from Jesus."  The fugitive Jesus was one and the same with the phantom Jesus.  It denied the cornerstone of Irenaeus's faith - the need for Christians to die as witnesses to the truth of Christianity.  So Irenaeus asks - "why did He exhort His disciples to take up the cross and follow Him,--that cross which these men represent Him as not having taken up, but as having relinquished the dispensation of suffering?"

Of course we take the idea that Christians had to die for their faith at value.  In other words that the suffering experienced by the martyrs was 'embraced' by those who were victimized in the manner that our gospels now portray Jesus.  Yet this understanding wasn't widely held by the heretics, nor is it completely uniform among the early Church Fathers.  It actually represents a later development in Irenaeus's thought of uncertain origin.  It may come down to a psychological justification for dehumanizing his enemies.  Irenaeus also may have been indirectly involved in the death of many of Christians.  Making all things 'God's will' may have made his roll more conscionable.  We might also suspect that he recognized that encouraging more Christians to die might also thin the ranks of troublemakers.

Whatever the case may be it was Irenaeus - through systematic editorial manipulation of the gospels themselves - made Jesus more like the martyrs who died in the contemporary age.  The original Jesus of the Marcites was a supernatural being who slipped in and out of the world to liberate fellow fugitives a view Irenaeus strenuously rejected at every opportunity - "as our Master, therefore, did not at once depart, taking flight, but awaited the time of His resurrection prescribed by the Father."  Interestingly the Catholic saints are never to run from any secular authorities, but they inevitably advise their followers to 'flee' from any sort of heresy as a badge of honor.  When John is said to have gone into a bath and saw a heretic inside and "rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."

To this end we must go back to our original question here about Irenaeus's triumph over the heresies.  The fugitive Jesus and the tradition that spawned him left a legacy in his writings even if it hasn't been recognized as such by modern commentators.  That harsh tone that pervades his works and makes them often difficult to read represents Irenaeus essentially 'talking down' to the mass of slaves who have come over to his new Church.  He doesn't need to address them as equals.  After all the people reading these works are essentially 'overseers' like himself - whether pagan or Christian we can never be sure.  Irenaeus's point is that these fugitives must be treated harshly.  No stone must be spared in the effort to route out heretical thought which - according to his newly developed theology - is defined as a 'flight' from the Creator, undoubtedly inspired by Cain's example in the Bible.

Irenaeus shouts at his new converts - "if, you will not believe in Him, and will flee from His hands, the cause of imperfection shall be in thee who didst not obey, but not in Him who called [thee]."  And again "submission to God is eternal rest, so that they who shun the light have a place worthy of their flight; and those who fly from eternal rest, have a habitation in accordance with their fleeing. Now, since all good things are with God, they who by their own determination fly from God, do defraud themselves of all good things; and having been [thus] defrauded of all good things with respect to God, they shall consequently fall under the just judgment of God." 

Of course long before the reforms of Irenaeus the heretics took inspiration from the plight of Cain in the Biblical narrative:

My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive (profugus) and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay.  And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

The branding of the fugitive Christians with the sixth letter of the alphabet confirmed their redemption to Jesus.  But we can also see signs of a subtle warning to their Imperial masters that their deaths would ultimately lead to vengeance on the part of God - a claim ridiculed repeatedly by the pagan critic Celsus. 

Nevertheless we should use this opportunity to demonstrate the manner once again that Irenaeus adapted and transformed the original beliefs of the heretics.  The specific symbolism of the episemon or the letter F gave way to the 'signing' of the T-shaped cross.  How this exactly occurred is of course unclear but it is worth noting again that the first two letters of the word cross in Greek - st - eventually took on the character of the episemon or sixth letter of the alphabet.  The point of transformation may have been the word stigma, which also begins with the same two letters.  Whatever the case may be, Irenaeus and his tradition, quickly absorbed various Biblical passages pointing to the mystical significance of the letter tau and the protective power of this 'sign' soon replaced the heretical implications of the original 'mystic' letter F.

As is well known, the 'sign of the cross is now made by individuals upon themselves as a form of prayer, and by clergy upon others or objects as an act of blessing.  While individuals may make it at any time, clergy must make it at specific times (as in liturgies), and it is customary to make it on other occasions (see below). In the Catholic Church, a priest blesses with one sign of the cross over an object or person and during rituals such as the Roman Catholic Mass, the sign is required at certain points: the laity sign themselves during the introductory greeting of the service, before the Gospel reading (small signs on forehead, lips, and heart), and at the final blessing; optionally, other times during the Mass when the laity often cross themselves are during a sprinkling with holy water, when concluding the penitential rite, immediately after receiving Communion, and when concluding private prayer after Communion.

The clear assumption in this continual signing is that the actual stigma which used to be on the heads of many - if not most of the participants in the mass - is now gone.  If we go back to supposing that the ranks of the Church were originally filled with fugitivi - even the ranks of the presbytery as the example of Callistus demonstrates - the true stigma, the letter F, was already prominently displayed for all to see.  There was no need to perpetually 'sign' during the service.  The living tabernacles of Christ branded with the proof of their 'belonging' to the Lord were everpresent in the midst of the congregation. 

Of course, if we go back to our discussion in the last chapter of those called 'cauterized in the ear' this must have been a special class of individual, exclusively associated with the most recent persecution in 177 CE.  We can find a great more information about their significance in the community by mining Origen’s summary of the lost section in Celsus’s original treatise where most of the information appears.  Indeed we will use that account to argue that Celsus actually read the writings of Irenaeus to form his opinion of this class of individual.  Origen's words are as follows:

Celsus appears to me to have misunderstood the statement of the apostle, which declares that "in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them who believe;" and to have misunderstood also those who employed these declarations of the apostle against such as had corrupted the doctrines of Christianity [emphasis mine]. And it is owing to this cause that Celsus has said that "certain among the Christians are called 'cauterized in the ears;' " and also that some are termed "enigmas,"--a term which we have never met. The expression "stumbling-block" is, indeed, of frequent occurrence in these writings,--an appellation which we are accustomed to apply to those who turn away simple persons, and those who are easily deceived, from sound doctrine. But neither we, nor, I imagine, any other, whether Christian or heretic, know of any who are styled Sirens, who betray and deceive, and stop their ears, and change into swine those whom they delude [emphasis mine]. And yet this man, who affects to know everything, uses such language as the following: "You may hear," he says, "all those who differ so widely, and who assail each other in their disputes with the most shameless language, uttering the words, 'The world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.'" 

These last words are quite critical as the text of Paul immediately goes on to say after the cited text – “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the stigmata of Jesus.” Our surviving texts put ‘stigma’ in the plural - i.e. stigmata - even though there are clear suggestions the heretical text only preserved the singular form.  In any event it is apparent that Celsus knew it all too well what Paul was referencing – the mark branded on a fugitive slave by the Imperial authorities as punishment for his having escaped his legal owner.

Once we get into the heart of the testimony of Celsus as told to us by Origen it becomes very apparent that an important group of fugitivi once existed within the late second century Church.  Celsus read Irenaeus's account of their plight and especially his application of 1 Timothy 4:2 to their situation and whatever he found in this source he used it against to heap ridicule upon the sect.  Origen however rejects Celsus's conclusions as a 'misunderstanding' while at the same time acknowledging that the pagan had at his disposal contemporary Catholic (for only the Catholics used the First Letter of Timothy) commentary. 

In the end, the question comes down to - who else but Irenaeus could be the source of Celsus’s ‘misunderstanding’?  We should start by acknowledging here that there are a number of allusions made by Celsus to this now anonymous Catholic writer.   Irenaeus refers to 1 Timothy 4:2, he speaks of the heretics as ‘enigmas,’ that they are represent a ‘stumbling block’ and ‘Sirens, who betray and deceive, and stop their ears, and change into swine those whom they delude.’  As we are about to demonstrate, all of these characteristics are found in the surviving writings associated with Irenaeus.

It is well established that Irenaeus was a contemporary with Celsus and the two men likely frequented the same circles in Rome .  If Celsus's indebtedness to Ireneaus is acknowledged we should accept that the Church Father's early works undoubtedly fed a great deal of information to the pagan.  It was from Irenaeus then that Celsus learned about the names, traits and habits of heretical groups as well as the basic details about the faith of the 'great Church' which he references positively in his work.  

As such it was undoubtedly from Irenaeus that Celsus first heard the words of 1 Timothy 4:2 and their specific application to recent victims of the Imperial persecution. It therefore very significant that Irenaeus’s writings show repeated mention of one of the other terms highlighted by Celsus's narrative - i.e. ‘stumbling block.'  It is worth noting that this term is used to describe the writings of the heretics - and specifically those of Florinus and the Valentinus - in the surviving letter written to Victor bishop of Rome as an attempt to convince him to expel these 'heretics' from communion with the rest of the Church - i.e. "they constitute a stumbling-block to many, who simply and unreservedly receive, as coming from a presbyter, the blasphemy which they utter against God."

With respect to the allusion that follows in Celsus’s account - i.e. that of using the term ‘enigmas’ in the plural to apply to the beliefs of heretics - Origen claims never to have come across this term.  Nevertheless it is quite easy to show that the term appears repeatedly in the writings of Irenaeus especially in the negative sense – i.e. as the heretical misunderstanding of prophesies or parables. In Book Four of Against Heresies we hear that “for every prophecy, before its fulfilment, is to men enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition.”

The same thing appears again in Book Two of the same series where we find two references to the heretics appeal to ‘enigmas’ in their secret teachings.   We read Irenaeus state that “when they maintain that the Saviour privately taught these same things not to all, but to certain only of His disciples who could comprehend them, and who understood what was intended by Him through means of arguments, enigmas, and parables. They come, to this, that they maintain there is one Being who is proclaimed as God, and another as Father, He who is set forth as such through means of parables and enigmas.” A little earlier he says again with specific reference to the existence of a Lord above the ruler of the world that “no question can be solved by means of another which itself awaits solution; nor, in the opinion of those possessed of sense, can an ambiguity be explained by means of another ambiguity, or enigmas by means of another greater enigma, but things of such character receive their solution from those which are manifest, and consistent and clear. But these while striving to explain passages of Scripture and parables bring forward another more important, and indeed impious question.”

Most historians believe that Book Two was written during the persecutions of Marcus Aurelius.  Yet if we look closely Irenaeus's reference is quite unusual throughout this particular book as there are persecutions but no specific allusion to 'martyrs.'  Indeed there is no sign of despair or empathy in the Church Father’s attitude to the victims of the violence perpetrated against them by the Imperial authorities. In spite of the mass slaughter in his native Lyons God is at work in the world upholding the social order. Moreover, even stranger perhaps is the fact that Irenaeus continues to speak of the present age as the foretold ‘year of favor’ - in short, another example of his seemingly bizarre detachment from the ongoing suffering.

Whatever the case may be the strongest argument for Celsus having access to Irenaeus's works is Origen's reference to his statement the existence of Christians “many who are styled Sirens, who betray and deceive, and cauterize their ears, and change into swine those whom they delude.”  This remarkable statement finds clear echo not only to the familiar Irenaean reporting of Marcites being ‘seared by hot iron’ in the ear but also an important passage in the third century ‘update’ of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies – the Philosophumena – which we mentioned earlier was discovered at Mount Athos at the end of the nineteenth century.

It is then is this ultimately ignored 'alternate version' of Against Heresies that we read all the elements which Celsus mentioned in his account:

The pupils of these men, when they perceive the doctrines of the heretics to be like unto the ocean when tossed into waves by violence of the winds, ought to sail past in quest of the tranquil haven. For a sea of this description is both infested with wild beasts and difficult of navigation, like, as we may say, the Sicilian (Sea), in which the legend reports were Cyclops, and Charybdis, and Scylla, and the rock of the Sirens. Now, the poets of the Greeks allege that Odysseus sailed through (this channel), adroitly using (to his own purpose) the terribleness of these strange monsters. For the savage cruelty (in the aspect) of these towards those who were sailing through was remarkable. The Sirens, however, singing sweetly and harmoniously, beguiled the voyagers, luring, by reason of their melodious voice, those who heard it, to steer their vessels towards (the promontory). The (poets) report that Odysseus, on ascertaining this, smeared with wax the ears of his companions (katakerosai tas akoas ton etairon), and, lashing himself to the mast, sailed, free of danger, past the Sirens, hearing their chant distinctly. And my advice to my readers is to adopt a similar expedient, viz., either on account of their infirmity to smear their ears with wax, and sail (straight on) through the tenets of the heretics, not even listening to (doctrines) that are easily capable of enticing them into pleasure, like the luscious lay of the Sirens, or, by binding one's self to the Cross of Christ, (and) hearkening with fidelity (to His words), not to be distracted, inasmuch as he has reposed his trust in Him to whom ere this he has been firmly knit, and (I admonish that man) to continue stedfastly (in this faith). 

Clearly Celsus read these words and applied them to the existence of a class of individuals called 'cauterized in the ears' in the Church.  This group had clearly been actually branded with the letter F in the ear, the hot iron melting and then closing the skin around the ears so they could no longer hear.

Irenaeus has already developed a theological reinterpretation of 'those branded in the ear' by the Imperial government in keeping with his monarchian beliefs.  According to the Church Father these former heretics were so afflicted by God in order to spare them from the wicked teaching of their former masters.  Now of course those 'cauterized in the ear' belong to the 'great Church.'  They have been redeemed back to what Irenaeus would deem 'their original master' - i.e. the Creator and his apostolic church.  We can now imagine that they 'sign themselves daily' because the brands in themselves no longer serve any mystical function other than preventing them from hearing the wiles of Satan.

We have already brought forward the example of the future bishop of Rome Callistus as one branded with the fugitive symbol.  It is difficult to know if he was specifically branded in the ear or the more traditional place for the F - i.e. his forehead.  Nevertheless there are other examples of the symbolism associated with the victims of 177 CE being used to represent 'faithfulness' to God.  As we have already noted, there exists a disputed letter in the Catholic New Testament canon called ‘to Philemon’ which represents Paul's alleged efforts to restore a young runaway slave to his master.  The epistle was certainly a forgery - perhaps developed around some fragment of authentic writing of the apostle - but again specifically uses Paul to highlight Irenaeus’s rejection of the heretical ‘redemption’ of slaves doctrine.

Philemon is in fact only one Catholic forgery in a chain of references which highlights Onesimus's rise to the highest rank in the contemporary world - that of bishop.  Indeed given the parallel rise of Callistus from fugitivus in the age Irenaeus was active it is tempting to see some underlying relationship although none can be definitively proved.  All that can be said with any degree of certainty is that Onesimus re-appears after 'to Philemon' no longer a young child but now the bishop of the church of Ephesus in the early second century.  This story unfolds in canon of writings associated with Ignatius, but it is interesting to note that the text in which it appears - Ignatius to the Ephesians survives in three different lengths, each successive 'generation' representing a successive expansion of newly incorporated information reflecting the needs and concerns of late second and third century Christianity. 

The Catholic Church developed around the second and third longest versions of these letters.  However the English Orientalist William Cureton discovered that a much shorter version survived in Syriac in the monastery of St. Mary Deipara, in the desert of Nitria, near Cairo.  As is often the case in this field of study, because the new material completely challenged the traditional assumptions about Ignatius and his theology demonstrated through the long and longer letters, the Syriac text of his letters are completely ignored even to this day.  Nevertheless the reinforce the same pattern of expansion that is represented by the Gospel of Luke when compared to the original gospel of the Markan tradition.

To this end it is important to note that a whole section was added to the Ignatian letter to the Ephesians which can be read as acknowledging Onesimus's branding in the ear and subsequent 'silence.'  These historic details were unknown at the time of the original composition of to the Ephesians and the forger - evidently Irenaeus - wanted to use them to illustrate the same point that we just saw from the Philosophumena - namely contemporary fugitive slaves should accept their 'branding in the ear' as a divinely sanctioned act, keeping them silent, submissive and away from heretical doctrine. 

The new material added to the Epistle to the Ephesians begins with an acknowledgement that Onesimus is strangely silent:

now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him.

Onesimus, the returned fugitive slave - now deaf from his injuries - is presented as an example of submission to God, that is 'ceasing to flee' from his goodness.  The author proscribes that the faithful must instead take flight from the heretics:

some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom ye must flee as ye would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom ye must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured. 

Like their bishop the faithful cannot hear the wicked teachings of these heretics because their ears have been sealed:

I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom ye did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them

In short, the victims of the recent persecutions would have two choices set before them in the contemporary Christian environment.  They could continue to adhere to what was left of the former Markan hierarchy, who were left without buildings or property of any kind, wandering in the cultural wilderness, or they could, with Irenaeus's literary 'creativity' as a guide use their recent sufferings and resultant physical deformities to a new understanding of 'redemption.'  Onesimus's transformation from zero to hero providing a 'useful' example of the reward that can be manifested from a life of servility to the authorities. 

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