Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Secret Life of Jesus [Chapter Twelve]

Making Peace With the Peacemaker

Brent's study of the influence of monarchianism in the early Church is a landmark achievement in Patristic scholarship.  Using the examination of the apologists as a foundation he builds on this study to ultimately demonstrate that our now familiar fugitive slave Callistus was a prime mover - perhaps the greatest advocate of a single monarchical authority over all the fractionalised house-churches of Rome hitherto.  As the arguments develop he examines the eventual development of a distinguished place for Roman bishops in official burial places to make his ultimate point - by the middle of the third century the Roman episcopacy was operating as a 'counter cultural' monarch.  The thesis is well reasoned and instructive, however one can make the point that Brent deliberately avoids making the much more dangerous argument over the true roots of this 'monarchical interest' in Imperial flattery and collusion at the time of Commodus.

The basic argument comes down to something like this.  If belonging to a Christian private association was as Celsus suggests a capital offense, why do Irenaeus, the author of the Philosophumena and later Eusebius all testify that the 'great Church' at the time of Commodus was experiencing something of a golden age?  The answer must be that what we will call 'the roman Catholic Church' was not being punished at this time.  Already this understanding seems to be evidenced by Irenaeus's own testimony.  Nevertheless Brent completely fails to connect Irenaeus's flattery and obsequious behavior with the emergence of a monarchical Roman bishop for reasons that are difficult to fathom.

Clearly Brent makes a connection between the Imperial government and the Roman episcopacy when he ties the centralized reign of Elagabalus and that of Callistus.  Yet Callistus was freed by the Imperial court of Commodus.  Surely the lesson of his redemption was the advantage of kissing up to authority.  Interesting also is the fact that the Philosophumena never sees the wicked government of Commodus in Callistus's liberation as a point against the bishop of Rome - in short, his association with a despot wasn't used against him in the manner that Martin Heidegger's indifference to the Third Reich was put forward as an objection to his philosophy by later contemporaries.

To this end, it must be acknowledged that by the third century the hierarchy of the Roman Church had already assumed that lining up at the Imperial trough was not only de rigueur but something which approached virtuous behavior.  To be a heretic slinking around in the darkness was 'bad,' to be 'above ground' mingling with a better class of people furthering the penetration of the Christian religion among the rich and respect had become something of an obsession.  The power of the Roman Church actually grew from this association and no other voices, no other points of view emerge from any other writings preserved among the Patristic writers after the third century.  This 'complicity' to flatter the rich and have greater intimacy with the powerful is only suspended during times of persecution but even then the effort seems to be directed toward supporting a more favorable Imperial benefactor rather than questioning the inherent evil of secular authority.

Indeed the monarchian assumptions of the Church would never have allowed for that discussion to develop within ecclesiastical literature.  In the plainest terms possible we should see that at bottom the 'work of God' was all about sucking up to authority under the guise of 'enlightening the heathen' to the better way of Christ.  'Show us favor,' the Patristic writers seem to be saying, 'and we will take care of your poor' - that is keep them in line by means of our instruction.  We will show the ignorant, the vulgar and the meek that God appointed you, the Emperor, to be his secular representative on earth.  This was a tempting bargain which few other religious bodies at the time could have made and over time it was impossible to resist, especially for Constantine. 

So to this end, it is difficult to dispute Brent's demonstration of a growing 'monarchical interest' in the early Church, however we should at the same recognize that it developed from the flattery of individuals like Irenaeus in the Imperial court.  It was much like a modern middle age male learning to like hip hop and rap from ogling half naked women in hip hop and rap videos.  It was hardly a virtuous enterprise and one in which more traditional forms of Christianity, those which maintained an interest in keeping a distance between the beliefs of Christ and the dictates of Caesar, were at a disadvantage.  That Brent doesn't recognize the underlying sleaziness of early Christian monarchianism is nothing short of astounding, but then again he almost completely ignores the person of Irenaeus in his writings. 

To this end, we should pay special attention to Brent's rather forced identification of 'Praxeas' with Callistus.  To be sure others before him had done the same, but they unlike Brent, were under the influence of a set of assumption that our author does not share.  To this end, those who previously identified Praxeas as Callistus did so assuming that the objections of Tertullian were necessarily paralleled by the Philosophumena's attack against Callistus because 'Hippolytus' and Tertullian wrote at the same time and did so as a reaction against a pre-existent centralized episcopal authority.   Under Brent's reevaluation of Church history, the Philosophumena was written long after Tertullian's death and moreover the motivation for this author was displeasure at Callistus's 'innovation' of overstepping the authority given to the 'secretarial' role of the episcopacy hitherto.

Something just doesn't quite add up when we try and take Praxeas as Callistus.  For one, the New Prophesy movement wasn't excommunicated during the reign of Zephyrinus - i.e. when Callistus was deacon - but in the previous administration of Victor.  Brent attempts to address this objection in his Imperial Cult and Development of Church Order but his argument is unconvincing.  For above all else Tertullian identifies 'Praxeas' as someone who was famous for convincing the world through his writings.  Indeed his writings were found all over the world long after 'Praxeas' seemed to have disappeared into thin air - exactly like Irenaeus. Callistus by contrast was well known enough to have the author of the Philosophumena condemn him posthumously.  Moreover no writings associated with him have ever survived, sharply contrasting with Tertullian's claim that they have been sown to such a degree in the world that it would taking nothing short of an apocalyptic firestorm to get rid of them all. 

In the same way as many scholars have used the Philosophumena's testimony to assist in the identification of Praxeas with Callistus we should point to Eusebius's citation of the Little Labyrinth to assist our identification of Irenaeus as Praxeas.  'For they (the heretics) say that all the early teachers and the apostles received and taught what they now declare, and that the truth of the Gospel was preserved until the times of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter, but that from his successor, Zephyrinus, the truth had been corrupted."  If Irenaeus can be identified as Zephyrinus then everything suddenly becomes straightened outFor this is exactly the kind of argument that Tertullian is making.  In other words, Praxeas 'advised' the Roman bishop (i.e. Victor) to change his mind and cut off a community he formerly tolerated.

Indeed the only objection to this identification of Irenaeus as Zephyrinus is that we know so much about both men that it is impossible for one to have been the other.  However the reality is that we know absolutely nothing about Irenaeus other than he was an 'exegete' who hated heretics, claimed to be Polycarp's disciple and convinced Victor to change his mind about the Valentinians and cult them off from communion.  Now we have the same idea represented about 'Praxeas' with respect to a Roman bishop from the same time - i.e. 'changing his mind' and cutting them off - and the heresy of Artemon - i.e. Zephyrinus caused a complete reversal of Victor's original tolerance of the group.

One can even argue that the same thing occurred with respect to the Quartodecimans - i.e. Victor cut them off.  The counterargument would be that Irenaeus is argued by Eusebius to have been a 'peacemaker.'   Yet it may well stand to reason that Victor's deacon got the credit for convincing Victor to change his mind about an unpopular policy.  This might explain why it was that Zephyrinus was called 'Irenaeus.'  So it is we are told by Eusebius that the bishops of Asia "besought him to consider the things of peace" (5.24.10) and not surprisingly his letter to Victor emphasizes the importance of peace:

this variety in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors. It is likely that they did not hold to strict accuracy, and thus formed a custom for their posterity according to their own simplicity and peculiar mode. Yet all of these lived none the less in peace, and we also live in peace with one another; and the disagreement in regard to the fast confirms the agreement in the faith.

The ancient bishops of Rome while not observing the Jewish calculation of Passover are said to have "been at peace with those who came to them from the parishes" who did, no less than a similar "peace" exist between Polycarp and Anicetus.

To this end it is not surprising that Eusebius hints that 'Irenaeus' might not well be a description of the deacons character - "thus Irenaeus, who truly was well named, became a peacemaker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way in behalf of the peace of the churches."  This association with peace is something we consistently see applied to his person in the Church History.  So with respect to his sending out of a letter on behalf of the martyrs of Lyons, Eusebius portrays him as "negotiating for the peace of the churches." (5.3.4)  It is also said to characterize the age of collusion with the state that he initiated - "about the same time, in the reign of Commodus, our condition became more favorable, and through the grace of God the churches throughout the entire world enjoyed peace." (5.21.1)

To this end we should see that this  the very same thing happened with respect to those who argued that Jesus was a heavenly power and Christ a man (or perhaps vice versa).  Eusebius initially says that Zephyrinus caused the corruption of the truth and then he attempts to refute the position of this group by focusing on the policy of Zephyrinus as bishop of Rome.  In other words, misrepresenting the argument to such a degree that the heretics claimed Victor had one policy and Zephyrinus another.  However later in the report he acknowledges that like the example of the Quartodecimans, Valentinians and Montanists there is clear example of a 'break' occurring later in the reign of Victor - i.e. "if Victor agreed with their opinions, as their slander affirms, how came he to cast out Theodotus, the inventor of this heresy?"

To this end it is surely a much stronger argument that Tertullian's bluster about 'Praxeas' is one of three independent testimonies about the sudden emergence of a monarchical episcopacy at the time of Victor.  In other words, the originally benign position of bishop suddenly became strengthened to the point that by 185 CE or so Victor laid out rules governing 'correct belief' in the Church which effected all previously existing 'heresies.'  To this end, Church leaders who held beliefs which could be identified as Quartodeciman, Valentinian, Montanist or Adoptionist were up in arms but reconciliation was only made with the Quartodecimanists - and for this Zephyrinus attained the title 'peaceful' one (eirenaios).

Indeed it has always caught my attention that the introduction of the separate authority of Polycarp over the churches of Asia Minor in the early parts of Book Three of Against Heresies clearly interrupts an original section which lauded only the authority of the Roman episcopacy.  The text begins with its assertion of the Church's possession of the truth from the apostles "through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith." (3.1.1.)  In specific however Irenaeus only mentions that Mark "handed down to us (the Roman Church) in writing what had been preached by Peter" (ibid)

Before the text gets to its famous 'Roman episcopal list' as the basis for all truth and knowledge he interestingly attacks the heretics for denying the truth of the written documents in the possession of the Church.  "When they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition." (3.2.1) Of course, this statement has been misinterpreted by scholars to argue in effect that the heresies had no written documents.  But the reality is that they had secret documents - a secret gospel - which they only revealed by word of mouth and the Roman Church by contrast had something else which was far more transparent - i.e. means by which everyone could see their gospels and holy documents and there by determine that they were the most ancient testimonies of Christianity.

We shall get to this argument in a moment but let us continue with this continuous stream of Roman-centered Christianity in Book Three.  Against Heresies first introduces the idea of his apostolic succession list in the next sentence:

For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth (3.2.1,2)

Indeed immediately following this Against Heresies introduces its Roman episcopal list as a means of disproving the gospel and tradition that the heretics won't allow outsiders to see - "it is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times." (3.3.1)  Again, the text doesn't explain what this mechanism is by which "all ... in every Church who wish to see the truth" to know that the Church of Rome not only possesses the original documents of the apostles but has an unbroken succession from the time of the apostles, yet we shall explain this understanding momentarily.

It is more important for us to see that the sudden introduction of a paragraph extolling the virtues of Polycarp and the Asian church testifies to an interruption of the original 'Rome first' doctrine of the first edition of this text.  After beginning with Peter and Paul as the heads of the Roman Church he goes through Hegesippus's original -and ultimately amended - list eleven successors starting with Linus and Evaristus:

To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

Eleuterius was the bishop immediately before Victor; Zephyrinus was presumably at this point only deacon.  In its first edition this document continued with the words which now appear after the introduction of the church of Asia Minor:

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life.  For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?

This continuous flow of 'Rome first' propaganda was developed in an environment where Irenaeus and Victor had absolute confidence in their backing from the Imperial authorities.  They assumed that they would have little difficulty controlling the Valentinians, Adoptionists, Montanists who were particularly numerous in Rome.  Nevertheless the fear that the churches of Asia Minor were so attached to their lunar calculation of the Passover and so geographically remote that they might breakaway from Roman authority caused Zephyrinus to do something rare - he changed his tactics.

In the middle of this continuous stream of pro-Roman propaganda Zephyrinus laid out his branch of peace.  He decided to highlight one church tradition outside of the authority of Rome - that of Polycarp and the Asian church.  So now inserted between the two sections above we read the following attempt to pacify the eastern churches:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,--a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,--that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, 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." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan." Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, "A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.

Of course, as we said none of this originally appeared in Irenaeus's original treatise.  The original work basically said - all truth about Christianity is preserved at Rome; come here and you can see all the original documents of the Church demonstrating once and for all that not only the claims of the heretics are false and their documents corruptions of our original autographs but moreover that the Roman episcopacy should rightly have authority over all others in issues of doctrine. 

To this end we must follow Stuart Hall's identification of Praxeas as Irenaeus rather than Brent's claims about Callistus.  Our only caveat was that eirenaios was an honorific title given to Zephyrinus for extending an olive branch to the churches of Asia Minor during the reign of Victor.  Of course not all of the disgruntled groups would honor Zephyrinus in this manner.  Tertullian clearly identifies him as Praxeas, perhaps owing to the fact that this was his name before assuming the position of bishop (i.e. as Peter was originally called Simon and all bishop adopt new official names upon their confirmation).  Hall however thinks that  'Praxeas' was a reactionary nickname - in this case 'fixer' or 'fraud.'  Indeed if we look carefully Tertullian seems to be aware of his opponent being lauded for his 'peaceable' nature and he refutes that description front and center. 

Indeed in 'Against Praxeas' Tertullian's adversary is introduced as follows:

this person was the first to import to Rome out of Asia this kind of wrong headedness - a man generally of restless character (inquietus), and moreover puffed up with boasting of his confessorship on account of nothing more than a mere short discomfort of imprisonment (nam iste primus ex Asia hoc genus perversitatis intulit Romam, homo et alias inquietus, insuper de iactatione martyrii inflatus ob solum et simplex et breve carceris taedium)

The fact that this figure of Praxeas is specifically identified to have come "from Asia" (ex Asia) not only resembles Irenaeus - not only because he claims to have spent his youth with Polycarp there, but because he ultimately favored the Asian Church at the expense of his New Prophesy movement.  The specific allusion to his 'unpeaceable' nature is clearly a play on his associated title eirenaios.  Furthermore we may argue that the reference to his 'imprisonment' and 'confessorship' seems to allude to his escape from persecution in Gaul.

According to Tertullian the bishop of Rome - now unnamed - was making positive overtures to the Montanist prophesies when "this man, by false assertions concerning the prophets themselves and their churches, and by insistence on the decisions of the bishop's predecessors, forced him both to recall the letters of peace (litteras pacis) already issued."  Notice again the deliberate attempt to disprove the "peaceful" nature of this Praxeas.  As Arnold Ehrhardt notes "in favour of Victor (being the bishop of Rome in Tertullian's work) two things may be said, first that he cxcommunicated the Montanists, and secondly that this paragraph could be interpreted as a come-back upon Irenaeus who had strongly advocated peace with the oriental churches and now found himself a victim of this peace."  Indeed in his footnote here Ehrhardt says "that, to my mind, lies behind Tert. Adv. Prax., 1, 'litteras pacis revocare'."

In other words, the situation at the end of the second century is a lot more straightforward than most people want to acknowledge.  It wasn't simply that Victor decided to cut off one community - i.e. the so-called Quartodecimans.  Instead he laid out - with the assistance of his deacon - a new understanding of orthodoxy that was 'Rome first,' namely that the documents in the possession of the Roman Church would be used as the basis to establish all doctrine hitherto.  While inclusive lip service was paid to the idea 'all churches said the same thing,' the implication of his decree was such that where churches disagreed with the doctrines of the apostles as established through documents in the Roman Church's possession if they continued in their practices they would be deemed heretics and cut off from communion.  At some point after this decree the Asian church among others rose up in revolt and 'letters of peace' were sent by his deacon who mediated a settlement.  Nevertheless Tertullian was upset that toleration of the beliefs and acceptance of the documents associated with the New Prophesy were not included in this settlement.

The fact that Victor's deacon was supposed to have sympathies for the New Prophesy movement is reflected by the complete absence of any condemnation of this community in the surviving pages of Against Heresies.  The reality was that there was no such a thing as a specific 'Quartodeciman' community any more than a distinct 'New Prophesy' movement.  In Asia Minor at least the two ideas went hand in hand in most communities.  What had changed was that the Roman Church would tolerate lunar calculations of the date of Passover.  Irenaeus used the example of Polycarp's disagreement with Anicetus two generations earlier as precedent for this policy.  But notice that this makes for discordant reading in the 'revised draft' of Book Three - i.e. "coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,--that, namely, which is handed down by the Church."  The ecclesiastic 'monarchy' had apparently suffered defeat for the first time!

Yet there is an even more serious implication for the inserted 'Asian reconciliation' addition to the original Roman propaganda piece - the gospel of John is now identified as being 'handed down' and in the possession of the church of Ephesus, whereas Matthew, (Adv. Haer. 3.9.1) Mark (ibid 3.2.1) and Luke (3.14.2) were held in Rome.  What can possibly explain this further concession?  Clearly the three synoptics generally resemble one another and can be reasonably understood to argue for a single understanding of a one year ministry of Jesus.  Yet the Gospel of John represents something wholly exceptional from the other three texts.  Jesus appears at times wholly supernatural and moreover there is a consistent sense that the heretics - especially the Valentinians - were intimate with its contents.

Before we continue with our examination of Against Heresies consistent claim of 'the open witness' of three synoptic gospels in Rome before the schism with the eastern Church there is one further identification of Praxeas as Zephyrinus we should pay attention to.  Tertullian uses very similar language to describe the spread of Praxeas evil as Irenaeus does to his doctrine.  Accordingly we read that "the tares of Praxeas had then everywhere shaken out their seed, which having lain hid for some while, with its vitality concealed under a mask, has now broken out with fresh life" while Irenaeus speaks of "the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it."

Yet we should remember that in the ancient scheme of things the west wind - Zephyrus - blows from the west, in an eastward direction to bring spring.  In short, it was the wind which brought and scattered seeds in the air.  Not surprisingly then we see the 'four winds' metaphor figure prominently in its justification for a fourfold gospel - "there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the "pillar and ground" of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life." (Adv Haer 3.11.8)  While the author goes on to say that the Church "breaths forth out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh" it cannot be ignored that one wind in particular - the Zephyrus and namesake of the author - is the one which 'scatters the seed' throughout the world.

This "association of Zephirus with spiritual life in a specifically Christian context involving renewal of the soul occurs in a ninth-century passage from Rabanus Maurus's De universo. Rabanus uses as a base for his allegorical reading the more usual associations of Zephirus with the West Wind as fructifier of seed and flowers ("Occidentalis autem ventus, Zephyrus Graeco nomine appellatur eo quod flores et germina ejus flatu vivificentur") and the name Favonius because he warms (foveat: literally "warms," figuratively "cherishes, embraces") that which is born "Hic latine Favonius dicitur propter quod foveat quae nascuntur." In addition, Zephirus's appearance in spring, the time of year in which Christ died, carries with it the seeds of all virtue and good works that are born in the world ("Tune autem hie ventus in bonam partem positus reperitur, cum mortis Christi et veri solis occubitum significat, unde omnium germina virtutum et bonorum operum in mundo nascuntur").

To this end it seems pointless to continue to resist the idea that Irenaeus and Zephyrinus were likely one and the same person.  There has always been a strong dogmatic tone to Irenaeus's writings which can only be explained if he occupied an important position of authority.  Thus we must assume that he was originally called Zephyrinus and adopted the title 'peaceful' (eirenaios) owing to his conciliatory tone with the churches of Asia Minor.  Like his successor Callistus, he was a deacon under his predecessor only to assume power after his death.  One can make a strong argument that the episcopal list was added to Hegesippus's Hypomnemata (ie. the original text was dated to the 'tenth year of Antoninus' i.e. 147 CE but the list to the reign of Eleutherius) in order to found the notion of episcopal succession which was carried out when the author - Irenaeus/Zephyrinus - 'succeeded' Victor and then likewise Callistus his deacon with respect to himself.  

So it was then that after the confiscation of the property of the Marcion the newly emergent 'great Church' had a strong advocate in 'Irenaeus' who maintained strong ties with the Imperial court.  Tertullian wrote Against Praxeas much earlier than previously recognized - undoubtedly at the near the beginning of the reign of Septimius Severus, when Victor was still bishop and 'Irenaeus' his deacon.  The reported methodology of this 'Praxeas' bear a striking resemblance to that of Irenaeus - i.e. his "insistence on the decisions of the bishop's predecessors."  It is odd that this doesn't figure in Brent's assessment of the identity of 'Praxeas' as he shows little interest in Irenaeus other than intimating that he (falsely) produced an episcopal list 'found' in the writings of Hegesippus."

Brent acknowledges that "Irenaeus produced his episcopal succession list for Rome, and argued, from this one example, that all valid churches had valid doctrine that ultimately was derived from the apostle or apostles that initiated the succession."  Yet as we have already noted, there were no predecessors for Victor.  The position of 'overseer' of the Church of Rome was created after the persecutions in Gaul during the reign of Commodus.  This is undoubtedly why Irenaeus's citation of the list continued down in his commentary in Book Three of Against Heresies to Eleutherius, Victor's predecessor.

While Hall's identification of the name 'Praxeas' as meaning 'fixer' or 'fraud' is useful for us, one wonders if that is all there is.  One possible alternative to this assumption begins by delving into the legendary material associated with two female Roman saints - that of Pudentiana and Praxedis.  Without getting too deeply involved in the late survival of the Acts of the two aforementioned saints, the two Churches of St. Pudentiana and St. Praxedis are very old churches in Rome, and undoubtedly stand on the sites of those mentioned in the ‘Acts.'   There is a record of the Church of St. Pudentiana having been restored by Pope Siricius (384–398 CE).

Yet the critical detail is to note in the midst of the deluge of information associated with the saint is that:

this church was not named after a daughter of Pudens but after Pudens himself. An inscription ‘Hic requiescit in pace Hilarus Lector tituli Pudentis' bears the date 528 A.D. and shows that this was 247the correct style. Another inscription of 384 A.D. is ‘Leopardus Lector de Pudentiana ‘ and in the mosaic of the apse (the oldest mosaic in a Roman church) the Saviour holds an open volume with the words ‘Dominus conservator ecclesiae Pudentianae.' As Lanciani remarks (‘Pagan and Christian Rome,' p, 112): ‘In course of time the ignorant people changed the word Pudentiana, a possessive adjective, into the name of a Saint; and the name Sancta Pudentiana usurped the place of the genuine one. It appears for the first time in a document of the year 745.'

In other words, just as Pudentiana comes from Pudens, Praxedis should be understood to represent the rare name Praxeas or the more common Praxias or some such derivation with the Latin -idis, Greek -idos, the genitive of the feminine patronymic suffix.

Who then was Pudens?  He said to be one of a number of close associates or relatives of close associates mentioned in Irenaeus's spurious Pastoral Epistles - i.e. "Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren" (2 Timothy 4:21)  The identification of Q Cornelius Pudens with our man is often asserted.  Yet it is impossible to know precisely if this house was ever associated with the senator however other details in the legendary material have been confirmed by recent archaeological investigations.  Nevertheless the church of Santa Pudenziana is recognized as the oldest place of Christian worship in Rome. The earliest remains discovered were of a two-storied house, dated to 129 CE by brick stamps found in situ in its eastern wall. Two layers of mosaics paved a 'courtyard' to its north-west. These features were filled in, in the middle of the second century, to create a terrace to support a bath complex. The complex included a large apsidal building, or thermae basilica, which forms the core of the present church.

The association of a figure called 'Novatus' and the same place has been argued to identify that this site became a church of the neo-Conservative Novatian schism in the third century - a breakaway group said to be associated with Irenaeus's student Hippolytus.  The restoration of the site by Pope Siriacius being the lynchpin in that argument.  It is also said that the church of Pudentiana was the residence of bishops of Rome before the dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran by Constantine however there is no way to verify this information.  The location of the modern day church of Santa Prassede is located a little over a kilometer away.  This structure sits on top of ancient Roman apartments called insula.  Both locations however sit in two different regions of the city of Rome organized since the time of Augustus.

The current address of the Church of Santa Pudenizia is via Urbana 160.  Yet the old name of the street during the time of the Roman Empire was "Vicus Patricius" - "a street that branched off from the Subura and ran north between the Cispius and the Viminal to the porta Viminalis and perhaps beyond (cf. Isis Patricia). It seems to have formed the boundary between Regions IV and VI."  The Church of S. Praxedis however sits in Region IV called Templum Pacis after the Temple of Peace or Eirenaion while the Church of S Pudentiana sits in Region VI or Alta Semita, so called from a street that followed the ridge of the Quirinal, like the present Via Venti Settembre.  If we remember for a moment that the former church was built basically in an apartment complex and the latter was a mansion by comparison, a two story brick house it would only stand to reason - based on our assumptions - that the newly acquired residence became the headquarters of the movement.

One may even suppose that this might explain the very name of the building - pudens, 'to be shamed,' 'to make ashamed.' As we have already noted the Catholic tradition introduced the unheard of notion that humanity begins in a state of sin and must be perpetually 'ashamed' of its nature.  We must go back to the notion of the state of the church of Mark after the persecutions of 177 CE:

Some of them, indeed, make a public confession of their sins; but others of them are ashamed to do this, and in a tacit kind of way, despairing of the life of God, have, some of them, apostatized altogether.

The path of shame is the way 'back' to communion with the Church.  Over and over again Irenaeus identifies a process where repentant members of the community are supposed to feel 'shame' for their former beliefs and practices and thereby start a part toward embracing the truth of the Catholic Church - which is identified in the writings of Irenaeus as 'praxis.'  The unrepentant heretics are similarly described as consistently 'shameless' - that is unrepentant in their continued resistance to the 'holy truth' of the monarchic faith which among other things recognizes the Emperor and the Empire as the legitimate expression of God's will manifest on earth. 

If this may be the proper explanation of the name 'Praxeas' then it must be asked - going back to our original question - whether it stands to reason that it was at the 'Church of Shame,' in that two story house acquired from the Marcion that Irenaeus displayed the true documents of the Church to the world.  Even though this is a very tempting solution to the problem upon deep reflection we must suspect that there is a far better answer, one which comes from isolating the chief complaint against the heretics - i.e. their secrecy.  In other words, if Irenaeus was trying to disprove the traditionally held view that Christians were a secret association who kept their documents hidden away from the world, leaving them in a remote house church with the doors open would hardly do much to change public perception.

One has to come to the conclusion after prolonged scrutiny of that original pro-Roman propaganda document at the start of Book Three - later amended to include the churches of Asia Minor - that Irenaeus's desire to transform the identity of Christianity in contemporary world went so strong that he literally deposited the formerly sacred works of the religion in the Roman public library system.  For what other mechanism was available to him to at once prove the authenticity of the documents and at the same time allow for open and unfettered access for the world to learn what the true beliefs of the Church were?

In the same way as we today marvel at the free flow of information across the internet, the idea of a public library system - 'public' in the sense of for optimates i.e. 'good society.'  Yet this was Irenaeus's only concern.  Who after all were the writings that make up Against Heresies written for?  Most of the ignorant members of the Church could not read or write.  The references and the argumentation that Irenaeus develops is extremely sophisticated necessitating a knowledge of classical writings and Jewish and Christian scriptures.  Where else could such a readership be found other than outside the gather places in front of an ancient public library in Rome?

Indeed Irenaeus demonstrates himself to be among the literati when he effortlessly composes a cento poem illustrating the fabrications inherent in the heretical gospels. In other words, his lack of detailed explanation as to how he was composing these verses or where he was deriving the content (i.e. Homer) necessarily assumed that his readership were educated pagans who had encountered centones in the library setting.  Our earliest known cento is cited by Irenaeus - i.e. in the Prescriptione - as that of the Roman playwright Hosidius Geta.  To argue that Irenaeus did not travel in the circle of these literati and thus appealed his message regarding to the antiquity of the apostolic tradition is simply folly.

So let us ask again - if the Roman Church had the original documents of Matthew, Mark and Luke handed down by the apostles, how was it that they 'proved' to the world that the heresies had adulterated copies of the same texts?  The answer is clearly that the placed them in the public library system.  Indeed let's take the alternative view developed with respect to the Gospel according to Mark by Arthur G. Patzia senior professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary of Northern California.  As he notes:

If we accept the theory of its Roman origin, then we can safely assume that the church in Rome possessed the original manuscript.  However, Rome was a large city and may have had a number of house churches, each probably desiring a copy of this wonderful new story of Jesus called a 'gospel.'  thus, it is not improbable that very shortly after its original composition, several copies of Mark's Gospel were made for these churches in time, christians from other areas of the empire heard that the Roman church possessed this manuscript and either asked for a copy to be made or sent a copyist to Rome.  By the second century, therefore, copies of Mark's Gospel would have found their way to such important christian centers as Antioch, Jerusalem, Caesarea, Alexandria and Ephesus.

However matters are not as straightforward as Patzia wants to present them.  Alexandria claimed that it had and 'safely guarded' what it claimed was Mark's true gospel.  Irenaeus mentions a Marcionite gospel of Mark.  In short, there were already a number of variant versions of the Gospel of Mark.  Irenaeus's himself identifies at least one passage as being in his Mark that is not in ours.

Our question then isn't 'how was the Gospel of Mark established in the world' but rather how did Irenaeus prove that his gospel of Mark was the true Mark?  During the course of attacking the Valentinians Irenaeus says that their Gospel of Truth "if what they have published is the Gospel of truth, and yet is totally unlike those which have been handed down to us from the apostles, any who please may learn, as is shown from the Scriptures themselves, that that which has been handed down from the apostles can no longer be reckoned the Gospel of truth [emphasis mine]. But that these Gospels alone are true and reliable, and admit neither an increase nor diminution of the aforesaid number."  In other words, Irenaeus clearly had a mechanism in mind by which his open gospels - as opposed to the 'secret texts' of the heresies - could be examined.  

Yet more importantly we see in this passage a specific refutation of a certain type of Christian who frequented the educated circles associated with public libraries.  His adversary Florinus was certainly one of them.  To this end, by sticking his New Testament canon and various apologetic writings - perhaps even his edition of Josephus - in the public library system - we find the perfect tonic against the very Valentinians he combats throughout Against Heresies. 

The example of Celsus might prove very useful here.  Celsus had access to a library filled with Christian books.  He not only distinguished the 'more tolerable' opinions of the 'great Church' as compared with the heretics but more specifically had at his disposal dozens of Christian manuscripts and especially the gospels.  As Charles Hill again notes in his study of the early use of the Gospel of John:

There is every reason to affirm, then, that Celsus had access to a copy of John's Gospel and used it indiscriminately along with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (and perhaps Mark) as a source for information about Jesus and what Christians believed about him.  There is even one text whose meaning is debated but which some have taken to indicate Celsus' awareness of a four-fold gospel canon (Cels. 2.27).47 It is not necessary that one draw this conclusion, however, in order to recognize that Celsus was well aware of Christian reliance upon their gospels and that he himself faced no great obstacles in obtaining at least the three mentioned above. Had he obtained his own copies? Had he simply made extracts from copies borrowed from an unsuspecting Christian, a former Christian, or from a well-stocked library? We do not know. But we must conclude that Celsus at some time had in his possession copies of Christian gospels which he considered the Christians' “own books” (2.74 cf. 2.77)

Moreover Eric Osborn and many others confirm the presence of Justin's martyrs writings in Celsus, with some going so far as to say the very title of "his True Doctrine" is a direct response to Justin's use of this concept in his writings. 

As Christopher Hall notes the gist of Irenaeus's argument against the heretics comes down to how could the Gnostics claim to possess a secret gospel when the apostles had proclaimed the gospel "in public, and, at a later period, [had] by the will of God, handed [the gospel] down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith?"  It may also be noted that, immediately after he has discussed Irenaeus's works, Eusebius remarks that "large numbers of short works composed with commendable zeal by churchmen of that early time [i.e. around Irenaeus's time] are still preserved in many libraries." (Hist. Eccl. 5.27.7)  Were these exclusively private libraries like that of his home see of Caesarea or were there also public libraries too which contained this information?  The example of Celsus seems to confirm that at least until the late third century Christian books could be found in the public library system.

We should go back to our earlier example of Tertullian criticizing 'Praxeas' for having his works spread like 'tares' all over the world.  One way of interpreting this information is that Irenaeus simply got one of his slaves to copy out an entire codex for every church in the world.  The other is to assume that he simply 'donated' a large body of work into the twenty eight public libraries in Rome alone and many others in the provinces.  We know from the writings of Apuleius the author of the Golden Ass that Carthage had a large public library.  Indeed Apuleius twice refers to libraries in his writings.  In the first he insists on the possibility of his books on magic being read in one of the libraries of Carthage, which was endowed with public libraries by the Roman Senate soon after its destruction in 146 B. C. (Fl. 18. 8-9; Plin. Nat. 18. 22-3). On the other occasion and again in the context of his native North Africa Apuleius implies that his boorish opponents would be willing to seize copies of Aristotle's works from libraries and from students' hands (Apol. 41. 4; seep. 18)

Indeed in the first instance we see the immediate context is Apuleius being charged with wooing his wife with magic and makes mention of magical works in the public libraries:

Consider what confidence in my innocence and what contempt of you is implied by my conduct. If you can discover one trivial reason that might have led me to woo Pudentilla for the sake of some personal advantage, if you can prove that I have made the very slightest profit out of my marriage, I am ready to be any magician you please—the great Carmendas himself or Damigeron or Moses of whom you have heard, or Jannes or Apollobex or Dardanus himself or any sorcerer of note from the time of Zoroaster and Ostanes till now. See, Maximus, what a disturbance they have raised, merely because I have mentioned a few magicians by name. What am I to do with men so stupid and uncivilized? Shall I proceed to prove to you that I have come across these names and many more in the course of my study of distinguished authors in the public libraries?

This reference should make it absolutely clear that the ancient public libraries would have certainly had books by Christians if the writings of magicians were included in great number.

We should think of the ancient public library as something like the Library of Congress.  Almost everyone basically got in.  There must have been great interest on the part of the government to have as much information about the reading habits of its citizens - not unlike modern efforts to spy on the use of internet and email.  If we imagine an ancient library containing boxes labelled with works from philosophical schools; "from the followers of Zeno", "from the followers of Pythagoras" it stands to reason that there was also a box containing rolls "from the Christians," "from the Jews." The particular library in Rome where this last group of writings would be most suitable is in fact quite obvious given light of recent discoveries pertaining to the writings of Galen. 

We learn from a recently discovered text of Galen that his works were destroyed in that fire even though they were not actually stored on the premises of the library in the Temple of Peace:

I have already written a treatise (on this topic), and the first two books of it had been circulated, but they were kept along with others in the storeroom on the Sacra Via when the whole Temple of Peace was burned, and the great libraries on the Palatine. The books of many others too were destroyed at that time, and all of mine that were in that storeroom.

Yet another more recently discovered work of Galen's uncovered in 2005 at the Vlatadon monastery in Thessalonica entitled Peri Alupias, (On the Avoidance of Grief), contains many interesting statements about the destruction of libraries in the fire to see the manuscript. 

Galen begins by mentioning that "it is no (longer possible to have) the books – corrected versions, copies by my hand (of the works) of ancient men, and those (works) composed by me" later adding that "in fact, the most terrible thing – in addition to the destruction of the books – has escaped you: hope of recovery no longer remains because all the libraries on the Palatine burned on that day."   After detailing how the libraries held a vast number of books - many of them being priceless and rare Galen adds "in fact, those on the Palatine were destroyed on the same day as mine; the fire not only destroyed the storehouses on the Sacred Way, but also, before them, the (libraries) by the Temple of Peace, and afterwards, both those on the Palatine and the so-called 'Tiberian House' in which there was also a library full of many other books; but some, on the contrary – on account of the negligence of those continually robbing (them) ... at the time I first went up to Rome, were on the verge of destruction."

The point of course is that before the destruction Galen and his friends would gather in the Regio Templum Pacis and exchange ideas.  Who were these people?  One was certainly Celsus the Epicurean, the author of the aforementioned anti-Christian treatise.  But could another have been Irenaeus. Galen certainly knew of Christians but specifically those who viewed their religion as an extension of Judaism, like Irenaeus.  In the course of a work on the human pulse Galen discusses the studies of a certain physician of his day, Archigenes. Galen thought his conclusions were faulty and imprecise because his approach to the pulse was not based on careful investigation and sound reasoning.  With such people, says Galen, it is pointless to engage in serious discussion. It is, he continues, the same with Christians and Jews. "For one might more easily teach novelties to the followers of Moses and Christ than to the physicians and philosophers who cling fast to their schools (eiresesi)."

We also hear from the same work another allusion to the 'school' (diatriben) that "in order that one should not at the very beginning, as if one had come into the school of Moses and Christ, hear talk of undemonstrated laws, and that where it is least appropriate."  In yet another passage identified by Walzer "Most people are unable to follow any demonstrative argument consecutively; hence they need parables, and benefit from them...just as now we see the people called Christians drawing their faith from parables [and miracles], and yet sometimes acting in the same way [as those who philosophize]. For their contempt of death [and its sequel] is patent to us every day, and likewise their restraint in cohabitation..."  Walzer concludes "The most probable date for the publication of the summaries of about AD 180. We are thus tempted to infer that Galen's interest in the Christians was later than his interest in the Jews; the latter he mentions already during his first stay in Rome, the former not before AD 176."

Yet there is one more thing that the reader should consider.  The twin churches of Pudentiana and Praxedis stand very close to the Temple of Peace.  Indeed the regio in which the second church stood was named after this structure or 'Irenaion' as it was referenced in Dio Cassius.  Dio tells us the very same story as we learned from Galen albeit with the same play on words with respect to the name 'Irenaion' that we saw in Christian writings:

many eagles of ill omen soared about the Capitol and moreover uttered screams that boded nothing peaceful (eirenaion), and an owl hooted there; and a fire that began at night in some dwelling leaped to the Eirenaion and spread to the storehouses of Egyptian and Arabian wares, whence the flames, borne aloft, entered the palace and consumed very extensive portions of it, so that nearly all the State records were destroyed. This, in particular, made it clear that the evil would not be confined to the City, but would extend over the entire civilized world under its sway. For the conflagration could not be extinguished by human power, though vast numbers both of civilians and soldiers carried water, and Commodus himself came in from the suburb and encouraged them. Only when it had destroyed everything on which it had laid hold did it spend its force and die out.
The Eirenaion certainly contained a library - the bibliotheca Pacis - in which the spoils from Vespasian's conquest of the Jerusalem temple were kept (Joseph. b. Iud. VII.5.7; Plin. NH XII.94; XXXIV.84; XXXV.102, 109; XXXVI.27, 58; Paus. VI.9.3; Iuv. IX.23; Hephaest. ap. Phot. Bibl. 149 32 Bekk., Pliny NH XXXVI.10).  The writings associated with 'the schools of Christians and Jews' as Galen refers to them would certainly have been at home there. 

Yet it is equally clear that the term Eirenaion - or more specifically Templum Pacis - gave its name to the fourth region of the city in which many libraries, book storage facilities and intellectual gatherings of all sorts took place.  As Elżbieta Makowiecka suggests "the buildings within the 'temenos Eirenes' (= Eirenaion) were not differentiated among themselves and they formed one uniform architectural complex."  To this end, the destruction of the Eirenaion in 192 CE was an event of seismic significance to the cultural life of the Empire which only came to light owing to a series of discoveries of previously lost manuscripts of the medical writer Galen. The fact that Zephyrinus managed to define Christianity by placing its most sacred books in their vaults "like a rich man depositing his money in a bank" (3.4.1) may well have further reinforced his name 'Irenaeus.' 

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