Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hadrian Testifies to an Early Date for the Alexandrian Church

This is a follow up to the last post. I am sure that many may find it unnecessarily repetitive but here I go anyway.

In 134 CE the Emperor Hadrian made a statement about Alexandrian Christianity that never gets its due. Hadrian said:

The Egyptians, whom you are pleased to commend to me, I know thoroughly from a close observation, to be a light, fickle, and inconstant people, changing with every turn of fortune. The Christians among them are worshippers of Serapis, and those calling themselves bishops of Christ scruple not to act as the votaries of that God. The truth is, there is no one, whether Ruler of a synagogue, or Samaritan, or Presbyter of the Christians, or mathematician, or astrologer, or magician, that does not do homage to Serapis. The Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is by some compelled to worship Serapis, and by others, Christ. It is a race of men, of all the most seditious, vain and mischievous. The state is powerful, rich, and abounding, and of so active a disposition, that no one is allowed to live without occupation. Some are glass-blowers, some paper-makers, some weavers of thread. All are professors of some one art or other. The blind, and those who have the gout in their feet or hands, find something to do. There is one God whom all worship both Christians, Jews, and Gentiles. I wish this place maintained a better character, worthy of its rank as the first city in Egypt. I have made great and liberal grants to it. I have restored to it its ancient privileges; I have laid it under much obligation by immediate benefits; and after all, as soon as I had left this people, they began to calumniate my son Verus, and I reckon you heard what they have said concerning Antinous. I wish them no further harm, than that they may live upon their own chickens, hatched on their own dunghills, according to that disgusting practice of theirs, which it is disagreeable even to allude to.

Do you know I did a search in Google Books for anyone making use of this ancient witness in any book about early Christianity and guess what I found?

Not a single book in the last hundred years.

Now why is that? Well to be begin with Hadrian shows that there was a notable Christian Church already well established from the beginning of the second century. Trying doing that with the Roman Papacy and you know where you end up - in the land of fables and mythology.

Clearly Hadrian also testifies to a different form of Samaritanism and Judaism in the period too (remember Jews and Samaritans could not circumcise their children throughout most - if not all - the period which followed the destruction of the temple).

Am I going too far by suggesting that Hadrian also testifies to the early existence of the Alexandrian Papacy? I mean after all - who is 'the Patriarch' who only spends part of his time in Alexandria but when he comes he is greeted in someway reminiscent of Serapis?

I have heard it suggested that by 'the Patriarch' Hadrian means 'the Patriarch of Tiberias.' In the end it is difficult to be certain.

The point however is that scholars can pretend that 'there isn't enough evidence' for the claim that Christianity began in Alexandria but here is the testimony which suggests otherwise.

Moreover - and this is my real point for citing this passage - does anyone doubt even for a moment that the idea of 'Marcion of Pontus' or 'Marcion of Sinope' is derived from this important reference. After all no less an authority than Clement of Alexandria testifies to the fact that everyone seems to "say that the Serapis was a Pontic idol, and was transported with solemn pomp to Alexandria. Isidore alone says that it was brought from the Seleucians, near Antioch, who also had been visited with a dearth of grain, and had been fed by Ptolemy." [Exhortation Chapter 4]

Come on people St. Mark was mistaken for Serapis - viz the conclusion of Severus Al'Ashmunein's account of the death of the apostle - "But by the command of God there was a thick mist and a strong wind., so that the earth trembled; and much rain fell, and many of the people died of fear and terror; and they said : 'Verily, Serapis, the idol, has come to seek the man who has been killed this day.'" Socrates Scholasticus connects Christianity to the cult of Serapis no less than Hadrian. Now at last we see Serapis was transported on a ship from Sinope in Pontus much like the parallel cult of 'those of Mark' - viz. Marcion. Wake up, people. Wake up.

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