2013-03-23

An Unusual Mix of Beliefs in the Letters of Ignatius Peregrinus

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by Roger Parvus

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This post continues from Writing Ignatius into History (How the Peregrinus thesis solves many problems)

TDOP = The Death of Peregrinus by Lucian. Harmon’s translation here.

All posts so far in this series: Roger Parvus: Letters Supposedly Written by Ignatius

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II. THE AUTHOR OF THE LETTERS WAS AN APELLEAN CHRISTIAN

In my previous posts I have presented my case for identifying Peregrinus as the real author of the so-called Ignatian letters. That case—if I may say so myself—is a strong one. And going forward, when I speak of the author of those letters it should be understood that I am referring to Peregrinus.

I want now to continue on to the second part of my theory and identify, from other passages in the letters, the branch of Christianity that was his.

To make that identification it is indeed the letters and not TDOP that must be examined, for Lucian simply calls Peregrinus a Christian. If he is aware that there were different types of Christians he doesn’t show it. He does not devote much of his treatise to what Christians believe, and the only Christian beliefs he mentions are ones that would apply to many of the various types:

They still worship the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world. . . The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody; most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence. (TDOP 11 & 13, Harmon)

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The unique assortment of beliefs expressed in the letters can be closely matched with the known beliefs of one particular Christian church that existed in that same time period.

In contrast to TDOP, the seven letters provide information about their author’s beliefs that is more detailed. And the letters show that he and his confreres subscribed to many beliefs that were not held by proto-Catholic Christians, at least not in the combination that is found in the letters. I think the distinctive combination of those beliefs can reveal to which brand of Christianity Peregrinus adhered. The original letters, assuming I am correct in my identification of Peregrinus as their author, were written sometime between 130 and 150 CE, for based on the information provided by TDOP the arrest of Peregrinus almost certainly fell within that period. I will argue that the unique assortment of beliefs expressed in the letters can in fact be closely matched with the known beliefs of one particular Christian church that existed in that same time period.

In this post I will make a start by looking at some of the peculiar beliefs found in the letter collection.

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1. The Old Testament

The author of the letters “shows very little interest in the Old Testament or tendency to imitate its language” . . . This is very unusual in early Christian writings.

The author of the letters, as already noted, “shows very little interest in the Old Testament or tendency to imitate its language” (“Ignatian Problems”, C.P. Bammel in the Journal of Theological Studies, vol. 33, pt. 1, 1982, p. 73).

This in itself is very unusual in early Christian writings. The second century church looked principally to the Old Testament to support and illustrate its beliefs about Jesus. But Peregrinus doesn’t. He does quote from an Old Testament book twice and does so using the standard formula “it is written” but, curiously, both times the quote is not from the Law or the Prophets, but from the book of Proverbs.

William Schoedel surmised that the prisoner’s scant interest in the Old Testament was probably due to a lack of exegetical ability (Ignatius of Antioch, p. 205). But that is only a guess, and I will argue later that a better explanation is available.

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2. Judaism

The prisoner makes a number of derogatory assertions about Judaism that are unusually blunt. For instance, in his letter to the Magnesians he writes:

Do not be deceived by false doctrines or old fables which are worthless. For if we still continue to live according to Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace (IgnMag. 8:1).

Equating of Judaism with false doctrines and old, worthless fables is rarely found in second century proto-Catholic writings.

Such equating of Judaism with false doctrines and old, worthless fables is rarely found in second century proto-Catholic writings. The proto-Catholics viewed Judaism as a preparation for and a foreshadowing of Christianity; or—in the case of Justin—as a Christianity-in-embryo that the Jews largely failed to recognize. But the prisoner’s characterization of it as old, worthless falsehoods and fables seems extreme.

Johannes Weiss writes:

The vehement repudiation of Judaism . . . with such very deliberate and disdainful expressions shows that not even the slightest religious bond connects him with Jewish Christianity. . . Indeed, one may perhaps say that he loses too completely the consciousness of a historical connection with the religion of Israel. . . The pattern of prophecy and fulfillment, in which the present always appears as a continuation and completion of a far-away past, a way of thinking which is always historical, is hardly to be detected at all in him. (Earliest Christianity, vol. 2, pp. 767-8)

It is true that the prisoner’s derogatory assertions about Judaism are always followed by curious abrupt and partial backpedalling. But those recantations, as will be shown, appear to be corrections brought into the text by the later proto-Catholic redactor, not by the prisoner.

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3. The Absence of God as Creator

This absence too is unusual when compared to the frequent references to God as creator in other second-century proto-Catholic writings.

Nowhere in the letters does their author unambiguously speak about God as the creator of the world and men. This absence too is unusual when compared to the frequent references to God as creator and the praises of him for what he created that are present in other second-century proto-Catholic writings.

In the letters God is described as doing a lot of things: He resists the proud, he is concerned about us, he knows the things that are hidden, he promises union, he dwells with those who are devoted to unity, he helps us and listens to us. But it is never said that he created the world and man.

And frequent mention is made of his purpose, his will, his plan, his grace, his power, his church, his mercy, his commandment, his word, his love, his kindness, his voice and his work—but never his creative work. Forty-five times he is called ‘Father’, though many of these have to do with him as the Father of Jesus Christ. But he is never called the creator.

I agree with Th. Preiss:

It is strange to never find a single allusion in the letters of the bishop of Antioch to God as the creator of the world. . . Should this be viewed as a simple omission due to chance? One could possibly have recourse to that explanation if it were not for the fact that Ignatius loves to extravagantly pile up the titles and attributes of God and Christ. Given these circumstances the argument from silence acquires a certain weight. (“Imitation et Unité chez Ignace d’Antioche,” in Revue d’Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses, issue 18, p. 221, my translation).

True, letters are occasional in nature and one cannot expect to find an author’s whole creed in them. But given the size of these letters and their author’s intent to use them as a kind of last will and testament filled with exhortation and advice, it seems reasonable to expect to find in them at least a single clear expression of something as basic as belief in God as the creator.

Many scholars do try to argue that there is a reference to creation in two verses of the letters but both instances are ambiguous. In the inscription of the first letter to Antioch (so-called Romans) the prisoner sends greetings

to the church that is beloved and enlightened by the will of him who willed all things that are in accordance with the love of Jesus Christ our God.

If in this verse a comma is placed between the words “are” and “in”, the first part of the sentence could be understood as referring to creation. The creator would be the one “who willed all things that are.” But notice that the verb is “willed,” not “created” or “made.” And as Turmel pointed out, adding a comma leaves hanging the rest of the verse: “in accordance with the love of Jesus Christ our God.” The love of Jesus is an important theme of the letters. The verse fits that theme better if what the Father willed was “all things that are in accordance with the love of Jesus Christ our God.”

The other alleged reference to creation is in the letter to the Ephesians:

Now there was one teacher who spoke and it was accomplished. And the deeds which he did in silence are worthy of the Father (IgnEph. 15:1).

It is claimed by some that the words “who spoke and it was accomplished” are either a quote from Psalm 32:9 or are from the description of creation in the book of Genesis. But those contentions have little to support them.

  • First, the wording is not the same, and the author gives no explicit indication that he is quoting from the Old Testament. Unlike when he quoted twice from Proverbs, here the formula “it is written” or something equivalent is not present.
  • Moreover, Christ was not yet our teacher when, according to proto-Catholic belief, he spoke creative words. Does it not make more sense for this verse to refer to an occasion when Christ was both teacher and (on the cross) spoke the words “It is accomplished”? (Jn. 19:30).

And corresponding to the “silence” in IgnEph 15:1 there is, in the Johannine account of the passion, the silence of Jesus before Pilate. This interpretation also fits the context of the Ephesians letter better, for Peregrinus is speaking there about his impending martyrdom and saying it is one thing to talk about it, and another to actually accomplish it:

For at this time the work is no mere matter of professing faith, but of continuing in the power of faith unto the end (IgnEph. 14:2).

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4. Johannine Allusions

Ignatius was quite familiar with the Fourth Gospel . . . yet John is not mentioned in the letters. Another puzzle!

And if IgnEph. 15:1 contains a Johannine allusion it would take its place alongside a number of similar ones in the letters. Many scholars see Johannine allusions in the following passages:

Yet the Spirit is not deceived since it is from God. For it knows whence it comes and whither it goes, and it exposes the things which are hidden. (IgnPhil. 7:1. Compare with Jn. 3:8 and 8:14)

There is no fire within me for material things; but only water living and welling up in me, saying from within me, ‘Come to the Father’. . . I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ. (IgnRom. 7:2-3. Compare with Jn. 4:10 & 14; Jn. 6:33)

As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united with him. . . (IgnMag. 7:1. Compare with Jn. 5:19; 8:28)

. . . through Jesus Christ his Son. . . who in all things was pleasing to him who sent him. (IgnMag. 8:2. Compare with Jn. 8:29)

Charles Hill, in his The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church, examines the letter collection and concludes:

Ignatius was quite familiar with the Fourth Gospel, despite any lack of full or exact quotations. Again I mention the probability that Ignatius, the prisoner in transition, did not write his letters with any of his books before him. And yet we have seen a number of passages which correspond to thoughts and distinctive phrases unique, up to this point, to the Fourth Gospel, even down to the preservation of some of the same precise vocabulary. (pp. 440-441)

It would seem so, yet John is not mentioned in the letters; even in the letter Peregrinus sent to Ephesus, the city where John supposedly spent his later years. Peregrinus praises Paul in that letter, but is silent about John. Another puzzle!

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5. The Visible World

Thus the sphere of the visible, though not good, falls short of being evil. It lies somewhere in between.

Related perhaps to the absence of creation from the letters is the prisoner’s belief that “nothing visible is good” (IgnRom. 3:3). He brings that belief forward on one of the many occasions that he expresses his desire for martyrdom, his desire for the moment when he “will be visible to the world no more” (IgnRom. 3:2). This passage along with others in the letter collection led Alfred Loisy to comment that, according to the prisoner:

There is no resurrection of the body, but only ascension of the soul to God. The body has only to disappear. And here Theophorus is in contradiction with the practice of the great Church whose zeal for collecting the remains of the martyrs, precisely because they believed in the resurrection of the body, is well known. (Remarques sur la Littérature Épistolaire du Nouveau Testament, p. 165, my translation).

Nowhere in the letters does the prisoner express belief in a future resurrection of the body.

But although according to Peregrinus nothing visible is good, he does not appear to regard the visible world — including the body — as evil either.

  • He says that the Smyrneans have refreshed him in every way, “in both flesh and spirit” (IgnTral. 12:1).
  • He tells the Ephesians: “Even the things you do in the flesh are spiritual, for you do all things in Jesus Christ” (IgnEph. 8:2).
  • To the new bishop of Antioch he writes: “You are of both flesh and spirit that you may attend kindly to the things that are visible to you” (IgnPoly. 2:2).
  • And he does not disparage marriage: “It is right for men and women who marry to establish their union with the approval of the bishop, that the marriage may be according to the Lord and not according to lust” (IgnPoly 5:2).

Thus the sphere of the visible, though not good, falls short of being evil. It lies somewhere in between.

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6. The Silence of God

Silence is a primary characteristic of God

Another unusual emphasis in the letters is the description of God as silent.

Jesus Christ is described as “his Word who came forth from silence” (IgnMag. 8:2), and his death was “accomplished in the silence of God” (IgnEph. 19:1). And bishops, as the earthly counterparts of the Father, are most like him when they are silent!

Henry Chadwick writes:

Among the many remarkable features of Ignatius’ letters there is perhaps nothing more curious than his peculiar ideas about the value attaching to silence. There is something almost comic in his insistence that when a bishop is saying nothing he is then to be regarded with special awe. . . Silence being therefore a primary characteristic of God Himself, Ignatius is led by his theory that the bishop is the earthly counterpart of the divine archetype to his notion that the silence of the bishop is a matter of the profoundest significance. God is silence; therefore when men see their bishop silent, the more reverence should they feel towards him, for it is then that he is most like God. (“The Silence of Bishops in Ignatius,” in the Harvard Theological Review, vol. 43, 1950, pp. 169 and 171-2)

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7. Monepiscopacy

The letters contain the earliest witness to a single-bishop system of church authority. . . And it is noteworthy that the prisoner does not appeal to Old Testament precedents.

And while on the subject of bishops, it is quite generally acknowledged that the letters contain the earliest witness to a Christian monepiscopal (single-bishop) system of church authority. And the degree of authority claimed for the bishop and his assistants (presbytery and deacons) is considerable:

In things pertaining to the church, let no one do anything independently of the bishop. Let that Eucharist alone be considered valid which is celebrated by the bishop or his delegate… whatever he approves has God’s approval also (IgnSmyr. 8:1-1).

Paul Foster points out that “the vigorous manner in which Ignatius advocates this system may well suggest that this pattern was something of an innovation, at least in terms of the hierarchical structure being described, or that it had come under attack” (“The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch,” in The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers, edited by Paul Foster, p. 93).

And it is noteworthy too that the prisoner, in insisting on the authority of the bishop, doesn’t appeal as 1 Clement does to Old Testament precedents or make any claim that the bishop’s authority is due to apostolic succession. No, his argument is that authority in a Christian community must reflect the hierarchy of authority that exists between the Father and Jesus, and between Jesus and the apostles.

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8. The Astonishing Star

Many scholars admit to being perplexed by the star in this passage. . . Attempts to simply identify the star with the one that led the magi to Bethlehem in Matthew’s Gospel fail to satisfy. I will propose a different solution.

Chapter nineteen of the letter to the Ephesians contains another distinctive belief held by the prisoner:

From the ruler of this age was hidden Mary’s virginity and her child-bearing; in like manner, too, the death of the Lord. Three mysteries to be cried aloud, accomplished in the silence of God. How then was he manifested to the aeons?

A star shone forth in the heavens more brightly than all the stars, and its light was greater than words can tell, and its novelty caused astonishment. And all the other stars, with the sun and moon, formed themselves into a choir round the star. But the star itself surpassed them all in its brightness. And there was confusion amongst the stars over whence came this novelty so different from themselves.

Thus began the vanquishing of all magic, the breaking of the bonds imposed by wickedness, the dissolution of ignorance, and the destruction of the old kingdom, since God was manifested in human form for the newness of eternal life. That which had been prepared by God began to take effect: Hence all things were thrown into commotion because the destruction of death had begun. (IgnEph. 19:1-3)

Many scholars admit to being perplexed by the star in this passage. Is it a star that appeared at the descent of Christ to this world? Or at his ascension when he victoriously departed it? Or is the star Christ himself at either his descent or ascent? This last possibility would seem to be the correct one, for the other stars in the passage were apparently heavenly figures too, the aeons to whom he was manifested. The implied question of the stars (“Whence this novelty so different from ourselves?”) is very similiar to the questions which, according to other early writings, the powers asked when Christ ascended through their territory (See, for example, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, 36, and The Ascension of Isaiah, 11:24-29).

Also to be noted is that ‘the star passage’ as it stands pulls in two directions because it forcibly brings together two mysteries concerning Mary and one that concerns Christ. And the two about Mary belong to the beginning of the Christian story while the death of the Lord belongs to its completion. Attempts to simply identify the star with the one that led the magi to Bethlehem in Matthew’s Gospel fail to satisfy. I will propose a different solution.

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9. Paul

But Paul doesn’t mention Ephesus in “every” letter.

There is another longstanding puzzle in the letter to the church of Ephesus. The prisoner tells the Ephesians:

You are fellow-initiates of Paul. . . who in every letter makes mention of you in Jesus Christ (IgnEph. 12:2).

But Paul doesn’t mention Ephesus in “every” letter.

  • He mentions Ephesus twice in 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 15:32 and 16:8).
  • The word ‘Ephesus’ is in the current title of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but it is generally acknowledged that it was not there until later in the second century. If the earliest version had any addressee at all it was probably the church of Laodicea as is witnessed to by Marcion’s version of it.
  • And the only other Pauline letters to mention Ephesus are the pastorals 1 and 2 Timothy, but these are late pseudonymous works which — as I pointed out in my previous post — may very well have been written after the so-called Ignatians and drawn from them.

In any case, we are a far cry from Paul remembering the Ephesians in “every” letter.

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The Heresies Opposed by Peregrinus

As an aid to identifying the religious affiliation of Peregrinus it will also help to note the beliefs of his opponents. One of the most disputed questions in Ignatian studies has always been whether the prisoner had two groups of adversaries — Judaizers and docetists — or just one: Judaizing docetists. I have never understood why there should be a dispute about this. From the difference in the admonitions given by the letters it seems quite clear that there were two separate groups.

Docetists are beasts in human form.

To Peregrinus the docetists are by far the worst. They are “beasts in human form” (IgnSmyr. 4:1). In his eyes their docetism constitutes a complete denial of Christ (IgnSmyr. 5:2). It makes them “unbelievers” (IgnSmyr. 5:3). He tells his readers to absolutely avoid them: “It is right, then, to stay away from such people, and to say nothing about them either in private or in public” (IgnSmyr. 7:2). And he refuses to write their names and does not even want to remember them unless they repent (IgnSmyr. 5:3).

Judaizers are wrong about the Old Testament but freely mingle with those who are right.

In contrast, the prisoner is willing to speak with the Judaizers about their differences (IgnPhil. 8:2). He does think their Judaizing beliefs are wrong and absurd, and he tells his readers not to listen to them when they expound on that topic (IgnPhil. 6:1). But it is clear that the Judaizers freely mingle with those whom Peregrinus considers orthodox.

As Schoedel acknowledges,

the Judaizers were still part of the Philadelphian congregation when Philo and Rheus Agathopous passed through. . . People in Philadelphia were still on good terms with Judaizers. . . (Ignatius of Antioch, p. 214).

Oskar Skarsaune rightly observes:

It seems Ignatius treats these Judaizers in a more conciliatory way than he does the docetic heretics of his other letters (Jewish Believers in Jesus, p. 506).

Nowhere in the Philadelphian letter or any of the letters does Peregrinus call the Judaizers unbelievers or mad dogs, and nowhere does he tell his readers to avoid all contact with them.

It is important to understand that the Judaizers in question were not Christians of Jewish background. They were Gentile Christians who were themselves uncircumcised, as is implied by IgnPhil. 6:1:

It is better to hear Christianity from a man who is circumcised than Judaism from one who is uncircumcised.

And they apparently were not trying to impose circumcision or any of the Mosaic laws on anyone. Some scholars, based on their interpretation of IgnMag. 9:1, claim that the one exception to this may be the observance of the Sabbath. But, as Schoedel points out, that is not actually stated by the text (Ignatius of Antioch, p. 123).

So in what then did their Judaizing consist? I think Skarsaune gets it right:

It would seem that the ‘Judaism’ of the Judaizing party had to do with their interpretation of the (Old Testament) Scriptures, and the authority they accorded the Scriptures over against what Ignatius called ‘the Gospel’. (Jewish Believers in Jesus, p. 506).

For I heard some saying: If I do not find in the archives, in the gospel I do not believe. And when I said to them, ‘It is written,’ they replied to me, ‘That is what is in question.’ But my archives are Jesus Christ; the inviolable archives are his cross, his death, his resurrection, and the faith which is through him. (IgnPhil. 8:2)

To Peregrinus the Judaizers’ error consisted in according more importance to some part or parts of the Old Testament than he did. I submit that they were having trouble accepting the gospel used by him because it apparently failed to meet some Scripture-related requirement of theirs. That does not mean they questioned every gospel; they questioned the one that Peregrinus and his coreligionists used.

In my next post I will propose that Peregrinus was an Apellean i.e., a follower of the ex-Marcionite Apelles. And I will show how an Apellean affiliation can not only account for the beliefs of Peregrinus but can also identify who his Judaizing and docetic opponents were.

Roger Parvus

26 Comments

  • 2013-03-23 19:18:38 UTC - 19:18 | Permalink

    I’m intrigued by the motif of “silence” and its opposite, the “great shout”, that one comes across so regularly in early Christian texts. Less so in the biblical works, though, with the exception of the Gospel of Mark (and its opposing dialogue text, the Gospel of John). Up until the Passion, Jesus commands silence, but at the moment of his death (revelation) he utters a loud shout. The reverse in John, where Jesus is proclaiming aloud his identity until the Passion, where he remains silent. In Mark, the message opens with a voice crying aloud in the wilderness and closes with the women fleeing in silence from the tombs. There seems to be something going on in these gospels with these complementary motifs, the silence and the shout (thunder?) that we only find elsewhere in those “less orthodox” texts. I’d be interested in the thoughts of anyone else on this.

  • pearl
    2013-03-24 02:51:39 UTC - 02:51 | Permalink

    Neil, your mention of silence and shout and ‘thunder’ and identity leads me to think in terms of Greek identity riddles, a literary form well known in the ancient Mediterranean world. The riddle would involve a paradoxical description of a person or personified object, and the answer would be the speaker’s identity. We see this displayed in vivid form in “Thunder, Perfect Mind”.

    In Mark, after Jesus’s loud shout you bring up, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then the centurion, who stood facing him, and seeing that in this way he breathed his last, offered a statement of identity, saying, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

    In John, as you say, we see the reverse, but still both descriptions of shouts, expression, and the opposite, silence.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but thinking about Roger’s showing a description of God as silent (not uncommon theme in what you call “less orthodox” texts, Neil) in the letters and then Jesus Christ as “his Word who came forth from silence” seems to fit this type of Christ identity as both silence and expression. Not God, but God’s son (or expression or effluence or whatever.)

  • 2013-03-24 03:39:46 UTC - 03:39 | Permalink

    I think where Roger’s analysis runs into problems can best be seen in the “Star” passage in Ephesians 19, as well as in the labelling of Ignatius’ opponents. First let me say that I accept the probability that the original letters are forgeries, but coming not too long after Ignatius’ death, as a kind of tribute to him. I’ll leave the question of specific authorship aside, as that is of less concern to me.

    The “silence” vs. the “cry” (Eph.19.1). Look at the sequence. “Hidden from the prince of this world…” (prince must refer to Satan or at least a heavenly entity, which theme is immediately picked up from verse 2 on—and note the close parallel with the motif of the ignorant rulers of this age in 1 Cor. 2). What was hidden? Three things: the virginity of the entity who gave birth to the Lord, the birth itself, and the death of the Lord. All three are “mysteries”. How could the latter two be styled “mysteries” and “hidden” from Satan? Moreover, they are said to have been “wrought in the stillness of God.” The verb is the aorist passive of “prasso” which means “accomplished, performed.” How could one think of the birth and death of an earthly Jesus as being things done in the “silence of God”? Rather, these are actions which take place in a realm of divine activity and knowledge which humans do not have access to (except through revelation, which could well be the significance of the word “cry”.) I think it is following a mistaken path to interpret the “silence” of God simply as him not speaking. At best, it is the state of affairs in his own heavenly and mystical realm ‘before’ he speaks to humans. The “silence” is what is heard prior to revelation of these things, and that is when and where these three mysteries are to be located.

    Philo, in Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres 14, styles the “silence” of God as the realm of that knowledge he possesses which only the ears of the wise can hear, and he even styles the act of proclaiming such a voice from God as “to cry out with exceeding noise.” I think it is exceeding clear that these three “mysteries” are events known only to God which he has imparted to humanity by revelation. (Note that another thing Ignatius never mentions in any of his letters is the principle of knowledge or faith about his Jesus gained through apostolic tradition, which is another problem Roger faces.)

    I think what Ignatius is echoing here is a kind of christological hymn which comes out of the period prior to his own, when the Lord and Christ was still a spiritual entity whose activities were confined to the heavenly realm. And thus Ignatius himself has added the identity of the virgin mother (originally virgin Wisdom whom Philo styles the “mother of the Logos”–the ‘mystery’ of virginity is simply identifying the mother as Wisdom). That new identity, never supplied in the NT epistles, is based on the newly perceived Gospel story as “Mary.”

    That pre-human phase of belief continues in what follows in the hymn. The scholarly suggestion that the Lord was “manifested to the aeons” (not “to the world,” as translators Lake and Staniforth would have it) is in an entirely heavenly context; the “star” seems to take up its place ‘within’ the world of the aeons and is not simply something which is ‘passing through’ on its way to incarnation. In fact, all the revolutionary things that happen because of the appearance of this new star happen before any alleged incarnation, they happen because of the “appearance” of the new star. The incarnation idea appears only in the second half of verse 3, and is probably a reflection of Ignatius’ and his circle’s new faith about a human Jesus. (Compare a similar situation of the Son being presented solely to the heavenly world of angels, with no reference to incarnation, in the opening chapter of Hebrews, a presentation based solely on scriptural interpretation applied to the new Son.)

    I won’t here go into my second point about whether Ignatius’ condemnable opponents are simply docetists, but my books have gone into detail (with support from scholars like W. R. Schoedel) as to why we need to add a companion to docetists in the form of apparent deniers of an historical Jesus on earth. Both were different reactions to the recent invention, influenced by a misinterpretation of rumors of early Gospel stories like Mark and Matthew (neither of which seem to have been in the actual possession of Ignatius), of an historical Jesus.

    • Roger Parvus
      2013-03-24 09:52:24 UTC - 09:52 | Permalink

      Earl,

      I’m a bit reluctant to get too much ahead of myself. As I wrote at the conclusion of this installment it is in the next post that I will show how an Apellean affiliation can not only account for the beliefs of the would-be martyr, but can also identify who his Judaizing and docetic opponents were. However, I hate to miss any opportunity to discuss the letters with you. So, with that in mind, I offer the following brief responses:

      1. You wrote: “I’ll leave the question of specific authorship aside, as that is of less concern to me.”

      But I don’t understand why that is of less concern to you. If it can be shown that the author was Peregrinus, would this not be something you would want to know? Authorship by Peregrinus would enable us securely date the Ignatians to within a 130 to 150 CE window. And an Apellean affiliation for him would allow us to narrow that down even further. Such knowledge could not help but bring into better focus many things in the letters that, up to now, have been shadowy. Are you saying that your view of the letters would not change even if you were convinced they were written by Peregrinus around 145 CE?

      2. Regarding the Star passage: I agree with you that the name “Mary” was not in the original Ephesians hymn. But, with Loisy, I go further and see the whole of the two nativity mysteries (Mary’s conceiving and giving birth) as later additions. That is to say, the original hymn had only a single mystery: the death of the Lord which, as you point out, ties in with the 1 Corinthians 2 motif of the ignorant rulers of this age. And that mystery of the Lord’s death was revealed to the aeons when he ascended through the heavens back to his heavenly Father. The astonishing star is the Son himself at his Ascension.

      But recognition of the Apellean affiliation of the author allows us to figure out why the supplementary mysteries were later added to the passage. The Apellean version of the Ascension was unacceptable to the proto-orthodox. Apelles taught that Jesus, although he rose from the dead with a real body, left it behind when he ascended back to his Father. It is plausible, then, that the interpolator, by his addition of two mysteries, was aiming to disguise the Apellean character of the star. And he did it, appropriately, by adding two mysteries that Apelles rejected. Apelles, like his teacher Marion, held that Jesus descended to earth as an adult. The interpolator’s addition of Mary’s conception and childbearing was intended to correct that “error.”

      Now you point out that “the verb is the aorist passive of ‘prasso’ which means “accomplished, performed.” And you ask: “How could one think of the birth and death of an earthly Jesus as being things done in the ‘silence of God’?” As I’ve already indicated, I see the birth as being a later proto-orthodox interpolation. But the death of Jesus is a different matter. It was in the original and I do think it could be viewed, from a Johannine perspective, as “accomplished” in the silence of God. Jesus, in the Fourth Gospel, says “It is accomplished” (Jn. 19:30) as he expires. And in an apparently deliberate rebuke of the Markan expiration, Jesus does it without the Markan “loud cry” (Mk. 15: 37). Just as the Fourth Gospel rejects the Markan anguished prayer in Gethsemane, it also rejects the Markan anguished cry on the cross. Jesus is portrayed as majestic, not desperate. And so, compared to Mark’s version, the death of the Johannine Jesus was indeed “wrought in the (majestic) calm of God.”

      (I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself now but, for your information, one of the subsequent posts in the series argues that the Fourth Gospel belongs to the same time period as the letter collection—the 140s—and that in its original form it was the work of Apelles. So I am not surprised to see a motif from the Fourth Gospel present in the “Star passage”).

      3. Earl, you also note in passing, “that another thing Ignatius never mentions in any of his letters is the principle of knowledge or faith about his Jesus gained through apostolic tradition, which is another problem Roger faces.”

      But I don’t understand how this is a problem for my theory. Apelles was an ex-Marcionite. And both Apelles and Marcion held that the church had gone wrong almost from the start. They viewed their work as a work of restoration, but a restoration based largely on their understanding of Paul, his letters and his gospel–not on any unbroken tradition or succession of teachers in the past. So why should we expect Apellean letters to appeal to apostolic tradition?

      My expectation would be that letters of an Apellean would put prophetic gifts in the spotlight. For Apelles’ understanding of the Pauline letters and gospel was derived largely from the alleged revelations of his prophetess associate Philumena. And, as it turns out, the author of the so-called Ignatians does think highly of revelations. He claims, for instance, to speak “with the voice of God” (IgnPhil. 7:1) and he learned things “not from human flesh, but it was the Spirit who kept preaching…” (IgnPhil. 7:2). He has “many deep thoughts in God” (IgnTral 4:1) and expects to receive future revelations (IgnEph. 20:2).

      4. You also wrote, Earl, that “I won’t here go into my second point about whether Ignatius’ condemnable opponents are simply docetists, but my books have gone into detail (with support from scholars like W. R. Schoedel) as to why we need to add a companion to docetists in the form of apparent deniers of an historical Jesus on earth.”

      But I made clear in my post that I too do not think that docetists were his only opponents. There was a second group of opponents: the Judaizers. And, as I will explain in my next post, they are proto-orthodox Christians who, in the eyes of Apelleans, were considered Judaizers. To Apelleans the proto-orthodox were Judaizers because they failed to recognize that the Jewish Scripture was largely “falsehoods and old fables which are worthless” (IgnMag. 8:1).

      And yes, Apelleans did insist that—unlike the things related in Old Testament—the saving events of Christianity really happened. The contrast is between the death and resurrection of Jesus which really happened, and the events of the Old Testament that did not. So, here again, notice how knowledge that the letters were written by an Apellean helps bring their meaning into focus. It helps us recognize that the insistence on the factual nature of Jesus’ death and resurrection was made as a contrast to the adherence of Judaizers to a non-historical Old Testament–not to Christians who denied a historical Jesus on earth. To the Judaizers the prisioner says:

      “But for me the archives are Jesus Christ, the inviolable archives are his cross and death and his resurrection and faith through him” (IgnPhil. 8:2).

  • 2013-03-24 04:35:34 UTC - 04:35 | Permalink

    Very interesting post. I laughed a good bit at some of what was said/written that’s posted above. This is an area that I’m not yet familiar with. I looked up Peregrinus in an encyclopedia and couldn’t find anything that looked like it was about the one referred to here. Though I did see in what’s linked to from this page that he seems to have been a figure who primarily lived during the second century, someone who was a Christian early on and then reverted back to Cynicism later in his life, if I have that correct. Perhaps I need to go back to the previous posts in this series to find out more. I’m supposing that Ignatius was a real person, a Christian Bishop who lived in the first century, an important person that I have heard a number of things about before.

    Among what I found humorous was the quote from the Harvard Theological Review about the silence of Bishops being similar to that of God, which is funny since one might assume that someone in more intelligent than someone truly is until that person says something and then that illusion can rather easily evaporate, which the encouragement of respect for silence by the leaders during one’s time would reinforce a perception of authority. Very amusing. And then what looks to perhaps be a quote from Lucian, near the top, was a humorous take as well.

    • Roger Parvus
      2013-03-24 09:59:28 UTC - 09:59 | Permalink

      Hi Doug,

      Yes, this post will be very confusing to anyone who has not read the previous ones in the series. If you’re interested, please have a look.

  • 2013-03-24 11:22:09 UTC - 11:22 | Permalink

    The thing is, Roger, I don’t think you have demonstrated all that compellingly that the author of the Ignatians was Peregrinus. But I am not anxious to get into a nitty-gritty discussion on your basic position. My interest was in pointing out that the hymn in Ephesians 19 cannot be read in a way which is consistent with the beliefs of a follower of Marcion, in the same way that I would argue that Marcion could not have been the author (not that you are claiming that). Namely, Marcionites believed that Jesus had been on earth, even if in docetic form, and the Ephesians hymn does not allow for that. So at the very least, the meat of Eph. 19 must have been the product of a cultic predecessor like that of Paul, reflecting a Son who appeared and operated entirely in a heavenly realm. Maybe that doesn’t constitute a “problem” for you, I’m not sure. For me, it was simply a plug for the mythicist beginnings of Christianity.

    But you don’t seem to allow for that, because you interpret the ‘appearance’ of the star in the heavens as Christ passing through in the opposite direction, back to heaven instead of on his way to earth. But there is no more indication of that in the text than for the other way, perhaps even less. As for the first two “mysteries” being un-original, I can’t see much in the way of justification for that. Also, the comparison with John’s “it is accomplished” is just too lightweight, and the derivation (if any) would more likely be in the opposite direction. Besides, how could an earthly crucifixion be said to take place “in the silence of God”. Whatever would that mean? Your rendering of “the majestic calm of God” does not do justice to the meaning of the Greek word and strikes me as a watering down in the interests of eliminating the problem. And it doesn’t retain the implication of the use of the word “mystery”. How does the death of Jesus on Calvary constitute a “mystery” concealed from the prince of this world, and why are the only witnesses to the Star himself heavenly aeons?

    Again, I don’t see any justification for deleting the first two mysteries from the hymn. How could a proto-orthodox redactor with the Gospels in his mind say that the birth of Jesus or the virginity of his mother was hidden from the prince of this world, and by implication from the world itself, with no implication of a nativity on earth, let alone that this new “star” was revealed to anything or anyone earthly? And the “anti-Apellean” agenda you suggest is another lightweight element, since such an agenda could surely have been more clearly put forward, and not limited entirely to the thought of being hidden from the evil aeons or Satan himself.

    You ask why we should expect the Ignatians to appeal to apostolic tradition. But the Marcionites were heavily into apostolic tradition. After all, the Apostolicon included a Gospel and the letters of the prime Apostle, Paul. Paul was being interpreted as having preached the true message of the historical Jesus on earth (even if he was docetic), so it is hard to think that some appeal to ‘prove’ the historical points that Ignatius is making about Jesus would not have been made to his biography and to the preaching of Paul, even if they were heavily reinterpreted to conform to Marcionite interests. There may be one fly in this ointment, although it is a very small one. The “touch me” scene in Smyrneans 2, designed to show that Jesus was not a docetic phantom, is not presented as contained in some written biography. It sounds like a preaching invention. If the forger had taken it from a written ‘record’ it is very likely he would have appealed to that record as an indication of good authority. Much more likely that this invention found its way into Luke’s Gospel. After all, why when referring to the “inviolable archives” about J.C. does the writer not refer to any written Gospels?

    Yes, I know you itemized “Judaizers” along with “docetists,” but I didn’t mention the former because you pointed out that Ignatius was not nearly so hostile to them. I styled the others “condemnable” (the mad dogs and such), and said that another of this sort needed to be ranked beside the docetists, namely deniers of an historical Jesus. I don’t think a Marcionite would have denied that Jesus had been on earth.

    • 2013-03-24 12:39:24 UTC - 12:39 | Permalink


      The thing is, Roger, I don’t think you have demonstrated all that compellingly that the author of the Ignatians was Peregrinus. But I am not anxious to get into a nitty-gritty discussion on your basic position.

      I think many readers would be interested in what you consider to be the weaknesses in Roger’s arguments.

      I would also have thought the arguments of importance for your own use of Ignatius as evidence of a transition stage between beliefs in a heavenly and an earthly Christ. If Roger’s case is sound then the letters should be dated some decades later than the traditional 107 CE. That early date is relatively important, is it not, if Ignatius serves as a witness to transitional beliefs between a heavenly and earthly Christ?

      • 2013-03-24 13:54:49 UTC - 13:54 | Permalink

        The trouble is, that would be something of a major operation which I don’t have time for now. My original comment was not designed to do that, merely to introduce the Ephesians hymn into the mix with some observations. Roger asked me if I wouldn’t be interested in learning that Peregrinus was the author of the Ignatians. I answered that this wasn’t my concern at this time, partly because in my previous encounters with Roger’s case, I wasn’t convinced. Maybe I’ll revisit it another time.

        • 2013-03-24 14:16:48 UTC - 14:16 | Permalink

          Let me add that some of those problems were touched on in my posting above. And there have been several cases in scholarship history that have maintained that the Ignatians are later, some much later, though not as specific in authorship as Roger’s.

          • 2013-03-24 14:22:18 UTC - 14:22 | Permalink

            By the way, it isn’t so much the dating I find problematic, but the authorship. Even though I regard the Ignatians as probable forgeries, I would still not date them (based on content and comparison with other trajectories in EC) later than about 125-130. So Roger’s earliest date would be virtually in line with mine.

          • 2013-03-24 16:23:59 UTC - 16:23 | Permalink

            Just for sake of clarification, Roger acknowledges that his arguments for a later date are by no means unique; further, he acknowledges predecessors for his arguments, including the possibility of Peregrinus himself being the original author. See the introductory post to this series: Letters of Ignatius.

            In the same post he informs us that his own theory is essentially a combination of the works of others:

            1. Daniel Völter, in his Polykarp und Ignatius und die ihnen zugeschriebenen Briefe, proposed that Peregrinus was the author of the letters attributed to Ignatius.

            2. Josephe Turmel, in his Lettres d’Ignace d’Antioche, (written under the pseudonym ‘Henri Delafosse’) argued that the original author of the letters was a Marcionite.

            3. Alfred Loisy, in reviewing Turmel’s theory, agreed but specified that he seemed to be a moderate Marcionite such as Apelles (“un marcionite assez mitigé sur certain points… tel Apelles” – Remarques sur la Littérature Épistolaire du Nouveau Testament, p. 168).

    • 2013-03-24 16:40:29 UTC - 16:40 | Permalink

      The scholarly suggestion that the Lord was “manifested to the aeons” (not “to the world,” as translators Lake and Staniforth would have it) is in an entirely heavenly context; the “star” seems to take up its place ‘within’ the world of the aeons and is not simply something which is ‘passing through’ on its way to incarnation. In fact, all the revolutionary things that happen because of the appearance of this new star happen before any alleged incarnation, they happen because of the “appearance” of the new star. The incarnation idea appears only in the second half of verse 3 . . . .

      I thought Ephesians 19 tells us that it was by the appearance of the star that the mystery (at least that of the death of the Christ) was revealed to the aeons — not unlike the reality of what they’d done was revealed to the demons by the ascension of Christ in the Ascension of Isaiah.

      Does the passage definitely say the crucifixion happened “because of the appearance of the new star” or does it not mean allow for the meaning that what had happened was revealed to the demons with the appearance of the star?

      • 2013-03-25 03:33:22 UTC - 03:33 | Permalink

        I think Neil is reading something in the Ephesians hymn which is not clearly in view. Verse 2 simply says: “How then was he manifested/revealed (the verb ‘phaneroo’) to the aeons (aiosin, a plural reference)?” And it goes on to speak of the “star” itself producing a light which astonished the other heavenly bodies who gathered around it. There is no suggestion of the death of this star, let alone on earth, being revealed or its mystery explained. “…and there was perplexity, whence came this new thing, so unlike them.” (Lake’s translation in the Loeb).

        Now, “aion” in the plural can refer to ages, and by extension to “the world”, which makes those translations technically OK, but in the context of going on to expand on that manifestation in terms of the revelation to and reaction by heavenly bodies, I think that renders “aiosin” more in line with the thought of heavenly entities, and not a revelation through historical events to the human world or humans themselves. Besides, the latter would be a contradiction with the idea that these ‘events’ took place in the realm of God’s silence. (Bauer’s lexicon actually identifies Eph. 19:2, along with other passages, as a reference to the heavenly Aeons, though it qualifies it by saying “Various other meanings are possible in these passages.”)

        The Penguin’s Staniforth may give a misleading translation of the opening of verse two: “How then were THEY made known to the world?” as though it is referring back to the three mysteries. But the verb (ephanerothe) is aorist singular. Lake chooses to render the subject as “he” as though referring ahead to the “star”, which is masculine. (Or Lake is simply taking the reference to refer to Christ.) But the singular verb might refer back to the “cry” (“the three mysteries of a cry”), even though this is feminine, since the verb form does not distinguish gender.

        This use of the word “cry” is somewhat obscure, but we have to realize that we are probably dealing with an existing hymn, and the poetic licence of such hymns is always pretty broad, sometimes rendering them hard to decipher. But the rest of the hymn does not focus on any of the particular “mysteries.” It is all about the reaction of heavenly bodies to the appearance of the new star and the effect the latter has had on them. So it is not clear that the heavenly aeons are reacting to the death of the Lord, or being informed of it.

        Verse 3′s opening “By this, all magic was dissolved, etc.” has to be seen as effects of the general appearance of the new star, not back over quite a distance to any specific reference to the death, which has had no further focus placed upon it. Even in the second half of verse 3, referring to God being manifest as man (probably the writer’s own subsequent contribution, since it doesn’t jive with the opening motifs of the hymn, such as labelling the death a hidden mystery wrought in God’s silence), does not itemize the death itself.

        Yes, one can assume that the writer can allow for having the mysteries revealed to the aeons in conjunction with his appearance, but that does not seem to be the primary point being made. And “aeons” does not necessarily refer just to demons, but to heavenly entities in general (such as Paul does in his references to “stoicheia” in Gal. 4:3 and 9). And of course, there is no reference to any revelation of the mysteries to humans on earth.

        By the way, I was not criticizing Roger (much less accusing him of some kind of plagiarism–as Roo has accused me) in saying that others before him had dated the Ignatians considerably later than the traditional dating and attribution to Ignatius himself. My point was simply that there has been a modern scholarly tradition of doing that and that I have addressed that practice quite often, if not Roger’s particular choice of forger. (Actually, I seem to recall that Roger and I did have an exchange on his stance a few years ago, though I don’t remember where offhand, or all the details of that exchange.)

        • 2013-03-25 05:16:51 UTC - 05:16 | Permalink

          Thanks for the detailed response, Earl. I am sure Roger will have his own reply, though he may want to ask that we wait till the posting of his own exposition of Ephesians 19. (I have tried to speed up a few of his posts to reach that point within another week.)

          Re this paragraph:

          Verse 3′s opening “By this, all magic was dissolved, etc.” has to be seen as effects of the general appearance of the new star, not back over quite a distance to any specific reference to the death, which has had no further focus placed upon it. Even in the second half of verse 3, referring to God being manifest as man (probably the writer’s own subsequent contribution, since it doesn’t jive with the opening motifs of the hymn, such as labelling the death a hidden mystery wrought in God’s silence), does not itemize the death itself.

          . . . .

          In “orthodox” Christianity I understand it is the resurrection or re-exaltation of Jesus to power after his death that is the victory of God over the demons. Yes, the death is the payment of ransom or appeasing sacrifice or whatever, but it is the ascension to glory after that that demonstrates the powerlessness of demons to hold anyone in hell’s chains. So the wider context, as far as it can be assessed, and not just the grammatical possibilities of the passage alone, is vital for interpreting such a passage, yes?

          (Again for clarification, I was certainly not implying you were accusing Roger of plagiarism. I made the comment I did for the benefit of anyone who has not been following the series closely and who may not be aware of the wider status of his arguments.)

    • Roger Parvus
      2013-03-25 11:52:39 UTC - 11:52 | Permalink

      Earl,

      I’m disappointed that you don’t have the time to get into a nitty-gritty discussion of my Ignatian theory. Still, for your information and for the benefit of any readers interested to know how I would respond to the points you make, I add the following:

      1. You wrote: “For me, it was simply a plug for the mythicist beginnings of Christianity… But you don’t seem to allow for that, because you interpret the ‘appearance’ of the star in the heavens as Christ passing through in the opposite direction, back to heaven instead of on his way to earth.”

      Earl, I want to start by clarifying that I do consider myself a mythicist, even though I’m not convinced the myth ever located Jesus’s crucifixion in the upper sublunar region. The original belief, I’m inclined to think, was that the Son of God descended through the heavens to earth for a few hours in order to trick the princes of this world into wrongfully crucifying him. He accomplished this by transforming himself and surreptitiously switching places with a failed Jewish Messiah being led out by the Romans for crucifixion.

      To get a better idea of this Basilides-influenced scenario, envision at chapter 11 verse 2 of the Ascension of Isaiah something along the lines of the following:

      And the Son descended into your world transforming himself and becoming like a son of man. And the princes of that world did not know him. And coming in from the country in Judaea, he was pressed into service by Roman soldiers to carry the cross of a man they were leading out of the city for execution. And transforming himself, he took on the appearance of the man who was to be crucified, and he was thought to be him.

      The soldiers led him to the place of crucifixion and crucified him. Those passing by reviled and mocked him. At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon when he gave a loud cry and breathed his last. When it was evening, he was taken down from the cross and buried.

      I am aware that the original form of the Ascension of Isaiah remains an open question. The original undisturbed version of it is, as you know, no longer extant. In one of the extant doctored versions a curt Johannine-flavored insertion appears to have been made: “And he dwelt with men in the world” (“Et cum hominibus habitare et in mundo”), while in the other extant doctored version there is a more substantial Lucan/Matthean-type nativity interpolation.

      Now, my interest here is not here to open a new discussion about the earliest form of the Christian myth or of the Ascension of Isaiah. My only reason for bringing this scenario up at all is as a way of illustrating that one can be a mythicist without embracing an upper sublunar crucifixion scenario.

      2. You write that “the Ephesians hymn does not allow for that” (i.e., that Jesus had been on earth).

      But as you yourself acknowledge, the hymn does not clearly state where the Son had come from when he appeared to the aeons. It does not say whether his most recent location was on earth or with his Father in heaven. In other words, is the appearance part of an ascent? Or of a descent? The hymn gives a snapshot of the appearance, but a snapshot does not show the direction of movement.

      And you continue: “… and you (Roger) interpret the ‘appearance’ of the star in the heavens as Christ passing through in the opposite direction, back to heaven instead of on his way to earth. But there is no more indication of that in the text than for the other way, perhaps even less.”

      But why “perhaps even less”? Notice the perplexity and astonishment of the other stars caused by the new star:

      its novelty caused astonishment… and there was perplexity (as to) whence (came) this novelty (so) unlike them –- IgnEph 19:2

      Is not perplexity and astonishment of the aeons a common feature of other early accounts of the Son’s ascent? Think, for instance, of the Ascension of Isaiah. In that work the angelic perplexity and astonishment occurs at the Son’s ascent, not at his descent. His descent is hidden. Likewise, in Justin’s account of the Son’s ascent (Dialogue with Trypho 36) which he bases on one of the psalms.

      And notice the all-surpassing light of the new star. Does this not correspond to the ineffable glory that is a common feature of the Son’s ascent in other accounts? True, the Ephesians passage does not use the word “glory” (as Justin and the Ascension of Isaiah do), but the idea is clearly the same. For the prisoner looks forward to receiving “pure light” (IgnRom. 6:2) at his death in the same way that other early Christian texts speak of the “glory” that awaits.

      On the other hand, I don’t know of any *descent* texts that speak of a star’s all-surpassing brightness. Do you? Even Matthew’s account of the star of Bethlehem nowhere says the new star surpassed all others in brightness. And I don’t know of any early *descent* texts that present that event as being the way that “he (the Son) was revealed to the aeons” (IgnEph. 19:2).

      No, it seems to me far more likely that the star’s appearance in the Ephesians hymn belongs to an ascent. And no one would ever for a moment have thought otherwise if the interpolator had not inserted Mary’s conceiving and childbearing into the passage. About which you write:

      3. “As for the first two ‘mysteries’ being un-original, I can’t see much in the way of justification for that.”

      But I would remind you that, as you noted in your initial comment, there is a close parallel between the “hidden from the prince of this world” (of IgnEph. 19:1) and the motif of the ignorant rulers of this age in 1 Cor. 2. And in that parallel motif there is only one mystery: “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1). No sign in 1 Corinthians of mysteries having to do with Mary’s conceiving and childbearing.

      And notice how the Mary material along with what Schoedel calls “quasi-credal material” in IgnEph. 18:2 break up the flow of the letter. In 18:1 the prisoner speaks of “the cross, which is an affront to unbelievers”. The natural continuation of this—just as in 1 Corinthians—is how the death of the Lord was even hidden from the prince of this world (IgnEph. 19:1). But instead, for no apparent reason, we first get served an assortment of quasi-creedal material (that all just happen to be beliefs that Apelles rejected! No mention, for example, of the Son’s resurrection. Was not the resurrection too “an affront to unbelievers”? Then why is it left out? Answer: Apelleans believed in a real flesh resurrection, and the Apellean author spoke of it often in the letters. So there was no need for the proto-orthodox interpolator to add it to here to his list of things that are an affront to unbelievers).

      Earl, what has happened to Ephesians 19 is basically the same thing that happened to the text of the Ascension of Isaiah. In chapter 9 of the AoI the future hidden descent of the Son is announced (9:12-13) and it is immediately connected with his crucifixion:

      And the god of that world will stretch forth his hand against the Son and they will lay hands on him and crucify him on a tree without knowing who he is; so his descent, as you will see, is hidden from the heavens so that it remains unperceived who he is. (AoI 9:14-15).

      Notice: no mention in this passage of a human conception or birth. But wondrously, in the chapter 11 interpolation (verses 2 – 22), we meet with a conception and birth and are told:

      This has escaped all the heavens and all the princes and all the gods of this world (11:16).

      In both IgnEph 19 and the AoI a hidden conception and birth has been interpolated.

      4. You write: “And the “anti-Apellean” agenda you suggest is another lightweight element…”

      It’s not really an “anti-Apellean agenda.” The proto-orthodox interpolator knew that the author of the letters was Apellean and so, in order to make him look proto-orthodox, he had to add creedal items that were missing and correct any that were “wrong.” His didn’t attack Apelleanism in the letters. That church had probably ceased to exist by the time he converted the letters (200 CE?). He just wanted to make the letters safe for use by his fellow proto-orthodox Christians.

      5. In response to my question (“Why we should expect Apellean letters to appeal to apostolic tradition”) you reply: “But the Marcionites were heavily into apostolic tradition. After all, the Apostolicon included a Gospel and the letters of the prime Apostle, Paul.”

      I was taking apostolic tradition in the sense of beliefs handed down in unbroken fashion from the apostles (plural) and their successors. But, yes, if you wish to take that expression as meaning “what Paul taught,” I agree that Marcion was heavily into that. It is usually thought that, to recover Paul’s teaching, Marcion took the route of textual critic, removing from the Pauline letters and one of the Gospels things that he viewed as Judaizing interpolations. Apelles, however, after he abandoned Marcionism, took a different route. He put together a gospel (called the Manifestations) that he believed came from Paul via revelations to a prophetess associate named Philumena. I expect it was not written all in one sitting, but rather compiled over a period of time. It may have been a work-in-progress for a year or two.

      6. You write: “… it is hard to think that some appeal to ‘prove’ the historical points that Ignatius is making about Jesus would not have been made to his biography and to the preaching of Paul…“

      But the letters do mention Paul and use his letters. For instance, in the Ephesians 18 verse mentioned earlier (“the cross which is an affront to unbelievers”), the letter uses 1 Corinthians: “Where is the wise man? Where the debater? Where the boasting of those called intelligent”. True, the prisoner never says “As Paul says …” or “As letter so-and-so says …” That apparently wasn’t his style. But there is little doubt that he knew and used the Pauline letters.

      And the “touch me” scene in Smyrneans 2 that you mention may very well be from the Apellean gospel. As you note, the scene was designed to show that Jesus was not a docetic phantom. Apelles was strongly anti-docetic. According to Hippolytus, Apelles taught that Jesus “showed them (his disciples) the prints of the nails and the wound in his side, desirous of persuading them that he was in truth no phantom, but was present in the flesh” (The Refutation of All Heresies 7,26).

      Again, it is true that the prisoner doesn’t say he got the “touch me” scene from a written gospel. But, based on his manner of using Paul’s letters, can we really expect him to? Why should anyone expect him to use his Gospel any differently than he uses his Apostle? Moreover, Apelleans only had one gospel. So was there any real chance the prisoner’s Apellean readers would not know what gospel the touch-me scene was from?

      I can only speculate as to why Peregrinus, even though he had the highest regard for Paul (IgnEph. 12:2), did not feel the need to expressly appeal to the apostle’s writings for support of things he says in his own letters. And why he apparently used so rarely the gospel. Some propose that it was because he was a prisoner-in-transit and did not have his books with him. And, as already suggested, the Apellean Gospel may still have been a work-in-progress.

      But my guess is that Peregrinus’ almost pathological self-importance is the real reason he didn’t expressly appeal to his Gospel and Apostle more frequently. He enjoyed the attention that his arrest brought him, and the moral authority it conferred on him in the eyes of his co-religionists. His letters were a kind of last will and testament for him and he wanted to fill them with advice and admonitions of his own, not of someone else—-not even Jesus or Paul. And since he was acknowledged as a prophet by his brethren, he had no real need to resort to written authorities. He had a direct line to God.

      • 2013-03-25 13:52:00 UTC - 13:52 | Permalink

        Hi Roger. First of all, i think you rely too much on rigid comparison with other writings in the broader record. This was a wide, uncoordinated movement with no central organizing authority or body of doctrine. We don’t need to expect close conformity of detail between such documents, and we certainly are not entitled to read something into one document or passage when it is not there, simply on the basis that such a point is present in another document’s handling of the basic myth. That is not a secure methodology.

        Just because, for example, Paul does not mention all three “mysteries” that Ignatius does, does not mean that this can be used as ‘evidence’ that the original hymn of Eph. 19 did not contain them and thus they were later interpolations. That would be very shaky reasoning.

        Just as the various christological hymns in the NT epistles do not all conform to the same repertoire of motifs (though the one commonality they do contain is no identification with any historical individual). Compare Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:6-11 and 1 Timothy 3:16. There is wide variance of content between them, yet does that allow us to use close comparisons to declare that certain elements do not belong or have been interpolated, or to decide what was commonly believed? I don’t think so. Just because 1 Timothy 3:16 does not contain a reference to the Son as the creator and sustainer of the universe, does that mean we have to reject such references in the Colossians hymn as inauthentic? The more your case depends on things like that, the shakier it becomes.

        You say, “But as you yourself acknowledge, the hymn does not clearly state where the Son had come from when he appeared to the aeons.” Well, right. The hymn doesn’t state that he came from anywhere, either higher or lower. It is simply an appearance. You compare it to the Ascension of Isaiah. But there, the text does state a direction. The Ephesians hymn does not. One can’t simply say, we have to understand in Ephesians what AoI gives us. If that is what it is supposed to be, why doesn’t the writer say that? Rather, we have to take what the text actually says and how it is presented, not rely on simply reading another document’s text into it and then basing further conclusions on that.

        For example, do I state that Paul must have envisioned his Christ’s heavenly crucifixion to have taken place in a sublunar region? No, I can’t simply import some other document’s ideas into Paul. Maybe he did, but maybe he didn’t. I certainly can’t base a secure interpretation of Paul’s thought on the thought of the AoI or a Greek philosopher like Plutarch. There could be wide variance in how the basic concepts of the period are chosen and used. Not even the number of layers in the heavens was standardized.

        The reason why I said that an ascent context was less probable than a descent, is because it doesn’t gel with those opening lines. If this is after the life on earth and ascent from it, the first manifestation would have already taken place, and there is no suggestion that the “aeons” are johnny-come-latelys”, behind even the earth itself. Why, if this hymnist should be expected to have the same concepts as other documents, does he not say that the aeons were previously deceived or kept in the dark, but now recognize the true state of affairs? But as I say, we cannot rely on the expectation of such close comparisons. Anyway, such a point is minor, and I would make the more important point that no direction of travel is implied in the text. Nor can we reject a downward movement on the basis of other texts and then think that this supplies us with an argument for a default opposite movement. That’s almost a double begging the question.

        Yes, Marcion does appeal to apostolic tradition, certainly in regard to Paul as he perceived him. But as I asked, does this not lead us to expect that a Marcionite author would similarly make such an appeal? Ignatius virtually quotes Paul in a couple of spots, showing an apparent familiarity with the letters, but that in itself does not spell a Marcionite milieu. The author of 1 Clement also shows familiarity with Paul, but that does not make him a Marcionite.

        Ephesians 18 does indeed quote Paul, but note that when he goes on to state his own beliefs about an HJ, he is not reliant on apostolic tradition for those doctrines, nor does he appeal to any Gospel to support his biography of Jesus. The latter is a notable silence, indicating lack of knowledge of any written document containing such things, and the former was impossible because no prior epistle ever mentions such things. All of this was to make my point that the author of the Ignatians was not in a position to be aware of any Gospel whatsoever, or any written perceived source for his biographical claims, and that is hard to accept in a follower of Marcion, even if that follower had separated himself from the core Marcionite movement.

        Enough said here, I think. My overall point is that too much of what is and isn’t found within the Ignatians does not square with your hypothesis without considerable ‘reading into’ them, or into their assumed background. The parallels you make with Apelles have many problems and where they do seem to fit they seem to be generally of a vague or “lightweight” nature. (The commonality of certain beliefs is not unique enough to be conclusive.) I often make complaints of this sort about various scenarios, for example that Mark knew the Pauline letters or concepts. The latter is usually based on very vague and weak common features and are offset by problems in the other direction.

        But that’s just me.

        • 2013-03-25 15:13:34 UTC - 15:13 | Permalink

          Earl, can I just interject with another query of my own here re one of your points:

          You write:

          Just because, for example, Paul does not mention all three “mysteries” that Ignatius does, does not mean that this can be used as ‘evidence’ that the original hymn of Eph. 19 did not contain them and thus they were later interpolations. That would be very shaky reasoning.

          However, this is not Roger’s argument, is it? He does not build his point “just because” of this one datum. He in fact is referring to the datum that you yourself acknowledged as a genuine commonality of thought, and then adds further argument (beginning with “And notice how the Mary material . . . “) that brings the strands together. When the full argument of Roger is engaged with I don’t see how it justifies the analogy you raise of comparing 1 Timothy with Colossians.

          • 2013-03-26 03:13:12 UTC - 03:13 | Permalink

            Yes, I realize that Roger has other arguments. And no case is ever presented based on one piece of data (or at least shouldn’t be, though we all know that things like the TF of Josephus or “brother of the Lord” is often presented as though that is all that is needed to prove an HJ). But I was addressing a few specific pieces of Roger’s argument, and I think that is legitimate. If he makes what I regard as a weak or problematic point, that can be pointed out. Naturally, it does not mean that his entire case collapses. But the more of those problems that exist, the more the overall case is to some extent compromised.

            I made the comparison between 1 Timothy and Colossians to point out by analogy that one of Roger’s claims should not make sense, that if an idea is present in some other document, we ought to regard it as being in the mind and milieu of the writer of the document being debated, in our case the Ephesians 19 hymn, even if it doesn’t appear there. That is surely fallacious and unjustified.

            Yes, he appealed to the “death of the Lord” as a commonality of thought between Ephesians hymn and the same Pauline cultic idea. But that was not my point. He further dismissed the other two “mysteries” as orthodox interpolations, on a basis which I regard as invalid. I acknowledge the “Mary” reference as the writer’s own addition, but that doesn’t mean that it must encompass the entire reference to virgin birth (i.e., probably referring originally to Wisdom, a la Philo) and the birth itself. The basis on which he did that involves the fallacy I tried to illustrate in my comparison of 1 Timothy and Colossians.

            By the way, I should have clarified that my point about not noting that the stars had previously been kept in the dark had to do with the very existence of the Son, not the details of the “mysteries”, but that is probably trying to create too much nuance, so to some extent yes, the motif of the heavenly aeons being kept in the dark is there. Another general parallel with Paul and the Ascension of Isaiah and one or two other documents, gnostic ones as I recall.

        • Roger Parvus
          2013-03-26 01:00:07 UTC - 01:00 | Permalink

          Hi Earl,

          1. You write, “The hymn doesn’t state that he came from anywhere, either higher or lower. It is simply an appearance.”

          When I first read that line I thought you were suggesting he kind of “big-banged” in their midst! He didn’t come from anywhere; he was just there! But, if I understand you right, I think you’re saying the hymn (at least the part we have) doesn’t expressly say whether he came from above or below, for the text clearly does imply that he came from somewhere else. The aeons are just not sure from where:

          There was perplexity (as to) whence (came) this novelty so unlike them (IgnEph. 19:2, Schoedel’s translation).

          Great was the ensuing perplexity; where could this newcomer have come from, so unlike its fellows? (Staniforth’s translation)

          In light of that, I don’t think it is illegitimate to see this appearance as being part of an ascent/descent motif. And to compare it to other early ascent/descent texts like the Ascension of Isaiah. Schoedel agrees that the AoI provides a “significant early parallel to Eph 19” (Ignatius of Antioch, p. 88).

          2. You write, “If this [the Eph 19 “appearance”] is after the life on earth and ascent from it, the first manifestation would have already taken place, and there is no suggestion that the “aeons” are johnny-come-latelys”, behind even the earth itself.”

          The manifestation of the Son on earth was not a manifestation of who the Son is “himself,” without the cloak of a human body. Once he leaves the cloak behind, his divinity is free to shine forth unhindered. Again, think of the AoI. Surely you don’t consider the Son’s appearances as he passed through the heavens while descending to be manifestations. Yes, the inhabitants of those heavens “saw” him; but because of his transformations he was unrecognized. Likewise, if he descended to earth transformed like a son of man, it is hard to consider any time spent there to be an unimpeded “manifestation” of who he was.

          3. You write, “The reason why I said that an ascent context was less probable than a descent, is because it doesn’t gel with those opening lines.”

          And—-with no disrespect intended-—I think you are proof that the interpolator accomplished his purpose. You recognize that he added the name “Mary,” but don’t (yet!) see that he added her whole conceiving and childbearing to the passage in order to make it safely proto-orthodox.

          4. You ask, “Why, if this hymnist should be expected to have the same concepts as other documents, does he not say that the aeons were previously deceived or kept in the dark, but now recognize the true state of affairs?.”

          But he does:

          From the ruler of this age was hidden… the death of the Lord… How then was he manifested to the aeons? A star shone forth in the heavens more brightly than all the stars, and its light was brighter than words can tell… (IgnEph. 19:1-2)

          And the implication is that the aeons have not remained in a perpetual state of perplexity. With the appearance of the ineffable star they began to “recognize the true state of affairs.”

          5. You say, “Ignatius virtually quotes Paul in a couple of spots, showing an apparent familiarity with the letters, but that in itself does not spell a Marcionite milieu.”

          No. And I’ve never claimed that “in itself” it did. There is much more to my Apellean case than that. I hope someday you will have the time to give it a nitty-gritty examination.

          6. You write, “The parallels you make with Apelles have many problems and where they do seem to fit they seem to be generally of a vague or “lightweight” nature. (The commonality of certain beliefs is not unique enough to be conclusive.)”

          I disagree. The unusual combination of beliefs present in the letters, together with the awkward corrections that accompany them point in the same direction: an Apellean text that has been subsequently sanitized by a proto-orthodox editor.

          To give one example: the strong anti-docetic belief regarding the resurrection of Jesus combined with no apparent belief in a future resurrection of the body for others. Can you name another sect besides the Apelleans who held that combination of beliefs?

          • 2013-03-26 03:49:36 UTC - 03:49 | Permalink

            Hi Roger,

            To return to your posting above, and at the risk of making too much of a fuss over this point, I think you are reading something into the argument over “ascent or descent” that is not justified. Because the aeons say about the new star “from whence did this come?” does not have to imply a conscious element of “from what direction.” If we see someone in a room whom we are not expecting to be there, we could well say “Oh! Where did you come from?” without meaning which door did you come in. And the basic point is, such a directionality is not present in the text. It has to be read into it.

            And just because there are common elements between the Ephesians hymn and the AoI does, again, not mean that we are justified in automatically reading elements of the AoI into the Ephesians hymn or the thought of the original hymnist.

            What is actually happening here is an importation of Gospel-based ideas. I’m not saying that other no-HJ documents do not have movement motifs, though these can be identified as within the heavens themselves. The AoI is a good example, apart from the interpolation of chapter 11 (which, by the way, can be clearly seen as a later insertion, since its earthly description has been constructed out of motifs earlier used for the Son’s activities in the heavens, it is not based on historical traditions). Hebrews is another example, with its Christ “for a time lower than the angels” (which would fit a location below the angels’ above-the-moon habitats, although the meaning is actually “inferior” not “lower in location”), or “we have a Christ who has passed through the heavens” (with no mention of him having been on earth). But your handling of the ascent-descent question clearly assumes a movement to or from earth itself (which Marcionites would have subscribed to), which I am saying is not evident in the text.

            I might make another comparison with Hebrews. Note that chapter 1’s concern about proving the Son’s superiority to the angels has this statement: “Again, when he presents the first-born to the world, he says, ‘Let all the angels of God pay him homage’.” And he goes on to speak exclusively within a heavenly context involving only angels. Now, even though “world” is the word “oikoumene” which most often refers to the material planet earth, the context makes it apply to a heavenly dimension. Scholarship doggedly tries to have “present to the world” encompass some kind of reference which involves the point of nativity and incarnation, even though “first-born” is used in common philosophy of the time referring to the emanative nature of the Logos (as in Philo), nothing to do with any incarnation to earth. Here scholars are bringing the Gospels to the epistle, based on no justification in the text, and to some extent I maintain that you are doing the same thing to the Ephesians hymn. Without that importation, it seems to me that the hymn resides outside of any milieu that a Marcionite would inhabit, whatever his idea of the nature of Christ’s incarnation to earth might have been.

            • Roger Parvus
              2013-03-26 08:26:53 UTC - 08:26 | Permalink

              Hi Earl,

              1. You wrote, “And the basic point is, such a directionality is not present in the text. It has to be read into it.”

              Actually, whether directionality is present or not is unclear. The Greek word in question (pothen) can mean “from what place? From where?” And in the AoI the reason the inhabitants of the heavenly layers are surprised to see the Son ascending is because they didn’t see him descend earlier. Directionality clearly was an issue in that instance.

              On IgnEph 19 Schoedel says, “Moreover, the implied question of the stars—-“Whence this novelty so unlike [us]”—-is reminiscent of similar questions asked by the powers at Christ’s ascent to the world above or descent to the underworld…”(my bolding). Schoedel adds that it is “presumably appropriate also at his descent into this world” (but note the word “presumably”).

              So I could easily counter that it is you who, by choosing another of pothen’s meanings, are reading your interpretation into the text.

              2. In regard to Hebrews: I don’t think it’s a good idea to bring it into the discussion. As you know (from exchanges we’ve had on Hebrews over at FRDB), I have a very different theory from yours about the provenance and interpretation of Hebrews. I fear that bringing it into the discussion here would take us too far afield.

              And in any case, I’m pretty sure you would agree that there is no indication that the author of the so-called Ignatians knew or used anything from Hebrews. I don’t know of a single scholar who holds otherwise. The two writings are very different. Hebrews loves the Old Testament and uses it extensively to argue its points. The Ignatian letters show scant interest the Old Testament and denigrate it as consisting of fables and falsehoods. No, probably best to steer clear of Hebrews when discussing the Ignatians. Using it might be as unhelpful as comparing 1 Timothy with Colossians ;>)

              • 2013-03-26 11:42:02 UTC - 11:42 | Permalink

                Roger, you miss the point that my comparisons with Hebrews and that between 1 Timothy and Colossians are used as an analogy. I could have crafted an analogy from any field, comparing Cadillacs with Lincolns, let’s say. But that does not mean that I would be trying to apply the features of Cadillacs and Lincolns to the Ephesians hymn. I am simply offering an analogy to make a point of principle. You are the one who has tried to do the former, taking a feature from the AoI for example, and thinking to impose it on the Ephesians hymn.

                And the use of an analogy within Hebrews has absolutely nothing to do with whether the author of the Ignatians knew Hebrews; that is totally irrelevant within the context of my use of the analogy. I was illustrating by analogy that a situation within Hebrews establishes a principle, which principle can then be applied to our discussion of the Ephesians hymn. It does not impose Hebrews on Ephesians.

                I am perfectly aware that directionality is present in the AoI. But it is not evidently present in the Ephesians hymn. So your imposition of it on Ephesians based solely on its presence in the AoI is unsupported and fallacious. That is a simple logical judgment.

                I haven’t “chosen” a meaning for “pothen”. I have pointed out that it does not necessarily involve directionality, and that to impose directionality upon it when not even the context implies directionality–and certainly not a directionality that involves earth as the starting or end point (unless you read other documents, or the Gospel milieu into it) is unjustified. You are the one who has forced “pothen” into a choice of directionality. I have left it neutral based on the text.

                But I think we’ve reached the point where further discussion is probably fruitless. We’ve both stated our views.

              • Roger Parvus
                2013-03-26 20:54:37 UTC - 20:54 | Permalink

                Earl,

                The problem is that I foresee us going off on a tangent about the validity of your Hebrew’s analogies. I don’t have a problem with the second example you offered, but I’m not sure I can go along with the first one. You say that, because the words “we have a Christ who has passed through the heavens” do not expressly mention earth, it is an unwarranted importation of Gospel-ideas to think that earth is where he arrived. But, as you know from our previous discussions of Hebrews, I think that–in the mind of the author of the epistle—-earth was indeed where the Son landed. I think the Gospel he knew was the AoI-type Gospel that I described earlier. But one that—-in place of the interpolations at 11:2—-had something like:

                And the Son descended into your world transforming himself and becoming like a son of man. And the princes of that world did not know him. And coming in from the country in Judaea, he was pressed into service by Roman soldiers to carry the cross of a man they were leading out of the city for execution. And transforming himself, he took on the appearance of the man who was to be crucified, and he was thought to be him.

                The soldiers led him to the place of crucifixion and crucified him. Those passing by reviled and mocked him. At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon when he gave a loud cry and breathed his last. When it was evening, he was taken down from the cross and buried.

                So the fear I expressed in my previous comment was that, by addressing your analogies, I might sidetrack us away from our discussion of my Ignatian theory. I don’t mind discussing Hebrews further, but I recommend that we do it in a separate post. I already have comments on it scattered in various places in posts on Vridar. If you like, I will try to locate them.

              • Roger Parvus
                2013-03-26 22:39:46 UTC - 22:39 | Permalink

                Earl,

                You wrote, “I am perfectly aware that directionality is present in the AoI. But it is not evidently present in the Ephesians hymn. So your imposition of it on Ephesians based solely on its presence in the AoI is unsupported and fallacious. That is a simple logical judgment.”

                My argument is not based “solely” on the “presence” of directionality in the AoI. I have pointed out to you other features that the Ephesians hymn has in common with the AoI ascension scene. And I have pointed out that I am not alone in noticing that the AoI provides “a significant early parallel to Eph 19” (Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch p. 88).

                But perhaps the reason we seem to be talking past each other is that we have different estimations of the AoI (just chapters 5 – 11, of course). You seem to see it as just another early Christian writing. But, as you know by now, I think it—-or something very much like it-—was the original written gospel. In the hands of a Simonian it was Simonized as GMark. GMatthew and GLuke were two proto-orthodox attempts to tame GMark. And GJohn was a proto-orthodox reworking of Apelles’ attempt to get back to a trustworthy Pauline gospel. (Apelles rejected Marcion’s attempt to accomplish the same with scissors).I won’t go into all the ways the original AoI-type gospel evolved in gnostic hands.

                So, for me, the AoI has a privileged position. That doesn’ t mean, of course, that everything written after it was a carbon copy. But I think it at least means its influence was not that of just any other early Christian writing.

              • Roger Parvus
                2013-03-26 23:16:08 UTC - 23:16 | Permalink

                Earl,

                I forgot to add that it was your writings that first put me on to the AoI. But I don’t blame you for where I’ve run with it!

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