2013-04-02

Final of “Letters Supposedly Written by Ignatius”: Tackling New Questions

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by Roger Parvus

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This post continues from The (Apellean) Gospel of Peregrinus and concludes the series.

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

Links to all posts in this series are collated at: Roger Parvus: Letters Supposedly Written by Ignatius

 

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In posts two through six I showed why Peregrinus should be regarded as the author of the so-called Ignatian letters. In posts seven through eleven I argued that he was an Apellean Christian.

In this post I will tie up some loose ends, adding some thoughts regarding the date of his letters, and taking a somewhat speculative last look at his community, the Apelleans.

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Apelles

Apelles: Canvas Poster Print

Contents of this post

WHEN WERE THE ORIGINAL LETTERS WRITTEN?

  • Terminus ante quem
  • Terminus post quem
  • ca 145 CE?
  • Or late 130s?

MODIFYING THE LETTERS: WHEN? WHY? WHO?

  • Between Irenaeus and Origen
  • How did he come by the letters?
  •  The evidence pointing to Theophilus of Antioch

WHAT BECAME OF THE APELLEAN GOSPEL?

  •  Basis of the Gospel of John?
  •  Gnostic threads in the Gospel of John
  •  Opposing views of the world in the Fourth Gospel
  •  Why the Gospel’s hostility to the Jews and Judaism
  •  Why no Passover or Baptism in John’s Gospel
  •  The missing Ascension in the Fourth Gospel
  •  Identifying the Paraclete (the mysterious witness to Jesus) : The Holy Spirit or Paul?
  •  Identifying the Beloved Disciple: Paul?
  •  Paul not a persecutor
  •  Paul (“little one”) the boy disciple?
  •  Paul or John?
  •  Affairs at Ephesus and Smyrna

AND WHAT BECAME OF THE APELLEANS?

  •  Identifying the woman taken in adultery?
  •  Returning to the fold

CONCLUSION

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WHEN WERE THE ORIGINAL LETTERS WRITTEN?

Using the chronological indications that Lucian provides in his sketch of Peregrinus, the year of the would-be martyr’s arrest can only be very roughly pegged to have occurred sometime between 130 and 150 CE.

Terminus ante quem

Peregrinus was a Cynic by the time of the Olympic games held in 153 (see note 22 of Harmon’s translation of The Death of Peregrinus). And at least a few years must be allowed for his dismissal by the Christians and his trips to Egypt and to Rome (The Death of Peregrinus, 16-18). That would yield a terminus ante quem of 150 CE for his arrest and the composition of the letters.

Terminus post quem

The terminus post quem is more difficult to pin down. G.A. Harrar, in his Studies in the Roman Province of Syria, would tentatively date the arrest to no earlier than 135 CE (p. 28). But since Lucian provides little guidance on that point, I would add a few years cushion to what Harrar proposed and thus arrive at a comfortable 130 to 150 CE window.

ca 145 CE?

Markion of Sinope

Markion of Sinope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the year of Marcion’s break with Rome were known with certainty, the date that Peregrinus composed his letters could be further narrowed down, for the schism mentioned in IgnPhil. 3:3 appears to be related to that break. The docetists — Marcionites, in my scenario — were refusing communion with non-docetic Christians (IgnSmyr. 6:2-7:1). Both proto-Catholics and the followers of Apelles fall into that non-docetic category. Harnack proposed 144 CE as the year of Marcion’s split, and his proposal has been widely embraced. He calculated it using a statement made by Tertullian that the Marcionites put 115 years and 6 and a half months between Christ and Marcion (Against Marcion, 1,19,2). And he argued that for the Marcionites the end point of that interval would have been the day that Marcion established his church by breaking with the church of Rome. That seems reasonable and I therefore am inclined to date the composition of Peregrinus’ letters to 145 CE or thereabouts.

Or late 130s?

There is, however, another opinion regarding what event was marked by the 115 year interval. Ernst Barnikol argued that the end point — 144 CE — was the date of Marcion’s death. That contention seems to conflict with a statement Justin makes in chapter twenty-six of his first Apologia. Justin is thought to have composed that work in the early 150s and in it he says that Marcion was still alive. In any event, if at some point it were found that Barnikol’s contention is in fact correct, the date of Peregrinus’ letters could be correspondingly pushed earlier to, say, the late 130s.

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MODIFYING THE LETTERS: WHEN? WHY? WHO?

 

Between Irenaeus and Origen

Peregrinus leapt to his fiery death in CE 165. About fifteen years later, when Irenaeus wrote his Against Heresies, the Christian letters of Peregrinus had not yet been changed into letters of Ignatius. Irenaeus used a quotation from IgnRom. 4:1 but apparently to avoid the embarrassment of acknowledging Peregrinus as the author of it, he attributed it only to “one of our people.” As noted in my sixth post, it is only later, in the writings of Origen, that ‘Ignatius, bishop of Antioch’ first appears as the author of the letters. In his Homilies on Luke (6:4), Origen says:

I have found it well written in one of the letters of a certain martyr — I am referring to Ignatius who was the second bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter and in a persecution fought with wild beasts at Rome — that ‘the virginity of Mary escaped the notice of the ruler of this age;’ escaped notice on account of Joseph, on account of their marriage because she was thought to have a husband.

The homily was written no earlier than the 230 CE. Thus it would seem that the letters of Peregrinus were transformed into letters of Ignatius sometime between CE 180 and 230.

His aims were limited to hiding Peregrinus’ authorship of the letters and to correcting perceived creedal deficiencies to salvage the letters for use by his own community. . . . He does not push for Roman authority . . . .

 

From the changes made to the letters it is clear that the redactor knew who Peregrinus was, knew his Apellean affiliation, and knew of his ultimate apostasy from Christianity. The changes also reveal the proto-Catholic affiliation of the redactor. He reroutes the prisoner to Rome instead of back to Antioch. He makes Polycarp the recipient of one of the letters. And the corrections he makes to Peregrinus’ Apellean beliefs bring them into line with proto-Catholic ones. His aims were limited to hiding Peregrinus’ authorship of the letters and to correcting perceived creedal deficiencies of the prisoner. I see no sign of any other agenda. He does not push for Roman authority over the other churches. And he does not try to base the local bishop’s authority on some kind of apostolic succession. To me this restraint indicates that his main goal was simply to salvage the letters for use by his own community.

How did he come by the letters?

How did he come by the letters? He may, of course, have come across them simply by chance. But there may be something more to his possession of them and his interest in them. The most likely place for them to have been gathered together and treasured would have been at Antioch, for it was there that Peregrinus was imprisoned. And it was to that city that Peregrinus requested delegates be sent to rejoice with him and pray for him. If the churches couldn’t send delegates to the most God-pleasing Antiochene council, they were directed to at least send letters to it (IgnPoly. 8:1).

Antioch, then, would seem to be the most likely place that a collection of the prisoner’s letters was made.

The evidence pointing to Theophilus of Antioch

And that is why Theophilus of Antioch catches my attention as a candidate for proto-Catholic redactor of the letters.

THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH

 

  • The right city
  • The right affiliation
  • The right time
  • The signature of the “Prophets” 
  • The fingerprint of the Gospel of John 
  • The coincidence of the Book of Proverbs 
  • The watermark of Philo 

He is from the right city, has the right affiliation, and was still alive during at least the earliest part of the 180 to 230 CE window.

And there are some additional considerations that make Theophilus an intriguing candidate. Robert M. Grant, in his analysis of To Autolycus, noted that “the prophet is Theophilus’ basic classification for Old Testament writers” (Greek Apologists of the Second Century, p. 162). We have seen in the letters that when the redactor wishes to neutralize Apellean dismissal of the Old Testament, he does so by inserting praise of the prophets.

Furthermore, the earliest patristic quotation from the Gospel according to John is found in To Autolycus (2,22). As I pointed out in earlier posts, Peregrinus’ Apellean gospel has definite Johannine affinities.

theophilus-of-antioch

Theophilus of Antioch

Add too that Theophilus says it was his study of Scripture that led to his conversion to Christianity. But the only book of the Old Testament that he is known to have written a commentary about (no longer extant) is the book of Proverbs. Set that alongside the fact that the only Old Testament book that Peregrinus quotes from is the book of Proverbs.

So I am wondering not only whether Theophilus of Antioch was the proto-Catholic redactor of Peregrinus’ letters, but also if earlier in his life he was an Apellean and personally acquainted with Peregrinus.

He may have even been mentioned in the letters. Two men, Philo and Rheus Agathopus, brought the news to Peregrinus that peace had been restored in the Antiochene church. I have already proposed that Agathopus is the Agathobulus who later initiated Peregrinus into Cynicism (TDOP, 17). But what about Philo? Could Philo be the shortened name chosen by the redactor ‘Theo-Philus’ to disguise his own involvement in the affair?

The letter to the Philadelphians says this:

Philo, the deacon from Cilicia, a man well-spoken of, is now ministering to me in the word of God, together with Rheus Agathopus, a remarkable man who has followed me from Syria and has renounced this life. (IgnPhil 11:1)

Thus Philo ministered to Peregrinus in the word of God and was, like Peregrinus himself, a deacon. And since he likely returned to Antioch to be there when Peregrinus arrived under military escort, he may have been one of those officials who, according to Lucian, “even slept inside with him after bribing the guards. Then elaborate meals were brought in, and sacred books of theirs were read aloud . . . ” (TDOP, 12, Harmon’s translation). As a minister in the word of God, Philo (Theophilus?) may have been the one who read sacred books aloud to Peregrinus in jail.

If I am right in my speculation about Theophilus of Antioch it would be he who made a collection of Peregrinus’ letters . . .

And it was he who thirty-five years later . . . decided to salvage them. He changed Peregrinus into Ignatius.

And it was he, Theophilus, who changed his hero’s adopted name ‘Hagiophorus’ to ‘Theophorus.’

If I am right in my speculation about Theophilus of Antioch — and, admittedly, that is all it is — it would be he who made a collection of Peregrinus’ letters at the most God-pleasing council in 145 CE.

And it was he who thirty-five years later still could not bear to throw the letters of Peregrinus in the trash. He decided to salvage them. He changed Peregrinus into Ignatius. And it was he, Theophilus, who changed his hero’s adopted name ‘Hagiophorus’ to ‘Theophorus.’

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WHAT BECAME OF THE APELLEAN GOSPEL?

The Gospel according to John may very well be a proto-Catholic redaction of the no longer extant Manifestations Gospel of Apelles.

Peregrinus’ proto-Catholic opponents at Philadelphia in effect said, “If we don’t find the archives in your gospel, we won’t believe in it” (IgnPhil. 8:2). His initial reaction was to assert that the archives were in some way represented in his gospel. To that assertion they, in turn, replied: “That deserves investigation.” It is natural to wonder what the outcome of their investigation was. Did they end up approving the Apellean Gospel?

My suspicion is that they ultimately did approve parts of it, but only after submitting them to the same kind of correction that the letters of Peregrinus underwent. They took the parts of the Apellean Gospel that appealed to them and clumsily put them together in a new way that left very obvious dislocations, rearrangements, and deletions. The archives were not deemed to be sufficiently represented in the Apellean Gospel so they inserted some Old Testament quotes that remedied that defect. Proto-Catholic beliefs were supplied where necessary to make up for the perceived deficiencies in the beliefs of Apelles and Philumena, the authors of the Apellean Gospel. The final product is known today as the Gospel according to John.

Many scholars refer to the earliest Johannine layer as the ‘Sign’s Gospel’ or ‘Signs Source.” It could just as appropriately be called the ‘Manifestations Gospel’ or ‘Manifestations Source’ . . . .

So my suspicion is that Apelles’ Gospel—which he also called the Manifestations (Greek: Phaneroseis) — may have been more than just Johannine-like; it may have been the actual text that the proto-Catholics reworked in the mid-second century to construct John’s Gospel. Many scholars refer to the earliest Johannine layer as the ‘Sign’s Gospel’ or ‘Signs Source.” It could just as appropriately be called the ‘Manifestations Gospel’ or ‘Manifestations Source’ since its signs are presented as manifestations of the glory of Jesus:

This the first of his signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (Jn. 2:11)

The Gospel according to John may very well be a proto-Catholic redaction of the no longer extant Manifestations Gospel of Apelles.

Apellean authorship of the foundation layer of John’s Gospel would be the reason that gospel contains its unusual mix of mild Gnosticism and strong anti-docetism.

Apellean authorship of the foundation layer of John’s Gospel would be the reason that gospel contains its unusual mix of mild Gnosticism and strong anti-docetism. Apelles was a very rare bird: An anti-docetic Gnostic.

Gnostic threads

His anti-docetism was apparently motivated by his belief that if Jesus did not have a real body his suffering would have been fake. But his Gnosticism would not allow him to provide his Jesus with a body made of materials from this flawed lower world. So his Jesus had flesh but not by way of any human birth, virginal or otherwise.

And that would be the reason the Fourth Gospel — even though it is the latest of the canonical gospels — does not have a nativity section

But it does contain the Gnostic dualistic contrasts between light and darkness, spirit and flesh, the world above and the world below. “What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:6). Those who are born of spirit recognize Jesus and listen to him. They belong to the Father above and the world above where they existed before they were enclosed in bodies. (Jn. 9:2 is the only reference to the soul’s pre-incarnational state that the proto-Catholic redactor allowed to remain in the final text). Those who are born of flesh have the devil for their father and cannot believe the words of Jesus.

Opposing views of the world in the Fourth Gospel

In the Apellean Gospel it was a subordinate Glorious Angel who created this imperfect lower world. The proto-Catholic redactor had to change this and make the Son of God its creator. Because of that change the “world” is viewed in two opposed ways in the Fourth Gospel. The Apellean Jesus says:

I revealed your name to those you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me. . . I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours. . . I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. (Jn. 17:6, 9 and 14)

But to offset this, the proto-Catholic redactor makes the gospel say, for instance, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . . (Jn. 3:16).

Why the Gospel’s hostility to the Jews and Judaism

The beginning verses of the Gospel of John, fr...

The beginning verses of the Gospel of John, from a facsimile edition of William Tyndale’s 1525 English translation of the New Testament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apelles’ views on the Old Testament can explain the hostility of the Johannine Jesus not just to Jews but to historical Judaism itself. In certain passages the Johannine Jesus seems not to be a Jew.

  • He tells the Jews: “Your”—not our—“ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died” (Jn. 6:49).
  • And the Law that the Jews claimed was given by God himself he dismissively calls “your Law.”
  • And he calls all their spiritual shepherds who came before him “thieves and brigands” (Jn. 10:8).
  • And he tells the Jews: “you have never heard his voice (the Father’s) nor seen his form” (Jn. 5:37);
  • and “no one has ascended into heaven except the one who came down from heaven” (Jn. 3:13).

No one? What about Moses? Enoch? Elijah? Isaiah? Who could have made the Johannine Jesus so antagonistic to his supposed heritage? I nominate Apelles, “who treated the writings of the Jews as fables, and says that Jesus is the only one who has visited the human race” (Origen, Against Celsus, 5,54).

Why no Passover or Baptism

Despite numerous proto-Catholic touch-ups, the Apellean under layer still often protrudes. That under layer is the reason why, contrary to the Synoptics, the Johannine Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples is not a Passover meal.

And it is the reason why the Fourth Gospel does not relate any baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer.

The missing Ascension

Remember, the redactor of Peregrinus’ letters had to include baptism by John in one of his interpolations (IgnSmyr. 1:1). Furthermore, there are indications that the under layer had an ascension scene that did not make the Fourth Gospel’s final cut (see Jn. 6:62). As has already been pointed out, Apelles’ version of a bodiless ascension by Jesus was unacceptable to the proto-Catholics.

Identifying the Paraclete: The Holy Spirit or Paul?

An Apellean provenance for the Fourth Gospel can also provide a plausible identification of the Paraclete, the mysterious figure who will bear witness to Jesus (Jn. 15:26) and “will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn. 14:26).

There have been scholars (e.g., Weizsäcker, Wernle) who sensed that, for the author of this Gospel, these words were meant to foretell the revelation of his work. His Jesus was in effect saying that he would one day send a Paraclete to reveal the Fourth Gospel. And it was suspected that, if that was the mindset of the evangelist, he likely viewed the older Gospels as in some way inadequate, defective or corrupt. Why would he have written the new Gospel if he was already happy with one of the existing ones?

Philumena claimed to receive her revelations via a phantasma who appeared to her and “. . . sometimes stated he was Christ, sometimes Paul.”

My Apellean scenario is in line with these insights. For Apelles, coming from a Marcionite background, considered the Gospels that existed in his time to be corrupt. And after his break with Marcion, he was dissatisfied too with the Gospel restoration his erstwhile teacher had undertaken with scissors. Apelles’ recourse to the revelations of his prophetess associate Philumena to form a new gospel (the Manifestations) is understandable if he was dissatisfied with those in existence. And since Philumena claimed to receive her revelations via a phantasma who appeared to her and “. . . sometimes stated he was Christ, sometimes Paul” (Latin Patrology 42, 30, n. 1), it is easy to see how such an arrangement could provide Apelles with a Pauline gospel he felt he could trust; one that had not been compromised beyond recovery by those he viewed as Judaizers.

Now the role of Philumena’s phantasma as a dual stand-in, sometimes speaking as Christ and sometimes as Paul, provokes a question. If Philumena thought that Christ was speaking to her, what need did she have for Paul too? Isn’t Paul superfluous in that situation? But from a Johannine perspective the presence of both makes sense. The Johannine Jesus requires two witnesses to support a claim:

If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony cannot be verified. But there is another who testifies on my behalf . . . the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf” (Jn. 5:31 and 37).

Thus, as I see it, the Paraclete sayings were originally spoken by Christ to Philumena, and the Paraclete that he promised to send was Paul.

So my suspicion is that (in Philumena’s mind) Christ spoke to her first in order to vouch for Paul whom he promised to send shortly. Yes, the gospel to be written was going to be a based on the testimony of Paul (similar to what Marcion claimed for his Gospel), but in order for it to have authority Christ needed to show up first to vouch for his successor Paraclete. Thus, as I see it, the Paraclete sayings were originally spoken by Christ to Philumena, and the Paraclete that he promised to send was Paul.

If this is correct, it would mean that it was only later, when the proto-Catholics adopted and re-worked Apelles’ gospel, that the Paraclete sayings were transferred to the farewell discourse of Jesus. And the sayings were altered in a few places to turn the Apellean Paraclete into the proto-Catholic Holy Spirit.

That they were not originally part of the farewell discourse is not a totally new idea. Or that the Paraclete was originally not the Holy Spirit. Hans Windisch, for example, held that:

The five Paraclete sayings do not belong in the original text of the farewell discourses. They are alien entities in the course of both dialogues . . . (The Spirit-Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel, p. 3).

And in the same work Windisch writes:

In his interesting work Le Quatrieme Évangile H. Delafosse, like Sasse, maintained that the identification of the Paraclete with the Holy Spirit is secondary . . . No matter what one may think about the integrity of the Paraclete sayings, it is certain (and at this point I am in agreement with Delafosse and Sasse) that the Spirit and the Paraclete are two very different figures. (pp. 1 and 20)

My Apellean theory can bring these two ideas into better focus by giving them a concrete provenance, and it can account for why Paul the Paraclete was turned into the Holy Spirit.

Identifying the Beloved Disciple: Paul?

Can we go further and identify Paul as the Beloved Disciple? I would not be the first to make that identification. One scholar who has made it is the late Michael Goulder, in his article “An Old Friend Incognito” (Scottish Journal of Theology, 1992, Vol. 45, pp. 487-513). And if I am right that the Fourth Gospel was Apellean in origin, it would seem reasonable to think that Paul was its Beloved Disciple. Apelles came from a Marcionite background where “The Gospel” was viewed as Paul’s gospel. There is nothing in the extant record to indicate that he ever switched his allegiance, so to speak, to some other disciple or apostle.

Paul not a persecutor

And Apelles’ background removes one big obstacle to identifying Paul as the Beloved Disciple: the claim that Paul had been a persecutor of the church. Remember, the persecutor scenario represents a proto-orthodox view of Paul. Marcionites rejected the Acts of the Apostles with its story of Paul the persecutor. And it is known that the verse in Galatians where Paul says he persecuted the church of God (Gal. 1:13) was not part of Marcion’s version of the letter. Apparently nowhere in Marcion’s Apostolicon was there anything about Paul being a former persecutor of the church (See Tertullian’s Against Marcion, 5, 1).

Paul (“little one”) the boy disciple?

It is possible then, that from an Apellean perspective “Paul” (which means “little one”; “child”) was viewed as a nickname for a boy disciple whose given name was “John.” That would explain why the phantasma who delivered the gospel to Philumena was “dressed as a boy.” And it would explain the curious passage in Vatican Codex 4222 which says the Beloved Disciple was a boy:

John, the most holy evangelist was the youngest among all the apostles. Him the Lord held (in his arms) when the apostles discussed who among them was greatest and when he said: He who is not converted as this boy will not enter the kingdom of heaven’. It is he who reclined against the Lord’s breast. It is he whom Jesus loved more than the others and to whom he gave his mother Mary and whom he gave as son to Mary. (my emphasis)

Paul or John?

And it could explain too why, even in Peregrinus’ letter to the Ephesians, Paul but no John is mentioned. If the name John is absent from a mid-second-century letter to Christians in Ephesus, the reason may be that for the Christians in question — Apelleans — Paul was John.

When was the Gospel of John composed?

Finally, to bring to a close my contention that the original Fourth Gospel was Apellean, I would note that Apelles lived at the right time and place to be the author of it. It was apparently written shortly after the bar Kosiba revolt, as betrayed by the verse:

I am come in my Father’s name and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, him you will receive (Jn. 5:43).

And perhaps also by:

Yes, the hour is coming when whosoever kills you will think that he offers service to God (Jn. 16:2).

Affairs at Ephesus and Smyrna

The place of origin of the Fourth Gospel has traditionally been associated with Ephesus. This, as we see from the letters of Peregrinus, was an area with an Apellean presence in the 140s. And just a few short miles from Ephesus was Smyrna, which is of interest because the martyrologies of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church honor as the first bishop of that city a man named — you guessed it — Apelles.

Of all the bishops mentioned in the so-called Ignatians, it is the bishop of Smyrna whose authority stands out the most prominently:

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. Wherever the bishop is, there let the people be; just as wherever Christ Jesus is, there is the whole church. It is not permitted either to baptize or to hold an agape independently of the bishop; but whatever he approves has God’s approval too. Everything that is done in this way is sure and legitimate. (IgnSmyr. 8:1-2)

Nothing quite as emphatic as this is said about the authority of the other bishops. Which leads me to think that the bishop in question may have been the head of the Apellean church, that he was none other than Apelles himself.

If so, it was Apelles who, in the doctored Ignatians, was replaced with Polycarp by the proto-Catholic interpolator. And, as I see it, it was the Gospel of Apelles that was converted by the proto-Catholics into the Gospel according to John.

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AND WHAT BECAME OF THE APELLEANS?

If I am right that the Fourth Gospel was put together by the proto-Catholics from Apellean materials, I think the Apelleans themselves must have been willing parties to that arrangement. It is hard to see how the proto-Catholics could have just taken over in the 150s the Apellean gospel and re-worked it if the Apelleans themselves were not amenable to that course of action. And there is in the extant record one hint that could explain why they were so amenable: the apparent fall from grace of their prophetess Philumena. Tertullian says that she “became a monstrous prostitute.”

It’s hard to know for sure what Tertullian meant by that. It could refer to a sexual infraction, but not necessarily. In the Bible sexual language is often used for infidelity to God. But there is one consideration that inclines me to think Philumena’s sin was adultery: Already in some of the earliest Old Latin (pre-Vulgate) translations of the Fourth Gospel there is found the story of a woman caught in adultery. How the story came to be lodged there has always been a mystery.

Christ and fhe Adulterous Woman

Christ and fhe Adulterous Woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Identifying the woman taken in adultery?

My hunch is that some early (end second-century) Latin translator was in the know about the true origin of this gospel and inserted a story about a forgiven fallen woman as a way to discreetly honor Philumena, the compromised woman who played such a key role its composition. The story contains the only instance in any of the gospels where Jesus writes, albeit with his finger in the dust. And the place in the gospel where the story was most often located is its present position immediately before Jesus’ proclamation, “I am the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12). In many of the Old Latin versions the ‘light’ in the proclamation is rendered by the word “lumen.” Now, although the name ‘Philumena’ is of Greek origin, I think it is conceivable that a Latin translator chose the placement of the story based on the presence in her name of the letters that spell the Latin word for light: Phi-lumen-a. The writing finger of Jesus and the placement of the story, then, may have been the way he surreptitiously identified who the forgiven adulteress represents.

The second-century record contains no condemnation of Apelles, Philumena and Apelleans. . . . This silence of Irenaeus is huge.

Be that as it may, that there was indeed some kind of agreement between the proto-Catholic church and the Apelleans seems indicated by the fact that the second-century record contains no condemnation of Apelles, Philumena and Apelleans. Tertullian, writing at the beginning of the third century and about thirty years after the death of Apelles, is the first proto-Catholic heresy hunter to target them. In taking aim at Apelles, Tertullian makes clear that he is targeting a figure from the previous generation and that he considers Marcion, Valentinus and Apelles to be its heretical ‘Big Three’ (On the Prescription of Heretics, 30). That makes it all the more telling that Irenaeus, writing thirty years earlier, nowhere condemns or even mentions Apelles, his followers or his doctrines even though he condemns by name many lesser heretical figures and teachings. In my opinion this silence of Irenaeus is huge.

Returning to the fold

But does the mid-second-century record contain any positive indications about the merger I am proposing? I believe it does. In the Against Heresies of Irenaeus we read:

He (Polycarp) it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus, caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics (Valentinus and Marcion) to the church of God . . . (3.3.4)

If any group of Marcion-tainted people were ripe for merging back with the proto-Catholic church of Rome in the 150s, it was the Apelleans.

As I see it, if any group of Marcion-tainted people were ripe for merging back with the proto-Catholic church of Rome in the 150s, it was the Apelleans. Apelles, as we have seen, turned away from Marcion, rejected his rigorism and docetism, and returned to belief in a single supreme God. And from the letters of Peregrinus we can see that the Apelleans blamed the docetists (Marcionites) for the schism in the church and reproached them for refusing to take part in the Apellean Eucharists. In contrast, there is no indication of similar refusal on the part of the proto-Catholics. And the letters witness that the Apelleans were still on speaking-terms with them. I suspect that this relationship became stronger and that they ultimately formed a common front against Marcion.

But, one could object: Did not Apelles continue to hold that the Old Testament contained many fables and falsehoods?

It would seem so.

  • The heretic Rhodon claimed as much when he described his conversation with the elderly Apelles.
  • But it is important to remember that in the mid-second century, even among the proto-Catholics, there apparently was no unanimity about how free from error the Old Testament was. Thus Justin, though he himself held that no Scripture contradicts another, mentions some fellow Christians of his who hold a different view (Dialogue with Trypho, 65).
  • And there are the pseudo-Clementine Homilies, about which a decent case can be made that the document they were based on was of mid-second century proto-Catholic provenance. In them Peter acknowledges several times that there are falsehoods and errors in the Old Testament. And three times he quotes the agraphon that was also a favorite with Apelles: “Become competent moneychangers,” the meaning of which is that Christians must carefully determine which parts and verses of Scripture are genuine and which are not.

And Apelles was apparently not dogmatic in his position regarding the Old Testament. He did not consider acceptance of his view necessary for salvation. For according to Rhodon, the aged Apelles asserted “that those who had placed their hope in the crucified one would be saved, if they only were found doing good works” (Church History, Eusebius, 5, 13, 6). These are not the words of a hardliner.

So I see no insurmountable obstacle to a mid-second-century merger between the proto-Catholics and the Apelleans. It may even be an approval of Apelles that is lodged in chapter 16 of Romans. That chapter appears to be a late addition. It was not in Marcion’s version. And some scholars see it as being originally addressed to the church of Ephesus. When the proto-Catholics did a final revision of the Pauline letters, did they make Paul issue a prophetic ok for Apelles?

Welcome Apelles, who is approved in Christ (Rom. 16:10).

.

CONCLUSION

The letters of Peregrinus are precious. I am convinced they give us a glimpse into the short-lived community led by Apelles whose gospel may have ultimately been transformed into the Gospel according to John. And they give us new insight, of course, into that strange character who was Peregrinus. Even though he had “interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many” (TDOP, 11), he appeared to have been so thoroughly disowned by the Christians that no trace of his literary efforts for them remained. But lo and behold some letters of his were extant all along, hidden under the Ignatian veneer that had been imposed on them. The man who, according to Lucian, was hopelessly driven throughout his life by a relentless thirst for glory can again tell us in his own words about the early days when, adorned with his most God-pleasing chains, he first gained the adulation of a multitude. One cannot help but be captivated, and I have very much enjoyed getting to know him through his letters — the letters supposedly written by Ignatius of Antioch.

Roger Parvus

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26 Comments

  • 2013-04-02 18:33:41 UTC - 18:33 | Permalink

    Thanks so much, Roger, for a thought provoking series and finale. Three questions for now:

    1. is your suggestion re the origin of the Gospel of John compatible with Thomas Brodie’s argument that that Gospel is a tidily strucutured, coherent literary work?

    2. How would your suggestion throw light upon the apparent Valentinian interest in the Gospel of John?

    3. If there is an ascension scene missing (i.e. removed) from what became the Gospel of John, I imagine that within the parameters of our present Gospel, this would have fallen between the time Mary was told not to touch the resurrected Jesus on Sunday morning and the time when Jesus appeared with the disciples, telling them to touch him, that evening. If so, would not such an ascension (with Jesus sloughing off his material elements — so they returned to their stardom nature — as he soared through the heavens) inevitably be something of a climax so that anything following must be plain bathos. Comment?

    • Roger Parvus
      2013-04-03 08:46:51 UTC - 08:46 | Permalink

      Hi Neil,

      1. I haven’t yet read Brodie’s writings on GJohn. I understand that he thinks its author knew the synoptic gospels and Pauline letters. I agree with that. If I am right that Apelles was the author, he would have known the Apostolicon, GLuke and—since he travelled to Alexandria and Rome—likely knew GMark and GMatthew too. So I would expect a certain amount of intertextuality can be detected in GJohn. Although Apelles, as an ex-Marcionite, would have considered other gospels in existence to be corrupt, he certainly didn’t start with a blank slate when he wrote his own gospel.

      But I don’t see how GJohn, as it currently stands, could be a “tidily structured, coherent literary work.” The structure and coherence it may once have had would have been compromised to some extent by the proto-Catholic re-working it underwent. Just, for example, the moving of the Paraclete sayings to the farewell discourses would untidy things a bit. And even apart from my theory, many scholars past and present have seen and see numerous rough spots, dislocations, and rearrangements in the text.

      But to be fair, I should first read Brodie’s argument before commenting further about it.

      2. Valentinus lived about the same time as Apelles and they spent time in some of the same places, e.g., Alexandria and Rome. So I would not be surprised if they knew each other. If so, all it would take for Valentinus to become interested in GJohn would be the conviction that it was based on an authentic revelation to Philumena. Proto-Catholics were able to buy into that, so I expect it would have been even easier for gnostic Christians like Valentinus to do so.

      3. I doubt the Apellean ascension scene was located between the time Mary was told not to touch (“hold fast; grasp” using Greek “haptomai”) Jesus and the time, later the same day, when he showed his disciples his hands and his side. Locating the ascension there would require that Jesus go through the whole rigmarole again of getting a body and then discarding it. I expect the ascension was one of the signs/manifestations and stood at the very end of Apelles’ Gospel, where now there is a simple summary: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.” (Jn. 20:30)

      I realize that an ascension at the very end of GJohn means that the Spirit was given before the ascension. But I’m not sure that would have been a problem for Apelleans. It seems to fit with the post-resurrection passage in the letter of Ignatius/Peregrinus to the Smyrneans:

      And when he came to those who were with Peter, he said to them, “Take, handle me and see that I am not a bodiless phantom.” And immediately they grasped him and believed, being intermingled with his flesh and his spirit. Because of that they despised death, and were found to rise above death. And after the resurrection he ate and drank with them as a being of flesh, although spiritually united with the Father (IgnSmyr. 3:1-3, my bolding).

      In this passage the disciples “grasped” Jesus. The Greek word for “grasp” is the same word used in John’s Gospel to describe how Mary Magdalene held on to Jesus in the garden (and, by the way, the word is not used in the post-resurrection scenes of any of the other canonical gospels). And as a result of grasping him they were “intermingled with his flesh and spirit.” As Peregrinus sees it, that intermingling with the flesh and spirit of Jesus is the reason they henceforth had the courage to despise death.

      This “intermingling with the flesh and spirit” of Jesus could be the Apellean version of the giving of the Holy Spirit. It was initially given by physically touching the risen Jesus. He, being spiritually united with the Father, was the physical conduit after his resurrection for the Spirit who could be accessed by believers via intermingling with the risen one’s flesh and spirit. (I wonder if this is what is behind the physical imposition of hands in ordination and confirmation rites. Those who have the Spirit can in turn pass it on via physical touching).

      Now it is true that GJohn, as it currently stands, does not say clearly that the disciples touched Jesus. It uses a word that is usually translated “see” but that can mean perception by any of the senses: “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (Jn. 20:20). In the subsequent “doubting Thomas” scene, however, the same “see” word is used when Jesus tells Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands” (Jn. 20:27). The sense, from the context, would seem to be: “Put your finger here and feel my hands.” So the seeing that took place in Jn. 20:20 too may have been with hands.

      If my theory about the Apellean origin of the Fourth Gospel is right, the passage from it mentioned by IgnSmyr. 3 did not survive intact when the proto-Catholics re-worked it. Perhaps they wanted to bring an Old Testament motif into it as part of their sanitizing of the Gospel. The Spirit is given instead by the breath (Jn. 20:22) of Jesus. Some scholars think a Genesis creation motif was intended.

      The proto-Catholic editor did keep the IgnSmyr. 3:2 word “Take”(Greek: labete) in the scene (and again GJohn is the only Gospel whose post-resurrection scene has that word). But he has Jesus use it to give the Holy Spirit (“Take the Holy Spirit.” – Jn. 20:22) without any bodily contact.

      • 2013-04-03 09:47:10 UTC - 09:47 | Permalink

        So it looks as though an original scene of clearly touching Jesus has been removed because in its original version the touching implied something more than Jesus being mere flesh along with processes that were not acceptable to proto-orthodoxy; the emphasis in GJohn is that Jesus is proclaimed to be flesh for the sake of being flesh only. Any notion of touching is implied rather than made a special event in itself.

        Concerning the Luke-John overlaps, do you know if these speak of Luke as we know it today or if they can be explained by John referencing a proto-(pre-Marcionite or Marcionite) Luke?

        • Roger Parvus
          2013-04-04 23:13:35 UTC - 23:13 | Permalink

          As far as I can see, the items that GJohn’s uses from GLuke are ones that are in both the canonical and Marcionite versions of it. Mention of Mary and Martha, for instance, and Annas.

          But of course, in common with Marcionite Luke, in GJohn there is no human genealogy for Jesus, or nativity, or early childhood story. On the other hand there is none of Marcion’s rigorism in the text. Tertullian seems to say that it was Marcion’s rigorism that actually sparked Apelles’ desertion of him. So perhaps that was the motivation behind the Fourth Gospel’s first sign, the wine miracle at Cana. In that one episode we have at least three things that Marcion would have found offensive: (1) Jesus attending a wedding, (2) Jesus providing wine for it — abundant and of the best quality too! and (3) Jesus working his first sign at the request of his mother. What happened to making family — even putative family — take a back seat?

  • Gorit Maqueda
    2013-04-03 05:38:56 UTC - 05:38 | Permalink

    I read somewhere that there are two versions of the Ignatian letters: the short recession and the long recession. How does your theory account for these two versions, Roger?

    • Roger Parvus
      2013-04-04 22:18:17 UTC - 22:18 | Permalink

      The long recension is a later, padded version of the letters, and includes an additional six clearly spurious ones. Much of the padding consists of obviously fictional material and extensive Scriptural quotations aimed at later heresies. Scholars usually date it to the 4th century at the earliest, and so it has no bearing on my theory.

  • Jens Knudsen (Sili)
    2013-04-08 00:04:22 UTC - 00:04 | Permalink

    This has certainly been a good yarn, but at the risk of engaging in a genetic fallacy, I have to ask why you haven’t published your hypothesis (I really don’t like your use of “theory”, but it appears to be almost standard in NT scholarship)?

    It isn’t really proper for me as a layman to accept work that hasn’t passed through the initial filter of peer review.

    • 2013-04-08 18:42:31 UTC - 18:42 | Permalink

      “It isn’t really proper for me as a layman to accept work that hasn’t passed through the initial filter of peer review.”

      If you only want to live by authoritative pronouncements then it isn’t proper, as you say.

      But if you study the works for yourself, including those of peer review, you will see that there are many various views, some of them conflicting, and many unresolved questions. You are free to think through what they all say, what the evidence is, how it has been interpreted and the reasons for these various views, and seriously consider informed possibilities for yourself.

      You are free to raise these with scholars and ask for their feedback. You are free to think for yourself.

      That does not mean thinking you know more than the experts. It means someone who has taken on board what the experts say and thought through questions in ways they have apparently not. That doesn’t mean pig-headedness but it means engaging with the evidence, with the interpretations offered, with the assumptions made, and suggesting — tentatively — an informed alternative. That’s what Roger has done.

      The alternative is to select a range of peer review articles and embrace any assumptions they have made, but never apparently questioned, and submit to any of those that takes your fancy. Any questions others may have can be ignored if they have not been considered or addressed by the status quo.

      So it’s not a question of “accepting” Roger’s thesis or some other. That’s mindlessness. It’s a matter of thinking through and understanding the alternatives and making tentative conclusions or embracing unresolved questions for yourself.

      Having said that, have you read Roger’s own comments in this series about future publication? By offering your own considered criticisms you might be able to help him fine-tune the thesis.

      • 2013-04-09 05:48:56 UTC - 05:48 | Permalink

        I had not seen the comments about publication, no. Thank you for enlightening me. I do indeed feel stupid now.

        I’m not in a position to review Roger’s excellent work. There is very little I can bring to the table. While I can of course judge the logic and narrative for myself, I’m simply not sufficiently conversant with the sources to know if they’ve been represented fairly. For that I have to rely on Roger’s – and your – scholarly ethos.

        This is no different from my engagement with Mark Goodacre’s work on Q and Thomas. I simply do not know if he’s lying to me – but I can see from the reviews that he’s not being called out for doing so. His logic may be attacked, but on that case at least I know enough to dismiss or acknowledge the reviewer.

        Another case: I’m reading Joel Watts’ on mimetic criticism now, after having enjoyed MacDonald’s mimesis criticism on Mark and Homer. I cannot (yet)ge who’s right – if either, but I notice that I’m reluctant to agree with Watts, because I’ve been fond of MacDonald’s hypothesis. That certainly is no way to judge an argument, but my ability to check the sources for myself is limited. By time and ability.

        • 2013-04-09 06:40:18 UTC - 06:40 | Permalink

          Hi Jens — Sorry, I think I was too hard on you in my first post. I misjudged the tone of your original comment. I apologize.

    • Roger Parvus
      2013-04-09 02:02:00 UTC - 02:02 | Permalink

      Jens,

      As Neil indicated, I do welcome constructive criticism. And I am intending to submit the first part of my thesis (i.e., Peregrinus was the author of the original letters) to a scholarly journal. But whether it gets accepted for publication may depend on more

      than its intrinsic merit. My credentials — just a standard Catholic seminary education—are not normally considered sufficient by scholarly journals.

      • 2013-04-09 05:54:20 UTC - 05:54 | Permalink

        Thank you. I’m sorry if I caused any offence. It was never my intention to dismiss your work. I hope your work is judged on its merits as it should be. I’ll be looking forward to re-reading your thesis then.

        I’m just trying to be as honest with myself, as I ask others to be. For comparison I have a colleague who teaches high school religion, who has a layman’s interest in physics and I’m exasperated by his fawning over whatever comes out of Michiko Kaku’s mouth. Much is well-tested work on which there is scholarly consensus, but unfortunately it is sprinkled with rampant speculation without any attempt to keep the two apart.

        I’m just trying to keep myself from becoming the equivalent of a fanboy for the claim that the Higgs field has something to do Cosmic Inflation.

  • Aaron
    2014-01-27 13:57:52 UTC - 13:57 | Permalink

    Could the opening salutation in 2 John be a possible reference to this Philumena?

    • Roger Parvus
      2014-01-27 20:17:03 UTC - 20:17 | Permalink

      Perhaps. But Philumena was believed to be the medium of messages from Christ and Paul. So it would seem to be a better fit if she was the “chosen sister” (2 Jn. 13) who sent the 2 John message.

      Robert Price, in his Pre-Nicene New Testament, says that “Kuria” is widely attested as a proper name (p. 735). If so, I think 2 John may be a letter in which Philumena, the “chosen sister,” is relaying a message from Paul (the Elder) to a woman named Kuria who was the leader of a house church. Verses 12 and 13 would be Philumena’s postscript.

  • DoublePlus
    2014-05-11 15:28:25 UTC - 15:28 | Permalink

    I might be jumping to conclusions here, but if john 2 is endproduct of a request for advice from a house church leader to Philumena/Apelles aka the channelers of Paul in the second century…

    That sounds like a pretty sweet business to run. And a strong motivation to disregard the old testament.

  • Greg Pandatshang
    2014-06-17 00:08:41 UTC - 00:08 | Permalink

    Roger,

    Do you have a sense of when chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation (of John of Patmos) were composed? The author of Revelation addresses churches in the same part of the world where Apelleans were active (assuming you Peregrinian and Apellean theories). Is it possible that “the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess” in Revelation 2:20 is really Philumena?

    • Roger Parvus
      2014-06-17 12:48:36 UTC - 12:48 | Permalink

      There are some scholars who think that the latest parts of Revelation could have been written as late as 140. Charles Talbert, for instance, on page 9 of his “The Apocalypse: A Reading of the Revelation of John” says that “When all is said and done, all that is required is that Revelation be written in time for Papias to know it (A.D. 140s).” So timewise it seems possible that the Jezebel of Revelation could be Philumena. I did at one time consider her a good candidate as the Jezebel but I have reconsidered. For one thing, in the description of enemies in the seven Revelation letters there is a lot of overlapping, and it seems likely to me that local variations of basically the same rival church are being described. If so, I doubt that the church in question was Apellean, since I doubt that Apelleans claimed “to be Jews” (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).

      I now think the rival church makes best sense as being next-generation Simonian. The seven letters in chapters 2-3 of Revelation would have been written between CE 70 and 100 against a Simonian church that had Simon’s successor, Menander, at its helm. One of the Revelation letters is addressed to Laodicea. As you know, I think Menander (Timothy?) wrote the deutero-Pauline letters to Ephesus and Colossae. At the end of Colossians the church of Laodicea is greeted, and some think that Ephesians was originally addressed to the Laodiceans.

      That the rivals “call themselves apostles” (Rev. 2:2; ) fits an end first century scenario better than a 140s one. And if indeed Timothy is a substitute name for Menander, he does seem to be considered an apostle in 1 Thessalonians (1:1 with 2:7). The proto-orthodox say that Menander was Samaritan but operated out of Antioch. Perhaps the word “Nicolaitans” (in Rev. 2:6 and 2:15) indicates some kind of tie to Antioch, since Acts 6:5 speaks of a “Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.”

      If the rival church was next-generation Simonian, the harlot Jezebel may be the ex-prostitute Helen. We have no idea when Helen died, but assuming she was younger than Simon she likely survived him and had a significant role in his church under Menander. Among the very few things Irenaeus says about Menander is that he continued to teach that “The world was made by angels, whom he (Menander) too—like Simon—said had been brought forth by Ennoia” (Against Heresies 1, 23, 5).
      Ennoia (Thought) is one of the terms used for Helen, apparently because Simon claimed she was his First Thought. Epinoia is an equivalent word that the proto-orthodox heresy hunters sometimes use when describing her role in Simon’s system. Gerd Ludemann has proposed that in Acts 8:22 the expression “the thought (epinoia) of your heart” is a surreptitious reference to Helen. Something similar may be going on in the Revelation passage that speaks of Jezebel. There Christ says that he will kill Jezebel’s children and then all the churches will know that he “searches reins and hearts.” The word “reins” is literally “kidneys; loins” but is usually taken here as the seat of one’s inmost thoughts.

      So these are some of the reasons that for me, at least at the moment, Helen is a better Jezebel than Philumena.

      • Greg Pandatshang
        2014-06-17 22:38:55 UTC - 22:38 | Permalink

        Interesting. The Simon-Helen dyad is, broadly speaking, similar to the Apelles-Philumena dyad. Any idea how common this type of man-woman prophetic team was in the religious culture of the day?

        Do we have any indication as to whether Simon and Helen or Apelles and Philumena had a marital/sexual relationship in addition to their business (prophetic) partnership? Philumena was supposed to be a virgin, right, so I imagine a sexual relationship with Apelles would’ve had to be secret/esoteric. How suggestive (but of what, exactly?) that Apelles was reported to have fallen from the celibacy of Marcion, while Philumena eventually “became a monstrous prostitute”!

        • Roger Parvus
          2014-06-19 14:50:15 UTC - 14:50 | Permalink

          Regarding Apelles and Philumena: There is nothing in the extant record to indicate that their relationship was ever sexual. None of the heresy hunters who speak of them accuse them of that. However, Tertullian (in ch. 30 of his Prescription of Heresies 30) does say that before Apelles became associated with Philumena he had already abandoned Marcionite chastity by falling in with a woman. Since it was “Marcionite chastity” that Apelles abandoned, this may mean nothing more than that he repudiated Marcion’s rigorist views regarding marriage. It may indicate that Apelles married sometime between his break with Marcion and his association with Philumena.

          Regarding Simon and Helen: A couple of proto-orthodox writers (Hippolytus; Epiphanius) intimate that Simon’s relationship with her was sexual from the start but that he hid this for a time from his disciples. And they say that when Simon could no longer hide the true nature of the relationship, he came out with his claim that he was the Great Power of God and she his First Thought. This may be true but, of course, we need to always remember that the information comes from Simon’s enemies.

      • Greg Pandatshang
        2014-06-20 23:13:14 UTC - 23:13 | Permalink

        I’m also trying to get my head around the possible sequence of events here. At some point in the late 1st century (?), the sectarians (the Baptist’s Christian Jews? Proto-proto-orthodox?) behind Revelation chapters 2 and 3 wrote messages to seven churches in Asia (including Ephesus, Smyrna, and Philadelphia) complaining about the influence of Simonians in those churches. Therefore, at that time, there were significant numbers of both Simonians and Revelator-allies coexisting uncomfortably in Asia.

        Ca. 145, Peregrinus writes seven letters to some of the same churches in Asia (including Ephesus, Smyrna, and Philadelphia). At this point, there seem to be three factions coexisting uncomfortably in these churches: but now the factions are “Judaizers” (presumably proto-orthodox), docetists (presumably Marcionites), and the Apelleans (our heroes!).

        Did the allies of the Revelator develop organically into the proto-orthodox? And the Simonian faction developed into the Marcionites and Apelleans? But I read in the “Simonian Origin” that, per Irenaeus, Marcion’s connection to the Simonians was a bit tenuous: he was the pupil of Cerdo in Rome. This doesn’t make it sound as if Marcion’s community grew directly out of the Simonian movement.

        • Roger Parvus
          2014-06-23 12:09:28 UTC - 12:09 | Permalink

          I think the years from the end of the first century to around 130 are the most obscure in the history of Christianity. The obscurity is due, I think, to the absence of Christian writings composed in that period. Either not much was being written or not much of it was later deemed worth sanitizing by the proto-orthodox who started to create their own version of Christianity around 130. So to determine the relationship between the Christianities reflected in the writings before and after that obscure period is even more difficult than usual. Since the only thing we have to go on are the before and after writings themselves, any conclusions are even more speculative than usual.

          That said, I personally don’t see any direct or organic relationship between the Revelation churches at Ephesus, Smyrna and Philadelphia around CE 80 and the Christian churches in those cities about fifty or sixty years later. The reason may be because the seven churches (with Ephesus, Smyrna and Philadelphis among them) addressed in chapters 2-3 of Revelation were at some advanced stage of dissolution. The author of Revelation reproaches them severely for falling away. The Ephesians are told to realize how far they have fallen and they are warned that unless they repent the Lord is going to come and remove their lampstand from its place (Rev. 2:5). The church of Sardis has the reputation of being alive, but in fact is dead (Rev. 3:1). Only “a few” (Rev. 3:4) there have not soiled their garments. The Philadelphians have only “limited strength” (Rev. 3:8). The Laodiceans are neither hot nor cold, so the Lord was getting ready to spit them out (Rev. 3:16). It is not a pretty picture. Perhaps the continued failure of the Revelation prophecies to materialize was behind the falling away. If the churches ultimately did break up, surviving members may have switched over to other varieties of Judaism or Christianity.

          I’m doubtful too that there was much of a unified Simonian church in existence in the 140s. To judge by the Pauline letters, even while Simon/Paul was alive he had a hard time keeping his churches on the same page. It is probably the nature of prophetic religion. On this subject P.L. Couchoud writes:

          “The early vigour and rapid growth of Christianity were due to the prophets, but had they lasted much longer they would have caused its early death. As fast as the churches multiplied, the number of prophets grew in geometrical progression; and prophecy does not tolerate mediocrity. Paul and John [i.e., the author of Revelation] were the torch-bearers of the procession, and after them came a great multitude of minor prophets, who left nothing capable of survival…

          The prophetic gift is a principle of anarchy. Each prophet is divinely inspired, therefore of the highest authority. Where their divine inspirations disagreed, there was dispute, and there could develop no common accord. What had brought about the end of the Jewish prophets of six centuries before now brought about an end to the Christian prophets. The Lord was late in coming; the ekklesia which anxiously awaited the Advent became over-numerous and their adherents difficult to manage. Re-organization or bankruptcy became the word of the day.” (The Creation of Christ, p. 109).

          Simon’s personality may have loosely held his churches together during his life, but that unity probably fell apart pretty quickly after his death. The splintering and multiplication of gnostic offshoots appears to have been well under way by the mid-second century. Menander is mentioned as the successor of Simon but the extant record is silent about any subsequent successor. Menander himself may have unwittingly harmed the Simonian churches by a new teaching of his. According to Irenaeus, Menander at some point claimed that “his disciples received resurrection through baptism into him, and they can no longer die, but remain without growing old and immortal.” If Irenaeus is not distorting here, that is a doctrine that would set one up for failure, for I very very strongly suspect that his baptized followers kept getting old and dying!

          • Wentham
            2014-06-23 13:41:04 UTC - 13:41 | Permalink

            But then it was precisely the various priestly/Platonistic/gnostic/Marcion elements that insisted that we might die physically, but our spirit lives on immortally. Or in a version of this, we live on “in heaven.” And this kind of metaphoricalization of “eternal life” went on. To become liberal/spiritual Christianity.

            So finally, much of this stuff got incorporated into mainstream Christianity itself. It became the priestly side of it. The side that (after Origin, Philo etc.) tended to read promises of miracles, afterlife, as metaphors for spiritual things, or things in “heaven.”

  • Giuseppe
    2014-06-17 13:38:18 UTC - 13:38 | Permalink

    From what I learned prima facie it seems that the consensus thinks that the Judeo-christians authors of Revelation were strong opponents of Paul, but not the direct heirs of Pillars, who with Paul never quarreled at end, but had only some ”little” dissension about circumcisio.

    It seems to me a strain of mind the idea that the authors of Revelation are only a kind of ”crazed cell” of the Church of Jerusalem and not instead the his direct prosecution, full of hate versus ”Paul” and co.

    Bruno Bauer was mistaken when he thought Revelation is the first written christian document, but in some way he was right: Revelation gives the forma mentis of how a true Christian Jew (like James) would react to the action of an Paul…

    Maybe the only reason to think otherwise is explained by Carrier in reply to Vinny.

  • James D. Williams
    2015-01-06 02:23:32 UTC - 02:23 | Permalink

    Here is a full list (with examples) where Ignatius “quotes” the Canonical Gospels and letters: https://web.archive.org/web/20150627022855/http://www.ntcanon.org/Ignatius.shtml
    To me, the “quotes” look like ‘normal’ every day expressions… See for yourself!

    • Aaron
      2015-01-07 18:24:21 UTC - 18:24 | Permalink

      “castaway”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-01-08 12:02:26 UTC - 12:02 | Permalink

      They do seem slight. But since they are not assigned to any source and are used in quite different contexts such evidence, I think, more likely points to common pools of language. The faithful tend to have a certain shared language and we see it come though across different documents this way.

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