Category Archives: Roger Parvus


2013-10-06

A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 3: Three Deutero-Paulines

by Roger Parvus

This is the third post in the series: A Simonian Origin for Christianity.

From the previous post:

Cerdo, from Antioch, learned his doctrines of two gods from the Simonians. (Irenaeus: Against Heresies, 1.27,1).

Cerdo, like Marcion after him, also believed that the Pauline letters had been interpolated and some forged. (Tertullian: Against All Heresies, 6.2).

Cerdo arrived in Rome shortly before Marcion. Marcion incorporated much of Cerdo’s teaching in his own work, Antitheses. (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 7,25)

In the previous post I showed how my hypothesis would tie the inconsistencies in the Pauline letters to the early conflict between Simonian and proto-orthodox Christians.

  • The inconsistencies would have resulted from proto-orthodox interpolations made to letters that were of Simonian provenance.
  • The intent behind the interpolations was to correct Simonian errors.
  • I noted how the earliest known Christian to claim that the Paulines had been interpolated was someone associated with a Simonian from Antioch.
  • And I provided from the first chapter of the letter collection an example of an interpolation that appears to have Simon in view.

In this post I want to show how the three earliest Deutero-Pauline letters would fit into my hypothetical scenario.

I will show how Simon’s successor, Menander, makes a good candidate for author of the letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians.

And I will propose a new explanation for why 2 Thessalonians was written.
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Three Deutero-Paulines: Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians

Colossians and Menander

Even though what the extant record says about Menander is meager, the little it does provide is sufficient to show that he should be considered a good candidate for author of Colossians.Justin, our earliest source on Menander, says that he, like Simon, was originally from Samaria but “deceived many while he was in Antioch” (1st Apologia, 26). His activity in Antioch occurred presumably in the last third of the first century. And the theological development that occurred within Simonian Christianity when Menander succeeded Simon looks very much like what took place between the seven so-called undisputed letters and Colossians, the earliest of the Deutero-Paulines..

quote_begin In Colossians, someone claiming to be Paul says that those who have been baptized into Christ have already experienced a kind of spiritual resurrection. . .

This is something the author of the seven undisputed letters never says. For him, resurrection is something he is striving to obtain.
quote_end

There are many considerations of both writing style and theological content that have led scholars to recognize that Colossians is a pseudepigraphon. But one of the most easily-noticed ways it differs theologically from the undisputed letters is in its eschatology. In Colossians, someone claiming to be Paul says that those who have been baptized into Christ have already experienced a kind of spiritual resurrection. He tells his readers that God “made you alive with him [Christ]” (Col. 2:13). They were “raised with Christ” (Col.2:12 and 3:1). And he locates this resurrection in baptism (Col. 2:12).

This is something the author of the seven undisputed letters never says. For him, resurrection is something he is striving to obtain: “if somehow I might obtain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:11). It is part of a salvation that will be obtained in the future. read more »


2013-09-20

A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 2: The Letters of Paul

by Roger Parvus

This is the second post in the series: A Simonian Origin for Christianity.

Some argue that Paul’s theology just underwent a very rapid development.

Or that he changed his position to suit changed circumstances.

Others chalk up the inconsistency to his temperament. He was impulsive and wrote things in anger that he probably regretted later.

Or he toyed with ideas that he never seriously embraced.

Some say he just had an undisciplined mind and that we should therefore not expect logical consistency from him.

Was he even aware that his assertions were contradictory? Some scholars think so, and that love of paradox may explain his apparent unconcern for contradictions. But others think he was clueless.

. . . from the very first indications in the extant record of the existence of a collection of Pauline letters voices were raised to protest that it had been tampered with. . . .

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A Reworked Collection of Simonian Letters

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Pauline Zigzags

A much rarer author portrait of St Paul C9th, ...

A much rarer author portrait of St Paul C9th, follows similar conventions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A major problem for Pauline interpreters has always been how to explain the inconsistency of Paul’s theology. The inconsistency shows up especially when the letters deal with subjects about which the proto-orthodox and early gnostics had differing positions. It is particularly noticeable in passages concerning the Law.

For instance, has the Law been abolished? Or is it still valid?

You can find passages in the Paulines to support both positions.

Can anyone actually do all that the Law requires?

Again, one can find Pauline passages to support either a yes or no answer.

Was the Law given by God? Or by angels?

That depends on which Pauline passage you look at.

Was the purpose of the Law to incite man to sin and multiply transgressions? Or to lead men to life?

Again, the letters can be enlisted to support either.

Did the author of the letters think that being under the Law was something to be rightfully proud of? Or was it slavery?

It depends.

All kinds of explanations have been offered to account for the zigzagging, but with nothing close to a consensus reached. There are those, for instance, who argue that Paul’s theology just underwent a very rapid development. Or that he changed his position to suit changed circumstances. Others chalk up the inconsistency to his temperament. He was impulsive and wrote things in anger that he probably regretted later. Or he toyed with ideas that he never seriously embraced. Some say he just had an undisciplined mind and that we should therefore not expect logical consistency from him. Was he even aware that his assertions were contradictory? Some scholars think so, and that love of paradox may explain his apparent unconcern for contradictions. But others think he was clueless:

[T]he thought wavers and alters with heedless freedom from one letter to another, even from chapter to chapter, without the slightest regard for logical consistency in details. His points of view and leading premises change and traverse without his perceiving it. It is no great feat to unearth contradictions, even among his leading thoughts. (William Wrede, Paul, p. 77, my italics)

Ten scholars who argue for interpolation

But there have always been scholars who solved the problem of Pauline inconsistency by questioning whether the letters were in fact the work of only one writer. And not just the Deutero-Pauline letters, but also the seven generally regarded as authentic. The inconsistencies existing right within the individual letters are such that many think it more likely that more than one writer was involved:

If the choice lies between supposing that Paul was confused and contradictory and supposing that his text has been commented upon and enlarged, I have no hesitation in choosing the second. (J.C. O’Neill, The Recovery of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 86) read more »


2013-09-13

A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 1

by Roger Parvus

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A Vridar reader, Chris S, recently expressed interest in my hypothesis that Christianity was Simonian in origin but pointed out that it would be helpful to have it laid out systematically in a post or series of posts. As it is, my proposals are scattered among random posts and comment threads. So this series will provide an overview of the hypothesis. I will first summarize the main ideas and then briefly defend them and show how they fit together.

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A Simonian Origin for Christianity

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Status of the Hypothesis

I want to acknowledge up front that my hypothesis is not completely original. It builds on the identification of Paul as a reworked Simon of Samaria that has been argued by Hermann Detering in his The Falsified Paul and by Robert M. Price in his The Amazing Colossal Apostle.

And I want to be clear that my hypothesis is still a work in progress. There is much that I continue to mull over and much that needs to be added. I am aware too that it is speculative. But, as I see it, one of its strengths is that it draws from the earliest extant descriptions of the internal quarrels that plagued Christianity at its birth and can plausibly account for a remarkable number of the peculiarities in those records.

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State of the Evidence: The Problem

The proto-orthodox claimed that their brand of Christianity was the original, and that their earliest Christian competitor, Simon, was the first who corrupted it. But there are good reasons to doubt their veracity. Their many known forgeries, false attributions, fabrications, plagiarisms, and falsifications are acknowledged even by mainstream scholars (see Bart Ehrman’s Forged for examples). Their one canonical attempt to write an account of primitive Christianity—the Acts of the Apostles—fails miserably to convince. It is widely recognized that its description of Paul and his relationship to the Jerusalem church is a deliberate misrepresentation.

quote_begin

The proto-orthodox claim to unbroken continuity with the Jerusalem church doesn’t add up. . .

Did the proto-orthodox have no one to stand up to Simon’s successors between 70 and 140 CE?

They concede a continuous line of succession for heresy . . . yet are at a loss to tell us who prior to Justin undertook to refute those heretics.
quote_end

And their claim to unbroken continuity with the Jerusalem church doesn’t add up.

If they were in existence earlier than the 130s, why is Justin their first known heresy-hunter? Justin names no predecessor for that function in the generation before him. Nor do Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus. Did the proto-orthodox have no one to stand up to Simon’s successors between 70 and 140 CE? They concede a continuous line of succession for heresy (Simon, Menander, Basilides and Satornilus), yet are at a loss to tell us who prior to Justin undertook to refute those heretics.

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The Question to Investigate

So I think it is entirely justifiable to question whether the proto-orthodox were in fact the first Christians. Basically, what I am doing is taking the few bits of information they let slip about Simon of Samaria, and seeing whether the birth of Christianity makes more sense with him as its founder.

I am investigating whether it makes more sense to see proto-orthodoxy as a second-century reaction to a first-century Simonianism that had grown, developed, and branched out.

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The Hypothesis

In summary form my hypothesis is this: read more »


2013-04-02

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

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. read more »


2013-03-28

The (Apellean) Gospel of Peregrinus

by Roger Parvus

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This post continues from The Author of the So-Called Ignatians was an Apellean Christian

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 the letters of Peregrinus there are some passages that concern his gospel. If, as I have proposed, he was an Apellean Christian, we can expect to find here too some rough-edged and clumsy corrections by his proto-Catholic editor/interpolator.

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—0O0—

TO THE PHILADELPHIANS 8:2 – 9:2

8:2. But I exhort you to do nothing in a spirit of faction—instead, in accordance with the teachings of Christ. 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 responded, “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. It is by these that I desire to be justified, with the help of your prayers.

[9:1. The priests are good, but better is the high priest who has been entrusted with the holy of holies; he alone has been entrusted with the secrets of God. He is himself the door of the Father, through which enter in Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the prophets and the apostles and the church. All these combine in the unity of God.

9:2. Nevertheless]

The gospel has a distinction all its own, namely the appearing of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, his suffering and his resurrection.

[For the beloved prophets announced him, but the Gospel is the completion of imperishability. All these things are good, if you believe with love.]

It seems incredible that Christians would not believe in the gospel if it could not be located in the Old Testament, so scholars have proposed radical alterations to the text.

gospel_christ_old_testament_detailThe above passage begins by relating part of an exchange the prisoner had with his Judaizing opponents. There is almost universal agreement that the “archives” in the second sentence refers to the Old Testament. And most scholars are in agreement as to the general sense of the verse: The Judaizers were Christians but insisted that the gospel meet some Old Testament-related requirement of theirs. But beyond that, there has been much debate about the punctuation and precise interpretation of the verse. The biggest problem is that at face value it seems to say that if the Judaizers’ requirement is not met they do not believe in the gospel.

It seems incredible that Christians would not believe in the gospel. So, to avoid such a radical interpretation, a number of alterations have been proposed.

Some have wanted to simply delete the words “in the gospel” as a later gloss. Others, to arrive at the same result by another route, argue that the verse in question contains implied words that are lost in a literal translation. William Schoedel for example, proposes that

“the object (‘it’) should be supplied in the second part of the sentence just as it is in the first. And something like the verb ‘to be’ (or ‘to be found’) can also easily be supplied” (Ignatius of Antioch, pp. 207-8).

Thus Schoedel’s translation is:

“If I do not find (it) in the archives, I do not believe (it to be) in the gospel.”

In this way the Judaizers are made to reject only those parts of the gospel that are not found in the Old Testament. Michael Goulder, for one, considers that solution “implausible” (“Ignatius’ ‘Docetists’” in Vigiliae Christianae, 53, p. 17, n. 4), but to Schoedel it is definitely preferable to accepting at face value the statement that the Judaizing Christians do not believe in the gospel.

He writes: read more »


2013-03-25

The Ignatian Letters Written By A Follower Of Apelles? (Part 1)

by Roger Parvus

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This post continues from The Author of the So-Called Ignatians was an Apellean Christian

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

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When I presented my first contention — that the real author of the Ignatians was Peregrinus — I argued that a proto-Catholic editor/interpolator later, probably around 200 CE, made changes to the letters to disguise Peregrinus’ authorship. To make the letters acceptable for use by his church he had to remove the apostate Peregrinus from them.

In the last two posts I have begun to argue my second contention:

That the branch of Christianity to which the author of the letters belonged was Apellean.

If this second contention is correct, it is to be expected that the proto-Catholic editor/interpolator had also to make some doctrinal modifications to the letters. For although Apellean beliefs, compared to those of Marcion, were definitely closer to those held by the proto-Catholics, some would have still been unacceptable, especially to the proto-Catholic church of the year 200. Doctrinal positions had hardened in the 50 years that had passed since Peregrinus wrote the letters. The church was becoming more dogmatic as is evidenced by the appearance of the so-called Apostles Creed sometime toward the end of the second century.

Thus the need for occasional interventions in the letters to make them safe for proto-Catholic consumption.

The changes made to remove Peregrinus from the letters were often remarkably careless. We will see that some of the doctrinal corrections were careless too. read more »


2013-03-24

The Author of the So-Called Ignatians was an Apellean Christian

by Roger Parvus

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This post continues from The Teachings of Apelles, Marcion’s Apostate

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

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From this survey of the teaching of Apelles it can be seen how closely his doctrine matches the combination of beliefs exhibited by the author of the letters. The most straightforward way to account for this is to conclude that their author, Peregrinus, was an Apellean.

Explanatory power of the thesis read more »


The Teachings of Apelles, Marcion’s Apostate

by Roger Parvus

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This post continues from An Unusual Mix of Beliefs in the Letters of Ignatius Peregrinus

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

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In my previous post I called attention to the assortment of unusual beliefs held by the author of the so-called Ignatian letters. That assortment and the description of his Judaizing and docetic opponents have convinced me that he was a follower of Apelles, and that the churches he addressed in his letters were Apellean.

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with that little-known early Christian and his sect I will start by reviewing what the extant record says about them.

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Marcion’s Deserter

Apelles, the founder of the Apelleans, was at first a disciple of Marcion. If, as is thought, he was born early in the second century, he could have been Marcion’s disciple as early as the 120s, assuming Marcion was already actively proselytizing at that time. It is not known how long Apelles was associated with Marcion, but at some point he broke with him and adopted doctrinal positions that were at odds with those of his teacher. Tertullian says the break was sparked by Apelles’ rejection of Marcion’s rigorist teaching regarding celibacy:

Apelles . . . deserted Marcionite chastity and withdrew from the presence of his most holy master to Alexandria. Returning after some years, he was in no way improved except he was no longer a Marcionite. (On the Prescription of Heretics, 7).

Their differences went beyond the issue of celibacy, however, and the split was likely not an amicable one. Apelles abandoned Marcion’s dualism and returned to belief in one supreme God. He repudiated Marcion’s docetism, emphatically insisting on the real and non-phantasmal nature of Christ’s body. From Marcion’s canon he retained only the Apostolicon, replacing Marcion’s Gospel with one of his own. He did continue to view the Old Testament negatively, and in a way his position in regard to it is, as will be seen, even more negative than Marcion’s. But on the other hand, Origen concedes that Apelles

did not entirely deny that the Law and the Prophets were of God (Commentary on Titus).

In breaking with Marcion, Apelles adopted new beliefs that unquestionably moved him closer to doctrinal positions held by the proto-Catholics, but his new beliefs still differed from theirs in significant ways. No complete exposition of his teaching has survived. Tertullian wrote a treatise against the Apelleans but it is no longer extant. However, the early record does contain enough information to permit at least a partial reconstruction of what Apelles taught. Elements can be found in the following:

  • Tertullian’s On the Flesh of Christ, On the Prescription of Heretics, On the Soul, and an extant fragment of Against the Apelleans (Migne’s Patrologia Latina, 42, 30, n. 1)
  • Pseudo-Tertullian’s Against All Heresies
  • Hippolytus’ The Refutation of All Heresies
  • Origen’s Commentary on Titus and Against Celsus
  • Eusebius’ History of the Church
  • Epiphanius’ Panarion.

For my quotes from the Panarion I will use the translation by Frank Williams in his The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis. Quotes from the other sources are either my own translations or those of the Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. read more »


2013-03-23

An Unusual Mix of Beliefs in the Letters of Ignatius Peregrinus

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. read more »


2013-03-17

Writing Ignatius into History (How the Peregrinus thesis solves many problems)

by Roger Parvus

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This post is a continuation of Making Sense of the Letters and Travels of Ignatius (Peregrinus?)

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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So far I have called attention to the many similarities between Peregrinus and the author of the so-called Ignatians.

Failed explanations for the similarities

I have explained that, to account for the similarities, it is not enough to simply claim that Lucian, for his portrait of Peregrinus, probably borrowed from Ignatius.

Ignatius of Antiochie

Ignatius of Antiochie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is not enough, for instance,

  • to say with William Schoedel that “Lucian (as Lightfoot and others have suggested) probably had Ignatius in mind when he wrote the following concerning Peregrinus: ‘They say that he sent letters to almost all the famous cities more or less as testaments, counsels, and laws; and he appointed … certain of his companions as ambassadors. . .  for the purpose, calling them messengers of the dead and couriers of the shades . . . ” (Ignatius of Antioch, p. 279). . . .
  • Or to say with Allen Brent that “Lucian, as he describes Peregrinus, endows him with many of the characteristics of Ignatius as typical of an imprisoned Christian martyr.” (Ignatius of Antioch – A Martyr Bishop and the origin of the Episcopacy, p. 50).

That explanation doesn’t work. That kind of borrowing by Lucian would only have compromised his ridicule of Peregrinus. He couldn’t have expected to convincingly expose Peregrinus by substituting a lot of characteristics from someone else, especially when he was writing so soon after the demise of his target. People would have noticed that his portrait was false.

More convincing explanations

But I have also now shown that the letters themselves contain puzzling features that point to a different explanation for the similarities. The similarities exist because the letters were in fact written by Peregrinus, but the puzzles exist because changes were later made to the letters to disguise his authorship.

lucian_peregrinusFortunately, with help from TDOP, enough telltale traces of the true provenance of the letters remain so that the puzzles can be solved.

  • Authorship by Peregrinus provides a more convincing reason for the urgency of the request that Ambassadors of God be sent from Asia to Antioch.
  • And that request for Asian Ambassadors matches up with the presence of Asian delegates in Syria who, according to Lucian, helped, defended and encouraged Peregrinus.
  • My theory also provides a more convincing reason for the request that a most God-pleasing council be convoked.
  • And it can plausibly reconstruct the circumstances of Peregrinus’ arrest and detect the route that was originally in the letters.
  • It can give a definite meaning to the otherwise vague expression “May I have the joy of you.”
  • Moreover the theory can explain, for instance, why the name of Polycarp is not found in the letter to the Smyrneans, but is found awkwardly lodged in another letter.
  • And why, for instance, only in the so-called letter to Rome is there no mention of a bishop, presbyters and deacons.
  • And it can explain the ‘filtering out’ that has occurred in the church addressed by that letter.

Other lesser anomalies find similarly satisfying solutions.

And, of course, since Peregrinus at some point became an apostate, there is an overall plausible reason why a later Christian would have needed to disguise the letters if he wanted to use them.

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Second Century Witness — or Lack Thereof — to an Ignatius of Antioch

My theory can explain too, why the name ‘Ignatius’—with a single questionable exception to be considered shortly—is nowhere to be found in any second-century Christian writings outside of the letter collection itself. read more »


2013-03-03

Making Sense of the Letters and Travels of Ignatius (Peregrinus?)

by Roger Parvus

This post is a continuation of Invitations to Watch a Martrydom: The Letters of Ignatius (or Peregrinus). . .

In my previous post I argued that the so-called letter to Polycarp was originally a letter from Peregrinus to the man who, after restoring order in the church of Antioch, had been installed as that church’s new bishop. The letter was one of three that the prisoner wrote after learning that the dissension in the church in Antioch had come to an end.

In the other two letters (those addressed to Smyrna and Philadelphia) he urgently requested that Ambassadors of God be appointed to go to Antioch to rejoice with that church.

In the so-called letter to Polycarp, on the other hand, there is an urgent request for the convocation of a most God-pleasing council and, in connection with it, the appointment of a Courier of God.

This most God-pleasing council, I maintain, was convened in Antioch— not Smyrna—and it is one and the same with the gathering mentioned in Lucian’s TDOP* that drew delegates “even from cities in Asia to succour, defend and encourage” the would-be martyr Peregrinus.

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

mapoverview

CONTENTS OF THIS POST:

(added by Neil)

Two sets of letters

The letter to the Romans

Originally written to the church at Antioch

The route

Problems with traditional reconstructions

The Peregrinus hypothesis removes these problems

A plausible reconstruction

The Peregrinus hypothesis removes difficulties found in the letters

A telltale expression

A phrase seen as relatively insignificant by commentators is shown to occur consistently in a certain context and accordingly adds weight to the hypothesis that the letters were originally written by Peregrinus on his way to Antioch.

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Two sets of letters

The letters to Philadelphia, Smyrna and to Polycarp purport to have been written from the port city of Troas while the prisoner was waiting to board ship. But, as we will see shortly, they were probably written while he was waiting at a different port.

The other letters in the collection—to Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles and Rome—were written before the prisoner knew the outcome of the in-fighting at Antioch. Because the four letters in this group would have been written at least a few days before the three letters in the other group I will refer to them, for the sake of brevity, as set 1 and will call the others set 2.

The set 1 letters were written in Smyrna during a stop there by the prisoner’s military escorts. The bishops of three of the churches addressed by those letters—Ephesus, Magnesia and Tralles—had traveled, accompanied by a few other members of their flocks, to visit with the prisoner at Smyrna. The letters written to their churches were likely carried back by them when they made their return trips. I see no serious reason to question that these three letters were in fact addressed to the churches they purport to address. I cannot say the same about the other set l letter: Romans.

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The Letter to the Romans

The message of the letter to the Romans is loud and clear. It is basically a sustained plea: “Don’t try to get me released, for I want to die for the Name.” read more »


2013-02-24

Invitations to Watch a Martrydom: The Letters of Ignatius (or Peregrinus) continued

by Roger Parvus

This post is a continuation of Solving a Puzzle (or four) in the Letters of Ignatius: The Christian Years of Peregrinus

IN MY PREVIOUS POST I argued that the Asian delegates to Antioch mentioned in the letters to Philadelphia and to Smyrna should be identified as being part of the Asian delegations that, according to Lucian, were sent to encourage Peregrinus when he was imprisoned by the governor of Syria.

The author of the letters was Peregrinus, I maintain, and when he wrote them he himself was being led in chains to Antioch for imprisonment and— he hoped—martyrdom.

And having heard that the recent factional turmoil in the church of Antioch had ceased, he wanted the churches in Philadelphia, Smyrna and other cities in Asia to appoint delegates to go Antioch for his martyrdom.

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THIS POST will inspect the other letter that he wrote after learning that peace had been restored in the Antiochene church.

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That letter is the letter to Polycarp, and although it was written at the same time as the letters to Philadelphia and Smyrna, it differs from them in several significant particulars. As will be seen, these differences are the clue to its true character.

Solving the many puzzles of this letter will confirm that the would-be martyr was indeed being led to Antioch, not Rome.

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The Letter to Polycarp

Polycarp is identified as the bishop of Smyrna in the letter addressed to him but, strangely, not in the letter to the Smyrneans that was written at practically the same time.

one would never guess that the two men had just parted

The prisoner wrote the two letters just a short while after his departure from Smyrna, having visited with Polycarp and his church during his stop there. Yet, from the kind of advice contained in the first five chapters of the letter to Polycarp, one would never guess that the two men had just parted. One could legitimately wonder why they didn’t discuss the material in those chapters when they talked face-to-face presumably just days before. And the advice to Polycarp regarding his responsibilities to the members of his church who are widows, or married, or slaves (IgnPoly 4 & 5) looks like advice for a newly installed bishop.

It looks like most blessed Polycarp has been forced into a text where he was not originally present.

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2013-02-16

Solving a Puzzle (or four) in the Letters of Ignatius: The Christian Years of Peregrinus

by Roger Parvus

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This post is a continuation of The Letters of Ignatius: Originally Written By Peregrinus?

In my previous post I showed that Peregrinus, as described by Lucian, bears great resemblance to the man who wrote the letters commonly ascribed to Ignatius of Antioch, and I proposed that the reason for their similarity is that the real author of the letters was Peregrinus.

In his adult life he was first a Christian, but later abandoned Christianity to become a Cynic philosopher. So, some of the similarities noted are those that existed between those two periods of his life.

Similarities

Glory-seeking

According to Lucian, what characterized Peregrinus was that he “always did and said everything with a view to glory and the praise of the multitude.” (TDOP 42, Harmon).

And his glory-seeking was already clearly present in his Christian days when the governor of Syria freed him because he realized that Peregrinus “would gladly die in order that he might leave behind him a reputation for it.” (TDOP 14, Harmon). So I see it as quite plausible that many of the ways he pursued glory as a Cynic would be similar to the ways he pursued it earlier as a Christian.

Publicity letters

When, as a Cynic, he sought to die a fiery death, he sent out letters to publicize the event. Earlier, I maintain, when he sought to die a martyr’s death as a Christian, he sent out letters too, among which are the seven so-called Ignatians.

Bestowing titles on his messengers

As a Cynic enamored of death, he gave titles to the messengers who spread the news of his upcoming leap to glory. I submit that the similar titles present in the letter collection are an indication that earlier, as a Christian enamored of martyrdom, he had already engaged in that practice. The specific titles were different, of course, because of the difference in his affiliation. But the very idea of giving titles to the messengers is the same.

Desire to imitate the gods into the invisible realm

And as a Cynic he proclaimed his desire to dissolve into thin air via fire so as to imitate Heracles. To this would correspond his earlier proclamation, as a Christian, that he desired to be visible no more, and to be — courtesy of a painful execution by the Romans — an imitator of the passion of his God.

A new name

And, as I see it, his adoption of new names to mark important moments in his life was not something he only began once he became a Cynic. No, the greeting at the head of each of the seven letters from “Ignatius who is also Theophorus” shows that it was already there during his Christian period. His becoming a prisoner in chains for Christ was one of those moments that called for a new name. (In a later post I will come back to this and look more closely at the name he took to mark the occasion).

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An Objection

One could object at this point that Lucian did not appear to notice the specific parallels I have indicated between Peregrinus the Christian and Peregrinus the Cynic.

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2013-02-11

The Letters of Ignatius: Originally Written By Peregrinus?

by Roger Parvus

This post is a continuation of The Letters of Ignatius: Originally Written By a Follower of an Ex-Marcionite?

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I. PEREGRINUS WROTE THE SO-CALLED IGNATIAN LETTERS

My first contention is that the real author of the Ignatians was Peregrinus Proteus. Before examining the letters themselves it will help to first review what is known about him.

Almost all of our information about him comes from Lucian of Samosata’s satire, The Death of Peregrinus. (I will indicate quotes from this work by the abbreviation ‘TDOP’ and will use the translations of either A. M. Harmon or Lionel Casson).

Lucian was a contemporary of Peregrinus. They were at one point passengers on the same ship. And Lucian was present at Peregrinus’ spectacular self-immolation. He considered Peregrinus to be a charlatan and a vain publicity seeker. We need to keep that in mind and be aware that to some extent Lucian’s portrait of Peregrinus may be a caricature. However, Donald Dudley’s assessment is representative of that generally held by scholars, that

though one must always suspect Lucian’s imputation of motives, somewhat more reliance can be placed in his mere statements of fact… It is therefore a fair assumption that the main outlines of Peregrinus’ career as given by Lucian are trustworthy. (A History of Cynicism, pp. 171-172)

Peregrinus

Peregrinus is thought to have been born at the beginning of the second century. His hometown was Parium on the Hellespont.

Parium of Hellespont

Parium on the Hellespont

Of his early life little is known. After the death of his father—a death neighbors suspected the son had caused by strangulation—Peregrinus imposed on himself a sentence of banishment from Parium and took to the road.

A wandering we will go

The name ‘Peregrinus’ means ‘wanderer,’ and it is possible that it was not his given name, but rather a name he chose for himself when he began his self-imposed exile. Later, at other turning points in his life, he assumed other names (Proteus and Phoenix). Lucian mockingly calls him “He with the most names of all the Cynics.”

Onward Christian soldier

During his wanderings Peregrinus visited Palestine and became a Christian. He soon attained a position of authority among them, becoming their “prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many…” (TDOP 11. Harmon).

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