2011-07-14

Outline of Roger Parvus’s posts on the letters of supposedly written by Ignatius

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by Neil Godfrey

For those who have not had the time to read in full Roger Parvus’s posts so far about the identity of the author of the Ignatian letters I’m being kind and offering here a sketch outline of what he has written to date. Obviously this cannot cover the details and we know details are where devils and (surely) angels, too, are to be found.

Roger Parvus seeks to argue

(1) that the seven Ignatian letters that comprise the ‘middle recension’ were originally letters written by Peregrinus c. 145 CE,

(2) that he was an Apellean Christian i.e. a follower of the ex-Marcionite Apelles, and

(3) that later, towards the end of the second century, the letters were modified by a protoCatholic Christian.

Post One

Why the argument should not be dismissed out of hand

  • Others who have questioned the authenticity of the letters of Ignatius, and reasons
  • Others who have argued for a later than usual date for the letters, and reasons
  • Precursors of the theory set out by Roger Parvus: Daniel Voelter, Josephe Turmel, Alfred Loisy

Peregrinus wrote the so-called Ignatian letters

Review of the life of Peregrinus according to Lucian and trustworthiness of Lucian’s account

  • Early life of Peregrinus, origin and meaning of his name and name-changes
  • Conversion to Christianity “in Palestine”
  • Leadership position in the church
  • Imprisonment by Syrian governor
  • Support from Asian churches as a prisoner
  • Circumstances of release from prison
  • Christians expel him
  • Becomes a Cynic philosopher under Agathaobulus
  • Controversial and prominent history as a Cynic teacher
  • Sends letters to prepares and invite followers from cities for his self-seeking “martyrdom”
  • Appoints especially titled messengers
  • Seeks to inspire all by his ambition to find glory in death

Similarities with Ignatius

  • Both are prominent Christian leaders in same part of world around same time
  • Both are prophetic leaders in the church
  • Both are associated with convocation of Christians drawing participants “even from the cities of Asia”
  • Both wrote letters like treatises and last-wills with advice and rulings, sending them to all the important towns
  • Both confer titles on their messengers
  • Both use/change multiple personal names
  • Both seek death by martyrdom, to be totally consumed
  • Both have supporters finding unusually easy access to them as prisoners
  • Both are familiar with one named Agathabolus/Agathop(o)us

Discussion of potential objections to seeing a connection between the two.

Discussion of alternative explanations for the similarities.

Reasons to prefer Roger Parvus’s explanation: The Ignatian letters were composed by Peregrinus on his way to jail in Antioch. Later his name was removed and replaced with Ignatius.

Post Two

Summary of central thesis in Post One

An Objection

Discussion of possible objections to the theory.

Delegates from the cities of Asia

Both Peregrinus and “Ignatius” of the letters are associated with a gathering of Christians, “even from the cities of Asia”.

Ignatius asks churches in cities of Asia to send delegates to Antioch in Syria to congratulate the church there.

Reason for congratulations was ostensibly for the peace established in the church in Antioch.

This “peace” was certainly peace from factional strife, and Parvus shows why it was not peace from persecution.

A Puzzle

Other scholars have also remarked on the strange request in the letters to send delegates to congratulate the church at Antioch.

Discussion of why this is such an odd request, and the weaknesses of proposals to explain it.

The letters appear to assume the reason is obvious, but it is not.

A Solution

“The strange insistence that congratulations be sent to Antioch demands a strong reason to account for it.”

Roger Parvus’s solution: A Christian prisoner eager to become a martyr was soon to appear there. That prisoner was Peregrinus. Antioch had achieved peace from factions, and this provided the opportunity to gather an even larger crowd to witness his “act of glory”. Greatness is achieved through being hated by the world and martyrdom.

The restoration of the “poor body” to the church makes limited sense in Ignatius’s letters if understood as a “corporate body”. But it makes sense as a physical body of the prisoner returning for martyrdom.

Peregrinus had sought glory as a Cynic in a similar fashion. The same mentality evidenced itself earlier in his career as a Christian.

Thus the destination of Rome in the letters was changed from the original Antioch.

In the next post: a comparison of the account of Peregrinus with the letters of Ignatius in order to discuss the original route taken.

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The posts discussing the above in depth are archived here.

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Neil Godfrey

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