A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Peter Kirby
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A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Jun 19, 2015 4:45 pm

Split from here ("The Heretics Preferred the Hebrew Bible; the Orthodox Greek"): http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... f=3&t=1643

A history of Christian origins that looks something like this, Stephan, might account for all that (and much else).

(A) RELATIVELY INDEPENDENT (with some possible interaction) IN THE PERIOD UP TO THE YEAR 70
  • 1) Possibly Nazoreans, or possibly Jacob-(the-Just)-ians, or possibly Galilean Cynics, or possibly even revolutionaries, an Aramaic-speaking group (presumably), to be associated with the Mt//Lk synoptic sayings material, and to be located either in Jerusalem or in rural Syria/Galilee or both. (The most mysterious and difficult-to-pin-down group in Christian origins, which some don't even believe existed... and might not have...)
  • 2) The Apostolic Movement, a Greek-speaking mystery-cultic association to be identified with the origins of the letters of Paul, and to be located in Antioch, Rome, Asia Minor (including Phrygia, Bithynia, Pontus, Cilicia, and Galatia--not just Ephesus), Greece, and Macedonia.
  • 3) The Jewish Gnostics, Greek speakers to be associated with the earliest tractates of the Nag Hammadi Library and cognate material, centered in the intellectual capital of Alexandria but in correspondence with major urban centers such as Rome, Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, and Corinth.
(B) ... which, when (2) and (3) were assimilated more closely to (1) through the irresistible WRITTEN GOSPEL, led to (ca. 70-120)...
  • 1) The Marcionite movement, which grew from the Apostolic Movement (A-2) and had a written gospel incorporating synoptic sayings (A-1).
  • 2) The Valentinian movement and every other early gnostic group, which grew from the Jewish Gnostics (A-3) and either used a synoptic-like gospel (A-1) or decided to write new ones (such as the earliest forms of the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John). They also, for the most part, used and interpreted Paul. Greek texts were used throughout.
(C) ... which, when progressives with ties to the Marcionite movement (B-1) rejected the gnostically-harmonizing docetic interpretations of the gospels (ca. 120-170), led to ...
  • 1) The Marcionite movement, still around. Based on Paul and a Gospel. Septuagint not used.
  • 2) The Valentinian movement, still around. Other gnostic groups, still around. Septuagint used loosely, if at all.
  • 3) The proto-catholic movement (the "progressives"), with strongholds in Rome and Antioch (and inroads into Greece and Asia Minor), pressing for the rejection of the letters of Paul, for the retention of the Septuagint, for the use of the gospels as scripture (whether in Syriac or in Greek), read literally and non-docetically. Justin and Tatian belong here. So does Hegesippus. Papias goes one step further than that, with his stated preference for the orally-repeated sayings of Jesus.
(D) ... which, when men such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, & Hippolytus led the charge to decisively defeat the non-literal interpetations, led to (ca. 170+) ...
  • 1) The Marcionite movement, still around.
  • 2) The Valentinian movement, still around. Other gnostic groups, still around.
  • 3) A less-than-fully-catholic movement, also known as the Jewish-Christian movement, who retain the sol evangelium idea, typically in the form of a Syriac gospel ("Gospel of the Hebrews") or Diatessaron.
  • 4) The fully Catholic movement (the "great compromise"), promulgating chiefly from the city of Rome (and installing cooperative bishops around the empire), determined to use four separate gospel texts, in Greek, and their version of the letters of Paul, but to read the gospels literally and non-docetically (and with interpolations). This way they defeat the gnostic groups, the Valentianians, and the Marcionites on their own turf.
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Re: The Heretics Preferred the Hebrew Bible; the Orthodox Gr

Post by Stuart » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:29 pm

Group A is scholarly fictions. I doubt any existed. Group B probably should be pushed out 135-185, with Gnostics groups continuing to form well into the 3rd century. Group C starts 185 or later.
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Re: The Heretics Preferred the Hebrew Bible; the Orthodox Gr

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:34 pm

Stuart wrote:Group A is scholarly fictions. I doubt any existed. Group B probably should be pushed out 135-185, with Gnostics groups continuing to form well into the 3rd century. Group C starts 185 or later.
Thanks for the feedback, Stuart. Yes, the dates could be adjusted. And I agree with you that there is a monomaniacal focus on earliest origins that tends to obscure and distort the reconstruction of the historical development based on the best evidence available (which is, chiefly, later).
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Re: The Heretics Preferred the Hebrew Bible; the Orthodox Gr

Post by Tenorikuma » Fri Jun 19, 2015 6:00 pm

A1 may at least be a fiction. I find it quite plausible that the association of Nazoreans, Galileans, and other messianist groups with Christians was a retroactive claim made after the Fall of the Temple. Though it's possible your "Apostolic movement" category extended to hellenized Jews in Galilee and Syria. (After all, what was Paul doing in Damascus?)

The Didache (in my view) is a pre-Gospel compilation of Christian doctrine attributed to the apostles, who purportedly teach on behalf of "the Lord" (which could mean God or Jesus in context), and which were later incorporated into the Double Tradition material of Luke and Matthew. Typical for pre-Gospel material, it does not associate its teachings (including the Eucharist) with any particular events or circumstances in the life of the historical Jesus. And it's a Greek document, with no indication it came from an Aramaic-spekaing Palestinian milieu.
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Re: A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Jun 19, 2015 6:05 pm

I also have grave doubt about the supposed A-1 group.

If it didn't exist, then it simply becomes the novelty of the Gospel writers et al. in adapting their story to some particular, fictitious circumstances.

(Note that the A-1 group may or may not be associated with a HJ, which is itself an even more doubtful hypothesis.)
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Re: A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Jun 19, 2015 7:47 pm

re A-1, I was recently reading a commentary that, while Christian scripture mentions the Judaic sects, the Pharasees and the Sadducees, no canonical or apocryphal mention the Essenes. This seemed odd. Could the omission be significant?

Each of these main Judaic sects had their own particularities as to their origins, their practices, including the Essenes. Within Essenism there were allegedly many different sub-groups (I haven't looked again); the Essenes of the compound of Qum Ran, a sub-sect of 'Nazareth' (or similar name), as well as loner Essenes who lived in the wild depending on Mother Nature to provide for all of their needs. The Nazarene, and Nazareth, have roots in the Hebrew word "netzirim" which means a branch or an offshoot of the main stem or stock of a vining plant. Could Jesus as well as his parents, Yosef and Miryam, have been members of a sub-sect - a sub-branch - of the Essenes; or initially been narrated or portrayed as members of such a sub-branch of the Essenes?

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Re: A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:02 pm

What I find more interesting than the A-1 conundrum is that nobody has yet really tried to tear apart B through D (aside from the absolute chronology).

Does it represent a limited consensus of the members of the forum?
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Re: A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:25 pm

Marcion (of Sinope) is supposed to have been influenced by Cerdo who, in turn, was supposed to have been influenced by Simon Magus (allegedly baptised by Phillip the baptist and supposedly mentioned as having a confrontation with Peter in Acts).

Simon Magus is supposed to have influenced Menander who, in turn, influenced Basilides (f. 117-138) who taught Valentinus (in Alexandria).

Basilides is supposed to have derived his theology from Matthew ...

Valentinus is also supposed to have been influenced by Theudas, who is supposed to have been influenced by Paul.

Tatian is supposed to have been taught by Valentinus.

Most of these are all Gnostics well in to the mid 2nd C; and most were later denounced as heretics.
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Re: A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:28 pm

Another key figure is Ignatius though his 7 epistles written in Asia minor (west Anatolia) ~ 107-8 AD/CE while on his way to alleged martyrdom in Rome (it seems weird a prisoner was allowed a tour de force)

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Re: A Summary History of Christian Origins?

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:38 pm

MrMacSon wrote:Another key figure is Ignatius though his 7 epistles written in Asia minor (west Anatolia) ~ 107-8 AD/CE while on his way to alleged martyrdom in Rome (it seems weird a prisoner was allowed a tour de force)
Andrew Criddle once mentioned that he could be dated later, even if his letters were authentic.

Also, his letters might not be authentic...

But the Ignatiana themselves are an important witness for the docetist controversy, among other things.

The do seem to fit for the second century in general, although we should perhaps also mention Huller's mediating position that 3 may be authentic...

I very much appreciate the phrase "Ignatian vexation" once used to describe this problem.

The Ignatiana, 1 Peter, Revelation, and the Paulina themselves all provide a window on letter-writing in Asia Minor and named recipient churches. A little bit later, so do the Dionysian letters, from Dionysius of Corinth, mentioned by Eusebius.

Outside of Rome, it's where the strongest and earliest concentration of archaeological remains can be found, including the earliest inscription that can be securely dated (the Abercius inscription). That inscription itself is quite plausibly gnostic in orientation, on account of the language and emphasis on Paul.

The author of the Ignatiana perhaps fit the description of proto catholic, while being written slightly before the "publication" of the letters of the Paul by Marcion and, thus, perhaps before the strategy to avoid the letters at all costs were firmly fixed. It doesn't appeal to the letters as scripture, but it does know them and does regard Paul well. This fits the first half of the second century.

Another possible proto catholic would be the author of the Polycarp letter.

The 1 Clement letter, however, does not seem to share the same concerns as Ignatius or Polycarp, and it might be better classified with the Apostolic Movement, along with Hebrews and the original form of the Didache. The 1 Clement letter also has some apparent antiquity in its citation by Dionysius of Corinth.

The most noticeable thing about the outline is the pervasiveness of "gnostic" (Marcionite and non-Marcionite) points of view in the late first and early second century. This is ascribed to the idea that they are developed from predecessors with a 'gnostic' bent (incipient or full blown), the so-called Apostolic Movement and the various Jewish Gnostics (which may of course have included Gentile proselytes and other types interested in a mishmash of myth and popular philosophy).

Said pervasiveness is the implicit testimony of the wide variety of teachers and exegetes ascribed with a "gnostic" viewpoint in that time period.
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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