WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Secret Alias
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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Oct 25, 2020 9:37 am

Peter visited Antioch and Rome.
Both communities claimed Peter as the head of their communities
Mark visited Rome and Alexandria AND wrote a gospel.
Why is it reasonable to believe the Alexandrians were the most modest ancient Christian community?

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by andrewcriddle » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:54 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Sun Oct 25, 2020 9:37 am
Peter visited Antioch and Rome.
Both communities claimed Peter as the head of their communities
Mark visited Rome and Alexandria AND wrote a gospel.
Why is it reasonable to believe the Alexandrians were the most modest ancient Christian community?
The problem with having Mark bring Mark's Gospel to Alexandria is that it requires a late date for Mark going to Alexandria or an early date for Mark's Gospel.

The chronology of the legendary accounts of Mark's arriving at Alexandria is confusing but they seem to state or imply an arrival of Mark in Alexandria late in the reign of Claudius. (The Mar Saba letter is unusual in apparently having Mark arrive in Alexandria late in the reign of Nero.)

If Mark arrives in Alexandria before the reign of Nero with Mark's Gospel then Mark's Gospel must be written early. However the idea that Peter was in Rome during the reign of Claudius when Mark's Gospel was written seems first attested in Eusebius.

In the Acts of Barnabas which ends with Mark preaching in Alexandria the mission of Barnabas and Mark is associated with Matthew's Gospel.
And Barnabas had received documents from Matthew, a book of the word of God, and a narrative of miracles and doctrines. This Barnabas laid upon the sick in each place that we came to, and it immediately made a cure of their sufferings.

Andrew Criddle

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:19 pm

But remember we are discussing the claims of apostolic communities. Take Peter in Rome vs Antioch. How can you prove the same guy with three names was in both places (Simon, Peter, Cephas)? We know virtually nothing about Alexandria before Clement. A late third century tradition about Mark in Alexandria in the first century is important. If Mark was in Alexandria an Alexandrian claim about his gospel isn't outlandish. It's almost to be expected.

I would turn things around and ask you - why doesn't Irenaeus reference Peter's Antiochene line of bishops? Why only Rome? Does Irenaeus's silence imply the Petrine association with Antioch didn't exist in 190? I think it existed as did an Alexandrian claim to Mark and his gospel

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:28 am

And just to highlight where we agree and where we differ with Ken and where I likely go beyond you in terms of active speculation of the Alexandrian Markan tradition:

1. in the late third century there was a cult of St Mark as founder of the Alexandrian church located EXACTLY where later tradition says it began - i.e. the eastern shores of Alexandria in a region called 'the Cattle pasture.'
To him Peter, succeeding at the helm of the Church, was by all the clergy and the whole Christian community appointed bishop, the sixteenth in order from Mark the Evangelist, who was also archbishop of the city. He in truth, like Phosphor rising among the stars, shining forth with the radiance of his sacred virtues, most magnificently governed the citadel of the faith. Inferior to none who bad gone before him in his knowledge of Holy Scripture, he nobly applied himself to the advantage and instruction of the Church; being of singular prudence, and in all things perfect, a true priest and victim of God, he watchfully laboured night and day in every sacerdotal care.
But they took him up and brought him to the place called Bucolia, where the holy St. Mark underwent martyrdom for Christ. Astonishing is the virtue of the saints! As they carried him along, and beheld his great constancy and strength of mind when in peril of death, on a sudden a fear and trembling came upon them to such a degree, that none of them could look steadfastly into his face. Moreover, the blessed martyr entreated them to allow him to go to the tomb of St. Mark, for be desired to commend himself to his patronage. But they from confusion, looking down on the ground, said, Do as you wish, but make haste. Therefore approaching the burial-place of the evangelist, he embraced it, and speaking to him as if he were yet alive in the flesh, and able to hear him, he prayed after this manner: O father most honourable, you evangelist of the only-begotten Saviour, you witness of His passion, you did Christ choose, who is the Deliverer of us all, to be the first pontiff and pillar of this See; to you did He commit the task of proclaiming the faith throughout the whole of Egypt and its boundaries. You, I say, hast watchfully fulfilled that ministry of our human salvation which was entrusted to you; as the reward of this labour you have doubtless obtained the martyr's palm. Hence, not without justice, are you counted worthy to be saluted evangelist and bishop. Your successor was Anianus, and the rest in descending series down to the most blessed Theonas, who disciplined my infancy, and deigned to educate my heart. To whom I, a sinner and unworthy, have been beyond my deservings appointed as successor by an hereditary descent. And, what is best of all, lo! The largeness of the divine bounty has granted me to become a martyr of His precious cross and joyful resurrection, giving to my devotion the sweet and pleasant odour of His passion, that I should be made meet to pour out unto Him the offering of my blood. And because the time of making this offering is now instant, pray for me that, the divine power assisting me, I may be meet to reach the goal of this agony with a stout heart and ready faith. I commend also to your glorious patronage the flock of Christ's worshippers which was committed to my pastoral care; to you, I say, I with prayers commend it, who are approved as the author and guardian of all preceding and subsequent occupiers of this pontifical chair, and who, holding its first honours, art the successor not of man, but of the God-man, Christ Jesus. Saying these words, he went back to a little distance from the sacred tomb, and, raising his hands to heaven, prayed with a loud voice, saying: O you Only-begotten, Jesus Christ, Word of the Eternal Father, hear me invoking Your clemency.Speak peace, I beseech You, to the tempest that shakes Your Church, and with the effusion of my blood, who am Your servant, make an end to the persecution of Your people. Then a certain virgin dedicated to God, who had her cell adjoining to the tomb of the evangelist, as she was spending the night in prayer, heard a voice from heaven, saying: Peter was the first of the apostles, Peter is the last of the martyred bishops of Alexandria.

Having ended his prayer, he kissed the tomb of the blessed evangelist, and of the other pontiffs who were buried there, and went forth to the tribunes. But they seeing his face as it had been the face of an angel, being terror-stricken, feared to speak to him of his instant agony. Nevertheless, because God does not desert those who trust in Him, He willed not to leave His martyr without consolation in the moment of so great a trial. For lo! An old man and an aged virgin, coming from the smaller towns, were hastening to the city, one of whom was carrying Four skins for sale, and the other two sheets of linen. The blessed prelate, when he perceived them, recognised a divine dispensation with reference to himself. He inquired of them on the instant, Are you Christians? And they replied, Yes. Then said he, Whither are you going? And they replied, To the market in the city to sell these things that we are carrying. Then the most merciful father answered, My faithful children, God has marked you out, persevere with me. And they immediately recognising him, said, Sire, let it be as you have commanded. Then turning to the tribunes, he said, Come, do what you are about to do, and fulfil the king's command; for the day is now on the point of breaking. But they, suffering violence as it were on account of the wicked decree of the prince, brought him to a spot opposite to the sanctuary of the evangelist, into a valley near the tombs. Then said the holy man, Spread out, you aged man, the skins which you carry; and you too, O aged woman, the linen sheets. And when they had been spread out, this most constant martyr, mounting upon them, extended both his hands to heaven, and bending his knees on the ground, and fixing his mind upon heaven, returned his thanks to the Almighty Judge of the contest, and fortifying himself with the sign of the cross, said, Amen. Then loosening his omophorion from his neck, he stretched it forth, saying, What is commanded you, do speedily.

Meanwhile the hands of the tribunes were paralyzed, and looking upon one another in turn, each urged his fellow to the deed, but they were all held fast with astonishment and fear. At length they agreed that out of their common stock a reward for the execution should be appointed, and that the man who should venture to perpetrate the murder should enjoy the reward. There was no delay, each of them brought forth five solidi. But, as says the heathen poet —

Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, Auri sacra lames? one of them, after the manner of the traitor Judas, emboldened by the desire of money, drew his sword and beheaded the pontiff, on the 25th day of November, after he had held the pontificate twelve years — three of which were before the persecution, but the nine remaining were passed by him under persecutions of diverse kinds.
2. Even if the Acts of Peter of Alexandria are dated in its final form to the fifth century it necessarily details foundational elements of the Alexandrian tradition which were established in the late third century - i.e. Boucalia (the old Jewish quarter of Alexandria becoming the center of Christianity).

3. These traditions are confirmed by Arius being the bishop or priest of the Church of St Mark in Alexandria and thus the de facto Pope of Egypt (even if that honorific title was not openly used by those associated with him).

4. Intimations of early Arians that previous generations of Popes held the same 'Arian' beliefs as him necessarily implies a Markan tradition which ascribed the Logos to be a 'creature' and to have not existed when only the Father existed. In other words, you can follow a chain of thought from Arius not only to Mark but Philo of Alexandria because the heretical Logos doctrine of the Arians was Markan and moreover ultimately Alexandrian Jewish.

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:38 am

And to answer Ken's specific point - is there something specifically 'Alexandrian' about the gospel of Mark?

IF Arius and his doctrine of an 'instrument' Logos subordinate to the Father is ultimately 'Philonic' THEN the business early in Mark chapter 10 about Jesus speaking about only the Father being Good WAS taken to be an expression of the two powers in heaven doctrine BY THE HERETICS WHO ARE ULTIMATELY DERIVED FROM ALEXANDRIA. Yes, in its current form and through all surviving textual witnesses Jesus is originally addressed in human terms (i.e. from memory magister, rabbi or rabboni I forget which). But we have to imagine that these were attempts to recast the original Philonic understanding of Jesus speaking as a subordinate power, who did not always exist, an instrument reflecting upon the glory of a superior divinity.

Having the Logos admit his inferiority to the superior Father is the quintessential Alexandrian and now specifically Markan understanding of the godhead.

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:00 am

And if Jesus = the Alexandrian Logos then the parallels between Clement and the Letter to Theodore and Philo become immediately apparent. According to his letter Mark added 'mystical' saying to his gospel originally written on behalf of Peter. This formula is also attested by the Philosophumena's discussion of Marcion (who is blamed for the existence of a mystical gospel of Mark with added bits from Empedocles's philosophy deemed to be 'foreign' to the true gospel of Mark. Clearly the added mystical bits are put into the mouth of Jesus thus making Jesus's portrayed now as a mystagogue:
Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils. Thus, in sum, he prepared matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, he left his composition to the church in Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.
Clearly the portrait of Jesus as a mystagogue in the secret gospel of Mark preserved in Alexandria confirms him as the Logos, the Logos being consistently describes as mystagogue in Philo and contemporary Platonists like Plutarch cf. Is. 68.378B: "We must take the logos that comes from philosophy as a mystagogue". A comparison between Philo's and Plutarch's theology is offered in Brenk, 2014.

As I have already noted Philo reads the Pentateuch as if there is a graded initiation from Lord (kurios) to God (theos). The exemplification of this mystery is the narrative where Jacob sees the heavenly stairway. The god he sees standing on the stairs is theos or the Logos. He now abandons his faith in Lord or kurios and has a new god:
He, then, 159 that stands upon the stairway of heaven says to him who beholds the dream-vision, " I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father and the God of Isaac : fear not " (Gen. xxviii. 13). This oracle was the fort and most firm buttress of the practising soul. It clearly taught him that He Who is Lord and God of the universe is both Lord and God of his family, registered under both titles as held by father and grandfather, to the end that the world at large and the lover of virtue may have the same inheritance : for it has been said, " the Lord Himself is his inheritance " a
(Deut. x. 9). XXVI. Do not think that it 160 is without special point that in this passage the divine relationship to Abraham is expressed by the words
" Lord and God," that to Isaac by the word " God " only. For Isaac is a figure of knowledge gained by nature, knowledge which listens to and learns from no other teacher but itself, while Abraham is a figure of knowledge gained by instruction ; and Isaac is a dweller on his native soil, while Abraham is an emigrant and a stranger in the land. For, abandoning the foreign alien tongue of Chaldaea, the tongue of sky-prating astrology, he betook him to the language that befits a living creature endowed with reason, even the worship of the First Cause of all things. This character stands in need of two tending powers, 162 governance and kindness, in order that by the authority of the ruler it may be led to give heed to his ordinances, and by his graciousness be greatly benefited. The other character needs the power of kindness only, for, having obtained by nature goodness and beauty of character, he was not one who had been improved by the admonishments of a governor, but as the result of the gifts showered upon him from above he shewed himself good and perfect from the outset. Now the name denoting the kind and gracious 163 power is " God," and that denoting the kingly ruling power is " Lord." What good thing, then, would a man say was of the first rank, but the meeting with unmixed untempered kindness ? And to what would he assign the second place, save to kindness which was a blend of governing and giving ? It seems to me that it was by discerning this that the Practiser was led to pray a prayer worthy of the utmost admiration, that the Lord would become to him God (Gen. xxviii. 2 1 ) : for he wished no longer to be in dread of Him as ruler, but lovingly to honour Him as bestower of kindness. Might it not have been expected, I ask, that these and like lessons would cause even those who were blind in their understanding to grow keen-sighted, receiving from the most sacred oracles the gift of eyesight, enabling them to judge of the real nature of things, and not merely rely on the literal sense ? But even if we do close the eye of our soul and either will not take the trouble or have not the power to regain our sight, do thou thyself, Ο Sacred Guide (μυσταγωγών), be our prompter a and preside over our steps and never tire of anointing our eyes, until conducting us to the hidden light of hallowed words thou display to us the fast-locked lovelinesses invisible to the uninitiate. Thee it beseems to do 165 this ; but all ye souls which have tasted divine loves, rising up as it were out of a deep sleep and dispelling the mist, hasten towards the sight to which all eyes are drawnj put away the heavy-footed lingering of hesitation, that you may take in all that the Master of the contests has prepared in your behoof, for you to see and hear.
The understanding of the Logos as mystagogue is confirmed in Clement also in the Exhortation. Philo looks in every ordinance of the Bible for the spiritual light and conceives the law as an inspiration of spiritual truth and the guide to God, or, as he puts it sometimes, "the mystagogue to divine ecstasy." If such a gospel existed you can imagine why Irenaeus didn't like it.

Jesus as a mystagogue in a mystic gospel is about the most Alexandrian formulation you could possibly imagine and it is strange that it is not overt in a purportedly forged letter. Surely Smith would have wanted this association to be more overt to argue for some sort of 'Alexandrian' provenance for the gospel. As it is, the association between Logos, Jesus as Logos, Logos as mystagogue, Logos as mystagogue as an Alexandrianism, Alexandrianism as Arianism is rather obscure. Hard to see why Smith would have wanted to bury all these associations in his supposed forgery.

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:26 am

As I have said on many occasions the authenticity question comes down to two possibilities either:

1. the orthodox paradigm as described by Irenaeus was accurate and original or
2. the heretical paradigm demonized and attacked by Irenaeus was accurate and original.

While (2) does not prove the secret gospel's authenticity it opens the door to the possibility that it might be true. It provides the context (i.e. all these heresies came from SOME tradition) which helps provide a framework for authenticity.

The argument that 'the gospel of Mark is portrayed as X in the writings of the Church Fathers' isn't really as persuasive as it might look at first. Yes almost all of our information about early Christianity comes from the Church Fathers. That makes them very early and authoritative in one sense. But it's like having only a radical pro-Trump website as your source about the 2020 election.

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Oct 27, 2020 9:24 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:26 am
As I have said on many occasions the authenticity question comes down to two possibilities either:

1. the orthodox paradigm as described by Irenaeus was accurate and original or
2. the heretical paradigm demonized and attacked by Irenaeus was accurate and original.
3. Neither of these paradigms is original. Both are reacting to earlier texts and earlier traditions. Our task is to reconstruct those earlier texts and traditions, even if they have been painted over both by Irenaeus and by his heretics.

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 27, 2020 9:45 am

I appreciate your participation. But having done my share of mind-expanding (some would say brain damaging) drugs:

1. our window to the world is Irenaeus. EVERYTHING we see outside of the Nag Hammadi texts, other discoveries is Irenaean influenced. Even Clement. Clement IMHO read Irenaeus and knew the paradigms that were being set by the Master. His works may even have been edited subsequently by someone 'initiated' into Irenaeus's 'truth.'
2. What Irenaeus calls 'heresy' is in fact a broad swath of things basically coming down to 'before Irenaeus.'
3. As such 2 and 3 are for all intents and purposes indistinguishable. Perhaps 'things said by Clement unaffected by Irenaeus' breaks the mold. Nag Hammadi, 'things said by Origen unaffected by Irenaeus.' 'Things said by Justin unaffected by Irenaeus.' 'Things preserved by Ephrem unaffected by Irenaeus.' But it is rather limited.

That Irenaeus says the Gospel of Mark was Roman may have influenced Clement to accommodate that understanding into his own model. We see that sort of thing in early commentaries on Muhammad (where Muhammad's greatness is taken for granted by Jews and Samaritans) and in the Disputations of Nachmanides where the sage has to respect Christian interpretations of the Bible. It is reflected in across the board denials of the existence of kabbalah EVEN BY LEADING KABBALISTS. The pen is always inferior and humbles itself before the sword. Writers and thinkers are inevitably cowards, ass-kissers and hypocrites. Heidegger's repudiation of Nazism post 1945 is only the most recent example.

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Re: WEBINARS: The Social Worlds of Early Christians (Oct. 23-24, 2020)

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 27, 2020 9:55 am

The most important example of how this plays out:

1. Irenaeus says Alexandrian exegesis is by a certain Marcus (AH 1.13 - 21)
2. Clement reflects this mystic exegesis in Stromata 6
3. Marcus = the evangelist Mark

No one says the truth. Irenaeus because he doesn't want to give gnosticism apostolic authority. IT breaks up his monolithic understanding that apostolic = orthodoxy (his choice of a Roman apostolic tradition isn't accidental, it's political). Clement doesn't say anything because he doesn't want to be branded a heretic. Clement depreciates martyrdom because he is afraid of becoming a martyr. But the situation is there for all to see.

Also who are the heretics in AH 2.21 where Irenaeus takes for granted the 888 gematria? The underlying position of these folks is not only that words can be calculated as numbers (common in antiquity), or that Greek is equal to Hebrew but specifically the number of letters in a word has significance (otherwise why does Irenaeus give the example of delta). The Marcosians note that Jesus's name has six letters. It is worth noting that Africanus makes this sort of Hebrew is more trustworthy and valuable than Greek forcing Origen to take a crash course in Hebrew, abandoning the traditional Alexandrian emphasis on the Greek text.

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