Top Ten Early Christian Questions

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: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:03 am

The question of whether there were twelve Jews innocent enough to embody a complete rejection of the reception of the ten commandments based on a naive 'follow your heart' theology is my main contention against Irenaeus. The claim that such a community existed is in my mind a complete fiction. There was never a Jewish-Christian school of thought which argued that the ten commandments could be fulfilled merely by 'having a good heart.' There was never a doctrine that 'what's in your heart' absolves one of the collective responsibility to fill the Torah. That's the myth I accuse Irenaeus of inventing.

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:49 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:03 am
The question of whether there were twelve Jews innocent enough to embody a complete rejection of the reception of the ten commandments based on a naive 'follow your heart' theology is my main contention against Irenaeus. The claim that such a community existed is in my mind a complete fiction. There was never a Jewish-Christian school of thought which argued that the ten commandments could be fulfilled merely by 'having a good heart.' There was never a doctrine that 'what's in your heart' absolves one of the collective responsibility to fill the Torah. That's the myth I accuse Irenaeus of inventing.
Okay, fine, but surely you must realize that, when I, for one, am trying to reconstruct the earliest layers of Christianity, Irenaeus barely even registers on my radar. I do not think Irenaeus even got Papias right, so why would I think that he got matters earlier than Papias and in a different part of the world right?

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:43 am

Yes I agree. But that's what makes Irenaeus particularly puzzling. His attitude toward those who came before him:

1. Clement of Rome - important part of the history of the Church. Nothing peculiar. Clement intersects with Hegesippus and Hegesippus is cited - according to my understanding - in a way that opens the possibility that he may have been Polycarp (just my reading not in any way conclusive).
2. Ignatius - doesn't name him. Cites from the epistle to the Romans.
3. Polycarp - often doesn't name him. Cites him by name twice. Most of the time as 'the elder' (presumably).
4. Papias - cites his work as the cornerstone to Book 3 but does so badly.
5. Justin - claims to follow in Justin's footsteps especially with Justin's (alleged) rejection of Marcion. But Justin's understanding of the Logos seems to grant him more independence that Irenaeus would like and so Irenaeus says bizarre things like the Father was in the burning bush. That would tend to make Irenaeus a Patripassian or at least be sympathetic to the POV.

Now Irenaeus is called 'the exegete' in such a way that we can imagine him to be educated and informed. How do we get around this terrible way of citing primary sources? One might argue that an occasion 'error' is forgivable in antiquity. The degree to which his 'sloppiness' dominates his work opens the door to deliberately misinforming his reader.

In the case of Justin for instance. Justin does not share his Patripassian understanding of the burning bush. The Father is NOT in the bush for Justin. Moses engages with 'Jesus' whom we have already mentioned = Ish. You may not buy into my Samaritan/Jewish reinterpretation of the identity of Christ. But the point is that IF Justin understood the power that gave the law to be separate from the heavenly Father it opens up the door to the possibility that Justin shared the gnostic understanding of a 'better' revelation of the gospel than the Law (which is developed from the lower power that tabernacled with Moses).

This raises the question - in what way did Justin disagree with Marcion? Justin doesn't overtly cite Paul. Marcion develops directly from Paul. But if Justin understands Moses to have only known a lower power and not the Father there isn't that much difference between the two men and two in fact agree against Irenaeus's implicit 'Patripassianism.'

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:50 am

My point is simply - what authority can a supposedly 'terrible' exegete have had over a disparate community already a century old if not older? Why would an Alexandrian community already familiar with Justin or other of these writers have taken Irenaeus's word on things when it would have been plainly obvious that he was full of shit. That's my point in the OP.

Look at you, Ben, at this forum. There are mythicists, believers in the Jewish Christian fable, a lonely old man who set up a website which purports to answer all questions related to Christianity in spite of the paucity of information - a whole host of nonsensical POV. Yet they all express their respect for your exegetical prowess. THE OPPOSITE WOULD HAVE BEEN TRUE WITH IRENAEUS. Now let's take that one step further. The people at this forum respect your authority BUT THEY STILL IGNORE YOU. The opposite occurs in antiquity. Alexandrian exegetes superior in every way to Irenaeus willingly submit to his authority in spite of being an idiot. How is that explained? Giuseppe still pounds the table with his nonsense, Mary Helena will never let her 100 BCE Church go, Bernard still insists that he can be an authority on the NT without understanding a word of Greek. The list goes on and on.

Everyone talks past each other - making alliances against 'threats' to their position coming from other participants at the forum. The point is that even the most authoritative exegesis does not = exegetical authority. The only thing that settles 'orthodoxy' is secular might i.e. an army, the physical threat of brutalizing contradictory points of view. That's how order and orthodoxy is always established. If you don't have the authority - the specific authority to murder people - you don't have 'real' authority and no one will listen to what you have to say.

The only explanation for a bad exegete like Irenaeus becoming absolutely authoritative is that Roman authority, Roman Imperial might must have been behind Irenaeus's authority especially the degree to which monarchianism becomes the ultimate standard. That's why for instance his BAD READING OF JUSTIN becomes authoritative. Justin was an adherent of a binarchian world view, so was Marcion, so was Philo for that matter. This two powers in heaven POV had authority insofar as it could be dated back to the Bible itself with its use of Yahweh and Elohim. The only way Irenaeus's idiocy triumphed was - as Brent notes - because the Imperial authorities imposed monarchianism on all religious communities at least by the dawn of the third century.
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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:03 am

As an amateur psychologist I'd say you BELIEVE in Irenaeus's authority and his ability to convince people through exegesis because you don't want to believe that your efforts in life and at this forum are in vain. To accept that Irenaeus's authority solely came from the Emperor would call into question why you are attempting to teach the apes at the forum to think better. You believe in Irenaeus because it reduces your efforts to histrionics.

That's why people ignore the Samaritans and deem that they aren't worth studying. IF the Samaritan exegesis of the Torah was original, what greater proof would there be that life sucks big time.

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:51 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:03 am
As an amateur psychologist I'd say you BELIEVE in Irenaeus's authority and his ability to convince people through exegesis because you don't want to believe that your efforts in life and at this forum are in vain.
Exegesis is only a tool. Before we can test a claim made by the author of an ancient text, we have to know what the claim is that is being made.

My interest in convincing people through exegesis is mixed. For the simple questions, yes, certainly I would like to convince people, because I do not want to think that I live in a world filled with unreasonable people. For the more complex questions, I really could not care less. If someone wants to reject my reconstructions of the whole Matthew/Matthias/Levi/Zacchaeus deal, or of Jesus as Messiah ben Joseph versus Messiah ben David, or of this or that proposed interpolation into a text, well, those are complicated issues and reasonable people can reasonably disagree on them.

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:02 am

Right but with respect to the question of Irenaeus

1. you demonstrate authoritative exegesis and yet lack the ability to convince any of the main proponents at the forum (I think you DO have an effect on the silent lurkers). Nevertheless the appearance of the forum is that of 10 idiots and 1 authority with the 10 idiots never giving way to the obvious authority you possess.
2. Irenaeus lacks ANY real authority unless he appeals to documents that were obviously forged (cf. his reuse of Hegesippus in an altered form) or misrepresents recognized authorities (i.e. Justin Martyr). Those authorities were known to outsiders so his reading of their POV must have been recognized for what it was - bullshit. Nevertheless this awfully UNauthoritative exegete had absolute authority over his contemporaries and those who came after them.

How was that possible? In the Jewish community we know it had everything to do with secular power. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/artic ... rebellious also https://www.sefaria.org/English_Explana ... .3?lang=bi Irenaeus MUST HAVE had a similar ability to harm. Notice his reports about the martyrs of southern France. There is no evidence to suggest Irenaeus 'escaped' to provide the reporting. There is no evidence that any of the Church hierarchy were martyred in the document as far as I am aware. Isn't it at least possible Irenaeus was on the side of the persecutors or at least cooperated with them?

The only way to convince Giuseppe to recant his beliefs would be the REAL threat of physical harm to his person. Just saying.

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:20 am

And I meant that as a compliment. You ARE authoritative. The way you explain this is second to none. Better than a university course. I am many others treasure your efforts. I mean that sincerely. Yet let's face it - you have had no effect on Giuseppe, Mary Helena, Bernard and other prominent posters (not to mention Charles etc).

Now take Irenaeus who is NOT authoritative, who DELIBERATELY misunderstands Justin, DELIBERATELY misquote Hegesippus, DELIBERATELY misidentifies Polycarp, Papias and Ignatius etc. How did the Alexandrian tradition cower before this INFERIOR exegete? Worldly power backed him. There is no other explanation.

Here's one way I could be wrong. There are more but this is one possibility. The fourfold gospel was invented in Alexandria. I could be wrong about that and that would change my understanding.

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:28 am

And who is Irenaeus writing for? The heretics? No. He's assumed I think they aren't going to change their minds (cf. the story about Polycarp and Marcion). So he's writing for officials within the Church who might encounter the heretics and heretical doctrine while discharging their duties. He's trying to prevent them from falling victim to their doctrines AND challenges to his authority. So the people he's writing for must be NEW authorities. Otherwise why would they need to be told about these heresies. Surely if the heresies existed and existed for a while they'd have encountered them before IF they were in power for a long time.

So it makes sense to think we have an audience of NEW authorities within a NEW Church with OLDER sects left outside the New Church. That's curious in itself. Why are there these many NEW authorities suddenly. How did 'lots' of heresies get left behind. Again it goes back to a new Church and a new ecclesiastical doctrine. All of which makes the Philosophumena's addition of members of the Markan heresy reading Irenaeus and complaining about their portrait in Irenaeus.

To that end, the names may have changed but there were established traditions in places that couldn't be buried. But all of this seems to reinforce that Irenaeus HAD NO REAL AUTHORITY - authority in the traditional sense. His gospel had no pedigree. He doesn't cite users of the fourfold gospel in the way he cites those who calculated the Passover in the 'Jewish' way. How can someone be called an 'exegete' of a text that has no pedigree? No history? No background? He must have been 'the exegete' in the sense of 'first exegete' the way Moses would be 'the exegete' of the Torah if there was such a title.

And remember - there are no 'exegetes' of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John individually only Irenaeus of the texts COLLECTIVELY. That's really odd, really 'fucked up' as the kids are wont to say. Papias references Matthew, Mark at least theoretically. But even he isn't 'the exegete' or 'an exegete' of Matthew. No one calls him that. There is no 'exegete' of Luke the way Alexander of Aphrodisias was 'the exegete' of Aristotle. The Valentinians only cared about the prologue to John. None of them are known to have been called 'the exegete' of the gospel of John. The closest we get are those who 'don't read Mark correctly' (which implies they thought they were experts or exegetes of Mark). But Mark is the least commented upon gospel in the early Church. Those two facts can be read together to imply 'the four' had an exegete - the exegete Irenaeus whose authority was juxtaposed against established authorities of the gospel of Mark. There are no exegetical authorities or traditions associated with Matthew, Luke or John.

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Re: Top Ten Early Christian Questions

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:16 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:20 am
Now take Irenaeus who is NOT authoritative, who DELIBERATELY misunderstands Justin, DELIBERATELY misquote Hegesippus, DELIBERATELY misidentifies Polycarp, Papias and Ignatius etc. How did the Alexandrian tradition cower before this INFERIOR exegete? Worldly power backed him. There is no other explanation.

Here's one way I could be wrong. There are more but this is one possibility. The fourfold gospel was invented in Alexandria. I could be wrong about that and that would change my understanding.
I appreciate the compliments. Thanks.

I doubt that Alexandria cowered before Irenaeus. The Western text and the Alexandrian text are very different in many cases; Alexandria did not yield on that point, and I doubt Alexandria yielded on other points of importance, either.

All of this is very much still up in the air for me, though.
The Valentinians only cared about the prologue to John. None of them are known to have been called 'the exegete' of the gospel of John.
Heracleon?

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