Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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GakuseiDon
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

Post by GakuseiDon »

For those interested, Earl Doherty and I discussed Aristides on our websites about 15 years ago. Doherty has a webpage on our discussion (I took my website down a few years ago since I had decided it was a waste of time to discuss mythicism so I wouldn't do it anymore!) here: https://www.jesuspuzzle.com/jesuspuzzle ... GDon-2.htm

The quote below includes Doherty's notes on the dating of Aristides as well as him addressing some of my comments on the topic.

I've highlighted Doherty's statement that "Aristides does mention a human Christ, based on the gospels". Note that Aristides also refers to Christ coming from "a Hebrew virgin" -- no Marcionism there! -- if that helps with the dating.

First, on the matter of dating, J. Rendel Harris (the author whose name I lacked when I posted my earlier Response article), devoted considerable space in his The Apology of Aristides (pub. 1891, p.10f) to highlighting the problems in the traditional dating of the work. (Harris, incidentally, was the discoverer of that lost apology in 1889, as well as of the much more important Odes of Solomon in 1909. He found the former at a convent in the Sinai, an area where so much pertaining to the bible has been found—except, one might note, for any evidence of the Exodus. But I digress.)

Without going into a lot of detail, I will note that Rendel points out some confusion arising from Eusebius' references to Aristides and Quadratus. Both, says Eusebius (History of the Church IV, 3) wrote apologies to Hadrian, making them contemporaries. And yet in IV, 23 Eusebius' discussion of a letter by Dionysius of Corinth which mentions Quadratus seems to place this Quadratus in the time of Dionysius, a good half century later. Through an argument covering several pages, Harris opts to place Aristides in the reign of Antoninus Pius, in other words, sometime between 138 and 161, perhaps a couple of decades or so beyond the usual date (à la Eusebius) assigned to Aristides' Apology, which is 125. As for Quadratus, the leeway with which he can be assigned a date, simply on the basis of material in Eusebius, may be as much as half a century; one wonders how reliable even the attribution of the single preserved fragment to this obscure figure may be. As noted earlier, one can see how the reliability of early Christian traditions, including the dating and ascription of documents, often rests on quicksand.

In the Supplement volume of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (X, p.259f), the translator and commentator of the Apology, D. M. Kay, addresses the diverse interpretations of the date of Aristides. (The discrepancies are due to differing elements of the text between the rediscovered Syriac version, Armenian fragments discovered not too long before the Syriac, and an incorporation of a Greek version in an early medieval romance called The Life of Barlaam and Josaphat.) Kay opts to reject Prof. Harris' findings on the grounds that "this requires us to suppose that Eusebius was wrong," and that "Jerome copied his error." Heaven forbid that anyone should consider that Eusebius might have gotten something wrong, or that later Christian commentators like Jerome might have been mistaken about earlier traditions, and Kay decides "to rest in the comfortable hypothesis that Eusebius spoke the truth." Victorian England may have been quite willing to find comfort in its naivete, but we have surely learned since then that Eusebius is anything but dependable, and that many traditions he reports (and sometimes fabricates) have since been proven to be untenable or highly questionable. Once again, my contention that all such claims have to be taken with a grain of salt, or even set aside as unverifiable (the default position ought to be that early Christian traditions are not to be relied on), is shown to be justified and anything but "outrageous." When a tradition 'preserved' in the early Church proves incompatible, or difficult to bring into conformity, with what we can read on extant pages, there should be little doubt in which direction the weight should lie.

GDon spotlights three quotes from the Apology of Aristides:

* "It is impossible that a god should be bound or mutilated; and if it be otherwise, he is indeed miserable." [ch. 9]

* "And they say that [Tammuz] was killed by a wound from a wild boar, without being able to help himself. And if he could not help himself, how can he take thought for the human race? But that a god should be an adulterer or a hunter or should die by violence is impossible." [ch. 11]

* "And [Osiris] was killed by Typhon and was unable to help himself. But it is well known that this cannot be asserted of divinity....And how, pray, is he a god who does not save himself?" [ch. 12]

Now, let me allow that all these statements do constitute criticisms of features of pagan theology which could be said to have their counterparts in the Christian religion. Certainly, Christ was mutilated, he died by violence, and he did not choose to save himself from death. In ridiculing those ideas in pagan thought, Aristides offers no qualification for the supposed parallel situations in regard to Christ's life, situations we assume he was familiar with, since he refers to "written gospels" (though no authors and only basic details are mentioned). But context is everything, and we need to consider that context. First, let us note that this apology is on a lower level of sophistication than anything produced by the likes of Tatian, Theophilus, or Athenagoras. No Greek philosophical concepts are presented, much less a Logos doctrine. GDon has contrasted these excerpts from Aristides with a quote from Minucius Felix, "...neither are gods made from dead people, since a god cannot die...", but there is no debate here as in Felix, no give and take. Much care was taken constructing arguments in the latter work, while Aristides is clearly an inferior writer and thinker to Felix and most other apologists.

I suspect that Aristides was simply oblivious to any contradictions; they would have gotten lost in the shuffle. The great bulk of his Apology is taken up with diatribes against the theological beliefs of the Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, and Barbarians. He goes into great detail, ridiculing and condemning all, about the worship of natural elements, about the absurdities of the Greek myths and the reprehensible behavior of their anthropomorphic gods, about the stupidity of deifying animals as the Egyptians do; he is a little less harsh with the Jews, though he maintains that they are deceived into directing their rituals toward the angels rather than God himself. In the midst of all this, and quite in keeping with the negative image in which he is trying to cast the other religions, he throws in some criticisms which resemble features of the Christian faith. But even here, we might excuse him for not thinking that qualifications were needed for Jesus, since the contexts are not that close. When he condemns the idea of a god being bound and mutilated, he is speaking of the myth of Zeus doing this to Kronos, one god to another, not of some allegedly historical event on earth; the mutilation involved the latter's genitals. Should we really expect Aristides to worry about an obscure parallel with Christ, let alone trouble himself to offer a proviso in his case?

Osiris, similarly, is murdered in a squabble between rival gods. Tammuz dies as the result of a hunting accident. Neither, Aristides scoffs, was able to help himself and prevent his death, which is the apologist's point. Is this to be considered a pertinent parallel to Christ, who came to earth to willingly undergo the cross for the sake of human salvation? It probably never occurred to the philosopher to offer some saving qualification for Christ's death; it would hardly have seemed applicable. GDon has taken such remarks out of context and made far more of them than they deserve. Moreover, despite the tedious attention he devotes to the mythologies of other religions, Aristides seems little concerned with comparing them to Christ himself, for he gives only the barest outline of the Christian genesis in Jesus and the events of his life, and then only as part of his introduction. In the body of his Apology, what he offers in contrast to the theistic beliefs of the pagans is a survey (distinctly idealized) of Christian ethics, thinking thereby to prove the superiority of the Christian faith and gain the emperor's sympathy.

Nor is the overall situation between Aristides and the other apologists the same. Aristides does mention a human Christ, based on the gospels; no concealment there. The apologists I have examined, with the exception of Justin, do not. If GDon sees a contradiction, supposedly requiring qualification, between the passages he has highlighted and the 'historicist' nature of the author, that is his prerogative; but this is precisely what we do not find in the major apologists, since they contain no such contradictions, having no reference to a human Jesus who had presumably undergone the very things being ridiculed in the pagan myths. This is simply being read into them. Nor does Aristides make statements which contain a denial or exclusion of supposedly key Christian beliefs. There is no silence in the face of requests for "minute detail" about the faith, as there is in Athenagoras. There is no definition of "Christian" given which implicitly excludes an historical Jesus, as there is in Theophilus. There is no equation of Greek myths with Christian stories, as there is in Tatian. There is no rejection of the worship of a crucified man, as there is in Minucius Felix.

In all, I would suggest that the nature of Aristides' Apology when compared with the major apologetic works of the second century makes the lack of any qualification regarding the criticisms he directs at the pagan gods virtually insignificant.

Last edited by GakuseiDon on Sat Jan 21, 2023 3:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

Post by GakuseiDon »

Also, this archive thread from the old BCH forum from almost 20 years ago might be of interest, where I discuss Doherty's views of Second Century CE apologists (including Arisides) more generally. I think it is important to place the writings within the context of the other writings of that time:
https://bcharchive.org/2/thearchives/sh ... ml?t=83089
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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Giuseppe wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 6:22 amThe thought goes automatically to Earl Doherty's view of the Apologists (less Justin) as witnesses of a Jesus-Logos crucified in heaven.
Quote any Second Century apologist to the effect that they believed in a "Jesus-Logos crucified in heaven", please.

In fact, I'd be interested if you could even quote Earl Doherty himself to that effect. His position of a "logos-centric" Second Century Christianity was a little more nuanced than how you stated it.
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 6:22 amThe sequence is the following:
  • Aristides writes his Apology: crucifixion in outer space;
  • Marcion wrote the Evangelion: crucifixion on the earth;
  • The pauline epistles were rapidly interpolated with the 3 items known by Aristides: "born by woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4), "born from the sperm of David" (Romans 1:3), "James the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19).
  • Justin ignores yet Paul and in whiletime he collects the first midrashim that will become, after Justin, the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke etc.
So, Aristides believed in (1) a crucifixion in outer space, AND, interpolated into Paul the statements (2) "born of woman", (3) "seed of David" and (4) "James brother of the Lord"? With none of those 4 points actually appearing in any extant texts of Aristides?

And remember, if Marcion is primary then that suggests the whole shabang started out with a belief in a crucifixion of someone called "Jesus" in Jerusalem around the 15th year of Tiberius, who had 12 disciples, one of whom betrayed him, and with a Gospel and a set of letters by Paul consistent with that belief.
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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GakuseiDon wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 3:38 pm So, Aristides believed in (1) a crucifixion in outer space, AND, interpolated into Paul the statements (2) "born of woman", (3) "seed of David" and (4) "James brother of the Lord"? With none of those 4 points actually appearing in any extant texts of Aristides?
The case about their belief in a celestial crucifixion of the Logos has been made before on the other Apologists (less Justin), and by induction on Aristides (being himself an Apologist). A such case becomes obviously more and more powerful insofar we date the first gospel after Aristides.

It can't be a coincidence that in both Paul and Aristides the only historicist interpolations are mentions of a birth from woman and davidic ascendance, more the mention of 12 apostles. This scenario reveals that the same interpolators were still without a shared gospel, since they were limited to interpolate only 2, 3 stupid items: the only items about which they could agree, by that time, against Marcion.

If the interpolators had already a gospel on their side, then they would have interpolated more and more Gospel episodes and names.

Hence the GDon's case about the quasi-absence of historicist allusions in the mid-second century becomes really part and parcel of the more serious case to postdate the gospels after the Evangelion.

GakuseiDon wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 3:38 pmAnd remember, if Marcion is primary then that suggests ...
if Marcion is primary then that suggests that in his earliest earthly 'biography", Jesus appears as an unhistorical saviour. Which makes more logical and linear the process of euhemerization from a previous mythical deity crucified in heaven (beyond if of Jewish or Hellenistic origin) to a mere man lived recently on the earth. Surely more logical and linear than a scenario with the baptism of Jesus by John as an episode of the first gospel.

As usual, GDon, I find a bit boring that I have to remember you continually that I place myself under the mythicist paradigm. You appear unable a priori to fill the omissis: if Jesus started as a celestial deity, then...
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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GakuseiDon wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 2:46 pmNote that Aristides also refers to Christ coming from "a Hebrew virgin" -- no Marcionism there! -- if that helps with the dating.
how do you dare to do a such idiotic claim ("no Marcionism there!") when the mention of a birth from woman is pure anti-marcionism in action! :confusedsmiley:
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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I don't understand much of your response I'm afraid, Giuseppe.
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:57 pmIf the interpolators had already a gospel on their side, then they would have interpolated more and more Gospel episodes and names.
That's obviously not the case with Paul's letters though, not even the ones forged in his name. How many Gospel episodes did the proto-orthodox interpolate into those letters? Obviously the Gospels weren't that important until later.

On the other hand, how many Old Testament references did the proto-orthodox interpolate into them? I think that shows where the proto-orthodox's bread was buttered.
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:57 pmHence the GDon's case about the quasi-absence of historicist allusions in the mid-second century becomes really part and parcel of the more serious case to postdate the gospels after the Evangelion.
Postdate the importance of the Gospels until after the Evangelion, would be more accurate. The Old Testament was the battleground for earliest Christianity. Marcion and his Demiurge was an extension of that battleground.

The argument was over "Creator-as-God" vs "Creator-as-Demiurge". The Hebrew Scriptures had the Creator as being God, with the world being good. Marcion and the gnostics had the Creator as Demiurge, with the world not being good. The 'Pauline' Christians used the Hebrew Scriptures as their philosophical foundation. The 'pagan' Christians rejected the Hebrew Scriptures and moved onto popular Greek philosophy as their philosophical foundation. This all started to merge in the Second Century, as the Pauline Christians started to move away from their Jewish roots and into using Platonism as proof of Christianity's validity. This is when we also saw Christians starting to attack the philosophical basis of the Roman gods. We don't have Marcion's views of the Roman gods, but I'd be shocked if he didn't have the same criticisms as the proto-orthodox Christians.

Aristides is part of that process, that we can see continuing into Justin Martyr, Tatian, then Athenagoras of Athens and Theophilus of Antioch.

Marcion and the gnostics are part of a similar process, though branching at a later point. That's why I'm convinced Marcion's views are late, well after Christianity had moved outside of Judea, and were a result of the Gospels beginning to take on authority.
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:57 pmAs usual, GDon, I find a bit boring that I have to remember you continually that I place myself under the mythicist paradigm. You appear unable a priori to fill the omissis: if Jesus started as a celestial deity, then...
That's perfectly fine. But if you want to claim that the Apology of Aristides supports a celestial crucifixion, then I'd appreciate if you can quote ACTUAL PASSAGES from it to support the idea. Thanks. The link is here:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... s-kay.html
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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GakuseiDon wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:23 am I don't understand much of your response I'm afraid, Giuseppe.
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:57 pmIf the interpolators had already a gospel on their side, then they would have interpolated more and more Gospel episodes and names.
That's obviously not the case with Paul's letters though, not even the ones forged in his name.
wrong. Pilate is mentioned without difficulty in a Pastoral epistle, proving that, by the time the Pastorals were fabricated, the anti-marcionites had complete gospels. They didn't have gospels when they found themselves obliged to answer the first time to Marcion's Evangelion: that is the basic reason why the pauline epistles show only two historicist bits: birth from woman (Galatians 4:4) and davidic ascendance (Romans 1:3). That is the same reason why Aristides also shows only, more or less, the same few historicist bits.

You may disagree by pointing out the presumed not-importance of a presumed gospel of Mark written before Marcion, but I have only shown where the Vinzent's analysis leads me to think about Aristides and Justin, under a mythicist paradigm:
  • Aristides believed still in a celestial Christ
  • the interpolator of Aristides, or Aristides himself, added against Marcion the historicist bits mentioned above; idem on Paul;
  • Justin was still without the our gospels, but he knew the first general rehearsals, the first exercises in midrash that will become our Mark and Matthew.
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:23 am Marcion and the gnostics are part of a similar process, though branching at a later point. That's why I'm convinced Marcion's views are late, well after Christianity had moved outside of Judea, and were a result of the Gospels beginning to take on authority.
for who reads Klinghardt and Vinzent, it is becoming increasingly evident that this distinction, between a gospel without authority and a gospel with authority, is mere apologetics designed ad hoc to see written gospels when they are not there: before Marcion.

If you don't place yourself from the POV of the Marcionite priority, then you can't value adeguately the importance of the Doherty's findings about the Apologists pre-Justin.

GakuseiDon wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:23 am That's perfectly fine. But if you want to claim that the Apology of Aristides supports a celestial crucifixion, then I'd appreciate if you can quote ACTUAL PASSAGES from it to support the idea. Thanks. The link is here:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... s-kay.html
the mountain you have to overcome is the witness of the Apologist Minucius Felix, where in clear terms a judiciary crucifixion is denied by the author.

For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross, you wander far from the neighbourhood of the truth, in thinking either that a criminal deserved, or that an earthly being was able, to be believed God. Miserable indeed is that man whose whole hope is dependent on mortal man, for all his help is put an end to with the extinction of the man.

https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0410.htm


Idem in Aristides: if the judiciary crucifixion is denied (as proved by Doherty: see the quotes above), then what is left is, by default, the only viable option: a crucifixion in heaven.
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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Giuseppe wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 2:13 am
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:23 am
Giuseppe wrote: Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:57 pmIf the interpolators had already a gospel on their side, then they would have interpolated more and more Gospel episodes and names.
That's obviously not the case with Paul's letters though, not even the ones forged in his name.
wrong. Pilate is mentioned without difficulty in a Pastoral epistle, proving that, by the time the Pastorals were fabricated, the anti-marcionites had complete gospels.
I'm not saying there were no Gospel interpolations, just very very few (assuming that Pilate was original to 1 Timothy in the first place). Presenting and/or interpolating Gospel material was obviously not important to the proto-orthodox. And I'd argue that the Gospel materials weren't particularly important until Marcion forced the issue in the Second Century CE.
Giuseppe wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 2:13 amYou may disagree by pointing out the presumed not-importance of a presumed gospel of Mark written before Marcion, but I have only shown where the Vinzent's analysis leads me to think about Aristides and Justin, under a mythicist paradigm:
  • Aristides believed still in a celestial Christ
  • the interpolator of Aristides, or Aristides himself, added against Marcion the historicist bits mentioned above; idem on Paul;
  • Justin was still without the our gospels, but he knew the first general rehearsals, the first exercises in midrash that will become our Mark and Matthew.
That's fine, but you'd need to support the idea that Aristides believed in a celestial Christ by quoting actual passages, even if it is an inference from something that he wrote, or something he left out from an argument.

Here is a passage from Aristides that shows he didn't believe in a celestial Christ:

And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they are become famous.

Aristides is apparently writing an Apology to the Emperor of his time. Could he have been concerned with promoting anti-Marcionite material by writing to the Emperor about Hebrew virgins giving birth and Jesus incarnating? I suggest it is unlikely Marcion was on his mind, if he'd even heard of Marcion.

Perhaps an interpolation by later proto-orthodox? Maybe. It still needs evidence for that. Of course, any such evidence may not have survived the march of centuries under the control of the proto-orthodox.
Giuseppe wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 2:13 am
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:23 am That's perfectly fine. But if you want to claim that the Apology of Aristides supports a celestial crucifixion, then I'd appreciate if you can quote ACTUAL PASSAGES from it to support the idea. Thanks. The link is here:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... s-kay.html
the mountain you have to overcome is the witness of the Apologist Minucius Felix, where in clear terms a judiciary crucifixion is denied by the author.
In terms of Aristides: no, I don't have to overcome the witness of Minucius Felix. You have to overcome the witness of Aristides.
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Re: Aristides was a contemporary of Marcion

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GakuseiDon wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 3:03 am Perhaps an interpolation by later proto-orthodox? Maybe. It still needs evidence for that.
I think that the only viable alternative to an Aristides who believed in a celestial crucifixion, is an Aristides who, being contemporary to Marcion, had accordingly to take the first anti-marcionite measures. How? By mentioning a birth from a Jewish virgin and a davidic ascendance. Better than nothing, in absence, yet, of a Mark, a Matthew or a Luke against Marcion's Evangelion.

Prof Vinzent describes in detail how in Aristides there is a lot of marcionite influence (despite of Aristides adoring YHWH as supreme god): his separation between Christianity and Judaism, in primis.
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 3:03 amIn terms of Aristides: no, I don't have to overcome the witness of Minucius Felix.
you should, since it is hardly a coincidence, the rejection of a judiciary crucifixion in both Minucius and Aristides.

My point in this thread is that the silence of the Apologists about the Gospel Jesus supports mythicism and/or the marcionite priority, or both.
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