Vanished wrote: ↑Sun Feb 11, 2024 3:46 pm
Perhaps, but you also have to be very careful not to be overly skeptical. 1 Clement may
be a later work not written by Clement. The Ignatian Epistles may
be forgeries from 150-170. Papias may
have been misquoted, misdated, or misattributed. Polycarp may
have only written during the very end of his lifetime. There's certainly a number of respectable scholars proposing each one of these theories. I don't doubt that at least one of these is true - later authorship of 1 Clement, if I were to pick one, since it seems to make everything work out a lot nicer. However, for all to be true I find very unlikely
, and I think most scholars would be inclined to agree with that. The traditional dates of the writings of the church fathers can't be fully trusted, as those that originally put them forward would have been biased and had motivation to date the apostolic fathers as early as possible, but it should also be noted that these men were working with a wealth of knowledge that we do not have, and they certainly knew much about the apostolic fathers that we do not. I think their more-knowledgeable, more-biased commentary is just as valid as a respected modern scholar's less-biased (hopefully), less-knowledgeable commentary, and don't think it should be treated much differently. After all, without these early scholars, we would know next to nothing about the Bible. No authors, no dates, no anything - just writings from a random guy (if not an anonymous/pseudiepigraphical author) from an unknown period.
Coming to terms with the nature of Christian origins is a journey that everyone has to go on independently. Having studied the nature of writing and "publication" in the ancient world it is clear that actual forgery and misrepresentation was widespread across all types of writing, from legal documents to historical narratives to religious writings, to philosophical works, etc. This was not unique to Christianity. It is also clear that misrepresentation of the provenance of writings had many effects on Roman society that impacted their politics, legal system and government administration.
Regarding the likelihood of "all of these things being true" vs "some of them", I think the case is actually much stronger that its all forgery and misunderstanding "all the way down", than that this was a case of a few misunderstood documents. What we are really looking at here is a pattern of behavior. All of these cases come together to show a widespread pattern of both literary fabrication and naive literary reception.
First of all, the way that scholars on Christian origins have tended to treat "forgery" is to dismiss and forget about works that are deemed inauthentic. Most people who have studied these works are Christian faithful that have been trying to "identify the truth". So a lot of this work has been done by Protestant scholars looking to find the "true way" to worship Jesus. As a result, when they identify a work as a forgery, or not what it was believed to be, they just set it aside and stop studying it. It mostly just gets put into the garbage can of Protestant theology and disregarded.
But at this point, the fact is that when you look at writings purported to be from the first four centuries of Christianity, there are far more works in the garbage can now than outside of it. Literally thousands of writings have now been acknowledged as forgeries, most of them now forgotten by most theologians. Many of these may be trivial on their own, forged letters of minor figures, fabricated stories about various saints, invented accounts of martyrdom, falsified church records, etc. etc. But what we can see is that many of these writings were accepted as legitimate by many early church fathers and theologians on into the 10th and 11th centuries, people like Jerome and Augustine, etc. and even Eusebius and those before him. There are indications of skeptical reception of some works, but what is clear is that these people were swimming in writings that were not what they thought they were. Understanding the true provenance of these writings was truly impossible in their own time. The magnitude of literary fabrication in the first through fourth centuries was overwhelming.
When we take a writing like First Clement, the writing is unsigned, it is undated, it uses very vague terms to describe the circumstances of its writing, and it builds upon themes from earlier known works - the Pauline letters. The Corinthian Church is "out of line". Yes, well, this was a charge leveled by Paul in his letters to the Corinthians. Using vague language, the writer dismisses the nature of Corinthian leadership and establishes the superior character of the Roman Church. The writer then invites the Corinthians to submit to Roman counsel. Who wrote the letter? When?
Oh, but what about the corroboration of the circumstances of the writing by the works of other church fathers, such as Hegesippus? Yes, quite convenient, because you see these other writings of supposed "corroboration" can often instead to be shown to be works of dependence, where one of the works is actually dependent on the other. Either the writer of First Clement knew the works of Hegesippus and their writing was inspired by Hegesippus or the other way around, etc., etc.
And of course First Clement does not appear to have been a forgery in the name of Clement, because the writer made no effort to establish Clement as the writer, rather what we have here is likely a writing that was never actually sent to the Corinthians and was not attempting to be passed off as a writing of Clement, but was written to insinuate Roman primacy. It was later attributed to Clement.
Also keep in mind that all of the evidence indicates that Peter and Paul were never actually in Rome. The coming of Peter to Rome is itself a fabricated myth. The establishment of any churches by Peter is all fabricated myth. Who are these bishops that are listed, with the earliest of them supposedly appointed by Peter himself? Linus, Ignatius, etc.? Ignatius supposedly personally knew John the Evangelist. Well this is impossible, not least of which is because the writing called the Gospel of John was certainly not written by anyone of Jewish ancestry named John, it isn't even a unity and most definitely the earliest and most significant layer of John is Gnostic. John the Evangelist was supposedly a Jew who became a disciple.
The Gospel of John is virulently anti-Jewish, essentially talking about Jews as if they are an entirely alien group who deserve condemnation. The Gospel does not even mention James and John Zebedee until the final forged chapter. Layers of the work present the Jewish God as a false God and Jesus as having been sent by a God superior to the Jewish God.
So obviously this isn't a work written by "John Zebedee", disciple of Jesus. Yet, all of the traditions of the church fathers indicate that Ignatius personally knew John Zebedee and was able to vouch for the authenticity of the Gospel of John. Clearly none of that can be true. Was Ignatius even real person? Nothing said about Ignatius is even plausible. Was there really a "bishop" of a "church" in Antioch in 70 CE? 70 CE!?
There is zero corroborating evidence for this. Ignatius was fed to wild animals in Rome? Made up. Ignatius WANTED to be fed to wild animals in Rome? Yeah right!
The whole thing is a farce from top to bottom.
It seems to me that what we are dealing with is a religion that grew out of a secret mystery cult. The mystery cult may go back to the first century, but the Christianity we know developed as elements of the mystery cult started to become public in the second century. The Christianity we know was developed by people outside the mystery cult who were imparting their own meaning to writings and rituals that had origins they weren't aware of, who ended up inventing their own back story for the religion's origins. What we see in the writings of the church fathers, from the very beginning, is that everything is framed in relation to supposed "heretics". The whole back story of orthodoxy is invented for the purpose of establishing the credibility of orthodox beliefs against those of other sects. The claims of apostolic succession are inventions for the purpose of establishing the legitimacy of orthodox teachings against other groups. The lists of bishops back to real apostles are all fabricated. The writings used to establish the legitimacy of those lists and claims of succession are all fabricated. These things were all fabricated or misrepresented throughout the second, third and fourth centuries in order to provide a basis for establishing the legitimacy of one set of claims over another. And you see this in how all of these works are used.
We can see that in the ecumenical council starting in the fourth century these works are entered like evidence in legal trials to establish the credibility of orthodoxy over competing versions of Christianity. The fact is that when it came to establishing what teachings about Jesus were true and legitimate, there was nothing concrete to go on. It all came down to just what one person said vs another. The claims of apostolic succession and known authorship of the Gospels were the evidence that put the orthodox over the top. Instead of arguing over theology and philosophy, over matters like whether the Creator was good, evil, or indifferent, they could simply claim that their view was right because it could reliably be traced back directly to the real Jesus himself, through teh succession of the apostles. So at that point it wasn't about logic or reason merits of debate, it was about simply showing that X teaching could be traced directly back to an apostle, who got it directly from Jesus who conveyed it directly from God, and therefore it must be right.