The Birth Of Historicity: Tatian -> Clement -> Catholicism

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Post Reply
Posts: 160
Joined: Mon May 17, 2021 6:03 am

The Birth Of Historicity: Tatian -> Clement -> Catholicism

Post by yakovzutolmai »

I would propose that the strict historicity of Jesus was not assumed even with the writing of each gospel. My own personal hypothesis is that there was a historical basis for the emergence of Christianity, but this was relevant mostly to the radical messianists whose cult was crushed successively by Roman authorities. Thus, the gospel texts are asserting a mythical Christ in response to a "Sicarii" notion of Christ's advent.

The "Sicarii" (Eastern) Christ would be very different from the gospels' Jesus, because the gospels' Jesus is the mythical character whose adherents reject the historicized, Eastern messiah.

Thus, the gospels existed in a semi-historical position where adherents could equally propound a historical or non-historical Jesus. Even Gnostic writings, in the historicist era of the third century, treat the historical Jesus with allegorical or instructive tones.

I believe it is Tatian, from Adiabene, who comes from a setting which is more comfortable with a historical Jesus, who encounters the western texts in a different context than extant western schools. His attempt to harmonize the gospels may represent the first effort to extract a historical character out of the western literature.

This, in turn, deeply influences Clement of Alexandria. His purpose was not to read into the hidden meaning of these texts (diverging from the Western tradition), but rather to treat them as grounded, practical moral teachings.

With Clement, the sacred literature ceases to serve an initiatory purpose, and now is a discourse on history and morality. The doctrine ceases to reveal hidden knowledge, but rather expounds upon the importance of moral virtue. This is the birth of catholicism, and it is defined in these two dimensions.

1) Historicism instead of allegory
2) Moral virtue instead of knowledge

The later Syriac church uses Tatian's writings in Clementine context, but it's not clear that Tatian's original purpose was to support catholicized doctrines. It seems that, in the first century, the line between orthodoxy and heresy might have existed within individual schools, rather than externally between rival sects. This would give the post-hoc impression of a continual strain of catholic beliefs, when in reality these schools could have comfortably trafficked in Gnostic ideas. Only by the third century, where sectarianism is seen, is sectarianism incorrectly back-written into the history.

Titus Flavius Clemens's adoption of the name of the famous cousin of the Roman Emperor is very telling. We can see the Flavian cult, in line with Paul's authentic epistles, as an attempt to frame radical messianism as primarily pro-Roman, pacifistic, allegorical (effectively), and pertaining to moral virtue. It's not the quest to transcend, but rather the quest to become a more perfect citizen of the Empire.

I would therefore reassert that there was NO committed acknowledgement of a historical Jesus of Nazareth prior to Tatian->Clement, other than the East's radically different understanding of Christ (Elchasai?). This Eastern, historical Christ is Mark's Barabbas, and Mark's Jesus is the mythical Christ. Mark is commenting on the failure of the historically real disciples of Barabbas and their failure to acknowledge the true, spiritual Christ (while simultaneously mocking them ruthlessly).
Post Reply