Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Week in Patristics July 24-30, 2011

Not a very busy week this week. We all must be on summer vacation or something.

Brantly on the Young, Evangelical and Catholic blog offers a catena to support his argument that St. Augustine was Catholic as opposed to Protestant. Well, yes, but it would be anachronistic to argue otherwise. Yet, as has been pointed out by, I think, Paula Frederickson, Catholics and Protestants emphasis different elements of St. Augustine's teaching, so I'm not sure the distinction can easily be made.

Dan Wallace on the Parchment and Paper blog reviews Bart Ehrman's book, Forged in two parts, with a third projected. (part one, part two).

Joe Heschmeyer on the Shameless Popery blog considers the Council of Carthage's acceptance of the two books of Esdras, aka Ezra and Nehemiah to you.

Steven Huller on the steven huller's observation blog published a bewildering array of observations including a discussion of the lost letters of St. Clement of Alexandria found at Mar Saba, the continued failure to find out how many manuscripts were in the Mar Saba monastery, the alleged forgery of the Mar Saba document, the possible forgery of a letter of Theodore, why Origin denies that Clement of Alexandria was his teacher, the possible emergence of the name of 'Marcian' as heresy in the infiltration of Alexandrian Christianity into Jerusalem, Julius Africanus' evidence of Clement of Alexandria's activity in Alexandria and his flight, Clement's first reference to Marcianites, Clement's role in establishing the Alexandrian liturgy in Jerusalem, whether Irenaeus' dates are correct, why this change in dating will help sovlve the 'Mar Saba' problem, a discussion of Gaius and Hippolythus' holding of bishopric in the same city at the same time, and the internal evidence about whether Clement of Alexandria actually wrote from Alexandria. That is just the larger posts. For a critical comment on Stephen Huller's work, see Rod of Alexandria on the Political Jesus blog.

That's it for this week!



Stephan Huller said...

Thanks for making mention of my blog.

I wanted to name my blog hypomnema. but the name was taken. Clement is a most interesting figure whose life is the furthest thing from being decided by a handful of biographical details woven in two different places in Eusebius's Church History. The question of whether or not Clement wrote any of his works in Jerusalem is a fascinating question. So too the influence Clement had on the first real historical bishop of Alexandria (and the man who likely established the general shape liturgy for future generations - Alexander of Jerusalem). If Jerusalem looked to Alexandria to determine the correctness of Easter Sunday, how far did Alexandrian influence extend in the third century? Was Clement influence over Alexander ('my teacher and benefactor') an extension of Alexandrian influence over the Jerusalem Church?

These are all questions that rarely get enough attention and things I hope to answer in continuing work at my blog. Thanks for the mention.

Phil Snider said...

No problem. I remember your blog from the Patristics Carnival day, but I only just started the TWP and had forgotten most of my old contacts. Welcome back.

Alexandrian theology had a wide influence any way that you slice it. To me, the question of whether Clement was in Jerusalem is a rathr secondary matter, as the influence of the theology could be plausably transmitted without Clement there. Interesting theory and all, but I'm not sure how it fits in.

Stephan Huller said...

But of course the eight hundred gorilla in the room is of course why the Letter to Theodore was preserved in the eighteenth century. Once we accept that John of Damascus knew of a collection of letters of Clement in the eighth century Mar Saba library the focus of the 'forgery hypothesis' suddenly changes. I think it also transforms the context of understanding the text too.

There is an unconscious influence that calling Clement 'the Alexandrian' or Clement of Alexandria' which ignores the fact that when Julius Africanus goes to Alexandria he arrives there to see Heraclas. Clement has long gone and how long he was ever in Alexandria is an open question.

The most common way of identifying Clement in Patristic references as far as I can see is as 'Clement the author of the Stromata.' Clement may well have embodied Alexandrian teaching. That isn't the point of my investigation. The point is that there were many, many Alexandrian expats living in and around Jerusalem in the third and fourth centuries. Theophilus of Caesarea was probably one (see Liber Pontificalis), Alexader of Jerusalem was another. Clement ends up there as well as Origen. During the Easter controversy Jerusalem is said to have been in lockstep with Alexandria - this despite having Hegesippus claim that up until the middle of the second century the Church in Jerusalem was supposedly entirely Semitic rather than Gentile (and presumably Quartodecimanist)

I am intrigued by a possibility that no one has seen before - namely that there must have been resentment among the Semitic speaking Christians in and around Jerusalem (and likely the Roman province of Syria) that their church was effectively being taken over by Alexandrian theologians. What was the mechanism by which Alexander and Theophilus rose to the top of the pecking order? How many people were in these churches in the third century? These are all fascinating questions.

The closest parallel I can think of is that of Gregory the Wonder Worker who apparently was made a bishop at a very young age but had only 17 people in his See. Gregory seems also have been called 'Theodore.' He ultimately became drawn to the Alexandrian 'exile community' in Jerusalem at the age of fourteen (c. 224 CE). Could there be a connection?

I like asking these kinds of questions. Some people don't. That's fair enough but I shouldn't be condemned for merely asking questions or at least refusing to come up with convenient answers to make them go away.

Phil Snider said...

Really, Stephan, Clement isn't one of my strong suit and I have, admittedly, only skimmed your discussion, (which seems to have gone on for longer than the last week), so I'm in no position to argue with you. I don't even know the Letter to Theodore. The only things that I've read of Clement is his Paedagogus and one or two other short essays (I am getting the Loeb for Clement soon- at least it is ordered and taking an inordinate amount of time to get here). So, what I'm saying is that I don't have the familiarity with the sources that you have, so I'm in no position to say yay or nay to your discussion. Given a young family and busy job, my time for reading is very limited.

That said, you talent is for inferences and for reexamining evidence in bold and interesting ways. That is to the good. The evidence should be re-evaluated all the time. My concern with reading you is that, perhaps, you try to get things to fit too well and the evidence gets strained as a result. Discussions of forgeries are, of course, legitimate in patristic studies, but I'm not sure it is wise to use it as a strong support for one's argument because it is easy to discount perfectly good evidence this way. A lot of scholars, professional and amateur, have been hoisted on this particular petard. I'm not saying that you have in this case, but caution means you should consider this as a possibility.

I continue to maintain that Clement's alleged prescence in Jerusalem isn't demonstrated yet. Certainly, you don't cite any direct evidence that he was there, just indirect inference. Okay, that is sometimes all we have, but skepticism about this I think is an equally legitimate response. Besides, I would argue that the close ties of Jerusalem and Alexandria are explainable by the fact that we already know that there was a lot of back and forthing between the two cities in more circles that just Christian (I note that I'm reading John Cassian these days, we spent time in a monastery in Judaea and went to Egypt to learn from the Desert Fathers there). The Jewish population, certainly, interacted extensively in the pre-Bar Kochba days. Further. trade ties were close. Why would these churches also not be close?

What I'm saying is that, regardless about whether you're right about Clement (and I'm strictly agnostic about that), we can explain the close connections fo the Jerusalem and Alexandrian churches. I'm not convinced we're talking about a take-over here, but interaction. Remember, Jerusalem was not, strictly speaking, Jerusalem at this point, it was Aelia Capitolina (a Gentile city!). That only strengthens my argument and, while there would be some disgruntled Semitic speaking Christians outside of Jeruslaem who might be unhappy, I'm not sure that matters with the largely Greek Aelia Capitolina.

Just some thoughts.


Stephan Huller said...

Those are very good points and a number of scholars have questioned the reliability of various aspects of our assumptions about Clement. The difficulty with a lot of early Patristic figures is that you either (a) take Eusebius at his word (and assume that his inferences are generally accurate) (b) use his evidence selectively (which opens you up to the charge of being self-serving) or (c) you end up rejecting or questioning everything he says and you end up losing the right to saying anything about Clement, Origen and the Alexandrian tradition which is most unfortunate.

Unfortunately just about everyone involved in the study of Clement and Origen ends up being pegged somewhere between (a) and (b). Eusebius says that Clement ran away to Alexander after leaving Alexandria. He identifies the 'Clement the presbyter' going off to deliver a letter for the Jerusalem community and referenced in a letter of Alexander as Clement of Alexandria. Most scholars go along with that while struggling to accept Clement as a 'presbyter.' Yet the same general pattern of ordaining runaway Alexandrians can be seen with respect to Origen.

The dangers of not confronting the difficulties with respect to Clement and Origen is that they get ignored or glossed over in our treatment of the period. Alexandrian Christianity is a most interesting phenomenon especially because it leads to the conversion of Gregory Thaumaturgus who is among the most celebrated figures in the third century Church.