Monday, August 08, 2011

This Week in Patristics July 31st to August 6th, 2011

A light week this week. Enjoy the offerings!

Aggie on the AppAggie blog notes the Patristic application for i-phones- A Year with the Church Fathers by Mike Aquilina (of the Way of the Fathers blog). It almost makes me want to buy a i-phone...almost.

Joel on the Unsettled Christianity blog reviews Thomas Oden's book, The African Memory of Mark in two parts (part one, part two forthcomng).

Roger Pearse on his self-named blog gives an update about the promising reaction to the Eusebius book he sponsored (which is also on my list to get, but a new computer and a book on Greek religion (for work) first!)

Stephen Huller on stephan huller's observation discusses Marcion in light of a discussion with Professor Markus Vinzint, answers the concerns expressed by some biblio-bloggers (in my opinion, justified) about his 'myth-making' in his discussions about Clement of Alexandria,
condemns Eric Osborn's book on Clement of Alexandria (not my favourite, but for rather different reasons- Stephen because Osborn perpetuates the scholarly concensus about Clement's birth, me because it is a bit tedious), discusses the connections between Origen, Gregory Thaumateurgus and Carpocrates (aka Origin???????????), asks how the alleged Alexandrian ex-Patriot (sic!) church functioned in Jerusalem, wonders why Clement and Origen were so popular, discusses the connection between Clement, Origen, Secret Mark in Gregory's panegyric of Origen, discusses the attestations of names such as Carpocrates in Egypt (source, Stephen, source?), discusses the lack of second century discussions of Marcion (given the fragmentary state of second century Christian literature, is that surprising?), follows up by summarizing the evidence against anti-Marcian polemics (mostly, dismissing anything Eusebius has to say on the subject and arguing from the silence which follows), discusses how the Marcionites became associatedi with a (fictitious) Marcian, condemns patristic literature as rubbish because of the well-known ancient habit of mimesis (really, this is a pretty bad mis-reading. One of the ways that the ancients were different from us is that they didn't cite sources as we do- that is fairly recent i.e. within the last hundred years- and they frequently modeled themselves after an exemplary text- here Irenaeus' Refutation) and discusses the likliehood that anti-Marcion literature is actually hidden polemic against the Markan tradition in Alexandria. An editorial note needs to follow here. Readers will note my punchiness in this entry. It is an editorial policy of mine that I will cite whoever writes on patristics, whether I agree with them or not. I do reserve the right to say what I think about these entries. Stephen Huller is an immensely prolific and imaginative scholar, but I have serious issues with his methodology which seems to consist of discrediting existing sources on his subject of choice and substituting his own speculations about the subject. While patristic sources must be viewed critically, it is all too easy to use unreasonable and anachronistic standards to eliminate Eusebius or Irenaeus or anyone's testimony. However, the results of such an inquiry are neither satisfying nor convincing. I will continue to cite Stephen and continue to comment as things occur to me. Enough said.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review reviews Stephen Mitchell, Peter Van Nuffelen (ed.), One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire

That is it for this week. I'm on a blogging break next week, so you'll have to wait until the following week for the next installment.



Stephan Huller said...


I have absolutely no problem with any disagreements with what I am writing in my blog. My point in these last series of posts is to emphasize that Eusebius is our sole source of information for all details about the early Church of Alexandria (outside of the writings of Clement and Origen who say very little about where they are when writing). The assumption of scholars is to classify whatever they write as 'Alexandrian' even though the reality may have been very different.

There are real problems with Eusebius's chronology with respect to Clement and Origen. I see a conflict for instance with regards to Eusebius's claim that Origen wrote the Commentary on John c. 230 CE. The text itself say that it was the first fruit of his labors since coming to Alexandria. Does anyone really believe that Origen wrote nothing from 185 - 230 CE? And even this book doesn't get finished until later if at all.

The same problem can be raised with respect to Against Celsus. Does it really make sense that Origen would have written so late against an original treatise from 177 CE?

As I noted early I use my blog as a notebook. People are free to peruse where I am in my deliberations. To argue that any one post is the 'final word' on a given issue is nonsense.

I think all blogs should be understood as hypomnema rather than 'final thoughts' on a given issue. That's what academic journals and scholarly books are for. Which is precisely why I feel very happy that you have drawn attention to my musings.

Thanks again


Phil Snider said...

Hi Stephan;

Admittedly, Eusebius has his problems as a source. Scholars have been picking at the chronological schema for centuries and that is, of course, fair game. Nor does this disturb me in using Eusebius as a source. My own background is in Roman historiography and most Greek and Roman historians have problems with (in modern eyes) exact chronologies. This makes Eusebius rather the norm than the exception and is the largest reason why I don't get too stressed about his inaccuracies.

That said, what I worry so much in your work isn't re-evaluating chronologies, but your tendency to wholesale dismiss important sources which leaves a rather large void which you fill with rather speculative theories. This is why your dismissal of Eusebius bothers me. Your discussion of Irenaeus in your 'rubbish' post is worse in this respect because it fails to even respect that the ancients did think that imitation (mimesis) of an important work was not only fair-play, but de rigour. Yes, it means that those later sources aren't adding much new, but, to ancients, their reference to Irenaeus guaranteed the truth of their comments, not denegrated them as you seem to suggest.

Yes, a blog is definitely an hympmneta, but it is important to develop some kind of clear methodology. I confess that I don't always follow your posts, largely because I feel like there are huge gaps in my understanding of your thinking (for instance, the whole Secret Mark angle). I'm sure those gaps will close as time wears on, but it does confuse the reader.

As I said, I'll still keep citing you, but I will also keep saying what I think. I'm glad that both are welcomed by you.