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Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity: Hermeneutical, Institutional and Textual Perspectives
 3506703463, 9783506703460

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Hermeneutical Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse
Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines: stratégies rhétoriques pour atteindre l’inaccessible et énoncer l’indicible
The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of John 17:21. A Case Study: Jovinian vs Jerome
L’herméneutique du Nouveau Testament dans le Contra Faustum manichaeum d’Augustin
The Spiritual Pay-Off of Searching the Scriptures: The Principle of the Bible’s Usefulness in the Exegesis of Origen and Chrysostom
Philosophical Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse
Spiritual Life and Philosophical Reason: Features of Philosophical Exegesis in Origen’s Commentary on John
The Contact Theories of Epistemology in Aristotle and Gregory Nazianzen: “then shall I know, even as also I am known” (1 Cor 13:12)
Institutional Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse
Catechetical Exegesis: Cyril of Jerusalem’s Use of Biblical Exegesis in His Catechetical Lectures
Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation of the Nicene Creed: the Case of Athanasius’ De synodis
Ipsius domini et apostolorum habemus exemplum et praecepta: Functions of the Biblical Text in De ecclesiastics officiis of Isidore of Seville
Textual Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse
A New Look at Enoch and Elijah in the Apocalypse of Elijah
Beyond the Text; the Three Lives of Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII
Information about the Authors of the Volume

Citation preview

Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity

Anna Usacheva, Anders-Christian Jacobsen (eds.)

Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity Hermeneutical, institutional and textual Perspectives

Ferdinand Schöningh

Cover illustration: Evangelist portrait of Mark from the 6th-century gospel manuscript preserved at the Ethiopian monastery of Abuna Garima (the photo available in the public domain: File:Illumination-from-Abba-Garima-gospel.jpg).

Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data available online: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. © 2020 Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, an Imprint of the Brill-Group (Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, Netherlands; Brill USA Inc., Boston MA, USA; Brill Asia Pte Ltd, Singapore; Brill Deutschland GmbH, Paderborn, Germany) Cover design: Evelyn Ziegler, Munich Production: Brill Deutschland GmbH, Paderborn ISBN 978-3-506-70346-0 (hardback) ISBN 978-3-657-70346-3 (e-book)

Table of Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii Anna Usacheva, Anders-Christian Jacobsen

Hermeneutical Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse 1.

Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines: stratégies rhétoriques pour atteindre l’inaccessible et énoncer l’indicible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bernard Pouderon



The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of John 17:21. A Case Study: Jovinian vs Jerome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Valentina Marchetto


L’herméneutique du Nouveau Testament dans le Contra Faustum manichaeum d’Augustin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Isabelle Bochet


The Spiritual Pay-Off of Searching the Scriptures: The Principle of the Bible’s Usefulness in the Exegesis of Origen and Chrysostom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Miriam DeCock

Philosophical Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse 5.

Spiritual Life and Philosophical Reason: Features of Philosophical Exegesis in Origen’s Commentary on John . . . . . . . . . 109 Alfons Fürst


The Contact Theories of Epistemology in Aristotle and Gregory Nazianzen: “then shall I know, even as also I am known” (1 Cor 13:12) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Anna Usacheva


Table of Contents

Institutional Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse 7.

Catechetical Exegesis: Cyril of Jerusalem’s Use of Biblical Exegesis in His Catechetical Lectures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145 Anders Christian Jacobsen


Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation of the Nicene Creed: the Case of Athanasius’ De synodis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 Samuel Fernández


Ipsius domini et apostolorum habemus exemplum et praecepta: Functions of the Biblical Text in De ecclesiastics officiis of Isidore of Seville . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 Sergey Vorontsov

Textual Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse 10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah in the Apocalypse of Elijah . . . . . 197 Ivan Miroshnikov and Alexey Somov 11.

Beyond the Text; the Three Lives of Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 Luisa Fizzarotti

Information about the Authors of the Volume . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247

Introduction Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος Jn 1:1 In principio erat verbum Ieronimus In principio erat sermo Erasmus

Neither the eloquent and passionate words of the Apologia de In Principio Erat Sermo, nor the elaborated demonstration of the advantages of his new translation of the Gospel according to John had persuaded the opponents of Erasmus to validate his replacement of “the word” in the famous Jn 1:1 with “the conversation”. Though closer to the original Greek text, the new translation was not accepted because it challenged the traditional mindset and horizon of expectations of the Catholic community of the Quattrocento. Scandalized by such a reaction, Erasmus seethed with indignation against opponents who did not understand that the issue was above all one of interpretation of the Latin and was not a purely theological matter. This short example sheds light on the long-standing tradition of reading the Bible and all Jewish and Christian religious and philosophical texts through the prism of Christian dogma. Curiously, the very words “word” vs “conversation” describe symbolically the nature of the tension between the one-way doctrinal reading of the Jewish and Christian texts and a more open-minded and divergent scholarly approach which provides scope for questioning and investigating the Christian heritage. Even nowadays this tension has not entirely evaporated from Patristic research. How useful is it to the academic community to see in the writings of Christian authors not only witnesses of their faith but also a work of literature carrying with it the shreds of the historical, socio-cultural, institutional, political, rhetorical and philosophical circumstances of their time, circumstances that influenced the way these authors spoke about their faith? In other words, how productive is it to consider Christian literature as literature (sic!), which obeys certain rules of literary production, applies certain literary and rhetorical techniques and reflects the horizon of the philosophical, theological, institutional and also literary expectations of its time? These questions were placed before the participants of the International Multidisciplinary Conference entitled “Theology as a Way of Reception of Bible: Invention or Fiction of the Patristic Epoch?”. Held by the University of Aarhus on 1–4 June 2017, the meeting


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became the final accord of the Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Research Project devoted to the study of the Theological Orations of Gregory Nazianzen in the intellectual context of Late Antiquity. The main goal of the conference was to encourage specialists working with different aspects of the Christian literary heritage to meet and discuss their research approaches to Christian writings, whose status in most cases can be loosely described as a cross between historical documentary and literary fiction. Papyrologists and paleographers, biblical scholars, theologians and patrologists shared their experience of investigating Christian literature qua literature and also of studying how the rules, techniques and criteria of text-writing and text-reading had eventually found an echo in the formation of Christian discourse. This Conference in Denmark continued the discussion started in 2015 at the conference in Tours entitled “Dire Dieu ou Comment parler et écrire sur Dieu selon les Pères de l’Église”, organized by Bernard Pouderon, within the program Christophe Plantin of the Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, attached to the Université François-Rabelais de Tours. The first conference in France, which attracted twelve European scholars from different Academic Institutions, stimulated a vibrant discussion of the methodological aspects of patristic discourse and resulted in a collective volume entitled “Dire Dieu. Les principes méthodologiques de l’écriture sur Dieu en patristique” (B. Pouderon, A. Usacheva (eds.), Collection Théologie historique, Th. No 124, Les Éditions Beauchesne, 2017). The second conference in Denmark summoned sixteen scholars from Europe, the United States and Latin America. The fascinating discussion of various significant principles of Christian literary production showed that these literary principles had a considerable influence on the formation of Christian discourse. Thus, Biblical and philosophical hermeneutics, institutional factors and even the manuscript culture and textual transmission of Late Antiquity modified and shaped the way Christian thinkers wrote and thought about God. This volume inspired by the Conference in Denmark seeks to explore examples of the discernible effects of exegetic principles, Church policies and practices, and characteristics of literary culture, on the theological ideas of Christian authors. Accordingly, the four sections of the volume survey hermeneutical, philosophical, institutional and textual aspects of the formation of Christian discourse. The first article by Bernard Pouderon opens the section devoted to the Hermeneutic Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse. Pouderon studies the so-called Kerygmata Petrou (Preachings of Peter) in the Clementine Homilies. In this text, various rhetorical strategies are employed for the sake of the argument. Thus, the editor of the Clementines creates in his writing an atmosphere of secrecy and esoterism. He proceeds slowly to unravel



his divine knowledge to the narrow circle of the advanced adherents worthy of the honour. The intrigue shapes the whole dialogue of Peter and Simon and is resolved only at the end, where Peter condemns the esoteric doctrine of his opponent. Pouderon argues that Peter and Simon symbolise two competing “gnostic” or “esoteric” doctrines, which insist on the unique truth which each of them reveals. He associates the teaching of Simon with the tradition established by Marcion and identifies echoes of traditional Judaism in the teaching of Peter. It is remarkable that although Simon and Peter are equally sceptical towards dialectics and the power of logical argumentation, they both demonstrate remarkable rhetorical skills which help them in their discourse. Valentina Marchetto in her contribution critically examines the wide range of patristic witnesses to the doctrine of Jovinian, which has a long tradition of a somewhat biased confessional interpretation. In order to sufficiently contextualize Jovinian’s ideas about baptism and other sacraments, and especially about marriage and celibacy, Marchetto reviews the relevant views of his contemporaries and the historical circumstances of the Jovinian debate. She concentrates particularly on a parallel analysis of the debate between Jerome and Jovinian concerned with ecclesiastic, sacramental and ascetic doctrines and revolving around John 17:20–21. The conflicting theological concepts of Jerome and Jovinian guided their contrasting interpretations of the same biblical passage. While Jerome depicted his opponent as a serious threat to orthodox ecclesiology, Marchetto points out that the main ambition of his teaching consisted in reassessing the status of monks, whose modus vivendi, he argues, had no superiority over that of married Christians. The article of Isabelle Bochet studies Hermeneutics of the New Testament in Contra Faustum Manichaeum by Augustine. While both Augustine and his opponent intended to reveal the true interpretation of the New Testament texts, they arrived at incompatible interpretations as a result of their contrasting theologies. The practice of exegesis based on assumptions that are foreign to the text itself calls into question the validity of such biased interpretations. If we accept that the patristic technique for mastering a biblical text is simply a matter of purely doctrinal preferences, we come close to proclaiming the theological perception of the Bible a mere fiction. Consequently, the keen interest Manicheans showed in a primitive form of biblical criticism could hardly be regarded as less correct than contemporary literary criticism or Augustine’s theological interpretation. To clarify these questions, Bochet thoroughly examines the hermeneutic principles both authors applied to the New Testament. She concludes her scrutiny by demonstrating that Augustine’s interpretation has the advantage of canonic consistency because, as opposed to the Manicheans, the orthodox tradition did not deprive certain biblical texts of sacred status.


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Thus, in Bochet’s argumentation, the fact that orthodox authors interpreted texts which they considered sacred, while Manicheans criticized the authenticity of texts that had no special value for them, eventually resolved the hermeneutic dispute between Augustine and Faustus in favour of the bishop of Hippo. Miriam DeCock focuses her attention on the principle of the Bible’s usefulness in the exegeses of Origen and John Chrysostom. Familiar from Plato’s Respublica and Cicero’s De Inventione, the principle of the usefulness of the text was deeply rooted in Hellenic culture. Christian authors also sought to demonstrate the benefits or usefulness of the Holy Scripture. DeCock examines the ways in which Origen and John Chrysostom argued for the usefulness of two passages from the Gospel according to John: The Cleansing of the Temple and The Woman at the Well. DeCock demonstrates that although both authors were eager to show the usefulness of the biblical text, nonetheless their methods of unearthing the proofs of this usefulness as well as the discovered benefits of the text were different. Origen insisted that one must penetrate below the surface of the biblical text to discern its ultimate usefulness, while Chrysostom was content with the literal text’s benefits. However, DeCock also shows that Origen often read non-literally, but that he turned to non-literal reading when the text presented him with some sort of exegetical or philological problem. Thus, DeCock demonstrates a principal methodological distinction between the two traditions of Christian exegesis, namely, their perception of the ways in which the biblical text could be explained as useful. The next section of the volume, devoted to Philosophical Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse, is opened by Alfons Fürst and his study of the features of philosophical exegesis in Origen’s Commentary on John. Fürst scrutinizes grammatical, philological, exegetical and also philosophical aspects of Origen’s hermeneutics. He argues that a fundamental interconnection between exegesis and philosophy was an integral characteristic of Adamantius’ biblical studies, which identifies him as an adherent of the intellectual tradition of the Hellenic philosophical schools. In such a way, Origen applied technical philosophical terminology and used the prolegomena of philosophical schools in his theological discourse. Struggling with the obscurity of the biblical texts, Origen not only explicated enigmatic passages with the aid of clear passages but also used knowledge of various fields of ancient science. In the background of the concept of ἐπίνοιαι, which helped Origen to explain the different biblical names of Christ, was the theory of homonymy developed by Hellenic philologists and philosophers. Fürst emphasizes the significance of Origen’s metaphysics of freedom developed in the Commentary of John. Skeptical of the natural determinism of the human constitution, Origen placed



the burden of responsibility on the human being, whose everyday choices, in the long run, become his nature. This powerful view eventually proved to be rather influential in Christian anthropology and later philosophy. Anna Usacheva analyzes epistemological theories in Aristotle, Apostle Paul and Gregory Nazianzen. She singles out the necessity of practical and embodied contact between the subject and object of cognition as a distinctive characteristic of the Aristotelian, Pauline and Gregorian approaches to knowledge. Following Charles Taylor, Usacheva considers this tendency to reembed thought and knowledge in its original bodily and socio-cultural context and to focus on the process of cognition instead of its result, — the key feature of the so-called contact theories of epistemology. To argue her case Usacheva investigates the notion of medium and the principle of likeness as the key components of the epistemological thoughts of Aristotle and Gregory. She demonstrates that by talking about an overlap between divine agency and human agency in 1Cor 13:12 and Gal 4:9 Paul identified a unique and superb human capacity of knowing God brought about by God himself, who established a principle of likeness between the human and divine natures and also embodied this principle in the human-divine nature of Christ. Usacheva traces this idea in the epistemological thought of Nazianzen, where it was enriched by an Aristotelian approach to knowledge, and later in Maximus the Confessor, whose interpretation of Nazianzen’s texts also has a strong Aristotelian flavour. The article of Anders-Christian Jacobsen, which investigates catechetical exegesis of Cyril of Jerusalem, opens up a new section of the volume devoted to the Institutional Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse. By the way of analyzing the internal logic of Cyril’s use of the biblical quotations Jacobsen explores the nature of the pro-catechetical, catechetical and mystagogical lectures. The scholar also explains the functional differences between catechetical and mystagogical lectures, which reflect the important aspects of the Christian communal life and baptismal ritual of the fourth century. In such a way, Jacobsen demonstrates how Cyril varied in his use of inaugural reading in the mystagogical and catechetical lectures and what were the practical implications of this usage. Put in the social context of Christian baptismal and preaching practices Cyril’s catechetical lectures reveal the rationale of his exegesis. Jacobsen displays the functional and structural parallels between Cyril’s lectures and sermons. He also offers an explanation of the inaugural reading choices as well as of their function in the catechetical and mystagogical lectures. The contribution of Samuel Fernández concerns biblical techniques for the interpretation of the Nicene Creed in Athanasius of Alexandria’s De synodis. Fernández’ investigation is devoted to what is likely the first example


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of the status-building interpretation of the synodical text, which we find in Athanasius’ theological exegesis of the Nicene Creed. To establish the firm authority of the Creed of the first ecumenical council, Athanasius decided to produce a point-by-point answer to the critiques of the Creed. He used the well-known techniques of biblical hermeneutics, which in many cases go back to the Apostle Paul and Origen. Fernández surveys and analyses all the counterarguments of Athanasius and traces the continuity of the biblical exegesis and also his innovative adjusting of this exegetical tradition to the needs of his theological task and new institutional context. Thus, Fernández argues that instead of giving “biblical” status to the synodical texts, Athanasius gave a special “theological” status to them. The rationale of this innovation in the development of Christian discourse is concerned with Athanasius’ attempt at analyzing the specific nature of synodical documents which, although different from the nature of the biblical texts, nonetheless also has a particular touch of divine inspiration. Sergey Vorontsov studies the functions of the biblical text in De ecclesiastics officiis of Isidore of Seville. Active in the late sixth and early seventh century, Isidore presents a good example of status-building exegetic activity in the Western church. In order to establish the origins of the practices of the Church, Isidore used in his work a large number of biblical quotations and allusions along with plentiful citations from the writings of Early-Christian authors. Vorontsov demonstrates that Isidore went as far as to use biblical examples for pondering and re-defining the identity of the clergy with regard to his ecclesiastical thought. In such a way, Isidore approached the biblical text as a source of exempla and praecepta. Vorontsov tackles the history of these terms and shows how Isidore employed the authoritative power of the Early-Christian texts to the result that in his own writing it served three particular functions. Thus, with the help of the Christian literary legacy, De ecclesiasticis officiis explicated and legitimized the practices of the Church, contextualized and legitimized the status of the clergy, and laid down examples of moral conduct for lay Christians and for the clergy. An article of Ivan Miroshnikov and Alexey Somov, provides a new look at Enoch and Elijah in the Apocalypse of Elijah. Miroshnikov and Somov challenge the traditional approach to the Apocalypse of Elijah, which has been commonly regarded as a patchwork of various conflicting Jewish and Christian traditions. Instead, the scholars argue that the Apocalypse represents a systematic account of the eschatological events compiled in a coherent work. They start by examining the extant textual witnesses of the Apocalypse and, whilst attesting the numerous variant readings in the manuscripts, the scholars claim the unity of the textual tradition, which renders useless the attempts of



previous scholarship to dissect the text into different editorial layers in order to grasp its meaning. Miroshnikov and Somov demonstrate how the author of the Apocalypse harmonized diverse eschatological ideas in order to compose a systematic account of the end of times. In this eschatological scenario, Enoch and Elijah have to descend from heaven to the earth twice: first as witnesses against the Antichrist and then as Christ’s forerunners who have to kill the Antichrist and initiate the Parousia. Thus, yielding to the common Jewish belief in the necessary death of all who possess a physical body, the author of the Apocalypse also maintained that the return of Christ would not bring death but rather a transformation into a new transfigured substance. Seeking to reconcile these beliefs, the author wittily played with the terms “the flesh of the world” and “the flesh of the spirit” to describe the second coming of Enoch and Elijah in the new non-physical body. Luisa Fizzarotti in her contribution tries to go beyond the text and to tackle the three lives of the three times written and two times erased palimpsest Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII, which is one of the most remarkable examples of a bis rescriptus palimpsest. Its first level preserves one of the oldest testimonies of Strabo’s Geography probably copied in the 5th century. It also has a Greek collection of laws, De eligendis magistratibus (Vat. Gr. 2306). The mise-en-page of the Vat. Gr. 2306 written in a beautiful biblical majuscule reminds of the Codex Sinaiticus of the Bible. After a review of extant data, she confirms the potential chronological and geographical attribution of the Vat. Gr. 2306 to the 6th century and to an eastern area. The final third section of the first level of the palimpsest preserves the New Testament texts (Vat. Gr. 2061A), inscribed in the 5th–9th centuries. Around the 7th or 8th century, the different parchment leaves of the manuscript were erased and reused to copy the Nomocanon. Fizzarotti supposes that the juridical content of the first (De eligendis magistratibus) and second layer (Nomocanon) could be an important clue to investigate the provenience of the book. The De eligendis magistratibus and Strabo’s books could have been copied — or just kept — in the School of Berytus; after the earthquake many books were transferred from Berytus to Constantinople, a perfect location for the copy of the Nomocanon. She claims that this text was copied for private use, since the style of the handwriting is quite informal, and it presents some features of documentary handwriting. The third level of the palimpsest retains the Pentateuch (Vat. Gr. 2306 + Crypt. A.δ.ΧΧΙΙΙ) and Gregory of Nazianzus’ Orations (Vat. Gr. 2061A) with Pseudo-Nonnus of Panopolis’ scholia. Balanced attention to the materiality, provenance and content of the texts enables Fizzarotti to tackle the history of the manuscripts and to give a good example of the textual aspects of the formation of the reading-writing criteria in Christian society.


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Contemplating the artistic process, Plato in the Phaedrus 264c famously compared discourse to a living creature with its own soul and body and everything that enables and suits the embodied living being. This beautiful parallel exemplifies the motivation of this volume to compile a multifaceted picture of those various strands of the Christian literary heritage which eventually found an echo in the formation of Christian discourse. Textual aspects of the transmission of the Christian legacy reveal to us “the body” of the literary composition: the paleographic data of the manuscript, which retell the history of the reading preferences and writing criteria of Byzantine society. Institutional factors of the Christian literary production preserve an account about the contemporary socio-cultural discourses and the relevant horizons of public expectations. Philosophical and Hermeneutical strands of the literary compositions represent language, terminological apparatus and educational background of the texts. Without analysis of the philosophical and hermeneutical framework of the Christian writings, their meaning is beyond our reach. The contributors to the volume have investigated various aspects of Christian literary production and demonstrated that all these different aspects resonated in the growth and formation of the living organism of Christian discourse. On behalf of the editorial board of the volume, I would like to express warm gratitude to the European Research Council, which provided financial support to the Marie-Curie Individual project of Anna Usacheva and Anders-Christian Jacobsen, to the University of Aarhus, which hosted the Conference in 2017, to Dr. Martin Illert, the senior aquisitions editor of the German office of Brill Publishers for his great help with publishing the volume, and also to all the contributors, who have made our collaboration an efficient and pleasant enterprise.

Hermeneutical Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse

Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines: stratégies rhétoriques pour atteindre l’inaccessible et énoncer l’indicible Bernard Pouderon Abstract Pour faire admettre à ses lecteurs son audacieuse théologie, le rédacteur clémentin recourt aux différents procédés de l’arcane, seul capable de rendre compte de l’indicibilité divine. Ainsi, les deux écrits liminaires, l’Épitre de Pierre à Jacques et le Diamarturia, puis les entretiens de Pierre avec ses disciples les plus proches placent l’enseignement sous le sceau du secret, la révélation de la vérité étant soumise à de strictes conditions, à savoir une «bonne disposition» du cœur et une épreuve préalable, et, sur le plan narratif, se faisant progressivement, au fil du récit, Pierre ne révélant sa doctrine, celle des deux Princes, qu’au cours de ses derniers entretiens (Homélies 20.2.2 et 8.1–4). Cette stratégie didactique se double d’un démarche polémique, dirigée contre Simon, aussi bien à travers une argumentation scripturaire qu’à travers une démonstration par la raison ; elles s’appliquent essentiellement à trois domaines : la monarchie divine, l’origine du mal et la dualité des «Princes». Mais de nouveau, la démarche est voilée, car derrière la figure de Simon, défenseur d’un dualisme pré-gnostique, se cache celle de Marcion (ou d’un de ses disciples), dont Pierre dénonce le dithéisme affiché. Plus encore qu’à Marcion, Pierre s’en prend à une doctrine secrète très proche de celle de l’Évangile de Judas, posant un Dieu suprême et deux divinités secondes, l’une créatrice, l’autre législatrice (Homélies 3.2.2). Deux autres adversaires se dévoilent encore: l’homme ennemi, Paul, coupable d’introduire un second Dieu en la personne de Jésus, et, à la suite, la grande Église, qui s’est éloignée de la stricte monarchie divine du judaïsme. l’auteur et le père de cet univers, c’est tout un travail que de le découvrir, et une fois découvert, le révéler à tous est impossible, Platon, Timée 28c

Le Roman pseudo-clémentin — que nous situons pour notre part, dans sa première rédaction, au tournant des IIe et IIIe siècle, sans doute sous le titre

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_002



de Περίοδοι Πέτρου, celui connu d’Origène vers 230, et dont les Homélies clémentines seraient le meilleur témoin — est une œuvre hybride, susceptible de plusieurs niveaux de lecture. Nous étudierons cette polymorphie en tant que stratégie rhétorique destinée à faire passer un message difficile à énoncer devant un public a priori non acquis aux thèses du rédacteur, en mêlant aux croyances communes au sein du mouvement issu de Jésus des doctrines hétérodoxes d’inspiration ébionite. Notre texte de base sera celui des Homélies clémentines, que nous analyserons comme un tout constitué, sans tenir compte (sauf exception) de ses diverses couches rédactionnelles.

Arcane et indicibilité divine

Nous partirons d’un premier constat : le discours de Pierre se situe sans ambiguïté du côté de l’arcane. À titre d’exemple, la fameuse parole de Jésus rapportée en Mt 11:27 : « nul ne connaît le Père, si ce n’est le Fils et celui à qui le Fils veut bien le révéler », apparaît à maintes reprises dans le Roman, comme manifeste de son ésotérisme : ainsi, au sein de la Controverse entre Pierre et Simon, où le verset occupe une place importante dans le débat, cité qu’il y est de multiples fois.1 Autre exemple, la mention insistante du fait que Jésus, tout comme les autres prophètes, s’exprime en énigmes ou en paraboles, illustrée entre autres par la citation, au cours du débat entre Pierre et Simon, de Ps 78(77):2, repris en Mt 13:35 : « J’ouvrirai ma bouche en paraboles et je proférerai des choses cachées depuis la constitution du monde2 », et théorisée par Clément dès le début du Roman : « C’est avec raison que Dieu a placé sa volonté hors de votre portée, voyant par avance que vous en seriez indignes.3 » Le Dieu de Pierre est en effet un Dieu caché, que seule une révélation, celle du Prophète,4 peut permettre de connaître, puis que seule une autre forme de révélation, celle faite par des disciples ayant autorité en tant qu’héritiers de son charisme, peut permettre de transmettre à ceux qui en sont jugés dignes, tandis que les autres 1  HomClem 17 4.3 ; 16.2 (simple allusion) ; 18 4–14 (long développement à partir du passage, maintes fois mentionné) ; 18 20.1. 2  HomClem 18 15.4 (dans la bouche de Pierre). 3  HomClem 1 11.3 (dans la bouche de Clément, à Rome, pour défendre Barnabé raillé par des philosophes). 4  HomClem 2 6.2–3 : « le propre du Prophète, c’est de révéler la vérité […] ; c’est pourquoi ceux qui ont jadis désiré connaître la vérité, mais n’ont pas eu la chance de l’apprendre de ce Prophète, ne l’ont pas trouvée » ; 2 12.1–3 abrégé : « Si, mon cher Clément, tu veux connaître ce qui importe à Dieu, c’est de ce prophète seul que tu peux l’apprendre. Si, parmi des autres, quelqu’un en sait quelque chose, il le tient de ce prophète ou de ses disciples. »

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


n’y ont pas accès, ni par eux-mêmes, ni par l’enseignement, réservé au cercle des fidèles du Prophète. L’ésotérisme des deux écrits liminaires Ce culte du secret — assez lâche dans l’ensemble du Roman, plus étroit dans certaines de ses parties — est annoncé d’emblée dans les deux écrits liminaires de l’ouvrage : l’Épître de Pierre à Jacques qui accompagne l’envoi des prédications de l’apôtre et la réponse de Jacques sous la forme d’un engagement solennel à respecter le secret (la διαμαρτυρία). Il est lié à la nécessité d’une révélation, seule capable de faire connaître la vérité. Mais la révélation n’est pas offerte à tous : seuls la reçoivent ceux qui en sont dignes. La consigne donnée par Pierre est très stricte : le contenu de cet enseignement ne pourra être divulgué qu’après une longue période probatoire, dont la durée est fixée par Jacques à six années.5 La transgression du secret entraînera, prévient Jacques, la damnation éternelle.6 Cette sévérité ne correspond pas à la relative tolérance dont fait preuve Pierre dans le récit lui-même. On attribue donc assez logiquement ces deux écrits à un ouvrage antérieur, auquel le premier rédacteur clémentin aurait emprunté une partie de la substance de son ouvrage ; il n’est pas impossible que cet ouvrage se soit intitulé Kérygmes de Pierre.7 Mais pourquoi le rédacteur clémentin a-t-il conservé ce rigoureux préliminaire ? La raison pourrait en être une forme de captatio, piquant l’intérêt du lecteur par l’attrait que représentent toujours et l’arcane, et la menace. Car dans le récit lui-même, si Pierre tient de fait deux discours distincts pour le cercle de ses proches disciples et pour les profanes, par exemple les foules païennes de Tripoli, il ne met généralement pas de condition à la réception de son message, et ne l’assortit d’aucune menace : son ésotérisme est donc très mitigé. À ce constat, une seule exception, mais d’importance. À la suite de son débat avec Simon à Laodicée, tout à la fin du Roman, Pierre réserve à ses disciples les plus proches un entretien dans lequel il dévoile la partie la plus secrète de son enseignement : non pas la doctrine du vrai Prophète, révélée dès le début dans l’entretien qu’il a tenu devant Clément, mais celle des deux Princes, liée à l’origine du mal (ou du Malin). On retrouve alors une partie du caractère ésotérique et du ton vaguement menaçant de la Lettre de Pierre à Jacques : le 5  EpPierre 1.2 ; Diam 1.2. 6  Diam 3.2. 7  Ce serait la première mise par écrit des prédications de Pierre à laquelle Clément fait allusion dans le troisième des écrits liminaires, l’Épître de Clément à Jacques : EpClem 20.1, confirmé par RecClem 3 75.1, qui en donne le plan, sans que l’on puise dire quelle est la part de fiction dans cette annonce.



contenu de cet enseignement est réservé «aux plus éprouvés», et une divulgation à la légère de son contenu entraîne un châtiment dans l’au-delà.8 En outre, une certaine forme d’ésotérisme se manifeste dans la structure même du récit. Pierre, en bon rhéteur, ne dévoile pas immédiatement son enseignement, il en fait au contraire attendre le complet dévoilement. La révélation de la vérité sur Jésus, le vrai Prophète et le Prince du monde à venir, est de fait progressive : elle apparaît comme l’un des moteurs de l’intrigue, depuis l’enseignement préliminaire donné par Barnabé à Rome9 jusqu’à la controverse finale entre Pierre et Simon,10 en passant par les révélations partielles des entretiens que l’apôtre mène devant ses disciples ou devant Clément. Il en va de même pour la doctrine de Simon, que Pierre révèle finalement au public, à la toute fin de son débat avec le magicien, déclenchant la colère de son adversaire.11 Parfois, l’enseignement est provoqué par un épisode du récit, comme sa conclusion logique ; c’est le cas du discours de Pierre sur la chasteté, lié au dénouement de l’intrigue, quand Matthidie, la mère de Clément, trouve la récompense de sa vertu en retrouvant ses fils perdus. Pareillement, la dénonciation du déterminisme astral au profit du libre arbitre est liée à la réapparition du père de Clément à la fin du Roman, quand ce dernier raconte ses malheurs, qu’il attribue à la genesis (le thème astral) funeste de Matthidie ! Or, l’éloge de la chasteté et la condamnation du déterminisme astral sont les deux principaux enseignements « exotériques » du Roman. A. Le Boulluec va jusqu’à parler d’« intrigue doctrinale », le cheminement vers la connaissance s’appuyant sur les intrigues narratives et se superposant ou se substituant à elles.12

La révélation de la vérité

Révélation et conjecture intellectuelle Le Dieu de Pierre, que peut seul révéler le Fils, est inaccessible à la raison. Seule une révélation peut le dévoiler à des personnes choisies. Et ce choix n’est pas fonction de la science ou de l’intelligence, mais d’une ouverture d’esprit qui le fait réserver aux âmes innocentes. Ce constat est lié à la citation d’un passage 8  H  omClem 20 8.5–6. 9  H  omClem 1 13.3 : « Après … m’avoir donné une instruction sommaire dans la doctrine de la vérité — bien peu, étant donné le peu de jours … ». 10  HomClem 16–19. 11  HomClem 18 12.3. 12  A.  Le Boulluec, « Jésus selon les Homélies clémentines : du vrai Prophète au Prince de l’âge à venir » (voir bibliographie).

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


de Matthieu : « Je te bénis, Père, d’avoir caché cela aux sages et aux intelligents et de l’avoir révélé aux tout-petits.13 » La péricope est citée plusieurs fois dans le Roman, d’abord en HomClem 8 6.4, dans l’entretien de Pierre avec ses disciples à Tripoli, où les « sages » sont identifiés aux Hébreux ignorants du Christ, puis en HomClem 18 15.1–4, au sein de la controverse entre Pierre et Simon, où le passage est utilisé par Simon pour justifier sa doctrine secrète, celle d’un autre Dieu, puis par Pierre pour priver de la connaissance ceux qui en sont indignes. Les conditions de la révélation : l’εὐγνωμοσύνη Car la réception de la révélation est soumise à une condition essentielle, que Pierre énonce à Clément. C’est l’εὐγνωμοσύνη, c’est-à-dire la bonne disposition du cœur ou de l’esprit. L’εὐγνωμοσύνη est un des termes clés des Homélies clémentines. Il apparaît, entre autres : – pour traduire la fidélité à des engagements : EpClem 10.4 ; HomClem 2 20.2 ; – pour traduire l’ouverture de son esprit ou de sa raison à la vérité ou à la piété, la « bonne volonté » : HomClem 2 39.4 ; 2 41.2 ; 3 32.1 ; 3 50.2 ; 3 69.2 : 6 23.4 ; 15 2.3 ; 17 12.1 ; 17 7.2 ; 18 23.2 ; 19 25.2. – pour traduire l’attachement à Dieu, la reconnaissance de ses bienfaits : HomClem 2 42.1 ; 3 4.3 ; 3 10.4, avec cette belle définition : « l’εὐγνωμοσύνη consiste à sauvegarder l’attachement pour celui qui est la cause de notre existence » ; 3 37.1 ; – comme équivalent de la bonne foi : HomClem 19 2.1 et 3.1. Certes, le terme même d’εὐγνωμοσύνη (et sa famille) est absent du Nouveau testament, mais on peut le mettre en relation avec l’εὐδοκία de Lc 2:14 (δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας), un terme que Jérôme, dans la Vulgate, traduit très justement par bona voluntas : gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis,14 et qui ailleurs désigne plutôt la bienveillance : celle de Dieu15 comme celle de l’apôtre Paul ou encore

13  Mt 11:25, cité en HomClem 8 6.4 ; 18 15.3 ; etc. 14  A. Feuillet, « Les hommes de bonne volonté ou les hommes que Dieu aime. Note sur la traduction de Luc, II, 14 b », Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé, quatrième série, 1 Mars 1974, 91–92. 15  Chez Lc 10:21 et Mt 11:26 (prière de Jésus : « Je te bénis … d’avoir caché cela aux sages et aux intelligents et de l’avoir révélé aux tout-petits. Oui, Père, car telle est l’ευδοκία devant toi (ta bienveillance ?) » ; chez Paul : Eph 1:5 (κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν, trad. TOB « [selon] sa bienveillance ») ; Eph 1:9 (κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ, trad. TOB [selon] son dessein bienveillant … ») ; Phil 2:13 (ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας, trad. TOB : selon son dessein bienveillant »).



d’autres missionnaires.16 Le mot εὐδοκία et son dérivé εὐδοκιμέω apparaissent également dans le Roman, par deux fois (HomClem 13 21.2 et 17 19.6), mais il semble qu’ils y aient plutôt le sens de « bonne réputation », de « gloire » ou de « renommée ». La révélation n’est donc donnée qu’à ceux qui ouvrent leur cœur, et elle n’est recevable que d’eux. Dans l’instruction que Pierre donne à Clément à Césarée, il n’est pas encore question de probation et d’épreuve, mais de qualité de l’âme, celle que Jésus attribue à ceux qu’ils nomment les petits enfants. Cette disposition d’esprit exige cependant un préalable, qui tient en bonne partie de la raison : la quête du maître véridique et le rejet des faux prophètes. Le critère qui permet de distinguer l’un des autres est la réalisation des prophéties : le prophète est véridique si ce qu’il a prophétisé par le passé s’est réalisé, et toute confiance doit alors lui être accordée : – La découverte concernant le vrai Prophète s’avère facile. Voici quelle elle est. S’il est prophète, il peut savoir comment le monde advint, ce qui s’y passe et ce qui s’y passera à la fin. S’il a prédit un événement dont nous savons qu’il s’est finalement produit, c’est à juste titre (καλῶς) qu’à partir de ce qui est arrivé nous lui faisons aussi confiance (πιστεύομεν) pour les événements à venir17… – Il faut avant tout, en exerçant pleinement notre jugement (πάσῃ κρίσει), rechercher le prophète à l’aide de l’annonce prophétique ; puis, l’ayant reconnu, il faut nous attacher à tout le reste de son enseignement.18 – Vous donc, en serviteurs de Dieu de bonne disposition (εὐγνώμονες), concevez de vous-mêmes ce qui est conforme à la raison (τὸ εὔλογον).19 D’où le conseil de Pierre, qui prend la forme d’une parole de Jésus, d’ailleurs absente des textes canoniques : « Devenez des changeurs éprouvés20 », c’est-à-dire : apprenez à distinguer le vrai du faux, le bon grain de l’ivraie. Un long passage expliquera ultérieurement qu’il existe deux formes de prophéties,

16  Chez Paul : Rm 10 :1, où le terme semble désigner la bienveillance de Paul : ἡ εὐδοκία τῆς ἐμῆς καρδίας (trad. BJ et TOB: « l’élan / le vœu de mon cœur) ; Phil 1:15 (δι’ εὐδοκίαν, trad. TOB : « dans une intention bonne ») ; 2 Thess 1:11 (πληρώσῃ πᾶσαν εὐδοκίαν ἀγαθωσύνης, trad. TOB : « accomplir tout le bien désiré », c’est-à-dire « toute votre bonne intention de [faire le] bien »). 17  HomClem 2 9.2 et 10.1 (dans la bouche de Pierre, instruction de Clément). 18  HomClem 2 11.1. 19  HomClem 3 32.1. 20  HomClem 2 51; 1 ; 3 50.2 ; 18 20.4: agraphon 87 Resch; cf. 1Thess 5.21.

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


l’une « mâle », l’autre « femelle », l’une d’essence païenne, l’autre d’inspiration chrétienne, et apprendra à les distinguer.21 L’épreuve (πειρασμός) Cette idée d’épreuve se retrouve par ailleurs, mais assez différemment, dans une des explications que donne Pierre à l’obscurité ou à l’ambiguïté des Écritures : Dieu soumet ainsi les récepteurs de son message à la tentation, en leur délivrant un faux enseignement, afin que, par leur raison, ils puissent le corriger et manifester ainsi leur foi — comme l’explique Pierre, en s’appuyant sur Dt 13:4 : Pierre répondit : Que les Écritures ou les prophètes parlent de dieux, ils en parlent pour soumettre les auditeurs à la tentation (εἰς πειρασμόν).22 C’est une autre manière d’expliquer les passages des Écritures que Pierre déclare hostiles à Dieu ou indignes de lui.

Argumentation par la raison et argumentation par les Écritures

Mais ce discours de Pierre sur les conditions de réception de la connaissance est-il conforme à sa démarche didactique ? En fait, il semble qu’il faille distinguer l’enseignement de Pierre à ses proches — qui fait appel à l’autorité du maître, relais de la révélation faite par le Seigneur, tout autant qu’à la disponibilité du disciple —, de sa démarche polémique, essentiellement à l’adresse de Simon, fondée tantôt sur la raison, tantôt sur les Écritures. L’argumentation scripturaire L’argumentation scripturaire joue un rôle essentiel dans la controverse entre les deux protagonistes du Roman. L’un et l’autre fondent sur elle leur démonstration, ainsi que l’énonce Simon : « Je veux discuter avec toi à partir des livres eux-mêmes.23 » L’un et l’autre y font appel, et parfois à partir des mêmes textes, et chacun d’entre eux prend les Écritures dans leur lettre même. 21  H  omClem 3 22–28. 22  H  omClem 16 13.1 ; cf. Dt 13:4 : « Vous n’écouterez pas les paroles de ce prophète ni de l’homme qui aura fait ce songe, car le Seigneur votre Dieu vous éprouve pour savoir si vous [l’] aimez … ». 23  HomClem 3 38.2.



Simon a le dessein audacieux d’attaquer en public l’unicité de Dieu seul principe ; or il est en mesure d’apporter en public beaucoup de passages (φωνάς) tirés des Écritures elles-mêmes, pour affirmer qu’il y a plusieurs dieux, et que l’un est différent du Créateur et supérieur à lui ; et les preuves qu’il peut fournir sont également scripturaires. De notre côté, nous pouvons produire de nombreux passages des mêmes Écritures disant clairement qu’il y a un seul Dieu, celui qui a créé le monde, et qu’il n’y en a pas d’autre que lui. […] Car les Écritures disent tout, ainsi ne trouvera-t-on jamais le vrai, mais ce qu’on veut, si l’on cherche sans avoir l’esprit bien disposé (ἀγνωμόνως), la vérité étant réservée aux gens ayant l’esprit bien disposé (τοῖς εὐγνώμοσιν). Or la bonne disposition d’esprit (εὐγνωμοσύνη) consiste à sauvegarder l’attachement pour celui qui est la cause de notre existence.24 Contrairement à la présentation que fait Aquila de son enseignement,25 Simon respecte la lettre des Écritures, et il n’use pas de l’allégorie dans son débat avec Pierre, s’inscrivant en cela dans la tradition marcionite, et non dans celle de Valentin ; tout au plus Pierre peut-il lui reprocher d’utiliser des textes en lesquels il n’a pas foi26 — un reproche que d’ailleurs Simon retourne contre Pierre27! Quant à Pierre, il s’attache évidemment lui aussi à la lettre des Écritures, résolvant les difficultés en en retranchant ce qui lui paraît en contradiction avec l’idée qu’il se fait du divin, comme étant des additions ou des altérations, voire des falsifications. C’est la doctrine dite des fausses péricopes, amplement développée dans le Roman.28 L’argumentation scripturaire concerne principalement trois points de la controverse entre Pierre et Simon : la monarchie divine ; l’origine du mal ; les deux Princes. La monarchie divine Le thème principal du débat entre Pierre et Simon porte sur l’existence ou non de plusieurs Dieux. Chacun des deux adversaires cite des passages scripturaires propres à montrer soit l’unicité de Dieu, soit la pluralité des puissances divines. Les citations sont empruntées, d’un côté comme de l’autre, uniquement 24  H  omClem 3 10.1–4 ; cf. 18 23.1–2. 25  H  omClem 2 22.6 : « Il interprète allégoriquement les préceptes de la Loi. ». 26  H  omClem 3 3.3 : « Simon n’a pas craint d’enseigner de telles opinions contre le Dieu véritable en s’appuyant sur des prophéties en qui il n’a pas mis sa foi. » 27  HomClem 17 4.1 (dans la bouche de Simon) : « Pierre, vraiment, ne croit même pas aux paroles de son maître, c’est évident ; car sa prédication est contraire à la sienne. » 28  HomClem 2 38–52 ; 3 40–57.

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


à l’Ancien testament, à l’exclusion des évangiles et des épîtres pauliniennes. Un tableau comparatif permettra de juger quel usage en font les deux adversaires. 16 6.2 6.4

AT Gn 2:16–17; 3:5; 3:22 Ex 22:27 LXX


Dt 4:34


Jr 10:11

6.7 6.8

Dt 12:30 Jos 23:7


Dt 10:17


Ps 35(34):10 LXX ; Ps 50(49):1


Ps 82(81):1


Dt 10:14

7.2 7.3

Dt 4:39 Dt 10:17a

7.4 7.5 7.6


Dt 10:17b–18a Dt 10:17b Is 44:6 + Dt 4:39 et 32:39 (composite) Dt 6:13 Dt 6:4 Ex 22:27 (cf. plus haut Simon 16:6.4) Jr 10:11 Pierre


Gn 1:1

7.7 7.8 8.3



« Adam est devenu comme l’un de nous » « tu ne diras pas de mal des chefs de ton peuple » « un autre dieu (θεὸς ἕτερος) a-t-il osé venir … » « les dieux qui n’ont pas fait le ciel et la terre … » « te mettre au service d’autre dieux » « des noms d’autres dieux me monteront aux lèvres » « Seigneur ton Dieu, voilà Dieu des dieux » « qui est semblable à toi, Seigneur, parmi les dieux? » « Dieu des dieux, Seigneur » « Dieu s’est tenu dans l’assemblée des dieux » « à Seigneur ton Dieu le ciel du ciel et tout ce qui est en eux » « il n’y en a pas d’autre que lui » « Seigneur ton Dieu, voilà Dieu des dieux » « le Dieu grand et véritable » (le Dieu) « faisant droit … » « il n’y a pas d’autre Dieu que moi » « à lui seul tu rendras un culte » « Écoute, Israël … » « tu ne diras pas de mal des chefs de ton peuple » « les dieux qui n’ont pas fait le ciel et la terre, qu’ils périssent » « au commencement Dieu fit le ciel et la terre »




16 8.6

AT Ps 19(18):2 Ps 102(101):27

11.2 12.1

Gn 1:26 Pr 8:30 LXX


Ex 20:5 et 20:12


Dt 13:2–


Dt 18:21 LXX


Ex 7:1

Simon Pierre

« le firmament est l’œuvre de ses mains » « même les cieux périront, mais toi tu demeures » « Faisons l’homme à notre image » « [Unique est le Dieu qui a dit:] ‘Faisons l’homme’ » « rapporter tout l’honneur à un seul Dieu, comme aux parents » « si quelqu’un dit : ‘Allons nous mettre au service d’autre dieux’, vous ne l’écouterez pas » « si quelqu’un dit dans son cœur : ‘comment a-t-il fait ce signe’ … tu sauras que le tentateur te tentait pour voir si tu crains le seigneur ton Dieu » « Moïse lui-même a été dieu pour Pharaon, alors qu’il n’était qu’un homme »

Simon tire argument des nombreux passages des Écritures dans lesquels ou bien Dieu s’exprime à la première personne du pluriel (« Faisons l’homme … »), ou bien il est fait mention de plusieurs dieux (« Dieu des dieux »). La réponse de Pierre est triple. Tantôt il met en avant le fait que Dieu, en employant la première personne du pluriel (« faisons »), s’adresse en fait à sa Sagesse — c’est une interprétation que l’on retrouve chez Justin, Dialogue avec Tryphon 62.1–2 (Dieu s’adresse à son Verbe) ; ou chez Irénée, Contre les hérésies 4 20.1–3 (Dieu s’adresse à son Verbe ou à sa Sagesse). Tantôt il oppose aux textes invoqués par Simon d’autres textes qui font état d’un seul Dieu créateur, ou encore qui prône le culte d’un seul Dieu, opposant à ces textes véridiques des textes falsifiés. Tantôt, enfin, il admet une certaine forme de pluralité du divin (un « monothéisme inclusif », pour reprendre une expression chère au prof. Jacobsen29), en établissant soit une différence de nature (les dieux qui n’ont pas créé le monde ne sont pas dieux au même titre que le Dieu créateur), soit 29  A.-C. Jacobsen, « Monotheism as a key concept in early christian theology », dans B. Pouderon / A. Usacheva (éds.), Dire Dieu. Principes méthodologiques de l’écriture sur Dieu en patristique. Paris 2017, 19–34.

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


une différence de puissance (il existe de fait d’autres dieux, bien au-dessous du Dieu créateur, ce sont les anges ou les démons, ou encore les divinités des Nations30), ce qu’exprimait déjà le Psaume 95:4–5 (LXX), que Pierre ne cite pourtant pas, ici pas plus qu’ ailleurs.31 On entre ainsi dans la stratégie habituelle de l’apologétique du IIe siècle, pour laquelle les dieux des Gentils ne sont pas niés, mais sont dégradés au rang d’esprits mauvais, les « démons ». Si l’Ancien testament est l’unique source des testimonia utilisés par Pierre et Simon pour démontrer ou nier l’unicité de Dieu, c’est plutôt aux évangiles qu’ils se réfèrent tous deux l’un pour manifester, l’autre pour dénoncer l’existence d’un « autre Dieu », situé au-dessus du Dieu créateur et caractérisé par sa bonté. Ce nouveau tableau en est l’illustration. 18


AT NT cf. Mt 19:17 (Mc 10:18; Simon Lc 18:19) cf. Mt 5:45 Pierre


cf. Mt 19:16–17


cf. Mt 19:18–19


Mt 11:27 cf. ; etc. cf. Dt 32:8


4.3 4.3 4.3

cf. Lm 3:38 (cité comme de Jérémie) cf. Dt 32:8 et 32:9


cf. Gn 2:1

Simon Pierre


« Ne m’appelle pas bon, car le Bon est unique » « il donne le soleil aux bons et aux méchants … » commentaire : « voilà la pire injustice » « Ne m’appelle pas bon, car le Bon est unique » « si tu veux entrer dans la vie, observe les commandements » (= ceux de la Loi) « nul n’a connu le Père … » « il délimita les territoires des Nations … »  « de la bouche du Très-Haut sortent les maux et les biens » « il délimita … » & « il donna les Hébreux pour part et décida qu’il serait le dieu des dieux » « qui avait mis en ordre le ciel et la terre »

30  HomClem 16 7.1 ; 16 14.1. 31  « Car le Seigneur est grand et louable au plus haut point, il est redoutable par-dessus tous les dieux ; car tous les dieux des Nations sont des démons, tandis que le Seigneur a créé les cieux ».




18 4.5 6.1 6.3 7.2–3 7.7 11.3 13.1 13.3

AT NT Mt 11:27 (texte marcionite) cf. Gn 2:1 (et ci-dessus 4 :3) cf. Mt 11:27 paraphrase de Mt 11:27 cf. Mt 11:27 Mt 11:27 modifié (cf. ci-dessus : 4:2) Mt 11:27 cf. Mt 22:42


« nul n’a connu le Père … » Pierre

« qui a mis en ordre le ciel et la terre »

Simon Simon

« le Fils le révélera à ceux qu’il veut » « il révèle à ceux qu’il veut » « je n’ai pas compris : ‘il révèle …’ » « nul n’a connu le Père »


qualifications bibliques d’Adam, Énoch, Noé, Abraham 14.1 cf. Pr 9:1 15.1.2–5 Mt 11:25 (exégèse Simon marcionite) 15.3 Mt 11:25 Pierre 15.4–5

15.7 16.2

(non pas Isaïe, mais) Ps 78(77):2 ; Mt 13:35 Mt 11:25 (forme canonique) cf. Mt 23:13 et Lc 11:52 cf. Mt 23:13 et Lc 11:52


cf. Mt 7:2


cf. Mt 13:12 et Mt 11:25


Is 40:27


« nul n’a connu le Père » « les Juifs qui pensent que le Messie est fils de David » Adam, Enoch, Noé, Abraham ne peuvent pas ne pas connaître le Fils « les sept colonnes du monde » « les choses cachées aux sages, révélées aux nourrissons » autre interprétation du passage (Mt 11:25) « Jésus n’a pas dit : [je clamerai] les choses cachées » « tu les as révélées aux nourrissons » « la clé du royaume » « ils n’entraient pas eux-mêmes, ni ne laissaient entrer ceux qui le voulaient » « afin que la mesure dont ils avaient mesuré servît à leur mesurer leur part » « à qui est digne la connaissance est due, à qui est indigne elle est ôtée » « rien n’était caché aux fils d’Israël », « ne va pas dire : ‘la voie m’a été cachée’ » (commentaire de Pierre en s’appuyant sur Dt 30:15 et Mt 7:13,14)

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines



18 17.4

AT NT cf. Mt 19:16–19


Is 1:3


Is 1:3–4


cf. Mt 1:27


cf. Mc 12:24 + agraphon


cf. Mt 19:17 (déjà 17.4.2)

« que dois-je faire pour hériter … ? — suivre les commandements » «‘ Israël ne m’a pas connu ’ ne renvoie pas à un autre Dieu » (contre Marc le Mage : cf. Irénée Haer. 1 19.1) « malheur à toi, nation pécheresse » (parce qu’elle croyait que Dieu était seulement bon et ne tirait pas vengeance) » « nul n’a connu le Père » (à l’adresse de ceux qui croyaient que Dieu ne tirait pas vengeance, i.e. Dieu est bon et juste) « vous ne connaissez pas les Écritures » « devenez des changeurs éprouvés » « puisque Dieu est bon »

Simon n’hésite pas à utiliser les évangiles, pourtant issus de l’enseignement de celui qu’il semble considérer comme un faux prophète, en tout cas le prophète de Pierre, et non le sien,32 pour montrer soit leurs contradictions ou leurs dé32  La pensée de Simon sur ce point est loin d’être claire et cohérente : reconnaît-il, ou ne reconnaît-il pas la validité des évangiles ? admet-il ou non la qualité de « prophète » (par excellence) de Jésus ? voit-il ou non en lui le Christ annoncé par les prophètes et le Fils du Dieu d’en-haut ? et comment se perçoit-il lui-même ? D’après plusieurs passages du débat entre Pierre et Simon, il ne semble pas qu’il reconnaisse en Jésus le fils du Dieu d’en-haut et le « vrai Prophète ». Il suffit de voir comment, dans son débat avec Pierre, Simon qualifie Jésus, de façon fort dépréciative, de « ton maître », c’est-à-dire de maître de Pierre — et non de lui-même : HomClem 17 4.1 ; 13.1, etc. Or, pour Marcion, le Jésus de l’évangile de Luc, celui prêché par Paul dans ses épîtres, le Christ, est bien le fils du Dieu supérieur, le Bon, et non celui du Démiurge, le Juste ou le Sévère : Irénée Contre les hérésies 1 27.2. C’est un des points sur lesquels Simon s’éloigne considérablement de la doctrine de Marcion. Voir aussi HomClem 16 15.1 (dans la bouche de Simon) : « Puisque tu déclares qu’il ne faut pas croire le prophète qui donne des signes et accomplit des prodiges, mais qui parle d’un autre Dieu, en sachant en même temps qu’il mérite la mort, ton maître, qui a donné des signes et accomplit des prodiges, a donc été mis à mort à juste titre » ; et RecClem 3 47.3–4, où Simon se proclame lui-même « fils de Dieu », tandis qu’il qualifie Jésus de « magicien » (magus) : « [Je veux] prouver à tous que je suis le fils de Dieu, l’Immuable pour l’éternité […] ; [est vain] ce magicien qui t’a envoyé [i.e. Jésus]. » ; ou encore la présentation, certes toute polémique, qu’Aquila fait de Simon en HomClem 2 22.6 : « À la place de



saccords avec les écrits vétérotestamentaires, soit leur contradiction d’avec l’enseignement de Pierre, soit leurs contradictions internes. En réponse, Pierre explique les contradictions internes aux Écritures tantôt par des interpolations (c’est la doctrine des fausses péricopes33), tantôt par la volonté des prophètes d’éprouver leurs récepteurs.34 Le désaccord de l’enseignement de Pierre avec celui de Jésus est souligné à maintes reprises par Simon.35 Quant aux désaccords de la Bible juive d’avec les évangiles, il est à la base de la doctrine des deux Dieux de Simon : quand la Bible présente un Dieu juste, vengeur et parfois même cruel, les évangiles manifestent un Dieu bon et exempt de passion.36 l’origine du mal La question de l’origine du mal joue un rôle essentiel dans le débat entre Simon et Pierre, puisque, selon la doctrine du magicien, le Dieu suprême, dans sa bonté, ne peut pas avoir produit le mal,37 mais que celui-ci est le fait du Dieu créateur, démiurge imparfait, identifié au Dieu de la Bible. À l’inverse, Pierre montre que si Dieu n’est pas responsable du mal, c’est son serviteur, Satan, non pas véritablement engendré de lui, mais créé à partir d’un mélange des substances primordiales, qui en est la cause.38 La raison en est le don que Dieu a fait à l’homme (et aux anges) du libre arbitre,39 et du mauvais usage qu’ils en ont fait. Cette question est agitée principalement lors de la quatrième journée du débat à Laodicée, rapportée au sein de la 19e Homélie.

33  34  35  36  37  38 


notre véritable Christ, il se proclame lui-même Christ » — distinct de HomClem 18 7.3, où Simon avoue « ne pas être le Fils ». HomClem 3 42.1 : « [il y a présents] dans les Écritures des passages contraires à ceux qui parlent mal de lui » ; la doctrine des fausses péricopes est explicitée en HomClem 2 38–41 ; 48 ; 50–51. HomClem 16 13.1. Hom 17 4.1. HomClem 19 8. HomClem 19 11.3 (dans la bouche de Simon, par allusion à son Dieu suprême) : « mais (il appartient) à Dieu d’être bon de façon incomparable. » HomClem 19 11.5 ; 12.4. Cette doctrine rappelle vaguement celle que l’auteur de l’Elenchos attribue à Apellès (Elench. 7.38), selon laquelle : « le Christ est descendu d’auprès de la Puissance d’en haut […] Il n’est pas né d’une vierge […] mais, empruntant à la puissance du Tout ses parties, c’est-à-dire du chaud et du froid, de l’humide et du sec, il s’est composé un corps … ». HomClem 19 15.7 ; 20 2.3.

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines

19 2.2 2.3

AT NT cf. Mt 26:35 cf. Mt 12:26


cf. Lc 10:18


Mt 13:39


agraphon 83 Resch Mt 5:37


Mt 6:13


Mt 12:34


cf. Mt 8:26


cf. Mt 8:31


agraphon 84 Resch


cf. Mc 4:34 (Jésus parle en parabole) Jn 9:3


22.7 22.9

cf. Lv 15:19–24; 20:18 (impureté de la femme) Dt 34:7 ; Ex 8:5–9; 8:25–27; 9:33; 10:18)



« non, je ne te renierai pas » « si Satan chasse Satan, comment tiendra son royaume ? » « … Satan tomber du ciel comme un éclair » « celui qui a semé la mauvaise graine, c’est le diable » « ne donnez pas prétexte au Mauvais » « que votre oui soit oui, votre non soit non, ce qui vient en plus vient du Mauvais » « délivre-nous du Mauvais » « reculez dans les ténèbres extérieures, que le Père a préparées pour Satan » « de ce qui déborde du cœur, de là parle la bouche » (à propos des intentions mauvaises de Simon) allusion à la tempête apaisée (Dieu maître de la matière) allusion à l’expulsion des démons (Dieu maître des démons) « les mystères, gardez-les pour moi et les fils de ma maison » « il expliquait à ses disciples (les mystères du royaume) » « ni lui ni ses parents n’ont péché, mais il fallait que se manifestât la puissance de Dieu » interdits sexuels (par référence au passage précédent) vieillesse robuste de Moïse, guérisons opérées par Moïse (celui qui ne pèche pas ne souffre pas mais peut guérir autrui)



L’argumentation scripturaire de cette Homélie vise essentiellement à montrer qu’il existe bel et bien un prince du Mal, le Mauvais ou Satan. Et sur ce point du moins, les deux débatteurs sont d’accord.40 Ce qui les distingue, c’est la question de son origine, que n’indiquent pas les Écritures et que chacun d’eux situe différemment.41 les deux Princes : le Bon et le Mauvais Le développement sur le Bon et le Mauvais fait suite à celui sur l’origine du mal. Il représente l’aboutissement de l’enseignement de Pierre, qu’il réserve à ses disciples.42 Dans sa démonstration, Pierre n’a pas recours aux Écritures, puisque, ainsi que nous l’avons vu, elles ne traitent pas de ce sujet. Les arguments scripturaires que nous trouvons dans cet entretien sont concentrés dans sa partie médiane, quand Pierre explique au cercle restreint de ses proches comment Dieu, qui est bon, a pu produire un être différent de lui. 20

AT NT 6.7 cf. Ex 4:3–4; 7: Pierre prodiges de Moïse (pour montrer qu’a fortiori Dieu peut se changer lui-même) 6.8 cf. Gn 2:7 Dieu a transformé de la poussière en un homme (id.) 6.8 cf. Qo 3:20 Dieu peut transformer l’homme en poussière (id.) 6.8 cf. Ex 34:29–30 Moïse transformé en lumière (id.) 7.2 cf. Gn 18:2–4 (Membré) les anges de Membré ayant pris chair (id.) 7.3–4 cf. Gn 32:25–26.32 lutte de l’ange avec Jacob (id.)

40  H  omClem 19 8.2. 41  H  omClem 19 8.2. 42  H  omClem 20 8.5 : « Rappelez-vous ceci, je vous prie : de telles choses, il ne faut pas les dire à tous, mais aux plus éprouvés, après un examen. Vous ne devez pas non plus les soutenir entre vous à la légère, ni avoir l’audace de les dire comme si vous aviez la révélation exacte des mystères ; mais il faut y penser seulement en silence ; car si jamais il en parle autrement qu’il ne convient, celui qui se sera exprimé commettra une faute, et il subira un châtiment pour avoir osé exprimer, ne serait-ce qu’à lui-même, ce qu’on vénère par le silence. »

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines




AT NT 9.1–2 cf. Mt 25:30.41 (malédictions sur le mauvais serviteur, sur ceux de gauche) 9.7 cf. Ex 7:9

question d’un disciple : « comment se fait-il que le Mauvais, établi par Dieu, soit envoyé dans les ténèbres » le bâton d’Aaron, type de la transformation du Mauvais

C’est dans ce contexte étroit de la possibilité qu’un Dieu bon engendre un être Mauvais, que Pierre a recours à des témoignages scripturaires, tirés principalement du Pentateuque. Il veut ainsi montrer que Dieu a la capacité de se changer lui-même,43 comme d’autres éléments de la création peuvent se changer ou être changés par lui : tel le bâton de Moïse, devenu serpent ; les anges de Membré, revêtus d’une forme humaine ; l’être céleste contre lequel a combattu Jacob sous une apparence humaine ; ou encore Moïse lui-même, dans une forme de transfiguration, et jusqu’à l’homme, que Dieu a fait venir à l’être à partir de la poussière, et qui retournera en poussière … Ainsi, Dieu a émis, par un changement, « un être de même substance que lui », qui est le Bon prince,44 et, à l’opposé, il a émis une substance à partir de laquelle s’est constitué le Mauvais, par une forme de mélange.45 L’utilisation d’une argumentation de type sophistique Le rédacteur dénonce à maintes reprises, par la bouche de Pierre, toute tentative de démonstration purement logique des vérités divines, au profit de la confiance accordée au transmetteur, censé être le dépositaire de la vérité : À l’avenir, prête attention aux discussions que j’aurai avec ceux du parti opposé. Et si j’ai le dessous, je ne crains pas que tu en viennes à douter de la vérité qui t’a été transmise, car tu sais que c’est moi qui ai l’air d’être vaincu, et non la doctrine qui nous a été transmise par le Prophète. Du reste, j’espère bien ne pas avoir le dessous, dans la discussion, aux yeux 43  H  omClem 20 6.4 : « sous l’action de son Esprit inné, son corps [i.e. celui de Dieu] devient ce qu’il veut, par une puissance indicible ». 44  HomClem 20 7.6 ; 8.4. 45  HomClem 20 8.2–3.



des gens sensés (τοὺς νοῦν ἔχοντας) — je veux dire des amis de la vérité —, capables de discerner parmi les discours lesquels sont captieux, artificieux et séduisants, et lesquels sont simples, sans apprêt, et ne doivent leur assurance qu’à la vérité qu’ils contiennent.46 Contre la prophétie, ni les finesses du langage ne peuvent rien, ni les sophismes ingénieux, ni les syllogismes, ni aucun autre expédient.47 Mais dans les faits, la controverse entre Pierre et Simon est en bonne partie fondée sur une argumentation rationnelle, qu’elle soit ou non à base de citations scripturaires. En effet, la controverse avec Simon dévoile en Pierre un habile sophiste, capable de vaincre son adversaire dans un débat fondé sur un jeu de déductions logiques. Le plus bel exemple s’en trouve dans le troisième jour de discussion entre Pierre et Simon, quand Pierre, se faisant l’avocat de Dieu,48 accule son interlocuteur par une série de questions impliquant des réponses qui entraînent à leur tour de nouvelles questions et des réponses tout aussi nécessaires, dans une forme de maïeutique. Pierre : Puisque tu as avoué, ne serait-ce qu’en apparence, que tu n’as pas compris [la phrase : ‘il révèle à ceux qu’il veut’ : 18.7.3], réponds aux questions que je te pose, et tu l’apprendras.49 Suit une série de questions posées par Pierre — au nombre de quatre —, jusqu’à ce que Simon, acculé par la dernière, se déclare vaincu … au moins sur le seul plan formel : Simon […] rougit de honte et […] dit : ‘Et l’on prétend que moi, un magicien, je suis vaincu par Pierre, et qui plus est, dans une argumentation logique (ἀλλὰ καἱ συλλογιζόμενον) ! Mais on a beau être pris au piège dans une argumentation logique, on n’entraîne pas dans la défaite la vérité qu’on a en soi ; car la faiblesse du défenseur ne se confond pas avec la vérité du vaincu.50 Il est plaisant de retrouver dans la bouche de Simon l’échappatoire auquel avait eu recours par avance Pierre : l’habileté rhétorique n’est pas un gage de 46  47  48  49  50 

HomClem 1 20.7. HomClem 1 21.5. HomClem 19 3.6. HomClem 18 8.1. HomClem 18 9.1–2.

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


vérité, pas plus qu’une faiblesse dans le seul jeu de la dialectique ne signifie une faiblesse dans le fond doctrinal.51 Autre exemple de recours à une argumentation logique : on la trouve dans la discussion qui oppose Pierre à Simon sur la forme de Dieu, liée à la formule « Dieu créa l’homme à son image ». L’apôtre se lance dans une démonstration rigoureuse, puisant dans la philosophie la réponse à la principale objection de Simon : ce qui a une figure a un lieu et ne peut être infini. Pierre répond, de façon assez obscure, il faut bien le dire, à partir de la doctrine stoïcienne du lieu et du vide,52 en opposant le lieu comme non-étant à Dieu comme étant, puis en réfutant cette hypothèse qu’un lieu puisse être un non-étant, et enfin en prenant le soleil pour exemple d’un contenant inférieur au contenu.53 Il procède par un jeu de questions qu’il se pose à lui-même ou qu’il met dans la bouche d’interlocuteurs fictifs. Ailleurs, il refuse ce qu’il appelle le dialogue éristique, par référence aux débats des sophistes. Mais c’est pour se livrer seul au jeu des questions et des réponses, dans la tradition de la diatribe stoïco-stoïcienne, telle du moins qu’on se la figurait jusque dans des temps récents54 : Pour ne pas perdre de temps à discuter sur le mode éristique (ἐριστικώτερον διαλεγόμενος), je vais donner moi-même les réponses à mes interrogations.55 Dans tous les cas, c’est bien en sophiste que Pierre argumente contre Simon, montrant ainsi un visage bien différent de celui du maître qui initie Clément à la doctrine du vrai Prophète. Un Roman à clé Le problème de la connaissance est aussi lié à une mise en question du mode de connaissance. Simon, qui dénie toute valeur à l’enseignement du vrai Prophète qu’est le Christ tel que le transmet Pierre, dénonçant même ses contradictions et ses impostures,56 prétend avoir un accès direct à la révélation par le moyen 51  HomClem 1 19.2 ; 2 21.5–6. 52  Voir par ex. Sextus Empiricus, Hypotyposes pyrrhoniennes 10.3 ; Diogène Laërce, Vies et opinions des philosophes 7.140. 53  HomClem 17 8. 54  HomClem 17 8.1–2 : « Mais quelqu’un dira … […] À cet objecteur on peut répondre … […] Sauf à supposer … » Sur la diatribe, voir la mise au point de P. P. Fuentes González, Les diatribes de Télès. Paris 1998, chap. 6 : « Le genre littéraire : la question de la “diatribe” », 46 et suiv. 55  HomClem 18 2. 56  HomClem 16 15 ; RecClem 3 47.4.



de « visions », un mode de connaissance que récuse au contraire l’apôtre Pierre. Voici comment Simon présente sa conception de la connaissance par cette forme d’accès direct à la vérité qu’est la vision, qu’il oppose à celle, d’apparence plus évidente, qu’est la fréquentation d’un maître : Tu (i.e. Pierre) prétends avoir fort bien compris les propos de ton maître, parce que tu le voyais, présent en personne, avec évidence, et que tu l’écoutais, et qu’il n’est pas possible à un autre de parvenir au même résultat par une vision ou une apparition. Que cela soit un mensonge, je vais le montrer. Celui qui écoute quelqu’un, en sa présence évidente, n’est pas absolument certain de ce qui est dit. Son intelligence (ὸ νοῦς αὐτοῦ) peut se demander en effet si cet être visible ne ment pas, puisque c’est un homme. Mais l’apparition, elle, à l’instant où elle se montre, procure à celui qui la voit la certitude qu’il s’agit de la divinité.57 Pierre conteste évidemment ce type de connaissance, qu’il dit être sujet à l’erreur : Tu as avancé qu’on peut comprendre ce qu’on apprend par une apparition bien mieux que par une présence évidente, […] voulant nous persuader que le récepteur d’une apparition est plus sûr que l’auditeur jouissant de la présence évidente. Enfin, tu as prétendu connaître Jésus plus exactement que moi, pour cette raison que tu as entendu sa parole dans une apparition. […] Mais celui qui croit à une apparition, ou à une vision, ou à un rêve, est sujet à l’erreur […] ; ce peut être en effet un mauvais démon, ou un esprit trompeur, qui, par son discours, feint d’être ce qu’il n’est pas.58 Chacun verra dans ces propos une dénonciation, non pas d’une quelconque thèse gnostique, dont Simon serait le premier témoin, mais celle de la prétention de l’apôtre Paul à une connaissance directe de Jésus, à la suite de la vision qu’il a eue de lui. Cette condamnation correspond à d’autres passages du Roman dans lesquels Paul est dénoncé comme « l’homme ennemi », celui qui veut abolir la Loi et qui corrompt l’enseignement de Jésus.59 C’est donc bien l’apôtre Paul qui est visé par delà les attaques de Pierre à l’adresse de Simon. 57  H  omClem 17 13.2–3. 58  H  omClem 17 14.1–4 (abrégé). 59  E pPierre 2.3 (« un enseignement contraire à la Loi, les sornettes de l’homme ennemi ») ; cf. RecClem 1 70.1–8 (« un homme ennemi » frappe Jacques à mort — sans toutefois l’achever) ; 1 71.3 (« notre ennemi » chargé par le grand prêtre d’anéantir les fidèles) ; 1 73.4 (« un ennemi »).

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


Mais bien au-delà de Paul, c’est toute la christologie de la Grande Église qui est mise en cause. En effet, dans le débat qui oppose Pierre à Simon, en réponse à une objection de Simon soulignant que Pierre se contredit en récusant les deux Dieux de son système, tout en reconnaissant la divinité de Jésus comme un autre Dieu, l’apôtre répond que le Fils, tout en étant engendré du Père, n’est pas de la même οὐσία que le Père, qui est quant à lui inengendré : Simon : N’es-tu pas d’avis que celui qui vient de Dieu est Dieu ? — Pierre : Comment cela peut-il être ? Explique-le nous. Nous ne pouvons pas, nous, te le dire, parce que nous ne l’avons pas entendu de lui. En outre, le propre du Père est de n’avoir pas été engendré, mais du Fils de l’avoir été ; or l’engendré ne se compare pas à l’inengendré ou même à ce qui s’est engendré soi-même. […] L’un, qui se trouve engendré par lui-même ou encore inengendré, et l’autre, qui est engendré, ne peuvent pas être identiques, et l’engendré ne saurait être de la même substance que le géniteur (οὐδ’ ἂν τῆς αὐτῆς οὐσίας ὁ γεγεννημένος τῷ γεγεννηκότι).60 On croirait voir là un argument contre l’ὁμοούσιος nicéen, si la chronologie ne s’y opposait. Aussi a-t-on soupçonné un passage parallèle des Reconnaissances clémentines (3.2–11), qui porte sur l’engendré et l’inengendré, d’être une interpolation eunomienne,61 tant il s’intègre bien dans la polémique arienne. Le Fils y est qualifié indirectement de « créature » (genitura et factura et creatura), et nettement subordonné au Père.62 Toutefois, la présence de la même thématique (engendré-inengendré, consubstantiel-non consubstantiel) dans les Homélies permet de douter que l’interpolation soupçonnée, si tant est qu’il y en ait eu une, soit une addition pure et simple d’un interpolateur anoméen, et non pas seulement un aménagement ultérieur d’un passage existant dès la source commune des Homélies et des Reconnaissances, je veux dire l’Écrit de base, la Grundschrift ou, pour reprendre le titre origénien, les Περίοδοι Πέτρου. Mais Paul, puis la grande Église telle qu’elle commençait à fixer ses dogmes à la fin du IIe siècle, et enfin l’Église nicéenne, ne sont pas les seuls cibles visées à travers Simon. C’est bien un système « gnostique », ou apparenté,63 que 60  HomClem 16 15.3–16 1.3. 61  Voir M. Tardieu, « Une diatribe antignostique dasn l’interpolation eunomienne des Recognitiones », dans Alexandrina. Mélanges offerts au P. Claude Mondésert, Paris 1987, 325–337 ; L. Cirillo, « L’interpolation eunomienne », dans A. Schneider / L. Cirillo (éds.), Les Reconnaissances du pseudo Clément, Turnhout 1999, 575–576. 62  Rec 3 8, 3.7.9. 63  C’est-à-dire marcionite, puisque, si l’on définit, à l’instar des hérésiologues, la particularité du gnosticisme comme la distinction d’un Dieu supérieur, caractérisé par la perfection, et



d­ éveloppe Simon et que combat Pierre. Quel est-il exactement ? Dans plusieurs passages, Simon expose sans ambiguïté une doctrine dithéiste, opposant à un Dieu bon, situé dans une parfaite transcendance, un Dieu juste, soumis à des passions telles que la colère ou la jalousie, et qui s’identifie sans conteste au Dieu de l’Ancien testament. En voici quelques témoins, placés aussi bien dans la bouche de Simon lui-même que dans celle de ses adversaires : – HomClem 3 38.2–3 : « le Dieu dont tu (i.e. Pierre) as parlé n’est pas la Puissance suprême qui a tout pouvoir, car il est privé de prescience, imparfait, déficient ; il n’est pas bon et il est soumis à des passions mauvaises. […] Il en existe un autre (ἕτερος), non mentionné par les Écritures, qui est doué de prescience, parfait, sans déficience, bon, exempt de toutes passions mauvaises. »; – HomClem 18 1.1 : « Celui qui a créé le monde n’est pas le Dieu suprême, mais celui-ci est un autre (ἕτερος), qui seul est bon et qui jusqu’à présent est resté inconnu. » Mais par-delà cette doctrine, visiblement empruntée à l’école de Marcion, existe une doctrine secrète, que Pierre n’hésite pas à dévoiler au public, déclenchant l’ire de Simon.64 Dans ce nouveau système, que l’on peut qualifier de « triangulaire », le couple Dieu bon / Dieu juste est remplacé par une triade, au sommet de laquelle se place le Dieu inconnu, tandis qu’au niveau inférieur figurent deux autres puissances célestes, l’une Législatrice, l’autre Démiurgique, qualifiés d’anges par Pierre, mais de dieux par Clément, dans une forme de dédoublement du Dieu de la Bible. Voici comment Pierre le présente : – Nous, Simon, nous ne disons pas que de la part de la grande Puissance, appelée aussi seigneuriale (κυρίας), ont été envoyés deux anges, l’un pour créer le monde, l’autre pour instituer la Loi, pas plus que n’existe celui qui se tient debout (ὸ ἑστώς) et qui se tiendra debout, en adversaire65 (ἀντικείμενος); – Simon est prêt à venir devant tous démontrer, d’après les Écritures, que le Dieu suprême n’est pas celui qui a créé la ciel et la terre, mais un autre (ἄλλον

d’une ou plusieurs puissances démiurgiques, caractérisée(s) par l’imperfection et qu’on peut identifier, singulièrement ou collectivement, au Dieu de l’Ancien testament, alors Marcion est bien apparenté aux gnostiques, et peut même être rangé en leur sein ou sur leurs marges, comme le font d’ailleurs les hérésiologues depuis Justin. 64  HomClem 18 12.3 : « Qu’as-tu à débiter ces sornettes, impudent, toi [i.e. Pierre] qui dévoiles à la légère les secrets devant une foule ignare … ». 65  HomClem 18 12.1 (dans la bouche de Pierre).

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


τινὰ), inconnu et suprême en tant que Dieu resté secret ; il a, lui, envoyé deux dieux, l’un qui a créé le monde, l’autre qui a donné la Loi.66 À cette triade, il faut évidemment ajouter une quatrième puissance, le Mauvais, dont Pierre et Simon admettent de concert l’existence, tout en s’opposant sur sa genèse: Simon : Dis-tu, oui ou non, qu’il y a un Prince du mal ? Car si tu dis qu’il n’y en a pas, je puis te prouver, à partir des paroles de ton maître, qu’il y en a un […]. — Pierre : Il m’est impossible de renier la parole de mon maître ; c’est pourquoi je reconnais que le Mauvais existe ; car le maître qui dit en tout la vérité a souvent affirmé son existence.67 Ce système ternaire ou quaternaire rappelle bien évidemment la doctrine attribuée par l’auteur de l’Elenchos à Apellès, un des disciples de Marcion, qui distingue, au sommet de son système, un Dieu bon, puis, à l’étage inférieur, trois créatures célestes qualifiées tantôt de dieux, tantôt d’anges : le Démiurge, le Dieu de feu, qui n’est autre que le Législateur de la Bible, apparaissant à Moïse sous la forme de flammes, et enfin le Dieu mauvais. Quant au Christ, il serait Fils du Dieu suprême.68 Simon s’inclut lui-même dans ce système, soit comme Fils du Dieu suprême, en rival du Christ prêché par Pierre, soit comme une figure du Dieu suprême lui-même.69 Il va sans dire que cette prétention est tout à fait étrangère au système de Marcion comme à celui de son disciple Apellès.

66  HomClem 3 2.2. 67  HomClem 20 2.1–2. 68  [Hippolyte], Elenchos 7 (10) 38 : « Voici ce qu’Apellès enseigne : Il existe un Dieu bon, comme Marcion l’a établi. Celui qui a créé toutes choses et a organisé les êtres créés est juste. Il y en a un troisième, celui qui a parlé à Moïse : celui-là est de feu. Il y en a encore un autre, un quatrième, celui qui est l’auteur du mal. Ceux-ci, Apellès les qualifie d’anges. Le Christ, suivant Apellès, est descendu d’auprès du Bon, dont il est le Fils. » 69  HomClem (dans la bouche de Clément) : « Il veut se faire passer pour une puissance très supérieure même au Dieu qui a créé le monde. Parfois il va jusqu’à raconter qu’il est le Christ et se donne le titre de Celui qui se tient debout » ; en revanche, en HomClem 18 7.3, Simon avoue « ne pas être le Fils », comme nous l’avons vu plus haut. Voir aussi les passages parallèles dans les Reconnaissances : 2 7.1 : « il veut qu’on croie qu’il est une puissance sublime, supérieure au Dieu créateur et qu’on l’appelle l’Immuable » ; 3 47.3–4 : « [je veux] prouver à tous que je suis le Fils de Dieu, l’Immuable pour l’éternité […] ; [est vain] ce magicien [i.e. Jésus] qui t’a envoyé et qui n’a même pas pu se délivrer lui-même du supplice de la croix ».



Toutefois, il serait bien hardi de soutenir qu’à travers Simon, le rédacteur clémentin vise plus spécialement Apellès, car ce dernier, au contraire de Marcion, qui en reconnaît la lettre pour mieux les récuser, rejette la Loi et les prophètes comme « œuvre humaine et mensongère70 ». Or, le Simon des Clémentines semble admettre la validité des Écritures, dont il tire argument contre Pierre, même s’il ne voit pas en elles l’expression du Dieu suprême. Aussi peut-on chercher ailleurs d’autres pistes — par exemple une secte gnostique ésotérique rivale de celle au sein de laquelle ont été composées les Clémentines. Ainsi, on peut rapprocher la doctrine de Simon de celle évoquée dans l’Évangile de Judas, au sein duquel figurent, en dessous du Dieu suprême, Père de Jésus Christ, deux divinités secondaires, avec le statut d’anges, à savoir Nebro, appelé également Yaldabaoth, et Saklas, qui prend la place du Dieu créateur de la Bible.71 Il est assez remarquable que le système de Pierre, dévoilé au terme de son enseignement, soit également triangulaire : Dieu a établi deux Princes, l’un Bon, l’autre Mauvais, l’un engendré, l’autre venu à l’existence de façon contingente, l’un dominant en ce monde (on suppose que c’est Satan), l’autre appelé à régner dans le monde futur (il doit être identifié au Christ). – HomClem 20 2.2 : « Dieu, ayant défini deux royaumes, a établi aussi deux âges ; il a décidé de donner au Μauvais le monde présent parce qu’il est de courte durée, qu’il passe rapidement, mais il a promis de donner au Bon l’âge à venir, parce qu’il est long et éternel » ; – HomClem 20 8.1–4 (abrégé) : « La substance du corps du Mauvais n’a été engendrée ni par Dieu ni par un autre […], mais elle a pris existence de façon contingente, par effet du mélange (i.e. des quatre éléments), au dehors, selon la volonté de Dieu. » Conclusion La fiction romanesque semble ainsi recouvrir une réalité bien concrète : la concurrence sur un même terrain (vraisemblablement la Syrie-Palestine) de deux systèmes « gnostiques » ou « ésotériques », fondés tous deux sur une appropriation de la révélation, détenue de façon exclusive, tenue cachée au profane et transmise seulement après initiation ou probation à ceux qui en sont estimés dignes : de ces deux systèmes, l’un, celui de Simon, est proche de 70  [Hippolyte], Elenchos 7 (10)38. 71  EvJudas p. 47 (le grand éon) ; p. 51 (Nébro ou Ialdabaôth et Saklas).

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


Marcion, de caractère dithéiste et profondément hostile au judaïsme traditionnel, à sa Loi et à son Dieu « juste » ; l’autre, celui de Pierre, s’affiche comme fidèle à la Loi juive et à la monarchie divine, et se révèle tout aussi profondément hostile au prétendu « dithéisme » de la grande Église, tout en se montrant en concurrence directe avec une secte ésotérique d’inspiration marcionite. Pour défendre leurs thèses, les deux adversaires recourent aux mêmes Écritures, qu’ils interprètent chacun dans un sens différent. Mais ils utilisent aussi l’un et l’autre les ressources de la rhétorique et de la dialectique, tout en en dévaluant, non pas la force, mais le fondement et la justesse. Quand au rédacteur, il recourt lui aussi aux séductions de l’arcane, dévoilant très progressivement la doctrine secrète des deux protagonistes, et surtout usant de clés pour imposer sans choquer son public une seconde face, une face cachée, de sa polémique : non pas tant contre Paul, pourtant désigné sans ambiguïté comme étant « l’adversaire », ni contre Marcion, tout aussi reconnaissable sous les oripeaux de Simon grâce à sa distinction d’un Dieu bon et d’un Dieu juste, que contre la grande Église, coupable à ses yeux de dénaturer le véritable message de Jésus en posant un second Dieu aux côtés du seul Être indicible et parfait. Sigles Diam: Diamarturia (Engagement solennel) = EAC II, 1218–1221. EAC: Écrits apocryphes chrétiens (voir bibliographie). EpClem: Épître de Clément à Jacques = EAC II, 1222–1234. EpPierre: Épître de Pierre à Jacques = EAC II, 1214–1217. EvJudas: Évangile de Judas (The Gospel of Judas, éd. R. Kasser et alii, Washington 2006). HomClem: Homélies pseudo-clémentines = EAC II, 1235–1589. RecClem: Reconnaissances pseudo-clémentines = EAC II, 1627–2003. Bibliographie

Éditions, traductions et Index

Die Pseudoklementinen, I, Homelien, B. Rehm / G. Strecker (éds.). Berlin (GCS), 19913 (19531, 19692). Die Pseudoklementinen, II, Rekognitionen, B. Rehm / G. Strecker (éds.). Berlin (GCS), 19942 (19651).



Écrits apocryphes chrétiens, II, P. Geoltrain / J.-D. Kaestli (éds.), (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade). Paris 20051 : « Roman pseudo-clémentin », 1173–2003, traduction française annotée de M.-A. Calvet, D. Côté / A. Geoltrain / A. Le Boulluec / B. Pouderon / A. Schneider d’une part, L. Cirillo / A. Schneider de l’autre [1175–1214: introduction de P. Geoltrain et A. Le Boulluec].

Travaux critiques

F. Amsler / A. Frey / Ch. Touati / R. Girardet, (éds.), Nouvelles intrigues pseudoclémentines, Lausanne, éd. du Zèbre, 2008 [bibliographie, 469–479]. J.N. Bremmer (éd.), The Pseudo-Clementines, Louvain 2010. D. Côté, Le thème de l’opposition entre Pierre et Simon dans les Pseudo-Clémentines, Paris 2001. O. Cullman, Le problème littéraire et historique du roman pseudo-clémentin : Étude sur le rapport entre le gnosticisme et le judéo-christianisme. Paris, Jouve 1930. W. Heintze, Der Klemensroman und seine griechischen Quellen, TU 40.2, Leipzig 1914. A. Hilgenfeld, Die clementinischen Recognitionen und Homelien nach ihrem Urprung und Inhalt dargestellt, Iena, Schreiber, Leipzig 1848. F.S. Jones, An Ancient Jewish Christian Source on the History of Christianity : PseudoClementine Recognitions 1, 27–71, Atlanta 1995. F.S. Jones, Pseudoclementina Elchasaiticaque inter Judaeochristiana, Louvain-ParisWalpole (Ma) 2012. A. Le Boulluec, « Jésus selon les Homélies clémentines : du vrai Prophète au Prince de l’âge à venir », dans M. A. Amir Moezzi / J.-D. Dubois / Ch. Jullien et al. (éds.), Pensée grecque et sagesses orientales : Hommage à Michel Tardieu, Turnhout 2009, 365–384. A. Le Boulluec, « La monarchia dans les Homélies pseudo-clémentines et l’origine du Mauvais », Chôra, Revue d’Études Anciennes et Médiévales, 13, 2015, 437–460. A. Le Boulluec, « La doctrine du vrai Prophète dans les écrits pseudo-clémentins », dans M. Ali Amir-Moezzi (dir.), L’Ésotérisme shi’ite, ses racines et ses prolongements. Shi’i Esotericism : Its Roots and Developments, « Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes études. Sciences religieuses » 177, Turnhout 2016, 139–162. B. Pouderon, La genèse du Roman pseudo-clémentin. Études littéraires et historiques, Paris-Louvain 2012 [parcours bibliographique commenté, 285–316]. B. Pouderon, « À propos du récent ouvrage de F. Stanley Jones, Pseudoclementina Elchasaiticaque. Recherches complémentaires sur la genèse du Roman pseudoclémentin », Judaïsme ancien / Ancient Judaism 2, 2014, 271–290. J. Rius-Camps, « Las Pseudoclementina : Bases filológicas para una nueva interpretación », Revista Catalana de Teologia I, 1976, 79–18. C. Schmidt, Studien zu den Pseudo-klementinen nebst einem Anhange : Die älteste römische Bischofsliste und die Pseudo-Clementinen, TU 46.1, Leipzig 1929.

1. Les discours de Pierre contre Simon dans les Clémentines


H.J. Schoeps, Theologie und Geschichte des Judenchristentums, Tübingen 1949. G. Strecker, Das Judenchristentum in den Peudoklementinen, TU 70, Berlin, 19812. M. Vielberg, Klemens in den pseudo-klementinischen Rekognitionen. Studien zur literarischen Form des spätaniken Romans, TU 145, Berlin, 2000. H. Waitz, Die Pseudolementinen, Homelien und Rekognitionen : Eine quellenkritische Untersuchung, TU n.s. 10.4, Leipzig, 1904. J. Wehnert, « Abriss der Entstehungsgeschichte des pseudo-klementinischen Romans », Apocrypha 3, 1992, 211–235. J. Wehnert, « Antipaulinismus in den Peudoklementinen », dans T. Nicklas / A. Merkt / J. Verheyden (éds.), Ancient Perspectives on Paul, Göttingen 2013, 170–190. J. Wehnert, (éd.), Der Klemensroman, Göttingen, 2015 [trad. allemande].

The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of John 17:21. A Case Study: Jovinian vs Jerome Valentina Marchetto Abstract This paper explores the controversy that arose around Jovinian’s figure and teaching in 4th century Rome. By paying close attention to the relevant ­sources, and elaborating the historical context, I aim to sharpen our understanding of the impact and import of his theology. To this end, I also investigate how the special use of John 17:21, both in Jovinian’s works and Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum, reveals that Jovinian was not merely interested in marriage/sexuality, as scholars have often presented him, but also in the definition of a new ecclesiological model. Introduction In Rome, between 380 and 390, a monk named Jovinian began to spread polemical doctrines on the one hand stating the equal value of all the baptized Christians, and denying, on the other, the alleged pre-eminence of asceticism for all baptized Christians. It seems necessary to pay close attention to this episode, not only because of the heated reaction of the Roman clergy, but also because of the way in which the controversy brought together several distinctive lines of argument, i.e. the role of the Scriptures and their authority, the criticism of ascetic life, and the invention of new ecclesiological models. In particular, this study aims to explore how Jovinian’s statements concerning the nature of the Church impacted the ecclesiology of his contemporaries. First, I will elaborate Jovinian’s historical setting so as to better understand the significance of his critique in the context of the Roman community. Next, the focus will shift to Jovinian’s ecclesiology, especially as outlined in his interpretation of John 17:21. We will examine the role this line played in the controversy, and, moreover, how Jerome and Ambrose responded to the issue, an issue which, in their understanding, posed a threat to the emergent idea of Church.1 1  This chapter is part of a broader study on the patristic reception of John 17:21, which Christian authors used mainly to fix theological distinctions or define religious identities. With its mention of unity, election, and mutual love, this verse represented a perfect point for Jovinian’s

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_003



Przemyslaw Nerhing characterizes Jovinian as “the symbol of one of the most ardent moral controversies entangling Western Christianity in the late 4th century”.2 However, prior to Yves-Marie Duval’s monograph L’affaire Jovinien (2003), only two other scholars had dealt at length with Jovinian’s theological views concerning sacraments, marriage, and celibacy. Wilhelm Haller followed the opinion of his teacher Adolf Harnack in describing Jovinian as a “Protestant of his time”,3 because of the apparent conflict between faith and action in his thought. Francesco Valli’s interpretation had the merit of putting Jovinian’s doctrine of baptism at the very heart of his theology, and removed the anachronistic label suggested by Harnack. However, the Catholic scholar clearly expressed his prejudice against Jovinian by presenting and addressing him exclusively as a heretic.4

Historical Setting

The main sources mentioning Jovinian are Pope Siricius’ encyclical letter, Ambrose’s response thereto, Jerome’s treatise against Jovian, and some other relevant allusions to his works in, for example, Augustine’s writings. Various scholars, such as Andrei Antokhin5 and David Hunter,6 have already provided accurate surveys of these texts, for which reason I will restrict myself to some general remarks. reflection on the nature of the Church; vd. M. Pale Hera, Christology and Discipleship in John 17, WUNT 342, Tübingen 2013; F.J. Moloney, John 17: The Prayer of Jesus’ Hour, in: CleR 67 (1982), 79–83; idem, “That all may be one”: The Theme of Unity in John 17, in: Johannine Studies 1975–2017, WUNT 372, Tübingen 2017; J. Ferreira, The So-Called ‘High Priestly Prayer’ of John 17 and Ecclesiology: The Concerns of an Early Christian Community, in: P. Allen / R. Canning / L. Cross / B.J. Caiger (eds.), Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church/1, Queensland 1991, 15–37. 2  P.  Nehring, Jovinian, Jerome and Augustin: the Bible in the Service of Arguments, in: Palamedes 2 (2007), 189–199 (189). 3  W.  Haller, Iovinianus: Die Fragmente seiner Schriften, die Quelle zu seiner Geschichte, sein Leben und seine Lehre, Leipzig 1897, 159, trans. in: D.G. Hunter, Resistance to the Virginal Idea in Late-Fourth-Century Rome: The Case of Jovinian, in: TS 48/I (1987), 45–64 (47). 4  F.  Valli, Gioviniano. Esame delle fonti e dei frammenti, Urbino 1954. For a more detailed presentation of the historical debate on Jovinian, see Hunter, 1987, 47–50. 5  A.N.  Antokhin, The Nature of Jerome’s ascetic Hermeneutics in Adversus Jovinianum in the light of the Fourth-century Christian, Textual, and Theological Context, PhD dissertation, Berkeley 2010, 17–52. 6  D.G.  Hunter, Rereading the Jovinianist Controversy: Asceticism and Clerical Authority in Late Ancient Christianity, in: JMEMS 3 (2003), 453–470; idem, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity. The Jovinianist Controversy, OECS, New York 2007, 15–30.

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


Pope Siricius addressed his letter Optarem semper7 to several episcopal sees in order to announce the official condemnation of Jovinian and his followers. As Duval has pointed out, there remains an ongoing discussion over the precise date of the Roman Synod where Jovinian was condemned; the main ­stances converge on two hypotheses, 390 or 393.8 It is clear, however, that Jerome wrote and dispatched to Rome his Adversus Iovinianum in the fall of 393. This follows from the absence of the treatise among the list of Jerome’s works in De viris illustribus, reliably dated by Pierre Nautin to the very beginning of 393.9 Furthermore, in Adversus Iovinianum Jerome does not quote or mention the Roman condemnation of his adversary, while, in the apology addressed to Pammachius, he refers explicitly to this event.10 Placing the end of the crisis in 390, and the publication of Jerome’s treatise three years later, has a considerable impact on the meaning of the work itself. Were it so dated, the Adversus Iovinianum would represent not only the terminus of the controversy, but also a superfluous “coup de grâce”,11 since the Roman clergy had already delivered their judgment. If, on the other hand, the synod took place in 393, Jerome’s treatise would acquire an immediacy that scholars do not generally credit it with; besides, the lack of reference to this event in the Adversus Iovinianum could be explained only by placing the synod and the treatise in the same time span. The text of Siricius’ letter discloses his view on the scandal provoked by Jovinian’s doctrines. The incipit of the letter displays a conciliatory tone, meant to emphasize the harmony and unity between the Roman see and the other episcopal sees.12 Nevertheless, straight after the first sentence, Siricius changes his attitude (at vero13) and attributes demonic features to his enemy, calling 7  Ambr., Sirici epistula (Maur. 41a), (CSEL 823), (296–301) (= Siricius, epistula 7, PL 13 1168–1172). 8  Y.-M. Duval, L’affaire Jovinien. D’une crise de la société romaine à une crise de la pensée chrétienne à la fin du IVè et au début du Vè siècle, SEA 83, Roma 2003, 11–15. 9  P.  Nautin, La date du De uiris illustribus, in: RHE 56 (1961), 33–35. 10  See Hier., epist. 49.2,2 (CSEL 54 351,17–20); cf. Hunter, Marriage, 2007, 17: “The most cogent argument for 393 is the fact that Jerome did not mention the ecclesiastical condemnations of Jovinian when he composed his Adversus Jovinianum in the spring of 393. By contrast, in the following year, when he wrote his lenghty apologetic letter to Pammachius regarding the reception of Adversus Jovinianum, Jerome referred explicitly to the Roman condemnation … The best explanation of this omission is that the synods occurred … only after he had composed Adversus Jovinianum and dispatched it to Rome”. 11  Duval, 2003, 13. 12  Ambr., Sirici epistula 1 (CSEL 823 296.3–5): optarem semper, fratres karissimi, dilectionis et pacis vestrae sinceritati gaudia nuntiare, ita ut vicissim discurrentibus litteris sospitatis indicio iuvaretur. 13  Ambr., Sirici epistula 1 (296.5).



him hostis antiquus … inimicus veritatis … aemulus hominis.14 Since Siricius is mainly concerned with demonizing Jovinian, the description of his doctrines is quite minimal:15 Jovinian, as pudicitiae adversarius, luxuriae magister,16 hates fasting and abstinence, and with extreme shamelessness openly ­preaches his dangerous teachings.17 From here Siricius goes on to scrutinize a particular biblical exegesis used by the Jovinianists,18 and to highlight the support they received from heathens.19 Faced with a teaching characterized by a certain n­ ovitas compared with other heresies,20 Siricius seems to have been very anxious about its presence and increasing popularity throughout the Church.21 His swift and decisive reaction (ad meam humilitatem subito scriptura horrifica videtur esse delata, ut sacerdotali iudicio detecta divinae legi contraria spiritalis sententia deleatur22) matches perfectly the rapid and unexpected spread of the heretical doctrine (numquam tales canes ecclesiae mysterium latratibus fatigarun quales nunc subito hostes fidei erumpentes23). In sum, the relevance of Siricius’ witness lies not so much in representing the actual content of Jovinian’s heresy, but rather in exposing the growing reception and resonance of Jovian’s teaching in the Church of Rome. As Hunter has pointed out, “it is clear … that Jovinian’s teaching had influenced a large

14  Ambr., Sirici epistula 1 (296.7–8); 3 (298.34): diabolico more; 4 (299.45–46): spiritu diabolico. 15  Cf. Antokhin, 2010, 19: “Siricius was obviously more interested in denigrating Jovinian’s character than in presenting the content of his writings”. 16  Ambr., Sirici epistula 1 (296.8–9). 17  Ambr., Sirici epistula 1 (296.9–297,13): crudelitatibus pascitur, abstinentia puniendos odit, ieiunia ministris suis predicantibus dum dicit esse superflua, spem non habens de futuris, apostoli sententia repercussus dicentis: Manducemus et bibamus, cras enim moriemur (1Cor 15:32). 18  Ambr., Sirici epistula 4 (299.44–48): isti non habentes vestem nuptialem, sauciantes catholicos, novi et veteris testamenti ut dixi continentiam pervertentes, spiritu diabolico interpretantes illecebroso atque ficto sermone aliquantos Christianos coeperunt vastare atque suae dementiae sociare. 19  Ambr., Sirici epistula 4 (299.51): in favorem gentilium. 20  Ambr., Sirici epistula 2 (297.14–15): iam incognitus sermo; 6 (301.65–66): auctores novae haeresis et blasphemiae. 21  Ambr., Sirici epistula 2 (297.14–16): iam incognitus sermo haereticorum intra ecclesiam cancri more serpebat; (297.19): multorum simplicium corda traxerat in ruinam; 3 (297.25–27): ne ignorantia cuiuspiam sacerdotis pessimorum hominum ecclesiam irrumpentium sub religioso nomine contagio violaret; (298.30–32): ut sub velamento pii nominis gradientes domum orationis ingressi sermonem serpentinae disputationis effundant; 4 (298.39– 299.40): nunc subito hostes fidei erumpentes doctrina perfidiae pullulata; (299.47–48): aliquantos Christianos coeperunt iam vastare atque suae dementiae sociare. 22  Ambr., Sirici epistula 5 (300.53–55). 23  Ambr., Sirici epistula 4 (298.38–39).

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


number of Christians at Rome”,24 who were deceived by the presumed orthodoxy of his disciples.25 The scholar concludes: Siricius mentioned several times that Jovinian’s preaching had entered ‘the church’ or ‘the house of prayer’, which suggests that Jovinian and his followers may have initially received support from some members of the Roman clergy who allowed them to preach. […] Through their diabolical interpretation of scripture, he claimed, ‘they have begun to destroy no small number of Christians and to win them over to their own insanity.’ According to Siricius, Jovinian’s ability to offer plausible evidence from the scriptures enabled him to garner significant support within the church at Rome.26 Ambrose replied to Siricius in order to inform him that the Milanese clergy had likewise condemned the Jovinian heretics. As Antokhin suggests, “the general feeling that one gets from reading Ambrose’s letter is that he wants to show a profound solidarity with Siricius by emphasizing the same concerns addressed in the Pope’s letter”.27 Another point to consider is that Ambrose, besides amplifying the defamatory metaphors used by Siricius (“here the enemies, depicted as barking dogs, turn into wolves”28), and giving a short presentation of Jovinian’s teachings,29 opts to focus not so much on Jovinian’s thoughts concerning marriage and virginity, but on his position vis-a-vis Mary’s virginitas in partu.30 This novel feature of Jovinian doctrine, which does not appear in Siricius’ letter or in Jerome’s Aduersus Iovinianum, is a clear proof of his heresy. Ambrose accused Jovinian of failing to recognize the perpetual virginity of Mary, and, furthermore, of being a Manichaean.31 However, as Hunter points

24  Hunter, 2007, 18. 25  Ambr., Sirici epistula 2 (297.25–27): ne ignorantia cuiuspiam sacerdotis pessimorum hominum ecclesiam irrumpentium sub religioso nomine contagio violaret; (298.29–32): hi sunt videlicet qui quasi utilitate Christianos se iactant, ut sub velamento pii nominis gradientes domum orationis ingressi sermonem serpentinae disputationis effundant. 26  Hunter, 2007, 18. 27  Antokhin, 2010, 29. See Ambr., epist. extra coll. 15 (=Maur. 42) (CSEL 823 302–311). 28  Cf. Ambr., Sirici epistula 4 (298.38–39); and Ambr., epist. extra coll. 15.1 (302.4–10). 29  Ambr., epist. extra coll. 15.2 (303.14–19). 30  Ambr., epist. extra coll. 15.4 (304.38–41). 31  Ambr., epist. extra coll. 15.12–13 (310.123–124.129–130): qui vere se Manichaeos probaverunt non credentes quia ex virgine utique venisset …; Manichaeus est qui abnegate veritatem, quia carnem Christi negat.



out, “the real Manichaean position was precisely the opposite to Jovinian’s”.32 Ambrose’s deliberate manipulation of Jovinian’s doctrine is rooted not only in Ambrose’s personal defence against the same charge,33 but also in his ecclesiology, which connects the image of the Church as Virgin Bride to the notion of Mary’s perpetual virginity. In another letter,34 Ambrose “complains … the regrettable fact that the heretic’s ideas gained acceptance in the monastic communities of Milan and Vercelli”.35 This text is an important witness regarding the role of baptism in Jovinian’s soteriology. As Antokhin has already mentioned, Jovinian believed that baptism could absolve anyone, regardless of moral behaviour or lifestyle (qualiscumque vita36). Despite the multitude of studies on Jovinian’s concept of marriage and sexuality, the core of his theology remains largely uncharted. A major part of this core is the equalizing role of baptismal action, which jeopardises, among other things, the primacy of moral conduct. To understand Jovinian’s critique, and to put it in its proper context, it is crucial to read both the sources and the secondary literature. Jovian’s first steps took him to Rome, a city which Jerome later called “a new Jerusalem”37 due to the burgeoning population of monks and virgins. Jerome and Augustine both affirm that Jovinian was himself a monk.38 We should recall, however, that in the fourth-century Roman Church this way of life had not been rigidly defined and remained open to negotiation.39 Monks could either form small 32  Hunter, 2007, 23. 33  Aug., nupt. et concup. 2.5.15 (CSEL 42 267.6–10.18–22): dixit hoc etiam beatissimae memoriae Ambrosius Ecclesiae Mediolanensis episcopus, cum Christi carnalem nativitatem ideo diceret expertem esse delicti, quia conceptus eius utriusque sexus commixtionis est expers … Numquid etiam istum, o Pelagiani et Caelestiani, audebitis dicere Manichaeum? quod eum dicebat esse Iovinianus haereticus, contra cuius impietatem vir ille sanctus etiam post partum permanentem virginitatem sanctae Mariae defendebat. 34  Ambr., epist. extra coll. 14 (=Maur. 63) (235–295). 35  Antokhin, 2010, 29. 36  Ambr., epist. extra coll. 14.11 (240.102–105): non de omnibus mundi nos dicimus fornicariis, sed dicimus quod qui fuerit in Christo baptizatus haberi iam non debeat fornicarius, sed qualiscumque vita eius accepta sit deo; 22 (247,241–242): quod asserunt baptizatos intendere non debere virtutem disciplinis. 37  Hier., ep. 128.8,1 (CSEL 56 151.26–152.1): multoque ita uixistis tempore, ut imitatione uestri et conuersatione mutarum gauderemus Romam factam Hierosolymam. 38  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.40 (PL 23 280.13 A–11 B): nam cum monachum esse se jactitet …; 2.21 (320 B10–C6); Aug., haer. 82 (CChrSL 46 337.2–3): a Iouiniano quodam monacho ista haeresis orta est aetate nostra. 39  G.D.  Gordini, Origine e sviluppo del monachesimo a Roma, in: Gr 37 (1956), 220–260 (250): “Il monachesimo a Roma verso la fine del IV secolo non ha ancora una precisa e determinate fisionomia. Alla vita strettamente anacoretica fa riscontro un principio di vita cenobitica: agli esempi di santità si contrappongono le forme, non sempre encomiabili, delle

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


groups of two or three individuals, or larger circles led by an elder. To find more precise information about male monastic communities, it is necessary to turn to Augustine’s writings40 since Jerome’s testimony focuses mostly on female monasticism. When he does turn his attention toward male ascetics, Jerome often has nothing but harsh words for them. His usual charges against monks concern their immorality and their undue interest in both the properties of the rich, and the pious noblewomen with whom they liaised under the pretext of spiritual guidance.41 For example, when Jerome describes the exceptional and exemplary life of Marcella, he notes that she “would never see without witnesses such monks and clergy as the needs of a large house required her to interview”.42 As Jerome’s Letter 127 attests, it seems that Athanasius played an important role in the foundation of Roman monasticism.43 According to Gian Domenico Gordini’s research, the consecration of widows and young women was not original to Rome.44 Roman women did not tend to live together in ­monasteries per se, but rather in private urban residences, even if some of them liked praying and/or reading the Scriptures together.45 However, the testimony of Ambrose regarding his sister Marcellina, who seems to have lived as a recluse outside the city,46 may call attention to the Egyptian influence on Roman monasticism, e.g. the importations of Athanasius and Peter of Alexandria during their stay in Rome.

vergini agapete. Parlare quindi in questo periodo di regole comuni non è possibile: gli usi monastici erano assai differenti”. 40  Aug., mor. eccl. 1.31.66–33.73 (CSEL 90 69.18–79.14). 41  See Hier., epist. 22.28,1 (CSEL 54 185.1–2): viros quoque fuge; 2 (6–11): qui postquam nobilium introierint domos et deceperint mulierculas …, tristitiam simulant et quasi longa ieiunia furtiuis noctium cibis protrahunt; 3 (16–17): tales cum uideris, sponsos magis aestimato quam clericos; 60.11.3 (562.18–563.5): alii nummum addant nummo et marsuppium suffocantes matronarum opes uenentur obsequiis, sint ditiores monachi, quam fuerant saeculares, possideant opes sub Christo paupere, quas sub locuplete diabolo non habuerant, et suspiret eos ecclesia diuites, quos tenuit mundus ante mendicos. 42  Hier., epist. 127.3.4 (CSEL 56 148.1–3), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, in: Ph. Schaff (ed.), Jerome, Letters and selected works, NPNF 2.6, Grand Rapids 1893, 605. 43  Hier., epist. 127.5.1 (149.5–13). 44  Gordini, 1956, 221: “ordinariamente nelle storie generali del monachesimo occidentale si parla di S. Atanasio come iniziatore del monachesimo romano … però una accurata indagine storica non può fare a meno di segnalare che anche nei secoli anteriori erano esistiti uomini e donne, che, se non conducevano un tenore di vita alla maniera ascetica egiziana, facevano tuttavia professione di vita austera e continente”. 45  Hier., epist. 127.3,4 (148.3–6); 5,2 (149.13–17). 46  Ambr., virg. 3.7.37 (ed. E. Cazzaniga 75,20): constituta in agro nulla socia virgine.



Early monasticism was chiefly marked by withdrawal from city centres, alone or in small communities, to isolated places for the sake of prayer, labour, and the work of penance. All such aspects began to emerge around 370. Thus we read that, together with other women, Marcella chose to move from the city to the “suburbs (suburbanus ager)”.47 This example, alongside other testimonies (Melania seniore, Rufinus, Jerome himself, and later Paula and her daughter Eustochium), show the increasing impact of oriental asceticism on Roman Christianity.48 However, this status quo does not necessarily imply that monastic practices of the time were well-structured and organised.49 When Jerome arrived in Rome in 381 he found groups of maidens and widows — Gordini calls them “cellule ascetiche” — spending their life in penitence and the study of the Scriptures.50 The first members of these groups belonged to the most famous aristocratic families of the city. Indeed, the familial nature of early monasticism was one of its defining characteristics. Oftentimes, enthusiastic ascetics led their relatives to embrace the same lifestyle, converting their palaces and houses into domestica ecclesia.51 Here they could live apart from the world, but not in a total seclusion, since their domus were open to other ascetics, both women and men (even if Jerome often warned his friends against the threats these kinds of meetings could cause).52 Not every pagan family shared the same fervour for this kind of choice; that is, for a lifestyle deemed ignominosum … et vile53 because of its extreme austerity. Alongside the spread of Jovinian’s ideas (as Hunter, Markus, and many others have pointed out describing the years between 380 and 390 as “a time of profound change and turmoil”54) the senatorial aristocracy attempted, for 47  Hier., epist. 127.8.1(CSEL 56 151,25–26), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 608. 48  Gordini, 1956, 235–236, and Duval, 2003, 31, suggested that the circulation of the Life of Antonius, once translated in Latin, may have been a trigger for the development of Western asceticism. Augustine’s conversion shows how strong the impact of such a text could be on its audience; vd. Aug., conf. 8.6.14 (CChrSL 27 122.32–42). 49  Hier., epist. 127.8.2 (152.2–4). 50  Gordini, 1956, 238; for a detailed discussion about the presence of monks and ascetics in Rome in Jerome’s time, see 238–243. 51  Hier., epist. 30.14.1 (CSEL 54 248.13–14). 52  Hier., epist. 69.9.1 (CSEL 55 97.21–25); 127.3.4 (CSEL 56 148.1–6); 128.3.4–5 (159.3–27); 130.13.1 (192.19–27). 53  Hier., epist. 127.5,1 (CSEL 56 149.5–7): nulla eo tempore nobilium feminarum nouerat Romane propositum monachorum nec audebat propter rei nouitate ignominiuosum, ut tunc putabatur, et uile in populis nomen adsumere. See also epist. 23.3.3 (CSEL 54 213.15–16): cuius vita putabatur amentia. 54  Hunter, 2007, 51; cf. R.A. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity, Cambridge 1990, 19.

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


the last time, to defend the traditional cult against the usurping one.55 If pagan hatred still bristled at the Christian faith, it raged even more at the prospect of monasticism, which seemed a desertion of political and social commitment with its monastic sacrifices, way of life, and flight from the world. The arguments against asceticism were multiple: from the more emotional reasons, as in Jerome’s Letter 14,56 to rumours among Milanese nobles concerning the conjugal chastity of Paulinus of Nola and his wife Therasia,57 to the fictitious dialogue between the pagan Apollonius and the Christian Zacchaeus about moral life,58 to the raw contempt expressed later by Rutilius Namatianus.59 Thus, the external critique was concurrent with the internal one. If “Jovinian’s movement took Rome by storm, attracting enthusiastic recruits from both the lay and clerical ranks”,60 the negative reaction of the Roman clergy shows that not all clergymen sympathised with the new religious lifestyle, which lacked formal regulation/structure. Their approach, like that of the Christian aristocrats, cannot be defined as open condemnation, but rather suspicion, gainsaying every excess and abuse. As for the laity, especially those Christians belonging to the most important families of the city, “seem to have understood themselves not as non-Christians but as Christian traditionalists … To these aristocrats, the ascetic way of life seemed marked by an unwillingness to consider the common good … implying that in their social conservatism 55  Even with the political support of the new usurper Eugenius, as J.N.D. Kelly demostrated; see Jerome, his life, writings and controversies, London 1975, 179–180. 56  Hier., epist. 14.2.3; 3.2–3 (CSEL 54 46.15–47, 4.11–48.5). 57  Ambr., epist. 27.3 (CSEL 82 181.16–22). 58  Consult. Zacch. 3.3.1–20 (SCh 402 176.1–186.121). See Hunter, 2007, 60: “The presence of this apology for monasticism in the midst of the more general apologetic arguments of the Conversations of Zacchaeus and Apollonius indicates that by the late fourth century the monastic life had become something of a stumbling block, both to prospective pagan converts to Christianity and to many Christians. As a defender of monasticism, the author of the Consultationes tried to put the best face on the situation. He provided two possible explanations of Christian resistance to asceticism, both of which acknowledged that there were problems with the movement. Although the author of the Consultationes wished to vindicate the monastic life, the very need for a defence indicates that opposition to monasticism was widespread, not least among the Christians themselves”. 59  Rut. Nam. 1.439–448 (ed. E. Doblhofer, 120): Processu pelagi iam se Capraria tollit;/ squalet lucifugis insula plena viris./ ipsi se monachos Graio cognomine dicunt,/ quod soli nullo vivere teste volunt./ munera fortunae metuunt, dum damna verentur:/ quisquam sponte miser, ne miser esse queat?/ quaenam perversi rabies tam stulta cerebri, dum mala formides, nec bona posse pati?/ sive suas repetunt factorum egastula poenas,/ tristia seu nigro viscera felle tument. 60  A.  Cain, The Letters of Jerome. Asceticism, Biblical Exegesis, and the Construction of Christian Authority in Late Antiquity, OECS, New York 2009, 135.



they were hard to distinguish from their pagan counterparts”.61 Even Jerome’s booklet against Jovinian, with its extreme exaltation of chastity, caused sensation among anti-Jovinian aristocrats, to the extent that Jerome himself had to reply to these charges in his Letter to Pammachium.62

The Clear Challenge

According to Duval’s conjectures, Jerome composed his answer to Jovinian in 393, after receiving Jovinian’s writings from Roman friends.63 At this point in time, the problem of Jovinian’s theses showed no signs of dissipating, as Augustine later testified in his Retractationes.64 Indeed, the crisis persisted even after Jovinian’s banishment: it had sunk too deep, and the condemnation of its leader was not enough to uproot it. The plan of Jerome’s work respects the order of Jovinian’s four theses, in order to rebut them one by one: He says that “virgins, widows, and married women, who have been once passed through the laver of Christ, if they are on a par in other respects, are of equal merit”. He endeavours to show that “they who with full assurance of faith have been born again in baptism, cannot be overthrown by the devil”. His third point is “that there is no difference between abstinence from food, and its reception with thanksgiving”. The fourth and last is “that there is one reward in the kingdom of heaven for all who have kept their baptismal vow”.65 61  K.  Cooper, The Virgin and the Bride. Idealized Womanhood in Late Antiquity, Cambridge (MA) 1996, 82. 62  See Hier., epist. 48.2 (CSEL 54 347.13–348,10); 49.18.2 (382.1–11). See Cain, 2009, 99: “Jerome’s extreme ascetic teaching, not to mention the aggressive rhetoric in which he framed it, further alienated mainstream Christians from his cause”. 63  Duval, 2003, 97. 64  Aug., retract. 2.22.1 (CChrSL 107.1–2.108.11–17): Iouiniani haeresis sacrarum uirginum meritum aequando pudicitiae coniugali tantum ualuit in urbe Roma … Huic monstro sancta ecclesia quae ibi est fidelissime ac fortissime restitit. Remanserant autem istae disputationes eius in quorundam sermunculis ac susurris, quas palam suadere nullus audebat. Sed etiam occulte uenenis repentibus facultate quam donabat dominus occurrendum fuit, maxime quoniam iactabatur Iouiniano responderi non potuisse cum laude sed cum uituperatione nuptiarum. 65  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.3 (PL 23 224 B5–15), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, in: Ph. Schaff (ed.), Jerome, Letters and selected works, NPNF 2.6, Gran Rapids 1893, 799–907 (782).

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For a long time, scholars paid too much attention to Jovinian’s critics respecting the role and merits of chastity and celibacy (taking their cue from Jerome). In reality, Jovinian’s attack threatened to sow discord across the Roman ­community at large. His challenge to monasticism, and the ecclesiastical model linked to it, raised many issues in a society “fond of hierarchy”66 and imbued rather with philosophical ideas than evangelical teachings. As noted above, in those years Jovinian was not alone in challenging the monastic movement. Nevertheless, the strictly theological shape of his objections to Roman ascetic enthusiasm set him apart from his contemporaries: “Jovinian challenged the exaltation of virginity and asceticism on grounds that were primarily theological, that is, on the basis of the character of Christian baptism and with the support of Christian Scripture”.67 The meaning of the Jovinian controversy will be better understood if the reaction of the Roman clergy is compared with their earlier reaction to Helvidius, who had called into question Mary’s virginity post-partum some years before.68 Helvidius’ controversy surfaced during the reign of Pope Damasus, but, apart from Jerome’s critique, we know nothing about an official pronouncement from the Roman clergy. It seems that the Pope did not feel compelled to gather his presbyteries and bishops to openly condemn the heretic. In this respect, there is a stark contrast in comparison with the treatment of Jovinian.69 Furthermore, Siricius’ ambivalent attitude towards asceticism is well known.70 Not only did he play an important role in Jerome’s expulsion from Rome in 385,71 but his letter to Himerius, bishop of Tarragona, reveals “his reluctance to admit monks into the ranks of the higher clergy”.72 On the other hand, three of his encyclical letters prove his interest in extending as much as possible the obligation of clerical celibacy, i.e. in regulating the clerical hierarchy against the newly emerging model of the monk-priest or — bishop.73

66  Duval, 2003, 29. 67  Hunter, 1987, 46. 68  Cain, 2009, 100–102. 69  See Hier., epist. 49.18.2 (CSEL 54 382.1–7). Here, Jerome’s reference to Damasus serves as guarantee of his orthodoxy, “to rehabilitate his embattled public image in Rome during his controversy with Jovinian in the early 390s.” (Cain, 2009, 46). Regarding the Pope’s measures against Helvidius, see Duval, 2003, 33. 70  Under Siricius, even Jerome’s position in Rome changes drastically. See Cain, 2009, 105: “The man speedly chosen as Damasus’ successor, the Roman deacon Siricius, was decidedly lukewarm toward western ascetics. Jerome … went from being a satellite member of Damasus’ entourage to being an outcast from the papal court”. 71  Hier., epist. 45.2–3 (CSEL 54 324.5–325.20); see Cain, 2009, 114–124. 72  Hunter, 2003, 455. See Siricius, epist. 1.13 (PL 13 1144 A12–1145 A2). 73  Hunter, 2003, 456; Callam, 1980, 4.



Thus, it is necessary to consider Jovinian’s reproach in its context. It is likely that his doctrines represented a severe hazard not only for monasticism, but the entire Roman church. Siricius’ letter, with the expression omnium nostrum tam presbyterorum et diaconorum quam etiam totius cleri unam scitote fuisse sententiam,74 reveals the Pope’s will to send the message of a united ecclesial community. Even so, a careful reader can perceive tacit internal divisions. This division becomes clearer when one considers that Jovinian’s theses were well received not only by a community who had often been sceptical of extreme asceticism, but also by the aristocracy (as Siricius and Jerome suggest75), who Jerome had been striving to convert to a more severe lifestyle for years. Scholars have defined the three years Jerome spent in Rome as “the most important of his life,”76 “marked by great personal and professional successes”.77 During this time, he was able to establish his figure not only “as a teacher of asceticism and as a biblical scholar”,78 but also as “the divinely appointed custodian of Roman Christianity.”79 Having abandoned the capital,80 Jerome would have suffered humiliation in learning that Jovinian — who, “in many respects, was an alter Hieronymus”81 — had succeeded in seducing his former community. Embracing Jovinian’s teachings would, in Jerome’s understanding, amount to opting for mediocrity and rejecting heroic Christianity.82 Jovinian’s most serious challenge did not consist in the moral revolution he instigated around marriage and virginity (cf. Valli’s presentation of Jovinian as 74  Ambr., Sirici epistula 6 (300.62–301.63). 75  Ambr., Sirici epistula 2–3 (297.14–298.35), 4 (299.49–51); Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.36–37 (PL 23 349 A5–352 A16). 76  P.  Rosseau, Ascetics, Authority, and the Church. In the Age of Jerome and Cassian, Oxford 1978, 108. 77  Cain, 2009, 99. 78  Cain, ibidem. On Jerome as teacher of asceticism, see: Hier., epist. 14.3–6 (CSEL 54 47,5– 54,3); cf. Rosseau, 1978, 103. 79  Cain, 2009, 137. 80  Concerning Jovinian’s success during Jerome’s absence, see Hier., adv. Pelag. prol. 2 (PL 23 519B 8–10): Jovinianus, cuius nunc haeresis suscitatur, Romanam fidem me absente turbavit. 81  Cain, 2009, 136: “in many respects Jovinian was an alter Hieronymus. He was a monk, he was highly educated, he wrote with seductive eloquence, and he had a deft command of the classical canon as well as an extensive working knowledge of Scripture”. 82  G.D.  Gordini, L’opposizione al monachesimo a Roma nel IV secolo, in: M. Fois / V. Monachino / F. Litva (eds.), Dalla Chiesa antica alla Chiesa moderna, MHP 50, Roma 1983, 19–35 (30–31); or rather, embracing Epicureanism, since Jerome himself accuses Jovinian of being a Epicurus Christianorum. See Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.1 (221 A5–6); also, 2.21 (329 A14): qui enim in coitu et saturitate Epicureus est; 36 (349 A5–6): ut Epicurus nostrum; 38 (352 C2): sub consulibus Epicuri; cf. Cain, 2009, 138–139.

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


the champion of nature against asceticism83), but, as we shall see, in the ecclesiological model he proposed.

The Role Played by John 17:21

It is in this matter that John 17:20–21 comes into play. Jerome’s discussion of Jovinian’s fourth thesis covers paragraphs 18–35 of the second book. This doctrine, according to which “there are two classes, the sheep and the goats, the just and the unjust”84 in the Church, depends strictly on the first thesis.85 From Jovinian’s point of view, Baptism and Eucharist ensure that “there are not varying degrees of Christ’s presence in us, so neither are there degrees of our abiding in Christ”.86 For this reason, Jerome’s answer to Jovinian’s proposed ecclesiology is presented not only in this section of the treatise, but also the first book. Against Jovinian’s emphasis on the equality of all baptized Christians, Jerome presents his own idea of Church through a variety of metaphors and images. One of his favourite images for the Church is “a great house”, wherein “there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earthenware”,87 i.e. “some are to honour, some to dishonour”.88 Jovinian is charged with distorting the very nature of the Church by refusing to accept its fundamental bases. According to Jerome, the Church is “white and ruddy”89 as the bridegroom in Song of Songs, since it is founded on virginity and martyrdom, and its “type” is Rebecca, because of “her purity”;90 finally, it is divided by its very nature, since “there is diversity in the gifts of Christ”.91 He who does not recognize this aspect

83  Valli, 1954, 8. 84  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.18 (326 B15–C2), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 883. 85  See Hunter, 1987, 56; idem, 2007, 41; A.J. Budzin, Jovinian’s Four Theses on the Christian Life: An Alternative Patristic Spirituality, in: TJT 4 (1988), 44–59 (51). 86  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.19 (327 D1–3): sicut ergo sine aliqua differentia graduum Christus in nobis est; ita et nos in Christo sine gradibus sumus, transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 884. 87  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.3 (223 A13–15), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 781. 88  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.40 (282 B1–4), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 839. 89  Cant 5:10, in Hier., adv. Iovin. I 31 (265 D6–8), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 822. 90  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.32 (266 B10–12), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 823. 91  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.8 (232 C1–2): diversa sunt dona Christi, transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 790.



is a “common enemy”, since he “maintains all to be of equal merit”,92 and claims that virgins and married women “are members of the same Church”.93 Therefore, “what was new in Jovinian’s defence of his fourth proposition was a more explicit discussion of the nature of salvation, one that confirmed both the sacramental and the ecclesial aspects of his previous propositions”.94 John 17:20–23 appears for the first time in Adv. Iovin. 2.19, at the very beginning of the debate over the fourth thesis, together with a group of New Testament quotations forming the pillars of Jovinian’s ecclesiology. At the ground level, there is a firm insistence on the equality of all baptized believers, an equality confirmed by participation in the Eucharist, as stated in John 6:57. Jovinian glosses this verse saying: “As, then, there are not varying degrees of Christ’s presence in us, so neither are there degrees of our abiding in Christ”.95 The theme and language of the dwelling sphere (in me manet, et ego in illo96) lead the exegete to build a sort of scriptural chain.97 In fact, his next quotation is drawn from John 14:23, and the word mansio serves as a link for the succeeding passage, i.e. John 14:23: Multae mansiones sunt apud Patrem meum. The potential spin of this specific verse posed a serious threat to Jovinian’s theology, and, like other biblical passages implying diversity within the Church, it demanded reinterpretation. In this case, the “many mansions” become “the number of Churches in the whole world”.98 This implies a precise focus on the earthly condition of the Church, as stressed by the following quotations. Christ 92  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.4 (225 B4–5), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 783. 93  Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.5 (228 A5–6), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 786. 94  Hunter, 2007, 41. 95  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.19 (327 D1–3), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 884. 96  John 6:57 in: Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.19 (327 C16). 97  For Jovininan’s usage of Scripture, see B. Clausi, La Parola stravolta. Polemica ed esegesi biblica nell’ “Adversus Iovinianum” di Gerolamo, in: VetChr 32/I (1995), 21–60 (24–25); D.F. Heimann, The Polemical Application of Scripture in St. Jerome, in: E.A. Livingstone (ed.), StPatr XII.1, Berlin 1975, 309–316 (313): “This methodology centers the writer’s immediate subject matter squarely within the setting of a homogeneous doctrine whose elements essentially illustrate at least the general background from which the exegete derives his argument … The quotation is thus not really intended to be a full and proper demonstration, but merely a voiced reflection on how harmoniously the whole edifice of Christian awareness fits together”. 98  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.19 (328 A6–8): non in regno caelorum diversas significat mansiones: sed Ecclesiarum in toto orbe numerum quae constat una per septem, transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 885. A similiar interest on the earthly unity of the Church, even if they are very far in space, could be find in Cypr., epist. 75.3.2–4 (CChrSL 584.44–64), in particular 2–3 (584.44–46.51–56): Potens est enim gratia dei copulare et coniungere caritatis atque unitatis uinculo etiam ea quae uidentur longiore terrarum spatio esse diuisa … Quod et nunc in uobis anidmaduertimus, ut qui longissimis regionibus a nobis separati estis sensu tamen et spiritu copulatos uos esse nobiscum probaretis. Quod totum hoc fit diuina unitate.

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


promised to his disciples: “I go … to prepare a place for you not places”.99 And, indeed, Paul called the Christian body a “temple of the Holy Ghost … A temple, He says, not temples, in order to show that God dwell in all alike”.100 This reference to God who dwells in all people leads directly to his quotation of John 17:20–23. Here, Jesus’ prayer guarantees “the unity of the Church and the permanence of the union between Christ and his heavenly bride”.101 According to Jovinian, the prayer’s universal dimension102 supports perfectly the idea that the Church could be called “bride, sister, mother,” while still maintaining an irrevocable unity of assembly.103 Once again, these references verify that “Jovinian’s critique of the theory of ascetic merits rested on a sacramental and ecclesial foundation”.104 The second mention of John 17 occurs in paragraphs 28 and 29, in the ­middle of Jerome’s answer to Jovinian’s heretical ecclesiology. During the refutation of the first thesis, Jerome answers not with a serious Scriptural argument, but a rhetorical trick, the gradatio; to wit, a twisting of Jovinian’s statement concerning equal rewards in heaven. Saying that virgins, widows, and remarried women — groups commonly perceived as unequal — would occupy the same place in the Kingdom of God would have sounded completely absurd to fourth-century Christians.105 Rather than vilifying Jovinian for this argument, Jerome tries, with all his might, to summon alternative interpretations of the passages cited by his adversary. Evidently, Jerome could not deny the meaning Nam cum dominus unus atque idem sit qui habitat in nobis, coniungit ubique et copulat suos uinculo unitatis. 99  John 14:2, in: Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.19 (328 A8–9), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 885. 100  1Cor 3:16 in: Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.19 (328 A15–B3), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 885. 101  Hunter, 2007, 42. 102  Moloney, 2017, 458–459. 103  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.19 (328 B13–14), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 885. 104  Hunter, 2007, 43. Cf. Budzin, 1988, 54–55: “Jovinian acknowledges the ecclesiological consequences of baptism. Most significantly, he teaches that baptism creates an equal, unified, and holy community of believers. For Jovinian, all Christians are called by their baptism to have a holy life … Jovinian implies that an unqualified commendation of asceticism jeopardizes the unity of the church since it segregates the community into hierarchical classes … In his fourth thesis Jovininan acknowledges the eschatological character of this unity, As all Christians are equal on earth, so will they be equal in heaven”; Kelly, 1975, 181: “what gave a theological basis and inner cohesion to these propositions was Jovinian’s stress on the element of faith in baptism, and his conviction that the transformation effected by it not only rescued a man from the power of sin but created a unified, holy people in which considerations of merit were irrelevant”. 105  Nehring, 2007, 194–195.



of the Old Testament stories adduced by Jovinian,106 but he did take issue with the New Testament passages, and the ecclesiology derived therefrom. To the dominant image of the judgement between the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:30–32), Jerome responds with another powerful metaphor: the Pauline representation of the Church as a body consisting of many different parts.107 The fact that every limb has its role, and every Christian has his peculiar charisma, demonstrates that “there is a difference between one sheep and another”;108 that is to say, the real issue does not consist in the definite division between good and evil, but rather in discerning nuance, the various shades of goodness. Furthermore, Jerome argues that creation itself is signed by a natural mark of diversity: “You see than that in heaven one is greatest and another is least, and that among the angels and the invisible creation there is a manifold and infinite diversity”.109 While, like Jovinian, Jerome proposes reading John 14:2 and John 17:20–23 side by side, he immediately deems the interpretation of his adversary ridiculous. For Jerome, it is clear that the Gospel is speaking about the heavenly and not the earthly Church.110 Moreover, in the kingdom of heaven, the many different mansions are “destined for many different virtues, and they will be awarded not to persons, but to persons’ works”.111 Additionally, Jerome proposes a novel interpretation of John 17:20–23, departing from both the Alexandrian tradition and orthodox Western exegesis. Indeed, identification of the unitas of Jesus’ prayer with a status quo between believers of different churches is highly unusual. From the first century, the main exegetical lines tended to link the verse with eschatological themes, with a precise focus on the unio mystica between the perfect human soul, and the Godhead; exegetes also frequently took this passage as an opportunity 106  For Jerome’s treatment of OT quotations, see Heimann, 1975, 310–311. 107  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.22 (331A 12–B 7), quotation of Rom 12:3–8; 23 (332C 2–333A 1): quotation of 1Cor 12.4–7; 12; 28–31, with the note: verum ne dicas in uno corpore diversa membra unum habere meritum, statim gradus describit Ecclesiae. 108  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.23 (PL 333B 1–4): ubi diversa sunt dona, et alius major, alius minor est, et omnes spirituales appellantur, certe oves sunt, et stant a dextris, et inter ovem et ovem est aliqua diversitas. 109  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.27 (338A 6–9), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 894. 110  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.28 (338C 10–D 1.D 7–339A 2): Quis autem risum tenere queat in eo, quod multas mansiones apud Patrem, Ecclesias arbitretur in toto orbe diffusas cum manifestissime Scriptura doceat, secundum Evangelium Joannis, non de Ecclesiarum numero sed de coelorum mansionibus, et aeternis tabernaculis, quae propheta desiderat, Domino fuisse sermonem?… Locus et mansiones quas praeparare se dicit Christus apostolis, in domo utique sunt Patris, id est, in regno coelorum, non in terra, in qua ad praesens apostolos relinquebat. 111  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.28 (339B 1–3), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 896.

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


to reflect on the nature of the special relationship between the Father and the Son.112 By contrast, Jerome clearly associates the unity hoped for in John 17:21 with the apostles alone, “he is speaking especially to the apostles … inasmuch as they have believed, have been perfected, and can say, the Lord is my portion”.113 What enables Christians to partake in God’s essence is not a common nature, but the role played by grace.114 Turning back to John 14:2 and 1 Corinthians 12:4, Jerome not only reproaches Jovinian for his limited knowledge of the Biblical language,115 but also reverses his adversary’s statement, insisting that “God does not dwell in all alike”.116 Furthermore, he himself uses John 6:57 to show how the unity between God and men is made possible, but with the important addition of 1 John 4:13.15. He submits that believers might claim to be one in Christ, but only once they have attained the level of faith and virtue possessed by the apostles.117 Since he cannot deny the universal significance of Jesus’ prayer and final discourse in John, he tries to persuade his readership that the diversity of merit and reward in the Church is a natural fact,118 attested by the whole of Scripture. He continues to rebut his adversary’s doctrine with other passages from the Scriptures (for example, referring to John the Baptist as the greater “among them that are born of women”119) and by deploying a lexicon that is particularly rich in expressing ecclesial diversity.120 Even the differences 112  My overall analysis on John 17:21 in the Patristic epoch counts about 90 occurrences. At this point, I can only present a few examples of the different usages. For the eschatological themes, see Or., princ. 1.6.2 (GCS 22 82.12–19); 2.3.5 (120.17–29); 3.6.6 (280.10–281.5). For the issues linked to the perfection of human soul, see Or., cant. 1.3–4 (GCS 33 103.9–17). For the Christological aspects, see Cyr. H., catech. 11.16 (ed. Reischl — Rupp, I; 310,1–3); Eus., e. th. 3.18–20 (GCS 14 179.9–181.12); Hil., in psalm. 122.3 (CSEL 22 582.8–13). 113  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.28 (339B 8–9.11–13), transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 896. 114  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.29 (340C 9–11.15–D 1): jam supra diximus, et nunc plenius inculcandum est, non nos secundum naturam, sed secundum gratiam unum esse in Patre et Filio … Vides ergo quod in consortium substantiae ejus assumimur, non naturae esse, sed gratiae. 115  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.28 (339B 13–C 15). 116   Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.29 (340A 14–15): non aeque Deus omnes inhabitat; transl. by M.A. Freemantle / W.H. The Hon, 1893, 896; cf. Hier., adv. Iov. 2.19 (328 A15–B3): ut similiter in omnibus habitatorem ostenderet Deum. 117  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.29 (341B 3–8): si credis in Christum, quomodo et apostoli crediderunt, unum cum eis in Christo corpus efficieris. Si autem temerarium est fidem eorum tibi et opera vindicare, qui fidem eamdem et opera non habes, eumdem locum habere non poteris. 118  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.27 (338 A6–9). 119  Hier., adv. Iovin. 2.27 (338A 2–3). 120  In the whole treatise, Jerome insists repeatedly on the concept of diversitas, using a wide range of images and metaphors, i.e. the house with many different vessels (adv. Iovin. 1.3; 40; 2.26); the diversity of gifts, rewards and charismas (1.8; 13; 2.19; 22; 23); the image



between the Gospel according to John and the other Gospels are, for Jerome, clear proof of this fact.121 Jerome objects to Jovinian’s ecclesiology — based as it is on the unitas of the Church — insisting rather on the diversity of the Church, which he symbolically associates with mother, bride, and sister. The theme of the diversity of roles, merits, and rewards is present throughout the whole treatise. Its looming presence suggests that Jerome perceived Jovinian’s critique, with its emphasis on a more inclusive and less hierarchical Church,122 as an attack on his own ecclesiology. Hunter defines Jovinian as “a kind of ecclesiastical watchdog wary of the influence of extreme dualistic views on the community at Rome. His primary concern is not to attack virginity or abstinence as legitimate Christian practices, but to reject the view that asceticism was a higher and truer form of the Christian life, a view which he believed led inevitably to Manicheism”.123 As Clausi states, Jovinian’s four propositiones contained enough material to demolish the ascetic construction that Jerome had carefully built up during his Roman period.124 In particular, the demand for equality and unity issuing from John 17:21 was the perfect weapon “against those Christian ascetics who claimed that virginity was a higher mode of the Christian life and therefore merited a greater reward”.125 While Siricius was spreading and defending the dignity of clerical celibacy,126 and Ambrose was building his own ecclesiology according to which the of the Ark, where men and women were divided (1.17); the diversity in vocation (1.35); the varying of the body of Christ itself (2.25); the different parts of the Temple (2.28; 29), and of the body (2.29). See Cain, 2009, 102: “Ep. 22 became something of a sensation in Christian circles at Rome, though not quite in the way Jerome had hoped. His insinuation that marriage was a necessary evil reserved for second-class spiritual citizens (e.g. at 2.15,19) incensed Christians who did not subscribe to his ideology”. 121  John’s pre-eminence on the other Gospels — and John’s pre-eminence on the other apostles, including Peter — is due to his virginity, as Jerome argue in adv. Iovin. 1.26 (258A 4–9.B 12–259C 13), in particular see (259C 9–13): Exposuit virginitas, quod nuptiae scire non poterant, et ut brevi sermone multa comprehendam, doceamque cujus privilegii sit Joannes, imo in Joanne virginitas, a Domino virgine, mater virgo virgini discipulo commendatur. 122  E.A.  Clark, Reading Renunciation. Asceticism and Scripture in Early Christianity, 1999, 39: “As Kate Cooper has argued, the traditional criteria for social ranking were thrown askew by the new evaluational hierarchy based on degrees of ascetic renunciation”; see Cooper, 1996, 82: “They saw the social dangers of too enthusiastic a reception fort the ascetic ideal, correctly perceiving in asceticism a competing system of social ranking that, if it did not eradicate the aristocracy’s traditional claim to position, would permanently alter its terms”. 123  Hunter, 1987, 50. 124  Clausi, 1995, 27. 125  Hunter, 1987, 56. 126  See Callam, 1980, 33–34 on the concepts of sanctitas/sanctus.

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


Church is the Bride of Christ,127 Jovinian’s theories, and their success among clerics, monks, and other celibates, exposed the fragility of these nascent models.

Conclusions: John 17:21 in Jovinian’s Contemporaries

In order to better understand the relevance of John 17:21 for the debate on sacraments, marriage, celibacy, and ecclesiological models, it will be useful to map out its citation in the writings of Jovinian’s contemporaries. Apart from two glosses in his Commentarioli in Psalmos,128 Jerome uses John 17:21 in only one other passage; namely, in his Letter 121 to Aglasia (at about 406–407). Here he comments on Col 2:18–19, which presents the themes of the body and the head in relation to the Church and Christ. Christ is “the body of the whole Scripture”,129 from whom the Church receives life and, gradually, attains perfection.130 The climax of this ascent is John 17:21, in continuity with the Alexandrian tradition, which has always linked this verse with the idea of unity between the human soul and Christ. Nevertheless, it seems as if Jerome blends the traditional interpretation with the ecclesiological and polemical construction he was forced to build to defend his paradigm of Church against Jovinian. Ambrose’s usage is equally interesting. Across the years of Jovinian’s condemnation (if the most recent studies are correct131) Ambrose composed his 127  See Hunter, 2003, 457–462, in particular, 460: “For Jovinian the image of the Church as the Virgin Bride of Christ crystallized his views that all baptized Christians constituted one community of the redeemed, in which ‘God dwells in all alike’ and where considerations of ascetic merit have become irrelevant. For Ambrose, by contrast, the image of the Church as Virgin Bride had always been nearly indistinguishable from the idea of the consecrated virgin as a bride, and both had been closely linked to the notion of Mary’s perpetual virginity”. 128  Hier., in psalm. 19.7; 20.3 (CChrSL 72 196.9–197.1; 197.5–9). 129  Hier., epist. 121.10.5 (CSEL 56 43.10–11): caput omnium scripturarum illud, de quo dictum est: caput uiri Christus est (1Cor 11:3). 130  Hier., epist. 121.10.6 (43.13–15.17–20): ex quo capite corpus ecclesiae per suas compages atque iuncturas uitalem doctrinae caelestis accipit sucum … ut de fonte capitis rigati artus crescant in perfectionem dei, ut inpleatur saluatoris oratio: pater, uolo, ut, sicut ego et tu unum sumus, sic et isti in nobis unum sint (John 17:21). 131  F.  Gori in: Sant’Ambrogio. Opere morali II/1. Verginità e vedovanza, Roma 1989, 69–70. According to Dassmann, this works should be linked to other two important writings, De Isaac et anima and the Expositio in psalmum 118, which are influenced by the discovery of Origen’s exegesis of the Song of Songs. This phase of Ambrose’s production could be dated to 387–390.



treatise De virginitate. Preaching the human incapability of imitating God, he suggests looking to the apostles as models for the perfect Christian life, in particular for virgin Christians. While the theme of perfection was already present in Jerome’s interpretation, here Christ’s prayer is judged to be addressed not only to his closer disciples, but to any and every believer.132 In his De fide ad Gratianum, Ambrose quotes John 17:21 twice. In the first instance, he uses it to underline the character of the unitas of the Father with the Son, which is based on their common nature.133 The second example134 is closer to the ecclesiological debate. The arguments from which he derives the concept of unity are the same as those used in Jerome’s treatise. From these and other texts, it is clear that John 17:21 became a dangerous weapon in the hands of the Arians. Indeed, Ambrose’s second quotation includes a brief mention of the Arian controversy.135 While Ambrose underscores the unity of the nature of Christ and the Father, he has also to prove the unity of mankind, and its foundations.136 According to Jerome — and this is a traditional argument — only divine grace can provide Christian unity per coniunctionem and not per naturam.137 Ambrose, for his part, does not mention how this unifying link is realised (as Jerome does). This is probably because of the high value place by Jovinian on sacraments. 132  Ambr., virginit. 110 (ed. Cazzaniga 51.1–13): Sed Deum imitari non possumus. Imitemur Apostolos quos mundus odio habuit, quia non erant de hoc mundo. Hos imitare, hos sequere. Sed arduum putas humana virtute supra mundum ascendere. Bene asseris; nam et Apostoli non quasi consortes sed quasi discipuli sequendo Dominum, supra mundum esse meruerunt. Et tu esto Christi discipula, Christi aemula, et pro te rogat qui pro illis rogavit. Non enim pro Apostolis tantum, inquit, rogo, sed pro iis qui credent per sermonem eorum in me, ut omnes unum sint. Unum igitur nos esse vult Dominus ut supra mundum simus omnes, ut una sit castitas, una voluntas, una bonitas, una gratia; his enim alitur et augetur animae volatus. 133  Ambr., fid. 1.1.9 (CSEL 78 7.19–23): ipse etiam dicit: Ego et pater unum sumus. Unum dixit, ne fiat discretio potestatis, sumus addidit, ut patrem filiumque cognoscas, ut perfectus pater perfectum filium genuisse credatur et pater ac filius unum sint non confusione, sed unitate naturae. 134  Ambr., fid. 4.3.33–36 (168.56–170.92). 135  Ambr., fid. 4.3.33 (168.56–60): Quis autem unam diuinitatem patris et fili pie abneget, cum ipse dominus consummaturus praecepta discipulis suis dixerit: Vt sint unum, sicut et nos unum sumus? Pro testimonio enim fidei positum est, licet ab Arrianis ad argumentum perfidiae deriuetur; 4.3.34 (169.67–68): Hoc Arriani, si saperent, non obicerent. 136  Ambr., fid. 4.3.35–36 (169.78–83): Nos autem per acceptam et inhabitantem in nobis uirtutem unum erimus in Christo. Communis ergo littera, sed discrepans diuina humana que substantia. Nos unum erimus, pater et filius unum sunt, nos secundum gratiam, filius secundum substantiam. 137  Ambr., fid. 4.3.36 (169.83).

2. The Patristic Reception and Interpretation of Joh. 17:21


Dassmann has pointed out that, just before Jovinian started to spread his doctrine, the discovery of Origen’s exegesis of the Song of Songs revolutionised Ambrose’s spirituality. So, in his minor treatise, De Isaac et anima, Ambrose links John 17:21 to the image of the perfect bride who is, in turn, associated with Rachel, the human soul, and the Church. In De Isaac 7 the overlap of these three symbols is complete: the bride is faithful and fruitful but, simultaneously, chaste and pure like a dove, having in herself the spiritus unitatem.138 Furthermore, since the bride is not divided in herself, nor a slave to passions, she imitates and realizes Jesus’ prayer for unity. In this way, she obtains perfection.139 If we examine the other occurrences of John 17:21 in Ambrose’s works, we notice that their interpretation is absolutely traditional; that is to say, joined to the philosophical concepts of goodness as unity and evil as division, or aimed at defending orthodox Christology.140 Therefore, the use of John 17:21 in Ambrose’s works concerning virginity suggests not only the background of Origen’s mystical interpretation, but also an attempt at constructing an image of the Church. This is stated explicitly in De uirginibus, and foreshadowed by Tertullian in his De monogamia.141 The Church is unstained by sexual intercourse and yet fruitful in childbirth. She is virgin because of her chastity and a mother because of her offspring. She brought us into life, conceived not of man but of the Holy Spirit, in a birth free of bodily pain and full of the joy of the angels.142

138  Ambr., Isaac 7.59 (CSEL 32 683.1–3): laudatur praeterea, quod fidelis, quod uerbo potens, quod fructibus fecunda diuersis, quod una sicut columba habens spiritus unitatem. 139  Ambr., Isaac 7.59 (683.7–18): anima autem benedicta omnis simplex (Prov 11:25), quae imitatur dicentem: ut omnes unum sint, sicut tu, pater, in me et ego in te, ut ipsi in nobis unum sint (John 17:21); haec enim est consummatio atque perfectio. unde et addidit: ut sint unum, sicut et nos unum sumus, ego in his et tu in me, ut sint consummati in unum (John 17:22ss). haec est ergo anima columba atque perfecta, quae simplex et spiritalis neque huius turbatur corporis passionibus, in quo foris pugnae, intus timores sunt. denique hoc uerbo unitatis concordiam et pacem significari scriptura nos docet dicens: multitudo autem credentium habebant animam unam et cor unum, et non erat separatio in eis ulla (Acts 4:32). 140  Ambr., parad. 5.26 (CSEL 32 283.11–16); in Luc. 7.21 (CChrSL 14 222.232–237); 40 (228.413– 419); 10.4 (346.36–41). 141  Tertullian quotes John 17:21 two times in his De monogamia; in 10.6 he deals on the topic of merits and rewards (with the presence of John 17:21 and of other “Jovinianist passages”); in 12.2 about the Pauline rule for the clergy to marry only once. 142  Ambr., virg. 1.31, quoted in Hunter, 2003, 460.



We can say, then, that Jovinian’s concept of inclusive unity based on John 17:21 challenged not only the status of consecrated virgins, but also the idea of the Church itself as virgin bride of Christ.143 I have tried to demonstrate, among other things, the importance of a single verse in a wider historical setting. Given the textual evidence, it seems likely that John 17:21 was foundational for Jovinian’s ecclesiology. For this reason, Jerome and his contemporaries felt compelled to refute his erroneous interpretation.

143  And vice versa; cf. Hier., adv. Iovin. 1.16 (246A 9–11.13–16): Christus in carne virgo, in spiritus monogamus. Unam enim habet Ecclesiam … Si Christus sancte, si caste, si absque ulla macula Ecclesiam diligit: viri quoque in castitate uxores suas diligant.

L’herméneutique du Nouveau Testament dans le Contra Faustum manichaeum d’Augustin Isabelle Bochet Abstract The paper analyses the hermeneutics of the New Testament by Faustus and Augustine in the Contra Faustum manichaeum: the exegetical authorities they recognize, the hermeneutical principles they apply, and the doctrinal issues of their hermeneutics. Introduction L’herméneutique tient une place essentielle dans le Contra Faustum manichaeum d’Augustin, car le débat entre Augustin et Fauste, dont Augustin rapporte les Capitula, porte le plus souvent sur l’Écriture, de façon directe ou indirecte. Fauste rejette radicalement l’Ancien Testament : il n’en propose donc pas une herméneutique. Il en est autrement pour le Nouveau Testament qu’il accepte, avec certaines réserves toutefois. Je m’en tiendrai donc à l’herméneutique du Nouveau Testament proposée par Fauste et par Augustin. Dans la mesure où le manichéen et le catholique entendent exposer l’un et l’autre la véritable interprétation de Paul et des Évangiles, tout en défendant deux théologies strictement incompatibles, on est en droit de se demander si la théologie de l’un et de l’autre se fonde véritablement sur les versets qu’ils citent : ne doit-on pas supposer qu’ils interprètent l’un et l’autre le Nouveau Testament à partir de présupposés étrangers au texte lui-même ? L’exégèse patristique ne serait-elle alors que « stratégies d’interprétation » : une technique de maîtrise du texte biblique, comme le dit T. Todorov1 ? En ce cas, comprendre la théologie comme une manière de recevoir la Bible ne serait qu’une fiction. La recherche contemporaine sur le Contra Faustum a surtout privilégié l’étude des principes herméneutiques de Fauste.2 Selon M. Tardieu, « l’intérêt 1  T.  Todorov, Symbolisme et interprétation, Paris 1978, 294, 91–124. 2  M.  Tardieu, Principes de l’exégèse manichéenne du Nouveau Testament, in: Id., Les règles de l’interprétation, Paris 1987, 123–146; F. Decret, Aspects du manichéisme dans l’Afrique romaine. Les controverses de Fortunatus, Faustus et Felix avec saint Augustin, Paris 1970, 91–182 ; Id., L’utilisation des Épîtres de Paul chez les Manichéens d’Afrique, in: Le Epistole Paoline nei Manichei I Donatisti e il primo Agostino, Roma 1989, 29–83; 2000, 31–89. Sur l’opposition entre

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_004



et la nouveauté historiques de l’exégèse néotestamentaire des manichéens est d’avoir mis en avant des principes qui relèvent de ce qu’aujourd’hui nous appellerions critique littéraire, critique encore bien rudimentaire, et non scientifique, mais critique tout de même » ; on ne saurait « leur reprocher d’avoir lu le Nouveau Testament en fonction de ce qu’ils croyaient », dans la mesure où les Pères de l’Église en faisaient autant.3 Doit-on alors admettre que toutes les lectures du Nouveau Testament se valent et ont la même légitimité, qu’elles proviennent de chrétiens, d’hérétiques, de païens ou encore de croyants d’autres religions ? Ou même, faut-il penser, avec M. Tardieu, qu’Augustin n’a rien saisi de « la façon dont Fauste pensait la spécificité du fait chrétien dans sa nouveauté évangélique et dans ses altérations historiques4 » et réhabiliter en conséquence l’herméneutique de Fauste au détriment de celle d’Augustin ? Pour élucider ces questions, j’étudierai successivement l’herméneutique néotestamentaire de Fauste et d’Augustin, en privilégiant les textes bibliques sur lesquels ils s’opposent directement : je chercherai à mettre en lumière les fondements de leur herméneutique — quelles autorités reconnaissent-ils l’un et l’autre ? — les principes herméneutiques qu’ils appliquent au Nouveau Testament — quelle méthode mettent-ils en œuvre ? — et enfin les enjeux théologiques de leur herméneutique — quelle conception de Dieu, de l’homme et de la relation du Christ à l’Ancien Testament défendent-ils à travers leur interprétation du Nouveau Testament ? 1.

L’herméneutique de Fauste

Nous ne connaissons les Capitula de Fauste5 que par les citations qu’Augustin lui-même en donne au début de chaque livre du Contre Fauste avant de Fauste et Augustin, voir P. Cantaloup, L’harmonie des deux Testaments dans le Contra Faustum Manichaeum de Saint Augustin, Thèse de doctorat, Institut catholique de Toulouse 1955 ; I. Bochet, Introduction. 1. L’herméneutique biblique dans le Contra Faustum manichaeum, in: Aug., Contre Fauste le manichéen (livres 13–21), M. Dulaey / I. Bochet / J.-D. Dubois / A. Massie / P. Mattéi / G. Wurst (eds.), BA 18/B, Paris, à paraître. Sur l’interprétation du Nouveau Testament par Augustin, voir C. Basevi, San Agustin. La interpretación del Nuevo Testamento. Criterios exegéticos propuestos por S. Agustín en el « De Doctrina Christiana », en el « Contra Faustum » y en el « De Consensu Evangelistarum », Colección teológica de la Universidad de Navarra 14, Pamplona 1977. 3  Tardieu, 1987, 145. 4  M.  Tardieu, La foi hippocentaure, in: P. Ranson (éd.), Saint Augustin, Les Dossiers H, Lausanne, 1988, 52–60 (60). 5  Pour une présentation plus approfondie, voir G. Wurst, Fauste de Milève et les Capitula de Fauste, in: Aug., Contre Fauste le manichéen, M. Dulaey / I. Bochet / J.-D. Dubois / A. Massie /

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


les réfuter : nous disposons très probablement du texte entier des Capitula, car Augustin précise qu’il a « réfuté toutes les calomnies de Fauste, du moins celles des Capitula6 ». Chaque capitulum se présente comme un dialogue entre Fauste et un interlocuteur catholique fictif qui pose des questions sur la doctrine manichéenne ou lui oppose des objections tirées de l’Écriture ou de la raison. Le débat porte sur le rejet de la Loi et des prophètes, sur la conception manichéenne de Dieu, sur l’Incarnation du Christ et sur les interpolations que les manichéens jugent avoir été introduites dans le Nouveau Testament.7 L’ouvrage relève, tout comme les Kephalaia coptes, du genre littéraire des questions et réponses. Sa structure ne semble pas obéir à un plan logique.8 Le caractère polémique des Capitula invite à une certaine prudence, si l’on veut dégager avec exactitude l’herméneutique de Fauste : il faut faire la part des concessions provisoires faites à son interlocuteur pour mieux le réfuter,9 des exemples qu’il emprunte à ce que son interlocuteur croit, sans pour autant les

P. Mattéi / G. Wurst (eds.), BA 18/A, Paris 2018, 18–25.27–32. J’emprunte les traductions du C. Faustum à ce volume. 6  Faust. 33.9, CSEL 25/1, 796: « Quapropter post omnes Fausti calumnias refutatas dumtaxat horum eius capitulorum, quibus hoc opere, quantum dominus adiuuare dignatus est, sufficienter, ut arbitror, prolixeque respondi … ». 7  Selon la présentation qu’en donne Aug. en Retract. 2.7, BA 12, 462–463 : « Contra Faustum Manicheum blasphemantem legem et prophetas et eorum deum et incarnationem Christi, scripturas autem noui testamenti, quibus conuincitur, falsatas esse dicentem scripsi grande opus, uerbis eius propositis reddens responsiones meas. » 8  Sur cette structure, voir G. Wurst, Bemerkungen zu Struktur und genus litterarium der Capitula des Faustus von Mileve, in: J. Van Oort / O. Wermelinger / G. Wurst (eds.), Augustine and Manichaeism in the Latin West. Proceedings of the Fribourg-Utrecht International Symposium of the IAMS (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, 49), Leiden 2001, 307–324. Wurst critique la reconstruction du plan des Capitula proposée par P. Monceaux dans Le manichéen Faustus de Milev : restitution de ses Capitula, in: Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres 43, 1924, 1–111. Tardieu esquisse un autre plan : « la première partie, qui pourrait s’intituler de auctoribus, fournissait les réponses aux objections que les catholiques tiraient de versets des Écritures censés contredire les thèses manichéennes, ou d’interprétations, selon eux erronées, des Écritures par les manichéens […] ; la seconde partie, qui pourrait s’intituler de coniecturis, fournissait les réponses aux accusations induites de pratiques ou croyances manichéennes, mal comprises par les catholiques » (1988, 57). Mais il semble plus satisfaisant de s’en tenir à l’ordre des Capitula tel que nous le transmet Augustin, comme le fait Wurst. 9  Par ex., en Faust. 11.1 (CSEL 25/1, 313–314), pour lever la contradiction entre Rm 1:3 et 2Co 5:16, Fauste propose deux explications : soit Paul a corrigé sa manière de voir, soit Rm 1:3 n’est pas de lui ; mais Fauste récuse en réalité la première explication : « Quamuis et hoc ad duritiam uestram ita responderim. Alioquin absit apostolum dei, quod aedificauit, umquam destruere, ne se ipse praeuaricatorem constituat, ut contestatus est. » On ne peut donc tirer de la première explication une règle exégétique, comme le fait Tardieu, 1987, 136–137.



juger vrais lui-même10 ou encore des points que Fauste passe volontairement sous silence afin de ne pas être l’objet d’accusations.11 1.1 Autorités exégétiques Une question récurrente mise dans la bouche de l’interlocuteur catholique ouvre plusieurs capitula sous des formes diverses : quel texte Fauste et les manichéens acceptent-ils ? La question est posée pour l’évangile : Accipis euangelium12 ? ; et plus spécifiquement pour la « généalogie » : Accipis ergo generationem13 ?, et la naissance de Jésus14 : Accipis Iesum de Maria natum ? La même question est posée une fois à propos de Paul : Apostolum accipis15?, l’interlocuteur s’étonnant que Fauste puisse accepter Paul, tout en ne croyant pas à la naissance de Jésus.16 La question est posée avec plus d’insistance encore pour l’Ancien Testament : Accipis testamentum uetus17 ?, l’interlocuteur demandant à de multiples reprises pourquoi Fauste et les manichéens ne l’acceptent pas : Quare non accipis testamentum uetus18 ? ; qu’il s’agisse de Moïse ou des prophètes : Quare Moysen non accipitis19 ? ; Cur non accipitis prophetas20 ? L’interlocuteur fictif mis en scène par Fauste cherche par ses questions à faire apparaître l’incohérence des manichéens qui honorent le Christ tout en récusant les patriarches et les prophètes qui l’annoncent et que le Christ mentionne expressément dans l’Évangile : Quomodo Christum colitis prophetas repudiantes, quorum ex praesagiis accipitur fuisse uenturus21 ? Il s’appuie notamment sur Jn 5:46 — « C’est de moi que Moïse a écrit » ; « si vous croyez 10  F aust. 26.1, CSEL 25/1, 728 : « Respondebimus tamen etiam ad hoc nec aliunde quam de his, quae credere soletis, adferentes exempla : quae si uera sunt, confirmabunt et nos ; si falsa, destruent et uos. » 11  Par ex., en Faust. 20.2, CSEL 25/1, 536 : … sed patrem quidem ipsum lucem incolere credimus summam ac principalem, quam Paulus alias “inaccessibilem” uocat … ». Pour exposer sa conception de Dieu, Fauste préfère en appeler à Paul (1Tm 6:16) plutôt qu’à Mani et il se garde de toute affirmation qui pourrait entraîner « une accusation de matérialisme », comme le remarque Decret 1989, 74. 12  Faust. 2.1, CSEL 25/1, 253 ; 5.1, 271. 13  Faust. 3.1, CSEL 25/1, 261 ; 7.1, 302 : « Quare non credis in genealogiam Iesu ? » 14  Faust. 23.1, CSEL 25/1, 707. 15  Faust. 11.1, CSEL 25/1, 313. 16  Ibid.: « Cur ergo non credis filium Dei ex semine Dauid natum secundum carnem ? » 17  Faust. 4.1, CSEL 25/1.268 ; 6.1, 284 : « Accipis uetus testamentum ? » 18  Faust. 8.1, CSEL 25/1, 305 : « Quare non accipis testamentum uetus ? » ; 9.1, 307 : « Quare non accipis uetus testamentum ? » ; 10.1.310 : « Cur non accipis testamentum uetus ? » ; 15.1, 415 : « Quare non accipitis testamentum uetus ? » 19  Faust. 14.1, CSEL 25/1, 401. 20  Faust. 12.1, CSEL 25/1, 328. 21  Faust. 13.1, CSEL 25/1, 377.

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


en Moïse, vous croiriez aussi en moi22 » — sur Mt 5:17 — « Je ne suis pas venu abolir la Loi et les prophètes, mais les accomplir23 » — et sur Mt 8:11 — « Beaucoup viendront de l’Orient et de l’Occident et auront place dans le Royaume des cieux avec Abraham, Isaac et Jacob24 ». La récurrence du terme accipere invite à s’interroger d’emblée sur le sens que Fauste lui donne. Pour Fauste, « accepter » l’Évangile signifie avant tout : mettre en pratique les préceptes que le texte énonce ; il dénonce le fidéisme des catholiques, pour qui « accepter » l’Évangile signifie « croire à tout ce qui y est écrit25 ». À la question : « Tu acceptes l’Évangile », il répond aussitôt : « Tu me poses la question de savoir si je l’accepte, quand il est évident que je l’accepte, puisque j’observe ce qu’il ordonne26. » Fauste décrit alors sa fidélité aux préceptes évangéliques (pauvreté, mise en pratique des béatitudes27) et cite la réponse faite par Jésus à Jean-Baptiste demandant s’il était bien le Christ : « Les aveugles voient, les sourds entendent, les morts ressuscitent … » (Mt 11:5) : ce sont ses œuvres qu’il invoque comme preuve qu’il est bien le Christ. Fauste affirme donc qu’« accepter l’Évangile consiste dans la seule observance des commandements divins28 » ; il juge que les catholiques n’acceptent pas l’Évangile, puisqu’ils n’en observent pas les préceptes : en prétendant qu’accepter l’Évangile, c’est confesser que Jésus est né, ils donnent plus de poids aux « paroles (in uerbo) » qu’à « la vertu (in uirtute) »29. De façon similaire, Fauste juge que les catholiques, comme les manichéens, rejettent l’Ancien Testament, puisqu’ils

22  F aust. 16.1, CSEL 25/1, 439–440 : « Quare Moysen non accipitis, cum Christus dicat : “Moyses de me scripsit”, et : “si crederetis Moysi, crederetis et mihi”? » 23  Faust. 17.1, CSEL 25/1, 483 : « Cur legem non accipitis et prophetas, cum Christus eos non se uenisse soluere dixerit, sed adinplere ? » ; Mt 5:17 est repris en 18.1, 490 et 19.1, 496. 24  Faust. 33.1, CSEL 25/1, 784 : « Scriptum est in euangelio : “quia multi uenient ab oriente et occidente et recumbent cum Abraham et Isaac et Iacob in regno caelorum”. Vos ergo quare non accipitis patriarchas ? » 25  Cf.  Faust. 5.2, CSEL 25/1, 272: « Sed non, inquit, accipere euangelium hoc solum est, si quod praecepit, facias, sed ut etiam credas omnibus, quae in eodem scripta sunt, quorum primum est illud, quia sit natus Iesus. » 26  Faust. 5.1, CSEL 25/1, 271: « Accipis euangelium ? Tu me interrogas, utrum accipiam, in quo id ipsum accipere adparet, quia quae iubet obseruo. » 27  La description correspond à l’idéal de la vie ascétique des élus manichéens. À comparer, par exemple, au Psautier manichéen copte, 169.23–28 (éd. Allberry). 28  Faust. 5.2, CSEL 25/1, 272: « Sin, quod certius est, accipere euangelium in sola obseruatione constat caelestium mandatorum, duplici modo inprobus es, qui, ut dici solet, desertor arguas militem. » 29  Cf.  Faust. 5.2, CSEL 25/1, 272: « … nec tu ergo accipis et multo magis non accipis, quia praecepta contemnis » ; 273: « … nec inmerito plebs ad te confugit, a me refugit, nesciens utique, quia regnum dei non sit in uerbo, sed in uirtute. »



n’en accomplissent pas les préceptes.30 Comme l’a remarqué G. Stroumsa, pour Fauste, « la religion est affaire d’éthique, et d’éthique seulement, et les textes qui traitent d’autre chose doivent être écartés » : c’est la raison pour laquelle les manichéens rejettent les prophètes juifs, car ils ne trouvent chez eux ni prudence, ni vertu.31 Dans ses Capitula, Fauste répond clairement aux questions qu’il met dans la bouche de l’interlocuteur catholique : oui, il accepte l’Évangile et Paul ; il rejette en revanche catégoriquement l’Ancien Testament. « Accepter » l’Évangile et Paul n’équivaut pas toutefois à les considérer comme des écrits canoniques32 : Fauste se garde bien de les caractériser comme tels, tout en gardant un silence prudent sur les écrits de Mani qui sont pour les manichéens les seuls écrits canoniques.33 On repère tout au plus une allusion aux « livres de nos pères » et une ou deux mentions d’Adimante : « les livres de nos pères ont amplement démontré qu’ils n’ont rien prophétisé au sujet du Christ34 », affirme Fauste pour justifier son rejet des prophètes ; il nomme, dès le début des Capitula, « le très savant Adimante, le seul, après notre bienheureux père Mani auquel doit s’attacher notre zèle35 » et il se réfère sans doute également soit à lui, soit à Mani, lorsqu’il explique que « notre théologien appelle hulè le principe et la nature du mal36 ». L’importance donnée au Paraclet est plus intéressante encore pour expliquer l’herméneutique de Fauste, car elle fonde la liberté des manichéens à l’égard du Nouveau Testament : 30  Cf. Faust. 6.1, CSEL 25/1, 284: « Accipis uetus testamentum ? Quomodo, cuius praecepta non seruo ? puto quidem, quia nec tu … » ; 18.1, 490. 31  G. G. Stroumsa, Les mots et les œuvres: connaissance religieuse et salut chez Augustin et Fauste de Milève, in : Savoir et salut, Paris 1992, 341–353 (345), avec citation de Faust. 12.1, CSEL 25/1, 329: « Exempla tantum uitae honestae et prudentiam ac uirtutem in prophetis quaerimus, quorum nihil in Iudaeorum fuisse uatibus quia te non latuerit sentio … ». 32  Cf. Tardieu, 1987, 129–130. 33  Sur le canon manichéen, voir G. Wurst, L’état de la recherche sur le Canon manichéen in: G. Aragione / E. Junod / E. Norelli (eds.), Le Canon du Nouveau Testament. Regards nouveaux sur l’histoire de sa formation, Genève 2005, 237–267. Voir aussi la présentation des Écritures manichéennes faite par J.-D. Dubois dans Le manichéisme in: BA 18/A, 47–53. 34  Faust. 12.1, CSEL 25/1.330: « Alioquin nihil eos de Christo prophetasse abunde iam parentum nostrorum libris ostensum est. » Fauste peut faire référence aux Antithèses d’Adimante qui critiquaient aussi les prophètes (cf. Adim. 25–28, BA 17, 358–375) ou à d’autres écrits manichéens. 35  Faust. 1.2, CSEL 25/1, 251–252: « Satis superque in lucem iam traductis erroribus ac Iudaicae superstitionis simul et semichristianorum abunde detecta fallacia a doctissimo scilicet et solo nobis post beatum patrem nostrum Manichaeum studendo Adimanto non ab re uisum est … ». Cf. G. Wurst, Adimante, Note complémentaire 2, in: BA 18/A, 392–395. 36  Cf.  Faust. 20.3, CSEL 25/1, 537: « His ego ualde contraria sentio, qui bonis omnibus principium fateor deum, contrariis uero hylen ; sic enim mali principium ac naturam theologus noster appellat. »

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


… si Jésus, que l’Ancien Testament a annoncé, discerne et démêle, enseignant qu’on doit en prendre peu de chose et en répudier la plus grande part, et si le Paraclet, qu’a promis le Nouveau Testament, a un enseignement identique touchant celui-ci, que devons-nous prendre de ce Testament et en répudier ? C’est du Paraclet que Jésus, nous le promettant de lui-même, nous dit dans l’Évangile : « Lui vous conduira vers la vérité tout entière, lui vous annoncera toute chose et vous en donnera le souvenir » (Jn 16:15). C’est pourquoi, qu’il nous soit à nous aussi permis de prendre avec le Nouveau Testament, au nom du Paraclet, la liberté dont vous faites preuve avec l’Ancien, au nom de Jésus […], liberté d’autant plus légitime que, c’est un fait établi, ni le Christ, comme nous l’avons dit, ni ses apôtres n’ont écrit le Nouveau Testament.37 La référence à la promesse faite par Jésus d’envoyer le Paraclet n’est pas fortuite : Augustin ne s’y trompe pas ; il répond en montrant que le Paraclet a été envoyé dès les Actes des apôtres et en récusant par conséquent l’assimilation du Paraclet à Mani.38 De fait, le Kephalaion 1 décrit l’arrivée de Mani en le présentant comme le véritable Paraclet promis par Jésus39 : il est donc porteur de révélations infaillibles, qui relativisent toutes les religions qui l’ont précédé. Quel est, dans ces conditions, le statut du Nouveau Testament pour Fauste ? On peut s’étonner de voir Fauste s’y référer autant. Selon Augustin, les manichéens « entendent cacher leurs fables folles et sacrilèges sous le manteau du nom de chrétien40 ». Mais les manichéens se disaient eux-mêmes chrétiens ; Fauste lui-même se présente comme tel41 ; selon lui, les manichéens sont la 37  F aust. 32.6, CSEL 25/1, 765–766: « … si Iesus per testamentum uetus adnuntiatus nunc diiudicat et carminat docetque pauca eius accipienda esse, repudianda uero quam plurima, et nobis paracletus ex nouo testamento promissus perinde docet, quid accipere ex eodem debeamus et quid repudiare. De quo ultro Iesus cum eum promitteret, dicit in euangelio: “Ipse uos inducet in omnem ueritatem et ipse uobis adnuntiabit omnia et commemorabit uos” (Jn 16:15). Quapropter liceat tantundem et nobis in testamento nouo per paracletum, quantum uobis in uetere licere ostenditis per Iesum, […] praesertim quod nec a Christo scriptum constat, ut diximus, nec ab eius apostolis. » 38  Cf.  Faust. 32.15 et 17, CSEL 25/1, 774–775 et 777–778. 39  Cf. Kephalaia 1.14.3–16.23 ; Psaume copte, 130.25–26 ; Felix, en Aug., Fel. 1.9, BA 17, 664– 665 ; Aug., Fund. 5.6–7.8, 402–409. Voir J.-D. Dubois, Mani le prophète de l’humanité entière, in: J.-C. Attias / P. Gisel / L. Kaennel (éds.), Messianismes: variations sur une figure juive, Genève 2000, 195–212 (208). 40  Faust. 16.14, CSEL 25/1, 454: « aduersus uos, qui quoquo modo nomine christiano gloriamini … ». 41  Cf. Faust. 19.5, CSEL 25/1, 501: « Quare indeficientes ego praeceptori meo refero gratias, qui me similiter labentem retinuit, ut essem hodie christianus. »



véritable Église chrétienne et les catholiques sont des « schismatiques »42 ou encore des semichristiani, parce qu’ils n’ont pas rompu avec le judaïsme.43 Fauste, toutefois, adopte une position critique à l’égard du Nouveau Testament. Comme l’a justement remarqué A. Hoffmann,44 sa position à l’égard des évangiles n’est pas identique à celle qu’il adopte à propos de Paul : Fauste estime que les évangiles ont été falsifiés dès l’origine, alors qu’il ne met pas en cause l’attribution à Paul des lettres pauliniennes, tout en décelant certaines interpolations. Dans le cas des évangiles, le terme technique d’« interpolations » ne convient pas, car il laisse supposer un texte originel qui aurait fait l’objet après coup d’altérations ou d’ajouts. La critique de Fauste est beaucoup plus radicale : les évangiles n’ont été rédigés ni par Jésus lui-même, ni par ses apôtres, mais par d’autres qui se sont fait passer pour les apôtres ou pour leurs disciples, afin d’assurer de la crédibilité à leurs écrits. La tradition de Jésus se trouve donc faussée dès l’origine. Jugez-vous donc que le Testament du seul Fils n’a pu être altéré, que seul il n’a rien qui doive être critiqué, alors surtout — la chose est établie — que ce n’est ni lui qui l’a écrit, ni ses apôtres, mais, longtemps après lui, certains personnages au nom douteux qui, de peur qu’on n’ajoutât pas foi à des gens qui racontaient ce qu’ils ignoraient, mirent en tête de leurs écrits ou le nom des apôtres ou le nom de ceux qui passaient pour avoir suivi les apôtres, affirmant que c’était d’après leurs données qu’ils avaient écrit ce qu’ils avaient écrit ? Ce procédé a causé aux disciples du Christ un préjudice d’autant plus grave que, les écrits discordants et incompatibles qu’ils composaient, ces gens-là les mettaient au compte des apôtres, et proclamaient que c’était sur leurs données qu’ils écrivaient ces évangiles, qui sont bourrés d’erreurs si graves, de contradictions si fortes dans les

42  Cf. Faust. 20.3–4, CSEL 25/1, 537–538 ; 13.1, 377. Cf. M. Tardieu, Une définition du manichéisme comme secta christianorum, in: A. Caquot / P. Canivet (eds.), Ritualisme et vie intérieure. Religion et culture, Paris 1989, 167–177. 43  Cf. Faust. 1.2, CSEL 25/1, 251–252, cité supra, n. 35 ; M.-Y. Perrin, Semichristiani et pseudochristiani, Note complémentaire 1, in: BA 18/A, 389–392. 44  Cf. A.  Hoffmann, Verfalschung der Jesus-Tradition. Neutestamentliche Texte in der manichaisch-augustinischen Kontroverse, in: L. Cirillo / A. Van Tongerloo (eds.), Atti del Terzo Congresso Internazionale di Studi “Manicheismo e Oriente Cristiano Antico”, Arcavacata di Rende — Amantea 31 Agosto – 5 settembre 1993, (Manichaean Studies, 3), Leuven 1997, 149–182. Il reprend, en la confirmant par une analyse des textes, la distinction déjà faite par F. Trechsel, Über den Kanon, die Kritik und Exegese der Manichaër. Ein historisch kritischer Versuch, Bern 1832, 34–40 ; 88–91.

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


récits comme dans les pensées qu’il n’y a, en eux-mêmes et entre eux, absolument aucun accord.45 Le dernier capitulum rapporté par Augustin dénonce plus fortement encore la falsification des évangiles. Fauste admet certes que les évangiles contiennent des « paroles du Seigneur (eloquia Domini) », mais celles-ci sont mêlées à des paroles qui lui sont faussement attribuées et qui sont contradictoires avec son enseignement. Vos prédécesseurs ont introduit dans les discours de notre Seigneur bien des paroles marquées de son nom, mais qui ne cadrent pas avec la foi qu’il a prêchée. D’autant plus que, comme nous en avons souvent donné la preuve, elles n’ont été écrites ni par lui ni par ses apôtres, mais collectées parmi les bruits et les rumeurs, longtemps après leur assomption au ciel, par je ne sais quels demi-Juifs, qui ne sont même pas d’accord entre eux. Seulement, faisant passer tout cela sous le nom des apôtres du Seigneur, ou de ceux qui paraissaient les avoir suivis, ils ont fait croire, ces menteurs, que c’était d’après eux qu’ils avaient écrit leurs erreurs et leurs mensonges.46 Les rédacteurs sont donc, selon Fauste, des semiiudaei qui « ne sont même pas d’accord entre eux ». Ils ont collecté des paroles parmi « les bruits et les rumeurs ( famae ac opiniones) : le mot famae renvoie à la tradition orale ; le terme opiniones est ici connoté négativement. Le résultat de ce travail de rédaction, c’est une collection d’erreurs et de mensonges. Les multiples contradictions 45  F aust. 32.2, CSEL 25/1, 761: « … solius filii putatis testamentum non potuisse corrumpi, solum non habere aliquid, quod in se debeat inprobari ? Praesertim quod nec ab ipso scriptum constat nec ab eius apostolis, sed longo post tempore a quibusdam incerti nominis uiris, qui, ne sibi non haberetur fides scribentibus, quae nescirent, partim apostolorum nomina, partim eorum, qui apostolos secuti uiderentur, scriptorum suorum frontibus indiderunt adseuerantes secundum eos se scripsisse, quae scripserint. Quo magis mihi uidentur iniuria graui adfecisse discipulos Christi, quia quae dissona idem et repugnantia sibi scriberent, ea referrent ad ipsos et secundum eos haec scribere se profiterentur euangelia, quae tantis sint referta erroribus, tantis contrarietatibus narrationum simul ac sententiarum, ut nec sibi prorsus nec inter se ipsa conueniant. » 46   Faust. 33.3, CSEL 25/1, 788: « Multa enim a maioribus uestris eloquiis Domini nostri inserta uerba sunt, quae nomine signata ipsius cum eius fide non congruant, praesertim quia, ut iam saepe probatum a nobis est, nec ab ipso haec sunt nec ab eius apostolis scripta, sed multo post eorum adsumptionem a nescio quibus et ipsis inter se non concordantibus Semiiudaeis per famas opinionesque conperta sunt: qui tamen omnia eadem in apostolorum Domini conferentes nomina uel eorum, qui secuti apostolos uiderentur, errores ac mendacia sua secundum eos se scripsisse mentiti sunt. »



que l’on décèle dans les évangiles sont l’indice de cette falsification.47 Fauste ne retient donc de l’Évangile que « ce qu’il y a de plus pur et qui convient à [son] salut48 » ; « ce qui est propre à édifier [sa] foi et à propager la gloire du Seigneur Jésus-Christ et du Dieu tout-puissant son Père49 ». Pour lui, l’Évangile « n’est rien d’autre que la prédication et le commandement du Christ50 » ; il en exclut la généalogie de Jésus, les récits de la naissance et de l’enfance de Jésus, ce qu’il nomme genesidium : en bref, tout ce précède la prédication de Jésus.51 Le cas des épîtres pauliniennes est différent. Paul tient une place de choix pour les manichéens : Mani, à l’instar de Paul, a bénéficié d’une révélation directe de la part du Christ, il est lui aussi « Apôtre de Jésus-Christ ».52 Fauste cite de fait largement les épîtres pauliniennes,53 il ne met jamais en doute la rédaction des lettres par Paul lui-même, mais il estime que certaines phrases ne peuvent provenir de lui ; elles ont été ajoutées après coup dans les lettres de Paul : Rm 1:3 ; 1Tm 4:1–3 ; Ti 1:15 ; il s’agit donc là, au sens strict, d’« interpolations54 ». 47  Cf. Hoffmann, 1997, 155–160. Certains textes, toutefois, suggèrent que Fauste reconnaît tel ou tel évangéliste comme auteur de l’évangile qui porte son nom (cf. 17.1), mais A. Hoffmann montre qu’ils s’expliquent par la tactique de Fauste qui part du point de vue des catholiques pour les réfuter (166–167). De même, les termes inserere, inducere, inicere (32.4–5.1.7) peuvent faire penser à des ajouts dans un texte écrit préalablement, mais ce n’est nullement contraignant, car cela peut signifier que cela a été inséré dans la tradition orale ou au moment de la rédaction: on peut comprendre en ce sens l’usage de la parabole de l’ivraie en 18.3 (voir 168). 48  Cf.  Faust. 32.1, CSEL 25/1, 761: « Quid ergo peregrinum hoc aut quid mirum est, si et ego de testamento nouo purissima quaeque legens et meae saluti conuenientia ea praetermitto, quae a uestris maioribus inducta fallaciter et maiestatem ipsius et gratiam decolorant ? » 49  Cf.  Faust. 32.2, CSEL 25/1, 762: « Quae quia nos legentes animaduertimus cordis obtutu sanissimo, aequissimum iudicauimus utilibus acceptis ex isdem, id est his, quae et fidem nostram aedificent et Christi domini atque eius patris omnipotentis dei propagent gloriam, cetera repudiare, quae nec ipsorum maiestati nec fidei nostrae conueniant. » 50  Cf.  Faust. 5.1, CSEL 25/1, 271: « Est enim nihil aliud quam praedicatio et mandatum Christi. » ; 2.1, 254. 51  Cf.  Faust. 2.1, CSEL 25/1, 254: « Ac denique Marcus, qui generationem scribere non curauit, sed praedicationem tantum filii dei, quod est euangelium, uide quam sit conpetenter exorsus: “euangelium”, inquit, “Iesu Christi filii dei” (Mc 1:1), ut hinc satis abundeque adpareat genealogiam non esse euangelium. Namque et in ipso Matthaeo post inclusum Iohannem in carcerem tunc legitur Iesum coepisse praedicare euangelium regni. Ergo quicquid ante hoc narratum est, genealogian esse constat, non euangelium. » Pour une description du contenu de l’Évangile selon Fauste, voir Tardieu, 1987, 141–142. 52  Cf.  CMC 61.1–63.1 avec des citations pauliniennes de 2Co 12:1–5 ; Ga 1:11–12 et 2Co 12:2; Decret, 1970, 37–38. 53  Pour une analyse des citations pauliniennes de Fauste, voir Decret, 1970, 51–83. 54  Cf. Faust. 11.1, CSEL 25/1, 313–314 (à propos de Rm 1:3) ; 30.1–4, 747–752 (à propos de 1Tm 4:1–3) ; 31.1–3, 756–759 (à propos de Ti 1:15). Voir Hoffmann, 1997, 169–170.

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


1.2 Principes herméneutiques Quels sont donc les principes invoqués par Fauste pour déterminer qu’un texte est interpolé ou falsifié ? Plus largement, quelles sont les règles herméneutiques qu’il met en œuvre pour lire le Nouveau Testament ? Avant de préciser ces principes herméneutiques, rappelons le rôle déterminant accordé par Fauste à la raison : il s’agit d’examiner de façon critique ce qui a été écrit, pour déterminer si le texte est ou non authentique : La foi manichéenne […] m’a dès l’abord persuadé de ne pas croire sans discernement tout ce qu’on lit comme écrit au nom du Seigneur, mais d’éprouver (probare) si c’est vrai (uera), si c’est solide (sana), si ce n’est pas altéré (incorrupta). C’est que dans presque toutes les Écritures on trouve beaucoup d’ivraie que certain semeur nocturne y a répandue pour gâter la bonne semence.55 Éprouver (probare) et non croire au hasard (passim credere) : c’est bien d’un exercice critique qu’il s’agit, fondé sur le soupçon que les textes ont été corrompus. L’exercice critique de la raison n’est pas contradictoire avec la « simplicité de la foi », que Fauste prône ; bien au contraire, dans la mesure où la « simplicité de la foi » suppose de ne pas chercher à étayer la foi de témoins, juifs de surcroît, et donc exige de distinguer ce qui relève du judaïsme et du christianisme.56 Fauste précise expressément à la fin des Capitula ce qu’il faut garder et ce qu’il faut répudier dans le Nouveau Testament : … qu’y a-t-il d’illogique de notre part à n’accepter du Nouveau Testament que les seules paroles que le Christ ou ses apôtres, mais alors parfaits et fidèles, ont, à notre sens, prononcées en l’honneur et à la louange de la majesté du Fils, et à laisser dans l’ombre tout le reste, qui a été dit de manière naïve et ignorante par des hommes simples, ou objecté de manière oblique et malintentionnée par des ennemis, ou affirmé de manière imprudente par les auteurs et transmis à la postérité. Je parle précisément 55  Faust. 18.3, CSEL 25/1, 491–492: « Et tamen me quidem iam aduersus capituli huius necessitudinem Manichaea fides reddidit tutum, quae principio mihi non cunctis, quae ex saluatoris nomine scripta leguntur, passim credere persuasit, sed probare, si sint eadem uera, si sana, si incorrupta ; esse enim permulta zizania, quae in contagium boni seminis scripturis paene omnibus noctiuagus quidam seminator insperserit. » 56  Cf.  Faust. 12.1, CSEL 25/1, 329: « Quomodo ergo nunc fidei simplicitatem destruitis indiciis eam ac testibus fulciendo et hoc Iudaeis ? »



de la naissance que Jésus devrait, pour sa honte, à une femme, de sa circoncision à la juive, de ses sacrifices à la païenne, de son baptême dans l’humilité, de son enlèvement par le démon au désert, et de ses tentations par lui, qui sont des plus pitoyables. Cela excepté, et ce que les écrivains ont pu ajouter, tiré de l’Ancien Testament, en se couvrant d’affirmations mensongères, nous croyons tout le reste — et aussi sa crucifixion mystique, signe des blessures que la souffrance fait à notre âme, ainsi que ses préceptes salutaires, ses paraboles et tout ce divin langage qui met particulièrement en évidence la distinction des deux natures et fait que l’on ne peut douter qu’il soit bien de lui.57 Les critères qui permettent de récuser un texte comme « faux » sont les suivants : d’une part, ce qui manifeste ignorance, naïveté, ou affirmation imprudente de la part d’hommes simples ; d’autre part, ce qui a été fallacieusement introduit par des écrivains postérieurs, en particulier ce qu’ils ont ajouté en le tirant de l’Ancien Testament. Le premier motif met en lumière les réserves de Fauste à l’égard des apôtres qui ne sont pas des témoins totalement fiables : ce qu’il faut discerner, ce sont les paroles que l’on peut attribuer réellement à Jésus. Le second motif est plus polémique : il met en cause des falsifications du texte attribuables notamment aux judéo-chrétiens. Ces critères de sélection semblent eux-mêmes dériver du contenu de la foi manichéenne en Jésus : il s’agit précisément d’exclure du Nouveau Testament tout ce qui, selon Fauste, porte atteinte à la dignité de Jésus ou relève de l’Ancien Testament et, inversement, de retenir ce qui conforte les croyances des manichéens (la signification mystique de la Passion, les préceptes du Christ, la doctrine des deux principes ou natures). Concrètement, les Capitula mettent en œuvre une double critique, externe et interne : critique externe, en examinant la qualité des témoins d’un fait rapporté, la validité ou l’invalidité de leurs témoignages, la compatibilité des 57  F aust. 32.7, CSEL 25/1, 766: « … quid ab re est, si et nos de testamento nouo sola accipientes ea, quae in honorem et laudem filii maiestatis uel ab ipso dicta conperimus uel ab eius apostolis, sed iam perfectis ac fidelibus dissimulauimus cetera, quae aut simpliciter tunc et ignoranter a rudibus dicta aut oblique et maligne ab inimicis obiecta aut inprudenter ab scriptoribus adfirmata sunt et posteris tradita ? Dico autem hoc ipsum natum ex femina turpiter, circumcisum Iudaice sacrificasse gentiliter, baptizatum humiliter, circumductum a diabolo per deserta et ab eo temptatum quam miserrime. His igitur exceptis et si quid ei ab scriptoribus ex testamento uetere falsa sub testificatione iniectum est, credimus cetera, praeterea crucis eius mysticam fixionem, qua nostrae animae passionis monstrantur uulnera, tum praecepta salutaria eius, tum parabolas cunctumque sermonem deificum, qui maxime duarum praeferens naturarum discretionem ipsius esse non uenit in dubium. »

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


divers témoignages d’un même fait ; critique interne, en décelant les contradictions à l’intérieur d’un récit ou les anomalies qu’il comporte. Prenons l’exemple de la généalogie, que Fauste s’emploie à récuser dans de nombreux Capitula. Les premiers mots de l’Évangile de Matthieu (Mt 1:1 : « Livre de la génération de Jésus-Christ, fils de David »), si on les compare avec le début de l’Évangile de Marc (Mc 1:1 : « Évangile de Jésus-Christ, Fils de Dieu »), invitent à conclure que le récit de Matthieu « serait plus exactement nommé genesidium qu’euangelium58 ». Les divergences dans la généalogie présentée par Matthieu et par Luc invitent à n’admettre ni l’une ni l’autre et à leur préférer les témoignages de Jean et Marc.59 De façon plus radicale encore, cette généalogie est à exclure, puisque Jésus « dit au contraire qu’il n’est pas de ce monde, qu’il a procédé de Dieu son Père, qu’il est descendu du ciel, qu’il n’a ni mère ni frères, sinon ceux qui font la volonté de son Père qui est dans les cieux60 » ; il serait donc stupide de croire une telle généalogie, alors que les disciples reconnaissent n’avoir connu Jésus qu’après son baptême et donc n’avoir pas vu de leurs yeux sa génération.61 Enfin le début de l’Évangile de Matthieu est à récuser, car il comporte une double incohérence : comment Jésus peut-il être dit « fils de David », s’il n’est pas né de Joseph ? comment est-il dit d’abord « fils de David » (Mt 1:1), puis « Fils de Dieu » (Mt 3:17)62 ? Autre exemple : la parole attribuée à Jésus en Mt 5:17 (« Je ne suis pas venu abolir, mais accomplir la Loi et les prophètes ») ne peut être considérée comme un témoignage fiable, car Matthieu n’était pas sur la montagne, quand Jésus l’a dite, et Jean qui y était n’a pas rapporté cette parole ; en outre, dans la mesure où Matthieu parle de lui à la troisième personne en Mt 9:9 (« Et comme Jésus passait par là, il vit un homme assis à la douane du nom de Matthieu et il l’appela ; alors celui-ci, aussitôt se levant, le suivit »), il ne peut être le rédacteur de

58  Cf.  Faust. 2.1, CSEL 25/1, 253–254: « Quid enim scripsit ? “Liber generationis Iesu Christi filii Dauid” (Mt 1:1). Non ergo liber euangelii Iesu Christi sed “liber generationis (Mt 1:1), quippe ubi et stella inducitur, quae confirmat genesim, ut recte genesidium hoc magis nuncupari possit quam euangelium. Ac denique Marcus, qui generationem scribere non curauit, sed praedicationem tantum filii dei, quod est euangelium, uide quam sit conpetenter exorsus: “Euangelium”, inquit, “Iesu Christi filii dei” (Mc 1:1), ut hinc satis abundeque adpareat genealogiam non esse euangelium. » 59  Cf.  Faust. 3.1, CSEL 25/1, 261–262. 60  Faust. 7.1, CSEL 25/1, 302–303: « … quia nec ipse ore suo usquam se fatetur patrem habere aut genus in terra, sed e contra, quia non sit de hoc mundo, quia a patre deo processerit, quia descenderit de caelo, quia non sibi sint mater et fratres, nisi qui fecerint uoluntatem patris sui, qui in caelis est. » 61  Ibid. 62  Cf.  Faust. 23.1–2, CSEL 25/1, 707–709.



l’Évangile mis sous son nom63 ; il faut donc en conclure que cette parole est de l’ivraie semée par « le semeur de nuit » au milieu de la bonne semence pour la corrompre, autrement dit qu’il s’agit d’une falsification de la tradition véritable de Jésus.64 1.3 Enjeux théologiques Les règles herméneutiques mises en œuvre par Fauste sont, comme nous venons de le voir, indissociables du contenu qu’il cherche dans le Nouveau Testament à partir de sa foi manichéenne. On ne s’étonne donc pas en constatant qu’il privilégie dans l’Évangile ou dans Paul ce qui conforte son dualisme. L’exégèse de 1Tm 6:16, de 1Co 1:24 et de 2Co 4:4 permet à Fauste de justifier sa conception des deux Principes. Il confesse d’abord la Trinité : il affirme que « le Père, lui, habite la lumière suprême et primordiale, celle que Paul, d’une autre manière, appelle “inaccessible”65 », il utilise 1Co 1:24 qui nomme le Christ « puissance de Dieu et sagesse de Dieu » pour en conclure qu’« il est lui-même double », que « sa puissance habite dans le soleil et sa sagesse dans la lune »,66 il confesse également l’Esprit saint qui habite dans l’air. Fauste explique peu après qu’il se distingue des païens qui pensent que le bien et le mal ont le même principe : il professe, lui, tout au contraire, « que le principe de tout bien, c’est Dieu, et le principe de ce qui s’oppose au bien, Hylè67 ». Il se défend, néanmoins, dans le capitulum suivant, de professer deux dieux et il justifie le fait qu’il arrive parfois aux manichéens de nommer dieu la nature contraire, en faisant appel à 2Co 4:4 : « le dieu de ce siècle a aveuglé l’intelligence des incrédules », qu’il commente ainsi : l’apôtre « l’appelle bien “dieu”, parce qu’il savait que tel était le nom que les siens lui donnaient, mais il ajoute qu’il aveugle leur intelligence, afin que l’on comprenne par là que ce n’est pas le vrai Dieu.68 » 63  Cf.  Faust. 17, 1, CSEL 25/1, 483: « Et quis ergo de se scribens dicat “uidit hominem et uocauit eum et secutus est eum” (Mt 9:9), ac non potius dicat: uidit me et uocauit me et secutus sum eum, nisi quia constat haec Matthaeum non scripsisse, sed alium nescio quem sub eius nomine ? » 64  Cf.  Faust. 18, 3, CSEL 25/1, 491–492, cité supra, n. 55. 65  Faust. 20.2, CSEL 25/1, 536 (avec allusion à 1Tm 6, 16), cité supra, n. 11. 66  Faust. 20.2, CSEL 25/1, 536: « Qui quoniam sit et ipse geminus, ut eum apostolus nouit Christum dicens esse dei uirtutem et dei sapientiam, uirtutem quidem eius in sole habitare credimus, sapientiam uero in luna. » 67  Faust. 20.3, CSEL 25/1, 537, cité supra, n. 36. 68  Cf.  Faust. 21.1, CSEL 25/1, 569: « quemadmodum et apostolus, “deus”, inquit, “saeculi huius excaecauit mentes infidelium” (2Co 4:4), deum quidem nominans, quia sic iam uocaretur a suis, sed adiciens, quod mentes excaecet, ut ex hoc intellegatur non esse uerus deus. » Le verset est également cité par Félix pour affirmer qu’il y a deux natures, en Fel. 2.2, BA 17, 704–707. La même exégèse est attribuée aux manichéens par Titus de Bostra,

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


Fauste consacre un capitulum à l’exposé de son anthropologie qu’il fonde sur un grand nombre de citations pauliniennes : C’est un fait que, selon l’Apôtre, il y a deux hommes : l’un, qu’il appelle çà et là extérieur, et la plupart du temps terrestre, parfois même le vieil homme, l’autre, qu’il appelle intérieur, céleste, nouveau. Eh bien !, de ces deux hommes, quel est celui qui est l’œuvre de Dieu ? Telle est notre question. Il est certain, en effet, que notre naissance elle aussi est à deux temps : le premier, lorsque la nature nous a produits à la lumière présente, en nous enserrant dans les liens charnels, et le second, lorsque la vérité, après nous avoir arrachés à l’erreur et tournés vers elle, nous régénère en nous initiant à la foi.69 Fauste assimile ici les couples pauliniens les uns aux autres : homme extérieur / homme intérieur (2Co 4:16 ; Rm 7:22 ; Ep 3:16) ; homme terrestre / homme céleste (1Co 15:47) ; vieil homme / homme nouveau (Rm 6:6 ; 1Co 15:45 ; Ep 2:15 et 4:22 ; Col 3:9). Ce faisant, il identifie le vieil homme à la nature première de l’homme, ce qui va de pair avec une dévaluation radicale de la création initiale de l’homme. Il s’appuie sur Ep 4:22–24 — « Pour que vous dépouilliez le vieil homme selon votre premier genre de vie, celui qui se corrompt par la convoitise de l’erreur ; renouvelez-vous par l’esprit de votre intelligence, revêtez l’homme nouveau qui a été créé selon Dieu dans la justice et la sainteté de la vérité » — pour expliquer que, seul, l’homme nouveau est créé par Dieu, mais que « le vieil homme n’a été ni formé par lui ni formé selon lui70 ». Le vieil homme provient de la naissance charnelle qui relève « de la frénésie et du dérèglement » ( furoris et intemperantiae) et qui est « obscène et infâme » (obscaena ac propudiosa) : il est impossible d’attribuer sa création à Dieu, car Contre les manichéens 4.108, CCG 82, 409–410 ; cf. P.-H. Poirier, Exégèse manichéenne et anti-manichéenne de 2 Corinthiens 4, 4 chez Titus de Bostra (Contre les manichéens IV, 108), in: A. Van den Kerchove / L.G. Soares Santoprete (eds.), Gnose et manichéisme. Hommage à J.-D. Dubois, (BEHE, 176), Turnhout 2017, 273–286 (274–275. 285). 69  Cf.  Faust. 24.1, CSEL 25/1, 717: « … quoniam quidem sunt secundum apostolum homines duo, quorum alterum quidem interdum exteriorem uocat, plerumque uero terrenum, nonnumquam etiam ueterem, alterum uero interiorem et caelestem dicit ac nouum. horum ergo uter fiat a deo, quaerimus, quoniam quidem et natiuitatis nostrae tempora duo sunt: unum illud, quo nos inretitos carnalibus uinculis in lucem hanc natura produxit, alterum uero, cum ueritas nos ex errore conuersos ad se regenerauit initiatos ad fidem. » 70  Cf.  Faust. 24.1, CSEL 25/1, 719: « Nam cum exuite uos et induite dicit, tempus utique credulitatis significat ; cum uero hominem nouum a deo creari testatur, tum indicat ueterem nec ab ipso esse nec secundum eum formatum. »



cela ne peut convenir à sa divinité.71 La seconde naissance, celle de l’homme nouveau, est une naissance spirituelle, « intelligible et divine » (intellegibilis ac diuinus) : elle suppose une conversion de vie vers la vérité ; elle est formation « dans la connaissance de Dieu » (in agnitione Dei). Elle va de pair avec l’élimination des diversités de nationalité, de sexe, de condition, et avec la réunification dans le Christ, la « reconstitution d’une unité première perdue72 », selon l’exégèse que Fauste donne de Ga 3:27–28 : « Tous ceux qui ont été baptisés dans le Christ ont revêtu le Christ. Il n’y a plus de Juif ni de grec, plus d’homme ni de femme, plus d’esclave ni d’homme libre : tous ne sont plus qu’un dans le Christ » (Ga 3:27–28). Donc, le moment où l’homme est formé par Dieu, c’est celui où de beaucoup il devient un, et non pas quand, de un, il se divise en beaucoup. Or, la première origine, la corporelle, nous a divisés, mais la seconde, intelligible et divine, nous rassemble en un.73 Fauste conclut le capitulum en affirmant qu’il a une meilleure intelligence de la doctrine de Paul que les catholiques et que les manichéens sont « instruits par le Christ et ses apôtres, qui, à l’évidence, sont les premiers à avoir donné cet enseignement au monde74 ». Fauste oppose constamment le Christ à la Loi juive. Je retiendrai ici l’utilisation qu’il fait de Rm 7:2–3 pour critiquer l’Église catholique qu’il compare à une épouse adultère : Pour que tu n’ailles pas juger ma comparaison déplacée, sache que c’est Paul qui, le premier, nous a appliqué cette image de l’état conjugal : « La femme mariée, tant que son mari vit, est liée par la loi du mari ; mais si 71  Cf.  Faust. 24.1, CSEL 25/1, 719: « Et cum prosequitur dicens illum quidem fieri in sanctitate et iustitia et ueritate, tunc designat atque demonstrat alterum illum natiuitatis morem, quem dixi longe dissimilem huic, qui corpora nostra furiosis genitorum conplexibus seminauit quemque etiam ostendit ex deo non esse, cum illum solum monstrauit esse ex deo. » 72  Cf. Decret, 1970, 67. 73  Faust. 24.1, CSEL 25/1, 720: « “Quotquot in Christo baptizati sunt, Christum induerunt; non est Iudaeus neque Graecus, non est masculus neque femina, non est seruus et liber, sed omnes in Christo unum sunt”. Ergo tunc fit homo a deo, cum fit unus ex multis, non cum ex uno est diuisus in multa. diuisit autem nos primus ortus, id est corporalis; secundus adunat, intellegibilis ac diuinus: eoque rectissime nos hunc quidem corporis naturae ascribendum putauimus, illum uero supernae maiestati. » 74  Faust. 24.1, CSEL 25/1, 721: « … neque id temere aut praesumptiue, sed a Christo discentes et eius apostolis, qui primi eadem in mundo docuisse monstrantur ».

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


le mari est mort, elle est affranchie de la loi qui la liait à son mari. Donc, du vivant de son mari, dit-il, elle sera adultère, si elle s’unit à un autre homme ; mais si son mari est mort, elle ne sera pas adultère, si elle s’unit à un autre homme » (Rm 7:2–3) ; il fait voir par là que commettent un adultère spirituel ceux qui, avant d’avoir répudié et mis, en quelque sorte, au nombre des morts l’auteur de la Loi, se sont unis au Christ.75 Si l’Église catholique est adultère selon Fauste, c’est parce qu’elle n’a pas rompu avec la Loi juive et avec le Dieu de l’Ancien Testament : « elle se complaît aux présents et aux lettres d’un mari qui n’est pas le sien ». En Rm 7:2–3, Paul entend bien récuser la soumission du chrétien à la Loi de Moïse, mais il est clair que Fauste est plus radical : c’est le Dieu de l’Ancien Testament lui-même qu’il rejette. Fauste multiplie les images pour dénoncer, chez les catholiques, le mélange inacceptable à ses yeux de la Loi juive et de l’Évangile ; cela revient à faire de la foi chrétienne « un hippocentaure », c’est-à-dire un être hybride, mi-homme, mi-cheval : Mais continuez donc comme vous avez commencé, cousez un morceau d’étoffe neuve au vieux vêtement, confiez un vin nouveau à de vieilles outres (cf. Mt 9:16–17), servez deux époux, sûrs de ne plaire à aucun, bref, faites de la foi chrétienne un hippocentaure, qui n’est ni tout à fait cheval ni homme tout à fait, et laissez-nous servir le Christ seul, satisfaits seulement de l’immortelle dot qu’il nous offre, et imitant l’Apôtre, qui déclare : « Les capacités nous sont données en suffisance par Dieu, qui nous a rendus capables d’être les ministres du Nouveau Testament » (2Co 3:5–6a).76

75  F aust. 15.1, CSEL 25/1, 417: « Ac ne incongrue me haec conparasse existimes, Paulus in nos hanc coniugalis disciplinae similitudinem prior contulit dicens: “quae sub uiro est mulier uiuente, uiro alligata est lege uiri ; si autem mortuus fuerit uir eius, soluta est a lege uiri. Ergo uiuente uiro uocabitur, inquit, adultera, si iuncta fuerit alteri uiro ; quodsi mortuus fuerit uir eius, non erit adultera alii coniuncta” (Rm 7:2–3), per haec ostendens spiritu moechari eos, qui non ante repudiantes et in mortuis quodam modo ponentes legis auctorem tum demum se copulauerint Christo. » 76  Faust. 15.1, CSEL 25/1, 417: « Sed uos quidem pergite agere, ut coepistis, rudem pannum ueteri uestimento committite, nouum uinum ueternosis utribus credite, duobus maritis nulli placituri seruite, christianam denique fidem Hippocentaurum facite, nec equum perfectum nec hominem: nobis soli Christo seruire permittite, eius tantum inmortali dote contentis et imitantibus apostolum, qui dicit: “sufficientia nostra ex deo est, qui nos idoneos probauit ministros noui testamenti”. » Cf. Tardieu, 1988, 58.



Mélanger ainsi « la nouveauté chrétienne à la vétusté hébraïque77 » est évidemment aux antipodes de l’enseignement de Mani qui a vécu lui-même la rupture avec le judéo-christianisme ou encore de celui d’Adimante dans les Antithèses. En citant 2Co 3:5–6a, Fauste veut souligner la sufficentia accordée aux manichéens tout autant qu’à Paul : le Nouveau Testament leur suffit ! Ils n’ont pas besoin de l’Ancien, bien plus, ils le répudient. 2.

L’herméneutique d’Augustin

Le souci d’Augustin dans le Contra Faustum est d’abord de répondre, point par point, aux Capitula de Fauste ; son but n’est donc pas de présenter de façon systématique les principes de son herméneutique, et cela d’autant plus qu’il a rédigé peu auparavant le De doctrina christiana.78 : bien souvent, il reprend des principes ou des règles qu’il a énoncés dans cet ouvrage, il les explicite et les applique à tel ou tel problème particulier d’exégèse soulevé par son interlocuteur. Augustin présente le Contra Faustum comme trente-trois discussions (disputationes), dans lesquelles il entend répondre aux attaques de Fauste.79 Il faut donc, tout comme pour Fauste, faire la part de la polémique80 : certaines interprétations scripturaires sont des arguments de rétorsion ou des arguments ad hominem ; elles ne reflètent pas les principes fondamentaux de son herméneutique et ne seront donc pas retenues ici. Un point est à souligner d’emblée : Augustin ne mentionne nulle part clairement la distinction faite par Fauste entre les évangiles, qui ont été falsifiés dès l’origine, et les épîtres de Paul, où l’on trouve des versets interpolés.81 Il englobe plutôt dans une même critique l’attitude des manichéens à l’égard des évangiles et à l’égard de Paul, comme s’il s’agissait dans tous les cas d’interpolations :

77  Cf.  Faust. 8.1, CSEL 25/1, 305: « christianam nouitatem Hebraicae uetustati non misceo. » 78  La rédaction de Doctr. chr. est à dater de la fin 396 ou du début 397, du moins en ce qui concerne les livres 1–3 (jusqu’en 3.25,35): cf. Retract. 2.4,1, BA 12, 456–457 ; M. Moreau, Introduction, in: Aug., La doctrine chrétienne, BA 11/2, trad. par M. Moreau, notes par I. Bochet / G. Madec, Paris 1997, 9–10. La rédaction du Contra Faustum est à situer entre 398 et 403 ; il est difficile de préciser davantage la date (cf. M. Dulaey / A. Massie, Les circonstances de la rédaction, in: BA 18/A, 9–15). 79  Cf.  Retract. 2.7, 1, BA 12, 462–463: « Triginta et tres disputationes sunt, quos etiam libros cur non dixerim ? » 80  Cf.  J.-P. Weiss, La méthode polémique d’Augustin dans le “Contra Faustum”, in: M. Zerner (éd.), Inventer l’hérésie? Discours polémiques et pouvoirs avant l’Inquisition, Nice 1998, 15–38. 81  Cf. Hoffmann, 1997, 170–182.

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


Ou bien d’aventure vont-ils oser dire que les textes semblables tirés du Nouveau Testament sont, eux aussi, faux et déformés, forts de ce privilège diabolique qui les fait croire et tenter de faire croire que tout ce qui, dans l’Évangile ou les Épîtres canoniques, peut, selon eux, étayer leur hérésie, c’est le Christ et les Apôtres qui l’ont dit, et qui les amène à déclarer sans broncher, d’une bouche impudente et sacrilège, que tout ce qui, dans les mêmes livres, parle contre eux, ce sont des faussaires qui l’ont introduit82? Doit-on penser qu’Augustin n’avait pas saisi la distinction que les manichéens opéraient entre Paul et les évangiles ? ou bien qu’il la connaissait, mais qu’il a cherché autant que possible à la rendre méconnaissable, afin de pouvoir plus facilement réfuter Fauste ? On peut encore supposer qu’Augustin, dans sa période manichéenne, n’avait pas perçu comme auditeur la distinction faite entre Paul et les évangiles, mais qu’il a saisi cette distinction en lisant les Capitula de Fauste, sans pour autant vouloir en tenir compte. Cette dernière hypothèse serait la plus vraisemblable selon A. Hoffmann, mais elle est peut-être à lier à la seconde.83 2.1 Autorités exégétiques Le statut du Nouveau Testament, selon Augustin, est bien différent de ce qu’il est pour Fauste. Augustin rappelle à maintes reprises qu’il s’agit d’un texte canonique et il prend soin de préciser les critères à mettre en œuvre pour reconnaître si un texte appartient ou non au Canon : est-il d’origine apostolique ? a-t-il été transmis par une succession ininterrompue des évêques depuis les apôtres ? fait-il l’objet d’un consensus universel ? Augustin s’adresse donc à Fauste pour lui demander ironiquement de produire des garanties similaires pour l’ouvrage qu’il utilisera pour justifier le tri qu’il opère dans le Nouveau Testament : Quelle origine invoqueras-tu en faveur de l’ouvrage que tu produiras, quelle antiquité, quelle succession ininterrompue ? Essaie donc : tu ne réussiras pas, et tu verras ce que vaut sur ce point l’autorité de l’Église catholique qui, depuis le très sûr fondement des sièges des apôtres jusqu’à 82  F aust. 22.15, CSEL 25/1, 603: « An forte, quae de nouo testamento similia protulimus, ipsa quoque audent dicere falsa esse atque peruersa priuilegio illo suo diabolico, ut quicquid est in euangelio uel epistulis canonicis, quo adiuuari haeresim suam putent, id esse a Christo et apostolis dictum teneant atque suadeant, quicquid autem ex eisdem codicibus aduersus eos sonuerit, inmissum ab infalsatoribus ore inpudenti ac sacrilego non dubitent dicere ? » 83  Cf. Hoffmann, 1997, 181–182.



nos jours, trouve le principe de sa solidité dans la succession ininterrompue des évêques et dans le consensus de tant de peuples.84 Il n’est pas fortuit qu’Augustin achève le dernier livre du Contra Faustum en revenant sur ce qui fonde l’autorité des Écritures et en rappelant les critères qui permettent de l’authentifier : Si vous voulez suivre l’autorité des Écritures, préférable à toutes les autorités, suivez celle qui, depuis le temps même de la vie terrestre du Christ, à travers le ministère des apôtres et les successions ininterrompues des évêques à partir des années où les apôtres ont siégé, s’est répandue par toute la terre, parvenant jusqu’à notre temps intacte, manifeste, glorieuse.85 Ces modalités de détermination du Canon n’ont rien d’arbitraire ; elles ont leur analogue, dans le cas d’ouvrages classiques, comme ceux d’Hippocrate, Aristote, Platon, Cicéron ou Varron, si l’on veut déterminer avec certitude leur authenticité : on doit là aussi s’assurer des origines de l’ouvrage et des modalités de sa transmission à la postérité, de génération en génération. D’où vient la certitude de l’authenticité de tel livre, sinon de ce que, à l’époque où tel auteur a écrit, il a, dans la mesure où il l’a pu, essayé de faire connaître son œuvre, qu’il l’a éditée, et que, la connaissance s’en étant transmise continûment d’une génération à l’autre et s’étant plus largement affermie auprès de la postérité, elle est ainsi parvenue jusqu’à

84  Faust. 11.2, CSEL 25/1, 315: « Quam libri a te prolati originem, quam uetustatem, quam seriem successionis testem citabis ? nam si hoc facere conaberis, et nihil ualebis et uidebis in hac re quid ecclesiae catholicae ualeat auctoritas, quae ab ipsis fundatissimis sedibus apostolorum usque ad hodiernum diem succedentium sibimet episcoporum serie et tot populorum consensione firmatur. » Cf. 11.5, 320: « … distincta est a posteriorum libris excellentia canonicae auctoritatis ueteris et noui testamenti, quae apostolorum confirmata temporibus per successiones episcoporum et propagationes ecclesiarum tamquam in sede quadam sublimiter constituta est, cui seruiat omnis fidelis et pius intellectus » ; 32.21, 783. 85  Faust. 33.9, CSEL 25/1, 796: « … ut si auctoritatem scripturarum omnibus praeferendam sequi uultis, eam sequamini, quae ab ipsius praesentiae Christi temporibus per dispensationes apostolorum et certas ab eorum sedibus successiones episcoporum usque ad haec tempora toto orbe terrarum custodita, commendata, clarificata peruenit. »

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


notre temps, de sorte que, si l’on nous demande de qui est tel ou tel livre, nous n’hésitons pas sur la réponse à faire86 ? La détermination du Canon des Écritures87 est décisive dans le débat qui oppose Augustin à Fauste, car l’attitude à avoir face à un texte canonique ne se compare pas à celle que l’on peut avoir à l’égard d’un texte qui est ecclésiastique, mais non canonique, y compris les écrits « qu’on appelle apocryphes, non parce qu’on doit leur accorder quelque autorité secrète, mais parce que la lumière d’aucun témoignage ne les éclaire et qu’ils ont été produits sur on ne sait quel secret par la présomption d’on ne sait qui88 ». Dans le cas d’un texte appartenant au Canon, on ne peut en effet mettre en doute sa vérité, même lorsque quelque chose nous trouble ou nous étonne ; on peut seulement examiner si le manuscrit est fautif ou si la traduction est erronée.89 On ne peut pas davantage mettre en cause la concordance des textes canoniques : même là où deux textes canoniques paraissent se contredire, on ne peut récuser l’un au profit de l’autre ; il reste donc à les croire l’un et l’autre comme s’ils étaient sortis de la même bouche (tamquam uno ore dicta) et à chercher à comprendre, si on le peut, comment ils s’accordent.90 86  Faust. 33.6, CSEL 25/1, 791: « quasi uero et in litteris saecularibus non fuerunt certissimi auctores, sub quorum nominibus postea multa prolata sunt et ideo repudiata, quia uel his, quae ipsorum esse constaret, minime congruerunt uel eo tempore, quo illi scripserint, nequaquam innotescere et per ipsos uel familiarissimos eorum in posteros prodi commendarique meruerunt. » 87  Un premier concile à Hippone en 393 avait établi une liste des livres canoniques ; la question fut reprise lors du concile de Carthage en 397: l’évêque de Carthage, Aurélius, et les évêques de la Byzacène rédigèrent le 13 août 397 un Abrégé des Canons qui avaient été votés par le concile d’Hippone le 8 octobre 393 ; cet Abrégé fut entériné lors de la seconde session du concile, le 28 août 397, par les évêques de Proconsulaire, de Numidie et de Mauritanie. À la même époque, Augustin expose le Canon des Écritures en doctr. christ. 2.8,12–13. Voir I. Bochet, Le canon des Écritures, la Septante et l’Itala, Note complémentaire 11, in: BA 11/2, 506–523 ; O. Wermelinger, Le Canon des latins au temps de Jérôme et d’Augustin, in: J.-D. Kaestli / O. Wermelinger, Le Canon de l’Ancien Testament. Sa formation et son histoire, Genève 1984, 153–210 ; A.-M. La Bonnardière, Le Canon des divines Écritures, in: A.-M. La Bonnardière, Saint Augustin et la Bible, BTT 3, Paris 1986, 287–302. 88  Faust. 11.2, CSEL 25/1, 314–315: « … uel de his, qui appellantur apocryphi, non quod habendi sint in aliqua auctoritate secreta, sed quia nulla testificationis luce declarati de nescio quo secreto nescio quorum praesumptione prolati sunt » ; cf. ciu. 15.23, BA 36, 150–151. 89  Cf.  Faust. 11.5, CSEL 25/1, 320: « Ibi si quid uelut absurdum mouerit, non licet dicere: auctor huius libri non tenuit ueritatem, sed aut codex mendosus est aut interpres errauit aut tu non intellegis. » 90  Cf.  Faust. 11.6, CSEL 25/1, 321 : « … quia ita sibi omnia in canonica auctoritate concordant, ut tamquam uno ore dicta iustissima et prudentissima pietate credantur et serenissimo intellectu inueniantur et sollertissima diligentia demonstrentur: non liceret de



L’attitude qui s’impose face aux Écritures canoniques est donc la piété et la douceur : il s’agit de « les lire dans un esprit de paix » et de les « scruter non pas avec une intention hérétique, pour polémiquer, mais avec un cœur plein de foi, pour s’édifier91 ». Ce qui exclut de soumettre les Écritures à son propre jugement, au lieu de se soumettre à leur autorité, et ce qui est donc aux antipodes de l’attitude des manichéens qui exercent leur jugement critique indistinctement sur tous les textes et prétendent faire le tri à l’intérieur du Nouveau Testament : selon Augustin, une telle attitude ne peut que ruiner l’autorité des Écritures.92 Augustin ne définit donc pas du tout comme Fauste « la simplicité de la foi » : contrairement à ce qu’affirme Fauste, on ne peut considérer que c’est la preuve « d’une foi sans nerf que de ne pas croire au Christ sans témoignage93 ». Les médiations humaines sont en effet strictement nécessaires ; on ne peut attendre une révélation immédiate et directe du Christ ; nous n’avons connaissance de la voix venue du ciel disant : « Celui-ci est mon Fils bien-aimé » (Mt 3:17 et 17:5) que par le témoignage des hommes. Paul lui-même le confirme en Rm 10:14–15, en faisant appel au « témoignage de la prophétie » : « Mais comment invoqueront-ils celui en qui ils n’ont pas cru ? Et comment croiront-ils à celui qu’ils n’ont pas entendu ? Or, comment entendront-ils sans prédicateurs, et comment prêcheront-ils s’ils ne sont pas envoyés, selon la parole de l’Écriture : “Qu’ils sont beaux les pieds de ceux qui annoncent la paix, qui annoncent de bonnes nouvelles”94 ». La « foi simple » alterutro dubitare. » À comparer à Cons. 3.7.30, CSEL 43, 306–307: « … quanto magis hoc de prophetis sanctis intellegendum et maxime commendandum fuit, ut omnium libros tamquam unius unum librum acciperemus, in quo nulla rerum discrepantia crederetur, sicut nulla inueniretur, et in quo maior esset constantia ueritatis, quam si omnia illa unus homo quamlibet doctissimus loqueretur ? » 91  Cf.  Faust. 3.5, CSEL 25/1, 266–267: « … uera tamen omnes dicunt nec sibi ullo modo contraria, si pius lector accedat, si mitis legat, si non haeretico animo, unde rixetur, sed fideli corde, unde aedificetur, inquirat. » Cf. Doctr. chr. 2.7.9, BA 11/2, 146–147: « Deinde mitescere opus est pietate neque contradicere diuinae scripturae siue intellectae, si aliqua uitia nostra percutit, siue non intellectae, quasi nos melius sapere meliusque praecipere possimus … ». 92  Cf.  Faust. 32.19, CSEL 25/1, 780: « Videtis ergo id uos agere, ut omnis de medio scripturarum auferatur auctoritas et suus cuique animus auctor sit, quid in quaque scriptura probet, quid inprobet, id est, ut non auctoritati scripturarum subiciatur ad fidem, sed sibi scripturas ipse subiciat, non ut ideo illi placeat aliquid, quia hoc in sublimi auctoritate scriptum legitur, sed ideo recte scriptum uideatur, quia hoc illi placuit. » 93  Cf.  Faust. 12.45, CSEL 25/1, 374: « Quis enim dementissimus diceret eneruis esse fidei de Christo sine teste non credere ? » 94  Cf.  Faust. 12.45, CSEL 25/1, 374: « Vellem mihi isti responderent, cuinam de Christo ipsi credidissent ; an illam uocem de caelo audierunt: “hic est filius meus” ? Ei quippe uoci potius Faustus nos iubet credere, qui de Christo non uult testibus hominibus credi, quasi ad nos etiam eiusdem uocis notitia sine homine teste peruenerit, cum et manifestum

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


n’exclut donc absolument pas de croire les témoignages des prophètes juifs ; bien au contraire, elle consiste à croire afin de devenir capable de comprendre, selon la parole d’Is 7:9 (LXX) : « Si vous ne croyez pas, vous ne comprendrez pas ». Elle est « le lait sucé aux mamelles des apôtres et des prophètes », elle purifie et fortifie l’esprit, de sorte qu’il devienne capable de se nourrir de « la nourriture solide », c’est-à-dire d’accéder à l’intelligence de ce qu’il croit.95 Si la foi qui se soumet à l’autorité des Écritures est un préalable nécessaire selon Augustin, elle n’exclut pas l’exercice de la raison96 : bien plus, elle la requiert, notamment pour déterminer les règles à mettre en œuvre dans la lecture de l’Écriture. 2.2 Principes herméneutiques Augustin précise la méthode à adopter en cas de variantes dans les exemplaires des Écritures : Dans ces conditions, si la confiance que méritent tels exemplaires était mise en question — cela touche quelques passages qui comportent des variantes : mais ils sont en petit nombre et très connus des gens au fait des saintes Lettres —, ou bien l’on s’en rapporterait aux manuscrits des pays d’où la doctrine nous est venue, ou bien, au cas où là encore les manuscrits offriraient des variantes, on donnerait la préférence aux plus nombreux sur les moins nombreux ou aux plus anciens sur les plus sit sic eam peruenisse, et apostolus dicat: quomodo autem inuocabunt, in quem non crediderunt ? aut quomodo credent ei, quem non audierunt ? “Quomodo autem audient sine praedicante ? aut quomodo praedicabunt, si non mittantur ? sicut scriptum est: quam speciosi pedes eorum qui adnuntiant pacem, qui adnuntiant bona !” Videtis certe, quemadmodum praedicationem doctrinae apostolicae propheticum testimonium comitetur. » 95  Cf.  Faust. 12.46, CSEL 25/1, 374–375: « Verum disciplina catholica propterea simplici fide prius nutriri oportere docet mentem christianam, ut eam capacem faciat ad intellegenda superna et aeterna. Sic enim et propheta dicit: “nisi credideritis, non intellegetis” (Is 7:9). At ea ipsa est simplex fides, qua credimus, antequam cognoscamus supereminentem scientiam caritatis Christi, ut inpleamur in omnem plenitudinem dei, non sine causa dispensationem humilitatis eius, qua humanitus natus et passus est, a prophetis per propheticam gentem, per propheticum populum, per propheticum regnum tanto ante praedictam … ». 96   Loin de « croire tout à la légère », comme le prétend Fauste, les chrétiens « ne condamnent pas la raison » et discernent le vrai du faux: « Nec omnia temere credunt ; et ideo Manichaeo ceterisque haereticis non utique credunt. Nec rationem ex hominibus damnant ; sed quam uos dicitis esse rationem, errorem esse conuincunt. Nec uerum falsumque iudicare inpium putant ; ideo uestram sectam falsissimam » (Faust. 18.7, CSEL 25/1, 495).



récents ; et si les variantes nous laissaient encore dans l’incertitude, on consulterait les exemplaires écrits dans la langue antérieure d’où notre texte a été traduit. Voilà la méthode des hommes qui veulent trouver l’explication de ce qui les trouble dans les saintes Écritures, dont l’autorité est si fermement établie : leur objet est d’avoir matière à s’instruire et non à polémiquer.97 Augustin expliquait déjà dans le De doctrina christiana qu’il faut comparer les traductions latines, les corriger si nécessaire à partir des des manuscrits grecs en se référant à « ceux que l’on trouve dans les Églises particulièrement instruites et zélées »98. Pour répondre à Fauste qui met en cause la crédibilité des apôtres, Augustin réhabilite la valeur de leur témoignage : Pourquoi, sur le Christ, ne pas croire plutôt ses disciples qui se sont attachés à lui corporellement aussi ? Non seulement ils ont pu apprendre par l’Esprit Saint qu’il leur avait imparti ce qui pouvait rester caché dans l’ordre des choses humaines, mais, quand le souvenir en était tout récent et vivant, ils ont recueilli par le seul témoignage des sens humains ce qui concernait la parenté du Christ selon la chair et toute son origine. Et pourtant on nous dit que les apôtres sont des témoins aveugles et sourds99 ! Les apôtres ont sur Mani l’avantage d’avoir connu corporellement le Christ et d’avoir pu recueillir des témoignages récents pour les faits dont il n’ont pas été eux-mêmes les témoins directs. Il n’y a aucune raison qui légitime le choix d’un évangéliste au détriment des autres : dans le cas où ils paraissent se contredire, il faut présupposer qu’ils peuvent les uns et les autres avoir dit vrai ; il faut 97  F aust. 11.2, CSEL 25/1, 315–316: « Itaque si de fide exemplarium quaestio uerteretur, sicut in nonnullis, quae et paucae sunt et sacrarum litterarum studiosis notissimae sententiarum uarietates, uel ex aliarum regionum codicibus, unde ipsa doctrina commeauit, nostra dubitatio diiudicaretur, uel si ibi quoque codices uariarent. plures paucioribus aut uetustiores recentioribus praeferrentur: et si adhuc esset incerta uarietas, praecedens lingua, unde illud interpretatum est, consuleretur. hoc modo quaerunt, qui, quod eos mouet in scripturis sanctis tanta auctoritate firmatis, inuenire uolunt, ut habeant, unde instruantur, non unde rixentur. » 98  Cf.  Doctr. chr. 2.15,22, BA 11/2, 168–171. 99  Faust. 7.2, CSEL 25/1, 305: « Sed cur non potius de Christo discipulis eius, qui etiam corporaliter ei adhaeserunt, credimus, qui non solum per spiritum sanctum ab ipso inpertitum scire potuerunt, si quid lateret in rebus humanis, sed tam recenti et praesenti memoria etiam solo humano sensu genus Christi secundum carnem et totam originem conlegerunt ? et tamen caeci et surdi testes dicuntur apostoli. »

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


surtout prendre en compte les variantes habituelles dans la diversité des témoignages historiques et les caractéristiques de tout récit humain : De fait, voici deux historiens qui ont traité du même sujet. Qui, à les lire, a jamais pensé que l’un et l’autre ou que l’un ou l’autre trompe ou a été trompé, parce que l’un raconte ce que l’autre a omis, ou parce que l’un est plus concis dans sa narration, ne s’attachant qu’à conserver l’idée, mais pleinement et fidèlement, et que l’autre présente toute chose dans le détail au point de nous faire connaître non pas simplement les faits mais encore les circonstances des faits100? On ne doit pas oublier, en effet, comme Augustin l’explique déjà dans le De doctrina christiana, que « les signes donnés par Dieu qui nous ont été transmis dans les saintes Écritures nous ont été transmis par des hommes qui les ont mis par écrit101 ». Augustin ne pense pas que les Écritures aient été dictées par Dieu ; il est conscient du travail proprement humain de rédaction fait par les évangélistes102 : la divergence des récits ne doit donc pas nous étonner. Il prend donc à parti Fauste dans les dernières pages du Contra Faustum : « Mais quoi ? oublions-nous, quand nous lisons, nos habitudes de langage ? ou serait-ce que la divine Écriture devrait nous parler autrement qu’à notre manière103 ? » Examinons l’application de ces principes herméneutiques et la manière dont ils permettent à Augustin de répondre aux critiques de Fauste. Revenons à l’exemple de la généalogie du Christ. Refuser au début de l’Évangile de Matthieu le titre d’« évangile », sous prétexte qu’il commence par les mots : « Livre de la génération de Jésus-Christ », c’est méconnaître ce qu’est l’Évangile, qui est « l’annonce du Sauveur », et entrer en contradiction avec Paul qui affirme : « Souviens-toi que le Christ Jésus, de la lignée de David, est ressuscité 100  Faust. 33.7, CSEL 25/1, 793: « Quis enim umquam duos historicos legens de una re scribentes utrumque uel utrumlibet eorum aut fallere aut falli arbitratus est, si unus eorum dixit, quod alius praetermisit ; aut si alter aliquid breuius conplexus est eandem tantum sententiam saluam integramque custodiens. Alter autem tamquam membratim cuncta digessit, ut non solum, quid factum sit, uerum etiam, quemadmodum factum sit, intimaret ? » 101  Doctr. chr.  2.2,3, BA 11/2, 138–139: « … quia et signa diuinitus data, quae scripturis sanctis continentur, per homines nobis indicata sunt qui ea conscripserunt. » Cf. I. Bochet, Place de l’Écriture dans l’économie du salut, Note complémentaire 7, in: BA 11/2, 474–483 ; voir ici 478–479. 102  Cf.  Cons. 2.12,27–28, CSEL 43, 127–129. L’expression dictante capite (Cons. 1.45,54, 60) n’est donc pas à prendre à la lettre. 103  Faust. 33.8, CSEL 25/1, 794: « Quid ergo ? cum legimus, obliuiscimur, quemadmodum loqui soleamus ? an scriptura dei aliter nobiscum fuerat quam nostro more locutura ? »



d’entre les morts, selon mon Évangile » (2Tm 2:8). Fauste ne peut donc prétendre accepter l’Évangile, tout en récusant que Jésus soit né de la lignée de David.104 Quant aux contradictions que l’on repère dans la généalogie de Matthieu et de Luc, elles doivent inciter le lecteur à penser qu’il y a là quelque chose d’important qui requiert une étude approfondie, en se mettant à l’école d’un exégète catholique.105 Utiliser Mt 12:48 : « Qui est ma mère ou qui sont mes frères ? » comme preuve que Jésus n’a eu ni mère, ni frères, c’est faire fi de Mt 12:46 qui affirme que sa mère et ses frères le cherchaient ; c’est également méconnaître la signification de cette manière de parler : par ces mots, Jésus invite ses disciples à mépriser en vue du Royaume des cieux les liens de parenté terrestre, tout comme en Mt 23:9 : « Ne donnez à personne sur terre le nom de père ; vous n’avez qu’un père, Dieu ».106 Prétendre qu’il y a une incohérence dans l’Évangile de Matthieu, sous prétexte qu’il nomme d’abord Jésus « fils de David » et, plus tard seulement, « Fils de Dieu », c’est oublier que Matthieu le nomme « Emmanuel, c’est-à-dire Dieu avec nous » dès Mt 1:23 ; ce n’est pas parce que Jésus est dit « Fils de Dieu » en Mt 3:17 qu’il ne l’était pas auparavant, dès sa conception en Marie, comme l’affirme Paul en Ga 4:4.107 Que penser maintenant de Mt 5:17 : « Je ne suis pas venu abolir, mais accomplir la Loi et les prophètes » ? Doit-on vraiment récuser cette parole comme fausse comme le veut Fauste ? Augustin réfute les arguments donnés par le manichéen. Même si Matthieu n’était pas présent sur la montagne avec Jésus quand il a dit cette parole, pourquoi ne pourrait-il l’avoir appris de Jean, ou même de Jésus lui-même108 ? Ce n’est pas parce que Matthieu parle de sa vocation à la troisième personne qu’on doit en conclure qu’il n’est pas le rédacteur de l’Évangile qui porte son nom : c’est en effet l’habitude des historiens profanes, c’est ce que fait aussi l’évangéliste Jean en Jn 21:20.24, ou encore Jésus lui-même en Jn 5:25.109 Certes, comme le dit Fauste, Mt 5:17 présuppose que les Juifs accusaient Jésus d’abolir la Loi et les prophètes, mais cela ne fait que

104  Cf.  Faust. 2.2, CSEL 25/1, 254–255: « Quid ergo respondebis apostolo dicenti: “memor esto Christum Iesum resurrexisse a mortuis ex semine Dauid secundum euangelium meum” (2Tm 2:8) ? […] At si hoc appellas euangelium, quod apostoli appellauerunt, aberras ab euangelio, qui non credis Christum ex semine Dauid, quod apostolus secundum suum euangelium praedicari testatus est. » 105  Cf.  Faust. 3.2–4, CSEL 25/1, 262–266. 106  Cf.  Faust. 7.2, CSEL 25/1, 303–304. 107  Cf.  Faust. 23.5.7, CSEL 25/1, 710–712. 108  Cf.  Faust. 17.3, CSEL 25/1, 485–486. 109  Cf.  Faust. 17.4, CSEL 25/1, 486–488. Même explication en Eu. Io. 61.4, BA 74/A, 146–147.

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


confirmer que Jésus parlait bien alors de la Loi juive et non d’une autre loi, comme le prétend Fauste.110 Les mêmes règles s’appliquent bien évidemment à la lecture de Paul. On ne peut isoler un verset de son contexte : en invoquant 2Co 5:16 (« Pour nous, nous ne connaissons personne selon la chair, et le Christ même, si nous l’avons connu selon la chair, maintenant nous ne le connaissons plus ainsi ») pour récuser Rm 1:3 (« son Fils, issu selon la chair, de la lignée de David »), Fauste méconnaît la signification de 2Co 5:16. Le contexte montre en effet clairement que Paul parle alors de la vie future : il mentionne en effet expressément la résurrection du Christ ( 2Co 5:14–16), puis la nôtre ( 2Co 5:17–18) ; le présent utilisé par Paul pour décrire notre résurrection ne signifie pas pour autant que cette résurrection est déjà réalité, il exprime la certitude de notre espérance, comme en Col 3:1–2.111 Il importe également de prendre en compte les manières de parler. On ne peut pas, par exemple, comme le fait Fauste, s’appuyer sur 1Co 13:11 (« Quand j’étais petit enfant, je parlais en petit enfant, je pensais en petit enfant, je raisonnais en petit enfant. Mais quand je suis devenu homme, j’ai rejeté ce qui était du petit enfant »), pour affirmer que Paul récuse ce qu’il a dit antérieurement dans la lettre aux Romains, car il ne s’agit là que d’une « comparaison » (ad similitudinem) par laquelle Paul caractérise ce qu’il était avant de devenir l’homme spirituel qui compose des écrits destinés à appartenir au Canon.112 2.3 Enjeux théologiques Selon Augustin, les Écritures prises comme un tout, conformément au Canon de l’Église catholique, ne conduisent nullement au dualisme que Fauste entend fonder sur sa lecture sélective du Nouveau Testament. Pour répondre à Fauste, il montre que les textes qu’il invoque ne cautionnent ni le dualisme des Principes, ni un dualisme anthropologique, ni l’opposition radicale entre l’Évangile et la Loi. Augustin estime que les manichéens ne comprennent pas ce qu’est la « lumière inaccessible » (1Tm 6:16) du Père : d’une part, ils se la représentent comme une lumière corporelle qui s’étend à l’infini dans l’espace, sans 110  Cf.  Faust. 17.5, CSEL 25/1, 488–489, avec allusion à Fauste, en Faust. 17.2 et 19.2–3, 484 et 497–499. 111  Cf.  Faust. 11.7–8, CSEL 25/1, 322–328 ; en réponse à Fauste, Faust. 11.1, 313–314. 112  Cf.  Faust. 11.8, CSEL 25/1, 328: « Quia et cum esset paruulus apostolus et ea, quae paruuli erant, saperet, quamquam hoc ad similitudinem dixerit, nondum erat tamen spiritalis, qualis iam erat, cum scriberet, quae ad ecclesiarum aedificationem non proficiendi exercitatione in studiosorum manibus uersarentur, sed praecipiendi auctoritate in ecclesiastico canone legerentur » ; en réponse à Fauste, Faust. 11.1, 313–314.



comprendre que cette lumière est « une substance incorporelle, spirituelle et immuable » ; d’autre part, ils ne saisissent pas que « cette lumière est l’inséparable Trinité, un seul Dieu » et qu’on ne peut en séparer ni le Fils ni le Saint Esprit.113 On ne peut pas davantage diviser le Christ, comme si sa sagesse pouvait se séparer de sa vertu et comme si elles habitaient en deux lieux distincts.114 Dans l’un et l’autre cas, la réfutation d’Augustin n’est pas d’ordre exégétique, mais rationnel : il dénonce l’incapacité des manichéens à dépasser le matérialisme dans leur représentation de Dieu. Il conteste en revanche l’exégèse que Fauste donne de 2Co 4:4 : « le dieu de ce siècle a aveuglé l’intelligence des incrédules ». Il commence par discuter la manière de ponctuer le texte, en se référant à une interprétation commune, celle de « la plupart d’entre nous » (plerique nostrum), qui introduisent une pause entre Deus et saeculi et qui « le ponctuent donc de manière à dire que c’est le vrai Dieu qui a aveuglé les esprits des infidèles115 ». Comme le remarque P.-H. Poirier,116 Augustin ne fait « pas explicitement sienne cette interprétation majoritaire, mais il en tire néanmoins la conclusion qui l’intéresse, à savoir que Paul désigne par Deus le seul vrai Dieu et non un autre dieu, celui de “ce siècle” ». Augustin justifie sa lecture de 2Co 4:4, en faisant appel à d’autres versets pauliniens qui attribuent au vrai Dieu l’aveuglement des infidèles : « Dieu est-il injuste de donner libre cours à sa colère ? » (Rm 3:5) ; « Que dirons-nous donc ? Y a-t-il en Dieu de l’injustice ? Nullement. Car il dit à Moïse : J’aurai pitié de qui j’aurai pitié, et je ferai miséricorde à qui je ferai miséricorde » (Rm 9:14) ; « Or si Dieu, voulant manifester sa colère et faire connaître sa puissance, a supporté avec une patience extrême des vases de colère propres à être détruits, afin de faire connaître les richesses de sa gloire sur des vases de miséricorde que d’avance il a préparés pour la gloire » (Rm 9:22–23). Et Augustin de conclure : « L’enseignement de l’apôtre

113  Cf.  Faust. 20.7, CSEL 25/1, 542: « Itaque lumen illud trinitas inseparabilis, unus deus est, cuius uos nullo corpore adiuncto per se ipsam incorpoream spiritalem incommutabilemque substantiam etiam locis diuiditis. […] De patris ergo inaccessibili lumine, quia ueram fidem tenentibus non inde separatur filius et spiritus sanctus, hactenus in praesentia dixerim. » 114  Cf.  Faust. 20.8, CSEL 25/1, 542: « Cum enim in ipso patre filius inseparabilis maneat, quomodo potest sapientia eius ab eius uirtute separari, ut illa sit in sole, haec in luna, cum per huiusmodi locos nisi corpora diuidi separarique non possint ? » 115  Cf.  Faust. 21.2, CSEL 25/1, 569: « Quam quidem sententiam plerique nostrum ita distingunt, ut uerum deum dicant excaecasse infidelium mentes. cum enim legerint: “in quibus deus” (2Co 4:4), suspendunt pronuntiationem ; ac tunc inferunt: “saeculi huius excaecauit mentes infidelium” (2Co 4:4)… ». 116   Poirier, 2017, 282–283. Fauste a le même texte qu’Augustin, mais il l’interprète différemment.

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atteste donc que c’est un seul et même Dieu qui fait l’une et l’autre chose.117 » On voit bien la visée du développement : pour éviter le dualisme des Principes, Augustin cherche à montrer comment Paul attribue à Dieu lui-même des actes qui peuvent paraître indignes de Dieu comme de manifester sa colère : des actes qui ne sont pas pour autant injustes, même s’ils nous paraissent signes de méchanceté. La question du mal est celle qui avait poussé Augustin lui-même à adhérer au manichéisme. La solution esquissée ici attribue à la justice de Dieu ce qui est le châtiment du péché, y compris l’endurcissement dans le péché, au lieu de recourir à un second Principe qui entrerait en conflit avec Dieu. Une telle exégèse de 2Co 4 :4 ne s’imposait certes pas de façon nécessaire : Tertullien, dans la « réponse plus simple » qu’il développe contre Marcion, identifie « le dieu de ce siècle » au « diable »,118 mais il avait précédemment expliqué que « le dieu de ce siècle » est le Dieu créateur119 ; Titus de Bostra y voit « le calomniateur », que le Christ appelle aussi « prince du monde ».120 Ces lectures ne sont pas néanmoins les plus fréquentes chez les auteurs chrétiens « orthodoxes », comme l’a montré P.-H. Poirier.121 La manière dont Augustin réfute le dualisme anthropologique que Fauste fondait sur sa lecture de Paul manifeste une exégèse très précise des textes pauliniens. Ce qu’il cherche à établir, c’est que Paul, en distinguant l’homme extérieur et l’homme intérieur, ne pense nullement à « deux hommes subsistant en même temps » : ils n’en forment qu’un seul, tout entier œuvre de Dieu : et celui qui est intérieur et celui qui est extérieur. […] Il n’a donc pas fait un homme qui serait à son image et un autre qui ne le serait pas, mais, vu que l’homme intérieur et l’homme extérieur sont ensemble un homme unique, c’est cet homme unique qu’il a fait à son image.122 Pour le justifier exégétiquement, Augustin donne plusieurs arguments. Il montre, en premier lieu, que, selon Paul, l’homme extérieur aussi est fait par 117  F aust. 21.2, CSEL 25/1, 569: « Nam unum eundemque deum facere utrumque apostolica doctrina testatur. » 118  Cf.  Marc. 5.11, 11, SC 483, 236–237. 119  Cf.  Marc. 5.11, 9–10, SC 483, 234–237. Voir l’analyse de ces textes par Poirier, 2017, 278–280. 120  Contre les manichéens 4.108, CGG 82, 409–410. Cf. Poirier, 2017, 275. 121  Poirier, 2017, 285–286. 122   Faust. 24.2, CSEL 25/1, 721: « Non tamen utrumque horum simul duos homines eum dixisse aliquando in eius litteris legitur, sed unum, quem totum deus fecerit id est et id, quod interius est, et id, quod exterius […]. Non itaque unum hominem fecit ad imaginem suam et alterum fecit non ad imaginem suam, sed quia hoc utrumque, interius et exterius, simul unus homo est, hunc unum hominem ad imaginem suam fecit … »



Dieu : en 1Co 12:18, Paul l’affirme du corps ; en 1Co 15:35–40, il le dit de l’homme terrestre, en se référant à la Genèse, « où l’on raconte comment Dieu a fait l’homme et animé le corps qu’il avait formé de la terre ». Augustin montre, en un second temps, comment Paul distingue l’homme animal et le vieil homme : le vieil homme désigne l’homme tout entier, en tant qu’il est pécheur ; Donc cet homme tout entier, c’est-à-dire l’homme intérieur et l’homme extérieur, a vieilli par suite du péché, et a été voué au châtiment qu’est la mortalité ; mais il est renouvelé maintenant selon l’homme intérieur, où il est de nouveau formé selon l’image de son créateur, en se dépouillant de l’injustice, c’est-à-dire du vieil homme, et en se revêtant de la justice, c’est-à-dire de l’homme nouveau. Or, le jour où ressuscitera corps spirituel ce qui a été semé corps animal, ce jour-là l’homme extérieur lui aussi recevra la dignité de l’état céleste, afin que soit recréé tout ce qui a été créé et refait tout ce qui a été fait, recréé par celui qui a créé et refait par celui qui a fait.123 C’est donc tout entier que l’homme est fait par Dieu, c’est aussi tout entier qu’il vieillit dans le péché, c’est encore tout entier qu’il sera refait par son Créateur. Dernier argument enfin : la distinction homme/femme n’a de sens que pour le corps ; or Paul dit expressément en 1Co 11:11–12 : « Ni la femme ne va sans l’homme, ni l’homme sans la femme, dans le Seigneur : car, de même que la femme provient de l’homme, de même aussi l’homme vient par la femme, et tout vient de Dieu » ; comment prétendre en ce cas que Dieu n’a pas fait l’homme extérieur ? Les manichéens ne peuvent fonder leur dualisme anthropologique que sur une lecture qui sélectionne arbitrairement dans Paul ce qui est conforme à leur doctrine.124 Loin d’opposer le Christ à la Loi et aux prophètes, Augustin ne cesse de montrer que le Christ vient accomplir la Loi et les prophètes. Il le fait notamment en utilisant Jn 1:17 : « La Loi a été donnée par Moïse ; elle est devenue

123  Faust. 24.2, CSEL 25/1, 723: « Ergo totus ille homo, id est et interiore et exteriore sui parte, inueterauit propter peccatum et poenae mortalitatis addictus est; renouatur autem nunc secundum interiorem hominem, ubi secundum sui creatoris imaginem reformatur, exuens se iniustitiam, hoc est ueterem hominem, et induens iustitiam, hoc est nouum hominem. Tunc autem, cum resurget corpus spiritale, quod seminatur animale, etiam exterior percipiet caelestis habitudinis dignitatem, ut totum, quod creatum est, recreetur et totum, quod factum est, reficiatur illo recreante, qui creauit, et reficiente, qui fecit. » 124  Cf.  Faust. 24.2, CSEL 25/1, 723–724.

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


grâce et vérité par Jésus-Christ125 ». En interprétant ainsi la phrase, et cela dès l’Ad Simplicianum — « Car la même Loi qui a été donnée par Moïse pour être objet de crainte est devenue grâce et vérité par Jésus-Christ pour être accomplie126 » —, Augustin en fait une arme décisive contre les manichéens qui y lisaient au contraire une opposition radicale entre la Loi, d’une part, et la grâce et la vérité, d’autre part.127 Il montre ainsi dans le livre 19 que le Christ est venu accomplir à la fois la Loi et les prophètes : la Loi de Moïse, en nous donnant « la grâce » qui pardonne nos péchés et qui nous permet d’obéir au commandement grâce au don de l’Esprit d’amour ; les prophètes, en dévoilant « la vérité » des figures. La Loi, qui enfermait les prévaricateurs dans l’abondance du péché en vue de la foi révélée plus tard, est devenue grâce par Jésus Christ, par qui la grâce a surabondé ; et c’est ainsi que la grâce qui libère a accompli la Loi que ne pouvait accomplir la lettre qui ordonne. De même, toute la prophétie de la Loi, qui promettait l’avènement du Sauveur non seulement par des paroles, mais encore par certaines actions figurées, est devenue vérité par Jésus Christ. « La Loi, » en effet, « a été donnée par Moïse, mais la grâce et la vérité sont venues par Jésus Christ ».128 L’Église catholique n’est donc pas la femme adultère que décrit Fauste en s’appuyant sur Rm 7:2–3 : elle est « la véritable épouse du Christ », qui « comprend la différence qu’il y a entre la lettre et l’esprit ou, en d’autres termes, entre la Loi et la grâce ; et servant Dieu non plus dans la vétusté de la lettre mais dans la nouveauté de l’Esprit (Rm 7:6) elle n’est plus sous la Loi, mais sous la grâce.129 » 125  Le verset est cité en Faust. 15.8 ; 16.19 ; 17.6 ; ; 22.6 ; cf. M. Dulaey, Jean 1:16–17 dans l’interprétation patristique, in: Graphè 10, 2001, 103–123 (108). 126  Cf.  Simpl. 1.1,17, BA 10, 438–439: « Inde est illud in euangelio: “lex per Moysen data est, gratia et ueritas per Iesum Christum facta est” (Jn 1:17). Eadem quippe lex, quae per Moysen data est ut formidaretur, gratia et ueritas per Iesum Christum facta est ut impleretur. » 127  Cf.  Ambrosiast., Quaest. 72, CSEL 50, 124 ; Eu. Io. 3.17, BA 71, 238–239 ; cf. Dulaey 2001, 108. 128  Faust. 19.8, CSEL 25/1, 506: « Lex enim, quae praeuaricatores abundanti reatu concludebat in eam fidem, quae postea reuelata est, gratia facta est per Iesum Christum, per quem superabundauit gratia; ac per hoc inpleta est per gratiam liberantem, quae non inplebatur per litteram iubentem. item in ipsa lege uniuersa prophetia, quae non tantum uerbis, sed etiam quarundam actionum figuris saluatoris promittebat aduentum. ueritas facta est per Iesum Christum. “Lex” enim “per Moysen data est ; gratia autem et ueritas per Iesum Christum facta est” (Jn 1:17). » 129  Faust. 15.8, CSEL 25/1, 432: « At ista uera sponsa Christi […] intellegit, quid distet inter litteram et spiritum, quae duo dicuntur alio modo, lex et gratia, et non iam in uetustate litterae, sed in nouitate spiritus deo seruiens non est iam sub lege, sed sub gratia. »



Conclusion Selon M. Tardieu, « l’intérêt et la nouveauté historiques de l’exégèse néotestamentaire des manichéens est d’avoir mis en avant des principes qui relèvent de ce qu’aujourd’hui nous appellerions critique littéraire, critique encore bien rudimentaire, et non scientifique, mais critique tout de même » ; on ne saurait « leur reprocher d’avoir lu le Nouveau Testament en fonction de ce qu’ils croyaient », dans la mesure où les Pères de l’Église en faisaient autant.130 Doit-on alors admettre que toutes les lectures du Nouveau Testament se valent et ont la même légitimité, qu’elles proviennent de chrétiens, d’hérétiques, de païens ou encore de croyants d’autres religions ? Ou même, faut-il penser, avec M. Tardieu, qu’Augustin n’a rien saisi de « la façon dont Fauste pensait la spécificité du fait chrétien dans sa nouveauté évangélique et dans ses altérations historiques131 » et réhabiliter en conséquence l’herméneutique de Fauste au détriment de celle d’Augustin ? Un jugement aussi péremptoire mérite discussion. On ne peut affirmer qu’Augustin a simplement éludé « les difficultés de critique historique soulevées par Fauste » et qu’il a émoussé « les incompatibilités et antithèses mises en avant par l’évêque manichéen ».132 Il est discutable d’opposer l’exégèse de Fauste qui serait une exégèse critique à l’exégèse d’Augustin que l’on qualifierait seulement de « confessante ». En réalité, l’un et l’autre interprètent le Nouveau Testament à partir de leur propre confession de foi ; l’un et l’autre également exercent leur sens critique à l’égard du texte qu’ils commentent, même si on peut juger que la critique d’Augustin reste fort timide, si on la compare à l’exégèse historico-critique contemporaine. Doit-on pour autant en conclure que les interprétations de Fauste et d’Augustin sont également légitimes ? Si on admet que les interprètes autorisés d’un texte sont ceux qui l’admettent dans leur Canon, on doit conclure que l’interprétation d’Augustin est plus légitime. De fait, un texte sacré est porté par une communauté croyante qui le transmet à l’intérieur d’une tradition donnée ; lire ce texte selon la tradition qui le porte paraît plus légitime que de le lire selon une tradition autre, qui relativise ce texte, voire même qui le récuse. Dans le De utilitate credendi, Augustin explique à juste titre à son ami Honoratus, encore manichéen, qu’il ne peut être satisfaisant « de se faire expliquer les ouvrages d’Aristote, obscurs et peu accessibles, par un ennemi de ce philosophe » ; il serait de même insensé « de lire ou d’étudier la Géométrie d’Archimède en prenant pour 130  Tardieu, 1987, 145. 131  Tardieu, 1988, 60. 132  Ibid.

3. L ’ herméneutique du Nouveau Testament


maître Épicure qui s’acharne à disputer contre cette œuvre sans y avoir rien compris ».133 Comment pourrait-il être pertinent de faire de même pour les Écritures ? Dans la mesure où Fauste, tout en se revendiquant chrétien, sélectionne dans le Nouveau Testament ce qui est conforme à sa confession de foi manichéenne et rejette ce qui ne s’y accorde pas, on peut admettre que son interprétation, tout en ayant un réel intérêt, n’a pas autant de validité que celle d’Augustin qui accepte tout le Nouveau Testament et qui cherche à l’interpréter comme un tout. Si l’on reconnaît la pertinence d’un tel critère, il est légitime de conclure : comprendre « la théologie comme un mode de réception de la Bible » n’est pas une « fiction », mais une « invention de l’époque patristique ».

133  Cf.  Vtil. cred. 6.13, BA 8, 236–237: « Quis enim sibi umquam libros Aristotelis reconditos et obscuros ab eius inimico exponendos putauit, ut de his loquar disciplinis, in quibus lector fortasse sine sacrilegio labi potest? quis denique geometricas litteras Archimedis legere magistro Epicuro aut discere uoluit, contra quas ille multum pertinaciter nihil earum, quantum arbitror, intellegens disserebat ? »

The Spiritual Pay-Off of Searching the Scriptures: The Principle of the Bible’s Usefulness in the Exegesis of Origen and Chrysostom Miriam DeCock Abstract In this paper, I examine Origen’s and Chrysostom’s use of an exegetical principle, which was widely understood as the standard rhetorical measure of a sound textual interpretation: whether or not a given text could be deemed “useful” (χρήσῖμος) or “beneficial” (ὠφέλιμος) for the rhetorician’s or interpreter’s audience (e.g. Cicero, De Inventione 2.41,119; cf. Plato, Republic 382d). Indeed, one of the chief aims of early Christian interpreters was to render a given biblical text “useful” or “beneficial” for their audiences. From Origen’s corpus, I analyze selections from Book 4 of Peri Archon and from his Commentary on the Gospel of John. From Chrysostom’s corpus, I will examine sections of his Homilies on Genesis, and of his Homilies on the Gospel of John. For both authors we will examine their theoretical comments about Scripture’s benefits and the ways in which they go about discerning the benefits of two specific scriptural passages from the Gospel of John, namely, The Cleansing of the Temple and The Woman at the Well. We will see that while the two authors share the belief that the biblical text is inherently beneficial for members of the church due to its divine authorship, they differ with respect to where and how the text’s benefits are to be found. For Origen, the biblical text always contains benefits beyond the letter, whereas for Chrysostom, more often than not, there is more than enough benefit to be found at the level of the literal narrative. Exploring these authors’ comments about the biblical text’s usefulness allows us to observe more nuanced differences between their exegetical approaches than the simplistic allegory versus historical-literal distinction. Introduction As has been well documented in the past few decades, most early Christian authors were trained in the Greco-Roman grammatical-rhetorical schools, and as a result their principles of biblical interpretation reflect this training.1 One 1  A.  Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse. Berkeley 1991; F. M. Young, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture, Cambridge © Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_005



such interpretive principle was what Margaret Mitchell has described as “the standard rhetorical appeal”2 to an interpretation that was “useful” (χρήσῖμος) or “beneficial” (ὠφέλιμος)3 for the reader or hearer.4 Indeed, one of the chief aims of early Christian interpreters was to render a given biblical text “useful” or “beneficial” for their audiences. In this paper, I will examine how the principle features in the exegesis of Origen and John Chrysostom in particular. I will first examine some of their theoretical comments about the beneficial nature of Scripture before turning to examine how the principle features in their treatments of two specific passages from the Gospel of John.5 We will see that while the two authors believe that due to its divine authorship, Scripture is inherently beneficial for members of the church, they differ with respect to the level of the text at which its benefits are most frequently to be found. For Origen, the biblical text always contains benefits at the non-literal level of the narrative, whereas for Chrysostom, the literal narrative usually provides more than enough benefit, and he does not think a move beyond it necessary.6 I will argue that an exploration of these authors’ comments about the biblical text’s usefulness allows us to observe a more nuanced difference between the two authors’ exegetical procedures than does the simplistic allegory versus historical-literal distinction.7

1997; M. Mitchell, Paul, the Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics, Cambridge 2010. 2  Mitchell, 2010, 1–3, 12, 66. 3  Throughout this text I will use the terms “useful,” “beneficial,” and “profitable” interchangeably as they are basically synonyms in Greek. The Latin equivalent to the Greek terms is utilitas. On rare occasions, my authors use other Greek terms for “beneficial”, such as ἡ ὂνησις. 4  For examples of non-Christian authors who make use of the principle, see Cicero, De Inventione 2.41,119; cf. Plato, Republic 382d; Ammonius’ commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge; Alexander’s commentary on Aristotle’s Topics and Metaphysics. 5  I have chosen to examine passages from their exegetical works on John, but I might have chosen others, as they assume and apply this principle throughout their respective corpuses. 6  There are of course a few exceptions to this. When the biblical text itself indicates that a non-literal interpretation is required, often when the passage contains the term “allegory” (ἡ ἀλλεγορία) or “figure of speech” (ἡ παροιμία), Chrysostom feels free to provide such a reading. See for example, his treatment of the parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10: Hom. Jn. 59–60. 7  One might describe the difference I am observing between the two exegetes as a difference in the manner in which they apply the text to their communities. I am avoiding the term “application” because for most early Christian authors, the way the text “applies” to their community is an integral aspect of its meaning. In other words, meaning and application are inseparable for ancient exegetes.

4. The Spiritual Pay-Off of Searching the Scriptures


A Note on Terminology

Before I proceed, it is important to comment on the terms “literal” and “nonliteral”, which I will use throughout this paper for the sake of simplicity and clarity, and to avoid the confusion that typically accompanies such discussions.8 I use the term “literal” with reference to the various synonymous terms and phrases that my authors use as they work at the level of the narrative, such as ῥητός, λέξις, σωματικῶς, πρόχειρος, ἐπιπόλαιος, ἱστορία, and “non-literal” to describe the interpretation that follows an explicit exegetical move beyond the narrative to provide additional insight or contemplation, signaled by such terms as τύπος, θεωρία, πνευματικῶς, ἀλλεγορία, ἀναγογή, σύμβολος. There is no consensus amongst scholars about whether the various terms used to describe either the literal or the non-literal sense are synonymous,9 and I suspect that more detailed studies of the exegesis of individual authors are needed to set us on firmer footing, for it is most probable that each author works with these terms in his own distinctive ways.10 In any case, it seems clear that, as Young 8  I have adopted the umbrella terms “literal” and “non-literal” from Peter W. Martens, who uses them in this manner in his article Revisiting the Allegory/Typology Distinction: The Case of Origen, in: JECS 16/3 (2008), 283–317. 9  The bulk of the scholarly discussion has dealt with the terminology related to non-literal reading. In particular, scholars have been preoccupied with the question of the degree to which there is a distinction between allegory and typology, a discussion that goes back (at least) as far as the debate begun by Jean Daniélou and Henri de Lubac in the 1940s. Daniélou claimed that typology was native to Christianity, whereas allegory had seeped into the tradition later, derived from Philo and the Greeks. For Daniélou and the significant number of scholars that followed him in the subsequent decades, the distinction between these non-literal ways of reading came down to the degree to which the historical biblical narrative was genuinely linked to the spiritual truth to which it pointed. That is, whereas typology maintained the link, allegory did not. De Lubac, however, thought this was too simplistic, and claimed instead that early Christians used allegorical interpretation in order to find the types of Christ in the (Old Testament) biblical narrative. Thus he suggested that allegory and typology were not actually opposed, but rather they were complimentary. Charles Kannengiesser provides a succinct discussion of the development of scholarship on this question in his entry on Allegorism, in: C. Kannengiesser, Handbook of Patristic Exegesis. Vol. 1. Leiden 2004, 248–255 (253). I am inclined to agree with him as he sides with de Lubac and says: “[early Christians] interchanged technical terms with little concern”. Kannengiesser, Handbook, 253. Peter Martens provides a thorough and clear account of the state of scholarship on the distinction between allegory and typology in early Christianity in 2008, 285, n. 4. He observes that there is still no scholarly consensus on the issue. 10  For example, Martens has demonstrated that Origen uses the terms ἀλλεγορία and τύπος interchangeably, and that they frequently occur beside each other within the same context of his exegesis. Martens, 2008, 301–303. This is the case for Clement of Alexandria as well, which H. Clifton Ward has demonstrated in his recent study, Symbolic Interpretation



argues, at the literal level, early Christian authors made either one or some combination of the following five “distinguishable but overlapping” moves: they dealt solely with the wording, examined individual words, attended to the “plain” sense of words in a sentence, discerned the logic of a narrative or passage, and discerned the implied specific reference.11 With this in view, I will assume that the terms in question are basically synonymous, but I will attend to the terms used by both authors along the way. Further explanation of my understanding of the “literal” sense in particular is required before we proceed, however. Given the controversies about literal and non-literal treatments of Scripture during this period, I assume that my authors indicate explicitly for their readers when they are shifting to the nonliteral plane. Therefore within the category “literal” I include the additional interpretive moves my authors make between their careful initial treatment of the letter or “wording” of the text and their explicit move to the non-literal level.12 Thus we can observe these authors commenting, for example, on issues of doctrine and morality before they signal an explicit move to the non-literal level. These kinds of comments have been variously described by scholars as separate reified interpretive steps within their exegetical procedures, and labeled as moral and doctrinal interpretations, despite the fact that my ancient authors themselves do not describe their exegesis with such well-formulated categories.13 I have chosen not to describe these steps in between the literal sense and the non-literal sense within their exegetical procedure in this manner so as to avoid imposing what are in my view anachronistic categories of exegesis on authors that are part of a more nascent stage of the history of biblical interpretation.

is Most Useful’: Clement of Alexandria’s Scriptural Imagination, in: JECS 25/4 (2017): 531– 560 (536–538). 11  Young provides a helpful discussion of the literal sense. See Young, 1997, 187–189. She lays out these five kinds of interpretation through which early Christian interpreters move from the wording of a text and its attendant general associations to the specific referent of the verse in its narrative context. 12  In the case of Chrysostom, in our passages of focus, he only makes an explicit shift to the non-literal plane when the text itself indicates that he should, that is, when the scriptural author introduces a parable or places symbolic words on Christ’s lips. This Chrysostom does as he deals with John 2:19 and John 4:13–14, 35–38. 13  See for example, Young, 1997, 212–213.

4. The Spiritual Pay-Off of Searching the Scriptures


Origen’s Theoretical Comments on the “Usefulness” of Scripture

Let us begin with Origen’s theoretical comments about Scripture’s usefulness, the importance of which a handful of scholars have readily observed.14 For example, Karen Jo Torjesen has argued that in his PA 4.2,8, as he articulates his exegetical principles, Origen claims that it was the Spirit’s intention to make “even the outer covering of the spiritual truths (καὶ ἒνδυμα τῶν πνευματικῶν) … in many respects not unprofitable, but capable (οὐκ ἀνωφελὲς δυνάμενόν) of improving the multitude in so far as they receive it”, and that “the doctrines which are concealed are accessible to the soul who is able to fathom the depths of the writings”.15 That is, the biblical text is beneficial to the multitude (described elsewhere as “the simple ones”) in its bodily sense and in its spiritual sense, to the soul who is able to receive the deeper meaning of the text (described elsewhere as “the perfect”).16 For Origen, the text is beneficial at both levels, the literal and the non-literal. It is beneficial at the literal level to the simple, spiritually immature multitude and at the non-literal level to the spiritually mature minority. Furthermore, it is the Spirit’s inspiration that guarantees such usefulness at both levels.17 However, as Peter Martens has observed, in PA 4.2,9, Origen proceeds in this section to articulate the corresponding principle that when the interpreter encounters a useless or impossible section of an otherwise useful passage, its divine author indicates that the text contains a deeper meaning, in which its usefulness will become evident.18 In Origen’s words, “if the usefulness of the law and the sequence of the narrative were at first sight clearly discernible (εἰ δι᾽ ὃλων σαφῶς τὸ τῆς νομοθεσίας χρήσιμον αὐτόθεν ἐφαίνετο καὶ τὸ τῆς ἱστορίας 14   For example, see: K. Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen’s Exegesis, Berlin 1985, 124–125; P. Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life. Oxford 2010, 60–61, 193; R. Heine, Origen: Scholarship in Service of the Church, Oxford 2010, 134–135; I. Hadot, Les introductions aux commentaires exégétiques chez les auteurs néoplatoniciens et les auteurs chrétiens, in: M. Tardieu (ed.), Les règles de l’interprétation, Paris 1987, 99–122; Mitchell, 2010, 1–3, 12, 66. In fact, with the exception of Mitchell, scholars have observed the principle almost exclusively within Origen’s exegesis. 15  Origen, Peri Archon 4.2,8. H. Crouzel, M. Simonetti (eds.), Paris 1978, SC 268:334). Transl. G.W. Butterworth, New York 1966), 285. Here Origen does not mention the third group, the advancing ones, who are capable of understanding “the soul” of Scripture. He discusses the tripartite nature of the biblical text and the corresponding three groups of believers who can access each. 16  See PA 4.2,4–6. 17  Origen, Hom Num 23.1,2 on Num 27:1–2. (PG 12:741). Heine takes note of this passage in particular in his brief treatment of the principle in Origen’s exegesis. Heine, 2010, 134–135. 18  Martens, 2010, 60–61.



ἀκόλουθον καὶ γλαφυρόν), we would be unaware that there was anything beyond the obvious meaning (ἂν ἂλλο τι παρὰ τὸ πρόχειρον) for us to understand in the Scriptures”.19 In these cases where Scripture’s benefits are not immediately clear, then, a move beyond the letter of the text is required in order to discern them.

Chrysostom’s Theoretical Comments on the “Usefulness” of Scripture

Let us now turn to some of Chrysostom’s theoretical comments. As far as I am aware, scholars of Chrysostom’s exegesis have not explored his use of the principle of Scripture’s usefulness, but as we shall see, it is a prominent feature of his scriptural interpretation as well. Of course, we do not have an equivalent of Origen’s Book 4 of Peri Archon from Chrysostom’s hand, so we must gather together the sporadic theoretical statements he makes throughout his homilies. We will look only at two passages from his corpus, though there are many more that we might have included.20 The first is a passage from his twenty-ninth homily on Genesis. As he turns to interpret the story of the drunkenness of Noah in Genesis 9, he says, “what happened to people of former ages proves to be a subject of the greatest instruction for us …”, and that, “every item has been recorded for no other purpose than our benefit (διὰ τὴν ὠφέλειαν τὴν ἡμετέραν) and the salvation of the human race”.21 Chrysostom then goes on to argue that his parishioners can learn from Noah’s mistake in getting drunk, and thus the passage provides moral instruction, which is one of the benefits he finds most frequently in Scripture.22 Every detail of Scripture, he claims, is beneficial for us. Let us turn to our second passage, from his thirteenth homily on Genesis, in which he interprets Gen 2:8, “the LORD God planted a garden in the East, 19  Origen, PA 4.2,9. (SC 252:334–336; Butterworth, 285). For other passages in Origen’s corpus where he discusses the usefulness of Scripture, see: HomSam 5. 2; Cels 1.18; 4.53, Phil 10.2; 12.2; HomJer Frag 2.1; HomJosh 20.2; HomPs 3. 6 on Ps 36; HomPs 15 2.3 (Perrone, 2015, 95); HomPs 67 2.2 (Perrone, 2015, 201, 204); HomPs 76 1.2; 3.4 (Perrone, 2015, 295, 338); HomPs 77 1.3; 2.2; 9.1 (Perrone, 2015, 358, 368, 466); HomPs 80 2.5 (Perrone, 2015, 503); FrPs. 73.1; HomNum 11.1,2; HomJn. 28.22,190; HomNum Fr. 22.4; Orat 23.4; HomLk 14.4. 20  For example, I have not included his comments in the following homilies: HomGen. 21.1; 58.1; HomIs 6 2.3; Hom Proph. Obsc. 2.1–3; Hom. Wealth and Pov. 3.1; Hom Jn 37.1; 47.1; 56.1. 21  Chrysostom, Homiliae Genesin. 29.1. Minge, J.P. (ed.), Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca, vol. 53:261. Paris 1862. Transl. R.C. Hill, Washington D.C. 1990, 198–9. Cf. HomIs 6 2.1; HomGen. 58.1. (PG 54:206). 22  Chrysostom, HomGen. 29.2. (PG 53:263; Hill, 202).

4. The Spiritual Pay-Off of Searching the Scriptures


in Eden; and there he planted the man he had formed”.23 Here Chrysostom claims that the Holy Spirit directed Moses’ tongue as he wrote these words, and then informs his hearers that those who listen to Scripture (and its interpretation) should listen so as to gain benefit (διὰ τοῦτο τοῖς ὠφελοῦσιν).24 Thus, Chrysostom, like Origen, connects Scripture’s usefulness to its inspiration by the Holy Spirit. Unlike Origen, however, Chrysostom, in this example anyway, does not think a non-literal interpretation of the text is required to find the various ways in which the passage is useful.25 As he deals with Gen 2:8, Chrysostom refutes a group of (unnamed) interpreters whose interpretations are not useful in his estimation, precisely because they provide an interpretation that is “opposed to a literal understanding of the text” (οὐ ὡς γεγραπται φρονεῖν).26 (By implication, of course, what he claims to provide is a literal reading). These non-literal interpreters might provide readings that are enjoyable, he argues, but they are not beneficial. While his interpretive opponents’ enjoyable interpretations consist of their own philosophical reasoning and speculation, a literal interpretation of the verse presents the contents of Scripture itself clearly.27 Thus for Chrysostom, at least in this context, the useful interpretation is closely connected to a literal interpretation.28 There is no mention on his part of Scripture’s benefits for a category of spiritually mature at the non-literal level as we saw in Origen’s comments; for Chrysostom, all Christians, the immature and mature alike can gain benefit from the literal narrative (as presented by the capable interpreter).29 In this brief treatment of my authors’ theoretical comments we saw that both authors believe Scripture is useful for the church as a result of the Spirit’s inspiration. We also saw that despite this shared principle, they differ with respect to the level at which its use is to be drawn out. While Origen thinks that there is benefit to be discerned at both the literal and non-literal levels, and 23  Chrysostom, HomGen 13.3. PG 53:108. Transl., R.C. Hill, Washington D.C. 1985, 175. 24  Chrysostom, HomGen 13.3. (PG 53:108; Hill, 175). 25  I am not claiming that Chrysostom himself cannot be found providing non-literal readings of various biblical texts throughout his corpus; we have already acknowledged that he does. See for example ComPs. 8:5; 9:8, 11; 112:4; 113:7. 26  Chrysostom, HomGen 13.3. (PG 53:108; Hill, 175). 27  Cf. Hom. Proph. Obsc. 1.1. 28  He does not claim that all non-literal readings are useless, but that these particular nonliteral interpretations of Gen 2:8, which resemble the philosophical speculations of their own minds more so than the content of Scripture, are useless. 29  The closest he comes to claiming that there are different groups who can benefit from the same passage is in his third homily on The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31, in which he claims that the passage is beneficial for the rich and the poor alike. See Hom. Wealth and Pov. 3.1. However, this he does within his literal treatment of the passage.



that sometimes the useless nature of the literal level requires one to move beyond the letter, Chrysostom actually seems suspicious of interpreters who provide non-literal readings, and operates as though there is more than enough benefit to be found at the literal level. Finally, whereas Origen thinks the text is beneficial in different ways for readers at various levels of spiritual maturity, Chrysostom seems to assume that the benefits he finds in the text are for all of his parishioners, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity.

The “Usefulness” of John’s Cleansing of the Temple Narrative according to Origen

Now that we have examined some of our authors’ theoretical comments on the usefulness of Scripture, let us turn to examine how they work with the principle in their treatments of specific passages. We will first examine Origen’s treatment of the Cleansing of the Temple in John 2.30 We will see that he does not think this particular passage to be particularly useful at the literal level, though he does find uses at the literal level in his treatment of other Johannine passages, which we will see in his treatment of John 4 below. For Origen, the passage has a variety of benefits at the non-literal level. As he introduces the passage to his readers, he prepares them for what is to come by saying, in a manner that is similar to his comments discussed above from Book 4 of Peri Archon, that the evangelists composed their Gospels “with a view to the usefulness of the mystical object” (πρὸς τὸ χρήσιμον τοῦ των μυστικοῦ σκοποῦ), and thus if one finds “minor changes” that each evangelist has made to his narrative “so far as history is concerned” (ὡς κατὰ τὴν ἱστορίαν), one should not be surprised.31 Furthermore, Origen continues, “the spiritual truth is often preserved in the material falsehood, as it were” (πολλάκις τοῦ ἀληθοῦς πνευματικοῦ ἐν τῷ σωματικῷ ὡς ἂν εἲποι τις, ψευδεῖ), and as a result, in such cases the interpreter ought to look beyond the letter to discover its mystical usefulness.32 Clearly Origen believes the Cleansing of the Temple narrative to be one of these instances, for he goes on to demonstrate for his reader “the disagreement according to the literal meaning” (τὴν κατὰ τὸ ῥητὸν διαφωνίαν) between the Synoptics’ accounts of the Cleansing of the Temple and John’s,33 30  Origen treats John 2 in his Comm. Jn 10.67–323. Blanc, Cecil (ed.), Sources Chretienne, Paris 1970, vol. 157:426–570. Transl. R.E. Heine, Washington D.C. 1989, 270–327. For the sake of space, I am describing his lengthy treatment of this passage in broad strokes. 31  Origen, ComJn. 10.19. (SC 157:394; Heine, 259). Cf. 13.24–42. 32  Origen, ComJn. 10.20. (SC 157:394; Heine, 259). 33  Origen, ComJn. 10.129–130. (SC 157:464; Heine, 285).

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disagreements such as John’s placement of the passage at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as opposed to the Synoptics’ placement of the passage just prior to the Triumphal entry, and Jesus’ pronounced anger in the Johannine narrative compared with the Synoptic accounts.34 These disagreements at the literal level lead Origen to move beyond the narrative itself to look for its mystical usefulness. In his first non-literal reading, the passage is beneficial in that it speaks directly to the present situation of the church in his day. He claims that in John’s account, Jesus “found in the temple, which is also said to be the house of the Saviour’s Father, that is, the church”, some who made the Father’s house into a house of merchandise.35 Clearly in this reading, the temple stands for the church. Origen goes on to say of those buying and selling in the passage that there are always those in the church who “prefer the mammon of ­iniquity”, who “despise what is honest and pure and devoid of all bitterness and gall”, and who “abandon the care of those who are figuratively called doves”.36 Jesus’ expulsion of such characters from the temple in the Johannine narrative is indicative of how he deals with the unsavoury figures in the contemporary church of Origen’s day. In his second non-literal interpretation of the passage, the benefit Origen finds relates to the individual Christian soul. He claims that it is possible that the human soul is a temple “by nature” (φύσει), “because of the intelligence united with it” (διὰ τὸν συμπεφυκότα λόγον), to which Jesus ascends from Capernaum.37 In this reading, senseless, harmful, earthly emotions (κινήματα) are driven out of the temple of the human soul by the discipline of Jesus’ word of “reproving doctrines” (ἐλεγκτικῶν δογμάτων), and therefore the soul/temple can receive the worship of God that is performed according to heavenly and spiritual laws.38 Here again, the passage usefully teaches about Christ’s present work in the soul of the individual Christian. Finally, the text is useful in another way at this level, which Origen describes as “a more profound sign” (σημεῖον βαθύτερον), a sign that provides the church with instruction about its place within the history of salvation.39 These events 34  For other examples of the discrepancies, see: ComJn. 10.254–264. 35  Origen, ComJn. 10.133. (SC 157:466; Heine, 286). 36  Origen, ComJn. 10.134–136. (SC 157:466–468; Heine, 286–287). Cf. ComJn. 10.228. (SC 157:520; Heine, 305). 37  Origen, ComJn. 10.141. (SC 157:472; Heine, 288). 38  Origen, ComJn. 10.141–2. (SC 157:472; Heine, 288). Each animal of the narrative corresponds to a different kind of thought or emotion, which need to be driven out. See 10.142. 39  Origen, ComJn. 10.138. (SC 157:470; Heine, 287). Note that 2:18 itself uses the term “sign” (σημεῖον) to describe Jesus’ actions in the temple.



in the temple, claims Origen, have occurred “as a symbol” (ὣστε σύμβολον) of the cessation of the temple sacrifices which are “perceptible by the senses” (κατὰ τὰς αἰσθητὰς), with the result that the Mosaic law is no longer observable.40 This cleansing of the temple Jesus performed once and for all, argues Origen, and thus the law has now been nullified and its office has been given to the gentile members of the church, “who believe in God through Christ”.41 The passage therefore usefully teaches the Christian reader about the place of the gentile church within the overarching narrative of salvation history.

The “Usefulness” of John’s Cleansing of the Temple Narrative according to Chrysostom

Let us now turn to examine the benefits that Chrysostom draws from the ­passage.42 As he introduces the narrative, Chrysostom claims that the scriptural passage of the Cleansing of the Temple is useful, though his comments are much less explicit than Origen’s. Chrysostom likens the “usefulness” (χρείαν) of his homily on the passage to that of Scripture, which is itself many-sided in its remedy for the various ills suffered by humankind.43 Thus it seems that Chrysostom understands his preaching on the scriptural passage of the Cleansing of the Temple narrative in John 2 to be by extension of comparable benefit for his audience to that of the scriptural passage itself. In his case we will see that the passage is useful at the literal level,44 primarily for its doctrinal teaching about the Son’s relationship to the Father, in addition to its instruction about discipleship, which he finds based on the example of Jesus’ disciples. Let us begin with the beneficial doctrinal teaching Chrysostom draws from the literal narrative. Chrysostom deals with the doctrinal issue of Jesus’ apparent anger in the temple (2:15–16), and despite the issue, he finds the verses doctrinally beneficial. For Chrysostom, these verses are not as problematic as they were for Origen, and thus he remains at the immediate level of the narrative, 40  Origen, ComJn. 10.138. (SC 157:470; Heine, 287). 41  Origen, ComJn. 10.140. This is the interpretation given by most subsequent interpreters. 42  Chrysostom treats John 2 in Hom. Jn. 23.2–3. Minge, J.P. (ed.), Homiliae in Joannem. Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca. Paris 1862. Vol. 59:139–142). Transl. Goggin, Washington, D.C: 1957, 225–231. 43  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.1. (PG 57:138; Goggin, 223). 44  In his treatment of this passage, he only ever indicates that he is operating on a non-literal plane when he deals with the symbolic words of Christ in 2:19, and therefore, I assume that within the rest of his treatment, he is working at the literal level.

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asking with his audience rhetorically, “‘and why,’ you will ask, ‘did Christ do this very thing and show indignation against these men such as he did not seem to show anywhere else..?”45 Chrysostom answers his audience’s hypothetical question: “because he was going to heal on the Sabbath … which would seem to them to be transgressing the Law”.46 With these zealous actions for the house of the Lord, claims Chrysostom, Jesus demonstrated that he “would not withstand the Lord of the house who was worshiped in it,” and that he did not come “in opposition to the Father”.47 To the contrary, argues Chrysostom — in cleansing the temple, he showed his “harmony” (συμφονίαν) with the Father.48 According to Chrysostom, Jesus’ words, in addition to his actions, display his agreement with the Father: “for he did not say ‘the holy house,’ but ‘the house of my Father’”.49 For Chrysostom, then, Jesus’ zealous words and actions in the temple in John 2 demonstrate simply that he is in agreement with the Father.50 The agreement and harmony between the Father and the Son is one of the main beneficial teachings Chrysostom discerns in the passage. Chrysostom also finds occasion as he deals with the literal level of the narrative to discuss the exemplary nature of the disciples and thus finds beneficial instruction here concerning discipleship. As he reflects on the fact that the disciples do not seem to know that it was necessary for Christ to rise from the dead until after it has taken place, as John indicates (2:22), Chrysostom discusses their reception of the Holy Spirit.51 Once Christ’s words about the temple of his body were proven true by the disciples’ experience, Chrysostom argues, he gave them understanding of his words and the grace of the Spirit.52 Chrysostom goes on to claim that while the disciples had received the Spirit as a result of God’s grace and goodness, they continued in the Spirit as a result of their own virtue, which leads him to discuss the disciples’ exemplary nature for the sake of his audience.53 The disciples are exemplary in terms of their behaviour, their wisdom, their “great toils”, and their scorning of the present 45  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.2. (PG 57:140; Goggin, 225). 46  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.2. (PG 57:140; Goggin, 226). 47  Ibid. 48  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.2. (PG 57:140; Goggin, 227). 49  Ibid. 50  We will see that this is a doctrinal theme Chrysostom returns to throughout his Homilies on John. See for example his treatment of 10:1 in HomJn. 59.2 and his treatment of Matt 27:45–48 in HomMt 78.1. 51  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.2–3. (PG 57:141–142; Goggin, 228–231). 52  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.3. (PG 57:142; Goggin, 230). 53  These comments resemble those that he made about the evangelist John in HomJn. 1.1, and the prophet David in ComPs. 145, preface, which we examined in chapter one.



life for the sake of heaven, Chrysostom exhorts.54 As a result of such behaviour, the disciples “obtained possession of the ineffable grace of the Spirit,” argues Chrysostom, and therefore, he urges his parishioners, “let us also imitate them”.55 Unlike Origen, then, Chrysostom found a great deal of benefit at the level of the narrative, and in fact, only moves briefly to the non-literal plane to explain Jesus’ symbolic words in 2:19, which he finds in the passage itself in 2:21–22.56

The “Usefulness” of John’s Narrative of the Woman at the Well according to Origen

Let us now turn to our second example, John’s Woman at the Well narrative in John 4, in which Origen finds beneficial instruction for his readers at both the literal and the non-literal levels.57 Within his non-literal reading, Origen discusses the nature and limitations of Scripture’s benefits as he interprets the significance of Jesus’ “living water”. Let us begin with the beneficial instruction he finds at the literal level, which is twofold: firstly, the narrative provides examples to be followed via the behaviour of the main characters, Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and secondly, their dialogue provides his readers with doctrinal instruction. We will begin with the exemplary behaviour of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Origen explains how Jesus is exemplary as he discusses 4:26–27, in which Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman as the Messiah. To introduce this teaching, Origen says, “let us learn from him on the basis of the literal meaning (ἐπὶ τῷ ῥητῷ)”, and proceeds to claim that these verses demonstrate that Jesus is meek and lowly of heart.58 Unlike Jesus, Origen tells his reader, “we” are proud and arrogant, forgetting that each person has been made in the image and likeness of God, which Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman reminds us.59 Likewise, the Samaritan woman herself is exemplary, for once she learns that Jesus is the Messiah, she leaves her water jar and goes to her city to tell its 54  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.3. (PG 57:142; Goggin, 231). Cf. HomJn. 23.2. (PG 57:140; Goggin, 227). In Chrysostom’s treatment of 2:17, he claims that the disciples “rightly understood Jesus’ zeal in the temple, and thus “derived instruction from this”. 55  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.3. (PG 57:142; Goggin, 231). 56  Chrysostom, HomJn. 23.3. (PG 57:142; Goggin, 229). 57  Origen’s full treatment of the passage can be found in ComJn. 12.1–363. (SC 222:34–234). Transl. R.E. Heine, Washington D.C. 1993, 69–143. 58  Origen, ComJn. 13.166. (SC 222:124; Heine, 103). 59  Origen, ComJn. 13.167. (SC 222:124; Heine, 104).

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inhabitants immediately (4:28–29). In fact, Origen claims, the evangelist John includes the detail about the water jar “not to no purpose” (οὐ μάτην), for at its “literal level” (κατὰ τὴν λέξιν), the detail demonstrates her eagerness to benefit the many rather than complete her humble task of drawing water, which is “related to material things”.60 At the literal level, then, Origen claims, the evangelist John challenges the reader through her example to “forget things that are more material in nature and leave them behind, and be eager to impart to others that benefit of which we have been partakers”.61 We will see that this is one of the primary benefits that Chrysostom draws from the text within his literal treatment of it. The other benefit Origen finds at the level of the narrative is its doctrinal instruction and refutation of heresy.62 As he deals with Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman in 4:22, “you worship what you do not know, but we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews”, Origen refutes the Gnostic Heracleon.63 Before dealing with the reading of his opponent, Origen sets out his own understanding of the referent of the verse’s “you”, which he says, “taken literally (ἐπὶ τῇ λέξει) means the Samaritans”, and the “we” as “the Jews according to the letter (ἐπὶ τῷ ῥητῷ)”.64 Origen then charges Heracleon with misunderstanding this aspect of the literal level. According to Origen, Heracleon took the word “you” in a way that is “peculiar and contrary to the natural sequence of the words” (ἰδίως καὶ παρὰ τὴν ἀκολουθίαν τῶν ῥητῶν), which results in his understanding the referent of “you” as either the Jews or the Gentiles, not the Samaritans.65 Thus the distinction Jesus makes between Jews and Samaritans is obscured. Misunderstanding the literal level of the verse has, according to Origen, disastrous results, for in 4:22, Jesus says, “in a straightforward manner 60  Origen, ComJn. 13.173. (SC 222:128; Heine, 105). 61  Origen, ComJn. 13.174. (SC 222:126; Heine, 105). 62  Origen deals with other doctrinal issues presented by the passage as well, such as the words “God is Spirit” in 4:22, but we do not have the space here to deal with this complicated passage. 63  Origen, ComJn. 13.101–118. (SC 222:84–92; Heine, 89–92). However, J.A. McGuckin has argued convincingly that Origen also challenges literalist scriptural interpreters within the church in defense of his won non-literal interpretations in Book 13. See J.A. McGuckin, Structural Design and Apologetic Intent in Origen’s Commentary on John, in: G. Dorival and A. Le Boulluec (ed.), Origeniana Sexta: Origène et la Bible: Actes du Colloquium Origenianum Sextum, Chantilly, 30 août–3 septembre 1993. Leuven 1995, 441–457. 64  Origen, ComJn. 13.101. (SC 222:84; Heine, 89). In this passage Origen also summarizes his non-literal interpretation of the verses as well, in which the Jews are taken as the church, which he describes here and in PA 4.3,6, 9 as “spiritual Jews” and the Samaritans are the heterodox, such as Heracleon. We will explore this in much more detail below. Cf. ComRom. 4.12,6. 65  Origen, ComJn. 13.102. (SC 222:84; Heine, 89).



(ἂντικρυς φάσκοντος)” that “salvation is from the Jews”, which confirms for Origen that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is “the fathers of the Jews”.66 Origen adds further evidence to corroborate his understanding of the literal level of the passage: the Saviour fulfills the law and the prophets.67 Therefore, Jews and Gentiles, he says, have the same God; the law is not abolished but established through faith, and thus, he asks his rhetorical opponent, “is it not clear (σαφὲς) how ‘salvation’ comes ‘from the Jews’?”68 According to Origen then, it is important not to misunderstand the literal words of this verse, for misunderstanding the wording leads in this case to misunderstanding God and the role of the Old Testament within the arch of salvation history. This doctrinal teaching he has discerned within his treatment of the literal level. We will now turn to Origen’s non-literal treatment of the passage, where he finds additional beneficial instruction concerning the relationship between his contemporary church setting and heterodox on the one hand, and instruction about the place of Scripture in the life of the individual Christian’s journey to the Father on the other. His non-literal treatment of 4:22, “you worship what you do not know, but we worship what we know” presents clearly his overarching non-literal reading; the ‘you’ “means in the anagogical sense (ὃσον δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγωγῇ) those who are heterodox concerning the Scriptures”, whereas the ‘we’, “taken allegorically means (ὃσον δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ ἀλληγορίᾳ) I the Word, and those formed in accordance with me, who have salvation from the Jewish words”.69 In other words, for Origen, at the non-literal level, the Jews of the passage represent those who understand the (Old Testament) Scriptures as being fulfilled by Christ, namely, the members of the “orthodox” church, and the Samaritans represent the heterodox, who search the Scriptures, which are represented by the well of the passage, in vain, for they do not have Jesus’ teachings, i.e., the “living water” of Christ (4:13–14).70 The narrative in John 4 then presents another kind of beneficial instruction — it teaches about the role of Scripture in the life of the Christian, and the Samaritan woman herself provides an illustration of one person’s transformation from the community of the heterodox to that of the church

66  Origen, ComJn. 13.106. (SC 222:86; Heine, 90). 67  Origen, ComJn. 13.107. (SC 222:88; Heine, 90). 68  Origen, ComJn. 13.107. (SC 222:88; Heine, 90). 69  Origen, ComJn. 13.101. (SC 222:84; Heine, 89). Cf. Origen, ComJn. 13.6, 81. 70  Origen, ComJn. 13.6. (SC 222:38; Heine, 70). It seems that for Origen wells often represent Scripture. See Origen’s HomGen 7.5–6; 10.3; 11.3; HomNum 12.2,5. In his Prologue to his ComCant he calls this Old Testament book itself a well, for it “holds the living water”.

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through her encounter with Christ.71 Her interaction with Christ results in her movement from the heterodox community to that of the church, but she began at the well of Scripture. For Origen, Scripture is useful (χρήσιμον), in that it ignites the reader’s thirst for righteousness that only Jesus’ teachings can fill, and therefore, it is good to drink first from the fountain of Jacob.72 However, Scripture is where one begins, and thus it is the more simple and innocent “so-called sheep of Christ”,73 that begin with the “elementary rudiments of and very brief introductions to all knowledge” (στοιχεῖά τινα ἐλάχιστα καὶ βραχυτάτας εἰσαγωγὰς … τῆς ὃλης γνώσεως) contained in the Scriptures.74 Origen continues this line of argumentation by claiming that some of “the more lordly and more divine aspects of the mysteries of God” (τὰ κυριώτερα καὶ θειότερα τῶν μυστηρίων τοῦ θεοῦ) are not contained in Scripture, as attested by the evangelist John and the apostle Paul, who were both forbidden from recording the unspeakable things they had heard.75 Both figures can say, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:9), and therefore “the things beyond Scripture” are revealed to them.76 Thus whereas the well water of Scripture leaves one in want, as was true of the Samaritan woman, the “living water” of Jesus’ teachings, which is beyond Scripture, provides understanding that wells up to eternal life.77 Prior to receiving the teachings of Jesus’ living water, the Samaritan woman was held captive by “the law that rules the soul, to which each has subjected itself”, represented in the narrative by her husband in 4:16–18, which the Word wishes 71  He deals with the “usefulness” of Scripture at length. See ComJn. 13.23–42. See Mitchell’s brief treatment of this passage in 2010, 35–37. She examines Origen’s use of various Pauline verses within the section, an aspect of his discussion that we will not deal with here. 72  Origen, ComJn. 13.23–24. (SC 222:44, 46; Heine, 73). 73  Origen, ComJn. 13.39. In this context, Origen also mentions those who are wise in their scriptural interpretation, such as Jacob and his sons, and those who interpret incorrectly, namely, Gnostic interpreters. Cf. PA 4.2,1–6. Origen uses the term “sheep of Christ” throughout his corpus to refer to those in the initial stages of Christian discipleship. See his discussion in particular in ComCant. 2.4,4–6. 74  Origen, ComJn. 13.30. (SC 222:48; Heine, 74). Cf. 1.39, 60–61, 68. 75  Origen, ComJn. 13.27–29, 32–35. (SC 222:46–48; Heine, 74–75). He alludes here to Rev 10:4, 2 Cor 12:4, and 1 Cor 6:12. 76  Origen, ComJn. 13.35. (SC 222:48; Heine, 75). 77  Origen, ComJn. 13.16, 19. (SC 222:42, 44; Heine, 72). Cf. ComJn. 13.31, 37; HomIs 7.3. The understanding that results from possessing in oneself “the mind of Christ” is of course what Origen implicitly claims to have, and thus it is highly probable that he is providing here an implicit defense of his own non-literal interpretation of Scripture; his own encounter with Christ in the Gospel text has provided him with the “living water”. Cf. McGuckin, 1995. It is a claim that Jesus himself teaches such an interpreter that which is beyond Scripture. In fact, Origen claims explicitly in that the Logos instructs him as he interprets Ps 15 after praying for the assistance of the Logos. See HomPs 15 2.1 (Perrone, 2015, 92).



to “expose” so that she might seek another husband, namely, Jesus, the Word of God.78 When she asked Jesus for the water he offered her, she received it, and could now, apart from Jacob’s fountain, “contemplate the truth in a manner that is angelic and beyond man” (θεωρῆσαι τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἀγγελικῶς καὶ ὑπὲρ ἂνθρωπον δυνηθῇ).79 Origen concludes his overarching non-literal interpretation of the passage as he turns to deal with 4:28, in which the Samaritan woman leaves behind her water jar to tell the inhabitants of the city of Sychar about Christ (4:28). This action signals for Origen that in its “anagogical sense” (ἀναγωγὴν σκοπητέον), she leaves behind her previously held opinions and the teachings of the heterodox, having received some of the “living water” promised by Jesus.80 Origen goes on in this vein to warn his reader that the Samaritan woman could also represent “every soul” who comes to the Scriptures, and indeed he seems to understand her journey as a map of sorts for the soul’s movement toward God. For he says, “every soul who is introduced to the Christian religion through the Scriptures and begins with sense-perceptible things called bodily things (ἀπὸ τῶν αἰσθητῶν σωματικῶν λεγομένων ἀρχομένην) has five husbands”; each husband is related (ἲσχειν) to one of the senses.81 After the soul associates with “the matters perceived by the senses”, she wishes to rise to “the things perceived by the spirit,” at which point, she may encounter unsound teaching based on “allegorical and spiritual meanings” (ἀλληγορίας καὶ πνευματικῶν), such as those provided by the heterodox.82 This is the critical moment for Origen, for the soul’s desire to move beyond the bodily sense of Scripture is the precise time in which she is most susceptible to the unsound teachings that are based on (heterodox) allegorical interpretations of Scripture. These “unsound teachings” are represented by the sixth “husband” of the Samaritan woman, against which every soul ought to be on guard.83 Here then Origen indicates that not only are his readers to find in the passage a description of the heterodox Gnostics, i.e., the “other” outside the church, but they are also to .

78  Origen, ComJn. 13.43. (SC 222:54; Heine, 77). 79  Origen, ComJn. 13.41. (SC 222:52–54; Heine, 77). Angels have no need of scripture, for each has in himself a fountain of water leaping to eternal life, revealed by the Word himself and by Wisdom herself. 80  Origen, ComJn. 13.175. (SC 222:130; Heine, 105–106). 81  Origen, ComJn. 13.51. (SC 222:58–60; Heine, 80). 82  Ibid. 83  Such unsound teachings, which are based on allegorical and spiritual interpretations of Scripture, are represented by Heracleon’s exegesis of John, which Origen includes so as to refute throughout his own Commentary on John, as we have seen.

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turn inward so as to ascertain whether or not they themselves have been held captive by “unsound teachings”. As we have seen, Origen discerned benefits from both the literal and the non-literal levels of John 4. At the literal level, Jesus and the Samaritan woman exhibit exemplary behaviour, and their interaction provides doctrinal instruction. On the non-literal plane, the passage provides proof of the superiority of Jesus’ (and by extension the church’s) teachings over those of the heterodox, for, once the Samaritan woman and her fellow Samaritans of Sychar encounter Christ, they leave their previously held teachings behind. The passage also teaches about the (limited) role of Scripture and the necessity of gaining access to the instruction of Christ for the individual Christian’s journey toward the Father. We will see that Chrysostom draws from the literal narrative similar benefits to those that Origen discerned before he moved beyond the letter.

The “Usefulness of John’s Narrative of the Woman at the Well according to Chrysostom

Let us now turn to Chrysostom’s treatment of the passage.84 As he treats John 4, he too provides a brief discussion of the beneficial nature of Scripture, though for him, there seem to be no limits to Scripture’s benefits for the Christian. To the contrary, Chrysostom rebukes his parishioners for their neglect of that which would provide them with “profit and help” (ὠφελείας καὶ κέρδους), i.e., the contents of the books of Scripture.85 The Scriptures, he argues, are beneficial in their provision of remedies for the passions of the soul, and in their provision of advantageous exemplary figures, whose just lives are to be imitated.86 In this passage he does not say explicitly whether one finds these benefits at the literal or the non-literal level of the narrative, but it is telling that he remains at the literal level as he draws out the narrative’s benefits for his parishioners.87 Just as we saw in Origen’s literal treatment, the primary benefit that Chrysostom draws out of the Samaritan Woman at the Well narrative is its behavioral instruction through the example set by the Samaritan woman and by 84  Chrysostom’s full treatment of the passage can be found in HomJn. 31–34. (PG 57:175–204; Goggins, 296–341). 85  Chrysostom, HomJn. 32.3. (PG :187; Goggins, 319). Cf. 57.1. 86  Chrysostom, HomJn. 32.3. (PG 59:188; Goggins, 320). 87  As we saw in his treatment of John 2:19, as Chrysostom interprets Jesus’ symbolic words in 4:13–14 and 4:35–38, he provides a fitting non-literal interpretation, though it is extremely brief compared with Origen’s extensive overarching non-literal interpretation.



Christ. The Samaritan woman is exemplary in the way she makes a great effort to converse with and learn from Christ (4:7–15).88 In addition, when Jesus tells her to go and call her husband (4:16), Chrysostom thinks the woman exemplary in that she receives this proof of Jesus’ power with “great wisdom”, with “docility”, and with “astonishment”, for she was hearing his words and seeing his power for the first time.89 She is exemplary in her “deep interest in doctrine” (τοσαύτην περὶ δογμάτων σπουδήν), which is evidenced by her statement in 4:20, “our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem”.90 Finally, she is exemplary in her zeal for the gospel, as evidenced by the way she left her water jar in order to tell the Samaritan people about Jesus (4:28–29), thus scorning that which is “perceptible only to bodily senses”, for the sake of spiritual things.91 Just as we saw in Origen’s literal reading, Christ too is exemplary. For, Christ traveled by foot through Samaria, by which he displayed his scorn for “a soft and easy life”, thus teaching us to “work with our hands, to be simple, and not to want many possessions”.92 Similarly, when the tired Jesus takes a seat by the well as his disciples go to get food (4:6, 8), Chrysostom claims that we can learn from Jesus’ endurance and his disregard of food, that is, earthly needs.93 Again just as we saw in Origen’s treatment of the narrative, at the literal level, it provides beneficial doctrinal instruction. Chrysostom too finds occasion to discuss doctrine as he deals with John 4:22, “you worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews”, but he has different doctrinal difficulties than Origen to deal with, given the developments in Trinitarian theology since the time in which Origen was writing. Chrysostom thinks it necessary to deal with the Christological issue posed by Jesus’ self-identification with those who worship in this verse, and he claims that, “it is evident to all universally (παντί του δῆλον) that [Christ] is to be worshiped”, and, Chrysostom continues, that worship “… is the part of the creature”.94 He solves the potential issue, however, by claiming that in this instance, Jesus speaks as a human Jewish man, not out of a feeling of kinship with his race, but prophetically, declaring the Jewish holy rites to be at 88  Chrysostom, HomJn. 31.5. (PG 59:182; Goggins, 310). 89  Chrysostom, HomJn. 32.2. (PG 59:185; Goggins, 316). Unfortunately, in this case and elsewhere in these homilies, Chrysostom pits her against the abhorrent “Jews”, whose example his parishioners are not to be followed. 90  Chrysostom, HomJn. 32.3. (PG 59:186; Goggins, 319). 91  Chrysostom, HomJn. 34.1. (PG 59:193; Goggins, 332). 92  Chrysostom, HomJn. 31.3. (PG 59:179; Goggins, 303). 93  Ibid. 94  Chrysostom, HomJn. 33.1. (PG 59:189; Goggins, 323).

4. The Spiritual Pay-Off of Searching the Scriptures


an end.95 However, Chrysostom continues by claiming, like Origen, that with these words Jesus was “commending the Old Testament”, and demonstrating that his ministry was not contrary to the Law.96 He does not name interpretive opponents, such as Marcion or Gnostics explicitly in his treatment of the verse, as we saw Origen do above, though he probably has such figures in view. In any case, despite the potential doctrinal issue posed by Jesus’ claim to offer worship alongside his fellow Jews, Chrysostom draws from this verse beneficial instruction concerning the Son’s agreement with the Father about the Old Testament law, a teaching we saw him discern from John’s Cleansing of the Temple narrative as well. Once again, unlike Origen, Chrysostom draws out sufficient benefit from the literal narrative. Once again his treatment of this specific passage aligns with the theoretical comments about the benefits of Scripture we examined above. Conclusion To briefly conclude, we have seen that both Origen and Chrysostom believed that the inspired biblical text was inherently useful. We have also seen, based on these examples at least, that the two exegetes differ in terms of the level of the text at which they draw out the benefits of a given biblical text. We saw that Origen can find beneficial instruction at the literal level as well as the nonliteral, and that the principle of Scripture’s usefulness allows him at times to move to the non-literal plane in order to render a seemingly useless literal text useful. By contrast, Chrysostom seems to think that the biblical text was most useful at the literal level. We should also note that the two authors discerned rather similar uses for the narrative of the Samaritan Woman at the Well in John 4 at the literal level; both found the characters of the narrative to provide moral and behavioural examples to be followed by their audiences in addition to its provision of doctrinal instruction. We saw that Chrysostom found similar uses for the Cleansing of the Temple narrative in John 2. This might well suggest a kind of convention in the early Greek Christian exegetical tradition, for the two authors seem to agree, again, based on these examples at least, about the kinds of benefits one 95  Chrysostom, HomJn. 33.1. (PG 59:189; Goggins, 323). Cf. HomMatt. 63.1 where he cites 4:22 as words similar to Jesus’ words “no one is good” in Matt 19.16. 96  Chrysostom, HomJn. 33.1. (PG 59:189; Goggins, 324–325). We have seen Chrysostom make this argument already in the previous chapter as he treated John 2, and we shall see that he returns to it again as he deals with John 10.



finds when dealing with the literal text versus the kinds of benefits the nonliteral level of the text has to offer. In other words, the stark difference in the benefits the two authors found in their treatments of John 2 for example might well be related to Origen’s tendency to move beyond the letter of the narrative and Chrysostom’s choice to remain at the level of the literal narrative. While much more analysis of their use of the principle within their exegesis is necessary to make such definitive claims, these preliminary “soundings” as it were are, in my view, rather suggestive. Examination of my authors’ use of the rhetorical principle that the interpreter must render Scripture beneficial to his contemporary audience indicates not striking overlap between the exegesis of the two authors, as has recently been argued, but an important distinction.97

97  For example, Mitchell makes such an argument in 2010, 12, 22.

Philosophical Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse

Spiritual Life and Philosophical Reason: Features of Philosophical Exegesis in Origen’s Commentary on John Alfons Fürst Abstract Origen’s Commentary on John is one of the most impressive monuments of the combination of exegesis and philosophy in early Christianity. The philosophical exegesis displayed therein consists, first, of a hermeneutical and methodological approach by which the interpretation of a text is organized; secondly, of a philosophical analysis of the notions and concepts in the text; and thirdly, of a metaphysics of freedom by which Origen contributed substantially to the development of Western philosophy. In the present article, attention is drawn to these aspects by means of a close reading of the first two books of the Commentary on John. I maintain that Origen drew on the philological techniques and philosophical developments in Hellenistic and Roman Alexandria, and, in so doing, inaugurated a pattern of Christian exegesis and philosophy that bolstered the formation of Christian discourse in Late Antiquity. 1. Introduction Contrary to contemporary assumptions, there is a firm correlation between philosophy and exegesis in Patristic literature. Origen’s Commentary on John is one of the most impressive testaments to this fact. Indeed, the procedures and techniques he applies, and the essence of his interpretation, are deeply rooted in the philosophical traditions and practices of his time. Moreover, Origen was not content to apply the methods and ideas of philosophy to the explanation of the biblical text; he also aspired to make substantial contributions to the philosophical debates of the Roman Empire, especially in relation to the revival of Platonism. Particularly in the first two books on John 1:1–7, written during his late years in Alexandria before he moved to Caesarea ca. 232, the Alexandrian developed a seminal metaphysics of freedom by which he deeply influenced emerging Christian theology and, in the long run, Western philosophical thought at large. In this article I will offer evidence of these aspects of

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_006



Origen’s philosophical exegesis in the Commentary on John by means of a close reading of select passages in the first two books.1 2.

Academic Prolegomena and Spiritual Exercise

Origen’s Commentary on John corresponds in method and scholarly purpose with the philosophical commentaries of the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity.2 In their prefaces to these commentaries authors would often include a set of preliminary questions to be dealt with before engaging the text itself. We encounter this for the first time in the prefaces to the commentaries on Aristotle’s works written by Alexander of Aphrodisias ca. 200 AD. The questions to be taken into account are not, however, arranged according to a fixed pattern, as previous research has assumed.3 Such a scheme is only to be found in a few rather late texts, appearing for the first time in the prefaces of Ammonius, a professor of philosophy in Alexandria during the first decades of the sixth century AD.4 It is not possible to identify this late pattern in earlier texts.5 In Origen’s time, the set of preliminary questions were typically adjusted to fit the text under consideration. The Sitz im Leben of these questions was the teaching in antique schools: before reading a text together, introductory issues had first to be settled. The preliminary questions treated in prefaces concern either the text or the author of the commentary. Aspects of the first kind include a table of contents, an overview of the text’s argument, essential aspects of its topic, and 1  English translations are taken from Origen, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 2 vols., translated by R.E. Heine, FaCh 80. 89, Washington 1989. 1993. 2  For the broader background see A. Fürst, Origen. Exegesis and Philosophy in Early Christian Alexandria, in: J. Lössl / J.W. Watt (eds.), Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle in Late Antiquity. The Alexandrian Commentary Tradition between Rome and Baghdad, Farnham/Burlington 2011, 13–32. 3  Ch. Schäublin, Untersuchungen zur Methode und Herkunft der antiochenischen Exegese, Theoph. 23, Köln/Bonn 1974, 66–72; I. Hadot, Les introductions aux commentaires exégétiques chez les auteurs néoplatoniciens et les auteurs chrétiens, in: M. Tardieu (ed.), Les règles de l’interpretation, Paris 1987, 99–122; B. Neuschäfer, Origenes als Philologe, SBA 18, Basel 1987, 57–84; J. Mansfeld, Prolegomena. Questions to be Settled before the Study of an Author or a Text, PhAnt 61, Leiden 1994, 7f. 10–19; R.E. Heine, The Introduction to Origen’s Commentary on John Compared with the Introductions to the Ancient Philosophical Commentaries on Aristotle, in: G. Dorival / A. Le Boulluec (eds.), Origeniana Sexta. Origène et la Bible, BEThL 118, Leuven 1995, 3–12. 4  Ammon., in Isag. p. 21,6–11 Busse. 5  M.  Skeb, Exegese und Lebensform. Die Proömien der antiken griechischen Bibelkommentare, Clavis Commentariorum Antiquitatis et Medii Aevi 5, Leiden 2007, 68–119.

5. Spiritual Life and Philosophical Reason


the relevance and overall value of its subject matter. Regarding the author of the commentary, some introductions deal with his attitude toward the text, while other preliminary questions concern his person. The author’s attitudes are explained by reference to his interpretation and assessment of the subject, its presentation, his methodological approach, and requisite techniques. Commentators often introduce themselves by discussing their personal motives for composing the commentary. They also discuss their objectives, selfimage as author, commitment to the task, disputes with predecessors, and critiques of the text. They usually call for veracity and make a show of their own incompetence. The latter claim is connected with a request for support, and the invocation of a deity.6 Origen is the first Christian commentator to deal with the traditional set of preliminary questions in the prefaces to his biblical commentaries. This is especially evident in the very long preface to the first book of his Commentary on John, but also in the much shorter prefaces to the other books of this huge commentary (of whose original 32 books nine are preserved in Greek).7 Towards the end of the preface to the first book, Origen places it explicitly within the framework of scholarly prolegomena through his adoption of technical terminology. He labels his preface retrospectively as “preliminaries to our reading the text together” (τὰ πρὸ τῆς συναναγνώσεως τῶν γεγραμμένων) (in Ioh. comm. 1.15,88).8 The term συνανάγνωσις is a sign of the Sitz im Leben of his commentary. It indicates the reading and interpretation of a text in the classroom under the direction of a teacher. The phrase τὰ πρὸ τῆς συναναγνώσεως refers to that which must be explained before reading and commenting and is found for the first time as the title of an introduction to Democritus written by Thrasyllus in the first century AD.9 Near the end of the preface, Origen also poses a question about the title ‘gospel’, asking “what the gospel is” (τί τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν ἐστι) (1.15,88). This ostensibly belongs to the set of preliminary issues. In the paragraphs leading up to this question Origen operates in a most scholarly way by defining and classifying the available answers in the manner of ancient systematic schoolbooks. 6  Cf. ibid. 40–61. 7  As nearly all of Origen’s vast commentaries on many biblical books are lost, apart from the prefaces to the preserved books of the Commentary on John we can only rely on the prefaces to the Commentary on Song of Songs, which is also very long and contentful, and to the Commentary on Romans. Both are preserved in the Latin versions of Rufinus of Aquileja. 8  The Latin equivalents are in Cant. comm. prol. 1,8: antequam ad ea quae in hoc libello scripta sunt discutienda ueniamus, and in Rom. comm. 1.1: praemittentes haec quae ab studiosis obser­ uari solent. 9  According to Diogenes Laërtius 9.41. Cf. Mansfeld, 1994, 1–9.



According to his initial definition, a gospel is a “discourse (λόγος) containing a report of things that, with good reason, make the hearer glad whenever he accepts what is reported, because they are beneficial” (1.5,27, quoted in 1.6,32). This explanation resonates with the ancient rhetorical definition of a discourse, the purpose of which is to delight and benefit the hearer. Origen also proposes a definition based on the etymology of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, “good news”: “either a discourse which contains the presence of a good for the believer, or a discourse which announces that an awaited good is present” (1.5,27). “All the definitions”, Origen concludes, “fit those books entitled the gospels” because each of them is “a composition of declarations which are beneficial to the one who believes them”, and “brings cheer with good reason” (1.5,28). In the ensuing paragraphs Origen unfolds these definitions in a more theological than literary manner (1.5,28–31; cf. 1.3,17f.; 1.4,25f.). According to Origen, the main impetus for composing a commentary on the Gospel of John is the obscurity (ἀσάφεια) of the text: “some meaning which is hidden and still unclear to us” (5.1), requiring interpretation.10 This issue is ubiquitous in antique commentaries on philosophical texts, for instance in Galen’s commentaries of the second century.11 In the case of difficult biblical passages, the problem is obvious. Origen frequently alludes to such difficulties and provides careful reflections concerning how best to deal with them.12 He suggests a double-tracked approach. On the one hand, he compares all the parallel terms and expressions in Scripture itself so as to elucidate unclear words and phrases by help of clear passages; on the other hand, he will consult all available knowledge in every field of ancient science and culture in order to shed light on the meaning of a biblical text. The latter approach is evident in the tremendous amount of non-biblical scholarship we find in Origen’s commentaries. Indeed, the hermeneutical basis of his exegesis is not limited to the principle of explaining Scripture by Scripture, such as in the traditional philological directive to explain Homer by Homer.13 On the contrary, Origen’s double-tracked hermeneutic reveals the fundamental synthesis between exegesis and philosophy in his biblical commentaries.14 A further reason for writing such a commentary was the perceived threat of gnostic interpretations of the Gospel of John (5.8). It is for this reason that 10  The same reason is pointed out in the preface to the Commentary on Romans: in Rom. comm. 1.1. 11  Cf. Mansfeld, 1994, 148–161. 12  Cf. e.g. Or., philoc. 2,1–3; 7,1; princ. 4.3,1; in Rom. comm. 1.1; 1.11,5. 13  This is the approach of Neuschäfer, 1984, 139–285. 14  A.  Fürst, Bibel und Kosmos in der Psalmenauslegung des Origenes, in: Adam. 20 (2014), 130–146.

5. Spiritual Life and Philosophical Reason


Origen refers to the issue of the utility and value of a work and, additionally, to various disputes with adversaries. Finally, Origen reflects on sources (5.8) and philological techniques in explaining the reason for the disposition of the books (13.1,1), on methods of presentation, i.e. dictation (32.1,2f.), and on the tranquility required for untroubled scholarly studies (6.1,1–5). Origen proceeds to ask “what the task of the evangelist is” (τί τὸ ἔργον τοῦ εὐαγ­ γελιστοῦ;) (1.3,18). His answer is highly significant for his philosophical exegesis. Origen emphasizes that the task of the evangelist is not simply to narrate miraculous stories of the Saviour, “or how he performed any of his incredible deeds”. Rather, he insists, the Gospel of John is a “hortatory discourse”, a pro­ treptikos, an “invitation”, or “exhortation”, not to philosophy (as is common in ancient writings of this genre) but to faith, “to awake belief in the things concerning Jesus” (ἐν προτρεπτικῷ λόγῳ τῷ εἰς πιστοποίησιν τῶν περὶ Ἰησοῦ) (1.3,18).15 By interpreting the gospel as an instantiation of this well-known philosophical genre, Origen explicitly puts the biblical text, and by extension his commentary, in a philosophical tradition where many “hortatory discourses” to philosophy were written, e.g. by Aristotle or by Cicero (both preserved only in a few fragments). The phrase “the things concerning Jesus” (τὰ περὶ Ἰησοῦ), or briefly, “Jesus”, can be understood as summary of the content, or as subject matter of the gospel.16 The last issue touches a core feature of Origen’s self-image as exegete. He conceived of exegesis as a way of life, which is exactly how ancient philosophy was generally understood.17 In this context, writing a commentary functioned for Origen as a kind of spiritual exercise. By fashioning himself as such an author he makes explicit his connection to the philosophical tradition.18 At the beginning of the preface to the Commentary on John Origen depicts his entire 15  The precise meaning of πιστοποίησις is made unclear in Heine’s translation: “to confirm the things concerning Jesus”. 16  The “main theme” (causa praecipua) of the Song of Songs is “love” (amor, caritas), as Origen explains extensively in the preface to his commentary: in Cant. comm. prol. 1,8 and prol. 2, its genre is a “wedding song composed in the form of a drama” (epithalamium, id est nuptiale carmen, dramatis in modum conscriptus): prol. 1,1–3. The subject matter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the defense of free will against determinism (haeretici … totius scripturae sensum, qui arbitrii libertatem concessam a Deo homini docet, conantur euertere): in Rom. comm. 1.1. 17  P.  Hadot, Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique, Paris 31993; id., Qu’est-ce que la philoso­ phie antique?, Paris 1995. 18  P.W.  Martens, Origen and Scripture. The Contours of the Exegetical Life, Oxford 2012, 41–66; A. Fürst, Exegese als Lebensform. Christliche Paideia und Psychagogie bei Origenes, in: P. Gemeinhardt (ed.), Zwischen Exegese und religiöser Praxis. Heilige Texte von der Spätantike bis zum Klassischen Islam, Tübingen 2016, 85–115.



life and scholarly work as dedicated to God (1.1,1–4,26): “Since we are eager for those things which are better, all our activity and our entire life is dedicated to God” (1.2,12). In order to comprehend the meaning of the gospel, he strives to become a real disciple, even an image of Christ (1.4,23f.). He attends to his exegetical efforts with trust in God (6.2,7) and commits himself to God (10.1,2). The preface to the first book concludes with a traditional request for support paired with the invocation of a deity. He implores God to assist him “through Christ in the Holy Spirit to explain the mystical meaning stored up like a treasure in the words” of the gospel (1.15,89). Similar prayers occur throughout the following prefaces (6.2,10; 20.1,1; 28.1,6; 32.1,2).19 In Origen’s self-understanding, explaining the Gospel of John is an expression of his personal dedication to God and his striving for intellectual and spiritual progress. The successive books of his commentary represent, so to speak, the successive stages of his journey towards God. Origen thus imitates the endeavor of many ancient writers to attune their work to the realm of the sacred. Indeed, Greek and Latin poets, and, to some extent prose writers, would often present themselves as inspired by a deity or deities (or the Muses). In the eyes of late Neoplatonists such as Hierocles or Simplicius, writing a philosophical commentary amounted to a contemplation of sacred words and an act of worship; in fact, the commentary itself was construed as a hymn to God.20 The purpose of this kind of exegesis was to illuminate the existential meaning of Scripture and to apply the newfound insights to the exegete’s life. Here, exegesis and philosophy are closely intertwined. They coincide in the practical dimension of the exegetical life. 3.

Conceptual Analysis

In Origen’s Commentary on John, exegesis and philosophy are intertwined in methodological approach and scholarly purpose by way of exegesis as a way of life. But this is not the only way they intertwine. Origen is also doing 19  See also the prayer in Rom. comm. 1.1. 20  O.  Falter, Der Dichter und sein Gott bei den Griechen und Römern, Würzburg 1934; H.D. Saffrey, Quelques aspects de la spiritualité des philosophes néoplatoniciens de Jamblique à Proclos et Damascius, in: RSPhTh 68 (1984), 169–182; M. Erler, Interpretieren als Gottesdienst. Proklos’ Hymnen vor dem Hintergrund seines Kratylos-Kommentars, in: G. Boss / G. Seel (eds.), Proclus et son influence, Zurich 1987, 179–217; Ph. Hoffmann, Sur quelques aspects de la polémique de Simplicius contre Jean Philopon. De l’invective à la réaf­ firmation de la transcendance du ciel, in: I. Hadot (ed.), Simplicius. Sa vie, son œuvre, sa survie, Peripatoi 15, Berlin/New York 1987, 183–221.

5. Spiritual Life and Philosophical Reason


philosophy when he attempts to explain the biblical text. As we shall see, this approach can be detected far beyond the preliminary questions discussed above; the proliferation of philosophy throughout his work encourages us to situate Origen’s biblical commentary within the emerging genre of the philosophical commentary. While this aspect of his exegesis has not gone unnoticed in recent studies on Origen’s life and works,21 the philosophical contours of his interpretation have yet to attract the attention they deserve. A crucial feature of the philosophical exegesis developed by Origen is the identification, isolation, and correlation of key terms and concepts so as to better scrutinize them. The prologue of the Gospel of John, in particular, was virtually predestined for this kind of exegesis. It contains almost all the central concepts of Greek philosophy: ἀρχή, λόγος, θεός, creation or formation of the world, life, light, truth. A mind as sophisticated as Origen’s could hardly avoid searching out the meaning of these concepts throughout the text. As is well known, he spends the entirety of the first book discussing at length the notions ἀρχή and λόγος in John 1:1 (1.16,90–39,292), and in his interpretation of the prologue of John 1:1–18 (in the second book) he only gets as far as John 1:7.22 Already in the preface he had provided a broad analysis of the concept of “gospel” (1.5,27–8,51). In order to discern the sense in which the concept of ἀρχή is used in John 1:1, he draws on the whole range of meanings this term could possibly convey, whether in ancient philosophical theories or in Scripture. He explicitly lays out these meanings for the reader to consider (1.16,90): beginning of a way, i.e. departure; beginning of a formation, i.e. emergence; God as “the beginning of the things which exist”, i.e. origin and principle; beginning in the sense of material and formal cause; “the beginning pertaining to learning”, i.e. foundation or introduction; beginning as launching an action towards some goal (1.16,90–18,108). Within the range of these definitions, Origen identifies the meaning of ἀρχή in John 1:1 as efficient cause (1.19,110): “But it is as the beginning that Christ is creator (δημιουργός), according to which he is wisdom. Therefore as wisdom he is called the beginning”, Origen concludes combining John 1:1 with Prov. 8:22 (1.19,111).23 The entire Gospel of John (not just the prologue) deploys concepts and metaphors by means of which the evangelist describes who Jesus is — and “Jesus” has been identified by Origen in the preface as the basic subject matter 21  See the studies of Martens and Fürst noted in n. 18. 22  Book III is lost, from books IV and V we have only fragments of the prefaces; book VI begins with the explanation of John 1:19, and the last book completed by Origen, XXXII, stops at John 13:32. 23  Cf. also E. Früchtel, Ἀρχή und das erste Buch des Johanneskommentars des Origenes, in: StPatr XIV, TU 117, Berlin 1976, 122–144.



of the gospel (1.3,18: see above). Origen thoroughly analyzes their potential meanings and synthesizes them into a coherent paradigm of God, man, and world. Anticipating the argument of the commentary in a lengthy digression, the second part of the first book contains an impressive list of names of Jesus, 41 names out of “thousands” in Scripture he claims (1.22,136).24 It is on this basis that Origen forges his concept of the “aspects” (ἐπίνοιαι) of Christ (1.25,158–36,266).25 Some samples of these names are “way” (1.9,53; 1.27,183f.), “door” (1.9,54; 1.27,189), “shepherd” (1.27,190), “true vine” (1.30,205f.), “bread of life” (1.30,207f.), or “rod” and “flower” (1.36,261–264). Ἐπίνοιαι are notions by which different “aspects” of Christ are described. “Aspects” might be the best translation to express and preserve the unity of Christ in the multiplicity of ἐπίνοιαι. These names indicate divergent perspectives out of which different aspects of the one Christ become visible. Depending on how he is looked at and thought of — this is the etymological meaning of ἐπίνοια (and Latin adspectus) – Christ is perceived in different ways, or something else is perceived in him. The concept of ἐπίνοιαι is thus built on various notions, each of which receive analysis from Origen. This conceptual approach to analysis bears also on the notions “God” (θεός) and λόγος. The latter is investigated extensively in the first book in relation to ἀρχή (1.21,125–24,157 and after the digression again in 1.37,267–39,292). At the beginning of the second book Origen outlines a pattern of the different applications of these terms in his day (2.2,13–3,32) and correlates each to the next, for neither does the concept of λόγος imply the concept of θεός nor vice versa (2.9,66). This is no simple method, and cannot be adequately grasped with the common dichotomy of literal and spiritual/allegorical exegesis.26 It rather pivots upon philosophical reasoning. As we know, Plato established and performed such reasoning in his dialogues when discussing basic concepts such as “brave”, “just”, “good”, or “pious”, considering several competing definitions of each notion. In his Commentary on John Origen upholds this tradition. One is 24  H.  Crouzel, Le contenu spirituel des dénominations du Christ selon le Livre I du Commentaire sur Jean d’Origène, in: id. / A. Quacquarelli (eds.), Origeniana Secunda, QVetChr 15, Rome 1980, 131–150, counts 43 ἐπίνοιαι, because he adds “Son of God” (142) and “physician” (146) which admittedly occur in the first book (1.29,207 and 1.20,124 respectively) but are not numbered along the list in 1.21,125–23,150 and not discussed in the following digression. 25  M.  Fédou, La Sagesse et le monde. Essai sur la christologie d’Origène, Paris 1995, 233–269; J.S. O’Leary, Christianisme et philosophie chez Origène, Paris 2011, 153–165. 26  Heine, 1989, vol. 1, 10–23, builds his introduction to his translation under the title “Origen’s Hermeneutics in the Commentary on John” on this dichotomy and states that “large portions of Books 1 and 2 consist of literal exegesis” (cf. 22: “interpretation at a literal level”) and that “no spiritual meaning is offered for anything contained in the first five verses of John’s Gospel” (21).

5. Spiritual Life and Philosophical Reason


tempted to call it a Platonic method, but this adjective falls short given that Aristotelian and Stoic philosophers proceeded in much the same way, even forging elaborated methods of logic and argumentation for the treatment of terms, phrases, and sentences. It is well known that Origen himself drew on such traditions as these.27 Origen refers to such philosophers, for instance, when interpreting the statement in John 1:3f. (“What was made in Him was life, and the life was the light of men”) against the background of the Stoic paradoxa (2.16,112–114).28 His deliberations are an impressive sample of how thoroughly he analyzes the terms “life” and “light”, both in isolation and in correlation. He presents a very careful analysis of notions and phrases, drawing in alternative passages in Scripture where these terms also occur. By this approach he is able to distinguish between different meanings of the terms “light” and “life”. He detects a threefold meaning of the term “light”: “light of men”, simply “light”, and “true light” (2.23,148). One must henceforth distinguish between these different meanings of “light” in the relevant biblical passages (2.23,149–154). In the background we can see the theory of homonymy — i.e. different meanings of a given word — that Origen amply employs throughout his commentaries.29 This theory applies also to the concept of “life”: the “life” which is mentioned in John 1:4 “is not that common to rational and irrational beings. It is instead the life which is added to the Word which is completed in us when a share from the first Word is received”. This “life in truth” is distinct “from what seems to be life but in truth is not”, and Origen combines it with “the light of knowledge” (2.24,156). One should strive for this “light of knowledge” (2.24,157), he repeatedly exhorts (1.6,36; 2.1,10).30 With regard to the identification of “life” and “light of men” in John 1:4, he uses a well-known concept of Aristotle and interprets the “life in truth” as “light potentially and not actually with some who do not earnestly endeavor to examine the objects of knowledge”, whilst “with others it becomes light also in actuality”, i.e. with “the more zealous” (studio­ siores), the “lovers of wisdom” (amatores sapientiae), to wit, the “philosophers”, as he calls them elsewhere,31 or with those who realized Paul’s command: “Be zealous for the better gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31), as he writes in the Commentary on John (2.24,157). These “better gifts” are interpreted with Paul as “wisdom” and 27  See the recent book of R. Somos, Logic and Argumentation in Origen, Adamantiana 7, Münster 2015. 28  Ibid. 105–139. 29  Ibid. 93–104, and for the concept of νόμος, for instance, in the Commentary on Romans, see R. Roukema, The Diversity of Laws in Origen’s Commentary on Romans, Amsterdam 1988. 30  Cf. also princ. 1 praef. 10; in Cant. comm. 2.5,19; 2.8,15; 3.11,18; orat. 11,3. 31  Princ. 1 praef. 3.



“knowledge” (1 Cor. 12:8). He does not, however, “speak of the difference in meaning between wisdom and knowledge which are adjacent to one another” because this would lead him too far away from the text of the prologue of the Gospel of John (2.24,157). No doubt he would be able to explain these notions as thoroughly as the terms “life” and “light” (among others) in John 1:1ff. Origen’s interpretation of the prologue of the Gospel of John is based on conceptual distinctions such as these. He analyzes the profuse meanings of a given concept as it appears in Scripture and ancient philosophy, and then scrutinizes the correlations between them. The beginning of the prologue offers many opportunities for both procedures. These verses contain, as we have already seen, central concepts of Greek philosophy clustered together in a tight sequence of short sentences. Origen thus explains not only the notions as such but also the array of phrases and clauses in John 1:1ff. and their respective propositions (2.9,64–69). The full meaning of these statements can only be grasped when viewed synoptically. I quote one paragraph to demonstrate this highly characteristic procedure of Origen’s exegetical method. The Alexandrian exegete looks for a reason why the statement in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” is repeated in a varied form in John 1:2: “The same was in the beginning with God”. Only when carefully investigating the four axioms in John 1:1 and 1:2, does he find the full meaning of the relevant conceptions and propositions: For the conception ‘Word’ does not contain the conception ‘God’, nor does the conception ‘God’ contain that of ‘Word’. But perhaps it sums up the three propositions in one, namely, ‘The same was in the beginning with God.’ For insofar as ‘the Word was in the beginning,’ we had not learned that he was ‘with God,’ and insofar as the Word was ‘with God,’ we could not have known clearly that he was in the beginning with God, and insofar as ‘the Word was God,’ it could not be revealed that he was ‘in the beginning’ nor that he was ‘with God.’ But in the statement, ‘The same was in the beginning with God,’ the expression ‘the same’ being considered with reference to the Word and God, and the phrase ‘in the beginning’ being thus attached, and the phrase ‘with God’ being added, nothing is lacking of the things in the three propositions which is not summed up when they are gathered into one (2.9,67f.). This passage clearly shows Origen’s exegetical aptitude for analyzing concepts and statements. Only a mind schooled in the intricacies of philosophy could execute such a complex logical sequence. In the process, Origen presents a very careful analysis of the four short phrases at the beginning of the Gospel of

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John. This procedure identifies him, I submit, as a posthumous student of Plato and Plato’s Socrates, who philosophized by scrutinizing concepts and ideas. It is also reminiscent of the Peripatetic and Stoic schools, which employed similar methods of logic and argumentation. 4.

Metaphysics of Freedom

The third feature of philosophical exegesis in Origen’s Commentary on John is easily the most important. In addition to the conceptual analysis described above, Origen contributed to the development of metaphysics in late antique philosophy. In the first two books of his Commentary on John, written in his late years in Alexandria during which time he also worked on the Commentary on Genesis and On First Principles, Origen delineated a metaphysics of freedom in conjunction with his contemplation of the biblical text. Against the backdrop of ancient metaphysics, his groundbreaking innovations stand out. He provided a coherent response to the core question of ancient philosophy; namely, the question of the origin and principle of being, in Greek: ἀρχή. This, we should note, is also the first word in John 1:1 and Gen. 1:1, and it is hardly coincidental that Origen’s systematic treatise was named περὶ ἀρχῶν, “on first principles”. Surely, he would have been deeply concerned with the primordial quest of Greek thought for the ἀρχή. Origen’s answer boils down to one word: In the beginning was freedom.32 The seminal tenet of Origen’s metaphysics of freedom is that the actions of human beings do not depend on a static nature and order of being, but that the nature and essence of rational beings are rather determined by their free will. In other words, we are what we do. In two brief passages in the Commentary on John Origen comes straight to the point, emphasizing the paramount importance of the matter. In the twentieth book, Origen argues for “the possibility that someone may be of the lie, not by his substance from creation, but having become such and having been endowed with such a nature, if I may use a novel expression, by change and his own choice” (20.21,174). The nature of a human being is not determined by natural constitution (τῇ ὑποστάσει ἐκ κατασκευῆς) but originates in the changes brought about by one’s own choice (ἐκ μεταβολῆς καὶ 32  H.  Holz, Über den Begriff des Willens und der Freiheit bei Origenes, in: NZSTh 12 (1970), 63–84; Th. Kobusch, Die philosophische Bedeutung des Kirchenvaters Origenes. Zur christ­ lichen Kritik an der Einseitigkeit der griechischen Wesensphilosophie, in: ThQ 165 (1985), 94–105; E. Schockenhoff, Zum Fest der Freiheit. Theologie des christlichen Handelns bei Origenes, TTS 33, Mainz 1990; Ch. Hengstermann, Origenes und der Ursprung der Freiheitsmetaphysik, Adamantiana 8, Münster 2016.



ἰδίας προαιρέσεως). Such choices become nature (τοιοῦτον γεγενημένον καὶ οὕτως, ἵνα καινῶς ὀνομάσω, πεφυσιωμένον). The novelty of Origen’s contribution is not in the word πεφυσιωμένον, which was already used by Aristotle and Clement of Alexandria,33 but in combining it with a predicate, τοιοῦτον.34 This is a “novel expression”, as Origen says; he elsewhere uses the verb φυσιοῦν, or φυσιοῦσθαι, to similar effect.35 The equivalent Latin version is to be found in the Commentary on Romans where the same idea is expressed by a phrase which is difficult to translate: “The freedom of decision has made everybody’s nature” (arbitrii ­libertas naturam fecerit unicuique).36 Origen sometimes stresses the paramount importance of freedom. In the last book of the Commentary on John, he attaches a kind of fourth article to the typical three articles of the Christian creed viz. belief in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Origen adds that “one must also believe … that, because we possess free will, we are chastened for our sins, and rewarded for our good actions” (32.16,189). “The doctrine of the righteous judgment of God” is one of Origen’s main reasons for assuming “that deeds worthy of praise or of blame lie within our own power”, and therefore “free will” is “a problem of the utmost possible urgency”.37 It is not by chance that Origen wrote his treatise on free will in On First Principles at the same time as his commentary on the prologue of the Gospel of John. According to Origen, freedom is the basic principle, not only of anthropology and ethics, but also metaphysics. He conceived the whole process of creation and salvation, and the concomitant progress of nature and history, as a history of freedom in universal, cosmic dimensions. In a key passage in the first book of the Commentary on John, Origen uses his concept of Christ’s ἐπίνοιαι to present the core idea of his metaphysics of freedom (1.19,109–20,124). The free God, whom Origen elsewhere calls “uncreated freedom” (libertas ingenita),38 has created free, rational beings. The task of such beings is to shape themselves in accordance with what they are, namely, creatures made in the “image of God”, which consists precisely in being entities who determine themselves by means of rational free will. Such is Origen’s dynamic concept of God-likeness (cf. 2.3,20).39 At its center is the “image of God”, which he interprets as Christ. 33  Aristot., cat. 9 a 2; Clem. Al., strom. 7.46,9. 34  Cf. C. Blanc, SC 290, Paris 1982, 242 n. 1. 35  Or., Cels. 3.69. 36  In Rom. comm. 8.10,11. 37  Princ. 3.1,1 as opening sentence of the chapter on free will ibid. 3.1. 38  In Lev. hom. 16,6. 39  Ch. Hengstermann, The ‘Dignity of God’s Image’. Origen’s Metaphysics of Man, in: A. Fürst / K. Müller (eds.), Natur und Normativität, Pontes 46, Berlin 2010, 45–62; Th. Kobusch, Bild

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Christ is, metaphorically speaking, the hinge between the “altogether one and simple” God and “the many things” of the universe. The “Savior, however, because of the many things … becomes many things, or perhaps even all these things, as the whole creation which can be made free needs him” (1.20,119). Based on his analysis of the notions in John 1:1, Origen explains that “in the beginning” the λόγος was “in wisdom” because according to Prov. 8:22 “God created” wisdom as “the beginning of his ways for his works” (1.19,111). “Wisdom” is thus, he concludes, the name attributed to the Son of God prior to “Word”. Origen therefore censures early christology for orbiting around the notion of λόγος (although he himself basically belongs to this theological tradition), and drafts an alternative christology of wisdom.40 The connection between “Wisdom” and “Word” is as follows: insofar as the Son is “Wisdom”, he perseveres in the eternal contemplation of the strictly one and transcendent Father. While contemplating the Father continuously and fully in his unity, the Son is simultaneously aware of the coextensive multiplicity of the all. Insofar as he is “Word”, he reveals this multiplicity to the created rational beings. “Wisdom” is “taken in relation to the structure of the contemplation and thoughts of all things”; “Word” is “taken in relation to the communication of the things which have been contemplated to spiritual beings” (1.19,111). Hereby the universe comes into being. “Wisdom” contains the “plans of the system of thoughts in the Word” (1.19,113), “the thoughts of what will be” (1.19,114). And while “Wisdom” as “Word” discloses these “plans of the system of thoughts” to the rational creatures, it likewise establishes the possibility of knowledge as such. The λόγος as self-revelation of “Wisdom” begets λογικά, “rational beings”. Because of their participation in the “Word”, rational beings are granted access to “Wisdom”, i.e. the differentiated unity of the multiple being, whose absolute and transcendent unity in God, the ultimate ground of reality, remains hidden to rational beings, who are hindered by their contingency. This is the core idea of Origen’s metaphysical concept of ἐπίνοιαι: in Christ, who as “Wisdom” and “Word” is One-Many, the Oneness of God is mediated with the Manyness of the world.

und Gleichnis Gottes. Elemente menschlicher Freiheit, in: I. Atucha et al. (eds.), Mots médiévaux offerts à Ruedi Imbach, TEMÂ 57, Porto 2011, 143–151. 40  W.  Ullmann, Die Sophia-Lehre des Origenes im 1. Buch seines Johanneskommentars, in: StPatr XVI, Berlin 1985, 271–278; A. Fürst, Die Weisheit als Prinzip des Seins und der Erkenntnis. Zur Rezeption der Sapientia Salomonis im antiken Christentum und zu ihrer Auslegung bei Origenes, in: K.-W. Niebuhr (ed.), Sapientia Salomonis (Weisheit Salomos), SAPERE 27, Tübingen 2015, 293–316.



This mediation constitutes the process of creation and salvation that Origen conceived as activity of freedom.41 Certain ἐπίνοιαι are permanent fixtures of Christ. He is always “Wisdom”, “Word”, “Life”, “Truth”, and “Righteousness”. But “the other titles which he took in addition because of us”, such as “physician” or “shepherd” or “redemption”, “came into existence later” (1.20,123f.). The Savior takes on these ἐπίνοιαι during the history of salvation in accordance with the free decisions of human beings. According to Origen Christ acts and appears in direct response to human action and behavior so as to best reveal and facilitate their journey back to God. For example, Christ is “light” only when “men, darkened by evil, need the light which shines in the darkness”; otherwise “he would not have become the light of men” (1.20,120). In a similar vein, Origen boldly states the following about the ἐπίνοια “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18): If, by way of supposition, the woman had not been deceived and Adam had not fallen into sin, …, he would have neither descended ‘into the dust of death’ (Ps. 21[22]:6) nor died since there would have been no sin for which he had to die because of his love for men (1.20,121). In other words, the λόγος became man only because humans had strayed so far from God that it was necessary for their own sake to follow them into human existence (cf. also 2.11,83). Origen finds countless metaphors and symbols for God’s relationship to mankind in Scripture. He explains these biblical notions by giving a new answer to the core question of ancient metaphysics; that is, how to combine the unity of God with the multiplicity of reality. The basic thrust of his answer is that this relationship consists in a dynamic process of freely acting and communicating beings. Origen comes to this solution by contemplating and analyzing the notions and concepts of Christ in Scripture as found for instance in the Gospel of John and, above all, in the prologue of this gospel. At this point the methodological and philosophical aspects of his exegesis converge. The spiritual path of the exegetical life, as described above, consists in the intellectual as well as mystical contemplation of the images and terms of the biblical lexicon. With this, the exegete contributes to philosophical questions and likewise exercises the form of life that leads to God. As always in Origen’s writings, reason and life coincide.

41  Cf. also E. Früchtel, Zur Interpretation der Freiheitsproblematik im Johanneskommentar des Origenes, in: ZRGG 26 (1974), 310–317.

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5. Conclusion Having reviewed these aspects of Origen’s philosophical exegesis, it is, from my perspective, obvious that his biblical exegesis was deeply intertwined with antique philosophy. While Platonism looms large, there are also signs of reliance on the Stoic and Peripatetic traditions. Without taking into account the manifold connections with philology and philosophy in Roman imperial times, one can hardly begin to understand his mode of exegesis. This exegesis is constituted, first, by a hermeneutical and methodological approach by means of which the interpretation of the text is organized; secondly, of a philosophical analysis of the central notions and concepts in the text; and thirdly, of a metaphysics of freedom by which Origen contributed substantially to the development of philosophy in late antiquity and beyond. While each of these aspects can also be found in late antique Platonism, the pagan philosophers did not, like Origen, have recourse to the Bible as a source of truth. Apart from this difference, it appears that Origen founded Christian exegesis on the methodological standards common to antique philosophical commentaries. By using these philological and philosophical traditions of Hellenistic and Roman Alexandria, he inaugurated a pattern of Christian exegesis and philosophy that bolstered the formation of Christian discourse in late antiquity.

The Contact Theories of Epistemology in Aristotle and Gregory Nazianzen: “then shall I know, even as also I am known” (1 Cor 13:12) Anna Usacheva Abstract This article examines the outlines of the epistemological theories of Aristotle and Gregory Nazianzen, which emphasized active, practical and embodied aspects of the process of intellection. It also investigates the notion of medium and the principle of likeness as the key-components of the epistemological thoughts of the both authors. Although the idea of inherent likeness tying together the agents of intellectual process (the subject and object of thought) was known since the Atomists and widely supported by Plato and other philosophers, it lied with Aristotle to identify the significance of thinking as active and embodied practice, which requires cooperation between the agents. Gregory transformed this “contact” theory of epistemology into a Christian understanding of theological thinking. Gregory also used Pauline idea of likeness and cooperation between men and God manifested in the pursuit of theological knowledge. Maximus the Confessor explained and elaborated Nazianzen’s epistemological thoughts through Aristotelian doctrine. Analysis of direct and indirect continuities between the theological and philosophical approaches to knowledge and the process of thinking shows that Christian creative reception involved not only re-thinking Hellenic philosophical terminology but also adjusting philosophical view of knowledge to the Christian theory and practice. Introduction Unlike a commonly accepted fact of Cristian creative application of philosophical concepts, epistemological continuity of the theological and philosophical discourses is not so often discussed in the Patristic studies. Following the famous critical appraisal of the wisdom of this world in 1 Cor 3:19, many Christian authors underscored crucial contradistinction between philosophical and theological knowledge. However, often the same authors applied standard philosophical verification tools in their theological reasoning. In this article, I am going to examine the outlines of the epistemological theories of Aristotle and Gregory Nazianzen. Despite the contextual differences between

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_007



these teachings, I settled on this comparison because of their structural parallelism. In a similar vein with Aristotle, Gregory acknowledged the necessity of practical and embodied contact between the subject and object of cognition; both authors focused on the process of actual knowing rather than on its result. Charles Taylor elaborately analysed the modern “contact theories of epistemology,” which he characterized as an attempt to re-embed thought and knowledge in the bodily and socio-cultural contexts in which they take place.1 Although my study concerns the texts and ideas of classical and late antiquity, I will apply Taylor’s catchy term in order to identify some intriguing analogies between the ancient philosophical and patristic approaches to knowledge, which appear to be not entirely incompatible even with some aspects of the modern epistemological concepts.2

The Contact Theories of Epistemology from Aristotle to Maximus the Confessor

By the way of introducing the term “contact theories of epistemology” Taylor remarked that although these theories were formulated primarily by Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Wittgenstein, and did not depend on ancient philosophy, one cannot help noticing a certain parallel between, on the one hand, Aristotelian holistic epistemology broadly applied and developed in the period of late antiquity,3 and, on the other hand, some of the modern epistemological and hermeneutical discourses bringing together textual, historical, philosophical, linguistic, socio-cultural and cognitive frameworks.4

1  H. Dreyfus / Ch. Taylor (eds.), Retrieving Realism. Harvard 2015, 25. 2  In her seminal monograph Elizabeth Clark outlines the key trends of 20th century literary theory and in the last chapter of her survey offers an interesting review of Patristics within the framework of literary theory. E.A. Clark, History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn, Cambridge 2004. 3  In his recent monograph Edward Feser draws a vivid picture of an Aristotelian revival in modern scholarship, particularly concerning the spheres of epistemology, ontology and scientific and philosophic methodology. E. Feser, Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics, California, 2013. 4  Taylor contends that: “The contact here is not achieved on the level of Ideas, but is rather something primordial, something we never escape. It is the contact of living, active beings, whose life form involves acting in and on a world which also acts on them. These beings are at grips with a world and each other; this original contact provides the sense-making context for all their knowledge constructions, which, however much they are based on mediating depictions, rely for their meaning on this primordial and indissoluble involvement in the surrounding reality.” (cf. H. Dreyfus / Ch. Taylor, Retrieving Realism, Harvard 2015, 19).

6. The Contact Theories of Epistemology


A primordial or original biological setting of the process of knowing, understood as an organized, systematic and mediated interaction between the subject and object of thought, was described in great detail by Aristotle. A founder of biological-teleological psychology, he closely linked his teaching to epistemology. He distinguished the human being throughout the animal kingdom as a thinking animal, in possession of the faculty of nous, which “is in a sense potentially what is thought, although it is actually nothing until it thinks” (De Anima 3.4, 429b30–31). Thus, Aristotle contended that the process of knowing is mutual, that is to say, it involves a mediated contact between the subject and object of thought and a non-quantitative change in the participants of the process.5 This comprehensive approach to the process of knowing, and a focus on its primordial prerequisites and on its context, also featured in the works of Christian thinkers. Thus, Apostle Paul, whose doctrine revolved around such ideas as “renewing of the mind” (Rom 12:2) and having “the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16), emphasised the reciprocity of the process of knowing God. In a passage from the 1 Cor 13:12 he famously professed “then shall I know, even as also I am known” (ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην), and similarly in Gal 4:9: “now after you have known God, or rather are known by God”. Clearly, these utterances of Paul might have echoed in a saying from the Gospel according to John 10:14 “I know my own and my own know me”6. In this article, I shall not embark on either a historical analysis of the correlative chronology of the Pauline and Johannine writings or a critical examination of Paul’s ideas. Instead, I shall take a look at Paul from the perspective of his fourth-century reader — Gregory Nazianzen, whose perception was vastly complicated by the philosophical education he had and the polemical agenda of his time. With a reference to the cited statements of Paul, and in line with the philosophical epistemology of his time, Gregory Nazianzen in his theological orations characterized the process of knowing as a kind of mutual exchange or collaboration whose workings are inherent in human nature and primordial in the universe. Gregory argued that the primordial likeness between the human 5  Jonathan Beere in his insightful investigation of the Metaphysics Theta provided a helpful interpretation of the Aristotelian concept of change: There are not only capacities for change, but also capacities for living, thinking, and other energeiai that are not changes. For instance, any body of theoretical knowledge constitutes such a capacity: it is the capacity to engage in the sort of thinking that is understanding the relevant objects — in the case of geometry, geometrical figures. In no case is such thinking changing. (cf. J. Beere, Doing and Being: An interpretation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Theta. Oxford 2009, 6, 44, 13). 6  Cf.: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me” (John 10:14; transl. KJV, corr.).



and divine natures enables human access to divine knowledge and reveals itself in the reciprocity of the process of knowing: In my opinion, it [sc. what God is in nature and essence, (ὅ τί ποτε μέν ἐστι τὴν φύσιν καὶ τὴν οὐσίαν)] will be discovered when that within us which is godlike and divine, I mean our mind and reason (τὸν ἡμέτερον νοῦν τε καὶ λόγον), shall have mingled with its Like (τῷ οἰκείῳ προσμίξῃ), and the image shall have ascended to the Archetype, of which it has now the desire. And this I think is the solution of that vexed problem as to “We shall know even as we are known. (Or 28.17). Maximus the Confessor, who was a great connoisseur of Gregorian and Peripatetic teachings, in his Ambigua to John explained and finalized Nazianzen’s epistemological thoughts through Aristotelian doctrine. In this article, I am going to examine a direct and indirect continuity between the Peripatetic and Gregorian epistemological ideas and also to propose an explanation of mediated contact, which according to Aristotle, Paul and Gregory in various ways is intrinsic to the process of knowing. To accomplish these tasks, I shall take the following steps. First, I shall identify Aristotle’s understanding of mediated contact which, in his view, was characteristic of the processes of sense-perception and knowing, and shall start by looking at the biological works of Aristotle and trying to explain his epistemology from the viewpoint of his biology. The second objective of my paper is to briefly examine the meaning of 1 Cor 13:12 and Gal 4:9 in the context of philosophic epistemology. My third step is to investigate the contact theory of epistemology of Gregory Nazianzen with the aid of Maximus the Confessor. I shall particularly focus on Gregory’s understanding of the mediating role of Christ in the process of the human acquisition of divine knowledge, and I shall also examine Gregory’s vision of the bodily aspect of the human-divine active cooperation and principle of likeness.

Mediated Contact and the Principle of Likeness in Aristotle’s Biology and Epistemology It is peculiar in Aristotle’s thought that he generally derived his epistemological ideas from the patterns he observed during his biological studies. He established this methodological approach on a conviction that there is an intrinsic unity between the material and ideological strands of the soul.7 In such 7  A sharp functionalist interpretation of Aristotle’s hylomorphism (sc. a coherent unity of matter and form) and its correlation with the theory of mind, which I tend to support, has been

6. The Contact Theories of Epistemology


a way he argued in De anima that the study of the soul must fall within the science of nature because the affections of the soul seem to be a sort of “enmattered forms (τὰ πάθη λόγοι ἔνυλοί εἰσιν)” (DA 403a25–30). Pondering this peculiar Aristotelian parallelism between biological and philosophical studies, Fernando Moya observed that: Formal and final causes are, in the study of embryology, identified with the attainment of an organisation through the process of development, an organisation which is characteristic of each species. In other words, the “end to be reached” by the developing offspring is the acquisition of an organisation and lifestyle similar in specie to its parents.8 Aristotle contended that an offspring possesses a natural, biological likeness to its parent, which determines the whole life of the offspring, and structures and arranges a fitting environment for its eventual reaching the final goal of its life, i.e. becoming like the perfect sample of its species. A peculiar strand of this biological view of likeness is that it is considered as not just a mediating characteristic linking together two entities (the archetype and its like) but it is viewed as a comprehensive systematic mechanism which regulates: 1) the relationship between the two entities, 2) the whole life of the second entity, and, optionally, 3) the peculiar “final-goal-fitting” life conditions of the second entity. Be this as it may, one might ask how these observations relate to epistemology. I suggest that an understanding of biological likeness may contribute to the interpretation of Aristotle’s parallel between perceptual and noetic likeness coined in a famous slogan familiar from the Timaeus 45c that “like is known by like”. At the beginning of De anima, where Aristotle surveyed the opinions of his predecessors (Platonists and Atomists) on the process of knowing, he argued that the ancients assimilated intellection to perception because for them truth is what appears (DA 404a25–404b5). That is to say, sensual information gives a trustworthy picture of reality and hence everybody is capable of attaining true knowledge about things: it requires only opening your eyes and ears and taking in the desired knowledge. Aristotle attributed this doctrine to Democritus, the given by Marc Cohen. He has argued that although a mental state may be realized by several different physical states or processes, it nonetheless cannot be reduced to physical states. Thus mental states are, rather, “functional states of the physical systems that realize them” (cf. S.M. Cohen, Hylomorphism and Functionalism, in: Nussbaum, M.C. / Rorty, A.O. (eds.), Essays on Aristotle’s De Anima. Oxford / New York 1995, 62). 8  F.  Moya, Epistemology of Living Organisms in Aristotle’s Philosophy, in: Theory in Biosciences 119/3–4 (2000), 318–333, 329.



Pythagoreans, Anaxagoras and Empedocles and affirmed that the rationale of this approach is the principle of likeness. In such a way Aristotle claimed that similarly to Empedocles Plato in the Timaeus fashions soul out of the elements; for like, he holds, is known by like9 (τῷ ὁμοίῳ τὸ ὅμοιον), and things are formed out of the principles or elements (ἐκ τῶν στοιχείων), so that soul must be so too. (DA 404b15–20). Thus, Aristotle asserted that Plato deduced his theory of the soul from the same assumptions as the Atomists, and that he understood the principle of likeness in the same vein with them. This equation of the Platonic concept with the views of Empedocles may seem somewhat problematic because we know from the Theaetetus (160e5– 186e12) that in contrast to the Atomists Plato opposed truth to appearances by claiming: Then knowledge is to be found not in the experiences but in the process of reasoning about them; it is here, seemingly, not in the experiences, that it is possible to grasp being and truth. (Theaet. 186c–d). In view of this evidence, the question arises why Aristotle associates the doctrines of Empedocles with those of Plato. Themistius in his Paraphrase of De anima gave the following explanation of Aristotle’s argument. He maintained that “both Timaeus in Plato, and Plato himself, explained our grasp of existing things through the soul’s affinity with the first principles” (Paraph 12.28, [DA 404b27–30]), and then concluded that both Empedocles and Plato “posited knowing as belonging to the soul and thereby constituted it out of the first principles”10 (ibid.). In other words, Aristotle and Themistius attested that Empedocles and Plato believed in likeness between the sensible object and the sense organ and granted the leading role in the process of knowing to the soul. Aristotle also argued that sense-perception and intellection are operated by virtue of the principle of likeness, which allows the sense organ to become like the object of sense by taking on its logos. However, unlike the Platonic and Atomistic accounts of sense-perception, Aristotle contended that the 9  The cursive is mine. 10  Themistius, In libros Aristotelis de anima paraphrasis, in: R. Heinze, (ed.), Themistii in libros Aristotelis de anima paraphrasis, CAG 5.3, Berlin 1899. Transl.: Themistius, On Aristotle On the Soul, transl., comm. R.B. Todd. London / New York 2014, 27.

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active mediatory contact and interaction between the cognizing subject and the object of cognition are crucial for the processes of sense-perception and intellection. Thus, Aristotle defined sense-perception as “a sort of alteration” (ἀλλοίωσίς τις, DA 416b33–5) which happens when the sense-organs receive sensible information and become like the objects of sense, because “the perceptive faculty is in potentiality such as the object of perception already is in actuality” (DA 418a3–6). Two aspects of this theory deserve particular attention. First, is that it understands alteration in the terms of potentiality and actuality, or a mutual nonquantitative change, which affects both subject and object of perception and thereby attests their contact. Second, is that the contact here is conveyed by a sort of medium, identified with the sense organ, working as “a charioteer of logos” of the sensible object. In the second book of De anima, Aristotle gave the following account of the process of sense-perception: For perceiving is a sort of being affected (τὸ γὰρ αἰσθάνεσθαι πάσχειν τι ἐστίν); consequently, the thing which acts makes that which is in potentiality such as it is itself in actuality (ὥστε τὸ ποιοῦν, οἷον αὐτὸ ἐνεργείᾳ, τοιοῦτον ἐκεῖνο ποιεῖ, δυνάμει ὄν). … since perception is a sort of a mean between the contraries present in perceptible objects (ὡς τῆς αἰσθήσεως οἷον μεσότητός τινος οὔσης τῆς ἐν τοῖς αἰσθητοῖς ἐναντιώσεως). And because of this it discriminates perceptible objects (καὶ διὰ τοῦτο κρίνει τὰ αἰσθητά); for the mean is capable of discriminating (τὸ γὰρ μέσον κριτικόν), since it comes to be, relative to either one or the other, its opposite extreme (γίνεται γὰρ πρὸς ἑκάτερον αὐτῶν θάτερον τῶν ἄκρων). (DA 424a1–7).11 David Bradshaw in his interpretation of Aristotle’s theory of perception ­followed the line suggested by Jonathan Lear, Julie Ward, and Allan Silverman. These scholars described reception of the sensible form as the transmission of the logos of the sensible form to the sense organ.12 Bradshaw in his turn developed this idea stating that, by being capable of conveying the logos of the sensible form, the sense organ functions as a medium, that is to say, “a kind

11  Cf. Aristotle. De anima, in: Ross, W.D. (ed.), Aristotle, De anima. Oxford 1961; transl.: Aristotle, De anima, transl., intr., com. C. Shields, Oxford 2016, 47. 12  Cf. J.  Lear, Aristotle: The Desire to Understand, Cambridge 1988; A. Silverman, Color and Color-Perception in Aristotle’s De Anima, in: Ancient Philosophy 9 (1988), 271–292; J. Ward, Perception and Logos in De Anima II 12, in: Ancient Philosophy 8 (1989), 217– 233; D. Bradshaw, Aristotle on Perception: The Dual-Logos Theory, in: Apeiron 30 (1997), 143–161, 145.



of balance or scale that perceives whenever it registers a deviation from its natural state.13” Areyh Kosman contributed to the understanding of this intricate process by delineating two nominal steps of the naturally uniform perceptive process. “To perceive, — he argued, — is not simply to be affected but to perceive that one is affected, or to be affected and perceive that one is affected.14” He identified the action of the first step with the Greek verb “ὀσμᾶσθαι,” which literally means “to sense,” and the second step with the verb “αἰσθάνεσθαι,” which means “to perceive”.15 In other words, Kosman defined perception as a form of bodily affection of which the living organism is conscious, hence, as a form of awareness. Importantly Aristotle explicated the mechanism of sense-perception through the metaphor of wax, i.e. through the principle of likeness, which enables the organ of sense to take on the logos of the sensible object16 (DA 424a20). Similarly to sense-perception, the process of intellection, in Aristotle’s view, hinged upon the principle of likeness and operated by the actuality-potentiality mechanism. Likeness makes it possible for the human being to perceive and think things and the actuality-potentiality mechanism sets up the conditions for the different modes of perception and intellection. Thus, Aristotle distinguished between a capacity to think and active thinking, which necessarily requires practical contact and cooperation between the subject and object of thought in a concrete moment of time.17 In the Stagirite’s words, the human mind is nothing in actuality before it thinks (DA 429a22–24), and when thinking it becomes like18 the object of thought with the result that “the actual knowledge (ἡ κατ’ ἐνέργειαν ἐπιστήμη) is identical (τὸ δ’ αὐτό ἐστιν) with the thing known (τῷ πράγματι)” (DA 431a1). That is to say, that the active 13  Cf. D.  Bradshaw, Aristotle on Perception: The Dual-Logos Theory, in: Apeiron 30 (1997), 143–161, 147. 14  Cf. A.  Kosman, Virtues of thought Essays on Plato and Aristotle. Cambridge, MA, London 2014, 51. 15  Cf. Kosman 2014, 55. 16  Here is how Themistius expounded this idea: “imagination is [active] towards the form, the imprint of which sense-perception has received. Thus, actual sense-perception becomes for imagination precisely what the object of perception is for sense-perception” (Paraph. 92.4). (Transl. R. Todd, 2014, 115). 17  Thus, Aristotle explicated that “there is in addition the person who is actively understanding (θεωρῶν); he understands in its full realization (ἐντελεχείᾳ) and in the strictest sense: this particular A, for example” (De Anima 2.5, 417a29–30). 18  Here is how Aristotle expounded the concept of ‘knowing like by like’: “it [senseperception] is affected while being unlike what affects it, but when it has been affected, it has been made like it and is such as what affected it is” (DA 418a5–6).

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intellect reconstitutes in itself an animated picture of reality, even though it receives from sense-perception nothing but sensible information about the characteristics of things.19 Thus, similarly to sense-perception, which transmits the logos of the sensible object, the human mind thinks the substances of things, i.e. it thinks things as indivisible entities,20 i.e. as they are in reality,21 and not as mere bunches of categorial properties. Remarkably the process of intellection has a twofold aspect that enables the human mind to retain its oneness while thinking many substances. Themistius explained: the active intellect whenever it thinks other things it thinks itself too: the intellect, when inactive, is said to have the “ἕξις” of thoughts, but when active towards one of its thoughts is at that time identical with what is being thought, and by thinking that thing thinks itself too. (Paraph 95.21).22 In view of the presented evidence, it is clear that Aristotle’s understanding of the principle of likeness in the terms of potentiality and actuality was crucial for his biological and cognitive theories. As in the case of biological likeness, a successful exercising of perceptive likeness requires certain internal and external conditions. Neither sense-perception nor intellection is possible without a mediated contact between the cognizing subject and object of cognition. Hence, in Aristotle’s view, the process of intellection, although considered a final goal of the human being, at the same time has a rather down to earth strand: it must be always active and permanently engaged in the current of the embodied reality. In Martha Nussbaum’s fine phrasing, “by saying ‘goodbye’ to Platonic forms” Aristotle distanced his philosophical position from idealism and turned to internal realism “that articulates very carefully the limits within which any realism must live.23”

19  Shields has suggested that if we accept Bywater’s (1888) conjecture to the passage “mind is a form of forms” (432a2) and read it as “mind is a form of intelligible forms,” then “we would come closer to completing the parallel with perception which follows immediately (432a2–3), since perception is said to be a ‘form of the objects of perception’” (cf.: Shields 2016, 344). 20  Cf.: “the mind thinks in an indivisible unit of time and by an indivisible mental act” (DA 430b15). 21  Cf.: DA 418a3–6; 424a17–21. 22  Transl. R. Todd, 2014, 119. 23  Cf. M.  Nussbaum, Saving Aristotle’s Appearances, in: M. Schofield / M. Nussbaum (eds.), Language and Logos, Cambridge 1982, 290–291.



For many different reasons that I am not going to describe here, though I made such an attempt elsewhere,24 certain of the Christian authors also leaned towards a realistic and sometimes even naturalistic way of philosophizing, which provided them with simple and persuasive arguments. Undoubtedly, this approach was peculiar to different philosophers belonging to different philosophical schools and should not be especially associated with the Peripatetics. Yet, in the rest of the article I am going to show that a tendency to see the process of acquiring the knowledge of God as active and reciprocal contact between the human being and God, was enabled by the principle of likeness; this tendency which, as I have shown, goes back to the Apostle Paul, subsequently reappeared in the works of Gregory Nazianzen and Maximus the Confessor, who in the development of their theories borrowed from the Peripatetic doctrine.

Gregory Nazianzen on the Primordial Arrangement of Divine and Human Cooperation

Troels Engberg-Petersen has persuasively demonstrated that Apostle Paul in his views on how to acquire the knowledge of God took advantage of the teaching of Epictetus. He maintained that both thinkers conceived of an overlap between divine agency and human agency, the first associated by him with God’s government of the world, which preconditions the generation of knowledge, the second understood by him as a human reply to the divine agency. Thus, Engberg-Petersen argued that … when human cognition grasps God’s government of the world, it stretches out towards it, thereby creating the kind of positive overlap just mentioned.25 In light of this approach, the meaning of the above cited statements of Paul from 1 Cor 13:12 and Gal 4:9 becomes clear. Paul was talking about a unique and superb human capacity of knowing God brought about by God himself, who established a principle of likeness between the human and divine natures and also embodied this principle in the human-divine nature of Christ. Thus, 24  Cf. A.  Usacheva, Knowledge, Language and Intellection from Origen to Gregory Nazianzen. A Selective Survey, Frankfurt am Main 2017, 173–195. 25  Cf. T.  Engberg-Pedersen, Cosmology and Self in the Apostle Paul. The Material Spirit. Oxford 2010, 108.

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I think, it is safe to assume that in the late antique Christian mindset, the principle of likeness is a necessary prerequisite of knowing God and consequently, of achieving the primordial goal of the human species, understood as theosis or union with God. Gregory Nazianzen esteemed the noetic teaching of Paul26 and developed it in his polemics with the Eunomians, whose rationalistic epistemology put the responsibility of acquiring knowledge about God entirely on the shoulders of the cognizing subject.27 In his turn, Gregory argued for an interactive method of acquisition of divine knowledge rooted in the nature of the human being. Like many philosophers and theologians before him, Gregory placed the principle of likeness at the foundation of his epistemological theory. He regarded likeness as a mechanism of active cooperation between the human mind and reason, on the one hand, and its divine archetype, on the other (cf. Or 28.17, cited above).28 A mind-oriented understanding of the principle of likeness imparted a cognitive overtone to Gregory’s vision of attaining divine knowledge. Interestingly, his judgement about sense-perception, mind, reason and soul generally complied with Peripatetic teaching.29 Not only did Gregory reflect 26  Cf. Gregory’s Or 28.17, where he cited 1Cor 13:12 and Gregory’s explicit references to the Apostle Paul as “the one who is not rude in knowledge (Or 28.20: ὁ μὴ ἰδιώτης τὴν γνῶσιν, 2 Cor 11:16) who threatens to give proof of Christ speaking in him (Or 28.20: ὁ δοκιμὴν ἀπειλῶν τοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ λαλοῦντος Χριστοῦ, Phil 2:22), and the great doctor and champion of the truth (Or 28.20: ὁ μέγας τῆς ἀληθείας προαγωνιστὴς καὶ διδάσκαλος)”. 27  This is how Eunomius described the way of inquiring into divine matters in his Apology: “There are two roads (δυεῖν ὁδῶν) marked out for the discovery of what we seek: one is that by which we examine the actual essences (τὰς οὐσίας αὐτὰς ἐπισκοπούμενοι) and with clear and unadulterated reasoning (τῷ περὶ αὐτῶν λόγῳ) about them make a judgement (κρίσιν) on each; the other is an inquiry by means of the actions (τῆς διὰ τῶν ἐνεργείων ἐξετάσεως), whereby we distinguish the essence on the basis of its products and completed works (ἐκ τῶν δημιουργημάτων καὶ τῶν ἀποτελεσμάτων) — and neither of the ways mentioned is able to bring out any apparent similarity of the essence [in Father and Son] (τὴν τῆς οὐσίας ὁμοιότητα)” (A 20.5–10); cited from: Eunomius, Liber Apologeticus, Apologia Apologiae, in: Vaggione, R.P. (Greek text, transl.), Eunomius The Extant Works. Oxford 1987, 59. 28  I am very grateful for Samuel Fernández’ informative remark given in discussion concerning the twofold tradition of Early Christian approach to likeness to God. Thus, some of the Christian authors, like, e.g. Irenaeus of Lyon, believed that likeness to God belongs to the flesh. Origen and his followers argued for the likeness between the human mind and God “of whom the mind is an intellectual image” (Princ. 1.1.6–8). (Cf. Orígenes, Sobre Los Principios, Intr., text. crít., trad. y not. de S. Fernández. Madrid 2015, 159 n. 37). A connoisseur of Origen’s doctrine, Gregory argued that the human mind and reason consist the image of God in man, yet he also emphasised the bodily aspect of the human intellection, hence his position was a compromise between the hitherto established traditions. 29  Gregory gave a brief outline of the chief anthropological and cognitive definitions in his Carmina moralia: “The soul is the nature, which gives and maintains life (Ψυχὴ δὲ, φύσις



Aristotelian psychology in his epistemology and anthropology, but he also applied it to his Christology.30 In other words, he hypothesized about the human nature of Christ relying on the scientific knowledge about the human being that was in his possession. Gregory’s excellent and rather broad education is a well-known fact. Twice in his third theological oration he betrayed his sources: he explicitly mentions two of Aristotle’s biological treatises, namely The History of Animals and On Generation (τὰς τῶν ζώων γενέσεις; τῆς περὶ ζώων ἱστορίας, Or 31.10). Gregory’s circle was likewise interested in the natural sciences. His beloved brother Caesarius was a renowned physician, his friend Basil devoted special attention to studies of nature and founded one of the first Christian hospitals near Caesarea,31 and his correspondent Themistius, whom Gregory praised many times in his works, was a Peripatetic philosopher and author of many commentaries on Aristotelian treatises (inter alia, on the Parva naturalia; the Suda also mentions his epitome of the Physics, in eight books). No wonder that in such environment Gregory was himself tolerably well-versed in the contemporary cognitive and anthropological definitions debated by members of the philosophical and medical schools. More interesting, however, is that having taken advantage of philosophical cognitive theories, Gregory modelled his account of the process of knowing Christ on the process of intellection. In such a way, Gregory maintained a primordial likeness between the human mind and body and the mind and body of Christ. Gregory asserted that following the direction of the “νοῦς” of Christ the human being can actualise his potential and take up the path to his final goal, i.e. becoming like God. In the Oration 32, after a brief description of the functions of eye, foot, tongue, ear, nose and hand, Gregory asserted: ζωτικὴ, φέρουσά τε); as for mine soul [sic. the human soul], it is commingled with reason and mind (Λόγος δὲ καὶ νοῦς τῇ γ’ ἐμῇ συνεκράθη); Mind is the internal and indescribable sight (Νοῦς δ’ ἔστιν ὄψις ἔνδον, οὐ περίγραφος); The function of mind is intellection and [the capacity to be] enformed (Νοῦ δ’ ἔργον, ἡ νόησις, ἐκτύπωμά τε); reason is the search for intelligible forms (Λόγος δ’ ἔρευνα τῶν νοὸς τυπωμάτων), which you pronounce by your speech organs (Ὃν ἐκλαλήσεις ὀργάνοις φωνητικοῖς); sense-perception is a kind of reception of the external (Αἴσθησίς ἐστιν εἰσδοχή τις ἔκτοθεν)” (Moral 947.10–948.1, transl. mine, Greek text from: Migne, J.-P. (ed.), Patrologiae cursus completus (series Graeca), MPG 35. Paris 1857–1866). 30  Cf.: Mind (νοῦς) and sense-perception (αἴσθησις), thus distinguished from each other, had held their own definitions (τῶν ἰδίων ὅρων ἐντὸς), and bore in themselves the magnificence of the Creator-Word (Or 38.11); cf: Gregorius Nazianzenus, In theophania (orat. 38), in: J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus (series Graeca), MPG 36, Paris 1857–1866, 312–333. 31  Cf. V.  Nutton, Ancient Medicine, London 2004, 307.

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The mind directs them all (νοῦς δὲ τοῖς πᾶσιν ἡγεμὼν) since it is the source of sensory perception (παρ’ οὗ τὸ αἰσθάνεσθαι) and the locus to which sense impressions are channeled (εἰς ὃν ἡ αἴσθησις): so it is with us as well, as with the common body of Christ (οὕτω καὶ παρ’ ἡμῖν, τῷ κοινῷ Χριστοῦ σώματι).32 (Or 32.10). It is clear from this passage that Gregory saw no physiological difference between the cognitive functions and processes of Jesus Christ and those of other men. Remarkably, in his fourth theological oration Gregory explicitly called Christ a mediator (sc. ὁ μεσίτης) between God and man, who “continues to wear the body which he assumed (μετὰ τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν)” (Or 30.14). We remember that in the Aristotelian account the processes of perception and intellection are mediated, the first by the organ of sense and the second by the human mind, and that the sense organ acts as a charioteer of the logos of the sensible object, while the human mind actualises in itself the form of the thing. This means that whether in the process of perception or in the process of intellection, the act of mediation practically is operated by the human being (in c­ ollaboration with the sensible object). Now, if bearing this in mind we look at Gregory’s theory, we see that Christ both theoretically and bodily accomplished the act of mediation, hence it is left to the human being to imitate him and to bodily partake in him thereby realising the final goal of the human species. Gregory argued that as the divine logos Christ bears the nature of God33 and as an embodied human being — he recapitulates in himself all creation as the ever-active form of all forms.34 32  Gregorius Nazianzen, De moderatione in disputando (orat. 32), in: Migne, J.-P. (ed.), Patrologiae cursus completus (series Graeca), MPG 36, Paris 1857–1866. Transl.: Gregory of Nazianzus, Select Orations, transl. M. Vinson. Washington 2003. 33  In such a way, Gregory specified that Christ is fully and essentially God and shares all the basic characteristics of God the Father: “an equality of nature and a union of mind, and an identity of motion, and a convergence of its elements to unity (ἣν φύσεως ὁμοτιμία συνίστησι, καὶ γνώμης σύμπνοια, καὶ ταὐτότης κινήσεως, καὶ πρὸς τὸ ἓν τῶν ἐξ αὐτοῦ σύννευσις)” (Or 29.2). 34  Gregory argued that every created thing takes its origin and formal cause in Christ; importantly he outlined that “of all these things the Word was given once, but the action is continuous even now (ὧν ἅπαξ μὲν ὁ λόγος ὑπέστη, συνεχὴς δὲ καὶ νῦν ἡ ἐνέργεια)” (Or 30.11). In this context, I cannot help citing Areyh Kosman, whose enlightening interpretation of Aristotle’s concept of “νοῦς ποιητικός” helped me to understand the idea of Gregory. Kosman associated “νοῦς ποιητικός” with the divine mind, i.e. “a being whose ‘οὐσία is ἐνέργεια’ (DA 3.5, 430a18; Met 12.6, 1071b20). For, — Kosman continued, — just as light is (though in a special sense) most visible, and thus the source of seeing and therefore of visibility, so is the divine most thinkable and thus the source of thinking and therefore



Of course, Gregory did not invent this Christology: it is found already in the Apostle Paul (cf. Eph 1:10). What characterizes Gregory’s concept is that he, maybe unconsciously and not deliberately, linked Pauline theory to Aristotelian teaching about the processes of intellection and perception. Therefore, I believe that when Maximus the Confessor in his Ambigua to John added an unmistakably Aristotelian flavour to Gregory’s theological orations, he was close to the mark set by Gregory. In such a way, in explication of paragraph 17 of the second theological speech, which I cited at the beginning of this article, Maximus made the following observation: For by virtue of the fact that all things have their being from God, they participate in God in a manner appropriate and proportionate to each, whether by intellect, by reason, by sensation, by vital motion, or by some essential faculty or habitual fitness, according to the great theologian, Dionysius the Areopagite.35 … It follows, then, that each of the intellective and rational beings, whether angels or men, insofar as it has been created in accordance with the logos that exists in and with God, is and is called a “portion of God,” precisely because of that logos, which, as we said, pre-exists in God. If such a being moves according to its logos, it comes to be in God in whom its logos of being pre-exists — as its Origin and Cause. As long as it “wishes and yearns to know nothing apart from its own origin, it does not flow” away from God, but rather, in its upward movement towards God, it becomes God and is said to be a “portion” of God through its proper mode of participation in God, because, according to nature, wisely and rationally, and through a properly ordered movement, it attains its own origin and cause, having nowhere else to be moved besides its own beginning, or beyond the ascent and restoration to the logos according to which it was created, nor any other way of being

of thinkability; light is never in the dark, and God is always, as we know, busy thinking” (cf. Kosman 2014, 131). 35  In a footnote to this line Constas, the editor and translator of the Ambigua referred to Pseudo-Dionysius, DN 1.5: “All things long for the transcendent goodness: the intelligent and rational long for it by way of knowledge, the things beneath them by way of perception, and the remainder by way of their vital or essential movement, or according to what is habitually fitting for them” (cf.: Maximos the Confessor, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, vol. 1, ed. and transl. by N. Constas, London 2014, 481). This statement of Dionysius makes me think of the opening paragraph of the Metaphysics, where Aristotle famously affirmed that everybody by nature desires to know, and then classified the intellective and perceptive animals, etc.

6. The Contact Theories of Epistemology


moved, since its movement toward the divine goal clearly takes as its final limit the divine goal itself. (AmbJn 7.16–17, 1080b–c).36 What strikes me as most intriguing in this passage is that Maximus clearly viewed the final goal as the determinant of life, which is potentially capable of making a creature function properly, and thereby fulfilling its life-task. In other words, the final goal in this system is something that is always in becoming, rather than something that can be once and forever achieved. This interactive and also, if I may say so, biological vision of the final goal implies that all the creatures involved in the stream of life by virtue of their existence are said to be in certain relations with their primordial destination, which fixes the settings of their mind, body and the surrounding environment. As regards the human being, his pursuit of the final goal (i.e. to know God) is considered in this theory as a bodily practice, which requires not only a mental longing for the final goal but also certain particular bodily states and behavior. It is implied in this concept that the “healthy” surrounding environment is almost as important for the process of thinking as preservation of a proper mental and bodily state. Gregory explicitly remarked that the human mind is not limited by the human body, it is “something dwelling in another (τὸν ἐν ἄλλῳ)” (Or 28.13); it thinks the intelligible forms of the things and hence it is stretched outside of its bodily limits to the surrounding environment.37 The theological rationale of this attention to the bodily and environmental strands of the process of intellection is quite obvious. If human likeness to God can be actualized by actual partaking in the mind of Christ, which determines not only the physiology of human cognition but also the formal and final goals of every creature, it seems logical that the human noetic contact with God implies a special interaction with the whole universe. This chain of thoughts points in the direction of monastic literature, where these ideas had been lately developed but I am not going to touch upon it here. Yet, I would 36  Cf. Maximos the Confessor, The Ambigua, transl. Constas, 2014, 97–99. 37  In this respect, it should be noted that Gregory expressed his approval of the concept of an external or separable mind, which is a characteristic Aristotelian notion (cf.: “Χωριστὸς δὲ λέγεται ὁ θύραθεν νοῦς,” Aristocles, Fragm., fr. 4.138). He asserted that some “most theological men amongst Hellenes (Ἑλλήνων δὲ οἱ θεολογικώτεροι)” have rightly denoted the name of God when they called him “the external mind (τὸν θύραθεν νοῦν)” [second quotation marks missing] (Or 31.5). Alexander of Aphrodisias explicated the concept of the external mind by saying that the immortal intellect only comes to be in humans from outside and that it is not itself a part or disposition of the human soul (DA 90.23–91.4; cf. In many cases Gregory attested an agreement even about some crucial matters. For instance, [words missing? Sense unclear] Transl.: Alexander of Aphrodisias, On the Soul, Part 1, transl., intr., comm. V. Caston, London / New York 2012, 108).



like to note in passing that it seems likely that Gregory’s vision of the process of intellection and attaining the knowledge of God was one of the factors that stimulated in certain later Christian authors an interest in the physiology of human cognition.38 As for Gregory himself, his interest in cognitive issues was clearly aroused by the historical necessity of polemics with the Eunomians and with Apollinaris. Thus, in reaction to Apollinaris’ interpretation of the famous Pauline saying from 1 Cor 2:16, “we have the ‘νοῦς’ of Christ”, Gregory in his second letter to Cledonius, affirmed: They who have purified their mind by the imitation of the mind which the Saviour took of us (οἱ τὸν ἑαυτῶν νοῦν καθήραντες μιμήσει τοῦ νοὸς ἐκείνου, ὃν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ὁ Σωτὴρ ἀνεδέξατο,), and, as far as may be, have attained conformity with it, are said to have the mind of Christ (πρὸς αὐτὸν ῥυθμίζοντες, ὡς ἐφικτόν, οὗτοι νοῦν Χριστοῦ ἔχειν λέγονται); just as they might be testified to have the flesh of Christ who have trained their flesh, and in this respect have become of the same body and partakers of Christ (ὡς καὶ σάρκα Χριστοῦ μαρτυρηθεῖεν ἂν ἔχειν ἐκεῖνοι οἱ τὴν σάρκα παιδαγωγήσαντες καὶ σύσσωμοι καὶ συμμέτοχοι Χριστοῦ κατὰ τοῦτο γενόμενοι), as so he says “As we have born the image of earth, we shall also bear the image of heaven” (Ὡς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, οὕτω, φησί, φορέσομεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου). (Ep 102.10–11=PG 37.332). In a similar vein with Apostle Paul Gregory supported the concept of a permanently interactive attaining of the knowledge of God, which he considered not as an individual achievement but as a collaborative and biologically conditioned process. Maximus the Confessor developed this approach to the extent that in his explanation of Gregory’s assertion that “the image shall ascend to its archetype” (Or 28.17) he claimed that not only does man bear the likeness to God but that: God and man are paradigms of each other, so that as much as man, enabled by love, has divinized himself for God, to that same extent God is humanized for man by His love for mankind; and as much as man has manifested God who is invisible by nature through the virtues (ὁ ἄνθρωπος τὸν ἀόρατον φύσει Θεὸν διὰ τῶν ἀρετῶν ἐφανέρωσεν), to that same extent

38  E.g., Gregory of Nyssa, Nemesius of Emesa, Maximus the Confessor.

6. The Contact Theories of Epistemology


man is rapt by God in mind to the unknowable (ὑπὸ Θεοῦ τὸν ἄνθρωπον κατὰ νοῦν ἁρπάζεσθαι πρὸς τὸ ἄγνωστον). (AmbJn 10.9, 1113b–c).39 Maximus’ exegesis of Gregorian theology received a remarkable appreciation in the Byzantine times. Some of the Byzantine manuscripts with Nazianzen’s orations contain anonymous marginal notes taken from the texts of Maximus. For instance, fol. 69v (et al.) of the Vaticanus Greacus 475 (paleographically dated to the 9th century), entitled in the pinax as Γρηγορίυ τοῦ Ναζιάνζου λόγοι μετὰ σχόλιων σποραδίω, has explanations of the oration three (De pace) excerpted from Maximus’ Ambigua ad Thomam 1.10–38. The manuscript contains a curious system of classification of notations. Some of the notes are marked in margins with ΑΝΑΓΚΑΙΟΝ (must know), ΣΗΜΕΙ (note down), ΟΡΑ (see), ΣΥΝΟΙΔΑ (known), ΟΙΜΑΙ (I know), etc. In such a way, several scribes and scholars, who worked with this manuscript left the traces of their profound studies of Gregory’s orations and the scholia on them. Thus, it is accurate to say that Byzantine readers were inclined to look at Gregory’s theology through the prism of his commentators, which in the case of Maximus had a strong Aristotelian flavour. Conclusion Aristotelian biology and epistemology offered a particular way of looking at the principle of likeness through the prism of potentiality and actuality. In this system, the idea of an active mediated contact and cooperation between the subject and object of perception and intellection played a very important role. Whilst I do not claim that Gregory closely followed Aristotelian teaching about perception and intellection to the extent that he had in mind the notion of μεσότης when talking about Christ as μεσίτης, I nevertheless think that there can be no doubt that he made use of Aristotelian concepts of the human soul, mind, reason, imagination and perception, the final goal, and the principle of likeness understood in the terms of potentiality-actuality. Gregory incorporated these notions in his comprehensive theory about the primordially determined process of divine-human cooperation based upon constant and embodied noetic activity. A comparable attention to the bodily states and environmental conditions as determinatives of the process of intellection understood as active, practical and embodied interaction between the agents tied to one another by their inherent likeness, features not only ancient but also 39  Cf. Maximos the Confessor, The Ambigua, transl. Constas, 2014, 163.



some of the modern epistemological theories. Even though this analogy has little to do with a deliberate pursuit of ancient concepts, it nonetheless gives us an insight into the subconscious background and a tricky reception history of the European thought. Thus, rooted in the teaching of Apostle Paul, Gregory’s thought contained a number of paradigmatic nuances of Aristotelian epistemology. This theory of Gregory’s was subsequently developed in an interesting way in Maximus’ teaching, where attention to the functions and states of the human mind, body and its surrounding environment was particularly animate and practical. Thus, Maximus had no hesitation in applying Aristotelian vocabulary and concepts along with certain other advanced scientific and philosophical sources in his reading of Gregory’s theological orations and in elaborating his views.

Institutional Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse

Catechetical Exegesis: Cyril of Jerusalem’s Use of Biblical Exegesis in His Catechetical Lectures Anders Christian Jacobsen Abstract The present article will examine the catechetical exegesis found in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem by focusing on his employment of biblical quotations and references to explain certain theological themes in the inaugural lections of his catechetical and mystagogical lectures. His use of the inaugural lection, which was read aloud prior to lecturing, probably stems from the normal praxis of ecclesial services. The article will examine the use of Isa 1:16 in the first catechetical lecture, 1Pet 1:13 in the first of the mystagogical lectures, and Rom 6:3–14 in the second mystagogical lecture. The question of the audience of the catechetical and mystagogical lectures will also be addressed. It is evident that Cyril’s audience would have required a certain facility with the Bible in order to understand the intensive use of biblical quotations in these lectures. Introduction Many questions could be asked and answered under this heading: which biblical texts does Cyril use to explain which theological themes? Which exegetical methods does he employ? How are quotations and references introduced? What is their function: examples, proof-texts or? Do the quoted/referenced biblical texts come mainly from the Old Testament or the New? Are there any favorite biblical texts or themes? etc. This article, however, will take a different track. I will focus on Cyril’s use of inaugural lections as preludes to his lectures.1

1  For general introductions to Cyril’s exegesis and use of the Bible, see E. Yarnold, Cyril of Jerusalem, London 2000, 56–58; P. Jackson, Cyril of Jerusalem’s use of Scripture in Catechesis, TS 52, Boston College 1991.

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_008



Cyril and His Catechetical and Mystagogical Lectures

Cyril was probably born in or near Jerusalem. His first ecclesiastical appointment was as deacon in the congregation in Jerusalem sometime between 330 and 335. He was appointed bishop in the same congregation around 350.2 Cyril’s catechetical and mystagogical lectures were delivered in the mid fourth-century in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, where he served as bishop. The lectures are divided into three groups: the pro-catechesis (P), which is an introductory lecture preceding the inscription for baptism; the 18 catechetical lectures (C) held after the inscription, but prior to baptism; and the five mystagogical lectures (M), held after baptism.3 It has been debated for centuries whether Cyril is, or is not, the author of the Mystagogical Catecheses. Both Yarnold and Doval have concluded that Cyril is the genuine author of both the catechetical and mystagogical lectures.4 For my part, I think they are correct. I will return to this question later on.5

Introductory Lections Preceding each Lecture

We find biblical lections serving as introductions to the 18 catechetical lectures and the five mystagogical lectures, but not the pro-catechetical lecture. This implies that Cyril considered the pro-catechetical lecture to be of a different character than the catechetical and mystagogical lectures. The custom of beginning speeches with lections from the Bible is well known from the sermonic tradition, and was practiced long before Cyril delivered his catechetical lectures. Two questions arise: first, what is the difference between the procatechetical lecture and the catechetical and mystagogical lectures? Second, are the so-called catechetical and mystagogical lectures in fact sermons? The probable answer to the first question is that the pro-catechetical lecture was an introductory speech, independent of the catechetical process itself. To answer the second question, we must look at Cyril’s terminology. He uses the 2  Concerning Cyril’s life, see A.-C. Jacobsen Cyril of Jerusalem in: Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online, 2018.; Yarnold 2000, 3–4. P. van Nuffelen, The Career of Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 348–87): A Reassessment, in: JThS 58 (2007), 134– 146, (136) argues that Cyril was appointed as bishop already in 348. 3  A.J.  Doval, Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagoge: The Authorship of the Mystagogic Catecheses, Washington DC 2001, 1; Yarnold 2000, 22–23. 4  Doval, 2001, 2–8; Yarnold, 2000, 23–25. 5  Concerning Cyril’s corpus, see Jacobsen 2018.

7. Catechetical exegesis


term κατηχησις, with the additions προ, μυσταγωγικη, to designate the first catechetical lecture (the pro-catechetical lecture) and the last five catechetical lectures (the mystagogical lectures) respectively. He does not use ὁμῑλία (sermon) or διάλεξις (lecture). This could indicate that Cyril thought of his catechetical lectures as something other than traditional sermons or philosophical/theological lectures, even if they shared things in common with both genres: introductory biblical lections and location (the church), with sermons, and a prominent educational dimension, with lectures. However, I continue to use the standard English designation ‘catechetical lectures’, because, in the Anglosphere, ‘catechesis’ usually connotes more than a catechetical speech, naming the whole catechetical endeavor as such. The introductory lections are taken from both the Old Testament and the New. Nine readings are taken from the Old Testament, all of which are found in the catechetical lectures; fourteen lections are taken from the New Testament. In the following paragraphs, I will analyze some examples drawn from the introductory lectures to see how Cyril uses them in his catechetical instruction.

The First Catechetical Lecture

The first catechetical lecture opens with a lection from Isaiah: “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds of your souls, from before my eyes, [and the rest]”6. The quotation is from Isa 1:16. “The rest” presumably means the rest of chapter 1, which is comprised of 31 verses. We should thus assume that Cyril, or a reader, has read the whole passage from Isa 1:16–31 in advance of the first catechetical lecture. Why did he choose this text, and why did he not read it from the beginning but only from verse 16? The first part of chapter 1 features the opening of Isaiah’s critique of Juda and Jerusalem, who have turned away from their father, the Holy of Israel (v. 4). For this reason, they are punished severely, being wounded all over their bodies. The Lord, we read, is tired of their animal sacrifices and their festivals; he rather desires their repentance and renewal. This is expressed in Isa 1:16: “Wash you, make you clean; put away your iniquities from your souls, from before my eyes, …”. Verse 16 is thus a turning point, 6  “Λούσασθε, καθαροὶ γίνεσθε. ἀφέλετε τὰς πονηρίας ἀπὸ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν, ἀπέναντι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν μου, καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς” (C1.1). Be aware that “and the rest” is not translated in McCauley, but is found in the original text. Here and in the following the original Greek text of Cyril’s works is from W.C. Reischl / J. Rupp, Cyrilli Hierosolymorum archiepiscopi opera quae supersunt omnia, 2 volume, Munich: Lentner, 1:1848; 2:1860 (repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1967): 1:28–320; 2:2–342. The English translation of Cyril’s works is from L. P. McCauley / A. A. Stephenson, St. Cyril of Jerusalem Works, Volume 1–2, Washington D.C. 1969–1970.



where the Lord expresses what he wants his children to do: to wash themselves clean and leave their injustices behind; to act justly and reestablish justice in the country; to help the oppressed, take care of the orphans and widows etc. (v. 16). If they comply with his desires, the Lord will take his children back, and forgive them (v. 18–19). If not, he will destroy them by the sword (v. 20–31). It seems clear why Cyril would decide to begin the lection from Isa 1:16: namely, to accentuate the turning point, the conversion from the old life to the new.7 Baptism represents just such a conversion. An old life is left behind; a new begins. The rest of the chapter proceeds to explain which blessings will follow if the catechumens make this turnaround (v. 18–19), and which punishments will follow if they do not (v. 20–31). The call to conversion is followed by incentivizing threats and promises. Notably, in the Book of Isaiah the threats outnumber the promises. Does Cyril’s first catechetical lecture imitate the form and content of 1:16–31? This seems to be the case. From the outset, he addresses the turnaround that the catechumens are about to initiate. He addresses them as disciples of the New Testament and partakers of the mysteries of Christ (the sacraments), but only ‘by calling’. The catechumens stand at a crucial turning point. They have announced their decision to turn their lives around by inscribing for baptism8, but they have not yet completed the turn. The situation of the catechumens closely reflects Isa 1:16. To underline this existential crux, Cyril cites another admonition, this time from Ezra 18:31: “make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit ”9. What will this renewal entail? Cyril explains by referring to Luke 15:7: those in heaven will be glad. According to Luke 15:7, these celestial inhabitants rejoice whenever a single person repents; how much happier will they be when a host of sinners repent/convert? By way of a new biblical citation, Cyril introduces a new sub-theme: the close connection between heavenly happiness and conversion. That said, he never loses track of the main theme of his lecture: the catechumens’ turnaround. This is also the case in the next sentence, where Cyril introduces ‘the race’ as an image of the path which catechumens have chosen (cf. Paul 1 Cor 9:24). After this digression, he returns to the main text from Isaiah, announcing that the only begotten son of God is most ready to redeem you (C 1.1). This is a direct reference to Isa 1:18 where the Lord 7  Concerning the focus on conversion and identity formation in Cyril of Jerusalem’s catechetical and mystagogical lectures, see A.-C. Jacobsen, Identity Formation through Catechetical Teaching in Early Christianity in: B. Bøgh (ed.), Conversion and Initiation in Antiquity. Shifting Identities — Creating Change, ECCA 16, Frankfurt 2014, 203–224. 8  Concerning the catechumens’ decision to convert / turn around, see the pre-catechetical lecture. 9  “καρδίαν ἑαυτοῖς ποιήσατε καινὴν, καὶ πνεῦμα καινὸν” (C 1.1).

7. Catechetical exegesis


states that he is ready to forgive the people, despite their sins being red as scarlet. This statement of God’s willingness to redeem those who repent and turn around is substantiated by another quote from the Bible, this time from Matt 11:28: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest”10. Again, Cyril broadens the perspective by quoting laterally from Scripture. He then turns to a description of the catechumens’ old condition, which they are about to forsake: “Clothed as you are in the rough garment of your offenses, who ‘held fast in the meshes of your own sins’,…”11 (C 1.1). The italicized part of the sentence is a reference to Proverbs 5:22: “The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast” 12. Being in this condition, the catechumens are urged to wash themselves clean so as to purge their sins. This exhortation is expressed by quoting the central verse 16 from the introductory lection of Isaiah, chapter one. Cyril maintains his focus. Next comes an underlining of the promise of salvation; this is accomplished by revisiting the theme of the angels in heaven who rejoice over the repentant. This time the angels sing a quote from Paul: “Happy they whose faults are taken away, whose sins are covered ” 13 (Ps 31:1). Cyril closes the first part of the first lecture with yet another exhortation to the catechumens, this time to protect their new-lit torches of faith. In so doing “He, who of old here on all-holy Golgotha opened up Paradise to the robber because of his faith, may grant you grace to sing the bridal song”14 (C 1.1). In this short half-sentence Cyril manages to include an interpretation of Christ’s death on Golgotha as the re-opening of paradise. This salvific event had taken place at the exact spot where the catechumens were receiving catechesis from Cyril. The location is important.15 Paradise was re-opened to the robber (cf. Luke 23:43), and the catechumens, standing on Golgotha listening to Cyril, found themselves in the same position; if they would only repent and preserve their torches of faith, they would, so they were told, enter into paradise. Here, they would be allowed to sing the bridal song (cf. Song of Songs). Such nuptial imagery often recurs in Cyril’s lectures. 10  “Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς” (C 1.1). 11  “Οἱ τὸ χαλεπὸν τῶν πταισμάτων ἠμφιεσμένοι, καὶ σειραῖς τῶν οἰκείων ἁμαρτιῶν ἐσφιγμένοι” (C 1.1). 12  Prov. 5:22 (New International Translation). 13  “Δε Μακάριοι ὧν ἀφέθησαν αἱ ἀνομίαι, καὶ ὧν ἐπεκαλύφθησαν αἱ ἁμαρτίαι” (C 1.1). 14  “ὁ τῷ λῃστῆ τότε τὸν παράδεισον ἐν τῷ παναγίῳ τούτῳ Γολγοθᾷ διὰ τὴν πίστιν ἀνοίξας, τὸ νυμφικὸν ὑμῖν ᾆσαι παράσχοι μέλος” (C 1.1). 15  Cyril often states in his lectures that he is teaching and preaching in Jerusalem at the very spot (Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified, killed, and resurrected, cf. Jacobsen 2018. S. Kalleres, Cultivitating True Sight at the Center of the World: Cyril of Jerusalem and the Lenten Catechumenate, in: Church History 74/3 (2005), 431–459.



In C 1.2 Cyril continues the theme of the catechumen’s transition from the old life in sin to the new, described as a birth into freedom. The thematic focus thus remains the same, but there are no direct quotations from Isaiah chapter 1. On the other hand, new sub-themes are introduced by way of new biblical texts. Most prominent is the theme of baptism as a new birth, building on John 3:1–8, and the theme of putting off the old man and putting on the new, building on Eph 4:22–24 and Col 3:9–10. The putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new is in continuity with the washing-theme from Isa 1:16. What should be put off is described as the ‘ignoble bondage of his sins’16, and what should be put on is described as the ‘blessed bondage of the Lord’17, the latter being a reference to Matthew 11:29–30. The new thing to be put on is also described as ‘the pledge of the Holy Spirit’18 (2 Cor 1:22) and as the ‘everlasting tabernacles’19 (Luke 16:9). Rebirth through baptism is granted by the grace of God. This picks up on Isa 1:18–19, where the Lord says that he is willing to take away the sins of the people if they repent. The new birth is not a birth of bodies, but of souls. The paragraph ends with a threat, this time expressed by references to Matt 25: those who continue wearing the rough garments of their sins will be found on the left hand of Christ, while those who are reborn will hear the words well done, good and faithful servant (Mt 25:2120). Again, Cyril adopts the form of Isaiah chapter one. Following the call to repentance and the promise of benefit for those who do, he ends with a long passage threatening those who do not (Isa 1:20–31). C 1.3 concentrates on a specific aspect of Christian conversion: the conversion, or turnaround, must be serious. If it is not, the Lord who searches hearts and reins21 (Ps 7:10) will find out, and reject the imposter. This is justified by a reference to Mt 7:6, which says that the holy is not given to dogs. Following the basic structure of ‘promise-threat’, Cyril adds two short references to the Bible to underline his point. That conversion must be serious was already a prominent theme in the pro-catechesis, where Cyril warned those about to be inscribed for baptism not to do so for unserious reasons, such as being in love with a Christian (P 5). C 1.4 continues the conversion theme. First, Cyril mentions the spiritual equipment a catechumen receives upon baptism: a new spiritual shield, a new name, and participation in the holy wine. The old-new scheme is strong, 16  “τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν κακίστην δουλείαν” (C 1.2). 17  “τὴν δὲ τοῦ Κυρίου μακαριωτάτην δουλείαν” (C 1.2). 18  “Τὸν ἀῤῥαβῶνα τοῦ Πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου” (C 1.2). 19  “τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς” (C 1.2). 20  New International Version. 21  “διὰ τὸν ἐτάζοντα καρδίας καὶ νεφρούς” (C 1.3).

7. Catechetical exegesis


continuing the structure of Isaiah chapter 1. In this section, Cyril introduces a new theme to illustrate his point and establish connections to the Bible. This time he uses imagery of planting and cultivating. The catechumen is, he suggests, in the process of being transplanted, i.e. being grafted from wild olivetrees into spiritual olive-trees. This is a blatant reference to Paul (Rom 11:17–24). In the same way, the catechumen will be made partaker of the holy wine. This, of course, is a reference to the Eucharist, of which catechumens can partake only once they have been baptized (cf. M 4). Partaking in the Eucharist, they partake in Christ himself. Cyril takes this one step further by using another reference to the Bible; namely, John 15:1–8, which talks about Christians as branches of the true vine, i.e. Christ. Those ‘branches’ who remain in Christ will grow and bring fruit. Those who do not remain in Christ will be cut off and burned. The same fate befell the Gospel fig-tree that carried no fruit (cf. Matt 21:19). Cyril desires that all catechumens be able to quote Ps 51:10: “I, like a green olive tree in the house of God [I have trusted in the mercy of God for ever]” 22 . Sticking with the gardening imagery, Cyril closes the paragraph with an opaque reference to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” 23. (1 Cor 3:6). In Cyril’s version this becomes: “While it rests with him to plant and to water, it is your part to bring forth fruit” 24. This shows that Cyril does not hesitate to make creative use of biblical texts, or perhaps that his own language is so influenced by the biblical lexicon that he does so unconsciously. Paragraph 5 is unusually meagre in terms of biblical quotations/references. The main theme of change continues in C 1.5, but with an added emphasis on the confession of sins. The catechumens have now entered the final period of 40 days before baptism. This is an opportunity for them to turn their backs on the old by confessing their sins. Isa 1:18–19 can be detected in the background. The urgency of confession is underlined by what might be an altered quote from 2 Cor 6:2: “confess at the accepted time, and on the day of salvation” 25. In the New International Translation, 2 Cor 6:2 runs like this: “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”. Except for this altered reference there is only one direct quote from Ps 45:11: “Be still, and know that I am God”. This quotation supports an admonition to spend the next 40 days in 22  “Ἐγὼ δὲ ὡσεὶ ἐλαία κατάκαρπος ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ [ἤλπισα ἐπὶ τὸ ἔλεος τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα]” (C 1.4). “I have trusted in the mercy of God for ever” is not translated by L. P. McCauley but by the author himself. 23  New International Version. 24  “Αὐτοῦ μὲν οὖν ἐστι τὸ καταφυτεῦσαι καὶ τὸ ποτίσαι, σὸν δὲ τὸ καρποφορῆσαι” (C 1.4). 25  “ἐξομολόγησαι ἐν καιρῷ δεκτῷ· καὶ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ σωτηρίας” (C 1.5).



prayer, ascetic exercises, etc. in order to prepare for baptism. At the end of the paragraph there appear to be two indirect references to Scripture: one to Paul’s image of ‘running the race’ (1 Cor 9:24) and the other to Matt 25:14–30 (the parable of the bags of gold). In C 1.6, the final paragraph, Cyril concludes with a firm reminder that God’s forgiveness demands that we also forgive. This theme is introduced with an allusion to Matt 5:23. The theme is taken further by a more direct reference to Matt 18:23–35, viz. the parable of the unmerciful servant. The point is clear: if a catechumen wants to be forgiven by God, they must themselves be prepared to forgive. To use the categories introduced above, this initial part of the last paragraph contains the ‘threat’, which should steer the catechumen toward the right track. The last part of the paragraph presents the ‘promise’ in the comforting words of Ps 23:1–3: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul” 26. Finally, Cyril includes the catechumens in the group of people whom Christ presents to God in the words of Hebrews 2:13: “Behold, I and my children whom God has given Me” 27. Thus, Cyril ends his first catechetical lecture on a positive note. This departs from the rhetoric of Isa. 1, which ends with a catalog of threats. From our reading of Cyril’s first catechetical lecture, it is clear that he revolves around a main theme, established from the outset by the lection from Isaiah chapter 1. Throughout the lecture, he uses other biblical quotations/ references as a way of substantiating the main theme and introducing subthemes. These subthemes do not disturb the focus, but rather sharpen it. The lecture thus ends up being a tight-knit weaving together of biblical quotations and references. This proves Cyril’s intimate knowledge of the Bible, and raises a question about his audience: were they able to follow this subtle use of biblical quotations/references? If so, then where did they receive such knowledge of the Bible? If, not, then why does Cyril use the Bible so actively in his teaching? I will try to answer these questions below.

The First Mystagogical Lecture

I will now look at another example, this time from the mystagogical lectures; I have chosen the first of these (M 1). The first mystagogical lecture seems to correspond to the first catechetical lecture (C 1), the difference being that the 26  “Κύριος ποιμαίνει με, καὶ οὐδέν με ὑστερήσει· εἰς τόπον χλόης ἐκεῖ με κατεσκήνωσεν, ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως ἐξέθρεψέ με· τὴν ψυχήν μου ἐπέστρεψεν” (C 1.6). 27  “Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ καὶ τὰ παιδία, ἅ μοι ἔδωκεν ὁ Θεός” (C 1.6).

7. Catechetical exegesis


catechumens’ experience of the mysteries, now open to them, is taken into consideration. The lecture is introduced by a reading from 1 Pet 1:13 that runs to the end of the epistle. The chapter heading says: “With a Lesson from Peter’s First Catholic Epistle, Beginning, ‘Be sober, be watchful’, to the End”28. Again, we must ask why Cyril has chosen this particular text, why he begins the reading from verse 13, and why he continues to read the entire letter. The first part of 1 Peter chapter 1 includes an inaugural greeting to the addressees of the letter (1 Pet 1:1–2), a praise of God for the hope he creates in Christ (1 Pet 1:3–9), and a short remark about the prophets’ words concerning such hope (1 Pet 1:10–12). Apparently, this part of the letter does not speak to Cyril’s immediate purpose: exhorting the newly baptized to remain vigilant and keep from lapsing into sin. The theme of interest to Cyril begins in verse 13, with Peter’s call to vigilance. This mirrors the use of Isa 1:16 in the first catechetical lecture: “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds of your souls, from before my eyes”29. In the first catechetical lecture, Cyril was urging catechumens to cleanse their sins prior to baptism. Now, in the wake of baptism, he urges them to stay vigilant so as to avoid reverting into their old sinful life. Peter’s first letter is, from 1:13 until the end, full of exhortations and instructions about how to live as Christians. It therefore seems an apt introduction to the first mystagogical lecture. As with the first catechetical lecture, I will proceed to analyze how the introductory lection is used throughout the sermon. In the first paragraph (M 1.1) we do not find any references to the introductory lection, or indeed any other biblical texts. This is likely due to the fact that Cyril is simply setting the scene for the following lectures in this paragraph. It is the first time he speaks to those who have just crossed the border from being catechumens to being baptized Christians. In the following lectures he will explain this transition by explaining what happens when the rituals of baptism and Eucharist take hold. In paragraph two, Cyril explains the first element of the baptismal ritual: the catechumens enter the vestibule of the baptistery, where they are told to turn their faces westward and stretch forth their hand to denounce Satan, who belongs to the dark, western regions. This denouncing of Satan forms the core of the first part of the ritual. Having described this element, Cyril introduces a reference to the Bible, but it is not the introductory lection. Instead, he 28  “Καὶ ἀνάγνωσις ἐκ τῆς Πέτρου ἐπιστολῆς αʹ καθολικῆς, ἀπὸ τοῦ· Νήψατε, γρηγορήσατε, ἕως τέλους τῆς ἐπιστολῆς” (M 1). Furthermore, the original text has “τέλους τῆς ἐπιστολῆς” instead of just “the End” as the English translation writes. 29  “Λούσασθε, καθαροὶ γίνεσθε. ἀφέλετε τὰς πονηρίας ἀπὸ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν, ἀπέναντι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν μου” (C 1.1).



references Satan’s role in the enslavement of the Hebrews, and recapitulates their salvation by Moses. Cyril addresses two specific points in the Exodus story; namely, the marking of the Hebrews’ doorposts with the blood of lambs (Ex 12:21–23), and the crossing of the Red Sea. The Hebrews crossed easily because the waters made way for them, while the Egyptians were drowned (Ex 14:28). There are good reasons for choosing these texts as reference points for the baptismal rites: the sign used by the Hebrews (on their doorposts) is analogous to the sign given in baptism (the seal), and the salvation through water is similar to what happens in the baptismal submersion/emersion. Cyril explains these typologies in paragraph 3. One wonders, however, why he seems unable to use the text he chose for the introductory lecture. In paragraph 3, Cyril interprets the typologies from paragraph 2: Moses was sent to the Hebrews to rescue them from oppression in Egypt; Christ was sent by the Father to rescue the world from sin. In Egypt, the blood of lambs effectively warded off the destroyer; now, the blood of Christ, the lamb of God, effectively wards off evil spirits. An Egyptian tyrant was drowned in the Sea; now, demonic tyrants are drowned in the waters of baptism. Cyril stresses that, as the tyrant of Egypt chased the Hebrews all the way to the Red Sea, and even into that sea, so too does the demonic tyrant hunt the catechumens’ right up to the baptismal water, and even within it. This means that, on the one hand, Satan is really present in the vestibule of the baptistery when the catechumens renounce him. On the other hand, it means that, in his maniacal pursuit, he is drowned in the baptismal font. So Cyril, in a precise and efficient way, uses biblical typologies to explain the meaning of the baptismal rite. I am still left wondering, however, why he seems to abandon the text of the inaugural lecture. In fact, it appears as if the use of the typological imagery from Exodus brings him further away from the central idea of the inaugural lection in 1 Peter: the necessity of staying awake and watching for the devil, even after baptism. Has the devil not been drowned in the Red Sea and the baptismal water? Why then stay awake watching out for him? In paragraph 4 Cyril further explains the ritual of renouncing Satan in the vestibule of the baptistery. In the process of this explanation, he includes an opaque reference to Hebrews 2:14–15: “For Christ broke that power by sharing flesh and blood with me, planning through”.30 Besides this, there are no further references to Scripture.

30  “Κατέλυσε γὰρ ταύτην ὁ Χριστός, αἵματός μοι καὶ σαρκὸς κοινωνήσας, ἵνα διὰ τούτων τῶν παθημάτων καταργήσῃ θανάτῳ τὸν θάνατον, ὅπως μὴ διὰ παντὸς ἔνοχος γένωμαι δουλείας” (M 1.4).

7. Catechetical exegesis


In paragraph 5, Cyril continues the theme of rejecting Satan, but adds a new sentence from the ritual: “and all your works” 31. Not only is Satan renounced, but ‘all his works’; these, according to Cyril, are invariably sinful. Given that his instruction concerns the act of baptism, the reading from 1 Peter does not here seem useful to Cyril, as it teaches the baptized to remain vigilant afterwards. However, an apparent change of perspective occurs in this paragraph. An indirect reference to Gal 2:18 is used to introduce this change: “If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker32. By alluding to Gal 2:18, Cyril changes the perspective from what had just happened in the baptismal rite — the drowning of Satan — to a more immanent perspective: though Satan was drowned in the baptismal waters, he is still at work. For this reason, one should not revisit/rebuild one’s old life. Cyril expresses it this way: “Whenever, therefore, you are caught in conduct contrary to your profession, you will be tried as a renegade” 33. Thus, Cyril indicates that even the drowned Satan remains active. For this reason, one must stay awake and be vigilant. Here, 1 Pet 1:13 (and the following verses) becomes relevant again, but, surprisingly, Cyril does not make any references thereto. In M 1.6–9 Cyril advances the theme of renunciation by adding yet another sentence from the ritual: “And all his pomp”34. By ‘pomp’ he means theatres, fighting with animals, eating meat and bread that have been sacrificed to the pagan deities, praying in pagan temples, etc. The newly baptized are warned to stay away from such things. The immanent perspective is strong, but Cyril still ignores the inaugural lection. There are but a few other references to the Bible in these paragraphs. In M 1.6 Cyril quotes Ps 118:37: “Turn away mine eyes that they may not behold vanity”35. The quote underlines the theme of renunciation. By the end of M 1.8, this theme steers toward ‘not turning back to the old life’. Here the story of Lot, with his daughters and wife (Gen 19:12–27), is used as a warning against turning back to the old. Lot’s wife lost her life because she gazed back on her old life, while Lot and his daughters were saved because they fled to the mountain without looking back. This mountain was, according to Cyril, the “stone hewn without hands”36 (cf. Dan 2:45). Finally, in M 1.10, Cyril addresses the introductory reading. He tells his audience to be sober37 (1 Pet 1:13; 5:8) and references 1 Pet 5:8–9: “be sober. 31  “Καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις σου” (M 1.5). 32  New International Version. 33  “Ἐπειδὰν τοίνυν ἐναντίως τι διαπραττόμενος τούτοις ἁλῷς, ὡς παραβάτης κριθήσῃ” (M 1.5). 34  “Καὶ πάσῃ τῇ πομπῇ αὐτοῦ” (M 1.6). 35  “Ἀπόστρεψον τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς μου τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν ματαιότητα” (M 1.6). 36  “τὸν τμηθέντα λίθον ἄνευ χειρῶν” (M 1.8). 37  “νῆφε” (M 1.10).



For our adversary the devil, as was just now read, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour”. The remark ‘as was just read now’, is a clear reference to the inaugural lection. The quotation makes it clear that the devil is still a threat to the neophytes. Cyril’s use of the inaugural lection in the first mystagogical lecture is very different from the first catechetical lecture. The inaugural reading was crucial to the catechetical lecture, dictating its form and content. Many biblical references and quotations were drawn in to support the introductory lection and to supply minor themes (such as could not be drawn from the introductory text alone). In his first mystagogical lecture, the long reading from 1 Peter seems less apposite, for Cyril cannot use it to explain the main theme of the lecture; namely, what happens during the first part of the baptismal ritual. The first epistle of Peter deals mainly with the Christian life after baptism. This theme is of secondary importance to the first mystagogical lecture. However, even when Cyril does deal with this theme, he do not use the first letter of Peter in any clear and active sense. Only at the very end of the lecture does he return to 1 Peter. Why is this so? One might ask whether there were contingent reasons for choosing Peter’s first letter, since it appears less than optimal. Was there some kind of tradition, perhaps, which guided this selection? Had Peter’s first letter already obtained, in the mid-fourth century, the status of a standard lection for the newly baptized, or in relation to baptism in general? The answer is probably yes. The high frequency of references to 1 Peter in early Christian literature of the time appears to support this conclusion. 1 Pet. 3:21 was especially important in this regard. However, this seems to me an understudied topic, deserving of more scholarly attention.

An Overview of Cyril’s Use of the Introductory Lectures

The differences we have noticed between the role of the inaugural lections in the first catechetical and the first mystagogical lecture demand that we take a closer look at the role which these lections play in other catechetical and mystagogical lectures. The second mystagogical lecture (M 2), for example, opens with a lection from Rom 6:3–14. This is the important baptismal passage wherein Paul interprets baptism as death and resurrection with Christ. In the first paragraph (M 2.1), Cyril explains to the catechumens that what happened in their baptism was a transtion from an old state to a new. This fits the theme of the inaugural lection. M 2.2–3 explains how the baptismal candidates were stripped naked and exorcised with oil. These paragraphs do not include any references

7. Catechetical exegesis


to the text from Romans 6. This is likely because anointment and the stripping of clothes do not have a natural connection to Romans 6. In M 2.4–8, the baptismal texts from Romans 6 play a crucial role. First, Cyril connects the three submersions and emersions in the baptismal font to the act of dying and being born (M 2.4). Then, he explains how the baptized imitate Christ’s suffering and resurrection: Christ suffered in reality, was buried in reality, and rose again in reality. While the baptismal candidates imitate Christ’s suffering and burial figuratively, their salvation takes place in reality. This is a direct interpretation of the inaugural reading from Romans 6. Even if he has just claimed that the candidates’ death with Christ was only figurative, Cyril goes on in M 2.6 to stress that baptism does not only involve the remission of sins and adoption as children of God, but also requires suffering. To support this statement, he quotes from the inaugural reading. The same is the case in M 2.7. So, we can see that the inaugural reading plays a much more important role in the second mystagogical lecture than the first. The third mystagogical lecture (M 3) explains the post-baptismal anointment. This lecture opens with a reading from 1 John 2:20–28, warning about Antichrist and noting that the addressees of the letter were anointed by the Holy One, and anointment that ensures their protection against the falsehood of Antichrist. In the third mystagogical lecture, Cyril explains how the baptismal anointing should be understood, using many references to biblical texts concerning anointment by the Holy Spirit. However, only once does he refers to the inaugural lection, stating, “Keep this Chrism unsullied; for it shall teach you all things if it abide in you, as you heard the blessed John declaring just now as he expatiated upon the Chrism”38. The scant and opaque use of the inaugural lection is similar to the first mystagogical lecture. In the fourth mystagogical lecture, the inaugural lection is from 1Cor 11:23, where Paul quotes the Eucharistic liturgy. Cyril quotes the text again in the first paragraph, but never returns to it again. This is also the case in the fifth, and last, mystagogical lecture, where the inaugural lecture comes from 1 Peter 2:1, a text urging the audience to abstain from sin. The lecture is a short explanation of the different elements of the liturgy. Abstaining from sin is not a central theme in the lecture, and the opening lection is not recalled at all. This summary of the role the inaugural readings in the mystagogical lectures shows that they only play a central role in the second mystagogical lecture. In the other mystagogical lectures they play a limited role, if any. We 38  “Τοῦτο φυλάξατε ἄσπιλον· πάντων γὰρ ἔσται τοῦτο διδακτικόν, εἰ ἐν ὑμῖν μένοι, καθὼς ἀρτίως ἠκούσατε τοῦ μακαρίου Ἰωάννου λέγοντος καὶ πολλὰ περὶ τοῦ χρίσματος φιλοσοφοῦντος” (M 3.7).



should now examine some more examples of the role of inaugural lections in the catechetical lectures so as to clarify whether the inaugural lections play a more significant role there. I have chosen two more of the catechetical lectures for this purpose. The first is the third catechetical lecture on baptism. The advantage of choosing this lecture is that it opens with the same lection from Romans 6:3–4 as did the mystagogical lecture on baptism. The third catechetical lecture cites Rom 6:3–4 in the opening lection, whereas the second mystagogical lecture cited Rom 6:3–14. This does not, however, make much of a difference given that the Pauline text is not quoted directly in the third catechetical lecture. Cyril mainly concentrates on the importance of the catechumens’ preparation for baptism (C 3.1–3.15). To support his argument, he quotes, among other passages, Isa. 40:3, where Esaias exhorts his audience to prepare the way for the Lord. He also refers to biblical texts featuring nuptial imagery to explain that both the bride and the guests at a wedding must prepare themselves for the event (Matt 22:12; Cant 1:4; Isa 61:10). He also stresses that baptism is an important point of transition between the old life and the new. The figure of John the Baptist is used to illuminate this point (C 3.6–7). Cyril stresses that baptism in water is the only path to salvation other than martyrdom, which is legitimate because martyrs are baptized in their own blood. He also notes that salvation makes the baptized to partake of Christ, who was of course baptized himself, and of the Holy Spirit (C 3.9–11). This is supported by quotations from Acts 2:2 about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and Mark 10:38, where Jesus asks the disciples whether they can drink the cup he had to drink. However, Cyril also speaks about the meaning of baptism in water. He claims again that only martyrs can be saved without it (C 3.10), and that water which has received the invocation of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the purification of body and soul, and indeed for salvation as such (C 3.3–5). This focus on the necessity of cleansing the sin of the body with water could easily have been supported by reference to Rom 6:3–4, the introductory lection, but Cyril does not do so. This is surprising, for it indicates that the inaugural lections do not need to structure/support the argument of the catechetical lectures such as in the first catechetical lecture. For the final example, I will investigate the use of the inaugural lecture in the seventh catechetical lecture. In this lecture, Cyril interprets the meaning of ‘Father’ as part of his explanation of the creed. The inaugural lecture is taken from Eph 3:14–15. First, Cyril repeats that Christians must believe in one God, for he had just taught the catechumens of divine unity (cf. C 6). In the seventh catechetical lecture, he proceeds by explaining the meaning of Father. The first meaning he elaborates is that being a father implies having a son; here, Christ. He insists that the Jews misunderstood this point (C 7.2–4).

7. Catechetical exegesis


His argument is supported with a quotation from, among other places, Ps 2:7. However, God is not only the father of Christ, but also, in a secondary sense, the father of all Christians (C 7:5). To support this claim, Cyril quotes the inaugural lecture (Eph 3:14–15): “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name”39. Cyril further argues (C 7.8–10) that the Bible does not use the designation ‘father’ exclusively for God as father of Christ, but also as father of humanity. This is supported by quotations from Deut 32:6 and Isa 63:16. Again, the inaugural lecture does not play an especially important role for the structure and content of the lecture. We can see, then, that there is no clear picture of how Cyril uses the inaugural biblical lections in his catechetical and mystagogical lectures. In several cases, he uses these lections very actively, but in most cases he uses them sparsely, if at all. This picture is the same in both the catechetical and the mystagogical lectures. In this respect, there are no clear differences between these two groups, such as would indicate divergent authorship.

The Audience of the Catechetical and Mystagogical Lectures

Even if Cyril’s use of the inaugural lections differs in intensity, it is obvious he makes intensive use of biblical quotations in his catechetical and mystagogical lectures. This suggests, among other things, that his audience had a certain familiarity with the Bible. It would not make sense for him to include so many biblical references if his audience were unable to recognize them and approve their normative role. But, we might ask, how can Cyril assume his audience is so familiar with the Bible when they have yet to be baptized, and are only on the cusp of being initiated into the mysteries of Christianity? The answer is probably quite simple. The catechumens, who comprise Cyril’s specific audience, likely attended the congregation for a longer period of time. We know that it was quite common to consider oneself a Christian, and to join the Christian community, long before baptism. During this time, such seekers participated in services, where they would hear readings from the Bible, and sermons wherein these were interpreted. Thus, many of the catechumens would have been quite well versed in the Bible and thus able to follow Cyril’s frequent quotation of Scripture throughout his lectures. In paragraph 6 of the pro-catechetical lecture, Cyril hints at the ‘echoes’ of the mysteries and the scriptures which the catechumens have heard without understanding in depth. This points to the catechumens’ previous knowledge of the Bible. For 39  New International Version.



these reasons, I think it is safe to conclude that Cyril’s audience, the catechumens, were generally able to understand his biblical citations/allusions in the catechetical and mystagogical lectures. By attending these lectures, their familiarity with the Bible would, of course, only be increased. Conclusion From what we have seen above, we can conclude that the inaugural lections, proclaimed before the delivery of each of the catechetical and mystagogical lectures, formed part of Cyril’s normal/general use of Scripture in his teaching and preaching. The idea of having an inaugural lection read out prior to these lectures was probably taken from the normal praxis of ecclesial services. Thus, the catechetical lectures could be understood as a variety of sermon. It is difficult to say how Cyril decided upon the inaugural lections. It is obvious that some were chosen because of their relevance to his intended message for the catechumens. This is the case, for example, with the lection from Isaiah, read as introduction to the first catechetical lecture. In the other cases, where he excludes or briefly includes the inaugural reading in the following lecture, one wonders why he chose the texts he did. In some cases, the chosen text clearly relates to the theme of the lecture even if it is not directly included. Evidently, this is the case in the two lectures (C 3; M 2) where the inaugural reading comes from Romans chapter 6. In other cases, it seems that the inaugural lection does not connect at all with the message of Cyril’s lecture. This is, for example, the case in the first mystagogical lecture, where 1 Peter is read as introduction and then abandoned. In this, and other cases, the choice of the inaugural reading was likely dependent on a prior tradition indicating the appropriate text to read.

Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation of the Nicene Creed: the Case of Athanasius’ De synodis Samuel Fernández Abstract The Trinitarian controversy of the 350s revolved around synodical texts, because the term ‘consubstantial’ (ὁμοούσιος), proclaimed by the synod of Nicaea (325), was rejected by many of the eastern bishops. For the first time in history, an important theological discussion was shaped not only by the interpretation of Scripture but also the understanding of a creed. Within this new institutional and theological context, Athanasius of Alexandria, in his work De synodis (359), made a serious attempt to establish criteria for interpreting synodical texts. The present article studies Athanasius’ effort to apply biblical hermeneutical criteria to the interpretation of synodical documents. In order to shed light on this innovative contribution of Athanasius, the article proceeds as follows: first, I review the historical and theological context of his activity; second, I examine each of the objections to the Nicaean creed and the solutions offered by the Bishop of Alexandria; finally, I explore the rationale of Athanasius’ interpretation of synodical documents and its significance for the formation of Christian discourse. Introduction The Trinitarian controversy of the fourth century played a crucial role in the formation of Christian discourse. During the Pre-Nicaean period the status of authoritative text belonged almost exclusively to the Scriptures, for which reason the theological disputations of the time revolved almost exclusively around scriptural interpretation. However, after the Council of Nicaea, the situation changed. The Church had to decide on the status of the Creed of the first ecumenical council.1 New institutional conditions demanded a common recognition of the authority and special theological status of the *  This paper is part of the project “Relectura de la ‘crisis arriana’ como ‘crisis monarquiana’” (Fondecyt 1160201), by Samuel Fernández, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. 1  Cf. H.  Chadwick, The Origin of the Title “Oecumenical synod,” in: The Journal of Theological Studies 23 (1972), 132–135.

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_009



synodical texts. In these circumstances, the actions of Church leaders were not particularly efficient; the intense Post-Nicaean episcopal activity resulted in a proliferation of formulae, not all of which cohered. The tension between the bourgeoning authority of creeds and their ostensible contradictions reached its summit ca. 357, when Athanasius upheld the authority of the Nicene Creed against some eastern bishops who raised pressing objections against the legitimacy of the formula of Nicaea and the term ‘consubstantial’ (ὁμοούσιος). In this complex situation, Athanasius of Alexandria became one of the first authors to make a serious attempt to establish definitive criteria for the interpretation of creedal documents, most explicitly in his letter De synodis.2 Athanasius’ arguments, as we shall see, presented a new challenge for theologians. The present article investigates a specific aspect of this problem, namely, Athanasius’ attempt to apply biblical hermeneutical criteria to the interpretation of synodical documents. In my exploration of Athanasius’ contribution to theological hermeneutics, I shall (1) briefly survey the historical and theological context of his activity, (2) examine each of the objections against the term ὁμοούσιος and against the Nicaean creed in general, and (3) explain the rationale and methodology of Athanasius’ hermeneutical reasoning and the significance thereof. 1.

Historical and Theological Context

In order to consolidate the unity of the Empire, Constantius II sought the unity of the Church. For, at that time, it was riven by theological debates; those which, in the contemporary scholarly community, are usually identified with the so-called Arian crisis.3 Supportive of the Emperor’s strategy, a synod, held in Sirmium in 357, produced a creed that prohibited the theological use of the term οὐσία (and also, ὁμοούσιος and ὁμοιοούσιος). The aim of this prohibition was to quash the incessant terminological disputes and to ensure a theological

2  Cf. H.  Sieben, Zur Entwicklung der Konzilsidee I: Werden und Eigenart der Konzilsidee des Athanasius von Alexandrien, in: Theologie und Philosophie 45 (1970), 353–389; L. Perrone, De Nicea (325) a Calcedonia (451), in: G. Alberigo, Storia dei concili ecumenici, Brescia 1990, 11–26; A. Di Berardino / B. Studer (eds.), Storia della teologia I. Epoca patristica, Casale Monferrato 1993, 452–461; M. Fiedrowicz, Theologie der Kirchenväter: Grundlagen frühchristlicher Glaubensreflexion, Freiburg 2007, 255–260; 293–295; 291–301. 3  Cf. D.M.  Gwynn, The Eusebians. The Polemic of Athanasius of Alexandria and the Construction of the ‘Arian Controversy’, Oxford 2007.

8. Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation


rapprochement between the competing parties.4 The creed of Sirmium (357) promoted the ideas of Acacius of Caesarea, who supported a generic likeness between the Father and the Son (excluding the likeness of substance). The group around Basil of Ancyra rejected the formula of Sirmium (357), because they professed that the Son was ‘like the Father according to the substance’ (ὅμοιος κατ᾽ οὐσίαν). To this end, Basil summoned two small but significant synods in Ancyra and in Sirmium in the year 358. But these synods also rejected the Nicaean term ‘consubstantial’ (ὁμοούσιος), because (among other reasons) they assumed that the unity of substance weakened the personal distinction between the Father and the Son5. With these theological discussions in the background, Athanasius of Alexandria wrote De synodis (359).6 One of the chief aims of this work was to defend the legitimacy of the creed of Nicaea and, in particular, its key-term, ὁμοούσιος. The first part of De synodis (cc. 1–32) is a review of certain relevant documents, especially synodical formulae; it tries to show that all creeds written after Nicaea were in contradiction both with themselves and, indeed, with apostolic teaching. In this part of the work, Athanasius appears very unbalanced and fails to tackle the theological problem in its full complexity. Indeed, he only highlights some literal contradictions between different creeds.7 In the second part of his work (cc. 33–54), however, Athanasius makes a thorough examination of the problem. He here provided answers to the most pressing objections against the key-term of the Nicene Creed. In his argumentation, the Bishop of Alexandria thus attempted to establish a sound method­ology for the interpretation of synodical documents. To formulate this methodology Athanasius relied heavily on the biblical exegetical techniques outlined by the Apostle Paul and Origen.

4  Cf. M.  Simonetti, La crisi ariana nel IV secolo, SEA 11, Roma 1976, 227–249; R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. The Arian Controversy, 318–381, Edinburgh 1988, 343–371. 5  On the ‘sabellian’ interpretation of the Nicean ὁμοούσιος, see Hilar., syn. 66–76; M.R. Barnes, The Fourth Century as Trinitarian Canon, in: L. Ayres / G. Jones, Christian Origins. Theology, Rhetoric and Community, London 1998, 47–67. 6  Athanasius Werke, II, H.G. Opitz (ed.), Berlin 1935–1941, 231–278; Athanase d’Alexandrie, Lettre sur les synodes de Rimini et de Séleucie d’Isaurie, A. Martin / X. Morales (eds.), Sources chrétiennes 563, Paris 2013; Atanasio, Sobre los sínodos, S. Fernández (ed.), Fuentes Patrísticas 33, Madrid 2019. 7  Cf. Ath., syn. 22.2; 23.1; 25.1; 26.1; 27.1; 28.1; 29.1; 30.1; 31.1; S. Fernández, Criterios para interpretar los textos sinodales según el De synodis de Atanasio, in: Scripta Theologica 49 (2017), 15–16.

164 2.


Objections against the Nicene ὁμοούσιος

In order to understand Athanasius’ criteria for the interpretation of synodical texts, we will rehearse, one by one, the objections that the detractors of Nicaea raised against the ὁμοούσιος; in turn, we will examine Athanasius’ proposed solutions. 2.1 First Objection: the Term ὁμοούσιος Causes Scandal to Many In De synodis 33–40, Athanasius criticizes the bishops led by Acacius who, in the late 350s, rejected οὐσία language. Modern scholarship generally calls them ‘Homoians’, because they declared that the Son was like (ὅμοιος) the Father, without elaborating the meaning of οὐσία. These bishops disapproved of the key-word of Nicaea because, in their own words, “the expressions ‘of the substance’ (ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας) and ‘consubstantial’ (ὁμοούσιος) do not please us, for they cause scandal (σκανδαλίζω) to some and a trouble to many”.8 This objection came from the Creed of Sirmium (359), that is, the so-called ‘Dated Creed’.9 In fact, this document declared: ‘But, the term οὐσία, inserted with simplicity by the Fathers, caused scandal (σκανδαλίζω) because it was not familiar to the people’.10 To resolve this objection, the Bishop of Alexandria adduced relevant biblical examples and established a clear parallel between the ‘Arians’, who claimed that the words of Nicaea caused scandal, and the biblical Pharisees, who alleged that the Lord’s teaching caused scandal.11 Athanasius presented his argument as a reductio ad absurdum: if one must reject the term ὁμοούσιος because it causes scandal, then one must equally reject the words of Jesus, which caused scandal to the Pharisees.12 However, just as Jesus’ words are not 8  Ath., syn. 33.1: “τὸ ‘ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας’, φησί, καὶ τὸ ‘ὁμοούσιον’ οὐκ ἤρεσεν ἡμῖν· ταῦτα γάρ τινας ἐσκανδάλισε καὶ πολλοὺς ἐθορύβησεν” (AW II, 260). Cf. Hilar., Frg. hist. A VI,1; A IX,1; Hier., Lucif. 18.1; Thdt., h.e. 2.18,1. 9  Cf. H.C.  Brennecke, et al., Dokumente zur Geschichte des arianischen Streites, Athanasius Werke III,1 Lief. 4, Berlin 2014, n. 57.2, 421–425. 10  Apud Ath., syn. 8.7: “τὸ δὲ ὄνομα τῆς οὐσίας διὰ τὸ ἁπλούστερον παρὰ τῶν πατέρων τεθεῖσθαι, ἀγνοούμενον δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν λαῶν σκάνδαλον φέρειν…” (AW II, 236). Cf. R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, 1988, 362–371. This document does not condemn the ὁμοούσιος as heretical, but forbids its theological use, because the ‘Dated Creed’ is not an Anomoian document. 11  Ath., syn. 33.4–5: “Since also the [Pharisees] scandalized (σκανδαλίζω) at the Lord’s teaching, the Lord Himself said: ‘Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up’ (Matt 15:13). By these words, He showed that the terms (ῥῆμα) of the Father planted by Him were not really a scandal (σκάνδαλον) to them, but that they offended themselves by receiving wrongly (κακῶς) what was said correctly (καλῶς)” (AW II, 261). 12  Athanasius also compared Arians with Pharisees in decr. 1.4.

8. Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation


to be rejected, but accepted, so too the scandalous ὁμοούσιος of Nicaea should not be dismissed. The Bishop of Alexandria also appealed to the authority of Paul, who affirmed that the Lord’s Cross was a scandal, concluding: “therefore let us have no more murmuring against the Fathers [of Nicaea], nor pretence of this kind; or next you will be making complaints of the Lord’s Cross because it is ‘to Jews a scandal and to Gentiles foolishness’ (1 Cor 1:23), as the Apostle said”.13 The consequences are clear. If one must reject the ὁμοούσιος simply because it causes scandal (σκανδαλίζω) to some, then one must also reject the Lord’s teaching, Paul’s epistles, and even the Cross of Christ, for each is also σκάνδαλα. 2.2 Second Objection: the Term ὁμοούσιος is not a Biblical Word Athanasius faced another homoian objection against the theological use of the word ὁμοούσιος. According to De synodis, the Homoians had declared that: ‘we reject the words ὁμοούσιος and ὁμοιοούσιος as they are alien to the Scriptures, and we abolish the term οὐσία as it is not contained in the Scriptures’.14 This objection comes from the ‘Dated Creed’ (359)15 and the Creed of Acacius, which rejected the expressions ὁμοούσιος and ὁμοιοούσιος ‘as alien to the Scriptures (ὡς ἀλλότριον τῶν γραφῶν)’.16 In De synodis, Athanasius discloses the reason for the Homoians’ rejection of the technical words related to οὐσία: ‘But — they say — this is not written’, and ‘We reject these expressions (φωνή) as unscriptural (ἄγραφος)’.17 The Bishop of Alexandria defends the theological use of such technical terms with several different arguments,18 but there is one that establishes a clear parallel between the interpretation of the Scriptures and the synodical 13  Ath., syn. 34.2: “οὐκοῦν παύσασθε γογγύζοντες κατὰ τῶν πατέρων καὶ τοιαῦτα προφασιζόμενοι, ἐπεὶ ὥρα ὑμᾶς καταμέμφεσθαι καὶ τῷ κυριακῷ σταυρῷ ὅτι ‘Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλόν ἐστιν, ἔθνεσι δὲ μωρία,’ ὡς εἶπεν ὁ ἀπόστολος” (AW II, 261). Cf. Ath., syn. 33.5: ‘They who blamed, in those times, the epistles of the Apostle accused, not Paul, but their own ignorance and madness’ (AW II, 261). Cf. syn. 33.3. The same idea, in another context, is found in Origen: “When you fail to find the point of what is written, blame yourself and not the sacred Scriptures,” philoc. 10.2. 14  Ath., syn. 37.3: “τὸ ὁμοούσιον καὶ τὸ ὁμοιοούσιον ἐκβάλλομεν ὡς ἀλλότριον τῶν γραφῶν, καὶ τὸ τῆς οὐσίας ὄνομα περιαιροῦμεν ὡς μὴ κείμενον ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς” (AW II, 264). Cf. Ath., decr. 1.1. 15  Cf. Ath., syn. 8.7. 16  Ath., syn. 29.3 (AW II, 258). 17  Ath., syn. 36.4: “’ἀλλ᾽ οὐ γέγραπται ταῦτα’, φησίν, καὶ ‘ὡς ἀγράφους τὰς φωνὰς ἐκβάλλομεν’” (AW II, 263). The same problem was present at the synod of Rimini (359): “ut apparente dictionis sacrilegio iam ‘usiae’ et ‘omousii’ nomina recedant, quae in divinis scripturis de Deo et Dei Filio non inveniuntur scripta,” apud Hilar., Frg. hist. A VI,2 (CSEL 65, p. 88). Cf. Sulp. Sev., Chron., II.43.1; Hier., Lucif. 18.1. 18  Cf. Ath., syn. 37.2.



texts: “While the devil, though speaking from the Scriptures, is silenced by the Saviour, the blessed Paul, although quoting profane [writers], ‘The Cretans are always liars’, and ‘For we are His offspring’, and ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners’,19 yet has a pious meaning (διάνοια)”.20 This quotation shows that the fibre of Athanasius’ argument was of biblical origin. In addition to direct citations of the Pauline writings, he also mentions the episode described in Mt 4:10 wherein the devil’s cunning, ill-intended words do not deceive Jesus, even though they derive from Scripture. In contrast to the devil, Paul used profane words, but with a ‘pious’ meaning. Once again, Athanasius relies on Paul’s authority. He claims that, like the Apostle, who used non-biblical words with a pious meaning (διάνοια), the authors of the Creed of Nicaea made use of a non-biblical term to express the Son’s identity. This explanation highlights the difference between λέξις and διάνοια,21 a difference with a rich background in classical and Patristic literature.22 In this way, Athanasius affirmed that the truth of the Creed of Nicaea was not in its lexicon (λέξις) but its meaning (διάνοια), just as in the case of the Bible. It seems likely that Athanasius learned these traditional hermeneutical techniques from Paul, Origen, and Dionysius of Alexandria.23 2.3 Third Objection: the ὁμοούσιος has an Obscure Meaning24 The obscure meaning of the term ὁμοούσιος was another objection raised by the group around Acacius (the Homoians). To some extent, this objection can be considered a variation of the first. According to De synodis, the opponents 19  The following are the texts quoted by Paul: Epimenides, De oraculis (Titus 1:12); Aratus, Phaenomena 5 (Acts 17:28); Menander, Thais (1 Cor 15:33). 20  Ath., syn. 39.3: “ὁ μὲν διάβολος καίτοι λαλῶν ἀπὸ τῶν γραφῶν πεφίμωται παρὰ τοῦ σωτῆρος· ὁ δὲ μακάριος Παῦλος κἂν ἐκ τῶν ἔξωθεν λαλῇ· ‘Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται’, καὶ ‘τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμὲν’ καὶ ‘φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί’, ἀλλ’ ὅμως ἅγιος ὢν ἔχει τὴν διάνοιαν εὐσεβῆ” (AW II, 265). 21  In technical terms, it indicates the difference between the signifiers and their significata. See A. Usacheva, Knowledge, Language and Intellection from Origen to Gregory Nazianzene. A Selective Survey, Frankfurt am Main 2017, 51–59. 22  Cf. Or., philoc. 9 (ὄνομα / σημαίνω; φωνή / ἐννοέω); Dion. Al., ep. can. fr. 4 (ὄνομα / διάνοια); Geo. Laod. / Bas. Anc., ep., apud Epiph., haer. 73.12.1 (ὄνομα / νοῦς); Phoeb., Contra arianos, 7 (nomen / res); Hier., Lucif. 18.1 (vocabulo / sensus); 19 (verbum / sensus); Mar. Vict., Ar. 2,3–8 (nomen / res). 23  In fact, the title of Or., philoc. 9 is the following: “That the Divine Scripture often uses the same term in different significations, even in the same place”. Cf. Dion. Al., ep. can. fr. 4; Ath., sent. passim. 24  Even today, “long and complicated debates have not yet produced any significant agreement among scholars concerning its [i.e., ὁμοούσιος] origin and meaning”, P.F. Beatrice, The Word “Homoousios” from Hellenism to Christianity, in: Church History 71 (2002), 243.

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of the word ὁμοούσιος insisted on rejecting this expression because its meaning was not clear: “But — they say — the sense (διάνοια) of such an expression (λέξις) is not clear to us”.25 And, again: “Because we cannot comprehend their explanation (ἑρμηνεία), we reject these expressions (λέξις)”.26 The answer of Athanasius, once again, establishes a parallel between how to understand the Bible and how to interpret creeds: But if they were speaking honestly, instead of saying, ‘We reject the terms’, […] they should reject whatever they cannot understand in divine Scripture, and blame the writers. But this is the boldness of heretics […]. For what we do not understand in the biblical oracles, instead of rejecting […] we should ask for instruction.27 Again, a reductio ad absurdum. Athanasius highlights the distinction between λέξις and διάνοια, underlining the same parallel: just as the one who does not understand a word in the Scriptures should not reject it, but look for instruction, so too, the one who does not understand the word ὁμοούσιος, should, instead of rejecting it, seek instruction. Athanasius’ train of thought implies another idea: even if the text of the Nicene Creed seems unclear, we should nevertheless trust that it contains a pious meaning. This conviction is a theological one. The meaningfulness of the Creed of Nicaea, upheld by the Bishop of Alexandria, does not depend on literary technique so much as theological assent. Because the Nicene Creed transmits the apostolic tradition, it must for that reason be meaningful. The important issue at stake here was the nature of synodical documents as authentic expressions of the Christian faith. 2.4 Fourth Objection: the Term ὁμοούσιος has a ‘Corporeal’ Connotation The corporeal connotations of the word ὁμοούσιος were an old and pressing objection against the term.28 This time, the objection came not from the group 25  Ath., syn. 40.1: “Ἀλλ᾽ ἀσαφής, φησίν, ἐστὶν ἡμῖν τῶν τοιούτων λέξεων ἡ διάνοια” (AW II, 266). 26  Ath., syn. 40.1: “ὅτι μὴ δυνάμενοι καταλαβεῖν τὴν ἑρμηνείαν αὐτῶν ἐκβάλλομεν ταύτας τὰς λέξεις” (AW II, 266). 27  Ath., syn. 40.2–3: “τοῦτο δὲ εἰ ἀληθῶς ἔλεγον, οὐκ ἔδει λέγειν αὐτοὺς ‘ἐκβάλλομεν ταύτας’, ἀλλ’ ἀξιοῦν μαθεῖν παρὰ τῶν ἐπισταμένων, ἐπεὶ ὀφείλουσί γε, καὶ ἅπερ ἂν ἐν ταῖς θείαις γραφαῖς μὴ νοήσωσιν ἐκβάλλειν καὶ κατηγορεῖν τοὺς γράψαντας αὐτά. ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μᾶλλον αἱρετικῶν καὶ οὐχ ἡμῶν τῶν Χριστιανῶν τὸ τόλμημα. ἃ γὰρ ἀγνοοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς λογίοις, οὐκ ἐκβάλλομεν, ἀλλὰ ζητοῦμεν οὓς ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ κύριος καὶ παρ’ αὐτῶν μανθάνειν ἀξιοῦμεν” (AW II, 266). 28  According to Eusebius both Arius and Constantine rejected the corporeal meaning of the term ὁμοούσιος. Cf. Arius, ep. Alex. “γέννημα, ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ ὡς ἓν τῶν γεγεννημένων, οὐδ᾽ ὡς Οὐαλεντῖνος προβολὴν τὸ γέννημα τοῦ πατρὸς ἐδογμάτισεν, οὐδ᾽ ὡς Μανιχαῖος μέρος ὁμοούσιον τοῦ πατρὸς τὸ γέννημα εἰσηγήσατο”, apud Ath., syn. 16.3 (AW II, 243); Constantine apud



around Acacius (the Homoians), but the group around Basil of Ancyra (the Homoiousians); i.e. the eastern bishops who declared that the Son was ‘like the Father according to the substance’ (ὅμοιος κατ᾽ οὐσίαν). Athanasius considered this group closer to Nicene doctrine and addressed them not as ‘Arians’ but ‘brothers’.29 According to this fourth objection, the use of ὁμοούσιος should be rejected because of the ‘corporeal’ connotation of the term, which seems to imply that the Son of God, like a son of man, was generated with passion.30 To solve this problem, Athanasius compares the expression ὁμοούσιος with central biblical terms: ‘Word’, ‘Wisdom’, and other names of Christ.31 The Bishop notes that, on the one hand, the ‘Son’ was called ‘Word’ in order to proclaim the impassibility of His generation, not to describe Him as an unsubstantial human word; while, on the other, the ‘Word’ was called ‘Son’ in order to declare His personal subsistence, not to affirm that He was generated with passion, like a human son. Consequently, the One who is ‘Word’ and ‘Wisdom’ was called ‘Son’ to affirm that He was a living Word (ζωός λόγος) and a substantial Wisdom (ἐνούσιος σοφία).32 Therefore Athanasius maintained that the Savior was not ‘Word’ and ‘Wisdom’ in every respect, nor even ‘Son’ in every respect, because His generation was not corporal but impassible; that is, the ‘Son’ of God was not like a human ‘son’ in every respect, because — according to Scripture — God is not like a man.33 These reflections show that Athanasius was aware of both the adequacy and inadequacy of human language when speaking about God. It seems likely that Origen was the inspiration behind this way of thinking.34 Eus., ep. Caes. 7: “ὅτι μὴ κατὰ τῶν σωμάτων πάθη λέγοιτο ὁμοούσιος”, apud Ath., decr. 33.7 (AW III/1, p. 44). 29  Ath., syn. 41.1: “οὐχ ὡς πρὸς Ἀρειομανίτας […], ἀλλ’ ὡς ἀδελφοὶ πρὸς ἀδελφοὺς…” (AW II, 266). 30  Cf. Ath., syn. 41.7. Athanasius transmits the same objection in another place: “ἆρ’ οὖν ἀνθρωποπαθὴς ἡ τοῦ υἱοῦ γέννησις;”, Ath., decr. 10.5 (AW II, 9). This argument, which is not explicitly quoted in syn., declares that, since a human γέννημα is ὁμοούσιος to his own father, one must not call ὁμοούσιος the Son of God because this expression means that the Son of God is begotten by the Father as a human son, cf. Ath., syn. 41.7. 31  Ath., syn. 41.8: “But the solution (λύσις) is easy: the Son is, indeed, the Father’s Word and Wisdom (λόγος καὶ σοφία), from where we learn the impassibility and indivisibility of such a generation from the Father. But man’s word is not part of him, nor proceeds from him with passion, and much less God’s Word” (AW II, 267). 32  Cf. Ath., syn. 41.8. 33  Cf. Nm 23:19: “οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς” (lxx), cf. Ath., syn. 41.5; 42.1; decr. 10.5–6. Athanasius affirms that the Logos is “’Son’, but ‘κατὰ τὴν ἑτέραν διάνοιαν, καθ’ ἣν Ἰσαὰκ τοῦ Ἁβραάμ ἐστιν υἱός’”, decr. 10.4. 34  Cf. Or., hom. in Jer. 18.6: “When the Scripture reasons theologically about God Himself and does not blend His economy with human realities, it is said that God is not like a man […]. But when divine economy is blended with human realities, it assumes human intelligence (νοῦς), mood (τρόπος) and terms (λέξις)” (GCS III, 158). Cf. S. Fernández, ‘Passio

8. Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation


In his conclusion, Athanasius introduces a clear parallel between the interpretation of biblical and synodical texts. As he claims, when the Scriptures declare that the Son is ‘generated’ and God is ‘Father’, we do not understand these examples (παράδειγμα) and terms (λέξις) in a corporeal (σωματικός) or human manner (ἀνθρωπίνως); likewise, ‘when we hear of ὁμοούσιος, we are to transcend (ὑπερβαίνω) all human perceptions (αἴσθησις)’.35 The Bishop of Alexandria demanded coherence: ‘Why do we understand the terms γέννημα and υἱός, in no corporeal way (οὐ σωματικῶς), but we comprehend the ὁμοούσιος as referring to bodies?’36 Athanasius points out an inconsistency in the reasoning of the Homoiousians. While they were content to interpret ‘γέννημα’ in a spiritual sense, they insisted on interpreting ‘ὁμοούσιος’ literally; that is, with a ‘corporeal’ connotation.37 Once again, the main thrust of Athanasius’ claim is that the interpretation of the Scriptures and the interpretation of the Creed of Nicaea are parallel activities. As the reader of the Bible must distinguish in which sense, for example, the Son is ‘Word’, because He is not ‘word’ in every respect, so the reader of the Creed must look for the suitable meaning of the term ὁμοούσιος. This solution also stressed the difference between λέξις and διάνοια. 2.5 Fifth Objection: the Term ὁμοούσιος was Condemned at Antioch (268) There is no agreement among scholars about the problematic historicity of the condemnation of the ὁμοούσιος at Antioch (268).38 Nevertheless, for our present purposes, we need not dwell on this point. The fact remains that, according to the authors of the lost Epistula Sirmiensis (358), the term ὁμοούσιος, supported by Paul of Samosata, was rejected at the Synod of Antioch (268).39 De synodis transmits the Homoiousians’ argument: ‘The bishops who condemned Caritatis’ according to Origen In Ezechielem Homiliae VI in the light of DT 1.31, in: Vigiliae Christianae 60 (2006), 135–147. 35  Ath., syn. 42.1 (AW II, 268). Cf. decr. 10.6: “αἱ αὐταὶ λέξεις ἐπὶ θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων ἐν ταῖς θείαις ποτὲ κεῖνται γραφαῖς” (AW II, 9). 36  Ath., syn. 42.2: “διὰ τί τὸ μὲν γέννημα καὶ τὸ υἱὸς οὐ σωματικῶς, τὸ δὲ ὁμοούσιον ὡς ἐπὶ σωμάτων διανοούμεθα” (AW II, 268). 37  Cf. Ath., syn. 42.2. The same argument in syn. 51.7: “But if we do not understand ‘creation’ in a human way, when we attribute it to God, much less seemly is it to understand ‘generation’ in a human way, or to give a corporeal sense to ‘homooúsios’” (AW II, 275). 38  Cf. H.C.  Brennecke, Zum Prozess gegen Paul von Samosata. Die Frage nach der Verurteilung des Homoousios, in: Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 75 (1984), 270– 290; P. De Navascués, Pablo de Samosata y sus adversarios. Estudio histórico-teológico del cristianismo antioqueno en el s. III, SEA 87, Roma 2004, 437–453; X. Morales, La théologie trinitaire d’Athanase d’Alexandrie, Paris 2006, 320–334. 39  About the Epistula Sirmiensis, cf. Hilar., syn. 81; 90; Ath., syn. 43; Bas., ep. 52.1; Soz., h.e. 4.15,2; Phot., cod. 230; G.L. Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole und Glaubensregeln der alten Kirche, Hildesheim 1962, 204, note 249.



Paul of Samosata have said in writing that the Son is not ὁμοούσιος with the Father’.40 This claim raised a serious problem for Athanasius because it cast doubt on one of the main arguments of the first part of De synodis; namely, the proposed theological harmony of the authentic synods.41 For, if the Creed of Nicaea was not in harmony with the synod of Antioch (268), then the ὁμοούσιος itself was unlawful. In this context, Athanasius had to prove the agreement between Antioch (268), which rejected the ὁμοούσιος, and Nicaea (325), which proclaimed the ὁμοούσιος. Once again, to resolve this quaestio, the author of De synodis turned to biblical interpretation as a model for the interpretation of synodical texts. The Bishop offeres an example obtained from the Apostle Paul. He relates some clashing statements about the Law, drawn from the writings of Paul,42 and continues thus: And no one would blame the blessed [Paul] of writing contrary and opposing things, but rather would admire how suitably he addresses each one (πρὸς ἑκάστους) […]; in the same manner (οὕτως), if the Fathers of both synods referred to ὁμοούσιος in different ways, we absolutely should not disagree with them, but investigate (ἐρευνάω) their understanding (διάνοια), and we will find (εὑρίσκω) the complete agreement (ὁμόνοια) of both synods.43

40  Ath., syn. 43.1: “οἱ τὸν Σαμοσατέα κατακρίναντες ἐπίσκοποι γράφοντες εἰρήκασι μὴ εἶναι ὁμοούσιον τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ πατρί” (AW II, 268). 41  The Bishop of Alexandria insists on the unlawfulness of the ‘Arian’ synods precisely because of their lack of continuity with the old Fathers. 42  Paul, writing to the Romans, affirms that ‘The Law is holy’ (Rom 7:12) and, soon after, highlights the weakness of the Law (Rom 7:3); he writes to the Galatians: ‘No one is justified before God by the Law’ (Gal 3:11), but he says to Timothy, ‘The Law is good’ (1 Tm 1:8). Cf. Ath., syn. 45.3: “καὶ ὥσπερ ὁ μακάριος ἀπόστολος Ῥωμαίοις μὲν ἐπιστέλλων ἔλεγεν· ‘ὁ νόμος πνευματικός ἐστι’ (Rom 7:14) καὶ ‘ὁ νόμος ἅγιος καὶ ἡ ἐντολὴ ἁγία καὶ δικαία καὶ ἀγαθή’ (Rom 7:12), καὶ μετ’ ὀλίγον· ‘τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου, ἐν ᾧ ἠσθένει’ (Rom 8:3), Ἑβραίοις δὲ ἔγραφεν· ‘ὁ νόμος οὐδένα τετελείωκε’ (Heb 7:19), καὶ Γαλάταις μέν· ‘ἐν νόμῳ οὐδεὶς δικαιοῦται’ (Gal 3:11), Τιμοθέῳ δὲ ὅτι ‘καλὸς ὁ νόμος, ἐάν τις αὐτῷ νομίμως χρῆται’ (1 Tm 1:8)” (AW II, 269). 43  Ath., syn. 45.3: “καὶ οὐκ ἄν τις αἰτιάσαιτο τὸν ἅγιον ὡς ἐναντία καὶ μαχόμενα γράφοντα, ἀλλὰ καὶ μᾶλλον θαυμάσειεν ἁρμοζόντως πρὸς ἑκάστους ἐπιστέλλοντα, ἵνα οἱ μὲν Ῥωμαῖοι καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι μάθωσιν ἀπὸ τοῦ γράμματος ἐπιστρέφειν εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα, οἱ δὲ Ἑβραῖοι καὶ Γαλάται παιδευθῶσι μὴ εἰς τὸν νόμον, ἀλλ’ εἰς τὸν κύριον τὸν δεδωκότα τὸν νόμον ἔχειν τὰς ἐλπίδας, οὕτως εἰ ἀμφοτέρων τῶν συνόδων οἱ πατέρες διαφόρως ἐμνημόνευσαν περὶ τοῦ ὁμοουσίου, οὐ χρὴ πάντως ἡμᾶς διαφέρεσθαι πρὸς αὐτούς, ἀλλὰ τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν ἐρευνᾶν, καὶ πάντως εὑρήσομεν ἀμφοτέρων τῶν συνόδων τὴν ὁμόνοιαν” (AW II, 269).

8. Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation


Athanasius highlights two different arguments to show the harmony between the apparently clashing synodical statements; the difference between λέξις and διάνοια, and the need to pay attention to the purpose of each text: No one would blame the Apostle, if he wrote to the Romans about the Law in one way, and to the Hebrews in another; in like manner (τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον), neither would the present bishops [of Nicaea] accuse the ancient [of Antioch], being aware of their explanation (ἑρμηνεία), nor again, in view of their explanation (ἑρμηνεία) and of the necessity (χρεία) which caused them to write in this manner about the Lord, would the ancient [bishops] complain about their successors.44 The same λέξις could have different διάνοια when used in different contexts. Athanasius affirms that ‘The ὁμοούσιος has not the same meaning when used of incorporeal things and, especially, of God’.45 For this reason, an explanation (ἑρμηνεία) of the terms is required. Furthermore, one must pay attention to the aim of the text (χρεία) “Because the [bishops at Antioch], in view of the sophistical explanation of Paul of Samosata and his interpretation, wrote: ‘He is not ὁμοούσιος’, whereas [the bishops at Nicaea], reflecting correctly, said: ‘He is ὁμοούσιος’”,46 in the same manner as Paul, who wrote in different ways about the Law to the Romans and to the Hebrews. Once again, Athanasius’ rationale depends on Paul and Origen.47 Beyond these literary principles of interpretation, the way in which Athanasius resolves the objections against the synodical documents reflects another fundamental principle. The Bishop of Alexandria held a theological conviction: when correctly understood, all authentic synodical texts can, and do, exhibit complete agreement (ὁμόνοια).

44  Ath., syn. 45.5: “οὐκ ἄν τις αἰτιάσαιτο τὸν ἀπόστολον, εἰ περὶ τοῦ νόμου Ῥωμαίοις μὲν οὕτως, Ἑβραίοις δὲ οὕτως ἔγραψε, τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον οὔτε οἱ νῦν τοῖς προτέροις ἐγκαλέσαιεν βλέποντες αὐτῶν τὴν ἑρμηνείαν, οὔτε οἱ πρότεροι τοὺς μετ’ αὐτοὺς μέμψαιντ’ ἂν ὁρῶντες τὴν ἑρμηνείαν αὐτῶν καὶ τὴν χρείαν δι’ ἣν οὕτως ἔγραψαν περὶ τοῦ κυρίου” (AW II, 270). 45  Ath., syn. 45.4: “μὴ οὕτως καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσωμάτων καὶ μάλιστα ἐπὶ θεοῦ τὸ ὁμοούσιον σημαίνεσθαι” (AW II, 270). 46  Ath., syn. 47.2: “ὅτι κἀκεῖνοι, καθάπερ εἶπον, πρὸς τὸ σόφισμα τοῦ Σαμοσατέως καὶ τὴν ἑρμηνείαν αὐτοῦ τὴν διάνοιαν ἔχοντες ἔγραψαν· ‘οὐκ ἔστιν ὁμοούσιος’, καὶ οὗτοι δὲ καλῶς νοήσαντες εἰρήκασιν ὁμοούσιον εἶναι τὸν υἱόν” (AW II, 272). 47  Cf. Or., philoc. 9.



3. Conclusions The study of Athanasius’ argumentation about the theological use of the term ὁμοούσιος demonstrates that he understood, and underscored, a parallel between the interpretation of the Scriptures and the interpretation of the keyword of the Creed of Nicaea. Athanasius employed several techniques and principles of biblical exegesis in his explication and ratification of the Creed of Nicaea. Among these principles there were: 1. Two basic exegetic principles: (a) one must be attentive to the difference between λέξις and διάνοια and (b) one must pay attention to the aim of the text; that is, its purpose and audience. These two literary rules, often applied by Christian authors to Scripture, were used by Athanasius to interpret the Creed of Nicaea. Although these exegetical principles found extensive use in Christian biblical studies, and especially in the works of Origen, they were not specifically biblical principles. 2. To defend the theological lawfulness of the word ὁμοούσιος, that is, the use of non-biblical terms when speaking about God, Athanasius remembered that Paul himself used non-biblical words in his letters. Therefore, Paul’s literary praxis established the precedent of using non-biblical words for theological ends. In Athanasius’ view, the Apostle’s authority confirmed the lawfulness of treating secular terms theologically. 3. According to Athanasius, the reader of the creed must look for the correct meaning of the term ὁμοούσιος, as the reader of the Bible must search for the right understanding of the biblical names of Christ, such as ‘Logos’, ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Son’. This principle was not equivalent to the difference between λέξις and διάνοια because it had a theological background; namely, the fact that human language is never adequate to God because in order to speak about God one must use human words. Thus Athanasius looked at the process of reading the synodical creeds as a process of ascending from the letter to the spirit. 4. Finally, there are three important statements that exhibit the theological background of Athanasius’ argument: (a) Even though the meaning of ὁμοούσιος is unclear, one should not therefore reject it but rather look for instruction, as in the case of biblical texts. (b) Even though the key-word of the Creed of Nicaea caused scandal to many, as did some of Jesus’ words, one should not reject it but look for its ‘pious’ meaning. (c) Even though Nicaea (325) appears to contradict Antioch (268), just as some of Paul’s statements about the Law seem to contradict

8. Biblical Techniques for the Interpretation


each other, these contradictions are merely apparent because the rightful meaning of all lawful synods are, by necessity, in harmony (ὁμόνοια) with one another. Because Athanasius was convinced that the text of the Creed of Nicaea reflected the apostolic teaching48 (i.e. the apostolic truth), he trusted that the words of the lawful synods were meaningful, reasonable, and harmonious (ὁμόνοια). Consequently, in his mind there could be no contradiction between them. These three statements reflect a common theological conviction, forming the theological groundwork of Athanasius’ synodical interpretation. For this reason, it is possible to conclude that Athanasius employed not only literary principles of interpretation, but also principles that were specifically theological. I call these principles theological because they depend on the theological belief that lawful synods can, and do, transmit the apostolic truth. These theological principles mutatis mutandis corresponded to the idea of the inspiration of Scripture (yet another parallel between the synods and the Scriptures). At the same time, these were principles of interpretation, that is to say, rules which illuminated the understanding of the synodical texts. They asserted that the right interpretation of legitimate synods should be harmonious with each other and with Scripture, insofar as they were faithful expressions of the apostolic teaching. Athanasius did not give ‘biblical’ status to the synodical texts, but he did give them a special ‘theological’ status and relied on traditional biblical exegesis for their interpretation. This approach was an innovation in the development of Christian discourse, because, for the first time, an important theological discussion did not revolve around the interpretation of the Scripture alone, but also a creedal text. The important issue at stake in this discussion concerned the theological status of the synodical documents. The theological/hermeneutical principles introduced by Athanasius played a crucial role in the development of Christian theology and the formation of Christian discourse. In the following centuries, the idea of a formal parallel between the Scriptures and synodical documents became so popular that it even inspired a famous comparison of the four ecumenical synods with the four Gospels.49

48  Cf. Ath., syn. 5.3; 13.2. 49  Cf. A.  Grellmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. II,1, Atlanta 1987, 211; L. Perrone, ‘Four Gospels, four Councils’. One Lord Jesus Christ.The Patristic Developments of Christology within the Church of Palestine, in: Liber Annuus 49 (1999), pp. 357–396; B. Mondin, Storia della teologia: Epoca patristica, Bologna 1996, 434.

Ipsius domini et apostolorum habemus exemplum et praecepta: Functions of the Biblical Text in De ecclesiastics officiis of Isidore of Seville Sergey Vorontsov Abstract In late antique compilations, the biblical text is frequently cited in conjunction with extensive quotations from patristic sources. This practice warrants further exploration. In the context of late antiquity, the problem of locating the semantic meaning of a text becomes difficult, because the role of the active reader — i.e. those responsible for generating the manifold meanings of the text — was maturing and expanding. The present article suggests that a focus on the ‘pragmatic’ meaning of the text might prove more fruitful, and so considers the textual function(s) of biblical citation. To this end, the article analyses the case of De ecclesiasticis officiis of Isidore of Seville (ca. 560–636). Isidore employs biblical quotations and allusions within larger passages from the writings of Christian authors in order to determine the origins of the practices of the Church. The article argues that the biblical quotations and allusions in the treatise allow Isidore to shape the identity of the clergy; Isidore represents the biblical text either as exemplum or praecepta. The article analyses the various connotations of these notions. This analysis allows us to conclude that the biblical text exercises three functions in De ecclesiasticis officiis: 1) it explains and legitimates the practices of the Church; 2) it frames history and law so as to fortify clerical identity; 3) it presents the objects of contemplation necessary for the moral perfection of the clergy and the fulfilment of their vocational duties. Introduction Scripture plays a unique role in the works of Christian authors: the presence of biblical quotations and allusions are seen as evidence that a given text is, in fact, Christian.1 On the other hand, the absence of these might lead one to doubt the attribution of a work to a Christian author; as, for example, in the cases of Boethius’ Consolatio and the Formula uitae honestae of Martinus of Braga. 1  Naturally, excluding the anti-Christian polemical and modern literature.

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_010



At the same time, biblical allusion has various functions, e.g. it can enhance an argument in doctrinal polemics, or underscore a moral example. These multiple functions form a nexus of layered and coextensive meaning. Indeed, the readers and writers of Late Antiquity considered the Scriptures (and the poems of Virgil) to be an inexhaustible source of meaning.2 As G. Cavallo has observed, antique reading acquired an “intensive” character. Textual passages were read and reread, learned by heart, and fragmented into aphorisms, becoming objects of pluriform meditation.3 Against this background, textual quotation acquired a special place in the literature of the period. Late-antique writers compiled their works, quoting freely from the canon of authoritative texts so as to harness their “textual power”. The compilations subsumed an array of texts from the cultural library4 and so secured the bridging of past and present.5 Meanwhile, these texts demanded an “active” reader, who could understand the myriad allusions and quotations.6 In fact, one could say it was the reader who ultimately constructed the meaning of the text. In this way, the meanings of alluding texts multiplied in proportion to their growing readership.7 Traditional questions about the original meaning and authorial motivation of these compilations turn out to be rather difficult to answer, especially when taking into account the observations noted above. The works of Isidore of Seville (ca. 560–636) provide a representative example.8 The present study turns to the particular case of Isidore of Seville’s De ecclesiasticis officiis. Here

2  E.g. Isid. sent. 1.18.5: “Scriptura sacra pro uniuscuiusque lectoris intellegentia uariatur, sicut manna quae populo ueteri pro singulorum delectatione uarium dabat saporem; iuxta sensuum enim capacitatem, singulis sermo dominicus congruit; et dum sit pro uniuscuiusque intellectu diuersus, in se tamen permanet unus.” The idea is by no means original; it derives from Augustinian thought. See: A. Pelltari, The Space that Remains. Reading Latin Poetry in Late Antiquity, Ithaca 2014, 12–44. 3  R. Chartier, G. Cavallo, Histoire de la lecture dans le monde occidental, Paris 1997, 107. 4  M.  Irvine, The Making of Textual Culture. ‘Grammatica’ and Literary Theory 350–1100, Cambridge 1994, 242–243. 5  R.  Kaster, Macrobius and Servius. Verecundia and the Grammarian’s Function, in: HSCPh 84 (1980), 219–262 (234). 6  See: J.  Pucci, The Full-Knowing Reader: Allusion and the Power of the Reader in the Western Literary Tradition, New Haven 1998, 53–82. 7  See: V.  Law, Wisdom, Authority and Grammar in the Seventh Century. Decoding Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, Cambridge 1995, 3–4. 8  See, e.g.: Primer coloquio. La originalidad de Isidoro, in: M.C. Díaz y Díaz (ed.), Isidoriana, León 1961, 509–523.

9. Functions of the Biblical text


the biblical text is used to explain the origins of the ecclesiastical officia (liturgical customs and duties), which is the chief aim of the treatise.9 A surface reading of the Isidorian works gives one the impression of an (over)simplification of the prior tradition.10 For this reason, J. Fontaine has offered several basic principles for the study of Isidore’s texts: 1) the analysis of the sources; 2) the search for the differences between source-texts and Isidorian quotations; 3) the contextualization of the text within the epoch of Isidore.11 However, it is often hard to prove that the meanings of Isidore’s quotations differ substantially from those of his source-texts. Furthermore, it is not always clear how best to fit the texts of Isidore in their historical context. Analyses focused on semantical meaning seem to presuppose that it is, above all, the text which should inform the reader, rather than vice versa. I regard this as a kind of anachronism based on a Modern rationalist hermeneutic, in contrast to the “intensive” reading discussed above.12 As Y. Lotman observes, the “I — s/he” direction in the transformation of a message is a characteristic of the Modern culture that images the “ideal addressee”. Another mode of cultural communication — “I — I” — in which no new information is transmitted, aims to restructure the personality of the addressee.13 Taking into account the “I — I” mode of communication, the focus of textual analyses of late-antique compilations should, I maintain, be shifted from semantics to pragmatics. For instance, A. Donato’s analysis of Boethius’ Consolatio as the application of philosophical therapy (ostensibly in the “I — I” mode) was very informative; at the same time, it was able to circumvent some of the unresolvable questions that arise when we regard this work as reflective of a belief-system.14 Biblical quotations apparently pertain to the “I — I” mode of communication, since the Scriptures were re-read every year and, for this reason, were not merely a means of transmitting new information to the reader/hearer. Being

9  Isidore divides the text into two books. The first is dedicated to the elements of liturgical service (1.2–14), feasts and fasts (1.15–45); the second considers the clergy (2.1–14), monks, penitents, widows, virgins (1.15–18) and the sacraments of matrimony, baptism, and confirmation (2.19–25). 10  See, e.g.: E. Brehaut, An encyclopedist of the Dark Ages. Isidore of Seville, New York 1912. 11  J.  Fontaine, Isidore de Séville et l’astrologie, in: REL 31 (1953 (1954)), 271–300 (300). 12  See: R.  Chartier, Culture écrite et Société. L’ordre des livres, XIVe–XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1996 (Russian translation: Moscow 2006, 18–24). 13  Y.M.  Lotman, Universe of Mind, A Semiotic Theory of Culture, London 1990, 33. 14  A.  Donato, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy as a Product of Late Antiquity, London 2013.



included in the larger quotations from patristic sources, they should be recognized by readers as separate texts as well. Although, in most cases, biblical text comprises part of a larger quotation, Isidore typically alters it using other scriptural translations.15 In other words, biblical quotations and allusions form the core of Isidore’s explanations. While these quotations are the part of a citation from some other text, Isidore treats them separately. To better understand how Isidore treats the biblical text, it is worth turning to a passage from Sententiae, where he describes the modes of studying the Bible: “The study of reading is twofold: firstly, in what way the Scripture is to be understood, secondly, for what benefit and value it is said16”. The pragmatic component of the reading of Scripture is here deemed essential. The understanding of the meaning(s) of the text, especially the literal meaning is insufficient.17 It is necessary to determine the text’s relevance for the reader. So, the concrete meaning of the biblical text depends on the context of the reader. De ecclesiasticis officiis provides some examples of this principle. Three different offices are correlated to the Levites. The rank of deacons is derived from the orders concerning Levites (Num 3:5–26), and their relation to the mystery crucial for clergy.18 The moral requirements are described in the quotation from 1 Tim.19 The same words (Num 3:25–26), and an allusion to them (Is 52:11), are used to portray the ethical features of custodes sacrorum

15  A.C.  Lawson, The Sources of the De ecclesiasticis officiis of S. Isidore of Seville, in: RBen 50 (1938), 26–36 (32). 16  Isid. sent. 3.8.5: “Geminum est lectionis studium: primum quomodo scripturae intellegantur, secundum qua utilitate uel dignitate dicantur.” 17  Isid. sent. 1.18.12: “Lex diuina triplici sentienda est modo: primo uthistorice, secundo ut tropologice, tertio ut mystice intellegatur. Historice namque iuxta litteram, tropologice iuxtamoralem scientiam, mystice iuxta spiritalem intellegentiam. Ergo sic historiae oportet fidem tenere, ut eam etmoraliter debeamus interpretare, et spiritaliter intellegere.” Source: Greg. M. in eu. 2.40.1. See also: Isid. diff. 2.40. Isid. sent. 1.18.4: “Scriptura sacra infirmis et sensu paruulis, secundum historiam, humilis uidetur in uerbis; cum excellentioribus autem uiris altius incedit, dum eis sua mysteria pandit …” 18  Isid. eccl. 2.8.1–2 alluding to Num 3.5–26 and Isid. eccl. 2.8.4: “Ipsis etiam sacerdotibus propter praesumptionem non licet de mensa domini tollere calicem, nisi eis traditus fuerit a diacono. Leuitae inferunt oblationes in altario, leuitae conponunt mensam domini, leuitae operiunt arcam testamenti. Non enim omnes uident alta mysteriorum quae operiuntur a leuitis, ne uideant qui uidere non debent et sumant qui seruare non possunt.” 19  Isid. eccl. 2.8.5 quoting 1 Tim 3:8–10.

9. Functions of the Biblical text


(seriousness)20 and subdeacons (chastity).21 Thus, Isidore deduces three different contextual meanings from the same passage. While deacons, custodes sacrorum, and subdeacons are separate offices, Isidore relates them to the same example of the Levites. The parsimonious explanation of this triple equation is that all the meanings are contextual and independent. At the same time, Isidore intends to do the same thing by these correlations, i.e. to construct the roles of these offices. The utilitas of the exegesis is apparently more important for Isidore than the consistency of the text. Therefore, it is the pragmatic aspect of deploying the biblical quotations that will be examined in this study.22 To explain this point further I refer to Q. Skinner’s distinction between the meaning of a text and the illocutionary act of its deployment. The question about what is done by issuing an utterance can be formulated in terms of the speaker’s intentions.23 Note that the author’s intentions are reflected in the text, unlike the motives, which could hardly be comprehended.24 According to Skinner, one can understand the “illocutionary act” by decoding the conventions from which the utterance derives.25 In the context of this study I do not focus on the presence of the author in the treatise. Isidore himself insists that he does not speak for himself.26 However, I assume that he means something by quoting and alluding to the biblical text. It is this kind of pragmatic meaning that I designate as “function”.27 20  Isid. eccl. 2.9.1: “Custodes sacrarii leuitae sunt … Quique ideo in lege ab anno quinquagenario eleguntur custodes uasorum ut post edomitum carnis conflictum iam quieti, mundo corpore pariter et mente deo deseruiant, praeferentes speciem grauitatis, ne fallantur consilio, ne fidem deserant, neque quicquam intemperantius gerant.” 21  Isid. eccl. 2.10.2: “… isti oboediunt officiis leuitarum, isti quoque uasa corporis et sanguinis Christi diaconibus ad altarium offerunt. De quibus quidem placuit patribus ut, qui sacra mysteria contrectant, casti et continentes ab uxoribus sint et ab omni carnali inmunditia liberi, iuxta quod illis propheta docente iubetur: Mundamini qui fertis uasa domini (Is 52:11).” 22  The study of the sources of De ecclesiasticis officiis and their treatment by Isidore was perfectly carried out by A. Lawson. See: Lawson, 1938, 26–36. 23  This understanding is somewhat different from that of J.L. Austin. 24  Q.  Skinner, Visions of Politics, Vol. 1: Regarding Method, Cambridge 2002, 98. 25  Skinner, 2002, 142–143. 26  Isid. eccl. praef.: “Siqua tamen ex his displicuerint erroribus meis paratior uenia erit, quia non sunt referenda ad culpae meae titulum, de quibus testificatio adhibetur auctorum.” See also J. Wood’s observation about “objectivity” of Isidore’s texts: J. Wood, The Politics of Identity in Visigothic Spain. Religion and Power in the Histories of Isidore of Seville, Leiden 2012, 91. 27  Compare with Skinner’s typology of meanings. This meaning correlates with meaning3 (“what does a writer mean by what he is saying”). Others include the literal meaning



The study examines the rhetoric through which the biblical quotations/­ allusions are represented. In the process, the various connotations of the terms used for these representations are brought to light. I do not consider each case separately, because certain words form a rhetorical pattern that covers multiple passages. These connotations may be regarded as examples of the conventions “of a given culture” on which the text is based.28 Typically, the structure of the connection between the biblical allusion/ quotation and the Church practice or office runs as follows. The words of God directed to a biblical personage are readdressed to those who carry out the corresponding office in Isidore’s day. For example, Isidore correlates the lectors to the prophets. The words of God addressed to prophet Isaiah “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet” (Is 58:1) are directed to all lectors.29 As we shall see, there are two rhetorical models for representing the biblical text in the treatise — the exemplum and the precepts of God (praecepta).

Biblical Text as Exemplum

Isidore often designates a situation or personage from the Scripture as a prototype for some liturgical practice or ecclesiastical duty of his day. This original situation is reproduced in the officia for the sake of imitation. While both situations can be directly correlated, the most accurate term here is exemplum.30 (meaning1) and the meaning dependent upon the reader (meaning2). See: Skinner, 2002, 91–93. 28  Skinner, 2002, 142. 29  Isid. eccl. 2.9.1: “Lectorum ordo formam et initium a prophetis accepit. Sunt igitur lectores qui uerbum dei praedicant, quibus dicitur: Clama, ne cesses, quasi tuba exalta uocem tuam.” 30  Isid. eccl. 1.21.1: “De conpletis autem celebrandis, id etiam in patrum inuenimus exemplis, Dauid propheta dicente: Si ascendero in lectum stratus mei, si dedero somnum oculis meis, aut palpebris meis dormitationem, aut requiem temporibus meis, donec inueniam locum domino, tabernaculum deo Iacob.” Isid. eccl. 1.42.1: “Triduanis autem diebus ieiunare de exemplo sumptum est Niniuitarum …” Isid. eccl. 2.4.1: “Tonsurae ecclesiasticae usus a Nazareis, nisi fallor, exortus est … Horum ergo exemplis usus ab apostolis introductus est …” Isid. eccl. 2.6.1: “Corepiscopi, id est uicarii episcoporum … instituti sunt ad exemplum septuaginta seniorum …” Isid. eccl. 2.12.2: “Ex hoc ueteri more ecclesia sumpsit exemplum nutriendi psalmistas …” Isid. eccl. 2.16.1: “[patres] quorum exemplis per uniuersum mundum adoleuit sancta institutio monachorum …” Isid. eccl. 2.17.1: “Paenitentibus exemplum Iob primus exhibuit …” Isid. eccl. 2.19.1: “Viduarum multa exempla sunt, quarum prima in scripturis legitur Noemi.” Auctor also could serve as object of imitation: Isid. eccl. 2.15.1: “Vel quis huius conuersationis extitit auctor, cuius isti habitum imitantur?”

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At the same time, the practices of the Church are designated consuetudo31 and mos.32 Mos ueterum/uetus is used for the exemplar of a practice33; consuetudo is understood not only as a certain practice34 but also as the totality of the customs of the Church.35 Thus, on the one hand, the practice in question is a reproduction of the biblical mos (or exemplar); on the other, it derives from a custom. It should be noted that Isidore does not expound upon these terms in De ecclesiasticis officiis. Nevertheless, they ostensibly shape the form of his exegesis, marking the initial and final points of a text (exemplum — consuetudo). These terms are interrelated in the net of notions that constitute the pragmatic (illocutionary) component of Isidore’s exposition. The terms in question are charged with strong juridical and ethical connotations. In Differentiae I Isidore stresses the connection between lex and mos, defined as lex non scripta.36 It is worth noting that the source-text is nonChristian, being derived from the grammatical tradition.37 In Etymologiae, lex and mos are considered parts of ius. Mos is related to consuetudo, which effectively substitutes for the absence of a written law.38 The source of this definition of consuetudo is De corona militis of Tertullian. The subject of the source-text is Church custom, and Tertullian aims to legitimate it.39 Although Etymologiae were composed later than De ecclesiasticis officiis, Isidore was probably familiar with the text of Tertullian when ­preparing 31  See n. 34–35. 32  Isid. eccl. 1.18.3: “… in os Christiani prius dominicum corpus intraret quam ceteri cibi, et ideo per uniuersam orbem mos iste seruatur.” Isid. eccl. 1.18.2: “… quia tunc moris est lauandi capita infantum …” Isid. eccl. 1.40.1: “Hac ergo auctoritate diuinae scripturae ecclesia morem obtinuit et uniuersale ieiunium hac obseruatione celebrat.” 33  Isid. eccl. 1.20.3: “Denique hoc tempore ueterum sacrificia offerre adoleri que altario aromata et tura mos erat …” Isid. eccl. 1.36.1: “Festiuitates annuas dedicationis ecclesiarum ex more ueterum celebrari …” Isid. eccl. 2.12.2: “Ex hoc ueteri more ecclesia sumpsit exemplum nutriendi psalmistas …” Compare with: Isid. eccl. 1.36.1: “Christiani autem seruant illum patrum, in quibus gloria translata uidetur …” 34  Isid. eccl. 1.5.2 (consuetudo cantandi); Isid. eccl. 1.9.1 (consuetudo … precibus exposcere); Isid. eccl. 1.23.1 (celebrationis [matitunae]… consuetudo); Isid. eccl. 1.42.1 (triduani ieiunii consuetudo); Isid. eccl. 2.27.4 (consuetudo unguere). 35  Isid. eccl. praef.: “… consuetudine uniuersalis ecclesiae …” See n. 41. 36  Isid. diff. 1.427 (339): “Inter leges et mores. Lex est scriptis edita, mos autem lex quaedam uiuendi, nullo uinculo astricta, siue lex non scripta, sed tantum aeui usu retenta.” 37  Serv. auct. Aen. 8.316: “… qui neque legibus aut imperio cuiusquam regebantur, quia mos est lex quaedam uiuendi nullo uinculo adstricta, hoc est lex non scripta.” 38  Isid. etym. 5.3.3: “Consuetudo autem est ius quoddam moribus institutum, quod pro lege suscipitur, cum deficit lex …” 39  Tert. coron. 4.



his treatise on ecclesiastical duties. Moreover, this understanding of consuetudo should be attributed not to Tertullian alone but to early Christian discourse in general.40 It is no mere chance that in De ecclesiasticis officiis Isidore mentions Church custom alongside Scripture: “Those things that are celebrated in ecclesiastical offices are founded partly on the authority of the Sacred Scriptures and partly on apostolic tradition and the established custom of the universal church.”41 Equating consuetudo with the written law, Tertullian refers to civil practice and Roman law.42 Cicero, in his Topica, divides ius into lex, mos and aequitas43 (the third being a quality rather than content of the law). According to Roman jurists, lex and mos rule the life of every nation;44 if the written law is absent, custom should be consulted in legal cases.45 Quoting De corona militis, Isidore asserts that consuetudo should be related to either ratio or scriptura.46 As G. Bray observes, in De corona Tertullian borrows the term ratio not from the philosophical lexicon, but from juridical usage, where ratio is understood as the practice of administration of the law.47 Thus, custom should be in conformity, both in spirit and intention, with the written norm, or Scripture (Bray notes the “nice ambiguity” of the term scriptura). Moreover, the custom may either be provided by the written law, 40  Compare with the observation about the application of the terms of unwritten norms to the liturgical regulations at the beginning of the Middle Ages: R. Jacob, La coutume, les mœurs et le rite. Regards croisés sur les catégories occidentales de la norme non écrite, in: Extrême-Orient, Extrême-Occident 23 (2001), 145–166 (147). 41  Translated by T. Knoebel. Isid. eccl. praef.: “Ea quae in officiis ecclesiasticis celebrantur partim sanctarum scripturarum auctoritate partim apostolica traditione uel consuetudine uniuersalis ecclesiae statuta repperiuntur.” For the opposition of written/unwritten law of the Church see: Isid. eccl. 1.44.1: “Haec et alia multa sunt quae in ecclesiis Christi geruntur; ex quibus tamen quaedam sunt quae in scripturis canonicis commendantur, quaedam quae non sunt quidem scripta sed tamen tradita custodiuntur.” 42  Tert. coron. 4.5: “Consuetudo autem etiam in ciuilibus rebus pro lege suscipitur, cum deficit lex …” 43  Cic. top. 7.31: “… si quis ius in legem, morem, aequitatem diuidat.” 44  See, e.g., Gaius inst. 1.1: “Omnes populi, qui legibus et moribus reguntur, partim suo proprio, partim communi omnium hominum iure utuntur …” (= Dig. 1.1.9). See: Rhet. her. 2.12.18; 3.3.4. 45  Dig. 1.1.32: “Iulianus libro 84 digestorum: pr. De quibus causis scriptis legibus non utirt, quod moribus et consuetudine inductum est: et si qua in re hoc deficeret, tunc quod proximum et consequens ei est: si nec id quidem appareat, tunc ius, quo urbs Roma utitur, servari oportet.” 46  “Consuetudo … nec differt scriptura an ratione consistat, quando et legem ratio commendet” (Tert. coron. 4.5 = Isid. etym. 5.3.3). 47  G.  Bray, The Legal Concept of Ratio in Tertullian, in: VigChr 31 (1977), 94–116 (104).

9. Functions of the Biblical text


or merely deduced from it.48 If Bray’s understanding of the passage matches Isidore’s, it is clear that the establishment of a scriptural basis for the customs of the Church was necessary, or at least highly desirable. What is certain is that Isidore frequently legitimates customs by way of Scripture, and never by reference to reason, whether human or divine. Thus, the custom of the Church would appear to require a precedent in divine law (i.e. Scripture). This precedent-begging situation is designated by the legal-rhetorical category of exemplum.49 The critical requirement for the custom (mos) is that it must be a long-standing practice.50 For this reason De ecclesiasticis officiis often emphasizes the antiquity of the precedent mos (mos ueterum/uetus). Cicero, we should note, uses this combination of words for institutions of the maiores.51 The same reason (longevity/antiquity) may explain why the Old Testament functions as the primary source for most of the practices and duties in Isidore’s treatise. The function of the biblical text is to legitimate the practices of the Church by establishing their precedent in divine law. The connotations of juridical precedent vis-a-vis the term exemplum can hardly be separated from those of historical example and moral exemplar.52 As P. Brown observes, an exemplar draws upon the elements of a larger value system.53 Being an object of imitation, an exemplum explains what a certain custom or duty is, and how it should be accomplished in relation to an overarching system of values. This function of exemplum is therefore related to the production of the “normative”. The case of the power of the bishop is a good example of this. In De VII ordinibus ecclesiae — that is, one of the main sources of Isidore’s explication of the duties of the clergy — the figure of the bishop is compared with that of 48  Bray, 1977, 106–109. 49  Cic. inv. 1.49: “Exemplum est, quod rem auctoritate aut casu alicuius hominis aut negotii confirmat aut infirmat.” See: C. Ando, Exemplum, Analogy, and Precedent in Roman Law, in: M. Lowrie / S. Lüdemann (eds.), Exemplarity and Singularity: Thinking through Particulars in Philosophy, Literature, and Law, London 2015, 111–122 (113–116). 50  Cf. Isid. etym. 5.3.3. See: A. Iacoboni, La crise de la res publica et la reformulation du mos maiorum chez Cicéron, in: Calumenae 13 (2015), 1–22 (1) (URL: fr/IMG/pdf/IACOBONIbat.pdf). 51  Cic. rep. 5.1: “… itaque ante nostram memoriam et mos ipse patrius praestantes uiros adhibebat, et ueterem morem ac maiorum instituta retinebant excellentes uiri.” Cic. Verr. 2.4.113: “… ut morem ueterem Hennensium conseruarent, publice in eum, tametsi uexasset Siciliam, tamen quoniam haec a maioribus instituta accepissent, testimonium nequod dicerent.” 52  See: J.D.  Chaplin, Livy’s Exemplary History, Oxford 2000, 138–139. See also the literature to which J.D. Chaplin refers. 53  P.  Brown, The Saint as Exemplar in Late Antiquity, in: Representations 2 (1983), 1–25 (10).



God and Christ; the bishop sits at the top of the hierarchy of ministers just as God sits at the top of the hierarchy of being.54 Isidore does not, however, make any use of such analogies. At the same time, he quotes Exod 28:4–9 as a narrative explaining the origins of the bishop’s power (sacerdotalis auctoritas). He interprets the figure of Aaron as bishop, the sons of Aaron as presbyters, and Moses as the image of Christ, the true possessor of the power.55 Then, using the text of Jerome, Isidore compares the bishops to the apostles, accentuating the point that God and the people cooperate to elect a true bishop.56 Thus, the image of the bishop drawn by Isidore contradicts the one found De VII ordinibus ecclesiae.57 Nevertheless, Isidore does not openly repudiate it. Scripture speaks on his behalf; he merely reads (and interprets) it with a result that diverges from the conclusions of De VII ordinibus. As P. Brown has noted, it was the understanding of the past as a reproducible reality that made the usage of exemplar-rhetoric so popular in antiquity.58 Hence, the past from which the exempla are drawn played an essential role in the construction of the identity of those supposed to imitate them. Cicero, in his De officiis, correlates duties, and consequently morals, with the venerable history of Rome.59 It is not surprising, then, that Ambrose turns toward biblical history to draw the exempla for his De officiis of the Church ministers.60 At the same time, the identity of civil offices is rooted in the history of Rome. Isidore partly describes the origins of these in his Etymologiae.61 According

54  P.A.W.  Kalff, Ps.-Hieronymi De septem ordinibus ecclesiae, Wuerzburg 1935, 59: “hic [sc. episcopus] per omina Deo similis est …”; see also 60–61. 55  Isid. eccl. 2.5.3–4: “Quo loco contemplari oportet Aaron summum sacerdotem, id est episcopum fuisse; nam filios eius presbiterorum figuram praeministrasse … Sed forsitan quaeritur et hoc: cuius figuram faciebat Moyses?.. Indubitanter Christi, et uere per omnia Christi, quoniam fuit similitudo mediatoris dei qui est inter deum et hominem Iesus Christus, qui est uerus dux populorum, uerus princeps sacerdotum et dominus pontificum …” 56  Isid. eccl. 2.5.7: “Quattuor autem sunt genera apostolorum: unum a deo tantum ut Moyses; alterum per hominem et deum ut Iosue ; tertium tantum per hominem, sicut his temporibus multi fauore populi et potestatum in sacerdotium subrogantur; quartum autem genus ex se est sicut pseudoprophetarum et pseudoapostolorum.” Source: Hier. Gal. 1.1.1. 57  See: E.  Marey, Sacerdos vs. Episcopus. The Employment of the Treatise De septem ordinibus ecclesiae by Isidore of Seville (A Source Study), in: St. Tikhon’s University Review. Series I: Theology. Philosophy. Religious studies. 76 (2018), 11–22 (17–19). 58  Brown, 1983, 4–5. 59  T.  Guard, Morale théorique et morale pratique: nature et signification des exempla dans le De officiis de Cicéron, in: VL 176 (2007), 50–62 (54–56). 60  See, e.g.: J.W. Atkins, The Officia of St. Ambrose’s De officiis, in: JECS 19 (2011), 49–77. 61  Isid. etym. 9.3.

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to Pomponius the question is also expounded in Digestae,62 but it is unclear whether Isidore was familiar with this text.63 Against this background, establishing the origins (i.e. the primary exemplars) of the ecclesiastical offices and customs in Scripture turns out to be not merely commonplace, but a tool for separating the identity of the clergy from that of the uiri saeculares.64 E. Jaffelin has pointed out the exhortative value of the moral exemplum that leads to wisdom.65 Practices and duties that Isidore considers in his treatise can be understood in terms of the imitation of the saints. In Sententiae, Isidore describes the meditative practice of imitation. One has first to form the mental image of the saint whose virtue one hopes to imitate. Next, one should regard oneself as a reflection of this image, comparing it with the original. One can better know oneself through the other, Isidore remarks.66 As P. Brown has observed, this imitation works from outside in. In the opinion of the contemporary man (with “post-Augustinian sensitivity”), against the inner world (I would say “post-Cartesian”), this process begins from the outer and superficial points, pertaining to aesthetics rather than ethics.67 The pragmatic functions of the biblical text, when regarded as exemplum, are manifold. The biblical text establishes the practices of the Church in terms of exemplum/mos — consuetudo. Moreover, Scripture shapes the popular understanding in terms of a given value system, regulating the “normative”. The biblical exempla, for their part, serve to construct an identity for the clergy, separating the history of their offices (the revival of which is encouraged) from that of civil ministration. Last, but not least, the examples of biblical personages make the text of De ecclesiasticis officiis not only a collection of instructions for the clergy, but also a tool for the practice of meditation upon the virtues of ideal clergymen.

62  Dig.–34. 63  F.J.  Andrés Santos, Derecho y jurisprudencia en las fuentes de Isidoro de Sevilla, in: AntTard 23 (2015), 155–162 (161). 64  Isid. eccl. 2.5.12: “Iam uero quod saeculares uiri nequaquam ad ministerium ecclesiae adsumantur, eadem auctoritas apostolica docet dicens: Manus cito nemini inposueris.” 65  E.  Jaffelin, Le temps de l’exemple (Tertullien), in: RSR 74 (2000), 437–465. 66  Isid. sent. 2.11.9–10: “Multi uitam sanctorum imitantur et de moribus alterius effigiem uirtutis sumunt, tanquam si imago quaelibet intendatur, et de eius similitudine species picta formetur; sicque fit ad imaginem similis ille qui ad similitudinem uiuit imaginis. Qui sanctum uirum imitatur, quasi exemplar ali?quod intuetur, seseque in illo, quasi in speculo, praespicit, ut adiciat quod deesse uirtutis agnoscit. Minus enim seipsum homo ex semetipso considerat, sed dum alterum intendit, id quod minus est luminis adicit.” 67  Brown, 1983, 4–5.



Biblical Text as Divine Precepts

The presentation of the biblical text as the origo of ecclesial customs and duties is not restricted to the mode of exemplum; the rhetorical trope of “divine directions” (praecepta) is also applied. In such cases, impelling words of the Lord, addressed to a biblical personage, are interpreted as imperative for those with whom this person is allegorically identified. The terms used for this kind of exegesis are taken from the juridical lexicon (mandare, iubere, lex, edictum etc.). For the most part, the precepts of God are found in the chapters dedicated to the clergy and the fasts. Most of the fasts are justified by the authority of divine commandment,68 spoken through an apostle or prophet (i.e. a quotation from the Scriptures).69 It is important to inquire after the addressee of these commands. The chapter “On eating of meats and fish” provides an answer. Here, we find that the prohibition against eating meat and drinking wine is directed toward an unspecified “us”.70 The main source for the chapter (i.e. De VII ordinibus ecclesiae) addresses this prohibition to the priest and, indeed, every minister of God.71 Given this context, it becomes clear that the “we” of De ecclesiasticis officiis refers primarily to the clergy. Isidore uses the rhetoric of divine precepts mostly in the chapters concerning the offices of the ministers of God. In the chapter “On tonsure”, God is shown to require obligatory tonsure for the clergy via the words addressed to Ezekiel (Ezek 5:1) “take thee … a barber’s razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head”. The generalization of this precept is justified by the fact that Ezekiel was born into a priestly family.72 The origins of the ranks of bishop, priest, and 68  Isid. eccl. 1.40.1: “Ieiunium kalendarum nouembrium est, quod diuina auctoritate uel initiatum uel institutum …” Isid. eccl. 1.39.1: “Hoc enim primum in lege a domino institutum est …” Isid. eccl. 1.38.1: “Hoc ieiunium a plerisque ex auctoritate euangelii post domini ascensionem conpletur …” Isid. eccl. 1.37.4: “Lege enim Moysaica generaliter uniuerso populo est praeceptum decimas et primitias offerre domino deo.” There are some exceptions, however: Isid. eccl. 1.37.1–2; 1.42.1. The fast of the kalends of January is established not in the Scripture, but by the fathers against “the error of heathen”. See: Isid. eccl. 1.41. 69  Isid. eccl. 1.38.1 — Matt 9:15 (ieiunium pentecosten); Isid. eccl. 1.39.1 — Lev 23:27, 29–30 (ieiunium septimi mensis); Isid. eccl. 1.40.1–2 — Jer 36:2–9 (ieiunium kalendarum nouembrium). Isid. eccl. 1.39.1: “a domino institutum est dicente ad Moysen …” Isid. eccl. 1.40.1: “Hieremiae prophetae testimonio declaratur, dicente ad eum domino … Isid. eccl. 1.45.1: ..Christus … loquens per apostolum suum …” 70  Isid. eccl. 1.45.2: “Piscem sane, quia eum post resurrectionem accepit dominus, possumus manducare.” 71  Kalff, 1935, 68–69. 72  Isid. eccl. 2.4.2: “Hoc quippe et Ezechielo prophetae iubetur dicente domino: Tu fili hominis sume tibi gladium acutum et duces per caput tuum et barbam; uidelicet quia et ipse sacerdotali genere deo in ministerium sanctificationis deseruiebat.”

9. Functions of the Biblical text


deacon are likewise related to divine direction. The commandments of the Lord concerning the priesthood of Aaron and his (male) progeny are cited as the basis of the sacerdotal power of bishop and priests73, and the commandments concerning the tribe of Levi are cited as the foundation of the office of deacons.74 The origins of some minor ranks (custodes sacrorum, subdeacons) are couched in a similar rhetoric of command.75 Citations from the New Testament also tend to exhibit legal rhetoric. The characteristics of the ideal bishop in 1 Tim 1:5–7 (quoted entirely in the chapter on priests) are deemed sententia76, and the decision of the apostles to ordinate seven deacons (also quoted in full via Acts 6:2–7) is expressed by the term decerno, with its strong connotations of decision by legal authority (ministration).77 The words that the Lord addressed to Peter (Matt 16:18–19) granting the power of binding and loosing to the apostles, and consequently to the bishops, can be taken in the same way.78 The juridical terms are also present in the chapters dedicated to the matters of laymen. Divine precepts establishing the order of marriage and child-bearing are designated as sententia and edictum.79 By renouncing Satan and joining Christ, 73  Isid. eccl. 2.5.2: “Ceterum Aaron primus in lege sacerdotale nomen accepit, primusque pontificali stola infulatus uictimas obtulit iubente domino ac loquente ad Moysen …” (here follows the large quotation from Exod 28:4–9). Isid. eccl. 2.7.1: “Presbiterorum ordo exordium sumpsit a filiis, ut dictum est, Aaron.” 74  Isid. eccl. 2.8.1: “Diaconorum ordo a Leui tribu accepit exordium. Praecepit enim dominus ad Moysen ut post ordinationem Aaron sacerdotis et filiorum eius rursus Leui tribus in diuini cultus ministerio ordinarentur …” See further: Num 3:5–26. 75  Isid. eccl. 2.9.1: “Custodes sacrarii leuitae sunt. Ipsis enim iussum est custodire tabernaculum et omnia uasa templi.” Isid. eccl. 2.10.1: “Subdiacones … in Esdra inueniuntur, appellanturque ibi Natanei, id est in humilitate domino seruientes. Ex eorum ordine fuit ille Nathanahel qui … saluatorem meruit confiteri, quique etiam ad primum diuinitatis indicium fidelis enituit, protestante domino ac dicente: Ecce uere Israhelita in quo dolus non est (John 1:47).” Isid. eccl. 2.10.2: “De quibus quidem placuit patribus ut … casti et continentes ab uxoribus sint et ab omni carnali inmunditia liberi, iuxta quod illis propheta docente iubetur : Mundamini qui fertis uasa domini (Isa 52:11).” 76  Isid. eccl. 2.7.2: “Qua sententia ostendit presbiteros etiam sub episcoporum nomine taxari.” 77  Isid. eccl. 2.8.3: “Exhinc iam decreuerunt apostoli, uel successores apostolorum, per omnes ecclesias septem diacones … quasi columnae altaris adsisterent.” See: Th. Bögel, decerno, in: TLL 5/1 (1910), 139–157 (142–151). 78  Isid. eccl. 2.5.5: “Ipsi enim primum datum est pontificatum in ecclesia Christi. Sic enim loquitur ad eum dominus: Tu es, inquid, Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferorum non uincent eam. Tibi dabo claues regni сaelorum. Hic ergo ligandi soluendique potestatem primus accepit …” 79  Isid. eccl. 2.20.1–2: “Deus … sententia dicens : Crescite et multiplicamini et replete terram (Gen 1:22)… unde et pariturae tale praecessit edictum: In dolore, inquid, et merore paries filios (Gen 3:16)…” Words are borrowed from: Consultationes Zacchaei et Apollonii 3.5.



the catechumen enters into two ‘pacts’ (pactio).80 On the other hand, Isidore says that marriage is regulated by the law of nature.81 In Etymologiae, the ius naturale, which “exists by instinct of nature”, covers matters that are likewise considered in the chapter “On the married people”.82 Understandably, divine orders concerning the clergy never possess these characteristics. In this context, it is worth considering the division of moral precepts made by Martinus of Braga (ca. 520–579/580), the elder contemporary of Isidore. Martinus observes that the perfect things (i.e. those things related to the Scripture) must be accomplished by devoted ministers of God, while laymen should be content to live honestly according to the natural law of human ­understanding.83 This is not to say that the divine law is opposed to the law of nature,84 but rather that the levels and modes of understanding are different.85 We should note that the divine law was initially understood as equivocal to the law of nature, i.e. the universal law deduced from the contemplation of the nature of things.86 Introducing it into the context of Roman juristic thought, Cicero defined the auxiliary role of the written law.87 Christianity, however, traditionally associated the divine law with the Scriptures, expressed as the personal will of the Lawgiver.88 For this reason, nature became an insufficient

80  Isid. eccl. 2.25.5: “Duae sunt namque pactiones credentium. Prima enim pactio est in qua renuntiatur diabulo et pompis et universae conuersationis illius; secunda pactio est in qua se credere in patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum profitetur.” See: F. Fröhlke, pactio, in: TLL 10/1 (1982), 24–27 (24). 81  Isid. eccl. 2.20.1: “De coniugatis lex naturae a saeculo est.” 82  Isid. etym. 5.4.1: “Ius naturale est commune omnium nationum, et quod ubique instinctu naturae, non constitutione aliqua habetur, ut uiri et feminae coniunctio,liberorum successio et educatio …” 83  Mart. Brac. form. vit. 1: “Titulus autem libelli est Formula Vitae Honestae, quem idcirco tali uolui uocabulo superscribi, quia non illa ardua et perfecta quae a paucis et egregiis deicolis patrantur instituit, sed ea magis commonet quae et sine diuinarum scripturarum praeceptis naturali tantum humanae intellegentiae lege etiam a laicis recte honesteque uiuentibus ualeant adimpleri.” 84  Isid. etym. 5.2.1: “Omnes autem leges aut diuinae sunt aut humanae. Diuinae natura, humanae moribus constant.” See: V. Yarza Urquiola / F.J. Andrés Santos (eds.), Isidoro de Sevilla. Etimologías. Libro V. De legibus — de temporibus, Paris, 2015, 182–183. 85  See: Isid. sent. 1.17.4–5. 86  R.A.  Horsley, The Law of Nature in Philo and Cicero, in: HTR 71 (1978), 35–59 (50–57). See: Cic. leg. 1.59; Cic. nat. deor. 1.36. 87  E.  Asmis, Cicero on Natural Law and the Laws of the State, in: ClAnt 27 (2008), 1–33 (2). 88  This point is clearly reflected in Isidore’s sentence on the justice that is the fulfilment of the divine will: Isid. sent. 2.1.7: “Consilio autem diuino seruandum est, ut hoc credatur esse iustitia quod diuinae placuerit uoluntati. Non enim poterit esse iniustum quod iusto conplacet iudici.”

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expression of the divine law. God was henceforth understood to reveal his law, first and foremost, through the text of the Bible. The clergy, given their vocation, possess a greater familiarity with Scripture, and hence divine law. Consequently, they are its primary addressees. The biblical text, when interpreted as a source of divine precepts — such as bear upon the clergy — functions as more than a mere explanation of their offices (i.e. semantically). It also reflects a special kind of relation between clergymen and their God. In Sententiae, Isidore correlates the fulfilling of divine precepts with the gratification of He who commands them. The execution of the lawgiver’s directives is a way of revering the giver (whether the king’s laws or God’s precepts).89 God becomes the Lord (dominus) of the clergy who serve Him. This relation is drawn out through biblical quotation in the chapter “On the clerics”. The words of God in Num 18:20 “I am thine inheritance” are addressed to the clerics, who say in answer “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance” (Ps 15:5).90 Serving God presupposes the fulfilment of his precepts. The next chapter is about the moral “rules of the clerics”. Illustrative is the case of the clerical prohibition against eating meat and drinking wine, which is deemed primordial.91 Here, the divine law is entrusted to the clerics, especially to their leader. The bishop, we learn, is meant to reveal the mystery of the Scripture to the people, while keeping it out of the hands of those who are deemed unworthy.92

89  Isid. sent. 2.3.5: “Qui Dei praecepta contemnit, Deum non diligit. Neque enim regem diligimus, si odio leges eius habemus.” Source: Avg. in epist. Ioh. 9. 90  Isid. eccl. 2.1.2: “Proinde ergo cleros uocari aiunt eo quod in sorte hereditatis domini dentur, uel pro eo quod ipse dominus sors eorum sit, sicut de eis scriptum est loquente domino: Ego hereditas eorum. Vnde oportet ut qui deum hereditatem possident absque ullo inpedimento saeculi deo seruire studeant, et pauperes spiritu esse contendant, ut congrue illud psalmistae dicere possint: Dominus pars hereditatis meae.” 91  Isid. eccl. 2.45.1: “Carnes autem et uinum post diluuium hominibus in usum concessum. Nam initio permissum non fuerat nisi tantum illud ut scriptum est: Lignum fructiferum et herbam seminalem dedi nobis in escam … Sed postquam Christus … hoc quod in principio suspenderat etiam in temporum fine retraxit, loquens per apostolum suum: Bonum est non manducare carnem et non bibere uinum, et iterum: Qui infirmus est olera manducet.” Source: Hier. Aduersus louiniam 1.18. 92  Isid. eccl. 2.5.15, 17: “… nam multa sunt quae, carnalium minusque intellegentium occultantes, sacerdotes quasi sub signaculo condunt ne indignis quibusque dei sacramenta aperiantur … Huius [episcopi] sermo debet esse … tractans de mysterio legis … Cuius prae ceteris speciale officium est scripturas legere …” See: Isid. sent. 3.43 (De doctrinae discretione); Isid. sent. 3.44 (De silentio doctorum).



The correlation between officium and praeceptum (as a specific prescription, in contrast to general decretum) was well established long before Isidore.93 In De ecclesiasticis officiis, the precepts of God regulate ecclesiastical duties. It should be noted that De VII ordinibus ecclesiae and Statuta ecclesia antiqua, being the main sources of the second book of De ecclesiasticis officiis, were regarded as part of the body of canonical law in Visigothic Spain.94 In this context, the biblical text, in its preceptial power, provided a (quasi-) legitimate foundation for the segregation of the clergy from the secular sphere.95 At the same time, the law served as a framework for identity.96 Isidore attributes the traditional juridical correlation between the unity of the law and the unity of the community both to ciuitas and ecclesia.97 The precepts of God are the constituent parts of the divine law. As mentioned above, this law was traditionally understood as universal and natural, and was regarded as the principal object of contemplation for directing one’s actions.98 Isidore, for his part, related contemplation to the practice of praying and reading the Scriptures99. Thus, the passages of Scripture presented as the orders of God also suggest a contemplative function. In Sententiae, Isidore notes that the practice of reading the Scriptures presupposes meditation upon the law and precepts of God for the sake of their fulfilment.100 Since the passages in question are connected to clerical duties, they were likely intended to function as a contemplative basis for the actions of clerics. For instance, both 93  P.  Mitsis, Natural Law and Natural Right in Post-Aristotelian Philosophy. The Stoics and Their Critics, ANRW 36/7, Berlin 1994, 4845. See: Sen. ep. 94.33, Cic. off. 1.6; Cic. de orat. 1.264. 94  Marey, 2018, 13–14; C. Munier (ed.), Concilia Galliae a. 314–506, CCSL 148, Turnhout 1963, 163. 95  See: M.  Birkin, Principles of Formation of Clerical Identity in Isidore Of Seville’s Treatise on Ecclesiastical Offices, in: Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia II: Istoriia. Istoriia Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi 83 (2018), 26–47 (39–40). 96  See: J.  Tolan, Lex alterius: Using Law to Construct Confessional Boundaries, in: History and Anthropology 26 (2015), 55–75. 97  Isid. etym. 5.5.1: “Ius ciuile est quod quisque populus uel ciuitas sibi proprium humana diuinaque causa constituit.” On the local customs of the Church Isidore observes: Isid. eccl. 1.44.2: “Quod enim neque contra fidem neque contra mores bonos habetur indifferenter sequendum, et propter eorum inter quos uiuitur societatem seruandum est, ne per diuersitatem obseruationum scismata generentur.” 98  See: G.  Striker, Origins of the Concept of Natural Law, in: Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 2 (1986), 79–94 (91–92). 99  M.  Birkin, Isidore of Seville’s Ideas on Active and Contemplative Life: Background and Content, in: VDI 77/1 (2017), 126–139 (135). 100  Isid. sent. 3.8.8; 3.8.6; compare with: Isid. sent. 1.18.8.

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the bishop’s power, and the power of the auxiliary presbyters, are derived from the divine commandment establishing priesthood as such. The presentation of biblical passages in the rhetoric of orders/precepts stresses the role of Scripture as divine law. Significantly, this law, understood as the revelation of the will of God, is directed primarily to the clergy. On this ground, the biblical text acts to fortify the unity of the ministers of God over against the secular community. At the same time, it reflects, and underscores, the metaphorical relationship of service/patronage between clerics and God. Furthermore, the quotations presented as praecepta serve as objects of contemplation, necessary for understanding the idea of the clerical rank and its officia. Conclusion Explaining the origins of the ecclesiastical duties and customs in De ecclesiasticis officiis, Isidore uses two rhetorical representations when dealing with biblical quotations/allusions: 1) a biblical narrative is submitted as an example/ precedent for some custom or duty; 2) a text from the Scriptures is cited as an order/precept of God. These two representations have a range of functions. Though opposed to each other in certain contexts,101 exemplum and praecepta are intrinsically connected.102 As Isidore notes, exemplum can sometimes even act as a substitute for the divine precepts, or at least, allow us to see the feasibility of God’s law.103 For this reason, the functions of both occasionally overlap. After all, Isidore uses both of them in the explanation of the origins (origo); and, we should note, origo seems to be the central category of his thought.104 As J. Fontaine has observed, by writing this book, Isidore intended to restore

101  See: A. Baumgartner, praecipio, in: TLL 10/2 (1983), 441–461 (456). 102  Isid. eccl. 1.6.1: “… etiam ipsius domini et apostolorum habemus exemplum et praecepta de hac re utilia …” 103  Isid. sent. 2.11.6: “Si enim ad boni incitamentum diuina quibus admoneremur praecepta deesent, pro lege nobis sanctorum exempla sufficerent. At contra, dum et Deus nos praeceptis suis admoneat et uitae sanctorum boni operis nobis exempla proponat, nulla est iam de reatu excusatio, quia et lex Dei aures nostras cotidie pulsat et factorum documenta bonorum cordis nostri intima prouocant.” 104  Note that the original title of the book reads De origine officiorum. See: C.M. Lawson, Introduction, in: Idem (ed.) Sancti lsidori Hispalensis De ecclesiasticis officiis, CCSL 113, Turnhout 1989, *119–*121.



the authentic duties/offices of the members of the Church.105 The present study allows us to develop this observation. However, I prefer to speak about the functions of the biblical text and not about Isidore per se. Of course, my conclusions address questions concerning the biblical texts that establish the origins of the duties and customs of the Church in Isidore of Seville’s De ecclesiasticis officiis (rather than Scripture in general). That said, I will draw conclusions about Isidore’s work rather than his personage. I prefer not to discuss the question of the role and legacy of Isidore as author for the reasons mentioned in the introduction. The author of the compilation is not, properly speaking, the master of his text. 1. Biblical exemplum, as well as praecepta, legitimate the practices of the Church. Regarding these practices, Isidore sees an equivalency between the unwritten law (consuetudo, mos) and the written statutes. However, following Roman jurisprudence, he attempts to correlate custom to scriptura (i.e. to the Bible, in this case). The legal rhetoric of these representations does not amount to a strictly legal function for the text.106 Rather, the cited passages shape the understanding of ecclesial customs and duties; they describe a primordial, exemplary situation, wherein a given custom/duty manifests its pure, original form. Moreover, the biblical text exercises a “normative” function, supplying an object for imitation and a means of connecting ecclesiastical duties and offices to an authoritative value systems. For example, minor orders of the clergy should have the same moral virtues (chastity, temperance etc.) as the biblical personages they are metaphorically related to. 2. In De officiis ecclesiasticis, the biblical text serves as the ultimate ground of history and law. Each of these helps construct the framework of identity. Biblical history and law separate clergy from their secular counterparts. In late antique culture, historical examples were to be conserved/ revived by imitation. While the system of civil administration was deeply connected to the history of Rome, biblical history represented an alternative past to be reproduced. The law united the community. Given that the divine law was directed toward the clergy, it established and legitimated the community of clerics. Moreover, Isidore believes that the law of God 105  J.  Fontaine, Isidore philosophe? in: J.M. Soto Rábanos (ed.), Pensamiento medieval hispano: homenaje a Horacio Santiago-Otero, Madrid 1998, 2, 915–929 (926). 106  Isidore used mostly philosophical/theological connotations in making his conception of lex: E. Krinitsyna, “Lex autem iuris est species”. The Conception of Law (lex) in the Works of Isidore of Seville, in: Vestnik RGGU 10 (2010), 249–267 (259–260). Note that Isidore was not a jurist. See: J. de. Churruca, Las instituciones de Gayo en San Isidoro de Sevilla, Bilbao 1975, 137.

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is the articulation of his will. The clergy therefore have a special duty to execute it. In return for their fidelity, God invests the clergy with their privileged status (of course, metaphorically).107 This may also allude to the hagiographical topos wherein a saint fulfils the divine law and receives God’s power and protection in return.108 3. Late antique Christian readers treated the biblical text in a special way. Reading Scripture was an essential part of contemplative practice. It included both the imitation of the saints109 and the understanding of the divine precepts. I believe this fact is also relevant for the biblical quotations (some of them rather large) in De ecclesiasticis officiis. Contemplation (and thus reading) leads one to the perfection of virtue.110 At the same time, it informs the physical action by which virtue is realized. The duties of the clergy pertain to just such action. Recalling the introductory remarks, I reiterate that the transmission of information concerning the origins of ecclesiastical officia was by no means the ultimate goal of Isidore. Since the official addressee of the treatise was the bishop (and Isidore’s brother) Fulgentius, I assume that he was well acquainted with the relevant biblical texts. I believe it was rather the transformation of the reader that Isidore meant to do through the deliberate inclusion of select biblical passages in the text. At the same time, the reader would be required to perceive the biblical passages in the treatise as worthy objects of contemplation. In other words, the treatise required a special kind of reader. If contemplative

107  Isid. eccl. 2.4.4: “Vtrumque itaque signum exprimitur in capite clericorum ut impleatur etiam corporali quadam similitudine quod scriptum est Petro apostolo perdocente: Vos estis genus electum regale sacerdotium.” 108  See classic work: P. Brown, The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, in: JRS 61 (1971), 80–101 (87). See also the cases of “divine penalty” miracles, although I. Velázqez interprets them as mere moral examples: I. Velázquez Soriano, Hagiografía y culto a los Santos en la Hispania Visigoda: aproximación a sus manifestaciones literarias, aproximación a sus manifestaciones literarias, Merida 2005, 154–157.    Note that, according to Isidore, one of the special duties of the bishop was to imitate the example of saints (Isid. eccl. 2.5.17); visigothic hagiography provided many examples of such bishop-saints. 109  Isid. sent. 2.11.12: “Exempla sanctorum quibus aedificatur homo, uarias consectare uirtutes: humilitatis ex Christo, deuotionis ex Petro, caritatis ex Iohanne, obedientiae de Abraham, patientiae de Isaac, tolerantiae de Iacob, castimoniae de Ioseph, mansuetudinis de Moyse, constantiae de Iosue, benignitatis de Samuhel, misericordiae de Dauid, abstinentia de Danihel, sic et cetera facta priorum quo labore, quo moderamine, qua ue intentione uel conpunctione gerantur,uir sanctus imitando considerat.” 110  See: Isid. sent. 1.11.8–11.



reading was a part of Christian literacy of Late Antiquity, it is important that such literacy formed a part of clerical identity.111 So what did Isidore intend ‘to do’ by his treatise? Of course, he consolidated authoritative quotations on relevant topics, but this was not the final aim of his work. Indeed, the collation of texts, and meditation upon them, was an essential intellectual practice of the epoch.112 The “restoration of the authenticity of the officia” is thus more about the meaning of the treatise than the “illocutionary act” carried out by Isidore. It follows from the analysis of the functions (pragmatic meanings) of the biblical text in De ecclesiasticis officiis, that the treatise operated to shape the identity of the clergy and their head (i.e. the bishop). This identity separated the clergy from secular life, broadly construed. It was relevant to the social and political context of Visigothic Spain in which the Church and the secular elite were at loggerheads.113 Moreover, De ecclesiaticis officis, and the clerical identity proposed therein, influenced the bishops of the Carolingian era, who borrowed the image of the bishop to reform the office of the priest.114

111  Birkin, 2018, 39–40. 112  See: M.  Carruthers, The Craft of Thought: Rhetoric, Meditation, and the Making of Images, 400–1200, Cambridge 1998. 113  Although, the historical reality was apparently more complicated, there were at least some conflicts between bishops and nobility. See e.g.: M. Birkin, A Bishop and Secular Power in Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo at the beginning of the 7th century in the Works of Isidore of Seville, in: Vestnik RGGU 114 (2013), 51–65 (57). The live of Masona of Merida provides representative pieces of evidence: Vitas sanctorum patrum emeretensium 5. 114  See: C.  van Rijn, Shepherds of the Lord. Priests and Episcopal Statutes in the Carolingian Period, Turnhout 2007, 64–65.

Textual Aspects of the Formation of Christian Discourse

A New Look at Enoch and Elijah in the Apocalypse of Elijah Ivan Miroshnikov and Alexey Somov Abstract The Apocalypse of Elijah is an early Christian text that recycles earlier eschatological traditions, offering an idiosyncratic account of the defeat of the Antichrist and the end of the world. This article investigates the origins and internal logic of the eschatological scenario narrated in this text. In contrast to previous scholarship, we argue that this scenario is not a hodgepodge of various mutually exclusive Jewish and Christian traditions but a systematic account of the eschatological events. Introduction Among the key witnesses to Early Christian eschatological discourse, the Apocalypse of Elijah undoubtedly holds a special place, offering an idiosyncratic account of the struggle between Enoch and Elijah on the one hand and the Antichrist (“the son of lawlessness”) on the other. Unique to the Apocalypse of Elijah is that Enoch and Elijah, the two righteous men taken to the heavens alive, descend to the earth twice. After their first descent, they rebuke the Antichrist and die; God raises them from the dead, and they seem to ascend to the heavens. In the final stage of the last judgment, they descend to the earth for the second time, transforming their “flesh of the world” into “flesh of the spirit,” kill the Antichrist, and imprison the sinners in hell. Previous scholarship envisioned the double descent of Enoch and Elijah as a sign of editorial interference: the text was believed to have contained different, if not mutually exclusive, traditions — viz., “Jewish” and “Christian” ones — its “incoherency” effected by a Christian reviser of the original Jewish apocalypse. In this article, *  This article was initially presented by its authors as “The Function of Enoch and Elijah in the Eschatological Scenario of the Apocalypse of Elijah” during the section “Enoch within and outside the Books of Enoch: Parabiblical Writings, Iconography, and Oral Tradition” at the joint conference of the European Association of Biblical Studies and the Society of Biblical Literature (Helsinki, 1 August 2018). We wish to thank all our colleagues who participated in the discussion of the paper, especially Florentina Badalanova Geller and Matthew J. Goff. We are also grateful to Kenneth W. Lai for language proofreading.

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_011



we argue rather that a meaningful and consistent narrative already exists in the text, which thus need not be broken down into editorial “layers.” Our hypothesis is that the author of the Apocalypse of Elijah, undoubtedly a Christian, set himself the task of producing a systematic account of all events that will transpire in the end time. To this end, he recycled and harmonized various eschatological traditions known to him (e.g., the notion of the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation and that of the transformation of the body in the eschatological resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15). The present article seeks then to explore the origins and internal logic of this eschatological scenario. In the first part, we introduce the textual witnesses of the Apocalypse of Elijah and various problems pertaining to their study. We then offer an overview of the eschatological scenario narrated in this text and past scholarship thereon. In the second part of this article, we explore key notions that seem to have shaped the unique eschatology of the Apocalypse of Elijah.

Textual Witnesses

The study of the Apocalypse of Elijah is greatly hindered by the state in which its text has survived. While one manuscript fragment of this text does survive in the original Greek,1 the complete text of the Apocalypse of Elijah is available only in Coptic. Moreover, none of the extant Coptic manuscripts attests to the Apocalypse of Elijah in its entirety. To complicate matters further, the available text of the Apocalypse of Elijah does not even exist in a single Coptic dialect, some portions available only in Achmimic and some only in Sahidic. Thus, every modern translation of the apocryphon must first combine the several textual witnesses to present a continuous text. Accordingly, we offer first a brief survey of the extant textual witnesses before discussing the eschatological scenario envisioned in this text.2

1  The assumption that the Coptic text is translated from the Greek seems to be the unchallenged communis opinio of the scholars of the Apocalypse of Elijah (see, e.g., D. Frankfurter, Elijah in Upper Egypt: The Apocalypse of Elijah and Early Egyptian Christianity, Studies in Antiquities and Christianity, Minneapolis 1993, 18). 2  Throughout this article, we refer to the manuscripts of the Apocalypse of Elijah using the abbreviations introduced in A. Pietersma / S.T. Comstock / H.W. Attridge, The Apocalypse of Elijah Based on P. Chester Beatty 2018, SBLTT 19, Chico 1981, 1.

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Gk = PSI 1.7. A fragment of a leaf from a papyrus codex, whose verso side (↓) preserves Apoc. El. 5.31–32.3 The fragment was published in 1912 by E. Pistelli4 and reedited in 1981 by A. Pietersma.5 The fragment, uncovered among the finds of the Italian excavations at Hermopolis Magna, appears to belong to the same codex as PSI 1.6 (comprising Protevangelium Jacobi).6 Based on paleographic data from this codex, E. Crisci dates the manuscript to the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century CE.7 The text of the recto side (→) of the fragment remains unidentified. According to Pietersma, the recto is likely to have preceded the verso and thus must have also contained a portion of the Apocalypse of Elijah. The only Coptic witness that would have contained textual parallel to that of the recto of PSI 1.7 is Sa1. However, since Gk and Sa1 do not seem to have any parallel text, Pietersma concludes that, at this point, Gk and Sa1 “must have differed” from each other.8 A similar opinion is held by D. Frankfurter9 and A. Carlini, the latter of whom suggests that “l’esemplare greco avesse un testo più ampio in questo punto.”10 Another solution to this problem was suggested by Pistelli — viz., that the verso preceded the recto.11 In this case, the Apocalypse of Elijah would have ended on the verso, while the recto would have contained the beginning of a new text. This proposal, accepted by A. Ehrhard12 and J. van Haelst (the latter of whom noted that the recto probably contains “un texte apocryphe”),13 is simpler and makes fewer assumptions than the alternative hypothesis and therefore appears to be the more plausible explanation. 3  We follow the versification of the Apocalypse of Elijah introduced in O.S. Wintermute, Apocalypse of Elijah (First to Fourth Century A.D.), in: J.H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1, Garden City 1983, 721–753. 4  E.  Pistelli, 7. Apocalypsis Eliae, in: Papiri greci e latini, vol. 1, Pubblicazioni della Società italiana per la ricerca dei Papiri greci e latini in Egitto, Florence 1912, 16–17. 5  Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, 91–94. 6  M.  Naldini, Documenti dell’antichità cristiana. Papiri e pergamene greco-egizie della Raccolta Fiorentina, Florence 1965, 20–21. 7  E.  Crisci, I più antichi codici miscellanei greci. Materiali per una riflessione, in: Segno e testo 2 (2004), 109–144 (138). 8  Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, 92. 9  Frankfurter, 1993, 23. 10  A.  Carlini, Papiri cristiani e tradizione dei testi biblici e patristici, in: G. Cavallo / E. Crisci / G. Messeri / R. Pintaudi (eds.), Scrivere libri e documenti nel mondo antico, Papirologica Florentina 30, Florence 1998, 25–38 (26). 11  Pistelli, 1912, 17. 12  A.  Ehrhard, Überlieferung und Bestand der hagiographischen und homiletischen Literatur der griechischen Kirche von den Anfängen bis zum Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts, vol. 1, TUGAL 50, Leipzig 1937, 57. 13  J.  van Haelst, Catalogue des papyrus littéraires juifs et chrétiens, Paris 1976, 199.



Sa1 = seven leaves of a papyrus codex written in Sahidic, housed at the National Library of France under inventory number Copte 135 III fols. 26–32. One of the leaves contains a portion of the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, while the remaining six leaves comprise Apoc. El. 1.24–2.15; 3.8–5.25. This manuscript, published by G. Steindorff in 1899,14 has been dated by various scholars to either the fourth or fifth century CE.15 The provenance of the codex is a matter of debate. Over a series of publications, T. Orlandi has suggested that Sa1 and Ach, along with a group of other (predominantly Achmimic) fourth — or fifth-century manuscripts, came from the White Monastery.16 However, as A. Boud’hors has noted, this suggestion appears to be problematic.17 What seems to be certain is that, since the manuscript exhibits a strong Achmimic tendency, it — as well as Ach — is likely to have been produced in the Theban region.18 Sa2 = a papyrus codex, housed at the British Library under inventory number Or.7594 and described in B. Layton’s catalog as P.Lond.Copt. 2.1.19 This manuscript, published by Sir E.A.W. Budge in 1912,20 comprises a miscellany of Old and New Testament books in Sahidic (Deuteronomy, Jonah, and Acts). At the end of the codex, the beginning of the Apocalypse of Elijah (Apoc. El. 1.1–16) is copied in cursive script, dated by Sir F.G. Kenyon to ca. 350 CE.21 The text of the cursive addition, which Budge erroneously described as a colophon,22

14  G.  Steindorff, Die Apokalypse des Elias: Eine unbekannte Apokalypse und Bruchstücke der Sophonias-Apokalypse, TUGAL 17.3a, Lepzig 1899, 110–145. 15  Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, 6. 16  T.  Orlandi, Gli Apocrifi copti, in: Augustinianum 23 (1983), 57–71 (59); idem, Letteratura copta e cristianesimo nazionale egiziano, in: A. Camplani (ed.), L’Egitto cristiano. Aspetti e problemi in età tardo-antica, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 56, Rome 1997, 39– 129 (65); idem, The Library of the Monastery of Saint Shenute at Atripe, in: A. Egberts / B.P. Muhs / J. van der Vliet (eds.), Perspectives on Panopolis: An Egyptian Town from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest, Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava 31, Leiden 2002, 211–231 (220–225). 17  A.  Boud’hors, The Coptic Tradition, in: S.F. Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, Oxford 2012, 224–246 (240). 18  For this localization of Achmimic, see W.-P. Funk, Dialects Wanting Homes: A Numerical Approach to the Early Varieties of Coptic, in: J. Fisiak (ed.), Historical Dialectology: Regional and Social, Trends in linguistics. Studies and monographs 37, Berlin 1988, 149–192. 19  B.  Layton, Catalogue of Coptic Literary Manuscripts in the British Library Acquired Since the Year 1906, London 1987, 3–5. 20  E.A.W. Budge (ed.), Coptic Biblical Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt, London 1912. 21  Ibid., lvi–lvii. 22  Ibid., 270. This misnomer is often repeated in the publications dedicated to the Apocalypse of Zephaniah (see, e.g., Frankfurter, 1993, 23).

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was identified and reedited by C. Schmidt.23 Although Layton describes the last text of the codex as the “extract” from the Apocalypse of Elijah, S. Emmel rightly points out that the subsequent quires of the codex may have been lost.24 Thus, it is possible that the codex once contained the complete text of the Apocalypse of Elijah. Sa3 = a papyrus codex housed at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin under inventory number Ac. 1493, comprising Apoc. El. 1.1–5.15 in Sahidic. On what appears to be the last page of the manuscript, the text of the Apocalypse of Elijah suddenly breaks, and the page is completed with line fillers. It thus seems plausible that already the exemplar of Sa3 “must likewise have lacked the concluding pages of the Apocalypse.”25 This manuscript was edited by A. Pietersma and S.T. Comstock in 1979, who dated it to the fourth or fifth century CE.26 A number of improvements and corrections to their edition was subsequently made by J.-M. Rosenstiehl27 and K.H. Kuhn.28 J.M. Robinson has suggested that this codex belonged to the Dishnā papers, a hoard of manuscripts which appears to have been found in the vicinity of the modern village of Dishnā (Upper Egypt) and is often hypothesized to have belonged to a Pachomian monastery.29 However, as B. Nongbri has recently noted, “there is little positive evidence” to connect this manuscript to the Dishnā discovery.30 Ach = twenty-two leaves of a papyrus codex written in Achmimic (fourteen leaves are housed at the National Library of France in Paris under inventory numbers Copte 135 II 12–23 and Copte 135 III 24–25 and the remaining eight at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin under inventory number P. 1862). Nine of these leaves contain a portion of the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, the remaining thirteen contain Apoc. El. 1.1–2.15; 2.30–4.2; 4.15–5.13, 24–39. Of the extant textual 23  C.  Schmidt, Der Kolophon des Ms. orient. 7594 des Britischen Museums. Eine Untersuchung zur Elias-Apokalypse, in: Sitzungsberichte der Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Jahrgang 1925. Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Berlin 1925, 312–321. 24  S.  Emmel, A Question of Codicological Terminology: Revisiting GB-BL Or. 7594 to Find the Meaning of “Papyrus Fiber Pattern,” in: W. Beltz / U. Pietruschka / J. Tubach (eds.), Sprache und Geist: Peter Nagel zum 65. Geburtstag, Hallesche Beiträge zur Orientwissenschaft 35, Halle (Saale) 2003, 83–111 (89, n. 18). 25  Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, 6. 26  Ibid. 27  J.-M. Rosenstiehl, L’Apocalypse d’Élie, in: Le Muséon 95 (1982), 269–283. 28  K.H. Kuhn, Review of Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, in: JSS 27 (1982), 313–316. 29  J.M.  Robinson, The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the First Monastery’s Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin, Cambridge 2013, 67–68; cf. J.-L. Fournet, Anatomie d’une bibliothèque de l’Antiquité tardive: L’inventaire, le faciès et la provenance de la “Bibliothèque Bodmer,” in: Adamantius 21 (2015), 8–24 (23). 30  B.  Nongbri, God’s Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts, New Haven 2018, 187.



witnesses, Ach is the only one that preserves the title of the apocryphon — viz., “The Apocalypse of Elijah” (ϯⲁⲡⲟⲕⲁⲗⲩⲯⲓⲥ ⲛϩⲏⲗⲉⲓⲁⲥ).31 The manuscript is dated to the fourth century CE32 and is likely to have come from the Theban region.33 Ach — along with Sa1 — was published by Steindorff in 1899.34 A fragment from Berlin, which Steindorff believed to be from the twenty-third leaf35 but which in fact joins one of the leaves in Paris (Copte 135 III fol. 25), was reedited by Schmidt.36 A number of improvements to Steindorff’s edition have also been suggested by O. von Lemm,37 W. Till,38 and P. Lacau.39 In the introduction to his edition, Steindorff argued that the Sahidic version of the Apocalypse of Elijah was a translation from Achmimic, a justifiable conclusion at the time, as the only witness of the Sahidic text available to Steindorff — viz., Sa1 — was littered with Achmimicisms.40 However, since Sa2 and Sa3 do not seem to exhibit any Achmimic tendency, Steindorff’s conclusion must be revised.41 Verbatim agreements between Ach and the Sahidic witnesses seem to preclude any supposition of two independent Coptic translations of the Apocalypse of Elijah.42 Thus, we tentatively suggest that the Achmimic translation, represented by Ach, is a daughter version of the Sahidic translation, represented by Sa1, Sa2, and Sa3. Two considerations lend support to this suggestion. First, as Pietersma and Comstock have argued, the textual tradition represented by the Sahidic witnesses seems to be “closer to 31  It is worth noting that it is uncertain whether “The Apocalypse of Elijah” was the original title of our text. The actions of Elijah and Enoch are always narrated in the third person (see, e.g., Apoc. El. 4.7; 5.32), and the text does not seem to encourage the reader to identify the “I” or the narrator (Apoc. El. 1.1) with either of the two prophets. 32  Orlandi, 1983, 59; idem, 1997, 65. 33  See the discussion on Sa1, above. 34  Steindorff, 1899, 34–108. 35  Ibid., 108. 36  Schmidt, 1925, 321. 37  O.  von Lemm, Kleine koptische Studien, Subsidia Byzantina 10, Leipzig 1972, 43–58, 227–232. 38  W.  Till. Bemerkungen und Ergänzungen zu den achmîmischen Textausgaben, in: Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 63 (1928), 90–98 (90–91). 39  P.  Lacau, Remarques sur le manuscrit akhmimique des apocalypses de Sophonie et d’Élie, in: Journal asiatique 254 (1966), 169–195 (187–192). 40  Steindorff, 1899, 17. 41  Steindorff’s conclusions are endorsed by A. Khosroyev, Die Bibliothek von Nag Hammadi. Einige Probleme des Christentums in Ägypten während der ersten Jahrhunderte, Arbeiten zum spätantiken und koptischen Ägypten 7, Altenberge 1995, 42, even though the author admits that the language of Sa2 is “reines Sahidisch.” As for Sa3, its existence appears to be unbeknown to Khosroyev. 42  Pace Wintermute, 1983, 729.

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the original text of the Apocalypse of Elijah” than that represented by Ach.43 Second, while instances of Sahidic texts translated to Achmimic abound,44 evidence for translation in the opposite direction (Achmimic to Sahidic) seems to be lacking. As this survey has demonstrated, any study of the Coptic text of the Apocalypse of Elijah must be done in consultation with multiple publications, both the editions of the individual manuscripts and subsequent corrections thereto. A new edition of all extant fragments, where the text of the Coptic witnesses would be presented synoptically, remains a desideratum. A critical edition of the Apocalypse of Elijah, on the other hand, appears to be a haphazard enterprise due to the paucity of textual evidence. Thus, when quoting relevant passages of the apocryphon, we present all available textual data, as, when the extant manuscripts disagree with one another, it seems methodologically impossible to ascertain which variant reading is to be preferred as original. It is important to reiterate that none of the extant manuscripts preserves the complete text of the Apocalypse of Elijah. Moreover, a comparison of witnesses reveals a certain degree of textual variation.45 Thus, passages attested by a single manuscript witness must be treated with suspicion. Nevertheless, we are inclined to agree with Pietersma and Comstock, who, despite the numerous variant readings attested by the extant manuscripts, emphasize “the unity of the textual tradition”46 — viz., in all available manuscripts, the narrative is fundamentally the same, the differences mostly pertaining to minor lexical variations. We turn next to the eschatological scenario of the Apocalypse of Elijah, assuming heretofore that the surviving textual witnesses are faithful to the overall structure and theology of the apocryphon.

The Eschatological Scenario of the Apocalypse of Elijah

In the eschatological scenario of the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah, the Antichrist, here called “the son of lawlessness” (ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲛ̄ⲧⲁⲛⲟⲙⲓⲁ) and “the shameless one” (ⲡⲁⲧϣⲓⲡⲉ),4 appears in the fourth year of a certain righteous king from the c

43  Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, 18. 44  W.-P. Funk, The Translation of the Bible into Coptic, in: J.C. Paget / J. Schaper (eds.), The New Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 1, Cambridge, 2013, 536–546 (544). 45  See the discussion in Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, 12–18. 46  Pietersma / Comstock / Attridge, 1981, 7. 4   In the A pocalypse of Elijah, the Antichrist is also called “the son of perdition” (2.40: ϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲙ ⲙ̄ⲡⲧⲉⲕⲟ [Ach], ⲡϣ̣ⲏ̣ⲣ̣ⲉ̣ ⲙⲡⲧⲁⲕⲟ [Sa3]) and “the lawless one” (2.41: ⲡⲁⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ [Ach = Sa3]).



city of the sun, probably Heliopolis (3.1).4 The son of lawlessness comes to the h holy place in Jerusalem to perform multiple miracles and signs, similar to those Christ made — except raising the dead, because he cannot give life (3.5–13). A virgin called Tabitha comes to Jerusalem to scold him (4.1–2). He becomes angry with her and sucks out her blood. However, she is subsequently raised up (4.3–5). After her martyrdom and resurrection, Enoch and Elijah descent for the first time from the heavens and rebuke the Antichrist (4.7–12, Sa1): Then, when Elijah and Enoch hear that the shameless one has appeared in the holy place,49 they will come down and wage war against him, saying,50 “Are you not ashamed when you attach yourself to the saints seeing that you are always estranged (from them)?51 You became an enemy of heavenly beings, and you acted against those who belong to earth.52 You became an enemy of the thrones,53 and you acted against the angels.54 You are always estranged (from them). You fell from heaven like the morning stars,55 you changed, and your tribe became darkness. Are you not ashamed when you attach yourself to God? You are a devil.”56 However, the Antichrist wages war against them for seven days then kills them (4.13). Their corpses are left at the market place of the large city for three-and-a-half days (4.14) but are resurrected on the fourth day. They then ascend to heaven a second time (4.15–19, Sa1): On the fourth day, they will rise57 and reprove him, saying, “O shameless one,58 are you not ashamed of deceiving the people of our God,59 for whom you have not suffered? Do you not know that we live in the Lord,60 48  Wintermute, , 1983, 743, n. i3. 49  Sa3 reads, “places.” 50  Sa3 adds “to him.” 51  Sa3 omits “when you attach yourself to the saints.” 52  Sa3 reads, “those who are on earth.” 53  This and the previous sentence appear to be an allusion to Col 1:16. 54  Sa3 reads, “you became an enemy of angels and powers.” 55  An allusion to Isa 14:12 (cf. Lemm, 1972, 232). 56  Unless otherwise stated, all translations of ancient sources quoted in this article are our own. 57  Sa3 adds “again.” 58  Ach adds “O son of lawlessness.” 59  Ach and Sa3 read, “the people of God.” 60  In Ach, the text that follows is significantly different: “As they were saying the words, they overpowered him, saying, ‘We will lay down the flesh of the spirit.’” The phrase “the flesh

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in order that we may rebuke you whenever you say, ‘I have overpowered them?’ We will lay down the flesh (ⲥⲁⲣⲝ) of this body (ⲥⲱⲙⲁ) and kill you without your being able to speak on that day, because we always live in the Lord,6 while you are always an enemy.”6 The shameless one will listen in in anger and wage war against them. The whole city will surround them. On that day, they will raise cries of joy towards heaven, shining forth as the whole world watches them,6 and the lawless one will not prevail a against them. The Antichrist continues persecuting and killing the righteous (4:20–29). Sixty righteous ones then come to Jerusalem to rebuke him, lighting on his inability to raise the dead. The Antichrist commands them to be bound and burned upon the altars (4:30–33). However, Christ intervenes, sending sixty-four thousand angels to save his saints and bring them to the holy land to eat from the tree of life (5:2–6). After this, several natural disasters follow (5:7–9); the Antichrist tries to pursue the righteous again, but they are protected by angels (5:20–21). The Lord then brings fire upon the earth, inaugurating the beginning of the great judgment (5:22–24). Enoch and Elijah then descend a second time, setting aside their flesh of the world and putting on the flesh of spirit. Finally, they kill the Antichrist (5.32–34, Ach): After these things, Elijah and Enoch will come down. They will lay down the flesh of the world, and they will receive their spiritual flesh (ⲥⲉⲕⲟⲩ ⲁⳉⲣⲉⲓ̈ ⲛ̄ⲧⲥⲁⲣⲝ ⲙ̄ⲡⲓⲕⲟⲥⲙⲟⲥ ⲥⲉϫⲓ ⲛ̄ⲛⲟⲩⲥⲁⲣⲝ ⲙ︦ⲡ︦ⲛ︦ⲁ︦).6 They will pursue the s son of lawlessness and kill him without his being able to speak on that day. He will dissolve in their presence like ice dissolved by fire. He will perish like a serpent which has no breath in it. They will say to him, “Your time has passed. Now you and those who believe in you will perish.” In sum, this scenario presupposes that Enoch and Elijah had previously ascended to heaven alive (cf. Gen 5:24; 2 Kgs 2:1–12). Then they descend to the earth to rebuke the Antichrist and are killed by him. God raises them from of the spirit (ⲧⲥⲁⲣⲝ ⲙ̄ⲡⲡ︦ⲛ︦ⲁ︦)” appears to be due to a scribal error (cf. Steindorff, 1899, 93, n. 4). 61  Ach reads, “we are always strong in the Lord.” 62  Ach adds “of God.” 63  Ach reads, “as all the people watch them, along with the whole world.” 6   It is worth noting that, in Ach, the letter ⲛ is sometimes doubled before the indefinite a article ⲟⲩ; thus, ⲥⲉϫⲓ ⲛ̄ⲛⲟⲩⲥⲁⲣⲝ ⲙ︦ⲡ︦ⲛ︦ⲁ︦ might also be understood as “they will receive spirittual flesh.”



the dead, and they seem to ascend to the heavens for a second time. In the final stage of the last judgment, they descend once again to kill the Antichrist and imprison the sinners in hell. Thus, in this scenario, Enoch and Elijah play the unique role of descending from the heavens twice. Such a doubling of the eschatological return of Enoch and Elijah does not seem to be found in any other text.

The History of Research

According to R. Bauckham, the Apocalypse of Elijah “is not an altogether coherent piece of work.”65 Bauckham finds it remarkable that, in this text, Enoch and Elijah are the ones that kill the Antichrist, “a task reserved for the Messiah both in Jewish and in Christian apocalyptic.” The two prophets, according to Bauckham, thus “usurp the role of Christ,” which, he says, is not an idea a Christian author could have held. Bauckham concludes that the notion of the two prophets defeating the Antichrist must reflect a Jewish tradition “which portrayed Enoch and Elijah as a pair of messiahs,”66 conceding, however, that such a tradition “has not survived in extant Jewish texts.”67 Based on these observations, Bauckham identifies two editorial layers within the Apocalypse of Elijah: the account of the second coming of Enoch and Elijah (to kill the Antichrist) would have belonged to “an original Jewish Apocalypse of Elijah,” while their first coming (to suffer martyrdom) “may be credibly attributed to the third — or fourth-century Christian redaction.”68 In other words, the original Jewish text of the apocryphon would have told of their appearance in the end time without any mention of their martyrdom and resurrection. The account of Enoch and Elijah dying as martyrs would then be a later Christian addition, influenced by the story of the two witnesses in Rev 11:3–13 whose martyrdom is patterned after the death of the Messiah.69

65  R.  Bauckham, Enoch and Elijah in the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah, in: The Jewish World around the New Testament: Collected Essays I, WUNT 223, Tübingen, 2008, 26–38 (33). This article was originally published in Studia Patristica 16 (1985): 69–76. 66  Bauckham, Enoch and Elijah in the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah, 2008, 34. 67  Bauckham, The Martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah: Jewish or Christian? in: The Jewish World around the New Testament: Collected Essays I, WUNT 223, Tübingen, 2008), 3–25 (14). This article was originally published in Journal of Biblical Literature 95 (1976): 447–458. 68  Bauckham, The Martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah: Jewish or Christian?, 2008, 15. 69  Ibid., 2008, 15. Cf. Wintermute, 1983, 725.

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O.S. Wintermute also suggests that the Apocalypse of Elijah contains a mixture of Jewish and Christian traditions. For him, the martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah as well as that of Tabitha (the latter possibly being identical with the righteous Tabitha, who, according to Act 9:36–41 was resurrected by Peter and is never reported to have died thereafter) are Christian additions. The story about the persecution of the saints in Apoc. El. 4:20–29 and that about the sixty righteous ones in 4:30–33 would then have originally been Jewish, because they do not directly refer to resurrection.70 Moreover, Wintermute argues that the passage about the salvation of the righteous in 5:2–6 draws on two separate traditions, the Exodus motif of going to the holy land and that of eating from the tree of life in 5:5–6 being Jewish71 and the sending of sixty-four thousand angels by Christ in 5:2–4 being Christian.72 J.-M. Rosenstiehl, who published a French translation of the Apocalypse of Elijah, goes even further, suggesting that the origins of this text go back to a certain Jew, probably from Egypt, whose views are fundamentally Essenic. This Jewish apocalypse may have been composed in the first century BCE. In the third century CE, the text was then expanded by another Jewish author and subsequently appropriated by the Christian community in Egypt.73 However, all above hypotheses deal only with the stratification of Jewish and Christian layers of the text, presupposing that the eschatological scenario of the text is incoherent because the text itself is incoherent.74 Such an assumption can hardly help us to understand the author’s conception and design of such a scenario.75 70  Wintermute, 1983, 725. 71  Cf. J.-M. Rosenstiehl, L’Apocalypse d’Élie, Paris 1972, 47–50. 72  Wintermute, 1983, 726. 73  Rosenstiehl, 1972, 75f. 74  See, e.g., Wintermute, 1983, 730: “The theology of the present document is not the product of a single writer or community. It is only natural that a work that contains both Jewish and Christian strata would express different theological concerns in different parts of the document.” 75  It is hazardous to try to distinguish between the Jewish and Christian strata of a given text. As an example, the presence or absence of references to resurrection is hardly a reliable criterion of “Jewishness” or “Christianness,” since the Christian belief in resurrection itself has its origins in Judaism. For texts that attest to such a belief, see, e.g., Alexey Somov, Representations of the Afterlife in Luke-Acts, ISCO; London, 2017, 105–150. Especially striking is the pre-eschatological resurrection of martyrs reflected in, e.g., 2 Maccabees 7 (see also Pseud. Phoc. 102–104), which discusses the coming resurrection for the seven righteous martyrs and their mother. In this story of Jewish origins, martyrdom and resurrection are directly connected, martyrs being said to receive both individual and



Against this background, we argue that the Apocalypse of Elijah is a coherent work, one that need not be separated into redactional layers, nor does its author have to be understood to have been a compiler of various ancient traditions and ideas but a writer fully responsible for the final form of his/her work. This does not mean, however, that his text did not contain any earlier traditions, Jewish or Christian. Indeed, the author of this text does seem to attempt to harmonize various earlier eschatological ideas — proving that they are not mutually exclusive — thus producing a systematic account of the end times. First, Enoch and Elijah are interpreted as the two witnesses killed by the Antichrist from Rev 11:3–13. Second, the text posits that, along with the rest of humanity, all righteous ones will pay the debt of death before the end times. Third, even the righteous cannot enter the world-to-come in the physical body of this one. Finally, Enoch and Elijah are shown to be the forerunners of Christ, expected to “mirror” his second coming. In what follows, we explore these four eschatological ideas in further detail.

The Two Witnesses in Rev 11:3–13

Revelation 11:3–13 speaks about the two witnesses who descend from heaven to earth to deliver their eschatological prophecy (11:3–6). This story is probably the earliest written account of this tradition.76 W. Bousset even regards this passage as having originally been a Jewish document from the time of the siege of Jerusalem that was later incorporated into the text of Revelation.77 D. Aune also considers 11:1–13 (as a single unit) to have been composed prior to its inclusion to Revelation.78 In chapter 11, after having finished their mission, the two witnesses are killed by the eschatological enemy called the beast from the abyss (11:7). Their bodies are left unburied for three-and-a-half days after their death (11:8–10), then they are resurrected, and they ascend to heaven: But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and those who saw them were terrified. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come bodily resurrection. A miraculous deliverance from death of Ananias, Azarias, and Misael may have also been interpreted in such a way (especially in Dan 3:88 LXX). 76  According to H. Stierlin, this part of Revelation is the earliest one, dating to 68–69 CE. See H. Stierlin, La vérité sur l’Apocalypse, Paris 1972, 105f. 77  W.  Bousset, Offenbarung Johannis, Göttingen, 1906 324–330. 78  D.E.  Aune, Revelation 1–5, WBC 52, Dallas 1997, cxxii.

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them (Rev 11:11–12 NRSV). The description of these witnesses in Rev 11:6 seems to provide grounds for their identification with Elijah and Moses: They have authority to shut the sky, so that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire (NRSV). Indeed, Elijah could shut up the sky (cf. 1 Kgs 17:1; 18:1), while Moses turned waters into blood and struck the earth with every manner of plague (cf. Exod 7:14–21). Furthermore, in some Jewish traditions, both Elijah and Moses were considered to have been taken alive to the celestial life (Elijah: 2 Kgs 2:1–12; Sir 48:9, 12; 1 Macc 2:58; perhaps also 1 Apoc. En. 89:52; 93:8; for Moses, see already Deut 34:5–6, where his death and burial are quite mysterious; cf. Jud 1:9; T. Mos. 11:4–8; b. Soṭa 13b). In addition, these two figures are depicted alive in the Transfiguration story in the Synoptics: “And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus” (Mark 9:4 parr. NRSV). Although the main reason these figures appear to Jesus and his disciples in this episode is likely theological,79 it is not impossible that their appearance in this world is driven by Mark’s belief that Moses and Elijah were not in Sheol and could thus appear together. Aune also considers and summarizes other, however unlikely, possibilities for the identification of these two witnesses (Elijah and Jeremiah, Peter and Paul, Stephen and James the Just, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, John the Baptist and Jesus, James the Just and James the son of Zebedee, the high priests Ananus and Joshua, or simply two allegorical figures).80 79  They symbolically represent the fulfillment of the promises of the Law and the Prophets about the coming of the Messiah. Moreover, the appearance of Moses brings to fruition the promise made in Deut 18:15 of the coming of the prophet like Moses, while Elijah’s appearance had been expected before the day of the Lord (Mal 4:5) to restore all things (Mark 9:12). Their presence indicates the coming of the eschatological end; see, e.g., William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, NICNT, Grand Rapids 1974, 319; Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28, WBC 33B, Dallas 1998, 493; David E. Garland, Luke, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids 2012, 393. In addition, both figures were associated with the revelation on the Mount Sinai (Hagner, 1998, 493) and may be seen as the predecessors of and precursors to Jesus (John Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, WBC 35B, Dallas 1998, 499). 80  D.E.  Aune, Revelation 6–16, WBC 52B, Nashville, 1998, 600–602.



The later Christian tradition identifies these two witnesses not with Moses and Elijah or other figures but with Enoch and Elijah.81 Indeed, as we have already noted, Elijah was considered to have been alive in heaven (e.g., 2 Kgs 2:11) and was expected to come in the end days according to Mal 4:5: “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes” (NRSV). It is the disappearance of Enoch in Gen 5:24 that gave birth to the tradition surrounding his ascension to heaven: Enoch walked with God (‫ֹלהים‬ ִ ‫ת־ה ֱא‬ ָ ‫ ;) ֶא‬then he was no more (‫)וְ ֵאינֶ ּנּו‬, because God took him (‫ֹלהים‬ ִ ‫י־ל ַקח אֹתֹו ֱא‬ ָ ‫( ) ִּכ‬NRSV).82 This belief is attested in various sources.83 Moreover, Jub 4:18–19 portrays Enoch as an eschatological witness:84 This one was the first (who) wrote a testimony and testified to the children of men throughout the generations of the earth. And their weeks according to jubilees he recounted; and the days of the years he made known. And the months he set in order, and the sabbaths of the years he recounted, just as we made it known to him. And he saw what was and what will be in a vision of his sleep as it will happen among the children of men in their generations until the day of judgment. He saw and knew

81  See, e.g., Apoc. Petr. 2:11–13; Tertullian (Tert., an. 50); Irenaeus of Lyon (Iren. haer. 5.5.1); Hippolytus of Rome (Hipp., antichr. 43, 46–47; Dan. 35, 50). For a more extensive list of passages that mention Enoch and Elijah, see Bauckham, The Martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah: Jewish or Christian?, 2008, 3–4. Wintermute also argues that the Church Fathers (probably since the time of Hippolytus) reinterpreted Rev 11:3–13 as related to Enoch and Elijah; Wintermute, 1983, 725. So does J.C. VanderKam (1 Enoch, Enochic Motifs, and Enoch in Early Christian Literature, in: J.C. VanderKam / W. Adler (eds.), The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity, Mineapolis, 1996, 33–101 [89]). 82  The origins of Enoch tradition may be based on the interpretation of this verse in which the word ‫ֹלהים‬ ִ ‫ ֱא‬without the definite article might have been understood as related to the deity, while ‫ֹלהים‬ ִ ‫ ֱא‬with the definite article (‫ֹלהים‬ ִ ‫ ) ָה ֱא‬as related to the angels; VanderKam, 1996, 88. 83  See, e.g., Sir 44:16; 49:14; Wis 4:10–114 1 Apoc. En. 70:1–4; 89:52; 2 Apoc. En. 36:1–2; 3 Apoc. En. 6:1. For other references to the sources about Elijah and Enoch ascension, see Aune, Revelation 6–16, 599–600. 4 Ezra 6:26 probably also refers to Enoch and Elijah as being alive until the end of the world; A.W. Zwiep, The Ascension of the Messiah in Luke Christology, Leiden, 1997, 48. 84  In 1 En. 12–16, Enoch testifies against the Watchers (cf. 4Q227).

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


everything and wrote his testimony and deposited the testimony upon the earth against all the children of men and their generations.85 Moreover, the Book of the Dream Visions (1 Apoc. En. 83–90) may depict him as having been taken up to heaven by angels at the end of his earthly life (1 Apoc. En. 87:2–4) and coming back to earth again in the end times (90:31): Thereafter, those three who were wearing snow-white (clothes), the former ones who had caused me to go up, grabbed me by my hand — also the hand of that ram holding me — and I ascended; they set me down in the midst of those sheep prior to the occurrence of this judgment.86 In sum, the notion of the two witnesses in Rev 11:3–13 is one of the earlier traditions used by the Apocalypse of Elijah. While these witnesses could be identified with Moses and Elijah, later Christian tradition, including the Apocalypse of Elijah, preferred to identify them as Enoch and Elijah, because they were both believed to have been taken to heaven alive and were expected to descend in the end times.

The Debt of Death

As A. Zeron points out, Pseudo-Philo identifies the figure of the high priest Phinehas with Elijah and speaks about taking Elijah to the place where other righteous people are hidden (probably, in paradise) until the end times, when they will return to the world and have to taste death87: And in that time Phinehas laid himself down to die, and the LORD said to him, “Behold you have passed the 120 years that have been established for every man. And now rise up and go from here and dwell in Danaben on the mountain and dwell there many years. And I will command my eagle, and he will nourish you there, and you will not come 85  O.S.  Wintermute, Jubilees: A New Translation and Introduction, in: J.H. Charlesworth (ed.), OTP, vol. 2, Garden City 1985, 35–142 (62). 86  E.  Isaac, 1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of ) Enoch: A New Translation and Introduction, in: James H. Charlesworth (ed.), OTP, vol. 1, Garden City, 1983, 5–89 (71). 87  A. Zeron, The Martyrdom of Phineas-Elijah, in: Journal of Biblical Literature 98.1 (1979), 99–100 (100). See also M. Black, The ‘Two Witnesses’ of Rev. 11:3f. in Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Tradition, in: E. Bammel / C.K. Barrett / W.D. Davies (eds.), Donum Gentilicum, Oxford, 1978, 227–237 (232).



down to mankind until the time arrives and you be tested in that time; and you will shut up the heaven then, and by your mouth it will be opened up. And afterward you will be lifted up into the place where those who were before you were lifted up, and you will be there until I remember the world. Then I will make you all come, and you will taste what is death” (L.A.B. 48:1).88 However, Pseudo-Philo does not explain why these righteous ones have to taste death. A similar idea appears in the Fourth Book of Ezra and Second Apocalypse of Baruch, both of which were written approximately at the same time as Pseudo-Philo lived (first century CE). According to the Fourth Book of Ezra, there are several people who did not taste death and were taken to heaven alive to be with the Messiah: It shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world. And they shall see the men who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death (6:25–26).89 Ezra is said to be among these righteous ones: For you shall be taken up from among men, and henceforth you shall live with my Son and with those who are like you, until the times are ended (14:9; cf. 13:52).90 In the end, however, they will die together with the Messiah and the rest of humanity after the 400 years’ reign of the Messiah: For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath (7:28–29).91

88  D.J.  Harrington, Pseudo-Philo, in: James H. Charlesworth (ed.), OTP, vol. 2, Garden City, 1985, 297–377 (362). 89  B. M. Metzger, The Fourth Book of Ezra: A New Translation and Introduction, in: James H. Charlesworth (ed.), OTP, vol. 1, Garden City, 1983, 517–559 (535). 90  Metzger, 1983, 553. 91  Metzger, 1983, 537. The belief that the Messiah has to die may have come from the interpretation of the death of the Suffering Servant of the Lord (Isa 52:13–53:12) and may also

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


Furthermore, in the Second Apocalypse of Baruch, is it said that the number of those who must be born and die has to be fulfilled, so that the creation can be renewed and the Messiah revealed: For when Adam sinned and death was decreed against those who were to be born, the multitude of those who would be born was numbered. And for that number a place was prepared where the living ones might live and where the dead might be preserved. No creature will live again unless the number that has been appointed is completed. For my spirit creates the living, and the realm of death receives the dead (23:4–5)92 […] And it will happen that when all that which should come to pass in these parts has been accomplished, the Anointed One will begin to be revealed (29:3).93 Moreover, this text seeks to explain why all humans, even the righteous ones and the Messiah, have to die — viz., because of Adam’s primordial sin, the punishment and retribution for which is every person’s death. Similarly, one Jewish belief held that all who possessed a physical body was destined to die, “to go the way of all the earth” (1 Kgs 2:2 NRSV) or “to take a bitter cup of death” (Test. Abr. A 1.3). The prophet Baruch is also promised to be preserved until the end times, during which he will act as a witness: Because you have been astonished at that which has befallen Zion, you will surely be preserved until the end of times to be for a testimony (13:3) […] For you will surely depart from this world, nevertheless not to death but to be kept unto (the end) of times (76:2).94 However, in contrast to the promise of being preserved until the end, in 2 Apoc. Bar. 44:2, Baruch seems to speak about his own imminent death in a traditional Jewish way: “Behold, I go to my fathers in accordance with the way of the whole earth.”95 He gives statements to a similar effect in 78:5; 84:1. It thus seems that two independent traditions about the fate of Baruch were be linked to Dan 9:26, which speaks about an enigmatic anointed one who “shall be cut off (‫ )יִ ָּכ ֵרת ָמ ִׁש ַיח‬and shall have nothing” in Jerusalem (NRSV). 92  A.F.J.  Klijn, 2 (Syriac Apocalypse of ) Baruch: A New Translation and Introduction, in: James H. Charlesworth (ed.), OTP, vol. 1, Garden City, 1983, 615–652 (629). 93  Klijn, 1983, 630. 94  Ibid., 625, 646. 95  Ibid., 634.



incorporated into the text of this apocalyptic work. Moreover, the Fourth Book of Ezra and the Second Apocalypse of Baruch show dependence on one another (though the direction of this dependence is difficult to establish) and may even belong to the same tradition. It is quite possible then that, although the authors of these texts could have been familiar with the same Enochian literature, they intentionally tried to diminish the role of Enoch (and probably, Elijah as well), as his name is never mentioned there. This tradition focuses on the importance of the Law of Moses (and, consequently, the figure of Moses) much more than the Enoch-related texts do and might have intentionally avoided mentioning the figure of Enoch. Thus, according to the Second Apocalypse of Baruch, it was Moses, not Enoch, who was taken to heaven and given a secret wisdom and the Law (2 Apoc. Bar. 59; cf. 1 Apoc. En. 82:7–20). Turning back to Pseudo-Philo, Bauckham mentions the idea formulated in L.A.B. 48:1 (also referring to 4 Ezra 7:28–31; 2 Apoc. Bar. 44:9), that PhineasElijah has to die in the end times, because the death of every human being is a precondition for the renewal of creation.96 Bauckham rightly states that the same idea was adopted by Paul (1 Cor 15:50–52) and, as we will see below, by other Christian writers.97 The idea that even such righteous ones as Enoch and Elijah had to die, sharing the fate of the rest of humanity, was further supported by Tertullian: It is the acknowledged opinion of the whole human race that death is “the debt we owe to nature.” This has been established by the voice of God, and everything that is born must sign this contract […] Enoch and Elijah were transported hence without suffering death, which was only 96  Bauckham, The Martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah: Jewish or Christian?, 2008, 23 . 97  However, in contrast to Zeron (1979, 100), Bauckham (The Martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah: Jewish or Christian?, 2008, 23) denies that Elijah’s death in the end times refers to his martyrdom: “he will die, not be killed. […] Zeron […] was mistaken to call this death ‘martyrdom.’” However, why cannot the death of the prophet implicitly refer to his martyrdom? Are we to think that the notion of Elijah’s death was merely Christianized and reinterpreted as his martyrdom in accordance with Rev 11:3–13? In fact, the Gospel of Mark provides evidence of the oldness of the tradition surrounding Elijah’s martyrdom: “But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him” (9:13 NRSV). M. Black (1978, 237) considers some apocalyptic tradition to be at the basis of this reference to Elijah. The reference to 1 Kgs 19:2 also cannot be excluded here. Matthew makes this reference to Elijah’s martyrdom clearer by identifying him with John the Baptist, who had already been killed by that time (Matt 17:13). Was the notion of Elijah dying a martyr’s death, then, Jewish or Christian? There are scholarly opinions both for and against its pre-Christian origin; for further details and a bibliography, see Bauckham, The Martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah: Jewish or Christian?, 2008, 3–25.

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


postponed. The day will come when they will actually die that they may extinguish Antichrist with their blood (Tert. an. 50.2, 5).98 This tradition survived in later Church tradition: Elijah was raised up to the aerial heaven, so that he could be led suddenly to a certain hidden region of the earth, where he could live in great tranquility of body and spirit, until his return at the end of the world to pay the debt of death. He only postponed death, he did not avoid it (Gregory the Great [the Dialogist], Hom. 29).99 Thus, the Apocalypse of Elijah shares the idea of the debt of death found in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., 1 Kgs 2:2), Pseudo-Philo, the Testament of Abraham, the Fourth Book of Ezra, and the Second Apocalypse of Baruch, as well as in Paul (1 Cor 15:50–52). These texts reflect the Jewish notion that everyone who possessed a physical body was destined to die, including the righteous ones taken alive to heaven, who would not die until the end of the world. They, too, would return to the world to taste death (together with the Messiah). We suggest that this notion of necessity for the flesh of the world to taste death played an important role in the eschatological scenario of the Apocalypse of Elijah: this is the driving force behind the narrative logic by which Enoch and Elijah must be killed by the Antichrist upon their first descent to earth. Moreover, as they cannot enter the world-to-come, because they are first resurrected in the physical body of this world, their martyrdom is their first step to put on “the flesh of the spirit” in their second coming.

The Resurrection Body and the Eschatological Transformation

According to Apoc. El. 5:32–34, Enoch and Elijah have to transform their “flesh of the world” into the “flesh of the spirit.” Only then can they kill the Antichrist. In our view, the terms “flesh of the world” and “flesh of the spirit” relate to the debates about the nature of the resurrection body in early Christianity. The question about the body that would be resurrected in the end times was raised already in the first century CE by Paul. He discusses this issue 98  Tertullian, On the Soul, in: Tertullian, Apologetical Works, and Minucius Felix, Octavius, trans. R. Arbesmann, E.J. Daly, and E.A. Quain, in: The Fathers Of the Church: A New Translation, vol. 10, Washington, DC, 1950, 165–309 (289f.). 99  Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies, trans. D.D. Horst, Kalamazoo 1990, 230.



in 1 Cor 15:35–54 in the context of his teaching about eschatological resurrection. In the earliest Christian traditions, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was perceived as “a unique incidence of a full bodily resurrection.”100 However, the nature of the collective eschatological resurrection was less clearly defined in this period. In 1 Cor 15:39–41, Paul compares the resurrection body to heavenly bodies (σώματα ἐπουράνια). Further, he distinguishes the resurrection body (σῶμα) from earthly flesh (σάρξ): “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50 NRSV). Resurrection is the transformation of the physical body, which is subject to decay, into a new incorruptible, glorified, and “spiritual” body (σῶμα πνευματικόν) (1 Cor 15:42–44). Such a transformation is needed not only for those who will be resurrected but also for those who will still be alive at the time of Jesus’s Parousia (15:51–53). All of humanity will then receive a new imperishable and immortal body. In the Synoptics, this transformed, splendid, and glorious state of the resurrected is not depicted in terms that relate to the body but that rather allude to an angel-like shape (cf. ἰσάγγελοι in Luke 20:36). Thus, the early Christianity of the first century CE distinguished the resurrection body from the physical body or flesh. The resurrection body was a new state of the risen righteous, understood as imperishable and immortal and therefore “spiritual.” In contrast to Paul’s views, then, the Apocalypse of Elijah defined the transformed body of Elijah and Enoch as “flesh.” Therefore, this text understands the nature of the resurrected substance in different terms from those used by previous Christian generations. In what follows, we discuss possible reasons for the disagreement between the Apocalypse of Elijah and Paul as well as the origins of the expression “the flesh of spirit.” Since the second century CE, the character of resurrection had begun to be reinterpreted in lively debates about Christian identity and the future fate of believers.101 For instance, Justin Martyr develops Paul’s idea, that earthly flesh and blood would be excluded from resurrection (1 Cor 15:50), and introduces the term “the resurrection of the flesh” (σαρκὸς ἀνάστασις). For him, it would be the flesh of the righteous that would come to be with Christ in his 1,000-year reign in Jerusalem (Just. dial. 80.5).102 The author of the Second 100  C.H.T.  Fletcher-Luis, Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology and Soteriology, Tübingen 1997, 70. 101  For further details, see O. Lehtipuu, Debates over the Resurrection of the Dead: Constructing Early Christian Identity, OECS, Oxford 2015; see also A. Somov’s articles “Afterlife” and “Resurrection (General),” forthcoming in: D.G. Hunter / P.J.J. van Geest / B.J.L. Peerbolte (eds.), Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. 102  It is worth noting that, at some point, early Christian writers started using Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones (Ezek 37:1–14) in the context of resurrection. In Rev 11:11, the resurrection of the two witnesses is described in terms borrowed from Ezek 37:10. Justin goes

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


Epistle of Clement also writes that the flesh would be resurrected: “And none of you should say that this flesh (σάρξ) is neither judged nor raised (ἀνίσταται)” (2 Clem. 9:1).103 Other authors also indicate that the wicked would be punished in their flesh after the resurrection (Herm. sim. 5.7.1–4; Barn. 5.6–7; see also Apoc. Petr. 4; Apoc. Paul. 14). Furthermore, Irenaeus, who also supported the notion of Christ’s 1,000-year kingdom, prominent in the Apocalypse of Elijah (Apoc. El. 5:39), argues that Paul did not exclude the flesh from resurrection but indicated that those who do not possess the Spirit of God cannot be raised, because they consist only of flesh and blood and thus do not have spirit in themselves (Iren. haer. 5.9.1– 5.14.4). However, they who believe in Christ will be risen with spirit, soul, and body unified. Therefore, their flesh will be transformed so as to live together with Christ in his 1,000-year kingdom (Iren. haer. 5.33.1–36.3). For Tertullian, all of humanity would be risen in flesh, but those who did not live spiritual lives could not enter the Kingdom of God (Tert. res. 49–50). Moreover, the risen flesh was in fact the same flesh we presently wear: All admit that not only do bones endure, but teeth also continue undecayed, and that both these are preserved, as it were seeds of a body which is to come to fruit at the resurrection (Tert. res. 42; cf. 15; 41).104 Nevertheless, this resurrected flesh is not totally identical with the physical body a person possesses during his/her earthly life. It is transformed and does not have any signs of physical wounds: For from now on I pronounce that the flesh will certainly rise again, and that, as a result of the change which will supervene, it will take upon it angelic attire […] For they will be found as it were naked when the flesh has been laid aside or partly stripped off or worn away, for even this can be called nakedness; afterwards they will receive it back, so that being reclothed with flesh they may be able also to be clothed with immortality. further and even makes use of the corporeal imagery of Ezek 37:6–7 as a proof-text for his argument about bodily resurrection (Just. dial. 80.5; 1 apol. 52.5). 103  B.D.  Ehrman (ed.), The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1, Loeb Classical Library 24, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2003, 179. 104  E.  Evans (ed.), Tertullian’s Treatise on the Resurrection, London 1960, 119. Tertullian’s natu­ ralistic perspective on bodily resurrection lived on in the theology of Augustine, who argued that even hair and nail clippings would somehow be used by God to restore human bodies (Aug., ench. 89). See Augustine, Confessions and Enchiridion, trans. A.C. Outler, Library of Christian Classics, Louisville 2006, 391–392.



For to be clothed upon can evidently only apply to one who is already dressed (Tert. res. 42).105 Thus, while for Paul the flesh is not equal to the resurrected substance and while the connection between the resurrection body and the physical body is more complicated than simply a change in the earthly flesh, later Christian tradition often held the body and the flesh to be identical.106 Such a reinterpretation of Paul’s ideas was developed in the context of polemics with Christians who had a different understanding of resurrection (e.g., it has been already taken place [cf. 2 Tim 2:17–18], probably as the resurrection of the soul or spirit or as a metaphorical spiritual renewal) or of the immateriality of the resurrection body.107 Hence, the Apocalypse of Elijah does not bear witness to an isolated tradition, which invented its own terminology of resurrection to describe the risen substance, but seems to reflect widespread ideas about the flesh and the resurrection body, nearly equating “flesh” with what Paul calls “body.” Therefore, the terms “the flesh of the world” and “the flesh of the spirit” can be understood in such a context, respectively, as the physical body and the resurrected spiritual body from 1 Cor 15:44. It appears then that, in Apoc. El. 4:15, Enoch and Elijah are first resurrected in their physical bodies, a belief that was known already to Irenaeus: Enoch, when he pleased God, was translated in the same body in which he did please Him (in quo placuit corpore translatus est), thus pointing out by anticipation the translation of the just. Elijah, too, was caught up [when he was yet] in the substance of the [natural] form; thus 105  Ibid., 117, 119. 106  It is worth noting, however, that Origen does not agree that resurrection is a reconstitution of the physical flesh. He repeats Paul’s thoughts in 1 Cor 15:36–44, that the body has to be transformed in the resurrection and uses terminology similar to that of Paul. According to Origen, it is unworthy of God to raise untransformed matter. Accordingly, God transfigures the nature of the body, making humans more divine in resurrection: “We are convinced that that which is sown is not brought to life unless it dies, and that it is not the body that shall be which is sown. For ‘God gives it a body, as it pleased him’ (1 Cor 15:38). After it was sown in corruption, He raises it in incorruption; and after it was sown in dishonour, He raises it in glory; and after it was sown in weakness, He raises it in power; and after it was sown a natural body, He raises it a spiritual body” (Or., Cels. 5.22; H. Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum, Cambridge 2003, 281). 107  Cf., e.g., the Gospel of Philip: the resurrected flesh is not an earthly one but that of Jesus — it is the Logos and the Spirit. The resurrected body is the true spiritual flesh (NHC II 56.26–57.19).

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


exhibiting in prophecy the assumption of those who are spiritual, and that nothing stood in the way of their body being translated and caught up (Iren. haer. 5.5.1).108 Similarly, in the later Acta Pilati, Enoch and Elijah are described to be in their bodies in paradise until the end of the world, then they are sent by God back to earth to withstand the Antichrist and to be killed by him, rise again, and ascend to heaven (A. Pil. A 9 [25].1). Therefore, in the Apocalypse of Elijah, during their second coming, Enoch and Elijah need to put aside their earthly flesh (cf. 4:16) and be transformed into a certain spiritual form. Only then are they able to defeat Christ’s adversary. Moreover, in addition to the belief that every human who has a physical body must die, this text probably adopts Paul’s idea that not only the dead will be raised in a new spiritual body, but the physical bodies of those who are still alive during Christ’s second coming will also need to be transformed (1 Cor 15:51). Surprisingly, while Paul earlier seems to support the belief about the inevitability of death—“all die in Adam” (15:22); “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (15:36); “nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (15:50)—he now favors the notion that not all must die but need simply to be changed. In our opinion, the Apocalypse of Elijah, similarly to Paul in 1 Cor 15, tries to reconcile two contradictory beliefs — viz., that everyone has to die before the end of the world and that not everyone will die then but that everyone will be transformed into a certain spiritual form. This is why Enoch and Elijah have to change “the flesh of the world” to “the flesh of the spirit” in their second return. Moreover, in this text, Enoch and Elijah receive their new spiritual bodies even before the resurrection of the dead begins — similarly to Jesus, who has been risen as “the first fruit of those who have died” (1 Cor 15:20).

108  As translated from Latin in Irenaeus, Against Heresies, in: A. Roberts / J. Donaldson (eds.), Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, New York 1913, 530f. The Greek text of this passage, which survives in the Sacra Parallela by John of Damascus, is a little different: “When Enoch pleased God, he was translated in the body (ἐν σώματι μετετέθη), predicting the translation of the righteous (τὴν μετάθεσιν τῶν δικαίων). And Elijah, as he was, was taken up in the form in which he was molded (ἐν τῇ τοῦ πλάσματος ὑποστάσει), prophesying the ascension of those who are spiritual; and nothing hindered their bodies from being translated and taken up”; A. Rousseau / L. Doutreleau / Ch. Mercier (eds.), Irénée de Lyon. Contre les hérésies. Livre V, vol. 2, SC 153, Paris 1969, 62.



Enoch and Elijah as the Forerunners of Christ

The fact that Enoch and Elijah are given “the flesh of spirit” before the resurrection of all other dead in the end times indicates their special role in the eschatological scenario of the Apocalypse of Elijah. According to Bauckham, the tradition about the martyrdom of Enoch and Elijah is Christian, patterned on the martyrdom of the Messiah. Enoch and Elijah died, rose, and ascended to heaven like Jesus. Moreover, Bauckham argues that Enoch and Elijah even usurp the role of Christ. In contrast, we state that in this text they do not usurp the role of Christ but function as his forerunners, though without being explicitly called so. Such a belief is found in earlier Christian tradition, as reported by Hippolytus of Rome (late second — early third century CE), who declares that the scriptures report two advents of Christ. John the son of Zacharias (John the Baptist) is the first forerunner of Christ (Hipp., antichr. 44; cf. John as Elijah in Mark 9:11–13; Luke 1:17), while Enoch and Elijah are the second forerunners (the two witnesses) of Christ in the end times (Hipp., antichr. 43): Thus also two forerunners were indicated. The first was John the son of Zacharias, who appeared in all things a forerunner and herald of our Saviour, preaching of the heavenly light that had appeared in the world. He first fulfilled the course of forerunner (Hipp., antichr. 44) […] It is a matter of course that His forerunners must appear first, as He says by Malachi and the angel, “I will send to you Elijah the Tishbite before the day of the Lord, the great and notable day, comes; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, lest I come and smite the earth utterly.” These, then, shall come and proclaim the manifestation of Christ that is to be from heaven; and they shall also perform signs and wonders, in order that men may be put to shame and turned to repentance for their surpassing wickedness and impiety. (Hipp., antichr. 46)109 This idea is also reflected in John Chrysostom: For the Scriptures speak of two advents of Christ, both this that is past, and that which is to come; and declaring these Paul said, “The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, 109  Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, in: A. Roberts / J. Donaldson (eds.), AnteNicene Fathers, vol. 5, New York 1919, 213.

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


and godly.” Behold the one, hear how he declares the other also; for having said these things, he added, “Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And the prophets too mention both; of the one, however, that is, of the second, they say Elijah will be the forerunner. For of the first, John was forerunner; whom Christ called also Elijah, not because he was Elijah, but because he was fulfilling the ministry of that prophet. For as the one shall be forerunner of the second advent, so was the other too of the first. (Hom. in Mt. 57).110 In the Apocalypse of Elijah, Enoch and Elijah, as Jesus’s forerunners, will have to come back again before the Parousia. First, they are resurrected in the physical body. While the text does not explicitly explain why they are not transformed after their first resurrection, one possibility is that, according to the author’s eschatological scenario, the Antichrist still needs to fulfill his eschatological role (viz., further persecution of the righteous who continue rebuking him) and should not yet be killed. Enoch and Elijah are thus transformed only in their second descent from heaven, as only then can they kill the Antichrist. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the Apocalypse of Elijah avoids using the term “Antichrist.” This issue seems to have been overlooked by previous researchers and commentators.111 However, as we have noted above, this text prefers to call the Christ’s antagonist “the son of perdition” (2.40; cf. John 17:12; 2 Thes 2:3), “the lawless one” (2.41), “the son of lawlessness” (3:5), and “the shameless one” (4:1). Such a tendency to avoid the term “Antichrist” can also be found prominently in earlier tradition, when the term “Antichrist” had not yet been established or was not yet widespread. For instance, Justin Martyr prefers “the man of lawlessness” (τῆς ἀνομίας ἄνθρωπος; Just. dial. 32.4), which is virtually identical to the term found in 2 Thes 2:3 (ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας). However, already Irenaeus calls this figure “the Antichrist” (ἀντίχριστος; e.g., Iren. haer. 5.25.1). Therefore, the author of the Apocalypse of Elijah was most probably aware of this term and thus intentionally avoided calling him by this 110  John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, in: Ph. Schaff (ed.), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, vol. 10, New York 1888, 615. It is interesting that for Gregory the Great, Enoch and Elijah are the forerunners of Christ’s ascension rather than his second coming: “Just as Joseph, who was sold by his brothers, prefigured our Redeemer’s betrayal for money, so Enoch who was transported, and Elijah who was raised to the aerial heaven, symbolize the Lord’s ascension. The Lord had forerunners and witnesses of his ascension, the one before the law, the other under the law, so that when he came, he was able truly to penetrate the heavens” (Hom. 29; Gregory the Great, 1990, 231). 111  However, VanderKam, for instance, avoids calling him “the Antichrist” and prefers “the lawless one, who claims to be Christ” (1996, 95).



name. We suggest that his intention was to demonstrate that this shameless one is not worthy even to bear a name in which the name of Christ is repeated. Presumably, Christ’s elevated status precludes him from killing the Antichrist personally. He is much more a creator and a king of a new creation than a warrior to fight with “the son of lawless,” who is a king of this world (Apoc. El. 3:24).112 Therefore, Enoch and Elijah do not at all “usurp” the role of Christ but rather do his “dirty work,” preparing Christ’s Parousia as king. This tradition can be found already in Hippolytus: These things, then, being to come to pass, beloved, and the one week being divided into two parts, and the abomination of desolation being manifested then, and the two prophets and forerunners of the Lord having finished their course, and the whole world finally approaching the consummation, what remains but the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from heaven, for whom we have looked in hope? (Hipp., antichr. 64)113 Thus, according to the Apocalypse of Elijah, Enoch and Elijah are transformed into the new “flesh of spirit” in their second descent from the heavens, because they function as Jesus’s forerunners. They are the ones who will kill the Antichrist and initiate the Parousia and the Judgment, enabling Christ to come as king over his 1,000-year kingdom. Conclusion In contrast to previous scholarship, which usually saw the eschatological scenario of the Apocalypse of Elijah as only an incongruous hodgepodge of ancient eschatological traditions, we have demonstrated that this scenario seems to be an attempt by a certain Christian author to harmonize various eschatological Jewish and early Christian ideas and to produce a coherent account of the end times. Therefore, there is no need to dissect this text into different editorial layers to understand the internal logic of this scenario. Here, Enoch and Elijah appear as “the two witnesses” of Rev 11:3–13. As with most Christian sources mentioning the two witnesses, this text identifies them with the two ancient righteous men believed to have been taken to heaven alive. At this point of the eschatological scenario, Enoch and Elijah serve to testify against and rebuke 112  Rosenstiehl, 1972, 52. 113  Hippolytus, 1885, 218.

10. A New Look at Enoch and Elijah


the Antichrist. These two prophets thus resemble those Christian martyrs who were believed to have fought against Satan (cf., e.g., Mart. Perp. 4.4.7). Furthermore, as the author of this apocalypse shares the common Jewish belief in the necessary death of all who possess a physical body, for him Enoch and Elijah must also die. They thus appear in this narrative as martyrs, to be killed by the Antichrist upon their first coming. Their resurrection is the resurrection of the physical flesh, in accordance with prevalent Christian views of that time. However, similarly to Paul who, on the one hand, seems to support the belief about the inevitability of death but, on the other, also believes that not everyone will have to die at Christ’s Parousia but may simply be changed into a new transfigured substance, the Apocalypse of Elijah seeks to reconcile these two contradictory beliefs. Enoch and Elijah are thus changed from “the flesh of the world” to “the flesh of the spirit” in their second coming, as they cannot enter the world-to-come in the physical body of this world. Moreover, they do so before the resurrection of the dead begins, just as Jesus, who had been risen before the rest of humanity. Enoch and Elijah thus function as Christ’s forerunners: their second coming mirrors Jesus’s second coming. Moreover, the Apocalypse of Elijah intentionally avoids calling Christ’s antagonist “the Antichrist,” preferring “the son of lawlessness” and “the shameless one.” In so doing, the author of the text seeks to demonstrate that this antagonist is unworthy even to bear a name that repeats the name of Christ. As Christ’s elevated status precludes him from killing the Antichrist, this function is delegated to Enoch and Elijah, who prepares way for Christ’s second coming as a king. They thus kill the Antichrist and initiate the Parousia and the Judgment, so that Christ can return to the world as king.

Beyond the Text; the Three Lives of Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII Luisa Fizzarotti Abstract Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII are bis rescripti palimpsests. The first layer comprises Classical and Christian texts: a very ancient testimony of Strabo’s Geography, a Greek collection of laws, and the New Testament texts; the second layer contains a copy of the Nomocanon; and the third layer preserves fragments of the Pentateuch and Gregory of Nazianzus’ Orations together with the scholia of Pseudo-Nonnus of Panopolis. The article explores this intricate textual case, wherein Classical texts travelled together with Christian writings. I will concentrate on the provenance of the manuscripts and the rationale behind their textual transmission. […] οἳ ἱκανοί εἰσι τὸν νοῦν μετοικίζειν ἐκ παλαιοῦ σκήνους ἐκτετηκότος εἰς ἀρτιπαγές τε καὶ νεουργόν. They are able to transfer the thought from an old and crumbling house to a new one, just constructed. Them., or. 4.60a1

Introduction Every scribe or monk who meticulously copied a text from one book to another, was undeniably τὸν νοῦν μετοικίζειν, i.e. transferring thought from an old “building” to a new one. Thus wrote Themistius in his renowned 4th Oration. The work, dated 357 AD, celebrated the initiative of the Emperor Costantius II, who had instituted a new library in Constantinople and ordered a transcription of classical authors from papyrus scrolls to parchment manuscripts.2 It is 1  Greek text from G. Downey / H. Schenkl (eds.), Themistii orationes quae supersunt, Vol. I, Leipzig 1965. 2  Cf. L. Canfora: “Qui Temistio celebra il progetto di Costanzo II di dar vita ad una biblioteca imperiale, da impiantare nella nuova capitale, con toni enfatici e contorti, ma che alludono abbastanza chiaramente ad un’opera di sistematica ricopiatura di testi in pericolo di scomparire”, cf. Id., Libri e biblioteche, in: G. Cavallo / P. Fedeli / A. Giardina (eds.), Lo spazio letterario della Grecia antica, vol. II, La ricezione e l’attualizzazione del testo, Rome 1992, 11–93

© Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020 | doi:10.30965/9783657703463_012



clear that, according to ancient perception, the operation of manual copying from one book to another was more than a simple mechanical action. It was certainly, among other things, a deliberate intellectual choice. In fact, it is precisely through this process of transformation from volumen to codex that the history of transmission begins “di bel nuovo”.3 The aim of the present article is to discern the principles of textual transmission in the extraordinary palimpsests Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.ΧΧΙΙΙ.4 Twice written and erased, these palimpsests allow us to retrace an intriguing account of the process of writing and re-writing, suggesting plausible criteria for the ancient practice of erasing one text for the sake of another. I will start by retelling the story of the palimpsest’s discovery. Next, I will chart the provenance of the different layers preserved in this highly interesting example. Finally, I will describe the rationale behind the palimpsest’s transmission history and so exemplify the “textual” aspects of the formation of a Christian discourse.

The Discovery in Rome

In Modern times the palimpsest was identified by Cardinal Angelo Mai, the renowned discoverer of Cicero’s De re publica beneath the text of Saint Augustine’s Commentary on the Psalms in Vat. Lat. 5757.5 It was a mid-March day in the year 1844, when Angelo Mai noticed 46 leaves of parchment fragments for sale at a public auction in Rome. The Cardinal immediately purchased the membra disiecta and, shortly thereafter, wrote the (16–19); cf. also G. Cavallo, Conservazione e perdita dei testi greci: fattori materiali, sociali, culturali, in: A. Giardina (ed.), Società romana e impero tardoantico, Vol. IV, Tradizione dei classici, trasformazioni della cultura, Rome–Bari 1986, 83–172 (89–91). 3  Cf. G.  Pasquali, Storia della tradizione e critica del testo, Florence 21952, 340; cf. also R. Marichal, Du volumen au codex, in: H.–J. Martin / J. Vezin (eds.), Mise en page et mise en texte du livre manuscrit, Paris 1990, 45–54 (54). 4  Cf. P.  Canart, Les palimpsestes en écriture majuscule des fonds grecs de la Bibliothèque Vaticane, in: S. Lucà (ed.), Libri palinsesti greci: conservazione, restauro digitale, studio, Atti del Convegno internazionale, Villa Mondragone — Monte Porzio Catone — Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” – Biblioteca del Monumento Nazionale di Grottaferrata, 21–24 apr. 2004, Rome 2008, 71–84 (79). Cf. the digital reproductions of the Vatican manuscripts on Digital Vatican Library . 5  The discovery was celebrated by Giacomo Leopardi in the poem Ad Angelo Mai (1820), cf. G. Gervasoni, Studi e ricerche sui filologi e la filologia classica tra il 700 e l’800 in Italia, Bergamo 1929, 37–55; Id., Angelo Mai e Giacomo Leopardi, in: Bergomum 7 (1933), 266–301; Id., Angelo Mai e Giacomo Leopardi, in: Bergomum 8 (1934), 47–83 and 140–192; S. Timpanaro, La filologia di Giacomo Leopardi, Rome–Bari 31997, 24–41.

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


following autobiographical note, which is now kept in Vatican City in a dossier with the signature of Vat. Gr. 2306 PT A:6 Il palimpsesto mio comprato dall’asta Agazzi 16 marzo 1844. La parte soprascritta sono frammenti del Pentateuco di poca antichità. La parte sottoscritta per lo più è Strabone con qualche scolio. Scrittura del 6° scl. o più antica. Vi sono due branelli, ma non ho finora trovato l’autore edito o inedito chi sia. Finalmente quà e là comparisce qualche altre mano, ma non tanto antica et anonima. I bought this palimpsest at the Agazzi public auction on 16th March 1844. The upper writing is made by scarcely old fragments of a Pentateuch. The lower writing is more or less Strabon with some scholia. The handwriting is of the 6th century or older. There are two little pieces, but I have not found the author yet, whether edited or not. Finally, there are other hands that appear here and there, but not as old and anonymous. The unfailing flair of Angelo Mai led him to one of the most significant discoveries of the 19th century Palimpsestforshung. In those years, the Vatican Secret Archives were enriched by several notable acquisitions, thanks to the frequent travels of qualified appraisers to Italian monasteries and public auctions, as in the case of our manuscript. When Angelo Mai saw the manuscript, he immediately guessed that the book had several layers, and was able to recognize that the most recent was a Pentateuch and the oldest an extraordinary copy of Strabo.7 However, when commenting on the marginal annotations, it seems he misunderstood the nature of that handwriting. Indeed, we now know that the manuscript contains a third and intermediate layer composed of the fragments of another ecclesiastical text, the Nomocanon in 14 titles. Angelo Mai did not realize that he was standing in front of a rare and remarkable example of a bis rescriptus book: thrice written, twice erased. Moreover, when he referred to “two pieces of an unknown work”, he could not have known that before him

6  Angelo Mai’s autobiographical note was published by Wolfgang Aly in 1928, cf. W. Aly, Der Strabon-Palimpsest Vat. Gr. 2061A, in: SHAW.PH Klasse 1 (1928–1929), 3–45 (4, n. 1). I am currently studying the entire Vat. Gr. 2306 PT A dossier, with the intent to publish the results of my analysis in a future work. 7  Cf. “[I Palinsesti Straboniani] per essere stati rasi due volte fecero smettere al dottissimo Angelo Mai l’idea di decifrarli”, cf. Onoranze rese a Giuseppe Cozza Luzi: Vice bibliotecario di Santa Romana Chiesa, Rome 1898, 3.



was the exclusive copy of an unedited Greek political treatise on laws, now commonly known as De eligendis magistratibus. The palimpsest purchased by Angelo Mai was acquired by the Vatican Library, but erroneously stored in the Latin archive with the name of Vat. Lat. 9670. The book was subsequently transferred to the Greek section and renamed Vat. Gr. 2285 and, finally, Vat. Gr. 2306.8 Following the discovery made by the Cardinal at the Agazzi public auction, another thirty years would pass before the new data on the manuscript was collected. In 1875 Giuseppe Cozza Luzi, at that time scriptor of the Vatican Library, published the edition of another manuscript, consisting of three leaves found in Grottaferrata Abbey. The older handwriting of this manuscript preserved a text of Strabo. The signature of the manuscript is Crypt. A.δ.XXIII (previously named Crypt. Z.α.XLIII according to Rocchi signature).9 When Cozza Luzi analyzed the exemplar, it became clear to him that the Vat. Gr. 2306 and the three sheets of Crypt. A.δ.XXIII belonged to the same original manuscript.10 Cozza Luzi published a preliminary text concerning the discovery in 187511 and further works were later collected in his Della Geografia di Strabone, frammenti

8  Cf. S.  Lilla, I manoscritti Vaticani Greci. Lineamenti di una storia del fondo, StT 415, Vatican City 2004, 107. In fact, the Vat. Gr. 2255–2402 manuscripts consist of acquisitions between the years 1821 and 1924, or of books previously acquired by the Vatican Library with other temporary signatures, cf. S. Lilla 2004, 100. Cf. also P. Canart / V. Peri, Sussidi bibliografici per i manoscritti greci della Biblioteca Vaticana, StT 261, Vatican City 1970, 701; M. Buonocore, Bibliografia dei fondi manoscritti della Biblioteca Vaticana (1968–1980), II, StT 319, Vatican City 1986, 970; M. Ceresa, Bibliografia dei fondi manoscritti della Biblioteca Vaticana (1981–1985), StT 342, Vatican City 1991, 426f.; Id., Bibliografia dei fondi manoscritti della Biblioteca Vaticana (1986–1990), StT 379, Vatican City 1998, 549; Id., Bibliografia dei fondi manoscritti della Biblioteca Vaticana (1991–2000), StT 426, Vatican City 2005, 584; S.J. Voicu, Note sui palinsesti conservati nella Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, in: Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae XVI, StT 458, Vatican City 2009, 445–454 (454). 9  Cf. A.  Rocchi, Codices cryptenses, seu Abbatiae Cryptae Ferratae in Tusculano digesti et illustrati cura et studio D. Antonii Rocchi, Tusculum 1883, 468. 10  Cf. E.  Crisci, I palinsesti di Grottaferrata. Studio codicologico e paleografico, 2 voll., vol. I, Pubblicazioni dell’Università degli studi di Cassino. Sezione di studi filologici, letterari, storici, artistici e geografici 2, Naples 1990, 77–80; Id., Note sulla ricostruzione dei Palinsesti di Grottaferrata, in: G. Cavallo / G. De Gregorio / M. Maniaci (eds.), Scritture, libri e testi nelle aree provinciali di Bisanzio (Atti del seminario di Erice, 18–25 settembre 1988, Vol. II), Biblioteca del Centro per il collegamento degli studi medievali e umanistici nell’Università di Perugia 5, Spoleto 1991, 457–473 (471f.). 11  G.  Cozza Luzi, Dell’antico codice della Geografia di Strabone scoperto nei palinsesti della badia di Grottaferrata, in: Memoria della Accademia romana degli Arcadi, 8.VII.1875.

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


scoperti in membrane palinseste, Rome 1884–1898.12 The publication was celebrated by a Breve of congratulations by Pope Leone XIII:13 […] Gratum est, Maianam studiorum rationem in bibliotheca Vaticana servari: quibus studiis vetusta litterarum monumenta aut a tenebris excitantur, aut restituta semel quotidie clarius innotescunt. Hoc te, dilecte fili, ex sententia praestitisse testatur eruditum opus, ac diligens quo Strabonis fragmenta exhibuisti complura, eaque novissima ex vaticanis palimpsestis expressa. Quod quidem opus, quum et tibi et ipsi bibliothecae vaticanae laudi est, tum doctis, aut eruditis viris probabitur, maxime tamdiu cupientibus expleri lacunas librorum antiqui illius auctoris, qui primus extitit regionum orbis descriptor. De oblato igitur Nobis a te volumine, quo egregio munere annum a sacerdotio nostro LX es prosequutus, tibi gratulamur, hortamurque ut ex felici exitu tuae lucubrationis animum sumas ad aemulandum in dies acrius decessorem tuum, immortalis famae virum, Angelum Maium […].14 There was much more to discover about these parchments. In 1888 the French scholar Pierre Batiffol, author of the famous work L’abbaye de Rossano, announced to the scientific community the discovery of other palimpsest sections in yet another manuscript. In fact, he had found the book in the Basilian

12  Cf. also P. Batiffol, review of Della geografia di Strabone, frammenti scoperti in membrane palimseste, aut. G. Cozza Luzi, Rome, Befani, 1884. Un vol. in–8 de 89 pages, in: Bulletin critique 6 (1885), nos 20–21, 15 Octobre–1er Novembre 1885, 395–396. 13  Cf. Onoranze, 1898, 3f.; V. Peri, Un basiliano di Bolsena nella Biblioteca Vaticana, in: S. Parenti / E. Velkovska (eds.), L’abate Giuseppe Cozza–Luzi, archeologo, liturgista, filologo, Atti della Giornata di Studio, Bolsena, 6 maggio 1995, ΑΝΑΛΕΚΤΑ ΚΡΨΠΤΟΦΕΡΡΗΣ 1, Grottaferrata 1998, 149–172 (150). 14  “We are grateful for the preservation of the method and the studies of Angelo Mai in the Vatican Library: it is by this kind of study that the old glory of Literature steps out of the shadow and, once that it has been restituted, it can shine more and more every day. This scholarly and diligent work testifies that, you, my dear, according to the common opinion, excelled in this; in fact, you published many Strabo’s fragments, included the newest fragments emerged from the Vatican palimpsest. Since your work is cause of praise for you and for the Vatican Library, then it will be certainly appreciated by erudite scholars, in particular by those who tried for a long time to fill the lacunas in the works of that ancient author, who appears to be the first describer of the world. Therefore, we would like to thank you for the book you gave us, which contributed to celebrate our 60° year of priesthood. After the successful outcome of your research, we exhort you to emulate even more in the future your predecessor, Angelo Mai, a man of immortal glory.”



section of the Vatican Library; namely, Vat. Gr. 2061A15 (previously Basilian.C), composed of twenty-two parchment leaves and discovered in S. Maria del Patir near Rossano:16 […] Je suis heureux de pouvoir confirmer cette vue de la façon la plus précise. Dans un manuscrit du fond Basilien de la Vaticane, le Basilian. C., […] j’ai reconnu vingt et un feuillets palimpsestes du dit manuscrit de Strabon. Commenting on the discovery of Batiffol, Aubrey Diller wrote: “This was one of the codices purchased from the Basilian order in 1786, which had been collected in Rome from monasteries in Calabria by Pietro Menniti, head of the order in 1696–1700”.17 Thus, it became clear that the older text of this book came from the same manuscript purchased by Angelo Mai and the additional portion discovered in Grottaferrata by Cozza Luzi.18 15  Cf. also Canart / Peri, 1970, 678f.; Buonocore, 1986, 955; Ceresa, 1991, 416; Id., 1998, 456; Id., 2005, 578. 16  Cf. P. Batiffol, review of Della Geografia di Strabone, frammenti scoperti in membrane palimseste, dal Padre Abbate Giuseppe Cozza–Luzi, Rome, Befani, 1888, un vol. in–8, 250 pages et una planche en héliogravure, in: Bulletin Critique 9 (1888), no 9, 1er Mai 1888, 165–167 (166) and he continues: “Tous les manuscrits du fonds Basilien proviennent de deux monastères déterminés, l’un Saint-Elie, à Carbone, diocèse d’Anglona, l’autre, Sainte-Marie del Patire, à Rossano. On reconnaît la cote propre au second des deux monastères dans un numéro d’ordre en chiffres arabes placé en tête des manuscrits”; cf. also P. Batiffol, L’Abbaye de Rossano. Contribution à l’histoire de la Vaticane, Paris 1891, 61 and 69; C.R. Gregory, Eine interessante neutestamentliche Handschrift, in: ThLBl 38 (1887), Leipzig, den 23 September, 345–347 (345). One precision: Vat. Gr. 2061A is the palimpsest part of Vat. Gr. 2061, kept apart (ff. 137–316), cf. P. Canart, Les palimpsestes des fonds grecs de la Bibliothèque Vaticane. Une liste sommaire et quelques précisions, in: Id. (ed.), Études de paléographie et de codicologie, reproduites avec la collaboration de M.L. Agati et M. D’Agostino, Vol. II, Vatican City 2008, 1311–1321 (1318, n. 6); cf. also P. Orsini, Manoscritti in maiuscola biblica. Materiali per un aggiornamento, Edizioni Università di Cassino. Collana scientifica. Studi archeologici, artistici, filologici, letterari e storici 7, Cassino 2005, 152–154. 17  Cf. A.  Diller, The textual tradition of Strabo’s Geography, with Appendix: the manuscripts of Eustathius’ commentary on Dionysius Periegetes, Amsterdam 1975, 20; cf., also, B. De Montfaucon, Diarium Italicum. Sive monumentorum veterum, bibliothecarum, musaeorum, &c. Notitiae singulares in itinerario Italico collectae. Additis schematibus ac figuris, Paris 1702, 210–221; G. Mercati, Per la storia dei manoscritti greci di Genova: di varie badie basiliane d’Italia e di Patmo, StT 68, Vatican City 1935, 116, 204, 303; Batiffol,1891, 42f.; R. Devreesse, Les manuscrits grecs de l’Italie Méridionale. Histoire, classement, paléographie, StT 183, Paris 1955, 21. 18  In Diller’s opinion the Grottaferrata fragments also came from Calabria, “so that all the leaves of Strabo were together there in the tenth century”, cf. Diller, 1975, 20.

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


Unfortunately, somebody, probably Cozza Luzi himself, applied some bad chemical reagents to the parchment, causing a deterioration in the condition of the manuscripts.19 Reflecting on this misfortune, Diller remarked: “In one respect this precious ms. was discovered too soon, for it was the time when chemical reagents were in vogue for dealing with palimpsests”.20 19  Cozza Luzi’s work produced a huge reaction in the academic world; in 1956 W. Aly wrote: “Primo libello edito, vivo inventoris gaudio secta philologorum non respondit nisi censura tristissima”, cf. Id., De Strabonis codice rescripto cuius reliquiae in codicibus Vaticanis Vat. Gr. 2306 et 2061 A servatae sunt, StT 188, Vatican City 1956, XII. Also Francesco Sbordone wrote: “La mole eccessiva, le inutili divagazioni ed altre deficienze di metodo allontanarono una volta per sempre dal suo lavoro la stima dei filologi”, cf. F. Sbordone in W. Aly, Zum neuen Strabon-Text, con una nota introduttiva di F. Sbordone, in: ParPass 5 (1950), 228–263 (229). Moreover, Giorgio Pasquali wrote a few words about Cozza Luzi’s publications in his article dedicated to the project of an Italian collection of Greek and Latin classical texts, cf.: “E fa meraviglia vedere raccomandato quale primo testo della nuova raccolta uno Strabone da sostituire a quello del Meineke. Non già che un nuovo Strabone non appartenga, come l’Arnaldi ben dice, ai più vivi desideri dei filologi; ma perché esso è fra tutti i testi forse il più difficile a costituire, non solo per condizioni diplomatiche particolari (l’Arnaldi avrà sentito parlare e riparlare del palinsesto vaticano maltrattato dal Cozza Luzi), ma anche perché a fare uno Strabone nuovo occorre avere pratica della geografia antica e moderna di tutto il mondo antico o avere costantemente a mano chi ne abbia pratica, nonché l’emendazione, la scelta delle lezioni, specie quando le divergenze riguardano nomi di luogo, non è possibile, se non fondandosi sulla toponomastica medievale e moderna”, and he also writes in a footnote: “[Ora allo Strabone ha posto mano, con molta cautela, Francesco Sbordone]”, cf. G. Pasquali, L’edizione nazionale del classici antichi, in: C.F. Russo (ed.), G. Pasquali, Pagine stravaganti di un filologo, I., Pagine stravaganti v­ ecchie e nuove, Pagine meno stravaganti nel testo originale, Florence 1994, 191–193 (192f. and n. 1). Diller wrote: “Cozza Luzi barely touched the leaves in codex 2061A. His publication of the palimpsest is incomplete and inaccessible and unsatisfactory in other ways”, cf. Diller, 1975, 20. Instead, R.P. Oliver wrote that it was Angelo Mai to apply the chemical reagents to the parchment: “[…] Cardinal Angelo Mai, who seems to have done no more than apply the reagents which produced a progressive deterioration of the parchment”, cf. R.P. Oliver, Review of Fragmentum Vaticanum de eligendis magistratibus e codice bis rescripto Vat. Gr. 2306, edidit W. Aly, Vatican City 1943, in: CP 45 (1950), 117–119 (117). Probably Oliver misunderstood Aly’s words in W. Aly, Fragmentum Vaticanum De Eligendis Magistratibus, StT 104, Vatican City 1943, 10, where the German philologist wrote: “Accedit, quod iam aetate viri clarissimi, cardinalis Angeli Mai, qui hunc codicem Romae emit, tincturis chemicis pergamena adeo pessum data est […]”. 20  Cf. Diller, 1975, 21; cf. also W. Aly, Geschichte, Methode und Aufgabe der Palimpsestforschung, in: FuF FF 11 (1935), 11 Jahrg. Nr. 23/24, 10 und 20 August 1935, 301–303 (301f.): “Die Palimpsestforschung hat zwei Methoden ausgebildet, eine chemische und eine physikalische. Die ältere Zeit hat ausschliesslich mit chemischen Reagenzien gearbeitet, deren Wirkung freilich verblüffend ist, deren Spuren an fast jedem Blatte, das die Aufmerksamkeit schon einmal auf sich gezogen hat, sichtbar sind, deren Nachteile aber so groß sind, daß man auf solche Mittel künftig wird verzichten müssen”; cf. also C.F. Faraggiana di Sarzana, La fotografia applicata a manoscritti di difficile lettura: origini



The account of I have relayed of the palimpsest discovery has highlighted three dates, 1844, 1875, and 1888, and three names of extraordinary importance for Classical Philology and the study of ancient Greek manuscripts: Angelo Mai, Giuseppe Cozza Luzi, and Pierre Batiffol. The provenance of the three fragmentary books, Vat. Gr. 2306, Crypt. A.δ.ΧΙΙΙ and Vat. Gr. 2061A is itself an account of three textual layers, three different manuscripts, and the various milieux wherein they were conceived and studied.

The First Layer (A): Strabo (Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII)

The complicated history of these three books began no later than the 5th Century AD, when a scribe gave birth to “un magnifique manuscrit du géographe Strabon, copié en onciale penchée”21, i.e. a very ancient and precious copy of Strabo. The text divided between Vat. Gr. 2306, Vat. Gr. 2061A and Crypt. A.δ.ΧΧΙΙΙ was written in a beautiful sloping ogival majuscule, disposed in three columns.22 Here follows a disposition of the text:23 Vat. Gr. 2061A: ff. 137, 235–242, 237– 240, 244+253, 246+252, 247+251, 248+250, 249, 309–316. Vat. Gr. 2306 + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII: ff. 2+3, 5, 6, 7–22, 23+30, 25+28, 26+27, 31–68, C2, 69, C1, C3, C3, C1, 70, C2, 71–84. The manuscript is also of extraordinary importance because it preserves the 8th and 9th books of Strabo’s Geography. These are the most damaged sections in the Par. Gr. 139724, a 10th — or 11th — century manuscript, the famous codex A of Strabo’s stemma codicum.25 In 1963 the Italian scholar Francesco

ed evoluzione di uno strumento di ricerca e i principi che ne regolano l’uso, in: A.E. Chico (ed.), El palimpsesto grecolatino como fenomeno librario y textual, Zaragoza 2006, 65–80 (77). 21  Cf. J.  Irigoin, L’Italie méridionale et la tradition des textes antiques, in: JÖB 18 (1969), 37–55 (43). “[…] Cum palimpsestum quinto exeunte saeculo exaratum esse profiteamur”, W. Aly wrote in Id., 1956, XIII. 22  As Crisci wrote, “Elegante e ancora sobria nel chiaroscuro e nell’uso dei tratti ornamentali”, cf. Id., Un frammento palinsesto del «Commento al vangelo di S. Matteo» di Origene nel codice criptense Γ.β.VI, con otto tavole, in: JÖB 38 (1988), 95–112 (100). 23  Cf. Canart, 2008, 1318. 24  F.  Sbordone, Per la tradizione dei libri VIII e IX della «Geografia» di Strabone, in: AAP 22 (1973), 213–234. 25  Cf. G.W.  Bowersock, A correction in Strabo confirmed, in: ClR 14, n. 1 (1964) 12–13; P.W. Wallace, Strabo on Acrocorinth, in: Hesp. Hesperia 38, n. 4 (1969) 495–499.

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


Sbordone wrote:26 “[…] Quod inde colligere licet, liber palimpsestus Vaticanus, qui sub saec. V occasum exaratus est, paucis modo exemplaribus interiectis, imaginem satis fidelem ipsius autographi Straboniani exprimere potest”. In Sbordone’s opinion, the Vatican book was quite a faithful reproduction of the manuscript written by Strabo himself. The discovery was greatly celebrated throughout the scholarly world. In 1935, at the 4th International Congress of Papyrology in Florence, Wolfgang Aly announced that “Gerade der Strabontext wird dafür die besten Beispiele liefern, wenn es gelingen sollte, für diesen seit fast 100 Jahren vernachlässigten Autor einen Verleger zu finden”.27 Twenty-one years later, he published his excellent De Strabonis codice rescripto cuius reliquiae in codicibus Vaticanis Vat. Gr. 2306 et 2061 A servatae sunt.28 26  Cf. F. Sbordone, Strabonis Geographica, Prolegomena, Vol. I: Libri I–II, Rome 1963, IX. 27  Cf. Aly, 1935, 303. 28  Cf. J. Irigoin, Review of W. Aly, De Strabonis Codice Rescripto cuius reliquiae in Codicibus Vaticanis Vat. Gr. 2306 et 2061 A servatae sunt. Corollarium adiecit F. Sbordone, Vatican City 1956, in: AnCl 27 (1958) 176–177; J.O. Thomson, Review of De Strabonis codice rescripto cuius reliquiae in codicibus Vaticanis Vat. Gr. 2306 et 2061A servatae sunt. Scripsit W. Aly. Corollarium adiecit F. Sbordone, Vatican City, 1956. Strabons Geographika in 17 Büchern. Text, Übersetzung und erläuternde Anmerkungen von W. Aly. Band 4: Strabon von Amaseia. Untersuchungen über Text, Aufbau, und Quellen der Geographika, Bonn 1957, in: JHS 79 (1959) 88; J.M. Cook, On Stephanus Byzantius’ Text of Strabo, in: JHS 79 (1959) 19–26; T.S. Brown, A Megasthenes Fragment on Alexander and Mandanis, in: Journal of the American Oriental Society 80, n. 2 (1960), 133–135 (135 and n. 20); D.R. Dicks, Strabo I and II, review of G. Aujac, F. Lasserre: Strabon, Geographie. Tome I, Ie partie (livre I), 2e partie (livre II), Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1969, in: ClR 21, n. 2 (1971), 188–194; S. Dmitriev, The rise and quick fall of the theory of ancient economic imperialism, in: EcHR n.s. 62, n. 4 (2009), 785–801 (793, n. 76). Giovanni Mercati produced a great work on Strabo’s manuscript, too, and for a while it seemed his edition of the palimpsest might appear, but then the work was done by W. Aly, cf. J. Groeger, Quaestiones Eustathianae, Diss. Trebnitz 1911, 3 and n. 1. Also F. Lasserre, the editor of Strabo’s Geography for Les Belles Lettres, transcribed the text between 1949 and 1950 in the Vatican Library in Rome, and he writes that his transcription is different in several points to the one by W. Aly, itself different from the other made by Cozza Luzi, cf. F. Lasserre, Étude sur les extraits médiévaux de Strabon suivie d’un traité inédit de Michel Psellus, in: AnCl 28 (1959), 32–79 (31, n. 1); cf. also Id., Introduction to Strabon. Géographie, Tome I – 1re partie (Introduction générale — Livre I), Paris 1969, LVf. “This is somewhat disconcerting”, that is how Diller commented the differences in transcription, cf. Id., 1975, 21 n. 60. Because I am currently implicated in transcribing a similarly damaged text, i.e. De eligendis magistratibus in Vat. Gr. 2306, I can testify how hard the work of recognition of every single letter of a bis rescriptus palimpsest can be, and how transcriptions made by the same person could be different across time. It is a long work and it is necessary to use an ultraviolet and infrared photographic system, for which I thank the Photographic Laboratory of the Vatican Library. Pierre Batiffol wrote: “Les palimpsestes sont une chose décevante: on y lit moins de mots qu’on n’en entrevoit, et



The book has 44 leaves and is a beautiful example of Late-antique manuscript; it is, moreover, of square format. Manuscripts like this were conceived as large containers of texts for a selected and influential public.29 Other remarkable examples of this kind of Late-antique manuscript are the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus B of the Old Testament and the P. Vindob. G39846, a parchment fragment from Wien, a Late-antique fragmentary piece of a larger Platonic manuscript.30 Scholars have different opinions concerning the origin of Strabo’s book. If Aly thought the codex had Constantinopolitan roots,31 and Irigoin proposed Southern Italy,32 Guglielmo Cavallo and Carlo Maria Mazzucchi believed it was written in Egypt or Palestine because of the paleographic comparison with other books copied there in the same period.33 Mazzucchi even suggested that the book was copied by a Syriac-Palestinian Christian who was keen on classical culture, specifically historical and geographical works. The place l’on en entrevoit moins qu’on ne voudrait en avoir trouvé: l’insaisissable proie se dérobe, le moindre accident couvre sa fuite […]”, cf. P. Batiffol, 1888, 165. 29  Turner quoted the Vat. Gr. 2306 in his III group, “large, square” parchment codices, cf. E.G. Turner, The typology of the early codex, The Haney Foundation series 18, Philadelphia 1977, 27. J. Irigoin inserts Vat. Gr. 2061A and Vat. Gr. 2306 between the manuscripts with the quires “avec côté chiar à l’extérieur”, like the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus, cf. Id., Les cahiers des manuscrits grecs, in: P. Hoffmann (ed.), Recherches de codicologie comparée, Paris 1998, 1–19 (5); cf. also G. Cavallo, Qualche annotazione sulla trasmissione dei Classici nella tarda Antichità, in: RFIC 125 (1997), 205–219 (210f.). 30  Already W. Aly wrote about the similarity between Strabo’s manuscript and Sinaiticus and Vaticanus B, cf. Aly, 1956, XII and 265. Cf. also M.-J. Luzzatto, Codici tardoantichi di Platone ed i cosiddetti Scholia Arethae, in: Medioevo greco 10 (2010), 77–110 (83–87). 31  Cf. Aly, 1956, XIIIf.; cf. also Diller, 1975, 21. 32  Cf. J.  Irigoin, La culture byzantine dans l’Italie Méridionale, in: La cultura in Italia tra Tardo Antico e Alto Medioevo, Atti del Convegno tenuto a Roma, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, dal 12 al 16 Novembre 1979, Volume II, Rome 1981, 587–603 (599–601); Id., Viri divites et eruditi omni doctrina, graeca quoque et latina, in: Atti del IX congresso internazionale di studi sulla Sicilia antica, in: Kokalos 43–44 (1997–1998), Rome 2000, 139–151 (145–148); Id., Manuscrits italiotes et traductions latines de traités scientifìques et techniques: quelques exemples, in F. Burgarella / A.M. Ieraci Bio (eds.), La cultura scientifica e tecnica nell’Italia meridionale bizantina, Studi di filologia antica e moderna 13, Catanzaro 2006, 125–136 (126f.). Cf. also S. Lucà, Su due Sinassari della famiglia C*: il Crypt. Δ.α.XIV ( ff. 291–292) e il Roman. Vallic. C 34III ( ff. 9–16), in: ASCL 66 (1999) 51–85 (55f. n. 15). 33  Cf. G.  Cavallo, La produzione di manoscritti greci in Occidente tra età tardoantica e alto medioevo. Note ed ipotesi, in: Scrittura e civiltà 1 (1977), 111–131 (120 and n. 44). For the Palestinian region, he refers to P. Colt. II 1, cf. L. Casson / E.L. Hettig (eds.), Excavations at Nessana, II, Literary papyri, Princeton 1950, tavv. 1–3; for the Egyptian region, he refers to the 5th–7th books cited in W. Lameere (ed.), Aperçus de Paléographie Homérique: à propos des papyrus de l’Iliade et de l’Odyssee des collections de Gand, de Bruxelles et de Louvain, PSc 4, Paris-Bruxelles-Antwerp-Amsterdam 1960, 178–181.

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


Mazzucchi had in mind was Caesarea, a prosperous city in the 5th–6th centuries AD; it remained untouched by calamity until the reign of Heraclius and kept good relations with Sicily and Southern Italy.34

The First Layer (B): A Greek Collection of Laws (Vat. Gr. 2306)

The history of the first layer of the manuscripts Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A and Crypt.A.δ.XXIII also includes the two “branelli” mentioned by Angelo Mai above. These are two fragments (ffr. A and B = ff. 1–4 and 24–29) of Vat. Gr. 2306, and are kept separately in the Vatican Library. This text was preserved in the current manuscript as the lone copy, a factor which increases the importance of the book. The first edition was published by Aly in 1943, with the name of Fragmentum Vaticanum de eligendis magistratibus e codice bis rescripto.35 As Revilo P. Oliver wrote in his review of Aly’s work: “[…] The edition was at last published in a year when the world’s energies were concentrated on the dissemination of bombs rather than of learning”.36 This sentence sheds light on the great effort Aly made to publish the text.37 The handwriting of the manuscript is a beautiful biblical majuscule in three columns, perhaps of the 6th century AD.38 In fact, the handwriting could be identified as a late biblical majuscule due to the apexes at the end of some letters, such as, for example, the apexes of the delta. About the biblical majuscule

34  Cf. C.M.  Mazzucchi, Alcune vicende della tradizione di Cassio Dione in epoca bizantina, in: Aev. 53 (1979), 94–139 (106–108); “La risposta, Cesarea di Palestina, è unica e certa”, as he wrote, cf. Id., 1979, 108. Cf. also Crisci, 1988, 100f. 35  Cf. M.  De Nonno, Filologia classica, in: M. Buonocore / A.M. Piazzoni (eds.), La Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana luogo di ricerca al servizio degli studi, Atti del convegno, Roma, 11–13 novembre 2010, StT 468, Vatican City 2011, 19–48 (21). Cf. also F. Sbordone, Le pergamene vaticane “De eligendis magistratibus”, in: ParPass 3 (1948), 269–290; J.J. Keaney, Theophrastus on Greek Judicial Procedure, in: TAPA 104 (1974), 179–194; J.J. Keaney / A. Szegedy-Maszak, Theophrastus’ De eligendis magistratibus: Vat. Gr. 2306, Fragment B, in: TAPA 106 (1976), 227–240; J.H. Oliver, The Vatican Fragments of Greek Political Theory, in: GRBS 18 (1977), 321–329; F. Costabile, La costituzione democratica, in: Id. / C. Alfaro Giner (eds.), Polis e Olympieion a Locri Epizefiri. Costituzione, economia e finanze di una città della Magna Grecia. Editio altera e traduzione delle tabelle locresi, Soveria Mannelli 1992, 210–228 (220–227). 36  Cf. Oliver, 1950, 118f. 37  This is the actual work I carried out for my PhD project, in view of a publication of a new edition of the text. 38  Cf. Aly, 1943, 9 and Id., 1935, 302.



of this period, Guglielmo Cavallo wrote the emblematic sentence: “Il canone si avvia ormai alla dissoluzione”.39 The consistency of the manuscript also caused many questions because the mise en page of the text is reminiscent of papyri.40 Fr. A has just one column on the recto and one column on the verso. Fragment B has three columns, but an edge of the parchment has been cut. In 2010 Luzzatto suggested that there were originally four columns,41 which seems a plausible hypothesis. Luzzatto’s analysis is, in my opinion, very intriguing: she compares the mise en page of the De eligendis magistratibus to the one of the Codex Sinaiticus (Londra, Brit. Libr., Add. 43725), the Vaticanus of the Bible (Vat. Gr. 1209) and Vat. Gr. 1288. All the books with 16–18 letters per line have 3 columns, as do Vat. Gr. 1209 and Vat. Gr. 1288, but the manuscripts with 12–13 letters per line have 4 columns, like Sinaiticus. Vat. Gr. 2306 has 12–13 letters per line and has evidently been cut at the edges, so we could assume the existence of a fourth, lost column. A four-column format would remind us even more of a papyrus structure; as J. Irigoin wrote of the Codex Sinaiticus: “[…] La disposition de la double page rappelle celle qu’offrirait un rouleau de papyrus ouvert”.42 It is also worth noting that both the Codex Sinaiticus of the Bible and Vat. Gr. 2306 have 2 cm between the columns. The columns of the De eligendis magistratibus text are 6 cm large and 26 cm high. The entire page should be 30 cm large and 26 cm high, which would make it very similar to the page of the Sinaiticus, being 31 cm large and 28 cm high.43 Furthermore, these data confirm the potential geographical attribution of the manuscript to an eastern locale.44

39  Cf. G. Cavallo, Ricerche sulla maiuscola biblica, STP 2, Florence 1967, 84. 40  Cf., for example, Wolgang Aly on Vat. Gr. 2061A: “Quod tribus columnis paginae compositae sunt, documento est vel ipsum codicem vel exemplar eius antiquum ex volumine papyraceo descriptum esse, quae compositionis ratio ex antiquissimis Sacrae Scripturae codicibus, Sinaitico et Vaticano B omnis nota est.”, cf. Aly, 1956, 265. 41  Cf. Luzzatto, 2010, 92–96. The title of the whole paragraph is (see 92): “Un codice di Teofrasto a 4 colonne (Vat. gr. 2306, frr. A–B)”. 42  Cf. J.  Irigoin, La Bible grecque: le Codex Sinaiticus, in: Martin / Vezin (eds.), 1990, 60–66 (62). 43  Luzzatto, 2010, 94. 44  Furthermore, the Sinaiticus and the Vatican fragments have the same typology of quire with the clear side externally, as is also the case in the Vaticanus of the Bible, P. Rylands 53 [1106 Pack2] and the Dioscorides Vind. Med. Gr. 1 cf. Irigoin, 1998, 5.

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


In fact, Guglielmo Cavallo placed this biblical majuscule in a 6th century Egyptian milieu.45 Nevertheless, as Carlo Maria Mazzucchi has demonstrated,46 it is more likely that the work was conceived in Palestine, like Vat. Gr. 1288.47 W. Aly previously discussed Vat. Gr. 1288 in relation to our fragment, arguing for a 6th century date; however, he also maintained that the Greek legal parchments were of Constantinopolitan origin.48 To speak for myself, I find Mazzucchi’s thesis more convincing from a paleographical point of view, especially after a fresh examination of the two manuscripts. It is certainly possible that the biblical majuscule of the De eligendis magistratibus was produced in Palestine, but we should also remember that books, men, and scribes, were not immobile. Given the fact of travel, we must not discount other regional options.49

The First Layer (C): New Testament Texts (Vat. Gr. 2061A)

The dismembered parchments attributed to Theophrastus are not the only fragments of the first majuscule layer. In fact, Vat. Gr. 2061A also preserves some fragmentary New Testament texts. Pierre Batiffol discovered these fragments50 and Caspar René Gregory announced the news in 1887 via the Independent, reporting “An important New Testament Palimpsest”.51 The recovered texts were 45  Cf. Cavallo, 1977, 123; cf. also Id., 1967, 84; Id., La circolazione libraria nell’età di Giustiniano, in: G.G. Archi (ed.), L’Imperatore Giustiniano: Storia e mito, Giornate di studio a Ravenna, 14–16 ottobre 1976, Circolo toscano di diritto romano e storia del diritto 5, Milano 1978, 201–236 (215). 46  Cf. Mazzucchi, 1979, 105–108. J. Irigoin, instead, believes that Cassius Dio’s, Strabo’s and anonymous legal parchments have Southern Italian origins, cf. J. Irigoin, 2000, 145–148; Id., La culture grecque dans l’Occident latin du VIIe au XIe siècle, in: La cultura antica nell’Occidente Latino dal VII all’XI secolo, Spoleto, 18–24 aprile 1974 (Settimane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, XXII), Spoleto 1975, 425–456 (432f.); Id., L’apport de l’Italie méridionale à la transmission des textes classiques, in: A. Jacob / J.M. Martin / G. Noyé (eds.), Histoire et culture dans l’Italie byzantine: acquis et nouvelles recherches, Rome 2006, 5–20; cf. also Lucà, 1999, 55f. n. 15; 47  P. Orsini, 2005, 173, 177, 203f, 207. In particular Orsini wrote: “Il Vat. gr. 2306, in realtà, mostra affinità paleografiche con il manoscritto Vat. gr. 1288, attribuito ad ambiente palestinese”, cf. 207. 48  Cf. Aly, 1956, 266f. 49  Cf. infra. 50  Cf. Batiffol, 1891, 61f. n. 1. 51  Cf. C.R.  Gregory, An important New Testament Palimpsest, in: Independent, 25.VIII.1887; cf. also Id., 1887, 345–347; Id., Textkritik des neuen Testamentes, I–III, Leipzig 1900–1909, 104, 205, 435, 1040, 1042; D.E. Heath, A transcription and description of manuscript Vatican Greek 2061 (Gregory 048), Diss. Taylor University 1965; S.J. Voicu, L’omeliario palinsesto del



fragments of a Lectionarium evangelicum, a Homiliarium, a Tetraevangelium and some Pauline works, all written in majuscule handwriting as the other folia of the scriptio ima of the manuscript. Here follows an attempt at reconstructing the fragments; the numerations of the section are mine and differ from those previously provided by Batiffol and Orsini:52 A: ff. 254–261, 262–269, 270–277, 278–285, 286–292, Lection. evang. (Aland l 2321), biblical majuscule, end of 6th century. B: ff. 164+169, 174, 175, 204+209, 214, 227, Lection. evang. (Aland l 559), biblical majuscule, 8th century. C: ff. 138–150, 160–163, 165–168, 170–173, 176–178, 203, 205–208, 210–213, 215–220, 223–226, 231–233, 304, Homiliarium, sloping ogival majuscule, 9th century. D: ff. 234+243, 236+241, 238+239, 245, Tetraevangelium (f. 245r Matt 11:20–25; f. 243r Mark 11: 29, 12: 2; f. 239v Luke 9:47; f. 236v Luke 22:40–41), biblical majuscule, half of 6th century. E: f. 198, 199, 221+222, 229+230, 293+300, 301+308, 302+307, 303+306, 305, Acts, Epistolae catholicae, S. Paulus, Epistolae (Aland 048), biblical majuscule, half of 5th century. From a paleographical point of view, some remarkable features can be detected: Guglielmo Cavallo compares the handwriting of the “A”, “D”, and “E” sections to the handwriting of other manuscripts of oriental origin.53 In particular, the “D” section may come from the Syrian area, like the Vat. Gr. 2302 (ff. 9–16, 25–32, 34, 37, 39, 56, 65, 81), which contains Hesychius of Jerusalem’s Comment to the Psalms (a text erased in the 13th century by the monk Giovanni di Rossano). On the other hand, the “E” section has some interesting similarities to the Codex Sinaiticus, which was probably manufactured in Palestine as written supra. Finally, the handwriting of the “A” section is reminiscent of the famous Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, probably a product of Syrian manufacture.54 Vatic. gr. 2061A, in: RHT, Bulletin n° 12–13 (1982–1983), 1985, 139–148; 048 and l 2321 in K. Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, Zweite neu-bearbeitete and ergänzte Auflage, ANTF 1, Berlin–New York 1994; no 2906 in Leuven Database of Ancient Books: . 52  Cf. Batiffol, 1891, 62; Orsini, 2005, 152. The references to Aland are from Id., 1994. There is a good reconstruction of their composition in Canart, 2008, 1318f. 53  Cf. Cavallo, 1977, 122f. Cavallo inserts in this group also the palimpsest sections of the Fragmentum Vaticanum De eligendis magistratibus and the Vat. Gr. 2591 (ff. 25–32; 35–38), talking about a probable Egyptian origin. 54  G.  Cavallo, Il codice purpureo di Rossano: libro, oggetto, simbolo, in: G. Cavallo / J. Gribomont / W.C. Loerke (eds.), Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, Museo dell’Arcivescovado,

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


This data confirms the complexity of the composition of the miscellany, whose first layer includes both Christian and profane texts, dated to different centuries and coming from different geographical regions.

The Second Layer: The Nomocanon (Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII)

How do the stories of the different fragments become a single story? Around the 7th or, more probably, the 8th century, the different parchment leaves were merged and reused to copy the Nomocanon in fourteen titles in a cursive handwriting.55 In 1977 Carlo Maria Mazzucchi thought that the intermediate level was copied in the 7th century;56 if this were the case, the manuscript would be one of the oldest books written in a cursive handwriting in the history of Greek paleography. However, the Italian scholar Giuseppe De Gregorio has brilliantly argued that, in the fragments of the Nomocanon, it is possible to read echoes of the Quinisextum, the Trullan council held in Constantinople in 692.57 In his Rossano Calabro. Commentarium, Codices selecti 81, Codices mirabiles 1, Rome–Graz 1987, 3–21 (19). 55  Vat. Gr. 2306 (all the leaves) + Crypt. A.δ.XXIII (all the leaves) + Vat. Gr. 2061A (ff. 137, 179–197, 200–202, 235+242, 237+240, 244+253, 246+252, 247+251, 248+250, 249, 309+316). It is clear that the second handwriting was mainly copied on the Strabonian texts of Vat. Gr. 2061A, the New Testament fragments are not bis rescripti. 56  Cf. C.M.  Mazzucchi, Minuscole greche corsive e librarie, in: Aeg. 57 (1977), 166–189 (172–176). He wrote (172): “Precoce impiego librario di minuscole corsive formalizzate”. Cf. also Cavallo, 1977, 119; Crisci, 1991, 471 and S. Lucà, Il codice A.I.10 della Biblioteca Durazzo-Giustiniani di Genova, in: BBGG 35 (1981), 133–163 (145 n. 50); L. Perria, Un nuovo codice di Efrem: l’Urb. gr. 130, in: RSBN 14–16 (1977–1979), 33–114 (56 n. 5); Ead., Il Vat. gr. 2200. Note codicologiche e paleografiche, in: RSBN 20–21 (1983–1984), 25–68 (44, n. 69); B. Mondrain, Une écriture cursive grecque inconnue du Xe siècle dans le manuscrit de Munich gr. 331, in: Scr. 54 (2000) 252–267 (258). As W. Aly reported, Giovanni Mercati had already considered the 7th century, but never published his conjectures in further detail; probably it was an oral communication between he and Aly, cf. Aly, 1928–1929, 5. In Aly’s works, in fact, we read: “etwa aus dem 7. Jh.”, in Id., Neue Beiträge zur Strabon-Überlieferung, in: SHAW.PH Klasse 22 (1931–1932), Abhandlung 1, Heidelberg 1931, 4; “[…] Quare Johannis Mercati iudicium sequimur, qui statuit hanc scripturam post octavum saeculum exaratam non esse, fortasse septimo” in Id., 1956, XIV. 57  Cf. G.  De Gregorio, Materiali vecchi e nuovi per uno studio della minuscola greca tra VII e IX secolo, in: G. Prato (ed.), I manoscritti greci tra riflessione e dibattito, Atti del V colloquio internazionale di paleografia greca, Tomo primo, Cremona, 4–10 ottobre 2008, Florence 2000, 81–151 (116–124); cf. also M.T. Rodriquez, Un “nuovo” palinsesto dei Basilici, in: Nea Rhome 7 (2010), 73–95 (88 n. 35).



opinion, it is more likely that the re-writing took place in the 8th century, after the famous Council. I personally find his interpretation compelling. But why would someone decide to cancel the memory of two precious texts — the anonymous and Strabo’s texts, as we might assume — and superimpose a new collection of laws overtop of them? In my opinion, this was not a casual undertaking. It may well have been an ideological operation, replacing the pagan legal memory with the Christian one. Of course, among the various possible reasons, we might consider a poverty of resources58 and/or disinterest in a text deemed irrelevant. Nevertheless, we should not dismiss the possibility that some other factor informed the choice. Strictly related to the “whyquestion”, is the “where-question”. Was the manuscript re-written in the East, or in Italy, i.e. where the third and last textual layer was copied? It is difficult to define this based on the paleographical analysis, because the handwriting does not exhibit local typological characteristics59. The regions of Southern Italy were under the control of the Patriarchate of Rome, during which time the Quinisextum laid the foundations for the disciplinary and liturgical practice of the oriental church. The new ecclesiastical law provoked many disputes in Southern Italy; indeed, the regnant Pope at the time of the council, Sergius I (of Syrian origin) rejected it and refused to sign the canons. Given these historical circumstances, it is more likely that the apparently challenging text of the Nomocanon was copied in an eastern region, where, for example, the scriptio ima was written60. It seems more logical that someone 58  Cf. P.M.  Huby, The Transmission of Aristotle’s Writings and the Places where Copies of this works existed, in: CM 30 (1969), 241–257 (254, n. 77). 59  Cf. Cavallo, 1977, 119. 60  Among the scholars who believed that the intermediate level had an eastern origin, and more precisely, a Sinaitic-palestinian origin cf. Lidia Perria in Ead., Alle origini della minuscola libraria greca, in: G. Prato (ed.), I manoscritti greci tra riflessione e dibattito: atti del V colloquio internazionale di paleografia greca, Florence 2000, 157–167 (160); Ead., Libri e scritture tra Oriente Bizantino e Italia Meridionale, in: RSBN 39 (2002), 157–187 (161–162); cf., also, very convincingly, De Gregorio, 2000, 123. Already Mercati thought of the East, in particular Constantinople: “Nach dem Urteil Mercatis sind die Kanones nicht in der Provinz geschrieben, sondern vermutlich in K’pel. Erst diese Handschrift wäre also nach Unteritalien geschickt und dort im 10. Jh. Zum zweiten Male verarbeitet. Daß die Kanones bereits In Italien geschrieben sind, kann für sehr unwahrscheinlich gelten”, cf. Aly, 1931, 4 and Id., 1956, XIV. But, as De Gregorio pointed out, the handwriting of the first layer of the parchment fragments is more ascribable to the Egyptian-Palestinian region, than to Constantinople, cf. De Gregorio, 2000, 123. On the other hand, Irigoin wrote in favour of a Southern-Italian origin, cf. Id., 1969, 43. Also Mazzucchi thought of Southern Italy and, more precisely, Sicily: “Fra la Cesarea del VII secolo e la Calabria del X stette con grande probabilità la Sicilia, che tra il 663 e il 668 visse forse il momento più importante

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


would relocate a pre-copied manuscript with new ecclesiastical dispositions, than a pagan book with Greek laws and the Geography of Strabo. Moreover, I believe we should acknowledge the similarity between the topoi of the two first layers: legal Greek institutions and new Byzantine legal dispositions. It is more plausible that whoever copied the second text found the first one in the same physical location. And the first layer was clearly produced in the East. We could easily imagine an official working in a juridical context, perhaps in the administration or in a law school, i.e. in a context where both texts might have been found together. Despite the Syro-Palestinian geographical attribution of the first layer, for paleographical reasons61, I believe our attention could be redirected to the nearby School of Berytus on the Phoenician coastline. This great center for the study of law was destroyed by an earthquake in 551 AD62, an event which drove

della storia della dominazione bizantina dell’isola, allorché Costante II trasferì da Costantinopoli a Siracusa la sede della direzione dell’Impero. Se mai fosse necessario indicare delle circostanze favorevoli alla copia del Nomocanon sui fogli dello Strabone e del Teofrasto, potrebbe essere proprio questa; e le grandi difficoltà del momento spiegherebbero a sufficienza il sacrificio dei due codici in maiuscola”, cf. Mazzucchi, 1979, 114. Cf., also, C.M. Mazzucchi, Attività scrittoria calabrese dal VI al IX secolo, in: Calabria bizantina. Tradizione di pietà e tradizione scrittoria nella Calabria greca medievale, Atti dei IV e V Incontri di Studi bizantini, Reggio Calabria 1976 e 1978, Mezzogiorno e democrazia 11, Rome 1983, 81–102 (90); Mazzucchi, 1977, 177f. and 182; D. Knoepfler, La vie de Ménédème d’Érétrie de Diogène Laërce: contribution à l’histoire et à la critique du texte des Vies des philosophes, SBA 21, Basel 1991, 144; E. Follieri, Le scritture librarie nell’Italia bizantina, in: C. Scalon (ed.), Libri e documenti d’Italia dai Longobardi alla rinascita delle città, Libri e biblioteche 4, Udine 1996, 61–85 (65f.); cf. also C. Faraggiana di Sarzana: “I codici di Strabone e Teofrasto, copiati teoricamente in Palestina, devono essere arrivati ben presto in Italia meridionale, dato che qui, molto probabilmente, avvenne la trascrizione del Nomocanone. […] È teoricamente possibile che qualche avvocato o alto prelato profugo dalla Siria o dalla Palestina sia giunto in Calabria fra VII e VIII secolo potando con sé una copia d’uso privato — ché un palinsesto come il nostro non sembra proveniente da una biblioteca pubblica — di un testo giuridico indispensabile per la sua attività e affatto recente, quale era il Nomocanone in 14 titoli; ed è altrettanto ammissibile che l’esule in questione possa essersi procurato proprio in Palestina i preziosi fogli di pergamena, provenienti da codici di altissima qualità, forse condannati a essere ‘riciclati’ da guasti irreparabili di sezioni consistenti di essi; la situazione storica di quella zona nel VII secolo giustificherebbe a sufficienza una simile ipotesi”, cf. D. Broia / C. Faraggiana di Sarzana, Per una rilettura del Palinsesto Vat. Gr. 2061A: saggio di ripristino digitale e di edizione diplomatica del Nomocanone alla luce del sistema RE.CO.RD®, in: BBGG 53 (1999), 68–78 (75). 61  Cf. supra. 62  Cf. P.  Collinet, Histoire de l’école de droit de Beyrouth, Études historiques sur le Droit de Justinien 2, Paris 1925, 57; on the School of Berytus cf. also L.Jones Hall, Roman Berytus. Beirut in Late Antiquity, London–New York 2004, 195–220 and 280–285.



many teachers to relocate to Constantinople.63 Meanwhile Constantinople remains a plausible location for the writing of a text like the Nomocanon, because of the Trullan Council.64 If this were indeed the case, we would still have to ask where exactly the texts of Strabo and De eligendis magistratibus were copied: Beirut or Constantinople? To tackle this issue we should return to Aly’s theory about the Constantinopolitan origin of the first layer, because of the relocation of the library of Athens in 529.65 I am more inclined to believe that the books belonged to the collection of the law school library, and that someone transferred them to Constantinople at a later date. This hypothesis also justifies the paleographical Middle Eastern attribution. Moreover, the beautiful mise en page and en colonne of the scriptio ima are suggestive of library books. It is clear that the second text was copied for private use, since the style of the handwriting is quite informal and exhibits some features of documentary handwriting. The parchments were clearly in the hands of a person interested in the study of law. However, two centuries later, there was an attempt at deleting the second layer as well.

The Third Layer. Pentateuch (Vat. Gr. 2306 + Crypt. A.δ.ΧΧΙΙΙ) and Gregory of Nazianzus’ Orations (Vat. Gr. 2061A)

The second stage of the history of the manuscripts, featuring the copy of the Nomocanon, is the only stage at which all fragments were united.66 After copying the Nomocanon, there was yet another fragmentation. On a fresh parchment, composed of 47 sheets, a Pentateuch was copied in “as de pique” handwriting. The parchment contained the text of Exodus and Genesis.67 The 63  Cf. M.  Sartre, The Middle East Under Rome, transl. by C. Porter / E. Rawlings, Cambridge Mass.–London 2005, 291. 64  Cf. supra. 65  Cf. Aly, 1956, XIIIf., 266f. 66  Cf. J. Irigoin: “à la fin du IXe siècle ou au début du Xe, le manuscrit du Nomocanon, qui était devenu d’une lecture difficile et dont le contenu, en raison des remaniements survenus à Byzance, était périmé, a subi à son tour la sort qui avait été celui du manuscrit de Strabon […]”, cf. Id., L’Italie méridionale et les textes antiques, in : D. Harlfinger (ed), Griechische Kodikologie und Textüberlieferung, Darmstadt 1980, 234–258 (238). 67  Cf. J. Irigoin, 1980, 240 ; P. Canart, De la catalographie à l’histoire du livre, in: Id. (ed.), Études de paléographie et de codicologie, reproduites avec la collaboration de M.L. Agati et M. D’Agostino, Vol. I, Vatican City 2008, 563–616 (605); M.B. Foti, Due testimoni della scrittura “ad asso di picche” nel Fondo del SS. Salvatore della Biblioteca Universitaria di Messina: i codd. messan. gr. 116 e 117, in: Calabria Bizantina, 1983, 161–179 (161, n. 1 and n. 6); I. Hutter, Patmos 33 im Kontext, in: RSBN 46 (2009) 73–126 (116 and 122); cf. also J. Leroy,


11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306

style of handwriting is called “as de pique” because of the characteristic form of epsilon and rho, which is reminiscent of an ace of spades.68 This first block was kept in Grottaferrata Abbey, where three sheets are still preserved (the actual Crypt. A.δ.XXIII)69; the other 44 sheets became the actual Vat. Gr. 2306. On another group of parchments sheets, the actual Vat. Gr. 2061A, Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus with Pseudo-Nonnus of Panopolis’ scholia and other texts were copied.70 The following table provides detailed information about the contents of the manuscript:71 Ff.



138r–v–225r–v Proclus Constantinopolitanus

In S. Thomam ap. (Homilia 33).

Ephraem Graecus 143v, 226–v, 139–v, 172–v, 177–v Iohannes Chrysostomus 145v, 216–v, 210–v, 223v–r, 147 147–304 Gregorius Nazianzenus

In S. Parasceuen, et in Crucem et latronem. In S. Thomam ap. Sermo.

CPG 5832 BHG 1839–1841 Aldama 181 CPG 4062 BHG 0438c



Iohannes Chrysostomus

CPG 4574 BHG 1838 Aldama 517 In Nouam Dominicam CPG 3010.44 (Or. 44). BHG 1021 In Ascensionem CPG 4533 (Sermo 3).

Les manuscrits grecs d’Italie, in: J.P. Gumbert (ed.), Codicologica 2, Eléments pour une codicologie comparée, Leiden 1978, 52–71 (60). 68  Cf. M.L.  Concasty, Manuscrits grecs originaires de l’Italie méridionale conservés à Paris, in: Atti dell’VIII Congresso internazionale di Studi bizantini, I, Rome 1953, 22–34 (24f.); Devreesse, 1955, 34f. 69  Cf. Crisci, 1990, 77. 70  Cf. S.  Lucà, Scritture e libri della “Scuola Niliana”, in: G. Cavallo / G. De Gregorio / M. Maniaci (eds.), 1991, 319–387 (373–380). 71  The data are from Pinakes | Πίνακες, Textes et manuscrits grecs . Aldama = J.A. de Aldama, Repertorium pseudochrysostomicum, PIRHT 10, Paris 1965; BHG = F. Halkin, Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca, SHG 8a, Bruxelles 31957; Id., Novum auctarium Bibliothecae hagiographicae Graecae, SHG 65, Bruxelles 1984; CPG = M. Geerard, Clavis patrum graecorum: qua optimae quaeque scriptorum patrum graecorum recensiones a primaevis saeculis usque ad octavum commode recluduntur, Turnhout 1974–2003.









Gregorius Nazianzenus

CPG 3010.01


Iohannes Chrysostomus

In Sanctum Pascha et in tarditatem (Or.1). De proditione Iudae (Homilia 1). In ascensionem D. N. Iesu Christi.

Iohannes Chrysostomus

CPG 4336.1 BHG 0415t, 0418u CPG 4342 BHG 1191n

The manuscript, “copiè (sans date) par Basile, prêtre”,72 was kept in Rossano, at Santa Maria del Patir Abbey, before the discovery of Pierre Batiffol. In the opinion of Jean Irigoin, it is possible that the square format of the Late-antique book was no longer familiar to readers, and whoever erased/ re-wrote the book in the 9th or 10th century, decided to change the size of the quire: “[…] Une partie de la colonne extérieure a disparu”.73 Dating the new conversion of the book between the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century appears convincing for paleographical and historical reasons. However, I find the beginning of the 10th century more plausible and hold it rather certain that the new turn of the manuscript’s history occurred in Southern Italy.74 The “as de pique” style is typical of this geographical region.75 I also think that this handwriting was strongly influenced by Perlschrift handwriting, marked by more provincial elements, such as, for example, the initial letters in ekthesis, that seem less calligraphic. The ductus is sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but the handwriting is generally clear. 72  Cf. Batiffol, 1891, 61. 73  Cf. Irigoin, 1969, 44. 74  J. Irigoin wrote in favour of the end of the 9th or the beginning or the 10th century, cf. Id., 1969, 43f. G. Cavallo and P. Canart thought it occurred at the beginning of the 10th century, cf. Cavallo, 1977, 119f. and Canart, 2008, 605 n. 89. Mazzucchi wrote “metà X secolo”, cf. Id., 1977, 172 and similarly Follieri, 1996, 65. E. Crisci wrote that the Pentateuch was of the 10th century, cf. Id., 1988, 100; Id., 1990, 77; Id., 1991, 471. Sbordone, instead, wrote: “Saeculo tandem undecimo, cum iuris ecclesiastici orientalis studium iam ad occasum in Italia inclinasset, nomocanonis folia rursus ad novum usum adhibita sunt”, cf. Id., 1963, XI. Just in V. Strazzulla, Dopo lo Strabone vaticano del Cozza-Luzi, Messina 1901, 5 we read: “La terza scrittura appostavi di rincontro, e di contenuto biblico, è dovuta a mano del secolo XI–XII”, but his chronological attribution is too recent. 75  Cf. P.  Canart, Le problème du style d’écriture dit “en as de pique” dans les manuscrits italogrecs, in: Atti del 4° Congresso storico calabrese, Naples 1969, 55–69.

11. Beyond the text. The three lives of Vat. gr. 2306


Probably, the collection of ecclesiastical laws was no longer deemed useful or interesting and, due to a contingent lack of raw materials, erasing and reusing old books was the only, or best, option. Conclusion In this article I have attempted to go beyond the text and enquire into the materiality of the book — its scribes, manufacture, and readership — to uncover the intriguing history of the bis rescriptus manuscript. The triple nature of the book is evident not only in its three textual layers, but also in the process of manufacturing/re-using/uniting the two manuscripts, and their further division into three fragmentary books. As far as the textual history of the palimpsest is concerned, I would like to stress that it beautifully exemplifies a dialogue between Hellenic and Christian texts, united in one parchment, travelling together across different times, locations, and readers. Twice written and erased, the manuscript is one of the most remarkable surviving examples of a bis rescriptus palimpsest. It preserves the De eligendis magistratibus, an extraordinary text of Strabo, while also featuring New Testament texts in majuscule, an ancient copy of Nomocanon, fragments of Pentateuch, and Gregory’s Orations with Pseudo-Nonnus’ scholia. This book takes us from the Late-antique Middle East, to Byzantine-era abbeys in Southern Italy, and eventually brings us to a public auction in Rome, where the Cardinal Angelo Mai, in his browsing, had the acumen to notice the initial fragments of the palimpsest. The Vat. Gr. 2306 + Vat. Gr. 2061A + Crypt. Α.δ.XXIII codices contain different systems of representation and offer a unique case study from divergent points of view.76 The provenance of the book introduces us to different cultural ­milieux, scribes, readers, and centers of librarian production. I therefore believe it necessary to understand the three textual layers in their material context, staging a dialogue between the textual and material aspects of the palimpsest, whose cuts, holes, and missing pages form a significant part of its 76  Pondering different representational systems of the palimpsest Stephen Nichols in 1990 wrote: “The manuscript folio contains different systems of representation: poetic or narrative text, the highly individual and distinctive scribal hand(s) that inscribe that text, illuminated images, colored rubrications, and not infrequently glosses or commentaries in the margins or interpolated in the text. Each system is a unit independent of the others and yet calls attention to them; each tries to convey something about the other while to some extent substituting for it”. Cf. S. G. Nichols, Philology in a Manuscript Culture, in: Spec. 65 (1990), 1–10 (7).



history. For instance, in the case of the three miscellanies, it is possible to see l’ancien sous le nouveau because, in the third stage, the parchment was turned around 90o, revealing the vestigia of the ancient majuscule columns. Given all the fascinating characteristics of the manuscript, it presents a very interesting case for research methodology. Pondering this, Gérard Genette, the father of transtextuality, wrote in his Palimpsestes: Un palimpseste est, littéralement, un parchemin dont on a gratté la première inscription pour lui en substituer une autre, mais où cette opération n’a pas irrémédiablement effacé le texte primitif, en sorte qu’on peut y lire l’ancien sous le nouveau, comme par transparence.77 In this article I have traced the provenance of the palimpsest from the viewpoint of its textual and material history. By consulting the paleographical data of the first and second layer of the manuscript, I confirmed the 8th century dating of its first conversion and argued for the existence of a link between this manuscript object and the Beirut school of law. Given the textual material of the palimpsest, and the historical circumstances surrounding their production, I accept the hypothesis that the third conversion took place in Southern Italy during the 10th century. On the whole, I suggest that a comprehensive study of the materiality and textuality of ancient books can reveal to us the hidden aspects of the formation of Christian discourse and motives of textual transmission and reception. These motives, though erased, can still be detected in the manuscript, en transparence.

77  G.  Genette, Les Palimpsestes. La Littérature au second degré, Paris 1982, back cover.

Information about the Authors of the Volume Bernard Pouderon Professor of Greek at the University François-Rabelais of Tours (France); a senior member of the Institut Universitaire of France (honorary), head of the programme “Christophe Plantin” at the Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR). Valentina Marchetto Researcher at the Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII in Bologna (Italy), where she got her PhD in History of Christianity in 2019 with a thesis on Patristic exegesis of John 17:21. Earlier, she worked on Origen and his commentary on the book of Lamentations. Her main research interests are the reception of the Gospel of John in Early Christian authors, the role played by the Scripture in theological controversies and the relation between liturgical practices and the Scriptures. Isabelle Bochet Professor of philosophy at the Centre Sèvres (Facultés Jésuites de Paris, France); she is a vice-president of the Institut d’Études Augustiniennes (Paris) and an honorary member of the Laboratoire d’Études sur les Monothéismes (CNRS, Paris). Miriam DeCock Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus Universitet where she is working on a study of Origen’s recently-discovered Homilies on the Psalms. She is interested in issues related to early Christian exegesis of Scripture and identity formation. Alfons Fürst Professor of History and Theology of Early Christianity and founder and director of the Origen Research Center at WWU Münster. Main fields of research: Origen of Alexandria and his legacy; history of monotheism in Antiquity; ancient and early Christian epistolography. Anna Usacheva PhD in Classical Philology (2011, Moscow State University), lecturer in Ancient Languages and Patristics (2012–2015, St. Tikhon Orthodox University, Moscow), Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University (2015–2017),


Information about the authors

currently she is a Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies Core Fellow with a project devoted to the study of De natura hominis by Nemesius of Emesa. Anders Christian Jacobsen PhD in Theology, Professor in Systematic Theology, Arts, Aarhus Universitet; he is a leader of the EU-funded Marie Curie ITN-network: The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western civilization. He is the author of Christ — the Teacher of Salvation: A Study on Origen’s Christology and Soteriology (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2015). Samuel Fernández (Santiago de Chile, 1963), PhD in Theology and Patristic Studies, “Augustinianum”, Rome (1997); Professor at the Faculty of Theology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Areas of Specialization: Origen of Alexandria; Arian and Monarchian crisis; History of biblical interpretation. Sergey Vorontsov PhD (2015), Research Fellow of Ecclesiastical Institutions Research Laboratory, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University (Moscow). Main research interests: Isidore of Seville and intellectual culture of Visigothic Spain, reception and transformation of late antique patterns of Christian religious leadership in Early Modern Europe. Ivan Miroshnikov Ph.D. (2016), is Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre of Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is the author of The Gospel of Thomas and Plato: A Study of the Impact of Platonism on the “Fifth Gospel” (Brill, 2018) and is currently working to publish various unedited manuscripts in Coptic. Alexey Somov PhD (2014), Translation Consultant at the Institute for Bible Translation, Moscow; Associated Professor at Saint Philaret’s Orthodox Christian Institute, Moscow; Research Fellow at the DFG-Kollegforschungsgruppe “Beyond Canon_” (“Jenseits des Kanons”, FOR 2770), University of Regensburg (Faculty of Catholic Theology), Germany. He is the author of The Representations of the Afterlife in Luke-Acts (Bloomsbury/T &T Clark, 2017).

Information about the authors


Luisa Fizzarotti PhD in Classical Philology (2019, Bologna University). She also studied at The Vatican School of Paleography, Diplomatics and Archives, where she obtained a Diploma in Greek Paleography and Codicology. Her main interests are Manuscripts Studies, History of Classical Scholarship, Ancient History and Greek Political Thought. She is currently working at SISMEL (International Society for the Study of Medieval Latin Culture) with a Zeno Karl Schindler Fondation Fellowship in Digital Humanities.