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William Whiston and the Apostolic Constitutions: Completing the Reformation
 9789042947283, 9042947284

Table of contents :
Cover
STUDIA PATRISTICA
Copyright
Table of Contents
Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1 Discovery
Chapter 2 Understanding
Chapter 3 Defense
Chapter 4 Response
Conclusion Completing the Reformation
Bibliography

Citation preview

STUDIA  PATRISTICA SUPPLEMENT 11

William Whiston and the Apostolic Constitutions Completing the Reformation by

PAUL R. GILLIAM III

PEETERS 2023

WILLIAM WHISTON AND THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS

STUDIA  PATRISTICA SUPPLEMENTS

edited by Allen Brent and Markus Vinzent

STUDIA  PATRISTICA SUPPLEMENT 11

William Whiston and the Apostolic Constitutions Completing the Reformation

by PAUL R. GILLIAM III

PEETERS

LEUVEN – PARIS – BRISTOL, CT

2023

© Peeters Publishers — Louvain — Belgium 2023 All rights reserved, including the right to translate or to reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form. D/2023/0602/21 ISBN: 978-90-429-4728-3 eISBN: 978-90-429-4729-0 A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Printed in Belgium by Peeters, Leuven

Ad memoriam Maurice Frank Wiles October 17, 1927 – June 3, 2005 Dean, Clare College, Cambridge 1959-1967

Etching by George Vertue, 1720 Greek text of Apostolic Constitutions 6.14 we declare unto you, that there is only one God Almighty, besides whom there is no other, and that you must worship and adore Him alone, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the most holy Spirit (translation from Ante-Nicene Fathers) Etching owned by Paul R. Gilliam III

Table of Contents Preface........................................................................................................ix Introduction...............................................................................................1 Chapter 1: Discovery................................................................................13 The Apostolic Constitutions...................................................................17 Whiston’s Discovery of the Apostolic Constitutions.............................22 Chapter 2: Understanding.......................................................................41 The Councils...........................................................................................44 Pearls before Swine................................................................................48 Paul’s Portrayal.......................................................................................55 The Need for Uniformity........................................................................57 Chapter 3: Defense...................................................................................61 Internal....................................................................................................61 Particular Internal and Chronological Evidence....................................70 External...................................................................................................79 Citations.............................................................................................79 Dionysius of Alexandria....................................................................80 Peter of Alexandria............................................................................82 Church of Ethiopia.............................................................................82 Epiphanius..........................................................................................85 John Chrysostom................................................................................87 Allusions and Testimonies.................................................................88 Therapeutae........................................................................................88 Ignatius...............................................................................................89 Polycarp..............................................................................................90 Recognitions of Clement....................................................................90 Justin Martyr......................................................................................91 Martyrdom of Polycarp.....................................................................93 Irenaeus and Clement........................................................................94 Tertullian............................................................................................102 Hippolytus..........................................................................................104 Origen.................................................................................................104 Council of Nicaea..............................................................................105 Eusebius of Caesarea.........................................................................107

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Council of Jerusalem.........................................................................110 An Interesting Appendix...................................................................113 Conclusion...............................................................................................114 Chapter 4: Response.................................................................................115 Anthony Collins’ Apology for Whiston.................................................116 Agreement with Whiston........................................................................120 More Limited Agreement with Whiston...........................................120 Greater Limited Agreement...............................................................124 Disagreement..........................................................................................126 John Edwards.....................................................................................126 Richard Ibbetson................................................................................132 Significant Correspondence / Debate.....................................................133 John Ernest Grabe (1666-1711)..........................................................134 Whiston’s Response to Grabe............................................................147 Pierre Allix (1641-1717).....................................................................153 On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston in his Revival of the Arian Heresy.163 Conclusion...............................................................................................167 Conclusion: Completing the Reformation............................................ 171 Bibliography.............................................................................................. 177

Preface The first sentence of the preface to Maurice Wiles’ Archetypal Heresy: ­Arianism through the Centuries reads, ‘William Whiston made a bigger contribution to the origins of this book than his role in the final form might suggest.’ Wiles explains that during his time as Dean of Clare College Cambridge (1959-1967), he was struck by a portrait of Whiston that was on display in the Senior Combination Room. Whiston’s portrait rested among other portraits of accomplished fellows of Clare College. For Wiles, Whiston’s portrait stood out from all the rest. Wiles sensed a restlessness in Whiston’s portrait that contrasted with contentment in the faces of the others. At the time Wiles only knew Whiston as the translator of Josephus and Eunomius. He soon learned more: ‘When I discovered that he was not only Newton’s successor as Lucasian Professor but had been dismissed from that post for Arian heresy, the interest first aroused by his portrait was greatly enhanced.’ When I first encountered Whiston, I knew even less of him than Wiles. Though I owned his translation of Josephus, I did not immediately make the connection that the man I encountered during PhD work, as one of the last persons to argue for the authenticity of the Ignatian long recension, was the same man whose translation of Josephus was on my shelf. Nonetheless, in a similar vein to Wiles, as I began to read more about and from Whiston, I found Whiston strangely attractive. In fact, while completing my now published PhD thesis Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy, I decided that William Whiston’s understanding of the early church would be my next project. And so, I hope this book will serve as a more proportional representation of the major contribution Whiston made to Wiles’ Archetypal Heresy. Professor Wiles died in 2005. It is unfortunate that our paths never crossed. My PhD supervisor at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Sara Parvis, once told me she thought it was a shame I never met Maurice as she thinks we would have gotten on well with one another. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to dedicate my book to the memory of Maurice Wiles. There are others to acknowledge as I release this project into the hands of readers. During the summer of 2015, I was granted status as a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University. It was here that I began writing this book. It was, indeed, a joy to walk in William Whiston’s footsteps, visit churches where he preached and lectured, and hold in my hands 1711-1712 editions of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d in the Clare College Fellows’ Library. I was also able to travel to London, during my stay in Cambridge, to work from Whiston’s personal copy of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, with his handwritten annotations, in the British Library. I am grateful to Cambridge University for their hospitality. I am also grateful to the North American Patristics Society for the award of a small research grant that went towards financing my stay in Cambridge.

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I am equally grateful to Professor Markus Vinzent for his editorial assistance with this project. As good editors are wont to do, he made small suggestions that significantly improved the quality of this work – such as moving lengthy material from footnotes to the main text! Furthermore, I am pleased that this work landed in Studia Patristica Supplements as Whiston knew as much about patristics as he did mathematics, if not more. In fact, I am continually amazed at Whiston’s intimacy with early church materials. As with Sir Isaac Newton, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Whiston was not an academically trained theologian or classicist. He was an academically trained mathematician. Finally, I acknowledge the presence of three essential women in my life. My wife, Lou Ann, and our daughter, Matty Grace, have listened to many a story about my friend William Whiston during kitchen conversations as well as walks in our neighborhood in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. And it appears that they paid attention. Sometimes, in conversation, I am taken back by just how much Lou Ann and Matty Grace know about Whiston! While my mother – Marleen P. Gilliam – does not know as much about Whiston, no one has been by side, encouraging me in all my endeavors, longer than her. Thanks Mom! Paul R. Gilliam III Ahoskie, North Carolina

Introduction The purpose of this book is to tell a story – an intriguing story. There is no scholarly axe to grind and there is no paradigm shifting thesis to offer. The objective is simply to construct the narrative because this is a story that has not yet been communicated in its fullness to scholars. Most accounts of William Whiston (December 9, 1667 – August 22, 1752) have something to say about his relationship with the Apostolic Constitutions. For example, Maurice Wiles provides a succinct and lucid summary of Whiston’s affection for the Apostolic Constitutions in his Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries. His summary is four pages.1 Wiles, nonetheless, demonstrates the need for this story to be told in detail when he says that the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions as a first-century document given by the resurrected Christ, during the 40 days before his ascension, to the apostles and then written down by Clement was for Whiston ‘the single most important outcome of that intensive study of primitive Christianity in the second half of the first decade of the eighteenth century that was so decisive for his whole career.’2 In other words, the Apostolic Constitutions was the centerpiece of Whiston’s intellectual career as well as the centerpiece for Whiston’s daily living. For those of us who find Whiston an attractive early-modern figure worthy of the investment of significant scholarly activity, he simply cannot be grasped adequately without knowledge of the complexities surrounding the Apostolic Constitutions and his relationship with the document. This is so even though ‘Whiston’s lifelong ardent desire that the church as a whole might decide to determine every aspect of its corporate life on the basis of the Apostolic Constitutions, accepted as dominical and apostolic in its authority thanks to his scholarly endeavours, always belonged to the realm of fantasy rather than reality.’3 In the chapters to come then the story of William Whiston and his desire to bring the Protestant Reformation to full maturity via the Apostolic Constitutions will occupy our time. Wiles demonstrates the need for my book once again when he writes in his book, ‘It is not possible here to survey the cumulative evidence with which Whiston supports this remarkable theory’ that the A ­ postolic Constitutions, though held by most scholars past and present to be a fourth-century   M. Wiles, Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries (2004), 106-9.   Ibid., 106. 3   Ibid., 109. I offer one mild corrective to Wiles’ statement here. As we shall see soon enough, Whiston did not significantly encounter the Apostolic Constitutions until he was around 40 years old. Whiston lived to be 84 years old, from December 9, 1667 to August 22, 1752. So, his desire to have the church in all its manifestations submit to the rules and other forms of guidance found in the Apostolic Constitutions was a desire that endured, not for his whole life as Wiles implies, but slightly more than half of his long life. 1 2

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production with elements of forgery, are in fact what they claim to be, apostolical.4 In chapter one, ‘Discovery’, we will discover how it was that, though Whiston had lived out his life as a Nicene/Chalcedonian clergyman for 15 years after his ordination under Bishop Lloyd in 1693, he would convert to what his opponents called Arianism but Whiston himself would come to call an Eusebian understanding of the Trinity.5 Yet again, Wiles’ brief treatment of the Apostolic Constitutions is helpful for the start of our narrative, ‘Whiston’s Arianism involved not only the recovery of a true understanding of the nature of God and the person of Christ; it involved also a total reformation of Christian practice.’6 Whiston’s centerpiece for recovery of the true nature of God and the person of Christ as well as a total reformation of Christian practice was the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston’s discovery of the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions was indeed a game changer – at least he thought so. This chapter will also include a description of the contents of the Apostolic Constitutions themselves as well as a survey of scholarly opinions about their authenticity and nature – past, during Whiston’s day, and present. Chapter two, ‘Understanding’, will provide a detailed treatment of how Whiston understood the Apostolic Constitutions to work. In other words, this chapter will demonstrate exactly how, according to Whiston, the Apostolic Constitutions were received from the resurrected, but not yet ascended, Christ by the apostles and how the eight books and 85 canons of the Apostolic Constitutions were put together. This chapter will discuss the various church councils where Whiston thought the Apostolic Constitutions were received and assembled, the secretive nature of the Apostolic Constitutions, and the apostle Paul’s portrayal within them. Perhaps, most importantly, we will get a glimpse into Whiston’s desperation over the Apostolic Constitutions. If the Apostolic Constitutions are not authentic then the church has been abandoned without any concrete guidance as to what to believe and how to structure itself. Since God left the Jewish people just such detailed guidance in the Pentateuch would not God do the same for the Christian church?   M. Wiles, Archetypal Heresy (2004), 107.   On Bishop Lloyd see, A. Hart, William Lloyd 1627-1717: Bishop, Politician, Author and Prophet (1952). Hart includes correspondence between Whiston and Lloyd in an appendix found on pages 241-4. For a detailed discussion of Whiston’s Christological identification see, P. ­Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 755-71. The concluding sentences are worth quoting here, ‘As this article has demonstrated, William Whiston saw a reflection of his own Christological beliefs in those of Eusebius of Caesarea who found a way to embrace the Nicene Creed; Whiston never saw his own Christological beliefs reflected in those of Arius of Alexandria or even Eusebius of Nicomedia. Whiston should no longer be called an Arian because he never was one.’ 6   M. Wiles, Archetypal Heresy (2004), 108. Per the reference, in the previous footnote, to my article ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), I depart from Wiles for his use of the term Arian for Whiston’s religious identification. Rather, we should refer to Whiston, as Whiston referred to himself, as an Eusebian. 4 5



Introduction

3

Chapter three, ‘Defense’, is a lengthy articulation of the nature of Whiston’s defense of the Apostolic Constitutions. Some of this material will have been touched on in chapter two such as the role Paul plays in the Apostolic Constitutions. However, the focus of this chapter will be on the internal and external evidence Whiston marshals forward in defense of the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. We will examine together personalities from the first through fourth centuries that Whiston contends either quoted directly from the Apostolic Constitutions or allude to the Apostolic Constitutions in their writings. This chapter will give us insight into the ambiguous nature of Whiston’s arguments. We will also have opportunity to observe the hesitant rhetoric he employs as he strives with such passion to persuade others of his conviction that the Apostolic Constitutions are indeed apostolical. Chapter four, ‘Response’, is a lengthy chapter with many twists and turns. It may also be the most entertaining. This chapter will provide a survey of people who agreed with Whiston’s conclusions about the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions (few in number), people who disagreed with Whiston’s conclusion about the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions but respected his intellect and personal lifestyle (more in number), and those who thought Whiston was a real and present danger to the Christian church (greatest in number). This chapter includes detailed presentations of Whiston’s correspondence with John Ernest Grabe, Pierre Allix, and the anonymous author of an acrid attack on Whiston’s character, On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston in his Revival of the Arian Heresy. Other personalities that make an appearance in this final chapter include Anthony Collins, John Edwards, and Richard Ibbetson among others. This book is heavy on primary sources. Whiston published over 220 works.7 We will not come close to citing from all these works. However, we will work from many of them. Primacy of importance, for this book, is Whiston’s Primitive Christianity Reviv’d in five volumes – volumes one through four published in 1711 and volume five published in 1712. I give the full titles and brief commentary here as going forward I will simply cite them by volume and page numbers. Volume one of Whiston’s Primitive Christianity Reviv’d is entitled, ‘THE EPISTLES OF IGNATIUS, Bp of Antioch; BOTH Larger and Smaller, in Greek and in English, with the various Readings from all the Greek MSS. To Which is Prefixed: An HISTORICAL PREFACE, Including the Accounts of the University’s and Convocation’s PROCEEDINGS, With Relation to the AUTHOR. AS ALSO, A Preliminary DISSERTATION, Proving that the Larger Copies of IGNATIUS are alone Genuine, and the Smaller only Heretical 7   For a catalogue of everything Whiston published as well as a bibliography of anti-Whistoniana and a listing of works that cite or allude to Whiston either with neutrality or positivity, see S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston: Natural philosopher, prophet, primitive Christian’ (2000). I express my sincere gratitude to Professor Snobelen for compiling these bibliographies.

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Extracts from them, made in the Fourth Century of the Church. To Which is Subjoin’d the Apologetick of Eunomius entire in English.’ Also included on the title page is the Greek of Matthew 5.10, ‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Whiston, no doubt, thought this an appropriate Scripture citation for the volume which includes the account of his expulsion from his position as Isaac Newton’s hand-picked successor as the Cambridge University Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1702-1710 as well as his trial before convocation.8 Volume two of Whiston’s Primitive Christianity Reviv’d consists of Whiston’s English translation of the Apostolic Constitutions. Therefore, volume two is simply entitled, ‘THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE HOLY APOSTLES BY CLEMENT IN Greek and ENGLISH; WITH THE Various Readings from all the Manuscripts.’ It is Whiston’s translation, with alterations, of the Apostolic Constitutions that will be employed throughout as it is found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers volume seven.9 Whiston’s volume three is entitled, ‘AN ESSAY ON THE Apostolical Constitutions. Wherein is proved that they are the most Sacred of the Canonical Books of the New Testament.’ We will rely on this volume much in chapters two and three, as we expose Whiston’s arguments for the apostolic origins of the Apostolic Constitutions. Volume four has a revealing title, ‘AN ACCOUNT OF THE FAITH OF THE Two First Centuries, CONCERNING The ever-blessed Trinity, and the Incarnation of our Lord; in the Words of the Sacred and Primitive Writers themselves; both in their Originals, whether Greek or Latin, and in English. To which is subjoin’d, The Second Book of the Apocryphal Esdras, both from the Common, and the Arabick Copy.’ I say this title is revealing because though Whiston would be called an Arian, a Socinian, and, of course, the misleading 8   For more on Whiston’s expulsion from Cambridge see, E. Duffy, ‘“Whiston’s affair”: the trials of a Primitive Christian, 1709-1714’ (1976), 129-50; S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston, Isaac Newton and the Crisis of Publicity’ (2004), 573-603 at 578-86; and P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: Was He or Wasn’t He?’ (2012), 19-33 at 20-4. For more on Whiston’s time as Lucasian chair occupant see, S. Snobelen and L. Stewart, ‘Making Newton easy: William Whiston in Cambridge and London’ (2003), 135-70. 9   Remarkably, Whiston’s translation of the Apostolic Constitutions remains the only complete translation of the Apostolic Constitutions in English. There are other English translations of small portions of the Apostolic Constitutions available. David Fiensy provides his translation of prayers found in the Apostolic Constitutions books seven and eight in his Prayers Alleged to be Jewish: An Examination of the Constitutiones Apostolorum (1985), 43-127. Another translation of these prayers is offered by D.R. Darnell. See his ‘Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers (Second to Third Century A.D.)’ (1985), 671-97. W. Jardine Grisbrooke gives his translation of the liturgical portions of the Apostolic Constitutions in his The Liturgical Portions of the Apostolic Constitutions: A Text for Students (1990). I am at work on a translation of the Apostolic Constitutions in their entirety. Whiston’s translation is now 311 years old and is based on Turrianus’ (Francisco Torres) Greek text. Fiensy and Darnell employed Franz Xaver von Funk’s Greek text. I am using, as did Grisbrooke, Marcel Metzger’s Greek text. More discussion on the critical text of the Apostolic Constitutions will be offered in the next chapter.



Introduction

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term that most professional historians refer to Whiston (and Newton)10 with today, antitrinitarian; Whiston uses the term ‘ever-blessed Trinity’ in the title of the fourth volume of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d.11 While Whiston, as we shall see in this work and as I and others have demonstrated elsewhere, loathed the Athanasian understanding of the Trinity that became orthodox in the Church of England, he did not see himself as an Arian, a Socinian, or an antitrinitarian – he was not against the Trinity. So, Whiston uses the word Trinity to describe his understanding of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit even as he opposed the most common Athanasian belief in the Trinity. Whiston was not antitrinitarian. He was othertrinitarian. His own understanding of the Trinity aligned with that of Eusebius of Caesarea. All the commentary in this paragraph, I suggest, is included in Whiston’s use of the word ‘Trinity’ on his title page of volume four. As this is an important point to make at the very beginning of this narrative, I bring to readers’ attention Whiston’s letter to the Earl of Nottingham originally written in 1719. In this letter, Whiston explicitly says, ‘Your Lordship also greatly mistakes me, when you suppose that I deny the Trinity, or the Christian Doctrines contained even in the Form of Baptism, concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ Rather, Whiston says, ‘What I deny, is, that these three Persons, are, in the Deity, as Your Lordship speaks, or are the One Eternal God.’12 We will have more to say about Whiston’s understanding of the Trinity as our story unfolds. Volume five, the final volume of Whiston’s Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, was published in 1712. Its title is, ‘Containing the RECOGNITIONS OF CLEMENT: OR THE Travels of PETER In Ten Books. Done into English By WILLIAM WHISTON, M.A. WITH A Preface, or Preliminary Discourse: as Also TWO APPENDIXES; the one containing some Observations on Dr. Clarke’s Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity; and the other a farther Account of the Convocation’s and other Proceedings with relation to Mr. Whiston.’ The 10   For more on the misapplication of the term antitrinitarian to Newton see, P. Gilliam, ‘Heterodoxy, Church History, and Biblical Exegesis in Newton’s General Scholium’ (forthcoming). 11   We will have more to say about Socinianism at various places throughout this work. Here, I refer readers to H. McLachlan, Socinianism in Seventeenth-Century England (1951); E. Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism In Transylvania, England, and America (1952, first published 1945); E. Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and its Antecedents (1947); Thomas Rees, ‘Historical Introduction’ (1818); S. Mortimer, Reason and Religion in the English Revolution: The Challenge of Socinianism (2013); and P. Lim, Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England (2012). 12   W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Letter To the Right Honourable the Earl of Nottingham, Concerning The Eternity of the Son of God, and of the Holy Spirit (1721), 30. For anyone interested in obtaining a clear grasp of the many complexities within Whiston’s theology and Christology, this short letter is perhaps the best place to go. In addition to his clear statement that he does not deny the Trinity, Whiston also plainly states his understanding of the divinity of Christ (28), the proper use of the word God (32), and the preexistence of Christ (53).

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appendix concerning the proceedings is intended to bring readers of Whiston’s 1711 historical preface up to date in relation to reactions Whiston received between then and 1712. In this appendix, Whiston interacts with some of the same material we will investigate in the final chapter of this book. Though this book relies heavily on Whiston’s own writings, we will engage with a significant amount of secondary scholarship – both patristic scholarship and early-modern scholarship. Due to the primary time periods contained in this narrative – early Christianity and early modernity, I am hopeful that a wide range of academics will find this account of Whiston’s love affair with the Apostolic Constitutions engaging. However, patristics scholars and those interested in religion in Britain are the ones most likely to find significant value in this narrative. In terms of secondary scholarship relevant to Whiston, there are only two book-length treatments of William Whiston, both of which began life as PhD theses. The first book is Maureen Farrell’s 1981, William Whiston. This book is an academic biography of Whiston. And, as such, it is extremely valuable, especially the handwritten Whiston family tree found on pages 46-7. Farrell devotes chapter five to Whiston’s religious works. She also includes a helpful annotated bibliography of Whiston’s religious writings as an appendix.13 Her biography focuses heavily on Whiston’s role as a scientist. Chapter one offers a sketch of Whiston’s life from birth to death. Chapters two, three, and four all focus on Whiston’s various scientific pursuits. And the final chapter is devoted to Whiston’s religious beliefs. It makes sense that Farrell’s biography would tilt heavily in the scientific direction as, in its original form as a PhD thesis, her work was submitted to the University of Manchester faculty of technology and the book version was found suitable for inclusion in Arno Press’s ‘The Development of Science: Sources for the History of Science’ series. Nonetheless, her presentation of Whiston suggests the possibility that Whiston’s scientific pursuits were more central to him than his research into primitive Christianity; when in fact Whiston, like Newton, viewed his scientific pursuits as part and parcel with his religious quest.14 13   M. Farrell, William Whiston (1981), 296-334. Farrell seems to have been particularly interested in Whiston’s work with the longitude problem. The entirety of chapter three is devoted to ‘Whiston and the Longitude Problem’. Chapter four is ‘Whiston’s Other Scientific Activities’. See also M. Farrell, ‘William Whiston: The Longitude Man’ (1976), 131-4. For more on this topic see, D. Sobel, Longitude: The Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (2005). The lone genius is not Whiston as Whiston, though he devoted significant time and even helped to persuade Parliament to offer prize money to the person or persons who solved the riddle, did not find the answer. Rather the genius is John Harrison who invented a clock that would keep accurate time at sea. Whiston, however, is discussed on pages 46-50. 14   For more on Newton’s comprehension of his scientific and religious pursuits as one, see R. Iliffe, Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton (2017). Iliffe claims that as ‘a natural philosopher, Newton was a priest of nature not least because his work had direct ­implications for scriptural exegesis, and, in due course, it might be a key resource for telling the true story of the genesis of the universe’ (244).



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James Force’s 1985 William Whiston: Honest Newtonian, like my book, has a narrower focus than Farrell’s work. Force attempts ‘to come to both an understanding and a fuller comprehension of the rapprochement between science and religion in the Newtonian context by focusing on the controversies concerning William Whiston.’15 Thus, Force’s study examines the manner in which Whiston’s very public religious views shed light on Newton’s very private religious views. Force’s book contains insightful commentary on many aspects of Whiston’s religious views, especially his millennialism, something my book will say little about.16 And, Force is successful in building on the scholarship of Margaret C. Jacob in order to demonstrate, via Isaac Newton’s disciple William Whiston, that ‘Newtonianism in the social, political, and theological arenas includes much more than the overfamiliar Newtonian version of the design argument.’17 Nonetheless, Force’s book is almost as much about Newton as it is Whiston. In fact, Newton’s name appears along with Whiston’s name in the title of four of the five chapters that comprise Force’s book. And the one chapter where this is not the case, chapter one, Newton’s name appears but Whiston’s does not, though the reference is to Whiston – ‘The Temper and Times of a Newtonian Controversialist’. Though not published, Stephen Snobelen’s Cambridge University PhD thesis, ‘William Whiston: Natural philosopher, prophet, primitive Christian’ is worthy of mention here. Like Farrell’s book and Force’s book, Snobelen’s work on Whiston is excellent historical scholarship. I do not know why Snobelen’s PhD thesis, like that of Farrell and Force, was never published. Perhaps because Snobelen’s work, like Farrell’s, represents a meticulously researched biography of Whiston. Even so, due to the breadth of Whiston’s endeavours, there is still much more to say about him even after the work of Farrell and Force. Snobelen, therefore, states that he does not cover material in his work that they did in theirs. Thus, he does not treat Whiston’s longitude projects in detail because Farrell does so; nor does Snobelen deal in length with Whiston’s   J. Force, William Whiston: Honest Newtonian (1985), 2.   Force’s concluding paragraph to his section ‘Great Expectations: the millennium and Whiston’s Newtonianism’ is particularly lucid, perhaps even poetic. I provide a sample sentence from pages 118-9: Whiston ‘was content to be banished from Cambridge to the wilderness of London to preach the one providental (sic) truth – in science, politics, and religion – there to await the providential overthrow of the existing evil order of Antichrist and the establishment of the reign of Christ and the saints who had remained true.’ Force then contends that Whiston’s expectation of the return of Christ into an evil world was at odds with the more common enlightened view of slow and steady progress towards a better society. For this reason, then, Whiston was considered a ‘lunatic’. 17   J. Force, Honest Newtonian (1985), 3. On Jacob’s work see M. Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689-1720 (1976). In addition to building on Jacob’s thesis, Force criticizes her for not going farther than the design argument to understand the impact of Newtonianism on larger society. Force states, ‘By identifying Newtonianism exclusively with the design argument, Jacob ignores the specifically Newtonian scriptural basis for legitimizing the Glorious Revolution, Arianism, and millennialism’ (8). 15 16

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William Whiston and the Apostolic Constitutions

prophecy argument because Force offers an excellent discussion of this. Indeed, Snobelen observes, ‘It is testimony to the diversity of Whiston’s enterprise that even with the best efforts of these historians and others, there is still so much to say about the former professor.’18 Therefore, Snobelen emphasizes those areas about Whiston that were not well known such as Whiston’s public lecturing, ‘which was Whiston’s most important source of income for at least two decades after his expulsion from Cambridge and which only receives a few short lines of comment in Whiston’s Memoirs.’19 Furthermore, Snobelen employs sources that had little been used in past scholarship – newspapers and journals. Newspapers are essential for exposing Whiston’s lecturing career. So now, a third book is devoted to this idiosyncratic, but apparently attractive, early modern personality who lived a lengthy life from the reign King Charles II (1660-1685) until King George II (1727-1760). This book then, like the works of Farrell, Force, and Snobelen, offers something that has yet to be provided by scholarship – the story of William Whiston’s desperate passion for the Apostolic Constitutions, a document that he believed to be the most sacred book of the New Testament. The obvious needs to be restated here: the Apostolic Constitutions is not in the Bible, then or now, and most of the learned community, then and now, conclude the Apostolic Constitutions to be a partially forged document emerging, not from the first century, but rather from the fourth century – the very time when Whiston believed Christianity took a turn for the worse under the direction of Athanasius of Alexandria. Yet Whiston, a man who kept close company with intelligentsia of his day as well as royalty, took his last breath at the home of his son-in-law Samuel Barker convinced that the Apostolic Constitutions was, in fact, what it claimed to be – instructions given by the resurrected Christ to his apostles during the forty days before his ascension and written down by Clement, the companion of Paul and bishop of the church in Rome.20 Whiston died in hopeful expectation that the church would eventually accept the Apostolic Constitutions indeed as the most sacred book of the New Testament. This has not happened. It is unlikely that the church will ever accept the Apostolic Constitutions as canonical. However, the very publication of this book keeps Whiston’s hope alive. And perhaps this is a good way to honor Whiston’s long life of ridicule and persecution, though never imprisonment or corporal punishment, for his sincere religious convictions.   S. Snobelen, William Whiston (2000), 10.   Ibid. 20  On Whiston’s death see, M. Farrell, William Whiston (1981), 39-41. She includes the inscription on Whiston’s tombstone. We are grateful for this as the tombstone now lies against the cemetery wall and the inscription is illegible. The inscription says, ‘His writings shew his unwearied study and his extensive knowledge in various parts of literature. His sufferings for conscience sake prove his sincerity. After a life spent in piety towards God and benevolence and charity towards men, he rests in hope through the merits of Christ of a joyful and blessed resurrection to eternal life.’ Samuel Barker, a Hebrew scholar, married Whiston’s daughter Sarah. 18 19



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As we prepare to begin this account with a treatment of Whiston’s conversion to the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions, I need to state, what has already been implied, that this work, like that of Farrell, Force, and Snobelen, is a sympathetic presentation of Whiston. In the preface to her work, Farrell states, ‘I trust that this present work will reveal Whiston as a man of considerable intellectual stature, a person of enthusiasm and with wide-ranging interests, one whose charm over-rode his eccentricities and who considered his own greatest claim to fame to be his tenure of the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics in Cambridge in succession to Isaac Newton.’21 Snobelen shows his cards early when he writes, ‘This thesis intends to present a sympathetic portrayal of Whiston. Too many previous treatments of Whiston have acted to reinforce the image of Whiston as a man both eccentric and imprudent in his ways.’22 Snobelen then credits Farrell and Force with breaking from the trend, found in nineteenth-century biographical dictionary entries, of presenting Whiston wrapped in the language of his eighteenth-century opponents. Along these lines, Snobelen contends that it is problematic to define Whiston’s heretical religious views as his opponents did – lacking caution and unwise. Rather, and insightfully, Snobelen observes that for Whiston ‘it was secret heretics like Isaac Newton who were acting imprudently with respect to the divine purpose – which was Whiston’s own measure for his actions.’23   M. Farrell, William Whiston (1981), preface – last sentence.   S. Snobelen, William Whiston (2000), 7. 23   Ibid., 7-8. For more on Newton’s heretical views see, F. Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton (1974); R. Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1990), especially 30934 and 804-30, and for a discussion of Newton’s relationship with Whiston 648-53; T. Pfizenmaier, ‘Was Isaac Newton an Arian?’ (1997), 57-80; S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston, Isaac Newton and the crisis of publicity’ (2004), 573-603; J. Buchwald and M. Feingold, Newton and the Origins of Civilization (2013), 126-63; and R. Iliffe, Priest of Nature (2017). One interesting debate surrounding Newton is exactly how he came to depart from the accepted teaching of the Church of England, especially regarding the Trinity. Westfall contends that Newton carried out an intensive study of the early church fathers due to the ordination requirement of his Trinity College Cambridge fellowship. As a result, ‘Very quickly, Newton, read himself into advanced heresy.’ Westfall also discusses the story (possibly true in his estimation) that Newton applied for a law fellowship. This fellowship was one of two fellowships at Trinity College that did not require ordination. According to the story, he did not receive the fellowship. However, Charles II excused Newton from the requirement of ordination and Newton was able to keep the fellowship he had. See, R. Westfall, ‘Newton’s Theological Manuscripts’ (1982), 130. Iliffe, however, comes to a different conclusion. He observes that Newton, with his loathing for Athanasius cemented by the time he became an MP (twice) as well as the holder of senior positions at the Royal Mint, had no problem publicly giving adherence to the Thirty-Nine articles of the Church of England. Therefore, there should not have been a problem, for Newton, in relation to his fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. Iliffe proposes then that Newton was granted the dispensation from taking holy orders in the Church of England because the work of the church would have a negative impact on his philosophical, mathematical, and scientific pursuits. It is also possible that Newton simply thought he was not cut out to serve as a parish priest. Later in life, Newton told Archbishop Tenison that he could better serve the church by not taking holy orders (130-1). 21 22

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I join this company of scholars who seek to understand Whiston on his own terms rather than those of his opponents, even though the forthcoming narrative will highlight some of Whiston’s least desirable traits – his stubbornness, his seeming inability to let go of an idea, his rashness in dealing with his opponents, and his proclivity to reveal private discourse. In fact, though I do believe that Whiston was ahead of his time in some areas of scholarship directed to the early church, he was wrong about the Apostolic Constitutions.24 Nonetheless, his passion to complete the reformation, his desire to get the Christian religion right once and for all, his willingness to stand alone, his upright and moral lifestyle acknowledged even by some of his opponents such as Anthony Collins, his love for the church, and his willingness to lose a position of prestige and turn down invitations for advancement within the Church of England due to conscience trumps his less desirable traits. I agree with Farrell and Snobelen.25 The forthcoming chapters will contain little repetition of material I and others have published elsewhere. Instead of repeating already existing discussions, I will simply footnote where the discussions can be found. For example, there is no need for discussion, in this book, of the political and intellectual landscape in Whiston’s day because Thomas C. Pfizenmaier devotes the first chapter of his book, The Trinitarian Theology of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1675-1729), to this 24   For detailed examples of consensus in modern scholarship vindicating Whiston, see P. Gilliam, ‘Ignatius of Antioch: The Road to Chalcedon?’, in Studia Patristica 93 (2017), 69-80. In the piece, I demonstrate that Whiston was right about concerns he had over three readings of the Ignatian middle recension found in the Greek Medicean manuscript. These readings are found in Ephesians 7.2, Magnesians 8.2, and Magnesians 13.2. I contend that if Whiston had available to him the manuscript evidence that J.B. Lightfoot and those of us who follow in Lightfoot’s wake had, Whiston would have been right more often than he was. Whiston’s concerns about Athanasius, that will be discussed in a later chapter, are commonplace in modern scholarship. 25   Another sympathetic account is found in A. Shear, ‘William Whiston’s Judeo-Christianity: Millenarianism and Christian Zionism in Early Enlightenment England’ (2011), 93-110. Shear’s main point appears to be that Whiston can be considered a non-Jew who was friendly towards Jews and their religion because of the way he departed from common Christian understandings of the restoration of the Jews. Unlike his contemporaries, Whiston believed that before Jesus returned and the Jews converted to Christianity, the temple would be rebuilt, and the Jews would live in Palestine governed by Jewish law. This is contrasted with the more common view that saw Christ’s return and Jewish conversion as one event. Shear’s tone, throughout his chapter, comes across as friendly toward Whiston. He writes on p. 97, ‘Whiston’s Christianity, however, was built so firmly on “Jewish” foundations (as he conceived them) that it is no exaggeration to call it “Judeo-Christianity”.’ In fact, Shear is persuaded that Whiston ‘would most likely have described himself as a friend to the Jews – he was working toward their restoration and redemption’ (107). Shear’s conclusion is not exactly what one would expect in the light of his congenial tone towards Whiston throughout. He writes, in the last sentences of his piece, that Whiston’s chimerical philosemitism is not simply antisemitism turned upside down. Rather, Whiston’s philosemitism represents ‘the projection of a non-Jew’s hopes and dreams onto unwitting, and perhaps unwilling, Jews.’ It is unfortunate that Shear uses the word Arian for Whiston without any discussion as to what he means by describing Whiston as an Arian. Shear is simply wrong when he says (twice!) that Whiston believed in a ‘nondivine’ Jesus (93 and 108).



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very topic. Clarke and Whiston were colleagues and we will have more to say about Clarke in the next chapter. What Pfizenmaier says in this chapter of his book in relation to Clarke applies equally well to Whiston.26 This book is not a biography of Whiston like that of Maureen Farrell’s book and Stephen Snobelen’s PhD thesis. This book is a more narrow study, like Force’s book, of what was at the center of Whiston’s prolific publishing and lecturing career – the Apostolic Constitutions. Nonetheless, due to the breadth of Whiston’s activity as well as his other than ordinary life experiences, I have included significant amounts of interesting biographical information both throughout the text and in footnotes.27 Even though, as stated earlier, I anticipate patristic scholars and scholars of religion in Britain to be primarily interested in this narrative, there is the potential for greater scholarly interest as Whiston’s endeavors cannot be contained within traditional boundaries. For example, biblical scholars might be intrigued by Whiston’s fascination with the Apostolic Constitutions due to their familiarity with Whiston’s translation of Josephus’ works. Newtonian scholars might be equally intrigued because all indications are that Whiston’s public religious beliefs echoed Newton’s private religious beliefs. And perhaps even scholars of science and religion might be intrigued by this aspect of Whiston’s life to gain a more complete picture of the man. Due to this potential for wider interest than only patristic scholars, except for chapter three, I have kept the use of ancient languages to a minimum and have frequently used already existing English translations of Greek and Latin texts – oftentimes employing Whiston’s own translations. For readers interested, however, in a detailed examination of Whiston’s use of Greek, in this case as it relates to the Ignatian letters, see my, previously cited Studia Patristica article, ‘Ignatius of Antioch: On the Road to Chalcedon?’ Perhaps it comes as no surprise, as we enter the last sentence of this introduction, that I see my work emerging from the wake left by Maurice Wiles’ Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries. 26   T. Pfizenmaier, The Trinitarian Theology of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1675-1729): Context, Sources, and Controversy (1997). This is a most helpful chapter. Pfizenmaier explores the rise of modern science, the legacy of the Reformation, deism, Cambridge Platonism, the great Tew circle, and the latitudinarians. For more on Whiston’s intellectual landscape see J. Lois-Quantin, The Church of England and Christian Antiquity: The Construction of a Confessional Identity in the 17th Century (2009). And for more on eighteenth-century Christianity in England in general see S. Mandelbrote, ‘Newton and eighteenth-century Christianity’ (2016), 554-85. 27   For example, Whiston continued to believe that Mary Toft gave birth to rabbits, in October 1726, even after it had been proved a hoax and Mary Toft herself confessed and was sentenced to time in prison. The reason: Whiston saw this event as a fulfillment of 2Esdras 5.8. Therefore, he believed Toft’s confession was the result of fear. For more on this fascinating sleight of hand that, at first, deceived even the royal family and credible scientists see, D. Todd, Imagining Monsters: Miscreations of the Self in Eighteenth-Century England (1995), 1-37 and A. Hamilton, The Apocryphal Apocalypse: The Reception of the Second Book of Esdras (Ezra) from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (1999), 277-9. We will have more to say about Whiston’s understanding of 2Esdras later.

Chapter 1 Discovery In his ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’, William Whiston laments the ‘great Defect of the Protestant Reformation both at home and abroad’.1 Whiston composed his ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’ in 1709 at the request of ‘a Friend or two to draw up such a Method, or Directions for the Study of Divinity, as I us’d in Conversation to propose to them and others, as the only way for the Union of Christians, and the Restoration of the Primitive Faith and Practice.’2 Whiston begins his ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’ with a 21-page introduction. Here, Whiston’s grief over the divided nature of the reformed Church is on full display as he states that Muslims are not divided even a quarter as much over their interpretation of the Koran as Christians are with the Bible.3 We know that Whiston’s ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’ influenced more than the ‘Friend or two’ who requested he write it because in his Memoirs Whiston states that after a Mr. Hallet, a dissenter from Exeter, read his ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’, he was ‘prodigiously pleased with them, and, with the highest compliments, desired some farther directions in the matter.’4 However, and this provides some insights into the dangers Whiston’s supporters feared from association with him, Mr. Hallet requests that Whiston not pen his name in Whiston’s letter of reply because ‘if it were known that he kept correspondence with me, he should be ruined.’5 Whiston does not include Mr. Hallet’s letter in its entirety, only a brief snippet. Nonetheless, Whiston does include his letter of reply in full, dated May 1, 1710. In his reply, Whiston answers Mr. Hallet’s questions one by one. And then Whiston provides biographical detail in relation to his suffering for his opinions. He writes, ‘As to the dangers and persecutions I have exposed myself to by my late writings, I knew my duty as a christian, and did resolve to hazard all in the world, rather than be unfaithful to the truths of Christ, or suffer the church to be any longer so grosly impos’d upon, as she has long been, by the writers of controversy, and the tyranny of antichrist.’6 Whiston then states that he believes the worse is over. His ideas are out, and he senses that they cannot now be suppressed. He also thinks that he is now likely not to suffer any sort of physical persecution for his findings. However, ‘Tho’, if God see fit, still farther to try me. His will be done.’7   W. Whiston, ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’ (1709), 301.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.Historical Preface.ii. 3   W. Whiston, ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’ (1709), 236. 4   W. Whiston, Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston Containing, Memoirs of Several of his Friends also (1753), 127. 5   Ibid. 6   Ibid., 129. 7   Ibid., 130. 1 2

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According to Whiston, in his ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’, most of the issues that the reformers took up developed later than the age of Constantine in the fourth century. Therefore, ‘they seldom thought of going any higher in their Reformation than that Age.’8 Once Whiston reached the conclusion that the orthodox understanding of the Trinity – three coequal and coeternal divine persons making up one God – dominate in the Church of England of his day was erroneous, his modus operandi was to correct this defect. Whiston expected to accomplish this goal by ‘going up still higher to the Fountain Head, and its immediate Streams’.9 In other words, ‘I mean the Study of the Holy Scriptures themselves in the first Place, and of those Apostolical and most Primitive Fathers which wrote nearest to their Times, and must by Consequence be the best and most unexceptionable Arbitrators in most of the Points of Difficulty and Dispute, that we can possibly find.’10 If Whiston’s modus operandi was to return to the religion ‘which our blessed Saviour delivered to the apostles’ and ‘not which Luther, Calvin, Knox, Cranmer, &c. &c. have left us’, then the centerpiece of his project was the Apostolic Constitutions.11 I should pause here lest I give the wrong impression. It is important to note that Whiston did respect the work of the sixteenth-century reformers (except for Calvin). In fact, on one occasion Whiston refused a glass of wine from Dr. Halley because he observed the practice found in the Apostolic Constitutions of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. Dr. Halley said he was afraid that Whiston had a pope in his belly. Whiston denied this and said, ‘somewhat bluntly, that had it not been for the rise now and then of a Luther, and a Whiston, he would himself have gone down on his knees to St. Winifrid and St. Bridget.’12 Whiston sees himself then as completing the noble work the reformers started. In a 1708 letter to the two archbishops of the Church of England, Whiston writes that the common understanding of the Trinity and the Incarnation need to be reconsidered ‘because they have never yet been examin’d in any publick Manner, either at or since the Reformation: and because the common Doctrines appear all along to have been settled and establish’d by the See of Rome.’13 It seems that Whiston thought the reformers had a lot on their plate and did not get around to the issue of the Trinity.14 The Apostolic Constitutions then is where Whiston’s story gets most interesting. Contra popular scholarly opinion then and now, Whiston eventually concluded that the Apostolic Constitutions were ‘the most Sacred of the Canonical   W. Whiston, ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’ (1709), 301.   Ibid., 302. 10   Ibid., 251. 11   W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 292. 12   Ibid., 208. For similar rhetoric, see Whiston, ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’ (1709), 253. 13   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xvi. 14   For more discussion of Whiston’s role in relation to the sixteenth-century reformers, see S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston: Natural philosopher, prophet, primitive Christian’ (2000), 266-7. 8 9



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Books of the New Testament.’15 I say eventually because in his letter to the dissenter from Exeter discussed earlier, Whiston says that the Apostolic Constitutions ‘appear to be of equal authority with the four gospels themselves, as they really were in all the first times of the church.’ Recall the date of this letter – May 1, 1710, one year before the release of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d.16 In another letter written to a Mr. Nelson, Whiston says something similar but with a touch more confidence than before, ‘And as I am fully satisfy’d that those constitutions are of equal authority with the four gospels themselves, and contain no other than the faith I contend for.’ The date of this letter is July 31, 1710.17 By the time of the publication of volume 3 of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d in 1711, Whiston’s confidence has risen to the place where he can call the Apostolic Constitutions ‘the most Sacred of the Canonical Books of the New Testament’. It is with this conviction that Whiston lost respectability in the eyes of many of his contemporaries, though not all as we shall see. It is important to stress that Whiston was indeed a respected figure. Whiston’s first publication A New Theory of the Earth, from its Original to the Consummation of all Things, wherein the Creation of the World in six Days, the Universal Deluge, and the General Conflagration, as laid down in the Holy Scriptures, are shewn to be perfectly agreeable to Reason and Philosophy (1696), while not without opposition, was well received. Whiston records a letter from ‘the great Mr. John Lock’ to Mr. Molyneaux concerning Whiston’s New Theory. Lock writes, ‘I have not heard any one of my acquaintance speak of it, but with great commendations, as I think it deserves.’18 Perhaps more important than Locke’s approval was that of Isaac Newton as The New Theory popularized Newton’s Principia. Whiston says that when Newton read his New Theory, he ‘well approved of it.’19 As we shall see later in this chapter, Newton was impressed enough with Whiston’s scholarly abilities to invite Whiston to succeed him as the Cambridge University Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, to this day one of the most prestigious academic positions in the world. Whiston was not alone when it came to his concerns over the orthodox understanding of the Trinity. Far from it – dissent from a Nicene/Chalcedonian understanding of the Trinity and person of Christ was in the seventeenth- and   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3 (title page).   W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 130. 17   Ibid., 155. 18   Ibid., 39. 19   Ibid., 38. For more discussion on Whiston’s scientific pursuits see, M. Farrell, ‘Rare Items relating to William Whiston (1667-1752) in the Houghton Library’ (1976), 349-59; J. Force, ‘Secularisation, The Language of God and the Royal Society at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century’ (1981), 221-235; A. Walters, ‘Ephemeral Events: English Broadsides of Early Eighteenth-Century Solar Eclipses’ (1999), 1-43 at 20-37; and P. Lim, ‘Atheism, Atoms, and the Activity of God: Science and Religion in Early Boyle Lectures, 1692-1707’ (2021), 16-21. 15 16

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eighteenth-century air that sustained Whiston.20 However, Whiston’s arguments that the Apostolic Constitutions were authentic and not a later forgery and/or collection of early, but not apostolic writings, rendered him strange in the eyes of many. In the eyes of Church of England orthodoxy, Whiston was nothing more than odious due to the combination of his so-called antitrinitarianism and his defense of the Apostolic Constitutions. In fact, Whiston’s ambitious project would cost him his position as Isaac Newton’s successor as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematicks, a position Whiston held from 1702-1710.21 I refer to Whiston’s ambitious project as one of ‘so-called antitrinitarianism’ because the word ‘antitrinitarianism’ can be as problematic as it is ubiquitous. As we saw in the introduction, Whiston very much believed in the Trinity. His understanding of the Trinity, however, was not in accord with what he called the Athanasian interpretation of Nicaea.22 Due to the tendency to refer to understandings of the Trinity in a manner different from Nicene/Chalcedonian orthodoxy as ‘antitrinitarian’, it is refreshing to hear Khaled Anatolios say, ‘Even theologies that were later deemed subordinationist or modalist were nevertheless, on their own terms, trinitarian.’ And, ‘Finally, in order to properly secure Arius’s position within the common flow of Christian experience, we have to resist the anachronistic characterization of him as an antitrinitarian theologian.’23 It is also worth mentioning that Whiston, nowhere in his writings, refers to himself as an antitrinitarian. In fact, recall that Whiston entitles volume four of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, ‘An Account of the Faith of the First Two Centuries, Concerning The ever-blessed Trinity.’ Whiston understood himself 20   See M. Wiles, Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the Centuries (2004); P. Dixon, Nice and Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventeenth Century (2003); S. Mortimer, Reason and Religion in the English Revolution: The Challenge of Socinianism (2013); P. Lim, Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England (2012). As we shall see momentarily, Whiston’s trinitarian suspicions were first aroused by the examples of Samuel Clarke and Isaac Newton himself. On Clarke, see T. Pfizenmaier, The Trinitarian Theology of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1675-1729): Context, Sources, and Controversy (1997). On Newton’s religious views see again R. Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 804-30; T. Pfizenmaier, ‘Was Isaac Newton an Arian?’ (1997), 57-80; S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston, Isaac Newton and the crisis of publicity’ (2004), 573-603; J. Buchwald and M. Feingold, Newton and the Origins of Civilization (2013), 126-63; and R. Iliffe, Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton (2017). 21   For detailed discussion of Whiston’s time at Cambridge and his expulsion from the university see S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston, Isaac Newton and the crisis of publicity’ (2004), 578-86; M. Farrell, William Whiston (1981), 26-32 and 270-4; E. Duffy, ‘“Whiston’s affair”  : the trials of a Primitive Christian 1709-1714’ (1976), 129-50; M. Wiles, Archetypal Heresy (2004), 93-110; and P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: Was He or Wasn’t He?’ (2012), 20-4. 22   See W. Whiston, ‘The Council of Nice vindicated from the Athanasian heresy’ (1713). For detailed discussion of this piece, see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 755-71. 23   K. Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (2011), 31 and 43.



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to be a true Trinitarian and his opponents in the Church of England and elsewhere in error. Interestingly, in his many religious writings, Isaac Newton never refers to himself as antitrinitarian.24 Indeed, it is the desire of this book to tell the story of William Whiston’s relationship with the Apostolic Constitutions. While, as we saw in the introduction, I am not the first person to be intrigued with Whiston, a detailed narrative of Whiston’s understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions is nowhere in print. In the chapters to come then, I will provide this narrative. As a reminder concerning the journey ahead, this work will unveil Whiston’s initial agreement with most other scholars and clergymen that the Apostolic Constitutions was not apostolical, his change of mind after in-depth inquiry, his passionate defense of their authenticity and thus their potential to bring the sixteenth-century reformation to its logical conclusion, and his debates with contemporaries who vehemently disagreed with him. This is truly a compelling story that begs to be told. First, however, we must have a grasp on the Apostolic Constitutions themselves. The Apostolic Constitutions Today, it is agreed that the Apostolic Constitutions is a composite document that ‘reworks and weaves together several older sources, chief of which are the third-century church order known as the Didascalia Apostolorum (forming books 1-6 of the work), the Didache (in book 7), and the Apostolic Tradition (in book 8).’25 The person, generally referred to as the editor, who put together these older sources ‘edited the texts before him to suit his own purposes 24   For the problematic nature of the term antitrinitarian as applied to Newton see, P. Gilliam, ‘Heterodoxy, Church History, and Biblical Exegesis in Newton’s General Scholium’ (forthcoming). 25   P. Bradshaw, M. Johnson, and L. Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary (2002), 9. For a detailed and illustrative discussion of these three church orders as well as other church orders and their relationship to one another see P. Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy (2002), 73-97. For a more recent discussion of these three texts see P. Smith, ‘Auctoritas and Potestas in the Apostolic Constitutions’ (2018), 88-121. For disagreement with Bradshaw’s decision, in his The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship (2002), 80-4, that the Apostolic Tradition does not represent the work of a single hand such as Hippolytus emerging from Rome in the early third century, see Hippolytus, On the Apostolic Tradition (2015), 28-38. Bradshaw says that the material in the Apostolic Tradition emerges ‘from perhaps as early as the middle of the second century to as late as the middle of the fourth’ (83). Stewart, however, places the entirety of the Apostolic Tradition within the late-second to the mid-third century. He writes, ‘we can speak confidently of an Hippolytean school with its two chief authors, and observe the manner in which Apostolic Tradition bears witness to the development of that school over forty or so years’ (38, italics mine). I find Bradshaw’s arguments more persuasive. For an English translation of the Didascalia Apostolorum see The Didascalia apostolorum in English, trans. Margaret Dunlop Smith Gibson (1903). She lists the places where Epiphanius quotes from the Didascalia Apostolorum, on pages vi-vii.

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better.’26 Or, ‘the compiler at times became an editor, at other times an author.’27 Furthermore, ‘It is generally agreed that it was written in Syria, and probably in Antioch, between 375 and 380.’28 The Apostolic Constitutions claim to have come from the apostles themselves. Thus, there are directions directly from the apostles – James, John, Peter, and others – concerning topics such as the ordination of bishops, church discipline, baptism, directions for catechumens, prayer, and proper gender relations. One of the more interesting passages in all eight books of the Apostolic Constitutions is found in Apostolic Constitutions 1.2.3. Here men are instructed not to dress in such a way ‘as may entice another woman to thee’. Furthermore, men are not to have long hair ‘lest by a nice combing thy hair, and wearing it long, and anointing thyself, thou draw upon thyself such ensnared or ensnaring women.’ And men are not to wear fancy stockings or shoes or gold rings because this behavior may be seductive to women. If men are not careful they may cause women to lust and thus be guilty of adultery. Of course, we find similar instruction directed towards women, such as women should not bathe in the same place as men. In fact, women are directed to ‘not bathe without occasion, nor much, nor often, nor in the middle of the day, nor, if possible every day … For it is convenient that thou, who art a Christian woman, shouldst ever constantly avoid a curiosity which has many eyes.’ (1.3.9). While we expect this sort of instruction for women, if just seems odd to find similar expectations for men within early Christian literature. Similar instructions, for both men and women, are found in the Didascalia Apostolorum which form the foundation of the first six books of the Apostolic Constitutions. Therefore, this ancient form of egalitarianism goes back earlier than the fourth century when the Apostolic Constitutions emerged.29 The Apostolic Constitutions begin with these words, ‘The apostles and elders to all those who from the Gentiles have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; grace and peace from Almighty God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied unto you in the acknowledgment of Him.’ To get a feel for how the editor of the Apostolic Constitutions has reworked his sources, I provide Margaret Dunlop Smith Gibson’s translation of the Syriac text (the Greek is lost) of the   P. Smith, ‘Auctoritas and Potestas in the Apostolic Constitutions’ (2018), 86.   D. Fiensy, Prayers Alleged To Be Jewish (1985), 20. Fiensy, here, offers a brief but helpful demonstration of the manner the complier/author changed the texts he worked with. See also, D. Fiensy, ‘Redaction History in the Apostolic Constitutions’ (1982), 293-302. 28   P. Bradshaw, M. Johnson, and L. Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition (2002), 9. Smith agrees with this date. See P. Smith, ‘Auctoritas and Potestas in the Apostolic Constitutions’ (2018), 18-9. For a brief discussion of the possibility of dating the Apostolic Constitutions to an earlier period of around 350, see P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 107 n. 30. 29   English translations of the Apostolic Constitutions, unless otherwise noted, are from AnteNicene Fathers 7. It is Whiston’s translation, in volume two of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, ‘with considerable alterations’ that is found here. 26 27



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opening of the Didascalia Apostolorum, ‘In the name of the Father Almighty, and of the Eternal Word and only Son, and of the Holy Ghost, one true God. We begin to write the Book Didascalia, as the holy Apostles of our Lord appointed to us, with regard to the presiding officers of the Holy Church, and the Canons and the Laws for believers as they commanded it. We, then, the twelve Apostles of the only Son.’ While the opening words of the two documents have little in common, sections of the parallel texts found above, in reference to men and women, are almost verbatim. Though the Apostolic Constitutions claim to be from the apostles – even containing first person declarations – they also claim to have been collected by Clement. Just who this Clement was supposed to have been is not known. However, it is commonly held that this was Clement the so-called third bishop of Rome.30 In Ecclesiastical History 3.4, Eusebius of Caesarea writes, ‘But Clement, too, who was himself made the third bishop of the church of Rome, is avowed by Paul to have been his fellow worker and comrade in the fight.’ Furthermore, in Philippians 4.3, Paul refers to a Clement as a coworker. The contents of the Apostolic Constitutions as well as issues of authorship will be discussed in detail when we examine Whiston’s defense of their authenticity in chapter three. Scholars have long noted the similarities between the Apostolic Constitutions and the Ignatian long recension. The Ignatian long recension will receive some discussion later as Whiston thought it authentic as well. In relation to the Ignatian long recension, J.B. Lightfoot says that the ‘coincidences with the Apostolic Constitutions are frequent and minute.’31 He then cites many examples. Lightfoot’s conclusion, which continues to hold sway, is that the Ignatian forger/interpolator was dependent on the Apostolic Constitutions. In a detailed discussion, Lightfoot lists numerous places where ‘the Ignatian writer accidently betrays the source of his obligations.’32 Over 115 years before Lightfoot’s birth, William Whiston complained that ‘these Eight Books of Apostolical Doctrine and Constitutions should be so very slightly pass’d over by them [modern Criticks]; nay, commonly voted either in general Spurious, or in the gross Interpolated, at random, and almost 30   Translation from Eusebius of Caesarea, The History of the Church: A New Translation (2019). See also Ecclesiastical History 3.15. 31   J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers (1889), 2.1.262. For a general, but helpful, discussion of the critical issues surrounding Ignatius of Antioch and the literature that bears his name, see S. Neill and T. Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986 (1988), 44-6 and A. Brent, Ignatius of Antioch: A Martyr Bishop and the origin of Episcopacy (2009). For a broader and more detailed examination see T. Robinson, Ignatius of Antioch and the Parting of the Ways: Early Jewish-Christian Relations (2009) and M. Vinzent, Writing the History of Early Christianity: From Reception to Retrospection (2019), 266-464. 32   J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers (1889), 2.1.263-4. For a detailed examination of the Christology found in the Ignatian long recension see P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 49-132.

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without any serious examination at all.’33 Notice that Whiston complains that ‘modern Criticks’ have not taken the Apostolic Constitutions seriously. One reason for this may be due to the scholarly conclusions that surfaced before Whiston’s birth. In the west, the Apostolic Constitutions was ‘entirely unknown’ during the middle ages.34 It was rediscovered in the sixteenth century when a copy was found in Crete. Its contents were revealed in an abbreviated form in a 1546 Latin edition, by Carolus Capellus, in Ingolstadt. Seventeen years later in 1563, the full Greek text, the editio princeps, was edited by the Jesuit Franciscus Turrianus. Also produced at this time was a Latin translation by Bovius. The Greek editio princeps, as well as the Latin translation, were published at Venice.35 There are numerous manuscripts of the Greek text ranging in date from the tenth century to the sixteenth century.36 With these preparatory remarks on the surface, we may now direct our attention to pre-Whiston scholarly opinion concerning the Apostolic Constitutions. However, first, I offer an interesting detail from Whiston’s adventures as it relates to D. O’Leary whose 1906 book The Apostolic Constitutions and Cognate Documents, with Special Reference to their Liturgical Elements I have referenced in this part of our discussion. O’Learly’s work was published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Whiston was a part of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Whiston, however, withdrew his p­ articipation from this Church of England group in a letter, addressed to the secretary of the group, dated 18 December 1710. Whiston left the group because he sensed that his recent   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.3.   D. O’Learly, The Apostolic Constitutions and Cognate Documents, with Special Reference to their Liturgical Elements (1906), 11. 35   Ibid. This narrative is also found in D. Fiensy, Prayers Alleged To Be Jewish (1985), 43-4. 36   For detailed discussion of the known manuscripts see M. Metzger, Les Constitutions Apostoliques (1985), 1.65-74. These three volumes contain Metzger’s introduction to the Apostolic Constitutions as well as his critical Greek text and French translation. For more from Marcel Metzger see his ‘Présentation d’ouvrages: Les Constitutions Apostoliques’ (1988), 306-12. For older, but still significant, English scholarship on the Apostolic Constitutions, see the following articles by C.H. Turner, ‘A primitive edition of the Apostolic Constitutions and Canons’ (1913), 53-65; ‘Notes on the Apostolic Constitutions I. The compiler as Arian’ (1914), 54-61; ‘Notes on the Apostolic Constitutions II. The Apostolic Canons’ (1915), 523-52; ‘Notes on the Apostolic Constitutions III: The Text of Cod. Vat. 1506’ (1920), 160-8; and ‘Notes on the Apostolic Constitutions, III [sic]: The Text of the Eighth Book’ (1930), 128-41. Metzger’s critical text of the Apostolic Constitutions is the standard text in use today. Prior to Metzger’s text, the standard text was that of Franz Xaver von Funk found in his Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum (1905). Earlier, Funk published Die Apostolischen Konstitutionen: eine litterarhistorische Untersuchung (1891). In his series of early twentieth-century articles, C.H. Turner had this to say about Funk’s critical text of the Apostolic Constitutions, ‘And no doubt Funk’s text has superseded those of all previous editors but that does not mean that his text is always right against Turrianus, but rather that his excellent apparatus criticus enables us to control his text.’ See C.H. Turner, ‘A Primitive Edition of the Apostolic Constitutions and Canons’ (1913), 54. 33 34



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discoveries concerning primitive Christianity would present a conflict of interest as the ‘society thought themselves only capable of supporting things as they then stood in the church of England, by law established.’37 A few years after his departure from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Whiston was instrumental in forming A Society for Promoting Primitive Christianity. It met from 1715-1717 in Whiston’s primitive library found in Whiston’s house at Cross-Street Hatton Garden.38 Franciscus Turrianus (circa 1509-1584), the Jesuit mentioned above who edited the full Greek text of the Apostolic Constitutions, decided that both the Apostolic Constitutions and the Ignatian long recension were authentic. In other words, Turrianus thought that the Apostolic Constitutions did, in fact, come straight from Jesus’ first-century apostles and were then collected by Clement; and that the Ignatian long recension was the product of the second-century martyr Ignatius of Antioch. Therefore, neither document is a later forgery. According to Turrianus then, to account for the similarities between the two documents, Ignatius borrowed from Clement.39 The Genevan Professor Nicolaus Vedelius (1596-1642), by contrast, concluded that the Apostolic Constitutions was authentic but not the Ignatian long recension. Therefore, pseudo-Ignatius copied from the Apostolic Constitutions.40 James Ussher (1581-1656), Church of Ireland archbishop of Armagh, was persuaded that the many similarities between the Apostolic Constitutions and the Ignatian long recension served as strong evidence that they were both composed by the same hand. Furthermore, Ussher believed them both to be forgeries emerging from the sixth century.41 John Pearson (1613-1686), Anglican clergyman and bishop, thought the eight books of the Apostolic Constitutions was composed after the days of  Whiston, Memoris (1753), 151. The somewhat lengthy letter occupies pages 151-3.   For discussion see W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke, Including Certain Memoirs of Several of his Friends (1748), 66-74. For a study of Hatton Garden, see R. Lichtenstein, Diamond Street: The Hidden World of Hatton Garden (2012), especially chapter 5. 39   J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers (1889), 1.262. 40   Ibid. 41   Ibid. For a succinct discussion of Ussher’s monumental contributions to the Ignatian problem see A. Brent, Ignatius of Antioch (2009), 3-9. Indeed, Ussher’s role in proving the authenticity of the Ignatian middle recension more than makes up for his erroneous conclusion that the world was created in 4004 BCE based upon the chronology found in the Old Testament. For a detailed discussion as to how Ussher reached the conclusion that the word was created in 4004 BCE, see J. Barr, ‘Why the World was Created in 4004 B.C.: Archbishop Ussher and Biblical Chronology’ (1985), 575-608. For a fascinating narrative of William Henry Green’s contribution to the overthrow of Ussher’s chronology via a note in his The Pentateuch Vindicated from the Aspersions of Bishop Colenso (1863) see R. Numbers, ‘“The Most Important Biblical Discovery of Our Time”’ (2000), 257-76. Numbers says, on page 261, that Green’s note ‘would alter the course of Christian apologetics.’ For a brief treatment of Ussher see C. Gribben, The Irish Puritans (2014). 37 38

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Epiphanius (fifth century) from earlier materials ascribed to Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and others. In order to account for similarities between the Apostolic Constitutions and the Ignatian long recension, Pearson went on to argue that the Ignatian interpolator took from teaching material attributed to Ignatius; unless the teaching material attributed to Ignatius was made from the pseudoIgnatian letters (Pearson thought this option not likely).42 Louis Ellies Du Pin (1657-1719), the French church historian, dated the Apostolic Constitutions to the third century.43 In contrast with Du Pin and everyone else discussed above, the French Huguenot Jean Daillé (1594-1670) thought the Apostolic Constitutions was ‘a comparatively modern forgery’.44 As we shall see momentarily, Whiston engaged with the work of both scholars. Whiston’s Discovery of the Apostolic Constitutions It is important to note that before Whiston was labeled an Arian heretic and viewed as a nutty professor, he was an orthodox Church of England clergyman and scholar.45 In other words, he was a paragon of respectability. Whiston’s Father, Josiah Whiston, set the example for young William Whiston. Josiah Whiston was rector at Norton juxta Twycrosse in Leicester. His attention to pastoral care, which continued even after he lost his eyesight, left an indelible impression upon his son. Josiah Whiston went to his parishioner’s homes each year to instruct children in Christian faith. If necessary, he would also rebuke, with kindness, the adult members of his flock.46 Josiah Whiston was so committed to the pastoral task that fellow clergy did not care for him because his pastoral practices highlighted their own ineptitude. In fact, on one occasion when William Whiston returned to preach to his father’s congregation a   J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers (1889), 2.1.262.   D. O’Learly, The Apostolic Constitutions (1906), 12. 44   Ibid., 12-3. 45   Though accused of Arianism, Whiston was never an Arian. See P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015). For more on Whiston’s contemporaries called the Scriblerians who viewed him as a nutty professor – John Arbuthnot, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Thomas Parnell, and Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford – and who ridiculed Whiston’s scientific conclusions, especially his fascination with comets, see G.S. Rousseau, ‘Wicked Whiston and the English wits’ (1991), 325-41. The book consists of a collection of Rousseau’s essays previously published elsewhere. This one was first published as ‘“Wicked Whiston” and the Wits: The James L. Clifford Lectures’ (1987), 17-44. Earlier Rousseau and Marjorie Nicolson published “This Long Disease, My Life”: Alexander Pope and the Sciences (1968). This book contains an intriguing discussion concerning Pope’s seeming change of attitude towards Whiston, from one of degradation to appreciation. In the end, they suggest the change is not exactly as it seems. See “This Long Disease, My Life” (1968), 137-56. For detailed examination of the Scriblerians, and the work of the Scriblerians themselves see the preface in The Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus (1988). 46   W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 9. 42 43



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parishioner ‘lamented to me the negligence of the incumbents, after my father’s death.’47 Furthermore, Josiah Whiston wrote a book, though never published, opposing the war against King Charles I. In fact, Josiah Whiston ‘kept the 30th of January [the anniversary day of humiliation for the death of King Charles I.] more solemnly, as a religious fast, than any other clergyman in England, every year till the day of his death, A.D. 1685.’48 Nonetheless, Josiah Whiston had respect for dissenters from the established church such as Richard Baxter. This too had a lasting impact on William Whiston. Looking back, he says he could not preach against the dissenters ‘even when my principals were very different from theirs; on account of that seriousness of piety, which I found in many of them.’49 Whiston’s mention of Richard Baxter is significant because Baxter assists in coloring Whiston’s historical landscape. Christopher Haigh refers to Richard Baxter as a ‘(reluctant) Nonconformist’ in his ‘“Theological Wars”: ­“Socinians” v. “Antinomians” in Restoration England’.50 In this nail bitter of a narrative, Haigh traces the changing relationship between conformists and dissenters. He demonstrates that initially nonconformists and conformists pushed one another away over differences between their understandings of justification by faith. Conformists charged nonconformists with antinomianism due to their belief that justification before God came only through faith in Christ, irrespective of abiding to the laws of society and assisting neighbor. Nonconformists charged conformists with Socinianism because of their conviction that a pure belief in justification by faith lead to lawlessness; therefore, in addition to faith in Christ justification came through good deeds as well. By the late 1670s, however, this changed. Instead of accenting the differences between conformists and nonconformists in relation to justification by faith, there was an effort to downplay differences in favor of emphasis on shared protestant belief. The reason for change in the relationship between conformist and nonconformist was due to the realization of a shared enemy, the Catholic church. As for Baxter’s role in this debate, this reluctant nonconformist, Haigh contends that Baxter provided ‘one of the most substantial critiques of Dissenting divinity’.51 Furthermore, even though Baxter attempted to bring peace during these theological wars between conformists and nonconformists via the publication of his On the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness, Baxter still argued that a strict doctrine of justification by faith without works led to lawlessness and immorality.

  Ibid.   Ibid., 5. 49   Ibid., 12. 50   C. Haigh, ‘“Theological Wars”: “Socinians” v. “Antinomians” in Restoration England’ (2016), 331. 51   Ibid., 331. 47 48

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Haigh’s narrative of Baxter is especially interesting because, as we will see in chapter four, Whiston was criticized because of his lack of emphasis on Paul’s understanding of justification by faith. Haigh’s article, along with Whiston’s respect for Baxter even when Whiston thought that Baxter’s beliefs were rather different than his beliefs, makes one consider the possibility that Baxter was an influence on Whiston’s developing theology. Furthermore, according to Tim Cooper, Baxter’s understanding of the first Civil War and the resulting execution of King Charles I in 1649 aligns nicely with the position of William Whiston’s father. Cooper observes that, in 1649, Baxter accused John Owen of leaning towards antinomianism. And Owen went after Baxter’s brand of Calvinism. The real reason for their differences, however, was due to the different way they experienced the first civil war. For Baxter, the war splintered and adulterated the message of the gospel. For Owen, however, the war had saved the church in England from Arminianism and thus from its inevitable end, Catholicism.52 Initially, Whiston followed his father’s lead – theologically, politically, and vocationally. In 1693, Whiston petitioned Bishop Lloyd, ‘who had been bishop of St. Asaph before the revolution, and was then bishop of Coventry and Litchfield,’ to ordain him as a deacon and then a presbyter.53 After a private ordination as a deacon, Whiston was ordained a presbyter the following Sunday – ‘dean Addison, the present bishop Chandler of Durham, then his lordship’s chaplain, and the late bishop Smalridge, laid their hands on me in ordination, as presbyters.’54 When Whiston’s health prevented him from serving as a tutor at Clare-Hall Cambridge, he switched places with Mr. Richard Laughton. Laughton took charge of Whiston’s eleven students (including archbishop Tillotson’s nephew) and Whiston became chaplain to Dr. More, bishop of Norwich.55 He served as chaplain to Bishop More from 1694-1698.56 In 1698, Bishop More made ­Whiston rector   T. Cooper, ‘Why Did Richard Baxter and John Owen Diverge?’ (2010), 496-516.   W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 28. On Lloyd, see A. Hart, William Lloyd 1627-1717: Bishop, Politician, Author and Prophet (1952). 54  W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 28. For a nuanced discussion of Smalridge, see William Gibson, ‘Altitudinarian Equivocation: George Smalridge’s Churchmanship’ (2005), 43-59. The point of the chapter is to demonstrate, via the example of George Smalridge, that personalities traditionally categorized by scholars as low church or high church are not as theologically monolithic as often assumed. In other words, not all low churchmen were heretics by the standards of the day and not all high churchmen naturally submitted to church authority. Gibson’s chapter contains valuable discussion of the relationship Whiston shared with Smalridge. A helpful summary of Gibson’s conclusions about Smalridge, as well as the relationship he and Whiston shared, is found on page 57: ‘Smalridge’s inconsistent and equivocal position in matters of churchmanship seems puzzling; he moved from open confrontation with low churchmanship and heterodoxy during the Convocation and Sacheverell debates to conciliation of heterodoxy in the cases of the latitudinarians Whiston, Clarke, and Hoadly.’ 55   W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 24. 56   Ibid., 36. 52 53



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of Lowestoft cum Kessingland near the sea in Suffolk. Here Whiston emulated the pastoral care practices of his father. And, in the shadow of his father’s example, he objected to the opening of an alehouse!57 Whiston would remain in this position until he was ‘recalled to Cambridge, to be Sir Isaac Newton’s deputy, and afterwards his successor’ at the beginning of the eighteenth century.58 Earlier, in this chapter, we discussed Newton’s approval of Whiston’s 1696 A New Theory of the Earth. Here we observe that Whiston and Newton enjoyed a twenty-year relationship before Newton pushed Whiston away due to a ‘crisis of publicity’ in relation to their shared religious beliefs.59 Whiston had first been exposed to Newton in the late 1680s as an undergraduate at Clare Hall, Cambridge. As Stephen Snoblelen observes, it is ironic that Whiston, who at first found Newton’s lectures on his Principia too difficult to understand, was inspired to give Newton a second look due to the commendation of Newton’s Principia in a paper by the Scottish mathematician David Gregory. Snobelen further notes Whiston’s shock that Gregory’s students in Scotland were imbibing Newton’s philosophy while he and others, literally, at Newton’s front door were still advocating for Cartesian philosophy. The reason it is ironic that Whiston was finally turned on to Newton’s Principia via a secondary source such as Gregory is because Whiston ‘was to spend a great deal of the rest of his long life rendering Newton easy for the multitudes.’60 Furthermore, ‘it can be safely said that many more people were introduced to Newton’s ideas through Whiston than by the author himself.’61 In light of Whiston’s early development then, we are not surprised to hear Whiston say, ‘I was once … in the common Opinion, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the Three Divine Persons were truly, in some Sense, One God, or the One God of the Christian Religion: that is, before I particularly examin’d the Matter in the Scriptures, and the most Primitive Writers.’62 However, circa 1705 cracks in the armor began to develop. ‘About this Time’, Whiston learned that his friend Dr. Samuel Clarke ‘had been looking into the Primitive Writers, and began to suspect, that the Athanasian Doctrine of the Trinity was not the Doctrine of the early Ages; which I had not then any particular Knowledge of; as a Sermon of mine preached upon Christmas Day about 1704, at Great St. Bartholomew’s, if now extant, would witness.’63 Whiston’s words here are important and need to be unpacked on three fronts.   Ibid., 108-10.   Ibid., 110. 59   S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston, Isaac Newton and the crisis of publicity’ (2004). Snobelen, in this lengthy and enthralling article, has a similar goal to mine in this present work. He simply desires to offer the narrative of this crisis of publicity between Isaac Newton and William Whiston. 60   Ibid., 575. 61   Ibid. 62   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xcviii. 63   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 7-8. 57 58

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First, Whiston also mentions this Christmas sermon in his Mr. Whiston’s Letter To the Right Honourable the Earl of Nottingham, Concerning The Eternity of the Son of God, and of the Holy Spirit.64 Furthermore, Whiston speaks of his Athanasian past in his Mr. Whiston’s Letter of Thanks To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London, For His late Letter To His Clergy Against the Use of New Forms of the Doxology, &c... In this letter to the Bishop of London, Whiston writes, ‘I had indeed, in my younger Years, been, by the Custom of modern Writers, betray’d into such a fatal Mistake my self; as if the Three Divine Persons were One God, or the One God of the Christian Religion.’65 However, after Whiston searched the scriptures and the early Christian writers (to the end of the second century) he was fully convinced of his earlier error and then found it hard to believe ‘that any who have carefully read the New Testament, the Old Creeds, and other Books of our Religion before the Days of Athanasius, can now seriously use or justify such language.’66 Second, Whiston’s condemnation of Athanasius and of the Athanasian Creed is a consistent feature in his writings. Whiston understood there to be three distinct theologies associated with the Nicene debates: Athanasian, Arian, and Eusebian. In other words, there were in existence three dominant interpretations of what occurred in 325 at the Council of Nicaea. Whiston discusses these three groups in his ‘The Council of Nice vindicated from the Athanasian heresy’.67 I examine this piece, which is instrumental in understanding Whiston’s Christology, in detail in my ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’. I refer readers to this article. Here, however, I note that, for Whiston, there is a trail from Athanasius’ own writings to the much later Athanasian Creed. Whiston writes that the Athanasian belief is made up of ‘those novel Doctrines and Language which Athanasius and his Followers introduc’d and maintain’d after the Council of Nice, in the latter half of the fourth Century; but this, as they were a long time afterward improv’d and explain’d in the Athanasian Creed.’68 I provide here J.N.D. Kelly’s translation of the lengthy Athanasian Creed, which comes to us in Latin: Whoever desires to be saved must above all things hold the Catholic faith. Unless a man keeps it in its entirety inviolate, he will assuredly perish eternally. Now this is the Catholic faith, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance. For the Father’s person is one, the Son’s another, the Holy Spirit’s another; but the Godhead of the Father, the Son and   W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Letter To the Right Honourable the Earl of Nottingham, Concerning The Eternity of the Son of God, and of the Holy Spirit (1721), 2. 65   W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Letter of Thanks To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London, For His Late Letter To His Clergy Against the Use of New Forms of the Doxology, &c. (1719), 18. 66   Ibid. 67   See, W. Whiston, ‘The Council of Nice vindicated’ (1713), 3-4. 68   Ibid., 3. 64



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the Holy Spirit is one, their glory is equal, their majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is such is the Son, such also the Holy Spirit. The Father is increate, the Son increate, the Holy Spirit increate. The Father is infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal. Yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal; just as there are not three increates or three infinites, but one increate and one infinite. In the same way the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty; yet there are not three almighties, but one almighty. Thus the Father is God, the Son God, the Holy Spirit God; and yet there are not three Gods, but there is one God. Thus the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet there are not three Lords, but three is one Lord. Because just as we are obliged by Christian truth to acknowledge each person separately both God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to speak of three Gods or Lords. The Father is from none, not made nor created nor begotten. The Son is form the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made nor created not begotten but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this trinity (sic) there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less; but all three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal. Thus in all things, as has been stated above, both Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity must be worshipped. So he who desires to be saved should think thus of the Trinity. It is necessary, however, to eternal salvation that he should also faithfully believe in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the right faith is that we should believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is equally both God and man. He is God from the Father’s substance, begotten before time; and he is man from his mother’s substance, born in time. Perfect God, perfect man composed of a rational soul and human flesh, equal to the Father in respect of his divinity, less than the Father in respect of his humanity. Who, although he is God and man, is nevertheless not two but one Christ. He is one, however, not by the transformation of his divinity into flesh, but by the taking up of his humanity into God; one certainly not by confusion of substance, but by oneness of person. For just as rational soul and flesh are a single man, so God and man are a single Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, sat down at the Father’s right hand, whence he will come to judge the living and the dead; at whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies, and will render an account of their deeds, and those who have behaved well will go to eternal life, those who have behaved badly to eternal fire. This is the Catholic faith. Unless a man believes it faithfully and steadfastly, he will not be able to be saved.69

Perhaps the debate over the Athanasian Creed is best encapsulated in an exchange of letters between Whiston and the Bishop of Worcester, referred to earlier. In a letter from Cambridge dated September 18, 1708, Whiston states that the Creed of Vigilius Thapsitanus (his designation for the Athanasian Creed) ‘is most evidently a gross Corruption, compos’d under, and establish’d by the Antichristian Church; and a great shame to all Protestants that ‘tis not yet excluded.’ The bishop’s reply to this letter came the following April. It was   J.N.D. Kelly, The Athanasian Creed (1964), 17-20 – with the Latin text.

69

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a lengthy letter. In it, he informs Whiston that it is not known if Vigilius Thapsitanus is responsible for the Athanasian Creed. However, if so there is no problem as Vigilius was an orthodox bishop ‘under the heavy persecution of those Arian Kings of the Vandals, about A.D. 500’. Vigilius did write books in the name of Athanasius to protect himself. Jews did the same thing as evidenced by the Wisdom of Solomon and Baruch. These documents were, nonetheless, accepted by Jews and Christians. So then should the Athanasian Creed, even if penned by Vigilius Thapsitanus.70 Third, as to Samuel Clarke, it is imperative to note, lest this chapter’s contribution to our narrative depart the wrong impression, that Whiston’s Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke is not what the title might suggest. The document does not praise Clarke as much as it tears him down. Whiston’s major criticism of Clarke is that Clarke does not go far enough in his attempts to reform the doctrine of the Trinity and that, in fact, Clarke compromises his sincere beliefs about the Trinity in favor of ecclesiastical advancement. Whiston includes a letter, to Samuel Clarke, in his Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke. This letter is dated May 16, One a Clock, 1712. It is in response to the recent publication of Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity. The opening sentence sets the tone for the letter and reflects the nature of Whiston’s attitude towards Clarke found in the entire book, ‘I heartily thank you for your Book, because it will be of mighty Use for the Restoration of old Christianity; but I am beyond Measure sorry for somethings in it, on your Account.’71 Whiston condemns Clarke for not breaking with the established church on any issue, especially the Athanasian Creed. Whiston also takes issue with Clarke, in this letter, because he does not address the reality that Christ was created and, therefore, proposing Christ’s eternal generation. Whiston warns Clarke that he will suffer for his cowardness at the day of judgment. He then jabs, ‘Take care that your Regard to the Peace of the Church may be Apology sufficient for you then.’72 70   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xxix and xxxiii-xxxiv. For a discussion of the role the Athanasian Creed played in Whiston’s decision to go over to the Baptists see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: Was He or Wasn’t He?’ (2012), 24-5. For a detailed investigation of the Athanasian Creed see J.N.D. Kelly, The Athanasian Creed (1964). Vigilius of Thapsus was one of the early candidates put forth as the author. Kelly says, on pages 4-5, that the French Jesuit Pasquiet Quesnel (1634-1719) ‘pressed the claims’ for Vigilius of Thapsus ‘on somewhat flimsy ground that he published works against Arians, Sabellians and Photinians, and also against Eutyches, as well as being credited with a treatise (now recognized to be inauthentic) on the Trinity.’ Note also Kelly’s discussion of Daniel Waterland’s A Critical History of the Athanasian Creed (1728). Waterland was a contemporary of Whiston, who was convinced that Athanasius did not write the creed. However, the theology found within it should be retained in the church. Waterland proposed ‘more confidently than convincingly’ Hilary, bishop of Arles (403-449) as the author. J.N.D. Kelly, The Athanasian Creed (1964), 6. 71   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 32. 72   Ibid.



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Perhaps nothing irked Whiston more than the perception that his colleagues compromised their authentic religious beliefs in favor of societal comforts. Whiston even criticizes Sir Isaac Newton on these grounds. Whiston concludes his, A Collection of Authentic Records Belonging to the Old and New Testament, with a 12-page discussion of Newton. Here, Whiston makes an appeal to the remaining heads of colleges and members of convocation who expelled him from the Lucasian chair in 1710 for his so-called Arian heresy. Whiston says that ‘they banished, they persecuted me, for the very same Christian Doctrines which the great Sir I.N. had discovered, and embraced many Years before me; and for which Christian Doctrines, had He ventured as plainly and openly to publish them to the World as I thought myself oblig’d to do my own Discoveries, they must 30 or 40 Years ago have Expell’d and Persecuted the Great Sir Isaac Newton also.’73 By 1704, Whiston was in his late thirties and two years into his tenure as the Lucasian professor of Mathematics. Whiston does not know whether Clarke stumbled upon the problematic nature of the Athanasian understanding of the Trinity on his own or if Newton himself directed his path.74 Due to Whiston’s own repulsion for the Athanasian Creed after his deconversion from Athanasian orthodoxy, it is not surprising that Whiston clearly remembers Clark’s statement that he had only read the Athanasian Creed once in his parish and that was by mistake. The crack widened a bit more when Whiston read Du Pin’s account of the writings from the first three Christian centuries. Whiston then ‘perceived that Mr. Clarke was not mistaken in the matter.’75 The writing of his ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity’, with which this chapter began, completely convinced Whiston that Clarke and Newton were correct that the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity was not what Jesus and his apostles taught. However, at this point, Whiston was not sure whether or not that doctrine ‘which was call’d Arian in the Fourth Century’ was the same as that taught by Jesus and his apostles.76 Therefore, Whiston decided to continue his 73   W. Whiston, A Collection of Authentic Records Belonging to the Old and New Testament (1727-28), 1080. 74   Though Newton kept his religious cards close to this chest, he did influence others in private conversation. Whiston records an account ‘of a private Tutor to a Nobleman in King’s College, whose Name I have forgot,’ who had a discussion with Newton about religion. When the discussion began the tutor leaned towards Socinianism – the belief that Jesus was in no sense divine and that Jesus’ death was not substitutionary in nature. However, after the conversation with Newton, the tutor was ‘much more inclined to what has been of late called Arianism’. See W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 8. Notice Whiston’s language here from a writing towards the end of his life – ‘called Arianism’. 75   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 8. 76   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.ii. Notice again Whiston’s language here, ‘which was call’d Arian in the Fourth Century’. Whiston immediately adds in parentheses, ‘(for those I always mean by the Arians; not Arius himself only, with a few of his particular Followers)’. See also W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 8 where Whiston writes, ‘to what has been of late called Arianism’.

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investigation by reexamining ‘the whole Matter’ via the New Testament and the earliest genuine materials from the Christian church in order to decide if he should ‘go on with assurance’ or ‘meddle no farther.’77 Whiston says that when he began to discuss his thoughts about the Trinity with friends, he immediately realized ‘what a nice Point I was engag’d in; and what noise, and bustle, and odium, and perhaps Persecution, I should raise against my self, if I ventured to talk and print at that rate.’78 Later, Whiston would reveal the friend with whom he was talking when he had this realization. It was Thomas Baker.79 Whiston further reveals that Mr. Baker along with Mr. Billers, who was once a fellow of St. John’s College and public orator of the University, ‘were among those that I most familiarly conversed with at Cambridge, all the while I was examining the Primitive Faith, and the Apostolical Constitutions.’80 Interestingly, Mr. Billers told Whiston that he did not think anyone in England would be able to answer Whiston’s critique of the Trinity. However, Mr. Billers hoped that someone from another country would be up to the task. Mr. Billers also was of the opinion that ‘the Church would first yield up the [supreme] Divinity of the Holy Ghost, before they yielded up that of the Son.’81 While at Cambridge, it appears that Mr. Billers was of the orthodox crowd. However, after Whiston was expelled from Cambridge, he closely studied the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston is not certain what Mr. Billers concluded about the Apostolic Constitutions because some years before he died, Mr. Billers ‘fell into a State of Melancholy and Disorder of Body.’ However, ‘from that Account I had concerning his Examination, it seemed to me that he was of my Opinion, and judged the Constitutions genuine.’82 Per his conversation with Thomas Baker, Whiston acknowledges that he and his family could be ruined. The stakes were high and Whiston knew it. While questioning the received orthodox understanding of the Trinity might provide stimulation for some of the intelligentsia, many churchmen and scholars were not receptive. Perhaps the Bishop of Worcester most succinctly states the common opposition to Whiston’s questioning of the orthodox understanding of the Trinity. In a letter to Whiston dated September 8, 1708 he writes, ‘What? that any Part of the Faith once deliver’d to the Saints, hath been lost ever since the Nicene Times; and had been so still, but that my Friend Mr. Whiston hath found it?’83   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.iii.   Ibid. 79   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 26. 80   Ibid., 25-6. 81   Ibid., 26. 82   Ibid., 25. 83   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xxviii. This was a common criticism levelled at Whiston. If Whiston is right then the church has been wrong about the Trinity, its foundational belief, for the last 1700 years. This is such a core belief that it escaped the notice of even the great reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Latimer, Knox, Ridley, and Zwingli. For more 77 78



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It appears that Whiston emerged at just the right time. While Whiston’s concern is understandable due to the ostracism that had already greeted him, he was never jailed nor physically harmed for his unorthodox religious conclusions. Alexandra Walsham comments are apropos. She observes ‘the enduring fluidity of the ecclesiastical landscape’ in England from 1500-1700 where the fortunes of religious minorities could be altered ‘virtually overnight from victims to victors’.84 It might appear that the so-called Act of Toleration of 1689 was a boon to Whiston and like-minded people. However, as Walsham notes, ‘Catholics, atheists and anti-Trinitarian radicals were explicitly excluded from the privilege that was the “toleration” of which the act never spoke.’ Nonetheless, in 1612, the Arians Bartholomew Legate and Edward Wightman were the last Englishmen to die by fire for religious beliefs alone. The 1401 statute that allowed for acts of violence against heretics in England was not repealed until 1678. Even though the repeal of this act was accompanied by increasing doubts about the compatibility of killing heretics with Christianity, there was ‘enthusiastic endorsement of lesser punishments like financial charges, incarceration, exile, and civil discrimination’.85 This then is where Whiston’s primary concern lay. In the end, interestingly, Whiston was never found guilty of anything. After Queen Anne died on 1 August 1714, George I pardoned all those accused of heresy. Then ‘The Trials of William Whiston had ended.’86 Whiston then read the New Testament twice as well as other Christian literature to near the end of the second century. From this exercise he collected texts that were relevant to his question of the trinitarian understanding of the earliest Christians. His conclusion: ‘the Testimonies for Arianism were vastly superior in Number, Plainness, and Antiquity, to those which are commonly suppos’d to be for the Athanasian Doctrine.’87 In light of my earlier work on Whiston, it is important to note here that years later, in his Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke, Whiston would use more precise language due to the ubiquitous charge that he was an Arian: ‘In the year 1708, after I had read over the two first Centuries of the Church, and found that examples of this sort of criticism directed at Whiston see G. Hickes, ‘A Discourse, wherein some Account is given of the learned Doctor, and of his MSS and of this short Tract found among his English MSS’ (1712), xxxiv and lii; J. Grabe, Some Instances of the Defects and Omissions in Mr. Whiston’s Collection of Testimonies from the Scriptures and the Fathers, Against the True Deity of the Son, and the Holy Ghost; And of Mis-applying and Mis-interpreting divers of them (1712), 1; Styan Thirlby, An Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Seventeen Suspicions Concerning Athanasius, In His Historical Preface (1712), vii. We will have more to say about this line of criticism in the conclusion. 84   A. Walsham, Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England 1500-1700 (2006), 20. 85   Ibid., 268 and 58. 86   E. Duffy, ‘“Whiston’s affair”’ (1976), 149. See also, John Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558-1689 (2000). 87   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.vi. See again P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015).

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the Eusebian, or commonly called Arian Doctrine was, for the main, the Doctrine of those Ages.’88 Because this is such an important point to make at the onset of our narrative, I make readers aware of what I wrote elsewhere, ‘Although Whiston naively accepted the term “Arian” for his Christological beliefs, support for Arius of Alexandria’s beliefs are to be found nowhere in Whiston’s extant writings. Rather the opposite: William Whiston consistently and regularly condemned the teachings of Arius and agreed with the Council of Nicaea’s decision to rule Arius’ Christological beliefs out of bounds.’89 In fact, as early as 1711, Whiston himself acknowledged, with a tone of disappointment in himself, his mistake in a letter that went to the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Tension: As to the Imputation of Arianism, which I confess I have not been sufficiently careful to avoid, I do declare it was never my Intention to assert the Arian Heresy, strictly so called; or to revive the Heresy of Arius, and of his peculiar Followers, as it was condemn’d at the Council of Nice. I guarded against this expressly in my Historical Preface, p.2. by a particular Declaration, that by the Arianism which I speak of, I ever mean the Doctrine of that Part of the Church which was call’d Arain in the Fourth Century; and not the doctrine of Arius himself only, with a few of his particular ­Followers.90

What I said previously, about the above remarks from Whiston, bears repeating here: On the one hand, it is clear that Whiston was ahead of his day. Sounding much like today’s patristic scholars he distinguished between those called Arians and Arius of Alexandria himself. On the other hand, Whiston acknowledged that he had not been quick enough to distance himself from the term ‘Arianism’, therefore giving the impression that he considered Arius’ doctrine most closely to represent that of Jesus and his apostles.91

Whiston took his papers to London to have other qualified persons examine them – people he knew who were suspicious concerning the orthodox understanding of the Trinity. In his 1711 Historical Preference, Whiston does not reveal who these persons were.92 However, he does reveal their identity in his Historical Memoirs Of The Life And Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke: Dr. ­Bradford, Mr. Benjamin Hoadley, Mr. Clarke, and Mr. Sydal.93 Among these four 88   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 10. The same sentence occurs in the first two editions as well, 1st ed., 1730, 15; 2nd ed., 1730, 10. 89   P. Gilliam. ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 762. 90   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.second appendix to the historical preface. 12-3. 91   P. Gilliam. ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 762. 92   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.vi-vii. 93   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 10. Also found in the first edition 1730, 15. And in the second edition, 10.



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g­entlemen, Benjamin Hoadley is especially intriguing. More specifically, ­Hoadley’s orthodoxy has been defended and denied by historians. Robert Ingram says Hoadly’s ‘political allegiances were reliably Whig; his theology, reliably heterodox.’94 Furthermore, ‘Hoadly was an anti-sacerdotalist churchman’ and viewed by orthodox clerics such as Daniel Waterland as ‘the enemy within’.95 By contrast, Guglielmo Sanna writes, ‘Hoadly’s involvement in Arianism, Socinianism, or deism is more passively maintained than unquestionably proved.’ Also, ‘Hoadly’s intellectual life can be explained as a (sic) uninterrupted tension between the two ideals of liberty of conscience and religious peace.’96 These four gentlemen then agreed that Whiston should revise his papers by writing out the actual texts instead of simply the references. Whiston returned to Cambridge and did so. This work would eventually be published as volume four of Whiston’s ‘principal work’ Primitive Christianity Reviv’d.97 Observe that by 1708 Whiston was confident that Athanasian orthodoxy was amiss even though he was yet to discover the Apostolic Constitutions. This discovery would be just around the corner. First, however, Whiston encountered Novatian’s Treatise on the Trinity, ‘tho’ the word Trinity be not in it; nor does it on any sufficient Evidence appear to be Novatian’s.’98 Nonetheless, Whiston was pleased to find that this document, which is ‘near Seventy Years older than the Council of Nice, and rather earlier than the Council of Antioch’, agreed with ‘the Original Doctrines of the Gospel … which I had before learn’d and collected from the more ancient Testimonies.’99 Therefore Whiston was ‘secure, that, for the main at least, I had not mistaken the most Primitive Opinions thereto relating.’100 The final nail in the coffin in relation to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity was Whiston’s newfound friend, the Apostolic Constitutions. He writes, ‘But the Confirmation I received from the Book ascrib’d to Novation, was nothing in Comparison of what I received soon after from the Apostolical Constitutions.’101 In July of 1708 (?), a ‘Learned Friend’ brought to Whiston a piece of paper inscribed with passages suitable to an ‘Arian’ Christology.102 This passage was from the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston says he knows he can never repay the debt he owes to his friend for introducing him to the Apostolic Constitutions because prior to this meeting he had never laid eyes on the 94   R. Ingram, Reformation without end: Religion, politics and the past in post-revolutionary England (2018), 83. 95   Ibid. 96   G. Sanna, ‘How Heterodox was Benjamin Hoadly?’ (2005), 61 and 76. 97   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 166. 98   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xiii. 99   Ibid. 100   Ibid. 101   Ibid. 102   Ibid. See again P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015).

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Apostolic Constitutions. Though he had never read the Apostolic Constitutions, he had apparently heard of them. Thus, Whiston’s initial reaction to his friend’s piece of paper was that he did not desire ‘to meddle with spurious or grosly interpolated Writings’.103 Whiston knew enough about the Apostolic Constitutions to know that the common scholarly opinion held them to be inauthentic. Whiston’s friend then showed him a small prayer also excerpted from the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston could not help but to be taken by the prayer as it was ‘most pious, primitive, and affectionate in its Composition’.104 Therefore, he decided to borrow and further examine the work. As he is wont to do, Whiston in a much later publication reveals the identity of his friend. Once again in his Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke, Whiston says that Mr. Richard Allin, who was a fellow of Sidney College in Cambridge, is the learned friend referred to in his Historical Preface who brought him the passage from the Apostolic Constitutions.105 As Allin died in 1725, it was now safe for Whiston to reveal Allin’s identity. Whiston seems to have been respectful of the potential ostracization some of his colleagues could experience if it were known they associated with him. Therefore, characteristically in such scenarios, Whiston protected people who dared to communicate with him in private about religious matters. In this case, Whiston was especially fond of Allin. In his Memoirs, Whiston discusses his gratefulness towards his son-in-law Samuel Barker. Barker, a Hebrew scholar, assisted Whiston with his interest in the Sibylline Oracles. As most every scholar then and now would be, Whiston is filled with gratitude because Barker purchased books for him! After expressing his gratitude to Barker for his assistance with the Sibylline Oracles, Whiston adds, ‘I must do him the justice to go on further, his very great assistance to me on many other occasions also; not only by furnishing me with many of the best ancient books, proper to my designs, which I was no way able to purchase myself, but by adding frequently his own great sagacity and exactness in examination, to my own discoveries.’106 Whiston further says, ‘Nor is it easily possible for one man to be more obliged to another than I and my family have long been to Mr. Barker: may God Almighty reward him for the same both in this and the next world.’107 In this same paragraph, Whiston says that only one person’s assistance can compare with his son-in-law Samuel Barker. That ­person   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xiv.   Ibid., 1.HP.xiv. 105   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 22. Allin’s identity is also revealed in the first edition of this work, published in 1730, five years after Allin’s death. See W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life of Dr. Samuel Clarke, Being a Supplement to Dr. Sykes’s and Bishop Hoadley’s Accounts. Including certain Memoirs of several of Dr. Clarke’s Friends (1730), 31. 106   W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 232. 107   Ibid. 103 104



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is ‘my old bosom friend, Mr. Richard Allen (sic), fellow of Sidney College, Cambridge, of whom I have made frequent mention in my writings, but now in paradise, can at all be compared to him.’108 Barker provided Whiston with books and Allin introduced Whiston to the Apostolic Constitutions. Upon further examination of the excerpts of the Apostolic Constitutions brought to him by Allin, Whiston says that he does not know if he had ever been so surprised and pleased in his entire life ‘To find so compleat and large a Book, so plainly sacred, and belonging to the Companions of the Apostles, if not to the Apostles themselves; so full of Simplicity, Piety, Honesty, Strictness, and Discipline of the most Primitive Ages; and yet so little known, and of so little Esteem among us, was very amazing.’109 Whiston laments that he had been a clergyman for so long yet without an awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions. And, indeed, it was fifteen years since his ordination under Bishop Lloyd. Astonishingly, he had lived almost forty-one years in ignorance of what would become the centerpiece of his project. The results of his examination of the Apostolic Constitutions would be published in 1711 as volume three of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d. We will spend much time with this work in chapter three. It is worth observing at this juncture in our narrative that Whiston translated the Apostolic Constitutions himself from Greek into English in 1709. Oddly, Whiston says very little about the Greek text he employs in volume two of Primitive Christianity Reviv’d which contains his actual translation; he only says, on the title page of volume two that he uses ‘Various Readings from all the Manuscripts’. However, volume one of Primitive Christianity Reviv’d contains a title page that has the shorter title for four volumes of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d as well as an ‘Advertisement to the Reader’. Though Whiston’s desire is that this advertisement ‘be as brief as possible’ because volume one also includes his ‘Historical Preface’ which holds accounts of both Whiston’s university and convocation proceedings, the ‘Advertisement to the Reader’ is still eight pages long.110 In this advertisement Whiston makes us aware that the Greek of the Apostolic Constitutions ‘is according to the Original Venice Edition A.D. 1563, whence all other are deriv’d, and which was chiefly made from a very good Copy from Crete, and also in part from two interpolated ones from Calabria and Sicily.’111 Furthermore, Whiston sates, in his ‘Advertisement’, that he has put the interpolated texts in double square brackets; however, he has not translated the interpolated texts into English to avoid confusion on the part of the reader who is fully reliant on the English translation. When he is doubtful ­concerning   Ibid. Here Whiston spells his name ‘Allen’ and not ‘Allin’.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xiv. 110   Ibid., 1.‘Advertisement to the Reader’.i. 111   Ibid., 1.‘Advertisement to the Reader’.ii-iii. 108 109

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the interpolated nature of a text, Whiston puts the Greek in single brackets. These texts are translated into English and left ‘to every one’s own consideration.’112 We will have opportunity in chapter three to discuss in detail Whiston’s opinions about what the Apostolic Constitutions has to say about the proper date of Easter. However, here, it is important to note that Whiston tells us up front that he has ‘added a Passage, which is not in any of our modern Copies’ to the Greek text from which he translates the Apostolic Constitutions.113 The added passage comes from Epiphanius’ fourth-century writing Panarion. Whiston will argue later that Epiphanius’ writing contains the authentic text of the Apostolic Constitutions on the proper time to observe Easter. We will also discuss, in detail, Whiston’s thoughts about the doxologies in the church of his day as well as the doxologies in the Apostolic Constitutions in chapter three. For now, we hear Whiston say, ‘And in the Eight (sic) Book, I have put the Spurious καὶ of several Doxologies into the Margin, and insert a small ἐν into the Text, for Genuine: as Dr. Grabe has done in the like Cases of his Septuagint also.’114 As we have seen, Whiston’s translation is still the only complete English translation of the Apostolic Constitutions in existence and it is Whiston’s translation ‘with considerable alterations’ that is published in the Ante-Nicene Fathers.115 However, Whiston acknowledges that his specific training is in mathematics, not ancient Greek. Therefore, Whiston asked Samuel Clarke to revise his translation, ‘which he was so kind to agree to.’116 Whiston paints a friendly picture of he and Clarke reading through the Apostolic Constitutions together. Then Clarke ‘corrected the rest by himself, and sent me the Corrections: some or all of which I have now by me, under his own hand.’117 Whiston notes that this close look at the Apostolic Constitutions made ‘a very great Impression’ on Clarke. Then Whiston laments about Clarke, ‘I know not how, to have suffered some part of that Impression gradually to wear off afterward.’118 After Clarke identified ‘ten or twelve Places which he hesitated about’, Clarke suggested that Whiston then take his translation of the Apostolic Constitutions to Dr. Smalridge for a final look in relation to more difficult areas. Smalridge was happy to oblige because ‘he was very great Admirer of the Book itself.’119 As we bring this chapter to a close, more should be said about Whiston’s translations as his contributions continue to be noted by scholars today. For someone whose Greek was not considered on par with the best Greek scholars   Ibid., 1.‘Advertisement to the Reader’.iii.   Ibid. 114   Ibid. 115   Ante-Nicene Fathers 7 (2004), 390. 116   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 16. 117   Ibid. 118   Ibid. 119   Ibid. 112 113



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of the day, Whiston’s contribution to the translation endeavor appears outsized. While not the very first English translation of Josephus’ works, Whiston’s 1737 translation, from the Greek text of Havercamp’s edition, has had enormous staying power. Even today, and after the publication in the Loeb Classical Library’s English translation of Josephus’ works as well as the ongoing project of Brill’s Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary, Whiston’s translation of Josephus is ubiquitous. In fact, while the general public likely knows nothing of Whiston’s translation of the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston is known outside of scholarly circles because of his translation of Josephus.120 Furthermore, today there are only two English translations of Eunomius’ Apology – Richard Vaggione’s 1987 translation and that of Whiston. William Whiston offered the very first English translation as an appendix in the first volume of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d. Vaggione has this to say about Whiston’s English translation of Eunomius’ Apology, ‘Though the translation is frequently perceptive, Whiston was more concerned to present a clear exposition of his own “Eusebian” position than to render the thought of Eunomius exactly.’121 Nonetheless, Vaggione too has a soft spot for Whiston. He refers to Whiston as ‘one of the most unconventional (and, be it said, loveable) theologians England has produced’ and he observes ‘Few who read his works can fail to be struck either by the transparent honesty and goodness of his character or by the bizarreness of his opinions.’122 We will see later that even many of Whiston’s opponents acknowledged his upright lifestyle. Whiston also published his own translation of the New Testament. This is an exceptionally valuable translation as it is not based on an eclectic text. Rather, the four gospels (ordered Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark) and the Acts of the Apostles are a translation of the Beza manuscript with gaps filled in from the Latin. Paul’s letters (including Hebrews) are translated from the Clermont manuscript. The catholic epistles and Revelation are translated from the Alexandrian manuscript. When you read Whiston’s New Testament, you are reading, in translation, complete known manuscripts. In other words, you are not reading something that does not exist as with translations of eclectic texts.123 Notice Whiston’s range – he translated the voluminous works of Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian; the New Testament, consisting of first and second-century texts; and Eunomius, a fourth-century Christian heretic. Indeed,   For more on the English translations of Josephus, and a discussion of Whiston’s place within this history, see G. Hata, ‘A Note on English Translations of Josephus from Thomas Lodge to D.S. Margoliouth’ (2016), 414-8. See also, M. Feingold, ‘A Rake’s Progress: William Whiston Reads Josephus’ (2015), 17-30. 121   See Eunomius, The Extant Works (1987), 27. 122   R. Vaggione, ‘An Appeal to Antiquity: The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Manuscripts of the Heretic Eunomius’ (2006), 343-5. 123   W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Primitive New Testament (1745). 120

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Whiston’s translation productivity is remarkable for a formally trained mathematician and not a formally trained theologian or classicist. Whiston’s desire to complete the reformation – to retrieve a Christianity that emerged directly from Jesus and his apostles – was more than academic. Remember that Whiston was a churchman his entire life. Thus the great promise of the Apostolic Constitutions was that the document would, ‘put an end to almost all the Disputes that are now among Christians, so that at the lowest Supposition possible, its Authority is sufficient for that Purpose; and that all the Writings of these last Fourteen Hundred Years must needs be comparatively of very small Value or Consideration.’124 Whiston’s reading of the evidence did indeed engender significant change in his theology. He was ‘overpower’d with the Original Evidence, and oblig’d by my Conscience, and the Convictions of my Mind, to change the Opinions I had been brought up in.’125 However, he did not follow the lead of many of his contemporaries down the road to deism.126 Nor, did he embrace Socinianism.127 In fact, as we will now see, Whiston explicitly denied that he was a Socinian. A most interesting part of Whiston’s narrative is that when he relocated to London, he became a parishioner at St. Andrew’s Church in Holborn where Dr. Henry Sacheverell was rector. He was rector there from 1713-1724. Sacheverell was a well-known cleric as on November 5, 1709 – the anniversary of the Gunpowder plot – Sacheverell preached a sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral which criticized the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689 and the current government. The Whig leadership found Sacheverell guilty of encouraging rebellion against the government. He was not allowed to preach for three years.128 Whiston records rather humorous accounts of his time at St. Andrew’s Church. On one occasion, Dr. Sacheverell attempted to remove Whiston from a church service. This was not a new experience for Whiston. Referring to   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xiv-xv.   Ibid., 1 (Second Appendix to the Historical Preface). These words are in an address Whiston intended to give before both houses of Convocation at this trial. However, he was not allowed to do so. 126   For discussions of Whiston’s debates with the supposed deist Anthony Collins see J. Force, William Whiston: Honest Newtonian (1985), 83-8 and S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston’ (2000), 197-200. We will discuss Whiston and Collins in detail in chapter four. For added discussion of deism see J. Force, William Whiston (1985), 121-55; J.A.I. Champion, The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and its enemies 1660-1730 (1992); J. Champion, Republican Learning: John Toland and the Crisis of Christian Culture, 1696-1722 (2003); T.L. Bushell, The Sage of Salisbury: Thomas Chubb 1679-1747 (1967). Bushell, on pages 10-3, provides a summary of Whiston’s relationship with Chubb. It was a relationship that began with Whiston offering enthusiastic support to Chubb but ended with a clear break in support. 127   On Socinianism see P. Lim, Mystery Unveiled (2012); S. Mortimer, Reason and Religion in the English Revolution (2013); and P. Dixon, Nice and Hot Disputes (2003), 34-65. 128   For a treatment of the Sacheverell trial see B. Cowan (ed.), The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell (2012). 124 125



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himself in the third person, Whiston describes the incident this way, ‘Whereupon Mr. Whiston did as he had formerly done about four Years ago in the like case, and contented himself with standing, and performing his devotions, and hearing the Sermon on the outside of the Seats, among the Servants and lower sort, who commonly are forc’d to stand there.’129 On another occasion, Whiston was singled out by Dr. Humphreys during his sermon. The occasion was a Lord’s Day service at St. Andrew’s in January of 1718. Therefore, on the Monday following, Whiston sent Dr. Humphreys a letter. In this letter, Whiston expresses his frustration over his opponents misrepresenting him as not believing in the divinity of Jesus the Christ. So, Whiston writes with passion, ‘I am so far from that Ebionite, or Socinian Doctrine, that in my own private Opinion I am no way satisfy’d so much as to Baptize any that openly profess it. I fully believe all that Divinity of the Son of God which is consistent with the Supremacy of the One God the Father; with Christ’s own Words, that the Father is greater than He; and with all the ancient Creeds and Records of our Religion.’130 While Whiston clearly did not embrace the Socinian belief that Jesus was in no sense a divine being and thus Jesus was only a human being, Whiston was now fully persuaded that the Athanasian understanding of the Trinity that held sway in the Church of England of his day was misguided and that the Apostolic Constitutions was indeed apostolical. He then sent the same latter, dated July 17, 1708, to the archbishop of Canterbury – Thomas Tenison – and the archbishop of York – John Sharp – in order to ‘beg their Advice in what Manner and Method those Discoveries might with the greatest Quiet, Peace, and Advantage, be communicated to the World, and especially to the Learned.’131 This part of Whiston’s story is available elsewhere; thus, we will now move forward to discuss Whiston’s understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions.132

129   W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Account of Dr. Sacheverell’s Proceedings In Order to Exclude Him from St. Andrew’s Church in Holborn (1719), 8. 130   Ibid., 11. 131  W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xv. On Thomas Tenison see E. Carpenter, Thomas Tenison Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Times (1948). On John Sharp, see T. Hart, The Life and Times of John Sharp Archbishop of York (1949). 132   See P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: Was He or Wasn’t He? (2012)’, 20-4.

Chapter 2 Understanding In the opening chapter, we narrated Whiston’s path to discovering the Apostolic Constitutions. We saw that he was aware of their existence; however, he initially thought, as with most of his ministerial and academic colleagues, that they were spurious. In fact, it was not until Whiston was about one month shy of his 41st birthday that he began to believe that the Apostolic Constitutions were just that – apostolical. Now, our narrative turns to Whiston’s understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions. In other words, we will discover the manner in which Whiston thought Jesus’ apostles received the material in the Apostolic Constitutions as well as how they were assembled. This part of Whiston’s story has numerous twists and turns. Whiston concluded that the Apostolic Constitutions were ‘deliver’d Personally by our Saviour to the Eleven Apostles, after his Resurrection and first Ascension, during the Forty Days of his continuance with them.’1 Before advancing our story any further, we need to consider: what does Whiston mean here by Jesus’ first ascension? Two years earlier, Whiston published a thirty-six-page essay, once again, in his Sermons and Essays upon Several Subjects entitled, ‘Upon the Several Ascensions of Christ’. In this piece, drawing on the example of the Day of Atonement found in Leviticus 16, Whiston explains that Jesus immediately ascended into heaven on the morning of his resurrection in order to present ‘himself as a slain Sacrifice and Propitiation for the Sins of the World before the Presence of the Divine Majesty in Heaven’.2 After presenting himself to God, the Messiah could now ‘administer the Affairs, and exercise the Power belonging to his Mediatorial Kingdom here on Earth’.3 Thus on the evening of his resurrection Jesus instructs his disciples, breathing on them the Holy Spirit, giving them the ability to forgive sins, ‘and afterwards, in Galilee Asserting that All Power was already given him, and that in Heaven as well as in Earth’.4 Interestingly, Whiston concludes that Luke speaks of two different ascensions. The ascension in Luke’s gospel was on the evening of the resurrection and it took place from Bethany. The ascension in the Acts of the Apostles took place forty days later from Mount Olivet.5 Thus, for Whiston, Jesus did not live on Earth in an ordinary manner during the forty days. Rather, he   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.14.   W. Whiston, ‘Upon the Several Ascensions of Christ’ (1709), 148. 3   Ibid. 4   Ibid., 148-9 5   Ibid., 158-62. 1 2

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‘appear’d to them so often as was necessary for the undoubted Demonstration of his Resurrection.’6 According to Whiston then, the Apostolic Constitutions were delivered to the apostles after Jesus’ first ascension on Easter morning. Furthermore, the place where Jesus delivered the Apostolic Constitutions was ‘probably the very same large upper Room … where the Passover was Eaten.’7 Whiston’s ‘Against the Sleep of the Soul’ is just as interesting as his ‘Upon the Several Ascensions of Christ’. This piece is a sermon based on Philippians 1.23 where Paul makes known his desire to depart and be with Christ. Here, Whiston argues that immediately upon death the soul – and the soul is an independent entity from the physical body – departs to either happiness or misery. However, this state of happiness or misery will not ‘be compleat or consummate, till the general Resurrection, and the final Judgment.’8 As evidence for this, Whiston points to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.19-31. Whiston observes that this scene must reflect an intermediate state before the general resurrection because the rich man asks for his five brothers to be warned so that they will not suffer at death with him. Whiston simply notes that the five brothers were still alive. If the argument should follow that Whiston makes his case from a parable, he asks his audience to consider Luke’s account of the thief on the cross – Luke 23.39-43. Here, we have ‘a real History’.9 The thief requested that Jesus remember him when he came into his kingdom ‘to judge the World at the Last Day’. However, Jesus ‘grants him more than he ask’d.’10 Jesus tells the thief that he will be with him in paradise today. Luke’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus plays a prominent role in another of Whiston’s works, The Eternity of hell Torments Considered: Or, A Collection of Texts of Scripture, And Testimonies of the three first Centuries relating to them. Together with Notes through the Whole; and Observations at the End. In this piece, Whiston praises Dr. Thomas Burnet’s De statu mortuorum & refurgentium where Burnet argues against the eternity of hell. However, with a phrase commonplace in Whiston’s corpus, Whiston says that Burnet did not get to the ‘bottom of the matter’.11 Therefore, in this work, Whiston adds much more evidence for the disbelief in the eternity of hell, a view held by both Newton   Ibid., 161.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.20. It is worth noting Whiston’s use of ‘probably’. He does so here and also on the opening page of ‘Upon the Several Ascensions of Christ’. There he writes, ‘That our Lord Ascended up into Heaven very soon after his Resurrection, that Morning, is very probable.’ This type of language is commonplace in Whiston’s writings indicating, perhaps, that even he recognized his own active imagination. 8   W. Whiston, ‘Against the Sleep of the Soul’ (1709), 81. 9   Ibid., 90. 10   Ibid. 11   W. Whiston, The Eternity of hell Torments Considered (1740), 2. 6 7



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and Clarke as well as a view that Whiston had expressed years earlier in his 1709 Reason and Philosophy no Enemies of Faith, to that presented by Burnet. Because Whiston had mentioned his concern with the belief in the eternity of hell only in passing in his Reason and Philosophy no Enemies of Faith years earlier, he decides that ‘it (is) high time for me to keep silence no longer, but to lay the whole evidence I go upon before the christian world.’12 In relation to Luke’s account of the rich man and Lazarus, in his The Eternity of hell Torments Considered, Whiston concludes it very likely that the rich man repented of his sin and, therefore, at the final judgment will be admitted into heaven. Thus, as for the rich man, ‘we ought to conclude hence for certain, that how great soever the torment was, it was only medicinal, and design’d for the conversion and salvation of the rich man, and not for his destruction.’13 Nonetheless, Jesus’ words in Mark 9.48 concerning the worm that never dies and the fire that never stops are to be taken literally. If, unlike the rich man, a person in hell does not repent, then they will be in torment forever. However, this judgement comes upon the body resurrected and reunited with the soul. Whiston speculates that after the destruction of God’s enemies on earth, ‘the general Conflagration shall begin; and our earth shall be turned from a Planet into a Comet; and the Devil and his Angels and Daemons, together with the incurably wicked among mankind, shall be thrown into its burning atmosphere, till they are utterly destroy’d, and the smoke of their torment ascends up for ages of ages; or for many of its revolutions about the sun, in the tail of that comment.’ Whiston then writes, ‘But this is only a private conjecture of my own. Nor do I desire it to be any otherwise esteemed.’14 The creativity of Whiston’s thought demonstrated above in relation to Jesus’ several ascensions and the nature of hell is just as pronounced in his handling of his beloved Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston contends that the eight books of the Apostolic Constitutions then are the ‘publick Acts’ of a series of councils that took place from the year 48 through the year 86.15 The ‘Apostles, with their Companions, and the Kinsmen of our Lord’ were the participants in these councils.16 Their purpose was ‘for the Ordination of Bishops, for the Composure of Differences in Opinion, for the declaring the true Christian Doctrine, and for the setting down the Laws and Constitutions they had heard from Christ, to be transmitted to all Posterity.’17 The sources for these councils are the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, their extract the Doctrine of the Apostles (this will receive more discussion later), Luke, and Eusebius of Caesarea.   Ibid.   Ibid., 120. 14   Ibid., 110-1. 15   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.79. 16   Ibid., 3.78. 17   Ibid., 3.78-9. 12 13

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The Councils The first council, held in Jerusalem in 48 CE, is recorded by Luke in Acts 15 as well as Apostolic Constitutions 6.12.18 In Acts 15 we have the well-known account of the Council of Jerusalem. Here, under the leadership of James, it was decided that the gentiles did not need to be circumcised to be a part of the Christian church. In Apostolic Constitutions 6.12, the contents of Acts 15 are expanded, and the dialogue is converted from the third person to the first person. Thus, ‘we the twelve’ gathered at Jerusalem ‘together with James the Lord’s brother’. And, ‘when some said one thing, and some another, I Peter stood up, and said to them.’ While Apostolic Constitutions 6.12 follows Acts 15 closely, it also augments the contents of Acts 15 with Peter giving the account of his encounter with Cornelius as found in Acts 10. As with Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas are present at the council having arrived from Antioch. The second council, testified to by the Apostolic Constitutions and Varadatus in the fifth century, occurred in Jerusalem in the year 64 CE.19 In Apostolic Constitutions 6.14, we find Peter, Andrew, James and John the sons of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Lebbaeus who is surnamed Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, Matthias who took the place of Jesus’ betrayer Judas, James the brother of Jesus and bishop of Jerusalem, and Paul. In Whiston’s words, these individuals gathered ‘for the ordering of the Affairs of the Christian Church; or for the setting down in Writing by Clement, probably as their Amanuensis, the Catholick Doctrine, or the main original Laws and Constitutions of the Gospel, which the Eleven Apostles had personally received from our Saviours (sic) Mouth, after his Resurrection.’20 Those gathered at the council then sent this doctrine to the churches via Clement, Barnabas, Timothy, and Mark. Whiston makes it sound as if a firework show took place at the third council. It was held in Jerusalem in 67 CE as revealed in the preface to the Doctrine of the Apostles. Here, James the bother of Jesus, Paul, and the apostles approved the first five and a half books of the Apostolic Constitutions. In addition, the last two books of the Apostolic Constitutions as well as the canons were composed. Finally, the Doctrine of the Apostles ‘was also written, or extracted, and sent to the several Churches by Clement, for the general Instruction of the Christian World.’21 Whiston understands the council mentioned by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History 3.11-2 and the council mentioned in Apostolic Constitutions 6.18 to be 18   All translations of the Apostolic Constitutions, unless otherwise noted, are taken from Whiston’s own translation, with alterations, found in Ante-Nicene Fathers 7 (2004). 19   On Varadatus see Theodoret of Cyrrhus, A History of the Monks of Syria (1985), chapter 27. 20   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.80. 21   Ibid.



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one in the same. And, indeed, Eusebius records the story of a meeting of the apostles and disciples of the Lord who were still alive. This meeting occurred after the death of James to choose his successor. Simeon, the son of Clopas, was unanimously chosen. Interestingly, Eusebius relates the tradition found in Hegesippus that this Simeon was a cousin to Jesus as Clopas was Joseph’s brother. Whiston speculates that the election of Simeon as the new bishop of Jerusalem could not be the only matter taken up at this Jerusalem council in 71, soon after the destruction of Jerusalem. The reason is that it was a common practice for a single apostle to ordain bishops. Thus, due to the gathering of so many people, there must have been additional business. In Apostolic Constitutions 6.18, the additional business is made known: ‘the cautioning Christians against the Jewish Impositions and Observances’.22 Furthermore, the Apostolic Constitutions inform us that ‘after the Destruction of Jerusalem, there was such a great Council whose Acts are therein extant, and were sent to the Church by Titus, Luke, Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater.’23 When one reads Apostolic Constitutions 6.18, there is indeed an exhortation to flee heresy. And there are first person plural references to the apostles dealing with heresy in the churches: ‘And this we did in every city, everywhere through the whole world, and have left to you the bishops and to the rest of the priests this very Catholic doctrine.’ However, Apostolic Constitutions 6.18 itself contains no mention of a successor to James or the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus, Whiston’s characteristic rhetoric of hesitation is understandable, ‘it seems to me highly probable, that it was the very same Council mentioned by Eusebius.’24 Whiston speculates that it was Eusebius’ ‘Observance of antient Secrecy’ that accounts for the absence of the other matters found in the Apostolic Constitutions. We will have more to say about this ancient secrecy soon. Whiston does not speculate as to why Apostolic Constitutions 16 makes no mention of James or his successor. However, he does think it possible that this same council is mentioned by yet a third author: ‘according to the mystical Language of that Author, in the Second Book of Apocryphal Esdras’.25 Though Whiston does not give a reference to any text for the fifth and final council, he says, ‘Thus we know from the Constitutions, that there must have been a Fifth Council at Jerusalem, or elsewhere, about A.D. 86.’26 Here the earlier constitutions were completed. In addition, the 85 canons of the apostles were added and then extracted. Also, the Teaching of Barnabas probably was extracted from the seventh book. The reasons for the extractions were ‘for the general Use of the Bishops, and of the Churches’ because the bishops were not   Ibid., 3.81.   Ibid., 3.81-2. 24   Ibid., 3.82. 25   Ibid. 26   Ibid. 22 23

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to share all of the Apostolic Constitutions with all Christians. According to Whiston then, the 85 canons, the Teaching of Barnabas, and the first six books were for public consummation. The remainder was just for the bishops of the apostolic churches. Before advancing to Whiston’s understanding of early Christian secrecy as it relates to the Apostolic Constitutions, I make readers aware of Whiston’s interesting take on 2 Esdras as Whiston thought the fourth council, discussed above, is mentioned in 2 Esdras. Whiston’s relationship with 2 Esdras appears similar to his relationship with the Apostolic Constitutions in that, as with the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston at first believed 2 Esdras to be spurious but later changed his mind and embraced the authenticity of 2 Esdras. In his Memoirs, Whiston acknowledges his earlier conviction, found in Primitive Christianity Reviv’d 3.304-5, that the author of 2 Esdras used Ezra, the Jewish scribe during the return from Babylonian exile, as a penname.27 The document, however, was composed by a Christian toward the end of the first century. In his A Collection of Authentick Records Belonging to the Old and New Testament, writing sixteen years later, Whiston reveals his change of opinion. He now believes, ‘That the former XIV Chapters of the second Book of the Apocryphal Esdras, which the vulgar Latin stiles the fourth Book, is a genuine and an authentick Prophetick Book of the Old Testament.’ Whiston then offers 30 arguments for the document’s authenticity.28 Whiston now understands Ezra the scribe and Esdras the prophet to be two different people. It is not clear if Whiston still holds to the interpretation of 2 Esdras which he offered in his 1711 Primitive Christianity Reviv’d or not as it relates to the Apostolic Constitutions, even though Whiston now understands the document to be an authentic production from the prophet Esdras and not a pseudonym under the name of the scribe Ezra. Nonetheless the interpretation he offered in 1711 is fascinating. In 1711, Whiston said that the ‘unknown’ author of 2 Esdras was a witness to the Apostolic Constitutions ‘who under the borrowed Name of Ezra the Antient Scribe, so it seems to me, gives us an Account of the state and meaning of Scripture Prophecies, and of the Christian Church, especially of that part which was taken out of the Jews, at the conclusion of the first Century.’29 Even though it cannot be decided with certainty that 2 Esdras is inspired, the document is surprisingly helpful in validating the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. In 2 Esdras 14 (actually 4 Esdras, as 2 Esdras is a composite document according to modern scholarship), Esdras (Ezra) receives his seventh and

27   W. Whiston, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston Containing, Memoirs of Several of his Friends also (1753), 168-9. 28   W. Whiston, A Collection of Authentick Records Belonging to the Old and New Testament (1727), 46. 29   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.304.



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final vision.30 The Lord instructs Esdras to tell the people not to look for him for forty days. During this time, Esdras is to prepare writing tablets and he is to take five people with him. Their names are Sarea, Dabria, Selemia, Ecanus, and Asiel. The Lord will share some sort of knowledge with Esdras, and these five people, who write fast, are to record what Esdras receives from the Lord. Once this project is complete then Esdras will deliver some of the material to the public. However, other parts will be reserved only for the wise. And so, Esdras does as instructed. Indeed, he dictates, and the five people write what he says but they do so in a language they do not know. During this forty-day period, 94 books are composed. When the forty-day period ends, God tells Esdras to make public the 24 books that were written at first. However, the 70 books which were written last are to be reserved only for the wise among the people. Whiston sees seven parallels between 2 Esdras and the Apostolic Constitutions: 1) Whiston interprets 2 Esdras 3.1 to refer to the 30th year after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. Therefore, the document dates to around 100 CE, which, of course, is about the same time as the completion of the Apostolic Constitutions, 2) 2 Esdras indicates that Mount Zion is the place where the Son of God should stand and therefore ‘exactly agrees with the Place where our Lord deliver’d these Constitutions to the Apostles afterwards … and where probably many of them were written down.’31 3) Both 2 Esdras and the Apostolic Constitutions indicate a time period of 40 days – 40 days for the delivery of the Apostolic Constitutions and 40 days for the writing of the books in Esdras’ final vision. 4) Whiston observes that the number of people who wrote down Esdras’ vision agrees exactly with the number of people who sent out the acts of the last council in Jerusalem, which concluded the Apostolic Constitutions, to the churches. He says, ‘The fictitious Names here are, Sarea, Dabrea, Selemia, Ecanus, and Asiel. The real ones at the Counsel are Titus, Luke, Jason, Lucius, and Sosipater.’32 5) Like the Apostolic Constitutions, 2 Esdras calls for a division into secret and public books. 6) The actual numbers are exact: ‘For as the Antient smaller divisions of the secret Constitutions were just Seventy, as we Learn from the Ethiopick

30   For discussion of the complexities surrounding 2 Esdras, see M. Stone, ‘Esdras, Second Book Of’ (1992), 2.611-4. 31   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.310. 32   Ibid.

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Extracts, which imitated the Originals, and otherwise; so is that exactly the Number here of the like secret Books or Box-tables.’33 7) And finally, with a rather confusing explanation, Whiston concludes that the number of books offered to the public is the same in both 2 Esdras 14 and the Apostolic Constitutions – 134. Whiston concludes, ‘That all this niceness of Agreement should be merely Accidental and without design is plainly incredible; and if it be not so, ‘tis an almost undenyable Attestation to the Constitutions before us, and to those other Original Books or Extracts from them beforementioned.’34 Pearls before Swine We come now to Whiston’s understanding of the secret nature of the Apostolic Constitutions. It is likely that even some readers of this book knew little of the Apostolic Constitutions before they began to read. The same could be said of most clergy and some scholars from Whiston’s own day. Remember Whiston’s own lament that he had been a clergyman for so long without an awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions. Furthermore, while later we will find Whiston arguing passionately for many references and allusions to the Apostolic Constitutions in early and medieval Christian literature, there are few, perhaps no, explicit references to the Apostolic Constitutions. All of this begs the question: if the Apostolic Constitutions are the most sacred book of the New Testament then why are there no explicit references to them in later Christian writers and why was the church of Whiston’s day not familiar with them? Since it is well know that the early church concealed parts of the Christian religion from ‘Heathens, Jews, and Catechumens’, Whiston concludes that the apostles and their successors communicated the secret doctrine and discipline ‘to Posterity not by their own publick Writings, but by these secret Constitutions of the Apostles’.35 This secret doctrine and discipline was taken from the apostle’s mouths by their companions and ‘as a Sacred Traditionary Depositum; and entrusted with the Bishops of the several Apostolical Churches.’36 There were 19 apostolic churches: Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Caesarea, Rome, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Philadelphia, Cenchrea, Crete, Athens, Tripoli, Laodicea, Colossae, Beraea, Galatia, Asia, and Aegina.37 However,   Ibid., 3.310-1.   Ibid., 3.311. For more of Whiston’s relationship with 2 Esdras, see Alastair Hamilton, The Apocryphal Apocalypse: the reception of the Second Book of Esdras (4 Ezra) from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (1999), 267-79. 35   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.130. 36   Ibid. 37   For a list of these churches, along with a catalogue of the first 30 bishops and the apostles who ordained these bishops, see W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.223-4. 33 34



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there were no copies made of the Apostolic Constitutions that were deposited with these 19 churches. In other words, the Apostolic Constitutions were ‘never written out, or transcrib’d, by any body’ and the words of the Apostolic Constitutions were ‘seldom cited by others, but very frequently by the Bishops of those Churches’.38 Thus, when questions arose, appeals were made directly to these churches. The parts of the Apostolic Constitutions that were for public consumption were, however, ‘extracted immediately’ in the form of the Doctrine of the Apostles, the Doctrine of Barnabas, and the letters of Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp.39 According to Whiston’s narrative, the Apostolic Constitutions in their entirety began to be made known to the general public during the fourth century when Christianity took a wrong turn under the leadership of Athanasius. They were first published in Syria from the copy deposited in Antioch. Whiston conjectures that they may have been put forth by Euzoius ‘in Vindication of the Arians against Athanasius, and other Corrupters of the Faith, who then call’d themselves the Orthodox.’40 With the mention of Athanasius in the previous paragraph, we pause our narrative here to explore a bit Whiston’s animosity towards Athanasius. We heard of his abhorrence for the Athanasian creed in the last chapter. Perhaps, the best place to get a feel for Whiston’s abhorrence for Athanasius himself is within the pages of Whiston’s correspondence with Styan Thirlby. In Whiston’s historical preface, he includes a paper that he composed in 1710, ‘Suspicions concerning Athanasius’.41 Whiston states that the paper was inspired by his reading of Monfaucon’s ‘Accurate Account of the Life of Athanasius’.42 After reading this account Whiston became suspicious of Athanasius’ character and Whiston also considered the possibility that Athanasius may have engaged in forgery. These are intriguing suspicions due to Whiston’s friendship with Newton at this juncture in the early 1700s as Newton also had a strong distaste for Athanasius. Yet, Whiston says nothing of Newton here and credits Monfaucon for inspiring his suspicions about Athanasius. Perhaps, Whiston makes no mention of Newton because Newton was still alive and Whiston did not want to expose him. However, even after Newton’s death in 1727 when Whiston began to write more freely about Newton, even critiquing Newton’s temper and Newton’s

  Ibid., 3.151.   Ibid. 40   Ibid., 3.153. For discussion of the possibility that Euzious was responsible for the Ignatian long recension see P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 109. 41   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.Historical Preface.cxvi-cxxviii. 42   Ibid., 1.HP.cxv. 38 39

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chronology, Whiston does not indicate that his views on Athanasius were influenced by Newton.43 Among his seventeen suspicions, Whiston suggests that Athanasius’ character was suspect as Athanasius employed violence; Athanasius invented a new system of doctrine that was a departure from earlier and authentic Christian belief; Athanasius does not give an accurate account of the Meletians; the miracles Athanasius assigns to Anthony the monk strain credibility; Athanasius appears to lie about Arius’ death; Athanasius appears to have altered Origen’s words about the eternity of Jesus; and Athanasius communicates so many fantastic and unique stories as well as questionable chronology ‘that there is the greatest Reason in the World to suspect many of them to be direct Forgeries.’44 In 1712, Thirlby responded to Whiston with his An Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Seventeen Suspicions Concerning Athanasius In His Historical Preface. Thirlby contends that Athanasius’ character – good or bad – makes no difference. What matters is whether Athanasius’ theology is accurate. In fact, if Whiston can persuade others that Athanasius’ doctrine is a departure from the earliest Christians, Whiston ‘has gained his Point; and tho’ Athanasius shou’d be prov’d the most humble and Learned Man in the World, the Orthodox wou’d be little the better for it.’45 The question naturally arises: if Athanasius’ character doesn’t matter, why does Thirlby take the time to respond to Whiston? Thirlby offers four reasons for his defense of Athanasius. In his discussion of number four he writes, ‘So that tho’ the Badness of Athanasius’ Character be no Argument against us, the Goodness of it, when prov’d, will be something of an Argument against Mr. Whiston.’46 Thirlby then responds to each of Whiston’s 17 suspicions. Whiston next responded to Thirlby’s response with a brief, 30-page, letter, Athanasius Convicted of Forgery. In a Letter to Mr. Thirlby of Jesus-College Cambridge. In his opening paragraph, Whiston provocatively states that the evidence he presents in this piece that convicts Athanasius of forgery ‘is very little owing to myself; but chiefly to Two other Learned and Judicious Persons.’47 Whiston never reveals the identify of these persons. I think it likely that one of them was Sir Isaac Newton. Finally, Thirlby responds to Whiston with a 267-page letter, A Defense of the Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Suspicions, And an Answer To His Charge of Forgery Against St. Athanasius. In a Letter to Mr. WHISTON (1713). In his postscript, Thirlby tries to one-up Whiston 43   For an excellent treatment of Newton’s own animosity towards Athanasius see, Rob Iliffe, Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton (2017), 145-55; 367-8. 44   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.cxxvii. 45   S. Thirlby, An Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Seventeen Suspicions (1712), vii. 46   Ibid., x. 47   W. Whiston, Athanasius Convicted of Forgery. In a Letter to Mr. Thirlby of Jesus-College Cambridge (1712), 1.



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when he says, ‘I have had the Hardiness, Alone, and without any the least Assistance, to engage with three Learned and Judicious Adversaries.’ Whiston provides eighteen pages of textual evidence for the secretive nature of the Apostolic Constitutions. This evidence comes from the Apostolic Constitutions themselves as well as outside texts. Per his custom, Whiston provides the texts in the original languages. However, in 1712 Whiston published an edition of volume three with the original languages translated into English for the general public. We will use then Whiston’s own translations of these texts in the forthcoming discussion. As we shall see, a key theme that runs through these texts is Jesus’ words ‘Do not throw your pearls before swine’ (Matthew 7.6). The New Testament texts Whiston provides are ambiguous in relation to his goal of demonstrating a secretive doctrine and discipline. For example, he lists 1 Corinthians 11.2, ‘Keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.’48 And he cites 2 Thessalonians 3.6, ‘Now we command you, brothers, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw your selves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.’ When Whiston moves to the Apostolic Constitutions, however, he has more explicit material to work with. In Apostolic Constitutions 3.5, directions are provided for widows. They are to be quiet and free from anger. While widows can speak with others about the errors of polytheism and the oneness of God, they are not to instruct in other areas of doctrine. That task is to be left to the church leaders who are men. The widows should not speak in depth about doctrine because they may make a mistake and lead others astray. ‘For the Lord has taught us that the Word is like a Grain of Mustard-Seed, which is of a fiery Nature, which if any one uses unskillfully, he will find it bitter. For in the mystical Points, we ought not to be rash, but cautious: For the Lord exhorts us, saying: Cast not your Pearls before Swine, lest they trample them with their Feet, and turn again and rent you.’49 Naturally, Whiston also draws attention to Canon 85. Here, it states, ‘The Constitutions dedicated to you the Bishops by me Clement, in Eight Books: which ‘tis not fit to publish before all, because of the Mysteries contained in them.’50 And he highlights Apostolic Constitutions 6.14, ‘We have written to you this Catholick Doctrine, for the Confirmation of you, to whom the Oversight of the Universal Church is committed. And have left to you the Bishops, and to the rest of the Priests this very Catholick Doctrine.’51

48   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.60. The Greek is found at 3.130 of the 1711 edition. 49   Ibid., 3.61 (1712) / 3.131 (1711). 50   Ibid., 3.61 (1712) / 3.132 (1711). 51   Ibid., 3.74 (1712) / 3.149 (1711).

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When Whiston turns his gaze to early Christian literature outside of the New Testament and the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, the evidence for concealed teaching – the admonition not to throw pearls before swine – is indeed abundant. In the Recognitions of Clement 3.1, Peter is in conversation with his followers about the Trinity. Whiston provides a lengthy quote from this opening discourse. Among other things, Peter says, ‘My Brethren, nothing is more difficult than to hold a Disputation concerning the Truth before a mix’d Multitude … Yet if he declares the plain Truth to those who have not a Desire to obtain Salvation, he offers an Injury to him that sent him; from whom also he has received a Command not to cast the Pearls of his Word before Swine and Dogs … For which Reason I [Peter] did in many Cases not speak directly.’52 Generally, Whiston does not care for Tertullian. In fact, Whiston frequently criticizes Tertullian in his writings. For example, in his appendix to the fourth volume of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, Whiston contends that the most primitive doxologies, which clearly demarcate Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through prepositions, such as ‘through’ and ‘in’, that imply a relationship of subordination, were gradually corrupted by replacing such prepositions with ‘and’. As part of this discussion, Whiston notes that Tertullian of Africa, in the third century, began to speak of the Son as if the Son were equal to the Father. Whiston observes that this sort of talk was out of place with Tertullian’s language in his earlier writings. In fact, Tertullian ‘began to talk very strangely, and so as no Catholick Christian had ever done before him, in his dispute with Praxeas; and being almost gravel’d in his Philosophical Reasonings, was forced to assert one Substance in the three united Beings; in which random Philosophy no body appears to have follow’d him for a considerable time.’53 Later, Cyprian of Carthage, who admired Tertullian, did not follow Tertullian’s strange language.54 Furthermore, Whiston lays much blame on Tertullian for the entrance of philosophy into the church. Nonetheless, Whiston finds Tertullian helpful to this part of his argument. Among other texts, Whiston points to Prescription Against the Heretics 41 and To His Wife 2.4. In Prescription Against the Heretics 41, Tertullian notes that the heretics do not differentiate between catechumen and the faithful. In contrast with the orthodox, all the heretics ‘go together, they hear together, they pray together; even Heathens also, if they happen to come among them.’ Furthermore, ‘They will cast what is holy to Dogs, and Pearls, tho’ not real ones   Ibid., 3.61-2 (1712) / 3.134 (1711 – in Latin). For Whiston’s thoughts on the Recognitions of Clement, as well as his translation of the document, see W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, Vol. 5, Containing the Recognitions of Clement: or the Travels of Peter in Ten Books (1712). 53   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 4.appendix.15. 54   For even more from Whiston on Tertullian see, W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Letter To the Right Honourable the Earl of Nottingham, Concerning the Eternity Of The Son of God And of the Holy Spirit (1721), 12; 21; and 39. 52



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to Swine.’55 In, To His Wife 2.4, Tertullian discusses the dangers of marriage to an unbelieving husband. He writes, ‘This is therefore a Crime that the Gentiles are acquainted with our affairs; that they are so conscious of our Rules that they can betray us.’ Therefore, Tertullian reminds his wife, ‘Do not ye, says Christ, cast your Pearls before Swine; lest they trample them under their Feet, and turn again and rent you.’56 Patristic scholars will not be surprised to learn that Whiston lists quotations from Cyril of Jerusalem in this part of his defense of the Apostolic Constitutions. He cites Cyril’s Prologue to the Catechetical Lectures. Cyril delivered this lecture around 350.57 Whiston draws attention to section seven. Here Cyril instructs those who are now Christians, and no longer catechumens, to keep the mysteries of the faith from the catechumen if the catechumen should ask for the information. The danger is that the catechumen is not yet prepared to receive the ‘mysteries’; therefore s/he may ridicule established church doctrine. Thus, Cyril says, ‘Take care that you do not disclose what you are taught. Not because what was said was not fit to be spoken, but because his Ears were unworthy to receive it.’58 In another reference provided by Whiston, Cyril identifies the ‘mysteries.’ In Catechesis 6, Cyril states, ‘Tis not our Custom to declare them [mysteries] to Heathens: for we do not declare the Mysteries concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to an Heathen; nor do we speak plainly to the Catechumens about those Mysteries.’ Cyril will go on to acknowledge that church leaders often speak in an ‘occult Way’ so that the ‘Faithful who know them may understand them; and that those that do not understand them may not be hurt thereby.’59 Whiston finds Basil of Caesarea (330-379) especially important to his discussion of the concealment of some aspects of early Christian teaching.60 He cites at length from Basil’s On the Spirit 27. Here Basil states, ‘As to the Doctrines and Preachings which are preserv’d in the Church, we have some of them from the written Doctrine, others we have received as deliver’d from the Tradition of the Apostles, in a Mystery ‘both which are of the same Fore in Religion.’61 Basil goes on to list acceptable Christian practices that are not found in the written Scriptures. He cites the practice of the sign of the cross, praying toward the east, the words given before the bread and cup of the Eucharist, the blessing of the baptismal waters and the blessing of the anointing oil   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.64 / 3.135 (1711).   Ibid., 3.64-5 (1712) / 3.136-7 (1711). In the ANF, this reference is found at 2.5. 57   On Cyril see Cyril of Jerusalem, The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (1969-70) and E. Yarnold, Cyril of Jerusalem (2000). For a detailed discussion of Cyril’s Christology see P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 137-43. 58   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.66 / 3.138 (1711). 59   Ibid. (1712). 60   On Basil see A. Meredith, The Cappadocians (1995), 19-38. 61   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.68 / 3.141 (1711). 55 56

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as well as the blessing of the person to be baptized, and the threefold immersion as the mode of baptism. Though Basil does not here use Jesus’ words about casting pearls before swine, the reason for this ‘unwritten tradition’ is the same: ‘that so the Knowledge of those Doctrines, which is the Subject of our Meditation, might not become despicable to the Multitudes by its being so common.’62 Basil’s use of the phrase ‘unwritten tradition’ and ‘unwritten points’ causes Whiston pause. Whiston concludes that the phrase does not mean that these ‘unwritten’ acceptable traditions were not written down. Rather, building on his foundation, ‘they were not written in the Scripture, nor by any of the holy Apostles themselves, not permitted to be written or transcrib’d by any Christians; but only the Originals preserv’d in the Archives of the Churches.’63 Whiston observes that the practice of a threefold immersion is written down in Tertullian as well as the ‘Ecclesiastical Canons themselves; which Basil esteems part of the Apostolical Tradition’.64 Thus it cannot be denied that Basil ‘own’d the secret and mystical Constitutions and Traditions of the Apostles, to be very many, and very important, formerly preserv’d in a profound Silence, but then beginning to be publish’d to the World, contrary it should seem to his Opinion of that Matter.’65 We will conclude our sampling of early Christian texts that warn of the dangers of casting pearls before swine, and thus illustrate the desire to conceal important aspects of Christian doctrine, with Whiston’s discussion of John Chrysostom.66 As with Basil, Whiston finds Chrysostom most helpful to his overall argument concerning the secretive nature of the Apostolic Constitutions – even more so. In his On Compunction, Chrysostom cites the now familiar text – do not cast your pearls before swine – from Matthew 7.6. Chrysostom does so to condemn his community for ‘admitting corrupt Persons, and Unbelievers, and such as are full of a Thousand wicked Practices, at random, and without Examination, to a Participation of the Mysteries; and discovering to them all the intire Nature of our Doctrines, before we have had sufficient Experience of them; leading them into the inmost Recesses, who ought not to have been permitted at random to see the very Porch.’67 The second text Whiston cites from Chrysostom is central to Whiston’s understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions – so much so that Whiston will   Ibid., 3.66 (1712) / 3.141-2 (1711).   Ibid., 3.143 (1711). 64   Ibid. Interestingly, in the 1712 edition, instead of ‘Ecclesiastical Canons’, Whiston has ‘Apostolical Canons’. See W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.70. 65   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.143. 66   On John Chrysostom see, J.N.D. Kelly, Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop (1995); Robert L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late 4th Century (1983); and Wendy Mayer and Pauline Allen, John Chrysostom (2000). 67   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.72 / 3.147 (1711). Usually, Whiston puts his translations in italics. Here he does not. 62 63



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add his own commentary. In his 40th homily on I Corinthians, Chrysostom offers an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15.29. This is Paul’s mysterious statement about people baptized on behalf of the dead. In his homily, Chrysostom states the need to speak with ‘obscurity’ because of the ‘Unbaptiz’d’.68 Then Chrysostom says this: ‘For after the Profession of those mystical and dreadful Words, and after those tremendous Canons of the Doctrines which were brought down from Heaven, we at the Conclusion add this, when we are going to baptize any, We command them to say, I believe in the Resurrection of the Dead; and in this Faith we are baptized.’69 For Whiston this statement is a home run. Whiston observes the ‘exalted’ place Chrysostom gives to the articles of the baptismal creed because Chrysostom labels them ‘the tremendous Canons of those Doctrines which were brought from Heaven.’70 Thus Whiston concludes that Chrysostom too thought ‘that these sacred Doctrines, and the Baptismal Creed containing them, were deliver’d from Heaven, or given the Apostles by our Lord after this first Ascension, when he came from Heaven upon Mount Sion, on purpose to declare such Divine and Heavenly Doctrines and Rules to his Followers, as we have already observ’d.’71 Naturally, Whiston concludes: ‘Nor do I know any other sense these Words are fairly capable of.’72 In a moment of great exuberance, Whiston states his belief that the Apostolic Constitutions ‘were design’d to be thus secretly preserv’d from unbaptiz’d Heathens, Jews, and Catechumens, till a proper time should come for their universal publication.’73 Whiston cites Revelation 11.15 – ‘when the Kingdoms of this World were to become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he was to reign for ever and ever’ – and says, ‘For myself, I believe that happy time is now hastening, and I take it for one eminent sign of such its approach that these divine and heavenly Constitutions of our Blessed Lord, by which his Kingdom is certainly to be then administred, are now by his good Providence beginning to be reviv’d among us.’74 Paul’s Portrayal According to Whiston, Paul’s portrayal in the Apostolic Constitutions testifies to the authenticity of the document. Whiston notes that the use of the third person in relation to any of the apostles is ‘exceedingly rare’ except in ‘the Case of Paul, who was not with the rest, when the generality of these   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.72 / 3.147 (1711).   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.72-3 / 3.147-8 (1711). 70   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.148. 71   Ibid., 3.149. 72   Ibid. 73   Ibid., 3.152. 74   Ibid. ‘Administred’ is correct. It has the ‘e’. ‘Reviv’d’ is correct. It omits the ‘e’ per Whiston’s usual custom. 68 69

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­ onstitutions was written.’75 This point is key for Whiston as he contends that C the chronology presented in the Apostolic Constitutions is correct. We will return to Whiston’s emphasis on chronology soon enough. In Whiston’s own words: ‘The Names of the particular Apostles speaking still in the first Person, as present; and that of Paul spoken of still as absent, excepting the first and third Councils of Jerusalem when he appears with the rest, do still agree to Chronology; and so confirm the Truth and Authority of these Constitutions.’76 Thus, Peter speaks most frequently in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth books. Matthew speaks in books one and two. The same is true with Thomas and John – they speak in those places where they are alive. However, ‘there is no such Language at all’ towards the end of the sixth book because this part was written after the death of some of the apostles. Whiston implies that if some later person were attempting a forgery, surely there would be a slip somewhere. This is especially so when it comes to Paul. Therefore, ‘Paul and only Paul’ is not said to be present at the second, fourth, and fifth councils even though his name is mentioned frequently throughout the Apostolic Constitutions.77 Since Paul was not with the other apostles when the resurrected Christ gave them the Apostolic Constitutions at the ‘Time of their original delivery by our Lord’, nor was Paul present at the Jerusalem council of 64 ‘when the original Catholick Doctrine, or former Five Books and an half of the Constitutions were Written and sent to the Churches,’ Whiston is not exactly sure how and when Paul received them.78 However, he has an idea. Whiston thinks it possible that Paul ‘received them, together with the rest of his knowledge of the Gospel, by immediate Revelation from Christ himself, and distinctly communicated them to his Companions and Attendants, and thereby to the rest of the Church.’79 When Whiston says ‘by immediate Revelation from Christ himself’ he refers to Galatians 1.1 and Galatians 1.11-12 as well as 1 Corinthians 12. In Galatians 1.1, again using Whiston’s translation from his 1712 edition, we find, ‘Paul an Apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)’.80 In Galatians 1.11-12, Paul writes, ‘But I  ??? (word in text not clear) you, my Brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is  ??? man. For I neither receiv’d it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the Revelation of Jesus Christ.’81 So, this is Whiston’s response to how Paul received the Apostolic Constitutions – via direct revelation. Here Whiston writes with considerable confidence in his ideas.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.11.   Ibid., 3.197. 77   Ibid. 78   Ibid., 3.29-30. 79   Ibid., 3.29. 80   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.15 / The Greek is found at 3.31 of the 1711 edition. 81   Ibid., 3.15 (1712) / 3.31 (1711). 75 76



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As to the when Paul received the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston demonstrates a bit less confidence. He says, ‘At what particular time Paul received these Constitutions from our Saviour, I cannot certainly tell; or whether at several times or not.’82 However, 1 Corinthians 12 assists in putting together the puzzle. There Paul conveys his experience of being transported to the third heaven. He was ‘caught up into Paradise, and heard Secret Words, which ‘tis not lawful for a Man to utter; or not lawful to utter to Man.’83 Whiston sees a parallel between Paul’s words here and the mystical nature of the Apostolic Constitutions. Yet, somewhat surprisingly considering Whiston’s understanding of how Paul received the Apostolic Constitutions, ‘But this is only an uncertain conjecture.’84 Even so, after the Resurrected Christ had converted Paul ‘by Miracle’, the Resurrected Christ ‘by a distinct method of direct Revelation and Instruction communicated to him exactly the very same Gospel, the very same sacred Laws and Constitutions which he had communicated to the rest before’.85 The thrust of Whiston’s argument in relation to Paul is that Paul received the same Gospel and the same Constitutions as the eleven apostles via different routes. Therefore, Paul was ‘a distinct fountain of Christian Rules’ who was at first ‘unconcern’d in those Constitutions deliver’d to the Eleven Apostles’, and thus is absent from the earlier councils, yet ‘he should appear with them at their last Assembly before his Death, for their confirmation … and that in his own Epistles to his own Bishops Timothy and Titus; he should so very exactly agree with those Constitutions of the other Apostles.’86 For Whiston, the portrayal of Paul found in the Apostolic Constitutions demonstrates ‘a remarkable Observation, and a mighty Character of genuine Antiquity’.87 The Need for Uniformity In Whiston’s mind, there was a need for the Christian church to have laws of governance just as the Jewish church has laws of governance found in the Pentateuch. If the Apostolic Constitutions be set aside as spurious then ‘the Church of Christ must be suppos’d never to have had any such System or Standard at all given it; which yet was most highly requisite, if not absolutely necessary to its very Being; and which the Church of the Jews most certainly had in its primary institution, and have to this very day preserv’d among them.’88 In fact, if the Apostolic Constitutions are not from Jesus’ apostles then   Ibid.,   Ibid., 84   Ibid., 85   Ibid., 86   Ibid., 87   Ibid. 88   Ibid., 82 83

3.32 (1711). 3.16 (1712) / 3.32 (1711). 3.32 (1711). 3.30. 3.198. 3.163.

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the Lord left the church ‘in great part, to the miserable guidance of human reasonings, and the uncertain determinations of frail and fallible men’.89 All the while, ‘the old more imperfect Dispensation by Moses was exactly fix’d, in even the smallest matters, by divine Directions; and all its particular Laws digested into an intire Body in the Pentateuch.’90 In these words, from Whiston, we detect his own religious anxieties, which were characteristic of eighteenth-century Britain. After the initiation of the sixteenth-century reformation, which Whiston hoped to complete, Protestantism was in a fractured state as demonstrated by groups such as the Ranters, Quakers, Socinians, Anabaptists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Perhaps, this is what concerned Whiston most. To Whiston, and others like him, the Roman church was misguided. However, Whiston understood the Catholic criticism that the diversity in protestant thought demonstrated severe confusion. It is difficult to understand this great religious anxiety from our own modern perspective. However, one can empathize with the desire to get things right. For those involved in the debates of the Christian church of the early modern period, the soul of the individual as well as the soul of a society was a stake. As in the last chapter, Alexandra Walsham is helpful here. She notes that the Catholic clergy and laity of pre- and post-Reformation England embraced the views of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas concerning the persecution of religious deviants. This view maintained that the use of physical harm, and even death, against those deemed apostates or heretics was appropriate for two reasons: 1) persecution might bring the person back to the true faith and 2) the heretic and nonbeliever were a threat to the eternal well-being of others.91 This understanding that ‘rigorous discipline was nothing less than an act of benevolence and a branch of education’ carried over into the Church of England as well and was then embraced by other protestant groups such as Presbyterians who thought their reformed understanding was orthodox.92 For example, Walsham points to the Acts of Uniformity passed by King Henry VIII and those who came after him as well as John Calvin’s role in the execution of Michael Servetus in 1553.93 Though he expressed concern for his safety as well as that of his family, as noted in the previous chapter, Whiston appears to have lived at just the right time. However, this observation can only be made with considerable hindsight. In other words, Whiston himself did not know that he lived at just the right time. In fact, in a letter dated February 22, 1709/10, to the Rev. Dr. Roderick,   Ibid., 3.160.   Ibid. 91  For more discussion on Augustine’s and Aquinas’ views on religious persecution, see J. Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1558-1689 (2000), 21-38. Coffey says that Augustine was in favor of punishment for deviant Christian beliefs. Aquinas, however, went further and embraced execution for deviant Christian beliefs. 92   A. Walsham, Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and intolerance in England, 1500-1700 (2006), 43. 93   Ibid., 39 and 57. 89 90



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provost of King’s College and dean of Ely and vice-chancellor, Whiston presents his ‘papers’ to be considered by the university community of scholars and clergy men. Whiston states, in this letter, that his discoveries about primitive Christianity and the Apostolic Constitutions are ‘of such Consequence as ought not any longer to be conceal’d from the Christian Church’.94 Whiston recognizes, however, the potential danger he faces by releasing his discoveries. He writes, ‘I am willing and ready to hazard all I have or hope for in this World for their Reception and Establishment: and do hope, that if Violence and Persecution should be my Lot on this Account, God would afford me Grace and Courage to resist even unto Blood, with Patience and Submission, in so good, and glorious, and Christian a Cause.’95 As we shall see in chapter 4, via Whiston’s debates with Anthony Collins, Whiston (and Collins) believed strongly in religious liberty for all people – believers and unbelievers. Indeed, Whiston was never physically harmed for his perceived deviant Christian beliefs. Nor was he jailed. In fact, as we heard earlier, he went on to have a successful career as a coffee house lecturer in London.96 As John Coffey observes, with the proliferation of protestant dissenters before and during and after Whiston’s lifetime, the possibility of increasing amounts of religious toleration granted by the throne and Church of England hierarchy was greater than it was with predominately Catholic dissent. In fact, with the emergence of William III and Mary II during the glorious revolution of 1688-1689, ‘the ice of Anglican intolerance had melted in the heat generated by the conflict with a Catholic king.’97 Nonetheless, Whiston himself continued to hold the mindset that significant religious diversity was dangerous. Indeed, the word toleration did not lose its ‘negative and critical overtones … until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century’. 98 As manifested in his desire to have a theological and liturgical unified church, Whiston was no latitudinarian.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.ci.   Ibid., 1.HP.ciii. 96   Stephen D. Snobelen’s Ph.D. thesis is invaluable for reconstructing Whiston’s career moves after his expulsion from Cambridge in 1710. In fact, Snobelen says that he has ‘placed the greatest emphasis on the aspect of Whiston’s career about which we formerly knew the least: namely, his public lecturing, which was Whiston’s most important source of income for at least two decades after his expulsion from Cambridge.’ S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston: Natural philosopher, prophet, primitive Christian’ (2000), 10. See especially chapter 3, ‘Natural Philosopher’. 97  Coffey, Persecution and Toleration (2000), 198. Coffey quotes from Jonathan Israel’s work, ‘Possibly no other major statesman of early modern times came to be so closely associated with the cause of religious toleration in his own time and made so considerable a contribution to the achievement of religious and intellectual freedom in the Western word as the Stadholder-King, William III’ (197). For Israel himself, see Jonathan Israel, ‘William III and toleration’ (1991), 129-69, at 129. Later, after discussing the still incomplete nature of toleration after 1689, Coffey writes, ‘Yet in facing up to the persistence of intolerance in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, we should not blind ourselves to the transformation wrought in 1689’ (203). 98   A. Walsham, Charitable Hatred (2006), 5. 94 95

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Whiston argues that the New Testament documents themselves are of a different nature than the Apostolic Constitutions. The New Testament gospels, for example, pertain to ‘private Duties of particular men’ more than they do ‘to the publick Duties of Christians, consider’d properly as Members of his Church.’99 Furthermore, the gospels content themselves with reported events prior to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension – ‘the History, the Miracles and Preaching of our Lord’.100 As for the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of the apostles, it is clear to Whiston that they are ‘far from a Regular Digest of Laws, for the founding and governing the Christian Church’.101 In fact, the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of the apostles assume that such a system of church governance is already in place. There they only mention ‘occasional Directions and additional Orders upon several emergencies, which happen’d in some Places, distinct form the proper and general Settlement of Christianity among them’.102 Whiston anticipates, or perhaps he had the debate in a Cambridge coffee house already, that some people will argue that the New Testament accomplishes what Whiston argues the Apostolic Constitutions provide. Whiston, with his characteristic sharp tone, responds ‘that this is utterly false.’103 The church fathers never suggested that the New Testament documents provide a blueprint for church governance. Additionally, the New Testament literature is ‘very different form that which every such Body of Laws ought to contain; and which the Body of the Jewish Laws do contain accordingly.’104 For Whiston, the pieces fit together even if there is some uncertainty here and there about details such as when Paul received the Apostolic Constitutions. The church needs direction concerning how it conducts its affairs just as God provided through Moses during the pre-Christian era. And, as we will continue to see in the pages to come, the Apostolic Constitutions prove themselves authentic in the light of critical scrutiny. Thus, and here we hear the heart of Whiston’s plea, if the Apostolic Constitutions are reinstated into the life of the church ‘those unhappy Quarrels, Schisms, and Disorders; that fatal Tyranny, Idolatry, and Wickedness which, like a Torrent, have overflow’d the Christian World in all these later Ages’ can be corrected.105

  W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.161.   Ibid., 3.162. 101   Ibid. 102   Ibid. 103   Ibid., 3.161. 104   Ibid. 105   Ibid., 3.164. 99

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Chapter 3 Defense In earlier chapters we discussed the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, Whiston’s discovery of the Apostolic Constitutions, and Whiston’s understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions. We now explore the manner Whiston defended their authenticity. Of course, the previous discussion of Whiston’s understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions has brought to the surface some of his points of defense such as the role of Paul. However, we will now move on to examine the specific arguments Whiston used to persuade his contemporaries that the Apostolic Constitutions were just that – apostolical. Whiston structures his argument into two main categories – internal arguments and external arguments. In relation to his internal arguments, Whiston will narrow his focus to chronology. We begin with a look at some of the more interesting of Whiston’s internal arguments. Then we will discuss, with more detail, Whiston’s ‘Particular Internal and Chronological Evidence’. Finally, we will turn our attention to Whiston’s external arguments – the people and texts from the history of the church that Whiston believes either quote from the Apostolic Constitutions or demonstrates a knowledge of them. This external evidence is, for Whiston, the most important of all. Internal As we approach Whiston’s discussion of the internal proofs for the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions, we do well to remember Whiston’s belief that since the Apostolic Constitutions claim to be the words of the apostles gathered together by Clement, then this significant claim ought to be investigated closely; not merely brushed aside.1 Whiston builds on this conviction with the observation that the Apostolic Constitutions are in the name ‘of the Body, or publick Assembly of the Apostles’ which ‘imply it to be Authoritative, Legislative, and Apostolical, as the like Stile of the Laws of Moses’.2 Whiston’s point, somewhat ambiguously, seems to be that the Apostolic Constitutions claim to be from a group and they function that way as does ‘an Act of Parliament’.3 Of course, Whiston readily concedes that even this style of writing is not ‘absolutely Impossible to Counterfeit’.4 Thus, he has much more to say.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.7.   Ibid., 3.168. 3   Ibid. 4   Ibid. 1 2

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We have previously noted Whiston’s desire to draw parallels between the Apostolic Constitutions and the Mosaic law found in the Pentateuch. He does so yet again as he seeks to demonstrate internal evidence for the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston notes that just as the law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai for a period of forty days, so were the Apostolic Constitutions given on Mount Zion over a period of forty days.5 Furthermore, Whiston laments that the ‘Faith of the Jews, even as to those ritual and ceremonial Laws of Moses’ is stronger ‘than that of the Christians at this Day, as to the nobler and more rational Laws of the Gospel’.6 The reason is that the Jews have not set aside their constitutions as the Christians have. The Apostolic Constitutions, as with the laws of Moses, institute practices that reinforce the mighty acts of God. For example, the Jewish feasts of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles recall great moments from Jewish history. Likewise, the Apostolic Constitutions ‘was appointed to be every Year solemnly commemorated by a Fast, which took its very Name form those Forty Days.’7 Whiston lists other examples. For example he notes the change of the main day for public worship from Saturday to Sunday, and standing upright for prayer on Saturday and Sunday, as well as between Easter and Whitsontide, ‘were plainly appointed as lasting Memorials of the fundamental fact of Christianity, the Resurrection of our Lord; and yet without wholly laying aside the Seventh Days Memory of the Creation; which is always a lesser Day of Joy and Holiness on that account in the same Constitutions.’8 Also, instead of the Jewish practice of fasting on Tuesday and Thursdays, the Apostolic Constitutions set aside Wednesday and Friday for this purpose because Judas betrayed Jesus on a Wednesday and Jesus died on a Friday. We should remember here that in chapter one, I traced, via Whiston’s writings, his increasing confidence in the authority of the Apostolic Constitutions. There, we heard Whiston call the Apostolic Constitutions on equal authority with the four gospels and then later Whiston labelled the Apostolic Constitutions ‘the most Sacred of the Canonical Books of the New Testament.’9 While Whiston did not conclude that the Apostolic Constitutions replaced the New Testament, he did assign lower and higher levels of authority to the New Testament documents. Thus, ‘If any one has a mind to sort the several Sacred Books of the New Testament, he may in the first place set the Apostolical Constitutions; with its Extract, or Doctrine of the Apostles’.10 ‘In the next Rank’ Whiston places the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and   Ibid., 3.172.   Ibid., 3.176. 7   Ibid., 3.177. This must be a reference to Pentecost (Whitsunday). 8   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.177. 9   Ibid., 3 (title page). 10   Ibid., 3.72. 5 6



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­ evelation.11 Whiston places the letters of Paul, Peter, and John in the third R rank. James and Jude belong in the fourth rank. In the final and least important rank Whiston places documents we are not accustomed to seeing in the New Testament. Rather these documents today are found in the Apostolic Fathers: Barnabas, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp. After making known his five ranks of New Testament documents, Whiston states it plainly, ‘All which, with the additions perhaps of the second Book of the Apocryphal Esdras; and of the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Acts of Paul were they now Extant, I look upon, tho’ in different Degrees, as the Sacred Books of the New Testament.’12 Interestingly in light of the exalted place Whiston grants to the Apostolic Constitutions, he nowhere indicates that the Apostolic Constitutions replaced the Torah, only that the Apostolic Constitutions serve the same purpose in the life of the Christian church as the Torah does in the life of the Jewish synagogue. In fact, as we will hear in the next paragraph, the Torah and the Apostolic Constitutions maintain a certain intimacy. The reason for skepticism and infidelity among Christians then is due to ‘the laying aside, in great part, of those Divine Rules; and settling Christianity upon other humane, prudential, and political Laws and Considerations.’13 Whiston does not specify what he means by ‘political laws and Considerations’. However, as we have seen throughout this work, and will continue to observe in the final chapter of this book, Whiston was highly critical of people who lacked the bravery, such as Sir Isaac Newton, to confront the laws and doctrines established by the Church of England when necessary. Furthermore, again as we have seen and will continue to observe especially in the final chapter, Whiston loathed his colleague’s willingness to forgo challenges to established church doctrine, especially with regard to the Trinity and Incarnation, such as Samuel Clarke, in exchange for political and ecclesiastical advancement. In fact, in an unusually bold move even for Whiston, he calls out individuals by name to challenge them to come clean with their true religious beliefs which are very similar to the beliefs for which Whiston is ostracized. At the conclusion to his appendix discussing primitive doxologies found in volume four of Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, Whiston writes, ‘To conclude: I do here solemnly appeal … to Bishop Lloyd, Bishop Wake, Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Peter King, Dr. Hickes, Dr. Allix, Dr.  Cave, Dr. Whitby, Dr. Grabe, Dr. Smalridge, Dr. Potter, Dr. Clarke, Mr. Wall, and the other great Masters of Primitive Antiquity; and claim it is the right of Truth and Religion, that they speak their minds fairly and fully, as they will answer it to our common Lord another day, when no political, prudential, or temporal Regards will be admitted against the plain Demands of Conscience   Ibid.   Ibid., 3.73. 13   Ibid., 3.176. 11 12

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and Sincerity.’14 This is an unusually bold move because I know of no other place where Whiston reveals the nature of Newton’s religious beliefs in print before Newton’s death. Newton died in 1727. These words were published in 1711. We will have much more to say about this appendix shortly. Whatever the exact meaning of ‘political laws and Considerations’, for Whiston the laying aside of the Apostolic Constitutions is a shame because, ‘These, and like remarkable Circumstances and Appointments shew, that the Laws of Moses and these Constitutions before us are deriv’d from one common Divine Original, and carry on one common drift and purpose.’15 As alluded to in the previous paragraph, another important theme in Whiston’s writings, not just in his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, is the doxologies used in the church. Before we go any further, and because the doxologies are so important to Whiston, we need to hear from Whiston himself about the centrality of the doxologies to worship. In his ‘An Historical Preface’, he explains how he discovered the doxologies used in his mother church were not in accord with the earliest, and therefore authentic, doxologies found in early Christian literature. Whiston was tasked by the heads of the charity schools to choose the most appropriate passages from Dr. Brady and Mr. Tate’s version of the psalms to be used in the charity schools and the churches in Cambridge. When Whiston completed this project, he then proceeded to add the doxologies. It was then that Whiston discovered that the doxologies employed by the Church of England were inauthentic. Therefore, Whiston composed new doxologies! These doxologies agreed with those earliest doxologies. Whiston presented this work to the ministers for their use and the ministers rejected Whiston’s new doxologies. The work, therefore, was printed with the then current doxologies. Whiston says that his effort was in vain. However, Whiston did print, at his own expense, one hundred copies with his doxologies for his own use and the use of some of his friends, ‘that might be willing to Glorify the Father through the Son, in the Holy Ghost, according to the Original Appointment of the Apostles; and not to go along with common Custom, without, if not against all that Sacred Authority whereby we ought to be guided in such Matters of Divine Worship and Adoration.’16 Interestingly one of the charges that led to Whiston’s removal from his Lucasian chair was that ‘Mr. Whiston asserts, that the Doxology, current in all these later Ages, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, was not the true Christian Doxology.’17   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 4.appendix.24-5.   Ibid., 3.179. 16   See W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.Historical Preface.cxxxii. 17   Ibid., 1.Appendix.cxlviii. For more concerning the debate over the official charges against Whiston by the vice-chancellor and other heads of schools, see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: Was He or Wasn’t He?’ (2012), 19-33 at 20-4. For more on Whiston and charity-schools, see 14 15



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Whiston believes that the doxologies found in the Apostolic Constitutions ‘are a most sensible proof of their Genuine and Apostolical Antiquity’.18 The doxologies in the Apostolic Constitutions say ‘to the Father, through the Son; or sometimes, to the Father, and the Son; but always in or by the Holy Ghost’.19 This is the original form of the doxology used by Christian communities. In the fourth century, however, the doxologies were changed and ‘suited to the corrupt Doctrines of that Age.’20 Thus, the doxologies from the fourth century onwards do not use distinguishing particles. Rather, ‘and is equally us’d of the Son and Spirit.’21 As we have seen elsewhere, Whiston characteristically overstates his case. We see this reality even in the quote provided in the previous paragraph. Whiston himself acknowledges that the doxologies in the Apostolic Constitutions are sometime offered to the Father and the Son, even as they are always found with in the Holy Spirit. Even though Whiston’s point is to demonstrate that ‘and’ is never used for the Holy Spirit in the Apostolic Constitutions, his argument about the subordinate nature of the primitive doxologies would be full proof if ‘through’ were always used with the relationship of Father and Son in the doxologies. Whiston declines even to address this phenomenon. Nonetheless, Whiston, ever the attentive and thorough scholar, provides a helpful service when he records eight pages of doxologies in the appendix to volume 4 of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d mentioned earlier. These doxologies emerge from the New Testament (Paul, Peter, Jude, Revelation), 1 Clement, and the Apostolic Constitutions. In his 18-page discussion of these doxologies, he also addresses doxologies found in the Martyrdom of Polycarp. In fact, Whiston provides a doxology from the Apostolic Constitutions and the Martyrdom of Polycarp where ‘and’ and not ‘in’ or ‘through’ is used of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I provide Whiston’s translation of a doxology found in Apostolic Constitutions 8.12 where this dynamic is present: ‘For to thee belongs all glory, and worship, and thanksgiving, and honour and adoration, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, both now, and always, and for everlasting and endless ages for ever.’22 When Whiston discusses this type of doxology that obviously serves as evidence contra his main thesis that the W. Whiston, ‘Charity Schools Recommended’ (1709). Part of this piece is a sermon that Whiston preached at Trinity Church in Cambridge on January 25, 1704/5. At this juncture, Whiston had not yet made his doxology discovery as he concludes the sermon with ‘for the sake of our Blessed Saviour Christ Jesus. To whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Three Persons, and One God, be all Honour, Glory, Thanksgiving, Adoration, and Obedience, rendered by us and all Creatures, henceforth, and forevermore. Amen’ (123). 18   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.185. 19   Ibid. 20   Ibid. 21   Ibid. 22   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 4.appendix.6.

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earliest Christian doxologies were strictly subordinationist and the Son, and especially the Holy Spirt, were never equated with God the Father; he proposes, as he often does in circumstances like this, the possibility of textual corruption. He writes, ‘The publick Doxologies of the Jewish and Gentile Liturgies, contin’d in the seventh and eighth Books of the Constitutions, are directed sometimes to the Father alone, sometimes to the Father, and the Son, in the Holy Ghost: nay sometimes, if the Copies are not corrupted, of which presently, to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost; especially in the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, when the church did rather more solemnly mention the Holy Ghost than upon any other occasion.’23 Whiston’s method of keeping a tally of how often something occurs and then deciding to favor the column with the greatest number of marks lacks the sophistication we expect from someone of Whiston’s stature. Hear Whiston again: ‘However, upon the whole, we may very easily see the great distinction there was among the first Christians in the Worship paid severally to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and in what matter and forms they were glorify’d then by them.’24 With his ‘upon the whole’ Whiston simply brushes aside the exceptions to the rule. In his appendix of doxologies, Whiston also provides this doxology from the Martyrdom of Polycarp 22: ‘Jesus Christ: With whom glory be to God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of his chosen Saints.’25 In his discussion of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Whiston notes that Eusebius records this text not as ‘and the Holy Spirit’ but as ‘in the Holy Spirit’. Naturally, Whiston concludes that the reading in Eusebius is ‘probably the original reading’.26 However, due to Eusebius’ own strong subordinationist stance, the argument could be made that Eusebius changed the reading to conform to what he thought was the most likely authentic reading.27 In fact, Whiston’s observations about the doxologies found in Athanasius’ writings point to the most obvious conclusion from the texts Whiston set forth: the wording of the doxologies in earliest Christianity is not consistent. Sometimes we find ‘in’ and ‘through’ in relation to the Son and the Holy Spirit. And, other times, early Christians wrote ‘and’ in relation to the Son and the Holy Spirit. Whiston observes that in his earlier writings, such as On the Incarnation, Athanasius uses ‘in the Holy Spirit’ and not ‘and the Holy Spirit’. However, in his later writings, such as his letter to Serapion, Athanasius employs ‘and’ and   Ibid., 9.   Ibid. 25   Ibid., 8. 26   Ibid., 10. 27   For detailed discussion of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Christology (and Athanasius’ Christology), see P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 143-56. For more on the ancient scribal practice of restoring texts deemed to be corrupt see Ibid., 50-5. 23 24



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‘with’ in place of ‘in’. As we have seen, Whiston strongly believed that Christianity took a wrong turn in the fourth century under the leadership of Athanasius. Thus, we are not surprised to hear Whiston suggest, ‘So that ‘tis very probable this great Corruption of the Apostolic Constitutions, and the Alterations in the publick Worship consequent thereupon, are to be dated from the latter days of Athanasius, and the introduction of the Consubstantiality and Coequality of the Holy Ghost and the same time, and not sooner.’28 I cannot help but to ponder what Whiston would make of my conclusion concerning the seemingly inconsistent claims of early Christians over the equality and the inequality of the Son to the Father which is also demonstrated in these early doxologies that Whiston brings to the surface. Instead of brushing aside the exceptions (and there are many), I suggest ‘pre-Nicene Christians were content to live with a paradoxical understanding of the relationship of the Son to the Father: the Son was understood to be both subordinate to and equal with the Father.’29 I suggest this same principle is on display in the doxologies Whiston discusses. Furthermore, Whiston does not address, in this appendix, one of the most intriguing doxologies in early Christian literature – 2 Corinthians 13.14. I provide the Greek and my translation: Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν – The grace of the Lord Jesus (the) Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (be) with all of you. This represents a major exception, with no significant textual variants, within Whiston’s methodology. Notice the use of ‘and’ throughout and not ‘through’ and/or ‘in’. Furthermore, to fully satisfy Whiston, the text should read, ‘The love of God through the grace of the Lord Jesus (the) Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (be) with you all.’ As further evidence for the corruption of early doxologies Whiston points to Basil’s defense of ‘altering in, and of introducing and, or with the Holy Ghost.30 Whiston applauds Basil for, at least, looking for an earlier precedent for this practice. However, he notes Basil ‘labours to prove with considerable search and application’ his point that some men used ‘and’ or ‘with’ the Holy Ghost at the beginning of the third century.31 Whiston also points to Socrates, the fifth-century church historian, who referred to the original form of the doxology as an Arian doxology. Thus, Whiston thinks the churches ‘ought immediately to Correct their modern form, which is only owing to the Corrupters of the   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 4.appendix.12.   P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 97. 30   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.186. Whiston’s reference here is to Basil’s On the Holy Spirit. For a general treatment of Basil’s understanding of the Holy Spirit, see A. Meredith, The Cappadocians (1995), 29-35. For more discussion, see F. Young with A. Teal, From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and Its Background (2010), 152-62. 31   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.186. 28 29

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Faith and Worship of the Gospel in the Fourth Century; and which cannot be prov’d to have been ventur’d upon, even by private Christians, till about the beginning of the Third.’32 To this end, Whiston published his The Liturgy of the Church of England, Reduc’d nearer to the Primitive Standard, Humbly proposed to Publick Consideration. The first edition was offered in 1713; the second edition, corrected in 1750. This work consists of the liturgy that was ‘made use of in the first and best Period of the Reformation, under King Edward VI.’33 The liturgy current in the Church of England was much more Calvinistic and therefore, according to Whiston, corrupt. Nonetheless, even in relation to the earlier and best form of the liturgy from the time of King Edward VI, Whiston corrected it based on the Apostolic Constitutions. He makes a point to say that he has omitted that form of the doxology called Athanasian.34 Before advancing this discussion further, Whiston’s 1719 letter to the Bishop of London is worthy of mention. In this lengthy letter, Whiston’s sarcasm is on full display. The bishop of London, John Robinson, would have recognized Whiston’s sarcasm immediately from the title given to the published letter: Mr. Whiston’s Letter of Thanks To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London, For His late Letter To His Clergy Against the Use of New Forms of Doxology, &c. Whiston provides the opening words of the bishop’s letter to the clergy in his diocese. In his letter, Robinson warns against the use of ‘new Forms of the Doxology, entirely agreeable to those of some Ancient Hereticks, who impiously denied a Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Godhead.’35 So, what Robinson calls new doxologies are actually ancient doxologies. And it is these ancient doxologies, as we have seen, that Whiston believes orthodox. Thus, in a turn of phrase, Whiston thanks the bishop of London for condemning new doxologies. By new doxologies, Whiston means the ones current in the church of England not the ancient doxologies that Robinson condemns. By new doxologies, Robinson means the ancient doxologies that some prefer, such as Whiston, to the doxologies current in the church! In his letter, Whiston provides the bishop with ‘all the certainly genuine Forms of Doxology’.36 In all, Whiston records 42 doxologies mostly from the New Testament and the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston notes the latest of   Ibid., 3.186-7.   W. Whiston, The Liturgy of the Church of England, Reduc’d nearer to the Primitive Standard, Humbly proposed to Publick Consideration (1750), preface.2. 34   Ibid., preface.4. 35   A Letter from the Lord Bishop of London to the Incumbents of all Churches and Chapels in his Diocese, concerning their not using any New Forms of Doxology, &c., in William Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Letter of Thanks To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London, For His late Letter To His Clergy Against the Use of New Forms of Doxology, &c. (1719), 2. 36   W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Letter of Thanks To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London (1719), 4. 32 33



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these doxologies ‘is near two hundred Years older than the Rise of either the Arrian [sic] or Athanasian Heresies.’37 Whiston also provides all the doxologies found in Athanasius’ writings. Even though Whiston concludes that the Athanasians provided the church with new forms of the doxology, he concludes, as we heard him say earlier, about Athanasius’ doxologies, ‘That Athanasius’s only Doxology before the Council of Nice, and not a few afterward also, were the same that has so long been called Arian; I mean that of in, and not to, or with the holy Spirit.’38 In a moment of high sarcasm, as Whiston puts pretend dialogue in the mouth of the bishop of London to make his point, Whiston clearly articulates how he understands earliest Christian worship. Whiston writes, ‘The New Testament still directs the solemn and Supreme Christian Worship to the same One True God the Father, through the Mediation of the Son, and by the Assistance of the Holy Spirit.’39 Whiston’s point, of course, is that the truly earliest forms of the doxology – that is pre-Nicene forms – reflect this mode of worship. Doxologies that differ from these earliest forms emerge from the fourth century, and from the hands of Athanasius and his followers, are in error.40 Now, let us continue with Whiston’s internal proofs.41 In addition to the earliest form of the doxology, the Apostolic Constitutions ‘have not any sign or footstep of a Multitude of Rulers, Practices, and Ceremonies which yet were introduc’d in the Second Century of the Church.’ 42 37   Ibid., 5. On Whiston and Arianism see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 755-71. 38   W. Whiston, Mr. Whiston’s Letter of Thanks To the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London (1719), 13. 39   Ibid., 21. 40   For more sarcasm, perhaps from Whiston, see Anonymous, The Tryal Of William Whiston, Clerk. For Defaming and Denying The Holy Trinity, Before The Lord Chief Justice Reason (1734). In this piece Whiston, who is a prisoner, and a Dr. Tr- - p present their understandings of the Trinity before the Lord Chief Justice Reason. Dr. Tr - - p argues for the Athanasian understanding of the Trinity. Whiston then asks the apostles and other dignitaries – Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James – if they believe in the Athanasian understanding of the Trinity. They say they do not. Dr. Tr - - p explains to Peter the Athanasian Trinity and Peter responds, ‘I am so far from being of your Opinion, that, I profess, I don’t understand you’ (18). Paul says, ‘I have shewed you, that my calling Christ, God, is not the least Proof in the world, that he must be the supreme God’ (41). John replies, ‘but this much I may venture to affirm, that the Gospel I wrote, and the Faith I preached, was to enlighten Mankind. But that the inventions of these Men have not only put out that Light, which the Gospel brought into the World, but have extinguished the Light of Nature itself’ (54-5). In the end, Whiston is acquitted by the judge and the jury. While Whiston’s name is in the title, an author is not identified for this piece. My initial thought is that Whiston did not write this. If he did not, then obviously it was written by a supporter. For the discovery of the author, and other reasons, this piece deserves more investigation than I can give now. Perhaps, I will do so later or someone else can tackle this project. 41   For more on Whiston’s work with liturgy in general, see W. Grisbrooke, Anglican Liturgies of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1958), ch. 4. 42   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.189.

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­ xamples include baptism of those near death, ‘superstitious’ crossings, fonts E in churches, the observation of Christmas day and the Epiphany, and the ­clergy’s involvement in political affairs.43 Whiston concludes that happenings such as these could not have all been omitted if they had been practiced. In fact, ‘there are plainly no Characters of this Nature in the Constitutions later than in the known Books of the New Testament themselves.’44 Furthermore, the Apostolic Constitutions call for a moderate discipline to be exercised on members of the community when necessary. Whiston refers to this form of discipline as moderate in comparison with the more severe forms that emerged later. He notes that the Apostolic Constitutions say that the time for repentance is to be up to seven weeks. However, the later practice was a lengthy period for repentance – two years. Here Whiston references Cotelerius, ‘that wonderful Master of Primitive Antiquity’.45 Cotelerius says that before the Montanist heresy the time for exclusion from the church was not severe. However, between Montanus and Novatian, the time of exclusion for repentant persons went up to two years.46 The practice found in the Apostolic Constitutions then is compatible with that of Paul’s handling of the incestuous man in 2 Corinthians 2 and Polycarp’s directive in the case of Valens. Therefore, the Apostolic Constitutions ‘must be still more Antient, and nearer the very first Times of Christianity.’47 Particular Internal and Chronological Evidence The above provides us with a sampling from some of Whiston’s internal proofs for the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. Though many of the above are related to issues of chronology, Whiston provides another section of arguments under the heading ‘The Particular Internal and Chronological Evidence for the Apostolical Constitutions’.48 This constitutes chapter three of his essay. As we witnessed earlier, Whiston finds the chronological evidence extremely persuasive. He believes that ‘almost every one’ of the ‘Chronological Characters’ found in the Apostolic Constitutions ‘belongs to the Times before the Destruction of Jerusalem.’49 As for the few ‘Chronological Characters’ that do not belong to the time before the destruction of Jerusalem, they are not many years after the destruction and they are found in the ‘last Addition to the same   Ibid., 3.190.   Ibid. 45   Ibid., 3.182. 46   Whiston oversimplifies. For a helpful discussion of the complexities surrounding the debates between Novatian and Cyprian over the proper response to the lapsed, see J. Burns, Cyprian the Bishop (2002), ch. 4. 47   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.183. 48   Ibid., 3.200. 49   Ibid. 43 44



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Constitutions only’.50 Because Whiston considers this component of his evidence so important, we will spend some time with what he has to say concerning each of the eight books of the Apostolic Constitutions. Earlier in his discussion, Whiston provided a chronological table for the New Testament documents as well as other early Christian literature.51 Whiston notes then that in the first book of the Apostolic Constitutions, only Matthew, Luke, and 1 Corinthians are cited. According to his chart all three of these documents were extant before 63. Thus, it appears that ‘few Books of the New Testament were published, or at least commonly known when this first Book was Written’.52 To Whiston’s point: even though ‘this first Book, for the use of the Laity seems a little distinct from and prior to the rest,’ it clearly predates the destruction of the temple in 70 CE as the New Testament references indicate.53 With a similar line of argument, Whiston contends that the second book, which provides guidelines for bishops, has later characters than the first book. However, none of these characters postdate the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. In the second book, penitents are to be dismissed from worship after the reading of the law, the prophets, and the gospel (2.39). Later in book two, specific directions are given concerning the different elements of a worship service based on the analogy of a ship. The building is to be long with its head to the east. The bishop’s throne is to be placed in the middle with the presbyters sitting on each side. The deacons, the managers of the ship, are to stand close by. The laity are to sit on the other side; the women are to sit by themselves in silence. A reader is to stand in the middle, from a high place, and he is to read: the Books of Moses, of Joshua the Son of Nun, of the Judges, and of the Kings, and of the Chronicles, and those written after the Return from the Captivity; and besides these, the Books of Job, and of Solomon, and of the Sixteen Prophets. But where there has been Two lessons severally read, let some other Person sing the Hymns of David … Afterwards let our Acts be read, and the Epistles of Paul … and afterwards let a   Ibid.   Ibid., 3.33-4. 52   Ibid., 3.201. Of course, modern scholarship, that was beginning to take root in Whiston’s own time via the work of Richard Simon, Baruch Spinoza, and others provides a major obstacle to Whiston’s argument here as today most scholars do not date the New Testament gospels before 70 CE. Furthermore, though they would balk at this suggestion, Whiston’s and Newton’s own contributions to biblical scholarship contributed to the dismantling of the traditional scholarship that they approved of, such as issues surrounding the historicity of the gospels as well as the eventual denial of their eyewitness authorship (in relation to Matthew and John). For more see, S. Nadler, A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (2011); G. McDonald, Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe: Erasmus, the Johannine Comma and Trinitarian Debate (2016), especially 117-278; R. Iliffe, Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton (2017), 375-9; B. Childs, ‘Biblical Scholarship in the Seventeenth Century: A Study in Ecumenics’ (2010), 325-33; and Maurice Wiles, ‘Newton and the Bible’ (2010), 334-50. 53   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.201. 50 51

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­Deacon or a Presbyter read the Gospels, both those which I Matthew and John have deliver’d to you, and those which the Fellow-workers of Paul received and left to you, Luke and Mark. (2.57)54

Whiston believes these two passages indicate ‘the compleat Canon of Scripture, as it stood when this Constitution was deliver’d or written’.55 Here we have four gospels and the letters of Paul. Since the exact number of Pauline letters is not recorded, Whiston concludes that it could only have meant those that were in circulation by 64 ‘or near the very Year of the famous Second Council of Jerusalem’.56 For Whiston, this is Corinthians, 1Timothy, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Hebrews. Thus, as with book one, book two predates the destruction of Jerusalem.57 Whiston skips to the fifth book because the third and fourth book, dealing with issues such as widows, orphans, baptism, and household responsibilities, contain few characteristics relevant to chronology. The one possibility, that Whiston draws attention to, is the command that a priest is not to receive a free-will offering from an immoral person (3.8). Perhaps this points to a ‘continuance of Jewish Worship, as being before the Destruction of Jerusalem.’58 Book five ‘has as late Characters as any we have hitherto met with, tho’ not later than the Destruction of Jerusalem’.59 In book five Stephen and James, the bishop of Jerusalem, are dead (5.8). For Whiston then it is significant that James was put to death before the destruction of Jerusalem. 54   The Greek text is found in Ibid., 3.203. Recall from chapter two that, in 1712, Whiston published this volume with the original languages replaced with his English translations for the benefit of the general population. The translation here is Whiston’s found in this 1712 version at 3.101-2. Going forward, if it is not made clear otherwise, this version will be cited with the date in such a way as to make it clear. 55   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.203. 56   Ibid., 3.204. 57   Again, Whiston makes no mention of the possibility that 1Timothy, Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews were not written by Paul. If in fact all, or some, of these documents post-date Paul’s lifetime, Whiston’s argument becomes moot. However, there are still credible scholars who argue, for example, that Paul did indeed write 1 and 2Timothy. For a thrilling example see, L. Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (2001). Johnson provides an excellent history of interpretation directed towards 1 and 2Timothy. He notes that it was not until 1807 that Pauline authorship of 1Timothy was questioned. The question was raised by Friedrich Schleiermacher in a letter to J.C. Glass. Today, the denial of Pauline authorship of 1Timothy, 2Timothy, and Titus is a consensus view. However, as Johnson notes, ‘To be sure, the existence of a majority opinion is far from a guarantee of the truth of that position.’ Johnson himself makes a more than cogent case that 1Timothy and 2Timothy were in fact written by Paul, an argument Whiston would find irresistibly attractive. The quotation comes from page 55. For Johnson’s history of interpretation see pages 20-54. Johnson discusses the use of 1Timothy in the Apostolic Constitutions on pages 23-4. His brief treatment of ‘The Meaning of Authorship’, on pages 58-60, is especially instructive. 58   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.205. 59   Ibid.



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The by now common theme of the mentioned New Testament books arises again. In 5.19, Whiston notes that the apostles call for the reading of the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and the Gospel on the night before Easter. The impression received here is that only the gospels were in circulation, ‘which Character would place this Constitution no later than A.D. 63.’60 Whiston, apparently anticipating his detractors, acknowledges that a full list of books is not given. Furthermore, he concedes that the Gospels would be appropriate reading materials for Easter celebrations. Nonetheless, this evidence does point towards a time before the destruction of Jerusalem. Continuing with the theme of Easter, Whiston notes that the original rule of Easter is preserved in Epiphanius’ ‘uncorrupt copy’ of the Apostolic Constitutions.61 He quotes from Epiphanius’ Panarion. Here Epiphanius records the apostles as teaching, ‘in their own Constitutions’, the church to keep Easter with the Jewish Passover.62 If the Jews calculate the date of Passover wrong the Christians are to keep it with them anyway. However, the eighth canon of the Apostolic Constitutions gives different direction. It says that the bishop, presbyter, and deacon are not to celebrate Passover with the Jews if the time allotted is before the vernal equinox. Characteristically, Whiston has an answer. In Epiphanius, the goal is to maintain unity with the rest of the church following the lead of the Jerusalem Church, ‘while it was under its first Fifteen Bishops of the Circumcision’.63 Thus, while the Jerusalem church was still the mother church, the rest of the church was to follow along even if there was perceived to be an error. However, when the Jerusalem church no longer held this place of privilege, and only unbelieving Jews used this method of calculation, the Gentile churches were no longer required to fall in line. Whiston reasons that the Jerusalem church held supremacy ‘till the Destruction of Jerusalem, nay perhaps till the Persecution under Vespasian, if not also till that under Domitian’.64 While it would seem that this commentary actually serves to put a crack in his argument, Whiston concludes, ‘Which remarkable Circumstance excellently agrees to the Time already stated, a little before the Destruction of Jerusalem.’65 Though Whiston does not spell it out, I suspect it is his conviction that the canons were added at the last council in 86 CE that governs his thinking here. Finally, Whiston finds the words in Apostolic Constitutions 5.20 to imply that the temple was then standing. Here we are told that the Jews gathered on   Ibid., 3.206.   Ibid., 3.206. We will hear from Whiston later about corruption in the surviving texts of the Apostolic Constitutions. 62   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.206-7 / 3.103 (1712). 63   Ibid., 3.207. 64   Ibid., 3.207-8. 65   Ibid., 3.208. 60 61

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the tenth day of Gorpiaeus and read from Lamentations and Baruch. They then cried over the destruction that occurred under Nebuchadnezzar. Whiston sees no other way to interpret these words except that the temple was then standing.66 However, we will hear form Whiston’s critics soon enough. Book six is interesting because here Whiston acknowledges that the material after chapter nineteen is later than the destruction of Jerusalem, though not much later. However, there is a statement in book six that appears to come from a time much later than 70 CE. Whiston believes that this statement must be ‘an inserted or additional Clause, afterward put in, about A.D. 86’. 67 The statement occurs within the narrative of Peter’s condemnation of Simon Magus. Peter’s actual condemnation of Simon Magus, of course, occurred before the destruction of the Temple. However, in Apostolic Constitutions 6.8, the following false prophets are mentioned along with Simon: Cleobius, Dositheus, Cerinthus, Marcus, Menander, Basilides, and Saturnilus. Whiston notes that it is unlikely that Basilides and Saturnilus were alive when Peter was alive because ‘those Hereticks appear not till nearer the Conclusion of the first Century; whereas Peter was Crucify’d under Nero, about A.D. 67.’68 Thus, this statement belongs to a time ‘considerably after the Destruction of Jerusalem’.69 As intimated above, if the entire phrase that includes Basilides and Saturnilus is removed, the account of the conflict between Peter and Simon is more coherent. In fact, the problematic phase is not at all necessary. As we have seen in relation to the doxologies, Whiston is not shy about acknowledging interpolation in the Apostolic Constitutions – especially so if an interpolation will help his overall argument. We will also observe Whiston’s critics take note of this tendency. After pointing out other pre-70 chronological indicators in book six such as the statement in Apostolic Constitutions 6.6 that the Ebionites were a newly arisen group and the account of the first Council of Jerusalem in 48 found in Apostolic Constitutions 6.12, Whiston then addresses the contents after chapter nineteen that emerge from a time period after the destruction of Jerusalem. In these chapters we find the events of the fourth Council of Jerusalem in 71 CE. This part of the Apostolic Constitutions is ‘the only certain Branch which was Written after the Destruction of Jerusalem’ as there are references in Apostolic Constitutions 6.25 to the Romans stopping Jewish worship and sacrifice no longer allowed.70 This part of Apostolic Constitutions 6 is most important as it concludes the Catholic Doctrine of the first six books which appears to have circulated by itself, contains ‘the most solemn Doxology that ever was’, and   Ibid.   Ibid., 3.210. 68   Ibid. 69   Ibid., 3.209. 70   Ibid., 3.215. 66 67



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commits the materials to such reputable persons as Titus, Luke, Jason, Lucius, and Sosipater.71 The seventh book, ‘an Abridgement of many of the former’ with the addition of moral instructions; prayers and thanksgivings; a complete office for baptism; the authentic Apostles’ Creed; and a listing of all apostolic bishops, ‘probably belongs to the Times before, at least not long after the Destruction of Jerusalem.’72 The mention of a couple of bishops at the end of the book push some of its contents past 70 CE. Among the internal chronological indicators for a mostly pre-70 time period Whiston points to, the following are most interesting. Throughout Whiston’s writings, he sounds much like the modern scholar with his emphasis of the Jewish nature of earliest Christianity. Thus, it is not surprising that he finds it noteworthy that in book seven the days of the week are still called after a Jewish manner.73 In addition, he believes that the doxology in Apostolic Constitutions 7.33 is representative of an early Jewish form of Christianity – ‘O thou Great Protector of the Posterity of Abraham, thou art blessed for ever.’74 Whiston lays much stress on the accuracy of the list of bishops that is found in Apostolic Constitutions 7. In fact, Whiston thinks that this piece of evidence does more than just prove the antiquity of the document. It also settles the disputes about the proper form of church government and ‘yet such as hardly any Body of late ever took the least notice of in that Controversy.’75 For all his qualms with the Church of England of his day, Whiston did not question the episcopal form of church government. This manner of governing the church went back to Jesus and the apostles. In Apostolic Constitutions 7.46, Whiston’s nineteen apostolical churches are listed along with those who have served as bishops to these nineteen churches. In addition, the name of the apostle, when singled out, who ordained each of these bishops is provided. So, for example, the first three bishops of Jerusalem were James the Lord’s brother, Simeon, and Judas. They were ordained simply by the ‘apostles’, as no one apostle is singled out. The first two bishops of Antioch were Euodius and Ignatius. Peter ordained Euodius and Paul ordained Ignatius. Even though Whiston acknowledges some minor points of discrepancy between this list and traditions found elsewhere in early Christian literature, such as the omission of Anencletus as a bishop of Rome and the fact that Chrysostom says it was Peter who ordained Ignatius and not Paul, he concludes that this list is genuine. Whiston believes that there is enough evidence that this bishop list is a ‘true and authentick Record’ to make an argument against the trustworthiness of the   Ibid.,   Ibid., 73   Ibid., 74   Ibid., 75   Ibid., 71 72

3.216. 3.216-7. 3.218. 3.220 / 3.110 (1712). 3.222.

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list ‘almost unquestionable’.76 Among other, seemingly less significant, things he points to the omission of two key locations form this bishops’ list – Corinth and Philippi. Whiston implies that if this list were a forgery, or simply the product of a much later attempt at remembrance, then Corinth and Philippi would likely be included in the list due to their fame. The reason they are omitted is because those two churches are ‘the only two that we are sure from other evidence had no Bishops in the earliest Ages, when others had’.77 Clement’s letter to the Corinthians and Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians demonstrate the absence of a bishop in these locals. Thus, ‘If this omission of Corinth and Philippi, join’d to the oldest attestations to the rest, be not next to an undeniable mark of genuine Antiquity, I do not know what is to be esteemed such.’78 In his continued discussion of book seven, Whiston discusses the various bishops to demonstrate that all their lives overlapped at some point with that of one or more of the apostles. He does note, however, that some, such as Theophilus the latest mentioned bishop of Caesarea, may have been ordained as late as 86. In this case, the ordination occurred around 86 CE ‘when the last Hand seems to have been put to this whole Collection by the surviving Apostles, and Clement.’79 Whiston finishes his discussion of book seven by returning to the theme of the episcopal manner of church government. He observes that the ‘Settlement of the Churches under Bishops was very early begun in the principal churches.’80 Even though early, it was not immediate as the process began around 67 CE and for other churches, as we have already heard, for example Corinth and Philippi, the ordaining of a bishop was even later. The result was that ‘in a little time all the Churches in the World were under the Episcopal Government.’81 Whiston’s comments on book eight are particularly intriguing as he once thought that only the first seven books came from Clement’s pen ‘and that his Eight Books were to be made up by supposing the Seventh divided into Two; and that therefore a great part of this Eighth was collected later than the other, and that by Hippolytus himself also.’82 The reason Hippolytus’ name surfaces here is because the first two chapters of the Apostolic Constitutions consist of   Ibid., 3.224.   Ibid., 3.226. 78   Ibid. 79   Ibid., 3.227. Whiston thinks it likely that this Theophilus is the same Theophilus to whom Luke dedicated his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. 80   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.230-1. 81   Ibid., 3.231. Here Whiston gives his understanding of why the New Testament rarely, if at all, distinguished bishops from presbyters although other early Christian literature does. The distinction was first put into place in the Council of 64. Paul and Luke – the two people who speak to this issue – were not at this council. At the time of the council Whiston conjectures that Paul was in in the West, perhaps in Spain. He does not indicate where Luke was during the council. 82   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.235. 76 77



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The Apostolic Tradition concerning Gifts. This same title was found inscribed in a list of books, attributed to Hippolytus, on a marble statue that was discovered in Rome in 1551.83 However, Whiston experienced a change of mind. Among other issues the following led him to conclude that Clement, and not Hippolytus, was the original source for this material: all complete copies of the Apostolic Constitutions contain the eighth book; none of the copies contain Hippolytus’ title anywhere in them; the Ethiopic extracts, a little over a century after Hippolytus, credit Clement with all eight books; and Stephen Gobar and Photius claim that Hippolytus thought someone other than Paul wrote Hebrews. Yet, the last of the Apostolic canons indicate Paul was the author of Hebrews.84 Now that this ‘obscure matter concerning Hippolytus’s Title’ has been addressed, Whiston moves on to some, by now, familiar themes in his effort to place the Apostolic Constitutions in their entirety in the first century. First, however, it must be emphasized that Whiston did not think it defeat to change his mind as discussed in the above paragraph. On the contrary, it was something he was quite willing to do if new evidence called for a different conclusion or if further evaluation of the same evidence called for a different conclusion. We saw this, for example in chapter two, with Whiston’s change of mind in relation to 2 Esdras. Initially, Whiston thought 2 Esdras spurious but later changed his mind and determined it was authentic. Whiston’s words to the Lord Bishop of Worcester then seem to be sincere and not simply flowery rhetoric. In this letter, Whiston says that he is so confident, after his ‘full, impartial and honest Enquiry’ that ‘I do verily believe, that I might engage to burn my own Collection of the Texts of Scripture and Ancient Testimonies, in case any one would bring me but the Tenth Part of so many, so ancient, and so plain Texts and Testimonies, for the contrary Doctrine now current.’85 I do think the point of Whiston’s declaration – that he will retract his opinions if proven wrong to his satisfaction – is sincere. However, he appears to allude to Martin Luther here as, at the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther refused to recant any of his writings. He then said that if his writings could be proven wrong by Prophets or the Gospels, he would be the first to throw his writings into the fire.86 Interestingly, just as Luther admitted that his rhetoric against his opponents was too strong at times for a clergyman, Whiston will concede the same about his polemical writings. While Whiston does not make much mention of Luther in his writings, it does appear that Whiston echoes Luther from 83  For a succinct treatment of the elaborate issues surrounding this statue and the works ascribed on it see P. Bradshaw, Reconstructing Early Christian Worship (2009), 45-50. See also, M. Vinzent, Writing the History of Early Christianity (2019), 168-73. 84   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.235-6. Canon 85 refers to the ‘fourteen Epistles of Paul’. 85   See W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.xlix-l. 86   For more on the Diet of Worms see, M. Mullet, Martin Luther (2005), 99-158.

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time to time. I suspect this is intentional. It is also worth remembering that Whiston changed his mind about the Apostolic Constitutions themselves. As we saw in chapter one, Whiston thought them spurious before concluding, after personal investigation, that they were the most authentic book of the New Testament. As we shall see, Whiston’s critics often point out the direction Whiston moves in when he changes his mind – the direction that already supports his heretical beliefs. In Apostolic Constitutions 8.44, there is an exhortation to avoid intoxication even as the consumption of alcohol itself is approved. Within the context of this discussion we find these words, ‘Wherefore both the Presbyters and the Deacons are those of Authority in the Church next to God Almighty, and his Beloved Son.’87 This statement implies ‘that this Canon was made for some Church before it was settled under the Episcopal Authority.’88 Recall, that while the episcopal form of church government developed early, it was not immediate nor did it develop in all places at the same time. In Apostolic Constitutions 8.10 there rests an elaborate prayer liturgy. Some of these prayer exhortations address persecution and war. For example, ‘Let us pray for the Peace and happy settlement of the World, and of the Holy Churches. – Let us Pray for those that are in the Mines, in Banishments, in Prisons, and in Bonds, for the Name of the Lord. Let us Pray for our Enemies, and those that hate us. – Let us Pray for those that Persecute us for the Name of the Lord.’89 Whiston thinks that the persecutions referred to here are Nero’s persecution and the Jewish War. As we have observed previously, Whiston also emphasizes the Jewish form of Christianity found in book eight. He notes that the liturgy, in accordance with Jewish time keeping, places the evening service before the morning service. In addition, in Apostolic Constitutions 8, James refers to himself as ‘the Brother of Christ according to the Flesh, but his Servant, as the Only begotten of God, and one appointed as Bishop of Jerusalem by the Lord himself, and the Apostles’.90 Whiston finds it significant that in his letter found in the New Testament, James refers to himself as a ‘servant’. Whiston implies that though one might think James would identify himself as the brother of Jesus in his letter found in the New Testament, Apostolic Constitutions 8 demonstrates that James, the brother of Jesus, also referred to himself simply as ‘servant’. As important as these internal chronological markers are for Whiston, he finds the external evidence for Apostolic Constitutions even more important. We now turn our attention to places where Whiston contends there are quotations and/or allusions to the Apostolic Constitutions found in other Christian writers.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.241 / 3.122 (1712).   Ibid., 3.241. 89   Ibid., 3.239-40 / 3.121 (1712). 90   Ibid., 3.241 / 3.122 (1712). 87 88



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External Indeed – ‘the main Confirmation of all’ is ‘that these sacred Constitutions have all the External Evidence from Citations, Allusions, and Testimonies, that their secret nature could possibly allow.’91 Whiston proceeds to list and discuss texts from the first through the eleventh century (with nothing from the eighth century) where he detects direct citations, allusions, or testimonies to the Apostolic Constitutions. This discussion is lengthy and, in places, intricate. Therefore, it will not be possible to say something about every item that Whiston finds significant as we did with his ‘Particular Internal and Chronological Evidence’. Thus, I will bring to the surface texts that are especially important to Whiston’s understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston presents his material chronologically. To help us better highlight the more significant aspects of this mass of material (428 pages to be exact), we will organize the forthcoming discussion via the categories that Whiston himself employs: citations, allusions, and testimonies. Furthermore, our discussion will conclude with the fourth century. Whiston considers the vast majority of his external evidence as testimonies. These texts do not provide direct citations, nor does their rhetoric remind one of similar rhetoric in the Apostolic Constitutions. Rather these texts offer evidence of an awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions via similar content and instruction. It is often not clear exactly how Whiston distinguishes between an allusion and a testimony. In fact, the two categories sometimes appear synonymous in Whiston’s writing and/or he indicates that the same author alludes to and testifies to the Apostolic Constitutions. We will see this dynamic when we encounter Whiston’s treatment of Justin Martyr among other authors. Again, Whiston labels most of his evidence as testimonies and/or allusions. The number of direct citations is the least of all three categories. Of course, this comes as no surprise considering Whiston’s conviction concerning the secretive nature of the Apostolic Constitutions. We begin with a discussion of what traditionally has been understood as the most important evidence for one author’s awareness of the work of another – direct citations. Citations As we shall see, other Christian writers, such as Ignatius, Clement, and Polycarp, contain small amounts of direct citations from the Apostolic Constitutions. The writers discussed here, however, contain either the most significant amount of direct citations or Whiston places great significance on the writer’s citations for reasons other than the length of the citation.   Ibid., 3.245.

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Dionysius of Alexandria Whiston is not surprised that Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria (bishop circa 245265), demonstrates an intimacy with the Apostolic Constitutions because Alexandria was one of the nineteen apostolic churches that received an early copy of the Apostolic Constitutions.92 In fact, Whiston implies that if more of his writings survived, there would be even greater evidence of his use of the Apostolic Constitutions. However, we only have fragments of Dionysius’ writings because they contain opinions ‘favourable to the Arians’.93 Based on what does survive, Whiston offers the following evidence for Dionysius’ familiarity with the Apostolic Constitutions as well as his direct citation of the Apostolic Constitutions. Later in this discussion of Dionysius of Alexandria, I will provide the actual Greek text that Whiston works with as an example of how Whiston argues from the Greek for the use of the Apostolic Constitutions by an early Christian writer. I will provide the Greek text only here and in the next section ‘Allusions and Testimonies’ when discussing Justin Martyr and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, because, as stated in the introduction, this book may be of interest to a broader audience than patristic scholars such as scholars of religion in Britain and Newtonian scholars among others. Nonetheless, the discussion found here of Whiston’s use of the Greek, as well as in the next section, is paradigmatic of the manner he argues elsewhere.94 Basilides asked Dionysius when the fast before Easter was to end – at dawn or at sunrise. This ‘was a proper Question to be put to the Bishop of an Apostolical Church, who had these Constitutions in his Custody.’95 Dionysius knew that the Apostolic Constitutions were not clear on this point. Therefore, he did not take a stance. Whiston highlights this correspondence to demonstrate that in the third century both Rome and Alexandria were in the practice of staying up all night before Easter as stated – even if with some ambiguity – in the Apostolic Constitutions. In the same letter, Dionysius offers instruction concerning proper female behavior during the Lord’s Supper when the female experiences her menstruation period. She is to avoid the Lord’s Supper based on the example of the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5.25-34, Matthew 9.20-22, and Luke 8.4348). This woman only touched Jesus’ garment, not Jesus’ body.96 While Whiston does not find Dionysius’ interpretation of this gospel account persuasive, 92   For discussion of the Christology of Dionysius of Alexandria, see P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 157-62. 93   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.423. 94   For a detailed discussion of Whiston’s engagement with the Greek language, see again P. Gilliam, ‘Ignatius of Antioch: The Road to Chalcedon?’ (2017), 69-80. 95   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.423. 96   This text appears to reflect the belief that the bread in the eucharist was also the body of Jesus in some manner. Perhaps, with a glance to John 6.41-59, Dionysius’ understanding is other than the bread as mere symbol of Jesus’ body.



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he does derive the idea for the citation itself from Apostolic Constitutions 6.28. Here, in the midst of directions concerning proper sexual relations, it says that a woman’s menstrual cycle is not an abomination, rather it is a part of God’s design. In order to defend this position, the author refers to the account of the bleeding woman touching Jesus’ garment. Jesus did not condemn the woman. Rather, he healed her. We find here the rather ambiguous nature of many of Whiston’s arguments. He suggests that the reason Dionysius refers to the bleeding woman to instruct females not to participate in the Lord’s Supper during their menstrual period is because this same reference is used in the Apostolic Constitutions. However, in Apostolic Constitutions 6.28 there is no specific reference to the Lord’s Supper. His earlier argument about the end of the fast before Easter is of a similar ambiguous nature. The next piece of evidence, however, is definitive for Whiston. He observes verbatim agreement between the Greek of the Apostolic Constitutions and the Greek of parts of a letter preserved in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History 7.7. The letter Eusebius quotes is Dionysius’ third letter on baptism, addressed to Philemon a Roman presbyter. Dionysius says that he read the writings of the heretics. One the one hand, this exercise polluted his soul. On the other hand, reading the heretics enabled Dionysius to better refute their arguments and it instilled within him even greater animosity towards heresy. Nonetheless, a presbyter expressed concern to Dionysius over his practice. Dionysius agreed with the presbyter’s observation that he might injure his own soul to defend the souls of others. However, Dionysius experienced a vision from God. In the vision, Dionysius was told to read everything that comes into his hands. In other words, Dionysius was able to rise to the challenge of exposing his mind to heretical ideas to refute these ideas. Whiston next lays out the verbatim Greek agreement between the account in Eusebius’ text and the relevant place in Apostolic Constitutions 2.36. Whiston records the Greek in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: ἀπεδεξάμην τὸ ὅραμα, ὡς ἀποστολικῇ φωνῇ συντρέχον, τῇ λεγούσῃ πρὸς τοὺς δυνατωτέρους, γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται.97 He provides his own translation in his 1712 edition: ‘I agreed with the Vision, as consonant to the Word of the Apostles, which are spoken to those in authority: Approve your selves to be exact Moneychangers.’ Whiston next records the Greek from Apostolic Constitutions 2.36: τοῖς γὰρ ἱερεῦσι ἐπετράπη κρίνειν μόνοις, ὅτι εἴρηται αὐτοῖς κρίμα δίκαιον κρίνατε καὶ πάλιν, γίνεσθε τραπεζῖται δόκιμοι. ὑμῖν γὰρ οὐκ ἐπιτέτραπται τουναντίον γὰρ εἴρηται τοῖς ἔξω τοῦ ἀξιώματος τοῦ δικαστικοῦ ἢ διδασκαλικοῦ ὑπάρχουσιν, μὴ κρίνετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ κριθήσεσθε. His translation: ‘For the Priests are only entrusted with the Power of judging. For to them it is said, judge Righteous Judgment; and again, Approve yourselves to be   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.425.

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exact Money-changers. But to you this is not instrusted (sic); for on the contrary it is said to those who are not of this Dignity of Magistrates or Ministers; Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.’98 As with the case of the woman with the issue of bleeding, the context is different in these two texts. In Apostolic Constitutions 2.36, there is no mention of reading heretical writings. Rather, Apostolic Constitutions 2.36 consists of an exhortation to ethical living via the ten commandments and other Old Testament references. As one carries out an ethical lifestyle, however, one should not judge another. Judging is reserved for the priests. Though the context is different there is a common theme: those in positions of leadership are designated as the protector of the lower rank members of the religious community. The bishops are entrusted with refuting heretics as well as judging disputes within the community. The laity are not to carry out these activities. Nonetheless, Whiston emphasizes the word-for-word agreement found in the two texts: γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται. Whiston implies the insignificance of the slight difference in word order when he states, ‘This is too plain and express a Citation from the Constitutions to be fairly eluded or set aside by any.’99 Peter of Alexandria In a similar fashion to Dionysius of Alexandria, Whiston provides eight lines of Greek text from Peter of Alexandria’s Penitential Canons that parallels Apostolic Constitutions 7.23. He notes that both the Penitential Canons and the Apostolic Constitutions instruct Christians to forego kneeling on the Lord’s Day when they pray as well as calling for the observation of Wednesday and Friday fasts. The parallels are so strong that Whiston asks the ‘impartial Reader whether these also be not, strictly speaking, direct Citations out of the Apostolical Constitutions’.100 Of course, in order to strengthen his argument, Whiston once again draws attention to the prominence of Alexandria as one of the nineteen churches that ‘had the Custody of these sacred Records’.101 Thus, it is expected that Peter as the bishop of Alexandria during the Great Persecution, from 300-311 CE, would cite directly from them. Church of Ethiopia Whiston devotes 44 pages to an in-depth discussion of the Ethiopian church – ‘a noble and an unexpected one’.102 In fact, towards the end of his complex   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.165-6.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.426. 100   Ibid., 3.434. 101   Ibid., 3.433. 102   Ibid., 3.520. 98 99



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discussion of the Ethiopian church, Whiston speculates that this church may be the ‘Best and Purest part of the Christian Church, ever since the Fifth Century, until the Protestant Reformation.’103 The reason for this assessment: they were able to survive Athanasius’ chicanery. The Ethiopian church was ‘first converted and settled’ after the Council of Nicaea during the early years of Athanasius’ influence.104 Thus, Athanasius directed the church at its origins. Whiston suspects that Athanasius, ‘from whom these Ethiopians receiv’d their first Bishop, Framentius; and from whom alone they could receive all their sacred Books and Settlements’, deceived this church, holding back the Apostles’ true beliefs and replacing them with his own.105 To make his point that Athanasius enforced his own theological convictions on the Ethiopian church, Whiston provides five pages of Latin quotations from Hiob Ludolphus’ (1624-1704) Historia Aethiopica. Whiston then provides Ethiopic extracts from Ludolphus’ work that demonstrate the close relationship between these extracts and the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston also provides the canons purported to be from Hippolytus, ‘which is a shorter Extract out of the same Constitutions’ along with the Arabic Didascalia, ‘or Athanasian Edition of the former Six Books of the Constitutions’.106 Finally, Whiston provides a table of contents for the Ethiopic and Arabic Didascalia, ‘the former of which is evidently either the very same with, or an extract Abridgment of the latter.’107 He credits Wanslebius for the Ethiopic account and Dr. Grabe for the Arabic account. These table of contents are then paralleled with the corresponding places in the Apostolic Constitutions. Based on the textual evidence provided in his discussion, I provide a sampling of Whiston’s conclusions: 1) the Ethiopic appears to contain the 127 statutes ‘or the Intire Abridgments of the Constitutions and Canons together’ and that the Abtleis appears to hold the 85 apostolical canons but condensed down to 81.108 2) Almost one half of the extract from Hippolytus comes from Apostolic Constitutions book 8. Thus, ‘it seems not improbable that Hippolytus did make this 8th Book more publick than the rest, even in his Days.’109 3) The Ethiopic abstracts come from the days of Athanasius. 4) The extracts that the Ethiopians received were the originals minus the ‘Doctrinal Parts, which favor’d the Arians against the Athanasians’.110 To the extent that Ludolphus’ accounts enable us to see, the Nicene Creed was given to the Ethiopian church. However, the actual baptismal creed was omitted. 5) As we heard earlier,   Ibid.,   Ibid., 105   Ibid., 106   Ibid., 107   Ibid., 108   Ibid., 109   Ibid., 110   Ibid., 103 104

3.556. 3.520. 3.547. 3.525-6. 3.533. 3.545. 3.546. 3.547.

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­ histon thinks it highly likely that it was Athanasius himself who concealed W the true doctrine of the apostles found in the Apostolic Constitutions from the Ethiopians ‘and engaging them to those himself and his Party had fram’d at Nice and afterward’.111 Furthermore, Whiston describes, what he believes is Athanasius’ work as, ‘this poor immethodical Extract of his own making or direction upon them, for the genuine Apostolical Constitutions themselves; and making them believe that Clement wrote even these, and that at the Command of the Apostles.’112 6) Soon after the Council of Nicaea, the Alexandrian church had the eight books that comprise the Apostolic Constitutions. Furthermore, the Apostolic Constitutions were ‘secret and concealed Books’.113 Otherwise, Whiston observes, an extract could not have passed for an original. The Apostolic Constitutions were, in Alexandria, considered to be a part of the New Testament and thus, of course, of equal authority with the New Testament documents. Furthermore, the Alexandrian church believed that the books of the Apostolic Constitutions were indeed written down by Clement, ‘the Companion of Peter, as the larger Epistles of Ignatius and others call him also’.114 7) And most important, the Ethiopic Didascalia and the Arabic one now in Oxford ‘which are either the very same, or the former is a plain Abridgment of the latter’, are corrupted versions of the Catholic Doctrine – the first six books of the Apostolic Constitutions.115 This last conclusion is of such significance that Whiston next offers ten reasons for his conclusion that the Ethiopic Didascalia and the Arabic version are both corrupted accounts of the Catholic doctrine. Once again, I provide a sampling. 1) The Ethiopic and Arabic edition omits only the segments from the first six books of the Apostolic Constitutions that Athanasius and his contemporary Anthony did not condone, ‘I mean all the middle Chapters of the Sixth Book; in which are contained such clear Testimonies against the Athanasians and for the Arians; and such encouragement to, and Rules about a Conjugal Life, as intirely contradicted their Schemes and Designs.’116 2) Before Athanasius’ time there is no mention of abbreviations of the Apostolic Constitutions. 3) There also exists a fuller version of the Apostolic Constitutions in Ethiopic. This edition has all eight books as well as around seventy chapters ‘in imitation of the like numbers for the original Books and Chapters’.117 However, this   Ibid., 3.548.   Ibid. 113   Ibid. 114   Ibid., 3.548-9. Whiston references here the long recension of Trallians 7. Though Clement is traditionally understood to be associated with Paul (Philippians 4.3), the long recension of Ignatius’ letter to the Trallians indicates that Clement served Peter like a deacon is to serve the bishop. 115   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.549. 116   Ibid., 3.550. 117   Ibid., 3.552. 111 112



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e­ dition also excludes passages that ‘favor’d the Arians, and contradicted the Athanasians.’118 Dionysius the Areopagite or Didymus of Alexandria states that this edition was composed ‘by Hierotheus or Athanasius himself, as we shall see presently.’119 4) Another indicator of corruption is the addition of the Mystagogia or Secret Doctrine in book six. The segment, which claims to come from the apostles but Whiston labels ‘Athanasian’, is inserted in the very place where the ‘Arian’ places were originally.120 This ‘was done on set purpose, in order to support those Heretical Opinions which all the sacred Books of our Religion, when uncorrupt and genuine did ever condemn.’121 5) Finally, the existence of the authentic preface to the Doctrine of the Apostles in these extracts ‘is another plain mark of deceit and corruption; whether it were done at first, or afterward.’ Thus, ‘it appears to be no better than an Athanasian or Heretical Deceit or Forgery.’122 Epiphanius Our discussion thus far demonstrated the importance of Epiphanius for Whiston’s belief in the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions, especially as it relates to the date of Easter. We are not surprised then to hear Whiston say that Epiphanius’ writings are superior to any other writers who lived after the Apostolic Constitutions were published. In fact, in relation to the Apostolic Constitutions, Epiphanius ‘directly and frequently cites them by Name; and quotes Passages from them, as he and the rest quote the known books of Scripture; and accordingly reasons from those passages; nay quotes them as Books well known in the Church; and as most Authentick, and really Apostolical.’123 Whiston then lists 14 pages of parallels between Epiphanius’ writings and the Apostolic Constitutions. After a comparison of texts from the Panarion and Epiphanius’ Epitome of the Catholic faith, Whiston then makes a handful of observations. Whiston notes that Epiphanius gives to the Constitutions the same name as previous authors, Tradition or Doctrine. Therefore no one doubts that Epiphanius references a book known by others. The main point Whiston wishes to drive home here is that similarity of texts found in Epiphanius and earlier writers is not due to oral tradition of ‘uncertain Opinions’.124 Rather the similarities are due to the reality that the passages are taken from the same document – the same Tradition or Doctrine, all names for the Apostolic Constitutions.   Ibid.   Ibid. 120   Ibid., 121   Ibid., 122   Ibid., 123   Ibid., 124   Ibid., 118 119

3.553. 3.553-4. 3.554. 3.585-6. 3.600.

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Furthermore, Epiphanius’ Constitutions are the same as ours today. We see here yet again the ambiguous nature of many of Whiston’s arguments which serves to dull some of his more insightful comments about the Apostolic Constitutions. He provides Epiphanius’ Greek in his 1711 edition. I offer his own translation from his 1712 epitome, ‘that in them all the Canonical Orders were contain’d, and that nothing in them was different from the Confession of Faith, or Ecclesiastical Administrations, or Rule of Faith, then own’d in the Church.’125 Whiston says ‘this is an exact Description of those we have at this day.’126 More intriguing is Whiston’s comparison of textual issues surrounding the Apostolic Constitutions with that of those surrounding 1John. Whiston labels as erroneous those critics who contend that, due to the difference between the surviving copies of the Apostolic Constitutions and Epiphanius’ text concerning the date of Easter, the document Epiphanius quotes from and the surviving copies of the Apostolic Constitutions cannot be one and the same. According to this reasoning, Whiston responds that the same critics ‘ought also to conclude that the first Epistle of John in the Original, nay in our present Greek Manuscripts, and that in our Latin and English Bibles are not the same Book; because of the modern Insertion of the Three Witnesses in Heaven, in the later, which do not appear in the former Copies.’127 Rather, the differences between the surviving copies of the Apostolic Constitutions and quotations such as Epiphanius on the date of Easter is evidence that the Apostolic Constitutions were frequently used and quoted from memory just as the scriptures included in the New Testament. Whiston continues his observations about Epiphanius’ use of the Apostolic Constitutions with interesting discussion about Epiphanius’ orthodoxy in the nonorthodox Christological stance of the Apostolic Constitutions themselves. He notes that, to his knowledge, Epiphanius is the first person to observe that there were some early church personalities who doubted the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. However, even though Epiphanius himself does not question their authenticity, it is not surprising that some from the orthodox party would because the Apostolic Constitutions were likely first published for the general public ‘by the Arians against the Orthodox’.128 Whiston further contends that after they became known in wider circles, than their original secretive purpose allowed, ‘the very unlearned Orthodox did at first not reject, but only doubt of their Authority; that all the Learned Orthodox as well as Arian, never so much as doubted of the same; but ever own‘d their sacred

  W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.192.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.601. 127   Ibid., 3.601. 128   Ibid., 3.602. 125 126



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Nature and Divine Authority to be indisputable.’129 Thus, with the passing of a little time all doubt concerning the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions faded. In fact, when the prevailing orthodox party became aware that the Apostolic Constitutions did not favor their Christological convictions, but rather those of their opponents, the orthodox party did not argue that the Apostolic Constitutions were inauthentic. Rather, they argued that the Apostolic Constitutions ‘were interpolated by the Hereticks.’130 Furthermore, Whiston notes that though Epiphanius believed the Apostolic Constitutions to be apostolical, he does not quote from them at all when discussing his orthodox faith. Rather, when discussing his ‘Athanasian’ faith, Epiphanius ‘is forc’d to drop them, without one plain Citation or Reference.’ However, when discussing Christian practices rather than Christian beliefs, ‘he generally does directly follow them, and as directly quotes them.’131 John Chrysostom John Chrysostom marks an important place in Whiston’s catalogue due to his chronological location at the end of the fourth century. With Chrysostom, Whiston will ‘shut up this Fourth Century.’132 Moving forward in the fifth and succeeding centuries, Whiston will not cite as many examples as he did during his survey of the use of the Apostolic Constitutions in the first four centuries. While he has drawn attention to around 1000 references from the first four centuries, the next centuries are not as important because after the fourth century, ‘the grand Rules and Standards of Christianity in all its purer and earlier Ages, were in a manner lost and dropt among us.’133 Whiston observes that John Chrysostom’s writings are filled with allusions to the Apostolic Constitutions. In fact, it would be necessary for Whiston to dedicate an entire volume to Chrysostom’s writings if he were to include every place where Chrysostom demonstrates knowledge of the Apostolic Constitutions. This is especially remarkable when one considers Chrysostom’s efforts ‘in concealing the secret and mystical Parts of our Religion from the publick’.134 In light of Chrysostom’s ubiquitous references to the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston decides on one text from which to illustrate Chrysostom’s intimate knowledge of the Apostolic Constitutions – ­Concerning the Priesthood.

  Ibid.   Ibid., 131   Ibid. 132   Ibid., 133   Ibid., 134   Ibid., 129 130

3.603. 3.604. 3.611. 3.610.

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Whiston offers five pages of texts from Chrysostom’s Concerning the Priesthood that are paralleled with texts from the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston notes that both Concerning the Priesthood and the Apostolic Constitutions have similar qualifications for bishops; compare the church to a ship; contend that an elected bishop should not refuse the position; identify Gentiles, Jews, and Heretics as the greatest enemies to Christianity; and offer similar qualifications for virgins and widows as well as the responsibilities of the bishops towards the virgins and widows. Finally, Whiston concludes, ‘Nay, indeed, this whole Treatise of the Priesthood is mainly built upon, and deriv’d from the same Constitutions; as will easily appear to any one that nicely compares them together.’135 In fact, Whiston contends that Chrysostom would not have invested the bishop with so much authority had not the apostles themselves done so in the Apostolic Constitutions. As Whiston deems the first four centuries the most important for his purposes, so shall we reign in our discussion by concluding here with his catalogue of direct citations of the Apostolic Constitutions. Though it bears repeating that Whiston continues with his examination of direct citations into the eleventh century. Allusions and Testimonies Our survey of early Christian literature where Whiston detects allusions and testimonies with the Apostolic Constitutions will not be as detailed as the previous discussion of direct citations. Nonetheless, there are numerous places of interest in Whiston’s catalogue. As we did above, we will end our sampling of Whiston’s external evidence once we reach the fourth century. Therapeutae In his On the Contemplative Life, the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BCE-50 CE) offers a detailed description of a group he refers to as the Therapeutae. They are an ascetic group found in many geographical locations. However, they are especially numerous in Alexandria, Egypt. Whiston accepts the conclusion of some early Christians, such as Eusebius of Caesarea, that this was a Christian group even though Philo nowhere labels the group as such. Whiston’s own words appear to acknowledge that the religious identity of this group is uncertain. He writes, ‘The Customs and Practices of the Therapeuta, mentioned by Philo, which to me seem to belong to the imperfect Settlements of Christianity in Egypt and elsewhere, before the writing of any of the Books of the New Testament, will claim the first Place in order of Time, for the confirmation or 135

  Ibid.



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illustration of these Constitutions of the Apostles.’136 Notice that for Whiston this then is the first place where there is any external evidence for the Apostolic Constitutions. Of course, there are no direct citations here as Philo does not quote any writings from the Therapeutae. However, there are allusions to be discerned from Philo’s description of this ancient sect. A few examples will suffice. Whiston finds numerous allusions to Apostolic Constitutions 2.57. In fact, he references it on five occasions. Here are detailed instructions about what the faith community is to do when they gather for worship – what the clergy do, the laity, and where different people (women, men, children, the elderly) are to sit for worship. Another popular text for Whiston in relation to the Therapeutae is Apostolic Constitutions 8.13. He draws attention to this passage four times. Here, directions are given concerning who and what to pray for after the bread and wine are offered to God. In 8.13, the ascetics are called out as one group of people who is to receive the body and blood of Christ at communion. Finally, it is worthy of note because of the monastic nature of the Therapeutae that Whiston sees allusions between Philo’s description of the Therapeutae and the Apostolic Constitutions exhortation that the Christian community gather frequently night and day in 2.59. Ignatius Whiston devoted the first volume of this Primitive Christianity Reviv’d to a demonstration that the larger epistles (long recension) were authentic and not the smaller epistles (middle recension). Therefore, he naturally concludes that Ignatius drew abundantly and enthusiastically from the Apostolic Constitutions. As we have seen, it is thought today that the same hand who produced the inauthentic Ignatian long recension also produced the inauthentic Apostolic Constitutions sometime during the fourth century. Thus, the relationship between the two is indeed ‘undenyable’.137 However, Whiston’s conclusion of course is that the Apostolic Constitutions is a first-century production and the Ignatian long recension is an early secondcentury production. Whiston fills almost 29 pages with texts from the Ignatian long recension that demonstrate an intimate awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston notes that this exercise reveals, in addition to second-century external evidence for the existence of the Apostolic Constitutions, the authenticity of ‘the Passages most favorable to the Arians … Genuine and Original’ as well as ‘the Antient Method of referring and alluding to these Constitutions, without direct and formal Quotations by Name’.138 136   Ibid., 3.247. On the Therapeutae see, J. Taylor, Jewish Women Philosophers of FirstCentury Alexandria: Philo’s ‘Therapeutae’ Reconsidered (2003). 137   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.313. 138   Ibid.

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Polycarp Whiston sees many similarities between Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians and the Apostolic Constitutions. Therefore, he concludes that Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians is ‘upon the whole’ a ‘very considerable Witness to them’.139 I provide a few examples. Whiston sees points of contact between Polycarp’s letter and the Apostolic Constitutions in that they both offer similar instructions for presbyters, deacons, and young men and women. He references, under this head, Philippians 5 and 6 along with Apostolic Constitutions 2.26, 2.28, and 2.57. Though there is no mention of Valens in Apostolic Constitutions 2.16, Whiston suggests that similarities between Polycarp’s instructions to the Philippians concerning the wayward Valens and the instructions found in Apostolic Constitutions 2.16 concerning wayward Christians is enough to conclude that Polycarp had access, during the second century, to the Apostolic Constitutions. While the above points of contact seem rather arbitrary, Whiston does offer one intriguing observation concerning the possibility of Polycarp’s awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions. He notes that both Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians and the Apostolic Constitutions agree that the Philippian church ‘was Govern’d by a college of Presbyters, with their subordinate Deacons, without a Bishop, even after the general Settlement by Bishops.’140 In other words, though there were bishops in some locales, such as Smyrna, the office of bishop was not settled everywhere. Both documents, Polycarp’s Philippian letter and the Apostolic Constitutions reflect this reality. Thus, the Apostolic Constitutions must be very early. And indeed, if modern scholarly opinion is correct that the Apostolic Constitutions consist of an assemblage of church orders, then there are in fact early materials within the Apostolic Constitutions.141 Recognitions of Clement Whiston’s handling of the Recognitions of Clement is similar in nature to his work with Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians. He draws upon thematic similarities to argue for the author of the Recognitions, who Whiston does not think was Clement, awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions. Nonetheless his rhetoric is stronger in relation to the Recognitions than with Polycarp’s Philippian   Ibid., 3.348.   Ibid., 3.347. 141   I refer readers back to the first chapter of this book for discussion of modern scholarly opinions about the Apostolic Constitutions. There I referenced P. Bradshaw, M. Johnson, and L. Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary (2002); P. Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy (2002); P. Smith, ‘Auctoritas and Potestas in the Apostolic Constitutions’ (2018); and M. Metzger, Les Constitutions Apostoliques (1985) among other valuable works. 139 140



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letter. For example, after providing ten plus pages of references from the Recognitions that demonstrate a dependence on the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston says: ‘These are the Attestations which these Spurious Recognitions afford to the Genuine Constitutions of Clement.’142 Furthermore, Whiston is impressed that the Recognitions ‘have still the same Antient Doctrines about the Son and Holy Spirit, which are in the Constitutions; the same Notions as to the Appearances of the Son of God under the Old Testament.’143 Whiston also observes many points of contact between the Recognitions and the Apostolic Constitutions that are absent from the New Testament. This is an interesting observation because it often appears that many of the themes Whiston relies on for dependence can generally be found in the New Testament – directions for deacons and presbyters, family relationships, and widows for example. The following are found in the Recognitions and the Apostolic Constitutions but not in the New Testament: Jesus himself appointed his brother James bishop of the church in Jerusalem, the state of paradise before the judgment, the account of the beginnings of heresy in the church, the reference to 13 apostles which includes Paul, the first bishops of Caesarea and Tripoli, an account of the concealment of certain elements of Christianity, Peter’s trip to Rome, anointing with oil before baptism, and teaching about marriage.144 Whiston finds this evidence so persuasive that he concludes ‘that the very Constitutions themselves seem to have lain before this Author; as if himself were either a Bishop of one of the Apostolical Churches, where they lay; or at least had the free use of the Constitutions from some of them.’145 Though, Whiston does not think the Recognitions come from Clement, he is convinced that they are a second-century production. Therefore, the Recognitions are ‘plainly an Undeniable Attestation to the Apostolical Constitutions and to their most sacred Authority among Christians in the same Second Century also.’146 Justin Martyr Whiston devotes significant discussion to Justin Martyr’s familiarity with the Apostolic Constitutions. In fact, Whiston’s handling of Justin Martyr illustrates clearly his general argumentative method when defending the apostolicity of the Apostolic Constitutions. In other words, and with more informal language, Whiston often appears to want his cake and eat it too. For example, Whiston begins with an acknowledgement of the obvious which might, in fact, hurt his argument: Justin was not a bishop or a clergy man of any type. Therefore, it is   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.359.   Ibid. 144   Ibid., 3.360. 145   Ibid., 3.360-1. 146   Ibid., 3.361. 142 143

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quite likely that he ‘might never See the Constitutions themselves.’147 Furthermore, the very documents (the two apologies) that go further than any other in describing a Christian worship gathering, which parallels almost exactly the description found in the Apostolic Constitutions, were directed to the ‘Heathens’ or Roman ‘Governors’.148 The problem here, of course, is that a – perhaps the – central axis that Whiston’s defense of the Apostolic Constitutions turns on is that the Apostolic Constitutions was intended to be kept secret from the majority of people. This is why they are indeed apostolical but not explicitly referred to by early Christian writers. The majority of the Apostolic Constitutions were intended for bishops and church leaders; they were not intended to be read by the masses. Whiston’s main point, in reference to Justin Martyr, is that Justin’s detailed description of Christian worship matches that found in the Apostolic Constitutions. After his more detailed discussion, which we will peer into soon, Whiston provides a summary of his main points concerning the order of worship found in Justin’s first apology and the liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston observes that in both documents the elements and prescribed order for worship are the same. Worship begins with a reader, ‘a particular Church Officer’ reading lessons from scripture.149 Next, the congregation receives a sermon from the officiating bishop or presbyter. The congregation then joins a deacon who leads the congregation in common prayers. After the prayer comes the kiss of charity. The bread, wine, and water are brought to the bishop or presbyter. Once received, the bishop or presbyter offers a long prayer of consecration. This prayer, unlike the earlier common prayer, is offered by the bishop or presbyter alone. After the congregation says, ‘Amen’, the elements are given out to the congregation by the bishop or presbyter and the deacons. Finally, the left-over bread, wine, and water are taken into the vestry and then taken by deacons to persons who were unable to be present for worship with the rest of the congregation. Whiston observes that Christian congregations were larger in Justin’s second century than they were in the Apostolic Constitutions first century. Once allowance is made for this, ‘we shall find that there is, in a manner, an universal Agreement between Justin’s Account of the Practice, and the Constitutions Appointments in these matters; and by consequence that these Constitutions, especially their Liturgy, Baptismal Service, and Directions thereto belonging, were known and followed by the Christian Church in the former part of the Second Century of Christianity; and therefore cannot be suppos’d other than Apostolical.’150   Ibid., 3.362.   Ibid. 149   Ibid., 371. 150   Ibid., 372. 147 148



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I now offer a brief discussion concerning some of Whiston’s more detailed arguments concerning the liturgy, communion practices, and baptismal practices as found in Justin’s writings and the Apostolic Constitutions. In 1 Apology 61, Whiston notes that Justin states that before a person is baptized, the person to be baptized as well as the church fast and pray beforehand. The same procedure is found in Apostolic Constitutions 7.22. Though it is, perhaps, worthy of mention that Justin says nothing of the lengthy discussion found in Apostolic Constitutions 7.22 as to why Jesus fasted after his baptism and new Christians are to fast before their baptism. Furthermore, Apostolic Constitutions 7.22 says nothing of the church joining the baptized in fasting beforehand. In relation to the eucharist, Whiston writes, ‘The Cup at the Eucharist was a mixture of Wine and Water in both the Accounts.’151 Whiston notes the similarities in the Greek. Justin writes, 1 Apology 65, ποτήριον ὕδατος καὶ κράματος. He also twice uses the expression, ἄρτος καὶ οἶνος καὶ ὕδαρ. These words are found in Apostolic Constitutions 8.12, ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον κεράσας ἐξ οἴνος καὶ ὕδατος. I offer one final observation before moving forward to the Martyrdom of Polycarp. Whiston notes that Justin specifically states that the left-over elements from the eucharist were sent to people who were unable to participate in worship with the rest of the congregation. The Apostolic Constitutions, however, does not specifically say this. Nonetheless it is ‘probably’ so, in the Apostolic Constitutions, that the same practice of serving communion to folks who were absent from worship is reflected.152 We see here, on the one hand, Whiston’s intimacy with early Christian texts as well as his abilities to make cogent arguments. However, on the other hand, we see once again the ambiguous nature of the data he employs to make his arguments. It appears that Whiston often gives his opponents ammunition with which to offer counter arguments. Martyrdom of Polycarp Whiston’s treatment of the Martyrdom of Polycarp is brief. However, it illustrates yet again his propensity to draw weightier conclusions than the evidence he puts forth calls for. For example, Whiston draws attention to the term μέγα σάββατον – great sabbath. This phrase is found in Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 and Whiston says that it is used in reference to the sabbath of Passion Week. The phrase also occurs in Apostolic Constitutions 5.19. However, it is found in the prefaced summary to 5.19. Nonetheless, Whiston reasons that the phrase μέγα σάββατον found in Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 is ‘almost directly taken from these Constitutions.’153   Ibid., 3.368.   Ibid., 3.370. 153   Ibid., 3.374. 151 152

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In addition to this argument, Whiston adds ‘Here we find the exact form of the Primitive Doxology to the Father, and the Son, in the Holy Ghost; according to the Rule and Example in the Constitutions.’154 Furthermore, as with the Apostolic Constitutions, the Martyrdom of Polycarp demonstrates great respect for the saint’s reliques, discourages Christians from handing themselves over to those who would kill them or imprison them, and calls for remembering the anniversary of the martyrs’ death. Thus, ‘I think we could not well expect more, or plainer, Confirmations in so short and occasional a Writing, then we here meet with to our present purpose.’155 Irenaeus and Clement Whiston’s treatment of Irenaeus is yet another example of the way he reaches for evidence. Even as I offer this critique, however, it is important to remember, as discussed in other chapters, Whiston’s desire to complete the reformation and to have unity amongst waring Christian groups. Whiston believed the Apostolic Constitutions could remedy almost all the ills dividing various Christian groups, especially since the contributions of Luther. He needed, therefore, to convince his contemporaries that the Apostolic Constitutions is authentic. Much was at stake from Whiston’s perspective. In 1711, Irenaeus’ On the Apostolic Preaching was known only through references found in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History 5.26. It appears that the title On the Apostolic Preaching is enough in and of itself to inspire Whiston to conclude that this document ‘in all probability did mainly relate to these Constitutions, and particularly to that Doctrinal part which in the present Copies has almost the very same title.’156 Thus, Whiston’s task of defending the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions receives support from Irenaeus’ On the Apostolic Preaching because the Apostolic Constitutions, ‘probably have had a great confirmation’ from On the Apostolic Preaching if it were still extant.157 Whiston then speculates that the reason Irenaeus’ On the Apostolic Preaching did not survive is because it likely contained heretical teachings along with references or allusions to the Apostolic Constitutions. He does not elaborate. As is well known, today scholars have access to Irenaeus’ On the Apostolic Preaching. In 1904, Karapet Ter-Mekerttschian discovered this document along with the last two books of Irenaeus’ Against the Heretics in the Mother of God Church library in Erevan, Armenia. Unsurprisingly, due to the location of the

  Ibid.   Ibid., 3.375. 156   Ibid., 3.378. 157   Ibid. 154 155



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discovery, the manuscript is an Armenian translation of these works from Irenaeus.158 Though it is likely Whiston would have found some sort of connection with the Apostolic Constitutions if the text of Irenaeus’ On the Apostolic Preaching had been available in his day, John Behr’s observation does not bode well for Whiston’s efforts. He writes, ‘The first reading of the Demonstration will probably result in surprise and perhaps disappointment … Moreover, very little place is given to the ecclesiastical or sacramental dimensions of Christianity.’159 Since the text of On the Apostolic Preaching was not available to Whiston, he considers what was accessible to him, Irenaeus’ Against the Heretics. Whiston concedes, as he has with other early church personalities, that Irenaeus ‘did not belong to any of the Nineteen Apostolical Churches, and so ought not to afford us such direct Quotations as they do.’160 Nonetheless, due to Irenaeus’ familiarity with Rome, Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, and additional early Christian writers, Irenaeus ‘seems sufficiently appriz’d of the Rules, Doctrines, and Practices contained’ in the Apostolical Constitutions and therefore ‘affords us very strong confirmation of them.’161 The role of Clement then in Against the Heretics 3.3 is central for Whiston’s effort to draw a straight line from Irenaeus to the Apostolic Constitutions. In Against the Heretics 3.2, Irenaeus argues for the centrality of Scripture to a proper understanding of the developing Christian faith. Irenaeus contends that the gnostic and gnostic-like heretics misinterpret the Scriptures. He knows this because the proper interpretation of the Scriptures is found in apostolic tradition. In Against the Heretics 3.3, Irenaeus elevates the role of the Roman church over the other churches. Because this church was founded by Peter and Paul, other churches everywhere should agree with the church in Rome. The reason, and this is key for Whiston, is because the Roman church preserves apostolic tradition. This means that Peter and Paul, passed on what they knew from Jesus himself to the early bishops of Rome. These early bishops then passed apostolic tradition on to later bishops. This is how Irenaeus knows the heretics he battles are wrong. Irenaeus then lists the bishops of Rome. The first three bishops, after Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome, were Linus, Anacletus, and Clement. Naturally, due to Clement’s relationship with the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston focuses on Irenaeus’ discussion of Clement. Irenaeus states that the teaching of the apostles was still ‘ringing’ in Clement’s ears. Irenaeus discusses Clement’s role in the disagreement in the Corinthian church via Clement’s 158   For a brief but helpful discussion on the discovery of this manuscript, see St. Irenaeus of Lyons, On the Apostolic Preaching (1997), 27-37. 159   Ibid., 7. 160   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.377. 161   Ibid.

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l­etter to them. This letter, Irenaeus says, contains apostolic tradition. Whiston notes that apostolic tradition is ‘preserv’d in the Churches, especially in the Apostolical Churches, but principally in the Church of Rome, the Seat of Clement himself.’162 Finally, Whiston notes that, in his discussion of Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, Irenaeus observes that the doctrines found in gnostic teachings, such as those of Valentinus, are contradicted explicitly by Clement. The doctrines found in Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, such as God himself created the heavens, earth, and man, are also found in the Apostolic Constitutions. Therefore, via Clement at least, Irenaeus must have known the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston even provides a table illustrating equivalent doctrinal position in the Apostolic Constitutions and Irenaeus’ Against the Heretics.163 Since the teachings from Clement are apostolical and Clement’s teachings agree with those of the Apostolic Constitutions, then the Apostolic Constitutions must be apostolical too. And since the Apostolic Constitutions claim to be from the apostles themselves but collected by Clement, Clement must have used them when he wrote his letter to the Corinthians. And since Irenaeus’ teachings combating the heretics agree with those in the Apostolic Constitutions, Irenaeus too knew the Apostolic Constitutions. Clement and Irenaeus became increasingly important for Whiston’s project. In 1715, Whiston published St. Clement’s and St. Irenaeus’s Vindication of the Apostolical Constitutions, from Several Objections made against them. As Also An Account of the two antient Rules thereunto belonging, for the Celebration of Easter. With a Postscript, on Occasion of Mr. Turner’s Discourse of the Apostolical Constitutions. This is an intriguing piece in which Whiston addresses, via Clement and Irenaeus, what he considers to be the four main objections to the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. They are: 1) the original Apostolic Constitutions are lost and what now exists is the Apostolic Constitutions corrupted by a fourth-century Arian; 2) the Apostolic Constitutions reflect Jewish religious sensibilities too much to be authentic; 3) the Apostolic Constitutions are directed only to the churches of their day, not modern congregations; and 4) the Apostolic Constitutions cannot be on par with the   Ibid., 3.378-9.   Ibid., 3.381. We will discuss Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, also referred to as 1 Clement, in more detail momentarily. For a concise overview of this letter see, B. Ehrman (ed. and trans.), The Apostolic Fathers (2003), 1.18-33. His first two sentences are worth quoting here, ‘The “First Letter of Clement” is a misnomer, as no other letter from the author survives: “Second Clement”, which is not a letter, comes from a different hand … Moreover, the present letter does not claim to be written by Clement, who, in fact, is never mentioned in its text.’ Once again, we see here that if the majority claims of 21st century scholarship are so, Whiston’s project crumbles. We will see this dynamic yet again when we soon come to Whiston’s acceptance of the Irenaean Pfaffian fragments. 162 163



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New Testament documents because they consisted of oral traditions before they were written down.164 Whiston quickly addresses the first objection of a later Arian compiler of the Apostolic Constitutions, held by Dr. Grabe and others, because ‘it is so weak and injudicious an Hypothesis; has so little Foundation in point of Reason; is so intirely destitute of all Support from antient Testimonies.’165 Whiston devotes considerably more ink to the second objection than the first objection. However, much of this discussion is simply the writing out, instead of a simply book and section citation, of many texts from the Apostolic Constitutions in order to demonstrate that the Apostolic Constitutions do not lay ‘a great Stress upon Ceremonial Observances’.166 In order to deal with the third objection then that the directions found in the Apostolic Constitutions ‘were not any real or perpetual Laws of Christ himself, but only Apostolical Appointments and Directions for those first Times, or for particular Churches under their Care,’ Whiston draws upon Clement’s letter to the Corinthians.167 Whiston reminds us here that this Clement was the bishop of Rome ‘whose Name, St. Paul tells us, was in the Book of Life; and by whose Hand and Attestation all the eight Books of the Apostolical Constitutions are in all the Manuscripts recommended to the Churches, as really Canonical Books of the New Testament.’168 In a similar fashion with Clement and the third objection to the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston draws upon Pfaffius’ recently published fragment of Irenaeus, from a manuscript in the King of Sicily’s library, in order to refute the fourth objection that the Apostolic Constitutions cannot be considered on par with the New Testament documents because they originated, not as written documents as those found in the New Testament, but as oral tradition.169 164   W. Whiston, St. Clement’s and St. Irenaeus’s Vindication of the Apostolical Constitutions, from Several Objections made against them. As Also An Account of the two antient Rules thereunto belonging, for the Celebration of Easter. With a Postscript, on Occasion of Mr. Turner’s Discourse of the Apostolical Constitutions (1715), 3-4. 165   Ibid., 5. We will discuss Whiston’s confrontations with Grabe in detail in the next chapter. 166   Ibid., 8. 167   Ibid., 12. 168   Ibid. 169   In their edited volume on Irenaeus, Paul Foster and Sara Parvis provide a helpful three-page ‘The Writings of Irenaeus’. Here is what they say about the Pfaffian fragments: ‘Their authenticity was vigorously debated from the moment of their publication. They are still included, as genuine, by Harvey in his 1859 edition of Irenaeus (fragments xxxv-xxxviii = vol. 2, 498-506), but Harnack proved conclusively in 1900 that they were forgeries.’ Interestingly, the manuscript that was discovered in 1715 was never seen again. See P. Foster and S. Parvis (eds), Irenaeus: Life, Scripture, Legacy (2012), xiii. For Harnack’s work see, Adolf Harnack, Die Pfaff’schen Irenӓus-Fragmente als Fӓlschungen Pfaffs nachgewiesen (1900). As stated in an earlier footnote, and at other points in the book, more modern scholarship has not proven helpful to Whiston’s project. However, as I argue elsewhere, Whiston nonetheless demonstrates excellence in scholarship based on the evidence available in his day. See P. Gilliam, ‘Ignatius of Antioch: The Road to Chalcedon?’ (2017), 69-80.

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We now settle in with Whiston’s discussion of Clement and Irenaeus’ vindication of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston provides the Greek text in one column and then an English translation (I assume his own; however, he does not say) of five texts from Clement’s letter to the Corinthians. His point is to demonstrate that Clement provides instruction to the Corinthian church via ‘direct Laws and Commands of Christ himself’ ‘which are not at all directly in the known Books of the New Testament.’170 Therefore, Whiston concludes that Clement is drawing from material he finds in the Apostolic Constitutions, not anywhere in the New Testament. Thus, as laws and commands from Christ himself, these instructions, found in Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, ‘as concern the Times, and Places, and Persons, and Manner of Divine Offices, and of the Publick Worship; and particularly of the peculiar Appointment and Functions of the several Ranks of the Clergy’ are not limited to a particular time and place.171 Rather, these practices are to be carried out by Christians in all places and at all times. Whiston thinks this is important evidence. In fact, he ‘rather produce this Record in this place, because it is undoubted, plain, and certain; and because I have not elsewhere fully and expressly enough insisted on it for this purpose.’172 The five texts Whiston cites are from sections 40, 41, 42, 43, and 44. In section 40, the author states, ‘we ought to do all those things by Rule, which the Lord has commanded to be done.’173 ‘Things’ refers to the appropriate times for worship services as well as who is allowed to carry out services such as high priests, priests, Levites, and the laity. Section 41, building on the foundation laid in section 40, recalls that the daily sacrifices, vows, and sin offerings are not to be offered everywhere but only in Jerusalem and at the altar. If theses instructions are not followed death is the penalty. Therefore, ‘Consider, Brethren, the greater Knowledge we are vouchsaf’d, the greater Danger shall we incur.’ In section 42, we are told that the apostles preached the gospel from Jesus the Christ and Jesus from God. Therefore, Christ was sent from God and the apostles from Christ. Next, the apostles appointed bishops and deacons as they traveled. Sections 43 and 44 are the knock-out punch for Whiston. The author observes that it makes perfect sense that the apostles would appoint bishops and deacons because ‘Moses the blessed and faithful Servant [of God] in all his House, set down all his Constitutions in holy Books.’174 As with Moses then, the apostles knew that there would be conflict in the church. Therefore, and we can still sense Whiston’s satisfaction all these years later, 170   W. Whiston, St. Clement’s and St. Irenaeus’s Vindication of the Apostolical Constitutions (1715), 15. 171   Ibid. 172   Ibid., 12. 173   Ibid. 174   Ibid., 14.



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‘For this cause therefore, being beforehand fully instructed, they appointed those before-mentioned [bishops and deacons]; and afterwards gave a Rule of Succession, in what manner other approved Persons should enter upon their Office after their decease’.175 Naturally, Whiston understands ‘Rule of Succession’ to refer to the Apostolic Constitutions. However, he recognizes that some might think ‘Rule of Succession’ refers to the New Testament documents. Therefore, Whiston writes, ‘And in order to see whether Clement meant those Laws which are in the known Books of Scripture, or those in the Constitutions of the Apostles, I shall examine distinctly the several Particulars here mention’d by him, and see in which of those sorts of Books these Laws are contained.’176 Whiston then offers up ten examples, from the material discussed above such as the appropriate times for the worship service; who is to carry out the service; and the appointment of bishops and deacons, and concludes in each case with words such as ‘which Commands and Laws are no where in our New Testament, but are completely in the Constitutions’ or ‘Which Determination or Law of Christ is no where in our New Testament, but is fully and plainly in the Constitutions.’177 Whiston sums up the results of his survey of sections 40-44 from Clement’s letter to the Corinthians with, ‘And I desire withal it may be remark’d, that none of these authentick Rules and Laws are properly found in the present Books of the New Testament, but that every one of them are still extant even in our present Constitutions; and that Clement therefore affords us the strongest Evidence, as to all these Points, that even our copies of the Constitutions are true and genuine, and agreeable to those which were extant in the Apostolical Age itself.’178 As in the past, Whiston recalls Clement’s credentials. He was a companion of the apostles; bishop of the capital city Rome; wrote his letter to the Corinthians, which is considered genuine by the educated of Whiston’s own day, in the name of the Roman church; and claims to be the compiler of the Apostolic Constitutions. I must say that Whiston’s discussion of Clement’s letter to the Corinthians is, perhaps, the place in his entire corpus where he is most persuasive for readers of his day. However, as we heard earlier from Bart D. Ehrman, today the consensus view simply acknowledges that we do not know who wrote 1 Clement as the document makes no claim to authorship. In fact, Clement’s name is nowhere mentioned in this letter and there are serious problems with the traditional understanding of the authorship of this letter.179   Ibid., 15.   Ibid. 177   Ibid., 16 – numbers four and five. 178   Ibid., 18. 179   Following Ehrman’s translation, 1 Clement opens thus, ‘The church of God that temporarily resides in Rome, to the church of God that temporarily resides in Corinth, to those who have been called and made holy by the will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be increased among you, from the all-powerful God, through Jesus Christ.’ In his introduction, 175 176

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Whiston’s use of Irenaeus to counter the fourth common criticism offered against the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions – that they cannot be on par with the New Testament documents because they were not originally written down but rather were communicated via oral tradition – is as interesting as his use of Clement to counter the third common criticism of the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. As mentioned above, Whiston draws heavily on Pfaffius’ recently discovered fragment of Irenaeus. And as mentioned above, since Harnack’s 1900 work, these fragments have been considered forgeries. Nonetheless, as with the sections of Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, Whiston provides the Greek text of Irenaeus’ fragment as well as his own translation. The most important part of the fragment for Whiston’s purposes is the opening sentence, ‘Those that have attained to the Knowledge of the second Constitutions of the Apostles know, that the Lord has appointed a new Oblation in the New Testament; according to that of Malachi the Prophet, Wherefore from the rising of the Sun unto its going down, my Name is glorify’d among the Gentiles, and in every Place is offered to my Name Incense, and a Pure Oblation.’180 After providing the Greek text and his English translation, Whiston writes, ‘Now in order to the Demonstration of the sacred Authority of our present Constitutions of the Apostles, and that they were extant originally in Books, from this most remarkable Fragment of Irenaeus, we must observe.’181 Now follows ten observations from which I provide a sampling. Whiston first demonstrates, via another fragment of Irenaeus’ found in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History 4.17.5, that the language in these two fragments is similar. Therefore, according to Whiston, the newly discovered fragment is indeed from Irenaeus. Next, Whiston observes that Irenaeus, in the recently discovered fragment, refers to the Constitutions by their common name, Constitutions of the Apostles. By doing so, Irenaeus cites the Apostolic

Ehrman traces the development of the early church tradition that Clement is the author of this letter from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth, even though the letter itself bears the signature of no one, found in Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius. There are, however, serious problems with the traditional authorship of this letter. As Ehrman notes, if, in fact, the letter was from a bishop from Rome, it seems likely this person would have included his name and title in order to give the letter more and proper authority. Also, it is uncertain that there would have been a single bishop over the Roman church at this point in the church’s historical development. In fact, ‘Moreover, 1 Clement itself uses the terms “presbyter” and “bishop” interchangeably (ch. 44), making it appear that a distinct office of “bishop” as the leader of the church presbyters had not yet appeared.’ See B. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers (2003), 1.22. Ehrman also observes that, some years after 1 Clement was written, in his letter to the Roman church, Ignatius of Antioch makes no mention of a single bishop. 180   W. Whiston, St. Clement’s and St. Irenaeus’s Vindication of the Apostolical Constitutions (1715), 19-20. 181   Ibid., 21.



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Constitutions ‘as he would cite any other Book; and thereby shews that they were the Books, or were extant in writing among the Christians.’182 Whiston’s third observations is central. He notes that Irenaeus’ fragment refers to the Apostolic Constitutions as consisting of two parts; therefore, the Apostolic Constitutions had to have been written down in Irenaeus’ day. Thus, the first sentence in the fragment indicates that Irenaeus ‘supposes them distinguish’d into two Parts; and to contain distinctly, the first or earlier, and the second or later Constitutions of the Apostles, just as our present Apostolical Constitutions appear to this day.’183 Whiston then moves forward to explain that it is clear that the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions consists of an ‘earlier and smaller Collection of Constitutions’.184 This collection represents the earliest form of Christianity held by the Jews in Judea. The remaining seven books then belong to the church that emerged later in time, ‘I mean, those of the Gentiles only; which is evident in the present Copies.’185 We already heard from Whiston on the issue of the Jewish and Gentile church, as reflected in the Apostolic Constitutions, when discussing Epiphanius and the date of Easter earlier in this chapter. We will hear a bit more in the next chapter. Whiston provides even more discussion concerning the Apostolic Constitutions and the date of Easter in this work now under discussion, St. Clement’s and St. Irenaeus’s Vindication of the Apostolical Constitutions, in his ‘Observation’ section found on pages 26-33. Whiston’s seventh observation is more significant than some of the others as he articulates what he thinks is the obvious meaning of the phrase, ‘Those who have attained to the Knowledge of the Constitutions of the Apostles’ found in Irenaeus’ fragment. For Whiston these words indicate that when Irenaeus lived, the Apostolic Constitutions were not intended for wide-spread use among the churches. Rather they were ‘kept more privately in the Churches; in exact Agreement with the last Canon of the Apostles, in our present Copies, and with the Primitive Practice consequent thereupon.’186 This more private nature of the Apostolic Constitutions is in direct contrast with the public nature of the known New Testament books. These other sacred documents ‘might be known by Heathens, Jews, and Catechumens, as well as by the Faithful.’187 It is worth recalling here that Whiston believes the Apostolic Constitutions to be the most sacred book of the New Testament. Thus, in Whiston’s mind, the Apostolic Constitutions trump all other New Testament documents even the gospels. This includes that parts of the Apostolic Constitutions that were originally intended   Ibid.,   Ibid., 184   Ibid., 185   Ibid. 186   Ibid., 187   Ibid. 182 183

22. 22-3. 23. 24.

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only for church leaders as well as those parts that were intended to be more widely dispersed. In his tenth and final observation, Whiston lays out the Greek from Irenaeus’ account of the consecration of the elements. Next to this Greek text is the Greek text of the consecration of the elements found in Apostolic Constitutions 8.12. Whiston concludes, ‘The Agreement between these Accounts is so exact, as to be surprizing also; and it is so sacred and solemn a Point, that it is exceeding valuable; especially to all those who desire to have the Administration of the Eucharist now done intirely according to the Will of Christ declared by his Apostles.’188 While Whiston is correct that there are strong similarities, even places where there is word for word agreement, it is also true that this language of ‘bread’ and ‘body’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ and ‘sacrifice’ and ‘cup’ and ‘blood’ is also standard eucharist language found in other liturgical texts such as 1 Corinthians 11. Tertullian Never shy about his distaste for Tertullian, Whiston writes that Tertullian ‘was little better than a Heretick himself, on more Accounts than one; and receded plainly both from the original Doctrines and Practices of the Constitutions in several things.’ Nonetheless, Tertullian does in fact ‘afford us many eminent Confirmations of the particular Rules and Practices appointed therein.’189 As is commonplace by now, Whiston offers a chart with texts from Tertullian in one column and texts form the Apostolic Constitutions in another column to demonstrate Tertullian’s awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions, and thus make the argument that the Apostolic Constitutions are indeed a first-century production. Whiston’s focus, however, is on one passage – Tertullian’s On the Crown 3. In On the Crown, Tertullian defends a Christian man who refused to place a crown on his head due to his Christian faith. Eventually, Tertullian will contend that the Roman crown is an offering to idols. Therefore, the decision to refuse to wear the crown is the right one. In making his argument – and this is what appeals to Whiston to demonstrate that the Apostolic Constitutions predate Tertullian and Tertullian has some awareness of them – Tertullian highlights the practice of baptism. Tertullian’s point is to emphasize the role of tradition when Scripture is silent. Take for example the method in which baptism is carried out. Just before entering the water, the person to be baptized disowns the devil and his ways. Next the person is immersed into the water three times. Finally, when taken from the water, the newly baptized is given a mixture of milk and honey to drink. ­Tertullian’s point here is that while baptism is commanded in the ­scriptures, the 188 189

  Ibid., 26.   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.395.



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scriptures are silent about the way it is to be carried out. So, where then did the practice of condemning the devil, a triune baptism, and the use of milk and honey come from? Tertullian says these practices surrounding baptism, and other practices surrounding the eucharist, honoring the dead, the unlawfulness of fasting and kneeling on the Lord’s Day, and the sign of the cross, emerge from tradition. And, therefore, these traditions are on par with the scriptures.190 Whiston notes that the traditions accompanying baptism, as described by Tertullian, are prescribed in the Apostolic Constitutions. Interestingly, Whiston uncharacteristically does not cite a specific text. Nonetheless, he also observes that the Apostolic Constitutions call for a triune baptism. He observes that the practice in the early church was not then as it is in Whiston’s own day. In Whiston’s day, the person is immersed once and thus baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Rather, in the early church, ‘the Bishop or Presbyter dipp’d him, once in the name of the Father, a second time of the Son, and a third time of the Holy Ghost.’191 Though Whiston does not give a specific text, in this part of his discussion, he is correct that the Apostolic Constitutions call for the baptized to be immersed three times. In the 50th ecclesiastical canon, found in the conclusion of book eight of the Apostolic Constitutions, bishops and presbyters are condemned for immersing only once into the death of Christ. Rather, bishops and presbyters are admonished to baptize people three times as intended by the words of Jesus in Matthew 28.19. Whiston contends that since the reference to triune baptism in Tertullian’s On the Crown agrees precisely with the description of the proper mode of baptism in the Apostolic Constitutions, then Tertullian received this tradition, not explicitly from the scriptures, but mediated through the Apostolic Constitutions themselves. Thus, Whiston concludes, ‘the Triune Immersion is directly of our Saviours own Appointment, and the very meaning of the original Command for Baptism, both in Matthew, and the Constitutions; and so not to be alter’d by any Christian.’192 For Whiston then the chain looks like this: Jesus’ 190   In private correspondence, Markus Vinzent shares his opinion with me that, for Tertullian, tradition is even more important than Scripture. As evidence, Vinzent points to the reality that Tertullian did not produce a commentary on Scripture except when opposing Marcion’s proposed New Testament. 191   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.399. 192   Ibid., 3.399-400. For a detailed treatment of Whiston’s understanding of baptism, see P. ­Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: Was He or Wasn’t He?’ (2012), 24-9. In this piece, the argument is made that William Whiston finally broke from the Church of England in 1747 – five years before his death – and aligned himself officially with the Baptists. Even though Whiston agreed with the Baptists that infant baptism was not the practice of the earliest Christians, he would not be rebaptized, as he himself was baptized into the Church of England as an infant, because rebaptism is condemned in canon 47 of the Apostolic Constitutions. Furthermore, if rebaptism is in order, the Baptists themselves need to be rebaptized because they were dipped but once and the earliest form of Christian baptism was triune baptism. The article investigates closely Whiston’s 1748 Mr. ­Whiston’s Friendly Address to the Baptists.

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teaching on baptism transmitted to the apostles, recorded in the Apostolic Constitutions, and received by Tertullian. This is so even though Tertullian was almost a heretic himself and it is quite possible that Tertullian never saw the Apostolic Constitutions himself, ‘nor indeed know whether there were such Books in any of the Churches or not.’193 Hippolytus Whiston’s discussion of Hippolytus is brief but significant for his overall position concerning the Apostolic Constitutions. While most of his writings are not extant, Whiston believes that two of them have survived – De Antichristo and De Susanna. Thus, Whiston lists places from these two works that he thinks demonstrate an awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions. However, unsurprisingly, it is the marble statue that presents the most significant evidence for Hippolytus’ use of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston simply states that the inscription, An Apostolical Tradition Concerning Gifts, is also the title of the first two chapters of book eight of the Apostolic Constitutions. Origen Origen may be, in Whiston’s eyes, the most significant witness to the Apostolic Constitutions from the pre-Nicene era. It is not that Origen does not pose some problems. He does. On the one hand, Origen is a ‘Companion of Hippolytus’ and ‘that most pious, learned, and excellent Person’. On the other hand, Origen was guilty of ‘some uncertain Philosophical conjectures’. If not for these conjectures Origen may have been ‘the greatest Light of the whole Primitive Church, after the Apostolick Ages’.194 Whiston himself conjectures that, though not a bishop, Origen was a presbyter and had an intimate knowledge of the churches in Alexandria and Caesarea. Therefore, it would be impossible for Origen to be ignorant of the Apostolic Constitutions. If fact, Whiston goes as far as to say that for Origen the Apostolic Constitutions are of greater authority than the Scriptures themselves. In his On First Principals, Origen relies on the Apostolic Constitutions, distinct from the Scriptures, to offer a full account of earliest Christianity. Whiston then provides texts from Origen’s On First Principles and Pamphilus’ Apology for Origen to make his case. Whiston considers these texts so important to his argument that he provides his own translation of the Latin in his abbreviated 1712 edition. I will use his translation here. In the passages provided there is an emphasis on the Ecclesiastical preaching and the Ecclesiastical tradition. Whiston notes that these names are also applied 193 194

  W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.401.   Ibid., 3.404.



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to the Apostolic Constitutions. For example, we find this (oddly Whiston does not give the exact references): ‘Whereas there are many who think they understand Christianity enough, and some of them are of different Sentiments from other (sic); while the Ecclesiastical Preaching having been delivered down by Order of Succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the Churches till this Day, That is alone to be taken for Truth which in no point differs from the Ecclesiastical Tradition.’195 At one point, Origen states that the Ecclesiastical preaching teaches that the Holy Spirit is joined to the Father and the Son. However, the Ecclesiastical preaching does not say whether the Holy Spirit is begotten or unbegotten. Because this is unclear, ‘Such Points are, to be enquir’d after, as well as we are able therefore from the Holy Scriptures, and to be searched out by an inquisitive Sagacity.’196 Whiston concludes, ‘These Accounts of Origen, mainly preserv’d in Two Books … seem to me inestimable; and to contain an Attestation to the Constitutions truly undeniable; particularly to the Doctrinal Parts, … and the original Liturgy; and shew most certainly that these Books were look’d upon as the unerring and indisputable Standards of Christian Faith.’197 And he says it once again, ‘And I think Origen does fully imply that these Constitutions were esteem’d of more sacred Authority in these matters than the very Writings of the New Testament themselves.’198 If Whiston’s language seems a bit strong in relation to the sample given here of the evidence he produces from Origen’s writings, then it is worth noting that Whiston’s language may have appeared a bit strong, on second thought, even to himself. In the 1711 edition, Whiston writes that Origen seems to have cited the Doctrine of the Apostles ‘which is no other than an Extract out of the first Six Books of the same Constitutions.’199 In the 1712 edition, Whiston writes, ‘which was probably no other than an Extract out of the first Six Books of the same Constitutions.’200 Notice Whiston’s addition here of the word ‘probably’. Council of Nicaea As he makes his way through the fourth century, Whiston scores interesting observations about the Council of Nicaea. With his characteristically hesitant language, Whiston says that Nicaea appears ‘to allude to, if not directly to cite the same last Branch of the Constitutions.’201 Whiston refers here to the canons   W. Whiston,   Ibid., 3.159. 197   W. Whiston, 198   Ibid. 199   Ibid., 3.405. 200   W. Whiston, 201   W. Whiston, 195 196

Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.158-9. Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.412. Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1712), 3.158. Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.436.

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of Paul found towards the end of Apostolic Constitutions book 8. More specifically, Whiston’s above comments refer to Apostolic Constitutions 8.32. Here the apostle Paul offers a variety of instructions about who to baptize and who not to baptize. He says that if any person has a demon, that person is to be instructed in Christian devotion. However, that person is not to receive communion unless the person is near death. Canon 13 from the Council of Nicaea says something similar though it makes no mention of a person possessed by a demon. It says that anyone near death, who requests communion, is to be examined by the bishop or priest. If the person should recover then s/he is to be put back with those under instruction (prayers) but not receive communion. This 13th canon from Nicaea seems to presume that the person near death is under some sort of church discipline and at the time of their sickness not admitted to communion. Next, Whiston turns to the account of Paphnutius as found in Sozomen’s Ecclesiastical History. In his Ecclesiastical History 1.23, Sozomon relates that one canon the council of Nicaea considered adopting was a law that required men who were married before they entered the priesthood to refrain from sexual intercourse with their spouse. However, Paphnutius, a confessor, objected to this proposal even though he himself was a single man. Paphnutius reminded those gathered that it was the ancient practice for those who entered the priesthood unmarried to remain unmarried. However, those that entered the priesthood married were to keep their wives. According to Paphnutius, it would be too difficult a task to ask the married priest to continue to live with his wife and refrain from sexual activity. The council followed Paphnutius’ advice. Therefore, the decision to engage in sexual activity or not was left to individual judgement. No law was enacted. Whiston says, ‘Which advice of Paphnutius looks as if it were in part transcrib’d from the Constitutions themselves.’202 Whiston references Apostolic Constitutions 6.14. Here we find sundry directions centered around the goodness of marriage. There are quotations from Proverbs 19.14, Matthew 19.4-5, and Matthew 14.6. Perhaps Whiston has these words from the Apostolic Constitutions in mind when he suggests that Paphnutius, from the council of Nicaea, quoted from the Apostolic Constitutions, ‘For the wife is the partner of life, united by God unto one body from two. But he that divides that again into two which is become one, is the enemy of the creation of God, and the adversary of His providence.’ (ANF translation) Whiston even suggests that Constantine himself may have been influenced by the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston references Rufinus’ Ecclesiastical History 10.2. Here Constantine deals with complaints that bishops have against one another. Constantine sets aside a day upon which he agrees to handle the 202

  Ibid., 3.437.



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b­ ishop’s grievances. At this meeting, Constantine informs the bishops that even he is not qualified to intervene in their quarrels with one another. Constantine instructs the bishops to save their issues with one another for divine judgement. In the meantime, they are to focus their attention on matters of Christian faith.203 Whiston wonders then if Constantine has read Apostolic Constitutions 2.11. Here it is said that bishops are above other classes of seemingly important people, even kings and rulers. Thus, bishops have the authority to judge even these people. Eusebius of Caesarea Elsewhere I have discussed the importance of Eusebius of Caesarea to William Whiston’s theological development.204 In light of this discussion, it is no surprise that Whiston devotes 42 pages to argue that Eusebius possessed an intimate knowledge of the Apostolic Constitutions. His detailed discussion, filled with primary texts from Eusebius’ writings, is offered for reasons other than Whiston’s great admiration for Eusebius of Caesarea. At the beginning of his discussion, he states the problem: Eusebius mentions the Apostolic Constitutions nowhere in his voluminous literary output, not even in his accounts of the apostles or Clement. In Whiston’s own words, Eusebius’ silence about the Apostolic Constitutions ‘is suppos‘d a mighty Argument for their being not really genuine.’205 However, this is not correct. In fact, Eusebius’ silence is actually an argument for the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions: ‘Whereas it is only an Argument that he exactly knew and observ‘d the Directions therein contain‘d for the careful concealment of them.’206 Once again, Whiston’s contention that the Apostolic Constitutions were initially kept secret, by bishops, from general audiences explains the lack of explicit references in Eusebius’ writings. However, Eusebius’ writings clearly demonstrate that ‘he was particularly vers’d in them, and esteem‘d them of the most sacred Authority.’207 As we have observed before, Whiston lists numerous Greek texts that demonstrate similarities in thought and practice between Eusebius and the Apostolic Constitutions. Due to these many similarities, Eusebius must have held the Apostolic Constitutions in high regard. It does not occur to Whiston that Eusebius had access to, and was influenced by, earlier church orders that are indeed found in the Apostolic Constitutions. However, the church orders in Eusebius’ 203   Whiston cites Rufinus’ Ecclesiastical History 1.2. However, this is an error. He must mean 10.2. 204   See P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 755-71, 764-71. 205   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.439. 206   Ibid. 207   Ibid.

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library were without the first-person apostolic references which were added later, perhaps about the time of Eusebius’ own life. After listing out texts from Eusebius that demonstrate similarities and thus an awareness of the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston next plans to offer a summary of the similarities. However, first, he feels the need to digress and discuss another possible pitfall to his argument that the Apostolic Constitutions are a first-century product. The problem this time is that both Origen and Eusebius count some documents as of doubtful authority that the last canon in the Apostolic Constitutions counts as canonical and thus a part of the New Testament. Whiston concedes that this makes it appear that Origen and Eusebius ‘did not own those Canons for Sacred and Authentick among Christians.’208 Whiston refers here to Eusebius’ account of the New Testament documents in Ecclesiastical History 6.25 as well as Ecclesiastical History 3.3, 3.4, 3.25, and 3.26. In 6.25, Eusebius quotes Origen on the books that should be considered canonical – both Old and New Testaments. In 3.3, 3.4, 3.25, and 3.26, Eusebius gives his own understanding and the early Christian documents that should be considered canonical. Whiston notes that Eusebius follows Origen closely. In light of Eusebius’ affections for Origen, this should come as no surprise to Whiston or to us. The issue, once again, that Whiston feels compelled to address, is that some of the documents that both Origen and Eusebius label as disputed in their day – such as 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John – are not labeled as such in the concluding 85th canon of the Apostolic Constitutions. In fact, these documents are included in the New Testament in the 85 th canon. Furthermore, the 85th canon does not include Revelation at all in the New Testament and the 85th canon includes the two epistles of Clement as well as the Apostolic Constitutions themselves as a New Testament document. In Whiston’s attempts to deal with this issue, he is difficult to follow. He notes that there was a sacred Tradition and Covenant in the church that was agreed upon by all and the books found within this Tradition were not questioned by anyone. Whiston says that this Tradition and Covenant was ‘no other than the Apostolical Constitutions before us; which antiently were in an especial manner known among others by those very names.’209 Thus, Whiston says, the books categorized as unquestionable in Origen and Eusebius are all found in the 85th canon of the Apostolic Constitutions – the four Gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul, and 1 Peter. As for 1 and 2 Clement, Whiston contends that they are not in Origen’s or Eusebius’ unquestionable list ‘probably because it was not recommended nor cited in the same Constitutions.’210 In other words, the letters of Clement are not mentioned in the eight proper books of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston discusses a couple of other issues such as the Letter to   Ibid., 3.471.   Ibid., 3.475. 210   Ibid., 3.476. 208 209



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the Hebrews as well as Revelation and the Shepherd of Hermas. Whiston concludes that ‘Origen and Eusebius dare not reject any one Book in the last Apostolical Canon; but only suppose those to be of the highest and most unquestionable Authority which the Constitutions themselves did expresly warrant also.’211 Furthermore, Origen and Eusebius appear to have the distinct honor of holding ‘the Constitutions themselves as indisputably Sacred and Apostolical’. And, though they were not as sure about the additional canons, they ‘dare not reject any one Book therein contain‘d; even when they could find no other original Authors to have cited them.’212 After the lengthy digression, Whiston offers a summary of the points he has made about Eusebius’ intimate knowledge of the Apostolic Constitutions. The nature of Whiston’s arguments is familiar by now. Even though Eusebius never mentions the Apostolic Constitutions by name, the similarities between them and Eusebius’ writings persuades Whiston that Eusebius considered them sacred. I offer a sampling of some of Whiston’s more interesting observations. Whiston observes that Eusebius’ writings contain ‘the very same Language, Phrases, and Doctrines, especially as to the Son and Spirit of God, which we meet with in these Constitutions; the very same Account of the Appearances of the Son of God under the Old Testament.’213 Eusebius and the Apostolic Constitutions contain the same account of Simon Magnus and his dispute with Peter; the same account of early heresies; and the same account of James the brother of Jesus made bishop of Jerusalem as well as other early bishops in apostolical churches. Furthermore, Eusebius speaks of an apostolic tradition as a manner of passing on early Christianity that is distinct from the New Testament. Both Eusebius and the Apostolic Constitutions allow laymen to preach when authorized by the bishop. Eusebius ‘gives the very same Account of Baptism and of the Lord’s-days Worship and Sacrifice, and of the Morning and Evening Hymns, that is in the Constitutions.’214 Whiston contends that E ­ usebius and the Apostolic Constitutions both testify of Jesus’ first and immediate ascension into heaven after his resurrection from the dead. Thus, even with the problem of Eusebius’ silence in relation to the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston concludes, ‘Eusebius appears to me one that exactly knew, and most highly esteem’d these Constitutions, as the grand Foundation and Standard of our whole Religion.’215 It appears that Whiston still finds himself haunted by the voices of his critics. So, he offers one more argument concerning the disturbing reality that Eusebius nowhere mentions the Apostolic Constitutions in any of his writings. Whiston makes two final observations on   Ibid.,   Ibid., 213   Ibid., 214   Ibid., 215   Ibid., 211 212

3.476. 3.477. 3.477. 3.479. 3.481.

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this front. First, the Apostolic Constitutions ‘were esteem‘d not the Written but Unwritten Records of our Religion.’216 And, second, while it is true that the Apostolic Constitutions are not mentioned in Eusebius’ genuine category of New Testament books, it is also true that the Apostolic Constitutions are not mentioned in Eusebius’ doubtful or false, or heretical categories of early Christian literature. Characteristically overstating his case, Whiston concludes that the objection that Eusebius nowhere calls the Apostolic Constitutions by name ‘Vanishes to almost nothing.’217 Once again, though, even here in what must be considered a climactic point of Whiston’s argument, we find the use of the qualifier ‘almost‘. Council of Jerusalem With Whiston’s treatment of the Council of Jerusalem, we once again encounter Whiston’s necessity to defend the Apostolic Constitutions against a common criticism. This time the criticism is that non-Nicenes do not mention the Apostolic Constitutions in their disputes with Nicene parties. Whiston references the Council of Jerusalem – a meeting that occurred ten years after the Council of Nicaea and that consisted of more people than was present at Nicaea. Whiston observes that Eusebius of Caesarea was at both councils. Whiston contends that it is this Council of Jerusalem that Eusebius describes in Life of Constantine 4.43. He continues, ‘Now before the assembling of this famous Council Arius and Euzoius had written a Letter to Constantine, by whom they had been banished, wherein they petition’d to be restored, and made a particular Confession of their Faith.’218 This letter is contained in both Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History (1.26) and Sozomen’s Ecclesiastical History (2.27). The letter was written around 331 CE and the Council of Jerusalem transpired around 335 CE. Whiston says, ‘This Council restor’d the Arians; and wrote to the Churches of Egypt to receive them, and refer’d to that very Creed of theirs which was contained in the Letter to Constantine, as exactly agreeable to that undisputed one in the Constitutions.’219 Furthermore, Athanasius himself ‘that grand Corruptor of the Christian Faith, and consequently grand enemy … of these Constitutions’ records portions of the letter to Constantine in his Apology against the Arians.220 However, Athanasius stops his record of Arius’ and Euzoius’ letter to Constantine ‘before he came to that solemn Appeal of theirs to the Constitutions’.221 Nonetheless, Athanasius offers another account of these same events   Ibid.   Ibid. 218   Ibid., 219   Ibid., 220   Ibid., 221   Ibid., 216 217

3.483. 3.484. 3.482. 3.484.



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in his On the Synods of Ariminum and Seleucia 21. Here, Athanasius gives the letter in its entirety with Arius’ and Euzoius’ confession of faith. The reason Athanasius records the whole letter here is due to providence. Furthermore, the fact that Athanasius records the whole letter is a testimony to Athanasius’ ‘and his Party’s Shame and Confusion for ever’.222 Whiston takes the creed from this letter of Arius and Euzoius and compares it with the creed found in the Apostolic Constitutions. He notes that this council met in the very city where the Apostolic Constitutions were composed. The council refers to the Apostolic Tradition and the Doctrine, which are the two most common names for the Apostolic Constitutions. And the council states that the faith found in this Apostolic Tradition or Doctrine is the true faith ‘and that they were themselves own’d for Sacred and Apostolical by all Christians.’223 The clincher for Whiston is that the apostles’ baptismal creed found in the Apostolic Constitutions ‘are exactly agreeable to this Creed of Arius and Euzoius, which the Council refers us to; nay rather that this Creed is epitomiz‘d from the other, is also undenyable.’224 Whiston’s argument here is intriguing. I provide more information so the reader can decide whether Whiston’s argument is persuasive. He lays out the Greek text of both Apostolic Constitutions 7.41 and the letter of Arius and Euzoius to Constantine. Then Whiston draws his conclusion about the relationship of these two creeds due to the manner they conclude. Whiston notes that both creeds have the same two phrases ‘Kingdom of Heaven, and concerning the Life of the World to come’ and these two phrases occur ‘in no other Creeds of Antiquity’.225 I provide the two creeds in just a moment. However, first, I draw attention to Whiston’s own softening of the above statement about the two phrases found in the letter of Arius and Euzoius and the Apostolic Constitutions. He admits, ‘(saving some Remains of the same Distinction in one newly Publish’d as Athanasius’s, and in a few more of the Arian ones afterwards;)’.226 Now, we encounter Whiston’s translation of Apostolic Constitutions 7.41 and the ANE translation of Socrates version of the letter Arius and Euzoius sent to Constantine so the reader can see these two phrases Whiston hangs so much of his argument upon.227 Then I will provide the beginning of J.N.D. Kelly’s translation of Apostolic Constitutions 7.41 that brings to surface an intriguing textual variant that deserves recognition.   Ibid., 3.484.   Ibid., 3.486. 224   Ibid., 3.486-7. 225   Ibid., 3.488. 226   Ibid. 227   Whiston does not specify. However, it appears that he provides the Greek of Socrates’ version of this creed found within Arius’ and Euzoius’ letter to Constantine. The reason I suggest this is because in Socrates version it is ‘kingdom of heavens’ with heavens plural. And in Sozomen’s version it is ‘kingdom of heaven’ with heaven singular. 222 223

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Whiston’s translation of Apostolic Constitutions 7.41: And [I] Believe, and am Baptiz’d into One Unbegotten Being, the Only True God, Almighty, the Father of Christ, the Creator and Maker of all Things, from who are all things; and into the Lord Jesus Christ, his Only-begotten Son, the First-born of the whole Creation, who before the Ages was begotten by the good Pleasure of the Father, by whom all things were made, both those in Heaven, and those on Earth, visible and invisible, who in the last Days descended from Heaven, and took Flesh, and was born of the holy Virgin Mary, and did converse holily, according to the Laws of his God and Father, and was crucify’d under Pontius Pilate, and died for us, and rose again from the Dead after his Passionate Third Day, and ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father, again is to come at the End of the World with Glory to judge the Quick and the Dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no End. And I am baptiz’d into the Holy Ghost, that is the Comforter, who wrought in all the Saints from the Beginning of the World, but was afterwards sent to the Apostles by the Father, according to the Promise of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ; and the Apostles, to all those that believe in the Holy Catholick Church. Into the Resurrection of the Flesh, and into the Remission of Sins, and into the Kingdom of Heaven [καὶ εἰς βασιλείαν οὐρανῶν], and into the Life of the World to come [καὶ εἰς ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος] …228

Now, the ANE translation of the Arius and Euzoius letter to Constantine that contains a baptismal creed found in Socrates Ecclesiastical History 1.27: We believe in one God the Father Almighty and in the Lord Jesus Christ his Son, who was begotten of Him before all ages, God the Word through whom all things were made, both those which are in the heavens and those upon the earth; who descended and became incarnate, and suffered, and rose again, ascended into the heavens, and will again come to judge the living and the dead. [We believe] also in the Holy Spirit, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in the life of the coming age [καὶ εἰς ζωιὼ τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος], and in the kingdom of the heavens [καὶ εἰς βασιλείαν οὐρανῶν], and in one Catholic Church of God, extending from one end of the earth to the other.

Now, J.N.D. Kelly’s translation, taken from F.X. Funk’s text, of the beginning of Apostolic Constitutions 7.41: And I believe, and am baptized in one unbegotten, only, true God, almighty, the Father of the Christ, creator and framer of all things, from Whom are all things; And in the Lord Jesus the Christ, His only-begotten Son, the first-begotten of all creation, Who before ages was born, not created [οὐ κτισθέντα], by the good pleasure of the Father, through Whom all things came into being, in heaven and upon the earth …229 228   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 2 (no page number). Whiston provides the Greek text of this baptismal creed in volume three of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d. However, he does not provide an English translation there or in his 1712 edition of volume three. Therefore this translation is taken from his entire translation of the Apostolic Constitutions found in volume two. 229   J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (2006), 186.



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Of course, the ‘not created’ / οὐ κτισθέντα would have caused Whiston all sorts of headaches. As he makes no mention of it, the reading was not available to him. I have no doubt Whiston would have labeled it a corruption to the text inserted by an orthodox representative. Most likely, Whiston would have pinned this chicanery on Athanasius. While it would be hard to prove Athanasius himself corrupted the text, Whiston would have been right in his determination that it was inserted by someone with orthodox sentiments. An Interesting Appendix Before we conclude this chapter, an interesting appendix, relevant to this chapter, merits discussion. This is the second appendix found in Whiston’s An Essay Towards Restoring the True Text of the Old Testament; and for Vindicating the Citations made thence in the New Testament to which is Subjoined a Large Appendix: Containing 1. The Variation of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the Hebrew. II. A Demonstration that the Apostolical Constitutions were Written in the First Century. III. That Sesotris was that Pharaoh who was Drowned in the Red Sea. IV. A Collection of Original Monuments refer’d to in my Chronological Table. In this appendix, Whiston attempts to demonstrate that the Apostolic Constitutions emerge from the first century based on 21 Old Testament citations and 13 observations concerning the New Testament. I provide a handful of examples. Whiston notes that the Apostolic Constitutions divide the Old Testament documents into the Law, the prophets including Daniel, and the Psalms or Hymns without Daniel. This then was the manner in which the Old Testament books were categorized when the New Testament books were written as well as when Philo and Josephus were active – all in the first century. Later, however, the Jews and then the Christians changed to the Law, the prophets without Daniel, and the Hagiographers with Daniel. ‘Therefore the Constitutions were most probably written in, or soon after, the first Century.’230 Whiston says that the Apostolic Constitutions cite this text from Jeremiah, ‘Ye have not kept my ordinances; nay, ye have not walked according to the Ordinances of the Heathen; and ye have in a manner exceeded them.’ All copies of Jeremiah since the first century, says Whiston, do not have this passage. ‘Therefore these Constitutions were written in the first Century.’231 230   W. Whiston, An Essay Towards Restoring the True Text of the Old Testament; and for Vindicating the Citations made thence in the New Testament to which is Subjoined a Large Appendix: Containing 1. The Variation of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the Hebrew. II. A Demonstration that the Apostolical Constitutions were Written in the First Century. III. That Sesotris was that Pharaoh who was Drowned in the Red Sea. IV. A Collection of Original Monuments refer’d to in my Chronological Table (1722), cxvi-cxvii. 231   Ibid., cxxi.

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Turning his attention to the New Testament, Whiston writes that the ecclesiastical canons found in the last chapter of the Apostolic Constitutions list no documents that were written after the death in Clement in 88 CE. Therefore, Revelation is not found in this list because Revelation was written in 96 CE. ‘Therefore this last Branch was written towards the end of the first Century, some time before the Apocalypse.’232 In a similar vein, Whiston observes that out of 55 citations of John’s gospel found in the Apostolic Constitutions, not a single citation comes from the last chapter of John. This is because it appears that the last chapter of John was written long after the rest of the gospel, ‘and after the Death of Clement’.233 Conclusion This chapter demonstrates how William Whiston sought to defend his strong conviction that the Apostolic Constitutions are just what they claim to be – the writings of the apostles themselves collected by Clement in the first century of the Christian era. Whiston employs internal and external arguments, with external arguments serving as the most important piece of evidence. Though we stopped our discussion of Whiston’s external evidence with the Council of Jerusalem circa 335 CE, Whiston’s words found in his discussion of ancient liturgies attributed to James, Mark, Peter, Basil, and Chrysostom along with the remains of Proclus, bishop of Constantinople, and the sixth general council are a fitting place to end this chapter. Fitting because we continue to gain exposure to Whiston’s zeal even as we sense that perhaps he himself is not even convinced by his arguments. He writes, ‘so say I here to the References of these Liturgies to that in the Eight Book of the Constitutions; that if after a due Examination and Comparison, the Reader be still dissatisfy’d in this matter, I must leave him to his own Opinion; as not pretending to satisfy him in any point whatsoever; nay scarcely in Mathematick Demonstrations themselves.’234 As we shall now see, most of Whiston’s contemporaries did not find his arguments to be on par with mathematics.

  Ibid., cxxxi-cxxxii.   Ibid., cxxxiii. 234   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.622. 232 233

Chapter 4 Response We have now examined William Whiston’s discovery of the Apostolic Constitutions, his understanding of the Apostolic Constitutions, and his defense of the Apostolic Constitutions. In this concluding chapter, we expand the scope of our investigation with a detailed discussion of the reactions of Whiston’s contemporaries to Whiston’s deep convictions concerning the Apostolic Constitutions. I suggest this part of Whiston’s love affair with the Apostolic Constitutions is even more gripping than what has transpired in previous chapters. However, readers may decide this for themselves. The pages of this chapter provide a survey of the persons who agreed with Whiston’s conviction that the Apostolic Constitutions are authentically apostolic (few in number), those who disagreed with Whiston but appreciated his intellectual abilities (greater in number), and those who concluded that Whiston’s desire to proclaim his convictions about the Apostolic Constitutions and the Trinity were a menace to society (the greatest in number). We will see yet again that indeed Whiston lived at just the right time. As demonstrated in earlier chapters, had he lived a generation earlier, he likely would have been burned at the stake. The vitriol spewed against Whiston was intense and abundant. Stephen Snobelen provides us with more historical context in relation to Whiton’s atmosphere of greater freedom with which to protest established Church of England, and broader protestant, orthodoxy. He does so via comparison with Isaac Newton – Whiston’s elder by a quarter of a century. S ­ nobelen notes that after the Restoration there was a greater need to be cautious about differing religious opinions. Therefore, by the 1710s and the 1720s, persons holding different understandings of Christianity than that espoused by leaders in the Church of England were able to make known their opinions with less concern about prosecution. As we have seen, it was during the 1710s that Whiston began to drift from official church doctrine. For Newton, however, his heresy developed well before the turn of the eighteenth century. Snobelen says that if Newton’s ‘private response to becoming a heretic in the 1670s and 1680s appears different from the actions of Clarke and Whiston in the early 18th century, it must be remembered that the world then was much less tolerant and plural.’ Indeed, Whiston was fortunate to toil in the sweet spot. Snobelen also offers an attractive suggestion for Newton’s decision to keep his religious views sheltered as opposed to Whiston’s habit of shouting his similar religious views from the rooftop. Based on Hebrews 5.12-14, Newton did not believe the ‘strong meats’ of trinitarian debate was accessible to all Christians, only to a select religiously mature few. This then is why Newton shared his heretical discoveries with only a handful of people such as Whiston

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and Clarke. Snobelen concludes, ‘Thus, with certain strong qualifications and within severely restricted social boundaries, Newton was attempting to advance his faith; there is no other way to read the evidence.’1 Anthony Collins’ Apology for Whiston The emergence of the attitude presented in Anthony Collins’ ‘Preface to the Reader: Containing An Apology for Mr. Whiston’s liberty of writing’, found in his A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, further illustrates the reason Whiston was able to die peaceably as an 84 year old man in the home of his son-in-law Samuel Barker.2 So we begin with Collin’s robust rejection of Whiston’s conclusions about early Christianity and the Apostolic Constitutions, yet his robust support of Whiston’s right to publish those conclusions. In A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, Collins sets out to prove that Whiston is wrong in his conclusion that since the days of Jesus both the Hebrew text and the Greek text of the Old Testament have been corrupted by Jews because they wanted to make it look as if the apostles had not understood the Old Testament prophecies literally. Whiston opposes the use of allegory when interpreting prophecies. Collins does not and argues that this is exactly what early Christians did. Collins’ A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion is divided into two parts: ‘The first containing some Considerations on the Quotations made from the Old in the New Testament, and particularly on the Prophets cited from the former and said to be fulfill’d in the latter.’ The second part specifically tackles Whiston. It contains ‘an Examination of the Scheme advanc’d by Mr. Whiston in his Essay, towards restoring the true Text of the Old Testament, and for vindicating the Citations thence made in the New Testament.’ Before his readers digest his work, however, Collins wants them to know that while he disagrees with Whiston, he does not want his publication to cause ‘that ingenious and learned gentleman’ any personal harm.3 Therefore, at the   S. Snobelen, ‘Caution, Conscience and the Newtonian Reformation: The Public and Private Heresies of Newton, Clarke, and Whiston’ (1997), 151-84, 153-4 and 159. For more on Clarke, see J.P. Ferguson, Dr. Samuel Clarke: An Eighteenth Century Heretic (1976); T. Pfizenmaier, The Trinitarian Theology of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1675-1729): Context, Sources, and Controversy (1997); and D. Meli, ‘Newton and the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence’ (2016), 586-96. 2   For more on Whiston’s death see M. Farrell, William Whiston (1981), 39-41. 3   A. Collins, A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724), iv. This is such an interesting work as Collins, who is often styled a deist, writes like a Christian. Rebecca Esterson makes us aware of the scholarly debate concerning Collins’ religious identity. She says that scholars such as James O’Higgens, David Berman, Pascal Taranto, Hans Frei, and David Ruderman ‘present a different Anthony Collins’. Some understand Collins to be a deist indeed. However, others contend that Collins was an atheist or even a committed Christian. See R. Esterson, ‘Allegory and Religious Pluralism: Biblical Interpretation in the Eighteenth Century’ 1



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onset, Collins offers ‘a few particulars by way of apology for his liberty of writing; which, in my opinion, is not only justifiable in itself, but highly becoming a Man, a Christian, and a Protestant, and especially a Clergyman, a Scholar and a Philosopher.’4 Collins’ apology for Whiston centers upon a premise that these two theological opponents shared with one another – the great benefit to society of religious liberty. In fact, Collins notes that diversity of religious opinion is a strength, not a weakness as had been supposed in much of pre-reformation Europe. He notes that when ancient Rome ‘was in the height of its glory for arms, learning, and politeness, there were six hundred different religions profefs’d and allow’d therein.’5 Therefore, religious debate is of great benefit – not determent – to larger society. Collins acknowledges the popular opinion that peace and security is best obtained when the state elevates and enforces one religion, or one branch of a religion, over the others. However: the allowance of free debate is the method to obtain a more solid and lasting peace (peace flowing from temper and principal) than that mere outward form of peace, which is sometimes obtain’d by force and an inquisition. For if debates are free, that is, if no man gets or loses by maintaining particular opinions, the grand motives which make men disturb one another about opinions will cease; and they will insensibly fall into a due temper of mind (which force can never produce) and will be no more angry with one another of different sentiment, than for different features of their faces, or for different proportions of their bodies.6

From our perspective, on the one hand, these words ring with reality; on the other hand, we sense naivete. Collins was of the opinion God designed women and men to disagree with one another.7 Thus, ‘For impartial examination in the matter of opinions is the best, that a man can do towards obtaining the truth: and God, who is a wise, good, and just being, can require no more of men than to do their best, and will reward them, when they do their best; and he would be the most unjust being imaginable, if he punish’d men who had done their best endeavour to please him. Besides, if men were to be punish’d by God for mistaken opinions, all men must be damn’d; for all men abound in mistaken opinions.’8 (2018), 111-39, 122. For more on Whiston and Collins see, J. Force, William Whiston: Honest Newtonian (1985), 77-88; R. Esterson, ‘Allegory and Religious Pluralism’ (2018), 111-23; D. Ruderman, Connecting the Covenants: Judaism and the Search for Christian Identity in Eighteenth-Century England (2007), chapters 4 and 5; and S. Snobelen, ‘The Argument over Prophecy: An Eighteenth-Century Debate between William Whiston and Anthony Collins’ (1996), 195-213. 4   A. Collins, A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724), iv-v. 5   Ibid., xxviii. 6   Ibid., xxii-xxiii. 7   Ibid., xxxix. 8   Ibid., liv.

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Retuning to Whiston specifically, Collins makes several relevant observations. First, Whiston himself defends the rights of even opponents of Christianity to voice and publish their views with no threat to their wellbeing, physical or otherwise. Collins highlights Whiston’s words in Whiston’s Reflexions on an Anonymous Pamphlet, Entituled, a Discourse of Free Thinking. Here Whiston states, ‘I wish therefore that all the Unbelievers were openly allow’d and invited, to produce their real Arguments, substantial Objections, and considerable doubts, without Molestation.’9 Unsurprisingly, Whiston’s opinion here is governed by his conviction that these arguments, objections, and doubts can be answered. Therefore, if unbelievers could publish their concerns, Christianity would experience even more growth. Collins’ goal is to contend for Whiston’s right to publicize his controversial opinions without fear of any sort of disadvantages. Furthermore, Whiston is to be commended because he extends this same right even to out-and-out opponents of Christianity. Collins argues that it is especially imperative for Whiston to get his views out to the wider public because he is a clergyman. Clergymen are ‘under a particular obligation’ to pass on ‘the discoveries they make to the world’. If clergy are ‘silent as to the discoveries they make’ or preach or write ‘contrary to their own light’, they strive against the very work they were called to do.10 Therefore, Collins maintains that as long as no ‘disturbance of society’ occurs every person should have complete liberty to contend for the conclusions they reach after investigation.11 And Whiston poses no threat to society as he possesses a squeaky clean moral reputation. After placing Whiston’s name in the company of Hooker, Chillingworth, Whitchcot, More, Boyle, Locke, and others, Collins observes that Mr. Whiston ‘has not many superiors in learning and penetration, and seems superior to most in integrity.’12 Elsewhere, Whiston, ‘as far as we can judge, seems, by his conduct, both to do his best endeavors to obtain truth and to recommend himself to God, and to decline the worst methods of obtaining truth, and the most unacceptable to God.’13 Furthermore, the conclusion of Collins’ A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion consists of ‘an account of Mr. Whiston himself’. Here Collins speaks of Whiston’s personal traits – his most glaring traits but also some less desirable characteristics such as his refusal to let go of a bad idea. Collins writes, ‘He is an upright and very religious man; and a most zealous Christian: leading a moral life, as is common to most who are styl’d hereticks.’14   W. Whiston, Reflexions on an Anonymous Pamphlet, Entituled, a Discourse of Free Thinking (1713), 6. I cite directly from Whiston’s work. Collins cites Whiston on p. xliv of his apology for Whiston. 10   A. Collins, A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724), xiv. 11   Ibid., iv. 12   Ibid., x-xi. 13   Ibid., iv. 14   Ibid., 274. 9



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While Collins’ goal in his work is to counter the arguments found in Whiston’s Essay, towards restoring the true Text of the Old Testament, he does have a few things to say about the Apostolic Constitutions.15 Collins disagrees with Whiston’s conclusion that the Apostolic Constitutions are authentic and therefore the most sacred book of the New Testament. Collins refers to them as a ‘manifestly forg’d modern book’.16 He then tactfully draws attention to the unstable nature of Whiston’s own arguments for the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston is ‘doubtful as to the antiquity of some of its parts, interpolated in others, and first published in the middle of the fourth century … inconsistent in many instances with the books of the New Testament’.17 Though Collins, while arguing for Whiston’s liberty to express his views, strongly rejects Whiston’s call for the acceptance of the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions, he does acknowledge that Whiston ‘has made a multitude of converts to the belief; that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three different intelligent agents, and not three intelligent agents making but one intelligent agent.’ Furthermore, Whiston ‘has soften’d the zeal of many more, who used to call for fire from heaven, or the sword of the magistrate to defend their sentiments.’18 On the one hand, it is not surprising that Whiston would have significant success with his non-orthodox trinitarian platform. As stated in the opening chapter of this book, dissent from the orthodox understanding of the Trinity was in the air that Whiston breathed. It is worth remembering here that Michael Servetus died in 1553, approximately 114 years before Whiston was born. On the other hand, Whiston’s greater contribution may have been this ‘softening’ that Collins refers to. Whiston’s work was indeed a major contribution towards what is today a hallmark of western society – religious toleration for all.19 While it is true that Whiston’s other-trinitarian platform met with considerable success as he built on the foundation laid by other post-reformation clergymen and scholars, Whiston was not as successful when it came to persuading others of the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. In fact, Whiston states this himself as he describes a meeting he was called to in 1711 – after the publication of the four volumes of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d – with Benjamin Hoadly, John Hoadly, Mr. Craig, Mr. William, Gilbert Burnet, and Samuel Clarke. The main objective of the meeting was ‘to discourse about the Authority of the Apostolical Constitutions’ because ‘as to my Account of the   W. Whiston, Essay towards restoring the true Text of the Old Testament (1722).   A. Collins, A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724), 18. 17   Ibid. Collins refers here to Whiston’s own words in his Essay on the Apostolic Constitutions which is volume three of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711). 18   A. Collins, A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724), 281. 19   On Michael Servetus, see R. Bainton, Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus 1511-1553 (2005). Bainton contends that Servetus’ greatest legacy was the concept of religious toleration. 15 16

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Primitive Faith about the Trinity and Incarnation the Company did not seem much dissatisfied with it.’20 While Whiston’s ideas about the Trinity and Incarnation, found in volume four of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d were not problematic for this group, his defense of the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions, found in volume three of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, was met with limited agreement. It is to the limited agreement with Whiston here, and from elsewhere, that we now turn. Agreement with Whiston The group, discussed immediately above, that Whiston was called to meet with in 1711 serves as a narrow sampling of the kinds of responses Whiston was confronted with in relation to his defense of the apostolic authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. John Hoadly, for example, opposed the admission of the Apostolic Constitutions into the church as canonical and accused Whiston of a desire to bring persecution upon the Church of England. His brother Benjamin Hoadly, in contrast, stated that he did not want to argue over the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. However, he was in favor of receiving them into the church because the Apostolic Constitutions were ‘much better than what was already in the Church’.21 In a similar fashion, at this meeting, Samuel Clarke who was according to Whiston, ‘beyond compare, the best Judge of those I then conversed with’, thought that the Apostolic Constitutions were written significantly later than the time of Clement. However, they were written ‘from the Practice and Settlements of the Churches founded by the Apostles’.22 Because the church discipline and practices found in the Apostolic Constitutions come from the second and third centuries, Clarke was in favor of receiving them into the church at this meeting. More Limited Agreement with Whiston After detailing the opinions of those present at this meeting, Whiston then takes the opportunity to survey the views of others about the Apostolic Constitutions. Here I discuss those who agree with Whiston, even if in a limited manner, as above. I will discuss those Whiston lists here that disagree with him later in this chapter when we engage with those who disagreed with Whiston’s proposal that the Apostolic Constitutions are the most sacred book of the New Testament. 20   W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke, Including certain Memoirs of several of his Friends (1748), 20. 21   Ibid., 21. 22   Ibid.



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Dr. Grabe ‘whose dread of the Arian Passages affrighted him from owning the whole as really apostolical’ thought the Apostolic Constitutions were put together by an Arian out of the ‘Didascalies of Clement, Ignatius, and other Apostolical Men’.23 Nonetheless, Grabe did admit that the liturgy of the Gentile church found in book eight is authentic. It is worth pointing out a pattern that has developed thus far from Whiston’s own survey. Many of Whiston’s contemporaries conclude that the Apostolic Constitutions are pre-Nicene or parts of the Apostolic Constitutions are pre-Nicene. As we saw, some are even willing to admit them into the church based on this early date. However, there are, as we have seen and will see again later in more detail, very few scholars and/or clergy who will go as far as to say the Apostolic Constitutions are the product of the apostles themselves and/or Clement. There is some congruency here with modern-day scholarship. Even though the consensus view is that the Apostolic Constitutions were put together in the form we have them today sometime in the second half of the fourth century, it also seems reasonable to many that the liturgies found in the Apostolic Constitutions pre-date the Council of Nicaea.24 Indeed. Whiston informs us that Mr. Mead ‘supposes the Constitutions as ancient as Tertullian … written either at the end of the second, or beginning of the third century.’25 Similarly, that ‘very great Man Dr. Barrow’ references the Apostolic Constitutions in order to argue against the authority of the Pope. Dr. Barrow thinks that the Apostolic Constitutions are ‘contemporary with the first Fathers, or early in the second Century’.26 Bishop Bull writes that the Apostolic Constitutions are the oldest liturgies in existence and thus before the days of Constantine. Here, Bull acknowledges his opinion as to the age of the liturgies in the Apostolic Constitutions is simply that of all the learned of his day. Likewise, Renaudot contends that the Apostolic Constitutions represent the oldest surviving liturgies. Though, according to Whiston’s report, Renaudot waffles between a Nicene and pre-Nicene date for the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston provides a quotation from Renaudot’s Latin, Aliquot seculis scissionem Ecclesiae per Jacobitas antecedents. Both Grotius and Bishop Beveridge think the canons found at the conclusion of the Apostolic Constitutions emerge from the end of the second century (Grotius and Beveridge) or the beginning of the third century (Beveridge). Grotius comes to his conclusions based on his study of the Apostolical Canons found   Ibid., 23.   See again, P. Bradshaw, M. Johnson, and L. Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary (2002); P. Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy (2002); P. Smith, ‘Auctoritas and Potestas in the Apostolic Constitutions’ (2018); Hippolytus, On the Apostolic Tradition (2015); D. Fiensy, Prayers Alleged To Be Jewish (1985); and D. Fiensy, ‘Redaction History in the Apostolic Constitutions’ (1982), 293-302. 25   Ibid. W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Dr. Samuel Clarke (1748), 23. 26   Ibid. 23 24

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at the end of book 8. In a similar vein, Beveridge focused his studies on the Apostolical Canons and, according to Whiston, ‘fully proved they were the Ecclesiastical Rules by which the Churches were governed in the second and third Centuries.’27 Whiston draws attention to Beveridge’s conviction that the Apostolical Canons were made by councils of bishops who had access to manuscripts which record that the Apostolical Canons were made by the apostles themselves. Whiston writes that Mr. Wasse, rector of Ainbo in Northamptonshire, examined the Apostolic Constitutions more intensely than most of the other learned men discussed so far. As a result, he informed Whiston that the Apostolic Constitutions are not later than the ‘former part of the second century’ due to the Hellenistic style of Greek.28 In fact, at the end of the preface to his Reformed Devotions, Wasse recommends the Apostolic Constitutions to the Church of England to ‘improve and correct’ the prayer book.29 Mr. Billers is a particularly interesting case. He was fellow of St. John’s College as well as public orator of the University of Cambridge. Soon after Whiston was sacked from Cambridge, Mr. Billers examined the Apostolic Constitutions closely. Whiston does not know the exact result of Mr. Billers investigation because he became sick a few years before his death and ‘his Papers were judged too imperfect to appear.’30 Whiston and Mr. Billers, however, had a common friend, Thomas Baker. It was Mr. Billers and Mr. Baker that Whiston talked with the most, while at Cambridge University, when he was carrying out his own in-depth investigation of primitive Christianity and the Apostolic Constitutions. Mr. Baker told Whiston that Mr. Billers agreed with Whiston that the Apostolic Constitutions were authentic. Significantly, Whiston mentions ‘a Brother Unbeliever’ who was ‘of greater Sagacity’ than Whiston himself. This unbeliever was persuaded by Whiston’s arguments that the Apostolic Constitutions were authentic. In fact, this unbeliever concluded that Jesus was crucified because he gave too much authority to the clergy.31 In his personal memoirs, Whiston notes a couple of other instances of limited agreement with his conviction about the Apostolic Constitutions. Most interesting is a letter he records from his youngest brother, Daniel. In this letter, written around 1715, Daniel Whiston states that he read the Apostolic Constitutions ‘with a design for putting them in practice’.32 Daniel Whiston concludes that   Ibid., 24.   Ibid., 24-5. 29   Ibid., 25. 30   Ibid. 31   Ibid., 29. Here Whiston is quoting his own words found in his Essay on the Old Testament, appendix 116-38. 32   W. Whiston, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston Containing Memoirs of Several of his Friends also (1753), 14. 27 28



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in relation to the presentation of worship practice, especially the Eucharist, in the Apostolic Constitutions ‘nothing can be said to be either equal or comparable to it.’33 Thus, according to Daniel Whiston, the Apostolic Constitutions are a ‘divine original’.34 Nonetheless, Daniel Whiston noticed ‘difficulties’ that he wanted his brother to respond to. His concern is that the Apostolic Constitutions ‘strictly enjoin a conformity to the injunctions of the bishops’.35 William Whiston’s earlier comments about his brother Daniel help us to better understand Daniel Whiston’s concern with this aspect of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston notes that his brother ‘is still no more than a curate at Somersham.’ The reason for Daniel Whiston’s suspended ecclesiastical advancement was because he refused to sign the 39 articles of the Church of England and he refused to recite the Athanasian Creed. Thus, Daniel Whiston balked at the idea of unquestioned submission to the bishops. Rather he says that his role, as one under the bishops, is ‘earnestly to pray to God’ for them in order that God ‘would be pleased to remove their prejudices, and open the eyes of their understanding, that they may restore to us that ancient and truly pious form of worship contain’d in the Constitutions.’36 Though Whiston records this letter from his brother, he does not offer any response to his brother’s request to deal with this difficulty. Perhaps they discussed this matter privately. Or perhaps, William Whiston concluded Daniel Whiston answered his own questions with these words found in the same letter: ‘There are indeed some difficulties in serval parts of the Constitution (sic) … I, who have read them more with a practical than a curious eye, haven not found the tenth part of the difficulties in them … as I do, when I read over the other uncontested books of the New Testament.’37 In fact, here Daniel Whiston sounds very much like William Whiston. William Whiston published these words in 1711, ‘I observe that in General the Charge of Interpolations is False and Groundless; i.e. These Constitutions are in General … as free from them as any other Books of the same Antiquity; nay much freer than the known Books of the New Testament.’38 Before we engage with those who displayed visceral disagreement with William Whiston’s convictions about the Apostolic Constitutions as well as the Trinity, there were at least two people who appear to more fully embrace Whiston’s convictions.

  Ibid.   Ibid., 15. 35   Ibid., 14. 36   Ibid. 37   Ibid., 15. 38   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.677. 33 34

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Greater Limited Agreement Whiston tells of the concerns that his good friend Mr. Peirce, with whom Whiston ‘had formerly lived in intimate friendship at Cambridge’, had initially when he learned of Whiston’s ‘Eusebian’ or ‘Arian’ opinions.39 This is James Peirce, not James Pierce. Whiston is inconsistent with the spelling of the surname. However, the letter that Whiston includes in his Memoirs is signed J. Peirce. Peirce was a dissenting minister and a leader in the Salters’ Hall controversy (1719).40 Whiston refers to Peirce as ‘really the most learned of all the dissenting teachers that I had known’.41 In a letter to Whiston dated July 10, 1708, Peirce petitions him to ‘bear with the freedom of a friend, who loves you as a brother.’42 During a recent trip to London, Peirce heard that Whiston had become a Unitarian. Peirce does not understand how Whiston’s religious views could have taken such a turn because ‘no man studied the scriptures more’ than Whiston.43 After recording this letter, Whiston then tells the interesting story of Pierce’s conversion from an Athanasian to a ‘Unitarian’ or ‘Eusebian’.44 Whiston identifies Peirce as an Athanasian in 1706. In 1706, Peirce read Whiston’s Essay on the Revelation. While he conceded that Whiston proved that there were some things that Jesus did not know, such as the time of the day of judgment, until his resurrection, Peirce still ‘would have no nay’ in relation to his convictions.45 Sometime later, at Whiston’s urging, Peirce read Novatian’s De Trinitate. After his reading, he admitted that this work did not support the Athanasian understanding of the Trinity, ‘yet did he hold fast his Athanasian doctrine still.’46 Peirce’s deconversion from the Athanasian doctrine occurred shortly after a chance meeting with Whiston at Mr. Bateman’s book shop in London soon after Whiston published his four volumes of Primitive Christianity Reviv’d in 1711. During this encounter, Whiston asked Peirce if he had read these four volumes. When Peirce said that he had not, Whiston ‘spoke with great vehemence’ and told him that he would have to answer to God and his own conscience for not reading works of such great theological consequence. Whiston believes it was due to this confrontation that Peirce read his books. He says that   W. Whiston, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston (1753), 121.   For more on Salters’ Hall, see R. Thomas, ‘The non-subscription controversy amongst dissenters in 1719: the Salters’ Hall debate’ (1953). Whiston discusses the Salters’ Hall controversy among dissenters at W. Whiston, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston (1753), 190. Here Whiston quotes ‘the words of the late excellent master of the rolls, Sir Joseph Jekyl … The Bible carried it by four.’ 41   W. Whiston, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston (1753), 121. 42   Ibid., 122. 43   Ibid., 124. 44   Ibid., 125. 45   Ibid., 124. 46   Ibid., 125. 39 40



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Peirce ‘bought my books immediately, and read them, and was convinced by them to become an Unitarian or Eusebian, as I was, and was persecuted for the same by the Dissenters, as I was by the church of England afterward.’47 Of course, it would be more instructive if we had access to Peirce’s own account of his relationship with Whiston. However, based on Whiston’s presentation, it appears that Peirce embraced the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions along with Whiston’s understanding of primitive Christianity. What is not exactly clear in relation to Peirce’s 180-degree turn – if he accepted the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions – is even less clear with another Whiston convert. Nonetheless, the story of Whiston’s ‘very valuable friend’ Mr. Shaw, a former schoolmaster from Atherston in Warwickshire, is worthy of our consideration.48 On one occasion Whiston spent a night in Mr. Shaw’s house. Whiston gave Shaw a copy of his recent paper, ‘Reason and Philosophy no enemies to faith’, so they could talk about it the next morning. When the two men reconvened the next morning, Shaw was taken back by Whiston’s work because therein he affirmed his belief that people did not suffer in hell forever. As it turns out, Shaw had written to a neighbor about this topic. Shaw’s conviction was, at this point but not for much longer, the opposite of Whiston’s – that people suffered in hell forever. In fact, it was this very belief that kept Shaw’s neighbor from embracing the Christian religion. Whiston asked his friend if he wrote in defense of this doctrine because he believed it was in the New Testament. Shaw responded that indeed this was the case. Whiston then, for the next two hours, with the aid of ‘Dr. Hammond’s Discourse for the Eternity, … a Greek New Testament, and the Septuagint for the Old Testament’ demonstrated to Shaw that the doctrine of the eternity of hell was not in the New Testament.49 Not only was Shaw persuaded, but he was relieved that Whiston ‘had given him a freedom of thought in that matter, which he had not before.’50 It is intriguing that Whiston makes no mention of his use of the Apostolic Constitutions in this conversation. He also makes no mention of the Apostolic Constitutions in a second encounter he had with Mr. Shaw. However, it seems likely that the Apostolic Constitutions would have arisen as a part of this discussion. The topic of this discussion was ‘the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity, and its absurdity’.51 Shaw informed Whiston that he had never thought in-depth about the Trinity. Whiston says that he does not know if Shaw did in fact do so after this conversation as he did with the doctrine of the eternity of hell. However, Whiston is hopeful. Whiston thinks that if Shaw had not been   Ibid.   Ibid., 126. 49   Ibid. 50   Ibid., 126-7. 51   Ibid., 127. 47 48

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limited to the care of two small congregations – one in Badgly and the other in Baxterly – along with the care of the school, he was ‘capable of being a considerable man in the learned world’.52 So, we see in the above discussion the nature of agreement that Whiston could garner for his unorthodox – by the standards of his day – Christian convictions. There were many, even if still in the minority, who agreed with Whiston that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan understanding of the Trinity was problematic. While many clergy and scholars concluded that the Apostolic Constitutions were ante-Nicene, no one surveyed above believed that they were given directly from Jesus to the apostles and gathered together by Clement as Whiston did. This is not to say, however, that Whiston did not have converts and even disciples as illustrated by Mr. Peirce and Mr. Shaw. Now, we turn our attention to the aggressive disagreement Whiston met. Disagreement Later in this chapter, we will examine significant correspondence Whiston had with individuals who took him to task – Pierre Allix, John Ernest Grabe, Simon Ockley, and an anonymous writing entitled, On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston in his Revival of the Arian Heresy to which Whiston responded. First, however, we observe a sampling of different criticisms leveled at Whiston in relation to both his opinions about the Apostolic Constitutions and his overall program devoted to the restoration of Primitive Christianity. John Edwards John Edwards, the son of the puritan heresiologists Thomas Edwards who in 1646 published Gangraena, penned one of the more entertaining responses to Whiston’s convictions.53 Edwards writes Some Brief Observations and Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s late Writings, Falsly Entitul’d Primitive Christianity Reviv’d because he is ‘very sensible how great Mischief is threatned to our Holy Religion by Mr. Whiston’s late writings, wherein he endeavors to shake, and even to overthrow the Doctrine of the Sacred Trinity and especially of the Divinity of our Saviour.’54 Edwards informs the reader that he is preparing a work in which he explains biblical texts that speak to the divinity of Jesus.   Ibid.   Thomas Edwards’ Gangraena is an important book. In direct contradiction to the convictions of Whiston and Anthony Collins, Edwards opposed religious toleration as his book demonstrates. For an excellent and lengthy study (482 pages) of the book itself, see A. Hughes, Gangraena and the Struggle for the English Revolution (2004). As we shall see, in this case, indeed the apple does not fall far from the tree. 54   J. Edwards, Some Brief Observations and Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s late Writings, falsly Entitul’d Primitive Christianity Reviv’d: Shewing, The Unreasonableness, Partiality, and Incon52 53



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To prepare the public for this work, he offers his critique of Whiston. Whiston is a ‘Freakish Author’ as well as an ‘Ecclesiastic Magot’ who in contradiction to the victorious voices throughout the history of the church ‘presents us with another New Testament, at least with a Great Addition’ to that previously received. Edwards here appears to allude to the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston’s reason for this addition is, according to Edwards, because ‘he hopes to establish the Arian doctrines, which he fancies are contain’d in those Additional Writings.’55 While presenting Whiston as promiscuous when it comes to the array of noncanonical texts, such as Barnabas, Tatian, Athenagoras, and Melito, he resorts to for valid historical reconstruction, Edwards says a few words about the Apostolical Canons. These canons are found immediately after the concluding book of the Apostolic Constitutions. As we saw in chapter two, Whiston thinks they do indeed emerge from the apostles. And he deems the eighty-fifth and last canon especially important as it lists the books acceptable for use by the Christian church. This canon includes along with documents found in the orthodox canon: Judith; 1, 2, and 3 Maccabees; Wisdom of Sirach; 1 and 2 Clement; and, of course, the Apostolic Constitutions. Revelation is omitted from this list. Edwards pauses here to say just a few words because later he will demonstrate the inauthenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions themselves. So, here he simply acknowledges ‘better Men’ than Whiston who either declared all the canons spurious or some of them: Gelasius, Bellarmine, Baronius, Possevine, and Beveridge.56 When it comes to the Apostolic Constitutions proper, Edwards continues with this strategy of noting the consistency among scholars past and present with the opinion that if not fully inauthentic, the Apostolic Constitutions are at best adulterated and interpolated. He points to the comments of Gelasius, the second canon of the sixth council of Trullo, Photius, Bovius, Possevinus, Bellarmine, Cotelerius, Blondell, and Pearson. Edwards himself notes that it is likely that the same hand produced the Apostolic Constitutions as produced the Ignatian long recension, which Edwards concludes to be ‘corrupted and altered’ as well as containing materials ‘unworthy of that Pious Martyr, and are inconsistent with the Stile and State of those times.’57 Therefore, the Apostolic Constitutions are ‘another Sandy Foundation, which Mr. Whiston builds his Opinion upon.’58 sistency, of his whole Performance; and that it no ways answers his Audacious Design of disproving the True and Proper Divinity of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1712), i. 55   Ibid., xii and xi. 56   Ibid., 5. 57   Ibid., 13. 58   Ibid., 14.

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Though Edwards concludes that Whiston accepts the Apostolic Constitutions because they affirm his beliefs, Edwards does concede that one of Whiston’s arguments may seem quite persuasive to some people. Therefore, he addresses in detail Whiston’s contention that if the Apostolic Constitutions are not authentic than the church has been left without any direction in terms of how it is to be governed. Furthermore, Whiston argues that the New Testament documents are not intended to provide this sort of direction for the structure of the church. Edwards perceives inconsistency in Whiston’s thinking. On the one hand, Whiston is opposed to ‘Creeds and Systems’.59 However, now Whiston is of the opinion ‘that the Rules and Laws of Christ, and his Apostles, must be digested into a System’.60 Edwards’ anger is apparent as he argues, contra Whiston, for the sufficiency of the New Testament documents to provide the church with the governance that it needs. Though he lists no specific examples, Edwards says that the four gospels contain all the ‘Rules and Directions … which were required for the Apostles and disciples, and other Christians to know at that time.’ Furthermore, Jesus was able to ‘interpret and explain every thing to them, so that there was no need of the Formality of a System.’61 The Acts of the Apostles contain ‘the Prayers and Devotions, the Sermons and doctrines, the Worship, and the Ecclesiastical Polity of the First Christians’.62 Acts provides a model of the early church. Therefore, ‘all the Parts and Branches of its government, all the Offices and Ministries belonging to it set down exactly; and we are taught, here how the Christian Churches in all future Ages are to be managed.’63 It is no blemish that this is accomplished as a narrative history and not as a systematic statement with headings and the like. Similar statements are made about the New Testament epistles – ‘all the Doctrines of Christianity are faithfully represented; all Errors and Disorders are reform’d; all vices and Immoralities are corrected; all material Controversies in Religion are decided; all practical duties are prescribed.’64 To further his argument, Edwards highlights the household codes found in Ephesians, Colossians, Titus, and 1 Peter. The New Testament then ‘makes up a Brief, but Entire Body of Christian Laws, tho not put into the Form of a System.’65 After accenting Whiston’s desire for Christian materials outside of the New Testament to enable the church to fully function as intended by God, Edwards then notes a bit of Whistonian irony: though Whiston rails against Popery in his writings, he is Catholic friendly. In fact, due to his agreement with the   Ibid., 18.   Ibid. 61   Ibid., 19. 62   Ibid. 63   Ibid. 64   Ibid. 65   Ibid., 20. 59 60



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Roman Catholic Church that the Old and New Testaments are not sufficient for Christian faith and practice, we may ‘suspect that he hangs out False Colours when he pretends to attack the Romanists.’66 Whiston is no enemy to the Catholics; he is their friend! Furthermore, as Edwards continues with his pro-­ Catholic accusations against Whiston, he notes that the Apostolic Constitutions support superstitious practices found in the Catholic church. For example, in book eight it commands that two deacons position themselves at each side of the altar during communion. They are to have a fan made of animal skins or the feathers of a peacock. If flies should appear, the deacons are to use the fans to move away the flies so the flies do not fall into the cups. Also, the high priest is instructed to make the sign of the cross on his forehead. Edwards offers a summary of the situation at hand, ‘Such Idle and Ridiculous Things in Religion doth Mr. Whiston approve of, and saith, that the Book which commands them is as Canonical as the Bible. Yea, ‘tis the chief Part of the Bible.’67 These ‘superstitious’ practices also serve as evidence for Edwards that the Apostolic Constitutions cannot emerge from a first-century historical context. And, finally, Edwards argues that Whiston, like the Catholic church, is guilty of idolatry. Edwards erroneously says that Whiston denies Christ’s divinity, though later seems to correct this statement when he says that Whiston does not believe Christ to be the true God.68 Nonetheless, he is absolutely correct when he states that Whiston views Christ as a creature. Since Whiston is in favor of the worship of Christ, he is guilty of offering worship to a created being that is not the same as the true God. The Catholic church does something similar when it ‘pays Divine Worship to God, and likewise to Angels and Saints as his Representatives.’69 To add insult to injury, Edwards also points to a similarity in Whiston’s understanding of Christian worship and Pagans as ‘the Pagans worshipp’d One Supreme God, and with him other Inferior and Secondary Ones.’70 For this and more, Edwards commands Whiston to ‘Blush, blush, O Vile Man!’71 As we heard, Edwards’ opinion is that the Bible, and only the Bible, is the place to look for proper Christian belief and practice. He suggests that the church fathers have some value. However, ‘the writings of the Fathers both before and after the Nicene Council are no Authentic Standard of Truth.’72 The early Christian writings that postdate the New Testament writings are inconsistent within themselves. In fact, ‘Even Athanasius’ Tast was not always Exact,   Ibid.,   Ibid., 68   Ibid., 69   Ibid., 70   Ibid. 71   Ibid., 72   Ibid., 66 67

22. 24. 25. 26. 27. 46.

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he hath very poor and frigid arguments sometimes.’73 In contrast with Whiston, Edwards believes that the earlier writings are more problematic than the later writings; the earlier writings are tainted with philosophy.74 Edwards quotes Bishop Pearson in his Vindication of the Ignatian Epistles, ‘after the Platonic doctrine was receiv’d into the Church, the Writers of the second and third Age were not wont very simply and plainly to confess Christ to be God.’75 Edwards observes that both Romans and Anglicans ‘wind and turn the Fathers at their Pleasure.’76 In fact, ‘Bishop Bull and Mr. Whiston labour hard to maintain the Credit and Authority of Hermas, Barnabas, Ignatius, and the rest of the Ante­ nicene Writers; but in a far different way, and to contrary ends; the one to confirm the Doctrine of the Council of Nice about the Trinity, the other to … confute it; but neither of them with any Satisfaction to an Impartial Reader.’77 Edwards’ point is to illustrate that due to the inconsistency within the church fathers themselves, a person can find there whatever it is they already believe. I note that Edwards accuses Whiston of the very crime Whiston himself accuses his orthodox opponents of – partiality to an already conceived religious belief. Due to this inconsistency, Edwards then points to several places within the Apostolic Constitutions themselves that support the orthodox understanding of the Trinity! He provides three plus pages of evidence, from which I provide a sampling. The first text comes from Apostolic Constitutions 1.1. preface. The text reads, following Whiston’s translation which Edwards employs, ‘In all things please Christ, who is our GOD; for if any Man follows after unrighteousness, and does those things that are contrary to GOD’s Will, such a one will be esteem’d by God as a disobedient Heathen.’ Edwards writes, ‘Here Christ is three times call’d God, … no man can imagine in so few words the title GOD is not applied to the same Person, and in a proper sense.’78 I note, however, that one manuscript reads, ‘In all things please Christ our Lord.’ Edwards finds a similar text in Apostolic Constitutions 2.2.24. It says, ‘This Jesus our Saviour, our King, and our GOD, ought to be our chief Aim and Pattern.’ Edwards concludes, ‘God our Saviour, is frequently Repeated; which shews that the word God is to be taken in the proper meaning … for Improper and Allusive Terms are not wont to be repeated, tho’ they are sometimes used.’79   Ibid., 47.   I am reminded that it was during Edwards’ lifetime that the rubric ‘Apostolic Fathers’ was created to differentiate between the New Testament period and that of other Christian writings. This development, in turn, resulted in the creation of two different academic disciplines in the 19th century – New Testament studies and Patristics. 75   J. Edwards, Some Brief Observations and Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s late Writings, 47. 76   Ibid., 50. 77   Ibid., 51. 78   Ibid., 30-1. 79   Ibid., 31. 73 74



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One of the more intriguing texts that Edwards draws on to demonstrate an orthodox understanding of the Trinity is Apostolic Constitutions 6.54.14, ‘We declare unto you that there is only One God Almighty, besides whom there is no Other, and that you must worship and adore him Alone, and Jesus Christ our Lord, and the most Holy Spirit.’ Edwards says, ‘Observe then that God the Father is the Only One God, and he alone is to be worship’d; and yet ‘tis said that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are to be worship’d; whence it is manifest, that as the Second and Third Person in the Trinity are to be worship’d, tho’ the First of them is to be worship’d alone; so the Second and Third Persons are GOD, tho; the First is declar’d to be the Only One God.’80 In fact Edwards is of the opinion that this text helps to clarify John 17.3, ‘That they may know thee the Only True God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent’. Edwards reasons that ‘only’ in this text designates both Jesus and God. Therefore, and accordingly the one is the Only True God no less than the other.’81 Edwards acknowledges that this manner of interpretation may appear odd to some. Therefore, he draws attention to 1Cor. 9.6, ‘Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power.’ Here Edwards observes that we refers to both Paul and Barnabas. Therefore ‘only’ refers to the Father and the Son and they are both to be worshipped as the only true God. Edwards concludes, ‘Which I suppose, is the true meaning of the words which I quoted out of the Constitutions.’82 Edwards’ final verdict on the Apostolic Constitutions is that though they contain much that is ‘false and counterfeit’ as well as ‘several Expressions that are far below the Dignity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, who is God himself,’ there is enough evidence to conclude that the author ‘believ’d the Doctrine of the Sacred Trinity.’83 Whiston is accused of misinterpreting these passages, and others like them not discussed above. Whiston makes the author of the Apostolic Constitutions out to be an Arian ‘because he is one himself.’84 Edwards also performed the same task for the Ignatian long recension – pointing to places that support an orthodox understanding of the Trinity. In relation to those places, in the documents of the long recension, that do not support an orthodox understanding of the Trinity, Edwards looks ‘upon them as spurious Interpolations, and dangerous Corruptions of the Text; and therefore Mr. Whiston hath done great disservice to our Holy Religion, by telling the World, that even these very Writings are of Divine Authority.’85 Even so, Edwards suggests there are places, within the Ignatian long recension, that Whiston argues support his position that can be interpreted in the orthodox direction.   Ibid.,   Ibid. 82   Ibid. 83   Ibid., 84   Ibid., 85   Ibid., 80 81

32. 35. 35. 40.

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Though Edwards refers to Whiston as an Arian in various places, he also identifies Whiston with a contemporary religious group. Whiston repeatedly disassociated himself from Socinianism; Edwards thinks otherwise. In fact, says Edwards, Whiston’s theological conclusions line up verbatim with traditional Socinian thought – ‘the denying of Christ’s Divinity, and the disowning his Satisfaction’.86 By denying Christ’s divinity, Edwards refers to Whiston’s strong conviction that the Son is not God in the same sense that the Father is God. Edwards call this ‘Socinus’s Drivel’.87 Edwards is suspicious concerning Whiston’s understanding of Christ’s death because ‘he hath not one word, in his several Articles (as he calls them) that so much as intimates this Doctrine, or any thing like it.’88 Though he convicts Whiston due to his silence on this front, Edwards lists other similarities between Whiston’s beliefs and Socinian beliefs – there are errors in some biblical manuscripts, some books in the Bible lack authority, that a soul’s suffering in Hell will come to an end, that a creature can be worshipped, and that Christ ascended to heaven more than once. Therefore, ‘There is not one Grain of Truth or Honesty’ in Whiston’s claim that he is not a Socinian.89 Since Whiston claims he is not something that he, in fact, is; his theological labors, as a whole, should not be trusted. Richard Ibbetson Whereas Edwards sought to demonstrate the early church writers’ inconsistences, Richard Ibbetson, in a sermon, desires to show that Whiston interpreted these writers erroneously.90 In just a moment, we will see this opinion illustrated via the Apostolic Constitutions themselves. However, first it is worth a look into Ibbetson’s critique of Whiston’s understanding of Jesus’ divinity. The reason this is a worthy road to travel is because, unlike John Edwards and most of Whiston’s other theological opponents, Ibbetson does not suggest that Whiston denies the divinity of Christ. Rather, Ibbetson critiques the manner in which Whiston understands Jesus’ divinity. Ibbetson’s honesty demonstrated by his acknowledgment of nuance, as opposed to making Whiston say something he never said, deserves exposure. Ibbetson quotes part of Whiston’s article four, fond in volume four of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d – ‘That he is really by the Appointment of the Father, our God, and our Lord.’91 The problem with Jesus as divine by appointment is   Ibid., 28.   Ibid. 88   Ibid. 89   Ibid. 90   R. Ibbetson, A Sermon Preach’d before the University of Oxford. At St. Mary’s On the Epiphany, Jan. 6th. 1711/12. In which Mr. Whiston’s Attempt to revive the Arian Heresy is consider’d (1712). 91   Ibid., 26. 86 87



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that he then becomes divine in the same sense that Moses was a God to Pharaoh.92 Ibbetson next, with the stated desire not to misrepresent Whiston, quotes from another part of Whiston’s article four and adds to it a part of article five. According to Whiston, in these two articles of faith, Jesus ‘is truly God and Lord, and that he is the Holy One of God, a being or Person of Supereminent Perfections, Knowledge, Power and Authority, and so, far superior to all subordinate Creatures.’93 However, in article six, Jesus is proclaimed a creature; and in article eight Jesus is said to be far inferior to God the Father. Therefore, ‘This is a Strange, Perplex’d, Inconsistent Account of our Saviour’s Divinity (if we may call it so) and liable to more Objections than any Mystery of Christianity, which yet this Author makes so bold with.’94 And, ‘A Created God is a downright Contradiction, and just as good sense as an Uncreated Creature.’95 As to the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, Ibbetson thinks them ‘at best but of dubious authority’.96 Nonetheless, he thinks that Whiston misinterprets Apostolic Constitutions 6.5.26, ‘But others of them suppose that Jesus himself is the God over all, and glorify him as his own Father, and suppose him to be both the Son and the Comforter, than which Doctrines what can be more detestable?’97 Contrary to Whiston’s interpretation that this text is evidence that equating Jesus the Son with God the Father was condemned by early Christians, Ibbetson contends that this passage, and another like it found in Origen, does not serve his purpose at all. Surely Whiston knows ‘that in the Primitive Church there were some who confounded the Persons of the Trinity, and made the same Person both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost … and against these Hereticks the words of the Constitutions are evidently design’d.’98 So, for Ibbetson the issue is not equating the Son with the same divinity as the Father. Rather, the issue is ‘to destroy the Distinction of Persons’.99 This part of Ibbetson’s critique appears to duplicate the fourth-century debates that moved between Arianism and Sabellianism. Significant Correspondence / Debate As stated above, having sampled some of the more interesting responses to Whiston’s arguments concerning the Apostolic Constitutions as well as his overall 92   Whiston’s argument here is similar to that of Asterius, one of the fourth-century Eusebians. See M. Vinzent’s discussion and collection of Asterius’ fragments in Asterius von Kappadokien: Die theologischen Fragmente (1997). 93  Ibbetson, A Sermon Preach’d before the University of Oxford (1712), 26. 94   Ibid., 27. 95   Ibid. 96   Ibid., 14. 97   Ibid., 14-5. Ibbetson employs Whiston’s translation. 98   Ibid., 15. 99   Ibid.

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reconstruction of primitive Christianity, we now examine detailed correspondence that Whiston carried out with some of his interlocutors. In the paragraphs that follow, we will hear dialogues between William Whiston and John Ernest Grabe, with Pierre Allix, with Simon Ockley, and with an anonymous author of a writing entitled, On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston in his Revival of the Arian Heresy. John Ernest Grabe (1666-1711) Due to his notoriety then and now, we begin with John Ernest Grabe’s interactions with Whiston.100 This correspondence is particularly interesting because though Grabe is ‘not inclined to enter into Controversy with particular persons’, he does so with Whiston because Whiston ‘has not only in private Discourses, but also in publick Writings, plainly intimated, and made several People, unacquainted with me, believe, that I am nearly of his mind about the Constitutions of the Apostles.’101 Here, Grabe refers to Whiston’s words in his Historical Preface as well as comments found in his reply to Allix. The debates between Whiston and Grabe come to us with some complexity. Therefore, it will be helpful to detail these debates chronologically. The first face-to-face meeting between John Ernest Grabe and William Whiston appears to have occurred in London during Michaelmas of 1708. Whiston was in London seeking a printer for his ‘small imperfect’ Essay upon the Apostolical Constitutions.102 The reason for his journey to London for this purpose was because his efforts to have his small essay printed in Cambridge were rebuked by the Master of Pembroke-Hall and then Vice-Chancellor, Rev. Dr. Lany. Whiston notes that he made every effort that his small Essay upon the Apostolical Constitutions ‘should be as inoffensive as possible, and should contain nothing but what related to that Critical Question, Whether they were Genuine and Sincere, or, whether they were Spurious and Interpolated?’103 Whiston records the answer he received from the unidentified person who carried his essay to Lany – ‘Mr. Professor, The Vice-Chancellor does not think it fit to gave an Imprimatur to it: He thinks it is not orthodox.’104 Apparently, ‘inoffensive as possible’ was not enough. 100   For more on Grabe see, N. Keene, ‘John Ernest Grabe, Biblical Learning and Religious Controversy in Early Eighteenth-Century England’ (2007), 656-74. Keene treats Grabe’s spat with Whiston at 666-71. 101   J. Grabe, An Essay Upon Two Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, and the ancient Book call’d The Doctrine of the Apostles, Which is said to be extant in them; Wherein Mr. Whiston’s Mistakes about both are plainly prov’d (1711), 1. 102   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.Historical Preface.lv. While the final version of Whiston’s essay on the Apostolic Constitutions consists of volume three of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, I have not been able to locate a copy of his 1708 small and imperfect essay. 103   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.lv. 104   Ibid., lvi.



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While in London, Whiston had a conversation with Grabe about his essay, which Grabe read through then and there. And this is where the problems began. It was reported by David Wilkins, ‘a Learned Foreigner’, to Mr. Huess, a fellow of Jesus College Cambridge, via letter, that Whiston did not accurately report Grabe’s opinions about the Apostolic Constitutions that were shared during this face-to-face meeting in London.105 Whiston records Wilkins’ letter and then his recollections of what transpired during the London conversation with Grabe. According to Wilkins, Whiston reported, from this meeting, that Grabe agreed with him concerning the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, according to Wilkins, Whiston was ‘directed by the Spirit of God’ to Grabe so that Grabe could offer a corrective.106 Wilkins does not state Grabe’s specific arguments in his letter to Hues. However, Grabe’s words caused Whiston to promise Grabe that he would not print his work on the Apostolic Constitutions until he had seen the Vienna manuscript of the Apostolic Constitutions. Grabe’s opinion, as we shall see soon enough, was that this manuscript would shut Whiston’s mouth quickly. Grabe, in his conversation with Whiston, attempted to get Whiston to speak to his ‘Arianism’.107 However, Whiston would not entertain this topic with Grabe. Grabe did, however, speak with Whiston about Bishop Bull’s work on the Trinity and Grabe’s own notes on Bull’s work. According to Wilkins, Whiston replied, ‘I have nothing to say against your Notes upon Dr. Bull’s Tract.’108 Wilkins concludes his letter to Hues with this question, ‘How does that agree with his Obstinacy that he uses at Cambridge?’109 In other words, considering what actually occurred during conversation with Grabe, how can Whiston represent Grabe as in agreement with his convictions about the Apostolic Constitutions? The letter from Wilkins to Hues is dated November 22, 1708. Whiston penned a response to Wilkins’ letter in which he provides his account of what transpired between him and Grabe. This response is dated December 17, 1708. While Whiston’s account of the meeting between him and Grabe is more detailed and less passionate than that of Wilkins’, Whiston is concerned to rebut two major claims found in Wilkins letter to Hues. First, Wilkins claims the reason Whiston wants to print the Apostolic Constitutions and write in defense of their authenticity is because the Apostolic Constitutions support Whiston’s ‘Arianism’. Furthermore, Wilkins writes,

  Ibid.   Ibid., lvii. 107   Ibid. 108   Ibid. 109   Ibid. 105 106

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‘Concerning his Arianism, Dr. Grabe could never bring him to speak of it.’110 In his response, Whiston writes, ‘Mr. Whiston did not tell Dr. Grabe that he had found the Original Doctrine to be that of the Arians: nor did Dr. Grabe, he supposes at all know beforehand that that was his Opinion. Nor indeed had they any direct Discourse about that Matter at all.’111 It seems clear from both Wilkins’ letter and Whiston’s response that Whiston and Grabe did not speak specifically about Arianism; though Whiston claims that Grabe did not know his thoughts on the matter and Wilkins’ claims that Grabe tried to get Whiston to talk about his so-called Arian beliefs. Whiston takes offense at a claim that Wilkins makes at the end of his letter to Hues. Wilkins says, ‘Sure he that hath read the Fathers but of late, and not all but some few, is not a true Judge of the Doctrine taught by them, which requires 20 or 40 Years to do.’112 Whiston replies that anyone who thinks it takes 20 to 40 years to read authors that can be read in a single year, and believes these same authors should be interpreted by writings emerging from the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries ‘shall not be the Guide of my Faith.’113 As for the additional detail that Whiston adds concerning his encounter with Grabe in London, Whiston suggests that he left his essay on the Apostolic Constitutions with Grabe for a (brief?) period. Whiston retuned (soon after?). Grabe then informed Whiston that he read Whiston’s essay once. He intended to read it a second time; however, his own work on the Septuagint prohibited a second reading. While Whiston does not say, nor give the impression as perhaps Wilkins does, that Grabe agreed in toto with him, Whiston does comment, ‘Dr. Grabe both then and before seem’d highly pleas’d with the Design.’114 Furthermore, Grabe shared with Whiston his desire to obtain a manuscript from Vienna which he thought would shed light on the identity of the author or the collector of the Apostolic Constitutions. In the meantime, Grabe believed the first book of the Apostolic Constitutions was written by Clement, the fifth book written in the West, Ignatius collected the material found in the second book, and Hippolytus collected the eighth book. Nonetheless, Grabe, according to Whiston, believed strongly in ‘the genuine Truth and Apostolic Antiquity of this Collection; excepting some Points wherein the later Alterations in the Church’s Discipline had occasion’d Alterations in the Collection.’115   Ibid., lvii.   Ibid., lix-lx. For Whiston’s use of the term ‘Arian’ see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 755-77. 112   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.lvii-lviii. 113   Ibid., lx-lxi. 114   Ibid., lviii. 115   Ibid., lix. 110 111



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Whiston notes that Grabe was kind enough to make him aware of two authors who quote the Apostolic Constitutions that he was not aware of previously – Origen and John Chrysostom. Whiston tells us he said he would honor Grabe’s request to wait for the manuscript from Vienna before he published his essay and to see if, in fact, it provided any help towards solving the mystery of the hand responsible for the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston tells of another meeting with Grabe on the street in London where Grabe asked Whiston why he believed the Ignatian long recension was authentic. Whiston responded, ‘Because all the Characters in them were no later’ than the second century.116 Finally, Whiston gives his opinion that Wilkins did in fact write the letter with the misleading account of the interaction between Whiston and Grabe ‘because I see it under his own Hand.’117 However, Whiston does not believe that the account in Wilkins letter is what Grabe communicated to Wilkins – ‘but that Dr. Grabe ever gave him that Account, as it is there contain’d, I do not believe.’118 As we shall see momentarily, Grabe himself refers to Wilkins’ letter and Whiston’s response in a footnote in his An Essay upon two Arabick Manuscripts.119 While he does not explicitly take sides, the tone of his remarks favor the reporting of Wilkins. In the same footnote, Grabe also references Whiston’s reply to Allix. It is to this document we now turn our attention. As a reminder, Pierre Allix (1641-1717) was a French protestant pastor who discovered that Codex Ephraemi is a palimpsest. In his A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks on some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books, either Printed or Manuscript, Whiston appears to attempt to intentionally provoke Grabe. Whiston states that he learned from Allix’, Remarks Upon Some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books either Printed or in Manuscript that Baron Spanheim told Dr. Allix that John Sharp the Archbishop of York ‘commanded’ Grabe to read Whiston’s essay on the Apostolic Constitutions.120 Whiston goes on to say that he was told that Grabe was obedient to the Archbishop’s request and that Grabe promised to answer Whiston. Unsurprisingly, Whiston was pleased to hear Grabe was granted this assignment. However, Whiston’s frustration is palpable because he heard nothing from Grabe about his essay on the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston, here in his response to Allix, recounts his own meeting with Grabe when he ‘put the then imperfect Essay on those Constitutions among others into his Hand, in hopes that he would have Leisure and Inclination thoroughly to   Ibid., lx.   Ibid. 118   Ibid. 119   J. Grabe, An Essay upon two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library (1711), 1. 120   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks on some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books, either Printed or Manuscript (1711), 6 quoting from P. Allix, Remarks Upon Some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books either Printed or in Manuscript (1711), 9. Spanheim was a statesman – the first Prussian ambassador to England. He died in 1710 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. 116 117

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consider it, and would be so kind as to give me his Thoughts of it, and Corrections upon it.’121 Yet, so far there has been nothing but silence from Grabe in regard to Whiston’s defense of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston concludes then that either Grabe did not, in fact, make this commitment to the Archbishop of York, or that he has no plans to examine Whiston’s essay. Whiston offers five reasons that he thinks accounts for this man – who is so qualified for the task – not to respond. First, Grabe hesitates to respond to Whiston’s arguments about the Apostolic Constitutions because Grabe has only seen Whiston’s imperfect essay upon them. The now completed essay contains much more evidence for the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions than does the ‘Rude Draught’ which is in Grabe’s possession.122 Second, building on the first reason for Grabe’s lack of response, Whiston does not think that Grabe has yet seen his now complete essay on Ignatius’ larger epistles. In Whiston’s mind, if the argument for the authenticity of the longer version of Ignatius’ letters cannot be answered, neither can the arguments for the veracity of the Apostolic Constitutions be answered. Third, Grabe has not ‘promised to answer the Doctrine of the Apostles, or its Preface, found by me in Arabick, at Oxford.’123 The reason Grabe has not made this promise is because he would be unable to fulfill it! Yet, as we shall see shortly, Grabe will, in fact, publish a rebuttal to Whiston’s arguments concerning the Arabic manuscripts in Oxford. Fourth, Whiston concludes that for the most part Grabe agrees with him concerning the Apostolic Constitutions. In fact, Whiston writes that Grabe ‘is so nearly of my Mind about these Constitutions, and has that very high Opinion of them, as of Apostolical Remains in the general.’124 As more evidence for Grabe’s high opinion of the Apostolic Constitutions, Whiston recalls that he heard Grabe refer to the Apostolic Constitutions ‘as an Inestimable Treasure to the Christian Church’.125 In addition, Grabe ‘is so careful to observe the Rules therein contain’d, and is so affected with the Original Christian Liturgy in the Eight Book.’126 The only hesitation Grabe has with the Apostolic Constitutions, according to Whiston, is there are ‘some Passages therein disagreeable to his other Opinions’.127 For the fifth, and final reason, Whiston draws on his own interactions with Grabe. Whiston gives what he perceives Grabe’s strategy to be in relation to the Apostolic Constitutions: to accept the lion share of the document, while stepping over the more Arian-favorable passages. In fact, if not for those pas  W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks on some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books (1711), 7. 122   Ibid. 123   Ibid., 8. 124   Ibid. 125   Ibid. 126   Ibid. 127   Ibid. 121



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sages that seem on the side of Arianism, there would be little difference indeed between Whiston’s embrace of the Apostolic Constitutions and Grabe’s embrace of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston’s point in reason five is similar to that of reason four: Grabe cannot write against Whiston’s work on the Apostolic Constitutions because he fundamentally agrees with Whiston. Thus, Whiston proclaims, ‘I have a great deal of Reason to think, that he has nothing considerable to offer against me upon this subject.’128 The sentence above illustrates nicely the provocative nature of this section of Whiston’s response to Allix. It appears that Whiston desperately wants a response of some sort from a credentialed patristics expert such as John Ernest Grabe. It is worth remembering that, even though Whiston was a clergyman, his primary academic training was mathematics. He was from 1702-1710 the Cambridge University Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Furthermore, as we have seen throughout this book, Whiston was critical of those who held their true religious convictions close to their chest to avoid difficulties from the established church or elsewhere. At this juncture, Whiston seems to challenge Grabe to either publicly promote his ideas about the Apostolic Constitutions or publicly refute them. As we shall now see, Grabe chose the latter in his An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, and that ancient Book, call’d, The Doctrine of the Apostles, which is said to be extant in them; wherein Mr. Whiston’s Mistakes about both are plainly prov’d. In this piece, Grabe begins his preface to the reader with this confession, ‘Altho’ I am not inclined to enter into Controversy with particular Persons; yet I have written this Essay against Mr. Whiston.’129 Grabe gives four reasons for breaking his usual practice by writing against Whiston. Interestingly, for one of these reasons, Grabe refers to Whiston’s remarks, already discussed above, in his reply to Allix. Grabe notes that, in this work, Whiston offers five reasons that Grabe would not write against Whiston or Whiston’s opinions about the Apostolic Constitutions. Grabe records Whiston’s third reason, already cited above: ‘Dr, Grabe has not, I believe, promised to answer the Doctrine of the Apostles, or its Preface, found by me in Arabick at Oxford; nor do I believe, He can do it. Yet till that is done, ‘tis perfectly impossible to do the other.’130 Another reason for writing against Whiston about the two Arabic manuscripts, before writing against Whiston in relation to the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, is in order to show how Whiston is too ‘forward and overhasty … in making Discoveries and publishing Assertions, even about Points of the highest Consequence, before he hath thoroughly examin’d, and   Ibid.   J. Grabe, An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library (1711), Preface.1. 130   Whiston’s words quoted in J. Grabe, An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library (1711), Essay.4. 128 129

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duly weighed them; yea even before He knoweth, or can know exactly, what or whereof He affirms.’131 A third reason for Grabe’s piece against Whiston is because Whiston has given others ‘not only in private Discourses, but also in public Writings’ the clear impression that Grabe thinks very similar to Whiston in relation to the Apostolic Constitutions.132 Grabe’s final reason for the production of this work against Whiston is because of a delay in his publication of the two remaining parts of the Septuagint. Grabe says that he has not been able to ‘perfect the Copy of the Historical and Prophetical Books of the Old Testament’, because he has not been able to buy collations or obtain ‘the Use of some Manuscripts beyond the Sea, with the most valuable Marks of the Origenian Asterisks and Obelisks’.133 Now that we have observed Grabe’s reasons for doing something he is not accustomed to do – engage in a nasty argument with an individual via the printed word – we turn our attention to Grabe’s specific arguments against the authenticity of The Doctrine of the Apostles as found in the two Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. We begin with Whiston’s opinion – the opinion that Grabe sets out to prove erroneous. Whiston concludes that the two Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, one of which has the title The book of Didascalia which is the Doctrine delivered by the Fathers, the twelve Apostles, and Paul the Apostle, and James Brother of the Lord, Bishop of Jerusalem, consisting of thirty-nine chapters and the other manuscript simply The Doctrine, represent an authentic apostolic writing that has been long lost to the church. Both these Arabic manuscripts contain a preface, with the claim that it too comes from the twelve apostles, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus and head of the Jerusalem church. Whiston provides an English translation of this preface, which was done by Simon Ockley, as an appendix to his 1711 A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks On Some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books, either Printed or Manuscript. Grabe informs us that Ockley became upset when his translation of the preface to the Arabic manuscripts was published by Whiston because Ockley had sent this to Whiston ‘for His private Use, not that He should print it, before Mr. Ockley had revised it.’134 In this preface, we are informed ‘Now we made an End before of Ordaining Canons; and we laid them in the Churches. But this is another Book of Doctrine, which also we have written, and have sent them both by the Hand of Clement our Companion: That this Doctrine may be declar’d in all the World.’135

  J. Grabe, An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library (1711), Essay.5.   Ibid., Preface.1. 133   Ibid., Preface.3. 134   Ibid., Preface.10. 135   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks (1711), 26. 131 132



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Whiston believes the claims of the preface and two manuscripts called The Doctrine of the Apostles. The Doctrine of the Apostles, found in the two Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, was a different document than the Apostolic Constitutions, though both documents were from the apostles and in some manner communicated through Clement. The Apostolic Constitutions was not a lost document in Whiston’s day. However, The Doctrine of the Apostles had been lost until most recently. In contrast, with the assistance of Reverend Mr. Gagnier’s Arabic skills, Grabe concludes that the so-called Doctrine of the Apostles found in two Arabic manuscripts was not a document different from the Apostolic Constitutions. Rather, it was simply a translation of the Apostolic Constitutions. Grabe recalls that when Mr. Gagnier had read the opening four or five chapters of the Arabic manuscript, ‘I found them verbatim [sic] agree with the 1st and 2d Books of the Clementine Constitutions, and thereupon suspected presently the whole Book to be nothing else but an Arabick Translation of them.’136 Grabe emphasizes that he investigated the full content of these two Arabic manuscripts. As we shall see shortly, Grabe will accuse Whiston of just the opposite. After his detailed investigation of the Arabic manuscripts, Grabe discovered ‘that none of the Chapters of the first five Books of the Clementine Constitutions were wanting, altho’ they were strangely transposed.’137 Furthermore there was missing material from book six of the Apostolic Constitutions and there was an additional five or six chapters in the Arabic copies. Thus, with these exceptions, ‘the Arabick Didascalia prov’d to be nothing else but a Translation of the first six entire Books of the Clementine Constitutions.’138 How then did William Whiston conclude that this Arabic Doctrine of the Apostles was an apostolic writing independent of the Apostolic Constitutions? Grabe’s answer: Whiston did not actually read the Arabic manuscripts. If he had, ‘he would not have call’d it in general a lost Book, nor would he further have the same asserted to be the Doctrine of the Apostles, which He takes to be different from the Constitutions; nor would He have promised to print an English Version of the said Didascalia in the same Volume with the English Version of the Constitutions; because no Man in his Senses would print in one Volume twice the same Book in the same Language.’139 In what may be a sincere tip of the hat to Whiston, Grabe observes that Whiston was just as knowledgeable of the Apostolic Constitutions as he. Had Whiston read the Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian, he would surely have come to the same conclusion that Grabe reached. 136  J. Grabe, An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library (1711), ­Preface.6. 137   Ibid., Preface.7. 138   Ibid. 139   Ibid., Preface.7-8.

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Grabe is perplexed. Surely before Whiston claimed that the Arabic manuscripts containing this Doctrine of the Apostles should be considered canonical, he would have ‘read it well over, and consider’d all that is in it; least, if it should not prove to be worthy of the Name and Authority of the Holy Apostles, he should prostitute that Sacred Name and Authority to the Scoffs and Derision of Infidels.’140 Yet, after some investigation, Grabe learned that in fact Whiston did not read the Arabic manuscripts closely; only haphazardly. Grabe was informed by people who saw Whiston in the Bodleian library with Simon Ockley, Whiston’s chosen person to translate the Arabic for him and Adams Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge, that the two men were there for ‘very few hours’.141 After learning this, Grabe had a faceto-face conversation with Ockley himself in Oxford. He asked Ockley if he had read all, or most, of the Arabic manuscript(s) in English to Whiston. Ockley ‘utterly deny’d it, and said that He had interpreted, besides the Titles of the Chapters, only here and there a Passage, which Mr. Whiston desired an Account of.’142 In his account of this event, Ockley says that Whiston ‘was deaf to all my Representations; and, with such an Air as express’d a tender Compassion of my Ignorance (a Virtue which shines very eminently in him) allow’d me to understand the Language, but reserv’d the Judgment of the Matter to himself.’143 In addition to this acknowledgment of Whiston’s scholarly impatience, we have already observed Ockley’s displeasure with Whiston’s publication of his English translation of the preface to the Doctrine of the Apostles. Many of Grabe’s arguments from his preface are duplicated in the main body of his essay. In addition, however, Grabe pinpoints considerably more problems with Whiston’s take on the Arabic manuscripts as well as more technical commentary. After highlighting these additional problems, we will then listen in to Whiston’s response to Grabe’s critiques in Whiston’s own Remark’s on Dr. Grabe’s Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the ­Bodleian Library, etc.144 In the light of Grabe’s charge that Whiston did not read, or have read to him, the Arabic manuscripts, Grabe offers a table wherein he demonstrates that the Arabic manuscripts are simply a translation of the Apostolic Constitutions. They are not a separate lost book of the New Testament as Whiston contends. This part of his argument is simplistic. Grabe provides two columns. In the first he lists the chapter number found in the Arabic manuscripts. In the second   Ibid., Preface.9.   Ibid. 142   Ibid. 143   S. Ockley, An Account of the Authority of the Arabick Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Controverted between Dr. Grabe and Mr. Whiston. In a Letter to Mr. Thirlby (1712), 6. 144   W. Whiston, Remark’s on Dr. Grabe’s Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, etc. (1712). 140 141



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column, he lists the corresponding places where the same material is found in the Apostolic Constitutions. This exercise occupies eight pages, from pages 13 through 20. Once complete, Grabe writes, ‘Now I hope, every Body, and even Mr. Whiston himself will acknowledge, that I have made good my Promise … which was to shew plainly, that the Arabick Doctrine, except the Preface and five or six leaves, is nothing else but the very first 5 entire Books of the Clementine Constitutions (altho’ the 3 last are somewhat transpos’d) and Part of the Sixth Book; namely from the Beginning to the last Paragraph of the sixth Chapter.’145 In relation to the Preface, we shall see that Grabe believes it was written by a different hand from the Arabic manuscripts. As to the reason for some of the Arabic material found in a different place from that of the Apostolic Constitutions, Grabe concludes that, ‘It seemeth therefore, that the Greek Copy of the Constitutions, used by the Arabick Interpreter, has been defective, and that the last Sheets or Gatherings of Parchment, containing the Remainder of the 6th Book, were lost except the last Leaf.’146 Another obvious reason that the Arabic manuscripts, which Grabe has proven to be a translation of the Apostolic Constitutions, in the Bodleian Library cannot be the Doctrine of the Apostles mentioned by Origen at the end of his tenth homily on Leviticus is due to the length of the document contained in the Arabic manuscripts. Origen refers to the Doctrine of the Apostles as a libellus – a small book. Grabe points out the Arabic manuscripts containing the Apostolic Constitutions is a large book. For additional evidence of Whiston’s haphazard scholarship in relation to the Arabic manuscripts, Grabe enters discussion with Whiston concerning the stichometrie of Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople in the ninth century. Stichometries are ‘Catalogues of the Canonical and Ecclesiastical Scriptures, in which is added the Number of Stich’s or Comma’s, of which each book doth consist.’147 As it so happens, the Doctrine of the Apostles is listed in the catalogue attributed to Nicephorus. The Doctrine of the Apostles is also mentioned in another catalogue which Cotelerius put in the preface to his Clementine Constitutions. However, in this catalogue the number of stich’s is not included. Grabe contends that from these two catalogues, ‘Mr. Whiston might have very well concluded, that this Arabick Book is not the same with the … Doctrine of the Apostles.’148 In the catalogue from Cotelerius’ work, the Doctrine of the Apostles and the Doctrine of Clemens, aka the Apostolic Constitutions, are listed separately. The Doctrine of Clemens is assigned number 21 and the Doctrine of the Apostles number 17. In Nicephorus’ catalogue, Clement’s Didascalia, as it is called there, is said to contain 2600 stichs and this report   J. Grabe, An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library (1711), 10.   Ibid., 21-2. 147   Ibid., 29. 148   Ibid., 30. 145 146

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‘very well agrees to this Arabick Book; especially if the five additional Chapters are the End, and the 22d and 23d … are not reckon’d in.’ As to the slightly different title found in the catalogues, Grabe says here, ‘I know of no other Book, which may be understood by the Didascalia of Clemens, besides this Arabick Dascalia or the Clementine Constitutions.’149 Grabe’s discussion of Origen’s reference to the Doctrine of the Apostles is especially interesting because as we heard earlier, and as Grabe now confirms in his An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts, Grabe suggested to Whiston that Origen does in fact quote from the Doctrine of the Apostles. However, now in his An Essay Upon Two Arabick Manuscripts, Grabe observes that while Origen does quote from a certain small book of the Apostles in Origen’s tenth homily on Leviticus – Invenimus in quodam libello ab Apostolis dictum – Origen does not say the book was this Doctrine of the Apostles. However, Grabe writes, ‘But I for my Part will grant and suppose this, especially because I suggested it my Self formerly to Mr. Whiston; (of which by and by) thinking it highly probable, that Origen meant the Book, which was entitul’d the Doctrine of the Apostles.’150 Though Grabe recognizes here that it is impossible to know exactly which small book Origen references, he continues to believe that it likely was the Doctrine of the Apostles. Nonetheless, ‘I utterly deny, that it was the same with the Arabick Didascalia, for which Mr. Whiston has alleged this Place; partly because this is not so small a Book, as we have seen; partly because I have not found it in the Words quoted by Origen, altho’ a like Passage, but very much enlarged, and not a little alter’d, occurs in the beginning of the 27th Chapter.’151 Next, Grabe gives the Latin of Origen’s words from his tenth homily on Leviticus accompanied by an English translation along with the Arabic from the manuscripts also accompanied with an English translation. I provide the English translation first from Origen and then from the Arabic manuscript. Origen writes, ‘For we find in some small Book, this saying of the Apostles: Blessed is he, who even fast to the End, that he may feed the poor. Such a Man’s Fasting is highly acceptable to God; and indeed justly enough.’ Now, the Arabic manuscript, ‘For this Cause, o all you Faithfull, minister to the Saints out of your Possessions and Labour by the Hands of your Bishop. If any of you has nothing, (to give or to spare) let Him fast, and (so) impart half what would have serv’d Him that Day, to the Saints. But if any be in Possession of great Goods, let Him maintain them more largely, according to the Proportion of His Ability. And if He should give at once all what He possess, to deliver them from Prison, happy will he be, and a Friend of Christ.’ And latter we find   Ibid., 30-1.   Ibid., 32. 151   Ibid., 33. 149 150



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these words in the Arabic manuscript, ‘And He will be worthy of God, and fulfill His Will.’152 Grabe’s point, of course, is to demonstrate that Origen’s words come from a different document than that contained in the Arabic manuscripts. Grabe’s words are palpable here: ‘altho’ the ancient Doctrine of the Apostles has been the Occasions and Foundation of this Arabick Didascalia, yet the former has been so much alter’d, and so many Things have been added in the latter, as to make it necessary to take these two for different Books; the former being a little one, and the latter so large, that it has been since divided into 6 Books of the Clementine Constitutions.’153 Furthermore, Grabe uses this opportunity to demonstrate the specific manner in which Whiston misrepresented his views. Grabe’s tone here is an angry scream. Grabe’s anger persists because of the place, discussed earlier, in Whiston’s Historical Preface where Whiston expresses his gratitude to Grabe for bringing to his attention the citations of the Apostolic Constitutions by Origen and John Chrysostom. Grabe cries out, ‘But I can hardly thank Mr. Whiston for having thus written; because whosoever reads this, together with the other Misrepresentations of our Discourse, must needs think, that I am, or was at least then, a Favourer of His Error concerning the Clementine Constitutions.’154 Grabe clears the air: he did not suggest these materials in order to bolster Whiston’s arguments concerning the genuineness of the Apostolic Constitutions; rather ‘I produced then this Passage of Origen, among other Things, against Mr. Whiston in Confirmation of my own opinion.’155 As Grabe continues to argue for his opinions, he notes anachronistic problems with Whiston’s opinions. There are problems with the reference, in both the Arabic manuscripts and the Greek Apostolic Constitutions to bishops having authority over all people including kings and princes. To make his point, Grabe quotes from Cotelerius. Cotelerius observes, in relation to the bishop having authority over kings and princes, ‘Thus the Christians Spoke, after the Emperors and Kings became to be of their Religion.’ Grabe concurs with Cotelerius. He does not understand how anyone who is familiar with Christian literature of the first three centuries could mistake the Apostolic Constitutions as emerging from that early period. Rather, such words as found in the Apostolic Constitutions, ‘agree very well with the Style of the latter Part of the fourth and fifth Century; about which Time, I think, the Greek Original of this Arabick Didascalia or the Clementine Constitutions to have been written and composed.’156   Ibid.,   Ibid., 154   Ibid., 155   Ibid. 156   Ibid., 152 153

33-4. 34-5. 35. 42.

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As we heard, Whiston thought the preface to the Arabic manuscripts to be authentic. In fact, he thought there was no other conclusion to draw except their authenticity. Grabe, however, quickly points out two major problems with the authenticity of the preface. First, he agrees with Whiston that if the apostolic meeting mentioned in the preface occurred, it had to have taken place around the year 67. Grabe concludes, however, that there was no meeting among the twelve apostles, as claimed in the preface, because James the brother of John ‘was beheaded in or about the Year 44 by Herod at Jerusalem, Acts chap. 12. V.2.’ Grabe asks, ‘How could He then meet with the Rest of the Apostles at that place 23 Years after?’157 We will have the opportunity soon to hear Whiston’s response to this and other seemingly conclusive arguments from Grabe. Grabe concludes that this oversight of James’ death is all that is needed to prove the inauthenticity of the Arabic preface. However, there is more condemning evidence. In Grabe’s words, ‘But the Forger of it was still more unlucky in adding St. James the Bishop of Jerusalem, as distinct from the twelve Apostles, and present with them about the aforesaid Time.’158 Grabe notes here his opinion that James the bother of John was, along with his brother John, one of the twelve apostles and he (James) went on the become the bishop of Jerusalem. The two James’s, the brother of John and the bishop of Jerusalem, are the same person. However, the Arabic preface understands the two James’s to be different people by the same name. Even if this is not correct, however, and they were distinct people, Grabe returns to his earlier argument that James died a martyr years before the gathering in Jerusalem pictured in the Arabic preface. Once again, Grabe draws Cotelerius into his corner. He does so this time when discussing what the Arabic preface claims the apostles, along with Paul and James, did at their gathering in Jerusalem. Those gathered confirmed the catholic doctrine. Grabe states that the term catholic doctrine is problematic because it is not found in the authentic writings of the apostles. However, the real concern is the mention in the Arabic preface of subdeacons, readers, chanters, acoluthi, and doorkeepers. Grabe agrees with Cotelerius when he comments on the mention of the same offices, not in the Arabic preface this time, but in Apostolic Constitutions 2.25. Grabe provides an English translation of Cotelerius’ Latin, ‘Concerning the Time, how long after the Apostles the lesser Orders, which follow after the Deaconship, have begun to be instituted in the Church, we are so much in the dark, that we cannot by any certain Conjecture find it out, and explain it.’159 Cotelerius will observe that, to his knowledge, Tertullian is the first to mention the readers and Cyprian is the first to mention subdeacons, exorcists, and acoluthi. Grabe affirms Cotelerius’ opinion that the lesser orders do not emerge from the apostolic era of Christianity.   Ibid., 61.   Ibid., 61-2. 159   Ibid., 65. 157 158



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Whiston’s Response to Grabe It would appear from the above discussion of Grabe’s arguments that Whiston would be down for the count with little chance of getting up from the mat. However, Whiston has answers for Grabe in his Remarks on Dr. Grabe’s Essay upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, &c. I now offer a brief discussion of Whiston’s response to Grabe’s main charges and seemingly unanswerable arguments. Indeed, Whiston acknowledges the ‘seeming Advantage’ that Grabe has over him as a result of his passion filled response to Whiston’s earlier comments about the two Arabic manuscripts as well as the Apostolic Constitutions themselves.160 However, Whiston suggests that Grabe’s erroneous conclusions are the result of a misunderstanding. This misunderstanding occurred for two reasons: 1) Grabe did not know Whiston’s complete thoughts on the Arabic manuscripts at Oxford, and 2) Grabe published his vindictive against Whiston before Whiston had received Ockley’s full translation of the manuscripts at Oxford. Whiston concludes about this major misunderstanding, ‘Otherwise most part of his Book had been prevented, and he had not had any occasion for his mighty enlargements hereupon.’ There is more: ‘Indeed his own opinion about the spuriousness of the Body of the Work appears not very different from mine, as it stood even before I saw his evidence: He fights frequently without an Adversary.’161 Whiston still desires a close relationship between his opinions and those of Grabe. In fact, Whiston suggests that Grabe and Allix will not own in public what they say in private. However, ‘Conscience will not let them prevaricate so far as directly to deny what they know to be true.’162 In other words, ‘admidst all their heat and anger at me for disclosing what they would have conceal’d, and the charge of my misrepresenting them, commonly take care not properly to contradict what I have affirm’d of them.’163 Remarks such as these must have infuriated Grabe most. The most embarrassing accusation directed at Whiston by Grabe was the charge of rashness or sloppy scholarship. In response to this charge, Whiston lays out his account of his interaction with the Arabic manuscripts and leaves ‘it to the impartial Reader to judge how far I have been too rash, or at all culpable in this matter.’164 Whiston offers a succinct summary of his thoughts concerning the Apostolic Constitutions and the Arabic manuscripts on the eve of his visit to the Bodleian Library to see the manuscripts themselves. 160   W. Whiston, Remarks on Dr. Grabe’s Essay upon Two Arabick Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, &c. (1711), 18. 161   Ibid., 19. 162   Ibid., 20-1. 163   Ibid., 20. 164   Ibid., 36.

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Whiston notes that in Eusebius of Caesarea’s well-known listing of recognized, disputed, and spurious books (Ecclesiastical History 3.25.1-7), there is no mention of the Apostolic Constitutions. We heard Whiston’s answer to this potentially problematic reality in the previous chapter. Though Whiston does not give any examples, he states that Eusebius and other writers express great respect for the Apostolic Constitutions on other occasions. However, some early writers ‘did expresly name a parallel Book call’d the Doctrine of the Apostles.’165 According to Whiston, the Doctrine of the Apostles is an extract from the much longer six books of the Apostolic Constitutions. Furthermore, the Apostolic Constitutions held material that was to be kept from catechumens. However, the Doctrine of the Apostles was appropriate for the use of catechumens. Whiston also discovered ‘that the Ethiopick and Coptick Churches had such a Doctrine among them.’166 Thus, Whiston thought it possible that the Ethiopic and the Coptic might be authentic translations of the Doctrine of the Apostles. In addition, via Ludolphus and Wanslebius, Whiston has access to the Ethiopic. This work is divided into 38 chapters. Whiston then concluded that this work might well be in line with the descriptions and references from the true Doctrine of the Apostles. In relation to this Ethiopic, Whiston writes, ‘I perceived it was a methodical Extract, or rather two or three distinct methodical Extracts joyn’d together, from the former Six Books of the Constitutions, and ending with the last Chapter of the Sixth Book.’167 Whiston now turns his attention to his visit to the Bodleian Library about the time of Michaelmas 1710. Whiston was surprised when he discovered not one but two manuscripts in Arabic that claimed to come from the apostles. In addition, it was his great joy to find ‘a particular Preface in the Name of the Twelve Apostles which expresly belong’d to that true Doctrine of the Apostles, as distinguish’d from the Catholick Doctrine, or former six Books of the Constitutions’.168 Upon further investigation, Whiston observed that: 1) the contents of the Arabic manuscripts were very similar to that of the Ethiopic; 2) there was one more chapter in the Arabic than is found in the Ethiopic; 3) the Arabic was ‘generally’ taken from the Apostolic Constitutions;169 and 4) there is a passage in the Arabic that is similar to the quotation from Origen out of the little book he references as belonging to the apostles. Whiston acknowledges that he was surprised to find that the Arabic manuscripts were in such agreement with the Apostolic Constitutions even though the order was frequently different. Furthermore, the document contained in the two Arabic manuscripts was much larger than Whiston expected. It appears that Whiston did   Ibid.   Ibid., 36-7. 167   Ibid., 37. 168   Ibid. 169   Ibid., 38. 165 166



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in fact notice what Grabe says should have been obvious – that the Arabic manuscripts contain a translation of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston here offers a hint as to what he will eventually conclude based on the above observations when he says, ‘as not then dreaming of Athanasian Deceit or Forgery in the case; tho’ I did suspect it before I saw the Drs. Book as appears above.’170 As for the brief period that Whiston spent in the Bodleian, he responds, ‘My Affairs at London, and the Approach of our Cambridge Term, hindering my longer stay at that time at Oxford, I had not Opportunity to desire Mr. Ockley to go over any great Part of the Book with me then.’171 Whiston then suggested that Ockley translate the manuscripts. Until he received Ockley’s translation, his exact opinion concerning the two Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library would have to wait. Unfortunately for Whiston, Ockley was unable to turn his attention to the task of translation due to other responsibilities. Therefore, Whiston ‘was forc’d to content myself with informing the World in general what a Treasure I had found’ and ‘with publishing the genuine Preface of the Apostles therein contain’d’.172 Whiston adds that until he heard that Dr. Grabe’s work against him was almost ready for publication, he had not even considered writing out an account of his time in the Bodleian Library as well as his thoughts about the Arabic manuscripts found there. The reason? Whiston knew ‘that till I had that Translation by me, or some particular Account of the Book I could not do any such thing either to my own or others Satisfaction.’173 Whiston now asks: ‘Now this being the Truth of the Case, what mighty Occasion was there for Dr. Grabe’s numerous and pathetical Exclamations, Admirations, or Imputations upon my Conduct in this matter?’174 Nonetheless, Grabe’s book against Whiston provided Whiston, if not with a translation of the entire Arabic manuscripts, with a detailed examination of the contents of the two Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. Therefore, Whiston is now able to render judgement. With the advantages afforded by Grabe’s publication, Whiston concludes that ‘The Preface to this Arabick Doctrine is the real Preface to the Original Doctrine of the Apostles.’175 However, the two Arabic manuscripts contain ‘a corrupt Edition of the Catholick Doctrine, or former Six Books of the Apostolical Constitutions’.176 In light of Whiston’s other scholarly conclusions about the development of doctrine in the early church it comes as no surprise to learn that he credits the Athanasians, in the fourth century, with the corruptions found in this Arabic translation of the ­Apostolic Constitutions.   Ibid.   Ibid., 172   Ibid. 173   Ibid., 174   Ibid., 175   Ibid., 176   Ibid. 170 171

39. 39-40. 40. 41.

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In fact, Whiston rejoices in the irony that though Grabe sets himself against Whiston’s views, he actually provides Whiston with evidence that supports Whiston’s overall understanding of the role of Athanasius and his followers in corrupting the original and pure teachings of the earliest Christians. Whiston says it like this, ‘So that while Dr. Grabe thinks he is confuting an Assertion of mine, he is unmasking the Cheats and Forgeries of Athanasius and his Followers; without dreaming what he is doing at the same time.’177 Whiston notes, from Grabe’s work, that the Arabic manuscripts omit those parts of the first six book of the Apostolic Constitutions ‘as Athanasius and his Friend Anthony the Monk, with their Followers, could not bear.’178 Whiston writes that the middle chapters of the sixth book are not found in the Arabic manuscripts. These chapters contain ‘such clear Testimonies against the Athanasians and for the Arians [Eusebians]’.179 The electronic copy I have of this book by Whiston must have been from his own library as it contains Whiston’s own handwritten annotations. I know that it is Whiston’s writing because he will sometimes use the first personal pronoun; and the handwriting matches Whiston’s handwriting as found in other books of his that he owned which are in the British Library. He does here as he does in those books. He crosses out ‘Arian’ and writes ‘Eusebian’, so that the sentence reads, ‘such clear Testimonies against Athanasius and for the Eusebians’.180 In addition to theological implications, Whiston notes that there are rules for the married life omitted that are not friendly to the views of the Athanasians. After detailed discussion about the exact beginning and ending of the omissions, Whiston then decides that ‘Dr. Grabe’s fancy about this great Chasm is intirely precarious and ungrounded.’181 Whiston further concludes that the time and place for the Arabic translation lines up with that of the Ethiopic and the Coptic – the days of Athanasius of Alexandria. Whiston is clear here. He thinks that the Greek Apostolic Constitutions are authentic and early. Therefore, the other translations, corrupt editions and abridgements emerge from the early and authentic Apostolic Constitutions. He concludes that before the times of Athanasius ‘we hear nothing of such corrupt Edition or Abridgments of the Constitutions; and after whom we have not a few of them.’182 Whiston agrees with Grabe that the Preface does not belong with the contents of the Arabic manuscripts. Thus, this is yet another mark of deception. However, he disagrees with Grabe when Grabe says that the Preface itself is   Ibid., 45.   Ibid., 42. 179   Ibid., 42. 180   For more on this see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 760-70. 181   W. Whiston, Remarks on Dr. Grabe’s Essay upon Two Arabick Manuscripts (1711), 43. 182   Ibid., 43. 177 178



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also a forgery. Whiston thinks it authentic. Now we examine Whiston’s responses to Grabe’s criticism of the authenticity of the Arabic preface based on the role of James that we discussed earlier. In relation to the issue of the death of James, the brother of Jesus, Whiston refers the reader to his comments in his ‘Essay on the Apostolical Constitutions’ in the third volume of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d. Here, Whiston contends that though many learned people date the death of James to around 62 CE, it should actually be placed after 66 CE when he wrote his letter now in the New Testament. Whiston acknowledges that it does appear from Josephus’ comments in his Jewish Antiquities that James was martyred around 62 CE. However, what most people did not consider is that ‘Josephus does not say that he was then actually put to Death, but only deliver’d up among others to be stoned by the High Priest Ananus.’183 As additional evidence for a date of sometime after 66 CE for James, the brother of Jesus, Whiston points to quotations of Josephus’ writings in Origen’s Against Celsus and Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History, though not found in the texts of Josephus’ writings themselves, that James was murdered during the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans around 70 CE. Furthermore, Eusebius cites Hegesippus who informs us ‘that this James was thrown down from a Pinacle of the Temple, and then ston’d, and after all Slain with a Club, immediately before the Siege of Jerusalem.’184 Thus, Whiston’s answer to Grabe on this front, ‘James the Brother of our Lord was evidently alive A.D. 67 when the Preface supposes him present at the third Council of Jerusalem; as I have fully shew’d already in its proper place.’185 James the bishop (though Whiston’s questions whether or not it should be James the Apostle) is indeed called a martyr in Apostolic Constitutions book six. Yet, he is present when the Doctrine of the Apostles was extracted from the Apostolic Constitutions, ‘which seems inconsistent.’186 Whiston works through this difficulty by observing that the first edition of the Apostolic Constitutions which was abbreviated into only twenty-four canons in the first edition of the Doctrine of the Apostles does not speak of James a Martyr. By contrast, James appears as a martyr in Apostolic Constitutions 8.5. However, this is not the first edition of the Apostolic Constitutions. Rather, it is the third and last edition. If one should think that Whiston is performing intellectual gymnastics ‘for the present purpose’, he reminds his audience the documents found in both the Old and New Testaments ‘frequently contain some Additions later than the Original Books themselves as they appear’d at first.’187   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.43-4.   Ibid., 3.45. 185   W. Whiston, Remarks on Dr. Grabe’s Essay upon Two Arabick Manuscripts (1711), 14. 186   Ibid., 15. 187   Ibid., 16. 183 184

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Whiston brushes aside Grabe’s contention that the mention of the lower church orders, such as sub deacons, readers, and singers, in the Preface to the Doctrine of the Apostles indicates a time period much later than the apostles. He simply states that early Christian writers reference these lower orders without incident. Whiston’s point is that where the lower church orders are mentioned, they are already settled. Thus, they must have long been in place. In Whiston’s own hand-written annotations to his book responding to Grabe, he adds as evidence 1Pet. 5.3. Here, Peter instructs the elders not to lord it over those under their authority. Whiston understands those under the authority of the elders in 1Peter to be the lower church orders. So, they were in place in the first century. We already discussed Whiston’s response to Grabe’s charge that Whiston misrepresents Grabe and gives the false impression that Grabe’s views are not very different from his own. Recall that Whiston says Grabe does not own the totality of his private remarks in public. As we end our discussion concerning the debates between William Whiston and John Ernest Grabe, we observe Whiston’s accusation that Grabe misrepresented him. Whiston states that Grabe ‘directs his principal aim against what I never asserted; viz. that this Doctrine, even as it lies in these Arabick Mss. is, without any variation, to be own’d a Sacred Book of the New Testament.’188 Whiston says he always expected there to be corruptions and interpolation in the Arabic manuscripts as would be expected with any later manuscript. Whiston continues, ‘All that I meant, or any fair Man could suppose I meant, was that the original Doctrine of the Apostles was such a sacred Book; that this appear’d likely in general to be the same, or to contain it.’189 Whiston’s point is that the Arabic manuscripts contain portions of what was considered the most sacred book of the New Testament. The actual sacred book is to be found in the original Greek. Whiston notes that if he refers to Beza’s manuscript of the four gospels as a part of the canon of the New Testament, no one will assume he means that it is perfect, on par with the original Greek of the Gospels.190   Ibid., 32.   Ibid. 190   As noted in a previous chapter, Whiston made his own translation of the New Testament – Mr. Whiston’s Primitive New Testament: Containing the Four Gospels, with the Acts of the Apostles; Epistles of Paul; Catholic Epistles; The Revelation of John (1745). The four gospels (in the western order of Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark) and Acts are simply a translation from codex Bezae in the Cambridge University Library. The translations of the other New Testament documents are based on other single manuscripts. It is truly a refreshing exercise to read a translation of a single manuscript rather than modern translations from an eclectic text. For more on codex Bezae see, B. Metzger and B. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (2005), 70-3; 151-2. For more discussion of text-critical methodology see P. Gilliam, Ignatius of Antioch and the Arian Controversy (2017), 11-4. 188 189



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Whiston laments that Grabe has not treated him with fairness. However, he concludes that if his tarnished reputation will inspire others to examine issues of primitive Christianity for themselves then he is happy about this; even if it occurs at his own expense. In a statement that reveals the heart of Whiston’s convictions, he says, ‘Nor will he that always Acts by what the World calls Prudence and a tender regard to his Reputation, ever be the means of any great Discoveries or Reformations for the good of Christianity.’191 Before we move forward to Whiston’s debates with Pierre Allix, we must discuss an additional work from Grabe against Whiston entitled, Some Instances of the Defects and Omissions in Mr. Whiston’s Collection of Testimonies from the Scriptures and the Fathers, against the True Deity of the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and of Mis-applying and Mis-interpreting Divers of them. This piece is prefixed with ‘A Discourse, wherein some Account is given of the Learned Doctor, and of his MSS. and of this Short Tract found among his English MSS.’ by George Hickes.192 Hickes’ prefix is approximately 40 pages longer than Grabe’s work. One reason for this is because, as Hickes’ informs us, Grabe appears to have intended to add more to this argument against Whiston. Therefore, the piece, though completed before his essay on the two Arabic manuscripts, was not published with the essay on the two Arabic manuscripts. Hickes also states that Grabe wrote this refutation of Whiston’s collection of testimonies at the request of the Archbishop of York. In his Some Instances of the Defects and Omissions in Mr. Whiston’s Collection of Testimonies, Grabe criticizes Whiston for neglecting passages in the New Testament that use Old Testament texts to illustrate the Trinity such as John’s use of Isaiah 6 in John 12.193 He also criticizes Whiston for, among other issues, omitting Clement of Alexandria, using Tertullian very selectively, and his misapplication of Rom. 9.5 to God the Father when the verse clearly refers to the Son. Pierre Allix (1641-1717) Pierre Allix, the French protestant pastor who discovered that codex Ephraemi is a palimpsest, took Whiston to task in his Remarks Upon Some Places of

  W. Whiston, Remarks on Dr. Grabe’s Essay upon Two Arabick Manuscripts (1711), 33.   George Hickes cuts an interesting figure. He is most known for his Thesaurus linguarum septentrionalium (Oxford, 1703-05). However, he is also credited with a pivotal role in the beginnings of the Bangorian Controversy. For more of each of these roles see, S. Lerer, ‘The AngloSaxon Pindar: Old English Scholarship and Augustan Criticism in George Hickes’s “Thesaurus”’ (2001), 26-65 and W. Gardner, ‘George Hickes and the Origins of the Bangorian Controversy’ (1942), 65-78. 193   E. Grabe, Some Instances of the Defects and Omissions in Mr. Whiston’s Collection of Testimonies from the Scriptures and the Fathers, against the True Deity of the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and of Mis-applying and Mis-interpreting Divers of them (1712), 3-6. 191 192

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Mr. Whiston’s Books, either Printed or in Manuscript.194 This piece represents the first shot in what would be an arduous battle of words between Whiston and Allix. Like Grabe, Allix is disturbed by his perception that Whiston misrepresented his views in conversations Whiston had with others as well as in Whiston’s writings. Allix accuses Whiston of calling him a heretic and takes issue with Whiston’s recollection of a conversation recorded in Whiston’s Historical Preface. Here Whiston tells of a conversation that he heard between Allix and Pain. Pain, who Whiston says was beginning to understand that the earliest Christian understanding of the Trinity was not in accord with later orthodoxy, asked Allix whether there was any evidence that Christians prayed directly to the Holy Spirit within the first three centuries. Whiston says that Allix ‘readily answer’d that there was not.’195 In his response to Allix, Whiston notes that nowhere in this passage from his Historical Preface does he call Allix a heretic.196 While this is so, in the paragraph before his recollection of this conversation between Allix and Pain, Whiston states that Athanasius and his followers were the ones responsible for the change from primitive Christianity to what became orthodoxy. Whiston labels these persons ‘old heretics’.197 It was this discovery then of Athanasian misguidance that reminded Whiston of the conversation between Allix and Pain about the invocation of the Holy Spirit within earliest Christianity. Thus, it appears that Allix inferred that Whiston also referred to him as a heretic. To provide clarification, Allix gives a fuller account of the conversation that transpired between him and Pain, which Whiston was in the London room to hear. Allix informs his readers that Pain had asked him if the Holy Spirit was addressed in the public prayers in the early church. Allix then referred Pain to Basil of Caesarea’s On the Holy Spirit. In this work, Basil does two things relevant to the question of the invocation of the Holy Spirit. First, he infers that all public prayers were ‘directed to the Father by the Intercession of the Son, in the Holy Spirit.’198 As Whiston will observe, this statement does not help Allix’ conviction that it is appropriate to offer prayers directly to the Holy Spirit. However, the second relevant issue that Basil addresses in his On the Holy Spirit is that he ‘proves likewise, that the Deity of the Spirit was generally supposed by the Church in that Form, though it was not formally directed to him alone.’199 Allix notes that this was ‘the Substance of that Conversation’   For more about codex Ephraemi, see B. Metzger and B. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament (2005), 69-70. 195   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.ix. 196   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks on some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books (1711), 3. 197   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.viii. 198   P. Allix, Remarks Upon Some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books (1711), 4. 199   Ibid. 194



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and that ‘I am sure the Divines and Ministers who were there and then present little thought I had therein given any Occasion for such a Charge as Mr. Whiston has now, at a distance of 12 or 13 Years, publickly brought against me.’200 We recently heard Whiston deny that he called Allix a heretic. In his response to Allix, he further responds that he did not remember Allix making a distinction between public and private invocation of the Holy Spirit. However, ­Whiston now asks Allix, ‘whether he has met with any Instance of Invocation of the Holy Spirit in Private Prayers during the same time or not?’201 In response to Allix’ remark that Whiston had never looked upon Allix as having opinions favorable to those of Whiston, Whiston writes, ‘He ought to have said, I do not now look upon him as such a one: But that he always has been so averse to those Opinions, I confess I know not how to believe.’202 Furthermore, Whiston declares ‘they that know him, know how very changeable he has of late been in his Notions.’203 Here is another example of one of Whiston’s common concerns: that people (especially clergymen) are not as bold in public about their theological conclusions as they are in private due to fear of persecution. Towards the end of his reply to Allix, Whiston names his sufferings that were brought about by his willingness to go public with his conclusions about the gap between early Christian Christology and orthodox/modern day Christology. These sufferings include inconveniences not only to him but his family, personal abuses, loss of his position at Cambridge, and possible excommunication from the Church of England. Nonetheless, Whiston’s desire, quoting Heb. 12.1-3, is to run the race set before him. He laments the reality that many of his contemporaries, both scholars and ministers, were not willing to suffer along with him. The major issue that Allix takes with Whiston’s theology is his strong conviction that the preexistent Christ was a creation of God. Allix accuses Whiston of idolatry because while Whiston does not direct prayers and worship directly to the Holy Spirit, he does do so with Jesus. If worship is directed to a creature, according to Allix, this practice constitutes idolatry. Allix states that Whiston believed that Arius had revived the true faith; and it was Arius who first contended for the worship of Jesus as a creation of God. Whiston is dangerous to the church because he ‘would plunge us again into idolatry.’204 With an additional layer to his criticism of Whiston, Allix writes that Whiston’s endorsement of the worship of a created being advances Jewish rejection of Christianity. Allix believes that the conversion of the Jews to Christianity is   Ibid., 4-5.   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks on some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books (1711), 3. 202   Ibid., 4. 203   Ibid. 204   P. Allix, Remarks Upon Some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books (1711), 11. 200

201

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now almost impossible. This is due to ‘the many Scandals that are given, and the many Stumbling-blocks that are laid before them by Christians.’205 These scandals and stumbling-blocks consist of the Catholic Church offering worship to ‘the Host, the Cross, Angels, Saints, and what not’ as well as protestant disputes generally and Lutheran errors concerning the eucharist specifically.206 Allix does not think that Whiston will garner many converts to his understanding. However, if Allix should be wrong, he concludes that Whiston’s program ‘would prove new matter of Scandal to the Jews, and still continue to harden them in their Error.’207 In addition to assisting Jewish criticism against Christians, Whiston’s theology is not different than Catholic theology when it comes to the worship of creatures of God and God. Allix asks how Whiston can critique the Roman church for its idolatry by ‘Worshipping Saints and Angels who are but the Servants of God the Father as well as Jesus Christ, tho’ he perhaps be the first (of those Servants) of the Rank and Order’ when Whiston worships the Son while holding fast his conviction that the Son is a servant to the Father.208 Allix apparently believes he has the upper hand against Whiston here as he exclaims, ‘This is one sad and melancholy Reflexion I have made on Mr. Whiston’s Fall!’209 As we shall see shortly, Whiston has answers. In relation to the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, Allix offers two major obstacles to Whiston’s conviction that the Apostolic Constitutions are authentic: 1) the rebaptism of heretics and 2) the date of Easter. These are not new issues to Whiston and we will hear his response soon. First, however, Allix goes into some detail with these critiques of the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions. Allix’ first critique is simple. According to Whiston, the Apostolic Constitutions were kept by the Church in Rome because Clement of Rome left them there to guide the church in its discipline and worship. Allix calls this conclusion a ‘Chimera, and the Invention of a very fruitful but ill-govern’d and injudicious Fancy’.210 The reason? If the Apostolic Constitutions had been written down and deposited in the Roman church by Clement then no Roman bishop ever referred to them until after the Council of Nicaea. This is especially odd because the Apostolic Constitutions specifically address the issue of the rebaptism of heretics. And this was a controversial debate in the second and third centuries. If the Apostolic Constitutions were produced in the first century, would not they had been referenced many times over during the second and third century debates about the rebaptism of heretics?   Ibid.,   Ibid. 207   Ibid., 208   Ibid., 209   Ibid. 210   Ibid., 205 206

16. 17. 22. 30.



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Allix notes that three councils gathered, to decide the issue of whether to rebaptize heretics who desired entrance into the catholic church, before Cyprian and Stephen ever debated the topic themselves in the third century.211 The first council was held under the leadership of Agrippin the bishop of Carthage. This Council of Africa was held before the year 200 and it decided that heretics should in fact be rebaptized. After this council, Tertullian then affirmed their decision in his De Baptismo. Allix suggests the possibility that bishops at the Council of Synade used Tertullian’s work to reach the same conclusion that was reached at the Council of Africa concerning the rebaptism of heretics. The third council Allix references is an assemblage of bishops at Iconium. Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, presided over this meeting. Thus, according to Allix, it is not the case that the Apostolic Constitutions were composed in the first century. If that were so, they would have been referenced in these debates during the second and third centuries. Rather, the Apostolic Constitutions was composed after these three councils met and they reflect the conclusion that was reached at these councils that heretics should be rebaptized before they are allowed full communion in the Catholic church. Allix cites Apostolic Constitutions 6.16 (or 15) as evidence that the Apostolic Constitutions call for the rebaptism of heretics and thus was dependent on the three earlier councils. However, it is not at all clear that this is what the Apostolic Constitutions call for. This chapter does call for Christians to be content with one baptism and they are not to allow themselves to be baptized by heretics. Still, the text does not appear to specifically address the issue of persons who have already been baptized by heretics and later decide to enter the orthodox church. It is worth remembering here that Whiston himself refused to be rebaptized even though he concluded that infant baptism was not the correct practice; rather believer’s baptism was the correct practice.212 Indeed, it is curious that in his response to Allix, Whiston does not pursue this issue with greater detail. In his response, he simply notes that no Christian writer quotes directly from a baptismal creed for the first three centuries. Yet, clearly, says Whiston, this does not mean that there was no baptismal creed before the fourth century.213 Allix’ argument is similar when he turns to the early church’s controversy over when to celebrate Easter as it relates to the Apostolic Constitutions. He observes that the early church had intense discussions over when to observe Easter – do they do so on a set date each year, do they do so on the same day that Jews observe Passover, or do they do so the Sunday after the Jewish   Ibid., 30-3.   On Whiston and baptism, see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: Was He or Wasn’t He?’ (2012), 19-33, 27-9. 213   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks (1711), 18. 211 212

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­ assover? Yet throughout this debate from the second and third centuries, there P is no mention of the Apostolic Constitutions which supposedly was deposited by Clement in the church at Rome during the first century. In fact, the first person to mention what the Apostolic Constitutions has to say about the issue of Easter in Apostolic Constitutions 5.17 is Epiphanius in his Panarion 51. Allix records the words found in Apostolic Constitutions 5.17. He provides the Latin; I provide some of Whiston’s English translation: ‘But no longer be careful to keep the feast with the Jews, for we have now no communion with them; for they have been led astray in regard to the calculation itself, which they think they accomplish perfectly, that they may be led astray on every hand, and be fenced off from the truth.’ We will return to this text shortly to hear Whiston’s opinion that it is an interpolation. First, however, a bit more from Allix. Allix notes that questions concerning when to celebrate Easter arose in the mid-second century. Therefore, Polycarp visited Rome to find answers when Eleutherus was bishop. It is curious, if the Apostolic Constitutions were deposited in Rome by Clement around 64 CE, that ‘Eleutherus had not the sense to shew the Decision made by the Apostles, as it was related by Clement, one of his Predecessors.’214 Allix’ sarcasm continues. Under Victor there was a dispute. Yet, ‘poor Man, had never seen or heard of the Book of the Constitutions; else by that he might soon have put an End to that Dispute.’215 So, because Victor was not privy to the Apostolic Constitutions, he instead wrote a letter to Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea. Thus, in 196, Theophilus called a council consisting of the bishop of Palestine as well as other countries. And what intrigues Allix is that this council decided against what is in the Apostolic Constitutions. It is Beda who records information concerning this Council of Caesarea. Beda describes the diversity of thought surrounding the date of Easter. 1) The apostles made no decisions about when to celebrate Easter. This is an important observation for Allix as it demonstrates that ‘the Western Church, down to the eight Century, had never received the Book of the Constitutions.’216 2) Different Christians celebrated Easter at different times – the Gauls on March 25 on whatever day of the week it fell; the Italians also on March 25, however they verged from the Gauls in the number of days they fasted before Easter; in the East Easter was observed on the ‘14th of the Moon of March’.217 Again, Allix’ point: if the Apostolic Constitutions had been left with the Roman church sometime around 64, surely someone would have referenced them. Of course, Allix turns the light on the obvious. At the Council of Nicaea, the topic of Easter was much discussed. Here it was determined that all churches should celebrate Easter at the same   P. Allix, Remarks Upon Some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books (1711), 36.   Ibid. 216   Ibid., 38. 217   Ibid. 214 215



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time – on the Sunday after the Jewish Passover. Allix asks, ‘Was there ever a more natural Occasion of alledging the Apostolical Constitutions than this? And yet not one of the 318 Bishops of whom that Council consisted, ever once mentioned that Book.’218 Whiston is perplexed that Allix spends so much ink criticizing him over the issue of the date of Easter in the early church as it relates to the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston simply notes that he has already addressed this issue in previous writings that Allix should be aware of. In his earlier papers, Whiston demonstrated that the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, discussed above, relating to the celebration of Easter ‘to be a later Interpolation; that it self twice hints at a former Rule in that matter; and that the true Original Rule therein referr’d to is still preserv’d to us by Epiphanius, from his uncorrupt Copy.’219 Once again, perhaps it demonstrates a weakness in Whiston’s argument that he does not deal with Allix’ point about no one referring to the words in the Apostolic Constitutions about Easter during the early church’s reoccurring debates. We have already heard some of Whiston’s responses to Allix’ critique. Now, a few words about the central components of his response. Whiston simply brushes aside Allix’ main criticism that Whiston is guilty of idolatry because he contends for the worship of Jesus even as he contends that Jesus is a creation of God. Whiston states that Allix’ comments here are reminiscent of a person ‘who had never look’d earlier than the Fourth Century, for the Original Christian Doctrine and Practice in the Points of Divinity and Adoration of our Blessed Saviour.’220 Whiston spends considerable energy to make clear that he does not care for Arius. In contrast with Allix’ charge that Whiston viewed Arius as the reviver of apostolic Christianity, Whiston responds, ‘I appeal to all my Friends who have heard me speak of Arius and his peculiar Heresie; to all my Books and Papers, Printed or MS, where that Matter is mention’d; and particular to the Letter which I so lately wrote to the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.’221 Whiston includes a footnote from his Sermons and Essays, a quotation from his Account of the Primitive Faith not yet published, and he includes his entire letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury as an appendix to this his first response to Allix. The footnote he includes comes from essay X, ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity: With Directions for the Choice of a Small Theological Library’. As we have seen already, this essay was published in 1709 with the intention of suggesting a cure to the division within protestant Christianity. Whiston notes that Muslims do not have the sort of division in their religion that Christians   Ibid., 40.   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks (1711), 19. 220   Ibid., 11. 221   Ibid. 218 219

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have in theirs.222 Whiston understands the Council of Nicaea to have contributed to the divisions within the Christian faith. He thinks it would have been better for the Council of Nicaea to have simply ‘condemn’d the Rashness of Arius and his Followers in bringing in their Novel and Unscriptural Expressions’ instead of adopting homoousios, another unscriptural expression.223 In his Account of the Primitive Faith, which was yet to be published when he wrote his response to Allix, Whiston says this about Arius, ‘I confess I neither like Athanasius’s Character nor Behavior, no more than I do those of his Antagonist Arius, they both seeming to me cut out for the Disturbance and Mischief of the Church of Christ.’224 Before moving on from Whiston’s correspondence with Allix, it is worth observing that, in his remarks, Eusebius of Caesarea’s importance shines through. First, when debating with Allix the letter from Dionysius of Alexandria concerning homoousios as applied to the relationship between the Father and the Son found in Athanasius, Whiston points to the reality that Eusebius of Caesarea says nothing about this letter in his writings. For Whiston, the fact that Eusebius devotes much discussion to Dionysius yet says nothing of this letter recorded in Athanasius’ writings indicates that ‘the whole Story and Letter are Supposititious.’225 In addition, Whiston is concerned with how ‘liberally’ Allix ‘gives up both the Author of the Apostolical Constitutions, and the famous Eusebius as plain Arians.’226 Here Whiston charges Allix with a lack of nuance and sophistication with his use of the expression ‘plain Arians’ as Whiston concedes that Allix would be correct if he were to contend that the Apostolic Constitutions and Eusebius practice ‘Arianism … in that moderate sense in which I assert it’.227 Finally, Whiston notes that in his Essay on the Revelation, he interprets the ‘Floud cast out of the Dragon’s Mouth to destroy the Church, to be the Arian and the following Heresies.’228 Allix argues that Whiston now needs to change this interpretation in light of his current convictions concerning his embrace of Arius. Whiston counters that he need not change anything because there has been no embrace of Arius from his writing of his Essay on the Revelation to the present. There was more correspondence between Whiston and Allix. After, Whiston’s initial reply to Allix, discussed above, Allix responded with The Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Reply. And then Whiston penned, A Second Reply to Doctor 222   W. Whiston, ‘Advice for the Study of Divinity: With Directions for the Choice of a Small Theological Library’ (1709), 236. 223   Ibid., 266-7 and W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks (1711), 11. 224   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks (1711), 11. 225   Ibid., 13. 226   Ibid., 14. 227   Ibid. For detailed discussion of Whiston’s use of various theological terms to describe his own beliefs, see P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer and Arian’ (2015). 228   W. Whiston, A Reply to Dr. Allix’s Remarks (1711), 15.



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Allix with Two Postscripts: The First To Mr. Chishull; The Second To the Author of the Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s Conduct, etc. We will return to Whiston’s second postscript in just a moment as we will conclude this chapter with an investigation of the provocative and entertaining Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s Conduct. The most substantive part of the remaining exchanges between Whiston and Allix centers around Allix’ attempts to provide primary text evidence for his conviction that the early church prayed directly to the Holy Spirit in its private prayers, and the back and forth between Allix and Whiston over the church’s earlier rejection of homoousios. After observing that Whiston’s response to Allix’ initial Remarks ‘came out only Days’ after it was released, Allix dives straight into the issue of the early church praying directly to the Holy Spirit.229 He acknowledges that Whiston likely will not accept his argument because his argument is based upon the fact that early Christians prayed to the Holy Trinity which includes the Holy Spirit. Though Whiston is not likely to be persuaded, Allix offers his take on this issue ‘for the edifying others … that doubtless the Primitive Christians prayed to the Holy Ghost as well as to the Son, since they offered Praises and Thanksgivings to the whole Trinity.’230 Allix then offers 15 examples, ranging from Polycarp to the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, of early Christians praying directly to the Holy Spirit.231 And, indeed, Allix was correct about Whiston’s reception of his arguments. Whiston begins his A Second Reply to Dr. Allix with the observation that Allix should have been hesitant to write against Whiston yet again because he was ‘obliged by the plain Force of Truth, to own so many of his former Errors and Mistakes in this his Answer.’232 Because he was not hesitant to write again, Whiston concludes that Allix’ most recent contribution to their debate ‘is worse written than the former; and that the plain Errors therein contained are here more numerous, as well as more inexcusable, than those in the other.’233 In his response, Whiston regurgitates the names of the authorities Allix put forth as evidence that early Christians prayed directly to the Holy Spirit. Whiston then writes, ‘I see these notable Passages in Doctor Allix’s Answer, otherwise I should hardly have believed it possible that such poor Authorities should

229   P. Allix, The Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Reply (1711), 65. This piece is printed right after the last page of the first edition of Allix’ Remarks Upon Some Places of Mr. Whiston’s Books, either Printed or in Manuscript. 230   P. Allix, The Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Reply (1711), 67. 231   Ibid., 67-75. 232  W. Whiston, A Second Reply to Doctor Allix with Two Postscripts: The First To Mr. Chishull; The Second To the Author of the Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s Conduct, etc. (1711), 1. 233   Ibid.

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be alledg’d by him.’234 Whiston then proffers five problems with the texts Allix puts forward. First, except for Epipodius, Vincent, Euplius, and maybe Symphorianus and Afra; the remaining texts actually speak against Allix’ purpose in calling them forward. Next, there are no scriptural texts offered. Rather, Allix’ texts are ‘spurious, interpolated, or most suspected Writings’.235 Third, and similarly, ‘These Examples are entirely different from all the certain Monuments of those Ages whereto they pretend to belong.’236 Whiston’s penultimate counter argument is several of the texts appear to be forgeries or interpolations. And finally, except for the Acts of Polycarp and perhaps the Latin of Perpetua and Felicitas, none the texts were in existence until the end of the fourth century. The debate between Allix and Whiston concerning why homoousios was rejected by the Council of Antioch when they condemned Paul of Samosata in 269 and then accepted by the Council of Nicaea 56 years later is standard fare. What is interesting, however, is that Allix attaches ‘a Friend’s Answer to Whiston’s fifth question about homoousios’. In his Historical Preface, found in volume one of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, Whiston lists 21 plain questions, which he had originally written earlier, for the educated to consider. Question five is: ‘By what new Revelation did the Council of Nice consecrate the Word homoousios, when it had been directly rejected by the Council of Antioch so long before?’237 Allix does not provide his friend’s identity. In this detailed response to Whiston’s query the friend, after contending that homoousios was used by early Christian writers before the Council of Antioch as it was intended by the victors at the Council of Nicaea, then finds it necessary to ‘assign some reasonable Account why the Council of Antioch … thought fit to lay aside the use of a word, which had so long before them, and without offence, been used in the Church.’238 The friend notes that the reason the Council of Antioch met was the rejection of Paul of Samosata’s, the then bishop of Antioch, use of homoousios. Paul maintained, according to Allix’ friend, that Christ was simply a man and did not become God until after his incarnation. Paul’s opinion was that the process of generation that occurs between human beings also occurred in the Godhead, ‘that as one Man begats another of the same Substance with himself, which is a separate and distinct substance, so it fell out in the generation of the Son of God.’239 Therefore, Paul believed that there were three eternal substances and therefore three gods.   Ibid., 6-7.   Ibid., 7. 236   Ibid. 237   W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.x. 238   P. Allix. The Answer to Mr. Whiston’s Reply (1711), 103. Recall here that it is the friend that is quoted, not Allix. 239   Ibid., 104. 234 235



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It is as simple as that. The Council of Antioch did not actually condemn the word homoousios. Rather, ‘they only condemned it as explained by that Heretick’.240 In other words, ‘they only condemned the Word as explained by Paulus Sam. who had put a bad Interpretation upon it.’241 Whiston’s response is equally as simplistic concerning ‘this whole Account, of which the Orthodox are so fond’.242 He notes that the whole account of the reason for the rejection of homoousios at the Council of Antioch comes from Athanasius himself ‘and his Follower Basil; without their so much as pretending to have original Records to justify it.’243 Thus, for Whiston, the orthodox argument is another example of an ‘Athanasian Evasion’.244 Furthermore, the orthodox solution to the problem presented by the rejection of homoousios by the Council of Antioch is ‘as old as the Fourth Century it self; by which the honest and unthinking part of the Church have been ever since impos’d upon to this very Day.’245 Whiston is amazed that Allix’ friend argues that the actual word homoousios was accepted by the Council of Antioch even as Paul of Samosata’s interpretation of it was rejected. Whiston observes that no such argument has been attempted. Up until now even the orthodox have conceded that the entire word homooousios, and not just a faulty interpretation of it, was ruled out of bounds at the Council of Antioch. Whiston concludes this part of his second reply to Allix with, ‘I … only beg of the Impartial to consider what desperate Straits a Man must be driven to when he is forced to have recourse to so insincere or most injudicious an Interpretation.’246 Before moving forward to our final example of persons who disagreed strongly with Whiston, we note that Whiston seems to suggest that he believes Allix’ friend is Allix himself. He notes numerous inconsistencies found in Allix’ friend’s letter in relation to Paul of Samosata’s beliefs. Whiston then writes, ‘If all these Inconsistencies belong to any body but Dr. Allix, I must acknowledge my self to be very much mistaken.’247 On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston in his Revival of the Arian Heresy Put forth by an anonymous author, though as we shall see Whiston thinks he knows the author’s identity, On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston, in his Revival of the Arian Heresy is different from most all other protests we encountered   Ibid., 105.   Ibid. 242   W. Whiston, A Second Reply to Doctor Allix (1711), 21. 243   Ibid. 244   Ibid. 245   Ibid. 246   Ibid., 21-2. 247   Ibid., 22. 240 241

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above. The author acknowledges that others, even those who disagree with Whiston, have nonetheless credited Whiston with high intelligence and sincerity of conviction. This author, however, ‘shall endeavor to Disabuse those that have entertained too favourable an Opinion’ of Whiston and the author aims to demonstrate that Whiston ‘is not so formidable an Adversary as is pretended, for neither is he so Fair, Sincere, and Ingenuous a Writer, as some well-­meaning Persons have formerly thought him.’248 First, we will deal with this anonymous author’s opinions of the Apostolic Constitutions. Then we will move on to better understand why it is the author thinks, in contrast to most other writers, Whiston is a fraud. And, of course, we shall consider Whiston’s response which is not as aggressive as might be expected. The author charges Whiston with coming to his conclusions about the Apostolic Constitutions with ‘little Enquiry’.249 Therefore, the author is confused how Whiston’s ‘Evidence for the Sacred Authority of the Apostolical Constitutions became most unquestionable.’250 The author comes across as amused that with so little time invested and such problematic evidence, Whiston can accuse of hypocrisy those who do not ‘make necessary Alterations in the articles and Liturgy of the Church, in its Creeds, not only the Athanasian one, but that of the Apostles it self, and indeed in the whole Scheme of the Christian Religion.’251 The author is confident that Whiston is just as wrong about the Apostolic Constitutions as he was about the flood resulting from a comet. Whiston, in turn, will ask the author to consider the consequences for the restoration of authentic Christianity if he in fact should be the one in error. As to the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, the author simply notes that the likes of Usher, Pearson, and Daille have demonstrated their inauthenticity. Recall that these authors were discussed in the first chapter of this work. The author therefore agrees with their statements, in one form or another, that the Apostolic Constitutions ‘are mix’d and spurious Pieces, and consequently of no 248  Anonymous, On The Conduct of Mr. Whiston, in His Revival of the Arian Heresy (1740), 4. For an informative discussion of much additional nasty ridicule Whiston received from some of his opponents, see S. Snobelen, ‘William Whiston: Natural philosopher, prophet, primitive Christian’ (2000), 269-80. Snobelen demonstrates how some contemporaries, such as Myles Davies, attempted to equate Whiston’s physical appearance with that of Arius himself. Furthermore, discussion of the Scriblerians John Gay, Jonathan Swift, and Alexander Pope abuse of Whiston is offered. Snobelen provides this insightful commentary, ‘Thus, when legal, civil, and clerical discipline failed, the only recourse of Whiston’s opponents was to satire and derogation’ (278). Snobelen’s ‘A Chronological Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets, Articles, Broadsheets and Ephemera by William Whiston’, found at the end of his thesis, is invaluable to the study of Whiston. It is 105 pages in length. In addition to the ‘Chronological Bibliography’, Snobelen also offers up ‘A Chronological Bibliography of Anti-Whistoniana’. This bibliography runs 62 pages. 249  Anonymous, On The Conduct of Mr. Whiston (1740), 6. 250   Ibid. 251   Ibid., 7.



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Authority, as has been the unanimous Opinion of the most celebrated Criticks of all Communions since the Restoration of Learning.’252 The author then recites the highlights of the arguments between Allix and Whiston discussed in detail above. The author concludes that Whiston’s responses to Allix, especially about rebaptism and the date of Easter, ‘is as disingenuous and trickish in a Divine, as it is grossly unconsequential in a Professor of Mathematicks.’253 The author also accuses Whiston of disingenuity because Whiston claims that he does not desire to revive the Arian heresy. It is true, the author states, that Whiston rejects Arius’ language such as ‘There was when the Son was not.’ Nonetheless, Whiston has ‘reviv’d the Arian Principles couch’d under those Expressions.’254 When one compares Whiston’s own words found in his Propositions of the Primitive Faith of Christians with what the church historians record about the beliefs of Arius and his followers, one ‘must necessarily blush at the Articles of so disingenuous a Writer.’255 The author directs readers to the writings of Bishop Alexander, Arius himself, and Eusebius of Nicomedia ‘to determine, whether Arius and his Followers did not propagate the very same Doctrines that Mr. Whiston now presumes to dictate to the Christian Church.’256 It is not surprising, in light of our discussion of Whiston’s debates with Allix, that the author emphasizes Whiston’s belief that Jesus is a creature of God. Whiston, Arius, and Arius’ followers all agree that the Son was created by God before the creation of the world, that the Son was an instrument of God’s creation of the world, and that Jesus ‘is truly God but by Constitution and Appointment, and of different Nature and Perfections from God the Father.’257 Therefore, despite Whiston’s claims not to affirm the Arian scheme, the author contends that his claims ‘must be given up as a wretched Evasion, unless he can convince the World that the Word only is to be understood in a sense exclusive of the Doctrine of Arius himself and his immediate Followers, and does not comprehend both the Doctrine of Arius himself and that of those that were call’d Arians in the more advanc’d part of the Fourth Century.’258 Of course, this definition of Arianism is exactly what Whiston contends for. The author brings forth another charge that we have heard before: Whiston’s character is severely flawed because he publishes private conversations and private letters without the permission of the persons involved. The anonymous author writes, ‘I shall by no means be tender in this Point’ because Whiston ‘has broke thro’ all Rule of Decency and good-Manners, so has he departed   Ibid.,   Ibid., 254   Ibid., 255   Ibid. 256   Ibid., 257   Ibid., 258   Ibid., 252 253

19. 22. 12. 13. 13-4. 15.

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from Truth it self in many Respects.’259 As evidence, the author points to the now familiar conversations between Whiston, Grabe, and Wilkins. On the one hand, our author concludes that there is no excuse for Whiston’s ‘uncharitable Reflections on the Veracity of all other Men that are not of his Opinions, as if he were the Standard of Truth and Honesty.’260 Nonetheless, a possible defense is offered. The only apology for Whiston’s behavior may simply be his ‘Enthusiastical Prepossession’ due to Whiston’s expectation that significant changes will occur in the church soon.261 Therefore, Whiston, ‘a person of so warm an Imagination’, expects that he himself will have a central role in this reformation of the church.262 Perhaps Whiston’s reply to the anonymous author is tamer than we might expect because, as Whiston says in relation to the author’s comments about the Apostolic Constitutions, ‘so much as is taken from Dr. Allix, and has already been considered, is of no Consequence at all.’263 Furthermore, as Whiston thinks the piece comes from someone who has known him for a long time, it ‘aims rather at the Destroying my Reputation, than the Answering my Arguments.’264 Nonetheless, Whiston offers a few noteworthy responses in this postscript. Whiston reaffirms his commitment to the Apostolic Constitutions as ‘the most Sacred of the Canonical Books of the New Testament’.265 Whiston assures his interlocutor that, contrary to the interlocutor’s charge against him, he invested much time into the study of the Apostolic Constitutions before he reached this seemingly radical opinion as to their relationship with the rest of the New Testament. This will become obvious when Whiston publishes his essay on the Apostolic Constitutions, which would become volume three of his Primitive Christianity Reviv’d. Furthermore, Whiston did not abandon his earlier orthodox/Athanasian convictions until ‘Enquiry and Evidence forced me.’266 In fact, says Whiston, ‘And this Author, who thinks it incredible I should read over, and understand the most Primitive Writers in a few Months, will not grudge me sure a Year or Two to discover all the Original Evidence, and to search all the Chronology belonging to these Constitutions.’267

  Ibid., 29.   Ibid., 33. 261   Ibid. 262   Ibid., 33-4. 263   W. Whiston, A Second Reply to Doctor Allix (1711), 36. Recall Whiston’s response to the anonymous author is his ‘Second Postscript’ found at the end of his A Second Reply to Doctor Allix. 264   Ibid., 31. 265   Ibid., 34. 266   Ibid., 37. 267   Ibid. 259 260



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Whiston responds to the author’s ‘loud Complaint that I have publish’d private Conversation, and printed private Letters without Leave, and yet suppress’d others, as I thought convenient’ with a qualified admission of guilt.268 He says that he did insert conversations that were frequent in private and had almost become public. However, when necessary he did not include names. Whiston does not give specifics here. He also published part of the Bishop of Norwich’s letter without the bishop’s approval. However, Whiston cannot determine anything in the letter that might be of a sensitive nature. Furthermore, Whiston has not received any complaints from the bishop himself. This is all Whiston confesses. He notes that he published his correspondence with the two archbishops with their approval. In addition to his approval, the bishop of Worcester directed Whiston to publish his correspondence. And, finally, Whiston’s lengthy correspondence with Bradford was published with Bradford’s approval.269 As intimated earlier in this discussion of Whiston’s response to On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston, Whiston pleads with the author to consider the possibility that the author might in fact be the one in the wrong. He asks the author to consider the possibility that ‘if, after all his Zeal and Heart for Orthodoxy, he should at last prove to be mistaken’ and the possibility that the doctrines the author opposes and the Apostolic Constitutions are in fact authentic as well as the possibility that these doctrines and the Apostolic Constitutions ‘should be intended, in some degree, for Instruments in God’s Hands to revive the Primitive Faith and Piety among us.’270 Whiston’s enthusiasm for his cause is as palpable as it was, by and large, unsuccessful. Conclusion Before providing a brief conclusion to this book as a whole, I offer a few parting words in relation to this current chapter with all of its twists and turns. On occasion, I have used boxing terminology with which to comment on Whiston’s debates with his sparring partners, especially in relation to John Ernest Grabe.   Ibid., 39.   I considered including Whiston’s correspondence with Bradford in this chapter as it too is quite interesting. It is found in W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.HP.lxi-lxxxi. I refer readers to these pages. However, I note that in his first letter to Whiston, Bradford complains to Whiston that Whiston misrepresented Bradford’s and Lucas’ view. Whiston is said to have done so in that Whiston told others that Bradford and Lucas agreed with his (Whiston’s) sentiments. In his letter of response, Whiston says that Bradford and Lucas did agree with him on some points. However, it is possible that they changed their mind and did not inform Whiston! All of this sounds very familiar by now. Whiston will argue, nonetheless, that people who no longer agree with him, who once did agree with him, have simply lost their courage due to the likelihood of negative consequences brought about due to unpopular religious beliefs. 270   W. Whiston, A Second Reply to Doctor Allix (1711), 43. 268 269

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Perhaps the same practice will serve well here as we bring this chapter to a close. How do we judge Whiston’s fights with his opponents over the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions? Watching the film roughly 270 years later, is there a clear-cut winner? Did anyone throw a knockout punch? I judge Whiston the looser. However, he was not knocked out. He lost the fight on points. Even so, it was not a close fight. It seems clear that the Apostolic Constitutions are what the majority of scholars from Whiston’s day claimed it was as Whiston’s own survey presented in the opening of this chapter demonstrates. And the Apostolic Constitutions is what the majority of scholars (all?) from our day claim it is. The Apostolic Constitutions, as proclaimed by the great majority of scholars past and present, is an assemblage of early church orders that predate the Council of Nicaea; however, the materials do not go back to the first century and, therefore, the material found in these church orders was not given to the apostles by Jesus. The narrative found in the pages of this book demonstrate that while Whiston was ahead of his time with significant insights into the patristic period, such as the textual problems with the Medicean manuscript of the Ignatian middle recension and reluctance to trust Athanasius’ narrative of fourth-century events, Whiston was simply wrong in his foundational conviction that the Apostolic Constitutions was a first-century product that predated the likes of Ignatius of Antioch and thus the most sacred book of the New Testament. Our earlier discussion of the vitriol John Edwards hurled at Whiston, perhaps with some surprise, provides a bit of clarity as we bring this chapter and this book to a close. Remember that Edwards observes that both Romans and Anglicans ‘wind and turn the Fathers at their Pleasure.’271 And indeed, we observed Richard Ibbetson’s attempt to demonstrate that Whiston had interpreted the church fathers erroneously. Whiston wound the fathers one way, and Ibbetson turned the fathers another way. However, Edwards own conclusion must be correct: the early church fathers are inconsistent within themselves. Of course, this comes as no surprise as they emerge from different locales and time periods in a similar fashion to the authors found in the New Testament itself. Whiston and Ibbetson’s attempt to make the church fathers speak with predominately one voice, unless as Whiston does with Tertullian this or that father is declared a heretic, is a misrepresentation of the manner in which the early church fathers function. One of Whiston’s arguments does cause Edwards to stumble: if the Apostolic Constitutions is not authentically an apostolic production then the church has been left without the proper guidance it needs. Indeed, we heard Edwards acknowledge that this concern has traction. Edwards’ response was predictable: 271   J. Edwards, Some Brief Observations and Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s late Writings (1712), 50.



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the New Testament provides the church with all the guidance it needs. While this is what Edwards says, Whiston argument is strong enough here to give him the victory in at least one round. Thus, according to Whiston, if the Apostolic Constitutions is not authentic then God has not provided the Christian church with the same sort of guidance provided to the Jewish community – past and present – via the Pentateuch. Two paragraphs ago, we criticized both Richard Ibbetson and Whiston for their attempt to make the early church fathers speak predominately with one voice – a voice that supported each man’s own theological stance. Nonetheless, Ibbetson deserves credit for not engaging in the misrepresentation of Whiston’s understanding of Jesus’ divinity – something that I have not found any of Whiston’s other theological opponents do. Ibbetson, while fundamentally disagreeing with the manner in which Whiston’s constructs Jesus’ divinity, does not accuse Whiston of denying the divinity of Christ. Indeed, if Whiston were guilty of Socinianism as John Edwards declares, it would have been necessary for Whiston to have denied the divinity of Christ all together. This is something Whiston did not do – ever. In fact, in this respect, Whiston captured the heart of the fourth-century debates more so than his theological and Christological opponents. The debate during the fourth century was the debate that Whiston wanted to have in the eighteenth century: not is Jesus divine, but in what sense is Jesus divine? Indeed, a common strategy of Whiston’s opponents to discredit Whiston’s overall program was the claim that he denied the divinity of the Christ. In a similar fashion, a common strategy of Whiston’s, when backed into a corner, was to lay blame at the feet of Athanasius and his followers. We witnessed this strategy at play in Whiston’s fights with Grabe. I have spent considerable time with Whiston’s writings through the years. Based on this experience, I am persuaded by Whiston’s response to Grabe’s charges of sloppy scholarship in relation to his investigation of the two Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Whiston was not a sloppy scholar; rather, just the opposite. So, Whiston wins points here. However, Whiston’s claim that the translated materials from Grabe’s An Essay Upon Two Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, and the ancient Book call’d The Doctrine of the Apostles, Which is said to be extant in them; Wherein Mr. Whiston’s Mistakes about both are plainly prov’d reveal that Athanasius is responsible for the Greek text behind the Arabic translations of the Apostolic Constitutions, found in the Bodleian Library, is a punch that misses wide. Another strategy Whiston employs, when he is obviously stumbling backwards, is to highlight over and over again the secretive nature of the Apostolic Constitutions. In the previous chapter, we watched Whiston, showing obvious fatigue from the fight, argue that the secretive nature of the Apostolic Constitutions is the reason Eusebius of Caesarea makes no mention of the Apostolic Constitutions anywhere in his voluminous output, not even when discussing

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Clement or the accepted, rejected, and disputed books of the New Testament. In this chapter, we watched as Pierre Allix asked why, if the Apostolic Constitutions, was left to the Roman church by Clement, the Apostolic Constitutions was not referred to during the second- and third-century debates over the rebaptism of heretics. As I close this chapter, I want to emphasize again that some of Whiston’s instincts have proved correct by the standards of modern patristic scholarship.272 I contend, in defense of Whiston, that if he had available to him the same resources that are available to modern scholars, I have no doubt that Whiston would have come to more accurate conclusions. As we saw earlier in this chapter, Whiston was accused of the same practice he accused others of: twisting early Christians texts to fit his already conceived theological and Christological conclusions. This accusation, against Whiston, simply is not true. As we observed in chapter 1, Whiston was almost forty-one years old when visible cracks began to develop in his orthodox armor. The evidence supports Whiston’s contention that it was his reading of the sources that led him to break from the orthodox fold. Part of Whiston’s attraction is that he did not choose to look the other way in light of his honest reading of the New Testament and additional second- and third-century Christian authors. Yet clearly Whiston was correct in his accusations that others such as Samuel Clarke and perhaps even John Ernest Grabe, had either engaged in this activity of interpreting early Christian texts in a manner that fit their already established theology and/or interpreting early Christian texts in such a manner as to cause them the lowest of hurdles to ecclesiastical and/or academic advancement. It must be said, that even if Whiston were wrong about everything he wrote concerning the early church (and he was not), his pursuit of the individual’s right to believe, or not believe, whatever they deem correct, as demonstrated in this chapter via Anthony Collins’ defense of Whiston’s right to publish exactly what Whiston believes without ecclesiastical or government interference, is perhaps Whiston’s greatest legacy. Some readers may feel a sense of dissatisfaction, after reading this winding narrative of William Whiston’s relationship with the Apostolic Constitutions, since Whiston was clearly wrong about the Apostolic Constitutions. If he were wrong, why write the book in the first place? I do not share this sentiment as I think the narrative fascinating in and of itself. However, if a reader should feel this way, I trust that Whiston’s contribution to religious freedom in western society will assuage any disappointment that may linger. Now, I provide a brief conclusion to this narrative of William Whiston and the Apostolic Constitutions as a whole. 272   See again P. Gilliam, ‘William Whiston: No Longer an Arian’ (2015), 755-77 and P. Gilliam, ‘Ignatius of Antioch: The Road to Chalcedon?’ (2017), 69-80.

Conclusion Completing the Reformation One common criticism, among others, leveled at William Whiston was a charge that amounted to audacity. How dare Whiston propose that the church had been in error for the last 1700 years and that Whiston, a professor of mathematics nonetheless, had discovered the church’s great mistake in relation to its foundational doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, this criticism is implied in the dialogue, on display at the end of the previous chapter, between the anonymous author of On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston, in his Revival of the Arian Heresy and Whiston. Recall that the author fails to understand how Whiston can accuse those of hypocrisy who do not ‘make necessary Alterations in the articles and Liturgy of the Church, in its Creeds, not only the Athanasian one, but that of the Apostles it self, and indeed in the whole Scheme of the Christian Religion.’1 Whiston’s response to this is equally as urgent. He asks the author to consider if ‘after all his Zeal and Heat for Orthodoxy, he should at last prove to be mistaken: If the Doctrines he calls Blasphemous should prove to be the Sacred Truths of Christ Jesus; if the Constitutions and Doctrine of the Apostles, he so despises, should prove to be genuine; and if those whom he vilifies with all the Names of Scorn and Reproach possible should be in the right, and should be intended, in some degree, for Instruments in God’s Hand to revive the Primitive Faith and Piety among us.’2 The above is such an intriguing exchange. The anonymous author acknowledges the obvious grand theological problem with Whiston’s propositions about the discordant relationship between primitive Christianity and eighteenth-century Church of England Christianity. If the modern church, which bases its teachings on fourth-century victorious Athanasian orthodoxy, which in turn claimed to represent the actual teachings of the earliest apostles and Jesus himself, is wrong then Christianity has been in a state of disrepair for nearly its entire history. As explained in earlier chapters, this means that the Christian has been led astray and millions of people are in danger of eternal damnation. Would God allow this to happen? If this is, in fact, what happened – the development of a misguided Christianity – then the atheists and the deists look to be in the right after all. Whiston, however, responds and implies that a realignment of Christina doctrine is what the sixteenth-century reformation was about. He requests that his opponent consider the possibility that orthodoxy might, in fact, be in error and his proposals might be more on track than centuries of the Athanasian understanding of Nicaea. It is important to remember that while Whiston was unable  Anonymous, On The Conduct of Mr. Whiston, in His Revival of the Arian Heresy (1740), 7.   W. Whiston, A Second Reply to Doctor Allix with Two Postscripts: The First To Mr. Chishull; The Second To the Author of the Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s Conduct, etc. (1711), 43. 1 2

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to garner significant support for his argument for the authenticity of the Apostolic Constitutions, as stated in the introduction to this book, dissent from the orthodox understanding of the Trinity as three co-equal and co-eternal persons was in the eighteenth-century air that Whiston breathed. Indeed, the Roman Catholic teachings on purgatory, transubstantiation, and the role of the saints had been jettisoned in favor of sola scriptura. In becomes clear in Whiston’s many writings that he simply saw himself as completing the reformation. The next item, from Roman Catholic tradition, to be corrected was the most foundational one of all – the Trinity. Whiston, perhaps more than his protestant contemporaries, understood the potentially dire implications of sola scriptura – tremendous confusion amongst protestant groups. We heard Whiston say that there was less diversity in Islamic teachings than in protestant Christian teachings. The various and contradictory understandings among protestant Christians concerning, for example, the eucharist, baptism, the episcopacy, and predestination were an embarrassment to Whiston as well as fodder for Roman Catholics and skeptics of Christianity. For Whiston, the only road out of this quagmire was the Apostolic Constitutions. Whiston’s answer to his many opponents such as the anonymous author of On the Conduct of Mr. Whiston, in his Revival of the Arian Heresy was that, of course, God would not allow the church to live forever in error. Thus, God provided the church with the Apostolic Constitutions. With the acceptance of the Apostolic Constitutions all the major problems that were a plague to the Christian faith disappeared. Whiston’s project then was the culmination of the protestant reformation. Indeed, Whiston saw himself, along with Martin Luther, as ‘Instruments in God’s Hand to revive the Primitive Faith and Piety among us.’ That which is implied in the anonymous author’s comments, discussed above, is explicitly stated by others. For example, in a letter from the Bishop of Worcester dated September 8, 1708, the bishop says to Whiston, ‘How much more when the Peace of the Church you are of, is to be broke or weakned by it? I know nothing can excuse you from this, unless the Church holds some damnable Error; and that in the Case you are speaking of, must be such an Error as the Church hath been in ever since the Third Century. Can you think this is possible? I am sure it is very unlikely. What? that any Part of the Faith once deliver’d to the Saints, hath been lost ever since the Nicene Times; and had been so still, but that my Friend Mr. Whiston hath found it? Believe this who will; for my part, if my Friend were an Angel, I should not believe it.’3 Whiston acknowledges that his response to the bishop ‘was rather too sharp, and so unbecoming as to the Stile, which I am very sorry for’.4 Nonetheless, due the importance of the topic at hand, Whiston decides to include the letter in his historical preface without edit. In his letter, Whiston indeed plays the 3 4

  W. Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 1.Historical Preface.xxvii-xxviii.   Ibid., xxviii.



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reformation card. He writes, ‘I am satisfy’d that the common Doctrines have no more Foundation in genuine Antiquity, than Purgatory and Transubstantiation’ and ‘That wicked State arose very gradually: and I fear the Reformed Churches have not yet cast out all the Relicks of it till this Day.’5 Whiston, in his role as a radical radical reformer, saw himself as picking up where his predecessors left off. Whiston seems to have believed that if the sixteenth-century reformers had lived long enough they would have discovered the error of the Athanasian understanding of the Trinity just as they had discovered the error of purgatory and transubstantiation. In fact, in his letter to the two archbishops of the Church of England – Thomas Tenison of Canterbury and John Sharp of York dated July 17, 1708, Whiston tells them of his project of examining the earliest Christian beliefs about the Trinity and the incarnation. He then gives his justification for this risky endeavor, ‘because they have never yet been examin’d in ay publick Manner, either at or since the Reformation: and because the common Doctrines appear all along to have been settled and establish’d by the See of Rome, and thence to have been propagated to the rest of the Christian World.’6 Within the concluding pages of his Memoirs, Whiston implicitly addresses the concerns of his opponents, such as the Bishop of Worcester, that the church has been in error all these many years concerning the Trinity and Whiston alone has come along to provide correction. Of course, Whiston can assume the legacy of the sixteenth-century protestant reformers of which the Church of England is a product, though one untimely born due to the circumstances of its origin under King Henry VIII. However, he goes further. He says, on the one hand, he is grateful that he has been able to provide significant guidance to people in better aligning their Christian beliefs and practices with those of the earliest Christians. However, on the other hand, Whiston asks those who have been persuaded by his teachings for one favor, ‘that they will not be so hasty and so weak as to take from me any tares with the wheat; that they will not rashly follow me in any errors, because I have been so happy as to lead them into many momentous Truths.’7 Whiston then points to a similar issue with the likes of Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and Knox. These men indeed revealed, as Whiston has in his quest, momentous truths. However, also like Whiston, all their conclusions were not correct. Thus, as the apostle Paul criticizes the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1.12 for claiming to be of Paul, Apollos, or Cephas, so Whiston criticizes those who say, ‘but, I am of Wickliff, I am of Luther, I am of Calvin, I am of Cranmer, I am of Knox, &c. in the fourteenth

  Ibid., xxx and xxxi.   Ibid., xvi. 7   W. Whiston, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston Containing, Memoirs of Several of his Friends also (1753), 422. 5 6

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and sixteenth centuries.’8 Whiston notes that in the first century as well as the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries everyone should have claimed to be of Christ. This possibility that some people might adopt Whiston’s errors in addition to his truths is a real concern for Whiston. Therefore, he makes his readers aware that he has gone back through his many writings to correct those places where he has changed his mind in light of ‘fifty-three years study’.9 Whiston desires his readers to know that many of these corrections are included in his Memoirs. Whiston lays down a rule: ‘And I seriously insist upon it, that the same method of Review and Correction, of fresh Examination and Emendation, be ever followed by all good Christians.’10 We must note here that these words from Whiston are consistent with his stance from his earliest publications about primitive Christianity. As we have seen throughout this book, and as I have demonstrated in other publications also noted throughout this book, Whiston continually invited critique from the learned, as he often puts it. Whiston consistently noted that he would change his opinions if someone could convince him that he was wrong. In fact, he asked for this very exercise, critique and debate, from the two archbishops of the Church of England before moving forward with his publication of the five volumes of Primitive Christianity Reviv’d. This preceding discussion helps us to grasp Whiston’s strong attraction to the Apostolic Constitutions. For Whiston, the Apostolic Constitutions serve as the final piece to the reformation puzzle. In fact, Whiston sees a direct relationship between his proposals for the acceptance of the Apostolic Constitutions as the most sacred book of the New Testament and the return of Christ. He says that it is possible that the Apostolic Constitutions were to be kept secret from the unbaptized, the Jews, and the catechumens until an appropriate time for the Apostolic Constitutions to be published for everyone to behold. Whiston then quotes Revelation 11.15. In this text, the seventh angel blows its trumpet and loud voices in heaven proclaim, ‘the Kingdoms of this World were to become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he was to reign for ever and ever.’11 When the words of Revelation 11.15 become reality there will no longer be reason for the Apostolic Constitutions to remain concealed. Whiston’s enthusiasm shines as he writes these words, ‘For my self, I believe that happy time is now hastening, and I take it for one eminent sign of such its approach, that these divine and heavenly Constitutions of our Blessed Lord, by which his Kingdom is certainly to be then administered, are now by his good Providence beginning to be reviv’d among   Ibid.   Ibid., 423. 10   Ibid. 11   W, Whiston, Primitive Christianity Reviv’d (1711), 3.152. 8 9



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us. May this, O Lord, Thy Kingdom come, and may this thy Will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven!’12 Whiston is, in hindsight, overly optimistic concerning the enormous potential of the Apostolic Constitutions to bring about peace and unity to the Christian church as well as their potential to erase the embarrassment caused to the wider Christian community due to such diversity of thought about so many important doctrines. Indeed, if the Apostolic Constitutions is embraced as the most sacred book of the New Testament not only is the potent ammunition of the skeptics reduced to the effects of a child’s water gun, but Christ will soon come. This book concludes now with two Whistonian vignettes. The first has Whiston’s enthusiasm on full display; the second is a delightful picture of Whiston that is representative, I think, of the man in all his complexities and charm. In his Memoirs, Whiston notes that this is now the seventh time he has recorded this wish, ‘O that I might live to see that happy Day here in Great Britain, when publick Authority, ecclesiastical and secular, should depute a Committee of learned, impartial, and pious Men, with this Commission, that they diligently, freely, and honestly examine her present Constitution in all its Parts, and bring in an unbyass’d and unprejudiced Account of her Defects and Aberrations, whether in Doctrine, Worship, or Discipline of all Sorts, from the primitive Standard, in order to their effectual Correction and Reformation!’13 Whiston then says, in a similar fashion to his desire to see the Apostolic Constitutions accepted as canonical in the Church of England as well as in other Christian church bodies, that this process will hasten ‘the glorious Millennium, the Kingdom of our Lord, advanc’d to its highest Perfection, and spread over the Face of the whole World, till the Consummation of all Things.’14 Indeed, for Whiston, these issues are more than academic. Finally, and again from his Memoirs, Whiston is delighted over ‘a thin quarto book, printed in Germany’.15 This book contains the theses of young German students who were required to confute Whiston’s doctrines. Whiston thinks this must have been a requirement to receive their degrees. Whiston writes that while reading the student’s responses he could not help but to smile due to the very weak replies that were made to Whiston’s strongest arguments. Whiston’s commentary on his experience reading these theses deserves the last word in this book. He states, ‘Whence we may easily learn how very weak arguments, joined to great prejudices and great interests in this world, can overbear the strongest arguments.’16

  Ibid.   W. Whiston, Memoirs (1753), 424. 14   Ibid., 425. 15   Ibid., 316. 16   Ibid. 12 13

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Cowan, Brian (ed.), The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell, Parliamentary History: Texts and Studies 6 (West Sussex, 2012). Cyril of Jerusalem, The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, trans. Leo P. McCauley and Anthony A. Stephenson; The Fathers of the Church 61 and 64, 2 vols. (Washington, 1969-1970). Darnell, D.R., ‘Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers (Second to Third Century A.D.)’, intro. by D.A. Fiensy and trans. by D.R. Darnell, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2., ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York, 1985), 671-97. Dixon, Philip, Nice and Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventeenth Century (London and New York, 2003). Duffy, Eamon, ‘“Whiston’s affair”: the trials of a Primitive Christian, 1709-1714’, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 27 (1976), 129-50. Edwards, John, Some Brief Observations and Reflections on Mr. Whiston’s late Writings, falsly Entitul’d Primitive Christianity Reviv’d: Shewing, The Unreasonableness, Partiality, and Inconsistency, of his whole Performance; and that it no ways answers his Audacious Design of disproving the True and Proper Divinity of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (London, 1712). Ehrman, Bart D. (ed. and trans.), The Apostolic Fathers, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA, 2003). Esterson, Rebecca, ‘Allegory and Religious Pluralism: Biblical Interpretation in the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the Bible and its Reception 5.2 (2018), 111-39. Eunomius, The Extant Works, Oxford Early Christian Texts, Text and Translation by Richard Paul Vaggione (Oxford, 1987). Eusebius of Caesarea, The History of the Church: A New Translation. Trans. Jeremy M. Schott (Oakland, 2019). Farrell, Maureen, ‘William Whiston: The Longitude Man’, Vistas in Astronomy 20 (1976), 131-4. Farrell, Maureen, ‘Rare Items relating to William Whiston (1667-1752) in the Houghton Library’, Harvard Library Bulletin XXIV.3 (1976), 349-59. Farrell, Maureen, William Whiston, The Development of Science: Sources for the History of Science (New York, 1981). Feingold, Mordechai, ‘A Rake’s Progress: William Whiston Reads Josephus’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 49.1 (2015), 17-30. Fiensy, David, ‘Redaction History in the Apostolic Constitutions’, The Jewish Quarterly Review 72.4 (1982), 293-302. Fiensy, David, Prayers Alleged to be Jewish: An Examination of the Constitutiones Apostolorum, Brown Judaic Studies 65 (Chico, CA, 1985). Force, James E., ‘Secularisation, the Language of God and the Royal Society at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century’, History of European Ideas 2 (1981), 221-35. Force, James E., William Whiston: Honest Newtonian (Cambridge, 1985). Foster, Paul and Sara Parvis (eds), Irenaeus: Life, Scripture, Legacy (Minneapolis, 2012). Funk, Franz Xaver, Die Apostolischen Konstitutionen: eine litterarhistorische Untersuchung (Rottenburg, 1891). Funk, Franz Xaver, Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum (Paderborn, 1905). Ferguson, J.P., Dr. Samuel Clarke: An Eighteenth Century Heretic (Kineton, 1976). Gardner, William Bradford, ‘George Hickes and the Origins of the Bangorian Controversy’, Studies in Philology 39.1 (1942), 65-78.



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