Tag Archives: Allen Brent

Dubious docetists: a new publication

I have just received my copy of Joseph Verheyden et al. (ed.) Docetism in the early church:the quest for an elusive phenomenon (WUNT 402; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). This includes my essay on Ignatius’ “docetic” opponents, given at the Oxford patristic conference back in 2015. I have made reference to this before, in the post on docetism and the Didachistic Eucharist. I will now record that I sweated blood over that paper. Hopefully it was worth it.

I concluded that “docetism” was not a useful category. I am interested to find that this conclusion is widely shared by other essayists in the volume; since there was no conferring either in advance of or since the submission of the essays this speaks volumes. There are some outstanding essays here; I particularly enjoyed Allen Brent’s philsophical sophistication in identifying enlightenment philosophy of mind as an obstacle to modern understandings of ancient christology, Paul Hartog’s examination of what Ignatius might have added to the kerygma in his polemical context, and Taras Khomych’s rather literate reading of the dance of Jesus in the Acta Johannis. These were my personal highlights, but all the contributions are excellent and worth reading. Beyond the big conclusion, which is that “docetism” is a term which should be abandoned as useless, I was glad to find other points of agreement between other essays and mine, in particular Winrich Löhr’s conclusion that philosophical discourse lay behind a number of the christologies that are classified as docetic, Francis Watson’s observation that Ignatius only speaks of his “docetic” opponents’ denial of Christ’s suffering and not of their denial of any other aspect of Christ, and Jens Schröter’s acceptance of a Hadrianic date for Ignatius’ activity. However, given that there is a lot of common ground among the essays in terms of the materials examined, there is remarkably little redundancy.

The book is €134, which will put it beyond most individuals and many libraries. I am happy to share a pdf of my essay with any reader. My contact details can be found buried somewhere on this blog or on academia.edu. Alternatively leave a comment (if you give your address it will not be published on the blog as I can edit or delete comments before they are displayed.)

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Ps-Ignatius, Eudoxius and the Apostolic constitutions

Although I should perhaps be better employed during Holy Week I was able to attend the Kings London patristic seminar yesterday to hear Allen Brent on ps-Ignatius.

Brent argued that ps-Ignatius was what might roughly be called an anomoian, and in particular a disciple of Eudoxius, in Constantinople from 360, but previously in Antioch. This in turn, in an Antiochene setting, would point to Euzoius or one of his circle as the forger.

Brent’s fundamental evidence is a fragment of Eudoxius found in F. Diekamp, Doctrina patrum de incarnatione Verbi: ein griechisches Florilegium aus der Wende des 7 und 8 Jahrhunderts (2nd ed; Münster: Aschendorff, 1981), 64-5: We believe in one only true God and Father, the only first principle unbegotten and without a father, not worshipped because by nature no-one worships the completely transcendent, and in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son, able to be worshipped because he worships rightly the Father, and on the one hand only begotten because he s greater than all creation that came after him, and on the other hand, first-born because of his most excellent and placed first of all in the created order, made flesh not made human, for he did not assume a human soul, but he became flesh in order that through flesh he might communicate as divine through a veil to us humans…

Whereas we can see the points of contact with ps-Ignatius, particularly in the statements regarding the lack of a human soul (and cf. ps-Ignatius Philippians 9.4 for the matter of communicating pathē), as I have already noted, this is simply an outworking of a conventional position in Antiochene christology. Brent’s suggestion that Ignatius was chosen simply as a fundamentally orthodox figure likewise does not convince me. It might be possible to align the forger’s statement regarding being a man set on unity (derived partially from the authentic Ignatius) with a Eudoxian agendum of creating a single imperial church, but against this must be set ps-Ignatius Philadelphians 4. In other words, I see no reason to revise my opinion that the forger is derived from Meletian circles.

However, if Brent is indeed right, that would align ps-Ignatius more closely with the Apostolic constitutions. And yet Brent shares my opinion that the parallels are derived not from identity of authorship but a common exegetical tradition.

The puzzle continues to be as baffling as ever.

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