Noen refleksjoner om frelsesforståelsen i den nye dåpsliturgien

desember 17, 2008

Innledning og bakgrunn

I 2003 ble arbeidet med den nye gudstjenestereformen påbegynt i Den norske kirke.[1] Det var da 25 år siden den forrige høymesseordningen ble innført (1978). Hva er den uttalte bakgrunnen for gudstjenestereformen? I orienteringen om høringsdokumentene[2] blir det særlig pekt på den liturgiske bevegelse og dennes utstrakte bruk av begrepet ordo. Med dette begrepet siktes det til en oppfatning av gudstjenestens oppbygning, som går helt tilbake til oldkirken: Lokale gudstjenester skal ha en grunnleggende felles struktur (ordo) på tross av lokale variasjoner. Det er også tale om å ”reformulere gudstjenesten slik at samtidens menigheter og mennesker kan kjenne den som sin.”[3] Et annet poeng som går igjen er mangelen på samsvar mellom ordning og praksis, i det mange menigheter har utviklet tendenser til eksperimentering med liturgier.

 

Gudstjenestereformen innebærer revisjon av ordning for hovedgudstjeneste, revisjon av lesetekstene, samt ny norsk salmebok.[4] Det er dermed snakk om en svært vidtfavnende revisjon av gudstjenestelivet. Det er den av  Kirkerådet oppnevnte Nemnd for gudstjenesteliv (NFG)[5] som har hatt hovedansvaret for utarbeidelsen av de reviderte ordninger, tekster og liturgier.[6] 2008 har vært viet til høringer, med svar fra bl. a. menigheter og utdannelsesinstitusjoner. Våren 2009 skulle etter planen Kirkerådet gjennomføre en avsluttende behandling av de nye ordningene, mens Kirkemøtet skulle gjøre det samme i november 2009.[7] Etter anmodning fra Bispemøtet bestemte imidlertid Kirkerådet for å utsette alt dette med ett år. Dette vil dermed gi lengre tid til gjennomtenking og diskusjon av endringer ved liturgi, salmebok og tekstrekker.

 

I denne artikkelen skal det bidras til debatten rundt den nye dåpsliturgien.[8] Arbeidet med denne har vært kontroversielt.[9] Kirkerådets sak KR 14/08 forteller at ”NFG har viet dåpsliturgien mye tid, for om mulig komme fram til formuleringer som alle kunne enes om. Det har vært krevende å samle sprikende synspunkter, men ikke desto mindre viktig.” Det krevende i denne arbeidsprosessen kommer blant annet til uttrykk ved at forslaget til ny dåpsliturgi er behandlet tre ganger i Kirkerådet.[10] Det endelige forslaget, som her skal tas utgangspunkt i, ble imidlertid godkjent av Kirkerådet. I det følgende skal det da ses nærmere på visse deler av den foreslåtte dåpsliturgien. Formålet vil ikke være en uttømmende presentasjon og beskrivelse av liturgien. I stedet vil noen av de mest tydelige endringer fra den nåværende liturgi bli undersøkt, med det siktemål å undersøke hvilke teologiske standpunkter disse endringene forutsetter eller innebærer med hensyn til frelsesforståelsen.

 

Den foreslåtte dåpsliturgien

Variantene under ”Mottakelse”

I den nåværende liturgien blir det ved inngang sagt følgende: ” Menigheten skal i dag ta imot dette barnet i Guds hus. Ved dåpen vil Gud gi ham del i sin frelse og ta ham inn i sin kristne kirke.” Den obligatoriske lesningen av Joh 3,16 i den nåværende liturgien er tatt bort i den nye. I stedet kan man velge mellom fire varianter, der alle innledes med ”Vi skal feire dåp i Faderens og Sønnens og Den Hellige Ånds navn.” Den fjerde varianten av disse fortsetter deretter nærmest identisk med den nåværende liturgiens ovenfor siterte setning. De tre andre er derimot nye, og fortsetter som følger:

 

1.       Med takk og glede kommer vi med NN/disse barna til Gud, som har skapt oss i sitt bilde. Ved vann og Ånd fødes vi på nytt til liv i Kristus.

2.       I dåpen åpner Gud sitt store fellesskap for oss og lover å være med oss alle dager.

3.       I dåpen fører Gud fra død til liv, og gir oss del i sine gode gaver.

 

Skapelsesperspektivet

Den første varianten av disse betoner skapelsesperspektivet. Det har flere ganger gjennom prosessen med den nye dåpsliturgien blitt ytret ønske om at skapelsesperspektivet skulle komme mer fram; gleden og takknemligheten over et nytt liv som er skapt i Guds bilde.[11] Dette kommer da igjen med styrke allerede i de tre varianter av den påfølgende bønnen i dåpsliturgien, den første av disse variantene repeterer utsagnet om at vi er skapt i Guds bilde.[12] Allerede her kan det da være på sin plass å reflektere noe mer over dette. For det første: Har et så stort fokus på skapelse en legitim plass i dåpsliturgien? Dersom man ønsker en dåpsliturgi som bygger på Skrift og bekjennelse, er det vanskelig å se at svaret på dette er ”ja”. I den grad dåpen handler om skapelse, handler den nemlig etter bibelsk forståelse om nyskapelsen etter syndefallet. Til forsvar for den nye liturgien skal det sies at nyskapelsen i gjenfødelsen nevnes hele tre ganger: I én variant under ”Mottakelse”, i én variant ved hellingen av dåpsvannet, samt i tilsigelsen etter dåpshandlingen.[13] Man ser altså at både skapelse og nyskapelse betones. Men årsaken til behovet for nyskapelse – synden med dens konsekvenser – blir uklart presentert, som vi skal se.

 

Begrepet ”Guds bilde” er et godt utgangspunkt for å illustrere nettopp dette manglende fokus på syndefallet med dets konsekvenser. I dåpsliturgien blir det sagt at ”vi er skapt i Guds bilde” – det blir imidlertid ikke klargjort hva denne gudbilledligheten består i. Det kan her bare kort vises til hva Bibelen sier om ”Guds bilde”.[14] Det sentrale skriftsted er selvsagt 1 Mos 1,26-27: ”Da sa Gud: ’La oss skape mennesker i vårt bilde, som et avbilde av oss!’(…) Og Gud skapte mennesket i sitt bilde, i Guds bilde skapte han det, til mann og kvinne skapte han dem.” 1 Mos 5,3 peker mot at gudbilledligheten er noe som blir overført slektsmessig, like ens 9,3. Sal 8,5-6 er den siste teksten i GT som understreker menneskets likhet med Gud. Her, likesom i 1 Mos 1,26-27, er det menneskets ansvar som hersker over skaperverket som blir understreket. ”I NT er alltid det originale nærværende i bildet”.[15] Paulus omtaler således Kristus som ”Guds bilde” i 2 Kor 4,4 og Kol 1,15, jfr. Fil 2,6 og Hebr 1,3. Han kan også fastholde at mennesket i sin skapthet er bærer av Guds bilde, jfr. 1 Kor 11,7. Men dette bildet kan han også omtale som ”et jordisk bilde”.[16] Mer sentralt i Paulinsk teologi – og dette er relevant med tanke på dåpsteologi – er forutsetningen av at gudbilledligheten er noe den troende på nytt har fått del i ved troen og gjenfødelsen.[17] Dette kommer fram i Rom 8,29; 2 Kor 3,18; Kol 3,10 og Ef 4,24: ”Kle dere i det nye mennesket, som er skapt i Guds bilde til et liv i sann rettferd og hellighet.” Målet er å bli mer og mer lik Jesus, jfr. 2 Kor 3,18. Dersom man da skal bruke begrepet ”Guds bilde” i en dåpsliturgi, er det mye mer nærliggende å tale om gjenopprettelsen av Guds bilde ved dåpen og troen på Kristus – det er nemlig i dåpen det nye mennesket blir født, jfr. Rom 6,1-11 og Tit 3,5. Dette ville også korrespondert langt bedre med den nye dåpsliturgiens store fokus på gjenfødelsen (se det følgende).

 

”Ved vann og Ånd fødes vi på nytt…”

Den første varianten spiller på Joh 3,5: ”Den som ikke blir født av vann og Ånd, kan ikke komme inn i Guds rike.” I den nåværende liturgien kommer dette verset inn ved bønnen ved døpefonten: ”Herre Jesus Kristus, du har sagt at ingen kan komme inn i Guds rike uten å bli født på ny av vann og Ånd”. Det er videre interessant å se at ”av” er endret til ”ved” i den nye liturgien: ”Ved vann og Ånd fødes vi på nytt…” Den greske teksten har ”eks”, som har hovedbetydningen ”fra”, ”(ut) av”, ”bort fra”.[18] Ordet kan også ha betydningen ”ved”, selv om dette er mindre vanlig. Således ser vi at Bibelselskapets 2005-utgave oversetter ”eks” med ”av”, som sitert ovenfor.[19]  Preposisjonen ”ved” uttrykker i større grad en instrumentell betydning av vann og Ånd – preposisjonen ”av” uttrykker nok i større grad vann og Ånd som opphav og kilde for gjenfødelsen. I alle fall dreier Joh 3,1-8 seg hovedsakelig om Åndens gjenfødende gjerning.[20] Denne gjerningen kan rommes og uttrykkes ved begge disse preposisjonene, men ”av” ligger nærmere grunnteksten enn ”ved”. Dette burde også blitt reflektert i liturgien. Spørsmålet om Joh 3 faktisk sikter til den kristne dåpen, skal ikke diskuteres grundig her, i og med at fokuset i denne artikkelen vil ligge på endringer fra den nåværende til den nye dåpsliturgien.[21] Begge liturgiene bruker som nevnt Joh 3,5 i tilknytning til dåpen.

 

”I dåpen åpner Gud sitt store fellesskap…”

Den andre varianten er langt mer uklar: ”I dåpen åpner Gud sitt store fellesskap for oss og lover å være med oss alle dager.”[22] Hva menes her med Guds ”store fellesskap”? Det greske ordet for fellesskap er ”koinånia”.[23] Det tilsvarende ordet på hebraisk blir svært lite brukt i GT, og aldri om fellesskapet mellom Gud og menneske. I NT blir derimot koinån-ordstammen mye brukt. Grunnbetydningen er ”delaktighet i noe med noen”. Ord som bygger på denne stammen kan brukes rent sekulært (F. eks. Luk 5,10), men i NT brukes de oftest i religiøs sammenheng. Det er spesielt Paulus’ bruk av dem som skiller seg ut, både i betydning og i forekomst. Paulus legger vekt på at den som tror på Kristus har fellesskap med Ham (1 Kor 1,9), et livs- og dødsfellesskap med Ham som særlig kommer til uttrykk i dåpen[24] Men de kristne har også et fellesskap sammen i troen på Kristus, og dette kommer bl. a. til uttrykk ved delaktigheten i Kristi blod og kropp ved nattverden (1 Kor 10,16-22) samt delaktigheten i Kristi lidelse og herlighet.[25] Jfr. til dette særlig også Apg 2,42; Gal 2,9; Fil 1,5. Paulus bruker ikke uttrykket ”å ha fellesskap med Gud” – dette uttrykket er forbeholdt Sønnen. I 1 Joh blir uttrykket koinånia også brukt, jfr. 1,3: ”Det som vi har sett og hørt, forkynner vi også for dere, for at dere skal ha fellesskap med oss, vi som har fellesskap med Far og hans Sønn Jesus Kristus.”

 

Hva menes så når liturgien taler om Guds ”store fellesskap”? Selve uttrykket blir, så vidt jeg ser, ikke brukt i Bibelen, og dette er uheldig. Dersom det hadde vært brukt, kunne man lettere lokalisert hvilke grunntanker eller tekster i Bibelen man knytter an til i liturgien. Hva dette fellesskapet består i, er liturgien også taus om. Det er ellers vanskelig å si noe konkret om hvordan formuleringen vil oppfattes av kirkefremmede uten bakgrunnskunnskap fra Bibelen. Den kan sannsynligvis tolkes i flere retninger.[26] Konkluderende må man si at formuleringen er upresis. Skulle man fulgt bibelske grunntanker, og brukt ordet ”fellesskap”, hadde det vært mye mer nærliggende å si at ”dåpen gir oss fellesskap med (den korsfestede og oppstandne) Jesus Kristus.”[27]

 

”Fra død til liv”

Over til den tredje varianten: ”I dåpen fører Gud fra død til liv, og gir oss del i sine gode gaver.” Uttrykket ”fra død til liv” bringer tanken til Joh 5,24: ”Sannelig, sannelig, jeg sier dere: Den som hører mitt ord og tror på ham som har sendt meg, har evig liv og kommer ikke for dommen, men er gått over fra døden til livet.” I det å knytte overgangen fra død til liv i dåpen, er liturgien på bibelsk grunn,[28]jfr. også Apostolikums ”dømme levende og døde.” NT er tydelig på at døden er en konsekvens av synd – det være seg Adams eller vår.[29] Døden i nytestamentlig forstand innebærer mer enn fravær av liv, d. e. fysisk død, men også den evige fortapelsen.[30] Men Jesus Kristus ”døde for oss”[31] og vant over døden[32], og tok dermed bort synden og dødens kraft.[33] Men dette gjelder bare de som tar imot Jesus Kristus i tro og omvendelse – det evige liv med Gud gis bare dem.[34] Og her kommer det tidligere nevnte livs- og dødsfellesskapet med Kristus inn, det som skjer i dåpen, samt konsekvensene i form av et liv i hellighet og lydighet.[35] Man kan ellers spørre om hvorfor den nye dåpsliturgien bruker ubestemt form ”død” og ”liv”. I NT’s generelle språkbruk er det i første rekke tale om døden og livet, som f. eks. i det siterte verset ovenfor. Poenget er da at det med hensyn til frelsen tales i absolutte kategorier: Enten har man det evige liv ved troen på Kristus, eller ikke. Dette er et tydelig budskap i NT, som det framgår av de refererte tekster. Det er en svakhet ved den nye dåpsliturgien at dette ikke er reflektert. Det fører inn et unødvendig uklarhetsmoment med hensyn til hva liturgien faktisk sikter til.

 

Guds gode gaver

Liturgien fortsetter med å si at dåpen ”gir oss del [Guds] gode gaver.” Hva menes med Guds gode gaver? Den mest umiddelbare parallell til begrepet ”gode gaver” i NT er Matt 7,11 og Luk 11,13. Ved førstnevnte leser man: ”Når selv dere som er onde, vet å gi barna deres gode gaver, hvor mye mer skal ikke da deres Far i himmelen gi gode gaver til dem som ber ham!”, Jfr. Jak 1,17. Luk 11,13 har ”Den hellige ånd” i stedet for ”gode gaver”. Nevnelse av gaver fra Gud finner man ellers flere ganger i NT.[36] De fleste tilfellene hos Paulus dreier seg om nåden i Kristus, så Rom 5,15. 17; 2 Kor 9,15; Ef 2,8. Men dette er hos Paulus også tett innvevd med den nådesutrustning Gud gir.[37] I Apg brukes begrepet ”Den Hellige Ånds gave”[38], og i 2,38 blir dette spesifikt knyttet an til dåpen. Man kan således si at det er bibelsk dekning for å bruke begrepet ”Guds gaver” i liturgisk sammenheng. Problemet er at begrepet, uten at det blir eksplisert, er vagt og generelt. Det blir uklart hva man sikter til. Hvorfor ikke, i stedet for å bruke uttrykket ”Guds gaver”, heller være mer konkret og si ”Den hellige ånds gave” eller ”nåden/frelsen i Jesus Kristus”?

 

Troen

Til slutt et poeng som går på alle de fire varianter under overskriften ”Mottakelse”. Ingen av dem nevner det som i NT er forutsetningen for ånds- og frelsesmottagelsen, syndstilgivelsen og gjenfødelsen i dåpen: Troen.[39] ”Troen” blir allerede nevnt i én av variantene i den påfølgende bønnen, men da ikke som den frelsende troen på Guds løfte om frelse i Jesus Kristus (Jfr. Rom 4,24-25), men som ”troen på at du alltid vil være med oss.” Hva blir ellers sagt om troen, resp. tro, i resten av dåpsliturgien? Klarest blir dåpen knyttet sammen med tro i den éne leseteksten ved dåp av eldre barn/ungdom og voksne. Her er tre oppførte varianter[40], og den første er Gal 3,26-28. Denne teksten må betegnes som svært sentral i NT’s og Paulus’ lære om dåpen: ”Dere er alle Guds barn ved troen på Kristus Jesus. Alle dere som er døpt til Kristus, har ikledd dere Kristus. Her er ikke jøde eller greker…” Slik sett fremstår dette som et godt valg av tekst.[41] Likevel er valget inkonsistent. Se nedenfor, i drøftelsen av begrepet ”Guds barn”.

 

Men teksten fra Gal 3 er altså ikke inkludert som lesetekst ved barnedåp. Den neste gang tro blir nevnt i liturgien, er igjen ved dåp av eldre barn/ungdom[42], der et direkte spørsmål om bekjennelse og forsakelse er innført, hvorpå dåpskandidaten svarer ”Ja”. Her kommer altså sammenhengen mellom tro og dåp tydelig fram. Ved barnedåpsliturgien blir også troen nevnt ved innledningen til trosbekjennelsen: ”La oss sammen bekjenne forsakelsen og troen, som vi døpes til:”[43]  Ellers blir troen nevnt ved selve dåpshandlingen, i det foreldrene blir spurt om de ønsker at barnet skal bli ”døpt i Faderens og Sønnens og Den Hellige Ånds navn og bli opplært til et liv i den kristne tro?”[44] Uttrykket ”Den kristne forsakelse og tro”, som vi finner i liturgiene fra 1920 og 1978, er beholdt ved dåp av større barn, ungdom eller voksne. Hvorfor ikke ved dåp av småbarn? Dette framstår som enda merkeligere i det man har beholdt ”forsakelsen” både ved innledningen til trosbekjennelsen og forut for trosbekjennelsen.

 

Korstegnelsen forut for dåpen er beholdt, med det tilhørende utsagn, bortsett fra at ”tegne” er byttet ut med ”merke” – sannsynligvis et trekk som gjør liturgien mer kommuniserbar. Her blir det også tydelig sagt at merkingen er et vitnesbyrd om at barnet skal ”tilhøre” Jesus Kristus og ”tro på ham”. Men da fremstår endringen som har kommet til like nedenfor som lite konsistent: Etter dåpen bekrefter liturgen at Gud har tatt barnet ”inn i sin kirke”, jfr. 1920 og 1978: ”tatt deg inn i sin troende menighet”. I høringsdokumentet er endringen begrunnet på følgende måte: ”’Troende menighet’ lyder svært internt i dagens kirkesituasjon. Samtidig er det lite troende at ’kirke’ høres uten de elementene de karakteriserende ordene skulle ivareta.” Til dette kan man svare: Dersom man mener at det som lyder ”internt” går på ordet ”menighet”, kunne man lett endret til ”troende kirke”. Nå er kirken i nytestamentlig forstand nettopp de troende,[45] derfor kan begrepet ”troende kirke” oppleves som ”smør på flesk”. Samtidig kan ordet ”troende” fungere karakteriserende og forklarende. Det er nemlig lett å være uenig i høringsdokumentet i dets oppfatninger om de konnotasjoner som er knyttet til ordet ”kirke”: Vil ikke de fleste knytte dette ordet an til Den norske kirke, og slik oppfatte liturgien som om det å bli ”tatt inn i kirken” tilsvarer å bli et medlem i Den norske kirke? Men det er nettopp en slik tanke som ikke er bibelsk.[46]  Ellers blir troen tydelig nevnt under avsnittet ”Livet i dåpen”. Foreldre og faddere får et ansvar for å ”hjelpe henne/ham/dem til å leve og vokse i den kristne tro.” Deretter følger utsagnet ”La oss gå sammen med NN/barna på troens vei gjennom livet.”

 

Bakgrunnen for dåpens nødvendighet: Synden

I den nåværende liturgi sies det om barnet som skal døpes: ”De er født med menneskeslektens synd og skyld…” Dette er i tråd med en luthersk oppfattelse av arvesynden, jfr. CA II: ”Like ens lærer de at alle mennesker som er forplantet på naturlig vis, etter Adams fall blir født med synd, det vil si uten frykt for Gud, uten tillit til Gud og med begjær, og at denne arvelige sykdom og brist virkelig er synd, som fordømmer og også fører med seg den evige død for dem som ikke blir gjenfødt ved dåpen og Den Hellige Ånd.” I den nye liturgien er den tilsvarende formulering som følger: ”Vi er mennesker under syndens og dødens vilkår(…)” Dette er en formulering som fortjener oppmerksomhet. Det har blitt pekt på at man med denne formuleringen tar et steg tilbake til dåpsliturgien fra alterboken av 1920, der uttrykket ”syndens og dødens lov” brukes. Men utover endringen av ordet ”lov” til ”vilkår” er det imidlertid store forskjeller mellom denne liturgien og den nye, med hensyn til syndsforståelse. Dette blir tydelig når man siterer 1920-liturgien mer utfyllende: ”Saa bærer vi med tak og tro vore barn til Herren i den hellige daap, forat de skal faa del i hans velsignelse, og, syndige menneskebarn som de er, under syndens og dødens lov, blive Guds barn av naade ved badet til gjenfødelse og fornyelse ved den Hellige Aand.” Og videre, i bønnen før avslutningssalmen: ”…vi takker dig fordi du lader os komme til den hellige daap alt mens vi er barn, og deri giver os syndernes forladelse, liv og salighet, og samler os i din kristne kirke.” (Mine uthevinger). Her blir ”syndens og dødens lov” ytterligere forklart ved at synden blir knyttet personlig til barnet, i tillegg til at det blir sagt at dåpen virker forlatelse for barnets synd.

 

Men man må også spørre om begrepet ”vilkår” i sak rommer det samme om det paulinske ”lov”. Synonymer til vilkår, i den betydning det er brukt i den nye liturgien, er ”betingelser”, ”forutsetninger”, ”kår”, ”forhold”, ”omstendigheter”.  Med andre ord: ”Synden og døden” trenger ikke knyttes spesifikt og personlig til baptisanden, disse faktorer kan like gjerne tolkes til uheldige, upersonlige forhold baptisanden lever under – en verden der det generelt sett finnes synd og død. Om vi går til Paulus, hva forstås da med ”syndens og dødens lov”, som brukes i 1920-liturgien? Uttrykket er hentet fra Rom 8,2. Der parallelliseres det med uttrykket ”Åndens lov som gir liv”, i samme vers. Selv om det kan gis argumenter for at Paulus her sikter til Moseloven[47], er det overveiende sannsynlig at han bruker begrepet i samme betydning som i 3,27[48], nemlig i betydningen ”regel”, ”ordning”, ”prinsipp”, ”makt”, ”bindende autoritet”, jfr. Rom 7,21.23-25. Paulus’ poeng i Rom 8,2 er – oppsummerende – at den troende ved evangeliet blir frigjort fra ”synderens totale situasjon, beskrevet av Paulus i kap. 6 og 7.”[49] Dette innebærer en frigjørelse fra syndens makt i mennesket (7,14-24), men også dens dødsstraff (6,23, jfr. Esek 18,20).

 

Igjen: Korrespondansen mellom bibelteksten (Rom 8,2) og 1920-liturgien er utvilsomt en fordel med hensyn til forståelsen og tolkningen av denne liturgien, ikke minst fordi man da kan knytte liturgiens uttrykk til den bredere synds- og dødsforståelsen i Rom. I den nye liturgien er det imidlertid vanskelig å vite hva det siktes til med ”syndens og dødens vilkår”, og uttrykket blir heller eksplisert noe annet sted i liturgien. Uten en bakgrunnsforståelse av hva Bibelen lærer om synd, kan uttrykket tolkes i flere ulike retninger. Grunnlaget for å si at dåpsliturgien på dette punktet er i samsvar med Skrift og bekjennelse er derfor svært tynt. Videre er det også et faktum at syndsforståelse og frelsesforståelse etter bibelsk tankegang er nært sammenknyttet.[50] Dette er for eksempel tydelig i Rom: Det radikale evangeliet om frelse ved tro blir først presentert på bakgrunn av sannheten om at ”både jøde og grekere(…)er under synden” og dermed ute av stand til å søke Gud og gjøre det gode (Rom 3). Denne sammenhengen blir imidlertid uklar i den nye liturgien: Gjenfødelsen blir vektlagt (3x), like ens brukes begrepet ”nådens kilde.” Det svært sentrale nytestamentlige begrepet ”frelse”[51] blir nevnt i to varianter, hvorav begge kan velges bort. Men hvorfor må mennesket bli gjenfødt? Hva frelses mennesket fra? Her er den nye liturgien i beste fall uklar, i verste fall misvisende. Men med en uklar forståelse av dette, vil altså uvegerlig forståelsen av hva selve gjenfødelsen og frelsen innebærer, bli uklar. Det er sannsynligvis helt symptomatisk at det uttrykket som i NT klarest og oftest definerer hva frelsen innebærer – nemlig tilgivelse for synd[52]  – ikke nevnes i den nye liturgien. Bakgrunnen for at syndige mennesker trenger tilgivelse – Guds hellighet og Guds dom over synd – nevnes heller ikke.[53] Spørsmålet kan stilles om den nye dåpsliturgien – slik den nå er utformet – potensielt kan stemme overens med en teologi som sier at alle barn er Guds barn i kraft av skapelsen. [54]  Man kan nemlig velge bort alternativene som nevner ”frelse” og tolke utsagnet ”syndens og dødens vilkår” i en formildende retning.

 

Bønnen ved døpefonten

Ved hellingen av vannet i døpefonten kan man velge mellom fire varianter, i motsetning til én i den nåværende liturgien. Variant nr. 2 er imidlertid nesten identisk med 1978-versjonen, det samme er (i litt mindre grad) variant nr. 1. Her skal det imidlertid ses nærmere på variant nr. 3. Denne lyder i sin helhet: ”Evige Gud, i begynnelsen svevet din Ånd over vannene, og ved ditt ord ble verden til. Fra Noas dager har du frelst ditt folk gjennom vann. Derfor ber vi: Send din Ånd over dåpens vann og gjør det ved ditt ord til en nådens kilde. Rens oss ved dette vannet, og gi oss del i ditt rike.” Den første setningen viser til 1 Mos 1,1-3, samt tekster som Sal 33,6 og Hebr 11,3. Sammenknyttingen av dåpen og syndfloden skjer også i 1 Pet 3,21. På sett og vis kan man da trekke en linje tilbake til Luthers syndflodsbønn, som var i bruk i norsk dåpsliturgi fra 1556 til 1783.[55] Videre er dette ett av de to steder i liturgien der ordet ”frelse” blir brukt; det andre sted finner man i den av variantene under ”Mottakelse” som er en videreførelse av den nåværende liturgi.  

 

Den nåværende liturgi sier om dåpen at den ”ved ditt ord er en nådens kilde, der du forenes oss med deg og gir oss del i den seier du vant(…)” Her tales det generelt om dåpen. Men i den nevnte varianten i den nye liturgien sies det, i etterkant av hellingen av dåpsvannet: ”Send din ånd over dåpens vann og gjør det ved ditt ord til en nådens kilde. Rens oss ved dette vannet, og gi oss del i ditt rike”. Den mest naturlige tolkningen av ”dette vannet” er det vann som nettopp er helt i døpefonten. Men det er jo ikke menigheten (”oss”) som skal renses i dette. I den grad de er døpt, ble de jo renset ved troen på Jesu død og oppstandelse. Det er barnet som skal døpes, som skal renses.[56] Bønnen fremstår derfor som noe ugjennomtenkt.

 

Tilsigelsen etter dåpen

Det siste punktet som skal ses nærmere på i denne artikkelen om den nye dåpsliturgien, er tilsigelsen til barnet i etterkant av dåpen. I den nåværende liturgien lyder denne: ”Den allmektige Gud har nå gitt deg sin Hellige Ånd, gjort deg til sitt barn og tatt deg inn i sin troende menighet. Han styrke deg med sin nåde til det evige liv. Fred være med deg.” Som vi så ovenfor, mener UU3 at ”’troende menighet’ lyder svært internt i dagens kirkesituasjon”, og de endret derfor dette til ”kirke”. Videre har det skjedd én grunnleggende og mye omdiskutert endring til: ”gjort deg til sitt barn” er tatt bort til fordel for ”født deg på ny”. Hva er bakgrunnen for denne endringen? Begrunnelsen er at ”i det bibelske materialet er bruken av begrepet Guds barn så mangfoldig og flertydig at det kanskje er lite tjenlig å benytte dette i dåpsliturgien.”[57] Det er da nødvendig å se nærmere på hva Bibelen faktisk sier om begrepet Guds barn.[58] I Det gamle testamente finner man uttrykket ”gudesønner” i 1 Mos 6,2-4: ”Gudesønnene så at menneskedøtrene var vakre, og de tok noen av dem til koner, dem de helst ville ha.” Vi vet ikke hvem eller hva disse gudesønnene var, men kommentarlitteraturen bidrar med hypoteser: Engler, konger, gudfryktige sethitter, eller kainitter.[59] Victor Hamilton konkluderer slik: ”Det er nok å slå fast at det er umulig å være dogmatisk når det gjelder identifikasjonen av ’gudesønner’ i denne sammenhengen. Det beste man kan gjøre er å vurdere alternativene.”[60] I andre sammenhenger der det er tale om gudesønner i GT, sikter dette hovedsakelig til engler eller konger.[61]

 

Går man til NT, finner man begrepet ”Guds barn” gjentatte ganger, og man trenger ikke være i tvil om hvem det da siktes til.Men alle som tok imot ham, dem ga han rett til å bli Guds barn, de som tror på [Jesu Kristi] navn. De er ikke født av kjøtt og blod, ikke av menneskers vilje og ikke av manns vilje, men av Gud.” (Joh 1,12-13). Hos Johannes knyttes statusen som Guds barn til troen og gjenfødelsen, så også tydelig i 1 Joh 3,9-10.[62]Gjenfødelsen vil man villig tale om i den nye liturgien, men altså ikke begrepet ”Guds barn”. Dette er desto mer uforståelig når man går til resten av NT og ser hva som der blir sagt om det å være Guds barn. I de synoptiske evangelier omtaler Jesus sine disipler som Guds barn.[63] Den samme betegnelsen får ”de som blir funnet verdige til å være med i den kommende verden og oppstandelsen fra de døde”.[64] Men Jesus taler også mye om Gud som Far, som ”Abba.”[65] Dette kommer igjen hos Paulus; han forklarer at de som er rettferdiggjort ved troen på Jesus Kristus er Abrahams barn.[66] Dermed er de blitt en del av Guds folk,[67] de har Guds Ånd som segl og pant[68], og de er Guds barn.[69] ”Alle som drives av Guds Ånd, er Guds barn.”[70] Dermed påkaller de også Gud som Far og pappa, ”Abba”.[71] Man finner ikke i NT støtte for den tanke at alle mennesker er Guds barn, resp. at Gud er alle menneskers far. Matt 5,43-45 slår fast at Guds skapergodhet strekker seg til onde og urettferdige likesom gode og rettferdige. Men denne skapergodheten innebærer ikke farskap. Farskapet formidles i og gjennom Jesus, som bringer Guds rike nær.[72] Å ha Gud som Far impliserer å være Jesu disippel.[73] Gottlob Schrenk oppsummerer slik: ”Ordet ’far’ er for dem som aksepterer Jesu lære om ’deres [your] Far’”.[74]

 

Konkluderende kan man si at borttagelsen av leddet  ”gjort deg til sitt barn” i den nye liturgien ikke kan begrunnes med at Skriften er uklar på dette punktet. Tvert imot er NT klart på hvem som er Guds barn: Det er de som er rettferdiggjort og født på ny ved troen på Jesus Kristus. Med tanke på det som ovenfor er nevnt om motivet for likevel å ta bort dette leddet, er særlig én slutning nærliggende: Bakgrunnen for den særskilte utformingen av den nye dåpsliturgien er en endret antropologi som viker unna for å betone Bibelens utsagn om arvesynden og dens konsekvenser for gudsforholdet.    

 

Avsluttende og oppsummerende drøfting

Vi har sett nærmere på en rekke ledd i utkastet til den nye dåpsliturgien i Den norske kirke. Det må tydelig sies at den aller største mangelen ved den nye liturgien er den mangelfulle og utydelige syndsforståelsen. NT’s alvorlige vurdering av menneskeslektens status utenfor Guds nåde, er avstreifet. Liturgien refererer således til skapelsen seks ganger, men til synd bare én gang, i den vage formuleringen ”syndens vilkår”. Dette er et symptom på at man i den nye dåpsliturgien har oppnådd en annen dåps- og frelsesteologisk vektlegging enn den som kommer til uttrykk i Skriften, enn si den lutherske bekjennelse. Utover dette kan også andre kritiske innvendinger rettes mot den nye liturgien. Dette gjelder særlig bruken av upresise og vage begreper som både lærde og ulærde kan få vansker med tolke, jfr. ”Gud sitt store fellesskap”,  ”gode gaver”, og til dels også ”kirke”[75]. Det er derfor unektelig noe ironisk når uttrykket ”gjort deg til sitt barn” er tatt bort i den nye dåpsliturgien, med den begrunnelse at begrepet er ”mangfoldig og flertydig”.[76] Men det er plausibelt å se denne endringen i lys av den bredere antropologi som kommer til uttrykk i den nye dåpsliturgien.

 

Generelt sett dreier liturgi seg om gudstjenesten, om møtet mellom Gud og menneske.[77] Liturgien sier derfor noe om hvem Gud er og hvem mennesket er. Derfor er det også riktig å si at liturgien er et uttrykk for læren i Den norske kirke.[78] Den forpliktende lærenorm i Den norske kirke er Apostolikum, Nikenum, Athanasium, Confessio Augustana og Luthers lille katekisme. Jfr. også ordinasjonsløftet: ”-at du forkynner Guds ord klart og rent, som det er gitt oss i Den hellige skrift, og som vår kirke vitner om det i sin bekjennelse.” Spørsmålet blir da i hvilken grad frelsesforståelsen i den nye dåpsliturgien kan sies å bygge på, og være i samsvar med, Skrift og bekjennelse. Undersøkelsene i denne artikkelen har vist at de endringer som er gjort i den nye dåpsliturgien ikke bidrar til et slikt samsvar – på noen punkter kan man snarere si tvert om.

 

Litteratur

Beasley-Murray, G. R. 1962 Baptism in the new testament Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Brown, Raymond E. 1971 The Gospel of John, A.  Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday.

Fæhn, Helge 1994 Gudstjenestelivet i Den norske kirke Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Grane, Leif 1959 Confessio Augustana København: Gyldendal.

Hamilton, Victor P. 1990 The book of Genesis. Chapters 1-17 Eerdmans: Grand Rapids. 

Hägglund, Bengt 1959 De homine Lund: Gleerup.

Jones, Cheslyn (red.) 1992 The study of liturgy New York: Oxford University Press.

Kittel, Gerhard (red.) 1965 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publ. Company.

Moo, Douglas J. 1971 The Epistle to the Romans Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Morris, Leon 1971 The Gospel according to John Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publ. Company.

Skjevesland, Olav 1976 Kirken i Det nye testamentet Oslo: Andaktsbokselskapet.

Westermann, Claus 1974 Genesis Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.

Wisløff, Carl Fr. 1968 ”Udøpte barns skjebne” i Tidsskrift for teologi og kirke Årgang 39, nr. 1, s. 10-35.


[1] Bakgrunnen for gudstjenestereformen var først og fremst flere års engasjement fra Ungdommens Kirkemøte i dette spørsmålet. I 2001 oppfordret man blant annet til reform av gudstjenesten med det siktemål å oppnå større praktisk deltakelse fra menigheten. I sak UKM 5/03 kritiserte man den nåværende gudstjenesteordning som for regelstyrt og enhetsbundet. Dette hemmet ”lokal tilpasning, kreativitet og medvirkning.” Målet med en reform ville i stedet være å ”bevege oss fra en regelstyrt ordning til en mål- og kompetansestyrt ordning.” Man ville likevel beholde grunnstrukturen i gudstjenesten, samt ”et sett med kjerneverdier”, som for eksempel menighetens deltagelse, ekte og livsnær kommunikasjon, kreativitet og engasjement, en språklig inkluderende liturgi etc. For generelt om gudstjenestereformen, se særlig Kirkerådets saker KR 54/03, KR 10/04 og KR 48/04. Ved begynnelsen av sitt arbeid utarbeidet NFG, etter oppfordring fra Kirkerådet, en rekke visjoner for gudstjenestelivet i Dnk, jfr. viktige momenter i protokoll fra møte 2. Sept. 2004. 

[2] ”Reform av kirkens gudstjenesteliv. Orientering om høringsdokumentene” Bergen: Eide forlag.   

[3] Jfr. ”Reform…” s. 13-14.

[4] Utkastene er hendig utgitt på Eide forlag i 2008, under titlene: ”Liturgi. Forslag til Ny ordning for hovedgudstjeneste i Den norske kirke”; ”Forslag til Ny tekstbok for Den norske kirke”; ”Salmebok 2008 FORSLAG TIL NY NORSK SALMEBOK – Del I: De nye salmene” Salmeboka er gitt ut i menighetsutgave og høringsutgave.

[5] Navnet ble senere endret til Reformutvalget for kirkens gudstjenesteliv (RKG).

[6] Det ble også utnevnt fem underutvalg som skulle arbeide med hvert sitt felt. De fem underutvalgene hadde ansvar for hhv. 1. inngang, forbønn og utgang, 2. Ordet (tekstlesninger og preken), 3. dåp, 4. nattverd, 5. salmer.

[7] Jfr. tidsforløp i punkt 5, KR 10/04. Dette vedtaket om en relativt rask gjennomføring av gudstjenestereformen ble blant annet begrunnet ved å peke på behovet for en konsistent reform; dette kan etter sigende best oppnås dersom revisjonen av de ulike deler i gudstjenestelivet skjer på samme tid. Se ”Omfang av den nye reformen”, KR 10/04.

[8] Se ”Dåpsliturgi og høringsdokument. Saksutredning. Forslag til dåpsliturgi for Den norske kirke – 2008.” Den norske kirke. Bergen: Eide forlag.

[9] I hvilken forstand har arbeidet med dette vært kontroversielt? I Kirkerådets sak KR 10/04 blir det sagt at liturgien i Den norske kirke er i samklang med det læregrunnlag som bærer den. Men ved dåpsliturgien må dette forholdet mellom lære og liturgi prøves på nytt, sies det. Her vises det til debatt i aviser og tidsskrift, og ikke minst en konsultasjon avholdt av Teologisk nemnd 23. oktober 2003, med tittelen ”Menneskesyn i og omkring dåpsliturgien”. Men man kan merke seg at behovet for at dåpsliturgien er i overensstemmelse med læregrunnlaget – d. e. Skrift og bekjennelse – understrekes. Når det gjelder debatt i tidsskrifter, kan det her særlig vises til den opplysende debatten mellom Hallgeir Elstad og Halvor Nordhaug i Luthersk kirketidende 2003, nr. 16, 20 og 22.

[10] Sak KR 14/08, 30/08 og 59/08.

[11] Jfr. ”Dåpsliturgi…” s. 5: ”Det som for mange har vært mest synlig og derfor stått fremst i bevisstheten, er nok den nåværende ordningens mangel på takk. Som regel er det barnedåp som er i fokus. En savner da muligheten for å gi uttrykk for det helt elementære: takk for barnet(…)Det leder over til det andre momentet som ofte har vært nevnt, nemlig et svakt og utilstrekkelig skapelsesperspektiv. Jfr. også KR 59/08.

[12] ”Evige Gud, du har skapt oss i ditt bilde og kalt oss ved navn. Takk for livet du gir.”

[13] Gjenfødelsen blir nevnt fire ganger om man regner med uttrykket ”fra død til liv” under ”Mottakelse”.

[14] See Kittel 1965:II,381-397 (”eikån”).

[15] Kittel 1965:II,395.

[16] 1 Kor 11,7; 15,49. Jfr. Jak 3,9.

[17] Det kan her være av interesse å nevne at Luther fastholder at gudbilledligheten er gått tapt i syndefallet. Gudbilledligheten dreier seg hos ham ikke om en vesensforståelse av mennesket, men derimot om gudsforholdet. Se Hägglund 1959:77-91, særlig 80-81. CA bør, som Grane peker på, ses ”i sammenhæng med hele Luthers teologiske virke, hvori den har en bærende forudsætning.” Grane 1959:7.

[18] Jfr. Bauer 2000:295-298, artikkel ”ek”. Vi finner en lignende bruk av preposisjonen i Matt 1,20: ”For barnet som er unnfanget i henne, er av (ek) Den hellige ånd.”

[19] Både Norsk Bibels 1988-oversettelse og Hermons King James-oversettelse bruker ”av” for ”eks”.

[20] Jfr. Morris 1971:218.

[21] Problemstillingen er diskutert grundig av romersk-katolske Brown 1971:141-144 samt baptisten Beasley-Murray 1962:226-233. Det største problemet ved å tolke Joh 3,5 om den kristne dåpen, er at denne referansen, historisk sett, ville vært umulig å fange opp for Jesu samtalepartner Nikodemus. Et annet aspekt som kan nevnes i denne sammenhengen er at Jak 1,18 og 1 Pet 1,23 begge knytter gjenfødelsen til Ordets nådemiddel, uten å nevne dåpen eksplisitt.

[22] Siste del av setningen sikter utvilsomt til Matt 28,20: ”Og se, jeg er med dere alle dager inntil verdens ende.” Disse ord er sagt til Jesu disipler, og i den grad baptisanden forblir i sin tro på Kristus etter sin dåp, er det legitimt å knytte disse ordene til dåpshandlingen.

[23] For det følgende, se Kittel 1965:III,797-809.

[24] Rom 6; Gal 2,19; Kol 2,12-14 m. fl.

[25] Kol 1,24; Rom 8,17; 2 Kor 1,5. 7 m. fl. Den kristne menighet har også et åndelig fellesskap seg imellom, noe som bl. a. innebærer en spesiell omsorg for hverandre (Rom 12,13) og nært vennskap (Filem 17).

[26] Det norske ordet fellesskap betyr rett og slett ”det å ha noe felles med andre”. Felles kan defineres som ”noe som er gjeldende for en (eller flere) på samme tid som for (en eller flere) andre. Begrepet kommer igjen én gang senere i liturgien, nemlig når den døpte presenteres. Liturgen kan da – som ett av to alternativer – si ”La oss ta vel imot henne/ham i vårt fellesskap.”

[27] Jfr. lignende kritikk fra Halvor Nordhaugs side i Luthersk Kirketidende 5/2008: 114 ”…alternativ 2 er så utydelig at det bør utgå. Her er det nye som skjer i dåpen, tegnet for svakt. Dermed blir – paradoksalt nok – også skapelsestroen svekket. Er vi ikke allerede innenfor Guds store fellesskap i kraft av skapelsen?” Til dét kan man svare, i lys av det som er sagt ovenfor: Dette er i så fall ikke et begrep Bibelen bruker om det å være skapt.

[28] Til det følgende, se Rudolph Bultmanns artikler ”Thanatos” (død) i Kittel 1965:III,7-25 samt ”Zåe” (liv) i Kittel 1965:II, 832-872.

[29] I tillegg til de siterte tekster, se f. eks. Joh 8,21. 24; Rom 1,32; 6,16. 21. 23; 7,5; 8,6. 13; 1 Kor 15,56; Gal 6,7-8; Jak 1,15; 1 Joh 5,16. Rudolph Bultmann oppsummerer: ”Utenfor åpenbaringen i Jesus er menneskeslekten overgitt til døden, og den er ansvarlig for dette fordi den er syndig.” Kittel 1965 III:16. Bultmann fortsetter med å understreke – helt korrekt – at menneskenes synd, ut fra NT, består i motviljen mot å se og forstå sin skapthet fra Skaperens synspunkt. I stedet ønsker menneskene å forstå seg selv med utgangspunkt i seg selv.

[30] Matt 5,29-30; 10,28; Fil 3,19; Åp 21,8, for å nevne noen steder.

[31] Jfr. Rom 8; 1 Kor 1,13. 11,24; 2 Kor 5,21; Gal 3,13; Ef 5,2; Tit 2,14; 1 Pet 2,21. 4,1; 1 Joh 3,16. Foruten uttrykket ”for oss” brukes også uttrykkene ”for ugudelige”, ”for mange”, ”for urettferdige”, ”for alle”, ”for menigheten”, ”for synden” m. fl. 

[32] Jfr. 2 Tim 1,10 og Hebr 2,14-15.

[33] Se særlig Rom 6,7-10; 8,3; 1 Kor 15,54-56; 2 Kor 5,18-21; Ef 2,4-6.

[34] Jfr. Joh 3,15-16; 6,50; 11,25-26; Apg 4,12. 11,18. 13,46; Rom 1,16; 6,8; 1 Kor 15,1-2; 2 Kor 5,20; 1 Tim 1,16.

[35] Rom 6; Gal 2,19; Kol 2,20.

[36] Til ordet gave i NT, se Kittel 1965:II,166-174 (”dåron”) og IX:402-406 (”kjarisma”). Foruten de steder som nevnes i det følgende, jfr. også Joh 4,10 og 1 Kor 7,7.

[37] Rom 12,4-8; 1 Kor 12,1-11; Ef 4,7-13; 1 Tim 4,14; 2 Tim 1,6.

[38] ”Tæn dårean tou hagiou”. Jfr. Apg 8,20; 10,45; 11,17. Se lignende i Hebr 6,4.

[39] Jfr. Mark 16,15-16; Apg 2,38; 8,37; Gal 3,26-27. 

[40] I tillegg til en rekke ”Andre tekstforslag” som må betegnes som sentrale: ”Esek 36,25-28; Matt 3,13-17; Matt 11,25-30; Mark 9,33-37; Joh 3,1-5; Joh 3,5-8; Joh 3,16-17; Joh 15,1.4-5; Apg 2,37-41; Apg 8,36-38; Rom 6,3-5; Ef 3,14-21; Tit 3,4-7; 1 Joh 3,1-2 eller en annen egnet tekst.”

[41] Dette kan imidlertid ikke sies om de andre lesetekstene som er oppført som alternativer. Den andre leseteksten innledes, som den første, med følgende: ”Hør hva apostelen Paulus sier om dåpen:” Men deretter følger Rom 8,35. 38-39 (”Hvem kan skille oss fra Kristi kjærlighet?(…)”). Denne teksten handler ikke i første rekke om dåpen. Den er, med ordene til Douglas J. Moo, ”[En] vakker og gjenkjennelig feiring av den troendes sikkerhet i Kristus. Den er en respons på Paulus’ gjennomgang av de velsignelser som er gitt den troende ved evangeliet. [Disse] velsignelsene har Paul ramset opp nær sagt fra de første vers i brevet(…)”Moo 1996:537. Sagt med andre ord: Dåpen er en av flere forutsetninger for disse utsagn av Paulus. Men det er ikke dermed sagt at disse ord er sagt ”om dåpen”, slik liturgien hevder. Den tredje oppførte leseteksten er Sal 139,13-16 som ikke har noen åpenbar link til dåpen. Teksten handler om Guds skapergjerning. Med hvilken legitimitet plasseres en slik tekst sentralt i en dåpsliturgi?

[42] Og sannsynligvis også ”voksne”?

[43] På ett punkt skiller denne formuleringen seg fra den nåværende. I den nåværende sies det ”…som vi døper våre barn til.” Det er imidlertid ikke enkelt å finne noen teologiske motiver for denne endringen. Den endrede formuleringen får kanskje i større grad frem trosfellesskapet mellom menighet og dåpsbarn.

[44] I og med at temaet i denne artikkel er frelsesforståelsen, skal jeg ikke her gå dypt inn på spørsmålet om fadderansvar og opplæring. Men noen få ord kan likevel sies: ”Oppdras” (som i 1978- og 1920-liturgien) er tatt bort til fordel for ”opplært til et liv i den kristne tro”. Litt av begrunnelsen er gitt i ”Dåpsliturgi” s. 9-10. Argumentet om at dette korresponderer bedre med Matt 28,10-20, bærer tyngde. De andre begrunnelsene som gis øverst på side 9 kan framstår imidlertid som noe søkte. 

[45] Jfr. CA, art. VII: ”Men kirken er forsamlingen av de hellige, der evangeliet blir lært rent og sakramentene forvaltet rett.” Og art. VIII: ”Selv om kirken i egentlig mening er forsamlingen av de hellige og sant troende, er det likevel, da mange hyklere og onde er blandet inn i den i dette livet(…)” For den nytestamentlige forståelsen av ”ekklesia”, se Kittel 1965:III, 504-513. For en bredere framstilling, se Skjevesland 1976. NT bruker, rett nok, f. eks. betegnelsene ”kirke” og ”hellige” om den ytre og synlige kirke – den kirke som er samlet på et gitt sted. Dette hindrer imidlertid ikke at det innenfor menighetssamlingene kan finnes mennesker som setter seg utenfor Guds folk ved sin vantro, sitt liv eller sin lære. Jfr. Skjevesland 1976:71.    

[46] Det er derfor selvsagt i tråd med Skrift og bekjennelse når vi i én av de nåværende forbønner ber: ”Kall de frafalne tilbake til dåpens nåde”. Denne bønn er imidlertid ikke foreslått videreført i den nye liturgien, jfr. ”Liturgi”:105-127.

[47] See Moo 1996:476.

[48] See Moo 1996:246-250.

[49] Moo 1996:477.

[50] Jfr. for eksempel Melanchton i Apologiens kap. 2,33-34, der han understreker at Kristi nåde ikke kan bli rett forstått uten en rett forståelse av våre sykdommer, d. e. arvesynden.

[51] ”Frelse” nevnes i tilknytning til dåp i Mark 16,16; Tit 3,5-7 og 1 Pet 3,21. 

[52] Konseptet ”tilgivelse” (for synd) er dominerende i NT. Se bl. a. Matt 6,12. 26,28; Mark 2,5. 11,25; Luk 24,47; Joh 20,23; Apg 10,43. 13,38; Rom 3,25; Kol 1,14; Ef 1,7; Hebr 9,22-23; 1 Joh 1,9. 2,2 m. fl. Syndenes forlatelse knyttes eksplisitt til dåpen i Apg 2,38 og 22,16. Jfr. også Nikenums ”én dåp til syndenes forlatelse.”

[53] Det er nevnt hvor sentralt konseptet ”tilgivelse” (for synd) er i NT. Bakgrunnen for denne sentraliteten er menneskets ansvar overfor Gud, som er dommeren. Kittel 1965:I,512.

[54] Se f. eks. Hallgeir Elstad i Luthersk Kirketidende 2003:511. Her, i en debatt om dåpssyn, argumenterer han for at alle mennesker ved fødselen tilhører Gud og er Guds barn i kraft av skapelsen, og at dåpen er en tegnhandling på nettopp dette.

[55] Se Fæhn 1994:463.

[56] I NT blir renselse knyttet sammen med dåp i Ef 5,25-26; 1 Kor 6,11 og Hebr 10,22. Jfr. også Joh 15,3 og Hebr 9,22. Se mer i Kittel 1965:III,423-426 (”katharos”)

[57] ”Dåpsliturgi”:6. I Kirkerådets sak KR 59/08 leser man at Studentforbundet i 2001 kontaktet Kirkerådet og stilte spørsmålstegn ved den nåværende liturgi: ”I dåpsritualet i Den norske kirke sies det gjentatte ganger at man ’i dåpen blir Guds barn’. Betyr dette at udøpte står utenfor Guds rike, eller er de også inkludert i det?” For en innføring i hvordan reformatorene – som står bak CA – tenkte om denne problemstillingen, se Wisløff 1968.

[58] Til det følgende, se foruten den refererte litteratur Joachim Jeremias’ artikkel ”pais Theou” i Kittel 1965:V,636-717, særlig s. 652-654. Se også Kittel 1965:V,982-1014 (”patær”).

[59] Se diskusjon i Hamilton 1990:262-265 og Westermann 1974:501-503.

[60] Hamilton 1990:265.

[61] Job 1,6. 2,1. 38,7; Sal 29,1. 82,6. 89,7; Dan 3,25 sikter til engler, eller i noen tilfeller kanskje konger. 2 Sam 7,14 og 1 Krøn 17,13 sikter til en konge.

[62] ”Guds barn” blir også nevnt hos Johannes i Joh 11,52; 1 Joh 3,1. 2. 5,2. Gjenfødelsen blir nevnt hos Johannes i 1 Joh 2,29. 4,7. 5,1. 4. 18. Jfr. Kittel 1965:V,654: ”J[ohn] gives us the most succinct and meaningful expression of the Christian concept of divine sonship in the whole of NT.”

[63] Matt 5,9. 45 med par. Dette korresponderer med at Jesus omtaler Gud som Far, og lærer sine disipler å gjøre det samme. Matt 5,45-48. 6,32. 7,11. 10,20. 29; Mark 11,25; Luk 6,35-36. 11,13. 12,6. 12. 30.

[64] Luk 20,36.

[65] Mark 14,36, jfr. tilsvarende på gresk i Matt 11,26; Luk 10,21; Joh 17,21. 24.

[66] Gal 3,6-9; Rom 4.

[67] Gal 6,16; 1 Kor 10,1. 18; Rom 11,17.

[68] 2 Kor 1,22; 2 Kor 5,5; Ef 1,13-14. 4,30.

[69] Foruten de siterte tekster, se Rom 9,8; Gal 3,26-28 og Fil 2,15.

[70] Rom 8,16.

[71] Rom 8,15. Gal 4,6. Jfr. 1 Pet 1,17.

[72] Omtalen av Gud som Far og forkynnelsen av Guds rike henger nøye sammen i de synoptiske evangelier, jfr. Matt 6,9-10. 32-33. 7,21. 13,41-43. 25,34; Luk 12,30-32. 22,29.

[73] Jfr. for eksempel Matt 23,8-9 og Luk 6,35-36.

[74] Kittel 1965:V,991.

[75] Det siktes her til utskiftningen av ”tatt deg inn i sin troende menighet” til fordel for ”tatt deg inn i sin kirke”. Man kan her nevne Luthers berømte oppfatning: ”Kirke er et blindt, utydelig ord”, WA 50,625,5.

[76] Det kan ellers nevnes at denne påståtte mangfoldighet og flertydighet ikke påvises i høringsdokumentene.

[77] Til den bibelske bakgrunnen for ordet liturgi, se Kittel 1965:215-232. Selve begrepet liturgi kommer av gresk ”leiturgia/leiturgeå”, ord som er sammensatt av de to ordene ”laos” (folk) og ”ergon” (gjerning). En god innføring i ulike sider ved gudstjenestelig liturgi gis i Jones 1992.

[78] Dette blir bl. a. påpekt av Ingemann Ellingsen i hans artikkel ”Dåpsteologi og dåpliturgi” i Luthersk kirketidende nr. 6/1973: ”Teologien må alltid være klar før liturgien lages. I liturgien lever kirkens teologi, og i liturgien skal folk få en klar forestilling om hva kirken lærer(…)Men når vår kirke holder på det vi kaller liturgi, dvs. faste, obligatoriske ledd, så er det ut fra et klart behov for å sikre det objektive, slik at Skrift og bekjennelse får lyde klart og fulltonende.”

An inquiry into the identity of Celsus, the author of the “True Doctrine”

desember 4, 2008

Introduction

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, remarking on the status of the Christian believers: “…not many wise men after the flesh(…)are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” Paul’s main point was that the message of salvation by the cross is unreachable by human intellect and philosophy. But did this sentiment entail that Christianity was intellectually unacceptable for thinking and educated Romans and Greeks? A philosopher named Celsus thought so. Thus, in his treatise titled “True Doctrine” (Hereafter: TD) he wrote with scorn of the Christians: “…some do not even want to give or to receive a reason for what they believe, and use such expressions as ‘Do not ask questions; just believe’, and ‘Thy faith will save thee’. [They say:] ‘The wisdom in the world is an evil, and foolishness a good thing.’“[1]

 

Against this Celsus put the True Doctrine, which he describes in the following manner: “There is an ancient doctrine which has existed from the beginning, which always has been maintained by the wisest nations and cities and wise men.” (CC I,14). To Celsus the True Doctrine equals the Ancient Doctrine.[2] This doctrine was present before both Jews and Christians, and may be found by means of reason, by philosophy.[3] Celsus points to “wise men and philosophers”[4] and “Hesiod and thousands of other inspired men”, men of antiquity whose opinions are well reasoned. If one would ask Celsus of the particular contents of these ancient doctrines, he would mostly point to Plato. However, the nature of God – and his relationship to the lesser gods, the socalled Daemons – was a prominent subject. We will return to this below. Carl Andresen sums up Celsus’ view of the true doctrine in this fashion: “Erkenntnis der religiösen Wahrheit ist nur für den möglich, der bereit ist, sich der Wegweisung alter Überlieferung zu beugen und ihr zu folgen.”[5]

 

It was Celsus’ sincere opinion that the Christian religion often was based upon borrowings from these ancient and true doctrines. But while borrowing, there was also misunderstandings, falsifications and corruptions.[6] In the Roman Empire, religion and society was closely intertwined. Thus Celsus finds that Christians deteriorating ancient doctrines are a threat to the society[7], both by their rejection of the ancient gods and the cult of the emperor, but also by their non-participation in military service.[8] Celsus fears the result if the Christian ideas prevail over against the ancient doctrines: The emperor would be abandoned, and “earthly things would come into the power of the most lawless and savage barbarians.” (CC VIII,68)

Writing about seventy years later[9] than Celsus, Origen[10] presents an eight-volume refutation of Celsus, aptly titled ”Against Celsus” (CC). It was a landmark in the intellectual struggle between Christianity and greco-roman paganism in the early church, perhaps only later surpassed by Augustine’s City of God. One of the main strenghts of Origen’s treatise is its thoroughness – a thoroughness responsible for the encompassing of large portions[11] of Celsus’ treatise.

 

After this brief introduction, we may turn to the particular subject of this essay: The identity of Celsus, examined from a particular viewpoint, namely the possible point of convergence between the “Celsus” described in the three following sources:   Origen’s Contra Celsum; Lucian of Samosata’s “Alexander the False Prophet”[12] and thirdly the “True doctrine”, given in Contra Celsum. All of these sources attest the existence of a Celsus, a philosopher flourishing in the second century. The question is: Do they attest one and the same person? The scholarly discussion has, as we shall see, especially centered around the philosophical profile of the Celsus of TD, as the two sources mentioned first quite certainly describe the same Celsus, an Epicurean, whereas the Celsus of TD bears the mark of a Platonist.

 

The essay will be built up as follows: First, we will examine Origen’s thoughts on the identity of the author of TD. Thereafter, an inquiry into Lucian’s Alex. will follow. Lucian dedicates his treatise to a certain Celsus, who presumably is an Epicurean. This last assumption will however be discussed, before we turn to the most relevant source, namely TD. We will then concentrate on the question of which philosophical school the author gives an impression of belonging to, if any. After this enquiry into the relevant sources, attention will be given to the able Celsus-scholar Theodor Keim and his reasonings on the question of the relationship of Lucian’s Celsus and the Celsus’ of TD. Throughout this paragraph judgments of his arguments will be given. Lastly, a discussion will be made, giving a conclusion based upon the findings of the essay. Quotes from Celsus will throughout the essay be given in italics, following Chadwick 1965.

 

Origen on Celsus

What may Origen tell us about Celsus? In the preface, we are told that Ambrose wanted Origen “to write an answer to Celsus’ false accusations in his book against the Christians and the faith of the churches.”[13] But it seems that Origen himself did not know much about Celsus. Writing in 248 AD[14], he is sure that Celsus “is no longer living the common life among men but has already been dead a long time.”[15] In ch. I,8 Celsus is described as an Epicurean, a fact revealed from his other writings. But Origen must assume that this is a philosophical identity Celsus is trying to hide in his argumentation, as the contents of TD itself do not bear the characteristics of Epicurean philosophy: “But I may prove that Celsus contradicts himself. For from other writings he is found to be an Epicurean. But here because he appears to have more reasonable grounds for criticizing Christianity if he does not confess the opinions of Epicurus, he pretends that there is something in man superior to his earthly part…” This sentiment of Origen that Celsus indeed is an Epicurean – though sometides concealed – is recurring in Contra Celsum.[16]

 

But Origen may also express doubts as to whether Celsus in fact was Epicurean.[17] For instance, in IV,36, one reads: “However, Celsus the Epicurean, if, at least, he is the one who also composed two other books against the Christians, is a more competent judge than Plato(…)”[18] In IV,52 Celsus paraphrases a part of the Timaeus, ch. 69, where it is said that God made nothing mortal. In reply of this, Origen says: “Let us briefly deal with this, and prove either that he is pretending not to hold his Epicurean opinion, or, as someone might say, that he has undergone a belated conversion for the better, or even, as might be said, that he is only a namesake for the Epicurean.”[19] Again, we see that the philosophy of Celsus expressed in TD raises doubts in Origen as to whether or not Celsus in fact was an Epicurean. In chapter V,3 Origen clearly states that Celsus “throughout all his treatise has not admitted that he is an Epicurean”. After this chapter Origen no more designates Celsus as an Epicurean, perhaps due to his referred doubt. However, Origen clearly recognizes Celsus’ affinities with Plato. We will return to this dilemma of Celsus’ Epicurean/Platonist identity below.

 

Assuming, anyway tentatively, that Celsus was an Epicurean, Origen says that he knows of two Epicureans by the name of Celsus, “the earlier one a contemporary of Nero, while the other lived in Hadrian’s time and later.”[20]If one of these should be the author of TD, it would have to be the second one. Nero was emperor of Rome 54-68 AD, and TD has several marks revealing that its composition must have been much later than that. It will perhaps suffice to quote CC III,36. There, Origen quotes Celsus as saying: “…the honour which we [i. e. Christians] give to Jesus is no different from that paid to Hadrian’s favourite” And Origen adds: “(that is to say, the boy Antinous)”. Hadrian was emperor of Rome from 117-138 AD, Antinous was drowned in the Nile in 130 AD, and after this Hadrian named a city after him, and he was even deified. So TD must have been written later than 130 AD.

 

Much more than this Origen really does not know about the identity of Celsus, apart from what he relates in I,68: “You see how by these words he gives his assent, as it were, to the reality of magic. I do not know whether he is the same as the man who wrote several books against magic.” The Roman doctor and philosopher Galen (130-200 AD) also mentions writing a letter to a “Celsus the Epicurean” who, he says, has written several books against magic.[21] And thirdly the Celsus that wrote books against magic is also mentioned in Lucian of Samosata’s “Alexander the lying prophet”.[22] Thus, we have three ancient sources referring to an Epicurean Celsus who wrote books against magic. This is undoubtedly the same man. In the next section we will have a closer look at what Lucian has to say of him. The objective will be to gather information so that we perhaps will be able to decide conclusively whether this Celsus is to be identified with the Celsus of the True Doctrine.

 

The Celsus mentioned by Lucian[23]

A prophet named Alexander was the founder of the cult of the New Asclepios Glykon.[24] This cult emerged in the city of Abonuteichos by the Black Sea some time between 140-145 AD and reached considerable popularity around the eastern part of the Mediterranean sea.[25] Victor Ulrich points out one of the keys to the success of the cult: “…die Theologie, die sich in diesen Mysterien ausdrückte, ein höchst überzeugendes und beeindruckendes Ganzes war, in dem die Zeitgenossen sowohl Antwort auf ihren Fragen als auch Hilfe bei ihren Sorgen fanden.”[26] But be that as it may, the cult died out some time in the first half of the third century.

 

The historian Lucian of Samosata (ca. 125 AD- after 180 AD) decided to write a criticism of Alexander and his oracle-cult.[27] Although written in a satirical form, Lucian wishes to fulfill the duty of a responsible ancient historian, namely by seeking the truth.[28] The treatise was written no earlier than 180 AD, as Lucian in ch. 48 says that Marcus Aurelius had died.[29] In the introduction we find that Lucian dedicates the work to a certain Celsus: “No doubt, my dear Celsus, you think it a slight and trivial matter to bid me set down in a book and send you the history of Alexander, the impostor of Abonoteichus, including all his clever schemes, bold emprises, and sleights of hand.” (Alex. 1). It is Celsus that has asked Lucian to write the treatise on Alexander, but his motives for asking are not transparent. Lucian addresses Celsus as “dear Celsus”[30], and the treatise as a whole is directed to him. In the introduction, Lucians says that Celsus may “fill in the gaps in my tale”, and that he may use the treatise to examine and “judge” Alexander and his cult. In the epilogue, ch. 61, Lucian also says that the treatise was written to “pleasure [Celsus] as and associate and friend”:

 

Lucian’s Celsus relationship to Epicureanism

It would seem that the Celsus to whom Lucian dedicates his work, is an Epicurean, or at least that he has Epicurean sympathies. This becomes clear for example in ch. 47: “One of Alexander’s acts in this connection was most comical. Hitting upon the ‘Established Beliefs’ of Epicurus, which is the finest of his books, as you know, and contains in summary the articles of the man’s philosophic creed(…)” (italics mine) Also, the epilogue, ch. 61, which will be given in full because of its relevance:

 

“This, my friend, is but a little out of a great deal; I have thought fit to set it down as a specimen, not only to pleasure you as an associate and friend whom above all others I hold in admiration for your wisdom, your love of truth, the gentleness and reasonableness of your ways, the peacefulness of your life, and your courtesy toward all whom you encounter, but mostly—and this will give greater pleasure to you also—to right the wrongs of Epicurus, a man truly saintly and divine in his nature, who alone truly discerned right ideals and handed them down, who proved himself the liberator of all who sought his converse. I think too that to its readers the writing will seem to have some usefulness, refuting as it does certain falsehoods and confirming certain truths in the minds of all men of sense.” (Alex. 61, italics mine).

 

However, in general the treatise says more of Lucian’s admiration of Epicurus than Celsus’.[31] Throughout the treatise the hostility between Alexander and the Epicureans is underscored. Epicurus and his followers are described as lovers of truth and haters of falsehood, and therefore they are deeply skeptical and even dismissive of Alexander’s cult.[32] Thus, ch. 25 reads: “(…)The followers of Plato and Chrysippus and Pythagoras were his friends, and there was profound peace with them; but ‘the impervious Epicurus’ —for that is what he called him—was rightly his bitter enemy, since he considered all that sort of thing a laughing-matter and a joke.”

 

After this short presentation of Lucian’s Celsus, the crucial question that needs to be addressed, is: Are Lucian’s Celsus and Origen’s Celsus the same person? To look for an answer, we will have to turn back again to TD and ask the following question: Does the Celsus speaking there show marks of being an Epicurean? At the outset this should certainly be expected if this Celsus is to be identified with the Celsus that Origen, Galen and Lucian know, as they all designate him as an Epicurean.

 

Is the Celsus of TD an Epicurean or a Platonist?[33]

The question posed in the heading is simple. But the answer to a certain extent has to be complex, as we shall see, not the least because Celsus does not display a clear-cut philosophical identity. This said, we may begin with the title “True Doctrine”.[34] In Chadwick’s words, the title “has a strongly platonic ring”.[35] Robert Bader finds that the “logos” of the title should not be translated “word”, but “doctrine”.[36] The implication is that there is one true doctrine, meaning that other doctrines – like the Christian – are wrong. Cfr. here especially I,14, quoted above in the introduction. Furthermore, the words of the title are almost certainly coined from Plato,[37] since the expression “true doctrine” plays an important role in his thought. As Andresen points out: “Er ist das Prinzip platonischer Dialektik oder wie Platon sagt, die Methode, ‘durch Fragen und Antworten’ die Einsicht aufleuchten zu lassen und von der vernunftmässigen Richtigkeit des Gedankens zu überzeugen.”[38]

 

 Above, we saw that Origen, at least in the first parts of his CC, was more or less convinced that Celsus was an Epicurean. But he could also express doubts about it, especially because he recognized that Celsus’ argumentation tended to be Platonist. Thus he says in IV,84 that Celsus “in many points likes to follow Plato.” Cfr. also VI,47 where Origen says that Celsus often mentions Plato with respect. The fact that Origen here makes some significant observations, is confirmed by the majority of scholars who have studied Celsus. Basically they all agree that Celsus to a much larger degree deserves to be described as Platonist rather than Epicurean. More specifically: Celsus is deeply influenced by Middle Platonism.[39] The philosophers of Middle Platonism cover a timespan from about 50 BC until about 250 AD.[40] These philosophers held varying points of view on a number of subjects. What they had in common, was nevertheless affinities with different traits of Plato’s doctrines, and more specifically interest in the problems posed by Plato’s socalled “unwritten doctrines”. An example of such a problem is whether cosmos is created in time or atemporally. A spesific trait of Middle Platonism must also be mentioned here: It has a deeply religious character, as shown by Carl Andresen in his study of the philosophy of Celsus.[41]

 

Now, even if we may be sure that Celsus was influenced by Middle Platonism, we will still have to be cautious not to think that we have completely understood Celsus’ philosophy. Able scholars have focused on both Stoic and Epicurean thoughts of Celsus, and some have even proposed the designation “platonizing Epicurean” or “Epicureanizing Platonist”.[42] This said, let us turn to the True Doctrine itself, and quote some examples of Celsus’ Platonist philosophy. Following Carl Andresen, we will quote three particular places in the TD which in a clear manner betray Celsus’ school of philosophy.[43] We begin with CC VII,42, which is of particular relevance because of its clarity (Celsus’ words in italics):

 

“Then after this he refers us to Plato as a more effective teacher of the problems of theology, quoting his words from the Timaeus as follows: ‘Now to find the Maker and Father of this universe is difficult, and after finding him it is impossible to declare him to all men.’[44] Then he adds to this: You see how the way of truth is sought by seers and philosophers, and how Plato knew that it is impossible for all men to travel it. Since this is the reason why wise men have discovered it, that we might get some conception of the nameless First Being which manifests him either by synthesis with other things, or by analytical distinction from them, or by analogy, I would like to teach about that which is otherwise indescribable.”

 

Carl Andresen comments: “Die hier auftretenden drei Begriffe der ‘Synthesis’, der ‘Analysis’ und der ‘Analogia’ beweisen so eindeutig die Verwendung schulplatonischer Fachsprache, dass jeder Zweifel [von welcher Schule Kelsos zuhört] ausgeschlossen ist.”[45] This is all the more so when considering that Celsus here actually says that knowledge of God demands a peculiar philosophical schooling. Several scholars have noted the similarity of this passage with that of Albinus’ Epitome X,5-6.[46] In this passage, the philosopher Albinus elaborates on the three ways of knowing God in accord with Platonic principles and doctrines.

 

The next relevant passage from TD may be found in CC VI 52a: “But I say nothing now about the beginning and the destruction of the world, whether it was uncreated and indestructible, or created and destructible, or vice versa.” With this saying Celsus touches upon a very much discussed problem of Middle Platonism, namely the interpretation of Plato’s Timaeus concerning the relationship between eternity and the creation/temporality of the world.[47] From this chapter it seems that Celsus has not chosen a particular point of view in this debate. Another place Origen disputes this, however: “…Celsus agrees with those who say that the world is uncreated, although he hides his real intention. For in saying that there have been many conflagrations from all eternity and many floods, and that the deluge which lately happened in the time of Deucalion was the most recent, he clearly suggests to those able to understand him that he thinks the world is uncreated.” (CC I,19, cfr. IV,80). Origen of course builds this upon the words “from all eternity”.

 

The third instance of Celsus yielding his relations to a particular school of philosophy is also related to the subject of cosmology. In CC IV,52-65 the question of the origin of evil is discussed. We may begin by quoting Celsus from IV,65: “It is not easy for one who has not read philosophy to know what is the origin of evils; however, it is enough for the masses to be told that evils are not caused by God[48], but inhere in matter and dwell among mortals[49]; and the period of mortal life is similar from the beginning to end, and it is inevitable that according to the determined cycles the same things always have happened, are now happening, and will happen[50].” As Chadwick points out, and as noted in the references below, this condensed section yields three references to Plato, and it confirms important Platonic ideas, especially that of duality between spirit and matter.[51] Andresen discusses Celsus’ other instances of sayings about the creation/uncreation of the world and concludes that his philosophy on this particular point combines both Platonic and Stoic elements.[52]     

 

Although not revealing as clear a link to a particular school of philosophy as the above quotations, we may here also mention CC IV,14, which speaks of the nature of God. Here Celsus describes God as “good and beautiful and happy”, and rejects the notion that he could come down to men, since this act would imply a change in God, “from good to bad, from beautiful to shameful, from happiness to misfortune, and from what is best to what is most wicked.” The Platonic ideas contained there are easily identifiable, cfr. Plato’s Rep 381b and Phaedrus 246D regarding God’s attributes and Politikos 269D and Phaedon 78C regarding his immutability. But one may also find stoic elements in Celsus’ understanding of God. This is especially evident in CC VI,65 and VII,68. In the first of these chapters we for instance find the famous stoic theological idea “…all things are derived from [God]”.

 

Celsus is, then, a Platonist and not an Epicurean philosopher. Celsus sees himself as a teacher of thoughts from the Platonic school of philosophy.[53] Thus he may say, in CC VI,7: “through ‘the use of questions and answers’ understanding illuminates those who follow [Plato’s] philosophy.[54] But Carl Andresen has pointed to an important distinction between Celsus and the contemporary Platonist philosophers in their judgment of Plato: “Für die zeitgenössischen Platoniker steht Platon als Höhepunkt und Ziel der philosophiegeschichtlichen Besinnung. Für Kelsos bedeutet der Meister nur einen, wenn auch bedeutsamen, Abschnitt aus der reichen Geschichte der Geistestradition.” This follows from the originality and open-mindedness with which Celsus can treat various philosophical ideas.

 

But more than this, it follows from his particular view of history. The perhaps foremost reason Celsus assigns for listening to Plato and his ideas is that he represents the wise and ancient doctrines of the Hellenists. Cfr. VI,3: “…ancient and wise men reveal their meaning to those able to understand it, and also that Plato the son of Ariston points out the truth about the highest good(…)[55] Still clearer is the very interesting section in CC VII,58. Celsus discusses the Christian’s opinion that one should not avenge oneself.[56] But this doctrine, he states, is “old stuff, and was better said before them.” He then goes on to quote Plato’s Crito 49b-e as a proof-text, after which he says: “This was the opinion of Plato. But these views were set forth still earlier by divinely inspired men.” Cfr. CC VI,10: “Plato is not arrogant, nor does he tell lies, asserting that he has found something new, or that he has come from heaven to proclaim it; but he confesses the source from which these doctrines come.

 

After this survey of Celsus’ thoughts and ideas within philosophy, one may ask: How come the learned Origen thinks that the author of TD is an Epicurean? Above we saw that Origen referred to Celsus’ other books, which are not extant to us. Henry Chadwick conjectures that the notion that Origen’s Celsus was an Epicurean has to do with the unfortunate connotations the designation bore at the time: “’Epicurean’ was then a term of abuse, like Fascist or Bolshevik now”.[57] But this may not count as more than a well-informed guess. Be that as it may, let us turn to the burning question: Knowing what we do of the Celsus of the TD, may we identify him with Lucian’s Celsus? To answer this question we will to turn to a man whose research into this question has been – and continues to be – deeply influential: Theodor Keim.[58]

 

The reasonings of Theodor Keim

Keim’s opinion is, in short, that the Celsus of Alex. is the same as the Celsus of TD: “Man muss fast blind sein, um in der Beschreibung des Charakterbildes des lucianischen Celsus nicht unsern Celsus wieder zu erkennen.”[59] I. e. there is only one Celsus, not two.[60] Before we go the the main points that Keim offers in support of this assertion,[61] it may be mentioned that some preliminary facts do speak in favour of the sentiment. If we are correct, the Celsus of the TD wrote at about 178 AD. Lucian’s Celsus flourished at about the same time.[62] They both knew the geographical areas of Greece, Syria and Egypt.[63] This would seem to speak in favour of Keim’s sentiment. Let us then turn to his main arguments.

 

First: Keim spends much effort in trying to convince the reader that Lucian and Celsus had differing opinions on Epicurus. He states that Lucian never really designates Celsus as an Epicurean. Moreover, he asserts that the plain fact of Celsus asking of Lucian’s opinion on Alexander is an attestation of the differing philosophical viewpoints. Also, the fact that Lucian says that Celsus approves of Epicurus (Ch. 61) should not really count as an approving, but rather as Lucian’s way of trying to get Celsus over to his way of thinking. His conclusion is that Lucian’s Celsus “selbst immer noch in die Klasse der frommen Platoniker, Stoiker, Pythagoreer gehörte.”[64] In my opinion the reasoning of this whole paragraph is thin indeed. In the quoted passages above, we saw that what Lucian plainly states, is that Celsus is sympathetic of Epicurus. Moreover, the impression given in the treatise is of a warm friendship between Lucian and Celsus, both personally and intellectually. It is hard to escape the impression that Keim here is involved in a circular line of reasoning: He assumes that the Platonic Celsus of the TD (see below) is Lucian’s Celsus and tries to get the evidence to fit accordingly.    

 

Above, we saw that Alexander had two main enemies: Epicureans and Christians. However, Alexander seemed to get along fine with Platonists. This perhaps implies a critique, by Lucian, of this group. But if there is only one Celsus and not two, this critique seems a bit awkward considering the Platonic ring of Celsus’ theology in TD. But Keim counters this objection by pointing out that followers of Plato very well could be divided in their stance towards prophets like Alexander. Celsus, then, was critical of Alexander, but he still shared basic theological and philosophical viewpoints with the more favourable Platonists from Abonuteichos. However one must recognize that this hypothesis merely assumes what is possible, lacking evidence that the hypothesis in fact is true.

 

Secondly, Keim finds that the Celsus of TD, though undoubtedly Platonic, still could pick up thoughts and doctrines from other philosophers wherever he found it adequate. He could also – perhaps silently – approve of Epicurus whenever useful. For support of this sentiment, Keim points to CC IV,36. There, Celsus attacks the Jews’ notions of the creation of man by pointing to their dependence on “Hesiod and thousands of other inspired men.” In the same chapter Origen counters by pointing to the absurdities of much that is told by the same men, absurdities that even Plato rejected. Keim concludes by pointing out that both the Celsus of Alex. and TD showed a large degree of freedom to their philosophical school, and therefore the difference between Lucian’s Epicurean and Origen’s Platonic should not be overemphasized. To this, we may comment: The “freedom from philosophical school” to a certain degree seems a warranted conclusion regarding Origen’s Celsus. But the same conclusion  cannot be transferred responsibly to Lucian’s Celsus, because in that instance we simply lack the evidence. Again, Keim runs into the danger of circular argumentation.

 

Thirdly, Keim points to numerous points of similarity between Origen’s and Lucian’s Celsus. The epilogue of Alex. (see quote above) describes Celsus in very positive terms, acknowledging in particular his love for truth, his wisdom and his nobleness. This fits in well with the title “True doctrine”. Keim also summons examples from the treatise itself to show that nobleness was one of the driving forces in the writing of it.[65] Also, Celsus shows traits of knowledge and healthy virtues. And his mocking and ridicule of Christians may be compared with the style of Lucian.[66] Furthermore, the Celsuses are in accord in their refutation of religious impostors [Goeten], Keim says.This is absolutely a point worthy of consideration. The agreement between Lucian and his Celsus is evident in Alex. 21, where Lucian describes various “tricks” Alexander uses, in particular ways of opening sealed letter without making the letter seem opened. Lucian says in the passing: “Hear then, how you may reveal stuff like this.”[67] Now, from this sentence Keim concludes that Alex. is written with the objective of providing Celsus with tools for the refutation and revealing of such people. But this seems a too wide-reaching conclusion[68] (especially bearing in mind that Keim a few pages earlier claimed that Celsus and Lucian had very different opinions of Alexander.)[69] As discussed above, it is hard to know the exact motivation of Celsus in asking Lucian to write the treatise on Alexander, even if they are in general agreement concerning him.

 

Both Lucian and his Celsus were interested in the unmasking of religious impostors, that much is certain. And this certainly applies also to the Celsus of the TD[70]. In particular he seems to have had a keen interest in prophecy. The interest of prophets in TD comes to expression in ch. VII,9-12 of CC. Among other things, Celsus there claims to have a first-hand knowledge of prophetic utterances, and he has even cross-examined the alleged prophets and found them to be frauds. This would seem to fit in well with Celsus asking Lucian to write a treatise on the prophet Alexander. Above we mentioned that it seems likely that the Celsus of the TD and Lucian lived approximately at the same time. It would then seem likely, as Keim proposes, that they must have had interest for eachother’s works. This is even more so keeping in mind that Lucian also previously had displayed an interest in criticizing and mocking Christians, cfr. “The death of Peregrinus”, quoted above. Keim defends the hypothesis that the Celsus of the TD actually has been influenced by Lucian’s polemic, particularly with respect to the critique of the Christian notion of the resurrection, the Christians’ despising of death and their perverse faith. Keim is aware that these might be characterized as general elements in Roman-Greek polemics against Christianity. But a clear indication of dependence between the two authors may still be found, says Keim, in their involving of Egyptian worship in their reasoning.

 

In his tract “On images”, written 162 AD, Lucian praises the beautiful and wise wife of the emperor Lucius Verus[71], Panthea. But he also speaks of witless and dull women: “…the same creatures come to mind, as the Egyptian temples. The building itself is large and beautiful, clothed with the most expensive rocks, and decorated with golden ornaments and the most beautiful paintings on the walls. But if you go inside and search for the picture of the divine, it is a monkey, an ibis, a horse or a cat!”[72]

Similarly, Celsus says in CC III,17: “Confronting the man who approaches their shrines the Egyptians have magnificent precincts, a sacred close, a fine great entrance, wonderful temples, splendid tents all around, and very superstitious and mysterious rites. But when he enters and goes inside he sees a cat being worshipped, or a monkey, or a crocodile, or a goat, or a dog.” Is this proof that Origen’s Celsus is influenced by Lucian? Or could it perhaps be that they both are drawing upon imagery common in Greek-Roman religious polemics? Keim of course favours the first explanation, and he supports this by pointing to the fact that Lucian gives an impression of originality in his use of the image. If he is right, the conclusion that Origen’s Celsus is fact Lucian’s beloved friend, seems closer.

 

The opinion of Henry Chadwick[73]

Is then the question of the authorship settled? Is Lucian’s Celsus to identify with the author of the True Doctrine? Keim thinks so. Henry Chadwick disagrees, and summons his points of doubt against Keim’s arguments. We will very briefly recount them here. Chadwick’s major objection towards Keim is the fact that “it is perfectly clear from almost every page of the Contra Celsum that Celsus is far from being in any sense an Epicurean. His philosophy is that of Middle Platonism, and with Epicureanism he betrays no affinities at all.” Chadwick goes on to recount Keim’s array of argument presented in the section above. But he presents two considerations against them. First, he notes – as we have also done above – that interpreting Alex. naturally, the Celsus described there seems Epicurean. Secondly Chadwick again stresses that one does not find an Epicurean Celsus in TD. “It is, accordingly, inconceivable that he can be identified with a well-known Epicurean.”[74] He points to the relevant, but perhaps much overlooked, fact put forward by Keim himself: that Celsus was an exceedingly usual name in the Roman empire in the second and third century, even within different classes of the population.[75]

 

Conclusion

This essay has dealt with Celsus, the second century philosopher writing pro the ancient (Platonist) philosophical tradition and contra Jews and Christians. It has been shown that three sources possibly attest this Celsus: Origen’s opinions in Contra Celsum, Galen’s letter and Lucian’s treatise on Alexander the prophet. Furthermore, it has clearly been shown that whereas these three sources attest a Celsus with affinities to Epicureanism, the Celsus of the True Doctrine is heavily influenced by Middle Platonism. The question of whether we are dealing with the same person in all of these sources, is a difficult and complicated one. Theodor Keim strongly favoured the conclusion that we are dealing with the same person. Henry Chadwick, among others, has contested this sentiment. The question remains unsettled, at least definitely, though in my opinion Chadwick has the strongest case.    

 

Abbreviations

CC – Origen’s Contra Celsum

Alex. – Lucian of Samosata’s Alexander the lying prophet.

 

Literature

– Andresen, Carl Logos 1955 Logos und Nomos. Die Polemik des Kelsos wider das Christentum Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte.

– Bader, Robert 1940 Der Alethes Logos des Kelsos Stuttgart-Berlin: Verlag von W. Kohlhammer.

– Chadwick, Henry 1965 (transl. and introd.) Origen: Contra Celsum Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

– Dillon, John, M. 1977 The Middle Platonists Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

– Frend, W. H. C. 1965 Martyrdom and persecution in the early church. A study of a conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus. Oxford: Blackwell.

– Hoffmann, Joseph R. (transl. and introd.) 1987 Celsus. On the True Doctrine. A discourse against the Christians New York: Oxford University Press.

– Keim, Theodor 1969 (1873) (transl. and introd.) Wahres Wort Darmstadt: Scientia Verlag Aalen.

– Rosenbaum, H. U. 1972 “Zur Datierung von Celsus’ Alethes Logos” in Vigiliae Christianae, vol. 26, p. 102-111.

– Trigg, Joseph W. 1998 Origen London: Routledge.

– Victor, Ulrich (transl. and introd.) Alexandros oder der Lügenprophet/ Lukian von Samosata. Eingeleitet, herausgegeben, übersetzt und erklärt von Ulrich Victor. Religions in the Graeco-Roman world vol. 132. Leiden: Brill. 

 

 

 



[1] CC I,9. The sentiment that Christianity attracts only fools, wretches, sinners, uneducated people etc. is recurring in TD, cfr. CC I,27; III,44. 50. 55. 59. 74. 75; VI,13-14.

[2] A brilliant introduction to Celsus’ understanding of “Logos” is given in Andresen 1955:108-145. A particularly important piece of evidence that Celsus equals the true logos with the ancient logos is found in his use of Plato’s Timaeus 20-23, cfr. CC I,19. 20; IV,79b. In this section of Timaeus we hear of the wise Athenian Solon who visited Egypt. He conversed with some of the Egyptian priests on the subject of antiquity, and told them what he knew of ancient genealogies, stories, events etc. But the priests were not impressed: “O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you. Solon in return asked him what he meant. I mean to say, he replied, that in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with age.” The Egyptian priests explained this by the catastrophes of fire and water that regularly hit the country of the Athenians, killing most people carrying the ancient knowledge. But the Egyptians were protected from these catastrophes by the Nile, thus preserving the ancient knowledge.

[3] Cfr. CC 1,9.

[4] CC VII,41.

[5] Andresen 1955:137.

[6] Cfr. CC I,4 (ethical teachings); III,16 (judgment and hell); VI,18-20 (God is in Heaven). 21-22 (the seven heavens). 42-43 (Satan). 47 (The title ‘Son of God’). 71 (God as spirit); VII,28 (heaven). 58 (exhortations not to avenge oneself). 62 (refusal to tolerate images) for particular examples of presumed borrowing from various sources. Actually the general theme of what Celsus says in CC V,65b-VII,58 is Christianity’s dependence upon greek thought. Hence, this section is ended by the following: “But what I have said on this point may be a sufficient example for all the other doctrines which they corrupt. And anyone who wishes to find further instances of this will recognize them.” For more on this general subject, see chapter II,2 titled “Die Depravationstheorie” in Andresen 1955:146-166.

[7] Celsus accuses Christians of breaking the Empire’s laws condemning secret societies, and this they do “to escape the death penalty that hangs over them (CC I,1 and 3). On the subject of persecution in the early church, see Frend 1965.

[8] CC VIII,69.

[9] The question of the date of TD is disputed. I follow Chadwick 1965:xxvi-xxix in dating the treatise to some time between 177-180 AD. (For an earlier dating, see Rosenbaum 1972). I also follow Chadwick 1965:xiv-xv in dating CC to 248 AD.

[10] For an introduction to the church father Origen, see Trigg 1987:1-67.

[11] How much of the treatise is repoduced by Origen in his CC? The question is discussed by Bader 1940:10-24. Although one may say with certainty that the complete treatise is not reproduced, one may safely assume that most parts of it are. Perhaps 70% is a plausible estimate. Cfr. also Chadwick 1965:xxii-xxiv.

[12] For introductory issues and translation, see Victor 1997.

[13] CC Praef. 1.

[14] Cfr. Chadwick 1965:xiv-xv. He mentions that Harnack was hesitant of setting the date so exactly, and instead would leave the space between 246 and 248 open.

[15] CC Praef. 4.

[16] CC II,60; III,35. 80; IV,4. 75. 86; V,3. I believe Bader 1940:3 is right to state that “Die Heftigkeit des Origenes ist dadurch zu erklären, dass er sich eben seiner Sache nicht sicher ist und nur eine Vermutung ausspricht, die er bestätigt wissen will.”

[17] CC III,49.

[18] Which two books are Origen referring to? Sadly, we do not know, though in the last chapter of CC, Celsus says that he wanted to compose another treatise concerning “the right way to live.” CC VIII,76.

[19] CC IV,54.

[20] CC I,8.

[21] See reference in Hoffmann 1987:30.

[22] Cfr. Alex 21: “…in the book which you wrote against the sorcerers, a very good and useful treatise, capable of preserving common-sense in its readers, you cited instances [of trickery] enough, and indeed a great many more than I have.”

[23] For what follows, see Victor 1997:1-8. The English translation is from Loeb Classical library, translated by A. M. Harmon.

[24] Cfr. Alex. 43: “I want to include in my tale a dialogue between Glycon and one Sacerdos, a man of Tius, whose intelligence you will be able to appraise from his questions. I read the conversation in an inscription in letters of gold, at Tius, in the house of Sacerdos. “Tell me, Master Glycon,” said he, “who are you?” “I am the latter-day Asclepius,” he replied. “A different person from the one of former times? What do you mean?” “It is not permitted you to hear that.” The cult of Asclepios was originally occupied with healings. This new cult was rather an oracle-cult, giving answers to different people’s questions.

[25] See for example Alex. 2, where Lucian says that Alexander “das gesamte Römische Reich mit seinen Plünderungen heimsuchte.” The fact is also interestingly attested by the archeological findings of coins with the impression of Glykon in the form of a snake. See pictures in Victor 1997:182-184.

[26] Ulrich 1997:6. See further presentation of the theology of the cult in ch. IV, p. 38-52.

[27] Interestingly, the criticism is exclusively directed towards these objects, not towards Asclepius, oracles, the dogma of reincarnation, the Olympian gods etc. Victor 1997:26.

[28] This point is laid out in full in Victor 1997:8-26.

[29] Marcus Aurelius was Roman emperor from 161-180 AD.  

[30] Alex. 1; 17 and 21.

[31] Epicurus or Epicureans are also mentioned in Alex. 17; 25; 38; 44-47 and 61. 

[32] According to Lucian this is something they have in common with a certain other group, namely Christians! Cfr. Alex. 25 and 38. In the last of these chapter we read that when Alexander prepared a ceremony, he lead the crowd in shouting “Out with the Christians!”

[33] With this paragraph we are moving into a philosophical territory that I do not know very well. Therefore the reasoning will primarily be based on secondary literature.

[34] Greek: Alethes Logos. The title is witnessed by Origen several times: Praef. 4; I,17. 40; II,1. 47; III,1; IV,47. 62; VI,50. 74; VIII,1. 76. Sometimes he also makes a play with the title: IV,25. 84; VII,68. Cfr. Bader 1940:1 n. 4.

[35] Chadwick 1965:xxi.

[36] He bases this opinion among other things on the fact that Celsus numerous times speaks of the concept of “doctrine” in his treatise, cfr. I,14a. 14c. 21; III,16b. 73b; V,65a. 65b; VI,22.  

[37] The exact words are found in the seventh Epistle of Plato, ch. 342a, a section that is actually also quoted by Celsus in CC VI,9. Andresen, following Albert Wifstrand, disputes that this is the exact source of the words. Andresen 1955:109. Another possible influence is Meno, 81a, cfr. Chadwick 1965:xxi.

[38] Andresen 1955:110, quoting Plato’s Epist. VII 344B, cfr. Phaedrus 274Bff.

[39] Cfr. Andresen 1955:3.

[40] Cfr. the article “Middle Platonism” in “The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy”, http://www.iep.utm.edu/m/midplato.htm, quoted 2. Dec. 2008. There it is stated that middle Platonism begins with Antiochus of Ascalon (ca. 130-68 BC), the head of the Academy of Athens from 79-78 BC, and ends with Plotinus (204-270 AD). For what follows, see this article. A more thorough introduction is given in Dillon 1977.

[41] Andresen 1955:239-307.

[42] See references of research in Andresen 1955:1-4.

[43] Andresen 1955:292-307.

[44] Timaeus 28 C.

[45] Andresen 1955:293.

[46] Albinus was a Platonist philosopher of Smyrna, flourishing about 150 AD.Cfr. Andresen 1955: 293 n.2 for references. 

[47] The question of the creation/non-creation of the world was the centre of a controversy in the school of middle Platonism. See Andresen 1955:276-291.

[48] Plato’s The Republic 379c.

[49] Plato’s Theaetetus 176a.

[50] Plato’s Politicus 269c-270a.

[51] Especially discussed in Plato’s dialogue Phaedo. The Platonic dualism of being and becoming – cfr. The Republic 534A and Timaeus 29A – is also accepted by Celsus, in CC VII,45.

[52] Andresen 1955:79-89.

[53] Cfr. Andresen 1955:297. This also comes to expression in CC VII,42. There Celsus says that he would be amazed if the Christians were able to follow what he has to say about the ways of aquiring knowledge of God, as they are “completely bound to the flesh and see nothing pure.” This saying reflects a prevailing view among the middle Platonists: The right and pure attitude is needed when reading Plato’s dialogues if one wants to understand them correctly. Cfr. Albinos’ Isag., ch. 5-6 and Diogenes Laërtius III,57.  

[54] Cfr. Plato’s seventh epistle, 344B.

[55] See discussion of Celsus judgment of Plato as ancient in Andresen 1955:126-131.

[56] Matthew 5,38-41.

[57] Chadwick 1965:xxvi, quoting W. R. Inge.

[58] Keim 1969:275-293.

[59] Keim 1969:287.

[60] Keim points to the relevant fact that both Lucian’s and the Celsus of TD only go by the name of “Celsus”, they have no further designating name. This is an argument in favour of the opinion that there in fact was only one Celsus, because if there were two with similar interests, living in approximately the same area, with the same interests, how could they be separated without different names? Keim 1969:291. To this, one may object that Lucian’s Celsus perhaps in fact has a designation, namely “the Epicurean”.

[61] Keim 1969:283-293.

[62] Alex. was written some time after 180. Before this, the Celsus mentioned had written books on magic.

[63] Keim 1969:291.

[64] Keim 1969:285.

[65] Keim mentions CC IV,6 (Celsus criticizes the Christian God for his supposed motives and ambitions in making himself known so late and so suddenly, also criticizes dependence on wealth), CC IV,36 (All Celsus does here, is compare the Christian reverence for Jesus with Hadrian’s reverence for Antinous) CC VIII,68 (Celsus urges the Christians to respect Homer’s doctrine of the one king – if they do not, they put the empire in peril).

[66] In Alex. Lucian is speaking rather respectively of Christians. Other places he does not, the most relevant example worth mentioning being “The death of Peregrinus”: “It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine.   And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He inter preted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.” (Ch. 11). Peregrinus burned himself to death at the last night of the Olympic games in 165 AD, cfr. ch. 35. Lucian’s treatise was perhaps written a short time after this. The Christians philosopher Athenagoras relates, in the 26. chapter of his “Plea for the Christians”, that a statue of Peregrinus later was raised, and that it was believed to utter oracles.

[67] ”Höre also, wie du derartiges aufdecken kann.”

[68] This one sentence may also refer to TD, Keim proposes, making it less surprising that Lucian does not specifically mention TD in Alex. Keim 1969:288, n. 2.

[69] Keim 1969:284. The evidence for this presumed difference of opinion is in my opinion very meagre. In Alex. 2, Lucian says that Celsus deems Alexander worthy of a whole treatise, whereas Lucian himself does not. But the fact that Celsus deems Alexander worthy of a treatise really does not say much about his general opinion of him.

[70] According to Keim 1969:288 the unmasking of religious impostors was ”…recht eigentlich sein Lebenswerk.”

[71] Lucius Verus was co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius 161-169 AD.

[72] Ch. 11, quoted in Keim 1969:290.

[73] Chadwick 1965:xxiv-xxix.

[74] Chadwick 1965:xxvi.

[75] See references in Keim 1969:275-276. Keim finds the fact that both the Celsus of TD and Lucian’s Celsus lack an extra name of designation counts in favour the hypothesis that there is only one Celsus, not two. However, perhaps Lucian’s Celsus actually had something coming close to an extra designation, namely “the Epicurean”.

An outline of the ”Bauer thesis” – with a particular emphasis on Bauer’s treatment of the Montanist movement.

november 21, 2008

 

Introduction

“The Bauer thesis” has become a familiar term within the subject of early church history. Its contents are in short that if one gives heed to the heretics’ own – often subdued – voices in the early church, one will find that what fourth century church dubbed heresy may have been much more widespread and early than the later church were prepared to admit. The thesis stems from the research work “Orthodoxy and heresy in the earliest church” by the German new testament and church history scholar Walter Bauer[1] (hereafter abbreviated OaH), first published in 1934.[2]

 

In this essay, the objective is twofold. In the first part, a general outline of the actual contents of the Bauer thesis. will be given. In the other part of the essay I will study a certain part of the work more closely, namely Bauer’s treatment of  the Montanist movement. My intention is to present Bauer’s reasoning, give an examination of the validity of his conclusions, and – lastly –  show who these conclusions are relevant for the overall frame of the Bauer thesis.. The reasons for choosing the treatment of the Montanist controversy in OaH specifically, is primarily that the issue of geographical and chronological distribution of orthodoxy and heresy has been widely discussed elsewhere.[3]

 

The traditional view[4]

According to what one may call a traditional, classical or “eusebian”[5] view within the subject of early church history, first and second century Christians were relatively uniform in their beliefs. The church fathers generally give the impression that these Christians put their faith in a message that was conveyed from the apostles of Jesus Christ himself.[6] In the early decades of the 4th century, these Christians called themselves called orthodox.[7] That is to say, they were devoid of fundamentally diverse opinions concerning the core truths of the Christian message. According to the traditional view, as the Christian message was being preached throughout in the world in the first centuries, it was kept inalterated and uniform. In general, heresy therefore was regarded as a deviation from an already present apostolic message[8]. The general opinion was that heretics must have been Christians of the apostolic kind at some point.[9] As we shall see, Bauer is deeply sceptical to the factual historicity of what the patristic writers set forth relating to the question of orthodoxy and heresy.[10]   

 

What is “orthodoxy”?

Already here at the outset one runs into a peculiar philological problem that needs to be addressed. Bauer’s book has as its subject orthodoxy and heresy. But exactly what is Bauer referring to when talking about “orthodoxy” and “heresy”? As it happens, the meanings of these words are not obvious. Bauer himself has – in my opinion rightly – been criticized for not appropriately defining these words in his treatise.[11] Bauer rejects simply equating orthodoxy with numerical majority views and heresy with numerical minority views. How then are the words defined by him? Bauer’s answer is short and ambiguous: “…’orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ will refer to what one customarily and usually understands them to mean.”[12]

 

Actually the term “orthodoxy” primarily came into use early in the 4. century, denoting a distinctly Christian phenomenon.[13] Synonyms of the term may however be found even earlier in the patristic literature. In the 4. century context the word generally denotes the opinion that the unity of measureable and correct theological opinions in terms of dogmatics and ethics is the condition of the unity of the church. These opinions are apostolic, that is to say, they derive from the message of the Lord and his apostles. An orthodox group is hallmarked by taking part in the common faith of all true believers, and thus partakes in truth and is a part of the true church. Thus, orthodoxy is a specific property of the teachings of the church. In the patristic literature the designation “orthodox” is also applied to exegesis, service, theological texts, bishops, or even the church as a whole.[14]

 

The fourth century self-designating orthodox Christians claimed that their beliefs and their faith were in a direct line from the apostles of Christ. The ones deviating – the heretics – were however not. The question is then: Were these self-designating orthodox Christians really right about this? To answer this question, it is vital to assess what the concrete nature of orthodoxy is, in a fourth century understanding. More importantly, the historian must not be content with studying the fourth century. Rather, one must naturally turn to the roots of Christianity in the first century. If one wants to know to which extent fourth century Christians really are right about their claimed orthodox, apostolic heritage, one must ask – in the words of the New Testament scholar James Dunn – “Is ‘orthodoxy’ a meaningful concept within the New Testament period?”[15]

 

Some preliminary remarks on Bauer’s OaH

It may seem strange to examine a book from 1934 in a 2008 essay. What is so special about OaH? Upon release OaH received more than two dozen reviews in six different languages.[16] The opinions varied widely, from high appraisal to trenchant criticism. But for the next two decades Bauer’s book was widely read on the continent. Its influence was especially bearing on contempary German followers of Bultmann.[17] In the English-speaking world, however, things were different. Here, the book seemed to pass in oblivion. But that was about to change. In 1954 H. E. W. Turner, professor at Durham university, delivered the Bampton lectures, which dealt with the relations between orthodoxy and heresy in the early church. His second lecture is in its entirety devoted to “the Bauer thesis”, and here Turner presents many critical remarks.[18] In 1963, Bauer’s work was reissued in a second edition. In 1981 Robert Wilken could refer to this happening as “The single most important factor in the study of early Christianity in the last generation in the United States.”[19] The English translation of the book in 1971 also did its considerable part in giving the book a hearing. Wilken is undoubtedly right when he says that OaH, with its main arguments, was responsible for a shift of paradigm in the study of early church history.

 

Bauer’s intention with his work

In the introduction to his work[20] Bauer says that he wishes to examine the origins of orthodoxy and heresy. How? By letting the heretics’ voices be heard on their own terms, not on the terms of the orthodox party. The problem for the historian, Bauer submits, is that the orthodox party eventually was the winning party – it was they that got the chance of writing the history books and shaping later generations’ understanding of the struggles between them and the heretics. Perhaps, then, if one tries to understand the heretics historically – that is, apart from the orthodox judgement of them – one will may find that they perhaps were not heretics after all. That is to say: Perhaps the groups that later were dubbed heretical by the orthodox actually were both geographically and numerically primary in a number of areas. That – in a nutshell – is the “Bauer thesis”.  

 

Some may be surprised to learn that Bauer, in a work titled “Orthodoxy and Heresy in the early church”, wherein he tries to examine the origins of orthodoxy and heresy, actually decides not to study the New Testament. The New Testament – being from the second half of the 1st century – is both geographically and chronologically closer to the earliest Christian groups. Bauer, however, wants to have as a point of departure the post-apostolic age.[21] In a very important passage, Bauer says: “As we turn to our task, the New Testament seems to be both too unproductive and too much disputed to be able to serve as a point of departure. The majority of its anti-heretical writings cannot be arranged with confidence either chronologically or geographically; nor can the more precise circumstances of their origin be determined with sufficient precision. It is advisable, therefore, first of all to interrogate other sources concerning the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy, so that, with the insights that may be gained there, we may try to determine the time and place of their origins.”[22]

 

Thomas A. Robinson’s comment is enlightening: “Believing that he [Bauer] had established that heresy was the original and dominant form of Christianity throughout much of early second-century Christianity, by extension, Bauer could feel comfortable in his conclusion that the character of first-century Christianity was not markedly dissimilar.”[23] The problem with this approach has been noted by several scholars: It is fine for the objective of locating and examining the diversity of different Christian groups in the 2nd century. But is it ideal for assessing the origins of this presumed diversity? Noting this deficiency in Bauer’s work other scholars have extended their research of the relation between orthodoxy and heresy back unto apostolic times.[24]

 

A brief overview of Bauer’s conclusions concerning geographical distribution of heresy

Be that as it may, Bauer tries to fulfill his task first and foremost by examining the presence orthodoxy and heresy in different geographical areas in the (late) first century and the second century. It is by no means my intention here to repeat the bulk of Bauer’s quite extensive argument. It will suffice to recount his conclusions before we later on turn to a more thorough investigation of Bauer’s treatment of the Montanist controversy.

 

Edessa

The first area Bauer decides to embark on is Edessa, the capital of the Mesopotanian kingdom Osroene. In the centre of Bauer’s attention is the story related by Eusebius of king Abgar.[25] Eusebius here states that King Abgar of the Edessenes was “afflicted with a terrible disease”, upon which he sent a message to Jesus, asking to be healed from his sickness. Jesus, not having the time to travel to Edessa, however sent his disciple Thaddeus to heal the king. After healing Abgar, Thaddeus also publicly preached the Gospel about Jesus’ birth, mission, death and resurrection.[26] Eusebius claims that documentation of the event and the correspondence may be found in the public archives of Edessa.

 

As may be expected, Bauer’s has little faith in the credibility of the whole story. The account is “a pure fabrication, without any connection with reality(…)”[27] Bauer’s conclusion is, in short, that no historical confirmation of a Christian community may be adduced from Eusebius’s relations of Abgar.[28] To cut to the chase, it is Bauer’s opinion that the orthodox Christians were not the first Christians in Edessa. The pillar of this argument is made up by a testimony from Ephraem of Edessa, a fourth century bishop. Ephraem complains that the heretics call the orthodox Christians “Palutians”, after bishop Palut, flourishing around 200 AD.[29] The implication of this, Bauer submits, is that there must have been another non-orthodox group present in Edessa previous to the orthodox. This previous group then took on the designation “Christians.” The natural question to ask then, is of course: Exactly who were these earliest Christians? Bauer answers that the chronological sequence favors the Marcionites[30], of whom Justin Martyr had said there belonged “many of every nation”, and that they were called Christians.[31] Bauer’s reconstruction of the church history of Edessa has of course not remained uncontested.[32]

 

Egypt

Next up is Egypt, an area of which Adolf von Harnack lamented about “The most serious gap in our knowledge of primitive church history(…)”[33] In general Bauer rejects the few hints that exist of orthodox Christians residing in Alexandria in the earliest times.[34] He admits that Christians must have been present early in the first century, but as was the case with Edessa, he submits that the heretics were there first. Besides mentioning witnesses of heretic groups residing in Egypt in the first centuries AD, Bauer hangs much of his argument on the existence of “The Gospel of the Egyptians”, which he dates to the beginning of the second century. The important thing about this gospel is the title: Since we do not know of a heretic group named “the Egyptians”, there must have been a time when this Gospel was the only one in use among Christians in Egypt.[35] The conclusion is then: “Thus in Egypt at the beginning of the second century – how long before that we cannot say – there were gentile Christians alongside Jewish Christians, with both movements resting on syncretistic-gnostic foundations.”[36]

 

Ignatius and Antioch

Bauer opens his next chapter with the following words: “Ignatius, the martyr of Antioch, is regarded as the most important and most successful ecclesiastical representative in the second-century struggle against heresy prior to Justin.”[37] Bauer starts by pointing out Ignatius’ strong recommendation of the bishop: A bishop – a strong leader to which others must submit – is needed in the event of a minority wanting control of the majority. In the case of Ignatius: An orthodox minority wanting control over a heretical majority. To support this suggestion, Bauer points to Antioch’s lack of significance and ecclesiastical tradition in the church history of the second century.[38] Of course the New Testament testifies to the apostolic influence in the city, but this influence soon died out.[39]

 

Moreover, the letters of Ignatius are in Bauer’s opinion a direct testimony of the relative strength and majority of the heretics.[40] Ignatius may encourage and give thanks to the congregations for being steadfast and united under the bishop, against heresy.[41] But the encouragement is not as sincere as it may seem, as Ignatius follows up with strict warnings against heresy, as if attesting heresy’s powerful presence.[42] In sum: “…his letters bear witness to his fervent desire, but not to existing reality.”[43] Again, Bauer has met criticism for his analysis of Ignatius and his context.[44]

 

Asia minor prior to Ignatius

Ignatius sent letters to congregations in Asia minor, and so did the Apocalypticist John. Bauer enumerates differences between Ignatius and John[45] – the real common denominator is, however, that they both fought gnostic heresy. John wrote to seven churches in his Apocalypse[46], and Bauer turns to the question of why John chose exactly these seven. His hypothesis is that John chose churches where there were hopes of achieving resound and support for his preaching, in the – presumably – same manner of Ignatius. Bauer notices that Ignatius addresses only three of the churches that John writes to: Ephesus, Smyrna and Philadelphia. As it happens, these three churches are the ones least infected with heresy, according to Revelation.[47] Could this be a coincidence? No, the reasonable inference is that the heretics had taken possession of the leadership in those churches.[48] The same thing happened with Ephesus rather quickly after Paul’s death.[49]

 

Bauer surveys other New Testament writings that probably have their origin in Asia minor. The epistle of Jude speaks of heresy coming from the outside of the congregation, exhorts the Christians to fight for “the faith that has been delivered once and for all to the saints” (Jude 3). But Bauer sees this last saying as a device made up to conceal the fact that heresy “had its home somewhere else in Christendom”.[50] Also, the letters of John witness the fact that docetic, presumably gnostic, heresy was widespread.[51] John says that the heretics have departed from the Christians, and he advices his congregation to maintain strict separation from them.[52] But Bauer is sceptical of this perception of the situation: “…perhaps we do more justice to the actual historical situation if we suppose that it was not the heretics who withdrew, but rather the orthodox who had retreated in order to preserve what could be protected from entanglement with ‘the world’”.[53]

 

Rome and Christianity outside of Rome

In the epistle 1 Clement Bauer finds the most eloquent expression of the condition of the church at Rome in the first and second century. Clement’s apparent motivation for writing the epistle was that a group of young men had usurped the leadership in the Corinth church, setting aside the older group of elders.[54] Bauer argues that Rome’s critique does not spring out of the question of principles.[55] Rather, their quarrel is with the doctrinal character of the new leadership. Taking his cue from Paul’s first letter to Corinth[56], Bauer proposes that at least one of the groups inherent at Corinth was gnostic.[57] This group, Bauer suggests, grew stronger, whereas the “Paul”- and “Cephas”-parties – which presumably fusioned and became the orthodox party[58] – gradually grew weaker. Bauer submits, then, that the new leadership in Corinth which we hear of in 1 Clement actually is a gnostic group, descending from the group present at Paul’s time. The conclusion: 1 Clement expresses Rome’s general wish to exert influence[59], but also their fear of the total isolation of their own form of Christianity.[60]

 

Some preliminary remarks on Montanism

After this brief overview of Bauer’s survey of early christianity in different geographical areas, we will turn to the main assignment of this essay: The examination of Bauer’s treatment of the Montanist movement. Throughout this examination, the objective will be to try to understand whether Bauer’s broader way of understanding the early church – and the relation between orthodoxy and heresy – also influences his understanding of the Montanist movement in any particular way. What Bauer has to say of the Montanists, occurs in chapter 7 and 8 of OaH.[61] Before I turn to these chapters, I will however give some general preliminary remarks on the Montanists. Who were they, and what characterized them?

 

In assessing the Montanist movement, one quickly turns into the problem of sources.[62] In the case of Montanism, most[63] of the sources at hand were written by Christians who were against this movement[64] and even saw it as heresy. This said, a rough sketch of the movement is fairly easily yielded.

 

Montanism[65] emerged as a religious movement, perhaps some time in the 160s.[66] It spread around in Asia minor in the subsequent decade, by the 170s it had reached Rome, and some time before 203 it reached Africa.[67] There it would find its most famous adherent: Tertullian. Already at the outset, the movement met fierce opposition from the Catholic church.[68] This opposition was to increase in the following decades, and by the end of the fourth century the movement was almost dead.[69] The founder of the Montanist movement was Montanus, a native Phrygian. We do not know anything about his ancestry or birth. The Anonymous[70] and Apollonius[71], quoted in length by Eusebius, are of the earliest sources we possess concerning Montanism. The Anonymous relates that Montanus was from the city of Ardabau[72] and that, in ecstacy[73], he “began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church(…)”[74] His followers, however, belived this to be a sign of the Holy Spirit. Among these followers were two women, Priscilla and Maximilla[75], who also “talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely”. But Maximilla herself is cited as saying: “I am driven away from the sheep like a wolf.[76] I am not a wolf. I am word and spirit and power.” We may also here briefly recite the most relevant parts of what Apollonius relates about Montanus: “This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage[77]; who made laws for fasting[78], who named Pepuza and Tymion, small towns in Phrygia, Jerusalem[79](…)”

 

Of course other features of Montanism are of great importance. Hippolytus is the first to relate the Montanist prophetesses with the Paraclete[80]: “And they assert that into these the Paraclete Spirit had departed; and antecedently to them, they in like manner consider Montanus as a prophet.”[81] Only later Montanus was accused of claiming to be the Paraclete himself.[82] “In early sources Montanus seems to be just the mouthpiece of the Spirit.”[83] Still, in the extant oracles he is speaking the Spirit’s message in the 1. person.[84] One of the chief messages of the Spirit was an imposing of a more strict and harsh moral discipline.[85] Tertullian the Montanist[86] rejected the notion that the Paraclete imparted new doctrines of any kind. But it imparted a new discipline, though Tertullian would say that this discipline actually was inherent in the Scriptures, though not yet explicated.[87] Some examples of this harsher discipline: Tertullian said that the New Discipline restricted forgiveness to the post-baptismal sinner.[88] The Montanists’ stance on fasting has already been mentioned above. Also, according to Tertullian, the Paraclete had ordained that remarriage was not allowed.[89]

 

Still, we have not yet touched upon what was perhaps the most controversial feature of Montanism. As we have seen, the church-fathers contested that the Montanists’ form of prophecy was proper and biblical[90]. At the heart of this matter lay the question of authority. The Montanists had no interest in rejecting the normativity of Scripture or apostolic tradition.[91] Tertullian’s opinion was rather that the New Prophecy illumined and interpreted Scripture.[92] Still, this naturally implemented an element of authority[93], and this was problematic, for several reasons.[94] The burning question was whether progressive revelation – ending with the Paraclete – was a legitimate position. That is: Whether revelation in a fundamental way[95] had ended with the Scriptures of the New Testament. Of course, this question can not be separated from the question of the economy of salvation. The self-understanding of the Montanist prophets was immense, as they saw themselves as the final and decisive part in God’s dealings with mankind.[96] Also, above, we saw how Tertullian understood the coming of the Paraclete as the final stage in a process of revelations according growth in discipline.[97]

 

Bauer’s treatment of the Montanist movement

After this brief overview of the Montanist movement, we will turn to Bauer’s treatment of it in his OaH. His first serious engagement with the Montanists occurs, as previously mentioned, in a chapter concerning the “General Characteristics and Operating Procedures” in the confrontation between Orthodoxy and Heresy. That is to say: He examines the New Prophecy from a specific viewpoint: He wants to find out which characteristics that are valid and general in “all” – or at least most – polemic and apologetic approaches. This way, Bauer submits, one will be enabled to better analyze the polemics – and see what of it that really pertains to reality. As we have seen above, he believes that there is a general tendency in the orthodox literature, especially that of Eusebius, of creating a biased picture of the relation between orthodoxy and heresy.[98] In his examination of Montanism, Bauer finds another confirmation of this tendency.

 

Bauer’s comments on “the Anonymous”

Bauer’s starting point is natural, namely Eusebius’ sources – the Anonymous and Apollonius. As the name reveals, we do not know who “The Anonymous” was.[99] All we have is his treatise, recited in Eusebius. In Bauer’s opinion this treatise has “the unmistakable style of an ecclesiastical polemic against heretics.”[100] Bauer offers a number of observations to support this claim. He first points to the slandering tone in the treatise. In addition to the hardly respectful way of describing Montanus’ manner of prophecizing (mentioned above), Bauer goes on to attack the Anonymous’ claim that the moral demands of the Montanists were only a pretence.[101] Tertullian’s description of Montanism clearly refutes this assertion, Bauer says. The Anonymous also claims that but few of the Phrygians were deceived by the movement.[102] Bauer doubts this: “On the contrary, one has the impression that the ‘new prophecy’ must have gained a strong hold in its native land.”[103] See more on this subject below.

 

Bauer’s criticism of the Anonymous is topped when it comes to the description of how Montanus and Maximilla presumably died. The Anonymous relates: “But by another kind of death Montanus and Maximilla are said to have died. For the report is that, incited by the spirit of frenzy they both hung themselves; not at the same time, but at the time which common report gives for the death of each. And thus they died, and ended their lives like the traitor Judas(…)They say that these things happened in this manner. But as we did not see them, O friend, we do not pretend to know. Perhaps in such a manner, perhaps not(…)”[104]

 

Bauer’s comment is devastating, yet also interesting: “This section is important chiefly because it permits us to evaluate correctly a considerable portion of the ever recurring polemical material, especially to the extent that this material relates to the person and life of the men who stand in an exposed place within a religious movement. Indeed, one can scarcely handle the maxim semper aliquid haeret [“something always sticks” (when mud is being thrown about)] more cynically than does this ecclesiastical protagonist, who really does not himself believe the truth of the rumours that he repeats.”[105] We will now turn to Bauer’s comments on Apollonius, a writer that he has even less sympathy for than the Anonymous.

 

Bauer’s comments on Apollonius[106]

Above I have recounted the most relevant part of Apollonius’ criticism of the Montanists. That is: ”This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage; who made laws for fasting, who named Pepuza and Tymion, small towns in Phrygia, Jerusalem(…)”[107] Bauer points to the fact that what Apollonius condemns also occurs – and is even praised – in the orthodox camp. Thus, the dissolution of marriage is noted with a high degree of edification in th apocryphal Acts literature.[108] Apollonius also criticises Montanus because he “appointed collectors of money” and “provided salaries for those who preached his doctrine, that its teaching might prevail through gluttony”[109]. But the orthodox nonetheless use money in their “warfare of the spirits”, Bauer says.[110] And so “something is condemned with language that can scarcely be surpassed and is exhibited in an ugly caricature, although when it takes place in the context of orthodoxy, it is worthy of the highest praise.”[111] Obviously, Bauer says, “Apollonius’ language simply betrays his annoyance at the fact that men and resources have streamed to the leaders of Montanism at such a dangerously high rate.”[112]

 

But Bauer has more in store. He criticises Apollonius’ inconsistencies[113], his unfairness[114], his exaggerations[115] and his maliciousness in the description of Themiso. Themiso was probably “the leading male figure in Pepuza after the death of Montanus.”[116] But Apollonius has nothing positive to say about him: “So also Themiso, who was clothed with plausible covetousness, could not endure the sign of confession, but threw aside bonds for an abundance of possessions.[117] Yet, though he should have been humble on this account, he dared to boast as a martyr, and in imitation of the apostle, he wrote a certain catholic[118] epistle to instruct those whose faith was better than his own.” Regrettably this is about all we know of Themiso.[119]

 

Bauer goes on to mention Apollonius’ relations of another presumed pseudo-martyr, namely Alexander.[120] Alexander – who spent much time with Maximilla[121] and was being “worshipped by many” – is also described as a pseudo-martyr. That is to say: He was condemned, but not for his faith, rather for his robberies “from rich men, but also from the poor, and orphans, and widows.” Alexander was an apostate, but in deceiving Christians in Ephesus that he was really a Christian, he somehow managed to be released from custody. Apollonius twice refers to the public archives in support this story[122]– references Bauer in any case does not have confidence in.[123] Furthermore, Bauer submits that the non-admiring comments Ap. has concerning the pseudo-martyrs of Montanism are refuted by the well attested desire for martyrdom with the Montanists.[124] All in all, Bauer’s impression is that “At best, a single case may once have been reported which is now transformed into an inadmissible generalization.”[125]

 

Some remarks on Bauer’s analysis of Eusebius’ sources

We have seen most of the critical points Bauer raises against both the Anonymous and Apollonius in their anti-Montanist polemics. It is hard to deny that his criticism is legitimate and fitting at most points. I therefore generally agree with his conclusion: “Taken as a whole, both of the books with which we have become acquainted here are hardly anything more than abusive satires. That of Apollonius merits the title to a higher degree than that of ‘the anonymous.’ One must reject as biased all of the judgments found in these works, even if they are delivered in the costume of historical narrative, and let the facts speak for themselves.”[126]

 

Bauer goes on, in typical fashion, in asserting that what we actually may learn of the realities behind the polemics, is that Montanism was a powerful movement with many followers. “The magnitude of the ecclesiastical defence corresponds to, and attests to, the amount of success realized by the movement. This defence produces discussion in which, to say the least, the church does not always emerge victorious.”[127] Bauer’s second sentence is of course attested by Eusebius’ sources.[128] The first, however, only indirectly. To endorse it, Bauer has to ignore as spurious the reports of the Montanists’ lack of success.[129] But Bauer’s conclusions on this point seem to be on rather firm ground. To a large extent the sources really do attest to success for the Montanists, even if this was not “achieved overnight, but over decades.”[130]

 

Even Eusebius’ sources attest the fact that the New Prophecy at least created quite a stirring and attracted crowds, cfr. HE V,16,8: “…distracting the multitude(…)” And the fact that the church endeavored to stop the prophets of the movement is undoubtedbly a witness to some success.[131] Turning to Epiphanius, we find that he relates that the Phrygians had success in converting to whole town of Thyatira over to the New Prophecy.[132] Ireneus, writing at about 180 AD, is familiar with the movement, and condemns it.[133] And of course, during the five decades after its emergence, Montanism was to make an influence in diverse areas like France[134], Rome[135], Carthage[136] and Egypt.[137]

 

Bauer’s comments on the signatures in Serapion of Antioch’s letter

“What Eusebius extracts from or tells us about Serapion’s letter can be of particular assistance in our attempt to achieve a suitable attitude toward general statements found in the polemical literature.”[138] This is a repetition of the sentiment expressed by Bauer above. He turns to Eusebius’ recitation of the letter, which because of its importance will be given in the following[139]:

 

“’That you may see that the doings of this lying band of the new prophecy, so called, are an abomination to all the brotherhood throughout the world, I have sent you writings of the most blessed Claudius Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia.’ In the same letter of Serapion the signatures of several bishops are found, one of whom subscribes himself as follows:

[I] ‘I, Aurelius Cyrenius, a witness, pray for your health.’ [II] And another in this manner: ‘Ælius Publius Julius, bishop of Debeltum, a colony of Thrace. As God liveth in the heavens, the blessed Sotas in Anchialus desired to cast the demon out of Priscilla, but the hypocrites did not permit him.’ [III] And the autograph signatures of many other bishops who agreed with them are contained in the same letter.” (HE V,19,2-4).

 

In the center of Bauer’s attention in this letter are the signatures that accompany the letter. Obviously these signatures play an important role for Eusebius: They show that many bishops were united against the new movement. This Bauer ventures to challenge. Signature II is of course anti-Montanist, as the text talks of Priscilla being possessed by a demon. But what about signature I and III? Number I seems to maintain neutrality, Bauer submits[140]. Aurelius Cyrenius’ self-designation as a “witness”[141] supports this sentiment, because: “Even the martyrs of Lyons favored the prophetic movement.”[142] But this sentiment of Cyrenius’ purported neutrality surely stands on shaky ground, as we shall see.  

 

Eusebius says that Cyrenius’ signature is in Serapion’s letter. We really do not have reasons to believe otherwise, unless we conjecture that the signature was invented by Eusebius in the service of presenting the Catholic church in a favourable light. But that would hardly seem like the historian Eusebius’ way of action. He may exaggerate, but he hardly invents. The fact that the signature does not take part in the polemics is surely not proof of neither Cyrenius’ neutrality nor his favourable position towards the New Prophecy. Rather, the actual presence of the signature in the letter points in another direction. Bauer would at this point have us believe that a persecuted witness of the church with a neutral, or even favourable, disposition towards the New Prophecy would have no qualms with putting his signature in a letter markedly hostile to the movement.[143] That would not seem consistent of Aurelius.

 

Bauer supports his conjecture that Aurelius was neutral or favoured the New Prophecy by yet another observation: Aurelius was probably a persecuted witness, and  his kins in suffering – the martyrs in Gaul – were sympathetic of the Montanists. But as we have already noted, there were martyrs on both sides of the Montanist conflict; being a martyr by no means automatically implied support of the Montanists. Secondly, there is doubt as to whether the martyrs of Lyon really were in favour of the New Prophecy. The critical passage in Eusebius is HE,V,3,4, where one reads the following: “…the brethren in Gaul set forth their own prudent and most orthodox judgment in the matter, and published aslso several epistles from the witnesses that had been put to death among them. These they sent, while they were still in prison, to the brethren throughout Asia and Phrygia, and also to Eleutherus[144], who was then bishop of Rome, negotiating for the peace of the churches.”

 

Although there is no universal agreement among scholars on the stance of the martyrs towards Montanism, I think the arguments are by far strongest in assuming that they were against it. The epistles from the martyrs to bishop Eleutherus speak of a negotiation of peace of the churches. This could, of course, be interpreted as meaning that the martyrs were exhorting Eleutherus to be mild towards the Montanists, as to keep the peace.[145] Another interpretation seems more probable, however. The Anonymous said, concerning the outbreak of the New Prophecy: “For the faithful in Asia met often in many places throughout Asia to consider this matter, and examined the novel utterances and pronounced them profane, and rejected the heresy, and thus these persons were expelled from the Church and debarred from communion.”[146] Now, if this was the Eastern church’s stance on the Montanist movement, it would seem just as plausible that an exhortation to keep the peace in the churches refers to the rejection of Montanism also in the west. The presumably conclusive argument in the favour of this interpretation is Eusebius’ designation of the letters as “prudent and most orthodox”. It seems quite unthinkable that Eusebius could have described a letter commending Montanism in this way.

 

Another aspect could also be mentioned. In HE V,15, a chapter placed in the section dealing with Montanism, Eusebius writes about Blastus and Florinus who “drew away many of the Church to their opinion, each striving to introduce his own innovations in respect to the truth.” According to Pacianus Epistola ad Sympronian. de catholico nomine, chap. 2, this Blastus was in fact Montanist. In HE V,20 Eusebius relates that Ireneus wrote against this Blastus, in an epistle called “On Schism”. Now, Ps.-Tert 8,1 says that this Blastus was a Quartodeciman who wanted to keep the passover according to the law of Moses. But Ireneus is quoted in HE V,24 as not regarding differing opinions in the question of the passover as being intrinsically schismatic. Probably, then, the letter to Blastus had to do with the New Prophecy. This tentative conclusion fits in well with the fact that it was Ireneus who brought the letter from the martyrs of Gaul to bishop Eleutherus. (We may also here recollect Ireneus’ general negative sentiment on the Montanist movement, cfr. Adv Haer III,11,9).

 

The above elaboration perhaps – although indirectly – has some bearing on how one ought to conclude on the following question: What should be thought of signature III, “the autograph signatures of many other bishops who agreed with them”? Bauer puts no faith in this kind of saying: “The statement obviously is not based on real experience, but was prompted by the apologetic need to offer proof ex consensu omnium [based on common consensus].”[147] Now, if the “signatures of many other bishops” in fact were present in the letter, as Eusebius relates, it would perhaps be no great exaggeration to say that the New Prophecy “are an abomination to all the brotherhood throughout the world”.[148] But to a certain extent Bauer’s criticism on this point seems warranted: If Eusebius knew of many other signatures in Serapion’s letter, why did he not recite the names and statements? It seems that one’s conclusion on this point will depend on the broader judgment of the trustworthiness of Eusebius as a historian. In this judgment one must also take note of the fact that Eusebius generally could be prone to exaggerations.[149]

 

The use of literature in the conflict

After this rather extensive treatment of the characteristics of the Montanist controversy, Bauer turns to another related area, namely “The use of literature in the conflict”[150]. He begins by stating that many works of the early church have been lost in the course of time. Also, concerning many of the works extant, we do not know the actual incentive for their writing. Bauer then turns to what Eusebius in general has to say about ecclesiastical literature, in HE V,27:

 

“Numerous memorials of the faithful zeal of the ancient ecclesiastical men of that time are still preserved by many. Of these we should note particularly the writings of Heraclitus(…)and those of Maximus(…)Also those of Candidus(…)and of Apion (…)likewise of Sextus(…)and another treatise of Arabianus, and writings of a multitude of others, in regard to whom, because we have no data, it is impossible to state in our work when they lived, or to give any account of their history. And works of many others have come down to us whose names we are unable to give, orthodox and ecclesiastical, as their interpretations of the Divine Scriptures show, but unknown to us, because their names are not stated in their writings.”

 

In connection with the names of ecclasiastical authors Eusebius also mentions some titles of works. I have left them out, as the main point in this context will be Bauer’s general interpretation of the paragraph: “What Eusebius intends by this piling up of superlatives is quite clear. It is a matter of concern to him to assert that there is in existence a body of ecclesiastical literature, as old as possible and as extensive as possible, but also treasured as much as possible in the present, and just as widely dispersed. He wants to show that the general rejection of false belief can also be found from earliest times in Christian literature.”[151] This is then another instance of Bauer’s general lack of trust in Eusebius as an unpartial historian.[152]

 

Bauer writes that several different ways of action were applied by both orthodox and heretics alike to give one’s own view a hearing. One might use literature, letters, personal contacts, sermons, psalms, edition of the opponents’ works and so on.[153] Finally, one could also make use of prophetic visions and messages. A natural place to turn for this phenomenon would of course be the Montanist movement. Bauer starts by quoting from Tertullian: “Again, through the holy prophetess Prisca the Gospel is thus preached(…)’For purity,’ says she, ‘is harmonious, and they see visions; and, turning their face downward, they even hear manifest voices, as salutary as they are withal secret.’”[154]

 

Bauer then turns to at particularly interesting and relevant chapter from Tertullian’s “On the soul”. Here Tertullian discusses the corporeality of the soul. Tertullian says: “As for ourselves, indeed, we inscribe on the soul the lineaments of corporeity, not simply from the assurance which reasoning has taught us of its corporeal nature, but also from the firm conviction which divine grace impresses on us by revelation.” He continues: “We have now amongst us a sister whose lot it has been to be favoured with sundry gifts of revelation, which she experiences in the Spirit by ecstatic vision amidst the sacred rites of the Lord’s day in the church: she converses with angels, and sometimes even with the Lord; she both sees and hears mysterious communications; some men’s hearts she understands, and to them who are in need she distributes remedies.”[155]

 

Bauer stresses that both orthodox and heretics alike refer to prophetic visions and messages for support of their own position. Thus Tertullian in his “On the resurrection of the flesh” may state that Scripture itselfs gives material applicable for wrong-minded interpretations. But now, through the sending of the Paraclete, mysterious passages in Scripture are put out in the open. Scripture is illuminated and interpreted correctly: “[God] has accordingly now dispersed all the perplexities of the past, and their self-chosen allegories and parables, by the open and perspicuous explanation of the entire mystery, through the new prophecy, which descends in copious streams from the Paraclete. If you will only draw water from His fountains, you will never thirst for other doctrine: no feverish craving after subtle questions will again consume you; but by drinking in evermore the resurrection of the flesh, you will be satisfied with the refreshing draughts.”[156] Thus, in the interpretation of controversial dogmatic and ethical subjects, Tertullian relies on a source of authority outside of Scripture. But as we have seen, Tertullian would still refer to Scripture – more specifically the passages concerning prophecy – as a foundation of the claims of the New Prophecy.

 

Bauer points to the near futility of Tertullian’s trying to convince his opponents of the validity of the Montanist prophecies.[157] It is particularly interesting to note that Bauer also points to the Apocalypse of John as a parallel of the way the Montanists used prophecy in their self-understanding and distribution of ideas.[158] In the letter to the angel of the Church in Tyathira John attacks Jezebel, who “calls herself a prophetess”.[159] But surely, Bauer says, the attitude of Jezebel towards John would have been of the same sort.[160] In general, the link between the Apocalypse and the New Prophecy is important and should not be ignored.[161]

 

Brief  evaluation of Bauer’s treatment of the New Prophecy in the context of OaH

Up until now we have given an overview of the so-called Bauer thesis. Furthermore, a brief overview of Montanism was given, followed by an examination of Bauer’s treatment of the movement. In this paragraph, the object is to briefly analyze the general role Montanism plays in the broader thrust of OaH. Bauer himself says: ”The Montanist controversy of the second century has, to a certain extent, given us a glimpse of the actual causes, the forces at work, that tactics employed and the forms used in the ideological conflict within Christendom at that time.”[162]

 

The last, and perhaps most important, question that needs to be addressed is this: To what extent does Bauer’s valid conclusions support his thesis of the geographical and chronological primacy of the heretics[163]? Seen in the perspective of OaH  as a whole, it would seem that the chief value of his examination of the Montanists amounts to giving an example of the untrustworthiness and “dirty tricks” of the ecclesiastical opponents of the New Prophecy. This example is for Bauer a representative of what he sees as a general approach towards heretics. One will have to give Bauer the credit of having chosen a fruitful example: Several of the anti-Montanist sources, most notably The Anonymous and Apollonius, do not appear in a favourable light for the 20th century historian, slandering as they are. But it is an example nonetheless, and the representativity may not be taken as a given, excluding the survey and examination of the approaches towards heresy given in other defenders of orthodoxy in the early church.

 

One also senses Bauer’s wish to enhance the Montanists’ influence and growth on behalf of the size of the orthodox’ opposition. Surely, our sources amply attest the Montanist movement’s rapid growth and success in its first decades. But in my opinion Bauer is less successful in his attempt to reduce the opposition. He tries to do this for example by lessening the force – or even denying the facticity – of the signatures in Serapion’s letter. But in this last matter I do not find his arguments convincing. The noting of the role of prophecy in the battle between orthodoxy and heresy is interesting, but really does not have a direct bearing on the fundamental thesis of OaH.

 

Sources

Schaff, Philip (transl.) 1997 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, Eusebius Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

 

Adv Marc – Tertullian’s Adversus Marcionem

Adv. Prax. – Tertullian’s

1 Apol – Justin’s first Apology

Cat – Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical lectures.

Cypr. Ep. – Cyprian’s epistles

De Anima – Tertullian’s De anima

De exhort – Tertullian’s De exhortatione castitatis

De fuga – Tertullian’s  De Fuga in Persecutione.

De Jej – Tertullian’s De jejunio adversus psychicos

De monog – Tertullian’s De monogamia

De res – Tertullian’s De ressurectione carnis

De virg. vel. – Tertullian’s De virginibus velandis

EC – Eusebius’ Life of Constantine

HE – Eusebius’ church history

HE – Eusebius’ Church History

IgnPol – Ignatius’ letter to Polycarp

Refut. Omn. Haer. – Hippolytus’ Refutatio omnes haereses

Strom – Clement of Alexandria’s Stromateis

 

Literature

– Aland, Kurt ”Bemerkungen zum Montanismus und zur frühchristlichen Eschatologie” in Aland, Kurt 1960 Kirchengeschichtliche Entwürfe Gerd Mohn: Gütersloher Verlagshaus.

 

– Bauer, Walter 1934 Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck)

 

– Bauer, Walter 1971 Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

 

– Baasland, Ernst (red.) og Reidar Hvalvik (red.) 1984 De apostoliske fedre Oslo: Luther forlag.

 

– Brown, Raymond E. 1984 The epistles of John. Anchor Bible Commentaries New York: Doubleday.

 

– Drijvers, H. J. W. 1980 Cults and Beliefs at Edessa Leiden: E. J. Brill.

 

– Drijvers, H. J. W. 1982 “Facts and problems in early Syriac-speaking Christianity” in SC, vol. 2, p. 157-175.

 

– Drijvers, H. J. W. 1985 “Jews and Christians at Edessa” JJS vol. 36, p. 88-102.

 

– Dunn, James D. G. 2006 Unity and diversity in the New Testament London: SCM Press.

 

– Grant, Robert 1980 Eusebius as church historian Oxford: Clarendon.

 

– Harrington, Daniel J. 1980 “The reception of Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy in the earliest Christianity during the last decade” in HTR, vol. 73, 289-298.

 

– Hultgren, Arland 1994 The rise of normative Christianity Oregon: Wipf & Stock.

 

– Koester, Helmut 1994 Trajectories through early Christianity Philadelphia: Fortress.

 

– Labriolle, P. de 1913 Les Sources de l’Histoire du Montanisme: textes grecs, latins, syriaques Paris: Collecteanea Friburgensia.

 

– Paulsen, Henning 1978 “Die Bedeutung des Montanismus für die Herausbildung des Kanons” in Vigiliae Christianae, vol. 32, no. 1, p. 19-52.

 

– Pearson, Birger A. 1990 Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

 

– Robeck, C. M. 1992 Prophecy in Carthage Cleveland: Pilgrim Press.

 

– Robinson, Thomas A. 1988 The Bauer Thesis Examined. The Geography of Heresy in the Early Christian Church Lewiston/Queenston: The Edwin Mellen Press.

 

– Tabbernee, William 1997 Montanist Inscriptions and Testimonia. Epigraphic Sources Illustrating the History of Montanism North American Patristic Society, Patristic Monograph Series 16 Georgia: Mercer University Press.

 

– Trevett, Christine 1996 Montanism Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

– Turner, H. E. W. 1954 The pattern of Christian truth London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. Limited

 

– Wilken, Robert L. “Diversity and Unity in Early Christianity” in SC vol. 1., nr. 2, 1981.

 

Journals

HTR – Harvard Theological Review

JJS – Journal of Jewish Studies

SC – The Second Century

TRE – Theologische Realenzyklopädie

 

 

 



[1] A presentation of Walter Bauer as a scholar is given by Georg Strecker in TRE 5:317-319. Bauer is perhaps  most known for his authoring of what was to become the standard greek-english dictionary of the new testament. 

[2] Bauer 1934. The book was republished in 1964, with some minor additions and corrections by Bauer himself. Also included in this edition were two essays by Georg Strecker: “On the problem of Jewish Christianity” and “The reception of the book”. In this essay I will be using the english translation by Robert A. Kraft et al., Bauer 1971.

[3] See especially Robinson 1988.

[4] A review of the traditional view is given in Turner 1954:3-35.

[5] For a good presentation of Eusebius’ general view of heresy, see Grant 1980:84-96. Eusebius’s did not shy away from using stark and vulgar language when describing heretics. For example, when describing the heresy of Simon Magus (HE II,13), he uses words like “profane”, “impure”, “false”, “superstition”, “madness”, “folly”, “excessive baseness and lewdness”, “viler than the vilest thing”, “abominable”, “miserable”, overwhelmed with all kinds of vices”! His most used sources when presenting information about heresy, are Justin and Ireneus. Grant may say in general: “It looks as if his views about ancient heresy were shaped partly by the accident of the materials he found available, partly by the accident of the way in which he used them.(…)Eusebius’ accounts of the early heresies thus possess no value apart from that of the documents he quoted or paraphrased.” Grant 1980:86.

[6] As Robinson 1988:5 puts it: “…a similar view [as that of Eusebius] of the purity of the early church was held by every second and third-century catholic writer whose writings are known to us.” See especially 1 Clem 42,1-4. Also Hegesippus’ quote in Hist. eccl III,32,8. However, as Hultgren 1994:8 brilliantly underscores, both (a.) the image of continuity of teaching from the apostles and on to the disciples, and also (b.) the image of heretics emerging from the midst of the Christian community, are found clearly in the New Testament. Ad a. cfr. e. g. 1 Cor 7,10-11; 15,3-4; Luke 1,1-4. Ad b. cfr. e. g. Acts 20,29-30; Matt 7,15. 

[7] See below.

[8] See for example Tertullian’s prae. Haer. 29: “Were Christians found before Christ? Or heresy before true doctrine? But in everything truth precedes its counterfeit. It would be absurd to regard heresy as the prior doctrine since it is prophesied that heresy should arise.” See also Adv Marc IV,7 and V,19. Eusebius puts focus on the disappearance of the apostles. When they were present, the church was like a pure virgin. The apostle’s deaths are the definite reason of the emerging heretic errors, Hist. Eccl III,32,7-8. See also for example Strom VII,17.

[9] Cfr.  Origen’s clear sentiment in his Commentary on the Song of Songs, 3: “All heretics at first are believers; then later they swerve from the rule of faith.” (Quoted in Bauer 1971:xxiii). One may easily mention examples: Tertullian says of Marcion in Adv Marc I,1: “…Marcion has quenched the light of his faith, and so lost the God whom he had found. His disciples will not deny that his first faith he held along with ourselves…” Cfr. IV,4. Tertullian also says that the gnostic Valentinus was a believer in the doctrine of the Catholic church. (prae. Haer 30). Epiphanius says, contrary to Eusebius (Hist. Eccl IV,30,4), that Bardesanes belonged to God’s holy church (Pan 56,2).

[10] This scepticism is revealed already in the introduction, Bauer 1971:xxiv.

[11] See for example Hultgren 1994:114, who says that Bauer applies the term “orthodoxy” anachronistically and too broadly. Turner 1954:80 says that Bauer’s lack of interest in assessing the nature of orthodoxy is a fundamental problem in OaH. Harrington 1980:298 says: “…Bauer never adequately described the theology of orthodoxy and indeed seems not to have taken it very seriously.”

[12] Bauer 1971:xxii-xxiii.

[13] For the following, see TRE 25:498-507.

[14] The term ”orthodoxy” will especially be found in Eusebius’ Church history. See Hist eccl. III,23,2; IV,23,2 and 8; III,25,7; VI,18,1.

[15] Dunn 2006:1. It is perhaps relevant to mention that one of the direct motivations for the writing of this influential and thorough book actually was Bauer’s OaH. Dunn 2006:xi. Dunn himself actually prefers to switch terms: Not orthodoxy and heresy, but rather unity and diversity. As it happens, his conclusions are, in short, that even though the New Testament reflects and displays diverse emphases and individual personalities, there is a core kerygma common in the NT as a whole. This core kerygma may be summarized in three points: a. Proclamation of the risen, exalted Jesus b. The call for faith, acceptance of the proclamation and commitment to the Jesus proclaimed c. The promise of forgiveness, salvation, Spirit etc. held out to faith. Dunn 2006:30-31.

[16] See list in Bauer 1971:286-287.

[17] Bauer 1971:306. Strecker mentions an impressive list: Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen, Ernst Käsemann, Günther Bornkamm, Walther Schmithals, Helmut Koester et al.

[18] Turner 1954:37-95.

[19] Wilken 1981. Wilken wisely points to the changed sociological, cultural and theological climate in the US in the sixties as opposed to the thirties. In particular, he points to the findings of the Nag Hammadi writings, and also the renewed ecumenical sensitivity. An article by Daniel J. Harrington published in 1980 reviews the reception of OaH in the USA in the preceding decade. (Harrington 1980). His conclusion is as follows: “That so many NT and patristic scholars are still interested in Walter Bauer’s Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum nearly fifty years after its initial publication is ample testimony to its importance.” Harrington 1980:297.

[20] Bauer 1971:xxi-xxv.

[21] ”…the approximately one hundred years that follow the conclusion of the apostolic age.” Bauer 1971:130.

[22] Bauer 1971:xxv.

[23] Robinson 1988:2.

[24] The most notable follower of ”the Bauer thesis” is Helmut Koester, cfr. Koester 1971. Other examinations of the same concept are Dunn 2006 and Hultgren 1994.

[25] Hist Eccl I,13; Hist Eccl II,1,6-8.

[26] Cfr. Hist Eccl II,1,8: ”And from that time down to the present the whole city of the Edessenes has been devoted to the name of Christ(…)”

[27] Bauer 1971:11. Cfr. p. 3 and 35.

[28] Surely, Eusebius has more to say about the presence of Christians in Mesopotamia in the second century, especially in Hist. Eccl V,23,3: “And there is also a another writing extant of those who were assembled at Rome to consider the same question [of the Passover], which bears the name of Bishop Victor; also of the bishops in Pontus(…)and of those in Osrhoëne and the cities there(…)” But Bauer gives reasons as to why the reference to Osrohëne in this instance is best considered as an interpolation. Bauer 1971:9.

[29] See Bauer 1971:21.

[30] Bauer 1971:22, cfr. p. 28-29: “[In Edessa] it was by no means orthodoxy, but rather heresy, that was present at the beginning. Christianity was first established in the form of Marcionism, probably imported from the West and certainly not much later than the year 150.”

[31] 1 Apol XXVI,5-6. Cfr. Adv Marc V,19.

[32] See e. g. Robinson 1988:45-59 and Turner 1954:40-46. His conclusion on p. 45 is as follows: “Bauer’s thesis is not wholly well served even by his opening witness [i. e. Edessa]. The evidence is too scanty and in many reports too flimsy to support any theory so trenchant and clear-cut as Bauer proposes. Yet his scepticism on many points of detail appears excessive, and his tendency to postpone the development of recognizably orthodox life far from conclusive. There is no satisfactory evidence that Edessene Christianity had a Marcionite origin(…)” For a more detailed account of the discussion of early Christianity at Edessa, see the works of H. J. W. Drijvers, 1980, 1982 and 1985. 

[33] Bauer 1971:44.

[34] These hints amount e. g. to the codex D of Acts 18,25, which asserts that Apollos of Alexandria actually was converted in his hometown. Furthermore Eusebius’ recounting of Mark’s proclaiming the Gospel and founding churches in Alexandria (Hist. Eccl II,16). Furthermore the assertion that the epistle of Barnabas was written in Alexandria – Bauer admits the possibility, but rejects its orthodoxy on grounds of its frequent mention of gnosis and its presumably docetic christology (Bauer 1971:47-48).

[35] Also, Bauer points to several heretical groups who are witnessed as using this gospel, see references in Bauer 1971:50, n. 28-30.

[36] Bauer 1971:53. Turner 1954:46-59 admits that various gnostic groups were particularly strong in Egypt in the second century (Turner 1954:47-49). Nevertheless he concludes: “Taken then, as a whole, the evidence of Alexandria favours the full rigour of Bauer’s hypothesis even less than that of Edessa. In both, we find the full pattern of orthodoxy develop somewhat late. In both, teachers of blemished theological reputation leapt into an early prominence. The history of both Churches suggests a certain shading off into heresy on the outer fringes of Church-life. But neither serves to establish Bauer’s further theses without a radical rehandling which the evidence refuses to support.” Turner 1954:59. For more on this particular subject, see Robinson 1988:59-69 and especially Pearson 1990.

[37] Bauer 1971:61.

[38] Bauer 1971:63. Evidence is found in Eusebius’ scanty list of bishops from the time of the apostles, Hist. Eccl IV,20.

[39] Gal 2,11-14 and Acts 18,22-23.

[40] See Bauer 1971:67-70.

[41] E. g. Ign Eph 9,1; Ign Magn 6,1.

[42] E. g. Ign Eph 7-9; 13-19; Ign Magn 6-11.

[43] Bauer 1971:70. Bauer’s treatment of Polycarp and Smyrna will not be summarized in this essay. Bauer 1971:70-76.

[44] “Nothing here supports the more daring features of Bauer’s reconstruction. If heresy arises within as well as without the Church and if at Philadelphia the grievous wolves are many, it cannot be established that the bishop in the Ignatian letters resembles a Palut rather than a Quna. The letters rather reveal the bishop as the hierarch of the whole community. If his authority does not pass unchallenged and his church is not free from danger, he is in these respects in no different case from a Catholic bishop in later ages.” Turner 1954:63. See also a thorough investigation in Robinson 1988 163-220.

[45] Ignatius is a Syrian gentile whereas John ”an unmistakably Jewish Christian”. John was in his times perhaps not as influential as Ignatius. Bauer 1971:77.

[46] Rev. 1-3, cfr. 1,10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Per’gamum and to Thyati’ra and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to La-odice’a.’”

[47] Pergamum (Rev 2,12-17) has some members encouraging immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. Also some of them are Nicolaitans. Thyatira (Rev 2,18-29) houses “Jezebel”, who also encourages immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. Sardis (Rev 3,1-6) has the name of being alive, but is really dead. Many there have “soiled their garments”. Laodicea (Rev 3,14-22) is lukewarm and complacent.

[48] Bauer also infers heresy from both John’s and Ignatius’ silence concerning communities of Hierapolis (Col 4,16) and Colossae. The same reasoning is applied to 1 Peter’s silence of the districts of Lycia, Pamphylia and Cilicia.

[49] The evidence: Rom 16, which speaks of “dissensions and difficulties” is presumably addressed to the Ephesian church, Acts 20,30 and 1 Cor 16,9 speak of enemies in Ephesus, so does Apoc 2,6. The pastoral letters are, in Bauer’s opinion composed later than the apostolic times, and reveal “the desire of orthodoxy to know that the Apostle to the Gentiles…stood on their side in the struggle against heresy.” Bauer 1971:84.

[50] Bauer 1971.90.

[51] 1 Joh 2,18; 2 Joh 7.

[52] 2 Joh 10-11.

[53] Bauer 1971:92. For more on this problem, see Brown 1984:338-341.

[54] 1 Clem 1,1; 3,3.

[55] That is, e. g. ”moral indignation over the irreverence of the young people and their lack of brotherly and Christian community spirit”, Bauer 1971:98. According to Bauer, Rome’s problem with the Corinth church was not the way the young party took the leadership – the problem was the young persons themselves.

[56] 1 Cor was probably written around 57 AD, cfr. Guthrie 1990:458. 1 Clem was written in 96 AD, cfr. Baasland 1984:117.

[57] This group believed that since they possessed gnosis, they also possessed a certain freedom. Bauer cites 1 Cor 6,12-20; 8,1-13; 10,23-33 plus several verses in ch. 15.

[58] Bauer 1971:101.

[59] Ch. 6 in OaH – “Rome’s Persuasive and Polemical Tactics” – elaborates on this theme. In this essay I will however not deal with this chapter and its contents.

[60] “…the farther one travelled toward the East, the less Christianity conformed to Rome’s approach.”  Bauer 1971:102. See critique of this view of Rome, in Robinson 1988:69-84.

[61] Ch. 8 is titled: ”The Confrontation Between  Orthodoxy and Heresy: General Characteristics and Operating Procedures”, Bauer 1971:130-146. Ch. 9 is titled: “The Use of Literature in the Conflict”, Bauer 1971:147-195.

[62] For a good presentation and assessment of the sources on Montanism, see Aland 1950:105-125.

[63] Luckily we also possess sources from the Montanist side. These include Prophetic oracles (see esp. Labriolle 1913), inscriptions (see esp. Tabbernee 1997) and also some written defences of the movement, most notably by Tertullian. See Trevett 1996:3-4 and 66-76 for general references. What was the relationship of the original Montanism and the Montanism Tertullian adhered to? Aland 1960:114-115 points to the fact that in general both Epiphanius (Pan 48,2,1-3) and the Anonymous (HE V,17,4) agree that the only “real” prophets of the New Prophecy were Montanus, Maximilla and Priscilla. There are, however, other sources that point in another direction, most notably De Anim 9,4 and Cypr. Ep. LXXV,10. 

[64] As Trevett 1996:4 says, ”The bulk of the evidence is from the anti-Montanist side. At worst it is hostility of a vicious and highly imaginative kind and at best there are relatively civilized descriptions of strongly held differences of view.” The most important sources are Eusebius’ early anti-Montanist sources (Hist. Eccl V,16-18), the early source of Epiphanius (Pan 48-49) in addition to Hippolytus and Origen.

[65] As in many other cases of group designation, the Montanists did not designate themselves by their founder. It was Cyril of Jerusalem who was the first to name them “Montanists”, cfr. Cat. XVI,8, countering their claim to be called Christians. Sources in Eusebius (Hist Eccl V,16,4 and 14; V,19,2) suggest that the Montanists called their movement by the name of “The New Prophecy” or simply “Prophecy”. The most usual designation in the sources is, however, Cataphrygians.

[66] This is the dating that Trevett settles for. As she points out, the evidence for the date of Montanism’s beginnings is confused and contradictory. See her extensive discussion with references in Trevett 1996:26-46. Eusebius seems to date the beginnings to some time between 165 and 177 AD.

[67] For a discussion of these dates, see ch. 2 in Trevett 1996.

[68] See description of the tumults caused as the New Prophecy began, by the Anonymous in Hist. Eccl V,16,8-9. Bishop Serapion of Antioch also opposed the new movement in a private letter (Hist. Eccl V,19). He spoke of them as “an abomination to all the brotherhood throughout the world”, and added several signatures of bishops.

[69] See Trevett 1996:223-227. 

[70] See Trevett 1996:30 for more on this writer. He probably wrote around 192 AD, cfr. Hist. Eccl V,16,19: “For it is to-day more than thirteen years since the woman died, and there has been neither a partial nor general war in the world; but rather, through mercy of God, continued peace even to the Christians.”

[71] Trevett 1996:30-32. Apollonius states that he wrote his treatise in “the fortieth year since Montanus had begun his pretended prophecy.” Hist. Eccl V,18,12. It is, however, not easy to give an exact dating of the treatise. Eusebius seems to favor the year 172 as a beginning of the Montanist movement. Above, an earlier date is recommended, and indeed Epiphanius favors 156-157 AD (Pan 48,1-2). (But Epiphanius is hardly consistent on this matter, Trevett 1996:28-29). So – any date between 196 or 197 up unto 212 seems possible.

[72] Hist. Eccl V,16,7. The following qoutes are from this chapter.

[73] Clearly is was the opinion of the Anonymous that this kind of ecstatic prophesying was at odds with the Christian tradition’s understanding of proper prophesying. “The key question was whether prophets should be in full possession of their intellect when prophesying.” Trevett 1996:87. Cfr. Pan 48,7-8, which of course answers in the affirmative.

[74] Cfr. Hist. Eccl V,17,2: ”But the false prophet falls into an ecstasy, in which he is without shame or fear…”

[75] Cfr. Hist Eccl V,14.

[76] This is an objection – based on Matthew 7,15 – the Montanist prophets must have heard quite often, cfr. Hist. Eccl V,16,8. Maximilla replied by quoting another verse in the Gospel of Matthew, namely 23,34, cfr. Hist. Eccl V,16,12.

[77] Indeed, Apollonius tells us that Priscilla and Maximilla both left their husbands after being filled with the Spirit. Hist. Eccl V,18,3. “Whatever the truth, it seems that the Prophecy could ‘loose’ and ‘bind’ (Matt. 16:19; 18:18) in respect of marriages.” Trevett 1996:109. See p. 109-114 for a broader treatment of the issue.

[78] Hippolytus also testifies to this particular trait in the Montanists’ ethos, cfr. Refut. Omn. haer. (VII,12; X,21). See Everett 1971:105-109.

[79] Cfr. Pan 49,1,1. Trevett 1996:99 comments ”It is safe at least to say that Jerusalem was of concern to the Prophets, even though we know tantalisingly little about their expectation of Jerusalem’s descent or their perception of the relation of that descent to millennial hope.”

[80] Cfr. John 14,16; 14,26; 15,26;16,7.

[81] Refut. Omn. Haer. VIII,12.

[82] Hist Eccl V,14. See Trevett 1996:79 for more references.

[83] Trevett 1996:79.

[84] See for example: Pan 48,11,1: “I am the Lord God, the Almighty, dwelling in a man.” HE 16,17: “I am word and spirit and power.” Both listed in Aland 1960 as “Echte Orakel”.

[85] This is especially pointed out by Tertullian, cfr. De monog II. Cfr. Turner (1954):130 which points to the fact that in Tertullian’s opinion each successive stage in the divine economy made greater and more severe ethical demands. Cfr. De virg. vel. 1.

[86] Of course Tertullian was not a Montanist his entire life, he became one in 207 or perhaps some years earlier. Trevett 1996:71.

[87] See De virg. vel. I and De Monog. II.

[88] See esp. his writing De pudicitia.

[89] De monog III,1-2. See a broader discussion of this point, and also the relationship between Tertullian and early Montanism on this issue, in Trevett 1996:112-114.

[90] See references in Trevett 1996:129-132.

[91] Pointed out brilliantly in Paulsen 1978:22-32.

[92] This is documented in Robeck 1992:107-128 and 140-145. See for example Adv. Prax. II,1; XIII,5. See further especially De monog. II-III and also De jej XII,2. Tertullian actually continued to rely on Scriptural argument after becoming a Montanist, Trevett 1996:136.

[93] According to Epiphanius Montanus could say: “I am the Lord God, the almighty, dwelling in a man.” (Pan 48,11,1, cfr. also 11,9). Of interest are also the following quotes by Epiphanius: “At once this Maximilla, who belongs to these so-called Phrygians – listen to what she says, children of Christ! ‘Hearken not unto me, but hearken unto Christ!’” (Pan 48,12,4). “In turn the same Maximilla says(…)’The Lord hath sent me perforce, willing and not willing, to be votary, herald and interpreter of this burden and covenant and promise, to impart the knowledge of God.’” (Pan 48,13,1). Cfr. Maximilla’s aforementioned quote in Hist. Eccl V,16,17: “I am word and spirit and power.”

[94] Cfr. for example Hippolytus’ sentiment in Refut. Omn. Haer. VIII,12: “And they allege that they have learned something more through these [prophets], than from law, and prophets, and the Gospels. But they magnify these wretched women above the Apostles and every gift of Grace, so that some of them presume to assert that there is in them a something superior to Christ.” See also Ps.-Tert. VII: “The common blasphemy lies in their saying that the Holy Spirit was in the apostles indeed, the Paraclete was not; and in their saying that the Paraclete has spoken in Montanus more things than Christ brought forward into (the compass of) the Gospel, and not merely more, but likewise better and greater.” See also Trevett 1996:133-135.

[95] Of course, the Catholic church did not deny the Christian legitimacy of the phenomenon of prophecy (Hist Eccl III,31,2-5). Rather, it was a question both of the form of this prophecy, and of its relation to the apostolic message.

[96] This is especially evident in the Montanist oracles, cfr. Aland 1960:143-148. Maximilla is even quoted by Epiphanius as saying: “After me will be no prophet more, but the consummation.” Pan 48,2,4.

[97] It is interesting to see how Tertullian would counter the (frequent ecclesiastical) claim that the Montanist prophets may have been controlled by the devil and not God’s Spirit: “‘It follows,’ you say, ‘that by this line of argument, anything you please which is novel and burdensome may be ascribed to the Paraclete, even if it have come from the adversary spirit.’  No, of course.  For the adversary spirit would be apparent from the diversity of his preaching, beginning by adulterating the rule of faith, and so (going on to) adulterating the order of discipline; because the corruption of that which holds the first grade, (that is, of faith, which is prior to discipline,) comes first.” That is to say: The Paraclete made itself as recognizable as the Comforter by being in accord with the rule of faith. Only after that he could “reveal those “many things” which appertain to disciplines.” Cfr. De Monog II.

[98] As we shall see several times in the following, this general distrust of Eusebius shines through in OaH. See for example Bauer 1971:192: “Except where he is quoting from earlier authors, only the individual pieces of information presented by Eusebius, examined with the necessary critical attitude, are of value. If we cannot establish any firm foothold on the basis of what Eusebius himself contributes, we must proceed on the basis of what we have already been able to ascertain by inference.” (Italics mine).

[99] See some discussion of the matter in Aland 1960:109-110. He concludes that Eusebius probably did not know who the Anonymous was, except for the fact that he was an elder, cfr. HE V,16,5. 

[100] Bauer 1971:133.

[101] The Anonymous says that Montanus had “an unquenchable desire for leadership”. He also said that Montanus sometimes rebuked Maximilla and Priscilla “openly in a wise and faithful manner, that he might seem to be a reprover.” Hist. Eccl V,16.

[102] Hist. Eccl V,16,9.

[103] Bauer 1971:134. Bauer’s aquires support of this assertion by pointing to the incidents that are told of churchmen trying to stop Maximilla. The Anonymous says that the bishops Zoticus and Julian “attempted to refute the spirit in Maximilla, but were prevented” (Hist. Eccl V,16,16). Later on Apollonius gives his version of the story, and he also says that it happened in Pepuza. (Hist. Eccl V,18,13). The incident “shows anew how little truth there is to the assertion that only a few Phrygians were ensnared in the false illusion of Montanism.” Bauer 1971:135.

[104] Hist Eccl V,16,13-15.

[105] Bauer 1971:134-135. Bauer sees the Anonymous’ report as a special ”form” of polemic, derived from the style of “de mortibus persecutorum” – “on the death of the persecutors”. The Anonymous form may be called “de mortibus haeresiarcharum” – “on the death of heretical leaders”.

[106] Bauer also briefly comments om Hist. Eccl V,17, “Miltiades and his works”, which deals with Miltiades anti-Montanist polemics. But Bauer’s comments on this chapter does not yield much that is relevant for a broader understanding of the Bauer thesis.

[107] HE XVIII,2.

[108] Bauer does not say exactly which writings he has in mind. But one may think of “The Acts of Paul and Thecla”, ch. 2, where it is said that: “[Paul] deprives young men of their intended wives, and virgins of their intended husbands, by teaching, There can be no future resurrection, unless you continue in chastity and do not defile your flesh.”

[109] HE V,18,2.

[110] It is highly interesting to look closer at the examples Bauer summons to support this claim (Bauer 1971:121-124). He speaks of how the church at Rome is said to be beneficent to other churches, both in teaching and in giving gifts. “If we ask to what degree donations of money could be of importance in the warfare of the spirits, our imagination would have no difficulty in suggesting all kinds of ways.” Bauer 1971:122-123. Ignatius’ letter to Polycarp speaks of freeing slaves with private money: “Let them not long to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires.” (IgnPol 4,3). Certainly Bauer has a point when stating that this willingness to buy Christian slaves in itself very well could function as a way of mission. But one should be clear one what the source says and what it does not. Furthermore: In his epistle to the Romans, Dionysius says: “For from the beginning it has been your practice to do good to all the brethren in various ways, and to send contributions to many churches in every city. Thus relieving the want of the needy(…)” (HE IV,23,10). But Bauer replies that certainly Dionysius cannot intend that these words “be understood to mean that Roman abundance indiscriminately blessed all poverty-stricken souls, provided only they were baptized.” (Bauer 1971:123). Again, this is Bauer’s interpretation of the source. Bauer also mentions Marcion’s gift of 200 000 sesterces (Prae. Haer 30, Adv Marc IV,4) to the church at Rome to support his claim. The reference with clearest support of Bauer’s claim is Eusebius’ EC III,58 which says that the emperor bestowed abundant provision for the necessities of the poor in order that “as many as possible might be won to the truth”.

[111] Bauer 1971:137.

[112] Bauer 1971:137.

[113] The Montanists are fasting. Still, they’re gluttons. HE V,18,2.

[114] Maximilla should not be called a virgin, since she once was married. HE V,18,3. But Ignatius says that virgins are called “widows” in the church, IgnSmyr 13,1.

[115] Ap. asks: ”Does not all Scripture seem to you to forbid a prophet to receive gifts and money?” HE V,18,4.

[116] Trevett 1996:48-49.

[117] An action condemned by Tertullian in De fuga 12.

[118] Probably meaning an epistle with no particular addressee, cfr. Schaff 1997:235 n. 11.

[119] He is also mentioned in the passing, by the Anonymous: “[the holy bishops] whose mouths the followers of Themiso muzzled, refusing to permit the false and seductive spirit to be refuted by them.” HE V,16,17.

[120] All we know of this Alexander is contained in Eusebius’ source, HE V,18,6-10 – perhaps also in addition to HE V,16,22: “…among those who suffered martyrdom with Gaius and Alexander of Eumenia(…)”

[121] That Maximilla probably must have known the nature of this man, is a fact not in her favour: ”Exposing him, through him we expose also the pretense of the prophet.” Apollonius continues: “We could show the same thing of many others.” (HE V,16,9-10).

[122] HE V,18,7 and 9.

[123] He refers to his own investigations on the role of public archives in defending the details of the life of Jesus, Bauer 1971:139-140.

[124] See e. g. HE V,16,20: ”…they try to take refuge in their martyrs and that this is sure evidence of the power of the so-called prophetic spirit that is with them.” and 18,5: “[Themiso] dared to boast as martyr(…)” Though this is true, then, there is no reason to suppose that the desire for martyrdom was particularly stronger with the Montanists than with the Catholics. In both camps martyrdom was seen as an honoured and godly way to die. Cfr. the extensive discussion in Trevett 1996:121-129.

[125] Bauer 1971:140.

[126] Bauer 1971:141. Cfr. also his conclusion on p. 145 which, at least pertaining to the Anonymous and Apollinaris, seems valid: “Defamation of the enemy perhaps plays a greater role in these circles than proof from scripture.”

[127] Bauer 1971:142.

[128] HE V,16,9 and 17.

[129] E. g. HE V,16,4: “…those of the opposite side were for the time confounded, and the adversaries were grieved.” 9: ”But those of the Phrygians that were deceived were few in number.”

[130] Trevett 1996:50.

[131] Cfr. HE V,16,8; 18,13 and 19,3.

[132] Pan LI,33,2-3: ”For since these Phrygians settled [in Thyatira], snatched the simple believers’ minds like wolves, and converted the whole town to their sect(…)

[133] Adv Haer III,11,9.

[134] HE V,3,4.

[135] HE II,25,6.

[136] Where Tertullian resided.

[137] See e. g. Strom IV,13 and VII,17.  

[138] Bauer 1971:142.

[139] The captioned roman numbers are added by me.

[140] Bauer 1971:144.

[141] Which probably means ”witness under persecution”, cfr. Schaff 1997:237 n. 8.

[142] Bauer 1971:144.

[143] This is even more so if the signatures in Serapion’s letter were derived from Apollinaris’ treatise, as Bauer says is possible, Bauer 1971:143 n.25.

[144] Eleutherus was bishop of Rome probably from 174 to 189, cfr. Schaff 1997:211 n. 2. He is probably not the bishop in question in Adv Prax 1, where Tertullian speaks of a Roman bishop who acknowledged Montanism but later retracted his views. This bishop was probably Eleutherus’ successor Victor I (189-198 or 199), though this is disputed. 

[145] Cfr. For example Grant 1980:90: “Though Eusebius calls the judgement of the brothers in Gaul ‘pious and most orthodox’, we must infer that since it promoted peace it cannot have included denunciation of the Phrygians as heretics.”

[146] HE V,16,10.

[147] Bauer 1971:144.

[148] HE V,19,2.

[149] On numerous occasions in OaH Bauer criticises Eusebius for being biased and exaggerating in favour of the Catholic church. See for example Bauer 1971:149-151; 158 and 191-192. Cfr. Grant 1980:37-38: “It seems likely, however, that readers were used to this kind of exaggeration. It is fairly common in Josephus and other historians(…)All [Eusebius’ emphasis on the quantitative] actually indicates is one more way in which rhetoric influenced him.”

[150] Bauer 1971:147-195.

[151] Bauer 1971:150.

[152] The instance is followed and supported by some other observations, i. e. Eusebius’ bishop-lists, more statements of orthodox works being preserved ”to this day”, the claim of Melito’s extensive authorship etc.

[153] Bauer 1971:175-176.

[154] De exhort 10. Bauer also quotes from Pan 49,1.

[155] De anima 9.

[156] De res 63.

[157] Bauer 1971:181. The answering polemics have been duly referenced above and need no repetition here.

[158] Bauer also mentions some other examples of reliance on prophecies in the fight against Christian groups with differing opinions, Simon and Cleobius in “Acts of Paul”, Basilides (HE IV,7,7), Isidore (Strom VI,6), Archontics (Pan 40,7) et. al.

[159] Rev 2,20.

[160] Bauer 1971:179.

[161] Strongly pointed out by Aland 1960:139.

[162] Cfr. his summary in Bauer 1971:147:

[163] Assuming here that the Montanists may aptly be described as heretics in the “Bauer-sense”, on terms of their being opposed by the Catholic church.