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CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS OF THIS HISTORY.
I had at first believed that I should be able to finish is one volume this history of the “Origins of Christianity;” but the matter has grown in proportion as I have advanced in my work, and the present volume only the last but two. The reader will find in it the explanation, so far as it is possible to give one, of a fact almost equal in importance to the personal action of Jesus himself—I mean to say, of the manner in which the legend of Jesus was written. The compilation of the Gospels is, next to the life of Jesus, the cardinal chapter of the history of Christian origins. The material circumstances of this compilation are surrounded with mystery; many of the doubts, however, have, in those later years, been dispelled, and it can now he said that the problem of the compilation of the Gospels denominated synoptic, has reached a kind of maturity. The relations of Christianity with the Roman Empire, the first heresies, the disappearance of the last immediate disciples of Jesus, the gradual separation of the Church and the Synagogue, the progress of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the substitution of the presbytery for the primitive community, the coming in with Trajan of a met of golden age for civil society, these are the great facts which we shall see unfolded to our view. Our sixth volume will embrace the history of Christianity under the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus; we shall witness the commencement of Gnosticism, the compilation of the pseudo-Johannine writings, the first apologists, the party of St Paul drifting by exaggeration to Marcion, ancient Christianity running into a coarser Millenarism and Montanism. Opposed to all this, the episcopate making rapid strides, Christianity becoming each day more Greek and less Hebrew, a “Catholic Church” beginning to result from the accord of all the individual churches, and to constitute centre of irrefragable authority, which already was established at Rome. We shall see finally the absolute separation of Judaism and Christianity definitively effected, from the time of the revolt of Bar-Coziba, and hatred the most deadly kindled between mother and daughter. From this point it can be said that Christianity is constituted. Its principle of authority exists. The episcopate has entirely replaced the primitive democracy, and the bishops of the different churches are en rapport with one another. The new Bible is complete; it is called the New viTestament. The divinity of Jesus Christ is recognised by all the Churches outside of Syria. The Son is not yet the equal of the Father; he is a tend god, a supreme vizier of creation, yet he is in very truth a god. Finally, two or three attacks of maladies, extremely dangerous, which break out in the nascent religion—Gnosticism, Montanism, docetism, the heretical attempt of Marcion—are vanquished by the force of the internal principle of authority. Christianity, moreover, has extended itself everywhere. It has seated itself in the heart of Gaul, it has penetrated into Africa. It is a public affair: the historians speak of it; it has its advocates who defend it officially, its accusers who commence against it a war of criticism. Christianity, in a word, is born, completely born; it is an infant, and will grow a great deal. It has all its organs, it lives in the broad light of day, it is no longer an embryo. The umbilical cord which attached it to its mother is definitely cut; it will receive nothing more from her; it will live its own life.
It is at this moment, about the year 160, that we shall determine this. That which follows belongs to history, and may seem relatively easy to recount. What we have wished to make clear belongs to the embry-organic stage, and must in great part be inferred, sometimes even divined. Minds which only love material certainty, cannot be pleased with such researches. Rarely (for these periods recur) does it happen that one can say with precision how things have taken place; but one may succeed sometimes in picturing to oneself the diverse manners in which they may have taken place, and that is sufficient. If there be a science which can make in our day surprising progress, it is the science of comparative mythology. Now this science has consisted much less in teaching us how each myth has been formed, than in demonstrating to us the diverse categories of formation. Although we cannot say, “Such a demi-god, such a goddess, is surely storm, lightning, the dawn,” etc.; but we can say, “The atmospheric phenomena, particularly those which are related to the rising and the setting of the sun, and so forth, have been the fruitful sources of gods and demi-gods.” Aristotle has truly said, “There is no science except general science.” History herself, history properly speaking, history exposed to the light of day and founded upon documents, does she escape this necessity? Certainly not; we do not know exactly the details of anything. That which is of moment are the general lines, the grand resultant facts which remain true even though all the details may be erroneous.
Hence I have said the most important object of this volume is to explain in a plausible manner the method by which the three Gospels, called synoptic, were formed, which constitute, if we compare them with the fourth Gospel, a family apart. It is certainly true that it is impossible to determine precisely many of the points in this delicate research. It must be confessed, however, that the question has made during the last twenty years veritable progress. As the origin of the fourth Gospel, which is attributed to John, remains enveloped in mystery, so the hypotheses in regard to the compilation of the Gospels called synoptic have attained a high degree of probability. There are in reality three kinds of Gospels: (1) The original Gospels, or Gospels at first hand, composed solely from oral tradition, and without the author having before him viiany anterior text. (In my opinion, there are two Gospels of this kind, the one written in Hebrew, or rather in Syriac, now lost, but of which many of the fragments have been preserved to us, translated into Greek or into Latin, by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, St Jerome, etc.; the other written in Greek, which is that of St Mark.) (2) The Gospels, in part original, in part at second hand, formed by combining the anterior texts with the oral traditions (such were the Gospel falsely attributed to the Apostle Matthew and the Gospel composed by Luke). (3) The Gospels at second or third hand, composed deliberately from written documents, without the authors having dipped through any living principle into traditions. (Such was the Gospel of Marcion; such were also these Gospels, called apocryphal, drawn from the canonical Gospels by processes of amplification.) The variety of the Gospels arises from this, that the tradition which is found deposited there was for a long time oral. That variety would not have existed if from the very first the life of Jesus had been written. The idea of modifying arbitrarily the compilation of the texts presents itself less in the East than elsewhere, because the literal reproduction of the anterior accounts, or, if it be preferred, plagiarism is there the rule of the historiographer. The moment when an epic, or a legendary tradition, commences to be put into writing, marks the hour when it ceases to produce divergent branches. Far from subdividing itself, the compilation obeys thenceforward a sort of secret tendency which restores it to unity through the gradual extinction of imperfectly-judged compilations. There existed fewer Gospels at the end of the second century, when Irenæus found mystical reasons to establish that there were four, and that there could not be more, than at the close of the fast, when Luke wrote at the end of his narrative, Ἐπερδή περ πολλοί επιχείρησαν . . . Even in the time of Luke several of the original editions had probably disappeared. The oral form produces a multiplication of variants; but once the written style has been entered upon, this multiplicity is nothing but inconvenience. If logic like that of Marcion’s had prevailed, we should have had no more than one Gospel, and the best mark of the sincerity of the Christian conscience is that the necessities of the apologetic have not suppressed the contradictions in the texts by reducing them to one only. This is why, to speak the truth, the want of unity was combated by a contrary desire—that of losing nothing of a tradition which was judged as being equally precious in all its parts. A design like that which is often attributed to St Mark, the idea of making an abridgment of the anteriorily received texts, is more contrary to the spirit of the times than the one in question. People aimed, indeed, rather at completing each text by the heterogeneous additions, as in the case of Matthew, than in discarding from the little book what one possessed of the details which were regarded by all as being penetrated by the Divine Spirit.
The most important documents for the epoch treated of in this volume are, besides the Gospels and the other writings the compilation of which are therein explained, the somewhat numerous epistles which were produced during the last apostolic period—epistles in which viiialmost always the imitation of those of St Paul is discernible. What we shall say in our text will be sufficient to make known our opinion upon each of these writing. A fortuitous accident has willed that the most interesting of these epistles, that of Clemens Romanus, has received, in these later times, considerable elucidation. We should not have before known of this precious document, but for the celebrated manuscript, named Alexandrinus, which was sent, in 1682, by Cyril Lucaris to Charles I. Now, this manuscript contained a considerable omission, not to speak of several places which had been destroyed, or become illegible, which it was necessary to fill up with conjecture. A new manuscript, discovered in the Fanar at Constantinople, contains the work in its entirety. A Syriac manuscript, which formed a portion of the library of the late M. Mohl, and which has been acquired by the library of the University of Cambridge, was found also to include the Syrian translation of the work of which we are speaking. M. Bensley is entrusted with the publication of that text. The collation which Mr Lightfoot has made of it, has produced the most important results which arise from it for criticism.
The question whether the epistle attributed to Clemens Romanus really by that holy personage, has only a mediocre importance, since the writing in question is represented as the collective work of the Roman Church, and since the problem confines itself, consequently, as to who held the pen on this particular occasion. It is not the same as the epistles attributed to St Ignatius. The fragments which compose this collection are either authentic or the work of a forger. In the second hypothesis they were at lead sixty years posterior to the death of St Ignatius, and such is the importance of the change. which operated in those sixty years, that the documentary value of the said fragments is absolutely changed by them. It is hence impossible to treat the history of the origins of Christianity, without taking up a decided position in this regard.
The question of the Epistles of St Ignatius, next to the question of the Johannine writings, is the most difficult of those which belong to the primitive Christian literature. A few of the moat striking features of one of the letters which form a portion of that correspondence, were known and cited from the end of the second century. We have, moreover, here the testimony of a man which we are surprised to see pleaded on a subject of ecclesiastical history—that of Lucian of Samosata. The spirituelle picture of morals which that charming author has entitled “The Death of Peregrinus,” contains some almost direct allusions to the triumphal journey of the prisoner Ignatius, and to the circular epistles which he addressed to the Churches. These constitute some strong presumptions in favour of the authenticity of the letters of which we have been speaking. On the other hand, the taste for supposititious writings was at the time so wide-spread amongst Christian society, that we ought always to be on our guard in respect of them, since it is proved that no scruple was made in ascribing some of the letters and other writings to Peter, Paul, and John. There is no prejudicial objection to be raised against the hypothesis which attribute. writings to persona of high authority, such as Ignatius ixand Polycarpus. It is only the examination of the compositions themselves which will warrant one in expressing an opinion in that regard. Now it is incontestable that the perusal of the writings of St Ignatius inspires the gravest suspicions, and raises objections which no one has as yet satisfactorily answered.
In regard to a personage like St Paul, some of whose longer writings of indubitable authenticity it is universally admitted we possess, and whose biography is well enough known, the discussion of the contested epistles has some foundation. We start with the texts to which no exception can be taken, and from the well-established outlines of the biography; we compare the doubtful writings with them; we see whether they agree with the data admitted by everyone, and, in certain cases, as in those of the Epistles to Titus and Timothy, we reach most satisfactory conclusions. But we know nothing of the private life of St Ignatius; among the writings attributed to him there is not a page of them which is not contestable. We have not their solid criterium to warrant us in saying, “This is or this is not his.” That which greatly complicates the question is, that the text of the epistles is extremely variable—the Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Armenian manuscripts of the same epistle differ considerably amongst themselves. These letters, during several centuries, seem to have particularly exercised the forgers and the interpolators. Obstacles and difficulties are encountered in them at each step.
Without taking into account the secondary various readings, as well as some works notoriously spurious, we prossess two collections of unequal length of the epistles attributed to St Ignatius. The one contains seven letters addressed to the Ephesian, the Magnesians, the Trallians, the Romans, the Philadelphians, the Smyrniotes, to Polycarpus. The other consists of thirteen letters, to wit: (1) The seven just mentioned, considerably augmented; (2) Four new letters of Ignatius to the Tarsians, to the Philippians, to the Antiochians, to Heros; (3) and finally, a letter of Maria de Castabala to Ignatius, with the answer of Ignatius. Between those two collections there can be but little possible hesitation. The critics, beginning with Usserius, are nearly agreed in preferring the collection of seven letters to that of the thirteen. There can be no doubt that the added letters in the latter collection are apocryphal. As for the seven letters which are common to the two collections, the actual text must certainly be sought for in the former collection. Many of the particulars in the texts of the second collection betray unmistakably the hand of the interpolator; but this does not necessitate that this second collection may not have a veritable critical value in regard to the construction of the text, for it would appear that the interpolator had in his hands an excellent manuscript, the reading of which ought to be preferred to that of the noninterpolated manuscripts actually existing.
In any case, is the collection of seven letters beyond suspicion? Far from it. The first doubts were raised by the great school of French criticism of the seventeenth century. Saumaise and Blondel raised the moat serious objections against portions of the collection of the seven letters. Daillé, in 1666, published a remarkable dissertation, 10in which he rejected the collection in its entirety. In spite of the trenchant replies of Pearson, Bishop of Chester, and the resistance of Cotolier, the majority of independent minds—Larroque, Basnage, Casimir Oudin—ranged themselves on the side of Daillé. The school which in our day in Germany has so learnedly applied criticism to the history of the origins of Christianity, has only followed the lines of that of nearly two hundred years ago. Neander and Gieseler remained in doubt; Christian Baur resolutely denied the authenticity of the whole: none of the epistles found grace in his sight. This great critic, it is true, did not rest content with denying, he explained. In his view, the seven Ignatian epistles were a forgery of the second century, fabricated at Rome, with a view of creating a basis for the authority of the episcopate, which was increasing day by day. M. M. Schwegler, Hilgenfeld, Vauchner, Volkmar, and more recently M. M. Scholten and Pfliederer, have adopted the same propositions, with slightly different shades of meaning. Many enlightened theologians, nevertheless, such as Uhlhorn, Hefele, and Dressel, persisted in regarding some portions of the collection of the seven letters as authentic, or even in defending it in its entirety. An important discovery, about the year 1840, ought to have determined the question in an ecclesiastical sense, and furnished an instrument to those who held it to be a difficult operation to separate in the texts, generally little accented, the sincere parts from those interpolated.
Amongst the treasures which the British Museum secured from the convents of Nitria, M. Cureton discovered three Syriac manuscripts, each of which contained the same collection of the Ignatian epistles; but they are much more abridged than the two Greek collections. The Syrian collection found by Cureton contained only three epistles—the epistle to the Ephesians, that to the Romans, that to Polycarpus—and these three epistles were found to be much shorter than in the Greek. It was natural to believe that people would in fine hold Ignatius to be authentic, the text being anterior to all interpolations. The phrases cited as those of Ignatius by Irenæus, by Origen, were found in that Syriac version.
People believed it was possible to show that the suspected passages were not to be found in them. Bunsen, Ritschl, Weiss, and Lipsius displayed an extreme ardour in maintaining that proposition. M. Ewald assumed to advocate it in imperious tone; but very strong objections were raised against it. Baur, Wordsworth, Hefele, Uhlhorn, and Merx set themselves to prove that the small Syriac collection, so far from being the original text, was an abridged and mutilated text. They have not clearly shown, it is true, what motives had guided the abbreviator in this work of making extracts. But in seeking again for the evidences of the knowledge which the Syrians had of the epistles in question, we arrive at the conclusion that not only had the Syrians not possessed an Ignatius more authentic than that of the Greeks, but that even the collection which they have was the collection of thirteen letters from which the abbreviator discovered by Cureton had drawn his extracts. Petermann contributed much to this result in discussing the Armenian translation of the epistles in question. This translation xihad been made from the Syriac, but it contains the thirteen letters, including the most feeble portions of them. People are to-day so nearly agreed that there is no occasion to consult the Syriac in that which concerns the writings attributed to the Bishop of Antioch, except as to a few details of the various readings.
We see, after what has just been said, that three opinions divide the critics as to the collection of the seven letters, only one of which, however, merits discussion. Some hold that the whole collection is apocryphal, while others maintain that the whole, or nearly so, is authentic. A few seek to distinguish the authentic from the apocryphal portion. The second opinion appears to us indefensible. Without affirming that everything in the correspondence of the Bishop of Antioch is apocryphal, it is allowable to regard as a desperate attempt the pretension of demonstrating that the whole of it is of good alloy.
If we except, in fact, the Epistle to the Romans, which is full of a singular energy, of a kind of sacred fire, and stamped by a character peculiarly original, the six other epistles, excepting two or three passages, are cold, lifeless, and desperately monotonous. There is not one of those striking peculiarities which gave so distinctive a seal to the Epistles of St Paul and even to the Epistles of St James and Clemens Romanus; they consist of vague exhortations, without any special relations to those to whom they are addressed, and always dominated by one fixed idea—the enhancement of the episcopal power, the constitution of the Church into a hierarchy.
Certainly the remarkable evolution which substituted for the collective authority of the ἐκκλησία or συναγωγή the direction of the πρεσβύτεροι or ἐπίσκοποι (two terms at first synonymous), and which, among the πρεσβύτεροι or ἐπίσκοποι, in selecting one out from the circle (?) to be par excellence the ἐπίσκοπος or overseer of the others, began at a very early date. But it is not credible that, about the year 110 or 115, this movement was so advanced as we see it to be in the Ignatian epistles. According to the author of these curious writings, the bishop is the whole Church; it is imperative to follow him in everything, to consult him in everything—he some up the community in himself alone. He is Christ himself. Where the bishop is, there is the Church, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Church Catholic. The distinction between the different ecclesiastical orders is not less characteristic. The priests and deacons are in the hands of the bishop like the strings of a lyre; their perfect harmony depends upon the accuracy of the sounds which the Church emits. Above the individual Churches, in fact, there is a Church Universal, ἡ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία. All this is true enough from the end of the second century, but not so from the early years of that century. The repugnance which our old French critics evinced on this point was well founded, and sprung from the very correct sentiment which they entertained as to the gradual evolution of the Christian dogmas.
The heresies combatted by the author of the Ignatian epistles with so much fury are likewise of an age posterior to that of Trajan. They were wholly attached to a Docetism or a Gnosticism analogous to that of Valentinus. We insist less on this particular, for the pastoral epistles and the Johannine writings combat errors greatly analogous, xiiyet we think these writings belong to the first half of the second century. However, the idea of an orthodoxy outside of which there is only error, appeared in the writings in question, and so fully developed that it seems to approach more nearly the times of St Irenæus than those of the primitive Christian age.
The great feature of the apocryphal writings is the affectation of a leaning in a certain direction: the aim that the forger proposed to himself in their composition always clearly betrays itself in them. This character is observable in the highest degree in the epistles attributed to St Ignatius, the Epistle to the Romans always excepted. The author wishes to strike a great blow in favour of the episcopal hierarchy; he wishes to crush the heretics and the schismatics of his time with the weight of an indisputable authority. But where can we find a higher authority than that of this venerated bishop, whose heroic death was recognised by everyone! What more solemn than the counsels given by this martyr a few days or a few weeks before his appearance in the amphitheatre! St Paul, in like manner, in the epistles supposed to be addressed to Titus and to Timothy, is represented as old, nigh unto death. The last will of a martyr came to be regarded as sacred, and, moreover, the admission of the apocryphal work was so much the more easy, inasmuch as St Ignatius was believed, in fact, to have written different letters on his way to his execution. Let u add to these objections a few material improbabilities. The salutations to the Churches and the relations which these salutations presupposed to exist between the author of the letters and the Churches, are not sufficiently explained. The circumstantial features contain something awkward and stupid just as was also to be remarked in the false epistles of Paul to Titus and to Timothy. The great use which is made in the writings of which we speak, of the fourth Gospel and of the Johannine epistles, the affected way in which the author speaks of the doubtful epistle of St Paul to the Ephesians, likewise excites suspicion. On the other hand, it is very strange that the author, in seeking to exalt the Church at Ephesus, ignores the relations of this Church with St Paul, and says nothing of the sojourn of St John at Ephesus, he who was supposed to be so closely connected with Polycarpus, the disciple of John. It must be confessed, in short, that this correspondence is not often cited by the fathers, and that the estimate which appears to have been put upon it by the Christian authors up to the fourth century, is not in proportion to that which it merited had it been authentic. Let us always put to one side the Epistle to the Romans, which, in our view, does not form a part of the apocryphal collection. The six other epistles have been little read—St John, Chrysostom, and the ecclesiastical writers of Antioch, seem to have been ignorant of them. It is a singular thing that even the author of the Acts, of the Martyrdom of Ignatius, the most authorised of those that Ruinart published from a script of Colbert, possesses only a very vague knowledge concerning them. It is the same with the author of the Acts published by Dressel.
Ought the Epistle to the Romans to be included in the condemnation xiiiwhich the other Ignatian epistles merit? One may read the translation of a part of this writing in our text. There is here certainly a singular fragment, which cuts into the common-places of the other epistles attributed to the Bishop of Antioch. Is the Epistle to the Romans entirely the work of the holy martyrs? This may be doubted, but it appears to cover original ground. Here and there only we acknowledge that which M. Zahn too generously accords to the rest of the Ignatian correspondence—the imprint of a powerful character and of a strong individuality. The style of the Epistle to the Romans is bizarre and enigmatical, whilst that of the rest of the correspondence is plain and insipid enough. The Epistle to the Romans does not include any of those common-places of ecclesiastical discipline by which the intention of the forger is recognised. The strong expressions which we encounter there upon the divinity of Jesus Christ and the eucharist ought not to surprise us too much. Ignatius belonged to the school of Paul, in which the formulas of transcendent theology were much more current than in the severe Judeo-Christian school. Still less must we be astonished at the numerous citations and imitations of Paul which are found in the Epistle of Ignatius of which we speak. There can be no doubt that Ignatius did not make constant use of the authentic epistles of Paul. I have said as much of a citation from St Matthew (sec. 6), which, moreover, is wanting in several of the old translations, as well as a vague allusion to the genealogies of the synoptics (sec. 7). Ignatius doubtless possessed the Λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα of Jesus, such as were read in his times, and, upon the essential points these accounts differed little from those which have come down to us. More serious, undoubtedly, is the objection drawn from the expressions which the author of our epistle appears to have borrowed from the fourth Gospel. It is not certain that this Gospel existed before the year 115. But some expression like ὁ ἄρχων αἰῶνος τούτου, some images like ὕδωρ ζῶν, may have been mystical expressions employed in certain schools, dating from the first quarter of the second century, and before the fourth Gospel had consecrated them.
These intrinsic arguments are not the only ones which oblige us to place the Epistle to the Romans in a distinct category in the Ignatian correspondence. In some respects this epistle contradicts the other six. At paragraph 4, Ignatius declares to the Romans that he represents them to the Churches as being willing that he should carry off the crown of martyrdom. We find nothing resembling this in the epistles to these Churches. That which is much more serious is that the Epistle to the Romans does not seem to have reached us through the same channel as the other six letters. In the manuscripts which have preserved to us the collection of the suspected letters, the Epistle to the Romans is not to be found. The relatively true text of this epistle has only been transmitted to us by the Acts, called Colbertine, of the martyrdom of St Ignatius. It has been extracted thence, and intercalated in the collection of the thirteen letters. But everything proves that the collection of the letters to the Ephesian, the Magnesian, the Trallians, the Philadelphians, the Smyrniotes, to Polycarpus, did not comprise at first the Epistle to the Romans,—that these six letters in xivthemselves constituted the collection, having a distinct unity, from being the work of a single author; and that it was not until later that the two series of Ignatian correspondence were combined, the one apocryphal, consisting of six letters, the other, probably authentic, consisting of a single letter. It is remarkable that in the collection of the thirteen letters the Epistle to the Romans comes last, although its importance and celebrity ought to have secured it the first place. In short, in the whole of the ecclesiastical tradition, the Epistle to the Romans has a particular design. While the other six letters are very rarely cited, the Epistle to the Romans, beginning with Irenæus, is quoted with extraordinary respect. The energetic sentiments which it contains to express the love of Jesus and the eagerness for martyrdom, constitute in some sort a part of the Christian conscience, and are known of all. Pearson, and, after him, M. Zahn, have likewise proved a singular fact, which is the imitation that is to be found in paragraph 3 of the authentic account of the martyrdom of Polycarpus, written by a Smyrniote in the year 155, of a passage of the Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans. It seems, indeed, that the Smyrniote, the author of these Acts, had in his mind some of the most striking passages of the Epistle to the Romans, above all, the fifth paragraph.
Thus everybody assigns the Epistle to the Romans in the Ignatian literature a distinct place. M. Zahn recognises this peculiar circumstance; he shows clearly in different places that this epistle was never completely incorporated with the other six; but he has failed to point out the consequence of that fact. His desire to discover the collection of the seven authentic letters has led him into an imprudent discussion, to wit, that the collection of the seven letters ought either to be accepted or rejected in its entirety. This is to repeat, in another sense, the fault of Baur, of Helgenfeld, and Volkmar; it is to compromise seriously one of the jewels of the primitive Christian literature, in associating it with these but too often mediocre writings, and which have almost on this point been put out of court.
That which then seems the most probable is that the Ignatian literature contains nothing authentic, except the Epistle to the Romans. Even this epistle has not remained exempt from alterations. The length, the repetitions which are remarked in it, are probably injuries inflicted by an interpolation upon that beautiful monument of Christian antiquity. When we compare the texts preserved by the Colbertin Acts, with the texts of the collection of the thirteen epistles, with the Latin and Syriac translations, with the citations of Eusebius, we find very considerable differences. It seems that the author of the Colbertin Acts, in encasing in his account this precious fragment, has not scrupled to retouch it in many points. In the superscription, for example, Ignatius gives himself the surname of Θεοφόρος. Now neither Irenæus, nor Origen, nor Eusebius, nor St Jerome knew this characteristic surname; it appeared for the first time in the Acts of Martyrdom, which makes the most important part of Trajan’s inquiring turn upon the said epithet. The idea of applying it to Ignatius was suggested by passages in the supposititious epistles, such as Ad. Eph., sec. 9. The author of the Acts, finding that name in the tradition, has availed himself of it, and xvadded it to the title of the epistle which he inserted in his narrative, Ἰγνάτιος ὁ και Θεοφορος. I think that in the original compilation of these six apocryphal epistles, these words, ὁ και Θεοφορος no longer constitute a part of the titles. The post-scriptum to the Epistle of Polycarpus to the Philippians, in which Ignatius is mentioned, and which is by the same hand as the six epistles, as we shall see further on, makes no mention of this epithet.
Is one justified in denying absolutely that in the six suspected epistles there is no portion of them borrowed from the authentic letters of Ignatius? No, certainly not; and the author of the six apocryphal epistles not having known, as it would seem, the Epistle to the Romans, there is no great likelihood that he possessed other authentic letters of the martyr. A single passage in sec. 19 of the Epistle to the Ephesians, appears to me to cut into the dark and vague ground with which the suspected epistles are encompassed, that which concerns the τρία μυστήρια κραυγῆς has much of that mysterious, singular, and obscure style, recalling the fourth Gospel, which we have remarked in the Epistle to the Romans. That passage, like the brilliant sentiments in the Epistle to the Romans, has been much cited. But it occupies too isolated a position there to be insisted on.
A question which is closely connected with that of the epistles ascribed to St Ignatius, is the question of the epistle attributed to Polycarpus. At two different places (sec. 9 and sec. 13), Polycarpus, or the person who has forged the letter, makes formal mention of Ignatius. In a third place (sec. 1), he would seem again to make allusion to it. We read in one of those passages (sec. 13, and last): “You have written to me, you and Ignatius, in order that if there be anyone here who is about to depart for Syria he would bear thence your letters. I shall acquit myself of this task, when I can find a suitable opportunity, either in person, or by a messenger whom I shall send for both of us. As for the epistles that Ignatius has addressed to you, and the others of his which we possess, we send them to you, since you have requested us to do so; they are sent together with this letter. You will be able to extract much profit from them, as they breathe the faith, the patience, the edification of our Lord.” The old Latin version adds, “Inform me as to that which you know touching Ignatius, and those who are with him.” These lines notoriously correspond with a passage in the letter of Ignatius to Polycarpus (sec. 8), where Ignatius asks the latter to send messengers in different directions. All this is suspicious. As the Epistle of Polycarpus finishes very well with sec. 12, one is led almost necessarily, if one admits the authenticity of this epistle, to suppose that a post-scriptum has been added to the Epistles of Polycarpus by the author of the six apocryphal epistles of Ignatius himself. There is no Greek manuscript of the Epistle of Polycarpus which contains this post-scriptum. We only know it through a citation of Eusebius, and through the Latin version. The same errors are combated in the Epistles to Polycarpus as in the six Ignatian epistles: the order of the ideas is the same. Many manuscripts present the Epistle of Polycarpus joined to the Ignatian collection in the form of a preface or of an epilogue. It would seem, then, either that the xviepistles of Polycarpus and those of Ignatius are by the same forger, or that the author of the letters of Ignatius had the idea of seeking for a point d’appui in the Epistle of Polycarpus, and in adding to it a post-scriptum,—of creating an interest in his work. This addition harmonises well with the mention of Ignatius which is found in the body of the letter of Polycarpus (sec. 9). It would fit in better still, in appearance, at least, with the first paragraph of this letter in which Polycarpus praises the Philippians for having received in a proper manner some confessors bound in chains who passed some time with them.
From the Epistle of Polycarpus so falsified, and from the six letters ascribed to Ignatius, there was formed a little pseudo-Ignatian Corpus, perfectly homogeneous in style and in colouring, which was a real defence of orthodoxy, and of the episcopate. By the side of this collection there was preserved the more or less authentic Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans. This circumstance induces the belief that the forger was acquainted with this writing, nevertheless it appears that he did not judge it convenient to include it in his collection, the arrangement of which he changed, and demonstrated its non-authenticity.
Irenæus, about the year 180, only knew Ignatius through the energetic sentiments contained in his Epistle to the Romans. “I am the bread of Christ,” etc. He had undoubtedly read this epistle, although what he says is sufficiently accounted for by an oral tradition. Irenæus, to all appearance, did not possess the six apocryphal letters, and in all probability he read the true or supposed epistle of his master Polycarpus without the post-scriptum; Επἰγρὰψατέ μοι . . . Origen admitted as authentic the Epistle to the Romans, and the six apocryphal letters. He cited the former in the prologue of his commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, and the pretended Epistle to the Ephesians in his sixth homily upon St Luke. Eusebius knew the Ignatian collection as we have it, that is to say, consisting of seven letters; he did not use the Acts of Martyrdom; he makes no distinction between the Epistle to the Romans and the six others. He read the Epistle of Polycarpus with the post-scriptum. A peculiar fate seemed to designate the name of Ignatius to the fabricators of apocryphas. In the second half of the fourth century, about 375, a new collection of Ignatian epistles was produced: this is the collection of the thirteen letters, to which the collection of the seven letters notoriously served as a nucleus. As these seven letters presented many obscurities, the new forger also set about interpolating them. A multitude of explanatory glosses are introduced into the text, and burden it to no purpose. Six new letters were fabricated from end to end, and, in spite of their shocking improbability, they came to be universally adopted. The retouchings to which they were afterwards subjected, were only abridgments of the two preceding collections. The Syrians, in particular, concocted a small edition, consisting of three abridged letters, in the preparation of which they were guided by no correct sentiment as to the distinction between the authentic and the apocryphal. A few works appeared still later to enlarge the Ignatian works. We possess these only in Latin.xvii
The Acts of the Martyrdom of St Ignatius presents not less diversities than the text itself of the epistles which are ascribed to them. We enumerate as many as eight or nine compilations. We must not attribute much importance to these productions; none of them have any original value; all are posterior to Eusebius, and compiled from the data furnished by Eusebius, data which of themselves have no other foundation than the collection of the epistles, and, in particular, the Epistle to the Romans. These Acts, in their most ancient form, do not go back further than the end of the fourth century. We cannot in any way compare them with the Acts of the Martyrdom of Polycarpus and the martyrs of Lyons, accounts actually authentic and contemporaneous with the fact reported. They are full of impossibilities, of historical errors and mistakes, as to the condition of the Empire at the epoch of Trajan.
In this volume, as in those which precede, we have sought to steer a middle course between the criticism which employs all its resources to defend texts which have for long been stamped with discredit, and the exaggerated scepticism which rejects en bloc and à priori everything which Christianity records of its first origins. One will remark, in particular, the employment of this intermediary method in that which concerns the question of the Clements and that of the Christian Flavii. It is apropos of the Clements that the conjectures of the school called Tübingen have been the worst inspired. The defect of this school, sometimes so fecund, is the rejecting of the traditional systems, often, it is true, built upon fragile materials, and their substituting systems founded upon authorities more fragile still. As regards Ignatius, have not they pretended to correct the traditions of the second century by Jean Malala? As regards Simon Magus, have not some theologians, in other respects sagacious, resisted to the latest the necessity of admitting the real existence of that personage? An regards the Clements, we would be looked upon by certain critics as narrow-minded indeed, if we admitted that Clemens Romanus existed, and if we did not explain all that which relates to him by the certain misunderstandings and confusions with Flavius Clemens. Now it is, on the contrary, the data in regard to Flavius Clemens which are uncertain and contradictory. We do not deny the gleams of Christianity which appear to issue from the obscure rubbish of the Flavian family; but to extract from thence a great historic fact by which to rectify uncertain traditions, is a strange part to take, or rather, this lack of just proportion in induction, which in Germany is so often detrimental to the rarest qualities of diligence and application. They discard solid evidence, and substitute for it feeble hypothesis; they challenge satisfactory texts, and accept, almost without examination, the combinations hazarded by an accommodating archeology. Something new they will have at any cost, and the new they obtained by the exaggeration of ideas, often just and penetrating. From a feeble current proved to exist in some obscure gulf, they conclude the existence of a great oceanic current. The observation was proper enough, but they drew from it false consequences. It is far from my thoughts to deny or to attenuate the services which German science has rendered to our difficult studies, but, in order to profit by those services, we must examine xviiithem very closely, and apply to them a thorough spirit of discernment. Above all, we must be most resolute in not taking into account the haughty criticisms of men of system who treat you as ignorant and behind the age because you do not admit at the first onset the latest novelty hatched by the brain of a young doctor, and which, at the best, can only be useful in encouraging research in the circles of the learned.1
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