Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Apostles and Bishops

Continuing on the issue of vocabulary, and focusing on the structure of the Church we see the relationship between Apostle and Bishop is a fundamental one in the organization of the early Church. It is a position that evolved from with the growth of the Church. This is important in understanding who Marcion was, and how the character Paul relates to his position, and how it was reinterpreted by later Catholic editors.  

Below is the excerpt from an article I wrote about the relationship of Paul and Marcion, which I am dealing with the offices of Bishop and Minister (Deacon).

Apostle and Bishop and Minister

When considering the issue of Marcion’s parallel relationship with the literary Paul, you have to begin with the terms used. We learn not unsurprisingly in Dialogue Adamantius 1.9 that Marcion was a bishop, when Megethius states “Marcion is my bishop” (ἐπισκοπός μου / episcopus meus). Not only is this acknowledged by the Catholic champion Adamantius in his reply, but also that a succession of Bishops after Marcion,

Since the death of Marcion, there have been so many successor bishops (τοσούτων ἐπισκόπων / tot episcopi) among you, or rather pseudo-bishops (ψευδεπισκόπων  / pseudoepisccopi): why then have you not been named after the successors, instead of after the schismatic Marcion? [1]

Robert A. Pretty sums up well we he says, [2]

This is an important statement [by Megethius]. Along with the following remark of Adamantius, it shows that the Marcionites had established an Order of Bishops. Whether Marcion himself was called "Bishop" (ἐπισκοπός) in his lifetime is, however, uncertain. E.C. Blackman (Marcion and His Influence, London, 1948, p.5) thinks it is probable that Marcion himself instituted the order of bishops, as well as those of presbyters and deacons, since these are mentioned by Paul - Marcion's teacher and guide.

It seems to me entirely probable that the term Bishop, or literally ‘overseer’ as in a shepherd, first came into use by Marcion when he was choosing potential successors, rather than concerning his own title as Blackman suggests, as the term of Bishop is not extant anywhere in Marcion’s Gospel or Apostolikon. [3]

Blackman appears to be correct when he says Paul never mentions presbyters, as the term "elders" (πρεσβυτρων) is not to be found in Marcion [4]  However we do find it associated with Christians only in the Catholic Acts, the Pastoral Epistles of 1 Timothy and Titus, James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Revelation. [5]

The evidence indicates that the role of elders was of considerably more importance in the Catholic Church than in the Marcionite. Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses 3.2.2 [6] affirms the formal role of the "elders" (presbyters) and their succession as part of the Catholic structure, and also the disregard that the Heretics, mentioning amongst them specifically Marcion, had for them:

But, again, when we (Catholics) refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they (Heretics) object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth.

Sum autem ad eam iterum Traditionem, quae est ab Apostolis, que per successiones Presbyterorium in Ecclesiis custoditor, provocamus eos: adversantur Traduitioni, decentes se non solum Presbyteris sed etiam Apostolis exsistentes sapientores, sinceram invenisse veratem.

And similarly in 4.26.2, [7] we see a significant the role of the presbyters is to uphold the.

Wherefore, it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those who as I have shown possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory.

We see also that when you consider Paul as the model of Marcionite leadership, you do not see any consultation with any elders, rather strong proclamations and direct action, with authority directly from the Lord.

One very interesting point to note, in the New Testament the relationship between Apostle (ἀπόστολος) and Bishop (πσκοπον) is that of overlapping titles. This is true in both the Marcionite and Catholic factions. The direct connection is made clear concerning the replacement of Judas Iscariot from the 12 Apostles in Acts 1:20 with the quotation of the Psalm (LXX 108.8) 'let another take his overseer position' (ἐπισκοπὴν) – of course the Catholic concern also includes Apostolic succession. Irenaeus states this very point, although while making a weak claim for Catholic priority, echoing Acts 1:20 in Adversus Haereses 3.2.3 [8]

The tradition of the Apostles is manifested, therefore, for the whole world to see, present in every church, to all those who wish to look at the truth we have, and reckon those who were appointed (instituted) by the apostles as bishops in the churches, and their successors down to us, who have taught nothing of this sort, nor had known, such as from these [heretics] rave about.

Traditionem itaque Apostolorum in toto mundo manifestatam, in omni Ecclesia adest respicere omnibus qui vera velint videre: et habemus annumerare eos qui ab Apostolis instituti sunt Episcopi in Ecclesiis, et successores eorum usque ad nos, qui nihil tale docuerunt, neque cognoverunt, quale ab his deliratur.

As we see following in Acts 1:14-16 when Matthias is chosen to succeed Judas in his ministry (διακονίας) and apostleship (ἀποστολῆς). This same pairing of ministry and apostleship is found in the Marcionite text describing the role of the Apostle Paul and Apollos as teachers/ministers διάκονοι at 1 Corinthians 3:4, where there is a deeper context.

Apelles as Apollos

In 1 Corinthians (1:12, 3:4-6, 22) [9] we see Apollos treated as an equal to Paul as a primary teacher of Christ in the narrative as we see in verse 3:4
Who is Apollos? And who is Paul? Teachers through whom you believed, and each as the Lord gave to.
 τί οὗν ἐστιν Ἀπολλῶς; τί δέ ἐστιν Παῦλος; διάκονοι δι᾽ ὧν ἐπιστεύσατε, καὶ ἑκάστῳ ὡς κύριος ἔδωκεν.
However in 3:5 we see his position seems to have come about after Paul, much as Apelles was supposedly a student of Marcion and thus after, as Paul plants and Apollos waters ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, Ἀπολλῶς ἐπότισεν.

This takes only a little parsing to realize that Apollos must have has the status of Apostle like Paul. As an Apostle (Bishop) and Teacher, in the terms of the second century we are describing a Sect leader.

Trying to identify actual people to literary characters is always speculative – certainly nothing I’d stand very firmly behind – but having already identified with some confidence that Paul can be seen a fictional alter ego for Marcion, we might as well look at the other literary characters found in Marcion’s Paul, namely Cephas, Apollos, Timothy, and Titus.

The association of Apelles and Apollos is possibly testified in Acts 18:24, in a typical Catholic inversion of Marcionite tradition. Apollos is said to be an Alexandrian but by birth (Ἀλεξανδρεὺς τῷ γένει), and Tertullian tells us Apelles is said to have resided in Alexandria to separate himself (out of sight) from Marcion ab oculis sanctissimi magistri Alexandriam secessit (de Praescriptione Haereticorum 30.5).

Apollos is in the same fashion the alter ego perhaps of Apelles. 

[1] Robert A. Pretty, Adamantius, Dialogue on the True Faith in God, footnote #49 of chapter 1, p48: Rufinus translates: qui et schisma ab ecclesia primus fecet? ("who was the first to make a separation from the Church"). this may actually be the force of the Greek σχισματοποιός. Marcion began to form his own communities before 144, when he was formally excommunicated from the Church of Rome; he was therefore the first we know of to secede from the church and form his own group.
[2]See  Robert A. Pretty, Adamantius, Dialogue on the True Faith in God, footnote #48 of chapter 1, p48
[3]The greeting in Philippians 1:1 “with the Bishops and deacons” σὺν ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις is very likely a Catholic interpolation. The Pauline greetings underwent significant revision to conform to the theological concerns and the revised ordering of the books.
[4] Luke 7:3, 9:22, 20:1 = Mark 11:27 / Matthew 21:23, 22:52 = Mark 14:43 / Matthew 26:47, 22:66 = Mark 14:53, 15:1 / Matthew 26:57, 59 - Tertullian in AM5.7.3 is contradicted by Ephanius P42 concerning Luke 20:1, and I side with Epiphanius. The original lacked mention of the elders of the Jews. Similar usage in Acts 4:5, 4:23, 6:12. Note Sanhedrin is associated with the Jewish elders in Luke 22:66 (Mark 15:1, Matthew 26:59) and Acts 6:12, but this is a Lucan invention.
An examination of the uses in the LXX does not reveal any association between γερουσίαν / πρεσβυτέρων and religious duties. The usage is almost exclusively with civil duties of cities, tribes, and peoples. The only reference at all is found in Leviticus 4:15 "the elders of the synagogue" οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τῆς συναγωγῆς.
 Acts 5:21 has the only new testament use of γερουσίαν and appears drawn from Exodus 3:16, 4:29 τὴν γερουσίαν τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ. Here γερουσίαν is a non-ecclesiastic term to denote the civil leaders of the Jews. But as it is drawn from the LXX, and confuses Israel with Judaea, it seems the writer of Acts has no actual knowledge of the structure of leadership in the Jewish temple or Synagogues.
SGW - Pretty is incorrect, my own analysis shows that πρεσβύτεροι was a term never found in Marcion
[5] We first see the term associated with Christians in Acts 11:30, then in 14:23 Paul appoints the Antioch elders. The elders are associated with James’ court in Acts 15:4, 6, 22-23, 16:4, 21:18. In the Pastorals the term refers to a formal office in 1 Timothy 4:14, 5:1, 17, 19, Titus 1:5, 2:2. Of note women also can have this role in we see in 1 Timothy 5:2, and Titus 2:3. In James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:1, 5:5, 2 John 1:1, and 3 John 1:1 also reference the office, with it overlapping the roles of Bishop, Deacon, and Apostle, meaning people with such titles were also elders. In Revelation the role has been elevated to the heavens.
[6] Placing a date on Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses from internal evidence is rather difficult. Unlike Tertullian and Hippolytus he does not mention Apelles, but the themes are often more in tune with the 3rd than 2nd century. Traditionally his works are dated in the era 170s or 180s, partly on reference to the Lyon Martyrs of supposedly the end of the reign of Marcus Aurelia. But I see the claim that it was recent event to be a literary invention, just as it is today, to place the setting in an earlier era, thus I date on or after 190 AD.
[7]Only have online access to Latin text of Irenaeus Adversus Haereses Book 3. Translation from CCEL.
[8] Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses 3.3.3 bases his claim for Catholic priority on reference to deutero Pauline 2 Timothy 4:21 mention of Linus, Ἀσπάζεταί σε Εὔβουλος καὶ Πούδης καὶ Λίνος καὶ Κλαυδία καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ, as his proof of antiquity. He appears not to know the actual succession which anyway is spurious. Note, Ἀσπάζεταί never appears in Marcion.
[9] 1 Corinthians 4:6, 16:12 are part of a later Catholic layer, so will be considered later.


  1. Indeed, identifying the who's who of Paul's entourage should be a priority for us who argue for a figurative and revelatory understanding of Christ being the original belief of the theology.

    Jacob of Kephar, and his teacher Yeshu ben Stada, I have for James and John.

    Cephas is Cerinthus, who was not quite a Marcionite, but not quite an Ebionite. But even Cerinthus's identity is problematic and I assume that he may have been Agathobulus.

    Apelles/Apollos are definitely referring the same individual, but I'm of two minds whether he may be just another name for Paul/Marcion/Peregrinus, or an autonomous follower of Peregrinus.

    Timothy and Titus I'm at a loss on. One of them are probably referring to Justin.

    Demas, I'm becoming somewhat more confident in calling him the Hegesippus figure responsible for so many Acts fictions, and possibly the earliest form of pseudo-Clementine Recognitions.

    1. I do not share any of the assignment of personalities beyond Paul being the pen name for the Marcionite collector.

      A better way to look at the NT is to realize it is first and foremost literature. When a name is invoked with salutations at the end of epistles, such as Mark and Luke in Colossians 4:10 and 4:14 respectively, they are mostly adverts for books in their names; in these cases the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

      Timothy ("One who honors God"), who appears in the opening introduction (e.g., "Paul and Apostle of Christ Jesus and the brother Timothy"), is also an advert for the Pauline letters supposedly to him from Paul. IMO first Timothy was added to several openings, and then later Acts of Paul material which included Timothy stories were added to the Pauline texts. These occurred from necessity, as there was great reluctance to accept the Pastoral letters to Timothy, as not only the Marcionites but also Tatian are recorded as having rejection 1 & 2 Timothy (Tatian accepted Titus).

      But Timothy should be considered a fictitious character IMO, and not anyone who existed. His legend is part of a secondary literary genre of Acts that appeared in the mid and late 2nd century.

      Demas is one of those characters whose names appear in the salutations, which I am convinced are very late, and may either refer to a person from literary fiction (some Acts) or as was likely the case a subtle shout out to some person the scribe interpolating admired or knew.

      I am convinced Hegesippus is a fictitious person invented either by Eusubius or the name ascribed to some 3rd (or early 4th) century writing he was quoting. When Eusubius is the source I put zero weight in the character ever existing beyond some fictional writing.

      I would be very shy of ascribing any person to Cephas or any other character. I would suggest instead you focus on discovering the theology associated with the character, and find the heretical group which most closely resembles the positions he is given. Even if he is mean to be somebody, odds are the name was simply chosen by the author from a list of names of accepted characters for the NT stories as a stand-in for some group he disapproved of. That is all we can ever ascertain. Beyond that, even if there was some real person the legend was drawn from, all is lost in layers of myth and fiction.