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Becoming Heretical: Affection and Ideology in Recruitment to Early Christianities

  • Kendra Eshleman (a1)

A growing consensus recognizes that the differences among Christians in the late second and early third centuries were neither as obvious nor as great as representatives of later orthodoxy would have us believe, and that what divided Christians in this period were not so much different beliefs and ideas as different hermeneutical and ritual practices. This article approaches the same conclusion from a different angle: from the perspective of potential recruits to Christianity, drawing on social-scientific models of conversion. For them, the peculiarities of doctrine and even of practice that obsess ancient polemicists and modern scholars were often largely invisible. While those features could take center stage for mature converts—and hence in retrospective accounts of conversion—they seem to have played little role in bringing people to specific versions of the faith in the first place. Rather, for many Christian recruits, the road to “orthodoxy” or “heresy” began not in ideological attraction, but in attachments to family, friends, and patrons already inside the group.

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1 This man became a member before Dionysius's ordination, and perhaps even before that of his predecessor Heraclas (πρό τῆϛ ἐμῆϛ χειροτονίαϛ οἶμαι δὲ καὶ πρό τῆϛ τοῦ μακαρίου Ἡρακλᾶ καταστάσεωϛ), which should put his original baptism in the 220s or 230s.

2 μὴ τοῦτο εἶναι μηδὲ ὅλωϛ ἔχειν τινὰ πρὸϛ τοῦτο κοινωίαν, ἀσεβεῖαϛ γὰρ ἐκεῖνο καὶ βλασϕημιῶν πεπληρῶσθαι (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7.9.2). Unless otherwise stated, all translations are my own.

3 The Alexandrian and Roman policy that baptism was unrepeatable, even if originally performed by heretics or schismatics, had come under fire in the 250s in the wake of the Novatianist schism. Although Novatianists cannot be the heretics in question here, that conflict adds piquancy to Dionysius's conundrum.

4 See Garth Fowden, “The Platonist Philosopher and His Circle in Late Antiquity,” Philosophia 7 (1977) 359–83, esp. 379, on the impermanence of late antique philosophical schools, which rarely continued beyond the lifetime of their founding teacher.

5 I am grateful to Pheme Perkins for this observation.

6 Usefully surveyed by Broek Roelof van den, Studies in Gnosticism and Alexandrian Christianity (NHMS 39; Leiden: Brill, 1996) 181–96.

7 On the relation between Clement's school and the broader Alexandrian church, see Annewies van den Hoek, “The ‘Catechetical’ School of Early Christian Alexandria and Its Philonic Heritage,” HTR 90 (1997) 59–87. Origen's early teaching career and prickly relationship with Paul: Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.2–3. “Heretic” (τῶν τότε ἐπὶ τῆϛ Ἀλεξανδρεῖαϛ αἱρεσιωτῶν) is presumably Origen's judgment of Paul, which evidently was not shared by their patron or the “great multitude” of both “heretics” and “our people” (μυρίου πλήθουϛ … ὁ μόνον αἱρετικῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡμετέρων) who gathered with Paul (Hist. eccl. 6.2.14).

8 The same strategy was employed 50 years earlier by Irenaeus against followers of the Valentinian Marcus (Haer. 1.13.7); see pp. 205–6 below.

9 Attempts to conceptualize conversion—what kind of change it is, how much change is required to constitute it, how it is achieved and manifested—abound. For conversion as change in “root reality” see Max Heirich, “Change of Heart: A Test of Some Widely Held Theories about Religious Conversion,” American Journal of Sociology 83 (1977) 653–80. Transformation of one's “universe of discourse”: e.g., David A. Snow and Richard Machalek, “The Sociology of Conversion,” Annual Review of Sociology 10 (1984) 167–90. For conversion as change in “belief, behavior, and belonging” see Kreider Alan, The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity, 1999). For the purposes of this article, I use “conversion” simply to refer to the extended process by which individuals became (particular kinds of) Christian.

10 For a discussion of recruitment versus conversion see Balch Robert W., “What's Wrong With the Study of New Religions and What We Can Do About It,” in Scientific Research and New Religions: Divergent Perspectives (ed. Kilbourne Brock K.; San Francisco: Pacific Division AAAS Studies, 1985) 2439, at 28; Stark Rodney and Finke Roger, Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000) 123. Other scholars draw a similar distinction between “conversion” (the initial decision) and “commitment”: e.g., Segal Alan F., Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990) 7279.

11 Gerlach Luther P. and Hine Virginia H., People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970) 95; James T. Richardson and Mary Stewart, “Conversion Process Models and the Jesus Movement,” American Behavioral Scientist 20 (1977) 819–38, at 832.

12 Michael White L., “Adolf Harnack and the ‘Expansion’ of Early Christianity: A Reappraisal of Social History,” SCent 5 (1985–86) 97127, at 120–2. Although no two Christian communities were exactly the same, the pluralism and institutional fragmentation of the Alexandrian church are mirrored in the other second- and early third-century churches best known to us. For a discussion of Rome see Lampe Peter, Die stadtrömischen Christen in den ersten beiden Jahrhunderten (2nd ed.; WUNT 18; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1987) esp. 301–45; Thomassen Einar, “Orthodoxy and Heresy in Second-Century Rome,” HTR 97 (2004) 241–56. For Carthage see the discussion in Barnes Timothy D., Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study (2nd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985) 8083, 117–21. For the character and internal diversity of Christianity in Gaul, Asia Minor, and Syria, see the recent surveys by Behr John, Christine Trevett, and Susan Ashbrook Harvey in Origins to Constantine (vol. 1 of Cambridge History of Christianity; ed. Mitchell Margaret M. and Young Frances M.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

13 Markus Robert A., “The Problem of Self-Definition: From Sect to Church,” in The Shaping of Christianity in the Second and Third Centuries (vol. 1 of Jewish and Christian Self-Definition; ed. Sanders E. P.; Philadelphia: Fortress) 115, at 5.

14 Social process: e.g., Snow and Machalek, “Sociology of Conversion,” 178–84; Gallagher Eugene V., “Conversion and Community in Late Antiquity,” JR 73 (1993) 115; Rambo Lewis R., Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993) 2043, 102–23; Taylor Nicholas H., “The Social Nature of Conversion in the Early Christian World,” in Modeling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in its Context (ed. Esler Philip; London: Routledge, 1995) 128–36; Finn Thomas M., From Death to Rebirth: Ritual and Conversion in Antiquity (New York: Paulist, 1997); Stark and Finke, Acts of Faith, 114–38. Networks and conversion: John Lofland and Rodney Stark, “Becoming a World-Saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective,” American Sociological Review 30 (1965) 862–75, and pp. 195–201 below.

15 Christianity: e.g., Bardy Gustave, La conversion au christianisme durant les premieres siècles (Paris: Éditions Montaigne, 1949) 250–51; Meeks Wayne A., The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983) 2931, 75–77; MacMullen Ramsay, Christianizing the Roman Empire: A.D. 100–400 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984) 3641; White, “Adolf Harnack,” 97–127; Stark Rodney, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996) esp. 3–27; Spence Stephen, The Parting of the Ways: The Roman Church as a Case Study (Leuven: Peeters, 2004) 227–44. Mithraism: Gordon Richard, “Who Worshipped Mithras?” Journal of Roman Archaeology 7 (1994) 459–74, at 462; Beck Roger, “On Becoming a Mithraist: New Evidence for the Propagation of the Mysteries,” in Religious Rivalries in the Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity (ed. Vaage Leif E.; Waterloo, Ont.: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion, 2006), 192–3. Philosophy: Eshleman Kendra, “Affection and Affiliation: Social Networks and Conversion to Philosophy,” Classical Journal 103 (2007/08) 147–58; Ruffini Giovanni, “Late Antique Pagan Networks from Athens to the Thebaid,” in Ancient Alexandria between Egypt and Greece (ed. Harris W. V. and Ruffini Giovanni; Leiden: Brill, 2004) 241–57.

16 There are a number of valuable treatments of Sethian and Valentinian soteriologies and rituals of repentance and conversion, but these tend to skirt the question of what drew people to these forms of Christianity and the human agents involved: Aubin Paul, Le problème de la ‘conversion’. Étude sur un terme commun à l'hellénisme et au christianisme des trois premiers siècles (Paris: Beauchesne, 1963) 93104; Zandee J., “Gnostic Ideas on the Fall and Salvation,” Numen 11 (1964) 1374; Anne McGuire, “Conversion and Gnosis in the Gospel of Truth,” NovT 28 (1986) 338–55; Perkins Pheme, Gnosticism and the New Testament (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 1993) 152–6, 162–3; Williams Michael A., Rethinking “Gnosticism”: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996) 208–10; Logan Alastair H. B., Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy: A Study in the History of Gnosticism (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996) 211–99; Dubois Jean-Daniel, “La ritualisation de la repentance dans les écrits gnostiques valentiniens,” in Retour, repentir, et constitution de soi (ed. Charles-Saget Annick; Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1998) 67–73; King Karen L., The Secret Revelation of John (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006) 122–56. Some attention has been paid to the role of networks in the spread of “heresy” in later periods: Clark Elizabeth, The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992) 1142; BeDuhn Jason, Conversion and Apostasy, 373388 C.E. (vol. 1 of Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010).

17 For a succinct summary and critique of views of conversion that look for correlations between converts' personalities and problems and the religious expressions they embrace and that assume that “people convert primarily because they are attracted to particular new doctrines,” see Stark and Finke, Acts of Faith, 115–6.

18 Jonas Hans, Gnosis und spätantiker Geist (2 vols.; 3rd ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1964) I:5873, 140–227; see also e.g., Kippenberg Hans G., “Versuch einer soziologischen Verortung des antiken Gnostizismus,” Numen 17 (1970) 211–31; Pagels Elaine, “‘The Demiurge and His Archons’—A Gnostic View of the Bishop and Presbyters?” HTR 69 (1976) 301–24; Green Henry A., The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism (SLBDS 77; Atlanta: Scholars, 1985); II Carl B. Smith, No Longer Jews: The Search for Gnostic Origins (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2004) esp. 244–52. Sociopolitical protest is a key note as well of King, Secret Revelation, esp. 157–73, although she judiciously focuses on Ap. John's meaning(s) for its various reading communities, rather than the attractions of its theology for potential converts. Challenges: e.g., Williams, Rethinking Gnosticism; Michael Waldstein, “Hans Jonas' Construct ‘Gnosticism’: Analysis and Critique,” JECS 8 (2000) 341–72; King Karen L., What is Gnosticism? (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003).

19 Gnostic Christianity: e.g., Scopello Madeleine, Femme, gnose et manichéisme. De l'espace mythique au territoire du réel (Leiden: Brill, 2005) 175–7. Montanism: e.g., Kraemer Ross S., Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions among Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Greco-Roman World. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) 157–73; contra, Trevett Christine, Montanism: Gender, Authority and the New Prophecy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 196–7. Both the notion of women's special attraction to “heretical” movements and the underlying assumption that converts were motivated by what religion “did for them,” are trenchantly critiqued by Lieu Judith M., Neither Jew Nor Greek? Constructing Early Christianity (London: T&T Clark, 2002) 8399.

20 Elite knowledge: e.g., Bardy, Conversion, 67–8, 122–5; Förster Niclas, Marcus Magus: Kult, Lehre und Gemeindeleben einer valentinianschen Gnostikergruppe. Sammlung der Quellen und Kommentar (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999) 410–6. Rituals: e.g., Goehring James E., “Libertine or Liberated: Women in the So-Called Libertine Gnostic Communities,” in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism (ed. King Karen L.; Studies in Antiquity and Christianity 4; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 329–44, at 334–5. Eclecticism: e.g., Lampe, Stadtrömischen Christen, 270; Förster, Marcus Magus, 416. Alastair H. B. Logan combines most of these theories to suggest that the distinctive rituals and innovative, eclectic theology of the (Sethian) gnostic cult were particularly attractive to alienated intellectual elites, especially “lapsed, secularized Jews,” but that its universalist promises of salvation and supernatural rewards could appeal to people of any class (The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2006] esp. xii, 64, 114).

21 See recently Sanders Jack T., Charisma, Converts, Competitors: Societal and Sociological Factors in the Success of Early Christianity (London: SCM, 2000): Lieu, Neither Jew Nor Greek? 6979; David Brakke, “Self-Differentiation Among Christian Groups: The Gnostics and Their Opponents,” in Cambridge History of Christianity, 245–60; Vaage, ed. Religious Rivalries.

22 On the intellectual quest motif in ancient literature, see further Nock A. D., Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford: Clarendon, 1933; repr., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) 107–11; Bardy, Conversion 127–34; MacMullen, Christianizing, 3031; Alexander Loveday, “Paul and the Hellenistic Schools: The Evidence of Galen,” in Paul in his Hellenistic Context (ed. Engberg-Pedersen Troels; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994) 6083, at 68–71.

23 For the second and third centuries, when we are largely dependent on literary rather than documentary or material evidence, reconstructions of the distribution and size of Christian communities necessarily remain highly speculative: e.g., Keith Hopkins, “Christian Number and Its Implications,” JECS 6 (1998) 185–226. One may think, however, of Dura Europus, with its rich variety of traditional cults, but only one church in the 250s.

24 Lofland and Stark, “Becoming a World-Saver”; cf. Greil Arthur L. and Rudy David R., “What Have We Learned from Process Models of Conversion?” Sociological Focus 17 (1984) 306–23; Dawson Lorne L., “Who Joins New Religious Movements and Why: Twenty Years of Research and What Have We Learned?” SR 25 (1996) 141–61; Cavendish James C., Michael R. Welch and David C. Leege, “Social Network Theory and Predictors of Religiosity for Black and White Catholics: Evidence of a ‘Black Sacred Cosmos’?” JSSR 37 (1998) 397410, at 398–400, with bibliography. Other studies have traced the role of networks in non-religious decision-making, e.g., Sheingold Carl A., “Social Networks and Voting: The Resurrection of a Research Agenda,” American Sociological Review 38 (1973) 712–20; Christakis Nicholas A. and Fowler James H., “The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network,” New England Journal of Medicine 358 (1998) 2249–58; Wing Rena R. and Jeffery Robert W., “Benefits of Recruiting Participants with Friends and Increasing Social Support for Weight Loss and Maintenance,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67 (1999) 132–8.

25 Stark Rodney and Bainbridge William S., “Networks of Faith: Interpersonal Bonds and Recruitment to Cults and Sects,” American Journal of Sociology 85 (1980) 1376–95, at 1378–9. In a follow-up study, Lofland found that the Moonies had taken that lesson to heart and “had learned to start conversion at the emotional rather than the cognitive level.” Even after several months in the commune, some recruits knew little about its doctrines: “Some, on being pressed explicitly with [Moon]'s beliefs and aims, declared that they did not care: their loyalty was to the family commune” (John Lofland, “Becoming a World-Saver Revisited,” American Behavioral Scientist 20 [1977] 805–18, at 809, 813).

26 The chief exceptions are groups like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) which demand that members sever ties with their previous lives and must therefore concentrate on recruiting strangers: Snow David A., Louis A. Zurcher, Jr., and Sheldon Ekland-Olson, “Social Networks and Social Movements: A Microstructural Approach to Differential Recruitment,” American Sociological Review 45 (1980) 787801, at 791–6; but cf. E. Burke Rochford Jr., “Recruitment Strategies, Ideology, and Organization in the Hare Krishna Movement,” Social Problems 29 (1982) 399–410 on variation among local ISKCON cells in the 1970s, some recruiting as little as thirteen percent, others as much as seventy-three percent of their adherents from the pre-existing networks of members and sympathizers.

27 Stark and Bainbridge, “Networks of Faith,” 1385–9.

28 Meeks, First Urban Christians, 7577; Malherbe Abraham J., Paul and the Thessalonians: The Philosophic Tradition of Pastoral Care (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987); Philip A. Harland, “Connections with Elites in the World of the Early Christians,” in Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches (ed. Anthony J. Blasi, Paul-André Turcotte, and Jean Duhaime; Walnut Creek, Calif.: Alta Mira, 2002) 385–408, at 391–2.

29 Taylor, “Social Nature,” 132.

30 Although many of the specific historical arguments of Walter Bauer's groundbreaking Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity have not held up under scrutiny (Lewis Ayers, “The Question of Orthodoxy,” JECS 14 [2006] 395–8), this central premise of his work remains beyond dispute, on both the regional level with which he was concerned and the level of local church networks and congregations in which I am chiefly interested here.

31 Lalleman Pieter J., The Acts of John: A Two-Stage Initiation into Johannine Gnosticism (Leuven: Peeters, 1998) 74100; Bovon François, “Canonical and Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles,” JECS 11 (2003) 165–94.

32 Brown Peter, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988) 90102; Caroline Johnson, “Ritual Epicleses in the Greek Acts of Thomas,” in The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles: Harvard Divinity School Studies (ed. François Bovon, Ann Graham Brock, and Christopher R. Matthews; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999) 171–204; Klijn A. F. J., The Acts of Thomas: Introduction, Text, and Commentary (rev. ed.; NTS 108; Leiden: Brill, 2003) 1014.

33 Luttikhuizen Gerard P., “The Religious Message of Andrew's Speeches,” in The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew (ed. Bremmer Jan N.; Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles 5; Leuven: Peeters, 2000) 96103.

34 Schneider Paul G., “The Acts of John: The Gnostic Transformation of a Christian Community,” in Hellenization Revisited: Shaping a Christian Response within the Greco-Roman World (ed. Helleman Wendy E.; Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1994) 241–69; Lalleman, Acts of John, 3438, 153–215; Luttikhuizen Gerard P., “A Gnostic Reading of the Acts of John,” in The Apocryphal Acts of John (ed. Bremmer Jan N.; Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles 1; Kampen: Pharos, 1995) 119–52. Although the only overtly gnostic section of the Acts John (ch. 94–102, 109) is generally regarded as an interpolation (Acta Johannis [ed. Eric Junod and Jean-Daniel Kaestli; 2 vols.; CCSA; Turnhout: Brepols, 1983] II:581–9), docetic christology and other features congenial to gnostic interpretation appear throughout the text.

35 Lalleman Pieter J., “The Relation between the Acts of John and the Acts of Peter,” in The Apocryphal Acts of Peter: Magic, Miracles and Gnosticism (ed. Bremmer Jan N.; Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles 3; Leuven: Peeters, 1998) 161–77; Westra L.H., Regulae fidei and Other Credal Formulations in the Acts of Peter,” in Apocryphal Acts of Peter, 134–47.

36 Lalleman Pieter J., “The Resurrection in the Acts of Paul,” in The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla (ed. Bremmer Jan N.; Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles 2; Kampen: Pharos, 1996) 126–41.

37 Paul's gospel, for example, can be summed up as “the word of God concerning continence and the resurrection” (Acts Paul §3.5). For the Acts of Paul, I follow the numbering of Willy Rordorf in Écrits apocryphes chrétiens (Paris: Gallimard, 1997).

38 For multiple stages of initiation in the redacted Acts John, see further Lalleman, Acts of John, esp. 52–57; Czachesz István, Commission Narratives: A Comparative Study of the Canonical and Apocryphal Acts (Leuven: Peeters, 2007) 111–5, identifies a similar theme of progressive revelation in John's commissioning in Acts John 113.

39 In the Acts of John, the apostle acknowledges the existence of rival interpretations of the gospel (Acts John 99), although not in his public preaching. Paul meets with both personal and doctrinal opposition from disaffected followers and false teachers (Acts Paul §3.11–14, §10), while the Acts of Peter pits its hero against the arch-heretic Simon Magus, who could be a stand-in for Christians who advocated an unacceptably low christology (Roman Hanig, “Simon Magus in der Petrusakten und die Theodotianer,” SP 31 [1997] 112–20), or might simply represent generic rejection of the worship of Christ.

40 See Perkins Pheme, The Gnostic Dialogue: The Early Church and the Crisis of Gnosticism (New York: Paulist, 1980) 120. All translations from the Nag Hammadi Codices are from The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition (ed. Marvin W. Meyer; New York: HarperOne, 2007).

41 Reaffiliation (or alternation) vs. conversion: Richardson and Stewart, “Conversion Process Models”; Stark and Finke, Acts of Faith, 114–5.

42 On the heresiological method of refutation through exposure, see Koschorke Klaus, Hippolyts Ketzerbekämpfung und Polemik gegen die Gnostiker. Eine tendenzkritische Untersuchung seiner ‘Refutatio omnium haeresium’ (Weisbaden: Harrasowitz, 1975) 2555.

43 Dunn Geoffrey D., Tertullian (London: Routledge, 2004) 67. Current consensus holds that adherents of the New Prophecy had not broken with the majority Carthaginian church in Tertullian's day; but debate continues over whether they formed an ecclesiola in ecclesia; so e.g., Tabbernee William, Montanist Inscriptions and Testimonia: Epigraphic Sources Illustrating the History of Montanism (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1997) 5455; or independent congregations that nonetheless remained in communion with the wider local church. In my view, the latter, suggested already by Labriolle Pierre de, La crise montaniste (Paris: Fondation Thiers, 1913) 460–65, seems likelier, since Tertullian speaks as though his group enforced disciplinary policies that conflicted with those of the local psychici (Pud. 1.20–21); cf. Trevett, Montanism, 7375. On Tertullian's conversion(s), see Jean-Claude Fredouille, Tertullien et la conversion de la culture antique (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1972), 427–42 (a sensitive psychological reading); Barnes, Tertullian, 83 (emphasizing ideological attractions); Dunn, Tertullian, 9 (questioning whether his embrace of the New Prophecy marked a significant reorientation at all).

44 Förster, Marcus Magus, 128–29.

45 As Irenaeus tells it, the sticking point was not the mystical, numerologically-derived Marcosian cosmology described at Haer. 1.14–16, but the unorthodox practice of round-robin prophecy on demand, which suggested that the prophetic spirit could be subject to human control and granted unusual prominence to female prophets (Haer. 1.13.4).

46 “Some have apostatized entirely, while others are ambivalent (ἐπαμϕοτερίζουσι) and have had the proverbial experience of being neither outside nor inside.” The contrast between the outright apostates and the fence-sitters strongly suggests that the problem with the latter was that they maintained ties with both groups.

47 Lofland and Stark, “Becoming a World-Saver,” 872.

48 Heirich, “Change of Heart,” 653–80, esp. 668–73.

49 That second-century Marcosian rituals had sought to supplement, rather than replace, the central rituals of baptism and eucharist: Förster, Marcus Magus, 64–91. On the relation between the common ecclesiastical baptism and Valentinian apolytrôsis, see Elaine Pagels, “Irenaeus, the ‘Canon of Truth,’ and the Gospel of John: ‘Making a Difference’ through Hermeneutics and Ritual,” VC 36 (2002) 339–71, esp. 353–8.

50 Förster, Marcus Magus, 155.

51 MacMullen, Christianizing, 1722.

52 Cf. Tertullian, Val. 1.4: Valentinians “do not entrust their doctrines even to their own students before they have secured them as their own (suos fecerint).”

53 On the Letter to Flora as an eisagogic, rather than protreptic, text, see Christoph Markschies, “New Research on Ptolemaeus Gnosticus,” ZAC 4 (2000) 225–54, at 229–30.

54 Markschies, “New Research,” esp. 233–9.

55 Cosmogonic myth of the sort recounted by Irenaeus would be one way to answer these more advanced questions, and could form the next stage of Ptolemy's instruction, but I am convinced by Markschies, “New Research,” that Ptolemy's text does not necessitate that reading.

56 Exoteric treatise: Harold W. Attridge, “The Gospel of Truth as an Exoteric Text,” in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early Christianity (ed. Charles W. Hedrick and Robert Hodgson Jr.; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1986) 239–55. Esoteric sermon: Wray Judith H., Rest as a Theological Metaphor in the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Truth: Early Christian Homiletics of Rest (Atlanta: Scholars, 1998) 9599, 166–7.

57 As Harold Attridge and George MacRae point out in The Coptic Gnostic Library: A Complete Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices (ed. James M. Robinson; 5 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2000) ad loc., instability, illness, hunger, and need for rest are all metaphors for spiritual deficiency and ignorance, but the passage could well be intended to work on both the metaphorical and the literal level; see also Attridge, “Gospel of Truth,” 249.

58 This is not to dismiss the serious theological underpinnings of the controversy over the value of martyrdom: Pagels Elaine, “Gnostic and Orthodox Views of Christ's Passion: Paradigms for the Christian's Response to Persecution?” in The School of Valentinus (vol. 1 of The Rediscovery of Gnosticism: Proceedings of the International Conference on Gnosticism; ed. Layton Bentley; Leiden: Brill, 1980) 262–88; Pagels Elaine and King Karen L., Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (New York: Viking, 2007) 4357, 71–74. In this instance, however, Tertullian's Valentinians appear to stress the affective, rather than the theological, resonance of this debate.

59 Elaine Pagels, “The Demiurge and His Archons,” 315–6.

60 Stark and Bainbridge, “Networks of Faith,” 1388. Origen would endorse this advice: Christians know better than to explore “deeper subjects” (τὰ βαθύτερα) with those who are ready only for spiritual “milk” (Cels. 3.52). So would his compatriot Clement of Alexandria: Kovacs Judith L., “Divine Pedagogy and the Gnostic Teacher according to Clement of Alexandria,” JECS 9 (2001) 325.

61 Perkins, Gnosticism, 152–4; Lalleman, Acts of John, 5056. Particularly eloquent are Acts Andr. 44 and Acts John 67–69, which describe the Christian life respectively as a plant that needs constant nurture and a difficult voyage whose success can be judged only at its end. At Acts John 88–91, the progressive enlightenment of the disciples themselves is paradigmatic for future believers. In gnostic revelation dialogues, the disciples are similarly both model converts and missionaries: Perkins, Gnostic Dialogue, esp. 52–54, 57–58. The dialogues typically begin with the apostle(s) perplexed and in need of further instruction (e.g., Ap. John II.1.1–29; Apoc. Pet. 71.15–72.28) or with Jesus gently informing them that even after years of discipleship they are still “apprentices” who “have not yet reached the height of perfection” (Thom. Cont. 138.34–6; cf. Ap. Jas. 2.30–4.22); at the end, some or all are commissioned to go forth and preach the word.

62 Koschorke Klaus, Die Polemik der Gnostiker gegen das kirchliche Christentum (NHS 12; Leiden: Brill, 1978) 220–8.

63 For an incisive recent treatment of the issues surrounding the literature provoked by these debates, see Lieu Judith M., Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) esp. 27–61.

64 Cf. Perkins, Gnostic Dialogue, 193 on the role of social commitments in (re)enforcing attachment to “orthodoxy.”

65 MacMullen, Christianizing, 2542. Against MacMullen's thesis that this was the primary means by which early Christianity spread, Gallagher (“Conversion and Community,” 3–7) and Finn (From Death to Rebirth, 29–30) have shown that in the Acts response to miracle is only the beginning of an extended ritual, social, and instructional process.

66 Again, comparison to the cult of Glycon is apropos: miracles generated interest in the cult, but only because stories about them spread by word of mouth through pre-existing social networks (e.g., Lucian, Alex. 3031).

67 On the role of patronage in conversion in Acts Pet., see further Perkins Pheme, Peter: Apostle for the Whole Church (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1994) 143; on wealthy converts as house church patrons in the Acts generally, see Maier Harry O., The Social Setting of the Ministry as Reflected in the Writings of Hermas, Clement and Ignatius (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1991) 151–3.

68 Perkins, Gnostic Dialogue, 11, 175; Logan, Gnostic Truth, 280.

69 Here I follow the reading preferred by Funk Wolf-Peter, Die Zweite Apokalypse des Jakobus aus Nag-Hammadi-Codex V (TU 119; Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1976) 8890, who distinguishes Mareim, the scribe who recorded the discourse, from the (anonymous) priest who reports.

70 George La Piana, “The Roman Church at the End of the Second Century,” HTR 18 (1925) 201–77, at 215–23; Lampe, Stadtrömischen Christen, 322 notes that similarly geographically-based synagogues are attested at Rome.

71 Eusebius pairs Blastus with the presbyter Florinus, expelled at the same time for Valentinian leanings; unfortunately, Eusebius is not interested in why Florinus's followers joined his congregation or chose to remain with him in excommunication.

72 Similarly, Lucian lampoons the philosophy student Hermotimus for choosing Stoicism because it was the most popular school (τοὺϛ πλείστουϛ ἐπ’ αὐτὴν ὁρμῶνταϛ, Hermot. 16), while Origen observes that would-be philosophers tend to end up in a particular sect either by random chance (ἀποκληρωτικῶϛ) or because they had convenient access to a teacher of that type (τῷ εὐπορηκέναι τοιοῦδε διδασκάλου, Cels. 1.10).

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Harvard Theological Review
  • ISSN: 0017-8160
  • EISSN: 1475-4517
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