Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ines Luthe: Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome and Theodoret of Cyrus in a joint Conversation with Ignatius of Antioch: Reconsidering the Historical Reality of the Threat of "Docetism" as a Christological Tendency throughout the Early Church

Has there been a historical located threat of the so-called "docetism" in the Early Church or was this phenomenon rather a result of analytical work done by later authors who simply labelled as hazardously perceived implications of Christological statements with different ancient terms for "docetism", giving us thus the volitional impression of referring to actual groups?
The term "docetism" refers in scholarly debate to attempts of denying Jesus Christ´s real incarnation, or obscuring the reality of his suffering or death. But a queer category of ancient sources explicitly deals with the variety of ancient terms for "docetism" but does not fit the general definition ("Hippolytus" of Rome; Clement of Alexandria) is therefore apt for raising suspicion about common scholarly understanding of "docetism". In addition, if indeed the early 2nd century key-witness Ignatius of Antioch is historically not reliable as recently has been suggested, we are left with evidence belonging to the 4th century AD, namely Theodoret of Cyrus (Epist. 82,1) and the Long Recension of Ignatius of Antioch`s letters. Therefore the possibility of "docetism" as a historical phenomenon of the 2nd century AD decreases significantly. By taking each author`s use of "docetism" seriously, comparing shared Christological motifs, and reconsidering the dating of the Middle Recension, this paper argues that the sources give indeed reason to speak of a historical phenomenon of emerging "docetism" occurring in the 2nd century AD but undergoing a "development of thought" until its fixed form served as mere matrix for checking soteriological implications of Christological statements.

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