Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Jared Secord: WS Galen and the Theodotians: Embryology and Adoptionism in the Christian Schools of Rome

Eusebius preserves the claim, derived from an unknown author of the third century, that Galen was “worshipped” by the Theodotians, a group of Roman Christians with serious intellectual pretensions (HE 5.28.14). This paper disputes two common points made in previous interpretations of the passage. First, there is no reason to believe that Galen had any personal connection with the Theodotians, much less that he played a significant role in the development of their program of study, as has been claimed. Galen, the paper demonstrates, had no patience for amateur scholars from non-elite backgrounds, and he would thus have had nothing to do with the banausic Theodotians, whose founder was a leather-worker by profession. Second, and notwithstanding the paper’s first argument, the claim that the Theodotians worshipped Galen is a probable sign of their interest in medical subjects, contrary to suggestions that they were only interested in the Pergamene physician’s works on logic and philosophy. The Theodotians, the paper argues, had good reason to be interested in the research of Galen and other doctors, particularly in the area of embryology. For the Theodotians were proponents of an Adoptionist Christology, and thus concerned themselves with the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, and his development in the womb. To illustrate this possible link between Adoptionism and Embryology, the paper points to some similarities between Galen’s De Foetuum Formatione and the account of the Theodotians’ Adoptionist position in the Refutatio of pseudo-Hippolytus.

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