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Harvard Divinity School

Canon Formation and Social Conflict in Fourth-Century Egypt: Athanasius of Alexandria's Thirty-Ninth "Festal Letter" Author(s): David Brakke Source: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), pp. 395-419 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1509966 . Accessed: 27/08/2013 13:11
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Canon

Fonnation

and

Social

Conflict of Letter*

in

Fourth-Century Egypt: Alexandna's


David Brakke
IndianaUniversity

Athanasius Festal

Thirty-Ninth

tn histories of the formationof the Christianbiblical canon, the thirtylninth Festal Letter of Athanasiusof Alexandria, writtenfor Easter367, holds a justifiably prominentplace.1 Not only is this letter the earliest extant Christiandocumentto list precisely the twenty-sevenbooks that eventuallyformedthe generallyacceptedcanonof the New Testament, but Athanasius is also the first Christian authorknownto have appliedthe term
*Earlier versionsof this articlewerereadat meetingsof the Society of Biblical Literature andthe Institutefor Biblical andLiteraryStudiesof IndianaUniversity.I am gratefulto the participants in those sessions andto JamesAageson,DavidFrankfurter, J. AlbertHarrill,and J. SamuelPreusfor suggestions,criticisms,andbibliographic advice.Completion of the paper was madepossible by a summerresearchgrantfrom IndianaUniversity. lOnlya portionof Athanasius's Greektext survivesandhas beeneditedby Pericles-Pierre Joannou, Fonti: Discipline generale antique (IVe-IXe s.) (2 vols.; Rome:Grottaferrata, 1963) 2. 71-76. Muchof the rest of the letter survivesin fragmentsof its Coptictranslation publishedby Louis-Theophile Lefort,S. Athanase: Lettres festales et pastorales en copte (CSCO 150;Louvain: Durbecq, 1955) 16-22, 58-62, andby Rene-Georges Coquin, "Leslettresfestales d'Athanase (CPG2102). Un nouveaucomplement: Le manuscrit IFAO, copte 25," OLP15 (1984) 133-58. Becausethereis notyet a criticaleditionthatbringstogetherall this evidence, I shallcite the editionin whichthepassageto whichI referappears. Translations fromancient sourcesare my own unless otherwisenoted;an Englishtranslation of the thirty-ninth Festal Letter thatintegrates all the published fragments appears in DavidBrakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (OxfordEarlyChristian Studies;Oxford:Clarendon,1995) 326-32. HTR 87:4 (1994) 395-419

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(K0CVOVI4O[1V0C)specifically to the books that made up his "canonized" canonis explicitly closed: "Inthese Athanasius's Old and New Testaments. 'Let of piety is proclaimed. teaching "the declares, books alone,"the bishop The significance 12:32)."2 Deut them' (LXX from no one add to or subtract issues, howof this documentgoes beyondthese formaland terminological the social into of the letterprovidea glimpse ever, for the extantfragments formationof a closed the attempted and political factorsthat accompanied in fourthcanon of the Bible in one ancientChristiansetting. Christianity of social modes by diverseand conflicting centuryEgyptwas characterized teachers, study groupsled by charismatic identityand spiritualformation: Melitiancommunitiescenteredaroundthe venerationof martyrs,and the emerging structureof imperial orthodoxyheaded by Athanasiusall prepiety. Withinthis sentedthemselvesas legitimateexpressionsof Christian complex setting, the formationof a biblical canon with a propermode of of an official catholic step in the formation was an important interpretation spirituality. churchin Egypt with its parish-centered Most histories of the formationof the Christianbiblical canon have concernedthemselvesnot with these social factors,but with lists and criteria.3That is, one studies the formationof the New Testamentcanon by asking where, at what time, and by what criteriaearly Christiansconsidincludedsome of these in their canons, ered certainwritingsauthoritative, and rejected others. Few scholars have studied the social and political in particular of Christianscriptures implicationsof the rise and restriction ancientcontexts.4Whattheologicalandpoliticaleffects did canonshave in and modes of Whatsocial institutions communities? variousearly Christian What were the practicaland did canons supportand undermine? authority canons?To be sure, spiritualgoals pursuedby leaders who promulgated fragment,for exmuch of what survives from antiquity the Muratorian ample provideslittle evidence with which to answersuch questions,but scholarsare motivatedprimain many cases it appearsthat contemporary Bibles containonly a rily by their need to explain why modernChristian limitednumberof books out of the varietyof ancientJewishand Christian literature.

festales 39, in Joannou, Fonti, 2. 75 lines 3-6. 2Athanasius Epistulae 3Significant recent surveys include Bruce M. Metzger, TheCanonof the New Testament: (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987); and Lee MartinMcDonald, andSignificance Development, Its Origin, TheFormationof the ChristianBiblical Canon(Nashville: Abingdon, 1988). 4Studies of this kind include Hans von Campenhausen, The Formationof thwChristian Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972); Elaine H. Pagels, "Visions, Appearances, and Apostolic fur Authority: Gnostic and Orthodox Traditions," in Barbara Aland, ed., Gnosis:Festschrift HansJonas(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978) 415-30; and Helmut Koester, "Writings and the Spirit: Authority and Politics in Ancient Christianity," HTR84 (1991) 353-72.

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Most studiesof Athanasius's thirty-ninth Festal Letterhave also focused on lists and criteria,althoughthe survivingfragments providerich material for broadersocial questions.S Admittedly,Athanasius's lists are themselves fascinating,for in additionto an Old and New Testament, the bishopitemizes seven books that are not "canonized," but are to be used for the instructionof catechumens: the Wisdomof Solomon, Sirach,Esther,Judith, Tobit, the Didache, and the Shepherd of Hermas.6 Moreover,discrepancies and minor oddities emerge when one comparesthe lists in the Greekand Coptic versions.7Athanasius also articulates specific criteriafor discerning what is in his canon. The canonicalbooks, which he calls "divine"(ola) or "divinely inspired"(oozvcsOa), have been "handeddown to our ancestors" by "thosewho were eyewitnessesfrom the beginningand assistants of the Word"(Luke 1:2) that is, they originatedin apostolic times andhave beenusedcontinuously since then.8Otherwritings, howeveruseful, are not part of the Bible. These lists and criteria,howeverintriguing,will not be the focus of this article, but they do clarify that in examining Athanasius's letterone merelystudiesa single step in canonformation the restrictionof canonical status to certain writings out of a larger set of authoritative literaturewhich is called scripture.In this case, I am not dealingwith the equallyimportant processof elevatingcertainworksto the statusof scripture.9 By the categoriesof the modernstudy of religion, the Didache and othersuch books were still authoritative and therefore"scripture"for Athanasius, althoughthey were not partof his primary canon;in
sSignificantstudies that make use of the entire text as it is knownin Greekand Coptic includeCarl Schmidt,"DerOsterfestbrief des Athanasiusvom J. 367," in Nachrichtenvon der Konigl. Gesellschaftder Wissenschaften zu Gottingen,Philologisch-historische Klasse, aus demJahre 1898 (Gottingen: Horstmann, 1898) 167-203; idem, "Einneues Fragment des Osterfestbriefes des Athanasius vom Jahre367,"in Nachrichten vonder Konigl. Gesellschaft derWissenschaften zuGottingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse, ausdem Jahre1901(Gottingen: Horstmann,1902) 326-48; TheodorZahn, Athanasius undderBibelkanon (Erlangen/Leipzig: Deichert,1901)1-36; idem,Grundriss derGeschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons (Leipzig: Deichert,1901)58-60; Martin Tetz,"Athanasius unddie EinheitderKirche: Zurokumenischen Bedeutungeines Kirchenvaters," ZThK81 (1984) 205-7; and AlbertoCamplani, Le lettere festali di Atanasiodi Alessandria:Studiostorico-critico(Rome:C.I.M., 1989) 275-79. 6Athanasius Epistulaefestales 39, in Joannou,Fonti, 2. 75 line 14-76 line 2. 7See the extendeddiscussions of the position of Hebrewsand the odd referenceto the Didachein the Copticversionin Schmidt,"Osterfestbrief," 184-93; idem,"NeuesFragment," 336-40; Zahn,Athanasius,5-13. 8Athanasius Epistulaefestales 39, in Joannou,Fonti, 2. 71 line 13; 72 lines 13-21. 9Forthe distinctionbetween scriptureand canon, see William A. Graham, "Scripture," Encyclopedia of Religion 13 (1987) 133-45, esp. 142-43; for its application to the developmentof the Christian Bible, see AlbertC. Sundberg, "Canon of the NT,"lDBSup136-40; and idem,"Towards a RevisedHistoryof the New Testament Canon," StEv4 (1968) 452-61, esp. 453-54.

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books were read (OCVOC7IVOOKcategories,such instructional Athanasius's O[1VOC),but not canonized(KavovlCovoc).10 My goal in this articleis not to studythese categories,but to understand createdthemin the first place;I shall investigatewhat sort why Athanasius he sought to form and what sorts to undermine.Modern of Christianity definitionof the canon was scholars sometimesassume that Athanasius's but there are no references in particular,ll aimed at the desertmonasteries of the letter.Instead,one mustplace the to asceticsin the knownfragments its situation careerand reconstruct Festal Letter of 367 withinAthanasius's from his fifth and, as it returned from its own rhetoric.In 366, Athanasius only seven years later, turnedout, final exile from his see in Alexandria; assumed or perhapshopedin 373, he died. Scholarshave traditionally that in the interveningyears Athanasiusenjoyed relativepeace, presiding over a unitedchurchin Egyptand watchingthe Nicene faith grow stronger fathers.Unfortunately underthe intellectualleadershipof the Cappadocian for Athanasius,this was not the case. Startingwith this letter, writtenin wrotea series of Easterlettersthatdealt with vexing prob367, Athanasius and episcoordinations lems of churchorder:the biblical canon, irregular pal consecrations,and abuses at martyrtombs. These letters reveal that, still had to work at establishingan even in his decliningyears, Athanasius thathe desired.Throughout Egyptianchurchwith the unity and uniformity these letters Athanasiusstrikes out at a variety of opponents:persons he calls Arians,Melitians,Jews, and simply heretics, all of whom appearin this letter on the biblical canon. Two groups are especially prominentin particuFestal Letter: "teachers," rhetoricin the thirty-ninth Athanasius's larly Arians, who accordingto Athanasiusinvent their own ideas rather than submitto biblical truth,and Melitians,who accordingto Athanasius Christians. books to deceive unsuspecting publish false apocryphal for reconstructthe basis provide Melitians and These terms teachers of a canon. proclamation Athanasius's that occasioned ing the social conflicts form episcopal Athanasius's how First,the rhetoricaboutteachersindicates in bishauthority placing and situatedin the parishchurch of Christianity, situated ops and priests, competedwith an academicform of Christianity, in the schoolroomand placing authorityin charismaticteachers. In this context, the bishop'sformationof a certainkind of canon was meant to replace the authorityof human teachers and their doctrinalspeculations
lAthanasius Epistulae festales 39, in Joannou, Fonti 2. 75 line 26-76 line 2. Nonetheless, Jean Ruwet was wrong to argue ("Le canon alexandrin des Ecritures. Saint Athanase," Bib 33 [1952] 1-29) that Athanasius considered such catechetically useful books to be just as inspired as those in his Old and New Testaments. ] ]For example, see Roger Bagnall, Egypt in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) 304.

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with an unchanging recordof what was taughtby Christ,the sole teacher, which was now read by bishops in a sacramental context. Meanwhile,on a second front, Athanasius's hierarchy of clergy competedwith an altetnative episcopalhierarchy knownas the Melitianchurch.Here, by excluding certainChristianwritingsfrom his canon, Athanasius hoped to reducethe influence of apocalypticand visionary ideas that supportedthe Melitian claim to be the truechurchof the martyrs. Athanasius insistedthatonly his canon, and by extensionhis church,enjoyed a direct origin in the earliest Christiancommunities.I shall argue that Athanasius's disputeswith other EgyptianChristians over the biblical canonwere not strugglesover lists of books alone, but reflectedmore fundamental conflicts between competing modes of Christianauthority, spirituality, and social organization. My aim is to show how canonformationcontributed to the establishment of catholic Christianity in Egypt. g

Independent StudyCirclesandthe Scriptures

Muchof Athanasius's letter is devotedto an attackon the application of the title "teacher" to any humanbeing; only Christ,the bishop argues,is the teacherof humanbeings. This rhetoricis a symptomof the continuing tension in early ChristianEgypt between the hierarchical episcopatethat Athanasius headedand the persistencein Alexandria of study circles gatheredaround charismatic teachers.Athanasius professedto deplorethe speculative and original thoughtof the schoolroomand hoped to curtail such Christian philosophizing by restrictingtruthto what could be found in his circumscribed canon of books.l2 The Arian crisis was the most spectacular example of this tension between what scholarshave called episcopal and academicChristianities.13 Two forms of Christian life clashed. On the one hand,the episcopatewas centeredaround the practicesof worshipanddealt with conflictsjuridically as questionsof admissionto the cult; on the other hand, the school was centered aroundthe personalitiesof outstandingteachers and dealt with conflicts scholasticallyas questionsof intellectualspeculationand debate. Competinghierarchies of priests and teachersdevelopedsimultaneously in early Christianity,and their values and social forms influenced one another. Before Constantine began to patronizeepiscopal Christianity, these two formsof churchlife could coexist, albeitnot alwayspeacefully.During the fourthcentury,however,in the wordsof RowanWilliams,"the'Catho12Portions of this section repeat material from Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, 57-70. 13Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition (London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1987) 82-91; see Manlio Simonetti, La crisi ariana nel IV secolo (Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 11; Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1975) 141-43.

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lic' model of the church[came] to be allied with the idea of a monolithic social unit and the policy of religiouscoercion.''14 Nowherewas this developmentmore painful than in Alexandria,where the academicmodel was clearly the more ancientone. Although the origins of AlexandrianChristianityremain obscure, the first AlexandrianChristiansto whom we can point with any clarity are teachersand their students.Glaucias,who flourishedaround100 CE, appearsin our sourcesas perhapsa commentator on the Epistles of St. Peter and as the teacherof Basilides, who himself becamea prominent Christian philosopher.15 From here the story of Christianityin Alexandriain the second and thirdcenturiesis essentiallyone of teachersand their competing independentschools: the Gnostics, Valentinus, Pantaenus,Clement, Origen, and so on.16Like other Hellenistic philosophers,such Christian teacherswould rent their own premises, gather a group of students,and publishlearnedtreatisesundertheirown names.17 Withinthese small study circles, Christiansadvancedspirituallyand intellectuallyunderthe guidance of theirlearnedteachers.18 Not until after 189 CE, with the adventof Bishop Demetrius,does the monarchical episcopateappearin Alexandria, and it then appearsas an institution hostile to the freewheeling,unmanageable Christianschools. Most likely it was Demetriuswho first established a single catechetical school as an official auxiliary of the episcopate.Origen, the school's brilliantleader, however, did not restricthis activities to the basic instruction of converts;instead,he cultivateda smallercircle of students devotedto speculativephilosophyand gained international fame and respect throughhis books and lecture tours. Bishop Demetriuseventually sent Origento CaesareaMaritimaand installedthe more pliable Heraclas

4Williams, Arius, 87. 15Bentley Layton, "The Significance of Basilides in Ancient Christian Thought," Representations 28 (1989) 135-51. I6See Ulrich Neymeyr, Die christlichen Lehrer im zweiten Jahrhundert: Ihre Lehrtatigkeit, ihr Selbstverstandnis und ihre Geschichte (suppl. to VC 4; Leiden: Brill, 1989) 40-105. 17Hansvon Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries (London: Black, 1969) 194; see also Eusebius Hist. eccl. 6.11.11; and Acta Justini et Septem Sodalium 3. I8Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (Lectures on the History of Religions, n.s., 13; New York: Columbia University Press, 1988) 103-8. On the spirituality of the relationship between teachers and students, see Richard Valantasis, Spiritual Guides of the Third Century: A Semiotic Study of the GuideDisciple Relationship in Christianity, Neoplatonism, HermetismSand Gnosticism (HDR 27; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), although he is pessimistic about reconstructing the actual relationships between real teachers and students in history; and Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) 156-61, 186-95.

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in his place as head of the catecheticalschool.19Origen and even more so Clementrepresented brilliantincarnations of the Christianteacher. A complete history of the forms of academicChristianity in Christian Alexandriawill not be attempted here, but its basic featurescan be summarized.Christianstudy circles toleratedand even encouraged philosophical speculationand diversity of opinion on certain Christianteachings.20 Drawingon the Middle Platonicdoctrineof the seminalLogos, academic Christianssought to discover Christiantruth whereverit might manifest itself literarily,includingpaganliterature, Jewishwritingsof all kinds, and Christianbooks that their fellow Christiansmay have consideredsuspect. Hence academic Christiansresisted the idea of a closed canon.21Study groupsused allegoricalinterpretation in orderto find their peculiarphilosophicalideas within generallyacceptedChristian scripture and creeds and therebymaintaintheir dual social commitment to the ordinarychurchand the schoolroom.22 AcademicChristiansmade sense of their separateidentity withinwiderChristianity by dividingbelieversinto subgroups basedon their progress or lack thereof in the intellectualunderstanding of the scriptures.23 They then applied to themselves special names that distinguished such advancedstudents from ordinaryChristians for example, "lovers of wisdom,"24 "gnostic,"25 or "spiritualpeople."26 Among these "lovers of wisdom"were women, especially ascetic women, who sometimes participated in such study circles on an equal basis with men.27 Not
l9Regarding Pantaenus, Clement,andthe earlyhistoryof the catecheticalschool in Alexandria,see GustaveBardy,"Auxoriginesde l'ecole d'Alexandrie," RSR 27 (1937) 65-90; and David Dawson,Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria (Berkeley: Universityof CaliforniaPress, 1992) 219-22. RegardingOrigenandDemetrius,see Joseph WilsonTrigg,Origen: The Bible and Philosophy in the Third-Century Church (Atlanta: John Knox, 1983) 130-46. 20Origen Princ. l.praef. 3. 21Theattitudesof Clementand Origenare well describedby R. P. C. Hanson,Origen's Doctrine of Tradition (London:S.P.C.K., 1954) esp. 127-73. 22The Valentinians wereparticularly notedfor this practice;see, for example,Treatise on the Resurrection, in Bentley Layton,The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations and Introductions (Garden City,NY: Doubleday,1987)272-74, 316-24; andDawson, Allegorical Readers, 177-78. 23Origen Hom. in Gen. 5, 7, 17; idem, Comm. in Matt. 17; andidem, Comm. in Cant. pref. 24Origen Princ. l.praef. 3. 25Clement Alex. Strom. passim. 26Irenaeus Adv. haer. 1.6.4 (referring to Valentinian practice). 27The Valentinian teacher Ptolemydedicated a letterto his spiritual sisterPlora(Epiphanius Panarion 33.3.1). Women attendedOrigen'sclasses (EusebiusHist. eccl. 6.8.2) and were considered capableof philosophyby Clement(Paed. 1.4;Strom. 4.8, 19-20); see Brown,Body and Society, 122-39, 276-77. Pormoreon this aspectof academicChristianity andits importancein Athanasius's regulation of Christian virgins,see Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism, 57-75.

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and indeed every Christianstudy circle displayedall these characteristics, in this context Athanasiuscriticized in particularthe openness of study circles to diverse opinions and variousJewish and Christianliterature. teacher,displayed Meanwhile,the leaderof a study circle, the Christian The teacher'sauthoritywas based not on a conseveral characteristics.28 tinuingoffice, but on unique,god-givenqualitiesof intellect,morality,and close contactwith the divine. Such qualitieswere manifestin the teacher's reception of visions of the risen Christ or experiences of mystical and intellectualunionwith the godhead,akinto whatwas describedby Plato in and in the teacher'sascetic lifestyle, which studentsconhis Symposium,29 the To bolsterhis or her claim to authority, sideredworthyof emulation.30 teachercould producean intellectualpedigreethat tracedhis or her acathrougha successionof brilliantteachersback to a founder demic tradition admired, such as Paulor Jesushimself;this succession whomall Christians 1 Rival teachers was sometimes the conduit for a secret oral tradition.3 competed with one anotheroften throughpersonal attacks on another's given pedigree;this kindof polemicis not surprising lifestyle andacademic could authority authority.32 The teacher's the personalnatureof the teacher's continue after death throughthe disseminationof philosophicaltreatises commentaries and the publicationof idealizingbiographies and scriptural The person of the teacherwas the indispensable by his or her students.33 center of Christianspiritualityin the study circles. In the words of Hans "thereis no effective progress for academicChristians von Campenhausen, and there can be no instructionwithouta teacher."34 withoutinstruction; attacked the personof the teacher,in general,he focused WhileAthanasius on the use of intellectualpedigreesin particular. We should pause here to note the centralrole of Christianscripturein The Christianteacherdisplayedhis brillianceand academicChristiallity. both the of scripture, guided his studentspartlythroughthe interpretation so-called Old Testamentin the form of the Septuagintand the emerging New Testamentof writings producedby Christians.The second century
28vonCampenhausen (Ecclesiastical Authority, 194-212) provides the classic discussion. 29Zost. 129.4-12; 130.4-10; Gos. Truth 43.1-2; Plato Symp. 210A-212A; see also Pagels, "Visions, Appearances," 426-27. 30On Origen's asceticism, see Gregory Thaumaturgus In Origenem oratio panegyrica 9; Eusebius Hist. eccl. 6.3.9-12. 3Ivon Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority, 157-60, 201; Pagels, "Visions, Appearances," 426. 32Layton, "Significance of Basilides," 135-36. 33Ancient biographies of Origen are attributed to Gregory Thaumaturgus (In Origenem oratio panegyrica) and Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 6). 34von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority, 200, in reference to Clement Alex. Strom. 6.57.2.

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DAVID B RAKKE 403

saw the rise of a Christianintelligentsiathat claimed the ability to understand writings that were obscure to most people. Thus, it was precisely academicChristianity that contributed to the elevationof certainChristian works, such as Paul'sletters, to the statusof scripture by placing them on syllabi for study of Christianphilosophyand by claiming that they were obscure,containedhiddenmeanings,and so had to be interpreted by trained scholars.35 As mentionedabove, however,academicChristians were generally uninterested in the formationof a closed canon, for one who knows how to searchproperlymay find the truthin almost any document.In the case of Origen,for example,one may say thatin principlethe potentialfor a closed canon is present,since he evaluatesindividualwritingsto determine their authoritative status.In practice,however,for Origenthe discovery of canonicity remains a scholarly endeavor and so open to new arguments, revised decisions, and the possibility of revelationin hitherto unrecognized places.36 Moreover,academicstudy was not the only activity that occasionedthe elevation of Christianwritingsto scriptureduringthe second and third centuries.Ritual did so as well, for in their assemblies Christians learnedwhatedifiedthe worshipping community by readingfrom the Septuagintand from Christianliterature.37 Nonetheless,even when the same books were being studiedby Christian philosophers as the source of inspiredtruthand read aloud in Christianassembliesas the source of the sharedstory of Jesus, these groupsdevelopeddistinctsets of scripture that reflected different understandings of authorityand spiritualformation.I shall returnto this idea below, after investigatingthe conflict between academicand episcopalChristianities and the important role of canon formationin this conflict. While Clementand Origenembodiedthe academicChristian tradition in the second and thirdcenturies,Arius most notoriouslyfulfilled this role in fourth-century Alexandria.38 Arius was one of severalAlexandrian presbyters who lecturedon the scriptures and so turnedtheirparishchurchesinto schoolrooms; admirers of differentpresbyter-teachers formedrival groups, namedaftertheirfavoriteteachers,such as the Colluthians andthe Arians.39 Dressing in ascetic clothing and attracting numerousstudents,particularly female virgins,Ariussuccessfullyfilled the old-fashioned role of the Christian religiousmentor;40 accordingto the Martyrdom of SaintPeter, he gave
35Koester, "Writings andthe Spirit,"371-72; see WilliamA. Graham, Beyondthe Written Word: OralAspectsof Scripture in theHistoryof Religion(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) 67-68. 36Hanson, Origen'sDoctrine, 142-43; von Campenhausen, Formation,320-23. 37Justin Martyr Apol. 1.67; Koester,"Writings and the Spirit,"368-70. 38Williams, Arius, passim. 39Epiphanius Panarion69.2.6. 40Ibid., 69.3.1; Williams,Arius, 32.

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public lectures on scriptural interpretation on Wednesdaysand Fridays.41 Ariusopenedhis book Thaliaby self-consciouslyportraying himself as the latest in a long line of sages who were taughtby God:
According to the faith of God's chosen, those with discernment of God, His holy children, imparting the truth and open to God's holy spirit, These are the things I have learned from the men who partake of wisdom, The keen-minded men, instructed by God, and in all respects wise. In such men's steps I have walked, advancing in thoughts like theirs, A man much spoken of, who suffers all manner of things for God's glory, And, learning from God, I am now no stranger to wisdom and knowledge.42

Here is an exquisite expressionof academicspirituality, a poetic celebration of the academic pedigreethatauthenticates Arius'sown originalthought. The Christian'sgoal is to approachGod spirituallyand intellectuallywhich, for the ancients,were impossibleto separate throughinstruction by "keen-minded men,"a processthatis equivalent to "learning fromGod." Arius demonstrated that he was "no strangerto wisdom and knowledge" through his lectureson the scriptures. This is a far cry from the spirituality of Athanasius,who ridiculedArius'spoetic musings as "effeminate."43 Arius was not only a teacher;he was also a presbyter and thus suggests that, in the early fourthcentury,the hierarchical episcopateand the study circles were not clearly distinguished in Alexandria. Rather,the values of academicChristianity permeated the emergingsystemof parishchurches.It was the goal of Athanasiusand his predecessoras bishop, Alexander,to eliminatethe academicmode of authority andspiritual formation fromtheir parochialsystem. When Arius'steachingsappeared to Alexanderto transgress the limits of acceptable diversity,he had the presbyter condemned by a synod of bishops,an expressionof the idea thatthe presbyter's authority,
41"Alexanderpromoted Arius to the dignity of the priesthood. This latter began, under the pretense of scriptural authority, to expound doctrine to the people, having the congregation come to church on Wednesday and Friday so as to hear the Word of God" (Martyrdom of Saint Peter of Alexandria). The text can be found in William Telfer, "St. Peter of Alexandria and Arius," AnBoll 67 (1949) 130; the translation is by Tim Vivian, St. Peter of Alexandria: Bishop and Martyr (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 70. 42Athanasius Orationes contra Arianos 1.5; translated in Williams, Arius, 85. 43Athanasius Orationes contra Arianos 1.5. As Schmidt stated ("Neues Fragment," 344), "The spirit of scientific inquiry belonging to Origen and his school is completely foreign to him [Athanasius]" (my translation). On the masculinization of orthodoxy and feminization of heresy in Athanasius, see Virginia Burrus, "The Heretical Woman as Symbol in Alexander, Athanasius, Epiphanius, and Jerome," HTR 84 (1991) 235-39.

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unlike that of the teacher,did not come from his educationand brilliance, but was grantedby the bishop. The episcopatevalued not advancein wisdom and knowledge,but unity and harmony,which were seen to be the commands of scripture. Most likely it was the youngAthanasius, servingas Alexander's secretary, who expressedthis catholicsensibilityin Alexanders circularletter on Arius: "Thereis one body of the universal(KaOoklK) church,and a commandis given to us in the sacredscriptures to preserve the bond of unity and peace."44 The notion of sacredscriptures went hand in hand with the episcopate'sattemptto curtail academicactivity in the name of unity and peace. Athanasius,after succeedingAlexanderas bishop in 328, made explicit the oppositionbetween a closed biblical canon and the activity of human teachers.In his twenty-fourth Festal Letter, writtenin 352, he contrasted "the words of the saints"and "the fancies of humaninvention."Only the saints- meaningthe authorsof the New Testamentbooks- handeddown what they had heardfrom the incarnate Wordof God "withoutalteration." Hence, "of these [saints] the Word wants us to be disciples, and they should be our teachers,and it is necessaryfor us to obey only them."45 Here AthanasiusportraysChristiandoctrineas the unchangingrecordof what was taughtby the incarnateWord and found solely in Athanasius's canon.The only legitimateteachersare the authorsof the canonicalbooks, and thus the ideas of contemporary teachersare merely "fancies"created by humanbeings. Fifteen years later, in the thirty-ninth letter, Athanasius even more narrowlycircumscribed the legitimateuse of the title "teacher" by statingthatonly Christhimself was to be the teacherof Christians: "The name of Wisdom suits him because it is he alone who is the true teacher. For who is to be trustedto teach humanbeings aboutthe Fatherexcept he who exists always in his bosom?"46 Jesus, Athanasiuspointed out, commandedthat Christianscall no one else "teacher" (Matt 23:8-10). Confronted with New Testamentpassages that clearly refer to persons other than Jesus as "teacher" (1 Tim 2:7; Eph 4:11; Jas 3:1), Athanasiussuggested that such people were called teachersonly honorifically; in reality, they were merely disciples, mouthpieces who passed on what the Wordof God had told them:
For the words that the disciples proclaim do not belong to them; rather, they heard them from the Savior. Therefore, even if it is Paul who is teaching, it is Christ who is speaking in him. And even if he says that
44Alexander Alex. Epistula encyclica 2. On Athanasius's authorship of this letter, see G. Christopher Stead, "Athanasius' Earliest Written Work," JTS, n.s., 39 (1988) 76-91. 45Athanasius Epistulae festales 2.7 [Syriac]; the twenty-fourth Festal Letter was mistakenly transmitted as the second. 46Ibid., 39 [Coptic], in Coquin, "Les lettres festales," lr.al9-29.

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the Lord has appointed teachers in the churches (1 Cor 12:28), it is he [the Lord] who first teaches them and sends them out. For the nature of everyone who is part of creation is to be taught, but our Lord and Demiurge is by nature a teacher. For he was not taught by another person how to be a teacher, but all human beings, even if they are called ;;teacher," were first disciples. Moreover, every [human being] is instructed since the Savior supplies them with the knowledge of the Spirit, so that they might be God's students. But our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, being the Word of the Father, was not instructed by anyone else. Rightly he alone is the Teacher.47

This is an attackon those who use academicpedigreesto legitimatetheir authority, a strategythatAriusemployedin the Thalia. Christ,said Athanasius, has no need to produce such a pedigree, being himself Word and Wisdom. of human hopedto replacethe authority By makingthis claim,Athanasius through the biblicalcanon. of Christ,as mediated teacherswith the authority The disciples, the bishop said, simply wrote what Christthe teachertold beings human included everydoctrine whichtherefore themin the scriptures, need to know.48Athanasiusdeclaredthat the canon, unlike teacherswho traced their predecessorsback to the source of Christiantruth,recorded Truth'sspeech directly,withoutmediationor development.This unchanging canon made the intellectualoriginalityof the schoolroomappearsuithe cidal. Hereticalteachers,by daringto be innovative,had "abandoned dead in canon-and thus "remained spring of life"-that is, Athanasius's their unbeliefby being boundby their evil thoughts,just as the Egyptians soughtto render In this way Athanasius were boundby theirown axles."49 Christian academicactivity illegitimateby makingthe title of independent teacher,when appliedto a humanbeing, cause for suspicionand distrust, as well as by claimingthat originalhumanthoughtwas really entrapping, who was manifestlyteachingand inventdeadlymud. In turn,Athanasius, ing new ideas, had to deny what he was doing and say that he was himself tradition."ForI have no teacher,but merely a conduitfor an unchanging not writtenthese things as if I were teaching,"he stated, "for I have not attainedsuch a rank.... I have thus informedyou of everythingthat I Alexander.50 Even when heardfrommy father"-his episcopalpredecessor, claimingnot to be a teacherand attackingthe use of academicpedigrees, Athanasiusacted like a teacherby referringto his own academicsucces47Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 16 lines 17-31. 48Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], Coquin, "Les lettres festales," 6v.a25-b29. 49Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 17 lines 8-9, 21-24; this uses the Septuagint version of Exod 14:25. 50AthanasiusEpistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 21 lines 1 1-12, 14-15.

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sion in the person of Alexander.These strategiesof personalattacks on teachersand professed condemnation of original thoughtwere staples of Christianschool polemics which datedback to JustinMartyr.51 In the second century,Irenaeusemployeda similarstrategyof using academicsuccessionto bolsterthe authority of bishopsbut of reserving the title "teacher," and its connotationsof suspicious originality,for his opponents.52 In his Festal Letter on the canon, Athanasius used the rhetoricof anti-intellectualism to renderhis Arianopponentssuspect and his own teachingactivity invisible. In this campaign, Athanasius stressedthatthe Wordof God,unlikehuman beings, had no need to learn anything.The Wordwas by naturea teacher; humanbeings were by naturestudents.This assertioncriticizednot only the school tradition'sgreat esteem for the teacher, but also the Arians' alleged depictionof the Wordof God as one who advancedin knowledge and virtueand therefore could serve as a modelfor Christians makingtheir own spiritual progress.53 As Athanasius depictedthe matter, the ArianWord learnedhow to create through"instruction" (blbasKakia) from God the Father,who was the Word's"teacher" (blbasKocko5).54 In the spirituality of academicChristianity, the Christian teacher's classroom,filled with studentseagerto progressin wisdomand virtueby patterning themselvesafter their mentor,found its heavenly analoguein the Word'seducationat the feet of the Father.55 Like the charismatic teacher,the Word was a model for Christians to imitate. This spiritualitywas well adaptedto what Peter Brown has called late antiquity's "civilizationof paideia," at the heartof which was "intensivemale bonding"betweenteacherand pupil.56 In some of Alexandria's Christian study circles, this scholastic"malebonding"was projectedonto the deity itself, and on earthit was replicatedin the study of scripture underthe inspiredteacher.Athanasius wouldhave none of this; by naturethe Word was the only true teacher;humanbeings, in contrast, were by naturemerely"God'sstudents," taughtby the Wordalone through his mouthpieces,the scripturesand the bishops. Athanasius,delineating between Creatorand created,limited the term "teacher" to the formerand the term "student" to the latter. The study of scriptureshould not be an
5iLayton, "Significance of Basilides," 135-36. 52Virginia Burrus, "Hierarchalization and Genderization of Leadership in the Writings of Irenaeus," StPatr21 (1989) 43-45. 53Robert C. Gregg and Dennis E. Groh, EarlyArianism-A Viewof Salvation(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981). 54Athanasius OrationescontraArianos2.28; see also 1.37. 55See Gregg and Groh, EarlyArianism,163-64. 56PeterBrown, "The Saint as Exemplar in Late Antiquity," in John Stratton Hawley, ed., Saintsand Virtues(Comparative Studies in Religion and Society 2; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987) 4.

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but only a moraltrainexercise in progressivelydivinizingcontemplation, ing for catechumens.As Athanasiusstated in his Festal Letter, catechumens shouldbe taughtonly those biblicalpassagesthat"will teachthemto spirituallife should A Christian's idol-worship."57 hate sin and to abandon not be a textuallybasededucationsimilarto thatof the Word,but a parishcenteredreceptionof the Word'sdivinizingpower throughthe sacraments. in an intelAthanasius, then, was not simply assertingcanonicalauthority a mode of lectual battle over Arian theology; rather,he was articulating A canon suited this appropriate to a catholic spirituality. biblical authority spirituality; and thus, althoughAthanasiusand other bishops had few coercive means at their disposal to enforce their closed canons, nonetheless a uniformcanon slowly prevailedin the ancientchurches. In fact, one should speak not of Athanasiusimposing a canon on a Christianity previouslylackingone, nor even of him tryingto close a canon a certaintype of a bishoppromoting thathad hithertobeen open, but rather to the episcopal form of Christianity. of biblical canon, one appropriate Moderndiscussionsof the biblical canon in Christianhistory usually assume that there is only one possible kind of canon, a closed canon of the and so describethe early centuriesas a promulgated, type that Athanasius relentlessprogresstowardthat seeminglyinevitabletelos. Withinreligious traditionsin general and within Christianityin particular,however, one finds canons that differ not only in their contentsbut also in their fundaThereare, for example,canonsthatdo not possess their mentalcharacter.58 own independentauthority,but are the result of a more basic religious activity, apartfrom which they would not exist and cannotbe understood. The lectionaryof a liturgicalchurchis an exampleof this type of canon; it is a functionof ritualand has its authorfor, althoughit is authoritative, ity only insofar as it enables worship. A second type of canon indeed status and serves to legitimateother relipossesses its own authoritative gious activities, such as preaching.One thinksof the canon of many conwherean oversizedBible placedon a lectern churches, temporary Protestant Here scriptural canonsare the sermonof the preacher. appearsto authorize classifiednot by theircontents,which may be nearlyidentical,but by their
57Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 62 lines 3-8. 58Iam dependent here, for both the general concepts and the specific examples, on Kendall W. Folkert, "The 'Canons' of Scripture," in Miriam Levering, ed., Rethinking Scripture: Essays from a Comparative Perspective (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989) 170-79. Folkert divides scripture into "two general forms": "Canon I denotes normative texts, oral or written, that are present in a tradition principally by the force of a vector or vectors. Canon II refers to normative texts that are more independently and distinctively present within a tradition, that is, as pieces of literature more or less as such are currently thought of, and which themselves function as vectors" (p. 173).

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functionswithin religious communities, especially their relationsto modes of authorityand spiritualformation. From this perspective,Athanasius'sconflict with academic Christians over the biblical canon must not be construedas Athanasius's attemptto close a canonthatthe teacherswouldpreferto leave open, but as a conflict between two competingand distinct canon types. Like the lectionariesof today or the ritual-based canons of the early centuries,the Bible of academic Christianity was not an independent authority, but the functionof a morebasic religiousactivity Christian philosophical instruction and spiritual guidance.The Christianscripturesformedthe answerto the question of which books one ought to study in an effort to contemplateGod. As such, the contents of the academiccanon were somewhatindeterminate, althougha core set of writings-namely, the four gospels and the lettersof Paul could be foundnearlyeverywhere.59 The boundaries of the academic canon could shift with the theologian'squest for truth;a "disputed" work like the Gospel of the Hebrewsmight be acceptablesince some Christians "rejoice"in its contents.60 In contrast,Athanasiusoffered a canon which, by means of its authoritative status,precededand groundedany other religious activities.Ritual,instruction, andpoliticalorganization in the Christian communitywere legitimateto the extent that they were based on the set canon of scriptures. The boundaries of the episcopalcanon were fixed, and Christianinstructionwas a functionof this canon, ratherthan the reverse:
Even if a useful word is found in them [the rejectedbooks], it is still not good to trustthem.... Let us command ourselvesnot to proclaim anythingin them nor to speak anythingin them with those who want to be instructed, even if thereis a good word in them, as I have said. For whatdo the spiritualscriptures lack thatwe shouldseek afterthese empty voices of unknownpeople?. . . If we seek the faith, it is possible for us to discoverit through them [the scriptures].61

Bishop Athanasius's rejection of preachingand teaching based on extracanonicalwritingseven if some or all of theircontentsare useful and good is the major distinctionbetween the canons of episcopal and academic Christianities. A remnantof the academiccanon, however,remainedeven
59This indeterminate nature of the academic canon's contents may lead some to argue that it cannot be called a canon, which must by definition be closed. This definition itself assumes a canon of only one type the Christian Protestant canon and so obscures other kinds of scriptural collections in religions past and present. On the difficulty of understanding Jain scriptures from a "Canon II" perspective, see Folkert, "'Canons' of Scripture," 175-76. 60Eusebius Hist. eccl. 3.25.5. 6lAthanasius Epistulaefestales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase,21 lines 1-2; Coquin, "Les lettres festales," 6r.b25-6v.a8, 25-29.

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in Athanasius's programin the form of a list of seven Christianwritings thatwere not canonicalbut were useful for the instruction of converts.This awkwardalliance of canons of quite differenttypes could not last, however, and Athanasius's thirdtestamentdisappeared rapidly.62 In any case, Athanasius's polemic against "teachers" finds its proper context in his effort to reduce the influence of study circles in Christian Alexandriaand consolidateChristianlife aroundthe hierarchical episcopate. The definitionof a closed canonand the accompanying condemnation of original thought were means by which Athanasiushoped to achieve these social and political goals. g

"Apocryphal" BooksandtheMartyr Cult

Athanasiusdid not accuse "teachers" of publishingapocryphal books, however,but the Melitians,whose conflict with the Athanasian episcopate was far differentfrom that of the Alexandrianstudy circles. While academic Christiansclaimed to discover spiritualtruth throughintellectual researchunderthe guidanceof inspiredteachers,the Melitianspossessed an episcopalorganization thatparalleled thatof Athanasius, but whichplaced a high value on continuitywith the pre-Constantinian churchof the martyrs. Among Melitian and other Christiangroups, the use of apocryphal books that connectedmartyrdom with visionarypowers supported the ideology of a propheticmartyrcult based in Upper Egyptianparishes.Here Athanasius's promulgation of a closed canonof publiclyknownbooks was meantto eliminateany scriptural support for practices surrounding the martyr cult. It is crucialto remember that the Melitianschism had its origins in the persecutionsthat Christianssufferedin the first decade of the fourthcentury,the so-calledGreatPersecution.63 In 304, Bishop Peterof Alexandria andotherbishopsretreated into hidingto avoidarrest, andso BishopMelitius of Lycopolis in Upper Egypt attemptedto carry on church business by ordaining priests and installingbishopsin Alexandria and other sees. Peter and the other hiding bishops denouncedwhat they consideredan illegitimate intervention into their spheresof authority. Peter briefly returned to Alexandria in 305 and excommunicated Melitius,but he was forcedto flee againin 306 and was martyred in 311. By the time of the Councilof Nicea, sponsoredby the emperorConstantinein 325, long after Peter's death, there were two competingChristian churchesin Egypt, a Petrineone and a Melitianone, each with its own hierarchyof bishops and priests. The
62See Zahn, Grundriss, 60; idem, Athanasius, 26-29; see esp. 28-29 regarding the fact that even Athanasius's scriptural citations in his other works make no use of this distinction. 63Leslie W. Barnard, "Athanasius and the Meletian Schism in Egypt," JEA 59 (1973) 18189; Williams, Arius, 32-41; and Vivian, St. Peter of Alexandria, 15-40.

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by differencesover how rivalrybetween the two parties was exacerbated Christianswho lapsed duringthe persecutionsshould be treated,with the by the Melitiansarguingfor a periodof penancelongerthanthatadvocated Petrines.Indeed, the Melitiansconsideredthemselves to be the true conThe Council of churchof the martyrs.64 tinuationof the pre-Constantinian then headedby Bishop Alexander, Nicea recognizedthe Petrinehierarchy, as the legitimate Christianchurch in Egypt, and it adopted a policy of of Melitianbishops and priests into the Petrinehierargradualintegration of Melitianclergy were recognized,but Melitiushimchy. The ordinations self was commandedto enter retirement.This policy was accepted with by the partiesin Egypt, and thus conflict betweenthe two little enthusiasm The Melitianmovegroupsenduredthroughthe episcopateof Athanasius. for it includedeleEgypt, in Upper strongest ment appearsto have been lax policies allegedly and its Alexandria Hellenistic against of protest ments conflict bea was primarily the schism Nonetheless, discipline. in church not with was fought and thus organizations tween competing episcopal to political struggles:the theologicaltreatises,but with tactics appropriate use of physical violence to intimidateopponents,the channelingof church funds in beneficial directions, and the installationof allied bishops and priests in areas controlledby the other party wheneverpossible.65Moreover, in many cases, it is difficult for the historianto distinguishbetween Melitianand orthodoxpersonsand groups,and it is likely that manyEgyptian Christiansthemselvesdid not make this distinction. Accordingto Athanasius,it was the Melitians in particularwho probooks among EgyptianChristians,and there moted the use of apocryphal is some plausibilityto this claim.66To be sure, Athanasiustended in his practices laterFestal Lettersto stigmatizewhathe consideredunacceptable churches,whetheraffiliatedwith him or not, by labelingthem in Christian earlierin his careercondemned Nonetheless,Athanasius Melitianor Arian.67 than he thought the Melitians'use of a wider range of Christianliterature
64W. H. C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus (New York: New York University Press, 1967) 396-98. 6sRegardingviolence and church funds, see Barnard,"Athanasius and the Meletian Schism"; Timothy D. Barnes, "The Career of Athanasius," StPatr 21 (1987) 393-96; idem, Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press, 1993) 25-33. Regarding bishops and priests, see Athanasius Epistula ad Dracontium; idem, Epistulae festales 40 [Coptic]; and Brakke, Athanasius and the Pol itics of Asceticism, 100- 102. 66Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 21 lines 12-14. Zahn denied (Athanasius, 14) that either the Melitians or the Arians were the "heretics" whom Athanasius charged with promoting apocryphal books, but he wrote before Schmidt ("Neues Fragment") published for the first time the fragment in which Athanasius specifically names the Melitians as boasting about their apocrypha. 67Camplani, Lettere festali, 271-72.

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acceptable; in his History of the Arians, writtenin 356, the bishopcharged that the Melitiansdo not "know.. . what scriptures we Christians have."68 A decade later, in his Festal Letter of 367, Athanasiuswas more specific in his charges:"I heardthatthe heretics,particularly the wretched Melitians, were boasting about the books that they call 'apocryphal"'; they had recently composedthese books by "mixingone or two inspiredtexts" with their own "evil teachings"and then "publishing them as if they were ancient."69 Moreover,Athanasius names specific examplesof such literature: books associatedwith Enoch,Moses, and Isaiah,perhapsmeaningat least a portion of the Enoch literature he does speak of multiple books that "belongto Enoch" the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, and the Testament of Moses.70 Athanasiusdenies that any of these biblical figures could have composed an apocryphalbook; Enoch because "no Scripture existed before Moses,"and Moses and Isaiahbecauseeach referredto the public,generallyavailablecharacter of his teachings(Deut 4:26; 30:19; Isa 45:19).7l Othersourcesfrom shortlyafterAthanasius's careerassociatethe Melitianswith noncanonical books: one of the Pseudo-Athanasian Canons prohibitsthe singing of "the writings of Melitius"in churchand repeats Athanasius's quotationof SeptuagintDeut 12:32 ("Let no one add to or subtractfrom them").The Coptic monasticleader Shenute(ca. 350-466) quotes Athanasius's condemnation of the "wretched Melitians"in his sermon against apocryphalbooks.72The Melitian use of apocryphawas a theme of orthodoxpolemics throughout the fourthand fifth centuries. Athanasiuswas aware of one objection to his condemnation of such apocrypha: they are sometimescited as scriptureby authorsof the New
68Athanasius Historia Arianorum 78.1. 69Athanasius Epistulae festales 39, in Lefort, S. Athanase, 21 lines 12-14; Coquin, "Les lettres festales," 6r.bll-21, in Joannou, Fonti, 2. 76 lines 3-8. 70Of these, the identification of the Ascension of Isaiah seems the most secure (see the discussion of 1 Cor 2:9 below, p. 413) and that of the Moses literature the least secure (see David Frankfurter, "The Legacy of the Jewish Apocalypse in Early Christian Sects: Regional Trajectories,"in James Vanderkamand William Adler, eds., TheJewish Apocalypses in Christian Tradition [Minneapolis: Fortress, forthcoming]; see also Camplani, Lettere festali, 277). Evidence for the circulation of the Ascension of Isaiah in fourth-century Egypt includes fragments of its text in Coptic (Louis-Theophile Lefort, "Fragments d'apocryphes en copte-achmimique," Mus 52 [1939] 1-10; Pierre Lacau, "Fragments de l'Ascension d'Isaie en copte," Mus 59 [1946] 453-67); a quotation of it by Ammonas, the monastic disciple of Antony the Great (Letter 10, in The Letters of Ammonas: Successor of Saint Antony [trans. Derwas J. Chitty; Fairacres Publications 72; Oxford: S.L.G, 1979] 12); and its reported use by Hieracas, the Christian ascetic teacher (Epiphanius Panarion 67.3.4). 7lAthanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 20 lines 3-21. 72Pseudo-Athanasius Canones 12, in The Canons of Athanasius of Alexandria (ed. and trans. Wilhelm Riedel and W. E. Crum; London/Oxford: Williams & Norgate, 1904) 24; Tito Orlandi, "A Catechesis Against Apocryphal Texts by Shenute and the Gnostic Texts of Nag Hammadi," HTR 75 (1982) 88-89; see also Camplani, Lettere festali, 275-76.

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Testament;for example, Jude 14-15 refers to I Enoch 1.9.73Athanasius replied that it is sometimesdifficult to determinewhich passage from the only writerwhen it is introduced is quotedby a New Testament Septuagint with "it is written."Athanasiusadmittedthat Paul'scitation in 1 Cor 2:9 ("Whatno eye has seen") cannot be found in this exact formulationin but if the quotationis to be found in an apocOld Testament, Athanasius's ryphalbook, "as the heretics say," then, Athanasiusclaimed, "those who inventedthese bookshave secretlystolenfromthe wordsof Paulandwritten This referenceis significant,for two versions of the it at a later time."74 Ascension of Isaiah contain the saying found in 1 Cor 2:9, and Jerome knew an Ascension of Isaiah that containedit.75Thus, the Christiansof of theiruse of this cited 1 Cor 2:9 in support contextprobably Athanasius's In the extant fragmentsAthanasiusdoes not mention Isaiah apocryphon. in I he would have consideredits appearance Jude 14-15, but presumably Enoch 1.9 to be a similar instanceof plagiarizingfraud. claims that the Melitiansor other contemporary CertainlyAthanasius's hereticsthemselvescomposedbooks such as the Ascensionof Isaiah are to be dismissed, but it is plausiblethat Melitians and other EgyptianChristians did in fact use such literatureas scripture.I have alreadydescribed the persistenceof such charges against Melitians in orthodoxsources. In addition, Athanasiusdid not introducethe term apocryphato stigmatize these books; rather,his opponentsused the term in a positive mannerand thus forced Athanasiusto deny that it had any validity. The Melitians, books;thus, the bishopmust of theirapocryphal asserts,"boast" Athanasius deny that Christiantraditionknows any "mention(vi5R) of the apocryis "an phal books"and must argueinsteadthat the categoryof apocrypha to "deceivethe simplefolk."76 calculated (slvola) of the heretics" invention He then must explainwhy Enoch,Moses, and Isaiahcould not have written any apocryphalbooks. This strategy is quite different from one that asfor example, Tertullian, sumes a negativemeaningfor the termapocryphal. a termthathe of Hermasby labelingit apocryphal, condemnsthe Shepherd
73Zahn in particular criticizes Athanasius (Athanasius, 14, 17) for not mentioning the quotation of Enoch in Jude as well as the many citations of apocryphal books by earlier church fathers; Zahn did not know the Coptic fragment in which Athanasius dealt with this objection. 74Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 60 line 6-62 line 2. 75Mart.Isa. 11.34; Jerome Comm. in Isa. 17 on Isa 64:4. See Michael E. Stone and John Strugnell, The Books of Elijah, Parts 1-2 (SBLTT 18; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979) 41-73, esp. 68-71. Origen had attributed the quotation to an Apocalypse of Elijah (Comm. in Matt. 5.29 on Matt 27:9), but it is not found in the extant work of this title; see David Frankfurter, Elijah in Upper Egypt: The Apocalypse of Elijah and Early Egyptian Christianity (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993) 46-49. 76AthanasiusEpistulaefestales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 21 lines 12-14; Joannou, Fonti, 2. 76 lines 2-8.

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uses in oppositionto "generally receivedamongthe churches," andIrenaeus can use the termapocryphal as self-evidentlyequivalentto "spurious."77 In the case of Athanasius, althoughthe termapocryphal certainlyis the opposite of "generally receivedamongthe churches," the opponents of Athanasius consider this esoteric quality to be a positive one. This is similar to the followers of Prodicus,whom Clementreportsto "boast"of having "apocryphal books" of the legendaryZoroaster,or to the Gnostics, who must have thoughtthat the title Apocryphon of John gave their mythicnarrative a valuedesotericformof authority.78 So too these fourth-century Egyptians legitimatedtheir teachingsby basing them not on scripturesavailableto Christiansin general and read in any Christianassembly, but ratheron booksthatcontainedhiddenor secret "apocryphal"revelationsand were thereforesuperior. Moreover,the contents of the books to which Athanasiusmost likely referredwould have supported Melitianclaims that the true churchis the churchof the martyrs and that God continuesto speak specificallythrough the martyrs.At this time, accordingto the letters following Athanasius' thirty-ninth Festal Letter, Melitian Christianswere vigorously promoting the cult of the martyrs, even setting up oracles at martyrtombs.79 Persons possessed by demons were broughtto martyrtombs, where the demons were exorcised. Athanasiushad little problemwith this, but duringthese exorcisms, some possessed persons were able to prophesy.Eitherthe demon in the person,underthe compulsionof the dead martyr, wouldpredict the future and answer the questions of gatheredspectators,or the dead martyr himselfor herselfwouldspeakthrough the possessedperson.80 Moreover, Christians were exhumingthe bodies of martyrs and, in Athanasius's words, removing them "from the cemeteries of the catholic church"in orderto set up martyrcults for profit.8lSuch practicescould have found theirscriptural basis in such worksas those criticizedby Athanasius in his Festal Letter: the Martyrdomand Ascension of Isaiah, for example,closely linksIsaiah's visionary powerswith his martyrdom at the handsof Manasseh, who "did not remember" what Isaiah saw in his tour of the heavens.82
77Tertullian Pud. 10.6; Irenaeus Adv. haer. 1.20.1. 78Clement Alex. Strom. 1.15.69.9; on the secrecy of Hermetic books, see Fowden, Egyptian Hermes, 157-5 8. 79Athanasius Epistulae festales 41-42 [Coptic]. On the pre-Constantinian roots of the martyrcult in Egypt, see David Frankfurter, "TheCult of the Martyrsin Egypt Before Constantine: The Evidence of the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah," VC 48 (1994) 25-47. 80Athanasius Epistulae festales 42 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 65 lines 3-15. 8lAthanasius Epistulaefestales41 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 26 lines 9-10; 62 line 23-63 line 5. 82Mart.Isa. 1 1.36-43

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of Moses includes a vivid descriptionof the perSimilarly,the Testament is secution of the faithful; the Levite Taxo's exhortationto martyrdom followed by an eschatologicalhymn that one could interpretas being recited by the martyrTaxo as much as by the dying Moses.83Presumably Christianswhom Athanasiuscondemned,especially these fourth-century Melitians,arguedthat in the mannerof these biblical heroes, the Christian receivedrevelationsaboutthe end of time andperhapsless weighty martyrs matters.Such revelationswere still availableat those parisheswhere the corpses of martyrswere preserved,honored,and consulted. Here was an attractivemeans of access to spiritualtruthand power, so attractive,Athanasiustells us, that Christiansin the Nile Valley were afparishesand takingtheir monetaryofferings filiating with martyr-oriented "greed."84 andself-serving labelledthis "crookedness" withthem.Athanasius books of Enoch and Similarly,he accusedthose who promotedapocryphal and "be considthe others as doing so in orderto "receivecompliments" a biblicalcanonthat himself, in promoting Athanasius ered greatpeople."85 of martyrs the Melitiancombination supporting literature excised Christian to consultthe oracles andvisions, hopedto eliminatethe desireof Christians by Melitianchurches.The canonof the martyrshrinessponsored at martyr oriented Christiansassumed the persistenceof divine revelations in the the finalityof the revelation canonpresupposed present,while Athanasius's in the Word of God's incarnation. books, then, indicatesthat The rhetoricaboutMelitiansand apocryphal of a closed canon was part of a conflict over promulgation Athanasius's properforms of Christiandivination,"the endeavorto obtain information about things future or otherwise removed from ordinaryperception,by of Among the characteristics consultinginformantsother than human."86 rules and divinationare thatit takesplace accordingto socially constructed and that the divinerclaims not to speak for himself or herself procedures but to function merely as "a medium, or mediator,of an externalvoice (god, spirit, ancestor,etc.)."87Thus, the martyrenthusiastsdeveloped a system of divinationfocused on the corpses of martyrs,in which a posinformationas the mouthpiecefor sessed person delivered supernatural
83T.Mos.

8-lo.

Epistulae festales 41 [Coptic],in Lefort,S. Athanase, 26 lines 11, 18. 84Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic],in Lefort,S. Athanase, 20 lines 31-33. 8sAthanasius ERE 4 (1911) 775. On divination andPrimitive)," (Introductory J. Rose, "Divination 86H. in ancientGreece and Rome, see Georg Luck,Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the JohnsHopkinsUniversityPress, 1985) 229Greek and Roman Worlds (Baltimore/London: 305. andthe Inventionof the Biography Divination:Spiritual SamuelPreus("Secularizing 87J. studies. anthropological Novel," JAAR 59 [1991] 444-45) drawson numerous

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demonsor martyrs. Writingssuch as the Martyrdomand Ascension of Isaiah grounded this practicein biblicalauthority. Athanasius, in contrast,offered a set of books that excludedsuch visionarywritingsand which itself functioned as a means of divination,for it was the mediumof the voice of Christ. He belittled the oracles received at martyrshrines as mediating mere "wordsfrom earth,"while one should seek "the Word of God who speaks from heaven."88 Athanasiussuggestedthat Christians could obtain access to this Wordif they would "call upon Christ,"who would respond "in a dreamor by speakingin theirheart."89 As we saw above, Athanasius's biblical canon also mediatedthe voice of the Word directlyand thus representeda means of divinationsuperiorto the oracles at martyrshrines. Thus, Athanasius'sthirty-ninthFestal Letter exemplifies JonathanZ. Smith'scross-cultural principlethat the primarysocial context of the religious canon is divination.90 The procedures of divinationclarify the relationshipbetweencanonicalbooks and their interpreter: just as the Ndembu divinerdiscernsthe truthin all situations by shakingonly twenty-four fixed objects in a basket and readingthem, so too the Christianexegete must divine God'swordfor every situationby readinga fixed set of writings.As a closed list, a canon requiresinterpreters, personstrainedand authorized to carry out the "exegeticaltotalization" requiredby such textual limitation.91Athanasius indeedestablisheda fixed set of books and believed the orthodoxbishop to be the authorized divinerof those books. He presented his predecessor BishopAlexander as a learnedexpositorof the Bible "and the Gospels were in his hand,for he was a long-timelover of reading"and himself as the faithfultransmitter of episcopaltradition.92 Thushe also told the monksof Caesarea to submitto the teachingof theirbishop,Basil, who, like all orthodoxepiscopalinterpreters, read scripture in termsof its "scope"(CYKOZO5),which Athanasius understood to be a narrative summary of the preincarnate and incarnateexistence of God the Word.93 Since the churchwas the locus of the salvationachieved by the Word, the proper
88Athanasius Epistulae festales 42 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 66 lines 7-25. 89Athanasius Epistulae festales 42 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 66 lines 3-7. 90JonathanZ. Smith, "Sacred Persistence: Toward a Redescription of Canon," in idem, Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1982) 36-52, esp. 50. 9lIbid., 50-51. 92AthanasiusEpistula ad virgines [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 91 lines 5-12; Athanasius Epistulae festales 39 [Coptic], in Lefort, S. Athanase, 21 lines 11-15. On the authenticity of the Letter to Virgins preserved in Coptic, see David Brakke, "The Authenticity of the Ascetic Athanasiana," Or 63 (1994) 17-56, esp. 19-25. 93Athanasius Epistula ad Palladium; James D. Ernest, "Athanasius of Alexandria: The Scope of Scripture in Polemical and Pastoral Context," VC 47 (1993) 341-62.

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meaningof scripture would always be "churchly" (KKkllcslacstlKo5) and "reverent" (l)aa115).94 Thus,Athanasius's promulgation of a closed canon was an attemptat social formationand control;it regulateddivinationand access to truthby restrictingthe books to be read (only these and no others), establishingan authoritative diviner(the orthodoxbishop),and articulating a standardof interpretation (the church'sdoctrineof the incarnate Word).It was Athanasius's goal to set up an alternative mode of divination to that offered by his Melitian opponents,one that dependednot on the charismatic authority of martyrdom, but on the limited yet totalizingfunction of a biblical canon and its orthodoxepiscopalreader. g

TheCanons of theTeacher, Martyr, andBishop

Athanasius's attemptto establisha closed canon of Christianscriptures in fourth-century Egyptwas not merelya battleover book lists; it was even more a conflict amongauthoritative personsand the social institutionsand practicesthat surrounded them, which includedscripture. Scripture is itself essentially a social phenomenon, the creationnot of literature but of communities that grant authorityto certainworks of literatureand to certain persons.95 The teacheris an example of one such authoritative person in ancientChristianity. Schools or study circles that valued philosophicaldiversity, individualprogressin knowledgeand discipline, and the personal bondingbetweenteacherand studentdevelopedaroundthe teacher,and the teacher'scanon of scriptures was a flexible one, serving as both the function and tool of the gifted Christian's pursuitof truthand wisdom.Another such figure was the martyr, whose sufferingand faithfulendurance won for him or her a particular shareof the Holy Spiritand special revelations.In Athanasius's time the martyrwas presentto other Christiansprimarilyin his or her corpse;cultic communities devotedto the exampleof the martyr's endurance and to continuingrevelationsthroughthe martyr's spirit developed aroundthe martyr's corpse.The martyr's canonreflectedthese values, for it included works that recountedthe spectacularvisions of biblical martyrsand legitimatedthe receptionof spiritualtruthin the martyrcult. Yet anotherauthoritative Christian personwas the bishop;parishchurches dispensedthe divinizingpower of the Word of God in preachingand the sacraments and demonstrated the social power of the bishop throughcharity and other patronage.The bishop'scanon was a definite set of books which were read in public worshipand expoundedby the bishop. Its uniform character demonstrated unity with Christiansof the past and of dif94Athanasius Orationes contraArianos1.44;idem,De decretisNicaenaesynodi13;Ernest, "Athanasius of Alexandria," 347-48. 95Graham, "Scripture," 134; idem, Beyondthe WrittenWord,5-6.

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ferentregions in the present.96 While the canonsof the teacherand martyr were in a sense dependent on the priorauthority of the charismatic person, Athanasius deniedthis was the case for his canonby claimingthat he was transmitting decisions made long ago by the apostlesand preservedby the interveninggenerations.In fact, however, the authorityof the bishop, as guarantor of the tradition,legitimizedthe closed canon. Considered in termsof a conflict amongsocial groupsand theircompeting types of canons,the success of Athanasius's program appearsless clear thanit mightotherwise.To be sure, it was Athanasius's list of the books of the New Testamentthat eventually prevailed in worldwideChristianity, althoughit would be difficult to attribute this development to Athanasius's Festal Letter alone. The evidence from fourth-century Egypt is mixed. Theodore,the Pachomian leader,readAthanasius's letterto his monks,but what effect it had we cannotsay.97It is possible that the burialof a hoard of manuscriptsof diverse Christianwritings across the Nile from Nag Hammadiindicatespressureto conformto Athanasian orthodoxy,but this is mere speculation.Meanwhile,two codices of the Bible that possiblybut not certainly originated in fourth-century Alexandria featureNew Testaments larger than Athanasius's: Codex Sinaiticusplaces Barnabas, the Shepherdof Hermas,and possibly other works after Revelation;in Codex Alexandrinus, 1 Clement andpartof 2 Clement follow Revelation.98 Didymus the Blind, the head of the catecheticalschool until his death in 398, used a canonthatincludedthe Shepherd, the Didache,Barnabas,and I Clement; his attitudetowardscripture, moreover, was reminiscent of thatof Origen.99 The exampleof Didymusindicatesthe persistenceof academicChristianity and its distinctivetype of biblical canon after Athanasius. Twentieth-centuryscholarlydebatesover the statusof the canon,provokedby the discovery of previously lost earlyChristian writings, maybe seen as a contemporary manifestation of the ancient tension between episcopal and academic Christianities. Moreover, Athanasius's campaign againstthe martyr cult was ineffective:its persistentrise and elaboration in Christian Egypt and elsewhere are well knownfeaturesof early medievalChristianity. Ratherthan
96Tetz, "Athanasius und die Einheit," 205-7. 97Lifeof Pachomius 189 [Bohairic Coptic], in ArmandVeilleux, trans., Pachomian Koinonia (3 vols.; Cistercian Studies 45-47; Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1980) 1. 230-32; Louis-Theophile Lefort, "Theodore de Tabennese et la lettre de S. Athanase sur le canon de la Bible," Mus 29 (1910) 205-16. 98Geoffrey Mark Hahneman, The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon (Oxford Theological Monographs; Oxford: Clarendon, 1992) 165-70. 99BartD. Ehrman, "The New Testament Canon of Didymus the Blind," VC 37 (1983) 121.

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being replaced,these alternative formsof Christianity survivedin ways that at varioustimes coheredand conflictedwith the hierarchical episcopateand its closed canon of scriptures.Thus, Athanasius's Festal Letter, far from being the decisive climax, was merely a signal momentin an ongoingprocess of Christian self-definition. To speakof the historyof the formation of the single Christian biblical canon may oversimplifythe developmentand interactionof diverse forms of early Christianpiety, which carriedwith them unique practicesof scripturalcollection and interpretation that is, differentkinds of canons.

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