Posted by: ken98 | January 11, 2010

The First Internet, Bishop-Philosophers, and Passionate North Africans

Day 122 – Ken here (M)(1-11-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.20,21, pp.760-770)

Once again, I’ve gotten bogged down on an (interesting) tangent (The Encyclopedia), and got way too wordy – my goal (one I’m sure you’ll appreciate) is to hone it down and simplify – we’ll see how successful I am

We end chapter 20 and a long digression on Bishops, and begin chapter 21 and an even longer digression on Early Christian Heresies.

and away we go…

The Story
All About Bishops (cont)
Bishops: Spiritual Censors of the Christian People

  • After the empire became vehemently Christian under Constantine, Bishops could publicly castigate top officials (with the exception of the emperor himself) and cause changes in their behavior: examples Athanasius with top official of the province of Egypt, Synesius (Bishop-Philosopher) and the president of Libya, Andronicus
    Bishops: Freedom of Public Preaching

  • Bishops, unlike ancient orators/legislators, are able to preach without being immediately contradicted by the opposing view
    Bishops: Free and Separate Church Legislature (Empire within the Empire)

  • Legislatures (Synods) called every Spring, Autumn under the auspices of the Metropolitans of the principal cities: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Carthage, Constantinople
  • Irregular Councils called by the emperor to solve problems/discipline within the Church (examples: Constantine calling Arles Council in 314 to deal with North African turmoil which surprised Constantine right after his conversion – also the Council of Nice in 325 to resolve questions about the Trinity the raged in the East
    Heresy (begin chapter 21)
    Introduction to Heresies

  • Examples of early “heresies”: 1) Paul of Samosata, 2) Montanists in Phrygia, 3)Novatians (N. Africa), 4) Marcionites and Valentinians (Gnostics), 5) Manichaeans (followers of prophet Mani)
    Constantine’s Surprising African Problems (the teens of the 300’s)

  • Constantine and the the Passionate North African Controversy of 312 – Constantine surprised after his conversion to find his new religion (just legalized by the state) to be furiously and violently divided by the passionate North African Church (passionate and North African are redundant adjectives). Due to a double election of bishops, the whole of North Africa was divided – Constantine calls a council and the council decides on one candidate
  • Constantine and the Donatists (315) – North Africans (surprise, surprise) are divided (and will remain so until Islam wipes out N.African Christianity in the 600’s – 300 years from now) on the question of whether someone who renounced their faith/Bible etc during the Roman persecutions would ever be able to be a priest again – the Donatists said no – and felt they were the only Christians in the whole world still holy and still keeping a blameless laying-on-of-hands-source-of-power going back to the apostles and Jesus. They form a separate Christian Church – not supported by the Roman Imperial government, but having at least 400 Bishops.
  • Gibbon notes a stricter form within the Donatists, the Maximianite Donatists felt that all Donatists (except the Maximianite Donatists) were going to hell, and an even stricter sect, the Rogatians, were sure that only the extremely strict Rogatian Donatists of Caesaria Mauretania were heaven-bound
  • French Encyclopedia - cover with D'Alembart on the left and Diderot on the right.  The Encyclopedia that was to change the world.  The Encyclopedia took 50 years to complete, and then proved un-useable at 206+ volumes, 124,000 pages and over 160 separate (not-integrated) Indices.  Access to instant knowledge and reason would have to wait until 200 years for the 21st century and the advent of the internet

    French Encyclopedia - cover with D'Alembart on the left and Diderot on the right. The Encyclopedia that was to change the world. The Encyclopedia took 50 years to complete, and then proved un-useable at 206+ volumes, 124,000 pages and over 160 separate (non-integrated) Indices. Access to instant knowledge and reason would have to wait 200 years for the 21st century and the advent of the internet

    The First Internet: the Encyclopedia – the Great French Encyclopédie Méthodique
    It was a particularly Enlightened idea – to summarize all reason, art, science, and engineering in one printed work and disseminate the clarity of rational thought throughout the world. It was cutting edge stuff in the 1780’s and Gibbon was right on top of it.

    It’s kind of exciting, after hearing about the reasonable dream of the French philosphes’ Great Encyclopedia your whole life, to suddenly stumble across a living reference to it in a footnote in Gibbon (like stumbling on a rock with a Burgess Shales fossil on a random walk in the woods). At this point (writing volume 2) the Encyclopedia would have been (as an idea) brand new – a bold experiment only a few years old – and about to succumb (temporarily) to the violent political gyrations of the French Revolution.

    Diderot’s Encyclopedia was published 1782 – 1832, interrupted by the French Revolution, Napoleon’s empire, and numerous other changes in French government/politics. The Encyclopedia eventually reached the size of over 206 volumes with 124,000 pages. Gibbon owned volumes 1 – 9 and compliments the editors of the famous Encyclopedia (very early in its history in the 1780’s – before the Revolution) on their superb article on Church Councils – from which Gibbon writes his introduction to Councils and especially the Council of Nice in Bithynia (325) in chapter 20 of volume 2. Note below the one-word-Gibbonian zinger “seldom” – typical – guess he wasn’t too impressed with Diderot.

    This from Gibbon:

    See the article CONCILE in the Encyclopedie, tom. iii. p. 668-679, edition de Lucques. The author, M. le docteur Bouchaud, has discussed, according to the principles of the Gallican church, the principal questions which relate to the form and constitution of general, national, and provincial councils. The editors (see Preface, p. xvi.) have reason to be proud of this article. Those who consult their immense compilation seldom depart so well satisfied.

    (DEF v.2, ch.20, p.765, fn.130)
    This from Wiki (here, on the Diderot’s Encyclopédie)

    The Encyclopédie méthodique par ordre des matières (“Methodical encyclopedia by order of subject matter”) is a 206-volume encyclopedia that was published between 1782 and 1832 by the French publisher Charles Joseph Panckoucke, and his daughter, Thérèse-Charlotte Agasse. It was a revised and expanded version, arranged by subject matter, of the originally alphabetically-arranged Encyclopédie, compiled by Denis Diderot. The full title was L’Encyclopédie méthodique ou par ordre de matières par une société de gens de lettres, de savants et d’artistes; précédée d’un Vocabulaire universel, servant de Table pour tout l’Ouvrage, ornée des Portraits de MM. Diderot et d’Alembert, premiers Éditeurs de l’Encyclopédie.


    The publication was continued by Henri Agasse, Panckoucke’s son-in-law, from 1794 to 1813, and then by his widow, Mme Agasse, until 1832, when it was completed in 102 livraisons or 337 parts, forming 166 1/2 vols. of text, and 51 parts, containing 6,439 plates. The number of pages totalled 124,210 pages, of which 5,458 pages were plates

    Here is an online version of the 1827 edition volume 10.

    Cover of book - Synesius of Cyrene - a Bishop, and a stubborn philosopher doing his best in a decaying world

    Cover of book - Synesius of Cyrene - a Bishop, and a stubborn philosopher doing his best in a decaying world

    The Very Interesting Life of Synesius, Bishop of Cyrene (a North African Roman Thomas Jefferson)
    A country gentleman of the raucous 390’s and early 400’s, devoted to philosophy and hunting and to his wife and sons, Synesius performed various diplomatic services for his city (Ptolemais or Cyrene) before being involuntarily forced into becoming its bishop (an example of how the office of bishop was more and more a political, judicial, and even military position and not a just a spiritual shepherd for the local Christian flock.

    He was bishop during a turbulent and important time for the Roman Empire – living during the same time as Augustine (another African) – he saw the true sunset of the empire in the West. Spain had just been lost to the Vandals in 409, and the Vandals were to take his own North Africa in a short 20 years. The West was in a free-fall collapse.

    This from Wiki (here)

    Synesius (Greek: Συνέσιος; c. 373 – c. 414), a Greek bishop of Ptolemais in the Libyan Pentapolis after 410, was born of wealthy parents, who claimed descent from Spartan kings, at Cyrene between 370 and 375.

    While still a youth (393) he went with his brother Euoptius to Alexandria, where he became an enthusiastic Neoplatonist and disciple of Hypatia. On returning to his native place about the year 397 he was chosen to head an embassy from the cities of the Pentapolis to the imperial court to ask for remission of taxation and other relief. His address to the emperor Arcadius (De regno) is full of topical advice as to the studies of a wise ruler, but also contains a bold statement that the emperor’s first priority must be a war on corruption.

    His three years’ stay in Constantinople was wearisome and otherwise disagreeable; the leisure it forced upon him he devoted in part to literary composition. The Aegyptus sive de providentia is an allegory in which the good Osiris and the evil Typhon, who represent Aurelian and the Goth Gainas (ministers under Arcadius), strive for mastery; and the question of the divine permission of evil is handled.

    After the successful Aurelian had granted the petition of the embassy, Synesius returned to Cyrene in 400, and spent the next ten years partly in that city, when unavoidable business called him there, but chiefly on an estate in the interior of the province, where in his own words “books and the chase” made up his life. His marriage took place at Alexandria in 403; in the previous year he had visited Athens.

    In 409 or 410 Synesius, whose Christianity had until then been by no means very pronounced, was popularly chosen to be bishop of Ptolemais, and, after long hesitation on personal and doctrinal grounds, he ultimately accepted the office thus thrust upon him, being consecrated by Theophilus at Alexandria. One personal difficulty at least was obviated by his being allowed to retain his wife, to whom he was much attached; but as regarded orthodoxy he expressly stipulated for personal freedom to dissent on the questions of the soul’s creation, a literal resurrection, and the final destruction of the world, while at the same time he agreed to make some concession to popular views in his public teaching.

    His tenure of the bishopric was troubled not only by domestic bereavements (his three sons died) but also by barbaric invasions of the country (in repelling which he proved himself a capable military organizer) and by conflicts with the praeses Andronicus, whom he excommunicated for interfering with the Church’s right of asylum. The date of his death is unknown; it is usually given as c. 414, because he appears to have been unaware of the violent death of Hypatia.

    His many-sided activity, as shown especially in his letters, and his loosely mediating position between Neoplatonism and Christianity, make him a subject of fascinating interest. His scientific interests are attested by his letter to Hypatia in which occurs the earliest known reference to a hydrometer, and by a work on alchemy in the form of a commentary on pseudo-Democritus.

    Gibbon on Monks – again
    Gibbon can’t ever quite get enough hostility out onto the page when it comes to the subject of monks.

    …but they exalted the perfection of monastic virtue, which is painful to the individual and useless to mankind

    (DEF, v.2, ch.20, p763).


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