Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Id. (at 314-315):"Enduring all things, Jesus was self-controlled (ἐγκρατὴς ἦν); Jesus worked for a divine nature; he ate and drank in a unique way, without excreting his solids. Such was the power of his self-control (ἐγκρατείας) that food was not corrupted within him; for he himself did not experience corruption" (Valentinus, Letter to Agathopus, in Strom. 3.59)23It appears from this fragment that, like Clement, Valentinus had an inclusive notion of enkrateia. For Valentinus, Jesus was the epitomy [sic] of self-control because his body did not defecate normally. In some way, his enkrateia had worked to physically transform his body so that food did not pass out of him as excrement.
23 Stählin, p. 223.
Certainly this view of physiology was influential in the theological discussions about the nature of "perfect" primordial body of Adam and living the life of angels.28 Some sources suggest that this body was understood to be the human body on idle, a body not fueled by indulging the passions, gluttony at the top of the list (cf. Tert., De Ieiunio 5). It was a body that had no need for food or defecation since it was characterized by a passionless state.29Id. (at 315)
28 For this theme in early monasticism, refer to P. Suso Frank, Angelikos Bios, Beiträge zur Geschichte des alten Mönchtums und des Benediktinerordens 26 (Munich: Aschendorff, 1964); Shaw, Burden, pp. 161-219.
29It is interesting that Dicaearchus refers to Hesiod's golden race when humans were like the gods as a time when no one suffered disease nor defecated because their bodies were always kept pure (Porphyry, De abst. 4.2).
This type of understanding of physiology not only makes Valentinus' statement about Jesus sensible, but also the stories of certain medieval women like the one mentioned by James of Vitry. He refers to a woman recluse who for many years "ate and drank nothing, nor from her mouth nor from any of the other natural organs did anything go out."30 Roger Bacon tells about a woman who
did not eat for twenty years; and she was fat and of good stature, emitting no excretion from her body, as the bishop proved by careful examination. Nor was this miraculous but, rather, a work of nature, for some balance [constellatio] was at that time able to reduce to a state of almost complete equilibrium the elements that were before that in her body; and because their mixture was from their proper nature suitable to a balance not found in other makeups, their alteration happened in her body as it does not in others.3130 Historia occidentalis, ed., Hinnebusch, pp. 87-88.
31 Opus minus, in Fr. Rogeri Bacon opera quaedam hactenus inedita, J.S. Brewer (ed.), vol. 1 (London: Longman, Green and Roberts, 1859) pp. 373-374.
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