Saturday, January 10, 2015
We all know the familiar story. But what is the evidence about the contents of the Marcionite gospel? Irenaeus and Tertullian may well say things like 'how was a phantom crucified?' But where is the direct evidence for what the Marcionites believed with regards to a 'Passion narrative?' Could their resurrection narrative have been different?
Friday, January 9, 2015
Here's my observation. Eeshu creates Moses in his image (as his earthly 'twin') - that is bringing him into his presence and impressing his 'image' or 'likeness' upon his person. Doesn't the early Christian tradition argue for the same practice? There are so many 'twins' (Thomas) and 'brothers' (James) and 'brothers of brothers' (James and John, Peter and Andrew). There is also a clear 'adoption rite' where individuals are baptized and made a brother of Jesus, 'the firstborn of many brothers.' There is even the Islamic pseudepigraphal notion of Judas (or 'Simon' in the Basilidean tradition) literally taking on the appearance of Jesus. Note also the parody in the Pseudo-Clementines where Faustus 'takes on' Simon's image and is hunted down by the authorities who want the Magus.
The author of Deuteronomy declares that when the Israelites were terrified of the two powers (i.e. the voice in heaven and his fiery presence on earth) the Lord promises to send 'one like Moses' - a prophet - who will instruct them. Doesn't this sound like the heretical understanding of the paraclete especially when applied to 'Paul' by the Marcionites, the Valentinians and the 'orthodoxy' (Archelaus) in the Marcionite stronghold of Osroene (locked in a battle with Mani who says he is the Paraclete, the twin of Jesus)? Why do the heretics always resemble Jewish sectarianism against their orthodox adversaries (who 'confess' a belief in the monarchia but do not act, think or believe like any Jews known to anyone in history but nonetheless claim to be the 'true Israel').
Did the Two Powers Tradition Prefer Deuteronomy's Account of the Sinai Theophany? Who Do the Orthodox Use Exodus Against Deuteronomy in the Mekilta Against Their Interest in Deuteronomy?
From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you Ishu (his fire) great, and you heard his words from out of the fire. [Deut 4:36]
Has anyone ever argued that Deuteronomy is older than Exodus? It's not just the retelling of the Ten Commandments. There are two other factors to consider (1) the two powers controversy in the late first, early second century and (2) the fact that someone in the fifth century had to have assumed thr role of prophet like Moses (Deut 18) in order to write the story of Moses' birth and death. The two powers controversy makes clear the Ten Commandments existed independently and before the Torah.
Moses received ten utterances written with fire by God's fire (so the Samaritans) and also added laws ny his own authority which weren't from heaven. There were clearly two powers (one in the fire =ishu, one in heaven = the voice) at Sinai. The rabbanites essentially argued from Exodus against Deuteronomy to demonstrate that there was one rather than two powers or at least that there was monarchia in heaven.
The fact that Exodus is used in the anti-two powers literature against Deuteronomy is only half the story. Deuteronomy not only references two powers in the Sinai theophany but also records God as promising "one like Moses" when the Israelites beg for the two powers to go away "lest they die." Deuteronomy writes:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”But the parallel passage in Exodus not only corrects the two powers reference (by saying there was only one power) but also fails to mention the Ezra-like figure to come:
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’Indeed the Exodus narrative proceeds to introduce a series of new laws on top of the ten commandments which the two powers tradition (and Christians) originally rejected as not being from heaven but established only on the authority of Moses.
But let's look carefully. The Deuteronomy narrative seems to have a whole different understanding. Notice the two powers reference - "Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore or we will die." The two powers heresy discussion consistently utilizes these texts - Exodus and Deuteronomy - and the differences between them. Whereas Exodus is only interested in establishing the fact that God gave Moses a series of laws above and beyond the familiar ten commandments (familiar before Ezra's introduction of the narrative Torah) Deuteronomy curiously seems to prepare for Ezra coming the name of Moses to write the Law.
I can't help but feel that Deuteronomy in some way either preserves information about a source before Exodus or is more original, closer to the 'excuse' that Ezra used to write the Torah (i.e. that he was the second Moses). In other words, not only does Exodus only mention the 'voice from heaven' (and not 'His fire' = Ishu) but goes out of its way to correct the implications of that 'original' passage in Deuteronomy adding in bold:
‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me."Instead of the two power theology at the heart of Deuteronomy:
Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire (= Ishu) anymoreIn other words, Exodus knows that 'Jesus' (viz. Ishu) is present in the original narrative and corrects the understanding by precluding the possibility of a second power. This is probably why the mekhilta juxtapose Exodus against Deuteronomy. Indeed a mekhilta is properly defined as the rules of interpreting the Book of Exodus. But what did the heretics believe? Could it be they developed their opinions exclusively from Deuteronomy? Now to research whether there are any traditions or scholarly studies which argue that Deuteronomy is older than Exodus.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
one work is sufficient for our god ; he has delivered man by his supreme and most excellent goodness, which is preferable to [the creation of] all the locusts.Almost everyone who has ever studied this statement has taken it for granted that the Marcionites 'must' be juxtaposing 'their' god - Chrestos, the good god - against 'the Jewish god,' the god of justice. The reason for this is that the statement happens to come in the context of a consistent juxtaposition between the 'two gods' of the Marcionite system.
Yet there is a difficulty here that not even I had considered before. The LXX, the Greek translation of the Pentateuch, differs from the surviving Hebrew text in assigning the creation of locusts in the Book of Exodus to Moses rather than 'God.' The situation is confirmed by Philo in the first century who notes:
Such, they say, were the punishments inflicted by the agency of Moses alone, the plague, namely, of hail and thunderstorms, the plague of locusts, and the plague of darkness, which rejected every imaginable description of light. Then he himself and his brother brought on one together, which I shall proceed to relate ... The remaining punishments are three in number, and they were inflicted by God himself without any agency or ministration of man, each of which I will now proceed to relate as well I can. [Vita Mos 1.126, 130]The question then emerges - if indeed the original Marcionite reference is to the Exodus narrative and not to 'locusts' in general (which in my mind seems certain) - how accurate is Tertullian's implicit assumptions about the Marcionites juxtaposition 'the just god' or the 'god of the Jews' creation of locusts with the salvation of the Christian god or - if you will - 'the good god'?
If Marcion used the LXX he could have assumed that the 'just god' was still behind the locusts. Indeed Philo assumes as much in his narrative. Yet could there have been a Moses vs Jesus dynamic in the original statement? This seems at least to be confirmed by the lengthy statement in the Acts of Archelaus - a work written during a time of Marcionite ascendance in Osroene (modern southern Turkey/Iraq/Syria/ISIS land). Indeed already in the earliest Samaritan literature there is a tendency to view Moses as living substitute for Yahweh. He is for instance called 'the man of God' in a manner that I have supposed 'Jesus' represents for his god, the Father.
In other words, was the original argument of the Marcionites more sophisticated than previously recognized? Was the Marcionite point that Moses was to his god 'Yahweh' what Jesus was to 'Elohim' or the Father? This seems at least to be implied by another statement in Tertullian's anti-Marcionite work:
On that other occasion also God made himself little even in the midst of his fierce anger, when in his wrath against the people because of the consecration of the (golden) calf he demanded of his servant Moses, Let me alone, and I will wax hot in wrath and destroy them, and I will make thee into a great nation. On this you are in the habit of insisting that Moses was a better person than his own God—deprecating, yes and even forbidding, his wrath: for he says, Thou shalt not do this: or else destroy me along with them. Greatly to be pitied are you, as well as the Israelites, for not realizing that in the person of Moses there is a prefiguring of Christ, who intercedes with the Father, and offers his own soul for the saving of the people. But for the present it is enough that the people were granted even to Moses in his own person. Also, so that the servant might be in a position to make this re- quest of his Lord, the Lord made that request of himself. That is why he said to his servant, Let me alone and I will destroy them, so that the servant might forestall this by his prayer and his offering of himself, and so that you by this might learn how much is permitted to one who has faith, and is a prophet, in the presence of God.In this manner then, if the argument holds up, Moses being the living representation of Yahweh finds a parallel in Jesus's embodiment of Elohim/the Father. More significantly perhaps, Moses's ignorance of the god above him, is paralleled by Yahweh in the gnostic lore.
I wonder then whether it was argued that Moses - like Yahweh before him - encountered his divine twin (= Elohim) - but strangely assumed that 'he was the only one' (allegedly because of his 'arrogance). Indeed it is important to note that if Irenaeus's assumption that Ezra rather than Moses wrote the Pentateuch was widespread in early Christianity, then we would escape the 'trap' of assuming that Moses 'knew' of two powers in heaven while he was engaged in the Exodus. He simply encountered a serious of divine manifestations unaware of the exact nature of the beings manifest before his eyes.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
Continuing with our discussion of the Exodus as a manifestation of the two powers which regulated the affairs of Israel - i.e. one a 'just god' and the other a 'kind god' - it is worth citing Alan Segal's study of the Mekhilta (מכילתא, a collection of rules of interpretation viz. a halakhic midrash to the Book of Exodus) de Rabbi Ishmael (= MRI) and the Mekhilta de-R. Simeon b. Yoḥai (= MRSbY):
The reason why 'Yahweh' is the just god and 'Elohim' the good god here rather than the later rabbinic formulation because the heretics themselves - i.e. the Marcionites and Philo - already testify to this situation.
First, one has to notice that the exegetical root of the tradition is the repetition of the name of God, YHWH, and the problems which arise from that. In this case, the dangerous doctrine is the idea that there are two different manifestations of God — one, a young man, appearing at the Sea; the other, an old man, appearing at Sinai. As we have it, the tradition is centered around the Exodus theophanies. Dan. 7:9 is ostensibly a proof-text but is also the locus of the same heretical traditions, since two different figures are mentioned there as well. Of course, the rabbis objected to this tradition, saying that the repetition of the divine name was not to identify "two powers" but to emphasize God's unity, since the Israelites would also have to recognize God in another form. In attempting to identify the heretics, we should look for a doctrine which did associate "two powers" with the names for God in the Exodus theophany and in Dan. 7. Obviously, from the rabbinic perspective, but not necessarily at the earliest stage of the tradition itself, this dangerous exegesis became subsumed under the unfavorable category of "two powers in heaven." This text gives us no description of the persons holding such a doctrine.
At the end of the section there is a peroration which articulates implications present already in the designation "two powers in heaven," by directly stating that the doctrine is a threat to monotheism and condemning it roundly with the appropriate biblical texts from Isaiah and Deuteronomy. In fact the verses are so useful as a defense against the heresy as to characterize the opposition to "two powers" throughout its entire history and will be important in the attempt to identify the heretics. The midrash is saying that, though scripture allows for the interpretation that God may be viewed in various aspects, there is a limit to how far one may go in ascribing independent motives to the different hypostases. Not only is there only one God, but there is no possibility of ever deriving a second deity. It was the same God in Egypt who was at the Sea; the same in this world as He will be in the world to come; the same in the past who will be in the future. These descriptions are later rhetorical fluorishes, embellishing and emphasizing an argument whose assumption has been laid down previously. MRSbY even introduces the thoughts as "another interpretation." However, one may ask whether the embellishments are purely arbitrary. In view of the importance of the name of God in this midrash it is not unlikely that the midrash is relying on the mysterious name of God which was revealed to Moses at the burning bush. "I am that I am" is being interpreted with past and future implications of the Hebrew verb forms and is being understood to be an eternal pledge to remain with Israel.
The text in MRI is even more complex and obviously the result of a long history of redaction. Neither MRI nor MRSbY can itself be the ancient tradition. Rather the most ancient layer, which later appear to be tannaitic, must be carefully uncovered in comparing them. The basic structure is similar to the argument in MRSbY and appears to be based on an exegesis of the name of God as well. In MRI the rabbis acknowledge that God manifested Himself in two ways in the Bible. They derive this contention not merely from the repetition of "YHWH" in scripture, as MRSbY did, but from the contrast between the Hebrew name, "YHWH," used to describe the Lord at the sea, and the other Hebrew name for divinity, "Elohim," used to describe God at Sinai. At least one possible conclusion based on the two different names of the deity — namely, that two different divinities, God and Lord, were being described — is condemned as dangerous. Instead, the rabbis suggest that the solution to the paradox will be found at Ex. 20:2, the first of the Ten Commandments, which contains both names of God and declares His unity. Hence, the editor of MRI, by introducing the orthodox solution based on Ex. 20:2, in his commentary to one of the dangerous passages, Ex. 15:3, allowed no opportunity for the orthodox opinion to be compromised. He has also added Ex. 20:2 to the list of effective scriptural defense against heresy.
Though the major thrust of the passage seems evident, it contains many elaborations missing from the MRSbY version, while some parts of its argument remain obscure. For one thing, a new theme of justice and mercy, corresponding to young and old manifestations of God, has been emphasized. This is facilitated by bringing in more proof- texts. Ex. 15:3 is taken only as a proof of God's justice. Ex. 24:10 f. which is part of the Sinai theophany, is introduced as the proof of God's mercy. 5 These two seemingly contradictory biblical verses are compared by the midrash, which then uses Ex. 20:2, the first line of the Ten Commandments, as the third, decisive text with which to harmonize the other two.
MRI in comparison with MRSbY has developed an elegant argument based on the unstated rabbinic doctrine of the Two Attributes of God. 7 This rabbinic doctrine derives two different aspects of God — one merciful (MDT HRHMYM) and the other, just (MDT HDYN)— from the two Hebrew names of God, YHWH and Elohim. » Ex. 20:2, the first line of the Ten Commandments, since it contains both Hebrew names, proves not only that one God was present, but that He was present on Sinai in both His just and His merciful manifestations. The complete argument allows that God can appear in different manifestations — either as a just or as a merciful God or as both — but that it is always the same God and that He was present in both His manifestations when He gave the Torah to Israel.
Although this elaboration is quite sophisticated, there are some difficult aspects to it. For one thing, the two locations adduced in scripture for the doctrine of God's two attributes are puzzling. They imply that YHWH should be seen as the just attribute, while Elohim should be the merciful attribute, which is exactly the opposite of the standard rabbinic identification. [Two Powers in Heaven p. 37 - 39]
The reason why 'Yahweh' is the just god and 'Elohim' the good god here rather than the later rabbinic formulation because the heretics themselves - i.e. the Marcionites and Philo - already testify to this situation.
In other words, it is not at all surprising that we find virtually every Jewish authority before the second century acknowledge the belief in 'two powers' in heaven. Not only in the Book of Daniel:
One verse reads: “His throne is sparks of fire (Dan. 7:9) and another [part of the] verse reads, “until thrones were set up and the Ancient of Days sat (7:9). This is no difficulty: One was for him and one was for David. As we learn in the ancient tradition: One for him and one for David, these are the words of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Yose the Galilean said to him: Akiva! Until when will you make the Shekhina profane?! Rather, One was for judging and one was for mercy. Did he accept it from him, or did he not? Come and hear! One for judging and one for mercy; these are the words of Rabbi Akiva. [BT Hagiga 14a]but more importantly for our purposes - the revelation at Sinai with one power speaking from the fire and another from heaven.
It was only by the second half of the second century that any sort of framework for interpreting the Pentateuch (which features two distinct divine names) 'monotheistically.' Indeed if we imagine that the revelation at Sinai - the 'culmination' of the Exodus experience explicitly demonstrates two powers (so the marginalized Jewish traditions at the end of the second century) it stands to reason that there were two powers - i.e. one of judging and one of mercy - during the entire Exodus narrative. This understanding survives in Marcionism because, one must imagine, it developed before the influence of monarchianism and undoubtedly suffered because of its rejection of this mandated 'innovation.'
Why is that?
You see, many of the Church Fathers - Irenaeus and Tertullian in particular - make it seem as if the Marcionites 'hated' the Jewish god. Of course scholars of early Christianity in their erudition necessarily suppose that the Jews, Samaritans and 'orthodox' Christians were strict monotheists. This even though Christians had a 'Father' and 'Son' god.
But what is even more unusual is the repeated manner in which Marcionites 'go to the well' with respect to the story of the Exodus. Yes, to be certain there is a 'negative' aspect to their interest. They repeatedly note that the Jewish god (or perhaps 'the god of Moses') encourages the Israelites to steal the gold of the Egyptians. Yet this criticism reverberates in the rabbinic sources too. Another significant reference is found in Tertullian's Against Marcion where they are recorded as declare "one work is sufficient for our god ; he has delivered man by his supreme and most excellent goodness, which is preferable to [the creation of] all the locusts."
What isn't generally noted here is that this too is an Exodus reference. In other words, the point seems to be that Moses's god created locusts against the Egyptians while the 'Christian god' redeems his people. Of course the assumption again is that (a) 'the Jews' has only one god and (b) that the Marcionites believed 'the Christians' had a separate god. But I am not so sure about that.
Let's start with the fact that the Exodus narrative features both 'destructive' (the locusts) and 'redemptive' (the crossing of the Sea) miracles. Did all Jews originally believe that the same god both 'punished' and 'saved' in the Exodus narrative? Of course not. Philo for instance represents an extremely early Jewish tradition that saw two powers in heaven - one merciful and the other just. That Jews of this sort existed outside of Alexandria is demonstrated in the 'two powers' literature which survives in rabbinic sources.
Did Philo believe that the 'just' power who made the locusts was the same as the 'good' power who redeemed Israel? No certainly not. As we see with a number of references from Irenaeus and subsequent Church Fathers the Marcionites held beliefs very closely aligned with Philo. As such isn't it likely that what the Marcionites are saying is that Moses had access to one power, 'the just god,' who created the locusts but that Jesus manifested himself as the 'other god' - i.e. that of 'goodness' - who 'redeemed' Israel?
Why is it so 'obvious' that Marcion repeatedly referenced the Exodus because he 'hated' the Jews and 'hated' their god? It doesn't make sense. Nor does it make sense that he would have 'retained' references to the Jewish scriptures in his 'New Testament' if this was stated agenda. Indeed if we go through another of the references to Moses in Tertullian - i.e. the criticism that this power made Moses manufacture a serpentine idol (2.23) it is clear that the Marcionites were not monotheists and assume not only they but the Israelites interacted with two distinct powers (i.e. one of 'good' the other 'just').
Look again at what follows in 2.26 which begisn with the acknowledgement that the just power knew of another power besides himself:
What else could he have thought of doing, when he was unaware of the existence of any other god, and in fact was then and there swearing that besides himself there is no other god at all?" Do you then charge him with false or perhaps pointless swearing? But he cannot be supposed to have sworn falsely if, as you allege, he did not know there was another god: for his swearing of what he knew of was not in a true sense false swearing. Neither is his swearing that there is no other god a pointless swearing: only so would it have been pointless swearing if there had not been people who believed there were other gods—in that age worshippers of idols, in our days also heretics. So he swears by himself, so that you may believe God, at least on his own oath, that there is no other god at all. And it is you, Marcion, who have forced God to do this: for even so long ago God had foreknowledge of you. Consequently if in his promises, and in his threatenings besides, God uses an oath in dragging forth that faith which in its beginnings is hard to attain to, there is nothing unworthy of God in that which causes men to believe in God.Tertullian's answer to the original Marcionite objection that the 'just god' seems to know that there existed another god - a god of goodness - besides him, is to note the seeming inconsistency of the heretics, who also claimed it would seem that the just god was blind enough to consider himself the only god.
Yet we shouldn't take this objection seriously. For the Marcionites were likely only developing a psychological observation - namely that the just god, the so-called 'god of the Jews' was narcissistic. In the same way as narcissists are surrounded by other beings but only see themselves so too the just god. In what immediately follows this reference it is worth noting that only the one god, the 'just god' is the one Moses's wrestles with:
On that other occasion also God made himself little even in the midst of his fierce anger, when in his wrath against the people because of the consecration of the (golden) calf he demanded of his servant Moses, Let me alone, and I will wax hot in wrath and destroy them, and I will make thee into a great nation.b On this you are in the habit of insisting that Moses was a better person than his own God—deprecating, yes and even forbidding, his wrath: for he says, Thou shalt not do this: or else destroy me along with them.c Greatly to be pitied are you, as well as the Israelites, for not realizing that in the person of Moses there is a prefiguring of Christ, who intercedes with the Father, and offers his own soul for the saving of the people. But for the present it is enough that the people were granted even to Moses in his own person. Also, so that the servant might be in a position to make this re- quest of his Lord, the Lord made that request of himself. That is why he said to his servant, Let me alone and I will destroy them, so that the servant might forestall this by his prayer and his offering of himself, and so that you by this might learn how much is permitted to one who has faith, and is a prophet, in the presence of God.Moreover in yet another reference Tertullian appeals to the Marcionite belief that Jesus indeed spoke to Moses when he declares:
This name Christ Himself even then testified to be His own, when He talked with Moses ... When He therefore spake this commandment to the people, "Behold, I send my angel before thy face, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the land which I have prepared for thee; attend to him, and obey his voice and do not provoke him; for he has not shunned you, since my name is upon him," He called him an angel indeed, because of the greatness of the powers which he was to exercise, and because of his prophetic office, while announcing the will of God; but Joshua also (Jesus), because it was a type of His own future name.Of course the specific argument that the Marcionite Eesu = 'Joshua' was a specifically Catholic understanding. The Marcionites clearly had another etymology for the name of their god. But it is worth noting again that the Marcionites not only believed that there were two powers in heaven in their cosmogony - i.e. a 'just god' and a 'good god' - but that the same two gods were active in the Exodus narrative, because they inherited a Jewish understanding to this effect.