Thursday, August 6, 2009

Marcion as Mark

I honestly don't understand some things in this world. I don't know for instance how electricity works; no one does. My internet connection was out last night so I actually started scrutinizing my cable bill. I couldn't make sense of that either. But the thing which tops my list of unexplained mysteries is why it is that scholarship never once mentions that the name 'Marcion' must go back to an original person named 'Mark.'

Is it that this is so obvious that no one bothers to mention it?

No that's certainly not the answer. Academics love the obvious. They like to repeat simple things over and over again so as to make them sound utterly complex. So how is that all the great minds of the past who have studied the phenomenon of 'Marcion' and the 'Marcionites' don't make mention that these names go back to an original person named Mark (i.e. Marcus, Marcos, Marqus etc) by his parents?

Well I happen to think that it has something to do with the amount of time that knowledgeable people have actually spent THINKING about Marcion or better yet the amount of time that they have actually spent critically examining the original reports about Marcion and the Marcionites.

Marcion above all else is a problem. He was a problem for the Church Fathers and their vision of a united, universal Catholic Church which came down from the very beginning of Chrisitanity. So they had to find ways of 'explaining away' his 'strange beliefs.'

This original problem of officials within the emerging Church became passed on to theologians and later academics. Again the problems weren't 'who was Marcion' and 'how do we explain the beliefs of the Marcionites on their own terms' but effectively 'how do we make them go away?'

So it is that when we are faced with all these silly stories about Marcion seducing a virgin or Marcion being rejected by Polycarp (there really are surprisingly few stories out there actually) some scholars - the idiots in the pack - simply regurgitate the whole inherited 'package' and literally develop a story with a beginning middle and end out of it. Others recognize the propagandist elements but don't probe any deeper into even the most basic details about his person ... like the fact that his original name must have been Mark.

The -ion ending is a affectionate diminutive suffix used at the ends of Greek names. Take the example of the application of this diminutive suffix by Dicaeopolis, the lead character in Aristophanes Achamians. At one point in the play he ridicules Lamachippus, another character in the play by calling him "Lamacivppion" i.e. my little Lamachippus. As Sommerstein explains "Dicaeopolis mockingly adds two incongtruous elements to Lamachus' name, the sonorous and lofty -hippos 'horse' and the affectionate diminutive suffix -ion."

So this is the explanation of the Marcion if it was naturally developed among Greek speakers - i.e. that he was someone named Mark who was identified with the nickname 'Marky' by contemporaries.

I happened to have passed along a report about the Marcionites in Syriac to a good friend of mine, Rory Boid of Monash University and he wondered whether the name might have been constructed in the way 'Ebion' had - i.e. as a backformation in Hebrew or Aramaic.

What he means is that there obviously never was a person named 'Ebion.' Ebion and Elxai are just made up names of heretics owing to the facts that a group were explained as being called 'Ebionites' and 'Elxasites' out of Aramaic originals.

He told me that Marcion might be a back-formation from Aramaic Marqiyônê (singular Marqiyona) meaning the followers of Mark. So there might never have ben a Markion, only a Mark.

He wrote "Whether Markiônai would be the standard Greek for followers of Mark is something I would have to look up to be sure, but I think it would be one of a about three possibilities. Marcosians, in Greek Markôsai, would be natural as well. Ask someone with a better command of Greek than me. Perhaps compare Epiphanius’s invention of a person called Ebion, founder of the group called Evyonim in Hebrew. (Though the form evyon is a unit and the form Marqiyon- is a compound)."

He later added that "the suffix –iyon is productive in Hebrew and Aramaic of the time. (Productive is a technical term of theoretical linguistics meaning used to make new words, as opposed to being recognised in existing words but not used to make new words). It does not make diminutives: it makes derivatives. PEOPLE don’t have names ending in –iyon in Hebrew or Aramaic, but THINGS named by relation to other things have the suffix. I think the Greek Markion is a combination of influence of the Aramaic and a conscious creation of a Greek diminutive. The Diatessaron was produced simultaneously in Syriac and Latin in Rome exactly when Irenaeus wrote, so Syriac/Aramaic contact is certain."

And then finally clarified that:

Hebrew MRQ + YWN + IM = "those of Mark"
Aramaic MRQ + YWN + I = "those of Mark"

Pronunciation is Mar-qi-yo-ni-yim and Mar-qi-yo-ne

The forms of names of sects can vary from author to author and from ms. to ms. Thus the Dositheans are called Dosithaioi, Dosthenoi, and so on. You will see that Abu ‘l-Fateh. uses a sources that had Dosthenoi, since he calls the Dositheans Dostan or Dustan (a collective plural form in Arabic). The translations of the Greek sources hardly ever give this kind of information. I have on order the first vol. of the critical edition of the Greek of Epiphanius, which is the vol. with the information on the Marcionites. When I have this to hand I will let you know what forms are used. I think I might see, as well as the expected Markionitai or Markionaioi, the form Markonaioi. I really should do the same with the name of Markion in Irenaeus, to see whether Markon occurs.

The point of course is that why didn't anyone else notice this before us?

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