Saturday, May 29, 2010

Debunking the Myth of 'Marcion' Once and For All

I have had an ongoing but entirely cordial debate with one of the readers of my blog as to whether the Marcionites (Μαρκιωνισταί) was originally derived from an Aramaic term which meant 'those of Mark.' During the course of answering some of his objections I stumbled upon this reference in the very early Hegesippus which I think settles the issue once and for all.

The passage in question deals with the various heretics which sprang up in the Church in the second century. We read:

But Thebuthis, because he was not made bishop, began to corrupt it. He also was sprung from the seven sects among the people, like Simon, from whom came the Simonians, and Cleobius, from whom came the Cleobians, and Dositheus, from whom came the Dositheans, and Gorthæus, from whom came the Goratheni, and Masbotheus, from whom came the Masbothæans. From them sprang the Menandrianists, and Marcionists, (Μαρκιανισταί) and Carpocratians, and Valentinians, and Basilidians, and Saturnilians. Each introduced privately and separately his own peculiar opinion. From them came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupt doctrines uttered against God and against his Christ.”[Eusebius Church History iv.22]

Schaff notes that there was some controversy over this reference to the Μαρκιανισταί saying "There is some dispute about this word. The Greek is Μαρκιανισταί, which Harnack regards as equivalent to Μαρκιωνισταί, or “followers of Marcion,” but which Lipsius takes to mean “followers of Marcus.” The latter is clearly epigraphically more correct, but the reasons for reading in this place Marcionites, or followers of Marcion, are strong enough to outweigh other considerations (see Harnack, p. 31 ff. and Lipsius, p. 29 ff.)."

Given that we have evidence from the East that the Marcionites were called mrqywni, a term which means 'those of Mark' in Aramaic, it is impossible not to believe now that this early reference to Μαρκιανισταί shows that subsequent references to the Μαρκιωνισταί were either ill informed or deliberately misleading.

The reference I am speaking of is from the Life of Mar Aba written in Syriac "for he (Mar Aba) called a Christian a Marcionite (mrqywni) following the local custom."

There was no such a person as Marcion, my friends. Lightfoots mentions a Syriac version of the Hegesippus this might just cement the deal.

It's amazing that no one noticed this before my friend Professor Boid but then again I always said he was smarter than the rest of these pretenders ...

UPDATE - More Μαρκιανοί references discovered:

Justin Dialogue With Trypho 35 "Yet they style themselves Christians, just as certain among the Gentiles inscribe the name of God upon the works of their own hands, and partake in nefarious and impious rites.) Some are called Μαρκιανοί, and some Valentinians, and some Basilidians, and some Saturnilians, and others by other names; each called after the originator of the individual opinion, just as each one of those who consider themselves philosophers, as I said before, thinks he must bear the name of the philosophy which he follows, from the name of the father of the particular doctrine." This reference is almost ALWAYS mistaken to be a Marcionite reference Harnack mentions also "the Marcianisten in Theodosius. Codex XVI, 5, 65 (Law v. May 30 = 428 Justinian. I, 5, 5).

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