Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mark and Marcion: Second Century Ecclesiastical Pimpin'

A dark and sinister heretical boogeyman manages to convince your wife that you should let him into your house.  He tells you that he is the only authority on Christ and his gospel.  You smell a rat but your foolish wife - well - you know how women are.  She convinces you to let your guard down.  She sighs and bats her eyes and you give in.

"Okay you can have this strange heretic stay with us in our house."

Like a giddy schoolgirl she becomes all excited and quickly opens the door and allows him in.  You go off to work, still having misgivings about this man with crazy eyes, horns on his head, beard and goatee and then when you come home you learn - he's defiled your wife!  

This utterly stupid story is repeated over and over in the writings of the Church Fathers.  The wicked man is always named either Mark or Marcion (the latter as we have already noted is derived from the former through back formation).

It is one of the clearest proofs that the two names belong to the same historical individual.

Let's go back to our last post.  We were studying all the references to there heretic 'Mark' in Book One of Hippolytus's compilation of Irenaeus's writings Against All Heresies.  We accepted the prevailing opinion in scholarship that chapters 22 - 31 were added from Justin's lost Syntagma.  We were demonstrating how Irenaeus's portrait of the heretic Mark derive from his efforts in the late second century to demonize the Evangelist and founder of the Alexandrian tradition who happens to share the same name.

We have now arrived at Section 5 of Chapter 13 of Book One which happens to contain clearest parallels between Mark and Marcion.  These parallels just happen to the 'juiciest' references in all of the Church Fathers. Irenaeus tells us that:

Moreover, that this Marcus compounds philters and love-potions, in order to insult the persons of some of these women, if not of all, those of them who have returned to the Church of God--a thing which frequently occurs--have acknowledged, confessing, too, that they have been defiled by him, and that they were filled with a burning passion towards him. A sad example of this occurred in the case of a certain Asiatic, one of our deacons, who had received him into his house. His wife, a woman of remarkable beauty, fell a victim both in mind and body to this magician, and, for a long time, travelled about with him. At last, when, with no small difficulty, the brethren had converted her, she spent her whole time in the exercise of public confession, weeping over and lamenting the defilement which she had received from this magician.[AH xiii.5]

I don't believe a word of this nonsense. But if you reference it online you are bound to get someone citing Ehrman or someone else to the effect that all of this is to be taken metaphorically. But how do they explain away the fact that Mark and Marcion are engaged in what Americans today refer to as pimpin'?

The information comes from Asia Minor and notice that the deacon is married. Members of the presbytery would not be married in a so-called 'Marcionite' Church. Then there is the question of how 'Mark' was let in the house in the first place. From Hippolytus's report it is plainly evident that the Marcosian Church that there was a well established ecclesiastical hierarchy completely with bishops and other functionaries.

How is it possible that 'Marcus' was some heretical boogeyman sleeping over in people's houses and defiling their wives rather than tending to his flock on three different continents?

The parallel idea that Marcion was also sneaking into peoples houses and defiling their virgins HAS TO BE related to this nonsense. Already at the time of Justin we read that:

the devils put forward Marcion of Pontus, who is even now teaching men to deny that God is the maker of all things in heaven and on earth, and that the Christ predicted by the prophets is His Son, and preaches another god besides the Creator of all, and likewise another son. And this man many have believed, as if he alone knew the truth, and laugh at us, though they have no proof of what they say, but are carried away irrationally as lambs by a wolf, and become the prey of atheistical doctrines, and of devils. For they who are called devils attempt nothing else than to seduce men from God who made them. [Apology 58]

While it is difficult to prove that the 'seduction' here is meant to be explicitly taken in a sexual manner there are obvious parallels to Irenaeus's description of Mark as "drawing away a great number of men, and not a few women, he has induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above. Thus it appears as if he really were the precursor of Antichrist ... [and] he is regarded by his senseless and cracked-brain followers as working miracles by these means." [AH i.13.1] Hippolytus's parallel remembrance begins with a clear reference to demonic powers too "Marcus, an adept in sorcery, carrying on operations partly by sleight of hand and partly by demons, deceived many from time to time. This (heretic) alleged that there resided in him the mightiest power from invisible and unnameable places ..." [Ref. vi.34]

It should be noted that Hippolytus's report (which I say is closer to the lost original 'lecture' of Irenaeus) is almost completely devoid of these charges of sexual misconduct which appear in the Five Books Against All Heresies. The material borrowed from Justin's Syntagma on Marcion which is introduced into Irenaeus's work is similarly devoid of sexual reference but it is not difficult to see its begins in various 'seduction' motifs which are present. We read: "Although they [the Marcionites] do not confess the name of their master [i.e. Simon], in order all the more to seduce others, yet they do teach his doctrines. They set forth, indeed, the name of Christ Jesus as a sort of lure, but in various ways they introduce the impieties of Simon; and thus they destroy multitudes, wickedly disseminating their own doctrines by the use of a good name, and, through means of its sweetness and beauty, extending to their hearers the bitter and malignant poison of the serpent, the great author of apostasy?" [AH i.27.4]

It is interesting to note that the first Marcionite to actually be accused of sexual misconduct was a disciple - Apelles - rather than 'Marcion' himself. Tertullian says that Apelles "after suffering a carnal fall from the school of Marcion in respect of a woman, and thereafter a spiritual overthrow in respect of the virgin Philumena, adopted from her the preaching of a three-dimensional body of Christ, yet without a nativity." [De Carne Christi 6] Twice in the same essay however Tertullian makes clear that this 'carnal fall' was meant to be taken allegorically. The virgin Philumena is CLEARLY an angel and not a person -

Now the apostle will answer that angel of Philumena's in the same terms in which, so long ago, he prophesied of the heretic himself, saying, Even if an angel from heaven preach the gospel to you otherwise than we have preached it, let him be anathema [ibid]

And Tertullian repeats this same citation in relation to the 'virgin angel' Philumena "No less, Even if an angel from heaven preach the gospel to you otherwise than we, let him be anathema, is directed against the energeme of Apelles' virgin Philumena." [De Carne Christi 17] and again "The Holy Ghost had even then foreseen that there would be in a certain virgin Philumene an angel of deceit, 'transformed into an angel of light,' by whose miracles and illusions Apelles was led (when) he introduced his new heresy."[De Prescr. 6]

I have long argued that Apelles was really Apollos from the Marcionite Epistle to the Corinthians (which as have long noted was identified by them as 'to the Alexandrians.' I think this Apelles is the man who was expelled from the community in chapter 5 of the letter owing to his involvement in porneia. The Apelles story in Tertullian represents a garbled reference to that original situation viz. " he rather forsook the continence of Marcion, by resorting to the company of a woman, and withdrew to Alexandria, out of sight of his most abstemious master. Returning therefrom, after some years, unimproved, except that he was no longer a Marcionite, he clave to another woman, the maiden Philumene (whom we have already mentioned), who herself afterwards became an enormous prostitute. Having been imposed on by her vigorous spirit, he committed to writing the revelations which he had learned of her." [ibid 30]

My guess is that the figure identified as 'Cerinthus' i.e. the 'Corinthian' owing to his presence in what was now called the 'Corinthian' epistle was a remembrance of this situation too. In this case however Apelles was originally attacked for 'going back' to the Wisdom of the Torah. Pseudo-Tertullian, however develops the argument the other way - i.e. by alerting the readers to the carnality of these heretics, continued to call Philumena a prophetess that actually seduced Apelles.

Ephrem by contrast speaks of "Bardaisan [who] was rational in public, – but under cover it raged on in blasphemous secrets. – He is (like) a seduced woman, who commits adultery in an inner (secret) room. – Marcion is a whore, who acted shamelessly." It is, in any case, almost certain that Bardaisan’s adultery and Marcion’s harlotry should be understood as their being seduced by Satan. The offspring produced by this ‘intercourse’ is called ‘the children of the snake’ in stanza 13.

The important point throughout is that what the Church Fathers were originally taking aim at is the prominent role that women were taking in the Markan Church. So Jerome accused Marcus of misleading unlearned men and high-born women, and of engaging in unlawful intercourse. The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles called Marcus a spiritual successor of Simon Magus and Hippolytus reports that Marcus even allowed women to offer up the Eucharist. For Jerome's purpose Marcus confirms the illicit sexual behavior of heretics, the sexually loose women heretics tend to attract, the seduction of weak-minded uneducated men, and lastly but no less important, the unbroken succession with Simon Magus.

This also sheds light on Jerome's attitude towards women. The heretical women represent 'typologically' behavior unbecoming of orthodox women. Each of them embody various aspects of a negative feminine tradition ; for example : Helena and the Bands of Women are the originating types of doctrinal/sexual depravity.

Marcion's unidentified woman is guilty of 'seducing' others at Rome, while Constantia and Lucilla engage in similar sinister activities behind the scenes. Philumena and Prisca/Maximilla are excellent examples of demonically seduced women who believe God is speaking through them in prophetic fashion. They also falsely imitate the apostolic duties of legitimate bishops. Agape seems to personify the most damnable example of a woman 'out of place' as she audaciously teaches Priscillian and pretends to perpetuate a legitimate succession of apostolic truth.

Jerome, in a sense, left the best for last in Letter 133 with Agape, a Gnostic woman as the quintessential exemplar of the female heretic. 'Galla' and the 'sister', encouraged by Priscillian, are presented by Jerome of perpetuating heresy freely without any seeming reliance [submission] on male authority. Jerome presented to Ctesiphon a 'hall of fame' of women clearly out of place in the Church, and his warning is that Pelagius and his female followers, like the Priscillianists, have overstepped the acceptable boundaries of orthodox definitions of the role of women.

To this end, I think we have finally gotten to the bottom of why the Markan tradition (both in its Marcosian and Marcionite forms) prompted this kind of attack from the Church Fathers. They deeply feared the role women were playing in the Church and so in the end the founder of the sect - alternatively identified as 'Mark' or 'Marcion' is developed into a heretical boogeyman who corrupts women from their intended state of purity. So Epiphanius tells us that:

there appeared a man named Marcion, who was the son of a certain bishop of the land of Pontus. He found there a pious girl who stayed day and night at the church; she was a virgin. Marcion seduced her and corrupted her [Panarion 42.1.1]

There are clear examples from the Alexandrian tradition of parallel behavior among 'Markan' women. We shall bring them forward shortly. The one point that we should take especial care to notice is that ONLY THESE TWO heretics - Mark and Marcion - have this sort of reputation.

Two second century ecclesiastical 'pimps' and their names represent variations on our 'Mark.' Hmmmm.  Must be a coincidence again ...

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