Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Were the Messalians (Epiphanius Panarion 80) Marcionites?

Just one more parallel between the Messaline and the Marcionites that I don't think has been recognized before.  The term Messalians is universally acknowledged to come from the Aramaic מְצָלין which is why they are identified as  a 'praying people.'  Epiphanius translates the name (εὐχόμενοι), but in the next generation the Messalians had obtained a technical name in Greek also, and were known as Euchites (εὐχήται or εὐχῖται).

It has been noted that the Aramaic term appears in Daniel 6:11:

and [Daniel] kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed (וּמְצַלֵּא), and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

Yet here's what I found that hasn't been recognized before.  Ephrem Syrus tells us that the Marcionites identified themselves as a 'praying people' (remember they never called themselves 'Marcionites') and the name is connected with the reference in Daniel 6:11:

Why forsooth do they say that there was no fasting (in the world), seeing that when all the scattered groups (lit. fragments) of the followers of Marcion are gathered together they cannot keep the fast of Ezekiel, nor have they (ever) prayed, nor do they (now) pray, a prayer like that of the friends of Daniel [Dan. 6:11]  If they say, 'We are praying the whole day,' let us see whether their prayer is accepted. But perhaps they will say, '(It is.) for how do you know that it is not accepted ?' I say, 'From the fact that He does not do for them here (?) anything at all.' And if they say that He does (something) for them, let them show (it) us, and we will accept (it) ! For Daniel used to pray three times a day and by means of his prayer he interpreted dreams and brought back the People from Babylon, and angels used to come to him at the time of his prayer. But the Marcionites, because they pray more than Daniel, as they say, will not accomplish more than he, nor even as much as he, but less than he. But since they pray more than the righteous, as they say, and yet are not answered even as much as sinners (are answered), it is clear that, because they pray to one who does not exist, on that account they are not heard or answered when they pray. But if we pray concerning great and heavenly things, these are additions. . . . What is the new (kind of) prayer which he brought with him? [S. Ephraim's Prose Refutations of Mani, Marcion and Bardaisan. Transcribed from the Palimpsest B.M. Add. 14623 by C. W. MITCHELL, M.A., C.F., volume 2  (1921).  Against Marcion I. 68 - 70]

I think this is an important reference.  I think it just might explain the term Messalians as a DESCRIPTIVE term which was ultimately connected again with the Marcionite/Marcianite tradition of Osrhoene.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.