Friday, June 11, 2010

Why Organizing Committees for Gay Pride Day Everywhere in the World Should Place a 'Marcion' Floats At the Head of Their Parade

No I am not claiming Marcion was gay (after all our 'always reliable' Church Fathers claim he was busy defiling virgin girls).   However I think it is important for these guys to know that this obscure early heretic holds the key to refute all the evangelical propaganda against their community.  So let me say that I am very serious - gays really should have a Marcion float at all their big celebrations.  They should make him something like the patron saint of their whole community if they want to find a way to overcome their adversaries.

I don't know why it is that gay people are so intimidated by the assault on their lifestyle.  Does God hate homosexuality? Well there can be no doubt that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 make certain that Moses didn't think much of buggery but what about Christianity?  What do those 'scriptures' really say?

Well, there really is only one passage in the so-called 'New Testament' that seems to make a statement as clear cut as this. Of course we are talking about Romans 1:27 - 28 which has been called "the capital New Testament text that unequivocally prohibits homosexual behavior."

I received an email awhile back from someone attempting to overturn this witness. He sent me an article and I read it with interest. It was a well written piece which I am sure will serve that writer well. I just thought to myself that scholars don't go often enough to the well of Marcion. The Marcionite canon can often clobber many silly beliefs promoted by these narrow-minded evangelicals because, after all, Marcion does in truth represent the earliest witness to what we call 'the Pauline canon.'

In any event, it just so happens that Tertullian's Five Books Against Marcion doesn't make any reference to Rom 1:19 - 27 so I bet any supporters of gay rights reading my blog well let a heavy sigh. But don't worry, folks. That actually turns out to be a decisive point in favor of the position that the passage never existed before the tampering of Irenaeus, the Roman Church Father who is our first witness to this nexus of material.

Let me explain what I mean.

I am the first to admit that Rom 1.19 - 27 contradicts everything that I think the Apostle represents. He references 'the Creator' and the 'creation.' He seems small-minded and petty. And then there is that 'gay bashing' reference which evangelicals delight in.  This isn't the the Apostle loved by the gnostics and mystics the world over.

But just because we don't like what is written in a passage doesn't mean that we can just dismiss it with a magic wand. That's what Irenaeus did to get us into all this predicament in the first place (viz. transforming passage that didn't suit his personal taste).

In the same way as much as gays want to argue that Romans 1.27 isn't 'really' a condemnation of their lifestyle I think its a stupid argument. I mean you have a very early writer like Origen interpreting this passage in EXACTLY this way:

But even in regard to those who, either from deficiency or knowledge or want of inclination, or from not having Jesus to lead them to a rational view of religion, have not gone into these deep questions, we find that they believe in the Most High God, and in His Only-begotten Son, the Word and God, and that they often exhibit in their character a high degree of gravity, of purity, and integrity; while those who call themselves wise have despised these virtues, and have wallowed in the filth of sodomy, in lawless lust, "men with men working that which is unseemly." [Contra Celsum 7:49]

Moreover Irenaeus, Clement and Tertullian also reference material from the Romans 1:21 - 27 section but interestingly never cite 1:27.

Let's score it - Evangelicals 2, Libertines 0 and the Evangelicals are going to go to their bullpen which means citing from Leviticus to make it a complete shut out. So what are the lazy effeminates going to do?

But then Marcion comes through the door and he's a powerful witness - the oldest witness - to the Pauline canon. So when the Evangelicals throw the 'Romans 1:24 - 27' fastball Marcion will hit it out of the park

Again, the INDIRECT evidence associated with Marcion proves absolutely and without question that a whole section of text from our existing letter to the Romans - the section of text that just so happens to have all that anti-gay stuff - never appeared in the earliest manuscripts of the epistle. That is why we should scrutinize the EARLIEST CATHOLIC condemnations of the Marcionite recension of the letter to the Romans.  For when we look carefully at what they say it is ABSOLUTELY clear that even these sources NOT ONLY SAY that Marcion didn't have Romans 1:19 - 27 but the Catholic witnesses themselves were not even aware that this material even existed.

Now in order to make sense of what I am about to tell you have to be able to imagine layers of textual evidence.  First there is 'Marcion' who lived at the earliest period of Christianity.  Clement of Alexandria explicitly says that he became a Christian in the apostolic era (i.e. BEFORE Simon Magus heard the preaching of Peter cf. Stromata vii.17).  He had the shortest version of the canonical Epistle to the Romans.  Then like a matryoshka doll we move out to the first expansion of the text witnessed by the Catholic source that Tertullian of Carthage used to denounce that original Marcionite recension.  And then there is at least one more expansion (possible even more) to arrive at our surviving text which includes that famous gay bashing quote that reads:

since what may be known about God [and his wrath] is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.[Rom. 1:19 - 27]

So let me be absolutely clear again - NONE OF THESE WORDS WERE NOT FOUND IN the writings of Tertullian's source NOR WERE THEY FOUND in the Marcionite recension of the Epistle to the Romans.

Indeed it is impossible to explain why Tertullian's source DIDN'T cite part of Rom 1:19 - 27 in his version of the Letter to the Romans it would have been a trump card for his/their effort(s) to prove that the Creator was the god of Christ. After all the words "served created things rather than the Creator" end the debate about whose interpretation was correct (i.e. whether the Apostle was talking about another god as the Marcionites claimed).

So Tertullian's case would be proved if either he or his source witnessed this material as being present in Romans. It's a slam dunk. So why doesn't he cite them? I think if we read the section in Against Marcion Book Five it is obvious that everything after verse 19 in chapter 1 wasn't present in the version of the letter used by Tertullian's source nor the Marcionite recension of the same episle.

Let's start with what appears at the very beginning of Tertullian's discussion of the Letter to the Romans. It begins with:

The nearer this work draws to its end, the less need there is for any but brief treatment of questions which arise a second time, and good reason to pass over entirely some which we have often met with. It is sheer boredom to argue again about the law: I have again and again proved that its withdrawal provides no argument for a different god in Christ, for it was prophesied and promised in expectation of Christ in the Creator's scriptures: so much so that this present epistle is seen for the most part to put the law into abeyance. Also I have already more than once proved that the substance of the apostle's preaching is of God as judge, and that judge implies avenger, and avenger creator. And so again here: when he says, 'For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew and to the Greek, because the righteousness of God is revealed in it from faith unto faith', there is no doubt he ascribes both gospel and salvation to a God not kind but just—if I am permitted to make the distinction the heretic makes—a God who carries men over from the faith of the law to the faith of the gospel: evidently his own law and his own gospel. Because he also says that 'wrath is revealed from heaven against the godlessness and unrighteousness of men who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.' [Rom 1.18 var] Which God's wrath? Surely the Creator's. [AM v.13]

So let's ask why would Tertullian weakly put forward the argument that 'he believes it is the Creator's wrath when - as we suppose - his letter has the same contents as ours. The answer is obviously that we are wrong. Tertullian's letter and Marcion's letter to the Romans was very different from our own. The material was systematically expanded over generations in the third century.

It should also be noted that the citation of Rom 1:18 is very different from our own text and actually skipped over all the rest of chapter one and was followed by "But we know that the judgement of God is according to truth" [Rom 2.2] This is EXPLICIT not only in what Tertullian says is in the Marcionite text but his own silence on the rest of the material which again would be a slam dunk to his cause. So we read in WHAT IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS our last citation from Against Marcion Book 5:

Then the truth will belong to him whose is that wrath which is to be revealed to avenge the truth (emphasis mine). Also when he adds (to what we just cited), 'but we know that the judgement of God is according to truth' [Rom 2:2 var] he sets his approval on that actual 'wrath' from which proceeds judgement on behalf of 'the truth' (emphasis mine), and conversely proves that 'the truth' belongs to that same God of whose wrath he has expressed approval by approving of 'his judgement'. [ibid]

It is absolutely clear that NEITHER Marcion nor Tertullian have any of the bullshit that follows 1:18 in our text. Yes to be certain the material was established by Irenaeus and other Church Fathers followed him but the original (Montanist) Tertullian and the Marcionite tradition simply had a text that read something like: Wrath is revealed from heaven against the godlessness and unrighteousness of men who hold down the truth in unrighteousness and we know that the judgement of God is according to truth

No one should be surprised that Marcion's gospel was missing large chunks of Romans, Tertullian's and Epiphanius EXPLICITLY state just this - i.e. 'Marcion took whole chapters out of Romans.' Of course we know better. It was the Catholics ADDING new material to the original work. This line just cited is immediately followed again by another 'jump' to Romans 2:16 as we see in what again IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS in Tertullian's commentary. We read:

It is quite a different matter if the Creator in anger is taking vengeance for the truth of that other god being held down in unrighteousness. But how many ditches Marcion has dug, especially in this epistle, by removing all that he would, will become evident from the complete text of my copy. I myself need do no more than accept, as the result of his carelessness and blindness, those passages which he did not see he had equally good reason to excise (emphasis mine). For if 'God will judge the secret things of men, both those who have sinned in the law and those who have sinned without the law'  [Rom 2:16 var] —because these too, though they are ignorant of the law, yet do by nature the things of the law— evidently the judge will be that God to whom belong both the law and that nature which to those who know not the law has the value of law. But how will he judge? According to the gospel, he says, by Christ [ibid var] So then both the gospel and Christ belong to him whose are both law and nature, and both these will by the gospel and by Christ receive vindication from God in that judgement of God already referred to as according to truth. Therefore just as by the defence of it wrath is revealed from heaven—which can only be from a God of wrath—so again here the thought, in coherence with the former, in which the Creator's judgement is declared, can never be referred to that other god who neither judges nor is wroth, but only to him whose these are—I mean judgement and wrath—at the same time as those also are his by which judgement and wrath are to be exercised—I mean the gospel, and Christ.[ibid]

There is so much to take note of here.  Notice the reference to Marcion 'removing' large chunks of material from this Epistle. We will come back to that in a moment.  But we should focus on the manner in which Tertullian's source, while having a different readings that our existing manuscripts (for instance Tertullian reads 'the gospel' where our existing texts read 'my gospel') WITHOUT ANY DOUBT connects Rom 1:18 to Rom 2.2 to Rom 2:16 AS IF THEY WERE all directly connected to one another.

You can't do that with our existing version of the Epistle of Romans.  It would be impossible to claim that the Apostle was connecting 'the wrath of God against unrighteousness' to 'the judgement of God being according to truth' to the statement that 'God will judge the secrets of men by Christ according to my gospel.'  This because there are 15 verses, 277 words that separate the ideas of Rom 1:18 and Rom 2:2 and then another 14 verses 200 words separating the ideas of Rom 2:2 in turn from Rom 2:16!   Who has that kind of memory!  Talk about 'secret codes' embedded in pages of text!

In case there are readers who are uneasy with the idea that whole sections of text which now appear in the Epistle to the Romans were not present in the Marcionite original I direct their attention to later in Tertullian's account where, after citing the words in what is for us Romans Chapter 8 verse 11 - "“He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies" Tertullian suddenly jumps to Chapter 10 Verse 2 explicitly stating:

I have here a very wide gulf of expunged Scripture to leap across however, I alight on the place where the apostle bears record of Israel “that they have a zeal of God” —their own God, of course— “but not according to knowledge. For,” says he, “being ignorant of (the righteousness of) God, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” [Tertullian AM v.14]

Menzies confirms that "this particular gap [in the Marcionite Epistle to the Romans] did not extend further than from Rom. viii. 11 to x. 2" but adds that "we are informed by Origen (or rather Rufinus in his edition of Origen’s commentary on this epistle, on xiv. 23) that Marcion omitted the last two chapters [of Romans] as spurious, ending this epistle of his Apostolicon with the 23d verse of chap. xiv. It is also observable that Tertullian quotes no passage from chaps. xv., xvi. in his confutation of Marcion from this epistle."

The bottom line is that no gay person should worry about burning in hell unless of course people argue that God sanctioned the re-editing of Holy Writ in the late second century!   Don't laugh.  These men are capable of anything.  We might be arguing against an argument as stupid as this in the near future.  

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