Friday, August 27, 2010

Doesn't the Production of Secret Mark as Described in To Theodore Sound Like the Production of the Diatessaron?

A short post for a change. Here's the argument in a nutshell. All the Church Fathers say that when the earliest witnesses referenced the εὐαγγέλιον this was an oral preservation of the teachings of Jesus (this is always how Paul's use of the term is explained away). Justin - an educated philosopher - references the texts created out of this original oral teaching as υπομνηματα which when employed by such erudite philosophers as Justin meant 'commentaries' rather than memoirs.

There is an educated philosophical tradition where individuals who presumably 'know' the true teachings of Jesus (undoubtedly conveyed still through some 'oral teaching' cf Irenaeus AH iii.3.2) continued to write υπομνηματα on the original εὐαγγέλιον (Pantaenus, Heracleon, Clement etc.).

Clement's use is interesting. We call his work the Stromateis but he himself always identifies it as the υπομνηματα - the υπομνηματα on the 'true philosophy' of Christ. My question is did Clement think that his υπομνηματα was of subordinate authority to the apostles.

I don't think so. This is the point of Irenaeus's criticism of the gnostics - i.e. they thought themselves the equals of the apostles. I think this goes back to Justin's identification of our 'gospels' as υπομνηματα. Remember his student Tatian employed a single 'gospel' which was called 'ܐܘܢܓܠܝܘܢ ܕܡܚܠܛܐ' (Ewangeliyôn Damhalltê) meaning 'Gospel of the Mixed.' We, with our inherited presuppositions immediately think the thing made from a mixture of older witnesses must be inferior to the original material so we ignore the tradition.

Yet, does Justin's use of the term υπομνηματα parallel To Theodore use of the term? Yes, I think so. Could Justin and Tatian have viewed their late gospel production as superior to the υπομνηματα of the apostles that came before it. Yes, of course they did.

Then why is Clement's formulation so 'bizarre' as all the opponents of To Theodore like to claim? Indeed LGM 2 is identical in structure to the parallel passage in the Diatessaron. The tradition associated with the Diatessaron also assumes an Alexandrian text paralleled or identical with Tatian's MS.

Indeed the SAME basic formulation is made about the Marcionite gospel by Tertullian (i.e. it was introduced only after the writings of the apostles were established). Moreover, Marcion himself is criticized for coming as a savior figure long after the historical Passion. In the Near East there was always this expectation of a Christ-like figure who people could accept appearing long after Jesus (Mani, Mohammed). The figure was always called the 'Paraclete' (the Marcionites applied this term to the secondary figure of Paul) who always wrote a gospel LONG AFTER Jesus.

I think it's just 'we' (the Europeans) who have the problem with this formulation.

In short there is nothing 'strange' about the idea in To Theodore that Mark wrote a gospel AFTER the υπομνηματα of the apostles. Even Irenaeus knows this formulation (AH iii.3.2) and repeatedly criticizes it as implying that the apostles didn't have perfect knowledge.

Moreover who says that Tatian actually combined the υπομνηματα of the apostles into four. The Church Fathers always subordinated traditions associated with their enemies to recent origins. Did Tatian think he was preserving Justin's original gospel? I think so. Is Justin responsible for the creation of this text? Maybe but there is no reason to think that it couldn't have went back to an earlier source.

One more thing, the introduction of Luke ALSO implies the imperfection of the original υπομνηματα of the apostles (a point never lost on Muslim commentators).

Again, 'secret Mark' isn't as bizarre as people like to claim. It is a well attested paradigm for the production of the true εὐαγγέλιον. Just as the Paraclete would make an appearance subsequent to the Passion (in some cases REALLY subsequent viz. Islam) so too the 'true gospel.'

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