Monday, September 6, 2010

Identifying the Exact Historical Moment the Figure of 'Marcion' Was Invented

It was from the common υπομνηματα that was used by Irenaeus, Eusebius, Epiphanius as well as Celsus. I have been thinking about this all day. In a previous thread I noted that the figure of Marcion bears a striking resemblance to the Carpocratian Marcellina. They both said to have arrived in Rome during the reign of Anicetus and continue on until the time of Eleutherius. I noticed that the author of the Wikipedia article on the υπομνηματα (or more correctly 'Hegesippus') noted the similarity and questioned whether 'Marcellina' was the invention or the misunderstanding developed from Marcion. We have cited the evidence from Lawlor (the article only uses Lightfoot's preliminary efforts) which shows that Epiphanius is certainly citing verbatim from the υπομνηματα the idea that Marcellina came at the time of Anicetus and continued until the time that that the author of the explanatory note was writing (i.e. the reign of Eleutherius 175 - 189 CE).

In other words, the evidence related to Marcellina - even though she is far more obscure to us than Marcion - is actually a hell of a lot stronger. Marcellina is witnessed by this obscure author of the υπομνηματα whom Irenaeus infers is Polycarp but who is later identified (because of the subject material) as Josephus or Hegesippus. This narrative is cited in bits and pieces by Celsus, Irenaeus, Justin, Eusebius and Epiphanius. 

The most important piece of evidence is that of Celsus who specifically cites the sect condemned in the work as the Μαρκελλιανοί. Origen never mentions the name 'Carpocratians' which clearly appeared all over every page in the version of the work known to Irenaeus, Eusebius and Epiphanius. Eusebius does not mention the sect Μαρκελλιανοί in his catalogue of heretical sects in his version of the υπομνηματα. But Origen when citing Celsus's likely more original version of the material only mentions the Μαρκελλιανοί (who he links with the figure 'Marcellina' identified in later traditions as a Carpocratian but again the name is not mentioned here), the 'Harpocratians' associated with Salome, the Μαρκιωνιστων (but which appears in the manuscript known to Eusebius AND the parallel citation of Justin Dialogue 35 as 'Μαρκιανισταί' - i.e. those of Mark), the Σιβυλλιστάς (which is a mistake on Celsus's part for 'the Sabellians') as well as a few other sects which have no impact on this discussion.

The critical thing to see here is that the Marcionites were not mentioned in this early document. Irenaeus when citing directly from the text in Book Three of Against Heresies (AH 3.3.2) makes no mention of Marcellina or the Carpocratians but (a) infers that Polycarp was its original author and (b) goes out of his way to associate Polycarp with a systematic campaign against the evils of the Marcionite heresy. Marcion bears an uncanny resemblance as aforementioned to Marcellina insofar as he comes to Rome when she did and later - in a source known to Tertullian (who cites Irenaeus as one of his biggest influences) says that he also hung around until Eleutherius.

The thing that has been bouncing around in my head all day is that Irenaeus openly declares in the preface to his work that the text was NOT written in Greek but a 'βάρβαρον διάλεκτον' [AH i.pref.2] which can only be Latin or Aramaic. If it is acknowledged that the material was originally composed at Rome (cf. the Moscow manuscript of the Martyrdom of Polycarp and internal evidence to Against Heresies) or if it is conceded that the original υπομνηματα known to everyone was originally preserved in Latin (which in turn helps explain the curious name 'Hegesippusd) or at the very least IF IT WAS ASSUMED that the Μαρκελλιανοί went back to a Roman report preserved in Latin (which is a reasonable hypothesis) the existence of such a sect could be presumed to be associated with a group alternatively identified as 'of Marcella' or 'of Marcellus' - i.e. the masculine or feminine diminutives of the original name 'Marcus' - i.e. Mark.

To this end the head of the Μαρκελλιανοί who came to Rome during the reign of Anicetus could be equally well explained to be 'Marcion' (in a Greek text) instead of the original identification of 'Marcellina' in the υπομνηματα. Why would someone want to attempt this type of correction of Polycarp's original work? 

Clearly the disreputable Christian lady identified as possessing the feminine diminutive of Marcus lived on to the age of Commodus. Maybe she even became influential enough that Irenaeus or someone subsequent to Irenaeus thought it worth their while to alter the original material. It is ultimately difficult to say but at the very least the idea that the Greek diminutive of Marcus - viz. 'Marcion' might have emerged from Μαρκελλιανοί is at least possible. 

It is worth noting by comparison that the Latin preservation of the name of the founder of the Marcionite community in Osrhoene also uses the form 'Marcellus' (the text is said by Jerome to have originally been written in Syriac and then Greek before being translated ultimately into Latin).

The point is that for centuries now we have presumed that the discussion of the heresies began with Irenaeus. Irenaeus mentions a heretic named Marcion with a fairly specific profile so most have assumed that there was something substantial to his report. The fact now that we can demonstrate that a slightly earlier υπομνηματα associated with Polycarp and extensively employed by Irenaeus makes no mention of Marcion or the Marcionites but concentrates instead on a Marcellina and a sect - the Μαρκελλιανοί - who anticipate the later invention of Marcion and the Marcionites and offers up the distinct possibility that these descriptions developed in Irenaeus out of a deliberate misrepresentation of the contents of the original υπομνηματα.

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