Sunday, October 3, 2010

Against Polycarp [Part Twenty Two]

We have been closely examining a mostly ignored original hypomnemata which we have determined (a) was written by Polycarp, (b) subsequently edited and emended by Irenaeus and (c) wrongly attributed to Josephus and Hegesippus by subsequent Church Fathers.  All the evidence seems to point to an added section on the Roman Church near the end of book five the fact that either began or made reference to a 'fox' (cerdo) breaching the walls which protected the Roman faith.  This Cerdo eventually is developed into a teacher of 'Marcion' a famous heretic who is usually identified as positing a dualistic world view within Christianity.

There was likely no reference to Marcion in the original narrative.  This is strange in itself because Marcion is perhaps the most famous heretic from the second century.  Why didn't Polycarp originally reference 'Marcion' in the hypomnemata if - as Irenaeus suggests -  the two men met in Rome?  The answer is most likely that this story is an exaggeration, a misrepresentation or an untruth.

Indeed doesn't the report of Polycarp's sojourn in Rome as preserved in the 'Sabbatius' narrative of Socrates Scholasticus bear a striking resemblance to Cerdo story in Irenaeus? Irenaeus writes that Cerdo:

coming frequently into the Church, and making public confession, he thus remained, one time teaching in secret, and then again making public confession; but at last, having been denounced for corrupt teaching, he was excommunicated from the assembly of the brethren.

Cerdo went on to found supposedly a rival Church which Marcion inherited. We also see Sabbatius, who we determined was likely Polycarp also went to the Roman elders

From these and many such considerations, they made the 'Indifferent' Canon, above-mentioned, concerning Easter, whereby every one was at liberty to keep the custom which he had by predilection in this matter, if he so pleased; and that it should make no difference as regards communion, but even though celebrating differently they should be in accord in the church. After this rule had been thus established, Sabbatius being bound by his oath, anticipated the fast by keeping it in private, whenever any discrepancy existed in the time of the Paschal solemnity, and having watched all night, he celebrated the sabbath of the passover; then on the next day he went to church, and with the rest of the congregation partook of the sacraments. He pursued this course for many years, so that it could not be concealed from the people; in imitation of which some of the more ignorant, and chiefly the Phrygians and Galatians, supposing they should be justified by this conduct imitated him, and kept the passover in secret after his manner. But Sabbatius afterwards disregarding the oath by which he had renounced the episcopal dignity, held schismatic meetings, and was constituted bishop of his followers, as we shall show hereafter.

Florinus, Irenaeus's rival in the Imperial court, must have thought Polycarp taught him the so-called 'Valentinian gnosis.' As Tertullian notes, those called 'Valentinians' by Irenaeus claim that they have nothing to do with this invented heretic. Was then the Cerdo story which Irenaeus injected into the hypomnemata written by Polycarp, a way of differentiating his master from the fox of the Roman Church?  Again, we should think so.

Isn't it strange that Irenaeus tells us that Valentinus comes to Rome during the reign of Hyginus just like Cerdo.  Just as Irenaeus developed the idea that Marcion 'followed' the appearance of the aforementioned 'fox' we see that Marcion is also inevitably placed in Irenaeus's chronology AFTER Valentinus. So we read:

Neither Valentinus, nor Marcion, nor Saturninus, nor Basilides, nor angels, nor archangels, nor principalities, nor powers, [knew the answer] but the Father only who begat, and the Son who was begotten.  [AH 2.27]

And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion ... [AH 3.2]

To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,--a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. [AH 3.3.]

For, prior to Valentinus, those who follow Valentinus had no existence; nor did those from Marcion exist before Marcion; nor, in short, had any of those malignant-minded people, whom I have above enumerated, any being previous to the initiators and inventors of their perversity. For Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too, Marcion's predecessor, himself arrived in the time of Hyginus, who was the ninth bishop. [AH 3.4]

For at that time and place there was neither Valentinus, nor Marcion, nor the rest of these subverters [of the truth], and their adherents. [AH 3.12]

As we noted earlier the details of Book One of Against Heresies would suggest to some that Valentinus was the original 'fox' that broke into the Roman Church.   Indeed it should be noted that it is not simply a matter of having 'history' reflect this very idea that Valentinus was older than Marcion.  For Clement of Alexandria makes clear that Marcion was much older than Valentinus and the Alexandrian tradition generally cites the pair as "Marcion and Valentinus' rather than 'Valentinus and Marcion' as we just saw with Irenaeus.

So what is the significance of all this?  One must begin to question whether there really was a historical Marcion.  We can tentatively make the case that 'Valentinus' might have been Polycarp.  Clearly Florinus the Valentinian would have identified himself as a disciple of Lucian's stranger.  But Marcion?  There are no references to 'Marcion' and 'Marcionites' outside of the writings of the Church Fathers.  We find the claim in Irenaeus "And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan" particularly suspicious.  If Polycarp really condemned Marcion at Rome, why isn't the meeting recorded in his 'Memoirs'?  Even there are some who continue to argue that the hypomnemata weren't written by Polycarp why then is there no mention of Polycarp or Marcion?

Yet it is important to remind ourselves over and over again that the 'Marcionites' are not mentioned in the hypomnemata.  The list of heresies that appears there is especially remarkable as there is no mention of Marcion and the Marcionites:

But Thebuthis, because he was not made bishop, began to corrupt it. He also was sprung from the seven sects among the people, like Simon, from whom came the Simonians, and Cleobius, from whom came the Cleobians, and Dositheus, from whom came the Dositheans, and Gorthæus, from whom came the Goratheni, and the Masbothæans. From them sprang the Menandrianists, and Μαρκιανισταί, and Carpocratians, and Valentinians, and Basilidians, and Saturnilians. Each introduced privately and separately his own peculiar opinion. From them came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupt doctrines uttered against God and against his Christ.

One may suspect again that Irenaeus is ultimately behind the addition of this second list. A number of scholars have noted the list is corrupt because here the Masbothaeans are said to be Christians and elsewhere Eusebius tells us that the hypomnemata gives the Masbotheans as one of the seven Jewish sects. The name Μαρκιανισταί does not mean 'those of Marcion' but 'those of Mark' and a similar list appears in Justin's Dialogue with Trypho.

The question which now stands before us is why the oldest lists make mention only of 'those of Mark' while our later sources concentrate increasingly on a group associated with 'Marcion.' It is very puzzling and can only be explained if later references to 'those of Marcion' is a distortion in some way of an original attack against 'those of Mark.'  There are two very plausible explanations here.  The first is that the term 'Marcionite' is a development of an original Aramaic reference to 'those of Mark' marqiyone.  The second put forward by Hilgenfeld that 'Marcion' is the Greek diminutive of Mark. For the moment it is enough to note that the earliest material in Irenaeus seems to betray a parallel interest in subordinating 'those of Mark' as an offshoot of the aforementioned Valentinians.

Indeed it seems very bizarre that the same 'unnamed presbyter' who supposedly condemned 'Marcion' as a firstborn of Satan should also be reported by Irenaeus to have attacked 'Mark' with the same language "Mark, thou former of idols, inspector of portents, Skill'd in consulting the stars, and deep in the black arts of magic, Ever by tricks such as these confirming the doctrines of error, Furnishing signs unto those involved by thee in deception, Wonders of power that is utterly severed from God and apostate, Which Satan, thy true father, enables thee still to accomplish, By means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel,-- Thus making thee the precursor of his own impious actions."  Many later Church Fathers it should be noted substitute the names 'Mark' and 'Marcion' when employing Irenaeus's description of 'those of Mark' that follow the Valentinians in Book One.

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