Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Marcionite Interpretation of Mark 10:37 - 41 and Mystic Mark [Part One]

I have been going through von Harnack's Das Evangelium vom fremden Gott once again (I think you could spend your life going through this near 800 page book and always find something new).  It actually brings me joy to see how many of my own observations are confirmed by uncle Adolph.  In any event, I stumbled upon something I have written about a number of times at this blog.  For those who are new to my observations, it will hopefully be quite shocking and even for those who heard me mention it the last time it might be worth repeating it knowing that von Harnack noticed much the same thing. 

Let me start with where von Harnack and I differ.  Harnack accepts the claims of the Church Fathers with regards to the Marcionite gospel being a corruption of Luke.  I don't buy into this claim mostly because I think that it doesn't make much sense.  There are too many references to the Marcionite gospel being a variant of the Gospel of Mark.  There are too many references to other narratives (not only from Mark but also from Matthew and John) being present in the Marcionite gospel.

So where did von Harnack go wrong in my opinion?  Why did he push the evidence for some kind of 'Diatessaronic Mark' in favor of Irenaeus's claims about the Gospel of Luke?  I think it comes down to something simple.  I think that his faith and his veneration of the Church Fathers put him in a bind.  It prevented him from scruntizing the evidence with enough criticism.  As a result he always sought away out to explain away evidence which refuted the claims of Irenaeus and Tertullian such as:

Aber es sind auch aus andern NTlichen Büchern Zusätze zur Bibel gemacht worden. Johanneische Stellen werden vom Marcioniten Markus (Dial. II, 16 u. 20: Joh. 13,34 u. 15, 19) zitiert; nach Isidor von Pelusium (s. S. 369*) war das Wort : "Ich bin gekommen, das Gesetz und die Propheten aufzulösen", in das Evangelium eingerückt. Nach Epiphanius (haer. 42, 3) muß man annehmen, daß Mark. 10,37 f. (bzw. die Matthäusparallele) in einem Marcionitischen Evangelien exemplar gestanden hat, und das ist auch nach Origenes wahrscheinlich (s. S. 252*). Ephraem scheint Matth. 23,8 bei den Marcioniten gelesen zu haben (s. S. 359*)

But there are also other New Testament books were additions made to the Bible. The Marcionite Markus (Dialogue II, 16f, 20: John 13.34f; 15.19) quotes from John's words.  According to Isidore of Pelusium (cf. Epist. 1 .371 = PG 78, 393; Adamantius, Dial 2.15 = GCS 4, 88) was the word: "I have come destroy the law and the prophets" found in the Gospel [i.e. an inversion of Matt.5.17]. According to Epiphanius (Haer. 42, 3) one can assume that Mark. 10.37 (or the Matthew parallel) was in a Marcionite gospel exemplar, and that is likely also referenced in Origen (Hom Luc. XXV T. V p. 181 f.). Ephraem seems to have read Matt 23.8 in the Marcionite text  ... (p. 81)

The point of citing this short section in his near 800 page work merely to demonstrate once again that the Marcionite gospel cannot have been simply based on the Gospel of Luke.  Rather, it is to spur an investigation into the presence of Mark 10:35 - 41 in the Marcionite gospel. 

As most of you, this narrative is found only in Mark and Matthew in our canon.  Yet Clement of Alexandria tells us that this passage:

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan

appeared in a 'mystic' version of the gospel originally written by St. Mark described in its relative positioning between two narratives relative to two passages which appear back to back in our 'public' gospel of Mark 10:32 - 41. 

I want to go through things step by step so that we don't fall into the same traps as many other commentaries on the discovery.

There are two - possibly three - texts alluded to in Clement's Letter to Theodore.  There is a 'mystic gospel' secretly written by Mark in Alexandria which helps 'explain' the secret meaning of a 'public' gospel allegedly written in Rome by Mark while Peter was still preaching there and then there is Theodore's gospel of Mark which Clement uses to explain the relative location of the new material.  If the public gospel written which Clement says was written by Mark before the 'mystic' text is the same as the canonical gospel of Mark that Theodore used (and which Clement was referencing to orient Theodore to the location of the new material) then there are two gospels of Mark described in to Theodore.  If they are different, then there are three texts associated with Mark - and then there is the false mystic gospel of Mark in the hands of the Carpocratians ...

The point for the moment is that Clement tells us that the aforementioned material appears just after something like Mark 10:32 - 34:

And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles.  They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.

and just before something like Mark 10:35 - 41:

James and John, came up to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You."  And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"  They said to Him, "Grant that we (AH)may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory."  But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized" ...

The reason of course that I say 'something like' what appears in our canonical Gospel of Mark chapter ten is because Clement only cites part of the first and last sentence of the former and part of the first sentence of the latter section and there are already slight differences.  It is well known that there are significant variations in many of Clement's gospel citations in his other works.  We simply don't know about the exact wording of what appears in the 'mystic gospel' of Mark outside of what is explicitly referenced in the Letter to Theodore and I think that not enough caution has been exercised in previous discussions regarding the relationship between 'public Mark' and 'mystic Mark.' 

All of this leads us back to von Harnack's acknowledgement that the Marcionite gospel happened to reference the same section of material which appears after the additional 'baptism reference' in mystic Mark.  This even though Luke - the gospel that Irenaeus and Tertullian tell us the Marcionite gospel was developed from - does not contain these words. 

The reality is again that the Marcionite gospel made reference to periscopes outside of Luke and in this case in particular - as Epiphanius makes clear - the Marcionites argued that their version of Mark 10:35 - 41 supported their heretical understanding of baptism which varied greatly from the familiar Catholic sacrament.  Indeed Epiphanius tells us that the Marcionites had 'another baptism.'  Epiphanius seems to frame this in terms of a practice of 'multiple baptisms' in the Marcionite tradition  However this is obviously not the case.  The Marcionites had some other context for their baptism rituals.  Why so?  The point is made explicit by von Harnack over and over again in this work - the Marcionite gospel did not contain the baptism of Jesus by John periscope.  As such Epiphanius's discussion is ultimately not what it first appears to be.  It is, as we shall see, an adaptation of a lost older report which was far more representative of the actual beliefs and practice of the Marcionites. 

The Marcionites did not practice 'repeated' baptisms nor were there really any such controversies in the third century.  A careful reading of documents like the so-called Anonymous Treatise on Baptism and a letter from Dionysius of Alexandria to the bishop of Rome reveals that the issue was a rival form of baptism connected to heretical documents.  In any event here is the original reference in Epiphanius:

But to start his ridicule anew, to show that he was cleansed again after his transgression and from then on ranks among the guiltless, he cites a text which he falsely claims will prove the point — a potentially deceptive one, but it does not mean what he says.  He says that after the Lord's baptism by John he told the disciples, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and why do I wish to if I have already accomplished it?" And again, "I have a cup to drink, and why do I wish to if I already fulfilled it?" And because of this he decreed the giving of more baptisms. [Panarion 42.3]

It is admittedly difficult to piece together what the original source that Epiphanius had before him actually reports about the Marcionites.  Yet I think we can piece together a lot more than you might think at first glace. 

The first thing that we should mention is that almost the exact same report is now found in Irenaeus's Against Heresies albeit attributed to a group identified as 'those of Mark':

And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith ...  And the baptism of John was proclaimed with a view to repentance, but the redemption by Jesus was brought in for the sake of perfection. And to this He refers when He says, "And I have another baptism to be baptized with, and I hasten eagerly towards it." Moreover, they affirm that the Lord added this redemption to the sons of Zebedee, when their mother asked that they might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom, saying, "Can ye be baptized with the baptism which I shall be baptized with?"  Paul, too, they declare, has often set forth, in express terms, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and this was the same which is handed down by them in so varied and discordant forms. [AH 1.21.1,2]

There is certainly no doubt a common point of contact between these two traditions.  The only objection that can be put forward is that Epiphanius 'mistook' a report dealing with the heretical 'followers of Mark' and 'wrongly applied' it to 'those of Marcion.' 

Of course many scholars would stop right there and take the most convenient road to explaining away the similarity.  Yet there are a number of reasons that won't work.  The first is that Epiphanius also happens to cite Irenaeus's full report on the Marcosians word for word (Panarion 34.20).  The second is that Epiphanius, while faithfully reporting the original information which still appears in our copies of Irenaeus's Against Heresies breaks with Irenaeus in terms of first (a) identifying the followers of Heracleon as having the same redemption baptism and (b) attributing AH 1.21.3 - 5 to the Heracleonites (again the existing manuscripts of Irenaeus do not reflect this tradition).  Indeed everywhere throughout his account of Heracleon, Epiphanius treats his sect as an offshoot of the Marcosian tradition.

Yet it immediately becomes obvious that Epiphanius veneration of Irenaeus is responsible for this reconciliation of what must be two conflicting reports.  At the end of his citation he writes "the blessed elder Irenaeus composed this whole searching inquiry, and gave every detail of all their false teaching in order. Hence, as I have already indicated, I am content with his  diligent work and have presented it all word for word, as it stands in his writings.  They will be refuted by the very things the holy man has said in opposition to their wickedness." (Panarion 34.21)  And indeed, as the Philosophumena reports, the followers of Mark did indeed take exception to Irenaeus's original report.

To this end, it is worth asking - what if our surviving copies of Against Heresies are fundamentally inaccurate in terms of detailing what appear to be two separate sects associated with some named 'Mark' (Marcion being taken to be the Greek diminutive of Marcus)?  The reason we have to ask this is that it has generally been acknowledged that at least some - if not all - of the reports which follow Irenaeus's account of the Marcosians come from Justin's Syntagma.  Why is it so certain that Irenaeus was responsible for the 'final edition' of his own writings of the heresies?

Indeed Tertullian's Against the Valentinians seems to be a transcription of a loose but more original account of Irenaeus's original 'lecture' against the Valentinians (see Photius's description of surviving Irenaean 'lectures' on various topics). In this anti-Valentinian treatise the account the material on the Marcosians which follows in Against Heresies is not included (even though Marcus there is presented as a 'Valentinian'). 

It is also worth noting that just as in Irenaeus where the Valentinians and the Marcosians are lumped together, elsewhere in the writings of later Church Fathers (Origen in particular) 'the Marcionites and Valentinians' are connected.  I think there is very good reason to believe that the sect which Irenaeus identified as 'those of Mark' later became identified as 'those of Marcion' (owing to the habit of the sectarians themselves to address Mark in the diminutive.  In the fourth century, where various reports were beginning to get lumped together from a variety of sources, we come across the same report being attributed to a number of different groups.  Aas we have noted many times one of the most rational voices in the history of the fourth century Church - Gregory Nazianzen - treats the Marcionites and the Marcosians as one and the same- because he could clearly see this pattern emerging from the surviving literature.    

Yet how do we know for certain that the Marcionites did indeed develop some of their doctrines from a narrative like Mark 10:37 - 41?  In this particular case von Harnack proves to be very astute when he notes that this is certainly the source (or the equivalent in Matthew) of the statement of Origen in Homilies on Luke explained by the Marcionites as:

that which has been written 'to sit on the right hand and the left hand of the Savior, was spoken of Paul and of Marcion: that Paul should sit on the right hand, Marcion should sit on the left. (Hom. XXV in Luc. T. V p. 181)

So now Mark 10:37 - 41 is absolutely confirmed as a part of the Marcionite gospel.  The question remains, why would it be argued by Marcionites to be the basis to their baptism rituals when it is clear from our surviving gospels that 'baptism' cannot be what Jesus has in mind.  After all, Jesus's baptism by John already happened at the beginning of the gospel. 

Oh, what was that, Adolph von Harnack just said?  The baptism by John narrative didn't appear in the Marcionite gospel (p. 145).  So Mark 10:37 - 41 was the only baptism reference in the Marcionite gospel besides the other saying referenced in the report - I have a baptism to be baptized with, and why do I wish to if I have already accomplished it.  Could it be then, that the Marcionites knew about the first addition to the longer gospel of Mark (LGM 1) referenced in Clement's Letter to Theodore

I certainly think so.  I have said so in writing many times now ...

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

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