Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Greatest Discovery in the Last Decade of Patristic Scholarship

I don't need to rediscover the lost Mar Saba manuscript (although it would have made for a great television documentary). I am certain that the document would prove to be exactly what it seems to be - i.e. an eighteenth century manuscript which preserves a letter from Clement of Alexandria to a certain Theodore.  I have unraveled the mystery of the document, my friends.  The underlying logic is inescapable. 

I asked questions that no one asked before and received a confirmation of the document's authenticity.  We have taken what Schaff and others noticed about Clement's writings and taken it to the next level. 

I don't know why people have never asked which see was Marcion's episcopate?  The answer is so obvious when you really think about it but no one ever thinks about it. 

Why don't people think about it?  Because the university system guides young minds to the wrong answers.  It will be impossible to see the glory of the new rising sun if you have a scheduling conflict. 

Alexandria must have been Marcion's See.  It's so obvious.  Alexandria is a giant 'blind spot' in the history of the Church exactly in the same way that Marcion is a giant 'blind spot.'  It's only when we focus on Alexandria and its patron saint Mark that we begin to see it all come together.  Origen says that the Marcionites saw Marcion enthroned beside Jesus and von Harnack connects this to the Marcionite interest in Mark 10:38 - 41.  The Marcionite respresentative in the Dialogues of Adamantius says that Marcion is the bishop after whom all bishops are named' the exact same role that Mark has within the Alexandrian tradition.

All these reports come to us from Alexandria.  The Alexandrian tradition was certainly more Marcionite.  Already in the third century the deacon of the Church of St. Mark was a 'reformed' Marcionite (Jerome. de Vir. Ill. 56).  The deacon was second only to the Pope in the period (as the example of Callixtus and Zephyrinus of Rome demonstrates).  And now we have discovered from the Letter to Theodore that the Alexandrians had a similar relationship with regards to two gospels in their community.

The deacon was the public face of the Pope in the same way as the gospel established by Mark to be "most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed" (to Theodore II.17 - 18) was the public face of the "more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected." (ibid II 21 - 22). 

As we have already demonstrated here time and time again the Marcionites had two gospels - one public and one private from the very beginning.  The two texts had the same name but the privately held text was also referenced as the proevangelium.  Throughout the writings of the Church Fathers - and especially in the earliest reports about the Marcionites - there is a clear sense that the sect 'openly' preserved a curtailed gospel:

He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us, furnishing them not with the Gospel, but merely a small part of it (non Evangelium, sed particulam Evangelii tradens eis). [AH 1.27.2]

this man is the only one who has dared openly to curtail the Scriptures (quoniam et soliia manifeste ausus est circumcidere Scripturas) [AH 1.27.4]

For Marcion, throwing back the entire Gospel, yea rather, cutting himself off from the Gospel, boasts that he has part of the Gospel.(Etenim Marcion totum rejiciens Evangelium, immo vere seipsum abscindens ab evangelio, partem gloriatur se habere Evangelii) [AH 3.11.9]

It is simply undeniable that at the heart of our first report about the Marcionites there is a clear sense that the Marcionites themselves claimed that their public gospel was only 'a part' or a 'portion' of another gospel.  This claim was cleverly turned around by Irenaeus to make the case that Marcion had shortened a particular Catholic gospel - that according to Luke.  This was in turn used to make the case that the Catholic tradition was 'fuller' and 'truer' than the Marcionite tradition. 

Propaganda is never developed in a vacuum.  Look at the way politics works in Washington DC.  Whether you are a spin doctor for the Democrats or the Republicans you rarely create attack ads or propaganda on your own.  The most effective way to destroy your enemy is to take something they have said - a core point of doctrine - and then twist around the words by placing them in a new context to make your opponents look foolish, dangerous ot misguided. 

In this case Irenaeus clearly took the pre-existent claim of the Marcionites themselves that their public gospel was only a shortened 'part' of the full gospel at the principle See of that tradition (i.e. Alexandria) and framed it in a new context.  Irenaeus took all or most of the sayings that the Marcionites used to promote their theological framework developed them into a parallel 'short' gospel called 'according to Luke' and twisted each saying so as to support the new orthodox doctrine that was being promote in Rome during the reign of the wicked Emperor Commodus. 

Now Irenaeus could say "you say that your gospel is a shortened version of something else - well here is their original gospel!  And look they haven't just shorted the gospel by taking out key arguments which prove the correctness of OUR beliefs (i.e. the geneaology of Jesus, his virgin birth, his acknolwedgement of the authority of Jewish scriptures, his confession to be the Christ etc.) they have also changed little words and phrases here or there to pervert the true faithfulness of that text."

It is important to note that before Irenaeus introduces the 'gospel of Luke' there is no reference to a text of this name.  Instead we can see clear evidence that the Marcionites themselves argued that their public text was a shortened gospel of Mark (Philosophumena 7:17).  Indeed a gospel of Mark which even in its shortened form retained what we would call 'Lukan elements' (Epiphanius for instance makes clear that the Marcionite gospel retained the portion of Mark chapter 10 cited in to Theodore).

The problem has always been that New Testament and Patristic scholarship has uncritically immersed itself in the dogma established by Irenaeus.   The fourfold gospel was developed principally as a refutation of the Marcionite gospel.  It was developed outwardly from this goal. 

This is precisely why the canonical gospels of Mark and Luke - those which stand closest to the Marcionite gospel - are deliberately established as 'subordinate' revelations i.e. by evangelists who were not 'direct witnesses' of Jesus's ministry.  Only Matthew and John are now said to have been written by people who actually witnessed the acts of Jesus.  This doesn't mean it is true.  The Marcionites explicitly contradicted this apostolic claim.  Yet the point is that the heart of the fourfold gospel (i.e. the second and third gospels) are made to be of inferior value than the first and last ones. 

The fact that it is now 'the gospel according to John' which is the 'more spiritual gospel' - the text which is filled with the material of a more 'mystical nature' - and written after the 'short' gospels were all established is not coincidental.  It has been groomed by Irenaeus to occupy the place that the Marcionite proevangelium occupied in the Alexandrian tradition.

We can see it all unfold before our eyes.  The discovery of the Letter to Theodore shook scholarship when Morton Smith brought it to the world's attention and they didn't even know what it was saying.  Now we know what it is revealing.  The whole Alexandrian tradition was Marcionite.  The Roman tradition was merely forcing it to adapt or make changes.

UPDATE - it occurs to me that the only place that the Gospel of Luke is ever identified as having been written is Alexandria.  The title to the Syriac version of the Gospel of Luke runs : "Gospel of Luke, the Evangelist, which he published and preached in Greek in Alexandria."  There is a wealth of other testimonies to this effect too. 

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.