Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Irenaeus Makes Reference to Two Marcionite Groups One Using a Shortened Gospel and 'Others' Preferring a Fuller Gospel of Mark

This is part of a series of posts this month in which we are trying to demonstrate that the two gospels of the Marcionites - a public gospel and a 'pro-evangelium' mirror the division of gospels in Clement of Alexandria's to Theodore.  As I have noted here many times, the general perception is that BECAUSE Irenaeus says that the Marcionites falsified or shortened our canonical Luke that the Marcionite gospel which was publicly known at the time was the only gospel.  Yet many of Irenaeus's statements don't make sense under this scenario. 

It seems that Irenaeus took the public position of the Marcionite Church - i.e. that the Marcionites acknowledged that the gospel used in their synagogues was a shortened version of 'the Evangelium' (i.e. the pro-Evangelium) and turned that around into a propaganda effort against sect identifying the Marcionite ur-Gospel as the canonical gospel of Luke.  As such, Irenaeus could claim that the Marcionites only had a shortened piece of one part of 'the Evangelium' (remembering that Irenaeus according to Trobisch understood there to be one gospel in four rather than 'four gospels). 

Under this assumption the gospel of Luke was developed as an anti-Marcionite bit of propaganda.  How did Irenaeus get away with this?  Well I have always wondered how we can be so sure that the Catholics ever got a hold of the Marcionite gospel.  Instead it would seem that before this text fell into their hands there seems to have been a 'letter' or text called or referenced by Patristic sources as 'the Antitheses' which outlined a case for the separation of the Law and the gospel.  This source list rather than the actual possession of the Marcionite gospel became the basis for the development of the canonical gospel of Luke. 

To this end, when the Marcionites claimed that their 'Gospel of Christ' came from some other text in their exclusive possession, a text which no openly acknowledged human author, the Catholics could pull out Luke and say 'hee is the source' and argue that if the context of the various gospel citations were examined it would disprove the various inferences drawn by the Marcionites. 

Of course as the Philosophumena (cf. 7.18) makes explicit, the Marcionites if pressed argued that Mark was the author of their gospel set.  Clement similarly struggles with identifying Mark as the author of his two gospel set (already Mark is displaced as having any real role in the development of the public gospel because of its alleged association with Peter).  Why the reluctance to admit Mark as the author?  The position necessarily brings the community into conflict with the Roman Catholic tradition insofar as the Marcionites necessarily identified that (a) the apostle who wrote the Apostolikon received the gospel as a vision from the highest heaven (cf. 2 Cor 12.4) and (b) there was no intermediary in the laying down of the gospel.  As such it would be difficult to conceal the fact that the tradition identified the apostle we call 'Paul' as 'Mark.' 

Indeed the name 'Marcionite' can either be taken from an Aramaic gentilic plural meaning 'those of Mark,'  a Greek diminutive of 'Mark' or both.  Yet if you look at Irenaeus's description there are actually two Marcionite positions being described back to back in Against Heresies 3.11.7.  The first is a description of the public assembly of the Marcionite tradition (its layity) and there imediately follows an account of its presbytery ('the perfect' to use the terminology of the Apostolikon). 

So we read Irenaeus introduce his own innovation of the fourfold gospel by demonstrating that there are four heretical 'sects' which correspond to each one of the gospels.  Most scholars just regurgitate this information without applying enough critical thinking.  For how can anyone argue that the 'fourfold nature' of the Evangelium preceded Irenaeus's reporting about the phenomenon?  Trobisch seems to imply that Polycarp was the final editor of this arrangement (merely because Irenaeus portrays himself as a loyal disciple of all things Polycarp). 

Yet this arguments is unrealistic and entirely forced.  The most likely situation is that 'the one who smelt it dealt it' as people say sitting around a camp fire after consuming large quanitites of roasted hot dogs and beans.  The most likely scenario is that Irenaeus is the one who arranged the collection of four as it presently stands.  Notice the lack of any appeal to Polycarp for the fourfold nature of the gospel.  Instead the appeal is to the four seasons, the living creatures, four leaf clovers - all the kinds of arguments you wouldn't need to make if you had someone like Polycarp as a witness. 

However once we get beyond this difficulty it is difficult not to see the very concept of 'four as one gospel' isn't as easy to explain as Irenaeus would like.  What is standing in the way of everyone accepting the idea is the fact that there are four broadly defined 'groups' or traditions which tended to identify 'the Evangelium' as something other than a quaternion.  Indeed if the reader looks carefully there aren't really four groups at all but three groups - the Ebionites and the Valentinians essentially 'sandwiching' the Marcionites and 'another' related tradition which is never given a name.  Indeed strangely enough the order of the gospels has also become deliberately inverted during the description so where Irenaeus actively promotes the specific order Matthew, Mark, Luke and then John elsewhere it is apparent that he had to invert second and third place:

Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law,--[principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine. For the Ebionites, who use Matthew's Gospel only, are confuted out of this very same, making false suppositions with regard to the Lord. But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke, is proved to be a blasphemer of the only existing God, from those [passages] which he still retains. Those (qui autem) who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. Those (hi autem qui) who follow Valentinus, making copious use of that according to John, to illustrate their conjunctions, shall be proved to be totally in error by means of this very Gospel, as I have shown in the first book. Since, then, our opponents do bear testimony to us, and make use of these [documents], our proof derived from them is firm and true. [AH 3.11.7]

It is often overlooked that something is causing Irenaeus to invert the natural order of the gospels here for the passage reflects Matthew, Luke, Mark and then John rather than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  It has been suggested that the order wasn't already established at this point but this aptly dismissed by Trobisch.  Why then the strange shift?

Well the first thing we should be aware of is the fact that elsewhere in Irenaeus the argument is clearly made that the order of the gospels in the New Testament is established through when the texts were actually written.  So now Matthew was written when Peter and Paul were in Rome preaching, Mark was established near the end of Peter's life through some sort of dictation from the latter to the former, Luke was the companion of Paul presumably written after the death of the two apostles and John at the close of the first century.  This understanding was in fact established at the beginning of Book Three so there has to be a good reason why Irenaeus would now invert the order in chapter eleven of the same book. 

Just for fun it might be interesting to see what would happen if we were to put the sects associated with 'Luke' and 'Mark' in AH 3.10.7 following the natural order of the gospels.  Irenaeus would have written then:

from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine. For the Ebionites, who use Matthew's Gospel only, are confuted out of this very same, making false suppositions with regard to the Lord.  Those (qui autem) who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified.  But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke, is proved to be a blasphemer of the only existing God, from those [passages] which he still retains. Those who follow Valentinus, making copious use of that according to John, to illustrate their conjunctions, shall be proved to be totally in error by means of this very Gospel, as I have shown in the first book [AH 3.11.8]

At first glance there doesn't seem to much of a difference here save for the fact that the anonymous sect referenced only by the connecting phrase 'qui autem' are now attached to the Ebionites.  Interestingly Irenaeus uses the exact terminology in Book One to introduce the Ebionites after the description of the Cerinthians - "those who are called Ebionites (qui autem dicuntur Ebionaei) agree (with the Cerinthians) that the world was made by God." (AH 1.26.2). 

Of course the present reference makes no reference to the actual name of the sect but it is clear that the description is drawn from the Marcosians (we will demonstrate this in our next post).  Why then doesn't Irenaeus actually reference the name in this description or the one that follows?  It is extraordinarily bizarre.  Indeed after immediately going to explain why "it is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds ...  it is fitting that she [the Church] should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh" throught the four cherubim, Irenaeus continues to develop the Matthew, Luke, Mark and then John order.  For Irenaeus identifies Matthew as the lion, Luke as the calf, Mark as the man and John as the eagle. 

Yet it is very strange that in the next part of the section seems to have been written by another hand for the explanation of the cherubim suddenly changes. 

"The first living creature was like a lion," symbolizing His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; the second [living creature] was like a calf, signifying sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but "the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,"--an evident description of His advent as a human being; "the fourth was like a flying eagle," pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church. And therefore the Gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated. For that according to John relates His original, effectual, and glorious generation from the Father, thus declaring, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Also, "all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made." For this reason, too, is that Gospel full of all confidence [i.e. like a lion], for such is His person. But that according to Luke, taking up [His] priestly character, commenced with Zacharias the priest offering sacrifice to God. For now was made ready the fatted calf, about to be immolated for the finding again of the younger son. Matthew, again, relates His generation as a man, saying, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham;" and also, "The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise." This, then, is the Gospel of His humanity; for which reason it is, too, that [the character of] a humble and meek man is kept up through the whole Gospel. Mark, on the other hand, commences with [a reference to] the prophetical spirit coming down from on high to men, saying, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Esaias the prophet,"--pointing to the winged aspect of the Gospel; and on this account he made a compendious and cursory narrative, for such is the prophetical character [i.e. like an eagle]. [AH 3.11.8]

What is so interesting here is that the order of living creatures differs in Ezekiel and Revelations.  The former reads man, lion, ox, eagle the latter lion, ox, man, eagle.  Irenaeus never follows the order of Ezekiel but the way the specific gospels 'line up' with each living creature does change.  This is one of a number of very strong pieces of evidence that Book Three was not actually written by Irenaeus from beginning to end but assembled out of bits and pieces from original lectures and writings by a disciple posthumously. 

In any event we have discovered two pairings in AH 3.11.8 which can't have been written by Irenaeus one after the other.  The first Matthew-lion, Luke-calf, Mark-man and John-eagle the second John-lion, Luke-calf, Matthew-man and Mark-eagle.  The reason this is significant is that the identification of Mark with the eagle necessarily connects Mark with the 'spiritual gospel' the text which Irenaeus says "the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church" and "the fourth, that which renovates man, and sums up all things in itself by means of the Gospel, raising and bearing men upon heavenly kingdom.its wings into the heavenly gospel."  The language here clearly accords with the idea of 'mystic Mark' being a 'more spiritual gospel' which contains a reference to a spiritual form of baptism (notice the use of 'renovate'). 

The assumption here can only be that at some point in Irenaeus's career he changed his mind about the order of the gospels.  The order in Ezekiel coupled with Mark's traditional role as 'lion' was the confirmation of the current gospel ordering (i.e. Matthew-man, Mark-lion, Luke-calf, John-eagle).  Yet the pairing of Mark then Luke was problematic so Irenaeus must have developed his fourfold gospel = cherubim argument from Revelations instead of Ezekiel in order to facilitate the desired pairing (i.e. where Luke preceded Mark). 

Why was it so important to have Mark in third place?  It clearly has to have something to with the pre-existent Alexandrian testimony (based on 1 Corinthians 2.1 - 3.10) that the public "gospel of Christ" was created before the Alexandrian gospel of Mark.  Irenaeus clearly witnesses the order of John first and Mark last thus according Mark with the role of 'more spiritual' gospel.  Then when we continue down to the section that immediately follows the one we just cited it is apparent that "those who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark" are not merely preferring a 'Mark-like' gospel but also rejecting the 'Gospel of John':

These things being so, all who destroy the form of the Gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious; those, [I mean,] who represent the aspects of the Gospel as being either more in number than as aforesaid, or, on the other hand, fewer. The former class [do so], that they may seem to have discovered more than is of the truth; the latter, that they may set the dispensations of God aside. For Marcion, rejecting the entire Gospel, yea rather, cutting himself off from the Gospel, boasts that he has part of the Gospel.  Others (alli) truly, in order that they might set frustrate the gift of the spirit which in recent times has been poured out upon humankind by the good pleasure of the father, do not admit that aspect [of the fourfold gospel] which is according to the gospel of John, in which the Lord promised that he would send the paraclete, but simultaneously put away both the gospel and the prophetic spirit; wretched men indeed! who wish to be pseudo- prophets, forsooth, but who set aside the gift of prophecy from the Church; acting like those who, on account of such as come in hypocrisy, hold themselves aloof from the communion of the brethren. We must conclude, moreover, that these men can not admit the Apostle Paul either. For, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks expressly of prophetical gifts, and recognises men and women prophesying in the Church. Sinning, therefore, in all these particulars, against the Spirit of God, they fall into the irremissible sin. But those who are from Valentinus, being, on the other hand, altogether reckless, while they put forth their own compositions, boast that they possess more Gospels than there really are. Indeed, they have arrived at such a pitch of audacity, as to entitle their comparatively recent writing "the Gospel of Truth," though it agrees in nothing with the Gospels of the Apostles, so that they have really no Gospel which is not full of blasphemy. [AH 3.11.9]

This section of text is utterly butchered in Harvey's translation and his interpretation is utterly nonsensical too. For there can be no doubt that the same group connected with 'Marcion' as 'others' (i.e. other Marcionites) employ a secret gospel of Mark (so F. F. Bruce and others) and deny that the Gospel of John is the 'more spiritual' gospel and the one which should be the 'final word' on the evangelical dispensation. 

The difficulty of course for Harvey and others is to make sense of a context where a 'fuller' gospel of Mark (i.e. one which included the idea that Christ wasn't Jesus and that he survived the Passion with divine apatheia) might be connected with absolute hostility to the Catholic understanding of the Paraclete as 'the Holy Spirit.'  The solution to the dilemma is provided to us by Origen who uses the exact same 'Marcion and others' formulation as we just saw in Irenaeus:

The apostle Paul warns against inordinate and irrational love when he says of himself, "I fear that someone might have an opinion of me above what he sees or hears from me, and that the greatness of the revelations might exalt me," and so on. (2 Cor 12:6-7) Paul feared that even he might fall into this error. So he was unwilling to state everything about himself that he knew. He wanted no one to think more of him than he saw or, going beyond the limits of honor, to say what had been said about john, that "he was the Christ." Some people said this even about Dositheus, the heresiarch of the Samaritans; others said it also about judas the Galilean.  Finally, some people burst forth into such great audacity of love that they invented new and unheard of exaggerations about Paul.  For, some say this, that the passage in Scripture that speaks of "sitting at the Savior's right and left" (Mk 10:38) applies to Paul and Marcion: Paul sits at his right hand and Marcion at his left. Others read the passage, "I shall send you an advocate, the Spirit of Truth," (Jn 14:16) and are unwilling to understand a third person besides the Father and the Son, a divine and exalted nature. They take it to mean the apostle Paul. Do not all of these seem to you to have loved more than is fitting and, while they admired the virtue of each, to have lost moderation in love?" [Origen, Homilies on Luke 23]

It is impossible now not to see that the two groups of Marcionites who identify the author of the Apostolikon as either enthroned beside Jesus or the Paraclete do so through two different gospels, the first which makes references to common synoptic passages and the second which makes reference to 'more spiritual' passages such as that relating to the Paraclete.  Already the consensus in scholarship is that the 'others' mentioned here as Marcionites (so Swete, Casurella, Burgess, Price and many more).  Yet none of these men have followed through the implications of this understanding in Origen (and the Acts of Archelaus) on Irenaeus's original statement about these 'other' Marcionites.

It is very unfortunate that we don't possess the original Greek of either (a) AH 3.11.7 or (b) AH 3.11.9.  The original phraseology here might well have been even more suggestive of a relationship between the Marcionites who only used a shortened gospel (identified by Irenaeus as a corrupt 'Luke') and the 'others' who preferred a fuller gospel of Mark.  Nevertheless the fact that the fuller Gospel of Mark must necessarily have 'crossed over' into the territory of the Gospel of John necessarily brought those who 'preferred' it into conflict with the Gospel of John. 

No one should be so dense as to argue that because Clement apparently makes reference to common material witnessed in our canonical gospel of John that the Alexandrian did not use a parallel gospel of Mark with Johannine elements.  As I noted in another post, Caesart notes that Clement only references 'John' the evangelist only once in his entire writings and this references was undoubtedly to a section of material which appeared in John and not in 'secret Mark.'  In every other reference there is an anonymous citation to material from 'the Gospel' or 'scripture' or some such typically vague Clementine reference to the New Testament employed in Alexandria at the time. 

Moreover it has to be acknowledged that Irenaean references (a) and (b) suddenly become complimentary when seen through the light of Origen's comments in the Homily on Luke 23. That Irenaeus should say that these 'other' Marcionites separated 'Jesus' and 'Christ' is the same inference drawn from the 'other' Marcionite rejection of the Catholic use of the term 'paraclete.'  The Marcionites adhered to a Jewish understanding of the terminology, menachem being the equivalent of Christ.  Thus, as Origen correctly notes in Homily 23 those who claim that the author of the Apostolikon is at once also the 'paraclete' of the Marcionite gospel means that the apostle was Christ. 

The difficulty of course is that the Marcionite formulation can't involve the 'apsotle Paul' as defined in the Catholic New Testament.  For statement (a) ""those who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark" necessarily implies that 'Christ' (i.e. the Marcionite apostle) was literally present at the crucifixion (i.e. standing impassably).  The Dialogues of Adamantius confirm our suspicions as the Catholic representative explicitly asks the Marcionite "was the Apostle Paul present at the crucifixion of Christ?" to which the Marcionite responds "he himself plainly wrote the gospel" echoing the sense of the Muratorian canon about Mark "those things at which he was present he placed thus" in his gospel (and thus explicitly contradicting the implies sense of Irenaeus's designation of Mark as the mere 'interpreter of Peter.'

More to follow ...

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