Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Clement's First Reference to 'the Marcionites'

It occurs as a kind of 'throw away' reference in Book Two of the Stromata in the midst of a discussion of the beliefs of Valentinus and Basilides:

To these, then, and certain others, especially the Marcionites, the Scripture cries, though they listen not, "He that heareth Me shall rest with confidence in peace, and shall be tranquil, fearless of all evil."

Τούτοις τε οὖν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἑτέροις τισί, μάλιστα δὲ τοῖς ἀπὸ Μαρκίωνος ἐμβοᾷ οὐκ ἐπαΐουσιν ἡ γραφή·
«Ὁ δὲ ἐμοῦ ἀκούων ἀναπαήσεται ἐπ´ εἰρήνης πεποιθώς, καὶ ἡσυχάσει ἀφόβως ἀπὸ παντὸς κακοῦ.» [Strom 2.9]

It is a strange reference in many respects as Clement has never before referenced this sect before (nowhere in Book One and in no place in the Paedogogue) yet the name is thrown into a discussion of Valentinus and Basilides. It is as if he was acknowledging the existence of those of Marcion (τοῖς ἀπὸ Μαρκίωνος) but refuses to explain who or what they are - other than they are somehow 'heretics' like those of Valentinus and Basilides.

The scripture cited here is a variant of the LXX which is now preserved as - ὁ δὲ ἐμοῦ ἀκούων κατασκηνώσει ἐπ' ἐλπίδι καὶ ἡσυχάσει ἀφόβως ἀπὸ παντὸς κακοῦ. The context is of course 'those who refuse to hear the call of Wisdom' but Clement interprets these very same words in a highly mystical - and indeed, one may argue heretical - sense where he writes a little later in the same book:

[we may say] similarly with Paul “the All-virtuous Wisdom” says, “He that heareth me shall dwell trusting in hope.” For the restoration of hope is called by the same term “hope.” To the expression “will dwell” it has most beautifully added “trusting,” showing that such an one has obtained rest, having received the hope for which he hoped. Wherefore also it is added, “and shall be quiet, without fear of any evil.” And openly and expressly the apostle, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians says, “Be ye followers of me, as also I am of Christ,” [1 Cor. 11.1]. in order that that may take place. If ye are of me, and I am of Christ, then ye are imitators of Christ, and Christ of God. Assimilation to God, then, so that as far as possible a man becomes righteous and holy with wisdom he lays down as the aim of faith, and the end to be that restitution of the promise which is effected by faith. From these doctrines gush the fountains, which we specified above, of those who have dogmatized about “the end.” But of these enough. [ibid 2.22]

The point then is not that the heretics like Valentinus and Basilides are wrong for having radical 'gnostic' beliefs about God or the divine spirit dwelling in the 'perfect' but rather that these man were rejected by 'Wisdom' who chose instead other gnostics in whom she/it would tabernacle and transform into Christs.

I suspect that the 'Marcionite' reference is either a throwaway (i.e. an attempt on Clement's part to distance himself and his Alexandrian tradition from the marqiyone) or was a later addition of a scribe. One wonders if the Stromata were written at Alexandria at all.

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