Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Did the Term 'Marcion' Develop as a Result of the Growing Influence of Alexandrian Christianity in Jerusalem?

I will explain myself more completely in a future post but as I was responding to a question from a reader about the origins of the name 'Marcion' I started to wonder whether Clement's presence in Jerusalem and the growing influence of the displaced Alexandrian tradition in Jerusalem might explain the use of the name Marqiyone (= 'those of Mark') in that period. Let's assume for a moment that Julius Africanus's dating of Clement is infallible (as he was actually in Alexandria at the beginning of the third century CE). He says that Clement wrote during the Commodian period. Most people acknowledge that by the second book of the seven volume Stromata series some sort of persecution was taking place in Alexandria which ultimately caused him to flee the city. Clement ultimately ends up in Jerusalem as a very influential guest of the bishop Alexander.

What did the 'native' Christians of Palestine and adjacent Semitic speaking lands think of this influx of Greek speaking foreigners to their 'capitol' - Jerusalem? There surely must have been some resentment. This might well have led to the development of anti-Marcionite polemics such as that which appears now in a Latin translation in Book Four and Five of Tertullian's Against Marcion. This work certainly originated in Syria. Yet was 'Marcion' some sort of confusion developed by Irenaeus (or the redactor of his writings in the five volume Against Heresies) from an original term that simply denoted the original group of Alexandrians devoted to St Mark (= marqiyone)?

What makes this suggestion so attractive of course is that Irenaeus has a lengthy report about 'those of Mark' (AH 1.13 - 21) which ultimately becomes identified as a report about Marcionites by the time of Gregory Nazianzus and other late fourth century figures. Similar confusion abounds with respect to the Marcionite gospel being identified as 'according to Mark' (cf. Philosophumena 7.18). Secret Mark does provide an explanation for how the Marcionites could have developed an interest in a 'baptism on behalf of the dead' without having any reference to John the Baptist at the beginning of their gospel.

Intriguing possibility.

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