Friday, August 5, 2011

Origen and Carpocrates

I don't know if I will ever convince anyone to stop believing in 'Marcion.' After all there is something seductive about the contradictions inherent in an antinomian ascetic who seduces the virgin Church with his radical interpretation of the Jewish scriptures. Indeed 'Marcion' is a convenient way of 'ghettoizing' the only possible sensible interpretation of the gospel - i.e. that Christianity somehow represented the end of Judaism. Now anyone who follows this rational thread is immediately categorized as a 'Marcionite' rather than merely 'the discoverer of the true Christian message.'

I have always argued that the third century Church worked very hard to create this 'Marcion' golem in the previous age. After all, what were the alternatives? One couldn't allow the possibility that all these 'crazy' ideas went back to an apostolic figure - even St. Mark himself. Indeed, just to make sure that anyone made the connection, 'an injustice' was perpetrated against Mark (as the Copts still refer to it). Mark was stripped of his apostolic status.

I happen to think that 'Marcion' crystalized out of the attempt at ecumenism in the early third century Roman Church of Zephyrinus. This was the same community that produced the Muratorian canon and 'Marcion' was needed to bury the original connection between the so-called 'Pauline' canon (i.e. the gospel plus seven or eight epistles) and the Alexandrian Church of St. Mark (the gospel after all was 'according to Mark' even if not explicitly declared in the original manuscripts - i.e. there was no identification of any human author).

The entire Alexandrian canon was buried and where it continued to exist it was identified as 'according to Marcion' rather than 'according to Mark.' It was for this reason that we have no commentary on the Markan gospel tradition from the early period. Mark was left to be something of a subordinated enigma. The enigmatic opening line of the surviving MS of the Muratorian canon is all we have left of his original legacy - 'quibus tamen interfuit et ita posuit.'

These words sum up the surviving Coptic tradition. Yet some scholars attempt to imply that the surviving Alexandrian Church just 'stole' these ideas from somehow coming across the Muratorian canon(!). The reality is of course that these same ideas are clearly present in the surviving writings of the 10th century Coptic Patriarch Severus of Al'Ashmunein (and especially his Homily on St. Mark). It would seem there is no limit to the 'injustices' perpetrated by the followers of St. Peter.

Of course, I am always attempting to come up with ever improved theories to explain the development of the misunderstanding (deliberate or otherwise) that is the myth of Marcion. I have stated that it is a back formation of the Semitic gentilic collective plural 'those of Mark.' I think it developed from the collision of Christian communities in the Roman province of Syria (and Palestine in particular) in the late second century. We already something of this in the letter of Severus of Antioch preserved in Eusebius's Church History (i.e. 'Marcian'). The same figure seems as the addressee of the Proof of Apostolic Preaching by Irenaeus. A similar form introduces the Marcionite cult of Osroene in the barbarous Latin text of the Acts of Archelaus (the 'Marcellus' of great renown who built churches everywhere in the Roman world).

The Acts of Archelaus were clearly written at the beginning of the fourth century. They are a positive reminiscence of two advents of the head of Marcionitism (there are two 'Marcellus' figures in the text - one who lived in the mid-third century, the other a century earlier). The Marcion who appears in the various hostile references of the Catholic tradition. The earliest certain dating of the person of 'Marcion' is the Muratorian canon developed during the reign of Zephyrinus. Yet there is no specific association of Marcion with 'Pontus.'

The account of Marcion which was inserted into the manuscripts of Against Heresies now associated with Irenaeus but unknown to either Hippolytus or the editor of the Philosophumena. As such it must be held that this material (AH 1.27) was subsequent to Hippolytus's adaptation of the original Irenaean development of the Against Heresies tradition. 'Marcion of Pontus' then appears only once in the Philosophumena as a possible gloss to introduce the report which begins at 7.17 - i.e. "But Marcion, a native of Pontus, far more frantic than these (heretics), omitting the majority of the tenets of the greater number ..."

The account of Saturnilus which precedes the Marcionite narrative is developed from Irenaeus's original Against Heresies but as noted the account of Marcion is wholly separate. This means that what appears now in the Philosophumena was added not by Hippolytus when composing his original syntagma but either as a second attempt by the Roman bishop or - as I believe - by a later figure in the middle third century.

This again points to a very late date for the specific identification of Marcion being from Pontus. We have seen that the Against Marcion tradition associated with Tertullian was similarly edited in the late period. The earliest reference to Marcion being from Pontus actually derives from the fragment of Rhodo's text written around the age of Callixtus or later (217 - 222 CE). What was possibly spurring the development of this association? Could it be the emergence of an incredibly wealthy patron of the exiled Markan community in Palestine - viz. Gregory of Pontus?

Remember, modern scholarship has uncritically assumed that Origen left Caesarea after fleeing Alexandria in 215/216 because a careless reading of this section in Eusebius which deals principally with the life of Clement not Origen:

To sum up briefly, he [Clement] has given in the Hypotyposes abridged accounts of all canonical Scripture, not omitting the disputed books, — I refer to Jude and the other Catholic epistles, and Barnabas and the so-called Apocalypse of Peter. He says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, and that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and published it for the Greeks, and hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts. But he says that the words, Paul the Apostle, were probably not prefixed, because, in sending it to the Hebrews, who were prejudiced and suspicious of him, he wisely did not wish to repel them at the very beginning by giving his name.

Farther on he says:

But now, as the blessed presbyter said, since the Lord being the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul, as sent to the Gentiles, on account of his modesty did not subscribe himself an apostle of the Hebrews, through respect for the Lord, and because being a herald and apostle of the Gentiles he wrote to the Hebrews out of his superabundance.

Again, in the same books, Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels, in the following manner:

The Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it. But, last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel. This is the account of Clement.

Again the above-mentioned Alexander, in a certain letter to Origen, refers to Clement, and at the same time to Pantænus, as being among his familiar acquaintances. He writes as follows:

For this, as you know, was the will of God, that the ancestral friendship existing between us should remain unshaken; nay, rather should be warmer and stronger. For we know well those blessed fathers who have trodden the way before us, with whom we shall soon be; Pantænus, the truly blessed man and master, and the holy Clement, my master and benefactor, and if there is any other like them, through whom I became acquainted with you, the best in everything, my master and brother.

So much for these matters. But Adamantius, — for this also was a name of Origen—when Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome, visited Rome, desiring, as he himself somewhere says, to see the most ancient church of Rome.

After a short stay there he returned to Alexandria. And he performed the duties of catechetical instruction there with great zeal; Demetrius, who was bishop there at that time, urging and even entreating him to work diligently for the benefit of the brethren.

The fact that Eusebius retains the name 'Adamantius' demonstrates that he has moved to cite material from a source where only this name appears. I have argued that the the meaning here is that both Clement and Origen were named 'Adamantius' (a title derived from Ezekiel 28 to demonstrate that they were 'perfect' having regained the original purity of Adam in Paradise). There is a third 'Adamantius' in the anti-Marcionite treatise De recta in deum fide. This was apparently a common Christian title and a common Christian name.

The point here is that generations of scholars mistook the Adamantius of De recta in deum fide for Origen. I have always argued that they are doing the same thing within the context of Eusebius's closing words about Clement - i.e. that he went to Rome and ultimately returned to Alexandria at the end of his days (undoubtedly in part at least because he needed his riches that he left behind to sustain his lifestyle - hence his impetus to write Quis Dives Salvetur).

Once we acknowledge that Origen did not return to Alexandria to face his hated adversary Demetrius we can see that he settled in Caesarea from 215/215. This allows for any date after 215/216 for Theodore (a.k.a. 'Gregory') to have come to the city to be instructed by Origen. Robertson and Donaldson give 205 CE as a date for Gregory's birth. This would place Gregory in Caesarea as early as 219 CE. I think this date could have been any time after 215/216.

An intriguing possibility emerges here with Clement being in Alexandria and Origen in Caesarea both initiating people into rival Alexandrian mysteries. Clement says that a rival community of 'Carpocratians' were using the mystic gospel of Mark. The Mar Saba document represents a letter from a Theodore to Clement who apparently has come across these Alexandrian ex-pats somewhere. Carpocrates the alleged head of the community is almost universally acknowledged to derive from 'Harpocrates' a Greek rendering from Egyptian Har-pa-khered or Heru-pa-khered (meaning "Horus the Child." Yet notice at once that the name Origen itself develops from these same two words - i.e. 'Horus child' (= Ὡρος, "Horus" + γένος, "born").

The silence regarding Origen being Clement's student is deafening. Could it be that later Church Fathers were covering up a break involving the two men in part at least over this wealthy wonder-child 'Theodore'? Origen claims he looked everywhere for a Carpocratian and couldn't find one. Clement is equally emphatic that they were everywhere in the contemporary landscape. What was responsible for this disconnect? Could Origen have been the original 'Carpocrates'?

More to follow ...

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