Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hiwi Al-Balkhi, Marcion and the Possible Rediscovery of the Marcionite Antitheses

I think I am one of the first people to take a second look at Hiwi Al-Balkhi and wonder if the book associated with is in fact, the Marcionite 'Antitheses.' The reason for this is simple - the Marcionites are always associated with snakes from the time of Polycarp's 'firstborn of Satan' (= the snake) down through to Theodoret's puzzling equation of Marcionites with the Ophites. What immediately struck me - and was already confirmed by Judah Rosenthal is that Hiwi (חיוי) can easily and obviously connected to the Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic words for viper or serpent. Indeed the problem for most of the scholars who have studied Hiwi is that they have only stopped at saying that Hiwi was 'like' Marcion because they were familiar with all the snake references in the tradition. Here's another for good measure - "Our heretic must now cease to borrow poison from the Jew — “the asp,” as the adage runs, “from the viper” — and henceforth vomit forth the virulence of his disposition." [Tertullian, Against Marcion 3.8]

About one sixth of the original book of 'questions' associated with this heretical snake has been preserved in the rabbinic literature dating to tenth century Persia. Could it be that we have rediscovered the Marcionite 'Antitheses'? More to follow (just putting the kids to bed) ...

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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