Thursday, August 4, 2011

Marcion Was a Heretic Invented in the Third Century to Gloss Over the Controversies Associated with St Mark in Second Century Palestine

I have strong doubts that Justin ever wrote the first edition of our Against Heresies or Against Marcion.  I doubt that Justin ever wrote books called Against Heresies or Against Marcion.  Yet scholars avoid the issue completely.  For some reason they have to accept that Justin really did write these texts merely because it says so in Irenaeus's Against Heresies.  Indeed these tricky people go one step further.  They never refer to Justin's text as 'Against Heresies' (even though this is the real name of the text) and instead refer to it as the 'Syntagma.'  Why so?  Because it diverts our eyes from seeing how stupid this whole debate is.

Against Heresies was clearly created artificially out of bits and pieces of earlier anti-heretical writers.  If someone in the late second century wrote an attack against another group - it probably ended up in one version or another of Against Heresies.

Just look at the idiocy of some of the groups described in the collection.  There is the group called 'the snakes.'  Does anyone really believe there were a bunch of heretics calling themselves 'the snakes'?  Does anyone believe that there was a 'Carpocrates' as the head of the 'Carpocratians' given that Celsus speaks of 'Harpocratians of Salome'?  Was there an Ebion the head of the Ebionites?  Was there an Elxai who was the head of the Elxasites?  What about Marcion's teacher the 'fox' (Cerdo)?

Of course not.  But these things make their way into our collection of 'heresies' because they all sound absolutely exotic, shocking and tantalizing.  

I could go through the whole list of incredibly stupid heretical groups and convince almost everyone reading this blog that none of this stuff should be believed.  Yet the reality is that I do think that something real has to lie beneath the surface.  My purpose is not to abuse and humiliate the Church and its traditions - only to uncover what the truth is.

I happen to think that it is terribly significant that when we get to the fourth century and learned writers like Gregory Nazianzus the Marcionites and the Marcosians are recognized to be one and the same group.  It is impossible to believe that Gregory hadn't read the heretical treatises of the second and third centuries or those of his near contemporaries.  Nevertheless his references are indeed quite interesting:

They will flee from Marcion's god, compounded of elements and numbers [Contra Arianos 17]

But if you would be silly enough to say, with the old myths and fables, that God begot the Son by a marriage with His own Will, we should be introduced to the Hermaphrodite god of Marcion who imagined these newfangled Æons. [Orations 31]

The Hebrews honour the number seven, from the law of Moses, as afterwards the Pythagoreans honoured the number four, by which also they used to swear, and the Simonians and Marcionites the numbers eight, and thirty; giving names to, and honouring, certain aeons corresponding to these numbers. I cannot say by what rules of analogy, or in consequence of what power of this number; anyhow they do honour to it. [Oration 41]

Gregory was too learned to 'mistake' Marcion for Marcus. He was clearly drawing from some lost tradition which knew the truth that Irenaeus's account of the 'followers of Mark' and the references to 'Marcionites' were really describing one and the same sect.

Another argument in favor of the two sects being related is the puzzling identification of Ambrosius the patron of Origen as a Valentinian (Eusebius) and a Marcionite (Jerome).

This is the place that I think the truth is to be found - namely that the names 'Marcionite' and 'Marcosian' are one and the same. The former is just a direct rendering of the Aramaic for 'those of Mark' into Greek. I have already noted to my readers that there is little reason to believe that a heretic named 'Marcion' was ever thought to be the head of this sect in the second century. We pointed to scholarly doubts about the existence of the Against Marcion text the existing Against Heresies attributed to Irenaeus claims Justin wrote. I mentioned that in the late second century we really only have two treatise against the Marcionites - that associated with Dionysius of Corinth and Theophilus of Antioch and a single Against Marcion supposedly written by a certain Modestus.

We can know raise strong doubts about the authenticity of this late second century 'Against Marcion.'

For Jerome notes in his entry for Modestus in his Lives of Illustrious Men that:

Modestus also in the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus wrote a book Against Marcion which is still extant. Some other compositions pass under his name but are regarded by scholars as spurious.

The fact that Jerome has to go out of his way to acknowledge that a great number of spurious texts were associated with this otherwise unknown Patristic writer opens the possibility that Against Marcion was another one of these counterfeit texts.

The bottom line for me, my friends, is that we can be fairly certain that Justin never wrote an Against Marcion, nor did Irenaeus - despite what the testimony of the present edition of Against Heresies has to say about that. Noe we have Jerome admitting that a great many spurious texts were written in the name of Modestus, thus cast doubt on the 'Against Marcion' associated with the writer. Why is it so unlikely given the forgery, manipulating and editing associated with the Against Heresies tradition that a third century editor was trying to prove that a great number of third century witnesses knew about the existence of a fictitious 'Marcion' the head of the Marcionites?

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