Thursday, August 11, 2011

How the Caricature of 'Marcion' Emerged Out of Native Semitic Resentment Directed Against the Expatriate Community of Alexandria

I really should be working on something else which actually makes money for me and my family but I want to quickly sum up what I believe all our individual investigations are pointing toward:

  1. the coming of Demetius to rule over the Egyptian Church in 189/190 CE marks a turning point in the history of Christianity in Alexandria.  
  2. Clement either had already left or leaves Alexandria very close to the time of Demetrius's arrival and Origen clearly flees owing to Demetrius's hostility to his self-castration.  There is a history of emasculation and celibacy in the Church of Alexandria and Demetrius, strangely, is its first married ruler.
  3. Clement and Origen flee to Caesarea but interestingly it is never reported as 'Caesarea Maritima' but Caesarea of Cappodocia in the middle of Asia Minor (no word on how they arranged for travel, especially Origen)
  4. Despite being redirected to Asia Minor by Eusebius both men ultimately end up in Palestine where an active conspiracy of Alexandrian expatriates are clearly establishing a 'new Church' centered in Jerusalem.  While Eusebius makes clear that the ringleader of this conspiracy is Alexander of Jerusalem, Jerome avoids his name completely with respect to Origen and focuses instead on a certain Firmilianus of Caesarea as Origen's supporter. Yet even Firmilianus can be demonstrated to participate in this third century cabal. As Schaff notes, "to Firmilian the see of Jerusalem appears to be the central see."
  5. While Clement seems to have been Alexander's teacher originally Origen eventually took over that role.  The instruction must have happened while Origen set up his 'school' in Caesarea Maritima.  The lasting legacy of this association is the massive library of books related to Origen which served as the source of all information about Origen to his later biographers. 
  6. Even though there was a massive re-establishment of Alexandrian Christianity in Palestine at the beginning of the third century, one would expect to see Alexandrians bringing over their traditional devotion to St. Mark.  It is interesting that we indeed see the emergence of a heretical figure of 'Mark' among writings of this period which I believe become reflected in the reports of heretical sects in the writings of the Church Fathers with subforms of the Latin name Marcus (i.e. the Aramaic marqyone, the Greek Marcion and the Latin Marcian and Marcellus and Marcellina).  
  7. The ultimate source of all heretical information in the early Church was Hegesippus's lost Hypomnemata which concluded (after several editorial emendations) with a visit of a certain 'Marcellina' of Alexandria to Rome under the reign of Anicetus.  This original report has been interpreted by Jerome in one of his letters to note the appearance of the first Marcionite to the capitol (and thus developed into Irenaeus's famous visit of 'Marcion' there along with his rejection by Polycarp).  This is the earliest example of the 'flip flopping' of original Aramaic terminology (marqyone = 'those of Mark') into heretical boogeymen (and women).  
  8. Yet the transformation of original literary material goes much deeper given that the Hypomnemata also makes deliberate and explicit reference to the existence of the Church of Jerusalem being run by the 'family of Jesus' down through to 147 CE when the line supposedly died out.  The story is wholly fabulous but clearly was associated with the native Semitic tradition of Christianity in Syria which viewed Jesus as wholly human in his nature.  This tradition's rejection became embodied in the condemnation of Paul of Samosata by many of the surviving members of the Alexandrian expatriate community in Palestine (George Thaumaturgus, Firmilianus etc).  
  9. If we push back the dates of Origen's flight from Alexandria to the year that Quintus Tineius Demetrius became Roman prefect of Egypt in the tenth year of Commodus (= 190 CE) and that Eusebius engaged in a systematic campaign of obscuring this historical fact (i.e. that Origen was deemed a criminal in the eyes of the Roman state owing to his self-castration at the time) we can open the door for the fact that the crystalization of all the anti-Markan reports emerging out of native Syrians hostile to the influx of Alexandrians in their home province became Gregory Thaumaturgus's caricature in the person of 'Marcion of Pontus' in the early third century. 
  10. Jerome's complete silence about Gregory has to be explained.  Gregory was wildly popular in the fourth century Church but I wonder whether Jerome saw some connection with Marcion given that (a) both men were from Pontus (b) they were immensely rich (c) that they must have both been accused of trying to 'buy' the Church.  Even later hagiographies of Gregory of Pontus have to distance their hero from a charge of Sabellianism.  It is worth noting that not only is Marcion connected with Sabellius by Hippolytus but we should also see that Origen's patron Ambrose is similarly identified as a Marcionite and a Sabellian.  
Again, I think it is important to note that this is a working hypothesis.  I am eager to have been comment or criticize any aspect of this theory.  It should be noted that it is built around the idea that the earliest references to 'those of Mark' (in Hegesippus and Justin) become systematically transformed into 'those of Marcion' references.  Similarly the fourth century Church Fathers like Gregory Nazianzus take the reports of 'those of Mark' and 'those of Marcion' in writers like Irenaeus et al to be information about one and the same sect.  

Again, my assumption would be that there was a 'class of Christian cultures' (native Syrian versus transplanted Alexandrian) attempting to co-exist in the new Roman province of Syria Palestina whose capitol interestingly enough was Caesarea Palaestina according to Ben-Sasson. Mark became demonized and developed into a heretical boogeyman (whether called 'Marcus,' 'Marcion' or 'Marcian') all of which developed from confusion of similar terminology in different languages. The original Mark was the evangelist of the same name who became associated with leading figures in the Alexandrian expatriate community there (i.e. Gregory the 'Wonder Worker' of Pontus for example).

On the other side of the coin, the Alexandrians were making disparaging remarks about the native Semitic tradition (i.e. for its belief that Christ was a mere man) and developed a number of caricatures of this point of view (Ebion, Cerinthus, Paul of Samosata etc). The Roman Church ultimately acted as mediator between these two warring factions and developed the New Testament canon as a way of creating 'peace' between them.

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