Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Coming of the Paraclete - Paul and Mani in the Acts of Archelaus of Hegemonius and Titus of Bostra

I find the preservation of Christianity in the lands east of the borders of the Roman Empire especially interesting. The facts are that by the seventh century Muhammad appears claiming to be the Apostle, Prophet and Paraclete of God. Traditional Western scholarship dismisses this as an 'innovation' on the part of Muhammad, yet those of us who study the Christianity of Osroene immediately recognize that he is part of a historical milieu in the East which dates back at least as far as the Acts of Archelaus.

I have told my readers many times here that we can be virtually certain that the Acts of Archelaus are a rebaptized Catholic version of an original Marcionite anti-Manichaean treatise from Osroene. The text survives in a barbarous Latin translation ascribed to a certain Hegemonius in the fourth century. Yet Jerome tells us that the text was originally written in Syriac which makes sense given its association with Osroene. 'Marcellus' after all is the masculine Latin diminutive of the name Marcus in the same way that 'Marcion' is in Greek.

The clearest giveaway though of the Marcionite origins of the text is the consistent identification of Paul as the Paraclete - something that I see intimated in Origen's Homilies on Luke. Tertullian already intimates that the Marcionites identified Paul as 'the Apostle' in what is clearly a 'Samaritan' sense - i.e. 'the one and only Apostle,' the spokesman of God. That 'Paraclete' was understood as a messianic title is also equally obvious (as this is the original Jewish sense of the terminology = menachem).

If we delve into the more accurate Syriac text of Titus of Bostra the Marcionite underpinning of the original material becomes clearer. Mani comes to Harran in Osroene to make an appeal to 'Marcellus' (= Marcion) that he is the true Paraclete. The original response of Marcellus/Marcion through his representative the bishop Archelaus is unfortunately very muddled given that our Latin text associated with a certain Hegemonius is corrupt.

It is for this reason that we find Titus of Bostra Contra Manichaeos so interesting. It seems to know a 'purer' text of the anti-Manichaean treatise. Let's let Nils Arne Pedersen's Demonstrative Proof in Defence of God: A study of Titus of Bostra's Contra Manichaeos guide us through the material. As Pederen notes, we:

turn to another passage from Contra Manichaeos which also makes it likely that Titus depended on Acta Archelai. The passage in question is to be found in Contra Manichaeos IV.86, where Titus apparently presents a Manichaean interpretation of 1 Cor 13:9 - 10, in that he writes:

Paul said that he (only) knows a little out of much, and he (only) prophesies a little out of much, but when perfection comes, (then) that which was a little comes to an end. Now because he speaks through me, perfection has been introduced precisely through me, and also that which was a little is being repaired and cleansed (Sy 169.34–170.3 → Ch. XI.47).

This quotation is especially interesting because it is in the 1st person singular and clearly must have been intended as spoken by Mani. At first glance one might imagine that it came from one of Mani's own works or from the Kephalaia-literature. Both in Augustine (Contra Faustum XV.6; XXXII.17) and in the Manichaean Felix (Contra Felicem I.IX) we can also read that Mani invoked 1 Cor. 13.9–10. We also find the same information in Acta Archelai XV, and XLI. Ch. XV is particularly interesting: Mani has finally arrived in the city of Carchar in Mesopotamia, and the rich Marcellus has arranged a public disputation in which Mani is first allowed to present himself and his message. Here we can read the following in Vermes' translation:

and, as Paul who was sent before me said, he “knew in part and pro- fesied in part”, thus reserving for me that which is complete, so that I might destroy that which is in part.

Yet another quotation in the 1st person singular! Is Titus in fact quoting from Acta Archelai? One must observe here that although the two quotations are very close to one another, there are nonetheless certain differences. Thus at the end of the Acta Archelai quotation we are told that Mani “might destroy that which is in part”, “hoc quod ex parte est destruam”, which follows the text of the Greek Bible (καταργηθησεται) (13,10), whereas in Titus we read that “that which was a little is being repaired and cleansed”. The use of two verbs in Contra Manichaeos, ie Nqt and akd, is presumably a so-called hendiadys translation, which is often found in the Syriac translation of Titus, ie out of regard for semantic precision the Syriac translator renders a single Greek concept with two Syriac words. I am unaware, however, of which Greek concept is being referred to, though it cannot have been καταργηθησεται.

The reason why the Titus text does not have a word that corresponds to καταργηθησεται at this point is because, in contrast to Acta Archelai Titus has quoted the whole of 1 Cor. 13.9–10 in the previous sentences, while at this juncture Acta Archelai shortens the quotation from Paul.

This is admittedly a minor variant, but it seems a more important difference that the quotation in Titus states that Paul “speaks through me”, and that “perfection has been introduced precisely through me”; these formulations are not found in this form at this point in Hegemonius. However, much further on in the disputation (Acta Archelai XLI), in distancing themselves from the heresiarch, the men who have been appointed judges between Mani and the Catholic Bishop Archelaus, return to the question of 1 Cor. 13:9 - 10. Here we find the remarks:

Therefore when you said that the Paraclete was present in Paul and that the Paraclete attested everything, why did Paul say: “We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when what is perfect comes, what is in part shall be abolished.

Here we at least find the point that the Paraclete was Paul ... [p. 150, 151]

The point for us now is that Hegemonius's text appears to have exaggerated Mani's radicalism. Mani wasn't intending to 'destroy' the old revelation of Paul but to claim that his coming rendered the old 'useless.' This sounds remarkably similar to the manner in which I have always argued Marcionitism viewed its role with respect to the Jewish tradition.

The most important point to take away from this discussion is the fact that there certainly was a large Marcionite community in Osroene as Bauer has already demonstrated.  The Catholics were restricted from using the name 'Christian' to describe themselves because the Marcionites had already appropriated the terminology.  Here we have another document where the Marcionites perpetuate the belief that Paul rather than Jesus was the Paraclete.  I think that 'Christ' was also among Paul's original titles as is implies by the Nag Hammadi treatise the Teachings of Silvanus "But he who makes himself like God is one who does nothing unworthy of God, according to the statement of Paul, who has become like Christ."  There are other examples.

More to follow ...

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