Thursday, August 4, 2011

There is No Evidence that There Ever Existed a Second Century Text Directed 'Against Marcion'

At first glance there appears to be a great many works cited by Eusebius which either go by the name 'Against Marcion' or are anti-Marcionite in their nature. On closer inspection however this list is much less reliable than first appears. As we noted in a previous post, Schaff makes reference to a number of scholars who noticed that Eusebius was 'dishonest' about the existence of an Against Marcion written by Justin which is mentioned in Irenaeus's Against Heresies Book Four:

He wrote also a work against Marcion, in which he states that the latter was alive at the time he wrote.[5.11]

This text was unknown even to Eusebius. What the contents of such a text might have included is anyone's guess. There isn't a single reference to the Pauline letters in the existing writings of Justin. Yet Tatian certainly knew and used Pauline material.

As I noted in my previous post, there are curious parallels with regards to the existence of both a 'Against Heresies' and 'Against Marcion' ascribed to Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus and Tertullian. The original association of Against Marcion with Justin is questionable. Eusebius is evasive about its existence. Similarly we have a text called Against Heresies associated with Irenaeus which used large portions of Justin's original syntagma of the same name allegedly. Yet Eusebius is again cagey about the claim in Irenaeus's Fourth Book regarding an Irenaean 'Against Marcion' treatise.

Eusebius begins by noting that a certain Dionysius of Corinth (late second century CE) allegedly wrote an:

epistle of his addressed to the Nicomedians, in which he attacks the heresy of Marcion, and stands fast by the canon of the truth [4.23]
We should pay careful attention to the fact that 'the heresy of Marcion' is referenced here rather than Marcion. This may well mean only 'Marcionites' - i.e. no direct reference to a 'Marcion of Pontus.'

Eusebius goes on to note that it was Dionysius who also tells us about a certain:

Philip who, as we learn from the words of Dionysius, was bishop of the parish of Gortyna, likewise wrote a most elaborate work against Marcion, as did also Irenæus and Modestus. The last named has exposed the error of the man more clearly than the rest to the view of all. There are a number of others also whose works are still presented by a great many of the brethren. [4.25]

When we scrutinize this account, all we know for certain is that only a certain Modestus wrote anything substantial against Marcion. The testimony about Philip's writing only appears as part of Dionysius's text against the Marcionites which could have been just about anything. Most interesting of all, we see that the above mentioned reference to Justin's 'Against Marcion' was only gleaned from the pages of Irenaeus's Against Heresies. Eusebius does not know that such a text existed for in what follows he has to admit that he knows only of this 'Against Marcion' of Irenaeus by what also appears in Book Four:

he [Irenaeus] promises to refute Marcion from his own writings, in a special work [5.8]

At the present moment then we only have (a) a pairing of a 'Against Heresies' and 'Against Marcion' which is attributed to Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus and Tertullian and (b) Dionysius of Corinth's treatise against the Marcionite sect.

I would argue that the treatises 'Against Heresies' and 'Against Marcion' only existed in the third century. They were associated with all of these Fathers because the original material was passed around, associated with various second century figures and constantly altered by whoever held the text. That all the 'Against Heresies' text had knowledge in at least some form of an original lost text is almost universally acknowledged. Yet with respect to 'Against Marcion' it has to be noted that the book is made up four individual treatises - (a) Book One which was clearly based on a general refutation of Marcionitism (b) Book Two a philosophical refutation of Marcionite belief (c) Book Three which along with Tertullian's Against the Jews goes back to an original text of Justin and (d) Books Four and Five which certainly seem to fit what we might expect from Theophilus's anti-Marcionite treatise (mentioned below).

The point then is that there are four separate authors to the four different parts of the work. As of yet we only have two real anti-Marcionite works we can firmly place in antiquity. Eusebius goes on to mention Bardesanes in a most flattering light. The original text likely only identified him as a 'reformed' heretic who happened to have written anti-Marcionite treatises:

a certain Bardesanes, a most able man and a most skillful disputant in the Syriac tongue, having composed dialogues against Marcion's followers and against certain others who were authors of various opinions, committed them to writing in his own language, together with many other works. His pupils, of whom he had very many (for he was a powerful defender of the faith), translated these productions from the Syriac into Greek. Among them there is also his most able dialogue On Fate, addressed to Antoninus, and other works which they say he wrote on occasion of the persecution which arose at that time. He indeed was at first a follower of Valentinus, but afterward, having rejected his teaching and having refuted most of his fictions, he fancied that he had come over to the more correct opinion. [4.30]

What Eusebius fails to mention is that Bardesanes in writing 'against Marcion's followers' is only attacking the dominant orthodoxy in Osroene.

With Bardasanes we have also crossed over into the third century. When for instance Eusebius mentions a certain Rhodo [5.13] as having written an anti-Marcionite treatise which does indeed reference Marcion as a historical figure it must be remembered that Hilgenfeld identifies the other part of the reference - i.e. to 'Callistio' - to be reflective of Pope Callixtus of Rome being addressed using a diminutive form of his name. This confirms Rhodo to have lived c. 220 CE.

Eusebius also tells us that a certain Apollonius distinguishes between Catholics and 'those from the heresy of Marcion' [5.16] He also makes reference to Hippolytus having written a treatise 'Against Marcion' which hasn't survived. [6.22] which is cited by Jerome and by Nicephorus (Fabric, ip 222.). The latter calls it a controversial writing. It is worth noting that Eusebius is generally ignorant of Latin literature and does not mention that Tertullian ever wrote an Against Marcion or anything other than the Apology.

The bottom line here is that while we certainly don't have every treatise written against Marcion, we most certainly possess most - if not all - of the actual original texts entitled 'Against Marcion' from antiquity.  None of them seem to be any older than the third century.

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