Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Andrew McGowan on the Marcionite Eucharist

Marcion was regarded as a very fast-and-loose user of the New Testament, to say the least. The passages amended in his version of Luke's Gospel seem to have included parts of the Last Supper story.[1] In his polemic against Marcion, Tertullian attributes to his enemy an expansion of the words of institution: 'This is my body, that is, the figure of my body' ( Adv. Marc. 4. 40). [2] This suggests an attempt to play down any realistic sense of identifying Jesus' body or blood with the eucharistic elements, and would therefore seem to lessen the sacrificial overtones of the passage. Harnack also judged that Marcion's text lacked the statements by Jesus about renunciation of the Passover ( Luke 22: 16; see Epiphanius, Pan. . 42. 11. 6) and of the fruit of the vine ( Luke 22: 18). [3] If this last suggestion is correct, the omission might have been based on refusal to accept that Jesus had ever drunk wine at all.

Epiphanius' list of changes, which also indicates (unspecified) alterations to Luke 22: 8 and 22: 15, could indicate that all references to Passover were removed. There is also no indication of the exhortation to 'do this in memory of me' in Marcion's text. [5]

Tatian was aware of the tradition of the Last Supper and conveys it in the Diatessaron, albeit with some significant modifications. Not only does he remove any implication that Jesus' vow of abstinence from wine might be temporary, but the crucial command to 'do this in memory of me' follows the vow of abstinence, with serious implications for Tatian's possible understanding of the prescriptive nature of the text. As we know it from the Arabic version at least (45. 16), the Diatessaron implies either that the whole passage, including renunciation from the fruit of the vine, dictates the appropriate form of liturgical re-enactment ('do this in memory of me'), or even simply that the implicit asceticism, rather than the explicit ritual, is the prescriptive point of the story. [6] Tatian's interpretative strategy is therefore somewhat different from Marcion's; it is less radical (despite possible dislocation), and suggests that the vow of renunciation was taken as a historic turning-point rather than as a scandal.

[1] This issue becomes somewhat confused with the problem of the shorter and longer versions of the Lukan text in any case. [2] On the attribution of these words to Marcion rather than to Tertullian, see Harnack, Marcion, 163 n. 4. [3] Ibid. 39 - 40 . See further the appendices (only in the German edn.), 214*-15*. [4] Cf. Ephraem the Syrian's response to the contempt for the Wedding at Cana story by later Marcionites: Hymn. contra Haer.47. Origen also indicates that there were Marcionites who used Johannine traditions; see Harnack, Marcion, 54-5. [5] See also Richardson, "'A Further Inquiry Into Eucharistic Origins'", 246-54; but this account seems to be based entirely on Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4. 40. [6] Richardson's objection to their awkwardness at this position does not take into account the ascetic factor: "'A Further Inquiry Into Eucharistic Origins'", 235-7.

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