Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Even Tertullian Doesn't Say that Marcion Was a Radical Dualist

After engaging Sebastian Moll's idiotic claims that Marcion was a radical dualist who hated the world, I demonstrated that all of his claims of Patristic witnesses for this idea are bogus - save for one Tertullian. I am now even starting to think that Tertullian didn't think Marcion was a radical dualist. I went through Book One and found the most convincing argument to be found in the interpretation of Luke 6:43:

For, like many even in our day, heretics in particular, Marcion had an unhealthy interest in the problem of evil—the origin of it—and his perceptions were numbed by the very excess of his curiosity. So when he found the Creator declaring, It is I who create evil things,b in that he had, from other arguments which make that impression on the perverse, already assumed him to be the author of evil, he interpreted with reference to the Creator the evil tree that creates evil fruit—namely, evil things in general— and assumed that there had to be another god to correspond with the good tree which brings forth good fruits. Discovering then in Christ as it were a different dispensation of sole and unadulterated benevolence, an opposite character to the Creator's, he found it easy to argue for a new and hitherto unknown divinity revealed in its own Christ, and thus with a little leaven has embittered with heretical acidity the whole mass of the faith.c He was acquainted also with a certain Cerdo, who gave shape to this outrage. And so the blind were easily led to think they had a clear prospect of two gods, in that they had no accurate view of the one God. To the blear-eyed a single lamp looks double.. So then the one God, whose existence he was forced to admit, Marcion has overthrown by slandering him as responsible for evil: the other, whom he constrained himself to invent, he has set up on a scaffolding of goodness. My own answers will make it clear in what specific terms he has portioned out these two sets of attributes. [Against Marcion 1:2]

The idea that the one tree was 'evil' comes from Tertullian's Latin translation of the original Greek:

tanto in creatorem interpretatus malam arborem malos fructus condentem, scilicet mala, alium deum praesumpsit esse debere in partem bonae arboris bonos fructus.

But the Greek is better translated as 'corrupt.' 'rotten' or 'of poor quality':

"It is not a good tree which produces corrupt fruit, nor a corrupt tree which produces good fruit,"

οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν.

saprós – properly, rotten (putrid), over-ripe; (figuratively) over-done (ripened); hence, corrupt. " (saprós) is (akin to sēpō, 'to rot'), primarily, of vegetable and animal substances, expresses what is of poor quality, unfit for use, putrid" (Vine, Unger, White, NT, 49); sapros – "of poor or bad quality" (L & N, 1, 65.28).

I don't believe that any of this resembles Manichaean dualistic belief or for that matter, it doesn't contradict the idea that the Marcionites thought that the creation was imperfect but not evil.

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