Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Think I Discovered a Missing Piece From Tertullian's Original Against Marcion

I bet I am the only person in the world who noticed that Book Five of Tertullian's Against Marcion and its anti-Marcionite commentary is missing a hugely important piece in its account of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Amazingly the study of 1 Corinthians 15 begins at verse 29. Indeed it is this chapter which is perhaps the most important part of the whole Apostolikon as it deals with the resurrection of the dead through the resurrection of Christ. Why is a huge chunk of that narrative missing? I don't know but I think what I am about to show you makes a strong argument that we do not have the original treatise but a highly redacted version of the original.

I have never believed that Tertullian was the original author of the material. Tertullian merely took an original treatise written against Marcion - or indeed several - and bundled them together as 'the Five Books Against Marcion' after freely adapting the text to his unique style. Yet it is most startling the manner in which what is certainly the original anti-Marcionite commentary on the first half of 1 Corinthians 15 has ended up in another Tertullian treatise, the Resurrection of the Flesh chapter 48. Before I go any further, let me reintroduce you all to the missing material:.

The apostle, I suppose, having set before the Corinthians the complete definition of the church discipline, had bound up the sum-total of his own gospel and of their faith in his delivery of our Lord's death and resurrection, so as to derive the rule of our hope also from that whereon it might stand firm. And so he adds, But if Christ is preached that he hath risen from the dead, how say some among you that there is not a resurrection of the dead? For if there is not, neither is Christ risen. If Christ is not risen, our preaching is void, your faith also is void. We shall be found even false witnesses of God, seeing we have borne witness that he hath raised Christ up again, when he hath not raised him up. For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. If Christ is not risen again your faith is vain, because ye are yet in your sins, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished..

To belief of what fact do you think he is by these means building us up? The resurrection of the dead, you (= Marcionites) reply, which was under denial..

Surely desiring it to be believed by the example of the Lord's resurrection? Certainly, you say. .

Now is an example applied out of diversity or out of similarity? Evidently, you say, of similarity. .

Then how did Christ rise again? In the flesh, or not? Undoubtedly if you hear that he died, that he was buried, according to the scriptures, and not otherwise than in the flesh, you must no less admit that he was raised again in the flesh: for that very thing which died in death, which lay down in burial, this it is which has also risen again, not so much Christ in the flesh as the flesh in Christ. .

Therefore if we are to rise again after Christ's example, and he rose again in the flesh----well, we shall not be rising again after Christ's example if we are not ourselves also to rise again in the flesh. Since, he says, by man death, by man also the resurrection, so as to distinguish the two authors, Adam the author of death, Christ the author of the resurrection, and yet, by bringing together the authors under the name of 'man', to determine that the resurrection is of the same substance as the death was..

For if as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive, they will be made alive in Christ in the flesh, just as in Adam they die in the flesh. But every one in his own order, because of course in his own body: for the order will be regulated in accordance with already regulated deserts. But since deserts are accounted to the body as well, so of necessity the order of the bodies must be regulated, to make it possible for the order of deserts to be..

And again, if some are baptized for the dead, we shall enquire whether this is with good reason. Certainly he suggests that they had instituted that custom on the assumption by which they supposed that vicarious baptism would be of benefit even to another flesh towards the hope of resurrection, which, unless it were corporal, would not be bound up with a corporal baptism..

He asks why they themselves also are baptized , that is, if the bodies that are baptized do not rise again? For the soul is sanctified not by the washing but by the profession of faith. And why, he asks, stand we in jeopardy every hour? ---evidently by virtue of the flesh. I die daily----surely by the perils of that flesh by which he also fought with beasts at Ephesus, meaning those beasts of the Asiatic affliction of which he speaks in the second epistle to the same people: For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, of our affliction in Asia, that above measure we were burdened beyond our strength, so that we were in doubt even of life. All these experiences, if I mistake not, he recounts because he does not wish the strivings of the flesh to be believed to be in vain, and does wish the resurrection of the flesh to be believed with full assurance: for the striving of that of which there will be no resurrection must be held to be in vain. But some man will say, How will the dead rise again, and with what body will they come? Here at last he discourses of the qualities of bodies, whether they be the same bodies, or others, that are resumed. But as this kind of question may be considered to come later, it shall suffice meanwhile that by this theme also the resurrection is defined as corporal, since it is with the quality of bodies that the discussion is concerned.[de Resurr Carnis 48]

There are a dozen reasons why we should believe that this section of text was literally excised from Against Marcion Book 5. The most obvious is that the last line cited here from 1 Corinthians 15 "How will the dead rise again, and with what body will they come?" is the point at which Book 5 begins with its line by line examination of the text. .

It is also worth noting that the way this section of material is incorporated into de Resurrectione Carnis is a dead give away too. The chapter begins with a reference to 1 Corinthians 15:50:.

But, you object, "Flesh and blood cannot obtain by inheritance the kingdom of God." I am aware that this also is written, but have purposely deferred it until now, with the intention of laying flat at the final assault the obstruction the enemy build up at the very first onset, after first knocking down all the questionings with which it has been as it were buttressed.

Tertullian then immediately goes on to explain that in order to defeat the heretical interest in the plain meaning of this line require a full scale examination of the context of the whole chapter so he immediately adds:.

But in this case also the context will call for review, so that this thought too may be controlled by the precedent of what it springs from. .

It is at this point that I propose the line by line study of chapter 15 begins in de Resurrectione Carnis literally excising a whole portion of text from the original treatise which is now Against Marcion Book Five. Yet one might even argue that it wasn't even Tertullian who removed this material but a later editor who felt that his original argument wasn't strong enough (cf. Adv Marc 1.1).

For I can't help but notice that the very next chapter cites 1 Cor 15.50 once again and takes up the challenge of explaining away the plain meaning of the text which so interested in the Marcionites:.

We have now reached 'flesh and blood', in very truth of the whole enquiry [de Resurr Carnis 49].

Yet the reality is that that by alighting up on 1 Cor 15:35 - i.e." But some man will say, How will the dead rise again, and with what body will they come?" - it is impossible to say that we have now 'reached' 1 Corinthians 15:50. We are in fact fifteen verses removed from this line. Why does Tertullian think we are already there? I think that chapter 48 was added later as a means of enhancing an original argument which didn't look very convincing to the editor. I am writing this very late at night and I am quite tired but I think this is very important for our understanding of how works like Against Marcion and Against Heresies for that matter were manufactured and re-assembled after the death of the person identified as the author. .

More on that tomorrow ...

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