Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Marcionite Reading of 1 Corinthians 15:3

Sometimes life surprises you. We were just discussing Tertullian's missing section on the first half of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 in our last post. 1 Corinthians 15:3 is especially problematic, though, because it seems to contradict the whole Marcionite understanding of its apostle as a lone wolf who received the gospel exclusively through a heavenly revelation.

Of course, as with all sensible doctrines, Marcionitism isn't 'refuted' by the Catholic reading of 1 Corinthians 15:3. The first chapter of the Letter to the Galatians captures the essence of the Marcionite understanding so 1 Corinthians 15:3 in its present form just rings false. It is an obvious interpolation with its ' ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον' (= 'that which I also received'). Yet without any alternatives the objection falls on deaf ears.

1 Corinthians 15:3 reads "For I delivered unto you first of all - that which I also received - how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." The Marcionite text clearly didn't have 'that what I also received' given that the term παραλαμβανω implies a teacher-student relationship here. Yet how do you prove that the Marcionite reading simply read "For I delivered unto you first of all how Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures"?

The first step of course is to point to the fact that Tertullian cites the text in exactly this form in the third book Against Marcion. The second step is that this reading seems to be supported in On the Resurrection of the Flesh chapter 48 (see previous post). Yet the absolute confirmation that such a reading existed (and wasn't a mistake in transcription of Tertullian) is the fact that both the Latin text of Irenaeus's Against Heresies and the Ambrosiaster's pre-Jeromian commentary on the Paulian writings support what appears in Tertullian.

The clear implication here is that the Marcionite reading wasn't limited to Marcionites. The early Latin tradition shared many similarities. This is very significant and I will tell you more about it when I get back home.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.