Friday, October 14, 2011

C Clifton Black on the Lost Apostle Mark of the Dialogues of Adamantius

This is a fabulous addition to the lore about Mark. Like many of our witnesses thus far, Adamantius is concerned to justify the apostolic character of Mark's Gospel. Unlike the majority, however, he appeals not to its Petrine background but instead to the Pauline corpus, the strand of tradition, examined in chapter 2, which has been by far the least exploited. Indeed, so "adamant" is "Adamantius" about the Second Gospel's apostolicity that, for the first time in our study, all distance between the Second Evangelist and his apostolic patron has been obliterated. Here Mark is promoted to the rank of apostle — which, in this discourse, is regarded as tantamount to having been "a disciple of Jesus."

How do we account for a presentation so unprecedented? The clues, I think, are woven into the fabric of "the dialogue" itself. Although Adamantius and Megethius differ on the authority of Mark and Mark's Gospel (as well as that of Luke), we might begin by observing how radically they agree on the argument's fundamental assumptions. Neither Adamantius nor Eutropius challenges the premises of Megethius's case: (1) the Gospels should have been written by "apostles" or "disciples of Christ"; (2) some record of that authorship, in particular the authors' names, should have been left in the Gospels, or elsewhere in scripture. In accordance with these mutually accepted axioms, Adamantius asserts (1) that Mark and Luke, no less than Matthew and John, are disciples of Christ, and (2) that the evidence for this claim resides in their inclusion among the seventy-two other missionaries whom Jesus reportedly dispatched en route to Jerusalem. Since Luke 10: 1 explicitly identifies none of these other apostles, Adamantius is proposing an invalid "argument from silence." However fallacious the logic, apparently the parties in the debate find the evidence of Luke 10:1 more relevant than an appeal to the Second Gospel's traditional attribution, "According to Mark." Indeed, that title or superscript is neglected altogether: as Megethius asserts (and Adamantius concedes), "Have the Gospel read and you'll find that these names" — Mark and Luke — "are not written in it."

But why the appeal to a proof text so filigreed as Luke 10:1? Evidently, Admantius is a tactician who believes that "the best defense is a good offense": the most powerful rebuttal is that which not only answers Megethius but also undermines the latter's own Marcionite warrants, which employed expurgated versions of Paul's letters and Luke's Gospel. Though allowance must be made for the apologists' own tendentiousness, Adamantius tacitly concurs with Irenaeus's complaint: "[Marcion] persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us" (Adv. Haer. 1.27.2). In this context the issue of authority has become bound up with particular claims of authorship, much as we witnessed in Clement's wrangling with the Carpocratians. Accordingly, Adamantius moves not just to any Gospel but to Luke's - and to a passage (10:1) whose wording is uniquely Lukan — to "find," from among that larger company of apostles, the two unnamed Evangelists. These two, Adamantius argues, in tandem receive their corroborative identification not merely from any scripture but from Paul himself (thus, the appeal to Col 4:10, 14). Most likely it is for this reason, then, that The Dialogue on the Orthodox Faith breaks with most patristic traditions elsewhere by summoning, as Mark's referee, Paul and not Peter: although Petrine traditions were conspicuously strong in Syria, the Pauline tradition about Mark was more directly serviceable for the defense against Marcionism that Adamantius was burdened to build.

In this matter, as at the end of the debate, Eutropius ruled in Adamantius's favor. Had one of Marcion's sympathizers constructed this dialogue, very likely a different verdict would have been rendered! Frustrated by the fragile assumptions and wobbly arguments that unfold here, many modern readers may be tempted to call down a plague on both houses. In our haste to disparage Megethius's and Adamantius's illogical sleights of hand, perhaps we should not overlook their minutely reasoned appeals to biblical evidence, including (for Adamantius) the figure of Mark, in the defense of orthodoxy. While Adamantius's construction of Mark is in some respects decidedly different from others that we have seen, ultimately his objectives and craftsmanship are similar: here, as elsewhere in early Christian testimony, the apostolicity and personality of Mark have been carefully tailored to clothe a particular body of religious and theological commitments — and, as sometimes happens, to strip another naked. [C Clifton Black Mark:Images of an Apostolic Interpreter ibid 150 - 152]

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