Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Putting Marcion's Humpty Dumpty Canon Back Together Again is Harder than Most Scholars Have Let On

There is so much going on in so many different directions.  As many of you know I completed my comparative analysis of the Epistle to the Romans in both anti-Marcionite writers (Tertullian, Adamantius, Epiphanius, Eznik etc) and Clement of Alexandria.  I have decided that before going on to complete the article I should probably carry out at least a couple more for good measure (I am currently working on the Epistle to the Corinthians).  The one thought that this has definitely triggered in my head is the questionable nature of many of the assumptions to do with the Marcionite canon.

If we were really going to be strict with the evidence we should only accept the things that Tertullian explicitly says about the Marcionite texts (i.e. 'Marcion erased this' or 'Marcion's text reads - ').  At some point in the analysis we start to 'fudge' the evidence.  We turn a blind eye to the fact that Tertullian isn't citing from Marcion's text but his own in most cases.  The professional scholar of course tells himself - 'they are probably the same' or very closely related.  Yet we don't that for sure.  We don't know whether or not Tertullian actually has access to the Marcionite New Testament.  I have always been convinced that he is actually translating and adding bits and pieces to an earlier anti-Marcionite treatise.

Yet Tertullian is only side to the problem.  Epiphanius is a joke.  His work habits are so shoddy he makes most bloggers look like serious professionals.  I am not even convinced that Tertullian and Epiphanius aren't working from two different versions of the same anti-Marcionite text.  And then there is the very corrupt text of the Dialogues of Adamantius.  What to do about these?  It is very, very hard to believe that Adamantius is actually citing from the Marcionite text, indeed anyone who claims this ought to be put in jail. Adamantius is certainly not citing from the Marcionite material, yet almost everyone pretends as if he is doing just that, just so that we get a few more bits and pieces to help 'complete' our understanding.

I can't help but feel with so many questions hanging over the heads of all these ancient witnesses it might be hard to believe that we will ever know what the Marcionite canon looks like.  Yet I think that Tertullian tells us enough about the text that we can feel confident that Clement knows a very closely related recension.  I think the reader will be very surprised to see what I have come up, especially with regards to the Epistle to the Corinthians.  Yet this will have to wait unfortunately. I am only at chapter 6 right now.

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