Saturday, October 15, 2011

Some Thoughts on Marcion's New Testamen

There is so much to tell everyone.  I have gone through references to the First Letter to the Corinthians in Clement of Alexandria and neo-Marcionite sources up to chapter 13 now.  I feel stronger than ever that this was the original Marcionite letter to the Alexandrians.  Again this is just a suspicion.  There is no smoking gun.  At the very least I am beginning to see why the Muratorian canon places this Epistle first in its canon.

As Trobisch notes in his book on the Pauline canon, the letters are now arranged from longest (Romans) to shortest (Philemon).  My overriding sense is that much more was added to the Roman text of Clement and the Marcionites than what I am seeing in my comparative study of 1 Corinthians.  Was there ever any other model other than 'longest to shortest' for the Pauline Epistles?  The obvious answer is the Galatians first canon associated with Ephrem the Syrian and reflected in the anti-Marcionite treatise used by Tertullian to make Books Four and Five of our present Latin edition of Against Marcion.  As such this in itself does not prove that the Muratorian canon put 1 Corinthians first because it was longer than Romans there, however the existence of fourteen chapter Epistles of the Romans especially in the Latin Church adds weight to this hypothesis.

So now we are left in a bit of a conundrum.  For it is Clement and Origen, members of the Alexandrian Church who are the earliest witnesses to the sixteen chapter Epistle to the Romans.  Why then am I so convinced that 1 Corinthians was originally called 'to the Alexandrians' in the canon of the Marcionites?  If Marcionitism was also the original Alexandrian tradition as I have so often claimed wouldn't the sixteen chapter edition of Romans still be longer than the parallel edition 1 Corinthians?

The answer is clearly no.  Most of Romans chapter 2 was missing.  So too with respect to chapter 9 and most of the other chapters which follow save for chapter 14.  In other words, there is enough material missing here to still make it a shorter text.  I am increasingly convinced that all previous efforts to reconstruct the Marcionite canon were completely misguided.  If Tertullian is citing the Marcionite readings in his work (a) he has copied down the information from an earlier source which was likely original Syrian in origin (b) he mixes those references throughout Books Four and Five with references to material from his own New Testament canon and finally (c) the work has been re-edited or altered now in its final form.

The fact that we want to know what the Marcionite text looked like shouldn't obscure the fact that just tallying up all the references in the principle anti-Marcionite authors from antiquity won't get us there.

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