Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Most Scholarship on Marcion is Worthless (and Misguided) [Part One]

So I have another half hour to write a post, that is - f I don't get interrupted by a phone call first.  I don't know if I properly conveyed how stupid the whole attempt to reconstruct the Marcionite New Testament is.  Maybe I will try again right now.

I think almost everyone has experienced desperation.  You know, you're hungry so even though you decide to use a jar in the fridge whose expiry date has already passed.  I once went to a really strange store in Astoria, OR where every food item that was sold in the store was past the expiry date.

Another example is dating a stripper.  You know this can't work out but you delude yourself into thinking that this might be the exception.  Maybe she's not interested in your money.

In any event, this whole reconstruction of Marcion thing is stupid.  Let me show you how stupid it really is.  Here is Gilles Quispel's summary of two of the best works in the field.  He starts with Clabeaux's work and then moves on to Schmid's beginning with:

The second publication which led me to reconsider this matter was Ulrich Schmid's 1993 Münster dissertation (published in 1995) on Marcion's text of Paul. Schmid followed in the footsteps of Clabeaux: he examined and discussed all of the variants attributed to Marcion by the Catholic heresy hunters. He too concluded that Tertullian consulted a Greek (not a Latin) text. Contrary to the received opinion, Schmid also concluded that Marcion's interventions in the text to remove the so-called “Judaistic” interpolations were much less numerous than one would suppose. Schmid based his conclusion on the fact that most of the variants in Marcion's text which depart from the now-accepted text of the Pauline epistles are also attested elsewhere, notably in Catholic sources, and are — upon examination — not tendentious. The influence of Marcion on the Biblical manuscripts of the Catholic Church is, therefore, minimal, and has often been overrated in the past. In fact, Schmid concluded that the text which Marcion used was essentially the text of Paul as the church of Rome in Marcion's time. The manuscripts in use in Rome in the 140's cannot have differed much from other manuscripts elsewhere in the early church at that time; like them, they must have suffered from scribal errors (like haplography or dittography), and must have undergone redactional corrections. But they probably also preserved ancient readings which have been neglected by textual critics and editors of the New Testament, readings which might, in some cases, be part of the most ancient recoverable text of Paul. Many of these variants are also found in Codex Bezae (D) and the Vetus Latina manuscripts of Paul – that is, in the “Western” text. Other variants, however, are not found in the “Western” text; therefore, I will call this pre-Marcionite text of the Christian congregation in Rome “pre-Western,” for it appears to antedate the creation of what we now call the “Western” text.

It is here that the significance of Marcion as a witness to the text of the New Testament becomes apparent. If, as both Clabeaux and Schmid have independently found, Marcionite revisions of the New Testament text were very minor, then Marcion's text would be a valuable witness to the text of the New Testament as known in Rome, prior to 144 (the date of Marcion's expulsion from the Roman church). This means that the manuscript Marcion used is even older than what is usually regarded as the “oldest” extant manuscript of Paul's writings: P 46 (~ 200 CE from Egypt) [Quispel Marcion and the Text of the New Testament in Gnostica, Judaica, Catholica p 273].

Now I have to stop here because this is the most tolerable part of the argument (even though I still there there are stupid parts of the logic here).  But I want to break off the text because I want to take the time to examine how someone both insightful and dumb in the same analysis.

Let's start from the end.  P 46 is likely a forgery.  The provenance is unknown.  The person who manufactured this codex was obviously experimenting with the process for he miscalculated how many pages he would need to complete the task so he starts making his letters bigger.  The handwriting evidence is inconclusive. It's a fishy document.  Much fishier than the Mar Saba letter of Clement.  But because it helps with an early dating for the canon all the conservative scholars are in love with the text.

Now I agree with the idea that Marcion's text probably didn't differ very much from the New Testament canon that was used in the Church c. 144 CE.  But why does Schmid focus on Marcion 'adding' material?  Why isn't the door left open to the possibility that the Catholic Church deliberately 'added' things to the Marcionite canon to counter certain doctrines of the original Church (= Marcionite Christianity) which this new 'ecumenical faith' developing out of Rome wanted to curb?  I see no evidence to prefer the idea that Marcion deleted things to the latter.  It's just convenient to get your PhD published. It's what you have to say in order to become a 'player' in the field of early Christianity rather than being relegated to 'blogging' and other 'out in the wilderness' options.

It reminds me of dating strippers again and hearing them tell you that they 'want you so badly' and various other X-rated text messages.  But do they really 'want your cock' or is that just what is required to put food on the table for this single mother?  I always divided the strippers into those who knew it was bullshit and those who were incapable of separating personal necessity from the truth.  The latter are like most scholars whores of the soul.  The former are a rarity and capable of redemption.

There are more strippers who will be saved in the hereafter than scholars.  Just ask Mary Magdalene.

Half an hour up.  Will return to write part 2.

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