Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Most Scholarship On Marcion is Worthless [Part Four]

So I have decided not to write a paper on Clement of Alexandria's collection of Pauline writings being related to the Marcionite Apostolikon.  The purpose of writing a paper is after all to prove something.  I was finding it difficult to write a paper about that without referencing how stupid all the scholarship on Marcion is. so I have come to the conclusion - I have to start by writing a paper about how stupid all previous attempts to reconstruct the Marcionite Apostolikon by means of Tertullian and Epiphanius are.

I figure it would be a very easy paper to write.  It is easier to tear down that build up.  And this premise is so fucking stupid it defies all logic.  Just listen to Clabeaux try to make Against Marcion into a witness for the Marcionite Apostolikon.  It's masterful deception.  Clabeaux introduces the text as follows in his A Lost Edition of the Letters of Paul:

Tertullian's Adversus Marcionem, written ca. ad 207, is the most important of the three sources since it contains the greatest number of citations from the Marcionite text of Paul's letters. Ernest Evans, in his recent edition of the work, describes its five books as "a case argued in court (by Tertullian) against Marcion as defendant . . . , as it were three speeches in presentation of his case followed by two more in assessment and examination of his opponent's evidence." This effort by Tertullian to battle Marcion on his own ground (ie, his own Pauline Corpus) has made Adv. Marc. 5 invaluable to those seeking to reconstruct the text of Marcion. It is, therefore, this "examination of his opponent's evidence" (namely, Marcion's Apostolikon) in book 5 which interests us the most.

It is important to take note of the forensic character of Tertullian's work. One must never assume that Tertullian set out to preserve with exactitude the text of the Marcionite Apostolikon. Tertullian's objective was to destroy Marcionite arguments. Due attention must be paid to his polemical motivations. Many of the citations from Pauline letters show signs of tampering on Tertullian's part, designed to make the citations more artfully fit his arguments [p. 11, 12]

So where's the beef?  Where is the demonstration that Tertullian ever saw the Apostolikon?  Where it the proof that what is about to follow isn't just Tertullian or some other Church Father citing his own text against Marcion?

The assumption at bottom here is that Tertullian (and Epiphanius) must have either (a) access to the original Marcionite canon or (b) has a source which knew enough to help us reconstruct the original material.  Schmid's work is superior in this respect alone - at least he attempts to construct an understanding of how it was that Tertullian arrived at his data.  Clabeaux essentially writes these utterly useless two paragraphs and avoid the question entirely.  Yet the question is utterly essential to the whole question of whether or not we can use Tertullian's Against Marcion to gain insight into the shape of the Marcionite Apostolikon.

Already you can see Clabeaux is grasping at straws when he cites Evans to prove that Tertullian 'must have had' some idea of the Marcionite Apostolikon.  Why doesn't Clabeaux show that Tertullian is "examining his opponent's evidence"?  Indeed I find it very suspicious right at the outset that he only cites Evans reflection on the general character of the five books of Against Marcion rather than his summary of Books Four and Five specifically.  Surely if Clabeaux wants to prove to us that Evans thinks that Tertullian had direct access to the Marcionite Apostolikon he would have spelled it out here.

It is only when we go to the summary of that part of Against Marcion (rather than the work as a whole) that we see how deceptive Clabeaux's citation is.  For Evans can't bring forward any proof that Tertullian actually saw the Marcionite Apostolikon.  Instead he vaguely makes reference to the idea that Books Four and Five of Against Marcion are developed as a  polemic against the Marcionite New Testament from the pages of a secondary work - the Antitheses:

In the fourth and fifth books Tertullian accepts, for the sake of argument, and discusses almost sentence by sentence, Marcion's mutilated gospel and his edited epistles, claiming that even with these tendentious alterations and in spite of the suggestions advanced in the Antitheses, they will not bear the construction put upon them, but present a Christ who is in all respects such a one as the Creator's law and prophets have given reason to expect. Here we observe that though there is at times some tendency to interpret Christ in terms of the prophecies, for the most part the opposite is true: the prophecies are interpreted in terms of Christ as he presents himself in the gospel, and as the apostle represents him in the epistles.

Of course Evans doesn't actually explicitly say 'Tertullian developed his line by line polemic against the Marcionite Apostolikon from a secondary Marcionite work' because it focuses attention on a fundamental methodological difficulty to the approach in the work - what kind of a nut bar would develop a line by line attack against Marcionitism without actually having the text of the Apostolikon in his hands?   Yet this is the central dilemma in Marcionite studies?  Who is the unbelievably brazen author of Books Four and Five of Against Marcion?

As I already noted - there is no evidence that Tertullian or the original author of Against Marcion (assuming he was someone else) ever had access to the text of the Marcionite New Testament.  On what authority could someone 'prove' that Marcionitism is a fraud without actually having the proper evidence?  Yet because it is so absurd a prospect scholars won't allow themselves to consider the fact that Against Marcion itself is founded on most ridiculous premise.  It would be a like a person who had never been to Europe writing a travel book on the subject.  Yet such things do indeed happen - not merely in everyday secular literature but in the writings of the Church Fathers.

Indeed I only see a single-minded polemicist at work in the pages of Against Marcion.  I see no particular love of the truth in any of the pages.  I see no attempt at meeting his opponents halfway, of considering that they might be right about something - even insignificant details.  I see hate at work in every sentence, and hate allows people to mistreat their sources, mistreat their opponents and to embrace questionable methods to win debates - in this case, to discredit the 'heresy' associated with Marcion in particular.

I don't believe that the original author of Against Marcion cared less whether an argument was true so long as it was effective.  He was completely indifferent to the whole question of whether or not a particular passage was actually found in the Marcionite canon. He just wanted to use whatever was available to him to demolish the 'wrong beliefs' of the opposition, whether or not it actually was found in their Bible.

To this I find it particularly annoying when Schmid and Clabeaux just assume that because Tertullian almost jumps out of the gate developing a systematic attack against the Marcionites from some edition of the New Testament, the text in question must be wholly Marcionite.  Yes to be sure the author does make period references a few variant readings found in the Marcionite text.  However this does occur as often as you might be led to believe - one or two times in a particular chapter or set of chapters.

The original author of Against Marcion Books Four and Five (Tertullian may well have only been its translator) could well have used his own collection of Pauline letters to disprove Marcion.  I see the same habit in Irenaeus's writings.  Here is an example that I just happened to be thinking about - the time when Irenaeus argues that those who say that Jesus's ministry was just a year are 'heretics' because the Gospel of John says x, y and z:

But it is greatly to be wondered at, how it has come to pass that, while affirming that they have found out the mysteries of God, they have not examined the Gospels to ascertain how often after His baptism the Lord went up, at the time of the passover, to Jerusalem, in accordance with what was the practice of the Jews from every land, and every year, that they should assemble at this period in Jerusalem, and there celebrate the feast of the passover. First of all, after He had made the water wine at Cana of Galilee, He went up to the festival day of the passover, on which occasion it is written, "For many believed in Him, when they saw the signs which He did,"(8) as John the disciple of the Lord records. Then, again, withdrawing Himself [from Judaea], He is found in Samaria; on which occasion, too, He convened with the Samaritan woman, and while at a distance, cured the son of the centurion by a word, saying, "Go thy way, thy son liveth."(1) Afterwards He went up, the second time, to observe the festival day of the passover(2) in Jerusalem; on which occasion He cured the paralytic man, who had lain beside the pool thirty-eight years, bidding him rise, take up his couch, and depart. Again, withdrawing from thence to the other side of the sea of Tiberias,(3) He there seeing a great crowd had followed Him, fed all that multitude with five loaves of bread, and twelve baskets of fragments remained over and above. Then, when He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and plots were formed against Him by the Pharisees, He withdrew to a city called Ephraim; and from that place, as it is written "He came to Bethany six days before the passover,"(4) and going up from Bethany to Jerusalem, He there ate the passover, and suffered on the day following. Now, that these three occasions of the passover are not included within one year, every person whatever must acknowledge. And that the special month in which the passover was celebrated, and in which also the Lord suffered, was not the twelfth, but the first, those men who boast that they know all things, if they know not this, may learn it from Moses. Their explanation, therefore, both of the year and of the twelfth month has been proved false, and they ought to reject either their explanation or the Gospel; otherwise [this unanswerable question forces itself upon them], How is it possible that the Lord preached for one year only? [Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.22.3] 

The point here is that what the fuck does it matter that the Gospel of John says all of this if the community who Irenaeus's condemns only used a synoptic gospel or rejected John? You could use the same argument here that the morons to develop their senseless claims about Marcion's text (i.e. the people Irenaeus is attacking 'must' have used the material here = John for Irenaeus to have made these arguments) yet it is obviously false.

The people here clearly don't accept John, or at least the version of John (= our canonical text) which Irenaeus is citing throughout his argument. Why would Irenaeus cite John against a tradition that only used a synoptic gospel and held that Jesus's ministered only a year to prove that Jesus ministered for almost twenty years? The short answer is that Irenaeus doesn't care about the truth. He wants to demolish his opponents. The same methodology is likely used by the author of Against Marcion - i.e. he is not citing from the Marcionite text but his own copy of the New Testament - adding in references which he heard from Marcionite citations of their NT once in every other section or so. The point is that Tertullian is just translating an original Greek text by someone else (like Against the Valentinians = Irenaeus Against Heresies Book 1.1 - 12). The author sounds authoritative. Maybe he sounds like he was citing from the actual Marcionite throughout (Tertullian never says so but Epiphanius who uses an older version of the same text apparently thought so) but that's just the way Irenaeus writes. It's his literary habit.

Indeed it's his literary habit to argue from John to disprove a tradition that only used the synoptics because he doesn't care about the truth.  My guess is that Irenaeus is the original author of the material in Books Four and Five of Tertullian's Latin translation (and five volume compendium).  After all the central argument shows signs of his core literary habit of not giving a fuck what the truth is.  Irenaeus is a most curious writer.

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