Monday, December 5, 2011

Eusebius Helps Demonstrate WHY All the References to Jesus's Presence At Sinai Have Disappeared

I am certainly in the minority of course when I argue that the Marcionites have been completely misunderstood by scholarship.  I think the tradition was rooted in Alexandria and was likely related to or identical with the tradition of Clement of Alexandria.  I am not convinced about the way scholars understand the Marcionite relationship to the Creator.  At bottom the question comes down to whether or not the Marcionites thought that Jesus was 'stranger God' or rather - were they instead speaking about the Father?

In other words, couldn't it be that the Marcionites accepted that Jesus was the Logos (as with the rest of the Alexandrian tradition), that Jesus was 'the Son' that elders of Israel had seen Jesus at Sinai but were ignorant of the Father?  The starting point of this understanding is the fact that the early Church Fathers explain which god was seen by the elders of Israel.  Did the ancient Israelites see the Father?  No certainly not.  As Eusebius explains:

In the Book of Numbers Moses prays, saying: "Since thou art the Lord of this people that art seen of them face to face."  For which Aquila substitutes: "Since thou art the Lord in the hearts of this people, which sees thee, O Lord, face to face." And Symmachus: "Since thou art, O Lord." And it is said in Exodus: "And Moses, and Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and saw the place where the God of Israel stood." Instead of which Aquila says: "And they saw the God of Israel." And Symmachus: "And they saw in a vision the God of Israel." From the text: "No man has seen God at any time," perhaps it might be thought that the above quotation contradicts the Saviour's words, as implying that the invisible is visible. But if they be understood, like our former quotations, of the Word of God, Who was seen by the fathers "in many ways and in sundry manners," no contradiction is involved. [Preparation for the Gospel 5.18]

If you really think about it, the god who was seen by the elders sitting on the throne was anthropomorphic.  Jesus was a man.  The Gospel of John begins with the idea that the Logos had come to his own but that the Jews didn't recognize him.  At the very least it seems sensible to put forward that Jesus was on the throne in Exodus 24 as Eusebius argues.  The Marcionites might even have accepted this understanding and argued that he was a repentant Creator and that the Father was unknown.

For how would the Marcionites have read Exodus 24?  That the Jewish god was sitting on the throne at Sinai?  Certainly they would have agreed.  But would they have held that both Jesus and his Father were unknown?  Really?  Why come to the Jews?  It sounds like the whole family was alien.  Why the connection to the Old Testament stories?  Why cite the scriptural references in the Apostolikon if they whole divine family was from out of town?

I am beginning to sound like Tertullian ...

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.