Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nukraya - The 'Other' of the Marcionite Tradition

The most annoying thing about contemporary Christians of course is that their 'faith in Jesus.'  What exactly is this supposed to do?  I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  Yet when you go back in time and read Athanasius's condemnation of the Arians (i.e. the followers of Arius the 'schismatic' presbyter of the Martyrium of St Mark) you see how the forefathers of these people simply refused to acknowledge what 'being a Son' meant.

Arius got into trouble for preserving the original understanding that there was a time when Jesus the Son did not exist, and that Jesus, the Logos had a beginning.  To acknowledge the only possible position possible when you have a narrative involving a 'father' and a 'son' - i.e. that there was a time when the father existed alone without the son - meant that you were a heretic.  Yet how could anyone have any intellectual integrity and claim otherwise?

Yet people in churches everywhere utter the inane nonsense that the Son was 'co-substantial' with the Father in order to sidestep the obvious truth that the Son was inferior to the Father, even in the early Alexandrian system.  You see, I inevitably end up in a collision course with 'Marcionophiles' (i.e. the hundred or so people on the internet that claim to love and defend Marcion) when I suggest that they must have had a doctrine where Jesus was a repentant Creator who crucified himself in order to atone for his failings.

That orthodox Christians might have a problem with this formula goes without saying.  Yet because I couch the discussion in terms of 'Marcion' or 'the Marcionites held this or that' they ignore me.  Nevertheless the logic of my argument is such that it is absolutely impossible that the original Christians held any other position than that the Creator was improved through this act of atonement.  I can't see how it could be otherwise.

You have all these pieces to the puzzle - the strangeness of holding that Jesus was crucified.  What could this possibly mean?  I think F C Burkitt
In GR ii 53 and GR i 29 we read that Anush-Utra 1 comes into the world in the days of Piliatus (or Paltus, ie Pilate) the king of the world ; he heals the sick, makes the blind to see, cleanses the lepers, raises the cripples so that so that they can walk, and makes the deaf and dumb to speak. With the power of the high King of Light he raises the dead. Those who believe in him among the Jews he teaches that there is Life and Death, Light and Darkness and burning Fire, Truth and Error. Three hundred and sixty Prophets go out of Jerusalem and preach in the name of the Lord of Glory 1 : then Anush-Utra ascends to the Mandaean Paradise and will not be seen again by mankind till the End comes. Before he ascended, we read in another place that Anush-uthra will unmask the Deceiver, the Byzantine Christ, who will confess that he is only one of the deceiving Seven Planets : he will be seized by the Jews and crucified (GR II.58).

That this tale of the preaching and of the miracles of Anush-uthra in Jerusalem is no isolated patch in the Mandaean construction appears from GR xiv 288 f., where true religion is represented as being the doctrine taught by Anush-Uthra and still more from GR xv, where Anush-uthra himself sings of his coming into the world. He calls himself the Stranger (nukraya, GR 328, last line) and says: 'I took a bodily form and appeared in Jerusalem. I spoke with my voice and preached, and became a Healer for Miriai: a Healer for Miriai I became, and healed her from head to foot. I was called Healer of the Truth (kushtd), who heals and takes no fee' (GR 331 f.). This is followed among other things by the mission of 365 disciples. Clearly we have here a parallel to what we read in GR 1 and 11; it is the same doctrine that is set forth.

The Mandaeans, then, rejected the Christ of the Catholic Church, born of a woman and crucified, but they accepted the Stranger who appeared in Jerusalem in the days of Pilate, who healed the sick and taught the true and life-giving doctrine, and who ascended in due course when his work was done to his own place in the world of Light. This Personage is called the Stranger, but he is no stranger to the modern student of Christian antiquity: it is clearly the Manichaean Jesus, a personage adopted by Mani from Jesus of Marcion. In other words it is no new controversial figment of the Mandaeans.

The Marcionites in the fifth and sixth centuries were an unlicensed and vanishing society. But they had once been a great factor in the Christianity of the Euphrates Valley, as is clear from the polemics of Ephraim and still more from the polemics of Ephraim and still more from the influence which they had on the new theology of Mani. I am not suggesting that the Mandaeans are Marcionites : what I am suggesting is that Theodore bar Konai was right when he tells us their doctrines are partly derived from the Marcionites, and I think we can say with confidence that that part is their 'Christology', that Anush-uthra is the Marcionite Jesus.

I know some people will disagree with Burkitt's . Yet let me bring this back down to earth for a minute. Nukraya might only have had the original meaning of 'the Other' - i.e. the other god, the other Christ beside as we see in this Mandaean understanding, the crucified Jesus. I am not saying that the Mandaean proves anything about the original Marcionite conception. I think however it opens up the possibility that nukraya was used in the sense of 'other.'

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