Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Did Justin Represent a Christian Tradition Which Rejected or Did Not Know Paul?

The Fifth Book of the Against Marcion series begins quite unusually.  The initial declaration about the nature of ‘origins’ in Adversus Marcionem only serves as a transition to a most unexpected question – that of the actual identity of the author of the Pauline letters. The voice of the narrator returns telling us that we have reached the end of the five books and curiously declares that it is time to address the origins of the Marcionite apostle:

As then I have now in the ordering of my treatise reached this part of the subject, I desire to hear from Marcion the beginning of Paul the apostle. I am a sort of new disciple, having had instruction from no other teacher. For the moment my only belief is that nothing ought to be believed without good reason, and that that is believed without good reason which is believed without knowledge of its origin

Apparently the Marcionites said very little about the origins of their apostle. The tactic again is very similar to the tactic used in Book Four when Tertullian sought to exploit the fact that Marcion “attaches to his gospel no author's name.” In that book Tertullian proceeded to argue that the lack of author’s name is proof of Marcion been involved in criminal activity – i.e. ‘stealing’ the Catholic gospel of Luke and deleting passages he found objectionable. As Andrew Gregory notes:

Whereas very little information may be gleaned from Irenaeus as to why Marcion chose Luke, Tertullian appears at first sight to be a more promising source of information … [Yet] it is possible and plausible that Tertullian's whole argument that Marcion chose one gospel from out of the fourfold Gospel canon is an anachronism. Just as Irenaeus provides no real reason as to why Marcion used Luke, neither does Tertullian. All that is known to Tertullian is the fact that Marcion did use a Gospel which Tertullian recognises as a shorter form of Luke than that to which he himself is accustomed, and this empirical evidence alone is sufficient to make it necessary for Tertullian to explain as to why Marcion used only one Gospel whereas the church used four. Thus Tertullian adds nothing that is not found already in Irenaeus.

In Book Five however the Marcionite silence about the name of their apostle is used to infer that Marcion engaged in a different sort of illegal activity – smuggling:

So then, shipmaster out of Pontus, supposing you have never accepted into your craft any smuggled or illicit merchandise, have never appropriated or adulterated any cargo, and in the things of God are even more careful and trustworthy, will you please tell us under what bill of lading you accepted Paul as apostle, who had stamped him with that mark of distinction, who commended him to you, and who put him in your charge?

This line of attack is unlike anything in Irenaeus and likely develops from Tertullian’s background as a lawyer. There are similar examples in Adversus Valentinianos. In each case he has taken some kernel of information about the Marcionite tradition and attempted, in his ‘opening argument’ to demonstrate that the unreliability of that tradition. Yet the original source of this statement quite clearly goes back to Irenaeus once again.

Indeed it is Irenaeus who argues in Book Three of Adversus Haereses, immediately following a discussion of the Marcionites, that:

It follows then, as of course, that these men must either receive the rest of his [i.e. Luke’s] narrative, or else reject these parts also [which they accept]. For no persons of common sense can permit them to receive some things recounted by Luke as being true, and to set others aside, as if he had not known the truth. And if indeed Marcion's followers reject these, they will then possess no Gospel; for, curtailing that according to Luke, as I have said already, they boast in having the Gospel. But the followers of Valentinus must give up their utterly vain talk; for they have taken from that [Gospel] many occasions for their own speculations, to put an evil interpretation upon what he has well said. If, on the other hand, they feel compelled to receive the remaining portions also, then, by studying the perfect Gospel, and the doctrine of the apostles, they will find it necessary to repent, that they may be saved from the danger [to which they are exposed] But again, we allege the same against those who do not recognise Paul as an apostle (eadem autem dicimus iterum et his, qui Paulum apostolum non cognoscunt): that they should either reject the other words of the Gospel which we have come to know through Luke alone, and not make use of them; or else, if they do receive all these, they must necessarily admit also that testimony concerning Paul, when he (Luke) tells us that the Lord spoke at first to him from heaven: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? I am Jesus Christ, whom you persecute, Acts 22:8, Acts 26:15 and then to Ananias, saying regarding him: Go your way; for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name among the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him, from this time, how great things he must suffer for My name's sake. Acts 9:15-16 Those, therefore, who do not accept of him [as a teacher], who was chosen by God for this purpose, that he might boldly bear His name, as being sent to the forementioned nations, do despise the election of God, and separate themselves from the company of the apostles. For neither can they contend that Paul was no apostle, when he was chosen for this purpose; nor can they prove Luke guilty of falsehood, when he proclaims the truth to us with all diligence. It may be, indeed, that it was with this view that God set forth very many Gospel truths, through Luke's instrumentality, which all should esteem it necessary to use, in order that all persons, following his subsequent testimony, which treats upon the acts and the doctrine of the apostles, and holding the unadulterated rule of truth, may be saved. His testimony, therefore, is true, and the doctrine of the apostles is open and steadfast, holding nothing in reserve; nor did they teach one set of doctrines in private, and another in public.

Many simply assume that Irenaeus has suddenly – and inexplicably - ‘switched gears’ and started discussing the Ebionites in the middle of a discussion of the Marcionites and Valentinians. Yet this is particularly absurd given that everything before and after the reference points to the Marcionites who alone of all the heretical groups are consistently identified as using only ‘part’ of Luke’s writings – i.e. only a portion of the gospel and rejecting Acts, which is clearly the point here.

Indeed as Gregory C Findley “If Irenaeus was discussing the Ebionites here, why then did he seem to indicate that they have gathered some information available only from the Gospel of Luke? Since he had earlier said that the Ebionites used the Gospel of Matthew only, this is an unusual reference … All the surrounding material seems to be concentrated against Marcionites and Valentinians, who were specifically named in the preceding and subsequent paragraphs, and who used selected portions of the Gospel of Luke. In my view, the best explanation of this passage is that Irenaeus was not speaking of the Ebionites, but was less than precise in his use of language.” Findley goes one step further and adds that the Sources chretiennes also gives some support to the idea that Irenaeus was speaking of some Marcionite or Valentinian group that does not recognize Paul as in Book 3. 14.3, Irenaeus discussed ideas that have come to us from Luke alone and further mentioned "heretics," whom the Sources Chretiennes editors indicated were to be identified with Marcion or Valentinus. Sources chretiennes, Irenee De Lyon, Contre Les Herisies Livre III (ed. Rousseau and Doutreleair, SC 210 and 211; Paris: Cerf, 1974)

Findley’s solution to the problem is to assume that Irenaeus is speaking about the Encratites, which opens a number of interesting possibilities with respect to the original context of the strange statement in what survives of the beginning of Book Five of Adversus Marcionem:

Nihil sine origine nisi deus solus. Quae quantum praecedit in statu omnium rerum, tantum praecedat necesse est etiam in retractatu earum, ut constare de statu possit, quia nec habeas dispicere quid quale sit, nisi certus an sit, cum cognoveris unde sit

When the text goes on to declare:

Et ideo ex opusculi ordine ad hanc materiam devolutus apostoli quoque originem a Marcione desidero, novus aliqui discipulus nec ullius alterius auditor, qui nihil interim credam nisi nihil temere credendum, temere porro credi quodcunque sine originis agnitione creditur, quique dignissime ad sollicitudinem redigam istam inquisitionem, cum is mihi affirmatur apostolus quem in albo apostolorum apud evangelium non deprehendo

one wonders whether we stand on the oldest stratum of the original work. In other words, that Justin was indeed an Encratite and passed on those beliefs to his disciple Tatian only to have his works ‘purged’ of his authentic beliefs. In other words, by this assumption that Irenaeus was indeed intimately aware of such a group who shared the gospel with the Marcionites but did not recognize the apostolic writings associated with him.

At the very least then, the opening words of Adversus Marcionem Book Five reflect the same difficulty with the Marcionite understanding of the apostle that is referenced in Adversus Haereses – he is unknown and the only way to understand his true identity is by referencing the canonical Acts of the Apostles. If the author’s lack of knowledge of Paul is acknowledged to be related to the lack of citations of Pauline material in Justin’s works - i.e. that the work was originally developed by Justin as a rejection of the Apostolikon – then we can immediately see that a considerable amount of material and especially orthodox scriptural readings were added to the text as it passed through the hands of Irenaeus.

For the crux of the whole discussion in the first three chapters of Adversus Marcionem is that the Catholic text of Galatians is authenticated by Acts. The argument is very closely related to things that Irenaeus says in the same section of text that our last citation is drawn from (i.e. Adversus Haereses 3:14,15). Irenaeus makes clear in this same section that the aforementioned heretical group related to the Marcionite which doesn’t know Paul uses only parts of Luke but rejects Acts. This closely parallels what scholarship has determined about the canon of Justin. Justin's use of Luke is all but certain, but scholars generally reject the idea that Justin knew and used Acts. Justin seems to fit the kind of person Irenaeus was criticizing in Adversus Haereses 1.15.1. If Justin is acknowledged to have written the oldest strata of material in Adversus Marcionem Book Five - Photius identifies many anti-Marcionite treatises by Justin – then the subsequent layering of material from Acts on top of his original confession of ignorance about Paul seems to indicate Irenaeus ‘rehabilitative’ efforts.

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