Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Next Chapter in the Myth of Jesus Christ [Part Two]

It is very important to place the Marcionite embracing of the codex as one of the most critical decisions in the future success of the Jesus religion. The idea of developing a faith around a new piece of technology was unprecedented. There are no agreed upon dates for the emergence of Marcionitism. Tertullian admits he doesn't have a clue when the tradition first appeared but nevertheless confidently assigns 'Marcion' to the first year of Antoninus Pius or 138 CE. Irenaeus of Rome only adds that the ideas behind Marcionitism went back even further. Clement of Alexandria, a contemporary of Irenaeus says that Marcion was already an old man during the reign of Antoninus's predecessor and mentor Hadrian. Clement dates Marcion's conversion to the time of Jesus.

If we harmonize this conflicting dates for the emergence of Marcionitism to a date of about 100 CE we uncover an extraordinary agreement once again with the emergence of the codex. Roberts and Skeat in their Birth of the Codex "it is impossible to believe that the Christian adoption of the codex can have taken place any later than circa 100 AD" although they add "it may of course have been earlier." But how much earlier? The earliest mention of the new technology is to be found in the Latin poet Martial and dated by experts to 84 CE. No codices were found at Qumran (pre-70 CE) or the destroyed but amazingly preserved Roman city of Pompeii (pre-79 CE).

The point here is that even with no evidence for the use of codices in the period immediately following the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 CE, the new Christian Bible can be seen as a reaction to that historical event.  The codex was very much a Roman invention.  Whoever used this new technology at the early dates suggested here would certainly have not only visited the city of Rome but have been a man of means to be on the cutting edge of innovation.  Even if the exclusion of other Jewish texts was not intentional initially, it soon led to a state of affairs where members of the new faith saw their gospel and their epistles as set apart from other writings. To this end 'Marcion' is widely thought to have been the first Christian to have established a 'canon' of New Testament writings.

Yet what often gets over looked in all of this is that without a codex it is difficult to acknowledge the existence of an 'Old Testament.'  In other words, many scholars believe that because the ancient Jews used scrolls up until the destruction of Jerusalem, the concept of 'canon' or fixed 'rule' of scriptures was unknown to them.  To this end we arrive at a very unique logical difficulty.  Was the establishment of the first codex of New Testament  writings necessarily a rejection of traditional Judaism?  Was Christianity itself developed as a turning away from the covenant of Moses?

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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