Friday, February 10, 2012

Why I Think Irenaeus Was The Final Editor of the Canonical Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew

Irenaeus, the canonical Gospel of Mark and the canonical Gospel of Matthew all share something in common - they consistently identify Jeremiah and Isaiah as the authors of things that were never written by these prophets.  Mark 1:2 is a perfect example.  Not only does the author/editor of the canonical text mistake 'Isaiah' as the author of material which comes from Malachi, Irenaeus makes the very same mistake.  In fact Irenaeus strangely mistakes Isaiah the author of Malachi 3:1 and then 'gets it right' - i.e. identifies the material as coming from 'the prophets' in the very same collection.  The very same thing is evidenced by the surviving manuscripts of Mark.  First someone made Irenaeus's mistake of identifying the fused material as belonging to Isaiah (AH 3.11.8) and then rightly ascribes the material to 'the prophets' (AH 3.10.5; 3.14.3)

Yet the Isaiah ascription certainly came first.  Why else would the material be fused together in this way?  Nevertheless it is very difficult to figure out why two people would make the very same mistake.  One could argue that someone in the third century came along and 'fixed' the original reference in Mark 1:2.  Yet is it really believable that someone came along and corrected Irenaeus in two places and then forget to amend the surviving 'Isaiah' reference?

The more likely possibility in my mind is that Irenaeus's writings were developed organically.  You can see that at the beginning and end of each book.  Irenaeus was piecing together things he had previously written on various subjects related to the heresies and just so happened to have included the original 'Isaiah' reference in the process.

Of course it can plausibly be argued that someone came along after Irenaeus and compiled things he had written here, there and everywhere.  Yet even in this scenario the evidence suggests that Irenaeus 'changed his mind' about the author of the material cited in Mark 1:2,3.  And this isn't the only time this happens.  Irenaeus cites an apocryphon five separate times in Against Heresies and attributes it both to Isaiah (AH 3.20.4) and Jeremiah (AH 4.22.1).  Yet it is worth noting again that the material in Book Four was by all accounts created subsequently to the material in Book Three.  Interestingly by Book Five Irenaeus no longer ascribes the saying to a particular witness - "as the prophet says concerning Him: 'And the Lord remembered His dead saints who slept formerly in the land of sepulture; and He descended to them, to rescue and save them.'"

The clear impression we are getting is that Irenaeus was not an expert on the Jewish scriptures.  He was learning things as he went along.  This becomes even more significant when we look at the only other surviving work of Irenaeus, the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching.  It is here that the translator Joseph Smith has notice a seemingly endless series of mistakes including:

This is He, who is called in the Law "the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living ..." [Smith "in the law," that is e.g. Exod. 3.6, for the words the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jab, the comment He is not the God of the dead but of the living is added in Matt. 22.32.  In AH 4.5.2 however Irenaeus correctly assigns the latter comment to Christ p. 146]

For he says: the spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, and of godliness, the spirit of the fear of God shall fill him [Smith "Isa. 11.2f  In our manuscript the words spirit of knowledge are missing but I have supplied them, the omission being clearly a slip of the pen since Irenaeus refers in what follows  to all seven gifts in Isaiah]

For he spoke to him from the heavens, and said to him: Go forth out of thy country and from thy kindred and out of thy father's house, and go over into a land which I will show thee and dwell there Smith Gen 12.1. The following "and dwell there" seems to be presented as part of the quotation, but is not in the text quoted]

while he was seventy years old, and had a wife, and while she herself was of a ripe age, he rose up with her and went forth from Mesopotamia [Smith "Abram's age at the time is given as seventy-five years of age in Gen. 12.4]

..of which the translation is A Son in the Beginning God established then heaven and earth witness to this is borne also by Jeremiah the prophet, saying as follows Before the daystar I begot thee, thy name is before the sun [incredibly stupid translation of the first lines of Genesis and Smith continues "Not Jeremias but a composite quotation from Ps 109.3 and Ps. 71.17.  The same two texts are so associated by Justin, Dial. 76 and by later Fathers.  Cf. J. R. Harris suggestion that the source was a catena against the Jews (cf. Introd. 37 - 38).  The composite text and the attribution to Jeremias could then be account for by supposing that the source to have had, for instance: Jeremias: Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee, also from the womb before the daystar I begot Thee; his name continueth before the sun."  The text attributed correctly in Jeremias (Jer 1.5) has been omitted as less suitable for the present purpose, but the two Psalm-texts have been mistakenly supposed to be a single quotation from the same source as the preceding one]

And again he [Jeremias] says: blessed is He who existed before He was made man; for the Son was a beginning for God before the world was made [Smith "the attribution of the same apocryphal quotation to Jeremias in Lactantius, Inst. div 4.8 ... Harris (Testimonies, vol. 1.73) suggests that the quotation in Lactantius (ref. above) may have its origin in an apocopation of a variant of Ps. 71.17 (quoted in preceding note) "beatus qui erat antequam nesceretur (sol)." the reference to Jeremias being accounted for in the manner of the preceding note]

Exodus 3:7 (with omissions)

And again Isaiah the prophet says: Thus saith Lord to my anointed Lord: whose right hand I have taken hold of that that the nations hearken before him; and as for how the Son of God is called both the anointed and king of nations that is of all men David also says ... [Smith "Isa 45.1 LXX but with the variant Kuriw instead of Kurw ('to my anointed Lord' instead of 'to my anointed Cyrus), a reading found before Irenaeus in Barnabas, Epist. 12.11 and after him in other fathers (Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius): it has been suggested that the reading - though in error - was the original reading of the Septuagint, "Cyrus" being made much later]

Nich 5.2 quoted as with in Matt 2.6 according to the reading of Codex Bezae

more to follow ...

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