Friday, October 26, 2012

Marcion and Aquila [Part Six]

Let's go back and look at that citation in Eusebius which makes reference to Aquila's version of Exodus 6:3:

Aquila says, "And I was seen by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a sufficient God (ἐν θεῷ ἱκανῷ)," clearly showing that the Almighty God Himself, Who is One, was not seen in His own Person; and that He did not give answers to the fathers, as He did to Moses by an angel, or a fire, or a bush, but "as a sufficient God": so that the Father was seen by the fathers through the Son, according to His saying in the Gospels, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." For the knowledge of the Father was revealed in Him and by Him. [Demon. Ev. 5.13]

What exactly is Eusebius saying that Aquila's translation of the Pentateuch tells us about the godhead?  Clearly it is that 'El Shaddai' - the being who revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - was not the god who made his presence known to Moses, or revealed himself as Jesus in the gospel.

This is clearly a sensible reading of the Mosaic narrative.  Moses stands on a higher plane than the rest of the Patriarchs.  But it is also worth noting that the names 'El Shaddai' and 'Moses' share one thing in common in Hebrew - they have a numerical value of 345.  Moses (םשה) is 40+300+5=345; El Shaddai (אל שדי) is 1+30+300+4+10=345.  This can't be coincidental and such a 'coincidence' would be highly significant to the ancient religious psychology

But there is another 345 personality in the Pentateuch - the messianic 'Shiloh' (שילה) figure of Genesis 49:10 (300 + 10 + 30 + 5 = 345).  The standard translation of the Masoretic text is something like - "scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs (= Shiloh) and the obedience of the nations is his."  Since Shiloh has the same numerological value as Moses, this future personality was understood to be messianic.

Yet it is also worth noting that the various ancient Greek translators including Aquila translated Shiloh as "he whose right it is" or perhaps better "the right one."  This is highly significant especially as the Marcionite title for Jesus - Chrêstos, although superlative in form, often only means appropriate or right.  The connotation of the common use of the superlative form is to signify the right person or the right thing, when only one can be the right one. The right one is therefore the one most right.

To this end it is deeply significance that Aquila, the translation authorised by Rabbinic Judaism, is the most explicit. The Peshitta agrees. I don’t mean this is the literal etymological meaning, because that is obscure, but this is what the word was universally taken to mean in the context. Neither does the LXX disagree in translating the word as ΑΠΟΚΕΙΜΕΝΟΣ meaning “the one stored away”.

The underlying point here of course is that if we take 'El Shaddai,' Moses and Shilo as mystical concepts rather than historic ones, one can argue that we see the past, present and future of Israel.  Each name is associated with an underlying 'mathematical' concept - the number 345.  It is not our point to 'buy into' such a mystical system but rather to get into the minds of those who formulated a religious tradition from these writings.

Let us not forget that while Moses was certainly understood by Israelites to have been a historical figure, there was always an understanding at the same time of him as a man who turned into a divine being.  Jewish and Samaritan cultures have always taken note of that the letters of his name spell 'the name' (either as haShem among the Jews or Shemah among the Samaritans).  In other words, Moses ultimately becomes divine (or has the divinity restored that was lost at the time of Adam).

To this end the Marcionite concept of Chrêstos may well be associated with the original expectation of a divine redeeming 'right one' foreshadowed by the original appearance of Moses.  We just don't know enough to say anything with certainty either way.  Yet what is clear from the context of the statement in Eusebius cited above - Aquila's understanding of the sufficient God (= ἐν θεῷ ἱκανῷ) has very Marcionite and heretical undercurrents.  The upshot is that the true God, the perfect divinity was not known to the Patriarchs.  Isn't this at the heart of the Church Fathers attacks against the Marcionite sect?

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