Friday, November 30, 2012

Another Demonstration of Tertullian's Rejection of Marcionite Doctrines Developing From His Own Text of 'To the Galatians'

I can't believe that so many ridiculous opinions have developed trying to incorporate the Catholic epistle to the Galatians as if it were used by the Marcionites.  I have been writing about this for the last few posts.  There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that the Marcionites knew anything between Galatians 1:1 and the end of chapter two.  All the biographical information about the apostle which appears in between clearly contradicts the repeated assertion of Tertullian (and Irenaeus) that the heretics provided no information about their apostle in their canon.

With respect to the misreading of Tertullian, take a careful look at this wonderful example which appears in Book One of Tertullian's Against Marcion.  Scholars, exhibiting a typical superficiality are right to note that Tertullian employs a lot of material from Galatians Chapters One and Two in his discussion of Marcionite claims of 'gospel corruptions' on the part of their enemies.  But notice of course that this material flatly contradicts the original point of the Marcionites which is that (a) the Christian community became corrupted in the age of Marcion by Judaizers who (b) fell away from a belief in the hidden and previously unknown god above the Creator.

It is nothing short of careless intellectual sloppiness that allows scholars to suppose that Marcion must have held that his apostle fought against the same heresies in the apostolic age.  In fact, the only reference that is explicitly made to Marcionite doctrine is that the corruption happened 'after the apostolic age.'  In other words, the Marcionite text of the Pauline letters supposes no corruption of any kind.  The revelation of Paul was followed by a successful consolidation of a Christian community around his (secret) gospel and its (secret) god.  There is no hint of dispute, contention or factionalism.  All references to these apostolic disputes follow from Tertullian's Catholic Epistle to the Galatians which I have noted differed marked from the Marcionite original:

This short and sharp argument calls for justification on our part against the clatter and clamour of the opposite party. They allege that in separating the Law and the Gospel Marcion did not so much invent a new rule as refurbish a rule previously debased. So then Christ, our most patient Lord, has through all these years borne with a perversion of the preaching about himself, until, if you please, Marcion should come to his rescue. 

For that Peter and those others (nam et ipsum Petrum ceterosque), pillars of the apostleship, were criticized (reprehensos) by Paul for not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel —by that Paul, you understand, who, yet inexperienced in grace, and anxious lest he had run or was running in vain, was then for the first time conferring with those who were apostles before him. So then if, as still a neophyte, in his zeal against Judaism he thought something in their conduct called for reproof, their indiscriminate associations in fact, though he himself was afterwards to become in practice all things to all men—to the Jews as a Jew, to those under the law as himself under the law—do you allege that that reproof, concerning conduct and nothing more, conduct which its critic was afterwards to approve of, must be supposed to refer to some deviation in their preaching concerning God? On the contrary, in respect of the unity of their preaching, as we have read earlier in this epistle, they had joined their right hands, and by the very act of having divided their spheres of work had signified their agreement in the fellowship of the gospel: as he says in another place, Whether it were I or they, so we preach.

Also, although he writes of how certain false brethren had crept in unawares, desiring to remove the Galatians to another gospel,e he himself shows clearly that that adulteration of the gospel was not concerned with diversion of the faith towards another god and another Christ, but with adherence to the regulations of the law. In fact he found them insisting on circumcision, and observing the seasons and days and months and years of those Jewish solemnities which they ought to have known were now revoked in accordance with the reforming ordinance of that Creator who had of old taught of this very thing by his prophets: as for example by Isaiah, The old things are passed away, and behold they are new things which I now make, and in another place, And I will ordain a covenant, not such as I ordained for your fathers when I had brought them out from the land of Egypt:g so also by Jeremiah, Renew for yourselves a new fallow, and be circumcised for your God, and be circumcised in the foreskins of your heart. So then, in commending this sort of circumcision and this sort of fallow, the apostle was expressing disapproval of those antiquated solemnities: for that these would sometime cease, God himself who had established them was on record as declaring, through Hosea, And I will turn aside all her mirth, her feast days, and her new moons and sabbaths, and all her solemnities. So also by Isaiah, Tour new moons and sabbaths, and the great day, I cannot abide: your appointed days and your fasting, and your feast days, my soul hateth.

Now if even their Creator had long ago rejected all these, and the apostle's pronouncement was that they must now be rejected, evidently the fact that the apostle's judgement is in agreement with the Creator's decrees, proves that no other god was the subject of the apostle's preaching, but only he whose decrees the apostle was anxious should now be acknowledged, while in this behalf he stigmatized as false apostles and false brethren such as should divert the Gospel of the Creator's Christ from the newness which the Creator had foretold, to the oldness which the Creator had rejected.

Now if it was as the preacher of a new god that he desired to revoke the law of the old God, why does he give no instructions regarding that new god, but only about the old law? It must have been that while faith in the Creator stood firm, his law, and that alone, had to give way. To this effect that psalm also had already spoken: Let us break their bonds asunder from us, and cast away from us their yoke, ever since, in fact, The heathen raged and the peoples imagined vain things, the kings of the earth stood by and the rulers came together into one, against the Lord and against his Christ. And indeed if it had been another god that Paul was preaching, there could have been no controversy about keeping the law or not keeping it, for the law would have been of no concern to a new lord, one hostile to the law: the god's very newness and diversity would have excluded not merely the discussion of that old law, which was not his but another's, but even the slightest reference to it.

Rather the whole essence of the discussion was that while the same God, the God of the law, was being preached in Christ, his law was under criticism: and consequently, while faith in the Creator and his Christ stood for ever firm, conduct and discipline were in doubt. For there were some who disputed about eating things offered to idols, others about the veiling of women, others about marriage and divorce, and a few even about the hope of the resurrection: about God, not a one. For if that question also had been in dispute, it too would be in evidence in the apostle's writings, the more so as that on which the other things depend. 

But if it was after the apostolic age that the truth suffered adulteration as regards the rule of God, it follows that in its own time the apostolic tradition suffered no adulteration as regards God's rule of faith, and we shall be called upon to recognize as apostolic no other tradition than that which is today set forth in the apostolic churches. But you will find no church of apostolic origin whose Christianity repudiates the Creator. Or else, if these churches are taken to have been corrupt from the beginning, can any churches be sound? Shall they be those hostile to the Creator? Put in evidence a single one of your churches which is of apostolic origin, and you will have me convinced. Since then it is on all accounts certain that from Christ right down to Marcion no other god than the Creator was included in the statement of this mystery, this gives all necessary protection to my statement of case, by which I prove that the very idea of that heretical god originated with this separation between the gospel and the law; while there is support for my previous postulate that we may not accept as a god one whom a man has constructed out of his own mind—unless of course he is a prophet, and then it would not be of his own mind. Whether Marcion can be so called—well, proof of this will be required. There was no call for discussion: the truth, like a wedge, thrusts out every heresy, while Christ is set forth as the representative of no other god than the Creator. [Against Marcion 1.20, 21]

Of course Tertullian complains that Chapters One and Two of Galatians make no reference to the dispute the Marcionites reference in the letter - i.e. a distinction between the (secret) Christian god and the known Jewish god.  The Marcionites had a very different letter.  Galatians 1:1 was almost immediately followed by Galatians Chapter 3 and its discussion of the obligation upon Christians to rid themselves of bondage to the stoicheia of the Jews.  It's incredible to think that all these 'experts' have prattled on about the Marcionite 'rejection of Peter' - I see absolutely no evidence of this from any of the following material.

The Marcionite understanding was very similar - if not identical with that developed in Clement's Letter to Theodore (= 'Secret Mark').   The apostle for which they refuse to give a name and deny any sort of biographical information developed a 'secret gospel' built on the foundation of what was previously laid down, presumably by Peter (cf. Prescription Against the Heresies 23f.)

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