Friday, November 30, 2012

Decisive Proof that the Marcionite Text of Galatians Did Not Have Chapter One and Most of Chapter Two

As readers of this blog know all too well - I despise the academic interpretation of Marcionitism.  I know that at times my disgust may sound puerile.  After all, one would expect people who have survived rigorous training at a university to be better authorities on a subject than some jackass working from a blog.  Nevertheless, I stand by my accusation - namely that Marcionitism is essentially 'disrespected' by scholarship because it has no living representatives.  Scholars basically build on an uncritical examination of the apparent 'agreement' between Tertullian's Against Marcion Books Four and Five and Epiphanius's Panarion (even though the actual 'agreement' undoubtedly comes from them using a common source = Irenaeus).

The problem with the scholarly opinion about Marcionitism is that no one cares more about the tradition more than their own career advancement.  Marcion is like the drunk girl at the party who is passed around to various party-goers, lifeless and thus ultimately defenseless.  The problem of course is that the Church Fathers hate Marcionitism and the modern academic loves an easy, defenseless target.  One can say anything one wants about Marcionitism as long as it stays within the uncritical bounds of previous scholarship (hence the disgustingly two-dimensional work of Sebastian Moll for instance).

The problem is that the origins of Marcionitism is a delicate problem.  It is a lot like untangling a long electrical cord which has been used and reused by thousands of people over the centuries and is now bound in a large knot.  The starting point surely has to be Tertullian's work on Marcion, but that doesn't mean starting with his assumptions.  The place to begin is in the remarkable anomalies which are often ignored in discussions about Marcion.

A perfect examples are the open words of Book Five - the book which seems to examine the Apostolikon.  Of course the question of course is - does it really?  The question which at least a few scholars have asked is - does Tertullian actually have a copy of the Marcionite Apostolikon sitting there in front of him?  This may seem like a silly question but as we learn from Book Four we have to be cautious about our presuppositions.  For instance in that book, while Tertullian does say he is going to compare the Marcionite gospel to the gospel of Luke there are a great number of 'lapses' where Tertullian accuses Marcion of cutting things out of 'his gospel' which never appear in our copies of Luke.

How do we explain why Tertullian's argument is inconsistent?  Did he use an original source which compared the Marcionite gospel to the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of the Hebrews (i.e. 'proto-Matthew), the Diatessaron (= the 'gospel harmony' which Epiphanius claims is the gospel according to the Hebrews) or a proto-Luke (like that mentioned in Ephrem's Commentary on the Diatessaron which began with Jesus's baptism of John)?  There are no easy answers but we should stop pretending that everything is straightforward with our surviving material.  We are dealing with a copy of a copy of reworking of a translation of a copy or so at least Tertullian admits at the beginning of the Against Marcion collection.

As we move on to Book Five there is this naive claim that because Tertullian treats the Marcionite Apostolikon in a Galatians first order that the Marcionite Apostolikon began with Galatians.  This is underscored by Epiphanius explicit inference from their common source that this was so.  But Epiphanius is the worst sort of witness.  He always mistakes inference for evidence and so we have to look for signs that Tertullian himself (or his source) was really using his own Galatians first collection of the Pauline letters to accuse the Marcionites.

Here is the ultimate proof of that assertion.

Our Epistle to the Galatians is the most biographical of all the letters of Paul.  When you read its open chapters we get to 'know' the Apostle the Catholic tradition allegedly shared with the Marcionites.  He begins by complaining that someone has corrupted his gospel.  He references his own conversion from a Jewish persecutor of the tradition to one of its leaders.  He claims to have visited James and the rest of the apostles in Jerusalem presented them with his gospel and they embraced him and his text (leaving the question of the 'Judaisers' who corrupted his gospel something of a mystery other than it wasn't the pillars of the Church).

The manner in which professional scholars 'accept' this understanding of the identity of the Apostle - acting as if it was universally accepted - is among the most annoying aspects of the study of early Christianity.  It should be patently obvious that the Marcionites rejected this understanding of 'Paul.'  It is hinted at several times in the writings of Irenaeus (AH 3.14 - 16).  Of course the argument tends to get distracted by the Marcionite rejection of Acts.  But someone should have noticed that all reporting of the Marcionite version of Galatians 'skip' from Galatian 1:1 to the end of chapter 2.  In other words, the Church Fathers are entirely silent about the Marcionite texts preservation of all the biographical material in between.  Why so?  Because quite obviously it was not there.

How do we know this?  Well my friends, if these professional scholars had been doing their homework they would have noticed what the opening words of Tertulian's Against Marcion Book Five (the book that deals with the collection of the apostolic letters) says about the Marcionite understanding of their apostle.  In no uncertain terms what is said here precludes the possibility of the Marcionite version of Galatians containing all the biographical information contained in that 'black hole' of chapter 1 and 2.  For Tertullian explicitly writes that:

Nothing is without an origin except God alone. In as much as of all things as they exist the origin comes first, so must it of necessity come first in the discussion of them. Only so can there be agreement about what they are: for it is impossible for you to discern what the quality of a thing is unless you are first assured whether itself exists: and you can only know that by knowing where it comes from. As then I have now in the ordering of my treatise reached this part of the subject, I desire to hear from Marcion the origin 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 with- out good reason, and that that is believed without good reason which is believed without knowledge of its origin: and I must with the best of reasons approach this inquiry with uneasiness when I find one affirmed to be an apostle, of whom in the list of the apostles in the gospel I find no trace. So when I am told that he was subsequently promoted by our Lord, by now at rest in heaven, I find some lack of foresight in the fact that Christ did not know beforehand that he would have need of him, but after setting in order the office of apostleship and sending them out upon their duties, considered it necessary, on an impulse and not by deliberation, to add another, by compulsion so to speak and not by design. 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? Only so may you with confidence disembark him: only so can he avoid being proved to belong to him who has put in evidence all the documents that attest his apostleship. He himself, says Marcion, claims to be an apostle, and that not from men nor through any man, but through Jesus Christ.a Clearly any man can make claims for himself: but his claim is confirmed by another person's attestation. One person writes the document, another signs it, a third attests the signature, and a fourth enters it in the records. No man is for himself both claimant and witness. Besides this, you have found it written that many will come and say, I am Christ.b If there is one that makes a false claim to be Christ, much more can there be one who professes that he is an apostle of Christ. [Against Marcion 5.1]

The point of course again is that if the Marcionites had the material in chapter one and two of Galatians the whole issue of the Marcionite rejection of Acts wouldn't matter.  Galatians chapters one and two provides at least some identification of who the apostle was.  To this end, it because certain that when Tertullian cites from these sections in the chapter that follows he is citing from his own Galatians-first collection of the Pauline epistles - the one shared by other Syrian Catholics in the second and third centuries.  There is no evidence at all for a Galatians first Marcionite canon because there is no evidence that Tertullian or his source ever possessed that collection.  

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