Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm Sorry Markus Vinzent But There is Simply No Good Reason to Believe that the Marcionites Had a Collection of Letters of Paul that Began With the Letter to the Galatians

I was reading this claim discussed (and reinforced) in Markus Vinzent's latest post at his blog, and - not wanting to single the professor out alone - wanted to direct the point at all previous studies of Marcionitism.  The bottom line is that Tertullian and Epiphanius ultimately derive from the same source - probably Irenaeus.  This explains the 'agreement' between these two sources with respect to Marcionite variants and their 'disagreement' with respect to all our other sources.

But now let's deal with the specific claim that the Marcionite canon 'began with to the Galatians.'  The only person whoever made this idiotic claim was Epiphanius, the same guy who jumps to all sorts of uncritical conclusions based on misunderstandings of his original sources.  In any event, let's revisit Tertullian's copying of that common original source with respect to Galatians.  After introducing the Catholic figure of 'Paul' from Acts and the orthodox epistles (a figure the Marcionites did not know or recognize), Tertullian continues:

Habe nunc et apostolum de meo sicut et Christum, tam meum apostolum quam et Christum. 

You have now the apostle based on my evidence, as you do Christ; he is my apostle, as also Christ is mine.
Iisdem et hic dimicabimus lineis, in ipso gradu provocabimus praescriptionis, oportere scilicet et apostolum qui cre- atorisnegetur, immo et adversus creatorem proferatur, nihil docere, nihil sapere, nihil velle secundum ereatorem, et inprimis tanta constantia alium deum edicere quanta a lege creatoris abrupit.. 

Here too our contest shall take place on the same front: my challenge shall be issued from the same stance, of a case already proven: which is, that an apostle whom you deny to be the Creator's, whom in fact you represent as hostile to the Creator, has no right to teach anything, to think anything, to intend anything, which accords with the Creator, but must from the outset proclaim his other god with no less confidence than that with which he has broken loose from the Creator's law.

Neque enim verisimile est ut avertens a Iudaismo non pariter ostenderet in cuius dei fidem averteret, quia nemo transire posset a creatore nesciens ad quem transeundum sibi esset. 

For it is not likely that in diverging from Judaism he did not at the same time make it clear into which god's faith he was diverging: because it would be impossible for anyone to pass over from the Creator, without knowing to whom his transit was expected to lead.

Sive enim Christus iam alium deum revelaverat, sequebatur etiam apostoli testatio, vel ne non eius dei apostolus haberetur quem Christus revelaverat, et quia non licebat abscondi ab apostolo qui iam revelatus fuisset a Christo

Now if Christ had already revealed that other god, the apostle's attestation had to follow: else he would not have been taken for the apostle of the god whom Christ had revealed, and indeed it was not permissible for a god already revealed by Christ to be kept hidden from the apostle.

sive nihil tale de deo Christus revelaverat, tanto magis ab apostolo debuerat revelari, qui iam non posset ab alio, non credendus sine dubio si nec ab apostolo revelatus.

Or if Christ had made no such revelation about that god, there was the greater need for his being revealed by the apostle: for there was now no possibility of his being revealed by any other, and without question there could be no belief in him if not even an apostle revealed him.

Quod idcirco praestruximus, ut iam hinc profiteamur nos proinde probaturos nullum alium deum ab apostolo circumlatum, sicut probavimus nec a Christo, ex ipsius utique epistulis Pauli, 

Such is my preliminary argument. From now on I claim I shall prove that no other god was the subject of the apostle's profession, on the same terms as I have proved this of Christ: and my evidence will be Paul's epistles.

quas proinde mutilatas etiam de numero forma iam haeretici evangelii praeiudicasse debebit.

that these have suffered mutilation even in number, the precedent of that heretic's gospel makes it necessary for us to prejudge.

Principalem adversus Iudaismum epistulam nos quoque confitemur quae Galatas docet.

The primary epistle against Judaism we also confess is that which the Galatians know.

Amplectimur etenim omnem illam legis veteris abolitionem, ut et ipsam de creatoris venientem dispositione, sicut saepe iam in isto ordine tractavimus de praedicata novatione a prophetis dei nostri.

We fully embrace the abolition of the ancient law, and hold that it actually proceeds from the dispensation of the Creator,----a point which we have already often treated in the course of our discussion, when we showed that the innovation was foretold by the prophets of our God.

The complexity in this argument isn't owing to the fact that Tertullian is a particularly original thinker.  It is owing to the fact that the texts themselves are layered.  The surviving manuscript itself has been reworked so many times, by so many people (cf. Against Marcion 1.1) that a critical examination of the material necessarily requires something more than the superficiality that is typically given to them.

Let's start at the beginning.  Tertullian says effectively that:

  1. he can't provide any direct proof that the Apostikon was forged by Marcion.
  2. instead of demonstrating this 'fact' he will rely instead on the 'proof' in the previous work against Marcion's falsification of the gospel (= Book Four of Against Marcion) to allow the reader to 'prejudge' the existence of Marcionite forgeries here too
  3. yet there is also curiously another argument that runs through the first two chapters which also hearkens back to Book Four which is that the God which Christ revealed 'must be' the Creator
This is what makes the whole of Tertullian's Against Marcion so utterly bizarre and confusing.  There are competing arguments laid side by side one another.  In this transition from the introduction (= chapter one) to the actual textual analysis of the Apostolikon Tertullian begins by making an argument that the apostle couldn't have introduced another god beside the one that Jesus introduced.  What makes this so unusual is that this implies that the gospel had a life independent from the apostle, which it didn't according to the Marcionites.  

In other words, the Marcionites held that the apostle wrote the gospel. So why do we see Tertullian deal exclusively with the question of whether Jesus in the gospel revealed another god in Book Four and then start Book Five asking - as if a separate inquiry - whether the apostle and Jesus shared the same (Jewish) God?  It doesn't make sense and the disconnect is critical.  It would be like examining the Last Supper for signs of homosexuality and then start a separate inquiry into the letters of Leonardo DaVinci for the same thing but treating them as independent phenomena.  

My point is that Tertullian's approach doesn't make sense.  The gospel - according to the Marcionites - was the apostle's 'Last Supper' or 'Mona Lisa.'  Book Four treats the narrative as if it were totally independent from the apostle's hand.  Tertullian speaks of 'Jesus' as a completely independent voice through out - i.e. 'Jesus says,' 'Jesus does this or that' and then Marcion's additions are treated separately.  Paul is only mentioned in Book Four rarely and bizarrely.

The first reference is this idiotic statement where the actual Marcionite formulation (i.e. that Paul wrote the gospel) is negated and then a formulation from the Catholic edition of the Letter to the Galatians is used to negate any implications from the actual (and original) Marcionite formulation about Paul writing the gospel:

even if Marcion had introduced his gospel under the name of Paul in person, that one single document would not be adequate for our faith, if destitute of the support of his predecessors. For we should demand the production of that gospel also which Paul found , that to which he gave his assent, that with which shortly afterwards he was anxious that his own should agree: for his intention in going up to Jerusalem to know and to consult the apostles, was lest perchance he had run in vain [4.2] 

So - let us get this straight again - 'even if' the Marcionites say what they say Tertullian says that 'my edition' of the Letter to the Galatians disproves their claims because if Paul is our Paul his gospel would certainly have reflected the ideas in our canon and our belief system.  A thoroughly circular (and utterly insipid) argument.

In the chapter that follows in Book Four Tertullian brings up a variation on this annoying circular logic by rhetorically asking whether the Marcionites could be in possession of the original Pauline gospel which 'the Gospel of Luke' was a reworked copy.  He answers his own question by claiming:

Marcion has got hold of Paul's epistle to the Galatians, in which he rebukes even the apostles themselves for not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel,a and accuses also certain false apostles of perverting the gospel of Christ and on this ground Marcion strives hard to overthrow the credit of those gospels which are the apostles' own and are published under their names, or even the names of apostolic men, with the intention no doubt of conferring on his own gospel the repute which he takes away from those others. [4.3]

This argument is so stupid it almost doesn't even deserve to be answered.  But the important thing which scholars avoid seeing again is that this 'Letter to the Galatians' is the Catholic version of the text.  There is absolutely no proof that the Marcionite text resembled it.  At least a few scholars have noted that the Church Fathers only mention specific Marcionite variants closer to chapter three of the text.

The point that is never recognized that all that Tertullian mentions here - Paul going up to Jerusalem presenting a 'document' which is his gospel and having that text 'approved' by the heads of the Church might well be a Catholic invention.  The claims that the Marcionites shared this text of Galatians for chapters one and two is highly unlikely.  When Tertullian goes on to speak of "that document which gave light to Paul, and from him to Luke" being "completely destroyed ... then not even Marcion has a true one" - this again offers a window into the Marcionite worldview.  But we should not go beyond the idea that the gospel of Luke was a corruption of the original gospel associated with Paul.

Tertullian (or more likely Irenaeus originally) lays down a trap which seeks to draw the Marcionites (and the readers more correctly) into the Catholic text of the Epistle to the Galatians noting:

if that is to be the true one (i.e. the gospel of Paul used by the Marcionites), if that is the apostles', which Marcion alone possesses, then how is it that that which is not of the apostles, but is ascribed to Luke, is in agreement with ours? Or if that which Marcion has in use is not at once to be attributed to Luke because it does agree with ours—though they allege ours is falsified in respect of its title—then it does belong to the apostles. And in that case ours too, which is in agreement with that other, no less belongs to the apostles, even if it too is falsified in its title.

The point again here is that Tertullian is going back time and again to a Catholic version of the Epistle to the Galatians which makes the (absurd) claim that the apostles adopted or agreed to Paul's gospel.  This was certainly not in the Marcionite text of Galatians and as such would not even be something up for discussion by the Marcionites.

So to revisit our original point - this is the extent to which Tertullian actually addresses the real opinions of the Marcionites.  This is the only place where Tertullian makes reference to the idea that Paul wrote the gospel so his opinions are already reflected here as well as the Apostolikon.  In point of fact, there is no 'juxtaposition' between 'the gospel' and the 'the letters of Paul' according to this group.  What we see however throughout the work - and even in these two references - is an attempt to deal exclusively with Catholic concepts, paradigms and texts.  How on earth then can anyone claim that when Tertullian gets to deal with the Epistle to the Galatians in Book Five he is actually dealing with the Marcionite canon?  It is absolutely absurd.

We should recognize once and for all that Tertullian (or Irenaeus before him) is actually using the Catholic collection of Pauline letters - one that happens to begin with Galatians first - and use that collection to disprove Marcionitism.  Only a blind man can't see that it is Tertullian's own canon which put Galatians first.  It shows up in his discussion of the gospel for heaven's sake.  How would the Marcionite canon have determined Tertullian's repeated use of an otherwise 'minor epistle'?  The scholarly comeback of course is to say that 'it must have been because the Marcionites were so attached to the letter' that Tertullian made reference to it.  Ha ha!  Tertullian was only 'being faithful' to the Marcionites?  Then why does he do such a shitty job explaining their most sacred belief that Paul wrote the gospel?

It is a Catholic agenda - not a 'faithfulness' to do justice to the Marcionite tradition - which drives all arguments made in Against Marcion.  To this end, Galatians comes first not because it did so in the Marcionite canon but because it did in the original author of Against Marcion.  The same is in fact true about the references to the Gospel in Book Four.  Tertullian is not reflecting the order of the Marcionite canon but the Syriac text of Luke referenced also by Ephrem - who in his Commentary on the Diatessaron says explicitly that it begins with Jesus being baptized by John.  Why don't people see this?  I don't know but I don't think that I or anyone else will be able to make them see that the Galatians first canon was Catholic not Marcionite, no matter how hard we try.

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