Monday, November 12, 2012

Marcion and the 'Encratites' - Following the Trail of the Dog

There is something very curious about the patterns associated with the accounts of the Encratites and the Marcionites in the various heretical compendiums.  It is hard to argue against the idea that 'those of Marcion' and 'those of Justin' (others would say 'those of Tatian' but who are we kidding) are related traditions.  Markus Vinzent has noted common scriptural variants between the two groups.  The surprising difficulty though seems almost insurmountable at first glance - Justin is summoned up as Irenaeus's sock puppet against Marcion on numerous occasions.  The surviving letters of Justin (as they have been preserved by Irenaeus again) feature clear rejections of Marcion.

And there is one more thing which at first seems to cement 'clear differences' between the sects - the Marcionites are always identified as 'the Pauline sect' par excellence while Justin never explicitly cites or mentions Paul and his writings.  The Encratites are clearly referenced by Irenaeus as denying the Apostle Paul. What is really going on here?  Could it be that the Encratites were a 'special kind' of Marcionite?  One who denied the identity of the apostle Paul in the manner that Clement of Alexandria references with respect to the evangelist Mark?

It is tricky to navigate through these waters but one fact has been overlooked by many commentators - 'the Encratites' seem to follow Cerdo in the original syntagma of Justin and thus 'take the place' of Marcion in Against Heresies (see previous post).  There is also something else which is odd - both the Marcionites and the Encratites are interchangeable as the 'cynic Christian sect.'  Here are some important references in the Philosophumena alone:

Marcion, a native of Pontus, far more frenzied (μανικώτερος) than these (heretics), giving up the majority of the tenets of the greater number, (and) hastening into a doctrine still more insolent, supposed two originating causes of the universe, alleging one of them to be a certain good (αγαθόν) principle, but the other harmful (πονηρόν). And himself imagining that he was introducing some novel (opinion), founded a school full of folly, and attended by men of a Cynic way of life (κυνικοῦ βίου), inasmuch as he himself was to the utmost degree. [Phil. 7.29]

When, therefore, Marcion or some one of his hounds (τῶν ἐκείνου κυνῶν) barks against the Demiurge, and adduces reasons from a comparison of what is good and bad, we ought to say to them, that neither Paul the apostle nor Mark, he of the maimed finger, announced such (tenets). For none of these (doctrines) has been written in the Gospel according to Mark. [ibid 7.30]

Others, however, styling themselves Encratites (Ἐγκρατίτας), acknowledge some things concerning God and Christ in like manner with the Church. In respect, however, of their mode of life, they pass their days inflated with pride. They suppose, that by meats they magnify themselves (βρωμάτων ἀποχῆς δοξάζειν νομίζοντες), while abstaining from animal food (ἀπεχόμενοι ἐμψύχων), being water-drinkers (ὑδροποτοῦντες), and forbidding to marry (γαμεῖν κωλύοντες), and devoting themselves during the remainder of life to habits of asceticism (τῷ λοιπῷ βίῳ καταξήρως προσέχοντες,). But persons of this description are estimated Cynics rather than Christians (μᾶλλον Κυνικοὶ ἢ Χριστιανοὶ οἱ τοιοῦτοι κρινόμενοι), inasmuch as they do not attend unto the words spoken against them through the Apostle Paul. Now he, predicting the novelties that were to be hereafter introduced ineffectually by certain (heretics), made a statement thus: "The Spirit speaketh expressly, In the latter times certain will depart from sound doctrine, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, uttering falsehoods in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats, which God has created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by the faithful, and those who know the truth; because every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected which is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." This voice, then, of the blessed Paul, is sufficient for the refutation of those who live in this manner, and plume themselves on being just; (and) for the purpose of proving that also, this (tenet of the Encratites) constitutes a heresy.[8.20]

Tatian, however, similarly with Valentinus and the others, says that there are certain invisible AEons, and that by some one of these the world below has been created, and the things existing in it. And he habituates himself to a very cynical mode of life (κυνικωτέρῳ δὲ βίῳ), and almost in nothing differs from Marcion, as appertaining both to his slanders, and the regulations enacted concerning marriage.[10.18]

But Marcion, of Pontus, and Cerdon, his preceptor, themselves also lay down that there are three principles of the universe--good, just, and matter. Some disciples, however, of these add a fourth, saying, good, just, evil, and matter. But they all affirm that the good (Being) has made nothing at all, though some denominate the just one likewise evil, whereas others that his only title is that of just. And they allege that (the just Being) made all things out of subjacent matter, for that he made them not well, but irrationally. For it is requisite that the things made should be similar to the maker; wherefore also they thus employ the evangelical parables, saying, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit," and the rest of the passage. Now Marcion alleges that the conceptions badly devised by the (just one) himself constituted the allusion in this passage. And (he says) that Christ is the Son of the good Being, and was sent for the salvation of souls by him whom he styles the inner than. And he asserts that he appeared as a man though not being a man, and as incarnate though not being incarnate. And he maintains that his manifestation was only phantastic, and that he underwent neither generation nor passion except in appearance. And he will not allow that flesh rises again; but in affirming marriage to be destruction, he leads his disciples towards a very cynical life (κυνικωτέρῳ βίῳ). And by these means he imagines that he annoys the Creator, if he should abstain from the things that are made or appointed by Him.[10.19]

Verily, O Euxine, you have produced a monster more credible to philosophers than to Christians. For the cynic Diogenes (canicula Diogenes) used to go about, lantern in hand, at mid-day to find a man; whereas Marcion has quenched the light of his faith, and so lost the God whom he had found. [Tertullian Against Marcion 1.2]

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar Christ Jesus vouchsafed to glide down from heaven, a salutary spirit.' In what year of the elder Antoninus the dog-like spirit (aura canicularis) of Marcion's salvation, whose opinion this was, breathed out from his own Pontus, I have forborne to inquire. [ibid 1.19]

Now then, you dogs, whom the apostle puts outside, and who yelp at the God of truth, let us come to your various questions. These are the bones of contention, which you are perpetually gnawing! If God is good, and prescient of the future, and able to avert evil, why did He permit man, the very image and likeness of Himself, and, by the origin of his soul, His own substance too, to be deceived by the devil, and fall from obedience of the law into death? [ibid 2.5]

Of course there is something rather curious about the references to the Marcionites being 'Cynics' in the Philosophumena - it blatantly contradicts the author's running thesis that the sect is really Empedoclean.  Indeed earlier in Book Four the Philosophumena makes the case that Empedoclean philosophy is really Pythagoreanism.

Something is just plain odd the manner in which Marcion is identified as 'dog-like' here.  Given the fact that Tertullian copies another source which consistently makes the 'Cynic' reference (Book Two of Against Marcion is usually identified as having Theophilus of Antioch's lost treatise Against Marcion as its source) and the fact that Irenaeus never once makes any 'dog-like' references about Marcion, it would stand to reason that the Cynic attributions with respect to Marcion were not original to the recopied Syntagma of Justin.  Indeed it is worth noting that Irenaeus's only reference to the heretics being 'Cynics' goes in the completely opposite direction and involves Valentinians rather than Marcionites or Encratites.

In Book Two of Against Heresies Irenaeus uses the Cynics to embody an attitude of 'indifference' with respect to dietary prohibitions.  We read:

Again, their opinion as to the indifference of [eating of] meats and other actions, and as to their thinking that, from the nobility of their nature, they can in no degree at all contract pollution, whatever they eat or perform, they have derived it from the Cynics, since they do in fact belong to the same society as do these. [Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.14.5]

When we stop and think about it, this would appear to be a more accurate use of the 'Cynic' concept.  The Marcionites and the Encratites refused to eat meat and had strict rules about eating.  The Cynics on the other hand preferred raw meat and could not possibly have sustained dietary laws of any sort.  What exactly is at the bottom of the 'Cynic' references?  Perhaps as ascetics they appeared to resemble the Cynic preacher.  This is certainly at the heart of Lucian of Samosata's Passing of Peregrinus.

Nevertheless the simple fact is that the argument at the heart of the Philosophumena against the Encratites simply doesn't make sense.  They could possibly be counted 'Cynics' because of their claims that by "food they magnify themselves, while abstaining from animal food and being water-drinkers."  The Cynic attitude was above all else to be natural.  Something else is at the heart of this comparison.

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