Friday, November 16, 2012

The Syntagma of Justin, Marcion and the Philosophumena

My last post was a little rushed owing to the sudden return from my trip.  When I looked at the text which Epiphanius cites as 'Against the Valentinians' I was struck by the manner in which it bears little resemblance to the Valentinian section in the Philosophumena.  The relationship between the Philosophumena and Hippolytus's Syntagma is generally acknowledged, so too this Syntagma with the original syntagma attributed to Justin.  As such I couldn't help wonder how anyone can put forward the idea that Irenaeus's Against the Valentinians derives its origin from Justin's Syntagma.  Even Irenaeus says at the very beginning that he has based what follows on personal experience rather than a previous written source.

We already noted that the Philosophumena makes reference to a curious parallel with Celsus in the section clearly related to the lost Syntagma.  Both Celsus and the Philosophumena accuse Christian heretics of stealing from Plato.  Celsus even makes the argument that the same ideas the Christians shared in common with the philosophers were better said by the ancient Greeks because they weren't prone to exaggeration (I will have to check the section for parallel use of terminology with the Philosophumena).

The point is that the Philosophumena by its very name makes the case that the heretics stole from the philosophers.  What if this wasn't Hippolytus's innovation but already present in the original syntagma of Justin?  What struck me about the sections where heretics come up in Justin's writings he inevitably treats them as philosophers.  Here are two prominent examples:

And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them. And whether they perpetrate those fabulous and shameful deeds — the upsetting of the lamp, and promiscuous intercourse, and eating human flesh— we know not; but we do know that they are neither persecuted nor put to death by you, at least on account of their opinions. But I have a treatise against all the heresies that have existed already composed, which, if you wish to read it, I will give you. (1 Apology 26)

There are, therefore, and there were many, my friends, who, coming forward in the name of Jesus, taught both to speak and act impious and blasphemous things; and these are called by us after the name of the men from whom each doctrine and opinion had its origin ... they style themselves Christians, just as certain among the Gentiles inscribe the name of God upon the works of their own hands, and partake in nefarious and impious rites.) Some are called Marcians (Μαρκιανοί), and some Valentinians, and some Basilidians, and some Saturnilians, and others by other names; each called after the originator of the individual opinion, just as each one of those who consider themselves philosophers, as I said before, thinks he must bear the name of the philosophy which he follows, from the name of the father of the particular doctrine. (Dialogue 35)

Is it just me or do we see here already the basic framework for the Philosophumena likely reflected in the syntagma of Justin?  Of course some would argue that this is no proof of the constitution or make up of the lost syntagma.  Yet the reference in the Dialogue clearly takes on the appearance of a catalog of heresies.

Notice also that there is a mention of the 'followers of Mark' instead of the Marcionites.  Indeed in other texts we see Μαρκιανος deliberately altered to Μαρκίων.  We have to assume that what actually happened was the Latin collective plural Marciani (= those of Mark) was changed to the Greek equivalent Μαρκίων (i.e. not an individual so named).  This is basically confirmed by the Muratorian canon altering the original Marciani to Marcionitae.  The point of course is that all of the -ianoi suffixes in the early catalogs of the heresies can be explained by assuming the original syntagma was composed in Latin.  The followers of Mark originally gathered in συναγωγης Μαρκιων (Markian Synagogues) but this name was rendered in the Latin syntagmas as Marciani.

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