Thursday, November 15, 2012

What is the Exact Relationship Between Marcion and the Pontus [Part Two]

The point then of our previous post is to ask the question - how certain can we be that Marcion was actually from Sinope or Pontus based on the evidence from an ever evolving 'syntagma'?  The simple-minded answer is to point to the 'agreement' that Justin, the alleged 'author' of the syntagma, and Irenaeus the preserver and its 'authorized developer' happen to 'agree' on the 'reality of Marcus of Pontus.'  There are two references to 'Marcion of Pontus' in Justin's First Apology. The fact that Irenaeus also testifies to this 'fact' appear as a slam dunk.  Moreover the fact that Tertullian 'agrees' in most people's mind 'seals the deal' once and for all.

Yet as we just noted Irenaeus's Against Marcion was undoubtedly Tertullian's source for Books Four and Five just as Theophilus's treatise against the sect has been established as the source behind Book Two and a lost treatise of Justin Martyr (used again in Tertullian's Against the Jews) is behind Book Three.  One can almost certainly also posit something Irenaeus wrote as being behind Book One.  As such the fact that Tertullian 'agrees' with Irenaeus is hardly of great import. He is just acting as an echo chamber for Irenaeus's thesis.

So now there is the question of the uncanny agreement between Justin and Irenaeus.  This, on the surface at least is a much more powerful argument than the Tertullian-Irenaeus thesis given that Justin is Irenaeus's predecessor.  Indeed because of this 'agreement' between Justin and Irenaeus most scholars already start their investigation into the development of the syntagma supposing that Against Heresies is 'more original' and closer to Justin's syntagma than either the Philosophumena or pseudo-Tertullian's Against All Heresies.

We have already demonstrated by means of Celsus's witness that in fact there are strong arguments in favor of the Philosophumena being much more faithful to the lost syntagma.  We should also mention two ignored facts

  1. Photius makes reference to Hippolytus developing a syntagma of his own 
  2. Photius's description of Hippolytus's activity assumes that Irenaeus never actually initiated a development of an expansion of Justin's original syntagma

In other words, many scholars acknowledge the manner in which Hippolytus's syntagma was an expansion of Justin's original but they fail to recognize how this effort precludes the possibility of Hippolytus being in the possession of Against Heresies or an 'Irenaeanized' syntagma.

The critical statement in Photius's report is that Hippolytus's syntagma was made from Irenaeus's lectures on the subject of the various heresies:

the tractate entitled Against the Thirty-two Heresies (τὸ σύνταγμα κατὰ αἱρέσεων λβʹ) of Hippolytus, the pupil of Irenaeus. It begins with the Dositheans, and goes down to the heresies of Noetus and the Noetians. These he says were refuted (ἐλέγχοις) by Irenaeus in his addresses (ὁμιλοῦντος), of which the present work is a synopsis." [Photius Biblio. 121]

The word omilountos makes clear that Hippolytus either heard or had written copies of the original addresses on the individual heresies.  Photius makes reference to these texts in another section of his Bibliotheca when he says "St. Irenaeus is said to have been the author of many other works of various kinds including letters, in some of which it should be observed that the exact truth of the doctrines of the Church appears to be falsified by spurious arguments."  The clearest example of these 'written building blocks' behind both Against Heresies and the Philosophumena is the Latin text of Against the Valentinians.  The fact that this Latin translation, Against Heresies and the Philosophumena all contain common information but laid out in different order and with massive omissions makes clear that one standardized edition of Irenaeus's 'lecture' on this sect did not exist in the third century yet.

Yet when Epiphanius cites a massive section of text from Irenaeus against the Valentinians as being "from the writings of Irenaeus" (ἐκ τῶν τοῦ ἁγίου ειρηναιου) and then concludes the citation with an identification of its source as not being from 'Against Heresies' but 'Irenaeus Against the Valentinians (Εἰρηναίου κατὰ τῶν Οὐαλεντίνων) it is clear that Epiphanius is dealing with a more original Irenaean source than our Five Volume epitome.  Indeed it is rarely acknowledged that Epiphanius's 'Irenaeus Against the Valentinians' includes material not found in Book One of our Against Heresies.  It would seem that Epiphanius's version of 'Irenaeus Against the Valentinians' ends with Irenaeus's account of Secundus (AH 1.11.1 - 5) and Ptolemny (AH 1.12) but with text identifying Epiphanes (identified as a Carpocratian in Clement's Stromata) as a Valentinian.  Our copies of Against Heresies erase this name 'Epiphanes' perhaps representing a harmonization effort between Irenaeus's original treatise and Clement's Stromata.

A similar patter is demonstrated with respect to Irenaeus's report about the Marcosians.  This report is separated from the previous Valentinian testimony by means of a separate anacephalaeosis or a rhetorical device recapitulating or 'bringing everything back to its head' or start.  Nowhere does Epiphanius directly suggest that Marcus was Valentinus student.  The only thing that Epiphanius says is that Marcus 'took the place' (διαδέχεται) of Secundus, Epiphanes, Ptolemy and Valentinus.  The implication that Marcus came after the aforementioned heretics is that Irenaeus clearly speaks of him in the present tense and the Valentinians in the past tense.

One may also tentatively suppose however that "the work written against Marcus himself and his successors by the most holy and blessed Irenaeus" (Εἰρηναίου κατ' αὐτοῦ τοῦ Μάρκου καὶ τῶν ἐξ αὐτοῦ ὁρμωμένων πραγματευθεῖσιν) which Epiphanius used must have came after 'Irenaeus Against the Valentinians' in the tome of Irenaeus's writings.  It is strange that Epiphanius calls one text 'Against the Valentinans' but this work is not identified as 'Against the Marcites.'  Instead he makes a vague reference to the contents.  The fact that Irenaeus does make reference to "another work" from the collected lectures which now make up Against Heresies in which he promises to "refute them (i.e. 'Marcion and his followers' out of these (scriptures) which they still retain" is very interesting.  To presume that he wrote two treatises one κατὰ Μαρκίωνα and another  κατὰ τοῦ Μάρκου is very unusual especially if we suppose that Μαρκίων could be translated 'those of Mark.'

Of course the fact that Irenaeus wrote individual treatises and these were plucked by Hippolytus and then perhaps one of his students to leave us with the Philosophumena in no way contradicts the idea that Marcion was from Pontus or in fact that the Marcionites were a separate group from the Marcites.  Nevertheless it has to be noted again that the Philosophumena stands closer to the original syntagma of Justin (by way of the aforementioned syntagma of Hippolytus where Irenaeus's student 'arranged' lectures of Irenaeus according to a pre-existent 'syntagma' of Justin).  This reality makes it almost certain that the structure of Against Heresies - i.e. where the account of Marcus with no mention of any students follows that of 'the Valentinians' and where students of Marcus (so Epiphanius from the original lectures) become students of Valentinus including Marcus himself.

The original lectures of Irenaeus were problematic for the third century Church.  Hippolytus and Photius agree about this, Hippolytus insofar as he reports Marcites saw the original report and complained about (a)  inaccuracies (which Hippolytus acknowledges existed) and (b) ambiguities insofar as the Marcites themselves tried to shift blame for the 'redemption baptism' to Marcus's students.   It is not hard to see from the arrangement of the Philosophumena when compared with Epiphanius's testimony regarding the original contents of Irenaeus's lectures that Hippolytus has (a) transformed Colorbasus and Heracleon from being Marcites to Valentinians and (b) erased reference to specific variations within the original redemption rites associated with these students of Marcus to anonymous references.  The fact that Epiphanius's testimony agrees with Philosophumena that Epiphanes was a Valentinian against Clement of Alexandria's testimony that he was a Carpocratian reveals that this systematic 'correction' of Irenaeus's information also continued within Against Heresies after it was assembled into separate work.

All of this tends to suggest that rather than the Church having 'firm testimony' against the heresies we have a situation characterized by:

  1. over reliance on a single source - Irenaeus
  2. and where even that original information from Irenaeus was shifting like the sands over time

This situation has severe repercussions for anyone trying to make sense of the heresies.  For it would seem that we cannot assume a direct relationship between Against Heresies and the syntagma of Justin even though Irenaeus is the only one who makes reference to this syntagma (aside from Justin himself).  Irenaeus did not arrange his lectures into the form they now take - i.e. the Five Books Against Heresies.  This was carried out after his death and by someone other than Hippolytus presumably given that his Sytagma and later the Philosophumena represent independent efforts to expand Justin's syntagma by means of 'lectures' on the heresies given by Irenaeus. 

Whoever arranged the Five Books Against Heresies was not Hippolytus.  This person also clearly was not satisfied with leaving the existing canon of writings of Irenaeus in its original form.  One must imagine that this effort was carried out during the early third century when Hippolytus makes reference to strained relations with the Roman presbytery.  It is also worth noting that the Five Books Against Heresies is something more than a mere adaptation or expansion of the syntagma of Justin.  The editors have sought to make a definitive edition of Irenaeus's originally 'spurious arguments' (as Photius refers to them) contained in the lectures themselves.  The editors have literally smashed apart the original organization and names of treatises and pasted together long running arguments into one another until the reader cannot know where one lecture begins and another ends.  

This cannot be imagined to be accidental.

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