Friday, December 7, 2012

The Present Text of Against Marcion Book Four Moved the 'Blessed is the Womb' Reference to Where It Appears Now in Luke Rather Than Where it Appeared in the Diatessaron

It really is quite straightforward.  We have already seen that the Gospel Harmony tradition and the actual gospel of Marcion placed the 'Blessed is the womb' material (= Luke 11.27) as the introduction to Question about Jesus's Mother and Brothers (Luke 8:19 - 21).  Tertullian's Against Marcion was clearly developed from an original source which used a Diatessaron because his reference to 'Blessed is the Womb' in Book Four Chapter Twenty Seven still 'attaches' it to the Question about Jesus's Mother and Brothers discussed in Book Four Chapter Nineteen.  Just look at the reference:

A woman from the multitude cries out, that blessed was the womb that had borne him, and the breasts which had given him suck. And the Lord answers, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it: because even before this he had rejected his mother and his brethren, because he prefers those who hear God and obey him. For not even on the present occasion was his mother in attendance on him. It follows that neither on the previous occasion did he deny having been born. So now, when he hears this once more, once more he transfers the blessedness away from his mother's womb and breasts and assigns it to the disciples: he could not have transferred it away from his mother if he had had no mother. [Against Marcion 4:27]

Of course the fuddy duddies will argue that he because Tertullian is denying the association it was never there originally.  But this is idiotic.  There are hundreds of passages in the gospel he could be talking about.  The reason he is denying any association between the two passages is - as we have seen - because it was not only there in the Marcionite gospel but also in his original source.

It can't be coincidence that the two passages are explicitly paired in Against Marcion Book 3 and On the Flesh of Christ.  Tertullian's original source - no less than Ephrem - used a Diatessaron and addressed the Marcionite contention that 'Blessed is the womb' and the Question about his Mother and Father being connected for a reason and sought to argue against the idea that together they proved that Jesus was an angel.  Of course once we open the flood gates to the idea that our present Against Marcion Book Four is a broken up re-arrangement of an original treatise which argued against Marcion from a Diatessaron it is impossible not to notice at least one other notable anomaly.

I have always noticed that the idea of the hostile crowd (of Jews) trying to push Jesus off a cliff only to pass through his body and plunge to their deaths appears in both the Diatessaron and Marcionite gospels.  Baarda has written a useful discussion of the references in the Diatessaron tradition.  But notice that not only does Tertullian reference the appearance of the motive in Against Marcion 4:8:

Here, as I for the first time ob- serve that hands were laid upon him, I am called upon to say something definite about his corporal substance; that he who admitted of contact, contact even full of violence, in being seized and captured and dragged even to the brow of the hill, cannot be thought of as a phantasm. It is true that he slipped away through the midst of them, but this was when he had experienced their violence, and had afterwards been let go: for, as often happens, the crowd gave way, or was even broken up: there is no question of its being deceived by invisibility, for this, if it had been such, would never have submitted to contact at all. Touch or be touched nothing but body may, is a worthy sentence even of this world's philosophy.d In fine, he did himself before long touch others, and by laying his hands upon them—hands evidently meant to be felt—conveyed the benefits of healing, benefits no less true, no less free from pretence, than the hands by which they were conveyed.

It also seems to appear in reference to the 'sign of John' in Against Marcion 4.38:

Christ knew the baptism of John, whence it was. Why then did he ask the question, as though he did not know? He did know that the pharisees would not answer him. Why then did he ask, to no purpose? Was it not that he might judge them out of their own mouth, or even out of their own heart? So take this episode to bear on the justification of the Creator, and on Christ's agreement with him, and ask yourself what the consequence would have been if the pharisees had returned an answer to his question. Suppose they had answered that John's baptism was from men: they would at once have been stoned to death. Some anti-marcionite Marcion would have stood up and said, 'See a god supremely good, a god the opposite of the Creator's doings! well aware that men were going to fall headlong, he himself put them on the edge of a precipice.' For this is how they treat of the Creator, in his law about the tree.a But suppose John's baptism was from heaven. And why, Christ says, did ye not believe him ? So then he whose wish it was that John should be believed, who was expected to blame them for not believing him, belonged to that God whose sacrament John was the minister of. At all events, when they refused to answer what they thought, and he replied in like terms, Neither do I tell you by what power I do these things, he returned evil for evil. [Against Marcion 4.38]

Again we have to use our imagination here.  We can't simply deal with what survives in the current text but wonder if it is possible that the idea of Jesus referencing the 'sign of John' somehow incited the crowd to try to kill him.  It is also noteworthy that just before the 'Blessed is the womb'/Questions about Jesus mother and brothers is the famous reference to the 'sign of Jonah.'  A common original reference to Aramaic yonah (i.e. something which could be read as a diminutive of John and/or 'dove' might be behind both.

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