Sunday, December 2, 2012

Here's What I Am Thinking

As noted many times at this blog, I've been thinking about Marcion for a long, long time.  Not always, of course - 'actively' thinking about Marcion.  But it's been at the back of my mind since I was in my early twenties.  There have been many stages to my thought.  The idea that Celsus is particularly interested in Marcionitism, that 'being against contemporary Jewry' doesn't mean Marcion was 'anti-Semitic,' that Marcion might in fact have been Jewish or more specifically a Jewish proselyte (or more specifically again - that Marcion directed his message at Jewish proselytes cf. the beginning of Terullian Against Marcion Book Three), that the Ignatian canon mirrored the systematic falsification of the Marcionite canon and on and on it goes.

I left the problem of Marcion alone because quite frankly it isn't just about 'piecing together' what the Marcionites believed.  There is all this terrible scholarship out there, written not only by apologists for the existing Orthodoxy (in its many 'misguided' forms) but also people who embrace Marcion because they see him as a way out of actually understanding or caring about Judaism.  But when I discovered that very old and consistent reference in the Syriac canons to a Galatian conference of bishops at the time of Polycarp against 'Sabellius' I quickly realized that Irenaeus's silence - and of those who followed his 'inspiration' - added up to an explanation of why the Letter to the Galatians appeared first in the earliest canons (sorry Trobisch, Hengel and everyone else who missed that one).

The Marcionite apostle was not 'Paul' - viz. our inherited Catholic portrait of the 'apostle to the Gentiles.'   In other words, this portrait was shaped by something else. I had long suspect that the Marcionite apostle was reshaped after the image of someone else.  But whom?   There were several important clues but the most obvious is the manner in which the existing canon reflects a Hellenic proselytizing effort.  The letters of Paul are directed to mostly cities in Greece and Asia Minor.  At the same time the historic appeal of the apostle to Alexandria (cf. Muratorian canon) is not present.  In my mind this had to reflect a reshaping of the original identity of the Marcionite apostle (which was 'secret' cf. Against Marcion 5.1, Prescription Heresies 23) into something else.

The original Marcionite apostle was a shadowy figure who established an orthodoxy presumably in the first century and for which Marcion himself allegedly came as a rescuer in the early second century.  Marcion is said to have fought against a contemporary 'Judaizing' effort in the early second century.  It is difficult to piece together all the details of this transformation because it is two pronged in nature i.e. (a) thesis (= the Judaizing) (b) antithesis (= Marcion) and then (c) synthesis (= our canon, Orthodoxy etc).  It is hard to even go backward from (c) to (b) let alone to (a) or even 'point zero' (= the original apostle).

Of course none of the other scholars who have written about Marcion see it this way.  To be honest, they are too interested in advancing their own career and so - they deal with 'small, manageable problems' which in the end become distractions and obstacles from the original truth we are all after.  For to get away with 'Marcion and His Apostle' and all the other 'must read works' the authors had to appear to be 'dealing with firm realities.'  Essentially they lied, or at least misrepresented the existence of 'sureties' in a field that has little or none to speak of.

In any event, getting back to the original point, if (c) equals the modern canon and belief structure it is important not to oversimplify how long and difficult this was to establish.  One can't say that Irenaeus manufactured it all out thin air.  This was an organic development from Polycarp to Irenaeus (with its own 'thesis,' 'antithesis' and 'synthesis' with respect to his rival Florinus at Rome) and there were many more of these smaller patters within every cycle of development (think for a minute about Hippolytus who clearly purged many of Irenaeus's Sabellian tendencies). The point of course is that when we are speaking at its most basic Polycarp has to be the figure after whom the Catholic personna of 'Paul' was developed.

There are three important pieces of information we have to consider here:

  1. the Ignatian canon features Polycarp as 'secretary' of the bishop in a corpus that as we note was systematically reshaped in a manner parallel to the Marcionite corpus.  As we go from Syriac to short Greek forms in the Ignatian corpus Polycarp is introduced as this 'secretary figure.'  This means that it is unlikely that Polycarp originally had this role.  It was rather part of a systematic pattern of forgery by which both the Ignatian and Marcionite canons were reformed (i.e. by establishing 'synergoi' who spoke on behalf of the original 'hero' (a parallel situation exists with respect to Josephus who let's not forget is associated with a chronicle dated to 147 CE  = Hegesippus, obviously written by more of these synergoi).   A scenario is established in the Ignatian canon where Ignatius essentially evangelizes Asia Minor.  It's original form as noted Polycarp wasn't acting as 'press agent' for Ignatius.  Indeed Polycarp wasn't originally identified as the 'bishop of Smyrna.'  This was all established later undoubtedly in the era of Irenaeus as part of an explanation of how Polycarp could have had the authority to challenge bishop Anicetus on the question of Easter.  Then what was Polycarp's original relationship with Irenaeus?  The answer has to be Polycarp was Ignatius 'the fiery one' the one who longed to have a fiery martyrdom and then in a later period the one 'elder' was divided into two as a means of 'answering objections.'  
  2. the parallels between Polycarp and Lucian of Samosata's Peregrinus.  I have written about this extensively.  I am quite certain that the two figures are one and the same.  I have a rough outline of that argument up at Hermann Detering's site published on the evening my son was born.  The shadowy figure of 'Peregrinus' is specifically identified with an evangelic effort in Greece and Asia Minor.  Polycarp is always associated with the churches of Asia Minor.  So too is there clear evidence of the corruption of his original letters after his death which are the Ignatian corpus (so Lightfoot and many others).  To this end we already have the basis for understanding the development of a 'worldwide' Church with a particular stronghold in Asia Minor in the name of the shadowy 'elder' but later 'divided' into two figures - 'Ignatius' the fiery one and Polycarp the 'elder' bishop of Smyrna.  The person who did the dividing is obviously Irenaeus (cf. the Moscow MS of the Martyrdom of Polycarp).  
  3. Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians has long been noted to be a fusion of two separate works (cf. Koester).  Not only does this text reflect an original interest of Polycarp in a Greek conversion effort, but it adds an edition (presumably by the hand of Irenaeus) that Polycarp not Irenaeus first used the Ignatian canon as a means of appealing the message of the universal Church in Greece and Asia Minor.  The admission in the added material to the Epistle to the Philippians makes clear that the Church associated with Polycarp was actively promoting his separation from 'the fiery one' Ignatius.  This was being carried out in Greece and Asia Minor.  It was linked to Irenaeus (who not only cites from the Ignatian corpus (not specifically named) and Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians.  There is clear caution in Irenaeus's efforts owing to the fact that Florinus was still alive as were many others who knew the truth about 'the elder.'  Notice that the name 'Polycarp' is only used in AH 3.2 alongside a reference to the Epistle to the Philippians.  This is not accidental.  

The point of course when we put all these details together is the fact that the Catholic figure of 'Paul' was almost certain reshaped after the original image of the original 'elder' of the community (= Polycarp/Ignatius). Not only is Paul now 'in chains' and shares the 'elders' hatred of 'heresy' but at a more basic level both were involved in an appeal to Greece and Asia as well as a prominent visit to Rome which would define their career (= martyrdom).  

Yet without getting too bogged down in the details, it is important to go back to the Galatians first canon order which seems to have spread throughout the Church of Polycarp from the time of Zephyrinus (cf. Ephrem's reference to Palut as a bishop appointed by that Roman bishop).  Clearly then we have a slice of the establishment of the Galatians first canon of Ephrem and the Syriac Sinaiticus.  Why Galatians first?  Clearly the excommunication of 'Sabellius' is at the heart of this.  Neither 'Polycarp' nor 'Ignatius' (another Latinism derived from an Aramaic term meaning 'fiery one' and 'angel') is the 'elder's real name.  When the heads of the Church gathered at Ancyra in Galatia gathered to condemn the common 'elder' one must imagine that the elder himself must have had a response.  At any event we must imagine that the structuring of the Galatians first canon was the response of his followers (= Irenaeus).  

To the Galatians in its original Irenaean form tells the story of how Paul went to visit with the heads of the Church and 'submitted to their authority' in order to allow for his community to basically assume control of the community in the years following the death of James and John.  He said according to Irenaeus and Tertullian:

I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We gave in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

The context then was a gathering of 'Judaizers' in Galatia whereby 'the apostle' (substitute 'the elder' any time you want) allowed himself to accept the authority of the Judaizers in order to allow his message to continue.  This is very significant and the manner in which our text now reads 'not submit' is only covering up the original logic.

The story told to the Galatian community of Paul submitting his authority to Judaizers is meant to explain Polycarp's association with Judaizers.  We must never forget that his confrontation with Anicetus bishop of Rome caused Irenaeus to completely falsify his historical legacy.  The 'elder' became 'Polycarp' (many fruits) not only to distinguish him from 'the fiery one' (owing to the popularity of Lucian's narrative) but also the monarchian doctrine originally associated with him ('one' vs. 'many').  It was difficult to reconcile Polycarp the Judaizer with the Roman tradition's original Marcionitism.  Remember Victor's efforts to cut off Polycarp's churches.  By creating a (false) scenario whereby Paul not only went to meet the heads of the Church and submit his gospel but ultimately submit to their authority 'wiggle' room was created for Polycarp insofar as a precedent was set whereby 'Judaizing' wasn't necessarily his real beliefs.  In short, he "gave in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you" - a policy option for those Judaizers in Galatia and Asia Minor who were having trouble adapting to the new 'rule' of the Roman Church in the age of Zephyrinus (when the forgery was formally adopted as a theological 'road map' for peace in the Church).

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