Friday, December 28, 2012

How Previous Scholarship is Making Piecing Together the Centonized Canon of Pauline Writings that Much More Difficult

There is an interesting pattern which emerges in the writings of Methodius which should be noted.  In the anti-Origenist passage cited by Epiphanius in the Panarion, Methodius speaks about 'the saying' (sing.) of the apostle which seems to span a great body of works.  The references moves from Romans 6 - 7 to Colossians 3 to 1 Corinthians 15:

And the apostle's saying, "He shall also quicken your mortal bodies," (Romans 6:11) even when the body is mortal and incapable of true life, can be a proof that, although the bodily form of which we have spoken is by nature mortal, it will itself be changed from a "body of death," (Romans 7:24) be quickened by the life-giving Spirit "when Christ who is our life shall appear," (Colossians 3:4) and from [this] become spiritual. And "Some man will say, How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?' (1 Corinthians 15:35) is also plain proof that the first substratum will not be raised. For if we have understood the illustration properly, we must hold that when the generative principle in the grain of wheat has laid hold of the matter which surrounds it, has permeated it entirely and has taken control of its form, it imparts its own powers to what was formerly earth, water, air and fire, and by prevailing over their characteristics transforms them into the thing whose creator it is. And thus the ear of grain comes to maturity, vastly different from the original seed in shape, size and complexity. [Panarion 64.16.5f]

Here's what makes it so difficult to track down this reference.  First of all, Schaff's edition of Methodius is sloppy - the reference to Col 3:4 in Bonwetsch is listed as 'Col 3:4' everywhere in his edition.  Then when you attempt to cross reference 'Col 3:4' in the writings of Clement using CERF there is rightly no reference to the passage in the Stromata.

But Schaff again not only refuses to translate Book Three into English but leaves as a note to the Latin translation 'Col 3:4' in the following passage in chapter 5:

It is impossible for those who are still under the direction of their passions to receive true knowledge of God. It follows that if they have not achieved any knowledge of God, they do not have any experience of final hope either. The person who fails to attain this end looks liable to the charge of ignorance of God. Ignorance of God is displayed by one’s way of living.  It is absolutely impossible to combine actual scientific knowledge with a failure to show shame at giving in to the demands of the body. It is impossible to harmonize the view that the supreme good consists in pleasure with the view that beauty of character  is the only good: This is seen only in the Lord, God alone is good and the sole fit object of love.  "You have been circumcised in Christ with a circumcision not performed with hands in stripping yourselves of your fleshly body, that is, in Christ’s circumcision. So if you are risen together with Christ, look for the things above, fix your mind on them, not on earthly things. For you are dead, and your life has been buried in God together with Christ" – this hardly applies to the sexual immorality which they practice!  "So mortify your earthly members – fornication, filthiness, passion, lust; through these the visitation of anger is on its way." So they too should put away "anger, temper, vice, slander, dirty talk from their mouths, stripping themselves of the old human nature with its lusts and putting on the new human nature, which is renewed for full knowledge in accordance with the likeness of its creator." [Clement Stromata 3.5]

The long (and continuous) citation here from Colossians goes right up to 3:3 but passes over 3:4.  It is listed as Col 2.11, 3.1-3, 5-6, 8-10 in Ferguson's translation which is correct.

But where did Col 3:4 disappear to?  I am increasingly convinced that there was no 'Epistle to the Colossians' in the original canon.  This material was cut out of an epistle dealing with 'baptism of the dead' and castration (notice the reference to the 'Christ circumcision').  The original epistle may well have included the reference to 'fornicators' in 1 Corinthians 5 and gone on to differentiate those who had undergone the Marcionite baptism into death/resurrected as Christ's angelic nature through ritual castration.  It probably included Romans 6 - 8 and 1 Corinthians 15.  All of this is speculation right now.  I just wanted to demonstrate how scholarship has made an already difficult task even more difficult with shoddy work.

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