Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Missing Parts of Irenaeus's Original Treatise Against Marcion Are to be Found in his Resurrection of the Flesh

I think at least a few of my readers have noticed that Tertullian's Against Marcion is missing a huge section of its commentary on  1 Corinthians.  There is a noticeable change in his treatment of chapter 15 of this epistle.  Up until 14:26 the text has a certain 'rhythm.'  There is a consistent citation of lines from each chapter - not all but clearly only those which the original author found 'interesting.'  But then as soon as we enter chapter 15 the overall sense of the text suddenly changes.  There is absolutely no reference to any material from 1 Corinthians 15:1 - 11.  The chapter starts with 1 Corinthians 15:12 and then jumps to 1 Corinthians 15:21.  The next chapter (Against Marcion 5:10) starts with 1 Cor 15:29 and there is some commentary on that section as well as 1 Cor 15:35.

However the text goes on to merely print the barest account of the section 1 Cor 15:38 - 48.  Strangely enough there is a surprisingly detailed account in On the Resurrection of the Flesh for this very section (Resurrection 50 - 51).  Both texts are extremely interested in 1 Cor 15:50 because of its significance to the heretical claims against the bodily resurrection.  But everything after this line amounts to little more than recopying the actual text of 1 Corinthians 15: 52 - 55:

For the dead shall be raised incorruptible, even those who had been corruptible when their bodies fell into decay; and we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. 1 Corinthians 15:52 For this corruptible— and as he spoke, the apostle seemingly pointed to his own flesh— must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, 1 Corinthians 15:53 in order, indeed, that it may be rendered a fit substance for the kingdom of God. For we shall be like the angels. This will be the perfect change of our flesh— only after its resurrection. Now if, on the contrary, there is to be no flesh, how then shall it put on incorruption and immortality? Having then become something else by its change, it will obtain the kingdom of God, no longer the (old) flesh and blood, but the body which God shall have given it. Rightly then does the apostle declare, Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; 1 Corinthians 15:50 for this (honour) does he ascribe to the changed condition which ensues on the resurrection. Since, therefore, shall then be accomplished the word which was written by the Creator, O death, where is your victory— or your struggle? O death, where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55 — written, I say, by the Creator, for He wrote them by His prophet — to Him will belong the gift, that is, the kingdom, who proclaimed the word which is to be accomplished in the kingdom. And to none other God does he tell us that thanks are due, for having enabled us to achieve the victory even over death, than to Him from whom he received the very expression of the exulting and triumphant challenge

If you want a more in depth study of the heretical interest in this material you'll actually have to go On the Resurrection of the Flesh.  Indeed chapters 49 - 55 of that treatise clearly seem to preserve the original portions of Against Marcion.  There is an incredible amount of detail here which has gone completely missing in Against Marcion.

It is also worth noting however that Resurrection also provides us with some details missing in other sections of Against Marcion.  The account of chapter six of the Epistle to the Romans is completely missing in Against Marcion.  The commentary 'jumps' from Romans 5:50 to Romans 7:2.  Interestingly though Resurrection provides us with a detailed account of Romans 6 in chapter 47.  Similarly the account in Romans chapter 8 jumps in Against Marcion from 8:3 - 8:10.  Resurrection chapter 46 provides the missing details here.  Similarly again, Against Marcion only cites the actual lines of 2 Corinthians 5:6 - 10:

tells us that we even hold of God the earnest of His Spirit 2 Corinthians 5:5 (pledged as it were thereby to have the clothing upon, which is the object of our hope), and that so long as we are in the flesh, we are absent from the Lord; 2 Corinthians 5:6 moreover, that we ought on this account to prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:8 and so to be ready to meet even death with joy. In this view it is that he informs us how we must all appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according as he has done either good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

The original commentary is clearly to be found in Resurrection chapter 43.  An entire chapter is devoted to understand the proper interpretation of these five lines.

There is another thing which should be noted.  On the Resurrection of the Dead is obviously developed as a refutation of the heretical interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:50 'flesh and blood cannot inherited the kingdom of God.'  But it is odd the number of times 1 Corinthians 15:50 is cited or echoed during the course of Against Marcion Book Five.  It comes up separately during a discussion of 2 Cor 5:4 and 5:17:

If therefore any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new; 2 Corinthians 5:17 and so is accomplished the prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah 43:19 When also he (in a later passage) enjoins us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and blood (since this substance enters not the kingdom of God 1 Corinthians 15:50)

It also resurfaces in several other places in the treatise including Romans 8:3 - 10 and Philippians 3:20. It is the single most cited text in the treatise. It makes one wonder whether Against Marcion Book Five was itself developed principally against the Marcionite notion of the resurrection.

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