Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On 'Shorter Mark' and Marcion

I know it's hard for most people to accept that 'in the beginning' there were two gospels - one shorten and the other 'full length.'  This in spite of the fact that the apostle intimates this to be so in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 and then Tertullian confirms that this passage was used to explain the existence of two different 'sized' gospels.  For some reason we are simply supposed to accept that it makes more sense to suppose that Morton Smith not only forged a document he claimed to have discovered but also to have invented the idea of long and short gospels.  The facts stand in the way of at least part of that assumption.  Yet even once we get beyond the question of whether or not there was a 'short' and 'long' gospel of Mark, there is I think one more step that we have to take - that is, acknowledging that our gospel of Mark was not 'shorter' Mark.  Instead our text - along with the four gospels of our existing 'set' - represent a deliberately constructed attempt of the orthodox at Rome to obscure the age old controversy over 'long and short' gospels.

Why do I deem it necessary to make this distinction?  I can't help but feel that the gospel of Marcion was 'shorter Mark.'  The name alone suggests that.  Read Hilgenfeld's essay on the subject of the name Marcion being a diminutive form of the name Mark and then look at the evidence from Epiphanius for a second.  As we noted earlier Epiphanius acknowledges a massive excision after the healing of the blind man of Jericho in the gospel of Marcion.  This section of text was missing:

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him,  “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.  Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”  But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The Parable of the Ten Minas  While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.  He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.  So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’  “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’  “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.  “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’  “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’  “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’  “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’  “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.  I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’  “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’  “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’   “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’  “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.  But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’” Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King  After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.  As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them,  “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”  Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them.  As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”  They replied, “The Lord needs it.”  They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.  As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.  When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:  “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”  “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Jesus at the Temple  When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.  “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”  Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.  Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

It came to pass on one of those days, as he taught in the temple and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”  He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me:  John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”  They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”  So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”  Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.  At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed.  He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.  “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’  “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’  So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”  Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” The teachers of the law and the chief priests they sought to lay hands on him, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. and were afraid of the people. And chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him.  “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”  He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”  So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

The testimony of Epiphanius is quite specific on this point.  He makes a big deal about the sudden transition from Jericho to the temple in Jerusalem in the gospel of Marcion and it matches a similar pattern of excision in other parts of the Marcionite canon especially specific mentions with regards to the apostolic letters.

Epiphanius says about the large excision after Jericho "Marcion thinks he can conceal the road of the truth, but this is not possible. For he jumped right over it, completely bypassing the sections we have mentioned because of their testimony that the temple site was Christ's and built in his name, and leaving out the entire passage about the journey from Jericho and how he got to Bethphage. For there actually was an ancient highway to Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives, and it was not unknown to those who also describe the temple site ... How he got from Jericho to the temple will be learned from the journey itself and the length of the road. But this should make it plain that the crook concealed what happened on the road, and what the Saviour himself said in the temple before this saying, I mean (that he said), 'My house shall be called an house of prayer' and so on, as the prophecy runs."  The point then isn't whether there was this large missing section but how the abrupt change from Jericho to Jerusalem can be explain.

I have often noted with respect to the Secret Mark debate that academic controversies are often self-serving and lead to exaggerated positions on both sides which only serve to help modern scholarship 'overtake' the original evidence with their thoughts and ideas.  The reality is that too many contemporary scholars find themselves 'defending' the gospel of Marcion by denying that the claims of the Church Fathers that there abrupt breaks like this in the gospel - i.e. that the narrative of this 'lesser Mark' (= Marcion) seemed choppy because it was 'full of holes.'  If we allow the testimony of the Philosophumena to enter the picture - i.e. that the Marcionites also had a longer, mystical version of the gospel of Mark - the 'choppiness' of the lesser gospel of Mark (= 'Marcion') doesn't seem so incredible.

All it takes for us to do is to suppose that (a) Irenaeus deliberately crafted the 'Marcion made a shorter gospel of Luke' argument (which isn't hard given that we have already demonstrated that Tertullian and Epiphanius's testimony goes back to him) and (b) that when Clement references the corrupt version of the gospel of Mark manufactured by Carpocrates through 'admixture' he means our Roman canonical gospel of Mark.  In other words the subject of the discussion of the 'additions' found in Secret Mark is done with respect to a Roman (Carpocratian) gospel rather than 'lesser Mark' owing to the simple fact that Clement was quite aware that this gospel was deemed heretical by the greater Church.

There is more to this argument that I can possible squeeze into a single post but we have to remember that Clement begins his discussion in the letter answering an original query from a certain Theodore.  That original question - i.e. how does 'Secret Mark' relate to canonical Mark? - would determine the shape of Clement's response.  Clement is the master at evading questions and avoiding sensitive topics.  Just look at how he introduces the 'additions' to Secret Mark in the Letter.  He says to Theodore again:

To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel. For example, after "And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem" and what follows, until "After three days he shall arise", the secret Gospel brings the following material word for word: "And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan." After these words follows the text, "And James and John come to him", and all that section. But "naked man with naked man," and the other things about which you wrote, are not found.

But notice he hasn't actually said that Mark 10:32 - 34 (i.e. "and they were in the road going to Jerusalem ... and after three days he shall arise") is actually in the 'short version' of the gospel written by Mark for Peter.  The subject is 'addressing falsifications' and that depends on what arguments Theodore made originally to Clement.  If Theodore's original inquiry was comparing 'Secret Mark' with canonical Mark (and it most certainly must have been) then all that follows here is specifically addressing that point not what most scholars have assumed the subject to be - i.e. what 'short Mark' was deemed to be in the Alexandrian community.

The point is that there are three people in this bed - the 'lesser Mark' of the Alexandrian community, the 'longer Mark' of the Alexandrian community and then the adulterated text of the Carpocratian community.  The only Carpocratian we know of is Marcellina of Rome.  If in Clement's mind the Carpocratian gospel was deemed to be one and the same with the Roman gospel (and Marcellina was especially influential in Rome) then it is quite possible that Clement is comparing Secret Mark to our gospel of Mark which took the form of the Carpocratian gospel.  We can't simply assume that Clement means to identify our Mark as Alexandrian shorter Mark.  He never says that anywhere in the letter.  It is just assumed to be true because it is neat and tidy.  But neat and tidy isn't always true.  It's just neat and tidy.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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