Friday, December 7, 2012

The Ultimate Proof that Neither the Texts of Tertullian Nor Epiphanius Are Actually Following Marcion's Gospel

My previous post was right on the money.  In Against Marcion Book Three and On the Flesh of Christ we see Tertullian using a source who originally employed a Diatessaron.  In those texts Luke 11:27 (= Blessed be the womb that bore Thee) and Mark 3:32 (= "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you") appeared back to back.  We know this because the same pattern appears in the Arabic Diatessaron, Codex Fuldensis and perhaps most importantly Ephrem's Harmony Gospel.  In that text we completely tear a whole in the wall that separates us from the truth because it is clear that Ephrem knows that Marcion's text also resembled a Diatessaron when he writes:

Blessed the womb which bore you and the breasts which suckled you. Marcion said, "They were indeed tempting him, as to whether he was born. Similarly in the case of "Behold your mother and brothers are seeking you." What was the purpose of the appearance of his body and nourishment? [Marcion] said, "That he might hide his greatness and make them believe that he was corporeal, because they were not capable of [grasping] it." Why should he have denied his birth? For if, through denying this, he wished to show them that he was not born, he would not have gone on and made himself a brother of his disciples who was born. If, from what he denied above, he refuted the idea that he was not born, then it must be believed, from what he said here, that he was born. Even if [hypothetically] kinship would have been blotted out by his denial of his mother, nevertheless through the acknowledgement of his brothers, the lineage of his paternal ancestry was made known. Moreover, even if he showed that he did not have parents because he did not recognize either his mother or his brothers, nevertheless he did say, "Why do you call me good," which was something he did not say above, namely, "Why do you call me conceived and born"?

Blessed is the womb that bore you. He took blessedness from the one who bore him and gave it to those who were worshipping him. It was with Mary for a certain time, but it would be with those who worshipped him for eternity. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. (Commentary on the Harmony Gospel, McCarthy trans. p. 179 - 180)

The truth is that the reader here will not come across a more profound bit of information likely all next year.  It isn't just that all the Gospel Harmonies couple these two sayings, it is that all of our sources demonstrate that Marcion coupled them too.  This means that at one time both (a) the anti-Marcionite commentary and (b) the gospels of the Marcionites and the Orthodox resembled the Gospel Harmonies.

The truth is that we already know this from other (ignored) sources.  Casey's illuminating article on Eznik of Kolb's citation of the latter portions of the Marcionite gospel and their agreement with what he calls 'an Armenian Diatessaron' is consistent with what we have noted here.  The problem isn't that we lack evidence to suggest this situation - it's that scholars are too thick-headed to free themselves from all the nonsense that previous generations have written about Marcion.  Let's be honest.  You just have to look at pictures of those old German scholars like Harnack and Campenhausen to know that they were complete squares.  The point is that while having familiarity with the data is one part of the equation to understand the ancient past having the God-given gift to see patterns in that mess of information is completely lacking in these old fuddy duddies.

What these typical German blockhead types couldn't get over is that Tertullian and Epiphanius could be wrong together.  It was one thing to contradict a Church Father but then there was the 'problem' of both of them having similar testimonies about the shape of the Marcionite gospel.  Even the modern German scholars like Schmid fell into a trap here.  The harmony between Tertullian and Epiphanius led him to develop a thoroughly useless model for understanding the shape of the Marcionite Apostolikon.  The same thing we have been discovering here applies fully to the Epistle to the Galatians.  There is a common source behind Tertullian and Epiphanius's testimony who is citing from his own Gospel and Apostle to condemn Marcion's 'changes' to the text.

The revelation comes now when you go back to the beginning of Against Marcion and realize that several generations of transformations to that original text have taken place under various author names.  To cite Tertullian's own confession:

Nothing I have previously written against Marcion is any longer my concern. I am embarking upon a new work to replace an old one. My first edition, too hurriedly produced, I afterwards withdrew, substituting a fuller treatment. This also, before enough copies had been made, was stolen from me by a person, at that time a Christian but afterwards an apostate, who chanced to have copied out some extracts very incorrectly, and shewed them to a group of people. Hence the need for correction. The opportunity provided by this revision has moved me to make some additions. Thus this written work, a third succeeding a second, and instead of third from now on the first, needs to begin by reporting the demise of the work it supersedes, so that no one may be perplexed if in one place or another he comes across varying forms of it. [Against Marcion 1:1]

The fuddy duddy reads this material and only sees it as a confession that Tertullian 'lost control' of his original composition.  But then all the reader has to do and go and see that Epiphanius also claims to have written a text from 'firsthand' information about the Marcion Gospel and Apostle which borrows heavily from this same original source.

Why would both Tertullian and Epiphanius have told a bald-face lie that they were the original authors of this material?  The answer should be obvious by now.  The original material was being buried, laid to rest, buried at see, cremated - whatever you want to call it.  It was useful to have information about the Marcionite canon.  But having an original source like Irenaeus - or if you prefer Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr or whomever you want to be the original source of this material - arguing against the Marcionite from his canon which consisted of a Diatessaron and a collection of Pauline letters beginning with the Epistle to the Galatians is a giant problem for Tertullian, Epiphanius and the rest of the orthodox tradition.  Why so?  Come on now. It destroys the original argument that the author - railing against the Marcionites - was himself 'orthodox.'

The ultimate question becomes - what the hell was a Church Father doing not using the four gospels, not arguing for Marcion corrupting Luke, not using a Romans first collection of Epistles?  Not to mention of course that many of the variant readings now attributed to Marcion by Epiphanius actually came from the Church Father fighting against Marcion.  It is a massive problem which isn't easily solved.  That's why the original text was buried and both Tertullian and Epiphanius try to 'rescue' the argument against Marcion by (a) modifying it to suit an orthodox canon and (b) getting rid of any mention of a previous author.

Tertullian's corrections are more superficial i.e. a fairly sloppy 'Marcion corrupted my Luke' argument which often retains the 'Marcion corrupted my Diatessaron' but still with the Galatians-first ordering.  Epiphanius is more thorough - he clearly makes it about corrupting Luke (getting rid of the anomalies) and moreover making specific reference to the correct order of the epistles of Paul.  Yet the point of course now is that both 'cover ups' are systematically exposed by the survival of Ephrem's numerous references to the Marcionite canon.  For Ephrem used a Diatessaron and a Galatians first canon.  He is a surviving remnant of the original cultural that produced the lost material behind what is now works independently claimed to have been written by Tertullian and Epiphanius.

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.