Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Unusual Order of the Commandments in the Gospel and the Apostolikon

Everyone knows (I hope) that the Pentateuch records Moses as receiving ten utterances from God on the mountain. It is curious that Mark chapter 10 seems only concerned with the last six commandments the last five of which read:

  • You shall not murder. 
  • You shall not commit adultery. 
  • You shall not steal. 
  • You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
For reasons which have never been clear to anyone, Mark has Jesus give the list of commandments as:

  • Do not commit adultery, 
  • Do not kill, 
  • Do not steal, 
  • Do not bear false witness,
  • Defraud not, 
  • Honour thy father and thy mother.
'Honor thy father and thy mother' is actually the fourth commandment.  'Defraud not' strangely seems to come from Leviticus.  Yet what interests us for the moment is not only why the original order 'switches' the fifth and sixth commandments.

The fact is that no one has ever been able to explain why Mark switched the order of 'do not kill' and 'do not commit adultery.'  Yet a similar 'do not commit adultery' first order also appears in the Epistle to the Romans 13:9:

For this Thou shalt not commit adultery Thou shalt not kill Thou shalt not steal Thou shalt not bear false. witness Thou shalt not covet and if there be any other commandment it is briefly comprehended in this saying namely Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself

It is difficult not to interpret Paul's statement as derived from knowledge of the curious inversion of 'do not kill' and 'do not commit adultery' as derived from knowledge of the text of Mark chapter 10.  This is especially significant given Clement's earlier testimony in Book Three of his interest in 'thou shalt not lust' as deriving from both the Law and the gospel.

Indeed the case for Paul knowing the gospel can be taken one step further when we reconsider the artificiality of our two present 'separate' discussions of how to attain 'life' each of which reference different parts of the above mentioned Pauline formula.  In other words, in the Marcionite gospel and the Diatessaron of Ephrem Jesus is asked:

'what must I do in order to live?' [Ephrem Commentary on the Diatessaron McCarthy p. 229]

and in the Diatessaronic equivalent of Jesus response in Mark chapter 10 we read:

'[if] you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.' [ibid]

The parallels with the Marcionite text are eye-opening especially since Tertullian accuses the Marcionites of making too much of the dropping of the word 'eternal' (= the Law promising merely a long and prosperous 'physical' life rather than eternal life).

Indeed what is more startling is that Tertullian's discussion of this dropping of the word 'eternal' in the Marcionite gospel occurs not in the Question of the Rich Man but rather Luke's 'second pericope' developed around this structure earlier in chapter 10:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” [Luke 10:26 - 28]

While Mark and Matthew have a similar discussion about the importance of 'loving God' developed from the same passages in the Pentateuch, they are not developed around the same framework of a question to Jesus about 'attaining life' or 'eternal life.'  Indeed Luke's structure here points to a clear rejection of the hypothesis that canonical Mark preserves for us the original order of the gospel for we can be certain that both this question about 'eternal life' and the one which appears in Luke 18:18 came from an original narrative that combined both answers from one original question about 'life.'

Tertullian's discussion about the dropping of the word 'eternal' in the Marcionite gospel is instructive because it reminds us so much of Ephrem's Diatessaron and its discussion of the other pericope.  We read:

In the gospel of truth a doctor of the law approaches Christ with the question, What shall I do to obtain eternal life? In the heretic's gospel is written only 'life', without mention of 'eternal', so that the doctor may have the appearance of asking for advice about that life, that long life, which is promised by the Creator in the law,k and the Lord may then seem to have given him an answer in terms of the law, Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, because the question asked was about the law of life. But a doctor of the law certainly knew already on what terms he could obtain that legal life, and so would not have asked questions about a life which he himself taught the rules of. But it was because the dead were already being raised up by Christ, that this man, raised up to the hope of eternal life by these instances of life restored, and fearing that this nobler hope might entail something more in the way of conduct, therefore asked for advice about eternal life and the obtaining of it. And so our Lord, being himself no other than he always was, introduces no other new commandment, but only that which above all else pertains to the whole of salvation, both to this life and the other, and sets before him the actual content of the law, that of loving the Lord his God in all possible ways. And again, if the consultant's question and Christ's response were concerned with that long life which is under the Creator's control, and not with eternal life which is under the control of Marcion's god, how does he obtain eternal life? Certainly not on the same terms as the long life, because the difference in the rewards demands belief in a difference of the work to be done. And therefore your Marcionite will not obtain eternal life as a result of loving your god, as he who loves the Creator will obtain a long life. And if our God is to be loved, who promises a long life, surely he is even more to be loved who offers life eternal. It follows then that to the same God belongs both this life and that, since the same rule of conduct must be followed for both the one life and the other. [Tertullian Against Marcion 4.26]

There are so many interesting things in this chapter that it is difficult to stay focused on our original task.  But since most of the people reading this blog are already familiar with the connection between the Question of the Rich Man (cf. Luke 18:18, Mark 10:17) and the resurrection narrative in Secret Mark, I highlighted the reference to the raising of the dead.

Tertullian's anti-Marcionite treatise comes from a much earlier - and now lost text - of Against Marcion written by Irenaeus a generation or so earlier.  Many of the passages have been moved around and rearranged to 'match' the order of Luke.  Yet the original discussion was clearly based on a lost Diatessaronic gospel which resembled the Marcionite text except for some key omissions, some of which are still preserved in Tertullian's text (often times making seemingly senseless arguments about Marcion's 'cutting things' out of Luke when the passages don't appear there).  It is interesting then to note that Irenaeus originally noted that the gospel in his possession as well as that of the Marcionite gospel connect 'the question about life' by the man with his hope of being 'resurrected' by Jesus - a clear parallel with Secret Mark.

Of course as it stands now because of the rearrangement and 'cutting up' of the original anti-Marcionite treatise it appears that only Luke 10:26 - 28 stood next to a resurrection narrative.  Nevertheless it is interesting to note nothing of the sort appears in the discussion of the Question of the Rich Man narrative in the Marcionite gospel.  Tertullian merely says that a question is raised by a "certain man, Good Teacher, what shall I do to obtain possession of eternal life?"  Both Tertullian and Epiphanius learned from Irenaeus that in the Marcionite gospel:

that man replied, in respect of the chief of them (i.e. the ten commandments), that he had kept them from his youth up, he got the answer [from Jesus], One  thing thou lackest; sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. [ibid 4.36]

In other words, we are told that instead of Jesus listing the various commandments and then the man merely acknowledging that 'All these have I observed' the man brings up the commandments - and the strange 'adultery' first list of commandments comes from him rather than Jesus.

The point of course is that while we have yet to close the gap between the two separate 'questions about life' in the Gospel of Luke, the Marcionite gospel and the Diatessaron we have noted that IF we can close that gap and understand that a single question 'about life' led to a single answer from Jesus which referenced in some sense the 'adultery' first list of commandments and Leviticus's 'love thy neighbor as thyself' THEN Tertullian's commentary makes clear that that question and that answer were connected with Jesus's resurrection of the dead AT THAT TIME (cf. Tertullian Against Marcion 4:26).  This is a major step forward again in the understanding of the existence of ancient witnesses to Secret Mark.

How do we close that gap?  Well let's start with what we have already shown.  The Diatessaron has the question of 'how do I inherit life?' as being answered by the adultery first list of commandments and Jesus saying 'do this and you will live' while Tertullian's discussion of the Marcionite gospel says that it was answered by 'love thy neighbor.'  We have already seen however that Paul combines the sayings as one teaching in Romans 13:9 and the Marcionite were certain he had a written gospel in front of him so this 'grouping' was dictated by his knowledge of the gospel - a gospel which by inference must have had 'do not adulterate' and the rest side by side with 'love thy neighbor.'

Yet the ultimate proof that the two answers to the question 'how do I inherit life?' is found - not surprisingly - in Clement of Alexandria.  In Book Three of his Stromata - the same text where Paul is understood to have been commenting on the commandment from Jesus in his gospel 'do not lust' - we read Clement write:

Again when he says, "If you want to be perfect, sell your property and give the proceeds to the poor," he is showing up the man who boasts of "having kept all the commandments from his youth." (Mark 10:20) He had not fulfilled "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 18:21, 22) At that moment the Lord wanted to bring him to perfection and was teaching him to share out of love. 

There can be no doubt that Clement is deriving this information from a Diatessaronic gospel because he goes on to cite material noted by C W Phillips to always be present in early harmonized texts.  

Moreover there is one more thing that might escape the readers attention which is worth mentioning also.  If we allow for the presence of "you shall love your neighbor as yourself ' as being present in the Question of the Rich Man narrative we can at last explain one of the more mystical teachings in Ephrem's Commentary on the Diatessaron for this section.  Speaking of Jesus discussion with the 'rich man' and the strange statement that 'he looked at him lovingly' Ephrem writes:

This is why he looked at him lovingly, so that he might show [the rich man] that it was his own self that he was rejecting (Luke 18:21, 22). For he is the rich man, who was attired in purple.(Luke 16:19) See, he is a son of Israel, because of what [he said], My father, Abraham,(ibid) and because of, They have Moses and the prophets.(Luke 16:29) [Ephrem, Commentary on the Diatessaron, McCarthy translation p. 233]

We have already noted that the Diatessaronic gospel tradition understands the rich man to have 'died' and gone on to the underworld - Secret Mark 'completes' that cycle and has him resurrected.  However only with the reintegration of the original reference to Leviticus 19:8's 'love thy neighbor as thyself' does Ephrem's interpretation of Jesus's 'loving' actions make any sense - and moreover Secret Mark's addition of the man finally reciprocating that love after dying and being resurrected.

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