Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Radical New Understanding of the Beginning of the Marcionite Gospel [Part One]

Let's face it, almost all the leading authorities on Marcion have German names - myself included (although I am not usually on that list of 'authorities').  I don't know what it is about Germans and Marcion, save only for the fact that up until 1945 at least Germans officially at least didn't much like Jews.  This doesn't mean that we have to ignore what has been established so far.  It just means that we have to be cautious when we hear that Marcion was a 'Jew hater' or 'hated Judaism.'  It just seems strange that a culture which up to that point in history could fairly be described as 'anti-Semitic would also happen to take such an interest in someone so described.

There are other problems with the study of Marcionitism.  The fact that most of our sources are hostile to the Marcionites also stands out.  But by far the most serious is the fact that very, very few of the experts have attempted to integrate the 'traditional' claims about the Marcionites which come from Western sources with those from Eastern sources (i.e. Ephrem, Eznik etc.).  I was just going through Ephrem's many statements on the subject and there can be no doubt that something is terribly wrong here and no one seems to care enough to do anything about it.

It all comes down to this - it is impossible to reconcile the claim that Marcion shortened the gospel of Luke with the claim that Marcion altered the Diatessaron.  I know that this is beyond the intellectual of most people (I speak of scholars here) but something is terribly amiss here.  The traditional way of reconciling things is to say that we are dealing with two different Marcionite groups, but this is idiotic.  Ephrem's Palutian tradition was historically traced back to Zephyrinus of Rome.  This tradition clearly came to Edessa as refugees (= Aram. palat) and brought with it a knowledge of Marcion from the Eastern provinces of the Empire.

In the beginning then of this rivalry between the Orthodox and the Marcionites the Orthodox maintained their traditional use of the Diatessaron.  The Marcionites were seen as having a falsified 'gospel' (= Diatessaron).  But more importantly the testimony helps explain why the earliest sources against the Marcionites (= Tertullian, Against Marcion Book Four) often accuse Marcion of erasing things from 'the gospel' that aren't in Luke.

The 'intellectual capacity' accusation against scholars is a valid one because it seems that people can care only so much about Marcion.  The fact that some of the Western Church Fathers say that he simply falsified Luke is good enough for them to write a paper or fill in a few pages of a book.  This even though - on top of what we have just written - there is ample evidence that Marcion also corrupted Matthew, Mark and John.  Let us simply say that 'for those who really care about Marcion' - not just those who want to affirm their own prejudices (whether they be anti-Semitic or whatever else) - the original Orthodox-Marcionite debate took place over a variant Diatessaron.

There have been papers written on this subject.  I point to Casey's work on the 'Marcionite Diatessaron' in the last century.  But these papers get ignored because of the flood of what I call 'stupid papers' which reinforce Irenaeus paradigm of 'corrupt Luke' even though it is plain to see that our present edition of Against Marcion Book Four is a Latin translation of a text written by someone who accused Marcion of falsifying a Diatessaron.

No one seems to see that in the third century the 'corrupt Luke' paradigm was forced upon the Marcionite debate.  I am definitively in the minority when I argue that Irenaeus 'changed his mind' about the central accusation against Marcion.  We can see evidence from the Philosophumena that the Irenaean tradition originally accused Marcion of corrupting the gospel of Mark.  I am not sure that our present Against Heresies by Irenaeus was not subsequently edited to reinforce or emphasize the 'corrupt Luke' argument.  There are side by side references in Book Three for instance of a 'lengthened Mark' argument which I feel are more original.

Indeed we need to ask why, if the author of the Philosophumena was using Against Heresies (and he clearly makes reference to Irenaeus twice in Book Six not to mention the basic structure of the work testifies to this use of Against Heresies) does he pass over in silence 'corrupt Luke' argument?  The only answer that makes any sense is that in his edition of Irenaeus's work, the argument was not yet found.  There are numerous examples of authors 'coming up with explanations.'  This happens all the time in the field of religion and theology (i.e. a person comes up with a better explanation and so denies or corrects all his previous statements on the subject).

The invention of Luke was late and so we should not be surprised that it only appeared in Irenaeus's writings subsequent to an early edition of that anti-heretical treatise.  Luke was invented to combat Marcionitism.

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