Thursday, April 25, 2013

More on the Possible Depreciative Use of 'Lord' in the Heretical Tradition

The question of how and why Tertullian references Luke 18:18 as praeceptor optime. (Adv Marc 4.36) Wherever praeceptor is cited in the Vulgate it is a translation of the Greek epistata (always in the vocative and, except in 17.13, only used by the disciples.  Only Luke uses ἐπιστάτης which is interesting.  But this becomes even more so when we uncover that Tertullian had a text of Luke that read praeceptor/epistata for Luke 18:18.  It is well established that Tertullian uses a gospel text that is not quite canonical Luke to criticize Marcion.  I have always felt that this is owing to his employing an earlier source which he ammended in places as is his habit (compare Tertullian's use of Irenaeus's lecture against the Valentinians.  It is a very loose translation which has become modified and edited in the process of translation .

Once - and if - we establish that praeceptor as an actual textual variant (something that I think must be conceded) the question becomes (as with all anti-Marcionite citations) is this (1) a reading from the Marcionite text (presumably ἐπιστάτα) and rendering into Latin as praeceptor either by means of Tertullian's source or by Tertullian himself, (2) Tertullian's source for Book Four (and thus a Latin translation of ἐπιστάτα as it appeared in that text), (3) Tertullian using a Greek text of Luke which read ἐπιστάτα and his translation of that reading into Latin, or (4) a Latin version of Luke used by Tertullian against Marcion? Not all these possibilities are mutually exclusive. Both the Marcionite text and the early (lost? variant?) Catholic text of Luke 18:18 might have both shared the same reading. 

My hunch however is that epistata is a correction of the depreciative use of kurie in the Marcionite gospel.  When you think of it - how could Marcion have allowed Jesus to be called by the very name appropriated already by the Jewish god?  In Luke 18:18 then it is my hunch that the rich man comes up to him and mis-identifies Jesus as 'the Good Lord' - a point which Jesus beats back with 'no one is good but God the Father.'   This has been softened with the use of epistata/praeceptor in Tertullian's gospel or that of his source.  Nevertheless it is interesting that even this reading gave way to the corrected understanding of didaskale/magister.  Why so?  I think that this reflects the Church becoming an ecclessiastical body which had a firm order of rank.  The magister/didaskale relationship between Jesus and his followers becomes the relationship between the apostles and the church. 

There is a sense in Tertullian's criticism of Marcion that his church did not reinforce this understanding.  Jesus was the kind god, so kind and weak that all church discipline has been 'lost.'  That this 'discipline' was never there to begin with never even occurs to Tertullian. 

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