Monday, April 15, 2013

The Jewishness of Marcion [Part Three]

Any objective overview of the original evidence 'against Marcion' will notice that his 'heresy' seems to dwell on the creation of man.[1]  Marcionites seemed to be 'obsessively' determined in their demonstration of the Lord's short-comings because of this single act.  It is surprising to note that we see no substantive refutation of the creation of the world in the manner of Celsus.[2]  Tertullian acknowledges an apparent inconsistency in the Marcionites using things from the material Creation for their sacraments.[3]  The Carmen Adversus Marcionitas even goes so far as to declare ipsum factorem reprobatis facta probantes?[4]  The possibility at least exists that the creation of man was distinguished by Marcion because the text of Genesis identifies 'the Lord' for the first time taking part in Creation.[4]

We have already seen that when the Marcionites are allowed to speak they saw two gods take part in the creation of man.  Even the famous Marcionite interest in the the parable of the two trees and their two 'fruits' (Luke 6:43 - 49) necessarily goes back to the presence of the two powers of God and the Lord in Eden.[5] Harnack acknowledges on behalf of Marcion that the two trees are the gods of the Old Testament and the gospel. [6]  Yet the obvious place to locate these two trees are in Paradise.  So the 21st memra of the Liber Graduttm, a fourth-century Syriac treatise of uncertain provenance related to Marcionitism: "In that world in which there is no death, . . . they will eat the life-giving words of our Lord. They shall eat our Lord and live. . . . The good tree, in that world of light invisible to the eyes of flesh, is our Lord Jesus. He is the tree of life who gives everything life by its fruit wherever the perfect will of God is."[7]

If we allow the likelihood that Marcionitism imagined two powers - one visible, one invisible - being present in Paradise we should return to the second century and our earliest surviving anti-Marcionite treatise.  As we have already noted Irenaeus's Sabellian anti-Marcionite strategy stands in sharp contrast to the argument developed by his predecessor Theophilus of Antioch a generation earlier.  That Book Two of Tertullian's Against Marcion was recycled from a lost original anti-Marcionite text written by Theophilus has already been established by Harnack, Grant and Quispel.[8]  It is in this work that we see what amounts to a less successful strategy against Marcionites given that Theophilus is willing to concede that there are indeed two powers in heaven with distinct characteristics.

In the middle of one his most ferocious attacks against the Marcionite he is forced to admit that:

To such a degree as this is justice even the plenitude of divinity itself, that it reveals God in his perfection both as Father and as Lord: as Father in clemency, as Lord in discipline: as Father in kindly authority, as Lord in that which is stern: as Father to be loved from affection, as Lord to be necessarily feared: to be loved because he would rather have mercy than sacrifice, to be feared because he forbids to sin: to be loved because he would rather have a sinner's repentance than his death, to be feared because he refuses such as do not now repent. For that reason the law lays down both these commandments, Thou shalt love God, and, Thou shall fear God: the one it sets before the obedient, the other before the transgressor.(Adv. Marc. 2.13)

By admitting that there are indeed two separate powers in heaven associated with two different names the debate that would follow would necessarily leave both sides vulnerable to the charge of improperly dividing the oneness of the godhead.[9]  As we have seen, while this attack was first leveled against Christianity by pagan critics of the religion, it was soon picked up by Irenaeus and employed to devastating effectiveness.

It would seem no Church Father could live up to Irenaeus's high standards save Polycarp of Smyrna.[10]  While Irenaeus welcomed the testimony of Justin and Theophilus as witnesses against Marcion, he certainly could not have accepted the underpinnings of their scriptural exegesis. For instance where as Irenaeus sees the heavenly Father himself present in the burning bush (Ex 3:14) Justin understands only the manifestation of his lower power.[11]  It is difficult to see how the original writings of these earlier Patristic witnesses could not have caused problems for Irenaeus.  As such it stands to reason that they likely have come down to us in a substantially altered form.[12] Tertullian was likely copying a text already manipulated at least once before by Irenaeus. The lengthy transmission of Against Marcion is explicitly witnessed by the opening words of Book One.[13]

In spite of the unfortunate state of manuscript, we still get a sense of Marcion's hostility to activities of 'the Lord' in Paradise.  Theophilus responds however that if he abolished freewill "Marcion would have call out, 'Look at that Lord and Master, so unstable, so inconsistent and untrustworthy, cancelling appointments he himself has made. Why did he grant free choice, if he had to interfere? Why interfere, if he has made the grant? Let him choose on which side he will admit himself mistaken, whether in the appointment or in the cancelling of it?" (Adv Marc 2.7)  Moreover Theophilus notes that Marcion also criticizes the Lord for being too vengeful,(ibid 2.18) encouraging idolatry,(ibid 2.22)  ignorant of the affairs of man,(ibid 2.25) too severe, (ibid 2.26) and too inconsistent (ibid) to be worthy of respect.

It is well established by Irenaeus at the very start of Against Heresies that the heretics resisted calling Jesus Lord preferring instead to call him Savior.[14]  While this is specifically applied to the Valentinians, it is generally thought to apply to other groups too.[15]  Epiphanius's statement that Marcion altered κύριον to χριστον in 1 Corinthians 10:9 has been argued by Blackman to the point to the fact that "κύριον in this context refers to the Creator, and if Marcion was going to make any use of the passage at all he could have no object in exhorting his followers not to tempt the Demiurge."[16]  There are a number of other statements implying directly that the Marcionites resisted the word Lord; on the other hand we see the Marcionite inscription at Deir Ali makes reference to "του κ(υριο)υ και σω(τη)ρ(ος) Ιη(σου) Χρηστου."[17]

Putting aside this difficulty for the moment it should be noted that Theophilus himself had strange notions about the name κύριος which might have compromised his ability to combat the heresy of Marcion.   We see this clearly during the course of his treatise against a certain Hermogenes - a work again preserved again by Tertullian.[18]  Theophilus sees κύριος as a name which was only created with the appearance of matter in the world, that "the substance [of divinity] existed always with its own name, which is God; the title Lord was afterwards added, as the indication indeed of something accruing."[19]  Yet Theophilus's understanding could certainly have been used to argue that there was a time when Yahweh was not - a heretical understanding reflected in the rabbinic literature.[20]

According to Theophilus's reasoning 'the Lord' co-existed with matter - "from the moment when those things began to exist, over which the power of a Lord was to act, God, by the accession of that power, both became Lord and received the name thereof."[21]  Indeed in a like manner "God is a Father, and He is also a Judge; but He has not always been Father and Judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a Judge previous to sin."[22]  These arguments could certainly have been twisted by heretics to justify the belief that there was a time when the Son was not - and for that matter - that there was a time when the Lord was not.

Indeed Theophilus goes so far as to read Genesis as describing two separate powers involved with two separate creations - i.e. that of the world and that of man.  To this end the Marcionites may well have forced Theophilus to concede that the two were not that far off in many basic assumptions; the difference between them may have only come down terminology.  As we read in what immediately follows:

Do I seem to you to be weaving arguments, Hermogenes? how neatly does Scripture lend us its aid, when it applies the two titles to Him with a distinction, and reveals them each at its proper time! For God, indeed, which always belonged to Him, it names at the very first: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; " and as long as He continued making, one after the other, those things of which He was to be the Lord, it merely mentions God. "And God said," "and God made," "and God saw; " but nowhere do we yet find the Lord. But when He completed the whole creation, and especially man himself, who was destined to understand His sovereignty in a way of special propriety, He then is designated Lord. Then also the Scripture added the name Lord: "And the Lord God, took the man, whom He had formed; " "And the Lord God commanded Adam." Thenceforth He, who was previously God only, is the Lord, from the time of His having something of which He might be the Lord. For to Himself He was always God, but to all things was He only then God, when He became also Lord. Therefore, in as far as (Hermogenes) shall suppose that Matter was eternal, on the ground that the Lord was eternal, in so far will it be evident that nothing existed, because it is plain that the Lord as such did not always exist.  

It would be a mistake to gloss over the original distinction between the two different names being associated with the two different creations.  The argument at the heart of Against Hermogenes is an adaptation of the traditional two powers formulation - perhaps one that has been further refined by exposure to Irenaeus's Sabellianism.[23]

It is also very interesting to note that Philo becomes suddenly muted when speaking of two powers when discussing the creation of man.  The very ascription of two divine participants in Eden - one visible, the other invisible and perhaps acting without the knowledge of the former - was likely an established, heretical view at the time he was writing.[24]  The Nag Hammadi texts Yahweh's declaration to be 'the only god' as an ironical statement of his ignorance while creating Adam.  Our Patristic witnesses expand that list by including the Marcionites of heresies that held the secret presence of the other God in Paradise.  It was also certainly witnessed in the various references to the 'two powers' controversy in the rabbinic literature.

In Eznik's long summary of the Marcionite account of creation the just god is repeatedly identified as 'the Lord of creatures.'[25]  The best explanation of this title is that 'the Lord' alone formed man but that 'God' gave him his spirit.[26]  As such the Marcionite focus on the redemption of man rather than creation may well reflect the Marcionite hostility to 'the Lord' but not 'God' in the Pentateuch narrative.  Eznik stands as the last in a long line of witnesses that took special interest in the 'arrogance' of Yahweh, to suggest that he was the only God when there was another God explicitly demonstrated in the Pentateuch narrative.  It is the clearest example of the Marcionite use of Jewish scriptures independent of Paul.[27]

Long before Eznik, Tertullian writes "this time with an eye to Marcion, He says, I am God, and other apart from me there is not. And when he repeats this in other terms, Before me there was no god, he is having a knock at those I know not what genealogies of aeons, of the Valentinians" (Tertullian Flesh of Christ 24).  So too Irenaeus when he writes "He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him, neither has He any mother, as they falsely ascribe to Him; nor is there a second God, as Marcion has imagined (Irenaeus 2.22.9)  But it is Eznik who makes clear that it was the Marcionites themselves - not merely the Church Fathers attacking the group - who culled Scriptural sayings in order to create their own drama of the events in Eden.

Eznik explicitly preserves for us that the Marcionites identified the Lord of Creatures (= Yahweh) as saying:

"Adam I am God, and there is no one else, and you shall have no other god before me. When you will have other gods before me, know that you will die"

In the narrative we are told that Matter, the power of Evil declares after a falling out with the Lord that:

he has hated me, and he has not kept his compact with me, I will create many gods, and I will fill up the world with them completely so that he will seek who might be God, but he will not find." And she created, they say, many idols, and she named them gods, and she filled the world with them. And the name of God who is the Lord of creatures was sunk in the midst of the names of many gods, and nowhere was He being found.

The Israelites may well have rediscovered the name Yahweh - but they and their Master were still ignorant of the ultimate Being behind all things.  It was not until "Jesus descended a second time in the form of his divinity to the Lord of creatures, .... [that] the Lord of the world saw that divinity he discovered that another god apart from himself existed."[28]

As we have already noted the Christian groups were not the only ones who obsessed over the "I am God and there is no God before me" declaration or those like in the Old Testament.  Segal acknowledges that "[n]ot only is Marcion's exegesis of scripture similar to the rabbinic exegesis in some respects" but that his opponents too exhibit "many of the characteristics of 'two powers' heresy which offended the rabbis."  Speaking specifically of Tertullian's re-purposing of earlier treatises, Segal notes that this similarity to the rabbinic reaction to the two powers doctrine "is to be expected, in part, since Tertullian is usually seen to have developed his defense against Marcion out of writings which came down to him from Justin, Irenaeus, and Theophilus, all of whom have assumed candidacy for the charge of 'two powers' heresy."[29]

Segal goes on to suppose that the existing material implies that some modalists may have accused Christian orthodoxy of believing in a second God in order to group it together with Marcionism.  According to him:

The exegeses typical of this heresy in Judaism thus came to be completely revalued in Christianity.As his use of "alterius deus" seems to imply, Tertullian can also use anti-dualism arguments against Marcionism which are familiar to us from rabbinic writings themselves:

"To such a degree is this justice, even plentitude of divinity itself . . .God Father and Lord, Father in clemency, Lord in discipline ... Thou shall love God and Thou shall fear Him . . . The same God who smites also heals: He kills and also makes alive, He brings down, He rises up: He creates evil, but also makes peace. So that on this suggestion too I have to answer the heretics. "See," they say, "He himself claims to be the creator of evil things when He says: 'It is I who create evil' ..." 
As Segal notes "it is surprising to see Tertullian marshal what look like Philonic or rabbinic arguments against "two powers" to defeat Marcion." The backbone of the passage is Dt. 32:39 which, as Segal acknowledges, was central to the rabbinic exegesis against "two powers."  Indeed he points to many other times where Tertullian relies on this passage and tentatively concludes "Tertullian might be relying on a rabbinic tradition directly or indirectly through other church fathers, who had used it in their battles with heretics."[30]

Yet as we have already noted many times so far, Tertullian was only part of an active literary tradition which re-purposed early anti-heretical treatises according to ever changing standards of orthodoxy.  Irenaeus represents a complete break from the past owing to his wholesale adoption of Sabellianism.  Whereas Theophilus to some degree engaged Marcionites from a mutual acceptance of two powers in heaven, Irenaeus sifted through these original arguments and recast their from an entirely new point of view.  Irenaeus essentially took over the point of view of the fiercest critics of Christianity - the well educated men that he met in the highest circles of the Imperial court - and tried to transform Christianity away from its 'all too Jewish' obsession with the magical power of divine names.  Under this new reinterpretation of the Church's traditional relationship with its mother religion, both Judaism and Christianity were always strictly monotheistic.  It was if the 'two powers' controversy was all a big misunderstanding.

Marcion was one of many individual 'heretics' who seized upon an idea of two powers on their own.  It was if Judaism itself never recognized or condoned the understanding.  Irenaeus purpose was to rehabilitate the over-active imagination which spawned heresies.  He takes it to be his mission to enlighten the Marcionites so "that they may know the Framer and Maker of this universe, the only true God and Lord of all."(Adv Haer 3.25.7). The Marcionites like other heretics have erred in identifying the names of god for distinct powers and this view must be corrected.  Irenaeus repeats this mantra ad nauseum in Against Heresies.  It is repeated literally hundreds of times and can be fairly described as the overarching theme to the entire work.

His obsessiveness on this point even extends to the very gospels.  Irenaeus takes pains to present each text as originally holding the correct belief before being 'corrupted' by individual heretics.  With respect to Matthew that Jesus and his disciples "did acknowledge any other Lord or God, but the God and Lord supreme: the prophets and the apostles confessing the Father and the Son; but naming no other as God, and confessing no other as Lord: and the Lord Himself handing down to His disciples, that He, the Father, is the only God and Lord, who alone is God and ruler of all." (ibid 3.9.1)  With respect to Mark "plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord." (3.10.5)  With respect to Luke that Jesus "simply, absolutely, and decidedly confessed in his own person as God and Lord, Him who had chosen Jerusalem, and had instituted the sacerdotal office. For he knew of none other above Him; since, if he had been in possession of the knowledge of any other more perfect God and Lord besides Him, he surely would never--as I have already shown--have confessed Him, whom he knew to be the fruit of a defect, as absolutely and altogether God and Lord." (ibid 3.10.5)

Each individual evangelist testifies to the same overarching truth about the Sabellian foundation of Christianity.  Only John now references the concept of the Logos.  Yet at the time Irenaeus was writing it is unlikely that many people were familiar with his four gospel set.  Whether it be, Marcion's gospel, Tatian's Diatessaron or some other text, there were many single gospel communities which preached the existence of more than one power in heaven.  The irony of Irenaeus's system of course was that there was now a quaternion which argued through the witness of multiplicity to the unity of the godhead.  Was this a deliberate formulation on Irenaeus's part?  It is difficult to say with any degree of certainty.  Yet it is important to recognize that the choice of four gospels on Irenaeus was quite deliberate.  The argument which unfolds in Book Three of Against Heresies was clearly well thought out and designed for the purpose of forever redefining Christianity away from the two powers doctrine.[31]

[6] Harnack, Marcion: The Gospel, 22 “When he [Jesus] spoke of the two trees, the corrupt and the good, which are able to produce only such fruits as are given by their very nature, he can mean thereby only the two great divine authors, the Old Testament God, who creates nothing but bad and worthless things, and the Father of Jesus Christ, who produces exclusively what is good."
[7] Pedersen, Demonstrative proof in defence of God: a study of Titus of Bostra's Contra Manichaos p. 223 "the fragment in De paradiso 5,28 could be interpreted to mean that Apelles believed that the Tree of Life, which had more power for giving life than the Creator's breath (Gen. 2.7), represented the highest God." Acts of Archelaus 10 identifies Jesus as the good tree in Paradise "And that tree in paradise, by which men know the good, is Jesus Himself, or the knowledge of Him in the world." (M. Kmosko, ed., "Liber Graduum," in R. Graffin, ed., Patrologia Syriaca [Paris, 1894-1926]. The idea seems to be consistently referenced in known Manichaean writings perhaps under influence from Marcionitism.
[9] שובלה , שבלה , pl. שובלין , שבלין n.f. ear (of corn), cluster of fruit.  The idea goes back to the frequent epithet of Demeter = Δάματερ πολύκαρπε where the ear of grain is the goddess's chief symbol. Δάματερ πολύκαρπε πολύσταχυ Theocritus, Idylls 10.42. (cf. Aelian, De Natura Animalium 11.4, Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica book 3, chapter 42 etc) . "The rice, according to Aristobulus, stands in water in an enclosure. It is sowed in beds. The plant is four cubits in height, with many ears, and yields a large produce." (ὕψος δὲ τοῦ φυτοῦ τετράπηχυ πολύσταχύ τε καὶ πολύκαρπον Strabo Geography 15.1)
[11] For instance let us consider that Theophilus is remembered to have preferred or used a Diatessaron. Ep. Ad Algasiam 121.6 Theophilus, Antiochenae ecclesiae septimus post Petrum apostolum episcopus, qui qiuituor evangelistarum in unum opus dicta compingens, ingenii sui nobis mouimenta reliquit, haec super hac parabola in suis com- mentariis locutus est.[12]  The arguments against Marcion's gospel in Book Four of Tertullian's Against Marcion don't seem to have been accused Marcion of tampering with Luke but a gospel which contained sayings of Matthew and Luke. To this end, the Luke only arguments of the present text were distilled from a much longer treatise which presumed the sanctity of a Diatessaronic text.  Book Five of Tertullian's has a Galatians-first Pauline canon which was common in Syria.  While many scholars have presumed that the argument here reflects the order of Marcion's Apostolikon, it is better to assume that the author - accusing the heretic of falsifying 'the true canon' - again preserved the order of his Apostolikon rather than that of Marcion.  Given that Books Four and Five were originally written by the same hand, a Diatessaronic text plus a Galatians first Apostolikon would suggest a Syrian origin for the material possibly reinforcing again Theophilus as the author of the material.
[14] We affirm, then, that the name of God always existed with Himself and in Himself-but not eternally so the Lord. Because the condition of the one is not the same as that of the other. God is the designation of the substance itself, that is, of the Divinity; but Lord is (the name) not of substance, but of power. I maintain that
[17]  There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son; the former of which was to constitute the Lord a Judge, and the latter a Father. In this way He was not Lord previous to those things of which He was to be the Lord. But He was only to become Lord at some future time: just as He became the Father by the Son, and a Judge by sin, so also did He become Lord by means of those things which He had made, in order that they might serve Him.
[18]Epiphanius also brings forward the same idea during his retelling of a debate he had with a Marcionite about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness - a narrative which did not appear in the heretical gospel. He writes "remarking how it says in the Gospel that the Spirit took Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he asked me, 'How could Satan tempt the true God (τὸν ὄντα θεὸν), who is both greater than he and, as you say, [emphasis mine] his Lord (καὶ κύριον αὐτοῦ ὡς ὑμεῖς λέγετε πειράσαι), Jesus his Master (τὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν αὐτοῦ δεσπότην)?'[13] Similarly Tertullian speaks of the difficulties for the Marcionite interpretation For all that time then even the Jews knew no other god except him besides whom they as yet knew no other, nor called upon any other god than him whom alone they knew. If that is so, whom shall we take to have asked, Why callest thou me Lord, Lord? Shall it be one who had never been so called, because never until now revealed? or shall it be he who was always acknowledged as Lord, as having been known from the beginning—in fact, the God of the Jews? [4.17] First then I claim that none can be acknowledged as Father Lord except the Creator and upholder of man and of the universe: also that to the Father the name of Lord is 5. 1 See Appendix 2. V. 5 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 537 added by reason of his authority: and this name the Son also obtains from the Father. [5.5] he Gospel of Luke and various other sources may in fact preserve for us the preferred Marcionite epithet for Jesus - ἐπιστάτα.[14]
[21a]cf Tertullian Adv Marc 4.24 "For Moses was an apostle, just as much as the apostles were prophets: the authority of these two offices must be regarded as equal, as proceeding from one and the same Lord of both apostles and prophets. Who is it now will give the power of treading upon serpents and scor- pions? Is it to be the Lord of all living creatures, or he who is not even the god of a single lizard? "

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