Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Jewishness of Marcion [Part Two]

The place to restart our discussion is with the earliest known testimony about the Marcionite borrowing from first century Jewish conceptions of two powers in heaven.  It appears at the end of Book Three of Irenaeus's Against Heresies, immediately following a lengthy discussion of Tatian's interpretation of the salvation of Adam.  The material is generally regarded to have been written around 190 CE.[1]  Irenaeus begins by apparently citing the creation narrative seeming incorrectly to the effect that "the Scripture says that the Lord spake, 'Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness' and we are all from him: and as we are from him, therefore have we all inherited his title (Lord)." (AH 3.23.2)

Irenaeus's Sabellian worldview sees 'the Lord' as a title shared by the Father and Son.[2]  After arguing that it is absurd to maintain, as Tatian apparently did, that Adam was not saved by Christ Irenaeus writes:

But inasmuch as man is saved, it is fitting that he (= Adam) who was created the original man should be saved. For it is too absurd to maintain, that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy, and was the first to suffer captivity, was not rescued by Him (= Jesus) who conquered the enemy, but that his children were,--those whom he had begotten in the same captivity.(ibid)

Irenaeus consistently associates Tatian with the Marcionites and the idea of Adam was denied salvation not surprisingly seems to be related to Marcionite ideas recorded in other Church Fathers.[3]  Indeed Irenaeus's rejection of Tatian's position on the redemption of Adam is clearly echoed in the Dialogues of Adamantius.

In this text the Marcionite Megethius says that when the 'Creator God' cursed the earth also condemned Adam because his soul was made of earth.[4]   The additional layer of complexity is that Irenaeus seems to cite Philo of Alexandria to disprove this heretical understanding in what immediately follows:

For God is neither devoid of power nor of justice, who has afforded help to man, and restored him to His own liberty.  It was for this reason, too, that immediately after Adam had transgressed, as the Scripture relates, He pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works, as a certain person among the ancients has observed: "God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man." (ibid)

Indeed in his third book of Allegorical Interpretation Philo writes the following with respect to the initial cursing episode:

Adam is the intermediate sort of mind which at one time if investigated is found to be good, and at another time bad; for inasmuch as it is mind, it is not by nature either good or bad, but from contact with virtue or with vice, it frequently changes for the better or for the worse; therefore it very naturally is not accursed of its own nature, as neither being itself wickedness nor acting according to wickedness, but the earth is accursed in its works: for the actions which proceed from the entire soul, which he calls the earth, are open to blame and devoid of innocence, inasmuch as he does everything in accordance with vice.[246,247]

On the one hand Philo's argument brings some surprising parallels with Marcion.  As Runia notes here "there can be no question of an active opposition between God and hyle resulting in a true dualism. The chief characteristic of matter is not active maleficence but negativity and recalcitrance." [5]  Marcion is repeatedly identified as sharing similar views.  Matter, rather than the Lord, is the power of evil in the world.  The Creator is understood to occupy the middle place between good and evil as with Philo's description of Adam.[6]

Without getting too deeply into the complex situation here, our only point of interest is that repeatedly intimates that Tatian and the Marcionites understood that the Lord and God had different functions within the godhead and with respect to Genesis's narrative of the creation of man.  Philo may well have had a similar understanding based on his Septuagint text.  Nevertheless the Marcionites consistently refuse to cite 'their text' of Genesis so it is difficult to put all the pieces together.[7]  The Patristic sources about Marcion are also for the most part corrupt.  They represent layer after layer of rewriting and correcting older anti-Marcionite treatise founded upon outdated notions of orthodoxy.[8]

To this end, the indirect testimony of Irenaeus is about as good as it gets.  He makes clear that Tatian and the Marcionities had highly unusual interpretation of Genesis.  Not only were the Lord and God separate powers, but powers who operated independent of one another even in the act of the creation of man.  Irenaeus writes immediately after 'demonstrating' the errors of Tatian that:

Since this, then, has been clearly shown, let all his disciples be put to shame, and let them wrangle about Adam, as if some great gain were to accrue to them if he be not saved; when they profit nothing more, even as the serpent also did not profit when persuading man, except to this effect, that he proved him a transgressor, obtaining man as the first-fruits of his own apostasy.  But (they say) he did not see God. Thus also do those who disallow Adam's salvation gain nothing, except this, that they render themselves heretics and apostates from the truth, and show themselves patrons of the serpent and of death.  Thus, then, have all these men been exposed, who bring in impious doctrines regarding our Maker and Framer, who also formed this world. and above whom there is no other God and those have been overthrown by their own arguments who teach falsehoods regarding the substance of our Lord, and the dispensation which He fulfilled for the sake of His own creature man

Clearly then the 'other God' argument is core to both the Tatianites no less than the Marcionites.  Yet this is not 'another god' who is completely alien to the creation of man.  'He did not see God' is certainly directed at both Adam and the Lord - for the stranger God was present at the creation of man but went unrecognized.[9]

Harvey hints at Irenaeus's rooting in the Syriac language and here 'not recognizing God' and understanding him as a Stranger God come from the same root - נכר.  Not surprisingly Irenaeus continues to develop this 'stranger theme' in what follows, identifying the heretics themselves in the place of Adam from the previous section:

Alienated (alienati = ἀπηλλοτριωμένους) thus from the truth, they do deservedly wallow in all error, tossed to and fro by it, thinking differently in regard to the same things at different times, and never attaining to a well- grounded knowledge, being more anxious to be sophists of words than disciples of the truth. For they have not been founded upon the one rock, but upon the sand, which has in itself a multitude of stones. Wherefore they also imagine many gods, and they always have the excuse of searching (for they are blind), but never succeed in finding it. For they blaspheme the Creator, Him who is truly God, who also furnishes power to find; imagining that they have discovered another god beyond God (alterum invenisse Deum), or another Pleroma, or another dispensation. Wherefore also the light which is from God does not illumine them, because they have dishonoured and despised God, holding Him of small account, because, through His love and infinite benignity, He has come within reach of human knowledge ... but they dream of a non-existent being above Him, that they may be regarded as having found out the great God, whom nobody, can recognise holding communication with the human race, or as directing mundane matters: that is to say, they find out the god of Epicurus, who does nothing either for himself or others; that is, he exercises no providence at all.

The reference to Epicurus only serves to remind us that we are dealing with a literary tradition that stands very close to the two powers material in the rabbinic writings.  Irenaeus seems acutely aware that the Marcionites called their god 'the Stranger' because he was unrecognized in Eden.[10]  More importantly the understanding was certainly at the heart of a much older controversy where Marcionites opponents accepted some form of the two powers in heaven doctrine but rejected his claim about the 'blind ignorance' of Adam and the Creator.[11]

It has to be recognized that Irenaeus's Sabellianism was a particularly effective strategy against the heretics.  If we assume for a moment that these groups held to the doctrine that 'the Lord' and 'God' weren't just two powers in heaven but two being 'known' and 'unknown' and where 'gnostics' were those who had been 'brought into acquaintance with the second God, Irenaeus's views seem aimed at blowing up the whole tradition which facilitated a negative view of the Jewish Lord.  It should also be noted that there may have been certain inherited linguistic factors in the Greek language which assisted the subordination of Yahweh.  As the near contemporary Minucius Felix notes in his Octvian, the title kurios was almost always used in conjunction with mortals rather than divinities.

Combating the very same heretical two powers doctrine among the Christians as Irenaeus he surprisingly comes to the very same conclusions as the Church Father noting:

Neither must you ask a name for God. God is His name. We have need of names when a multitude is to be separated into individuals by the special characteristics of names; to God, who is alone, the name God is the whole. If I were to call Him Father, you would judge Him to be earthly; if a King, you would suspect Him to be carnal; if a Lord, you will certainly understand Him to he mortal. Take away the additions of names, and you will behold His glory. 

It is interesting to see the parallels which exist between contemporary pagan writers and Irenaeus on the question of 'the heresies' and their obsession with the names of various powers in heaven.  Irenaeus plainly manifests that he hung out in the highest circles of the Commodian administration.  Many of his other arguments against the Christian sectarians develop from other contemporary pagan critics.  One wonders if there was some sort of relationship, an unofficial effort to encourage reform among the Palestinian sects.[12]

In the very same manner as the Octavius Irenaeus goes on to criticize the understanding of a blind, ignorant Lord and an unknown God.  He even points to the correctness of "certain of the Gentiles" and were "convinced that they should call the Maker of this universe the Father, who exercises a providence over all things, and arranges the affairs of our world" and their rebuke of the Marcionites who:

remove the rebuking and judicial power from the Father, reckoning that as unworthy of God, and thinking that they had found out a God both without anger and good, they have alleged that one judges, but that another saves, unconsciously taking away the intelligence and justice of both deities. For if the judicial one is not also good, to bestow favours upon the deserving, and to direct reproofs against those requiring them, he will appear neither a just nor a wise judge. On the other hand, the good God, if he is merely good, and not one who tests those upon whom he shall send his goodness, will be out of the range of justice and goodness; and his goodness will seem imperfect, as not saving all; [for it should do so,] if it be not accompanied with judgment.

Marcion, therefore, himself, by dividing God into two, maintaining one to be good and the other judicial, does in fact, on both sides, put an end to deity. For he that is the judicial one, if he be not good, is not God, because he from whom goodness is absent is no God at all; and again, he who is good, if he has no judicial power, suffers the same [loss] as the former, by being deprived of his character of deity. And how can they call the Father of all wise, if they do not assign to Him a judicial faculty? For if He is wise, He is also one who tests [others]; but the judicial power belongs to him who tests, and justice follows the judicial faculty, that it may reach a just conclusion; justice calls forth judgment, and judgment, when it is executed with justice, will pass on to wisdom. Therefore the Father will excel in wisdom all human and angelic wisdom, because He is Lord, and Judge, and the Just One, and Ruler over all. For He is good, and merciful, and patient, and saves whom He ought: nor does goodness desert Him in the exercise of justice, nor is His wisdom lessened; for He saves those whom He should save, and judges those worthy of judgment. Neither does He show Himself unmercifully just; for His goodness, no doubt, goes on before, and takes precedency.

It is impossible to read this description and not understand the Marcionites as a Jewish 'two powers' sectarian group.  Moreover the context of this statement - i.e. that the 'merciful' and 'judicial' powers were involved separately in the creation of man - necessarily connects these beings back to the controversy over the two names of God in Pentateuch.

While Megetheus refuses to bring forward the accepted Marcionite text of the Old Testament writings, such an edition must certainly have existed.  In the same manner that the LXX became the preferred text of the Catholic tradition, there must have been a parallel 'official' text which at the very least demonstrated that the Marcionites were the tradition of Paul.  As the Marcionites 'retained' at least some scriptural references in the Apostolikon it is unthinkable that they wouldn't have wanted to have access to the context of these statements especially in their ongoing dialogue with the Catholics.[13]

The closest we get to this understanding is Epiphanius's statement that Theodotion the Greek translator of the Old Testament was a Marcionite.[14]  The Marcionites seemed to have developed a detailed interpretation of the Book of Daniel and Theodotion's text was the preferred Christian text of Daniel.[15]  Theodotion also translated all the Jewish books and what little we know of his text demonstrates that it was in places radically different from the received books - for instance God sending fire in the sky to demonstrate his choice of Abel's sacrifice.[16]  Yet perhaps the closest affinity between the Marcionite reading of Paul and their possible preference for Theodotion especially in the last chapters 1 Corinthians.

In 1 Cor. 15:54 Paul cites a version of Isaiah 25:8a: κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος, it is clearly not the LXX reading. The LXX reads: κατέπιεν ὁ θάνατος ἰσχύσας, which is not a very close translation of the Hebrew. Paul’s citation, therefore, is not from the LXX.  Paul’s text aligns with what we now know to be Theodotion’s version. Theodotion read the Hebrew verb (vocalized as a Piel in the MT) as a Pual (was swallowed) and he translated לָנֶצַח (“forever” in biblical Hebrew) with εἰς νῖκος (“in victory”; cp. Job 36:7 et al). For the latter translation, Theodotion has read the Hebrew with the Aramaic meaning “victory” as he does in many places.[17]

Similarly, and perhaps more significantly, 1 Cor 15:45 also follows Theodotion's reading as no LXX manuscripts contain the word “Adam” in Gen 2:7.  Theodotion's text adds ὁ Ἀδὰµ ἄνθρωπος to the Genesis text.  Theodotion's addition is typical of his interest in the original Hebrew terminology and probably added to to reinforce the notion that the individual Adam was from the ‘‘ground,’’ hence the addition of adama in 2:7a.  Yet we have already seen that this idea was also extremely significant to the heretical understanding of Adam not being saved because he was 'earthy.'  To this end it would be impossible not to assume that Tatian and the Marcionites would not have appealed to 1 Corinthians to make their case, but also so Theodotion's translation of Genesis.[18]

Tertullian claimed Marcion "altered 'last Adam' into 'last Lord' because he feared, of course, that if he allowed the Lord to be the second Adam, we should contend that Christ, being the second Adam, must needs belong to that God who owned also the first Adam."[19]  Yet the distinction went much deeper than that.  Adam was the work of the first Lord just as the apostle was the perfect work (tamym po'olos) of the second Lord - hence the title 'Paulos' i.e. he was the work of the second Lord.[20] The emphasis of Adam being earthly is absolutely necessary to understand why the heretics rejected his salvation.  If we are of Adam we die; our salvation depends on being 'remade' after the image - 'image' being the very spiritual substance - of Christ.

There is great discussion about the dating of Theodotion. We should persuaded that he worked in the first century, despite contradictory Patristic testimony which places him at the end of the second century.  The specific identification of Theodotion as a Marcionite must have developed from the Marcionite use of his translation of the Old Testament to develop their interpretation of the Pauline material.[21]  The actual translation must have been much older than Marcionitism and indeed it is noteworthy that the translation was also employed by Hermas and Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century.  How could three figures, utterly independent of one another have cited the same translation of the Old Testament?  'Theodotion' must have been a first century translation which was particularly useful to Christians in their battle with the newly emerging orthodoxy of the second century.

It is also particularly interesting that the Marcionites seem to have allowed for the participation of their 'God' during the act of the creation of man.  As Paul notes Adam was given a 'living soul' which many Christian sectarian groups interpreted left him when Eve was separated from him.[22]  The Marcionites seem to have suggested that this came from their 'God' as we read Marcus declare against Adamantius:

AD:The spirit of Man: does it come from the Creator God or from the Good God?
MK. From the Good God.
AD. In that case, the Creator God and the Good God created man together.
 MK. How is that?
AD. You said that the soul and the body come from the Creator God, but the spirit from the Good God, did you not?
MK. When the Creator God formed man and breathed into him, he could not bring him to perfection; but the Good God above saw the figure turning about and palpitating: He therefore sent some of His own spirit and gave man life. This, then, is the spirit that we claim is saved. [De Recta 826a]

While Megethius shows reluctance to reference his text of Genesis, Marcus gives us some hints that the text here again develops from Theodotion who has επνευσεν for God's act of breathing rather the LXX and Aquila's ενεφυσησεν.  The difference is extremely significant if - as we see here - the Marcionites associated the giving of the spirit to Adam (at least temporarily) with their Good god.

Indeed the idea also seems to be echoed in Ephrem's hypothetical argument developed by his opponent with respect to Genesis that "if Marcion says that the sole reason that the Stranger did not come previously was that at the last his grace might be seen, that God had already shown a small measure of grace in connection with His justice, so that His great grace was not deemed strange when it was manifested in its time."[23]  Ephrem goes on show that if the Marcionites conceded that the God gave a small token of his grace at the time of the creation of Adam the Marcionites should also concede that this extended to his warning about eating the tree - and hence the portrait of 'God' as having characteristics of justice:

And therefore He who showed a small measure of grace towards Adam at that time—when no strange God had shown his grace towards him—is known to be the same who showed great grace at this time, (a grace) of which they say that it is the grace of the Different (or 'the other' = nukraya). For God had decreed this in His justice concerning Adam, (saying) that 'In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' For our God decreed justly and in order that He might in His love warn Adam who was existing in a good state, lest he should exist in an evil state. But when Adam did not take warning and fell from grace, Justice overtook him, according as it (had) decreed that 'In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' But God turned in [the way] of grace and tempered the harshness of justice, that Adam might not die that very day but that he might live nine hundred and thirty years [and] then die. 

The Marcionite understanding of the 'Good God' as also 'the Different' or simply 'the other' needs to be understood as being in relation to the other divine name, the Lord.  The fanciful supposition of scholars that it means 'otherworldly' results from a complete lack of familiarity with the Syriac terminology.[24]

[2] cf. Adv Haer 2.35.2 after an (silly) etymological explanation of divine titles like 'the Lord,' 'God' etc. "All the other expressions likewise bring out the title of one and the same Being; as, for example, The Lord of Powers, The Father of all, God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker, and such like. " Adv Haer 3.6.1 "Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord. " Adv Haer 3.10.5 commenting on "Prepare ye the way of me Lord, make straight paths before our God." For the prophets did not announce one and another God, but one and the same; under rations aspects, however, and many titles. For varied and rich in attribute is the Father, as I have already shown in the book preceding this; and I shall show from the prophets themselves in the further course of this work. Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God."
[3] Tatian might well be the Marcionite group that uses the heretical gospel of Mark mentioned throughout Book Three of Against Heresies.
[4] De Recta in Deum Fide 827d
[5] Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato p. 454
[7]AD. Please read, Megethius, how the Creator God condemned the soul. MEG. Read for yourself what is written in Genesis.
[9] For a different view H Jonas Gnostic Religion p. 138 "Marcion accepts the Genesis account of the creation of man, with the consequence to him that the Good God had no hand in it at all."
[17] Döpke Hermeneutik der neutestamentlichen Schriftsteller p. 271
[20] Hence also the patronymic 'Marcion' son of

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