Sunday, July 7, 2013

Justin Uses a Marcionite Antithesis

I don't know whether I am embarrassed or proud of my familiarity with the writings of the early Church Fathers.  I must have read all the surviving material from the second and third centuries at least a dozen times.  After a while you actually start to recognize patterns that no one else has seen.  Take the resemblance of Moses spreading his arms out in prayer during the battle with Amalek (Exodus 17:11) and the Christian god on the Cross.  Both the Marcionites and Justin Martyr (c. 150 CE) made reference to it and came to apparently very different conclusions:

Megethius: The prophet of the God of creation, when war came upon the people, went up to the top of the mountain and stretched out his hands to God so that he might destroy many in the battle [cf. Exod. 17:8ff.]. Yet our Lord, because He is because He is good, stretched out His hands, not to destroy, but to save men. So where is the similarity? One, by stretching out his hands, destroys, the other saves. [Adamantius, De Recta in Deum Fide 811b 11]
Justin: "When the people, waged war with Amalek, and the son of Nave (Nun) by name Jesus (Joshua), led the fight, Moses himself prayed to God, stretching out both hands, and Hur with Aaron supported them during the whole day, so that they might not hang down when he got wearied. For if he gave up any part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross, the people were beaten, as is recorded in the writings of Moses; but if he remained in this form, Amalek was proportionally defeated, and he who prevailed prevailed by the cross. For it was not because Moses so prayed that the people were stronger, but because, while one who bore the name of Jesus (Joshua) was in the forefront of the battle, he himself made the sign of the cross. [Dialogue 90]

Let's consider the Marcionite antithesis for a moment.  At its core it is clear that the Marcionites couldn't have thought their god was of the typology of Joshua.  I think this reinforces what we have already seen with respect to the sect's denial that the name of the Christian god was Jesus. 

But let's consider the bigger issues for a moment.  Yes there are similarities.  Moses and the Christian god spread their arms.  But Justin Martyr elsewhere in the Dialogue argues that Jesus had his legs and arms spread wide in the shape of a Greek letter chi.  Certainly Justin could not have thought that Moses and his god completely resembled one another.  Indeed it is for this reason alone that I have problems believing that Justin actually wrote these words.  I strongly suspect that the argument was added to Justin's Dialogue in order to transform him into a believer in Jesus.  As we have seen time and again, the editor of Justin's writings lived during the reign of Septimius Severus and more than likely to be identified as Irenaeus of Rome. 

Let's take a moment to notice how this 'Jesus' argument was heavily promoted in writings associated with the circle of Irenaeus starting with Adv. Marc. 3.18.6:

Again, in the case of Moses, wherefore did he at that moment particularly, when Joshua was fighting Amalek, pray in a sitting posture with outstretched hands, when in such a conflict it would surely have been more seemly to have bent the knee, and smitten the breast, and to have fallen on the face to the ground, and in such prostration to have offered prayer? Wherefore, but because in a battle fought in the name of that Lord who was one day to fight against the devil, the shape was necessary of that very cross through which Jesus was to win the victory?

and its mirror image in Adv. Iud. 10:

But, to come now to Moses, why, I wonder, did he merely at the time when Joshua was battling against Amalek, pray sitting with hands expanded, when, in circumstances so critical, he ought rather, surely, to have commended his prayer by knees bended, and hands beating his breast, and a face prostrate on the ground; except it was that there, where the name of the Lord Jesus was the theme of speech--destined as He was to enter the lists one day singly against the devil--the figure of the cross was also necessary, (that figure) through which Jesus was to win the victory?

and repeated mention in Adv. Haer. of Irenaeus:

as I have already stated, and prostrated themselves to the eternal King, departed by another way, not now returning by the way of the Assyrians. "For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, Father or mother, He shall receive the power of Damascus, and the spoils of Samaria, against the king of the Assyrians;" declaring, in a mysterious manner indeed, but emphatically, that the Lord did fight with a hidden hand against Amalek. [Adv. Haer. 3.16.4]

Wherefore also Paul, since he was the apostle of the Gentiles, says, "I laboured more than they all."(2) For the instruction of the former, [viz., the Jews,] was an easy task, because they could allege proofs from the Scriptures, and because they, who were in the habit of hearing Moses and the prophets, did also readily receive the First-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the life of God,--Him who, by the spreading forth of hands, did destroy Amalek, and vivify man from the wound of the serpent, by means of faith which was [exercised] towards Him. As I have pointed out in the preceding book, the apostle did, in the first place, instruct the Gentiles to depart from the superstition of idols, and to worship one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Framer of the whole creation; and that His Son was His Word, by whom He founded all things; and that He, in the last times, was made a man among men [ibid 4.24.1]

And he also judges the Jews, who do not accept of the word of liberty, nor are willing to go forth free, although they have a Deliverer present [with them]; but they pretend, at a time unsuitable [for such conduct], to serve, [with observances] beyond [those required by] the law, God who stands in need of nothing, and do not recognise the advent of Christ, which He accomplished for the salvation of men, nor are willing to understand that all the prophets announced His two advents: the one, indeed, in which He became a man subject to stripes, and knowing what it is to bear infirmity, and sat upon the foal of an ass,(14) and was a stone rejected by the builders, and was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and by the stretching forth of His hands destroyed Amalek; while He gathered from the ends of the earth into His Father's fold the children who were scattered abroad, and remembered His own dead ones who had formerly fallen asleep, and came down to them that He might deliver them: but the second in which He will come on the clouds, bringing on the day which burns as a furnace? and smiting the earth with the word of His mouth? and slaying the impious with the breath of His lips, and having a fan in His hands, and cleansing His floor, and gathering the wheat indeed into His barn, but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Moreover, he shall also examine the doctrine of Marcion, [inquiring] how he holds that there are two gods, separated from each other by an infinite distance. Or how can he be good who draws away men that do not belong to him from him who made them, and calls them into his own kingdom? And why is his goodness, which does not save all [thus], defective? Also, why does he, indeed, seem to be good as respects men, but most unjust with regard to him who made men, inasmuch as he deprives him of his possessions? Moreover, how could the Lord, with any justice, if He belonged to another father, have acknowledged the bread to be His body, while He took it from that creation to which we belong, and affirmed the mixed cup to be His blood?  And why did He acknowledge Himself to be the Son of man, if He had not gone through that birth which belongs to a human being? How, too, could He forgive us those sins for which we are answerable to our Maker and God? And how, again, supposing that He was not flesh, but was a man merely in appearance, could He have been crucified, and could blood and water have issued from His pierced side? What body, moreover, was it that those who buried Him consigned to the tomb? And what was that which rose again from the dead? [ibid 4.33.1,2]

I am not sure that this is an example of Irenaeus and Tertullian 'reusing' an original argument of Justin's.  Rather, I feel it more likely that Irenaeus was actively trying to promote the idea that the Christian god was 'really' a man named Jesus and did so by altering older writings like those of Justin. 

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