Sunday, July 7, 2013

Marcion on Man and Son of Man

Over the course of my life I have a number of books on the 'secret Man' theology - most notably Simon Pétrement's A Separate God. I remember thinking when I read Pétrement's book - 'I like the attention to the existence of a secret doctrine regarding the god "Man" but her solution to the problem - i.e. that it devolved from the Christological title "Son of Man" - was utterly unworkable.   Instead of assuming - as she does - that the god 'Man' derived from the 'Son of Man' I have always followed Bultmann's notions regarding that title. 

Bultmann noted that though Jesus is presented in the New Testament as the Messiah and the Son of man, both terms have very different backgrounds and are used differently. The term Messiah is always used by others in speaking about Jesus — never by Jesus himself — whereas Jesus often used the term "Son of Man."   Jesus uses the term "Son of Man" in three different ways in the New Testament.

 The first class is scriptural references that describe the coming of the Son of Man as in apocalyptic expectation. The Son of Man comes from heaven as judge and Savior; he will come unexpectedly like a flash of lightning (cf. Mark 8:38; 13:26). These Son of Man sayings are the oldest, since they occur primarily in Mark and in Q. However, all of these sayings talk about the Son of man in the third person (he will . . . ) and nothing is mentioned in them about his identity with Jesus, though this identity was taken for granted by the first Christian community. Bultmann, Günther Bornkamm (1905-90), Heinz Eduard Tödt (1918 - 91) and others contend that some of these references to the Son of Man were used by Jesus. In using them he did not refer to himself, but to someone else.

It has never been recognized yet by any of the supporters of this thesis that many anti-Marcionite sources associate this interpretation of the 'Son of Man' with members of the sect.  In doing so, the 'model' moves beyond being a theoretical interpretation to a question of which one of two ancient interpretations of the title (Marcionite vs. Orthodox) is correct. 

If we acknowledge that the Marcionites accepted the idea of Jesus referring to someone else as the 'Son of Man' much of the remaining anti-Marcionite rhetoric quickly deflates.  Tertullian for instance attempts to employ Jesus's use of the 'Son of Man' against the sect.  He even makes mention of the concept of 'the god Man' associated with the Valentinians but applied by them to Jesus's Father.  Tertullian makes absolutely clear that the Marcionites did not follow the Valentinians in identifying the Father as 'Man' but he refuses to explain to the reader whom they identified as 'Man.'

By reverse inference however, it becomes plain to see that if the Marcionites accepted that Jesus was speaking in the third person about 'the Son of Man' then they accepted him to be 'Man' - i.e. they are baptized into Christ in the sense that we become 'sons' of Man, that is ΙΣ (= איש).  Undoubtedly this opened the Marcionites and related sects to the charge of radical Monarchianism or 'Patripassianism' (= that the Father was crucified on the cross).  However because the Marcionites did not believe Jesus actually suffered crucifixion but someone was crucified in his place (= the Son of Man) the charge was itself a misrepresentation of their opinion. 

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