Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Nomen Sacrum ΙΣ and the 'Ish Theophany [Part Two]

It has long been suggested that that much of the material that now survives in Latin and is associated with Tertullian of Carthage, existed in another language and perhaps even originally with another author.[1]  In the case of the Marcionite material specifically a strong case can be made for both propositions merely on the basis of the opening words of Book One alone.[2]  There are a great number of arguments that can be put forward for a lost Greek original source for Adversus Marcionem.  What is certain is the fact that much of Book Three was copied from an older source which was perplexingly reused yet again for another Tertullian composition - Adversus Iudaeos.[3]

The mystery of how common material could be used against Marcionites and Jews has never been solved.  Nevertheless it severely undermines the commonly held notion that the Marcionites were 'anti-Jewish.'[4]  It is enough to say that the most likely scenario is that there was a lost original treatise whose contents were deemed by Tertullian to be equally applicable to Marcionites and Jews - the underlying explanation for this understanding being that the Marcionites were so ancient that they were properly identified as proto-Christian and thus essentially, a Jewish sectarian movement.  At least part of this has to be related to their directing their message to 'Jewish proselytes.'[5]

Whatever the case may be in order to understand some of the anomalies in Book Three of Adv. Marc. can be attributable to the original author's reliance on a translation of the Jewish scripture rather than the Hebrew originals.  Ephrem mentions, quite disapproving, the Marcionite preference for the Hebrew text of the Bible over the Septuagint.[6]  In the case of the 'man of war' passages, it is interesting to note that Tertullian's consistent preference for bellatorem over virum bellatorem may have something to do with the original text having been written in Greek.

Whereas the Vulgate renders Exodus 15:3 as "dominus quasi vir pugnator" and Isaiah 3:2 as "fortem, et virum bellatorem" the equivalents in the LXX are "κύριος συντρίβων πολέμους κύριος ὄνομα αὐτῷ" and "γίγαντα καὶ ἰσχύοντα καὶ ἄνθρωπον πολεμιστὴν."  In other words, Tertullian's consistent use of bellatorem is likely reflective of πολέμους in LXX Exodus 15:3.  Indeed that Tertullian or his source go on to question a Marcionite interest in representing as 'man' from this same passage seems to confirm an underlying breakdown in communication:

No less are you being led by the sound of the words when you interpret the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria and the king of the Assyrians as indicating that the Creator's Christ will be a bellatorem. You miss the point of what scripture promises that before knows how to say Father, and Mother, he will take up the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria against the king of the Assyrians. You must before all else take note of the indication of his age, whether it can as yet represent Christ as a man (an virum), far less a commander (nedum imperatorem).

The parallel text in Adversus Iudaeos says the exact same scripture and uses the same words, concluding the parallel section with - "ante est enim inspicias aetatis demonstrationem, an virum iam Christum exhibere ista aetas posset nedum imperatorem."

The point here is that it was the Marcionites and 'the Jews' who shared a very closely related expectation for a divine 'man of war.'  The expectations were so similar that a lost original treatise likely related to the writings of Justin Martyr was reused often verbatim against each sect.    Indeed the Dialogue with Trypho contains a very similar argument developed from the same variant text of Isaiah.  All three traditions assume that Isa 8:4 was inserted into Isa 7:10-17. All three argue that the section makes reference to a 'virgin birth' (Justin makes reference to the concept at least twenty times).  All the apologists argue that because the messianic figure in the text is a child the context better fits the account Jesus being born to under Herod, than any alternatives.

Above all else, the Catholic writers stress that the one who is to come was only figuratively described as a 'man of war.'  So in Adversus Iudaeos for instance, Isaiah 3:2's 'man of war' reference is deliberately suppressed and the author declares after putting forward his lengthy proofs that:

"Now," say they, "that (Christ) of yours, who is come, neither was called by that name, nor engaged in warfare."

and again:

thus, so far, the Christ who is come was not a warrior, because He was not predicted as such by Isaiah. "But if the Christ," say they, "who is believed to be coming is not called Jesus, why is he who is come called Jesus Christ?"

The same idea is preserved as coming from the mouths of Marcionites as follows in the parallel text in Book Three as:

and so the Christ who has come will be Isaiah's Christ, for the very reason that he was not a warrior, because he is not by Isaiah described as such. 

and again:

Appeal next, as your custom is, to this description of Christ which Isaiah makes, and assert your claim that it in no point agrees. In the first place, you allege, Isaiah's Christ will have to be named Emmanuel, and afterwards to take up the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria against the king of the Assyrians: and yet he who has come was neither known by any name of that kind, nor has ever performed any warlike act.

There is clearly some kind of common understanding here, but it is difficult to make sense of what that original interpretation was due to later re-editing of the text during the reign of Septimius Severus.[7]

What interests us especially however is the manner in which both textual traditions go on to reject the name Jesus.  Just as Adv. Iudeaos has the Jew (Trypho?) originally say that 'Jesus' was not the expected name of the messiah, Adv. Marc begins by acknowledging a similar denial among the Marcionites.  However the original text written against the Marcionites assumed that the Christian god allowed for a misunderstanding to develop about his name.  "But how, they (the Marcionites) ask, could He have worked his way into the Jews' confidence except by a name which was usual and familiar among them?"

What immediately follows in Adv .Marc. has been completely removed from the parallel section cited above in Adv. Iudaeos.  Nevertheless it is critical for understanding the original Marcionite interest in איש as the true name of the Christian god.  We have already seen that the heretics took the original reference to a 'man of war' in the Song of the Sea to predict the coming of their divinity.  Tertullian intimates that it has something to do with a transformation into warriors in the baptismal font, but does not go into great specificity about it.[8]  Now in this present section it is clear that the Marcionite veneration of איש was coupled with a rejection of the orthodox name for their god - i.e. Ἰησοῦς.

Immediately after having the Marcionites declare that the Christian god "worked way into the Jews' confidence except by a name which was usual and familiar among them" Tertullian attacks that very understanding promoted by the heretics noting that they:

tell a tale of a god without courage and without principles, since to promote a policy by deception is the device either of self-distrust or of dishonesty. With greater honesty and absence of guile the false prophets acted in opposition to the Creator by coming in the name of their own god. So I do not see how this device had any effect, since the Jews found it easier to believe he was either their own Christ, or else rather some deceiver, than the Christ of a different god—and so the gospel will prove.

Now supposing it true that he pilfered the name of Christ, like a petty thief after the dole-basket, why did he also choose to be called Jesus, a name about which the Jews had no such expectations? Although we for our part have by the grace of God obtained understanding of his mysteries, and recognize that this name too was destined for Christ, it does not follow that the Jews, deprived of wisdom, were to be aware of that fact. Indeed until this present day they are hoping for Christ, not for Jesus, and they would rather interpret Elijah as Christ, than Jesus. He then who has come also in this name in which Christ was not expected, had it in his power to come in that name alone which was the only one expected. But as he has combined the two, the expected and the unexpected, both of his designs are put out of court. For if his reason for being Christ was that he might for a time steal in on the pretence of belonging to the Creator, Jesus opposes, because there was no expectation of Jesus in the Creator's Christ: or if was named Jesus so that he might be taken to belong to the other, Christ forbids, because the Christ that was hoped for belonged to no other than the Creator. Which of these can hold its ground, I know not.

I am unaware of anyone else having drawing attention to the fact that the Marcionite veneration of their god as איש is developed with a parallel rejection of the name Ἰησοῦς.  The argument is clear and unmistakable.  Tertullian is questioning how the Marcionites could believe that their god allowed himself to be misidentified as 'Jesus' when his name was something else - i.e. איש or its transliterated expression in Greek manuscripts - ΙΣ .

We only learn how the Marcionites read this understanding into the gospel in Book Four of the Adv. Marc. series.  Here, in what is a section by section discussion of important sections of the gospel shared with the Catholic canon, we learn that the Marcionites actually interpreted the narrative to teach the 'Jesus' misunderstanding was promoted by demons. In what is perhaps the first narrative of the Marcionite gospel, Jesus enters into a synagogue in Capernaum after 'appearing' from heaven and encounters a man possessed by a demon.  Tertullian tells us that the heretics understood that it was this demoniac who caused the world to misidentify their Lord as Ἰησοῦς. 

Tertullian begins by noting that as Jesus enters the synagogue:

the spirit of the demon cries out, What have we to do with thee, Jesus? Thou art come to destroy us. I know who thou art, the Holy One of God. Here I shall not discuss whether even this appellation was at all appropriate to one who had no right even to the name of Christ (= Jesus) unless he belonged to the Creator. I have fully discussed his titles in another place. At present I require to know how the demon knew that he had this name, when no prediction referring to him had ever been made in the past by a god unknown and until that time dumb, a god as whose holy one he had no means of invoking him, a god unknown even to the demon's Creator. what sort of indication he now gave of a new divinity, that by it he could be taken for the holy one of a different god. 

We have already examined the 'other place' that the question of 'the appropriateness' of the name Jesus.  We now confront the original source of the controversy - the Marcionite interpretation of Jesus's 'rebuking' of the demon's identification of him as Ἰησοῦς.

Tertullian notes that the Christian god merely had to step into the synagogue and not yet said or done anything and the demon recognized him as "Jesus and the Holy One of God."  This recognition, reasons Tertullian, shows that the demon knew who this Stranger was. 

it was of one whom he did know: for he remembered , that the prophet had prophesied of the Holy One of God, and that Jesus was God's name in the son of Nun. He had had these names given by an angel, our gospel relates: Therefore that which shall be born in thee shall be called holy, the Son of God: and, Thou shalt call his name Jesus. Also, though he was only a demon, he had in fact some sense of the Lord's purpose, more than if it had been a stranger's and not yet well enough known. For he began by asking, What have we to do with thee, Jesus?, not as though addressing a stranger, but as one whose concern the Creator's spirits are. For his words were not, What hast thou to do with us?, but, What have we to do with thee?, in sorrow for himself and in regret at his own case: and as he now sees what this is he adds, Thou art come to destroy us. To that extent he had recognized Jesus as the Son of the judge, the avenger, and the severe God, not of that perfectly good god who knows nothing of destruction and punishment. With what purpose have I begun with this episode? To show you that Jesus was acknowledged by the demon, and affirmed by himself, to belong to none other than the Creator. But still, you object, Jesus rebuked him (emphasis mine). Of course he did: he was an embarrassment: even in that acknowledgement he was impertinent, and submissive in the wrong way, giving the impression that it would be the sum total of Christ's glory to have come for the destruction of demons and not rather for the salvation of men: for it was he who would have his disciples rejoice not because the spirits were subject to them but because of their election to salvation. Else why did he rebuke him? If because he (= the demon) was wholly a liar, then he himself was neither Jesus nor in any sense holy: if because he was partly a liar, in having rightly thought him to be Jesus and the Holy One of God, but to belong to the Creator, it was most unjust of him to rebuke one who took the view which he knew he must take, and did not entertain the idea which he did not know he needed to entertain, that he was a different Jesus, and the holy one of a different god. But if his rebuke has no more likely ground than the interpretation we put upon it, in that case the demon told no lie, and was not rebuked for lying: for Jesus was Jesus himself, and the demon had no means of affording recognition to any besides him: and Jesus gave assurance of being that one whom the devil had recognized, seeing that his rebuke to the demon was not on account of a lie. 

There can be no doubt now when we read this passage along side 'the other' before it (i.e. Adv. Marc. 3.16) that we are in the process of uncovering a great unrecognized fact about the Marcionites - i.e. they not only denied the name Ἰησοῦς for their god, but they understood the rest of the world identifying him as such was established by a demonic conspiracy witnessed in the gospel. 

Indeed this is not the only section in the gospel which testified to this reality in the minds of the Marcionites.  The Marcionites understood Jesus's rebuke of the "wicked spirits ...crying aloud, Thou art the Son of God" was rooted in a similar misidentification of his true identity. (Adv. Marc. 4.8)  His rebuke of Peter's identification of him as the Christ seems to have been interpreted in the same manner.[10]  Most important of all however Tertullian testifies that while Jesus walking on the water and rebuking the winds was interpreted as a sign of the 'man of war,' (Luke 8:22 - 25) this narrative being immediately followed by the Legion narrative was deeply significant for the sect as it once again demonstrated the 'plot' of the demons to misidentify the name of Jesus.

The fact that it was a demon with a military appellation - i.e. 'Legion' - who called out for 'Jesus, the son of the Most High'  must have been deeply significant for the Marcionites too.  Tertullian does not allow for us to hear much of the original interpretation of the passage noting only that - whatever it was - it contradicted their interest in the 'man of war' described in the section before:

Come now, you who suppose the prophecy was of a militant and armed warrior, not as a figure or an allegory of fine who on a spiritual battlefield, with spiritual armour, was to wage spiritual war against spiritual enemies: when you find in tine single man a multitude of devils, who call themselves a legion, evidently a spiritual one, learn from this that Christ too must be understood to be he who in spiritual armour and as a spiritual warrior is an overthrower of spiritual enemies, and so it was he
who was also to contend with the legion of demons: and thus it will become evident that of this war the psalm declared, The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.  For when he did battle with the last enemy, which is death, he triumphed by the trophy of the cross. But of which god did the legion testify that Jesus is the son? Surely, of that God whose torments and abyss they already knew and feared. For it does not seem that they can still have been unaware of what the power of that new and unknown god was accomplishing on earth, since it is not at all likely that the Creator was unaware of it. For even if he had at one time been unaware of another god over above himself, now
at least he had become aware of him in action beneath the Creator's own heaven: and what their Lord had become aware of must by now have become known to his whole body of servants in that same world and within that same circuit of heaven in which that extraneous divinity was engaged. In as much then as both the Creator and everything that was his, would have known of that extraneous divinity if it had existed, by so much, seeing it did not exist, the demons were aware of no other Christ than the Christ of their own God. They do not request of that other god that which they must have remembered they had to request of the Creator, to be excused the Creator's abyss. Thus they obtained their request. And how did they earn it? Was it because they had lied, because they had made him out the son of the cruel God? [emphasis mine] Yet who can this have been, who granted a boon to liars, and bore with his own traducers? No, it was because they had not h'ed, because they had known him for the God of the abyss, their own God, that in this way he gave assurance that he was he whom the demons had acknowledged him to be, Jesus the judge, the son of God the avenger. [ibid 4.20]

To this end we may conclude with some degree of confidence that the incantation bowl 1. Levene, CMB M163 with its adjuration בשםיה דאישו דכבש רומא (in the name of Ishu who conquered Rome) is very likely Marcionite. The nomen sacrum ΙΣ as 'the name above all names' is undoubtedly Marcionite too, rooted in a transliteration of איש and later misrepresented by the orthodox as a shortening of Ἰησοῦς.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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