Friday, August 30, 2013

The Secret Life of Jesus [Chapter Five]

Chapter Five
'Of Mark' or 'Of Marcion'?

No one doubts that there was a conflict between the Marcionite and Catholic traditions in second century Rome.  The famous German scholar Adolf Harnack's characterization of the struggle understands that it was battle over the role of the Old Testament in the Christian faith: "Marcion wanted to free Christianity from the Old Testament, but the church preserved it."  Yet this reconstruction of history places too great an emphasis on the value of the Catholic testimonies.  The Marcionites understood Jesus to be something other than the ruler of the world, the god who gave the Law to Moses and who spoke through the prophets.  For the Marcionites there was nothing controversial about this understanding.  There was no 'struggle.'  They remained steadfast to the vision of the Apostle who founded their tradition.

The only point at which one may begin to see any conflict was at the point the more ancient traditions had to 'go underground' - whether to escape the secular or religious authorities.  Even here there was hardly any 'struggle' to speak of.  We must imagine that many heretics just went along with the tide of history, maintaining their traditions in secret.  It seems likely that many others headed eastward, first to Syria and then perhaps onto Osroene.  Journeying to this semi-autonomous kingdom where Marcionitism exclusively controlled the name 'Christian' must have been top priority for those who refused to compromise their faith.  We know too little about the patterns of movement for any Christians in this period let alone heretics.

It is interesting that in the kingdom of Osroene Catholics were called 'Palutians' - allegedly so named after a bishop Palut that was consecrated by Serapion of Antioch and him by Zephyrinus of Rome (192 - 200 CE).  Yet we can imagine that at one time the sects name bore a striking resemblance to the Syriac word for 'those of the palace' - i.e. palutini - from 'the Palatine,'  the place from which the Roman Empire was governed.  The difficulty with the survival of ancient names is that they become incomprehensible over time.  The fourth century Church Father Epiphanius derived two names for sects through a misunderstanding of terminology in Aramaic - i.e. the 'Ebionites' allegedly of a certain heretic named 'Ebion' and the 'Elxasites' supposedly of another figure named 'Elxai.'  These are by no means the only examples of this sort of corruption; they only happen to be the most obvious.

The difficulty of all difficulties however is to make sense of the name 'Marcionite.'  The most straightforward explanation is to assume that there was a man named Marcion and that the Marcionites were his followers.  This is the opinion of virtually every scholar in the field.  Exactly how the Marcionites related to 'Marcion' isn't exactly made clear.  Many also take the story of Marcion attempting to seduce a virgin at face value.  So too the effort to bribe the Church with 200,000 sesterces to the Roman Church.  The same with respect to the charge of 'cutting things' from the gospel of Luke and the Pauline letters.

The first sign that things aren't as clear cut as they might at first seem is Ephrem the Syrians testimony that the Marcionites in Osroene didn't accept the name given to them by the Catholics -

Marcion, who first blasphemed, Was unable to flee from his name, The name that went out from his schism, The appellation from his division. Even a thief does not want people to call him according to his work, But obligatorily he is named "Thief" according to his work. Deeds give us names!

The Marcionites, as the great Walter Bauer has shown, had exclusive control of the name 'Christian' in the East in the second and third centuries. A text from fifth century Iran demonstrates that the identification krestyana (marqyona) as being "normal custom here" - maintaining the pattern established in Osroene centuries earlier before the Orthodox eventually seized control under Constantine.  

It is also worth noting that the Orthodox started calling themselves the Semitic equivalent - i.e. mesihaya or 'anointed one.'  The writings of the fourth century Iranian Christian Aphrahat reinforce that his readership did not use krystyana and couldn't understand when the term came up in his translations of Acts.  Yet when we come back to the problem of the parallel forms krestyana and marqyona at the fringes of the known world, we see that the two terms bear a striking similarity in construct.  Krestyana is clearly a transliteration of the Greek term for 'Christian' just as 'Marqyona' comes from Marcion or perhaps Marcionos.

Yet since 'christianos' ultimately goes back to Christos or 'Christ' with the added Latin suffix anus can't that imply that the Marcionites themselves considered Marcion to go back to Marcus plus the Greek adjectival suffix -eion (-eion itself is often shortened to -ion especially in first century Jewish groups)?  Doesn't this mean that the Marcionites themselves think that their name meant 'those of Mark'?   It is certainly possible. The fact that we never get to hear directly from the Marcionites is very unfortunate. 

It cannot be denied that at least one other text provides the exact opposite opinion of the Marcionites.  The so-called 'Dialogues of Adamantius' has a Marcionite explicitly state that the Marcionites have Marcion as their bishop.  No one questions the fact that this text, better known as De Recta in Deum Fide, is hopelessly corrupt.  It represents a completely reworked ante-Nicene text only completed its revisionist process c. 358 CE.  We shouldn't spend to much time focused on a single anomalous piece of information from this text.

The surviving inscription at the 'Marcionite synagogue' (synagoge Marcioniston) is far more interesting.  Established c 318 - 319 the identification of the sect as Marcionite rather than 'Christian' only shows how different the fate of the community was in the Empire.  It demonstrates that Marcionistai was the official designation of the sect.  Yet if we go back to the earliest representations of this name - i.e. in the texts of the Church apologist Justin and the Church historian Hegesippus - we find it preserved in the specific form Marcianistai.

What is so odd about these formations is that they represent what we might call double formations.  For instance, from the list in Hegesippus we see - Mendrianistai, Marcianistai, Karpokratianistai.  We know that the first group represents 'those of Menander' i.e. Menander + ian + istai and the last 'those of Carpocrates + ian + istai.  Why then shouldn't we assume that Hegesippus was referencing 'those of Mark' by this bizarre adjectival construction?  The same thing is true in Justin.  Some are called Marcians (Marcianoi), and Carpocratians (Karpokratianoi) and some Valentinians (Valentinianoi), and some Basilidians (Basilidianoi), and some Saturnilians (Saturnilianoi).  Here again the pattern would show the group to be 'those of Mark' rather than those of Marcion.

To be certain, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria know the existence of a Marcion and a group of followers.  Yet it is important to note that Clement never uses any other form other than 'those of Marcion' and Irenaeus employs the same form in every instance save for one.  The early third century Muratorian canon references the sect as the 'Marciani' - the Latin equivalent of 'those of Mark.'  The same can be said for the long addition to the Moscow manuscript of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, preserved in Greek but with the addition that "this account Gaius copied from the writings of Irenaeus" and the famous story of Polycarp meeting Marcion is retold but with unusual formation Marcioni - i.e. "once Marcion, from whom come the so-called Marcioni, met the holy Polycarp."

The form Marcioni reflects the standard Latin gentilic plural.  It is very similar if not identical with the reference in the Muratorian canon.  For instance those belonging to the house of Caesar were called the Caesariani in Latin.  Did Irenaeus transform the original identification of the Marcionites as 'Marcites' - i.e. 'those of Mark'?  One more piece of evidence is worth considering. 

It is worth noting that in the great collection of anti-heretical writings of Epiphanius of Salamis in Cyprus, at least a few of these groups identified with Latin -anus adjectival suffixes are transposed to Greek -ion.  The Karpocratianoi are now at least in a few places, the Karpocrasion.  It has been noted since the time of Hugh Lawlor that manuscripts of Hegesippus seem to have been tampered with or incorrectly reported.  When Eusebius cites Hegesippus, the sect appears as the Karpokratianistai.  Yet Epiphanius having access to a different manuscript of this early Church historian never references the form Karpokratianistai in his entry for the sect, only Karpocras and Karpocrasion - i.e. with the same Greek adjectival suffix as the proposed 'those of Mark' = Marcion.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Epiphanius our only source for the Greek text of Irenaeus Against Heresies Book One.  From that source we have two more gentilic plural formations with -ion.  Epiphanius preserves references to the Colorabasians (Kolorbasion) and the Marcosians (Markosion).  The specific construction of Markosion is particularly unusual in that one would have expected Markion or 'Marcion' from Marcus + the -ion suffix as Colorbasion is Colorbasus + ion.  The two accounts appear back to back in all editions of Irenaeus and Colorbasus is specifically referenced in the middle of the account of the Marcosians.  Is this enough to establish that the writings of Irenaeus manipulated the name of the heretical group in Rome?  There is one more piece of evidence to consider from the writings of Ireneaus.

The manuscripts of Irenaeus survive in Latin.  The Latin text must have been preserved rather early - at least by the early third century because they are known to Latin Church Fathers a little later.  There is no question that Irenaeus 'knew' of the existence of Marcion.  The question now is whether he invented this persona to disconnect the tradition from its original association with Mark.  An appeal to the writings of Justin are of no assistance as they have been demonstrated by no less an authority than the conservative New Testament scholar Craig Evans to have been tampered with at the time Irenaeus was active.

We have already mentioned that our earliest historical Church Fathers whose writings we have preserved more or less intact and uncorrupted reference the sect as 'those of Marcion' rather than Marcionistai.  In the Latin manuscripts of Irenaeus we see frequent allusion to eos qui sunt a Marcione (Adv Haer 2.1.4, 2.31.1, 3.4.3, 3.12.12, 3.14.4, 4.8.1, 4.13.1, 4.34.1) while Adv Haer 5.26.1 makes reference to quemadmodum qui a Marcion sunt. The question of course is whether Gaius's earlier witness to the form Marcioni was originally here too - i.e. sunt Marcioni throughout.

In that sense then we see remarkable instability in the earlier manuscripts of Irenaeus, almost suggesting that he was wrestling with a pre-existent Greek adjectival form Marcion that described the group rather than the founder of the sect and which was preserved originally in Latin translations as Marciani (= those of Mark).  The subsequent forms Markianistai and Marcioni are systematic attempts to 'deal' with the original 'difficulty' - i.e. the widespread contemporary identification of a community associated with Mark at Rome which possessed material which developed Christianity beyond the original tradition of Peter and the apostles. 

There would be no way to reconcile the community of Mark which identified itself as 'Christiani' to the church of Peter and the apostles is Mark continued to recognized to be superior to Peter.  This is the dilemma at the heart of De Praescriptione Haereticorum.  The heretics (i.e. Marcionites and Valentinians) possess a secret gospel (De Praes. Haer 25.8) which resembles Mark (De Praes. Haer. 22.3 - 23.1) but associated with Paul which is said to be superior to the wisdom passed on by word of mouth (viva voce) by the apostles associated with Peter.  The Apostle who adopted the name 'Paul' later in life needed to be someone other than Mark.  The controversy regarding Mark's writing of the gospel independently of Peter was too well established in the age.  A new story of apostolic origins had to be established which confounded the understanding passed on by heretics through oral tradition.

To this end, as we have already mentioned, Irenaeus established the fourfold gospel as the basis for a legal praescriptio establishing that the primacy of the Catholic Church.  This testimony and the interrelatedness of names in the various related 'documents' of its New Testament canon furnished proof in the face of the traditional silence and pushing away of outsiders by the original Markan community.  It isn't just De Praescriptione Haereticorum which sheds light on the 'secret gospel' and 'secret tradition' of the first Christians.  Celsus and various other contemporary pagans testify to its existence.  However the most significant witness to its existence especially with regards to the name of the founder of 'Marcionitism' is the opening words of the Fifth Book of Tertullian's Five Books Against Marcion. 

It is here that we can see Tertullian preservation of Irenaeus’s original charge against the Marcionites that they hide the name of their apostle because they stole his testimonies from the Catholic Church.  This is absolutely critical for our understanding of why the manipulations of Irenaeus proved to be so successful.  The heretics simply couldn't open their mouths and offer an explanation for who they were, where they came from them and why they were associated with the name Marcion.  The text reads in full:

Nothing is without an origin except God alone. In as much as of all things as they exist the origin comes first, so must it of necessity come first in the discussion of them. Only so can there be agreement about what they are: for it is impossible for you to discern what the quality of a thing is unless you are first assured whether itself exists: and you can only know that by knowing where it comes from. As then I have now in the ordering of my treatise reached this part of the subject, I desire to hear from Marcion the origin of Paul the apostle. I am a sort of new disciple, having had instruction from no other teacher. For the moment my only belief is that nothing ought to be believed without good reason, and that that is believed without good reason which is believed without knowledge of its origin: and I must with the best of reasons approach this inquiry with uneasiness when I find one affirmed to be an apostle, of whom in the list of the apostles in the gospel I find no trace. So when I am told that he was subsequently promoted by our Lord, by now at rest in heaven, I find some lack of foresight in the fact that Christ did not know beforehand that he would have need of him, but after setting in order the office of apostleship and sending them out upon their duties, considered it necessary, on an impulse and not by deliberation, to add another, by compulsion so to speak and not by design. So then, shipmaster out of Pontus, supposing you have never accepted into your craft any smuggled or illicit merchandise, have never appropriated or adulterated any cargo, and in the things of God are even more careful and trustworthy, will you please tell us under what bill of lading you accepted Paul as apostle, who had stamped him with that mark of distinction, who commended him to you, and who put him in your charge? Only so may you with confidence disembark him: only so can he avoid being proved to belong to him who has put in evidence all the documents that attest his apostleship. He himself, says Marcion, claims to be an apostle, and that not from men nor through any man, but through Jesus Christ. Clearly any man can make claims for himself: but his claim is confirmed by another person's attestation. One person writes the document, another signs it, a third attests the signature, and a fourth enters it in the records. No man is for himself both claimant and witness. Besides this, you have found it written that many will come and say, I am Christ. If there is one that makes a false claim to be Christ, much more can there be one who professes that he is an apostle of Christ. Thus far my converse has been in the guise of a disciple and an inquirer: from now on I propose to shatter your confidence, for you have no means of proving its validity, and to shame your presumption, since you make claims but reject the means of establishing them. Let Christ, let the apostle, belong to your other god: yet you have no proof of it except from the Creator's archives. 

To summarize the argument preserved here by Tertullian - the fact that the Marcionites refuse to identify the name of the person who wrote their most beloved gospel, is used by Irenaeus as a sign that they ‘stole’ their canon – and their very apostle - from the Catholic Church!  That scholars has actually given serious consideration to these claims for the last two hundred years may surprise readers. Yet this is only one of many claims put forward by Irenaeus that get a 'free ride' in a field which doesn't feel obligated to come up with a defense for those silenced by the changing tides of history. 

Irenaeus began by acknowledging that neither the gospel nor the Epistles sheds any light on the identity of the Apostle. This is clearly the Marcionite position - the Apostle doesn't want us to know who he is.  On this point the two sides would have agreed.  The Marcionites certainly pointed to the Apostle's expression - to be "a Jew in secret" to reinforce their understanding that he was the founder of a crypto-faith after the destruction of the temple when it was dangerous to be a Jew.  Of course they would never have verbalized this argument but there is some sense of this in the surviving literature.

Irenaeus goes on to say in what follows that the Catholics have the Acts of the Apostles to help ‘sort out the truth.’  Yet it is clear from this and other testimonies that the heretics rejected that document.  It represented a 'spurious codex' which misrepresented the truth - a truth the Marcionites refused to articulate.  Irenaeus acknowledges that the Marcionites do say by 'word of mouth' that God chose the Apostle after the failure of the Twelve.  But that isn't good enough for Irenaeus.  Such an argument contradicts the proper 'monarchical' understanding of the godhead.  It makes it seem if the choosing of Paul was ‘impuslive decision’ on God's part.

In the section that immediately follows he criticizes that the fact that the Marcionite Church obscures its relationship with its founding documents - the gospel and the letters associated with Paul.  He likens them to being taken as by a thief (furtivas) onto a vessel without any of the proper documentation.  The documents are needed to prove ownership, according to Irenaeus, so this proves effectively according to the Church Father that the Marcionites were ‘transporting’ stolen merchandise.

Of course few if any scholars take a deep breath at this point and connect this argument to the reference back in De Praescriptionem Haereticorum that the Marcionites had a 'secret gospel' that they received from their 'Apostle.'  Irenaeus’s underlying question is “why don’t the heretics tell us who their apostle is?” The rhetorical purpose of Irenaeus's line of argument is again to raise doubts about their claim to be the original owners of the property. Nevertheless the fact that we see Clement of Alexandria do exactly the same thing with respect to St Mark makes clear that the practice existed in antiquity.  Accepting that Marcion means 'those of Mark' makes the parallels even stronger.

After explaining how Mark wrote his gospel independently from Peter again, Clement insists to his reader in his only surviving letter that in fact the secret gospel is by Mark" but that he and his followers “should deny it" - the truth about the gospel and Mark "even on oath.”  This is the exact same situation as we see in the references to the Marcionites in documents associated with Irenaeus. It is with this same formula in mind as Clement references to Theodore that it is reported that the some of the heretics attempted to pass the Marcionite gospel as 'according to Peter' in Antioch.  Even Clement isn't always consistent in his claims about the relationship between Mark and Peter. 

All of this finally gets sorted out when we appeal to a previously unknown version of Against Heresies - a third century 'expansion' - which survives in a single manuscript discovered at Mount Athos as the end of the nineteenth century.  This text, the Philosophumena, on the one hand acknowledged ‘the followers of Mark’ got a hold of Irenaeus's original Against Heresies and developed a strategy to deal with its 'exposure' of their secrets:

the blessed presbyter Irenaeus, having approached the subject of a refutation (of their practices) in a more unconstrained spirit, has explained such washings and redemptions, stating more in the way of a rough digest what are their practices. (And it appears that some of the followers of Mark) on meeting with (Irenaeus' work), deny that they have so received (the secret word just alluded to), but they have learned that always they should deny [emphasis mine] … But not even has this secret of theirs escaped (our scrutiny).

There are many good reasons for identifying this community as one and the same with Clement's Alexandrian Church.  Scholars have pointed out verbatim 'citations' of the Markites in his writings.

These parallels were pointed out at the end of the nineteenth century and only become stronger with the discovery of the Letter to Theodore in the middle of the twentieth century.  It should not be at all surprising that as an illicit collegium the Marcionites denied whatever information the authorities could gather about their tradition. As we already saw with Celsus, writing from around 177 CE, has already noted that Christians faced the real threat of death if they were caught involved in these practices. Celsus further says that they have already sworn to a compact [synthekas] which trumps all other oaths or compacts. This practice is clearly evident in the description of Justin in the same text, and it certainly applies to Clement’s Alexandrian community of St Mark.

For Clement writes “he who does not transgress in what is ratified by compacts [synthekas], will never swear; since the ratification of the violation and of the fulfilment is by actions … [a]nd so he lies not, nor does aught contrary to his compacts [synthekas]. And so he swears not even when asked for his oath; nor does he ever deny, so as to speak falsehood, though he should die by torture.” In other words, Clement makes clear that synthekas stand at the heart of the Christian assemblies which overtake the validity of other oaths and agreement.  Perhaps it is against this second century backdrop that the third century Church instituted - or was forced to accept - sacramentum, formed after the oaths of the Roman army.

In another section of Clement's writings we see him declare that just as Jews and philosophers (i.e. the Pythagoreans) have synthekas governing their assemblies which they cannot violate, “a good man cannot violate his compacts [synthekas], and go aside from the confession which he makes before us … the good man must not prove false or fail to ratify what he has promised, although others violate their compacts [synthekas]; so also are we bound in no way to transgress the canon of the Church. And especially do we keep our profession in the most important points, while they traverse it.” It must be regarded now that at the core of this synthekas that governed the assembly of Christians in the second century was a vow to keep certain fundamental details about the faith from the knowledge of outsiders.

The fact that the heretics conducted themselves in this manner helped Irenaeus raise suspicions about their motivations. Irenaeus and Tertullian now speaking of Paul and his inner circle of crypto-Christians within the apostolic fold asks:

even if they used to discuss some things in their private circles (so to speak), yet it is incredible that these things would be of such a nature as to introduce another Rule of Faith, different from and contrary to that which they were setting forth openly to all; so that they should be speaking of one God in the Church and of another in their private houses; and describing one substance of Christ in public and another in private; and proclaiming one hope of the resurrection before all and another before the few; at the time when they themselves were beseeching in their own Epistles that all would speak one and the same thing, and that there should be no divisions and dissensions in the Church, because they themselves, whether it were Paul or others, were preaching the same thing. Moreover they remem-bered, "Let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for what is more than this is of evil": words spoken to prevent them from treating the Gospel in different ways

'Treating the gospel in two different ways' is yet another reference to the 'secret gospel.'  Irenaeus for his part denies the fact that such it is properly called a gospel, or that it was ever in the hands of the apostles.

According to Irenaeus again Jesus instructed the apostles openly to preach the gospel and it is incomprehensible that they would have disobeyed their master as “they had no fear of any one, neither of the violence of the Jews nor of the Gentiles : how much more, then, would these men preach freely in the Church who were not silent in synagogues and public places! Nay, they could have converted neither Jews nor Gentiles unless they had set forth in order what they wished them to believe! Much less would they have kept back anything from Churches already believing to commit it to a few other persons privately!” Yet clearly the situation at the time of the Emperor Commodus was very different. The sectarians were actively being persecuted while only Irenaeus’s school was being granted immunity from the violence.

It is worth noting that in this alternative early third century edition of Against Heresies we find a completely different account of the Marcionites.  Here, unlike our familiar Latin text, the gospel of Marcion is not Luke but Mark:

When, therefore, Marcion or some one of his hounds barks against the Demiurge, and adduces reasons from a comparison of what is good and bad, we ought to say to them, that neither Paul the apostle nor Mark, he of the maimed finger, announced such (tenets). For none of these (doctrines) has been written in the Gospel according to Mark. But (the real author of the system) is Empedocles, son of Meto, a native of Agrigentum. And (Marcion) despoiled this (philosopher), and imagined that up to the present would pass undetected his transference, under the same expressions, of the arrangement of his entire heresy from Sicily into the evangelical narratives.

This statement was not unnoticed by German scholarship.  Hermann Raschke developed a number of proofs to argue that the Marcionite gospel was really 'according to Mark.'  This understanding has been advanced in many ways by contemporary speculation by Markus Vinzent of King's College London and many amateur observers too.

The basic question comes down to whether the Marcionites really knew of the existence of Luke merely because Irenaeus tells us it was so.  There are no witnesses to Luke's existence before Irenaeus and his association with the Acts of the Apostles in their present form has led scholars such as Joseph Tyson to see an anti-Marcionite agenda at work in Luke.  More curious even still is Clement's assertion that Luke manipulated the canonical Epistle to the Hebrews, underscoring the idea that Luke took things originally belonging to others and transformed their message and their language according to his taste.  If Irenaeus was really behind 'Luke' then we should not be surprised if - in keeping with our theory - that there was a time when Luke didn't exist and the 'gospel in four' was really a 'gospel in three.'

Celsus seems to know of such a progression.  The opening words of Luke clearly imply the author wrote - or edited - with a working familiarity of other gospels.  Yet the fact that there are two completely different accounts of the Marcionites in the Against Heresies tradition and more importantly - that the account in the Philosophumena associating the Marcionites with Mark could not have 'replaced' a preexisting association with Luke - one has to suppose the exact opposite - i.e. that the account of the Marcionites which now appears in Against Heresies replaced an original understanding that the sect were 'of Mark' and used his gospel and represented his living tradition.

Consider for a moment the unusual arrangement in Book Three where the 'correctness' of four gospels appears.  The section did not originally reinforce the number four but the number three going back to the trinity.  Irenaeus is prompted by the need to show the oneness of the Catholic godhead against the heretics plurality of Gods - "neither the prophets, nor the apostles, nor the Lord Christ in His own person, did acknowledge any other Lord or God, but the God and Lord supreme."  Yet God for Irenaeus is the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  To this end, he originally chose the three original gospels Matthew, Mark and John to reflect this reality, the latter clearly being associated with the 'spirit.'

The signs that the gospel was originally threefold is clearly present when Irenaeus chooses unique passages - i.e. those that only appear in one gospel - to underscore their unity.  With respect to John, he chooses the 'In the Beginning was the Word," with Mark "the Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."  In each case only unique passages are used save - strangely - for Matthew where Irenaeus has to go back and correct himself:

He preached to them, therefore, the repentance from wickedness, but he did not declare to them another God, besides Him who made the promise to Abraham; he, the forerunner of Christ, of whom Matthew again says, and Luke likewise [emphasis mine], "For this is he that was spoken of from the Lord by the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough into smooth ways; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

The reference is Irenaeus's only slip up.  The reference "and Luke likewise" appeared only at the time when Luke was being incorporated into the original structure of the narrative.  

The Matthew section actually begins with a reference to John the Baptist.  Indeed the original argument associated with Matthew, Mark and John are all the same - the Father sent John the Baptist as a witness for the coming of Jesus or as Irenaeus puts it in the Matthew section "There is therefore one and the same God, the Father of our Lord, who also promised, through the prophets, that He would send His forerunner (= John) and His salvation (= Jesus) - that is, His Word -- He caused to be made visible to all flesh, Himself being made incarnate, that in all things their King might become manifest."

This section was originally followed by the Mark narrative - the new Luke section only came later.  In that section the emphasis on 'the Father' gives way to a gospel that begins with a reference to 'the Son':

Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make the paths straight before our God." 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; Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John, crying in the wilderness, in "the spirit and power of Elias," "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 various aspects, however, and many titles.

The argument was originally again that just because Matthew is about the Father and Mark the Son there is one and the same God at the core of both revelations.  The same was argued in turn about John and its association with the Holy Spirit.

The order in this section is strangely Matthew, then Luke and then Mark and then John - disrupting the proper order established later in the canon which is of course Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.  What we are beginning to see is that there was a time when the multifold gospel was originally Matthew, Mark and then John and undoubtedly before that even Matthew and Mark.  Luke was added after Matthew and before Mark here because of the parallel birth narratives.  This section is immediately followed by yet another Matthew, Luke, Mark, John section much shorter than the one before:

Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law,--[principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine. For the Ebionites, who use Matthew's Gospel only, are confuted out of this very same, making false suppositions with regard to the Lord. But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke, is proved to be a blasphemer of the only existing God, from those [passages] which he still retains. Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. Those, moreover, who follow Valentinus, making copious use of that according to John, to illustrate their conjunctions, shall be proved to be totally in error by means of this very Gospel

We should notice at one that while the Marcionites are for the first time paired with the gospel of Luke they have been stripped of their original association with Mark.  As a result Mark is the only gospel not to have a heretical group connected with it - only the generic 'they' who are certainly the Marcionites originally.

The entire section which follows this account with its fourfold gospel concept is a later addition undoubtedly still before 177 CE owing to Celsus's reference.  In this section the gospel order is totally different - John, Luke, Matthew Mark before we rejoin the original material again with its natural ordering.  Indeed if we look carefully we see no attempt to add a fourth category of heretic here because the original reference was originally to Cerinthus the leader of the Ebionites not 'Marcion' as it states now.  For he,

rejecting the entire Gospel, yea rather, cutting himself off (abscindens) from the Gospel, boasts that he has part in the [blessings of] the Gospel. Others, again, that they may set at nought the gift of the Spirit, which in the latter times has been, by the good pleasure of the Father, poured out upon the human race, do not admit that aspect presented by John's Gospel, in which the Lord promised that He would send the Paraclete; but set aside at once both the Gospel and the prophetic Spirit. Wretched men indeed! who wish to be pseudo-prophets, forsooth, but who set aside the gift of prophecy from the Church; acting like those who, on account of such as come in hypocrisy, hold themselves aloof from the communion of the brethren. We must conclude, moreover, that these men can not admit the Apostle Paul either. For, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks expressly of prophetical gifts, and recognises men and women prophesying in the Church. Sinning, therefore, in all these particulars, against the Spirit of God, they fall into the irremissible sin. But those who are from Valentinus, being, on the other hand, altogether reckless, while they put forth their own compositions, boast that they possess more Gospels than there really are. Indeed, they have arrived at such a pitch of audacity, as to entitle their comparatively recent writing "the Gospel of Truth," though it agrees in nothing with the Gospels of the Apostles, so that they have really no Gospel which is not full of blasphemy.

We should notice that the threefold division here comes in a discussion of 'the correct number of gospels' so it is important to note there are only three categories, the first two intimately related with the apostle Paul.

The first person mentioned is clearly Paul's opponent in the letter to the Galatians, a figure whom Epiphanius identifies by tradition as Cerinthus leader of the Ebionites.  The reference to cutting himself off or abscindens is a clear citation of Galatians 5:12 - "as for those agitators, I wish they would cut themselves off" (abscindantur). The figure then cannot be Marcion as the text now has it but the apostolic adversaries of Paul in the letter.  Similarly when Irenaeus says "these men cannot admit the Apostle Paul either" he is making it clear that (a) the former category were Ebionites and (b) that this group are the Marcionites, the ones previously associated with the gospel of Mark just as the Ebionites are connected with Matthew.  

In the end we have to conclude that the association of the Marcionites with Mark makes better sense if only because these various sectarians are called 'heresies' only the Marcion (i.e. 'those of Mark') bear a Greek name that sounds like a philosophical sect.  Those of Homer were called the Homereion, those of Orpheus the Orpheion,  those of Pythagoras the Pythagoreion,  those of Heraclitus the Heracliteion, those of Socrates the Socrateion, those of Plato, the Platoneion, those of Aristotle, the Aristotleion and so on.  Not a single of the 'heresies' - a word which means philosophical 'sect' have a name like one would expect.  Only the Marcion, those Platonizing Christians so identified by Clement of Alexandria among others, seem to fit the bill of a true 'airesis.' 

Owing to itacism – i.e. the habit of pronouncing the ‘e’ sound ‘ee’ or as an iota or ‘i’ – Marceion and Marcion would sound the same to any hearer. This reality is reinforced in the age when Irenaeus was active in the fact that he points to the followers of Mark spelling Christos – Chreistos. In fact the spelling was more common in the period that it has been reported that it outnumbers the expected ‘Christos’ in inscriptions.  Yet far more significantly we must take into account the consistent substitution of the suffix –ion for –eion seems especially prominent in Jewish groups.

We see for instance in first century Roman inscriptions the frequent substitution of ‘the synagogues Herodion’ for ‘Herodeion’ and similarly Agrippesians (Ἀγριππησίων) and Augustesians (Αὐγυστησίων) for Agrippeseion and Augusteseion respectively. The phenomenon is by no means limited to Jewish groups, but the examples are especially significant when considering a group associated with ‘Marcion’ in the capitol of the Empire.  As such, when all is said and done, it seems more likely that the Marcionites were 'of Mark' than 'of Marcion.'

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