Saturday, November 16, 2013

Swearing by Corinthians

1 Corinthians 15 develops antithetically.  We've demonstrated that already.  We've been toying with the idea that 1 Corinthians rather than Galatians might have been the first text in the Marcionite canon.  We've noted that the idea that the Marcionite Apostolikon (= the Pauline letters codex) began with Galatians is based solely on the testimony of the notoriously unreliable fourth century Church Father Epiphanius of Salamis.  Tertullian does not say that the Marcionite canon was Galatians first.  He may have used a Galatians first canon or - more likely - adapted an earlier anti-Marcionite treatise like that associated with Irenaeus which happened to be Galatians first. 

Scholars have understood Tertullian's statements about the 'Marcionite antitheses' as describing a treatise pre-fixed to the gospel which "stands at the head of their document, that document by which they are inducted, into and confirmed in this heresy (in summo instrumento habent, quo denique initiantur et indurantur in hanc haeresim)."  Lacking any imagination, these academics imagine a text which basically lists 'all the bad passages of the Bible' which the Marcionites somehow 'inducted' into the sectarian association.  Yeah sure.  "I hate the Jewish God, now I am a Marcionite, I swear."  What an imagination these eggheads have. 

Eric Scherbenske is open to the possibility that these 'antitheses' might in fact have been affixed to either the Gospel or the Apostolikon.  We happen to think that the Apostolikon makes more sense, especially since we consider there is enough evidence to identify the 'antitheses' with 1 Corinthians or at least a specific portion of 1 Corinthians.  The idea that this/these antitheses were used to 'induct' and 'initiate' the members of the Marcionite sect is extremely significant.  The notion seems very closely related to the associates of Justin as described in the Philosophumena. 

In this adaptation of Irenaeus's original Against Heresies, a certain 'Justin' (Justin Martyr?) is said to induct and initiate his disciples into their association with the Marcionite 'Good God' by means of a formula related to 1 Corinthians.  We read:

But swear, says Justinus, if you wish to know "what eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, and the things which have not entered into the heart;" (1 Cor 2:9) that is, if you wish to know Him who is good above all, Him who is more exalted, (swear) that you will preserve the secrets (of the Justinian) discipline, as intended to be kept silent. For also our Father, on beholding the Good One, and on being initiated with Him, preserved the mysteries respecting which silence is enjoined, and sware, as it has been written, "The Lord sware, and will not repent." Having, then, in this way set the seal to these tenets, he seeks to inveigle (his followers) with more legends, (which are detailed) through a greater number of books; and so he conducts (his readers) to the Good One, consummating the initiated (by admitting them into) the unspeakable Mysteries. (Phil 5.19)
and again:

The oath runs as follows: "I swear by the Good who is above all, to preserve these mysteries and to communicate them to no one, and not to turn back from the Good to Creation." When one has taken this oath, he enters into the Good and sees: "What eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man" (1 Cor 2:9); and he drinks from the living water which is for them, as they believe, a bath of purification, a spring of living, bubbling water (cf. John 4,10.14).  For, as he says, there was a separation of water from water (cf. Gen. 1, 6), and there is a water below the firmament, in the field of evil creation, in which the choic and psychic men wash, and there is a water above the firmanent in the field of the Good, (and) this is the living water, in which the pneumatic and living men wash, in which Elohim washed himself, who did not repent of this purification. (Phil. 5.27.2 - 3)(Wendland 133)

It will not be my intention to develop all the parallels that have been noted been the sects of Justinus and Marcion.  The bottom line is that we can plainly see that at least parts of 1 Corinthians were used in traditions very closely aligned with the Marcionites for the explicit purpose of "inducting into and confirming" members into the sect.  And that's not all. 

There is 1 Corinthians 15:31 which was recognized by Erasmus to be an oath formula and was also acknowledged as such by Gregory of Nazianzus and other ancient witnesses. 

νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν, ἀδελφοί, ἣν ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν.

I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord

It was an oath and was recognized as such in antiquity.  Indeed the apostle swears an oath here only a few lines from the antitheses in verses 39 - 57.  Indeed there is extraneous material in our canon that wasn't in the Marcionite text.  We shall examine Tertullian's treatment of this section of text shortly but it is enough to count it as yet another oath formula associated with 1 Corinthians. 

However by far the most significant statement for us to consider with respect to the original role of 1 Corinthians as part of the original heretical rite to "consummate the initiated (by admitting them into) the unspeakable Mysteries" let's actually look at the words of Irenaeus relating to the sects generally but also the Marcionites specifically:

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world."(1 Cor 2:6) And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself.

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition. Such are the adversaries with whom we have to deal, my very dear friend, endeavouring like slippery serpents to escape at all points. Where- fore they must be opposed at all points, if perchance, by cutting off their retreat, we may succeed in turning them back to the truth. For, though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it.

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity. (Adv Haer 3:2.1 - 3.1)

What more is there to discuss when we already know that the followers of Justin initiated their followers with words very closely related to those associated with the mysteries described here. 

In case there are those unfamiliar with the underlying context.  We read in 1 Corinthians 2:6 - 9:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

Is there anyone who can deny that the 1 Corinthians was used to swear oaths and initiate the Marcionites?  Is there anyone who can deny that the text is developed around antitheses?   What then is stopping us from identifying the material as the 'Marcionite antitheses' perhaps even in a 1 Corinthians first canon (like that described in the Muratorian reference)?

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