Monday, November 11, 2013

Was 1 Corinthians a Catholic Repurposing of the Marcionite Antitheses?

It may be instructive to note how many parallels there are between the situation sketched in 1 timothy and that found in 1 Corinthians. In each case, Paul uses his delegate timothy as his representative to remind the community of his teaching and his “ways” (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11 // 1 Tim 1:3; 4:11–14). in each case, Paul tries to establish boundaries by “handing over to Satan” those upsetting the community (1 Cor 5:1–5 // 1 Tim 1:20). each community contains a certain number of wealthy persons who can disrupt worship by the display of social status (1 Cor 11:17–22 // 1 Tim 2:9– 10), and whose ownership of slaves occasions questions concerning the relationship of Christian identity to social class (1 Cor 1:11; 7:21–23 // 1 Tim 6:1–2). in each church, heads of households are recommended as leaders (1 Cor 16:15–18 // 1 Tim 3:4; 12). in each letter, in fact, the image of the “house of god” is applied to the church (θεοῦ οἰκοδομή in 1 Cor 3:9–11 // οἴκῳ θεοῦ in 1 Tim 3:15). each letter also presents a remarkably similar set of behavioral issues. some in the community consider themselves possessed of a superior wisdom or knowledge (γνῶσις, 1 Cor 1:17; 3:18-19; 8:1/1 Tim 1:7; 6:20-21). there are problems with charges being made or lawsuits being instituted (1 Cor 6:1–5 // 1 Tim 5:19–20). there are problems revolving around sexuality: in each case, the statement must be made that women can or should have a husband (1 Cor 7:2/1 Tim 5:14) and that marrying is not a sin (1 Cor 7:36/1 Tim 4:3). In each church as well, the place of widows is uncertain (1 Cor 7:8, 39/1 Tim 5:3 - 16). The place of women in the assembly arises in both churches, revolving in part around what women should wear (1 Cor 11:2–16 // 1 Tim 2:8–10), and in part around whether they should speak or keep silent—in this last case, both letters have paul respond by an appeal to torah (1 Cor 14:33–36 // 1 Tim 2.11–15).

Both communities have internal disputes over the eating of certain foods (1 Corinthians 8–10 // 1 Tim 4:3). finally, in each church, the issue of financial support for ministers is raised (1 Cor 9:1–12 // 1 Tim 5:17–18). Recognition of this range of parallels serves to give some further plausibility to the assumption that 1 Timothy can be read as a “Pauline” letter of the first generation, and strengthens the proposal that 1 Corinthians is the appropriate “authentic” composition to which 1 timothy ought to be compared; at the same time, it enables a more precise delineation of the theological voice that speaks in each letter. [Luke Johnson Contested Issues in Christian Origins and the New Testament p. 368 - 369]

I would come to the exact opposite conclusion of Johnson. Is it more likely that the Marcionites had a work with a number of prominent 'antitheses' which stood at the head of their Apostolikon codex and which is now buried within the superficial attempts to repurpose that text - i.e. 'to the Alexandrians'? In other words, as we have already noted, at the core of 1 Corinthians are a series of antitheses which have been reworked into a standard Catholic Pauline epistle. The fact that it is directed to the Corinthians community now is noteworthy as there was a considerable Catholic interest there (i.e. 1 and 2 Clement, Hegesippus, Irenaeus's Roman episcopal list etc). The parallels between 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians is similar to the 'seconding' of the reforms of the Marcionite gospel by way of Luke - i.e. the letter to Timothy now 'witnesses' that this is the correct form of the letter identified by the Marcionites as the 'antitheses.' 1 Timothy even warns against the antitheses of false knowledge for good measure.

All that stands in opposition to our assumptions is the misunderstanding that the Marcionite canon began with Galatians. This is based on Epiphanius rather than Tertullian. Tertullian merely developed from an Old Latin or Syriac source who used a Galatians first canon in their community. The original text is not a 'commentary on the Marcionite canon' but as we have noted many times here - a systematic argument for the authenticity of the Catholic canon from a source who employed a Galatians first canon. More on that later.

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