Monday, November 11, 2013

Was Tertullian Really Saying that the 1 Corinthians was the 'Antithesis' which Stood at the Head of the Apostolikon?

Here is the critical passage from Tertullian Against Marcion Book One:

Separatio legis et evangelii proprium et principale opus est Marcionis, nec poterunt negare discipuli eius quod in summo instrumento habent, quo denique initiantur et indurantur in hanc haeresim. Nam hae sunt Antitheses Marcionis, id est contrariae oppositiones, quae conantur discordiam evangelii cum lege committere, ut ex diversitate sententiarum utriusque instrumenti diversitatem quoque argumententur deorum. Igitur cum ea separatio legis et evangelii ipsa sit quae alium deum evangelii insinuaverit adversus deum legis, apparet ante eam separationem deum in notitia non fuisse. qui ab argumento separationis innotuit, atque ita non a Christo revelatum, qui fuit ante separationem, sed a Marcione commentatum, qui instituit separationem adversus evangelii legisque pacem, quam retro illaesam et inconcussam ab apparentia Christi usque ad audaciam Marcionis illa utique ratio servavit quae non alium deum et legis et evangelii tuebatur praeter creatorem, ad- versus quem tanto post tempore separatio a Pontico immissa est.

Evans translates the material as follows into English:

The separation of Law and Gospel is the primary and principal exploit of Marcion. His disciples cannot deny this, which stands at the head of their document, that document by which they are inducted, into and confirmed in this heresy. For such are Marcion's Antitheses, or Contrary Oppositions, which are designed to show the conflict and disagreement of the Gospel and the Law, so that from the diversity of principles between those two documents they may argue further for a diversity of gods. Therefore, as it is precisely this separation of Law and Gospel which has suggested a god of the Gospel, other than and in opposition to the God of the Law, it is evident that before that separation was made, god was still unknown who has just come into notice in consequence of the argument for separation: and so he was not revealed by Christ, who came before the separation, but was invented by Marcion, who set up the separation in opposition to that peace between Gospel and Law which previously, from the appearance of Christ until the impudence of Marcion, had been kept unimpaired and unshaken by virtue of that reasoning which refused to contemplate any other god of the Law and the Gospel than that Creator against whom after so long a time, by a man of Pontus, separation has been let loose.

The key section of text according to Moll is "quod in summo instrumento habent." Evans, according to Moll, is suggesting that "the Antitheses were prefixed to Marcion's Gospel, that is, bound together with it, forming one codex of Scripture." But is that what the passage suggests?

Daniel Mahar suggested to me a long time ago the idea that the Epistle to the Corinthians might well have been the so-called Antitheses.  This seems to have been taken one step further by a number of contemporary scholars who have taken up the idea including Jeffrey Asher who notes in his chapter Paul's Antithetical Style:

The most important feature of vv. 39-49 is the prevalence of antitheses. Eleven of the fifteen antitheses of vv. 35-57 are located in vv. 39-49 ... Because these antitheses are the most prevalent feature of vv. 39-49, it is likely that they provide information about the main theme and structure of Paul's argument. To examine antitheses in this manner, however, is not the typical way in which antitheses have been examined in Paul's epistles. As we discussed in chapter two, scholars have analyzed antithesis as a stylistic feature in Greek rhetoric as well as a stylistic feature in Paul's epistles. When scholars have proceeded beyond a stylistic analysis and have tried to explain what they mean, however, they have often concluded that Paul uses antitheses to express his theology. While it is certainly true that Paul frequently uses an antithetical style and that he often expresses his thinking in antithetical terms, we should not limit ourselves to these two issues. In 1 Cor 15:39-49, Paul also uses antitheses as a key component of his argument concerning the resurrection of the dead. In the following, it will be demonstrated that Paul uses two types of antithesis: locative and temporal. These two types of antithesis are important because they show in what context Paul is discussing the resurrection of the dead. In addition, the location of these two types of antithesis will indicate how Paul's argument progresses from discussing the resurrection with locative antitheses to discussing the relationship between locative and temporal antitheses and the eschatological resurrection.

Stylistically, an antithesis can be identified by »a balanced contrast of words or ideas.« In 1 Cor 15:35-57, fifteen separate antitheses can be so identified. While the internal and external punctuation for these antitheses is a matter of interpretation, they can be labeled as antitheses simply where there is a syntactical balance of opposites. This balance is characteristic of the periodic style in general and of antitheses in particular. By themselves, the stylistic features of Paul's antitheses are not very helpful in interpreting the text. Nevertheless, by analyzing these antitheses we can discover a fourfold pattern. First, Paul concentrates on using antithetical expressions. Second, all the antitheses express a state of being. Third, these antithetical expressions all fall within two primary categories: an antithesis of place (locative) and an antithesis of time (temporal). Finally, the order in which he uses these two categories of antithesis indicates that he first uses locative antitheses in vv. 39-44a, followed by temporal antitheses in vv. 44b-49. These observations will form the basis of the subsequent analysis of his argument regarding polarity in vv. 39-49.

The ancient Greek rhetorical theorists identified two basic stylistic types of antithesis: the interclausal and the intraclausal antitheses.4 Both types are present in 1 Cor 15:35-57. vv. 40a, 46, 50, 53, and 54 contain intraclausal antitheses, and vv. 40b, 42b, 43a, 43b, 44a, 44b, 45, 47, 48, and 49 are interclausal antitheses.5 In the latter, both clauses are necessary to achieve balance. Within these two broad categories, there is also a great deal of stylistic variation. In the interclausal antitheses, he uses four syntactical patterns. Vv. 42b, 43a, 43b, 44a, 45, and 47 achieve antithesis with two independent clauses and no conjunctions. V. 44b uses a simple condition. V. 40b uses adversative particles combined with an adversative conjunction. Finally, vv. 48 and 49 contain two independent clauses with coordinating conjunctions.9 There are also four variations of intraclausal antithesis. V. 40a contains two antithetical expressions in the predicate linked by coordinating conjunctions. V. 46 uses two adversative conjunctions to contrast two antithetical terms in one clause. Both v. 50 and v. 53 have one antithetical term or phrase, which serves as the subject, and another, which serves as the predicate. The same is true for v. 54, but the antithesis in this case is contained in a relative clause.[Polarity and Change in 1 Corinthians 15: A Study of Metaphysics, Rhetoric and Resurrection p. 94 - 96]

I don't want to get too deeply involved in this just yet, but I have always thought that 1 Corinthians was the first Marcionite epistle for this very reason. It was the 'antithesis' which stood at the head of the Marcionite Apostolikon.

If this seems to contradict the notion that the Marcionites had a Galatians first canon, please double check your sources. Tertullian never says that the Marcionite canon was so arranged. More on this in our next post ...

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