Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Cutting of Marcion

There is this consistent theme in the writings of the Church Fathers regarding the 'cutting' of Marcion.  The usual explanation is that Marcion 'cut' the Christian scriptures.  However the reality is that when we take into account ALL of the sources against Marcionitism we see that they were actually accused of 'adding' as well as 'subtracting' from the scriptures.  Why then do Irenaeus and Tertullian (Tertullian was just copying things originally said by Irenaeus) consistently identify Marcion as a 'cutter' first and foremost?  Cut it be it has something to do with their associated interest in castration rituals?  I think so.

An example from Irenaeus and then Tertullian (the text only survives in Tertullian's Latin reworking):

Who are you ? When and whence do you come ? What have you to do with us, not being of our party? By what right do you, Marcion, cut my wood (quo denique, Marcion, iure siluam meam caedis) ? By what licence, Valentinus, do you divert my streams ? By what power, Apelles, do you move my landmarks? This is my possession. What business have all the rest of you here, sowing and pasturing at your pleasure? It is my possession. I hold it of old. I am in possession first. I hold sure title-deeds from the first owners themselves of the estate. I am the heir of the Apostles. Just as they bequeathed it in their own will, just as they committed it to trust, just as they swore to it, so do I hold it. You they have ever expressly disinherited and disowned as outsiders, as enemies."

Caedis is the second-person singular present active indicative of caedo.  However since Cyril of Jerusalem makes plain the original treatise was written by Irenaeus caedo was more than likely replacing ἔκοπτον as it does in the Vulgate Matthew 21:8.

Yet we see time and again that the terminology is used in conjunction with the Marcionite imperative to literally become 'eunuchs' for the sake of the kingdom (a passage interestingly lacking in Luke).  In a discussion of Marcionite views on castration Tertullian counters by defending the commandments of Moses saying:

And if now there is a limitation imposed upon intercourse—a limitation which, on the authority of the Paraclete, is justified among us by that spiritual reckoning which permits only one marriage while in the faith—the setting of a limit will be within the competence of the same God who had of old time dispensed with limits. The same will gather who has scattered abroad, the same will cut down the undergrowth who has planted it (caedet silvam qui plantavit), the same will reap the harvest who has sown it: the same can say, It remaineth that those also who have wives should be as though they had not, who formerly said, Increase and multiply: his the end, whose also was the beginning. Yet the undergrowth is not cleared because of any complaint against it (non tamen ut accusanda caeditur silva), nor is the harvest reaped for condemnation, but because it serves its time. So also the obligations of matrimony submit to the axe and sickle of chastity, not because they are evil but because they are ripe for fulfilment: they had been kept in reserve expressly for chastity, so as to provide it with a harvest by being cut down ( cui caedendo praestaret messem). Consequently I shall now affirm that when Marcion's god expresses disapproval of marriage, as an evil thing and as a traffic in unchastity, he acts against that very chastity which he thinks he favours. He obliterates the material it works on, because if there is to be no marital inter- course there is no chastity. Commendation given to abstinence is of no account when prohibition is imposed, since there are some things which obtain approval by contrast. Just as strength is made perfect in weakness, so does abstinence from intercourse become remarkable while intercourse is allowed. (Adv Marc 1.29)
The point is that the Marcionites must have already been established as 'cutters' before the idea of them 'cutting' the gospel of Luke was introduced.  Why so?  Because they famously 'cut' their own wood so to speak.

So we see in Book Four of Against Marcion a similar logic applied now to the 'cutting of the gospel.'  We read:

Marcion is seen to have chosen Luke as the one to mutilate (Nam ex iis commentatoribus quos habemus Lucam videtur Marcion elegisse quem caederet) .  Now Luke was not an apostle but an apostolic man, not a master but a disciple, in any case less than his master, and assuredly even more of lesser account as being the follower of a later apostle, Paul, to be sure: so that even if Marcion had introduced his gospel under the name of Paul in person, that one single document would not be adequate for our faith, if destitute of the support of his predecessors.  (Adv Marc 4.2)

and again:

Besides this, he mutilates the Gospel which is according to Luke, removing all that is written respecting the generation of the Lord, and setting aside a great deal of the teaching of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as most dearly confessing that the Maker of this universe is His Father. (Irenaeus Adv Haer 1.27.2)

In other words, the claim that Marcion 'cut' the scriptures stuck so well to the sect in my mind because the group may have already identified themselves as priest who had already 'cut out' their genitals.  In short, they were 'cutters' in essence whose 'guilt' was already 'attested' in their name.

So it is when we go back to our original statement from the Prescription it is not surprising that Marcion is not only accused of 'cutting wood' but again 'using the knife' on the flesh of God (= the scriptures):

Marcion expressly and openly used the knife, not the pen, since he made such an excision of the Scriptures as suited his own subject-matter.

As I just noted - Marcion was a castrator first and an excisor second.   The evidence for the interest in 'cutting' the page came from the well attested identification of them as 'cutters' of the flesh. 

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