Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Marcionite Canonical Text Called Saka or Seke in Aramaic

I have stopped blogging for the last while while I await for the editing of the manuscript for my new book.  I also happened to have stumbled upon a most interesting statement in a mostly ignored Syriac text about 'the Marcionite equivalent' of the Acts of the Apostles.  The statement comes from a text associated with Maruta bishop of Maipherkat (late third century) in his work De Sancta Synodo Nicaena.  We are hear that the Marcionites had composed psalms of their own for use in worship instead of the Davidic psalms, and that in place of the book of Acts had one he called the Summa (saka), or at least that's how the term has been translated ever since the nineteenth century. 

I think everyone familiar with Marcionitism has heard the first statement before.  It appears also in the Muratorian Canon.  Yet the existence of this work 'the Summa' is a complete mystery to me and pretty much everyone else.  Most like Harnack, associate it with the Antitheses and he is probably right about that one.  However I am puzzled by this reference to a book called 'saka' and so I passed on the reference to my good friend Tjitze Baarda, scholar extraordinaire, and he had this to say in a recent email:

I does not possess the pertinent work of Marutha -, but starting from the transcription sākā in Harnack’s text I have consulted the pertinent lexica: Syriac sāk (sākā) means: A) end, limit, border, extreme + B) sum, total (see Harnack’s Summa). See your: 'end' 'limit' My difficulty with the passage in Harnack is: is his transcription of the Syriac word correct? (If the vocalsation would be sēkē, it would be the plural of sekta, ‘pin, splinter, nail')

So it is that I have searched in vain for the original manuscript that Braun's original German translation to see if there was a photo of the manuscript.  It turns out he not only did not provide any photos of the original text, it was also recognized as not the best copy of the original.  Here is what I have learned about the text through Drijvers in the footnote to a passing statement in Marutha of Maipherqat on Helena Augusta, Jerusalem and the Council of Nicaea - i.e. "

A. Vööbus , The Canons ascribed to Maruta of Maipherqat and Related Sources, CSCO 139 and 140, Script. Syr. 191 and 192 (Louvain, 1982). The first volume has the Syriac text and the second the English translation. The edition is based on various Syriac manuscripts ascribed to Marutha which Vööbus was able to collate with the help of additional sources in Syriac and Arabic. Vööbus' edition consists of three parts, which each contain several texts. The middle and main part has the 20 canons of the Synod of Nicaea as well as the pseudo-Nicene canons which are attributed to Marutha. It is preceded by what Vööbus has labelled "Preliminary texts." This contains letters of Marutha to Mar Ishaq, bishop-catholicos of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, as well as other short texts such as 'On Monasticism', 'On Persecutions', 'On the Heresies', 'On the Affair of the Synod of Nicaea' and 'On the Terms, Ranks and Orders.' The third part of the edition is entitled by Voobus 'Supplementary Texts'. This has among other things "The Creed of the Synod of Nicaea', "The Names of the Bishops' (present at the Nicene Council), 'Helena's Role', 'Helena's Letter', 'Constantine's Letter to Alexander of Jerusalem', 'The Martyrdom of Alexander', 'The Discourse about the Heresies', 'The Apology of the Confession', 'Of the True Faith of our Holy Fathers' and 'The Beginning of the Convention'. A century ago the German scholar Oskar Braun published a like text ascribed to Marutha, but this was based only on a single manuscript and does not have the Syriac text but only a German translation: O. Braun, De Sancta Nicaena Synodo. Syrische Texte des Maruta von Maipherkat nach einer HS. der Propaganda zu Rom übersetzt (Munster 1898). The manuscript is an undated and incomplete copy of an original which is kept in Mossul. The main part of Braun's text also consists of the pseudo-Nicene canons as well as 6 of the 20 Nicene canons. It furthermore has among other things a list of participants of the Nicene Council, a letter of Marutha to Mar Ishaq, chapters on monasticism, persecutions, heresies as well as a chapter on Constantine, Helena and the Council of Nicaea. 

Interestingly I found Vööbus's superior translation (although the page with the photos of the original Syriac text remain inaccessible to me). 

What is interesting is that Vööbus provides us with a great deal more information about the text - and better information - that Braun.  After a reference to three gods a good: just, and an evil one the translation coninutes:

These also have injured the Scriptures and have added and reduced in the gospel and in the apostolos. The entire Book of Acts they have taken (out) from the midst and instead of this they have made another and called it the Sum (saka) so that it shall be like their own opinion. Instead of Peter they set up for themselves Marcion (as) the head of the apostles, and instead of the Psalms they have made for themselves hymns for their services. And they calumniate the resurrection of bodies. 

What is interesting about this source is that it implies what we already see with Eznik - i.e. the use of the Diatessaron among the Marcionites (cf. Casey Robert). But I still desperately need the Vööbus edition. Can anyone get me a copy of the syriac text here so Baarda can see what else is possible with the name?  Please send me an email if you can access this at your local academic library.  I have asked David Trobisch to assist me but I am like a kid waiting for Xmas here.  Let me tell you about my theory.

If I can get a copy of an image of the manuscript, I have a theory which draws from the Talmud of all sources to argue that seke means 'minted coins.'  Sound strange?  Well there are a lot of references to coins in the gospel when you start to think about it and many of them have been removed or changed by the editor of our existing canon (= think 'be skillful money-changers').  For the moment let me end with the reference in the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon for sekta:

1 peg JLAtg, Gal, PTA, Sam, LJLA. (a) nail, spike PTA, CPA, Sam, Syr, JBA. P Ex27:19 ܘܟܠܗܝܢ ܣܟ̈ܘܗܝ
2 wedge Syr. (a) plowshare JLAtg, Gal, Syr. TgJ 1Sam13:20 לְחָרָפָא גְבַר יָת פָרָשֵיה וְיָת סִכַת פַדָנֵיה to sharpen his goad and his plowshare. P 1S13:20 ; (b) spade JLAtg, JBAg. TgO Deut23:14 וְסִיכְתָא תְהֵי לָך עַל זֵינָך
3 thorn Sam, JBA. (a) wart Syr. (b) prickly hair (??) JBA.
4 coin stamp Syr, JBA.

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