Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Notes on 1 Corinthians and the Catholic editor

The Catholic Editor and other rambling thoughts

The time and circumstances under which the Catholic editor appended 1 Corinthians differs markedly from those that the original Marcionite author wrote the book. This fact is more pronounced than any theological difference, although there are plenty of those. The concerns and adjustments the Catholic editor made reveal a much changed, larger, more diverse, and more mature church assembly he is addressing than the one the original author knew.

These differences are not those of a handful of years but generational. The church has become more formal, no longer ruled by a single strong leader; there are hints of a reconciliation with a substantial Marcionite like group and the one of the Catholic editor represents; the very membership of the congregation has changed in size, diversity, and nature; issues such as the marriage and divorce and interaction with non-Christians, even interfaith marriage and children resulting, has entered the picture.

The theological differences between the later editor and the original author while significant, are minor in comparison. In part this may be by design, as a theme of reconciliation runs through the text. When theological adjustments are made they appear to be more in the nature of corrections than attacks on the prior position. Several salient features became clear to me as I undertook this project, and some general conclusions about textual transmission. First, the position of Marcion on marriage and celibacy is really clear once you strip out the Lukan or Pastoral material. Also the motivations and objectives of both the Catholic editor and to a certain extent Tertullian really came into sharp focus (I have a theory about the reason behind the writing of Adversus Marcionem and why it was structured the way it was) – this ties into a better theory about early manuscript transmission, a subject I'll take up later.

What follows is a summary of opinions I developed in the course of building a Marcionite Interliner.

The Realm of God and Satan
My analysis starts with a built-in opinion of the actual difference between the Catholic and Marcionite/Gnostic view concern the realms of God and Satan. In my opinion the simplest and best way to understand what was going on here is to use a sliding bar over a sheet of white paper. Label the right side “God” and the left side “Satan” at the top of the page. On the far right list all the properties of God which both agreed on (e.g., all powerful, invisible, the father of Christ, etc.) and on the far left list all the properties of Satan both agreed on (e.g., fell from God’s grace, ruler of Hades, wants to be worshipped, will bring an anti-Christ, etc.). Now the tricky part, put in the middle the properties in dispute (creator of man, ruler of angels, creator/former of the world, voice to Moses in the wilderness and creator of Jewish Law, ruler of kings of men, etc.). The basic dispute was over which properties belonged to which entity, and the ruler bar can slide to one or the other. The theological specifics flow from each proto-Christian camp based on what properties they placed on which side of the line. In this sense philosophical speculation became hardened into dogmatic and creedal absolutes (e.g., in a sense it went from philosophical “spirit of God” to legalistic “rules of man”, the former giving life the latter death, to paraphrase Paul in a more generic sense than Marcion intended since he was just as guilty as the orthodox).

If looked at this way, the differences between the Marcionite and proto-Orthodox writers are not so great. The ditheism of Marcion is merely the expansion of the realm and role of Satan. The diminishing of Satan’s role in orthodoxy had to be a later development, likely indicating that the origins were elsewhere than the Gospel story for this branch, and that they merely adopted and adapted the Christ story – an involved argument I won’t go into in this paper.

The Catholic editor was writing at a somewhat later date. His list of evils is considerably expanded, and indicates a larger and more diverse congregation and a more mature state for the church. The fact that there are issues with greedy, and effeminate, and homosexuals, and the untrained (new initiates), and non-believers, and that the emphasis has shifted from simple expulsion to a more moderate rebuking and accepting those that change their way, all reveal an longer existing and more mature church than the one addressed in Marcion’s version. This can be seen with inserted blocks,
·  5:8-5:13a, 6:1-13a (expanded list of ill behaviors, with the concept that members have to interact in the outside world, e.g., v5:10 οὐ πάντως),
·  7:12-17 (deals with interfaith marriages, divorce, and children),
·  7:18-24 (status within society when joining the church),
·  14:22-25 (deals with untrained ἰδιῶται and nonbelievers ἄπιστος attending church, while Marcion’s Paul simply said don’t associate with them per 2 Corinthians 6:14-15; also the belief that the age of prophecy and tongues has passed, which is also reflected in parts of the chapter 13 poem),
·  15:23-24, 26-28 (these deal with the specific order of the parousia, and the ranking of people within the church such as the order given in 12:28 which betray a more formal organization from a later time),
·  15:30-34 (dealing with the issue of Martyrdom).
The subtle differences tell me the church has partially reconciled with heretics (Greeks) and has multi generational congregations, which means some offspring turned out to be gay, and has grown in membership considerably such that there are interfaith marriages and children – the lines have blurred for most members, it’s a more worldly church, more organized. There is also worry about the image of the church in the eyes of non-believers and initiates (14:22). Verse 13:1 could be Marcionite, a dig at Apelles/Apollos speaking in tongues to Angles, but 13:2 has a Catholic references to Matthew 17:20 and 21:21, a book not existent when the Marcionite author wrote his version. Verses 13:8-9 talk of ending prophecy and tongues (as well as gnostic knowledge), which fits squarely with the opposition Montanist movement and the growing concern with how the church is perceived; contrast this to 14:39 where Paul says τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαιςdo not forbid speaking in tongues!’ Add it all up and the time frame is certainly two or three decades removed from when Marcion broke in the mid-140s. We are looking at an edition dating from the reign of Emperor Commodus at the earliest, with additions that could fall into the 3rd century.

The second concern has to do with reconciling heretical congregations with orthodox. The theme of Jews and Greeks would almost completely not be present in this document except for the Catholic editor. Prime example is verse 10:32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ which looks at the two camps as needing to get along, something at odds with the Marcionite position stated in 11:19 δεῖ γὰρ καὶ αἱρέσεις ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι, ἵνα οἱ δόκιμοι φανεροὶ γένωνται ἐν ὑμῖν. We see that Catholic editor’s hand again in 12:13 εἴτε ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε ἕλληνες εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι, καὶ πάντες ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν where Jews and Greeks, Slaves and Free (the latter in ordinary context, not the spiritual of Marcion’s Paul) are considered the same; an impossible happening for Marcion whose Paul said instead:
ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω·
καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω·
τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω·
τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως σώσω. 
For being free from all men, to all men I enslave myself, that I might gain more;
And I became to the Jews as a Jew, that I might gain Jews;
to all men I became all things, that by all means I might save.

And why he does this is revealed in the next verse
πάντα δὲ ποιῶ διὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον.                   All things I do because of the Gospel.

It’s abundantly clear times have changed, the relationship is different. So much so that Catholic editor mollified Marcion’s Paul in the above statement to equate Jews and Greeks by saying that he was not under Law to the Jews and incredulously to the Greeks he says:
τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ᾽ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους·

To those without law as I became as without law, (not that I was without God’s law but with Christ’s Law), that I might win those without the law;

Also things have become more practical and less ambitious even as the church has enlarged, where they only wish to save some (τινὰς) meaning other cannot be; a sentiment shared with Jude 22-23.

Part of this reconciliation is the church hierarchy formation, which means tying in the Pastoral letters and Acts to Paul. Almost all of chapter 16, much like Romans 16, deals with greetings and passing mention to legends related to acts. We see this tying in of legendary traditions of the appearances of Jesus to the Apostles so key to Luke in 15:4-10, and also the sacrament in 11:23-27 which are important to the more formalized church. The key point is tying the Catholic tradition to Paul for the combined congregation. This is why Timothy is played up, and Titus, and why Paul is made to seem like just another of the humble twelve (15:9).

Several items I thought before were to attack Marcion’s position can more accurately be looked upon as corrections. The Marcionite churches were called the churches of the saints, which was left that way in 14:33 ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων, while the Catholic churches referred to as the church of God, as the Catholic editor achieved by adding the word τοῦ θεοῦ in verse 1:2. This is important because it is a marker for additions by the Catholic editor. The words θεὸς καὶ were added in verse 6:14 (witness they are missing from AM 5.7.4 Qui dominum suscitavit, et nos suscitabit = τὸν κύριον ἤγειρεν καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐξεγερεῖ) serve the same function as καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς in Galatians 1:1, to clarify that God raised Christ. This notion is reinforced in 2 Corinthians 4:14 εἰ δότες ὅτι ἐγείρας τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἡμᾶς σὺν Ἰησοῦν ἐγερεῖ which is based on the Marcionite form of 1 Corinthians 6:14 without the Catholic editor’s explicit reference to God –  this verse somehow avoided editing, perhaps because the OT reference to LXX Psalm 115.1 κατὰ τὸ γεγραμμένον, Ἐπίστευσα, διὸ ἐλάλησα added by the Catholic editor in 4:13.

There is no real evidence of Modalism being part of Marcion’s theological model; rather that Christ had the power to raise himself, and there wasn’t any need for the father to intervene in his mission, something consistent in all aspects of Marcion’s Christ story. Yet sufficient controversy existed when the Catholic editor wrote, such that he modified Galatians and 1 Corinthians as noted above, and elsewhere, even adding in Romans 10:6-7 this curious note Μὴ εἴπῃς ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σουΤίς καταβήσεται εἰς τὴν βυσσον; τοῦτ᾽ ἔστιν Χριστὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναγαγεῖν, which he answers in 10:9 καὶ πιστεύσῃς ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου ὅτι θεὸς αὐτὸν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν, σωθήσῃ, making plain that the right position is that God raised Christ. Marcion’s God of course would never descend to earth or the abyss, nor bring himself into the world, something he left for to his Christ to humble himself ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν (note, we are in the Roman world of shame and honor, which extends conceptually to the Gods), as stated in Philippians 2:6-8 (see AM 5.20.3-5),

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἵσα θεῷ, ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ.

Who though being in the form of a God, did not regard being equal with God a thing to make use of, but he poured himself out, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men; and having been found in appearance of a man, humbling himself, becoming obedient unto death, and death by the cross.

The father, unlike the Jewish God who wrestles Jacob and who is a burning bush to Moses and who rides into battle, could never descend; that is why he sent Christ. And so Christ must raise himself.

Philippians 2:9-11 are from the Catholic Editor, or at least adjusted by him, since they betray the theology where the father bestows honors as part of the adoption process, much like a Roman Emperor of that day – or Luke/Acts or Hebrews 2:9-; contrast to the Marcionite Galatians 4:26/Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 2:8-10 where the same honors are intrinsic to Christ not something bestowed. Ironically, by being so explicit of Christ’s subservience to God the father, the Catholic editor inadvertently introduced the seed of Arian theology. 


More study is needed to build a proper time frame reference for the evolution of the Church during the 2nd Century, as we can see in the structural changes apparent simply from comparing the Catholic and Marcionite 1 Corinthians text.


  1. Great article. I am familiar with Gnosticism and it's interesting outlook on the world.

    I have a question. Seeing that Marcion regarded Yahweh of the OT as bad, what was Marcion's understanding of Jesus' preexistence? Did he believe in the real preexistence of Christ? I'm asking this particularly with 1 Cor. 10 in mind; or did Marcion view these events as metaphorical/typological without requiring a literally preexistent/involved Christ during the Exodus?



      That is a good question. But it is extremely difficult to answer. We have no report at all of the Marcionites or Marcion speaking anything about a preexistent Christ. I do not like to speculate with such a lack of evidence, and not having spent a significant amount of time analyzing this point.

      My own take on Marcion is that he was a charismatic founder of a cult the spun out of Judaism in the immediate aftermath of the Kitos Wars, with the rejection of Yahweh. His movement defined what we call Christianity, but this movement by no means thought things out systemically, and so there are inconsistencies in the details. The core of Marcionism seems to be a heavenly revelation based religion. The ethics and the afterlife come straight out of Greco-Roman world view that mirrors Cicero's description.

      We do have two better explained explained OT exegesis by Marcion to compare. There is the analogy of Abraham's two sons using Hadrianic Law as the key for exegesis, telling us Marcion looked at it purely as an allegorical story. The second is the story of Lazarus and the Rich (Jewish) Man, which also is an allegory about the two competing theologies of the old Judaism (Jewish Christianity) with Yahweh and the Torah Law and the new revelation which gives life. What is curious in both analogies is that Abraham is the split point, the common father of Judaism (and Jewish Christianity) and Marcionite Christianity. Abraham is the common father (a point disputed by the Gospel of John's author who denied Abraham to the Jewish Christians);

      So when you look at 1 Corinthians 10:6 we again see the allegorical statement "These things happened as examples for us" (ταῦτα δὲ τύποι ἡμῶν ἐγενήθησαν), and that should alert us how the entire segment is understood by Marcion. This is another example of the Jews not accepting the spiritual and Yahweh as the destroyer and the serpent.

      Remember Marcion lacks verse 10:8 which the Catholic editor added to deflect interpretation away from Yahweh, by invoking the completely unrelated incident in Numbers 25:1-18. It has the unfortunate effect of making Christ as judge the executioner of 23,000 people -- which definitely is not a Marcionite opinion.


      Again we come back to the OT as allegory for the Jewish and the Unknown God. It doesn't look to me that it is something Marcion says is fact here, but is allegory. But these writings are the core not just of Marcion's sect but all the Gnostic, Apellean and similar sects. And there is a turn after Marcion.

      By they later half of the 2nd century we see in writings and movements this allegory had become fact, and Christ necessarily has to be pre-existent. Of course John 1:1ff and the Logos (λόγος), but I am thinking of 5:45-47 where the Johannine author states outright the opinion that parts of the OT speak about Christ. (Definitely not Catholic, and definitely not Marcionite either.) John directly refers to the same mana in the wilderness in 6:49, but says it was not the true bread (note he side steps 1 Corinthians 10:4 which speaks of drink). In 8:31ff John denies Abraham's legacy to the Jews, and in 8:44 he specifically declares that Yahweh is not the father. Then he in 8:56 he states that Christ was pre-existing. But this entire book was a development on Marcionism and an answer to the challenge of the Gospel of Matthew. Clearly John has a pre-existing Christ who has no form, but is light. Apelles, who led a movement that broke away from Marcion, taught that Christ was heavenly and descended to earth forming a body from the elements which he borrowed, and gave back on his ascent. Again the preexisting Christ is a fact for him.

      The conclusion I draw is that Marcion saw the OT as a useful source to "out" Yahweh as a false high God, and to contrast against his new revealed God with allegory and antithesis. While Marcion may have had an opinion on the origin of Christ, he never addresses the matter. My conclusion is the preexisting Christ is a later theological development than Marcion. This is much like Modalism and Marcion, something that seems implied in his text, but is never addressed, so is probably an unformed idea.

      Remember most of the theological positions (frankly all since Marcionism developed out of polemic hostility to Judaism) developed from polemic arguments. One side would make a charge and it was answered with a theological explanation or counter. The creeds grew from this. Marcion was very early in the process, his work doesn't seem to suffer as much from internal Christian on Christian debate, so several points are unsettled.

      That may not be a satisfying answer, but that is pretty much how I see it. Marcion simply didn't think about where Christ came from.

    3. Thanks so much. This is fascinating. I also see a preexistent Christ as a very late develoment, distinct from the rabbinical understanding of notional preexistence - namely that Paradise, Gehenna, Torah, etc. "preexisted" in the mind of God which in time emerged into reality.

      If I understand you correctly, then, and from the hints and circumstantial evidence we do have on Marcion, he would have used selected Jewish stories as allegory to teach a more universal truth, without assuming the goodness of the Jewish Yahweh or the literal preexistence of the Hellenised/Jewish Christians. Would you say that that is the reason why Marcion used the XRISTOS reading in 1 Cor. 10:9?

      Could you provide me with the references to the Marcionite Abraham and Isaac, and Rich Man and Lazarus story?



    4. Jaco,

      I give the complete Marcionite text (English and Greek) of the two sons of Abraham and it's explanation in my blog article on Paul, Hadrian, Antoninus, ... about 2/3rds the way down.


      The Rich Man and Lazarus Story is Luke 16:19-31. There complete text is in Marcion's Gospel unchanged by Luke (attested in Dialogue Adamantius verbatim). Just understand that Abraham is the common father (same allegory as OT where he is father of Jews and Gentiles)

      - Stuart

  2. In the 4th edition of your reconstruction of 1 Corintians, your wrote the following in the notes:

    "I consider much of 7:25-40 suspect, but I have no grounds to remove"

    This caught my interest. What are your reasons for considering this passage suspect, and do you believe that there is any chance of further scholarship either proving this passage spurious or otherwise casting doubt on it?

    1. 1 Corinthians was my second reconstruction (Romans was first), my first disciplined one with footnote citations and argumentative reasoning. There were many vocabulary terms and concepts I had not nailed down.

      But as I am finishing off the last two reproductions (1 & 2 Thessalonians), and will go back to 1 Corinthians to settle the few verses that bother me still. But 7:25-40 are no longer suspect. I will remove that comment in my final version (the last sentence in footnote 64).

      Hermann Detering and Robert Price have convinced me the passage is fully Marcionite. Verse 7:25a (ἐπιταγὴν κυρίου οὐκ ἔχω) is still a stylistic problem, as it presents Paul as other than uncompromisingly authoritative.

      My original view was the passage may have been Apellean rather than Marcionite, as Apelles was married and approved of sex, rather than celibacy. Even if so, it would be prior to the Catholic version.

      The verses I am uncertain of and will revisit are
      10:8 entire verse
      12:13 εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ἕλληνες εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι
      15:11 entire verse (citation is from AM 1 not AM 4)
      15:23-24 παρουσίᾳ is not attested in Marcion except 1 Thessalonians 5:23
      15:28 ... need to think this through

      I will resolve these as soon as I publish 1 & 2 Thessalonians. And that is delayed because I am going over the Song of Moses and it's relationship to Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1, 4:5ff, and this to the theology of John the Baptist(it came about to resolve a passage in 1 Thessalonians, which is delaying my completion of the two books reconstruction)

    2. Based on your studies, what do you think of the theory that Paul's writings were fraudulent (even if written by the actual Paul), and intended to corrupt or even destroy Christianity by turning it away from the Torah?

      Also, some have suspected that 2 Peter (the only extant writing by one of the 12 disciples to mention Paul) is spurious, casting doubt on Paul's authenticity. What are your thoughts on this theory?

  3. I don't like the term fraudulent. It implies a historical Paul, and frankly we do not know that. I do not look at the NT literature that way, it is not productive to do so. The NT is first and foremost literature. And it is mostly polemic religious tracts. To evaluate it you must look at it that way.

    In truth the Pauline letters are not letters. They are of a form very different from correspondence of the era. It is my view the Marcionite collection was formed into letters by the collector and editor. He gave them similar openings and closings. But these were tracts from various authors with various styles and even some diversity in theology. But upon these is a strong layer of that editor/collector. Whomever that was, he was "Paul" or Paul was his creation, him pen name. The edition we inherited in our modern bible is a revised collection with a second "Catholic" editor whose theology is closer to Luke's than any other Gospel. This author adjusted the openings and expanded the letters (the Marcionite versions were much shorter around 30-70% the size of the letters we have, on average 50% the size of the Catholic versions). So this 2nd Paul comes through the strongest.

    The Pauline letters contradict each other. Even the Pastorals differ against one another: Compare Titus 1:8-9 (Bishops must be celibate ἐγκρατῆ) and 1 Timothy 3:1-5 (Bishops must be married with children).

    The NT is the form we have because many sects competed with each other. If one wrote a book which another objected to elements of it, then that 2nd sect wrote it's own version to "set the record straight". The church for the most part kept them all rather than exclude them. Politics dictated creating as large a unified church as possible in the 4th century.

    Look at Paul with those thoughts in mind.

    - Staurt

    1. I see. Thank you for that clarification.

      Which, if any, of the books of the New Testament (especially those other than Gospels, but the Gospels as well) do you believe are most convincing as being written by their alleged authors (Peter, James, John, etc)?

      Are you inclined to believe that 1 and/or 2 Peter were really written by Peter, that they likely weren't, or that it's just utterly uncertain?

      Also, which, if any, New Testament books (including Gospels) do you believe are most consistent with Old Testament prophecies (Genesis 22:18, Isaiah 53:5, etc)?