Monday, March 25, 2013
The Post-Marcionite Creeds (aka “the pre-Pauline creeds”)
No fallacy is more glaring than the 'consensus of most scholars' that pre-Pauline creedal material is present the New Testament. And by being pre-Pauline, which assumes Paul is more than a literary character, and in fact is a contemporary of Jesus, his blinding conversion separated by less than a decade from his mission, these creeds therefore appear to be incorruptible evidence, coming within only months (a few years at most) of the crucifixion, and so demonstrate first beliefs of Christianity, and arguably the surety of its historical roots. This evidence seems to have been enough that Bart Erhman declared Adoptionism was likely the first form of Christianity, a conclusion that derives directly from the very nature of these creeds.
There are so many problems with this position that it’s can be confusing which weak point to attack first.
But we should start with the most basic question, what are creeds and why would they be written? Creeds are statements of doctrine, sometimes called tenets of faith, which are used to distinguish one group from another. And this being the case we need to ask, from whom is the creed trying to separate their group from? To answer this we need to look at the terms of the so called pre-Pauline creeds.
The creeds most often spoken of as pre-Pauline are Romans 1:2-5, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, (2 Timothy 2:8) which deal with the resurrection, and the those that deal with other traditions 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Philippians 2:6-11, Colossians 1:15-20, Romans 16:25-27. We will first look at the resurrection creeds, starting with Romans 1:2-4 which states (I start with the last two words of 1:1 “the Gospel of God” for reference).
εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμa ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν
[the] gospel of God, which he promised before through his prophets in the holy scriptures concerning his son who was descendant from the seed of David according to the flesh, having been designated the son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by [his] resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord
The main points of the creed are to (1) declare a Gospel of God; (2) declare that Jesus was a human descendent of David; (3) declare that Jesus was designated (appointed) the son of God according to the holiness of his spirit by his resurrection from the dead. We are left to ponder who are the opponents whom this creed wishes to separate on these accounts?
The first answer comes in the verse which follows when the declaration εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν "for the obedience of the faith among all the gentiles;" this same target is echoed in the creedal appendage of Romans 16:25-27 εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη γνωρισθέντος, "for the obedience of the faith having been made known to the gentiles." So it is clear the opposition where there is not universal obedience of the faith, which is heresies, is to be found in the gentile faction, not the torah accepting faithful. This opposing group has a different Gospel, one that does not accept the prophets or the Jewish scriptures, and does not accept Jesus as human and descendent from David, nor obviously by extension can they accept that his sonship was from adoption (τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ).
The theme of obedience to the Gospel of God is found throughout the Catholic Epistles, and elsewhere in the most Catholic books of the New Testament. 1 Peter 4:17 asks, "For the time has come for judgment … what will be the end of those who disobey the Gospel of God" (ὅτι ὁ καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα … τί τὸ τέλος τῶν ἀπειθούντων τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίῳ)? The opposition to the Gospel of God is placed in an actual locale in the post-Marcionite verse 1 Thessalonians 2:2 "in Philippi we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition" (ἐν Φιλίπποις ἐπαρρησιασάμεθα ἐν τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν λαλῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πολλῷ ἀγῶνι).
The parameters of the creed’s opposition conform to our understanding of the Marcionites, and also of Apellean and many of Gnostic sects. Marcion’s Paul for example never declares a Gospel of God,  but rather his Gospel  when referred by name is the Gospel of Christ.  And that it is Christ’s Gospel Marcion’s Paul refers to is reinforced in 1 Corinthians 1:17 when he states "for Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel" (οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι). Marcion’s Gospel had no title, but the Gospel with the most primitive structure is Mark that starts "the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) and might well represent the earliest of traditions for what people called the Gospel.
The Marcionites and the Gnostics were known for rejecting the authority of the Catholic bishops, openly disobedient, as the creeds and surrounding material complain. We see that Hebrews 13:7 also mentions this disobedience of leaders. Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses 3.2.2 points out that it is the heretics reject the authority Catholic elders for example.
Further the rejection of the Old Testament (referred to as "holy scriptures" γραφαῖς ἁγίαις) is a fundamental tenet of Marcion and all heretics that held that Christ was not the son of the Jewish. There are traces of this theology for a non-Davidic Christ left inexplicably untouched in the Gospel of John 7:43-44 where Jesus is said to be from Galilee and not Bethlehem, and worse 8:33, 37, 42-44 where the Jews are acknowledged as descendants of Abraham, but their God is not the same as the father of Jesus, as he makes clear, but rather the devil, who is a liar and a murderer from the beginning; theologies that fit the antithesis. Further John 7:33-34 makes it clear that Jesus is not from Bethlehem, as Matthew and Luke claim, but from Galilee. Again in John 8:48 the Jews accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan and have a Demon, which Jesus only denies having a Demon. The same sentiment is present in the Gospel of Luke 8:29-31, which preserves the Marcionite story of Lazarus and the Rich man, where the Jews are said by Abraham the common father that they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. This is the same division the Marcionites saw in their version of Galatians with the two covenants being represented by the two sons of Abraham. In these stories the God of the Jews is being rejected, and by extension his writings.
These second century groups that are well documented all fit the profile of those whom this so-called pre-Marcionite creed in Romans 1:2-4 attempts to differentiate its true Christians from. It is impossible that such a profile of heresy could have existed in the first decade of Christianity, which is when this creed had to have been formulated to be pre-Pauline.
The creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 has been modified from the Marcionite as I documented in my notes on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 blog entry. But it should be noted that the same additions, 'according to the Scriptures' (κατὰ τὰς γραφάς) can be found in this creed, indicating again the differentiation in the Catholic version from those who reject the Old Testament.
Romans 16:25 is dependent upon Romans 1:1-6 in Catholic form and is not stable in placement, appearing after Chapters 14, 15, and 16 depending upon manuscript. The emphasis on obedience to the faith by the gentiles has already been covered, as also the concept of being supported by the Scriptures.
The creed of 11:23-26 I covered in my notes on 1 Corinthians Catholic Additions, as intruding upon the discussion of eating without following proper etiquette (a similar intrusion is found in Romans 14:6-9, where the Catholic theme of God of the living and the Dead is addressed – one of my disagreements with Herman Detering’s reconstruction of Romans). Specifically what should be noted is the textual variant in Luke upon which the creed is dependent, a variant that could not have existed before later half of the second century.
Philippians 2:6-11 is not a single creed, rather it is an earlier Marcionite creed of 2:6-8 (the Catholic editor adding γενόμενος), and a Catholic creedal addition in 2:9-11. When we examine 2:9-11 we see the concept again of Jesus being adopted, like the Roman Emperors who when they adopted an heir to the throne would exalt them with new titles just as we see with 2:9 διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν, καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα. The point, which is clear in 2:11 that by confessing the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is to the glory of God the father, is that God the father is the one who appoints Jesus. The opponents in mind again would be those who reject the notion that Christ required the father, whether to rise from the dead or be adopted by him. This adoption statement is very much related to other passages, such as Galatians 1:1 (θεοῦ πατρὸς) and 1 Corinthians 6:14 (θεὸς καὶ) where the Catholic editor added God to clarify that Christ was raised by the father and required him for being raised. The concern is again long after the Marcionites, directed at not only their Christology but the emerging Modalist of the late second century.
The first half of the creed, is indeed pre-Pauline, in the sense that it was incorporated by Marcion into his Apostolikon, and it echoes the prologue of John 1:14, where Christ simply became flesh. Colossians 1:15-20 is in the same realm. This is very much at odds with Romans 1:3-4.
So upon examination, the so called pre-Pauline creeds, excepting Philippians 2:6-8, Colossians 1:15-20, and the earlier form of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 11 without mention of the Scriptures, and additions to the three creeds I separated here, are more accurately called Post-Marcionite Creeds, which are designed to separate the “true” Christians from these very heretics.
 To pick one contemporary example of a prominent apologist, Dr. Gary Habermas, who particularly likes to such phrases (e.g., “increasing number of exceptionally influential scholars” … hum, one does want to quote Galatians 2:6 ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι, - ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει in response) to avoid examining specific problems that Marcionite studies bring up. Preferring instead to cite “influential critics” as here – Do critical scholars agree on the date of this pre-Pauline creed? Even radical scholars like Gerd Lüdemann think that “the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion . . . no later than three years after the death of Jesus.” Similarly, Michael Goulder contends that Paul’s testimony about the resurrection appearances “goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.”
An increasing number of exceptionally influential scholars have very recently concluded that at least the teaching of the resurrection, and perhaps even the specific formulation of the pre-Pauline creedal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, dates to AD 30! In other words, there never was a time when the message of Jesus’ resurrection was not an integral part of the earliest apostolic proclamation. No less a scholar than James D. G. Dunn even states regarding this crucial text: “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’ death.” — Gary Habermas, “Tracing Jesus’ Resurrection to Its Earliest Eyewitness Accounts,” God is Great, God is Good (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 212.
 Romans 2:16, 16:25, and reputedly Galatians 1:7 contain the phrase κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον μου
 References to the Gospel of Christ in Marcion’s Apostolikon include 1 Corinthians 9:12, 2 Corinthians 2:12, (4:14), 10:14, Galatians 1:7, Philippians 1:27. Ironic echoes of this form by the post-Marcion editors can be found in Romans 15:19 right after calling it the Gospel of God in 15:16, 2 Corinthians 9:13 where obedience to God is part of the formula, and in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 (I have not scrutinized the Thessalonians epistles in depth yet, so I place this verse in an indeterminate list).
 Tertullian Adversus Marcionem 4.2.3, Contra Marcion evangelio, scilicet suo, nullum adscribit auctorem, quasi non licuerit illi titulum quoque affingere
 We should also note that Mark 1:1 begins Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ which may represent the most primitive title. It should be noted scribes found it necessary to add υἱοῦ θεοῦ in this verse to give God the status as his Gospel – compare Acts 20:24