Thursday, June 20, 2013

Valentinian Suprise: Marcionite 1 Corinthians updated

The reconstruction of the Marcionite 1 Corinthians continues to be a work in progress. My review of the material lead me to conclude that verses 3:12-15, 8:1-3, 8:7-13, and all of 10:22-30, 10:31-11:2 were all post Marcionite. Much of material in Chapter 7 is still unsettled in my book, due to the word ἠλεημένος 'mercy' in verse 7:25, which otherwise never occurs in Marcion's Paul; but I lack any systemic or reasoned method to justify its removal. So I may yet again revisit.

Valentinians Among the Congregation

In the process of analyzing 8:1-3 and 8:7-13 one thing I discovered was the editors apparent acknowledgement of heretics of a Gnostic sect as not only being present in the congregation, but accepted as fellow Christians and brothers. Below is my analysis, which shows the text hints strongly who the group which was reconciled was.

The false start into the concerns about idolatrous sacrifices, where περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων in verse 8:1 parallels περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὗν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων in verse 8:4, alerts us that we may be dealing with an insertion by the use of the same phrase. The author says all of us (readers) already have knowledge, but follows with the comment that knowledge “puffs up” (φυσιοῖ) but love edifies (οἰκοδομεῖ). The focus then is against gnostic readings (γνῶσις) as not edifying (οἰκοδομεῖ), a word not in Marcion, and associated specifically with the Catholic Church. The next phrase makes it clear that those claiming reputed knowledge (δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι), much like in 1 Timothy 6:20 (ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως), do not have the approved or required knowledge (δεῖ γνῶναι). Love of God here is associated with the right doctrine of the orthodox to the Jewish God as father of Christ, will be known by him (see Matthew 7:20-22, 25:11-12). The focus then is on gnostic heretics from an era well after Marcion’s collection was circulated.

Verses 8:7-13 seems to be a continuation of the discussion of wrong knowledge we saw in verses 8:1-3. The issue of idol sacrifices concluded in Marcion with verse 8:4 but is revisited here. There are pastoral words, as identified by Munro, in the passage such as edification (8:10 οἰκοδομηθήσεται), and weak ones (ἀσθενῶν), as well as those which are elsewhere never found in Marcion, such as accustomed (συνηθείᾳ, here and verse 11:16) meat (κρέα), the hapax legomena defiled (μολύνεται), which center on idol sacrifices and conscience.

Verse 8:7 worries about the corruption and defilement of the weak in conscience. The reference in 8:10 specifically associates those with "knowledge" freely eating idolatrous sacrificed meats, confirmed by Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.6.3, who names them as Valentinians. (See also Elaine Pagels, the Gnostic Paul, p 70-71)

Wherefore also it comes to pass, that the "most perfect" among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that "they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." For instance, they make no scruple about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols, imagining that they can in this way contract no defilement. Then, again, at every heathen festival celebrated in honor of the idols, these men are the first to assemble;
Διὸ δὴ καὶ τὰ ἀπειρημένα πάντα ἀδεῶς οἱ τελειότατοι πράττουσιν αὐτῶν, περὶ ὦν αἱ Γραφαὶ διαβεβαιοῦνται, τοὺς ποιοῦντας αὐτὰ βασιλείαν Θεοῦ μὴ κληρονομήσειν. ὑπ' αὐτῶν ἡγούμενοι· καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ἑορτάσιμον τῶν ἐθνῶν τέψιν εἰς τιμὴν τῶν εἰδώλwν γινομένην προῶτοι συνίασι.

Qua propter et in timorate omnia quae vetantur, hi, qui sunt ipsorum perfecti, operantur, de quibus Scripturae confirmant, quoniam qui faciunt ea, regnum Dei non hereditabunt. Etenim idolothyta indifferenter manducant, nihil inquinari ab his putantes, et in omnem diem festum ethnicorum, pro voluptate in honorem deorum factum, primi conveniunt;

There is no question that Marcion, with his encratic tendencies, and his very strict rules, which outright prohibited divorce, promoted celibacy (1 Corinthians 6:18 φεύγετε τὴν πορνείαν), and refused to allow his congregations to have even one impure member (1 Corinthians 5:5-6 παρέδωκα τὸν τοιοῦτον τῷ Σατανᾷ εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκόςμικρὰ ζύμη ὅλον τὸ φύραμα ζυμοῖ) could not allow the eating of food sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 10:14 φεύγετε ἀπὸ τῆς εἰδωλολατρίας). The position in verses 8:7-13 shows a moderation of that position, representing a much later era when Christians mingled more freely with the larger society, and there was more variety of beliefs within the congregation in direct contradiction to verse 10:21.

And that theological diversity is a clue to the verses origins. We are looking at an era when heretical Christians are being reconciled with the orthodoxy. The writer worries not so much about the theological views of the Gnostics, whom he seems to acknowledge as members, however grudgingly, but the impact that they might have on the casual members ( συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὗσα μολύνεται). He is calling on them (8:13) to refrain, even no longer eat meat using himself as an example (οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα) into the age (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα see 4 Maccabees 18:24), to protect the “weak” from scandal (σκανδαλίσω). Clearly this was at a minimum at least a generation after Marcion’s collection, to give sufficient time for all these forces to have overcome the more encratic and strong man tendencies of the Marcion’s era. The writer has to plead with groups inside the church to modify their behavior for the sake of others, a plea Marcion’s Paul could never be seen making.

The most striking thing about these verses is that Valentinians apparently are accepted within the church, and may have been one of the earliest reconciled. We may need to rethink how the church formed in the second century. This is evidence that the proto-orthodox heresiarchs likely developed as a reaction to reconciliation.

Links to the new versions:
1 Corinthians Interlinear (Rev 3)
Notes on Catholic additions to 1 Corinthians


Galatians is on its way, I am cleaning up the presentation of the reconstruction I did a few years ago, then, I'll post. I have decided to push out my reconstruction of Marcionite Philippians next, since it is the easiest one to complete quickly. Philemon hopefully will also be easy, since it should mostly be intact - if Tertullian is correct; I will probably spend my time giving a Marcionite exegesis; its fascinating, and the letter actually makes sense, unlike Catholic exegesis. Laodiceans will require much more work, and the Thessalonians may be almost impossible with the lack of coverage by the heresiarchs. Colossians is so intertwined with Laodiceans in a back and forth redaction process that it may prove extremely challenging.


  1. Hello-
    Most of my work is involved with Mishmarot Service and I seldom get to the Pauline material but by examining a particular thread of linguistics and logic, found my way to 1 Corinthians 1:14 - 16.

    [14] I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Ga'ius;
    [16] (I did baptize also the household of Steph'anas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.)

    Imagine my surprise when I examined some of the Marcionite 1 Corinthians and found that verses 14 and 16 were not there!

    I believe that I can tell you where these verses came from:
    Tacitus, _Histories_, Book 4.

    "Priscus" => "Crispus"
    "Caius" => "Gaius"

    The "House of Stephanas" includes Galerianus and Frugi Piso ("Stephen Martyr" in Acts 6) and this means that "Paul" is a cipher for "Mucianus".

    You don't have to buy the entire Package here but I'm reasonably certain that verses 14 and 16 are simple reworkings of Tacitus.

    Charles Wilson

    1. Charles,

      It would not surprise me if Tacitus turned out to be a source of some names in the NT. The work was important enough to Christian that some scribe interpolated a persecution by Nero that included a passage drawn from a Lukan confessional. But the context of the Catholic editor's addition to Paul here is Acts of the Apostle, so there is no need for an additional source.

      What is difficult for many people to get their heads wrapped around is the reality that the books of the NT were 2nd century and not 1st century. Luke-Acts were books that likely date from the later part of the reign of Marcus Aurelius or the early part of Commodious. The Tiberius through Claudius era events were very ancient history by then. So it was necessary to consult histories. It is no shock that Acts has so many parallels with Josephus, even sharing language at points.

      The writers however were concerned with giving authority to their doctrines and teachings, and not with accurate history. For whatever reason the reign of Tiberius was chosen as the setting for Christ's arrival, and all subsequent books conformed to that period, even though they were written over a century later, and in one or two case almost two centuries later. We see the same thing today in period pieces, where the characters are modern, but the familiar settings of the period genre set the background.

      You may be right about Tacitus as a source. But I think more likely for Acts than Paul.

    2. Thank you, SW!

      Most of Acts IS reflected from Tacitus, especially Book 4. I'll not bore you with a lot of jargon for this but the chain of thought that leads to the passages of "Priscus" and "Caius" begins in Acts and the easiest start is in Acts 6. The list of "Stalwarts" ends with "Nikolas, Hero of Antioch". Who was "Hero of Antioch"? That would be Octavian, dba Caesar Augustus.

      Mucianus is the main character here and he meets Titus on the Road to Damascus to throw in with Vespasian. The starstruck 12th Legion makes a number of appearances. Even those odd "Camarae Boats", seen in Tacitus, Histories, Book 3, are mentioned in those strange sections in Acts that speak of the small boat secured by ropes,

      The last 2 chapters of Acts are rewrites of this section in Tacitus, with Polybius providing a bit on the Syrtis. "Paul" is rescued in the inlet of a small bay (The Cohibus) and Anicetus meets his doom there ("Who is the Prophet speaking of here...?", asks the Queen's Eunuch. It's you, Anicetus and you are being double-crossed...)

      And on and on. The original subject here was the Marcionite 1 Corinthians but the point is that we are still teasing out what was added to it. Tacitus was a heavy source for the additions, not just names but subject matter as well.

      I thank you for your time,

      Charles Wilson