Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Minimalist Approach to Marcion

Genndy Tartakovsky's Minimalist Samarai Jack
While I on and off toil away with part two, the Catholic Editor, of my three part analysis of who wrote Mark, I came in conversation with David Inglis and came up with a quick topic that needs to be addressed concerning my Interlinear reconstructions of the Marcionite text. My interlinear reconstructions seem to baffle traditionalists, because I follow a minimalist approach, but in a way that turns their world view upside down. Like Genndy Tartakowsky's fantastic cartoon, in an effort to tell the cleanest story, everything that is not required is cut away, and what is left is the purest of pure forms. And I am extremely conservative in my approach, because I do not accept any uncertain assumptions. As with the image of Jack and Aku, there may be many detail items missing, and yet no clearer picture of these characters can be had.
Most of the criticism I have received runs along the lines that I am deleting too much material from Marcion's version without technical support, or what such critics tend to say is no methodology. Their point of view has several built in, implied (though sometimes stated) assumptions which are not valid for the reconstruction of Marcion. The irony is their criticism also is derived from minimalist principles.

The assumptions that the critics make all depend upon these fallacies

1. The Marcionite Text was not likely very different from our text in size and content
    - with a few notable exceptions, such as Romans last two chapters, and Luke's first three chapters
2. Tertullian and Epiphanius give account of most, if not all the omissions, in their anti-Marcion works
3. The Marcionite and Catholic text occupy a similar time frame and era

The first two assumptions are so interrelated as to essentially be the same. They can be traced to Adolf Harnack's comments in his famous book, Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, his entire 4th chapter proceeds upon that thesis, that the differences were few and clear, and almost fully attested by Tertullian and Epiphanius. Of course Harnack also accepted Tertullian's view that Marcion edited the letters of Paul by deletion. And it is that redaction by subtraction concept which accounts for the third fallacy above. From Adolf Harnack to Peter Head, when it comes to Marcion my third Axiom of redaction that I applied to the Gospel of Mark, as I repeat below, is simply cast aside to preserve the myth of of pre-Marcionite Pauline collection. (This is also related often to their investment in early dating)
Axiom 3: Accretion is the More Probable Process for Redaction

Venn Diagram of attested content of Marcion's Bible
However, if you step back to look at the issue fresh, ignoring the claims of Tertullian that Marcion redacted with a cutting knife and the conclusion of Harnack that Tertullian and Epiphanius gave complete information, both dubious assumptions, step back and look at the real situation, you would see a Venn Diagram something like the one to the right for both the letters of Paul and the Gospel compared to the Catholic versions and the attestation of Tertullian, Epiphanius and others such as Adamantius. The diagram is of course greatly simplified, as both the attested material in Marcion, and the material missing is more like a splatter with many words even within the attested verse either missing or at best weakly implied as present.

The most salient feature of this simplified Venn diagram is that the vast majority of verses, phrases, and words which have no attestation or clear attestation of either being part of or not part of Marcion's text. There simply is no guide from the Patristic witnesses. It is here that assumptions step in, and often circular logic applied, and common sense axioms ignored. After many years of attempting to reconstruct Marcion's text this feature started to loom larger and larger in my mind. While a clear and consistent theology that matched what the Tertullian, Irenaeus, and others said was Marcionite emerged in the clearly attested material, anything but consistency appeared in the unattested. Taking a page from Hermann Detering, and following the advice of Darrell Doughty, I began to separate the unattested material, looking for theological cues to separate material.

It was after doing this for some time that I realized to actually make progress I had to discard the assumptions of a minor redaction after Marcion, or that Tertullian and Epiphanius were anything close to complete in their coverage of Marcion's text. [1] And Tertullian at least admits as much in AM 5.13.1 when he states flatly that he skips over much, at least from the Romans Epistle, but he speaks also of the Corinthians which preceded it in his discusion.
Since my little work is approaching its termination, I must treat but briefly the points which still occur, whilst those which have so often turned up must be put aside.
Quanto opusculum profligatur, breviter iam retractanda sunt quae rursus occurrunt, quaedam vero tramittenda, quae saepius occurrerunt.
So I looked at the Venn diagram differently. Instead I made the determination to start only with the clearly attested readings in Marcion and add only those verses and phrase (sometimes individual words) which were necessary to complete a thought or connect attested material. This radical approach is hinted as valid by Tertullian when he hints that the Marcionite letters of Paul might have been dramatically shorter than the Catholic. He says in AM 5.1.9 of the collection that like the Gospel (of Luke) there was a significant amount of material missing.
Now, the garbled form in which we have found the heretic's Gospel will have already prepared us to expect to find the epistles also mutilated by him with like perverseness, and that even as respects their number.
ex ipsius utique epistulis Pauli, quas proinde mutilatas etiam de numero forma iam haeretici evangelii prae iudicasse debebit.
Further, when speaking in AM 5.13.4 of the collection as a whole, and of Romans especially, entire chapters and blocks of verses are missing.
But what serious gaps Marcion has made in this epistle (Romans) especially, by withdrawing whole passages at his will, will be clear from the un-mutilated text of our own copy.
Quantas autem foveas in ista vel maxime epistula Marcion fecerit, auferendo quae voluit, de nostri instrumenti integritate parebit.
His conclusion in AM 5.21.1 makes it clear that the "erasure" of chapters and large passages was a feature of Marcion's collection for every letter except Philemon.
To this epistle alone did its brevity so to protect it against the falsifying hands of Marcion.
Soli huic epistulae brevitas sua profuit ut falsarias manus Marcionis evaderet.
When I realized the possibility that Tertullian was painting a more accurate picture of the scope of the differences between Marcion's collection against the textual critics who limited most of it to a handful of attested and supported (in other manuscripts) minor revisions, a light went on in my head and I changed approach to how I reconstruct the Epistles.
To get an accurate picture of the Marcionite collection, only the attested material can be considered safe. For the large chunk of verses and passages unattested the criteria then changed for it to be considered in the Marcionite collection. Anything that might cause a passage not to have been in Marcion now meant that a high hurdle was required to be included. And in fact a new postulate steps into the picture, something I did not state in my March 25th post on pre-Pauline Creed myth, but is implied about any material in the Marcionite collection which is inconsistent with Marcionite positions:

Postulate: Material which contradicts Marcion, and found in the Collection, must be pre-Marcionite

There are elements in the Gospels and even within the epistles of Paul that are attested in Marcion which seem to suggest a slightly different theology, some likely from the common ür-Gospel, that point to source documents prior to Marcion. And this makes sense. It is highly unlikely that any material posterior to Marcion should find its way into Marcion's collection which would be hostile to the communities beliefs. If it was posterior to Marcion and hostile, it almost certainly had to belong to a Catholic layer. [2]

So my reconstructions work from the attested material outward, adding that which is consistent and necessary. It's a bit more complicated, as elements like the Latin Marcionite Prologues helps identify inclusion, while identified vocabulary of the Pastoral, [3] or the Lukan layer is near certain exclusion. But the primary criteria comes down to context and theology of the material. I ask the following questions about each verse, phrase, and even individual words

1. What is the meaning and perspective of the passage?
2. When was the passage written? What events or issues is it addressing?
3. Who (i.e., what known sect fits) wrote the passage? What is the perspective?
4. If was prior to Marcion, why was the passage retained?
If these questions can be answered in a satisfactory manner, then it is reasonable to include it in the Marcionite reconstruction. But satisfactory means a post-Marcionite solution must not better account for the passage; the passage must be ignorant of Marcion; it must not require a doppelganger movement which parallels a known late 2nd century sect and is unknown - frankly no Christian movements are documented or coherent prior to Trajan, so this is an extremely high hurdle.

Finally what I achieve in my interlinear reconstructions of the Apostolikon is a an extremely high level of consistency and a very high probability that nearly every word I kept was actually in the Marcionite version of the text. This is extremely useful in understanding the Marcionite theology, the time and placement of the writings, and the issues facing the movement at that moment. As I have written in several posts, the time frame of the issues addressed, especially circumcision, Roman Law of Nations versus the Torah Law of Judea, and the application of Hadrianic legal rulings fits best in the very time of the Bar Kokhba revolt and the decade immediately after when Antoninus Pius reigned. Precisely the era which Tertullian places Marcion. This consistency is most useful for anyone wishing to understand the movement.

The material I have excluded can be looked at, as I partially have, in view of the events especially in the later part of the third quarter of the 2nd century. An era when Adoptionist type theologies of Cerinthius and Carpocrates were thriving, and the era in which Luke wrote his Luke-Acts and in which the bulk of the Catholic layer(s) was placed on the Pauline letters.

Hopefully this gives the reader a better understanding of what my Marcionite interlinear reconstructions are attempting to achieve. There is no way to unmask the early church, the form of the congregation

[1] Epiphanius Panarion (English, Greek) lists 44 passages from the Apostolikon, 24 of which are paralleled in Dialogue Adamantius or Adversus Marcionem, covering only 66 verses of the letters, and none are from 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philippians or Philemon. In 42.9.4 Epiphanius states that there are eleven letters as he does not know that Laodiceans is Ephesians (unlike Tertullian).
Here are what he calls the Epistles: first Galatians, secondly Corinthians, thirdly Second Corinthians, fourth Romans, fifth Thessalonians, sixth Second Thessalonians, seventh Ephesians, eigth Colossians, ninth Philemon, tenth Philippians. He also has parts of the so-called Epistle to the Laodiceans
ἄλλα δὲ συντάγματα ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ συνέταξε τοῖς ὑπ' αὐτοῦ πλανωμένοις. αἱ δὲ ἐπιστολαὶ αἱ παρ' αὐτῷ λεγόμεναί εἰσι· πρώτη μὲν πρὸς Γαλάτας, δευτέρα δὲ πρὸς Κορινθίους, τρίτη πρὸς Κορινθίους δευτέρα, τετάρτη πρὸς Ῥωμαίους, πέμπτη πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς, ἕκτη πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς δευτέρα, ἑβδόμη πρὸς Ἐφεσίους, ὀγδόη πρὸς Κολασσαεῖς, ἐνάτη πρὸς Φιλήμονα, δεκάτη πρὸς Φιλιππησίους· ἔχει δὲ καὶ τῆς πρὸς Λαοδικέας λεγομένης μέρη.
This makes it very clear  that Epiphanius does not have the Marcionite Apostolikon in front of him. It seems more likely he is working from a lost anti-Marcionite work, perhaps from Irenaues or other late second or early third century writer.  His association of Marcion coming immediately after and being derived from Cerdon hints that Irenaeus could be his source and he fleshed out the story with myths that grew of the nearly two centuries since. It also casts into doubt his having a Marcionite Gospel (although he quotes nearly twice as many verses) in front of him as well. And he appears to have no knowledge of the Antithesis.

Epiphanius does seem to be vaguely aware that the Manicheans made use of Marcion. He makes a couple references to the two sects together, but only in relation to similar beliefs about only souls resurrecting and Christ having only appeared and not being born or fleshly.

Tertullian's completeness, or rather his incompleteness, is covered in the main article.
[2] I accept the possibility that the Marcionite collection likely found it's way into the Catholic camp via a splinter group of reconciliationists, such as Roger Parvus speculates about Apelles in his work, A New Look at the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch and other Appellean Writings. It is quite reasonable to expect that such a breakaway sect may have made its own scribal changes to the collection and Gospel which it brought into the proto-Orthodox camp. Possibly Tertullian is actually commenting on the form this group brought in, and not the "original" Marcionite text of the immediate post-Bar Kokhba era. Such an Appellean layer would also constitute a sort or Catholic layer as well. Romans 7:25 is one such possible verse in my view.
[3] There are three sources available to help identify the vocabulary. The first is John Knox, Marcion and the New Testament, 1942  Appendix III Lukan Terms and Marcion's Gospel. (The PDF is mine, and hopefully not in violation of copyright.) Knox it should be noted is somewhat sloppy, in that he includes entire verses either in Marcion or out, and does not examine the possibility and probability that Catholic redaction included individual words and short phrases. Winsome Munro, Authority in Paul and Peter, 1983; although she dealt with the Pastoral stratum it, it is extremely use to identify post-Marcionite terms, especially compound words and in Appendix E she list those peculiar to the Pastoral stratum and their verses. And a new work from Matthias Klinghardt should also extend that list and be more complete than Knox.

I also have an extensive list of words and phrases, but I have not yet complied and released it. - sgw


  1. Stuart: Regarding Knox and verse counts in Marcion's gospel, Tyson (Marcion and Luke-Acts - A Defining struggle, p87) re-calculates the percentages based on Knox's method, and then does the same thing but using words rather than verses. In both cases his results are very close to those of Knox.