Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Colossians: The Image of the Invisible God

Colossians, Codex Harleianus 5557 (Minuscule 321)
In the Marcionite Apostolikon Colossians presents an interesting challenge to reconstruct. There is only one relatively brief chapter in Adversus Marcionem (5.19) which addresses the epistle, and that cuts off after chapter 2 of the letter. Beyond that there is little evidence of direct value; Epiphanius gives us only a single reading, and Dialogue Adamantius two extremely dubious passages from chapter 4 (addressed below). [1] However this is not the first reproduction I have undertaken. So I will use what I have learned from those others to gain a better approximation of the Marcionite text, and minimize the free hand eclectic.

The Ephesians Parallel

One of the features of our received text are the parallels between Colossians and Ephesians. But a funny thing happened in working through the reconstruction of Marcionite Laodiceans; all the parallel passages with Colossians vanished - excepting the common Marcionite opening and closings of all the letters in the collection. This should perhaps not be a great surprise, as Winsome Munro, Authority in Paul and Peter, had long identified Ephesians 5;15-18a, 5:21-6:9 and the parallel passages of  Colossians 3:18-4:1, 4:5 as part of the pastoral stratum.


Unlike my other reconstructions, Colossians relies almost entirely upon vocabulary patterns plus  analysis of the theological reasoning behind a given phrase or verse to build a reconstruction. Only a few verses are attested, only securely from one chapter of Adversus Marcionem:
Colossians 1:5-6 (AM 5.19.1), 1:15-17 (AM 5.19.3-4), 1:19- 20 (AM 5.19.5), 1:21-22 (AM 5.19.6), 2:8 (AM 5.19.7), 2:13, 16-17 (AM 5.19.9), 2:18-19, 21 (AM 5.19.10), 2:22 (AM 5.19.11)
There are no other quotations of the text from either Epiphanius or Adamantius - I will address a supposed citation of Colossians 4:10-14 a bit later in this paper.

The Prisoner

One of the central myths that has come down to us is Paul as a prisoner of Rome. Acts of the Apostles from verse 21:33 onward presents Paul as under shackle or otherwise imprisoned by the Roman authorities. This theme is found in the Marcionite prologue from codex Fuldensis and Latin manuscripts,
Colossenses et hi sicut Laudicenses sunt Asiani. et ipsi praeventi erat a pseudoapostolis, nec ad hos accessit ipse apostolus, sed et hos per epistulam recorrigit. audierant enim verbum ab Archippo qui et ministerium in eos accepit. ergo apostolus iam ligatus scribit eis ab Epheso.
The Colossians, they too are Asians, just as the Laodiceans. And they themselves had been reached by pseudo-apostles, nor did the apostle himself approach them, but even them he corrects through an epistle. For they had heard the word from Archippus, who also accepted the ministry to them. The apostle therefore, already arrested, writes to them from Ephesus.
There are many features of the prologue worth breaking down. The most relevant is the placement of the epistle immediately after Laodiceans (Ephesians) by the opening sentence. The closing however concerns the arrest of Paul, iam ligatus, which in the prologues of Philemon and Philippians are said to be written "from Rome in prison", a Roma de carcere. The point being Paul is removed from the scene, never presented himself to the Colossians. This is an indication, as is the naming of Archippus as the approved minister, this letter is from another author. The same applies for the 9th and 10th letters to Philemon and Philippians when Paul is Roma de carcere.

This places a new perspective on the concept of the so called authentic core of the Pauline collection. Already early, still in the Marcionite collection era, the Asiatic letters were seen as separate, and perhaps Philippians as well. This casts into doubt the concept of a complete collection during Marcion's lifetime, and supports the concept that letters were added later. This likely extends to Laodiceans, with it's known dependence upon Romans in Western textual form and differing style (long sentences). The prison letters then represent post Marcion, yet still Marcionite letters, prior to the Catholic redaction. It could explain developments in theology as we shall see.

Non-Citation in Dialogue Adamantius

As I covered out in my post Never Salute a Marcionite, the reputed quotation of Colossians 4:10-11, 14 was almost certainly a false report. It fails my primary criteria, that the quotation come from the heretic champion and not from the Catholic champion - the speeches of the heretic champions appear to come from the source documents, but the Catholic from the local (Catholic) text. But in additiion, to recapitulate either the author of Adamantius deliberately rearranged the order of a couple statements in the debate to win the point for the Catholic champion, or else this is another case where Clabeaux's observation, albeit concerning part 5, that Adamantius is in fact reading from the Catholic version of the text for his point, because that is the text he knows, and he has no access to the Marcionite beyond his source documents.

Analysis of the wording for Colossians 4:7-14 reveals many words from the Lukan and pastoral strata not known in Marcion. Compound words of the pastoral stratum such as "fellow prisoner" (συναιχμάλωτός, 4:10, Philemon 23), "coworker" (συνεργοὶ, 4:11, Philemon 24, 3 John 1:8, 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 1:24), "encouragement" (παρηγορία, 4:11 Hapax Legomonen) "fully assured" (πεπληροφορημένοι, 4:12 Hapax Legomenon) "physician" (ἰατρὸς, 4:14 Hapax Legomonen). And of course the term "greetings" (ἀσπάζεται, 4:10, 11, 12, 14), which I covered in Romans, 1 Corinthians and the article above. The quotes then are from the Catholic text, not the Marcionite.

Colossians Confession

The confession of verses 1:15-20 is probably the single reason the letter existed. In Marcion it is introduced as follows (verses 1:5-6a):
Because of the hope laid up for you in the heavens.
Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world.

What follows is the "doctrine of the truth of the Gospel" (τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). This alerts us that the Gospel, Marcion's Gospel of the Lord, presents the true doctrine, and that it has been in circulation for some time, enough that it has traveled all the world although perhaps the word "cosmos" (ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ) meaning heaven and earth have been traveled and know the Gospel. What follows -immediately in Marcion's text- is the essence of that Gospel in two parts, the first cosmic (verses 1:15-17):
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; that in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things were created by him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 
The Cosmic Christ is the first of those created (πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως). And in being called the "image of the invisible God" (εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου) he is thus the likeness we can see, almost the Modalist view of Christ as God, or rather he is; it is a slight development of 2 Corinthians 4:4 in that God is explicitly invisible. We have the in the concept of all things being created through him and held together by him, both in the heavens and earth, a direct parallel to the prologue in John 1:3. this is high Christology. The second part is his role with us (1:16-18):
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness (i.e., of God) was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, making peace by the blood of his cross, whether on earth or in the heavens,

Saying he is the head of a body that is the assembly (αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας) simply states the obvious, that he is the reason Christianity exists, why you are in the assembly. That he is the beginning (ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχή) echos John 1:1-2 again. But then we get to the heart of it, Christ is the first-born of the dead (πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν). By this act (resurrection) he became first over all things (πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων). The linkage of of the words, links the actions, gives purpose to his death and resurrection. We are dealing in the cosmic sphere here, speaking of the thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities of that sphere, whom he has come to rule. And this the fullness (πλήρωμα) that is the sphere where the invisible God resides, dwells in him.  It connects the theology to the reconciliation of Ephesians (Laodiceans) 2:15-16, which is allowed by the indwelling of the fullness in Christ, and hence peace though the blood in his cross. This is a higher Christology to explain the cosmology behind Laodiceans, and more involved than the earlier Marcionite theology.

The rest of the letter, in Marcionite form, continues this theme, but focused on the details of this theology. It is clearly meant as an advanced reading after Laodiceans. I was in fact in some uncertainty as to whether to include verses 4:16-17 in my reproduction, as clearly this letter is a follow up on Laodiceans/Ephesians, and also Archippus being named minister of Colossi are both hinted in the prologue. However I decided that both verses were originally part of a post-script from which the prologue drew. The read as marginal notes which found their way into the text. And if so they among the oldest in the New Testament.

The Kingdom of Christ: Possible Matthew Connection

One of the strangest verses in Colossians is 1:13
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
The rescue theology, from darkness to inheritance in light (verse 1:12) is of course contradictory to the Marcionite, and so identifies this verse as part of the later Catholic redaction layer. But within that lies a curious phrase about God (ὃς, "He"), not Christ is the one performing that rescue and transferring us to  "the kingdom of His beloved Son" (τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ).  This can mean no other than the kingdom of Christ. This is quite alien to Marcion, but we find it referenced in 2 Peter 1:1 and also in 2 Timothy 4:1, where it appears derived from the concept of the Judgement seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10 in most later manuscripts). The concept is also present in the post Marcionite Ephesians 5:5, and tied to the Catholic Abraham inheritance. It is perhaps related 1 Corinthians 15:24 where Christ will hand over the kingdom to God. Note, Revelation 11:15 explains further the kingdom of world (κόσμου) "will become the kingdom of our lord and his Christ."

The important thing is this is the kingdom is in Christ's hands, not God's. And it has made me wonder if this is not behind Matthew's departure from Marcion/Luke and Mark, so obviously the prototype Gospel source, in rendering it "the kingdom of heaven" (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) as opposed to "the kingdom of God." This change, along with 1 Corinthians 15:24, which I think is an interpolation from the Catholic editor, suggest that Matthew's theology, that of the Jewish Christians, thought the kingdom belonged to Jesus, and that his mission was not complete, nor would be until his second coming when he would abolish all rulers, authority and power on earth before transferring the Kingdom over to the father, God (see 1 Corinthians 15:24). And so Matthew refers to this kingdom as in heaven, rather than God's because it is presently in Christ's hands. this is think may be the explanation.

Note: Matthew's redaction is clear, 31 times he says "Heaven", but 4 times "God" remains from common parables of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:28 = Luke/Marcion 11:20), Eye of the Needle (Matthew 19:24 = Mark 10:25, Luke/Marcion 18:25), and unique verses 21:31(Two Sons) and 21:43 (Wicked Tenants)

The Reproduction Available

The reproduction of the Colossians can be found here, and the my note on the Catholic additions are available as well at this link.

Errata: Philemon, Adjustments of prior Reproductions, Romans re-do

With the completion of Colossians and Philemon (article coming), I now have 8 of the 10 Marcionite reproductions done. This leaves me the two Thessalonian epistles to complete. Much of the preliminary work on them is done and I expect to present them soon. They are each only 22-24 verses in Marcionite form,  similar in size to Philemon, yet presented an interesting challenge.

However, I have found some inconsistencies in my prior work, and so have an updated version of 1 Corinthians reproduction available (link). A review indicates I have a may have a few small adjustments to make to my 2 Corinthians reproduction; these should be ready in a few days when my Philemon article is posted.  Galatians has a similar 3-4 verses as 2 Corinthians that need possible revision. A more substantial rework awaits my Romans reproduction; it's not bad, just I did not know as much as I know now.

[1] I was rather disappointed in general with the failure of Jason BeDuhn's failure to take on Colossians or for that matter Laodiceans (Ephesians), simply declaring that there was no evidence they differed from the Catholic forms that have come down to us. His entire work, "The First New Testament: Marcion's Scriptural Canon",  was a disappointing read top top bottom.


  1. Paul in prison... is it possible that Paul first got into trouble with civil authority in Philippi, accused of disturbing the public order in some way; and then later, within the last year or so of his life, Paul visited the Jerusalem Christian Jews and some of them set him up for imprisonment by the imperial power, ostensibly for similar cause but really because he was their rival as a teacher?

    And that as for Ephesus, his being detained there was a later invention, primarily to hide the fact that Jerusalem was responsible for his arrest, and secondly for Ephesus to promote its status in the Christian pecking-order (rather like Armagh's doctoring of St. Patrick's life-story to promote its place in the Christian pecking-order) - as too was the rebranding of Laodiceans as Ephesians?

    1. I believe you have completely lost the point of the blog and the implications of 2nd century origins for the NT. And it is quite clear you have missed one of the most fundamental differences between the Marcionite text and the later Catholic text that appeared near the end of the 2nd century.

      Being written in the 2nd century means Paul is pseudonymous authorship. The legend of Paul is quite separate. And the legend as written in Acts, coming from a number of apocryphal sources, is entirely fictional, placing his life a century before the epistles are written. There is no correlation whatsoever with the circumstances of the texts bearing the hero's name. The content of the texts betrays 2nd century polemics, and internal Christian feuds. These are what I focus on. The entire purpose of the literature, and the dramatization contained, is to entertain the audience so they soak up the theology and so they can identify the sect behind the particular writing as better than its rivals.

      But then again, perhaps it's my fault to some extent you are not clear on the concepts. When I speak of an author, and I use the name handed down to us, even though I consider the name a mere pseudonym, it is for convenience. It is easier to say "Paul" than to say "the author of the letter to Colossians" or even abbreviated "our author." Many people arrive here by accident or thinking they can find some spiritual truth.All i can give anyone is a literary analysis and exegesis based on the conflicts of the 2nd century.

      I refuse to be drawn into speculation about the veracity of any 1st century legend from documents written in the mid and late 2nd century. As I like to put it, there were two popular movies out about vampires. One involving Van Helsing, an entirely fictional character we are familiar with from Bram Stoker's original and the derivatives thereafter. The other involving Abraham Lincoln, a real historical person placed in a fictional role slaying vampires, themselves mythical creatures. As the Vampire books/scripts were written 150 years after Lincoln died, we have a somewhat analogous situation with the NT. Whether the characters are entirely fictional like Vna Helsig (and many clearly are, their names puns in Greek for the things they do or stand for in the stories) or real like Lincoln, but they are all placed in a fictional story, where the events are drawn form the collective conscience the audience shares (and we don't) so they know what things mean. But the dialogue is artificial and 2nd century focused (just like Westerns are about today, but put in a setting of the late 1800s) and the purpose is on the theology, not the story. Nothing in the story is reliable, even if it contains truths (e.g., the Civil War really happened, and it's a backdrop).

      That is a long winded way to say, imprisonment is the soul in the body to the intended audience. When Catholicized, the meaning became more literal, and merged with the legend of Paul. Those prologues are likely mid-3rd century in origin.

    2. Hey Stuart, I want to know your opinion regarding the possibility that Peregrinus should be looked as the historical Paul/Marcion? When you compare what Lucian states about Peregrinus, he does bear some semblance to Paul and Marcion, though granted there are differences, and Lucian is writing as a satire so some details must taken with reservations.

      Both Peregrinus and Marcion: came from roughly the same place, and are from roughly the same time. Both had wealthy fathers, who is the cause for their banishment. Both were caught up in salacious affairs. Both were extremely popular with a community identified by later writers as Christian, but were eventually excommunicated and began their own thing. Both are said to have given a sizable donation to their communities. Both were said to be in Rome at roughly the same time. And both died at roughly the same time.

      Now of course this may all be nothing more than coincidental, but do also see some correlations with Peregrinus and Paul: both were accepted by Christians as figures of high esteem, but were later denounced; both had problems with dietary laws, both were imprisoned for a time, both were in Rome for roughly two years; and both were parasuicidal.

      What do you think of these similarities? Could accepting Peregrinus as the true Marcion/Paul figure help bridge the gulf between Christianity in the early second century and Christianity in the late second century?