Markus Vinzent's Blog

Friday, 29 July 2011

Marcion's Beatitudes and Woes (The Gospel 2:20-26 par. Luke 6:20-26)

  Beatitudes (TG 2:20-3)
Woes (TG 2:24-6)
Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to you.
2:21 Blessed are you who hunger <now>, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep <now>, for you will laugh.
2:22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and exclude and reject your name as evil on account of the Son of Man! 2:23 For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation already.
2:25 Woe to you who are well satisfied with food, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
2:26 Woe when people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.

For a long time, scholars have seen that the woes correspond exactly with the beatitudes, and pointed to the fact that also that in other writings beatitudes and woes were often grouped together, although never matching each other exactly in the way that they do in the present pericope.[1] Just to give one example:  
In Isa. 3:10-1, for example, we read:
3:10 Tell the innocent it will go well with them,
for they will be rewarded for what they have done.
3:11 Too bad for the wicked sinners!
For they will get exactly what they deserve.
With Marcion’s interlinking structure missing, the blessings and woes, however, do not lead to the paradoxical nature which we will find present in Marcion. Hence, let us look more indepth into the nature and structure of the latter:

It is astonishing that after those comparisons of Jewish writings with the blessings and woes in Luke, perhaps because of the inserted verse of Luke 6:23a which is not attested for Marcion’s Gospel and somehow disturbs the interlinking complementary structure of the combination, scholars in the past have not necessarily seen that in Luke the two sections of the blessings and the woes have to be read together. On the contrary, it was claimed that the audience of the beatitudes must have been a different one from that of the woes; and it was stated that both entities had ‘originally – seen from the history of traditions – nothing to do with each other’.[1]

Looking at the table above, we have to deduce that Marcion set beatitudes and woes not only in a complementary, but in a strict cross-over way. The blessed end up where the rich start from and the rich start from where the blessed end up in. Poverty of the blessed not only resonates, but is an equivalent to those who have received consolation, as these riches are poor because of their own reputation and their worldly benefits which prevent them for longing for the kingdom of God. Even clearer are the next two beatitudes and woes where hunger corresponds directly with ‘being hungry’, and weeping with ‘mourning and weeping’. So, also, the fourth one, being hated, exluded and rejected corresponds with what happened to the false prophets. How do we have to interpret this cross-over structure?
Both this cross-over structure and the strict correspondence between beatitudes and woes result in the following: the state from which the beatitudes start, namely from the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the hated are precisely the states into which the woes lead: rich who ends as a poor, the satisfied who ends as somebody hungry, the laughing who ends as mourner and the well spoken of who ends being regarded like the pseudoprophets, namely hated and rejected. Therefore, even those who, from the outset, are in a precarious position and seem to be cursed are promised that they will end up in those positions in which the blessed are already now. So, even the one who is rich now and has already received consolation, will also inherit the kingdom of God, will finally be satisfied in a different way, not just from food, will laugh a different laughter and will no longer be regarded as pseudoprophet, but will share the fate of Christ, namely be hated, excluded and rejected on account of the Son of Man. Or put the other way: Marcion dissolves the damning character of woes through their corresponding blessings on which those woes had been based and to which they finally will lead.[1] As we will learn later, Luke has a different understandings of Marcion’s woes, because for him, as demonstrated by Luke 10:13-5, the woes are part of judgement and condemnation, while Marcion’s woes even with regards to the Pharisees and the teachers of Law (see The Gospel 7:42-52) are ‘brought up against them’ not as the Creator would do in a ‘stern’ manner, but full of mercy.[2] Christ reminds his disciples that, yes, the one is cursed who brings about ‘stumbling blocks’, and that ‘it would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin’, but Jesus insists that such will not be the outcome even for the gravest sinners, and he continues: If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, “I repent”, you must forgive him’ (TG 11:1-4). Rebuke and corrections are not the final say, curses are no longer curses, are neither judgement nor condemnation, but lead to forgiveness and blessedness.
Our reading is confirmed by Tertullian’s commentary on Marcion’s version of the beatitudes and woes which express God’s radical mercy sounds ridicoulus and unacceptable for Tertullian. He criticizes Marcion in the beginning of this section on the woes that the supreme God of Love like ‘Epicurus’ god’ ‘does not even censure a man for his own sins’.[3] Tertullian evokes Lucretius’ first theological prooem.[4] ‘In the midst of the unrest of the present times – belli fera moenera (32), patriai tempore iniquo (41) – Venus is invoked as the sublime mistress of Mavors armipotens’, it unfolds ‘into the Hellenistic picture of Mars lying in the lap of Venus, embracing and embraced. The request itself is: grant us peace!’[5] Not by chance did Tertullian allude to this Epicurean passage, as Lucretius quotes ‘the famous first kuriva dovxa of Epicurus: To; makavrion kai; a[fqarton ou[te aujto; pravgmata e[cei ou[te a[llw/ parevcei.’ The verses formulate ‘the peaceful existence of the Epicurean gods’ in ‘a solemn manner’ of a ‘sorrowless life’ in order to provide human beings to become ‘unchallengeable and blessed’.[6] Tertullian reports that Marcion sees woes not as ‘malediction’, but ‘as admonition … without the spur of commination’[7] and adds critically that he cannot understand how one can conceive of a God who admonishes without thinking that he is also ‘going to inflict punishment’.[8] This radicality of Marcion which maintained that the curses were no longer curses, but adminitions that lead to blessings, this theology of love without threat and vengeance, without punishment and reproach, even for the rich, the satisfied, the ones that laugh and are well spoken off – was apparently not upheld even amongst the Marcionites. Tertullian reports that ‘there are others [than Marcion] indeed who admit the word involves cursing, but will have it that Christ uttered the word Woe not as proceeding strictly from his own judgement’, hence they removed the curses from Christ’s mouth and suggested that ‘the word woe comes from the Creator’.[9] For Tertullian, in both cases, the result, was the same, namely that to demonstrate the ‘Creator’s severity, and so give greater commendation to tolerance previously in the own beatitudes’ of the supreme God of love.[10]

[1] See Isa. 3:10-1; Eccl. 10:16-7; Tob. 13:12-4; 2Enoch 52; syrBar 10:6-7.

[1] This has not been recognized by H. Schürmann, Das Lukasevangelium II/1 (1993), 337 who, although stating that the woes have to be interpreted in the light of the blessings and that all those addressed in blessings and woes form ‘the same group of people’, he, then, goes on to contrast two groups, those who are blessed and those who are woed.
[2] See Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 27,10.
[3] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 15,1.
[4] Lucr. I. 44-49; see P. Friedländer, ‘The Epicurean Theology’ (1939); R. Braun, ‘Tertullien et les poètes latins’ (1967 = 1992).
[5] P. Friedländer, ‘The Epicurean Theology’ (1939), 368.
[6] P. Friedländer, ‘The Epicurean Theology’ (1939), 369.
[7] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 15,3.
[8] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 15,3.
[9] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 15,4.
[10] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 15,4.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

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Friday, 22 July 2011

The Gospel of the Hebrews and Marcion's Gospel

In 2006, Pier Franco Beatrice (Padua), one of our creative Patristic scholars, published a substantial article on 'The "Gospel according to the Hebrews" in the Apostolic Fathers', Novum Testamentum 48 (2006): 147-95.
Pier Franco was so kind to point me to this article. Here my preliminary responds which shows how much we still do not know, and how much we still have to research and check.

For years now, since Joseph Kürzinger's times - I contributed to his book with the edition and translation of Papias' fragments my very first scholarly publication, the bibliography raisonnee -, while I am not saying that his interpretation convinced me then or now, I have worked on Papias, the Kerygma Petrou, the Gospel of Peter (on the latter I had to do a translation and introduction for the New Schneemelcher, over 10 years ago which still has not appeared and, I fear, a contribution which will be somehow out of date when it will appear), Ignatius and Marcion. Some of Beatrice's suggestions in the above article are not far off from the way I see it:
- I can see the point of combining all the Petrine evidence and to see them derived from one document, although it is a hypothesis that hangs on a number of assumptions, probably the most difficult for me is why the Clement fragments are so coherent, but do not display a Gospel type of writing, while the Gospel of Peter does not display the Clement fragments' character of the Kerygma. But there might be a way to overcome this.
- I have neither a principle problem with the possibility that Ignatius quotes from the Gospel of the Hebrews. In both cases, there is a clear Petrine emphasis given in both backgrounds which also explains the relation between the Gospel of the Hebrews and whatever we call the Petrine text. And it is also quite clear that the text relates to the post-resurrection passage that we know off from Marcion's Gospel.
- As Beatrice rightly assume, the dating of both Ignatius and Papias is not clear (around Marcion's time, which is not fully clear either).
- I may even understand his interpretation of Papias, although we simply do not know precisely what he means, but what seems clear is that somehow the two names that he mentions became later related to what we know today as canonical gospels. But I agree, he himself could have meant the two other texts above. If so, we are left with a Hebrew Gospel and a Petrine Gospel
- I don't think that Papias knew of Luke or John; as to what Beatrice mentions in note 142, these opinions are derived from misreading the Armenian texts published by Siegert
- I am also sceptical about his interpretation of Polycarp to the Philippians. Of course, one can relate this text to the Gospel of Hebrews, but the reference to a 'man' who 'is first-born of Satan' is more clearly related to a single author (Marcion?) than to an anonymous Gospel called according to many, namely the Hebrews - obviously without a relation of this Gospel to one single author. And again, the relation that Beatrice makes between IgnPhilad. 8,2 to the Gospel of the Hebrews is less convincing ('nothing really prevents us' is less than an argument). If one admits that it is a supposition 'that the Gospel of the Hebrews' was at the centre of fierce debate in the Christian communities' - there are really little traces left of this 'fierce debate'. We do not have a single work against this Gospel (in contrast to a whole range of books against Marcion and his Gospel with Tertullian's full commentary on it), on the contrary, we have here and there, as Beatrice shows, references to it and, if we follow his argument, even appreciations of it as in Papias, Ignatius and others (altough I would be more cautious and not call the series of assumptions and arguments 'an absolutely clear way', p. 186, but this might be a matter of style). When one draws from these references that this Gospel 'was a very old and authoritative gospel around the years 110-140CE' - I doubt that 'very old' can mean much, as Papias/John does not make the link with the Apostles, nor does anybody else (contrary to the Gospel of Peter that is being linked with the Apostle). So how old was the Gospel of the Hebrews? Marcion claims that his Gospel is that of which Paul spoke. Does he mean that it was written by Paul - of course not, but that, as Marcion says according to Tertullian, that it enlightens what Paul meant to say. I am so sceptical about our past 200 years scholarship that has traced all sorts of things (see for example the Apostles' Creed) to the first century. If this were correct, why have only authors of around 110-140 (and I rather think towards to end of this window) started quoting not only this Gospel of the Hebrews, but Gospels at all.
- I agree with Beatrice's scepticism about Irenaeus (probably Theophilus?) assertion that Marcion circumcized a Gospel, why is Justin not telling us about this (or anybody else prior to Irenaeus)? I think we first needed the other Gospels and the acceptance of those to benchmark what Marcion had in hands.
- If I understood Beatrice correctly than we are in the same boat here with one difference that he believes that Marcion used an earlier Gospel (of course which is contradicted by a strong opinion of Marcion himself who does claim that he did not use Luke and is silent about the use of any other sources except Paul), while I am still thinking about potential sources of him. Having worked on this question for a few years now, I strongly believe that Marcion's Gospel was his own creation and that Luke (together with all the other later canonical gospels) are re-writings of it.
Having read his article, I will certainly look more closely about the potential relation between the Gospel of the Hebrews and Marcion's Gospel. From what I have read in the past, I had the impression that the Gospel of the Hebrews was also a reaction to that of Marcion, but that opinion might be revised in the light of what Beatrice says and what I need to check again. Marcion must have had sources beyond Paul, but were these in written form? The Gospel of the Hebrews? Or could the Gospel of the Hebrews be what Marcion criticized to have been the publication of his own Gospel by others (even prior to his own publication of it with the Antitheses) in which the link had been made with the Law and the Prophets, a description which could well fit the title of the Gospel of the Hebrews which is, of course, precisely the opposite of what Marcion suggested, namely a Pauline Gospel that shows that the Hebrews did not understand a word and that therefore, the Gentiles were the only hope for the new belief.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Marcion's Healing of the Leper

Dear Stephan,
your comments are anything but time consuming, on the contrary - it needs queer thinking in a field which is so cluttered with apology and for all of us so remote through sheer hundreds of years of apologetic distortion. Whether to trust a source, never any trust, but detective eyes. Alliance to institutions? None, sheer looking for understanding. Which is difficult enough. Now what you write about the Creator and the Cross is highly interesting, to deep for me to come up with a short answer. I don't have one, yet. From Marcion's Gospel which I am about to restore at best as I can and the sources allow, I am impressed, how intelligent and lucid it is, perhaps the most thought through of all, except John, but certainly better thought through than Mark or even Matthew, and Luke seems often simply helpless how to deal with it. Extraordinary to see that nobody had attempted a comparative reading of Marcion's Gospel with the others. Let me come back to the destruction of the temple. I have not come to the temple, yet, but I was struck by the pericope on which I am working now (known as the Healing of the Leper, but characterized by Marcion as the story of the companion in misery and hatred), where Marcion says that the Lord asked the healed to present himself to the priest and bring the offering for his cleansing, 'as Moses commanded, that it may be for a testimony to them'. Isn't that astonishing? Even Tertullian is struck. But he is even more struck (and argues, of course, against it) that Marcion's reason for stating this is that he contrasts Christ's God with that of Elisha who's servant is less than the master himself. Different with Christ's God - Christ has the same standing as God, there is no hierarchy between him and God. This Christ is of the same gentleness and clemency as God himself. That is why he even accepts that the one who is healed can carry on with his customary duty, note: his Jewish duty, commanded by Mose! What I like with your speculative thinking (and what could we achieve without in these difficult fields), is its creativity, based on and corrected by evidence. Let us see what the further reading of Marcion's Gospel will reveal. Already now, I have learned so much, and I am sure, this text will tell us more about him.