Markus Vinzent's Blog

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The two recensions and editions of Marcion's Gospel

Tertullian reports in his polemic against Marcion's Gospel how Marcion himself complaint about those who must have nicked his text, plagiarised and published it, even before he himself could do so:

How absurd it would be that when we have proved ours the older, and that Marcion's has emerged later, ours should be taken to have been false before it had from the truth material, and Marcion's be believed to have suffered plagiarism through ours [Luke, or Matthew] before it [= Marcion’s] was even published:[1]

This most important information of Tertullian has so far, if I am not mistaken, never been picked up by any scholar: Tertullian reports that Marcion – apparently still in his Antitheses – did explain that Luke (or is Tertullian referring this to Matthew?) was ‘plagiarism’ (aemulatio) of his own Gospel, and, even more importantly, that this plagiarism occurred even before Marcion had edited and published (editum) his own Gospel – which he seems to have done in conjunction with the Antitheses in which he drew attention to the unauthorised publication of the appropriated, interpolated and judaized version of his own Gospel.
From this information we have to draw that we are dealing not with only one version of Marcion’s Gospel, but with two different editions and possibly recensions!
The first was the unauthorised version of the Gospel which ‘suffered plagiarism’, must have gone out of the circle in which Marcion had distributed it, it was copied and altered. The text of this edition/recension which was obviously only intended for internal use, a so-called 'memorandum' or 'apomnemoneuma' can no longer be retrieved.
The second recension, the edition of which was undertaken by Marcion himself. In this Marcion responded already critically to the plagiarised version of his first edition, hence took notice of and potentially may have also revised his previous recension. Calling the altered version a ‘copy’, Marcion certainly acknowledged that the plagiarised product was based on his own, older text. The reason for himself to formally publish his own version, was of course the challenge by the plagiarised version. And in order to defend his own product, he added first the Antitheses and combined the Gospel with the ten Pauline letters, certainly not, as we can learn from this process, because he wanted to evangelize the world – and he certainly had never dreamt that his initial work would be further copied and eventually lead to the fourfold New Testament (and to harmonizations of it). Instead, his publication was a direct reaction against the case of plagiarism in self-defense. When Geoffrey M. Hahneman in his book on the Canon Muratori states that ‘Marcion’s basic intent appears to have been to recover a lost tradition’, we can certainly agree, but the quoted text of Tertullian goes against his further view that ‘there is no direct evidence that Marcion knew or excluded other gospels. So far as is known, Marcion never polemized against the other gospel traditions.’[2] Although we are not aware that Marcion knew of more than the one plagiarism, we do not know whether he is talking about Luke (it could also be Matthew, as Tertullian calles the latter often ‘our’ Gospel) or another version. Having said that Marcion, according to the above quote, was highly critical of the copy made of his Gospel, to the extent that he wrote his Antitheses and published his New Testament, the question still needs to be answered whether Marcion intentionally excluded other writings, as Tertullian claims (disallowing Rev., 1-2Tim., Tit.[3]), and thought of his New Testament as a ‘closed’ collection. If, what would need further research, later Marcionites altered and broadened Marcion’s text, we may have to do with a collection that was meant to be ‘specific’ but not ‘fixed’.[4]
As Tertullian begins his own commentary of Marcion’s Gospel with reference to Marcion’s Antitheses which Marcion has added to the second recension, his publication of the Gospel, he had only knowledge of this second recension.

[1] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 4,2: ‘Alioquin quam absurdum, ut, si nostrum antiquius probaverimus, Marcionis vero posterius, et nostrum ante videatur falsum quam habuerit de veritate materiam, et Marcionis ante credatur aemulationem a nostro expertum quam et editum.’
[2] G.M. Hahneman, The Muratorian Fragment (1992), 91.
[3] See Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 5,2; V 21.
[4] This differentiation in G.M. Hahneman, The Muratorian Fragment (1992), 91f. (ibid. more about later Marcionites).

Friday, 9 December 2011

Forgiveness of sins in Baptism - irrespective of repentance

Marcion’s theology of the ‘Church’, the foundation for his understanding of baptism, can be found in his readings of Eph. 5:22-32 and Gal. 4:26; he saw the antithesis between the Creator’s Synagogue and the God of Love’s ‘holy Church’. Tertullian reports about Marcion’s interpretation of Galatians:
Two revelations, as I see they have translated it – the one from Mount Sinai referring to the synagogue of the Jews, which according to the law gendereth to bondage: the
other gendering above all principality, power, and domination, and every name that is named not only in this world but also in that which is to come: for she is our mother, that holy church, in whom we have expressed our faith: and consequently he adds, So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
There is a strict antithesis between bondage and freedom, between the old revelation from the Mount Sinai referring to the synagogue, and the new one which stands ‘above all principality, power, and domination’ and is delivered to the ‘holy Church’. The Church is ‘our mother’, also the bride and therefore the replacement of matrimony and family which, according to Marcion, were the old ‘type and figure of the mystery’, but now set forth ‘by him to whom also the mystery belonged’, namely the unknown God. This God of Love did away with any bondage when he revealed himself in Christ to his free and holy Church.[2] Tertullian’s quote teaches us that Marcion also knew of an ‘expression of faith’ into this ‘holy Church’, and in a further note, Tertullian points out that, also he is not sure about the details, baptism is connected with a ‘confession of the Name’.[3]
According to Marcion’s theology, confirmed by this quote by Tertullian in which he tries to drive Marcion’s thinking ad absurdum, the remission of sins happens as a free gift from the loving God, not bound to repentance, but expressed by an engagement into a new life. Tertullian mentions that Marcion has read his message in Colossians 1:13f.: ‘He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’.[4] Hence, for Marcion, remission of sins is connected with baptism, as otherwise Tertullian could not use it in his counter-argument, but baptism is unrelated to repentance and, in consequence, to judgement. The loosing of the bonds of death is a separation from a life’s submission to the Creator and his law. Baptism is a new, a spiritual birth, in contrast to the corporeal birth, in which the soul receives the Holy Spirit. How Marcion envisaged this remission of sin to take place, is illustrated in the story of ‘Jesus Healing a Withered Hand’ (par. Luke 6:1-11), the same that we already introduced above on fasting.
Here, however, with regards to the forgiveness of sin we approach the core of this story, as can be seen in the version that is attested for Marcion’s Gospel:[5]
1:23 Just then some men <carried> a paralyzed man <on a stretcher. They were trying to bring him in and place him before Jesus. 1:24 When Jesus saw their faith he said:
‘Friend,> your sins are forgiven.’
1:25 <Then the experts in the Law and the Pharisees began to say to themselves:>
‘Who is this man <who is uttering blasphemies?>
Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
1:26 <When Jesus perceived their hostile thoughts, he said to them:
‘Why are you raising objections within yourselves? 1:27 Which is easier, to say,> ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or <to say,> ‘Stand up and take the mat’? 1:28 <‘But so that> you may know <that> the Son of Man has authority <on earth> to forgive sins’, <he said to the paralyzed man:
‘I tell you,> stand up, take your mat, <and go’,
and he went home’, glorifying God. 1:29 Then astonishment seized them all, and they were filled with> fear, <saying:
We have seen> incredible things <today.’
The pericope starts with Jesus teaching and people gathering for seeing him to be healed. Pharisees and teachers of Law are around too who are also teaching. A paralyzed man is being brought who is not only going to be healed by Jesus, but also taken as an example to state another case: that the ‘Son of Man’ is forgiving sins. The scene ends almost stereotypically or at least, as one would expected: The healed glorifies God, the rest freezes in astonishment, fear and the unbeliefer’s statement: ‘We have seen incredible things today’.
The ‘Son of Man’ who can forgive sins, is the hot topic of this story, and, as the counter argument reveals, it remained Marcion’s view that this title worked against its Old Testament figure of Daniel and human insights. It should not be taken allegorically, and, therefore, was not it in harmony with any of the Jewish or non-Pauline writings. Interestingly, the entire question of ‘forgiveness of sins’ and whether or not it involves judgement and repentance (so Tertullian’s view), or unconditional love (so Marcion’s), is a debate which, as Tim Carter has recently shown in his King’s Patristic Seminar, takes place around the mid second century, starting with Marcion. The Epistula Apostolorum, an anti-Marcionite half-Marcionite text, as I have elsewhere shown,[6] has preserved us a summary of beliefs which is shorter and misses out elements which this work elsewhere endorses, but in the given form represents a strongly Marcionite character:
They are a picture of our faith concerning the great Christianity and that is
1)       In the Father, the ruler of the entire world, and
2)       In Jesus Christ our Saviour, and
3)       In the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, and
4)       In the holy Church, and
5)       In the forgiveness of sins.
While we have seen that the belief in the ‘holy Church’ was part of Marcion’s creedal statement, EpAp 5 makes it likely that it also encompassed the belief ‘in the forgiveness of sins’. And what the Ethiopian version of EpAp 42 reports could have been written by Marcion himself: ‘Truly, truly I say to you, you will be called fathers, for you, full of love and compassion, have revealed to them what [is] heaven [… for] by my hand they will receive the baptism of life and forgiveness of sin … and they shall have forgiveness of sins and eternal life and a share of the kingdom.’ Although Hermas knows of the link between baptism and forgiveness of sins, he struggles with the question of people who sin again after they had received the forgiveness of sins in baptism.[7] But contrary to Marcion, Hermas maintains that forgiveness of sins is based on repentance. Astonishingly, Luke only knows of this link between forgiveness of sins and repentance in those sections which have no parallel in Marcion’s Gospel (Luke 1:76-7; 3:3; 24:47; see also Acts 2:38: ‘Repent and by baptized’; 5:31-2), but it is missing in such core places as the account of the last supper where Matth. 26:28 states: This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’, but Luke 22:20 and Marcion’s Gospel have the Pauline formula (1Cor. 11:25: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’): ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’. If, as most NT scholars assume (following Irenaeus and Tertullian), Luke has been written prior to Marcion’s Gospel, than it is very difficult to explain why the link between repentance and forgiveness of sins has such a central place in those sections which have no parallel in Marcion (i.e., the beginning and end of Luke) but not in the passages which are also present in the latter’s Gospel. But if one inverts the chronological order, it becomes perfectly clear. While Luke preserved most of Marcion’s Gospeltext, the non-Marcionite link between baptism and repentance only appear in those sections which were added to Marcion’s Gospel. Be this, as one may judge, it seems a reasonable hypothesis to assume that Marcion’s baptismal statement included both, the ‘holy Church’ (Gal. 4:26) and the ‘forgiveness of sins’ (Col. 1:13f.).
Marcion’s baptism left significant traces in Church history. It entailed a radical forgiveness of sins (without any form of repentance), but also asked for strict ascetic demands (sexual renouncement, virginity) and was apparently often delayed to late in life. Not all elements were retained by the Roman Church and especially his ascetic emphasis reduced, but we learn from a quote by bishop Stephen of Rome (cited by Cyprian) that even in mid third century Rome the sacramental bonds between the different communities (that of Stephens and those of Marcionites and others) were not broken, ‘since those who are specially heretics do not baptize those who come to them from one another, but only receive them to communion.’[8] As Cyprian’s Epistle 74 further details, the reception must have been a mutual one and Stephen must especially have thought of Marcionite communities in his city. The bond of sacramental unity that is unimaginable for Cyprian was obviously still reality at Rome, a sacramental and liturgical acceptance because of much common grounds and despite some significant differences in theologies and rites.

[1] Tert., Adv. Marc. V 4.
[2] See Tert., Adv. Marc. V 18; see also Adolf von Harnack, Marcion: Das Evangelium vom fremden Gott (Leipzig, 1923. 21924 = Darmstadt, 1960), 143.
[3] Tert., Adv. Marc. I 24.
[4] See Tert., Adv. Marc. V 19.
[5] The vers numberings are taken from my forthcoming edition and commentary of Marcion’s Gospel. Brackets indicate where text is unattested for, but probably part of this Gospel, underlined if these parts are at least hinted at in Tertullian or other sources. The re-construction of this text is to a large extent hypothetical and looks like some re-stored fragments of one or more papyri. In a certain sense, the re-construction work was even more difficult in this case than working on a papyri, as the papyri sometimes give the scholar at least a defined framework, fixed lines, or a text with known lacunae, the number of missing characters asf. Unfortunately, all of this is not given in the present case. And still, we had not working entirely in the dark. Tertullian, although being a fierce opponent of Marcion and his Gospel, is so engaged and entangled with the text that in his opening paragraphs of Book IV, chapter 10 he summarizes our pericope of Marcion’s Gospel, so that we know that the story of the paralyzed followed the healing of the leper, and he also gives a few quotes of Marcion’s text. Mostly, however, we have to deduce further fragments from Tertullian’s broader counter-arguments. This makes the task extraordinarily difficult. Any conclusions which we draw below is, therefore, either restricted to the few verbal quotes that he gives, or, as we will indicate, are subject to the uncertainty of what we tried to reconstruct. One help was the seeming variants that are preserved in Codex Bezae (D), as these not only strenghthen the narrative, but also underline the theological message. The guiding elements for the reconstruction, was, of course, Tertullian’s witness, aided by the overall necessity for a coherent narrative. Verses, which Tertullian does not attest, are included, if they are necessary for the story line.
[6] M. Vinzent, Christ’s Resurrection (2011), 128-35.
[7] Hermas, Mand. IV 3,1-3.
[8] Stephen in Cyprian, Ep. 73,4.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Review of Mark Edwards on my book on 'Christ's Resurrection in Early Christianity'

The publishers kindly sent me through a review that was published in 'Church Times' on 2 December 2011:

Mark Edward picks up the question of the 'argumentum e silencio', on which I entirely agree. And he is absolutely right, silence can mean both that people believed or did not believe in the Resurrection. To assume, therefore, as a principle that they did believe in the Resurrection right from the start, as hundreds of years of scholarship and schoolbooks let us know, is therefore not the only true option. The other has not been seen yet, and therefore, is being tried out here in this book.
Now, if we have two potential options - it comes down to, how to way the arguments. As I admit in the book, sheer silence (especially in homiletic literature) could mean both, but the interesting element which is not highlighted in the review is that all the many texts that are dealt with in this book do talk about salvation, talk about incarnation, talk about death and sacrifice and that these are the salvific acts of Christ. Moreover, as I show in chapter 3 - Easter, Baptism and Sunday have been centered around Christ's death, so that, for example, up until the end of the second century there was only one unanimous definition for Easter, namely the celebration of Christ's death. Does this not let the pendulum swing towards the proposed solution?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Meiste Eckhart's innovative Trinitarian theology - a paper given at the RIST seminar, King's College London

Summary of Markus Vinzent’s paper
by Susannah Ticciasi, King's College

In his paper, Markus offers an account of Meister Eckhart’s innovative Trinitarian theology, showing quite how radical and challenging it is in relation to the tradition, claiming that it ‘destroys a whole system of inherited philosophical theology’. He also indicates the profound ramifications it has for the place of creation in relationship with God.

As Markus shows, Eckhart’s key innovation is to locate the divine potential for generating and being generated, not in the divine Persons, but in the divine essence. This allows the Persons to share even more than they are traditionally conceived to share, since the Father (not generating through his personal properties but through the divine essence) is able to pass on to the Son even the potential to generate. Thus, generativity is a property of transcendental divine essence. Moreover, once the ground of God is reconceived in this way, Eckhart claims that it is more properly named mother than father, since it is a mother’s work to conceive. Motherhood precedes and grounds fatherhood within the Godhead, even in respect of the person of the Father, who conceives the Word. Indeed, as Markus puts it, ‘motherhood, therefore, is a description of the transcen­dentality of divine essence which allows for fatherhood, sonship, spiritness and creation’. The concept of fatherhood has a more delimited appropriateness in relation to the Father’s activity as expressed in the Son, which is an intellectual work.

The consequence of this rethinking of the divine essence is that it is no longer understood to contain differentiation, but rather is pure potentiality: God’s maternal nature is ‘detachment’. However, this also has far-reaching implications for creation, since God’s potentiality for fatherhood, sonship and spiritness is no longer any different from God’s potentiality for creation. It now becomes clear why Markus began his paper with an account of creation as, like God, ‘beyond eternity’. God is no longer to be opposed to creation as the eternal to the temporal, since creation is invited fully to share in God’s life.

The question this leaves me with is whether distinction between God and creation is nevertheless maintained, as one might infer from Eckhart’s phrase, ‘God is distinct by virtue of being indistinct’. And Markus himself claims that Eckhart does not want to confound God and creation. Such a question, as well as many others which are raised by this fascinating and provocative paper, are a compelling invitation to read the book, just published, whose first chapter is a version of Markus’ paper:

Markus Vinzent, The Art of Detachment (Eckhart: Texts and Studies, Volume 1; Peeters, 2011).