Markus Vinzent's Blog

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Did the Valentinian Heracleon write a Commentary on Luke or on Marcion's Gospel?

As Tertullian himself indicates in De praescriptione 25,1 (ut diximus), he first refers to the earlier discussion of Marcion’s position of the ignorance of the Apostles to here move on to the Valentinian tenets, according to which the Apostles ‘were neither ignorant ... nor preached different doctrines’, ‘but committed some things openly to all, and others secretly to a few’. It is interesting to learn from Tertullian that such claims were based on the Pastoral Letters. Already Michael Baumgarten has brought together the evidence that the Valentinians made use of and quoted the Pastoral Letters,[1] and it is particularly interesting that it was precisely in Heracleon’s commentary not on Luke 12:9-11, as it has always been thought, but, as it will be shown, on Marcion’s Gospel where this ‘most distinguished of the school of Valentinus’[2] uses 2Tim. 2:13:
Heracleon, Fragment, in Clem. Alex., Strom. IV 9
Heracleon, Fragment, in Clem. Alex., Strom. IV 9 (trans. William Wilson, ANF, altered)
Τοῦτον ἐξηγούμενος τὸν τόπον Ἡρακλέων ὁ
τῆς Οὐαλεντίνου σχολῆς δοκιμώτατος
κατὰ λέξιν φησὶν
ὁμολογίαν εἶναι τὴν μὲν ἐν πίστει καὶ πολιτείᾳ, τὴν δὲ ἐν φωνῇ.
ἡ μὲν οὖν ἐν φωνῇ ὁμολογία καὶ
ἐπὶ τῶν ἐξουσιῶν γίνεται, ἣν μόνην, φησίν, ὁμολογίαν ἡγοῦνται εἶναι
οἱ πολλοὶ οὐχ ὑγιῶς,
δύνανται δὲ ταύτην τὴν ὁμολογίαν καὶ οἱ ὑποκριταὶ ὁμολογεῖν.
ἀλλ' οὐδ' εὑρεθήσεται οὗτος ὁ λόγος
καθολικῶς εἰρημένος· οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ σῳζόμενοι ὡμολόγησαν τὴν διὰ τῆς φωνῆς ὁμολογίαν καὶ ἐξῆλθον, ἐξ ὧν Ματθαῖος, Φίλιππος, Θωμᾶς, Λευῒς καὶ ἄλλοι πολλοί.
καὶ ἔστιν ἡ διὰ τῆς φωνῆς ὁμολογία οὐ καθολική, ἀλλὰ μερική.
καθολικὴ δὲ ἣν νῦν λέγει, ἡ
ἐν ἔργοις καὶ πράξεσι καταλλήλοις
τῆς εἰς αὐτὸν πίστεως.
ἕπεται δὲ ταύτῃ τῇ ὁμολογίᾳ καὶ ἡ
μερικὴ ἡ ἐπὶ τῶν ἐξουσιῶν, ἐὰν δέῃ καὶ
ὁ λόγος αἱρῇ.
ὁμολογήσει γὰρ οὗτος καὶ τῇ φωνῇ,
ὀρθῶς προομολογήσας πρότερον τῇ διαθέσει.
καὶ καλῶς ἐπὶ μὲν
τῶν ὁμολογούντων ἐν ἐμοὶ εἶπεν,
ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν ἀρνουμένων τὸ ἐμὲ προσέθηκεν.
οὗτοι γάρ, κἂν τῇ φωνῇ ὁμολογήσωσιν
αὐτόν, ἀρνοῦνται αὐτόν,
τῇ πράξει μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες.
μόνοι δ' ἐν αὐτῷ ὁμολογοῦσιν οἱ ἐν τῇ κατ' αὐτὸν πολιτείᾳ καὶ πράξει βιοῦντες, ἐν
οἷς καὶ αὐτὸς ὁμολογεῖ ἐνειλημμένος
αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐχόμενος ὑπὸ τούτων.
διόπερ ἀρνήσασθαι αὐτὸν οὐδέποτε δύνανται (2Tim. 2:13)·
ἀρνοῦνται δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μὴ ὄντες ἐν αὐτῷ. οὐ γὰρ εἶπεν ὃς ἀρνήσηται ἐν ἐμοί, ἀλλ' ἐμέ·
οὐδεὶς γάρ ποτε ὢν ἐν αὐτῷ ἀρνεῖται αὐτόν.
τὸ δὲ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ τῶν σῳζομένων καὶ τῶν ἐθνικῶν δὲ ὁμοίως παρ' οἷς μὲν καὶ τῇ πολιτείᾳ, παρ' οἷς δὲ καὶ τῇ φωνῇ. διόπερ ἀρνήσασθαι αὐτὸν οὐδέποτε δύνανται· ἀρνοῦνται δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μὴ ὄντες ἐν αὐτῷ.
Ταῦτα μὲν ὁ Ἡρακλέων·
In explanation of this passage, Heracleon, the most distinguished of the school of Valentinus, says expressly,
that there is a confession by faith and conduct, and one with the voice.
The confession that is made with the voice, and before the authorities, is what the most reckon the only confession.
Not soundly, though,
as also hypocrites can confess with this
But neither will this utterance be found to be spoken universally; for all the saved have confessed with the confession made by the voice, and departed. Of whom are Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Levi, and many others.
And confession by the lip is not universal,
but partial.
But that which He specifies now is universal, that which is by deeds and actions corresponding to faith in Him.
This confession is followed by that which is partial, that before the authorities, if necessary, and reason dictate.
For he will confess rightly with his voice who has first confessed by his disposition.
And he has well used, with regard to those who confess, the expression
in Me,
and applied to those who deny the expression
Me. For those, though they confess Him with the voice, yet deny Him, not confessing Him in their conduct.
But those alone confess in Him, who live in the confession and conduct according to Him, in which He also confesses, who is contained in them and held by them.
He never can deny Himself
(2Tim. 2:13).
And those deny Him who are not in Him. For He said not,
Whosoever shall deny in Me, but Me. For no one who is in Him will ever deny Him. And the expression before men applies both to the saved and the heathen similarly by conduct before the one, and by voice before the other. Wherefore they never can deny Him.
But those deny Him who are not in Him
So far Heracleon.

If we had no other fragment by Heracleon, from this one alone we could agree with Clement’s characterisation of him as a most distinguished teacher. What Heracleon is saying here is subtle and shows him as a highly sensitive interpreter far from any sophistery. He first distinguishes between two forms of confession (ὁμολογία), one by faith and conduct and one by voice. And he sees that in the pericope under discussion, there is mention of a confession before the authorities (12:11) which he sees as the one that ‘most reckon’ to be ‘the only confession’, apparently the way, this passage was either understood by other readers or by the author of the text itself. The plural (‘most’; οἱ πολλοί) points, however, towards readers. Heracleon sees two reasons why this is not the only and even not the most important confession, as he is going to develop further. The first reason he gives is that also ‘hypocrites’ can make such oral confessions. More importantly, however, is his second reason, namely that such oral confessions are not ‘universal’ ones, but ‘partial’ ones, making the distinction between οὐ καθολική, ἀλλὰ μερική. Interestingly amongst those who have made ‘partial’ confessions he counts important names of Apostles: Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Levi and adds ‘many others’. It is a partial confession only, because it is necessitated by a specific situation, or called for by authorities and follows the dictate of reason.
In contrast to this form of confession of the voice (or the lips), Heracleon develops what he means by the universal, the true confession which is ‘corresponding to faith in Him’ – and this is the first of the above defined confession, the one ‘by deeds and actions’. Yet, he also adds that the two forms of confession should not be entirely separated, but that the confession of the voice has to be preceeded by the one of ‘disposition’ or ‘action’ (τῇ διαθέσει; τῇ πράξει). He then gives a precise definition of the essential confession: It is confessing ‘in Him, who live in the confession and conduct according to Him, in which He also confesses, who is contained in them and held by them’.[1] It is a mutual being-in of the one who believes in Him and the Lord in whom the confessor believes and who is contained in the believer and held by the believer.
This immediacy between believer and the divine, Heracleon could not have found in Luke 12:9-11, as contrary to Marcion’s Gospel (as attested by Tertullian) the textus receptus of Luke places ‘the angels’ as mediators in between the believers and the Lord:
Mcn *12:8-9 (teste Tert., reconstr. M. Klinghardt)
Luke 12:8-9
Matth. 10:32-3
8Λέγω δὲ γὰρ ὑμῖν,
πᾶς ὃς ἂν ὁμολογήσῃ
ἐν ἐμοὶ
τῶν ἀνθρώπων,

ὁμολογήσω                ἐν αὐτῷ

τοῦ θεοῦ:

9 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀρνησάμενός με
ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων

τοῦ θεοῦ.
8Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν,
πᾶς ὃς ἂν ὁμολογήσῃ
ἐν ἐμοὶ
τῶν ἀνθρώπων,
ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου
ὁμολογήσει                 ἐν αὐτῷ
τῶν ἀγγέλων
τοῦ θεοῦ:

9       δὲ ἀρνησάμενός με
ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων
τῶν ἀγγέλων
τοῦ θεοῦ.

Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει
ἐν ἐμοὶ
τῶν ἀνθρώπων,

ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ

τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς:
33ὅστις δ' ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με
ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων,
ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν

τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς]

Tertullian clearly points out the immediacy between believer and Lord in Marcion’s Gospel: ‘For I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, I will confess him before God[1] and Epiphianis highlights precisely the difference between Marcion’s immediacy and Luke’s angelic mediation, when he notes that in Marcion’s Gospel we read that we read instead of Ὁμολογήσει ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ simply Ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.[2] There is no mention of angels in Heracleon and angels as in Luke would have defied the idea of such mutual in-being between believer and the one the believer believes in. Moreover, Luke reads like an attempt to remove such intimacy, whereas Heracleon seems to read Marcion’s Gospel by also relying on 2Timothy to substantiate his view that such essential union makes it entirely impossible to be dissolved and, conversely, that people who do not live in such union by their very nature – and not only in given situations – are in denial of the Lord.
In our passage of De praescriptione, therefore, Tertullian, rightly moves from contradicting Marcion to an argument against those Valentinians whom he has branded to be disciples of Marcion before. It is not unlikely that the quotes from the Pastoral Letters (here 1 and 2Timothy) which he puts into the mouth of his opponents have indeed been used by his Valentinian opponents.

[1] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 28,4: Dico enim vobis, omnis qui confitebitur in me coram hominibus, confitebor in illo coram deo.
[2] Epiph., Pan. Schol. 30: ἀντὶ τοῦ Ὁμολογήσει ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ Ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ λέγει.

[1] See also his spiritual interpretation of the ‘in Him’ in Orig., In Ioh. 15.

[1] M. Baumgarten, Die Aechtheit der Pastoralbriefe (1837), 38; this is also noted by E. Pagels, The Gnostic Paul (1975), 166 (although she erroneously Clem. Alex., Strom. 2.13 instead of 4.9).
[2] More on Heracleon see Tert., Adv. Val. 4,2; Iren., Adv. haer. II 4,1; Hipp., Ref. VI 24; 30; Origen, In Ioh. II 15.