Monday, December 8, 2014

Apparently -ίων Survives as the Genitive Plural in Pontic (= Pontus) Greek

I was reading this article by Petros Karatsareas and he notes that in Marcion's alleged hometown there is a strange habit of locals to add ίων rather than ών. Some examples brought forward by Karatsareas. In Greek the nominative singular for ‘cockerel’ is πετεινός. In the genitive plural they write πετειν-ίων rather than the expected πετεινών. Similarly δέσκαλος is ‘teacher’ and in the genitive plural it is δεσκαλ-ίων rather than the expected δασκάλων. Similarly ποπάς is ‘priest’ but the genitive plural is constructed ποπαδ-ίων rather than ποπάδων. Karatsareas demonstrates that "the spread of the genitive plural ending -ίων is nearly complete and, therefore, does not offer any insights on what might have conditioned its extension to nouns other than i- neuters." The same adding of an i does not appear nearly as common with genitive singular nouns.

The question of course is - did this habit go back to the second century and does this now explain what we have already noted about Marcion originally being a genitive plural noun (i.e. 'those of Mark')?

Update on the State of the Manuscript of Ephrem's Prose Refutations

I spend the weekend emailing every possibly person I could think of to help finance this project and came away with some interesting information and ideas.  The first and most important perhaps is that the text is no longer at the British Museum but is housed now at the British Library.  Apparently they did an interesting piece on this manuscript at their website. The link is here but notice the statement which appears here (and now emboldened by me):
Mitchell's patience and perseverance led, Dr. Barnett, then Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts at the Museum, in 1908 to apply a “re-agent” to the illegible part of the palimpsest. This had the effect of revealing the underwriting so clearly that it became possible to transcribe almost the entire contents. Mitchell was also able to reconstruct the original order of the leaves and quires. I’m not sure what this “re-agent” would have been, but judging from the present illegibilty of the palimpsest, I think this manuscript would be a good candidate for some form of investigative photography!
That Mitchell's original work was incomplete is clear from his book.  But interestingly an expert on Manichaean writings noted the same thing when he saw the manuscript some years back (from a private correspondence) - "The problems re the ms of Ephrem's Prose Refutations are not easy to overcome. I had a look at the palimpsest about 15 years ago and the re-agent was obviously fading and the underwriting was getting harder to read. As you said modern spectral imaging analysis (v. expensive) will have to be used."

I also changed my harsh article on the ongoing work at St Catherine's Monastery (= the Sinai project).  Apparently I am an idiot.  There are a number of manuscripts being 'recovered' over there and the new manuscripts will ultimately posted here at this website.  Indeed the images of the original manuscripts lying underneath the present writings is presented here in beautiful color images.  So now I will try to fill out an NEH grant ... once I figure out how much it will cost to digitize 88 pages of this manuscripts.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why Does Any Writing Written 'Against So and So' in Antiquity Have a Title Κατὰ + Genitive Form of the Name EXCEPT 'Against Marcion'?

It is very strange.  I have gone through EVERY example in the big three compilers of information about early Christian treatises in antiquity - Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius of Salamis and Photius of Constantinople and there is absolute uniformity in the way titles of 'attack books' with κατὰ in their titles look.  It is always κατὰ + genitive form of the name of the noun.  There are no exceptions save for references in Eusebius and Photius to a work called κατά Μαρκίωνος (i.e. kata + nominative form) which almost everyone in antiquity seems to have written at one time or another.

The first thing that is puzzling about this is - what is the proper nominative form of this name?  Is it Μαρκίων or Μαρκίωνος?   If it is the former I can't help but wonder whether κατά Μαρκίων was originally not about an individual but a group i.e. those of Marcus or perhaps, those of Marcius?  I wonder whether the idea of a heretic named Μαρκίων was a mistake developed from some early source which was perpetuated over and over again.

Another explanation which isn't as convincing.  If the gospel in the name of the evangelist Mark was identified as κατά Μᾶρκον was an 'attack piece' entitled Κατὰ Μᾶρκων i.e. 'against the followers of Mark' too problematic?  I still can't figure out why the gospels all have this strange formulation of κατά + ον (accusative).  This doesn't really mean 'that written by so and so' but something like 'that which came down from so and so.'  It is an unusual formulation and the factory production of 'attack pieces' directed against heretics which begin with a very similar formula (kata + nominative) is down right bizarre.  You'd think that the Church Fathers would have used Πρὸς instead in their titles.

Indeed it seems like Eusebius goes so far as do exactly this.  For him Irenaeus's 'Against Heresies' is always πρὸς τὰς αἱρέσεις.  But Photius apparently who tells his reader he just read the text quotes not only the long name of the treatise Ἐλέγχου καὶ ἀνατροπῆς τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως (Refutation of False Knowledge) but interestingly the original (κατά + genitive form) κατὰ αἱρέσεων.  Indeed when I go back to Isocrates I can't help but see Πρὸς used with individuals and Κατὰ used with groups.

Was there a systematic effort to transform an early second century treatise Κατὰ Μᾶρκων regarding a rejected group (perhaps during the persecutions of 177 CE in Gaul and Alexandria against 'those of Mark') into a marginalized - and perhaps mythical - heretical figure called Μαρκίων or Μαρκίωνος thus accounting for the dozens of κατά Μαρκίωνος texts in antiquity.  I think the title κατά Μαρκίωνος was ubiquitous in the early Church Father.  More books with this title were written by more Church Fathers than any other.

In any event, here is what my research came up with with respect to these three ancient compilers of information.  Let's begin with Eusebius.  He references works 'against Marcion' in some form (sometimes in a generic manner).  All references are to his Church History:

  • πρὸς τὰς αἱρέσεις 3.18.2 πρὸς τὰς αἱρέσεις 3.23.3
  • πρὸς τὰς αἱρέσεις 3.28.2
  • καὶ Κέρδωνα τῆς κατὰ Μαρκίωνα πλάνης ἀρχηγὸν 4.10.1
  • συγγράμματι τῶν πρὸς τὰς αἱρέσεις 4.11.2
  • πρὸς τὰς αἱρέσεις 4.11.8
  • ὃς δὴ καὶ γράψας κατὰ Μαρκίωνος σύγγραμμα 4.11.8
  • 'a work against Marcion' καὶ γράψας κατὰ Μαρκίωνος 4.11.10 
  • 'And we have also written a work against all the heresies that have existed' καὶ σύνταγμα κατὰ πασῶν τῶν γεγενημένων αἱρέσεων'4.14.4
  • μεθ' ὧν καὶ Μητρόδωρος τῆς κατὰ Μαρκίωνα πλάνης πρεσβύτερος 4.15.46
  • πρὸς τὰς αἱρέσεις 4.19.10
  • πρὸς Μαρκίωνα συντάγματί (not a title) 4.24.1 
  • Πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν Ἑρμογένους 4.24.3
  • καὶ αὐτὸς κατὰ Μαρκίωνος λόγον 4.25.1
  • κατὰ Μαρκίωνος (not a title) 4.27.1 
  • Πρὸς Ἕλληνας 4.30.1
  • Περὶ Ῥόδωνος καὶ ἧς ἐμνημόνευσεν κατὰ Μαρκίωνα διαφωνίας 5.pin.1 
  • πρὸς τοὺς κατὰ Μαρκίωνα (not a title) 5.13.1 
  • πρὸς τὴν Μαρκίωνος παρατέτακται αἵρεσιν (not a title) 5.17.5
  • πρὸς Ἕλληνας συνέταξε λόγοις καὶ τοῖς πρὸς Ἰουδαίους (not a title) 5.18.1 
  • Πρὸς μὲν οὖν τὴν λεγομένην κατὰ Φρύγας αἵρεσιν (not a title) 5.19.1 
  • κατὰ τῆς δηλωθείσης αἱρέσεως (not a title) 5.20.1 
  • Πρὸς Βλάστον περὶ σχίσματος 5.20.1 
  • Πρὸς Φλωρῖνον περὶ μοναρχίας 5.28.1 
  • κατὰ τῆς Ἀρτέμωνος αἱρέσεως (not a title) 5.28.4 
  • πρὸς τὰς τότε αἱρέσεις ἔγραψαν (not a title) 6.13.3 
  • πρὸς τοὺς Ἰουδαΐζοντας 6.19.9 
  • Πορφυρίῳ κατὰ τὸ τρίτον σύγγραμμα τῶν γραφέντων αὐτῷ κατὰ Χριστιανῶν 6.20.1 
  • Πρὸς Μαρκίωνα 6.20.1 
  • Πρὸς ἁπάσας τὰς αἱρέσεις 6.43.6 
  • κατὰ τοῦ Νοουάτου (not a title)
Epiphanius by contrast follows the convention of naming groups with the κατά + genitive form

  • Κατὰ Σαμαρειτῶν 
  • ἀπὸ Ἑλληνισμοῦ αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Ἐσσηνῶν ἀπὸ Σαμαρειτῶν αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Γοροθηνῶν ἀπὸ Σαμαρειτῶν αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Σαδδουκαίων ἀπὸ Ἰουδαϊσμοῦ αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Φαρισαίων ἀπὸ Ἰουδαϊσμοῦ αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Ἡμεροβαπτιστῶν ἀπὸ Ἰουδαϊσμοῦ αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Νασαραίων, ἀπὸ Ἰουδαϊσμοῦ αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Ὀσσαίων, ἀπὸ Ἰουδαϊσμοῦ αἱρέσεως
  • Κατὰ Ἡρῳδιανῶν, ἀπὸ Ἰουδαϊσμοῦ αἱρέσεως 
  • Κατὰ Σιμωνιανῶν πρώτη μετὰ τὴν εἰς Χριστὸν 
  • Κατὰ Μενάνδρου (sing)
  • Κατὰ Σατορνίλου (sing)
  • Κατὰ Βασιλείδου (sing)
  • Κατὰ Νικολαϊτῶν 
  • Κατὰ Γνωστικῶν 
  • Κατὰ Καρποκρασίων note for Epiphanius here Καρποκρᾶς = Karpocrates Panarion 27.1.1
  • Κατὰ Κηρινθιανῶν ἤτοι Μηρινθιανῶν
  • Κατὰ Ναζωραίων 
  • Κατὰ Ἐβιωναίων where Ἐβίων is taken as the nominative 
  • Κατὰ Οὐαλεντίνων τῶν καὶ Γνωστικῶν 
  • Κατὰ Σεκουνδιανῶν where Σεκοῦνδος is the nominative 
  • Κατὰ Πτολεμαϊτῶν (there is a reference later to Ptolemy as κατὰ Οὐαλεντῖνον 'comes from Valentinus' 
  • Κατὰ Μαρκωσίων from Μάρκος one expects Κατὰ Μαρκων 
  • Κατὰ Κολορβασίων from Κολόρβασος (notice the ίων genitive suffix where Κολορβασων is expected).  The reports for those of Marcus and those of Colorbasus are connected)
  • Κατὰ Ἡρακλεωνιτῶν 
  • Κατὰ Ὀφιτῶν 
  • Κατὰ Καϊανῶν 
  • Κατὰ Σηθιανῶν 
  • Κατὰ Ἀρχοντικῶν 
  • Κατὰ Κερδωνιανῶν 
  • Κατὰ Μαρκιωνιστῶν 
  • Κατὰ Λουκιανιστῶν the nominative is Λουκιανός 
  • Κατὰ Ἀπελληϊανῶν 
  • Κατὰ Σευηριανῶν the nominative is Σευῆρος 
  • Κατὰ Τατιανῶν the nominative is Τατιανός 
  • Κατὰ Ἐγκρατιτῶν 
  • Κατὰ τῶν κατὰ Φρύγας ἤτοι Μοντανιστῶν καλουμένων ἢ καὶ Τασκοδρουγιτῶν 
  • Κατὰ Κυϊντιλλιανῶν 
  • Κατὰ Τεσσαρεσκαιδεκατιτῶν 
  • Κατὰ Ἀδαμιανῶν 
  • Κατὰ Σαμψαίων 
  • Κατὰ Μελχισεδεκιανῶν the nominative is Μελχισεδέκ 
  • Κατὰ Βαρδησιανιστῶν the nominative is Βαρδησιάνης 
  • Κατὰ Νοητιανῶν the nominative is Νόητος 
  • Κατὰ Οὐαλησίων the nominative form is Οὐάλης (notice the ίων gentive suffix)
  • Κατὰ Καθαρῶν 
  • Κατὰ Ἀγγελικῶν 
  • Κατὰ Ἀποστολικῶν 
  • Κατὰ Σαβελλιανῶν the nominative is Σαβέλλιός 
  • Κατὰ Ὠριγενιανῶν notice the name + Latin ian suffix plus Greek genitive suffix
  • Κατὰ Μανιχαίων nominative form Μάνης 
  • Κατὰ Ἱερακιτῶν nominative form Ἱέρακας, John of Damascus calls him Ἱέραξ 
  • Κατὰ τοῦ Μελιτίου σχίσματος τοῦ Αἰγυπτίου 
  • Κατὰ τῶν Ἀρειομανιτῶν

With Photius we find a consistent use of κατά + genitive form

  • 4 ὑπὲρ Βασιλείου κατὰ Εὐνομίου 
  • 5 ὑπὲρ Βασιλείου κατὰ Εὐνομίου 
  • 6 ὑπὲρ Βασιλείου κατὰ Εὐνομίου 
  • δὲ καὶ Θεοδωρήτου τὰ κατὰ τοῦ Κυρίλλου γραφέντα κεφάλαια 
  • 49 Κυρίλλου τοῦ Ἀλεξανδρέως κατὰ τῶν τοῦ Νεστορίου βλασφημιῶν 
  • 50 Νικίου Μοναχοῦ κατὰ τῶν Φιλοπόνου κεφαλαίων ἑπτά 
  • 52 σύνοδος γενομένη ἐν Σίδῃ κατὰ τῆς αἱρέσεως τῶν Μεσσαλιανῶν ἤγουν Εὐχιτῶν ἤτοι Ἀδελφιανῶν ∆ιόπερ καὶ αὐτὸς συναθροίζει σύνοδον κατὰ τῶν αὐτῶν αἱρετικῶν 
  • 53 βιβλίον ἡ κατὰ Πελαγίου καὶ Κελεστίου σύνοδος ἐν Καρταγένῃ συστᾶσα Ἔγραψε δὲ καὶ Ἱερώνυμος πρεσβύτερος πρὸς Κτησιφῶντα κατὰ τῶν λεγόντων ἀπάθειαν ἤτοι κατὰ Πελαγίου κατὰ τῆς Πελαγιανῆς καὶ Κελεστιανῆς αἱρέσεως, οὗ ἡ ἐπιγραφή 
  • 54 Ἶσα πεπραγμένων ἐν τοῖς δυτικοῖς ἐπισκόποις κατὰ τῶν Νεστοριανῶν δογμάτων 
  • 55 δὲ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ καὶ Ἰωάννου ἄλλου, τὴν θρησκείαν Νεστοριανοῦ, κατὰ τῆς αὐτῆς ἁγίας τετάρτης συνόδου 
  • 56 Θεοδωρήτου Κύρου κατὰ τῶν αἱρέσεων τῶν ἀπὸ Σίμωνος ἀρξαμένων καὶ μέχρις ὁ διάκονος Ἰωάννης ἐν ταῖς κατὰ τοῦ Χρυσοστόμου κατηγορίαις ἐμνήσθη, ἐγκαλῶν κατὰ Ἡρακλείδου ὅτι Ὠριγενειαστής ἐστι Ἐνεκάλει δὲ καὶ κατὰ τοῦ Χρυσοστόμου ὡς πολλὰ κακὰ παθὼν χάριν τῶν Ὠριγενειαστῶν διὰ Σαραπίωνος καὶ παρ' αὐτοῦ ἐκείνου Ἐπέδωκε δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς Ἰσαάκιος καὶ λίβελλον κατὰ τοῦ Χρυσοστόμου 
  • 61 Αἰσχίνου οἱ τρεῖς λόγοι, ὁ κατὰ Τιμάρχου 
  • 75 Ἰωάννου τοῦ Φιλοπόνου βιβλιδάριον κατὰ τῶν ἐνθέως δογματισθέντων περὶ τῆς ἁγίας καὶ ὁμοουσίου τριάδος ὑπὸ τοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις Ἰωάννου ἀρχιεπισκόπου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως 
  • 85 Ἡρακλειανοῦ ἐπισκόπου Καλχηδόνος κατὰ Μανιχαίων 
  • 95 Ἰωάννου Σκυθοπολίτου σχολαστικοῦ κατὰ τῶν ἀποσχιστῶν τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἤτοι κατὰ Εὐτυχοῦς καὶ ∆ιοσκόρου 
  • 107 Βασιλείου πρεσβυτέρου Κίλικος κατὰ Ἰωάννου τοῦ Σκυθοπολίτου 
  • 108 Θεοδώρου μονάζοντος Ἀλεξανδρέως κατὰ Θεμιστίου 
  • 120 βιβλίον Εἰρηναίου ἐπισκόπου Λουγδούνων (ἐν Κελτοῖς δὲ τὰ Λούγδουνα), λόγοι εʹ· οὗ ἡ ἐπιγραφή Ἐλέγχου καὶ ἀνατροπῆς τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως, τοῦτο δέ ἐστι κατὰ αἱρέσεων. 
  • 121 βιβλιδάριον Ἱππολύτου· μαθητὴς δὲ Εἰρηναίου ὁ Ἱππόλυτος. Ἦν δὲ τὸ σύνταγμα κατὰ αἱρέσεων λβʹ 
  • 122 Ἐπιφανίου τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου ἐπισκόπου τὰ Πανάρια. Ἐν τεύχεσι μὲν γʹ, τόμοις δὲ ζʹ, κατὰ αἱρέσεων δὲ πʹ. 
  • 125 Ἰουστίνου τοῦ μάρτυρος ἀπολογία ὑπὲρ Χριστιανῶν καὶ κατὰ Ἑλλήνων καὶ κατὰ Ἰουδαίων, καὶ ἔτι ἑτέρα αὐτοῦ πραγματεία κατὰ τοῦ πρώτου καὶ δευτέρου τῆς φυσικῆς ἀκροάσεως κατὰ Μαρκίωνος, ἀναγκαῖοι λόγοι, καὶ ἡ κατὰ πασῶν αἱρέσεων χρήσιμος πραγματεία 
  • 140 [Ἀθανασίου] τοῦ αὐτοῦ ἁγίου ἡ κατὰ Ἀρείου 
  • 159 Isocrates κατὰ τῶν σοφιστῶν πρὸς Καλλίμαχον πρὸς Εὐθύνουν πρὸς Λοχίτην 
  • 162 κατὰ Ἀνδρέου 
  • 163 Γαληνοῦ περὶ αἱρέσεων 
  • 169 τοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις Κυρίλλου κατὰ τῶν Νεστορίου δυσφημιῶν 
  • 177 Θεοδώρου Ἀντιοχέως πρὸς τοὺς λέγοντας φύσει καὶ οὐ γνώμῃ πταίειν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους. ∆ιαπεραίνεται μὲν αὐτῷ ὁ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἀγὼν 
  • 182 Εὐλογίου τοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις ἀρχιεπισκόπου Ἀλεξανδρείας κατὰ Ναυάτου καὶ περὶ οἰκονο μίας 
  • 208 τοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις Εὐλογίου ἀρχιεπισκόπου Ἀλεξανδρείας κατὰ Ναυατιανῶν 
  • 215 Ἰωάννου τοῦ Φιλοπόνου κατὰ τῆς σπουδῆς Ἰαμβλίχου 
  • 227 η λόγος στηλιτευτικὸς τοῦ αὐτοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις ἀνδρὸς κατὰ τῆς γεγενημένης τοῖς Θεοδοσιανοῖς τε καὶ Γαϊνίταις τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἀκεφάλοις προσκαίρου ἑνώσεως

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Charles Wand Mitchell Translator of Ephrem's Prose Refutations Was Canadian (!)

Charles Wand Mitchell: a living palimpsest
by Rev. Fr. Dale A. Johnson 



"One see here another palimpsest: and ancient features in town and countryside are disappearing beyond all the subtleties of chemistry to restore." 


This statement was made by a military chaplain a year before his death on May 3, 1917 on the front lines during World War I. His words hint at his life as a scholar and in this case a scholar of Syriac. It is a profound spiritual perception shaped by his manuscript studies of a nearly hidden Syriac text that lay beneath B.M. Add. 14623. What Charles Wand Mitchell discovered was Ephraim's Prose Refutations beneath 88 leaves of parchment that had been washed, rebound, and written upon with new text in 823 AD. It was difficult enough to read the Syriac of the first part of the manuscript which Overbeck had done in 1865. But to read the nearly invisible palimpsest in a long lost manuscript required an heroic effort and dedication.

Seeing the “message beneath the message” is a way of seeing that only the spiritually gifted can do. Such a man was Charles Wand Mitchell.

Sometimes in the most remote places, a Syriac scholar arises. It seems to be proof of the desire of the Heavenly Father to spread the love for language of his Son to the ends of the earth. In 1879 a tiny school opened near Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Today a large community of Syriac speaking Christians have immigrated to this area. That three room school provided a firm foundation for Charles Wand Mitchell who was born the year before its founding. CW Mitchell went on to study at Bishop's College in the same community.

Bishop's is one of the oldest universities in Canada. The school was founded in 1843 by the Anglican bishop George Mountain. This was the greatest of his achievements , the establishment of the Lower Canadian Church University, Bishop's College, Lennoxville, for the education of clergymen. It was at Bishop's that Charles Wand Michell distinguished himself both a student and as a lecturer. In 1901 we find him lecturing at Bishop's College. In 1902 he left Canada and became an advanced student at Cambridge University. By 1904 he had won the highest honors in biblical languages at Cambridge University and was awarded the Tyrwhitt University Scholarship for Hebrew and the Jeremie Prize for the Septuagint. It was during this time that he met Francis Burkitt the newly appointed Norrisian Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. He was 14 years Mitchell's senior. Yet they both had a deep love for the language of Jesus, the palimpsest of all language. I believe it was Burkitt who introduced Mitchell to the spiritual beauty of Syriac. Burkitt previously had experience with the Sinaitic palimsest found by Drs. Lewis and Gibson in 1892. Beneath the text of Female Lives of the Saints, the gospels in Syriac faintly appeared.

A palimpsest found in B.M. Supp. 14623 turned out to be the missing pages of Ephrem's Prose Refutations. The 88 pages of B.M. Supp. 14623 belonged to be part of another manuscript published by Overbeck in 1865. The lost pages of Ephrem's Prose Refutations were reunited to the original 19 pages published by Overbeck. The connection was made by Mitchell. Later he was assisted by a chemical process, a reagent solution, applied to the pages of delicate vellum in 1908 by a Dr. Barrett. While Mitchell had already been at work on the hidden text, it advanced his work a thousand-fold. This is one of the great stories of detective work by a Syriac scholar.

Unfortunately the life of Charles Ward Mitchell ended all too briefly. Much of this detective work occurred at Taylors Merchant School in central London. This was a boys school close to the British Museum that allowed him to perform his real work as a scholar. But Mitchell was a foreigner in a foreign land. After all he was Canadian. Perhaps, his teacher and friend, F. C. Burkitt said it best when he said “When the first Canadian contingent came over and landed at Plymouth he felt it impossible that they should be in the post of danger and he stay behind in England, and in 1915 he became a Chaplain to the Forces, first at Shorncliffe, then with Bishop Gwynne during the winter of 1915-16 at General Head Quarters, and finally, as he wished, he went to the Front as Chaplain to the 8th Battalion East Yorks.”

Upon the news of the death of the Rev. Charles Wand Mitchell, A. A. Beven and F.C. Burkitt finished with the final details of the publication of the palimpsest. The publisher and typesetter had nearly half the work completed the the rest was in its final stage. It does not belittle the work of Bevan and Burkitt, for it was their loyalty both to Mitchell and the language of our Lord that this work came to light. Nevertheless, Mitchell left us a palimpsest of theological thought. He taught us to look deeply into the text and to discover what mysteries it may contain. But more than studying the physical text, he taught us that this is an exercise for an even deeper practice. We are to use our spiritual eyes and discover the meaning of the words in order to put them into practice. He did this in his own life by serving his countrymen in a time of war. What greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his brother we are told in scripture. Unless we are willing to love one another in practice we are merely a clanging symbol. Mitchell was a true palimpsest. [Dale Johnson Syriac Genius, p. 108, 109]

Another Request for Academic Interest in Marcion

There was a lot of media interest when Michael B. Toth, president of R.B. Toth Associates, went to St Catherine's monastery in 2012 to uncover the 'texts that lay beneath the existing texts' in their library.  But there was a palimpsest at the British Museum which has proved to be critical to our knowledge of the first Christian sect to canonize a set of writings - the Marcionites - that was imperfectly analyzed back at the beginning of the 20th century which requires our urgent attention.

British Museum (Add. 14623) is now apparently housed at the British Library.  I think that this text arguably more important than any of these other projects for the understanding of the development of Christianity.  Whereas Sinai might reveal an important text - the British Library actually houses a text which is critical for our understanding.

The linked article at the British Library makes clear what is obvious to anyone who read the original attempt to transcribe this text - it was incomplete.  We read:
Mitchell's patience and perseverance led, Dr. Barnett, then Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts at the Museum, in 1908 to apply a “re-agent” to the illegible part of the palimpsest. This had the effect of revealing the underwriting so clearly that it became possible to transcribe almost the entire contents. Mitchell was also able to reconstruct the original order of the leaves and quires. I’m not sure what this “re-agent” would have been, but judging from the present illegibilty of the palimpsest, I think this manuscript would be a good candidate for some form of investigative photography!
Working over a century ago on a surviving fragment of the fourth century Church Father Ephrem the Syrian Against Marcion, C W Mitchell was informed that he was informed by a colleague that the remainder of Ephraim's Refutation was extant in this palimpsest in the museum.  He did a bit of research and discovered the following account of its discovery:
As stated above, the volume is palimpsest throughout, and the miserable monk Aaron deserves the execration of every theologian and Syriac scholar for having destroyed a manuscript of the sixth century written in three columns containing works of Ephraim . . 
The original discoverer noted the importance of this text but also his fear that the information would never be recovered.  Mitchell sought out the manuscript and noted in his own voice that:

on examining this palimpsest of eighty-eight leaves, I found that the older writing on a few pages could be read with ease, on a good number of others with much difficulty; while in each of these legible pieces there were more or less irrecoverable passages, and worst of all, only one side of the leaves could be read, except in two or three cases, though there was evidence that the writing was lurking in obscurity below. I decided to edit as many of the pages as were fairly legible, and to publish them along with the translation which I have mentioned above. After I had worked at the palimpsest for a considerable time, my gleanings amounted to over thirty of its pages. But the illegibility of one side of the vellum, coupled with the confusion arising from the disturbance of the original order of the leaves and quires in the hands of the monk Aaron, made it impossible to arrange the deciphered pages so that they could be read consecutively. As they had been transcribed with tolerable completeness, most of them containing about a hundred manuscript lines, and as each page was a section from a genuine work of Ephraim against Mani, Marcion, and Bardaisan, the Text and Translation Society undertook the expense of publishing them as isolated Fragments. 

He goes on to note just as he was about to publish the individual fragments that could be read a certain professor Barnett, Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts at the British Museum "began to apply a re-agent to the illegible portions of the palimpsest, and so wonderfully did its virtue revive the energies of the ancient ink, so distinctly did the underwriting show itself, here readily, there reluctantly, that it now became possible to transcribe almost the entire contents."

Nevertheless as it turns out these primitive efforts did not achieve the original hope of recovering the entire contents of the manuscript.  Mitchell writes:

Instead of a text and translation of a collection of fragments, torn from their context, and suffering greatly from illegible gaps, this volume and that which is to follow it are now able to present to "the theologian and Syriac scholar" the text and translation of Ephraim's "Contra Haereses" approximately complete.

Yet he goes on to note that many gaps still exist in our knowledge of the text owing to the primitive nature of the original effort to merely apply a primitive chemical solution to the work:
The lacunae which still remain will not, I think, be found to affect seriously the elucidation of many passages of importance. Even with the help of the re-agent, the work of transcribing the palimpsest has been necessarily slow. Not to speak of the arduousness of the decipherer's task, which anyone who has had experience of such work will appreciate, there have been in the present case unusual difficulties owing to the fact that no other copy of the underwriting is extant. Such difficulties are inevitable when the decipherer's aim is not collation, but the recovery of a lost document. In a field of this kind pioneer work cannot go on rapidly ; for it constantly happens that advance is only possible by verifying and re-verifying one's conjectures as to probable words and letters in passages which at first sight seem all but obliterated. The time, moreover, which I have been able to devote to the work has been limited by my other duties, and has often been rendered still more scanty by the weather. Accurate deciphering is only possible under a good sunlight, and London has never claimed an abundance of this among her varied endowments. When bright days have been absent, in the interests of completeness and accuracy I have been obliged to postpone both transcribing and proof-correcting. For, however much the editor of such a work as the present may hope, for the sake of mistakes which he may have allowed to creep in, that he may not be transcribing e's act, yet he must feel that, as the writing soon fades back to that underworld from which it has recently emerged only after a thousand unbroken years of obscurity, there is laid upon him a special responsibility to attain finality in transcription. At the same time, he is aware that there comes a temptation to linger too frequently and painfully over sparse after-gleanings. Perhaps I have sometimes erred in this respect, but at any rate I feel that this edition presents a maximum of text recoverable from the palimpsest, and I have no hope that the lacunae can be filled by a more prolonged study of it. I have tried to make a literal translation, and for the sake of clearness have introduced marginal summaries. The difficulty of the Syriac of the published fragment of the second Discourse was formerly noted by Nöldeke (ZDMG for 1889, p. 543), and the remainder of the work is written in the same style. In the next volume containing Parts III. and IV.—the latter of which is now being printed—there will appear the text and translation of an unedited work of Ephraim, called "Of Domnus." It consists of Discourses against Mani, Marcion, and Bardaisan, and a Hymn on Virginity. The Discourses against Bardaisan are remarkable as showing the influence of the Platonists and the Stoics around Edessa. In the third volume, Part V., I shall endeavour to collect, arrange, and interpret the evidence derived from the first two volumes for the teaching of Mani, Marcion, and Bardaisan. In that connection notes will be found on special points, e.g., the references to the Hymn of the Soul, Vol. i, pp. lxxxix., cv.-cvii.; BÂN the Builder, p. xxx.; BOLOS, p. lxxii.; HULE, p. xcix. f.; Mani's Painting, p. xcii.; the Gospel quotations, e.g. pp. xc., c. Part V. will also contain indices for the whole work. Throughout the first volume Ephraim directs his main attack against the teaching of Manichaeism—'perhaps the most formidable rival that the Church has encountered in the whole course of her history.' If that system ultimately failed on the favourable soil of Syria, its defeat must have been in some measure hastened by the weapons forged by Ephraim, and stored up in these Discourses to Hypatius, to be used by others in proving that Manichaeism could not justify itself intellectually to the Syrian mind. I could wish to make my recognition of Professor Bevan's help as ample as possible. In editing the text, in conjectural emendations, and, above all, in the translation, I have had his constant and generous assistance. Throughout the work I have received from him encouragement and help of the most practical kind. For its final form, of course I alone am responsible. I desire to express my thanks to Dr. Barnett, who has taken the greatest pains to restore the Manuscript to legibility, and who by his courtesy and kindness has greatly facilitated my progress with this work. I am also deeply grateful to Dr. Burkitt, who has given me advice and many suggestions ; and to my colleagues the Rev. F. Conway and Mr. C. E. Wade for help on certain points. To the Text and Translation Society, who undertook the publication of the work, and to the Managers of the Hort Fund for two grants in connection with it, I beg here to offer my sincere thanks. 
Surely, as the text also includes a great deal of information on the Manichaean tradition there must be a scholar somewhere who could take an active interest in raising funds to decipher the entire manuscript.  If the reader looks at the large gaps of information that appear in our text on Marcion here, here and here they will surely realize that there at least a half dozen sections of text are missing from just this one section.  There are countless more relating to Mani and other individuals referenced by the fourth century Syrian Church Father.

Why the hell hasn't anyone done a proper job getting this amazing text properly 'decoded'?  What is wrong with scholarship today that nothing has been done - in spite of the development of new technology - since the primitive efforts of C W Mitchell?  Are we just too interest in hearing ourselves pontificate?  Isn't it more important to hear what Ephrem has to say?

Wasn't Marcion 'Catholic'? The Protestant Misrepresentation of Marcion

It is worth considering the central overriding point in Wolfram Kinzig's recent biography of Adolf von Harnack (Marcion und das Judentum: Nebst einer kommentierten Edition des Briefwechsels Adolf von Harnacks mit Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2004). The book consists of three parts. The first, by far the longest and theologically most challenging part, "Harnacks Marcion," traces the evolution of Harnack's interpretation of Marcion from his prize-winning dissertation as a nineteen-year-old student of theology at the Baltic-German University at Dorpat, today Tartu in Estonia, to his 1921 biography.

Kinzig begins by noting that Harnack's 1870 Preisschrift, while sympathetic to Marcion for allegedly anticipating the Protestant doctrines of salvation by faith alone and the priesthood of believers, was much more reserved about Marcion's importance for Christian theology than his later biography. The young Harnack did not yet embrace Marcion's low opinion of the Old Testament nor his absolute differentiation between the stern creator God of the Old Testament and the good, merciful God of the New Testament.

Kinzig carefully analyzes Harnack's growing valorization of Marcion as a harbinger of the sixteenth-century Reformation in his major works, the multi-volume History of Dogma (1886-89), his widely circulated Das Wesen des Christentums (translated as What Is Christianity?, 1900), and The Mission and Expansion of Christianity during the First Three Centuries (1902). Harnack became increasingly enamored of Marcion's dualistic doctrines of God versus nature, spirit versus matter, soul versus the flesh, and the gospel versus the law as pointing the way to the progressive development of Christian theology.

In Harnack's evolving description Marcion took on more and more traits of Martin Luther. In his culminating biography Harnack praised Marcion for creating the New Testament canon, making the doctrine of salvation the center of Christianity rather than founding Christianity on cosmology, and going beyond Saint Paul in repudiating Judaic residues in Christianity, including the Old Testament. Harnack conceded that the second-century Old Catholic Church had been right not to have discarded the Old Testament, which furnished the necessary historical justification for Christianity in its precarious early years.

He also sympathized with Luther's judgment that the Protestant Reformation could not do without the law as embodied in the Old Testament. But while Harnack insisted that the Old Testament, particularly the prophetic books and the Psalms, should continue to be read as edifying literature today, he declared that one cannot learn from it what it means to be Christian. Hence he concluded that its retention as a Protestant canonical document in the twentieth century was "the result of a religious and ecclesiastical paralysis" (p. 86).

But was Marcion really the forerunner of Luther?  Of course not!  This is the danger of modern scholarship.  Inevitably there is too much of the scholar in the scholarly work, the line between analyst and his analysis inevitably blurred.  The more I think about it the more I am convinced that Marcion's church appeared like a Catholic or Orthodox 'mystery religion.'  Indeed I see no evidence to suggest anything but this.  As such we have to be careful to avoid allowing ourselves to fall into the trap of allowing the 'heretic' branding that Marcion received to define our understanding.  Luther really did break from the Church.  Marcion was only said to have 'broken' from established precedent.  Maybe it was the Roman Catholic Church which broke from the tradition associated with him.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Against (Ulrich) Schmid: the Arabic Diatessaron Often Preserves Early (Second Century) Textual Readings

I am credited in one of Tjitze Baarda's recent articles on the Diatessaron.  I asked him to take a careful look at the Transfiguration narrative in the Arabic text and give his opinion as to whether it was a reminiscence of an older placement of the event after the Resurrection (as in the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter and Teeple's many arguments).  In the end Baarda rejected my suggestion.  Nevertheless I found an important piece of evidence which demonstrates that my original understanding might have been more correct.

I think Tertullian's heretical adversaries had the reading found in our Arabic Diatessaron which goes: 

And while they were praying, Jesus changed, and became after the fashion of another person; and his face shone like the sun, and his raiment was very white like the snow, and as the light of lightning, so that nothing on earth can whiten like it. And there appeared unto him Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus. And they thought that the time of his decease which was to be accomplished at Jerusalem was come. 

Compare this reading with what is said in Tertullian De resurrectione mortuorum

The Lord, again, in the retirement of the mount, had changed His raiment for a robe of light; but He still retained features which Peter could recognise. In that same scene Moses also and Elias gave proof that the same condition of bodily existence may continue even in glory-the one in the likeness of a flesh which he had not yet recovered, the other in the reality of one which he had not yet put off. It was as full of this splendid example that Paul said: "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." But if you maintain that a transfiguration and a conversion amounts to the annihilation of any substance, then it follows that "Saul, when changed into another man," passed away from his own bodily substance; and that Satan himself, when "transformed into an angel of light," loses his own proper character. Such is not my opinion. So likewise changes, conversions and reformations will necessarily take place to bring about the resurrection, but the substance of the flesh will still be preserved safe. [De resurrectione mortuorum 55 § 10 cf. Borleffs J.G.Ph., CCL 2 (1954), (p.1002, l.38) BP1] 

While the text does not specify in any way shape or form that he is citing the Diatessaronic per se reading it is obvious - at least to me that is - that Tertullian (or his source) is combatting heretics who use the Transfiguration narrative as proof that we change into another person when we are resurrected.

Hence Tertullian's citation of the canonical texts where the offending line 'changed into another person' does not appear. The implication nevertheless is that the heretics must have had the reading prior to Tertullian's citation and thus the reading existed in the late second century (= Tatian). N'est ce pas?  Or is there something wrong in my thinking?
 
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