Info

collectively.16 Quite apart from Marcion, Paul had a singular prominence in second-century Christianity generally: he was commonly referred to as 'the Apostle', and was revered because he was the apostle to the Gentiles and the only apostle to have left a substantial literary legacy in his letters.17 There were, to be sure, 'some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction', as the author of 2 Peter complained (3:16), and certainly Marcion's understanding of Paul was gained at the expense of the subtleties and dialectical tensions in the apostle's teaching on topics that especially interested Marcion. Yet the boldness and complexity of Paul's thought challenged all of his second-century interpreters, and Marcion's construal of it, while unusual, could find almost as much footing in Paul's letters as competing interpretations.18

Claiming Paul as the sole reliable witness to Christian truth, Marcion adopted as his normative resources a set of Christian writings consisting of a gospel, usually presumed to be the gospel of Luke, and a collection of ten letters of Paul, and regarded these documents alone as the authoritative basis of genuinely Christian teaching. Believing, however, that these texts had suffered Judaising corruption in the process of their transmission, Marcion also sought to establish their original form by means of critical emendation -an effort for which he was roundly pilloried by his critics. It should not be supposed that in such editorial activity Marcion was unique, nor that it was a matter merely of conforming the texts to his own views. In fact, ancient texts of all sorts were routinely corrupted, both accidentally and intentionally, through the largely uncontrolled process of their transcription, transmission and use, so that anyone who valued a document took pains to correct it and certify its accuracy, though this was a difficult and largely conjectural endeavour.19 Moreover, the revision of texts in accordance with theological interests was relatively common in the second century, and not only among the

16 One may think, for example, of the special esteem accorded to Peter in the gospel of Matthew (16:17-19), or to the 'Beloved Disciple' in the gospel ofJohn, or to Paul in the deutero-Pauline letters (Eph 3:iff, 1 Tim 1:12-16, 2 Tim 1:8-14), as well as the later appeal to Paul among the Gnostics, or to Thomas in Syrian Christianity etc. From the dispute between Paul and Peter in Antioch (Gal 2:11-16), Marcion concluded that Peter was ignorant of the real meaning of Christianity (Tert. Praescr. 23; Marc. 4.3 and 5.3). See May, 'Streit'.

17 Rensberger, Apostle; Lindemann, Paulus.

18 On the diverse appropriations of Paul's thought in the second century: Barrett, 'Pauline controversies'; Pagels, Gnostic Paul; MacDonald, Legend; Lindemann, Paulus; and Dass-mann, Stachel.

19 On the vagaries of textual transmission in antiquity and early Christianity, and the practice of emendation, Gamble, Books and readers, 71-2, 82-143; and, with special reference to Marcion, Grant, 'Marcion', 207-15; and Heresy and criticism, 59-73.

0 0

Post a comment