Markus Vinzent's Blog

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Meister Eckhart's re-discovered Parisian Questions (English Translation)

This is work in progress, as together with a team (Ian Richardson, Maria O'Connor, Walter Senner, Loris Sturlese, Marie-Ann Vannier and colleagues) we are working towards an edition, translation and commentaries of the re-discovered Parisian Questions in English, but also one in German and French.
So, here the preliminary English translation (a German translation by Loris Sturlese in cooperation with Walter Senner and me) has appeared in Eckhart's critical Kohlhammer edition (LW V Supplement):

1. Does omnipotence which is in God need to be considered as absolute power or as ordinary power?
And it seems that it has [to be considered] as ordinary power, because it needs to be considered as that which suits God to do and as that what he is able to do.
The counter-argument. The omnipotence encompasses all that does not entail the contrary, and this is more than what is ordinary.
It has to be shown first that the power is in God. As power is spoken of as being ordained towards action. Action, however, is two-fold. First, of course, as the form of a passive power and [second] as activity which accords to an active power.
And this is in God; on the one hand, because where there is intrinsic and extrinsic activity, there is power; in God, however, is intrinsic and extrinsic activity; on the other hand, because according to Avicenna, power is first to be found in men since they have the strength to overcome. God, however, cannot suffer from someone else, hence he is the ultimate action.
But you ask: In which way is this power to be found in God?
The answer has to be: as that what is found in creatures as ultimate perfection, once the imperfection is removed [from them].
Again, I say that this power is really one, because it is said of all as one.
Further, [divine] essence is principle of all emanations, and itself is one. Therefore asf.
Second, one has to enquire, in which way that distinction between absolute and ordinary power, has to be understood. If now something is attributed to God himself, such things belong to absolute power. If, however, things are attributed to himself with regards to intellect and wisdom, they then belong to ordinary power.
Similarly, thirdly, one has to answer this question that the Master in the Sentences determines, based on the authority of the Saints, and he seems to say that they are both attributed [to God].
Some, however, say that he is omnipotent because he is able to do whatever he wills out of himself and through himself.[1]
The counter-argument: This only explains the way in which power works.

I, therefore, say, <God’s power> rather has to be taken as absolute power because it needs to be taken as that which can extend itself to all things, which do not imply contradiction, because it is taken with regards to what is possible.
Likewise, the power of God would otherwise be limited, if it were taken in a specific way.[2]
Similarly, as knowledge is said of God who knows everything, because he knows everything, so also power.[3]
Why, however, does one not say that he wills everything?
The answer: He only wills that to which he applies his knowledge or power. And note that he is not called omnipotent because in him be the power for everything, but because he can do everything that is possible.
To this argument it must be said that out of absolute power God can make what is not decent now. If, nevertheless, these things were made, they would be decent and just.
To this argument it must be said that out of absolute power God can make what is not decent now. If, nevertheless, they were made, they would be decent and just.
But you may say: ‘Can he not do, except what he has foreseen?’ One has to reply that, of course, if ‘except’ refers to doing, then the statement is true, because what he does, he has foreseen. But if it refers to power [or, what he can], then it is wrong.
But you say: ‘Augustine says in the Enchiridion that he is omnipotent because “he can do whatever he wills”, not because he can do everything.’
One has to reply that Augustine spoke of 'wills', because in ‘everything’evil is included which are impossible for God. Therefore, it is said like this.

2. Is the essence[4] of God more real than the <personal> property?
It seems that the essence [is more real], because it is called infinite reality.
The counterargument: Everything acts through realising. A Father, however, generates through fatherhood, because through it [i.e. fatherhood] he is constituted in his being [Father].
Likewise, the Father does not make the Son alike in essence, because in number he is the same with the Son.
One has to say that the question presupposes a real property and an essence as well. Some, however, say that property is the power to generate,
first, because power and act are of the same genus, and generating is a relation;
second, because acting of a subject, taken per se, is what it is, and the form through which it is, is that through which [it is];
third, because the power to generate is notional, as it does not apply to everything;
fourth, because the Father does not communicate the power to generate when he produces the Son;
fifth, because he does not generate, insofar as he is God, because in this way the Son would have generated, therefore he generates insofar as [he is] Father.
The counterargument: Damascenus in his first book, chapter eight [writes]: ‘Generating is the work of nature’. Therefore, nature is the principle.
Likewise, the noblest act derives from the noblest power.
Likewise, in the essence lies the similitude of the product. Therefore etc.
It is not valid to say that this is only true in the univocal generation, [but] not in an identical one, because, it is valid, indeed, in univocal ones on account of the unity of the form. This, however, is the greater unity, since it is a numerical unity.
Likewise, the property cannot be the first term of the formal production, according to the fifth book of the Physics, nor, therefore, the principle; because also whiteness and foundation are always understood as <being> prior to the relation.
To the first of these, one has to say that the passive power and its act are of the same genus, because the <passive> power could not by itself be set by itself in a genus, this, however, does not apply to the active power, which by itself can be set in a genus.
To the second, one has to say, what acts sometimes acts through a common form; because in man the sensitive nature is the principle to remember, which would not be in an animal, …
… it is appropriated from the Father.
To the third, one has to say, that the power is essential and communal to the Trinity, be it to elicit, connected with due respect.
<To the forth …>
<To the fifth> that insofar as he is God, with due respect.
Others say, that the essence and the property are the potentiality; more principally, however, they say it is the property. Their reason: Whatever is in the generated, has something else that responds in the generating. In the generated, however, are nature and relation. Therefore etc. More principally, however, it conveys property; because the producer likens the product and sets a distinction, and this he intends most. Therefore, the property is more principally.
The counter‑argument. They do not grasp the sense of the question, because the question is not with regards to the total aggregate, but to that power by which generation occurs. Likewise, the conclusion is false. The determination does not remove what has been signified, but restricts it to the kind of mode for which it is considered. The power, however, means the absolute, therefore, to generate does not take away the signified, but only restricts it etc.
Likewise, the power to generate is neither a composite construct, nor one that is intransitive.
About the reason: The principle of generation is that which generates, and thus it is truly argued; but the question relates to the principle that makes the generation to occur.
To the second one has to say that with regards to the end of the generation, rather a distinction is intended, but the intention of the one who acts is primarily to communicate nature.
Others say that the power to generate is formally and intrinsically the essence; that is what I hold. Therefore, Damascenus, in the first book, chapter eight: 'the natural germination is the one according to substance etc.' And the master <Peter Lombard> in the first book, seventh distinction: 'its power is its nature'.
Second, it is shown that a property formally and in itself is not a principle, by which <something happens>. First, because in this way the Father likened the Son to him in fatherhood. Further, because the power is the foundation of relation by which the one who produces is related to the product, and this cannot be grounded in the production, even not amongst creatures, because it (the relation) is as such in the product, therefore, it is grounded in the power to produce. Furthermore, because the power to generate is prior to the product, hence prior to the Son and, therefore, it is prior to the Father. Lastly, because the power to generate is a kind of quality, hence, intrinsically it is not a relation.
Thirdly, I say that a certain aspect follows this power, namely that the power to generate is the principle of generation. The principle, however, signifies the order which follows it (the principle). Hence, the aspect follows the power to generate. Accordingly, I understand the master who says that the essence insofar as it is fatherhood is the power to generate. That is true as consequence, not as form or intrinsically.
Furthermore it is argued: in the Son is the essence, therefore also the power. Similarly, that the Father gives everything to the Son; in this, he is not distinct.
On the first one has to say that the potentiality is common, action, however, is not. This is to deduce from the end of the second Analytics <of Aristotle>, because action is singular, the potentiality is universal and common. From which I say, it <the power> does not generate, because the intellect does not remain fruitful in the Son, like the will that remains, for it generates according to its fatherhood.
Or one has to say: that power, insofar as it denotes the aspect, is not in the Son, and, therefore, it cannot become actualized in the Son. And if it is argued that in this way the Son would not be omnipotent, one has to answer that he turns the ‘what’ into a ‘how’.
What relates to the second topic results from what has been said before.
Then, one has to say to the question that there is one act according to the thing, according to the mode of knowing, however, that it is rather to be taken towards the part of the substance. Because the relation is a measure from an entity, as the commentator of Metaphysics XII, note 20 says.
To this argument I partly agree, but the way it is argued is poor. Because the simply infinite is not, unless it is one, and this is the essence, as the Damascene says, because it contains supereminently everything. But infinity, in general, contains supereminently what is common to that genus, so that it is not inconvenient that such is multiplied, because they are of different sorts. From this one can derive our proposition.
Other problems are solved.

3. Is diversity real or rational?
And it [diversity] seems to be rational, because it is opposed to identity.
Against [this]: It [diversity] is between extreme reals.
At first, what does the term 'diversity' [mean]? For [it is said] in book five of the Metaphysics [of Aristotle]:[5]
What is diverse through itself[6] is diverse[7] in its totality from that from which it is diverse, but what differs is not [different] in its totality [from what it is different], and therefore is a composite.
Second, what is understood by the term 'relation'?
Some say that [relation] is an inclination of its own nature which resides in the foundation and tends towards the real end, and yet does not include in its own nature neither end nor foundation.
They say, namely, that:
1] some categories only signify a thing,[8]
[2] other  [categories mean] a thing with a certain inclination, as those six [categories],[9]
[3] and yet others [signify] such condition itself, namely the relation.
If, however, the ground were included, it would predicate what-ness [instead of how] which is against Boethius.[10] In addition, the ground is absolute, hence, it is not part of the notion of ‘relation’.
And if one argues: ‘Relative are those which are what they are asf.’ one posits the ground.
Furthermore, similarity is the same quality of many.
With regards to the first one has to say that Aristotle On the Categories defines what is related, not the relation.
With regards to the second, that it is a material definition.
But others say that ground and end concur in the constitution of a relation. Namely as matter and form concur in a species, so also here.
Now, I prove it in the following way: A relation can neither be conceptualized nor exist without ground. Therefore it [the ground] belongs to the essence of a relation.
But you may say: In this way one could [also] argue about the accident.[11]
One would need to say...[12]
Furthermore, I argue as follows: A relation is according to its what-ness an accident, but that it is an accident derives from the ground.
Furthermore, a relation differs according to species from another on account of its ground, as is obvious from equality[13] and similarity[14].
Furthermore, a relation insofar it is a relation is not distinguished from another relation according to its species. Therefore, [a relation is distinguished from another relation] insofar as it is such a relation. But that it is such [a relation], derives from ground and end.
On the first of these, one has to say: [Relation] means a thing under a condition and differs from others as one thing [differs] from another, because a thing is differentiated according to the ten categories. Therefore, relation is not something other beside the categories.
And if one says: one thing accords to several categories as, for example, obviously in the case of knowledge, one has to add that a single thing according to several aspects that it has falls in [several] categories. Because knowledge entails two real [aspects], quality and real relatedness.
Hence, I say: relation is different from these six [categories], because a new relation cannot exist without a new ground, but exists in six categories in such a way, as becomes obvious from the categories of ‘where’ and of ‘habit’. And this is what the commentator notes [Averroes] with regards to Metaphysics V, comment 28.
There is a [second] difference, because relation sets the thing in an indeterminate way towards something, but those six [categories] signify the condition with the thing in a determinate way.[15]
There is a third difference, as relation carries with it some more intrinsic aspect, because relation inheres [something] by the nature of the ground, and emerges from the nature of the ground. The other six [categories], indeed, do not do so.
On the second, one has to say that [relation] predicates materially what something is.
On the third, one has to say that it [the ground], as far as the material aspect is concerned, constitutes [relation]. Because such species [of relation] is constituted by both [ground and end], but its notion is not a composite, because that relation does not add something to the ground, and that the relation is according to itself.
Hence, one has to reply to the proposition that if diversity is taken improperly for similarity etc. [and other qualities], then it [diversity] is a real one [relation]. But if it is taken as the opposite of identity, I [diversity] is a rational one [relation], the reason being that then it [diversity] is immediately based on substance:
First,[16] because no substance [as such] is referred to [anything else],
second, because being-in-relation presupposes inhering,
third, because the Philosopher [Aristotle] in On the Categories grounds all [real] relations on accident,
fourth, because otherwise there would be no accident.
Relation, indeed, as a term and concept can be grounded in substance, and this way, diversity is a relation, but not one according to being.
Against these, however [one has to say]:
Nowhere, the philosopher [Aristotle] makes such a distinction as that between ‘term’ [/ ‘concept’] and ‘being’.
Likewise, I say that
[1] such a distinction can easily be found between relatives, but not in a relation.
[2] Thus, it is false that a real relation could not be grounded in substance. Because such is a relation that it sets something real and has a distinct end. And such is God’s relation to the creature.
[3] Further, the white Socrates belongs together with the white Plato with regards to species, therefore they are similar. If Socrates also belongs together with Plato in substance, in this they are identical or of essential similarity.
[4] Further, if a relation were grounded in matter, it had a substrate. On this more in due course.
Therefore, I say that diversity is a real relation, because it exists in a thing and follows a thing by nature of this thing.
Further: three things are required for a real relation, namely
[1] that both of the extremes is somehow a thing. Therefore, between something and nothing there is no real relation. Hence, Simplicius [writes]: ‘The being of relation is not solitary, it is of one as end, and of the other as ground’. Therefore, it [being of relation] is given reality by both.
Again, the ground is the material, the end like the formal aspect. Therefore, a relation from matter to form that [form] is not, is not a real one.
[2] Second, it is required that both of the extremes is something supposedly different, because it is ordered towards something else, and this other is formal. Therefore the relation of identity is not a real one.
[3] Third, the condition is that it [the real relation] follows the nature of a thing and not an intellectual order.
But these three [conditions] belong to the relation of diversity. Therefore etc.
To the arguments of the opponent that ‘relation is not grounded in substance, because it does not depend [on it]’, one has to say that, if one accepts dependence, namely coexistence, then such [a dependence] belongs to the concept of relation, yet such [a dependence] is not like an effect to cause, as this way there would be no real relation in the Godhead.
On the second [argument], that it is said: ‘something is in’, like something superior in something inferior, in another way like form in matter, also this I concede …
On the third [argument] about the intention of the Philosopher [Aristotle], one has to say that the Philosopher said that [the relation] is grounded on three [potential modes], because first he has introduced the mode of power, or [second] the mode of quantity as mode of numbers – and so, substance to establish relation, introduces the mode of quantity –, or [third] quality.
On the fourth one has to say that what derives from its own nature is an accident.
On the fifth argument one has to say that identity of something with itself is a rational one, but something else is the identity between two substances.

4. Is rational difference prior to real difference?
As it seems, yes, because the attributes differ according to reason.
Against this: A thing is prior to reason.
At first, what [is] a real difference? For it derives from a thing. A thing, however, is distinct in the way being is [distinct]. Therefore the thing can appropriately be called an absolute entity, in another way [one has to say], that [a thing] means a relation that is grounded in an absolute thing. In this way [one has to speak] of [real] difference.
In one way, however, ‘reason’, is called intellect, in another way a concept is called ‘reason’, and a thing that is conceived by the intellect is called ‘reason’.
For a thing according to itself is understood in a first act of understanding, an understanding that is grounded in the intellect with respect to the stability of its being, but with respect to the stability of its signifying, it [the understanding] is grounded in the thing, which it signifies. In this way [one has to speak] about the second intentions according to their own way.
And so is reason [/concept] grounded in the intellect, not in a way that a different reason [/concept] existed in a thing, but solely through a comparison by the act of reason. Hence, to differ according to reason is to differ according to the act of reason. This act is [an act] of reason, directed towards the conceived thing, in which it [the act of reason itself] is not, even if [the act of reason itself] is a certain thing.
Following this, I answer the question that the real difference is prior [to the rational one]. Because one cannot admit an intermediate difference, as difference is a property of being. Being, however is entirely either outside of a soul, or in a soul.
I prove the proposition as follows: As the thing is prior to reason, so also the real difference [is prior to the rational one]. Likewise the cause is prior to its effect.
Likewise, the real difference exists before any intellectual act out of a thing’s nature, but the rational difference follows the act of reason. Therefore etc.
Likewise, in …

[1] See Jean Quidort’s commentary.
[2] [Alia] aliqua or aliacumque? In any other way.
[3] Item, sicut Scientia dicitur deum omnia scientem, quia scit omnia, ita de potential, quare autem non dicitur omnia volentem?
[4] In Gen. II n. 207 (LW I 681-2).
[5] [check Barns, Oxford, trans. and Thomas, therese bonin, Aquinas]. See ‘the most different of the things in the same genus, the most different of the attributes in the same receptive material [ἐν ταὐτῷ δεκτικῷ], the most different of the things that fall under the same capacity [ὑπὸ τὴν αὐτὴν δύναμιν] ‘,Metaph. D 10, 1018a27-30, trans. Ross, Metaphysics, 1608.
[6] Se ipso can only relate to diversity, not difference, as the latter can also refer to accidens, while ‘se ipso’ only relates to substance.
[7] Not different, as Thomas makes the differentiation between diversity and difference, see Sent. Met. 10,4.
[8] The first three categories (substance, quality, quantity).
[9] The last six categories.
[10] Boethius, De trin. 4 (Moreschini 178,312-3); see also PL 64,94C.
[11] Z.B. Problem der Eucharistie.
[12] There is a one line lacuna in the ms.
[13] On quantity.
[14] On quality.
[15] In Averroes’ text we only have the determination of the six categories, while relation (as an open term) is not discussed.

[16] Reasons why relation is not a real, but a rational one.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

I am in the process of reading your book ‘Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels’ ...

Today I had a reader giving a fantastic summary of my argument and asked great questions, for which I am extremely grateful:

I am in the process of reading your book Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels’ and wanted to make sure I am understanding your argument correctly before I use it in my essay.

Put in simple terms- Marcion's gospel was the first, however it was a draft and he did not put his name on it. 

>correct (as authors did not put their names on either drafts or texts not meant to be published, or other people's texts - although the latter sometimes happened as one can see in pseudepigraphy. But Marcion did not write anything pseudepigraphical, the letters of Paul which he collected, he correctly gave as the letters of Paul, and Colossians and Laodiceans[=Ephesians] he certainly took for authentically Paul's letters). 
The four gospels used/plagiarised it, and rewrote it with additions concerning Christianity's link to Judaism. 
>correct again, that is what Marcion, according to Tertullian, states (you can also check my new monograph on this topic Tertullian's Preface to Marcion's Gospel, Leuven:Peeters 2016). 

This angered him, did he then rewrite another one? Taking out the things they added concerning Judaism? 
>It angered him, as he saw his intention distorted. He did not write another one (perhaps only slightly updated it), but now he decided to publish it together with the preface on which Tertullian relies, and together with 10 Pauline Letters. This is the book, he called by the term he now coined as "The New Testament" to make it absolutely clear, that this New Testament should not be linked (as in the plagiarising Gospels) with what already Paul called the Old Testament (now by Marcion taken als a book). 

If this is correct, would it be possible to form an argument that it may be true Christianity therefore did not come from Jewish roots as he wrote the original doctrine and none of the links were included? Or is it more reasonable to say that due to his determination to make Christianity separate he just didn't include the obvious links to Judaism? And the four gospels realised this and therefore rewrote it including the important common tradition?
>I would think along a middle line between your two thoughts. Don't forget, even if you want to distinguish yourself from what you now construct to be 'Judaism', you start from this construction of yours. And in this regard the 'New' is not such a novelty as you want to have it. And in this regard, Marcion is not fundamentally different from those who plagiarised them - the difference lies in that he consciously wanted to dissociate himself and what he perceived and even termed to be 'Christianity' from what he saw to be 'Judaism' and begin a separate heresy and tradition, whereas his plagiarisers saw 'Christianity' as heirs of the Jewish tradition which disinherited all those other Jews who from now on were no longer regarded as 'verus Israel' (true Israel), as Justin states. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Why Are the Gospels Anonymous?

Bart Ehrman on his blog gives an interesting answer, based on the old scholarly consensus (at least of the majority of scholars) that Mark wrote the very first Gospel:

I think there may be one other thing going on with the NT Gospels that led their authors to write their accounts anonymously.   I’ve never seen this suggested in the scholarly literature before, which either means I came up with it myself (in which case, caveat lector!) or I haven’t read enough scholarly literature.  It is this.   I think when Mark was writing his Gospel, he was imagining that he was continuing the story that he inherited from the Hebrew Bible.    As you know, the final prophet of the Hebrew Bible, Malachi, ends by promising that Elijah would be coming before the “day of the Lord.”   And how does Mark begin?   By describing the coming of John the Baptist in the guise of Elijah.   Mark is a continuation of the narrative of the Hebrew Bible.
But as you probably know, the Hebrew Bible – in the sequence of books given in the original Hebrew — does not end with Malachi, the final prophet, the way the English Old Testament does.  It ends with 2 Chronicles, a narrative book that describes, at the very end, the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and then the promise to rebuild the city by the Persian king Cyrus.   There has been sin, and destruction, and the promise of restoration – told in a historical narrative.  And Mark picks up the story at that point, with the coming then of the Savior, Jesus.
The historical books of the Hebrew Bible (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles) are anonymous.  They are telling the history of the people of God, not based on the authority of the author but as a holy narrative of how God worked among his people.  The names of the authors are unimportant and irrelevant in this kind of sacred history.   Mark continues the sacred history, and like his predecessors, tells his story anonymously.   Matthew and Luke and even John do it in their own ways, and also, as a result, tell their sacred history in the person of Jesus anonymously.  I don’t think it’s surprising at all that they did not reveal their names. (read more here)
As you know, I do not subscribe to this scholarly consensus, but advocate that the first Gospel we know of is that of Marcion of Sinope - and in this light my answer differs from that of Bart Ehrman. In contrast to his and other scholars opinions, my own suggestion is based on an early Christian source, Tertullian of Carthage. In his refutation of Marcion, Tertullian complains about Marcion not having attached ‘to his Gospel’ an ‘author’s name’. To Tertullian, publishing a text without also adding a title (titulum quoque affigere) was a form of dissimulation or pseudepigraphy. On Marcion’s explicit criticism of those who had copied and added the names of Apostles and Apostolic men to their rewriting of his text, Tertullian will come back in Adv. Marc. IV 5.5:  ‘Marcion's complaint is that the Apostles are held suspect of collusion and dissimulation, even to the debasing of the Gospel’ (Apostolos praevaricationis et simulationis suspectos Marcion haberi queritur usque ad evangelii depravationem). Tertullian claims, Marcion’s Gospel, contrary to what the reader expects, was a work without its ‘author’s name’ (debita auctoris), something that ‘gives no promise of credibility’ as it misses ‘a fully descriptive title’. This argument, however, only works if Tertullian had, indeed, assumed that the text was by Marcion and, therefore, should have carried Marcion’s name. Tertullian did not buy into Marcion’s explanation that ‘he might not assume permission to add a title for it’. Why did Marcion withheld his name or why did he not pseudonymously add the name of somebody else, Paul, for example, as Tertullian is going to suggest in the next section (‘even if Marcion had introduced his Gospel under the name of Paul in person’)? As we can see from Marcion's collection of Pauline Letters which only contain letters which even modern literary criticism attribute to Paul or the Pauline tradition, Marcion seems to have been one of those authors and redactors who were keen on authenticity. Perhaps, he did not add his own name to his Gospel as he may have regarded this text as nothing else than the complementary collection of narratives and sayings to go with his collection of Pauline Letters. And we may even hypothesise that the Gospel might not have gained the importance it got, if it had not been picked up by those ‘Apostles’ and ‘Apostolic men’ who, if Marcion is correct, nicked his text, copied, altered and published it, just like him, without putting their names to their products. In this they may have only followed the Gospel they copied (and altered), namely that of Marcion. Nevertheless, people seem to have quickly added the names of apostles (Matthew, John) and apostolic men (Mark; Luke) to these texts, as, according to Tertullian, Marcion already complained, too, about such pseudonymous branding of these texts. 
Tertullian does not see any moral reason why the one who, according to Tertullian’s account, had dared ‘to overturn the whole body’ shrank back in putting his own name (or that of Paul) to this text. It is clear, however, from this argument, that he therefore took Marcion as the Gospel’s auctor who’s name should have been fixed to this text. This assumption is particularly made evident by Tertullian: ‘Marcion, on the other hand, attaches to the Gospel, clearly his own, no author's name’. Had Tertullian intended to make a cynical point, the argument made no sense. The only cynicism comes from the criticism that Marcion who claims to be authentic and correct sees ‘no crime’ in turning upside down (evertere) the entire body of the Gospel.
If you wish to read more on this topic - you can now check my new monograph which has appeared a few days ago:

Recently published

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The God of the other Aeon - or Marcion and Luke 20:34-40


As Klinghardt has shown (Matthias Klinghardt, Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien, 2 vols. [Tübingen, 2015] I 974-82), Jesus’ answer in *20,34-36 is well attested by Tertullian, although it shows significant differences compared to Luke. Klinghardt also points at important variant readings which he reckons to derive from the precanonical Mcn.
a. In *20,34 some manuscripts give instead of ‘they marry and get married’ the version ‘they are born and give birth’ (γεννῶνται καὶ γεννῶσιν: e c l). The latter reading is not unknown in Patristic literature, even though the order varies (γεννῶσιν καὶ γεννῶνται: ff2 gat i q Ambr), and it also appears in combination with the canonical γαμοῦσιν καὶ
γαμίσκονται (D it u. a.). Klinghardt thinks that ‘they are born and give birth’, giving a purpose of marriage, particularly with regards to the ‘Leviratsehe’, is perfectly plausible in the text, although he does not see the relation to ‘the other aeon’, mentioned in *20,35, ehre there is no longer mention of being born and giving birth, but of marrying and being married (οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται). To him, the Lucan redaction has eliminated the incongruence, even though it remained present in some of the witnesses.
b. A further textual difficulty is present for *20,35: Tertullian witnesses several times (4,38,5.7) an active (quos vero dignatus sit deus illius aevi possessione which in Greek would read like οὓς δὲ κατηξίωσεν ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου κληρονομίας) contrary to the pass. divin. in Luke (οἱ δὲ καταξιωθέντες τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου τυχεῖν), although this active reading has not left any trace in the manuscript tradition. In the history of the reconstruction of Mcn several options have been proposed. Tsutsui follows Tertullian’s reading of Mcn and refers illius aevi to deus, and not to possessione (κληρονομίας/ τυχεῖν), so that the subject is the ‘God of that aeon’.[1] As a result, the object of worthiness cannot be an infinitive τυχεῖν as in Luke (and accepted by Harnack in his reconstruction), but only the noun possessio/κληρονομία, witnessed by Tertullian. Klinghardt sees two options: Either one has to take possessio/κληρονομία in an absolute sense (‘God has regarded them worthy of the possession’), which Klinghardt finds problematic (as not manifest in any textual witness), or one has to refer the genetive of τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου/illius aevi to possessio/κληρονομία not to θεός/deus (‘God has regarded them worthy of the possession of that aeon’). He finds this a possible option, although the word order does not speak for it. He concludes that both options are possible, but problematic and that the wording, witnessed by Tertullian, provide the lectio difficilior compared to Luke, hence indicates its priority. He concludes: If Marcion had altered the canonical text of Luke into the form that is witnessed by Tertullian, he had rendered a smooth text into an ambiguous, if not nonsensical form without any semantic gains.[2] Instead, it is more plausible that the canonical redactor of Luke has smoothened a semantically difficult text by dropping the nominal subject θεός to a pass. divin. and by exchanging the noun
κληρορονομία for the infinitive τυχεῖν. We will see below that, building on Klinghardt’s text and his and Tsutsui’s observations, I come to another explanation which accounts for the textual evidence and explains what Klinghardt felt to be ‘problematic’.

English translation

20:34 So Jesus said to them, “The people of this age are born and give birth, 20:35 But those who the God of that age regards worthy of the heritage and the resurrection from among the dead neither marry nor are married, 20:36 because neither do they die anymore for they will be like angels of this God and made sons of the resurrection.” 20:39 In response some of the scribes said, “Teacher, you spoke well.”


In this small pericope Jesus is presented with his answer to the question of ‘some Sadducees’ who, in contradicting the idea of a future resurrection, challenged this concept with the example of the seven brothers who, following the advice of levirite marriage (based on Deut. 25:5-6 and Gen. 38:8) all married the same woman, so that the question arises, who’s wife she would be in the resurrection. Jesus’ answer is reported in our pericope under discussion here.


Mcn 20:34-39
Luke 20:34-40
20:34 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς
ὁ Ιησοῦς, ᾿Οἱ υἱοὶ
τούτου τοῦ αἰῶνος
γεννῶνται καὶ γεννῶσιν,

οὓς δὲ κατηξίωσεν ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου κληρονομίας καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως
τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν
οὔτε γαμοῦσιν
οὔτε γαμίζονται
20:36 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀποθανεῖν
ἔτι μέλλουσιν, ὅμοιοι γὰρ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις τοῦ 
θεοῦ εἰσιν καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως υἱοὶ ποιηθέντες.

ἀποκριθέντες δέ τινες τῶν γραμματέων εἶπαν, Διδάσκαλε, καλῶς εἶπας·

20:34 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς 
 Ἰησοῦς· οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου
γαμοῦσιν καὶ γαμίσκονται

20:35 οἱ δὲ καταξιωθέντες τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου τυχεῖν καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως 
τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε
20:36 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀποθανεῖν
ἔτι δύνανται, ἰσάγγελοι γάρ εἰσιν καὶ υἱοί εἰσιν θεοῦ τῆς
ἀναστάσεως υἱοὶ ὄντες.

ὅτι δὲ ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί, καὶ Μωϋσῆς ἐμήνυσεν ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου, ὡς λέγει κύριον τὸν θεὸν Ἀβραὰμ καὶ θεὸν Ἰσαὰκ καὶ θεὸν Ἰακώβ.

20:38 θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων, πάντες γὰρ αὐτῷ ζῶσιν
20:39 Ἀποκριθέντες δέ τινες τῶν γραμματέων εἶπαν·
, καλῶς εἶπας
20:40 οὐκέτι γὰρ ἐτόλμων ἐπερωτᾶν αὐτὸν οὐδέν.

Mcn 20:34-39 Translation
Luke 20:34-40 Translation
20:34 So Jesus said to
them, “The people of
this age being born
and giving birth,

20:35 But those who
the God of that age regards
worthy of being heirs
and of the resurrection
from among the dead
neither marry nor
are married,

20:36 because neither do
they die anymore
for they will be like angels
of this God and made sons
of the resurrection.”

In response some of the scribes
said, “Teacher,
you spoke well.”
20:34 So Jesus said to them, 
“The people of
this age marry and
are given in marriage.  

But those who
        are regarded
worthy of              that age
and of the resurrection
from among the dead
neither marry nor are

20:36 because neither can
they die anymore
for they will be like angels
and sons of God, being sons
of the resurrection.”

20:37 But even Moses revealed that the dead are raised in the passage about the bush, here he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and  God of Isaac and God of Jacob.  

20:38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live before him.” 
20:39 Then some of the experts in the law  answered, “Teacher, 
you have spoken well!”   
20:40 For they did not dare any longer to ask him anything.

Tertullian complaints in his reading of this passage in Mcn about one thing only, Marcion’s answer to the question of the Sadducees with his reference to ‘the God of that age’. According to Tertullian Marcion presented Jesus’ answer by making a distinction not only between two different ages or aeons, but also by attributing the present aeon to the ‘Creator’, and the future aeon to ‘another god’, namely ‘the God of that age’:
[7] ... They have seized upon the text of scripture, and have read on like this: ‘Those whom the god of that world has counted worthy’. They attach ‘of that world’ to ‘god’, so as to make out that there is another god, ‘of that world’. Whereas it ought to be read, Those whom God has counted worthy, so that by punctuating after ‘God’, ‘of that world’ belongs to what follows, that is, Those whom God hath counted worthy of the inheritance of that world, and of the resurrection.[3]
It becomes clear from Tertullian’s report that Marcion read this passage by referring ‘of that world’ to θεός. Instead, Tertullian does not refer to the canonical version of Luke that we know of where θεός is missing, but suggests a different punctuation of the sentence, so that τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου would be a genitive that refers to the following κληρονομίας. As Tertullian argues, his suggestion was not based on style or grammar, as, indeed, both options are grammatically possible and given that the following noun (ἀναστάσεως) carries a genitive that follows it, Marcion’s option seems stylistically even to be the more natural reading, yet Tertullian argues with reference to the content of the passage and its theology:
[8] For the question he was asked was not about the god of that world, but about its conditions, whose wife the woman was to be in that world, after the resurrection. So again, on the subject of marriage, they misrepresent his answer, so as to make out that, The children of this world marry and are given in marriage, refers to the Creator's men whom he allows to marry, whereas they themselves, whom the god of that world, that other god, has counted worthy of the resurrection, even here and now do not marry, because they are  not the children of this world—although it was the marriage of that world he was asked about, not this, and the marriage he said there was not, was that about which he was consulted.[4]
Tertullian’s quote of Mcn and his paraphrasing complaint that Marcion is distinguishing between the two aeons which he allocates to the Creator god and the ‘other’ god, ‘the god of that age’ does not seem to be a polemical retrojection only, but seems to reflect one of the major contentions that Marcion’s text provided here. In fact, Klinghardt’s reconstruction of Mcn which, as shown above, is well attested for this passage by both Tertullian and Epiphanius, makes a clear difference between not only ‘the sons of this age’ and the chosen sons of the resurrection of that other age to come, but also between ‘this age’ to which no divine authority is allocated, and the other age where ‘the God’ is the active agent who choses people whom he makes like his angels and sons of the resurrection, hence makes them to heirs. With reference to heritage (κληρονομία), the text hits one of the core elements of the Sadduceeic question, as levirite marriage was not only about creating an offspring to secure future life beyond the death of the childless man, but it was also about passing on his heritage rights.[5] Tertullian’s criticism relates to his attempt to deny the existence of ‘the God’, Marcion’s God of the other age to come, and to show that both ages are handled by the very same God, hence, is eminently theological by nature. In this respect, he challenges Marcion’s emphasis in his answer on ‘the God’ who, indeed, appears twice in Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, first when Marcion introduces the difference between the two ages, and again, when he explains the heritage and the elected becoming like angels of ‘this God’. Marcion’s stressing of this God and the title ‘the God of that age’ Tertullian sees as both a misrepresentation and an evasion of answering the Sadducee’s question, when he states that Jesus ‘was asked ... not about the god of that world, but about its conditions, whose wife the woman was to be in that world’. That Marcion related in his answer to the future aeon where no longer people were giving birth and were born, married and were married, was, however, a clever move to qualify the Sadducees as people of an aeon which was not that of the supreme God. Or put the other way around, only people who look for a short termed heritage in a world of birth and death could come up with an example like the one presented by the Sadducees. As it seems, Tertullian had a firm grasp of how Marcion wanted this passage to be understood, and the only way to get away from Marcion’s reading of it, was a grammatical shifting of the genitive object (τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου).
Now it is interesting to see that Luke displays a parallel tendency to that of Tertullian. He first keeps close to the question of the Sadducees and speaks in v. 20:34 of ‘the people of this age’ who ‘mary and are given in marriage’, not, as Marcion of being born and giving birth. More importantly, the title ‘ θεός’ is not present in Luke 20:35. Thus the subject of judgement is suspended, and yet the remaining ‘but’/δέ of the opening of v. 20:35 still maintains some kind of hiatus between ‘this age’ and ‘that age’, an age where there is marriage and another where there will be no more marriage. As the title ‘ θεός’ is not present, so is the determined title of god not present in v. 20:36. Instead, we read that the worthy people in that age will ‘be like angels and sons of God, being sons of the resurrection’. All the more one is surprised that in the example that is given in Luke (missing in Mcn) reference is now made to Ex. 3 and the topic of God’s name and title, in order to explain ‘that the dead are raised’. Mose, so Luke, ‘calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’, and in v. 20:38 he adds, that ‘God, however, is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live before him’. As Klinghardt has already noticed, scholars had some difficulty to explain this enthymatic syllogism.[6] Yet, they have missed that the shift in Luke’s strategy from focussing on an answer to the Sadducees which started off by the distinction between two aeons, one in which there is marriage and another in which there is none, and then digressed (indicated by another ‘but’/δέ in the opening of v. 20:37) into the example taken from Ex. 3 where it is question of God’s title, God being mentioned thrice as the ‘Lord’s’ name, ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob’. This emphasis on God’s title did not only serve to counter-balance the just suggested distinction between the two aeons, emphasising that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are ‘dead’ – having lived in this are – who have been ‘raised’, hence as chosen ones been made alive in ‘that age’, combining those ages by the statement ‘for all live before’ God, but the stress on God’s title is easily understood to be a reaction to Marcion’s answer to the question of the Sadducees, just as Tertullian focussed on God’s title. If this were so, then Luke should not only be read as giving an answer to the problem that was put into the mouth of the Sadducees, but also as an answer to Marcion’s text which reserved ‘ θεός’ for the God of the age to come.
When one compares both versions, that of Mcn and Luke, one notices the systematically stringent division of the text in Mcn and a rather loose organisation of arguments in Luke which becomes visible precisely where Luke and Mcn textually deviate. In Mcn we have the clear antithesis between the two ‘aeons’ with their two forms of ‘sons’ and specific denotations, the first aeon termed as ephemer, the next as angelic ‘heritage’ where ‘no further dying’ takes place, the first without a divine figure mentioned, the second reigned by ‘the god’. And, again, in Mcn, the denotation of the future aeon is twofold, it is the heritage and the resurrection from the dead, explained in v. 20:36 twofold as becoming like the angels of ‘this god’ and becoming sons of the resurrection. In Luke, the structure is ambiguous, as we have seen before, beginning with differentiating between two aeons, although then in need for combining them through an overachring life before a God of the living, encompassing past, present and future. The answer of ‘some of the scribes’ in v. 20:39 is identical in Mcn and Luke, although they have both a different meaning in the light of the different narratives. While in Mcn the verse is a criticism predominantly of the Sadducees (as rightly seen by Tertullian), and also of the scribes, as apparently even only some of these grasped the meaning of what Jesus was proposing, in Luke it is rather astonishing that, after Jesus’ has given scriptural evidence from writings which were acknowledged by the Sadducees and the scribes, only some of the latter praised the teacher Jesus. Although only a nuance, but the ‘some’ is a hint that Luke has adopted a text without fully harmonising it with his insertion of vv. 20:37-8.
Now it is interesting to see that despite the reconstruction of the text of Mcn by Klinghardt, mainly based on Tertullian and Epiphanius, and despite the clear setting out of Marcion’s reading of this passage by Tertullian, Klinghardt’s translation follows the suggestion of Tertullian how one should read this passage, rather than his explanation to how Marcion has understood it. What we have, apparently, is a Mcn-text, but with a translation that is informed by a Lukan, Tertullian, and hence a traditional understanding of this pericope. That such kind of a reading, then, leads to the conclusion that this passage was not written by Marcion, but that Marcion has only adopted an older Mcn text, seems to me to be the result of a circular argument.

[1] TSUTSUI 120. Already HARNACK 229* followed Tertullian to some extent, when he suggested to read
τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου τυχεῖν (καὶ?) τῆς ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν: If one deletes καί, then τυχεῖν would refer to τῆς ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν (‘those of that aeon are regarded worthy of achieving the resurrection from the dead’). This reconstruction is, however, contradicted by Tertullian who witnesses several times the presence of the crucial et/καί, as Tsutsui (ibid.) righly highlights.
[2] In a footnote, he adds that C.M. Hays, ‘Marcion vs. Luke: A Response to the Plädoyer of Matthias Klinghardt’,
ZNW 99 (2008), 213-32, 217 had suggested (following Harnack) that Marcion had made a theologically based textual alteration.
[3] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 38,7: Nacti enim scripturae textum ita in legendo decucurrerunt: Quos autem dignatus est deus illius aevi. Illius aevi deo adiungunt, quo alium deum faciant illius aevi; cum sic legi oporteat: Quos autem dignatus est deus, ut facta hic distinctione post deum ad sequentia pertineat illius aevi, id est, quos dignatus sit deus illius aevi possessione et resurrectione.
[4] Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 38,8: Non enim de deo, sed de statu illius aevi consulebatur, cuius uxor futura esset post resurrectionem in illo aevo. Sic et de ipsis nuptiis responsum subvertunt, ut, Filii huius aevi nubunt et nubuntur, de hominibus dictum sit creatoris nuptias permittentis, se autem, quos deus illius aevi, alter scilicet, dignatus sit resurrectione, iam et hic non nubere, quia non sint filii huius aevi; quando de nuptiis illius aevi consultus, non de huius, eas negaverat de quibus consulebatur.
[5] T. Frymer-Kensky, ‘Tamar: Bible’ (2009).
[6] See Wolter, Lk 658ff z. St.; vgl. bereits K. Berger, Die Auferstehung des Propheten und die Erhöhung des Menschensohns (1976), 386.