I continue here the series covering Paul Louis Couchoud’s argument for the creation of the canonical New Testament literature from the 1939 English translation of his The Creation of Christ: An Outline of the Beginnings of Christianity. The series is archived here — scroll to the bottom for the first posts where the overall purpose for which the literature is covered, along with when and why and why Couchoud suspects Clement of Rome as the editor (and author) responsible.
The guiding principle for the structure was Marcion’s “canon” that began with a Gospel and included ten letters of Paul.
Background: In brief, Marcion was a prominent leader of a form of Christianity that (at least until recently) has been generally believed to have rejected totally the Old Testament and taught that Jesus came down from heaven to preach about an Alien (unknown) God who was all love and higher than the Jewish God of the law and judgment. Marcion claimed Paul as his sole apostolic authority in opposition to the other apostles who never understood Christ’s message. Couchoud argues that a Roman church elder (he suspects Clement) attempted to unite the diverse Christianities represented by competing Gospels (such as Marcion’s Gospel, Matthew, John, Mark) bringing them all together through the themes expressed in Luke and Acts (his own creations, though Luke was largely a re-write of Marcion’s Gospel) except for the intolerable Marcionite views that had to be countered.
Couchoud has covered the creations and compilation of the Gospels and Acts, and now comes to the orthodox versions of the Pauline letters. Marcion had selected Galatians as the most appropriate for the introduction of Paul’s thought; “Clement”(?) preferred Romans as the one most potentially adaptable as a frame of reference for the “correct” reading of Paul’s corpus. (Marcion had placed it fourth.) This would leave nothing more to do than revise a few details here and there in the other letters.
This editor enlarged Romans to twice its original size. (Couchoud mainly follows Harnack’s reconstruction of Marcion’s thought, Gospel and epistles. I have begun posting elsewhere Sebastian Moll’s revision of Harnack’s basic premise in his 2010 work and must post more on that in the future. I keep with Couchoud’s thoughts here.) Massive additions were:
Couchoud adds that Paul’s jerky style was superficially imitated. Thus the doxologies in the body of the epistle together with the Amen (Romans 1:25; 9:5; 11:36) are not in Paul’s style but in Clement‘s:
- 1 Clement 20:12
- 1 Clement 32:4
- 1 Clement 38:4
- 1 Clement 43:6
- 1 Clement 45:7
- 1 Clement 50:7
- 1 Clement 64
They also appear in 1 Timothy 1:17 and 1 Peter 4:11.
Couchoud anticipates Hermann Detering’s argument that part of the introductory verses to Romans was an anti-Marcionite addition.
In the beginning where Paul solemnly declares himself to be an apostle (“separated unto the Gospel of God,” “concerning his Son,” “declared with power”), is added an echo of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (“who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh”). In this leading place these words are a refutation of Marcion. (p. 302)
Paul’s attitude to the law was converted into “Luke’s” attitude. Thus Romans 3:21 declaims, “Do we then make the Law of none effect through faith? God forbid; nay, we establish the Law”.
It is not established in Matthew’s manner by its fulfilment. It is established as a prophecy. For example, Abraham, who had faith in God, is no other than the mysterious prophetic father of the Christians, “our father” (iv. 12 and 16); compare “Abraham our father” in 1 Clem. xxxi. 2). (p. 302)
Interpreted allegorically the entire Bible’s meaning is now said to be incomprehensible to the Jews. It contains a mystery God had long hidden but is now revealed to the Christians. Marcion taught that the Gospel was a mystery long hidden from the world and the Jews and our editor embraced this idea, but he rejected Marcion’s teaching that the mystery was only revealed through Paul. It was revealed in the OT prophets.
The whole Bible takes on a secret meaning which is hidden from the Jews. The mystery of God “which hath been kept in silence through times eternal,” wherein the Catholic “Paul” is of the same opinion as Marcion, is now revealed to Christians “by the scriptures of the prophets”; in this Paul is opposed to Marcion.
The new Paul teaches that all the former spiritual privileges of the Jews are now handed over to the repentant Gentiles. These heathen could have known God through observation of the creation around them (compare Paul’s sermon to the Athenians in Acts) but they chose to worship idols instead. God therefore punished them with unnatural lusts but if they repented they could have all that the Jews had been promised. Good Christian that he is, however, this editor most regrettably accepted that the Jews’ incredulity was “utterly incurable”. He even had Jesus weep over Jerusalem in the Gospel of Luke. It was God’s will that the fall of the Jews would mean the salvation of the Gentiles. As expressed through the Lukan parable of the Prodigal Son, the whole idea was that the conversion of the Gentiles should arouse the jealousy of the Jews (Rom. 9:11).
Paul orders the Roman Church to fully submit to the imperial authorities, including payment of all taxes (Rom. 13:1-7).
Paul is made to foresee the fate of Jerusalem. (It had been utterly ruined in 135 c.e. by Hadrian.)
Clement had himself known that Paul had preached in Spain — had reached the “limits of the Occident” (1 Clem. 5:7) — and this journey is confirmed by an editor’s insertion of the mention of reaching Spain in order to finally complete his message to the Gentile world.
This would be another explanation (already suggested by a number of scholars in a quite different context) for Acts concluding as it does, without a trial or execution. The opportunity to go to Spain is allowed for yet the primary purpose of Paul’s mission to Rome is completed. (My comment, not Couchoud’s.)
“However, the editor pinned on to the original a Pauline relic, a recommendation of Phoebe, a deaconess of a Corinthian port, which had been probably addressed to the Ephesian Church, or to certain Ephesian faithful, whom it enumerates” (Romans 16:1-23):
- Epaenetus is greeted as the first Asiatic Christian (16:5) — compare 1 Corinthians 16:15, Stephanas the first Achaean Christian
- The apostle Andronicus in 16:7 appears in the Acts of John as one of the chiefs of the Church at Ephesus (B. W. Bacon, Expository Times; 1931, pp. 300-304)
In this letter Paul, the genuine Paul, denounces the Christians who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their bellies — i.e., who expect Christ’s Coming to bring material abundance. (Footnote, p. 303)
Next, the Epistle to the Galatians.
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