The Marcionite prologues to the Pauline epistles.

Written by the heresiarch Marcion?


Attributed author(s).
Marcion.

These Latin prologues to the Pauline epistles are found in various Latin manuscripts, including codex Fuldensis, century VI, but their composition probably dates to very much earlier. The text itself is that of Daniel J. Theron, Evidence of Tradition, pages 79-83. The translations are my own.

Confer the Old Latin prologues to the gospels, also extant in Latin.

Prologue to the epistle to the Romans:

Romani sunt in partibus Italiae. hi praeventi sunt a falsis apostolis et sub nomine domini nostri Iesu Christi in legem et prophetas erant inducti. hos revocat apostolus ad veram evangelicam fidem scribens eis a Corintho.

The Romans are in the regions of Italy. They had been reached by false apostles and under the name of our Lord Jesus Christ they were led away into the law and the prophets. The apostle calls them back to the true evangelical faith, writing to them from Corinth.

Prologue to the first epistle to the Corinthians:

Corinthii sunt Achaei. et hi similiter ab apostolis audierunt verbum veritatis et subversi multifarie a falsis apostolis, quidam a philosophiae verbosa eloquentia, alii a secta legis Iudiciae* inducti. hos revocat ad veram et evangelicam sapientiam scribens eis ab Epheso per Timotheum.

* Justin Kerk has pointed out to me in a blog comment that the term Iudiciae appears to be a typological error for Iudaicae. The text that Theron offers has the former; whether it is an error on his part for the latter or simply a textual variant I do not know. Other hardcopy sources, including the book on the canon by Alexander Souter, have Iudaicae.

The Corinthians are Achaeans. And they similarly heard from the apostles the word of truth and then were subverted in many ways by false apostles, some led away by the verbose eloquence of philosophy, others by a sect of the Jewish law. He calls them back to the true and evangelical wisdom, writing to them from Ephesus through Timothy.

Prologue to the second epistle to the Corinthians:

Post actam paenitentiam consolatorias scribit eis a Troade et conlaudans eos hortatur ad meliora.

After penitence was made, he writes a consolatory letter to them from Troas, and in praising them he exhorts them on to better things.

Prologue to the epistle to the Galatians:

Galatae sunt Graeci. hi verbum veritatis primum ab apostolo acceperunt, sed post discessum eius temptati sunt a falsis apostolis, ut in legem et circumcisionem verterentur. hos apostolus revocat ad fidem veritatis scribens eis ab Epheso.

The Galatians are Greeks. They at first accepted the word of truth from the apostle, but after his departure they were tempted by false apostles to be converted to the law and circumcision. The apostle calls them back to the faith of truth, writing to them from Ephesus.

Prologue to the epistle to the Ephesians:

Ephesii sunt Asiani. hi accepto verbo veritatis persteterunt in fide. hos conlaudat apostolus scribens eis ab urbe Roma de carcere per Tychicum diaconum.

The Ephesians are Asians. They persisted in the faith after the word of truth was accepted. The apostle praises them, writing to them from the city of Rome, from prison, through Tychicus the deacon.

Prologue to the epistle to the Philippians:

Philippenses sunt Machedones. hi accepto verbo veritatis persteterunt in fide, nec receperunt falsos apostolos. hos apostolus conlaudat scribens eis a Roma de carcere per Epaphroditum.

The Philippians are Macedonians. They persisted in the faith after the word of truth was accepted, nor did they receive false apostles. The apostle praises them, writing to them from Rome, from prison, through Epaphroditus.

Prologue to the epistle to the Colossians:

Colossenses et hi sicut Laudicenses sunt Asiani. et ipsi praeventi erat a pseudoapostolis, nec ad hos accessit ipse apostolus, sed et hos per epistulam recorrigit. audierant enim verbum ab Archippo qui et ministerium in eos accepit. ergo apostolus iam ligatus scribit eis ab Epheso.

The Colossians, they too are Asians, just as the Laodiceans. And they themselves1 had been reached by pseudo-apostles, nor did the apostle himself approach them, but even them2 he corrects through an epistle. For they had heard the word from Archippus, who also accepted the ministry to them. The apostle therefore, already arrested, writes to them from Ephesus.

1 Or they themselves also.
2 Or them too.

Prologue to the first epistle to the Thessalonians:

Thessalonicenses sunt Machedones in Christo Iesu qui accepto verbo veritatis persteterunt in fide etiam in persecutione civium suorum; praeterea nec receperunt ea quae a falsis apostolis dicebantur. hos conlaudat apostolus scribens eis ab Athenis.

The Thessalonians are Macedonians in Christ Jesus who, after the word was accepted, still persisted in the faith in the persecution by their fellow citizens; furthermore, they did not receive those things which were said by the false apostles. The apostle praises them, writing to them from Athens.

Prologue to the second epistle to the Thessalonians:

Ad Thessalonicenses scribit et notum facit eis de temporibus novissimis et de adversarii detectione. scribit ab Athenis.

To the Thessalonians he writes and makes note to them concerning the last times and of the detection of the adversary. He writes from Athens.

Prologue to the first epistle to Timothy:

Timotheum instruit et docet de ordinatione episcopatus et diaconii et omnis ecclesiasticae disciplinae.

He instructs Timothy and teaches him concerning the ordination to the episcopate and to the diaconate and concerning all aspects of ecclesiastical discipline.

Prologue to the second epistle to Timothy:

Item Timotheo scribit de exhortatione martyrii et omnis regulae veritatis et quid futurum sit temporibus novissimis et de sua passione.

Likewise he writes to Timothy concerning the exhortation of martyrdom and all aspects of the rule of truth, and what will be in the last times, and concerning his own passion.

Prologue to the epistle to Titus:

Titum commonefacit et instruit de constitutione presbyterii et de spiritali conversatione et hereticis vitandis qui in scripturis Iudaicis credunt.

He warns and intructs Titus concerning the constitution of the presbytery and concerning spiritual conversation and heretics to be avoided who believe in the Jewish scriptures.

Prologue to the epistle to Philemon:

Philemoni familiares litteras facit pro Onesimo servo eius. scribit autem ei a Roma de carcere.

He composes a familiar letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus his servant. He writes to him, however, from Rome, from prison.

It was De Bruyne who first made the argument that these prologues were of Marcionite origin, and many have adopted his position, one of whom was the esteemed Adolf Harnack, who writes in appendix I to §2 of Part I of The Origin of the New Testament (footnotes from Harnack renumbered):

These Prologues were first recognised as really Marcionite by De Bruyne (Rev[ue] Bénéd[ictine], 1907, Jan., pp. 1-16), who thus made a particularly important contribution to our knowledge of the history of the New Testament. He has absolutely proved that these Prologues belong together (those to the Pastoral Epistles are of a different character); that they are to be ascribed to the Marcionites; and from them came into the Church.1 The uniform character of the Prologues, taken in conjunction with the fact that "lex et circumcisio" (Gal.) = "lex et prophetĉ" (Rom.) = "secta legis Judaicĉ," suffices to assure us on this point. The Prologues accordingly reject as false the Christianity that upholds the Old Testament, and call the great Church a Jewish sect. They evidently identify the original Apostles, or all missionaries of their party,2 with the Jewish opponents of St Paul, and describe as false every mission before that of St Paul. Where such missions had taken place, Paul must "revocare" or "recorrigere" (Rom., Laod., Col.). Where missions had followed him, he must likewise "revocare" (Gal., Cor.). It is, however, especially characteristic that all the epistles (except the epistula familaris to Philemon) have been searched only for information as to the attitude of the respective Churches towards the "verbum veritatis" (Gal., Cor., Thess., Phil.) or to the "fides veritatis" (Gal.), the "vera evangelica sapientia" (Cor.), the "vera evangelica fides" (Rom.), and the "fides" (Thess., Phil.). Under these suitably varying expressions Pauline Christianity (assumed to be independent of the Old Testament) is always to be understood.3 This point of view is simply imposed upon Thessalonians and Philippians. In the Prologue to Colossians "verbum" without the epithet "veritatis" probably means the false Gospel.

1 This view is accepted by Wordsworth-White (Novum Testamentum Latine, ii. 1, 1913, pp. 41 f. ).—The order of the ten epistles was here originally, as the discoverer has acutely shown, that of the Marcionites.
2 The false apostles that, according to the prologue to Cor., "multifarie" led astray the Corinthians, are certainly in the first place Peter and Apollos.
3 We note by the way that "veritas" ("verus") is a genuine Marcionite watchword, derived from the Epistle to the Galatians, the most important epistle for Marcion (Gal. ii. 5: ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου).

These Prologues show that the Marcionite "Apostolus" influenced the "Apostolus" of the Church, and one feels that this must have happened at a very early period. They have not yet been found in Greek form; but something can be said in favour of a Greek original. The notices concerning the places where each letter was written deserve attention seeing that they are so ancient. Since Philippians and Philemon are described as having been written from Rome, it is allowable to question whether the words in the prologue to Colossians: "Apostolus ligatus (surely the Roman captivity is meant) scribit eis ab Epheso" are in order, although they do suit an hypothesis that has been revived only lately that Colossians was written in Ephesus. Perhaps we should read "a Roma per Epaphram" (confusion of "Epaphras" and "Ephesus"). These Prologues were not written for the educated, but for quite simple people; the writer even thinks it necessary to write: "Romani sunt in partibus Italiĉ." No Western could have done this. The geographical notices would suit the hypothesis that the Prologues were originally composed for Christians of Pontus.

One clue to a Marcionite origin is the mention of the Laodiceans in the Colossian prologue, since Marcion held that the Pauline epistle to the Ephesians was actually sent to the Laodiceans. Tertullian notes in Against Marcion 5.17.1a:

Ecclesiae quidem veritate epistulam istam ad Ephesios habemus emissam, non ad Laodicenos; sed Marcion ei titulum aliquando interpolare gestiit quasi et in isto diligentissimus explorator. nihil autem de titulis interest. cum ad omnes apostolus scripserit dum ad quosdam.

We have it by the truth of the church that this epistle was sent to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans. But Marcion indeed wished to interpolate the title into it as if he were a most diligent investigator even in this matter. But concerning the titles there is nothing of interest, since when the apostle wrote to some he wrote to all.

It is of course interesting to note in this regard that several manuscripts, including Ƿ46 and the original hands of א and B, omit the words εν Εφεσω in Ephesians 1.1.

Harnack therefore takes it upon himself to reconstruct an original Laodicean prologue from remnants of the Colossian prologue, as follows:

Laudiceni sunt Asiani. hi praeventi erant a pseudoapostolis.... ad hos non accessit ipse apostolus.... hos per epistulam recorrigit....

The Laodiceans are Asians. They had been reached by pseudoapostles.... The apostle himself did not approach them.... He corrects through an epistle....

Note that in the Colossian prologue, reproduced here for convenience...:

Colossenses et hi sicut Laudicenses sunt Asiani. et ipsi praeventi erat a pseudoapostolis, nec ad hos accessit ipse apostolus, sed et hos per epistulam recorrigit. audierant enim verbum ab Archippo qui et ministerium in eos accepit. ergo apostolus iam ligatus scribit eis ab Epheso.

The Colossians, they too are Asians, just as the Laodiceans. And they themselves had been reached by pseudo-apostles, nor did the apostle himself approach them, but even them he corrects through an epistle. For they had heard the word from Archippus, who also accepted the ministry to them. The apostle therefore, already arrested, writes to them from Ephesus.

...the words et hi (they too) imply the previous discussion of another church of Asians, and that et ipsi may well mean they themselves also, implying another church that was reached by pseudo-apostles, and that the word nec (nor) may well imply another church that the apostle did not approach, and that the words et hos may well mean them too, implying another church corrected by letter. This other church may well be the Laodiceans.

Refer to my page on the epistle to the Laodiceans, and also to my page on the Old Latin prologues to the gospels.