It isn't just that scholars 'trust' the likes of Irenaeus and Tertullian. The nature of academia is such that they unconsciously build upon previous studies to the point that they misread and misinterpret those most ancient sources for Marcion. Indeed they convince themselves that we can use Tertullian in particular to 'reconstruct the Marcionite canon.'
Where did they get this insane notion from? Does Tertullian anywhere claim that he is provide his readers with a 'handbook' or guide book to reassemble the Marcionite Bible? No of course not. So where did this insane quest that seems to ensnare willing idiots for every generations, develop from? The answer would have to be Epiphanius of Salamis.
Why is this fourth century bishop so important in the history of the development of what we might call the 'Marcionite lie'? Because quite simply Epiphanius is a pompous ass who abuses, misunderstands and misrepresents his sources and ultimately the conclusions of his research. In the words of Heraclides bishop of Ephesus Epiphanius was "a fool and a demon." (Photius 56) Modern scholarship concurs with this low assessment of Epiphanius's reliability. Plooij writes that "Epiphanius ought to be the last witness we should trust uncontrolled, especially in his testimonies on heretics and heretical writings. He combines all kinds of notices, rumours, and calumnies into abracadabra often completely incomprehensible."
It's not that Epiphanius actually tells us that Tertullian's anti-Marcionite work - aptly called Against Marcion - can be used in the manner that modern scholars have employed the text i.e. to reconstruct the Marcionite gospel. No, that's not it. It's that Epiphanius pretends that he's done all this incredible research into the Marcionite canon and attached a composition to his Panarion (a 'medicine chest' to be used by bishops against the heresies) which purports to help them identify the influence of the Marcionite Bible.
But I shall come to his writings, or rather, to his tamperings. This man has only Luke as a Gospel, mutilated at the beginning (περικεκομμένον ἀπὸ τῆς ἀρχῆς) because of the Saviour's conception and his incarnation. But this person who harmed himself rather than the Gospel did not cut just the beginning off. He also cut off many words of the truth (τῆς ἀληθείας λόγων) both at the end and in the middle, and he has added other things besides, beyond what had been written. And he uses only the character (μόνῳ δὲ κέχρηται τούτῳ τῷ χαρακτῆρι) of the Gospel according to Luke. He also possesses ten Epistles of the holy apostle, the only ones he uses (αἷς μόναις κέχρηται), but not all that is written in them. He deletes some parts of them, and has altered certain sections. He uses these two volumes but has composed other treatises himself for the persons he has deceived. 9:4 Here are what he calls Epistles: 1. Galatians. 2. Corinthians. 3. Second Corinthians. 4. Romans. 5. Thessalonians. 6. Second Thessalonians. 7. Ephesians. 8. Colossians. 9. Philemon. 10. Philippians. He also has parts of the so-called Epistle to the Laodiceans.
From the very canon that he retains, of the Gospel and the Pauline Epistles, I can show with God's help that Marcion is a fraud and in error, and can refute him very effectively. For he will be refuted from the very works which he acknowledges without dispute. From the very remnants of the Gospel and Epistles which he still has, it will be demonstrated to the wise that Christ is not foreign to the Old Testament, and hence that the prophets are not foreign to the Lord's advent— and that the apostle preaches the resurrection of the flesh and terms the prophets righteous, and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob among the recipients of salvation—and that all the teachings of God's holy church are saving, holy, and firmly founded by God on faith, knowledge, hope and doctrine.
I am also going to append the treatise (σύνταξιν) which I had written against him before, at your exhortation (προτροπῆς ποιήσασθαι), brothers, hastening to compose this one. Some years ago, to find what falsehood this Marcion had invented and what his silly teaching was, I took up his very books which he had mutilated, his so-called Gospel and Apostolic Canon. From these two books I made a series of extracts and selections of the material which would serve to refute him, and I wrote a sort of outline for a treatise, arranging the points in order, and numbering each saying one, two, three (and so on). And in this way I went through all of the passages in which it is apparent that, foolishly, he still retains against himself these leftover sayings of the Saviour and the apostle. For some of them had been falsely entered by himself, in an altered form and unlike the authentic copy of the Gospel and the meaning of the apostolic canon. But others were exactly like both the Gospel and Apostle, unchanged by Marcion but capable of completely demolishing him. By these it is shown that the Old Testament is in agreement with the New, and the New with the Old. In turn, other sayings from the same books give intimation that Christ has come in the flesh and been made perfect man among us. Others in turn, moreover, confess the resurrection of the dead, and that God is one almighty Lord of all, himself the maker of heaven and earth, and of everything on earth. They do not counterfeit the call of the Gospel nor, certainly, do they deny the maker and artificer of all, but make manifest the One who is plainly confessed by the Apostolic Canon and the Proclamation of the Gospel. And here, below, is my treatise, as follows:
Before we bring forward that pamphlet we should take a moment to consider what is going on with the creation of the Panarion.
The Panarion is Epiphanius's response to a letter sent by "two archimandrites, or abbots, in Chalcis and Beroea in Coelesyria" named Acacius and Paul whom - it is claimed in the preamble written by Epiphanius to introduce their request for him to write "a complete heresiology and not only they, but many
Instead we have to believe that the two Syrian bishops requested information about Marcion - as Epiphanius acknowledges in the section dealing with the arch-heretic - Epiphanius completed the work but then did not publish it. Why didn't Epiphanius send back the σύνταξις back to Acacius and Paul if - as the text of the Panarion demonstrates - the ὑποθέσεώς was complete? This is the million dollar question as it were. It is only when we ignore the strange 'two step' completion process - i.e. that Epiphanius completed but did not publish the original ὑποθέσεώς of the Marcionite Bible but hesitated sending back the finished product until it was 'buried' as it were in a massive compendium drawing upon the authority of all the previous Patristic 'heresiologists' available in church libraries.
Of course one may argue that Epiphanius had so much 'fun' going through as it were the Marcionite Bible line by line and comparing it with the Gospel and Apostle of the true Church that he decided to set out a compendium of all the heresies. But even here there are difficulties. Why, for instance, did the two Syrian monks decide to send out a second request for a much more massive literary composition when it was clear that Epiphanius wouldn't sent them what he had worked out against Marcion? Seems very odd indeed and quite unnatural. A better explanation is found in the sheer unprecedented nature of the ὑποθέσεώς.
No one before Epiphanius had ever claimed to put together a 'complete' account of all the differences between the Marcionite Bible and the Catholic Bible. As strange as it sounds, it's true. What Epiphanius puts forward in the ὑποθέσεώς is wholly unprecedented and we may start to wonder whether the Panarion was a systematic effort to bolster the claims inherent in the ὑποθέσεώς. In other words, if - as I suggest - Epiphanius never had the Marcionite Bible at his disposal when he compiled this ὑποθέσεώς and instead used anomalies in existing reports about the Marcionite Bible in such works as or like Tertullian's Adversus Marcionem as the basis to his ὑποθέσεώς the weakness inherent in such an approach would be bolstered by placing that work in an erudite tome like the Panarion. The authority of the ὑποθέσεώς is confirmed by the context of the research and study of the Panarion.
We will go into this in some detail in what follows but this is the basic assumption of the paper. Scholars have until now used parallels between the 'anomalies' listed in Epiphanius's ὑποθέσεώς and Tertullian to argue that Tertullian can be used as an earlier ὑποθέσεώς of Marcionite variants. But this is haphazard at best. Tertullian never says that he is using the Marcionite Bible. Instead it only appears to be this way because of Epiphanius's bombastic claims about assembling such an ὑποθέσεώς in the fourth century. We assume because of the parallels between the Panarion and Adversus Marcionem that this 'demonstrates' similar qualities to both works (i.e. that both Epiphanius and Tertullian had before them the Marcionite Bible and found 'similar' anomalies).
However few have explained why the supposedly erudite ὑποθέσεώς of Epiphanius was never released as a stand alone treatise and more importantly whether patterns found in the rest of the Panarion (i.e. the unacknowledged use of other writers viz. Hegesippus to name just the most obvious) apply to the ὑποθέσεώς. In other words, if Epiphanius wasn't telling us he was drawing from ancient sources like Hegesippus surely he could have done the same thing when compiling the ὑποθέσεώς against Marcion.