A short while ago I wrote a post on Capernaum. Since this thread is going to be dealing with Marcion, I though it might be a good idea to repost it here. Leaving aside interpretations of a sky god taking on flesh - or re John's gospel of the Word becoming flesh - ideas that modern day reasoning would find devoid of logic in any physical sense. Perhaps, we, today, should endeavor to, as it were, translate, update, in modern language and understanding, what ancient writers were endeavoring to articulate.
Basically, my argument would be to view Capernaum in a symbolic sense; a philosophical Capernaum. The place of wonders, of imagination, the place from which ideas can take on flesh, where ideas, as it were, come down to earth and lead to a transforming of the real world, the reality in which we actually live.
Capernaum and Marcion
Post by maryhelena » Sat Feb 18, 2023 9:46 pm
While both the gospel attributed to Marcion and the gospel of Luke make reference to the 15th year of Tiberius, Marcion's gospel has his Jesus coming down to Capernaum in that year. The gospel of Matthew says of Jesus: Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, (Matthew 4:13)
3. 1 In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, when
Pilate was governing Judea, 4 31 Jesus came down to
Capharnaum, a city of Galilee.
The First New Testament: Marcion's Scriptural Canon:
Jason D. BeDuhn
Is there anything special about Capernaum? Josephus seems to think so:
8. The country also that lies over against this lake hath the same name of Gennesareth; its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together: it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country; for it not only nourishes different sorts of autumnal fruit beyond men’s expectation, but preserves them a great while; it supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs, continually, during ten months of the year, (11) and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year: for besides the good temperature of the air, it is also watered from a most fertile fountain. The people of the country call it Capharnaum. Some have thought it to be a vein of the Nile, because it produces the Coracin fish as well as that lake does which is near to Alexandria. The length of this country extends itself along the banks of this lake that bears the same name, for thirty furlongs, and is in breadth twenty, And this is the nature of that place.
Josephus: War book 3 ch.10
With such talk of water and fountains and wonderful beauty in nature, soil that is fruitful and palm trees and fig and olive trees - this place is the ambition of nature - plants that are natural enemies agree together, a happy contention of the seasons, supplies fruit beyond men’s expectation...Are we not seeing here a vision of Camelot, of Arcadia?
Taking Josephus at his word, that he was not unfamiliar with the prophets etc and had visions and could interpreted them - is he not here dealing with an abstract ideal rather than the geography of the region?
Years later Josephus has a story about falling off his horse and gets taken to Capernaum.
For the horse on which I rode, and upon whose back I fought, fell into a quagmire; and threw me on the ground. And I was bruised on my wrist and carried into a village, named Cepharnome.25 or Capernaum. When my soldiers heard of this, they were afraid I had been worse hurt than I was; and so they did not go on with their pursuit any farther: but returned in very great concern for me. I therefore sent for the physicians: and while I was under their hand, I continued feaverish that day: and, as the physicians directed, I was that night removed to Taricheæ.
Capernaum a place of healing, a place that is the ambition of nature. Is this what the author of the gospel attributed to Marcion had in mind when having Jesus descent to this earthly paradise ?
Maybe this Josephan vision of Arcadia, published in War around 73/74 c.e. might have inspired the writer of Marcion's gospel to have his Jesus come down to Capernaum ? This might place Marcoin's gospel soon after Josephus' War. That years later this gospel fell into the hands of Marcion, or the Marcionites, would indicate it probably had a considerable period of time before the Lukan writer wrote the recap of previous gospels. Yep, gospel stories about Jesus, Pilate and Tiberius developed over time. Updates are not rejection of older versions of the story. Indicating, of course, that the gospel Jesus is a literary figure not a flesh and blood historical figure. Unfortunately, NT scholars still use a historical Jesus bias when confronted with Marcion.
As noted in the OP, the writer of Marcion's gospel, in placing his Jesus story in the 15th year of Tiberius, a year that is 7 years from the end of the rule of Tiberius in 37 c.e., is concerned, interested, in numbers (as was Philo). In other words; symbolism or philosophical ideals. Perhaps, Capernaum is not simply a place in Galilee but represents an ideal vision of earthly society.
Kfar Naḥum, the original name of the town, means "village of comfort" in Hebrew, and apparently there is no connection with the prophet named Nahum. In the writings of Josephus, the name is rendered in Koine Greek as Kαφαρναούμ (Kapharnaoúm) and Κεφαρνωκόν (Kepharnōkón); the New Testament uses Kapharnaoúm in some manuscripts, and Kαπερναούμ (Kapernaoúm) in others. In the Midrash Rabba (Ecclesiastes Rabba 7:47) the name appears in its Hebrew form, Kǝfar Naḥūm (Hebrew: כפר נחום). In Arabic, it is also called Talḥūm, and it is assumed that this refers to the ruin (tall) of Ḥūm (perhaps an abbreviated form of Nāḥūm).