Prologues to the Gospels – Matthew

We are examining two prologues – Anti-Marcionite and the Monarchian. Most agree that an early date, c200 for the Anti-Marconite Prologues while the latter has a date which ranges from 200-400. We will be using Ben C. Smith’s translation.

Marcion was an early Christian heretic, who opposed the inclusion of the Hebrew bible and the Jewish heritage of Christianity. It was an early form of Gnosticism. It was his canon of 11 books which helped to force the solidification of the Church’s canon – although not completed until centuries after Marcion. Marcionism’s strong opponent was the Latin Father, Tertullian.

There is no anti-Marcionite prologue for Matthew, so we skip to the Monarchian. We know from early Church writers that Monarchianism was the prevalent Christian theological position for the first few centuries. Some would take it to the extremes, denying the Incarnated Son as merely a ‘nickname’ of sorts, but a moderating Monarchianism predated the developed Trinitarian doctrine. If we take an early date, c. 200, then this is clearly the Orthodox position of the Church at the time; however, if we take a late date, then people are liable to see both orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Regardless of the dating, the theology is refined and purposed.

Matthew, from Judea, just as he is placed first in order, so wrote the gospel first in Judea. His calling to God was from publican activities. He presumed in the genealogy of Christ the beginnings of two things, the first of which was circumcision in the flesh, the other of which was election according to the heart, and by both of which Christ was in the fathers. And, the number having thus been put down as three fourteens, he shows by extending the beginning from the faith of the believer unto the time of election, and directing it from the election to the day of the deportation, and defining it from the deportation up to Christ that the generation of the advent of the Lord had been reached, so that, in making satisfaction both in number and in time, and in showing itself for what it was, and in demonstrating that the work of God in itself was still in these whose race he established, the time, order, number, economy, or reason of all of these matters might not deny the testimony, which is necessary for faith, of Christ, who was working from the beginning. God is Christ, who was made from a woman, who was made under the law, who was born from a virgin, who suffered in the flesh, who fixed all things on the cross so that, triumphing over them for eternity, rising in the body, he might restore both the name of the father to the son in the fathers and the name of the son to the father in the sons, without beginning, without end, showing that he is one with the father, because he is one.

In this gospel it is useful for those desiring God to know the first things, the medial things, and the perfect things, so that, reading of the calling of the apostle and the work of the gospel and the choosing of God, born into the universe in the flesh, they might understand and recognize it in him, in whom they have been apprehended and seek to apprehend. It was certainly possible in this study of the subject matter for us to both convey the fidelity of what was done and not be silent that the economy of God at work must be diligently understood by those seeking to do so.

I note that the author of the Prologue uses ‘economy (dispositionem) of God’ which had fallen out of use by the 4th century. Granted, he might not be using it as Ignatius or Tertullian used, to describe the Godhead.

The Latin prologues.

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