Vridar

2012/09/09

“The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion”

Matthias Klinghardt

Matthias Klinghardt responded to Mark Goodacre’s 2002 book, The Case Against Q, with an article proposing a Marcionite solution to the Synoptic Problem: “The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion” published in Novum Testamentum, 2008.

For those of us who like to be reminded, here are the traditional theories on the Synoptic Problem:

The Griesbach or Two-Gospel theory — that Mark was the last gospel to be composed — is a minority view. Recently published proponents are William R. Farmer, Allan McNicol and David Peabody (Klinghardt, p.2).

Arguments for Markan priority — summed up in Goodacre’s book as the case against the Griesbach hypothesis — have persuaded most scholars so for the purposes of this discussion Klinghardt [MK] does not call this into question. It is the major part of The Case Against Q that has proved controversial and that MK addresses. Criticism against Goodacre’s thesis has also come from

MK begins by noting two positive arguments supporting Goodacre’s argument for the Farrer hypothesis (also known as the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis) that Mark alone (without Q) was the primary source for both Matthew and Luke, and that Luke also knew and revised Matthew:

  1. the minor agreements (e.g. both Luke (22:64) and Matthew (26:68) have the mockers of Jesus taunt with “Who is it who struck you?”, but this is not found in Mark)
  2. the hypothetical nature of Q

On the question of the minor agreements MK sides with Goodacre:

As for the minor agreements, Goodacre has a strong point insisting on the principal independence of Matthew and Luke according to the 2DH. This excludes the evasive solution that, although basically independent from one another, Luke knew and used Matthew in certain instances.

Methodologically, it is not permissible to develop a theory on a certain assumption and then abandon this very assumption in order to get rid of some left over problems the theory could not sufficiently explain. The methodological inconsistency of this solution would be less severe, if “Q” existed. But since “Q” owes its existence completely to the conclusions drawn from a hypothetical model, such an argument flies in the face of logic: it annuls its own basis.

This is the reason why Goodacre’s reference to the hypothetical character of “Q” carries a lot of weight. More weight, certainly, than Kloppenborg would concede: he tries to insinuate that Mark is as hypothetical as “Q”, since Mark “is not an extant document, but a text that is reconstructed from much later manuscripts.” This exaggeration disguises the critical point: the hypothetical character of the “document Q” would certainly not pose a problem, if “Q” was based on existing manuscript evidence the way Mark is.

It is, therefore, important to see that these two objections are closely related to each other: They prove that the minor agreements are, in fact, “fatal to the Q hypothesis”.  (my formatting)

But there are problems with thinking that Luke knew Matthew, as MK notes: (more…)

2012/03/11

Christ Descends to Earth: Marcion’s contributions to Christianity (Couchoud continued)

Filed under: Couchoud: Creation of Christ,Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 8:40 am
Tags: ,
an ancient greek ship

Image via Wikipedia

This continues my series on Paul-Louis Couchoud‘s The Creation of Christ. Full set of posts are archived at Couchoud: Creation of Christ.

The previous post was Couchoud’s discussion of view of Christ as a mystical and heavenly being according to early Christian literature, and how in the Epistle of the Hebrews we encounter the first sign of a belief that Jesus took on a flesh and blood body while still operating entirely in the heavens, offering himself as a heavenly sacrifice, and in acting as our celestial high priest. From here it was but a small step to imagining Jesus visiting humankind on earth. In Couchoud’s view it was Marcion who took this critical step with his composition of the earliest form of the Gospel of Luke.

Much has been written about Marcion since Couchoud wrote. Here, however, I will present Couchoud’s argument with very little reference to more recent works on Marcion and Marcionism. The sharing of ideas is not for the sake of others embracing them whole, but in order to stimulate new thoughts by mixing what we know today with what others have thought before us.

Marcion the person and his contribution to Christianity

Couchoud introduces the person of Marcion in much the same colours as another scholar of his day, von Harnack, had done: as a revolutionary or reforming and noble spiritual figure who takes his place among other greats in the history of Christianity.

Marcion was one of the world’s great religious geniuses, and takes his place between St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi. (p. 124) (more…)

2012/02/04

Marcion’s authorship of his Gospel – an overlooked question

Professor Markus Vinzent has posted on his blog  Marcion’s authorship of his Gospel – an overlooked question, an article that directs readers to a re-consideration of the ideas of Paul Louis Couchoud that I have recently been outlining here. Past scholarship has always taken for granted the claim of Irenaeus that Marcion found and edited an existing Gospel. Professor Vinzent finds only two exceptions in the literature to this view and one of them is Couchoud.

And there is the poet Paul-Louis Couchoud (1879-1959), professor of philosophy and scholar at the Ecole Normale, Paris who, very different from Vogels’ Germanic cautious suggestion, developed a full ‘outline of the beginnings of Christianity’ in his The Creation of Christ (excerpts, a good summary and comments can be found here), based on the idea of a Christ-myth which was turned into a historical Gospel-narrative by Marcion in the years 128-129. And although scholars may rightly reject most of the wild speculations of Couchoud, a critical reading of him is extremely rewarding. He knew his sources and he was prepared to unearth and make fresh and unorthodox connections which even today can inspire serious scholarship. Why has scholarship not picked up the question of Marcion’s authorship – irrespective of whether one agrees or disagrees on it?

Couchoud’s view is debatable (see, for example Roger Parvus’s remarks at https://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/pre-christian-beginnings-of-christianity-couchoud/#comment-22543) but I fully concur with Markus Vinzent’s observation:

And although scholars may rightly reject most of the wild speculations of Couchoud, a critical reading of him is extremely rewarding. He knew his sources and he was prepared to unearth and make fresh and unorthodox connections which even today can inspire serious scholarship.

Enhanced by Zemanta

2012/01/28

2 Peters, 1 Jude and 2 Revelations: the first New Testament (Couchoud)

Apocalypse of Peter

Continuing the series archived at Couchoud: The Creation of Christ – – – (Couchoud argues that our “editor” – Clement? – compiled 28 books, one more than our current 27 that make up our New Testament and this post concludes the section where Couchoud discusses the origin of our New Testament books.)

The perfect balance of the New Testament still stood in need of a counterweight. Just as the tale of Peter counter-balanced that of Paul in Acts, so the letters of Paul required as counterpoise letters from the Twelve.  There were already in existence a letter by James and three by John.  To make up seven, our editor produced two letters by Peter and one by Jude, John’s brother. (p. 305)

I don’t know if Couchoud here means to suggest “the editor” wrote these epistles himself. I find it difficult to accept the two letters attributed to Peter are by the same hand given what I have come to understand of their strikingly different styles, but let’s leave that question aside for now and cover what Couchoud’s views were as published in English 1939.

1 Peter

This epistle is said to have been a warrant for the Gospel of Mark. (Maybe, but some have suggested the name of Mark for the gospel was taken from this epistle. If it were a warrant for Mark one might be led to call to mind the unusual character of that Gospel. Its reputation had been tinged with “heretical” associations.) In the epistle Peter calls Mark “my son” and is supposed to be in his company in Rome, biblically called “Babylon”. The inference this leads to is that Mark wrote of the life and death of Jesus as learned from the eyewitness Peter. This coheres with Justin’s own naming of the Gospel “Recollections of Peter” in his Dialogue, section 106.

The letter is “a homily addressed to baptized heathen of Asia Minor at the time of a persecution.” Its teachings can be seen to be of the same category as those addressed in the earlier discussions by Couchoud – typical of Clement and anti-Marcionite . . . (more…)

2012/01/23

Was Marcion right about Paul’s letters?

I have copied Roger Parvus's recent comment here as a post in its own right.  (Neil)

Couchoud’s books contain many valuable insights. He was rightly dissatisfied with the mainstream scenario of Christian origins, and he rearranged the pieces of the puzzle together in a new way that provides a fresh perspective on them. There is much that he says that I agree with. I would not be surprised, for instance, if he is right about the role played by Clement of Rome. But I am disappointed that Couchoud—like practically everyone else—still does not take seriously Marcion’s claim that the original author of the Gospel and Pauline letter collection was someone who professed allegiance to a God higher than the Creator of this world, to a God higher than the God of the Jews.

The automatic assumption on the part of confessional scholars

The automatic assumption on the part of confessional scholars is that Marcion must have been mistaken in his views regarding the origin of the Gospel and Pauline letters. I cannot recall ever having come across a single mainstream Christian book that even considered for a moment that Marcion may have been right. Their attitude is understandable since, if Marcion was right, it would mean that the original Gospel and the Pauline letters were written by someone who was basically a gnostic, by someone who sounds very much like Simon of Samaria or one of his followers. Perish the heretical thought! But even non-confessional admirers of Marcion like Couchoud seem likewise unable to take seriously Marcion’s claim. Instead they make Marcion himself the creator of the Gospel and say that he either created the Pauline letters or imposed his own religious ideas on letters that did not originally contain them. For some reason this solution is thought to be preferable to taking Marcion at his word. As far as we know Marcion never claimed to be the author of those writings. He claimed that when he came across them they were in a contaminated state. They had been interpolated by people who Judaized them, who turned their original author into someone who believed in a single highest God who was the God of the Old Testament and the Creator of the world. Is Marcion’s claim so unbelievable? Is it really out of the question that the original Gospel and Pauline letters were Simonian and that it was their opponents who Judaized those writings? (I say “Simonian” because the early record does not contain the name of any other first century Christians who held the belief that the creators of this world were inferior to the supreme God, and that those creators tried to hold men in bondage by means of the Law.) (more…)

2012/01/21

Paul’s Letter to the Romans – the creation of the canonical edition according to Couchoud

English: page with text of Epistle to the Roma...

Page with text of Epistle to the Romans 1:1-7: Image via Wikipedia

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 premis in his 2010 work and must post more on that in the future. I keep with Couchoud’s thoughts here.) Massive additions were: (more…)

2012/01/03

The earliest gospels 6(c) – Luke’s Gospel (Couchoud)

Filed under: Couchoud: Creation of Christ,Josephus,Luke-Acts,Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 9:14 pm
Tags: , ,
Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illuminatio...

Image via Wikipedia

Continuing the series archived here: (I have also marked the name Josephus in bold for easy reference for any interested in the study of Luke’s use of Josephus.)

Irenaeus is the first to speak of Luke as the author of our Gospel and Acts dedicated to Theophilus (Haer. iii.1,2). Before Irenaeus we read in Colossians 4:14 of a Luke with the epithet “the beloved physician” having been interpolated into the original; and in the fictitious 2 Timothy 4:11 we read “Only Luke is with me.” Following

is an outline explication of the Gospel of Luke from Couchoud’s perspective of it having been composed around 142 c.e. by Clement of Rome.

The prologue refers to a number of Gospels and Acts already in existence and leads readers to infer that the author is collating his information from these earlier sources while also being in a unique position to offer more authoritative insights and a more coherent narrative of the whole.

With an acrobatic leap he passes from the fine style of a Greek rhetor to that of Biblical narrative. (p. 275)

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea,
A certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abijah:
And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

And they were both righteous, walking before God
In all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren;
Both were well stricken in years.

Couchoud then outlines the narrative we know from Luke 1:8-38 and that I won’t repeat here. (more…)

2011/12/27

The earliest gospels 1 — Marcion’s gospel (according to P.L. Couchoud)

Filed under: Couchoud: Creation of Christ,Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 5:27 pm
Tags: ,

This post follows on from the previous one outlining Couchoud’s thoughts on Gospel origins. It starts with highlights from what he believes (generally following Harnack) Marcion‘s Gospel contained; looks at the next Gospel written apparently by Basilides; then at the way our canonical Gospel of Mark took shape and why, followed by the Gospels of Matthew, John and Luke.

The Gospel of Marcion

The authorship was anonymous. (p. 138)

It was placed with the letters of Paul and a commentary, the Antithesis, as a replacement for the Jewish scriptures.

There is nothing of a connected narrative in it. (p. 139)

It was composed of some sixty anecdotes, or pericopes, detached fragments without any connection between them. (p. 139)

Jesus was not born but descended from heaven and the gospel begins: (more…)

Another explanation of Gospel origins from a Christ Myth perspective

Filed under: Couchoud: Creation of Christ,Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 10:34 am
Tags: ,
Marcion Displaying His Canon

Image via Wikipedia

Edited last paragraph re Mark and Basilides ca 6 hours after original.

As to why a gospel was written about a “mythical” Jesus, here is a take by Paul Louis Couchoud from the 1920’s and published in English in 1939 as The Creation of Christ. (For other thoughts on this theme see discussion comments here.)

Couchoud attributes the first gospel to Marcion.

To make sense of this one must understand that Couchoud dates the letters of Clement of Rome and Ignatius to around 150 c.e. One recalls here the more recent ideas about the Ignatian letters by Roger Parvus. This leaves us with the common observation that “the half century from 70 to 120 is the most obscure period in the history of Christianity” (p. 110).

Couchoud argues that before that gap there was Paul, Jerusalem apostles and prophets. They all lay claim to visions of Christ. The Book of Revelation (dated prior to 70 and the fall of Jerusalem) is the outcome of a prophetic vision of one who is starkly opposed to Paul’s theology and visions. “Paul alone understood that the Son thus revealed was a crucified God.” (p. 132)

Couchoud relies heavily on Harnack’s interpretation of Marcion, an interpretation that has more recently met a trenchant challenge with Sebastian Moll’s The Arch-Heretic Marcion (2010). Moll says Harnack was anachronistically trying to make Marcion too much like an ideal Protestant reformer. But in this post I will let Couchoud have his say from his perspective in the early twentieth century.

Whereas many (including myself) have attempted to argue that the gospel narrative was an indirect response to the crisis of the first Jewish war that witnessed the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, Couchoud places more emphasis on the events of the second Jewish war — the Bar Kochba rebellion (Bar Kochba being hailed as a Jewish Christ and being responsible for persecutions of Christians) and its suppression by Hadrian who erected a pagan temple on the site of the old in the early and mid 130s.

So of what had Christianity consisted up to this time? Couchoud considers how the Christian scene looked to Marcion: (more…)

2011/11/07

Marcion’s date

Filed under: Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 5:54 am
Tags:

For all the shortcomings of R. Joseph Hoffmann’s work on Marcion, Marcion, On the Restitution of Christianity, the one point he stressed and that was central to persuading me of the strong possibility that Marcion should be dated much earlier than is traditionally done, even as early as the opening decades of the second century, was a comment in the writings of Justin Martyr. Justin, writing in the middle of the second century, expressed some dismay that Marcion was “even now still” active and influential in the world. The clear implication is that it was surprising to see Marcion still preaching even at that late date.

Sebastion Moll in his 2010 book The Arch-Heretic Marcion knocks out that argument for an early date.

Finally, there is one passage in the work of Justin which has made some scholars believe that Marcion must already have been active before 144/145. In his Apology (ca. 153 – 154), Justin states that Marcion “has made many people in the whole world speak blasphemies” [Adv. haer. I.13,3] and that he is “even now still teaching”. . . .

Justin’s statement that Marcion is “even now still” teaching becomes understandable if we take a look at the preceding sections of the Apology. According to Justin, all heretics were put forward by the demons after Christ’s ascension to heaven. He then mentions Simon, Menander and Marcion, of whom the first two are of course long dead already. The reason for Justins’ surprise that Marcion is still teaching  is not his impressively long heretical career, but the fact that he is still active so long after the demons had put forward the other heretics. (p. 39)

Enhanced by Zemanta

2011/03/01

Marcion’s rules for “mutilating” the Gospel of Luke

Filed under: Marcion,Moll: Arch-Heretic Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 8:57 pm
Tags: ,
Marcion Displaying His Canon

Image via Wikipedia

Marcion was one of the favourite heretics of the second century that “proto-orthodox” Church Fathers like Justin, Irenaeus and Tertullian loved to hate. His “heresy” posed a serious rival to other forms of Christianity, claiming followers from Syria and across Asia Minor (the main base) through to Italy and North Africa. The distinctive marks of his teachings were that he believed that the God of the Jewish Bible was not the highest or the one Good God, but was a lesser being who was responsible for the world and all its evils. He rejected Jewish Bible (Old Testament) on the grounds that it had no relevance for Christians.

One of his enduring claims to fame is that he is sometimes said to have been the first Christian to have come up with the idea of a canon of scripture. It was his canon, it is sometimes said, that was the prompt for what became the dominant catholic church to assemble its own canon that resulted in the New Testament we have today. Marcion’s “canon” consisted of the epistles of Paul. Paul, in Marcion’s view, was the only true apostle. All others were misguided and false apostles. There was one “gospel” in this canon, and it was said to be a mutilated form of the Gospel of Luke. (more…)

2009/09/16

Viewing Luke’s “Great Omission” in a context of Marcionite controversy

Filed under: Luke-Acts,Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 12:41 pm

The Gospel of Luke relied heavily on the Gospel of Mark but omits everything in Mark that lies between the miracle of feeding the 5000 to Peter’s acknowledgment that Jesus was the Christ. That is, after following much of Mark closely, Luke omits:

  1. Jesus walking on the sea of Galilee
  2. Healing many at Gennesarat
  3. Controversy with Pharisees over eating with unwashed hands
  4. Exorcising the daughter of the woman from Tyre/Sidon
  5. Healing (with saliva) the deaf-mute in region of Decapolis
  6. Feeding the 4000 in the wilderness
  7. Controversy with Pharisees over a sign and warning of leaven of Pharisees and Herod
  8. Healing the blind man (after two attempts)

I have in the past discussed the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts within the context of the second century Marcionite controversy (e.g. Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts) and it recently struck me that there are some features in this Great Omission that anyone editing an anti-Marcionite version of a gospel would want to ensure do not get a mention.

Firstly, Mark had written that the disciples thought they were seeing a spirit when they saw Jesus walking past them on water. If Marcion’s Jesus came down directly from heaven and had more the appearance of a man than the reality, this episode might well have lent itself to supporting a view of Jesus more ethereal than fleshy and boney.

Secondly, the events and miracles of this section are in gentile areas. If Marcion emphasized the foundational role of Paul in establishing the truth that the Jewish disciples of Jesus had failed to grasp, and that Paul’s role was directed among gentiles as a result of Jewish rejection of Christ, then Mark’s themes of Jesus working among both Jews and gentiles had to be revised.

Thirdly, the controversy with the Pharisees over eating with unwashed hands contained a message from Jesus condemning certain Jewish laws. It is not impossible that an anti-Marcionite propagandist would easily be persuaded to omit such an episode for its potential to be manipulated by Marcionites who were “anti-Jewish” to the extent that they regarded all Jewish laws as derived from either humans or the Demiurge.

Fourthly, the two-fold attempt to heal a blind man strikes most readers as having a symbolic relationship with the two-fold blindness of the disciples over the two mass feeding miracles (of 5000 and 4000). Once the second of these miracles was removed, being in a gentile area (see “Secondly” above), the Markan miracle lost its significance and merely made Jesus looked like Superman fast fading in the presence of kryptonite. And no-one wanted to advance Mark’s very human Jesus, one possessed by the spirit and who used spit to heal. There were more “spiritual” ways to counter Marcionism’s view of Jesus.

The arguments for canonical Luke-Acts being an anti-Marcionite product of the second century rest on degrees of probability and plausibility. Maybe if the “Great Omission” can indeed by explained in anti-Marcionite terms then we can add one more degree at least to the plausibility of the argument.

2008/07/10

Reasons for Luke to change Mark’s account of the calling of the disciples

Filed under: Gospel of Mark,Luke-Acts,Marcion,New Testament,Religion,The Twelve — Neil Godfrey @ 7:29 pm

Someone on a discussion list recently drew attention to how the Gospel of Luke changes the position of the call of the disciples to a period later than that found in the Gospel of Mark, so that it appears awkwardly out of place. Mark first describes Jesus calling Peter and others before going into Peter’s house to heal his mother-in-law. Luke, oddly, first has Jesus going into Peter’s house, and only afterwards calling him and others. It looks like Luke or some later redactor has got into a muddle and put the first meeting of Peter and Jesus AFTER Jesus visited Peter’s place.

Well having recently completed some notes and thoughts about canonical Luke being a possible redaction of an earlier gospel that may well have been closer in many respects to the gospel of Mark, I had to take a few minutes to see if there might be any particular redactional agenda for such a switch of order in events. Or was it just a consequence of clumsy editing? (I’m rolling with the general view that the author of Luke’s gospel knew and copied much from Mark’s gospel.)

We can’t know the latter author’s reasons for making the switch, but we can look at how the change functions in the narrative and see if that can suggest some clue about what the author might have been trying to do.

The Gospel of Mark’s sequence

Jesus starts his ministry in Capernaum

Jesus calls disciples

Jesus casts out a demon – his fame spreads

Jesus enters Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law

Jesus heals many after sabbath

Many look for Jesus but Jesus leaves them behind

Apart from calling his disciples at the beginning of his ministry, there is little obvious narrative structural sequence to the events in Mark. It is episodic in the sense of just one thing after the other. I do think there is a structure that holds these episodes together in Mark, but it is not at the narrative level, and is another topic for another time. The most we can see here is that Jesus, logically, calls Peter for the first time before joining him in his house.

The Gospel of Luke’s sequence

Jesus begins his ministry in Nazareth

Jesus moves to Capernaum

Jesus casts out a demon – his fame spreads

Jesus enters Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law

Jesus heals many after sabbath

Jesus is hindered by crowds as he teaches throughout Galilee

Crowds press upon Jesus by the lake and Jesus preaches to them

Jesus commissions his first disciples

Is it my imagination or is there really a sequential narrative development that I see here?

  • Jesus begins his ministry in his home town. Result: he is cast out.
  • He then moves to Capernaum. Result. a demon is cast out and Jesus’ fame spreads.
  • After healing in Peter’s house, he heals many more after the sabbath.
  • The crowds are so thick around Jesus he finds it hard to move anywhere.
  • The crowds press on Jesus so he has to get into a boat to preach to them.
  • Jesus then commissions his first disciples to “catch men”.

This looks very much like the sort of thing we read in Exodus and Acts. Crowds become too much for the prophet or apostle. Helpers are marshaled in response to the growing need for help given the escalating success of Jesus’ ministry. The author uses the same trope in Acts, such as when Barnabas enlisted Paul’s help because of the mass conversions at Antioch. (Talbert, p.63)

And Luke elsewhere repeats the theme of needing labourers for the spiritual harvest.

Talbert also observes that with Luke’s narrative the disciples are supplied with a reason to believe in Jesus and follow him. This can be seen in the passages below. In Mark, Jesus calls and the disciples mysteriously follow immediately. In Luke, Peter has already seen the power of Jesus’ word when he exorcised a demon with a command and healed Peter’s mother-in-law with a rebuke. (In Mark Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law without a word.) So when Peter is commanded to cast his net in the sea and he replies, “At your word I will do it”, it is plausibly to think that the reader is meant to understand that Peter already knows the power of Jesus’ word.

So despite the incongruity of Jesus appearing to enter Peter’s house before we appear to be told how the two met, there is a discernible narrative logic to the Lukan sequence. It may not feel complete. Where did Peter come from? Why is he mentioned without any explanation when he first appears? And in other areas too: Why does Jesus mention his deeds at Capernaum before he is said to have entered Capernaum? Nonetheless, there is a narrative logic overlaying the incongruities.

The Gospel of Mark’s calling

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.
And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

The Gospel of Luke’s commissioning

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Comparing the two

Secondly, the Luke 5 lake scene is not a calling of the disciples as it is in Mark’s gospel. Canonical Luke does not narrate the calling of the disciples but their commissioning.

Compare Luke’s:

From now on you will catch men!

with the contingent Markan hope:

Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.

The idea in Luke of Jesus commissioning his disciples to help him is supported by the narrative logic already discussed. The crowds make the commissioning of the disciples, more than their calling in the hope they will succeed to the end, the real need.

There is also some ambiguity in the Markan passage about the meaning of being becoming fishers of men. If this is taken from Jeremiah 16:16 it could well be implying judgment, not salvation. But in Luke the theme of the crowds and the miracle of the fish-catch make it clear that the image means the converting of people to Christ.

This is further supported if one embraces the hypothesis that the author of canonical Luke knew John’s gospel and was blending John’s last chapter with the calling in Mark. John’s last chapter also depicts a miracle of an overwhelming catch of fish at the word of Jesus, and in that context it is clearly a metaphor for the conversions that Peter is expected to accomplish.

The theme of commissioning the disciples is elsewhere a prominent one in Luke’s gospel. The resurrected Jesus opens their understanding to the Jewish scriptures that were said to be prophetic of him, and he commands them to remain in Jerusalem until they are given heavenly power. They are confirmed as his witnesses. In Mark’s gospel, there is no certainty about the fate of the disciples at the conclusion, and in Matthew some of the disciples even doubted the resurrected Jesus.

Further, reflecting on the narrative logic above, this commissioning of the disciples arises directly out of the need for them to help with the spiritual harvest. It is the mushrooming crowds that make them a necessity. Calling to follow, with the possibility of failure, is not an option in Luke:

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon! Indeed Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren. (Luke 22:31-32)

By contrast it is readily possible to read the Gospel of Mark as concluding with the total failure of Jesus’ disciples. There is no resurrection appearance to them, and the narrative development has not encouraged the reader to expect them to follow Jesus at the end when or even if they hear he as gone on (again) before them. Like the seed in rocky soil they end their association with Jesus in fear, denial and betrayal.

Anti-Marcionite / proto-orthodox agenda?

Both these points combined — the need for the disciples on Jesus’ part, and the complementary commissioning of the disciples — are not found in Mark, yet they are consistent with canonical Luke’s interest elsewhere in establishing the authority of the disciples as commissioned witnesses and coworkers with and for Jesus. (See Luke’s resurrection chapter discussion.)

Canonical Luke can therefore be read as making changes to Mark’s gospel that reflect a program to strengthen the foundational place of the disciples in the Church. If so, this may be seen as one more of many other arguably anti-Marcionite agendas in canonical Luke-Acts. (See the Infancy Narratives discussion and the Body of Luke discussion.)

2008/07/02

Vridar makes it to the God Fearin’ Forum

As an atheist and social-political activist I’ve long had a soft spot for Catholics when it comes to social justice causes, so it was a flattering surprise to see a nice commendation of my recent series on Luke-Acts in relation to Marcionism in the Patristic Carnival XIII section of The God Fearin’ Forum, a blog for Catholic theology, philosophy and apologetics etc.

A companion recommendation listed with mine is Ben C. Smith’s commencement of “a thought provoking thread on the same subject: Which Came First, the Gospel of Luke or that of Marcion?”

2008/06/21

Marcion and Luke-Acts: the Lukan achievement

This post is moving beyond my original interest in posting notes from Tyson’s hypothesis about the influence of Marcionism on the composition of Luke-Acts, but it completes his final chapter, and so also completes this series of posts. Looking here at:

  1. Literary achievement
  2. Theological achievement
  3. Historical achievement
  4. Christian-Jewish relations

(more…)

2008/06/20

Another reason for Luke to have broken up Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount

Filed under: Gospel of Matthew,Luke-Acts,Marcion,New Testament,Q,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 9:19 pm
Tags:

If the author of the Gospel of Luke knew Matthew’s gospel then how can one explain his decision to break up the aesthetic and noble unity of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount? There are responses to this question that do not persuade everyone. (The idea that Luke did not like long sermons runs into a problem when one reads long sermons and speeches in Acts.) If, however, we think of canonical Luke as an anti-Marcionite work (as discussed in recent posts on Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts), then something about the Sermon on the Mount immediately stands out as a problem for an author writing a tract to trounce Marcionism.

Matthew 5:

20. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

21. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:

27. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

31. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife,

33. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all;

38. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil:

43. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Even though many today read the whole tenor of Matthew’s gospel and the Sermon on the Mount as pro-Torah, the above pattern of sayings cannot help but at the very least suggest a pro-Marcionite teaching about Jesus and the Law. Marcionism taught that Jesus came from a higher god than the Creator god of the Jews, and that the law of that Creator god of Israel was deficient compared with the true teachings of the hitherto unknown god. (more…)

Marcion and Luke-Acts: Conclusions

In a series of posts (archived here) I have outlined Tyson’s argument (Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle) that both our canonical Luke and Marcion’s gospel were based on a common “original Luke”. The argument does, I think, offer a plausible explanation of the evidence, and Tyson’s discussion of Luke and Acts certainly gives grounds for thinking that those works as we know them happened to contain much in the way of the most useful tools for a debate with Marcionite doctrines. Tyson places them in the early second century, and appeals to Hoffman’s work to make what I think is a strong claim that Marcion himself should be dated to that earlier period.

(While the commonly assigned date for Marcion’s activity – post 144 c.e. – rests largely on a problematic reading of Tertullian, much of the strength of the early date proposed by Hoffmann depends on the self-attestation of the works bearing Justin’s name for their true provenance. External controls that would help us establish more objectively the author and date of those works simply don’t exist. Where there are external controls, self-attestation is often found to be a notoriously unreliable guide for many reasons, both benign and otherwise. Those who would consider this approach to be over sceptical are simply overlooking, or are ignorant of, the facts of any source texts and basic historical methods; and those who would insist on applying a “hermeneutic of charity” are mistakenly and naively attempting to apply an ethic designed for personal relations to inanimate documents that really require the tools of investigative enquiry. It is quite possible that further information could still restore the later date for Marcion — indeed, even establish a later date than the early first century for Luke-Acts.)

The gospel trajectory proposed by Tyson is:

First stage, probably ca. 70-90 c.e.

  • A pre-Marcionite gospel
    • this gospel knew Mark and Q (assuming the 2-source hypothesis);
    • and probably began at Luke 3:1;
    • contained a brief resurrection narrative similar to Mark 16:1-8;
    • and was similar to Luke 3-23 (with some of the Luke Sundergut material within those chapters)

Second stage, probably ca. 115-120 c.e.

  • The gospel of Marcion:
    • this gospel was probably based on the pre-Marcionite gospel:
    • but with significant omissions:
    • thus enabling opponents to claim he “mutilated” the Gospel of Luke

Third stage, probably ca. 120-125 c.e.

  • Canonical Luke
    • this gospel was almost certainly based on the pre-Marcionite gospel
    • with the additions of
      • some new pericopes,
      • preface,
      • infancy narratives,
      • a re-rewritten Markan story of the empty tomb,
      • and added postresurrection narratives
    • the author worked through the source giving it his own stamp and sense of literary unity
    • with the aim of forcefully responding to the claims of Marcionites
    • and the same author wrote the . . . .
  • Book of Acts
    • and the complete work (Luke-Acts) was produced when Marcion’s views were becoming well known
    • as a weapon in the battle against Marcionism

To me, this is by and large a satisfactory hypothesis that answers more questions than it raises. It makes good sense, I think, of many of the features of Luke-Acts especially when compared with comparable material in other gospels and early church writings. My main reservations come from my doubts that Justin knew the book of Acts. He knew some of the material we find in other gospels, including noncanonical ones. It does not necessarily follow, however, that he knew the same gospels that we know that also included some of the same material. I can think of no reason against the possibility that the author of canonical Luke-Acts was busy composing around about the same time Justin was writing. There are many overlaps of issues, themes, narrative bytes, not to mention innumerable ambiguities within Justin’s works over whether he knew the canonical gospels or not, and/or which of the noncanonical ones he knew. Perhaps it was the work of Luke-Acts, first clearly attested by Irenaeus about a generation after Justin, that came to be recognized as providing the singular paradigm through which all previous works were to be judged (and maybe even redacted). But all this requires unpacking and exploration in a host of other posts.

Next, to complete this series with a summary of Tyson’s views of the early historical impact of Luke-Acts.

2008/06/15

Marcion and Luke-Acts: The Body of Luke – Luke 3-23

Filed under: Book Reviews & Notes,Luke-Acts,Marcion,Tyson: Marcion & Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 12:49 pm

Tyson has argued that there are good reasons for regarding Luke’s Infancy Narratives (Luke 1-2) [discussed here] and most of the Resurrection appearances (Luke 24) [discussed here] “as additions by a post-Marcionite author to an earlier text.” (p.116)

Without attempting to reconstruct an “original Luke” upon which Marcion and the canonical author appear to have drawn, Tyson does make some general observations.

(Other discussion can be found at The Center for Marcionite Research)

“Original Luke”

We can think of it as “something like Luke 3-23, plus a brief postresurrection narrative.”

If so, this would make it easier to understand why Marcion would have used it. (As discussed in a previous post, It is difficult to understand why he would have used “canonical Luke” which required so much material to be excised.)

For the sake of completion, I should explain that I have omitted from these notes Tyson’s (and Knox’s) statistical tables and analyses and Tyson’s extensive discussion of these.

Marcion’s Omissions

Synoptic material in Luke 3-23 omitted by Marcion

John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:2-22)

Temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13)

John the Baptist’s role and the temptation of Jesus were apparently contrary to Marcion’s doctrine of Jesus

Triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:29-40)

Cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:45-46)

If for Marcion Jerusalem and its temple were chosen by the Jewish god then it is understandable why Marcion would omit positive associations of Jesus with them.

Lukan Sondergut material in Luke 3-23 that Marcion is said to have omitted

The judgment pericopes of the pool of Siloam and the parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:1-9)

Marcion’s god was not a judgmental god.

Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44)

Marcion did not believe Jesus had special Jewish sympathies.

The two swords (Luke 22:35-38)

Marcion would not have accepted the violent implications here.

The prodigal son parable (Luke 15:11-32)

The narrative of the two thieves (Luke 23:39-43)

It is impossible to say why Marcion would have omitted these (which he apparently did) on doctrinal grounds.

Sayings about sparrows and the clothing of the grass of the field (Luke 12:6-7, 28)

These sayings pertain to the creator god rather than Marcion’s higher god.

The genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38)

It cannot be certain this genealogy was part of “original Luke” but it does fit well with a gospel that begins at Luke 3:1. If it was part of the original, then Marcion would surely have removed it since it conflicted with his doctrine of Jesus.

Changes by the author of canonical Luke?

Having argued that Luke 1-2 and much of Luke 24 were added by canonical Luke, Tyson posits the following changes as the more obvious ones in the main body of “original Luke”.

The addition of “And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.'” (Luke 5:39)

Without this verse, the previous parable makes complete sense: old and new do not mix.

Epiphanius writes that there was heated debate over Luke 5:36-38 between Marcion and the church at Rome, with Marcion saying that they supported his position that the gospel was something completely new.

Given the historical controversy surrounding the previous verses, and the awkwardness of the additional verse 39 as a conclusion of the parable, this verse may well have been added by the canonical author to rebut Marcionite teaching.

The canonical “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17)

Marcion’s gospel at this point had: “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one of my words to fail.”

Marcion’s version is supported by the context, since the previous passage explains that the age of the Law and Prophets came to an end with John the Baptist.

Luke 21:33, apparently drawn from Mark’s gospel, also say: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away”, and so supports Marcion’s version.

It appears that the author of canonical Luke has changed “my words” to “the law” in order to refute Marcion’s teaching.

The addition of “(as was supposed)” to describe the paternal relationship of Joseph to Jesus in the genealogy (Luke 3:23)

The genealogy makes sense in its location if Luke 3:1 was the beginning of the gospel in which it first appeared. But since it points to Joseph being the father of Jesus (tracing Jesus’ Davidic ancestry through Joseph), it contradicts the strong implication in the Infancy Narratives of canonical Luke that Jesus’ Davidic descent was through Mary, and their clear claim that Joseph was not the father of Jesus.

It is thus understandable why the author of canonical Luke would have added the parenthetical “as was supposed” to describe Jesus’ relationship to Joseph.

To be continued etc . . . . rest of these posts are archived here.

2008/06/14

Marcion and Luke-Acts: The Preface of Luke

Continuing notes from Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts — the previous post (on Luke 24) is here, the lot archived here

Previously I discussed Ancient Prologues in detail, but that was with particular reference to the Book of Acts. Nonbiblical examples of split prefaces, such as we find in Luke-Acts, were part of that discussion, but here I’m focusing on Tyson’s look at the Preface of Luke in the context of his earlier sections on Luke’s special material, and their apparent Marcionite context.

So far we have looked at

  1. the evidence (especially from contradictions and tendentiousness within the Tertullian claim, and from Justin Martyr’s evidence) that Marcion was active considerably earlier than the 144 c.e. date that has generally been assigned to him;
  2. reasons for assigning a late date to the Book of Acts;
  3. arguments for canonical Luke and Marcion’s gospel both being editings of an “original Luke”;
  4. the arguably anti-Marcionite content of Acts;
  5. the anti-Marcionite aptness of the Infancy Narratives and the Resurrection appearances in Luke.

This post is continuing point 4, arguing for the coherence of the Prologue to the Gospel of Luke within a context of a reaction against Marcionism.

Prologue of the Gospel of St Luke from the Gospel of St Riquier circa 800 (more…)

2008/06/12

Luke’s Resurrection chapter: its ties to the Infancy stories, Acts and Marcion

Continuing notes from Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts . . . . Last post looked at Tyson’s arguments for the Infancy Narratives in the Gospel of Luke, this one at the final chapter with the Resurrection appearances.

Notes below that are in italics are my own additions and not, as far as I recalled at the time, from Tyson’s book.

Tyson argues that Luke 24 begins by relying on Mark’s gospel (although heavily re-written) before launching into new material. The new material has affinities with the Infancy Narratives, and contains signs that it was also written with Acts in mind, and that it was above all written as a response to Marcionism.

This is part of Tyson’s argument that Luke-Acts as we have know their canonical forms were written in the second century as a response to Marcionism. The author built on an “original Luke” that was known also to Marcion. (more…)

2008/06/10

Luke’s Infancy Narratives (Luke 1:5-2:52) as an integrated response to Marcionism

Broken links fixed — 25th November 2009

The Infancy Narratives of Luke, the first 2 chapters of this gospel, are well integrated into the larger narrative of the rest of Luke and Acts (Tannehill). But that does not preclude the possibility that they were added later to an original Luke, with the final redactor reworking that original gospel to thematically and theologically so that it formed a new whole, a new single work which included new material and added the Book of Acts as a second part to the narrative. Tyson fully embraces the narrative and thematic unity between the Infancy Narratives and the rest of the canonical form of the gospel, but he also sees reasons for believing that these opening chapters (along with other material and the Book of Acts) were added to a pre-canonical form of Luke in order to undermine the gospel of Marcion. Marcion’s gospel, he argues, was based on an “original Luke”. First Marcion edited this “original”, and then the canonical redactor did likewise, adding the first two chapters that we know today, in order to turn it into an anti-Marcionite document.

Tyson’s reasons (with reference to Streeter, Fitzmeyer, Raymond Brown, Cadbury, Conzelmann, Vincent Taylor, Knox, and his own earlier work on the Judaistic unity of the gospel), for believing that the Infancy Narratives of Luke were a later addition to the “original Luke” (which was also redacted) are summarized here:

Luke 3:1 is still an excellent beginning for a Gospel

  1. Luke 3:1-2 is a most suitable beginning. It is more precise in its chronological and geographical setting than Luke 1:5. Luke 3:1-2 places the drama on a world stage, without neglecting the parochial details. Carefully composed time setting details makes for an appropriate beginning of an historical or biographical account.
  2. Luke 1:5-2:52 appears to stand apart from everything else in the gospel.
  3. If Luke used Mark as a source it is not unlikely that he also began his gospel where Mark did.
  4. The genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 is appropriate only if Luke 3:1 is the beginning of the gospel. The genealogy only works (makes Jesus a son of David) if Joseph is his father, which conflicts with the birth narrative .
  5. John the Baptist is introduced in 3:1-2 as if for the first time.
  6. Requirements for apostleship in Acts 1:22 appear to designate the beginning of the gospel as the baptism of Jesus.
  7. Marcion’s gospel also began with the reference to the 15th year of Tiberius, although not to introduce John the Baptist but to designate the first earthly appearance of Jesus who came down to Capernaum (Luke 4:31).

Contrasts of narrative tone

  1. There is a profound sense that something new has begun at Luke 3:1. Luke 3:1 marks an abrupt change of time (from Herod to Tiberius) and marks a silent interval of some 18 years.
  2. Contrasting tones, including a contrast between infancy and adulthood, between miraculous births and wilderness preaching, between prophetic blessings and demonic temptations, between a time of good will and imprisonment.
  3. There is a sense of “abrupt change from a comfortable, idyllic, semimythical world to the cold cruel world of political social reality.” (p.94)

Different treatment of prominent characters

John the Baptist

Although there is some continuity between the treatment of John the Baptist in the Infancy Narrative and the remainder of the gospel (in both parts John is the preparer of the way for Jesus), there are also discontinuities.

There is a distinct contrast between the closeness of John the Baptist and Jesus in 1:5-2:52 and the distancing of these two in rest of gospel. This is in stark contrast to the first 2 chapters where the author has closely knit a narrative comparing the likenesses and differences between the two in a step by step sequence.

  1. Luke 16:16 can be read as assigning John to the age of Israel, and thus separated from age of Jesus.
  2. John and Jesus occupy different geographic areas after the Infancy Narratives.
  3. John completes his mission before the baptism of Jesus.
  4. John is imprisoned before Jesus begins his ministry.
  5. John does not even baptize Jesus in the main body of the gospel. The emphasis is on the descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice from heaven, not the baptism of Jesus.

The Parents and Family of Jesus

  1. Joseph is mentioned five times in the Infancy Narratives but only twice thereafter.
  2. Mary is a lead character in the opening chapters. She is mentioned sixteen times in the Infancy Narratives but only once afterwards. In the early chapters she is treated with near veneration: she is given a great promise by the archangel Gabriel, and then the focus of Simeon’s dramatic prophecy, but then simply disappears except for one strange mention where Jesus rejects her in favour of his disciples.
  3. In that later mention the brothers of Jesus are also mentioned, which is again strange given there was no hint beforehand that they existed.
  4. The opening two chapters portray a very positive relationship between Jesus and his family, and a very positive picture of Jesus’ family itself. This contrasts sharply with the negative and rejectionist view of families in the remainder of the gospel. There, Jesus says he has come to create family division (12:53), that his disciples must hate their parents to follow him (14:26). Nor does this gospel, unlike those of Mark and Matthew, condemn the custom of Corban which allowed parents to be neglected if one made an offering to the Temple.
  5. The genealogy does not work given the Infancy Narrative opening of the gospel. The Infancy Narratives demand that the birth of Jesus be more miraculous than that of John. So to this end the focus has to be on Mary there more than Joseph. This early narrative also stresses Jesus being the Son of David. But later in the main body of the gospel the genealogy traces Jesus’ ancestry through Joseph. So the genealogy does not cohere with the Infancy Narrative and its portrayal of Jesus being the Son of David by Mary.

Linquistic Style Differences

  1. The Septuagintal style (and content) is found throughout Luke-Acts but is most prominent in the Infancy Narratives.
  2. Also the heavy Semitic flavour in the Infancy Narratives can be found throughout Luke-Acts, but is most pronounced in the first 2 chapters.
  3. The style of the Infancy Narratives serves to link Jesus to the Hebrew Scriptures. It transports the reader back to world of the ancient Hebrew writers and prophets.
  4. The characters’ lives are set against this background and governed by the values of the Hebrew Scriptures. The description of piety of the characters is idyllic.

Differences in Ideology

  1. The different ideologies of the family expressed in the Infancy Narratives and the body of the gospel has been discussed above.
  2. The treatment of Jews and Judaism in the Infancy Narratives is strikingly positive in contrast with rest of Luke-Acts.
  3. Chapters 1-2 function to connect Jesus and the Baptist to the world of the Hebrew prophets and ongoing Jewish piety and expectations. The tone is almost entirely one of hope and optimism.

The appropriateness of all the above as a reaction against Marcionism

  1. These opening chapters take the reader back 30 years before Jesus began his ministry, back to the reigns of Herod the Great and Caesar Augustus, as if to deny the Marcionite claim that Jesus’ first appearance was in the time of Tiberius (Luke 3:1).
  2. The Infancy Narratives emphasize that Jesus was born of a woman. He did not, as per Marcion, suddenly descend from heaven to Capernaum. For Marcion, a human birth for Jesus would have been degrading.
  3. Gabriel’s message seems chosen to offend Marcionites for its anatomical detail: to conceive in her womb, produce a son, leaping in her womb.
  4. Jesus is repeatedly called a baby or a child — as also is John.
  5. The language throughout emphasizes Jesus’ humanity, and proximity to family, and his similarities with John.
  6. Close relationship with John is conveyed through angelic announcements predicting their conception and births, the narratives about their births, their naming, the circumcision of both, the similar summary statements conclude narratives of both. Compare the author of Acts drawing similar narrative parallel units for the reader to compare Peter and Paul.
  7. The Infancy Narratives stress the relationship of Jesus to Israel, the prophetic anticipation of his coming, of Jesus being the fulfilment of Jewish expectation.
  8. The same chapters stress the relationship of Jesus to the Jewish people. He is of the House of David; David is Jesus’ father; he is born in City of David.
  9. The family of Jesus is faithful to Jewish practices — note the stories of the presentation of Jesus and Mary’s purification. They are pious Jews, observing Torah, supporting the Jerusalem Temple, practicing sacrifices, observing Jewish festivals.
  10. And Jesus incorporated these practices, being obedient to parents.
  11. Jesus’ Jewishness is especially stressed in the story of his circumcision. This vitally links him with Judaism. and would have been especially offensive to Marcionites.
  12. Pervasive influence of the Hebrew Scriptures is especially pronounced in the Infancy Narratives, in language, tone and content.
  13. Prominent use of Daniel and Malachi (Malachi is drawn on in the announcement of the birth of John; and in the appearances of Jesus in the Temple)
  14. Eight characters from the Hebrew bible are mentioned in the Infancy Narratives: Aaron, Abijah, Abraham, Asher, David, Elijah, Jacob, Moses.
  15. There are also references to the holy prophets predicting Jesus. (Marcion denied that Jesus was the fulfilment of the prophetic scriptures. He interpreted these literally, not allegorically, to refer to a conquering Messiah.)
  16. Quotations, allusions and models of narratives are closely based on the Septuagint Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. the presentation of Samuel was probably the model for the story of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple).

Tyson writes:

These considerations make it highly probable, in my judgment, that the Lukan birth narratives were added in reaction to the challenges of Marcionite Christianity.

If these two chapters were a part of the original Luke, it is very hard to understand why Marcion would have chosen such a gospel with such highly offensive chapters to edit to begin with. On the other hand,

it would be difficult to imagine a more directly anti-Marcionite narrative than what we have in Luke 1 :5- 2:52. (p.100)

Next — the postresurrection accounts (and the Preface) of Luke . . . .

2008/05/31

“Discovering” an original gospel behind canonical Luke and the gospel of Marcion

The early church fathers accused Marcion of mutilating the canonical gospel of Luke. But there are problems with accepting this charge, as discussed in a previous post. Tyson in Marcion and Luke-Acts resurrects the hypothesis that both Marcion and the author of canonical Luke used another text no longer surviving and which he calls, after Baur, “original Luke”.

Tyson traces the historical pedigree of this hypothesis of “original Luke” through Ritschl, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Volckmar and Knox. (more…)

2008/05/30

The Date of the Canonical Gospel of Luke

As discussed in previous posts from Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle (Joseph Tyson), if the Book of Acts is to be dated so late, and was written as a response to the Marcionite challenge, then what of the Gospel of Luke?

  • Irenaeus wrote that the same author composed both Luke and Acts.
  • The Muratorian Canon did the same.
  • Henry J. Cadbury coined the term Luke-Acts to describe the two texts and to emphasize their common authorship.
  • Some scholars treat Luke-Acts as a single text.

In an earlier post (Did Marcion Mutilate the Gospel of Luke?) I outlined Tyson’s reasons for doubting that Marcion edited what we know as the canonical Gospel of Luke.

Nonetheless, Irenaeus and Tertullian do speak of a relationship between Marcion’s gospel and canonical Luke.

So beginning with this post I will discuss Tyson’s next chapter in which he discusses the composition of canonical Luke. He begins with the question of its date.

More than one edition of the gospel of Luke (more…)

2008/05/29

Dating the Book of Acts: Acts as a response to the Marcionite Challenge

This post follows on from one I completed — here — way back in February. The lot can be found in my archive for the Tyson category.

Continuing notes from reading of Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts . . . .

Tyson summarizes the hypothesis of John Knox published in 1942, that Acts (and canonical Luke) was composed as a response to the (second century) Marcionite challenge: (more…)

2008/05/06

Pentecost, belated birthday of the church

Filed under: Luke-Acts,Marcion,New Testament,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 12:17 pm

Christianity was surely up and running at least a hundred years before someone thought to assign a special day for its birthday. And one might well read the evidence in a way that indicates “orthodox” theologians hijacked Pentecost from the Jews to use it as a hostage in their campaign against “heretical” — Marcionite — Christians.

The earliest evidence we have for the story that the church began on Pentecost, some fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus, is the Book of Acts. But before we see any evidence that anyone knew of the existence of that Book, some time in the mid-second century, not a single Christian author indicates any knowledge of Pentecost as the birth-day of the Church. Justin Martyr, our first notable Christian apologist and one who was connected with Christianity from Syria to Rome, discusses in his tracts what he knows about Jesus and the beginning of the church. He informs us that as far as he is aware the church began with the sending out of the twelve apostles after Jesus persuaded them

For after His crucifixion, the disciples that accompanied Him were dispersed, until He rose from the dead, and persuaded them that so it had been prophesied concerning Him, that He would suffer; and being thus persuaded, they went into all the world, and taught these truths. (Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 53)

So Justin, possibly as late as around 150 c.e., appears to understand that it was the persuasive powers of argument of the resurrected Jesus that catapulted the twelve apostles (not Paul) from Jerusalem into the world to preach to the gentiles. Most of what one reads by scholars about what Justin Martyr knew of our New Testament books expresses the conviction that Justin knew Acts and all our canonical gospels. That may be so but I doubt it, at least in the case of the book of Acts. If he did know the book of Acts, he is mysteriously silent about Paul, and even attributes the preaching to all the gentile world to the original twelve apostles. He is also convinced that the Roman armies invaded Judea and destroyed the Jerusalem Temple within weeks of Christ’s crucifixion. Both of these views of Justin simply fly in the face of what the book of Acts is all about. If he knew Acts he dismissed it.

The Gospel of Mark, arguably the earliest of our canonical gospels, indicates that the twelve disciples, led by Peter, were destined to be converted in Galilee after Jesus was resurrected. The original ending of the gospel (16:8 ) forces readers to focus on the fearful silence of the women who visited the tomb of Jesus. Readers are left with nothing more than a suspicion or hope that the apostles will somehow-maybe meet up with Jesus in Galilee again. Jesus had promised that the gospel would be preached in all the world, but the role of the twelve apostles in this preaching is fraught with ambiguity and uncertainty throughout the text.

The Gospel of Matthew rejects the ambivalence of this first gospel, and makes it clear that the resurrected Jesus did indeed meet up with eleven of his disciples (Judas was eliminated), and that this meeting was in Galilee, on a mountain there. Further, it was from this mountain in Galilee that Jesus sent out most of these eleven remaining disciples (Matthew says that some of them doubted that they really were in the presence of the resurrected Jesus) to the whole world. There is no Pentecost. There is no “holy spirit”. Jesus promises that he himself will be with them always.

The Gospel of John does bring in the holy spirit, but it is breathed out of Jesus’ nose onto the disciples, minus Thomas. (John does not specify if Judas was among those receiving the holy spirit.) Interestingly, Jesus links this nasal gift not with preaching to outsiders but with authority to decide what sins should be forgiven. The closest the gospel comes to any preaching mission is a concluding chapter where Peter is charged with the responsibility to “feed the flock”. The author of the Gospel of John appears to visualize apostolic activity in relation to a flock of other Christians. There is no Pentecost. If there is a starting point of the apostolic activity, it is either on the day of the resurrection when Jesus breathed on most of them, or afterwards when Jesus caught up with seven of the disciples by a seashore in Galilee.

It is only with the arrival of the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts, joined together as a single work by prologues and certain themes such as a focus on Jerusalem and the Temple as an honourable centre and focus of the new faith, that the Pentecost birth of the church makes its introduction.

It is noteworthy that Pentecost makes this special appearance in a context of a theological debate over the relevance of the Jewish scriptures and heritage to Christianity.

Both external and internal evidence testify that the Book of Acts was written as a second century response to what our “orthodox” Christians saw as the “heretical” Marcionite challenge that began in the first half of the second century. Our earliest evidence that anyone knew of the existence of the book of Acts is from the later second century, when Irenaeus cites it. The name of Luke as the author of these works was also an invention of these later times.

Marcionite Christianity rejected Jewish scriptures as having any sort of foundational relevance to the church. To interpret the Old Testament allegorically as foreshadowing or prophesying Jesus Christ was, to Marcion, just another expression of the Judaizing heresy condemned by the apostle Paul. Marcion insisted on reading the Jewish scriptures literally. The messiah promised in the Jewish scriptures by the creator God of this world was destined to be a messiah for the Jews only. Jesus was not that messiah. He came to reveal the hitherto unknown God. Jewish scriptures and laws were irrelevant to those who worshipped Marcion’s Jesus. And it appears that Marcionite Christianity was a serious rival to what became “orthodox” Christianity. It was certainly the dominant faith in Asia Minor, and appears to have been followed throughout Syria and Greece, through to Rome.

The allegorical reading of the Old Testament secured for the “orthodox” a hoary literary and spiritual heritage worthy of the new faith. Adam and Eve were allegories of Christ and the Church. Israel itself was an allegory of the Church. But some Jewish metaphors for Israel, such as the Servant in Isaiah, were prophesies of Jesus. One can see this allegorization process at its peak in writings like the Epistle of Barnabas and the Dialogue with Trypho. Some see this treatment of the OT as nothing less than a hijacking of the Jewish scriptures that went hand in glove with the anti-semitism of the time. Marcion saw it as a Judaizing heresy.

If the Book of Acts was written to defend the “Jewish-orthodox” Christianity, with its declared roots in an allegorical reading of the Jewish scriptures, and with its coopting of those scriptures as their own (not even understood by the Jews who originally composed them), then it would appear that the Jewish Feast of Pentecost was given its fame as the birthday of the Church as part of the propaganda campaign battle between the Marcionites and the “orthodox”.

Luke-Acts gives central focus to Jerusalem and the Temple in the life of Jesus and the early church. Acts makes regular references to the importance of the synagogues and Jewish feasts, including the sabbath day, to the life of Paul. The earliest apostles preached daily from the precincts of the Jerusalem Temple.

The Jewish Feast of Pentecost as the day on which the miraculous birth of the Church occurred made its first appearance in this second century theological battle between the Marcionites and the “orthodox”. Quite likely it was constructed to affirm the Jewish “spiritual/allegorical” heritage of those Christians who saw themselves in rivalry with their Marcionite brethren.

2008/02/03

Dating the Book of Acts: Characterization of Paul

Continuing notes from reading of Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts. . . .

After discussing the shifting directions of the scholarly debates over Paul’s characterization in Acts vis a vis the Paul we find in the epistles, Tyson asks if a more definitive answer is to be found to the question of whether the Paul of Acts is a most appropriate response to the Paul of the Marcionites.

Parallell Lives
Tyson first addresses the contribution of Clark’s Parallel Lives to understanding the author of Act’s intention to portray Paul in both continuity and unity with Peter and the Twelve. He adds to Clark’s work the observation that the influence of Plutarch’s influence on the author of Acts “is more credible if we date Acts after ca. 115 c.e., since it is probable that the Parallel Lives [by Plutarch] was not published before that date.” (p.63)

Objective reference
But more significantly, Tyson notes that Clark’s work on the reasons for the author’s creation of parallels between the lives of Paul and Peter is based on internal criteria alone and lacks an objective external reference. Clark’s argument for certain themes and reasons for his parallels would be more credible if one could show how they were a fitting response to a known historical challenge. Tyson is, of course, arguing that the Marcionite challenge was the appropriate historical situation which would best explain Clark’s understanding of Luke’s characterization of Paul (through parallels with Peter et al).

Tyson looks at the history of attempts to reconcile the Paul of Acts and the Paul of the letters.

F. C. Baur
Author of Acts rewrote the characters of Paul and Peter to show them united theologically — in support of the Law. Contrast “the real Paul” who was anti-Torah.

Adolf von Harnack
Paul’s attitude to the Torah was complex and not a blanket opposition to it. Luke had not found the Torah the same theological challenge that Paul had, and in his portrayal of Paul he brings out the more Jewish side of Paul as he (Luke) knew him.

Philip Vielhauer
In natural theology, Luke portrayed Paul as a Stoic philosopher for whom knowledge of God could be acquired naturally and positively, apart from revelation — which was the view of the Paul of the letters.

In Christology, Acts is adoptionist, and the cross of Christ was a wrongful murder of an innocent man for which the Jews were culpable — unlike Paul of the letters for whom the cross was a saving event, a means of judgment and reconciliation.

In eschatology, Paul relegates the coming judgment and resurrection to a tail end position in his message — unlike the Paul of the letters who whom it was central and imminent.

In the law, Acts avoids the real complexities of Paul’s attitude toward the Torah, and presents him as a faithful Pharisee in practice, as demonstrated by:

  • his missionary practice of going to the synagogue Jews first and only turning to gentiles after a formal rejection there
  • his submission to Jerusalem authorities
  • his circumcision of Timothy
  • his spreading the apostolic decrees
  • his vow
  • his trips to Jerusalem to observe religious festivals
  • his concurring with James in participating in a Nazirite vow
  • his emphasizing his Pharisee status when on trial

Ernst Haenchen
The author of Acts justified the gentile mission as simply being God’s will, unaware of Paul’s more complex justification from his arguments about the Law. Author of Acts also missed the real contention at the heart of Paul’s theology. To Luke, this was the resurrection. The real issue, the Torah, was only alluded to in Acts as a false accusation against Paul. Also, to Haenchen, Acts differed from the letters by presenting Paul as a miracle worker and great orator, but not as an apostle.

Jacob Jervell
The letters of Paul addressed specific issues and do not present a full biography. Acts and the letters are needed for a complete picture. Except for Romans 9-11, the points of theological contact are between the Paul in Acts and the marginal notes in the letters.

Stanley E. Porter
Disputes Haenchen’s and Vielhauer’s interpretations of the wide gulf between the Paul of the letters and of Acts. The Paul of the letters can also be seen as a miracle worker and orator. Porter also argues more weight should be given to the two times in Acts when Paul is called an apostle. And the accusations in Acts that Paul taught against Torah argue for the author’s knowing of the importance of the Torah in Paul’s message, and that the different emphases between Acts and the epistles are the result of different genres.

Mark D. Nanos
The letter to Galatians is an “ironic rebuke” of the converts. “Judaizers” are not opposed to belief in Christ but only to the idea that circumcision (becoming a full proselyte) is not also necessary to be part of Israel. Paul had taught them that belief in Christ was all that was necessary. He does not attack Torah observance or question its appropriateness for non-Christian Jews. The issue is not faith in Christ versus Torah observance. Nanos’s understanding of Galatians is that of a Paul close to the one in Acts.

Joseph B. Tyson
Despite interpretations that appear to lessen the divide between the Paul of the letters and Acts, it is difficult to reconcile:

  • Paul’s views in Galatians with the Paul in Acts 16 who would circumcise Timothy
  • Paul’s rejection of his past in Phil 3:1-11 with his maintenance of it in Acts 23:6
  • Paul’s vehement defining of himself as an apostle in Gal 1:1, Rom 1:1; 1:13; 1 Cor 1:1; 9:1, 2; 15:9; 2 Cor 1:1; 12:12 with the almost total denial of the title to him in Acts

A final settlement of the apparent conflicts between the Paul of the epistles and the Paul of Acts still escapes us.

But if “Acts was written in the first half of the second century, . . . its characterization of Paul and Pauline theology may be understood as an extraordinarily appropriate attempt to correct the teachings of Marcionite Christianity.” (p.68 )

Whatever role Paul played during his own lifetime, there appears to be a struggle for his legacy in the second century. (Compare post comparing Pastorals with Acts of Paul and Thecla.) Marcionites used Paul as their authority for rejecting the Torah, Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish customs. Acts responds(?) by representing him as a faithful Jew and Pharisee.

Tyson then singles out three major features of Paul’s characterization in Acts, drawing on features Vielhauser believed were divergences from the epistles, and including observations of their themes and literary patterns, to show how they qualify as responses to Marcionism.

1. Paul’s Missionary Method

Tyson has earlier covered the literary pattern used for the missionary narratives and the themes they support. See Marcionite Context 1 for an elaboration of this and what follows.

The narratives of Paul’s mission work regularly consists of the same fourfold patterning of the following four themes:

  1. fidelity of the believing community to the Jewish traditions and practices — Paul always begins with the synagogue
  2. the community’s inclusion of Gentiles
  3. Jewish rejection of the Christian message
  4. Jewish opposition to the community

Further, “the heart of Paul’s message in the synagogues is that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish expectation and prophetic promises.” (p.69)

Note how these themes fit hand in glove with the Marcionite challenge:

Marcion insisted that the Christian message consisted of a rejection of the Jewish Torah and Scriptures. Yet in Acts Paul is found returning again and again to the synagogue. There is a rift between Jew and Christian, yes, but the reason for this is clearly the fact that the Jews themselves are rejecting the message. And they are doing so not because the message is anti-Jewish, or anti-Torah or anti-Hebrew-Scriptures, but because of their hard stubborn hearts. The Christian message is that Jesus is the fulfillment of their Scriptures and Messianic hopes, and this is what angers them.

Paul’s repeated attempts to convert the Jews by showing them he was sympathetic and obedient to their customs and by preaching that Jesus was the fulfillment of their Scriptures was the perfectly apt response to Marcionite claims that Christianity had no link with Jewish traditions and that the Jewish scriptures had no relevance for the new message from the Alien God.

Hoffmann, I recall, somewhere makes the point that the irony is that it was the “pro-Jewish” Christianity of the orthodox that was fundamentally anti-semitic, accusing the Jews of congenital hard heartedness; while Marcionite Christianity placed Jews and Gentiles on an equal footing before the nonjudgmental higher God introduced by Jesus.

2. Paul and the Jerusalem Apostles

2 issues here: Paul’s apostleship and his relationship to the Jerusalem leaders.

Apostleship

To Marcion, Paul was the only true apostle and Peter and the other Jerusalem leaders were false apostles.

Acts disputes this divide by its technique of paralleling Peter and Paul. But the parallel is not complete. In Acts the title of apostle is almost exclusively confined to Peter and the Jerusalem leaders. Only twice does the term apostle appear in relation to Paul and Barnabas — Acts 14:4, 14.

Note however that 14:14 in the Western text (Codex Bezae) omits the word “apostles”, and if this is accepted as the original then we only have one reference to Paul as an apostle. Yet even here the word apostle is removed by many verses from the actual names of Paul and Barnabas. Tyson asks if this indicates a subtle distancing of the title from those names. Clark in Parallel Lives thinks the title apostle in Acts 14 serves to equate Paul and Barnabas with the other apostles, only in an an alternate geographical area.

But the author of Acts clearly defines the number of apostles as being limited to Twelve; and that to qualify for the title one must also have been a witness of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry to his resurrection. This clearly disqualifies Paul from the title. Is Paul simply being logically inconsistent? Tyson compares scholars approaching Acts without preconceived ideas about the author’s historical accuracies with their reluctance to presume he might be at least once logically inconsistent. They are willing to concede he is not always accurate in detail — why not also that he is not 100% consistent with his use of this title?

But Tyson comes down with a different bottom line explanation for this inconsistency found in Acts 14:4 (14). In a Marcionite context, the problem facing the author was not Paul’s apostleship but the apostleship of Peter and the Jerusalem leaders. He needed to rebut Marcion’s claim that the Jerusalem Twelve were not true apostles. His purpose was not to argue Paul’s apostleship but to prove that the Twelve were also apostles — to rehabilitate the Twelve. (Compare my earlier post on Tracing the evolution of the Twelve.)

To fulfill this task he “rehabilitated” the Twelve as the authorized bearers of tradition, and he showed that Paul was in every respect in line with them and at some points subservient to them. If he occasionally used the title apostle for Paul, this is only because of the fact that, despite his own definition that would exclude Paul from the group, he never doubted its appropriateness. We may regard the author of Acts as inconsistent at this point, but his inconsistency is understandable. (p.72)

Relationship with Jerusalem leaders

A major theme in Acts, the inclusion of Gentiles, is introduced by Peter. Not by Paul. Yet Paul is the primary leader of the gentile mission. So why is Peter chosen for the role of opening up this theme?

Tyson finds the answer at the conclusion of the lengthy and complex narrative of Peter’s conversion of Cornelius. The narrative concludes with Peter being required to have his actions authorized by the Jerusalem leaders, including the rest of the Twelve. This is important for the maintenance of one of the primary themes of Acts — internal harmony under the collective leadership of the Jerusalem apostles:

the story is not over until the Jerusalem apostles have agreed that Gentiles may be members of the community and that their admission will not create disharmony. (p.72)

It should also be noted that permission for the church to go to the gentiles came to Peter, the leader of the Twelve, and not to Paul, and that the first gentile was a lover of the Jews, observing their times of prayer and fearing their God. Tyson does not single out the point here, but God-fearer in the context of Cornelius here is a clear reference to the Jewish Creator God — the one rejected by Marcion as inferior in preference for the higher Alien God.

So the inclusion of the gentiles opens as a pro-Jewish act and is authorized by the Twelve before the story can continue.

The Acts 15 Jerusalem conference
See How Acts subverts Galatians for details. That a companion of Paul would subvert Galatians in this way is implausible. How could such a one put the words of Paul into the mouth of Peter, as in Acts 15:7-11? Tyson finds it hard to disagree with the Baur and the Tübingen school’s case that the author of Acts was attempting to rewrite history in order to promote a belief that there was harmony between the followers of Peter and those of Paul.

A Marcionite challenge that stressed the gulf between Paul and Jewish-Christians would explain why the author of Acts sought to rewrite the Galatians meeting the way he did. Unlike Marcion’s assertions based on Galatians, there was no rift between Peter and Paul. They were in complete harmony despite an initial hiccup. Paul left proclaiming the decrees ordained by the Jerusalem authorities (16:4), and gentiles and Jews were bound together even by certain (minimal) requirements from the Torah.

3. Paul as a faithful Jew and Pharisee

The Paul of the letters relegates his Pharisee identity to a dead past. Tyson sees the claims in Acts that Paul continued to think of himself as a Pharisee as anti-Marcionite propaganda. Acts also turns Paul’s speeches into anti-Marcionite proclamations: the relevance of the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets and Jewish messianic expectations to Jesus.

Tyson sees a major objective of the trial scenes is to portray Paul as a Torah-abiding Jew:

  • Before the high priest he quotes from Exodus (Acts 23:5)
  • Before Felix he describes himself as a loyal Jew (24:14)
  • He calls attention to his preaching of the resurrection as a Jewish hope (24:15)
  • He emphasizes his return to Jerusalem to bring alms and make sacrifices in the temple (24:17)
  • He reminds us he was seized while in ritual of purification (24:17-18 )
  • Before Festus he says he has done nothing against the Jewish law or people (25:8, 10)
  • Before Agrippa and Bernice he proclaims at length his Jewish allegiance (26:4-8 )
  • He says he preaches nothing except what Moses and the prophets proclaimed (26:22) — a statement in direct opposition to what Marcion believed

The practices of Paul preceding these trial scene proclamations have prepared the reader for this portrayal of Paul:

  • Acts 16:1-3, the circumcision of Timothy — it is debatable whether this would have been performed by the Paul of the letters, but there is no doubt that this was in opposition to Marcion’s Paul. Marcion taught release from the God of the Torah, and from the Creator God of this (fleshly) world.
  • Acts 21:18-28, Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem — tells us there are multitudes of Christians there who are all zealous for the law (an impossible concept for Marcion); and that the accusations that Paul taught Jews to forsake the laws and customs are false, as evidenced by his compliance with the advice of James. The message to readers familiar with Marcionite teaching is that Marcion’s claims about Paul are false.
  • Compare also Acts 18:18 — cutting his hair because of a vow would have suggested a Jewish practice opposed to Marcionite teaching
  • And Acts 20:16 — Paul eager to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Again in opposition to Marcion’s Paul.

Tyson concludes his discussion of the characterization of Paul:

The characterization of Paul in Acts is internally consistent. He is a loyal Jew, obedient to Torah and faithful to Jewish practices. His message is that Jesus fulfills the words of the Hebrew prophets: he is the Messiah of Israel. Paul does not act unilater­ally but only in harmony with Peter and the Jerusalem apostle. It is they who establish the authentic Christian tradition, and Paul neither adds to it nor subtracts from it. The characterization of Paul is also consistent with the major themes that the author used in writing Acts, among them: the order of the community; the internal harmony of the community; the community’s inclusion of Gentiles; Jewish rejection of the Christian message; and the community’s fidelity to Jewish traditions and prac­tices. The author of Acts has made use of these characterizations and themes to pro­duce an engaging narrative that responds, almost point by point, to the Marcionite challenge. Readers of Acts learn that the God of Jesus is the God of the Jews, that Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish expectations as announced by the Hebrew prophets, and that the early Christian leaders continued to observe Torah and Jewish practices. (pp 75-76)

In other words, Tyson’s argument is that the question of reconciling the Paul of the letters with the Paul of Acts is the wrong question to ask. The problems that arise in attempting to answer it are the inevitable result. Acts is not addressing the letters of Paul per se, but addressing the Marcionite challenge and the use the Marcionites made of Paul’s letters. This hypothesis leads to a much tidier explanation of the way Paul is portrayed in Acts.


continued at this post


2008/02/01

Luke’s Marcionite source for Paul’s Jerusalem and trial experiences?

Filed under: Luke-Acts,Marcion,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 7:27 am

In Literary Patterns, Theological Themes, and the Genre of Luke-Acts (1974) Charles Talbert compiled lists totalling about 40 literary and narrative resonances between the Gospel of Luke and Acts. (He called them parallels back in 1974 but that word has since acquired for many a bad name — sometimes justifiably, but other times less so.)

From his comparisons of some of these he concluded that Luke had generally made changes sometimes to the gospel narrative he knew and sometimes to his narrative of Paul to make the two form a set of parallels to each other.

This explained, for example, why Luke’s narrative of Jesus included a hearing before Herod, thus giving him a total of 4 separate hearings (Sanhedrin – 22:26, Pilate – 23:1, Herod – 23:8, Pilate – 23:13) unlike the narratives found in the other gospels. Talbert indicates that Luke edited Mark’s gospel to write a narrative of Jesus’ Passion that conformed to events in Paul’s life. Compare Paul’s 4 trials: Sanhedrin – ch.23; Felix – ch.24; Festus – ch.25; Herod Agrippa – ch.26). But this is based not simply on the matching fourfold hearings. Within these Talbert points to distinctively Lucan additions to Mark’s narrative also being found in similar positions in Acts: the threefold declarations of innocence of the one on trial; the directly positive claim Jesus can be released; the crowds shouting “Away with this man”; the centurion proclaiming the one charged as “innocent”; et al.

Another example is Luke’s adding to Mark’s description of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem a description of the way the crowds praised God for all the mighty works they had seen done through Jesus (Luke 19:37 – cf. Mark 11:1-10). Talbert notes how this corresponds with the reception Paul received when he also entered Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-20a).

Another change in Luke’s gospel is his removal of Mark’s reference to Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree. In Mark’s gospel, the fig tree episode strongly suggests Jesus’ rejection of and pronunciation of doom on the Temple. Luke deletes this, and gives readers a Jesus who stays entrenched in the Temple, preaching daily from it. (19:45-48). Talbert compares this with Paul’s favourable attitude toward the Temple. (e.g. Acts 21:26)

I would add here that this wish to have a less judgmental Jesus, one favourably disposed to the Temple in his efforts to save, not condemn, the Jews, may also have something to do with Luke’s changes to the Little Apocalypse. In place of Mark’s condemnation of a Temple being stained by the presence of an abomination he envisions “only” a city besieged by armies.

There are other points Talbert lists but this is enough to get the main idea of the case he argues.

But what if we relook at Talbert’s discussion of the strands linking the events in Paul’s life with those in Jesus’ last days in the light of recent studies on Luke and Acts that I have been summing up in bits and pieces in blog posts here?

Klinghardt has recently raised the possibility that canonical Luke’s gospel used Marcion’s gospel as one of its sources. See Marcion Enters the Synoptic Problem and subsequent follow up posts. Tyson argues that canonical Luke likewise was a reworking of Marcion’s gospel. See the Tyson and Marcion archives. Pervo also argues that Luke was a late document.

Given the possibilities raised by Kinghardt and Tyson in particular, one is justified in rethinking the sources Luke used for his last chapters of Acts.

The possibility is opened that Luke was modeling his Paul’s entry into Jerusalem and subsequent four-fold trial sequence on the life of Jesus as found in Marcion’s gospel.

In fact, given the absence of any other known source for Luke’s narrative here, this must be seen the most economical and plausible solution to the question of Luke’s sources for this phase of Paul’s career.

2008/01/28

Dating the Book of Acts: Marcionite Context 2 — and beyond

Continued from Dating Acts: Marcionite context . . . (see also Tyson and Marcion archives)

After attempting a form of controlled analysis for determining the main themes and their supporting literary patterns in Acts, and arguing that the results are best explained as a response to the Marcionite challenge, Tyson examines the characterizations of Peter and Paul in Acts to see if they also are best explained the same way.

Tyson leaves what I think is a major gap in his discussion of how the author presented Peter in Acts but I’ll leave that discussion till after outlining Tyson’s argument.

Characterization of Peter

There is no subtlety in how the author of Acts portrays this leading apostle. We all know Peter is the leader — (Tyson specifies that he is depicted as the leader of the church at Jerusalem), miracle-worker, bold and convincing speaker before rulers and converting crowds of thousands (2:41), taking the initiative in reconstituting the Twelve in the wake of the demise of Judas, interpreter of divinely sent visions (10:28 ) and miracles (2:14-16). Sinners drop dead (5:1-11) or beg for mercy (8:20-24) at his word and his mere shadow heals the cripples (5:20). Not even prison chains and guards can hold him (12:8-10).

But Tyson asks, if the author knew the epistles of Paul, why did he portray Peter this way? In Galatians Paul portrays a Peter who is unstable, very much “unleaderlike” — I would add, as much more akin to the Peter of the synoptic gospels. There Jesus had to regularly correct him; in Galatians Paul assumes that role.

Tyson asks if it is possible the author of Acts derived his alternative image of Peter from 1 Clement, thought to be written near the end of the first century. (Tyson, of course, is arguing for a second century date for canonical Luke-Acts.) That document elevates both Paul and Peter to leadership status, and speaks of Peter’s sufferings. But there is no indication of his relationship to the Jerusalem church or of his role as a prominent preacher and witness there.

Tyson believes that the best explanation for the way Peter is drawn in Acts is the Marcionite context. Marcion relied exclusively on the letters of Paul, and declared the other apostles, including Peter, to be false apostles. Paul seems to be referring to the Jerusalem apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 when he criticizes those known as “super apostles”, whom he calls “false apostles”, implying they were preaching a “different gospel” (cf Gal.1:6-7).

Tyson argues that a Marcionite challenge would have provided the perfect foil for the way the author of Acts accounted for Peter.

He was answering the charge that Peter

  • was an unreliable and false apostle
  • was not a dependable witness to the faith — nor even the resurrection (Marcion’s gospel apparently disputed Peter’s witness of this)

and, it should be added, also answering the charge that Jerusalem was the birth place and base of this false witness and gospel.

A question — the limits of the anti-Marcion hypothesis?

While I like the idea of canonical Luke-Acts being a response to Marcionism, I cannot avoid a problem when it comes to Tyson’s discussion of Peter in support of this. If Acts was composed so late, then surely the author knew of the gospel of Matthew. And if, as Tyson’s argument goes, the same author heavily redacted Luke to become a companion volume to Acts, then why would he have omitted any reference in his gospel to Jesus’ promise to give the keys of heaven to Peter and use him as a foundation stone for his church (Matt.16:18)?

This passage in Matthew would surely have served as the most direct challenge conceivable to Marcionism.

If Matthew was written as a response to the “Paulinism” many see in Mark (compare Matthew’s heavy emphasis on obedience to a law more binding than that of Moses in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 23, etc.) one might easily see Matthew’s depiction of Peter’s confession as a direct rebuff to the name and authority of Paul.

If the author of Acts intended to show that Paul stood subordinate to the Twelve then surely this claim about the leader of the Twelve would have found a prominent place in the debate.

The broader catholicizing agenda of Acts — embracing James, and group work, too?

To me the best explanation is that while Marcionism might have been a/the prime challenge that its author was addressing, it was not the only one. Marcionites looked to Paul as The (Sole) Apostle. But there were others who looked to James. Indeed, Paul’s letter to the Galatians appears to acknowledge James as the leader of the Jerusalem community by naming him first among the pillars there.

The Gospel of Thomas informs believers that James is the primary focal point of the church on earth. It was even believed among some Christian quarters that God willed the destruction of Jerusalem because of the martyrdom of James. And James was undeniably a representative of a form of Jewish Christianity.

The author of Acts obviously had no problem with allowing James to assume the leadership of the Jerusalem church. Presumably this was because James represented the same Jewish flavoured Christianity as Peter also represented and that stood in opposition to Marcionism .

But there was more than the inclusion of those Christians who looked to James at work here.

Peter does not wield Matthew’s keys to the kingdom of heaven willy nilly — or ever at all, really, in Acts.

  • In the appointment of Matthias to fill the twelfth position Peter may initiate the action, but the action is carried out by the collective as they roll the dice while praying to God. Matthias is not added by Peter, but by God, through the acceptance of “the Twelve”.
  • Peter’s first dramatic miracles are performed in partnership with John (3:1, 12).
  • Similarly in the appointment of the Seven. Peter is not seen there. It is the Twelve who summon the community and give directions for how they were to appoint the new leaders.
  • Philip and others are used to first push the ethnic boundaries of the church by evangelizing among the Samaritans and to an Ethiopian.
  • And in the conversion of the Centurion, Peter is confused at first, not knowing what the vision he has just seen means. He has to explain both to the centurion’s household that he is letting God decide how things turn out and what they mean.
  • And after that moment, he is summoned to give an account of his actions to those “of the circumcision”, presumably among both the apostles and brethren (Acts 11:1-3).

Peter is a leader — even THE leader in the early chapters of Acts. But he is not the sole leader of the Jerusalem community. The author of Acts is stressing the significance of not only Peter, but of the authority of the Twelve with Peter, and even of James eventually.

Justin Martyr is witness, in Trypho, that at the time of Marcion, other well entrenched traditions throughout the Christian “philosophy” included the belief that its beginnings could be traced to The Twelve at Jerusalem, and that among those Christians were those who followed Jewish customs, and that these were to be accepted as brethren, too.

Canonical Luke-Acts comfortably fits in such an environment.

Matthew 16:18 could well have been a response too much in the faces of those the author of canonical Luke-Acts wanted to embrace. It could serve well in a power conflict between West and East. But it risked supplanting the idea of the Twelve as an authoritative foundation from Jerusalem. Note that Matthew even concluded his gospel with some of the Twelve (or Eleven) doubting the resurrection.

To continue with the characterization of Paul . . . .

2008/01/25

Marcion – Synoptic Problem (4): birth narratives

Filed under: Gospel of Matthew,Luke-Acts,Marcion,New Testament,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 8:27 am
Tags: ,

Continuing from Marcion and the Synoptic Problem (3)

The argument for Q rests on the understanding that Luke did not know the gospel of Matthew. One of the reasons for this view is Luke’s “otherwise inexplicable” failure to draw on some of the most memorable of material unique to Matthew, such as Joseph planning to divorce Mary until the angel came to him in a dream, the story of the Magi following the star to visit Jesus at his birth, Herod’s massacre of the innocents and Jesus’ and his parents’ flight to Egypt.

Kloppenborg argues that much of the material special to Matthew, such as the focus on the gentile theme (e.g. the Magi) was begging for Luke to pick up had he known it. Others have responded that Luke was reserving the gentile mission of the time after Jesus (e.g. Luke edited Matthew’s story of the healing of the Roman centurion’s servant so that Jesus never made direct contact with the gentile (cf. Matt 8 and Luke 7). Goodacre adds that Luke had a dim view of the Magi class (cf. Acts 8).

I would add that we know from the book of Acts that for “Luke” the Jerusalem Temple was a central pillar in his narrative (see my earlier post looking at Tyson’s methodical analysis of Luke’s themes in Acts), and other posts I have put out recently look at reasons for seeing this as an anti-Marcionite motif (see my Tyson and Marcion archives). But I’m following Tyson here, in assuming our canonical Luke is a redaction of the earlier “Luke” that Marcion knew. If so, then we can understand Luke intended from the start to link Jesus with the Temple — right from his very birth and entrance into the world. Hence his dedication at the Temple at the time of his circumcision, and his follow-up as a boy a few years later.

Embedding Jesus in the Temple motif from the first made Matthew’s nativity story impossible. Matthew’s required Jerusalem to be the centre of the evil Herod who caused the exile of Jesus into Egypt. There was no room in the logic of Matthew’s narrative for Herod, the massacre of the infants, nor even the Magi. The Magi were in fact the narrative means by which Herod caused the exile of Jesus from the Temple area altogether. If Luke brought them into his narrative at all it would have been clear that his audience would be unable to free themselves of their Matthean role and make a mockery of any alternative theological spin Luke was trying to introduce. Best he replace these wealthy eastern aristocrats with a completely new vision of lowly local shepherds being visited not by an astrological sign but by an angelic choir. It was important for Luke to keep Jesus in the area so the Jewish Temple tradition could be shown to be integral to the coming of Jesus. To have him exiled from the area altogether by the king of Jerusalem would surely only play into the hands of those (such as Marcionites) who argued Jesus came quite apart from any special Jewish heritage of promise.

But it has also been pointed out (Farrer, Goulder, Goodacre) that points of contact between Luke’s and Matthew’s nativities do suggest some form of dependence despite the differences.

  • The idea of a nativity introduction to the gospel was not something an author took for granted as a natural enough place to start. Neither Mark nor John, nor Marcion, saw this as a fit beginning. So the question whether Luke picked up the idea from Matthew presents itself. And if so, one would presume some inkling of the nature of Matthew’s account.
  • Both speak of a virginal conception by the holy spirit
  • Both have the birth take place at Bethlehem
  • Both hit on the name of Joseph for Jesus’ father
  • Both share the same Greek words for “will give birth to a son and you (singular) shall call him Jesus.” (Matt. 1:21 and Luke 1:31). Matthew’s use of this sentence is addressed to Joseph, who as father does name his son Jesus. Luke uses it — inappropriately in the same singular form — as an address to Mary who will not be solely responsible for naming her son (compare Luke 1:13).

Klinghardt suggests that Luke did know Matthew, but chose to follow and modify Marcion’s gospel rather than Matthew’s at this point. I doubt that argument will satisfy those who argue for Q since clearly, given Marcion’s lack of a nativity scene, it is hard to imagine Luke’s mind not turning to Matthew’s. But I have given my reasons above for believing an anti-Marcionite redactor (Luke) would see Matthew’s story playing right into the hands of Marcionites.

But Klinghardt strengthens his case that Luke knew Matthew by elaborating on the logic of the Bethlehem setting in the two gospels. The Bethlehem setting makes perfect sense in Matthew’s gospel, especially since to Matthew it was the inevitable sign and proof of Jesus’ Davidic kingship. Although Matthew knows from Mark of Jesus’ association with Nazareth, he begins the gospel with Jesus’ parents living in Bethlehem. They are forced to flee and when it comes time to return the political situation is such that it is safest for them to settle in Nazareth. This all has a cogent narrative flow. Klinghardt sees Luke as being more “universalist” in his concept of Jesus (cf Luke 2:1-2; 3:1a), hence his downplaying of Matthew’s significance for Bethlehem.

K does not elaborate, but Luke’s forced and unnatural embrace of the Bethlehem scene might also be seen as evidence of Luke’s dependence on Matthew. Luke, attempting to adapt Matthew’s Bethlehem as the place of birth of Jesus to his more universalist theme, feels obliged to concoct a silly story of everyone being required by imperial edict to return to their places of birth for a special tax registration. Not to mention the necessary anachronism of his Quirinius timing, too. It is not hard to see that Luke is struggling to incorporate Matthew’s Bethlehem setting into his own tendentious narrative.

But back to Klinghardt’s point:

But, again, Goodacre’s explanation why Luke did not take over this material, is as hypothetical as Kloppenborg’s reply why Luke would have liked it, provided he had read Matthew. Both argue e silentio from Luke’s omissions and try to explain something which is not there.

For most of this material the answer might be much simpler: if Luke followed [Marcion], he did not find any of the [special Matthew] material . . . Since Luke did not “omit” it from his source, there is no need for a hypothetical explanation of his reasons for doing it this way: he simply followed the narrative frame of [Marcion]. (p.14)

But Klinghardt himself appears to be aware of the weakness of this argument — there was no Marcionite nativity “narrative frame” for Luke to “simply follow” in the first place. Hence he, too, must side with Goodacre and add his own arguments why Luke did indeed use and change Matthew at this point — to which I have added my own here.

2008/01/23

Marcion and the Synoptic Problem (3)

Filed under: Gospel of Matthew,Luke-Acts,Marcion,New Testament,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 10:17 pm
Tags: ,

Continuing from Marcion enters the synoptic problem and Marcion and the synoptic problem 2. — notes from Klinghardt’s recent article. K often refers to Mark Goodacre’s The Case Against Q.

A question that keeps hanging over my mind as I read and think about Klinghardt’s article is: Just how reliable is Tertullian’s witness of Marcion’s gospel anyway? How can we be sure Tertullian is not really relying more on Luke and recalling what differences he thinks there were from an earlier reading of Marcion’s gospel? Tertullian does concede that his earlier notes went missing, and one is left wondering how much that survives was from his memory and without immediate reference to Marcion’s gospel.

If that was the case, then is not there a risk of Klinghardt’s argument lacking a stable support — in effect being circular?

But the fact that Epiphanius can be called on to support Tertullian’s testimony from time to time does appear to lessen the risk that this is the case.

Some years ago when first studying what we know about Marcion I had an ambition of sifting through Tertullian et al to see if the Marcionite gospel might indeed cross reference to the synoptic gospels and suggest an alternative to Q. I’m thrilled to see that Klinghardt appears to have done something like that here.

I know the whole notion of this discussion will be nonsense to anyone who cannot admit even the possibility of a second century, let alone post Marcion, date for the synoptics. But the more I read around the issues the more I can’t help thinking that such a late date resolves so many other questions, too, which I discuss here from time to time.

Notes from Klinghardt’s article:

Alternating primitivity in the Double Tradition (Mt & Lk) material

Matthew and Luke alone include “the beatitude” sayings of Jesus. Luke writes: Blessed are the poor; Matthew writes: Blessed are the poor in spirit. Luke’s version here is regarded as the original or more primitive version of the two. Matthew’s defining the poor in spiritual terms is regarded as a subsequent evolution of the saying as it appears in Luke. Sometimes, however, it is Luke who will use what is considered the more mature form of a saying and Matthew the more primitive. The most widely accepted explanation for this alternating primitivity in the double tradition material (that shared exclusively by Matthew and Luke) has been the hypothesis that both Matthew and Luke were using another common source, Q.

Klinghardt however writes: “On the assumption of [Marcion] being prior to Luke the observation of alternating primitivity finds a completely different and rather simple solution.” (p.15)

Tertullian informs us that Marcion’s text matches Luke’s (contra Matthew’s) in the following instances:

  1. Blessed are the poor (Luke 6:20b) — Tert. 4.1.41
  2. Blessed are the persecuted on behalf of the Son of Man (Luke 6:22) — Tert. 41.14.14
  3. The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4, contra Matt. 6:9-13) — Tert. 4.26.3-4 (Tert does not quote the Marcionite Lord’s Prayer but K comments that it is clear he does not know of Matthew’s second and seventh prayer requests in Marcion’s version. Some manuscript evidence also points to the possibility that Luke’s original Lord’s prayer called on the spirit in place of the kingdom and was later changed to “kingdom” — which would also be more consistent with a Marcionite theology.)
  4. Exorcism is performed by the finger of God (Luke 11:20, contra Matt. 12:28 ) — Tert. 4.26.11

Luke’s “re-ordering” of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount

Matthew’s multi-page Sermon on the Mount is not repeated as a solitary block in Luke. Rather, Luke does use a number of the sayings from that sermon but in small snatches scattered throughout the narrative. To those who support Luke’s knowledge of and borrowing from Matthew, this is evidence of Luke’s greater narrative skill; to most, however, it is inconceivable that any author would have broken up a such a “masterpiece” had he known it.

Tertullian in particular informs us that Marcion’s gospel contained the bulk of the broken up “sermon” sayings of Matthew in the same narrative order as found in Luke. In other words, given Macionite priority it appears most likely that Luke followed Marcion’s text rather than another otherwise unattested document, Q.

Klinghardt provides the following table:

  1. Matt. 5:13 // Luke 14:34-35 (parable of salt): —
  2. Matt. 5:15 // Luke 11:33 (parable of light): Tert. 4.27.1
  3. Matt. 5:18 // Luke 16:17 (imperishability of the law): Tert. 4.33.9
  4. Matt. 5:25 // Luke 12:57-59 (reconciling with enemy): Tert. 4.29.15
  5. Matt. 5:32 // Luke 16:18 (divorce and remarriage): Tert. 4.34.1, 4
  6. Matt. 6:9-13 // Luke 11:2-4 (Lord’s Prayer): Tert. 4.26.3-5
  7. Matt. 6:19-21 // Luke 12: 33-34 (on collecting treasures): —
  8. Matt. 6:22-23 // Luke 11:34-36 (parable of the eye): —
  9. Matt. 6:24 // Luke 16:13 (serving 2 masters): Tert. 4.33.1-2; Adam., Dial. 1.26
  10. Matt. 6:25-34 // Luke 12:22-31 (on anxiety): Tert. 4.29.1-5
  11. Matt. 7:7-11 // Luke 11:9-13 (answered prayer): Tert. 4.26.5-10; Epiph. 42.11.6
  12. Matt. 7:13-14 // Luke 13:23-24 (narrow gate): —
  13. Matt. 7:22-23 // Luke 13:26-27 (warning against self-deception): Tert. 4.30.4

On the Minor Agreements in the Triple Tradition (Mt, Mk, Lk) material

These are so, well, “minor” that there is no way to test many of them against Marcion’s gospel without that gospel’s actual text. In some of the minor agreements between Luke and Matthew against Mark there is no Marcionite attestation and it seems logical to think Luke has copied Matthew in such cases.

But a few points are worth noting in relation to the possibility of Marcionite influence:

– the sabbath was not made for man . . .
Both Luke 9:5 and Matthew 12:7-8 omit Mark 2:27 (the sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath). There is no attestation that this and other “omission agreements” were in Marcion’s text.

Who hit you?
A more significant and testable agreement is in the depiction of Christ’s beating. Matthew and Luke both add the “Tell us who hit you” taunt to Mark’s account. (cf. Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64; Matt. 26:68 )

This agreement is prima facie evidence that Luke did know and use Matthew. Arguments against this have centred on postulating faulty manuscript transmission or that Luke sometimes occasionally used Matthew as well as Q. The former sounds ad hoc and the latter contradicts the very premise for the Q hypothesis (that Matthean material is not found in Luke.)

But Epiphanius (Panar. 42.11.6) informs us that these words were in Marcion’s gospel. The simplest explanation therefore, given Marcion priority, would be that both Luke and Matthew copied Marcion’s text here.

standing outside (minus the sisters)
Mark 3:31-5 narrates Jesus’ family, including his sisters, are waiting for him outside a house. Luke 8:20 and Matthew 12:47 narrate the same incident from Mark, but without mentioning the sisters and with both describing the family as “standing” outside.

Tertullian read the same (Lukan and Matthean) words in Marcion’s text. 4.19.7

the mustard seed
Mark’s parable of the mustard seed (4:30-32) is told in the passive voice and without naming the subject (sower). Both Matthew and Luke use the active voice and do name the subject (sower). Matthew, however, speaks of a garden, Luke of a field.
Tertullian tells us, 4.30.1, that Marcion had the same version we find in Matthew and Luke. Tertullian also read Luke’s “field” in the Macionite text.

after three days
In Mark 8:31 we read the resurrection was to be “after three days”. In Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22 we read it was to be “on the third day”.

Marcion also used “on the third day” — Tertullian 4.21.7

The nativity stories

Klinghardt discusses these as well. But my note-taking time is up for now so that’s another post.

Marcion and the Synoptic Problem (2)

Filed under: Luke-Acts,Marcion,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 8:35 am
Tags: ,

Continuing from previous post on Klinghardt’s recent article:

(this post will read like nonsense if we assume Marcion’s gospel was mutilation of Luke’s as asserted by Tertullian, but that assumption is addressed in other posts in my Marcion archive, including in part the previous post on Klinghardt’s article)

Marcion and the Matthean additions to the Triple Tradition not found in Luke

If Luke is dependent on Matthew (without Q) one must explain why Luke omitted

Kloppenborg rightly says that some of these would have fit well Luke’s editorial purposes.

Klinghardt notes the negative framing of this objection, resting at it does on the assumption of Q, which is also a constructed from another negative set of arguments – and argues that the inclusion of Marcion’s gospel into the equation “allows for a positive and convincing argument”.

Is there support for the hypothesis that Luke followed Marcion’s gospel in the places where we find the above Matthean additions to Mark missing? Klinghardt writes: “All but one of these examples are reported to be part of Mcn [Marcion’s gospel], which allows for a positive check:”

Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees (Matt. 12.5-7)

Matthew’s material is missing from Luke, but Luke’s version is said to be found in Marcion’s text.

Tertullian (AM 4.12.5, 4.12.9-10) tells us that parts of our Luke 6:4 and Luke 6:6-7 are in Marcion’s text.

Epiphanius (Panar. 42.11.6) also read our Luke 6:3-4 in Marcion.

The full quotation of Isaiah 6:9-10 (Matt. 13.14-17)

Tertullian’s quotes from Marcion’s equivalent of Luke 8:2-4, 8 (4.19.1-2) and 8:16-17, 18 (4.19.3-4, 5) are enough for us to reasonably infer that Marcion also quoted Isaiah as it appears in our Luke.

Peter walking on water (Matt. 14.28-31)

This scene of Matthew’s belongs to that non-section of Luke known as the Great Omission — where Luke omits all material from Mark 6:45-8:26. This same section was also “omitted” from Marcion’s gospel. But more pertinently for Klinghardt’s case, the Lukan verses “bracketing” this Great Omission, Luke 9:17 and 9:18, also appear in succession in Marcion’s gospel:

Tertullian, 4.21.4, 6

Thus K concludes that Luke followed Marcion’s text here.

Peter’s confession and beatitude (Matt. 16.16-19)

Luke skips Matthew’s narrative with his briefer outline in Luke 9:20 and 9:21.

Again Tertullian tells us that Marcion also contained these two verses together. (4.21.6)

Tertullian says that in Marcion’s gospel Peter merely said, “You are Christ” (also Adamantius, Dial. 2.13: the Christ). Luke 9:20 says “Christ of God”, which is much closer to Marcion’s form than Matthew’s “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

The exception clause for divorce (Matt. 19:9b)

Tertullian needs this exception clause to make his argument but cannot find it in neither Marcion nor Luke (16:18), and must resort to Matthew for it. Tertullian gives special attention to this section of Marcion (4.33.7, 9; 4.34.1-2) and complains that Marcion did not hand down the truth of this doctrine.

Love command in reply to rich young man (Matt. 19. 19b)

The episode of Jesus’ exchange is one of the best attested texts in Marcion’s gospel since it contains Jesus’ explicit statement about God the father. Adamantius (Dial. 2:17) quotes Jesus’ answer in Marcion extensively. Marcion, like Luke, has only the list of commandments that must be obeyed. Only Matthew adds the love command.

Pilate’s wife’s dream and washing hands (Matt. 27.19, 24)

There is no information that Marcion included these scenes.

John’s objection to Jesus (Matt 3.15)

Marcion’s gospel began at our Luke 3:1a and continued with our Luke 4:31-37, 16-30.

Marcion therefore did not include a baptism scene at all. Luke therefore copied Matthew here. But Matthew’s interpretation of fulfilling all righteousness in the act was far from Luke’s theological bent, so this passage would have been omitted. (Klinghardt, p.13)

K’s conclusion:

No need for Q to explain these Lukan omissions. They create no problem if Luke was following Marcion.

Hope to cover K’s treatment of the special Matthew material etc in future post . . . .

2008/01/22

Marcion enters the Synoptic Problem

Filed under: Luke-Acts,Marcion,New Testament,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 10:00 pm
Tags: ,

Matthias Klinghardt in a recent article, The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion, attempts to break through the deadlock between the Two-Source-Hypothesis and the Farrer-Goodacre-Theory by introducing into the debate a Gospel of Marcion that predates the gospels of Matthew and Luke. “The resulting model avoids the weaknesses of the previous theories and provides compelling and obvious solutions to the notoriously difficult problems.” (Klinghardt, p.1)

Here I share Klinghardt’s opening general arguments justifying the plausibility that Marcion’s gospel preceded canonical Luke.

1. “If Marcion altered Luke for theological reasons, he must have done so very poorly.” (p.7)

Tertullian scoffed at what he claimed was Marcion’s ineptitude for retaining in his “edited” gospel passages that refuted Marcion’s own teachings.

Now Marcion was unwilling to expunge from his Gospel some statements which even made against him–I suspect, on purpose, to have it in his power from the passages which he did not suppress, when he could have done so, either to deny that he had expunged anything, or else to justify his suppressions, if he made any. (Tert. AM 4.43.9)

Tertullian is not alone in quoting from Marcion’s text in order to refute him (also Epiphanius and Irenaeus). As a consequence we can to some extent make a reasonable attempt to construct the gist of Marcion’s gospel. (See )

Tertullian concluded that Marcion had failed to edit out so much material from his gospel that his gospel indeed supported his own anti-Marcionite teachings:

Marcion, I pity you; your labour has been in vain. For the Jesus Christ who appears in your Gospel is mine. (Tert. AM 4.43.9)

2. Tertullian accused Marcion edited canonical Luke, not pre-canonical Luke

Marcion claimed to have arrived at “his gospel” by studiously editing a corrupted original Pauline gospel. Tertullian, however, went on to claim that Marcion accused the catholics of corrupting “his gospel” in order to fit it in to the context of the Jewish Bible:

For if the Gospel, said to be Luke’s which is current amongst us (we shall see whether it be also current with Marcion), is the very one which, as Marcion argues in his Antitheses, was interpolated by the defenders of Judaism, for the purpose of such a conglomeration with it of the law and the prophets . . . . (Tert. AM 4.4.4)

Marcion is not here addressing Marcion’s assumed restoration of the original gospel but the editorial corruption of “his gospel” into the canon of the Old and New Testaments.

For it is certain that the whole aim at which he has strenuously laboured even in the drawing up of his Antitheses, centres in this, that he may establish a diversity between the Old and the New Testaments . . . . (Tert. AM 4.6.1)

Marcionites had claimed to be originally working from a Pauline gospel that needed editing, but that their gospel had then been taken over by their opponents and, with editorial additions, incorporated into the catholic canon.

In other words, Tertullian appears to be tacitly accepting (without wanting to agree with) Marcion’s charge that the catholics were indeed editing the “purified” Marcion gospel.

3. Was Marcion the unique exception in the way he edited texts?

“There is not a single example of a contemporary re-edition of an older text that did not support its editorial concept by including additional material. The supporters of the traditional view [that Marcion’s editing consisted only of deleting passages] have duly with great surprise noted the uniqueness of Marcion’s assumed redactoin but did not take this hint seriously enough to rethink their presuppositions.” (Klinghardt, p.9)

There is no evidence that Marcion at any time extended any passage or inserted any substantial additions to his gospel.

“With respect to what we know about editing older texts within the New Testament and its literary environment this procedure would be unique.” (Klinghardt, pp.8-9)

4. Significance of the anonymous prologue

If Marcion knew and edited canonical Luke, then it is reasonable to expect he knew other canonical gospels as well, and especially the Book of Acts.

So either

Marcion knew Luke-Acts but deleted the prologues and separated Acts from Luke, and rejected Acts completely. — This assumes that Luke-Acts was part of some early form of canon that preceded the Marcionite canon (unlikely in light of Harnack and Campenhausen),

Or

Marcion knew Luke-Acts as a 2 volume work but not as part of the New Testament, and chose only the gospel. — But this is unlikely since Luke and Acts are never found together in any of the manuscripts

The unity of Luke and Acts is thus indicated solely by the prologues which do not contain the author’s name,

“although this would be a nearly necessary genre requirement, at least for the first volume, in particular with respect to the pronounced historiographical “I” of Luke 1:1-4.” (Footnote to L. Alexander, SNTS.MS 78; 1993)

Thus for readers of an isolated 2 volume work Luke-Acts the identity of the author would remain a mystery.

Readers of the canonical edition would recognize Luke as the author of both because of the superscription of Luke (“Gospel According to Luke”) and — only if the prologue provided the link — Acts.

The assumption of Marcion priority offers an easy solution to the question: Marcionites were correct in their claim that their gospel had been incorporated into the catholic canon of Old and New Testaments by the interpolation of the superscription, with other editorial additions, and a feigned Luke-Acts unity.

5. The demonstrated editorial process

The differences between the texts of Marcion’s and Luke’s gospels are in many instances best explained as editorial additions by Luke rather than as abridgments by Marcion.

The most obvious cases are Luke’s re-editing and adding to the beginning of Marcion’s gospel (at Luke 3:1a), and the change of sequence of 4:31-37 and 4:16-30.

Most of Luke’s changes “add up to an integral and consistent concept”.

“The editorial concept that could not be detected in Marcion’s assumed editorial changes is apparent in Luke, thus confirming the view of Marcion being prior to Luke.” (p.10)

The bulk of Klinghardt’s article follows. This consists of a lengthy testing of the above leads with examinations of the Matthearn additions to the Triple Tradition not found in Luke; the special Matthew material not found in Luke; the alternating primitivity in double tradition material; Luke’s presumed reordering of Matthean material; the Minor agreements between Matthew and Luke within the triple tradition material. Kinghardt’s article concludes with a discussion of a new model to address the Synoptic Problem.

Luke — his first appearance as author and companion of Paul

Filed under: Hoffmann: Marcion,Luke-Acts,Marcion,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 7:12 am

The gospels and book of Acts do not contain the names of their authors.

The first evidence we have that Luke, a companion of Paul, was the author of the canonical gospel and Acts is found in Irenaeus, AH 14.4.1:

But that this Luke was inseparable from Paul, and his fellow-labourer in the Gospel, he himself clearly evinces, not as a matter of boasting, but as bound to do so by the truth itself. For he says that when Barnabas, and John who was called Mark, had parted company from Paul, and sailed to Cyprus, “we came to Troas;” (Acts 16:8ff) and when Paul had beheld in a dream a man of Macedonia, saying, “Come into Macedonia, Paul, and help us,” “immediately,” he says, “we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, understanding that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel unto them. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we directed our ship’s course towards Samothracia.” And then he carefully indicates all the rest of their journey as far as Philippi, and how they delivered their first address: “for, sitting down,” he says, “we spake unto the women who had assembled;” (Acts 16:13) and certain believed, even a great many. And again does he say, “But we sailed from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came to Troas, where we abode seven days.” (Acts 20:5,6) And all the remaining [details] of his course with Paul he recounts, indicating with all diligence both places, and cities, and number of days, until they went up to Jerusalem; and what befell Paul there (Acts 21), how he was sent to Rome in bonds; the name of the centurion who took him in charge (Acts 27); and the signs of the ships, and how they made shipwreck (Acts 28:11); and the island upon which they escaped, and how they received kindness there, Paul healing the chief man of that island; and how they sailed from thence to Puteoli, and from that arrived at Rome; and for what period they sojourned at Rome. As Luke was present at all these occurrences, he carefully noted them down in writing, so that he cannot be convicted of falsehood or boastfulness, because all these [particulars] proved both that he was senior to all those who now teach otherwise, and that he was not ignorant of the truth. That he was not merely a follower, but also a fellow-labourer of the apostles, but especially of Paul, Paul has himself declared also in the Epistles, saying: “Demas hath forsaken me, … and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.(2 Tim. 4:10, 11) From this he shows that he was always attached to and inseparable from him. And again he says, in the Epistle to the Colossians: “Luke, the beloved physician, greets you.” (Col. 4:14)

But surely if Luke, who always preached in company with Paul, and is called by him “the beloved,” and with him performed the work of an evangelist, and was entrusted to hand down to us a Gospel, learned nothing different from him (Paul), as has been pointed out from his words, how can these men, who were never attached to Paul, boast that they have learned hidden and unspeakable mysteries?

Before Irenaeus (around 180 c.e.) there is no record of Luke outside the Pastoral epistles, Colossians and Philemon. In Colossians 4.14 and Philemon 24 there is no hint that Luke is a scribe or holds any unusually close place to Paul. The reference in 2 Timothy 4:11 is discussed separately here in my notes from Hoffmann.

Justin Martyr as late as 150 c.e. discusses writings that appear to be at least similar to our gospels but he does not know them by any authorial names. He knows only a source he names “Memoirs of the Apostles”, a title that sounds a little like Memoirs of Xenophon. (And many details of his “gospel narrative” are either not found in the canonical gospels or are even at odds with them. See my Justin archive.)

Apparently some time between Justin and Irenaeus the gospels had acquired the names we use for them today. There is no known evidence to point to any other conclusion.

What is significant about the above passage from Irenaeus is that it relies exclusively on the Pastoral epistles and one passage from Colossians for the source and identity of the name of Luke, and he takes for granted that this is the same person responsible for Luke-Acts.

Irenaeus calls on no traditions or extra canonical sources for his assertions. If any were known to Irenaeus it is, as the old but still challenging argument goes, it is very difficult to imagine why he would have failed to use them.

Marcionites appear to have responded to Irenaeus’s claim by accusing their rivals of falsely attributing Luke’s name to their gospel’s title. We learn this from Tertullian’s sarcasm when he was “refuting” Marcionites for not accepting the claims that their gospel was authored by Luke:

How, then, does that [Marcion’s gospel] agree with ours, which is said not to be (the work) of apostles, but of Luke? Or else, again, if that which Marcion uses is not to be attributed to Luke simply because it does agree with ours (which, of course, is, also adulterated in its title), then it is the work of apostles. AM 4.3.5

That is a little difficult to follow and needs to be read in the context of Tertullian’s larger argument about the apostolic (meaning apostles of the Twelve) of the gospels.

Hoffmann, Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity, argues that the companionship tradition of Luke was an orthodox creation to serve their anti-Marcionite purposes. (Discussed more fully in my earlier post.)

For Marcion the gospel was not something that was received but something revealed, and that to Paul alone. The true gospel was a revelation attributable to none other than Jesus Christ, not to any apostle. The role of the written gospel was not that of a “canonical” document set word for word in stone, but something that could be edited and corrected over time. Marcionism accordingly modified some of its teachings over the generations.

The prologue of “Luke” also emphasizes a very “unMarcionite” concept: what is believed among the faithful is not a revelation of Paul, and to be found in Paul’s writings alone, but something that is transmitted down a chain of “eye-witnesses and ministers” and via the written words of Luke. Luke’s preface claims the gospel has been “received” from the beginning after all. And it is the tradition of reception that must be guarded, not the revelation to Paul.

So the evidence is consistent with the name of Luke making its first appearance as the title of the gospel, as well as in the Pastoral letter claiming to be by Paul — see earlier post, in the context of a war with Marcionism.

2008/01/21

Dating the Book of Acts: the Marcionite Context (1)

This post continues notes from Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle. Previous posts reconsidering the date of the composition of Acts and the Marcionite challenge can be found in my Tyson and Marcion archives.

Tyson begins with Haenchen. (more…)

2008/01/20

The anti-Marcionite character of the Pastoral epistles?

Since Marcion is assumed to be “anti-Jewish” it seems nonsense at first blush to associate his “heresy” with the “Jewish error” in the Pastorals. But in fact what Marcion rejected was the typographical or allegorical reading of the Jewish scriptures. He read them literally and was accused of believing a form of Jewish error. See my previous post on Literal and allegorical scriptures in orthodoxy and heresy. But to start from the beginning . . . .

(more…)

2008/01/13

Marcion’s Gospel, its character and contents

Filed under: Book Reviews & Notes,Luke-Acts,Marcion,Religion,Tyson: Marcion & Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 11:10 pm
Tags:

Continuing my notes from Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle . . . .

Tertullian’s entire fourth book attacking Marcion is a comparison of Marcion’s gospel with canonical Luke.

Marcion’s opponents never accused Marcion of adding to the Gospel of Luke, but only of omitting sections and changing the wording in places.

Knox compared the pericopes that Harnack believed were found, or possibly found, in common in Marcion’s gospel and canonical Luke and concluded there was a 60 to 75 percent overlap between the two. The wording within the common pericopes may well have varied, sometimes significantly, however.

Harnack‘s reconstruction (not included in the English translation of his book) is the most frequently cited for Marcion’s gospel. The most obvious differences from canonical Luke:

  • Luke 1-2 (birth narrative) has no counterpart in Marcion’s gospel,
  • Luke 3:1a is the beginning of Marcion’s gospel but there is very little from Luke 3:1-4:15 in Marcion,
  • The parable of the prodigal son is not found in Marcion
  • Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is missing from Marcion
  • Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem is not in Marcion’s gospel
  • Nor is the cleansing of the temple scene in Marcion

These, especially the opening omissions, make a significant difference to how the gospel of Marcion would have been read compared with the gospel of Luke.

Tyson discusses the criticism by David S. Williams of Harnack’s reconstruction, but concludes that his points affect the confidence we can have in the specific wording of Marcion’s gospel as opposed to its general content.

Tyson argues that

  • Marcion’s gospel resembled the canonical gospels, hence contained discourse and narrative:
    • — since its opponents were convinced it was indeed “a gospel”
    • — and since its opponents said to resembled Luke

Tyson further argues that the differences between Luke’s and Marcion’s gospels that offended Marcion’s critics consisted of the wording found within common pericopes. When asked by the young man what must be done to have eternal life Marcion’s Jesus does not respond, as per Luke, “Don’t call me good. One is good, God”, but says, “One is good, God, the Father” — thus pointing to the God above the Creator God; and instead of Christ saying “You know the commandments”, Marcion has him say, “I know the commandments”. So we can think of a scene in common between Marcion’s and the canonical gospel, but with different wordings and messages.

Tyson’s impression of the contents of Marcion’s gospel

“Impression” is the best that can be done. We can’t know the finer details. Much of this is what Marcion’s gospel was “not”. The “nots” are of course as important as the “is’s” in order to appreciate its broader place in the history of early church literature, doctrines and practices. Tyson does not claim his description is the last word, and admits to many problem areas, but does present it as a plausible reading based on the studies of previous “specialists” and what we know of Marcion’s teachings.

  • no predictions of Jesus or John,
  • no reference to their parents, or relationship with John,
  • no birth or infancy narratives
  • no circumcision or presentation at the Temple,
  • and nothing of Jesus appearing in the Temple at 12 years
  • No account of the preaching of John the Baptist,
  • nor John’s imprisonment,
  • and no mention of Jesus’ baptism by John,
  • no temptation in the wilderness,
  • no genealogies
  • begins with the time setting — the 15th year of Tiberius (Luke 3:1a) —
  • but jumps immediately to the exorcism of Luke 4:31.

Thus Jesus appears suddenly and without prior notice, “without human connection or local habitation.” Marcion does not associate Jesus in any way with a Christ who was expected by the Jews or the subject of prophecies in scripture. Other examples of Marcion distancing Jesus from the Jewish scriptures:

  • What then was the role of John the Baptist in Marcion’s gospel? John asks Jesus if he is “the coming one”, implying the one expected according to Jewish scriptures. Marcion’s gospel has Jesus reply indirectly — “Whoever is not repelled by me is blessed” — indicating that he is not that Christ. (cf Luke 7:18-23)
  • While Luke 20:41-44 includes a quotation from Psalm 110, this is reference to the Psalms is absent from Marcion’s gospel. The resulting exchange is accordingly a clearer denial that Jesus is not the Son of David Messiah who was the expectation of the Jewish scriptures.
  • In Luke 16:17 Jesus says it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one part of the Law to fail, but in Marcion’s gospel Jesus speaks of “his words” in place of “the Law”.
  • Marcion appears to have seen some, if not permanent, value in the Jewish Torah, however. His gospel’s Jesus tells the healed leper to offer a Mosaic sacrifice as a testimony to him, the leper. (cf Luke 5:14)

Marcion also stressed the distance between Jesus and the original disciples:

  • Jesus does not accept Peter’s confession that he is the Messiah, presumably because his understanding related to Jewish expectations. (cf Luke 9:20)
  • Peter ignorantly wanted to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, thus demonstrating again the misunderstanding that Jesus was closely related to the Law (cf. Luke 9:33)
  • Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, but Tyson notes that “it is curiously unclear whether or not Marcion’s gospel included the story of Peter’s denial that appears in Luke 22:55-62.”

Marcion’s take on the resurrection narrative (Luke 24) — this is the most difficult section of Marcion’s gospel to reconstruct from the sources but Tyson draws on Williams and Harnack to suggest the following:

  • Jesus reminded his witnesses that he had predicted his suffering
  • Jesus rebuked those who had not heeding his words (contrast Luke where Jesus rebukes them for not heeding the words of the prophets of Scripture)
  • Jesus invites witnesses to see his hands and feet

Not included in Marcion’s gospel:

  • No reference to the stone that had been rolled away from the tomb
  • No names are given for the women who first discovered the tomb to be empty
  • No mention of Peter visiting the tomb and then leaving perplexed (the disciples remain blind and do not discover the empty tomb nor believe the women who do)
  • Jesus does not discuss the Hebrew prophets nor claim the prophets foretold him
  • No hint of an ascension

Fragmentary allusions in Marcion’s gospel to the Emmaus road incident also clearly distances Jesus from the Jewish scriptures in Marcion’s gospel:

  • Jesus scolds Cleopas when he expresses disappointment that Jesus had not fulfilled the Jewish Messianic expectations
  • Jesus scolds the two disciples for not believing his words, not the words of the prophets
  • Marcion’s gospel may have included these allusions to Luke’s “Emmaus episode” as part of a single appearance to followers at Jerusalem. Problematic reconstruction here.

The resurrection appearance in Marcion’s gospel is the most problematic:

  • There may have been only one appearance
  • The names of those Jesus appeared to are not given
  • The remaining eleven disciples are mentioned as unbelievers (cf Luke 24:9, 11)
  • There are other unnamed disciples who finally recognize the risen Jesus in what appears to have been a Eucharistic meal of bread and fish
    • (Vridar note: compare Justin Martyr’s account — only one resurrection appearance at which the eucharist was instituted. — The linked page is in need of revision on some significant points but the section on the post-resurrection narrative is still fine.)
  • No appearance to Peter — Peter is not even named in the resurrection narrative. Marcion appears to have excluded him along with the rest of the disciples from a resurrection appearance.
  • No appearances to any of the disciples and they disbelieve the reports that come to them. The apostles are thus left on the outer as disbelieving false apostles.
  • Marcion’s Jesus does say: “Look at my hands and my feet . . . a spirit does not have bones as you see I have”. Tertullian claimed that Marcion interepreted “as you see me having” to refer to “a spirit”, not to “bones”, so that it meant to say that he did not have flesh and bones, but was spirit.
    • (Vridar note: If I recall correctly Gregory Riley in Resurrection Reconsidered argues that this statement of Jesus does not deny what moderns would still call the spirit essence or composition of Jesus. He discusses the various ancient usages of “flesh” when used in relation to both here and now as well as departed persons. Unfortunately I cannot comment off hand on the argument — will have to have another look at the book to refresh my memory re the details.) — Added June 13 2008, See more notes on Riley’s discussion here.

(See also Center for Marcionite Research)

2008/01/12

Did Marcion mutilate the Gospel of Luke?

Filed under: Luke-Acts,Marcion,Religion,Tyson: Marcion & Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 9:48 pm
Tags:

This was the claim of Irenaeus, Tertullian and Epiphanaeus.

Besides this, he mutilates the Gospel which is according to Luke, removing all that is written respecting the generation of the Lord, and setting aside a great deal of the teaching of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as most dearly confessing that the Maker of this universe is His Father. Irenaeus AH 1:27.2

Now, of the authors whom we possess, Marcion seems to have singled out Luke for his mutilating process. Tetullian, AM 4:2

But these claims are questionable when we think about the times in which they were recorded. Irenaeus was writing in the late second century, Tertullian in the early third, and Epiphanaeus much later still. “The ecclesiastical situation for all these writers was very different from that in Marcion’s time.” (Tyson, p.39 — This blog post is mostly derived from Tyson’s book)

Contrast the date of Marcion, especially as revised by Hoffmann to the early part of the second century: — See previous posts beginning with Dating Marcion Early (2). (This revised earlier date for Marcion is based primarily on a rejection of the the ideologically tendentious date assigned by Irenaeus and an assigning greater weight to the contrasting contemporaneous observations of Justin Martyr.)

Irenaeus saw the need for authority to redress the “riotous diversity” that characterized Christianity till his time. That meant an authoritative canon and a clear genealogy of bishops from the apostles to his own day. And that canon of four gospels had to be four because the world — throughout which the church was scattered — had four corners and four winds. (Irenaeus AH 3:11.8)

Tyson refers to Bauer’s conclusion:

Walter Bauer has convincingly shown that the early part of the second century was a time of great diversity in terms of Christian thought and practice. He observed that heterodoxy probably preceded orthodoxy in many locations and that, particularly in the East, Marcionism, or something closely resembling it, was the original form of Christianity. (Tyson, p.39)

Bauer’s work is online. Tyson refers particularly to his discussion from p.194, his chapter 8. To cite one section from Bauer’s chapter 8:

One final point. The reckless speed with which, from the very beginning, the doctrine and ideology of Marcion spread can only be explained if it had found the ground already prepared. Apparently a great number of the baptized, especially in the East, inclined toward this view of Christianity and joined Marcion without hesitation as soon as he appeared, finding in him the classic embodiment of their own belief. What had dwelt in their inner consciousness in a more or less undefined form until then, acquired through Marcion the definite form that satisfied head and heart. No one can call that a falling away from orthodoxy to heresy.

Tyson discusses the implausibility of Marcion, living at a time when there was no gospel canon as called for by Irenaeus, being faced with an authoritative list of 4 gospels, selecting one of those four, excising large chunks from it, and then elevating it to a level above the others, “in full consciousness of having chosen a practice opposed to the worldwide church”. Such a notion is what Irenaeus suggests, but it is anachronistic.

If the scenario of Marcion knowingly mutilating one of the gospels upheld by his peers to be of the sacred four is implausible, what did Marcion do?

If he did select a gospel from among many known to him, then we must think of unstable texts with various editions, certainly not formal or even quasi-canonical collections.

It may be objected that Marcion would naturally select the text written by the companion of Paul, Luke. However, there is no evidence that the gospels were assigned author names until the time of Irenaeus. The first evidence we have that a gospel was authored by Luke, a companion of Paul, is from Irenaeus. (In a future post I hope to discuss Hoffmann’s suggestion for how Luke came to be assigned the authorship of the gospel and Acts.)

Tyson asserts the most likely scenario is that Marcion worked with a gospel that was originally a text known to his locality (the Pontus).

The evidence for local texts at this time is strong, and the use of one gospel in a specific church is manifest. (Tyson, p.40)

Tyson’s footnoted support for this assertion:

B. H. Streeter, “The Four Gospel: A Study of Origins” (1924), 27-50.

Harnack, “Marcion: The Gospel” (1921), 29. Harnack accepted the idea that Marcion did use the Gospel of Luke, but believed that this gospel may have been the only one known in the Pontus region.

Yet clearly there was significant overlap between Marcion’s gospel and the canonical Luke. For this reason the opponents of Marcion, writing from a very different time and context, accused him of mutilating the canonical gospel.

A follow-up post will outline what Marcion’s gospel must have looked like, with an evaluation of Harnack’s reconstruction of Marcion’s text.

2008/01/09

Literal and allegorical Scriptures in Orthodoxy and Heresy

Filed under: Marcion,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 10:16 pm

Marcion’s “heresy” was justifiably seen as the main threat to Christian “proto-orthodoxy” in the second century, but I suspect the reason had less to do with his doctrine of two gods and some form of docetism and more to do with what might have been branded his “Jewish error”.

That will sound like nonsense to many who think of Marcion as being opposed to the Jewish scriptures and the god of creation. (Marcion claimed that there was a higher god than the god revealed in the Pentateuch, an Unknown or Alien God, a god of love who sent Jesus to reveal his existence and offer of forgiveness and salvation for Jews and all humanity.)

Marcion certainly was known for his rejection of the Jewish scriptures as a guide to salvation. Irenaeus and Tertullian were among the first to attack him for rejecting the idea that our Old Testament contained any sort of salvific value or prophecies of the Saviour Jesus. Marcion was definitely not one of those who expected Christians to follow Jewish customs. But his “Jewish error” was nonetheless “real” and probably far more threatening to the foundation of “orthodox” Christian beliefs.

Marcion read the Jewish scriptures the way many orthodox Jews did — literally. In modern parlance some might say he took them “seriously”.

According to Tertullian, Marcion accepted that the Christ of the Jews would:

  1. be known as Emmanuel (AM 3.12.1; Isa. 7:14)
  2. take up the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria against the king of Assyria (AM 3.13.1)
  3. be by nature the son and spirit of the Creator (AM 3.6.8)

Jewish scriptures could be read to hold out a hope for a conquering and liberating Messiah for the Jews. Marcion accepted this reading as the literal and truly intended meaning. Marcion taught that the Creator god (a subordinate god to the higher god of love, the ‘unknown’ and ‘alien’ god who sent Jesus) in a moment of compassion for the Jews promised them a future all-conquering redeemer king and saviour. He did not deny this prophecy found in the Jewish scriptures. But he had no choice but to concede that its fulfilment was still in the unknown future. In other words, Marcion did not deny the Jewish scriptures and their prophecies. He upheld them but did not apply them to Christians.

Marcion read the Jewish scriptures as literally as any “Judaizing-Christian” who insisted on circumcision as much as baptism for new believers. The only difference was that Marcion did not believe the injunctions of the Jewish scriptures should be applied to Christians. Christians should believe the Jewish scriptures were the product of the Creator God and accept them at face value for what they said. But salvation was the gift of the hitherto unknown God who sent his son Jesus to reveal his existence and die for the salvation of all humanity.

According to Marcion and his followers, the original disciples of Jesus failed to grasp Jesus’ revelatory message of the higher god and of his (Jesus’) true provenance, and continued to hope for a “second coming” of their Savior to judge and destroy the evil powers oppressing the Jews.

According to Marcion, there was no Jewish prophecy that the Messiah would suffer and die on the cross. (Tertullian’s AM 3.18.1f; cf. ad Nat. 1.12; Justin’s Trypho 91, 94, 112)

According to Marcion the Jews had every right to expect a future Messiah who would be sent by the Creator God to restore and save the Jewish nation. That was what their Creator God promised them. Marcion had no dispute with that belief and or its teaching as found within the Jewish scriptures. Marcion’s “problem” was that the Jews failed to recognize the Messiah sent from a god higher than the creator god, that is the Messiah he believed was preached by the apostle Paul.

But in fact the failure of the Jews to recognize their saviour was truly far less of a problem for Marcion than for the likes of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian or any other “proto-orthodox” teachers. For Marcion, the Jews who crucified Jesus truly were ignorant of his provenance and identity. They had no knowledge at all of any god higher than their Creator God. According to Marcion’s belief system, the Jews could by no means be held accountable for “despising the Word of God” or “rejecting his Spirit”. They were truly ignorant and thus not accountable of anything so condign. It was “proto-orthodox” belief, as represented by the likes of Irenaeus and Tertullian, who held the Jews reprehensibly and culpably responsible for knowingly rejecting their Saviour. Marcion, backed by his god of love, was much more merciful.

If anyone was to blame it was the god of the Jews, the Creator God, who kept them blinded from, in ignorance of, the higher god. (AM 3.6.8, 9; cf. 1 Cor. 2:8) The Jews were, Marcion conceded, only trying to obey their god according to his and their lights. (AM 3.6.8; 2.28.3; Haer. 4.29.1)

According to the merciful doctrine of Marcion, “Christ comes not to his own, but for the sake of all nations (AM 4.6.3); he comes to the Jews as a stranger (AM 3.6.2) because they have suffered the most under the ‘Creator’s terrible threatenings’ (AM 2.13.3). Had they known that he came from a God of mercy and in order to free them from the law, they would have spared him (1 Cor 2:8).” — Hoffmann, pp.228-229.

Marcion’s threat to orthodoxy:

Marcion’s brand of Christianity was certainly dominant throughout Asia Minor in the early and mid second century, and possibly beyond that area. His threat to what was to become “orthodoxy” was couched in his literal (serious?) reading of the Jewish Scriptures. He read them literally, not allegorically.

As early as the Gospel of Matthew Christian readers of the Bible learn that the Christian dispensation is meant to read the “Old Testament” allegorically.

Justin Martyr, ‘Barnabas’ and the author(s) of Luke-Acts and the Pastoral epistles clearly all agree that the Jewish scriptures must be interpreted “allegorically” or typologically to divine the Truth. Any other (literal) reading is blindness. (Barnabas 1:7; 4:7; 7:1; Justin, Trypho, 7, 11, 12, 44, etc.; 1 Tim 1:7; 3:8a, 16 a; Titus 1:10b, 14, 3.9b)

“Proto-orthodoxy” needed roots. Antiquity was vital for respectability. By embracing the very ancient Jewish scriptures, and then further adopting Philo’s and other allegorical methods of interpreting them — so that a literal Israel could be turned in to an allegorized and “prophesied” Christ — those Christians on the side of Irenaeus and Tertullian had grounds for promoting the “depth” and “truth” of their faith.

What Marcion threatened was to position Jewish scriptures back where they originated — with Jewish literalism. This was far more dangerous than any effort in the past to have male Christians circumcised. Marcion challenged the very foundation of “orthodoxy” — that is, an allegorical reading of Jewish scriptures. (See Siker.)

Ironically(?) even today fundamentalists insist on a literal interpretation of their New Testament and cherry-picked parts of the Old (e.g. Genesis 1) but will settle for nothing less than an allegorical treatment of prophecies that they believe verify the Messiah identity of the Jesus sent by the “Creator” deity.

2008/01/07

Dating Marcion early (2)

Filed under: Book Reviews & Notes,Marcion,Religion,Tyson: Marcion & Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 7:27 am
Tags:

Following from previous post re Hoffmann’s arguments for an early date for Marcion:

Marcion is generally said to have launched his heresy from the mid-second century — that is, long after the completion of our New Testament writings. Some of the Pastoral epistles are said to have been completed as late as the early second century. Some arguments exist that Acts itself, and even possibly some of the gospels, were also completed after the first century.

Hoffmann challenges this late date, and Tyson picks up Hoffmann’s arguments. Tyson in fact argues that Marcion was influential, if not always directly, in the shaping of what became our canonical Gospel of Luke as well as the book of The Acts of the Apostles.

It is not difficult to challenge the generally assumed (late) dates for Marcion. They are based on a face-value reading of Irenaeus (ca 180 c.e.) in particular. Yet the earlier author, Justin Martyr (ca. 150 c.e.) gives a very different account of the time of Marcion’s activity. (more…)

2008/01/05

Tradition and Invention: & the date of Marcion

The “heretic” Marcion is a significant figure in the history of early Christianity but the sources for our dates for his activity are contradictory. It is quite possible that if we attempt to understand the reasons for these contradictions in the sources we will see that Marcion’s influence on our canonical New Testament texts as far more influential than it is generally portrayed today in histories of early Christianity. (For more background on Marcion see the Center for Marcionite Research and at Early Christian Writings.)

One recent fresh look at the date — and influence on the New Testament writings — of Marcion is found in Tyson‘s Marcion and Luke-Acts. (See the left column category “Tyson” under “Book reviews/notes”). Tyson argues that Acts was composed in the second century as a response to Marcionite Christianity, which was possibly the largest brand of Christianity at the time and which claimed Paul as its sole apostle.

The ideological bias for dating Marcion late

Part of Tyson’s argument is the possibility that Marcion himself began his work considerably earlier than is often assumed. The generally accepted dates for Marcion are based on a face-value reading of Church Fathers’ polemics against his doctrines. Tyson and others remind us that these authors had an ideological reason for placing Marcion as late as possible: their theological constructs dictated that Christianity heresy infected Christianity late, sometimes as late as 117 c.e. (the accession of emperor Hadrian). The idea was to keep false teaching far removed from what they believed was the “original purity” of the Church and the time of the twelve apostles.

Hoffman’s reasons for dating Marcion earlier

Tyson draws in part on R. Joseph Hoffmann’s argument in his discussion of the possibility of a much earlier date for Marcion.

Following is a dot-point outline from R. Joseph Hoffman’s Marcion, on the restitution of Christianity. It’s all from Hoffmann’s second chapter and my numbering matches the original chapter sections.

(more…)

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.