Monthly Archives: June 2008

Remaking God in the Image of Abraham

According to Levenson the central elements of the Christian message derive from a reinterpretation and midrashic reworking of prominent tropes in the Hebrew Scriptures. In particular, the central Christian message and characterization of Jesus can be traced directly to the central motifs that lie at the heart of the old biblical stories and proclamations about the “beloved (and only begotten) son”. Further, these biblical stories have their antecedents in Canaanite mythology. The fundamental theme involves a father (human or divine) who willingly gives up his most beloved son to a bloody sacrifice, either out of love for another, or to save others from death. This is found most prominently in what have come to us as the writings of Paul, as well as in one especially famous gospel verse.

There is another parallel set of “beloved son” narratives that turn on the murderous hostility of the older siblings of that beloved son because of his destiny to inherit what they think should be their due. In this tradition, the father is an unwilling participant until the eventual miraculous return of his most beloved one. At that point the most favoured son assumes the full inheritance. Sometimes, but not always, there is reconciliation with the older siblings. This narrative enters the Christian message through certain plot and character details and another famous parable found in the synoptic gospels.

But at this point, in the series outlining Levenson’s book, ‘The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, we come to his final chapter where he begins by looking at how the very character of God was transformed by early Christianity through its midrashic reading of the Jewish scripture stories of “the beloved son”. As previous posts in this series demonstrate, the “beloved son” trope, also often accompanied with the notion of “the only begotten” son, is part and parcel with the plot or myth of the father delivering up his most favoured offspring to bloody sacrifice for a greater good.

This ancient Jewish (and earlier Canaanite) story, Levenson proposes, is the underlying source of the Christian message, beginning with the very concept of God as a being who loves humanity so much he will sacrifice his only son to save them. . . .

Note the Hebrew Scripture themes that underly this passage in Romans 8:28-35:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would bethe firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

The complex thoughts expressed in this passage are all surfacing here from Jewish scripture narratives:

The firstborn son

  1. In the context of the narratives in the Jewish scriptures, the firstborn son was the one destined to be given to God as a sacrifice, or through a ritual that substitutes for a literal sacrifice (see beloved and only begotten sons sacrificed, and Jesus displaces Isaac);
  2. Sometimes (e.g. Jacob and Joseph) he is really the last born, and acquires his firstborn status through divine or parental assistance, or through birth to a favoured wife, and must accordingly face the murderous rage of his older brothers.

The image (eikon) of his Son

  1. This metaphor builds on the tradition that God created the individual man Adam in his own image, and that we are all in that image through procreation, the process blessed at creation;
  2. Now the image of God is no longer mediated through Adam, but through Jesus, through supernatural regeneration that was manifested at Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is available only to those called and chosen. Jesus is the new Adam.

The Isaac motifs

The constellation of the first born son, predestination, chosenness, glorification — this combination is at the core of the Isaac story. Anyone familiar with the Jewish scriptures will not have the story of Isaac and other beloved sons catapulted to firstborn status far from mind when reading here of the plot of the firstborn experiencing predestination, being chosen and finally glorified. This pattern is the core of Isaac’s birth, near-sacrifice and ascent to the rank of patriarch. And in later Jewish interpretations, his near-sacrifice became in implied actual sacrifice and resurrection. (See the previous posts for details.)

Abraham maybe

The above passage stresses the love of God, and since in Jewish Scripture and Second Temple interpretations Abraham was the archetypical lover of God, his shadow may well cover the above passage:

Isaiah 41:8 — Abraham is known as the archetypical lover of God. (Below is a translation of the Hebrew; in the LXX the word is from the Greek “agape” for love (agapete), describing God as the lover of Abraham):

— And thou, O Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, Seed of Abraham, My lover

Jubilees 17:15-18 While the original Genesis account spoke of Abraham’s fear of God, this passage from Jubilees points to a shift in Jewish interpretation of Abraham where it was his love for God that was stressed, and with everything working out well for him despite afflictions because of his love for God:

there were voices in heaven regarding Abraham, that he was faithful in all that He told him, and that he loved the Lord, and that in every affliction he was faithful. And the prince Mastema came and said before God, ‘Behold, Abraham loves Isaac his son, and he delights in him above all things else; bid him offer him as a burnt-offering on the altar, and Thou wilt see if he will do this command, and Thou wilt know if he is faithful in everything wherein Thou dost try him. And the Lord knew that Abraham was faithful in all his afflictions; for He had tried him through his country and with famine, and had tried him with the wealth of kings, and had tried him again through his wife, when she was torn (from him), and with circumcision; and had tried him through Ishmael and Hagar, his maid-servant, when he sent them away. And in everything wherein He had tried him, he was found faithful, and his soul was not impatient, and he was not slow to act; for he was faithful and a lover of the Lord.

Everything worked out well for Abraham because of his love for God.

Abraham definitely

The shadows of Abraham’s character lurking in the above passage are confirmed as definitely his own when we read of the final test, the real proof, of God’s love:

He who did not spare (pheidomai) His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all

Compare Genesis 22:12, 16:

for now I am certain that the fear of God is in your heart, because you have not kept back (pheidomai) your son, your only son, from me. . . . because you have done this and have not kept back (pheidomai) from me your dearly loved only son

The evidence of God’s love for humanity is the same as was the evidence of Abraham’s love for God. In both cases the supreme test or sign of that love was the giving up of their only sons.

Through this model of Abraham God has established a “new aqedah” (binding of Isaac). Just as Abraham’s aqedah enabled the life of the nation of Israel (see previous posts), so the new aqedah by God, in return, enables the new life of the Christian.

Role of Love in the New Aqedah

For God so loved the world, that He gave (edoken) His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Familiarity makes for an easy sentimentalization of this passage. But the idea of “givine one’s only begotten son” is nothing less than the scriptural idea of God’s requirement that the firstborn son be handed over (given up) for a bloody sacrifice. The way the Son is “given” goes back to Exodus 22:29b:

you shall give me the first-born among your sons

The fathers gift is the bloody slaying of Jesus, in the same sense as the killing of the passover lamb.

The killing of Jesus, like the killing of the passover lamb, enables the life of others who were marked for death. And like the beloved sons in the Hebrew traditions, his death also proves reversible. He is, like them, miraculously restored to life and reunited with those who love him, but who had given up all hope for his return.

Linking the above to a new age and general resurrection

Whence the pivotal historical moment, the turning of the new age interpretation of Jesus’ death and resurrection? That comes from Jewish apocalyptic, not from the midrash of biblical stories of near loss and miraculous return of the beloved son.

But the resurrection idea came with the Pharisees and the rabbis who followed them. It was not part of the earliest biblical narratives. But imagine how the Pharisees and rabbis who believed in a resurrection must have read and thought about the stories of the beloved son. One can imagine the old stories being recast under the impact of that new belief, of the old stories of an averted death being recast as a resurrection. Levenson had earlier discussed the enigmatic appearance of “the ashes of Isaac” in the Second Temple period.

The story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:8-37 (cf 1 Kings 17:17-24) likely represents a reworking of the beloved son story in a different cultural context, with a belief in resurrection.

Given these resurrection stories in the Elijah-Elisha narratives, it may indeed be significant that the first gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is quite possibly modeled on much of the content and structure of the Elijah-Elishah saga (1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 13). Levenson cites Roth, and I would add Brodie. Levenson comments:

Even those unpersuaded by the case must conclude theis: if already in a world in which people believed in wonder-working prophets, the death of the only and promised son could be reversed by his bodily resurrection, it is all the more the case that in a world in which the resurrection of the dead is a central tenet, like that of Pharisaic Judaism, the report of the son’s return from death need not be taken for a definitive break with the older pattern. The report of Jesus’ resurrection is the old wine in a bottle that is relatively new but hardly unique. (p. 224, my emphasis)

Both Canaanite and Jewish myths

As discussed in the earlier posts in this series, there was the old Canaanite theme of god, El, who offered his son, his only son, in order to avert disaster. This offered son was said to be the “monogenes“, the “only” son, or the “only begotten” son.

Philo of Byblos translates the name of the son of El, whom El offered, as Ieoud or Iedoud. Behind this Ieoud/Iedoud is the Hebrew word yahid, the favoured one, the same term repeatedly applied to Isaac:

Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac . . .
thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. . . .
because thou . . . hast not withheld thy son, thine only son . . (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16):

One LXX translation of this word uses the Greek monogenes when it applies to Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11:34. Another LXX version combines monogenes auto agapete (she was his “only child and beloved” daughter).

So the resonances of Jewish and Canaanite myths lurk beneath the Christian message (outlined in the Romans passage at the beginning of this post) and the Christian God, although the Jewish myth of course dominates. In the Jewish myth the motive for giving up the beloved son was a love greater than that for the son, not fear of calamity, as was the motive in the Canaanite myth.

And when Jesus was the one identified as the son of the God, then God himself was transformed into the image of father Abraham.

I titled this post “remaking god in the image of abraham”, but I am not sure to what extent there was any real “re-make” — or if the remake was really about shifting the image of a godfather god who demands absolute fealty to one who guises that mafia-like godfather image beneath a “love” garment. Rather than a theological innovation, does the new myth represent a Stockholm syndrome — those who saw themselves captive to their godfather have come to love him, since they see themselves as totally dependent on him.

one more post to go ( i think) to finish off this series……

Jesus supplants Isaac — the contribution of Paul

What was the origin of the idea that God sacrificed his beloved or only son to cover for the sins of his favoured people? Was it novel to the Christians? Was it the outcome of years of theological reflection searching for meaning in some historical event? Or was the idea already central to certain Jewish interpretations about their own identity in relation to the binding (and near sacrifice) of Isaac? And if so, was the Jesus christology little more than a direct hijacking of a set of Jewish beliefs about Isaac? I am not sure of the answer but as part of an attempt to find it I have been working through a series of posts outlining Levenson’s study of how some of the earliest Christian writers drew on longstanding Jewish traditions about “the beloved son” (epitomized in Isaac) to interpret the role and meaning of Jesus.

In terms of social (i.e. racial) impact, the most significant writings that drew on Jewish interpretative frameworks about the beloved son, in particular Isaac, are those attributed to Paul. (I place ‘replaced’ in quotation marks because Isaac was never replaced within Judaism, of course. Displaced would have been the more arms-length term to have used, and is in fact the word Levenson uses. But ‘replaced’ certainly would apply to those Jews and proselytes who originally transferred all the meanings bestowed upon Isaac to their Jesus and/or Christ figure.)

A corollary of this involves a rejection of the commonly assumed notion of Paul’s “universalism”. He is not by any means a “universalist”. He wants, rather, for a reversal of the Judaistic premise: his system places the gentiles in the favoured position of the Jews, and relegates the Jews to castaway status until their punishment is complete. read more »

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

read more »

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

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. read 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.

Matthew’s “misunderstanding” of Mark’s miracle stories

I have no idea, of course, if the author of Matthew’s Gospel really “misunderstood” the miracle stories in the Gospel of Mark or understood them all too well and for that reason chose to recast them with a different meaning and agenda.

Either way, the result has been that Mark’s original nuances that alert the knowing reader to the “parabolic” meaning of his miracle stories have been lost beneath the weight of the literalist versions of these miracles by the subsequent evangelists.

The way the author of GMatthew (Gospel of Matthew) tells the story of Jesus walking on water, for example, borders on being a farcical parody of the version found in GMark. This post, by the way, is really a footnote to my previous post in which I would like to think I showed that the Markan version is demonstrably a parable that coheres, through certain repeated “throw away” words and phrases, with the entire gospel being a fictitious (but by no means meaningless) parable.

Compare Mark’s and Matthew’s versions (even in English translation the pertinent differences are clear enough). First, Mark. I have highlighted in bold type the differences:

And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
And he saw them straining in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

And Matthew’s

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

The changes to Mark’s story

Note the main differences. Matthew has removed from Mark’s narrative those lines that also cause the most difficulty for modern readers:

  1. Mark’s statement that Jesus was going to “pass by” the disciples,
  2. and the note that this miracle had something to do with the understanding of the miracle of the 5 loaves feeding the 5000.

Another significant change is that Matthew has removed Mark’s implication that the disciples were “sore amazed” after the wind settled and calm returned.

He has also removed Mark’s image of the disciples “straining at rowing” against the wind, and change the image to one of the boat being tossed by the waves instead.

Mark’s original meaning

In my previous discussion of this miracle I showed how each one of those features, removed by Matthew, placed Mark’s version of the miracle within the broader theological context of the entire gospel.

That Jesus would have passed the disciples (and then have gone on before them) is a regular motif with metaphorical significance throughout Mark, from the first callings of the disciples through to the last message to be delivered to them. Having already called his disciples Jesus was expecting them to continue to follow him.

That the disciples were said to be “straining at rowing” here recalls the time when Jesus first called the disciples. The focus here, as then, is on the physical efforts of the disciples. (Then they were working at trying to catch fish, mending their nets, and sitting at the tax collection post. Now they are in serious difficulties as they attempt to row against the wind.) Both Jesus and the disciples are going in the same direction, to Bethsaida (= “the house of the fisherman/fishing”). Jesus had called them to become fishers of men. It is (ought to be) clear to the reader that if the disciples want to also reach Bethsaida all they need to do is climb out of the boat that is taking them nowhere and follow Jesus.

Read this way (which, as explained in my previous post, is consistent with the several other “follow me”, “passing by” and “going before” motifs throughout the gospel), it is clear to that Mark is writing the story as a “parable” or metaphor. Similarly Jerusalem is the geographic metaphor for the cross, and Galilee for wherever the Kingdom of God is “at hand”. The disciples needed to take up their cross with Jesus, and not follow or stand “afar off”, if they were to follow Jesus back to Galilee. The message is not for or about the twelve disciples in the gospel. The disciples are a mere part of a story that is directed at Mark’s audience. What the disciples decide to do at the end is of no account for the author, hence such a scene is omitted from the end. The author’s story is talking about what his audience needs to do.

If Mark’s audience had clamoured to ask him whether the disciples in the end followed Jesus to Galilee, or if the disciples really did have the power to walk on water, I can imagine Mark rolling his eyes in despair at the total failure of his narrative to have made its point. He would probably retort:

If you don’t understand the miracle of the loaves how can you have any idea what I’ve been writing about!

Do you really think my gospel is about bread? Or water? Or even Galilee?

Matthew’s Hollywood action blockbuster version

One member of such a “blind” audience could have been Matthew, or whoever was the author of the gospel bearing his name.

Matthew either did not understand, or chose to delete, the metaphorical aspects of the story. He turned it into a story of a literal miracle.

The symbolism of Bethsaida as the destination was removed by excising the destination entirely. His story would go a close-up of a miracle shot, without any broader “parabolic” narrative that might detract from this.

Next to go was the image of the disciples rowing so uselessly against a mere headwind. Audiences would be bored. Much more dramatic was tossing up the waves, putting the boat and lives of the disciples in peril. The original did not have nearly enough danger for excitement. It was just a boring tale of a bunch of men rowing themselves to a standstill in the wind. Matthew preferred the bigger, more spectacular Hollywood adaptation.

As for the original’s having Jesus about to pass them by, that was definitely out. It made no sense to Matthew. Audiences would be confused. Jesus was the hero, their saviour and was doing a great magic trick here to prove he was the Son of God. So Matthew interpreted it. He wouldn’t just ignore his disciples. Matthew had no idea, or rejected, the real message of the original. He wanted a Jesus who would do great miraculous feats to impress his gospel characters and gospel readers alike. And since he is also establishing Peter as the lead apostle, he even brings Peter in to share a little of the miracle limelight. For Matthew, it is the fantastic miracle of walking on the water that is all consuming of his imagination. Mark’s message is lost under his literalism.

The dramatic end. Finally, when the magic show of the duo walking on water was all over, when they finally got back into the boat, the disciples responded appropriately to such a grand miracle worker. They fell down and worshipped him as the Son of God. Only a Son of God could walk on water, after all. And that was all the message that Matthew could, or would, grasp.

Contrast Mark’s ending. The disciples still did not know who Jesus was. They could only be “sore amazed” and “wonder” — but not at the way he had come to them walking on water, or at least not only that. They were amazed that as soon as he entered the boat the wind stopped. This was exactly what amazed them once before. Jesus was able to control the wind and even stop a storm at sea. “Who was this man who could overpower both demons and the wind?” they wondered in awe.

But this is too subtle and not nearly flattering enough of the twelve apostles for Matthew. Being amazed at the change in weather is also an anti-climax if one is trying to follow an action story which is meant to be taken literally.

Arthouse versus blockbuster

Mark’s gospel was an arthouse film script. It’s audience appeal was always destined to be limited. Even today it is largely misunderstood as a bit “weird” or “strange” in places. But that is not Mark’s fault. It is the fault of audiences trying to see in it a mini-Hollywood action film, a literal precursor of something that Matthew knew how to really portray in a much more appealing way.

Why did Jesus not wait for his disciples at his tomb? — Or, Why did the disciples not follow Jesus on water? — same question

I’m restricting this question to a study in the Gospel of Mark, and to its ending at 16:8 with the women fleeing in dumbstruck fear and after the young man told them to:

Go and tell his disciples, and Peter: He is going before (προαγει) you into Galilee: there you will see him, as he said to you. (16:7)

Why the rush? Why did the author want to write story where Jesus leaves the disciples behind?

I’ve no doubt someone has discussed this before much more competently somewhere in the lit, but this being my turn to notice it too, here goes.

The last time we saw Peter in Mark’s gospel he was caught “following Jesus” but “from afar (απο μακροθεν)” (14:54). But from this distance he was cornered into a situation where he felt his only escape was to deny Jesus who by this time was on his way to the cross.

Before that, all the disciples had “forsaken Jesus and fled” (14:50).

Earlier the author had even linked the denial of Peter and failure of all the disciples with Jesus saying he “would go before them” to Galilee. Will return to that link near later in this discussion.

The forsaking and denying of Jesus is a complete turn around from their first encounter with Jesus. So back to the beginning:

The first calling and following

The beginning is a mysteriously immediate following the moment Jesus — who was passing or walking by — called them.

And as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew . . . Then Jesus said to them, “Come after me . . .” (Ditto as he walked a little farther and saw James and John.)

And as he passed by, he saw Levi . . . and said to him, “Follow me . . .”

In each case those called immediately responded and followed.

The starkness of the call, and particularly the equal starkness of the immediate response following, registers in the reader’s mind, right through to the end and beyond.

Later there is another incident where one person wants to follow Jesus, but is forbidden to do so. The one possessed by Legion (the multitude of demons) had spent time among the tombs, an outcast among the dead. Having restored him, Jesus authorizes him to go back and preach among his people.

But back to those called to follow him. read more »

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

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.

Marcion and Luke-Acts: The Preface of Luke

From Allposters.com

Prologue of the Gospel of St. Luke, from the Gospel of St. Riquier, circa 800. From Allposters.com

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. read more »

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. read more »

Criteria for authenticity – final post (Fabricating Jesus / Evans)

Continued from More criteria . . . . Again, this post is part of a series of posts in response to Evans’s accusation that “no one trained in history” would ever think the evidence for the “historical Jesus” to be as thin as some of the radical critics assert.

Evans (Fabricating Jesus) lists two more criteria for establishing authenticity of Gospel sayings and deeds: Semitisms and Palestinian background, and Coherence (or consistency),

Semitisms and Palestinian background

This criterion . . . suggests that sayings and deeds that reflect the Hebrew or Aramaic language (Semitisms), of reflect first-century Palestine (geography, topography, customs, commerce) are what we should expect of authentic material. (pp. 50-51)

This explanation hardly lends justice to claiming that “semitisms and Palestinian background” ought to be regarded as a “criterion” for authenticity. I am quite sure Evans does not mean to suggest that if a saying does not reflect a “semitism” or a deed does not point to a specific “Palestinian background” that they must be ruled out as inauthentic!

Evans himself is clearly aware of the weakness of this “as a criterion of authenticity” on other grounds, too. He admits that semitisms detected behind the Greek translation do not mean that a saying was spoken by Jesus.

By all means it is certainly true that if Jesus did speak Aramaic (though in cosmopolitan Galilee is it not also possible he spoke Greek?), and if some of these sayings were handed down and translated into Greek and appeared in that form in our Gospels, then yes, we might expect some of them to retain traces of semitic constructions behind the Greek translation. But it does not follow that such a train of events preceded any particular case of a Greek saying that shows some evidence of a semitic original.

Ditto for the Palestinian background. The mere fact that the story of the gospels is set in Galilee and Jerusalem makes it virtually inevitable that there will be some “Palestinian background” reflected in some deeds and sayings. It does not follow that the narrator is faithfully recording the sayings and deeds of an historical Jesus.

Coherence (or consistency)

Finally, the criterion of coherence (or consistency) is also useful and functions in some ways as a catch-all. According to this criterion, material that is consistent with material judged authentic on the basis of other criteria may also be regarded as authentic. (p.51)

Nothing to say on this that has not already been said, in particular with the discussion of the criterion of Historical Coherence.

Summing up the criteria

Not one of the criteria can be used logically as a basis for judging the authenticity of a deed or saying. At best they can indicate plausibility. All historical events are at face value plausible — simply because they have actually happened. (Some events have appeared to be out of character for the actors involved, and some have happened unexpectedly, but that only means there are degrees of plausibility in hindsight.)

Much historical fiction, propaganda, false rumours and widespread beliefs only ever gain a foothold to begin with simply because they are plausible to the hearers or readers.

Criteria for authenticity that claim to be able to help us second guess what actually was said or done are not a substitute for genuine historical evidence. They are a lounge-chair substitute for primary evidence, if they are indeed expected to tell us as much. But no one “trained in history” can have any justification for placing on them any logical burden greater than they can bear.

The fundamentalist subterfuge

At this point Craig Evans writes:

All of these criteria have their place and can make (and have made) useful contributions to the scholarly study of the historical Jesus. They enable historians to give good reasons for judging this saying or that deed attributed to Jesus as authentic. The problem is in assuming that everything that is attributed to Jesus that does not enjoy support from one or more of the criteria should be regarded as inauthentic. (p.51)

In other words, I believe I am safe in interpreting this to mean that Evans wants just about everything in the Gospels to be believed as authentic even if none of the scholarly criteria for authenticity can support it. “Just about everything” because elsewhere Evans concedes that a few passages like that about the woman taken in adultery in the Gospel of John do not belong in any of the early manuscripts.

I also believe I am on solid ground in detecting dog-whistle language in the above paragraph by Evans. Read carefully, he says no more than that the criteria are “have their place”, “can make useful contributions”, “enable . . . good reasons”. But of course faith does not depend on “good reasons” that are better constructed to assist the tasks of a scholar. And Evans implies the obvious, that the criteria do not “have their place” and can make no “useful contributions” in those cases where a Gospel saying or deed are not supported by any of the criteria.

If I am seeing intellectual subterfuge where it does not really exist then I will be happy to be better informed. But having spent many years of my life within the ranks of fundamentalist believing Christians of various ilks, I think I am safe in saying I know enough of how they think and relate to the (unbelieving) public to make this accusation here with some confidence.

More criteria for authenticity: Historical Coherence (Fabricating Jesus / Evans)

Continuing from 3 criteria for authenticity . . . . (this little series was prompted by Evans accusation that no historian “trained in history” would ever come to the sorts of conclusions about Jesus that some radical critics have arrived at.)

Historical Coherence

When the Gospels tell us things that cohere with what we know of Jesus’ historical circumstances and principal features of his life and ministry, it is reasonable to believe that we are on solid ground. (Fabricating Jesus, p.48 )

Circularity

I do not follow the logic here. Either something happened or it didn’t. A novelist can create scenes that “cohere” with what is known of the historical period and personalities that are consist the background of their work of fiction. A theologian or preacher may create a moral tale that “coheres” with the historical characters and settings the audience knows. People will often believe false propaganda about an enemy if it “coheres” with what they believe to be known historical facts.

Coherence and/or Historical Fact

A “coherent” story is not any more true by virtue of its coherence. Stalin was known to have distrusted just about everyone. So if I read a historical tale that he trusted Hitler not to invade Russia I can dismiss it, according to the logic underpinning the “criterion of historical coherence”. That the most distrustful of people (as evidenced by the executions and purges of those closest to him) should trust the least trustworthy of men not to commit the thing he feared the most is not “historically coherent”, but of course, it is historical fact. So it is a matter of fact and logic that “historically/biographically incoherent” things can and do happen, and that fictitious events can be and are created that are “historically coherent”.

The criterion of “historical coherence”, it seems to me, suffers the same logical difficulty of circular reasoning as the criterion of Dissimilarity (discussed in previous post).

Is a well constructed plot all that is needed for plausibility? What of authenticity?

Evans continues:

Jesus drew a following, attracted the attention of the authorities, was executed and yet was proclaimed Israel’s Messiah and God’s Son. Deeds and sayings attributed to him in the Gospels that cohere with these major elements and, indeed, help us understand these major elements should be judged authentic.

This of course is completely circular. It does not help establish historicity. It assumes historicity. It assumes that at least some parts of the Gospels are true, and argues that therefore anything that explains those bits of the Gospels must also be true. We know the widow in this crime novel murdered her husband, so we know it was true that she stood to collect a nice insurance payout if her husband died, because that explains why she murdered him.

Historical coherence can inform us of the plausibility of an event or saying within a given context, but it cannot of itself establish its historical status.

If it were that simple, then it one could say that it is reasonable to believe that Jesus ordered a fish to be caught so it could be opened up to yield a coin to pay his taxes, that he walked on water and rose from the dead simply because these are coherent with other statements in the Bible about him. In other words, even the most implausible claims can be raised to a status of credibility simply on the grounds that they are told within a coherent story narrative.

Logically this means that even the miracle stories of Jesus found outside the canonical gospels — e.g. his miraculously extending the length of a piece of timber that his carpenter father had cut too short — are also “authentic” too. Will Christian fundamentalists allow this criterion to be applied consistently across all surviving gospels?

Historical coherence used to disprove the biblical narrative?

Evans is not alone in using this criterion to assert the authenticity of any event in the Gospels that can be interpreted as giving Pilate a rationale for crucifying Jesus.

I find it odd that many fundamentalist Christians will likewise claim that Jesus was crucified by Rome because “it was believed” he was a political subversive. The way this statement is expressed is necessarily a a bit vague because the Bible itself flatly contradicts the claim. The claim is made because it fits a natural historical explanation for a crucifixion, but it is made in defiance of the Biblical narratives. The one thing all the Gospels are clear about is that Pilate did NOT believe Jesus was a political subversive. They are unanimous in asserting that Pilate found Jesus innocent of any such charge. Pilate crucified him, it is unanimously agreed, to please the blood-lust of the mob. This is doubly emphasized in the Gospel of John where the author points out that the title was over Jesus head on the cross was not a statement of his crime (that “He said, I am King of the Jews”) but an ironic image with theological import for the readers of the gospels, or perhaps a statement that Pilate believed he really was the king, albeit innocent of subversion.

So those sayings and events in the Bible that Evans says are “historically coherent” with Jesus being crucified as a political subversive were judged by Pilate — according to all four Gospel authors — to be not at all necessarily coherent with subversive activity.

Or are such apologists claiming that certain deeds and sayings of Jesus are historically coherent with a secular hypothesis that proposes a nonbiblical reason for Jesus’ death?

It’s a little amusing to think that many fundamentalists who use this criterion to “authenticate” certain deeds and sayings of Jesus because they “explain his crucifixion”, do so in contradiction to the Bible they are seeking to defend. And could there ever have arisen a Gospel narrative about the death of Jesus unless the authors told what some moderns seem to think must have been their “holy white lie” about the reasons for it?

Conclusion

As I concluded my previous post, these sorts of criteria cannot establish historicity, only plausibility — within certain contexts. I by no means say that all biblical scholars think otherwise. This post is meant primarily for those who do place more value on them than they are truly worth.

3 ‘criteria for authenticity’ (“Fabricating Jesus” / Craig Evans contd)

In Fabricating Jesus Craig Evans writes:

Some of the criteria used for supporting the authenticity of Jesus’ sayings apply in the case of his mighty deeds. (p.140)

The criteria for authenticity that he cites in this context are: Multiple Attestation, Dissimilarity and Embarrassment. Elsewhere he lists additional criteria that he says are also useful for assessing the authenticity of the deeds and sayings of Jesus (e.g. Historical Coherence), but will look at those separately in another post.

Multiple attestation

By this is meant “two or more independent sources” for a particular event, suggesting that the event was “not invented by a single writer”, so the event is deemed to have a more reliable documentation for its historicity. (p.48 )

Comment 1: What can reports themselves logically tell us?

All multiple attestation can really tell anyone is what beliefs or stories were circulated widely via a number of sources. The question of the historical authenticity of the content of those stories is another matter entirely. Surely this is simple logic. How many independent sources have there been for the miracles of Aesclepius or the miracles at Lourdes or for the experiences of alien abductions? We have several ancient “reports” testifying to the existence of the Phoenix, but only one first hand report of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

No historian worth their salt will make use of reports, however numerous they be, uncritically. The interests and purposes of the authors of the reports need to be assessed; as also their sources of information. This means making judgments about reports that take into account their provenance, their social and cultural or political (or religious) matrix, their authors. This is all part of “the training of a historian” that Craig Evans speaks dismissively of in relation to those who are sceptical of fundamentalist claims about the Bible. read more »

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 . . . .