2008-06-15

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

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by Neil Godfrey

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.

3 Comments

  • 2008-06-22 08:04:13 UTC - 08:04 | Permalink

    Re the genealogy in Luke, I have in an earlier post suggested reasons for its differences from Matthew’s genealogy assuming the hypothesis that an anti-Marcionite Luke knew Matthew. But as Tyson points out, there are reasons to think that Luke’s genealogy belongs to a pre-Marcionte version of Luke (its placement after 3:1, its contradiction of the Infancy Narrative). If there is anything to both the argument in my earlier post and to Tyson’s argument, then I can only suggest Luke redacted the genealogy in more places than the parenthetical statement that Joseph was thought to be the father of Jesus.

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