A Case for Interpolation Does NOT Rely On Manuscript Evidence

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by Neil Godfrey

James McGrath has ridiculed any reference to an argument for interpolation if there is no manuscript evidence for it. But this simply avoids addressing the actual arguments that are sometimes advanced for an interpolation. By avoiding the arguments he sophistically reasons that if there is a claim for interpolation then he is equally free to say that an editor has removed the evidence that will support his case. One would expect evidence of more learning from an associate professor.

This post looks at arguments by scholars who give us strong reasons to accept the possibility, even likelihood, of interpolations in Paul’s letters despite absence of manuscript evidence.

Richard Carrier has an excellent blog post discussing two clear interpolations in Paul’s letters: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. His conclusion should be seen in the context of what William O. Walker has described as a “culture of interpolations” in that era.

Firstly, Carrier’s conclusion to his blog post:

There can be no doubt that these passages are interpolations (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). This proves Christians had no problem doctoring the letters of Paul to make him say things he didn’t say. And if they did this in these two cases, how many other passages in Paul are inauthentic? Remember, we caught these cases because we got lucky (the interpolators were sloppy, they just happened to pick things to say that contradicted Paul, and we just happen to have some telltale evidence in the manuscripts). Most interpolations won’t have left such evidence (most will not so blatantly contradict Paul, and most of the ones, like these, that were inserted before 200 A.D. won’t have just by chance left any evidence in the manuscripts). It is therefore necessarily the case that there are three or more interpolations in the letters of Paul that we don’t know about (statistically, if most won’t be evident, and two are evident, then there must be at least three not evident). Would you ever bet your life on which passage isn’t one of them?

I’ve posted several times on interpolations in Paul’s letters, sometimes with reference to different discussions by Walker and Munro, and more recently reasons to suspect Galatians 1:18-19 and Romans 1:2-6 as being interpolations. To repeat something I said recently, given what we know of what Walker described as the literary culture of interpolations of that era:

William O. Walker in Interpolations in Paul refers to what he calls a literary culture of interpolations in which he shows why the lack of manuscript evidence is a virtual non-starter. Walker lists many classical and Christian texts that scholars can see, without any need for manuscript evidence, do contain interpolations.

Here are interpolated texts Walker uses to justify his term “a culture of interpolations”:

  1. Homer’s Iliad
  2. Homer’s Odyssey
  3. Orpheus
  4. Musaeus
  5. Hippocrates
  6. Aristophanes
  7. Euripides
  8. Thucydides.
  9. Letters of Plato
  10. Letters of Aristotle
  11. Letters of Epicurus
  12. Letters of Seneca
  13. The Testimonium Flavianum or at least part thereof;
  14. The Sibylline Oracles,
  15. The Synagogal Prayers and such literature
  16. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,
  17. The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah
  18. 4 Ezra.
  19. The LXX
  20. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, claimed “heretics” had both added to and deleted from his letters.
  21. Irenaeus feared his writings would be interpolated.
  22. “Many Greek patristic writings” according to Rufinius
  23. Letters of Paul and gospel of Luke according to Marcion
  24. Pentateuch and gospels were likely built up layer by layer
  25. Epistles of Ignatius
  26. The adulterous woman episode in gospel of John
  27. The longer ending of Mark
  28. Perhaps final chapter of John
  29. The Western text of the Gospels and Acts
  30. And even the Western “non-interpolations”

We know from the above cases that the manuscript evidence is clearly often not critical at all!

An argument against interpolation must meet the arguments for interpolation head-on; we cannot begin an argument against interpolation simply by noting lack of textual evidence, . . .  (Simpson p.43, as quoted in an earlier post)

Simpson sums up the methodological argument in relation to 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 best when he writes:

The virtue of the interpolation view, as it has been developed by Pearson and Schmidt, is, as we shall see, that it seeks to solve the broadest range of problems, that is, that it draws out in a valuable way the evidence which any view of 1 Thess 2:15f. must take into account.

I suggest that he addresses here a principle that extends beyond this one particular biblical passage.

Now, back to those old scholarly suggestions that even Galatians 1:18-19 and Romans 1:2-6 just may, reasonably, be suspected of being interpolation . . . .

James the Brother of the Lord in Galatians 1:18-19

Romans 1:2-6 and the Seed of David introduction

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  • Hjalti
    2011-06-03 11:06:42 UTC - 11:06 | Permalink

    “Galatians 1:18-19”

    Hmm…only these two verses and not the whole first visit to Jerusalem, Gal 1:18-24?

    • 2011-06-03 17:05:00 UTC - 17:05 | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure that Gal 2:7-8 is an interpolation. There’s no manuscript evidence per se, but the evidence is linguistic. These two verses are the only times in Paul’s letters that “he” refers to a ΠΕΤΡΟΣ (Peter) instead of a ΚΗΦΑΣ (Cephas). That alone makes it suspect. But there’s also Marcion’s (reconstructed) version of Galatians that doesn’t have these two verses. That sort of adds a “manuscript” evidence even though it’s a reconstructed version.

      The case for interpolations should be approached in a Bayesian way. Linguistics, manuscripts, context, theology, anachronisms, etc. can all be added together to make a case. If there’s no manuscript evidence but there’s linguistic, contextual, anachronistic, and theological inconsistency, then a case can be made for interpolation in a Bayesian sense. All it really means is that each one of those indicators slides the probability towards it being an interpolation. It shouldn’t be an “either-or” methodology; it should be about probability.

      There’s no “manuscript” evidence for the Pastoral epistles being forgeries (well, actually there kind of is. Marcion’s canon), but all of the other types of evidences are used to point in that direction. The same methodology for determining that the Pastorals are not authentically Pauline can be used to glean which sections of Paul’s letters are also not authentically Pauline.

  • 2011-06-03 11:23:09 UTC - 11:23 | Permalink

    I think it was Bart Ehrman who I heard say that it may not even make sense to talk about the original texts since the best we can determine from the extant evidence is what the texts may have looked like sometime in the third century. Since any passage might be corrupted and we can be sure that many interpolations will never be identified, I cannot see how anyone can argue for any interpretation that is not robust enough to withstand the possibility that some of the relevant passages are not original.

    • Geoff
      2011-06-03 18:59:00 UTC - 18:59 | Permalink

      Neil wrote that Carrier had at the beginning of his conclusion: “There can be no doubt that these passages are interpolations (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). This proves Christians had no problem doctoring the letters of Paul to make him say things he didn’t say.” It appears that Carrier, like many others, believes that Paul was the original writer. It could have been the other way around. “Paul” (probably an invented name) was doing the editing.

      • 2011-06-03 21:52:07 UTC - 21:52 | Permalink

        Whoever the real author of the epistle, whether Paul were a pseudonym or not, makes no difference to the details of the argument for interpolation.

  • 2011-06-03 12:49:11 UTC - 12:49 | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone, myself included, believes it is possible to make a case for interpolation without manuscript evidence. But most would likewise agree that the case is far less certain. At least in the case of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 we have evidence from the manuscript tradition of displacement which is often an aftereffect of interpolation, even when we do not have any manuscript that completely lacks the words in question.

    The challenge is to not utilize interpolation as a tool for eliminating evidence contrary to a pet theory, but to base it instead on relevant linguistic, historical and other evidences.

    • 2011-06-03 14:33:18 UTC - 14:33 | Permalink

      McGrath, do you have reasoned arguments against those indicated in the post or do you always think it adequate to ignore arguments you disagree with and repeat you view as if nothing else has been said against it?

    • Steven Carr
      2011-06-03 15:37:28 UTC - 15:37 | Permalink

      ‘I don’t think anyone, myself included, believes it is possible to make a case for interpolation without manuscript evidence.’

      McGrath actually believes that there is not *anyone* who believes that John 21 is not a huge interpolation?

      He literally believes there is not *anyone* who thinks it is possible to make a case for interpolation without manuscript evidence?

      ‘but to base it instead on relevant linguistic, historical and other evidences…’

      Or you can just do what Tim O’Neill does and use a 16th century copy of a 12th century Christian translation to determine the text of a 1st century work, and then McGrath will praise you to the skies.

  • Hjalti
    2011-06-03 13:08:30 UTC - 13:08 | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone, myself included, believes it is possible to make a case for interpolation without manuscript evidence.

    That should probably be “impossible” 😉

    • 2011-06-03 16:48:09 UTC - 16:48 | Permalink

      I wish I could be sure. That would make a little more sense of what follows, but McG does have a long history of simply ignoring (or ridiculing) the reasoning and evidence in the arguments he claims to be responding to.

      • Mike Wilson
        2011-06-03 18:00:28 UTC - 18:00 | Permalink

        An example of interpolation without manuscript evidence! The author intends impossible, mistakenly uses possible, thus changing the meaning of the sentence to one not in line with the authors past arguments, increasing the likely hood that the word was not intended but a mistake.

        Yeah, I wouldn’t expect James to argue that it was impossible to makes a case for make a case for interpolation without manuscript evidence. He had argued for John 21 being an interpolation. You guys may not have noticed that, but I’m not surprised.

        Overall the article does seem a bit flawed. I never got the impression that James thought it was impossible that there be hidden interpolations in the ancient text, and some have enough clues to make a safe guess that it is an interpolation. But to be sure requires a number of clues, as any text may have something that may seem out of place as an accident of the writing process. Now we may say there were is a base percentage for any given text it is an interpolation, but if is two high, the we should expect other passage on which Doherty’s case is bases to also be interpolations, removing his own theory from consideration, as the text to support it could also be interpolations. if it is to low, then likely hood of their not being interpolations would force us to doubt Dohety’s theory.

        The way out of course is to find some reason to increase the likelihood that these verses specifically were added. It is only by Doherty theory that they are incompatible with Paul’s ideas, and his theory isn’t otherwise strong, it isn’t much stronger if every verse he opposes is an interpolation. Are there any features of this verse that have convinced a plurality of experts that these verses are consistent with interpolations? Without that, it is simpler to explain that this represents Paul’s thoughts than to to dismiss them as late because it removes a problem for a theory that is fraught with a number of other explanatory problems.

        • Steven Carr
          2011-06-03 18:19:59 UTC - 18:19 | Permalink

          ‘It is only by Doherty theory that they are incompatible with Paul’s ideas…’

          Well, that rewrites history on a grand scale.

          Apparently , until Doherty’s theory came along, nobody thought there had been interpolations in Paul’s letters.

          What can you say that would not sound sarcastic and cast aspersions on the integrity of Wilson’s writings?

          Accordingly, I finish here.

          • Steven Carr
            2011-06-03 18:25:06 UTC - 18:25 | Permalink

            Even Mr. O’Neill regards people as fools for not realising that Christians interpolated Josephus although there is no manuscript evidence of Ant.18 without these Christian interpolations that O’Neill claims exist.

          • Mike Wilson
            2011-06-03 18:37:46 UTC - 18:37 | Permalink

            Carr, you are incorrect, lot’s of people thought there were interpolation in Paul before Doherty. But few agree with Doherty that the passages he needs out are. if that is supposed to be sarcastic, it isn’t good since it does not lampoon my clear position, but one you insist others defend so as to make your own silly ideas seem viable. Pathetic.

            And all your writing seems sarcastic because you use sarcasm rather than competent arguments.

            • 2011-06-03 20:05:05 UTC - 20:05 | Permalink

              What on earth are you talking about? It seems you want to let McGrath (who has made no secret of his hostility to all mythicism per se regardless who argues for it) tell you exactly what you should think about anything Doherty says – you have certainly made it clear on numerous occasions you have no intention of reading Doherty’s book for yourself.

              The only interpolations Doherty relies on for his arguments are those argued by biblical scholars themselves: 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 and 1 Timothy 6:13. I don’t recall any others off hand.

              There is not a single argument for interpolation (none that I recall) that Doherty makes “just to support his pet theory” and that does not have significant support among mainstream biblical scholars. McGrath doesn’t care about this and has regularly attempted to mislead his readers into thinking otherwise. But he does not give any evidence to support his innuendo.

              I personally think Doherty is way too conservative in this respect, but understand why he is so.

              • Steven Carr
                2011-06-03 22:01:18 UTC - 22:01 | Permalink

                Wilson is engaged in a process of rewriting Doherty to align with McGrath’s strawmen.

                Don’t bother him with facts. There is propaganda for him to circulate.

              • Mike Wilson
                2011-06-04 02:47:00 UTC - 02:47 | Permalink

                I had got the impression that this post was to defend the suggestion that Galatians 1:18-19 could be an interpolation. That Doherty allows for the possibility of such as a potential solution to its problem I gathered from here


                “The attempt to treat the reference to “James the brother of the Lord” as simply one more example of the use of “brother” for all Christian believers fails, because it does not do justice to what Paul actually wrote.

                And so, if one is convinced that the phrase means what it clearly seems to, Doherty has other “solutions” – for instance, one can always assume it is a later interpolation, in spite of there being no manuscript evidence to support this. Doherty rightly points out that our earliest manuscripts are somewhat later rather than original copies (pp.61-63).”

                If he doesn’t make that argument (though I think I recall him using it in a response to one of the post on his work), apologies to him, but the post works for anyone who might try to use a weak case for interpolation to defend the theory.

              • 2011-06-04 08:56:06 UTC - 08:56 | Permalink

                You know very well — you have not read Doherty but you have read outlines of his argument and quotations by him — that he does not base is argument about Galatians 1:19 on interpolation at all. But you and McGrath cry Foul when, after making his argument, he lists other possibilities such as the mere possibility of interpolation — a possibility that is acknowledged even among scholars. You refuse to allow Doherty to even mention, as a postscript, a mere possibility of interpolation even though he does not argue on the basis of interpolation at all.

                It is such accusations that are the dishonest ones.

                Of course most biblical scholars are Christians but this bias does not bother you at all and you are quite content to dismiss any argument that is not publicly confessed by the majority of those scholars.

              • Mike Wilson
                2011-06-04 12:49:41 UTC - 12:49 | Permalink

                I am well aware of his other arguments, which are not likely, and that interpolation, also unlikely (but more likely than his own explanations) is only a fall back. Thus the degree that I find it reasonable to contemplate interpolation or one of his arguments in whatever verse we are discussing, hinges on the overall merits of the rest of his case, which is low.

                Most biblical scholars have been willing to accept a number of passages as interpolation, even to the degree of undermining Christian belief, so no the potential bias there is not nearly as sever as the bias I detect from Doherty or his supporters. They are much more clearly driven by ideology.

                It isn’t as though I dismiss arguments based on the percent of scholars that hold them ( I hold a few minority views my self), but it is common sense (outside the hopelessly paranoid, who of course don’t have common sense) that less widely held opinions are less likely to be accurate, and it would be disingenuous to hold that these minority opinions have proven the case in his favor, but it at least shows that at least some qualified individual supports his position.

              • 2011-06-04 13:10:22 UTC - 13:10 | Permalink

                You are waffling again. Where Doherty does argue for interpolations he does so on the basis of scholarly argument that is widely (no, I don’t know how widely) accepted in the literature. Neither you nor McGrath are willing to accept this fact. If you have a problem with those scholarly arguments for interpolation then you need to address them — something neither you nor McGrath appear willing to do.

                Trusting McGrath to give you an honest idea of what Doherty argues is like trusting Bernard Madoff for investment advice.

              • Mike Wilson
                2011-06-04 17:43:37 UTC - 17:43 | Permalink

                No waffling, this is my same position. And we don’t have to accept that fact because it is not a fact. I haven’t seen evidence that these instances of claimed interpolation are widely accepted, how ever wide you think that is. The arguments for them lack manuscript evidence, and have few internal issues that would lead us to suspect interpolation, thus I disagree with those who have suggested it, and in this I am joined by most scholars, therefore, I find it a safe position to take. If it were a bet I would be confident Doherty would lose.

              • 2011-06-04 18:31:28 UTC - 18:31 | Permalink

                You’re waffling. You have no idea what the arguments for interpolation are, though I’ve outlined some of them in detail in posts here, and they are readily available elsewhere.

              • mike Wilson
                2011-06-05 04:12:06 UTC - 04:12 | Permalink

                I’ve read arguments and they aren’t convincing to me. You shouldn’t be surprised, even most experts aren’t convinced. If you want to believe they’re all terrible scholars who haven’t bothered to consider the case, feel free. I understand you think they are, but you are easily convinced when it suits your needs.

              • 2011-06-05 12:35:29 UTC - 12:35 | Permalink

                Of course you have — you’ve read all the arguments by Daryl Schmidt, A. Pearson Birger, Burton Mack, Wayne Meeks, Helmut Koester, Pheme Perkins, S.G.F. Brandon, and Paula Fredriksen, and dismiss them all. (Which one of those did you find had the weakest arguments, and what did you think of Schmidt’s additions to the arguments of Birger?)

                You instead favour J. Weatherly’s and J. W. Simpson’s rebuttals of all of these arguments by simply declaring that Paul chose to write in a “non-Pauline manner” in this particular instance.

                Eddy and Boyd indicate that they find this is a convincing argument for authenticity so you do, too!

              • Evan
                2011-06-05 13:05:38 UTC - 13:05 | Permalink

                Yes, and Mike thinks that the wrath that came onto the Jews to the utmost from 1 Thess was … wait, what did you say it was Mike? I forgot. Let me go look. Yes, here it is:

                “Evan, I don’t know what he is talking about. the reference is vague. It is natural for later readers to see the AD 70 war here, it isn’t clear. It is possible Paul sees some other event as the sign of God’s wrath,allowing as Falwell saw 9/11 as God’s wrath on America for abortion and homosexuality or how every disaster in California is preached as some sort of holy vengeance for the sins of that state. Religious fanatics use a lot of hyperbole and see everything as a part of some grandiose higher plan. See how Koresh reacted to a search warrant. Presumably, if Paul thinks the events of Daniel are about to be fulfilled in his lifetime and cannot be reversed, he might talk about the wrath of God coming on them completely.”

                Yes, that completely clears it up.

              • Mike Wilson
                2011-06-05 18:46:00 UTC - 18:46 | Permalink

                Neil, they all have different arguments? Incredible! It is amazing to see you have read every piece of literature on the New Testament. If you haven’t, shouldn’t you before commenting on it? Don’t get lazy! In fact, since McGrath is actually a PhD in this field, and you are, a librarian? I really need you to demonstrates some proof you are more well read than McGrath, Hoffmann, or Ehrman on this subject. If any of those writers had a good argument for interpolation, you should have went with that, and not the ones you used. Why after showing nothing but bad arguments do you always insist that if I’d only read one more I would see the folly of my way? It would be like me telling you really can’t say you don’t believe in UFO’s until you’ve read, “Fly Saucers have Landed” . I’m sure lots of people think they have found a good case for interpolation, but it is a speculative case about which we cannot logically have confidence.

              • 2011-06-05 19:03:11 UTC - 19:03 | Permalink

                Ah, your question indicates you do not know anything at all about their arguments and have not really read them as you said you had.

                So you were waffling all along.

                I’ve discussed the arguments of several of those in detail on this blog. But if McGrath is your authority you can always ask him what to think whenever you need to have an opinion on anything. He is a doctor of theology who has specialized in Johannine Christology and even says he is a “historian”, so there you go.

              • mike Wilson
                2011-06-06 14:29:14 UTC - 14:29 | Permalink

                Neil, I never said I had read Daryl Schmidt, A. Pearson Birger, Burton Mack, Wayne Meeks, Helmut Koester, Pheme Perkins, S.G.F. Brandon, and Paula Fredriksen. I said “I’ve read arguments and they aren’t convincing to me.” I don’t know if you have lost track of the conversation or are just dishonestly trying to re-cast it. If one of the authors you mentioned had a better argument than


                then you should have used it. I seriously don’t think if only the rest of the scholarly community read the articles you mentioned they would all change their minds on Galatians 1:18-19. If you think one of them is that profound you should really point it out.

              • 2011-06-06 15:24:14 UTC - 15:24 | Permalink

                You accused Doherty of arguing interpolations to suit his thesis and that few others accept are interpolations: “. . . lot’s of people thought there were interpolation in Paul before Doherty. But few agree with Doherty that the passages he needs out are. . . ” Comment by Mike Wilson — 2011/06/03 @ 6:37 pm

                That accusation was false. I pointed out that the ONLY interpolations he argues as part of his case are those that are widely accepted as interpolations in the scholarly literature. You said you had read the arguments for these interpolations and were not convinced.

                The names I cited were those who have argued for the interpolations that Doherty appeals to in his case, and that are widely accepted by scholars.

                The case for interpolation does NOT depend on manuscript evidence. McGrath has ridiculed Doherty for proposing interpolations without manuscript evidence, and ridiculted the very idea of arguing for interpolations without manuscript evidence.

                He has since begun to apparently backtrack and admit that is it is possible to argue for interpolations in the absence of manuscript evidence, but do you think he has apologized to Doherty?

                Now you are accusing me of losing the thread of the conversation or being dishonest.

              • Otishpote
                2011-06-05 23:10:36 UTC - 23:10 | Permalink

                Galatians 1:17-1:24 is unattested to having been present in Marcion’s Apostolikon. (See D. J. Mahar’s reconstruction of the Marcionite version of Galatians linked at http://www.marcionite-scripture.info/Marcionite_Bible.htm

                Based on the arguments of Paul-Louis Couchoud, (http://www.radikalkritik.de/couch_engl.htm) it is unlikely that the passage belonged to the original edition of Galatians.

              • mike Wilson
                2011-06-07 06:50:48 UTC - 06:50 | Permalink

                I think you have lost track of the conversation. I’m not sure what you have in mind, I think its 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 and 1 Timothy 6:13.

                So after you asked what on earth I was talking about,(regarding lot’s of people thought there were interpolation in Paul before Doherty. But few agree with Doherty that the passages he needs out are.) I said “I had got the impression that this post was to defend the suggestion that Galatians 1:18-19 could be an interpolation….”

                then you said

                “You know very well — you have not read Doherty but you have read outlines of his argument and quotations by him — that he does not base is argument about Galatians 1:19 on interpolation at all. But you and McGrath cry Foul when, after making his argument, he lists other possibilities such as the mere possibility of interpolation — a possibility that is acknowledged even among scholars….”

                So I think you are also discussing Galatians. then I say,
                “I am well aware of his other arguments, which are not likely, and that interpolation, also unlikely (but more likely than his own explanations) is only a fall back. Thus the degree that I find it reasonable to contemplate interpolation or one of his arguments in whatever verse we are discussing, hinges on the overall merits of the rest of his case, which is low…”

                Then you reply,

                “You are waffling again. Where Doherty does argue for interpolations he does so on the basis of scholarly argument that is widely (no, I don’t know how widely) accepted in the literature.”

                Now I think you are talking about Galatians, but I suspect now you are talking about 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 and 1 Timothy 6:13, since you say “Where Doherty does argue for interpolations” which sounds like the earlier, “The only interpolations Doherty relies on for his arguments.” Am I correct, you are speaking of 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 and 1 Timothy 6:13?

                I didn’t have those in mind, since they are never referenced to my knowledge to repudiate Doherty’s theory, as Timothy is Pseudo Pauline, which we might expect to be HJ in his theory (though I think he argues it is also MJ, but every body gilds the lily on their theories), and most scholars think 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 is an interpolation, as it sounds like a later church invective against Jews ( I acknowledge that is the majority opinion in a side discussion with Evan, though I am not fully convinced myself, though the arguments against are good). I specifically had the passage from Galatians in mind, and some of the other oft referred to passages they seem to imply a human Jesus in Paul(such as the intro to Romans, which I have seen arguments for interpolation for, but again a argument doesn’t make it true, much less accepted), not that Doherty mentions the prospect of interpolation for them, but just in case some of his devotees do.

                I’m not sure what waffling means in the southern hemisphere, up here it means shifting a position. I don’t think that was done. I think “Comment by Mike Wilson — 2011/06/04 @ 12:49 pm” explains my position.

                On James and interpolations without manuscript evidence, I had pointed out that he long accepted that possibility and in fact feels that some parts of the New Testament are such. Feel free to show me where “McGrath has ridiculed Doherty for proposing interpolations without manuscript evidence, and ridiculed the very idea of arguing for interpolations without manuscript evidence.”

                He does say,
                “…Doherty has other “solutions” – for instance, one can always assume it is a later interpolation, in spite of there being no manuscript evidence to support this. Doherty rightly points out that our earliest manuscripts are somewhat later rather than original copies (pp.61-63). But this is true of pretty much all our ancient texts, and so unless one is going to propose a moratorium on all historical reconstruction, historians must continue to draw the best conclusions they can based on the evidence available. And to his credit, Doherty acknowledges that the attempt to chalk matters up to changes to manuscripts, which were made before our earliest copies and which left no trace in the extant manuscripts, cuts both ways (p.62). It is as easy to posit that references to a historical, flesh-and-blood Jesus were later excised as that references to a historical, flesh-and-blood Jesus were added.”

                This is hardly ridicule, though Doherty has thin skin when it comes to criticism. Anyone will acknowledge that a lack of manuscript evidence makes proving interpolation harder. There is nothing about the paragraph that means it is impossible to make a case for interpolation without manuscript evidence, though I suppose one unfamiliar with McGrath’s general work may think that. He did ridicule Rich Grease’s post suggesting interpolation

                Rich Griese
                “ Has anyone ever noticed that “Brother of the Lord” occurs in a area talking about James. Has anyone ever talked to Robert Eisenman to see if he believes this phrase was original, or… if it could simply have been added. I know that he has written extensively on his view that James was a critical character in Judaism of that time. And that the Jesus cult tried to write James out, or minimize him wherever possible. It does not seem unreasonable to me for this phrase (brother of the Lord) to have been added at a later time, in an attempt to redirect the attention of the reader that this portion of Josephus is actually about James. We know that other than this Josephus copies have only a single other reference to Jesus, which is acknowledged to be a later addition by the Christian Church.”

                James McGrath
                “@RichGriese, if we are free to simply posit interpolations and tamperings simply because the text as it stands doesn’t support our viewpoint, then by all means let’s all play that game! I can just respond then by saying that Docetists excised an even larger number of mentions of Jesus’ life and teaching from Paul’s letters! 🙂

                But I don’t really want to play that game. Those are tactics used by apologists, and not appropriate to the scholarly investigation of the historical Jesus. If you want to engage conservative Christian apologists with the same sorts of arguments they use, there are plenty of other sites for that. Here, I’m interested in the application of the methods of historical critical scholarship to what we can know about Jesus. “

                One could quibble that conservative Christians rarely argue for interpolation. But other wise the argument makes sense. Sorry to take up so much space, just wanted to be crystal clear, I‘ll see how that pans out.

              • 2011-06-07 10:27:22 UTC - 10:27 | Permalink

                McGrath writes: “…Doherty has other “solutions” – for instance, one can always assume it is.”

                Wilson writes: This is hardly ridicule, though Doherty has thin skin when it comes to criticism.

                Neil: Mike Wilson, you are very careful here to quote evidence for what McGrath says and what you said, but you have forgotten to quote evidence for your assertion about what Doherty said. I am most impressed with your clear ability to pay such close attention to detail and the facts that are clearly evident in black and white. (Your interpretation or comprehension of the tone and meaning of the words leaves something to be desired, but at least you show you can pay attention to evidence and detail when you want to.)

                But you apply this skill only to one side of the debate. You forgot to quote, for example, the evidence that Doherty has a thin skin with regard to criticism. You also forgot to quote the evidence, the actual words, from Doherty that exposes McGrath’s assertions about Doherty as outright lies. This is what I have attempted to do in some of my posts: simply show that McGrath’s assertions about Doherty’s arguments are maliciously false.

                You are half way there. Now all you have to do is try to extend your clearly demonstrated ability to pay attention to facts to all sides of the arguments.

          • 2011-06-03 20:10:37 UTC - 20:10 | Permalink

            Wilson said: “Yeah, I wouldn’t expect James to argue that it was impossible to makes a case for make a case for interpolation without manuscript evidence.”

            But Wilson chooses to ignore that McGrath responds to Evan et al that if they make any reference to an interpolation he (McGrath) retorts like a fatuous sophist that he can therefore simply argue that an editor has removed all the evidence he wants to read form the letters. The interpolations that Evan and Doherty have referenced are done so with arguments acknowledged as valid among biblical scholars.

            McGrath is quite willing to accept an argument for an interpolation, it seems, if it does not lend any weight to a mythicist argument. But if a mythicist uses the same argument at any point he cries “Foul!”

            • Mike Wilson
              2011-06-04 03:21:39 UTC - 03:21 | Permalink

              “The interpolations that Evan and Doherty have referenced are done so with arguments acknowledged as valid among biblical scholars”
              But the conclusion that they are interpolations are not widely accepted, for good reason. James’ objection is perfectly reasonable. One has to apply criteria to all passages, not just to ones you think will help your case.

              • 2011-06-04 04:31:56 UTC - 04:31 | Permalink

                If more interpolation-friendly criteria are applied to all passages, is it likely to make Paul seem more orthodox or less orthodox? I would guess the latter because I would guess that interpolations in the direction of orthodoxy are more likely.

              • Mike Wilson
                2011-06-04 08:52:49 UTC - 08:52 | Permalink

                Paul’s letters really form the core of what we call Orthodox Christianity. Ehrman notes in, Misquoting Jesus a number of instances, mostly from outside Pauline text(the Pauline citation is from 1 Timothy, a work largely regarded as a fake) of changes being made to combat possible adoptionist or docetic interpretations. The problem is other than Paul’s letters we don’t know what Paul’s views were. It would be hard to say if text that make Paul seem more orthodox are interpolations, because Paul may have been that orthodox.

                A method that does not require us to guess Paul’s theology before the alterations, would be to single out passages that seem to break the flow of the writing, but often these cases are subjective,( and I think if you used that method for anyone’s letters, or even post on these blogs), one will find a lot of false positives while still overlooking some clever interpolations. So while we would change Paul’s letters in an unpredictable way, we still wouldn’t be sure if it were more accurate to the original. I wonder if any one has figured out the % of the NT that is known interpolation. It might give a way to predict how much more should be interpolation (if not what verses precisely).

              • 2011-06-04 11:47:47 UTC - 11:47 | Permalink

                I don’t think that such a method would be consistent with what textual scholars actually do. I seem to recall Ehrman saying that the more difficult reading is likely to be the original one. The point being that it is thought that a scribe was unlikely to change a passage that conformed to orthodox thinking into one that didn’t so the less orthodox reading was likely to be the earlier one.

                It would indeed be hard to say that any specific text is an interpolation merely because it makes Paul more orthodox. However, it still might be possible to say that as a general rule it is more likely that texts would be changed in the direction of orthodoxy. In any case, that seems to be the assumption that Ehrman is operating under.

              • Mike Wilson
                2011-06-04 12:34:29 UTC - 12:34 | Permalink

                True, but I assumed a more interpolation friendly criteria would look at passages where there is not textual varience, at which point I think we are agreed that it would be hard to make ajudgement just based on the theology of the text.

  • vader
    2011-06-03 14:18:39 UTC - 14:18 | Permalink

    Where the evidence is thin, the bias of the person making the argument may overwhelm what evidence there is.

  • Geoff
    2011-06-03 19:25:02 UTC - 19:25 | Permalink

    Didn’t Neil say something to the effect that we all believe that Christianity came out of Judaism. So why not start looking at a strategy of interpretation that is completely Jewish, and in the context of the scrolls found near the dead sea and the writings attributed to one “Josephus”. I just don’t swallow all the rubbish that’s written about Josephus and by him. Then you might get near to the original texts, despite Vinny’s statement: “I think it was Bart Erhman who I heard say that it may not even make sense to talk about the original texts.” It is fairly obvious that the evident interpolations are only the tip of the iceberg as far as changes to the original text are concerned.

    • 2011-06-04 04:39:14 UTC - 04:39 | Permalink


      Why the “despite”? I think the point of the quote is that we will never be able to know what changes were made prior to the earliest manuscript evidence so we should direct the inquiry to the earliest recoverable text rather than the original text.

      • Geoff
        2011-06-04 07:11:37 UTC - 07:11 | Permalink

        Vinny, although we may never know the actual words prior to the earliest manuscript, I believe it is possible to reconstruct some of them. It does not take too much of a stretch to do it. Vermes recently attempted it, mistakenly I think, with the testimonium Flavium. Thus it seems that it is not beyond the imagination of some scholars.

        • 2011-06-05 00:31:51 UTC - 00:31 | Permalink


          I would think that there are concepts and ideas about which we can have reasonable degrees of confidence. It is difficult for me to imagine that a reconstruction of something like the TF could ever be much more than a plausible speculation.

          • Geoff
            2011-06-06 19:20:22 UTC - 19:20 | Permalink


            The practice of reconstruction is established among scholars. Vermes was one example such a practitioner who obviously believes in the possibility of reconstruction. I dismiss the TF as a later interpolation entirely. It is probably a part of a larger obfuscation, and is typical of the kind of interpolation and obfuscation found in the NT.

  • 2011-06-03 23:12:36 UTC - 23:12 | Permalink

    Yes, that should have been “impossible” and in my other recent comment “its” became “it’s” – and I am really starting to dislike autocorrect.

    An important question is how, in the absence of manuscript evidence, one distinguishes between interpolations and quotations of earlier Christian slogans and other traditions. It is a crucial point, since if one is too eager to declare things interpolations because of phrases that are uncharacteristic of Paul, one might mistake some of our most important historical evidence for later additions.

    • 2011-06-04 01:07:59 UTC - 01:07 | Permalink

      I would think that answering that question requires another question to be answered first: What is the starting point?. Shouldn’t we begin with the proposition that our earliest New Testament texts provide primary historical evidence of what third century orthodox Christians understood Paul’s teachings to be (more or less). Any argument for what Paul actually thought in the first century should contain positive reasons—e.g., multiple attestation within the Pauline corpus—for thinking that the relevant passages are original. Those reasons would need to be something more than the mere absence of manuscript evidence of an interpolation.

  • Geoff
    2011-06-04 02:50:16 UTC - 02:50 | Permalink

    It is interesting that Carrier should pick on 1 Cor.14:34-35. Was he supporting womens liberation? I haven’t read his argument. But for what its worth here is my take: The original text was clearly about prophets. There were male and female prophets. The original text was about everyone being able to prophesy, men and women in the Spirit. The pauline text turns the argument into one about disorder in the church. So depending on one’s strategy of interpretation, the so-called interpolation could be one part of a larger editorial.

    14.34.And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.

    14.31.For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.

    14.32.[The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
    14.33.For the God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
    As in all the congregations of the saints,]

    14.34.Women [should remain silent in the churches. They] are [not] allowed to [speak] {prophesy} [but must be] in [submission] {the Spirit}, as the Law says.

    14.35. [If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their leaders in the church, for it is disgraceful for a woman to lead in the church.]

    14.36. Did the [Word} {Spirit} of God originate with you? [Or are you the only people it has reached?]

  • John
    2011-06-04 07:43:00 UTC - 07:43 | Permalink

    Eisenman brings up an interesting question that Carrier touches on in his blog post that Neil links to above, and that is, was Paul really a Jew?

    As Carrier points out, Paul refers to himself as an Israelite, a Hebrew, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1, which Carrier points out says “Jew” in fact says “Israelite,” 2 Cor. 11:22 and Php. 3:5).

    In 1 Cor. 9:20, Paul says, “To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.”

    Is “became” here not the same word in Galatians 4:4 (“born” of a woman) that Doherty argues in his Supplimentary Article #15 on the Jesus Puzzle website “is “ginomai,” which has the broader meaning of “to become, to arise, to occur, to come into existence, to be created.” It can also be used in the sense of human birth, but that meaning will be determined by the context. On the other hand, there is a verb which in straightforward fashion means “to be born”: the passive of “gennao,” to give birth. The question becomes, why did Paul not use gennao if all he meant was that Jesus was born in the normal human way? What would lead him to use ginomai instead?”

    Isn’t the context of 1 Cor. 9:20 that Paul only acted like or pretended to be a “Jew, in order to win Jews,” not the he was born one?

    Now, as far as I can tell, that leaves only one more verse to deal with, Galatians 2:15:

    “We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners…”

    The word for birth (physis) can also be translated as “nature” and can have the sense of “a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature http://www.searchgodsword.org/isb/view.cgi?number=5449, which can fit well with the sense of 1 Cor. 9:20.

    Okay, so here’s where it gets a little complicated.

    Eisenman argues that this kind of “evasive” language with respect to Paul’s identity is due to his Herodian origins (and I have posted some of his other reasons for suspecting this in previous comments). Eisenman sees Paul’s “tribe of Benjamin” reference, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls use of “Belial” and hatred for the Spouter of Lies, as pertaining to the Idumaean origins of Herod, as Belial shares a root with Bela, the first son of Benjamin (Gen 46:21, 1 Chron 7:6), and Bela the name of the first Edomite king (Gen 36:32), and Benjaminites are referred to in the OT as “sons of Belial” (Jud. 19:22, 20:13).

    Eisenman writes that, “because of their Edomite or Idumaean origins or connections, the ‘Herodians’ may … have been making [Benjaminite] claims themselves to consolidate the dubious proposition of their Judaic or Hebraic origins,” in the way that Arabs regard themsleves as descendants of Abraham.

    If this is so, maybe it could help explain how Paul, if it is genuine (and I realize that that is a difficult thing to suppose), could say what he says in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.

    • John
      2011-06-04 12:32:12 UTC - 12:32 | Permalink

      And while it may have been Paul’s “heart’s desire and prayer to God that [Israel] may be saved” in Romans 10:1, he also says that their zeal for God “is not enlightened” and that they were “ignorant” because they did not submit to his idea that “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom. 10:2-4), and in 11:28 he calls them “enemies of God.”

      And regarding the Hebrew “superlative apostles” who preached a “different gospel” from his in 2 Cor. 11:4-5, they are “false apostles, deceitful workmen,” even servants of Satan, whose “end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Cor. 13-15).

      In Galatians 5:12 he wishes they would mutilate themselves!

      If that’s not enough, he actually “disses” Moses in 2 Cor. 3:7-18, who brought “the dispensation of death,” and says that his followers were “not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the fading splendor” of the law. “but their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds.”

      Whatver he may say elsewhere, these don’t sound like things somebody who loves Jews would say, and is certainly in keeping with 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.

    • rey
      2011-06-04 16:51:03 UTC - 16:51 | Permalink

      Paul being a Benjamite could also be an interpolation made to make him the Benjamite wolf in Jacob’s blessing of Benjamin in Genesis. “Benjamin shall ravin as wolf in the morning, and at night divide the spoils.” Tertullian uses this passage against Marcion to prove that Paul “was promised to me by the Creator’s Law.” (And, are not most interpolations of pro-Judaic and OT content in Paul’s epistles made post Marion and serve an anti-Marcionite character?) He says that Paul “ravined” in the morning, meaning he persecuted the church and killed Christ’s sheep, and “at night gave sustenance” (Tertullian’s purposefuly mistranslation) meaning became an apostle and taught the sheep of the church. Marcion had been dead for decades when Tertullian wrote this and couldn’t respond, but anyone competent would respond that Wolves don’t “divide the spoils” of dead sheep carcasses with sheep, but rather with other wolves! So, if Paul is the Benjamite wolf, then the prophecy means he is the antichrist: that he ravins as a wolf destroying the sheep of Christ in the morning both by violence and false doctrine, and then at night he divides the spoils, that is, gives the carcasses of the sheep to the heretics to finish off. Yet, I doubt that Paul was really prophecies of by the OT. Rather, I think the ‘orthodox’ invented the idea of Paul being a Benjamite to make him fit the prophecy, which as usual they would twist to make it fit.

      • John
        2011-06-05 02:41:37 UTC - 02:41 | Permalink

        However it may be, it’s hard for me to imagine that the orthodox would invent Jewish opponents for Paul simply to counter Marcion. Paul is very put off by them, too, so his reaction would also have to have been created, and if it was, they did a really good job.

        But aside from that, there is too much similarity between Paul and his Jewish opponents and the Spouter of Lies and the Dead Sea Scrolls group for me to think that (some of) Paul’s letters and his opponents are not genuine.

        • John
          2011-06-05 02:49:19 UTC - 02:49 | Permalink

          Additionally, how would the idea that the orthodox created Jewish opponents for Paul explain the existence of the Ebionites and their hatred of Paul? Did they get the idea from these supposedly interplolated letters and think, “What a great idea! Let’s hate Paul!” Not trying to be sarcastic, just wondering how to fit the idea into the big picture.

        • rey
          2011-06-05 06:47:00 UTC - 06:47 | Permalink

          I just meant that his saying his is of the tribe of Benjamine is an interpolation, not the whole thing.

          • John
            2011-06-05 07:33:15 UTC - 07:33 | Permalink

            That would be easier to accept. I was mainly commenting on your question, “(And, are not most interpolations of pro-Judaic and OT content in Paul’s epistles made post Marion and serve an anti-Marcionite character?)” I was taking “pro-Judaic” to mean things having to do with Paul’s Jewish opponents, but I guess you only meant the things in Paul that could be seen as positive towards the OT and Judaism. It was hard to imagine the implications of what I originally thought you meant.

  • rey
    2011-06-04 16:42:24 UTC - 16:42 | Permalink

    From the perspective of faith in the text as inerrant, manuscript evidence is needed to identify an interpolation. The text is allowed to be errant only when another manuscripts can be brought forward from which you can call inerrant (for that particular section). Inerrancy of the text, in the end means that the specific text you created by copying and pasting each verse from different manuscripts is in the end inerrant. But you are by no means allowed to remove a verse that wasn’t missing in at least one manuscript!!!!!!

  • rey
    2011-06-04 16:43:45 UTC - 16:43 | Permalink

    And isn’t the whole Pauline corpus an interpolation? Paul wasn’t accepted into the canon until 180, after all, and they go him from Marcion.

    • John
      2011-06-04 21:42:33 UTC - 21:42 | Permalink

      It’s a somewhat different topic, but Eisenman points out strong correspondences between Paul’s letters and the Spouter of Lies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and issues that pertain to James. I am convinced that Paul is the Spouter of Lies and that some of his letters are genuine.

      • John
        2011-06-04 23:02:08 UTC - 23:02 | Permalink

        The bit about Paul saying that the superlative apostles’ “end will correspond to their deeds” is in 2 Cor. 11:13-15. I just noticed that I left out the chapter.

        • John
          2011-06-07 02:46:04 UTC - 02:46 | Permalink

          There are quite a number of comments to this post. I wonder what the record is.

          I just wanted to add somewhere in the mix that in addition to the anti-Judaic statements by Paul in his other letters which are comparable to 1 Thes. 2:14-16, I don’t see any reason why 1 Thessalonians could not have been written by Paul in 66 CE (or even -why not?- 67, or 68, or 69). Who knows when Paul died, anyway? If the letter is later, rather than being the earliest, it would explain its concern with “those who are asleep” and those who “grieve,” and “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,” and with “comfort[ing] one another with these words” in 4:13-18. I know he also has this concern elsewhere (though 1 Cor. 15:6 is argued as being an interpolation!), but this seems to go a little further in wanting to comfort those who are grieving, and is a big part of this short letter.

          A later date would also explain Paul’s following concern in 5:1-11 with the timing of Jesus’ coming, which would not (also) have to be seen as an interpolation, as some consider it to be. It would make sense.

          Incidently, there are reasons for suspecting that Paul is Saulos in Josephus, who dissappears in 66 at the outbreak of the War with Rome.

          So not only is there evidence in his other letters that Paul was extremely hostile towards Jews, which is in keeping with 1 Thess. 2:14-16, there is no certainty when Paul died. A date of 66-69 explains the concerns of 1 Thessalonians and its “wrath of God” statement (with the destruction of the temple only being inferred), and also fits the chronology of Saulos, who appears to resemble Paul.

          And if Paul wasn’t a Jew, but rather a Hebrew/Israelite/Benjaminite in a possible Herodian sense, it would explain the echo of this in the tradition of the Ebionites in Panarion 30 that Paul was not really a Jew but a Greek convert.

          rey, after chewing on your Benjaminite question more, I’m having a hard time seeing why the orthodox would interpolate that Paul was a Bejaminite. Why would they want to make him look bad?

  • Otishpote
    2011-06-05 22:52:38 UTC - 22:52 | Permalink

    We know from Tertullian and others that the Marcionite version of the Pauline epistles was significantly shorter than the Catholic version. (The Marcionite version of the Paulina is about a third shorter than the Catholic version, not counting the pastoral epistles which are later forgeries in their entirety.) Tertullian claimed the Marcion had removed passages he didn’t agree with. He also tells us Marcion denied doing so and had accused the Catholics of having adding the passages in question. Who was right? We have a way to determine that.

    Although the Marcionite version (known as the Apostolikon) is not extant in any pure form, a substantial portion of it can be reconstructed from extensive Patristic quotations, the most important source being Tertullian’s “Contra Marcionem”.

    Paul-Louis Couchoud argued in 1928 that when the Apostolikon (as partially reconstructed by Harnack) and Catholic versions are compared side by side, that the Catholic version is easily and sensibly explained as an redaction of the Apostolikon. Redaction in the opposite direction appears much less feasible, and doesn’t explain the peculiarities of the actual texts. That is, according to Couchoud, a critical examination of the differences between the texts in question establishes a strong cumulative case that Marcion had the more original version of the Pauline epistles.

    See: The First Edition of the Paulina

    My point is that we have a case for extensive interpolations in the Pauline epistles which has an objective basis in external evidence, namely quotations in the church fathers. This isn’t manuscript evidence. But it is the next best type of evidence a textual critic can have. As such, it is much stronger than commonly heard arguments for interpolation based merely on internal evidence surrounding an individual passage.

    (Neil, you promised me the other day that you’d read the article by Couchoud. I’d enjoy reading your remarks after you’ve read it. And sorry that I sound like a broken record recommending this same article nearly every time I comment – but in my opinion Couchoud’s conclusion here is crucially important for us to kept in mind when studying the Pauline epistles. It pretty much changes the whole paradigm for reading “Paul”.)

    • 2011-06-06 08:05:49 UTC - 08:05 | Permalink

      Thanks for the reminder. I did read this some years back I think, but have had another look at it now. The question I came to have about this sort of argument is whether it oversimplifies what we know about Paul’s letters. By reducing Paul’s letters to an either-or Marcionite-Orthodox tug of war, are we sidelining other interested parties who also deserve a hearing? I’m thinking of the Valentinians in particular. What did their text of Paul look like, and why?

      Another question I have — one I have not looked at for a while so my memory may be playing games with me — is whether it is valid to leave OT prophetic references in reconstructed Marcionite letters of Paul. Did not Marcion reject the idea that OT prophecies applied to his Christ and Christianity?

      These are a couple of reasons why I am still open to the possibility of Paul being a (mid) first century figure, and whose letters originally looked not quite like either the Marcionite or Orthodox reconstructions.

      I am still wanting to read still more about Marcion — Sebastian Moll’s book is still patiently waiting on my shelf to be picked up.

  • Otishpote
    2011-06-06 09:35:24 UTC - 09:35 | Permalink

    Those are all valid considerations, Neil. But I don’t see how any of them detract from the main point Couchoud was making: that the Catholic version is obviously derivative in many places and can not plausibly represent the original content of the letters. If the history of the versions is more complex, such as with both versions being redacted from a common source, or if Marcion’s version already contained earlier redactions, Couchoud’s arguments would still in some slightly modified manner remain applicable. I think several scholars subsequent to Couchoud have argued for a more complicated relationship between the versions. Gilles Quispel comes to mind, but I’ve only read brief summaries of his arguments.

    Regarding, whether it is valid to leave OT prophetic references in reconstructed Apostolikon, I don’t see why not. Do you have a particular example of an OT quote in Paul’s epistles that you doubt could have been in the Apostolikon?

    It does appear, according to Tertullian, that some OT references were there in places. For example, Tertullian says that Marcion “left untouched the last mention of Abraham’s name” in Gal 4:22. But the passage in Galatians is only using the reference to Abraham to illustrate an allegorical point, and not as an appeal to any authority inherent in the OT text. I mean, you and I don’t find the OT to be authoritative either, but we still find cause to mention verses from it at times in discussions with people who do take it as inspired. I think that whether or not it is plausible that the Apostolikon quoted the OT depends on a case-by-case basis on the specifics of the passage in question and how it is being used. Also, the original author of the epistles may not have shared all of Marcion’s opinions. Marcion may liked the epistles for other reasons and found ways to rationalize or reinterpret passages that didn’t fit his own views without actually having to remove them from the text.

    • 2011-06-06 10:00:45 UTC - 10:00 | Permalink

      I have reservations about a Marcion-Paul using any OT passages at all in relation to Jesus. My understanding is that Marcion thought of the OT as for Jews only, and the Messiah it prophesied was an earthly Messiah who was not the same as the one from heaven and from the Alien God. The spiritual messiah from this Alien (hitherto unknown) God was a totally new revelation unrelated to the law and prophets of the OT. Jesus was sent to reveal this “new” God to the world.

      But I admit I have been influenced in this particular detail of understanding by R. Joseph Hoffmann’s study, and I have not given this much thought or study since. Sebastian Moll has some very harsh criticisms of Hoffmann’s work (there are certainly some odd details in it, but I thought he made a reasonable case for some of the bigger questions) and I have yet to read his book. I may come away with a revised view of the likelihood of Marcion’s use of the OT.

      One aspect I know I need to understand more is the relationship between Marcion’s ideas and those of Apelles, his “student” who defected.

      And what of the argument that Marcion flatly rejected all allegorical interpretations of the OT. This alone would render the OT irrelevant for Christians.

      • Otishpote
        2011-06-06 10:37:51 UTC - 10:37 | Permalink

        Gilles Quispel’s “Marcion and the Text of the New Testament” can be read at Google books:


        Quispel, citing John J. Clabeaux’s Harvard dissertation, says “Clabeaux established that Marcion revised only lightly the authoritative pre-Marcionite Greek text of Paul used and accepted by the ancient Christian congregation of Rome.”

        Quispel also cites Ulrich Schmid’s dissertation. “Contrary to received opinion, Schmid also concluded that Marcion’s interventions in the text to remove the so-called ‘Judiastic’ interpolations were much less numerous than one would suppose.”

        I’ve not been able to get access to either of these dissertations to read them myself.

        • 2011-06-06 10:49:24 UTC - 10:49 | Permalink

          Are you able to find the names of the institutions that awarded Clabeaux’s and Schmid’s doctorates? I may be able to track down their dissertations if I had that information.

  • Otishpote
    2011-06-06 10:59:51 UTC - 10:59 | Permalink

    All I know is what is in Quispel’s paper at the link I gave. He cites a 1983 Harvard dissertation (published 1989) by John J. Clabeaux. He cites a 1993 Münster dissertation (published 1995) by Ulrich Schmid.

    Quispel’s essay itself was published in the book “Gnostica, Judaica, Catholica: collected essays of Gilles Quispel”. It was previously published in Vigiliae Christianae 52 (1998).

  • Steven Carr
    2011-06-06 16:37:21 UTC - 16:37 | Permalink

    Doherty has other “solutions” – for instance, one can always assume it is a later interpolation, in spite of there being no manuscript evidence to support this.

    McGrath is very explicit about Doherty’s writings. Doherty ‘assumes’ that things are later interpolations.

    This is just bare-faced lying, until McGrath produces quotes of Doherty ‘assuming’ things are interpolations, without ever having produced arguments for them.

    And notice how quickly McGrath backed away from his claim that manuscript evidence is a necessary condition for evidence of interpolations.

    • 2011-06-06 18:34:27 UTC - 18:34 | Permalink

      We have witnessed scholars — Christian, atheist and too-esoteric-to-be-labelled — publish outright lies about Doherty’s arguments.

      We have also witnessed creationists tell outright lies to defend their positions.

      But it would surely be churlish to draw any comparisons.

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