Tag Archives: Irenaeus

Marcion’s authorship of his Gospel – an overlooked question

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

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

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

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

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Pre-Christian Christ Gnosticism: 3 — the pre-christian date

How old is the Gnosticism described in the first two posts?

Schmithals holds that the Apophasis (c.f. Apophasis) attributed to Simon and from which (or from a summary or paraphrase of which) Hippolytus apparently drew his information was not itself written by Simon — at least according to what we can understand from the way Hippolytus speaks of it. Three points are singled out:

  1. New Testament quotations are included in the Apophasis [VI.9.10 = 137.11ff; VI.14.6 = 140.3.4; VI.16.6 = 142.23 ff.]
  2. The second century Galienus is perhaps used [VI.14.8 = 140.15 ff.]
  3. The Apophasis appears not to have been a unitary work in all respects.

I don’t have access to a copy of Hippolytus with either of these numbering systems so am unable to pull out the quotations. The NT ones in particular could be significant — are they from Paul’s epistles or elsewhere?

But the question is not the age of the Apophasis but the age of the system of Gnosticism described in it. And that is the theme of this post.

Schmithals begins with another account of Simon’s teachings that they share the terminology we find in Hippolytus’ account but that differ significantly in other respects. read more »

Tim Keller — almost immediately, but a mere hundred years later, everyone knew the 4 gospels were true

The canonical gospels were written at the very most forty to sixty years after Jesus’s death. (p.101 of The Age of Reason)

The four canonical gospels were written much earlier than the so-called Gnostic gospels. The Gospel of Thomas, the best known of the Gnostic documents, is a translation from the Syriac, and scholars have shown that the Syriac traditions in Thomas can be dated to 175 A.D. (sic) at the earliest . . . . (pp.102-103)

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however, were recognized as authoritative eyewitness accounts almost immediately, and so we have Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. (sic) declaring that there were four, and only four, gospels. (p.103)

It appears that the very first evidence Keller can find of anyone accepting the canonical gospels as “authoritative eyewitness accounts” was at the very least 90 years after the first gospel was supposedly penned.

Actually Keller’s 160 date for the composition by Irenaeus against heresies is generous in the extreme. We cannot be absolutely sure if Irenaeus was born earlier than 142 c.e., and it was from 161 to 180 that an imperial persecution against Christians was waged. (See Wikipedia Irenaeus.) It was from 180 c.e. that Irenaeus most likely had the time and circumstances to write his many volumes, and 180 c.e. is the date for his writings I usually see referenced.

Justin Martyr around 140 c.e. appears to quote some gospel passages, but he also appears to quote passages from non-canonical gospels, too. So he can hardly have regarded the canonical four as “authoritative” to the exclusion of others.

Ignatius and Polycarp are also highly debatable re how much of their works were late addition or compilations. Keller has no clear evidence of the belief in the canonical gospels as the authoritative “eyewitness accounts” apart from a late second century bishop and apologist for the church headquartered at Rome.

This, in The Age of Reason, is sufficient evidence for him to proclaim:

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however, were recognized as authoritative eyewitness accounts almost immediately, and so we have Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. (sic) declaring that there were four, and only four, gospels. (p.103)