2008-01-29

The GOOD legacy of a fundamentalist and cultic life: 5

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by Neil Godfrey

Awareness of Mercy

Continuing from part 4 in this series . . . .

Next in Marlene’s list is “Awareness of Mercy”. While I found myself nodding in agreement I had to ask myself how such a legacy can come out of such a judgmental belief system.

But first, notes from Marlene’s discussion:

After reminding readers of the teachings about mercy (the command to forgive 70 times 7; removing the speck in your own eye first; not casting the first stone, etc) that necessarily hold a significant place in any Christian teaching, fundamentalism included, Marlene suggests that the ex-fundamentalist “probably retain[s] an openness and caring for people.” I would add that this is probably true for anyone who took their Christian teachings seriously to heart, and that fundamentalists generally take those teachings to heart more than many others. Even if the motive then was tinged with fear, at least this is undeniably a good legacy.

Human frailty, imperfection, and even serious misdeeds may evoke concern on your part instead of immediate judgment. This can make you a more whole, feeling person, with the potential for connecting with people on an emotional level, instead of relating simply to their overt behaviors. In other words, the other side of seeing human weakness is the tenderness you can have for others. You can assume they are struggling and “falling short of glory.” Your mercy is a needed quality in a world of harsh expectations and judgments.” (pp. 107-8)

It feels a little strange reading that again. It is impossible to really know how much of our character is innate and how much evoked by experiences. When I recollect my little “ex cult veterans support group” that included a motley array from diverse cults, we were able to talk as “brethren” — I think we did have a compassion not only for one another, understanding what we had each gone through, but that I am sure we all felt we had a similar compassion for our friends “left behind” and others “out there” who had not yet experienced what we had.

And in the fundamentalist or cultic church one does feel very close, bonded with a family bond even, to each other from all walks of life. Caring and understanding for others, and learning to live mercifully with others when they fail or even deeply offend you, is a daily part of what one strives to live for.

And when one leaves that mindset and “spiritual family” it gets even better. The walls are broken down between yourself and the rest of humanity. You now identify with collective humanity. And when one encounters the harsh and heartless one finds oneself, I am sure many times, reacting with an attempt to understand and to work with instead of against those people as much as possible. One often wants to understand others. The idea of “whose fault” something is, or the culture of “blame”, is distressing because of its unhelpfulness and the pain and strife it perpetuates.

That is the potential that I think is often there — following Marlene’s lead with this suggestion — and perhaps it is a little more accentuated than it otherwise might have been among others who have traveled the same path.

See the Winell archive for earlier posts in this series — and Marlene’s Recovery from Religion website.


The fallacy of argument ad verecundiam (to modesty?)

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by Neil Godfrey

The quaint Latin term might mean appeal to modesty but in plain English it refers to the fallacy of an appeal to authority.

This form of error is an egregious but effective technique which puts an opponent in the awkward position of appearing to commit the sin of pride if he persists in his opposition. (p.253)

Fischer (Historians’ Fallacies) discusses a 1950’s exchange among historians of modern history to illustrate that “the most crude and ugly form of an argument ad verecundiam in historical writing is an appeal to professional status.” I will cite here a more recent example.

In 2003 George Athas published a version of his 1999 doctoral thesis on the Tel Dan inscription — a 1993 archaeological find that was widely claimed to be the earliest extra-biblical evidence for the House of David. Two of the earliest reviews of this work were “most crude and ugly” indeed:

The author’s hope is that his “study will do much to quell the unhelpful passion and euphoria” that have lured us all into “emotional scholarship” (319). Those are rather grand and pretentious aims for a doctoral dissertation . . . (Review in RBL 10/2003) by William M. Schniedewind University of California)

And a year later:

. . . . After a decade of extensive research, there was a feeling among scholars that the study of the inscription had reached fruition and that no significant advance could be made, unless more fragments were found in the excavations.

It is against this background that the book under review should be evaluated. The book, a rework of a dissertation submitted to the University of Sydney in 1999, deals with some aspects (notably the epigraphical, paleographical, and textual analysis) in such detail as could be done only in a doctoral dissertation. Considering that Athas is a beginning young scholar, the book is pretentious in the extreme. Athas believes that his study “will do much to quell the unhelpful passion and euphoria that the Tel Dan Inscription has evoked among scholars and interested persons alike” (319). — (Review in RBL 10/2004 by Nadav Na’aman, Tel Aviv University)

I once wrote:

There are many reasons . . . to believe that Acts was composed [as] a later reaction against Marcionism.

No more, just an invitation to discuss the evidence if my debating partner was willing to go there. But his reply was an interesting shut down with his appeal to “modesty” and by inference “my arrogance” for even making such a claim:

That might be a fun debate. … {g} You do realize that such a position (about Acts) goes directly up against evaluations by Adoph Von Harnack and JAT Robertson (among many others on all sides of the theological spectrum, some of them no more poster-boys for Christian “dogmatism” than those two were), right?

In other words, my correspondent was demonstrating a complete lack of interest in what “many reasons” there might possibly be, preferring instead to rest on the works generally cited as authorities. Authority of the names alone was sufficient. The question was recast from one of evidence and reason to one of attitude: of presumed modesty versus a presumption of arrogance.

One might even call it an attempt at “intellectual bullying”.

A favourite arena where this tactic is found is where individuals outside the academy raise questions or challenge paradigms that have long been seen as the special preserve of the academy. Obviously some of those questions and alternate proposals are kooky. But academia does itself — nor the public to whom one would expect it to feel some sense of responsibility — any favours by arrogant appeals “to modesty”.

Fischer concludes:

In historiography, such crude forms of argument ad verecundiam are rarely to be met with — in print, at least. [He was writing in 1970 — before online discussion groups and wikis.] The explanation is not that scholars are gentlemen, but rather, as Bolingbroke noted many years ago, that “those who are not such, however, have taken care to appear such in their writings.”

The above examples demonstrate that Fischer’s observations do not necessarily apply in our times of public online journal reviews and discussions.

P.S.

there exists online another review of Athas’s study sans the “modesty” by Daniel Miller (2007) in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures.


The fallacy of the prevalent proof

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by Neil Godfrey

David Hackett Fischer back in 1970 in his Historian’s Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, discussed this fallacy one sometimes encounters in discussions of the history of early Christian origins and biblical studies.

It refers to using widespread opinion as a method of verification. Often I’ve noticed this coupled with an argument “from authority” where well known historians’ names will be called on as examples of some who have expressed or assumed a widely accepted opinion or “fact” as if that adds empirical weight to something that has never been methodically investigated.

Fischer notes that cultural anthropologists have found this practice among certain tribes such as the Kuba. History, for them, is whatever their majority declares to be true. But Fischer’s point is that anthropologists would also find the same practice among some quarters in our history departments.

The best known example of something very close to this among biblical students and scholars is the Jesus Seminar with its method of voting in order to issue colour rankings to indicate how many or how few believed certain passages in the gospels were authentic sayings, or deeds, of Jesus. While the Seminar scholars may have explained the nature and real significance of their voting and colour coding scheme, the simple fact of voting to and grading passages accordingly is curious. Why not simply leave the various arguments themselves to speak for themselves? A ranking system based on counting votes obviously will only serve to perpetuate the laziness, and fallacy, of relying on a majority opinion for verification. And if a few prominent names can be linked to some of the votes (not the reasonings and assumptions) then all the “more certainly factual” one can misguidedly feel one’s argument is.

But one encounters this fallacy in many more areas than those discussions that call on the findings of the Jesus Seminar.

Few scholars have failed to bend, in some degree, before the collective conceits of their colleagues. Many have established a doubtful question by a phrase such as “most historians agree . . .” or “it is the consensus of scholarly opinion that . . .” or “in the judgment of all serious students of this problem. . . .” (p.52)

Fischer cites one example where a historian wrote in relation to the role of dope in early industrial England, “every historian of the period knows that it was common practice at the time for working mothers to start the habit in the cradle by dosing their hungry babies on laudanum . . .” Yet although this statement was often made and widely believed it had apparently never at the time been established by empirical evidence.

When an historian asserts that “X has not been extensively investigated,” he sometimes means, “I have not investigated X at all.”

When leaving my erstwhile faith I asked questions, and kept asking further questions about any answers I got to the first questions. This was not from nihilistic scepticism but from a determination not to be bitten again. I hated it when I asked on an academic discussion group the evidence for, say, that a particular passage in Josephus not being a completely 100% forgery, and being directed to a text that listed numbered points claiming to be reasons — no argument, nothing new at all that I had not already studied and found based on questionable logic or in defiance of stronger counter-arguments. It soon became apparent that many scholars themselves who gave such answers had never checked for themselves with due methodical enquiry the many “facts” on which they based their hypotheses and arguments.

Not that that particular point was a major one in the grand scheme of things, but it sticks in my mind since it was the answer I was given by a widely respected academic repeatedly, and in a context of arrogant dismissal if anyone found cause to “quibble” with such a list of dot points on a page of a text by such “an authority”.

But this fallacy is found across the spectrum. Fundamentalists may laugh at the Jesus Seminar with its voting, but one also regularly encounters their appeals to “majority opinion” among scholars who are from the same theological camp.

A fact which every historian knows is not inherently more accurate than a fact which every schoolboy knows. Nevertheless, the fallacy of the prevalent proof commonly takes this form — deference to the historiographical majority. It rarely appears in the form of an explicit deference to popular opinion. But implicitly, popular opinion exerts its power too. A book much bigger than this one could be crowded with examples.  

Fischer gives one popular example: the notion that Mussolini made the trains run on time. Fischer cites a work by Montagu and Darling testifying to the mythical nature of this “widely known fact”. In biblical studies one might in many cases substitute popular theology or religious beliefs for popular opinion.


2008-01-28

Missing a real Peter in Acts

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by Neil Godfrey

Crazy as it might sound to some, there is simply no biographical information about Peter in the book of Acts. Every story told in relation to Peter has a miracle as its absolute base. In other words, remove the mythical element from each anecdote concerning Peter and there is nothing left. It is not as though the author has tagged a miracle on to some biographical detail of Peter’s life to give it sparkle, as we sometimes find in genuine biographies. There is simply no Peter apart from the mythical in this book.

Episode 1: Reconstituting the Twelve

If Mark’s gospel was the first, and if we concede the arguments that Judas was Mark’s literary creation, then the arguments that this event which Peter leads is a theological construct than a dedication to historical sources are surely strengthened. The way Judas is placed in Mark’s gospel is without narrative coherence (e.g. Jesus was well enough known not to need one of his disciples to point him out, no motive is given to explain his betrayal. . . .), appearing to be unnaturally introduced into the story simply to make the plot work. If there ever were a body of Twelve based at Jerusalem and recognized as eyewitnesses of Jesus and authoritative guardians of the original faith, Paul’s, and even Acts’, failures to appeal to them for dispute resolution is inexplicable. The names of the Twelve vary in different writings, as happens with free-floating legends, and they are little known except as an abstraction beyond the canonical documents until the later second century. If, as Bauckham affirms, the most solid basis for believing their existence to be historical is found in Meier’s study, they have precious little substantial foundation indeed. (See my post on Meier’s discussion of the evidence for the Twelve.)

But even apart from the implausibility of the existence of the Twelve, and of an historical Judas who occasions this scene in Acts, the story itself climaxes with an act of God demonstrating the continuity of the church on Pentecost with the earlier Mosaic tradition. The meaning of the story is bound up in the casting of lots to ascertain the divine will (as per Aaronic practice) in order to establish the divine appointment of the Twelve. The author portrays this as a direct act of God without which Peter’s role would be meaningless. Readers are left without any biographical or historical story in association with this divine act. There is no discussion of Peter’s relationship with the Twelve, or feedback on the discussions and concerns that one would expect among the players in the context. The is interested in nothing more than proof-texting from Scriptures and describing an act of God for his readers. There is no history, no biography here.
We can safely hold the first anecdote in which Peter is the focus in abeyance pending further support for its historicity.

Episode 2: Pentecost

Peter’s function here in chapter 2 of Acts is to act as the interpreter of the public miracle of the sound of wind, tongues of fire, and miracle of linguistic communication. He is used as the mouthpiece for assuring both real audience and his narrative audience that all that is happening to the disciples in Jerusalem is a direct fulfilment of prophecy. His preaching is so effective that 3000 Jews turn around from fickle Christ-crucifiers to a converted utopian community of believers.

Again, not surprisingly in such a scene, there is no background historical or biographical description or discussion. What you read is all there is: a tale of the miraculous and its theological meaning.

We are still no nearer to knowing anything of a man Peter. We know about scriptural fulfilments and miracles, but nothing about real people and history.

Episode 3: Miracle and Sanhedrin

In Peter’s first miracle (Acts 3) there is no detail offered that is not integral to the miracle story itself. In the subsequent arrest and interrogation before the Sanhedrin where one might hope for some enlightenment of an historical exchange for us to better glimpse the real historical goings on in the early church, and its relations with Jewish authorities, there is again nothing. Only a discussion that pivots around the performing of a miracle and the theological message it conveys.

Unless one believes that life, history, and the interventions of the divine were quite unlike anything we know today, then there is no news about history or a real Peter here either. And if we did believe that, then to be fair we’d have to have pretty good grounds for accepting that things were only validly different for the “peoples of the Book” and not for pagans who also experienced miracles and interventions of deities.

Episode 4: Striking liars dead and healing with a shadow

No discussion is required concerning Peter’s appearance in the Ananias and Sapphira incident. Fortunately we can safely assume that these two were not struck dead at a word from Peter’s mouth, any more than we will assume that his shadow really did heal the sick.

But what we are looking for is something else beside these tall tales that might suggest some genuine biographical source. Unfortunately, there is nothing but the tall tales.

Episode 5: Prison break out and another interrogation

Peter is imprisoned with the others but an angel miraculously releases them. Hardly a basis for a presumption of historicity. Unless the angel did intervene the story would lose its meaning. It is intended to amuse the audiences as they find opportunity to snicker at the trembling guards and authorities who are at a loss to comprehend their freedom. No miracle or angel, no story. That is, the miracle is not tacked on to an historical event. The miracle is presented as the central historical event.

Again one might hope for some survival of sources to seep through to the telling of the official interrogation that follows, but this session is narratively a sequel to the earlier one that was itself a direct consequence of a miracle. If some do see some historical source behind the account of Gamaliel’s advice, it unfortunately throws no light on an historical Peter.

Episode 6: A real event?

The dispute between 2 groups over handouts sounds plausible enough. It’s the sort of incident one would expect to read about in a new community working out its ways. But if this is the first whiff we have of something that reads like history, it is not only very generalized and sweeping in its account, — it also finds Peter completely out of sight.

Episode 7: Putting super magicians in their place

Peter’s encounter with Simon Magus is obviously designed to demonstrate the superiority of Peter to this Samaritan would-be rival. The dialogue is tailored to pronounce doom on this arch-heretic and to depict the victim as cowering and begging for mercy in response. The theological and political message underlying the anecdote is obvious. Peter stands for the theological and political message. There is nothing else of Peter here. The account of Simon is so cryptic it serves to raise questions rather than enlighten. It tells us more about Simon than Peter and it drapes Simon himself beneath an impenetrable shroud. If Simon here is a substitute for Paul as some have argued (Detering), then Peter likewise is as much a metonym.

Episode 8: Aeneas and Dorcas

As the plot of Acts advances toward the full inclusion of gentiles, Peter is found performing miracles firstly on the namesake of the Romans, Aeneas, and secondly on one nicknamed Deer. One miracle is at a place that reads like a homonym for Lydia — from where the Romans traced their descent; the other at Joppa, from where Jonah embarked on his (unintended) way to preach to the gentile Assyrians. Both miracles are obvious re-writes of miracles already attributed to Jesus and Elijah and Elisha. The symbolic nature of the stories, and their clear literary borrowing, is enough to attribute them to authorial imagination and creativity.

But of course, Peter here is placed in no historical or biographical context. He is nothing more than the agent of the miracles — which obviously are the what the anecdotes are about. Not Peter.

Episode 9: Vision and Cornelius

Here the author gives us some detailed narrative fillers for Peter as a character. But that’s all — only narrative filler. More dialogue as opposed to monologue, more detail about where he is and what he’s doing and how he’s feeling (e.g. on a roof, sleepy, hungry). Unfortunately, it’s not the sort of detail that will help a historian or biographer learn anything about the real man. There is no discussion, as one would expect in a document if it were aiming at recording and instructing in an historical past, of the viewpoints within the Church or among its leaders on the issue of Jewish customs. There is only one person discussed, and that’s Peter himself. He is being used to inform readers how of a “Just-So” story of how the church came to be made up of gentiles. There is no discussion of the different persons who must have been involved in any such real event. But we know it is not a real event because its plot hinges squarely on 2 miraculous visions and then another miracle of a visible display of the descent of the spirit.

Episode 10: Last jail break

Just like in a Greek play about a mythical character, this near-final scene of Peter’s tells us nothing about a real event, let alone a real person. I sometimes think it would have been a nice touch if the author had added that Peter sent condolences to the families of the guards who were executed as a result of his escape. “I’m very sorry about what happened to your Brutus and Cassius back there, but with that angel coming in and striking chains in two and swinging iron gates open with just a look I was too frightened to do anything but run like the blazes. It’s a real shame our God does not have more pity for you pagans.”

Episode 11: Summing up

Finally at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 Peter makes his last appearance. But all he does is repeat a litany of miracles.

Missing the real Peter

From first to last, there is no real Peter, no historical material. There is only miracle and theology, of which Peter is a mouthpiece or agent.

And this Peter of narrative is different from the Peter of the epistle to the Galatians. He is also different from the Peter in the gospel of Mark, and again from the one in the gospels of John and Matthew.

Like Paul, he is a Protean figure who can be turned into whatever the narrator cum theologian requires.


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

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by Neil Godfrey

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

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

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

Characterization of Peter

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

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

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

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

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

He was answering the charge that Peter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canonical Luke-Acts comfortably fits in such an environment.

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

To continue with the characterization of Paul . . . .


2008-01-25

Tracing the evolution of the Twelve Apostles from monkey rejects to angelic pillars.

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by Neil Godfrey

The three rejects — Paul

Paul in his letter to the Galatians equates the namesakes of the three leading apostles in Mark (Cephas/Peter?, James and John) as holding an unimpressive rank in his eyes (Gal. 2:6), and who became the leaders of the hypocrites at Antioch (Gal. 2:13), and were thus cursed teachers of “another gospel” (cf Gal. 2:14 with Gal. 1:7-9).

In other letters, particularly in the Corinthian correspondence, Paul continues to attack false apostles “from the Jews” who claim to be imbued with the spirit of Christ and perform miracles and have visions (cf 1 Cor. 9, 2 Cor. 11-12). One is reminded of the manner in which Acts portrays Peter. 1 Corinthians 15 does claim the Twelve, and Peter, were witnesses of the resurrected Christ (just as was Paul — 1 Cor. 15:5, 8 ) but given this passage’s contrary theological tone to Galatians, the arguments of other studies that see here an interpolation do deserve attention.

The twelve failures — Mark’s gospel

This appears to be our earliest narrative involving the twelve disciples or twelve apostles and it presents the Twelve as disastrous failures. They are a negative lesson to readers: Don’t be like them! Peter’s name, meaning rocky, is more obviously associated with the rocky soil in the parable of the sower, than with any foundational stone (Talbert). Jesus called him Satan and in almost the same breath warned anyone who was too ashamed to admit to knowing Jesus would be a reject in the kingdom (Mark 8:33-38). This assigns Peter with his threefold denial to the same league as Judas. The disciples fled in fear from Jesus at his arrest and the women fled fearfully from Jesus’ tomb soon afterwards. The only resurrection appearance known to Mark will be at the second coming, although Jesus can be found before then in metaphorical Galilee.

The twelve failures — Marcion’s gospel

Given my recent posts on the position of Marcion in relation to the Synoptic Problem and the arguments for redating both Marcion and the gospels (see my Marcion archive), I can’t help but throw this one in here at this point. Marcion’s gospel must have been like Mark’s in several respects (Hoffmann), in particular with its negative portrayal of the disciples. Many see in Mark a Pauline theology, and Marcion himself thought of Paul as the sole Apostle and the original disciples of Jesus as remaining in their ignorance to the end. They went on to become false apostles, teaching another gospel from the one preached by Paul.

Getting there, at least for some — Gospel of Matthew

Matthew’s gospel is the first to redeem some of the Twelve. Matthew was the first to divide and conquer the Twelve to bring them into the service of furthering (as opposed to denying and fleeing from) his own gospel.

Judas was singled out as the arch villain. The detailed narrative of his attempt to undo his betrayal and subsequent suicide deflected blame from the group as a whole.

Peter was the first to be securely established. He was the leader for heaven’s sake so if he couldn’t make it what hope was there for any of them. And Matthew redeems with a wallop. He turns rocky soil into a pillar-rock, a foundation stone, beside Jesus Christ himself (Matt. 16:18). He is even given the keys to heaven, and the buoyancy to walk momentarily on water! This was Matthew’s vital contribution — setting up Peter apparently in opposition to Paul. Matthew’s emphasis throughout his gospel on the necessity of the law, indeed on exceeding the requirements of the law, would seem to confirm this analysis.

Matthew sends Jesus himself to speak to Mark’s women fearfully running from the tomb to tell them to stop being frightened and to tell the disciples where to meet him in Galilee. They do, and the disciples do catch up with Jesus on a mountain in Galilee.

But while the teasing apart of the Twelve from Judas was an important step, it was not sufficient. Matthew makes it clear that at Jesus’ resurrection appearance only some of them believed. Some doubted (Matt. 28:17).

More mixed bags — other gospels

Some of the noncanonical gospels appear to follow in Matthew’s wake and assign different levels of comprehension, if not faithfulness, to different names among the Twelve. The Gospel of Thomas — possibly predating Matthew — and the Gospel of Mary are two of the better known ones. But there is also some question about the Gospel of John. It is by no means certain where John fits in the canonical trajectory. Some (Matson, Shellard) date it earlier than Luke and even as one of Luke’s sources. It may be significant that John’s gospel states that only seven apostles were present at Jesus’ final resurrection appearance in Galilee.

All Twelve get there in the end — Justin Martyr

Justin appears to be our earliest noncanonical source to inform us that all Twelve disciples from the very day of Christ’s resurrection were granted a collective meeting with their freshly reconstituted Jesus, and from that moment they (all 12) went out to all the world preaching the gospel. (See links to my grid outlining Justin’s knowledge of the gospel narrative in my Justin archive.)

Justin has some knowledge of the top three (Peter, James and John — cf Paul’s namesakes above) being given their special sobriquets; and from the way he depicts all Twelve picking up with Jesus immediately the day of his resurrection, he gives the very strong appearance of having no inkling of a Judas character and role among them. There is certainly no 40 day period from the day of the resurrection to the date they set to leave Palestine to evangelize the world, which would be the minimum required if Justin had ever read and attributed any importance to Acts. Justin informs his readers that the Twelve were confronted by the resurrected Jesus the day of his resurrection and from that moment went out preaching to the world. Almost at the same time Rome sent in her armies to overthrow the Jewish king Herod, who was thus the last of the kings of Judah. And quite appropriately too, now that the Messiah had come — as per the prophecy of Jewish scriptures. One notes that Justin is guided in his “knowledge” of history by his faith in his reading of prophecies. There was, of course, 40 years from the time of Pilate to the time of the Jewish war.

But what is of significance here is that Justin speaks of the Twelve as if they are a formal entity from the time of Jesus, and he does so with no clear reference to any of our canonical gospels or Acts. There is no Judas, no waiting till Pentecost, no waiting in Jerusalem or conversions of thousands of Jews as per Acts at all. Indeed, it is at the time of Jesus’ resurrection appearance that he appears to introduce the eucharist and all the rest of the church ordinances. Justin appears to know of no “narrative” as such – only a mechanistic function of the Twelve in relation to how the Christian movement was instituted and spread.

It is also significant that Justin knows, and is heatedly opposed to, Marcion. Marcion opposed the “Judaistic” type of Christianity Justin stood for. Justin found Christ in the Jewish scriptures, through an allegorical or typological reading of them. Justin found “historical” authority in the Jewish scriptures through the Twelve apostles who had seen the risen Jesus and relayed his gospel to the world. Marcion claimed that the Twelve were, rather, false apostles standing in opposition to the true gospel revealed to Paul.

Make that the “Number” 12 that gets there — Luke-Acts

Luke is the first canonical author who is particularly precious about the precise number — Twelve — all surviving to become the witnesses of Jesus. He has to deal with Judas as a result of his predecessors Mark and Matthew depicting him as the most obvious renegade. It is doubtful that Mark saw much difference between the first (Peter) and last (Judas) named in his list of apostles, as alluded to above. But Matthew and Luke played up Judas as an arch villain unlike any of the others. Matthew’s Judas takes upon himself full responsibility by his display of remorse and suicide; Luke’s Judas is possessed by Satan. Their special treatment (scapegoating) of Judas in effect exculpated the remaining Eleven.

When Luke’s Jesus appears to the remaining Eleven there happen to be a number of others with them (Luke 24:33). Thus the reader is prepared for Acts where the “apostolic office” of Judas must be reoccupied, and the necessary qualification is that such a one be a witness of the resurrection. Luke devotes the better part of an entire chapter to describing step by step how the Judas position among the Twelve was replaced.

The number Twelve — in their full complement — was important to Luke. (It was also important to the author of 1 Corinthians 15:5, who was almost certainly someone living long after Paul.)

And it was taken for granted by Justin.

And as the number of true apostolic witnesses of Jesus and the gospel it stood in opposition to Marcion.

The Twelve finally fully co-opted

Tyson’s, and Hoffmann’s, arguments that Luke-Acts was a product of a controversy between orthodoxy and Marcionism in the first half of the second century seems to me to fit neatly into what appears to be an evolving role for the Twelve. The earliest “proto-orthodox” gospel, insofar as it acknowledged a significant role for the Jewish scriptures in relation to Jesus, was Mark’s. Mark’s was a Pauline gospel that, as we find in Paul’s letters themselves, denigrated and denounced the Twelve.

Marcion agreed with Mark’s interpretation of the Twelve, but would not concede Mark’s interpretation of the relevance of the Jewish scriptures. (I think. Though this is something I’m still trying to work through.) Mark would not be the only renegade in Marcion’s ambit. Apelles was another to later depart from some of his teacher’s doctrines. (cf Paul’s Apollos??)

Matthew was the first to respond acidly against Mark (and Marcion?) with his pro-law, even “exceedingly” pro-law, gospel. And this involved the conversion of the leader Peter from rocky dirt to foundation stone. And since up till Matthew’s time Peter, James and John had been singled out as the most notable leaders of the Jerusalem based church, Matthew also focused on establishing those three, or particularly one of them, as their stable leader. Even James and John were redeemed insofar as Matthew rewrote Mark’s story about their vain approach to Jesus to ask to be his chief agents in the kingdom. Matthew turned this around so that it was their interfering mother who did the dirty, thus no doubt embarrassing the Jesus-sandals off them in the process (Matt. 20: 20).

We know from Justin’s mention of the name Marcion that he was a contemporary. And we have, I believe, strong grounds for seeing canonical Luke-Acts as also a product of the time of orthodoxy’s maturing battle with Marcionism (see the Tyson and Marcion archives). Both Justin and Luke-Acts speak with one voice of the role of the Twelve as the orthodox foundation upon the ultimate foundation of Jesus himself.

Justin could mention and denounce the name of Marcion, but he had not a negative word about the Twelve who represented the alternative to Paul’s/Marcion’s teaching. Justin could or would not mention the name of Paul.

Luke would rehabilitate Paul by recasting him as a moderate or liberal “Judaizer” subordinate to the Twelve. But he could never mention Marcion. He accepted the blemished legacy of the Twelve from Mark and Matthew, and made full amends in the opening of his second volume.

I can only guess the authors’ specific rationales behind each rung of the ladder leading the Twelve from ignominy to foundational status.

But given the current widely accepted relative datings of Paul’s epistles, Mark, Matthew and Luke-Acts at least, and perhaps Justin Martyr, that there was such an evolution and gradual rehabilitation, or more likely co-option, of the Twelve, does seem likely. Yes?


Marcion – Synoptic Problem (4): birth narratives

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing from Marcion and the Synoptic Problem (3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to Klinghardt’s point:

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

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

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


2008-01-23

Marcion and the Synoptic Problem (3)

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by Neil Godfrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes from Klinghardt’s article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klinghardt provides the following table:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The nativity stories

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


Marcion and the Synoptic Problem (2)

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing from previous post on Klinghardt’s recent article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter walking on water (Matt. 14.28-31)

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

Tertullian, 4.21.4, 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no information that Marcion included these scenes.

John’s objection to Jesus (Matt 3.15)

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

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

K’s conclusion:

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

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


2008-01-22

Marcion enters the Synoptic Problem

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by Neil Godfrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Significance of the anonymous prologue

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

So either

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

Or

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. The demonstrated editorial process

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

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

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

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

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


Luke — his first appearance as author and companion of Paul

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by Neil Godfrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2008-01-21

The literary genre of Acts. 9: The ancient novel

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing notes from Richard Pervo’s Profit with Delight. (Previous related posts are archived here.) Skipping ahead here, wisely or otherwise, to chapter 4 and its discussion of “the ancient novel”. This post looks at different ways of seeing how ancient novels are made/how they work, with the hope of offering new ways to see and understand Acts by comparison.

Pervo begins with the question: Why discuss the ancient novel in a study of Acts? Continue reading “The literary genre of Acts. 9: The ancient novel”


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

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by Neil Godfrey

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

Tyson begins with Haenchen. Continue reading “Dating the Book of Acts: the Marcionite Context (1)”


2008-01-20

The GOOD legacy of a fundamentalist and cultic life: 4

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by Neil Godfrey

Understanding Gentleness

Marlene Winell discusses this legacy as something derived from the model of Jesus, as an anti-dote to much of the traditional western socialization of males to be aggressive, in control, independent and rational, pursuing power and success. She recalls observing Christian men, on the other hand, submissive to the model of the humility and openness of Jesus, coming across as more sensitive, humble and able to openly express their feelings than commonly found among non-Christians.

I can’t argue with the experiences of others. My memory was that Jesus was more often seen as the aggressive, in control, independent and rational type, being born to rule and conquer. But when I think about it I do recall the impact of dwelling on those verses that enjoined fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, and for husbands to love, “nourish and cherish” their wives as their own bodies. And then there were those warm verses about God gently caring for his own and a man being like a shady rock in a parched desert. And especially verses like those in Philippians requiring us to be like-minded, doing nothing through ambition and conceit, but “in lowliness of mind esteeming others better than ourselves”, to look out for the interests of others, not just our own interests. No doubt such meditations did serve to help bring out the softer side of the men. There was no doubt a negative side to some of this insofar as such a mindset also encouraged too much submission and acceptance of nonsense.

And of course there was always the emphasis on forgiveness, compassion and understanding for those we needed to forgive.  And above all, reflection on one’s own responsibility and self-examination in all relationships — if an offence had occurred, to what extent were we ourselves responsible? And the notion of winning over others by doing good.

So maybe I have to concede Marlene is right about this one even in my case.  She concludes this section:

With God in charge, there wasn’t the same need to be strong, macho, and in control. Both men and women could be more honest about their weaknesses and shortcomings. This humanness is part of your legacy as well.

See the Winell archives for earlier posts in this series

See also Recovery from Religion