How Might Marcionite Questions Affect Mythicism? (Bob Price in “Is This Not the Carpenter?”)

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by Neil Godfrey

This post concludes my treatment of chapter 6 of ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’, “Does the Christ Myth Theory Require an Early Date for the Pauline Epistles?” by Robert M. Price.

Price concludes his article with a discussion of the place Marcion might have had in the history of gospel origins. Specifically, what if Marcion was responsible for much of the Pauline corpus or even wrote the letters himself? Would not this mean that the Gospels preceded Paul’s letters and would not one of the “pillars of the Christ Myth hypothesis” fall?

What follows is my outline of Price’s argument.

The conventional view of Marcion is that he appears controversially armed with a number of letters of Paul and a single Gospel. This Gospel, we are usually informed, was a shorter version of what we know as the Gospel of Luke, Marcion having deleted from the original Gospel all the passages he believed were falsely interpolated contrary to the original faith taught by Paul.

There have been other opinions. Some have argued that Marcion’s gospel was for most part an original and early version of what became our Gospel of Luke, an Ur-Lukas. Paul-Louis Couchoud argued this. More recently, Matthias Klinghardt argued a similar case. (Hence my previous post.) Price does not mention Joseph Tyson here, but he also argued much the same, and I linked to that series of posts on his book in my post on Klinghardt’s argument. The idea of a Proto-Luke stands independently of any Marcionite association, however. It has been argued by B. F. Streeter (link is to the full text online) and Vincent Taylor. G. R. S. Mead suggested Marcion had no Gospel but but only a collection of sayings, not unlike Q.

So what to make of this diversity of opinion over what Marcion actually possessed? Price has a suggestion:

This diversity of opinion translates into uncertainty as to whether we are dealing with Marcion’s own canon or whether we are hearing, in this or that secondary source, of the canon of subsequent Marcionites. (p. 113)

Major scholars who have written on Marcionism have concurred that the followers of Marcion continued to make changes to their texts. They did not think of their literature as a final “canon” so much as a heritage that needed increasingly more insightful editing. If Marcion himself did edit much of it then his followers certainly continued to do so after his death. (Two major Marcion scholars, von Harnack and John Knox, make this clear.)

So the question arises: How can we know that whatever writings of the Marcionites Tertullian was attacking around 200 C.E. (and Tertullian is one of our major sources for what we know of Marcionism) — how can we know that the Marcionite texts Tertullian knew were the same as those Marcion himself used? Marcion was active in the early part of the second century, at least fifty or more years before Tertullian wrote his attack on Marcionism.

Price goes one step further and raises the possibility that Marcion in fact did not have a Gospel at all, but only Pauline epistles. It was his followers who created Proto-Luke or Ur-Lukas.

Two reasons for thinking Marcion had no Gospel at all

The first reason Price offers is that it appears to him that

  • Marcion was responsible for significant portions of our current letters of Paul, and
  • that these letters contain no traditions of deeds and sayings of the Gospel Jesus

So therefore one may conclude that Marcion knew nothing of any Gospel-like Jesus narratives.

The second reason Price presents is one that crosses over a problem I have always found with arguments that our Gospel of Mark was a Marcionite Gospel. The Gospel of Mark is heavily reliant upon Old Testament narratives. This Gospel re-writes many OT passages and narratives in a form of midrash (the term is justified given Jewish scholars of midrash themselves state that the Gospels are in large part midrashic re-tellings of the Jewish Scriptures) and Marcion, who rejected the validity of the Jewish scriptures, would never have written such a Gospel. But Price presents a case that makes sense of this, and of how followers of Marcion could have done so.

This second reason Price gives for doubting Marcion had a Gospel at all is that virtually all the Gospel stories are so heavily reliant upon Old Testament passages. This is not some mythicist fantasy. Price footnotes some of the scholars who have demonstrated this phenomenon:

  • J. Bowman
  • T. L. Brodie
  • J. D. Crossan
  • J. Duncan M. Derrett
  • D. Miller and P. Miller
  • W. Roth
  • W. R. Stegner
  • R. E. Watts
  • ET Alia

Jesus in the Gospels is acting out (more successfully or dramatically) the same things done by Moses, David, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, and so forth.

One can make a compelling argument for virtually every Gospel story’s derivation from Old Testament sources. (p. 114)

Why the sudden rewrite of the Jewish Scripture as a book about Jesus?

Price asks a question I feel slightly embarrassed for not having asked myself in quite such a confronting way:

Why this sudden interest in rewriting the Jewish Scripture as a book about Jesus?

Price’s answer is interesting. He reminds us that “Catholic policy” was to retain the Old Testament but to reinterpret it allegorically as being about Jesus and the Church. So what would happen if a body of Christians rejected the OT as the Marcionites did? Price suggests that in this case they would have to re-write the OT to make it explicitly about Jesus.

One had to rewrite the Old Testament to make it explicitly about Jesus! (p. 114)

This sounds logical but I cannot help but ask what is the evidence for this? Can it be anything more than speculation? Besides, though one can see in the Gospel of Mark many subtle and implicit allusions to OT passages (see my post on Kee’s article for scores of such allusions in the final 3 chapters alone), what would such allusions mean to anyone not familiar with the OT? They can only retain their literary power among readers who know the OT. Might one not as easily reply that the Gospels were rewrites of the OT for those who still looked in some way to the OT? One should also note that the Gospels were not the first efforts to rewrite an OT story. Thomas L. Thompson shows in The Bible in History (also titled The Mythic Past) that stories were reiterated throughout the OT literature itself. Moses’ crossing the Red Sea is reiterated in Joshua’s crossing is reiterated in David’s crossing Kidron is reiterated in Elijah’s and Elisha’s crossing is reiterated in the dividing of the waters at creation is reiterated in Jesus’ emerging from waters to see the heavens divide. Rewriting biblical stories is a very biblical thing to do — it is just what the adherents of the OT did. So I am not so sure of Price’s reasoning here.

I understand Price to be saying that non-Marcionites — others from among the ‘catholics’ — attempted to “preach Christ” for the benefit of those who rejected the OT as an allegorical tool by re-writing the Bible as a story about Jesus. The Marcionites then countered with their own such Gospels. This is what my understanding of Price’s argument but I am open to others clarifying his position for me further.

But back to Price’s viewpoint.

Price acknowledges that Marcion himself would never have done this — that is, scoured the OT for passages to use as raw material from which to create a narrative about Jesus. Marcion is said to have believed the OT should be understood literally, not allegorically.

Price says that the Marcionites would only have begun writing such OT narratives as a reaction to the efforts of others. Others started doing it first, but Price is not entirely clear on who these others were.

But once the game was started the Marcionites joined in.

Gospel of Mark

Here is where Price brings in the Gospel of Mark. As many have noted, this Gospel

holds what can hardly be called other than a Marcionite view of the buffoonish twelve disciples and a Gnostic view of secret teaching which, despite their privileged position, the twelve simply do not grasp. (p. 114)

Then there’s the Transfiguration which declares the authority of Moses and Elijah — the Law and the Prophets — is at an end now that Christ is here. Then Jesus tells his followers he has come to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), but we never learn in the Gospel to whom the ransom was paid. Marcionites knew it was paid to the Creator God. Price adds, “and no non-Marcionite theologian has produced a better candidate.”

Many have also expressed a passing curiosity over the name of the Gospel as “Mark” and whether this “reflects an awareness of the fundamentally (though not completely) Marcionite character of the book.” (Price, p. 115)

[I]t is quite possible that Mark the secretary of Peter is an unhistorical character, a ‘safe’ version of Marcion to have authored the Gospel, much as Eusebius posited a ‘John the Elder’ as the author of Revelation once he no longer wanted to ascribe that book to John son of Zebedee.

Gospel of John

This Gospel is “heavily Marcionite”, says Price. In this Gospel there is the clear Marcionite two gods concept — the Creator God and the unknown true God revealed only by Jesus:

  • Moses and the Jews know nothing of God
  • Though Deuteronomy says Moses saw God face to face this Gospel denies that flatly and says no man has seen God
  • Jesus’ Father is not the God worshiped by the Jews (8:54-55)
  • All who came to the Jews before Jesus were robbers (presumably including the prophets) (10:8)
  • The Father is unknown to the world (17:25)
  • The Torah/Law had nothing to do with grace and truth (1:17)
  • Jesus raised himself from the dead (10:17-18)

I have many questions I’d love time to explore about the relationship between Mark and John — both are clearly “non-orthodox”. If they were not produced by Marcionites it does appear they originated from those who held to several beliefs that were also prominently Marcionite.

If Price is correct, it would seem that one must conclude that the Gospel of Mark was preceded by other Gospels. I wonder is such a view raises many problems and questions about the nature of Mark that would beg to be addressed.


Price even sees Marcionism in Q where it says (Luke 10:22) that no-one knows the Father but Jesus.

What? Not Israel? Not Moses? Not John the Baptist? . . . ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and any to whom the Son may deign to reveal him.’ That’s straight Marcionism. Is it not?

Gospel of Thomas

Thomas 52 informs us that Jesus called the prophets of the OT spiritually dead, another Marcionism. Price interestingly tells us that before this text was discovered in 1945 interpreters understood the last part of this passage — the only part known to them — as Jesus criticizing rabbinic teachings about the Messiah. Joachim Jeremias said Marcionites twisted the passage to mean that Jesus was referring to the OT prophets as spiritually dead. But the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas showed that Jeremias was wrong. The Marcionites had the correct interpretation.

How the Gospels got started

So the composition of Gospels, being rewrites of the Old Testament, was a counterblast to the Marcionite rejection of the Old Testament. Once the trend began, Marcionites made their own contributions to it, and thus to the process of historicizing an originally mythic Jesus. (p. 116)

Marcion had no Gospel. Price thinks it must have been later Marcionites who ascribed a Gospel to him.

Thus we retain the pillar of the Christ Myth hypothesis that the writer of the Pauline epistles (even if Marcion, not Paul) did not know the (historical or historicized) Jesus tradition on display in the Gospels . . . .


This completes a rather scrappy, disjointed coverage of chapter 6 (sorry). I approached this chapter in haste thinking it was covering all too familiar territory, then various other time constraints did the rest. Here is Price’s concluding paragraph (that I quoted at the end of my first attempt to cover this chapter):

Though today’s leading proponents of the Christ Myth Theory tend to hold to a conventional, mid-first-century dating of the epistles, a good twenty to forty years before the (conventional) dates assigned the Gospels, one suspects this is almost a circumstantial ad hominem fallacy, accepting conventional dates mainly for the sake of argument in order to embarrass the orthodox who hold to these dates for apologetical reasons. Christ Myth theorists are not above pursuing an apologetical agenda of their own, which may explain their reluctance to apply the same ruthless scepticism to the Pauline epistles as they do the Gospels. If they did (like their nineteenth-century forbears did), they would find the picture becoming a bit fuzzier, to be sure, but there might also be significant gains. In a brief survey of remarks on the age and integrity of the Pauline epistles by Robertson, Couchoud, Smith and others, we have detected pregnant hints of arguments for the historical priority of the Christ Myth as attested in the epistles over the Jesus epic met with in the Gospels, and this regardless of either the relative or the absolute dates of the Gospels and epistles. (p. 116)


  • 2012-09-11 01:33:26 UTC - 01:33 | Permalink

    [I]t is quite possible that Mark the secretary of Peter is an unhistorical character, a ‘safe’ version of Marcion to have authored the Gospel

    So for those who might not know, Marcion is a Greek diminutive of the name Mark[us]. Julius Caesar’s son with Cleopatra was “nicknamed” Caesarion. Caesarion (Καισαρίων) = Little Caesar; Marcion (Μαρκίων) = Little Mark.

    • Nikos Apostolakis
      2012-09-11 13:39:40 UTC - 13:39 | Permalink

      was “nicknamed” Caesarion. Caesarion (Καισαρίων) = Little Caesar

      I don’t think that he was nicknamed that, Καισαρίων was his actual name. Of course, the essence of your comment still stands, the name Marcion may indicate a relation to Marc.

      • fearfull poster
        2012-09-16 14:22:18 UTC - 14:22 | Permalink

        Nasorean, little nasor, little nasi, little netzer? Little prince , little stick, little whatever. Any Aramaic/Greek speakers out there who are good at working out bilingual puns?

  • Roger Parvus
    2012-09-25 09:05:19 UTC - 09:05 | Permalink

    Neil wrote:

    Price acknowledges that Marcion himself would never have done this -— that is, scoured the OT for passages to use as raw material from which to create a narrative about Jesus. Marcion is said to have believed the OT should be understood literally, not allegorically.

    This is one reason I think Simonian authorship is more likely than Marcionite. The beliefs of both communities were similar in some important respects, but Simonians had no problem scouring the OT for material. And Simonians interpreted it allegorically.

    Neil wrote:

    Then Jesus tells his followers he has come to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), but we never learn in the Gospel to whom the ransom was paid. Marcionites knew it was paid to the Creator God. Price adds, “and no non-Marcionite theologian has produced a better candidate.”

    But it should be noted that ransom language is used in the proto-orthodox accounts of an earlier figure: Simon of Samaria. Hippolytus, in his Refutation of All Heresies, says:

    The dissolution of the world, they (Simonians) say, is for the ransoming of their own people (6,19; my emphasis)

    From comparison with a similar passage in the Against Heresies of Irenaeus, it appears that the sense of “ransom” is just “free from” (Latin: liberari):

    Therefore he (Simon) announced that the world would be destroyed and that those who were his would be freed from the rule of those who made the world. (1, 23, 3; my emphasis)

    The choice of the word “ransom” may be due to the fact that, in Simon’s system, the first to be freed from the world-making spirits was Helen, his First Thought, and her freedom was obtained by means of a purchase. Simon purchased her from a brothel in Tyre:

    She (Helen) lived in a brothel in Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, where he found her on his arrival… And after he had purchased her freedom, he took her about with him, pretending that she was the “lost sheep,” and that he himself was the Power which is over all… For by purchasing the freedom of Helen, he (Simon) thus offered salvation to men by knowledge peculiar to himself (RAH 6,19, my emphases).

    Thus the freedom of Simon’s followers was in some way connected with his purchase of Helen from the brothel in Tyre.

    [This episode, in my opinion, is allegorically presented in Mark’s Gospel by the trip of Jesus to Tyre where he frees a Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter from the unclean spirits holding her captive. The account makes a point of telling us that she was ‘Hellene’ (Mk. 7:26). And it is likely this same Helen who anoints Jesus at Bethany and is rewarded by his promise, “Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mk. 14:9). And I see her too as the Magdalene (i.e. the “tower” woman) who turns up at Golgotha among the women “looking on from a distance” (Mk. 15:40). Epiphanius quotes Simon as saying: “And she (Helen) was looking for my coming. For she is the Thought, called Helen in Homer. And it was on this account that Homer was compelled to portray her as standing on a tower…” (Panarion 2,3).]

    • 2012-09-25 22:25:10 UTC - 22:25 | Permalink

      Where does Homer portray Helen as standing on a tower?

      Where does the little apocalypse fit in all of this? And John the Baptist?

      • C.J. O'Brien
        2012-09-26 05:30:21 UTC - 05:30 | Permalink

        It might not be in Homer at all, though that’s what Epiphanius says. The reference I can find is to Virgil. In the Aeneid, Deiphobos (Trojan, son of Priam and Hecuba) recounts the story of his mutilation and death at the hands of Menelaus after Helen signaled to the Greeks with a torch from the tower in which his bedchamber was. This is apparently a variant of the episode in the Odyssey: from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_of_Troy

        however, Homer narrates a different story: Helen circled the Horse three times, and she imitated the voices of the Greek women left behind at home—she thus tortured the men inside (including Odysseus and Menelaus) with the memory of their loved ones, and brought them to the brink of destruction.

        So, did Epiphanius mix up his epics?

    • 2012-09-26 17:54:21 UTC - 17:54 | Permalink

      The story of Simon rescuing Helen from a brothel has always sounded like a metaphorical tale to me. I have no secure “reason” to think so, but wonder if you have something positive to tip the scales in favour of it originating as a literal tale.

      • Roger Parvus
        2012-09-27 00:12:31 UTC - 00:12 | Permalink

        Nothing rock solid, but a few things worth keeping in mind. As you know, I think Simon was a first-century figure who became “Paul” around 130 CE when someone reworked an earlier collection of Simonian letters. If correct, and if Simon really did purchase a prostitute, we might expect to see in the reworked letters some traces of her, for supposedly Simon took her around with him and received some heat for doing so. Hippolytus says the reason Simon concocted the story about Helen being his First Thought was to deflect criticism of their relationship:

        And after he had purchased her freedom, he took her about with him… Whereas the imposter (Simon) having fallen in love with this strumpet, called Helen, purchased and kept her, and being ashamed to have it known by his disciples, invented this story. (Refutation of All Heresies 6,19, my emphases)

        Now, in First Corinthians there is a section where Paul/Simon defends his practice of not charging his Corinthian flock for his services. Someone was criticizing him for that practice:

        My defense against those who would pass judgment on me is this…(1 Cor. 9:3)

        But in the middle of that discussion he unexpectedly injects:

        Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife [a sister, a wife], as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? (1 Cor. 9:5)

        I realize that Paul subsequently insists, “I have not used any of these rights,” (1 Cor. 9:15) but I have always been a bit suspicious of why the issue of a female companion came up at all. I wonder whether people were passing judgment on him not only for his failure to charge for his services, but also because he was taking along with him a new and questionable female companion named Helen. Did the proto-orthodox redactor of the letter erase Simon’s Helen by adding her to the rights that Paul abstained from using?

        That suspicion is further aroused by Philippians 4: 2-3, where Paul, writing from prison, asks his “gnesie syzege” (true yokemate) to intervene and help two women, Evodia and Synteche, to resolve their differences. The Greek word translated ‘yokemate’ was frequently used for a spouse. The Greek-speaking Clement of Alexandria clearly understood it as a reference to Paul’s wife:

        Peter and Philip produced children, and Philip gave his daughters away in marriages. In one of his letters Paul has no hesitation in addressing his “yokefellow.” He did not take her around with him for the convenience of his ministry. He says in one of his letters, “Do we not have the authority to take around a wife from the Church, like the other apostles?” But the apostles in conformity with their ministry concentrated on undistracted preaching, and took their wives around as Christian sisters rather than spouses, to be their fellow-ministers in relation to housewives, through whom the Lord’s teaching penetrated into the women’s quarters without scandal. (Strom. 3, 52-53)

        Eusebius, in his Church History (3, 30) brings forward Clement’s quote without any indication of disapproval:

        Clement, indeed, whose words we have just quoted, after the above-mentioned facts gives a statement, on account of those who rejected marriage, of the apostles that had wives. “Or will they,” says he, “reject even the apostles? For Peter and Philip begot children; and Philip also gave his daughters in marriage. And Paul does not hesitate, in one of his epistles, to greet his wife, whom he did not take about with him, that he might not be inconvenienced in his ministry.”

        What is suspicious here is that in the current text of Philippians “syzege” is modified by the adjective “gnesie” (“true”) which is in the masculine gender. That would seem to definitely rule out the “yokefellow” being a woman. Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius were both Greek-speaking. It seems incredible that they could have overlooked the gender of the adjective. To my mind, it is much more likely that in their versions either the adjective was absent or was feminine in form.

    • Roger Parvus
      2012-12-04 06:17:43 UTC - 06:17 | Permalink

      Some additional speculation:

      In my original comment above I proposed, in line with my theory that gMark is Simonian in origin, that the word Magdalene was chosen for its root meaning (“tower”) and that it is a cryptic pointer to Helen, the female associate of Simon of Samaria. The cryptic designation makes its first appearance in gMark at the end of the passion narrative where Magdalene is described as watching the crucifixion “from a distance” (Mk. 15:40). If my identification of Magdalene as Helen is correct, it is reasonable to think that it is also in this scene that we should look for Simon’s interpretation of the wooden horse:

      So then Simon by such inventions got what interpretation he pleased, not only out of the writings of Moses, but also out of those of the (pagan) poets by falsifying them. For he gives an allegorical interpretation of the wooden horse… (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, 6,19).

      Unfortunately, the extant record does not contain a full exposition of what Simon taught regarding the Trojan horse. The only bit of apparently relatedly information is provided by Epiphanius. He says that for Simon the ignorance of the Trojans corresponded to the ignorance of those among the Gentiles who do not have his gnosis:

      And it was on this account that Homer was compelled to portray her (Helen) as standing on a tower, and by means of a torch revealing to the Greeks the plot of the Phrygians (Trojans). And by the torch, he (Simon) delineated, as I said, the manifestation of the light from above. On which account also the wooden horse in Homer was devised, which the Greeks think was made for a distinct purpose, whereas the sorcerer maintained that this is the ignorance of the Gentiles, and that “like as the Phrygians when they dragged it along in ignorance drew on their own destruction, so also the Gentiles, that is to say people who are without my knowledge, through ignorance, draw ruin on themselves.” (Panarion, 2,3; my emphasis)

      Now, ASSUMING the passion scene was where Simon placed both Helen and the wooden horse, it seems to me most likely that the wooden cross would correspond to the wooden horse. And the ignorance of the princes of this world (both human and non-human) that they were crucifying the Son of God would correspond to the ignorance of the Trojans that there were Greek soldiers hidden in the horse. And gMark’s designation of the final destination as “the place of the skull” would correspond to what Simon calls the “destruction” that the Trojans brought on themselves.

      This scenario may tie in too with another of my suspicions: that the original form of the crucified Son of God myth had a switch (by means of a double transformation) between the Son of God as Simon the Cyrenian and a man being led out by the Romans for crucifixion. If correct, that may be why gMark describes the Cyrenian as “coming in from the country.” Simon of Samaria claimed that Helen “was looking for my coming” (Panarion, 2,3). That coming of Simon may be Simon the Cyrenian’s “coming in from the country.” And the choice of the word ‘Cyrenian’ may again have been made with its root meaning in view. According to Strong’s Concordance ‘Cyrene’ means ‘supremacy of the bridle.” So the idea may be that in the bringing of the wooden cross/horse to Golgotha the Son of God functioned as the bridle. GMark says: “They (the Roman soldiers) brought him (the Son of God) to the place of Golgotha (which is translated ‘place of the skull’)” (Mk. 15:22). Thus, the Son could conceivably be viewed as the supreme bridle by which the Roman soldiers brought the cross/horse to the site of the crucifixion.

      One element that seems to be missing is Helen’s torch. But Epiphanius says that Simon explained the torch as being “the manifestation of the light from above.” So I am wondering if that is why gMark says there was darkness for three hours, from noon until three o’clock. The intended sense may be that sunlight returned at three. And it is only at that point that the crucified dies, the centurion proclaims “Truly this man was the Son of God!,” and the Magdalene’s presence–looking on from a distance–is first mentioned.

      • Roger Parvus
        2012-12-04 09:10:55 UTC - 09:10 | Permalink

        I forgot to show how the “the mother of James the small and Joses, and Salome” (Mk. 15: 40) and the “many other women” (Mk. 15:41) fit into my Simonian scenario. From a Simonian perspective, these would have just been part of the Helen riddle. According to Simon, Helen had gone through many female incarnations: “abiding again and again in women” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 6,19); “reincarnating from female bodies into different bodies” (Panarion, 2,2). So in a sense all these women were present by means of Helen.

        But Simon also attributed to his Helen a few roles that called for special attention. Besides having been Helen of Troy (the tower woman), she was also said to be the “Mother of all” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1, 23, 2; ). And Athena, the goddess of wisdom. (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 6,20; Panarion, 2,3; the Pseudo-Clementine Homelies too: “He says that he has brought down this Helen from the highest heavens to the world; being queen, as the mother of all, and wisdom” (2:15). So gMark, as a Simonian riddle, puts these roles into a Jewish context that would be recognized by Simonian insiders, but hidden to everyone else. For “mother of all” he chose “the mother of James the small and Joses.” The root meaning of ‘Joses’ is ‘exalted.’ The sense, then is “mother of both small and great”, i.e., of everyone. And for wise Athena/Minerva he chose “Salome,” the female form of wise Solomon.

        In short: the women at the crucifixion were, in reality, allegorical stand-ins for the many roles and incarnations of Helen.

      • 2012-12-08 10:59:04 UTC - 10:59 | Permalink

        Roger, I think I am beginning to understand how an historical Jesus scholar must feel when confronted by mythicism. What happens to all my favourite books on the Gospel of Mark discussing its literary and theological and source dimensions if the Gospel is what you think it could well be?

        • Roger Parvus
          2012-12-10 16:35:15 UTC - 16:35 | Permalink

          I can understand that feeling. I myself will feel a bit like I’ve been “had” if it should ever be established that gMark was not even written for a serious purpose; that it was just composed to be an entertaining Simonian riddle. Of course, even in that case many of the insights in books that have been written about gMark would still be useful. For the riddle–if riddle it be–was skillfully dressed up by its author. And, for the analysis of that, many books would still retain some value.

          But, yes, there would definitely be a letdown. And I would almost wish for some kind of just afterlife where the author of gMark could be forced to sing ad nauseam that melancholy 60s Bee Gees song: “I started a joke that started the whole world crying!”

  • C.J. O'Brien
    2012-12-05 03:44:55 UTC - 03:44 | Permalink

    Ha! “Mother of Great and Small” and Simon the Cyrenean is father of Alexander and Rufus, which I have long suspected means “father of the Greeks and Romans” because of the iconic names, but I was always stuck there. What is the author trying to convey? Possibly, in this context, a parallelism, where Simon and Helen, respectively, are father and mother to the entire cosmos, all things great and small, and over the civilized world.

    I do wonder, about the thesis more generally, whether it’s strange that there are two Simons by name (Peter and the Cyrenean) and seemingly two opportunities for the pre-execution “switch”: Barabbas and Simon who carries the cross.

  • Giuseppe
    2014-11-07 13:35:58 UTC - 13:35 | Permalink

    Price acknowledges that Marcion himself would never have done this -— that is, scoured the OT for passages to use as raw material from which to create a narrative about Jesus. Marcion is said to have believed the OT should be understood literally, not allegorically.

    The reply of prof Vinzent to this my specific objection.

    This raises up interesting questions: if Marcion wrote the first Gospel (Ur-Luke), then UrMark can be a Simonian gospel (later catholicized) where all the observations of Roger Parvus (see above) can still be valid.

    • Roger Parvus
      2014-11-10 12:46:11 UTC - 12:46 | Permalink


      You wrote: “If Marcion wrote the first Gospel (Ur-Luke)… “

      Nowhere in the proto-orthodox anti-heretical writings is it said that Marcion claimed to have written a gospel, let alone the first Gospel. Now I realize that it is possible that all those writings set up straw men and that none of them ever engaged with Marcion’s claims. But if so, we pretty much have nothing to work with, since Marcionite writings have not survived.

      So, yes, if we set aside the writings of the proto-orthodox heresy hunters, we are completely free to picture Marcion any way we like. But at that point, I personally will find another hobby. In my opinion, we just would not have the tools needed to figure out Christian origins.

      • Giuseppe
        2014-11-10 14:51:08 UTC - 14:51 | Permalink


        You are right that we don’t have marcionite writings, and therefore any attempt to reconstruct the gospel of Marcion is hypothetical and conditioned by how others, the proto-orthodox, have quoted it. But I find the article of Matthias Klinghardt of 2008, here a review by Neil, very persuasive, even if not still conclusive, where he argues that is very probable that ur-Luke is Marcion’s Gospel.

        So, yes, if we set aside the writings of the proto-orthodox heresy hunters…
        I would not be so sure.

        Klinghardt wrote:

        ”According to Tertullian, Marcion claimed that “his” gospel was original, whereas the canonical Luke was a falsification. The charges of adulteration are, therefore, mutual (Tert. 4.4.1). Since the very close literary relation between both texts is beyond any doubt, the only remaining question is: Who edited whom? In this respect, Tertullian’s report of Marcion’s charge against the catholic Christians is very telling: Marcion accused the gospel of Luke “of having been falsified by the upholders of Judaism with a view to its being combined in one body with the law and the prophets.” This phrase does not reflect Marcion’s assumed cleansing and restoration of the original “Pauline” gospel but the editorial integration of “his gospel” into the body of the canonical bible of the Old and New Testaments. Reciprocally, Tertullian firmly believed that Marcion re-edited his gospel from the canonical edition, not from a pre-canonical gospel. This proposition is never addressed by those who otherwise follow Tertullian in his charge against Marcion. This inconsistency indicates that Marcion’s assessment as it is reported by Tertullian might be correct: Catholic Christians revised Mcn and integrated it into the canonical Bible. ”
        (The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion, p. 8)

        Why the proto-orthodox attributed to Marcion the accusation that the proto-catholics have stolen his Gospel to create *after* a New Testament, and then in a different moment the same people accused Marcion of changing texts that were already canonical (ie already in a Catholic New Testament)?

        …not to mention very strange coincidences…

        • Roger Parvus
          2014-11-10 17:47:44 UTC - 17:47 | Permalink


          We are talking past each other. I’m not arguing against the possibility that there may have been an earlier form of Luke (urLuke) that Marcion knew and used. My problem is with your words: “If Marcion WROTE the first Gospel (UrLuke)…” (my caps). There is a difference between USING a gospel that was earlier than canonical Luke and COMPOSING the FIRST gospel, no?

          • Giuseppe
            2014-11-11 07:51:35 UTC - 07:51 | Permalink

            OK, but so you seem arguing a priori ”against the possibility that there may have been earlier form of Luke (urLuke) that Marcion knew and used”, earlier than not only than our Luke, but even than Mark & Matthew, too. In that case, your ”difference” is a little suspect, do you not find?

            For example, if Marcion called his Gospel ”after Paul”, I would advance some doubt about his true origin from the pen of Paul, or not?

            If I understand well what are your doubts, you find the idea the prof Klinghardt and Vinzent are proposing (the same idea that was of Couchoud) so very not realistic to cast a shadow of doubt on everything of I century about the Christian origins?

  • Klaus Schilling
    2018-05-09 19:56:50 UTC - 19:56 | Permalink

    The Gospel according to St Mark is highly glossed and stratified, like all writings of the New Testament. It relies on many prior traditions. Stuart G. Waugh has already constructed a very fine-grained and comprehensive redactional model to describe the rôole of Marcion in the synoptic evolution. Basically, Marcion and Mark share one direct common source in that model. Additionally, Marcion derives from Q1 and some Lucan stuff without synoptic parallels, such as Lazarus. Mark uses, besides the common material with Marcion, a further obsolete source which it (Mark’s) also shares with Matthews. Matthew’s uses that common source, but also Marcion (only weakly), and it adds all the legacy and infancy stuff. Neither does Matthew’s use Mark’s nor vice versa. Luke’s uses Marcion, very little of Matthew, and his own legacy and infancy stuff.

    René Salm, who has sometimes been quoted here, has once upon a time reconstructed an “UrMark” by removing obvious glosses from canonical Mark. Salm’s reconstruction, while not exactly representing the supposed theology of Markion, can still be understood as a possible inspiration for the frequently refuted heretic.

  • Klaus Schilling
    2018-05-24 11:30:58 UTC - 11:30 | Permalink

    To Luke 10,22 :

    Already Philo Alexandrinus distinguished God proper from the personified word of God (Logos), and he posited that the latter was what the patriarchs and the prophets actually encountered, such as in the scene of Moses and the burning bush. Christians just had to identify The Son as the Logos and The Father as God to arrive at the same conclusion as Philo.

    The rationale is that harmonizers of Scripture and philosophy encountered the problem that the transcendental or pantheist god posited by the schools of philosophy was not exactly compatible with the depiction of the OT god in Scripture. The trick of Philo provided a simple solution to the mess; and the Greek patrists of the second centuries owed a lot to Philo’s pioneering work, but so did (in different ways) some gnostic cults described in the patristic reports.

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