Category Archives: Marcion

The earliest gospels 1 — Marcion’s gospel (according to P.L. Couchoud)

This post follows on from the previous one outlining Couchoud’s thoughts on Gospel origins. It starts with highlights from what he believes (generally following Harnack) Marcion‘s Gospel contained; looks at the next Gospel written apparently by Basilides; then at the way our canonical Gospel of Mark took shape and why, followed by the Gospels of Matthew, John and Luke.

The Gospel of Marcion

The authorship was anonymous. (p. 138)

It was placed with the letters of Paul and a commentary, the Antithesis, as a replacement for the Jewish scriptures.

There is nothing of a connected narrative in it. (p. 139)

It was composed of some sixty anecdotes, or pericopes, detached fragments without any connection between them. (p. 139)

Jesus was not born but descended from heaven and the gospel begins: read more »

Another explanation of Gospel origins from a Christ Myth perspective

Marcion Displaying His Canon
Image via Wikipedia
Edited last paragraph re Mark and Basilides ca 6 hours after original.

As to why a gospel was written about a “mythical” Jesus, here is a take by Paul Louis Couchoud from the 1920’s and published in English in 1939 as The Creation of Christ. (For other thoughts on this theme see discussion comments here.)

Couchoud attributes the first gospel to Marcion.

To make sense of this one must understand that Couchoud dates the letters of Clement of Rome and Ignatius to around 150 c.e. One recalls here the more recent ideas about the Ignatian letters by Roger Parvus. This leaves us with the common observation that “the half century from 70 to 120 is the most obscure period in the history of Christianity” (p. 110).

Couchoud argues that before that gap there was Paul, Jerusalem apostles and prophets. They all lay claim to visions of Christ. The Book of Revelation (dated prior to 70 and the fall of Jerusalem) is the outcome of a prophetic vision of one who is starkly opposed to Paul’s theology and visions. “Paul alone understood that the Son thus revealed was a crucified God.” (p. 132)

Couchoud relies heavily on Harnack’s interpretation of Marcion, an interpretation that has more recently met a trenchant challenge with Sebastian Moll’s The Arch-Heretic Marcion (2010). Moll says Harnack was anachronistically trying to make Marcion too much like an ideal Protestant reformer. But in this post I will let Couchoud have his say from his perspective in the early twentieth century.

Whereas many (including myself) have attempted to argue that the gospel narrative was an indirect response to the crisis of the first Jewish war that witnessed the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, Couchoud places more emphasis on the events of the second Jewish war — the Bar Kochba rebellion (Bar Kochba being hailed as a Jewish Christ and being responsible for persecutions of Christians) and its suppression by Hadrian who erected a pagan temple on the site of the old in the early and mid 130s.

So of what had Christianity consisted up to this time? Couchoud considers how the Christian scene looked to Marcion: read more »

Marcion’s date

For all the shortcomings of R. Joseph Hoffmann’s work on Marcion, Marcion, On the Restitution of Christianity, the one point he stressed and that was central to persuading me of the strong possibility that Marcion should be dated much earlier than is traditionally done, even as early as the opening decades of the second century, was a comment in the writings of Justin Martyr. Justin, writing in the middle of the second century, expressed some dismay that Marcion was “even now still” active and influential in the world. The clear implication is that it was surprising to see Marcion still preaching even at that late date.

Sebastion Moll in his 2010 book The Arch-Heretic Marcion knocks out that argument for an early date.

Finally, there is one passage in the work of Justin which has made some scholars believe that Marcion must already have been active before 144/145. In his Apology (ca. 153 – 154), Justin states that Marcion “has made many people in the whole world speak blasphemies” [Adv. haer. I.13,3] and that he is “even now still teaching”. . . .

Justin’s statement that Marcion is “even now still” teaching becomes understandable if we take a look at the preceding sections of the Apology. According to Justin, all heretics were put forward by the demons after Christ’s ascension to heaven. He then mentions Simon, Menander and Marcion, of whom the first two are of course long dead already. The reason for Justins’ surprise that Marcion is still teaching  is not his impressively long heretical career, but the fact that he is still active so long after the demons had put forward the other heretics. (p. 39)

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The Date of the Canonical Gospel of Luke

As discussed in previous posts from Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle (Joseph Tyson), if the Book of Acts is to be dated so late, and was written as a response to the Marcionite challenge, then what of the Gospel of Luke?

  • Irenaeus wrote that the same author composed both Luke and Acts.
  • The Muratorian Canon did the same.
  • Henry J. Cadbury coined the term Luke-Acts to describe the two texts and to emphasize their common authorship.
  • Some scholars treat Luke-Acts as a single text.

In an earlier post (Did Marcion Mutilate the Gospel of Luke?) I outlined Tyson’s reasons for doubting that Marcion edited what we know as the canonical Gospel of Luke.

Nonetheless, Irenaeus and Tertullian do speak of a relationship between Marcion’s gospel and canonical Luke.

So beginning with this post I will discuss Tyson’s next chapter in which he discusses the composition of canonical Luke. He begins with the question of its date.

More than one edition of the gospel of Luke read more »

Dating the Book of Acts: Acts as a response to the Marcionite Challenge

This post follows on from one I completed — here — way back in February. The lot can be found in my archive for the Tyson category.

Continuing notes from reading of Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts . . . .

Tyson summarizes the hypothesis of John Knox published in 1942, that Acts (and canonical Luke) was composed as a response to the (second century) Marcionite challenge: read more »

Pentecost, belated birthday of the church

Christianity was surely up and running at least a hundred years before someone thought to assign a special day for its birthday. And one might well read the evidence in a way that indicates “orthodox” theologians hijacked Pentecost from the Jews to use it as a hostage in their campaign against “heretical” — Marcionite — Christians.

The earliest evidence we have for the story that the church began on Pentecost, some fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus, is the Book of Acts. But before we see any evidence that anyone knew of the existence of that Book, some time in the mid-second century, not a single Christian author indicates any knowledge of Pentecost as the birth-day of the Church. Justin Martyr, our first notable Christian apologist and one who was connected with Christianity from Syria to Rome, discusses in his tracts what he knows about Jesus and the beginning of the church. He informs us that as far as he is aware the church began with the sending out of the twelve apostles after Jesus persuaded them

For after His crucifixion, the disciples that accompanied Him were dispersed, until He rose from the dead, and persuaded them that so it had been prophesied concerning Him, that He would suffer; and being thus persuaded, they went into all the world, and taught these truths. (Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 53)

So Justin, possibly as late as around 150 c.e., appears to understand that it was the persuasive powers of argument of the resurrected Jesus that catapulted the twelve apostles (not Paul) from Jerusalem into the world to preach to the gentiles. Most of what one reads by scholars about what Justin Martyr knew of our New Testament books expresses the conviction that Justin knew Acts and all our canonical gospels. That may be so but I doubt it, at least in the case of the book of Acts. If he did know the book of Acts, he is mysteriously silent about Paul, and even attributes the preaching to all the gentile world to the original twelve apostles. He is also convinced that the Roman armies invaded Judea and destroyed the Jerusalem Temple within weeks of Christ’s crucifixion. Both of these views of Justin simply fly in the face of what the book of Acts is all about. If he knew Acts he dismissed it.

The Gospel of Mark, arguably the earliest of our canonical gospels, indicates that the twelve disciples, led by Peter, were destined to be converted in Galilee after Jesus was resurrected. The original ending of the gospel (16:8 ) forces readers to focus on the fearful silence of the women who visited the tomb of Jesus. Readers are left with nothing more than a suspicion or hope that the apostles will somehow-maybe meet up with Jesus in Galilee again. Jesus had promised that the gospel would be preached in all the world, but the role of the twelve apostles in this preaching is fraught with ambiguity and uncertainty throughout the text.

The Gospel of Matthew rejects the ambivalence of this first gospel, and makes it clear that the resurrected Jesus did indeed meet up with eleven of his disciples (Judas was eliminated), and that this meeting was in Galilee, on a mountain there. Further, it was from this mountain in Galilee that Jesus sent out most of these eleven remaining disciples (Matthew says that some of them doubted that they really were in the presence of the resurrected Jesus) to the whole world. There is no Pentecost. There is no “holy spirit”. Jesus promises that he himself will be with them always.

The Gospel of John does bring in the holy spirit, but it is breathed out of Jesus’ nose onto the disciples, minus Thomas. (John does not specify if Judas was among those receiving the holy spirit.) Interestingly, Jesus links this nasal gift not with preaching to outsiders but with authority to decide what sins should be forgiven. The closest the gospel comes to any preaching mission is a concluding chapter where Peter is charged with the responsibility to “feed the flock”. The author of the Gospel of John appears to visualize apostolic activity in relation to a flock of other Christians. There is no Pentecost. If there is a starting point of the apostolic activity, it is either on the day of the resurrection when Jesus breathed on most of them, or afterwards when Jesus caught up with seven of the disciples by a seashore in Galilee.

It is only with the arrival of the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts, joined together as a single work by prologues and certain themes such as a focus on Jerusalem and the Temple as an honourable centre and focus of the new faith, that the Pentecost birth of the church makes its introduction.

It is noteworthy that Pentecost makes this special appearance in a context of a theological debate over the relevance of the Jewish scriptures and heritage to Christianity.

Both external and internal evidence testify that the Book of Acts was written as a second century response to what our “orthodox” Christians saw as the “heretical” Marcionite challenge that began in the first half of the second century. Our earliest evidence that anyone knew of the existence of the book of Acts is from the later second century, when Irenaeus cites it. The name of Luke as the author of these works was also an invention of these later times.

Marcionite Christianity rejected Jewish scriptures as having any sort of foundational relevance to the church. To interpret the Old Testament allegorically as foreshadowing or prophesying Jesus Christ was, to Marcion, just another expression of the Judaizing heresy condemned by the apostle Paul. Marcion insisted on reading the Jewish scriptures literally. The messiah promised in the Jewish scriptures by the creator God of this world was destined to be a messiah for the Jews only. Jesus was not that messiah. He came to reveal the hitherto unknown God. Jewish scriptures and laws were irrelevant to those who worshipped Marcion’s Jesus. And it appears that Marcionite Christianity was a serious rival to what became “orthodox” Christianity. It was certainly the dominant faith in Asia Minor, and appears to have been followed throughout Syria and Greece, through to Rome.

The allegorical reading of the Old Testament secured for the “orthodox” a hoary literary and spiritual heritage worthy of the new faith. Adam and Eve were allegories of Christ and the Church. Israel itself was an allegory of the Church. But some Jewish metaphors for Israel, such as the Servant in Isaiah, were prophesies of Jesus. One can see this allegorization process at its peak in writings like the Epistle of Barnabas and the Dialogue with Trypho. Some see this treatment of the OT as nothing less than a hijacking of the Jewish scriptures that went hand in glove with the anti-semitism of the time. Marcion saw it as a Judaizing heresy.

If the Book of Acts was written to defend the “Jewish-orthodox” Christianity, with its declared roots in an allegorical reading of the Jewish scriptures, and with its coopting of those scriptures as their own (not even understood by the Jews who originally composed them), then it would appear that the Jewish Feast of Pentecost was given its fame as the birthday of the Church as part of the propaganda campaign battle between the Marcionites and the “orthodox”.

Luke-Acts gives central focus to Jerusalem and the Temple in the life of Jesus and the early church. Acts makes regular references to the importance of the synagogues and Jewish feasts, including the sabbath day, to the life of Paul. The earliest apostles preached daily from the precincts of the Jerusalem Temple.

The Jewish Feast of Pentecost as the day on which the miraculous birth of the Church occurred made its first appearance in this second century theological battle between the Marcionites and the “orthodox”. Quite likely it was constructed to affirm the Jewish “spiritual/allegorical” heritage of those Christians who saw themselves in rivalry with their Marcionite brethren.

Dating the Book of Acts: Characterization of Paul

Continuing notes from reading of Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts. . . .

After discussing the shifting directions of the scholarly debates over Paul’s characterization in Acts vis a vis the Paul we find in the epistles, Tyson asks if a more definitive answer is to be found to the question of whether the Paul of Acts is a most appropriate response to the Paul of the Marcionites.

Parallell Lives
Tyson first addresses the contribution of Clark’s Parallel Lives to understanding the author of Act’s intention to portray Paul in both continuity and unity with Peter and the Twelve. He adds to Clark’s work the observation that the influence of Plutarch’s influence on the author of Acts “is more credible if we date Acts after ca. 115 c.e., since it is probable that the Parallel Lives [by Plutarch] was not published before that date.” (p.63)

Objective reference
But more significantly, Tyson notes that Clark’s work on the reasons for the author’s creation of parallels between the lives of Paul and Peter is based on internal criteria alone and lacks an objective external reference. Clark’s argument for certain themes and reasons for his parallels would be more credible if one could show how they were a fitting response to a known historical challenge. Tyson is, of course, arguing that the Marcionite challenge was the appropriate historical situation which would best explain Clark’s understanding of Luke’s characterization of Paul (through parallels with Peter et al).

Tyson looks at the history of attempts to reconcile the Paul of Acts and the Paul of the letters.

F. C. Baur
Author of Acts rewrote the characters of Paul and Peter to show them united theologically — in support of the Law. Contrast “the real Paul” who was anti-Torah.

Adolf von Harnack
Paul’s attitude to the Torah was complex and not a blanket opposition to it. Luke had not found the Torah the same theological challenge that Paul had, and in his portrayal of Paul he brings out the more Jewish side of Paul as he (Luke) knew him.

Philip Vielhauer
In natural theology, Luke portrayed Paul as a Stoic philosopher for whom knowledge of God could be acquired naturally and positively, apart from revelation — which was the view of the Paul of the letters.

In Christology, Acts is adoptionist, and the cross of Christ was a wrongful murder of an innocent man for which the Jews were culpable — unlike Paul of the letters for whom the cross was a saving event, a means of judgment and reconciliation.

In eschatology, Paul relegates the coming judgment and resurrection to a tail end position in his message — unlike the Paul of the letters who whom it was central and imminent.

In the law, Acts avoids the real complexities of Paul’s attitude toward the Torah, and presents him as a faithful Pharisee in practice, as demonstrated by:

  • his missionary practice of going to the synagogue Jews first and only turning to gentiles after a formal rejection there
  • his submission to Jerusalem authorities
  • his circumcision of Timothy
  • his spreading the apostolic decrees
  • his vow
  • his trips to Jerusalem to observe religious festivals
  • his concurring with James in participating in a Nazirite vow
  • his emphasizing his Pharisee status when on trial

Ernst Haenchen
The author of Acts justified the gentile mission as simply being God’s will, unaware of Paul’s more complex justification from his arguments about the Law. Author of Acts also missed the real contention at the heart of Paul’s theology. To Luke, this was the resurrection. The real issue, the Torah, was only alluded to in Acts as a false accusation against Paul. Also, to Haenchen, Acts differed from the letters by presenting Paul as a miracle worker and great orator, but not as an apostle.

Jacob Jervell
The letters of Paul addressed specific issues and do not present a full biography. Acts and the letters are needed for a complete picture. Except for Romans 9-11, the points of theological contact are between the Paul in Acts and the marginal notes in the letters.

Stanley E. Porter
Disputes Haenchen’s and Vielhauer’s interpretations of the wide gulf between the Paul of the letters and of Acts. The Paul of the letters can also be seen as a miracle worker and orator. Porter also argues more weight should be given to the two times in Acts when Paul is called an apostle. And the accusations in Acts that Paul taught against Torah argue for the author’s knowing of the importance of the Torah in Paul’s message, and that the different emphases between Acts and the epistles are the result of different genres.

Mark D. Nanos
The letter to Galatians is an “ironic rebuke” of the converts. “Judaizers” are not opposed to belief in Christ but only to the idea that circumcision (becoming a full proselyte) is not also necessary to be part of Israel. Paul had taught them that belief in Christ was all that was necessary. He does not attack Torah observance or question its appropriateness for non-Christian Jews. The issue is not faith in Christ versus Torah observance. Nanos’s understanding of Galatians is that of a Paul close to the one in Acts.

Joseph B. Tyson
Despite interpretations that appear to lessen the divide between the Paul of the letters and Acts, it is difficult to reconcile:

  • Paul’s views in Galatians with the Paul in Acts 16 who would circumcise Timothy
  • Paul’s rejection of his past in Phil 3:1-11 with his maintenance of it in Acts 23:6
  • Paul’s vehement defining of himself as an apostle in Gal 1:1, Rom 1:1; 1:13; 1 Cor 1:1; 9:1, 2; 15:9; 2 Cor 1:1; 12:12 with the almost total denial of the title to him in Acts

A final settlement of the apparent conflicts between the Paul of the epistles and the Paul of Acts still escapes us.

But if “Acts was written in the first half of the second century, . . . its characterization of Paul and Pauline theology may be understood as an extraordinarily appropriate attempt to correct the teachings of Marcionite Christianity.” (p.68 )

Whatever role Paul played during his own lifetime, there appears to be a struggle for his legacy in the second century. (Compare post comparing Pastorals with Acts of Paul and Thecla.) Marcionites used Paul as their authority for rejecting the Torah, Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish customs. Acts responds(?) by representing him as a faithful Jew and Pharisee.

Tyson then singles out three major features of Paul’s characterization in Acts, drawing on features Vielhauser believed were divergences from the epistles, and including observations of their themes and literary patterns, to show how they qualify as responses to Marcionism.

1. Paul’s Missionary Method

Tyson has earlier covered the literary pattern used for the missionary narratives and the themes they support. See Marcionite Context 1 for an elaboration of this and what follows.

The narratives of Paul’s mission work regularly consists of the same fourfold patterning of the following four themes:

  1. fidelity of the believing community to the Jewish traditions and practices — Paul always begins with the synagogue
  2. the community’s inclusion of Gentiles
  3. Jewish rejection of the Christian message
  4. Jewish opposition to the community

Further, “the heart of Paul’s message in the synagogues is that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish expectation and prophetic promises.” (p.69)

Note how these themes fit hand in glove with the Marcionite challenge:

Marcion insisted that the Christian message consisted of a rejection of the Jewish Torah and Scriptures. Yet in Acts Paul is found returning again and again to the synagogue. There is a rift between Jew and Christian, yes, but the reason for this is clearly the fact that the Jews themselves are rejecting the message. And they are doing so not because the message is anti-Jewish, or anti-Torah or anti-Hebrew-Scriptures, but because of their hard stubborn hearts. The Christian message is that Jesus is the fulfillment of their Scriptures and Messianic hopes, and this is what angers them.

Paul’s repeated attempts to convert the Jews by showing them he was sympathetic and obedient to their customs and by preaching that Jesus was the fulfillment of their Scriptures was the perfectly apt response to Marcionite claims that Christianity had no link with Jewish traditions and that the Jewish scriptures had no relevance for the new message from the Alien God.

Hoffmann, I recall, somewhere makes the point that the irony is that it was the “pro-Jewish” Christianity of the orthodox that was fundamentally anti-semitic, accusing the Jews of congenital hard heartedness; while Marcionite Christianity placed Jews and Gentiles on an equal footing before the nonjudgmental higher God introduced by Jesus.

2. Paul and the Jerusalem Apostles

2 issues here: Paul’s apostleship and his relationship to the Jerusalem leaders.

Apostleship

To Marcion, Paul was the only true apostle and Peter and the other Jerusalem leaders were false apostles.

Acts disputes this divide by its technique of paralleling Peter and Paul. But the parallel is not complete. In Acts the title of apostle is almost exclusively confined to Peter and the Jerusalem leaders. Only twice does the term apostle appear in relation to Paul and Barnabas — Acts 14:4, 14.

Note however that 14:14 in the Western text (Codex Bezae) omits the word “apostles”, and if this is accepted as the original then we only have one reference to Paul as an apostle. Yet even here the word apostle is removed by many verses from the actual names of Paul and Barnabas. Tyson asks if this indicates a subtle distancing of the title from those names. Clark in Parallel Lives thinks the title apostle in Acts 14 serves to equate Paul and Barnabas with the other apostles, only in an an alternate geographical area.

But the author of Acts clearly defines the number of apostles as being limited to Twelve; and that to qualify for the title one must also have been a witness of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry to his resurrection. This clearly disqualifies Paul from the title. Is Paul simply being logically inconsistent? Tyson compares scholars approaching Acts without preconceived ideas about the author’s historical accuracies with their reluctance to presume he might be at least once logically inconsistent. They are willing to concede he is not always accurate in detail — why not also that he is not 100% consistent with his use of this title?

But Tyson comes down with a different bottom line explanation for this inconsistency found in Acts 14:4 (14). In a Marcionite context, the problem facing the author was not Paul’s apostleship but the apostleship of Peter and the Jerusalem leaders. He needed to rebut Marcion’s claim that the Jerusalem Twelve were not true apostles. His purpose was not to argue Paul’s apostleship but to prove that the Twelve were also apostles — to rehabilitate the Twelve. (Compare my earlier post on Tracing the evolution of the Twelve.)

To fulfill this task he “rehabilitated” the Twelve as the authorized bearers of tradition, and he showed that Paul was in every respect in line with them and at some points subservient to them. If he occasionally used the title apostle for Paul, this is only because of the fact that, despite his own definition that would exclude Paul from the group, he never doubted its appropriateness. We may regard the author of Acts as inconsistent at this point, but his inconsistency is understandable. (p.72)

Relationship with Jerusalem leaders

A major theme in Acts, the inclusion of Gentiles, is introduced by Peter. Not by Paul. Yet Paul is the primary leader of the gentile mission. So why is Peter chosen for the role of opening up this theme?

Tyson finds the answer at the conclusion of the lengthy and complex narrative of Peter’s conversion of Cornelius. The narrative concludes with Peter being required to have his actions authorized by the Jerusalem leaders, including the rest of the Twelve. This is important for the maintenance of one of the primary themes of Acts — internal harmony under the collective leadership of the Jerusalem apostles:

the story is not over until the Jerusalem apostles have agreed that Gentiles may be members of the community and that their admission will not create disharmony. (p.72)

It should also be noted that permission for the church to go to the gentiles came to Peter, the leader of the Twelve, and not to Paul, and that the first gentile was a lover of the Jews, observing their times of prayer and fearing their God. Tyson does not single out the point here, but God-fearer in the context of Cornelius here is a clear reference to the Jewish Creator God — the one rejected by Marcion as inferior in preference for the higher Alien God.

So the inclusion of the gentiles opens as a pro-Jewish act and is authorized by the Twelve before the story can continue.

The Acts 15 Jerusalem conference
See How Acts subverts Galatians for details. That a companion of Paul would subvert Galatians in this way is implausible. How could such a one put the words of Paul into the mouth of Peter, as in Acts 15:7-11? Tyson finds it hard to disagree with the Baur and the Tübingen school’s case that the author of Acts was attempting to rewrite history in order to promote a belief that there was harmony between the followers of Peter and those of Paul.

A Marcionite challenge that stressed the gulf between Paul and Jewish-Christians would explain why the author of Acts sought to rewrite the Galatians meeting the way he did. Unlike Marcion’s assertions based on Galatians, there was no rift between Peter and Paul. They were in complete harmony despite an initial hiccup. Paul left proclaiming the decrees ordained by the Jerusalem authorities (16:4), and gentiles and Jews were bound together even by certain (minimal) requirements from the Torah.

3. Paul as a faithful Jew and Pharisee

The Paul of the letters relegates his Pharisee identity to a dead past. Tyson sees the claims in Acts that Paul continued to think of himself as a Pharisee as anti-Marcionite propaganda. Acts also turns Paul’s speeches into anti-Marcionite proclamations: the relevance of the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets and Jewish messianic expectations to Jesus.

Tyson sees a major objective of the trial scenes is to portray Paul as a Torah-abiding Jew:

  • Before the high priest he quotes from Exodus (Acts 23:5)
  • Before Felix he describes himself as a loyal Jew (24:14)
  • He calls attention to his preaching of the resurrection as a Jewish hope (24:15)
  • He emphasizes his return to Jerusalem to bring alms and make sacrifices in the temple (24:17)
  • He reminds us he was seized while in ritual of purification (24:17-18 )
  • Before Festus he says he has done nothing against the Jewish law or people (25:8, 10)
  • Before Agrippa and Bernice he proclaims at length his Jewish allegiance (26:4-8 )
  • He says he preaches nothing except what Moses and the prophets proclaimed (26:22) — a statement in direct opposition to what Marcion believed

The practices of Paul preceding these trial scene proclamations have prepared the reader for this portrayal of Paul:

  • Acts 16:1-3, the circumcision of Timothy — it is debatable whether this would have been performed by the Paul of the letters, but there is no doubt that this was in opposition to Marcion’s Paul. Marcion taught release from the God of the Torah, and from the Creator God of this (fleshly) world.
  • Acts 21:18-28, Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem — tells us there are multitudes of Christians there who are all zealous for the law (an impossible concept for Marcion); and that the accusations that Paul taught Jews to forsake the laws and customs are false, as evidenced by his compliance with the advice of James. The message to readers familiar with Marcionite teaching is that Marcion’s claims about Paul are false.
  • Compare also Acts 18:18 — cutting his hair because of a vow would have suggested a Jewish practice opposed to Marcionite teaching
  • And Acts 20:16 — Paul eager to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Again in opposition to Marcion’s Paul.

Tyson concludes his discussion of the characterization of Paul:

The characterization of Paul in Acts is internally consistent. He is a loyal Jew, obedient to Torah and faithful to Jewish practices. His message is that Jesus fulfills the words of the Hebrew prophets: he is the Messiah of Israel. Paul does not act unilater­ally but only in harmony with Peter and the Jerusalem apostle. It is they who establish the authentic Christian tradition, and Paul neither adds to it nor subtracts from it. The characterization of Paul is also consistent with the major themes that the author used in writing Acts, among them: the order of the community; the internal harmony of the community; the community’s inclusion of Gentiles; Jewish rejection of the Christian message; and the community’s fidelity to Jewish traditions and prac­tices. The author of Acts has made use of these characterizations and themes to pro­duce an engaging narrative that responds, almost point by point, to the Marcionite challenge. Readers of Acts learn that the God of Jesus is the God of the Jews, that Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish expectations as announced by the Hebrew prophets, and that the early Christian leaders continued to observe Torah and Jewish practices. (pp 75-76)

In other words, Tyson’s argument is that the question of reconciling the Paul of the letters with the Paul of Acts is the wrong question to ask. The problems that arise in attempting to answer it are the inevitable result. Acts is not addressing the letters of Paul per se, but addressing the Marcionite challenge and the use the Marcionites made of Paul’s letters. This hypothesis leads to a much tidier explanation of the way Paul is portrayed in Acts.


continued at this post


Luke’s Marcionite source for Paul’s Jerusalem and trial experiences?

In Literary Patterns, Theological Themes, and the Genre of Luke-Acts (1974) Charles Talbert compiled lists totalling about 40 literary and narrative resonances between the Gospel of Luke and Acts. (He called them parallels back in 1974 but that word has since acquired for many a bad name — sometimes justifiably, but other times less so.)

From his comparisons of some of these he concluded that Luke had generally made changes sometimes to the gospel narrative he knew and sometimes to his narrative of Paul to make the two form a set of parallels to each other.

This explained, for example, why Luke’s narrative of Jesus included a hearing before Herod, thus giving him a total of 4 separate hearings (Sanhedrin – 22:26, Pilate – 23:1, Herod – 23:8, Pilate – 23:13) unlike the narratives found in the other gospels. Talbert indicates that Luke edited Mark’s gospel to write a narrative of Jesus’ Passion that conformed to events in Paul’s life. Compare Paul’s 4 trials: Sanhedrin – ch.23; Felix – ch.24; Festus – ch.25; Herod Agrippa – ch.26). But this is based not simply on the matching fourfold hearings. Within these Talbert points to distinctively Lucan additions to Mark’s narrative also being found in similar positions in Acts: the threefold declarations of innocence of the one on trial; the directly positive claim Jesus can be released; the crowds shouting “Away with this man”; the centurion proclaiming the one charged as “innocent”; et al.

Another example is Luke’s adding to Mark’s description of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem a description of the way the crowds praised God for all the mighty works they had seen done through Jesus (Luke 19:37 – cf. Mark 11:1-10). Talbert notes how this corresponds with the reception Paul received when he also entered Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-20a).

Another change in Luke’s gospel is his removal of Mark’s reference to Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree. In Mark’s gospel, the fig tree episode strongly suggests Jesus’ rejection of and pronunciation of doom on the Temple. Luke deletes this, and gives readers a Jesus who stays entrenched in the Temple, preaching daily from it. (19:45-48). Talbert compares this with Paul’s favourable attitude toward the Temple. (e.g. Acts 21:26)

I would add here that this wish to have a less judgmental Jesus, one favourably disposed to the Temple in his efforts to save, not condemn, the Jews, may also have something to do with Luke’s changes to the Little Apocalypse. In place of Mark’s condemnation of a Temple being stained by the presence of an abomination he envisions “only” a city besieged by armies.

There are other points Talbert lists but this is enough to get the main idea of the case he argues.

But what if we relook at Talbert’s discussion of the strands linking the events in Paul’s life with those in Jesus’ last days in the light of recent studies on Luke and Acts that I have been summing up in bits and pieces in blog posts here?

Klinghardt has recently raised the possibility that canonical Luke’s gospel used Marcion’s gospel as one of its sources. See Marcion Enters the Synoptic Problem and subsequent follow up posts. Tyson argues that canonical Luke likewise was a reworking of Marcion’s gospel. See the Tyson and Marcion archives. Pervo also argues that Luke was a late document.

Given the possibilities raised by Kinghardt and Tyson in particular, one is justified in rethinking the sources Luke used for his last chapters of Acts.

The possibility is opened that Luke was modeling his Paul’s entry into Jerusalem and subsequent four-fold trial sequence on the life of Jesus as found in Marcion’s gospel.

In fact, given the absence of any other known source for Luke’s narrative here, this must be seen the most economical and plausible solution to the question of Luke’s sources for this phase of Paul’s career.

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

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 . . . .

Marcion and the Synoptic Problem (2)

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 . . . .

Marcion enters the Synoptic Problem

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

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.

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

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. read more »

The anti-Marcionite character of the Pastoral epistles?

Since Marcion is assumed to be “anti-Jewish” it seems nonsense at first blush to associate his “heresy” with the “Jewish error” in the Pastorals. But in fact what Marcion rejected was the typographical or allegorical reading of the Jewish scriptures. He read them literally and was accused of believing a form of Jewish error. See my previous post on Literal and allegorical scriptures in orthodoxy and heresy. But to start from the beginning . . . .

read more »