Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion”—Pt. 5

The prior posts in this series have alerted us to the dual meanings of “gospel” in antiquity, and also to the argument—apparently broached here for the first time—that Tertullian (the primary ancient witness to Marcion’s “gospel”) never had a text of the arch-heretic in mind at all. In support of this view one can point to the astonishing fact that in all of Tertullian’s five books Against Marcion (AM), one nowhere encounters a clear citation from a text that we could call the “Gospel of Marcion” (see below). This is damning, for it is impossible that the Church Father would critique a text while never offering a quotation from that text! Who critiques a text without repeatedly citing it? After … Continue reading

Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion”—Pt. 4

We have seen that the word “gospel” (euangelion/evangelium) had the principal meaning “good news, doctrine, teaching” in ancient times. This was certainly the case until the new Christian literary form of gospel as written narrative of Jesus’ sayings and doings became broadly known—that is, until the third century. The dialog furnished in the previous post showed that, still in the fifth century, the general meaning of evangelium far outweighed the textual meaning of the word. With our ability to carefully discriminate the two meanings of “gospel,” we now turn to the principal source used for the textual reconstruction of the alleged Gospel of Marcion. It is Tertullian’s massive opus, Against Marcion, in five books. Book Four is the main source … Continue reading

Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion”—Pt. 3

The word “gospel” The Greek word euangelion (and its Latin equivalent, evangelium) is a critical and ambivalent term. It has two principal meanings: (a) “good news, doctrine, teaching”—this is the general, or abstract meaning; and (b) a written text combining the sayings and the doings (logia and praxeis) of Jesus in narrative form. The two meanings—general and specific—are encompassed by the English term “gospel.” After all, today we speak of gospel in the general sense (cf. the phrases “the gospel of Christ”; “My gospel is…”) and also in the more specific sense referring to one or another named Christian text (“the Gospel of Matthew”). In the Greek and Latin records, euangelion/evangelium has also encompassed both meanings—sometimes used side-by-side—from antiquity right … Continue reading

Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion”—Pt. 2

In the prior post I noted with surprise that “the Gospel of Marcion (as reconstructed by Harnack, Knox, and Klinghardt) does not in any way represent Marcion’s own theology!” The question thus naturally arises: How could Marcion have promoted/published a gospel which stridently and categorically contradicts his views? Of course, he did no such thing. Frankly, it amazes me that specialist scholars past and present have not recognized this basic and obviously critical flaw in their marcionite reconstructions. Any reconstruction of a “Gospel of Marcion” must be incorrect if it fundamentally contradicts Marcion’s own theology. This observation needs no argument. It speaks for itself. The most recent (and also most ambitious) attempt to reconstruct Marcion’s gospel is that of Matthias … Continue reading

Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion”—Pt. 1

NOTE: This series of explorative posts represents ongoing research that is provisional. Admittedly contra the totality of scholarship in the field, its basic thesis is that the “gospel” of Marcion was a theology, a teaching, “good news” (euaggelion) but never a text resembling the Gospel of Luke (a sure impossibility, given Marcion’s flagrantly non-Lucan theology). The several posts on this website that have already treated the Gospel of Marcion as a precursor to the Gospel of Luke, and as implicated in the textual development of the canonical gospels, will eventually be revised and brought into conformity with the view set forth below.—R.S. Regular readers of this blog are aware that the Gospel of Marcion figures importantly in a new solution … Continue reading

Before Jesus of Nazareth

The first half of the second century was a watershed time in Christian history. By mid-century all four canonical gospels had been written (below), and the bulk of the Pauline epistles were ‘collected’ and published. At the beginning of the second century, however, it seems that only some elements of Paul’s letters (short epistles) were known, and probably not to many people. It is difficult for us to imagine a Christianity without Jesus of Nazareth. But we must do so, for the colossal God-man arrived not before the second century. The Pauline epistles do not know such a Jesus. On the other hand, the gospels do. The period of greatest ferment in Christianity can be dated to the two centuries … Continue reading

Christianity in the Light of Science—Book announcement

A couple of days ago I received my author’s copies of the forthcoming anthology of essays, Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World’s Largest Religion (Prometheus Books, 399 pp, US $19). The book goes on sale July 26, 2016, and it is available at pre-order discount on Amazon.com. The volume should also be available soon through Prometheus Books (whose website is currently in upgrade mode) and, of course, via your favorite local bookstore. My contribution is Chapter 12 (of fifteen), entitled “Pious Fraud at Nazareth.” Christianity in the Light of Science is edited by John Loftus (his fourth such anthology) and has a Foreword by Frank Zindler. It is dedicated to the late Victor Stenger, whose New … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 6

This series of posts is an attempt to help resurrect the Hebrew Gospel from a very long and undeserved oblivion. Though little more than a name today, in the early Christian centuries the Hebrew Gospel (GHeb) was noted by many Church Fathers—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, and sometimes simply with a neutral tone. Seventy-five references—a few with quotes—demonstrate that GHeb was significantly different from our canonical gospels. Its most critical difference was in christology, for in GHeb Jesus was a spirit: For since the apostles considered [Jesus] to be a spirit or, according to the gospel which is of the Hebrews and is read by the Nazoraeans, a demon without a body, he said to them… (Edwards 284, citing Jerome) It … Continue reading

Nazareth, Capernaum, and Tabor

The issue of Jesus’ hometown in early Christian literature is revealing. In the Gospel of Marcion (Mcn) the hometown of Jesus is Capernaum, as it is also in the Gospel of Mark. “Nazara” is only briefly mentioned in Mcn (corresponding to Lk 4:16–30). But the place does not really fit Marcion’s gospel, which locates Jesus in Capernaum both before and after a brief ‘visit’ to Nazara. Now, we know from the Gospel of Philip (Nag Hammadi) that in gnostic tradition Nazara meant “truth” (GPh 62). This interpretation fits the earlier spirit-Jesus christology, but not the new theios aner Jesus of Marcion, for which Jesus also requires a physical ‘hometown.’ Marcion’s gospel thus was apparently trying to fuse two different christologies … Continue reading

H. Detering confronts R. Carrier—Pt. 3

Paul, Mark, and other substitutions: Richard Carrier on The Fabricated Paul by Dr. Hermann Detering Edited and translated by René Salm   Division theories Finally, Carrier broaches an important view—one that many New Testament scholars discuss with self-assurance but for which they rarely give substantiation. On the basis of internal contradictions in the seven alleged authentic epistles, even conservative scholars have long adopted various ‘division theories’ whereby larger epistles are composed of several smaller ones. While they gladly assert the existence of a ‘stable common basis’ consisting of seven authentic epistles, they somehow argue the existence of a corpus consisting of more than seven epistles (thus, J. Becker). For example, most scholars today consider that Philippians consists of three authentic … Continue reading