How late was the name “Paul”?

A recent post on this site concluded: “I find it curious that both Marcion and Paul bear names that are diminutives. ‘Marcion’ means Little Mark. ‘Paul’ means little. Is this purely a coincidence?” Here I attempt an answer to this question… Diminutives are generally disparaging. There are sarcastic exceptions (“Little John”, “Tiny Tim”) but—unless the names Marcion and Paul are original—the possibility exists that these were nicknames coined with hostile intent. As regards “Paul,” we are told in the New Testament that it was not his only name—the Apostle also went by “Saul” (Acts 13:9). As was common in antiquity, he had a Roman and a Jewish name, and neither one was demonstrably a nickname or disparaging. But, then, we … Continue reading

How late was the name “Mark”?

No doubt readers will be astonished to learn that the name “Mark” is not attested in the Christian tradition before the latter half of the second century CE. While this is explained below, I begin with another name: that of the arch-heretic Marcion. I do this because (perhaps even more astonishing) a survey of Christian writings shows that the clearly historical figure “Marcion” appears (cf. Justin Martyr) before the host of invented figures that populate Christian lore—from Peter, James, John, and on down… Accordingly, we begin with the historical “Marcion.” We then progress to that name’s cognate, the invented “Mark.” The name “Marcion” “Marcion” means “Little Mark” in Greek. For a Roman, it could be a so-called cognomen—assumed by the … Continue reading

Followup on Marcion

Those who have read my recent posts, Questioning the “Gospel of Marcion,” are now aware of my considered view that Marcion never actually had a textual “gospel.” As I have freely admitted, this view is “contra the totality of scholarship in the field”—today and for the last hundred years. If true, however, this breathtaking assessment must give us pause. After all, what does it say about modern theological research? How can ostensibly serious professors, highly educated, paid by prestigious institutions of higher learning, authoring scores (actually: hundreds) of books—how can all these ‘scholars’ get their specialty so wrong as to reconstruct, critique, and argue ad infinitum about a “Gospel of Marcion” that never even existed? In fact, the boondoggle cannot … Continue reading

Couchoud’s The Creation of Christ uploaded

I am pleased to notify readers that I have uploaded to this website the English translation of Paul-Louis Couchoud’s seminal work The Creation of Christ: An Outline of the Beginnings of Christianity (1939; original French edition: Jésus, Le Dieu fait Homme, 1937). The expert translation was executed by C. Bradlaugh Bonner and is in two volumes (229 and 241 pages), each in a separate PDF. I would like to thank Frank Zindler for making the digital translation on two CDs available to me, and also for graciously allowing me to put this important work of Jesus mythicism before the general public. The two PDF’s can be downloaded at the links below and also from the onsite introductory page on P. … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel/UrMark: working criteria

The comprehensive UrMark, cumulatively updated after each installment, is found here. The canonical (color coded) Gospel of Mark, also updated after each installment, is found here. As noted in the Introduction, in this series of posts I attempt a reconstruction of the earliest Gospel of Mark—a text that I identify with the “Hebrew Gospel” (a view, incidentally, not found anywhere else). Each post deals with a separate chapter, and two versions are offered: (1) a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of a Hebrew Gospel/UrMark reconstructed according to several criteria (see next paragraph); followed by (2) the entire chapter in the English translation (RSV). Both the short and the received versions are color coded. In my view, the best way to … Continue reading

An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Chp. 1

[Note: This post is substantially updated here.] As noted in the Introduction, in this series of posts I will be attempting a reconstruction of the earliest Gospel of Mark—a text that I identify with the “Hebrew Gospel” (a view, incidentally, not found anywhere else). Each post will deal with a separate chapter, and two versions will be offered: (1) a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of a Hebrew Gospel/UrMark reconstructed according to several criteria (see next paragraph); and (2) the entire chapter in the English translation (RSV). Both the short and the received versions will be color coded. In order to separate out later Catholic accretions from the earlier pauline-marcionite “core,” I use six basic criteria:      (a) Jesus is a … Continue reading

Part 3—A revolution in the Synoptic Problem

[NOTE: This is a significant revision. The original post has been archived here. — R.S.] The so-called Synoptic Problem can be defined as the search for the literary and redactional relationship between the three (obviously) extensively related “synoptic” gospels—Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Majority opinion has long favored the “two source theory”: Matthew and Luke primarily drew on Mark, and they also drew on a saying source not available to Mark known as “Q” (German abbreviation for Quelle, “source”). However, ongoing disagreements among New Testament scholars show that the two source theory is not satisfactory to many. Perhaps the biggest sticking point is that the Q source is entirely hypothetical. Despite a veritable library that has now been written about it … Continue reading

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

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