Part 3—A revolution in the Synoptic Problem

Note: Six years after writing this post, I concluded that the arch-heretic Marcion did not exist as a historical figure. He was invented by the fledgling Church and used as a proxy for all the pre-Catholic Jesus followers who clung to the ‘Jesus as spirit’ theology (Stage II). See here. This post still contains valuable information and has been amended to conform to my later views.—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 … 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

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

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 3

A second pre-synoptic gospel layer We must now add another source—and another layer—to the ongoing synoptic schema recently investigated on this blog. We recall that Matthias Klinghardt has elaborated a revolutionary schema of synoptic gospel development in his exhaustive 2015 volumes. His conclusions are summarized in graphic form below (left). Klinghardt proposes that the Gospel of Marcion (Mcn) preceded all the synoptic gospels, including that of Mark. For him, then, Mcn is the first pre-synoptic gospel layer (below). Klinghardt allows a rather generous chronological window to Mcn (90–150 CE). He also leaves the door open to the possibility of one or more gospels having preceded Mcn. Now, in the previous post I observed that a textual Gospel of Marcion probably … Continue reading

“Jesus has a Nazareth problem” (interview transcript)—Pt. 2

René: There was a claim of a house from the time of Jesus… Brian: Yeah, in 2009, I believe. René: I devote a long chapter [in the book NazarethGate] to that. Actually, it’s a wine-making installation. Very clear… There’s no doubt about it.      [This might be a good time to] address a common criticism: that I’m not an archeologist. You know, people say, “Well, René, how can you have an opinion?” And what I say is that I don’t have an opinion. I don’t make any judgments myself. I am scrupulously careful to quote the opinions of the experts, of the archeologists who have studied the stone vessels, who have studied the oil lamps, who have studied the pottery, who … Continue reading

Part 4—Towards a new synoptic solution

This is one of the longer and more significant posts on this website. Here we will look at the recent work of two German patristics specialists, both of whom propose that Marcion of Pontus (ostensibly fl. c. 130–c. 160 CE) presented the world with a gospel that predated all four canonical gospels. This in itself is mind-boggling, for it not only dates the canonical gospels much later (well into the second century) than is presently thought, but it also means that the heretic ‘Marcion’ was critically implicated at an early stage of the canonical gospel tradition. [Note: I have placed the name ‘Marcion’ in single quotes because—six years after originally writing this post—I concluded that ‘Marcion’ was an invention of … Continue reading

Did the arch-heretic Marcion author the first gospel?

In a prior post we began looking at the increasing evidence that the New Testament is a product of the second century, rather than the first. We continue now by examining the role that the arch-heretic Marcion of Pontus played in gospel formation, a role that is becoming ever more astonishing as scholars finally realize that Marcion is certainly implicated in the earliest stratum of canonical gospel formation. That stratum is normally associated with the Gospel of Mark. Can there be any historical connection here between the names “Mark” and “Marcion”? If so, how ironic that would be, since one is a Christian hero and the other an arch-villain! No gospel is mentioned by the Church Fathers before the appearance … Continue reading

Part 3—A revolution in the Synoptic Problem

[Note: This post has been substantially updated.] 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 (e.g., see John Kloppenborg’s massive works), Q is … Continue reading