An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Chp. 9

As noted in the Introduction, two texts of the relevant chapter in the Gospel of Mark are presented here. The first is a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of an UrMark reconstructed according to the criteria below. At the bottom of this post is the entire Chapter 9 in the RSV English translation. Both the short and the longer forms of the chapter are color coded. In order to separate out later Catholic accretions from the earlier Jewish Christian “core,” I have employed the following criteria: The criteria used for color coding are discussed here. The resultant color coding is as follows: [Contained in the Hebrew Gospel / UrMark] Green: Possible/probable, or amended in UrMark. STAGE 1: Gnostic. To c. … Continue reading

An experiment: The original Gospel of Mark?—Introduction

[Note: This post substantially updates an older version).] 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. In any very large endeavor—as is the exploration of Christian origins—from time to time an intellectual synthesis is required, one that attempts to pull together various lines of research. Without such a synthesis, the world of early Christian studies quickly becomes a bewildering quagmire, with myriad disparate elements and little overall unity. So, I’d like to provide my personal synthesis regarding a critical text: the Gospel of Mark. This will take the form of a series of posts—one post for each of the sixteen chapters of … 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 The original post has been archived here.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

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 5

We have seen that the Jesus-as-spirit view preceded the Jesus-as-flesh-and-blood view. By Late Roman times, however, a text that represented that earlier christology would have been absolutely anathema—completely off the table of discourse. Yet, the Jesus-as-spirit view is precisely the christology presented in the Hebrew Gospel, a text that J. Edwards dates before the synoptic gospels. Thus Jerome: 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.) This interesting citation suggests several things: (1) the Hebrew Gospel endorsed the Jesus-as-spirit christology, something Jerome seems to view (with disparagement, no doubt) as “a … 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

The “Hebrew Gospel of Matthew”—Pt. 1

It doesn’t take long for researchers into Christian origins to come across enigmatic notices in the Church Fathers regarding a gospel originally written in Hebrew. I write “enigmatic” because such a Hebrew Gospel has never been found. So, scholars have been scratching their heads for generations—nay, centuries—over numerous ancient remarks attesting to such a work which has, apparently, disappeared. Some scholars maintain that the ancient remarks about a Hebrew gospel are simply errors—the ancients didn’t know what they were talking about! How convenient… A little thought, however, quickly shows this line to be completely indefensible, because if multiple unrelated sources wrote about a Hebrew gospel, it is most unlikely that they would all be wrong. But this is the way … 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 (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 is critically implicated at an early stage of the canonical gospel tradition. According to this view, all our canonical gospels (written in fairly quick succession towards the middle of the second century) are Catholizing adaptations of Marcion’s … 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