Markus Vinzent's Blog

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Eckhart on Prayer

Recently came across, again, the link to an interview which I gave a few years ago on Meister Eckhart and the Lord's Prayer (in German) for an Austrian broadcaster. Simply follow the link.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’ in the eyes of others

In two recent articles, A. Baumgarten, ‘The Rule of the Martian in the Ancient Diaspora’,  and J. Barclay, ‘“Jews” and “Christians” in the Eyes of Roman Authors c. 100 CE’, both part of P.J. Tomson and J. Schwartz (eds), Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries: How to Write their Histories (Leiden, 2013), 313-26 and 398-430, respectively the question of ‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’ in the eyes of others, predominantly Greco-Roman, non-Christian authors, have been ventured.

As Baumgarten rightly quotes, Lucian of Samosata in his famous Peregrinus depicts Jews and Christians as 'a cluster of bats coming out of a nest, or frogs holding council round a marsh, or worms assembling in some filthy corner' which he interprets in the light of Jonathan Z. Smith (‘What a difference a difference makes’, 47) as an expression of '... even identity' and calls the debate between Jews and Christians a 'Jewish discussions'. Hence, according to Lucian, Christians are seen as part of Judaism, not separated from Judaism (403), although Baumgarten shares the views of those Jews who see in these Christians anything, but Jews. That is the reason why he underlines against the apologetic trend of modern scholarship the difference between Christians and Jews, despite what he quoted from Lucian, relying on the Jew from Celsus. However, what this Jew complaints about, that Christianity was 'another name and another life' to which some Jews have 'deserted' is not very different from how Paul would have regarded those Jews whom he persecuted with all his powers. And even the 'mother-daughter' image of this Jew is not different from what we read in Tacitus (dismissed by Barclay, see below). It is obvious (and I don't know many amongst those criticized representatives of 'modern scholarship' that would deny that Celsus' Jew, like the persecuting Paul before him, held such views) that from a Jewish perspective, critical of the 'Christian' interpretation, 'Christians' were seen as deviators, perhaps even apostates of Judaism - which does not say much about how 'Christians' would have regarded themselves (as one can see, again with Paul who despite having joined the persecuted communities did not regard himself or his new brethren as apostates from Judaism). Baumgarten, then, supports his Jewish argument by pagan writers who, according to him, share this view that 'Christians' were no longer Jews (410), with reference to Barclay. He then takes on Lucian's P. again and mentions the 'new cult' and martyrdom (note this terminology reminds of Marcion's catchword 'new' and the fact that the Marcionites were known for having produced most martyrs in the second century) and mentions that for Lucian Christians are something else than Jews (no surprise from somebody who writes contemporary to Justin/Irenaeus and reports about somebody around the year 144 - note, it is the year in which Marcion went public with his New Testament). Galen, all agree, still sees Jews and Christians as 'one school' which is now one of two lawgivers (Moses and Christ; see also the notes of Celsus on the 'contradictory laws' CC 7.18; 'Moses or Jesus', 'opposite purpose' which supports the case I have made in my Marcion and the Synoptic Gospels [Leuven, 2014], that the Jewish source of Celsus was aquainted with and critical of Marcion’s Antitheses). When Baumgarten draws the conclusion, based on his retake of Lucian (no longer mentioning what he quoted from him earlier - the cluster of bats coming out 'from a nest', not nests), and against Galen (but supported by what he found by Barclay, see below), he comes to the conclusion: ‘The nearly unanimous evidence of the “pagan” authors, taken together with the explicit remarks of Celsus’ Jew, make it hard to argue that, “Most, if not all of the Christians of the first, second, and perhaps even the third centuries considered themselves and were considered by others as Jews” or that the elites on what would become the two sides (to whom Celsus’ Jew would have belonged) were so concerned with distinguishing between Jews from Christians because so many other people of Antiquity did not see the difference between Jews and Christians, that is, because the ways had not yet really parted’ (412-3). As Baumgarten himself italizes the passage in Boyarin’s quote (Daniel Boyarin, ‘Semantic Differences’, in Adam H. Becker, Annette Yoshiko Reed (eds), The Ways that Never Parted [T├╝bingen, 2003], 65-86, 69), his concern has not been about how Christians saw themselves, but how they were seen by others.

As he has based the core of his argument on Barclay’s article, we also need to review the latter. Here my observations:

In his contribution on ‘“Jews” and “Christians” in the Eyes of Roman Authors c.100 CE’, John M.G. Barclay suggests that ‘as far as Romans were concerned, the association between “Christians” and “Jews” was not an early, but a late phenomenon; two groups once clearly differentiated could now be closely associated, but only when a good deal was discovered about “Christian” beliefs and the “Christian” self-image. It was only late, and then only patchily (and in elite circles) that Romans began to identify “Christians” with “Jews”, an association certainly not made by 100CE’ (326).

This hypothesis is based on the assessment of a relatively coherent picture that Barclay sees being painted by Roman authors of the first and early second century who write about ‘Jews’ (Valerius Maximus, Apion of Alexandria, Seneca, Petronius, Pliny the Elder, Quintilian, Martial and Juvenal), about ‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’ (Suetonius and Tacitus), a picture that he contrasts with the profile of ‘Christians’ given by those authors who talked about ‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’, and those who talked about ‘Christians’ alone (Pliny the Younger, Trajan) or on ‘Galileans’ (Epictetus).

While ‘Jews’ are seen as a superstitious gens, ‘Christians’ are regarded as criminals, two ‘different’ categories, therefore, as Barclay suggests who never before Celsus have been connected.

In order to maintain this neatly differentiated picture, he needs to exclude the Claudian edict (taken as an individual rebel ‘not a representative of a group’ [317], although according to the edict the Emperor ‘expellat Iudaeos’. Would an Emperor issue an edict, if the rebellious Chrestos were only a single phenomenon with the Jewish synagogue without impact on a group? That the Emperor expells ‘Jews’ contradicts Barclay’s reading – the Emperor does not exclude and expell an individual rebel, but ‘Jews’, amongst them the famous Aquila).

The second witness which Barclay needs to exclude (317) to make his case is Tacitus’ lost work, the Historiae, where Tacitus reports about Titus who wanted to destroy

completely the religion of the Jews and the Christiani: For although these religions are conflicting, they nevertheless developed from the same origins. The Christiani arose from the Jews: With the root removed, the branch is easily killed.[1]

Only recently E. Laupot (not mentioned by Barclay) has made a good case that the text is genuinely by Tacitus.[2] The quote is, indeed, of interest as it gives, if not the opinion of Titus, at least that of Tacitus that for him, Jews and Christians still belonged to one religion, while at the same time he can also speak of them as two religions with a clear indication that the Christians derive from the Jews and can be seen like branch and root.

The third evidence that Barclay dismisses is Epictetus. When Epictetus talks about a Jew who ‘has been baptised and has made his choice’ and ‘is in reality a Jew’, Barclay takes this as evidence for proselyte baptism which, according to Barclay, ‘has nothing to do with Christian practice’ (319). Yet, for a long time, the terminology of ‘baptism’ has made scholars think that there was a potential connection to Christians (see, for example, James D.G. Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem (Cambridge, 2009), 55-6 (not mentioned by Barclay).

In addition, one does not only need to look at the positive evidence, but also at the negative one. If the two groups were as differentiated and distinct from early on, as Barclay claims, one needs to explain why, for example, Josephus who talks about the different groups of Judaism and also mentions key figures like James, Jesus’ brother, never speaks of ‘Christians’. Likewise, James D.G. Dunn is more precise when he states that ‘there are no references to Christians or Christianity in non-Christian Greco-Roman sources prior to the second century’ (54), but that all we have are second century authors writing about first century events. This reduces the basis for the claim that from early on, we have a differentiation between Judaism and Christianity which only towards the later second century were brought together by authors.

A more systematic problem is given by the fact that Barclay states that ‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’ are incomparable labels, belonging to a ‘different category’, yet – in his contrasting of two groups, ‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’ he starts blurring the difference between a label (which can be distinct, as they are in the case of 'Jews' and 'Christians') and 'groups'. If the labels refer to distinct categories ('Jews' a gens, 'Christians' criminals), a comparison of 'Jews' with 'Christians' is like that of apples with pears, hence, such comparison will not give us an insight into how people were related to each other (let alone in their own minds), but will give us labels under which people have been categorised from different perspectives. Instead, if one followed Barclay's logic, one would need to say that if 'Jews' and 'Christians' are incomparable, Jews could easily also be seen as criminals (Christians) (without the need of people by making such strictures to refer to these people being Jews), as well as Christians could be seen as belonging to the gens of Jews (without in thise case people being in need in accusing them of being ‘Christians’ or criminals, as being a Jew was far from being a criminal). If 'Christians' as a label is equated with being a 'criminal' - and this is how I see it too, this label explains why the title ‘Christians’ has not become a self-reference for a long time and that writings like 2Peter and Acts still know of it as a shame name, and that even Justin has difficulties to give it a positive rendering. If this is so, how can such a shame name which has no reference to a gens give us any indication about the relation between 'Christians' and 'Jews' in the first half of the second, let alone about the first century?


[1] Tac., in: Sulp. Sev.: ‘Plenius Iudaeorum et Christianorum religio tolleretur: quippe has religiones, licet contrarias sibi, isdem tamen ab auctoribus profectas; Christianos ex Iudaeis extitisse: radice sublata stirpem facile perituram’.
[2] E. Laupot, ‘Tacitus' Fragment 2: The Anti-Roman Movement of the Christiani and the Nazoreans’, VigChr 54 (2000), 233-47.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Michael Goulder - Mesmerizing 'a conservative profession'

Having just finished reading Michael Goulder's autobiography Five Stones and as Sling, I feel sad that at the time when we met regularly in Birmingham for our 'open end' seminar, touring around colleague's homes and indulging in food for thought and real food and wine, I had not yet developed the questions on the early history of the Gospels. And although I am not sure what kind of advise and insights Michael would have given me, I am sure he would have been witty, and sympathetic to the idea that from a different angle, somebody had picked up his idea that Q was an unnecessary hypothesis. Now that he is nor more with us, I have to listen to what he has left us - an enormous legacy and a treasure of sharp arguments and observations, and, overall, the encouragement that we should not be satisfied with ideas of dwarves, but also the inspiration, not to fight or defend old walls of Troy (those will always be like Hector), instead, come up with theories that are less complex and more convincing.
The book has also taught me another lesson: The further stones are thrown, the longer they take to come down. Michael's criticism of Q and his idea that Luke depends on Matthew is, in the meantime, well positioned and certainly not less popular than the old Two-Sources-Hypothesis. And yet, his conclusion sounds sceptical of the NT scholarship: 'I have called this book Five Stones and a Sling, but the contest in which I have been engaged is less simple than David's with Goliath. Scholars who have assumed a position over many years do not quickly recant it and publicly admit their error; nor can a novel hypothesis expect to carry the day at once in a conservative profession. It may be particularly difficult to shift opinion over texts which are fundamental to the faith of the critic. With time scholars came to treat sympathetically my arguments for the evangelists' creativity: their freedom to create Nativity stories out of Old Testament types, and their ability to create or develop parables in line with their own stylistic and doctrinal concerns. They have been less willing to accept Matthew and Luke as embroiderers of earlier Gospel traditions, because there is a hankering after putative lost sources and oral traditions which would take us back to the historical Jesus. The Q hypothesis has been part of the "assured results of scholarship" for more than a century, and despite my aggressive campaigning against it, it is still the standard teaching in most universities.'
And yet, I think, Michael has and is mesmerizing the profession, and is certainly a stimulation to go further.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Gospel's biographical and historical nature vs the Gospels as allegories

Dear Giuseppe,

as with your other questions and doubts, you always hit an important problem which allows me to develop things a bit further.

With regard to your observation that Mark is allegorical, and even more so is Matthew (although I would need to understand which parts you find allegorical, as there are certainly sections which are and others which are less), here is how I see it:

As Luke is the closest copy of Marcion’s Gospel, and Marcion’s Gospel is biographical in its basic structure (although it omits the birth and youth of its protagonist) – very similar to the geo- and historiographical structure of Marcion’s collection of Paul’s letters –, it is no surprise that Luke like Marcion’s Gospel is the one that sounds most biographical.

Yet, despite the straight copying of Marcion’s Gospel by Luke, Luke has altered many features of Marcion’s Gospel – by introducing a birth and youth story of Jesus, emphasising him as Lord, making the many links to his Jewish lineage and Davidian heritage and more. And yet, you are right, the biographical character it preserved, and even tried to strengthen through those additions. As Marcion’s biographical nature of his Gospel was antithetical, meaning that through biography and history, Marcion wanted to point out the non receptive nature of history and the incomprehensiveness of the Jewish people for the transcendent and unknown God and his Messiah, Luke counters this programme by his emphasis on history.

Mark, in contrast, deviates more in wording from Marcion’s Gospel, yet, he chooses a different approach to counter Marcion’s Gospel by, like Luke, adopting certain features, others than Luke. For Mark, the Gospel of Marcion disentangled Jesus from the Prophets, hence, Mark starts with making this link. He had less issue with Marcion’s criticism of history, on the contrary, Mark even emphasises the hidden and mysterious character of Jesus – therefore, he even pushes Marcion’s message more into this direction, something you call allegorical.

Matthew in his turn, picks up Marcion’s Gospel (presumably before Luke and after Mark) and is the one who extends Marcion’s Gospel with the birth story, underlines the historicity, but not as in Marcion, to dispute history as such. Instead, he turns Marcion’s antithetical relation between Jesus and the Jews (especially the leading groups, people and institutions) into an anti-Jewish position.

Hence, if you adopt my new dating of Mcn being first (but note – I am giving up the idea of straight dependencies of the Gospels, as I see only Mcn’s draft being the first Gospel, while his published version with the Antitheses has clearly known and read the canonical Gospels), I would rather think that we don’t see a straight move, but that a history critical historical biography (Mcn) created different responses, more allegorical ones (to save the mysterious – Mark, to save Jesus as heir of Israel – Matthew), and a more historical one (Luke with added Acts to also accomodate and position Marcion’s collection of Paul’s letters).


Monday, 17 November 2014

What is the relation between Mark, 'canonizer of Paul', and Marcion's Gospel?

In his comment to one of my blogs, Giuseppe noted, as follows:
The strongest doubt is shortly: if the Gospel of Mark, being proto-orthodox (in your view), is anti-Marcionite, then why Mark is so pro-Paul just as I would expect instead from the Gospel of Marcion? Why does Mark look so marcionite in his denigration of 12 disciples & Peter? For example, Tom Dykstra says that the author of that Gospel “deliberately created a literary Jesus whose words and actions parallel the words and actions of Paul” (“Mark, Canonizer of Paul,” p. 149).

Besides, Mark is shorter than other Gospels.
Why Mark presents the story of the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida while the other gospels didn't have that episode? I see in that episode a midrash from Judges 9:8-15: There the trees allude to riotous people of Israel.

The blind man sees ”men as trees walking”, and soon after Jesus rebukes Peter (”vade retro satana”) ”seeing his disciples”(Mark 8:33), then Jesus and the blind man see the same thing: blind people that want a king-messiah for themselves (you can see the allusion to Judges 9 about seditious trees).

The miracle in two steps to regain the sight is parallel to the process in two steps to identify Jesus as Christ by Peter & co (Mark 8:27-30).

In this way, the blind man becomes more close to God (and more similar to Jesus) than the same disciples, the true blind men of allegory (who has a name, is indeed blind, and who is anonymous, sees better). All this would make more easily the same point of Marcion's Gospel: Paul is the unique true Apostle. How do you explain all this?

Very Thanks for a satisfactory reply to all these questions!

Dear Giuseppe,
Thanks for your enlightening questions on some issues I had not thought about before. Let me start with your strongest doubt. This is based on the common perspective which I tried to correct in my Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels (Leuven, 2014) that the early responses to Marcion, including the later canonical Gospels, are anti-Marcionite in the sense of them regarding Marcion’s text heretical. If they had regarded it as heretical, they would not have used it. Yet, we have to differentiate. On the old synoptic model, scholars assume that Matthew and Luke have used Mark – although they all admit that the way Matthew and Luke make use of Mark by rewriting him, re-ordering the material, leaving things aside, adding others, poor Mark would certainly not have recognised, let alone endorse these aemulationes of his own work. Was Matthew and Luke anti-Mark? In some sense certainly yes, they did not simply subscribe to his text, yet, on the other side, they adopted it and made it their own.
When I did invite Matthias Klinghardt to give a paper at a Marcion seminar at the 2011 International Conference on Patristic Studies, Oxford, he repeated his view which he had published before, namely that he believed Mark to be the oldest Gospel, from which the others, including Mcn (his short cut for Marcion’s Gospel – although maintaining that this text has not been written or even redacted, but only used by Marcion). Now that he has done the reconstruction of Mcn (his reconstruction is announced to be published in due course), he has corrected is older view and takes Mcn to be the source even of Mark.
My view is that Marcion’s Gospel, like that of Mark in the early dating theory, was regarded as both – attractive and contentious. It was good enough to be borrowed, used, adapted and corrected. With the adoption, however, the original impacted on those who copied the text, even if they heavily re-wrote it. This we can see with the Pauline influence that has always been noticed in Luke. Thanks, also for drawing my attention to Tom Dykstra, Mark, Canonizer of Paul. His book does not only show (against earlier works like that of Martin Werner of 1923) that Mark is indebted to Paul, but, what he has not spelled out, Mark goes beyond Paul, specifically in areas where – in my view – he is dependent on Marcion (such as his criticism of Peter, see Dykstra, 119ff). And you are right, he might even have taken Marcion’s criticism of Peter a step further, you indicate the relation between the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida with the following pericope of Jesus rebuking Peter. Mark, however, is also deviating from Marcion’s position, particularly in altering Marcion’s antithetical position to an interaction between Jesus and Judaism that ‘presents Jesus as a rabbi among rabbis’, as By Robert McFarlane ‘The Gospel of Mark and Judaism’ put it:the interactions between Jesus and the others concerns establishing his way as the legitimate reading of the Torah. In this sense it must be said that Mark can not be characterised by anti-Judaism. Rather, Mark appears to have the qualities of a sectarian group, seeking to establish a new interpretation of Torah.’ Hence, it is no surprise that you are rightly reminded of a midrash from Judges 9:8-15 and make the connection to the story about Peter. As often in Marcion’s Gospel, the weak, the ill, the marginal and the excluded people are closer than any of the disciples, especially than Peter. and, as in Marcion, Paul is the unique true Apostle.
Put the other way around and follow the traditional model – why, if Marcion’s copied Mark on this, did he leave out the story of Bethany which would be so close to his chest? The opposite can be easily shown that Mark redacts Marcion’s Gospel and gets rid of the antithesis of Christianity and Judaism, although he still shows and maintains a number of other Marcionite features.