Markus Vinzent's Blog

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Marcion - the source for the Gospel of Peter, the Synoptics and John?


 
A possibility to see the wider impact that Marcion had beyond the Synoptics, into John and the Gospel of Peter. In his recently published PhD, The Gospel of Peter and Early Christian Apologetics, WUNT 301 (Tübingen, 2011), Timothy P. Henderson gives us five synoptical lists of the following Gospels: Gospel of Peter (GP), Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, and he picks literaly parallel verses, put into colums on the basis of GP, hence synopsis of the four canonicals plus GP.

Now, a careful look at his lists will strike any reader, as one discovers something that even Henderson has not seen: Despite the various parallels, all five texts, even in these selected verses, are in many places and elements at variants, but, then, there are several verses, where all, or almost all these witnesses converge and are either much closer than in all the other selected verses or even literally identical. The list of these peculiar verses follows here:

Gospel of Peter
Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Marcion
2:2.5
27:26b
15:15
23:25b
19:16
19:25b
2:3
27:57-8
15:42-4
23:50-2
19:38
19:50-2
3:7
27:28
15:17a
23:11
19:2b
19:11
4:10
27:38
15:26
23:38
19:19
19:38
4:12
27:35
15:24
23:34b
19:23
19:34b
5:15
27:45
15:33
23:44
-
19:44
5:19
27:50
15:37
23:46b
19:30b
19:46b
5:22
27:45
15:33
23:44
-
19:44
5:23
27:58.57
15:43.45.43a
23:52.50.51
19:38
19:52.50.51
5:24
27:59-60a
15:46a
23:53
19:40-1
19:53
9:35-6; 12:50
28:1-2; 26:12
14:8; 16:2.5
24:1.4
19:40; 20:1a.12
20.1-2
13:55
-
16:5
24:3
20:11
20:3
13:56-7
28:5-6.8
16:6.8
24:5-6a.9
20:2.13a
20:3-5

 

As one can see from the last row which we have added here to Henderson’s columns all (!) these verses correspond with verses that are attested for the Gospel of Marcion. Conversely, and this is as important as the positive evidence, without exception the literal parallelism between the five witnesses stops where Marcion’s text is inexistent. The same cannot be said for either Mark, Luke, Matthew or John. When Marcion is missing, there are at best the one or the other of these witnesses parallel to each other (as, for example, in GP 1:1 and Matth. 27:24, or GP 1:5 and John 19:31a). This is even true for the relation between GP and Luke. A marvellous example is GP 4:13 and Luke 23:39-43. In this case, we know from Epiph., Pan. 42.11.6(72) that the last verse is certainly missing in Marcion’s Gospel, but also the immediate verses before are not attested for it, unsurprisingly, there is nothing but a faint relation between Luke and GP, and, correctly, none of the other witnesses is listed by Henderson. A same phenomenon exists in GP 8:28 and Luke 23:48. There is only a slight parallel between these two texts (sthvqh), but none of the other witnesses is listed – and no surprise to us that this verse is not attested for Marcion. Henderson’s entire synopsis number 3 only lists parallels between GP 8:29-9:34 and Matth. 27:60b-66 (with one short parallel in Mark 15:46b), as there is no John, no Luke, we cannot provide Marcion. Similarly indicative is GP 5:24a // Matth. 27:59-60a // Mark 15:46a // Luke 23:53 // John 19:40-2 // Marcion 19:53 – the only parts were all witnesses agree is not what we read in Matthew, or Mark or John as these all have variances in surplus, but only the short text that is provided by Luke = Marcion = (almost identical with) GP.

            If Mark had been the source of our Synoptics (and therefore to Marcion, had he copied Luke), why does none of the witnesses follow Mark 16:1 – but all have Mark 16:2 parallel? The verse is attested for Marcion. Why did they not follow Mark 16:3-4, but only pick up Mark 16:5 again? Why, if Luke followed Mark, did he – like the other witnesses pick up exactly and only these verses of Mark 16:2.5, but jumped over verses 16:3-4? When we look at Marcion, only he produces exactly these verses as a continuous text (Marcion 20:1-2) which are present as parallels in all 5 other witnesses. If Mark were the source of these witnesses, they would either have needed to know each other or are dependent of one of the others, as it would be a sheer impossibility that all four independent witnesses, having left out the first verse in Mark, pick all the second verse up, all leave aside verses three and four, and all pick up again verse five of Mark. When we add Marcion’s Gospel – the explanation is simple. All witnesses, including Mark have integrated the one source Marcion, hence the parallelism in exactly these verses which were present in Marcion. Whether they copied the verses directly or through intermediaries would need further detailed studies, but the comparison speaks strongly in favour of Marcion as their common source. By the way, the same phenomenon can be seen with the following verses in Luke 24:3-6a.9 which are attested in Marcion and, therefore, have parallels in the other four witnesses, not, however Luke 24:8 which is missing in Marcion.

This comparison may suffice to indicate that in a further study of a Synoptic commentary, a detailed comparison of Marcion as part of the Synoptic tradition has to be and will be undertaken.

3 comments:

  1. Now that's a very interesting theory you propose; if I understand it aright, you are suggesting that perhaps Marcion's gospel was a or the source for the four canonical gospels. So, questions for you:

    1) John the Presbyter (quoted in Papias) clearly designates the Gospel of Mark as the work of John Mark, relying heavily on his recollections of Peter's oral reminiscences, but, as scholars agree, relying on other sources too. Are you suggesting that Marcion's was one of these other sources? And the Presbyter is by universal account the author (amanuensis) of the Gospel of John; are you suggesting that Marcion was a source for that gospel as well?

    2) Since, obviously, Marcion was not an eyewitness to the events of Jesus's life, on what previous material or oral source would you suggest he based his gospel, if not (as most scholars agree) on the Gospel of Luke?

    3) If then some source other than Luke was Marcion's source, why could that not be a source for Mark in conjunction with JM's recollections of Peter's oral reminiscences? Such a source would explain the phenomena you delineate above.

    4) How do you deal with the dating, which has Marcion born around 85 and not producing his gospel until, at the very earliest (and this is really stretching possibilities!), in the late 110s? We have today fragments of the four canonicals dating from around the time that Marcion was writing his gospel; there is such a preponderance of fact supporting their composition BEFORE Marcion composed his gospel that I have trouble considering your theory that it was a source or the four canonicals.

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  2. Dear James David,
    thanks so much for this comment and your questions. Here preliminary attempts (a more detailed answer is attempted in the new book 'Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels', Peeters 2014):
    1) John the Presbyter - yes, I believe that Marcion's Gospel was one of these other sources and that he was a source for that gospel as well?

    2) What previous material or oral source did Marcion use? This is a very good question. The Gospel of Luke was a revision of Marcion's, but as Marcion diligently collected the Letters of Paul, we can rightly assume that he also gathered sayings and perhaps also narratives about the Lord. And yet - as any gifted writer - we also may assume that he composed many of the narratives, if he was mainly able to find oracles. It is one of the astonishing facts - much ridiculed or played down by many NT scholars - that prior to Marcion there is NOT ONE SINGLE gospel narrative found in any of the sources which we have, even if one dates all disputed apostolic writings early (Ignatius, 1Clement, Hermas, Barnabas, all NT epistles, Revelation ...).

    3) Marcion, I assume, did not have one source, but perhaps only sayings of the Lord and perhaps, some historical data and narratives. On those, Mark could also have drawn, without doubt, but the similarity to Marcion's Gospel suggests some sort of literary relation between the two. The comparison (as shown above with the Synoptics and the Gospel of Peter) indicates that not Marcion depended on Mark, but the other way around, Mark on Marcion. Perhaps, Mark can also have had some recollections by JMs of Peter's oral reminiscences.

    4) Marcion seems to have produced his Gospel only after the second Jewish war, hence after 135 AD. Against your position ('We have today fragments of the four canonicals dating from around the time that Marcion was writing his gospel') scholarship today does not have any fragment from the time prior to Marcion, no papyri, no narrative - the only elements we encounter are some sayings, and none - if they are included at all - of them are of the same form as we have them in the canonical Gospels.

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  3. Maybe Marcion's Gospel is his edit of the 'Ur-Gospel' that has been posited from time to time?

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