Markus Vinzent's Blog

Monday, 30 September 2013

Judith Lieu reviews my 'Christ's Resurrection in Early Christianity and the Making of the New Testament'

Judith Lieu (Cambridge, UK), writes in 'The Enduring Legacy of Pan-Marcionism', Journal of Ecclesiastical History 64 (2013): 557-61 a review article on my 2011 monograph.

Her mostly kind words about the 'relatively slim and yet wide-ranging book' set out the thrust of the first two of my chapters (interestingly, almost none of the reviewers comments on the third chapter on liturgy and rituals). It humbles me that she sees my arguments taking 'up a long-lived thesis, which goes back at least to the T├╝bingen School of the mid-nineteenth century' (559). Although my thoughts were originally developed without looking towards Baur and others, I cannot deny that I have learned enormously from these earlier debates of the matter.

One of the major thesis of Lieu's reading of my monograph is that 'all this is premised on an assumption of chronology, "before Marcion" and "after Marcion"' (558). This is less than partially true. It is true insofar Marcion appears to be the main figure with whom Christianity as a novel concept begins and, as I had indicated only in the 2011 monograph (Lieu rightly states that 'there is little here about the making of the New Testament as such', 557-8), prior to him no Gospel as a combination of oracles and narratives in written form existed. My assumed chronology (before/after Marcion), however, and the dating of (undatable or hardly datable) texts like 1Peter, Barnabas (and we could add some more) are irrelevant for the thesis of the 2011 monograph. Irrespective of when in the second century they were written, they all display that the topic of Christ's Resurrection exclusively appears in texts which either know of Paul, quote him, or are placed in the Pauline tradition. That Marcion who collected Paul's letters and published them, gave the topic of Christ's Resurrection its boost, is the main thing that the monograph wanted to highlight and which does not seem to be rejected in principle.
Let me, however, also address what 'is much to frustrate those acquainted with the period and its problems' (559). Lieu rightly complaints that the monograph 'rarely acknowledges that nearly every text that he [the author] cites carries with it a host of interpretive difficulties'. It was the price of writing a book for a broader readership, and my (first) attempt to avoid the German footnotes. Hence, I am more than happy to provide more footnotes and discussions in my forthcoming book (see below). Indeed, 'assigning Papias to the 140s ... would be heavily contested' (new arguments will be provided and discussed in the below), and so is my denial (voiced, however, also by von Campenhausen and Koester long before) that 'the term "Gospel" with reference to a written document [has been] used before Marcion' (559; that Marcion was the one who created the label 'Gospel' for a written text is now admitted by Lieu herself in her new book, see J. Lieu, Marcion and the Making of a Heretic [Cambridge, 2015], 436: '‘The narrative account of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus most probably was already referred to as “the Gospel”, although that title was not identified exclusively with a particular text in written form; rather, it was he who so labelled the authentic version that he “restored”. The written text with which he was familiar bore a strong resemblance to canonical Luke, particularly as attested within some surviving textual traditions, but likely it was in several respects shorter.’').
My reading of Tertullian, Against Marcion IV 5 'that Marcion himself claimed that his Gospel had been falsified' is disputed, and Lieu believes that this 'reference is undoubtedly to Marcion's claim to have removed the corruptions imposed on Paul's Gospel' (559). Her reference to Adv. Marc. I 20, however, shows that doubts are appropriate. Tertullian, here, states that Marcionites ('they') claim that 'Marcion had not invented a new [rule], but rather refurbished a rule previously debased', by which, as Tertullian shows, they mean 'the corruptions imposed on Paul's Gospel' (so J. Lieu, 559). This is true, but these are 'corruptions' made by those people who had used Marcion's Gospel, as Tertullian explains in Adv. Marc. IV 4.4, when Tertullian claims that his is the true Gospel, Marcion's the falsified, whereas Marcion held the opposite view (although Marcion always saw the Gospel not as his own, but as that of Paul!). Moreover, Tertullian adds to this in the same passage: 'that when Marcion's [Gospel] has emerged later, ours should be taken to have been false before it had from the truth material, and Marcion's be believed to have suffered hostility from ours before it was even published'.
At the latest here it becomes clear that Lieu has to admit that Marcion (or the Marcionites) had claimed that Marcion's Gospel was 'believed to have suffered hostility' from Tertullian's Gospels, hence Marcion did not only wanted to remove 'corruptions imposed on Paul's Gospel', but particularly on that Gospel which was his own and which has suffered corruptions from those Gospels that Tertullian used (Matthew, Luke ...). One may discard Marcion's claim, but one can hardly interpret Tertullian differently here - if he spoke about Paul's Gospel, how can he say that this Gospel 'has emerged later'. He is, indeed, speaking about Marcion's written Gospel which he believed was published after that of the later canonical Gospels. In contrast, Marcion believed the opposite and stated that his Gospel was written earlier than the others and the later canonical ones have taken material from it, the true one, even bevore 'it was even published'. The taking of material by those who produced the later canonical Gospels, then was the reason that Marcion was forced to publish his own Gospel - and, hence, Tertullian is right in this, that this version was, indeed, later than those others.
For this reason, the Marcionites (as in the Adamantius' dialogue I 5) claimed that the Gospels of Matth., Mark, Luke and John were 'spurious'.  It also indicates that Marcionites like Marcion could insist on both the novelty of the new edict in the nova forma sermonis while also being the conservators of tradition. When Marcion claimed that his Gospel had been falsified, he meant of course, the message of the Gospel that he referred back to Paul. The ambiguity does not arise through the modern interpreters but is given by the complex nature of Marcion's understanding of his Gospel.

Looking at my statement that 'world literature, and that is what has been written with Luke, Acts, Matthew, Mark and John [...] does not grow naturally in fields as far apart as Rome and Jerusalem, Alexandria' (92), I don't feel that I was 'forced' to it 'by the need to explain the complex literary relationships between these without the luxury of the years available to a more conventional hypothesis' (559), rather the opposite seems still true to me: people who date these texts early and indulge in the luxury of decades and voyages are forced to explain how such texts could grow naturally, especially given the fact that none of our extra-gospel literature has preserved a single trace of the Gospel-narratives prior to Marcion (and please date all the disputed texts early: all NT letters, Revelation, 1Clement, Didache, Hermas, Barnabas, Papias - unless you take his authorship of the Johannine passage for granted - ...).
I agree that my study has not taken into account 'theories of "Gospel communities", or of the interplay of oral and written traditions reflected through a variety of multi-faceted redactional lenses' (560). I hope to deal with parts of these topics at least in the forthcoming study, although I am still sceptical if we can detect 'Gospel communities'. My reading of the evidence, so far, is that Gospels are linked to teachers (see the standard reference who amongst the teachers is using which particular Gospel), and only from after the mid-second century do we know of particular Gospels being read in communities (beginning with Justin, Serapion ...).
When the reviewer detects 'a certain myopia driven by its focus on an all-explanatory thesis', only the latter is partially true. I had not set out to give a 'solution to every problem, the answer to the question of the universe', or to chase 'a particular ghost in the shadows ... with almost paranoid insistence' (561). Fortunately, despite much despair and reasons for becoming mentally destable and paranoid, I am far from loosing my rationality and - people who know me more closely will be witnesses that I am passionate, yes, but rarely loose self-criticism or negate self-scepticism. So, neither obsessed by aliens, nor driven by paranoia I would have loved to join the postmodernist reading of early Christian sources where authors disappear, little defined communities appear and a democratic system of equals guided by the Holy Spirit emerges. Yet, the evidence, as I read them, does not allow for such interpretation. When another colleague asked me a few months ago, why I am concentrating on Marcion - the simple answer is, because each time I am looking for a Gospel-writer before him, I end up nowhere, yet, the response he got, point to him being the one who moved Christianity beyond its Jewish identity, providing it with the foundational scriptures, an act, not by somebody, who himself would have been the proto-Christian (a contradiction in itself), but - as I am showing in a forthcoming article in Judaisme antique (Brepols, 2013) - he himself being of Jewish proselyte background. Of course, I entirely agree with Judith Lieu that not only 'the possibility' existed, but that it is fact that 'some were unaware of Marcion, dismissed him as of no consequence, concentrated their interest or anxieties elsewhere, or carried on regardless' (560), yet, because of the centrality that Paul's letters and the Gospel narratives won in the decades after Marcion, and specifically with Irenaeus, 'Christianity' becomes the religion of the New (and also Old) Testament, a religion that conceptualizes itself as being distinct from Judaism (and Paganism), again, an idea - as I will show in another forthcoming monograph - which cannot be found before Marcion.
So 'Pan-Marcionism' for the time after Marcion is not an invention of a paranoid scholar, but a possibility that needs to be reckoned with.
There are minor criticisms of Lieu. For example, she claims that my suggestion that Marcion proclaimed 'one loving God ... revealed by the Lord, the incarnate Love Himself' (116) 'comes more from that scholar's [Harnack's] concluding eulogies than from the early sources which identify Marcion's God as '(the) Good' (561). The latter is correct, while the former not. According to Tertullian Marcion set the antithesis not only of the god of the Law and the God of the new edict, but also that of nunc amor, nunc odium (Adv. Marc. I 16,3), hence of 'love' and 'hate', and Tertullian equates the 'principle and perfect goodness' with 'love' (Adv. Marc. I 23,3) - there is no distinction between 'Goodness' and 'Love' (how could it be?). When she claims that I suggested Paul to have been 'a disciple of Gamaliel I', she omitted that I put in front of this a 'probable', and yet, in the meantime, I would be - together with her - more sceptical about the nature and impact of the so-called 'Synod of Jamnia'. My interpretation of IgnSm. 1 on the physicality of Jesus' flesh is not derived from Kirsopp Lake's Loeb translation alone, but from the fact that Kirsopp Lake translated eis ton kyrion correctly in the context of the apographon in IgnSm. 1-3 (Take, touch me and see that I am not an incorporeal demon’). So, my interpretation was not the potential 'consequence of undue haste', but a reflected reading of Kirsopp Lake's sensitive translation.
As any author who's work is read and commented upon, I am grateful for the reviewer's engagement with my monograph and for her many suggestions that she made and which I did not mention here (for example her note on my reading of S. Hall's Melito claiming that I 'fail[] to note that Hall expressly rejects the authenticity of the fragment' [= Melito, frg. 6], yet Hall only states that the fragment 'as it now exists' [p. xvi; see xxx-xxxi] is inauthentic - and major scholars like Otto, Harnack, Bonner and Blank have correctly seen its anti-Marcionite nature, supported by the introduction: 'For writing against Marcion the divinely wise Melito says ...' Hence, there is good ground that Melito may have written a book against Marcion, even if what Anastasius quotes reflects a fourth century version of this text).
Even if one may not follow my arguments, or if one, as asked for by the reviewer 'approach this provocative volume with a proper "hermeneutic of suspicion"' (which I think should be how we should approach anything we come across), it is worth keeping in mind, when she concludes that 'in so doing they [the readers of my monograph] should not neglect the challenge to justify with equal comprehensiveness any alternative narrative that they may offer, or a refusal to attempt to do so' (561).

Just to mention at the end that in due course, the new monograph will be published by Peeters Publishers, Leuven, on Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels:



 

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