Markus Vinzent's Blog

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.


  1. Very interesting.

    About your Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels (2014), it talks in detail about the relationship between Mark and Marcion, between Luke and Marcion, etc. (all topics I like a lot) ? Or all of this will be discussed in more detail later in your future commentaries on the Gospel of Marcion, episode after episode of it put in parallel with the Synoptics ?

  2. I have booked your monograph of 2014, and my library ensures me that the book will arrive in Italy after five weeks (I hope!).

    Meanwhile, I have a new doubt based on my knowledge of old dating of the Gospels.

    I point out, in the old dating of the gospels (Mark--> Matthew--> Luca -->John) this trend:

    Mark is so demonstrably allegorical that unlike the later Gospels it never represents itself as a biography strictu sensu. It seems to be constructed in a consciously allegorical mode from beginning to end. Matthew, meanwhile, is even more grandiosely symbolic/allegorical. Luke is the only Gospel that was actually trying to sound as if it were a biography (and not itself a symbolic/allegorical text like previous Gospels).

    Assuming your new dating with Mcn first, how the Gospel of Marcion fits into this trend above described? Did it look more like our Mark (thus more allegorical/symbolic than biographical) or more similar to our Luke?
    There is not the risk that, in some way, the priority of Marcion stops or breaks that tendency from allegorical to biographical?

    Thanks for any reply,


    1. Dear Giuseppe,
      as before - the answer turned out to be too long for a response, so please see the new post,
      thanks for your fantastic question and doubt
      yours Markus

  3. Just a point about the blind man...if his name is BarTimaeus...then there's a tie to Plato. The translation of that from Hebrew is "Son of Timaeus, which would refer to Plato's work of the same name." That would indicate 1) Mark had read Plato (as had Philo) and 2) was trying to make some point related to Plato or philosophy there. What do you think, Markus?

  4. I couldn't help but be struck by Giussepi's comment on Mark 6:37 being a midrash on 2Kings 4:43-44. And one thing after another seems to fall into place. I leave my comment here as a thank you.

    Mar 6:37-8:17 is a parable section created from a midrash on 2Ki_4:43-44, the DSS and Oral Tradition about the historical Jesus, and on Paul's mission to the Gentiles, First there is the feeding of the Jewish rebels Mar_6:1 followed by the feeding of the Gentiles Mark Mar_7:27 Mar_7:31 Mar_8:4, but then Jesus [like Paul] warns them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees Mar_8:14-17, the hypocrites of the Jerusalem Church who "separated" themselves from the Gentiles in Antioch Gal_2:12-13. But the parables don't end there. Read on to the end!
    2Ki 4:42 And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.
    Mar 6:1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country [of the Jews]; and his disciples follow him....Mar 6:37 He answered and said unto them, Give ye them [the Jews] to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties [the same organization as in the DSS "War Scroll"]...Mar 6:43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men [of war] (in the original Jewish version -- compare John 6:15).
    Mar 7:24 And from thence [his own country] he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon [to the Gentiles]....Mar 7:27 But Jesus said unto her (the Gentile), Let the children [Jews] first be fed: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs [of the Gentiles]....Mar 7:31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis [of the Gentiles]...Mar 8:4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men [of the Gentiles] with bread here in the wilderness? [midrash on Moses and manna]
    Mar 8:14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees...And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
    Gal 2:12 For, before that certain came from James, with them of the nations (Gentiles), used he to eat [break bread]; whereas, when they came, he used to withdraw, and keep himself separate [like a Pharisee], fearing them of the circumcision; And the rest of the Jews also used hypocrisy with him, so that, even Barnabas, was carried away by their hypocrisy.

  5. But the parables don't end there at Mark 8:17, as Mr. Hall hints at.
    Mark immediately follows the blindness of the disciples with the parable of the healing of the blind man. What is strange about the healing of the blind man though is that at his first attempt Jesus does not completely succeed in healing the man. Instead the man sees men walking as trees! What is the meaning of this? Mark knows the same feeding tradition as John, and Mark knows that these Jewish men [of war] had attempted to make Jesus king by force. Scholars have pointed out that this parable of seeing men as trees seems to be a midrash on another king making parable Judges 9:8-14. Jesus does not approve of this understanding of the "anointed", sees it as a type of blindness, and then proceeds to heal the man completely of his blindness. But then again, immediately, Mark 8:27-34 follows this with Peter's own blindness and not understanding of the "anointed" as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who must suffer for the Gentiles.

    Joh 6:9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
    Jdg 9:8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
    Mat_11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

  6. then leading into the blindness of Peter about Jesus as the "anointed"

    Mar 8:27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ (anointed). And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes [of the Jerusalem Church - a parable of Paul], and be killed, and after three days rise again.And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, whosoever will come after me [Paul's Jesus], let him deny himself, and take up his cross [Paul preached only the salvation of the cross], and follow me.For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. . .Mar 8:38 Whosoever [Peter and the other Jewish "hypocrites" and the scribes and the chief priests of the Jerusalem Church] therefore shall be ashamed of me [Paul and Paul's Jesus] and of my words [Paul's Gospel] in this adulterous and sinful generation[of the Jews]; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.