Markus Vinzent's Blog

Monday, 11 May 2015

Dieter T. Roth, on 'Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels'

'He is the truer friend who by his censure heals me, than the one who by flattery anoints my head' (Aug., Ep. to Jerome). What I have written at the start of my comments on Paul Foster's review is even more true for the discussion below. Dieter Roth was so fair to send me his review even prior to its publication. I did not want to correct things then, as I believe in more learning experience, when pros and cons are discussed in the public, so that understandings and misunderstandings (and both will occur on the writer as on the reviewer's side) will allow the discussion to move on and to share the route to a deeper understanding. Hence, before I seriously engage with this review here, let me again, express my gratitude and appreciation for Roth's reading and reviewing the monograph. It is so good to see people delving deeply into one's own thoughts, and it is sometimes helpfully shocking to see, how badly one has expressed one's thoughts, so that readers have been misled to think, what they believe they read in one's text. Reviewing and being reviewed is one of the master tasks of our scholarship.

It is therefore more than nice to see Larry Hurtado in his blog having given Dieter T. Roth to write a few guest entries which engage with my 'Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels'. In order to let the reader of my blog see the arguments, so please visit the blog here.
As time permits, I'd like to engage with these posts here and also with the published version of Dieter's review in JTS 2015.

As in the first posting on the Larry Hurtado blog, Dieter T. Roth refers to the JTS review without repeating the criticism (the first of his main two), I'd like to start with the published review first.

The reviewer's main criticism relates to my first chapter, where I am reading the second century sources on Marcion and his Gospel, readings that strike the reviewer as 'idiosyncratic, often debated or debatable, and in some instances simply indefensible'. Now - every reading is, hopefully, idiosyncratic to some extent, as otherwise everybody would read the same things in the same sources which, even without being a deconstructivist, the most Gadamerlike hermeneutic reader would accept.
Where he starts his detailed criticism he states: 'Certainly, part of the problem is that Vinzent is undertaking a massive redating and revisioning of all early Christian Gospels in a relatively slender volume'.
I don't see, why this should be either idiosyncratic or indefensible. The size of a book does not help any argument. As Foster (see his review in the previous blog) admitted - the basis for the conventional dating of these Gospels is 'slender'. I think, it would not even have needed my 353pp ('slender'?) for making my case. If the dating of the canonical Gospels are uncertain - which even some conservative New Testament scholars would admit - why qualify my attempt as 'redating', 'revisioning', let alone giving this attempt the qualification of 'massive'. What NT scholarship has done so far, is that it has dated texts to a particular point in time without the firm evidence that any historian of antiquity or Late Antiquity would ask for, especially as the dating of these texts is not a minor affair, but such dating was used to build skyscrapers of historical reconstructions on it regarding early Christianity. Patristic scholars, New Testament scholars and billions of people (Christians and others) and entire denominations are sat on a construction of the beginnings of Christianity that is based more on slippery ground than on historical rocks. To insinuate with 'redating' and 'revisioning' a secure basis, from which scholarship should start, is turning the burden of proof upside down. In historical research it is the responsibility and task of somebody who dates evidence early (meaning prior to its first historical surfacing) to give adequate proof, not the one who points out the slender evidence of such early dating. If the one who carries such burdens thinks to be able to get rid of this challenge by adducing the so-called argumentum e silentio it is taken this argument to absurdity: as little as absence of proof is proof of absence, so the absence of proof (which turns the early dating into an unproven hypothesis) cannot be taken as evidence for an early dating of the Gospels. There is a difference between building a hypothesis on lacking evidence and pointing out such lack of evidence. While the former makes use of the argumentum e silentio, the latter only highlights the flaw of a hypothesis built on nothing.

Roth gives two examples for my 'inadequate and inaccurate references made to other scholars and to the ancient sources':
1) My reference to John Knox and his linguistic arguments, set forth in 1939 and 1942. Indeed, I could and should have mentioned that later Knox himself disputed his own arguments, an article that apparently had escaped my knowledge (and is not listed in the bibliography), but looking at his admission that he should not 'have attempted to build any positive argument for Marcion's priority on so meager and uncertain a basis as the recoverable text of his [Marcion's] Gospel provides', I would maintain that sometimes, earlier insights of scholars are better than later ones (I can only remind the readers of what happens in the 1850th debate with Ritschl).
2) The second 'evidence' for my 'inadequate and inaccurate references' is the following. 'One of Vinzent's contentions regarding Tertullian's views of Marcion is that "Consistently, discussing Paul's concepts of the 'new covenant' and of 'newness', Tertullian asserts that with his Gospel Marcion introduced a nova forma sermonis, a literary innovation, that there is in Christ a novel style of discourse, when he sets forth similtudes, when he answers questions". In support of this point, Vinzent offers a citation from Marc. 4.11.12, which is the only place in Adversus Marcionem where there is a reference to a nova forma sermonis.'
Now, Roth claims that my quotation (p. 92 n. 352) 'is taken completely out of context and used by Vinzent to say precisely the opposite of what Tertullian actually states. Following comments that though the Gospel is different from the Law it is nevertheless in no way opposed to the Law. Tertullian goes on to say Nec forma sermonis in Christo nova. Cum similitudines obicit, cum quaestiones refutat, de septuagesimo venit psalmo: Aperiam, inquit, in parabolam os meum, id est similitudinem; eloquar problemata, id est edisseram quaestiones.'
Both, his comment and judgement ('such troubling use of the statement of others'), however, only reveals that either I have not expressed myself clear enough, or it was only a cursory reading which led to it. As rightly quoted by Roth, I was NOT talking about Tertullian's views, but of his 'views of Marcion'. While I totally agree with Roth that Tertullian did not subscribe to Marcion's views here that with Christ a new literary genre was born, but that already the Psalm talks about parabola, similitudes in connection with dialogues - it should be clear that Tertullian, nevertheless, witnesses that Marcion made such claims (and this is the only thing that I stated and which is rather confirmed and not disputed by Roth). Hence, instead of myself quoting and interpreting inadequately or inaccurately, it seems a misreading of this passage in my book (and reading of Tertullian that does not go far enough to unravel Marcion's opinion behind it) which becomes apparent.
Unfortunately, the reviewer does not give further examples, as the ones which he mentions do not substantiate his case that my use of sources 'are a significant impediment to this monograph's intention of advancing contemporary scholarship and discussion on Marcion's Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels'. In contrast, it shows that this volume is being read against its intentions, in order to safeguard what I think is a traditional, yet, hardly substantiated dating of the Gospels.

Let me move to Dieter Roth's comments on Larry Hurtado's blog:

He first begins to note 'three highly curious comments. First, though Vinzent clearly seems aware of the history of scholarship on Marcion’s Gospel and the reconstructions of Marcion’s Gospel in Greek by, e.g., Theodor Zahn and Adolf von Harnack, unaccountably he writes “Marcion’s Gospel has not been critically edited from its Greek and Latin sources to provide us with its contours and, as far as possible, with its Greek wording, except for a very early attempt by the famous August Hahn (1792-1863)” (p. 4).' Then he points to his own PhD to which I refer 'on the same page ... as providing “a textcritical commentary on Marcion’s Gospel, on the basis of which one can establish, at least to some extent, the Greek text, yet he does not give us the text itself.” Though it is true that the reconstruction of the entirety of Marcion’s Gospel only appears in my above-mentioned monograph (word count restrictions precluded my doctoral thesis from dealing with all of the sources and reconstructing all the verses of Marcion’s Gospel), my dissertation provided a textual commentary on every verse attested by Tertullian precisely in order then to reconstruct every verse attested only by Tertullian. In fact, the reconstruction of Marcion’s gospel-text as evidenced in Tertullian is one of the main contributions of the dissertation.'
I totally agree with this explanation, but I do not understand why in the light of these, my comment would be 'highly curious'. So far, it is only confirmed that to the date when I wrote this comment, it was true that nobody had produced a critical edition of Marcion's Gospel (except the early one done by Hahn).
More interesting and very important is his added note, relating apparently to what he calls the third of my 'highly curious comments':
'Finally, Vinzent states, “The Gospel and [Marcion’s] Apostolikon (of ten Pauline letters) can be recovered only partially from glimpses that are given by his opponents, unearthed from their writings (primarily Tertullian, Epiphanius, Adamantius’ [Pseudo-Origen?] Dialogue I-II, and Codex Bezae)” (p. 9). When I first read this sentence, I was fully agreeing with Vinzent until he got to “Codex Bezae.” Though the question of the relationship of Marcion’s Gospel to the so-called “Western” text has often been discussed, Codex Bezae is not a source for Marcion’s Gospel and has no place in this list. Such statements are a bit surprising and unexpected for a monograph focusing on Marcion’s Gospel and, unfortunately, reflect subsequent problematic interactions with ancient sources and scholars by Vinzent.'
The exclusion of Codex Bezae from the reconstruction of Marcion's Gospel (fortunately already Harnack made reference to it and scholarship of Codex Bezae have often pointed out the close relation between Marcion and this text, hence the importance of it also given to this text by Matthias Klinghardt. In addition, I have recently given a paper at a conference in Dresden, where I was able to point out some more evidence that Codex Bezae has to be taken into the list of sources, pace Roth), goes back to the fundamental principle of how to reconstruct Marcion's Gospel. This principle, however, is a decision which scholars like Roth take, but it is based on the further assumption of the posteriority of Marcion in the Synoptic Problem, something which should only be decided once a Synoptic comparison between Marcion and the Synoptics has been explored. Here, we hit the fundamental problem of either principally excluding or including Codex Bezae into the reconstruction of Marcion. My own - preliminary suggestion was and is, based on some indications which I shared in the reviewed monograph (p. 275-6) that it should be included.

Dieter Roth, then, points out that I introduced in my monograph a new chapter and verse numbering of Marcion's Gospel, born out of the idea, of course, than as soon as this Gospel is no longer taken as an abbreviation, it does not make sense or would be even a contradiction, if it were numbered according to the Gospel of Luke. Why would any other Gospel, even if it is synoptically close to another be numbered according to that one? Yet, I have to admit, since I have read Matthias Klinghardt's two volumes, Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien (Tübingen, 2015), simply for reasons of easier referencing, I have given up my own numbering and will revert in my forthcoming commentary of Marcion's Gospel to the standard numbering, even though, Marcion's Gospel will then open with chapter 3, vers 16 - that is ok, as long, as everybody knows, I do not mean by this, that Marcion has omitted more than two chapters, but that, in my view, Luke had added the text before.

When Roth carries on criticising that I give on pp. 264-72 an example of my reconstruction of Marcion's Gospel without giving the details for its sources, he is, of course, right, and I will deliver that in conjunction with the forthcoming commentary.

Then, however, comes another important remark which will bring us back to the question of methodological aprioris. Roth states: 'One further problem highlights a methodological issue in reconstructing Marcion’s Gospel. On p. 275, Vinzent offers an (English) reading of Luke 5:36-39 in Marcion’s Gospel. This parable is clearly attested for Marcion’s Gospel, but, in my view, the precise wording cannot be reconstructed. Vinzent’s focus, however, is on 5:39, which (as some others have done before him) Vinzent argues was not present in Marcion’s Gospel, but was added by Luke as an anti-Marcionite reading. The problem is, however, that 5:39 is unattested for Marcion’s Gospel. That is to say, no source makes any mention of either its presence or its absence. As Ulrich Schmid already pointed out in a 2003 article (“How Can We Access Second Century Gospel Texts? The Cases of Marcion and Tatian,” in Christian-B. Amphoux and J. Keith Elliott (eds), The New Testament Text in Early Christianity/Le texte du Nouveau Testament au debut du christianisme [Lausanne, 2003], 139-50, 143), arguments positing the absence of 5:39 in Marcion’s Gospel are “simply creating positive evidence (in this very case positive negative evidence) out of no evidence at all.”'
This is a nice, rhetorical statement by Ulrich Schmid, uncritically followed by Roth, but as with all well sounding rhetoric, we have to check whether we have to agree with it. A simple look into Adamantius, Dial. II 16 proves that this version is attested for Marcion's Gospel - and therefore to speak of 5:39 as unattested makes no sense. The same version is also given by Codex Bezae (D), a further support to what has been said above about the nature and quality of this codex as a potential source for Marcion's Gospel (although, of course, not all readings in this codex are reflections of Marcion's text). Therefore, for very good reasons, did I present the text with this version (as does now Matthias Klinghardt, Das älteste Evangelium [2015], 502) as Marcion's Gospeltext, all the more that this text (unlike the one given by Luke) makes perfect sense to the entire story (a comparison with other NT manuscript evidence lends support to the importance of this reading of 5:39). Hence, we find the next 'proof' not for my idiosyncratic misreading or misquoting of sources, but for an oversight and not detailed enough attention to the sources by earlier scholarship and the reviewer who followed it.


(more to follow)

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