Markus Vinzent's Blog

Friday, 20 January 2012

Reception and dating of the canonical Gospels

Only recently, in a centenary review of 2005, Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett have picked up the often used, but rarely diligently read slender work of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology of 1905, entitled The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, brought together a group of specialists and reviewed these earlier findings. William L. Petersen gives a short summary of what had been achieved at Oxford over a hundred years ago:
The charge given the committee [of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology] was ‘to prepare a volume exhibiting those passages of early Christian writers which indicate, or have been thought to indicate, acquaintance with any of the books of the New Testament’. The committee limited itself to the so-called Apostolic Fathers, examining eight authors (and/or texts) [i.a. Barn., Did., 1Clem., Ign., PolPhil., Herm., 2Clem.]. … The 1905 researchers ranked the likelihood that a specific Father demonstrated knowledge of a given book in the New Testament by assigning each possible intersection a letter grade from ‘A’ to ‘D’. ‘A’ designated ‘books about which there can be no reasonable doubt’ that the Father knew it; ‘B’ referred to books where there was a ‘a high degree of probability’. ‘C’ referred to a ‘lower degree of probability’. And ‘D’ meant that the evidence was ‘too uncertain to allow any reliance to be placed upon it’. A table on page 137 summarized the results. Out of a total of 216 possible intersections between a Father and a specific book, conclusions were possible in only eighty-five of the intersections, 39 per cent. Out of those eighty-five places where it was possible to assign a letter rank, we find forty-three Ds and twenty-two Cs. There are fourteen Bs (eight of them, however, come from a single source: Polycarp), and six As. … The most remarkable aspect of the 1905 volume is the fact that now, a century later, the significance of the ‘formal’ results achieved by the committee … pale into insignificance when compared with the notes the researchers offered on the passages they examined. … The 1905 researches … were well aware of the multiplicity of possible explanations for the evidence they found in the Apostolic Fathers; they were also acutely aware of their inability to reach definitive judgements on the basis of the evidence. All they could do was follow the via negative: the source(s) used in about three-quarters of the passages in the Apostolic Fathers with a parallel in the New Testament … ‘affords no evidence for the use of either of our Gospels in its present form’; that being the case, one had to consider … ‘the direct use of another [viz. non-canonical (W.L. Petersen)] source altogether, whether oral or written’.[1]
W.L. Petersen concludes his summary pointing out that ‘their empirical, textual observations were devastating for the idea of a ‘standard’ or ‘established’ text of the New Testament in the first half of the second century. And he specifies the results from his own reading of them:
First, it is clear that the vast majority of passages in the Apostolic Fathers for which one can find likely parallels in the New Testament have deviations from our present, critically reconstructed New Testament text. It must be emphasized that the vast majority of these deviations are not minor (e.g., differences in spelling or verb tense), but major (a completely new context, a substantial interpolation or omission, a conflation of two entirely separate ideas and/or passages).
Second, harmonization is a surprisingly common phenomenon. Sometimes the harmonizations are (almost) entirely composed of material found in our modern editions of the New Testament; more often,however, they contain material which we today classify as extra-canonical.
Third, the Apostolic Fathers often reproduce, without remark, material that we, today, call extracanonical. Sometimes this extra-canonical material is introduced with the quotation formula – such as, ‘the Lord says’, or ‘the Gospel says’. The obvious inference is that the Faher considered this extra-canonical source as authoritative as any other. … Some might wonder if the disagreements would disappear if the basis for comparison were changed from our modern critically reconstructed text to the texts of the ‘great uncials’ of the mid-fourth century (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus). They do not. Even if the basis for comparison is changed to the text of our oldest continuous-text manuscripts of the New Testament documents (P64+67 + P66 [both of which date from ‘ca. 200’, W.L. Petersen]), the differences remain. One simply must admit that the passages found in the Apostolic Fathers are different from the texts found in our oldest New Testament papyri, from the texts of the ‘great uncials’, and from the text of our modern editions.[2]
How can we account for these findings, if the later canonical Gospels were written before 100, or around 70, or, as some opt, in the early 40th and had become authoritative readings in the community? Petersen sees only two models of explanation, one which is ‘profoundly flawed’ and another one which seems the only way to make sense. The first, flawed model would assume that the ‘deviations’ from the established and fixed texts of the Gospels and Letters, dated to the first century, ‘would be – as suggested by many Victorian (and even contemporary) scholars – due to citation from memory or adapting the text to the purposes of the moment (e.g., preaching, evangelizing, teaching, disputing):[3]
In the first half of the second century – that is, in the age of the Apostolic Fathers – and even later, into the time of Tatian and Clement of Alexandria (near the end of the second century), there was neither a fixed canon nor a fixed text for any of the New Testament documents. Rather, ‘clusters’ of sayings/episodes/parts of (what later became our canonical) gospels and epistles circulated, initially (for the gospels, at least) probably without a title, and then, later, with a title. But the contents of the ‘cluster’ bearing the title ‘Mark’ or ‘Romans’ was still very much in flux and subject to change. Additions were still being made, as were deletions; the sequence of the text was still being modified. … Subscribing to this model has certain consequences. It means that scholars must be very circumspect about attributing anything to the first-century church. And what evidence we have from the second century – in the Apostolic Fathers, for example – hardly inspires confidence. The problems are not confined to the liberties taken with the texts …, but also extend to the matter of the boundary between what would later be called canonical and extra-canonical texts, and the citation of extra-canonical material as ‘gospel’ or logia Iesou during the age of the Apostolic Fathers. The issue, then, is not just one of the texts being unsettled, but also one of which documents (or, more properly, clusters of material) and which traditions were authoritative, and which were not.
W.L. Petersen is joined in his judgement by J. Keith Elliott: ‘As far as the Apostolic Fathers are concerned, we may well agree that they, like Justin and most other early writers, are unlikely to have had access to the “published” documents’.[4] As has been shown by Elliott, W.L. Petersen’s view is materially embedded in the critical apparatus of both the Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Societies’ Greek Testament hand editions which with the exception of Did. 8,2 (// Matth. 6:9) in Nestle-Aland ignore even the very few ‘A’-rated citations in their critical apparatus.[5]
That the Gospels are not quoted or referred to in our early Christian literature prior to Marcion[6] is clouded by the boundaries between the disciplines of New Testament Studies and Patristics. The well-known reference work, Biblia Patristica, for example, covers texts ‘from the origins to Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian’ in its first volume, but excludes all writings that can be found in the New Testament. If these were included, it would become even more apparent that pp. 223-415 of this volume listing over 10,000 quotes (!) from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John for the period from Marcion onwards, does not provide a single one (!) for the time before Marcion. The first arguable cases are those authors who are sometimes dated to the beginning of the second century (Ignatius, Papias, Polycarp, Hegesippus), which, however, many scholars rather date contemporary or later than Marcion. But even, if we date them early and include them into the comparison with the Gospel, we come to the same conclusion as shown by the findings of the 1905 Oxford researchers and the revisiting of these findings in 2005.

[1] W.L. Petersen, ‘Textual Traditions Examined’ (2005), 29-32.
[2] W.L. Petersen, ‘Textual Traditions Examined’ (2005), 33f.
[3] W.L. Petersen, ‘Textual Traditions Examined’ (2005),42-5 gives a fourfold account why he finds this model untenable.
[4] J.K. Elliott, ‘Absent Witnesses?’ (2005), 53.
[5] See J.K. Elliott, ‘Absent Witnesses?’ (2005), 48.
[6] A fact that is, for example, clouded by the boundaries between the disciplines of New Testament Studies and Patristics. The well-known reference work, Biblia Patristica, for example, covers texts ‘from the origins to Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian’ in its first volume, but excludes all writings that can be found in the New Testament. If these were included, it would become even more apparent that pp. 223-415 on quotes from Matth., Mark, Luke and John resulted in entries only that derive from the time of Marcion onwards.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Argumentum e silentio? Or the big hiatus in Gospel reception - Kurt Alands 'nightmare'

Authors prior to Marcion do not refer to any Gospel ‘as a sequence of events or a “story”. Nowhere are fixed credal formulations called “Gospel”’.[1] What the famous New Testament scholar Helmut Koester summarized in rather dry words, kept Kurt Aland awake during the night.[2]
The fact is clouded by the boundaries between the disciplines of New Testament Studies and Patristics. The well-known reference work, Biblia Patristica, for example, covers texts ‘from the origins to Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian’ in its first volume, but excludes all writings that can be found in the New Testament. If these were included, it would become even more apparent that pp. 223-415 of this volume listing over 10,000 quotes (!) from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John for the period from Marcion onwards, does not provide a single one (!) for the time before Marcion, and would we add the canonical literature - the same would still be true, with one massive exception: The Synoptics copied each other partly literally. The first arguable cases of authors who begin to quote the Gospels are those who are sometimes dated to the beginning of the second century (Ignatius, Papias, Hegesippus), which, however, many scholars rather date contemporary or later than Marcion. How can we account for this discrepancy in the reception of the Gospels, if these later canonical Gospels were written before 100, or around 70, or, as some opt for, in the early 40th?
I'd give a lot for somebody who can come up with a convincing answer.

[1] H. Koester, ‘Kerygma-Gospel’ (1986), 366, especially with regard to the deutero-Pauline Epistles and Acts, but also to Ignatius – something that we can broaden, as shown above.
[2] K. Aland, ‘Bemerkungen’ (1979), 29.

'New Covenant' and the newness of Christianity in and after Paul

Writing on Early Christian Art and Literature of the first and the second century means an engagement with Jewish culture. Only slowly did a new Christian identity evolve which sets Christianity apart from both, Judaism and Paganism. This process was a complex one and can only be traced to a limited extent. Similar to artists, none of our early authors knew of themselves as being Christians. They were Jews, Greeks, Romans, sometimes all of this in one person like, for example, Paul. And yet, as Paul was a Jew nourished from multiple sources (Hellenistic Jewish backgrounds, Philo, Qumran, Stoicism), Christians were inspired from a wide range of traditions, some followed Jesus’ ethics and beliefs rather than himself, others related their thinking and writing to Jesus or to an apocalyptic cult-community without even mentioning the name of their savior (such as the so-called Shepherd of Hermas). As far as we can ascertain from the surviving evidence, however, for several decades, in writings and art production, Christians did not move beyond the Jewish threshold.
One of Paul’s classic passages can be found in Rom. 2:17-29.
Paul, himself a Jew, does condemn neither Jews nor Judaism,[1] but conveyes what he believes a Jew is and should be: not somebody who is Jewish by physicality, outward appearance or descendance – today we would probably say, a Jew by ethnic or cultural definition – but anybody who keeps the Law in a spiritual sense. And yet, Paul does not deny such physicality either, nor the written code, the Law. But because he sees being Jewish in relation to God, he maintains that a) those who have been physically circumcised have to live according to this ‘value’ by practicing ‘the law’; and b) the breaking of the law by those who are meant to observe the law is an issue, not the circumcision in itself which is unquestionable. In addition, he takes it that people who are not circumcised and would not need to practice the law,[2] but do, indeed, ‘obey the righteous requirements of the law’, can be ‘regarded’ as circumcised, and therefore as ‘Jews’. What would be unrighteous demands? Paul, the eager Jew (Gal. 1;13; 1Cor. 15:9; Phil. 3:6), knew that circumcision was not amongst the noachite requirements, hence would not apply to non-Jews. And he endorses that winning people over to his own theological and ethical positions and that of the followers of Jesus was to make those non-Jewish converts to ‘Jews’. He describes himself as having advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries in his nation, prior to embracing the community of deviating Jews who he persecuted: ‘I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors’ (Gal. 1:14), but even after having become an Apostle, as one can see in this passage from Romans, he still sees the goal in winning uncircumcised people for a refined Judaism where the circumcision ‘of the heart by the Spirit’ is more highly regarded than a non-observance of a physically circumcised.
Paul, therefore, sees himself entirely rooted and part of Jewish belief and praxis, enjoying all the freedom as any other teacher, writer, rabbi or philosopher of Hellenic Judaism displays, and we only need to think of names like Philo or Josephus.
Coming from the traditions of his ancestors, Hellenized Roman pharisaic traditions, he gives everything his own interpretation or rather he reads his traditions in the light of his master and role-model, Jesus Christ. Like himself, he also situates Jesus Christ firmly within the same Jewish tradition ‘born of a woman, born under the law’.[3] And yet, he sees Jesus Christ in a special relation to God, calls him his son, and likewise projects this intimate relation to himself and his audience: ‘Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!”[4] Paul insists on this almost mystical relation between God, the son and the sons, made possible according to Paul not through the Law, but through this Son who was rich, but made himself poor,[5] who had a humble ‘attitude’ ‘though he existed in the form of God’. Despite his elevated relation, to this Jesus Christ
did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature …, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross,[6]
crucified by ignorant ‘rulers of this age’.[7]
In the light of this Lord, Paul re-reads his traditions of the ancients:
Our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 10:2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.[8]
 Christ becomes the focus and hermeneutical spectacles through which even the salvific exodus traditions are being read and understood, with baptism rather than circumcision being the symbol of the new foundation. The rock is Christ, no longer the Law, and yet, Paul refers to only three Jesus’ sayings[9] and only once he sees his own writings endorsed by the Lord.[10] Writing to a mixed community of circumcised and uncircumcised Jews, Paul wants to allow for this mixed community which he sees as those of being new ‘in Christ’, no longer old and rooted in the Law. As Paul has never met the historical Jesus, he sees being Jewish as having undergone a baptism into the death of Christ and gained a new life ‘in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection’:
6:3 Do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.
6:5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6:6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 6:7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)
6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 6:9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 6:10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 6:11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Baptism and new life lead in Paul to stressing ‘newness’ which has its groundings in the Jewish tradition. As shown by Wolfram Kinzig, ‘newness’ neither in the temporal sense nor the sense of something being unused, but in that of novelty and innovation has been regarded as a positive qualification, God’s qualitative change of the present live of Israel for the better.[11]  The idea of novelty is missing in the older Jewish traditions, but appears in prophetic texts during – and only during – the Babylonian exile of the Israelites. The earliest and most important evidence can be found in Jeremiah 31:22.31:
31:22 How long will you vacillate,
you who were once like an unfaithful daughter?
For I, the Lord, promise to bring about something new on the earth,
something as unique as a woman protecting a man!’”
31:31 “Indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 31:32 It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the Lord. 31:33 “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people.
Few Jewish writers have picked up on this prophecy by Jeremiah – on those we will come back a little later –, but Paul seems to have found key elements of Christ’s messianic message in it. God’s promise to bring ‘something new on the earth’, a woman acting for a man, the establishing of ‘a new covenant’ not only with Judah in the south, but also Israel in the north, hence with all of Israel. A new covenant that is unlike the old which not only delivers from slavery, but which also brings the entire people ‘back in the land’ – and, as the last verse underlines, this plantation is not a physical one, but one where the Law is understood as a spiritual entity, put in and written ‘on hearts and minds’, a new covenant of the spirit.
            Many of these ideas resonate with various statements of Paul, especially where he uses and refers to this quote above from Jeremiah (31:21.31). More importantly, this reference constitutes one of only three occasions where he quotes the Lord himself:
11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, 11:24 and after he had given thanks he broke it and said: ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 11:25 In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.’
According to this quote from 1Corinthians Paul assumed that the ‘new covenant’ was a genuine idea of the Lord. Moreover, in Paul’s entire extant work, this is the only literal quotation of a Lord’s saying that the apostle gives, and amongst all Gospels, it is only Luke 22:20 where it is picked up again, not present in the parallel passages in Mark and Matthew. To remember the Lord and his testament – in the double sense of the word, his witness and his legacy – means to remember the message of the ‘new covenant’, the reinstatement of Jeremiah’s prophecy by Jesus. It is, therefore, little surprise that the idea of ‘novelty’ recurs in Paul, often with further references to Jer. 31:21.31:
2Cor. 5:17: So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (see Jer. 31:21: ‘to bring about something new on the earth’); what is old has passed away (see Jer. 31:31: ‘not … like the old covenant’) – look, what is new has come (see Jer. 31:21 [‘something new’].31 [‘a time is coming’])!
Rom. 11:32: For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all (see Jer. 31:31: ‘with the whole nation of Israel’).
Gal. 3:28-31: A person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law. 3:29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! (see Jer. 31:31: ‘with the whole nation of Israel’) 3:30 Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 3:31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law (see Jer. 31:31: ‘I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds’). 
1Cor. 12,13: For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
Gal. 5:5: And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (see Jer. 31:31: ‘I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds’).
The many parallels in their variations show how deeply influenced Paul was and how central to him was what he perceived and transmitted as legacy of the Lord himself, the application of Jeremiah’s prophecy of ‘the new covenant’ to the Lord’s blood, and how he elaborated on this, developing the ‘new covenant’ from Jeremiah’s ‘something new on the earth’ into ‘a new creation’, set in opposition to the ‘old’ that ‘has passed away’, broadening Jeremiah’s ‘whole nation of Israel’ into ‘all’, ‘Jews’ and ‘Gentiles’, ‘Jews or Greeks or slaves or free’ by seeing Judaism being extended beyond physical and social boundaries. That Jeremiah spoke of the ‘law’ being put and written ‘on their hearts and minds’ is used spiritualize the law and to equate it with God’s love that has been ‘oured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit’, which reconnects with the spiritual act of baptism through which God made people ‘to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.[12] How important it is to read the Jewish Scriptures, ‘the old covenant’, in clarity through the spectacles of Christ, Paul shows further in the same letter, 2Corinthians:
3:14 But their minds were closed. For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old testament read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. 3:15 But until this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds, 3:16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed (see Ex. 34:34).
Paul backs his own antithetical reading of the ‘old testament’ in the light of Christ where ‘the veil is removed’ by the same Law (Ex. 34:34). And, yet, he is suggesting not just a new form of preaching, but insists on a new covenant that renders the writings of the old one to becoming an ‘old testament’.
Even in the pseudo-pauline tradition, we encounter Paul’s Jesus-motive of ‘novelty’, albeit in different shades. To start with Colossians, where we read the Pauline theme of putting off the old man and the clothing with the new one, that there is ‘neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised …’:
3:9 Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 3:10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.
As in Paul, we discover religious, ethnic and social unity in Christ, but the view is narrowing to an individual seight, or, what Wolfram Kinzig has called, a restitution ad integrum, a renewal of man before his fall in paradise, a restitution that takes place in the baptism of the individual.[13] Parallel to this, we read in Ephesians:
Eph. 4:22-4: You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 4:23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 4:24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.
Here in Ephesians, too, Paul’s idea of novelty is turned from a socially encompassing concept to a moral idea that relates to the individual (‘the old man … with deceitful desires’), and is rather a spiritual renewal than a new creation through the Spirit. Similar is Eph. 2:11-6:
2:11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called ‘uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘circumcision’ that is performed on the body by human hands – 2:12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 2:14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 2:15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 2:16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.
Whereas in Paul we encounter a new creation, Ephesians’ re-creation is underlined by reconciliation which now presupposes the existence of two ‘groups’, the ones of the ‘uncircumcision’ and the others of the ‘so-called circumcision’. And while in Paul the new covenant of ‘the blood of Christ’ made the uncircumcised spiritually circumcised and asked the circumcised to follow the Jewish law, being put into the hearts and minds of all, in Ephesians ‘the law of commandments in decrees’ is explicitly ‘nullified in his [Christ’s] flesh’. Although there is still a concept of peace and unity between two groups without hostility, ‘the middle wall of partition’, the ways between these groups seem to have departed and need the distruction of divisive partitionings. Wolfram Kinzig rightly states: ‘The terminology in Eph. 4:22-4 and Col. 3:9f. sounds similar [to that of Paul], but the mindset is different from that of 2Cor. 5:17’.[14]
Whether or not we can count the canonical letter of Hebrews to the Pseudo-Pauline tradition, is debated, but it is one of the very few other writings in the New Testament where the idea of ‘novelty’ reoccurs. Christ’s covenant is seen in comparison and competition to a previous one, where the prophetic promise of Jeremiah is extensively quoted:
Now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises. 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one. 8:8 But showing its fault, God says to them: ‘Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will complete a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 8:9 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant and I had no regard for them, says the Lord. 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people. 8:11 And there will be no need at all for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, Know the Lord, since they will all know me, from the least to the greatest. 8:12 For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.8:13 When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.[15]
9:15 And so he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance he has promised, since he died to set them free from the violations committed under the first covenant.[16]
10:16This is the covenant that I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws on their hearts and I will inscribe them on their minds,10:17 then he says, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no longer’ (Jer. 31:33f.) 10:18 Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
As in Paul, Hebrews interprets Jeremiah as the prophecy of the creation of a new covenant, but it is ‘no longer a new definition of God’s relation to his people …, nor is it about a coming back to the original status that had been lost …, instead the second covenant is materially different from the first one, replaces it and revokes its existence. Contentwise, this new covenant (against Jer. 31[38]:33 and the Jewish tradition that is based on this verse) is qualified by the annihilation of the Torah, as the Torah was incapable to reunite men and God (Hebr. 10). From now on, there are two epochs in the history of humanity: The time before and that after the coming of Christ.’[17] In Hebrews Jesus surpasses Mose as mediator of this new covenant, but he also goes beyond the prophecy itself, as he ‘enacted on better promises’. The reason for the superiority lies in the fault of the ‘first covenant’, thus, God had to announce an entirely new one, not a remake or an amended version of the first, because the Israelites themselves had discontinued it. And yet, the end of the prophecy in Jeremiah seems to negate such interpretation, when the prophet points to God’s mercy and the promise that he ‘will remember no longer’ their sins. To contradict the idea of a possible revival and renewal of the covenant, Hebrews adds: ‘When he [God] speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete’, and more pronounced, the author refers this rejection of the old covenant to those Jews who are not partaking in the new covenant of Christ, setting the old Jewish covenant against a new one: ‘Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear’. And, yet, we are still not in the realm of a non-Jewish Jesus-movement, as Hebrews still states that ‘those who are called’ do not receive anything else, but what has been promised before, as announced by the Jeremiah, ‘the eternal inheritance’, a heritage which does not set them free from the commandments, but only ‘from the violations committed under the first covenant’. The Law and the laws remain, but they are no longer existing in the physical realm, based on the Temple and the sacrifices there,but exist in hearts and minds.
            According to Annie Jaubert, outside Paul and the Pauline tradition ‘nowhere in Judaism, the concept of the “new covenant” which was that of Jeremiah, is attested with the one exception of Qumran, especially in the Damascus Document’.[18] Here we read:
None of the men who enter the New Covenant in the land of Damascus, and who again betray it and depart from the fountain of living waters, shall be reckoned with the Council of the people or inscribed in its Book from the day of the gathering in of the Teacher of the Community until the coming of the Mesiah out of Aaron and Israel … And thus shall it be for all among the first and the last who reject (the precepts), who set idols upon their hearts and walk in the stubbornness of their hearts; they shall have no share in the house of the Law. They shall be judged in the same manner as their companions were judged who deserted to the Scoffer. For they have spoken wrongly against the precepts of righteousness, and have despised the Covenant and the Pact – the New Covenant – which they made in the land of Damascus. Neither they nor their kin shall have any part in the house of the Law.[19]
The Damascus Document speaks about the creation of the ‘new covenant’ in the ‘land of Damascus’ and a fierce opposition against this ‘house of the Law’. Like Paul, the text points to the right commandments, the ‘precepts of righteousness’. However, it is unclear, how this ‘new covenant’ is related to the eternal covenant of which there is mention elsewhere in this document.[20] Most scholars assume that the ‘new covenant’ is a ‘renewed’ one, as highlighted by 1Q34bis, probably a liturgical prayer, and perhaps ‘part of a homiletic exposition of the famous prophecy in Jer. 31.31-33’:[21]
… But in the time of Thy goodwill Thou didst choose for Thyself a people. Thou didst remember Thy Covenant and [granted] that they should be set apart for Thyself from among all the peoples as a holy thing. And Thou didst renew for them Thy Covenant (founded) on a glorious vision and the words of Thy Holy [Spirit], on the works of Thy hands and the writing of Thy Right Hand, that they might know the foundations of glory and the steps towards eternity …. [Thou didst raise up] for them a faithful shepherd …[22]
Although we can discover some related terms and ideas, different to Paul and the Pauline tradition of unity in Christ is the concept of separation or setting aside of the ‘holy thing’. Their apocalypticism ‘left no room for a dynamic concept of history’, as we found it in Paul.[23] And yet, despite such differences, similarities cannot be overlooked and may point to contact and influence.
It appears that Paul, who’s letters were rarely read and who’s theology was barely accepted by most of the early Christian authors except the Pseudo-Pauline and Pauline tradition (Ignatius, Polycarp, 1Clement), initially convinced only very few Christians with the Lord’s saying about the ‘new covenant’ and the novelty of his message. This only changed when around 140 AD the rich shipowner, scholar and teacher Marcion of Sinope arrived in Rome and rediscovered Paul’s letters. In his reading of Paul, the concepts of the ‘new covenant’ and ‘newness’ became core. How can it be that this idea of the ‘new covenant’ of the Lord’s saying in the last supper report re-appears only in Luke’s Gospel which according to Irenaeus and Tertullian Marcion had used only to truncate it? How can this be a genuinely Lukan tradition or a borrowing from Paul, if the same author wrote the canonical Acts of the Apostles where Paul figures prominently, but none of his letters are either mentioned or quoted? It occurs that this is further supporting evidence for the case that has been previously made that not Marcion circumcised Luke, but that Luke is the Judaized, broadened version of Marcion’s own Gospel.[24] It is, therefore, no surprise that in Marcion’s Gospel, for example, we read the famous saying that has been widely discussed in the anti-Marcionite authors:
 1:39 He [Jesus] also told <them> a parable: ‘No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old garment. If he does, he will have torn the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 1:40 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the old skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 1:41 Instead one pours new wine into new wineskins <and both will be preserved.>’[25]
While Marcion’s Jesus sets a clear antithesis between old and new, the old garment and the new one, the old wineskins and the new wine and highlights that the new message cannot be put onto the old foundations and cannot be contained in old frames and containers, in Luke we read an abbreviation of the last verse and an additional verse which not only corrects and contrasts what has been said before, but also shows a startling breakdown in the logic of his text:
5:36 He [Jesus] also told them a parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old garment. If he does, he will have torn the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 5:37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 5:38 Instead new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 5:39 No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”
Even the best willing conservative exegetes had struggled with Luke 5:39 and its relation to the verses before, but it is only one example of many others which show that Luke is based on Marcion’s Gospel, not the other way around. While Luke usually follows slavishely the wording of Marcion’s Gospel and tries to alter typically Marcionite radicalisms and antithetical statements where Marcion sets Judaism and Christianity apart by cutting down in text, or adding Jewish Scriptural references or narratives, the author of the Gospel of Mark, reacts differently. Here, Marcion’s wording and content is often changed, while the basic shape of Marcion’s Gospel is preserved (no birth stories, no youth, the Lord comes as an adult, the narrative is called a ‘Gospel’, a short ending). And again, Matthew reads like a mixture between the way Mark and Luke are dealing with Marcion’s Gospel. Matthew, like Luke adds many narratives (birth and resurrection stories), but like Mark he also alters the wording of Marcion. Without going into the precise relationship between these Gospels, let us just add that consistent to this outline, Mark is the one that also preserves some of Marcion’s concept of ‘newness’, while Matthew and John relativise it.

[1] Hence, a misleading headline that the Netbible has given to this passage (‘The Condemnation of the Jew’).
[2] Still the recognized opinion in the synagogues today.
[3] Gal. 4:4f.: ‘4:4 But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 4:5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights.’
[4] Gal. 4:6.
[5] See 2Cor. 8:9: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich.’
[6] Phil. 2:7f.
[7] 1Cor. 2:8.
[8] 1Cor. 10:1-4.
[9] 1Cor. 7:10f.: ‘7:10 To the married I give this command – not I, but the Lord – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife’; 1Cor. 9:14: ‘the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel’; 1Cor. 11:23-5: ‘11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, 11:24 and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 11:25 In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.”’
[10] 1Thess. 4:15: ‘For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep’.
[11] W. Kinzig, Novitas Christiana (1994), 92f.
[12] 2Cor. 3:6.
[13] W. Kinzig, Novitas Christiana (1994), 107.
[14] W. Kinzig, Novitas Christiana (1994), 106 (own trans.).
[15] Hebr. 8:6.
[16] Hebr. 9:15.
[17] W. Kinzig, Novitas Christiana (1994), 115 (own trans.).
[18] A. Jaubert, La notion (1963), 447 (own trans.).
[19] CD VIII, trans. G. Vermes (2004), 136f.
[20] See W. Kinzig, Novitas Christiana (1994), 100.
[21] Th.H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures (31976), 391.
[22] Trans. G. Vermes (2004), 381.
[23] W. Kinzig, Novitas Christiana (1994), 101.
[24] See more on this M. Vinzent, Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity and the Making of the New Testament (2011); see also id. In the forthcoming volumes of the commentary on Marcion’s Gospel.
[25] The verses are counted according to the new edition, translation and commentary of Marcion’s Gospel in M. Vinzent, Marcion’s Gospel (2012/3).