Markus Vinzent's Blog

Friday, 3 February 2012

Marcion's authorship of his Gospel - an overlooked question

The scholarship of the past was almost entirely clouded by those opponents of Marcion, beginning with Irenaeus, who claimed that Marcion had used an already existing Luke and made a truncated version of it. Even the few scholars of past and present, including the very learned ones like Ferdinand Christian Baur of the 19th century, who had mistrusted Irenaeus and his followers, have seen in this claim a heresiarchical accusation and therefore inverted the argument, so that Luke depended on Marcion, have maintained the position that Marcion had found a Gospel which he merely used.
As far as I can see, in all previous scholarship there are only two exceptions, both non-theologians: Heinrich Joseph Vogels, who at least ventured the possibility what has never been dared to think before him, that Marcion’s Gospel could have been produced and published by himself – and this, as we will see, albeit Marcion himself having probably made this claim. And there is the poet Paul-Louis Couchoud (1879-1959), professor of philosophy and scholar at the Ecole Normale, Paris who, very different from Vogels’ Germanic cautious suggestion, developed a full ‘outline of the beginnings of Christianity’ in his The Creation of Christ (excerpts, a good summary and comments can be found here), based on the idea of a Christ-myth which was turned into a historical Gospel-narrative by Marcion in the years 128-129. And also scholars may rightly reject most of the wild speculations of Couchoud, a critical reading of him is extremely rewarding. He knew his sources and he was prepared to unearth and make fresh and unorthodox connections which even today can inspire serious scholarship. Why has scholarship not picked up the question of Marcion’s authorship – irrespective of whether one agrees or disagrees on it? Our towering rhetoritians of the early centuries and their anti-heretical argument that heretics always come after orthodoxy and deviation presumes a straight route overshadowed almost 2,000 years of historical, textual and theological scholarship. Even when in the 20th century Walter Bauer turned this genealogy upside down, he did not conclude that, if heretics were first, also their writings must have been produced prior to that of the orthodox reaction, but copied the traditional apologetics that Marcion ‘restored’ the Gospel ‘to its pristine splendour and the unadulterated Paul’, thus based his investigation by excluding a critical look at the canonical Gospels.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Professor Vinzent, it's always a pleasure to read your posts here. A great pleasure indeed. Unfortunately, however, the layout of this weblog makes it very hard sometimes to be able to read the blog entries comfortably. I'm thinking particularly of the distracting background picture and your poor (and confusing) choice of fonts. By the way, the Vridar blog you link to in this entry is a good example of how readability can enhance intelligence.
    Please consider removing the background picture - replacing it perhaps with a neutral monochrome one - and choosing a font family more appropriate for online reading. I think Vridar uses highlander light, but there are a lot of non-serif elegant fonts available.
    Sorry if this message seems pedantic, but believe me it makes a difference. Everytime I come here I have to press the "Reader" button on my Safari browser, and, boy, how things change!
    José Costa Pinto