Marcion’s Text of the Gospel of Luke
I’m pleased to note that the new and thorough study of Marcion’s text of the Gospel of Luke by my former PhD student, Dieter T. Roth, has now appeared: The Text of Marcion’s Gospel (Leiden: Brill, 2015). The publisher’s online catalogue entry is here.
Marcion is the famous (notorious?) 2nd-century Christian teacher who rejected the OT as Christian scripture (and rejected the OT deity as well). As well, he rejected multiple Gospels, and multiple apostles, finding in these pluralities . . . confusion. Only one Gospel. Only one true Apostle. That was his stance. His choices: Only the Gospel of Luke, and only epistles of Paul. These comprised Marcion’s canon. Indeed, by ca. 140 CE, Marcion had a closed canon. So “canon-consciousness” was scarcely a late development, even if what became the canonical “winner,” our familiar “Bible” of OT and a 27-book NT took a couple more centuries to achieve closure.
The problem is that we don’t really have any manuscript preserving Marcion’s NT. What we have are ostensible quotations of it and references to it by later Christian writers. So, the scholarly task is to devise some way of trying to reconstruct Marcion’s text. Some years ago, Ulrich Schmid performed this task on Marcion’s text of the Pauline epistles: Ulrich Schmid, Marcion und sein Apostolos. Rekonstruktion und historische Einordnung der marcionitischen Paulusbriefausgabe. Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung, 25 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995). But the only previous attempt to reconstruct fully Marcion’s text of Luke was by the great Adolf von Harnack a century ago.
So, Roth’s new work is a historic milestone of research. In addition to a full history of previous research, Roth also improves on Harnack’s classic work by giving a fresh and independent analysis of the data, and also by providing detailed comments and explanation for his judgements about the text of Marcion’s gospel.
One final observation: It’s often stated that the NT canon represents primarily the exclusion of texts, but that’s actually a very dubious claim. Marcion certainly represents an exclusionary move. But in comparison the familiar NT canon actually represents an inclusive motive, favouring plurality, even a certain diversity. Four Gospels, not just one. Multiple apostolic voices, not simply Paul. Oh, and by the way, there is actually little indication that the so-called “apocryphal” texts were intended to form part of a canonical collection as diverse as the NT. So, it’s difficult to sustain the claim that they were “excluded” from such a collection.
But, in any case, Roth’s newly released study is now the “go-to” work on Marcion’s text of Luke.