Marcion and Methodology–Roth #2
(LWH: The following posting is the second in a series of guest-postings I’ve invited from Dr. Dieter Roth, whose newly published critical reconstruction of Marcion’s Gospel sets the standard and basis for all further debate about that text: The Text of Marcion’s Gospel. Leiden: Brill, 2015, the publisher’s online catalogue is here.)
I was pleased to hear from Larry that based on the number of page views and comments he received after my first guest blog posting last week, there seems to be a significant amount of interest in Marcion’s Gospel and recent work on this text. As a result, Larry has extended an invitation for two more guest postings in order to allow me to expand on two important issues mentioned in my first posting. Thus, in this second post I will provide an overview of the issues involved in reconstructing Marcion’s Gospel and what I consider to be the most important contributions of my monograph in this regard. In a final posting I will offer a few thoughts on Tertullian’s testimony concerning Marcion’s Gospel, once again in critical dialogue with the recent book by Markus Vinzent.
The difficulty that scholarship has always faced when discussing Marcion’s Gospel is that there are no extant manuscripts of this text. (As an aside that cannot be pursued further here, I am skeptical, at least to this point, that papyrus P69 is a manuscript of Marcion’s Gospel as tentatively suggested by Claire Clivaz and Jason BeDuhn). For this reason, in order to utilize Marcion’s Gospel for gaining insight into written Gospels in early Christianity, compare it with Luke, or consider its place in the transmission of the Gospels, one must first, at least to some extent, reconstruct Marcion’s text. Attempting such a reconstruction, however, faces the rather daunting challenges of determining both which sources are relevant for reconstructing Marcion’s Gospel and how these sources are to be read and utilized in the pursuit of this scholarly endeavor.
Everyone agrees that the most important sources are Tertullian’s Adversus Marcionem, especially book four; the Panarion (Adversus haereses) of Epiphanius, especially section forty-two and the seventy-eight σχόλια (“notes”) and ἔλεγχοι (“refutations”) concerning Marcion’s Gospel; and the Pseudo-Origen Adamantius Dialogue, especially books one and two, where Adamantius debates the Marcionites Megethius and Marcus. This not to say that other sources, though minor and of lesser importance, are insignificant, nor is it to say that there are not important debates to be had concerning the relevance of sources such as (Pseudo-)Ephrem’s An Exposition of the Gospel 1–76 (Pseudo-Ephrem A). This latter text is posited as a valuable one by Jason BeDuhn, though I am hesitant to share this assessment and am therefore equally hesitant of including some verses in Marcion’s Gospel that BeDuhn has included solely on the basis of this source (e.g., Luke 6:47–48 or Luke 8:5–8a).
The more important issues for a reconstruction, however, are methodological. In my first post I highlighted a methodological problem with the use of Luke 5:39 in debates concerning the relationship between Marcion’s Gospel and Luke. This verse is one of many that are unattested for Marcion’s Gospel. That is to say, it is a verse concerning which no source gives us any indication of its presence or absence in Marcion’s text. Two types of argument from silence have repeatedly been used in the history of scholarship on Marcion’s text, both of which I find highly problematic. On the one hand, scholars attempted to argue whether or not the verse could have been present based on Marcion’s theological proclivities.
On the other hand, arguments were presented of whether or not a source would or would not have mentioned a verse if it had or had not been present. These latter arguments proceeded along the lines of: “if a given author had (or had not) seen a given verse in Marcion’s Gospel surely he could not have resisted using it (or its absence) against Marcion.” Both of these types of arguments from silence led to extended, and fruitless, debates. For this reason, I have argued that when reconstructing Marcion’s Gospel we must distinguish between verses that are attested as present, verses that are attested as absent, and unattested verses. Only the first two categories are, in the first instance, relevant for a reconstruction. Unattested verses are simply unattested and I have labeled then as such in my reconstruction.
In my estimation, however, the most important methodological insight for reconstructing Marcion’s Gospel is one already employed by Ulrich Schmid in his reconstruction of Marcion’s Apostolikon. This insight is that when considering “citations” and references to Marcion’s Gospel in the sources, we must understand as precisely as possible the citation habits of those sources. The best way to do so is to consider multiple citations of a biblical passage throughout the entire corpus of a source in order to recognize how a particular author handles references to texts. Once the patterns generated by citation habits are recognized, the testimony that a church father offers for readings in Marcion’s Gospel can be evaluated far more precisely and profitably.
Though details here can once again quickly become rather technical and involve extended discussions, several arguments over whether Marcion used Luke or Luke used Marcion are, for instance, related to which Greek word stood in Marcion’s text on the basis of the Latin words used by Tertullian. Such arguments, however, have often failed to take account of Tertullian’s own word-preferences, theological proclivities, and the changes that Tertulian regularly makes when “citing” scriptural passages. In my monograph the study of precisely such citation habits of a source is foundational for my reconstruction.
Finally, in my reconstructed text, for the first time in the history of scholarship on Marcion’s Gospel, I offered differing levels of certainty for readings in Marcion’s text: secure, very likely, probable, and possible. This presentation was intended to provide guidance on the level of confidence we can ascribe to attested readings in light of a source’s citation habits and the evidence found in the manuscript tradition of Luke, with which all sides of the debate agree Marcion’s Gospel was somehow related. I in no way regard my suggested reconstruction, or my suggested levels of certainty, as the “last word” in reconstructions of Marcion’s Gospel; however, I sincerely hope that it will stimulate further debate concerning this text because it is only with a critical and methodologically controlled reconstruction that scholarship can advance in the debates for which this text is relevant. Until we have debated and achieved at least some level of agreement on the reconstruction of Marcion’s text of his Gospel, all proposals about its relationship to the Gospel of Luke, for example, will remain insecure and speculative.
 Dieter T. Roth, The Text of Marcion’s Gospel (New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents 49; Leiden: Brill, 2015).
 Markus Vinzent, Marcion and the Dating of the Gospels (Studia Patristica Supplements 2; Leuven: Peeters, 2014).
 Cf. Jason Beduhn, The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon (Salem, Oreg.: Polebridge, 2013), 40.
 Cf. the discussion of the sources for Marcion’s Gospel in Roth, Text of Marcion’s Gospel, 46–78.
 I have provided complete tables of these three types of verses in Roth, Text of Marcion’s Gospel, 49–78.
 Cf. Ulrich Schmid, Marcion und sein Apostolos: Rekonstruktion und historische Einordnung der marcionitischen Paulusbriefausgabe (Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung 25; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995).
 I have also provided a brief overview of the issue of “citation habits” with two examples in Dieter T. Roth, “Marcion’s Gospel: Relevance, Contested Issues, Reconstruction,” The Expository Times 121 (2010): 291–94.