Resurrection and the Second Century

From Frederik Mulder’s blog Resurrection Hope (HT Chris Hays) I’ve learned of a forthcoming book by Markus Vinzent (who blogs here) called Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity and the Making of the New Testament. Mulder summaries Vinzent’s thesis as follows:

In short, if I understood Vinzent correctly, he wants to argue that belief in the resurrection of Jesus was of no significance after Paul died, until the likes of Irenaeus and Tertullian challenged Marcion’s interpretation of the resurrection. Marcion is key to understanding the early church. The so-called orthodox faith in the resurrection of Jesus was a later heretical reaction against Marcion – particularly the empty tomb narratives in Matthew, Mark and John. Apparently, the incarnation and death of Jesus was significant in the early phases of the Church, but not the resurrection of Jesus.

Vinzent also believes that the first Gospel to be composed in written form was by Marcion since there is no mention of the Gospels before him. In which case a Marcionite Luke precedes Orthodox Luke, Matthew, Mark, and John which are reactions against Marcion.

Well, that is certainly a courageous thesis. I guess I’ll have to read the book myself and I’ll reserve judgment till then, but a few preliminary remarks come to mind:

1.  Marcion’s role in forcing Christians to think through a register of sacred books is a given, but in many ways his significance is over played as well. I just can’t imagine no Gospel existing until the time of Marcion. Gospel texts (and not just Jesus traditions) are clearly cited and used by the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, and non-canonical Gospels pre-Marcion. Also, for a great essay on Marcion see Todd Still’s essay in Paul and the Second Century! Lucan priority to Mark seems like a big claim too and I don’t think that will convince many.

2. On the absence of interest in the resurrection focus from Paul to Marcion in the second century, again, prima facie I have to demur. Catholic Letters, Revelation, Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, and the secondary endings to the Gospel of Mark which probably emerged in the second century would indicate otherwise. I wonder what Vinzent does with those texts or how he explains them.

Markus Vinzent has got me thinking: what would Martin Hengel say?

  • James Miller

    Can we look forward to a book on the resurrection in due course?

    • Mbird

      James, not by me! Between Tom Wright & Michael Lacona there isn’t much left to be said. Any studies I do on the resurrection of Jesus I hope to do face to face!

  • James Miller

    Can we look forward to a book on the resurrection in due course?

    • Mbird

      James, not by me! Between Tom Wright & Michael Lacona there isn’t much left to be said. Any studies I do on the resurrection of Jesus I hope to do face to face!

  • http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/ Tim Henderson

    I have read a portion of Vinzent’s book and I blogged about it. Vinzent himself joined the discussion and added some clarification in the comments. The two relevant links are here (be sure to read the comments, where Vinzent joins):

    http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/the-irrelevancy-of-jesus-resurrection-in-early-christianity-according-to-markus-vinzent/

    http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/the-irrelevancy-of-jesus-resurrection-markus-vinzents-clarification/

  • http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/ Tim Henderson

    I have read a portion of Vinzent’s book and I blogged about it. Vinzent himself joined the discussion and added some clarification in the comments. The two relevant links are here (be sure to read the comments, where Vinzent joins):

    http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/the-irrelevancy-of-jesus-resurrection-in-early-christianity-according-to-markus-vinzent/

    http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/the-irrelevancy-of-jesus-resurrection-markus-vinzents-clarification/

  • Hamburg

    “what would Martin Hengel say?”
    Maybe: “Das ist pure Spekulation!”

  • Hamburg

    “what would Martin Hengel say?”
    Maybe: “Das ist pure Spekulation!”

  • Reyjacobs

    “I just can’t imagine no Gospel existing until the time of Marcion.”

    Because you imagine Marcion as living too late. Yes, Ireneaus and Tertullian want us to think Marcion started his ministry in 140. But Origen lets the cat out of the bag by showing the heretics say Marcion was an old man when Velentinus was young, meaning Marcion started much earlier. It is natural for the rabid defender of Catholicism (Ireneaus, Tertullian) to place Marcion late, and for the more scholarly (and slightly gnostic himself) Origen to admit that Marcion may have been much earlier. If Marcion, after all, is so late, why are Ignatius and Polycarpy battling him? Ignatius is clearly writing against Marcionism even though he doesn’t use the name, and Ireneaus tells us Polycarp withstood Marcion to his face and called him the firstborn of Satan….oops, and admission of Ireneaus’ part that Marcion was active about 90 AD rather than beginning in 140.

  • Reyjacobs

    “I just can’t imagine no Gospel existing until the time of Marcion.”

    Because you imagine Marcion as living too late. Yes, Ireneaus and Tertullian want us to think Marcion started his ministry in 140. But Origen lets the cat out of the bag by showing the heretics say Marcion was an old man when Velentinus was young, meaning Marcion started much earlier. It is natural for the rabid defender of Catholicism (Ireneaus, Tertullian) to place Marcion late, and for the more scholarly (and slightly gnostic himself) Origen to admit that Marcion may have been much earlier. If Marcion, after all, is so late, why are Ignatius and Polycarpy battling him? Ignatius is clearly writing against Marcionism even though he doesn’t use the name, and Ireneaus tells us Polycarp withstood Marcion to his face and called him the firstborn of Satan….oops, and admission of Ireneaus’ part that Marcion was active about 90 AD rather than beginning in 140.

  • Reyjacobs

    “On the absence of interest in the resurrection focus from Paul to Marcion in the second century, again, prima facie I have to demur. …Justin Martyr…would indicate otherwise. I wonder what Vinzent does with those texts or how he explains them.”

    Justin Martyr comes AFTER Marcion. He admits it himself when he says that Marcion has made converts in every nation. Well, if Marcion has made converts in every nation by Justin’s time, Marcion must have begun much earlier. Indeed, Justin also expresses surprise that Marcion is still alive, indicating that Justin knows Marcion to be an OLD man who is so old he ought to be dead.

  • Reyjacobs

    “On the absence of interest in the resurrection focus from Paul to Marcion in the second century, again, prima facie I have to demur. …Justin Martyr…would indicate otherwise. I wonder what Vinzent does with those texts or how he explains them.”

    Justin Martyr comes AFTER Marcion. He admits it himself when he says that Marcion has made converts in every nation. Well, if Marcion has made converts in every nation by Justin’s time, Marcion must have begun much earlier. Indeed, Justin also expresses surprise that Marcion is still alive, indicating that Justin knows Marcion to be an OLD man who is so old he ought to be dead.

  • Jones-family

    Recent scholarship dating I Corinthians 15:5-8 to a period within a few years of Christ’s death and resurrection would also run counter to Vinzent’s claim.

    • Reyjacobs

      And what is this so-called ‘scholarship’ based on exactly? Thin air I’m sure. The earliest quotes from Corinthians we have supposedly come from the epistle of Clement which is generally dated to the late 1st century (90AD) despite the fact that the earliest manuscript of it comes from the 2nd. Obviously, its silly to date a text to before the time of our first manuscript, seeing as how it is likely to be a forgery, so I would rule it out.

      • Reyjacobs

        I meant 3rd not second. And there were obvious reasons to try and put Paul’s epistles in the mouth of a past church writer in a much earlier age: Paul was Marcion’s apostle and this was causing problems for ‘orthodox’ acceptance of him. But ‘orthodox’ acceptance of him was necessary to competing with the Marcionites, since they proved Paul was very popular and the ‘orthodox’ church was losing to them precisely because of Paul.

  • Jones-family

    Recent scholarship dating I Corinthians 15:5-8 to a period within a few years of Christ’s death and resurrection would also run counter to Vinzent’s claim.

    • Reyjacobs

      And what is this so-called ‘scholarship’ based on exactly? Thin air I’m sure. The earliest quotes from Corinthians we have supposedly come from the epistle of Clement which is generally dated to the late 1st century (90AD) despite the fact that the earliest manuscript of it comes from the 2nd. Obviously, its silly to date a text to before the time of our first manuscript, seeing as how it is likely to be a forgery, so I would rule it out.

      • Reyjacobs

        I meant 3rd not second. And there were obvious reasons to try and put Paul’s epistles in the mouth of a past church writer in a much earlier age: Paul was Marcion’s apostle and this was causing problems for ‘orthodox’ acceptance of him. But ‘orthodox’ acceptance of him was necessary to competing with the Marcionites, since they proved Paul was very popular and the ‘orthodox’ church was losing to them precisely because of Paul.


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