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Resurrection and the Second Century

Resurrection and the Second Century May 26, 2011

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?

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