Friday, 24 August 2012

Markus Vinzent's "questionable methodological assumptions and procedures" in Christ's Resurrection - James Carlton Paget's JSNT Review Article

There are two ways in which one can take Markus Vinzent's Christ's Resurrection in Early Christianity and the Meaning of the New Testament, says Cambridge's James Carlton Paget:

"(A)t one level it is about the reception of the idea of the resurrection in early Christian history, arguing a distinctive case, systematically and clearly. At another level ... it is a book about Marcion's apparently huge influence on the developing Christian church. The first argument is in a sense a supporting cog in the second, more significant one, which is built upon additional observations and so could survive without the former, even if that is not the way Vinzent seeks to present his case - for him the presence, disappearance and re-emergence of a resurrection-based soteriology can only be explained by reference to Marcion's growing influence" (my emphasis).

I was delighted to read Paget's twenty seven page review of Vinzent's book this morning in the latest edition of the JSNT (35) 1, pp 76-102. This was so, partly because I sat next to Paget a few months ago while he and Judith Lieu discussed the book at Cambridge's Senior New Testament Seminar (with the likes of Simon Gathercole, Richard Bauckham, Peter Head etc making contributions), but also, because I found corroboration on important points between his article and my review which I did for Theology (115 [2], 123-124).

Obviously aware of copy write regulations, I thought it worthwhile to quote just a few bits and pieces from Paget's article that might hopefully lead to further clarifications, and maybe fruitful discussions. I interpret as I go along, and please remember, it is only a foretaste of Paget's extensive review!

Dating New Testament and other texts
The specific dating of  New Testament and Patristic texts is very important for Vinzent's hypothesis to work. Texts like 1 Peter, Acts as well as Ignatius and Papias' writings, in which the resurrection is quite significant must be dated after Macion. If not, then Vinzent's hypothesis becomes unpersuasive. Paget writes:

"... it should be recognised that Vinzent's dating of these texts is controversial, and his case, to some extent, is dependent upon such datings - it will make a difference to Vinzent's case, for instance, if we hold Ignatius, contrary to his view, to be a pre-Marcionite writer, or Papias to have written in the earlier part of the second century ... The first would imply ... that the resurrection was a more important concept than Vinzent assumes it was, and Paul a possibly more significant source; and the second would obviously overturn Vinzent's view that Gospel texts associated with individual names did not exist before Marcion ... Vinzent's case is, in principle, as precarious as the one against which he might be thought to be battling. Indeed, without wishing to sound censorious, it is a problem with this book that too often the author does not show how controversial his views are and, consequently, does not give sufficient airing to the reasoning of those who would contradict his own reading of a text or another piece of evidence, at least in sufficiently full footnotes" (my emphasis). The latter was more or less what I also tried to underscore in my review.

Does Vinzent follow the textual evidence, or does he read his hypothesis into texts?
Put more precisely, is Vinzent reading his "pre-conceived Marcionite" ideas into texts, or are the texts themselves supplying convincing evidence for Vinzent's overall ideas? Paget writes:

"All theories are provisional and dependent upon a possibly narrow and unrepresentative set of texts. Such an observation is especially important when dealing with Vinzent's volume because he relies so heavily upon arguments from silence to prove a variety of points" (my emphasis). Is this in fact the case? Is Vinzent making use of circular arguments? On both accounts, Paget thinks that he does:

"... Vinzent's analysis of texts leads him to the view that Marcion is a key to understanding the development of the church in the middle to the later second century, and on the basis of that assumption he sets about reading texts. What I mean is that it is often precisely the assumption of the Marcionite centrality which guides the reading of sources".

But Paget is also cautious, adding: "I am not claiming that Vinzent has a mono-Marcionite view of the latter part of the second century, or that he reads texts exclusively as reactive", but, and crucially in my opinion, Paget argues that Vinzent's "... assumptions are key to the way he proceeds, and the risks of proceeding in such a way need to be considered in any assessment of his work" (my emphasis).

Paget then goes on to discuss in more detail several texts to illustrate his claims. This include discussions about Colossians, Ephesians, 1 Peter, 1 and 2 Clement, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, Samaritan Christianity etc. It is worthwhile to compare Paget and Vinzent's different interpretations! I was quite relieved to see that at least some of the concerns I raised about Vinzent's interpretations of 1 Peter, 1 Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas in my review, is shared by Paget!

One central claim that Vinzent makes, is that after Marcion, there was a "resurrection-mania" in response to him reviving the doctrine. Is this claim persuasive? For a start, Paget shows that Vinzent's reference to Reinhart Staat as support for his hypothesis is incorrect. In fact, counter to Vinzent, Paget states that "Staat is clear that that is not the case, even as we move into the third and fourth centuries and he spends some time explaining why this was so". By referring to the likes of Justin, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch etc (mentioning significant issues overlooked by Vinzent), Paget suggests that it might be better to speak of an "increased and intense interest in the resurrection of the dead rather than Christ's resurrection, and that such a concern emerged for a variety of reasons" (my emphasis). For the latter, Paget refers to an old but very useful account of the subject by the well-known Dutch scholar from Utrecht, W.C. van Unnik (JEH 15:141-67).

Related to Vinzent's theory of a post-Marcion "resurrection-mania", is whether the resurrection becomes a theme in the second century primarily because of Marcion? Paget disagrees with Vinzent pointing out that there are in fact a number of texts that could be taken to demonstrate an interest in the resurrection, that do not mention Marcion, such as the Epistula Apostolorum, Kerygma Petrou and certain Gnostic texts. 

The Priority of Marcion's Gospel
I found Paget's critique of Vinzent' interpretation of Marcion's Gospel very persuasive, in part because of my own analysis of Tertullian's engagement with Marcion in my Durham dissertation. Probably the most devastating critique of Vinzent's theory that Marcion was the first to write a Gospel is discussed in footnote 47:

"... Vinzent bases his view that Marcion was the first to write a Gospel in part upon Tertullian ... where he asserts that Tertullian 'admits that Marcion accused 'upholders of Judaism' of having falsified his Gospel to make it fit to be combined with what Marcion regarded as the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets', going on to argue that Tertullian proceeds to invent Marcion's argument by claiming that he had found a Gospel which he had mutilated". 

To this claim Paget responds that however one might assess this passage's reliability, Tertullian 

"never asserts that Marcion claimed the thesis Vinzent is arguing. In fact, the Latin clearly states that Marcion accused the 'upholders of Judaism' of having falsified Luke, not of having falsified his own Gospel. This is made plain in Evans's translation, which Vinzent quotes, but leaving out certain bits ... Given that Vinzent bases a lot on this passage ... his misreading of it is significant".

In Paget's conclusion, apart from a few nuanced observations, he asks the question: "But was Vinzent right?" His answer:

"I have tried to show that there are grounds for thinking that his revisionist views are based upon highly contentious conclusions, whose disputed character is dealt with in a sometimes misleading sweeping manner, and are dependent upon questionable methodological assumptions and procedures ... Few, I imagine, will be persuaded by this book ...". 

I want to reiterate that the above reflect only a few bits and pieces, highlighting some striking disagreements that Paget has with Vinzent's main ideas. There are much more meat to the bones and also several nuanced discussions in Paget's article. It is certainly worthwhile for those interested in resurrection in the second century to analyse Paget's article as well as Vinzent's book in more detail. Other reviews already published include M. Edwards, Church Times 2.12.2011; L. Wickham, TLS 6.1.2012 and F. Mulder, Theology 115 (2012) 123-124.


Steve said...

Ferdie, I imagine then Vinzent would believe Jesus was a good person; later his followers established a cult with a central view relating to the notion of resurrection - specifically that of Jesus with his followers to experience it at a later date? Steve.

Frederik Mulder said...

Hi Steve, that might, in part be what Vinzent wants us to accept ...
Personally I don't think Vinzent's theory will fly. He reads virtually all the early church material with an "anti-Marcion lens". Paget exposes that very clearly...

Professor Markus Vinzent said...

Dear Steve and Frederik,
thanks for your interest, but I can assure you, I don't think that 'good person' is the consequence that I show - on the contrary, I have avoided to make historical statements about the beginnings, but report about the reception of Jesus which is far from making him 'a good person', at least not simply that. Incarnation, suffering, sacrifice and death which are salvific are the topics that we encounter outside the Pauline tradition. And to Frederik I can only repeat myself from the book (acknowledged by James in his review, though) that dating is NOT an issue for my views. All the writings which James adduces and where he claims datings are important (which I don't believe with the exception of the Gospels!) are part of the Pauline tradition - it rather confirms my views that outside this Pauline tradition the Resurrection of Christ in pre-marcionite times is almost entirely absent as theological explication of salvation. Different from the blog title here which insinuates that only the methodology and procedures I use are questionable, James admits that NT scholarship, so far, has not come up with less questionable methodologies and procedures. It is interesting to read from a NT scholar that he is unable to demonstrate that my views are wrong, all that he has got are hinches, whereas I try not to read things which texts do not provide into them, but keep to the task of exegesis, reading what authors in their texts do indeed state. What should be questionable with this?

Professor Markus Vinzent said...

Let me add a detail. Frederik agrees with James on the reading of Tertullian, that he never asserts that Marcion claimed the thesis I am arguing. And that the Latin clearly states that Marcion accused the 'upholders of Judaism' of having falsified Luke, not of having falsified his own Gospel." Even if this were the right interpretation which I doubt on the basis of the Latin text below - how could Marcion have said this, by having asserted first that his Gospel is the true, Tertullian's (Matth., Luke) the falsified? (Ego meum dico verum, Marcion suum. Ego Marcionis affirmo adulteratum, Marcion meum). After Marcion had claimed that Tertullian's is the falsified, Tertullian adds (I give Evans translation so that nobody can claim that I am doing up my own translation), that (to him, Tertullian, it would be absurd) that Marcion's be believed to have suffered hostility from
ours before it was even published (Marcionis ante credatur aemulationem a nostro expertum quam et editum). I cannot see, how Evans' could be proven wrong here. Marcion believed that his (Marcionis!) Gospel 'suffered hostility' from 'ours' (= Matth., Luke). On the basis of this claim by Marcion, that his own suffered hostility, Tertullian continues with an 'if'-sentence (again Evans' translation): 'If that gospel which among us is ascribed to Luke—we shall see whether it is Marcion—if that is the same that Marcion by his Antitheses accuses of having been falsified by the upholders of Judaism ...' (Si enim id evangelium quod Lucae refertur penes nos (viderimus an et penes Marcionem) ipsum est quod Marcion per Antitheses suas arguit ut interpolatum a protectoribus Iudaismi...). Again, Tertullian is of course aware that Marcion would NOT accept that this Gospel which he just had called his own (without ascription to an author! A sign for Martin Hengel that yet no competing aemulatio or text existed) should carry the ascription to Luke. The muddle of interpretation derives from two problems: a) Interpreters in the past (including James and Frederik now), ignored the above quoted sentence that Marcion spoke about his own Gospel (Marcionis - correctly translated by Evans); and b) that subsequent when Tertullian claims this to be his own (penes nos), it is again overlooked that he admits that it is his claim, not necessarily shared (he refers to the later discussion) by Marcion.
In consequence - my interpretation is not only literally and grammatically correct, it is the only one that renders the text as given (and correctly translated by Evans).

Frederik Mulder said...

Hi Prof Markus,
You make some interesting observations. I hope you will somehow be able to write an extended response to James' review article at some stage. My impression after reading it was that there are significant disagreements between you two and that your relatively short response does not do justice to the crucial issues raised.
I have some deadlines coming up ... I might at some later stage respond to some of the issues you raise
Best regards

Professor Markus Vinzent said...

Hi Frederik,

thanks again so much for the extract and for drawing my attention to Moffitts opus, I have ordered it and will receive it next week in the British Library. From reading your abstract (and also, because I have to write an article on resurrection for a French volume), I am looking forward to reading the entire volume. The abstract alone makes me, however, suspicious to what extent an interpretive ideology spoils letting the text speak for itself, for example, when the author claims that 'Jesus' suffering exemplifies his greatest moment of testing and faithful endurance' (on which one might agree, reading Hebrews), he concludes 'as a result of his obedience in suffering, God rewarded him with the "better resurrection"', which is, however, a problematic reading, as Hebr. 11:35 certainly speaks of the resurrection of the dead, but with my best intention, I cannot find a hint at Jesus (even not to his cross, despite all the other forms of killings and tortures - all referring to martyrs), here the extract from Hebrews:

11:32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. 11:33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, 11:34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight, 11:35 and women received back their dead raised to life. But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain a better resurrection. 11:36 And others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 11:37 They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 11:38 (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth. 11:39 And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. 11:40 For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us.

Of course, one can read anything into everything - but if systematic theologically starts replacing what a normal reader can read, it becomes Eisegesis and ends to be Exegesis. But let me not jump too quickly to conclusions, until I have read the book,

Yours Markus

Frederik Mulder said...

Hi Prof Markus,
I am looking forward to read the new book you are working on, especially in relation to your views on the substantial differences between Marcion’s Gospel and the Gospel of Luke which the likes of Irenaeus, Tertullian etc used.
Here is a list of some of the verses we find in the Gospel of Luke (which Tertullian used and trusted), and which is omitted (or absent) from Marcion’s Gospel:

The first chapters, 4:41; 5:39; 8:19; 8:28; 9:26; 10:21; 12:8, 9; 15:10; 18:31-33; 19:10; 19:29:46; 20:9-18; 22:16-18; 22:23-30; 22:35-38; 23:43; 24:27, 44-46; 24:39-40.

Here are a few bits and pieces from Tertullian’s AGAINST MARCION, BOOK 4 which might, despite his subjectivity, assist in setting up the context to some extent:

Chapter 2 “... Marcion seems to have singled out Luke for his mutilating process.”
Chapter 3 “... When Marcion complains that apostles are suspected (for their prevarication and dissimulation) of having even depraved the gospel.”
Chapter 4 “I say that my Gospel is the true one; Marcion, that his is. I affirm that Marcion's Gospel is adulterated; Marcion, that mine is ... [Marcion’s Gospel] ... is a strange gospel which he has preached. So that, while he amends, he only confirms both positions: both that our Gospel is the prior one, for he amends that which he has previously fallen in with; and that that is the later one, which, by putting it together out of the emendations of ours, he has made his own Gospel, and a novel one too.”
Chapter 5 “For if the (Gospels) of the apostles have come down to us in their integrity, while Luke's, which is received among us, so far accords with their rule as to be on a par with them in permanency of reception in the churches, it clearly follows that Luke's Gospel also has come down to us in like integrity until the sacrilegious treatment of Marcion ... I will therefore advise his followers, that they either change these Gospels, however late to do so, into a conformity with their own, whereby they may seem to be in agreement with the apostolic writings (for they are daily retouching their work, as daily they are convicted by us); or else that they blush for their master, who stands self-condemned either way— when once he hands on the truth of the gospel conscience smitten, or again subverts it by shameless tampering.”

In light of the textual variants between Tertullian and Marcion’s gospels, and also the bits and pieces from Tertullian above, I wish to mention articles by two established biblical scholars (with patristic background)who have, like you, wrestled with Marcion and the Gospel of Luke, whose insights might, perhaps, provide a platform for fruitful future discussion. The first is Dr Peter Head’s 1993 Tyndale Bulletin article: “The Foreign God and the Sudden Christ: Theology and Christology in Marcion’s Gospel Redaction” (307-321). In his conclusion he says:
“There is little doubt that Marcion’s redaction of Luke was influenced by Christological as well as by his theological convictions. Since his Christology was a product of his doctrine of God (or the gods) this is not surprising, and we shouldn’t be tempted to isolate the one from the other. Nevertheless our survey has highlighted the importance of Marcion’s Christology in his redactional procedure. The overriding method, as is characteristic of reactionary redaction, was omission; Marcion cuts out material, on both large and small scale, with which he differs. In addition it seems clear that patterns of interpretations were also influential in interpreting the gospel text through Marcion’s docetic grid (even when Luke’s text was not altered).”

Frederik Mulder said...

The other is Dr Christopher Hays from Oxford and specifically his article, “Marcion vs. Luke: A Response to the Plädoyer of Matthias Klinghardt”, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 99 (2008): 213–232. I sincerely hope you will be able to analyse this article carefully, in part because it offers an alternative to much of what you (together with Klinghardt) proposes, and also, because of its translation and interpretation of the relevant section of Evans’ translation where you have a disagreement with James Carlton Paget and me. See also the discussion of various other variations between Marcion and Tertullian's gospels as further substantiation for his argument. I am really sorry that you did not engage with this article (as well as Peter Head’s) in your work. I know your answer for the lack of engagement with secondary literature has been that you wanted to focus on the primary texts. If we can put that explanation behind us and try to dialogue with Head and Hays' insights, maybe a future second edition of your book might indeed by on my shopping list :)
Best regards

Professor Markus Vinzent said...

Dear Frederik,
thanks for the literature which, of course, I knew already and are going to engage with in my new book (that I did not do this in the previous one was not fully deliberately done, but a heavy restriction of footnotes by the publisher who - perhaps for right - did not want to have a German book ..., but I promise to fully engage with them in what is going to become a more scholarly book. With regards to the re-creation of Marcion's Gospel, we have to take note, of course, of the rather recent PhD dissertation of Dieter Roth, "Towards a New Reconstruction of the Text of Marcion's Gospel" which is yet unpublished, but available at Edinburgh, and which he also has kindly provided me with,
yours Markus

Frederik Mulder said...

Hi Prof Markus,
Yes, I know Dieter personally. We had a nice chat in Mainz before he finished his PhD. As for Hays and Head, I can only reiterate what James and I tried to show in relation to your Resurrection book: it seems odd that you only interact with those who support your theses, with many footnotes devoted to THEM, but no mention or nuansed interaction with the likes of Peter Head, Christopher Hays, NT Wright etc. Hays' article for example raises significant issues relevant to your Resurrection book too. A substantial response by you before your next book will be welcomed I believe... Best regards