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 , 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.