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5020RE: [AlphaChristianity] RE: [Synoptic-L] A problem of consistency?

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  • David Inglis
    Jan 7, 2014

      Bruce, thank you for your long reply. I apologize if I have failed to remember the details of all our previous conversations, but I think that after 66 years I’m allowed to do that. However, in my defense I would say that what I believe to have been the content of Marcion’s gospel has changed over the years every time I come across a new source of information, and it is my understanding that the same has happened with the contents of Luke A and B as you see them. Therefore, it is timely to have a ‘reality check’ (which you have now provided) and which I can now work with, and (in particular) check that everything in my parallel is up to date.


      However, there is one possibility that I think I have not considered sufficiently. We are quite happy with the idea that aMt and aLk took earlier material and changed and added to it to create their gospels, so perhaps Marcion had access to Luke A, added to it to create his gospel, and the result was one of the sources used by aLk (or at least, the author of Luke C). The only significant difference between the actions of Marcion, aMt, and aLk would then be that by the time he presented his gospel, Marcion’s ‘Alpha’ views were out of favor with the (by then well established) Church, who promptly branded him as a heretic. Something for me to think more about while I go through your post in detail.


      David Inglis, Lafayette, CA, 94549, USA


      From: alphachristianity@yahoogroups.com [mailto:alphachristianity@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of E Bruce Brooks
      Sent: Tuesday, January 07, 2014 12:52 AM
      To: alphachristianity@yahoogroups.com; Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
      Cc: GPG
      Subject: RE: [AlphaChristianity] RE: [Synoptic-L] A problem of consistency?



      To: Synoptic / Alpha       

      In Response To: David Inglis

      On: Luke A and Marcion

      From:  Bruce


      David:  . . . However, I understand (please correct me if I am wrong) that despite your description of Luke A also exactly fitting Marcion’s gospel (and so also having the same synoptic ‘explanatory power’), you are very reluctant to accept the possibility that the text of Marcion’s gospel may be (or at least be very close to) that of Luke A.


      Bruce: Unfortunately, as far as I have gotten with reconstructing Luke (still an ongoing process), the text of Luke A does not in fact agree with that of Marcion, as recovered with great labor by yourself. For me, there are three stages of Luke. Stage A began with Lk 3:1 and lacked many of the miraculous features (not only Lk 1-2, but the Miracle of the Fishes at the Calling of Simon, etc) of our canonical Luke. It also lacked all reference to the Gentile Mission (manifestly interpolated into the previous Travel Narrative). It also lacked certain paragraphs in the Nazareth story, the Dives et Lazarus story, and a couple of others, which belong not to Luke B but to Luke C. The presence of any one of these later elements in Marcion would demonstrate that Marcion did not possess what I have called Luke A. You and I compared notes on this several years back, and it came out that Marcion does possess several such later elements. It then follows that Marcion did not possess a pure first-state of Luke, but something including elements from all its three compositional stages.


      David. Is this because you do not believe that Marcion could have used a copy of Luke A as his gospel (or perhaps as the basis of his gospel),


      Bruce: I know of no basis for this “could have” statement, which to me has an a priori character. I don’t do a priori.


      David: and that instead you believe the 2nd and 3rd C heresiologists statements that Marcion edited canonical Luke?


      Bruce: I don’t believe anybody; I’ve been around too long. I trust the evidence of the texts, once we have examined the texts themselves with due care, and determined what their witness is likely to be worth. I find, independently and on my own, that the theory of Marcion editing certain Jewish elements out of Luke gives a satisfactory motivation for what in our Luke Marcion does NOT have. The critics jeer at Marcion for not being more consistent with his eliminations. They do so unanimously. I wish I had their longer treatises, but this is what I get from what seems to exist.


      David: If not, what is it about Marcion’s gospel that you have a problem with?


      Bruce: See above, and the backfile of messages. But to bring the subject into the present a little, I took from the shelf my copy of the Inglis 2010 file. It proved to be not convenient for asking the present question. So what exactly is the present question, and how can we tell if we have an answer to it?


      I see an early Luke A, then a Luke B defined by certain additions and transpositions, and finally (much later) a Luke C defined by a few small (but highly visible) additions. The possibilities, as I see them, are these:


      1. If Marcion’s excisions from canonical Luke are confined to the Luke C additions, then Marcion had a copy of Luke B.


      2. If Marcion’s excisions from canonical Luke are confined to the Luke C additions plus the Luke B additions (and rearrangements), then Marcion possessed a copy of Luke A.


      3. If any of Marcion’s known excisions were of material in Luke A, then whatever copy Marcion had, he demonstrably operated on it at least in part by excision.


      In the absence of any Marcion reconstruction that could be easily and directly compared with my Luke reconstruction (Knox, Harnack), I turn to the computer, and at




      find the beginning of the kind of comparison I need, courtesy of David. My notes follow. I skip small phrases, and look for whole pericopes, chiefly ones known to be absent in Marcion. I look for empty squares.


      Lk 1-2. om Marcion; my Lk A agrees (added in Lk B)


      Lk 3:1a only in Marcion; my Lk A has also 3:2b-6 (John B), 16, and 21-22. Mc seems to omit?


      Lk 4. Nazareth and Capernaum “swapped.” Promising, since so also Lk A.


      Lk 4:25-27 Mc om; also not in Lk A


      Lk 5:29. A manifestly anti-Marcionite 2c interpolation, and thus naturally not in Marcion.


      Lk 6. Can’t tell. Getting to be too many undefined colors.


      Lk 7:39-43. The woman with the ointment. A transfer from the Markan Bethany scene, but in our view, already made in Lk A. Mc omits, seemingly showing excision of his Vorlage.


      LK 8 :19 Mc om, but retains 8:20-21. Again, Lk A seemingly has; Mc has excised his Vorlage


      Lk 9:52f. Travel through Samaria. This to me is decisive. The Samaritan motif, however grateful to the deJudaizing Marcion, was an addition of Lk B (Samaria representing Gentile territory). The original Luke A made no mention whatever of a Gentile Mission (the Eastern tradition that Luke himself was  Jew may actually have something going for it). Then Marcion here is not working from Luke A, but at most from Luke B. See next.


      Lk 10:29-37. The Good Samaritan. This much stronger statement (Gentiles only) goes beyond the Gentile acknowledgement of Luke B, and expresses the post-schism (pos-c85) sentiment which is the whole point of Luke C (and of Acts II). So far, it might seem that Marcion has a copy of Luke B but not Luke C. If he had possessed this Gentiles-only passage, it ought to have appealed to him.


      LK 11:29f Sign of Jonah. No reason to think absent from Lk A or any subsequent stage of Lk, therefore again, whatever else is true, Marcion at least sometimes excises his Vorlage.


      Lk 13:1-9. I see no sign that this was absent from any stage of Lk, and must conclude that Mc is omitting it for his own reasons.


      Lk 14. Nothing decisive


      Lk 15:11-32. Prodigal Son. Probably in Luke A (where it completes a parable series; Mt omits but substitutes the Parable of the Two Sons; the parable is thus pre-Matthean). And excised by Marcion, for reasons unclear; perhaps he objected for the same reasons Matthew did: too slummy.


      Lk 17. The Ten Lepers. This is another Luke C (Gentiles Only) passage, like the Good Samaritan. Since Marcion has it, he must have been looking at a copy of Luke C.


      Lk 18:31-34. Prediction of death at the hands of the “Gentiles.” Marcion is likely to have resented this terminology, and thus excised.


      Lk 19:29-38 Preparation for the Sabbath. Lk A has; Mc omits, perhaps because of too Jewish, or too conspiratorial, a tone in the Preparation.


      Lk 20:9f The Wicked Husbandmen. Mc om. Parable in Lk A, so must have been excised by Marcion. Since its burden is that the Christians are now the real Jews, his dislike is intelligible. Marcion’s position is that the Christians are the real Christians.


      Lk 21:21f. Let those who are in Judea. Lk A has, Mc om. Again, a too specifically Jewish tone to the description of the Last Days.



      I am going to stop here. The above small but to me definite signs suggest that Marcion knew Lk C, and that his excisions were in the direction of removing from it as many as he conveniently could of the traces of specifically Jewish character or expectation for the Jesus followers.


      Why then does Marcion (as David has often pointed out) coincide in so many points with what I have reconstructed as Luke A?


      It’s like this. If I were some highly intelligent person, who by fantastic powers of mind had discerned beneath our canonical Luke the lost original state of Luke, the question would be unanswerable. But I am just a Dumb Guy, whose only virtue in this matter is ignorance – ignorance of the theological agenda which drives so much Lukan commentary in our time. Without that learned but distracting information, it is no great task to see where the lines of the text are running. That Lk 1-2 are an adterpolation, in front of the original beginning at Lk 3:1, must be classed as among the elementary perceptions, five-finger exercises fit for the second-graders, and not anything to trouble an adult perception. So also with Nazareth; how much real intelligence does it take to see, as Marcion does, that Nazareth and Capernaum should somehow be placed in the opposite relation to each other?


      Hence, I suggest, the reason why the restoration work that Marcion has done on Luke matches at so many points  the restoration work that I, with a very different agenda – in fact, with no agenda at all – have been doing in a later century. As Ranke says, the facts are what they are, and so all proper attempts to recover them must tend to converge.


      So I am happy to welcome Marcion as a colleague in the battle, if not exactly as a verification of my own battle result.




      And now, a footnote. Why did Marcion take the anti-Jewish line that he did with Luke and the rest of religious life? I think the answer is spelled out very clearly in Pliny’s letter to Trajan. Pliny is describing the miscreants at or near Sinope (Marcion’s home church), and under torture, a couple deaconnesses of local Christian churches reveal their secret rites – which in no particular depart from the very primitive ones described in that pure Alpha church order document, the Didache. The economic trouble that they were causing (a drop in the sales of idol meat at the many local temples) exactly matches the early agreement not to require non-Jews to observe any Jewish food limitations – save only the avoidance of idol meat (since eating it amounted to worship of another god). That is, the churches of Sinope, so far as torture and other inquiry can reveal them, were that precious thing, a survival in being of Alpha Christianity, about eighty years after that belief pattern had stablilzed in that condition.


      But were these not synagogues rather than Christian congregations per se? No, they met in houses, and as far as Jews are concerned, archaeology has revealed no traces of synagogues or other signs of Jewish worship at Sinope, and of the many names transcribed from the Sinope inscriptions, there is a not a single Jewish one. Not. a. single. Jewish. one. Then the Sinope churches were a very early foundation, not made by Paul and not made by anybody else on a synagogue foundation, but, like most major Alpha churches (Alexandria, Rome, Antioch, you name it), by unknown and pre-Pauline Alpha missionaries.


      (The sign to Paul in Acts, not to go to Bithynia, - and this from our Luke, no less - thus has an extreme poignancy whose meaning seems to escape us in the present, but perhaps has something to do with the fact of a very early and pre-Pauline evangelization of just that remote region – the ass end of the Roman Empire. I wish I knew a little more about that).


      So the Sinope faithful (those who, including Marcion, lay low enough or were connected high enough to evade the automatic execution that awaited them if denounced to the authorities as Christians) were Alpha in orientation, and Gentile in character. They had the latest version of Luke, and that is what Marcion saw. Quite possibly they also knew the fantastically popular Gospel of Matthew, and deplored it, since it represented a trend back toward full Judaism – the reinstated Law, the honoring of the Pharisaic minutiae, the exaggerated reliance on OT for proof of the mission and nature of Jesus. This is not what John preached, and it is not what Jesus preached, and in all human and evangelical probability it is not what the first Alpha missionaries preached. It is not the kind of Christianity with which the good people of Sinope, with their Alpha foundation, would have been comfortable; they would if anything have taken alarm at the abandonment of toleration which, to them, it may have represented.


      Then came the able and well-connected Marcion, with money to match his zeal, and he sought to clean up the somewhat less threatening Gospel of Luke, and spread that kind of Reform Christianity around the world.


      I would now love to see a map showing where that movement took hold, as evidently it did (it seems to have lasted in some places for centuries). That map might tell me more than I presently know or infer about the regions reached by those first nameless but effective Alpha missionaries. Here is a gap in the panorama which I would be very glad to see filled.


      If any of my learned Marcionite colleagues can provide that map, or any element of it, I will be most grateful.


      Thanks in advance,




      E Bruce Brooks

      Warring States Project

      University of Massachusetts  at Amherst


      © 2014 by E Bruce Brooks

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