Thursday, March 27, 2014

Video Hello

Although I have been building this blog up for the last two years, I have only done so with written articles. But today I am going to add a video element, an introduction to my blog that I should have done a year or so ago. The purpose is to put a face on the blog, albeit late at night and unshaven, and give a brief explanation about the current state of the blog.

This comes at an important time in the blog, as I am busily preparing the critical text version of ten letter Marcionite Apostolikon for formal publication. What is up on the website can be considered rough draft form. It is my hope that publishing a critical text and commentary on the Marcionite form of Paul that people will get a clearer picture of the development of the Pauline letters. My plan is to follow on with a commentary on the Catholic editor(s), in which I discuss the deliberate additions and the theology they wish to support. Eventually (and I mean two to three years from now) I hope to also produce a critical text of the Marcionite Gospel and the Antithesis. It truly amazes me this has not been done to date, that no Professor has tasked some grad students to work on a reproduction of the Marcionite Gospel. In truth Harnack's reproduction can only be considered first pass, and not by any means a definitive critical version.

My methodology for the reconstruction of the Marcionite text, which I discuss in the video,is covered in my post, the Minimalist Approach to Marcion, so I wont rehash it here. And I also discuss briefly the advantage of having done six reconstructions (Romans, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Laodiceans) and two more in the works (1 & 2 Thessalonians) for giving insight into the division of the material and identifying the post-Marcionite elements. This knowledge allows me to correct my first three reconstructions, especially 1 Corinthians and Romans, plus a handful of minor adjustments in the others.

My next blog post will be the Thessalonian reconstructions, probably in early April. At the time corrected 1 Corinthians and Galatians will be posted, with but a minor post. The next subject I plan to tackle will be the Simon Magus mythology, which I hope to demonstrate led to a series of 4th century interpolations into Irenaeus and into the pagan historians, as part of an anti-Manichean effort by the newly State supported Church. By June, when I am back from vacation, I plan to finish the Apostolikon, pushing out Colossians and Philemon. I hope to publish my notes on Romans in Marcionite form as well.


  1. Stuart,
    Found your blog a few weeks ago and have been reviewer your post, while also reading DeBuhn and Markus Vinzent"s recent works. I am finding your post fascinating because it seems to be filling in some blanks. What works would you recommend that have got you thinking along your lines. When do you see "the Christian sect" starting? I have also read most of Eisenman. Does some of this come from Margaret Barker (never read).

    1. Mr. Goode,

      Barker's book, "The Great Angel" is IMO a must read, and it takes no stand on the NT origins. I can honestly say that I have paid no attention to Vinzent before your email - British scholarship is not what it was - but I do find it interesting that he independently also considers Marcion priority seriously. This seems to be a growing opinion.

      For me, I started close to Eisenman in that I saw Christianity starting as Peter/James Jewish or Ebionite and then getting hijacked by some strange offshoot of Philo under Simon Magus/Paul. But the technical evidence, especially the agnostic (and neutral) scholarship that placed things like the Targums and the pseudo Clementines in the 4th or 5th century, with maybe some roots back to the 3rd, slowly won me over, especially as I came to understand better the Constantine era and how serious a competitor the Manichean cult was. Still Eisenman, and recently Parvus, somehow see an early core that was somehow missing for 300 years before it showed up in the Clementines, and is somehow more relevant than prior material. But it was a decade long change of opinion.

      What really influenced me were Darrel Doughty and Herman Detering and their revival of the Dutch Radical point of view. Robert Price reports himself to have been infected by the DR disease and once you have it you cannot return to the traditional view. Basically the Pauline letters, even before Marcion was in view, were clear evidence to the Dutch Radicals that the events and circumstances they concerned could not have been in the first century, but better fit the 2nd century. Detering's work on the mini-Apocalypse and placing it (in Matthew/Mark) in the Bar Kokhba revolt was also telling.

      I was also puzzled by the Synoptic problem, and I began to leave the traditional view when I discovered the Marcionite Gospel. None of the Synoptic Theories could account for it. Something was seriously wrong with the traditional model. From there I was on my own. I have come to several conclusions that are IMHO common sense axioms which should be applied. In the end the purpose of what I am doing is to try and find a story which leaves no anomalies. Bottom line read anything and everything, but think for yourself.

  2. Thank you so kindly for your time and post. I look forward to continue reading your post (past and future). I, also, have spent time studying the synoptic problem and Marcion it seems might be the answer. It always puzzled me that there was no witnesses (legit) to Christianity in the first century and then bang. You might check out a blog called Synoptic Solutions.

  3. I received a book that has been on my wish list for a long time yesterday "The Jesus Movement: A Social History of the First Century" by Ekkehard & Wolfgang Stegemann. It is 500 pages of what looks like excellent scholarship and I thought "do I want to read this?" My library consist of 150 or more books on Jesus and Christianity (early) and it made me think of the amount of time I spent reading these and others. But if your theories are correct (and they make a lot of sense to me), I wasted a lot of time for my hobby. But what about the scholars who have devoted their lives to writing these books! Your work is going to get a lot of blow back or just ignored as a kook, much as most mythicist work. Look forward to reading your finished work. I can get behind what I have read so far but I still would like to understand the "big bang" without a Jesus or a Paul. Did it start from Judaism, from the mysteries or from Platonic system? All of the above?

  4. MR,

    My advise is read it and let me know what you think. Good scholarship always has nuggets of truth and even brilliant observations, even if the setting is off. I actually think some of the work to identify Jesus groups is somewhat accurate, except they place the groups about 100 years too early.

    I do not have magic 1 million book sales in my mind. With electronic publishing the returns are 70% or about $4.89 per book on a $6.99 e-book, compared to less than $1 on a typical $45 hardcover book after you sell a certain number. Its a win win for authors and readers, more income, lower costs and more access.

    The book I am writing first will be popular form, more than scholarly. Tom Hanks had a great line in the Da Vinci Code, where he says "I could have sold dozens in the Harvard book store." So I am putting out a reconstruction of the first attested text of the New Testament, with limited commentary, and only explanation of method and background of the sect and the Catholic beliefs it competed with. I think it would be a mistake to try and over sell a particular world view in a popular book.

    As for my position, I do think Christianity is a fusion of Roman (Greek) mythos and Diaspora Judaism. I am agnostic on whether there was a Human Jesus or any particular person who was a model. I simply state that the literature is 2nd century and even the earliest layers refer to events of the early second century, so anything about Christianity before that time is speculative. I use the term "prehistoric" in the sense that history is literary and we have nothing from before about 120 or 130 CE, so by definition anything before that is prehistoric, legendary.

    For scholars the situation is made difficult due to the Nicene era interpolations into neutral historians and even Patristic works such as Justin, Irenaeus, and Origen. Simon Magus histories built on Acts were often the source (e.g., AH 1.24) and can be directly tied to the competition with Manicheanism.

    As for the text of the NT, I am not a "must be the earliest or else its a forgery" type. I am more like DC Parker and think the text is living and each layer tells us about the people and the history and I would add the wisdom and spiritual understanding they brought to ordinary people - salvation in the Roman religions tended to be reserved for the elite, Christianity democratized the concepts. Heck I think the 5th century adulterous woman story is so critical to Christian thought it should be in canon despite its obvious secondary provenance.

    As for scholarship, I do nothing particularly new, except maybe more in depth. It is not shocking or new to state the church started loose and became more structured over time, and this is seen in the NT text. It's not shocking to state that Catholicism was still forming in the 2nd and early 3rd century. The objective is to help build the tools to decipher how it came together. The reconstruction of the Marcionite text, and the identification of the later layers is long overdue.

    I refuse to wade into the whole Historical Jesus debate. It is a distraction, it is politicized.

    Oh, one more thing. An apologist attempts to harmonize to explain the material, a critic attempts to identify and separate the components to explain the material. These are groups in tension. The former is political by nature, theologians and church leaders (and supporters and spin masters) who wish to defend their organizations. As we have seen from Pope John Paul II and from the Southern Baptist convention, there is a desire to shut down critics internally so they can claim they are secularist. It's politics. Some critics stupidly wade into the political debate and are just as intolerant. It is what it is.

  5. Thought this might be of interest to you:
    This is Dieter Roth's reconstructed text of "Marcion's Gospel".

    1. Thanks. I had not seen Roth's work. It should be a helpful reference when building my version of the Marcionite Gospel. I do however see a major flaw in his analysis, which is the failure to take into account that the text reported may well be a peculiar local text, and the variant as wrong in Marcion as in the Catholic. He also seems unaware that Dialogue Adamantius is often quoting the Antithesis or Catholic text (depending on the speaker) so variances may be the result of paraphrases.

      I have come to the conclusion that Clabeaux was correct (mostly) that > 90% of the variants are nothing more than errors of the same sort we find in any manuscript. Only a small percentage of the variant readings are actually part of the "autograph" (a term I disagree with, there may never have been a single autograph of any book).

  6. Stuart here are a couple more resources that I thought you would find useful: - David has done a lot of work on Marcion's Gospel

    And this article by Matthias Klinghhardt:
    It provides some great insights on Gospel reconstruction.

    Look forward to you work!

    1. I already linked Klinghardt's article (see resources on the lower right hand side), and have had some brief correspondence with him.

      Thanks for the link of Inglis, it is good he took a crack at reproducing it. Although I think he misses some of the subtleties it is still very good set of notes he put together.

      I am debating whether or not to put up a quick post about my analysis of Romans 1:1-6, the text of Codex Boernerianus (I think it is an intermediate form), and how the creed is directly related to the openings the Marcionite Gospel and Mark. And how the creed is deliberately anti-Marcionite. This developed out of my introductory chapters of the book on the Apostolikon in Marcionite form. It might be interesting, and its short enough to be a good blog post.

    2. Yes, that would be excellent reading.

  7. How did you learn greek? What would you recomend, Mounce?

  8. Hi Stuart,

    I like your blog and your research.

    2 questions, please:

    1) your future book claims to be the more complete Case, ''beyond reasonable doubt'', for a origin into the Second Century of all pauline epistles?

    2) It's possible, when your ebook will be published later in 2014, to order a printed copy of book?

    I apologize for my English: I'm writing from Italy.

    Very thanks and Best Regards,

  9. Giuseppe,

    Welcome! I think I will put off writing the book. Mostly because I am of two minds on the direction to go, easy to read and popular style, or in depth academic.

    The original aim of the book was not to be a true scholarly work but a popular work of about 300 pages, half of that the reproductions, half a discussion of the process and choices without any proof, just an outline. The Marcionite reproductions of the Pauline epistles are something of a side project which I realized had some modest commercial value and might have some value for scholars who take the concept of 2nd century origins for the New Testament books seriously. It was not intended to be a proof text. I wanted it light and readable by a common reader. I did not expect it to be considered either a serious academic work nor a financial boon - I am pricing it cheap, just hoping to sell a few thousand (so no paper version - you can print a copy if you want) to cover lunch money. It'd be nice if I make enough money to help pay for some graduate classes at Santa Clara University.

    Anyway the feedback I am getting and the expectations of my readers seems to be like yours wanting an in depth detailed argument case for Marcionite priority. To be honest such a work would be massive, probably 2500 pages covering in addition to the arguments of tautology, mythic type, and dependency, but also external evidence from archeology, roman law, and so on. My plan was to build that work over the next several years. But before that would get published I intend to publish several papers in various journals, covering pieces of this work.

    But in truth the argument for my model simply comes done to something similar to Pagel's Gnostic Paul argument; that is which model explains the literature and history better. The model I build depends on only known groups, known archeology, and known events.

    So if you have specific points you want spelled out, I will happily write a blog entry covering that point. And to be honest that is what I intended this blog to be about.

    I should have a post on the Gospel of John out this weekend. It's a survey in the manner of Pagel's Gnostic Paul or Turmel's work on the same subject, but with a focus on identifying the subject of the passages.

    Thanks again,


  10. I see a reference on your google+ account to this post (the John post) but it says page doesn't exist. Technical difficulties?

  11. Hi Stuart,
    I know that I you are skeptic about Simon Magus story as described by Justin, because you suspect that Simon is a stand-in for Mani. I read this article that argues the opposite: the orthodox Hegemonius projected Simon Magus’ life over Mani to show that he was a “run of the mill” heretic. Therefore is our known biography of Mani a leterary clone of Simon described by Ireneus and Justin and not viceversa. How do you reply to this?

    Very thanks for any reply,

  12. Guiseppe,

    Thanks for the link. But I'm not willing to pay $30 for an electronic book. $7.99 is a fair price for e-book form. - note, unless the author was a fool gave away the rights to publish (which I suspect he did), I will wait for it in kindle form. That would also pay the author about $5 for my purchase, whereas this form he'll be lucky to get $1. Scholars are publishing idiots I'm afraid.

    As for the concept, I think he has the horse before the cart, and does not critically evaluate the passages in Irenaeus and Justin. They reveal a clear late 3rd/early 4th century reading of Simon Magus.

    As for making Mani out to be an ordinary heretic by equating him with Simon ignores the importance that Simon had assumed by the era that Acta Archelai was written. By this time he was built up as the arch heretic, not an ordinary one, but the fount of Satan. Its going to take some serious explaining how equating somebody with the Satan of heretics is downplaying them as ordinary. Just seems counter intuitive to me.

    1. Consider, before the Pseudo Clementines, which were written by an Arian Christian with the Manicheans in sight, there is no mention of Simon coming from Gitta, or declaring himself the Christ figure as Mani did. Yet these elements found in the questionable passages of Irenaeus and Justin. Never mind the additional damning evidence of source and perhaps form criticism, that is enough to push the dates for those passages back into the post-Mani era.

      I suspect that Justin's Dialogue is in fact a 3rd century document and the mention in Irenaeus is an interpolation based on the chronology read from Eusubius. The Dialogue form for a dissertation became popular in the latter half of 3rd century for Christian works, and we find Dialogue Admantius among similar works. To ascribe the Dialogue to the "real" Justin of the 2nd century means it predates any other example of this form of Christian literature by at least a century. It would also be unique among Dialogues in which the author cast himself as a character.

      Food for thought - Stuart

    2. Thanks for the reply. In fact, I suspect that Price & Detering fall into circular reasoning when they assume the identity Paulus Historicus = Simon Magus. Because if the letters contain gnostic motifs then the letters belong to II CE and not to I CE (when Gnosticism was not yet born). But then, if they assume the existence of a proto-Gnostic like Simon in I CE, they are forced to admit even the possibility of proto-gnostic elements in letters of Paul assumed in I CE, contra the thesis of their invention in II CE.

      Another question.

      I know that you are serenely Jesus Agnostic. But if you assume for a moment the hypothesis of Mythicism, would you consider that 'Jesus' was the name given to a Gnostic deity during II CE (Jewish gnosis influenced by Hellenism of Alexandria) and then historicized by proto-orthodox? Or do you think that the first ''Judeo-Christians'' were Messianists Jewish (as thought T. Whittaker) already at work in the first century?

      In this scenario, where do you place the Odes of Solomon?

      I would tend to see them as the first Jewish expression (with Gnostic influences) of original myth of Christ (early II CE) - remember that that text talks about the Son, but doesn't mention Jesus at all - to which then the (completely proto-marcionite) hymn to the Philippians will give the name ''above all names'' of ''Jesus'' to that anonymous Christ (and here I have in mind the idea expressed by Couchoud that Christ received the name only after his resurrection).

      Curious, as usual, to know what you think.

    3. At one time I had a theory that all the Simons in the NT referred to one hero. This hereo then morphed into Peter and also Paul champions of the orthodox and the heretics respectively. Simon shows up carrying the cross, Simon Magus is another personality of this Simon, perhaps in line with Luke 22:31 referring to Simon/Paul being the heretics champion. My idea was the original myth was Simon ("[God] has heard") is the one who hears and bears witness to Christ. This one morphs into a champion of two camps with different titles Peter and Paul. This hero pens letters as Paul and is named Peter in the Gospels as the disciple who knows him best. This is of course utter speculation, and I never developed it enough to rigorously defend.

      This is not a new theory, as Paul = Simon is found even in the middle ages by a scribe commenting in the margins of the text of pseudo Clement. Where I think Price and maybe Detering (I converse with him and he holds this position only precariously, not with deep conviction) take it too far. For Price this is almost unforgivable, as he violates his on principle, that the NT is literature, a great romp like the Harry Potter novels. To them move the character from the novel to equal an actual person for which a movement starts is a cheap short cut.

      And that is my position, as always, that we are reading literature. It is a tale of heroes and Gods that brings the religious beliefs of the cult to its faithful, no different than the literature of every other Roman cult in that era. Are there real people who served as models for the characters? Perhaps. But first we have to sift the literary allusions out first, much as Thomas Thompson does, to see what is left before beginning to ascribe a personality to anything.

      That is not to say there isn't one, and there could have been a Joshua and a Simon and a Jacob and Jonathon, either by those names or known by something else, who were the models of the characters we find in literature.

      There is no question Christianity, even if it started from the heretical perspective, (and this is endlessly debatable, as every layer of Christian text refers to an "own" and an "other" camp/sect already existent in the movement,) has its roots in gentile reading of the LXX. The name Joshua is perhaps not surprising, as Joshua the son (of Nun) was the successor to Moses who gave the Law. He crossed the Jordan, gave the people a second circumcision, and as the servant of Moses, was the one who stayed in his tent when his face was alight. Moses touched him and the spirit entered him. I found it curious he even chose 12 to carry the ark. There is another Joshua son (of jehozadek) who has an interesting interaction with God in Zechariah 3:3-10 that echoes themes in the Gospels.

      Who knows? There is one loon in Italy convinced Jesus Christ is a retelling of Julius Caesar, the nomina sacra being identical for the two in Greek. Its preposterous, I know, but he could be right about the origin of the cross coming from the funerary scene of Caesar, as what we think of as the cross with Christ's bodily image on it doesn't seem to have been known before Constantine. (The rest of his idea is junk, except that he correctly sees the Gospels as plays - in this I agree, it was a common form of cult worship to have a religious play)

      Did I dodge the question artfully enough for you? LOL, cheers

      - Stuart

    4. A little disappointed because of your last answer, but I think this is part of the pleasure of reading you, because the idea that writers of II CE had fun, to fight each other better, to invent more or less fictitious names to their favorite but unaware ''players'' of I CE, seems per se an idea attractive and frustrating together. Thanks,