Monday, March 25, 2013

The Post-Marcionite Creeds (aka “the pre-Pauline creeds”)

No fallacy is more glaring than the 'consensus of most scholars'[1] that pre-Pauline creedal material is present the New Testament. And by being pre-Pauline, which assumes Paul is more than a literary character, and in fact is a contemporary of Jesus, his blinding conversion separated by less than a decade from his mission, these creeds therefore appear to be incorruptible evidence, coming within only months (a few years at most) of the crucifixion, and so demonstrate first beliefs of Christianity, and arguably the surety of its historical roots. This evidence seems to have been enough that Bart Erhman declared Adoptionism was likely the first form of Christianity, a conclusion that derives directly from the very nature of these creeds.

There are so many problems with this position that it’s can be confusing which weak point to attack first.

But we should start with the most basic question, what are creeds and why would they be written? Creeds are statements of doctrine, sometimes called tenets of faith, which are used to distinguish one group from another. And this being the case we need to ask, from whom is the creed trying to separate their group from? To answer this we need to look at the terms of the so called pre-Pauline creeds.

The creeds most often spoken of as pre-Pauline are Romans 1:2-5, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, (2 Timothy 2:8) which deal with the resurrection, and the those that deal with other traditions 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Philippians 2:6-11, Colossians 1:15-20, Romans 16:25-27. We will first look at the resurrection creeds, starting with Romans 1:2-4 which states (I start with the last two words of 1:1 “the Gospel of God” for reference).

εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμa ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν

[the] gospel of God, which he promised before through his prophets in the holy scriptures concerning his son who was descendant from the seed of David according to the flesh, having been designated  the son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by [his] resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord

The main points of the creed are to (1) declare a Gospel of God; (2) declare that Jesus was a human descendent of David; (3) declare that Jesus was designated (appointed) the son of God according to the holiness of his spirit by his resurrection from the dead. We are left to ponder who are the opponents whom this creed wishes to separate on these accounts?

The first answer comes in the verse which follows when the declaration εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν "for the obedience of the faith among all the gentiles;" this same target is echoed in the creedal appendage of Romans 16:25-27 εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη γνωρισθέντος, "for the obedience of the faith having been made known to the gentiles." So it is clear the opposition where there is not universal obedience of the faith, which is heresies, is to be found in the gentile faction, not the torah accepting faithful. This opposing group has a different Gospel, one that does not accept the prophets or the Jewish scriptures, and does not accept Jesus as human and descendent from David, nor obviously by extension can they accept that his sonship was from adoption (τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ).

The theme of obedience to the Gospel of God is found throughout the Catholic Epistles, and elsewhere in the most Catholic books of the New Testament. 1 Peter 4:17 asks, "For the time has come for judgment … what will be the end of those who disobey the Gospel of God" (ὅτι καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα τί τὸ τέλος τῶν ἀπειθούντων τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίῳ)? The opposition to the Gospel of God is placed in an actual locale in the post-Marcionite verse 1 Thessalonians 2:2 "in Philippi we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition" (ἐν Φιλίπποις ἐπαρρησιασάμεθα ἐν τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν λαλῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πολλῷ ἀγῶνι).

The parameters of the creed’s opposition conform to our understanding of the Marcionites, and also of Apellean and many of Gnostic sects. Marcion’s Paul for example never declares a Gospel of God, [2] but rather his Gospel [3] when referred by name is the Gospel of Christ. [4] And that it is Christ’s Gospel Marcion’s Paul refers to is reinforced in 1 Corinthians 1:17 when he states "for Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel" (οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι). Marcion’s Gospel had no title,[5] but the Gospel with the most primitive structure is Mark that starts "the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ)[6] and might well represent the earliest of traditions for what people called the Gospel.

The Marcionites and the Gnostics were known for rejecting the authority of the Catholic bishops, openly disobedient, as the creeds and surrounding material complain. We see that Hebrews 13:7 also mentions this disobedience of leaders. Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses 3.2.2 points out that it is the heretics reject the authority Catholic elders for example.

Further the rejection of the Old Testament (referred to as "holy scriptures" γραφαῖς ἁγίαις) is a fundamental tenet of Marcion and all heretics that held that Christ was not the son of the Jewish. There are traces of this theology for a non-Davidic Christ left inexplicably untouched in the Gospel of John 7:43-44 where Jesus is said to be from Galilee and not Bethlehem, and worse 8:33, 37, 42-44 where the Jews are acknowledged as descendants of Abraham, but their God is not the same as the father of Jesus, as he makes clear, but rather the devil, who is a liar and a murderer from the beginning; theologies that fit the antithesis. Further John 7:33-34 makes it clear that Jesus is not from Bethlehem, as Matthew and Luke claim, but from Galilee. Again in John 8:48 the Jews accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan and have a Demon, which Jesus only denies having a Demon. The same sentiment is present in the Gospel of Luke 8:29-31, which preserves the Marcionite story of Lazarus and the Rich man, where the Jews are said by Abraham the common father that they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. This is the same division the Marcionites saw in their version of Galatians with the two covenants being represented by the two sons of Abraham. In these stories the God of the Jews is being rejected, and by extension his writings.

These second century groups that are well documented all fit the profile of those whom this so-called pre-Marcionite creed in Romans 1:2-4 attempts to differentiate its true Christians from. It is impossible that such a profile of heresy could have existed in the first decade of Christianity, which is when this creed had to have been formulated to be pre-Pauline.

The creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 has been modified from the Marcionite as I documented in my notes on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 blog entry. But it should be noted that the same additions, 'according to the Scriptures' (κατὰ τὰς γραφάς) can be found in this creed, indicating again the differentiation in the Catholic version from those who reject the Old Testament.

Romans 16:25 is dependent upon Romans 1:1-6 in Catholic form and is not stable in placement, appearing after Chapters 14, 15, and 16 depending upon manuscript. The emphasis on obedience to the faith by the gentiles has already been covered, as also the concept of being supported by the Scriptures.

The creed of 11:23-26 I covered in my notes on 1 Corinthians Catholic Additions, as intruding upon the discussion of eating without following proper etiquette (a similar intrusion is found in Romans 14:6-9, where the Catholic theme of God of the living and the Dead is addressed – one of my disagreements with Herman Detering’s reconstruction of Romans). Specifically what should be noted is the textual variant in Luke upon which the creed is dependent, a variant that could not have existed before later half of the second century.

Philippians 2:6-11 is not a single creed, rather it is an earlier Marcionite creed of 2:6-8 (the Catholic editor adding γενόμενος), and a Catholic creedal addition in 2:9-11. When we examine 2:9-11 we see the concept again of Jesus being adopted, like the Roman Emperors who when they adopted an heir to the throne would exalt them with new titles just as we see with 2:9 διὸ καὶ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν, καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα. The point, which is clear in 2:11 that by confessing the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is to the glory of God the father, is that God the father is the one who appoints Jesus. The opponents in mind again would be those who reject the notion that Christ required the father, whether to rise from the dead or be adopted by him. This adoption statement is very much related to other passages, such as Galatians 1:1 (θεοῦ πατρὸς) and 1 Corinthians 6:14 (θεὸς καὶ) where the Catholic editor added God to clarify that Christ was raised by the father and required him for being raised. The concern is again long after the Marcionites, directed at not only their Christology but the emerging Modalist of the late second century.

The first half of the creed, is indeed pre-Pauline, in the sense that it was incorporated by Marcion into his Apostolikon, and it echoes the prologue of John 1:14, where Christ simply became flesh. Colossians 1:15-20 is in the same realm. This is very much at odds with Romans 1:3-4.

So upon examination, the so called pre-Pauline creeds, excepting Philippians 2:6-8, Colossians 1:15-20, and the earlier form of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 11 without mention of the Scriptures, and additions to the three creeds I separated here, are more accurately called Post-Marcionite Creeds, which are designed to separate the “true” Christians from these very heretics.

[1] To pick one contemporary example of a prominent apologist, Dr. Gary Habermas, who particularly likes to such phrases (e.g., “increasing number of exceptionally influential scholars” … hum, one does want to quote Galatians 2:6 ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι, - ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει in response) to avoid examining specific problems that Marcionite studies bring up. Preferring instead to cite “influential critics” as here – Do critical scholars agree on the date of this pre-Pauline creed?  Even radical scholars like Gerd Lüdemann think that “the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion . . . no later than three years after the death of Jesus.”  Similarly, Michael Goulder contends that Paul’s testimony about the resurrection appearances “goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.”
An increasing number of exceptionally influential scholars have very recently concluded that at least the teaching of the resurrection, and perhaps even the specific formulation of the pre-Pauline creedal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, dates to AD 30!  In other words, there never was a time when the message of Jesus’ resurrection was not an integral part of the earliest apostolic proclamation.  No less a scholar than James D. G. Dunn even states regarding this crucial text: “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’ death.” — Gary Habermas, “Tracing Jesus’ Resurrection to Its Earliest Eyewitness Accounts,” God is Great, God is Good (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 212.
[2] References
[3] Romans 2:16, 16:25, and reputedly Galatians 1:7 contain the phrase κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγλιον μου
[4] References to the Gospel of Christ in Marcion’s Apostolikon include 1 Corinthians 9:12, 2 Corinthians 2:12, (4:14), 10:14, Galatians 1:7, Philippians 1:27. Ironic echoes of this form by the post-Marcion editors can be found in Romans 15:19 right after calling it the Gospel of God in 15:16, 2 Corinthians 9:13 where obedience to God is part of the formula, and in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 (I have not scrutinized the Thessalonians epistles in depth yet, so I place this verse in an indeterminate list).
[5] Tertullian Adversus Marcionem 4.2.3, Contra Marcion evangelio, scilicet suo, nullum adscribit auctorem, quasi non licuerit illi titulum quoque affingere
[6] We should also note that Mark 1:1 begins Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ which may represent the most primitive title. It should be noted scribes found it necessary  to add υἱοῦ θεοῦ in this verse to give God the status as his Gospel – compare Acts 20:24


  1. Hi,
    I would like to read the text with this information (the Marcionite story of Lazarus), could you help me please?
    "The same sentiment is present in the Gospel of Luke 8:29-31, which preserves the Marcionite story of Lazarus and the Rich man, where the Jews are said by Abraham the common father that they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them."
    I'm John, interested in textual criticism.

    1. John,

      The Marcionite story of Lazarus is alluded to by Tertullian in AM 4.34.10-12. It is not complete quotation, but he covers the main elements of the story. You can find links to both the Latin and English texts on (a great website for source).

      The other source is Dialogue Adamantius 2.10-11 the passage is quote in full by the Catholic Adamantius. There are a few variants in there, but when Adamantius speaks in DA he is often using the Catholic text. The author of DA seems to be working from earlier anti-Marcionite works, and the quotes from Megathius and Markus are fairly reliable representations of the Marcionite text - although the variants the represent are often those in the antithesis and not the Gospel or Paulm as the antithesis paraphrased much like Tertullian. My assessment is that the variants are typical of manuscripts of the late 3rd century when DA was written (between 390 and 400 CE), and may not represent anything other than local variants, but they are 3rd century variants, so are pretty early. The internal analysis of the content clearly is of Marcionite theology and there is no reason to believe it was not present per Tertullian or the lack of objection from the Marcionite opponent of Adamantius. Luke's version appears to be identical - there are no favorite words of Luke which are not attested in Marcion - and there is in content nothing a Marcionite would object to, nor did they.

      For DA Robert Pretty translated it into English and I highly recommend you purchase a copy of that work. The Latin (Rufinus) and Greek text may be found in Bakhuyzen's original, which can be read online here The specific page starts here

      - Stuart

    2. Correction, DA was written between 290 and 300 CE per Bakhuysen's excellent analysis. This blogger doesn't let me correct typos in comments.

    3. Thank you! In other book (I don't remember which) Tertullian quot Lazarus as "Eleazar". Could be this a witness that this story was a "christianized" Jewish version, attached to the Gospel of Luke?

    4. No positively not. Read the Latin.

      Tertullian just mentions elements to try and make his argument against Marcion using the text of Marcion (he cheats from time to time using the Catholic). He doesn't quote every verse, just what he needs. Below is what I mean in snippets

      The remarks I have advanced on this case will be also of use to me in illustrating the subsequent parable of the rich man tormented in hell, and the poor man resting in Abraham's bosom. (Hoc mihi disseruisse proficiet etiam ad subsequens argumentum divitis apud inferos dolentis et pauperis in sinu Abrahae requiescentis)

      "They have there Moses and the prophets, let them hear them."
      Habent illic Moysen et prophetas, illos audiant.

      [11] Marcion, however, violently turns the passage to another end, and decides that both the torment and the comfort are retributions of the Creator reserved in the next life for those who have obeyed the law and the prophets; whilst he defines the heavenly bosom and harbor to belong to Christ and his own god.
      [11] Sed Marcion aliorsum cogit, scilicet ut utramque mercedem creatoris sive tormenti sive refrigerii apud inferos determinet eis positam qui legi et prophetis obedierint, Christi vero et dei sui caelestem definiat sinum et portum.

  2. Post Script:
    It is right that Marcion is the first witness of this story and is no other Christian writer before him, who quote this story?

    1. Yes this appears to be the case. It is not part of the common ür-Gospel.

      It is curious that Matthew, who knew Marcion's Gospel does not quote it. It is one of the bits, along with the quote of Luke 23:2, which is leading me to think that Marcion's Gospel was expanded after the Bar Kokhba revolt and that Matthew had only an earlier version to work with.

      The Lazarus story is about the whether to believe in the Old Testament (Moses and the Prophets) or the new revelation. It is part of the Marcionite (and other heretics) view that the Jewish God did not possess the true heaven, so following his rules winds one up where they may not expect. It is also consistent with both the Gospel of John, and Galatians 4:22-26, 31 (Marcionite form) in which Abraham is the common father, but one branch is destined for freedom, the other for Judaism and slavery.

      I am not aware of any group before the Marcionites would have had this perspective.

    2. Stuart,
      My opinion is that this story was not told by Lord Jesus and I am not alone in this view. I read about this around 2000, so I am not the originator of this view. Interesting (!) that our view was deleted later from the Wikipedia article "The Rich man and Lazarus". For why? I am not sure, perhaps because somebody ordered this.

  3. In your opinion was Paul for all practical purposes Marcion? I am sure I have read that somewhere? The Paul story is allegory for Marcion, with Jerusalem actually being Rome.

    But what about Ignatius of Antioch?

    And without HJ, who were these people in 100 AD?

    Sorry for so many questions, I have been pursuing the answer to the above question since I was 15 (now 57) and it seems like I am close to actually having something that actually make sense of most of the information. That is very exiting (to me)!

  4. A point on the Ignatian epistles. These were unknown before the 4th century. The evidence was that they were inauthentic until Bauer simply declared them authentic, and apologetic traditionalists simply jumped on Bauer's declaration, and so they are placed 200-300 years before they were attested. I am skeptical of early dating of the Ignatian epistles, despite the short form knowing only what appears to be a Marcionite like text, that would be consistent with a late 2nd century appearance. Roger Parvus' book (A New Look at the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch and other Apellean Writings) on the subject examines them as Apellean in origin and from that era. But he plays with the text too much for my liking, weakening his case; but the theology does appear to be similar. The epistles are a fictional romantic correspondence, and seem to have had some favor in the east. I think no date before 175 CE is possible, and a date after 250 CE is more probable, post Galarian persecutions.

    So I do not believe that Ignatius is real. He is a legendary figure, whose actual personality was unknown to the writer. And frankly it didn't matter. The purpose was to glorify martyrdom and project heroic behavior deep in the past as a comfort to the present.

    I like the term Pauline school, and I would apply two layers of that, Marcionite school and Lukan school. The Asiatic writing style in a few of the epistles, and the pastiche usage even in the Marcionite form belies multiple hands in the Marcionite collection itself. It is impossible that Marcion wrote the letter all on his own. I do think he was an editor, much like "Luke" (a fill in name) was the editor who added a Catholic layer. He worked with some material already present and added his own layer, the titles, addresses, greeting, and closing forms. Galatians is the most likely of the letters to have actually been written by Marcion, and that would have been after the Gospel of Matthew started circulating, which I calculate around 150 CE - I am convinced the "other" Gospel referred to is Matthew in an earlier form.

    Yes, I do think Rome is "Jerusalem" in Galatians. Jerusalem was destroyed before Christianity formed. About 130 CE Hadrian began construction of a new Polis named after himself, just north of the old Jerusalem. There would have been no reason to visit there.

    As for HJ, it is a controversy beyond the scope of what I am doing. I am looking at the literature, and from my perspective there appears to be nothing that can be considered written before the reign of Hadrian (well excepting an early layer of Revelation - a book completed in the reign of Severus). So I have no formed opinion on the matter (I do have opinion, but it's not solid).