Reviews of

Markus Vinzent, “The Resurrection of Christ in Second Century, Early Christianity”

In Cambridge, Marcion, Markus VINZENT, New Testament, Nicki Wilkes, Q, Second century, SEMINAR REPORTS on January 2, 2011 at 8:04 am

This is a report on a paper presented by Professor Markus Vinzent, Professor of the History of Theology at King’s College London, at the Patristics Seminar at the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Cambridge, 29th of November 2010.

The programme of the Patristics Seminar in Cambridge will be published here.

Is Marcion ‘Q’ ?

In a recent fascinating and astoundingly controversial patristics seminar held at the University of Cambridge, Professor Markus Vinzent offered a précis of his soon to be published book: Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity. The focus of his presentation was the lack of attestation to the resurrection of Christ in early Christian literature between the time of Paul and Marcion.He posited that whilst Christ’s resurrection was a strong belief in Paul, it was of little interest to other early Christians; hence, once interest in Paul’s theology waned, so also did interest in the resurrection.

On his view, after Paul’s death there was a long period in which he was not in vogue and thus the resurrection was largely forgotten apart from notions of a general resurrection of the body but with the writings of Marcion, and the subsequent reaction to these, Christ’s resurrection slowly became a more formalised doctrine. He also states that had Marcion not put Paul’s letter together with a gospel, the resurrection of Christ would not have made it into the creed. In the midst of making this point, Vinzent made some other even more astonishing claims for those in the biblical studies world:

First, he believes that the first gospel to be produced in written form was from the hand of Marcion since there is no mention of the gospels before him.

Second: that the synoptics were written as a reaction to his gospel by rival theological schools at around the same time in Rome in the second century. On his view, if this is correct then the synoptic problem dissolves.

Third: that the other gospel writers embellished their gospels with Judaisms as prior to Irenaeus (Mileto etc) no one claimed that Marcion had shortened the gospel.

Fourth: when asked if he then thought that Marcion was in effect ‘Q’, Professor Vinzent affirmed that he believes this to be the case.

His book will be published in 2012, I, for one, am looking forward to its reception and the reaction produced; it promises to be exciting.

Nicki Wilkes
PhD Student, University of Cambridge.

  1. […] Markus Vinzent, “The Resurrection of Christ in Second Century … […]

  2. Dear Nicki,
    Thanks so much for your kind review of the paper I gave a few weeks back in Cambridge, the book is indeed scheduled to come out in 2011 (with Ashgate). You have given a precise summary of the paper (just note it should read Melito), and in addition to the summary of the thesis that you give, let me just mention, that Marcion could take the place that was previously given to Q, yes, but Marcion provides, of course, not just a sayings source, but a Gospel that includes narratives. Moreover, he seems not only to have cooined the terms ‘Gospel’, as suggested by H. Koester, and ‘New Testament’, suggested by W. Kinzig, but has oriented Christianity towards a literature based new religion. In addition, I suggest that we have to revise our understanding of 2nd century school relations. Instead of reckoning with antagonistic schools, divided along the divides between orthodoxy and heresy, it seems that the various school teachers were more closely related than later apologetic literature wants to have it. Rather like in the second sophistic, teachers were prone to learning from each other, and also being inventive and creative, attracting readers and pupils. I don’t think that academia has fundamentally changed.

    Yours Markus

    • Dear Markus,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to respond and for the clarification. I am wondering whether there are any other reasons for your suspecting that the 2nd Century schools worked in a more harmonious way than has previously been thought. Are you basing this on your theory re: Marcion and the gospels or do other sources yield the same suggestion? Further, concerning the ‘judaisms’ present in the gospels, does your research lead you to believe these were simply added as a reaction to Marcion or do you think that like the gospel material (sayings and narratives) they are based on the oral teaching present in the churches at that time? And finally, how would you account for the seemingly close knowledge displayed in the gospels of places and customs?

      Yours Nicki

  3. Come on Markus, that’s quite a nonsense. Marcion of course knew the written Gospels. He wrote about that in his Antitheses. He even mentions Mt, Lk and Jo by name. Or do you think all this is a forgery by Tertullian? Very unlikely.
    Regarding Q: There are some “Judaisms” in Q, that Marcion definitely expelled from his Gospel. Just as an example the sign of Jona, Lk 11:29-32. Again very improbable.

  4. Dear Wieland,
    Thanks for your comment. What sounds like nonsense, does not seem to be just nonsense. Don’t forget, Tertullian writes a few decades after Marcion in a time when the four Gospels have become known and acknowledged by many authors, but with Marcion we are not yet at that stage. Just take Justin, he like Marcion does not yet refer to what Tertullian refers to. So, I think, Tertullian’s claim that Marcion had chosen out of the four Gospels, something that even Harnack accepted, is anachronistic. Why do you think it is unlikely that the rhetorician develops this kind of strategy?
    Regarding Q I am not claiming that Marcion wrote Q, but that he can take a position similar to that which has been credited to Q. As soon as one takes Marcion’s (pre-)Luke as a start for the Synoptical problem, a lot changes.
    Yours Markus

  5. Tertullian is quoting many, many passages from Marcion’s Antitheses. Do you think he made them up?
    Other writers like Epiphanius quote Marcion, too.
    Marcion is a very important figure, that is no question, but that he was the first to write a Gospel is supported by no facts, to the contrary Marcion himself says that he had to find the “real” one amongst the falsified ones.
    Another counter argument: Papias, writing around 100 CE is already noting the four Gospels. Marcion created his Gospel around 140 CE. Do you think Eusebius made these Papias quotes up?

  6. Dear Wieland,
    Tertullian does not quote many passages from the Antitheses, but engages primarily with Marcion’s version of Paul’s letters and the one Gospel. You will read in my detailed argument the nuanced views on how
    Tertullian represents Marcion and what we can take from him, especially in the light of other second century writers and what they report about Msrcion, but also how they deal with the literary genre of a gospel. I know about the novelty of my thesis and have therefore not only long and carefully reviewed all the evidence, but also previous ways of interpreting those. And I still think, there are many things colleagues have overlooked in the past which may end up in a pretty new picture of the second century, the one I am going to suggest in the monograph.
    With regards Papias, he only mentioons Mark and Matthew, not the four gospels (could be due, of course, to the fragmentary status of thhe remains of his work, but why would Eusebius not quote Papias on Luke and John, if he read remarks about them? Why no reference to Paul – my suggestion is that Papias does not engage with those texts that are the references for Marcion, neither with a few others.)

    Yours Markus

  7. This theory seems rather perverse. It does, after all, contradict every scrap of primary evidence that we have about Marcion. It also forces us to consider that our best detailed source on Marcion — Tertullian — is rubbish. If so, then just what do we objectively know about Marcion? Nothing much, I suggest. At that point, which piece of evidence requires the theory proposed? None, as far as I can tell.

    This whole process all seems very stale to me. We’ve all seen this kind of “logic” so very many times before, and it’s called revisionism. It always works in the same way — it invents a theory which is the reverse of what everyone has always thought, and then selectively debunks the data in order to create “evidence” for it. It’s tedious, to give it no worse name.

    Let’s have our statements about the past based on the historical record, hmm, and not on attempts to turn that record upside down.

  8. […] An email draws attention to some remarks, supposedly by Markus Vinzent, here. […]

  9. Professor Vinzent,

    It gives me a warm feeling all over to hear someone embracing what is obvious from the evidence. There are so many ways to reach the same conclusion as you have. It actually makes the task all the more impossible to assemble the evidence and marshal it into a readable argument.

    With regards to Tertullian Book 4 and 5. Notice how many times Tertullian says Marcion took things out of his gospel which don’t ever appear in Luke. Notice also that the order of Marcionite letters which appear in Book 5 (and are always assumed to be the order of Marcion’s NT by lazy scholars) actually mirror the canon of Ephrem i.e. an Apostolikon starting with Galatians). Put the two observations together (and the introduction of Against Marcion 1.1 which speaks of multiple reworkings of the original material AND Tertullian’s recycling of someone else’s Against the Jews into Against Marcion Book III) and you have the only reasonable explanation for Book 4 and 5 is Tertullian translating an original Syriac text perhaps written by Rhodo or someone else in the second century who used a Diatessaron plus Ephrem’s inherited Apostolikon.

    von Harnack notes so many times that this or that passage from Matthew or Mark is referenced in the Marcionite gospel do we really have to continue with this fable that Marcion ‘curtailed’ or ‘cut’ the Gospel of Luke.

    I have posted R Casey’s ignored paper on the evidence for a Marcionite Armenian Diatessaron at my blog:

    In any event, thank God for people who can see the big picture and know how to read the Church Father’s with a critical eye.

    I know you are going to do us proud, Professor Vinzent.

    Best of Luck

  10. Dear Roger,

    thanks for both your comments on this blog here as well as on your own. Let me take them together (that is why I copied your comments from your own blog into this one), and, for clarity and comprehensiveness, let me please answer in between your text (marked by >):

    This theory seems rather perverse.
    >I know of the novelty of my hypothesis, but ‘perverse’ is a strong word, but maybe you are right, as it ‘turns on its head’ our previous understanding of Marcion. But be assured, it is the same old patristic scholar who has diligently (as much as I can) worked in other fields and is not interested at all in any kind of novelty for novelty’s sake, or ideologically inclined towards any form of revisionism. What I propose (and you have only here the very condensed form of an abstract of an abstract, but I am happy to forward you the pdf of the final text which is with the publisher now), has grown out of almost 20 years research on the Resurrection of Christ in Early Christianity.

    It does, after all, contradict every scrap of primary evidence that we have about Marcion.
    >It does, indeed, contradict most of how we read our primary evidence so far, but I think, it does not contradict the primary evidence itself – let me give you a few examples below.

    It also forces us to consider that our best detailed source on Marcion — Tertullian — is rubbish.
    >I know, how well you know Tertullian, and I would be mad if I thought for one moment that Tertullian were rubbish. He is highly intelligent, certainly our best rhetorician in the first three centuries, and because of that – I had already suggested in earlier papers that we have to read him as a rhetorician and apologetic author (which not always is being done).

    If so, then just what do we objectively know about Marcion? Nothing much, I suggest.
    >If we read Tertullian carefully, I think, a lot of knowledge about Marcion can be gained, and I think, slightly more than has previously be seen (especially since a lot of what is being written about Marcion is either taken from Harnack or – as more recent studies show – is read against Harnack, while I think, one has to start by reading the sources, instead.

    At that point, which piece of evidence requires the theory proposed? None, as far as I can tell.
    >That needs to be seen. You will find a very detailed, and hopefully nuanced discussion in the monograph. At least all those colleagues who have read the manuscript so far could not fail the arguments, even if they said that they go against their inner feelings – but these are shaped by our traditional views.

    This whole process all seems very stale to me. We’ve all seen this kind of “logic” so very many times before, and it’s called revisionism. It always works in the same way — it invents a theory which is the reverse of what everyone has always thought, and then selectively debunks the data in order to create “evidence” for it. It’s tedious, to give it no worse name.
    >hopefully not – and let me assure you, instead of having had a theory from which I worked, it was the other way around. The beginning, those many years back, I only wanted to write a conference paper on early Christian narratives of Christ’s Resurrection – and there are a few, though not many, less than I first thought. More important, I discovered that almost nobody had written about Christ’s Resurrection in Patristics. The French scholar Adalbert Hamman, certainly not a revisionist, published two articles on this topic in 1975 and drew attention to the incongruence between New Testament and early Christian studies: ‘While there is an abundant exegetical literature on the question of the Resurrection, early Christian studies are practically inexistent’ or, in short, show a ‘virgin territory’. And although, three years ago, N.T. Wright published his over 700 page monograph on the Resurrection, it is still predominantly a NT-monograph, not a thorough study of Patristics. So, how can we explain this discrepancy? That was the beginning of my journey, not a theory, nor a blow by aliens, but the discovery of an unanswered question which I wanted to answer. I then looked into Aloys Grillmeier and his magisterial work on ‘Jesus Christ in Christian Belief’, a multi-volume encyclopaedia on how early Christians of the first five centuries reflected about Jesus Christ (2nd ed. 1979). Grillmeier discusses the relation between the historical Jesus and the Lord alive in his Church, in prayers, liturgy, creeds and controversies. The index to the first volume, covering the period up to the year 451 AD, notes only five references to the Resurrection: The Gospel of Peter (2nd c.), Eusebius of Caesarea (4th c.), and three texts of the fifth century. Amongst the many Latin terms in the index, resurrectio is missing, and the Greek word ἀνάστασις (‘Resurrection’) refers only to the apostle Paul and to the fourth century Alexandrian presbyter (and ‘heresiarch’) Arius. Or, take another, more recent example, ‘The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies’ (2008): on 1020 pages with chapters on ‘Interpretation of Scripture’, ‘Doctrine of God’, ‘Christ and Christologies’, ‘Doctrine of Creation’, ‘Early Christian Ethics’ and other topics by most eminent scholars, there is not a single reference to Christ’s Resurrection. I hope you get a feeling for the reality of a problem that needs explanation, and see that I was not driven by revisionist energies.

    Let’s have our statements about the past based on the historical record, hmm, and not on attempts to turn that record upside down.

    Considering that Tertullian has Marcion’s works before him, and works about Marcion before him, and lives within half a century of the time when the heretic got the bum’s rush from the Roman church, this is all rather cute. It can only be advanced by ignoring the data in the historical record — selectively, of course — in order to fabricate a fairy-story.
    >Let us move from a Tertullianist form of rhetoric to a close reading of sources. That Marcion ‘got the bum’s rush from the Roman church’ is more than an oversimplification of what Tertullian reports:
    ‘For it is agreed that they [Marcion and Valentinus] lived not
    so very long ago in the reign of Antoninus for the most part, and that at first they were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church in Rome during the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus,
    until, on account of their ever restless speculation whereby they corrupted the brethren also, they were expelled more than once. Marcion, indeed, with the two hundred sesterces that he had brought
    into the Church and when at last banished into perpetual separation from the faithful, they spread abroad the poisonous seeds of their peculiar doctrines. Afterwards, when Marcion had professed penitence and agreed to the condition imposed upon him, namely, that if he could bring back to the Church the residue whom he had instructed to their perdition, he should be received into communion, he was prevented by death.’ (Tert., De praescr. 30)
    According to this text by Tertullian, there was, as S. Moll (The Arch-Heretic Marcion, 2010, 45) comments ‘much vacillation or wavering back and forth as to Marcion’s status of membership of the church’, although Tertullian states that Marcion at first was faithful to the doctrine of the Catholic Church in Rome, and at the end of his life ‘should be received into communion’ which was only prevented by his death. Moll is also reluctant to state that Marcion was expelled by the community of Rome, and I agree, as the above text is the earliest information we have about it (nothing of this is mentioned in Tertullian’s Against Marcion). While Tertullian lived and wrote at a time when communities were more and more directed by a monarchian bishop, developed mechanisms of exclusion, based on a differentiation between orthodox and heretics (although Tertullian himself is a good example that it was not, yet, clear what orthodoxy or catholicity meant, and that one could rather leave one community and join another and think that one lived on the orthodox side), a few decades earlier when Marcion lived, Justin and even after him Irenaeus had great difficulties to single out the wolves from the sheep. That none of the authors prior to Tertullian mention that Marcion had been expelled must make us even more cautious not to overinterpret Tertullian. As late as the sixth century, we know from the Chronicle of Edessa that Marcion was not expelled, but that he simply had left the catholic church. Similarly, authors after Tertullian convey information about Marcion’s life which differs substantially from Tertullian and from each other so that it is hardly possible to create from this evidence a coherent picture of Marcion’s life (see more in S. Moll, ‘Three against Tertullian’, JTS 59, 2008, 169-80). Or shall we believe with Ps.-Tertullian and Epiphanius that Marcion abused a virgin and was already expelled by his own father, a bishop?

    But Dr Vinzent is someone I have met (a rare event). That Dr Vinzent is a very capable patristic scholar, doing much excellent work, including getting Cyril of Alexandria, Contra Julianum, into a critical edition and modern languages. It’s hard to imagine such a man peddling such stale old revisionism. After all, we’ve all seen this kind of trick before, haven’t we?
    >thanks for the flowers, and sorry that I caused you pains. I hope to be able to show that what I am suggesting is far from being old, stale and revisionistic, but on the contrary a close reading especially of Tertullian.
    To give you one example, an important one – the question of circumcision of the Scriptures:
    None of the first authors who engage with Marcion mention him having shortened or circumcised the Scriptures. On the contrary – they only let us know that he put forward awkward interpretations. In contrast, however, we are told by Tertullian that Marcion accused people who upheld the Jewish belief of having combined the Torah, the Prophets with the Gospel which presupposes that these others have produced such a combined, enlarged edition compared to the stand-alone Gospel that Marcion used:
    ‘If that Gospel which among us is ascribed to Luke … is the same that Marcion by his Antitheses accuses of having been falsified by the upholders of Judaism with a view to its being so combined in one body with the Law and the Prophets that they might also pretend that Christ had that origin'(Tert., Adv. Marc. IV 5).
    Already Irenaeus must have known Marcion’s criticism of his fellows, as he rhetorically retorts to Marcion that not Irenaeus and those who use a combined version of Tora, Prophets and Gospel(s) are judaizing, but, on the contrary, that Marcion is circumcising the Scriptures, a particularly fine rhetorical answer, as he accuses Marcion to be nothing else than a Judaizer himself who does what he rejects (Iren., Adv. haer. III 11,7). In one sense, Irenaeus is certainly correct, as Marcion had picked up a number of features from his Rabbinic colleagues, for example the Ketubim (Scriptures, not Torah or Prophets alone) orientation and the belief in the resurrection (of course, not of the body in Marcion). Tertullian follows Irenaeus and advances the same criticism against Marcion. I cannot see, how else one should read Tertullian’s admission of Marcion’s argument, even if, then, Tertullian tries to counter-argue that Marcion’s argument presupposes that not Marcion produced the first edition, but that the ones he accuses must have produced a product prior to Marcion’s accusation. What Tertullian, of course, omits is that publications even in the second century were a multi-staged process. The first stage was often a publication of memoranda or memorabilia (apomnemoneumata) for the classrooms (this is what Justin, for example, talks about when he speaks of the so-called Gospels). As I explain in the monograph in more detail – and as I will explain in another forthcoming monograph in even more detail – the discourse between the various teachers in Rome (also their competition and disagreements) was intimate, intense and by far not as antagonistic as writers like Irenaeus and Tertullian later try to make us believe. Recent scholarship has shown to what extent Irenaeus, for example, builds on Valentinian theology, and similar adaptations and adoptations are shown in my book of other teachers in the second century.

    It’s always done in the same tired old way. You take whatever the historical record says, imagine the opposite, then find excuses to selectively ignore the record until you create a vacuum on the subject you want to fake, and then proclaim that the vacuum proves that Jesus was an astronaut (or whatever). Of course it isn’t very honest, but the faker often hides this from himself by various excuses. It also tends to bring the humanities into disrepute.
    >again, strong language. Having gone through all the first, second and third century evidence, and concentrated on the first two centuries, I hope that I have not overlooked anything and present everything of relevance. I asked and ask colleagues to point out where I missed something – already the reviewers have highlighted a few omissions which, on reflection, however turned out to have strengthened the argument of the book.

    Can anyone even find this trick interesting these days? Haven’t we seen it so many times before?
    >Writing a book is a means of transparency, presenting arguments and being ready for criticism. Where there are counter-arguments, I will engage with them.

    So I have a theory. Clearly Markus Vinzent has been abducted by aliens, and replaced with a clone.
    >Not every theory is correct. Whether mine is, the discussion will show. Whether or not I have been abducted by aliens and replaced with a clone, only the ones who know me and have met me will be able to judge. Know yourself – as we know – is the biggest challenge in life.

    The pseudo-Markus is vainly attempting to establish his place as a scholar, but has not realised that revisionism is now old hat.
    >This, at least, is an argument which needs little disproval. I have got my third chair in the course of my life, do not aim for another one, nor for any other position, accolades or similar things, and simply follow the scholarly interests in the best ways to find out how best to make sense of the evidence we have.

    And obviously we must now all campaign to have the real Markus Vinzent back.
    >Dear Roger, your detailed blog entry is part of the compaign, as it allows me to respond and engage with your concerns.

    Some may protest that there is no actual evidence of abduction, and this is true. But then, it’s more evidence than there is for a first century Marcion!
    >First century Marcion? We know, he is called the old man amongst the teachers in Rome, but I would not go too far back, rather move the dating of other texts.

    Best yours Markus

  11. Tertullian is above all a character assassinator. If we read his statements as if they were some inspired history rather than a very mean spirited bigot straining at straws for lack of evidence then we would be pretty silly. Tertullian aims to show that canonical Luke preceded Marcion’s unnamed gospel. Yet what evidence does he provide? None. He asserts simply it was earlier and therefore Marcion mutilated it. Case closed. Believe me because I am the omnipotent Tertullian. Oh, and by the way, I can twist the Old Testament really hard to convince people who don’t know how to read in context that every passage is a prophecy about Jesus. Anyone who is too blind to read between the lines and see what the Marcionites were claiming (in Tertullian’s weak attempts at rebuttal) and how their claims make so much more sense….well, that person doesn’t even deserve a high school deploma.

  12. […] I en kommande bok av teologie professor Markus Vinzent, Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity, avser han att presentera en ny förklaring där Markions evangelium är Q. Detta skriver Nicki Wilkes, doktorand vid University of Cambridge, i en recension av en sammanfattning av Markus Vinzents tes som denne lade fram vid Patristics Seminar vid the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Cambridge, den 29 november 2010: Markus Vinzent, “The Resurrection of Christ in Second Century, Early Christianity”. […]

  13. Markus Vinzent’s hypotheses do not work. Check out my recent engagement with him at

  14. Dear all,

    thank you for your comments. Markus, thanks for answering them.
    I look forward to the published volume, which will most likely generate further discussions.


  15. Just got the revisions back from the publisher’s editor, hence the book will appear in a few weeks, summer 2011. More news now on my own blog at
    Yours Markus

  16. Thanks for the news, Markus!


  17. […] Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity and the Making of the New Testament. Markus Vinzent has sometimes commented here, and approaches the question from the perspective of Patristic studies. I would like to make more time to have a closer look at quite different perspective. […]

  18. […] Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity and the Making of the New Testament. Markus Vinzent has sometimes commented here, and approaches the question from the perspective of Patristic studies. I would like to make more time to have a closer look at quite different perspective. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: