Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Reconstruction of the Text of Marcion's Gospel and a New Doctor

Congratulations to Dr. Dieter Roth, Edinburgh University, who has just been awarded a PhD!

Thesis Title: “Towards a New Reconstruction of the Text of Marcion’s Gospel: History of Research, Sources, Methodology, and the Testimony of Tertullian”

Examined By: Ulrich Schmid and Paul Parvis

This thesis provides the initial and foundational steps for a new reconstruction of the text of Marcion’s Gospel. Though Harnack’s 1924 magisterial work on Marcion remains valuable and important, shortcomings in his reconstructed text of the Marcionite scriptures, as well as advances in critical methodology, text criticism, and patristic studies have led to the recognition that new reconstructions of Marcion’s scriptures are a scholarly desideratum. With the text of Marcion’s Apostolikon examined and reconstructed in a 1995 work by Ulrich Schmid, this thesis provides the most important elements for a new examination and reconstruction of Marcion’s Euangelion.

Chapter 1 provides an extensive history of research, not only to provide the context and rationale for the present work, but also to provide the first in-depth scholarly survey of work on Marcion’s Gospel in 150 years. In addition, since several flaws in earlier studies arose out of a lack of an accurate understanding of the status quaestionis at various points in the history of research on Marcion’s Gospel, by considering and engaging with previous scholarship such errors can be avoided.

Chapter 2 begins with a consideration of the sources for Marcion’s Gospel and provides a comprehensive listing of verses attested as present in, verses attested as absent from, and unattested verses of this Gospel. The chapter concludes with a methodological discussion, highlighting the particular importance of understanding the citation customs of the witnesses to Marcion’s text and noting the significant citation customs of Tertullian demonstrated by Schmid’s and my own research.

Chapter 3 begins the analysis of the data found in Tertullian, the most extensive and important source for Marcion’s Gospel. This chapter examines all of the verses that Tertullian attests for Marcion’s Gospel that are also cited elsewhere in Tertullian’s corpus and focuses particularly on how these multiply-cited passages provide insight into Tertullian’s testimony to readings in Marcion’s text.

Chapter 4 continues the analysis of Tertullian’s testimony by examining the remaining verses, i.e., those attested for Marcion’s Gospel but not multiply-cited in Tertullian’s corpus.

Chapter 5 provides a reconstruction of the 328 verses in Marcion’s Gospel for which Tertullian is the only witness and offers not only readings for Marcion’s text, but also the relative certainty for those readings.

Chapter 6 summarizes and concludes the thesis, along with brief mention of avenues for future research.

Dieter is planning to continue the work with a complete reconstruction, which means that for the moment public access to the thesis is restricted. If anyone is interested in various issues related to reconstructing Marcion's Gospel a few recently published articles by Dieter address important aspects of working with Marcion's Gospel and the testimony for it:

“Matthean Readings and Tertullian’s Accusations in Adversus Marcionem,” The Journal of Theological Studies 59 (2008): 580–97;
“Marcion’s Gospel and Luke: The History of Research in Current Debate,” The Journal of Biblical Literature 127 (2008): 513–27; and
“Did Tertullian Possess a Greek Copy or Latin Translation of Marcion’s Gospel?,” Vigiliae Christianae 63 (2009): 429–67.

Read also about my first meeting with Dieter in Edinburgh earlier this year, as I was there for the Northern Scholar's Lecture, here. And last week I had the pleasure to meet Dieter again at the SBL, and he joined us for our record breaking ETC blogdinner.

And don't forget to look up Dieter's piece in the SBL Forum "American versus British Ph.D. Programs: Three Doctoral Students Reflect on Their Decisions. Why I Chose To Start in an American Ph.D. Program and Finish in a British One"


  1. Thanks for blogging about this. I enjoyed seeing you at the SBL meeting and joining so many others at the ETC blogdinner in New Orleans.

  2. Congratulations, Dieter!

  3. It was great meeting you at SBL, Dieter. And congratulations on finishing (this phase of) your work.

  4. This sounds like a valuable contribution. Does this dissertation, or any of the articles or forthcoming work, also cover the reconstruction of Marcion's antitheses?

  5. Eric - thanks for your interest in the work. I have focused only on Marcion's Gospel because I think that despite the challenges of attempting to reconstruct the text of Marcion's scriptures, greater insight can be achieved here than what is currently available (a point already demonstrated by Schmid with his work on the Marcion's Pauline letter collection). The challenges of reconstructing the Antitheses are significantly greater than the already considerable difficulties when working with Marcion's Gospel. Apart from the fact that it is not entirely clear what the Antitheses were or what they contained, there are very few clear references to something in them and no real way to determine how accurately a given church father is representing the content of the Antitheses. Even Harnack, who tended towards a maximalist reconstruction of all of Marcion's texts and has 57 pages of discussion and "reconstruction" of the Antitheses in appendix 5 of his work on Marcion, recognized the above point in his admission "Eine Rekonstruktion der Antithesen ist unmoeglich, weil ja nicht einmal die Disposition des Werks deutlich ist" (Marcion, 84). There may be some value in revisiting the Antitheses (and a fellow student at Edinburgh, Sebastian Moll, who also completed his Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh this year with a general work on the life and thought of Marcion has some helpful discussion on the work), I'm not sure how fruitful the endeavor ultimately could be.

  6. Thanks a lot Dieter, and good luck with your extended Marcion study. See you soon I hope!

  7. You can't reconstruct something from biased an make-believe sources. Everyone works from the model that Tertullian is telling the truth and that Epiphanius is not merely parroting him. But Hyppolytus indicates that Marcion's gospel was an interpolated Mark rather than mutilated Luke and he gets ignored. Why? Obviously because this bit of information proves that the text can't be reconstructed with any satisfaction.

  8. « “Marcion’s Gospel and Luke: The History of Research in Current Debate,” The Journal of Biblical Literature 127 (2008): 513–27 » is now a dead link :-(.

    Five years later, some other resources online ? any unrestricted thesis ?…