Priority of the Gospel of Marcion

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The Marcion hypothesis proposed by Klinghardt (Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien,[a] ch. IV, p. 193).

The priority of the Gospel of Marcion or Marcionite priority (or priority of the Marcionite Gospel) is a possible solution to the synoptic problem. This hypothesis claims that the first produced or compiled gospel was that of Marcion and that this gospel of Marcion was used as inspiration for some, or all, of the canonical gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A contemporary proponent of this hypothesis is Matthias Klinghardt.


Marcion of Sinope (c. 85 – c. 160) is the founder of a Christian movement called Marcionism. Marcion is regarded by numerous scholars as having produced the first New Testament canon. He also wrote a gospel, or adopted a preexisting one, called the Evangelion, now commonly called the Gospel of Marcion.[1][2][3][4][5]

Church Fathers say Marcion wrote the gospel of Marcion himself, and that the gospel of Marcion is a revision of the gospel of Luke with some passages expurged from it to fit Marcion's theology; this hypothesis on the relationship between the gospels of Marcion and of Luke is called the patristic hypothesis. However, this is not the only hypothesis. Some argue that the gospel of Marcion precedes the gospel of Luke and that the gospel of Luke is a revision of the Gospel of Marcion (Schwegler hypothesis). Others argue that the gospel of Marcion and the gospel of Luke are two independent versions of a common source, and that the gospel of Marcion is an unaltered version of this source or is more faithful to this source than the gospel of Luke is (Semler hypothesis).[3] Others go further and consider that the Gospel of Marcion was the very first gospel ever produced, preceding all others including the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John[4][5] (Marcion hypothesis).

"[T]here has been a long line of scholars" who, against what the Church Fathers said, claimed "that our canonical Luke forms an enlarged version of a 'Proto-Luke' which was also used by Marcion. This dispute [...] was especially vivid in nineteenth century German scholarship". In 1942, John Knox published his Marcion and the New Testament, defending that the gospel of Marcion had the chronological priority over Luke. After this publication, no defense of this theory was made again until two 2006 articles: one of Joseph Tyson, and one of Matthias Klinghardt. "Knox and Tyson believe that Marcion used and falsified 'Proto-Luke'", while Klinghardt, who at that time did not defend that the gospel of Marcion was the very first gospel ever produced, "assert[ed] that Marcion used Proto-Luke as he found it, that is, Marcion's Gospel and 'Proto-Luke' are identical."[6]

Gospel of Marcion as the first of all gospels[edit]

In his 2013 book, The First New Testament: Marcion's Scriptural Canon, Jason BeDuhn considers that the gospel of Marcion was not produced or adapted by Marcion, but instead that the Gospel of Marcion was a preexisting gospel adopted by Marcion and his movement.[7] He believes that: "On the whole, the differences between Luke and the Evangelion [i.e. the Gospel of Marcion] resist explanation on ideological grounds, and point instead toward Semler's original suggestion 250 years ago: the two gospels could be alternative versions adapted for primarily Jewish and primarily Gentile readers, respectively. In other words, the differences served practical, mission-related purposes rather than ideological, sectarian ones. Under such a scenario, the Evangelion would be transmitted within exactly the wing of emerging Christianity in which we can best situate Marcion’s own religious background." Semler's hypothesis being that "the Evangelion and Luke are both pre-Marcionite versions going back to a common original."[8]

In his 2014 book Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels, Markus Vinzent considers that the gospel of Marcion precedes the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). He believes that the Gospel of Marcion influenced the four gospels. Vinzent differs with both BeDuhn and Klinghardt in that he believes the Gospel of Marcion was written directly by Marcion: Marcion's gospel was first written as a draft "probably for his class-room (without Antitheses and perhaps without Paul's letters). This text provided the basis for Matthew and John and Mark and Luke." Marcion's draft was not meant for publication, and was plagiarized by the four canonical gospels; this plagiarism angered Marcion who saw the purpose of his text distorted and made him publish his gospel, along with the Antitheses as a preface and 10 letters of Paul.[9][10][11]

Matthias Klinghardt's 2015 Marcion hypothesis, an absolute Marcionian priority, applied to the synoptic gospels (Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien,[a] ch. IV, p. 191).

In his 2015 book, Matthias Klinghardt changed his mind comparing to his 2008 opinion. In a 2008 article he said that Marcion's gospel was based on the Gospel of Mark, that the Gospel of Matthew was an expansion of the Gospel of Mark with reference to the Gospel of Marcion, and that the Gospel of Luke was an expansion of the Gospel of Marcion with reference to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.[12]: 21–22, 26  In his 2015 book, Klingardht shares the same opinion as BeDuhn and Vinzent on the priority and influence of the Gospel of Marcion, as well as on its adoption by Marcion.[13][9] He considers that the Gospel of Marcion preceded and influenced the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).[13] Klinghardt and BeDuhn reaffirmed their opinions in two 2017 articles.[14]

The Marcion priority also implies a model of the late dating of the New Testament Gospels to the 2nd century – a thesis that goes back to David Trobisch, who, in 1996 in his habilitation thesis accepted in Heidelberg,[15] presented the conception or thesis of an early, uniform final editing of the New Testament canon in the 2nd century.[16]


Christopher Hays contends that Klinghart's 2006 case makes a number of philological errors, misunderstands the nature of how Marcion is contended to have redacted Luke, and offers an inconsistent case on how he views that Luke had redacted Marcion. For example, while one argument for Marcionite priority over Luke rests on the claim that it is unlikely that Marcion deleted significant portions of Luke rather than Luke having expanded significant portions of Marcion, Hays holds that Marcion also deleted significant portions of Paul's letters to create his Apostolikon. Thus, Hays sees it as special pleading to acknowledge that Marcion edited down Paul and to also hold that Marcion did not edit down Luke.[17] In addition, Moll says that all surviving sources say that Marcion is the one who edited Luke, and therefore the burden of proof is on advocates of Marcionite priority to provide the counter-argument.[6]

Dieter Roth has responded to Markus Vinzent's thesis (that Marcion was the author of the first Gospel and that the four canonical Gospels only came after it). According to Roth, Vinzent advances this thesis based on a number of misreadings of Tertullian.[18][19][20]


  1. ^ a b Translated as Klinghardt, Matthias (2021). The Oldest Gospel and the Formation of the Canonical Gospels. Biblical Tools and Studies, 41. Vol. 1 & 2. Leuven: Peeters Publishers. ISBN 978-90-429-4310-0. OCLC 1238089165.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Koestler, Helmut (1990). Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-334-02450-7.
  2. ^ Price, Chris (2002). "Marcion, the Canon, the Law, and the Historical Jesus". christianorigins. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
  3. ^ a b BeDuhn, Jason (2013) The First New Testament: Marion's Scriptural Canon
  4. ^ a b Vinzent, Markus (2014) Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic gospels
  5. ^ a b Klinghart, Matthias (2015) Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien, Francke A. Verlag; in English: The Oldest Gospel and the Formation of the Canonical Gospels. Peeters Publishers. 2021. ISBN 9789042943094.
  6. ^ a b Moll, Sebastian (2010). The Arch-Heretic Marcion. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 90–102. doi:10.1628/978-3-16-151539-2. ISBN 9783161515392.
  7. ^ BeDuhn, Jason (2013). The First New Testament: Marcion's Scriptural Canon. pp. 4–6, 9, 90. ISBN 978-1-59815-131-2. OCLC 857141226. [S]tudy of Marcion’s New Testament has generally been subservient to investigations of Marcion as a theologian and key figure in Christian history. But Marcion did not compose these texts (even if there remains the separate question of whether he edited them to some degree); he collected them from a broader existing Christian movement, and bestowed them in their collected form back to living Christian communities. As we will see, there are good reasons to question the assumption that these texts were fundamentally altered for service only to Marcionite Christians.
    These points of textual evidence and historical circumstance, therefore, suggest that Marcion may not have produced a definitive edition of the Evangelion after all, but rather took up a gospel already in circulation in multiple copies that had seen varying degrees of harmonization to other gospels in their transmission up to that point in time. The process of canonizing this gospel for the Marcionite community involved simply giving it a stamp of approval, acquiring copies already in circulation, and making more copies from these multiple exemplars, so that their varying degrees of harmonization passed into the Marcionite textual tradition of the Evangelion.
  8. ^ BeDuhn, Jason (2013). The First New Testament: Marcion's Scriptural Canon. pp. 86, 91–92. ISBN 978-1-59815-131-2. OCLC 857141226.
  9. ^ a b Vinzent, Markus (2015). "Marcion's Gospel and the Beginnings of Early Christianity". Annali di Storia dell'esegesi. 32 (1): 55–87 – via
  10. ^ BeDuhn, Jason David (2015). "Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels, written by Markus Vinzent". Vigiliae Christianae. 69 (4): 452–457. doi:10.1163/15700720-12301234. ISSN 1570-0720.
  11. ^ Vinzent, Markus (2016-11-24). "I am in the process of reading your book 'Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels' ..." Markus Vinzent's Blog. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  12. ^ Klinghardt, Matthias (2008). "The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion". Novum Testamentum. 50 (1): 1–27. doi:10.1163/156853608X257527. JSTOR 25442581.
  13. ^ a b Klinghardt, Matthias (2015). "IV. Vom ältesten Evangelium zum kanonischen Vier-Evangelienbuch: Eine überlieferungsgeschichtliche Skizze". Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien (in German). A. Francke Verlag. pp. 188–231. ISBN 978-3-7720-5549-2.
  14. ^ Gallagher, Ed (2017-03-14). "Marcion's Gospel and the New Testament". Our Beans. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  15. ^ David Trobisch: Die Endredaktion des Neuen Testamentes: eine Untersuchung zur Entstehung der christlichen Bibel. Universitäts-Verlag, Freiburg, Schweiz; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1996, zugl.: Heidelberg, Univ., Habil.-Schr., 1994, ISBN 3-525-53933-9 (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), ISBN 3-7278-1075-0 (Univ.-Verl.) (= Novum testamentum et orbis antiquus 31).
  16. ^ Heilmann, Jan; Klinghardt, Matthias, eds. (2018). Das Neue Testament und sein Text im 2.Jahrhundert. Texte und Arbeiten zum neutestamentlichen Zeitalter. Vol. 61. Tübingen, Germany: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH. p. 9. ISBN 978-3-7720-8640-3.
  17. ^ Hays, Christopher M. (2008-07-01). "Marcion vs. Luke: A Response to the Plädoyer of Matthias Klinghardt". Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Älteren Kirche. 99 (2): 213–232. doi:10.1515/ZNTW.2008.017. ISSN 1613-009X.
  18. ^ Roth, Dieter T. (2015-01-08). The Text of Marcion's Gospel. BRILL. pp. 164, n. 366. doi:10.1163/9789004282377. ISBN 978-90-04-28237-7. OCLC 892620587.
  19. ^ "Roth on Reading the Sources for Marcion". Larry Hurtado's Blog. 2015-03-25. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  20. ^ Roth, Dieter (2017-05-25). "Marcion's Gospel and the History of Early Christianity: The Devil is in the (Reconstructed) Details". Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum / Journal of Ancient Christianity. 99 (21): 25–40. doi:10.1515/zac-2017-0002. ISSN 1613-009X.

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