Johannine epistles as reaction to Marcionism?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 8615
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Johannine epistles as reaction to Marcionism?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 20, 2021 1:39 pm

davidmartin wrote:
Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:51 pm
thanks Ben
Well, yes. I see a quotation of Luke 10.7 as scripture and a reference to Jesus suffering under Pontius Pilate. You are correct that there are not many such references to remove, but what tells us to remove them?
Only if removing them helps solve a problem i guess that's true for flagging of all interpolations?

the problem i think it solves it how come there is such limited evidence for the gospel Jesus outside of the gospels, by suggesting the gospels were not widely accepted at first within the Pauline based churches (which are a primary component of Hellenistic orthodoxy?), thus they were not inheritors of the historical traditions to begin with
I submit that the gospels were not immediately regarded as necessary by all.
I just meant that if you are preaching that the son of God came to earth and worked salvation, there surely is a reason to speak of his earthly life and tell us something about him. What he said. What he did.
Not if your view is that what he did on earth has meaning only because it led to his death and subsequent exaltation to heaven.
Logically this should precede the kind of theological treatises like the pastorals
Why? I do not understand where this expectation comes from.
Let's line this up
The literal son of God walks the earth and whilst here says and does things. How can these not be the most important words ever spoken?
To some they may be. To others, becoming flesh was just a necessary condition for his sacrifice, and little more. I have personal experience from a couple of decades ago with Christian groups for whom the gospels were virtually nothing. One group in Texas thought that the epistles of Paul were the highest form of scripture: a canon within the canon, so to speak. And not even all of the epistles of Paul! Mainly just Colossians, Philippians, and Ephesians (oh, and also Hebrews). These were viewed as revealing the innermost mysteries of the gospel of Christ, whereas the gospels, the Catholic epistles, and the Acts were mainly viewed as background for those mysteries. All of this is down to the personalities of the believers involved; it has nothing to do with the availability of the gospel texts.
Yet outside the gospels in essence none of his words are mentioned! Is that really believable?
Yes! Of course it is. There are many Christians for whom the earthly Jesus holds little or no interest. It is his heavenly aspect which attracts their attention.
I think the sources behind the gospels in their earliest forms do predate 70 but were heavily revised spawning multiple gospels over a long period. They are very hard to properly date
I agree with this.

Stuart
Posts: 663
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:24 am
Location: Sunnyvale, CA

Re: Johannine epistles as reaction to Marcionism?

Post by Stuart » Wed Jan 20, 2021 1:46 pm

I would say most definitely no, but partially yes.

Most scholars think 1 John was written as a supplement to the Gospel. And like the gospel it is "multi" authored, a first version in line with the theology of the first edition of John, and a revised version we have today that is a sectarian correction to that Gospel, even as the fourth Gospel was itself revised. The first and second theologies are seemingly incompatible in both Gospel and 1John, requiring gymnastics to harmonize.

IMO 2 John and 3 John were written by or on behalf of competing bishops, and almost certainly differing sects claiming John as their patron saint, over the issue of itinerant preachers. 2 John represents the position of an established local church, where the bishop lays out a sectarian litmus test, warning the congregation that they my not support preachers he does not approve of, but even greeting those or letting them in your house is grounds to be excommunicated (expelled from the church building). The author of 3 John calls out the writer of 2 John, even mentioning by name (probably an anachronistic reference to the bishops ancestral claim to office via this Diotrephes in verse) and saying he "speaks evil of me" and that he refuses to greet the preachers he sends, doesn't let others do it and even kicks those out of his church who do greet them.

What is interesting to me is that the author of 3 John (IMO a bishop) is saying that the band of itinerant preachers in view comes from his see. It implies they are indoctrinated and trained by him or his school/sect. It puts a locale on the home base of at least one group of these preachers. (I am amazed so few people even consider the home base, as that is critical to understanding the development.) This gives us some context to 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 fragment, which seems to be a letter promoting an evangelical tour --our itinerant preachers again-- coming to a church near you, imploring those who will be receiving them to get ready, and have money and supplies for these saints. Note, some scholars speculate that this was an encyclical letter, and that Titus was merely the name plugged in for the version which appears in 2 Corinthians version, and that any headline preacher of repute could be plugged in. Again the comity expected is in line with 3 John.

Now as to the "yes" portion of responding to Marcionites, we are dealing with two competing Sects, or rather groups of Sects maybe are not Sects in the strictly theological alignment but arranged along political lines where the patron saint, John vs Paul, is in view as support for rival claims to local bishoprics. So to the extent that the writer of 2 John is defending a physical Jesus against the spiritual one other Johannine camp preachers --and Pauline and thus also Marcionite preachers-- preach, it can be seen as a response to all Gnostic and Docetic preachers. The response in 3 John indicates that even in the orthodoxy at a relatively late time of formation, that the Spiritual Christ was acceptable along side preaching of the Physical Christ. The lines seem to be political, not theological. Theology is employed to buttress political position, not the driver of it.

The Johannine sect of the first authors of the Gospel of John and 1 John was neither Marcionite nor proto-Orthodox. There is a rejection of the Davidic Jesus and of the last Prophet theology presented in the Synoptics. There is IMO a strong hint of proto-Cainite theology present. But that is neither here nor there. The first version of John seems to me a direct response and corrective (from the author's sectarian point of view) to the gospel of Matthew, seemingly using the Marcionite version of the gospel as base, but putting forward a corrective also to the Marcionite theology. As the letter 1 John is supporting, it is meant to introduce or put in context the message of the Gospel, so likely represents it's own corrective.

The second version of John and 1 John is corrective to the first version of John from the perspective of the developing orthodoxy. The Cainite elements are tempered or covered over with an anti-Judas layer, that IMO is part of bringing Peter into the Gospel (I do not think he was in the first version at all) and harmonizing with the Synoptic accounts. This is a corrective to all the Johannine and Pauline sects, including the Marcionites, but not specifically targeting them.

2 and 3 John are focused on a battle that raged for well over a millennia about the role of traveling preachers and monastic movements beyond the control of the local bishop, about which party had the greater authority. This continued through the reformation and counter reformation with the Jesuits (e.g., the famous show down in Brazil), and to this day in Evangelical churches about the traveling preacher shows. To the extent that Marcionites sent out a traveling show (as I suspect all the competing sects did in the Greek heartland) 2 John rebukes them, asserting the authority of the bishop, and more specifically of the author of 2 John claiming essentially archbishop authority. And again 3 John rejects saying that his authority and not that of 2 John's author is the greater; neither accepts the other it seems, like a bishop versus a abbot clash.

davidmartin
Posts: 733
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:51 pm

Re: Johannine epistles as reaction to Marcionism?

Post by davidmartin » Thu Jan 21, 2021 1:39 am

Not if your view is that what he did on earth has meaning only because it led to his death and subsequent exaltation to heaven.
Indeed so. I'm not convinced that is the most original belief, and the gospels are what gives me that idea
I'm open to the idea that the outcome may be the same and only the process differs, i.e. this isn't chalk and cheese opposites

For example in John Jesus is said to have "the words of life". What's this?
It seems his words matter for this gospel. Thomas whatever it's origin, does contain some weighty spirituality that's not trivial
To some they may be. To others, becoming flesh was just a necessary condition for his sacrifice, and little more. I have personal experience from a couple of decades ago with Christian groups for whom the gospels were virtually nothing
I've had this experience. On one occasion the pastor actually started quoting from Luke and i was shocked and astounded
But my own encounter with the NT was totally different. I read the gospels first (no religious upbringing) and thought them pretty impressive. When i got to Paul i didn't know what in the name of heck he was talking about. That first impression has never really left me.
Now i wonder who managed to get the gospels into the canon, i owe them a beer

Post Reply