Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Peter Kirby
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Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

Post by Peter Kirby »

Charles H. Cosgrove in 1982 tread this ground before, and I agree entirely with his argument and conclusion (attached).
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun May 21, 2023 10:05 pm
Peter Kirby wrote: Sun May 21, 2023 8:17 pmThis is supported by the way that Justin refers to them as memoirs, as though they had not yet assumed any particular status. On the other hand, if someone reads Marcion in the background of this, perhaps the attempt to view them as only memoirs was already reactionary, i.e. as a way to dispossess the Marcionites of the one authoritative Gospel. Then it took another generation for the various memoirs to be fused with the idea of an authoritative Gospel, by claiming that God chose a fourfold Gospel.
Yes, I think that the drive to see the Gospels as authoritative was as a reaction to Marcionism. But we need to keep in mind Justin's audience: pagans (in First and Second Apologies) and Jews (Dialogue with Trypho). In the First Apology, Justin writes:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... ology.html

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said...

So I think Justin was using "memoirs" when writing to his pagan audience though he meant Gospels, since it may have been a clearer term for the pagans.
Cosgrove's article also shows, as a matter of some relevance, that a Christian audience was in view for the Dialogue.
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Peter Kirby wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 1:31 pm
Charles H. Cosgrove in 1982 tread this ground before, and I agree entirely with his argument and conclusion (attached).
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun May 21, 2023 10:05 pm
Peter Kirby wrote: Sun May 21, 2023 8:17 pmThis is supported by the way that Justin refers to them as memoirs, as though they had not yet assumed any particular status. On the other hand, if someone reads Marcion in the background of this, perhaps the attempt to view them as only memoirs was already reactionary, i.e. as a way to dispossess the Marcionites of the one authoritative Gospel. Then it took another generation for the various memoirs to be fused with the idea of an authoritative Gospel, by claiming that God chose a fourfold Gospel.
Yes, I think that the drive to see the Gospels as authoritative was as a reaction to Marcionism. But we need to keep in mind Justin's audience: pagans (in First and Second Apologies) and Jews (Dialogue with Trypho). In the First Apology, Justin writes:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... ology.html

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks ...

So I think Justin was using "memoirs" when writing to his pagan audience though he meant Gospels, since it may have been a clearer term for the pagans.
Cosgrove's article also shows, as a matter of some relevance, that a Christian audience was in view for the Dialogue.

ATTACHMENT
Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon.pdf
(1.87 MiB)

I think the only significant point therein is:

At the moment of the composition of the Dialogue, however, nothing is so settled, the trajectory of canonization [was] not yet clearly plotted.

Which accords with what you previously wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote: Sun May 21, 2023 8:17 pm This is supported by the way that Justin refers to them as memoirs, as though they had not yet assumed any particular status. On the other hand, if someone reads Marcion in the background of this, perhaps the attempt to view them as only memoirs was already reactionary, i.e. as a way to dispossess the Marcionites of the one authoritative Gospel. Then it took another generation for the various memoirs to be fused with the idea of an authoritative Gospel, by claiming that God chose a fourfold Gospel.
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Peter Kirby wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 1:31 pm Charles H. Cosgrove in 1982 tread this ground before, and I agree entirely with his argument and conclusion (attached).
That's an excellent find, Peter! Much of what he writes agrees with my points around the importance of evaluating the text with regards to whom it was written. So, as he agrees with me, it shows he is a very intelligent man! :)
Peter Kirby wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 1:31 pmCosgrove's article also shows, as a matter of some relevance, that a Christian audience was in view for the Dialogue.
Yes. I liked how he sifted between the various arguments for Dialogue being directed at different audiences (Christian, Jews, pagans). The one I prefer is that Dialogue was written for Christians in the church grappling with Jewish arguments against the validity of Christians use of the Old Testament. I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but it makes sense.

One thing I disagreed on was Cosgrove's apparent belief that Marcion loomed large in Justin's mind when writing Dialogue. He writes on page 220: "... Marcion was the first, as far as can be ascertained, to promulgate a fixed written canon, and since the radical canon which he produced..."

Was Marcion's canon so radical? What was his canon? A Gospel that, apart from the first line, any Christian of the time could have read without many problems? A collection of Paul's letters that were apparently not much different to the ones we have, and again any Christian of the time could have read without many problems? Maybe the Antitheses, but not sure if that was considered part of Marcion's canon.

I don't see Marcion's canon being a problem at all. The problem was Marcion's theology. From Dialogue:

And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator.

Marcion of Pontus, who is even now teaching men to deny that God is the maker of all things in heaven and on earth, and that the Christ predicted by the prophets is His Son, and preaches another god besides the Creator of all, and likewise another son.


Those points don't seem to be in the reconstructions of Marcion's Gospel and letters by Paul. Marcion's texts aren't particularly radical at all. Tertullian makes a big deal over certain words being included and excluded, and we today reinforce his concerns as though Marcion had a completely different canon. But as far as I can tell, he didn't. The point of disagreement came outside of the canon. Just my 2 cents!
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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GakuseiDon wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 5:46 pmHe writes on page 220: "... Marcion was the first, as far as can be ascertained, to promulgate a fixed written canon, and since the radical canon which he produced..."

Was Marcion's canon so radical? What was his canon? A Gospel that, apart from the first line, any Christian of the time could have read without many problems? A collection of Paul's letters that were apparently not much different to the ones we have, and again any Christian of the time could have read without many problems? Maybe the Antitheses, but not sure if that was considered part of Marcion's canon.

I don't see Marcion's canon being a problem at all. The problem was Marcion's theology.
Cosgrove's sentence here continues "... and since the radical canon which he produced was a result of the theology for which he was excommunicated from the Roman church." Cosgrove may be adhering to a school of thought according to which Marcion made amendations to the text. One of these alleged changes could be to the beginning of the text of the Gospel, which has Jesus descending from the heavens. (Or maybe not? Not sure.)

Cosgrove also is clearly saying that Marcion had the first "written canon," which allowed the Gospel and the Apostle to be quoted as scripture. And Cosgrove is almost certainly implying that Marcion's canon excluded the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible (or Septuagint), which Marcion made a point of contrasting to discredit with the Antitheses.

Justin's biggest objection wouldn't be what was included, but what was excluded: the Jewish scriptures. This exclusion of the Jewish scriptures followed from Marcion's theology.

And a reactionary effort would be to place an emphasis on the scriptures of the Bible, thus demoting the (multiple, human, potentially flawed) gospels back to noncanonical, nonscriptural status. This is a strategy that both Cosgrove and I see in Justin.
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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A demotion of the gospels (plural)? I see a demotion of only the "so-called gospel": the Evangelion. Justin reflects a time where the word "Gospel" is still seen as a purely marcionite invention. Hence surely, if Justin had some gospel, it was not called explicitly "gospel". Now, since Mark 1:1 makes it clear the use of the term "gospel", then Justin couldn't know Mark and the gospels based on Mark.
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Giuseppe wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 8:47 pm A demotion of the gospels (plural)? I see a demotion of only the "so-called gospel": the Evangelion. Justin reflects a time where the word "Gospel" is still seen as a purely marcionite invention. Hence surely, if Justin had some gospel, it was not called explicitly "gospel". Now, since Mark 1:1 makes it clear the use of the term "gospel", then Justin couldn't know Mark and the gospels based on Mark.
EXACTLY, and I will quote you on this from now on as it is such a beautifully concise way of putting this
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Giuseppe wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 8:47 pm A demotion of the gospels (plural)? I see a demotion of only the "so-called gospel": the Evangelion.
Let's be clear on what I'm saying. The memoirs (plural) of the apostles and those who followed after the apostles are the demoted alternative to the supposedly scriptural Gospel (singular) for Justin. He shows himself to be familiar with ideas about the authorship of different memoir texts, which could be called the so-called gospel (singular), a term apparently not preferred by Justin for the texts themselves. The term "gospels" is not used by Justin (despite my infelicitous use of the term here).

The term "gospel" (singular) comes to be used to refer to the "according to" (kata) gospel texts, such as they came to be called as they acquired their authorship stories and superscriptions / subscriptions. Isn't that (kata) such a peculiar way of putting it? In so doing, the emphasis is pointing the term gospel away from the written text. The text itself is a witness to the gospel, from the human perspective of someone who allegedly heard the gospel from the Lord or from an apostle.

The word "gospel" doesn't necessarily refer to a text. This is made clear, for example, by Helmut Koester in Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development when tracing the use of the word.
Giuseppe wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 8:47 pmJustin reflects a time where the word "Gospel" is still seen as a purely marcionite invention.
You can make a thread on this claim if you want. It seems foolish, but maybe you can rescue the idea.
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Giuseppe wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 8:47 pm Mark 1:1 makes it clear the use of the term "gospel"
Mark 1:1 refers to Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου and therefore cannot refer to the text as "gospel" but instead, if it indeed refers to the text, refers to it as "the beginning" (Ἀρχὴ), a narrative of the start of the gospel of JC. If it were meant to refer to the text as a "gospel," it wouldn't begin with that other word (Ἀρχὴ) instead.
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Peter Kirby wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 10:16 pm
Giuseppe wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 8:47 pmJustin reflects a time where the word "Gospel" is still seen as a purely marcionite invention.
You can make a thread on this claim if you want. It seems foolish, but maybe you can rescue the idea.
Obviously it doesn't seem foolish at all if you assume, for sake of argument at least, the scenario more supportive for the my case, i.e. marcionite priority (beyond if proto-Luke was written or merely used, with some additions, by Marcion).

Under Markan priority I admit that Justin would be no questionable at all, about his presumed knowledge of the gospels.

Peter Kirby wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 10:59 pm
Giuseppe wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 8:47 pm Mark 1:1 makes it clear the use of the term "gospel"
Mark 1:1 refers to Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου and therefore cannot refer to the text as "gospel" but instead, if it indeed refers to the text, refers to it as "the beginning" (Ἀρχὴ), a narrative of the start of the gospel of JC. If it were meant to refer to the text as a "gospel," it wouldn't begin with that other word (Ἀρχὴ) instead.
Again, assuming the Marcionite priority, Klinghardt points out (I go to memory) that the incipit of Mark, with his emphasis on 'the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God", is designed probably to specify that the god who is meant is YHWH, not an alien god.
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Re: Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon

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Peter Kirby wrote: Fri May 26, 2023 10:59 pm Mark 1:1 refers to Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου and therefore cannot refer to the text as "gospel" but instead, if it indeed refers to the text, refers to it as "the beginning" (Ἀρχὴ),
If "Gospel" disturbed Justin for the marcionite associations, then also the "beginning of the gospel", as any expression where occurs the word, would have disturbed him. Unless there were the due anti-Marcionite precautions.

Since we don't know if Justin knew about an anti-marcionite "gospel" (called as such by Justin himself), then we can't prove that he knew Mark, Matthew and Luke.


I think that I have proved that, if the Evangelion preceded Mark and the others, then one can't reasonably conclude that Justin knew one of the our gospels. A strong evidence would be necessary in order to prove a such knowledge, but the simple Fact is: that there is not a such evidence.
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