This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.
Patrick’s overarching approach to the scriptures in hand, I now turn to some more specific considerations of his citations from the Old and New Testaments. Of central importance for Patrick were the Gospels (primarily Matthew and Luke), Pauline Epistles (especially Romans and the Corinthian correspondences), and the Psalter. To briefly touch on the value of these writings for Patrick, the Gospels served not only as the source for knowing Christ Jesus, but also provided the missionary impetus which guided Patrick’s life. His quotation of Matthew 24:14 and 28:19-20 in Confessio 40 stands as the clearest example of how these biblical texts provide the foundation for Patrick’s life and work. Continue reading
This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.
The second major Latin version of the Bible circulating in the Middle Ages was the Vulgate. Commissioned by Pope Damasus in 383 CE, the Vulgate is commonly attributed as the work of Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus or, as he is better known, Jerome. Jerome’s real contribution to the Vulgate came through his translation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament (contra the Vetus Latina, which was largely translated from the Septuagint). His revision of the Vetus Latina New Testament was just that—a revision—and in some of the later portions of the New Testament, even that term seems a bit strong for the way in which Jerome used the Vetus Latina to produce a “new” translation. This leads to the complication that, for later portions of the New Testament, it is often quite difficult to distinguish between the Vetus Latina and Vulgate versions. Continue reading
“When students are first introduced to the historical, as opposed to a devotional, study of the Bible, one of the first things they are forced to grapple with is that the biblical text, whether Old Testament or New Testament, is chock full of discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable…. In some cases seemingly trivial points of difference can actually have an enormous significance for the interpretation of a book or the reconstruction of the history of ancient Israel or the life of the historical Jesus.”—Bart D. Ehrman1
As this statement from contemporary (and popular) New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman indicates, there those who study Christianity—its scriptures and history—who argue that the canonical gospels2 do not present a historically accurate account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Around Easter every year, scholars and journalists of this perspective often pen pieces on the ”Why the Resurrection Story is a Myth” or ”Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?” In more nuanced versions of these discussions, the credibility of early Christian accounts of Christ’s passion and resurrection is called into question, even on facts as seemingly mundane as the day on which Jesus was crucified.3 Such is the position of Ehrman, who argues that the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and Gospel of John portray Jesus as being killed on two different days, thus revealing their historical inaccuracy and untruthfulness.4 As is my Good Friday custom, in this post I examine this claim and explain why the canonical gospels indicate that Jesus died on the same day: Good Friday. Continue reading
By way of closing both our section on modern perspectives on Marcion as well as this series as a whole, I offer the following conclusions. First, upon the review of the various schools of thought concerning Marcion’s impact on the development of Christian views on scripture, canon, and authority, we may conclude that the Canon Refinement School appears to make the best sense of textual evidence and offer the most satisfying overall explanation of Marcion’s theology. This school argues that Marcion’s canon, while the first closed specifically Christian canon, neither formed the Christian ideas of scripture, canon, and authority, as in the view of the Canon Formation School, nor did he influence a major redaction of scriptural literature, as in the view of the Canon and Literature Formation School. Continue reading
Having examined the particular perspectives of the Canon Refinement School, we now turn to several concerns stemming from these works. First, we must consider the arguments of this school of thought concerning the impact of Marcion’s views on the formation of Christian views on scripture, canon, and authority. Taking into account the evidence espoused by the textual critics, it seems that this view on Marcion makes the best overall sense of his impact on Christian views of scripture, canon, and authority. Marcion’s canon, while being the first closed canon composed of specifically Christian literature, by-and-large followed the general second century pattern among Christians of scriptural collection. Marcion’s canon was unique in that he rejected the Jewish scriptures and placed a great deal of emphasis on the writings of the Apostle Paul. These emphases forced the Great Church to overtly consider the wider implications of new scriptures and their authority in relation to the older writings, eventually leading to the formal canonization of the Christian New Testament. Thus Marcion’s impact on the development of Christian scriptures, canon, and authority may be best described as canon refinement. Continue reading
We now turn to two of the most prominent modern perspectives for the Canon Refinement School, those of Lee Martin McDonald and John Barton. In The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority, McDonald writes that during the second century prior to Marcion, “the words gospel-apostle (sometimes Lord-apostle), representing the words of Jesus and letters of the apostles, began to be placed alongside the Prophets as authorities in the early church.” McDonald argues that from the wider selection of Christian writings available to him, Marcion chose portions of both Gospel (Luke) and Apostle (some letters of Paul) that reflected his understanding of the distinctiveness between Christianity and Judaism. For McDonald, Marcion believed that the love of the Christian gospel was incompatible with the legalistic and oppressive legal codes found in Jewish scripture, this being the type of teaching handed down by Peter and James. Marcion rejected such perspectives, as well as those early Christians who interpreted the Jewish scriptures allegorically, instead emphasizing a simple and literal reading of the text, thereby stripping the church of her first scriptures and connections to antiquity. McDonald concludes that while Marcion set forth a Christian canon, it remains too much to say that he created the idea of Christian scripture. However, while Marcion did not delineate the need for a Christian canon, he did cause the church to consider carefully the scope of its authoritative literature. Continue reading
What then can we conclude concerning claims that none of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses to the events that they describe? First, on one level it must be admitted that this position could be correct—none of the gospels bear explicit identification of the author or date of writing— and it bears repeating that none of the writers had to be an eyewitness for the gospel accounts to be authoritative. Second however, it must be remembered that the goal of undermining the historical reliability of the canonical gospels does not necessarily follow from any conclusion concerning the eyewitness status of the events recorded. As modern studies concerning trial testimony has demonstrated, eyewitnesses can be wrong. Each gospel account must stand or fall on its own historical merits. Continue reading
The Fourth Gospel, traditionally referred to as the Gospel According to John, provides the closest example of explicit reference to authorship, though it too remains originally anonymous. Church tradition has long linked the Fourth Gospel with three early epistles and the Apocalypse, which bears the author’s name, John. While debated (as all good scholarly truth claims are), there exists a good deal of evidence (vocabulary, structure, grammar, theology) indicating that the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse were written by the same individual. Continue reading
It should be noted that Luke’s gospel immediately indicates that the author is likely NOT an eyewitness of the events that are recorded afterward. The introduction to the account reads, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Luke assures Theophilus that while he himself is not an eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, he has done his research as a historian to demonstrate the veracity of the story that he is telling. Continue reading