The Marcion Problem: Conclusions

This post is the final in the series examining Marcion of Sinope and his influence of the formation of the New Testament canon.

Sacred ScriptureBy 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

NT Canon: Marcion, Montanus, and Gnosticism

This post is part of an ongoing series outlining the formation of the New Testament canon.
Image of Marcion (Left) with the Apostle John

Image of Marcion (Left) with the Apostle John

We come to what may be the hottest current debate among scholars concerning the formation of the Christian canon: the role of heretics. For scholars such as Adolph von Harnack and Hans von Campenhausen, the Marcionite heresy all but forced the formation of the New Testament scriptures.[1]  Indeed, Campenhausen went so far as to call Marcion the “creator of the Christian holy Scripture.”[2] Bruce Metzger argues that the formative heretical forces were threefold: Gnosticism, Marcion, and Montanism; each of these respective theological battles pushed the church to develop a canon of scripture.[3] Lee McDonald argues that while it is overbearing to say that Marcion created the New Testament, his influence in hastening the development of the canon must not be overlooked.[4] Concerning Gnosticism, Montanism, and heresy in general, McDonald concludes that the response of the early church was not a canon of sacred books, but the production of a “canon of faith.”[5] John Barton argues that Marcion actually followed the orthodox example of developing a collection of authoritative books and thus was in no way truly formative in the development of the Christian canon, thus presenting a view that is diametrically opposed to Campenhausen.[6] J. N. D. Kelly argues that the essential contours of the canon were in place before the controversies, arguing that their impact was minimal as most.[7]  The prevailing modern view concerning the role of heretics on the formation of the canonical scriptures seems to be primarily that of McDonald and Barton, that while the Marcionite, Gnostic, and Montanist conflicts certainly had an impact upon Christian theology and the role of the canon, the form of the books viewed as scripture seems to have been roughly intact prior to the controversies, thereby making the impact of the heretics slight at most. Though this position is hotly debated in some realms, it seems to represent the growing scholarly consensus. Continue reading

Development of the New Testament Canon: Introduction

For the next two weeks, Pursuing Veritas will run a series outlining some important facets of the development of the New Testament canon. This series is designed to provide an introduction to how the writings of the New Testament came to be included in that collection (no, the Bible did not fall complete and leather-bound from the sky). As canonical development constitutes an important piece of my own scholarship, suffice it to say that there will be (much) more on this topic at a later date, and that all questions are welcomed.

NT CanonFundamental to the Christian worldview is the Word, Jesus Christ. Of great importance in determining not only who Jesus is but also what He taught are the words of God contained within the Christian Bible, more specifically the twenty-seven books contained in the New Testament. Where the New Testament came from and the amount of authority that can be allocated to that text have been the questions of theologians for nearly two millenniums. More recently, historians and scholars[1] have questioned the veracity of the Biblical text and its formation as a holy book. The task of this two-week series is to examine but a facet of this greater conversation, namely, the question of the development of the Christian New Testament canon and the factors which contributed to this collection. Continue reading