Luke: Adapting from Marcion or Matthew?

16 Jan

So it’s been my working hypothesis that Luke is following Matthew and that Q didn’t exist. There is another line of evidence that may even suggest that Marcion’s gospel should be added into the mix as a “fourth Synoptic”.

In Marcion’s gospel, Jesus descends from heaven right into Capernaum and begins preaching. It’s only later that Marcion’s Jesus goes to Nazareth. In Luke, however, Jesus doesn’t go to Capernaum until 4.31, where the people there are amazed at his preaching and amazed that he removed an unclean spirit from a parishioner; implying that Jesus had never been to Capernaum before. In the pericope right before that at Luke 4.23, Jesus claims that he was in Capernaum before preaching in Nazareth. Of course, in Luke, Jesus didn’t start preaching or doing any miracles until chapter 4. The chapters before that, Jesus is born, gets baptized, and immediately goes into the wilderness to be tested. After testing in the wilderness, he goes to Nazareth.

To make an error like that implies that Luke is redacting an earlier source, chopping up bits and pieces to rearrange them for his theological needs. Since neither Marcion nor Matthew have this error, and the ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ line is not in Matt, it probably means that Luke is redacting Marcion at this point.

In general, Luke’s narrative logic in this pericope makes little sense while Marcion’s makes a bit of sense. At first those in the synagogue are pleased with Jesus’ reading of scripture (e.g. Lk 4.22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.) and then out of nowhere Jesus accuses them of being skeptical and demanding that he do there in Nazareth what he did in Capernaum (which, as I’ve just discussed, he hadn’t been to Capernaum at this point). This drives the people into such a rage that they attempt to throw him off a cliff which he just passes through as though he were a ghost.

Why would Jesus accuse them of skepticism when they were pleased with his preaching? It doesn’t make sense.

Marcion’s version makes a bit more sense. After speaking, the people are confused about his speaking, and Jesus insinuates they are skeptical and probably want him to do here in Nazareth what he did in Capernaum (which makes sense, since he drove out an unclean spirit [i.e. ‘Physician, heal yourself!’] in Capernaum before going to Nazareth in Marcion). The people are driven into a rage and attempt to toss him off a cliff, in which, since Jesus is a phantom, he decides to pass through the crowd untouched.

Of course, in total this pericope makes sense for Marcion to write, since Marcion’s Jesus was indeed a “ghost” or a phantom, being a docetist and all. Luke, being an anti-docetist, doesn’t should not create a pericope like this that implies docetism.

Tertullian’s apologetic for this is pretty bad:

Here at once, when I observe that they laid their hands on Him, I cannot help drawing a conclusion respecting His bodily substance, which cannot be believed to have been a phantom, since it was capable of being touched and even violently handled, when He was seized and taken and led to the very brink of a precipice. For although He escaped through the midst of them, He had already experienced their rough treatment, and afterwards went His way, no doubt because the crowd (as usually happens) gave way, or was even broken through; but not because it was eluded as by an impalpable disguise, which, if there had been such, would not at all have submitted to any touch.

(Against Marcion 4.8.10-13)

An alternative hypothesis is that Luke had this error and Marcion corrected it. But we would then have to answer why Luke had this error in the first place. Another alternative is that both Luke and Marcion are adapting an older source, a sort of pre-Luke (see J. Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts p 83-85). This still wouldn’t answer why Luke had the error in the first place.

A sticking point with this, however, is that Luke has included in this section the town name “Nazara” that Matt 4.13 also used; albeit in a different pericope (Lk 4.16 Καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς Ναζαρά, οὗ ἦν τεθραμμένος :: And he went into Nazara, where he was brought up // // Mt 4.13 καὶ καταλιπὼν τὴν Ναζαρὰ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ :: and leaving from Nazara went to settle in Capernaum). In short, this town name “Nazara” is the grammatically correct interpretation of what “Nazarene” means, if one assumes Nazarene is a gentilic. Matt assumed, at 4.13, that Mark’s “Nazarene” was a gentilic.

Kinda like saying Canadian. In English, if we call someone an XYZ-ian, we would assume that this person was from XYZ. Similarly, in Koine Greek, if someone is a XYZ-ene, then they are from XYZ. So at Mark 5.1, Jesus goes into the region “of the Gerasenes” (Γερασηνῶν::Gerasenon; gen. pl.), which means that he went to Gerasa. The same logic would hold for Nazarene which would mean someone from Nazara. The move from Nazarene to Nazareth seems to have taken time to develop. This gentilic is corroborated by some Gnostic sources. In the Gospel of Philip, the author says that Nazara means “truth”, thus Jesus is one who comes from truth.

Anyway, it is impossible to tell if Marcion had Nazara where Luke has it, since the only source that only implies that Marcion had this section is written in Latin (Tertullian). Not only that, but the W-H NT is a reconstruction of the earliest manuscripts. This means that Nazara might have been replaced with Nazareth by copyists in later copies by the time of Tertullian.

Nazara is evidence that Matt is among Luke’s sources, but I don’t know if Marcion also knew about Matt. Marcion having Nazara would be evidence in favor of him knowing Matt.

So we have three related weights of evidence in favor of Luke rewriting Marcion and/or Matt from this section:

1. Jesus refering to miracles in Capenaum before even going there
2. A narrative that doesn’t make sense of why the synagogue would go from glowing praises to raging anger in just a couple of verses
3. A pericope’s conclusion that assumes some type of docetism

We also have some weights that argue that Marcion edited Luke:

1. Scholarly consensus that Marcion did so
2. All ancient sources (besides Marcion himself and the Marcionites) allege that Marcion mutilated Luke
3. Scholarly consensus that Luke was written about 40 years before Marcion became active; Luke is alleged to have been written around 80 CE and Marcion being active around 120 – 140 CE according to the majority of NT scholars.

Quite honestly, I think the arguments in favor of Marcion editing Luke, that I’ve enumerated above, are all bullshit. I can’t abide by a scholarly consensus that is based mostly on cultural inertia and trying not to offend Christians; “pursue the truth no matter where it lies”, and all that. Though it seems like the consensus is moving a bit more towards Luke (and Acts of the Apostles) having been written later than the standard time of 80 CE to at least the time period after Josephus. But I’ll factor in the consensus in my little analysis.

If I may be so bold, I think I can represent this using some subjective Bayescraft in a following post.


Posted by on January 16, 2013 in marcion


2 responses to “Luke: Adapting from Marcion or Matthew?

  1. Mark Erickson

    January 31, 2013 at 4:46 am

    I think you have the arrow between Mark and Matthew reversed.

    • J. Quinton

      January 31, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Yea, I got this image from the web

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