Über G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga

Gustaaf Adolf van den Bergh van Eysinga und die radikale Schule

Vortrag von Hermann Detering – gehalten am 21. Juni 2001 an der Universität Amsterdam

Zum Vortrag (pdf)

Thomas Whittaker: Prof. G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga

Nieuw Theologisch Tijdschrift, 23. Jg. 1934

As a philosophical student interested in the broad results rather than in the minute details of Biblical research, I cannot claim to give an adequate account of the scientific work of Prof. van den Bergh van Eysinga; but I may be allowed to state in outline the kind of impression which that work has made on me.

In a review of his excellent treatise De Wereld van het Nieuwe Testament, I said that the distinctive merit of the Dutch theological criticism is its realism in the best sense of the term; and that in Prof. van den Bergh`s  work that merit is especially marked. When there is not from time to time a critical return on the things actually known from the records, plausible hypotheses tend to stand in place of the facts and to be made the foundations of later deductions, till at last new romances become a kind of substituted orthodoxy. This was to some extent the case with the famous “Tübingen school”. The Epistle to the Galatians, being assumed to proceed directly from the Apostle Paul, could be made (as it has been put) a „battering ram“ to discredit the account of Paul in Acts; and from a passage or two in the romances known as the „Clementines“, the story could he evolved that in the early Church Paul was systematcally caricatured as Simon Magus. All this came to bear the stamp of “advanced thought”, anand to be treated as in unquestionable result of „science“; and oil anyone who wished to raise new questions the usual comment, whether from the point of view of the “higher ciricism” or of the old orthodoxy, was, „You deny things admitted even by the Tübingen school“.

Critical independence, however, could not be repressed; and, after various precursors, Van Manen turned round on the new system of hypotheses and asked what reason there was for the undoubting acceptance of Paul as a known writer who must at least have written something ascribed to him by the ecclesiastical canon in contrast with Peter, James, John and J ude, whose texts come to us with apparently no worse credentials, but are treated as merely theological compositions written in their names. As Tertullian, whose rhetorical fanaticism was not unaccompanied by a good deal of shrewdness, said to the Gnostics, when they deprecated the story of Paul’s life in comparison with his Epistles: “Apart froth Acts, how do you know that your Paul ever existed?”

In the case of parallel literary phenomena in classical antiquity, the answer would on the whole be easy, though there are a few residual questions still disputed; but Van Manen has shown that the Pauline literature is much more easily explicable as the work of a group or school than as proceeding from a single anomalous man of genius. It is true that, in carrying forward the revised criticism, Prof. van den Bergh has had to modify some of Van Manen’s positions. I have found myself under the same necessity. Van Manen placed Gnosticism as affecting Christianity too late; and so one of his arguments for the „pseudepigraphic“ character of the Pauline Epistles falls to the ground. The other arguments, however, remain; such as the presupposition that there were organised Christian communities before they could be possible in accordance with the orthodox dating. And, in common also with Prof. van den Bergh, I have found no evidence for Van Manen’s postulate that an actual Crucifixion of some individual claimant to be the Messiah promised to Israel was the beginning of Christianity. The real sources of the new religion were not empirical details about a particular Jewish family; but  ancient cults and myths that came to be attached to the crisis, at once political and religious, of the fall of the Temple at Jerusalem. After ages of latent popular survival on Palestinian soil, these could spread abroad through coalescence with myths and cults of what we call “pagan” origin. Thus at length came final divergence from the Jewish orthodoxy called „Pharisaism“, which stiffened against the crisis instead of modifying itself in response.

Prof. van den Bergh’s view, then, as I interpret it, is evolutionary. For every apparent catastrophe, preexisting causes slowly prepared are to be discovered by close examination. The Gospel did not present itself suddenly to the world as a new phenomenon, but as a doctrine that had issued from the society, not yet completely organised but existing in outline, called the Church. It was fundamentally the cult-legend of the Christian community. The massacre of the children by King Herod is comparable to sagas like those of Krishna and Oedipus, Perseus and Siegfried. The census of Quirinius, ten years later than the death of Herod, is brought into the narrative of the nativity in an impossible way; so that we can neither reconcile Luke (who brings it in) with Matthew (who has the story about Herod and the Magi) nor substitute his account as less legendary. We know, from the Talmud, what was the process of a Jewish trial during the time of the Roman government. In view of this knowledge, the Gospel account of the trial of Jesus is an impossible one. The Pontius Pilate of Philo and Josephus is not in the least like the Pontius Pilate of the Gospel. That after the fall of the Temple all Jewry became Pharisee makes conspicuous the unfairness of the philippics against Pharisaism in the Gospel. All Pharisees are treated as bad Pharisees; whereas both Judaism and Hellenism were converging on something like the Gospel in its moral aspect.

What we call Christian ethics is explicable from the general moral culture of the „Hellenistic“ period. Its virtues are those that came to be stressed in the Graeco-Rornan world after the establishment of the imperial monarchy. Sayings even of actual Roman Emperors are taken up into  the Gospels. At that late period of civilisation there was no need of a philosopher or moral enthusiast to declare that he who is chief trust serve the rest. Emperors like Augustus and Tiberius could and did describe themselves as public servants: But, above all, the peculiar influence of the growing reaction towards the institution of monarchy, now returning from the East, is to be seen in the resemblance between the titles of Jesus Christ and those given to deified kings regarded as gods incarnate. Here, Prof. van den Bergh notes, a latent rivalry might be observed between the God of the Christians and „Caesar“. If, as he hints, the antithesis was likely to appear provocative to the State, we may see in the New Testament the mediaeval conflict between Church and Empire already foreshadowed.

The popular aspiration to peace under a Prince as God and Saviour, he shows, had its sources both in the near and in the remote past. Of social reform, however, Christianity had no idea. Slavery was not condemned by Christian teachers as it was by the later Roman law, which had undergone the Stoic influence. Though the jurists did not, any more than the Christians, call for its immediate abolition, they declared it contrary to natural justice. The Epistle to Philemon is a romantic construction, perhaps with appropriation of a hint from Pliny, and was intended to show how the institution should be regulated as between Christian masters and slaves. That all men are brothers is wrongly held to be a specifically Christian conception: it was completely Stoic. The speech of Paul at Athens is Stoic in content. The narrative in the Acts of the Apostles is written precisely as an educated Greek would write it.

Divergence, indeed, appears when the Resurrection comes in. Yet, with Seneca and Plutarch too, Prof. van den Bergh points out, there is a certain relaxation in strenuousness as contrasted with earlier antiquity: philosophic thought is no longer felt to be sufficient for the conduct of life. There was in the end a hearing for a „setter forth of strange gods“.

As he remarks, it is only by getting back into the supernaturalist atmosphere of the time that we can understand  the fascination exercised by the various new sects – not solely Christianity. Astrology at first brought, in its own manner, the idea of cosmic law. Manilius finds a certain consolation in this such as Lucretius found in the Epicurean philosophy. The popular effect, however, was different. The planetary gods, with their supposed malign influence over human destiny, later became dreaded tyrants. Their dominance was to be overcome by magic or by prayers to a higher god. Thus the conflict of the Christians is said to be „not against flesh and blood, but against the princedoms, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spirits of evil in the celestial spaces“ (Eph. Vl. 12). For the anti-Jewish gnosis the God of the Jews was the God of necessity. When Christianity is set against the oppressiveness of the Jewish law, the thought is Hellenistic. Yet there were curious intermediate types that led the way to the „catholicised“ gnosis; such as the „Jewish-heathen“ sect of the worshippers of Sabazius – the Lord of Sabaoth of the Septuagint combined with the Phrygian-Thracian Dionysus. Many representations in the catacombs that have been taken for Christian belong to these intermediate types. The coming in of specifically Christian imagery dates from the end of the second to the beginning of the third century. Motives of the Dionysus-cult made their way into Christianity through eclectic Alexandrian Judaism.

The Isis-cult appealed especially to the desire to be freed from the might of necessity. Orphism aimed at deliverance from the circle of births ‑ (compare troco.n th/j gene,sewj, James III. 6); Mithraism at redemption from the daemonic oppression of the stars. The Mithraic cult was the most dangerous rival of Christianity. It offered a reconciliation of popular religion with philosophy. The Christian Church found it necessary to appropriate its mysteries; and in the end won, not by refusing all compromise, but by taking over the Jewish sacred books, with which Mithraism could not compete (since it had not a sacred literature of its own); and by humanising and historicising its Redeemer, who, in contrast with the early gnostic „docetism“, was held  to be of actual flesh and blood. On the many it was the sacramental, magical and occult side of Christianity that exercised a peculiar attraction. The accounts, in the New Testament, of the introduction of the communion are „aetiological cult-stories“ – legendary explanations of usages already practised in the communities.

I have selected from Prof. van den Bergh’s studies of the „psychological climate“ of the New Testament some „radical“ positions which will seem startling to many. What „truths of belief“, some will ask, remain behind when historical criticism has done its work? For myself, I confess that I have only philosophical convictions. Prof. van den Bergh, I think, would maintain that there are some truths which, dissociated from actual history, can still be least inadequately expressed in terms derived from historic religion. In any case, it seems to me that his investigations give an account of the origins of the creed far more worthy of a great religion than their supposed tracing to local events in the records of a Palestinian sect propagating itself by stories of miracles. To the „psychological climate“ of the modern time, these must become more and more incredible; and I perceive signs that instructed theologians are finding in methods of explanation by myth and symbolism a more hopeful way to preserve the ethical and metaphysical truths which they value than in the impossible concrete story ostensibly held by traditional faith.

Klaus Schilling: A survey – G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga


The simple definition of van den Bergh van Eysinga’s work would be the refutation of both the historicity of Jesus and the authenticity of the epistles of Paul. This is often seen as an Ultra-Tuebingen position, as many think of the Dutch Radicals as an exaggeration of the Tuebingen school, the first academic school propagating an undogmatic approach to NT analysis.

This radical position was first defended by Bruno Bauer. In Holland the radical position was essentially developed by Allard Pierson, Dirk Loman, and later by Willem van Manen. Van den Bergh van Eysinga was active mainly in the first half of the 20th century, and continued to write articles until old age. Some other important Dutch radicals were Naber and Bolland.

Pierson first work was published in 1878, about the Sermon on the Mount and other passages from the synoptics. Pierson came from a pietist background, which he later found incompatible with contemporary scientific results. He stepped back from his position as a protestant minister and turned to scholarly work on the history of arts. In Pierson’s  already mentioned fundamental work, first doubts on the historicity of Jesus and the authenticity of Galatians were uttered. For comparison: The Tübingen position on the Paulina was that the authenticity of Romans, Galatians, and both Corinthians had to be considered as established beyond any doubt, the others had been subject to manipulations. In Pierson’s opinion, Galatians is the work of an Ultrapauline Christian, which fits the Marcionite well.

Loman was ‘converted’ by Pierson, despite of initial reluctance, a general phenomenon in the spreading of the radical school. In a public lecture in 1881, Loman presented the thesis that early Christianity had been nothing more than a Jewish-messianic movement, Jesus being a product of theological concepts that demonstrably not emerged before the second century. Not only the equipment and the accessories of the Gospel stories have to be taken symbolically, but the main actors as well: The crucified Christ represents the nation of Israel that dies horribly at the hands of the Romans, and is resurrected in spirit as the Christian movement, the light for the world. Loman qualifies the giving up of the historical Jesus paradigm as beneficial for the Christian faith, not as a loss. Later Loman retracted to admitting a minimalist historical Jesus, in order to calm down the fierce reaction of the public. A few years after the above mentioned lecture, Loman published  his „Quaestiones Paulinae“ in order to demonstrate the pseudepigraphic character of all of the epistles ascribed to St. Paul. The external arguments are their absence in Justin Martyr’s work and the connection with the heretic Marcion, who seems to be the first to have made use of them.

Van Manen got converted to the radical paradigm after heavy doubts against Loman but then he continued the latter’s work . Several articles of van Manen have been translated and made available online in connexion with the Journal of Higher Criticism.

Already as a student, van den Bergh van Eysinga  held highly sceptical positions. He attended lectures by van Manen. When the before mentioned Bolland arrived at his University, he used the latter’s lecturs for studying and developing theories on the evolution of the philosophical foundations of Christian faith. Van den Bergh van Eysinga concentrated on a philosophical reinterpretation of the carved-in-stone dogmatical traditions of Christianity. Unlike most modern critics, van den Bergh van Eysinga was convinced that consequent criticism would help to find a deeper philosophical foundation of Christian faith, and not destroy it. Van den Bergh van Eysinga was the first scholar to consider the importance of Alexandria and her philosophical and gnostic schools, thus correcting the earlier critics who concentrated on Palestianian origin. Van den Bergh van Eysinga was a minister of the Protestant Reformed Church and held various academic positions at Dutch universities, in the field of NT studies.

In van den Bergh van Eysinga’s opinion, Christianity did not start with a historical carpenter and/or carpenter’s son from Nazareth in Galilea, but with a redeemer myth, essentially coming from Alexandrine or Syrian Gnosis. His main work evolved around making plausible how that myth was historicized.

The epicentre of the historicising process appears to be Rome. There evidently existed some kind of coalition between roman-stoic and Judeo-Christian groups, which formed the foundation platform for the later Roman-Catholic church. They recognised that a universal church needs to be based on traditions and believable history, and not on a docetist myth. The clerical authority needs to be traceable, back to the charismatic founder and his agents, viz. apostles, and their appointed disciples through a never interrupted chain of successors up to the present days. The founder himself needed to be rooted in supporting traditions and prophecies. The charismatic founder needed to have received his authority in the most direct possible way from God himself. The human son of god thus was a theological necessity. The Jewish part of the coalition is responsible for projecting this necessary charismatic founder into Palestine, their homeland, and for the use of the Hebrew scriptures as an  old historic backup of the founder figure.

The refutation of the authenticity of the Pauline letters is the most emerging aspect of van den Bergh van Eysinga`s  work. After recognising the spuriosity of the Clemtentines and the Ignatians, van den Bergh van Eysinga concluded with Loman that there’s no demonstrable external evidence for the existence of the Paulines before Marcion. The Paulines appear to be of Marcionite origin, which conforms with the fact that, after a comparison of canonical and reconstructed Marcionite version, the latter makes a much more consistent impression. See for this Couchoud’s  work „La Première Edition de St. Paul“ According to Couchoud Paul appears to be a pseudepigraphical construct from Marcionite circles. There are also internal arguments: the mentioned inconsistencies in theology and christology, the fictive character of the situation in which the author pretends to be, the incertain historical reason for the letters, the immense length, the vague relation between author and community, the geographical incertanties …The letter does not allow to conclude to a consistent Jewish background of the author, as claimed in the acta apostolorum. As a conclusion, one sees that much of the modern Jesus-Mythers stuff was already discussed more than 50 years ago, but has been deliberately forgotten.

As already mentioned higher up, Marcion is one of the key topics in van den Bergh van Eysinga’s attempt of a reconstruction  of earliest Christian history.

Against the standard claim that Marcion had mutilated the already existing scripture in its canonical form,  he intends to make plausible that the canonical versions were not existant at this early stage of Christianity, but are in fact later editions of heretic , esp. Marcionite documents, adapted in order to conform to the doctrines and intentions of the early Catholic church.

Meyboom published the first modern monography on Marcion in 1888, but the standard work we have until today is that of A. von Harnack, who achieved to reconstruct a possible Marcionite version of the texts from the remarks and quotes scattered in the patristic literature, in both latin and koine, which makes the task particularly difficult and awesome.

Harnack is in a completely biased way supportive of the conventional „Eusebian“ history. The Vatican later even once decided in Harnack’s favor against St. Hieronymos, when dealing with the person of Luke. Harnack and Van den Bergh van Eysinga were almost contemporaries, so we can find also traces of van den Bergh van Eysinga’s works in those of Harnack’s. Usually Harnack treated van den Bergh van Eysinga harshly without any attempt of an argumentative refutation. Harnack’s work is still at the base of almost all entries about Marcion in encyclopaedias we have these days. Harnack’s bias in favour of Eusebian chronology is of course the major starting point for a radical revisionist view on Marcion. G. Quispel even equated Marcion with National Socialists.

As is well known, there are no surviving primary sources of Marcion’s left, and all scholarly work is to be based on secondary or worse sources from patristic literature, especially Tertullian’s Adv. Marc., which can be read online on http://www.tertullian.org .

Irenaeus claimed to be about to give a refutation of Marcion’s by means of his own writings, but never did. We remember that Jay Raskin  recently concluded that the Irenaeica are heteronymous works written by Tertullian.

Following the latter, Marcion’s main work was the Antitheses, a comparison of the vengeful creator-god of the Hebrew scriptures and the loving father-god of the gospel.

Marcion denied any dependence of the gospel on the Hebrew scriptures, even reconcilability. This he supposes to be expressed in phrases like „don’t fill old wineskins with new wine, they can’t stand it“. Ascetics is seen as a key point to liberation from the law of the Hebrew god.

Marcion’s Christ descended directly from heaven, without human birth and relations. The justice of the law is seen as strict enemy of the good. Only faith may overcome fear. Faith , in the sense used by Marcion, means supranatural confidence in the incredible love (agape) of Christ. Marcion claims to not have provided anything new, just restored from corruptions caused by the church.

Marcion’s canon (probably an anachronistic term, as even the orthodox canon was not agreed on before Constantine’s edict) consisted of a Gospel he ascribed to Paul, whereas the churchfathers see it as a mutialted version of Luke’s, plus 10 of the epistles on Paul’s behalf, in a shorter form than their canoniacal versions. The excluded ones are the pastorals and Hebrews. The churchfathers said thatb  Marcion busily mutilated (industria erasit) the canonical versions to fit them  into his herectic doctrine.

Van den Bergh van Eysinga worked towards showing that not only Marcion’s Gospel (or at least the sources used by Marcion) was more original than Lucas canonicus, but its priority to all of the canonical gospels.

The 5 books that Tertullian deemed necessary in order to refute Marcion showed the importance of the influence of Marcion on Christianity in the second century.

Unlike a lot of other so-called Gnostics, like Valentinus and Basilides, Marcion showed no interest in speculative philosophy. The closest influence from heelenist philosophers was probably that of the Cynics, as is made plausible in H. Detering’s essay on the identification of Marcion and the Proteus Peregrinus of Lukian, and cynicism is rather an anti-philosophy. But the missionary zeal and organisation was perceived as a threatening competition.

Tertullian, who was verily not a friend of judaism, may even have been pleased by some of Marcion’s concepts. But the envy and competitional hatered was much stronger than the parallels and forced Tertullian into a lot of nonsensical remarks, and equally Harnack.

  1. Jonas, who reviewed much of Harnack’s work, concluded that both heretic and early orthodox Christianity was related with gnostic concepts, with the exception of the synoptics. But van den Bergh van Eysinga explains the latter as Catholic distortion/edition of former docetic, dualist documents, so that indeed the earliest Christianity has been begotten by Gnosticism.

Before collecting the arguments for a ‘gnostic’ origin of oldest Christianity, a few notes on the representation of Marcion in Harnack’s and the patristics are useful. The Marcionites differ in some points from each other, but conform in their view that the good God did not create anything. Good One, Creator, and Matter are seen as distinct archprinciples. Some Marcionites differ additionally e.g. between Creator, Lawgiver, Judge, and Diabolus. This has been noted first by Hippolytos. Harnack denies Marcion the attribute ‘gnostic’ for various reasons, like the linking correlation between God and material world, usually (e.g. Valentinus) depicted as ‘fall’ or ‘emanation’,  and the lack of presence of a godspark within the human soul, which is the base for redeemability in most Gnostic systems. For Marcion thus the Good one redeems not due to any obligation, but out of mere grace. Redemption is „gratis data“. Van den Bergh van Eysinga points out that the lack of primary sources does not allow such an extreme conclusion. What can be concluded is that the sacrifice is seen as a ransom the Good One had to pay for releasing humanity from the bondage of law and creation, or the world itself. This of course demonstrates the immense confidence in the Agape of the Good one, and the deep deprecation for the world. Harnack judges this concept as an irerational abomination, as it can only be found by a thorough misunderstanding of Paul’s. Van den Bergh van Eysinga notes that, while Harnack is right when referring to Paulus canonicus, this is not valid for Marcion’s version of Paul, whose priority to the canonicus is made plausible in radical studies.

Already Harnack pointed out, against Tertullian’s polemic tirades, that Marcion’s main thought is not only anti-judaic, but also anti-hellenist. This is seen when confronting Marcion’s  supposed works with the first epistle of Clement, a Catholic document that exposes a hymn on creator and creation, completely in the spirit of the Stoicism, esp. Dionys, which prevailed in Roman and Greek aristocracy of the first 2 centuries. This convergence between Jewish and roman thinking is seen by Eysinga as the motor of early Catholic philosophy, and explanatory for the success of Catholic Christianity in educated Roman circles.

Whereas Marcion, as clarified by Origines, did not need any prophetic justification for his heroic redeemer, such a legitimation appeared necessary to Catholic Christianity which adopted the hebre Scriptures  for propagandistic purposes. The Thorah was well useful for building a wall against the increasing anticosmism, who was both against hellenic and Jewish thinking. Tatian, and later Clemens Alexandrinus, tried hard to show the priority of the Pentateuch to all hellenic literature, if not culture. The stilistic simplicity of Mose , over Homer’s and Plato’s sophistery, is seen as a great advantage.

The Jewish proselyte Aquila  is said to have justified unto Hadrianus his decision by pointing out that the Thorah explains seemlessly the process of world creation by God, and its time frame. The moral laws and the strict monotheism were attractive to those who subscribed to stoic concepts, but wished for more simplicity and clarity, the stoic explanations being vague and cryptic. The stoic world spirit, appearing abstract and transparent, becomes, by adapting the Hebrew scriptures, manifest in the law and the prophets.

The anchoring of Christ in history, through the Hebrew prophecies of Issaiah, Daniel, and the like, proved as the cornerstone of the successful propagation of Catholicicism in the roman world. The ahistoric redeemer myth of Gnosticism (and Marcion) is of course not able to achieve anything like that: It ressorts to elitary mysticism, pessimism, dualism, socio- and cosmophobic thought and behaviour like ascetism. This is in stern  contrast to the cosmophilic world view of the Judeo-Stoic coalition, which values moral laws and social pragmatism, which is the base of early Catholicicism.

Having summed up the differences between Gnostic-Marcionite and Catholic-Christian thinking in general, their representation in Harnack and the patristic literature, and van den Bergh van Eysinga’s objection to them, I’m passing to Marcion’s biography, or rather its incertainty.

Harnack admits its being uncertain, but steps into the usual dogmatic traps.

No one knows it better, so it’s excusable, but one must be aware of it. An excellent article by H. Detering shows the parallels between Marcion and Proteus Peregrinus, the victim of Lukian’s satire. They could indeed be seen as descriptions of the same person but under differing motivations for distortion.

One of van den Bergh van Eysinga’s points is that many theologians refuse to admit that heresies may have started from Rome, and thus made Marcion a heretic Christian already in his home country, possibly Pontia. We now turn to the sacred scripture canon of Marcion’s, which, according to patristic claims, is the collection of 10 Pauline letters and Luke’s gospel, but all in terribly mutilated versions. But those claims are hardly substantiated, which becomes clearer when comparing the restored Marcionite texts with Paulus canonicus. Van Manen published several texts on the Paulines before 1900, his work on Galatians is the most relevant.

Tertullian and Irenaeus appear busily occupated with allienating the Paulines from the heretics and polishing Paul’s image in church. Jay Raskin, who first pronounced the identity of the author of the works of Irenaeus and of Tertullian, plausibly demonstrated the development of the role of Paul from the ‘apostle of the heretics’ to one of the central pillars of the Catholic Church and canon, right after Peter to whom he was made a subordinate.

Galatians will be discussed more thoroughly in the light of the newer articles by H. Detering, who reconstructed its Marcionite text within the radical paradigm and wrote several commentaries in German. The conventional Christian dogma has been for centuries that there are four gospels, containing the word of God and legitimated by his son incarnate through the tradition of his disciples and apostles. All other ‘heretic’ gospels are deprived of legitimacy. In the eyes of the patristic writers, all other works are aberrations and abominations. And this against any evidence that heretics may or may not have known the canonical versions. There may rather be evidence that the canonical texts are less original than some of the heretic ones. Justin Martyr e.g. does not talk about the gospels,  just about ‘memorabilia apostolorum’. Justin only accepts the Tanakh as sacred scripture. This is dealt with in detail in E. Johnson’s Antiqua Mater (http://www.radikalkritik.de/AntiquaMater1.pdf) .

In any way Marcion’s scriptural anthology predates the Catholic canon by more than 2 centuries. Canonical Luke and Acts seem to be first attempts to catholisize Paul, at the time of Justin Martyr. Henri Delafosse, aka Joseph Turmel, sticked to an authentic core of the Paulines, esp. Romans, with large Marcionite and later Catholic emendations and erasures. It shows in any case the lack of seamlessness and monolithic structure the church wants to make us believe. Another cornerstone is the work of Hermann Raschke, whose result is that Marcion’s Gospel is rather that of Mark, not Luke’s.

The methods and paradigms of Raschke, whose book is unfortunately neither available online nor in print, give valuable insight, even though containing some eccentric hypotheses.

Reconstructed Marcion has passages in common with Luke’s gospel, but lacking in Mark’s. Raschke remarks against Harnack, that patristic literature does not claim that Marcion may only have erased, but might also have added. This leads to some dubious conclusions of Harnack’s.

Tertullian’s statement that he couldn’t really decide who possessed the correct version of the Gospel has been overlooked by Harnack. The very reason why Luke has been supposed to be related with Marcion, be it in one direction or the other, is the traditional statement that Luke was a  disciple of Paul’s. That’s why Marcion’s ultra-Pauline stance leads to that opinion of relationship. Van den Bergh van Eysinga restricts himself to giving a few selected examples of the varia lectio between Paulus canonicus and Marcion’s version. Therein he gives some examples taken from Galatians. There’s also an English article by van den Bergh van Eysinga that deals in particular with the spuriousness of Galatians, available at htttp://www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/eysingsp.html .

As I’ll be dealing with Detering’s recent treatment of Galatians later on, I skip the examples from this letter here and pass to Corinthians. A repeatedly used stereotype of canonical 1 Cor. is „according to scripture“, or „what I have received“ with reference to the Tanakh. (see 15:1-3). Prevailing opinion takes Marcion to have erased these phrases .But they are missing in most of the patristic testimonies, as well. Moreover, Paul nowhere else  ever alludes to a scriptural prophesy of the resurrection. This renders the erasure claims incredible. Marcion holds that the Christian community as the true people of God  needs no legitimation by the Tanakh.

Second Corinthian 3:14 reads that the thoughts of the Israelites have been stiffened. Marcion reads here „the thoughts of the cosmos“. Harnack assumes the cosmos to be the cosmocreator, and declares it as an abomination of Marcion’s. But it seems more straight to equate the cosmos with the natural man, which would be the jew. So it’s rather a Catholic clarification of what was also Marcion’s thought when canonicus reads „Israelites“ instead of cosmos.

2 Corinthians 7:1 reads „let’s purify ourselves from the pollutions of flesh and spirit“, where Marcion uses „flesh and blood“. Flesh and blood was a well-known idiomatic expression for the natural man. But the possibility of a polluted spirit is not consistent with overall Pauline thinking . It must be a redactional interpolation. Marcion sees the natural man himself as dirt (genitivus subjectivus), the Catholic redactor turns this passage into dirt residing both in flesh and in spirit (genitivus objectivus).

These examples conclude the first part of van den Bergh van Eysinga’s article which appeared in two parts.

For a thorough analysis of dualistic and docetic remainders in G. John I point to J. Turmel’s treatise the URL of which I gave higher up. Romans 8:3 and 3:20ff assert that the Good God is not the origin  of the Law. Law is opposed to Charis, Pistis, and Agape. Ephesians 2:2 mentions a “course of this world according to the Prince of theAeon of this world”, a power outside of god, ruling over the material world. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 mentions a prince of this world,  whose creative work has to be undone.

Now, van den Bergh Eysinga sees Philon of Alexandria as a forerunner of dualism: The Jewish God is not proud of the material part of his creation, only of the spiritual,  the reasons being the former’s frailty and instability. From exaggeration of this implicit dualism, the more explicit one involving opposed deities may have been derived. Even vilification of the Lawgiver occurs, as in Ephesians 6. Van den Bergh van Eysinga now gives some details on how Marcion’s ascetic recommendations got blown away  or downgraded by Catholic interpolation. While in the Catholic sense, celibacy is for practical reasons only recommended to those actively working for the community as bishop or deacon, with Marcionites/Gnostics this is seen as a salvific condition. Matrimony is favoured in general by the orthodox redactors, who justify this by refering to Hebrew scripture. The pastorals are downright anti-ascetic. Marcion’s version emphasises, as the true matrimony, the relation between Christ and the church,  as well as between man and church. See especially how this is dealt with in Ephesians 5:28 and following whose canonical version became dubious, as opposed to Marcion’s. Interestingly Marcion in this case used a spiritually reinterpreted reference to some Thorah passage, against the alleged antisemitism. Next, van Eysinga deals with docetism. Philippans 2:5-11 states that Christ took upon him the form of a slave and in the likeness of men  was found (heurestheis) in the form of a human. This gives a somewhat docetic impression. The Catholic redactor wanted to avoid that Christ was seen as a human-only, i.e. abandoned divinity,  which was probably the way Ebionits saw it. Marcion had instead a less precise formulation, on the lines of ‘in human appearance and found in the outer shape of a human’. There are more comments by Eysinga which show the motivations and the dilemma of the Catholic redactors, and that it’s easier to arrive from Marcion’s texts at canonical Paulus by alterations following Catholic dogmatics, than it is to arrive at Marcion’s text from the canonical ones, by observing possible alterations in a line of Gnostic-Marcionite doctrine.

After these examples, van den Bergh van Eysinga recalls that the conventional association of Luke with Marcion is not without internal reason, but also much based on wishful thinking and traditions, like Luke being a student of Paul’s, who penned his master’s thoughts.

After those remarks mainly concerning the epistles, I will subsequently pass to gospel evolution.

Raschke, though being a minister of the Lutheran church, had a more liberal attitude towards church tradition than Harnack did. He did not take the patristic statements at face value,  and figured that, instead of Luke’s, one could as well take e.g. Matthew’s and compare it with Marcion’s Gospel of the Lord, and come to similar conclusions.

Raschke also pointed to the fallacy of modern scholars to take the modern notion of reality and/or historicity for granted, though it is not really congruent with the ancient one. Jupiter and Julius Caesar had equally been considered as persons of history.

What made a difference between orthodox and gnostic-heretic thinking is therefore not the question, whether Jesus was real. In the ancient usage of the term, this was not denied by either heretic or orthodox Christians.

The reason for the doctrine of the full incarnation of the godson, defended by Tertullian against the heretics, was rather that only resurrection-in-the-flesh of a fully human being could guarantee the Christian hopes for all the human beings.

Raschke’s christological formula may be expressed like this: evangelical saviour = historically dressed Pauline saviour; Pauline saviour = Catholically tuned gnostic saviour; gnostic saviour = a metaphysical entity.

By sticking like glue to Tertullian, or so says Raschke, scholars like Harnack stepped into a terrible trapdoor.

The contrast between the metaphysical redeemer of the Gnostics and the godson-in-flesh of the church will shed light on the hypostasis of the oldest imaginable gospel.

The canonicals try to overpaint a previously docetic saviour, but are not consequent in doing so, and the gnostic original shimmers through the surface. That’s valid for all of the canonicals.

The passages of Luke’s in excess of Marcion’s are of later date, and differ in style and point of view from the passages they have in common.

Several chapters at the beginning of Luke’s are missing in Marcion’s. The saviour appears straight at Capharnaum, descending from heaven (not Nazareth) in the 15th year  of the rule of Tiberius and starts to impress with powerful speech and deeds – no genealogy and birth story, no John the Baptist, no appearance of teenager Jesus in a synagogue. The author of the first chapters imitates Tanakh tales: Samson, Samuel, David’s psalms, in contrast with the style found elsewhere in the gospel.

A more accurate example is found in Lk 16:17 , where the imperishability of the Jewish Law is emphasised. Marcion’s version uses „my (Jesus‘) word“ instead of the Thorah. But Marcion’s varia lectio is confirmed in 21:33 .

The lost-son parable in Luke is absent in Marcion, and main stream scholars accept Tertullian’s remark that it has been cancelled. But there’s no reason from the point of view of Marcionite doctrine to do so, apart from at best some minor modifications. So it’s more likely that Marcion did not know it in the first place.

Hilgenfeld found a dualistic-gnostic base in G. John. Irenaeus claimed that this gospel explicitly refutes the heresies of the dualists Marcion and Valentinus. In 6:38 the saviour descends straight from heaven. G. John, like Marcion, emphasises the innovative and (from Jewish tradition) independent character of Christianity. John 4:24 calls God a spirit, like Marcion’s ‘spiritus salutaris’.

Jesus is exclusively a loving saviour, in Marcion’s spirit he is not a judge and military king in the manner of the Messiah of the Tanakh. John 10:18 denounces all before Jesus, Jews and gentiles, as thieves and brigands. John 1″17 tells that Moses brought only the Law, not Charis and Aletheia. In spite of the incarnation being accepted, Jesus‘ flesh remains phantom-like in G. John, e.g. 4:32ff and 12:36 , evidence for a hastily repainted docetic original passage.

Van Eysinga negates Markian priority. Unfortunately the texts with the examples for this opimion are not online. Both G. John and G. Mark are closer to an older dualistic, docetic gospel form than the patristic literature would want to have them. Both gospels have been reedited and thereby reworked significantly for the sake of Catholic doctrine. Couchoud explained why Christian faith needed a new face for the masses of new converts in the middle third of the second century.

The Pastor of Hermas served as an intermediate step. I don’t have the relevant article of Couchoud available. E. Johnson’s Antiqua Mater exposes similar arguments, when dealing with the Pastor of Hermas. Much of the narratives, so it seems, is born from a former allegorical tale: walking on water, turning water into wine, and so on. Marcion stands at the borderline of Myth and historisation. His statement concerning the 15th year of Tiberius may have been chosen because Marcion wrote his Gospel exactly 100 years after that date. So Marcion, too, saw the necessity of an historical landmark for propagandistic reasons.

Marcion taught, like did the cynics and stoics, and apathetic deity that doesn’t show emotions. The Tanakh God doesn’t qualify for that. That’s why Tertullian blames Marcion’s theology for being of hellenistic philosophical origin, to which he denies any kind of relation . Funnily, Tertullian himself wants to preach an unemotional god, and to reconcile this god with certain vengeful traits of in the Tanakh, Tertullian moves the obnoxious traits to a subdeity, the Logos of stoic-philonic heritage. Thus neither Tertullian nor the canonical NT ever overcame completely the dualism that had been shaped by the earlier heretics.