Monday, January 04, 2016

Marcion, the first "restorationist" text critic?

Image:  Woodcut depicting Tertullian, from whose work Adversus Marcionem, we learn much about the heresiarch Marcion.

Marcion (c. second century) was an early Christian heretic, perhaps best known for his rejection of the Old Testament and his “mutilation” of the NT [apparently reducing the NT to a truncated version of both Luke’s Gospel and Paul’s letters].  Most agree that the orthodox reaction to Marcion spurred the formation and acknowledgment of the Christian canon.

When reading Harry Y. Gamble’s Books and Readers in the Early Church (Yale, 1995), I was struck by his comparison of the “restorationist” goals of Marcion and the work of modern text critics:

What is too little recognized, however, is that Marcion’s editorial activity did not arise from caprice, nor from an overbearing ideology, but from his critical, scholastic judgment, however idiosyncratic that might have been.  He had a theory of the history of the texts, and not unlike modern critics he suspected that the texts had been contaminated by glosses, interpolations, and redactions that obscured their original sense.  His revisions aimed at nothing less than the critical reconstruction of a pure text (p. 126).

There are, indeed, some interesting parallels between Marcion and modern textual reconstructionists.  Could we call Marcion the first "restorationist" text critic?


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