Slowly but Surely: Engaging Marcion in the Synoptic Problem   Leave a comment

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The new issues of JTS and NTS feature two contributions to the continuing debate over Marcion’s Gospel and its possible impact on the synoptic problem.

Matthias Klinghardt, whose 2-volume work on Marcion’s Evangelion was published last year, provides us with a more assertive article on the priority of the Evangelion in comparison with Luke.

Matthias, Klinghardt “Marcion’s Gospel and the New Testament: Catalyst or Consequence?.” New Testament Studies 63.2 (2017): 318-323.

It is a short paper delivered in the ‘Quaestiones disputatae’ session at the 71st General Meeting of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, held at McGill University, Montreal, on 3 August 2016. The session was chaired by Professor Carl Holladay, President of the Society.

The fact that Luke is almost always shorter than Marcion, which should direct the redaction process from the latter to the former remains one of the most important principles on which his theory hinges. Prima facie this is true, but the reality as it appears in the complex textual variations of Luke itself should always be remembered before comparing two “final” texts.

The second point is his rather complicated construction of how all the Gospels were originated from the Evangelion in order to show that the later is indeed Das älteste Evangelium (which is the title of his work).

The second publication is Markus Vinzent’s review of Judith Lieu’s book:

Vinzent, Markus. “Marcion and the Making of a Heretic: God and Scripture in the Second Century. By Judith M. Lieu.” JTS (2017): 345-348.

You will notice that the review starts from where mine ends in page 345 🙂

Vinzent concludes his comment with the important question that seems to be still open: “Lieu seems to reckon with a historical Marcion who had made use of information (oral or written?) and named a written text ‘Gospel’, and it would be interesting to know what she means by his having been ‘familiar’ with—with what, one may ask: did Marcion only use this text, did he redact it, did he write it?”

We have no solid evidence on the authorship of the gospel Marcion considered to be pure and original. The fact that the Evangelion itself is not quite Marcionite made Tertullian perplexed, giving in to conspiracy theories behind that!

But Vinzent is apparently pushing the debate towards this important question which will have serious consequences on dating several texts and on the composition history of Luke.

 

 

 

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Posted June 29, 2017 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Who Represents Islam?   1 comment

Qutb

After last night’s vicious attack in London, British media outlets, as usual, started to seek statements of condemnation from Muslim figures. This morning I had my breakfast while watching a senior figure in the Ahmedi sect defending Islam and talking about how the terrorists do not represent it. For me this did not lack black comedy since Ahmedis are not even considered Muslims by the rest of the Islamic world. They are considered to be “infidels” and not just heretics or apostates. Shortly later, another Muslim cleric releases a statement on behalf of the British Muslim council citing weak Hadiths (a Hadith is a saying of Muhammed preserved through tradition – a weak Hadith means that its origin is dubious and hence it has no authority) and abrogated verses (verses about how Muslims should treat others peacefully, these verses were abrogaded by the later verses that exhort Muslims to seek militant jihad and force Christians and Jews to pay taxes called Jiziah if they want to keep their heads and bodies intact – check the final Surah of al-Tawbah).

I am not intending to offer a comprehensive explanation for the dynamics of power and authority in Islam  since there isn’t, practically, a single one. Yet, one important question should be asked by every western viewer who found themselves snowed under with forceful statements about how Jihadists do not represent Islam: why?

Why cannot be the “extremists” the ones who represent Islam while the others are the “heretic”?

Is it because the version of the militant Islamists is not favourable? well, if you don’t like something it doesn’t mean it is not true!

Representing Islam should not be left to our presumptuous, wishful thinking or cherry picking. It is a serious scholarly problem that should be subject to honest historical and scientific criticism, then the results should be conveyed to the public. Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, must be subjected to the different forms of criticism and Muslims should be the first to do that with honesty in order to deliver an honest statement about the historical Islam or what could represent Islam. Otherwise, the problem will remain and terrorism will continue since its root ideology is dismissed a priori.

In the picture of this post, you will see an Egyptian Muslim scholar whose writings remain to be one of the most influential writings since the time of the main 4 scholars of Islam.  His name is Sayed Qutb. In the Shades of Quran was his comprehensive commentary on Quran. Qutb was the ideologist of the Muslim Brotherhood, the mother of the most prominent Jihadist movements including Qaeda and ISIS.

Since the foundation of this movement in 1928, the United Kingdom has provided its support and protection of the Muslim Brotherhood who, in return, helped the British government whenever the Egyptian king (and later presidents like Nasser) works against its interests. The Muslim Brotherhood has its international headquarters in London and from here it operates internationally to poison generations of Muslims with its comprehensive literature. Qutbists (those who are totally loyal to Qutb’s ideology) like Abdulmoneim abulFuttuh are received in London’s Chatham House regularly. Why do people dismiss Jihadists while they protect their ideologists and propagandists in the political sphere?

In the next post I will go with you briefly through Qutb’s commentary on the most important Surah (al-Tawbah) which identifies the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. We will see how strong and comprehensive his treatment of the sources is.

Posted June 4, 2017 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

How Odd Was Marcion?   Leave a comment

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Marcion’s image vandalised

In a recent issue of Vigiliae Christianae a new stimulating article appears to question another basic piece of information we inherited from Tertullian about Marcion (see here). If Marcion’s Evangelion, as several substantial studies today suggest, is not an abridgment of Luke, and if he was not really a docetist (if we have a concrete definition of this term) then what is it left that could define Marcion’s “heresy”?

The most defining idea about his discontent with the Jewish origins of Christianity seems to me at least not as odd as it might be suggested. Ignatius of Antioch’s letters didn’t show any interest in Judaism or its prophecies, and we can barely find anything from the Hebrew Bible in the Apostolic Fathers outside 1Clement and Barnabas. Further, the author  of the so-called Epistle of Barnabas was a Judaism antagonist who condemned Judaism categorically (calling it a form of idolatry!), yet his work was celebrated at least in Alexandria that it was included in the canon of the oldest codex known to us (Sinaiticus).

What was so special about Marcion that made him subject to such falsifiable caricatures? The dynamics of the problems of the Marcionite struggle seemed to be beyond disagreement over abstract ideas. If Marcion did not hold such contempt to the figure of Peter, would have Marcionism been accommodated?

It seems that Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy thesis cannot be more relevant in the light of today’s serious revisions of long-held ecclesiastical narratives about this mysterious figure.

Posted March 20, 2017 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Demythologising the Egyptian “Revolution”   Leave a comment

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Me, before 2011

It was 2008 when I was graduated as an engineer .Shortly later I got enrolled in a super-intensive training in a German company to receive two certificates in power control with a clear promise from that company: if you pass then you will be automatically appointed. This did not happen because the Egyptian manager said explicitly: you need “wasta” (an important person to let you get the job … nepotism.. click here). This key term became one of the most defining words in describing the dynamics of corruption in Egypt during Mubarak’s disastrous regime. If that was the case in the Egyptian office of a German giant, you can imagine the situation in the public sector!

I had far worse experiences like getting stuck for a year, unable to travel or work because of a deliberate mistake made by an official who wrote my religious affiliation “Muslim” and when I asked for correcting it, I got punished by delaying my military service medical check for a year. Wait, that was not even the worst institutional experience I had under Mubarak… but I cannot mention everything.

Like many, if not the vast majority, the dream of seeing Mubarak out was far beyond imagination and the best we hoped for was a drastic reformation in the next generation of the ruling party (the Naitonal Democratic Party) like the one the Communist party of Russia had earlier.

However, it was clear also that Mubarak did not only destroy the institutions of the country from inside, but he also helped in creating the monster of the Muslim Brotherhood. I won’t go into details but it is sufficient to mention that they reached their momentum under his nose and with deals that apparently went out of control in 2011.

I met my wife in Cairo in March 2007 and I told her: The Muslim Brotherhood are coming in a few years and they will be unstoppable.

In such a bleak future and congested present, a young man like me would be left with few choices, bitter ones.

When the calls for uprisings in 2011 took place and Mubarak’s regime was toppled, things seemed too good to be true and it didn’t take much time to see towards what the situation was moving . I had to mention the examples above in order to emphasise that regardless of anything, the very idea of seeing Mubarak chucked out of the presidency palace was a fantastic thing to see! Having said that, it seems we have to take a deep breath and reflect on what happened.

Arab Spring Propaganda

One of the best achievements of Rudolf Bultmann was his demythologising programme. Not just in the field of NT studies but also for what it meant for his generation. What not many people know is that the demythologising programme was an initiative that targeted the theological “Weltbild.” That worldview served Hitler’s purposes as you can see in hisfamous 1938 speech in the Reichstag.

Bultmann aimed to show that the idea of the two kingdoms, which is well rooted in Lutheran theology, needs to be revisited in the light of our knowledge of the world that shaped the views of Paul in particular. Bultmann’s demythologising had an impact of disillusionment amongst his students in the early stages of the Nazi propaganda. I had the honour to study under one of them. I saw in my private conversation with two aged Bultmannians the theological impact which worked from the pulpit and the lecture hall.

Those who follow the Arab Spring propaganda need a similar approach that could dissemble the rosy, cheesy and  childish image of ” THE people who went to the streets to topple THE TYRANT and spread peace and love [John Lennon’s Imagine is in the background or perhaps Pink Floyd].”

If some Egyptian 25th-of-January believers, like the Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster believers, still live into this narrative, researchers and scholars who get paid to check the footnotes need to be careful in buying terms like the ones I emphasised in the previous narrative.

That would be my next post on my way to Beirut.

 

 

Posted January 25, 2017 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Biblical Scholars and the Middle East Conflict: Taking Both Seriously   1 comment

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Critical Eye

In the field of religious studies, biblical scholars are known to be a very hardworking people; we learn ancient languages as well as modern ones beside our vast interdisciplinary readings, particularly in history and literary criticism. You need to be a smart and committed person to decide to put yourself in such a challenging situation and aim to find yourself a place in this field.

Consequently, it is perfectly natural to develop a very critical eye, scrutinising the data coming to you … verse by verse or even word by word. You follow the traces of different contributions to the same text and strata of traditions behind it. When you feel ready to make a statement, you expect a strong challenge that would make you think twice before you commit yourself to this statement or that opinion.

But do we take this critical eye and strong sense of skepticism with us outside the department or do we just leave them there on our desks before we switch the lights off and leave?

We cannot simply get rid of the skills we intuited through the years. I am sure the answer is yes in some cases, it is also no in some other cases. Leaving the “yes” cases aside for you to decide, the “no” cases include one that I have been intrigued to observe, in particular throughout 2016: it is the Middle East conflict as a case study.

The Middle East

My university campus is in central Holborn in London, where I also used to work, some time ago before my PhD, as a desk editor in the biggest Middle Eastern news agency, owned by an Arab Gulf royal family.  Being an Egyptian (native Arab speaker), my job was to edit the materials coming to my desk and publish a weekly report on the situation.  When I was practically asked to write something that supports the rise of political Islam in Egypt (the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in 2011) I refused. The prince who was running this business urged me to do that because I’m Christian, which gives the article more credibility. I refused and resigned.. he later became a minister in his oil-rich country and I struggled financially until I got another job.

Through this time I saw how the news coming from the Middle East  countries that were “stormed” by the Arab “Spring” are being fabricated and then fed, in English, to newspapers that will later influence the public opinion in the interest of states that are able to pay.

Upon my frequent visits back to Egypt, I saw how the manifesto of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (Hassan el-Banna) is being followed to the letter… the biggest fear that haunted Egypt since 1928 is becoming a reality. By mid 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood seized power in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and were about to in Syria.  El-Banna’s dream of consuming democracy until they reach the appointment of the Caliph “Allah’s shadow on Earth” became so close that Islamists themselves started to spread rumours about miracles and angelic visions preparing the way for apocalyptic victory over Christians and secularists from Egypt to the rest of the region!

The “doom and gloom” was basically the best description of the situation. Travelling back to the UK after this nightmare, I saw how successful the same Islamists are in giving an entirely different image to the western world, supported by the enormous fund coming from KSA in particular.

But that was not the most concerning issue… before then I already wrote an article expecting exactly what the army is going to do with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt later.[1] The concerning part is the careful shaping of the western public opinion by the so-called “moderate Islamist” voices that are backed by infinitely rich states like Qatar. By the time the Egyptian army defused El-Banna’s dream in Egypt, the western public opinion was ready to be fed almost solely by news sources coming from places like al-Jazeera, and agencies like the one I worked for here in London.

Even worse, many of those in our academic realm dealt with the news coming from MENA with no sense of criticism. The Muslim Brotherhood’s media arm Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the so-called White Helmets and other groups of the same political and financial affiliation have become the sole source of news on Syria for the BBC, Sky News and other western outlets. Yet, a good number of those who are ready to use Wellhausen’s four sources hypothesis or the complicated charts of the Synoptic problem are left to be carried away with the news that are written in passive form, or coming from that single source.

It seems to me that by sponsoring newspapers, rescuing institutions of the size of Deutsche Bank , buying more stakes in London and donating to the Clinton Foundation, countries  like Qatar have managed to shape the awareness of many biblical scholars on the Middle East in a way that Bultmann and all his generation failed to do in the New Testament. The certainty and commitment I see in the voices of some bright and established scholars in the field towards condemning Assad and supporting “the ones” in Aleppo is unparalleled in their area of expertise.

I am not in the place to defend a political group over the other, but these words are addressed to those who are intrigued like me about the phenomenon of limiting our critical approach within the walls of our university halls.

[1] http://www.fairobserver.com/region/middle_east_north_africa/inevitable-clash-muslim-brotherhood-and-armed-forces/

Posted December 1, 2016 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Did Barnabas use a Christian Commentary?   Leave a comment

barnabas
The term has started early this month and the Advanced Greek seminar at King’s College London is back. As we are still working on the Epistle of Barnabas, we noticed a quote from an unknown source which Barnabas identifies as “the prophet.” However, the same text was found in Clement of Alexandria. This is not surprising since Clement knew Barnabas and both belonged to Alexandria, but something more interesting could be found in the way both treated it. Let’s take a look at the texts (apologies if you had problems with viewing the Greek text):
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So, the two texts read like this:
Bar. 11:9 “καὶ πάλιν ἕτερος προφήτης λέγει. Καὶ ἦν ἡ γῆ τοῦ Ἰακὼβ ἐπαινουμένη παρὰ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν. τοῦτο λέγει· τὸ σκεῦος τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ δοξάζει.”
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Stromata 3.12(86): ” καὶ ἦν ἡ γῆ τοῦ Ἰακὼβ  ἐπαινουμένη παρὰ  πᾶσαν τὴν  γῆν, φησὶν ὁ προφήτης, τὸ σκεῦος τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ δοξάζων.”
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 The agreement between both texts is remarkable. It is not only a verbatim agreement in the prophetic text, but also the interpretation! further, both just mention the source as “the prophet”… Of course Clement knew Barnabas and respected it as a “catholic and apostolic” text. Whenever he mentions something from Barnabas he refers to him. This time he doesn’t which makes me wonder about Clement’s source. Did Clement receive this prophetic text and its interpretation from a single Christian commentary on Jewish texts that was used by Barnabas as well? If yes then this is an exciting thing to know because it means that there was some sort of a Christian commentary that preceded Barnabas (who wrote probably between 96-132) and was respected in Alexandria. The tradition of writing a Christian commentary was known to Alexandria, perhaps before the rest of Christendom, as early as Basilides (the huge Exegetica).
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This is just a suggestion, open for further discussions and a careful study of possible similar cases in the text.
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In some other news, Madison Pierce, a PhD candidate at Durham University and  Shawn J. Wilhite of California Baptist University have published a new Greek reader of the Didache and Barnabas. It is part of a series that could be used as a tool to help NT students to access the Apostolic Fathers easily during their research.
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 Also, for academic correspondence I changed my email address and you can now use Mina.M.Gad@kcl.ac.uk
Cheers!

Posted October 21, 2016 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

a Qumran Textile under our Noses   2 comments

I was planning to meet my supervisor, Prof. Joan E. Taylor, at Waterstones cafe in Cambridge. When I arrived she called me and said she will be late. Ten minutes later, she came with an unmistakable look of excitement on her face. As part of her Leverhulme project, Taylor is tracking the lost monuments and fragments from Qumran caves that went missing after their disovery… it sounds like a Sherlock Holmes stuff. Anyway… here’s what she found:

“Interesting visit to the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology yesterday. Found another Qumran Cave 1Q textile. They didn’t know they had it – miscatalogued as ‘prehistoric’ – but a letter from Harding located by curator Imogen Gunn clinched it that this was indeed donated to the museum. Love this sleuthing. All part of the Leverhulme Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources network project. We’ll be creating a website soon so that all this material can be assembled together for future researchers.”

Untitled

So, after sharing a celebratory brownie and discussing my boring dissertation, we left with more questions regarding this long lost piece and what else could be found, not in Jordan or anywhere in the Middle East, but in Cambridge or Oxford… and why they were lost!

I guess there will be investigations of old letters and documents… and more exciting chapters in the story of each found piece through this project.

 

[Photo is a courtesy of this profile]

Posted August 11, 2016 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized