Imperial Cult & the Third Quest: conflicting methods?   1 comment


Last month I presented a paper at the St. Andrews Biblical Studies Symposium. The conference was about Divine SonshipLectures and papers surveyed the concept of the Son of God in Jewish tradition, from OT to 2nd Temple literature and the possible influence from Near Eastern traditions. By the end of the conference it was quite clear that the Christology of early Christians and the idea of Jesus’ divine sonship cannot be easily pinned down in a Messianic form here or there. This is not new to anyone searching for an answer to this phenomenon. However, one single paper was different:  Prof. Michael Peppard of Fordham University offered a different route: searching in the imperial cult for an answer to the complexity of Christian eschatology. Peppard’s dissertation was already focusing on the matter. This route is by no means new but it is certainly one of the promising routes that have not been consumed yet.  It was obvious that Peppard’s proposal to look at the Imperial Cult provides relevant answers to important questions on Christology more than other Jewish texts.  By the end of his lecture, the response of the addressees reflected the curiosity and, sometimes, uneasiness of looking “outside” Judaism. Peppard concluded his answers by saying that we are “not looking under every rock for Imperial ideology but acknowledging that on thousands of rocks the imperial cult is already found….” [see more here].

The next day, the concluding lecture was of NT Wright who provided his classic argument on the necessity to look for Jesus’ divinity, not in the Messianic prophecies but in the eschatological work of the God of Israel in the life of his people in prophetic writings such as Isaiah 40-63, which was the main source for the Jesus movement to reflect on to interpret the Jesus event. Of course his lecture did not lack criticism of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule and the Modern Quest etc.  But most importantly, Wright referred to Peppard’s talk in particular in a way that was not clear, at least to me, whether it challenges the “Third Quest” or not, but they were going to talk together more after the end of the lecture which concluded the conference.


As I said, it is not new to search for NT themes in the Roman imperial ideology which was pervasive all around the empire. But the question that arose from this particular conference was: is there a conflict between searching “within” Judaism and outside it i.e. in the wider Roman context? It appears to me that there are strong ideological motives lying inside the so-called Third Quest that back this implicit division.  The impact of 20th century political conflicts, the insinuations  made against Modern Quest scholars (that they revive Nazi scholarship in looking for Christian origins “outside” Judaism) and other matters led to the sensitivity of looking at Jesus of the Gospels in the image of powerful individuals like Augustus.  While people still focus on where Jesus fits, the question of where Judaism itself fits is more relevant. I recently saw a blog post (unfortunately I lost it now) by a scholar talking about “the shifting” in Lukan scholarship towards believing that the author of Luke was a Jew.. I am not sure whether this is a reality by any means but it still remains in the mindset of many of us that Judaism is virtually the ancestors of rabbinic Judaism or some sort of Jerusalimite Jewish zealotry that could be contrasted with pan-Hellenism. This view defies reality once we look at Diaspora Judaism which makes it impossible to categorise its authors as one of these groups or the other (prominently Philo who practically appeared in the conference in my short paper as well as fragmentary allusions).  It is time to seek a new integrative view of the Greco-Roman culture in which Judaism(s) is(are) a fundamental component in its fabric.  Otherwise, the end of the so-called third quest becomes necessary and inevitable.


Back to Michael Peppard’s quote above: the question is, if the Imperial Cult plays a vital part in the background of those who preached the Gospel to large cities like Rome, how could we see that beyond the question of Christology? and how can we see the Jewishness of the Jesus movement as part of a wider strategy to defend Christianity as a religio licita? what other rocks do we need to look under?




Posted July 1, 2016 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Luke: an Apostolic Father or a New Testament Text?   Leave a comment


Last April, I gave a paper in a conference at Durham University. The conference was about “the muted voices” of early Christianity, and these voices included the catholic epistles in the NT as well as the apostolic fathers. The organisers arranged seminars running in parallel and you choose what you would like to attend. My seminar was basically about orthodoxy and heresy in earliest Christianity: Barnabas and 1 Clement as a case study. Before I started reading I noticed that all NT professors left  to attend the seminar running in parallel on the 1Timothy and 2Peter except one professor who didn’t really appreciate what I said since I was arguing for the validity of Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy.

The reason why those NT scholars left was obvious: Barnabas and 1 Clement are not part of the canon, then they are not interesting. It is as simple as that even if they didn’t say so explicitly. They are not in the canon, at least now… this makes them, to put it politely, less interesting or perhaps less significant.

It is this hypothetical wall that separates two domains: NT scholarship and patristics: if something is labelled “patristic” then it automatically relies on at least a text or two in the NT. The impact of this perspective appears more on my generation of young researchers who lack interest in patristic texts.

But here’s a fact: 1Clement was definitely earlier than most of the catholic epistles while Barnabas is the earliest complete Christian work coming from Alexandria, if not as early as 1Clement, as modern scholarship tend to think (around emperor Nerva’s time).

And here’s another fact: these texts know nothing of our “canonical” Gospels and they preserve a rich number of parallels with the Gospels like the ethical maxims of 1Clem13.2 which show no redactional hands as in the Gospels. Or 1Clem. 46 as well.  Same for Barnabas which has a great deal of thoughts that resonate with the Gospel of John.

The first fact mentioned before makes the “fathers” contemporaneous to the Gospels, not posterior. The second makes the apostolic fathers the best witnesses to the development of the church that produced these Gospels.

I am focusing on these two examples in particular because they were part of the canon at some point (well into the fourth century actually!) and they have been considered “orthodox” by the dominant Catholic church from the second century onwards (actually 1Clement was the criterion of Orthodoxy in Asia Minor and Alexandria!). This means that it is not a problem of orthodoxy and heresy that made them “posterior and less interesting” …

So, if it is neither historical precedence  nor “orthodoxy,”  what made the fathers fathers and the NT NT? After three years of research, it appears to me that we do not have the answer.

Recently, I have been reading carefully through the fourth book of Tertullian against Marcion (Adversus Marcionem). Tertullian was a bit cheeky but interesting: he put two major criteria to evaluate the authenticity of a text: its apostolicity and its antiquity. If it is older and composed by an apostle then it ticks enough boxes to be appreciated. Of course he claimed that Marcion’s Evangelion lacked both. But what about “our book:” Luke? Tertullian seemed to have no solid information about Luke or his book but he accepted the idea that it was composed by Luke the companion of Paul. Now this is the problem: Luke was not an apostle! it is even worse for Luke since he – imprudently – attached himself to another guy who was not appointed by Jesus as the rest (Paul).

So, he called Luke (and Mark) an apostolic father… because he was not an apostle like Matthew and John.

So, was Tertullian right or wrong? (regardless of the historicity of these gospels, if you got my point).

What should we make of Luke-Acts and Mark then?

Posted April 1, 2016 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Jesus and the Temple by Simon J. Joseph   Leave a comment



Cambridge University Press has just released Jesus and the Temple: the Crucifixion in its Jewish Context by Prof. Simon J. Joseph of California Lutheran University. In my opinion, this book is part of what seems to be a Trilogy. A clear programme appears through these books and connects them together. His first book defines his understanding of Q and its place in the formative Christian period. His second book, which I reviewed earlier (pt.1 and 2), defines the image of Q’s Jesus as a nonviolent Messiah with a transformative eschatology that is not very far from the Enochic tradition. The third book puts his findings in action by attesting it against the wider historical milieu of Christian traditions in quest of understanding the original message of Jesus.

The Book

The topic of Jesus’ attitude towards the Temple is fundamental since his fate in several texts (prominently GMk and GMt) was associated with it. Jesus’ relationship with the Temple also shaped and defined the early Christian movement that was not far from it. However, the Gospels did not clarify exactly what offense Jesus made that led to his condemnation. Hence comes the book of Joseph which aims to use this theme to question the identity and scope of Jesus’ message. As I said before, the book is not far from his earlier books through which he developed an understanding of Jesus in Q.

The book starts and ends with the crucifixion: its historicity (ch.1) and meaning (ch.7). Within this event, Joseph states the problem of why Jesus was executed. Hence, he approached the Temple as a probable cause for his violent end, and how it was understood by early Christians (the sacrifice of the dying saviour).  It does not take too long until the rhythm of the book gets faster with rich footnotes in English and German and a careful survey of earlier views. Building up towards unlocking the enigmatic relationship between Jesus and the Temple, Joseph goes through the concept of the Law as it appears from the Torah to early Christianity, in an endeavour to understand Jesus’ possible attitude towards it. Joseph resorts to the vision of the law as it appears in the radicalised maxims of Q through which Joseph seems to go beyond the ordinary state of the law towads the transformed ethics in the realm of realised eschatology. Joseph’s thesis is well understood through his earlier works and is also in a clear agreement with John Kloppenborg who emphasised this specific point in his stratification of Q.

In the third chapter, Joseph defined the eschatological perspective of the Temple in second Temple Judaism just as he did with the Torah. He justifiable shows how the background of Jesus had a milieu of attitudes and forms of criticism against different elements of the Temple as an institution. This, as Joseph suggests, leads consequently to the variety of attitudes seen in Christianity, later.

In the fourth chapter, Joseph sets out the problem of the Christian attitude towards the Temple. He first starts from Q where he senses a “serious indictment” against the establishment in the prophetic saying Q 13:34-5 (See my comment section below) and 11:49-51. A “forsaken” Temple is not one in which sacrifices are either efficacious or capable of reconciling Israel and God. The Temple is a place where the prophets are killed.  Jerusalem has rejected Jesus, and its Temple is now “forsaken.”[1] Moving to Mark, Joseph concludes that Mark’s theology is clearly against the Temple and that the Markan Jesus has no place for the Temple in his vision of the eschaton. Albeit more conservative, Matthew follows Mark. When it comes to Luke-Acts Joseph indeed deems the Lukan attitude ambiguous.  going quickly through the rest of the NT texts, Joseph concludes: “among His people. The New Testament evidence for the historical Jesus’ relationship to the Temple is inconsistent and ambiguous.”[2]

Afterwards, Joseph proposes his own possible solution to the problem. After a critique of the earlier solutions, especially the ones that introduce Jesus with a violent apocalyptic and destructive tone, Joseph goes to a fresh and new corner. He asks a question that would challenge the conservatives across the Atlantic: what if the so-called Jewish Christianity could contribute to the problem by providing a more consistent image of Jesus’ attitude to the Temple? Hence comes Joseph’s bold contribution to the problem.

Overcoming the classic prejudiced view against these groups, Joseph shows how the theology of groups like the Ebionites and the Nazirites is not necessarily later or secondary to the “canonical” ones. The Ebionite dietary, rejection of animal sacrifices and ascetic life are certainly not far from the information, albeit fragmented, we have about the early Jerusalemite Christians (prominently James) or even earlier (John the Baptist). Going beyond James Robinson’s speculation of the possible disappearance of Q along with Jewish Christians,  Joseph proposes a possible trajectory through which we can see the possible reality of Jesus’  Temple attitude and the Jewish Christian groups. Carefully assessing the hypothesis 20th century pillar of Jewish Christianity scholarship Hans Joachim Schoeps,[3] Joseph proposes that their attitude to the Temple was transformative: they did not necessarily abolish the Temple per se but they no longer considered the significance of the sacrificial system.[4] The plurality of the Jewish Christian groups must not be seen as a single sect, and hence they indeed provided a multiply attested memory of Jesus, if we give up on the canonical judgment against them.

In the light of Q’s early witness, through the conflicting Gospel accounts of the matter, to the multiply attested testimony of the Jewish Christian sects, it seems that the best explanation of Jesus’ attitude is that he had a transformative view of the Temple which turns it into an eschatological sanctuary by following the eschatological maxims and teachings rather than blood sacrifices.[5] This image is the most consistent one that could solve the different historical problems.

The final chapter provides a case for the secondary nature of the Christian understanding of Jesus’ sacrificial death (dying as a saviour) under the impact of Paul, the expansion in the Roman empire and the marginalisation of Jerusalem Church after 70 CE.


1)            Joseph engages critically with three problematic issues: 1- the common assumption of the Third Quest which enforces a conformist Jewish image that Jesus must belong to. 2- the insufficiency of the term “Jewish Christian” and its negative impact on research. 3- The ability to acknowledge the incoherence of the Temple attitudes in the Gospels… something we need to assert in the light of the successive books that recently dealt with the matter.[6]

2)            However, I wish I could see an unpacked discussion of the Temple attitudes in the Gospels, including Q (CUP monographs are usually very limited in word count). I personally disagree with the “anti-temple” interpretation of both Q 13:34-5 and 11:49-51. Indeed, Jesus had a negative perspective of the Jewish leadership and Jerusalem as a city, but the judgment was not automatically transferred to the Temple. The Temple was apparently the victim of the Jewish authorities. Q does not provide us with a clear positive or negative image of the Temple and, in my opinion, the different attempts of earlier scholars to suggest an attitude are speculative.  Does depicting the Temple as a place of conflict mean that the Temple itself is negatively viewed? I doubt it. This is clearer in the case of Luke whose special material shows Jesus’ deep commitment to reach the Temple and to stay in it until his arrest. This pre-Lukan tradition was known to Mark (14:49) who seems to have suppressed it. Yet, this commitment was not reduced by the aggressive attitude of the Jewish rulers, in Luke. Hence, Q 13:34-5 is not in conflict with the Lukan context which interprets the destruction of the Temple not in a negative sense like Mark (and Matthew) but because it falls victim to the failure of the Jerusalem’s authorities to recognise “the things that make peace” (Cf. 19:41-5 and 21:20-4). Just like Josephus, the one to blame for the destruction of the Temple is not God but the Jewish rulers. This is certainly not the case of Mark who curses the Temple through the off-putting fig tree incident. Indeed, Stephen’s speech runs against Luke’s theology but the book of Acts aimed to show diversity and Luke tolerated that clearly by combining apostles and figures (like Apollos) who were not entirely in agreement and harmony. Could Luke make a good case for Joseph’s argument within the Synoptic tradition? I would say yes, and this is not entirely new. Lloyd Gaston’s No Stone on Another suggested a non-Cultic devotion to the Temple in Streeter’s Proto-Luke (which combines Q and L), and I find this justifiable.

3)            The book is rich in bibliography, coherent and solid. The 6th chapter on Jewish Christianity is certainly provocative and stimulating. It will certainly bring more discussions since bringing “noncanonical” texts in the historical debates is sometimes a red herring. If you are not familiar with the topic, I would suggest that you start from this book since it will take you through earlier scholarship and will provide you with the foundations up to Joseph’s contribution this year.

[1] p.105

[2] p.132

[3] Cf. Jewish Christianity: Factional disputes in the early church

[4] Epiphanius’ description of Elchasai and his follows shows this seemingly contradictory view : they remained committed to Jerusalem as the centre of worship but they refused the blood sacrifice. The Ebionites also seemed to share this perspective (Pan. 19.3.5–7.).

[5] pp.208-9

[6] See Wardle The Temple and Early Christian Identity (2008); Perrin’s Jesus the Temple (2011) and Charlesworth’s Jesus and the Temple (2014)

Posted January 23, 2016 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Helmut Koester: the Man   Leave a comment

The Scholar

For the vast majority of academics, Professor Helmut Koester is an important name that appears frequently in footnotes. He is known for his landmarks in NT scholarship and his contribution to the wider scope of early Christianity. Professor Koester and his lifetime friend James Robinson were behind convincing the American publishers and scholars to translate the book of Walter Bauer Orthodoxy and Heresy after it failed dramatically to sell in its homeland due to its publication timing (shortly before WWII) and its daring views. Koester and Robinson then produced one of the most influential classics in NT scholarship, the theory of Trajectories through Early Christianity. With his influential paper (GNOMAI DIAPHOROI: The origin and nature of diversification in the history of early Christianity) Koester completed Bauer’s project by updating it with the important findings of Nag Hammadi texts.  Later, Koester’s numerous books, papers and editorial works (Hermeneia series, HTR, Biblical Archaeology) have arguably changed the face of scholarship and made him one of the giants of the business. Of course Koester was not a media person and he remained loyal to his German discipline and accuracy until the end. He was accused of preposterous insinuations and theories of conspiracy but these accusations disappear like a puff of smoke along with the names of the scholars who made them, while he will remain as one of the scholarship pillars.   For Helmut Koester’s academic contribution, I refer the readers to his Festschift.

The Pastor

This side is probably unknown to the vast majority of scholars, so here’s my testimony.

I travelled to the United States to study theology. Under the umbrella of the Boston Theological Institute (BTI) I managed to take an advanced module with him at Harvard Divinity School (Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospels). There, I had the first shock by the intense readings and requirements which include 7 papers before the final exam. It appeared to me that going through Koester’s module will cause a deep impasse with the tradition of the church I belong to, but as someone with a scientific background I went for Koester’s choice which caused me enough trouble and consequences I have been dealing with in my Church until now.

Coming from Egypt and with an engineering background made the task of mastering Koester’s module at Harvard rather challenging. I spoke with him about my thoughts in an email message and in the same day I received a reply inviting me for lunch. In a beautiful Chinese restaurant not far from HDS, he gave me the golden advice which I have been following since then: “Mina, to be able to find yourself a place in a prestigious school in the future you need to realise that the matter is challenging. People with solid backgrounds in theology are many and the places are limited. With your background as a North African with Arabic as your first language, who studied engineering , you will need to put extra energy than them. You showed me one paper so far and it is promising.”  Since then, I realised where my starting point is in this race and I worked hard enough to impress him and master the course with “the highest possible mark” and a recommendation letter that granted me a place at the university where I am. Helmut was rather realistic which makes him sound a bit tough, but his kindness poured from his very words that sound a bit strict!

Through the journey, he did everything to support me as a pastor. At some point when I was under pressure from the conservative figures of the Orthodox Church, he phone-called his student: Demetrius, the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America! and told him to support me until I move to HDS for a PhD.. something I could not do  due to the political and other uncontrollable circumstances in Egypt which forced me to return.

At some point later, I was treated badly by my own parish church after I wrote an article in a Russian magazine (Pravmir) explaining that the Orthodox Church needs to become more accessible to national  cultures in Africa including mine… that was something that kept the Greek hierarchy rather angry with me to the extent of not allowing me to have communion in my parish. Again, as a pastor he took the initiative to support me and to ensure that I am feeling well despite the fact that he was suffering from pneumonia that nearly killed him, followed by a car accident with his lifetime friend Klaus Baltzer and later a serious lung cancer surgery.

Helmut opened his house to his students. I remember that he invited his students to spend nights there. He always shared his food with them and I cannot forget the pleasant late nights with him around his beautiful lamp and the smoke of his pipe.

He never allowed to write his biography… I struggled  before convincing him to do his Wikipedia page. My reason to know more about his background is because I wanted to understand how he came to be so kind and loving. He once told me over that lunch meal I mentioned before: it was a tradition to invite a student to lunch to support him/her. This tradition is basically Bultmannian: Bultmann used to support his students with regular lunches  and free cigarette packs in the few years after WWII. The reason is because of the poverty of the Marburg students and Koester was one of them. Bultmann looked after them like his children and supported them with every possible means for them to complete their degrees. Koester felt that it is his duty to do the same to his students as well and I was lucky to be part of this.

Koester’s difficult background was also another element that shaped his character. I remember that in our meeting in Hamburg in 2012 he told me about his memories in this city where he was in the German army as an anti-aircraft soldier, being bombed by the British air raids and how he got wounded. That was preceded by a difficult boot camp experience in one of the German army isolated islands near the Danish coast. He told me how the German Wehrmacht crushed their ego under extreme conditions. His father who was the chief architect of Hamburg refused to join the Nazi party and was imprisoned for a while. Koester himself was a prisoner of war for a year or two (I cannot remember) before he returns to Berlin in a quest to find his family.

The suffering he endured in these years  shaped the strong character known about him. I remember well how he fixed the time of the wall clocks at HDS because they were  2 minutes different! and whenever I complained about any conditions , his memories embarrassed me and were enough to motivate me to work harder.

Our friendship never stopped and I redirected my travel to San Diego for the SBL to accept his invitation to stay with him and Gisela over  thanksgiving day. There, we shared lots of stories and funny memories.

The Christian

As a Lutheran Pastor, Helmut Koester was a committed Christian. He never imposed his faith over his academic work and he was good at this enough to perplex the conservatives and those of the Jesus Seminar who, in my opinion, are equally dogmatic. Koester was a descendant of German spirituality. His work with Bultmann influenced his views and made him passionate about his faith without compromising his work. He always emphasised the word “experience of faith” in his discussions with me. That might sound to me like Schleiermacher’s definition of Christian faith. This experience drove him in the most difficult situations from the war time until his final sermon given at the Lutheran University Church. His faith in near death situations made him ready “for the next experience” of the afterlife. Koester was calm and confident in God’s love and I had the honour to pray with him in several services and took communion from his hands. His view of the Historical Jesus the Victim of the Pax Romana and his balanced understanding of Jesus’ eschatology made his Christology “experiential” and visible in Koester’s own shared meals, his love and his worldview which was rather theological, if you know him well enough.

I always disagreed with him in theological matters. I remember his jokes and comments when we discussed Barth and Pannenberg (his former colleague in Heidelberg).

Yesterday I lost the most beautiful, loving and genuine friend I have ever seen. My sadness and my loss are too great to express in words. I will miss his jokes, wisdom, soups, nightcap drinks when I stay with him … and more than anything else, his comforting faith which was supporting me spiritually and intellectually.

I would like to share with you the very last words he concluded his module with, and they reflect his views on the matter of refugees today:

“The giving of Jesus, the only begotten Son, the Word that became flesh, is God’s documentation of love. “Thus has God loved the world that God gave the only begotten son so that all who believe are not lost but have eternal life.” The First Epistle of John formulated that in the statement that the essence of God can be described with the one word “love,” God is love. Therefore, the disciples are left with nothing else but the new commandment that they should love each other. That is the work of Jesus and that his why he gave his life. If they love each other, then Jesus has returned to them, then they do the works of Jesus, and will do even greater works than Jesus. The farewell discourses state that this return of Jesus in the works of love of the disciples is something the world will not “see,” because works of love are not glory and love that glorifies itself has lost its justification, its very essence.

Love is as messy as the shelter for the homeless people in the basement of our church, as objectionable as trying to give support to the second and third child of an unmarried young mother, as disgusting as speaking out for criminals who suffer abuse in prison, and as questionable as the welcome to undocumented foreign workers. This, however, is the final message of this Gospel (of John) that has preserved very little information about the historical Jesus and yet has drawn Jesus into the flesh and into history more than any other Gospel. At the same time, the Gospel does not allow the disciples to glory in the finding of their otherworldly divine selves; rather, it also draws the disciples into the uncomfortable worldly business of love. And this is ultimately the message of the story of Christmas, even if we do not read the Gospel of John but the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus is born to a homeless couple and worshipped by shepherds, undocumented aliens who have come across the border to tend the sheep of the wealthy owners for less than minimum wages.”


Memory Eternal!

Mina Monier

Cambridgeshire, January 2016


Posted January 3, 2016 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

Marcion’s not quite Marcionite Gospel   Leave a comment


Adolf von Harnack.

Months ago, I met prof. Jason BeDuhn at the Jesus Seminar corner in the book exhibition of the SBL. He was telling me about his then forthcoming on Marcion’s scriptural canon. He was still reviewing what was written on this topic which has been recently revived by several scholars including our King’s College member prof. Markus Vinzent. BeDuhn seemed not very impressed by the classic/patristic view that Marcion edited the Gospel of Luke in the shape we have today (hence Canonical Luke = CLk).

His The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon, was published by Westar Institute and already caused debates over the role that Marcion’s gospel (he called it Evangelion)[1] could play in our understanding of the Synoptic problem. In dealing with the question of the origin of Marcion’s Evangelion, BeDuhn defined three positions:[2]

1- the classic or patristic hypothesis: Marcion edited CLk by cutting the passages that run against his own theological views (most recently, Dieter Roth and Judith Lieu).

2- The Schwegler hypothesis: Luke derives from Marcion’s Evangelion by the process of expansion (most recently Markus Vinzent and possibly Matthias Klinghardt).

3- Semler’s hypothesis (the middle position): the Evangelion and CLk are both independent developments of a common proto-gospel.  (Championed by John Knox and recently Andrew Gregory and Joseph Tyson).

Of course the opinions over gospel priority are not clear-cut as they were proposed this way. For example the “middle position” reflects later intersection between the two development trajectories as it appears in the works of those mentioned above. However, these three position could effectively and broadly define what we have in scholarship.

The classic position relies on two arguments: consistency in grammar, style and vocabulary in CLk throughout the work which should show that it was not a later expansion of an earlier “different” work, and Marcion’s redaction of Luke and his possible knowledge of Lukan redaction. The first one, as BeDuhn says, was challenged by John Knox without any serious response to his 1942 thesis. I would add to that it is really impossible to show this alleged consistency in grammar, style and vocabulary throughout Luke. It is not difficult to see how Luke himself switched between blocks of sources that reflect different backgrounds which could show, in some cases, theological and literary difficulties (compare for example the composition of his Eschatological Discourse and compare it with the Logia Apocalypse of Q17), needless to refer to the passion narrative with all of the difficulties it brings.[3]

As for redaction argument, which sadly BeDuhn did not refer to, I would like to make a brief comment on it. Redaction criticism is not simply switching a word or two here and there but a challenging process because it should show strong consistency between the literary and source criticism of the text. When Hans Conzelmann wrote his important die Mitte der Zeit (ET The Theology of St. Luke), he showed an exceptional skill in tracing both Luke’s mind (theology) and pen. Luke’s overall theology governed his literary work and edited his sources to serve his large picture (Salvation History) which could be evidenced in every corner of Luke’s work. Hence, the book becomes a standard text in scholarship. I must admit, I have not seen this either from those of the first or the second opinions.

Recently, I feel that this term was used excessively and not quite appropriately in debates like the one we have here and, for example, the Gospel of Thomas. The argument that (if we show at least one single verse in text 2 that proves knowledge of redaction in text 1 then text2 knew text 1) is quite simplistic and hence unreliable.[4] In the case of the Evangelion and CLk, it was used in both directions.

For instance, those who claim that Luke edited Marcion are heavily relying on Luke 5:37, we referred to this earlier.[5]  In the opposite case, Dieter Roth, builds his case for Marcion’s knowledge of CLk on, literally, two rather controversial cases Luke 4:43 and 16:16.[6] I have no wish to debate whether these two verses are really Lukan redaction, but this fails to explain important issues. First, Marcion’s constructed text comes from patristic citations with decades of time difference, apparent hostility from those who saved these texts and the clear harmonising and cross-contamination cases which were quite common in similar cases. In what possible way can we ignore these facts and conclude that the whole Marcionite work depends on CLk from these “two bits“? I find the simplicity of this approach rather problematic.

Indeed, all attempts to interpret the expansion of Marcion or reduction of Luke cannot be explained if we take the whole text seriously. In the case of the latter (Marcion reduced CLk), BeDuhn skillfully showed how the Evengelion must have failed miserably if it meant to reduce CLk to serve Marcion’s theology exclusively.[7]

This also applies to the opposite extreme (Schwegler’s).[8]

BeDuhn’s conclusive observation shows us that both the Evangelion and Luke were independently developed and were subject to harmonization from the generations that held a stronger canonical sense of the Gospels we have now in the NT.[9] Here, it seems I must put John Knox’s conclusion which is pretty much what an honest study of the materials should lead to: “The relation between Marcion’s Gospel and the canonical Gospel of Luke is not accurately described either by the simple statement that Marcion abridged Luke or by the assertion that Luke enlarged Marcion. The position would rather be that a primitive Gospel, containing approximately the same Markan and Matthean elements which our Luke contain and some of its peculiar materials, was somewhat shortened by Marcion or some predecessor rather considerably enlarged by the writer of our Gospel, who was also the maker of Luke-Acts.”[10] Thus, BeDuhn’s conclusions run almost in the same direction of the third “middle way” position.

Hence, BeDuhn justifiably asks about the consequences regarding the Synoptic problem, which was also an issue raised by Matthias Klinghardt earlier.[11] Would accepting the shape of the Evengelion as we have it as a fundamental block in the shape of the synoptic problem? BeDuhn makes significant observations including the lack of the minor agreements in the Evangelion, the introductory narratives in Q (John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism and temptation) and, most interestingly (at least to me), is the fact that amongst the 19 parallels between GThomas and Luke, at least 15 are found in the Evangelion. what should we make of all these points together? that’s an open question.

Thus far, I don’t think that the third scenario makes the Evangelion form any threat to the Two Source Hypothesis. However, it certainly invites us to ask legitimate questions regarding the sources of CLk. Hastily, Paul-Louis Couchoud entertained the idea that a proto-Luke could lie behind both Gospels. If we understand proto-Luke in the shape introduced by Streeter and Vincent Taylor, 90 years ago, then certainly not. John Knox’s statistics could show that Marcion owes nearly 50% of his materials to the common Synoptic tradition. However, all it takes is to see how the synoptic traditions were so fluid in the Apostolic Fathers and well until Justin Martyr in order to expect that an already “contaminated” or “harmonised” edition of proto-Luke might have existed could be perfectly plausible.

From my own research I have seen that some Markan insertions into a pre-Lukan tradition (such as Luke 21:20-36) are not well attested in the Marcionite edition, which might suggest that these “unbezeugt” insertions were added into CLk at a later stage, but I will leave that to the next post on Proto-Luke.

In conclusion, BeDuhn’s book reflects the status quaestionis from whence we should move forward into a full analytical study of the parallels between Marcion and the substrata of the materials we have. There is a lot to do and the future of this research is rather promising provided that we set our doctrinal investment aside.

Mina Monier

Maughan Library, King’s College London

September 2015

[1] Terturllian, Ad. Marc. 4.2; Epiphanius, Panarion 42:10

[2] p.79ff.

[3] I refer you to the exhaustive volume of Harrington, J. M. The Lukan Passion Narrative: The Markan Material in Luke 22,54-23,25. Schneider G. Verleugnung, Verspottung, und Verhör Jesu nach Lukas 22,54-71: Studien zur lukanischen Darstellung der Passion. On the vocabulary argument see Rehkopf’s Die lukanische Sonderquelle, on a wider grammar, style and content issues see Kim Paffenthroth The Story of Jesus According to L.

[4] In the case of GThomas see my earlier post here

[5] This wisdom saying appears independently in GThomas 47 which means it is not necessarily a Lukan free redaction (

[6] Rother, D., The Text of Marcion’s Gospel. See chapter 4.4.73 and chapter 5.6. I have been informed that Matthias Klinghardt’s upcoming two-volume work will respond to these points in detail.

[7] Reading the Evangelion shows materials that run against Marcion’s view of God, his relationship with the OT, Jesus’ rather fleshly body and blood..etc. Same applies to the allegedly omitted materials which include a significant body of verses which we cannot really explain why would Marcion omit.

[8] p.84ff.

[9] “The Evangelion and Luke often switch places when it comes to harmonisation to other gospels. Sometimes Luke appears to have a more independent text, while the Evangelion’s has been conformed to Matthew’s wording; at other times, the situation is reversed, and the Evangelion has the more independent text, and Luke’s shows harmonization influence.”p.88, for examples see footnote 75 in his book.

[10] Marcion and the New Testament p.110

[11] Klinghardt, M., The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion, Novum Testamentum, Vol. 50, Fasc. 1 (2008), pp. 1-27

Posted September 14, 2015 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

James Charlesworth on Awe and Christology   Leave a comment

COPIED FROM J H Charlesworth:

Awe and Christology

To escape the occasional overbearing pressures of work, I flee to northwest Israel and relax near the eastern Mediterranean. My favorite time is to go to the coast and see the sun set, glancing northwards to the coast of Lebanon and the white-chalked Rosh haNikra and then southwards to the grey Carmel range as it juts out into the sea.

For the past two days, I have been reading Luke, pondering the words and trying to grasp all the meaning in light of my many decades here in the Holy Land and teaching since the late sixties in numerous countries.

As I saw the sun slide out of view, I knew with pellucid clarity how brilliant Jesus was. I lamented how much hostility he encountered probably because he did not teach as the scribes. I thanked God for the genius I felt reading Jesus’ words and confessed the awesome power that was present in him.

I knew I had been reading “the greatest story ever told.” Then, I mediated and wondered: How much is only story? As a scholar I perceived it was a clever narrative; but, as a person who follows Jesus, I realized there was far more in that story than any scholar who is deficient in theology can ever grasp.

Jesus was empowered. He was full of power and he was efficaciously successful.

Was it not the same power I was now feeling, hearing waves splash on the shore and seeing colors filter through the sky?

To have experienced that feeling once is to realize life has been worth living.

I thought again about my discovery: “The highest Christology ends not in words but in wonder and Awe.”

I confessed:

“In the eloquence of silence resides Wisdom and a creature’s harmony with the Creating Creator.”

Todah Rabbah lecha Adonai Elohenu.

Jesus also uttered those precise sounds.



Posted July 13, 2015 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

The Nonviolent Messiah: Part 2   3 comments


Back cover, click to enlarge

Earlier, we surveyed Simon J Joseph’s first part of his The Nonviolent Messiah. As we saw, the first part was Joseph’s view of the main problems in the historical Jesus scholarship and the models that depict him in a violent way (mainly the apocalyptic prophet of the impending judgment). In the following parts of the book, Joseph suggests a solution to the problem of the tension surrounding Jesus traditions. Joseph argues that the Essenic-Enochic literature provides us with the necessary views that explain  the theme of Christology  as found in Q which could be the key to understand Jesus’ historical message.

His strategy is to prove the similarity between Eschatology in Q and 1Enoch (mainly the Book of Parables) and the role of the Messiah in both (mainly the Son of Man and the Animal Aposcalypse) then we can claim the similarity of Messianship (Christology).


First, he surveyed the different definitions of Jesus’ Messianship which showed that scholarship is quite divergent on the matter. Joseph stated that the problem is that there is no such thing called “the Messiah” in Second Temple Judaism which produced “a plurality of Messianic ideas, expectations, typologies, titles, attributes, motifs, traditions and prospective candidates, and any attempt to pronounce a definitive, exclusive identification of Jesus as the Messiah is more at home in religious and theologically apologetic debates than in historical Jesus studies.”[1] However, Joseph later shows that there is some sort of a common denominator between these traditions which could be attributed to the Messiah in Judaism: he is of a Davidic royal ancestry and he has a decisive role in the war that will bring the eschaton.  But the case of Jesus in Q is not. Joseph uses Q 7:22 (Jesus’ response to John’s disciples) as a key statement of Messianship, but what sort of Messianship is it? Joseph finds in Qumran’s 4Q521 as the best parallel to Jesus’ answer.[2]

4Q521 2 ii Q 7:22
Blind see Blind see
Lame walk Lame walk
Lepers cleansed
Deaf hear Deaf hear
Dead raised Dead raised
Poor/Good News Poor/Good News

His analysis agrees with John Kloppenborg’s observation on this point.[3] Now we can see Joseph’s programme: how the definition of the Messianiship of Jesus is embedded in an eschatology that finds its prallel in 4Q521 more than the classic violent (war) Messianship feature.

He then moves to the next and most challenging topic in Christology: the meaning of the Son of Man title. Undoubtedly, the SoM is one of the distinctive features in Q as it appears 9 times. The SoM is certainly associated with judgment in other texts (Daniel 7, 4Ezra and 1 Enoch) and it has to be found in Q engaging with the theme of judgment, but in what way? here, Joseph seems to accept the stratification or shifting in Q  toward the judgment of this generation using the SoM.[4] However, again, I must say that I wish Joseph could have reflected more on the fact that the parallel sayings between GTh and Q show how this shift indeed took place when we see the same sayings in GTh without that title (and other Christological overtones). This could have certainly furthered his argument for the secondary nature of judgment sayings.  It is the Book of Parables, according to Joseph, that provides a similar conflation between two traditions of the Servant of Isaiah with the SoM.[5] The redactor of Q accessed this book to find a corresponding tradition that could explain Jesus’ eschatological proclamation (especially after his resurrection). Yet, this part is not strong enough to make his case. As we said the backbone of Joseph’s strategy is comparing eschatology, in which the Messiah operates, between the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 83-90) and Q.

Joseph shows that the eschatology of both Q and 1Enoch are similar in their reversal of some concrete ideas in early Judaism: the Messianic Age is a return to the prelapsarian state: “The An. Apoc. envisions a return to the beginning, a universal transformation … there is no need to  war.”[6] What is the tool of bringing this peaceful universal transformation?  It is the role of the White Bull who actualised this transformation. The white Bull:

  • leads the cows
  • No mention of a Davidic royalty.
  • He/it is the archetype of the prelapsarian state and its restorer. Through him/it, the cow begets white bulls.

The third point is the pivotal one: Against Olsen’s thesis which aimed to show that the White Bull is a reference to Jacob,[7] Joseph convincingly finds sort of a divine Messiah who restores God’s likeness of the human state (before the fall), something resembles Adamic Christology in Paul.[8] But what about Q? Joseph shows that the Kingdom of God as the eschatological proclamation of Jesus shows the same features.  His argument appears in his treatment of 4 key verses in Q that should be understood within “radical wisdom of eschatology.”[9]

1- “Seek His Kingdom” (12:31): The Kingdom is proclaimed to be present in Jesus’ ministry.[10] This verse particularly prioritises seeking God’s Kingdom over the necessary needs which come through work; it reverses the normal day-to-day wisdom that praises work over everything else and resonates with the year of God, the jubilee, which is highlighted by Luke. Through showing several structural similarities with the fall in Gen 2-3, it also reverses the post-lapsarian logic of survival.

2- “Why Do You Call me Master” (6:46): this verse aims to go with the followers beyond acceptance or approval of an aphoristic saying to actualising eschatology i.e. a call for transformation.

3- “love your enremies” (6:27):  “the historical Jesus directly challenges the Jewish biblical tradition of war and violence.”[11] This is something understood in realising eschatology and transformation (1 and 2). This is understood in comparison with God’s behaviour toward the good and the wicked granting both the light of the sun and rain.

4-“Sons of the Father” (6:35c-d): on the path of eschatological transformation, becoming like  God is certainly the climax of the journey.

Now comes the result of Joseph’s study clear: both eschatologies have the same features, and the Messiah operating through them is acting as the peaceful restorer of prelapsarian state which is the divine likeness of the archetype of humanity.

It remains for Joseph to say that the Christology of Q here is distinctive in a major feature: Q has inclusive and exclusive Christologies, something we do not find in the SoM of the Parables. This is precisely the conflation of both the Son of God and Son of Man traditions in Q.

“Q’s concurrent identification of Jesus as the Enochic Son of Man and the Enochic/Adam Son of God conflates two distinct roles: the end-time judge and the tranforming Adamic Messiah. Both roles reflect strong first-century Jewish Apocalyptic traditions with strong wisdom components, but they are in certain respects thematically and theologically incompatible. There is a gospel of Jesus and a gospel about Jesus

Personal Comments

I would like to make brief comments. Let me start with the challenging point in Joseph’s method. In some cases the comparison is broad enough to enquire about the parameters of this comparison. For instance, in his key argument about the role of the Messiah as a transformer of the creation to its prelapsarian divine likeness, the comparison between Q and the Animal Apocalypse seems to me a bit ambiguous. The transformation (or as he uses the word metamorphosis) in the animal apocalypse is apparently ontological, not simply moral. It does resonate with the idea of new creation in Paul, but does Q understand Jesus’ call for discipleship and new eschatological moral conduct necessary imply an ontological transformation? this is something I cannot see in Q, or at least it is not present within this document (perhaps in the overall theology of the community behind it but this remains hypothetical).

A second point comes to my mind, Joseph went through a large number of materials around both Q and 1Enoch (NT and Qumran) to show the similarities. We have to be careful on this point because the relationship between these materials could change our view of the matters. In a point related to the first comment (the nature of transformation), we note that Joseph goes with the “Temple as community” theme beyond 1Enoch to the wider milieu of Qumran. He finds this idea mainly in the Rule of the Community (1QS) and connects it with Paul’s image in 1Cor. 3:16-7. Two problems arise: first, the yahad  יחד  as a Temple is indeed in 1QS but does it mean the whole community of Qumran as a Temple? scholars are divided on that but the direct and clear definition of the document itself, and thus I stick to John Collins here, is that the elite “Council of the Community עצת היחד ” formed of 15 persons (twelve scholars and three priests) are the temple… and even if we think that the Council of the Community and the whole community are identical, the message is that that community becomes a Temple for Israel when they preach the rest of the people, so it does not signify an ontological transformation/sanctification, while it could be so in Paul.

Adding to these points the fact, which Joseph asserts, that “there is no evidence on a direct literary dependence from the Parables to Q”[12] I find Joseph’s statement that “Q used the book of Parables”[13] perilous.

The book is of great significance to scholarship. While Q is not necessarily a product of an Enochic-Essenic group nor that Q accessed directly the Enochic literature known to us, the careful thematic similarities and theological connections between Q and the book of parables and the fascinating Animal Apocalypse make a very convincing case for putting Q in a milieu that breathed the same air of ideas found in 1 Enoch. Each point was carefully investigated, put against the gaps in our knowledge, and the cumulative argument is probably the most convincing amongst other portrayals of the intellectual profile of Q community.


One of the most challenging points was understanding the circumstances that led Q to jump in its traditions, through redaction, toward the apocalyptic interpolation and I think this book contributed significantly to this issue. The sociological speculation of so many scholars fails, in my opinion, to interpret the theological development of Q from the first to the following layers. This book proposes a theological standing for those who felt the need to develop the manual of Jesus’ sayings to serve their needs, not only “as a reaction to some social circumstances.” It is imprudent from then on to ignore Joseph’s theory on the matter and a critical examination in the direction of Enochic literature has become a necessity in Q scholarship after this book.

Mina Monier

Cambridgeshire, June 20th 2015

[1] p.97

[2] 118f.-123

[3] Excavating Q, 123 n.17

[4] A huge number of prominent scholars could be cited here.

[5] 160f.

[6] p.174-5

[7] A New Reading of the Animal Apocalypse of 1 Enoch

[8] Cf. Rom 5:12-21; Phil. 2:5-11 on Adamic Christology in particular see James Dunn’s Christology in the Making vol1.

[9] or Sapiential eschatology as both Koester and Kloppenborg call it.

[10] p.199 for the treatment of the arrival of the Kingdom and other verses see 200f.

[11] p.216

[12] p.151

[13] p.159

Posted June 20, 2015 by Mina Monier in Reviews