Apr 062015

Apostle-Paul_Humanity-HealingThis post will explore some of the plausible “shorter readings” in the Apostolikon used by the Marcionites. There may be more shorter readings in the Apostolikon that are possible that are not found in this list, but this list is intended to include those that meet a minimum standard of evidence, referencing this list of criteria.

(1) Shorter readings attested as such by the patristic writers.

(2) Unattested readings that have manuscript support or patristic support for their absence.

(3) Unattested readings that were likely to be quoted by Tertullian if they were in the Apostolikon.

(4) Unattested readings that correspond to a scholarly conjecture for interpolation on grounds other than the alleged absence in Marcion’s Apostolikon.

However, this is not a list of interpolations in the letters of Paul, as such a list may be shorter or longer and would have somewhat different contents. It is a list of likely or suspected shorter readings in Marcion’s Apostolikon, compared to most extant manuscripts of Paul. The existence of such shorter readings in the Apostolikon is something mentioned (in a general way and with specific instances) by several of those who comment on Marcion’s text.

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Mar 152015

nag-hammadi-codices-2-260x194As I noted in my previous post on The Myth of Nag Hammadi’s Carbon Dating, the book from the Nag Hammadi find called Codex VII had dated papyri, the most recent from 348 CE, being used in the bindings of the cover. This lets us know the earliest possible date of the binding of this cover.

Shelton writes, “A terminus a quo for Codex VII can safely be set: it was bound during or after October of A.D. 348″ (Nag Hammadi Codices: Greek and Coptic Papyri from the Cartonnage of the Covers, p. 11).

Can we say anything more than that? After all, we’re interested not only in the terminus a quo (earliest possible date) but also in the terminus ad quem (latest possible date), or the entire range of the likely dating of this codex; or, more specifically, of the binding of this codex. Can we narrow it down further?

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Mar 082015

krosneyThe most detailed account of the C-14 carbon dating results for the Gospel of Judas manuscript in Codex Tchacos, of which I am aware, is found in the book by journalist Herbert Krosney, The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot, published by National Geographic (April 6, 2006).

While I am aware of other discussions (particularly in The Gospel of Judas, 1st edition [April 6, 2006], p. 184, and 2nd edition [2008], p. 209, also published by National Geographic, and by Peter M. Head in the Tyndale Bulletin [2007]), they demonstrate dependence on Krosney (or, in the case of the brief account on Krosney’s page 326, perhaps a statement not from Krosney but rather prepared at National Geographic and used in both books published by National Geographic). The exact same quote (with some of the same surrounding context) is shared between Krosney’s book on page 326, the 1st edition of the Gospel of Judas book on page 184, and the National Geographic webpage.

There is an (apparently independent) account by Lori Stiles on March 30, 2006 for the UA News, which confirms the substance of the quote (but does not explicitly give it) found on the webpage and in the books published by National Geographic.

There is a 2014 paper on “Carbon Dating and the Gospel of Judas” by Christian Askeland delivered before the SBL at San Diego, which I have not read (but would certainly like to). There may be other information available elsewhere, which I would be very interested in. Of course, the full details must exist somewhere, right? If nobody else, Jull and Hodgins should be able to confirm the details of the tests run.

Here is what I’ve been able to determine (or guess) from Krosney, however, who gives the most detailed account that is available to me right now.

[Added March 10, 2015. Christian Askeland has given us a blog post update at Evangelical Textual Criticism, including this exciting quote from that blog post: “The National Geographic Society granted the Arizona AMS laboratory permission to send me the actual results, and I am publishing an update on the dating of the Tchacos Codex based on the findings.” Also, “The lab had six test results.”]

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Mar 082015


In scholarship, there are some things that are known to be true, some things that are known to be false, some things that are simply unknown (whether true or false), and some matters of opinion and speculation that are keenly debated. But there are also things that are known to be false that are often taken as true, and of such things it is said: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

One of these urban legends is the idea that the texts or the cartonnage of the Nag Hammadi Library codices have been examined with C-14 radiometric dating.

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Mar 062015

harnack1851_kHarnack’s book Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God has been translated into English but with the omission of the valuable appendices containing the notes regarding the text of Marcion. So I’d like to go some way towards addressing this. Harnack’s text is actually in three languages (German, Greek, and Latin), so all of them are translated for easier study. I have relied on the translations of others for many of the quotations (Evans for Tertullian, Williams for Epiphanius, and the ESV for the New Testament).

I have re-arranged Harnack’s text in blocks, one block per footnote. The footnotes exceed the text itself and provide the most interesting information, the various references used to support the readings. For accurate comparison of my translations with the original German, please refer to the scanned originals online at Archive.org, thanks to Roger Pearse and Wieland Willker.


For further study, Harnack’s reconstruction and notes can be compared with Detering, van ManenWaugh, Mahar, ClabeauxBeDuhn, and Schmid (Amazon/Google) along with comments by Quispel, Lieu, Moll, Roth, BarnikolCarlson, Eysinga, McGuire, Baarda, Waugh, and Huller.

The work of translation is fairly arduous, but it is also very rewarding, and I hope to release other letters of Paul as found in Harnack’s reconstruction of Marcion’s Apostolikon, as I find time.

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Jan 092014

updateOver the last week, I’ve been able to update the Early Christian Writings site with the rest of the Nag Hammadi Library, which consists primarily of Gnostic texts. There are now 226 entries on the site.

Just recently the More Early Christian Writings update added some four dozen entries to the site, primarily church fathers and apocrypha, in an effort to bring the timeline down to 325 AD. I have a few other fragments (and archaeological data) to post. And I still need to fix the “At a Glance” boxes with good data.

Have any suggestions for improvements you’d like to see?

The list of new additions to the website follows below. Continue reading »

Nov 122013

The-Seven-Ecumenical-Councils1There is a long history of looking back to the New Testament and other writings of the era for information on leadership positions and their titles. The Reformation took this study up in earnest when attempting to discover the proper hierarchy for the contemporary church. The results have been various. Variety is indeed what comes through in the sources. This table of leadership roles (more properly, of the terms given to them) in the early Christian writings has been compiled in an attempt to capture a sense of this variety.

I have already released A Table of Christological Titles and also A Table of Self-Identifications. These looked at some ways of referring to Jesus, some ways in which early Christian writers distinguished their group from other people, and where these are attested.

This table has a similar purpose. It is a way into the sources. It is also a way to organize a study of the sources so that the student can trace the development of an idea or relate it to other ideas also found in the same texts. Because of the layer of interpretation that takes place in making a table like this one, as well as the possibility of error, I encourage reference back to the sources if there is any question of how a particular entry in the table relates to the texts themselves. Continue reading »

Nov 092013

ChristianSymbolsWhich texts refer to Catholic or Gnostics, to Christians or to Nazarenes? Which texts mention the Gospel, Knowledge, or Belief? Where do we find Synagogues and Churches mentioned? Discussion of the way, of the spiritual, or of the kingdom? Who refers to insiders as brothers, holy ones, or chosen?

Earlier I produced A Table of Christological Titles in Early Christian Writings. This table concerns the kind of references found in these texts to refer to insiders and their distinguishing characteristics. Sometimes I’ve had to note substantial differences in the reference such as, for example, when a term is mentioned in a negative context. Several of the entries involve a layer of interpretation instead of a simple word search, so please compare always against the original texts for an exact sense of what this table is supposed to represent.

The New Testament results were obtained with a search on the Greek lemma in the Bibleworks program. The other results came from a search for the English equivalent or synonyms in English translation. One desideratum, of course, is to found all the results on an original language footing. I may be able to do this when I revisit particular columns for closer examination.

As before, I welcome corrections of my errors quite eagerly, as I know there are mistakes in the table.

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Oct 122013

ichthusFor some reason, I’ve never seen a simple table of some christological titles as presented in the early Christian writings, even though it would be very handy to have. So I made my own.

I started out including fragmentary and quoted writings, but midway through I decided to put them in a separate table (incomplete). Both the entries and the blanks in the table are meaningful, but those blanks are much less meaningful with a short, fragmentary text. Some texts with substantial fragments, such as the Gospel of Peter, are shown.

I certainly wouldn’t mind if anybody would like to mention some of my errors of omission and other mistakes. Please do. I would be very happy to improve the table.

Further work to be done could be to add more christological titles, to design different arrangements or charts, to note any difficulties of ambiguous interpretation, to integrate data about presumed dates of authorship, to extend this table to the entire Nag Hammadi Library (not just the texts that are part of the Early Christian Writings site), and of course to add the rest of the fragmentary and quoted writings.

Still, I’d like to release this first draft now, below. Continue reading »

Oct 062013

celtic-symbol-of-the-holy-trinityThe text attributed to the second century Gnostic Valentinus called “On the Three Natures,” known to us in a single reference from the fourth century, Marcellus of Ancyra, has at least three possibilities regarding its composition:

  1. Valentinus is, more or less, one of the first Trinitarians.
  2. Valentinus wrote something misunderstood by Marcellus of Ancyra, or known only by title, on a different topic (possibly, on the three natures of man).
  3. Valentinus wrote nothing of the sort, but a text of the title later circulated among Gnostics, with its contents being either about man or about theogony.

Here is the reference:

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God. … These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him ‘On the Three Natures’.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato. (Logan, A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), “On the Holy Church: Text, Translation and Commentary.” Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95)

Most discussions online make one of the first two assumptions without mentioning any other possibilities. So let’s go over these three possibilities briefly now, with a discussion of the evidence.

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