Markus Vinzent's Blog

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

'Open beginnings' - Offener Anfang - Christianity's origin in the second century

One of the first reader's responses of my new book 'Offener Anfang' ('Open beginnings', forthcoming in English in the next year with CUP), lead to the following email exchange which the author happily agreed to be posted on the blog here:

Dear Mr. Vinzent,
Sorry to take up your time with a long email. I hope you will be able to find some time to read and, if it is not to demand too much, to answer it. I have a question about your methodology ...
I am a professor of philosophy in an interdisciplinary institute ... since a couple of years, I came back to the NT, offering seminars for students who conduct interdisciplinary research in public health, including sexuality, colonialism, the growing presence of the Pentecostal and neopentecostal church etc. History of Christianity has, therefore, become relevant again in my academic life. For instance, in my current seminar, I am discussing some chapters of Stephen Moore’s books, mainly those related to masculinity and colonialism. And I am already preparing my next seminar: a critic on how philosophers in the 20th and 21st Century read Paul.
So, I have an enormous homework to do about Paul and, unavoidably, Marcion. In this context, I resort to your books. Indeed, your Marcion-book is on the way. But I have been working on Writing the History of Early Christianity and Christ’s Resurrection. They are very well researched and based on a well-thought methodology. However, I do have a question about methodology, namely if you really followed it consistently. I am afraid that you, like many NT scholars, have a blind spot.
Let me come back to Burton Mack’s A Myth of Innocence. In the first paragraph he talks about “sifting through the layers of accumulated constructions” (p. xix). I assume you too would go on in the same gist. As far as I understand his initial paragraph, he would not take for granted that there is an origin but would start from the discursive layer at hand and dig down until he would get to anterior discursive layers. However, Mack doesn’t follow this method. In the following paragraph, when he heavy-handedly proceeds to talk of “a singular genesis of Christianity,” i.e., he soon comes to disqualify the historical literary criticism. Actually, he doesn’t need to dig: he already came across the, as Wittgenstein would say, “bedrock” which turned his spade. So, Mack talks about “an objective known to be unreachable by scholarly tools and methods.” For him, “Christianity appeared unexpectedly in human history” and is “a brand new vision of human existence.” He comes, some pages later, to describe in detail the new kid on the block: “Jesus was born and raised in Galilee, no doubt from a Jewish family, evidently bright, and apparently educated” (p. 62). The gospels never describe Jesus’s physical appearance (apparition?!): narratively he is just a hupokeimenon, a vanishing point. What I want to highlight is the methodology: Mack is clear that a “historian who has no theological proclivity” (p. 3) will just be amazed at the quest for this origin which bursts into human history, namely the bright guy.

Even though you are a historian with theological proclivities, I was impressed by your forceful first paragraph: “What role did Christ’s Resurrection play in early Christianity? Instead of addressing the historical question of whether or not Jesus rose from the dead, we ask: When, to whom and why was it important to confess the Risen Christ?” Though I couldn’t know just at the beginning if you would not only assume methodologically that the resurrection is an unreachable event, but also if the existence of Jesus is unreachable as well, I was glad to see that you were advancing a robust methodology: you would do what Burton Mack gave up so easily.

Unfortunately, your second paragraph is frustrating. You let Paul enter the scene, slanting your critical methodology. You assert: “the waning of Paul’s theological popularity after his death.” How can you be so sure that a Pauline theology was popular around the middle of the first Century? Which evidences can you muster? And then it waned? But if it waned, why the letters, neglected and not being copied, didn’t disappear? And if the Pauline writings were totally out of the loop (no one referred to any of his letters, let alone cited any passage, until the 2nd Century), how such bewildering writings would become again comprehensible and would even be recognized as authoritative? If Galatians emerged from the first time in the hands of Marcion in 140 CE (let’s accept the dating: or you established it otherwise in your book?) and was cited for the first time only later, where it was? Why, as you do, just take for granted that Galatians was an authentic Paul’s letter? Reading Schmithals’ Gnosticism in Corinth, I get the impression that Schmithals is constructing a Corinthian cultural environment pushing back in time many gnostic elements that actually pertain to the 2nd Century. And that is what you, committing methodological violence, also did: you nailed a postulated letter-writing Paul down in the 1st Century and proceed to tell a story of loss and redemption. To cap it all, you resort to a questionable negative causality: “a decline in interest triggered the rise of the Risen Christ,” i.e., the supposed decline of the maverick Paul would cause a lack and, as a consequence, some kind of historic gasp that rose the Risen Christ.

[MV: thanks for pointing out this weakness of the Resurrection book - something that needed to be addressed which I have done in my new book on 'Open beginnings', on this more below]

What I see is that in the 1st Century there was not such an enthusiasm for the Risen Christ – and therefore no subsequent decline – so that its 2nd Century rise to success was a true 2nd Century phenomenon, which, by the way, lends support for dating the letters attributed to Paul in the 2nd Century. Paul is presently seen as a towering figure of the 1st Century, astonishingly ahead of time, because the letters are pre-dated. I read them - and so many contradictions just evaporate - as resulting from editorial efforts and conflicts of the 2nd Century. I regard as pathetic the Herculean labor of harmonization deployed in dating the letters in the 1st Century as well as explaining away the contradictions due to assuming a sole author, postulating the letters as rather multiple letters stitched together under the stern, authoritative supervision of Paul himself (Trobish is indeed unconvincing).

[If I may, I think, methodological violence appears here in two ways. One way would be to postulate a 1st Century Paul who wrote the known and recognized authentic letters, and the others in wanting to date what we know of Paul into the 2nd Century. Instead, as I restrain myself methodologically in the new book of 'Open beginnings', and content myself in pointing to the earliest evidence that we have, namely the 10 Letter collection of Pauline letters from the hands of Marcion]
 I regard your methodological proposal in the first paragraph as brilliant: let’s work with what we have, namely the texts for which we have enough evidence that existed in the 2nd Century; and, thereafter, we try to dig down until we can prove, or not, that they were authored in the 1st Century; otherwise we have to let their dating floating and try to explain the unpindownable data that we have also with stories placing “Paul” in the 2nd Century, when, after all, the prestige of the Risen Christ came to fruition.

[As just stated, I think, it is highly problematic 'to dig down' further than the mid second century, hence, the subtitle of the new book]

Sorry if I am taking up your time with my lack of training in NT studies. But since I took a seminar on Romans in 1988 (therefore I am no internet era crazy) and, based on what was presented in the very same seminar, I came to the conclusion that the letter could not have been written so early, I had put aside any intensive work with late Antiquity. Indeed, I don’t have a passion for Christianity, so I, comfortably, let sleeping dogs lie until I recently had to kick them awake.

If you can point out for me why it is possible to put Paul in the 1st Century and, in the process, show that the letters attributed to him (seven? four?) are a coherent corpus, I will certainly change my mind.
Sie können ruhig auf Deutsch schreiben, though I much prefer English (in spite of my poor writing skills, I am trying to use English as my academic language).
Best regards

Dear Andre,

sorry for a rather short answer to your detailed, learned and impressive email. With most of the pointed out inconsistencies in my approach, I can agree with you in the meantime. As you will see in a forthcoming monograph (Offener Anfang. Die Entstehung des Christentums im 2. Jahrhundert, Freiburg i.Br.: Herder, 2019; Open beginnings. The origins of Christianity in the second century, Cambridge: CUP, 2020), that hopefully I am more rigorous in this and working retrospectively, I am much more cautious in assuming Paul's letters authenticity ... and stop without speculating backwards beyond the year 140,
yours Markus

Dear Markus,
I am glad to know about your forthcoming book – on 18th September: waiting for “Offener Anfang” is a great thrill for me. It is already pre-ordered by Until it arrives, I will still be busy with your amazing Marcion-book, which is impressive and thought-provoking. In it, you command an extraordinary erudition about fragments, papyri, etc. I just keep learning more and more.
Indisputably, your books provide no easy reading, and I wonder how much blood you sweated writing them.
Sorry about having criticized your Resurrection-book – and out of the blue: I am just trying to figure out some questions, which have been unduly kept at bay. Of course, my criticism doesn’t diminish my appreciation for the Resurrection-book.
I hope that you, as compensation for uncalled-for commentaries, got lots of fun at the studiae patristicae oxoniense colloquium.

ps. Don't worry about long emails: you better use your time to write books - books like yours' are much better than emails.

Dear Markus,

Sorry if I am writing to you so soon. Blame, which put Offener Anfang on my doorstep already on Friday.
Curiously, I was then happily reading another book of yours! Your fantastic Detachment-book. I cut short my ecstatic trip, let Martha and Mary bickering, and began reading your brand-new book.
At first, my congratulations: writing a book is Herculean work. I have been learning a lot with your books. I feel embarrassed about writing to you because I never met you personally. However, since I seldom go to international events, it is the only way I have to ask you some questions. I hope I am not inopportune. Anyway, I solemnly promise that I will never write another massive email again to you.
I began inspecting the bibliography. For the first time, you listed Hermann Detering: someone I highly praise, but you chose to ignore in the Marcion- and in the Resurrection-book. He was the first one who distilled my uneasiness with the dating of the letters attributed to Paul into an array of academic well-formulated questions. Unfortunately, you never engaged with his books, not even in a brief footnote (or am I wrong?). You listed Robert M. Price, too. Dennis MacDonald shows up only with a book of 1983, before his research on Greek literature and NT. Neither Stephen D. Moore nor Janice Capel Anderson is listed, though you discuss homosexuality.
I have no training in NT Studies and, consequently, profited a lot just in my first reading. Your book is not as I had anticipated (after all, it is your book, not mine). I thought you would present the complex philosophical, literary, and religious debates of the second half of the 2nd Century and descend, as far as possible, to the earlier controversies related to what may have happened in the 1st Century. On the one hand, you achieved more; on the other hand, less than I had expected. In fact, you began latter, touching base beyond the 2nd Century, with Gregory of Tours, Paulus and Seneca, Origin… so went on, always anticlockwise, until you reached Paul’s letters, which, following Trobisch (?), you understand as have been written around the first half of the 1st Century.
What I did not like is the fact that you dealt preponderantly with Christian literature. You almost left out: Gnosticism, Greek literature, the debate around dying and rising gods, and philosophical ideas or attitudes pertaining to Stoicism and Cynicism. Justice be done: Marcion has proud of place.
However, let me make my point clear. The hero of your book is Trobisch, who shows up 24x in the Register (Moderne Autoren). Paul’s Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins is an amazing book. One can learn in it many things about letters collection in Antiquity, but hardly anything about a letter-writing Paul. Trobisch takes for granted that there was – indisputably – a Paul, who wrote the letters and even supervised an original collection of them. Since the material discussed is in many ways difficult to date and that the first texts which give some hint about the letters have many times questionable authorship and are difficult to date as well, i.e., since there is much leeway to come up with harmonizing appreciations of the material, tacit presuppositions may be easily imposed and, once they get into the mainstream scholarship, they become hard to be questioned or even to be spotted.
For instance, Trobisch in the subchapter “Addenda” points out that Cicero (and others) adds some sentences to a letter with his own handwriting and that, to authenticate the authorship of letters or documents; only the signature was not enough in Antiquity: the author should definitely drop some lines in his own handwriting in lieu of an authenticating seal. Thereby Trobisch is arguing that when “Paul” allegedly writes in 1Cor 21-24 with his “own hand,” it corroborates the authenticity of the letter. It is preposterous. He is preaching to converts. Only those who already accept Paul as the author of the first documents of Christianity will see Trobisch’s tale as a convincing argument. All of Trobisch’s arguments are for converts. Even my students are aware that forgers know the tricks to make their forgeries plausible. So, a chapter as “Characteristics Features of Letters of Paul. Inscription, Expression of Thanks, Wish of Grace” may be read rather as tricks to deceive the readers. In your Marcion-book you, inadvertently, also offer comments that cut both ways, in favor or disfavor of Paul’s authorship.
The unshakeable feeling of certainty that there had been a letter-writing Paul becomes a delusional core around which, falling back on vaguely datable material, it turns possible that a worldwide, well-subsidized academic apparatus becomes highly effective in creating unnerving arguments, or slogans, like the “consensus,” “the majority of modern research,” “not seriously disputed,” “it is well-established” and so on. As erudite as it can get, books like the Trobisch’s, regarding a serious debate on the authorship of the seven lucky epistles, are just gaslighting what should have been put up front.
Heavy-weight NT scholars as Trobisch, Brakke, Pagel, Tyson, Ehrmann, and so on, all of them just accept the authorship of the lucky seven. Then an enormous erudition effort is made to debate the order of the letters, how many letters were fused to put 2Cor together, etc. Some questions in their books are, however biased, particularly relevant: when Acts was written? Which was the role of Marcion (your book)? But if the author has already decided that Gal was written in 57 CE, any critical astuteness will be biased and instrumental in protecting the delusional, so that s dominant narrative will keep thriving on the cocooned postulate of the early dating of Paul (at least you vigorously discussed the dating of the Synoptics).
I thought you would in Offener Anfang keep the authorship question of the letters attributed to Paul open: when did it become rhetorical important to establish an authoritative genealogy beginning from Jesus, then postulating the twelve apostles, and so on? When did it become rhetorical effective to have letters ascribed to Paul? (Letters that brought to light a dramatis personae, independent from the twelve-apostles genealogy.) How and when the, let’s say, “two” groups clashed?
How in the 2nd Century would people write history? They would not talk about demography, social conflicts, biopolitics, and necropolitics, but would focus on what they understood as the life and decisions of kings or generals; in other words, they would emphasize the individuals. (They don't command social-sciences concepts and language; they tend to write plays and novels (or "scientific" and philosophical tractates.) Geographical descriptions and more ample appreciations would probably be restricted to the beginning, but the narrative would center on individuals and moral arguments (the moral virtues of a people – similar to the courage of an individual – could be taken into account, too). Ideological conflicts would be attributed to the leadership and genius of individuals. So, whatever Christian sects in the 2nd Century may be debating they would relate it as the sayings of individuals, who would debate or proclaim their ideas and attitudes. The rhetorical confrontations needed dramatis personae. Not to mention that in that pre-Netflix era, they were in need of entertainment: catchy or memorable stories.
Justin Martyr, for whom Jesus was born in a cave, had to comment two or three times on the similarities of Jesus and Mithras. He argued that the devil – knowing about the future – had inspired previous people to come up with stories to disseminate doubts about Jesus. It is clear that for Justin to have well-accepted stories that could reinforce the plausibility of where and when Jesus had been born would be handy. Moreover, such stories were already in the making (soon Jesus, in the Synoptics, would no longer be born in a Mithras-alluding cave).
We have to establish when it became rhetorical necessary and plausible to assert a flesh-and-bone historical Jesus as well as to publish letters attributed to Paul and to explain how and where such documents would have been written. It is an unjustifiable methodological blunder to take for granted that there were Paul’s letters around the 50s CE; letters, which were very popular, and that, after being forgotten, were rehabilitated in the middle of the 2nd Century. If you take it for granted, you will not be putting forward any retrospection, but rather, from the get-go, smuggling into your narrative a delusional core. Moreover, the delusional core will keep, even if silently, distorting all your narrative.
If Detering had not been just a hapax legomenon (exiled in the Register) in your book, but if you had taken into account what he said about the Ignatius’ letters, you would probably not have argued that letters, which are clearly fictional, are instead authentic.
It is astounding that so many bright minds keep parroting, for instance, that “Pliny wrote to the emperor asking for advice…” and no one ever questions the authenticity of the letter. We are dealing with gaslighting in high style! Detering knew better (see: Detering, Falsche Zeugen, 2011 – a book you never engaged with). I regard the late Hermann Detering, a Pastor in Steglitz, as a sort of Father Brown of NT Studies.
As you see, my criticism is not personal. I am not up to argue against your books. My problem is also not exactly that so many highly erudite scholars systematically chose to swallow a delusional core, but why so many contemporary thinkers, so smart people as Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Deleuze, Badiou and Agamben (Agamben comment the beginning of Romans [a bizarrely long greeting, which sounds as if someone else is introducing Paul], which is clearly a Catholic addition – he didn’t pick even a Marcionite passage for a close reading –, and speculates wildly about the individual Paul who, so we can guess, would have prophetically – bringing about a Christian exceptionality? – uttered words unleashing some messianic power still affecting us today…) simply accepted what theologians say about Paul and assume a reverential attitude toward him. In February 1986, Jacob Taubes, a feeble skin cancer terminal patient, dragged himself to Heidelberg to hold a four day seminar – Monday-Tuesday-(Wednesday in hospital)-Thursday-Friday –, an extreme effort only to have a last chat with his life-long buddy Paul, who, after all, was for him the last as well as the ultimate interlocutor, just to die three weeks later. Taubes, too, a critic of the lectura greca of the Western intellectual history, was cognitively deeply dependent on his cherished Paul image.
NT scholars are cognitively thoroughpaced in nailing down a letter-writing Paul in the middle of the 1st Century so that everything else will be, as in a paraphrenia, structured and legitimated from this fulcrum: the historical Jesus becomes incontestable evidence. Cantankerous mythicists, especially the belligerent ex-apologists, give up the historical Jesus entirely but do not question the letter-writing Paul, because they read Paul as preaching a cosmic Jesus, which would be a proof that those who argue for a historical Jesus are liars or demented conspirators. However, why contemporary philosophers cling to a supposedly sagacious Paul, who would have even, as Taubes contends, declared war to the Roman Empire? I don't care much about criticizing these "contemporaries" thinkers, almost all of them are already dead: what I want to do is to understand the phenomenon. And which is the “phenomenon”? Namely why so many talented people can be so found of such a blunder? So gullible as to unblinkingly take what theologians hand them down. Nonchalantly considering Paul as the maverick leader who was ahead of time… [Agamben p. 14: “...the messianic calling is a central event in Paul’s individual history, as it is for the history of humanity”; therefore, the calling of this individual, namely Paul, is cognitively ingrained in Agamben’s worldview.]
Only the question related to contemporary thinkers has, in fact, to do with my current academic position – indeed, around here, I am the maverick, though without fame or publications on the subject.
I wonder if you will ever grow more detached from the passionate and much-flogged Paul of the 1st Century, who would have written letters that came to light only almost one hundred years later.
While you don’t do so, I am going back to the grunt, resume the chat with Martha and Mary, and reembark on the mystical tour I was delightfully in.
Once again, congratulations on your new book.
Friendly greetings to you and Jutta.

Dear Andre,

sorry for not answering sooner, but your email caught me when after teaching I flew off to Bologna where in Bertinoro I attended a conference ... but now back at my desk ...

I think the questions that you raise push me to think, and I'd be happy to share those thoughts not just with you, as your questions are partly those that others may have and raise as well.
Let me first thank you for reading my work so closely and so attentively. This is the best one can hope for. Or even better, that you think ahead and critique what I am trying to convey. So, please do not feel embarrassed at all. As one can read in one of Ignatius' letters, writing is the best next to meeting in person. So please, do not keep your promise, never in the future to write me another long email. I am more than happy to engage with them.

Indeed, I am glad you discovered Hermann Detering in the bibliography. I had not listed him before in my earlier work, although I always knew about both his works and his arguments, yet, forgive me - as you write you highly praise him - I found and find his work inspiring, but too ideological in the contrary sense to the many ideologies that I am confronted with when dealing with New Testament studies. This does not say that I simply equate him with traditional New Testament scholarship, but for myself I did and do not feel it necessary to make hypothetical statements for the sake of radicalisms. This might do him wrong and in this case I apologise, but it was good to see that - I cannot remember whether it was on my suggestion or whether my colleague Jan Bremmer found Detering's work on his own via the web - Jan recently engaged with Detering's work too and, though not convinced by everything, found his work stimulating to reflect on the parallelism of Lucian's Peregrinus and Marcion [See his contribution to Studia Patristica, vol. 99]. 

Having mentioned my caveat (it is simply for the self-branding of Detering as radical, something I would not wish to claim for myself, not because I am shy, but simply as I do not think it a need to be radical for the sake of being radical), I have engaged with Detering and the Holland radicals, as I find it necessary to take their position into the field, as they mark the other goal post between which the field moves. So, it was not ignorance, rather scepticism towards another form of radicalisation which made me not quote and engage with him in the earlier books. In the present book on Offener Anfang, however, I thought I developed more ideas that came closer to Detering's work, hence, I thought I should at least mention his position, whereas from the real radicals which inspired me more, I have always looked at the work of Paul-Louis Couchoud, who died in the same year, just a few days, before I was born. His work I always consult, as he is and remains a continuous inspiration, such an intelligent reader of texts, perhaps because he is a poet and philosopher and not a classicist, patristic and New Testament scholar. Having said this, I think Detering has learned not little from Couchoud, or if not, they developed quite similar ideas. 

Forgive me, if I have not explicitly engaged with either Detering or Couchoud - something I should do, even though, and this might explain the neglect so far, my interlocutors were rather on the other side of the spectrum to whom both these names would mean nothing at all and to whom already my own work is probably as far outside of their remit, as that of both Detering and Couchoud. Yet, you are right, they are both (and the other radicalists, too), worth an engagement.
The same is true for Robert M. Price and Dennis MacDonald, even though for these two the same is true as for Detering and Couchoud, they are regarded by what I have called the other side of the NT spectrum, total outsiders. For me, to state this clearly, they are as close and far as those who regard them as outsiders, as I do not see that the 'traditional' position has better arguments for their claims than these have.

Thanks, for drawing my attention to Stephen D. Moore whose work I was and still am not familiar with, but which I am going to explore, and likewise Janice Capel Anderson - your email teaches me how ignorant I am in the field of NT studies, but I will do more on this.

But let's engage with what you say about my new book, Offener Anfang. In it, I follow, without repeating the theoretical part of my novel methodology, the path of retrospection, while, at the same time, I wanted to avoid precisely the kind of hyperhypothesizing of the traditional and the radical strands. Hence, instead of jumping into my own construction of religious debates of the second half of the 2nd Century and extrapolating from there what may or may not have happened in the 1st Century, I contended myself answering two simple questions: First, what do historians from the Medieval period down to the early centuries, as far as we have these witnesses, want us to believe how Christianity or the Jesus-movement had started, and second, what are the 'evidence' that they provide us with for making these claims. Perhaps, I have achieved even less than you describe. Because by going anticlockwise, I did, in fact, NOT reach Paul's letters. Even though I am dealing with the two letter collections (the 14 letters, the 10 letters), and mention Trobisch, I do not fully side with Trobisch, as his claim that letter collections in Antiquity were mostly put together first by their living author, I can not fully endorse, as we do not know of any letter collection of Paul prior to Marcion. That is why on p. 273 I precisely contrast his position with that of the radical critics of Detering and others. And as I stress the potential parallelism with the letters of Ignatius which I have shown earlier seem all pseudonymous letters, I mention there that if not Paul than one 'Paul' may have put together letters. I would be misunderstood, if I had endorsed Trobischs' theory here against the radical criticism, but I also mention arguments that may speak for the writing of at least 7 letters during the 1st Century, simply because Marcion makes use already of 10 letters which he attributes to Paul - though we do not know whether for right or wrong. Moreover, as I state in the following pages, the Paul that we can attain to is at best the Paul of the 10 Letters collection of Marcion, and as I state on p. 282, it might be more the Paul that has been redacted and written down by Marcion rather than anything older. I even contend myself to say that going beyond Marcion's Paul and asking for another witness to tell us about the beginnings of Christianity brings us precisely to the kind of hypothetical speculations which I try to avoid. When, on p. 287, I then add that the very few indications speak for a kind of movement of Jesus-people in the 1st Century, then, this is what the few documents seem to convey. That this is far from making a strong case for either a historical Jesus or a historical Paul, I add in the light of precisely the early 'Christian' documents we have which surprisingly (up to Gregory of Tours) are almost disinterested in both the historical Jesus, as they are in the historical Paul or the historical beginnings of Christianity. On the contrary, as the entire book wants to show, they are all interested in the apologetical mythos of Christianity, as we could call it, not in what since the 19th Century, is the romantic or modern obsession of historicity. So, I think, both the claim for, but also the disputing of the historicity of either Jesus or Paul seems to fall into the same category which this book wants to deconstruct.
So, I hope to have made it clear at least here what I should have stated even more clearly in the book, namely that I am not part of those people who try to nailing down a letter penning Paul (or charismatic Jesus), I rather want to dispel the illusion that people who have read and perhaps first written the earliest writings that became later substantial for forming a Christian identity shared the 19th to 21st Centuries interest in historicity. Perhaps my colleagues in the Department in Birmingham hit the nail when - against their own intention - they wrote about the myth of God incarnate.
Yours Markus

Dear Markus,
First of all, I thank your generosity in answering my comments. I don’t know how you find time and patience to write such an attentive email.
If you think it is meaningful to publicize my comments or some of them in your blog, please go ahead. Indeed, I would prefer the anonymity (though you don’t need to keep my name secret elsewhere): it is not due to the vanity of not wanting to be divulging my poor English, but because I feel like my written English sounds rude and even aggressive, in other words, I am not the same person in written English than in my native language. Beyond word choice and grammar, language is linked to feelings. Luckily, you apparently understand the struggle with a foreign language.
Your email leads me to reread your book and to go for secondary literature I didn’t read. Curiously, I missed totally the footnote 46 on page 229! However, my own marginal notes on page 282 show that I was upset! Perhaps I was reading into your text something you didn’t state. My email was the first reading. The second reading will take up more time – as you see, my knowledge of the NT is faulty. I was amazed to see you were taken aback with my assertion that I highly admire Detering. You will, however, understand. I wonder where Jan Bremmer engages with his works, but I will find out.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Where were the 12 Apostles when Paul meets Peter, James and John according to Galatians?

Dear Professor Vinzent,
In Galatians Paul meets with Peter, James, and John, historically, where do you think the rest of "the twelve" were at this point in time, preaching the Gospel elsewhere?

Thanks for your help,

Dear Trey,
your question assumes, the other apostles or the 12 were historical, perhaps, Paul only knew of these by name. The Twelve, mentioned in 1Cor. 15 may have only been a symbolic number, and what about the hundreds, mentioned there, too?
Yours Markus

Trey's reply: So historically the only apostles that we can say for sure that Paul actually met were Peter, James, and John?
To which I answered:

Dear Trey,

even more complex, the question of historicity is an obsession of modernity. As I have shown in my latest book ('Offener Anfang', to be published next year in English, too), all we can attain is the 10 letter collection of Paul's letter by Marcion, and to what extent this version represents Marcion or rather Paul I do not dare to speculate,

yours Markus

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Thursday, 11 April 2019

1Cor. 14:34 - Should women be silent in church? A disorderly commandment

Working on Marcion's version of the Pauline text of First Corinthians, I noticed that according to both Tertullian and Epiphanius, Marcion's Paul had already the passage about the silencing of women, 1Cor. 14:34. This, of course, is a counterargument to Harnack and others who saw this as a later gloss [Harnack, Mission und Ausbreitung, 590-91, cf. B. Nongbri, ‘Pauline Letter Manuscripts’, in M. Harding and A. Nobbs (eds), All Things to All Cultures: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans (Grand Rapids and Cambridge, 2013) 84-102 at 96; P.H. Payne, ‘Vaticanus Distigme-Obelos Symbols Marking Added Text, Including 1 Corinthians 14.34-35’, NTS 63 (2017) 604-25], unless that gloss  had entered the Pauline text at a rather early stage - pretty hypothetical.

However, contrary to our textus receptus of Paul today, Marcion's Paul must have pointed out with his explicit reference to the Law that this teaching about the silencing and subjugating of women derives from the Law and, therefore, only showed the 'disorderly nature' of the Law (so explicit in the commentary of Epiphanius, somehow also in Tertullian). Hence, instead of a later gloss, I would presume that the Pauline text had been altered later so that the critical note (1Cor. 14:33: 'For God is not characterized by disorder, but by peace') could be misinterpreted. It seems that Marcion's Paul intended by 1Cor. 14:34 to point out the subjugation of women and their silencing in the church was a kind of disorder that was inconsistent with the God of Jesus Christ. This then explains the strong dissent with the earlier statement that women in the congregations are allowed to prophecy.

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Unknown Eckhart

The next topic of the conference of the Meister Eckhart Gesellschaft in 2020 will be "The unknown Eckhart".

Amongst many texts by Eckhart which are rarely studied or quoted, are those that have been edited by critical scholars over the past 150 years, but which have not made their way into the critical edition of Kohlhammer. As this edition is now coming to a close, I am working on an editio minor of these texts, a specimen of one of the homilies will be given below.

Homily * [Jostes 9]
In die consecrationis ecclesie et in anniversario eiusdem
‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem novam descendentem de caelo a domino’ etc. (Apoc. 21:2)


The passage that Eckhart refers to, Apoc. 21:2 
(‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem novam descendentem de caelo a domino’) 
is read on the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of a church. 
The homily is part of the important Eckhart manuscript N1. 
Fragments are also present in Kla and N2 and there is a parallel to Hom. 29* [Q 43] 
and Hom. 75* [S 96], n. 4. That we find twice the explicit mention of Eckhart 
highlights that we are dealing with Eckhart texts (n. 6: ‘This Meister Eckhart says’; 
n. 9: ‘Meister Eckhart said’), though the text is presented in a redactional form 
which shows that either marginal glosses with reference to the author have been 
integrated into the text or that consciously the text is looked at from a third party 
perspective and moved into the direction of sayings. 

The content of the homily

The present homily consciously, as stated in n. 3, applies the biblical verse to the soul, 
not only making use of the Latin verse, but also, as often in Eckhart, the wider text that 
is given in the vernacular translation. Consequently, Eckhart comes back at the end 
of the homily to the topic of bride and groom that is present in the vernacular 
translation of the biblical text.
A) In order to avoid that the image of the ‘holy city’ is understood as something static, 
Eckhart introduces the idea that this city that is coming down from heaven is not 
something of the past or something of a unique event, but has to be understood as a 
continuous birthing of the Son by the Father (n. 3). Just as a house that is recently 
built looks brand new, so the soul being created by God is new (n. 4). Newness, 
however, means that the soul needs to keep close to her origin, needs to be even 
within her creator.
B) The biblical author John leads Eckhart to think about ‘grace’ (n. 5). 
In school the question was raised whether grace is a mixture (n. 6). Eckhart 
contradicts and refers to the idea that grace is rather like a spark that falls into the soul. 
Grace is an action that acts in itself, hence means sameness.
C) With reference to Is. 54:1 the preacher shows that birth does not mean 
to produce something, but like grace is an activity in itself (n. 7). Birth is essentially 
D) Hence, Eckhart is critical towards the alternative of Dominicans and 
Franciscans that either knowledge or will lead to beatitude. He suggests 
that beatitude is only given through beatitude, because divine action does 
not result in activities, but in rest, or rather: sameness (n. 8). Therefore 
God’s word is no word to be spoken out, not a word, to utter something 
alien, but an expression of full intimacy, of a oneness of distinction *n. 7). 
It is like with bride and groom, where mouth comes to mouth, kiss to kiss. 
It is an intimacy of Godd and the soul whereby the soul does not become 
numb, but is made capable of answering God (n. 9). It sounds almost
like a paradox, when Eckhart states: ‘As she has purely carried herself 
into God, so God gives Himself to her, that He works her work in her 
without help, so that she becomes a co-operator with God’. This is 
Eckhart’s precise description of co-operation of God and soul. Even 
though God works His work in the soul, it is the soul’s work, because 
God and the soul are not two different agents, but one. To be a co-operator 
with God does not mean that the soul is the passive part in this activity, 
but God has made her answer. Both are one, and yet, they are two. 
Both speak, both kiss, both love.
The homily ends in a short prayer that this may happen to us (n. 10).

Editions, commentaries and notes

F. Jostes, Nr. 9, 4,30-6,30.

Previous English translations

No previous translation.

Text and translation

<:1>‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Jherusalem’
<:1>‘Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem’[1]
<:2>Sand Johannes sach in dem geist ‘ein stat’, die waz heilig und heiz Jherusalem; di stat waz niwe, si chom her nider vom himel und waz gemacht von golt und waz geziret alz ein braut irm man.
<:2>Saint John saw in a vision ‘a city’ which was holy and named Jerusalem; the city was new, came down from heaven, was made of gold and was ornated as a bride for her groom.
<:3>Daz wil ich auf di sel bringen. Der sun ist ewiclichen gewesen in dem vater, und er gebirt sinen sun an underlaz, und di geburt ist alle zeit newe. Waz bei sinem angang ist, daz ist newe. Ein hauz, daz gestern gemacht ward, daz ist heut newe, wan ez ist nahen bei sinem angange.
<:3>This I will refer to the soul. The Son has eternally been in the Father, and He gives birth to His Son without interruption, and the birth is new all the time. What is close to its beginning, is new. A house that was built yesterday, today is new, because it is near to its beginning.
<:4>Got schuf di sel in seinem einborn sun und bildet si in im und sach si in im, wie si im wehagte: do wehagt si im wol. Die sel, deu niwe sol sein, di schol sich halten al mittel in got und sich wider bilden in sinem einborn sun und schol wereit sein zu enphahen an underlaz den influz von got.
<:4>God created the soul in his inborn Son and formed her in Him and placed her in Him, as she pleased Him. There she pleased Him well. The soul, that was meant to be new, must keep herself by all means in god and form herself into His inborn Son and must be prepared to receive the influx of God without interruption.
<:5>Unser herre wart gefraget, wer sand Johannes wer, ob er wer ein prophete. Er ist mer den ein prophete: allez daz die propheten ye geprophetizierten, daz geschach in eim naturlich lauf. S. Johannes waz alz verre gezogen uber di natur, daz alle creatur warn ze grob dar zu, daz si sine werch enphahen mochten.
<:5>Our Lord was asked, who Saint John was, whether he was a prophet. He is more than a prophet: Everything that the prophets ever prophesied, naturally happened. Saint John was pulled so far beyond nature that all creatures were too coarse to be able to receive his works.
<:6>Johannes ist alz vil gesprochen alz gnad. Nu wart gefragt ein w=rtlein in unser schFl, daz di gnad wart mangerlei. Antwort ich dar zu und sprach: si enhert ni nicht auz einem trephelin, aber ein funkelin daz vellet wol auz der gnad in di sel, daz hat alz vil creft in im, daz dar uuz entspringent di creft der sel, wechantnuzze und gelaub und minne, di werden webeget. Waz ist gnad? Gnad, alz gnad an ir selber ist, so enwurht si niht uz, mer sie wurcht inn. Wer ein mensch, der diser gnad het ein tr=pflin, der het mer gutes und [wer] inreilicher gefugt in daz redlich wesen an werch, alzo, geworcht er nimmer niht und sliff all weg, nochden wer er neher got und inreilich[er] got. Ich sprich: wer daz ein mensch do sich hundertstund eines tages lizze brennen leuterlichen durch got, alle sine werch ch=nden im nit gehelffen dar zu, daz er kond in daz ungeborn wesen gefugt werden alz dicz mensch an werch. Waz ist gnad? gnad wurchet ein indem bodem der sel; da nie geburt in gedacht ward, da wurket gnad in und wurkt alz verre in, daz di drei ein wesen sein. Got und gnad sint alzo glich, wo got furget, do treit er di gnad auf dem nikken. Dicz spricht meister Ekkart.
<:6>John means as much as grace.[2] Now, one has asked a small question in our school, whether grace was a mixture. To this I answered and said: it never hardens out of a drop, but a spark quite falls out of grace into the soul which has so much power in it that from it come forth the powers of the soul, knowledge, belief and love, they are set in move. What is grace? Grace as grace by itself does not work externally, it rather works internally. If there were a human being who had a drop of this grace, he had more goodness and were more inwardly placed into the rational being without a work, hence, he would never work and slept everywhere, as much as he were nearer by and inwardly in God. I say, if there were a human being who would let himself purely burn by God for a hundred hours a day, none of his works could help him to be placed into the unborn being like this human being without a work. What is grace? Grace works within the ground of the soul. Wherein birth was never conceived of, in there grace works and it works in there so much, so that the three are one being. Hence, God and grace are the same, where God walks on, He carries grace on His neck. This Meister Eckhart says.
<:7>Der prophet spricht: Frawe sich auf der der nicht gebirt diner frucht der ist vil, der ist wol tausend stund mer dan di frucht gebernd sind in der werlt, der ist an zal vil. Di sel hat ein naturlich licht in ir. In dem naturlichen licht hat got mer lustes und me genug dan in allen creaturen, die er ie geschuff: er verzirt alle sin craft in dem naturlichen liht. Nem man ein schwarzen kolen: alz unglich der wer wider [den] himel, alzo sind alle creatur wider dem naturlichen licht, daz di sel in ir treit. Wan si ingetragen wird in daz liht, so gebirt si sich selben und ir selber in ir selber, und gebirt sich wider sich selber in sich. Si verleust alz gar alle di gebFrt und wirt alz gar uber sich derhaben und wirt alz gar geneiget ein in ein. Si chFmt dar zu, daz si got gebirt, alz sich got selbe gebirt; und da geschiecht rehte einung trucz allen creaturen, trucz den engeln, trucz got selbe, daz er da einik unterscheid vinde.
<:7>The prophet says: ‘Rejoice, o barren one who does not bear your fruit, there are many’, there are quite thousand times more than those who bear fruit in this world, they are numerous.[3] The soul has a natural light in herself. In this light, God has more pleasure and is more satisfied than in all creatures that he has ever created: He spends all his power in this natural light. If one takes a [piece of] black charcoal: As dissimilar this were compared to heaven, so are all creatures compared to the natural light, that the soul carries in herself. When she is carried into this light, then she gives birth to herself and for herself in herself, and, again, gives birth to herself in herself. Then she leaves birth and becomes elevated above herself and inclined to be one in one. She finally gives birth to God as God gives birth to Himself; and there true oneness happens, despite all creatures, despite the angels, despite God Himself, so that there He finds oneness of distinction.
<:8>Sümlich meister die suchen selicheit an bechantnuzze oder an willen: ich sprich, daz selicheit weder an wechantnuzze noch an willen en liet. Daz ist selicheit, daz sie l[ie]t[4] alle selicheit, daz ist alle ir selbesheit. Der himel wurchet alle sine werch darum, daz er sich got gelichen wil: niht daz er sich gelichen wol an den werchen, mer er sFcht reuwe, alzo alz daz wesen ist an werch: daz selbe sucht der himel, daz er cheme in ein stille stan. Sucht dicz der himel und ander creatur, di snoder ist, waz solten wir danne tun? Da belibet got got, da belibet selicheit selicheit und gnad gnad und sel sel.
<:8>All masters seek blessedness either in knowledge or will. I say that blessedness is given neither through knowledge nor will. Blessedness entirely is blessedness, it is entirely being itself. The heaven works all its works, in order to adjust itself to God. Not that it wants to adjust to its works, rather it seeks rest, just as the being is in works. The heaven seeks the same that it may come to a stand still. If the heaven and all other creatures that are less than it, seek this, what are we to do? There God remains God, there blessedness remains blessedness and grace grace and the soul the soul.
<:9>Meister Ekkart sprach: got der wer ein spruch an spruch und wer ein wort an wort, und in dem werden lebendich alle creatur und waschende. Wer hat daz wort gesprochen und den spruch gesprochen? Der himlisch vater der hat in gesprochen in sinem eingeborn sun. Mag daz wort [und den spruch] nimant gesprechen? Nein, den mag niemant gesprechen dan der himlisch vater, und wirt doch gesprochen. Wenn wirt er gesprochen und wo wirt er gesprochen? Wenn die sel chein genug hat an cheiner creatur und si sich ze mal in got getragen hat mit allen iren werchen und ir selbs vergezzen hat und meint got lauterlichen; da gibt got mer dan si selb immer gedenken mag. Alz si sich alzo leuterlichen in got getragen hat, so gibt sich ir got alzo, daz er ir werch wurket in ir an erbeit, daz si sei ein mitwurcherin mit got. Und wo wirt er gesprochen? Wen daz alleroberst teil der [sel] bloz und ledich ze mal vereint wird mit got, da wirt daz wort gesprochen und der spruch, und da ist mund zu mund kumen und da ist kFz ze kFz chumen, und di sel verstet daz wort in dem wort und nieman mer; und di sel di chunde auch etwaz dar auf geworten. Hie ist di sel zu irm aller obersten kumen.
<:9>Meister Eckhart said that God would be a saying without saying and would be a word without a word, and that in Him would come alive all creatures and all that grows. Who has spoken the word and has spoken the saying? The heavenly Father, he has spoken it in his inborn Son. Can nobody speak the word [and the saying]? No, nobody can speak it except the heavenly Father, and yet, it is spoken. When is it spoken and where is it spoken? When the soul does not longer satisfies itself with any creature and has herself entirely carried into God and with all her works and has forgotten about herself and purely thinks of God; there God gives more than she herself has ever dreamt of. As she has purely carried herself into God, so God gives Himself to her, that He works her work in her without help, so that she becomes a co-operator with God. Und were is it spoken? When the highest part of the [soul] is naked and free, entirely united with God, there the word and the saying are spoken, and there come mouth to mouth and kiss to kiss, and the soul understands the word in the word and nobody else; and the soul could answer to it. Here, the soul has arrived in her highest part.
<:10>Daz uns dicz gesche, dez helf unz got.
<:10>That this may happen to us, may God help us!

[1] See Apoc. 21:2 (Vidi civitatem sanctam Ierusalem novam descendentem de caelo a domino). The context is Apoc. 21:2–5 and can be found in Collectarium, Arch. f. 432ra: ‘In die consecrationis ecclesie et in anniversario eiusdem. Lectio libri Apocalipsis beati Iohannis apostoli. In diebus illis vidi civitatem sanctam [Et ego Ioannes vidi sanctam civitatem Vg.] Iherusalem novam descendentem de celo a Deo, paratam, sicut sponsam ortatam viro suo. Et audivi vocem magnam de throno dicentem: Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus, et habitabit cum eis. Et ipsi populus eius erunt, et ipse Deus cum eis erit eorum Deus: et absterget Deus omne lacrimam ab oculis eorum, et mors ultra non erit, neque luctus, neque clamor, neque dolor erit ultra, quia prima abierunt. Et dixit qui sedebat in throno: Ecce nova facio omnia’.
[2] For ‘John’ in the sense of ‘grace’, see Hom. 75* [S 96], n. 4.  Hieronymus, Liber interpretationis Hebraicorum nominum (Lagarde 136, 6–7): ‘Iohannan cui est gratia uel domini gratia’.
[3] Is. 54:1: ‘Lauda, sterilis, quae non paris; decanta laudem, et hinni, quae non pariebas: quoniam multi filii desertae magis quam eius quae habeat virum, dicit Dominus’; see also Gal. 4:27: ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear children; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labour! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband’ (‘Laetare sterilis, quae non paris: erumpe, et exclama, quae non parturis: quia multi filii desertae, magis quam eius quae habet virum’); on the two verses see Hom. 26* [S 99]. Unfortunately, the English language does not allow the word play between ‘gebernd’ (to bear fruit) and ‘gebernd’ (to give birth).
[4] The ms. mistakenly has ‘leit’.