Wednesday, November 19, 2014

14. Irenaeus's fourfold paradigm is our culture's 'default' position on the 'true gospel'

there can be no doubt that we have been collectively 'baptized into' the assumptions at the heart of the fourfold gospel.  We now take them granted.  This position won out in history because of the ascendance of the Roman Empire and the orthodox Church within that hegemony.  No wonder that the Diatessaron was only displaced by the 'separated gospel' with the efforts of the Imperial Church.  Yet this situation influences the way scholars approach problems in early Christianity in very subtle ways.

For instance, the fact that 'Mark,' 'Matthew' and 'Luke' have distinctive literary features in no way contradicts the possibility that a single, long text antedated the four canonical texts.  Indeed at the core, 'Matthew' and 'Luke' are forgeries of 'Mark.'  For instance the 'Lucan' character of Luke necessarily overshadow and obscure the pre-existent 'Marcan' features of Mark.  The same necessarily occurred with 'ur-Mark.'  Yet whenever scholars come face to face with the fact that the earliest writings of the Church witness the 'super gospel' form, their inherited prejudices take control of their thinking and the 'super-gospel' is described as a 'harmonized' text.
Even Koester (Ancient Christian Gospels, 18) affirms that “Several of the sayings of Jesus quoted in 2 Clement indeed reveal features which derive from the redactional activities of the authors of Matthew and Luke.” That of course leads him to date 2 Clement after Marcion because the harmonizing collection on which the Jesus sayings in 2 Clement are drawn can only have been assembled after Gospel collections had been formed and Jesus books had been called “Gospel,” a designation that Marcion was allegedly the first to undertake. The problem is, however, that such harmonizing collections bringing together more than one Gospel came into being in the first half the second century, as evidenced by the longer ending ofMark (16:9-20), the Epistula Apostolorum, and perhaps even John 21 (see Kelhoffer, “ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ as a Reference to 'Gospel',” 10-13). [Michael Bird, the Gospel of the Lord p. 265]

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