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Marcion’s Gospel, Compared Verse by Verse With Luke

Previous page: Textual Considerations

Marcion did not provide a title for his Evangelion (his Gospel of the Lord, here referred to as Mcg), nor did he claim authorship. Tertullian notes:

“Marcion, on the other hand, you must know, ascribes no author to his Gospel, as if it could not be allowed him to affix a title to that from which it was no crime (in his eyes) to subvert the very body.”

Detailed arguments for or against Marcion being the author of the differences from Luke, or whether the differences actually existed in Mcg, are given in the following pages, illustrated by using quotes from Tertullian's Adv. Marcion, Book IV, Epiphanius' Panarion 42, and other sources as necessary (See Tertullian and Epiphanius for information on the reliability of their evidence for the text of Mcg). For a brief introduction to the history of the discussion of the authorship of Mcg see Two Gospels, or Two Versions?, and for information on the methodology employed see Reconstructing Marcion's Gospel.

Highlighting and references to equivalent Lukan verses [in square brackets] have been added to quoted text where applicable. All verse references refer to Luke unless otherwise specified. Where particular verses of Luke are not shown or otherwise detailed, it is generally for one of three reasons:
  1. There is no mention of these verses by either Tertullian or Epiphanius, and there is no reason to exclude them from Mcg;
  2. The verses are mentioned, but Mcg’s text is reported as being the same as in Luke, and Tertullian or Epiphanius are just using these verses to indicate how they go against Marcion’s beliefs;
  3. The differences between Mcg and Luke have no effect on the meaning of the passage, or are so small as to be inconsequential.

Chapter and Verse

In order to make it easy to locate Lukan parallels within Mcg, all references here to text in Mcg use the modern chapter and verse numbers from the equivalent text in Luke. However. it should be noted that Tertullian and Epiphanius never saw these divisions in either Mcg or Luke, since the chapter divisions first appeared in the 13th century, and our verse divisions were added to the New Testament in the 16th century. Gordon Fee makes this point in his preface to ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Revised Edition:’ 

A third, probably less significant, change from the first edition is related to another passion engendered from many years of teaching, writing, and listening to sermons — namely, to eliminate the language of “chapter and verse,” a system of numbers absolutely essential for “finding things” but otherwise totally foreign to the first-century author. Paul wrote words put into sentences, which in the present written culture also require paragraphs. But he did not write “verses,” language that has inherently, but not purposefully, created a misguided use of Scripture that would be foreign to the original authors.

Although Fee refers to Paul, the same applies to Luke, Marcion, Tertullian, and Epiphanius, and consequently, although chapter and verse reference are used here, there is no reason to expect that any differences between Mcg and Luke reported by either Tertullian or Epiphanius should respect our verse boundaries. This is not to say that they saw no boundaries at all. For example, the mss they had in front of them may have been written using colometric lines, as with Bezae.

However, whatever ‘paragraph’ or other boundaries they saw or reported may have included text from several of our verses, and it is perhaps more likely that their copies of the gospels contained  Ammonian Sections or Eusebian Canon Numbers, or were divided into Kephalaia, a system of division of the text probably introduced in the second century, as described by James Snapp in The Text of the Gospels, Kephalaia: The Ancient Chapters of the Gospels:

In the original manuscripts of the Gospels, there were no chapter-divisions. Today in English Bibles, Matthew has 28 chapters, Mark has 16 chapters, Luke has 24 chapters, and John has 21 chapters. In many Greek Gospels-manuscripts, the division is very different: Matthew has 68 chapters; Mark has 48, Luke has 83, and John has 18 or 19. Often, before each Gospel, copyists wrote a list of the chapters’ numbers and titles (titloi), which served as a table of contents. Within the text of the Gospel itself, on the page where a chapter began, a copyist wrote the chapter’s number and name at the top of the page; these are the kephalaia (headings), usually written in red. When more than one chapter began on the same page, copyists would write the second kephalon in the lower margin…

There are some aspects of the kephalaia which one might not expect. For example, each Gospel does not begin with chapter 1. The opening portion of each Gospel was treated as a preface, and did not receive a chapter-number. Thus the first chapter in Matthew begins at 2:1, and the first chapter in Mark begins at 1:23. Also, the ancient chapters vary wildly in size. Chapter 40 of Luke consists of only two verses, while some of the chapters in John include more than one of our modern chapters. Almost all of the chapters begin with the word περι, which means about, and typically this word is abbreviated in the list of titloi and in the kephalaia as πε, sometimes with one letter above the other…

The chapters do not always begin at exactly the same place, and the chapter-titles sometimes vary in detail. (Sometimes, when manuscripts share variations in the chapter-titles, they also share variations in the Gospels-text. The kephalaia in members of the family-13 group of manuscripts are particularly distinct.) The longer the heading, the more likely it was to be shortened by copyists. Perhaps the most drastic difference in titloi-lists occurs in lists of the ancient chapters of the Gospel of John; in some manuscripts the story of the adulteress constitutes a chapter-unit.

Tertullian may not have even seen any of the above text division schemes, and instead his source mss may have contained one of the various textual markers used by scribes copying mss, such as leaving extra space, or beginning text on a new line.

Epiphanius sometimes identifies a passage omitted by Marcion by quoting just the initial clause or phrase of the passage. Although it is tempting to identify the passage as ending at a modern verse boundary it is unlikely that this was the case, and instead Epiphanius may have been referring to text encompassing two or more of our verses. Identifying the exact location of the end of any text to which he refers is also not helped by his practice of sometimes quoting just the beginning of a passage and then marking the rest with the phrase (translated as) “and so on,” leaving it up to us to identify where the passage referred to ended.

Despite the above points, it is nevertheless convenient to locate text in Marcion's Gospel by referring to the verses containing the text in modern Bibles, and so it should always be remembered that a phrase such as: “Epiphanius saw Lk (or Mk, Mt, etc.) A:B in Marcion’s gospel” should be interpreted as: “Epiphanius saw in Marcion’s gospel text that we currently see in Lk (or Mk, Mt, etc.) A:B.” However, this language should not be taken to suggest any particular directionality between the originals of Marcion’s gospel and any part of the Bible.

Click the small triangle next to the name of this page (highlighted in the left hand column) to show or hide the links to all the individual verse discussions. Because most of the differences between Mcg and Luke occur in Lk 1-4, these chapters are covered in multiple pages: Lk 1 and 2,  Lk 3:1 – 4:15, 4:31a,  Lk 4 – Capernaum First ...,  Lk 4:31b, 17-21, 32 – Why Were They Astonished?,  Lk 4:33-39,  Lk 4:16, 22-30 – ... and Nazareth Second, and Lk 4:40-44.


For just a side-by-side English translation of the text of Mcg and Luke, see the Marcion Luke Parallel

To skip all the details of this analysis of Marcion's gospel go to either the Summary or the Conclusions

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, etc. regarding Marcion or this verse-by-verse comparison please email me at davidinglis2@comcast.net
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