This book is the doctoral dissertation of Andrew Hayes, appearing in the Emerging Scholars series of Fortress Press. Supervised by Markus Vinzent, a leading voice in contemporary debates on Marcion of Sinope, it aims to deepen our understanding of Marcion’s impact on the struggle during the second century to define Christian identity. Hayes endeavours to reveal this impact on the apologetic writings of Marcion’s contemporary influential writer, Justin Martyr. He argues that Marcion was not ‘an occasional heretical nuisance character’. Rather, he ‘helps to shape much of Justin’s project as a whole’. Hayes embarks on his research with a long introduction, in which he goes through the maze of patristic and contemporary scholarly constructions to reach a working understanding of Marcion and the fundamental characteristics of his teachings. Based on this he proceeds to look into any affirmations made by Justin against these main characteristics, as a potential response to the Marcionite concept of Christian identity. Hayes observes that Justin’s introduction of ‘Christianity’ as a philosophy that appreciates its antiquity reflects the threat made by Marcion’s understanding that could lead the Romans to deem Christianity an unwelcome novelty. Justin appears to acknowledge the pluriformity of Christians’ answers, so that not all Christians should be blamed for the ideas of a certain negative confession—which would be Marcion’s, as Hayes concludes. Breaking the definition of Christianity down to its main theological elements, Justin’s treatment of these elements (the unity of God, the antiquity of Christian roots, divine providence, and the significance of prophecies for identifying Christ) consistently collides with Marcion’s characteristic views, even if Marcion was not mentioned explicitly. The crux of Hayes’s argument appears in his treatment of Justin’s Dialogue case by case in his ‘reading between the lines’ chapter. Hayes argues that Marcion is a better candidate than other Greek philosophers as an addressee of Justin’s apologia in this work. For instance, while the number of gods is not a particular concern for Greek philosophers according to Justin (Dial. 1.4–5), it is a central problem with Marcion. However, looking into the text, we see that Justin’s comment is brief while the central issue is the philosophers’ perspective on divine providence, which is certainly not exclusively important to Marcion. Again, Hayes’s reference to Justin’s criticism of the philosophies that are named after their human founders (Dial. 2.1) does not apply to Marcion exclusively. This also applies to later cases. Having said that, the accumulation of cases could reinforce the plausibility of Hayes’s claim; while each individual case does not seem to fit Marcion’s theology exclusively, it is Marcionism that features in all cases together. Hayes justifies the existence of Justin’s concerns behind his texts by showing how belief in Marcion’s definition of Christianity is a dangerous ‘confession’ in Roman eyes. Hayes’s focus, in his concluding chapter, is on Pliny the Younger’s report about Christians to Trajan (Epistulae 10.96), which necessitates an explanation for the existence of this confession. Therefore, the ‘unstated threat’ of Marcion, whose impact was felt in his success in leading ‘many of every nation’ (Justin, 1 Apology 26.5) to uproot Christianity from its Jewish soil, necessitated a response from Justin. If Marcion’s dangerous ideas are indeed behind the works of Justin, Hayes’s thesis instils further curious questions. A reader cannot avoid wondering: why is the threat of Marcion ‘unstated’? If Justin was ready to dedicate an entire work to Marcion (πρὸς Mαρκίωνα, known to Irenaeus, Haer. 4.14), which unfortunately did not survive, what would make him avoid explicit statement in his major works? Further, while the study focuses on Marcion as the source of the ideas Justin refutes regarding the origins of Christianity and novelty, I wonder if this threatening idea is Marcionite par excellence. Looking into a wider Christian context, we see that the author of 1 Clement, another text that comes from Rome, struggled with ideas in Corinth that introduced Christianity as a novelty not rooted in Israel, its God, and its Scripture. This requires him to firmly emphasize that the structure of Christian order is not a novelty (τοῦτο οὐ καινῶς, 1 Clem. 42.5). On the other hand, across the Mediterranean, the Alexandrian Epistle of Barnabas provides an apologia that radically rejects Judaism and considers its worship as a form of idolatry (Barn. 16.2, 7). In other words, the challenges that compromise the Jewish roots of Christianity, and consequently its legitimacy in Roman eyes, seem to be a wider phenomenon and could have been addressed in this thesis. Finally, I also hoped to see a discussion of Justin’s treatment of ‘the memories of the apostles’, that is the Gospels, and whether they could suggest an anti-Marcionite theology since we know that Marcion offered the earliest-known canon of the New Testament as part of his rejection of the Jewish Scripture. These questions by no means undermine the originality and significance of this study. As mentioned before, Hayes’s cumulative argument makes his case strong. It is a provoking work that takes a new angle of research in Marcion scholarship, which is certainly welcome in the light of the large number of studies produced in the last three years on this issue. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Journal of Theological Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 26, 2018
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