Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Clement of Alexandria on the Order of the Gospels

Here is Eusebius summarizing Clement's views on the order of the gospels (which flies directly in the face of the modern consensus):

The Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it.

When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it. But, last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel." This is the account of Clement.
Also see my previous post on the subject.


MMajor Fan said...

Your logic is sound. The earlier dates are more correct than revisionist scholars' later dates. Also it is widely understood that Luke obtained information for his gospel directly from Mary, obviously during her lifetime.

An interesting area of study, no?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I think it is. I think it's also more important than many Christians realize. If we accept the modern consensus (Mark wrote first since his is the simplest gospel and the others injected their own theology into the story) then we're left with a very difficult picture of Christianity and the origin of the NT Scriptures (at least from a Christian standpoint).

I'm not saying there absolutely isn't any evidence for Markan priority - there are good arguments in favor of Markan priority but I simply find the unanimous patristic witness and other evidences mentioned in my previous post simply more convincing in the favor of Matthean priority.

Joseph said...

I believe that the modern forces elevating the Markan priority are the same that are elevating the historical-critical method. I think of them as the French revolutionaries within the Catholic Church. They are trying to humanize Church teaching and reduce Christ's mission to a material mission.

Why do I make such an accusation? Because if we accept the Markan priority without realizing the snare that is being left for us, this is what can happen:

St. Mark's gospel is the shortest, has less detail than the others, is not as miraculous as the others, and "can be" read more like a historical survey.

According to the main adherents of the Markan priority, the other two synoptics were written using Mark as a framework.

What does this open the door for? The historical-critical method crowd (those who abuse it), who are usually the same people that try to reduce Christ's entire mission to something material, can then say that the miracles, more detailed descriptions of Christ and His teachings, and references to Christ as God before the Ressurrection (Peter's Confession, for example) were merely superfluous additions after further development or worship of Christ. This can be used as an attempt to pin the "post-Ressurrection" disqualifier on the other two synoptics. It's also an attempt to remove the miraculous unity of the three synoptics by reducing it to plagiarism on all counts with addition of personal "flare" and piety.

Basically, blindly accepting the Markan priority makes the attack on Christ's divinity, His spiritual mission, His rightful claim as King of Heaven and Earth, the active work of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Gospels, and the miraculous unity between the three authors (Mark and Luke being a disciples of the original Apostles).

The Markan priority further diminishes the value of tradition, which is, correct me if I'm wrong, unanimous in never having said that Mark was the first gospel to be written.

It can be used to attack:
1) Tradition
2) The miracles and signs in the gospels
3) The work of the Holy Spirit in the authorship of the gospels
4) The miraculous unity of the synoptics

The Markan priority is enough to make an atheist's mouth water (or a Jesuit who wants to believe that Christ was a socialist revolutionary who wanted to overturn the social order and save the whales).

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Joseph - thats exactly what I was getting at.

Since most modern scholars also reject the last 12 verses of Mark as spurious, anti-Christians use this along with the Markan priority theory to attack the historicity of the resurrection appearances.

Their entire attack breaks down however, if we assume that the early fathers are correct and Matthew was written first.

You are right, there were no early fathers who claimed Mark wrote first although there were fathers who believed Mark was second (Jerome, Athanasius).

I wouldn't completely rule out the idea of Mark being written second but I think its much more likely that Luke was written second in agreement with Clement of Alexandria (who may even have had access to an original copy of Mark's gospel since it was brought to Alexandria according to Patristic witness).

Gretchen said...

Fascinating! Thank you for posting that. If only more Christians would read the Church Fathers...