Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle (review)
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Reviewed by
Joseph B. Tyson Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006 Pp. xii + 192. $39.95.

Tyson takes up the difficult questions of when and why the two-volume work now universally known as Luke-Acts was composed. Against the minority of Lukan scholars who date the composition as early as Paul's lifetime and the majority of scholars who date it between 80–93, Tyson argues the position first advanced by the Tübingen School and subsequently supported by his teacher, John Knox, [End Page 104] that Luke-Acts was written in the middle of the second century as a response to the teaching (and canonical initiative) of Marcion.

Tyson's first chapter argues for the probability of a mid-second century dating of Acts rather than the "intermediate" dating (80–93) adopted by most scholars. Critical to his position on this point is his acceptance of two other minority positions, i.e., that Acts made use of Paul's letters and that Acts made use of Josephus. If such use can, in fact, be demonstrated, then the case for a mid-second century date is unquestionably strengthened: "The terminus a quo is determined by the influence of Josephus on Acts and the use of Paul's collected letters. The terminus ad quem is the appearance of citations of Acts in Justin and later writers" (23).

Tyson turns in his second chapter to "The Challenge of Marcion and Marcionite Christianity." He provides a straightforward sketch of what is known about Marcion's distinctive championing of Paul against other apostles and his dualistic ideology. But he gives particular attention to elements of Marcionism critical to his own historical reconstruction. In order to make it possible for Acts to respond specifically to Marcion, for example, Tyson needs to correct Tertullian's account by dating Marcion's activity early in the second century, i.e., around 115–120 rather than 140–150. With respect to Marcion's "Gospel," furthermore, Tyson similarly rejects the testimony of Tertullian and Irenaeus that Marcion had mutilated the canonical Gospel of Luke, arguing instead that Marcion used a local Pontic version of the gospel that happened to have "significant overlap" with canonical Luke (40).

Having set up a possible chronological frame and ideological stimulus, Tyson needs to show how Acts (and Luke) can be seen to respond to that hypothetical historical situation. In "A Context for the Composition of Acts," he argues that well-known themes of Acts should be regarded as specific responses to Marcion. It has long been observed, for example, that Acts provides parallel portraits of Peter and Paul, but this has usually been considered an effort to domesticate Paul by aligning him with the Jerusalem church. Tyson argues the opposite, namely, that Acts needs to rehabilitate Peter and the other apostles because of Marcion's rejection of them. Likewise, the theme of continuity between Torah and the Good News serves to rebut Marcion's effort to make them radically discontinuous. Tyson concludes that Acts was written "about 120–125 C.E., just when Marcion was beginning to attract adherents into what became the most significant heterodox movement of the second century" (78).

As for the gospel portion of Luke-Acts, Tyson does not specifically claim that it followed the composition of Acts, but he proposes the following sequence: a) a pre-Marcionite gospel similar to our Luke 3–23, dating from around 70–90; b) a Marcionite edition that has significant omissions, from around 115–120; and c) canonical Luke, which adds significant elements to counter the Marcionite threat: the prologue, the infancy accounts, and the resurrection appearances in Luke 24. The complete work of Luke-Acts appears around 120–125, "just when Marcion's views were becoming widely known" and as a whole "surely served as a formidable anti-Marcionite text" (120). [End Page 105]

Tyson appreciates the present compositional unity of Luke-Acts, and much of his previous scholarship has been dedicated to the kind of reading that reveals its intricate and pervasive literary interconnectedness. He concludes this study with a review of Luke's theological achievement and argues that...


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