Marcion may have known it.40 Harnack, who assumed both that Marcion's gospel was Luke and that Marcion was acquainted with an earlier collection of gospels, gave an elaborate rationale for Marcion's 'choice' of Luke, claiming that Marcion necessarily rejected the gospels of Matthew and John because of their Judaic character, and did not favour Mark because of its paucity of Jesus' teaching, but that he preferred Luke because of its Gentile Christian bias and its 'traditional and historical connection with Paul'.41 But Harnack also acknowledged the possibility that Marcion's gospel was simply the first gospel to reach Pontus, and may for some time have been the only one known there.42
This last explanation is probably correct, for in the early decades of the second century it was apparently common that any given Christian community knew and used only a single gospel document. In the late second century Irenaeus (Haer. 3.11.7-9) faults as heterodox those who employ only one gospel, mentioning specifically the use of Matthew by the Ebionites, Luke by Marcion, Mark by docetists, John by Valentinians. But this practice must not have been exceptional, let alone heterodox, in the first half of the second century.43 Early papyrus manuscripts of the gospels seem to have contained only single gospels, and it is first in the third century that we encounter manuscripts of multiple gospels.44 The increasing availability to Christian communities of more than one gospel posed nettlesome problems. Various gospels were individually distinctive and at points even contradictory, so that to employ more than one required explanation of their incongruities, while multiple gospels generated doubt about the adequacy or the accuracy of any single one.45 Such issues inhibited the use of multiple gospels, and in situations where they were available the tendency was, if not to use them only singly, then to construct harmonies. Tatian's great effort late in the second century to achieve unity,
40 For its origin near the middle of the second century, see now Skeat, 'Oldest manuscript'; Stanton, 'Fourfold gospel'; and Heckel, Evangelium. Schmid, 'Marcions Evangelium', allows that Marcion may have known it.
41 Marcion, 40-2.
42 Marcion, 42; cf.Knox, Marcion, 164; and Campenhausen, Formation, 159. The designation of a 'Luke' as a companion of Paul in the epistles (Phlm 24, Col 4:14 (cf.2 Tim 4:11)) hardly played a role ifMarcion did not know this gospel under that name.
43 Thus, among others, K. Aland and B. Aland, Text, 50, 67; and Parker, Living text, 19.
44 Checklist in K. Aland and B. Aland, Text, 96-101. Notably early examples include P52 ( John), P66 ( John), and P77 (Matthew). The earliest manuscripts containing more than one Gospel are P75 (Luke and John) and P4+64+67 (Matthew and Luke), and the earliest to contain all four Gospels is P45 (c.225). Skeat, 'Oldest manuscript' (263-8), proposes, however, that all papyri appearing to come from single-gospel codices actually come from (or presuppose) codices containing all four gospels.
45 On these issues: Cullmann, 'Plurality'; Grant, Earliestlives, 14-37,52-62; Merkel, Pluralitat and Widersprüche. This is already apparent from Papias (Euseb. HE 3.39.15-16).
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