T. Michael Law, Jens Schröter, and Christoph Markschies on the Muratorian Fragment

In a previous Law-Markschies-Origen post, I mentioned how much I had profited from reading T Michael Law’s book When God Spoke Greek in conjunction with my work translating Jens Schröter’s book Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament From Jesus to the New Testament and Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire, and I conveyed then my desire to devote a few more posts to a comparison of these works on select points. Continuing that discussion, this post will compare how these three works treat the question of the dating and character of the Muratorian Fragment. On the question of how to cite the Muratorian Fragment, see now SBL Handbook of Style Blog.

I. T. Michael Law

WGSG, p. 183n.9: “The Muratorian fragment should probably be dated later than the traditional second-century date.”

II. Jens Schröter

FJNT, p. 285n60: “I will not deal here with the question of the dating of the Muratorian Fragment, which has come under discussion since Sundberg 1968; 1973; as well as Hahnemann 1992. The attempt to date it late has not established itself, for which reason I continue to start from the traditional placement around 180-200. For fundamental criticism of the late dating, cf. Verheyden 2003. Cf. further Ferguson 1982; 1993; Stanton 2004, 68-71.”

VJNT, p. 310n60: “Auf die seit SUNDBERG, Revised History; Ders., Canon Muratori, sowie HAHNEMAN, Muratorian Fragment, in die Diskussion geratene Frage der Datierung des muratorischen Fragmens gehe ich hier nicht ein. Der Versuch der Spätdatierung hat sich nicht durchgesetzt, weshalb ich weiterhin von der traditionellen Ansetzung um 180-200 ausgehe. Zur grundsätzlichen Kritik der Spätdatierung vgl. VERHHEYDEN, The Canon Muratori. A Matter of Dispute, in: Auwers, Canons, 487-556. Vgl. Weiter FERGUSON, Canon Muratori; STANTON, Jesus and Gospel, 68-71, sowie die Rezension der Untersuchung Hahnemans von FERGUSON.”

Selective grammatical analysis: In translating “gehe ich hier nicht ein”, it seemed preferable to use the future with a view to English style. Likewise, “deal with” seemed to read better than “go into” in this case. Instead of “established itself” the verb “durchgesetzt” could alternatively be translated as “prevailed”.

III. Christoph Markschies

Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (wmc, forthcoming): “The text, which is better designated as Fragmentum Muratorianum or Muratori, is, in reality, not a “list” with a mere listing of biblical books at all, but a fragment without its original beginning and conclusion, which—if one considers its literary form—can be linked only with great difficulty to an ancient literary genre. … Whatever option one settles on, the most recent debate over the dating of the highly fragmented text should at least urge caution both for those who—like Harnack—see in the Fragmentum Muratori an official list translated from the Greek with which the Roman church in the second century wished to impose its conception of a canonical New Testament on to the Christianity of the empire and for those who are completely convinced of the late dating of the text. The majority of the arguments still speak for a dating around 200 CE, although the exact historical background and the precise literary form of the text remain unclear.”

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen (pp.  229 and 234; cf. 228-236): “Bei dem besser als Fragmentum Muratorianum bzw. Muratori bezeichneten Text handelt es sich in Wirklichkeit gar nicht um eine ‚Liste‘ mit der bloßen Aufzählung biblischer Bücher, sondern ein Fragment ohne seinen originalen Anfang und Schluß, das – betrachtet man seine literarische Form – nur sehr schwer mit einem antiken literarischen Genre zu verbinden ist. … Wie man auch immer optiert: Die jüngste Debatte über die Datierung des stark fragmentierten Textes sollte mindestens die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die – wie Harnack – im Fragmentum Muratori eine aus dem Griechischen übersetzte offizielle Liste sehen, mit der die römische Kirche im zweiten Jahrhundert ihre Vorstellung von eine kanonischen Neuen Testament in der Christenheit des Reiches imponieren wollte, oder von der Spätdatierung des Textes vollkommen überzeugt sind. Die Mehrzahl der Argumente spricht nach wie vor für eine Datierung um 200 n. Chr., obwohl der exakte historische Hintergrund und die präzise literarische Form des Textes unklar bleiben.”

Selective grammatical analysis: Instead of translating “Bei dem … Text … es geht um” as “In/With/In the case of … the text … it is a matter of/the concern is with/we are dealing with” I have adopted the simplifying translation “The text … is …” (for further discussion of the translation of Es geht um see here). The difficult phrase “nur schwer zu verbinden ist” has the force of “can be linked only with great difficulty”. I am uncertain how to translate “Wie man auch immer optiert”, but “Whatever option one settles on” is perhaps more precise than “whatever one decides”. Although the German version has “die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die … oder von …”, I have translated “oder” with “and” with a view to English style and repeated  “on those” in order to clarify the sense.

IV. Substantive Analysis:

For me, it seems that there are two points to draw from this post. First, while it seems to be the case that the majority of scholars continue to favor an early date for the Muratorian Fragment (ca. 180-200), it would probably go too far to speak of a “consensus” in relation to this point, since Sundberg, Hahnemann, T Michael Law, and other scholars have advocated a later date for this text. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the debate about the dating of the text should not be allowed to overshadow a second point of (perhaps greater and more significant) uncertainty, namely the uncertainty surrounding the classification of the genre or form of the text, which, due to its fragmentary character, arguably should not be classified too quickly as a “canon list”, which is not to say that this possibility should be ruled out too quickly either.

For other posts/links relating to the Muratorian canon, see e.g., Bart Ehrmann, C. E. HillLarry Hurtado, Michael Kruger.

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