PRESS RELEASE - September 2013

Religion scholars will assess a recently reconstructed version of the New Testament that pre-dates the canonical version on October 23–26, at the Westar Fall 2013 Meeting in Santa Rosa, California, the Institute announced.

The early church took hundreds of years to decide which books should be included in the Bible. The first recorded list of the exact twenty-seven books found in the modern New Testament was written by Athanasius of Alexandria in 367 CE. But an early church leader known as Marcion endorsed a shorter version of Luke and a collection of Paul’s letters around 144 CE more than 200 years earlier. “Historians of Christianity widely acknowledge that Marcion of Pontus (circa 95–165 CE) compiled the first authoritative collection of distinctly Christian writings,” writes Guggenheim fellow Jason BeDuhn, “Yet this first New Testament has never been published in English, nor for that matter in any modern language.”

BeDuhn, Professor of the Comparative Study of Religions at Northern Arizona University, has reconstructed Marcion’s New Testament from references left behind in the scathing commentaries written by Marcion’s enemies. The reconstruction appears in BeDuhn’s forthcoming book The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon. BeDuhn will present “Marcion: Forgotten ‘Father’ and Inventor of the New Testament” on Thursday, October 24 from 1–3:30 p.m.

Other featured speakers include Joseph Bessler (A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better, 2013), David Galston (Embracing the Human Jesus, 2012), Shelly Matthews (Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire, forthcoming), and Joseph B. Tyson (Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report, forthcoming).

Westar Institute was founded in 1986 to support research on the origins of Christianity and to disseminate the results of serious scholarship on religion to the interested public. Polebridge Press, an imprint of Westar, publishes books related to Westar’s mission. Both Westar and Polebridge are located on the campus of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Registration fees and more information about the Fall Meeting can be found at or by calling 503-375-5323.

Marcion was a wealthy shipowner or shipbuilder who once donated an incredible sum of 200,000 sesterces to the Roman church. Later generations decried him as a heretic, and his version of the New Testament was destroyed except for indirect references by Church Fathers like Tertullian, who claimed Marcion “mutilated” the text by removing passages that contradicted his views. Scholars now know that ancient scribes and copyists were more likely to add material than remove it from sacred texts.

Westar Institute 2013 Fall Meeting Schedule

Wednesday, October 23
9 am – 3:30 pm—“The Once & Future God” (David Galston & Joseph A. Bessler)
4–5 p.m.—Polebridge Press, Books & Authors

Thursday, October 24
9–10, 10:30–11:30 am—“The Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire” (Shelly Matthews)
1–2, 2:30–3:30 pm—“Marcion: Forgotten ‘Father’ & Inventor of the New Testament” (Jason BeDuhn)
4–5 pm—Polebridge Press, Books & Authors
8–10 pm—Reception

Friday, October 25
9–10:30 am—Celebration of Publication of the Acts Seminar Report
11 am – 3:30 pm—Christianity Seminar
4–5 pm—Associates Forum
7:30–9 pm—Keynote Interview: Joseph B. Tyson

Saturday, October 26
9 a.m. – 3:30 pm—Christianity Seminar
7–10 pm—Closing Banquet

See the full program