Marcion (c. 85-160)

Most say that Marcion was a Gnostic and a heretic. He was born in c.85 at Sinope in Pontus the son of a bishop.  He became a prosperous ship owner and merchant traveling the world, he arrived at Rome in 135-140 and presented the church there with a gift of 200,000 sesterces. While a member of the church in Rome, he developed his theology, possibly incorporating the ideas of the Gnostic teacher Cerdo.  I have not been able to find much on Cerdo.  The Church rejected his teaching and returned his money.  Marcion then organized his own church that rivaled the Christian church for a time, even after his death. 

Marcion believed that the  God of the Old Testament was evil and that the creation of the world was a sort  of accident.  Marcion rejected the entire Old Testament on these grounds. He  accepted the following Christian writings, but only after severe  editing:

  • Gospel according to Luke
  • Galatians
  • I Corinthians
  • II Corinthians
  • Romans
  • I Thessalonians
  • II Thessalonians
  • Ephesians (which Marcion called Laodiceans)
  • Colossians
  • Philemon
  • Philippians

In his opinion the apostles misunderstood the teaching of Christ, and, in holding him to be the Messiah of the Jewish God, falsified his words to build that story.  Marcion removed passages that he thought were Judaizing interpolations that had been smuggled into the text by biased editors.  After these changes, the Gospel according to Luke became the Evangelicon, and the 10 Pauline letters, the Apostolikon

It would seem that Marcion was the father of what we now call redactive criticism. This is the habit that is prevalent these days of removing or ignoring the bits of scripture that do not agree with our underlying belief structure. 

Also common today is the difficulty that people have in reconciling the notions of a loving and a judging God.  Difficulty with this paradox today seems to lead either to dualism or atheism.  In Marcion's case it lead to a sort of dualism and a sharp division between what he thought to be the Jewish notion of God and his own.  Not being able to reconcile the two we find stories like this:

...he asked the Roman presbyters to explain the texts, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit," and "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment," texts from which he himself deduced that works in which evil is to be found could not proceed from the good God, and that the Christian dispensation could have nothing in common with the Jewish.  (  accessed 10-11-06)

Many of the Church Fathers refer to Marcion: Justin Martyr (c.100-165) wrote in the 150’s that he was "teaching men to deny that God is the maker of all things in heaven and earth and that the Christ predicted by the prophets is His Son".  Tertullian and Hippolytus (c.170 - c.236) did not hesitate in classifying Marcion as a Gnostic.  Many scholars today, however, are not convinced that his teaching was truly ‘Gnostic’. (ref)

The notion that the Jewish dispensation has nothing in common with the Christian can also be found today.  This is not an acceptable position.  Christianity is built on the continuing revelation of God to a humanity that is in rebellion.  We read in the beginning of Hebrews that God has indeed spoken to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.  The notion is the Jesus is part of this continuing revelation.