Skip to comments.Marcionism: Doctrine and discipline
Posted on 07/18/2010 1:55:24 AM PDT by Cronos
We must distinguish between the doctrine of Marcion himself and that of his followers. Marcion was no Gnostic dreamer. He wanted a Christianity untrammeled and undefiled by association with Judaism. Christianity was the New Covenant pure and simple. Abstract questions on the origin of evil or on the essence of the Godhead interested him little, but the Old Testament was a scandal to the faithful and a stumbling-block to the refined and intellectual gentiles by its crudity and cruelty, and the Old Testament had to be set aside. The two great obstacles in his way he removed by drastic measures. He had to account for the existence of the Old Testament and he accounted for it by postulating a secondary deity, a demiurgus, who was god, in a sense, but not the supreme God; he was just, rigidly just, he had his good qualities, but he was not the good god, who was Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The metaphysical relation between these two gods troubled Marcion little; of divine emanation, aeons, syzygies, eternally opposed principles of good and evil, he knows nothing. He may be almost a Manichee in practice, but in theory he has not reached absolute consistency as Mani did a hundred years later. Marcion had secondly to account for those passages in the New Testament which countenanced the Old. He resolutely cut out all texts that were contrary to his dogma; in fact, he created his own New Testament admitting but one gospel, a mutilation of St. Luke, and an Apostolicon containing ten epistles of St. Paul. The mantle of St. Paul had fallen on the shoulders of Marcion in his struggle with the Judaisers. The Catholics of his day were nothing but the Judaisers of the previous century. The pure Pauline Gospel had become corrupted and Marcion, not obscurely, hinted that even the pillar Apostles, Peter, James, and John had betrayed their trust. He loves to speak of "false apostles", and lets his hearers infer who they were. Once the Old Testament has been completely got rid of, Marcion has no further desire for change. He makes his purely New Testament Church as like the Catholic Church as possible, consistent with his deep seated Puritanism. The first description of Marcion's doctrine dates from St. Justin: "With the help of the devil Marcion has in every country contributed to blasphemy and the refusal to acknowledge the Creator of all the world as God". He recognizes another god, who, because he is essentially greater (than the World maker or Demiurge) has done greater deeds than he (hos onta meizona ta meizona para touton pepikeni) The supreme God is hagathos, just and righteous. The good God is all love, the inferior god gives way to fierce anger. Though less than the good god, yet the just god, as world creator, has his independent sphere of activity. They are not opposed as Ormusz and Ahriman, though the good God interferes in favour of men, for he alone is all-wise and all-powerful and loves mercy more than punishment. All men are indeed created by the Demiurge, but by special choice he elected the Jewish people as his own and thus became the god of the Jews.
His theological outlook is limited to the Bible, his struggle with the Catholic Church seems a battle with texts and nothing more. The Old Testament is true enough, Moses and the Prophets are messengers of the Demiurge, the Jewish Messias is sure to come and found a millennial kingdom for the Jews on earth, but the Jewish messias has nothing whatever to do with the Christ of God. The Invisible, Indescribable, Good God (aoratos akatanomastos agathos theos), formerly unknown to the creator as well as to his creatures, has revealed Himself in Christ. How far Marcion admitted a Trinity of persons in the supreme Godhead is not known; Christ is indeed the Son of God, but he is also simply "God" without further qualification; in fact, Marcion's gospel began with the words; "In the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius God descended in Capharnaum and taught on the Sabbaths". However daring and capricious this manipulation of the Gospel text, it is at least a splendid testimony that, in Christian circles of the first half of the second century the Divinity of Christ was a central dogma. To Marcion however Christ was God Manifest not God Incarnate. His Christology is that of the Docetae rejecting the inspired history of the Infancy, in fact, any childhood of Christ at all; Marcion's Savior is a "Deus ex machina" of which Tertullian mockingly says: "Suddenly a Son, suddenly Sent, suddenly Christ!" Marcion admitted no prophecy of the Coming of Christ whatever; the Jewish prophets foretold a Jewish Messias only, and this Messias had not yet appeared. Marcion used the story of the three angels, who ate, walked, and conversed with Abraham and yet had no real human body, as an illustration of the life of Christ (Adv. Marc., III, ix). Tertullian says (ibid.) that when Apelles and seceders from Marcion began to believe that Christ had a real body indeed, not by birth but rather collected from the elements, Marcion would prefer to accept even a putative birth rather than a real body. Whether this is Tertullian's mockery or a real change in Marcion's sentiments we do not know. To Marcion matter and flesh are not indeed essentially evil, but are contemptible things, a mere production of the Demiurge, and it was inconceivable that God should really have made them His own. Christ's life on earth was a continual contrast to the conduct of the Demiurge. Some of the contrasts are cleverly staged: the Demiurge sent bears to devour children for puerile merriment (Kings)-- Christ bade children come to Him and He fondled and blessed them; the Demiurge in his law declared lepers unclean and banished them but Christ touched and healed them. Christ's putative passion and death was the work of the Demiurge, who, in revenge for Christ's abolition of the Jewish law delivered Him up to hell. But even in hell Christ overcame the Demiurge by preaching to the spirits in Limbo, and by His Resurrection He founded the true Kingdom of the Good God. Epiphanius (Haer., xlii, 4) says that Marcionites believed that in Limbo Christ brought salvation to Cain, Core, Dathan and Abiron, Esau, and the Gentiles, but left in damnation all Old Testament saints. This may have been held by some Marcionites in the fourth century, but it was not the teaching of Marcion himself, who had no Antinomian tendencies. Marcion denied the resurrection of the body, "for flesh and blood shall not inherit the Kingdom of God", and denied the second coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead, for the good God, being all goodness, does not punish those who reject Him; He simply leaves them to the Demiurge, who will cast them into everlasting fire.
With regard to discipline, the main point of difference consists in his rejection of marriage, i.e. he baptized only those who were not living in matrimony: virgins, widows, celibates, and eunuchs (Tert., "Adv. Marc.", I, xxix); all others remained catechumens. On the other hand the absence of division between catechumens and baptized persons, in Marcionite worship, shocked orthodox Christians, but it was emphatically defended by Marcion's appeal to Galatians 6:6. According to Tertullian (Adv. Marc., I, xiv) he used water in baptism, anointed his faithful with oil and gave milk and honey to the catechumens and in so far retained the orthodox practices, although, says Tertullian, all these things are "beggarly elements of the Creator." Marcionites must have been excessive fasters to provoke the ridicule of Tertullian in his Montanist days. Epiphanius says they fasted on Saturday out of a spirit of opposition to the Jewish God, who made the Sabbath a day of rejoicing. This however may have been merely a western custom adopted by them.
It was the fate of Marcionism to drift away almost immediately from its founder's ideas towards mere Gnosticism. Marcion's creator or Jewish god was too inconsistent and illogical a conception, he was inferior to the good God yet he was independent; he was just and yet not good; his writings were true and yet to be discarded; he had created all men and done them no evil, yet they had not to worship and serve him. Marcion's followers sought to be more logical, they postulated three principles: good, just, and wicked, opposing the first two to the last; or one principle only, the just god being a mere creation of the good God. The first opinion was maintained by Syneros and Lucanus or Lucianus. Of the first we know nothing beyond the mention of him in Rhodon; of the second we possess more information, and Epiphanius has devoted a whole chapter to his refutation. Both Origen and Epiphanius, however, seem to know of Lucanus' sect only by hearsay; it was therefore probably extinct toward the end of the third century. Tertullian (De Resur., Carn., ii) says that he outdid even Marcion in denying the resurrection, not only of the body, but also of the soul, only admitting the resurrection of some tertium quid (pneuma as opposed to psyche?). Tertullian says that he had Lucanus' teaching in view when writing his "De Anima". It is possible that Lucanus taught transmigration of souls; according to Epiphanius some Marcionites of his day maintained it. Though Lucanus' particular sect may soon have died out, the doctrine comprised in the three principles was long maintained by Marcionites. In St. Hippolytus' time (c. 225) it was held by an Assyrian called Prepon, who wrote in defense of it a work called "Bardesanes the Armenian" (Hipp., "Adv. Haer.", VII, xxxi). Adamantius in his "Dialogue" (see below) introduces a probable fictitious Marcionite doctrine of three principles, and Epiphanius evidently puts it forward as the prominent Marcionite doctrine of his day (374). The doctrine of the One Principle only, of which the Jewish god is a creature, was maintained by the notorious Apelles, who, though once a disciple of Marcion himself, became more of a Gnostic than of a Marcionist. He was accompanied by a girl called Philumena, a sort of clairvoyante who dabbled in magic, and who claimed frequent visions of Christ and St. Paul, appearing under the form of a boy. Tertullian calls this Philumena a prostitute, and accuses Apelles of unchastity, but Rhodon, who had known Apelles personally, refers to him as "venerable in behavior and age". Tertullian often attacks him in writings ("De Praeser., " lxvii; "Adv. Marc.," III, g. 11, IV, 17) and even wrote a work against him: "Adversus Apelleiacos", which is unfortunately lost, though once known to St. Hippolytus and .htm-->St. Augustine. Some fragments of Apelles have been collected by A. Harnack (first in "Texte u. Unters.", VI, 3, 1890, and then ibid., XX, or new ser., V, 3, 1900), who wrote, "De Apelles Gnosi Monarchica" (Leipzig, 1874), though Apelles emphatically repudiated Marcion's two gods and acknowledged "One good God, one Beginning, and one Power beyond all description" (akatanomastos).
This "Holy and Good God above", according to him, took no notice of things below, but made another god who made the world. Nor is this creator-god the only emanation of the Supreme God; there is a fire-angel or fire-god ("Igneus Praeses mali" according to Tertullian, "De Carne", viii) who tampered with the souls of men; there is a Jewish god, a law-god, who presumably wrote the Old Testament, which Apelles held to be a lying production. Possibly, however, the fire-god and the law-god were but manifestations of the creator-god. Apelles wrote an extensive work called Syllogismoi to prove the untrustworthiness of the Old Testament, of which Origen quotes a characteristic fragment (In Gen., II, ii). Apelles' Antidocetism has been referred to above. Of other followers of Marcion the names only are known. The Marcionites differed from the Gnostic Christians in that they thought it unlawful to deny their religion in times of persecution, nobly vying with the Catholics in shedding their blood for the name of Christ. Marcionite martyrs are not infrequently referred to in Eusebius' "Church History" (IV.15; IV.46; V.16; V.21; VII.12). Their number and influence seem always to have been less in the West than in the East, and in the West they soon died out. Epiphanius, however, testifies that in the East in A.D. 374 they had deceived "a vast number of men" and were found, "not only in Rome and Italy but in Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Cyprus and the Thebaid and even in Persia". And Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in the Province of the Euphrates from 423 to 458, in his letter to Domno, the Patriarch of Antioch, refers with just pride to having converted one thousand Marcionites in his scattered diocese. Not far from Theodoret's diocese, near Damascus, and inscription was found of a Marcionite church, showing that in A.D. 318-319 Marcionites possessed freedom of worship (Le Boss and Waddington, "Inscr. Grec.", Paris, 1870). Constantine (Eusebius, "Vita", III, lxiv) forbade all public and private worship of Marcionism. Though the Paulicians are always designated by their adversaries as Manichæans, and though their adoption of Manichaean principles seems undeniable, yet, according to Petrus Siculus, who lived amongst Paulicians (868-869) in Tibrike and is therefore a trustworthy witness, their founder, Constantine the Armenian, on receiving Marcion's Gospel and Apostolicon from a deacon in Syria, handed it to his followers, who at first at least kept it as their Bible and repudiated all writings of Mani. The refutation of Marcionism by the Armenian Archpriest Eznic in the fifth century shows the Marcionites to have been still numerous in Armenia at that time (Eznik, "Refutation of the Sects", IV, Ger. tr., J. M. Schmid, Vienna, 1900). Ermoni maintains that Eznik's description of Marcion's doctrine still represents the ancient form thereof, but this is not acknowledged by other scholars ("Marcion dans la littérat. Arménienne" in "Revue de l'Or. Chrét.", I)
Marcion's name appears prominently in the discussion of two important questions, that of the Apostle's Creed, and that of the Canon of the New Testament.
It is maintained by recent scholars that the Apostle's Creed was drawn up in the Roman Church in opposition to Marcionism (cf. F. Kattenbusch, "Das Apost. Symbol.", Leipzig, 1900; A.C. McGiffert, "The Apostle's Creed", New York, 1902). Passing over this point, Marcion's attitude toward the New Testament must be further explained. His cardinal doctrine was the opposition of the Old Testament to the New, and this doctrine he had amply illustrated in his great (lost) work, Antithesis, or "Contrasts". In order, however, to make the contrast perfect he had to omit much of the New Testament writings and to manipulate the rest. He took one Gospel out of the four, and accepted only ten Epistles of St. Paul. Marcion's Gospel was based on our canonical St. Luke with omission of the first two chapters. The text has been as far as possible restored by Th. Zahn, "Geschichte d. N.T. Kanons", II, 456-494, from all available sources especially Epiphanius, who made a collection of 78 passages. Marcion's changes mainly consist in omissions where he modifies the text. The modifications are slight thus: "I give Thee thanks, Father, God of heaven and earth," is changed to "I give thanks, Father, Lord of heaven". "O foolish and hard of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken", is changed into, "O foolish and hard of heart to believe in all that I have told you." Sometimes slight additions are made: "We found this one subverting our nation" (the accusation of the Jews before Pilate) receives the addition: "and destroying the law and the prophets."
A similar process was followed with the Epistles of St. Paul. By the omission of a single preposition Marcion had coined a text in favor of his doctrine out of Ephesians 3:10: "the mystery which from the beginning of the world has been hidden from the God who created all things" (omitting en before theo). However cleverly the changes were made, Catholics continued to press Marcion even with the texts which he retained in his New Testament, hence the continual need of further modifications. The Epistles of St. Paul which he received were, first of all, Galatians, which he considered the charter of Marcionism, then Corinthians I and II, Romans I and II, Thessalonians, Ephesians (which, however, he knew under the name of Laodicians), Colossians, Philippians and Philemon. The Pastoral epistles, the Catholic Epistles, Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, as well as Acts, were excluded. Recently De Bruyne ("Revue Benedictine", 1907, 1-16) has made out a good case for the supposition that the short prefaces to the Pauline epistles, which were once attributed to Pelagius and others, are taken out of as Marcionite Bible and augmented with Catholic headings for the missing epistles. (who maintains three principles) and Marcus (who defends two). (Berlin ed. of the Fathers by Sande Bakhuysen, Leipzig, 1901).
It is indeed an interesting read. Gnosticism is rampant among many today who reject aspects of Christianity that they do not like. What is that saying about there being “no new heresy?”
Yes, excellent. The depth of research into ancient documents, only some of which are extant, is remarkable.
Ah yes — Marcion, the founder of subsequent replacement theologies — erroneously believing that the New Testament Gospel replaced the Old Testament, rather than as Jesus said, fulfilling it.
Why is every third word a hyperlink? It makes reading it a pain in the @ss.
well, it’s not so hard to see why he went for this — firstly, the canon had not been put together, and just a cursory read of the OT and NT seems to suggest two vastly different gods — an OT God of fire and brimstone who punishes and calls for extinction of peoples and a NT God of love. If we read scripture in bits and pieces and out of context, we can easily fall for the same story that Marcion did.
One would think that the mega billions spent on Catholic colleges and universities in the last hundred years would have served as a platform to refute Pagels. Instead their was silence and non Catholic historians filled this void with refutation of her silly opinions. Finally in 2005 a Jesuit in Rome explained how Pagels had exercised academic fraud in the writing of her aforementioned seminal work. I can't understand how complicit the Church has been in allowing these attacks on Catholicism/Orthodoxy to go unanswered in the last forty years. Catholic educational institutions could produce Madonna, Lady GA GA and sexual misconduct but no refutation of those committed to destroy the word of God.
Nice to notice the truth was once known as truth by some.
Thx for the ping.
All of this appears to be here-say...Not much if any of the actual words of Marcion...The same thing with the writings of the Catholic church fathers...
An idea appears into the head of one, and a few 'fathers' thruout the centuries run with idea and add their own embellishments to try to turn the idea from fable to fact...
It's like when you guys claim 'all' the Church fathers agree (which they don't) and then post a full page of your Church fathers repeating what he read from the previous one...So what???
We should believe the Paulicans were bad because your religion calls them heretics??? We're all heretics according to your religion...
Just as the Church was the fulfillment of Israel.
The Marcionites according to history ran an ecclesiastical organization parallel to the Church of Rome for 300 years after which they were absorbed into Manicheism. The Manicheans were the sect that Augustine converted to Rome from and during his day they had a large community in Rome with which he was in contact trying to bring them also into the Church of Rome.
I have never said such a thing. Of course, all would agree on them when they teach orthodox dogmas. There can be no "disagreement on dogma. Those are yes / no questions; e.g. - the nature of the Son - the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
We should believe the Paulicans were bad because your religion calls them heretics???
No. You should believe they were bad because they taught that there are two Gods.
Having read what remains of the Paulician documents themselves, this group clearly did not "teach that there are two Gods." I understand that Catholics (and I mean the "extended" definition of the term that includes Eastern Orthodox, etc.) are uncomfortable with the idea of Christians existing outside of Rome/Constantinople, but really, that's still no justification for the sort of abject lies that Catholics tell about the Paulicians, etc. Frankly, just about anything Catholics say about these groups is nothing but total and complete nonsense.
“”Marcion derived and developed his heresies from Cerdo who got his through a series of heretics ultimately traceable to Simon Magus.””
Marcion was a nutcase and Simon Magus was a bigger nutcase as Blessed Irenaues points out...
Now this Simon of Samaria(Simon Magus), from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials: Having redeemed from slavery at Tyre, a city of Phnicia, a certain woman named Helena, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom, in the beginning, he conceived in his mind [the thought] of forming angels and archangels. For this Enna leaping forth from him, and comprehending the will of her father, descended to the lower regions [of space], and generated angels and powers, by whom also he declared this world was formed. But after she had produced them, she was detained by them through motives ofjealousy, because they were unwilling to be looked upon as the progeny of any other being. As to himself, they had no knowledge of him whatever; but his Enna was detained by those powers and angels who had been produced by her. She suffered all kinds of contumely from them, so that she could not return upwards to her father, but was even shut up in a human body, and for ages passed in succession from one female body to another, as from vessel to vessel.-Against Heresies (Book I, Chapter 23)Doctrines and practices of Simon Magus and Menander
true — The Church needs to refute these allegations immediately. But then the incredulous think that there’s a cover-up and the standard anti-Church baiters will come out
ALL Christians consider the Paulicans to be heretics.
We're all heretics according to your religion...
Last I heard don-o was Eastern Orthodox. What religion is it that YOU adhere to that the Orthodox has labeled heretical?
Odd how some some will embrace any heresy that they BELIEVE furthers an anti-Catholic agenda.
The early Church declared groups such as the Paulicans, Marcionists, Nestorians and Arians to be heretics. As no Protestant group I am aware of has declared to NOT be heretics, the only logical conclusion is that the still consider such beliefs to be heretical. There would be no reason for Protestants to reaffirm that they are heretical as the beliefs of these groups clearly dispute Protestant confessions regarding the Trinity.
Do you have any more info on this Jesuit who exposed Pagels as a fraud? Thanks!
LOL, the only people who doubt that the KoT is a Paulician document are Catholics who need to believe that so that they can try to deny it as evidence.
And the only people who see “dualism” in the KoT are people who have never actually read it.
That means they flunk one of the essential characteristics of Christianity.
It's a cult. Walter Martin would call it a cult. Hank Hannegraff would call it a cult. Billy Graham would call it a cult. Martin Luther would call it a cult.
I have read it — I even posted a link where you can read it online. This document, the Key of Truth shows clearly that they thought of Christ as just a man, not God. I apologize if that is what you believe, but that is not a Christian belief