MARCION: THE JUGGERNAUT OF CHRISTIANITY.

One of the first mentions of Christians outside of Jewish sources was made in the Territory of Marcion, in Pontus and Bithynia. Pliny the younger sent a letter to Tragan in 112AD in regards to secret societies including Christian clubs and what to do with them.

“Several modern researchers have pointed to features in common between Pliny’s Christians and Marcion’s brand of Christianity. These include the absence of Jewish characteristics in the service, the direct worship of Christ as something like a deity, and the relatively high position accorded women.”~BeDuhn, The First New Testament,16.

According to the letter two women slaves held important positions as ministrae who distributed the ritual meal.

Tacitus may have also been informed by the Marcionite version of Luke. The opening line of the Evangelion, “In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pilate was governing Judea.” Is similar to Annals15.44 “Christians…..suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,”.

Marcions book, Antitheses showed the God of the Old Testament could not be the God of Jesus. “For example, the God of the Old Testament tells the people of Israel to enter into the city of Jericho and murder every man, woman, child, and animal in the city (Joshua 6); but the God of Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies, to pray for those who persecute them, to turn the other cheek (Luke 6: 27–29). Is this the same God? When Elisha, the prophet of the Old Testament God, was being mocked by a group of young boys, God allowed him to call out two she-bears to attack and maul them (2 Kings 2: 23–24). The God of Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me” (Luke 18: 15–17). Is this the same God? The God of the Old Testament said, “Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree” (Deut. 27: 26; 28: 58). But the God of Jesus ordered him, the one who was blessed, to be hanged on a tree. Is this the same God?

How could the wrathful, vengeful God of the Jews be the loving, merciful God of Jesus? Marcion maintained that these attributes could not belong to one God, as they stand at odds with one another: hatred and love, vengeance and mercy, judgment and grace. He concluded that there must in fact be two Gods: the God of the Jews, as found in the Old Testament, and the God of Jesus, as found in the writings of Paul.”~Ehrman, Lost Christianities, ch5.

There was precedent for Marcions theology as Plutarch writes in Isis and Oirises 46-47 (369d-370c)

“Most of the wisest men …. think there are two gods, rivals as it were, one the maker of good things, the other of bad. But others call the better power a god, the other a demon, as does Zoroaster who… called the god “Ahurs Mazda” the demon,”Ahriman”. …..Moreover, he taught [his followers the magi] to offer sacrifices….”

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The earliest date we have for Marcion is Polycarp’s comment that Marcion was teaching in 115 AD. Irenaeus said that Polycarp first refutes Marcion face to face. – Haer. 3.3.4. Writing in 138 AD, Justin Martyr said that Marcionites could be found in “every nation.” [Dialogue with Trypho, prologue; First Apology.chap26].

Marcions had a sea trade and as a religious leader was able to spread his brand of Christianity fast, ships are the fastest method of travel.

Due to various Jewish revolts, 66-70AD, the Kitos and the Bar Kokhba revolt, Marcions brand of Christianity excluding the Jewish roots became popular.

Moreover, Jesus explains in Marcions Evangelion that no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the old wineskins burst and both they and the wine are destroyed (Luke5:37-38) The gospel is a new thing that has come into the world. It cannot be put into the old wineskins of the Jewish religion.

Tertullian claims “For it is evident that those men lived [Valentinus and Marcion] not so long ago,–in the reign of Antoninus for the most part,–and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity,with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled. Marcion, indeed, [went] with the two hundred sesterces which which he had brought into the church, and, when banished at last to a permanent excommunication, they scattered abroad the poisons of their doctrines.”~On the Prescriptions of Heresies, chXXX.

The proto Orthodox rejected Marcion because ““Christianity and Judaism “co-evolved,” and the degree to which the “orthodox” Christianity might even be said to represent a historical “convergence” with Jewish religious views and values, in contrast to other forms of Christianity, such as Marcionite and Manichaean Christianity, where such a convergence never occurred.”~BeDuhn,The First New Testament, 59-60.

As seen from Pliny’s letters, “Marcion came from a Gentile Christian community already substantially seperated from a Jewish religious background.” Ibid,60

Marcion identified certain texts as authoritative, Paul suited Marcions type of Christianity and Marcions canon gave his movement an authoritative air.

Harnack believes Marcion ( in his book called Marcion) was the first to use the term Evangelion to tell a narrative of Jesus’ life. Before this an Evangelion was a proclamation or manifesto of a powerful individual (whether divine or human). It was adopted by the early Christians.

The use of the word “gospel” by Christians in Marcions day referred primarily to a body of teaching such as the gospel mentioned in Pauls letters, and did not refer to a text.

With all the writings against Marcion we know that he was the juggernaut of Christianity:

Writings by Justin Martyr, Ireaneus, Tertullian, Origen, Eusibius and Jerome still survive.

Also here is a list of the lost works:

•Justin Martyr,Syntagma against Marcion ( mentioned Ireaneus, Haer4.6.2)

•Rhodo (Eusibius,Hist.eccl.5.13)

•Dionysus Of Corinth( Eusibius, Hist.eccl.4.23)

•Theophilus of Antioch(Eusibius, Hist. eccl. 4.24)

•Hippolytus Of Rome, Syntagma( Jerome, Vir. ill.61)

•Philip Of Gortyna(Eusibius,Hist.eccl.4.25)

•Modestus(Eusibius,Hist.eccl.4.25).

These were probably not preserved because they went too far against Pauls epistles that had come back into fashion after Marcion.

(It goes without saying that Marcions own work Antithesis (Meaning Oppositions) was destroyed but is reconstructed.)

We only know of Marcion through his detractors, and his first mention by a contemporary Justin Martyr (Apol.26.5) “already in this, the earliest reference to Marcion ( and apparently while still active) [Martyr says ‘even now’ in the quote], he is being ‘mythologized’ – reconstructed to serve the interests of his portrayer, on whose description any account must rely.”~Lieu,Marcion and the making of a heretic,15

Also in Lieu’s book, the polemics means everything is thrown against Marcion, most of which he was accused of had nothing to do with Marcion. Example Tertullian wrote a book against the Jews and just transferred what he wrote there onto Marcion, ie throw enough mud and see what sticks. That is why Marcions seems to be different to every opponent writing against him. Tertullian makes the case for a strongly dualistic – almost Manichaean – understanding of Marcionite theology. Whereas Ireaneus Marcionite godhead was tripartite (or at least that the two principle powers of God were ‘just’ and ‘merciful’ rather than ‘good’ and ‘evil’). Writings at first attributed to Hippolytus but now modern scholars treat the texts by an unknown author, compares Marcion to Empodocles whose governing principles love and discord is like Marcions good and evil.( Refutation VII.29-31).

The vigour with which Clement and Origen have combatted Marcion, shows Marcionites were a force to be reckoned with in Alexandria late 2nd century. Also a gnosticing Christianity preceded the proto- Orthodoxy in Egypt so Marcion, Valentine and Basilides were all written against. Bauer could detect no trace of orthodoxy in Egypt until the third-century bishop Demetrius.

Tyson claims that Luke Acts was written in reaction to Marcion.

Acts 16:6-8 mentions that while Paul traveled on his preaching missions, he and his traveling companions came upon Asia but the Holy Spirit did not permit them to preach while in Asia. The narrative elaborates to say that Paul attempted to specifically enter into the locale of Bithynia, Marcionite country but the “Spirit of Jesus did allow them” to go in. So they moved on to another locale.

Conspicuously, no explanation whatsoever is given for this prohibition from entering Bithynia. More striking is that there is no other instance in the entire Acts narrative where Paul was required to avoid a specific place and not make any contact with his gospel.

The author of Acts is disassociating Paul from Marcion by making expressly clear that of all the many places Paul traveled and preached, he did not even set foot in the hometown of Marcion (by order of divine guidance).

Another note of interest is that Acts has no mention of Alexandria. It does not mention Christianity in Egypt, so Acts is also disassociating from Valentines Christianity. Acts does admit in a curious text about an Alexandria Jew name Apollos who visited Ephesus but Paul and others judged his Christianity to be defective.

SOME FASCINATING FACTS in this dissertation:

*One of the first non Jewish source for Christians is from Marcion territory.

*He was responsible for the first New Testament in 144AD, it took the orthodox over 200 years to catch up.

*Was in the ascendancy, before the orthodox.

*Even Marcions history written by a contemporary is ‘mythologized’ and Marcion is demonised!

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DID MARCION GIVE ‘GOOD’ A BAD NAME?

“Tertullian knows that Marcion attributes to this deity the supreme quality of goodness ( bonitas). This, too, provokes a litany of dissent, not least the objection of goodness is only imaginary if it does not exhibit anger and retribution against that which disobeys its precepts.(Against Marcion I.27).”~Lieu,Marcion and the making of a heretic,65.

Marcion explained about the demiurge, the jealous creator god of the OT who dishes out retribution was not the same as the loving god, father of Jesus in his own book the Antithesis.

“alongside the ‘solely kind and supreme good’ God there is also another one whom, according to Tertullian, Marcion also insists on calling ‘God’ presumably because so did his source, the Scriptures. This deity is most persistently the ‘Creator’; he is a ‘judge, fierce and warlike (iudex, ferus, bellipotents)’. Against Marcion I.6. More than this, he is proven to lack goodness, prescience and omnipotence, and even to be actively responsible for evil to be inconsistent and unreliable in his demands and to be forever changing his mind. (Against Marcion II.5.2;21;23-4).”~ ibid,66.

Marcion’s Jesus appeared full grown on earth during the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius. For Marcion, Jesus simply appeared on earth one day, already an adult and with a celestial body. Marcion’s Jesus had no human family and only appeared to be a human being. Marcion’s Jesus only “appeared” to be crucified. Marcion’s Jesus only appeared to die. Marcion’s Jesus only appeared to be resurrected. Marcion’s Jesus was a god totally separate from the evil Yahweh, whom Marcion referred to as the “demi-urge”. This is reconstructed from church fathers writing against Marcion. [eg Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem1; Martyr, I Apology26.189-190; Ireneaus, Against Heresies 1.27; Epiphanius, Panarion 42.3.3]

name marcionite heavenly Savior (Jesus) was:

ISU CHRESTOS

The inscription “Isu Chrestos” can still be seen on the oldest surviving Christian “Synagogue” in Syria. Dated 318AD, the inscription reads, “The meeting-house of the Marcionists, in the village of Lebaba of the Lord and Saviour Jesus CHRESTOS.

In most of the earliest manuscripts the term ‘Chrestian’ is used instead of ‘Christian’. The earliest form of the term “Christian” does not occur until Codex Alexandrinus, at least the 5th century. Modern scholars put this down to the fact that the terms were interchangeable. Some cite Tertullian for this:

“Now then, if this hatred is directed against the name, what is the guilt attaching to names? What accusation can be brought against words, except that a certain pronunciation of a name sounds barbarous, or is unlucky or abusive or obscene? But ‘Christian,’ as far as its etymology goes, is derived from ‘anointing.’ And even when it is incorrectly pronounced by you ‘Chrestian’ (for not even is your acquaintance with the name accurate), it is formed from ‘sweetness’ or ‘kindness.’ In innocent men, therefore, even an innocent name is hated.”~ Apology3.

Also Justin aware of the difference.

Justin makes a pun off of it, because nonChristians commonly confused the iota and eta due to the similar phonological pronunciations.

1 Apology chpt 4 “And those among yourselves who are accused you do not punish before they are convicted; but in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust. Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment.”~Martyr, 1Apology4.

But if the terms were so interchangeable why the determined rub outs in manuscripts.

*In Tacitus Annuls it has been shown under UV light the ‘e’ was changed to ‘i’

*Why did Later Christian scribes literally erased the “e” from “Chrestos” and “Chrestianous” and replaced it with an “i”. And, as we know, later editions of the Bible replaced “Chrestus” with “Christos” and “Chrestianous” with “Christianous”.

It originally was written ‘Chrestianous’ in all three places in the NT codex Siniaticus [χρηϲτιανουϲ corrected to: χριϲτιανουϲ ](Acts11:26,Acts26:27,1Peter4:16). See in picture with this post. Equally interesting is the fact that in all three cases, the right vertical stroke and the horizontal stroke of the ETA have been erased to produce an IOTA (yielding the traditional spelling). This is very unusual. Sinaiticus was corrected many times, and each generation of correctors had their own discernible “tics”. But simple erasure without further comment seems to be unprecedented. Moreover, the empty space left by the erasure is, in all three cases, not filled up. This shows that without any question the scribe of Sinaiticus deliberately meant to write “Chrestian” in all three instances; it was not a mistake and in all three instances it was rubbed out. Why?

I believe it was an anti Marcionite reaction.

Have a look at the following interesting link:

http://www.mountainman.com.au/essenes/chrestians%20christians.htm

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Why is the identification of Marcion as the first collector of the Pauline epistles so unbelievable?

When Ignatius, Polycarp, and 1 Clement make reference to Pauline letters, as Bauer noted, they sound like ill-prepared students faking their way through a discussion of a book they neglected to read. None of the writers are aware of Paul’s reputation as a great epistolarian, and each makes strange statements implying an utter lack of familiarity with the Pauline corpus. Obviously the Pauline collection does not seem to be assembled yet.

•Clement seems to know of only one Corinthian epistle, First Clement47:1 appears to have thought there was but a single Pauline letter to Corinth.

•Ignatius, in his letter to the Ephesians, somehow imagined that Paul had eulogized the Ephesians in every one of his epistles. (Ignatius, To the Ephesians 12:2).

•Polycarp thinks Paul brags on the Philippians in his letters to “all churches” , ie That all Paul’s letters mentioned the Philippian congregation ( Polycarp, To the Philippians 11:3) and that he wrote several letters to the Philippians, he thought there were several letters to the church at Philippi (To the Philippians 3:2).

However Polycarp, Ignatius, and 1 Clement can be shown to make allusions to the letters to the Corinthians.

According to Bauer starting at least with 1 Clement, the Roman hierarchy found 1 Corinthians to be useful as a weapon against heresy and sectarianism. Because of this utility, 1 Corinthians was widely circulated, even as other Pauline letters were shunned and suppressed in the Roman-leaning circles.[1]

Tertullian called Paul “the apostle of Marcion and the apostle of the heretics,” and both Irenaeus and Tertullian noted how much the heretics cherished Paul’s writings.

Justin Martyr never mentioned Paul ( by name) but must have known of him. What he knew was that Paul was sacred to Marcion, whose legacy Justin despised. This period of neglecting Paul ended with late second-century apologists Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum (Lyons) in Gaul, and Tertullian of Carthage. They both sought to rehabilitate the fascinating Pauline epistles that Polycarp and others had tried to sanitize to win Marcionite and Gnostic (that is, Pauline) Christians over to Catholicism.

Legend has it that Onesimus (the slave mentioned in Philemon) was the first collector, (like a treasure hunt) going around to the various churches, delighted that the interest in Paul has reignited with the writings of Acts.

It is a lot more real that Marcion would have the means and interest in putting the Pauline corpus together.

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[1] Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, eds. Robert A. Kraft and Gerhard Kroedel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 219ff.

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Evangelion

Harnack believes Marcion ( in his book called Marcion) was the first to use the term Evangelion as a title to tell a narrative of Jesus’ life. Before this an Evangelion was a proclamation or manifesto of a powerful individual (whether divine or human). It was adopted by the early Christians.

The use of the word “gospel” by Christians in Marcions day referred primarily to a body of teaching such as the gospel mentioned in Pauls letters, and did not refer to a text.

Marcions gospel followed the same distinctive shape and sequence as our gospel Luke leaving out a number of passages leading the early church fathers from Ireaneus onwards to think that Marcion ‘mutilated’ the scriptures. “He mutilates the gospel according to Luke…(Ireaneus Against Heresies I.27.2)

They claim the motivation of Marcion to do this was to suit his own ideological theology, but through a number of examples this is shown not to be the case.

The Evangelon aligns with Marcionite theology no better or no worse than orthodox theology.

Only one example shown in this OP to ensure brevity, many more given in Lieu’s book cited:

In Jesus’ sudden appearance in Luke24:37-39, Tertullian and Epiphanius are both perplexed that Marcions gospel had the following:

37 They thought they were seeing a phantom.38 So he said to them, “Why are you troubled and why are doubts arising in your heart?39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself because a spirit does not have bones just as you see that I have.”

(Tertullian Against Marcion4.43.6-8; Epiphanius Pan64.64.7)

This goes against Marcions docetism.(Jesus having bones). This also is close to a variant seen in codex Bazae and Ignatius. The Greek and Latin Codex Bezae variant of Luke 24 also uses “phantasma” or “ghost” in Luke 24:37 (“they thought they had seen a ghost”) in place of the Alexandrian “pneuma” or “spirit”.

Cf Ignatius,Smyrnaeans 3:2 has striking resemblances to Luke 24:39 Bazae variant.

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Given the textual evidence it is now thought that Marcion took up a gospel in circulation, Marcionite communities had multiple exemplars which would explain the different sets of harmonisations between Tertullian and Epiphanius.

John Knox-Tyson theory have Luke/Acts in its final redaction composed in 110-120AD in agreement with Pervos dates. They see Acts as domesticating Paul in an anti-Marcionite intent. By adding Luke 1-2 you get a more physical Jesus and by making a more Torah loving Paul in Acts ( mirroring Peter) all helps to combat Marcionism.

The Evangelon and Luke look like pre-existing gospels that were changed respectively for Gentile audience and Luke primarily for the Jewish audience. (ie these changes came about due to mission related purposes as opposed to ideological). In Marcions day it looks like there were already TWO versions of Proto Luke in circulation, with Marcions version having certain affinities with Western tradition, and more precisely it presupposes an earlier text form from the western text (example codex Bezae) and particularly the old Syrian text known to Ephram and Aphraat are also descended.

“As BeDuhn puts it Marcions “omissions” actually were “non interpolations”; that is the text known to him lacked material found in the alternative version of the gospel that came to be known as the gospel of Luke.”~BeDuhn,The New Testament,88.

The Evangelon is another witness in the understanding and build up, split up and reaction of certain NT literature.

Celsus has summed this up before and would explain two variant Lukes in circulation to suit Jews and Gentiles ( Marcion representing one such variant)

Were the changes the results of OBJECTERS or DISBELIEVERS, from Jewish and gentile orientated stances, Contra Celsium II.27

Chapter 27

[What Celsus said] …After this he says, that certain of the Christian believers, like persons who in a fit of drunkenness lay violent hands upon themselves, have corrupted the Gospel from its original integrity, to a threefold, and fourfold, and many-fold degree, and have remodelled it, so that they might be able to answer objections. [End of what Celsus said]…..

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SOURCES

BeDuhn, The First New Testament.

Lieu, Marcion and the making of a heretic.

Tyson, Marcion and Luke Acts.

Dr RM Price, Amazing Colossal Apostle.

Ehrman, Lost Christianities.

5 thoughts on “MARCION: THE JUGGERNAUT OF CHRISTIANITY.

  1. WoW a great Blog .. I have printed and will re read it. .. And a new author to me : Philip Of Gortyna?? I’m excited to see more of him. Buy might like to see the material I’m working on.

    James Gray

    Liked by 1 person

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