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Marcion of Sinope

Marcion (84 - c.160 AD), born at Sinope in Pontus, the son of a bishop, he traveled to Rome circa 135 and became a member of the church there. Developing some eccentric theological views, he eventually taught that the god of the Old Testament was not the true God but rather that the true and higher God had been revealed only with Jesus Christ. He therefore rejected the theology of the Old Testament. Marcion wrote the Antitheses to show the differences between the god of the Old Testament and the true God.

Marcion was excommunicated by the church at Rome circa 144 AD, but he succeeded in establishing churches of his own to rival the orthodox Church for the next two centuries.

Marcion is often credited as being first to establish an explicit canon. Marcion's canon consisted of the Gospel, or the Gospel of the Lord, and ten epistles of Paul (not including the pastorals). Marcion's Gospel was apparently a truncated version of Luke with extraneous content underpinning Marcion's theology. F. F. Bruce suggests,

"the chief importance of Marcion in the second century lies in the reaction which he provoked among the leaders of the Apostolic Churches. Just as Marcion’s canon stimulated the more precise defining of the NT canon by the Catholic Church, not to supersede but to supplement the canon of the OT, so, more generally, Marcion’s teaching led the Catholic Church to define its faith more carefully, in terms calculated to exclude a Marcionite interpretation."

Marcion receives derogatory references from contemporary apologist Justin Martyr and heresiologist Irenaeus of Lyons. We can reconstruct Marcion's writings through the references in Tertullian's Adversus Marcionem and Epiphanius' Panarion.

Irenaeus on Marcion's teaching[]

Marcion of Pontus... developed his teaching, shamelessly blaspheming the God whom the Law and the Prophets proclaimed, describing him as the author of evils, desirous of wars, changing his opinions, and [at different times] contrary to himself. But Jesus [was] from the Father who is above the God that formed the world, and came into Judea in the time of Pontius Pilate, who was procurator of Tiberius Caesar; manifest in human form to those who were in Judea, he abolished the Prophets and the Law, and all the works of that God who made the world, whom he calls the World Ruler. In addition to this he mutilated the Gospel According to Luke, removing everything about the birth of the Lord, and much of the teaching of the words of the Lord, in which the Lord is recorded as clearly confessing the creator of this universe as his Father. He persuaded his disciples that he was more veracious than the apostles who handed down the gospel, giving them not a gospel but a mere fragment of a gospel. He also similarly cut up the Epistles of Paul, removing whatever the apostle said clearly about the God who made the world, that he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and whatever the apostle teaches by referring to the prophetic writings that predict the coming of the Lord.

See also[]

  • Marcionism
  • Development of the canon

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