UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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Marcion Promotes Pauline Christianity
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
June 6, 2021
All Rights Reserved
God is here. Let us join together and breathe in the very presence of a Mother/Father God and accept that all around us is abundant, life giving provision. In this moment of breathing, you are one with God. God within you and God around you. Open your mind and heart fully to the awareness of God and let that presence touch your soul in any way that you have need; health, vitality, abundance, healing, oneness, even needs that you know not of. Open yourself in this moment of communion until you feel nothing stirring within or around you – until there is no longer you and me and God – until there is only God, as healing silence.
Now that you are established in the consciousness of the one presence and power, make room within your consciousness for this healing presence to move into the lives of your loved ones. Simply let go of your thoughts of worry and concern, and let a feeling of serenity radiate through you by knowing that ‘something that cannot be described or explained, is moving in their lives as healing… in the silence.
Let us pray: “Today I let God touch my life with health, vitality and healing so that I might be a unifying expression of love, joy, and peace in the world. I accept today as best day of my life, for nothing but the best is coming my way. I know that something that cannot be explained, is moving in my life as my life.”
As we close our time of prayer, each of us returning from our own chamber of oneness, each having kept our divine appointment with God, and connecting with the spirit of God, in our individual moments of communion. Let us now join our consciousness together as one through the spirit of the indwelling Christ and speak together the Prayer For Protection. “The light of God surrounds us; the love of God enfolds us; the power of God protects us; the presence of God watches over us. Wherever we are God is and all is well.
Let the experience of this time of prayer guide you throughout this day, renewing your energy as you honor each breath of life. Amen.
MARCION PROMOTES PAULINE CHRISTIANITY
By volume, Paul's epistles make up approximately 5% of the Bible. Paul's writings are Holy Scripture, but neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit expected us to give more authority to these epistles than we do to the Old Testament or to the rest of the New Testament. By putting a disproportionate amount of emphasis on the letters Paul sent to various churches, we fail to follow the example of Paul, who told the Ephesians, "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of "God" (Acts 20:27). By neglecting certain parts of the Bible, we ignore Paul's declaration: "All Scripture is inspired and is useful.” (2Tim. 3:16). Christianity's emphasis on Paul's writings and lack of emphasis on the rest of the Bible including the teachings of Jesus is puzzling; especially if we consider Peter's warning about Paul's writings:"His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Pet. 3:16). Today we’re exploring the questions: How did this shift of focus come about? What caused the Church to begin paying so much attention to Paul and so little attention to the Law, the Prophets and other parts of the Bible including Jesus? To answer ththesese questions, we must go back to the 2nd Century.
The 1st point to remember is: Jesus was a Jew. In fact, all of the original Apostles were Jews, who had been exposed to the teachings of the Law and the Prophets since birth. After all the original Apostles died, other people took on the responsibility of continuing the Church's work. But, the leaders who replaced them were mostly Gentiles from Pagan (nature worshiping) backgrounds, who often had little or no understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures. We can read about these people in various documents from the 2nd Century. One Church historian has this to say about these documents: "Many stories come in versions so distorted that it is hard to decide whether the principal characters were worthy successors to the apostles, or the devil's own agents. Perhaps their contemporaries were as uncertain as we were."
There is one character, however, which was undoubtedly one of the devil's own agents: The heretic Marcion, who lived in the second half of the Second Century. Marcion taught that the entire Old Testament should be rejected because it belonged to an evil, inferior God, and not to the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth. Marcion was very anti-Jewish; therefore he also rejected any New Testament writings which appeared to speak favorably of "Jewish practices" (i.e., keeping the laws and commandments of the Old Testament). As one writer notes, "Marcion started the trend which has had many followers right up to the present –– if it doesn't suit the theory, excise it as spurious or an interpolation."
By the time Marcion finished editing the Scriptures, his "Bible" consisted of nothing more than Luke's Gospel (minus the "Jewish" elements) and ten of Paul's epistles. Paul, Marcion taught, was the only apostle who could be trusted. Marcion's anti-Jewish; pro-Paul churches spread throughout the Roman Empire and soon became a major threat to the Messianic faith. According to historians, Marcion's heresy continued to spread until it finally died out sometime around the "Fifth Century." We who claim to believe the Bible must ask ourselves an important question: Did Marcion's anti-Jewish, anti-Old Testament, pro-Paul heresy really die out? Or did the Church simply succumb to it and accommodate it and incorporate it, in a subdued form, into Mainstream Christianity?
Of course our Bible, unlike Marcion's, includes the Law and the Prophets, but how much do we heed their instruction? When we examine the average Christian‘s attitude to the Law and the Prophets, it is obvious that the ghost of Marcion is very much alive in the church today.
In the beginning of the Second Century, Marcion began preaching a form of the gospel that relied heavily on Paul. MarcIon was born in 110 C.E. to wealthy parents. He is sometimes referred to as a Gnostic but an assessment of his lost writings, gleaned from his mainstream opponents reveal that his teachings were quite different in nature from what we think of as true Gnosticism with its ‘inner knowing’ and negative view of matter, which would come later and absorb his followers. Marcion asked what we all probably have asked ourselves. “Why, would a God who is ‘almighty’ – all powerful—create a world that includes suffering, pain, disease, even mosquitoes and scorpions?”
He concluded that the Old Testament God and the God of Jesus were two totally different Gods. He was very anti-Jewish and propounded a form of Christianity completely free from Jewish doctrines with Paul as the only reliable source of authentic doctrine. Paul was according to Marcion, the only apostle who had rightly understood the new message of salvation as delivered by Jesus Christ. The name Marcion is Marcus or Mark in Greek and Aramaic, a fact which caused his detractors to begin their discussions of him by denying that he was the Christian Evangelist St. Mark and saying that he was the ‘first born of Satan.’ All biographical information about Marcion comes from his detractors who were very thorough in destroying his writings.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he was a consecrated Bishop and probably an assistant of his father who was Bishop at Sinope, which is in present day Turkey. At this time priests and bishops were still allowed to marry. He was very wealthy and a ship owner. In his youth, he led a life of chastity and austerity which likens him more to the later Puritans but, according to some his detractors, in spite of his profession of bodily chastity, he fell into sin with a young maiden and was excommunicated by his own father.
This story of ‘Marcion’s Sin’ is rejected by most modern scholars who believe that his seduction of a virgin was a metaphor for his corruption of the Christian Church and who say that this is an example of the malicious gossip which some early church leaders were fond of using against others like Mary Magdalene, or women leaders in churches. No accusations or charges of impurity were brought against Marcion by church writers outside of this circle of detractors and his austerity (as well as that of his followers) seems to be acknowledged as a well known fact. After his excommunication by his father, Marcion traveled to Rome in about 142-143CE. He wasn’t persecuted there because the Bishop of Rome had recently died and hadn’t yet been replaced so the church there was in disorder. In the next few years he worked out his new theology system, began to preach it and attracted a large following. By the time the inevitable conflicts with the Bishop of Rome eventually arose, Marcion was well established and allegedly said, “I will divide your Church and cause within her a division, which will last forever.” He then organized his followers into a separate community.
Excommunicated by the Church Of Rome around 144CE, they even returned to him a large donation of 200,000 sesterces, which he may have given to the church in hope of being restored as Bishop. (This is about 7000 dollars in today’s money and a huge amount of money for those times.) After this he returned to Asia Minor where he continued to spread his message and created a strong organization resembling the Church of Rome and put himself in charge as Bishop.
The Marcionites counted 115 years and 6 months from the time of Christ to the beginning of their sect. Study of the Hebrew Scriptures and documents circulating in the early church (i.e. the New Testament Canon) hadn’t yet been delineated, formalized and closed. This led Marcion to conclude that many of the teachings of Jesus Christ are incompatible with the actions of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. He also affirmed Jesus Christ as the Messiah sent by God (the Heavenly Father) and Paul as his chief Apostle in contrast to the orthodox leaders of the Christian Church. He declared that Christianity was distinct from and in opposition to Judaism. This was a radical viewpoint given that Christianity was not yet established as a full fledged religion separate from and independent of Judaism.
Not only did Marcion reject the entire Hebrew Bible, he also argued for a dual system of belief and the existence of two Gods: Yahweh who had created the earth and the material universe and whose law, the Mosaic Covenant, represented bare natural justice: i.e. “An eye for an eye” and was viewed as a lesser God who had made an imperfect creation.
Jesus was the living incarnation of a different God, a new God, ‘A Stranger God’ to this flawed world, a God of compassion, love and forgiveness called the Heavenly Father. Marcion said that the two Gods even had two distinct personalities.
Yahweh is petty, cruel and jealous and is a tribal God who is only interested in the welfare of the Jews, while the Heavenly Father is a universal God who loves all of humanity and looks upon His children with mercy and benevolence. This dual God notion allowed Marcion to easily reconcile the apparent contradictions between the Old Testament and the tales of Jesus’ life and ministry.
According to Marcionite thinking, Yahwah, after miscreating the world and humanity grew to hate mankind for his sin. (Although he didn’t define this ‘sin’ other than being flawed by miscreation.) The Old Testament God thus felt justified in punishing mankind by causing humans to suffer and eventually to die. The Heavenly Father showed Himself to be far more compassionate when He revealed Himself through His son, Jesus Christ. He revealed His love for humanity by healing sickness and performing miracles. Finally, He offered His Son for crucifixion. By sacrificing Himself, Jesus as the Heavenly Father made flesh, was paying the debt of sin that humanity owed to the old God. This sacrifice wiped humanity’s slate clean and allowed humanity to inherit eternal life. He saw Jesus as not having a physical body but always as a spiritual body and to be resurrected as a spiritual body.
Marion’s Cannon consisted of 11 books: the Gospel of Marcion and ten of Paul’s Epistles. Marcion rejected all the other Episties and Gospels that were circulating saying that they suggested that Jesus had simply come to earth to found a new sect within Judaism, as well as the whole Hebrew Bible and the rest of the books later incorporated into the canonical New Testament. The Gospel of Marcion was thought to be based on the traditional Gospel of Luke, though the two books differ in a number of ways with the Gospel of Marcion removing all references to Judaism or Jesus’ Jewish roots. Jesus was the Christian savior, who for some unknown reason some Jews claimed as their own.
The Gospel of Marcion was also shorter than the Gospel of Luke. He eliminated the first two chapters. Marcion's gospel began with the words; "In the 15th year of the Emperor Tiberius God descended in Capharnaum and taught on the Sabbaths." However daring this manipulation of the Gospel text, it is at least testimony that, in early Christian circles the Divinity of Christ was a central dogma. To Marcion, Christ was God Manifest not God Incarnate. His Christology rejected the Infancy stories and any childhood of Christ at all; of which Tertullian mockingly says: "Suddenly a Son, suddenly Sent, suddenly Christ!" The differences in the texts highlight his view that, Jesus did not follow the Prophets and the earth is evil. Here are a few comparisons.
Gospel of Luke (red) Gospel of Marcion (blue)
O foolish and hard of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. (24:25)
O foolish and hard of heart to believe in all that I have told you.
They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation and destroying the law and the prophets.’
They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation”
I give Thee thanks, Father, God of sky and earth. (10:21)
I give thanks, Father, Lord of sky.
Today the majority of scholars think Marcion’s Gospel actually preceded Luke’s Gospel. There are two possibilities: either Marcion and Luke both based their gospels on an earlier, common source (such as Matthew, Mark or the Q document) or the Gospel of Luke was based on Marcion’s gospel. Its reconstructed fragments now appear among the New Testament Apocrypha texts. Marcion also wrote a book called The Antethesis which compares Yahweh with the Heavenly Father but no known copies are known to have survived the purge by his detractors.
Tertullian relates that in 207 C.E. Marcion professed penitence and accepted as condition of his re-admittance into the Church that he bring back to the fold those whom he had led astray, but sadly death prevented his carrying this out. The precise date of his death is not known and told this story, his followers didn’t return to the flock. It is doubtful he said this considering his view that the Catholics of his day were nothing but the Judaizers of the previous century and that they were corrupting the pure Pauline Gospel and that even the Apostles, Peter, James and John had betrayed Jesus’ trust.
Though many Christians have never heard of Marcion, his legacy lives on in today’s Christianity. You could say that we are Haunted by the Ghost of Marcion! Here’s how.
1. Marcion was the first well-known heretic in the history of the early church. His alternative interpretation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ helped to create the idea that certain theologies should be sanctioned as Orthodox while others should be condemned as heresy.
2. As a reaction to the Marconite church’s popularity the Orthodox Church attempted to prescribe a set of beliefs that should be Catholic; a word meaning universal. The Marconite Heresy can thus be seen as a catalyst for the development of the unified Catholic and Judaism form of Christianity that eventually evolved and that dominated political and social life in Europe until the Enlightenment and Protestant Reformation.
3. The church that Marcion founded expanded throughout the known world within his lifetime. As they arose in the very infancy of Christianity and adopted a strong organization, parallel to that of the Catholic Church, they were perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known. Its adherents were strong enough in their convictions to have the church retain its expansive power for more than a century. It survived Christian controversy and imperial disapproval and persecution for over 300 years. Emperor Constantine finally outlawed it.
4. They rejected the writings of the Old Testament and taught that Jesus was not the Son of the God of the Jews, but the Son of the good God, who was different from the God of the Ancient Covenant. They anticipated the more consistent dualism of Manichaeism (a sect thought to be the remnants of John the Baptists group), and were finally absorbed by it and it was absorbed by Islam and then became the first Sufis. Some ideals of Marcion reappeared among the Bulgarian Bogomlls of the 10th century and their Cathar heirs of southern France in the 11th centuries. Both suffered tremendous loss of lives during the inquisition – over 11 million people in Southern France alone were put to death and the majority of them women. (especially healers & midwives)
5. Marcion was the first Christian leader to propose and delineate a canon; a list of officially sanctioned religious works. In so doing, he established a particular way of looking at religious texts that persists in Christian thought today. After Marcion, Christians began to divide texts into those that aligned well with the ‘measuring stick’ (canon is the Greek translation of this phrase) of accepted theological thought and of those that promoted heresy, thus playing a major role in finalizing the structure of the collection of works called the Bible. The initial impetus for the Orthodox Christian Project of canonization flowed from opposition to the false canonization or inclusion of false texts by Marcion.
6. Bible Texts were added or amended to confront the Marconites and Gnostics. The Gospel according to John which argues vehemently for the notion of Jesus as being fully human and at the same time fully divine, is an attempt to discredit the Gnostic influences found in much of Marcion’s thought and philosophy that Jesus was always and only Spirit.
7. The Christian Creed begins with the words “I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven & earth.” Scholars suggest this statement was originally included to combat and exclude Marcion and his followers from orthodox churches. Unlike other Gnostics, Marconites would not deny their religion by speaking this Creed and were often martyred.
8. In an effort to escape the flaws of this world, and punish the flesh some Marconite Christians engaged in bizarre and self-punishing behaviors, such as self-flagellation and spending years sitting on a pillar. Such activities still exist.
9. Many statements in the Gospels and Book of Acts were added specifically directed against the Marconites. There are three additional letters of Paul in the New Testament; 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus and probably four counting Hebrews. These were not written by Paul at all but written sometime in the 2nd century to combat the Marconites and Gnostics. It is unlikely that someone powerful enough to introduce 3-4 new letters of Paul would leave the rest of the New Testament untouched. Marcion was no Gnostic dreamer. He wanted a Christianity undefiled by association with Judaism. Christianity was the New Covenant with a New God pure and simple. Abstract questions on the origin of evil or on the essence of the Godhead interested him little, but he believed that 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. For Jewish Christians the Old Testament was the imperfect story of the true God. For Marconites, the Old Testament was the true story of an imperfect God.
10. With regard to discipline, the main point of difference consists in Marcion’s rejection of marriage, i.e. he baptized only those who were not living in matrimony: virgins, widows, celibates, and eunuchs; all others remained catechumens.
11. Marcionites must have been excessive fasters to provoke the ridicule of Tertullian who says they fasted on Saturday out of a spirit of opposition to the Jewish God, who made the Sabbath a day of rejoicing. They focused on being solemn not joyous like Jesus was. Near Damascus, an inscription was found of a Marcionite church, showing that in A.D. 318-319 Marcionites possessed freedom of worship. Constantine forbade all public and private worship of Marcionism in 325 C.E.
12. Marcion was the first to use the term ‘gospel’ to refer to writings about Jesus. Gerd Ludemann states, ‘Without Marcion there would have been no New Testament; without this heretic, no letters of Paul. He alone is known to have had such a collection and begin the practice of reading these ‘scriptures’ as a part of church worship. The idea of a Holy Text was extremely appealing to all emerging Christians who followed suit.”
13. The Ghost of Marcion is still with us today. By volume, Paul's epistles make up only approximately 5% of the Bible. But neither Paul, Jewish Christians nor the early Orthodox church expected us to give more weight and authority to Paul’s epistles than we do to the Old Testament or to the rest of the New Testament. Parts of the Scriptures are overemphasized. If we give uncalled-for weight and emphasis to certain parts of the Bible and neglect what the rest of the Scriptures teach about an issue, we will probably develop an imbalanced view. By neglecting certain parts of the Bible, we ignore the words put into Paul's mouth in 2 Tim. 3:16 "all Scripture is inspired and is useful."
14. The Epistle of Barnabas, an influential letter written in the Second Century, indicates the general direction the Church was heading in its attitude to the Old Testament before Marcion. "The main theme of Barnabas," writes one church historian, "is a spiritualization of the Mosaic law. The writer holds that the “Jews were wrong to take the Old Testament literally. Everything in the Old Testament was allegorized to give it a Christian meaning. Even the commandments were taken figuratively, because, according to Barnabas, "the law of Moses had never been meant to be taken literally." Even the dietary restrictions were said to represent not actual food, but various kinds of sinful habits.
15. The New Jerusalem Bible, in its "Introduction to Paul," makes this statement: "It is important to remember that Paul's letters were not meant as theological treatises: most of them represent his response to a particular situation in a particular church . . . . Paul's letters do not give any systematic and exhaustive exposition of his teachings; they presuppose the oral teaching which preceded them, and enlarge and comment only upon certain points of that."
16. On a different note, Bishop Irenaeus notes with utter dismay that “Women are especially attracted to heretical groups, even in our own districts.” And he said, “Marcus is a diabolically clever seducer, a magician who compounded special ‘aphrodisiacs’ to lure many foolish women’ and deceived and victimized his prey.”
17. How? Marcion told them that God had a feminine aspect. He addresses his prayers to “Grace, she who is before all things,” and to Wisdom and Grace. Marcion scandalized his orthodox contemporaries by appointing women on an equal basis with men as priests and bishops and invited them to offer the words of the consecration and celebrate the Eucharist with him. “He hands the cups to women and tells them to prophesy, which they are strictly forbidden to do in the orthodox church. When he initiated a woman he said, “Behold Grace has come upon you; open your mouth and prophesy.”
18. Tertullian expresses similar outrage, “These heretical women, how audacious they are! They have no modesty; they are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument with men, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and it may be even to baptize!” He referred to one female leader as “That viper, a woman teacher who led a congregation in North Africa.” Tertullian agreed with what he called the ‘precepts of ecclesiastical discipline concerning women’ which specified, “It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church, nor is it permitted for her to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer the Eucharist, nor to claim for herself a share in any masculine function not to mention any priestly office.”
19. Some 10 – 20 years after Jesus’ death certain women held positions of leadership in local Christian groups and acted as prophets, teachers, and evangelists. And upon initiation Paul announced that ‘in Christ there is neither male nor female.’ Paul used this phrase and endorsed the work of women he recognized as deacons and fellow workers. He even mentions one as an outstanding apostle, senior, even to himself in the movement. Was this a reference to Mary Magdalene? Historians think so. While Paul advocated for women’s equality in ‘Christ’ he could not advocate for their equality in social and political terms. He was just too Patriarchal Jewish to do this.
20. After the year 200 CE, we have no evidence of women taking prophetic, priestly and Episcopal roles among orthodox churches. Citing the anti-feminist pseudo Pauline letter of Timothy which stresses ‘Paul’s anti feminist views.’ ”Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. At the height of the dispute with Gnostics, Orthodox churches began to adopt the Jewish synagogue custom, segregating women from men. After the year 200, groups in which women participated were labeled ‘heretical.’ This is an extraordinary development considering that in its earliest years the Christian movement showed a remarkable openness toward women. Jesus himself violated Jewish convention by talking openly with women and he included them among his companions.
Questions For Discussion
1. How did the shift of focus from Jesus to Paul come about? What caused the Church to begin paying so much attention to Paul and so little attention to the Law, the Prophets and other parts of the Bible including Jesus?
2. Did Marcion's anti-Jewish, anti-Old Testament, pro-Paul heresy really die out? Or did the Church simply succumb to it and accommodate it and incorporate it, in a subdued form, into Mainstream Christianity?
3. Our Bible, unlike Marcion's, includes the Law and the Prophets, but how much do we heed their instruction?
4. Why, would a God who is ‘almighty’ – all powerful—create a world that includes suffering, pain, disease, even mosquitoes and scorpions?
What do you think?
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