UNITY OF VANCOUVER
“The Gospel Of a Stranger God”
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
June 7, 2009
All Rights Reserved
God is here. Let us join together & breathe in the very presence of a Mother/Father God & accept that all around us is abundant, life giving provision.
In this moment of breathing, you are one with God. God within you & God around you. Open your mind & heart fully to the awareness of God & 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 & me & God – until there is only God, as healing silence.
Now that you are established in the consciousness of the one presence & 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 & concern, & 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.
Today I let God touch my life with health, vitality & healing so that I might be a unifying expression of love, joy, & 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- 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, & 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 & speak together the Prayer For Protection. Let the experience of this time of prayer guide you throughout this day, renewing your energy as you honor each breath of life. Amen.
THE GOSPEL OF A STRANGER GOD
To discover the answer to this question, we must go all the way back to the 2nd Century. After all the original Apostles had died, other people took on the responsibility of continuing the Church's work.
Jesus was a Jew & all of the original Apostles were also Jews, who had been exposed to the teachings of the Law and the Prophets since their childhood. But, the leaders who replaced them were mostly Gentiles from pagan (nature worshiping) backgrounds, who had comparatively little understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures.
MarcIon was born in 110 C.E. to wealthy parents. He Is sometImes referred to as a gnostIc, but hIs teachIngs were quIte dIfferent In nature from what we think of as true Gnosticism.
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 & scorpions? He concluded that the Old Testament God & the God of Jesus were 2 different Gods. He was also very anti-Jewish & propounded a form 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 & AramaIc, a fact which caused his detractors to begin their dIscussIons of him by denyIng that he Is the ChrIstIan evangelIst St Mark & 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 & probably an assIstant of hIs father who was Bishop at SInope, which is in present day Turkey. At this time priests & bishops were still allowed to marry. He was very wealthy & a shIp owner. In his youth, he led a life of chastity & austerity which likens him more to the later Puritans but, according to some his detractors, in spite of his profession of bodily chasty, he fell into sin with a young maiden & was excommunIcated by hIs own father.
This story is rejected by most scholars who believe that thIs was a metaphor for hIs corruptIon of the ChrIstIan Church & who say his austerity seems to be acknowledged as a well known fact & that this is an example of the malicious gossip which some early church leaders were fond of using against people they didn’t like: i.e. Mary Magdalene, or women leaders in churches.
After his excommunication, Marcion travelled to Rome. He wasn’t persecuted there because the Bishop of Rome had recently died & hadn’t yet been replaced so the church there was in disorder. In the next few years, he worked out hIs new theologIcal system, began to preach it & attracted a large followIng. By the time the inevitable conflIcts wIth the BIshop of Rome eventually arose, MarcIon was well established & allegedly said, “I will divide your Church & 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 144, they even returned to him a large donatIon of 200,000 sesterces which he may have given in hope of being restored as Bishop. (This is about 7000 dollars. A huge amount of money for those times.)
After thIs he returned to AsIa MInor where he spread hIs message & created a strong organIzatIon resemblIng the Church of Rome & put hImself in charge as bIshop. The Marconites counted 115 years & 6 months from the time of Christ to the beginning of their sect.
Study of the Hebrew ScrIptures & documents cIrculatIng In the early church (the New Testament canon hadn’t yet been delIneated & closed) led MarcIon to conclude that many of the teachIngs of ChrIst are incompatible wIth the actIons of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament.
He affIrmed Jesus ChrIst as the messiah sent by God (the Heavenly Father) & Paul as hIs chIef apostle. In contrast to the orthodox leaders of the ChrIstIan church, he declared that ChrIstIanIty was dIstInct from & In opposItIon to JudaIsm, a radIcal vIew gIven that ChrIstIanIty was not yet establIshed as a full-fledged relIgIon separate from and Independent of JudaIsm. Not only dId he reject the entIre Hebrew BIble, he also argued for a dualIst system of belIef: the exIstence of 2 Gods. Yahweh who had created the earth & the materIal unIverse & whose law, (the MosaIc covenant), represented bare natural justIce: I.e., an eye for an eye 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 & forgiveness called the Heavenly Father. He said that the 2 Gods even had 2 dIstInct personalItIes.
Yahweh Is petty, cruel & jealous, 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 & looks upon HIs chIldren wIth mercy & benevolence. ThIs dual-God notIon allowed MarcIon to easily reconcIle the apparent contradIctIons between the Old Testament & the tales of Jesus’ lIfe and mInIstry.
AccordIng to MarcIonIte thInkIng, Yahweh, after miscreatIng the world & humanIty, grew to hate mankInd for Its sIn. (Though 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 & 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 & 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 & allowed humanIty to InherIt eternal lIfe. He saw Jesus as not having a physical body but always as a spiritual body & to be resurrected as a spiritual body.
MarcIon’s canon consIsted of 11 books: the Gospel of MarcIon & 10 of Paul’s EpIstles. He rejected all the other EpIstles & gospels that were circulating, saying that they suggested that Jesus had sImply come to found a new sect wIthIn JudaIsm, as well as the whole Hebrew Bible & the rest of the books later Incorporated Into the canonIcal New Testament.
The Gospel of MarcIon was also shorter than Luke. He eliminated the first 2 chapters. Marcion's gospel began with the words; "In the 15th year of the Emperor Tiberius God descended in Capharnaum & 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 & 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 & 2nd the earth is evil.
They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation & destroying the law & 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)
Today the majority of scholars think Marcion’s Gospel actually preceded Luke’s Gospel. Its reconstructed fragments now appear among the New Testament apocrypha texts. Tertullian relates that in 207 C.E. Marcion professed penitence & accepted as condition of his readmittance 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. & 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 Judaisers of the previous century & that they were corrupting the pure Pauline Gospel & that even the Apostles, Peter, James & John had betrayed Jesus’ trust.
1. MarcIon was the fIrst well-known heretIc In the hIstory of the early church. HIs alternatIve InterpretatIon of the lIfe & 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 MarcIonIte church’s popularIty, the Orthodox Church attempted to prescrIbe a set of belIefs that should be CatholIc (a word meaning ’unIversal’). The MarcIonIte heresy was a catalyst for the development of the unIfIed, CatholIc & JudaIsm form of ChrIstIanIty that eventually evolved.
3. The church that MarcIon founded expanded throughout the known world wIthIn hIs lIfetIme. As they arose in the very infancy of Christianity & 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 & ImperIal dIsapproval & persecution for over 300 years. Emperor Constintine finally outlawed it.
4. Some Ideas of MarcIon’s reappeared among the BulgarIan BogomIls of the 10th century & theIr Cathar heIrs of southern France In the 11th - 13th centuries. Both suffered tremendous loss of lives during the inquisition – over 11 million people in Southern France alone were put to death & the majority of them women. (especially healers & midwives)
5. MarcIon was the 1st ChrIstIan leader to propose & 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, & 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 & Gnostics. The Gospel accordIng to John, whIch argues vehemently for the notIon of Jesus as beIng fully human & at the same tIme fully dIvIne, is an attempt to dIscredIt the GnostIc Influences found In much of MarcIon’s thought & phIlosophy that Jesus was always & 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 & exclude Marcion & his followers from orthodox churches. Unlike other Gnostics, Marconites would not deny their religion by speaking this Creed & were often martyred.
8. In an effort to escape the flaws of this world, & punish the flesh some Marconite Christians engaged in bizarre & self-punishing behaviors, such as self-flagellation & spending years sitting on a pillar. Such activities still exist.
9. Many statements in the gospels & Acts were added specifically directed against the Marconites. There are 3 additional letters of Paul in the New Testament; I & 2 Timothy & Titus & probably 4 counting Hebrews. These were not written by Paul at all but written sometime in the 2nd century to combat the Marconites & 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.
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.
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;
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 & authority to these 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 & emphasis to certain parts of the Bible & 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
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’, he admits. & he said, “Marcus is a diabolically clever seducer, a magician who compounded special ‘aphrodisiacs’ to lure many foolish women’ & deceived & 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 & Grace. Marcion scandalized his orthodox contemporaries by appointing women on an equal basis with men as priests and bishops & invited them to offer the words of the consecration & celebrate the Eucharist with him. “He hands the cups to women & tells them to prophesy, which they are strictly forbidden to do in the orthodox church. When he initiated a woman he said, “Behold Grace as come upon you; open your mouth and prophesy.”
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.”
Some 10 – 20 years after Jesus’ death certain women held positions of leadership in local Christian groups & acted as prophets, teachers, & evangelists. & upon initiation Paul announced that ‘in Christ there is neither male nor female.’ Paul used this phrase & endorsed the work of women he recognized as deacons & fellow workers. He even mentions one as an outstanding apostle, senior, even to himself in the movement. Was this a reference to Mary Magdalene? While Paul advocated for women’s equality in ‘Christ’ he could not advocate for their equality in social & political terms. He was just too Patriarchal Jewish to do this.
After the year 200, we have no evidence of women taking prophetic, priestly & 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, date, 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 & he included them among his companions.
© Unity of Vancouver, 2004 All Rights Reserved.