Yesterday I mentioned Marcion as one of the prime early Christian thinkers who argued that Jesus was so much divine he was not at all human. I have decided that I need to provide more background to make sense of the particular way he appears to have come to that conclusion, by discussing in a bit greater depth his overall theological views, so far as we can know them.
I did that before on the blog many years ago. Here I do it again!
Marcion was active in the 130s and 140s; he came to Rome to become part of the Christian community there in 139; he apparently was booted out about five years later when the church leaders found his forcefully-proclaimed views unacceptable. He then went around Asia Minor (whence he originally came, from Sinope on the southern coast of the Black Sea) establishing churches. He held popular views that attracted lots of followers.
Marcion and his followers believed that Jesus — whom they considered their Lord and Savior — was not connected with Judaism. (That seems weird to us, because in the Gospels he absolutely is; but keep reading: Marcion didn’t have our Gospels). Jesus had nothing to do with the Law, since he represented a different God from the one who gave the Law. The Law was given by the Creator of this world who called Israel to be his people and then judged them, and all people, harshly, for not obeying his law, leading to universal condemnation. Jesus came from a different God, a previously unknown God, who was not the God of the Old Testament, but a higher spiritual being who intervened on behalf of people to save them from the wrath of the Creator.
There are many, many things about Marcion’s system of belief that we would love to know that we simply do not. The main reason is that Marcion’s own writings have not been passed down to us from antiquity. That should not be a huge surprise. Other Christians considered Marcion to be an arch-heretic, an evil representative of the Devil come to deceive the faithful. They censored his writings and simply refused to copy them. That was the easiest way to destroy books in antiquity. You didn’t have to have a public book-burning. If you simply didn’t copy a book, it wouldn’t survive.
We know of two books from Marcion. The first was his own composition, the Antitheses, which I mentioned in the previous post, a book that appears to have laid out in stark contrast the differences between the God of the Jews who gave the Law and the previously unknown God of Jesus who provided salvation. Marcion claims he learned of this contrast from the writings of the apostle Paul, his hero, who did indeed differentiate between his “gospel” and the law.
His second book was his canon of Scripture, an edited collection of ten of Paul’s letters and a version of the Gospel of Luke.
Because we don’t have either writing, we have to
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