In this thread, I’ve started to talk about the relationship of Jesus to the Law of Moses. I’m going to get to the issue by means of a circuitous route, by talking about how that relationship was understood by followers of Jesus living a hundred years after his day. The reason for starting there is that we have a clearer idea what these followers thought than we do, say, of Jesus’ followers a decade after his death. Those earlier followers left us no writings and they are not directly discussed (in terms of their theological views) by extensive other sources (except the book of Acts). We do know about later Christians and their views, however, even if our sources of information for these are also partial and imperfect.
There were strikingly distinct positions taken by Christians in the middle of the second century with respect to Jesus and the law. One extreme position was taken by the teacher-philosopher Marcion, who was eventually declared the arch-heretic of the church but who in his day pronounced a view that was highly attractive to a large number of Christians. It was a view, in fact, that remained popular in wide swathes of the church, for some centuries afterward.
Marcion was active around 140-150 CE. He was, above all else, a devotee of the apostle Paul, who, for him, was the only apostle who really and truly understood the full meaning of the gospel of Christ. Paul, as you know, differentiated between the “law” and the “gospel.” Paul insisted that a person was made right with God not by following the Jewish law but by believing in his gospel message about Christ. Marcion pressed this differentiation to what he saw to be a logical extreme. The law of the Jews and the gospel of Christ were fundamentally at odds with one another.
And that, for Marcion, was because the God who gave the law in the Old Testament was not the same God who provided the gospel of salvation through Jesus. There were, in fact, two different gods. Literally. The God of the Old Testament…