Marcion's Church Not Really Gnostic?
Compiled from various sources.
Grace - a word which has so oftentimes been mentioned by the lips of Christians. There has been so much emphasis on grace that most Christians have comparatively little knowledge and understanding of the Law as in the Old Testament.
The fact the Church and Protestants in particular won't really follow anything in the Old Testament or even Jesus himself in Matthew, Mark, and Luke has always puzzled me. "In God we trust" will now be required to be hung in every school in Virginia yet none of God's Commandments are followed at all and never have been.
Most amazing is the level of brainwashing is so severe that Christians in general are not even aware that this shift of focus had been propagated in the 2nd century.
At the beginning, after all the apostles had died, the leaders who replaced them were mostly Gentile pagans. These Gentiles had comparatively little understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures unlike the Jewish apostles who had been exposed to the teachings of the Law and the Prophets since birth.
This caused a shift in focus to the New Testament (written by fellow converts) and the elimination of anything Jewish. This was very true of the moral codes which Jesus exalted his followers to obey. So what caused the church to virtually ignore the Law, the Hebrew Prophets, all the Apostles (except the Gnostic John), and even Jesus himself and focus full attention to Paul and his writings on grace? The name is Marcion.
Marcion was born around 100 C.E. at Sinope, a seaport located on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. His father was a leader in the church and so Marcion grew up in fellowship with the church in Asia Minor. Around 138 C.E., he traveled to Rome and became a member of one of the Roman churches. As a wealthy ship-owner, he made large contributions to the church and he became a respected member in the Christian community. He was eloquent and learned in the contemporary form of the Gospel and the early Christian community and so gave the impression of being a Christian teacher with apostolic authority.
While Marcion was later condemned as a heretic over his unorthodox views and booted out of the Church in Rome, by the end of the 2nd century his doctrine became a serious threat to the mainstream Christian Church. His strange kind of Christianity had swept across large sections of the Roman Empire.
Marcion's reference was always the teachings of Paul (the only apostle whom he trusted), especially that of the saving grace. In his belief, the saving grace of God was miraculous.
He held the Gnostic idea the whole creation to be faulty, being the creation of a lesser god, thus containing no element of the divine. Marcion was influenced by Persian dualism (or two forces in the universe, one good and one bad, who are constantly fighting it out for supremacy) and believed that the Creator God who created the material universe was the God of Israel, who was a totally different God from the Father spoken of in the gospel of Christ. This is where Orthodox Christians and Gnostic Christians part company is on the Creation. Orthodox believe Creation (physical world and man) became "corrupt" with Adam and "the Fall" where Gnostics believe Creation was corrupt to begin with while spirit was good.
All of this nonsense ran contrary to the Hebrew Scriptures. "In Hebrew thought, the chief virtue was in oneness, wholeness, "shalom." There is one God, Yahweh. There is one world consisting of the heavens, the earth, and Sheol under the earth, and all creation is good. Each human being is wonderfully made as one cohesive unit. Salvation is found in living life in covenant relationship with Yahweh, and salvation is experienced in immediate time, as well as in the future...
In Hebrew thought, the Messiah is a human being, raised up from the people, chosen by God and anointed to serve and cause redemption to come to the people Israel. In Gnostic thought, the Savior is a god, sent down from the pleroma to Earth by the main good god to teach all who will listen to the magic words, for the salvation of their souls. " Thus Christians kept only parts of Gnosticism at Nicaea in 325 CE, The Savior became God under the Trinity. The Savior is God, not a god.
The Father Marcion held as the highest was perfect, good and merciful. He was love and He was not the god of justice and the lawgiver of the Old Testament, the bad God. Christians today don't see it this way but have mentally merged the Old Testament bible-god who committed numerous acts of horror with the good god of Marcion. He further claimed no good could be found in the Old Testament and that after Jesus Christ, the Law was obsolete. Jesus had come to free man from the Law.
He believed that the gospel is entirely a gospel of love to the exclusion of the Mosaic Law. The preaching in the church today that we are no longer under the Law but under grace alone is part of his theology. I suspect many later writings attributed to Paul may have come from or were edited by Marcion's followers, but we will never know for sure.
Marcion, therefore, rejected the entire Old Testament. Today, many believers also make a clear division between the Old Testament Law and New Testament grace, and view the Law as opposed to grace. The Law is seen as obsolete and of little use to a Christian. They shun the Old Testament God because He is too stern. They would rather focus on the "New Testament God" who does not expect obedience to His laws.
All of this puts Christians in a quandary; they want the moral authority of the Old Testament they just don't want to follow most of it. For Marcion, the church was to replace the synagogue, grace was to replace the Law, pagan holidays were to replace the Holy Days of the Lord as found in Leviticus 23, spiritual Israel was to replace physical Israel, and the church was Israel's replacement and was now to receive all that had been promised to Israel.
While this found favor his other ideas didn't. One was not allowed to eat meat, fish, eggs, etc or drink wine. Christians could not serve as guards or soldiers and were not allowed to bear weapons. There was to be no contact with the opposite sex. The institution of marriage was scorned and birth of children forbidden.
Although there was conversion in his church, the lay community did not like his message. Even church officials who used certain passages in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, to acquire wealth (the Old Testament preserved gifts, offerings and tithes for the priesthood) saw Marcion's theology as a threat to their treasury.
For several generations, Marcion's church survived. Although Marcion's anti-Jewish, pro-Paul churches spread throughout the Roman Empire and became a threat to the Messianic faith, the irony remains that his replacement theology has infiltrated into the church of today. So it's just grace alone based only on faith alone that is taught in fundamentalist' churches today. No morals, no Law, just grace and do whatever one wants unto everybody else.
For more on this subject see Marcion
- Taking a Closer Look at Gnosticism and Christianity
- Alexander, the Jews, and Hellenism
- More on Alexander the Great, the Jews, and Hellenism
- Hellenistic Period After Alexander
- Alexandrian Philosophy and Judaism
- Religious Syncretism
- Platonism and Christianity
- Demiurge Creator of the World
- Allegorical Interpretation
- Gnosticism Mainpage
- Who are the Cathers?
- The Gospel of Mary Magdalene
- Jewish Origins of Gnosticism
- Gnostic Terms
- The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
- The Genesis Factor
- Christian Fundamentalists view of Gnosticism
- Impact of Gnosticism on Christianity
- Gnostic Apocalypse of Adam
- Gnostic Apocryphon of John
- Gnostic Hypostasis of the Archons
- Gnostic Gospel of Thomas
- Gnostic Thought of Norea
- Gnosticism - Ancient and Modern
- The Gospel of Philip
- The Gospel of Truth
- Hyam Maccoby (The Mythmaker)was mostly right
- Marcion's Church Not Really Gnostic?
- Saint Augustine