As promised a Taster of Marcion

This is not designed as an academic paper, it is to provoke thought and research from those so inclined. Have fun!

MARCION the Threat of an Era

Marcion (85 – 160 CE) a son of a Syriac Bishop, was an influential early christian theologian and church (cult?) leader who argued that the God of the Pentateuch was a separate deity/being from the new humane deity revealed in the NT. The god of the Pentateuch was a murderous, vengeful god (as we all know) and Marcion taught that the bad things and temptations were from that creator deity. Marcionism focused on the Pauline epistles version of the Savior. Marcion was excommunicated in 144CE due to his teachings, which were described as “heresy”.

In particular Tertullian ( he of the Trinity) published a scathing rebuke of Marcion and Marcionism in 5 (count them, FIVE!) volumes.

Tertullian of course was in the process of promoting his “Trinitarian” concept to the Roman Church and this rival philosophy just had to be stopped. Ironic really as Tertullian himself was never honored by the Church of Rome for the Trinity explanation, because Tertullian himself became a heretic after embracing

Marcion wrote a new gospel called “the Gospel of the Lord” and is based on a modified or original (the Ebionites?) version of the gospel of Luke or the source text that some argue preceded it. It provides a narrative of the Jesus’ figures life and emphasises freedom from external religious regulations. (hence the fervent Church of Rome’s opposition) Marcion was heaviliy influenced by gnostics, unsurprising, as the “Apostle” Paul was the original gnostic. The epistles of Paul formed a large part of the Marcionite Canon. Marcion’s gospel presents Jesus as a kindly, but strict saviour, who offers salvation through knowledge and repentance of past deeds. Marcion also promoted such methods as self privation (fasting etc) and sacrifice ( symbolic) that he believed were necessary for the salvation of the human soul.

Marcionism was again outlawed in 349CE and placed on the Index in 492CE with all its books, temples, rites and members to be expunged wherever they were found. Marcionism lasted almost 1000 years despite the efforts of the Church to kill it off completely. So it surely had something going for it. There are mentions of Marcionite communities by Islamic scholars right up until the late 10th century. It could be that Marcion even influence the Islamic version of the Jesus stories.

This pogrom like the others carried out be the Roman Church against those it considered heretic, was most successful, in fact the only things we knew about Marcion until recently, was the vitriolic essays by Epiphanius,Tertullian, and of course that old toady Eusebius and others until last century when Marcion’s Gospel was pieced together by heresiologists and is available to read today.

So much for the history which you all can research with a few clicks. Let’s look at the social and political milieu of those early christian days when Marcion started preaching his Gospel and introduced the Christian World to the concept of a “canon” or collection of official texts for his churches/temples. Until the late second century CE the nascent Roman Church had no Canon. The gospels were haphazardly preached/read with some temples (as they were) using one text, and another in the same town , using another, Some using the gnostic or dream gospels in conjunction with a gospel text, some gnostic texts replacing a gospel or three. Some christian groups used the synagogues to preach and convert.

The Thomasinian Churches in Kerala (India) were taking off with their own gospels and no Paul at all. The Syriac Churches were beginning the use of a single gospel which was a very edited compilation of the three Synoptics leaving out all the contradictions.

The resurrection was preached by the Jewish Christians as a spiritual resurrection, that Jesus was wholly human was preached by some churches, not all, with some maintaining he was “adopted by “god” others he was born a god, to others, it was a wholly physical resurrection etc etc…in short chaos. Even the Sabbath was celebrated on different days, as it is now, by different sects.

This kind of discord and confusion in the early Church puzzled the Roman authorities who had (apart from a few hiatuses) considered the followers of the Jesus figure as a modern offshoot of judaism and accorded them the same privileges…which puts Pliny’s request for clarification regarding taxation and exemption from the annual sacrifice right into perspective.

Marcion’s philosophy of the Two gods, of course, would make sense to any reader of the NT after the horrors of the pentateuch, added to that, Marcion’s adherents had the Canon, a series of texts that were shared in Marcionite Temples without too much deviation.

In quite short order Marcionite temples and communities were springing up all over the Roman world which posed a considerable threat to the Church of Rome, and of course, their revenue stream and nascent authority.

Marcionism had been declared heretic very early on, in 144CE, 4 years after Marcion’s arrival in Rome, and this is a mark of how threatened the early Roman Church was, by this upstart rival.

Marcionism was not exclusive, it was very much inclusive unlike the Jewish brands of “Christianity”, it had the same texts wherever it appeared, giving uniformity to its teachings and authority to its preachers.

There were riots in some cities and temples destroyed but Marcionism survived and thrived until the Roman Church, as it has so often, extinguished the Marcionites as an alternate church, with the customary Roman barbarism and cruelty.

The idea of a fixed Canon spurred the Church of Rome to action in the mid 2nd century CE and they collated the texts they wanted in their Churches gradually, over the next 200 years, extinguishing other texts and taking the example of Marcion in having one unified Codex from which all the priesthood were instructed to follow leading, in the end, to the two Councils of Nicea and the foundation of the modern bible.

Marcion can legitimately be argued as the father of the modern churches as he introduced the idea of a fixed text to the worship and teaching.

He preached a gentle christianity, a wholly human Jesus until spiritually resurrected, and so had to suffer, like the Arians and other dissenting sects (even Tertullian’s Montanists) the wrath of the Roman and Eastern Churches .

Marcion’s Gospel as well as Tertullian’s and Epiphanus’s rants, are available from booksellers online or in print. Treat yourself.


I was never even remotely aware of the sheer, total chaos that brought us the modern version of christianity. Whoever was the most ruthless and enthusiastic at suppressing another sect’s beliefs seems to have been the winners. The idea that the old testament god was a different god would make more sense. I guess they couldn’t have that. I’ve never understood christians ability to blithely dismiss the heinous acts of their god in the old testament. Even if Ted Bundy claimed to have turned over a new leaf and left his previous life behind, would you trust him to marry your daughter let alone trust him with your soul?


That is phenomenal, thank you for posting this. Looks like I have something new to dig into in my spare time. I was completely unaware of how influential Marcionism was. Back in my religious days, I vaguely recall hearing an argument at a creationist festival between two complete weirdos bantering about Marcion. Being in my teens I had little to no interest in this conversation, yet still remember bits of it. Thanks for triggering my memory, crazy what weird stuff sticks in the back your brain.


There’s a comprehensive publication “The ante-nicene fathers”

Volume Three discusses Marcion.

Anyone interested in the origins of the New Testament and early church, will enjoy this set of books.

Does anything in any of them evidence any of the “good reasons” you claim there are to believe “the gospels were supernatural in origin”? Only after making the claim you have refused to offer a single good example?

Of course I refuse, just as I’d refuse to even attempt to explain general relativity to someone unschooled in physics and non-Euclidean geometry, why should I waste my time discussing theology and Biblical exegesis with someone unschooled in even the basics of these subjects?

You didn’t answer the question?

Very observant, you should be a scientist.

You are still dishonestly evading the question?

Does anything in those volumes evidence any of the “good reasons” you claim there are to believe “the gospels were supernatural in origin”? Only after making the claim you have refused to offer a single good example?


Yes they will, if they enjoy reading antiquarian texts. The set you have (nicely preserved) seems to be the American bootleg set. Published without permission from the authors or original publishers

The section on Marcion is very prejudiced, as most writings in the Victorian era would have been. The Presbyterians being a very narrow minded lot published these texts in answer to what the authors perceived as a Romana Anglican bias in a similar publication by the Oxford University press.

The 10 volume set is outdated in opinion and fact as the Gospel of Marcion was not properly reconstructed until quite recently in the last century. In this antique publication,(1867 to 1885) that @Sherlock-Holmes seem to be recommending, the partial gospel of Marcion was written/reconstructed in 1823 and even then not reproduced in full in this set ( well certainly not in the edition I read some 30 years ago).

The latest reconstruction was in 2013 by Klinghardt and Nicolotti. Very comprehensive analysis of supporting texts, even better than the one I cut my teeth on by Kenji Tsutsui in the late 90’s of last century.

By all means read this set, as it does contain some valuable insights, however, it is a bit like trying to construct a modern electric express train from the blueprints of an engine built in 1865. If you are genuinely trying to understand the political and religious milieu of the late 1st century CE and onwards then it is useful as a relic of Victorian sectarian attitudes and modern religious prejudice.

Thanks for your input Sherlock.


Which they will if they enjoy exploring Bibles.

That might be true I never checked, that’s not my picture but the set of books seems the same.

That’s likely true, although I’ve read very little about Marcion, my main interest is in the ancient manuscripts that form the extra canonical gospels and epistles. There’s as much prejudice these days as there was in Victorian times, any belief that we are finally free from prejudice when it comes to interpreting scripture, is misguided.

That’s a bit like discouraging people from reading Origin of Species given that we have so many more modern accurate books on the subject now.

Part of the appeal of older volumes like this is precisely because it reflects the prevailing prejudices of the time, that’s valuable history itself. Nobody can expect write history and not have it be challenged at a later date.

I sincerely doubt your comprehension abilities Sherlock.
But I do admire your ability to draw a long bow and point it in entirely the wrong direction.

Which ones?

Yes, religion has quite the knack for prejudice.
Fortunately as the study of history, ancient texts and civilisations is becoming more and more secular and expert, and less the exclusive province of “theologians” and enthusiastic amateurs the prejudice is certainly less apparent and the findings more and more accurate.


He never said it should.

Straw man fallacy.

1 Like

Why? you referred to a book that expresses and out of date view of Christian history and I contrasted that with another book that expresses an out of date view of evolution and how that despite that fact it was still profitable to read it.

In the general sense, codex Sinaiticus for example and the many other preserved scraps we have from antiquity.

You say “more accurate” how do you establish the accuracy of an interpretation of a text that’s say, almost two thousand years old?

How is saying by all means read it, like discouraging people from reading it, bizarre…

1 Like

Did I ask for a “general sense?” I asked which stories(gospels) are you interested in specifically. Or is “which ones”? too difficult a concept?
Codex Sinaiticus : Is a study all on its own, predating as it does the Vaticanus. Counting the differences, inadvertent and deliberate between our earliest complete codex and even those produced within 200 years is an absorbing hobby all of its own. It certainly sheds an unflattering light on the modern “interpretations” from the Vaticanus onwards.

What about the Sinaiticus particularly interests you?

I have really no idea, as that is not what I said, maybe if you re read my post, your comprehension of the point I made would improve. Then you could ask a sensible question.


Your ability to make straw men from nothing is on a par with your mythology. Note: I do not react to strawmen. If you have trouble with my communication/your comprehension, then ask for clarification, don’t make things up.


I feel your pain, it’s beyond tedious, and then he turns into a real crybaby when people point out how dishonest he’s being. As you say, it is probably a lack of comprehension skills on his part, or he is breathtakingly dishonest. I am 50/50 as a) they’re not mutually exclusive, and b) he rolls past posts that explain in unequivocal detail why he has woefully misunderstood / misinterpreted what was said.


Actually I clearly referred to “the ancient manuscripts that form the extra canonical gospels and epistles.”



That and other rare relics interest me because of the light that can be shed on language use in the ancient world in this case Greek including the OT and apocrypha. But I’m curious about the entire subject, I’m no authority here but I do have an interest in the subject.

I was just seeking extra details on what you meant by “accuracy” of an interpretation of text.

As I didn’t say or write that in the first place why would you seek extra details?

I see from your plethora of posts on other topics you seem to have the same problems comprehending plain language. Is there a reason for this? Medical or?