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Recently Marcion has been commonly treated apart from the Gnostics on
account of the large use he made of the Pauline writings. By some he has
even been regarded as a champion of Pauline ideas which had failed to hold
a place in Christian thought. This opinion of Marcion is being modified
under the influence of a larger knowledge of Gnosticism. At the bottom
Marcion's doctrine was thoroughly Gnostic, though he differed from the
vast majority of Gnostics in that his interest seems to have been
primarily ethical rather than speculative. His school maintained itself
for some centuries after undergoing some minor modifications. Marcion was
teaching at Rome, A. D. 140. The aspersions upon his moral character must
be taken with caution, as it had already become a common practice to
blacken the character of theological opponents, regardless of the truth, a
custom which has not yet wholly disappeared.

Additional source material: Justin Martyr, Apol., I. 26, 58;
Irenaeus, III. 12:12 ff. The most important source is
Tertullian's elaborate Adversus Marcionem, especially I, 1 f.,
29; III, 8. 11.

(a) Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., I, 27: 1-3. (MSG, 7:687.)

The system of Cerdo and Marcion.

Ch. 1. A certain Cerdo, who had taken his fundamental ideas from those who
were with Simon [i.e., Simon Magus], and who was in Rome in the time of
Hyginus, who held the ninth place from the Apostles in the episcopal
succession, taught that the God who was preached by the law and the
prophets is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the former is
known, but the latter is unknown; and the former is righteous, but the
other is good.

Ch. 2. And Marcion of Pontus succeeded him and developed a school,
blaspheming shamelessly Him who is proclaimed as God by the law and the
prophets; saying that He is maker of evils and a lover of wars, inconstant
in purpose and inconsistent with Himself. He said, however, that Jesus
came from the Father, who is above the God who made the world, into Judea
in the time of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Tiberius Caesar, and was
manifested in the form of a man to those who were in Judea, destroying the
prophets and the law, and all the works of that God who made the world and
whom he also called Cosmocrator. In addition to this, he mutilated the
Gospel which is according to Luke, and removed all that refers to the
generation of the Lord, removing also many things from the teaching in the
Lord's discourses, in which the Lord is recorded as very plainly
confessing that the founder of this universe is His Father; and thus
Marcion persuaded his disciples that he himself is truer than the Apostles
who delivered the Gospel; delivering to them not the Gospel but a part of
the Gospel. But in the same manner he also mutilated the epistles of the
Apostle Paul, removing all that is plainly said by the Apostle concerning
that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and all that the Apostle taught by quotation from the
prophetical writings which foretold the coming of the Lord.

Ch. 3. He taught that salvation would be only of the souls of those who
should receive his doctrine, and that it is impossible for the body to
partake of salvation, because it was taken from the earth.

(b) Tertullian, Adv. Marcion., I, 19; IV, 2, 3. (MSL, 2: 293. 393.)

Tertullian's great work against Marcion is his most important and
most carefully written polemical treatise. He revised it three
times. The first book of the present revision dates from A. D.
207; the other books cannot be dated except conjecturally. In
spite of the openly displayed hostile animus of the writer, it can
be used with confidence when controlled by reference to other

I, 19. Marcion's special and principal work is the separation of the law
and the Gospel; and his disciples will not be able to deny that in this
they have their best means by which they are initiated into, and confirmed
in, this heresy. For these are Marcion's antitheses--that is, contradictory
propositions; and they aim at putting the Gospel at variance with the law,
that from the diversity of the statements of the two documents they may
argue for a diversity of gods, also.

IV, 2. With Marcion the mystery of the Christian religion dates from the
discipleship of Luke. Since, however, it was under way previously, it must
have had its authentic materials by means of which it found its way down
to Luke; and by aid of the testimony which it bore Luke himself becomes

IV, 3. Well, but because Marcion finds the Epistle to the Galatians by
Paul, who rebukes even Apostles for "not walking uprightly according to
the truth of the Gospel" [Gal. 2:14], as well as accuses certain false
apostles of being perverters of the Gospel of Christ, he attempts to
destroy the standing of those gospels which are published as genuine and
under the names of Apostles, or of apostolic men, to secure, forsooth, for
his own gospel the credit he takes away from them.

(c) Rhodon, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 13. (MSG, 20:459.)

At this time Rhodon, a native of Asia, who, as he himself states, had been
instructed at Rome by Tatian, with whom we have already become acquainted,
wrote excellent books, and published among the rest one against the heresy
of Marcion which, he says, was in his time divided into various sects; and
he describes those who occasioned the division and refutes carefully the
falsehood devised by each. But hear what he writes: "Therefore also they
have fallen into disagreement among themselves, and maintain inconsistent
opinions. For Apelles, one of their herd, priding himself on his manner of
life and his age, acknowledged one principle [i.e., source of
existence], but says that the prophecies were from an opposing spirit. And
he was persuaded of the truth of this by the responses of a demoniac
maiden named Philumene. But others hold to two principles, as does the
mariner Marcion himself, among these are Potitus and Basiliscus. These,
following the wolf of Pontus and, like him, unable to discover the
divisions of things, became reckless, and without any proof baldly
asserted two principles. Again, others of them drifted into worse error
and assumed not only two, but three, natures. Of these Syneros is the
leader and chief, as those say who defend his teaching."

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Previous: The School Of Valentinus

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