The Arch-Heretic Marcion, by Sebastian Moll

The Arch-Heretic MarcionInteresting to the point of almost being engrossing, which for a published dissertation is something. The prose did not sing, the obvious organization was sometimes lugubrious, but it kept on giving, if one skipped parts.

And now, a summary of what it said, with some of my own observations inadvertently included, in clumsy paragraph-clusters of information, in the style of scholarship:

1 Marcion was a ditheist: he posited two gods.

The Creator was the evil god. Marcion therefore despised the created order. The OT was this god’s contradictory revelation.

The Father of Jesus was the good god. Marcion was a docetist—Christ was an appearance. Not a gnostic, probably: no theory. He was a practical man and a Biblicist: not being consciously informed by other sources. Christ appeared against the evil god, to destroy and bring love.

2 Marcion recognized as all did authoritative texts, but he limited that collection: first idea of a canon.

He probably did not have all the NT. He selected from what he had, that which was contra the OT: Luke and ten Pauline epistles, all trimmed of most positive mention of the OT.

3 Marcion read the NT in light of the OT, rather than vice versa.

What controlled his NT canon was his view of the OT canon. He distorted his OT by his clear negative concept of the OT god.

Marcion, however, was a literalist: it made the OT god worse. He began by refusing to interpret the OT. His NT was the opposite of his OT. There was a strict discontinuity between OT and NT, therefore. His hermeneutical key was this absolute discontinuity.

4 Marcion believed a conspiracy theory: the message of Christ had been coopted. Only Paul kept it pure. Christ was an appearance the good god sent to affirm grace and love.

Marcion radically simplified the complexities of early Christian belief. His practice, however, was quite similar. Marcionite churches were like Christian in structure and practice. He used the same baptismal formula. His ethics were negative: fast on the Sabbath, against the creator; abstain from sexual intercourse since the creator enjoins it; abstain from eating meat.

Salvation: line up against the bad god, then you’ll be with the good god. Christ will save anybody who wants to from the evil god. Despise the evil god.

5 Marcion took from Christian churches to build his movement. That is why he had the conspiracy theory, and that is what Christians resented.

He was bishop of his movement, holding absolute authority. He was a good organizer; he had the money for it; he had the charisma and confidence. He ascended to heaven to sit at the left hand of Christ (Paul is on the right).


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