Ideas of Marcion the Heresiarch

"The man who accomplishes pious but interested acts (with the sole object of his salvation) may reach the ranks of the devas (saints); t but he who accomplishes, disinterestedly, the same pious acts, finds himself ridden forever of the five elements" (of matter). "Perceiving the Supreme Soul in all beings and all beings in the Supreme Soul, in offering his own soul in sacrifice, he identifies himself with the Being who shines in his own splendor" (Manu, book xii., slokas 90, 91).

Thus, Christos, as a unity, is but an abstraction: a general idea representing the collective aggregation of the numberless spirit-entities, which are the direct emanations of the infinite, invisible, incomprehensible First Cause — the individual spirits of men, erroneously called the souls. They f There is no equivalent for the word "miracle," in the Christian sense, among the Brahmans or Buddhists. The only correct translation would be meipo, a wonder, something remarkable; but not a violation of natural law. The "saints" only produce meipo.

are the divine sons of God, of which some only overshadow mortal men — but this the majority — some remain forever planetary spirits, and some — the smaller and rare minority — unite themselves during life with some men. Such Godlike beings as Gautama-Buddha, Jesus, Tissoo, Christna, and a few others had united themselves with their spirits permanently — hence, they became gods on earth. Others, such as Moses, Pythagoras, Apollonius, Plotinus, Confucius, Plato, Iamblichus, and some Christian saints, having at intervals been so united, have taken rank in history as demigods and leaders of mankind. When unburthened of their terrestrial tabernacles, their freed souls, henceforth united forever with their spirits, rejoin the whole shining host, which is bound together in one spiritual solidarity of thought and deed, and called "the anointed." Hence, the meaning of the Gnostics, who, by saying that "Christos" suffered spiritually for humanity, implied that his Divine Spirit suffered mostly.

Such, and far more elevating were the ideas of Marcion, the great "Heresiarch" of the second century, as he is termed by his opponents. He came to Rome toward the latter part of the half-century, from A.D. 139-142, according to Tertullian, Irenaus, Clemens, and most of his modern commentators, such as Bunsen, Tischendorf, Westcott, and many others. Credner and Schleiermacher* agree as to his high and irreproachable personal character, his pure religious aspirations and elevated views. His influence must have been

* "Beiträge," vol. i., p. 40; Schleiermacher, "Sämmil. Werke" viii.; "Einl. N.

powerful, as we find

Epiphanius writing more than two centuries later that in his time the followers of Marcion were to be found throughout the whole world. +

The danger must have been pressing and great indeed, if we are to judge it to have been proportioned with the opprobrious epithets and vituperation heaped upon Marcion by the "Great African," that Patristic Cerberus, whom we find ever barking at the door of the Iren^an dogmas.} We have but to open his celebrated refutation of Marcion's Antitheses, to acquaint ourselves with the fine-fleur of monkish abuse of the Christian school; an abuse so faithfully carried through the middle ages, to be renewed again in our present day — at the Vatican. "Now, then, ye hounds, yelping at the God of Truth, whom the apostles cast out, to all your questions. These are the bones of contention which ye gnaw," etc.§ "The poverty of the Great African's arguments keeps pace with his abuse," remarks the author of Supernatural Religion.** "Their (the Father's) religious controversy bristles with misstatements, and is turbid with pious abuse. Tertullian was a master of his style, and the vehement vituperation with which he opens and often interlards his work against 'the impious and sacrilegious Marcion,' offers anything but a guarantee of fair and legitimate criticism."

J Tertullian, "Adv. Marc.," ii. 5; cf. 9.

How firm these two Fathers — Tertullian and Epiphanius — were on their theological ground, may be inferred from the curious fact that they intemperately both vehemently reproach "the beast" (Marcion) "with erasing passages from the Gospel of Luke which never were in Luke at all."* "The lightness and inaccuracy," adds the critic, "with which Tertullian proceeds, are all the better illustrated by the fact that not only does he accuse Marcion falsely, but he actually defines the motives for which he expunged a passage which never existed; in the same chapter he also similarly accuses Marcion of erasing (from Luke) the saying that Christ had not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them, and he actually repeats the charge on two other occasions.+ Epiphanius also commits the mistake of reproaching Marcion with omitting from Luke what is only found in Matthew.

Having so far shown the amount of reliance to be placed in the Patristic literature, and it being unanimously conceded by the great majority of biblical critics that what the Fathers fought for was not truth, but their own interpretations and unwarranted assertions,§ we will now proceed to state what

J "Supernatural Religion," p. 101; Matthew v. 17.

§ This author, vol. ii., p. 103, remarks with great justice of the

"Heresiarch" Marcion, "whose high personal character exerted so powerful an influence upon his own time," that "it was the misfortune of Marcion to live in an age when Christianity had passed out of the pure morality of its infancy; when, untroubled by complicated questions of dogma, simple faith and pious enthusiasm had been the were the views of Marcion, whom Tertullian desired to annihilate as the most dangerous heretic of his day. If we are to believe Hilgenfeld, one of the greatest German biblical critics, then "From the critical standing-point one must . . . consider the statements of the Fathers of the Church only as expressions of their subjective view, which itself requires proof."**

We can do no better nor make a more correct statement of facts concerning Marcion than by quoting what our space permits from Supernatural Religion, the author of which bases his assertions on the evidence of the greatest critics, as well as on his own researches. He shows in the days of Marcion "two broad parties in the primitive Church" — one considering Christianity "a mere continuation of the law, and dwarfing it into an Israelitish institution, a narrow sect of Judaism"; the one great bond of Christian brotherhood, into a phase of ecclesiastical development in which religion was fast degenerating into theology, and complicated doctrines were rapidly assuming the rampant attitude which led to so much bitterness, persecution, and schism. In later times Marcion might have been honored as a reformer, in his own he was denounced as a heretic. Austere and ascetic in his opinions, he aimed at superhuman purity, and, although his clerical adversaries might scoff at his impracticable doctrines regarding marriage and the subjugation of the flesh, they have had their parallels amongst those whom the Church has since most delighted to honor, and, at least, the whole tendency of his system was markedly towards the side of virtue." These statements are based upon Credner's "Beitrage," i., p. 40; cf. Neander, "Allg. K. G.," ii., p. 792, f.; Schleiermacher, Milman, etc., etc. ** Justin's "Die Evv." p. 446, sup. B.

other representing the glad tidings "as the introduction of a new system, applicable to all, and supplanting the Mosaic dispensation of the law by a universal dispensation of grace." These two parties, he adds, "were popularly represented in the early Church, by the two apostles Peter and Paul, and their antagonism is faintly revealed in the Epistle to the Galatians." *

* But, on the other hand, this antagonism is very strongly marked in the "Clementine Homilies," in which Peter unequivocally denies that Paul, whom he calls Simon the Magician, has ever had a vision of Christ, and calls him "an enemy." Canon Westcott says: "There can be no doubt that St. Paul is referred to as 'the enemy' " ("On the Canon," p. 252, note 2; "Supernatural Religion," vol. ii., p. 35). But this antagonism, which rages unto the present day, we find even in St. Paul's "Epistles." What can be more energetic than such like sentences: "Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. . . . I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostle" (2 Corinthians, xi.). "Paul, an apostle not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead . . . but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ . . . false brethren. . . . When Peter came to Antioch I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles, but when they were come he withdrew, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled . . . insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation," etc., etc. (Galat. i and ii.). On the other hand, we find Peter in the "Homilies," indulging in various complaints which, although alleged to be addressed to Simon Magus, are evidently all direct answers to the above-quoted sentences from the Pauline Epistles, and cannot have anything to do with Simon. So, for instance, Peter said: "For some among the Gentiles have rejected my lawful preaching, and accepted certain lawless and foolish teaching of the hostile men (enemy)" — Epist. of Peter to James, § 2. He says further: "Simon (Paul) . . . who came before me to the Gentiles . . . and I have followed him as light upon darkness, as knowledge upon ignorance, as health upon disease" ("Homil.," ii. 17). Still further, he calls him Death and a deceiver (Ibid., ii. 18). He warns the Gentiles that "our Lord and Prophet (?) (Jesus) announced that he would send from among his followers, apostles to deceive. "Therefore, above all, remember to avoid every apostle, or teacher, or prophet, who first does not accurately compare his teaching with that of James, called the brother of our Lord" (see the difference between Paul and James on faith, Epist. to Hebrews, xi., xii., and Epist. of James, ii.). "Lest the Evil One should send a false preacher . . . as he has sent to us Simon (?) preaching a counterfeit of truth in the name of our Lord, and disseminating error" ("Hom." xi., 35; see above quotation from Gal. 1, 5). He then denies Paul's assertion, in the following words: "if, therefore, our Jesus indeed appeared in a vision to you, it was only as an irritated adversary. . . . But how can any one through visions become wise in teaching? And if you say, 'it is possible,' then I ask, wherefore did the Teacher remain for a whole year and discourse to those who were attentive? And how can we believe your story that he appeared to you? And in what manner did he appear to you, when you hold opinions contrary to his teaching? . . . For you now set yourself up against me, who am a firm rock, the foundation of the Church. If you were not an opponent, you would not calumniate me, you would not revile my teaching . . . (circumcision?) in order that, in declaring what i have myself heard from the Lord, i may not be believed, as though I were condemned. . . . But if you say that I am condemned, you blame God who revealed Christ to me." "This last phrase," observes the author of "Supernatural Religion," " 'if you say that i am condemned,' is an evident allusion to Galat. ii, 11, 'I withstood him to the face, because he was condemned' " ("Supernatural Religion," p. 37). "There cannot be a doubt," adds the just-quoted author, "that the Apostle Paul is attacked

Marcion, who recognised no other Gospels than a few Epistles of Paul, who rejected totally the anthropomorphism of the Old Testament, and drew a distinct line of demarcation between the old Judaism and Christianity, viewed Jesus neither as a King, Messiah of the Jews, nor the son of David, who was in any way connected with the law or prophets, "but, a divine being sent to reveal to man a spiritual religion, wholly new, and a God of goodness and grace hitherto unknown." The "Lord God" of the Jews in his eyes, the Creator (Demiurgos), was totally different and distinct from the Deity who sent Jesus to reveal the divine truth and preach the glad tidings, to bring reconciliation and salvation to all. The mission of Jesus — according to Marcion — was to abrogate the Jewish "Lord," who "was opposed to the God and Father of Jesus Christ as matter is to spirit, impurity to purity."

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