As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been listening to the Covenant Theological Seminary class called “Ancient and Medieval Church History.” Class 5 deals with Heresy and Orthodoxy, and they discuss 3 of the largest early heresies: Gnosticism, Marcionsim, and Montanism. I’d like to discuss Marcionism a bit.
Marcion lived 110 – 160 AD in Sinope, Turkey. He is probably the first person who tried to establish a Christian canon. His New Testament was much smaller than ours today. It included an edited version of the Gospel of Luke, and 10 of Paul’s letters. He was the son of a bishop, and originally embraced by the orthdox church, but due to his embracing of Gnostic doctrines, he was excommunicated. However, his movement became so large that it rivaled the orthodox church in size for about a century.
Marcion was quite anti-jewish, and completely rejected the entire Old Testament. He also heavily edited the Gospel of Luke, taking out all references to the virgin birth, the star, etc. Marcion’s Gospel of Luke emphasized that Jesus was not at all human, but completely divine. According to Marcion, Jesus just appeared in the 15th year of the reign of Ceasar, similar to the angels who appeared to Abraham.
Marcion was a huge proponent of Paul. The teacher in the class says that of all early church fathers, Marcion understood Paul’s message the best, but he still misunderstood Paul. Church father Polycarp, referred to Marcion as “the first born of Satan,” so he was quite obviously a target of revulsion in the 2nd century.
It is interesting to me that these movements came so quickly after the death of the apostles. It seems that the early Christian beliefs were much more diverse than is often taught in most Sunday School classes. So-called “Traditional” Christianity is based primarily on the Catholic/Orthodox churches. But we learn at this time period, the term Catholic was not even used. Terms such as Gnostics, Marcionites, Ebionites, Montanists, and the Orthodox church were more commonly used during the pre-Nicene period of Christianity. This seems much more consistent with the various differences we have today: Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodist, etc, although the differences today are much smaller than the differences 1900 years ago.
For mormons, these early sects/denominations quite nicely illustrate “the Apostasy,” and we aren’t completely sure that the original church “got it right.” Of course protestants, while they may disagree among themselves, generally think the Orthodox “got it right” concerning much of theology. Comments?