41 Comments

How does Marcionism relate to the Apostasy?

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?

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41 comments on “How does Marcionism relate to the Apostasy?

  1. All this talk about apostasy has me thinking. Is the LDS church moving closer to the truth or closer to apostasy?

  2. Zelph, Zelph, Zelph. Spoken like a true skeptic. How could I expect anything else from you? 😉

    So what’s your take on Gnosticism and Marcionism? Have you heard of them before?

  3. MH

    Interestingly our press just published a book by Robert M. Price on the Pre-Nicene New Testament, I’ll invite him to wander over and see if he will comment. Over the past year, I found Marcion to be very interesting. It looks like all of the writings of Paul filter through Marcion. Problematically, Marcion travels to the same places and writes to the same churches as Paul. It may be hard to tell where Paul begins and Marcion ends. To make things worse, just thirty or so years later, Polycarp attempts to correct the documents through institutional lenses.

    It looks to me as if Marcion and Polycarp are both extreme believers on opposing sides of the uber-believing rainbow. Marcion appears to be the non- institutional, fundamentalist, and Polycarp the institutional, zealot.

    It sounds like it would be hard to figure out where Paul begins and Marcion and others end.

    Bart Erman also covers Marcion in his lecture series and in some of his writings. I find Paul to be of little personal values since I have learned about Marcion and Polycarp.

  4. As my forthcoming book on Paul, The Amazing Colossal Apostle (from Signature, I think!) argues, combining some theories of Robert Eisenman and Hermann Detering, “Paul” is a santized version of the historical figure Simon of Gitta/Simon Magus. As the Catholics made Simon the father of all heresies, so did the Marcionites, Gnostics, and Encratites all trace themselves back to Paul. Both were right: they were talking about the same man. Marcion was said to be Simon’s disciple, even as he claimed he was Paul’s biggest fan–again, same guy! Though a fragment of a genuine Simonian letter may be reserved in Romans, I think Marcion wrote much of that epistle as well as Galatians 3-6, wwith 1-2 added by al;ater Marcionite to refute Acts’ treatment of Paul.

    Polycarp or his theological twin passed, bowdlerized, etc., these epistles in order to co-opt Marcionite Christianity. He added more extant gospels once he sanitized them, too). Marcion himself, I think, had no writen gospel, not even Luke, but his disciples seized on an earlier version of what we call Luke (before Polycarp padded it and added Acts). Marcionites were among the early generation who rewrote OT stories as a biography for a newly historicized “Jesus.” Their influence can be seen in Luke, Mark, Joihn, and Thomas.

  5. Zelph – I’ve seen you ask this question before. IMO, the LDS church has several advantages the early church did not, the most important from an apostasy standpoint being a centralized and absolute church leadership. JS instituted this principle when he said that all who have the HG have the right to personal revelation, but that revelations can only be received downward in the hierarchy.

    The early church’s disadvantages by comparison were: 1) the branches of the church were very disconnected, 2) the central leadership of the apostles were travelling around and only able to communicate via letters, 3) the apostles quickly were martyred, and 4) the members were in areas with strong non-Christian influence and once leadership was gone, they were left largely to their own devices (Paul’s letters are constantly correcting this problem).

    So, I think your question is interesting, but the more I look at it, the more I see that the LDS church is safeguarded from the apostasy of the early Christian church in very effective ways.

  6. Thanks for the comments all. Book1830, I was not aware that we can thank Marcion for preserving the writings of Paul. Robert, your book sounds interesting, and it sounds like you’ve got many more details in there that I was not aware of. In the seminary I’ve been listening to, they have emphasized that the same person wrote Luke-Acts, but have made no claims of authorship. What evidence do you have to support that Polycarp and Marcion are the true authors of some of the New Testament books? (Or is that in your book?)

    Hawkgrrl, thanks for your comments. I’ve already tried to help change Zelph’s opinions, but I think he’s much too NOM to change any of his opinions. You make a good case that the current church structure is similar to the early Christian church. While I agree with your position, let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. How do you respond to the statement that the FLDS is much closer to Joseph’s 19th century mormonism than the LDS church is? (Another person made that statement, and I pretty much agreed with him.)

  7. There was a concerted, sudden effort at coopting the Marcionite Apostolicon and Evangelion. Early copies evidence the idiosyncrasies of an individual, not the wider practice of a school. For this see David Trobisch, The First Edition of the NT (Oxford 2000) and his article “Who Published the New Testament”? (Free Inquiry, Dec 07-Jan 08, p. 30-33). Also, soon S. Huller’s book Against Polycarp will appear via Lulu and TheBibleGeek.org.

  8. Sounds like an interesting read(s). While this is slightly off-topic, I have also heard that Baruch might be the author of the Book of Jeremiah, and possibly other books. Do you agree with this hyposthesis as well?

  9. hawkgrrrl I see your point and you are making the case that the reason there was no real central control in the early days of the church is due to lack of technology in communication and transportation. This would certainly explain why God would put different churches on earth in different parts of the world.

    What do you think about how women used to preach and write gospels in early Christianity? My wife, who is TBM, got a bit concerned when she learned about this.

    I have heard of Gnosticism and know a little about their beliefs based only on a documentary on the early days of the church on the History channel, but other than that, I don’t know much. I have heard the term before. I have never heard of Marcionism before.

    It is hard to form an opinion one way or another when I have very little knowledge or information. There are so many groups to think about.

  10. MH the following question is asked on my blog:

    “Question: If the LDS church is the “restored church”, where’s the evidence current doctrine was accepted and practiced earlier in history?”

    I don’t know very much about early Christianity perhaps you can answer?

  11. Zelph, and Brother Zelph,

    I plan to talk about Montanism in my next post (which will probably be up by the weekend.) I was just introduced to Montanus, and found some real interesting similarities between him and Joseph Smith, so I will outline the similarities. I hesitate to call it “evidence” just yet, but at first blush, it could be evidence of some early teachings that are similar to Joseph Smith.

    Montanism is quite different from Gnosticism and Marcionism. Interestingly, it allowed for not only a prophet, but 2 prophetesses who followed Montanus. But I don’t want to to give too much of a spoiler at this point….

  12. Sorry, I am going through an identity crisis. 🙂 I changed my pseudonym to “Brother Zelph” from now on to distinguish myself from other Zelphs out there on the internet as I have run into a few of them. Ironically I changed it to AVOID confusion. 😆

  13. Let me take a slightly different approach here. How many sects of Mormonism are there? I think when I googled it one time they had counted up 200 different sects….I’m doing this from memory. There was a bunch. So now we are about 180 years out from Joseph Smith’s original church. It would seem to me, that using the standard of measurement used here for the orthodox Chrisitan Church by Mormons, Mormonism has got some major problems. The Mormon Church says that it’s the one true Chruch. What’s up with the Utah bunch making that claim? After Joseph Smith’s death there was a time of great confusion. Some people followed one leader while others followed someone else. Finally the true church emerged and proved they have the restored gospel because they own the property on which “thee temple” will be built.

    So you see folks, I can play the same game with Mormonism that Mormons likes to play with orthodox Christianity. By-the-way MH, have you found anything in your study of guys like Marcion that God was once a man who purified Himself to reach that position? Anything about men progressing to become gods? Anything about having to practice plural marrage to reach the highest levels of the Celestial kingdom?

    If you want to study the apostasy as talked about in Jude and in First Thessalonians, that’s a whole different deal and is talking about End Times theology. Has nothing to do with the Mormon claims of apostasy. Joseph Smith needed the theory of the apostasy to sell his concept of the restored gospel. There is no evidence to support the type of apostasy Mormons claim.
    When Joseph Smith wrote the BoM he was using 19th century thought without the benefit of what we know today. If what he wrote was from God, it would have been accurate as to what we know as fact. So all this talk about apostasy in the Christian Church is really a moot point considering what we do know about the hisoricity and overall accuracy of the BoM

    I went out and took a look at the comparison of Community of Christ, Utah LDS and Temple Lot. Guess what? One of these groups is

  14. cont.

    in apostasy when compared to two of the others. Which one do you think? Compare FLDS and UtahLDS which one has remained true to the restored gospel and which one is apostate? There are so many forms of Mormonism that the truth has surely been lost. Right?

  15. Falcon, touche’

    You can see what I found in my new post on Montanism.

    As for your other point, about over 200 mormon sects, technically you are correct. But how many of these are viable–perhaps a handful? Marcionism, Gnosticism, and Montanism rivaled the Orthodox church in size. The next closest rival to the LDS church is the Community of Christ, which is about 2% of the size of the LDS church, and has never really made any headway. Yes there are some SMALL sects that claim the BoM as scripture, but they are inconsequential. Gnosticism, on the other hand, was very consequential in the first 300 years of Christianity, and there were significant congregations in other parts of the Mediterranean for Ariunism, Ebionites, Marcionites, Montanism, etc.

    The mormon church in the USA is about the same size as Judaism according to http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html#families

    No other mormon groups are anywhere near that size. That’s where your comparison falls short.

  16. Falcon,

    “can play the same game with Mormonism that Mormons likes to play with orthodox Christianity.”

    I think you bring up a good point, and this is something I have thought about.

    MH- Since when did numbers mean anything? If so, the game can also be played the other way once again. Out of aprox 2 billion Christians of all denominations, The LDS church only accounts for 0.6% of the Christian population. It seems by ratio, the CoC is more relevant to the LDS movement than the LDS church is to “Mainstream Christianity”.

    In fact, a main theme in the Book of Mormon is about the “great and abominable church” and how straight and narrow is the way that leads to life and few find it, but wide is the path that leads to death and darkness, and many find it (I am paraphrasing, too lazy to look it up:wink:) There is also something about separating the wheat from the tares.

    So it would seem that if one were to look for the true church, it should have the least number of members.

  17. I would agree with Zelph…..of course. Numbers really aren’t a very good test for the truth. I think a very good case can be made for an apostate UtahLDS church. Look at the number of doctrines/teachings by former prophets that are ignored or swept under the rug. For example, B. Young and his Adam-God doctrine. Prophet Young wasn’t just speculating when he dropped that bomb on the church. He was speaking as thee prophet. I’m sure he didn’t think he was just involved in blue sky speculation…..not given that guys autocratic methods. What about the UtahLDS dropping plural marrage, which is a key doctrine of primitive Mormonism and is vital to full exahltation in the Celestial Kingdom. This was dropped because of government pressure. The FLDS recognized this and have maintained the pureness of the restored gospel. So you see, I can use your arguments about early Christianity and apply them very nicely to Mormonism. The important fact is that Christianity settled the issue formally by determining what the basic doctirnes of the Church are. Mormonism, forgive me, hides behind the concept of “continuous revelation” to explain away inconsistancies and the ignoring of past accepted doctrines and teachings.

    I believe it’s the Temple Lot group, help me here, that believe that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and won’t accept anything after about 1833. So, in order to be intellectually honest MH, I think you need to recognize the turmoil and confusion that reigns within Mormonism and recognize the apostasy (broad definition) within the religion. You really can’t have it both ways.

  18. What is apostasy? Is it changing policies or practices or is it an absence of authority?

    I have felt apostasy was the latter. Of course there are many arguments about who has authority?

  19. Tk
    Apostasy is going away from the core teachings, doctrines or practices of that what has been established. Mormons have a huge problem here because they want to point to the orthodox Christian Church as having lost it’s way in some sort of apostasy in the first century. From my perspective, there was always a core group of believers that held fast to the teachings and testimony of the Apostles and eventually prevailed regarding Christian doctrine despite the presence of those who sought to corrupt the Gospel. I think this is a legitimate point of view since I’ve yet to have any Mormon show me any teaching/doctrine of god being a man, man becoming god, the existance of a mother god who with a father god procreate spirit children on and on regarding what the early church taught and believed. It’s just not there. There are sects of Mormonism, that totally repudiate these UtahLDS doctrines.

    The UtahLDS has some significant problems claiming to be the one and only restored Mormon church. I think that the other groups have more of a legitimate claim. For example, I think a case can be made that after 1833 Joseph Smith fell into gross sexual sin and doctrinal error. That for Mormons, anything beyond the Book of Mormon and Book of Commandments is heresy. For example, The Book of Abraham. A total fabrication, proven beyond doubt and confirmation of Joseph Smith’s falling away. By the way, I believe somewhere in the introduction to the BoM Joseph Smith claimed it was the completness of the gospel. Now he went on and had a “vision” of an angel with a sword that was going to kill him if he didn’t take on more wives. Come on, a person would have to be beyond hard core and a real kool aid drinker to buy that line. The guy wanted to legitamize his sexual romps and did so by saying he married the women, which included young girls and married women, because an angel threatened to kill him. By any measure, that is sin. To justify it is to join him in his sin.

    The FLDS can claim that it is true blue 19th century Mormonism. It is unquestionably. Again, a case can be made that the Utah group has cut and run when pressure was placed on them re. plural marrage, blacks and the priesthood-mark of cain. The disowning of Adam-god of B. Young is another one. New revelation doesn’t change the nature of the Mormon god. He didn’t suddenly say “OK I wasn’t adam. I was just adam when the prophet Young taught it, now I’m not.

    So MH and friends, you need to take a more serious look at Mormon apostasy instead of trying to find a justification for one in the orthodox Chrisitan Church. The Christian Church clearly defined, affirmed and confirmed it’s core doctrine, despite rebellion in the first three centuries. It has held fast all of these centuries.

  20. I don’t think doctrinal apostasy and authority are mutually exclusive, and the scriptures seem to bear this out. I’ll be posting about this on my blog, which is returning from hiatus this week. 🙂

  21. Let me give another, probably more plausable explanation of the things we have been discussing. It isn’t as “spiritual” and doesn’t contain any conspiracy theories, but it’s probably a more plausable explanation.

    Every study of group dynamics ever done says that groups go through four predictable stages. They are:

    1. Forming stage.
    2. Storming stage.
    3. Norming stage.
    4 Performing stage.

    Forming Stage

    People are getting use to one another. They are “sniffing” around trying to get each other’s scent and trying to see where they fit in.

    Storming Stage

    Chaos. Anger. Debate. Raw emotion. You get the picture.

    Norming Stage

    The rules are set. The standards are established.

    Performing Stage

    The group gets to work based on the prior establishment of rules, standards and beliefs.

    Groups must go through these stages. If the storming isn’t done the whole deal will fall a part.

    On another topic: Joseph Smith had to come up with the “current religions are abominations, follow me” or there wouldn’t have been an attraction. In order to sell his new program, he had to go further saying the whole Christianity deal has been wrong for countless centuries, back to the first century. He gets people to buy into it and away they go. The “apostasy” is almost a throw away term for Mormons. The leaders just toss it out and the folks shake their heads up and down. It’s just like the line about many precious truths were left out of the Bible. OK boss.
    As is the personal testimony. It is the proof of the Mormon truth. Ignore evidence because it’s from man. Go with your spiritual feelings because they’re from God.

    So a person has to dig a little further and begin asking some probing questions. Some come to the conclusion that they are wasting their time, money and energy on something that isn’t true. Some don’t mind however. It gives structure and meaning to life, true or not.

  22. Apostasy is a falling away from the truth. FLDS would argue that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young revealed the truth and that the LDS church is in apostasy because they are moving further and further away from the teachings and doctrines established by JS and BY, particularly polygamy.

    The most common belief that I have observed is that most orthodox LDS Mormons believe that even though the gospel doesn’t change, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be refined over time as our understanding increases. The arguments the LDS has is the claim to authority and current revelation to direct the church since it is bigger in number and more mainstream. However, as I said I don’t think counting the number of members is a very good way to determine which church is the correct one.

  23. Wooooh – Falcon my head is spinning from your comments. I’m not a scholar or a keen debater, I just have to take things slow and think them through. Let’s slow it down for my sake.

    I do agree the Mormon Church makes the claim as the only church on the earth with the authority from God to perform ordinances, receive revelation and hold His Priesthood keys. So that makes it pretty simple from my stand point. Either it’s true or it’s not. If it’s not, so be it, the Mormon Church can join the ranks of the other false churches. However if it is true, I better do some checking.

    There are many references in your dialog that jump around and touch on a lot of issues, I don’t think we have the time or space to review each one. However, there is some evidence of Divinization found in early Christian writings. These writing can also be held up to scrutiny; however there is enough evidence that it does warrant a review.

    Many years ago I read an Occasional Paper written by Jordan Vajda, OP. At the time he was a Catholic Priest and a member of the Order of Preachers and served at the Newman Center (the Catholic Campus Ministry) of the University of Washington. I have heard that he has since joined the Mormon Church. I haven’t been able to verify that.

    However at the time of this paper he was not a member of the Mormon Church, he wrote a paper about the Doctrine of Theosis and the Doctrine of Exaltation. I will include one reference from his paper, “Two classic texts which come from the early centuries of the Church clearly demonstrate this (divinization) belief. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130 – c.202) “who had known St. Polycarp, who had known the Apostles” wrote, “the Word of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, who because of His immeasurable love became what we are in order to make us what he is.” St. Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373) also explained that “God became man, so that we might be made gods.” Thus, at the root and core of the doctrine of theosis was not only a belief in the centrality of Christ but also the belief that He makes theosis possible precisely because he is both God and human.”

    Falcon – I pick up a sense of anger from your comments; are you angry about something?

  24. Wow, I’m not used to this sudden burst of activity. Thanks for commenting all.

    In regards to the numbers argument, I will agree that it is a somewhat flawed argument. Falcon was arguing that there was/is some sort of Christian consensus. Mormons disagree. The Mormon view of apostasy is that crucial doctrines were lost around the time of Christ.

    Now, while it is an interesting question to ask if the Mormon Church is in apostasy, that is really a completely different question. I probably shouldn’t have tried to get into a numbers argument, because that is just as flawed as Falcon’s argument that there is a Biblical consensus. So, I’ll give up on that, and ask forgiveness. The real crux of the matter is Joseph Smith’s contention that the early Orthodox/Catholic church never really had the truth, because in fact the truth was lost when the apostles were hunted down and killed. I have made a case that there were some doctrines in the early church which are considered heretical, but the LDS church embraces. I haven’t heard anyone give a convincing argument to displace that notion.

    Now, I have heard a lot of people trying to change the argument to fit their concerns, such as Adam-god, polygamy, men becoming like gods, etc. While these are all interesting topics, and I am glad to debate them, they are really sidetracking the original post.

    Tk, thanks for the quotes from Ireneaus. I had heard there were some things out there, but hadn’t really been exposed to them. Keep ’em coming.

    Zelph, you come from a position that the mormon church never was true. Therefore, apostasy is a moot point to you. I don’t see you advocating becoming a member of FLDS or CoC, so I’m not sure why you’re side-tracking the issue here. I’m not sure what you think about the early Orthodox church, but I suspect you lean more towards atheism/agnosticism, than being a believer in Christ. Can you clarify?

    Falcon, do you have any rebuttals to TK’s quoting Irenaeus? TK, I don’t think Falcon is angry, but he is passionate. That’s fine here, as long as cooler heads prevail. Falcon, I do agree with TK though; you do seem to bring in topics such as Adam-God, polygamy, that are only related tangentially.

  25. MH,
    Yes you said it right, I am passionate. You see I view the ideas of a Christian apostasy and apostolic succession as creative on the part of Joseph Smith as a way to establish a rationale for establishing a religion. So my reason for pointing out Mormon apostasy and some of the dubious doctrines proclaimed by Mormon prophets is to bring a little reality to the discussion. I also brought in to the discussion, the research done on group formation as a way for people to get a perspective on what happens as a natural process. I see the Mormon stance of an apostasy and a conspiracy to leave the doctrine (embraced by some Mormon sects) out of the Bible as self-serving. I could say that the revelation of a Mother Ship hovering over the earth was left out of the Bible also. Prove me wrong. So Mormons look at history and come to a conclusion that orthodox Chritians don’t come to.

    Yes, it is true that it all comes down to Joseph Smith. Sorry, too many holes in the prophets life and program. I will give him his credit as a very dynamic and magnetic personality in religious history. But a prophet of God. No! I think the Mormon practice of praying to get a confirmation of the truth regarding Joseph Smith and the BoM to be unreliable. I say that after years of studying and observing mystic, spiritual impressions and events. They are not a real good test of the truth. Now that’s my conclusion despite the fact that I’ve received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and that God has provided me with a couple of the charasmatic gifts described in First Cor. 12-13 and that are demonstrated through out the Book of Acts. How can I say then that spiritual impressions are not a reliable test for the truth. Several reasons, but I’ll give you one. Very talented and personable people can lead people, who have a deep dersire and longing for God, into all sorts of false beliefs and practices. So to weed out the false from the true you prayerfully study the person, their life, their teaching and their practices. You then come to some conclusions. I could pray to God to reveal to me whether or not there was an apostasy. I guarantee you that my spiritual impressions will be that there was not.

    I read the testimonies and if fact correspond some with life long Mormons who ditched the program. I’m most interested in the tipping point and what they had to overcome to make the break. What happens is that a conflict arises between a preponderance of evidence that Mormonism is not true and their “spiritual feelings” that it is true. To deny the “spiritual feelings” is huge because they feel they’ve heard from God and they don’t want to deny God. They eventually come to the realization that people in all sorts of religious traditions get the same thing happening. I won’t get into what I think is happening, but my point is that to deny reality and hard cold evidence isn’t faith.

    So was there turmoil in the early Church regarding doctrine? Yes. Was it an apostasy? No. It was a predictable pattern of what goes on in groups. Religious as well as secular including the Mormon Church.

  26. Falcon, here are some of my rebuttals. Every religion has self-serving arguments: Baptists believe in baptism by immersion, Pentocostals believe in the gift of Tongues, The Anglican/Episcopal Church was established specifically so King Henry could get a divorce (you can’t get much more self-serving than that!), the list goes on and on. Big deal.

    As for “too many holes in Joseph Smith,” if you put the same scrutiny into Moses, Joshua, Balaam, Noah, you would be appalled. I’ve already talked about Moses, but Joshua annhillated an entire city. Here in the US, we believe in religious freedom, but Joshua commit genocide.

    Noah slept with his daughter: that’s called incest. The 12 sons of Israel were all juvenile delinquents, except for Joseph and Benjamin. And Abraham not only lied to the Egyptians about his wife, calling Sarah his sister, but then he tried to do human sacrifice. After that, he sent his wife and son, Hagar and Ishmael, out in the wilderness to die.

    Oh yeah, Solomon, who wrote Song of Solomon, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He was an uber-polygamist. David probably orchestrated the assassination of Saul, and was responsible for Uriah’s death. And he wrote Psalms.

    Using that reasoning, we should throw out the entire Old Testament because of these horrible prophets. Joseph looks like a saint compared to this bunch.

    If I were to assume that your argument was correct about spiritual feelings being bogus, I’ll come back every time to the hundreds of religious groups that all claim to believe in the Bible. Mormons claim to believe the Bible too, so just throw mormons into this “intellectual” bunch.

    I’ve already given the OJ comparison, so I’ll quit beating that dead horse when you give up on the “spiritual feelings” fallacy. Besides, Pentocostals often join that church, because it is “fun.” There’s singing, dancing, laughing, rejoicing…. Isn’t this a “spiritual feeling” too which leads some to conversion?

  27. MH- It probably is a moot point for me. However, I am simply making a logical argument that if mainstream Christianity went into apostasy, then one could make the case that the current LDS church is in apostasy.

    It is difficult for me to see what truths early Christianity fell away from because it was always so diverse from the beginning, even when the apostles were preaching there wasn’t a consensus even then, nor was there a central control of a church. Instead, there were many different churches and at least dozens of different gospels written by anonymous authors. However, some groups used some gospels and other groups used other gospels. So it is hard to pinpoint exactly what early doctrines by mainstream Christianity was lost except for some that were embraced by groups that were considered heretical at the time.

    The LDS church makes the case that there was a consensus when the apostles were alive because they had authority and had continual revelation from God. However, I do not believe this to be the case. Maybe the apostles received inspiration and each interpreted the message differently. Maybe Joseph Smith was inspired and interpreted the message that he should write a book. However, I do not believe that the LDS church has a monopoly on revelation or inspiration from God if there is a God.

  28. MH,
    Here we go again with the Mormon argument from equivalency. Joseph Smith is a prophet, the BoM is true and the Mormon church is true because………..There are prophets in the Bible who sinned, you can’t prove everything in the Bible is true, the early Christian Church feel into apostasy. This makes Joseph Smith et al true. Now when all else fails go to “I bear you my testimony…….canned, rehearsed recitation.

    The point is, a part from these technques I’m never given any evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the BoM is true, that the Mormon church is true. Your fighting the DNA evidence (it got diluted), archaeological evidence (it disappeared), linguistic evidence, scientific evidence (metalurgy, chariots, wheels, horses, elephants), historical evidence. I know, not everything in the Bible can be proven, I bear you my testimony.

    And see all the things you listed, most anyway, are called SIN. The Bible does not condone it. Mormons do some incredable contortions to justify Joseph Smith’s gross sexual deviance. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up by arranging for her husband to be killed. David was convicted by God of his sin and the whole sinful escapade cost him the kingdom and the baby died. Mormons embraced and practiced Joseph Smith’s sexual sin. I suppose when you have an angel lurking around with a sword ready to kill you, you can make a sacrifice and start having sex with married women and kids.

    MH, I don’t get your first paragraph. Give me a redo on that one.

    Are spiritual feelings bogus. Some are. People need to practice discernment which is a gift of the Spirit.

    Now, as to Christian apostasy in the first century…….so what! Mormons have their own apostasy.

    Is that a good argument? Or just some nanananana!

  29. Now, I don’t try to prove the Bible is true by pointing out the evidence that the BoM is false. I go right to the evidence to support the Bible. If someone comes up with a counter argument, I don’t bring up the Koran or some other religious book. I don’t try to defend the sins of characters in the Bible by pointing out Joseph Smith’s sins. The Bible exposes the sins of the characters itself.

    When we look at the Christian Church history, in the first 300 years, there are countless books written about it. No one tries to hide it . It’s there for all to see. Try “Early Christian Doctrines” by J.N.D. Kelly; “The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)” by Jaroslav Pelikan; “The Patterrn of Christian Truth”: A Study in the Relations between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church.

    There is no end, over the centuries, of “prophets” attempting to recycle old heresy that was rejected by the early Church. This Mormon belief that what they believe is what the first apostles believed is, quite frankly, nonsense. Again, anyone out there, show me apostles teaching that god was a man, man can become a god, you have to have plural wives to get to a place called the celestial kingdom, apostles practicing masonic temple rituals, a reestablished priesthood (Hebrews is talking about Christ the final and only priest of this dispensation), apostles using magic rocks and putting it in a hat, stuffing your face in the hat to translate……whatever.

    I can’t find any of this any where. So when Mormons talk about an apostasy, they have a high bar to climb over.

  30. Falcon:

    “I don’t try to defend the sins of characters in the Bible by pointing out Joseph Smith’s sins.”

    That is a good point.

  31. I have a chart here titled “Heresy in the Early Church”. It lists nine different movements, breaking them down by years and describing a major event(s). There’s also a subchart, color coded and showing solid and dashed lines spread over the first 500 years of Christianity. I also have a chart titled “Sifting Through the Christ Controversies.” The subtitle “Is Jesus Divine or Human?” It tells us that when it came to Jesus, the early Church argued passionately about two things: Christ is fullly divine or Christ may be special, but he’s not divine.

    The whole point of course, is that the early Church battled out and finally defined what was orthodox doctrine. The major players were not dumbells; neither those who were declared heretics or those who prevailed as the orthodox(ies). This is all well documented. To call this process “apostasy” is to seriously misread the facts of history.

    A word about apostolic authority. Anyone can come on the scene and declare themselves a prophet or apostle. When they do, people need to apply a decision making process to determine if indeed this person is an apostle or prophet of God. Interpreting subjective feelings as a proof of God’s endorsement is not only an unreliable test but it is fool hearty. “Spiritual” feelings can be created and often times are the result of a person desiring something to be true. I remember a few years back, people going to this auto parts store in a city in California to see the image of the Virgin Mary in the ceramic tiles in the floor of the men’s bathroom. It was beyond curiosity. The desire to believe (something) is powerful and creates its own reality.

  32. Falcon,

    First of all, I’d love to get a copy of that chart. It sounds quite interesting. Is it available online?

    Once again, you take a shotgun approach to this lds doctrine of early christian apostasy. Maybe you can’t hit the bird your aiming at, but you’re bound and determined to bring down a few birds in the flock.

    It seems you can’t confront the issue head on, so you try to side-track the discussion to make it on the validity of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. At least you’ve given me some future post ideas. I had considered responding to your various accusations with “click here to talk about……” but I’ll save that for another time.

    I feel we are at an impasse on this topic. You are advocating a position that there was no apostasy, and that all the various catholic and protestant religions got it right, while I am advocating there was an apostasy, and they didn’t. We can keep arguing this point, but I can see we’re both firmly entrenched in our ideas, and neither person is going to convince the other. I’ll try to address some of these sidetracking topics.

    I do take a few exceptions to things you said. When did I say “I bear my testimony….”? That was never part of this conversation, and for you to bring it into the conversation is a cheap shot.

    You say I argue “equivalences.” That is an improper characterization. I am not attacking the bible, but rather attacking your “double standard.” Every 9th grade geometry student learns how to defeat an argument by counter examples. For example, if a person makes the statement, “all birds fly”, a counter example is “ostriches and penguins don’t fly.” Counter examples are a way to prove the falsity of the first statement.

    So, if I can find counter-examples of your arguments, that is a perfectly valid technique to weaken your arguments. You try to minimizing my counter-examples by calling them “equivalences”. However, it is actually called “counter-examples”, and is a perfectly legitimate tactic that many people use in deductive reasoning.

    I note you had no response to any of my arguments, but instead side-track the issue. So, let’s try an experiment. Let’s pretend that I perfectly agree with you now. I am going to make this easy, and not address all the points you referenced above. That means:

    1. Joseph is a fraud because of polygamy.
    2. The Book of Mormon is not scripture and is a fraud because Joseph was a fraud and sinning adulterer/polygamist.

    Ok, now please defend these two propositions: (1) Why is Song of Solomon part of the Bible? Solomon was a polygamist. The Book talks nothing about Christ, Jehovah, repentance, faith, etc. It is a nice erotic treatise, but what value is it to the Bible?

    (2) Why is the book of Psalms in the Bible? David was an adulterer, murderer, and polygamist, and we can’t accept having sinners writing Bible scripture.

    Please remember that I completely agree with you about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I am now a former mormon. So please defend these propositions without referencing (1) Joseph or Brigham, (2) the mormon church (3) apostasy. However you are free to discuss:

    (1) Why is polygamy ok in the Old Testament?
    (2) Why do we accept scripture from these 2 particular individuals in particular?

    You can use other “equivalences”, “counter-examples,” etc. Any technique is valid, but you must only reference the Bible, and/or catholic/protestant/jewish ideas. All mormon ideas are off-limits. Let me hear you defend these 2 books of scripture. You may feel free to assume that I am now an atheist/agnostic at this point. (You may even want to address this to Brother Zelph, who actually is leaning toward agnosticism at this point, if you want even more realism on this experiment.)

  33. Here’s the problem Mormons have with the apostasy scenario. It can’t be demonstrated that the apostles taught or practiced any of the Mormon foundational doctrines regarding the nature of God or any of the rituals which were barrowed from the Free Masons. Sift through the movers and shakers of the first 400 years of Christian history and you won’t find it. I want to get that in for any lurkers out there.

    Here’s the problem with your “so and so was a sinner, so how can what he wrote be in the Bible” argument. First of all the Bible says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. “A just man falls seven times a day.” God is merciful, but he is just. We deserve separation from God because of our sin. God offers us the free gift of salvation through his son Jesus Christ. My point, the only perfect person in the Bible is Jesus, the qualifed Savior, everyone else is a sinner some worse than others but sin is sin. So if we excluded anyone who sinned from being a person whose writings appear in the Bible, there would be no Bible. So how do we determine which sinners writings get to be called scripture and another sinners do not? Look at the quality and consistancy of the writing. Which is God breathed and which is not. Look at the evidence regarding the claims made. Joseph Smith believed, as many of his era did, the theory that the American indians were Hebrews. The evidence is that it isn’t true. End of story.

    The Song of Solomon. How do you want to interpret it, metaphorically or literally. Metaphorically, it’s a story of Christ’s love for the Church. Literally it’s a picture of the marrage bond. It talks about the beauty of sex. It’s not offensive or degrading. There are no salacious jokes in the Song of Solomon. The language is not lewd, vulgar or obscene. It’s about a relationship. God shows us that sex is good. Our culture, as those before, have trashed it. Here’s a headline: God Endorses Sex! Subheadline: Enjoy it in the confines of marrage.

    The Book of Psalms is simply outstanding. David struggled with sin, but he loved God. It is said that David was a man after the heart of God. David’s sin is not condoned, it’s exposed and he pays the price for it. The appearance of the psalms in the OT does not excuse David’s sin. So there are two classes of people, as far as I am concerned. One struggles with sin but is not a charlatan. The other is a charlatan, a deceiver and a fraud. Different kind of heart. The good behavior does not excuse the bad behavior. For the record, about a third of the psalms are left anonymous. About half are written by David.

    Is there any place in the Bible where God commands someone to practice plural marrage for any reasons including being able to head on into a place called the celestial kingdom? The pattern for manogamy is set in Genesis: 2:24 it’s the clinging to one wife/one flesh verse. Most Israelites were monogamous see Exodus 10:17; 21:5, Leviticus 18:8, 16:20; 20:10; Numbers 5:12; Deuterronomy 5:21. It was never considered a stanard practice, where as 19th Mormons did. By example, just about every OT story that has polygamy is a story of tragedy, punishment, or suffering as a direct result of the practice. Abraham didn’t practice polygamy because God told him. He did it because of his wife’s urging….Sarah couldn’t bear a child, no offspring, inheritance problems etc. In the NT, when talking about the qualifications of an overseer in the Church, it says that he must be the husband of one wife. It can’t get any clearer than that.

  34. MH,
    If you want to lock into specific subjects in Christian History, there is a publication called “Christian History and Biography.” Each issue deals with one topic. I subscribed for several years, but then for some reason, I let it lapse. I just went to their website and ordered some back issues I wanted. It’s pretty reasonable, $5 plus shipping. The five issues I ordered totaled out to $29. These are magazines I keep for reference. The scholarship is very good and the writing excellent. The articles don’t try to shade things to a point of view as I see it. They just kind of lay things out. The chart I referenced was in issue 51 “Heresy and the Early Church.” One of the issues I just got is titled “Debating Jesus’ Divinity: The Council of Nicaea and its bitter aftermath.”

  35. Falcon,

    Thanks for the reference to Christian History and Biography. I’ll definitely look into it.

    I’ll keep my comments short here. Our comments have veered so far off of course that I think a new post is in order. Please reference my new post.

    Paragraph 1. Disqualified. Irrelevant. Doesn’t follow rules of experiment. Most of paragraph 2 disqualified as well. See my new post for the rest of my comments.

  36. […] how does marcionism relate to the apostasy […]

  37. […] and I discussed interesting similarites between him and Joseph Smith.  I also did a post on Marcionism.   Marcion lived 110 – 160 AD in Sinope, Turkey.  He is probably the first person who […]

  38. Marcion never was a Catholic. There are 3 stories of his excommunication in the church fathers, and they don’t agree.

    (1) He was a bishop who came to Rome to buy a second realm to be bishop of and was excommunicated on the spot for simony.

    (2) He was the son of a bishop who had sex with a woman out of wedlock and was excommunicated, came to Rome to buy back his fellowship but they wouldn’t take his money.

    (3) He was a priest who came to Rome, made a large donation for no apparent reason, taught for a few years before becoming heretical, was finally thrown out with a FULL REFUND!

    Obviously the excommunication story is a lie. The Catholics couldn’t admit a church existed before theirs, so they made these stories up.

  39. […] Falcon makes the case that Joseph is a fraud because of his polygamy, and by extension, the Book of Mormon should not be considered scripture. So, I decided to issue a challenge. Here’s the reader’s digest version of the challenge, but you can see the entire set of instructions here. […]

  40. […] out my posts on Marcionism and Gnosticism to learn more about these movements.  Here’s another post on Gnosticism and […]

  41. Did u know about that letter from the bishop of smirna describíng the baptism of their dead relatives? Among marcionists?

    Interesting coincidence…

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