Marcion
(c. 85–c. 160
)

Catalyst for a New Testament

The reason Christians have 27 books in their New Testament, some scholars say, is partly because early church leaders didn’t like the 12 that Marcion had compiled. They didn’t care much for Marcion, either.

Famous bishop Polycarp called Marcion “the firstborn of Satan.” Justin Martyr said this wealthy shipbuilder “taught men to deny that God is the maker of all things.” Tertullian said he was “more savage than the beasts of that barbarous region” where he grew up, in what is now northern Turkey.

The lowest blow, which many scholars discount, came from Hippolytus. He said Marcion was excommunicated by his father for seducing a virgin. Then again, the sect Marcion later established would baptize only believers who vowed to remain celibate.

Marcion insisted on this because he said there were two Gods: the harsh. Creator God of the Old Testament and the loving God revealed in Jesus. Procreation, Marcion explained, was the idea of the Creator God, and Marcion wanted nothing to do with him.

To further distance themselves from this God, Marcionites fasted and shunned worldly goods. A fifth-century writer told of meeting a 90-year-old Marcionite who washed every morning in his own spit so he could avoid using the water provided by the Creator.

Marcion wrote Antithesis to convince people there were two Gods. He pointed out that Jesus said, “No good tree bears bad fruit” (Luke 6:43). Meanwhile, though, the Old Testament God openly admitted, “I bring prosperity and create disaster” (Isaiah 45:7).

Some scholars estimate that by the time Marcion died, when his church was at its peak of popularity, more than half of Christianity was under the sway of Marcionite teaching.

Their Bible—the first ...

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