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MARCION INFILTRATION OF THE CHURCH

Grace - a word which has so oftentimes been mentioned by the lips of Bible-believing Christians. There has been so much emphasis on grace doctrines in the church today that the church has comparatively little knowledge and understanding of the Law as in the Old Testament. The church is not even aware that this shift of focus had been propagated ever since the 2nd century.

What has caused the church to pay so little attention to the Law and the Prophets and other parts of the Bible and so much attention to Paul and his writings on grace? The church today is in reality very much influenced by a "church father" by the name of Marcion.

At the beginning, after all the apostles had died, the leaders who replaced them were mostly Gentiles from pagan backgrounds. These Gentiles had comparatively little understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures as compared to the Jewish apostles who had been exposed to the teachings of the Law and the Prophets since their childhood. As such, the danger was there to have a shift in focus to the New Testament.

Let’s examine further into the life of Marcion in order to have a better understanding of the development of his theology in the church today. Marcion was born around 100 C.E. (A.D.) at Sinope, a seaport located on the Black Sea coast of Asia Minor. His father was a leader in the church and so Marcion grew up in fellowship with the church in Asia Minor. Sometime after 138 C.E., Marcion travelled to Rome and became a member of one of the Roman churches. As a wealthy ship-owner, Marcion was able to make relatively large contributions to the church to prove the sincerity of his faith and he became a respected member in the Christian community. He was eloquent and learned in the contemporary form of the Gospel and the early Christian community and so gave the impression of being a Christian teacher with apostolic authority.

Marcion was later condemned as a heretic when he developed unorthodox views that brought him into conflict with the Roman church. He was even formally excommunicated and his contribution to the church was refunded. He then went on his own way and started energetically propagating a strange kind of Christianity that quickly swept across large sections of the Roman Empire. By the end of the 2nd century, his doctrine became a serious threat to the mainstream Christian Church.

Marcion’s reference was always the teachings of Paul (the only apostle whom he trusted), especially that of the saving grace. In his belief, the saving grace of God was miraculous. He held the whole creation to be faulty, being the creation of a lesser god, thus containing no element of the divine. Marcion was influenced by Persian dualism (two forces in the universe, one good and one bad, who are constantly fighting it out for supremacy) and believed that the Creator God who created the material universe was the God of Israel, who was a totally different God from the Father spoken of in the gospel of Christ. The Father Marcion held as the highest was perfect, good and merciful. He was love and He was not the god of justice and the lawgiver of the Old Testament, the bad God.

Marcion claimed that nothing of truth and good could be found in the Old Testament and that after Jesus Christ, the Law was obsolete. Jesus had come to free man from the Law. He believed that the gospel is entirely a gospel of love to the exclusion of the Mosaic Law. The preaching in the church today that we are no longer under the Law but under grace alone is part of his theology.

Marcion, therefore, rejected the entire Old Testament. Today, many believers also make a clear division between the Old Testament Law and New Testament grace, and view the Law as opposed to grace. The Law is seen as obsolete and of little use to a Christian. They shun the Old Testament God because He is too stern and fierce. The judgements that He made was far too "terrifying" for them to take. They would rather focus on the "New Testament God" who does not expect obedience to His laws. He is kind and forbids sin; but will give choice to each individual. Thus, the spirit of Marcion still has a very strong influence on the Church today.

One discovery is that the popularity of the Scofield Reference Bible has also contributed to the thriving of the spirit of Marcion in churches today. According to Botkin, several of Scofield’s notes strongly suggest a Marcionite view of Law and Grace and a reader of the notes is left with the impression that Law and Grace are mutually exclusive.

By the time Marcion finished editing the Scriptures and rejecting any New Testament writings which seemingly spoke favourably of "Jewish practices", his "Bible" consisted only of ten of Paul’s epistles and Luke’s Gospel. For him, the church was to replace the synagogue, grace was to replace the Law, pagan holidays were to replace the Holy Days of the Lord as found in Leviticus 23, spiritual Israel was to replace physical Israel, and the church was Israel’s replacement and was now to receive all that had been promised to Israel.

For several generations, Marcion’s church survived. He and his followers followed a strict ethic. One was not allowed to eat meat, fish, eggs, etc or drink wine. Christians could not serve as guards or soldiers and were not allowed to bear weapons. There was to be no contact with the opposite sex. The institution of marriage was scorned and birth of children forbidden. Although there was conversion in his church, the lay community did not like his message. Even the church servants who used certain passages in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, to acquire wealth (the Old Testament preserved gifts, offerings and tithes for the priesthood) saw Marcion’s theology as a threat to their rights.

Although Marcion’s anti-Jewish, pro-Paul churches spread throughout the Roman Empire and became a threat to the Messianic faith, the irony remains that his replacement theology has infiltrated into the church of today. So let us not take the grace of God for granted but embrace the God of the Old Testament as well; for He is the only ONE God throughout the ages.

 

Beryl Ng
Dip.Ed,B.A., BA(B.Th)
Assistant Registrar & Lecturer
El-Shaddai Conventions
A member of Patriarchy Website

Copyright Beryl Ng, 1998
This article was first published in the Word Aflame Newsletter, of El-Shaddai Conventions,
The Training Arm of our Vision.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Ghost Of Marcion - http://www.iahushua.com/~gatesofeden/marcion.htm
Marcion and the Marcionites - http://shell5.ba.best.com/~gdavis/ntcanon/marcion.htm
Christian Gnosticism - http://home.sol.no/~chrg.htm#marcion
Replacement Theology - http://www.pond.net/~tio/bible/replace.htm
Marcion’s Heresy And The Descent Into Apostasy - http://www.bfree.org/gfmw/jan98.htm

 

RESTORATION OF BIBLICAL PATRIARCHY

HEBRAIC ROOTS OF CHRISTIANITY

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