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Marcion and Judahite Polytheism

This is from the discussion here (Marcion’s non-Jewish Jesus):

Prof. Neil Godfrey:

We do not know the details of what Marcion’s gospel contained. Tertullian tells us that he writes from memory (his first draft was lost or stolen), and Marcion’s gospel was said to have been regularly being revised even after Marcion’s time. So by the time we are reading accounts of Irenaeus and Tertullian we cannot know what version of Marcion’s gospel they were reading. Nor can we know how much they were paraphrasing accurately from memory.

But there is good reason to think that Marcion’s gospel was closer to the gospel of Luke’s than it was to the other canonical gospels — discussed in Did Marcion Mutilate the Gospel of Luke.

There must have been some overlap between Marcion's gospel and canonical Luke for Marcion's opponents after Justin to have thought it was canonical Luke he had mutilated. Most notably Luke is the only gospel containing that passage so central to Marcionism — the statement in Luke 6 about the 2 trees and fruit of good and evil.

[…]

Marcion's Alien (Top) God did not create the physical world, but left this to his subordinate Demiurge, the god of the Jewish bible. It is correct that the idea does not originate with Marcion — Marcion embraced it from well known philosophical speculations.

Loomis:

[…]

How are your Old Testament polytheism chops? Are you familiar with the notion that the God in the Old Testament is actually a conflation between Yahweh and the gods of the Canaanite pantheon?

This hypothesis asserts that the original god of Israel was a bull-god called El, and that Yahweh was considered a separate deity. – But that over time these two gods were combined to create one monotheistic god. It involves a divine family, and all kinds of gods and ‘Sons of God’.

I can’t help but wonder if Marcion’s theology is based on that knowledge, or at least based on some naïve screwed up misconstruction related to it. He wouldn’t have to invent a new god with a new son, he would only have to read the OT with a different slant.

Me:

Well this makes sense too… maybe Marcion simply read the LXX version of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (and similar other places):

32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, When he separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of god.
32:9 For Jehovah's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance

[The god] Jehovah received the tribe of the Jews from the Most High god. Jehovah gave the Jews their law and prophets and will give them their messiah, but the Most High god was a totally different god – and Jesus is the son of this Most High god, not the son of Jehovah.

Notice that this verse is corrected to remove the inherent polytheism and to reflect monotheism in current Bibles.

DG:

Just figure out who Melchizadek (sp?) was worshiping and you got it!

Loomis:

The one in Genesis 14 was a high priest of El [Elyon – i.e. the god most high]. He [Melchizedek] never heard of Yahweh. Genesis 14 is an old Canaanite story. The ‘Yahweh’ in verse 22 is a insertion. The entire chapter (14) is an insertion.

Melchizedek was the King of Salem – named after S[h]alim the god of dusk. Shalim was Shahar’s brother. They were both sons of El but Shahar was mothered by As[h]arah and Shalim was mothered by Anat.

DG:

Now, just for fun, whose god do Christians actually worship?

The Jewish God or Marcion's?

Me:

Marcion called the god of Jesus, god the father, the good god – the god of goodness. 1 John 8:4 (i.e. “god is love”) is closer to Marcionism than Judaism. There's nothing in Jewish scripture that says that YHWH is love. If anything, he's the god of justice — see Isaiah 30:18 — exactly what Marcion said he was.

Of course, I think that Marcionism was assimilated (along with Judaism) by the later Catholics so that we get the contradictory modern Christian god. A god who is both love and justice. Both all forgiving and jealous. One is Marcion’s god, the other is the Jewish god.

 
 

The Most Important Christian Besides Jesus And Paul

That would be Marcion.

Much of what we know about Marcion’s origins are shrouded in mystery. And the bulk of what we know about Marcion comes from his “orthodox” — sometimes extremely hateful — opponents, such as Polycarp (c. 130) Justin Martyr (c. 150), Irenaeus (c. 180), Tertullian (c. 200), Epiphanus (c. 350) and later heresioloigsts. By far, Marcion and his Marcionites were the heretics polemicized against the most in ante-Nicaea Christianity.

Marcion was a consecrated bishop who was also a shipbuilder; a profession that took him all around the “known world” of the 2nd century. Marcion was educated, affluent, and influential. A dedicated and honest Christian, he was probably the first to realize a conspiracy in Christian theology.

The Christ of Christianity was not the propheciezed Jewish messiah.

Not only that, but Jesus’ teachings were incompatible with the teachings of the god of the Hebrew bible.

Before the “orthodoxy” and the “New Testament” had been cemented, Marcion seemed to be aware of two gospels. One a neutral gospel narrative and a highly Judaized version of it. Thus Marcion might also be the first witness of what would become the Synoptic Problem, and may have contributed to it.

Marcion by his Antitheses accuses [a gospel text] of having been interpolated by the protectors of Judaism with a view to its being so combined in one body with the law and the prophets

– Tertullian, “Against Marcion” 4.4.4

The Law was written, the Prophets were written, it stands to reason that the gospel Marcion accused the Judaizers of falsifying was written too, so as to be combined into one corpus with the Law and the Prophets. This sounds like the Ebionites who only revered a form of Matthew as being Jewish scripture along with the Law and the Prophets. And of course, Matthew is heavily based on Mark which was more than likely the original gospel.

It was probably this highly Judaized gospel that made Marcion realize that many of the “prophecies” about Jesus when read in context simply weren’t messainic prophecies. In this respect, Marcion agreed with the Jews that Jesus was not their messiah and that their messiah had not yet come. Marcion wanted to give the Jews their religion and their book back to them, instead of Christianizing Jewish scripture by reading passages out of their Jewish context to pseudo-proof-text Jesus’ status as the Jewish messiah.

So then what was Jesus, if he wasn’t the Jewish messiah?

Marcion claimed that the god of the Jews was a “just” god; a god of blind justice. And this god’s law was a neutral law – red in tooth and claw like the world of nature he created – meant to establish a covenant between himself and his chosen people. For faithfully following this god’s law, he would send the Jews a king made in his likeness – equally just, but harsh. And this god and his anointed king would give the Jews their own homeland, prosperity, and longevity. Jesus, however, was not this king. Jesus was the son of a different god. An unknown god. A higher god who did not create such a cruel world. A god of love. Not just a god of “justice”.

Much like a lot of modern deconverts from Christianity, Marcion juxtaposed the teachings of Jesus with the teachings of Yahweh and noticed the disconnect (his Antithesis noted above). How could an unchangeable god change so drastically like that? How could a god of mercy and forgiveness also be a god who creates both good and evil (Isaiah 45:7)? So for Marcion, Jesus was no longer the “christus”, the messiah or anointed one, but the “chrestus”. Chrestus (Χρηστου, pronounced “chraestou”) meant the good or useful. A difference of one iota (where that phrase comes from) between the two titles.

So for Marcion, Jesus was the Good, the son of the god of love and mercy, and Paul was his chief apostle who realized this through revelation. As Paul’s letter to Galatians explicitly states. Marcion is the first Christian to present a canon of Paul’s letters and an anti-Matthew gospel as Sacred Scripture. The first “New Testament”, which consisted of 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and the anti-Matthew gospel. Since Marcion’s profession took him all around the known world, his influence also spread likewise. By 150, Justin Martyr laments that all of the known world is following Marcion:

And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them.

– Justin’s “First Apology” ch. 26

The first Roman encounter with Christians wasn’t with Catholics, but with Marcionites. Roman governors and historians like Seutonius, Tacitus, and Pliny lament that Roman citizens are following a “new, suspicious” religion that makes supplications to a “Chrestus” as they would to a god. When the Roman Catholic Church became the official religion of the Roman empire, they “corrected” these mistakes in official Roman archives.

Chrestians “corrected” to read Christians

As a result of Marcion’s canon, the “orthodoxy” had to react, and they had to react to Marcion’s worldwide popularity… already established in the mid 2nd century. They did this by presenting their own collection of Pauline epistles, the Pastoral Epistles, the Catholic epistles of 1 Peter, James, Jude, and John, Acts of the Apostles (a product of 2nd century “Acts of…” Christian literature), and a [re]Judaized version of Marcion’s anti-Matthew gospel which was first called “Luke” by Irenaeus c. 180. Our current “Luke” is more than likely an anti-Marcionite product.

The Pastoral Epistles and Acts of the Apostles are the more obvious anti-Marcionite creations, where Paul himself supposedly declares in Acts that the “unknown god” of the “Greeks” is in fact Jesus Christ (Acts 17:23). Real Greek citizens already knew who the god of the Jews was; Jews and Greeks had been interacting since the time of Alexander the Great (300 BCE). So this was actually a jab at Marcion and his unknown god. The other coincidence being that the majority of New Testament scholars conclude that the [anti-Marcionite] Pastoral Epistles were not written by the same person who wrote the other Pauline epistles.

The Marcionites’ popularity in later centuries rivaled that of the Roman church and the two competed for the title of “universal” (catholic in Greek) church. Of course, the Pauline epistles we find in our current New Testaments are not exactly the Pauline letters found in Marcion’s canon. Our current Pauline letters are a response to the Marcionite Paul to sway Marcionites to the Catholics. Which is why there are many “truisms” found in our current Pauline corpus, such as “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). This of course is not found in Marcion’s version of Galatians, with Marcion being our first witness to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Marcion did not think that Jesus was human in any sense, but only appeared human to stay hidden from the creator god, the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 3:9[1]) to secretly release man from the “curse of the law” (Gal 3:10,13) and pull a fast one on the god of the Jews’ hyper-emphasis on eye-for-an-eye justice. Though there were subtle clues left by this unknown god throughout the prophets (Eph 3:4). By sacrificing an innocent — Good Jesus (Chrest Jesus, a grammatical phrase only found in Paul/Marcion) — the law of the god of this age demanded recompense for this transgression and the agreement being that Jesus The Good took in and nullified the law to give man an escape from the law for any who believed in his sacrifice. The Catholic reinterpretation of this has the absurdity of god sacrificing himself to himself to save man from himself, instead of a god of love sacrificing its son to a separate god of bare justice to free humans from the law that a god of mercy would not create.

Marcion’s popularity was based on the more logical soteriology of his Pauline letters and his canon is the reason why Paul’s letters are seen as an authority, and why they make up the bulk of our New Testament.

The Catholic rewriting and editing of Marcion’s Paul is why the Pauline epistles are sometimes hard to follow, and why he seems to go off on tangents. There are three voices in our current “Paul”: Paul, Marcion, and the Catholic refutation of Marcion. If I were to somehow go back to Christian belief, I would become some sort of Marcionite, since Marcionite belief is more logical than modern Christianity. And as I argue, Marcionite belief is more original than Catholic belief (and its bastard little brother Protestant belief).

Ironically, Anglicizing Marcion’s (Μαρκιων) Latin/Greek name would end up as Mark.

[1]Note that Marcion’s version of Eph 3:9 has “the mystery hidden for ages from the God who created all things” (Tertullian, “Against Marcion” Book 5, chp 18)

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2009 in early Christianity, marcion, marcionism

 

επεγεγραπτο αγνωστω θεω

Inscribed To An Unknown God
1. The Hebrew writings are translated into Greek (LXX) c. 280 BCE for the Greek general Ptolemy Philadelphus

2. Gentiles find a mystery, hidden within the text

3. This mystery is that there is a greater god apart from and unknown to the Hebrew god and that this hidden god has sent his son to act as a ransom to free humans from the law of the creator.

4. Originators such as “Paul” preached this message as revealed gospel.

5. Later, as the religion fractured, certain groups discounted the idea of a separate god from the creator, instead fusing the character of this unknown god onto the Hebrew god, Yahweh.

6. This fusing accounts for three central quirks of Christianity:

a) A noticable change in the character of god from the orginal Hebrew version to the later Christian version

b) The fact that god, who in the past has no issue dealing directly with his creation, now needs a mediator.

c) The interesting and quite ridiculous “bottom line” of Christianity being that God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself.

This all clears up once one realises that the original Christian god was another god entirely and makes the entire religion make, as much as any relgion can, sense.

Isn’t there a story in Acts of the Apostles where Paul says to some Greeks that the sacrifices they made to the “unknown god” was in fact the Christian god?

Acts 17:23

23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD (επεγεγραπτο αγνωστω θεω). Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

Why would these Greeks be unaware of the Christian god if he was supposed to be one and the same to the Hebrew god? The Greeks most certainly knew about the Jews and their god. This was probably put in to fuse the once separate Christian god and the Jewish god, which would be an attack on the Marcionites. Another line of evidence that Acts of the Apostles was written in the mid to late 2nd century, since there was no Marcionism in the 1st century.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2009 in acts of the apostles, marcion, marcionism, unknown god

 

The Earliest Christian Inscription

The earliest known church inscription (found near Damascus) is Marcionite, and dates to 318 CE.

Συναγωγη Μαρκιωνιστων κωμ(ης)
Λεβαβων του κ(υριο)υ και σω(τη)ρ(ος) Ιη(σου) Χρηστου
προνοια(ι) Παυλου πρεσβ(υτερου) — του λχ’ ετους.

[“The meeting-house of the Marcionists, in the village of
Lebaba, of the Lord and Savior Jesus The Good.
Erected by the forethought of Paul the elder — In the year 630.”]

Interesting.

χριστου (Christoy – pronounced close to “crystal”) means “the anointed”. χρηστου (Chrestoy – pronounced “chreestou”) means “the good” or “the useful”.

The name Christian, however, so far as its meaning goes, bears the sense of anointing. Even when by a faulty pronunciation you call us Chrestians (for you are not certain about even the sound of this noted name), you in fact lisp out the sense of pleasantness and goodness.

– Tertullian in Ad Nationes 1 c. 200 CE

Though “Chrestians” might be a designator for “the useful ones”, which was a common name for slaves. And then there’s this:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Chrestians by the populace. Chrestus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

– Tacitus, Annals 15.44 c.117 CE

Interesting confusion over “Christian” (χριστιανοι – the anointed ones) and “Chrestian” (χρηστιανοι – the good ones). What a difference one iota makes!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2009 in chrestian, christian, early Christianity, marcion, marcionism, paul, tacitus

 
 
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