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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible A richly illustrated account of the story of the Bible written by leading scholars.

A Gnostic Heretic: Marcion

A widespread movement in the second century and a strong rival of the church was the so-called Gnosis which combined a Platonic world-view with a spiritual form of Christian belief. Marcion, a wealthy shipowner, was a contemporary of Justin, whose teachings were already known throughout the whole Roman empire (cf. 1 Apol. 26: 1–5; 58: 1). According to Marcion, there are two gods: one, the minor, is the creator of the world (demiurge) and the god of Israel, the other is the redeemer who has revealed himself in Christ. This theory is part of Marcion's thoroughgoing gnostic dualism: he distinguishes strictly between law and gospel, between the material and the spiritual world. He seems to have regarded himself as a follower and pupil of Paul's: for his separate church, he selected a ‘purified’ canon of early Christian scriptures, in which the ten letters of Paul regarded as genuine received a central position. Paul's dialectic between law and gospel, to be restored from alleged falsifications, was the starting-point of his thought. But actually he separated the gospel from the law. In order to gain a scriptural basis, he introduced a special Marcionite gospel: a shortened Luke without chapters 1–3. The gospel means the liberation of man by the redemption effected on the cross by the redeemer, a heavenly being, coming down from heaven on a sudden without any previous announcement. Theories about messianic prophecy or typology in the Old Testament have to be abandoned. Whereas the demiurge is a judge, the ‘strange’ god does not judge or punish: he is nothing but love. ‘I create darkness’ a shortened version of Isaiah 45: 7 , is the proof text for Marcion's speculation that the demiurge is, though righteous, not good. Other negative attributes of the Old Testament god (he becomes angry, he avenges himself, he is a warrior) show that he cannot be the father of Jesus Christ. Therefore the Old Testament cannot be regarded as holy scripture for Christians. Marcion was not against the Jews, but in his opinion their Bible was reserved exclusively for them. His dualism is seen in the undialectic separation between good and bad, while his belief that redemption only liberates the souls, shows the Gnostic origin of his ideas. The main church had to fight a hard struggle against Gnosticism, and its victory was never final, because similar world-views exist to the present day.

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