Marcionites and Biologos

The Marcionite impulse keeps popping up over the centuries. Whenever some Christians feel the Gnostic impulse to denigrate Creation, they reinvent Marcionite teachings — more “elevated” and “purer” than the mere Orthodoxy preached by the Church. When the Nazis convinced Christian churches that Jews were the root of all evil, tame theologians stepped up to rehabilitate Marcion.

And today we face Marcionism in a new and more virulent form. Progressive Christians seem perfectly happy to offer the Marcionite sex change (snip here, snip there) to the Church’s historic doctrines. They shed most of the Old Testament, especially. It contains those pesky prohibitions of most sexual sins, as well as firm endorsements of national borders, private property, and the “patriarchal” family.

Marcionite Christianity fit perfectly with the philosophic opinions and cultural attitudes of the age. Marcion did the same. Faced with the difficulties of the Old Testament, he sliced it off. Marcion declared the “God” of the Hebrew Bible unworthy of Jesus’ “higher” and “purer” ethics.

Does Bio-logos display this tendency at all?

Marcion wanted to get rid of the Old Testament. So did the Nazis. It’s antisemitism at its core. That’s why I tend to lose my poo whenever somebody tries to to the same. But what is the Marcionite sex change?

This is not entirely accurate. Marcion of Sinope did reject the Old Testament believing Yahweh to be incompatible with Jesus. However, he achieved this by teaching a ditheistic worldview in which Yahweh represented a lower, materially oriented God, who was succeeded by a purer transcendent deity encapsulated in the teachings of Christ and the Gospels.

Marcion of Sinope - Wikipedia

Personally, a more fitting analogy for what you are arguing for, I would think, would be Thomas Jefferson’s approach to the New Testament - literally slicing out the bits he did not like.

For clarity, what exactly do you mean by “the Gnostic impulse to denigrate Creation”?


On an aside, sexuality is a highly charged topic that often overlaps with politics and political discourse. Can we try our best to discuss the OP without sliding into discussions of sexuality, please? Ta.

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I have no idea what this OP is actually asking about. Clearly BioLogos views the whole counsel of Scripture as valuable and authoritative, and no one is discounting the Old Testament. The forum is not the place for discussing the politics around gender and sexuality issues, property rights, or immigration, whether is it cloaked in theological language or not.

And BioLogos will not be taking any public positions on gender and sexuality issues either, as they are not central to their mission and people who support BioLogos’ mission fall on different places on the spectrum of Christians beliefs about what should be affirmed or opposed.

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Yeah I think the Marcionite impulse pops up whenever someone want to cut Christianity down to their own intolerant little cult. To prop up bigotry against scientists the creationists will read Genesis selectively in order force it to fit something which disagrees with the findings of science. But they really have cut all the things in Genesis which don’t agree with this. What we must do is follow in the footsteps of the patriarchs of Christianity to defend the full spectrum of Christianity in all the scriptures and all of the Christian experience, including the fact that majority of Christianity accepts the findings of science in the theory of evolution.

Indeed… fundamentalists seem perfectly happy to chop Christianity down to some tiny local cult ignoring the full spectrum of worldwide Christianity in order to justify transforming Christianity back into the legalistic religion like that of the Pharisees. And when you have made your God and Christianity small enough to fit your back pocket then it can be tool of rhetoric and power for evil. Then we will see them marching with guns once again to kill off anyone who refuses to fit into their tiny mind ways of thinking.

Nope, that would be the creationists and fundamentalists. After all it is among them that you will find the Neo-nazi groups after all.

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What was a eunuch but a snip here and a snip there?

National borders? The nations are a drop in the bucket, dust in the balance. All nations will flow to the mountain of the Lord.

Private property? “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless.”

The OT recognized throughout that non-typical families exist, and it protected the rights of the orphan, widow, and stranger.

The Old Testament was more progressive than either you or Marcion realized. The Hebrew Bible was the Bible that Jesus read, to borrow a phrase. Pitting Jesus against the OT is a losing battle.

Other than that, I have nothing more to say.

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Marcion did not only snip around the Old Testament. He also had a heydey snipping up the Gospel of Luke and epistles of Paul.

Which fools are these? No scientist would, no atheist. What perversion do they come up with, these Christians you know? Or is it just the utter morons who deny anthropogenic climate change or worse say it doesn’t matter, it’s fulfilling prophecy and it’s Jesus’ job to sort it out on His return?

Marcion gets a bad wrap. He understood something a lot of the Church has missed the last 2,000 years. Jesus is not okay with all the violence in the Old Testament or the “hatred for one’s enemies.” In Matthew 5 where Jesus is mostly commenting on scripture (you heard it said… but I say) he seems to repudiate the attitude embraced by many passages in the Old Testament. At times the God of the Old Testament looks more like other gods of primitive mythology. Meanwhile, the orthodox Church proper, has been misreading much of the Old Testament for last 2,000 years, finding Jesus in all manner of places he does not exegetically belong. Furthermore, the Church has generally assume all these stories were true and operated under that assumption. The Orthodox Church has missed a lot when it comes to the OT. When you look at passages where God commands total annihilation and rape and murders someone for picking up sticks on a Sunday etc etc, it’s clear to me the ball was dropped. The Old Testament has a lot to teach us about God’s continued faithfulness despite man’s failing but much of it is most definitely a time-piece from another world. Let us not pretend Marcion got it all wrong and the Orthodox Church got it right. The Old Testament has been misused by orthodox Christians just as badly and anyone who thinks all of it is inerrant… well Marcion is miles of ahead of them doctrinally.

Vinnie

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I agree with this as an overall narrative understanding of where scriptures eventually go - with Christ. But I think it also needs to be recognized that it isn’t so simple or accurate to conclude that Christ openly repudiated so much of the old law in a consistently open or obvious way. Yes - there are all the “It was said … but I tell you …” references that I think most obviously make the case for a kind of ‘supersession’ of which you speak, but there are also quite many places where Christ either refers to the law affirmingly or else misses opportunities to repudiate its harshness and instead takes it for granted as part of the divinely given scriptural heritage of his day. Just this morning, I read the passage of his exchange with the Pharisees in Mark (7:10) where he chastises them for not taking care of their parents as they ought. Jesus says: “Moses said ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘he who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death’…” [Emphasis added by me.] Now; does Jesus really advocate for death penalties? I would say ‘no’, based on the whole of his life and teachings. But you wouldn’t know it from these verses, which he uses [without any apparent opprobrium or mitigation] to rebuke the Pharisees. He also doesn’t shy away from violent old testament language and imagery to describe the wrath of God in various parables. Again; those who are “wrathful God” enthusiasts love to make much of such passages, but I don’t think their case is successful given the whole of Jesus’ teachings and life. But what it does lead me to believe is that Jesus was willing to make use of the prevailing cultural views of God at the time (shaped by a lot of old testament perspective that is indeed wrathful) in order to help ‘move the needle’ toward a yet-more-complete perspective of God. I guess this is what is called the ‘progressive revelation’ approach; and it makes sense to me of how Christ helps us understand all of scripture.

I don’t disagree. I said specifically “violence” and not the law in general as in that same chapter in Matthew Jesus says he did not come to abolish the law. The Jewishness of Jesus is clear:

Jesus was certainly a first century Palestinian Jew with a high view of parts of our current Old Testament, of which he said spoke about him (John 45-47). Jesus accepted many of the religious practices of his day, frequently went to synagogues and in one instance reads from Isaiah (Luke 4) and in another uses a story of David in Samuel to defend his disciples actions (Mark 2:23-28, 1 Sam 21:1-7). In Matthew 5:23-24, the very chapter under discussion above, we see Jesus assuming the legitimacy of Temple practices (settle your dispute then present your gift). He celebrates Passover with an evening meal and wears a ritualistic garment, the fringes of which the people grab hold of (Mk 6:56). As Paula Fredrisken writes, “These fringes are not decorative but ritual. God had instructed Moses on them in a passage in Numbers that was incorporated into the Sh’ma. . . . Pious Jews would (and do) wear these; if Jesus did, too, it would be small surprise.”[1] Jesus summarizes the Law and the Prophets as loving God with all your heart, mind and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself (Deut 6:4-5, Josh 22:5 and Lev 19:18). Even when criticizing opponents on their purposes in practicing it, Jesus stresses Jewish piety such as fasting, giving alms and praying (Matt 6:1-18). In Matthew 17 Jesus pays the Temple tax so as to not offend also thinks weightier and non-weightier matters of the Law must be observed (Matthew 23:23). In Matthew Jesus mentions Sodom and Gomorrah (10:15), Moses (19:18), David (22:43), Abel and Zechariah (Matt 23:35), Daniel (24:15), Noah (24:37) and he quotes Scriptures numerous times. Names and scriptural citations also are abundant in Mark and Luke as well. Jesus frequently uses Scripture in the gospels to argue against opponents, explain teachings and he highlights prophecy which speaks about him. We can quibble about the exact extent of the Old Testament canon at the time of Jesus, but it is abundantly clear that Jesus accepted the Old Testament as sacred Scripture. The thoroughly Jewish character of Jesus throughout the gospels is undeniable—more so in Matthew. The Christian authors themselves and others continuing in to the second century all thought the Old Testament was Scripture and cast Jesus fully in light of it. There is no point going through or listing every passage on this score when exegesis of a few key problematic ones will suffice for our purposes here.

[1] Jesus of Nazareth pg 109

Jews in general did not follow this punishment at the time. The law was just conventional knowledge for a Galilean Jew like Jesus at the time. Jesus may not be endorsing the punishment but saying you make up all these special rules and regulations and interpret the law a special way but by the law you dishonor it and deserve death. The point is, by their own standard they deserve death. I don’t see a need for Jesus to comment on the harshness of the punishment. That wasn’t his point and we have no idea if he ultimately did, didn’t, would have or wouldn’t of. We can only guesstimate by the other words of this charismatic preacher.

I found it interesting how you phrased this in light of the “take this cup from” me discussion some of us have had. I would say, Jesus was born a Jew in the first third of the first century and grew up in that culture and adopted its language, idioms and background knowledge. Within this context, he flouted conventions at times and put himself on par with Israel’s ultimate authority. Maybe in the end we are saying the same thing but I don’t view it as a divine Jesus “purposefully using cultural views he knows are incorrect.” I view it from the perspective of the emptied Jesus with limited knowledge who was born and raised as a 1st century Galilean Jew. From a view of salvation history, how you phrased it could make sense to me with a few tweaks to its wording.

Vinnie

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Kudos! The Hebrew Bible was the only Bible the early church had except for the letters of Paul later on. Good to see it appreciated.

What language was the Septuagint written in again?

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Plain English, just like the KJV!

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The Hebrew Scriptures (by that I meant the OT). It was translated into Greek.

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