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Christianity / Orientations / Heresy /
Marcionism


In Christianity, a sectarian doctrine (see heresy) beginning in the 2nd and lasting several centuries, promoting the idea of two cosmic gods. Marcionism is also part of Gnosticism.
Marcionism lasted until the middle of the 5th century in the West, but perhaps as long as into the 8th century in the East.
The original concepts of Marcionism was that there were two gods in the Bible, the god of the Old Testament and the god of the New Testament.
The Old Testament god was righteous, yet often inconsistent, jealous, wrathful and genocidal. He was the creator of the universe, the world that man was a part of, with both body and soul. Marcionism defined the material world as defective, a place of suffering.
The god of the New Testament was one of goodness who had no relation with this world, and had not acted in any way in its creation. This second god sent Christ out of pure kindness, aiming at saving humans from the material world and to reveal the truth about existence. The crucifixion of Christ was an act that untied the human link to the creator god, setting him free and into a relation to the good god. Salvation was to help to soul free itself from the body.
Marcionism deviates from pure tenets of Gnosticism, in which the soul is created parallel to the material world and by the same deity. Also, contrary to pure Gnosticism's emphasis on knowledge and insight, Marcionism promotes faith as the central instrument in the redemption of the human soul. While Gnosticism largely were orientations reserved the privileged, Marcionism was an open orientation promoting a message intelligible to the large masses.
Marcionism had similarities with Docetism, both apparently denying a human nature of Christ.
Marcionism imposed a strict lifestyle of asceticism. The aim of this was to limit contact with the world, avoiding unnecessary contamination. Within their ranks, Marcionism allowed women a near equal position to men, letting them become both priests and bishops.
Marcion, the founder of Marcionism, is known for having made important advances into selecting a scriptural canon for Christianity. At his time, the books of the New Testament was not firmly set, a large collection of scriptures were in circulation around the Christian world. He selected only one gospel, the one of Luke, but reworked this in order to remove what he took for Jewish elements. In addition he added the letters of St. Paul (but not the Pastoral Epistles and the Epistle to the Hebrews, but added the Laodiceans) to his canon. Hence, in addition to being without the 3 gospels, his New Testament did not include the letters by other authors and the Book of Revelation. Marcion by this effort, forced through a similar process in the mainstream church, leading up to the definition of the present New Testament.
With his very alternative understanding of the divine and of Christ's redemption, Marcionism was denounced by its opponents as heresy, and written against by prominent church leaders. Yet, as already stated, the orientation would persist for centuries.

History
Around 140: Marcion, of origin in Asia Minor, comes under influence of Cerdo in Rome, developing doctrines with Gnostic elements incorporated into Christian theology. Where Cerdo's theories end, and Marcion begins, is difficult to reconstruct. Cerdo may actually have been the one defining Marcionism.
144: Marcion is expelled from the church, branded a heretic.
— Marcion establishes an ecclesiastical organization, funded by his own personal fortune.
208: Tertullian publishes Adversus Marcionem against Marcionism.
325: Marcionism is declared heretical at the First Council of Nicaea.




By Tore Kjeilen