Marcion of Sinope was a devotee to Paul’s writings; nevertheless this gentile shipping magnate had a very unbalanced view of Christianity and Paul. In 144 A.D. in Rome (one of the several growing centers of Christianity), he proposed to the Bishop of Rome a new Bible based upon his belief that the world had entered a new age because of Christ.
Marcion felt that Jesus was the founder of an entirely new religion that had no connection to anything previous to it. For him Yeshua was Jewish only due to an accident of birth, and that the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and its prophecies about a Messiah had no bearing on who Jesus was. Thus, as is the true case in many Christian denominations today, for Marcion the Old Testament had no place in a Christian Bible or in the Christian faith.
Rather the Old Testament is simply ignored. Or in some cases congregations are warned that it is dangerous and to stay out of it as studying it might lead them to question or even abandon their faith in Christ.
Now Marcion, who indeed saw Christ as God, also saw Him as the new God while God the Father was the old God. And since God the Father had never appeared on earth before and directly ministered to people, then Christ was the superior God.
Thus we have God the Father as the God of Israel, and we have superior Jesus Christ as the God of Christianity, thus making Christianity superior to the religion of the Israelites. And according to Marcion it was Paul who faithfully taught this supposed truth. It was Paul alone of all the Apostolic writers who kept the true witness of Christ; the rest were too Jewish and therefore heretics.
Thus Marcion proposed a new Bible consisting of two parts:
- The first part was to be called The Gospel and
- The second part was to be called The Apostle.
The Gospel was to be only Luke’s Gospel: one that had been suitably edited by Marcion. The Apostle would consist of nine letters (Epistles) written by Paul. They too had been edited. And that’s it.
Marcion published his new Christian Bible canon and it of course immediately caused a tremendous uproar. One has to ask a question at this point:
If only one of the four Gospels in circulation that Marcion found suitable was Luke’s, why did he find Luke’s Book of Acts unfit for his new Christian Bible?
First we have to recall something I mentioned in my previous blog posts; Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts were originally one unified work produced by Luke, but it did consist of two volumes. At first it circulated as a book called History of Christian Origins. But some years later it was divided and made into two separate books: the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.
By now the Gospel of Luke had gained wide acceptance but the Book of Acts was not viewed with the same favor in some corners of Christianity, and certainly not in Marcion’s eyes. And those corners that had disdain for the Book of Acts were generally those who wanted Christianity to be a gentiles-only religion.
Because Marcion’s view was seen as so radical the Bishop of Rome and other Church Bishops took up the challenge and officially looked at the issue of just how authoritative certain of the circulating Epistles and Gospels were to be considered. They were not deciding on a new Biblical canon, but rather they were responding to Marcion’s outrageous views.
The result was that they gave equal weight to four particular Gospels chosen from among the several more that were in circulation around the Church at that time (some Gnostic Gospels were also part of that mix). And the chosen four were the ones we’re familiar with:
- Luke and
They also declared that 10 letters (not 9) written by Paul were authoritative (not inspired Scripture, just authoritative for instructing the Church), as well as some of Peter’s writings.
And to Marcion’s greatest disdain, the Book of Acts was included as authoritative. In fact, the Church renamed this work of Luke to “The Book of the Acts of the Apostles” (Apostles, plural), so that it was understood that the Church Bishops considered more writers than only Paul as both authoritative and as Apostles.
Due to the Book of Acts being re-validated, Yeshua’s Jewishness was returned to Him and Paul was given back the context of his own Hebrew heritage and his continued dedication to the Jewish religion.