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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Marcion

(c. 85-160). A 2nd century bishop who established a large Christian Gnostic sect and became a serious rival and threat to mainstream Christianity for more than two hundred years. His only work, Antitheses, is no longer extant. It is about the contradiction between the God of the Old Testament and the God of Christ. Our knowledge of Marcion comes mainly from writings that attempted to refute him, specifically, Tertullian, Irenaeus and Hippolytus.

Marcion rejected the entire Old Testament and regarded Christ not as the son of the Jewish God but of the Supreme God. Marcion did not believe in a Christ made flesh, which he considered as the carnalizing of the Christ-principle.

He compiled his own New Testament consisting of parts of St. Luke’s Gospel and ten epistles of Paul, namely, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. He called this new collection of epistles as Apostolikon. He however removed or edited parts of these epistles whenever he considered them inconsistent, such as references of Paul to the Old Testament. As to the Gospel of St. Luke, Marcion removed most of the first four chapters about the birth of Christ, as well as the last chapters on resurrection. Marcion helped accelerate the Church’s stand on what are canonical and non-canonical books of the Bible.

Marcion regarded Paul as the only one who understood the teachings of Christ, and that the twelve apostles had misunderstood. He advocated asceticism, and abstention from marriage, flesh and wine.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY accepted the gnosis of Marcion, Valentinus, and other similar Gnostics. “The true Christians died with the last of the Gnostics, and the Christians of our day are but the usurpers of a name they no longer understand. . . . Western Theosophists accept the Christos as did the Gnostics of the centuries which preceded Christianity, as do the Vedântins their Krishna: they distinguish the corporeal man from the divine Principle which, in the case of the Avatâra, animates him” (CW VIII:374).

V.H.C.

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