Marcion

, a heretic, who lived in the second century of the church, was born at Sinope, a city of Paphlagonia, upon the Euxine sea, and had for his father the bishop of that city. Eusebius calls him 5 votumg, the mariner; and Tertullian, more than once, Ponticus Nauclerus. Whether he acquired this name from having learned the art of sailing in his youth, or from being born in a sea-port town, ecclesiastical antiquity has not told us. At first he professed continency, and betook himself to an ascetic life; but, having so far forgotten himself as to debauch a young lady, he was excommunicated by his father, who was so rigid an observer of the discipline of the church, that he could never be induced, by all his prayers and vows of repentance, to re-admithim into the communion of the faithful. This exposed him so much to the scoffs and | insults of his countrymen, that he privily withdrew himself, and went to Rome, hoping to gain admittance there. But his case being known, he was again unsuccessful, which so irritated him, that he became a disciple of Cerdo, and espoused the opinions of that famous heretic. The most accurate chronologers have not agreed as to the precise time when Marcion went to Rome; but the learned Cave, after considering their reasons, determines it, and with the greatest appearance of probability, to the year 127; and supposes further, that he began to appear at the head of his sect, and to propagate his doctrines publicly, about the year 130. Indeed it could not well be later, because his opinions were dispersed far and wide in the reign of Adrian; and Clemens Alexandrinus, speaking of the heretics who lived under that emperor, mentions Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion, who, he says, “conversed along with them, as a junior among seniors:” and Basilides died in the year 134.

The doctrines of this heretic were, many of them, the same with those which were afterwards adopted by Manes and his followers; that, for instance, of two co-eternal, and independent principles, jDne the author of all good, the other of all evil. In other to support and propagate this principle more successfully, he is said to have applied himself to the study of philosophy, that of the stoics especially. Marcion likewise taught, as Manes did after him, that the God of the Old Testament was the evil principle; that he was an imperious tyrannical being, who imposed the hardest laws upon the Jews, and injuriously restrained Adam from touching the best tree in Paradise; and that the serpent was a nobler being than he, for encouraging him to eat of its fruit: on which account, as Theodoret tells us upon his own knowledge, the Marcionites worshipped a brazen serpent, which they always kept shut up in an ark. He taught, that Christ came down from heaven to free us from the yoke, which this being had put upon us; that Christ, however, was not clothed with real flesh and blood, but only appeared to the senses to be so, and that his sufferings were nothing more than appearance; that when Christ descended into hell, and preached the Gospel there, he brought the followers of Cain, the inhabitants of Sodom, and other wicked people, who were converted from the error of their ways, back with him to heaven; but that he left Noah, Abraham, and the other | patriarchs, who would not listen to his preaching, but trusted too much to their own righteousness, fast bound in that horrible dungeon; that there would be no resurrection of the body, but only of the soul, &c. &c. He rejected the law and the prophets, as being written tinder the inspiration of the evil god. He rejected also four epistles of St. Paul, together with all the gospels, except that of St. Luke; out of which, and the rest of St. Paul’s epistles, he composed, for the use of his followers, two books, which he persuaded them were of divine authority calling one “Evangelium,” and the other “Apostolicon.” Such is the account given in Irenaeus, in Tertullian’s five books against Marcion, and in Epiphanius.

While Marcion was at Rome, he happened to meet Polycarp of Smyrna: and upon asking that bishop, “whether he acknowledged him for a brother?” “I acknowledge you,” says Polycarp, “for the first-born of Satan.” Tertullian relates that Marcion at length repented of all his errors, and would have testified his repentance in public, provided they would have admitted him again into the church. This was agreed to, upon condition that he would bring back all those whom he had seduced from it; which before he could effect, he died. The precise time of his death cannot be collected from antiquity, any more than that of his going to Rome. It is certain, that he lived after Antoninus Pius began to reign; for, although his heresy had spread a great way under Adrian, yet, by his extraordinary vigilance and activity, it spread much further under Antoninus Pius. His first apology for the Christians was presented to Antoninus Pius about the year 140; and Justin Martyr tells us there, in express terms, that “Marcion of Pontus was then living, and taught his disciples at Rome.1

1 Cave, vol. I. Mosheim and Milner’s Ch. Hist. Lardner.