Marcion of Sinope
Apostle John (left) and (according Eisler) Marcion of Sinope (right), from Morgan Library MS 748, 11th century.[1]
BornAD 85
DiedAD 160
Anatolia, Roman Empire
Notable workGospel of Marcion
Theological work
EraPatristic age
Tradition or movementMarcionism
Main interestsDualism, Nontrinitarianism

Marcion of Sinope (/ˈmɑːrkiən, -siən/; Ancient Greek: Μαρκίων[2][note 1] Σινώπης; c. 85 – c. 160) was a theologian[3] in early Christianity.[3][4] Marcion preached that God had sent Jesus Christ, who was distinct from the "vengeful" God (Demiurge) who had created the world.[3][4][5] He considered himself a follower of Paul the Apostle, whom he believed to have been the only true apostle of Jesus Christ; his doctrine is called Marcionism.[3][4][6] Marcion published the earliest record of a canon of New Testament books.[3][7]

Early Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian denounced Marcion as a heretic or antichrist,[8] and he was excommunicated by the church of Rome around 144.[9] He published his own canon of Christian sacred scriptures,[3][10][11] which contained ten Pauline epistles (the Pastoral epistles were not included) and the Gospel of Marcion which historically is claimed to be an edited version of the Gospel of Luke.[3][12] Some modern scholars have theorized that Marcion's Gospel was the oldest, although this has been contested.

This made Marcionism a catalyst in the process of the development of the New Testament canon by forcing the proto-orthodox Church to respond to his canon.[3][13]


Epiphanius records in his Panarion that Marcion was born the son of a bishop in Pontus (modern-day Turkey), likely Philologus of Sinope.[14] Rhodo and Tertullian, young men in Marcion's old age, described him as a "mariner" and a "ship-master" respectively. Some time in the late 130s, Marcion traveled to Rome, joined the Roman church, and made a large donation of 200,000 sesterces to the congregation there.[9][15] Conflicts with the church of Rome arose and he was eventually excommunicated in 144, his donation being returned to him.[16]

According to Christian sources, Marcion's teacher was the Simonian Cerdo. Irenaeus writes that "a certain Cerdo, originating from the Simonians, came to Rome under Hyginus [...] and taught that the one who was proclaimed as God by the Law and the Prophets is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Against Heresies, 1, 27, 1). Also, according to them, Marcion and the Gnostic Valentinus were companions in Rome.[17]

In 394, Epiphanius claimed that after beginnings as an ascetic, Marcion seduced a virgin and was accordingly excommunicated by his father, prompting him to leave his home town.[18] Some scholars have taken this "seduction of a virgin" as a metaphor for Marcion's corruption of the Christian Church, with the Church portrayed as the undefiled virgin,[19] and that Marcion apparently has become "the victim of the historicisation of such a metaphor, even though it contradicts the otherwise firm tradition of his strict sexual probity".[20]: 102  Doubtful is Tertullian's claim in The Prescription Against Heretics (written c. 200) that Marcion professed repentance, and agreed to the conditions granted to him — that he should receive reconciliation if he restored to the Church those whom he had led astray — but that he was prevented from doing so by his death.[21]

Marcionite Church

Not to be confused with Maronite Church.

The Marcionite church expanded greatly within Marcion's lifetime, becoming a major rival to the other emerging church. After his death, it retained its following and survived Christian controversy and imperial disapproval for several centuries.[22] Several theologians have viewed him as a proto-protestant.[23]


Main articles: Marcionism and Gospel of Marcion

See also: Priority of the Gospel of Marcion

Study of the Hebrew Bible, along with received writings circulating in the nascent Church, led Marcion to conclude that many of the teachings of Jesus were incompatible with the actions of Yahweh, characterized as the belligerent god of the Hebrew Bible. Marcion responded by developing a ditheistic system of belief around the year 144.[note 2] This notion of two gods—a higher transcendent one and a lower world-creator and ruler—allowed Marcion to reconcile his perceived contradictions between Christian Covenant theology and the gospel proclaimed by the New Testament.

In contrast to other leaders of the nascent Christian Church, however, Marcion declared that Christianity was in complete discontinuity with Judaism and entirely opposed to the scriptures of Judaism. Marcion did not claim that these were false. Instead, he asserted that they were entirely true, but were to be read in an absolutely literalistic manner, one which led him to develop an understanding that Yahweh was not the same God spoken of by Jesus. For example, Marcion argued that the Genesis account of Yahweh walking through the Garden of Eden asking where Adam was, proved that Yahweh inhabited a physical body and was without universal knowledge, attributes wholly incompatible with the Heavenly Father professed by Jesus.

According to Marcion, the god of the Old Testament, whom he called the Demiurge, the creator of the material universe, is a jealous tribal deity of the Jews, whose law represents legalistic reciprocal justice and who punishes mankind for its sins through suffering and death. In contrast, the God that Jesus professed is an altogether different being, a universal God of compassion and love who looks upon humanity with benevolence and mercy. Marcion also produced a book titled Antitheses, which is no longer extant,[24] contrasting the Demiurge of the Old Testament with the Heavenly Father of the New Testament.

Marcion held Jesus to be the son of the Heavenly Father but understood the incarnation in a docetic manner, i.e. that Jesus' body was only an imitation of a material body, and consequently denied Jesus' physical and bodily birth, death, and resurrection.

Marcion was the first to codify a Christian canon. His canon consisted of only eleven books, grouped into two sections: the Evangelikon, a shorter version of the Gospel of Luke, and the Apostolikon, a selection of ten epistles of Paul the Apostle, which were also slightly shorter than the canonical text. Early Christians such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius claimed that Marcion's editions of Luke and the Pauline epistles were intentionally edited by Marcion to match his theological views, and many modern scholars agree.[25] However, some scholars argue that Marcion's texts were not substantially edited by him, and may in some respects represent an earlier version of these texts than the canonical versions.[5][26][27][28] Like the Gospel of Mark, the gospel used by Marcion did not contain elements relating to his birth and childhood. Interestingly, it did contain some Jewish elements, and material that challenged Marcion's ditheism—a fact that was exploited by early Christians in their polemics against Marcion.[29]

The centrality of the Pauline epistles in Marcion's canon reflects the fact that Marcion considered Paul to be the correct interpreter and transmitter of Jesus' teachings, in contrast to the Twelve Disciples and the early Jerusalem church.[6] In Marcion's view, the other apostles were under the auspices of the Demiurge.[24]


Marcion is sometimes described as a Gnostic philosopher. In some essential respects, Marcion proposed ideas which aligned well with Gnostic thought. Like the Gnostics, he believed that Jesus was essentially a divine spirit who appeared to human beings in human form, but did not actually take on a fleshly human body.[6]

However, Marcionism conceptualizes God in a way which cannot be reconciled with broader Gnostic thought. For Gnostics, some human beings are born with a small piece of God's soul lodged within their spirit (akin to the notion of a Divine Spark).[30] God is thus intimately connected to and part of his creation. Salvation lies in turning away from the physical world (which Gnostics regard as an illusion) and embracing the godlike qualities within oneself. Marcion, by contrast, held that the Heavenly Father (the father of Jesus Christ) was an utterly alien God; he had no part in making the world, nor any connection with it.[30] According to Bart Ehrman: "Marcion himself should not be thought of as a Gnostic; he held that there were only two gods, not many; he did not think of this world as a cosmic disaster, but as the creation of the Old Testament God; and he did not think divine sparks resided in human bodies that could be set free by understanding the true 'gnosis.' Moreover, his docetic view does not appear to have been the typical view of Gnostics."[31]

See also


  1. ^ Genitive: Μαρκίωνος
  2. ^ 115 years and 6 months from the Crucifixion, according to Tertullian's reckoning in Adversus Marcionem, xv.


  1. ^ Eisler, Robert (1938). The Enigma of the Fourth Apostle, Methuen & Co.,p. 158, plate XIII).
  2. ^ First Apology of Justin Martyr, XXVI.5
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Ehrman, Bart D. (2005) [2003]. "At Polar Ends of the Spectrum: Early Christian Ebionites and Marcionites". Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 95–112. doi:10.1017/s0009640700110273. ISBN 978-0-19-518249-1. LCCN 2003053097. S2CID 152458823.
  4. ^ a b c Dunn, James D. G. (2016). ""The Apostle of the Heretics": Paul, Valentinus, and Marcion". In Porter, Stanley E.; Yoon, David (eds.). Paul and Gnosis. Pauline Studies. Vol. 9. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. pp. 105–118. doi:10.1163/9789004316690_008. ISBN 978-90-04-31668-3. LCCN 2016009435. S2CID 171394481.
  5. ^ a b BeDuhn 2015, p. 165.
  6. ^ a b c Knox 1942, p. 7.
  7. ^ Westcott, Brooke Foss (1870). A general survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, during the first four centuries.
  8. ^ Kaatz, K.W. (2012). Early Controversies and the Growth of Christianity. Praeger Series on the Ancient World. ABC-CLIO. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-313-38360-1. Retrieved 2023-08-12.
  9. ^ a b Harnack 1921, p. 17.
  10. ^ Bruce 1988, p. 134.
  11. ^ Knox 1942, p. 19.
  12. ^ BeDuhn 2015, p. 166.
  13. ^ Knox 1942, p. 3.
  14. ^ "The Gospel of Marcion". Retrieved 2021-08-15.
  15. ^ Knox 1942, p. 5.
  16. ^ Harnack 1921, p. 18.
  17. ^ Bernard Green, Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries
  18. ^ Refutation of All Heresies, XLII, ii.
  19. ^ Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities Conf. Beyschlag, Karlmann. "Herkunft und Eigenart der Papiasfragmente." Pages 268–80 in Studia Patristica 4: Papers Presented to the 3rd International Conference on Patristic Studies at Christ Church, Oxford, 21–26 September 1959. Edited by Frank L. Cross. TU 79. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1961, p. 276
  20. ^ Lieu, Judith M (2015). Marcion and the Making of a Heretic. God and Scripture in the Second Century. Cambridge.
  21. ^ The Prescription Against Heretics 30:3.
  22. ^ Evans 1972 p. ix
  23. ^ Welchman, A. (2014). Politics of Religion/Religions of Politics. Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures. Springer Netherlands. p. 21. ISBN 978-94-017-9448-0. Retrieved 2023-06-11.
  24. ^ a b Badiou, Alain (2003). Saint Paul : the foundation of universalism. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-8047-4470-X. OCLC 51093150.
  25. ^ Robert J. Wilkinson (5 February 2015). Tetragrammaton: Western Christians and the Hebrew Name of God: From the Beginnings to the Seventeenth Century. BRILL. pp. 120–. ISBN 978-90-04-28817-1.
  26. ^ Klinghardt 2008, p. 6-10.
  27. ^ Knox 1942, p. 164ff.
  28. ^ Hoffmann 1984.
  29. ^ Klinghardt 2008, p. 7.
  30. ^ a b Harnack 1900, pp. vol. I, 267–313, vol. II, 1–19.
  31. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2014-03-25). "Chapter 8. After the New Testament: Christological Dead Ends of the Second and Third Centuries". How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-225219-7.


Further reading