Last week I examined the theology of Marcion of Sinope, who believed – as did many other early Christians – that there existed two gods, one good and one evil. I argued that Marcion’s theology is an ingenious way for a Christian to make sense of the atrocities in the Hebrew Bible. But this week I want to argue that the appeal of such a theology goes well beyond the interpretation of scripture in the West. Rather, it is also a way to help us understand the world, if we are to take theism seriously. Continue reading
For Augustine, evil is nothing more than the absence of good, as we would say cold is no more than the absence of heat. Not every contemporary Christian follows this idea exactly, but the majority would surely agree that the goodness of God is supremely powerful, with evil (whether personified as Satan or not) significantly lesser.
It was not always this way. Many early Christian factions – most famously the Manicheans, but also the Marcionites and many Gnostics – believed that there were two warring gods, one good and one evil. Continue reading
In my introductory religion class at Stonehill I was teaching about the Marcionite Christians, followers of the second-century Christian Marcion of Sinope, who wished to see a Christianity without any Jewish influence. This posed rather a tricky problem for Marcion, seeing as Jesus was born Jewish and seemed to claim the lineage of the Jewish prophets. That Jesus viewed himself as Jewish is not only the conclusion of modern biblical scholarship; it seems to have been the view present in the scriptures that Marcion himself encountered. Marcion, it seems, took the Gospel of Luke as known to him and edited out everything that looked Jewish.
Why did he do this? I suppose it could have been merely a cynical move to gain followers, but Marcionism had an appeal that lasted long after Marcion’s death; I don’t see much reason to believe that Marcion didn’t believe what he was writing. But this is still puzzling. To our eyes it seems like an awful sort of arrogance to edit historical writings according to one’s own theology. One might ask: how could he have believed any of this?
In trying to understand Marcion I can only think of the popular view expressed in the Mahāyāna Adhyāśayasaṃcodana Sūtra, that “whatever is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.” Continue reading