The Marcion Problem: Hippolytus and Eusebius

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Marcion of Sinope and his influence on the development of the New Testament canon.
Saint Hippolytus
Saint Hippolytus

Hippolytus, who incidentally was the first anti-pope in the Roman church, wrote against Marcion in his Refutation of All Heresies sometime after the year 200 CE.[29] Hippolytus argued that Marcion relied upon Greek philosophy for the basis of his theology,[30] especially his belief in two deities.[31] He also noted that Marcion followed the tradition of Cerdo, though the style of this reference appears similar enough to Irenaeus’ claim that Hippolytus here appears to be reflecting the claim of the Bishop of Lyon.[32] More notable is his reference to Marcion’s use of the phrase “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,” a reference to material now found in Luke 6:43.[33] Marcion’s reflections upon Christology appear to have led him to the conclusion that Christ could not have been the son of the creator of the world and that, when on earth, Christ was not actually a human, but a phantom.[34] It seems that Hippolytus found Marcion’s views to be relying on extra-Christian sources of authority, and that such reliance placed his conceptions of God and Christ outside the realm of acceptable proto-orthodox belief. Further, Marcion’s reference to the Gospel According to Luke appears to further solidify Irenaeus’ claim that Marcion employed parts of Luke’s Gospel as written sources, here used authoritatively.

Here we briefly note Eusebius’ writings concerning Marcion, noting first his historical distance as a fourth century writer from Marcion’s second century work. Throughout Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History there are references to Marcionites and those who wrote works against them, most notably the works of Irenaeus and Justin.[35] Eusebius also includes Irenaeus’ recounting how the Bishop Polycarp encountered Marcion and called him the “Firstborn of Satan.”[36] From such references little is clear except the apparent widespread rejection of Marcion’s theology by the proto-orthodox.


[29] Ante-Nicene Fathers: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novation, Appendix. [30] Hippolytus, Refutation 7.17. [31] Ibid., 7.18-19. [32] Ibid., 10.15. [33] Ibid., 10.15. [34] Ibid., 10.15. [35] These include Hegesippius (IV.22), Dionysius of Corinth (IV.23), Theophilus of Antioch (IV.24), Philip and Modestus (IV.25), Rhodo (V.13), Apolinarius (V.16), and Christian in Syria (IV.30). For references to Irenaeus and Justin see IV.10-12, IV.29; V.8 and IV. 10-12, 18, respectively. [36] Eusebius, EH IV. 14..


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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