The Marcion Problem: Canon Refinement (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Marcion of Sinope and his influence of the formation of the New Testament canon.

jesus_catacombRobert Smith Wilson also conceived of Marcion’s impact on the formation of a Christian canon as refining but not formative. Central to Wilson’s understanding of Marcion was his desire to understand fundamental questions about the character of God in relation to the world and his high Christology.[113] Wilson argues that the central place of Jewish scriptures in Christian circles, as well as Paul’s concerns with the law in Romans, likely formed the basis for Marcion’s early thinking about the connection between Judaism and Christianity, especially in relation to written authorities.[114]

Concerning Marcion’s uniqueness, Wilson wrote that he “was a man of deep and genuine religious character, of an intensely practical nature, and without any tendency to speculation. He stood forth in that age of mixed faiths, of eclectic paganism, and Gnostic Christianity, as a teacher who had manifested a clear and definite, if narrow, creed. His sincerity, his piety, his energy, and his wonderful powers of organization, created not merely bands of devoted followers, but a church which, according to the ideas of those who belonged to it, was a reformation and a purification of the existing Christianity.”[115] Marcion’s concerns with the uniqueness of Christ in relation to the Jewish laws led him first to reject an allegorical interpretation of the Jewish scriptures before ultimately leading him to reject them in their entirety.[116] Wilson argued that Marcion was one of the first textual critics of Christianity, and that such criticism, along with his canonical project, forced the proto-orthodox church to rely more heavily upon the written works that came to form the Christian canon and more clearly recognize the different forms of authority that could be attributed to what were becoming the two testaments.[117]

R. Joseph Hoffmann

R. Joseph Hoffmann

Here it seems beneficial to include some of the insights of Joseph Hoffman concerning Marcion’s views of authority. Hoffman argues that Marcion’s unique perspective was not that he sought to form a collection of Christian writings, but that he appealed so strongly to a specific apostolic source, namely Paul, to provide the basis for his theology of Jesus Christ.[118] From the perspectives of Wilson and Hoffman, Marcion’s concern with the uniqueness of Christ in relation to the Jewish scriptures led him to reject those scriptures in favor of his appeals to the apostolic authority of Paul.


 

Sources

[113] Wilson, Robert Smith. Marcion: A Study of a Second-Century Heretic. James Clark & Company Publishing: London, 1980. vii-viii. [114] Ibid., 33-9. [115] Ibid., 79. [116] Ibid., 115-6. [117] Ibid., 143-50, 162-3, 179-80. [118] Hoffman, R. Joseph. Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity: An Essay on the Development of Radical Paulinist Theology in the Second Century. Edited Carl A. Raschke. American Academy of Religion Academy Series. Scholars Press: Chico, CA, 1984. 308.

 

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