Today is Sunday, and that means, FOOTBALL! Well, no, actually Sunday is the Christian Sabbath (as opposed to Saturday, which is the Jewish Sabbath). The 3rd or 4th Commandment (depending on which version you use) states “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” This is defined in the Old Testament by “doing no work”, with this definition explained by the example of a man getting the death penalty for merely picking up some sticks. Numbers 15:32-36
Those of you who are Bible Literalists, if you have ever broken this rule, please report to the nearest disintegration booth for proper chastisement.
There are actually 613 commandments in the Old Testament, and churches pick and chose which ones they will uphold, picket for and demand be made into law, and which ones they will totally ignore. Again, if you are a literalist, and you have ever worn a garment made of two of more different fiber types, or enjoyed shirmp or lobster, please rush to the booth this minute. (Or would driving to the disintegration booth be considered work? Maybe you should wait until Monday.)
So, where did all these “interpretation variances” come from? Well, they are not recent. In fact, they date back to the origins of Christianity. At that time, there were no canons, no gospels, no epistles. The world was coming to an end very soon, and there was no real point writing it all down. People spread the word by speaking it.
However, as the decades wore on, and nothing happened except the usual wars, famines and plagues, people began to feel the need to write things down. The bible was centuries away, but one of the first Christians to start composing one was Marcion of Sinope (85-160 AD), and you owe your current bible, and many attitudes, to him.
Sinope was in the Roman province of Pontus, and Marcion was Greek. He was the son of the bishop of Sinope (a very recent position in the growing Christian communities) and was himself a very wealthy merchant and ship owner. He donated huge sums to the new faith, and himself became one of the major influences in the development of Christianity.
Marcion is often credited as the first person to have crafted a bible, called the the Euangelion and Apostolikon of Marcion of Sinope, around 140 AD. Since all remaining biblical fragments date from AFTER this time, they can be seen as a reaction to Marcion, and one cannot say with certainty what the originals contained beforehand. He was such a threat, that, despite the fact that the Church later destroyed every known copy of his work, his enemies quoted from him so extensively, a modern copy has been rebuilt, and can be found on the internet by searching “The Marcionite Bible” online.
So, why was this guy such a huge threat, and why does he resonate today? Marcion had read the Hebrew texts, and he saw that the bloodthirsy, rule making Yaweh of those texts was completely in opposition to the teaches of Jesus. (Marcion believed the Hebrew texts to be true history and not allegory). He believed this being, which he called the Demiurge, was the creator of the universe. Qutoing directly from religious texts, he showed that the Demiurge had a physical body, and could in no way be considered omnipotent, since he had to ask questions and send beings to discover things for him. “The Jewish Scriptures represent a true revelation of the Creator, but they do not speak of or for the God whom alone Christians ought to worship.”
Marcion believed that there was a higher god, and that Paul was his one true apostle. The savior of his bible was Isu Chrestos, and his followers were Chrestians, a name seen in Roman texts, later redefined as Christians in later centuries. Isu was an ethereal being, without an earthy body. This idea can be clearly seen in the original Epistles of Paul, written before the gospels and the additional epistles that even many churches acknowledge as forgeries. (Reread them again, forgetting all else you have learned and see for yourself).
Marcion’s Bible composed only 11 books and he accepted the following Christian writings in this order:
Gospel according to Luke
The Gospel of Luke was the Euangelion and the other 10 books were the Apostolikon.
The first 3 chapters of the modern Luke are missing, as are all references to Jewish law, the Old Testament, etc. The prophets are gone, Christianity as a “new version” of Judiasm is gone, and even when Isu meets Mose and Elias, it is clear that they are lesser beings. Moses brought the law only for the Jews, while Ise Chrestos freed everyone from it. This attitude is very common today, shared by preachers and Christian apologists alike, none of whom given Marcion the credit for it.
Marcion rejected all other gospels, quoting Paul that there was “one true gospel” Galatians 1:8-10. From my earlier writings, you will know that there were 40+ different gospels being put forward.
Marcion was later denounced by the early church, and separated himself from them, spreading his view of Isu Chretos. The size of his influence can be seen in the sheer number of authors writing to oppose him. His actions also spurred on the church to develop their own official canon, although it would take another 200 years. The bible they created is not the one you have today, as it composed the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament, many books of which were purged a mere 500 years ago. So even you have an edited version.
Marcionites were one of scores of Christian sects declared heresies later. Like the others, they were tortured, mutilated, and murdered for not understanding the “true teachings” Jesus. Their books and bodies went up in flames, to protect the Prince of Peace. But their influence survived until at least the 10th century AD.
I wrote an earlier piece called “Have you read the bible?” in which I answered yes, in far more versions than many who make it their profession. The Marcion Bible is one of these. It is a quick read, and very concise in its message. I hope that you will take the time to read this “first bible” for yourself, and perhaps get a glimpse of what the second century was like.
And don’t worry about working today or the disintegration booths. Isu Chrestos said it was okay.
(Historical Note: The disintegration booth is a reference to the Star Trek Episode “A Taste of Armageddon” which first aired on February 23, 1967. The population of Eminiar VII were in a simulated war with their neighbors on Vendikar. Whenever someone was designated as a casualty, they were to report to the nearest booth to die.)