The Gospel of Marcion, called by its adherents the Gospel of the Lord, was a text used by the mid-2nd century Christian teacher Marcion of Sinope to the exclusion of the other gospels. Its reconstructed fragments now appear among the New Testament apocrypha. Marcion's teaching was condemned as heresy in the year 144.
So many Catholic Christian apologists wrote treatises against Marcion after his death, in addition to the noted work of Tertullian, that it has been possible to reconstruct almost the whole of Marcion's Gospel of the Lord from their quotations. Marcion, then, is known only through his critics, who considered his doctrines a deviation from proto-orthodox Christianity.
Relationship to the Gospel of Luke
There are two possible relationships between Marcion's gospel and the Gospel of Luke; either Marcion revised a previously existing Gospel of Luke to fit his own agenda or else his "Gospel of the Lord" pre-dated the Gospel of Luke as we have it today and was in fact the basis for it.
- Marcion's gospel as a revision of Luke's
Church Fathers wrote, and the majority of modern scholars agree, that Marcion edited Luke to fit his own theology, Marcionism. The late 2nd -century writer Tertullian noted that Marcion, "expunged [from the Gospel of Luke] all the things that oppose his view... but retained those things that accord with his opinion".
According to this view, Marcion eliminated the first two chapters of Luke concerning the nativity, and began his gospel at Capernaum making modifications to the remainder suitable to Marcionism. The differences in the texts below highlight the Marcionite view that, first, Jesus did not follow the Prophets and, second, the earth is evil.
|O foolish and hard of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken (24:25)||O foolish and hard of heart to believe in all that I have told you|
|They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation . . .’ (23:2)||They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation . . . and destroying the law and the prophets.'|
|I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth... (10:21)||I thank Thee, Heavenly Father...|
- Marcion's gospel as pre-dating Luke's
In 1881 Charles B. Waite suggested that Marcion's Gospel may have preceded Luke's Gospel. John Knox (not the same as the Scottish reformer John Knox) in Marcion and the New Testament (1942) also defends this hypothesis. In the 2006 book Marcion and Luke-Acts: a defining struggle, Joseph B Tyson makes a case for not only Luke but also Acts (see Luke-Acts) being responses to Marcion rather than Marcion's gospel being a rewrite of Luke.
Theologian Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930), in agreement with the traditional account of Marcion as revisionist, discussed the reasons for his alterations to Luke. According to Harnack, Marcion believed there could be only one true gospel, all others being fabrications by pro-Jewish elements, determined to sustain worship of Yahweh. Furthermore, he believed that the true gospel was given directly to Paul by Christ himself, but was later corrupted by those same elements who also corrupted the Pauline epistles. Marcion saw the attribution of this gospel to "Luke" as another fabrication. He therefore began what he saw as a restoration of the original gospel as given to Paul.
Von Harnack wrote that:
- For this task he did not appeal to a divine revelation, any special instruction, nor to a pneumatic assistance [...] From this it immediately follows that for his purifications of the text - and this is usually overlooked - he neither could claim nor did claim absolute certainty.
- Clivaz, C., The Angel and the Sweat Like 'Drops of Blood' (Lk 22:43–44): P69 and f13, HTR 98 2005), p. 420
- Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Christianities. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 108.
- Metzger, Bruce. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Developments and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem 4.6.2
- Charles B. Waite (1881) History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two-Hundred
- Joseph B Tyson Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle
- Adolf von Harnack: Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God (1924) translated by John E. Steely and Lyle D. Bierma
- The Marcionite Research Library: contains a full text in English with hyperlinks to the reconstruction sources.
- Marcion: The Gospel of the Lord: five of the original total twenty-one chapters (in English)
- G.R.S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (London and Benares, 1900; 3rd edition 1931): pp. 241– 249 Introduction to Marcion
- History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two-Hundred by Charles B. Waite: It includes a chapter where he compares Marcion and Luke
- Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle by Joseph B. Tyson A case in favor of the view that the canonical Luke-Acts duo is a response to Marcion. Tyson also recounts the history of scholarly studies on Marcion up to 2006.