Defending Marcion: Moltmann on “the New”

Apostle John (left) and Marcion of Sinope (right), from Morgan Library MS 748, 11th century (Source: Wikipedia)
Apostle John (left) and Marcion of Sinope (right), from Morgan Library MS 748, 11th century (Source: Wikipedia)

“There are few Christian theologians who refer faith so strictly to God’s revealing work in Christ, who so earnestly try to connect it with Christ alone, as this heretic did.”
– Karl Barth on Marcion (Church Dogmatics III/1, 337)

Heretics are usually remembered most for what they got wrong, not what they got right. Their stories are told as cautionary tales of dangerous doctrinal errors. This is certainly the case with Marcion, the early Christian heretic famous for rejecting the God of the Old Testament as evil, and instead embracing only the God of the New Testament (the Father of Jesus Christ)  as good (that’s right: two Gods). His error, as Karl Barth reminds us, was basically taking an important insight (the finality of the revelation of God in Christ) to a dangerous extreme, which resulted in a distorted picture of Christ: “He purifies the New Testament so drastically that he cannot appreciate its true Christ, and His existence even in Israel, and the connection of the whole of the New Testament with the whole of the Old. He apprehends the witness of Paul the Jew only in a violently distorted form.” (Barth, CD III/1, 338)
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