The Ancient Library

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o'ffence. (Tertull. ibid. c. 30.) Epiphanius further adds, that his first desire after his fall was to be restored to the communion of the church, and that, in order to this, he professed penitence; but that his father, by whom he had been excommunicated, refused to restore him, being angry at the shamo which had fallen upon himself by his son's fall ; or possibly (if there be any truth in the story at all), from an apprehension that his near connection with the offender might incline him, or make him sus­pected of inclining, to undue lenity. Failing to obtain his readmission, and unable to bear the op­probrium which his conduct had incurred, Marcion went to Rome. Epiphanius says that he arrived thereafter the decease of Pope Hyginus, a state­ment which is subject to considerable doubt, and of which, in any case, the uncertainty of the early Papal chronology prevents our fixing the date. Tillemont places the pope's death and Mar-cion's arrival in A. d. 142 ; but if Justin Martyr wrote his First Apology in which Marcion's resi­dence at Rome, and his teaching his heretical views are mentioned (Justin. Apol.Primage. 26), in a. d. 139 [justinus, ecclesiastical, No. 1], Marcion must have settled at Rome some years earlier.

According to Epiphanius, Marcion's first care, on his arrival at Rome, was to apply to be ad­mitted into communion with the church, but he was refused. Epiphanius adds, that he had aspired to succeed to the vacant bishopric,—a statement too absurd to merit refutation, especially taken in connection with the story of his previous incon­tinence ; and that disappointed ambition stimulated him to unite himself with the Syrian Gnostic Cer-don, then at Rome, to adopt and propagate his opinions, and to carry out the threat with which he parted from the elders of the Roman church on their refusal to receive him, that "he would cause a perpetual schism among them." Imputation of motives is so easy and so common, that it has little weight, especially when the writer is so credulous and uncharitable as Epiphanius ; nor is his state­ment of facts in accordance with Tertullian, who tells us (De Praescrip. Haeret. c. 30) that Mar­cion was in communion with the Roman church, and professed to hold the general belief, under the episcopate of Eleutherius, but that on account of the ever-restless curiosity with which he pursued his inquiries, he was repeatedly (semel atque iterum) excommunicated, the last time finally (in perpetuum discidium relegatus). It is possible that he may, on his final ejection, have uttered some such threat as that attributed to him by Epiphanius, yet in that case Tertullian would have hardly forborne to mention it; and it may be observed that Marcion's repeated reconciliation with the church, and re­tractation or concealment of his opinions, indicate a greater pliancy of temper and a more anxious desire to avoid a schism than it has been usual to impute to him. Tertullian is, indeed, by some critics, yet we think on insufficient ground, sup­posed to have confounded Marcion with Cerdon, of whom Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres. iii. 4) gives a some­what similar .account.

We have seen that Marcion was at Rome, and engaged in the propagation of his views, which implies his separation from the church, in a. d. 139, when Justin wrote his First Apology. Whether he travelled into distant provinces,to diffuse his opinions is very doubtful. Most modern critics, including



Tillemont, Beausobre, and Lardner, think that he did; but the passages cited from the ancients in sup­port of the supposition are quite insufficient. That views similar to his were widely diffused in various parts, especially of the East, is indisputable, but that the diffusion was owing to his personal exertions and influence is by no means clear; and we do not know of any distinct evidence that he ever left Rome after his first arrival there. The passages from Tertullian and Ephrem Syrus are mere de­clamatory expressions, and the passage usually cited from Jerome (Epist. cxxxiii. ad Ctesiplumt. c. 4, Opera^ vol. i. col. 1025, ed. Vallarsii), if it has any foundation in truth, is most naturally referred to Marcion's first journey from Sinope to Rome ; and it was probably on that same journey that he be­came acquainted with the venerable Polycarp, whom he afterwards met, apparently at Rome, and who, when Marcion asked if he knew him, replied, "I know thee as the first-born of Satan." (Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres. iii. 3.) This anecdote of Marcion's anxiety to claim acquaintance with that venerable man is in accordance with his desire to be reconciled to the Catholic Church, a desire which continued to the close of his life, for after all his misbelief, the ministers, apparently of the Roman church, agreed to restore him on condition of his bringing back with him those whom he had led into error. This condition seems to show that his own immediate disciples were not numerous, and that the widely diffused body that held simi­lar views, and was called by his name, had rather followed an independent course of thought than been influenced by him. His compliance with the condition of his restoration was prevented by his death, the time of which is quite unknown. (Ter­tullian, de Praescript. Haeret. c. 30.)

The doctrinal system of Marcion was of remark­able character. Its great feature was the irrecon-cileable opposition which it supposed to exist between the Creator and the Christian God, and between the religious systems, the Law and the Gospel, which it was believed they had respectively founded. Whether he held two or three original principles is not clear. Rhodon (apud Euseb. H. E. v. 13) and Augustin (de Haeres. c. 22) say he held two, Epiphanius charges him with holding three, —one, nameless and invisible, the Supreme, whom Marcion termed "the Good ;" another "the visible God, the Creator;" the third, " the Devil," or per­haps matter, the source of evil. Theodoret says he held four " unbegotten existences,"—the good God, the Creator, matter, and the evil ruler of matter, meaning, apparently, the Devil. That he held matter to be eternal is. admitted ; the doubtful point is whether he really held the Creator to have been a principle, or to have been in some way de­rived from the good God. That he regarded them as independent first principles is the most natural inference from the strong opposition which he conceived to exist between them, and which formed the prominent feature in his doctrinal system. He was probably led to the belief of this opposition by the difficulty he found in reconciling the existence of evil, so prevalent in the world, with the attri­bute of goodness in the Deity, which was so distinctly manifested in the gospel. This is Ter-tullian's account of the origin of his heresy (Adv. Marcion. i. 2), and it is apparently the true one ; nor will it materially differ from the account of Neander, that Marcion could not perceive in nature

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