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16 April 2010 (Sheshi/Kippur)
Day #32, 5934 AM
The Marcionite Error
Origins of Lawlessness in Christianity

The divisions that exist between Evangelical Christianity and Messianism can't be right because Yahweh is not the author of confusion (1 Cor.14:33). Moreover, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) brings all true believers into a unity of the faith (Eph.4:13). So why these tremendous divisions still, and when did it all start?

We are, of course, far removed from the multitudinous streams of ecclesiastical activity that followed the apostles' death. Every stream of heresy imaginable reared its ugly head back in the first and second centuries just as it does today. Satan has not changed in his ambitions or goals in regard to true believers. If he can't kill them through persecution he confuses them and muddles their heads through false teachings. To this very day antinomian (lawless) evangelicals are at loggerheads with Torah-observing Messianics. You would have thought that there would have been sufficient biblical truth to resolve the differences, and there is, only the problem is Scripture itself (as one might expect) which has come under attack.

One Protestant version of the Bible records a favourite passage of evangelicals in refuting the claim by messianics that we should still obey the Torah or Law:

    "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them'" (Gal.3:10, NKJV).

Thus, according to evangelicals, messianics are cursed since no one is capable of living the Torah sinlessly as Messiah Yah'shua did. However, a careful study of the whole of chapter 3 of Galatians reveals that the apostle Paul is not condemning Torah-observers but two different systems of law: it's a contest between man-made law and divine Law. It follows that if we are following man-made laws as opposed to the Divine Law that we are not only in disobedience to Yahweh but are not following the true Torah. If we, as believers, are Messianic Israel, as Paul teaches in Romans 11 (for example), then if we are not obeying Yahweh's instructions we are in breach of His covenant with us, which in turn places us under the curses found in Deuteronomy 27-28:

    "Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law. And all the people shall say, 'Amen!'" (Deut 27:26, NKJV).

Nearly two thousand years ago the Western Church produced a Greek theologian called Marcion of Sinope was born in ~84 A.D. to a Christian Bishop and caused a huge split and whose later following in the second century came to rival the then dominant church at Rome. Basically, Marcion rejected the Hebrew Scriptures and its 'God', Yahweh, whom he believed was too harsh and too strict. He reduced the as yet uncanonised New Testament scriptures (plus a lot of pseudepigrapha) down to the Gospel of Luke which he rewrote, calling it the 'Gospel of Marcion', and 10 of Paul's epistles which he also edited, removing all their so-called 'Jewish corruption', and claimed that only Paul was a true apostle with a unique authority and revelation. Interestingly, though he was condemned by the Western Church as a heretic and even called 'the firstborn of Satan' by Polycarp, it is well-known that his ideas crept into the Roman church but had no influence on the Church of the East and it's Aramaic version of the Bible known as the Peshitta.

Some of Marcion's teachings were that the (specifically, his) New Testament 'replaced' all previous Scripture and that the 'Law of Moses' was diametrically opposed to 'Grace'. In a nutshell he believed that the true God (the Heavenly Father of the New Testament) was gracious, merciful and loving but never angry and always unconditionally forgiving. Doesn't that sound a bit like the liberal Protestants and New Agey 'Christians' of today who justify any and every lawless behaviour imaginable? To him there was no such thing as a God of 'Justice'. He loathed the Torah (reminding us a bit of Martin Luther) and like the contemporary Gnostics of his time (another rival group) believed that the God of the Old Testament was a spiteful, unredeemed angelic 'Demiurge' whom Yah'shua (Jesus) dismissed or redeemed.

Let us return to the two passages of Scripture cited earlier and to the parallel text which I have underlined and you will notice something interesting - they aren't equivalent at all! Deuteronomy 27:26 makes no reference to what is "written" even though it is implied. Yet Paul is very particular, adding "written in the book of the law", to do them, as compared with the "works of the law" which appears as something opposite of what was written. What is that? It must be the oral law!

What Paul is doing here is comparing two religious ideologies - actions based on what is not written in the book (works of the law) and another's actions based on what is written in the book (the Law of Moses).

This becomes even more interesting when you look at the first part of Galatians 3:10 with the phrase, "works of the law" (implying something that is not written in the book of the Law) and compare it with Marcion's mutilated version, which reads:

    "For as many as are under the Law are under the curse".

Here Marcion has edited the first part of Galatians 3:10. Let's compare it with two other versions:

  • Greek (Nestlé Aland 26 Edition Greek New Testament): "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse..."
  • Aramaic Peshitta (Andrew Gabriel Roth translation): "For those who are servants (workers) of the law are still under a curse..."
  • Marcion: "For as many as are under the law are under the curse..."

So what does this mean? What has Marcion done and how has he seemingly influenced the Western Church? He has removed the Greek word ergon ("works of") to make it look as though this terrible thing called the "Law" is the real problem - it has suddenly become 'the curse', implying that the Giver of this Torah is cursed too!

Let us be quite clear that the 'curse' of the Torah was the death sentence imputed to sinners because of disobedience and rebellion, and it was that which the atonement of Yah'shua removed...not the Torah itself. This is critically important because those who claim the Torah was a 'curse' in and of itself are implicating God in a crime which the Son 'fixed', thus supporting the Marcionite heresy and blasphemy that Yahweh is somehow 'bad' or 'inferior' to Christ!

We have here the evidence of one man - Marcion - who formed a church that rivalled that of the Roman Church in the 2nd and later centuries, who deliberately tampered with the text to support his preconceived doctrine that everything Hebrew or Jewish was somehow 'bad' - He was doing what Nazi historians and theologians tried to do to Protestant theology, making Christianity 'non-Jewish'. When we consider how anti-Jewish the Roman Catholic Church became, even to the point of removing most of the Torah and replacing it with pagan traditions, effecting a kind of religious syncretism, and given Marcion's 'editing', we must be allowed to ask the question: what else was changed in Paul's letters? Clearly Yahweh was concerned about malicious editing (so we know this sort of thing happened) and spoke these words through the prophet Jeremiah:

    "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law (Torah) of Yahweh is with us'? Look, the false pen of the scribe (copyist) certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of Yahweh; so what wisdom do they have?" (Jer.8:8-9, NKJV).

If Marcion could brazenly make these kinds of changes - a false teacher who had an enormous influence in the Greco-Roman world - then did this also impact the one-sidedness of later 'New Testament' orators and copyists? It can hardly be denied that this is at the very least probable in the light of the controversy over the Comma Johanneum, for example.

It is well known that a drive of early Western Church theologians was to ensure that their flock should not be influenced by Jews who were keeping the Law of Moses. As a result, it is a possibility that some of Paul's writings were compromised by Christian copyists. Marcion was simply a more radical expression of this drive.

Here's another example where deceitful editing might have been at work:

    "For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God" (Gal.2:19, NKJV).

As it stands it implicates Yahweh as having created something that that kills people so instead He sent His Son to be killed to put that unfortunate business right. This passage is therefore rendered by Avi ben Mordechai to read:

    "For I through the LAW [of Moses] am dead to the works of the (oral) law, that I might live unto God" (Gal.2:19, ABM).

Dr. David Stern translates the passage this way:

    "For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional [Pharisaic] legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might live in direct relationship with God" (Gal.2:19, JNT/CJB).

Today, "works of the law" are still very much alive in Judaism and we can either chose to live the one revelation of written Torah found in the Books of Moses in Messiah Yah'shua, empowered by the Ruach haQodesh, or we can follow a second counterfeit 'revelation' in the writings of that are now called the Mishnah, Gemara, Midrash, Shulchan Aruch, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Berurah or whatever else the rabbis may be claiming as 'oral law', and thus attempt the impossible task of saving ourselves. Whether you follow the rabbis, abandoning Torah for their traditions, or the modern-day Marcionites abandoning Torah altogether, or selectively abandoning it, you still have a problem. Either way we becomes slaves to sin in following man-made rules or the unverifiable, uncheckable, and unmonitorable existentialist 'Spirit' of the antinomians. With one you are a slave to the corrupt minds of men, and with the other you are a slave to the subjectivity and unreliability your own heart (Jer.17:9).

This same battle between the Written Torah and the "works of the law" is found in this passage by Paul too:

    "But that no one is justified by the law (works of the law) in the sight of God is evident, for 'the just (righteous) shall live by faith (trusting in Yahweh by doing exactly what He said).' Yet the law (works of the law) is not of faith (because it teaches us to trust the rabbis and not Yahweh), but 'the man who does them shall live by them (the written Law)'" (Gal 3:11-12, NKJV).

So really the writings of Paul on Torah have nothing to do with refuting modern antinomianis (lawlessness) but with refuting the man-made laws and traditions of the Judaising Pharisees of the first century. That is the context, namely the battle between the true Torah-observant Messianic Community of the first century and the rabbinical, talmudic Judaisers who wanted believers to follow the "works of the law". And whilst this is the historical context of these passages, they can be applied to any system - including Marcion's - which attemps to diminish or replace the written Torah.

What then is our position? It is that all the Torah that has not already been fulfilled by Messiah - and in particular, the sacrificial system and the Levitical Priesthood assigned to administer it - continue to be applicable in the New Covenant. Some argue that only the 'moral' Torah is applicable in the New Covenant and that anything 'ritual' has been replaced. But who is to draw the line between moral and ritual? Morality is the quality of being moral, and being moral is concerned with relating to human behaviour, and especially in respect of distinguishing between good and evil. All that Yahweh appoints is by definition 'good' including assembling for festivals, new moons and sabbaths. If these things weren't 'good' for us, do you think that Yahweh would have commanded us to observe them in the first place? Antinomians and semi-antinomians are no different from anyone else because the Creator has placed within them the desire and need to "observe days and months and seasons and years" (Gal.4:10) and we'll either observe Yahweh's or make up our own. Every single human being does these things spontaneously in every culture and religion. The issue is whether we will observe Yahweh's Torah-ways or make up our own?

The devaluing of Scripture to dismiss it in order to fit a pre-conceived doctrine is a crime against Yahweh, in my opinion. It is in the nature of the flesh or carnal man to 'pick and choose' what suits him. Nowhere has Yahweh licenced anyone to dismiss parts of His revelation as suddenly non-applicable, save where it is absolutely clear Yah'shua has fulfilled them. The Levitical system has gone and has been replaced by one under the Melchizedek Priesthood of Yah'shua. The Old Covenant has gone and been replaced by an entire New and refreshed one. But the Torah has not gone and can only 'go' under the following conditions:

    "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt 5:18, NKJV).

Has the Sabbath Law been fulfilled? The inward sabbath has come, yes, for now we have rest for our inner beings through having Yah'shua within. But is the outward sabbath been fulfilled? No. It hasn't because (1) the Millennium hasn't arrived; and (in any case), so long as there are seven days in a week, the seventh (sabbath) will be a compulsory rest day from ordinary labour - our mortal bodies still need resting. Not until the resurrection will there be no need for a sabbath 'rest' but that does not alter the fact that we are still commanded to assemble on the seventh day to worship Yahweh as a community. So the Sabbath Day has not been fulflled.

Has the New Moon Law been fulfilled? No, because we still need a calendar and so we are still commanded to assemble on it.

Have any of the seven annual festivals been fulfilled? Only the first four but even so we are still commanded to observe them as memorials and to assemble as a community to worship Yahweh. Therefore we cannot say that any of these have been totally fulfilled or completed. Parts or aspects have, but not fully.

Antinomians and semi-antinomians also claims that we don't have to follow Yahweh's dietary laws anymore either because they are 'ritual'. This is nonsense. The Kashrut Laws were written by Yahweh to tell us what is food and what is not. Just because someone in another culture or religion says that pig is food doesn't make it so. He has told Israel - Old and New Covenant - not to eat certain animals. When we refuse, or find excuses, we are simply confirming our rebelliousness and disobedience.

I could name many more. According to antinomians married man may have conjugal union with their wives when they are menstruating. They claim this is just 'ritual'. But is it? Don't you think Yahweh has reasons?

I am glad that I do not dare to set myself up as a judge of Yahweh's laws. Personally I believe those who do are not only insane (when they know what Scripture teaches - it is a different matter for those who are ignorant) but are risking the welfare of their souls. Unless there is an uniquivocable commandment to cease a Torah statute (and it will always be because it has been completely and totally fulfilled by Yah'shua) - such as circumcision (which was a sign of earlier covenants but not the New) - it is folly for man to set himself up as a judge of the Most High.

In every shade of antinomianism is an implicit dualism because it posits two deities with different standards and behaviours. Marcionism is an extreme example but highly illustrative of an attitude that has plagued the Messianic Community/Church in every century. When taken to its logical conclusion, antinomianists like Marcion are forced to conclude that the God of the Old Testament was in some way evil, that he came to hate mankind and was overwhelmed by an uncontrollable passion to punish or destroy.

Ironically, we have Marcion to thank for the fact that we have a canon of Scripture at all. Until then, nobody had much bothered with, or thought about, creating an authoritative body of Christian scriptures. Thus the Protestant Canon we acknowledge to day is in part thanks to Marcion as a reaction to his false one. And also, to be fair, it has to be said to their credit that Marcionites were never faulted for any kind of immorality, which in many ways makes him even more dangerous. (Compare the high moral standards of the Mormon heresy).

What might Europe and the world have been like had Marcionism prevailed over Roman Catholicism? Build a faith around two-thirds of Luke plus Marcion's anti-Yahweh doctrine, add the writings of Paul minus Acts, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus and see what you get. In Marcionism there was no Satan and no demons, and only a vague reference to Gehenna. They were vegetarians, practiced celibacy and constant prayer. They believed, like the Gnostics, in shunning the world altogether. So what would Marcionism have evolved into had it prevailed? Something very New Agey and probably similar to Essene 'Christianity', assuming that it could have survived the military incursions of the Mongols, the Goths and of Islam.

Marcionism, like all forms of antinomianism, appeals to a liberal, anarchistic and wishy-washy side of the flesh-nature. It appeared when the true faith was already highly eroded and had as its main rival an equally apostate through rather more robust system in Catholicism. So the 'choice' back then was between 'good cop' and 'bad cop' - the true believers were either underground or confined to the East. They were, if you like, the hippie movement of early Christianity and so it is not surprising that some of their beliefs resonate with the lax and watered-down Christianity that has appeared in the West following Hippie incursion into our society in the 1960's.

Sadly for the Marcionites, and for modern Christians who resemble them to some extent, Yahweh was, and is, no Sugar-Daddy Deity. He is the perfect combination of Love and Justice. And that love is revealed in the work of the Cross and in the steadying guide-rail of the Torah. May you, the reader, in no way fall for Marcionism and stay true to Yahweh-Elohim, the true Father of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah!


[1] Avi ben Mordechai, Galatians: A Torah-Based Commentary in First-Century Hebraic Context (Millennium 7000 Communications, Jerusalem, Israel: 2005), chapter 3

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