Both testaments gifts from God
February 27, 2019
Born about 85 A.D., a man named Marcion became an important figure in the history of Christianity. His contribution to the growth of the ancient church was the novel idea that the deity pictured in the Old Testament was fundamentally opposite from the “heavenly Father” of the New Testament.
So, according to this theory, there is a radical disjunction between the two Testaments: The earlier writings pictured a god who was petty, angry, and cruel; and, the latter revealed a nicer, loving, compassionate figure.
Marcion thus rejected the Old Testament as having nothing to do with Jesus and Christianity. He went so far as to create his own list of books he thought should be considered canonical.
His was a short list, containing only 11 books (compared to the 27 in our New Testaments) and even those were subject to his personal editing. Any trace of the Jewishness of Jesus had to be eliminated, as well as the stubbornly strong connection with the Old Testament.
This was called a “contribution” above, because it really worked out for the better, regardless of Marcion’s intentions. It forced the church, right at the beginning of its history, to nail down issues of canonicity (which books belong and which don’t, and why) and to wrestle with the actual relationship between the two Testaments.
Nearly 2,000 years later, we can see what the Bible meant by saying there is nothing new under the sun. Marcion has managed to cast a long shadow indeed.
This shadow is present today when Christians reject the morality of the Old Testament, simply because it’s the Old Testament. There are even people called Red Letter Christians, who have decided that the “words in red” are all that matters. (Traditionally, English Bibles used to print the quoted words of Jesus in red instead of black.)
Red Letter Christians have thus dialed back their canon list to a few thousand words. Even Marcion lacked the hubris for that move.
The delicious irony here is that if you pay attention to all the words in red, you’ll see Jesus urging his hearers to go back and study the Old Testament.
Readers, here is this week’s challenge: Does your own opinion of the Scriptures of the Old Testament match what is said about them by Jesus and the New Testament authors? Do you think about the law given through Moses in the way that the New Testament says you should? Or, do you basically hold to the same view as Marcion?
The New Testament says that the Old Testament law is holy, just, and good. (Romans 7:12) It affirms that the law of God is “spiritual,” (Romans 7:14) having come from God who is without body, parts, or passions. James calls it the perfect law of liberty. (James 1:25)
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we find Paul referring to the Old Testament specifically (because the New was not completed yet) as inspired, or breathed-out by God, and profitable for all sorts of teaching, to make the Christian “complete” and fully capable of serving God in this world.
Don’t let the icy shadow of Marcion rob you of two-thirds of your heritage as a believer. Read both the Old and New Testaments as God’s gifts to you.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: