Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Theodoretus of Cyrrhus on the Marcionite Snake

The testimony of Theodoretus of Cyrrhus has this to say about Marcionite doctrine: "They dare to say that the serpent is better than the Creator. In fact the Creator forbade men to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, while the serpent exhorted them to eat it. But these sinners do not know that the serpent's advice generated death. And so some of them worship the serpent. And I myself found that they had a bronze serpent, kept in a kind of box together with their nefarious mysteries."

Theodoretus adds that the Marcionites not only insulted the Creator, but also the biblical patriarchs and prophets, obviously because the latter were the Creator's representatives, while they believed that Cain and the Sodomites had followed Jesus out of Tartarus when he descended into Hell. This was an Ophite doctrine which, according to Irenaeus, taught that the various prophets of the Bible belonged to the sphere of influence of one or other of the seven evil planetary Archons. Theodoretus, therefore, attributes Ophitic doctrines and cultic practices to the Marcionites of his time. The only reason that can be given for this is that elements of Sethian, Ophitic and Peratic Gnosticism had merged with Marcionism. [Attilio Mastrocinque, From Jewish Magic to Gnosticism p. 37]

No, that's not true Professor - that is not 'the only' possibility. The accounts could well have been inaccurate originally and corrected later or stupid in the beginning and still stupider in the end. No one should merely accept the testimony of the Church Fathers at face value.

Gregory Nazianzus identifies the Marcosians as Marcionites throughout his writings. Is also 'the only' possibility here too that the two sects merged? God, where do people learn to think.

From my recollection of reading Theodoret standing over a photocopier in the library, Theodoretus also attributes the snake story to the Arians who are linked with the Marcionites.

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