Marcion was a second-century religious leader who was important in the development of early Christianity. He promoted versions of some of the Pauline letters and the gospel of Luke that, from what has been reconstructed from the available sources, look like shorter, edited, versions of the letters and gospel we see in the Christian Bible.
This is my attempt to resolve the issue of who wrote Marcion's Gospel of the Lord, and it's relation to the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. It may sound very odd to ask who wrote Marcion's gospel, because surely Marcion did, didn't he? The majority of people who have looked into this agree, in particular the two who are the primary sources of our knowledge about Marcion: Tertullian and Epiphanius, and because we have no extant copies of Marcion's own writings we must rely to a great extent on these two ancient writers. Unfortunately, both were very heavily biased against Marcion, and as a result few people have attempted to look past this bias to see if it was justified, For various reasons, I am attempting to do exactly that, using my skills in looking for patterns in large amounts of data (see About Me) to attempt to uncover what Marcion's gospel contained, and how it was created.
When I look at what has been written about the gospel that Marcion called ‘The Gospel of the Lord,’ I feel how I imagine the writer of the Gospel according to Luke perhaps felt when he wrote his introduction:
Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know for certain the things you were taught. (NET Bible)
The writer of Luke clearly thought that what had been previously written was not adequate for his readership, and I feel the same way regarding Marcion. The reports I have read appear to make too many assumptions regarding Marcion’s motives, and about what the exact contents of Marcion’s gospel might have been. So, to paraphrase Luke:
Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the writing of Marcion’s gospel, like the accounts passed on to us by those who read Marcion’s gospel from the beginning. So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent reader, so that you may know for certain the things Marcion wrote.
The use of the introduction to Luke above is not intended to just provide a slightly humorous lead-in to the work that follows. Use of an edited version of text from Luke here is apposite to the analysis of Marcion’s gospel, because this gospel is so similar to Luke. Indeed, as indicated above, many people believe that Marcion’s gospel is simply an edited version of Luke. Accordingly, this site includes a detailed verse-by-verse discussion of various features of Marcion’s gospel in comparison with the equivalent text from Luke, and in the Marcion Luke Parallel pages it provides a side-by-side listing of the reconstructed (English) text of Marcion’s gospel and that of Luke, together with notes taken from several sources identifying possible areas of uncertainty.
There is something that needs to be clarified before continuing: We often use ‘Luke’ to refer to the author of the gospel attributed to a person of that name, but we also often refer to that gospel itself as just ‘Luke.’ While generally the context prevents confusion, where questions of authorship arise it is important to be able to distinguish the two. In the case of Marcion’s gospel we have three ‘entities’ to consider: Marcion himself; the gospel; and the person who created the gospel (who may or may not have been Marcion), so in the rest of this site the three will be distinguished as follows:
The links below allow you to either follow through this analysis in order, or to skip various steps if you so choose. In addition, the navigation on the left provides immediate access to all the pages in this web-site. Where there is a small sidewards facing triangle to the immediate left of the name of a page, clicking the triangle will expose links to the sub-pages (if any). Conversely, clicking a small downwards facing triangle will hide the links.
Next Page: Who Was Marcion?
For a verse-by-verse analyis of the text of Mcg, see Marcion’s Gospel, Compared Verse by Verse With Luke, or for just a side-by-side listing of the (English) text compared with that of Lk, see the Marcion Luke Parallel.
If you want to avoid all the details of the analysis, go either to the Summary pages, or just go straight to the Conclusions.
To see how the Synoptic Problem may be impacted by Marcion's gospel, go to Marcion's Gospel and the Synoptic Problem.
If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, etc. regarding Marcion or this page please email me at email@example.com