Marcus Magus: Kult, Lehre Und Gemeindeleben Einer Valentinianischen Gnostikergruppe, Sammlung Der Quellen Und Kommentar -- By: Niclas Förster

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 50:2 (NA 1999)
Article: Marcus Magus: Kult, Lehre Und Gemeindeleben Einer Valentinianischen Gnostikergruppe, Sammlung Der Quellen Und Kommentar
Author: Niclas Förster


Marcus Magus:
Kult, Lehre Und Gemeindeleben Einer Valentinianischen Gnostikergruppe, Sammlung Der Quellen Und Kommentar1

Niclas Förster

The dissertation is the first study of the Valentinian Gnostic Mark the Magician. Despite the number and quality of sources, Mark, and his Valentinian doctrine and rites have been neglected in modern research, in contrast to his famous predecessors and contemporaries like Valentinus or Basilides, who have both been the subjects of monographs.

The thesis is divided into two main parts. The first collects and investigates the sources which mention Mark and his system of teaching. The second part provides a commentary on such writings.

The first part concludes that the work Adversus haereses written by Irenaeus against the heretics is the basis of our knowledge about Mark. Irenaeus himself drew on several sources for his report: he probably used and quoted, partly verbatim, a separate treatise in which Mark set down his teachings. The father of the Church also refers expressly to the missionary work done by ‘pupils’ of Mark in the river valley of the Rhône, i.e. in the immediate vicinity of Lyon, the seat of Irenaeus’ bishopric. He further quotes from a Christian poem mocking the Gnostic. This fierce literary attack is unique in early Christian literature and was probably the main source which Irenaeus used for his polemic against Mark and his Gnostic adherents.

Another source besides Irenaeus is Hippolytus’ treatise Refutatio omnium haeresium. Hippolytus based his own report on the older book by Irenaeus but added new information gathered in Marcosian circles in his own time. He even concedes that the Marcosians read and criticised Irenaeus’ report on their religious rites.

Further information is provided by an Arab world history, written by the Syrian bishop Agapius in the ninth century and including a short note about Mark’s teaching. It is very likely that Agapius used certain writings of Irenaeus which are no longer extant.

The second part of the thesis deals with the Markosians’ community-life, their cultic practice and the essential features of Mark’s teaching. Adopting the form of a commentary this part turns its attention both to the report of Irenaeus and to the passages of Hippolytus and Agapius that provide additional information.

According to these reports, Mark carried out his missionary activity primarily in Asia Minor and probably between A.D. 160 and 180. He travelled around, visiting existing Christian communities and trying to convert their members to his own Gnostic ideas. That M...

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