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Marcus HAERESIARCHA

13. HAERESIARCHA, the HERESIARCH, a gnostic teacher who appeared in the second century, and probably towards or after the middle of it.

The anonymous writer usually cited as Praedestinatus, snakes Marcus contemporary with Clement of Rome; but this is placing him too early, as, according to Irenaeus. he was a disciple of Valentinus, who probably lived in the first half of the century [VALENTINUS] ; and there is reason to think, from the manner in which Irenaeus speaks of him, that he was still alive when that father wrote his treatise Adversus Haereses [IRENAEUS]. He must be placed considerably later than the time of Clement. We have no account in Irenaeus of the country of Marcus; Jerome (Comment. in Isai. 64.4, 5) calls him an Egyptian, but modern critics do not adopt this statement; Lardner thinks, but on very precarious ground, that he was " an Asiatic" (i. e. a native of Proconsular Asia), and Neander is induced by some peculiarities of his system to think he was from Palestine. All this, however, is mere conjecture, and we are disposed to accept the statement of Jerome as to this point, especially as it accords with the statement of Irenaeus that he was a disciple of Valentinus. That Marcus was in Asia, appears from a scandalous anecdote, related by Irenaeus, of his seducing the wife of one Diaconus (or perhaps of a certain deacon), into whose house he had been received; but the circumstances show that he was travelling in that country rather than residing there. Jerome (l.c. and Epist. ad Theodoram, No. 29, ed. Vett., 53, ed. Benedict, 75, ed. Vallarsii) states that he travelled into the parts of Gaul about the Rhône and the Garonne, then crossed the Pyrenees into Spain; but Irenaeus, whom he cites, is speaking, not of Marcus himself, but of his followers; and Jerome was probably led into this misunderstanding of his authority by confounding this Marcus with another and later teacher of the gnostic school [No. 14], of the same name and country. Of the history of Marcus nothing more is known. His character is seriously impeached, as already noticed, by Irenaeus, who is followed by others of the fathers, and who charges him with habitual and systematic licentiousness.

The followers of Marcus were designated Marcosii (Μαρκώσιοι), Marcosians, and a long account of them is given by Irenaeus and by Epiphanius, who has transcribed very largely from Irenaeus; and a briefer notice is contained in the other ancient writers on the subject of heresies. The peculiar tenets of Marcus were founded on the gnostic doctrine of Aeons; and, according to Irenaeus, Marcus professed to derive his knowledge of these Aeons, and of the production of the universe, by a revelation from the primal four in the system of Aeons, who descended to him from the region of the invisible and ineffable, in the form of a female; but this representation has perhaps been owing to Irenaeus interpreting too literally the poetical form in which Marcus developed his views. Neander (Church Hist. by Rose, vol. ii. p. 95) thus characterizes the system of Marcus. " He brought forward his doctrines in a poem, in which he introduced the Aeons speaking in liturgical formulae, and in imposing symbols of worship. . . After the Jewish cabalistic method, he hunted after mysteries in the number and positions of the letters. The idea of a λόγος τοῦ ὀντός of the word as the revelation of the hidden divine being in creation, was spun out by him with the greatest subtilty: he made the whole creation a progressive expression of the inexpressible." The Marcosians are said to have distinguished between the supreme God and the Creator, and to have denied the reality of Christ's incarnation, and the resurrection of the body.

Marcus was charged with using magic, and Irenaeus has given a sufficiently obscure description of the modes in which he imposed on the credulity of his votaries, who were commonly women possessed of wealth, and acquired riches at their expense. Irenaeus suspected that he was assisted in his delusions by some daemon, by whose aid he appeared both to deliver prophecies himself, and to impart the gift of prophecy to those women whom he deemed worthy to participate in the gift. He is charged also with employing philters and love potions, in order to effect his licentious purposes. Whether any, or what part of these charges is true, it is difficult to say : that of using magical practices, or practices reputed to be magical, is the most probable. It is difficult to judge what foundation there is for the charge of licentiousness. Lardner regards it as unfounded. The Marcosians appear to have acknowledged the canonical Scriptures, and to have received also many apocryphal books, from one of which Irenaeus cites a story which is found in the Evangelium Infantiae.


Further Information

Iren. Adv. Haeres. 1.8-18; Epiphan. Haeres. xxxiv. s. ut alii, xiv. ; Anon. in the spurious edition to Tertullian, De Praescript. Haeret. 100.50, &c.; Tertullian, Adv. Valent. 100.4, De Resurrect. Carnis, 100.5; Theodoret. Haereticarum Fabularum Compend. 100.9; Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.11; Philastrius, De Haeresib. post Christum, 100.14; Praedestinatus, De Haeresib. 1.14; Augustin. De Haeres. 100.15; Hieronym. ll. cc.; Ittigius, De Haeresiarchis, sect. 2.6.4; Tillemont, Mémoires, vol. ii. p. 291. &c.; Lardner, Hist. of Heretics, book ii. ch. 7; Neander, l.c.

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