Bibliographical Information of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

This publication is listed in the Deutsche Nationalbibliographie of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek; detailed bibliographical information can be accessed under http: //

© 2014 Sebastian Moll

Printing, Production and Layout: BoD – Books on Demand GmbH

ISBN: 978-3-7386-8824-5

To John Armes, Michael Fuller, Marty Lunde,

Steve Martz, Paul Parvis, Sara Parvis

– The Original Ensemble


It gives me great pleasure finally to publish this play, almost ten years after its premiere in Edinburgh on November 30, 2005. Ever since, the play has been performed several times, including the unforgettable performance at Christ Church, Oxford, during the XV International Conference on Patristics Studies 2007.

Many passages in the play, particularly in the footnotes, are outdated from an academic point of view. In fact, several statements provided here are refuted by my own work “The Arch-Heretic Marcion”, published in 2010. However, I have decided to present the play unchanged, considering it rather a piece of art than a research study in constant need of revision.

Bingen am Rhein, October 2014

Sebastian Moll

Table of Contents

Es ist eine Freude, sich mit einem tief religiösen Mann von intellektueller Reinlichkeit zu beschäftigen.

Adolf von Harnack about Marcion


MARCION, theologian and church leader in Rome, considered a heretic

APELLES, one of his followers

TERTULLIAN, Marcion’s most ardent adversary

PTOLEMAEUS, Gnostic leader in Rome

ANICETUS, Bishop of Rome

POLYCARP, Bishop of Smyrna

Scene: Rome, middle of the second century


PLAYWRIGHTO, for a muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention, A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Enter Theologian.
THEOLOGIAN(interrupting him) Stop this nonsense!
PLAYWRIGHTYou spoiled my entrance!
THEOLOGIANAnd about time too! We have some serious business to attend to!
PLAYWRIGHTErnst ist das Leben, heiter die Kunst.
PLAYWRIGHTSchiller said so. It means: life is serious, art is joyful.
THEOLOGIANI’m a theologian, I know German!
PLAYWRIGHTMaybe you understand the words, but you certainly do not understand the message. This is a work of art we are dealing with here. We are trying to paint a portrait of Marcion.
THEOLOGIANIndeed we are. And I am here to ensure the theological and historical correctness of this enterprise.
PLAYWRIGHTAnd I’m here to make sure that this will be more than just another boring lecture.
THEOLOGIANHere we go. I said from the beginning that this project is rubbish.
PLAYWRIGHTA wonderful attitude!
THEOLOGIANCome on, the whole concept is a-historical from start to finish. You know that Tertullian never could have met Marcion. He had just been born when Marcion died.
PLAYWRIGHTMontesquieu was born more than 150 years after Machiavelli died, but Maurice Joly still let them meet in his Dialogue aux enfers. Not as a falsification of history, but in order to compare their views.
THEOLOGIANLousy French know-it-alls! I stick to historical facts.
PLAYWRIGHTL’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
THEOLOGIANWill you stop that!
PLAYWRIGHTWell, if you prefer someone of your own kind, the great Anselm of Canterbury himself stated that those matters which are studied in the style of question and answer are more intelligible and therefore more pleasing to many minds – (slightly sneering) especially to those who are slower to apprehend.
THEOLOGIANSo he said indeed. But he created a dialogue with his disciple Boso, not with Augustine or someone else who lived a long time before him.
PLAYWRIGHTAre these few years between Marcion and Tertullian really such an obstacle?
THEOLOGIANA few years? Do you realize how much happened in them? How are the two supposed to have a conversation given their completely diferent contexts?
PLAYWRIGHTThe play will focus on Marcion. Therefore it is set in his time, in the middle of the second century. We will just have to shift Tertullian’s birth about 50 years into the past.
THEOLOGIANSo he would be in his forties then. But Marcion would already be close to his death.
PLAYWRIGHTWell, I think we should make him a little younger too.
THEOLOGIANWhy is that?
PLAYWRIGHTBecause I don’t want to make their discussion look like one between father and son. Although we would have a nice finale then with Marcion saying to Tertullian: (in a Darth Vader voice) I am your father!
THEOLOGIANMarcion practised celibacy, you should know that!
PLAYWRIGHTAnd after the performance the whole audience will know! Isn’t that what your business is supposed to be about, teaching people these things?
THEOLOGIANIndeed, but teaching requires absolute precision.
PLAYWRIGHTOh yes, precision most sublime! My friend, the spirit of an earlier time, To us it is a seven-sealed mystery; And what you learned gentlemen would call Its spirit, is its image, that is all, Reflected in your own mind’s history.
THEOLOGIANBe that as it may, you still haven’t told me how you intend to turn Tertullian with all of his contextual views into a man of the second century.
PLAYWRIGHTI believe I have a solution for that.
THEOLOGIAN(almost resigned) No doubt.
PLAYWRIGHTThere are certain ideas which would definitely be anachronistic, and using them in the play would distort the historic situation I’m trying to portray. For example Tertullian’s
idea of the Church, which was far more developed in his time than it was in the middle of the second century.
THEOLOGIANLet’s hope there are no Catholics in the audience.
PLAYWRIGHTOn the other hand there are things which may not be as problematic as they appear at first sight. The rule of faith, for instance.
THEOLOGIANWhat are you talking about? The first certain reference to the rule of faith can be found in Irenaeus.
PLAYWRIGHTThe first certain reference maybe. But does that necessarily mean that the rule of faith could not have existed 30 years before?
THEOLOGIANWell, I suppose …
PLAYWRIGHTSee, therefore our handling of Tertullian’s work shall be: unless we can proof with certainty that the ideas in his work would be anachronistic in the middle of the second century, we can keep what he said. Can you live with that?
THEOLOGIANBarely. But what about Tertullian’s personal situation? Will he already have put together his complete argument against Marcion.
PLAYWRIGHTOf course not! That would be boring. I don’t want their conversation to sound like “Let’s talk about this topic now”. I want each discussion to be born out of a particular situation, not just pieces of discourse put together. It is supposed to be a real play, not a Platonic dialogue. That is why Tertullian won’t know much about Marcion when he meets him, only some rumours.
THEOLOGIANAnd you really think you will be able to in-
clude all the information about Marcion in this play?
PLAYWRIGHTWell, I don’t want to bore the audience for three hours, so we might not include all the information available. I shall therefore try to focus on topics which are still relevant and understandable for people today. And from time to time I think the audience wouldn’t mind some comic relief either.
THEOLOGIANI hope you won’t forget that this is still an academic work.
PLAYWRIGHTDon’t worry, every piece of conversation in this play will be based on evidence from the sources, both primary and secondary.
THEOLOGIANWhat about Marcion’s part? We have nothing left of what he wrote.
PLAYWRIGHTBut we can conclude it from what his adversaries said about or rather against him. Our best source is of course Tertullian’s work Adversus Marcionem.
THEOLOGIANSo Tertullian’s part in the play will completely be based on his works.
PLAYWRIGHTWell, for the most part. But we should allow for some other sources as well. Tertullian for example does not provide us with much information about Marcion’s life. Writers such as Irenaeus and Epiphanius are a great help in this matter, for I think the first scene should give the audience an idea of who this Marcion actually is.
THEOLOGIANOkay. And I think the following scenes should reflect the development of Marcion’s theology. We should start with what is really bothering him and move forward to those
ideas which derive from it.
PLAYWRIGHTSee, we can work together if we try.
THEOLOGIANWell, I guess the plan is acceptable so far.
PLAYWRIGHTI look forward to this fruitful cooperation.
THEOLOGIAN(leaving) I warn you. No monkey business!
Exit Theologian.
PLAYWRIGHTAdmit me Chorus to this history; Who prologue-like your humble patience pray, Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

Scene I

Something is rotten in the Church of Rome

The atrium of Marcion’s villa in Rome. The decor is fairly elegant, yet modest.

Marcion is praying on his knees.

He is wearing a tunica with a thin purple stripe and a golden ring at his hand.

Enter Apelles. He waits until Marcion has finished his prayer.

Marcion rises, making the sign of the cross.2

APELLESBrother Marcion, you have a visitor.
MARCIONWhat a pleasant surprise! Bring him in, brother.

Exit Apelles. He returns with Tertullian, who is wearing the pallium.3

APELLESMy bishop4, this is …
TERTULLIAN(interrupting him) My name is Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus!

Marcion gives Apelles to understand that he may leave. Exit Apelles.