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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > M > Marcosians


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A sect of Valentinian Gnostics, founded by Marcus and combated at length by Irenaeus (Haer. I, xii-xxiii). In the district of Lyons, the Rhone Valley and Spain, they continued to exist till well into the fourth century. They maintained their Gnostic system not merely in theory but, forming Gnostic communities, they were addicted to Gnostic practices. In their conventicles prophecy was habitually practiced; not only men but women were bidden by their leaders or by lot to stand up in the congregation and prophesy. The incoherent gibberish they uttered was taken for the voice of God. Women were likewise bidden to utter the Eucharistic formula over the elements. The wine was then poured in a larger cup and by a chemical trick increased in volume. Irenaeus scornfully repeats that the sect was an affair of silly women, ruining their souls and their bodies, and narrates that women who repented and returned to the Church confessed their past degradation.

The Marcosian system was a degraded variety of that of Valentinus. It retained the 30 Æons, but called them "Greatnesses" and gave them numerical values. It kept the myth of the fall of Sophia but called it a "Divine Deficiency". Peculiar to it was the adaptation of the Pythagorean number theory to Gnosticism. The 30 Æons are obtained by adding the numbers of the Ogdoad together: 1+2+3+4+5+7+8 = 30. The 6 is purposely omitted for it is the episemon and not a letter of the usual Greek alphabet. The fall of Sophia is clearly shown by the fact that Lambda which equals 30, or the complete set of Greatnesses, is really only the eleventh letter of the alphabet, but to make up for this deficiency it sought a consort and so became M (= Lambda Lambda). The episemon, or 6, is a number full of potency; the name Iesous consists of six letters, hence the name of the Saviour. When the Propator, who is the Monas, willed the Unspeakable to be spoken, He uttered the Word which has 4 syllables and 30 letters. The plenitude of Greatness is 2 tetrads, a decad and a dodecad (4+4+10+12 = 30); the 2 tetrads are the Unspeakable, Silence, Father and Truth followed by Logos, Life, Man and Church. These form the Ogdoad. The mutes of the Greek alphabet belong to Father and Truth (The Unspeakable, and Silence, of course, do not count); these being mute reveal nothing to man. The semivowels belong to Word and Life, but the vowels to Man and Church, for through Man voice gave power to all. The 7 Greek vowels go through the seven heavens, which thus sing the Great Doxology in harmony. Even numbers are female, odd numbers male, by the union of the first of these, 2 3, was begotten the episemon, or 6, the number of our Salvation. G. Salmon well remarks that Marcus's system is the most worthless of all that passed under the name of knowledge in second century literature. Irenaeus (1. c) is practically our only authority. (See GNOSTICISM.)

About this page

APA citation. Arendzen, J. (1910). Marcosians. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Arendzen, John. "Marcosians." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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