Early Christian Writings
Title: The Five Books Against Marcion. Book V.
Subheading: Wherein Tertullian proves, with respect to St. Paul’s epistles, what he had proved in the preceding book with respect to St. Luke’s gospel. Far from being at variance, they were in perfect unison with the writings of the Old Testament, and therefore testified that the Creator was the only God, and that the Lord Jesus was his Christ. As in the preceding books, Tertullian supports his argument with profound reasoning, and many happy illustrations of Holy Scripture.
From: (CCEL ANF03 Anti-Marcion./The Five Books against Marcion)
Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol III. (Anti-Marcion. Part.II)
Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council
Original Source: CCEL ANF03 II.
Related Link: earlychristianwritings.com
Translated by: Dr. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S.
By: Tertullianus, Quintus Septimius
Published: 197-220 A.D.
(PDF File Size: xx mb) xx pages
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material; the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. For purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Wherein Tertullian proves, with respect to St. Paul’s epistles, what he had proved in the preceding book with respect to St. Luke’s gospel. Far from being at variance, they were in perfect unison with the writings of the Old Testament, and therefore testified that the Creator was the only God, and that the Lord Jesus was his Christ. As in the preceding books, Tertullian supports his argument with profound reasoning, and many happy illustrations of Holy Scripture.
Chapter I. — Introductory.
The Apostle Paul Himself Not the Preacher of a New God. Called by Jesus Christ, Although After the Other Apostles, His Mission Was from the Creator. States How. The Argument, as in the Case of the Gospel, Confining Proofs to Such Portions of St. Paul’s Writings as Marcion Allowed.
429 There is nothing without a beginning but God alone. Now, inasmuch as the beginning occupies the first place in the condition of all things, so it must necessarily take precedence in the treatment of them, if a clear knowledge is to be arrived at concerning their condition; for you could not find the means of examining even the quality of anything, unless you were certain of its existence, and that after discovering its origin.
Since therefore I am brought, in the course of my little work, to this point, I require to know of Marcion the origin of his apostle even—I, who am to some degree a new disciple, the follower of no other master; who at the same time can believe nothing, except that nothing ought to be believed hastily (and that I may further say is hastily believed, which is believed without any examination of its beginning); in short, I who have the best reason possible for bringing this inquiry to a most careful solution, since a man is affirmed to me to be an apostle whom I do not find mentioned in the Gospel in the catalogue of the apostles.
Indeed, when I hear that this man was chosen by the Lord after He had attained His rest in heaven, I feel that a kind of improvidence is imputable to Christ, for not knowing before that this man was necessary to Him; and because He thought that he must be added to the apostolic body in the way of a fortuitous encounter rather than a deliberate selection; by necessity (so to speak), and not voluntary choice, although the members of the apostolate had been duly ordained, and were now dismissed to their several missions.
Where fore, O ship-master of Pontus, if you have never taken on board your small craft any contraband goods or smuggler’s cargo, if you have never thrown overboard or tampered 430 with a freight, you are still more careful and conscientious, I doubt not, in divine things; and so I should be glad if you would inform us under what bill of lading you admitted the Apostle Paul on board, who ticketed him, what owner forwarded him, who handed him to you, that so you may land him without any misgiving, lest he should turn out to belong to him, who can substantiate his claim to him by producing all his apostolic writings.
He professes himself to be “an apostle”—to use his own words—“not of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ.” Of course, any one may make a profession concerning himself; but his profession is only rendered valid by the authority of a second person. One man signs, another countersigns; one man appends his seal, another registers in the public records. No one is at once a proposer and a seconder to himself.
Besides, you have read, no doubt, that “many shall come, saying, I am Christ.” Now if any one can pretend that he is Christ, how much more might a man profess to be an apostle of Christ! But still, for my own part, I appear in the character of a disciple and an inquirer; that so I may even thus both refute your belief, who have nothing to support it, and confound your shamelessness, who make claims without possessing the means of establishing them.
Let there be a Christ, let there be an apostle, although of another god; but what matter? since they are only to draw their proofs out of the Testament of the Creator. Because even the book of Genesis so long ago promised me the Apostle Paul. For among the types and prophetic blessings which he pronounced over his sons, Jacob, when he turned his attention to Benjamin, exclaimed, “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall impart nourishment.”
He foresaw that Paul would arise out of the tribe of Benjamin, a voracious wolf, devouring his prey in the morning: in order words, in the early period of his life he would devastate the Lord’s sheep, as a persecutor of the churches; but in the evening he would give them nourishment, which means that in his declining years he would educate the fold of Christ, as the teacher of the Gentiles.
Then, again, in Saul’s conduct towards David, exhibited first in violent persecution of him, and then in remorse and reparation, on his receiving from him good for evil, we have nothing else than an anticipation of Paul in Saul—belonging, too, as they did, to the same tribe—and of Jesus in David, from whom He descended according to the Virgin’s genealogy. Should you, however, disapprove of these types, the Acts of the Apostles, at all events, have handed down to me this career of Paul, which you must not refuse to accept.
Thence I demonstrate that from a persecutor he became “an apostle, not of men, neither by man;” thence am I led to believe the Apostle himself; thence do I find reason for rejecting your defence of him, and for bearing fearlessly your taunt. “Then you deny the Apostle Paul.” I do not calumniate him whom I defend.
I deny him, to compel you to the proof of him. I deny him, to convince you that he is mine. If you have regard to our belief you should admit the particulars which comprise it. If you challenge us to your belief, (pray) tell us what things constitute its basis. Either prove the truth of what you believe, or failing in your proof, (tell us) how you believe. Else what conduct is yours, believing in opposition to Him from whom alone comes the proof of that which you believe? Take now from my point of view the apostle, in the same manner as you have received the Christ—the apostle shown to be as much mine as the Christ is.
And here, too, we will fight within the same lines, and challenge our adversary on the mere ground of a simple rule, that even an apostle who is said not to belong to the Creator—nay, is displayed as in 431 actual hostility to the Creator—can be fairly regarded as teaching nothing, knowing nothing, wishing nothing in favour of the Creator whilst it would be a first principle with him to set forth another god with as much eagerness as he would use in withdrawing us from the law of the Creator.
It is not at all likely that he would call men away from Judaism without showing them at the same time what was the god in whom he invited them to believe; because nobody could possibly pass from allegiance to the Creator without knowing to whom he had to cross over.
For either Christ had already revealed another god—in which case the apostle’s testimony would also follow to the same effect, for fear of his not being else regarded as an apostle of the god whom Christ had revealed, and because of the impropriety of his being concealed by the apostle who had been already revealed by Christ—or Christ had made no such revelation concerning God; then there was all the greater need why the apostle should reveal a God who could now be made known by no one else, and who would undoubtedly be left without any belief at all, if he were revealed not even by an apostle.
We have laid down this as our first principle, because we wish at once to profess that we shall pursue the same method here in the apostle’s case as we adopted before in Christ’s case, to prove that he proclaimed no new god; that is, we shall draw our evidence from the epistles of St. Paul himself. Now, the garbled form in which we have found the heretic’s Gospel will have already prepared us to expect to find the epistles also mutilated by him with like perverseness—and that even as respects their number.
Chapter II. — On the Epistle to the Galatians.
The Abolition of the Ordinances of the Mosaic Law No Proof of Another God. The Divine Lawgiver, the Creator Himself, Was the Abrogator. The Apostle’s Doctrine in the First Chapter Shown to Accord with the Teaching of the Old Testament. The Acts of the Apostles Shown to Be Genuine Against Marcion. This Book Agrees with the Pauline Epistles.
The epistle which we also allow to be the most decisive against Judaism, is that wherein the apostle instructs the Galatians. For the abolition of the ancient law we fully admit, and hold that it actually proceeds from the dispensation of the Creator,—a point which we have already often treated in the course of our discussion, when we showed that the innovation was foretold by the prophets of our God.
Now, if the Creator indeed promised that “the ancient things should pass away,” to be superseded by a new course of things which should arise, whilst Christ marks the period of the separation when He says, “The law and the prophets were until John” —thus making the Baptist the limit between the two dispensations of the old things then terminating—and the new things then beginning, the apostle cannot of course do otherwise, (coming as he does) in Christ, who was revealed after John, than invalidate “the old things” and confirm “the new,” and yet promote thereby the faith of no other god than the Creator, at whose instance it was foretold that the ancient things should pass away.
Therefore both the abrogation of the law and the establishment of the gospel help my argument even in this epistle, wherein they both have reference to the fond assumption of the Galatians, which led them to suppose that faith in Christ (the Creator’s Christ, of course) was obligatory, but without annulling the law, because it still appeared to them a thing incredible that the law should be set aside by its own author.
Again, if they had at all heard of any other god from the apostle, would they not have concluded at once, of themselves, that they must give up the law of that God whom they had left, in order to follow another? For what man would be long in learning, that he ought to pursue a new discipline, after he had taken up with a new god?
Since, however, the same God was declared in the gospel which had always been so well known in the law, the only change being in the dispensation, the sole point of the question to be discussed was, whether the law of the Creator ought by the gospel to be excluded in the Christ of the Creator? Take away this point, and the controversy falls to the ground.
Now, since they would all know of themselves, on the withdrawal of this point, that they must of course renounce all submission to the Creator by reason of their faith in another god, there could have been no call for the apostle to teach them so earnestly that which their 432 own belief must have spontaneously suggested to them. Therefore the entire purport of this epistle is simply to show us that the supersession of the law comes from the appointment of the Creator—a point, which we shall still have to keep in mind.
Since also he makes mention of no other god (and he could have found no other opportunity of doing so, more suitable than when his purpose was to set forth the reason for the abolition of the law—especially as the prescription of a new god would have afforded a singularly good and most sufficient reason), it is clear enough in what sense he writes, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him who hath called you to His grace to another gospel” —He means) “another” as to the conduct it prescribes, not in respect of its worship; “another” as to the discipline it teaches, not in respect of its divinity; because it is the office of Christ’s gospel to call men from the law to grace, not from the Creator to another god.
For nobody had induced them to apostatize from the Creator, that they should seem to “be removed to another gospel,” simply when they return again to the Creator. When he adds, too, the words, “which is not another,” he confirms the fact that the gospel which he maintains is the Creator’s. For the Creator Himself promises the gospel, when He says by Isaiah: “Get thee up into the high mountain, thou that bringest to Sion good tidings; lift up thy voice with strength, thou that bringest the gospel to Jerusalem.”
Also when, with respect to the apostles personally, He says, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, that bring good tidings of good” —even proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles, because He also says, “In His name shall the Gentiles trust;” that is, in the name of Christ, to whom He says, “I have given thee as a light of the Gentiles.”
However, you will have it that it is the gospel of a new god which was then set forth by the apostle. So that there are two gospels for two gods; and the apostle made a great mistake when he said that “there is not another” gospel, since there is (on the hypothesis) another; and so he might have made a better defence of his gospel, by rather demonstrating this, than by insisting on its being but one. But perhaps, to avoid this difficulty, you will say that he therefore added just afterwards, “Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed,” because he was aware that the Creator was going to introduce a gospel! But you thus entangle yourself still more. For this is now the mesh in which you are caught.
To affirm that there are two gospels, is not the part of a man who has already denied that there is another. His meaning, however, is clear, for he has mentioned himself first (in the anathema): “But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel.” It is by way of an example that he has expressed himself. If even he himself might not preach any other gospel, then neither might an angel. He said “angel” in this way, that he might show how much more men ought not to be believed, when neither an angel nor an apostle ought to be; not that he meant to apply an angel to the gospel of the Creator.
He then cursorily touches on his own conversion from a persecutor to an apostle—confirming thereby the Acts of the Apostles, in which book may be found the very subject of this epistle, how that certain persons interposed, and said that men ought to be circumcised, and that the law of Moses was to be observed; and how the apostles, when consulted, determined, by the authority of the Holy Ghost, that “a yoke should not be put upon men’s necks which their fathers even had not been able to bear.” Now, since the Acts of the Apostles thus agree with Paul, it becomes apparent why you reject them.
It is because they declare no other God than the Creator, and prove Christ to belong to no other God than the Creator; whilst the promise of the Holy Ghost is shown to have been fulfilled in no other document than the Acts of the Apostles. Now, it is not very likely that these should be found in agreement with the apostle, on the one hand, when they described his career in accordance with his own statement; but should, on the other hand, be at variance with him when they announce the (attribute of) divinity in the Creator’s Christ—as if Paul did not follow the preaching of the apostles when he received from them 433 the prescription of not teaching the Law.
Chapter III. — St. Paul Quite in Accordance with St. Peter and Other Apostles of the Circumcision.
His Censure of St. Peter Explained, and Rescued from Marcion’s Misapplication. The Strong Protests of This Epistle Against Judaizers. Yet Its Teaching is Shown to Be in Keeping with the Law and the Prophets. Marcion’s Tampering with St. Paul’s Writings Censured.
But with regard to the countenance of Peter and the rest of the apostles, he tells us that “fourteen years after he went up to Jerusalem,” in order to confer with them about the rule which he followed in his gospel, lest perchance he should all those years have been running, and be running still, in vain, (which would be the case,) of course, if his preaching of the gospel fell short of their method.
So great had been his desire to be approved and supported by those whom you wish on all occasions to be understood as in alliance with Judaism! When indeed he says, that “neither was Titus circumcised,” he for the first time shows us that circumcision was the only question connected with the maintenance of the law, which had been as yet agitated by those whom he therefore calls “false brethren unawares brought in.”
These persons went no further than to insist on a continuance of the law, retaining unquestionably a sincere belief in the Creator. They perverted the gospel in their teaching, not indeed by such a tampering with the Scripture as should enable them to expunge the Creator’s Christ, but by so retaining the ancient régime as not to exclude the Creator’s law.
Therefore he says: “Because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ, that they might bring us into bondage, to whom we gave place by subjection not even for an hour.” Let us only attend to the clear sense and to the reason of the thing, and the perversion of the Scripture will be apparent.
When he first says, “Neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised,” and then adds, “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in,” etc., he gives us an insight into his reason for acting in a clean contrary way, showing us wherefore he did that which he would neither have done nor shown to us, if that had not happened which induced him to act as he did. But then I want you to tell us whether they would have yielded to the subjection that was demanded, if these false brethren had not crept in to spy out their liberty? I apprehend not.
They therefore gave way (in a partial concession), because there were persons whose weak faith required consideration. For their rudimentary belief, which was still in suspense about the observance of the law, deserved this concessive treatment, when even the apostle himself had some suspicion that he might have run, and be still running, in vain.
Accordingly, the false brethren who were the spies of their Christian liberty must be thwarted in their efforts to bring it under the yoke of their own Judaism before that Paul discovered whether his labour had been in vain, before that those who preceded him in the apostolate gave him their right hands of fellowship, before that he entered on the office of preaching to the Gentiles, according to their arrangement with him. He therefore made some concession, as was necessary, for a time; and this was the reason why he had Timothy circumcised, and the Nazarites introduced into the temple, which incidents are described in the Acts.
Their truth may be inferred from their agreement with the apostle’s own profession, how “to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews, and to them that were under the law, as under the law,”—and 434 so here with respect to those who come in secretly,—“and lastly, how he became all things to all men, that he might gain all.”
Now, inasmuch as the circumstances require such an interpretation as this, no one will refuse to admit that Paul preached that God and that Christ whose law he was excluding all the while, however much he allowed it, owing to the times, but which he would have had summarily to abolish if he had published a new god. Rightly, then, did Peter and James and John give their right hand of fellowship to Paul, and agree on such a division of their work, as that Paul should go to the heathen, and themselves to the circumcision.
Their agreement, also, “to remember the poor” was in complete conformity with the law of the Creator, which cherished the poor and needy, as has been shown in our observations on your Gospel. It is thus certain that the question was one which simply regarded the law, while at the same time it is apparent what portion of the law it was convenient to have observed. Paul, however, censures Peter for not walking straightforwardly according to the truth of the gospel.
No doubt he blames him; but it was solely because of his inconsistency in the matter of “eating,” which he varied according to the sort of persons (whom he associated with) “fearing them which were of the circumcision,” but not on account of any perverse opinion touching another god.
For if such a question had arisen, others also would have been “resisted face to face” by the man who had not even spared Peter on the comparatively small matter of his doubtful conversation. But what do the Marcionites wish to have believed (on the point)? For the rest, the apostle must (be permitted to) go on with his own statement, wherein he says that “a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith:” faith, however, in the same God to whom belongs the law also. For of course he would have bestowed no labour on severing faith from the law, when the difference of the god would, if there had only been any, have of itself produced such a severance.
Justly, therefore, did he refuse to “build up again (the structure of the law) which he had overthrown.” The law, indeed, had to be overthrown, from the moment when John “cried in the wilderness, Prepare ye the ways of the Lord,” that valleys and hills and mountains may be filled up and levelled, and the crooked and the rough ways be made straight and smooth —in other words, that the difficulties of the law might be changed into the facilities of the gospel.
For he remembered that the time was come of which the Psalm spake, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast off their yoke from us;” since the time when “the nations became tumultuous, and the people imagined vain counsels;” when “the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ,” in order that thenceforward man might be justified by the liberty of faith, not by servitude to the law, “because the just shall live by his faith.” Now, although the prophet Habakkuk first said this, yet you have the apostle here confirming the prophets, even as Christ did.
The object, therefore, of the faith whereby the just man shall live, will be that same God to whom likewise belongs the law, by doing which no man is justified. Since, then, there equally are found the curse in the law and the blessing in faith, you have both conditions set forth by the Creator: “Behold,” says He, “I have set before you a blessing and a curse.” You cannot establish a diversity of authors because there happens to be one of things; for the diversity is itself proposed by one and the same author.
Why, however, “Christ was made a curse for us,” is declared by the apostle himself in a way which quite helps our side, as being the result of the Creator’s appointment. But yet it by no means follows, because the Creator said of old, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” that Christ belonged to another god, and on that account was accursed even then in the law.
And how, indeed, could the Creator have cursed by anticipation one whom He knew not of? Why, however, may it not be more suitable for the Creator to have delivered His own Son to His own curse, than to have submitted Him to the malediction of that god of yours,—in behalf, too, of man, who is an alien to him?
Now, if this appointment of the Creator respecting His Son appears to you to be a cruel one, it is equally so in the case of your own god; if, on the contrary, it be in accordance with reason in your god, it is equally so—nay, much more so—in mine. For it would be more credible that that God had provided 435 blessing for man, through the curse of Christ, who formerly set both a blessing and a curse before man, than that he had done so, who, according to you, never at any time pronounced either.
“We have received therefore, the promise of the Spirit,” as the apostle says, “through faith,” even that faith by which the just man lives, in accordance with the Creator’s purpose. What I say, then, is this, that that God is the object of faith who prefigured the grace of faith. But when he also adds, “For ye are all the children of faith,” it becomes clear that what the heretic’s industry erased was the mention of Abraham’s name; for by faith the apostle declares us to be “children of Abraham,” and after mentioning him he expressly called us “children of faith” also.
But how are we children of faith? and of whose faith, if not Abraham’s? For since “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness;” since, also, he deserved for that reason to be called “the father of many nations,” whilst we, who are even more like him in believing in God, are thereby justified as Abraham was, and thereby also obtain life—since the just lives by his faith,—it therefore happens that, as he in the previous passage called us “sons of Abraham,” since he is in faith our (common) father, so here also he named us “children of faith,” for it was owing to his faith that it was promised that Abraham should be the father of (many) nations.
As to the fact itself of his calling off faith from circumcision, did he not seek thereby to constitute us the children of Abraham, who had believed previous to his circumcision in the flesh? In short, faith in one of two gods cannot possibly admit us to the dispensation of the other, so that it should impute righteousness to those who believe in him, and make the just live through him, and declare the Gentiles to be his children through faith. Such a dispensation as this belongs wholly to Him through whose appointment it was already made known by the call of this self-same Abraham, as is conclusively shown by the natural meaning.
Chapter IV. — Another Instance of Marcion’s Tampering with St. Paul’s Text.
The Fullness of Time, Announced by the Apostle, Foretold by the Prophets. Mosaic Rites Abrogated by the Creator Himself. Marcion’s Tricks About Abraham’s Name. The Creator, by His Christ, the Fountain of the Grace and the Liberty Which St. Paul Announced. Marcion’s Docetism Refuted.
“But,” says he, “I speak after the manner of men: when we were children, we were placed in bondage under the elements of the world.” This, however, was not said “after the manner of men.” For there is no figure here, but literal truth. For (with respect to the latter clause of this passage), what child (in the sense, that is, in which the Gentiles are children) is not in bondage to the elements of the world, which he looks up to in the light of a god? With regard, however, to the former clause, there was a figure (as the apostle wrote it); because after he had said, “I speak after the manner of men,” he adds), “Though it be but a man’s covenant, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.”
For by the figure of the permanency of a human covenant he was defending the divine testament. “To Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed. He said not ‘to seeds,’ as of many; but as of one, ‘to thy seed,’ which is Christ.” Fie on Marcion’s sponge! But indeed it is superfluous to dwell on what he has erased, when he may be more effectually confuted from that which he has retained.
“But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son” —the God, of course, who is the Lord of that very succession of times which 436 constitutes an age; who also ordained, as “signs” of time, suns and moons and constellations and stars; who furthermore both predetermined and predicted that the revelation of His Son should be postponed to the end of the times.
“It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain (of the house) of the Lord shall be manifested”; “and in the last days I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” as Joel says. It was characteristic of Him (only) to wait patiently for the fulness of time, to whom belonged the end of time no less than the beginning. But as for that idle god, who has neither any work nor any prophecy, nor accordingly any time, to show for himself, what has he ever done to bring about the fulness of time, or to wait patiently its completion? If nothing, what an impotent state to have to wait for the Creator’s time, in servility to the Creator! But for what end did He send His Son?
“To redeem them that were under the law,” in other words, to “make the crooked ways straight, and the rough places smooth,” as Isaiah says —in order that old things might pass away, and a new course begin, even “the new law out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” and “that we might receive the adoption of sons,” that is, the Gentiles, who once were not sons. For He is to be “the light of the Gentiles,” and “in His name shall the Gentiles trust.” That we may have, therefore the assurance that we are the children of God, “He hath sent forth His Spirit into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” For “in the last days,” saith He, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”
Now, from whom comes this grace, but from Him who proclaimed the promise thereof? Who is (our) Father, but He who is also our Maker? Therefore, after such affluence (of grace), they should not have returned “to weak and beggarly elements.” By the Romans, however, the rudiments of learning are wont to be called elements. He did not therefore seek, by any depreciation of the mundane elements, to turn them away from their god, although, when he said just before, “Howbeit, then, ye serve them which by nature are no gods,” he censured the error of that physical or natural superstition which holds the elements to be god; but at the God of those elements he aimed not in this censure.
He tells us himself clearly enough what he means by “elements,” even the rudiments of the law: “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” —the sabbaths, I suppose, and “the preparations,” and the fasts, and the “high days.” For the cessation of even these, no less than of circumcision, was appointed by the Creator’s decrees, who had said by Isaiah, “Your new moons, and your sabbaths, and your high days I cannot bear; your fasting, and feasts, and ceremonies my soul hateth;” also by Amos, “I hate, I despise your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies;” and again by Hosea, “I will cause to cease all her mirth, and her feast-days, and her sabbaths, and her new moons, and all her solemn assemblies.”
The institutions which He set up Himself, you ask, did He then destroy? Yes, rather than any other. Or if another destroyed them, he only helped on the purpose of the Creator, by removing what even He had condemned. But this is not the place to discuss the question why the Creator abolished His own laws. It is enough for us to have proved that He intended such an abolition, that so it may be affirmed that the apostle determined nothing to the prejudice of the Creator, since the abolition itself proceeds from the Creator.
But as, in the case of thieves, something of the stolen goods is apt to drop by the way, as a clue to their detection; so, as it seems to me, it has happened to Marcion: the last mention of Abraham’s name he has left untouched (in the epistle), although no passage required his erasure more than this, even his partial alteration of the text.
“For (it is written) that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond maid, the other by a free woman; but he who was of the bond maid was born after the flesh, but he of the free woman was by promise: which things are allegorized” (that is to say, they presaged something besides the literal history); “for these are the two covenants,” or the two 437 exhibitions (of the divine plans), as we have found the word interpreted, “the one from the Mount Sinai,” in relation to the synagogue of the Jews, according to the law, “which gendereth to bondage”—“the other gendereth” (to liberty, being raised) above all principality, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come, “which is the mother of us all,” in which we have the promise of (Christ’s) holy church; by reason of which he adds in conclusion: “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free.”
In this passage he has undoubtedly shown that Christianity had a noble birth, being sprung, as the mystery of the allegory indicates, from that son of Abraham who was born of the free woman; whereas from the son of the bond maid came the legal bondage of Judaism. Both dispensations, therefore, emanate from that same God by whom, as we have found, they were both sketched out beforehand. When he speaks of “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” does not the very phrase indicate that He is the Liberator who was once the Master? For Galba himself never liberated slaves which were not his own, even when about to restore free men to their liberty.
By Him, therefore, will liberty be bestowed, at whose command lay the enslaving power of the law. And very properly. It was not meet that those who had received liberty should be “entangled again with the yoke of bondage” —that is, of the law; now that the Psalm had its prophecy accomplished: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us, since the rulers have gathered themselves together against the Lord and against His Christ.”
All those, therefore, who had been delivered from the yoke of slavery he would earnestly have to obliterate the very mark of slavery—even circumcision, on the authority of the prophet’s prediction. He remembered how that Jeremiah had said, “Circumcise the foreskins of your heart;” as Moses likewise had enjoined, “Circumcise your hard hearts” —not the literal flesh. If, now, he were for excluding circumcision, as the messenger of a new god, why does he say that “in Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision?” For it was his duty to prefer the rival principle of that which he was abolishing, if he had a mission from the god who was the enemy of circumcision.
Furthermore, since both circumcision and uncircumcision were attributed to the same Deity, both lost their power in Christ, by reason of the excellency of faith—of that faith concerning which it had been written, “And in His name shall the Gentiles trust?” —of that faith “which,” he says “worketh by love.” By this saying he also shows that the Creator is the source of that grace. For whether he speaks of the love which is due to God, or that which is due to one’s neighbor—in either case, the Creator’s grace is meant: for it is He who enjoins the first in these words, “Thou shalt love God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;” and also the second in another passage: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
“But he that troubleth you shall have to bear judgment.” From what God? From (Marcion’s) most excellent god? But he does not execute judgment. From the Creator? But neither will He condemn the maintainer of circumcision. Now, if none other but the Creator shall be found to execute judgment, it follows that only He, who has determined on the cessation of the law, shall be able to condemn the defenders of the law; and what, if he also affirms the law in that portion of it where it ought (to be permanent)?
“For,” says he, “all the law is fulfilled in you by this: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’” If, indeed, he will have it that by the words “it is fulfilled” it is implied that the law no longer has to be fulfilled, then of course he does not mean that I should any more love my neighbour as myself, since this precept must have ceased together with the law. But no! we must evermore continue to observe this commandment. The Creator’s law, therefore, has received the approval of the rival god, who has, in fact, bestowed upon it not the sentence of a summary dismissal, but the favour of a compendious acceptance; the gist of it all being concentrated in this one precept!
But this condensation of 438 the law is, in fact, only possible to Him who is the Author of it. When, therefore, he says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” since this cannot be accomplished except a man love his neighbour as himself, it is evident that the precept, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (which, in fact, underlies the injunction, “Bear ye one another’s burdens”), is really “the law of Christ,” though literally the law of the Creator.
Christ, therefore, is the Creator’s Christ, as Christ’s law is the Creator’s law. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” But Marcion’s god can be mocked; for he knows not how to be angry, or how to take vengeance. “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” It is then the God of recompense and judgment who threatens this. “Let us not be weary in well-doing;” and “as we have opportunity, let us do good.”
Deny now that the Creator has given a commandment to do good, and then a diversity of precept may argue a difference of gods. If, however, He also announces recompense, then from the same God must come the harvest both of death and of life. But “in due time we shall reap;” because in Ecclesiastes it is said, “For everything there will be a time.” Moreover, “the world is crucified unto me,” who am a servant of the Creator—“the world,” (I say,) but not the God who made the world—“and I unto the world,” not unto the God who made the world.
The world, in the apostle’s sense, here means life and conversation according to worldly principles; it is in renouncing these that we and they are mutually crucified and mutually slain. He calls them “persecutors of Christ.” But when he adds, that “he bare in his body the scars of Christ”—since scars, of course, are accidents of body —he therefore expressed the truth, that the flesh of Christ is not putative, but real and substantial, the scars of which he represents as borne upon his body.
Chapter V. — The First Epistle to the Corinthians.
The Pauline Salutation of Grace and Peace Shown to Be Anti-Marcionite. The Cross of Christ Purposed by the Creator. Marcion Only Perpetuates the Offence and Foolishness of Christ’s Cross by His Impious Severance of the Gospel from the Creator. Analogies Between the Law and the Gospel in the Matter of Weak Things, and Foolish Things and Base Things.
My preliminary remarks on the preceding epistle called me away from treating of its superscription, for I was sure that another opportunity would occur for considering the matter, it being of constant recurrence, and in the same form too, in every epistle. The point, then, is, that it is not (the usual) health which the apostle prescribes for those to whom he writes, but “grace and peace.”
I do not ask, indeed, what a destroyer of Judaism has to do with a formula which the Jews still use. For to this day they salute each other with the greeting of “peace,” and formerly in their Scriptures they did the same. But I understand him by his practice plainly enough to have corroborated the declaration of the Creator: “How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good, who preach the gospel of peace!” For the herald of good, that is, of God’s “grace” was well aware that along with it “peace” also was to be proclaimed.
Now, when he announces these blessings as “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus,” he uses titles that are common to both, and which are also adapted to the mystery of our faith; and I suppose it to be impossible accurately to determine what God is declared to be the Father and the Lord Jesus, unless (we consider) which of their accruing attributes are more suited to them severally. First, then, I assert that none other than the Creator and Sustainer of both man and the universe can be acknowledged as Father and Lord; next, that to the Father also the title of Lord accrues by reason of His power, and that the Son too receives the same through the Father; then that “grace and peace” are not only His who had them published, but His likewise to whom offence had been given.
For neither does grace exist, except after offence; nor peace, except after war. Now, both the people (of Israel) by their transgression of His laws, and the whole race of mankind by their neglect of natural duty, had both 439 sinned and rebelled against the Creator. Marcion’s god, however, could not have been offended, both because he was unknown to everybody, and because he is incapable of being irritated.
What grace, therefore, can be had of a god who has not been offended? What peace from one who has never experienced rebellion? “The cross of Christ,” he says, “is to them that perish foolishness; but unto such as shall obtain salvation, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” And then, that we may know from whence this comes, he adds: “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’”
Now, since these are the Creator’s words, and since what pertains to the doctrine of the cross he accounts as foolishness, therefore both the cross, and also Christ by reason of the cross, will appertain to the Creator, by whom were predicted the incidents of the cross. But if the Creator, as an enemy, took away their wisdom in order that the cross of Christ, considered as his adversary, should be accounted foolishness, how by any possibility can the Creator have foretold anything about the cross of a Christ who is not His own, and of whom He knew nothing, when He published the prediction?
But, again, how happens it, that in the system of a Lord who is so very good, and so profuse in mercy, some carry off salvation, when they believe the cross to be the wisdom and power of God, whilst others incur perdition, to whom the cross of Christ is accounted folly;—(how happens it, I repeat,) unless it is in the Creator’s dispensation to have punished both the people of Israel and the human race, for some great offence committed against Him, with the loss of wisdom and prudence?
What follows will confirm this suggestion, when he asks, “Hath not God infatuated the wisdom of this world?” and when he adds the reason why: “For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” But first a word about the expression “the world;” because in this passage particularly, the heretics expend a great deal of their subtlety in showing that by world is meant the lord of the world.
We, however, understand the term to apply to any person that is in the world, by a simple idiom of human language, which often substitutes that which contains for that which is contained. “The circus shouted,” “The forum spoke,” and “The basilica murmured,” are well-known expressions, meaning that the people in these places did so.
Since then the man, not the god, of the world in his wisdom knew not God, whom indeed he ought to have known (both the Jew by his knowledge of the Scriptures, and all the human race by their knowledge of God’s works), therefore that God, who was not acknowledged in His wisdom, resolved to smite men’s knowledge with His foolishness, by saving all those who believe in the folly of the preached cross.
“Because the Jews require signs,” who ought to have already made up their minds about God, “and the Greeks seek after wisdom,” who rely upon their own wisdom, and not upon God’s. If, however, it was a new god that was being preached, what sin had the Jews committed, in seeking after signs to believe; or the Greeks, when they hunted after a wisdom which they would prefer to accept? Thus the very retribution which overtook both Jews and Greeks proves that God is both a jealous God and a Judge, inasmuch as He infatuated the world’s wisdom by an angry and a judicial retribution.
Since, then, the causes are in the hands of Him who gave us the Scriptures which we use, it follows that the apostle, when treating of the Creator, (as Him whom both Jew and Gentile as yet have) not known, means undoubtedly to teach us, that the God who is to become known (in Christ) is the Creator. The very “stumbling-block” which he declares Christ to be “to the Jews,” points unmistakeably to the Creator’s prophecy respecting Him, when by Isaiah He says: “Behold I lay in Sion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” This rock or stone is Christ.
This stumbling-stone Marcion retains still. Now, what is that “foolishness of God which is wiser 440 than men,” but the cross and death of Christ? What is that “weakness of God which is stronger than men,” but the nativity and incarnation of God?
If, however, Christ was not born of the Virgin, was not constituted of human flesh, and thereby really suffered neither death nor the cross, there was nothing in Him either of foolishness or weakness; nor is it any longer true, that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;” nor, again, hath “God chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty;” nor “the base things” and the least things “in the world, and things which are despised, which are even as nothing” (that is, things which really are not), “to bring to nothing things which are” (that is, which really are).
For nothing in the dispensation of God is found to be mean, and ignoble, and contemptible. Such only occurs in man’s arrangement. The very Old Testament of the Creator itself, it is possible, no doubt, to charge with foolishness, and weakness, and dishonour and meanness, and contempt. What is more foolish and more weak than God’s requirement of bloody sacrifices and of savoury holocausts? What is weaker than the cleansing of vessels and of beds?
What more dishonourable than the discoloration of the reddening skin? What so mean as the statute of retaliation? What so contemptible as the exception in meats and drinks? The whole of the Old Testament, the heretic, to the best of my belief, holds in derision. For God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound its wisdom. Marcion’s god has no such discipline, because he does not take after (the Creator) in the process of confusing opposites by their opposites, so that “no flesh shall glory; but, as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” In what Lord? Surely in Him who gave this precept. Unless, forsooth, the Creator enjoined us to glory in the god of Marcion.
Chapter VI. — The Divine Way of Wisdom, and Greatness, and Might.
God’s Hiding of Himself, and Subsequent Revelation. To Marcion’s God Such a Concealment and Manifestation Impossible. God’s Predestination. No Such Prior System of Intention Possible to a God Previously Unknown as Was Marcion’s. The Powers of the World Which Crucified Christ. St. Paul, as a Wise Master-Builder, Associated with Prophecy. Sundry Injunctions of the Apostle Parallel with the Teaching of the Old Testament.
By all these statements, therefore, does he show us what God he means, when he says, “We speak the wisdom of God among them that are perfect.” It is that God who has confounded the wisdom of the wise, who has brought to nought the understanding of the prudent, who has reduced to folly the world’s wisdom, by choosing its foolish things, and disposing them to the attainment of salvation. This wisdom, he says, once lay hidden in things that were foolish, weak, and lacking in honour; once also was latent under figures, allegories, and enigmatical types; but it was afterwards to be revealed in Christ, who was set “as a light to the Gentiles,” by the Creator who promised through the mouth of Isaiah that He would discover “the hidden treasures, which eye had not seen.”
Now, that that god should have ever hidden anything who had never made a cover wherein to practise concealment, is in itself a wholly incredible idea. If he existed, concealment of himself was out of the question—to say nothing of any of his religious ordinances. The Creator, on the contrary, was as well known in Himself as His ordinances were. These, we know, were publicly instituted in Israel; but they lay overshadowed with latent meanings, in which the wisdom of God was concealed, to be brought to light by and by amongst “the perfect,” when the time should come, but “preordained in the counsels of God before the ages.”
But whose ages, if not the Creator’s? For because ages consist of times, and times are made up of days, and months, and years; since also days, and months, and years are measured by suns, and moons, and stars, which He ordained for this purpose (for “they shall be,” says He, “for signs of the months and the years”), it clearly follows that the ages belong to the Creator, and that nothing of what was fore-ordained before the ages can be said to be the property of any other being than Him who claims the ages also as His own.
Else let Marcion show that the ages belong to his god. He must then also claim the world itself for him; for it is in it that the ages are reckoned, the vessel as it were of 441 the times, as well as the signs thereof, or their order. But he has no such demonstration to show us. I go back therefore to the point, and ask him this question: Why did (his god) fore-ordain our glory before the ages of the Creator?
I could understand his having predetermined it before the ages, if he had revealed it at the commencement of time. But when he does this almost at the very expiration of all the ages of the Creator, his predestination before the ages, and not rather within the ages, was in vain, because he did not mean to make any revelation of his purpose until the ages had almost run out their course. For it is wholly inconsistent in him to be so forward in planning purposes, who is so backward in revealing them.
In the Creator, however, the two courses were perfectly compatible—both the predestination before the ages and the revelation at the end thereof, because that which He both fore-ordained and revealed He also in the intermediate space of time announced by the preministration of figures, and symbols, and allegories. But because (the apostle) subjoins, on the subject of our glory, that “none of the princes of this world knew it, for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,” the heretic argues that the princes of this world crucified the Lord (that is, the Christ of the rival god) in order that this blow might even recoil on the Creator Himself.
Any one, however, who has seen from what we have already said how our glory must be regarded as issuing from the Creator, will already have come to the conclusion that, inasmuch as the Creator settled it in His own secret purpose, it properly enough was unknown to all the princes and powers of the Creator, on the principle that servants are not permitted to know their masters’ plans, much less the fallen angels and the leader of transgression himself, the devil; for I should contend that these, on account of their fall, were greater strangers still to any knowledge of the Creator’s dispensations.
But it is no longer open to me even to interpret the princes and powers of this world as the Creator’s, since the apostle imputes ignorance to them, whereas even the devil according to our Gospel recognised Jesus in the temptation, and, according to the record which is common to both (Marcionites and ourselves) the evil spirit knew that Jesus was the Holy One of God, and that Jesus was His name, and that He was come to destroy them.
The parable also of the strong man armed, whom a stronger than he overcame and seized his goods, is admitted by Marcion to have reference to the Creator: therefore the Creator could not have been ignorant any longer of the God of glory, since He is overcome by him; nor could He have crucified him whom He was unable to cope with. The inevitable inference, therefore, as it seems to me, is that we must believe that the princes and powers of the Creator did knowingly crucify the God of glory in His Christ, with that desperation and excessive malice with which the most abandoned slaves do not even hesitate to slay their masters.
For it is written in my Gospel that “Satan entered into Judas.” According to Marcion, however, the apostle in the passage under consideration does not allow the imputation of ignorance, with respect to the Lord of glory, to the powers of the Creator; because, indeed, he will have it that these are not meant by “the princes of this world.” But (the apostle) evidently did not speak of spiritual princes; so that he meant secular ones, those of the princely people, (chief in the divine dispensation, although) not, of course, amongst the nations of the world, and their rulers, and king Herod, and even Pilate, and, as represented by him, that power of Rome which was the greatest in the world, and then presided over by him.
Thus the arguments of the other side are pulled down, and our own proofs are thereby built up. But you still maintain that our glory comes from your god, with whom it also lay in secret. Then why does your god employ the self-same Scripture which the apostle also relies on? What has your god to do at all with the sayings of the prophets? “Who hath discovered the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?” So says Isaiah.
What has he also to do with illustrations from our God? For when (the apostle) calls himself “a wise master-builder,” we find that the Creator by Isaiah designates the teacher who sketches out the divine discipline by the same title, “I will take away from Judah the cunning artificer,” etc. And was it not Paul himself who was there foretold, destined “to be taken away from Judah”—442 that is, from Judaism—for the erection of Christianity, in order “to lay that only foundation, which is Christ?” Of this work the Creator also by the same prophet says, “Behold, I lay in Sion for a foundation a precious stone and honourable; and he that resteth thereon shall not be confounded.”
Unless it be, that God professed Himself to be the builder up of an earthly work, that so He might not give any sign of His Christ, as destined to be the foundation of such as believe in Him, upon which every man should build at will the superstructure of either sound or worthless doctrine; forasmuch as it is the Creator’s function, when a man’s work shall be tried by fire, (or) when a reward shall be recompensed to him by fire; because it is by fire that the test is applied to the building which you erect upon the foundation which is laid by Him, that is, the foundation of His Christ.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Now, since man is the property, and the work, and the image and likeness of the Creator, having his flesh, formed by Him of the ground, and his soul of His afflatus, it follows that Marcion’s god wholly dwells in a temple which belongs to another, if so be we are not the Creator’s temple.
But “if any man defile the temple of God, he shall be himself destroyed” —of course, by the God of the temple. If you threaten an avenger, you threaten us with the Creator. “Ye must become fools, that ye may be wise.” Wherefore? “Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” With what God? Even if the ancient Scriptures have contributed nothing in support of our view thus far, an excellent testimony turns up in what (the apostle) here adjoins: “For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness; and again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.”
For in general we may conclude for certain that he could not possibly have cited the authority of that God whom he was bound to destroy, since he would not teach for Him. “Therefore,” says he, “let no man glory in man;” an injunction which is in accordance with the teaching of the Creator, “wretched is the man that trusteth in man;” again, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to confide in man;” and the same thing is said about glorying (in princes).
Chapter VII.—St. Paul’s Phraseology Often Suggested by the Jewish Scriptures.
Christ Our Passover—A Phrase Which Introduces Us to the Very Heart of the Ancient Dispensation. Christ’s True Corporeity. Married and Unmarried States. Meaning of the Time is Short. In His Exhortations and Doctrine, the Apostle Wholly Teaches According to the Mind and Purposes of the God of the Old Testament. Prohibition of Meats and Drinks Withdrawn by the Creator
“And the hidden things of darkness He will Himself bring to light,” even by Christ; for He has promised Christ to be a Light, and Himself He has declared to be a lamp, “searching the hearts and reins.” From Him also shall “praise be had by every man,” from whom proceeds, as from a judge, the opposite also of praise. But here, at least, you say he interprets the world to be the God thereof, when he says: “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.”
For if by world he had meant the people thereof, he would not have afterwards specially mentioned “men.” To prevent, however, your using such an argument as this, the Holy Ghost has providentially explained the meaning of the passage thus: “We are made a spectacle to the world,” i.e. “both to angels,” who minister therein, “and to men,” who are the objects of their ministration. Of course, a man of the noble courage of our apostle (to say nothing of the Holy Ghost) was afraid, when writing to the children whom he had begotten in the gospel, to speak 443 freely of the God of the world; for against Him he could not possibly seem to have a word to say, except only in a straightforward manner! I quite admit, that, according to the Creator’s law, the man was an offender “who had his father’s wife.”
He followed, no doubt, the principles of natural and public law. When, however, he condemns the man “to be delivered unto Satan,” he becomes the herald of an avenging God. It does not matter that he also said, “For the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord,” since both in the destruction of the flesh and in the saving of the spirit there is, on His part, judicial process; and when he bade “the wicked person be put away from the midst of them,” he only mentioned what is a very frequently recurring sentence of the Creator.
“Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.” The unleavened bread was therefore, in the Creator’s ordinance, a figure of us (Christians). “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” But why is Christ our Passover, if the Passover be not a type of Christ, in the similitude of the blood which saves, and of the Lamb, which is Christ? Why does (the apostle) clothe us and Christ with symbols of the Creator’s solemn rites, unless they had relation to ourselves? When, again, he warns us against fornication, he reveals the resurrection of the flesh. “The body,” says he, “is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body,” just as the temple is for God, and God for the temple.
A temple will therefore pass away with its god, and its god with the temple. You see, then, how that “He who raised up the Lord will also raise us up.” In the body will He raise us, because the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And suitably does he add the question: “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” What has the heretic to say? That these members of Christ will not rise again, for they are no longer our own? “For,” he says, “ye are bought with a price.” A price! surely none at all was paid, since Christ was a phantom, nor had He any corporeal substance which He could pay for our bodies!
But, in truth, Christ had wherewithal to redeem us; and since He has redeemed, at a great price, these bodies of ours, against which fornication must not be committed (because they are now members of Christ, and not our own), surely He will secure, on His own account, the safety of those whom He made His own at so much cost! Now, how shall we glorify, how shall we exalt, God in our body, which is doomed to perish? We must now encounter the subject of marriage, which Marcion, more continent than the apostle, prohibits. For the apostle, although preferring the grace of continence, yet permits the contraction of marriage and the enjoyment of it, and advises the continuance therein rather than the dissolution thereof. Christ plainly forbids divorce, Moses unquestionably permits it.
Now, when Marcion wholly prohibits all carnal intercourse to the faithful (for we will say nothing about his catechumens), and when he prescribes repudiation of all engagements before marriage, whose teaching does he follow, that of Moses or of Christ? Even Christ, however, when He here commands “the wife not to depart from her husband, or if she depart, to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband,” both permitted divorce, which indeed He never absolutely prohibited, and confirmed (the sanctity) of marriage, by first forbidding its dissolution; and, if separation had taken place, by wishing the nuptial bond to be resumed by reconciliation.
But what reasons does (the apostle) allege for continence? Because “the time is short.” I had almost thought it was because in Christ there was another god! And yet He from whom emanates this shortness of the time, will also send what suits the said brevity. No one makes provision for the time which is another’s.
You degrade your god, O Marcion, when you make him circumscribed at all by the Creator’s time. Assuredly also, when (the apostle) rules that marriage should be “only in the Lord,” that no Christian should intermarry with a heathen, he maintains 444 a law of the Creator, who everywhere prohibits marriage with strangers. But when he says, “although there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth,” the meaning of his words is clear—not as if there were gods in reality, but as if there were some who are called gods, without being truly so.
He introduces his discussion about meats offered to idols with a statement concerning idols (themselves): “We know that an idol is nothing in the world.” Marcion, however, does not say that the Creator is not God; so that the apostle can hardly be thought to have ranked the Creator amongst those who are called gods, without being so; since, even if they had been gods, “to us there is but one God, the Father.”
Now, from whom do all things come to us, but from Him to whom all things belong? And pray, what things are these? You have them in a preceding part of the epistle: “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come.” He makes the Creator, then the God of all things, from whom proceed both the world and life and death, which cannot possibly belong to the other god.
From Him, therefore, amongst the “all things” comes also Christ. When he teaches that every man ought to live of his own industry, he begins with a copious induction of examples—of soldiers, and shepherds, and husbandmen. But he wanted divine authority. What was the use, however, of adducing the Creator’s, which he was destroying? It was vain to do so; for his god had no such authority! (The apostle) says: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” and adds: “Doth God take care of oxen?” Yes, of oxen, for the sake of men! For, says he, “it is written for our sakes.”
Thus he showed that the law had a symbolic reference to ourselves, and that it gives its sanction in favour of those who live of the gospel. (He showed) also, that those who preach the gospel are on this account sent by no other god but Him to whom belongs the law, which made provision for them, when he says: “For our sakes was this written.” Still he declined to use this power which the law gave him, because he preferred working without any restraint. Of this he boasted, and suffered no man to rob him of such glory —certainly with no view of destroying the law, which he proved that another man might use. For behold Marcion, in his blindness, stumbled at the rock whereof our fathers drank in the wilderness.
For since “that rock was Christ,” it was, of course, the Creator’s, to whom also belonged the people. But why resort to the figure of a sacred sign given by an extraneous god? Was it to teach the very truth, that ancient things prefigured the Christ who was to be educed out of them? For, being about to take a cursory view of what befell the people (of Israel) he begins with saying: “Now these things happened as examples for us.” Now, tell me, were these examples given by the Creator to men belonging to a rival god?
Or did one god borrow examples from another, and a hostile one too? He withdraws me to himself in alarm from Him from whom he transfers my allegiance. Will his antagonist make me better disposed to him? Should I now commit the same sins as the people, shall I have to suffer the same penalties, or not? But if not the same, how vainly does he propose to me terrors which I shall not have to endure! From whom, again, shall I have to endure them?
If from the Creator, What evils does it appertain to Him to inflict? And how will it happen that, jealous God as He is, He shall punish the man who offends His rival, instead of rather encouraging him. If, however, from the other god—but he knows not how to punish. So that the whole declaration of the apostle lacks a reasonable basis, if it is not meant to relate to the Creator’s discipline. But the fact is, the apostle’s conclusion corresponds to the beginning: “Now all these things happened unto them for en-samples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
What a Creator! how prescient already, and considerate in warning Christians who belong to another god! Whenever cavils occur the like to those which have been already dealt with, I pass them by; certain others I despatch briefly. A great argument for another god is the permission to eat of all kinds of meats, contrary to the law. Just as if we did not ourselves allow that the burdensome ordinances of the law were abrogated—but by Him who imposed them, who also promised the new condition of things.
The same, therefore, who prohibited 445 meats, also restored the use of them, just as He had indeed allowed them from the beginning. If, however, some strange god had come to destroy our God, his foremost prohibition would certainly have been, that his own votaries should abstain from supporting their lives on the resources of his adversary.
Chapter VIII.—Man the Image of the Creator, and Christ the Head of the Man.
Spiritual Gifts. The Sevenfold Spirit Described by Isaiah. The Apostle and the Prophet Compared. Marcion Challenged to Produce Anything Like These Gifts of the Spirit Foretold in Prophecy in His God.
“The head of every man is Christ.” What Christ, if He is not the author of man? The head he has here put for authority; now “authority” will accrue to none else than the “author.” Of what man indeed is He the head? Surely of him concerning whom he adds soon afterwards: “The man ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image of God.” Since then he is the image of the Creator (for He, when looking on Christ His Word, who was to become man, said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness”), how can I possibly have another head but Him whose image I am?
For if I am the image of the Creator there is no room in me for another head. But wherefore “ought the woman to have power over her head, because of the angels?” If it is because “she was created for the man,” and taken out of the man, according to the Creator’s purpose, then in this way too has the apostle maintained the discipline of that God from whose institution he explains the reasons of His discipline. He adds: “Because of the angels.” What angels? In other words, whose angels? If he means the fallen angels of the Creator, there is great propriety in his meaning.
It is right that that face which was a snare to them should wear some mark of a humble guise and obscured beauty. If, however, the angels of the rival god are referred to, what fear is there for them? for not even Marcion’s disciples, (to say nothing of his angels,) have any desire for women. We have often shown before now, that the apostle classes heresies as evil among “works of the flesh,” and that he would have those persons accounted estimable who shun heresies as an evil thing.
In like manner, when treating of the gospel, we have proved from the sacrament of the bread and the cup the verity of the Lord’s body and blood in opposition to Marcion’s phantom; whilst throughout almost the whole of my work it has been contended that all mention of judicial attributes points conclusively to the Creator as to a God who judges.
Now, on the subject of “spiritual gifts,” I have to remark that these also were promised by the Creator through Christ; and I think that we may derive from this a very just conclusion that the bestowal of a gift is not the work of a god other than Him who is proved to have given the promise. Here is a prophecy of Isaiah: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall spring up from his root; and upon Him shall rest the Spirit of the Lord.” After which he enumerates the special gifts of the same: “The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of religion.
And with the fear of the Lord shall the Spirit fill Him.” In this figure of a flower he shows that Christ was to arise out of the rod which sprang from the stem of Jesse; in other words, from the virgin of the race of David, the son of Jesse. In this Christ the whole substantia of the Spirit would have to rest, not meaning that it would be as it were some subsequent acquisition accruing to Him who was always, even before His incarnation, the Spirit of God; so that you cannot argue from this that the prophecy has reference to that Christ who (as mere man of the race only of David) was to obtain the Spirit of his God.
(The prophet says,) on the contrary, that from the time when (the true Christ) should appear in the flesh as the flower predicted, rising from the root of Jesse, there would have to rest upon Him the entire operation of the Spirit of grace, which, so far as the Jews were concerned, would cease and come to an end. This result the case itself shows; for after this time the Spirit of the Creator never breathed amongst them.
From Judah were 446 taken away “the wise man, and the cunning artificer, and the counsellor, and the prophet;” that so it might prove true that “the law and the prophets were until John.” Now hear how he declared that by Christ Himself, when returned to heaven, these spiritual gifts were to be sent: “He ascended up on high,” that is, into heaven; “He led captivity captive,” meaning death or slavery of man; “He gave gifts to the sons of men,” that is, the gratuities, which we call charismata.
He says specifically “sons of men,” and not men promiscuously; thus exhibiting to us those who were the children of men truly so called, choice men, apostles. “For,” says he, “I have begotten you through the gospel;” and “Ye are my children, of whom I travail again in birth.” Now was absolutely fulfilled that promise of the Spirit which was given by the word of Joel: “In the last days will I pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and their sons and their daughters shall prophesy; and upon my servants and upon my handmaids will I pour out of my Spirit.”
Since, then, the Creator promised the gift of His Spirit in the latter days; and since Christ has in these last days appeared as the dispenser of spiritual gifts (as the apostle says, “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son;” and again, “This I say, brethren, that the time is short”), it evidently follows in connection with this prediction of the last days, that this gift of the Spirit belongs to Him who is the Christ of the predicters.
Now compare the Spirit’s specific graces, as they are described by the apostle, and promised by the prophet Isaiah. “To one is given,” says he, “by the Spirit the word of wisdom;” this we see at once is what Isaiah declared to be “the spirit of wisdom.” “To another, the word of knowledge;” this will be “the (prophet’s) spirit of understanding and counsel.” “To another, faith by the same Spirit;” this will be “the spirit of religion and the fear of the Lord.”
“To another, the gifts of healing, and to another the working of miracles;” this will be “the spirit of might.” “To another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues;” this will be “the spirit of knowledge.” See how the apostle agrees with the prophet both in making the distribution of the one Spirit, and in interpreting His special graces.
This, too, I may confidently say: he who has likened the unity of our body throughout its manifold and divers members to the compacting together of the various gifts of the Spirit, shows also that there is but one Lord of the human body and of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit, (according to the apostle’s showing,) meant not that the service of these gifts should be in the body, nor did He place them in the human body); and on the subject of the superiority of love above all these gifts, He even taught the apostle that it was the chief commandment, just as Christ has shown it to be: “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thine heart and soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thine own self.”
When he mentions the fact that “it is written in the law,” how that the Creator would speak with other tongues and other lips, whilst confirming indeed the gift of tongues by such a mention, he yet cannot be thought to have affirmed that the gift was that of another god by his reference to the Creator’s prediction.
In precisely the same manner, when enjoining on women silence in the church, that they speak not for the mere sake of learning (although that even they have the right of prophesying, he has already shown when he covers the woman that prophesies with a veil), he goes to the law for his sanction that woman should be under obedience. Now this law, let me say once for all, he ought to have made no other acquaintance with, than to destroy it.
But that we may now leave the subject of spiritual gifts, facts themselves will be enough to prove which of us acts rashly in claiming them for his God, and whether it is possible that they are opposed to our side, even if the Creator promised them for His Christ who is not yet revealed, as being destined only for the Jews, to have their operations in His time, in His Christ, and among His people.
Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his 447 god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer —only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy, that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him; let him show to me also, that any woman of boastful tongue in his community has ever prophesied from amongst those specially holy sisters of his.
Now all these signs (of spiritual gifts) are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty, and they agree, too, with the rules, and the dispensations, and the instructions of the Creator; therefore without doubt the Christ, and the Spirit, and the apostle, belong severally to my God. Here, then, is my frank avowal for any one who cares to require it.
Chapter IX. — The Doctrine of the Resurrection.
The Body Will Rise Again. Christ’s Judicial Character. Jewish Perversions of Prophecy Exposed and Confuted. Messianic Psalms Vindicated. Jewish and Rationalistic Interpretations on This Point Similar. Jesus—Not Hezekiah or Solomon—The Subject of These Prophecies in the Psalms. None But He is the Christ of the Old and the New Testaments.
Meanwhile the Marcionite will exhibit nothing of this kind; he is by this time afraid to say which side has the better right to a Christ who is not yet revealed. Just as my Christ is to be expected, who was predicted from the beginning, so his Christ therefore has no existence, as not having been announced from the beginning. Ours is a better faith, which believes in a future Christ, than the heretic’s, which has none at all to believe in.
Touching the resurrection of the dead, let us first inquire how some persons then denied it. No doubt in the same way in which it is even now denied, since the resurrection of the flesh has at all times men to deny it. But many wise men claim for the soul a divine nature, and are confident of its undying destiny, and even the multitude worship the dead in the presumption which they boldly entertain that their souls survive. As for our bodies, however, it is manifest that they perish either at once by fire or the wild beasts, or even when most carefully kept by length of time.
When, therefore, the apostle refutes those who deny the resurrection of the flesh, he indeed defends, in opposition to them, the precise matter of their denial, that is, the resurrection of the body. You have the whole answer wrapped up in this. All the rest is superfluous. Now in this very point, which is called the resurrection of the dead, it is requisite that the proper force of the words should be accurately maintained.
The word dead expresses simply what has lost the vital principle, by means of which it used to live. Now the body is that which loses life, and as the result of losing it becomes dead. To the body, therefore, the term dead is only suitable. Moreover, as resurrection accrues to what is dead, and dead is a term applicable only to a body, therefore the body alone has a resurrection incidental to it.
So again the word Resurrection, or (rising again), embraces only that which has fallen down. “To rise,” indeed, can be predicated of that which has never fallen down, but had already been always lying down. But “to rise again” is predicable only of that which has fallen down; because it is by rising again, in consequence of its having fallen down, that it is said to have re-risen. For the syllable RE always implies iteration (or happening again).
We say, therefore, that the body falls to the ground by death, as indeed facts themselves show, in accordance with the law of God. For to the body it was said, (“Till thou return to the ground, for out of it wast thou taken; for) dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” That, therefore, which came from the ground shall return to the ground. Now that falls down which returns to the ground; and that rises again which falls down. “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection.” Here in the word man, who consists of bodily substance, as we have often shown already, is presented to me the body of Christ.
But if we are all so made alive in Christ, as we die in Adam, it follows of necessity that we are made alive in Christ as a bodily substance, since we died in Adam as a bodily substance. The similarity, indeed, is not complete, unless our revival in Christ concur in identity of substance with our 448 mortality in Adam. But at this point (the apostle) has made a parenthetical statement concerning Christ, which, bearing as it does on our present discussion, must not pass unnoticed.
For the resurrection of the body will receive all the better proof, in proportion as I shall succeed in showing that Christ belongs to that God who is believed to have provided this resurrection of the flesh in His dispensation. When he says, “For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet,” we can see at once from this statement that he speaks of a God of vengeance, and therefore of Him who made the following promise to Christ: “Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. The rod of Thy strength shall the Lord send forth from Sion, and He shall rule along with Thee in the midst of Thine enemies.”
It is necessary for me to lay claim to those Scriptures which the Jews endeavour to deprive us of, and to show that they sustain my view. Now they say that this Psalm was a chant in honour of Hezekiah, because “he went up to the house of the Lord,” and God turned back and removed his enemies. Therefore, (as they further hold,) those other words, “Before the morning star did I beget thee from the womb,” are applicable to Hezekiah, and to the birth of Hezekiah.
We on our side have published Gospels (to the credibility of which we have to thank them for having given some confirmation, indeed, already in so great a subject); and these declare that the Lord was born at night, that so it might be “before the morning star,” as is evident both from the star especially, and from the testimony of the angel, who at night announced to the shepherds that Christ had at that moment been born, and again from the place of the birth, for it is towards night that persons arrive at the (eastern) “inn.”
Perhaps, too, there was a mystic purpose in Christ’s being born at night, destined, as He was, to be the light of the truth amidst the dark shadows of ignorance. Nor, again, would God have said, “I have begotten Thee,” except to His true Son. For although He says of all the people (Israel), “I have begotten children,” yet He added not “from the womb.”
Now, why should He have added so superfluously this phrase “from the womb” (as if there could be any doubt about any one’s having been born from the womb), unless the Holy Ghost had wished the words to be with especial care understood of Christ? “I have begotten Thee from the womb,” that is to say, from a womb only, without a man’s seed, making it a condition of a fleshly body that it should come out of a womb. What is here added (in the Psalm), “Thou art a priest for ever,” relates to (Christ) Himself.
Hezekiah was no priest; and even if he had been one, he would not have been a priest for ever. “After the order,” says He, “of Melchizedek.” Now what had Hezekiah to do with Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God, and him uncircumcised too, who blessed the circumcised Abraham, after receiving from him the offering of tithes? To Christ, however, “the order of Melchizedek” will be very suitable; for Christ is the proper and legitimate High Priest of God.
He is the Pontiff of the priesthood of the uncircumcision, constituted such, even then, for the Gentiles, by whom He was to be more fully received, although at His last coming He will favour with His acceptance and blessing the circumcision also, even the race of Abraham, which by and by is to acknowledge Him.
Well, then, there is also another Psalm, which begins with these words: “Give Thy judgments, O God, to the King,” that is, to Christ who was to come as King, “and Thy righteousness unto the King’s son,” that is, to Christ’s people; for His 449 sons are they who are born again in Him. But it will here be said that this Psalm has reference to Solomon.
However, will not those portions of the Psalm which apply to Christ alone, be enough to teach us that all the rest, too, relates to Christ, and not to Solomon? “He shall come down,” says He, “like rain upon a fleece, and like dropping showers upon the earth,” describing His descent from heaven to the flesh as gentle and unobserved. Solomon, however, if he had indeed any descent at all, came not down like a shower, because he descended not from heaven. But I will set before you more literal points. “He shall have dominion,” says the Psalmist, “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”
To Christ alone was this given; whilst Solomon reigned over only the moderately-sized kingdom of Judah. “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him.” Whom, indeed, shall they all thus worship, except Christ? “All nations shall serve Him.” To whom shall all thus do homage, but Christ? “His name shall endure for ever.” Whose name has this eternity of fame, but Christ’s? “Longer than the sun shall His name remain,” for longer than the sun shall be the Word of God, even Christ. “And in Him shall all nations be blessed.”
In Solomon was no nation blessed; in Christ every nation. And what if the Psalm proves Him to be even God? “They shall call Him blessed.” (On what ground?) Because blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth wonderful things.” “Blessed also is His glorious name, and with His glory shall all the earth be filled.” On the contrary, Solomon (as I make bold to affirm) lost even the glory which he had from God, seduced by his love of women even into idolatry.
And thus, the statement which occurs in about the middle of this Psalm, “His enemies shall lick the dust” (of course, as having been, (to use the apostle’s phrase,) “put under His feet”), will bear upon the very object which I had in view, when I both introduced the Psalm, and insisted on my opinion of its sense,—namely, that I might demonstrate both the glory of His kingdom and the subjection of His enemies in pursuance of the Creator’s own plans, with the view of laying down this conclusion, that none but He can be believed to be the Christ of the Creator.
Chapter X.—Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, Continued.
How are the Dead Raised? and with What Body Do They Come? These Questions Answered in Such a Sense as to Maintain the Truth of the Raised Body, Against Marcion. Christ as the Second Adam Connected with the Creator of the First Man. Let Us Bear the Image of the Heavenly. The Triumph Over Death in Accordance with the Prophets. Hosea and St. Paul Compared.
Let us now return to the resurrection, to the defence of which against heretics of all sorts we have given indeed sufficient attention in another work of ours. But we will not be wanting (in some defence of the doctrine) even here, in consideration of such persons as are ignorant of that little treatise. “What,” asks he, “shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not?” Now, never mind that practice, (whatever it may have been.)
The Februarian lustrations will perhaps answer him (quite as well), by praying for the dead. Do not then suppose that the apostle here indicates some new god as the author and advocate of this (baptism for the dead. His only aim in alluding to it was) that he might all the more firmly insist upon the resurrection of the body, in proportion as they who were vainly baptized for the dead resorted to the practice from their belief of such a resurrection. We have the apostle in another passage defining “but one baptism.” To be “baptized for the dead” therefore means, in fact, to be baptized for the body; for, as we have shown, it is the body which becomes dead.
What, then, shall they do who are baptized for the body, if the body rises not again? We stand, then, on firm ground 450 (when we say) that the next question which the apostle has discussed equally relates to the body. But “some man will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? With what body do they come?’” Having established the doctrine of the resurrection which was denied, it was natural to discuss what would be the sort of body (in the resurrection), of which no one had an idea. On this point we have other opponents with whom to engage.
For Marcion does not in any wise admit the resurrection of the flesh, and it is only the salvation of the soul which he promises; consequently the question which he raises is not concerning the sort of body, but the very substance thereof. Notwithstanding, he is most plainly refuted even from what the apostle advances respecting the quality of the body, in answer to those who ask, “How are the dead raised up? with what body do they come?”
For as he treated of the sort of body, he of course ipso facto proclaimed in the argument that it was a body which would rise again. Indeed, since he proposes as his examples “wheat grain, or some other grain, to which God giveth a body, such as it hath pleased Him;” since also he says, that “to every seed is its own body;” that, consequently, “there is one kind of flesh of men, whilst there is another of beasts, and (another) of birds; that there are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial; and that there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars” —does he not therefore intimate that there is to be a resurrection of the flesh or body, which he illustrates by fleshly and corporeal samples?
Does he not also guarantee that the resurrection shall be accomplished by that God from whom proceed all the (creatures which have served him for) examples? “So also,” says he, “is the resurrection of the dead.” How? Just as the grain, which is sown a body, springs up a body. This sowing of the body he called the dissolving thereof in the ground, “because it is sown in corruption,” (but “is raised) to honour and power.” Now, just as in the case of the grain, so here: to Him will belong the work in the revival of the body, who ordered the process in the dissolution thereof. If, however, you remove the body from the resurrection which you submitted to the dissolution, what becomes of the diversity in the issue?
Likewise, “although it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” Now, although the natural principle of life and the spirit have each a body proper to itself, so that the “natural body” may fairly be taken to signify the soul, and “the spiritual body” the spirit, yet that is no reason for supposing the apostle to say that the soul is to become spirit in the resurrection, but that the body (which, as being born along with the soul, and as retaining its life by means of the soul, admits of being called animal (or natural) will become spiritual, since it rises through the Spirit to an eternal life.
In short, since it is not the soul, but the flesh which is “sown in corruption,” when it turns to decay in the ground, it follows that (after such dissolution) the soul is no longer the natural body, but the flesh, which was the natural body, (is the subject of the future change), forasmuch as of a natural body it is made a spiritual body, as he says further down, “That was not first which is spiritual.”
For to this effect he just before remarked of Christ Himself: “The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” Our heretic, however, in the excess of his folly, being unwilling that the statement should remain in this shape, altered “last Adam” into “last Lord;” because he feared, of course, that if he allowed the Lord to be the last (or second) Adam, we should contend that Christ, being the second Adam, must needs belong to that God who owned also the first Adam.
But the falsification is transparent. For why is there a first Adam, unless it be that there is also a second Adam? For things are not classed together unless they be severally alike, and have an identity of either name, or substance, or origin. Now, although among things which are even individually diverse, one must be first and another last, yet they must have one author.
If, however, the author be a different one, he 451 himself indeed may be called the last. But the thing which he introduces is the first, and that only can be the last, which is like this first in nature. It is, however, not like the first in nature, when it is not the work of the same author. In like manner (the heretic) will be refuted also with the word “man: ” “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
Now, since the first was a man, how can there be a second, unless he is a man also? Or, else, if the second is “Lord,” was the first “Lord” also? It is, however, quite enough for me, that in his Gospel he admits the Son of man to be both Christ and Man; so that he will not be able to deny Him (in this passage), in the “Adam” and the “man” (of the apostle). What follows will also be too much for him. For when the apostle says, “As is the earthy,” that is, man, “such also are they that are earthy”—men again, of course; “therefore as is the heavenly,” meaning the Man, from heaven, “such are the men also that are heavenly.”
For he could not possibly have opposed to earthly men any heavenly beings that were not men also; his object being the more accurately to distinguish their state and expectation by using this name in common for them both. For in respect of their present state and their future expectation he calls men earthly and heavenly, still reserving their parity of name, according as they are reckoned (as to their ultimate condition) in Adam or in Christ.
Therefore, when exhorting them to cherish the hope of heaven, he says: “As we have borne the image of the earthy, so let us also bear the image of the heavenly,” —language which relates not to any condition of resurrection life, but to the rule of the present time. He says, Let us bear, as a precept; not We shall bear, in the sense of a promise—wishing us to walk even as he himself was walking, and to put off the likeness of the earthly, that is, of the old man, in the works of the flesh. For what are this next words? “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
He means the works of the flesh and blood, which, in his Epistle to the Galatians, deprive men of the kingdom of God. In other passages also he is accustomed to put the natural condition instead of the works that are done therein, as when he says, that “they who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Now, when shall we be able to please God except whilst we are in this flesh? There is, I imagine, no other time wherein a man can work. If, however, whilst we are even naturally living in the flesh, we yet eschew the deeds of the flesh, then we shall not be in the flesh; since, although we are not absent from the substance of the flesh, we are notwithstanding strangers to the sin thereof.
Now, since in the word flesh we are enjoined to put off, not the substance, but the works of the flesh, therefore in the use of the same word the kingdom of God is denied to the works of the flesh, not to the substance thereof. For not that is condemned in which evil is done, but only the evil which is done in it.
To administer poison is a crime, but the cup in which it is given is not guilty. So the body is the vessel of the works of the flesh, whilst the soul which is within it mixes the poison of a wicked act. How then is it, that the soul, which is the real author of the works of the flesh, shall attain to the kingdom of God, after the deeds done in the body have been atoned for, whilst the body, which was nothing but (the soul’s) ministering agent, must remain in condemnation? Is the cup to be punished, but the poisoner to escape?
Not that we indeed claim the kingdom of God for the flesh: all we do is, to assert a resurrection for the substance thereof, as the gate of the kingdom through which it is entered. But the resurrection is one thing, and the kingdom is another. The resurrection is first, and afterwards the kingdom. We say, therefore, that the flesh rises again, but that when changed it obtains the kingdom. “For the dead shall be raised incorruptible,” even those who had been corruptible when their bodies fell into decay; “and we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
For this corruptible”—and as he spake, the apostle seemingly pointed to his own flesh—“must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality,” in order, indeed, that it may be rendered a fit substance for the kingdom of God. “For we shall be like the angels.” This will be the perfect change of 452 our flesh—only after its resurrection. Now if, on the contrary, there is to be no flesh, how then shall it put on incorruption and immortality? Having then become something else by its change, it will obtain the kingdom of God, no longer the (old) flesh and blood, but the body which God shall have given it.
Rightly then does the apostle declare, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;” for this (honour) does he ascribe to the changed condition which ensues on the resurrection. Since, therefore, shall then be accomplished the word which was written by the Creator, “O death, where is thy victory”—or thy struggle? “O death, where is thy sting?” —written, I say, by the Creator, for He wrote them by His prophet —to Him will belong the gift, that is, the kingdom, who proclaimed the word which is to be accomplished in the kingdom. And to none other God does he tell us that “thanks” are due, for having enabled us to achieve “the victory” even over death, than to Him from whom he received the very expression of the exulting and triumphant challenge to the mortal foe.
Chapter XI.—The Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
The Creator the Father of Mercies. Shown to Be Such in the Old Testament, and Also in Christ. The Newness of the New Testament. The Veil of Obdurate Blindness Upon Israel, Not Reprehensible on Marcion’s Principles. The Jews Guilty in Rejecting the Christ of the Creator. Satan, the God of This World. The Treasure in Earthen Vessels Explained Against Marcion. The Creator’s Relation to These Vessels, I.e. Our Bodies.
If, owing to the fault of human error, the word God has become a common name (since in the world there are said and believed to be “gods many”), yet “the blessed God,” (who is “the Father) of our Lord Jesus Christ,” will be understood to be no other God than the Creator, who both blessed all things (that He had made), as you find in Genesis, and is Himself “blessed by all things,” as Daniel tells us. Now, if the title of Father may be claimed for (Marcion’s) sterile god, how much more for the Creator?
To none other than Him is it suitable, who is also “the Father of mercies,” and (in the prophets) has been described as “full of compassion, and gracious, and plenteous in mercy.” In Jonah you find the signal act of His mercy, which He showed to the praying Ninevites. How inflexible was He at the tears of Hezekiah! How ready to forgive Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, the blood of Naboth, when he deprecated His anger.
How prompt in pardoning David on his confession of his sin —preferring, indeed, the sinner’s repentance to his death, of course because of His gracious attribute of mercy. Now, if Marcion’s god has exhibited or proclaimed any such thing as this, I will allow him to be “the Father of mercies.” Since, however, he ascribes to him this title only from the time he has been revealed, as if he were the father of mercies from the time only when he began to liberate the human race, then we on our side, too, adopt the same precise date of his alleged revelation; but it is that we may deny him! It is then not competent to him to ascribe any quality to his god, whom indeed he only promulged by the fact of such an ascription; for only if it were previously evident that his god had an existence, could he be permitted to ascribe an attribute to him.
The ascribed attribute is only an accident; but accidents are preceded by the statement of the thing itself of which they are predicated, especially when another claims the attribute which is ascribed to him who has not been previously shown to exist. Our denial of his existence will be all the more peremptory, because of the fact that the attribute which is alleged in proof of it belongs to that God who has been already revealed.
Therefore “the New Testament” will appertain to none other than Him who promised it—if not “its letter, yet its spirit;” and herein will lie its newness. Indeed, He who had engraved its letter in stones is the same as He who had said of its spirit, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” Even if “the letter killeth, yet the Spirit giveth life;” and both belong to Him who says: “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.” We have already 453 made good the Creator’s claim to this twofold character of judgment and goodness —“killing in the letter” through the law, and “quickening in the Spirit” through the Gospel.
Now these attributes, however different they be, cannot possibly make two gods; for they have already (in the prevenient dispensation of the Old Testament) been found to meet in One. He alludes to Moses’ veil, covered with which “his face could not be stedfastly seen by the children of Israel.” Since he did this to maintain the superiority of the glory of the New Testament, which is permanent in its glory, over that of the Old, “which was to be done away,” this fact gives support to my belief which exalts the Gospel above the law and you must look well to it that it does not even more than this.
For only there is superiority possible where was previously the thing over which superiority can be affirmed. But then he says, “But their minds were blinded” —of the world; certainly not the Creator’s mind, but the minds of the people which are in the world. Of Israel he says, Even unto this day the same veil is upon their heart;” showing that the veil which was on the face of Moses was a figure of the veil which is on the heart of the nation still; because even now Moses is not seen by them in heart, just as he was not then seen by them in eye.
But what concern has Paul with the veil which still obscures Moses from their view, if the Christ of the Creator, whom Moses predicted, is not yet come? How are the hearts of the Jews represented as still covered and veiled, if the predictions of Moses relating to Christ, in whom it was their duty to believe through him, are as yet unfulfilled? What had the apostle of a strange Christ to complain of, if the Jews failed in understanding the mysterious announcements of their own God, unless the veil which was upon their hearts had reference to that blindness which concealed from their eyes the Christ of Moses?
Then, again, the words which follow, But when it shall turn to the Lord, the evil shall be taken away,” properly refer to the Jew, over whose gaze Moses’ veil is spread, to the effect that, when he is turned to the faith of Christ, he will understand how Moses spoke of Christ. But how shall the veil of the Creator be taken away by the Christ of another god, whose mysteries the Creator could not possibly have veiled—unknown mysteries, as they were of an unknown god?
So he says that “we now with open face” (meaning the candour of the heart, which in the Jews had been covered with a veil), “beholding Christ, are changed into the same image, from that glory” (wherewith Moses was transfigured as by the glory of the Lord) “to another glory.” By thus setting forth the glory which illumined the person of Moses from his interview with God, and the veil which concealed the same from the infirmity of the people, and by superinducing thereupon the revelation and the glory of the Spirit in the person of Christ—“even as,” to use his words, “by the Spirit of the Lord” —he testifies that the whole Mosaic system was a figure of Christ, of whom the Jews indeed were ignorant, but who is known to us Christians.
We are quite aware that some passages are open to ambiguity, from the way in which they are read, or else from their punctuation, when there is room for these two causes of ambiguity. The latter method has been adopted by Marcion, by reading the passage which follows, “in whom the God of this world,” as if it described the Creator as the God of this world, in order that he may, by these words, imply that there is another God for the other world.
We, however, say that the passage ought to be punctuated with a comma after God, to this effect: “In whom God hath blinded the eyes of the unbelievers of this world.” “In whom” means the Jewish unbelievers, from some of whom the gospel is still hidden under Moses’ veil. Now it is these whom God had threatened for “loving Him indeed with the lip, whilst their heart was far from Him,” in these angry words: “Ye shall hear with your ears, and not understand; and see with your eyes, but not perceive;” and, “If ye will not believe, ye shall not understand;” and again, “I will take away the wisdom of their wise men, and bring to nought the 454 understanding of their prudent ones.” But these words, of course, He did not pronounce against them for concealing the gospel of the unknown God.
At any rate, if there is a God of this world, He blinds the heart of the unbelievers of this world, because they have not of their own accord recognised His Christ, who ought to be understood from His Scriptures. Content with my advantage, I can willingly refrain from noticing to any greater length this point of ambiguous punctuation, so as not to give my adversary any advantage, indeed, I might have wholly omitted the discussion.
A simpler answer I shall find ready to hand in interpreting “the god of this world” of the devil, who once said, as the prophet describes him: “I will be like the Most High; I will exalt my throne in the clouds.” The whole superstition, indeed, of this world has got into his hands, so that he blinds effectually the hearts of unbelievers, and of none more than the apostate Marcion’s. Now he did not observe how much this clause of the sentence made against him: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to (give) the light of the knowledge (of His glory) in the face of (Jesus) Christ.”
Now who was it that said; “Let there be light?” And who was it that said to Christ concerning giving light to the world: “I have set Thee as a light to the Gentiles” —to them, that is, “who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death?” (None else, surely, than He), to whom the Spirit in the Psalm answers, in His foresight of the future, saying, “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, hath been displayed upon us.” Now the countenance (or person) of the Lord here is Christ.
Wherefore the apostle said above: “Christ, who is the image of God.” Since Christ, then, is the person of the Creator, who said, “Let there be light,” it follows that Christ and the apostles, and the gospel, and the veil, and Moses—nay, the whole of the dispensations—belong to the God who is the Creator of this world, according to the testimony of the clause (above adverted to), and certainly not to him who never said, “Let there be light.” I here pass over discussion about another epistle, which we hold to have been written to the Ephesians, but the heretics to the Laodiceans.
In it he tells them to remember, that at the time when they were Gentiles they were without Christ, aliens from (the commonwealth of) Israel, without intercourse, without the covenants and any hope of promise, nay, without God, even in his own world, as the Creator thereof. Since therefore he said, that the Gentiles were without God, whilst their god was the devil, not the Creator, it is clear that he must be understood to be the lord of this world, whom the Gentiles received as their god—not the Creator, of whom they were in ignorance. But how does it happen, that “the treasure which we have in these earthen vessels of ours” should not be regarded as belonging to the God who owns the vessels?
Now since God’s glory is, that so great a treasure is contained in earthen vessels, and since these earthen vessels are of the Creator’s make, it follows that the glory is the Creator’s; nay, since these vessels of His smack so much of the excellency of the power of God, that power itself must be His also! Indeed, all these things have been consigned to the said “earthen vessels” for the very purpose that His excellence might be manifested forth.
Henceforth, then, the rival god will have no claim to the glory, and consequently none to the power. Rather, dishonour and weakness will accrue to him, because the earthen vessels with which he had nothing to do have received all the excellency! Well, then, if it be in these very earthen vessels that he tells us we have to endure so great sufferings, in which we bear about with us the very dying of God, (Marcion’s) god is really ungrateful and unjust, if he does not mean to restore this same substance of ours at the resurrection, wherein so much has been endured in loyalty to him, in which Christ’s very death is borne about, wherein too the excellency of his power is treasured.
For he gives prominence to the statement, “That the life also of Christ may be manifested in our body,” as a contrast to the preceding, that His death is borne about in our body. Now of what life of Christ does he here speak? Of that which we are now living? Then how is it, that in the words which follow he exhorts us not to the things which are seen and are temporal, but to those which are not seen and are eternal —in other words, not to the present, but to the future?
But if it be of the future life of 455 Christ that he speaks, intimating that it is to be made manifest in our body, then he has clearly predicted the resurrection of the flesh. He says, too, that “our outward man perishes,” not meaning by an eternal perdition after death, but by labours and sufferings, in reference to which he previously said, “For which cause we will not faint.” Now, when he adds of “the inward man” also, that it “is renewed day by day,” he demonstrates both issues here—the wasting away of the body by the wear and tear of its trials, and the renewal of the soul by its contemplation of the promises.
Chapter XII.—The Eternal Home in Heaven.
Beautiful Exposition by Tertullian of the Apostle’s Consolatory Teaching Against the Fear of Death, So Apt to Arise Under Anti-Christian Oppression. The Judgment-Seat of Christ—The Idea, Anti-Marcionite. Paradise. Judicial Characteristics of Christ Which are Inconsistent with the Heretical Views About Him; The Apostle’s Sharpness, or Severity, Shows Him to Be a Fit Preacher of the Creator’s Christ.
As to the house of this our earthly dwelling-place, when he says that “we have an eternal home in heaven, not made with hands,” he by no means would imply that, because it was built by the Creator’s hand, it must perish in a perpetual dissolution after death. He treats of this subject in order to offer consolation against the fear of death and the dread of this very dissolution, as is even more manifest from what follows, when he adds, that “in this tabernacle of our earthly body we do groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with the vesture which is from heaven, if so be, that having been unclothed, we shall not be found naked;” in other words, shall regain that of which we have been divested, even our body.
And again he says: “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, not as if we were oppressed with an unwillingness to be unclothed, but (we wish) to be clothed upon.” He here says expressly, what he touched but lightly in his first epistle, where he wrote:) “The dead shall be raised incorruptible (meaning those who had undergone mortality), “and we shall be changed” (whom God shall find to be yet in the flesh).
Both those shall be raised incorruptible, because they shall regain their body—and that a renewed one, from which shall come their incorruptibility; and these also shall, in the crisis of the last moment, and from their instantaneous death, whilst encountering the oppressions of anti-christ, undergo a change, obtaining therein not so much a divestiture of body as “a clothing upon” with the vesture which is from heaven.
So that whilst these shall put on over their (changed) body this, heavenly raiment, the dead also shall for their part recover their body, over which they too have a supervesture to put on, even the incorruption of heaven; because of these it was that he said: “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” The one put on this (heavenly) apparel, when they recover their bodies; the others put it on as a supervesture, when they indeed hardly lose them (in the suddenness of their change).
It was accordingly not without good reason that he described them as “not wishing indeed to be unclothed,” but (rather as wanting) “to be clothed upon;” in other words, as wishing not to undergo death, but to be surprised into life, “that this moral (body) might be swallowed up of life,” by being rescued from death in the supervesture of its changed state.
This is why he shows us how much better it is for us not to be sorry, if we should be surprised by death, and tells us that we even hold of God “the earnest of His Spirit” (pledged as it were thereby to have “the clothing upon,” which is the object of our hope), and that “so long as we are in the flesh, we are absent from the Lord;” moreover, that we ought on this account to prefer “rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord,” and so to be ready to meet even death with joy.
In this view it is that he informs us how “we must all appear 456 before the judgement-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according as he hath done either good or bad.” Since, however, there is then to be a retribution according to men’s merits, how will any be able to reckon with God?
But by mentioning both the judgment-seat and the distinction between works good and bad, he sets before us a Judge who is to award both sentences, and has thereby affirmed that all will have to be present at the tribunal in their bodies. For it will be impossible to pass sentence except on the body, for what has been done in the body. God would be unjust, if any one were not punished or else rewarded in that very condition, wherein the merit was itself achieved.
“If therefore any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new;” and so is accomplished the prophecy of Isaiah. When also he (in a later passage) enjoins us “to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and blood” (since this substance enters not the kingdom of God); when, again, he “espouses the church as a chaste virgin to Christ,” a spouse to a spouse in very deed, an image cannot be combined and compared with what is opposed to the real nature of the thing (with which it is compared).
So when he designates “false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves” into likenesses of himself, of course by their hypocrisy, he charges them with the guilt of disorderly conversation, rather than of false doctrine. The contrariety, therefore, was one of conduct, not of gods. If “Satan himself, too, is transformed into an angel of light,” such an assertion must not be used to the prejudice of the Creator.
The Creator is not an angel, but God. Into a god of light, and not an angel of light, must Satan then have been said to be transformed, if he did not mean to call him “the angel,” which both we and Marcion know him to be. On Paradise is the title of a treatise of ours, in which is discussed all that the subject admits of.
I shall here simply wonder, in connection with this matter, whether a god who has no dispensation of any kind on earth could possibly have a paradise to call his own—without perchance availing himself of the paradise of the Creator, to use it as he does His world—much in the character of a mendicant.
And yet of the removal of a man from earth to heaven we have an instance afforded us by the Creator in Elijah. But what will excite my surprise still more is the case (next supposed by Marcion), that a God so good and gracious, and so averse to blows and cruelty, should have suborned the angel Satan—not his own either, but the Creator’s—“to buffet” the apostle, and then to have refused his request, when thrice entreated to liberate him!
It would seem, therefore, that Marcion’s god imitates the Creator’s conduct, who is an enemy to the proud, even “putting down the mighty from their seats.” Is he then the same God as He who gave Satan power over the person of Job that his “strength might be made perfect in weakness?” How is it that the censurer of the Galatians still retains the very formula of the law: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established?”
How again is it that he threatens sinners “that he will not spare” them —he, the preacher of a most gentle god? Yea, he even declares that “the Lord hath given to him the power of using sharpness in their presence!” Deny now, O heretic, (at your cost,) that your god is an object to be feared, when his apostle was for making himself so formidable!
Chapter XIII.—The Epistle to the Romans.
St. Paul Cannot Help Using Phrases Which Bespeak the Justice of God, Even When He is Eulogizing the Mercies of the Gospel. Marcion Particularly Hard in Mutilation of This Epistle. Yet Our Author Argues on Common Ground. The Judgment at Last Will Be in Accordance with the Gospel. The Justified by Faith Exhorted to Have Peace with God. The Administration of the Old and the New Dispensations in One and the Same Hand.
Since my little work is approaching its termination, I must treat but briefly the points which still occur, whilst those which have so often turned up must be put aside. I 457 regret still to have to contend about the law—after I have so often proved that its replacement (by the gospel) affords no argument for another god, predicted as it was indeed in Christ, and in the Creator’s own plans ordained for His Christ.
(But I must revert to that discussion) so far as (the apostle leads me, for) this very epistle looks very much as if it abrogated the law. We have, however, often shown before now that God is declared by the apostle to be a Judge; and that in the Judge is implied an Avenger; and in the Avenger, the Creator.
And so in the passage where he says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel (of Christ): for it is the power of god unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith,” he undoubtedly ascribes both the gospel and salvation to Him whom (in accordance with our heretic’s own distinction) I have called the just God, not the good one.
It is He who removes (men) from confidence in the law to faith in the gospel—that is to say, His own law and His own gospel. When, again, he declares that “the wrath (of God) is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness,” (I ask) the wrath of what God? Of the Creator certainly. The truth, therefore, will be His, whose is also the wrath, which has to be revealed to avenge the truth. Likewise, when adding, “We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth,” he both vindicated that wrath from which comes this judgment for the truth, and at the same time afforded another proof that the truth emanates from the same God whose wrath he attested, by witnessing to His judgment.
Marcion’s averment is quite a different matter, that the Creator in anger avenges Himself on the truth of the rival god which had been detained in unrighteousness. But what serious gaps Marcion has made in this epistle especially, by withdrawing whole passages at his will, will be clear from the unmutilated text of our own copy. It is enough for my purpose to accept in evidence of its truth what he has seen fit to leave unerased, strange instances as they are also of his negligence and blindness.
If, then, God will judge the secrets of men—both of those who have sinned in the law, and of those who have sinned without law (inasmuch as they who know not the law yet do by nature the things contained in the law) —surely the God who shall judge is He to whom belong both the law, and that nature which is the rule to them who know not the law. But how will He conduct this judgment? “According to my gospel,” says (the apostle), “by (Jesus) Christ.” So that both the gospel and Christ must be His, to whom appertain the law and the nature which are to be vindicated by the gospel and Christ—even at that judgment of God which, as he previously said, was to be according to truth.
The wrath, therefore, which is to vindicate truth, can only be revealed from heaven by the God of wrath; so that this sentence, which is quite in accordance with that previous one wherein the judgment is declared to be the Creator’s, cannot possibly be ascribed to another god who is not a judge, and is incapable of wrath. It is only consistent in Him amongst whose attributes are found the judgment and the wrath of which I am speaking, and to whom of necessity must also appertain the media whereby these attributes are to be carried into effect, even the gospel and Christ.
Hence his invective against the transgressors of the law, who teach that men should not steal, and yet practise theft themselves. (This invective he utters) in perfect homage to the law of God, not as if he meant to censure the Creator Himself with having commanded a fraud to be practised against the Egyptians to get their gold and silver at the very time when He was forbidding men to steal, —adopting such methods as they are apt (shamelessly) to charge upon Him in other particulars also.
Are we then to suppose that the apostle abstained through fear from openly calumniating God, from whom notwithstanding He did not hesitate to withdraw men? Well, but he had gone so far in his censure of the Jews, as to point against them the denunciation of the prophet, “Through you the name of God is blasphemed (among the Gentiles).” But how absurd, that he should himself blaspheme Him for blaspheming whom he upbraids them as evil-doers!
He prefers even circumcision of heart to neglect of it in the flesh. Now it is quite within the purpose of the God of the law that circumcision 458 should be that of the heart, not in the flesh; in the spirit, and not in the letter. Since this is the circumcision recommended by Jeremiah: “Circumcise (yourselves to the Lord, and take away) the foreskins of your heart;” and even of Moses: “Circumcise, therefore, the hardness of your heart,” —the Spirit which circumcises the heart will proceed from Him who prescribed the letter also which clips the flesh; and “the Jew which is one inwardly” will be a subject of the self-same God as he also is who is “a Jew outwardly;” because the apostle would have preferred not to have mentioned a Jew at all, unless he were a servant of the God of the Jews.
It was once the law; now it is “the righteousness of God which is by the faith of (Jesus) Christ.” What means this distinction? Has your god been subserving the interests of the Creator’s dispensation, by affording time to Him and to His law? Is the “Now” in the hands of Him to whom belonged the “Then”? Surely, then, the law was His, whose is now the righteousness of God. It is a distinction of dispensations, not of gods.
He enjoins those who are justified by faith in Christ and not by the law to have peace with God. With what God? Him whose enemies we have never, in any dispensation, been? Or Him against whom we have rebelled, both in relation to His written law and His law of nature? Now, as peace is only possible towards Him with whom there once was war, we shall be both justified by Him, and to Him also will belong the Christ, in whom we are justified by faith, and through whom alone God’s enemies can ever be reduced to peace.
“Moreover,” says he, “the law entered, that the offence might abound.” And wherefore this? “In order,” he says, “that (where sin abounded), grace might much more abound.” Whose grace, if not of that God from whom also came the law? Unless it be, forsooth, that the Creator intercalated His law for the mere purpose of producing some employment for the grace of a rival god, an enemy to Himself (I had almost said, a god unknown to Him), “that as sin had” in His own dispensation “reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto (eternal) life by Jesus Christ,” His own antagonist!
For this (I suppose it was, that) the law of the Creator had “concluded all under sin,” and had brought in “all the world as guilty (before God),” and had “stopped every mouth,” so that none could glory through it, in order that grace might be maintained to the glory of the Christ, not of the Creator, but of Marcion! I may here anticipate a remark about the substance of Christ, in the prospect of a question which will now turn up. For he says that “we are dead to the law.” It may be contended that Christ’s body is indeed a body, but not exactly flesh. Now, whatever may be the substance, since he mentions “the body of Christ,” whom he immediately after states to have been “raised from the dead,” none other body can be understood than that of the flesh, in respect of which the law was called (the law) of death.
But, behold, he bears testimony to the law, and excuses it on the ground of sin: “What shall we say, therefore? Is the law sin? God forbid.” Fie on you, Marcion. “God forbid!” (See how) the apostle recoils from all impeachment of the law. I, however, have no acquaintance with sin except through the law. But how high an encomium of the law (do we obtain) from this fact, that by it there comes to light the latent presence of sin!
It was not the law, therefore, which led 459 me astray, but “sin, taking occasion by the commandment.” Why then do you, (O Marcion,) impute to the God of the law what His apostle dares not impute even to the law itself? Nay, he adds a climax: “The law is holy, and its commandment just and good.” Now if he thus reverences the Creator’s law, I am at a loss to know how he can destroy the Creator Himself.
Who can draw a distinction, and say that there are two gods, one just and the other good, when He ought to be believed to be both one and the other, whose commandment is both “just and good?” Then, again, when affirming the law to be “spiritual” he thereby implies that it is prophetic, and that it is figurative. Now from even this circumstance I am bound to conclude that Christ was predicted by the law but figuratively, so that indeed He could not be recognised by all the Jews.
Chapter XIV.—The Divine Power Shown in Christ’s Incarnation.
Meaning of St. Paul’s Phrase. Likeness of Sinful Flesh. No Docetism in It. Resurrection of Our Real Bodies. A Wide Chasm Made in the Epistle by Marcion’s Erasure. When the Jews are Upbraided by the Apostle for Their Misconduct to God; Inasmuch as that God Was the Creator, a Proof is in Fact Given that St. Paul’s God Was the Creator. The Precepts at the End of the Epistle, Which Marcion Allowed, Shown to Be in Exact Accordance with the Creator’s Scriptures.
If the Father “sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” it must not therefore be said that the flesh which He seemed to have was but a phantom. For he in a previous verse ascribed sin to the flesh, and made it out to be “the law of sin dwelling in his members,” and “warring against the law of the mind.” On this account, therefore, (does he mean to say that) the Son was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, that He might redeem this sinful flesh by a like substance, even a fleshly one, which bare a resemblance to sinful flesh, although it was itself free from sin.
Now this will be the very perfection of divine power to effect the salvation (of man) in a nature like his own. For it would be no great matter if the Spirit of God remedied the flesh; but when a flesh, which is the very copy of the sinning substance—itself flesh also—only without sin, (effects the remedy, then doubtless it is a great thing). The likeness, therefore, will have reference to the quality of the sinfulness, and not to any falsity of the substance.
Because he would not have added the attribute “sinful,” if he meant the “likeness” to be so predicated of the substance as to deny the verity thereof; in that case he would only have used the word “flesh,” and omitted the “sinful.” But inasmuch as he has put the two together, and said “sinful flesh,” (or “flesh of sin,”) he has both affirmed the substance, that is, the flesh and referred the likeness to the fault of the substance, that is, to its sin. But even suppose that the likeness was predicated of the substance, the truth of the said substance will not be thereby denied.
Why then call the true substance like? Because it is indeed true, only not of a seed of like condition with our own; but true still, as being of a nature not really unlike ours. And again, in contrary things there is no likeness. Thus the likeness of flesh would not be called spirit, because flesh is not susceptible of any likeness to spirit; but it would be called phantom, if it seemed to be that which it really was not. It is, however, called likeness, since it is what it seems to be. Now it is (what it seems to be), because it is on a par with the other thing (with which it is compared). But a phantom, which is merely such and nothing else, is not a likeness.
The apostle, however, himself here comes to our aid; for, while explaining in what sense he would not have us “live in the flesh,” although in the flesh—even by not living in the works of the flesh —he shows that when he wrote the words, 460 “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” it was not with the view of condemning the substance (of the flesh), but the works thereof; and because it is possible for these not to be committed by us whilst we are still in the flesh, they will therefore be properly chargeable, not on the substance of the flesh, but on its conduct. Likewise, if “the body indeed is dead because of sin” (from which statement we see that not the death of the soul is meant, but that of the body), “but the spirit is life because of righteousness,” it follows that this life accrues to that which incurred death because of sin, that is, as we have just seen, the body.
Now the body is only restored to him who had lost it; so that the resurrection of the dead implies the resurrection of their bodies. He accordingly subjoins: “He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies.” In these words he both affirmed the resurrection of the flesh (without which nothing can rightly be called body, nor can anything be properly regarded as mortal), and proved the bodily substance of Christ; inasmuch as our own mortal bodies will be quickened in precisely the same way as He was raised; and that was in no other way than in the body.
I have here a very wide gulf of expunged Scripture to leap across; however, I alight on the place where the apostle bears record of Israel “that they have a zeal of God” —their own God, of course—“but not according to knowledge. For,” says he, “being ignorant of (the righteousness of) God, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
Hereupon we shall be confronted with an argument of the heretic, that the Jews were ignorant of the superior God, since, in opposition to him, they set up their own righteousness—that is, the righteousness of their law—not receiving Christ, the end (or finisher) of the law. But how then is it that he bears testimony to their zeal for their own God, if it is not in respect of the same God that he upbraids them for their ignorance?
They were affected indeed with zeal for God, but it was not an intelligent zeal: they were, in fact, ignorant of Him, because they were ignorant of His dispensations by Christ, who was to bring about the consummation of the law; and in this way did they maintain their own righteousness in opposition to Him. But so does the Creator Himself testify to their ignorance concerning Him: “Israel hath not known me; my people have not understood me;” and as to their preferring the establishment of their own righteousness, (the Creator again describes them as) “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;” moreover, as “having gathered themselves together against the Lord and against His Christ” —from ignorance of Him, of course.
Now nothing can be expounded of another god which is applicable to the Creator; otherwise the apostle would not have been just in reproaching the Jews with ignorance in respect of a god of whom they knew nothing. For where had been their sin, if they only maintained the righteousness of their own God against one of whom they were ignorant? But he exclaims: “O the depth of the riches and the wisdom of God; how unsearchable also are His ways!” Whence this outburst of feeling?
Surely from the recollection of the Scriptures, which he had been previously turning over, as well as from his contemplation of the mysteries which he had been setting forth above, in relation to the faith of Christ coming from the law. If Marcion had an object in his erasures, why does his apostle utter such an exclamation, because his god has no riches for him to contemplate? So poor and indigent was he, that he created nothing, predicted nothing—in short, possessed nothing; for it was into the world of another God that he descended.
The truth is, the Creator’s resources and riches, which once had been hidden, were now disclosed. For so had He promised: “I will give to them treasures which have been hidden, and which men have not seen will I open to them.” Hence, then, came the exclamation, “O the depth of the riches and the wisdom of God!” For His treasures 461 were now opening out.
This is the purport of what Isaiah said, and of (the apostle’s own) subsequent quotation of the self-same passage, of the prophet: “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” Now, (Marcion,) since you have expunged so much from the Scriptures, why did you retain these words, as if they too were not the Creator’s words? But come now, let us see without mistake the precepts of your new god: “Abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good.”
Well, is the precept different in the Creator’s teaching? “Take away the evil from you, depart from it, and be doing good.” Then again: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.” Now is not this of the same import as: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self?” (Again, your apostle says:) “Rejoicing in hope;” that is, of God. So says the Creator’s Psalmist: “It is better to hope in the Lord, than to hope even in princes.” “Patient in tribulation.”
You have (this in) the Psalm: “The Lord hear thee in the day of tribulation.” “Bless, and curse not,” (says your apostle.) But what better teacher of this will you find than Him who created all things, and blessed them? “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” For against such a disposition Isaiah pronounces a woe. “Recompense to no man evil for evil.” (Like unto which is the Creator’s precept:) “Thou shalt not remember thy brother’s evil against thee.” (Again:) “Avenge not yourselves;” for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” “Live peaceably with all men.”
The retaliation of the law, therefore, permitted not retribution for an injury; it rather repressed any attempt thereat by the fear of a recompense. Very properly, then, did he sum up the entire teaching of the Creator in this precept of His: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Now, if this is the recapitulation of the law from the very law itself, I am at a loss to know who is the God of the law. I fear He must be Marcion’s god (after all).
If also the gospel of Christ is fulfilled in this same precept, but not the Creator’s Christ, what is the use of our contending any longer whether Christ did or did not say, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it?” In vain has (our man of) Pontus laboured to deny this statement. If the gospel has not fulfilled the law, then all I can say is, the law has fulfilled the gospel.
But it is well that in a later verse he threatens us with “the judgment-seat of Christ,”—the Judge, of course, and the Avenger, and therefore the Creator’s (Christ). This Creator, too, however much he may preach up another god, he certainly sets forth for us as a Being to be served, if he holds Him thus up as an object to be feared.
Chapter XV.—The First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
The Shorter Epistles Pungent in Sense and Very Valuable. St. Paul Upbraids the Jews for the Death First of Their Prophets and Then of Christ. This a Presumption that Both Christ and the Prophets Pertained to the Same God. The Law of Nature, Which is in Fact the Creator’s Discipline, and the Gospel of Christ Both Enjoin Chastity. The Resurrection Provided for in the Old Testament by Christ. Man’s Compound Nature.
I shall not be sorry to bestow attention on the shorter epistles also. Even in brief works there is much pungency. The Jews had slain their prophets. I may ask, What has this to do with the apostle of the rival god, one so amiable withal, who could hardly be said to condemn even the failings of his own people; and who, moreover, has himself some hand in making away with the same prophets whom he is destroying?
What injury did Israel commit against him in slaying those whom he too has reprobated, since he was the 462 first to pass a hostile sentence on them? But Israel sinned against their own God. He upbraided their iniquity to whom the injured God pertains; and certainly he is anything but the adversary of the injured Deity.
Else he would not have burdened them with the charge of killing even the Lord, in the words, “Who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets,” although (the pronoun) their own be an addition of the heretics. Now, what was there so very acrimonious in their killing Christ the proclaimer of the new god, after they had put to death also the prophets of their own god? The fact, however, of their having slain the Lord and His servants, is put as a case of climax.
Now, if it were the Christ of one god and the prophets of another god whom they slew, he would certainly have placed the impious crimes on the same level, instead of mentioning them in the way of a climax; but they did not admit of being put on the same level: the climax, therefore, was only possible by the sin having been in fact committed against one and the same Lord in the two respective circumstances.
To one and the same Lord, then, belonged Christ and the prophets. What that “sanctification of ours” is, which he declares to be “the will of God,” you may discover from the opposite conduct which he forbids. That we should “abstain from fornication,” not from marriage; that every one “should know how to possess his vessel in honour.”
In what way? “Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles.” Concupiscence, however, is not ascribed to marriage even among the Gentiles, but to extravagant, unnatural, and enormous sins. The law of nature is opposed to luxury as well as to grossness and uncleanness; it does not forbid connubial intercourse, but concupiscence; and it takes care of our vessel by the honourable estate of matrimony.
This passage (of the apostle) I would treat in such a way as to maintain the superiority of the other and higher sanctity, preferring continence and virginity to marriage, but by no means prohibiting the latter. For my hostility is directed against those who are for destroying the God of marriage, not those who follow after chastity.
He says that those who “remain unto the coming of Christ,” along with “the dead in Christ, shall rise first,” being “caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” I find it was in their foresight of all this, that the heavenly intelligences gazed with admiration on “the Jerusalem which is above,” and by the mouth of Isaiah said long ago: “Who are these that fly as clouds, and as doves with their young ones, unto me?”
Now, as Christ has prepared for us this ascension into heaven, He must be the Christ of whom Amos spoke: “It is He who builds His ascent up to the heavens,” even for Himself and His people. Now, from whom shall I expect (the fulfilment of) all this, except from Him whom I have heard give the promise thereof? What “spirit” does he forbid us to “quench,” and what “prophesyings” to “despise?” Not the Creator’s spirit, nor the Creator’s prophesyings, Marcion of course replies.
For he has already quenched and despised the thing which he destroys, and is unable to forbid what he has despised. It is then incumbent on Marcion now to display in his church that spirit of his god which must not be quenched, and the prophesyings which must not be despised. And since he has made such a display as he thinks fit, let him know that we shall challenge it whatever it may be to the rule of the grace and power of the Spirit and the prophets—namely, to foretell the future, to reveal the secrets of the heart, and to explain mysteries.
And when he shall have failed to produce and give proof of any such criterion, we will then on our side bring out both the Spirit and the prophecies of the Creator, which utter predictions according to His will. Thus it will be clearly seen of what the apostle spoke, even of those things which were to happen in the church of his God; and as long as He endures, so long also does His Spirit work, and so long are His promises repeated.
Come now, you who deny the salvation of the flesh, and who, whenever there occurs the specific mention of body in a case of this sort, interpret it as meaning 463 anything rather than the substance of the flesh, (tell me) how is it that the apostle has given certain distinct names to all (our faculties), and has comprised them all in one prayer for their safety, desiring that our “spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord and Saviour (Jesus) Christ?”
Now he has here propounded the soul and the body as two several and distinct things. For although the soul has a kind of body of a quality of its own, just as the spirit has, yet as the soul and the body are distinctly named, the soul has its own peculiar appellation, not requiring the common designation of body.
This is left for “the flesh,” which having no proper name (in this passage), necessarily makes use of the common designation. Indeed, I see no other substance in man, after spirit and soul, to which the term body can be applied except “the flesh.” This, therefore, I understand to be meant by the word “body”—as often as the latter is not specifically named. Much more do I so understand it in the present passage, where the flesh is expressly called by the name “body.”
Chapter XVI.—The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
An Absurd Erasure of Marcion; Its Object Transparent. The Final Judgment on the Heathen as Well as the Jews Could Not Be Administered by Marcion’s Christ. The Man of Sin—What? Inconsistency of Marcion’s View. The Antichrist. The Great Events of the Last Apostasy Within the Providence and Intention of the Creator, Whose are All Things from the Beginning. Similarity of the Pauline Precepts with Those of the Creator.
We are obliged from time to time to recur to certain topics in order to affirm truths which are connected with them. We repeat then here, that as the Lord is by the apostle proclaimed as the awarder of both weal and woe, He must be either the Creator, or (as Marcion would be loth to admit) One like the Creator—“with whom it is a righteous thing to recompense tribulation to them who afflict us, and to ourselves, who are afflicted, rest, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed as coming from heaven with the angels of His might and in flaming fire.”
The heretic, however, has erased the flaming fire, no doubt that he might extinguish all traces herein of our own God. But the folly of the obliteration is clearly seen. For as the apostle declares that the Lord will come “to take vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel, who,” he says, “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” —it follows that, as He comes to inflict punishment, He must require “the flaming fire.”
Thus on this consideration too we must, notwithstanding Marcion’s opposition, conclude that Christ belongs to a God who kindles the flames (of vengeance), and therefore to the Creator, inasmuch as He takes vengeance on such as know not the Lord, that is, on the heathen. For he has mentioned separately “those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” whether they be sinners among Christians or among Jews. Now, to inflict punishment on the heathen, who very likely have never heard of the Gospel, is not the function of that God who is naturally unknown, and who is revealed nowhere else than in the Gospel, and therefore cannot be known by all men.
The Creator, however, ought to be known even by (the light of) nature, for He may be understood from His works, and may thereby become the object of a more widely spread knowledge. To Him, therefore, does it appertain to punish such as know not God, for none ought to be ignorant of Him. In the (apostle’s) phrase, “From the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power,” he uses the words of Isaiah who for the express reason makes the self-same Lord “arise to shake terribly the earth.”
Well, but who is the man of sin, the son of perdition,” who must first be revealed before the Lord comes; “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; who is to sit in the temple of God, and boast himself as 464 being God?” According indeed to our view, he is Antichrist; as it is taught us in both the ancient and the new prophecies, and especially by the Apostle John, who says that “already many false prophets are gone out into the world,” the fore-runners of Antichrist, who deny that Christ is come in the flesh, and do not acknowledge Jesus (to be the Christ), meaning in God the Creator.
According, however, to Marcion’s view, it is really hard to know whether He might not be (after all) the Creator’s Christ; because according to him He is not yet come. But whichsoever of the two it is, I want to know why he comes “in all power, and with lying signs and wonders?” “Because,” he says, “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; for which cause God shall send them an instinct of delusion (to believe a lie), that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
If therefore he be Antichrist, (as we hold), and comes according to the Creator’s purpose, it must be God the Creator who sends him to fasten in their error those who did not believe the truth, that they might be saved; His likewise must be the truth and the salvation, who avenges (the contempt of) them by sending error as their substitute —that is, the Creator, to whom that very wrath is a fitting attribute, which deceives with a lie those who are not captivated with truth.
If, however, he is not Antichrist, as we suppose (him to be) then He is the Christ of the Creator, as Marcion will have it. In this case how happens it that he can suborn the Creator’s Christ to avenge his truth? But should he after all agree with us, that Antichrist is here meant, I must then likewise ask how it is that he finds Satan, an angel of the Creator, necessary to his purpose?
Why, too, should Antichrist be slain by Him, whilst commissioned by the Creator to execute the function of inspiring men with their love of untruth? In short, it is incontestable that the emissary, and the truth, and the salvation belong to Him to whom also appertain the wrath, and the jealousy, and “the sending of the strong delusion,” on those who despise and mock, as well as upon those who are ignorant of Him; and therefore even Marcion will now have to come down a step, and concede to us that his god is “a jealous god.” (This being then an unquestionable position, I ask) which God has the greater right to be angry?
He, as I suppose, who from the beginning of all things has given to man, as primary witnesses for the knowledge of Himself, nature in her (manifold) works, kindly providences, plagues, and indications (of His divinity), but who in spite of all this evidence has not been acknowledged; or he who has been brought out to view once for all in one only copy of the gospel—and even that without any sure authority—which actually makes no secret of proclaiming another god?
Now He who has the right of inflicting the vengeance, has also sole claim to that which occasions the vengeance, I mean the Gospel; (in other words,) both the truth and (its accompanying) salvation. The charge, that “if any would not work, neither should he eat,” is in strict accordance with the precept of Him who ordered that “the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn should not be muzzled.”
Chapter XVII.—The Epistle to the Laodiceans.
The Proper Designation is to the Ephesians. Recapitulation of All Things in Christ from the Beginning of the Creation. No Room for Marcion’s Christ Here. Numerous Parallels Between This Epistle and Passages in the Old Testament. The Prince of the Power of the Air, and the God of This World—Who? Creation and Regeneration the Work of One God. How Christ Has Made the Law Obsolete. A Vain Erasure of Marcion’s. The Apostles as Well as the Prophets from the Creator.
We have it on the true tradition of the Church, that this epistle was sent to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans. Marcion, however, was very desirous of giving it the 465 new title (of Laodicean), as if he were extremely accurate in investigating such a point. But of what consequence are the titles, since in writing to a certain church the apostle did in fact write to all? It is certain that, whoever they were to whom he wrote, he declared Him to be God in Christ with whom all things agree which are predicted.
Now, to what god will most suitably belong all those things which relate to “that good pleasure, which God hath purposed in the mystery of His will, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might recapitulate” (if I may so say, according to the exact meaning of the Greek word) “all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth,” but to Him whose are all things from their beginning, yea the beginning itself too; from whom issue the times and the dispensation of the fulness of times, according to which all things up to the very first are gathered up in Christ?
What beginning, however, has the other god; that is to say, how can anything proceed from him, who has no work to show? And if there be no beginning, how can there be times? If no times, what fulness of times can there be? And if no fulness, what dispensation? Indeed, what has he ever done on earth, that any long dispensation of times to be fulfilled can be put to his account, for the accomplishment of all things in Christ, even of things in heaven?
Nor can we possibly suppose that any things whatever have been at any time done in heaven by any other God than Him by whom, as all men allow, all things have been done on earth. Now, if it is impossible for all these things from the beginning to be reckoned to any other God than the Creator, who will believe that an alien god has recapitulated them in an alien Christ, instead of their own proper Author in His own Christ?
If, again, they belong to the Creator, they must needs be separate from the other god; and if separate, then opposed to him. But then how can opposites be gathered together into him by whom they are in short destroyed? Again, what Christ do the following words announce, when the apostle says: “That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ?” Now who could have first trusted—i.e. previously trusted —in God, before His advent, except the Jews to whom Christ was previously announced, from the beginning?
He who was thus foretold, was also foretrusted. Hence the apostle refers the statement to himself, that is, to the Jews, in order that he may draw a distinction with respect to the Gentiles, (when he goes on to say:) “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel (of your salvation); in whom ye believed, and were sealed with His Holy Spirit of promise.” Of what promise? That which was made through Joel: “In the last days will I pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh,” that is, on all nations.
Therefore the Spirit and the Gospel will be found in the Christ, who was foretrusted, because foretold. Again, “the Father of glory” is He whose Christ, when ascending to heaven, is celebrated as “the King of Glory” in the Psalm: “Who is this King of Glory? the Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.” From Him also is besought “the spirit of wisdom,”5960 at whose disposal is enumerated that sevenfold distribution of the spirit of grace by Isaiah.
He likewise will grant “the enlightenment of the eyes of the understanding,” who has also enriched our natural eyes with light; to whom, moreover, the blindness of the people is offensive: “And who is blind, but my servants?…yea, the servants of God have become blind.” In His gift, too, are “the riches (of the glory) of His inheritance in the saints,” who promised such an inheritance in the call of the Gentiles: “Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.”
It was He who “wrought in Christ His mighty power, by raising Him from the dead, and setting Him at His own right hand, and putting all things under His feet” —even the same who said: “Sit Thou on my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” For in another passage the Spirit says to the Father concerning the Son: “Thou hast put all things under His feet.” Now, if from all these facts which are found in the Creator there is yet to be deduced another god and another Christ, let us go in quest of the Creator.
I suppose, forsooth, we find Him, when he speaks of such as “were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein they had walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, who worketh in the children of disobedience.” But Marcion must not here 466 interpret the world as meaning the God of the world
For a creature bears no resemblance to the Creator; the thing made, none to its Maker; the world, none to God. He, moreover, who is the Prince of the power of the ages must not be thought to be called the prince of the power of the air; for He who is chief over the higher powers derives no title from the lower powers, although these, too, may be ascribed to Him. Nor, again, can He possibly seem to be the instigator of that unbelief which He Himself had rather to endure at the hand of the Jews and the Gentiles alike.
We may therefore simply conclude that these designations are unsuited to the Creator. There is another being to whom they are more applicable—and the apostle knew very well who that was. Who then is he? Undoubtedly he who has raised up “children of disobedience” against the Creator Himself ever since he took possession of that “air” of His; even as the prophet makes him say: “I will set my throne above the stars;…I will go up above the clouds; I will be like the Most High.”
This must mean the devil, whom in another passage (since such will they there have the apostle’s meaning to be) we shall recognize in the appellation the god of this world. For he has filled the whole world with the lying pretence of his own divinity. To be sure, if he had not existed, we might then possibly have applied these descriptions to the Creator.
But the apostle, too, had lived in Judaism; and when he parenthetically observed of the sins (of that period of his life), “in which also we all had our conversation in times past,” he must not be understood to indicate that the Creator was the lord of sinful men, and the prince of this air; but as meaning that in his Judaism he had been one of the children of disobedience, having the devil as his instigator—when he persecuted the church and the Christ of the Creator.
Therefore he says: “We also were the children of wrath,” but “by nature.” Let the heretic, however, not contend that, because the Creator called the Jews children, therefore the Creator is the lord of wrath. For when (the apostle) says, “We were by nature the children of wrath,” inasmuch as the Jews were not the Creator’s children by nature, but by the election of their fathers, he (must have) referred their being children of wrath to nature, and not to the Creator, adding this at last, “even as others,” who, of course, were not children of God.
It is manifest that sins, and lusts of the flesh, and unbelief, and anger, are ascribed to the common nature of all mankind, the devil however leading that nature astray, which he has already infected with the implanted germ of sin. “We,” says he, “are His workmanship, created in Christ.” It is one thing to make (as a workman), another thing to create. But he assigns both to One. Man is the workmanship of the Creator.
He therefore who made man (at first), created him also in Christ. As touching the substance of nature, He “made” him; as touching the work of grace, He “created” him. Look also at what follows in connection with these words: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which has the name of circumcision in the flesh made by the hand—that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”
Now, without what God and without what Christ were these Gentiles? Surely, without Him to whom the commonwealth of Israel belonged, and the covenants and the promise. “But now in Christ,” says he, “ye who were sometimes far off are made nigh by His blood.” From whom were they far off before? From the (privileges) whereof he speaks above, even from the Christ of the Creator, from the commonwealth of Israel, from the covenants, from the hope of the promise, from God Himself. Since this is the case, the Gentiles are consequently now in Christ made nigh to these (blessings), from which they were once far off.
But if we are in Christ brought so very nigh to the commonwealth of Israel, which comprises the religion of the divine Creator, and to the covenants and to the promise, yea to their very God Himself, it is quite ridiculous (to suppose that) the Christ of the other god has brought us to this proximity to the Creator from afar.
The apostle had in mind that it had been predicted concerning the call of the Gentiles from their distant alienation in words like these: “They who were far off from me have come to my righteousness.” For the Creator’s 467 righteousness no less than His peace was announced in Christ, as we have often shown already.
Therefore he says: “He is our peace, who hath made both one” —that is, the Jewish nation and the Gentile world. What is near, and what was far off now that “the middle wall has been broken down” of their “enmity,” (are made one) “in His flesh.” But Marcion erased the pronoun His, that he might make the enmity refer to flesh, as if (the apostle spoke) of a carnal enmity, instead of the enmity which was a rival to Christ.
And thus you have (as I have said elsewhere) exhibited the stupidity of Pontus, rather than the adroitness of a Marrucinian, for you here deny him flesh to whom in the verse above you allowed blood! Since, however, He has made the law obsolete by His own precepts, even by Himself fulfilling the law (for superfluous is, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” when He says, “Thou shalt not look on a woman to lust after her;” superfluous also is, “Thou shalt do no murder,” when He says, “Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbour,”) it is impossible to make an adversary of the law out of one who so completely promotes it.
“For to create in Himself of twain,” for He who had made is also the same who creates (just as we have found it stated above: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus”), “one new man, making peace” (really new, and really man—no phantom—but new, and newly born of a virgin by the Spirit of God), “that He might reconcile both unto God” (even the God whom both races had offended—both Jew and Gentile), “in one body,” says he, “having in it slain the enmity by the cross.”
Thus we find from this passage also, that there was in Christ a fleshly body, such as was able to endure the cross. “When, therefore, He came and preached peace to them that were near and to them which were afar off,” we both obtained “access to the Father,” being “now no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (even of Him from whom, as we have shown above, we were aliens, and placed far off), “built upon the foundation of the apostles” —(the apostle added), “and the prophets;” these words, however, the heretic erased, forgetting that the Lord had set in His Church not only apostles, but prophets also.
He feared, no doubt, that our building was to stand in Christ upon the foundation of the ancient prophets, since the apostle himself never fails to build us up everywhere with (the words of) the prophets. For whence did he learn to call Christ “the chief corner-stone,” but from the figure given him in the Psalm: “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head (stone) of the corner?”
Chapter XVIII.—Another Foolish Erasure of Marcion’s Exposed.
Certain Figurative Expressions of the Apostle, Suggested by the Language of the Old Testament. Collation of Many Passages of This Epistle, with Precepts and Statements in the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Prophets. All Alike Teach Us the Will and Purpose of the Creator.
As our heretic is so fond of his pruning-knife, I do not wonder when syllables are expunged by his hand, seeing that entire pages are usually the matter on which he practises his effacing process. The apostle declares that to himself, “less than the least of all saints, was the grace given” of enlightening all men as to “what was the fellowship of the mystery, which during the ages had been hid in God, who created all things.”
The heretic erased the preposition in, and made the clause run thus: (“what is the fellowship of the mystery) which hath for ages been hidden from the God who created all things.” The falsification, however, is flagrantly absurd. For the apostle goes on to infer (from his own statement): “in order that unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might become known through the church the manifold wisdom of God.” Whose principalities and powers does he mean?
If the Creator’s, how does it come to pass that such a God as He could have meant His wisdom to be displayed to the principalities and powers, but 468 not to Himself? For surely no principalities could possibly have understood anything without their sovereign Lord. Or if (the apostle) did not mention God in this passage, on the ground that He (as their chief) is Himself reckoned among these (principalities), then he would have plainly said that the mystery had been hidden from the principalities and powers of Him who had created all things, including Him amongst them.
But if he states that it was hidden from them, he must needs be understood as having meant that it was manifest to Him. From God, therefore, the mystery was not hidden; but it was hidden in God, the Creator of all things, from His principalities and powers. For “who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?” Caught in this trap, the heretic probably changed the passage, with the view of saying that his god wished to make known to his principalities and powers the fellowship of his own mystery, of which God, who created all things, had been ignorant.
But what was the use of his obtruding this ignorance of the Creator, who was a stranger to the superior god, and far enough removed from him, when even his own servants had known nothing about him? To the Creator, however, the future was well known. Then why was not that also known to Him, which had to be revealed beneath His heaven, and on His earth? From this, therefore, there arises a confirmation of what we have already laid down.
For since the Creator was sure to know, some time or other, that hidden mystery of the superior god, even on the supposition that the true reading was (as Marcion has it)—“hidden from the God who created all things”—he ought then to have expressed the conclusion thus: “in order that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to Him, and then to the principalities and powers of God, whosoever He might be, with whom the Creator was destined to share their knowledge.”
So palpable is the erasure in this passage, when thus read, consistently with its own true bearing. I, on my part, now wish to engage with you in a discussion on the allegorical expressions of the apostle. What figures of speech could the novel god have found in the prophets (fit for himself)? “He led captivity captive,” says the apostle. With what arms? In what conflicts? From the devastation of what country? From the overthrow of what city?
What women, what children, what princes did the Conqueror throw into chains? For when by David Christ is sung as “girded with His sword upon His thigh,” or by Isaiah as “taking away the spoils of Samaria and the power of Damascus,” you make Him out to be really and truly a warrior confest to the eye. Learn then now, that His is a spiritual armour and warfare, since you have already discovered that the captivity is spiritual, in order that you may further learn that this also belongs to Him, even because the apostle derived the mention of the captivity from the same prophets as suggested to him his precepts likewise: “Putting away lying,” (says he,) “speak every man truth with his neighbour;” and again, using the very words in which the Psalm expresses his meaning, (he says,) “Be ye angry, and sin not;” “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness;” for (in the Psalm it is written,) “With the holy man thou shalt be holy, and with the perverse thou shalt be perverse;” and, “Thou shalt put away evil from among you.”
Again, “Go ye out from the midst of them; touch not the unclean thing; separate yourselves, ye that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (The apostle says further:) “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess,” —a precept which is suggested by the passage (of the prophet), where the seducers of the consecrated (Nazarites) to drunkenness are rebuked: “Ye gave wine to my holy ones to drink.” This prohibition from drink was given also to the high priest Aaron and his sons, “when they went into the holy place.” The command, to “sing to the Lord with psalms and hymns,” comes suitably from him who knew that those who “drank wine with drums and psalteries” were blamed by God.
Now, when I find to what God belong these precepts, whether in their germ or their development, I have no difficulty in knowing to whom the apostle also belongs. But he declares that “wives ought to be in subjection to their husbands:” what reason does 469 he give for this? “Because,” says he, “the husband is the head of the wife.” Pray tell me, Marcion, does your god build up the authority of his law on the work of the Creator? This, however, is a comparative trifle; for he actually derives from the same source the condition of his Christ and his Church; for he says: “even as Christ is the head of the Church;” and again, in like manner: “He who loveth his wife, loveth his own flesh, even as Christ loved the Church.”
You see how your Christ and your Church are put in comparison with the work of the Creator. How much honour is given to the flesh in the name of the church! “No man,” says the apostle, “ever yet hated his own flesh” (except, of course, Marcion alone), “but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord doth the Church.” But you are the only man that hates his flesh, for you rob it of its resurrection. It will be only right that you should hate the Church also, because it is loved by Christ on the same principle. Yea, Christ loved the flesh even as the Church.
For no man will love the picture of his wife without taking care of it, and honouring it and crowning it. The likeness partakes with the reality in the privileged honour. I shall now endeavour, from my point of view, to prove that the same God is (the God) of the man and of Christ, of the woman and of the Church, of the flesh and the spirit, by the apostle’s help who applies the Creator’s injunction, and adds even a comment on it: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, (and shall be joined unto his wife), and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery.” In passing, (I would say that) it is enough for me that the works of the Creator are great mysteries in the estimation of the apostle, although they are so vilely esteemed by the heretics. “But I am speaking,” says he, “of Christ and the Church.” This he says in explanation of the mystery, not for its disruption. He shows us that the mystery was prefigured by Him who is also the author of the mystery.
Now what is Marcion’s opinion? The Creator could not possibly have furnished figures to an unknown god, or, if a known one, an adversary to Himself. The superior god, in fact, ought to have borrowed nothing from the inferior; he was bound rather to annihilate Him. “Children should obey their parents.” Now, although Marcion has erased (the next clause), “which is the first commandment with promise,” still the law says plainly, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” Again, (the apostle writes:) “Parents, bring up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.”
For you have heard how it was said to them of old time: “Ye shall relate these things to your children; and your children in like manner to their children.” Of what use are two gods to me, when the discipline is but one? If there must be two, I mean to follow Him who was the first to teach the lesson. But as our struggle lies against “the rulers of this world,” what a host of Creator Gods there must be!
For why should I not insist upon this point here, that he ought to have mentioned but one “ruler of this world,” if he meant only the Creator to be the being to whom belonged all the powers which he previously mentioned? Again, when in the preceding verse he bids us “put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” does he not show that all the things which he mentions after the devil’s name really belong to the devil—“the principalities and the powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world,” which we also ascribe to the devil’s authority?
Else, if “the devil” means the Creator, who will be the devil in the Creator’s dispensation? As there are two gods, must there also be two devils, and a plurality of powers and rulers of this world? But how is the Creator both a devil and a god at the same time, when the devil is not at once both god and devil? For either they are both of them gods, if both of them are devils; or else He who is God is not also devil, as neither is he god who is the devil.
I want to know indeed by what perversion the word devil is at all applicable to the Creator. Perhaps he perverted some purpose of the superior god—conduct such as He experienced Himself from the archangel, who lied indeed for the purpose. For He did not forbid (our first parents) a taste of the miserable tree, from any apprehension that they would become gods; His prohibition was meant to 470 prevent their dying after the transgression.
But “the spiritual wickedness” did not signify the Creator, because of the apostle’s additional description, “in heavenly places;” for the apostle was quite aware that “spiritual wickedness” had been at work in heavenly places, when angels were entrapped into sin by the daughters of men. But how happened it that (the apostle) resorted to ambiguous descriptions, and I know not what obscure enigmas, for the purpose of disparaging the Creator, when he displayed to the Church such constancy and plainness of speech in “making known the mystery of the gospel for which he was an ambassador in bonds,” owing to his liberty in preaching—and actually requested (the Ephesians) to pray to God that this “open-mouthed utterance” might be continued to him?
Chapter XIX.—The Epistle to the Colossians.
Time the Criterion of Truth and Heresy. Application of the Canon. The Image of the Invisible God Explained. Preexistence of Our Christ in the Creator’s Ancient Dispensations. What is Included in the Fullness of Christ. The Epicurean Character of Marcion’s God. The Catholic Truth in Opposition Thereto. The Law is to Christ What the Shadow is to the Substance.
I am accustomed in my prescription against all heresies, to fix my compendious criterion (of truth) in the testimony of time; claiming priority therein as our rule, and alleging lateness to be the characteristic of every heresy. This shall now be proved even by the apostle, when he says: “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is unto all the world.”
For if, even at that time, the tradition of the gospel had spread everywhere, how much more now! Now, if it is our gospel which has spread everywhere, rather than any heretical gospel, much less Marcion’s, which only dates from the reign of Antoninus, then ours will be the gospel of the apostles. But should Marcion’s gospel succeed in filling the whole world, it would not even in that case be entitled to the character of apostolic.
For this quality, it will be evident, can only belong to that gospel which was the first to fill the world; in other words, to the gospel of that God who of old declared this of its promulgation: “Their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” He calls Christ “the image of the invisible God.”
We in like manner say that the Father of Christ is invisible, for we know that it was the Son who was seen in ancient times (whenever any appearance was vouchsafed to men in the name of God) as the image of (the Father) Himself. He must not be regarded, however, as making any difference between a visible and an invisible God; because long before he wrote this we find a description of our God to this effect: “No man can see the Lord, and live.”
If Christ is not “the first-begotten before every creature,” as that “Word of God by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made;” if “all things were” not “in Him created, whether in heaven or on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers;” if “all things were” not “created by Him and for Him” (for these truths Marcion ought not to allow concerning Him), then the apostle could not have so positively laid it down, that “He is before all.”
For how is He before all, if He is not before all things? How, again, is He before all things, if He is not “the first-born of every creature”—if He is not the Word of the Creator? Now how will he be proved to have been before all things, who appeared after all things? Who can tell whether he had a prior existence, when he has found no proof that he had any existence at all? In what way also could it have “pleased (the Father) that in Him should all fulness dwell?”
For, to begin with, what fulness is that which is not comprised of the constituents which Marcion has removed from it,—even those that were “created in Christ, whether in heaven or on earth,” whether angels or men? which is not made of the things that are visible and invisible? which consists not of thrones and dominions and principalities and powers?
If, on the other hand, our false apostles and Judaizing gospellers have introduced all these things out of their own stores, and Marcion has applied them to constitute the fulness of his 471 own god, (this hypothesis, absurd though it be, alone would justify him;) for how, on any other supposition, could the rival and the destroyer of the Creator have been willing that His fulness should dwell in his Christ?
To whom, again, does He “reconcile all things by Himself, making peace by the blood of His cross,” but to Him whom those very things had altogether offended, against whom they had rebelled by transgression, (but) to whom they had at last returned? Conciliated they might have been to a strange god; but reconciled they could not possibly have been to any other than their own God. Accordingly, ourselves “who were sometime alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works” does He reconcile to the Creator, against whom we had committed offence—worshipping the creature to the prejudice of the Creator.
As, however, he says elsewhere, that the Church is the body of Christ, so here also (the apostle) declares that he “fills up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh for His body’s sake, which is the Church.” But you must not on this account suppose that on every mention of His body the term is only a metaphor, instead of meaning real flesh. For he says above that we are “reconciled in His body through death;” meaning, of course, that He died in that body wherein death was possible through the flesh: (therefore he adds,) not through the Church (per ecclesiam), but expressly for the sake of the Church (proper ecclesiam), exchanging body for body—one of flesh for a spiritual one.
When, again, he warns them to “beware of subtle words and philosophy,” as being “a vain deceit,” such as is “after the rudiments of the world” (not understanding thereby the mundane fabric of sky and earth, but worldly learning, and “the tradition of men,” subtle in their speech and their philosophy), it would be tedious, and the proper subject of a separate work, to show how in this sentence (of the apostle’s) all heresies are condemned, on the ground of their consisting of the resources of subtle speech and the rules of philosophy.
But (once for all) let Marcion know that the principle term of his creed comes from the school of Epicurus, implying that the Lord is stupid and indifferent; wherefore he refuses to say that He is an object to be feared. Moreover, from the porch of the Stoics he brings out matter, and places it on a par with the Divine Creator. He also denies the resurrection of the flesh,—a truth which none of the schools of philosophy agreed together to hold.
But how remote is our (Catholic) verity from the artifices of this heretic, when it dreads to arouse the anger of God, and firmly believes that He produced all things out of nothing, and promises to us a restoration from the grave of the same flesh (that died) and holds without a blush that Christ was born of the virgin’s womb!
At this, philosophers, and heretics, and the very heathen, laugh and jeer. For “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise” —that God, no doubt, who in reference to this very dispensation of His threatened long before that He would “destroy the wisdom of the wise.” Thanks to this simplicity of truth, so opposed to the subtlety and vain deceit of philosophy, we cannot possibly have any relish for such perverse opinions.
Then, if God “quickens us together with Christ, forgiving us our trespasses,” we cannot suppose that sins are forgiven by Him against whom, as having been all along unknown, they could not have been committed. Now tell me, Marcion, what is your opinion of the apostle’s language, when he says, “Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath, which is a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ?”
We do not now treat of the law, further than (to remark) that the apostle here teaches clearly how it has been abolished, even by passing from shadow to substance—that is, from figurative types to the reality, which is Christ. The shadow, therefore, is His to whom belongs the body also; in other words, the law is His, and so is Christ.
If you separate the law and Christ, assigning one to one god and the other to another, it is the same as if you were to at tempt to separate the 472 shadow from the body of which it is the shadow. Manifestly Christ has relation to the law, if the body has to its shadow. But when he blames those who alleged visions of angels as their authority for saying that men must abstain from meats—“you must not touch, you must not taste”—in a voluntary humility, (at the same time) “vainly puffed up in the fleshly mind, and not holding the Head,” (the apostle) does not in these terms attack the law or Moses, as if it was at the suggestion of superstitious angels that he had enacted his prohibition of sundry aliments.
For Moses had evidently received the law from God. When, therefore, he speaks of their “following the commandments and doctrines of men,” he refers to the conduct of those persons who “held not the Head,” even Him in whom all things are gathered together; for they are all recalled to Christ, and concentrated in Him as their initiating principle —even the meats and drinks which were indifferent in their nature.
All the rest of his precepts, as we have shown sufficiently, when treating of them as they occurred in another epistle, emanated from the Creator, who, while predicting that “old things were to pass away,” and that He would “make all things new,” commanded men “to break up fresh ground for themselves,” and thereby taught them even then to put off the old man and put on the new.
Chapter XX.—The Epistle to the Philippians.
The Variances Amongst the Preachers of Christ No Argument that There Was More Than One Only Christ. St. Paul’s Phrases—Form of a Servant, Likeness, and Fashion of a Man—No Sanction of Docetism. No Antithesis (Such as Marcion Alleged) in the God of Judaism and the God of the Gospel Deducible from Certain Contrasts Mentioned in This Epistle. A Parallel with a Passage in Genesis. The Resurrection of the Body, and the Change Thereof.
When (the apostle) mentions the several motives of those who were preaching the gospel, how that some, “waxing confident by his bonds, were more fearless in speaking the word,” while others “preached Christ even out of envy and strife, and again others out of good-will,” many also “out of love,” and certain “out of contention,” and some “in rivalry to himself,” he had a favourable opportunity, no doubt, of taxing what they preached with a diversity of doctrine, as if it were no less than this which caused so great a variance in their tempers.
But while he exposes these tempers as the sole cause of the diversity, he avoids inculpating the regular mysteries of the faith, and affirms that there is, notwithstanding, but one Christ and His one God, whatever motives men had in preaching Him. Therefore, says he, it matters not to me “whether it be in pretence or in truth that Christ is preached,” because one Christ alone was announced, whether in their “pretentious” or their “truthful” faith.
For it was to the faithfulness of their preaching that he applied the word truth, not to the rightness of the rule itself, because there was indeed but one rule; whereas the conduct of the preachers varied: in some of them it was true, i.e. single-minded, while in others it was sophisticated with over-much learning.
This being the case, it is manifest that that Christ was the subject of their preaching who was always the theme of the prophets. Now, if it were a completely different Christ that was being introduced by the apostle, the novelty of the thing would have produced a diversity (in belief.). For there would not have been wanting, in spite of the novel teaching, men to interpret the preached gospel of the Creator’s Christ, since the majority of persons everywhere now-a-days are of our way of thinking, rather than on the heretical side.
So that the apostle would not in such a passage as the present one have refrained from remarking and censuring the diversity. Since, however, there is no blame of a diversity, there is no proof of a novelty. Of course the Marcionites suppose that they have the apostle on their side in the following passage in the matter of Christ’s substance—that in Him there was nothing but a phantom of flesh.
For he says of Christ, that, “being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant,” not the reality, “and was made in the likeness of man,” not a man, “and was found in fashion as a man,” not in his substance, that is to say, his flesh; just as if to a substance there did not accrue both form and likeness and fashion. It is well for us that in 473 another passage (the apostle) calls Christ “the image of the invisible God.”
For will it not follow with equal force from that passage, that Christ is not truly God, because the apostle places Him in the image of God, if, (as Marcion contends,) He is not truly man because of His having taken on Him the form or image of a man? For in both cases the true substance will have to be excluded, if image (or “fashion”) and likeness and form shall be claimed for a phantom. But since he is truly God, as the Son of the Father, in His fashion and image, He has been already by the force of this conclusion determined to be truly man, as the Son of man, “found in the fashion” and image “of a man.” For when he propounded Him as thus “found” in the manner of a man, he in fact affirmed Him to be most certainly human.
For what is found, manifestly possesses existence. Therefore, as He was found to be God by His mighty power, so was He found to be man by reason of His flesh, because the apostle could not have pronounced Him to have “become obedient unto death,” if He had not been constituted of a mortal substance. Still more plainly does this appear from the apostle’s additional words, “even the death of the cross.” For he could hardly mean this to be a climax to the human suffering, to extol the virtue of His obedience, if he had known it all to be the imaginary process of a phantom, which rather eluded the cross than experienced it, and which displayed no virtue in the suffering, but only illusion.
But “those things which he had once accounted gain,” and which he enumerates in the preceding verse—“trust in the flesh,” the sign of “circumcision,” his origin as “an Hebrew of the Hebrews,” his descent from “the tribe of Benjamin,” his dignity in the honours of the Pharisee —he now reckons to be only “loss” to himself; (in other words,) it was not the God of the Jews, but their stupid obduracy, which he repudiates. These are also the things “which he counts but dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ” (but by no means for the rejection of God the Creator); “whilst he has not his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through Him,” i.e. Christ, “the righteousness which is of God.”
Then, say you, according to this distinction the law did not proceed from the God of Christ. Subtle enough! But here is something still more subtle for you. For when (the apostle) says, “Not (the righteousness) which is of the law, but that which is through Him,” he would not have used the phrase through Him of any other than Him to whom the law belonged. “Our conversation,” says he, “is in heaven.” I here recognise the Creator’s ancient promise to Abraham: “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven.”
Therefore “one star differeth from another star in glory.” If, again, Christ in His advent from heaven “shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body,” it follows that this body of ours shall rise again, which is now in a state of humiliation in its sufferings and according to the law of mortality drops into the ground. But how shall it be changed, if it shall have no real existence?
If, however, this is only said of those who shall be found in the flesh at the advent of God, and who shall have to be changed,” what shall they do who will rise first? They will have no substance from which to undergo a change. But he says (elsewhere), “We shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord (in the air).” Then, if we are to be caught up alone with them, surely we shall likewise be changed together with them.
Chapter XXI.—The Epistle to Philemon.
This Epistle Not Mutilated. Marcion’s Inconsistency in Accepting This, and Rejecting Three Other Epistles Addressed to Individuals. Conclusions. Tertullian Vindicates the Symmetry and Deliberate Purpose of His Work Against Marcion.
To this epistle alone did its brevity avail to protect it against the falsifying hands of Marcion. I wonder, however, when he received (into his Apostolicon) this letter which was written but to one man, that he rejected the two epistles to Timothy and the one to Titus, which all treat of ecclesiastical discipline. His aim, was, I suppose, to carry out his interpolating process even to the number of (St. Paul’s) epistles.
And now, reader, I beg you to remember that we have here adduced proofs out of the apostle, in support of 474 the subjects which we previously had to handle, and that we have now brought to a close the topics which we deferred to this (portion of our) work.
(This favour I request of you,) that you may not think that any repetition here has been superfluous, for we have only fulfilled our former engagement to you; nor look with suspicion on any postponement there, where we merely set forth the essential points (of the argument). If you carefully examine the entire work, you will acquit us of either having been redundant here, or diffident there, in your own honest judgment.
Elucidations. I. (Soul and Spirit, cap. xv. and notes 1 and 2, p. 463.)
Dr. Holmes, in the learned note which follows, affords me a valuable addition to my scanty remarks on this subject in former volumes. See (Vol. I. pp. 387, 532,) references to the great work of Professor Delitzsch, in notes on Irenæus. In Vol. II. p. 102, I have also mentioned M. Heard’s work, on the Tripartite Nature of Man. With reference to the disagreement of the learned on this great matter, let me ask is it not less real than apparent?
The dichotomy to which Tertullian objected, and the trichotomy which Dr. Holmes makes a name of “the triple nature,” are terms which rather suggest a process of “dividing asunder of soul and spirit,” and which involve an ambiguity that confuses the inquiry. Now, while the gravest objections may be imagined, or even demonstrated, against a process which seems to destroy the unity and individuality of a Man, does not every theologian accept the analytical formula of the apostle and recognize the bodily, the animal and the spiritual in the life of man? If so is there not fundamental agreement as to 1 Thess 5:23, and difference only, relatively, as to functions and processes, or as to the way in which truth on these three points ought to be stated? On this subject there are good remarks in the Speaker’s Commentary on the text aforesaid, but the exhaustive work of Delitzsch deserves study.
Man’s whole nature in Christ, seems to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit’s suffusion of man’s spirit; this rules and governs the psychic nature and through it the body.
Elucidations. II. (The entire work, cap. xxi. p. 474.)
He who has followed Tertullian through the mazes in which Marcion, in spite of shifts and turnings innumerable, has been hunted down, and defeated, must recognize the great work performed by this author in behalf of Christian Orthodoxy. It seems to have been the plan of Christ’s watchful care over His Church, that, in the earliest stages of its existence the enemy should be allowed to display his utmost malice and to bring out all his forces against Truth.
Thus, before the meeting of Church-councils the language of faith had grown up, and clear views and precise statements of doctrine had been committed to the idioms of human thought. But, the labours of Tertullian are not confined to these diverse purposes. With all the faults of his acute and forensic mind, how powerfully he illuminates the Scriptures and glorifies them as containing the whole system of the Faith. How rich are his quotations, and how penetrating his conceptions of their uses.
Besides all this, what an introduction he gives us to the modes of thought which were becoming familiar in the West, and which were convening the Latin tongue to new uses, and making it capable of expressing Augustine’s mind and so of creating new domains of Learning among the nations 475 of Europe.
If I have treated tenderly the reputation of this great Master, in my notes upon his Marcion, it is with a twofold purpose.
(1.) It seems to me due to truth that his name should be less associated with his deplorable lapse than with his long and faithful services to the Church, and
(2.) that the student should thus follow his career with a pleasure and with a confidence the lack of which perpetually annoys us when we give the first place to the Montanist and not to the Catholic.
Let this be our spirit in accompanying him into his fresh campaigns against “the grievous wolves” foreseen by St. Paul with tears. Acts 20: 29, 30.
But as our Author invokes a careful examination of his “entire work,” let the student recur to Irenæus (Vol. I. p. 352, etc.) and observe how formidable, from the beginning, was the irreligion of Marcion. His doctrines did truly “eat like a canker,” assailing the Scriptures by mutilations and corruptions of the text itself.
No marvel that Tertullian shows him no quarter, though we must often regret the forensic violence of his retort. As to the Dualism which, through Marcion, thus threatened the first article of the Creed, consult the valuable remarks of the Encyc. Britannica, (“Mithras”). Mithras became known to the Romans circa b.c. 70, and his worship flourished under Trajan and his successors.
An able writer remarks that it was natural “Dualism should develop itself out of primitive Zoroastrianism. The human mind has ever been struck with a certain antagonism of which it has sought to discover the cause. Evil seems most easily accounted for by the supposition of an evil Person; and the continuance of an equal struggle, without advantage to either side, seems to imply the equality of that evil Person with the author of all good.
Thus Dualism had its birth. Many came to believe in the existence of two co-eternal and co-equal Persons, one good and the other evil, between whom there has been from all eternity a perpetual conflict, and between whom the same conflict must continue to rage through all coming time.”