Five Books in Reply to Marcion Book II. Of the Harmony of the Old and New Laws

Early Christian Writings

Title: The Five Books in Reply to Marcion Book II.

Subheading:  Of the Harmony of the Old and New Laws

From: (CCEL Tertullian: Part Fourth. Appendix:

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol IV. (Part.IV)

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

Original Source: (CCEL Part Fourth. – Appendix)


Translated by: Rev. S. Thelwall

By: Author Uncertain

Published: 197-220 A.D.

(PDF File Size: xx mb) xx pages

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.12.3.T00

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Book II.

Of the Harmony of the Old and New Laws.

After the faith was broken by the dint
Of the foe’s breathing renegades, and sworn
With wiles the hidden pest emerged; with lies
Self-prompted, scornful of the Deity

5 That underlies the sense, he did his plagues
Concoct: skilled in guile’s path, he mixed his own
Words impious with the sayings of the saints.
And on the good seed sowed his wretched tares,
Thence willing that foul ruin’s every cause

10 Should grow combined; to wit, that with more speed
His own iniquitous deeds he may assign
To God clandestinely, and may impale
On penalties such as his suasion led;
False with true veiling, turning rough with smooth,

15 And, (masking his spear’s point with rosy wreaths,)
Slaying the unwary unforeseen with death
Supreme. His supreme wickedness is this:
That men, to such a depth of madness sunk!
Off-broken boughs! should into parts divide

20 The endlessly-dread Deity; Christ’s deeds
Sublime should follow with false praise, and blame
The former acts, God’s countless miracles,
Ne’er seen before, nor heard, nor in a heart
Conceived; and should so rashly frame in words

25 The impermissible impiety
Of wishing by “wide dissimilitude
Of sense” to prove that the two Testaments
Sound adverse each to other, and the Lord’s
Oppose the prophets’ words; of drawing down
30 All the Law’s cause to infamy; and eke
Of reprobating holy fathers’ life
Of old, whom into friendship, and to share
His gifts, God chose. Without beginning, one
Is, for its lesser part, accepted. Though

35 Of one are four, of four one, yet to them
One part is pleasing, three they (in a word)
Reprobate: and they seize, in many ways,
On Paul as their own author; yet was he
Urged by a frenzied impulse of his own

40 To his last words: all whatsoe’er he spake
Of the old covenant seems hard to them 147
Because, deservedly, “made gross in heart.”
Weight apostolic, grace of beaming word,
Dazzles their mind, nor can they possibly

45 Discern the Spirit’s drift. Dull as they are,
Seek they congenial animals!
But ye
Who have not yet, (false deity your guide,
Reprobate in your very mind,) to death’s
Inmost caves penetrated, learn there flows

50 A stream perennial from its fount, which feeds
A tree, (twice sixfold are the fruits, its grace!)
And into earth and to the orb’s four winds
Goes out: into so many parts doth flow
The fount’s one hue and savour. Thus, withal,

55 From apostolic word descends the Church,
Out of Christ’s womb, with glory of His Sire
All filled, to wash off filth, and vivify
Dead fates. The Gospel, four in number, one
In its diffusion ’mid the Gentiles, this,

60 By faith elect accepted, Paul hands down
(Excellent doctor!) pure, without a crime;
And from it he forbade Galatian saints
To turn aside withal; whom “brethren false,”
(Urging them on to circumcise themselves,

65 And follow “elements,” leaving behind
Their novel “freedom,”) to “a shadow old
Of things to be” were teaching to be slaves.
These were the causes which Paul had to write
To the Galatians: not that they took out

70 One small part of the Gospel, and held that
For the whole bulk, leaving the greater part
Behind. And hence ’tis no words of a book,
But Christ Himself, Christ sent into the orb,
Who is the gospel, if ye will discern;

75 Who from the Father came, sole Carrier
Of tidings good; whose glory vast completes
The early testimonies; by His work
Showing how great the orb’s Creator is:
Whose deeds, conjoined at the same time with words,

80 Those faithful ones, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Recorded unalloyed (not speaking words
External), sanctioned by God’s Spirit, ’neath
So great a Master’s eye!
This paschal Lamb
Is hung, a victim, on the tree: Him Paul,

85 Writing decrees to Corinth, with his torch,
Hands down as slain, the future life and God
Promised to the fathers, whom before
He had attracted.
See what virtue, see
What power, the paschal image has; ye thus

90 Will able be to see what power there is
In the true Passover.
Lest well-earned love
Should tempt the faithful sire and seer, to whom
His pledge and heir was dear, whom God by chance
Had given him, to offer him to God

95 (A mighty execution!), there is shown
To him a lamb entangled by the head
In thorns; a holy victim—holy blood
For blood—to God. From whose piacular death,
That to the wasted race it might be sign

100 And pledge of safety, signed are with blood
Their posts and thresholds many: —aid immense!
The flesh (a witness credible) is given
For food. The Jordan crossed, the land possessed,
Joshua by law kept Passover with joy,

105 And immolates a lamb; and the great kings
And holy prophets that were after him,
Not ignorant of the good promises
Of sure salvation; full of godly fear
The great Law to transgress, (that mass of types

110 In image of the Supreme Virtue once
To come,) did celebrate in order due
The mirrorly-inspected Passover. 148
In short, if thou recur with rapid mind
To times primordial, thou wilt find results

115 Too fatal following impious words. That man
Easily credulous, alas! and stripped
Of life’s own covering, might covered be
With skins, a lamb is hung: the wound slays sins,
Or death by blood effaces or enshrouds

120 Or cherishes the naked with its fleece.
Is sheep’s blood of more worth than human blood,
That, offered up for sins, it should quench wrath?
Or is a lamb (as if he were more dear!)
Of more worth than much people’s? aid immense!

125 As safeguard of so great salvation, could
A lamb, if offered, have been price enough
For the redeemed? Nay: but Almighty God,
The heaven’s and earth’s Creator, infinite,
Living, and perfect, and perennially

130 Dwelling in light, is not appeased by these,
Nor joys in cattle’s blood. Slain be all flocks;
Be every herd upburned into smoke;
That expiatively ’t may pardon win
Of but one sin: in vain at so vile price;

135 Will the stained figure of the Lord—foul flesh—
Prepare, if wise, such honours: but the hope
And faith to mortals promised of old—
Great Reason’s counterpart —hath wrought to bring
These boons premeditated and prepared

140 Erst by the Father’s passing parent-love;
That Christ should come to earth, and be a man!
Whom when John saw, baptism’s first opener, John,
Comrade of seers, apostle great, and sent
As sure forerunner, witness faithful; John,

145 August in life, and marked with praise sublime,
He shows, to such as sought of olden time
God’s very Paschal Lamb, that He is come
At last, the expiation of misdeed,
To undo many’s sins by His own blood,

150 In place of reprobates the Proven One,
In place of vile the dear; in body, man;
And, in life, God: that He, as the slain Lamb,
Might us accept, and for us might outpour
Himself Thus hath it pleased the Lord to spoil

155 Proud death: thus wretched man will able be
To hope salvation. This slain paschal Lamb
Paul preaches: nor does a phantasmal shape
Of the sublime Lord (one consimilar
To Isaac’s silly sheep) the passion bear,

160 Wherefore He is called Lamb: but ’tis because,
As wool, He these renewed bodies clothes,
Giving to many covering, yet Himself
Never deficient. Thus does the Lord shroud
In His Sire’s virtue, those whom, disarrayed

165 Of their own light, He by His death redeemed,
Virtue which ever is in Him. So, then,
The Shepherd who hath lost the sheep Himself
Re-seeks it. He, prepared to tread the strength
Of the vine, and its thorns, or to o’ercome

170 The wolf’s rage, and regain the cattle lost,
And brave to snatch them out, the Lion He
In sheepskin-guise, unasked presents Himself
To the contemned teeth, baffling by His garb
The robber’s bloody jaws.
Thus everywhere

175 Christ seeks force-captured Adam; treads the path
Himself where death wrought ruin; permeates
All the old heroes’ monuments; inspects
Each one; the One of whom all types were full;
Begins e’en from the womb to expel the death

180 Conceived simultaneously with seed
Of flesh within the bosom; purging all
Life’s stages with a silent wisdom; debts
Assuming; ready to cleanse all, and give
Their Maker back the many whom the one

185 Had scattered. And, because one direful man
Down-sunk in pit iniquitous did fall,
By dragon-subdued virgin’s suasion led;
Because he pleased her wittingly; because
He left his heavenly covering behind: 149

190 Because the “tree” their nakedness did prove;
Because dark death coerced them: in like wise
Out of the self-same mass re-made returns
Renewed now,—the flower of flesh, and host
Of peace,—a flesh from espoused virgin born,

195 Not of man’s seed; conjoined to its own
Artificer; without the debt of death.
These mandates of the Father through bright stars
An angel carries down, that angel-fame
The tidings may accredit; telling how

200 “A virgin’s debts a virgin, flesh’s flesh,
Should pay.” Thus introduced, the Giant-Babe,
The Elder-Boy, the Stripling-Man, pursues
Death’s trail. Thereafter, when completed was
The ripe age of man’s strength, when man is wont

205 To see the lives that were his fellows drop
By slow degrees away, and to be changed
In mien to wrinkles foul and limbs inert,
While blood forsakes his veins, his course he stayed,
And suffered not his fleshly garb to age.

210 Upon what day or in what place did fall
Most famous Adam, or outstretched his hand
Rashly to touch the tree, on that same day,
Returning as the years revolve, within
The stadium of the “tree” the brave Athlete,

215 ’Countering, outstretched His hands, and, penalty
For praise pursuing, quite did vanquish death,
Because He left death of His own accord
Behind, disrobing Him of fleshly slough,
And of death’s dues; and to the “tree” affixed

220 The serpent’s spoil—“the world’s prince” vanquisht quite!
Grand trophy of the renegades: for sign
Whereof had Moses hung the snake, that all,
Who had by many serpents stricken been,
Might gaze upon the dragon’s self, and see

225 Him vanquisht and transfixt.
When, afterwards,
He reached the infernal region’s secret waves,
And, as a victor, by the light which aye
Attended Him, revealed His captive thrall,
And by His virtue thoroughly fulfilled

230 The Father’s bidding, He Himself re-took
The body which, spontaneous, He had left:
This was the cause of death: this same was made
Salvation’s path: a messenger of guile
The former was; the latter messenger

235 Of peace: a spouse her man did slay; a spouse
Did bear a lion: hurtful to her man
A virgin proved; a man from virgin born
Proved victor: for a type whereof, while sleep
His body wrapped, out of his side is ta’en

240 A woman, who is her lord’s rib; whom, he,
Awaking, called “flesh from his flesh, and bones
From his own bones;” with a presaging mind
Speaking. Faith wondrous! Paul deservedly,
(Most certain author!) teaches Christ to be

245 “The Second Adam from the heavens.” Truth,
Using her own examples, doth refulge;
Nor covets out of alien source to show
Her paces keen: this is a pauper’s work,
Needy of virtue of his own! Great Paul

250 These mysteries—taught to him—did teach; to wit,
Discerning that in Christ thy glory is,
O Church! from His side, hanging on high “tree,”
His lifeless body’s “blood and humour” flowed.
The blood the woman was; the waters were

255 The new gifts of the font: this is the Church,
True mother of a living people; flesh
New from Christ’s flesh, and from His bones a bone.
A spot there is called Golgotha,—of old
The fathers’ earlier tongue thus called its name,—

260 “The skull-pan of a head:” here is earth’s midst;
Here victory’s sign; here, have our elders taught,
There was a great head found; here the first man, 150
We have been taught, was buried; here the Christ
Suffers; with sacred blood the earth grows moist.

265 That the old Adam’s dust may able be,
Commingled with Christ’s blood, to be upraised
By dripping water’s virtue. The “one ewe”
That is, which, during Sabbath-hours, alive
The Shepherd did resolve that He would draw

270 Out of th’ infernal pit. This was the cause
Why, on the Sabbaths, He was wont to cure
The prematurely dead limbs of all flesh;
Or perfected for sight the eyes of him
Blind from his birth—eyes which He had not erst

275 Given; or, in presence of the multitude,
Called, during Sabbath-hours, one wholly dead
To life, e’en from the sepulchre. Himself
The new man’s Maker, the Repairer good
Of th’ old, supplying what did lack, or else

280 Restoring what was lost. About to do—
When dawns “the holy day”—these works, for such
As hope in Him, in plenitude, (to keep
His plighted word,) He taught men thus His power
To do them.
What? If flesh dies, and no hope

285 Is given of salvation, say, what grounds
Christ had to feign Himself a man, and head
Men, or have care for flesh? If He recalls
Some few, why shall He not withal recall
All? Can corruption’s power liquefy

290 The body and undo it, and shall not
The virtue of the Lord be powerful
The undone to recall?
They, who believe
Their bodies are not loosed from death, do not
Believe the Lord, who wills to raise His own

295 Works sunken; or else say they that the Good
Wills not, and that the Potent hath not power,—
Ignorant from how great a crime they suck
Their milk, in daring to set things infirm
Above the Strong. In the grain lurks the tree;

300 And if this rot not, buried in the earth,
It yields not tree-graced fruits. Soon bound will be
The liquid waters: ’neath the whistling cold
They will become, and ever will be stones,
Unless a mighty power, by leading on

305 Soft-breathing warmth, undo them. The great bunch
Lurks in the tendril’s slender body: if
Thou seek it, it is not; when God doth will,
’Tis seen to be. On trees their leaves, on thorns
The rose, the seeds on plains, are dead and fail,

310 And rise again, new living. For man’s use
These things doth God before his eyes recall
And form anew—man’s, for whose sake at first
The wealthy One made all things bounteously.
All naked fall; with its own body each

315 He clothes. Why man alone, on whom He showered
Such honours, should He not recall in all
His first perfection to Himself? man, whom
He set o’er all?
Flesh, then, and blood are said
To be not worthy of God’s realm, as if

320 Paul spake of flesh materially. He
Indeed taught mighty truths; but hearts inane
Think he used carnal speech: for pristine deeds
He meant beneath the name of “flesh and blood;”
Remembering, heavenly home—slave that he is,

325 His heavenly Master’s words; who gave the name
Of His own honour to men born from Him
Through water, and from His own Spirit poured
A pledge; that, by whose virtue men had been
Redeemed, His name of honour they withal

330 Might, when renewed, receive. Because, then, He
Refused, on the old score, the heavenly realm
To peoples not yet from His fount re-born,
Still with their ancient sordid raiment clad—
These are “the dues of death”—saying that that

335 Which human is must needs be born again,—
“What hath been born of flesh is flesh; and what
From Spirit, life;” and that the body, washed,
Changing with glory its old root’s new seeds, 151
Is no more called “from flesh:” Paul follows this;

340 Thus did he speak of “flesh.” In fine, he said
This frail garb with a robe must be o’erclad,
This mortal form be wholly covered;
Not that another body must be given,
But that the former one, dismantled, must

345 Be with God’s kingdom wholly on all sides
Surrounded: “In the moment of a glance,”
He says, “it shall be changed:” as, on the blade,
Dispreads the red corn’s face, and changes ’neath
The sun’s glare its own hue; so the same flesh,

350 From “the effulgent glory” borrowing,
Shall ever joy, and joying, shall lack death;
Exclaiming that “the body’s cruel foe
Is vanquisht quite; death, by the victory
Of the brave Christ, is swallowed;” praises high

355 Bearing to God, unto the highest stars.

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